By Matt Birchler

The Opposite of Small Business Saturday

On a pretty regular basis I’ll see someone write a thread or blog post about why they’re switching to all stock iPhone apps. The dream seems to be throwing all third party apps to the side and going all in on Apple stuff.

Everyone is of course allowed to do whatever they want, and there are sometimes very reasonable reasons to do this (cost, for example), but this attitude bums me out a little.

I think about Small Business Saturday, which is the day after Black Friday and is generally supported by most people since regardless of your political position, we all basically agree that small businesses should do well and we feel better when we support them over the big mega corps.

Third party apps (in almost every case, obviously not in the case of Google or Microsoft apps) are small businesses as well, so when I see someone say, “I’m going all in on stock iOS apps and services,” to me it sounds like, “I’m done supporting small businesses, I’m only shopping at Amazon and Walmart from now on.” I know, I know, I'm sure that's not the intent, but it's the same energy.

For me, apps developed by smaller companies are my defaults.

  • I use Fantastical because I like it a lot more than the stock Calendar app and it brings me tons of value.
  • But then there's something like Carrot Weather, which I like about the same as the stock weather app, but it allows me to support a small business for very little out of pocket, so I lean towards Carrot even through the practical gap isn't as big there.
  • Then there are the things that I go to Apple for; things like cloud file storage and online photo storage, things that are just straight up better than the competition for my needs.

Again, everyone is free to do as they wish, but for my part, my default is to use a third party whenever possible.

I’ve Had It With This Guy

Alexander Burns: ‘I’ve Had It With This Guy’: G.O.P. Leaders Privately Blasted Trump After Jan. 6

In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building, the two top Republicans in Congress, Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell, told associates they believed President Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot and vowed to drive him from politics. Mr. McCarthy went so far as to say he would push Mr. Trump to resign immediately: “I’ve had it with this guy,” he told a group of Republican leaders. But within weeks both men backed off an all-out fight with Mr. Trump because they feared retribution from him and his political movement. Their drive to act faded fast as it became clear it would mean difficult votes that would put them at odds with most of their colleagues.

And:

“I didn’t get to be leader by voting with five people in the conference,” Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, told a friend.

Absolute profiles in courage right here.

iPad Needs to Go Better When Bigger

Mark Gurman:

And, most importantly, a new “pro” mode that kicks in when the iPad is connected to a keyboard and trackpad, such as Apple’s own Magic Keyboard, or an external display.

This is an alternate to the studioOS idea I had a few weeks ago, and I don't personally like this idea of morphing functionality based on input devices. This reminds me of how Windows does things, and I son't think that's the answer, it's a recipe for frustration.

As I suggested in studioOS, I think the solution is to let the Pro lineup become more…pro.

1Password, KeePass, and Humanity

Josh Centers: Moving from 1Password to KeePass

If all this sounds like I left a smooth and perfectly functional app for a hodgepodge of cobbled-together solutions, it’s because I did. But now that I’ve hashed out the kinks, it works pretty well. I’ve created and changed several passwords on both my Mac and iPhone since switching from 1Password, and I have experienced no data corruption or loss. The upside of doing all of this is that I now have total control over my password database.

I love the self-awareness of this article. It explained his opinions on password management, was a good guide for how you can replicate his setup, and very clearly understood that this solution won't be for everyone.

Fuck that's good writing.

Anyway, I use 1Password and I'm largely happy with the current betas, but I can totally see why someone with Josh's priorities around passwords would go with something else.

Why Pebble Failed

Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Pebble, on why Pebble failed:

The underlying problem was that we shifted from making something we knew people wanted, to making an ill-defined product that we hoped people wanted.

The whole read is worth your time, but Pebble gets tons of credit from me for validating that the smart watch was something real and people would love it, and it's a shame they never quite recaptured that magic they had in the early years.

The Land Grab

Peter Kafka: This is as good as movies are going to get

This glut of great streaming stuff is literally a glut, and no one in the business thinks that it’s going to last forever. The giant tech and media companies funding the production boom have no intention of doing it in perpetuity. Right now, they are telling themselves they’re in land-grab mode as they try to compete with each other and attract paying subscribers. But once the frontier is settled, they plan on returning to something like a normal mode, where they’re not tossing money at anyone with a script.

