A Look at What Hermès Means to Watch Lovers

Benjamin Clymer, Hodinkee:

The [Hermès] strap you see above is arguably the greatest watch strap in the world. It has long been a secret of fine watch collectors anywhere – the quality of the stitching, and the softness of the leather, is simply unrivaled. […]

Hermès straps are not easily available. In fact, most stores around the world will not sell them to you individually, preferring them to go to existing Hermès watch owners. The dimensions are irregular too, with 17 mm tapered ends, meaning most buckles will not fit on them. That doesn’t prevent the devoted from chasing these hand-made straps all over the world.

The Hermès version of the Apple Watch became available yesterday in select retailers around the world, and it looks really desirable. If you’re disappointed with the leather bands that Apple provides,1 the ones available with the Hermès edition come from a long line of superlative leather goods, and are available in a much wider range of styles and colours.

If I were in the market for a stainless steel Apple Watch with a leather band, I think the Hermès line would be the first I’d look at — specifically, the “Single Tour” in brown. They’re not available at my local Hermès boutique; I wonder if they’d order one in from Toronto.

But I also wonder about the long-term interplay of high technology and traditional luxury. In the short term, Apple gains fashion and luxury credibility, while an old French brand remains contemporary. Over the long term, though, it’s hard to escape the temptation of seeing a first-generation technology product strapped to a very, very nice piece of leather. And, no matter how much I love mine, it is still a first-generation product. I’m optimistic that the purchasing experience in the coming generations will, in some way, take into account the precedent of a longer lifespan set by traditional timepieces.

  1. As the owner and everyday wearer of the original all-black classic buckle, I’m surprised anyone could be disappointed with it. The leather is of an extremely high quality, and it has softened over time without losing a sense of durability. I noticed a fair amount of negativity towards this strap in particular after the Watch was launched, and I’m not sure why: it’s a high-quality, fully-dyed traditional leather watch band.

    Of all the first-party straps available for the Watch, it’s the least showy and draws the fewest questions and inquiries from others, but I see that as a positive. I’m awfully tempted to pick up the brown leather version, but I’m also waiting for a nice NATO-style strap to be released now that lugs are available to third parties. ↩︎

“Makes You Wonder”

Jonny Lieberman of Motor Trend, on the new Porsche 911’s entertainment system, which only supports CarPlay and omits Android Auto:

As part of the agreement an automaker would have to enter with Google, certain pieces of data must be collected and mailed back to Mountain View, California. Stuff like vehicle speed, throttle position, coolant and oil temp, engine revs — basically Google wants a complete OBD2 dump whenever someone activates Android Auto.

This is the typical “collect everything” mantra that Google seems to have. By contrast, CarPlay only requires knowledge of when the car is moving, presumably for safety features. Could Android Auto one day use all of this information to diagnose system problems? Perhaps. Do I trust Google to collect, store, and use this much information in a way that isn’t creepy? No. Do you?

How about we instead treat data like nuclear waste?

Update: Google provided a statement to TechCrunch:

Steering this story straight – we take privacy very seriously and do not collect the data the Motor Trend article claims such as throttle position, oil temp and coolant temp. Users opt in to share information with Android Auto that improves their experience, so the system can be hands-free when in Drive, and provide more accurate navigation through the car’s GPS.


TechCrunch learned that when Google initially approached automakers concerning Android Auto, it requested a deeper data set than what is currently required. Porsche could have made the decision at that time to stop working with Google and instead focus on CarPlay. It’s unclear when this early conversation happened. Google publicly announced Android Auto at Google I/O in June of 2014.

Nobody’s providing any dates here. If Google’s policy did, in fact, change, how recently? And are automakers that signed with Google prior to the change grandfathered into providing elevated amounts of data?

Ars Technica’s Android 6 Review

As iOS becomes better at connecting different apps, Android becomes more aware of user privacy. As iOS expands to different hardware in various guises, Android becomes more polished and user-friendly. The platforms continue to converge while also innovating, and everyone wins. (How wild is it that Android and iOS both gained embedded browsers by way of Chrome Custom Tabs and Safari View Controller within the same year of updates?) But, as Ron Amadeo of Ars points out, most users won’t see this update:

If we were to ask for any new feature from a new Android version, it would be some kind of scalable update solution. Right now a custom update still needs to be built for every single individual device model, and that’s really not a workable solution when you have over 24,000 models out there. The Stagefright vulnerability seemed to be a wakeup call for the Android ecosystem, but it came too late to affect anything in Marshmallow. Google instituted monthly updates for Nexus devices, and OEMs are pledging to bring the monthly update program to flagship devices. The majority of Android devices, though—the low end devices—are being ignored. Monthly updates for Google, Samsung, and LG flagships only works out to a very small percentage of the Android install base.

The Motorola E from earlier this year will not be seeing an update — just 219 days after its release. Manufacturers are treating these phones like commodities, and regularly leave over a billion devices without critical security patches.

