Step One

Post-Ive, Samsung Folds, Air Travel, IMDb TV, iOS Data Transfers

If you’re reading this (well, reading this in your inbox), you survived the transition over to this newsletter. If that makes absolutely no sense to you, here’s more context. Long story, short: I’m trying out a new platform — Substack — in my continued experiment with newsletters. Thoughts and feedback are most welcome.

Truth be told, I’m a bit beyond the experimental stage at this point. Nearly three years into regularly publishing a newsletter, I feel good enough about the flow to move things over here, to this domain. But some questions remain: for example, I still have yet to nail the whole preamble portion. This portion!

I was previously using this area as a draft of sorts (hence, “First Draught”) for what I would later expand upon on 500ish, but I honestly didn’t find that too compelling. And, of course, it was a bit redundant. My goal with this entire revamp is to keep things a bit shorter and more streamlined, making it both easier to read and to write. As such, the focal point will be the links, a link blog, as it were, with a little something up here that I’ll play around with. (Usually shorter than this.)

In general, I view this latest incarnation of the newsletter as step one of a three step plan that I have for content going forward. Regular readers of mine will know that I’m constantly thinking and evolving in this regard, but I feel pretty good about my plan. But not good enough to reveal it, just yet :) Just know that it will be a multi-year thing to get to the final step. And I plan for 5ish to remain a part of the journey throughout.

Anyway, thanks for continuing to be a reader. If you’d like to unsubscribe to this new iteration, again, no hard feelings at all. On to the links.


With Jony Ive’s Successor, Apple Bets a Pragmatist Can Turn Prophet

Tripp Mickle on Apple positioning COO Jeff Williams as the new de facto head of product — something I postulated about last week as well:

Apple didn’t make Mr. Williams available for this article, but people who have worked with him say he has been more visible in the product-development process than Mr. Cook. Mr. Williams has shown interest in products’ look and feel, they said, and helped steer the Apple Watch from being a fashion- and fitness-focused product tethered to the iPhone to one that boasts wireless connectivity and more health features, one of his priorities.

Still, Mr. Williams is an operations executive at his core, the people said, and his skills at logistics and planning make him more implementer than inventor. “He sees where we are, not where we need to be in years to come,” said a former colleague, who also praised Mr. Williams’s leadership, versatility and encyclopedic memory.

This is framed as problematic, but I view is as a good thing for Apple. I’m not sure Apple needs a visionary as much as someone who can give the go/no-go on a product. Jobs is often played up as the product visionary — and in some ways, he undoubtedly was — but his greater role was that of curator. That is, the person who took in what all the various teams were working on and was able to distill out of that the direction in which Apple should go. It feels like Apple has lacked this for quite some time.

The iPhone 4 featured a glass back instead of the plastic used on past models. During a thermal-engineering meeting, Mr. Williams probed the engineers with questions about how new materials would affect device performance, this person said. He also picked up the prototype to evaluate how it felt. “It was impressive for a negotiator, and spreadsheet guy, and it just came naturally to him,” this person said.

Carolina Milanesi, a technology analyst with Creative Strategies, said Mr. Williams’s operations background could be an asset in his new role. “You need to have a balance between what is possible and what makes sense,” she said. “If everyone came at it from a design perspective, that may not lead to the best possible product.”

I love the part about Williams picking up the iPhone to evaluate how it felt. It’s a silly anecdote, but if the idea behind it is correct, that’s probably also a good thing. More importantly, the idea that the design-perspective not necessarily leading to the best end product is obviously true. Exhibit A: the MacBook “butterfly” keyboard!


Samsung Completes Folding Phone Redesign After Screen Failures

Speaking of product design, here’s Sam Kim and Sohee Kim:

Korea’s biggest company is trying to move past yet another product faux pas. It has now stretched the protective film to wrap around the entire screen and flow into the outer bezels so it would be impossible to peel off by hand, said the people, who have seen the latest versions. It re-engineered the hinge, pushing it slightly upward from the screen (it’s now flush with the display) to help stretch the film further when the phone opens.

That tension makes the film feel harder and more a natural part of the device rather than a detachable accessory, they added. The consequent protrusion, almost imperceptible to the naked eye, may help reduce the chance of a crease developing in the middle of the screen over time, one of the people said.

Which just begs the question: why didn’t they do all of this the first time around? You know, before sending the product to reviewers? Because they were rushed to get this out the door? Maybe. But this entire product still just reeks of a gimmick. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my screens to be “protrusion” free.


Route to Air Travel Discomfort Starts on Wall Street

Nelson D. Schwartz on why the airlines in the US seem to be getting worse:

Rich bonus packages for top executives are now largely tied to short-term income targets and fatter profit margins instead of customer service. Of course, bolstering profits — and in turn, stock prices — has always been a big part of management’s responsibility to shareholders, but making it virtually the only criterion for executive pay is new.

Five years ago, American Airlines factored in on-time arrivals, lost baggage and consumer complaints to help calculate annual incentive payments for top management. Today, these bonuses are based exclusively on the company’s pretax income and cost savings.

I travel a lot. Without question, the overall experience has been heading in the wrong direction for a long time now. The one newer entrant that tried to reverse this course, Virgin America, didn’t last long. And I’d argue it’s sort of crazy that we all feel this even though technology has masked so much of it. Think about what air travel was like 10 years ago before (albeit maddeningly slow) internet connectivity or iPhones/iPads. Or 25 years ago before ubiquitous in-flight entertainment.


IMDb Scraps Freedive Name, Will Triple ‘IMDb TV’ Free Streaming Lineup

While “IMDb TV” is far from a great name — and, as they note, the main selling point is actually movies — it’s infinitely better than the “Freedive” branding.

At first, I was confused by this strategy from Amazon (which has long owned IMDb, of course). After all, they also have Prime Video to stream much of the same (or at least same type of) content. But Prime is associated with paid (even if most people aren’t paying for the service to get Prime Video), and if Amazon wanted to test out free/ad-supported, better to do it under another brand. And if there’s one thing I think about when I think about IMDb, it’s ads. The site is basically unusable thanks to the ad load. So there’s nice synergy here in that regard.


iOS 13 beta 3 Suggests New Wired Method for Transferring Device Data

Guilherme Rambo:

New assets and strings found in iOS 13 beta 3 suggest Apple is working on a way to transfer data from another iOS device directly, using a cable. One of assets shows an image of two iPhones connected to each other using a cable. It’s unclear how this could be achieved exactly given that current iPhones feature a Lightning port and Apple does not offer a Lightning-to-Lightning cable.

If true, this is the continuation of the trend towards cutting out the Mac middle man in Apple’s increasingly iOS device-centric world. But I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t also a step towards super-simple mirror imaging of a previous device when setting up a new device. This is still such a crazy pain point that it’s sort of a miracle anyone ever upgrades their devices.