It will be interesting to see if this massive amount of money being thrown around by streaming companies is at all sustainable. Are tech giants spending like crazy on content and talent right now because they want to get their subscriber numbers as high as possible as quickly as possible, or are they in this for the long haul? I genuinely don't know, but it would be a shame if the tech giants use their deep pockets to box out the companies dedicated to making films and television, and then lose interest since media isn't their core competency.

I'm super happy that I'm hearing so many stories about companies like Apple giving their creators a lot of control and a lot of cash to make great art, but I do hope the passion sticks around.

Apple's Hide My Email Kinda Rocks

Mike Lapidakis: An Ode to Apple's Hide My Email

Last summer, Apple announced that as part of their iCloud+ service expansion, a new feature named Hide My Email was launching. The feature received little fanfare and was mainly swept up in the plethora of other news from WWDC. After using it for nearly a year, I think we’ve done it a bit of a disservice.

I actually agree wholeheartedly here. Hide My Email is fantastic, and it feels like it's been a quiet success since it launched. I haven't had to use it to save myself from bad actors or anything yet, but it's a great confidence boost that I could if I ever need to.

The Surprising Legacy of the HomePod

The Surprising Legacy of the HomePod

The original HomePod in 2018 was not a successful product, but over the last couple years I've noticed two things that really got kick-started with the HomePod that we now see in basically every Apple product.

The first thing is speaker quality. The HomePod was all about sound quality, and since then you can see major improvements in sound in basically everything from iPads to MacBooks to iPhones. Dave2D just put out a video asking why MacBook Pro speakers are so far ahead of even the best Windows laptops, for example.

The other thing is high quality power cables. For many years, it was common to hear people complain about the quality of cables for charging up Apple devices, and it was very common to see people with dangerously-frayed connectors because the cheap plastic cable just didn't hold up to real world use. I forget the specific review, but I heard one reviewer say something like "and you get a really nice braided power cable, which you'd expect from an Apple device," in their MacBook Pro review. It may be expected now, but oh boy was it not something you could expect even a few years ago.

Anyway, this may not be the most exciting thought in the Apple ecosystem today, and maybe someone is going to "well actually" me on when these trends started. If you think these trends started elsewhere in the Apple lineup, let me know on Twitter.

Apple's Merchant Processing Aspirations

Back in January I suggested that Apple's Tap-to-pay solution would be something third party payment providers could integrate into because merchants aren't going to be interested in having their main payments happening in one place and their contactless stuff happening in a siloed Apple system.

This week, Mark Gurman has reporting on Apple getting far more into payment processing, and José Adorno sums it up on 9to5Mac:

Apple is developing its own payment processing technology and infrastructure for future financial products in a multi-year plan, according to a new report by Bloomberg. It could also help the company expands its payment features beyond the US.

This will be something I keep an eye on very closely in the coming years. Apple has been a great partner to payment companies over the past decade in creating a way for all of us to integrate into Apple Pay, which merchants love to offer to their customers. It is easy for customers, it improves conversion for merchants, and it drives loyalty to Apple products…it's the elusive win-win-win!

Apple getting into buy-now-pay-later stuff doesn't impact payment partners a ton (although I'm sure Klarna would not be too pleased), but Gurman mentions "payment processing, credit checks and other tasks" as things the company may also be pursuing down the line, and I'm very interested to see how much of this sees the light of day.

Deliveries Gets Kneecapped

Deliveries Gets Kneecapped

The Future of Deliveries on the Deliveries blog:

It’s likely that over time, more services in Deliveries will no longer show tracking information directly in the app. You won’t see the delivery date, the map route, or any of the details, and you won’t get notifications about changes to the status. You will need to use the “View Online” button to see your tracking information on the shipping company’s web site.

I recently moved into a new house and as you can imagine, I'm getting a lot of deliveries right now, and the Deliveries app would traditionally be super useful in tracking my orders across multiple providers in once place. As you can see in the screenshot at the top of this post, its usefulness is severely cut down by FedEx's refusal to work with Deliveries anymore.

I can't imagine Deliveries was doing anything nefarious, although I guess I'd be curious to hear from FedEx and Amazon why they revoked API access to the app. I suspect I'd be unimpressed with their "we think the best way for customers to track their packages is from our app" answer, though.

Anyway, I have switched over to Parcel for now, although I really don't like its UI as much as Deliveries, but given it seems to still work with the shipping companies I tend to use, it's functional…for now. If this is part of shipping companies revoking API access from well-behaved devs, maybe their days are numbered as well.