American Apparel Files for Bankruptcy Protection

I sincerely hope that American Apparel pulls out of this stronger than ever before. It’s disappointing that its fortunes did not improve in the wake of tragedies at contract factories used by “fast fashion” brands. Much of my wardrobe comes from the company — I have a ridiculous number of plain white t-shirts made by AA, and I’m wearing socks and a t-shirt from them right now — and I want to keep supporting them for years to come.

An Analysis of OS X Releases

Rob Griffiths calls this analysis “useless”, but I think there are some interesting takeaways. First, the amount of time between OS X releases began short, became fairly long with Tiger, Leopard, and Snow Leopard, and are now shorter again.

Second, as with most software, OS X has become increasingly obese. Griffiths didn’t include the fresh install sizes of Snow Leopard and prior releases, likely because it varies significantly depending on configuration, but it appears to have ballooned since Mountain Lion. (Strangely, Lion and Mountain Lion are apparently the same size, despite the latter including Retina-quality assets.)

iFixIt Violates Apple NDA, Gets Punished, Complains

iFixIt got one of the forthcoming Apple TV’s through the lottery intended to provide early units to third-party developers under a strict NDA. Instead, they tore it apart and wrote about it publicly. Apple responded by cancelling their developer account, which nullified the app they had available on the App Store.

Jeff Gamet of the Mac Observer:

For iFixit, this isn’t going to be that big of a deal. The content they offered through their app is available on the company’s website, and it can still buy products it guts on release day just as it has always done.

For the rest of the developer community, however, the consequences are a lot bigger. Apple rarely gives developers pre-release access to hardware like this, and thanks to iFixit that likely won’t happen again. Next time, Apple will most likely limit access to a few hand picked developers who come to the company’s headquarters for some controlled hands-on time ahead of the product launch.

I hope that Apple can see past one bad egg. This should be entirely uncontroversial: iFixIt abused their developer account to acquire a prerelease product, knowingly violated the terms of receiving it, and was somehow surprised when Apple terminated the developer account associated with it.

Amazon to Ban Sale of Apple TV and Google Chromecast

Spencer Soper, Bloomberg:

The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said. Amazon’s streaming service, called Prime Video, doesn’t run easily on its rival’s hardware.

Amazon can make their streaming service available on the Apple TV and Chromecast. That’s their prerogative. But, you know, it’s business, and the consumer gets caught in the crossfire.

Tweetbot 4

The best Twitter client for iOS — yeah, this includes the iPad — just got better, and Federico Viticci has been testing it:

Tweetbot 4 is a must-have for Twitter power users who work from an iPad. The utility of column view is clear: once you see what Tapbots has done with the iPad’s screen, comparing it to Twitter’s prodigy of wastefulness is not even funny. Column view has redefined my idea of what a Twitter client should be capable of doing on the iPad, and I’m curious to see how it’ll evolve. […]

Tweebot 4 is a nicer, faster Tweetbot in every way. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that what you’ll see in the app is a legacy Twitter, lacking the modern features and integrations of the official product. To get the full Twitter experience, you’ll need to keep the official app installed.

In this sense, Tweetbot 4 embraces its limitations and builds upon them, offering the kind of detail and features that Twitter – for different reasons – is ignoring or overcomplicating. Safari View Controller is a good example of what Tapbots has done that Twitter doesn’t want to do; the Stats screen, with its limited access to the Twitter API, provides a simple way to check on favorites, retweets, and new followers with a pretty chart – precisely what Twitter isn’t interested in doing for their app.

In the halcyon days of computer software, this is the kind of thing that would require a paid update; indeed, the new version of Tweetbot is $5. Unfortunately, the App Store still, inexplicably, does not offer a way for developers to charge for updates. That means that Tapbots had to make a new app package and, due to tight sandboxing, the new version of Tweetbot doesn’t inherit your old preferences. That’s a bit of a bummer, but it isn’t really Tapbots’ fault. The App Store should offer developers the option to charge for updates. It encourages investment in the platform and investment in the lives of indie developers.

If you think the lack of paid updates is stupid, you can buy Tweetbot 4 using my affiliate link, which will take a slice out of Apple’s 30% commission and send it to me. Or you can buy it from this non-affiliate link, if that’s more your jam. Either way, you’re going to want Tweetbot 4. For my money, it’s the best Twitter experience on iOS, and the desktop counterpart is the best Twitter experience on the Mac.

The iPhone 6S and Water Resistance, Again

The team at iFixIt has disassembled the iPhone 6S once more in the name of finding out just how water resistant it is, and it looks like Apple has done some serious waterproofing. From a sticky gasket around the display — not “strips of tape”, as I thought — to cable connectors surrounded by tiny seals, not one of which was ever married to Heidi Klum, there’s a lot going on here. It’s not waterproof, certainly, but it’s definitely less likely to have damage after moderate exposure to liquids. How much less is still a question that’s up in the air, and I’d love to see a side-by-side comparison with its predecessors.

Ads That Follow

While Apple was busy greatly improving their privacy page, Google announced a new advertising product called “Customer Match” that’s pretty creepy. If you aren’t opted out of personalized advertising, you may be familiar with a situation where you visit one site, then visit other sites only to find an ad from that first site tagging along. This is known as “remarketing”, and Google’s new advertising product takes it to the next level:

Customer Match is a new product designed to help you reach your highest-value customers on Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail — when it matters most. Customer Match allows you to upload a list of email addresses, which can be matched to signed-in users on Google in a secure and privacy-safe way. From there, you can build campaigns and ads specifically designed to reach your audience.

If you use the same email address on a bunch of sites — as most people probably do — and stay signed into Google, those third-party sites can now target you much more specifically.

Google advertising executive Sridhar Ramaswamy in an on-stage interview at Advertising Week New York:

“The real problem is that ad blockers throw out the baby with the bathwater. They make monetization impossible for a whole slew of people,” he said in an interview with Fast Company managing editor Bob Safian. “We need to recognize, as an industry, that this is something we need to deal with. We need to work together to come up with a definition of what an acceptable ad is and what an acceptable ads program can be.”

These are decidedly unacceptable ads.

Day One Free Trials of Apple Music End Today

If you signed up for the three month free trial of Apple Music on the first day of its launch, today is the final day you get free access before having to pony up the monthly rate. So, have the past few months convinced you to go all-in?

I asked this question on Twitter and within a medium-sized Slack channel: the Slack poll is at a perfect 50/50 split right now, while the responses on Twitter have been similarly mixed. Those numbers are a little lower than what was reported in mid-August, but not by much, and there’s still plenty of room to grow — a lot of people I know haven’t even tried it yet.

I’ve already cancelled my Spotify subscription and will be using Apple Music, though not without hesitations. The number of features that rely upon the still-buggy iCloud Music Library is frustrating,1 Connect has tumbleweeds blowing through it, and search has no room for fuzziness. But the combination of that many high-quality tracks and pre-made playlists available directly in my Music app in an integrated fashion is hard to beat. And, for families, the $15 per month pricing is a huge deal.

I sincerely hope Apple keeps improving the app and service, offering better connectivity with real-life friends and more features available without requiring iCloud Music Library to be turned on.

  1. Not only do the lingering bugs make me not want to turn on iCloud Music Library, I actually can’t as it’s still limited to 25,000 songs, as is iTunes Match. Eddy Cue promised at WWDC a 100,000-song limit that would be introduced alongside iOS 9, but Apple hasn’t been able to deliver that yet. ↩︎

Privacy as a Product

Matthew Panzarino:

If you click your way through [Apple’s revised privacy page], you’re going to see a product that looks a lot like the pages that are attempting to sell you iPhones. There is a section that explains Apple’s philosophy; one that tells users in practical terms how to take advantage of Apple’s privacy-and security-related features; an entire section on government information requests; and, finally, its actual privacy policy. […]

This is the template for all other tech companies when it comes to informing users about their privacy. Not a page of dense jargon, and not a page of cutesy simplified language that doesn’t actually communicate the nuance of the thing. Instead, it’s a true product. A product whose aims are to inform and educate, just as Apple says its other products do.

I noticed this too, yesterday, when I was researching for a forthcoming article. The new privacy page is something only Apple can really do because nobody else is actually doing the things they are. But, as a marketing piece, it isn’t necessarily entirely forthcoming. Take the iMessage section:

Your iMessages and FaceTime calls are your business, not ours. Your communications are protected by end-to-end encryption across all your devices when you use iMessage and FaceTime, and with iOS and watchOS, your iMessages are also encrypted on your device in such a way that they can’t be accessed without your passcode. Apple has no way to decrypt iMessage and FaceTime data when it’s in transit between devices. So unlike other companies’ messaging services, Apple doesn’t scan your communications, and we wouldn’t be able to comply with a wiretap order even if we wanted to. While we do back up iMessage and SMS messages for your convenience using iCloud Backup, you can turn it off whenever you want.

And this excerpt from the iCloud section:

All your iCloud content like your photos, contacts, and reminders is encrypted when sent and, in most cases, when stored on our servers.

When read together — and, particularly, when combined with this support document — this gives the impression that iMessages backed up to iCloud will surely be encrypted, but they’re not. This is alluded to, though not stated explicitly, by the last sentence of the excerpt from the iMessage section above. Apple has done a much better job with this site than its competitors, and people are more likely to actually read it, but it doesn’t always seem to be fully forthcoming. At Apple, privacy is a product, but I don’t think it can entirely be marketed as such.

It’s not like their competition is any better though:

Does Google sell my personal information?

No. We do not sell your personal information.

We do use certain information, such as the searches you have done and your location, to make the ads we show more relevant and useful.

Translation: We do, but only in an intermediary fashion.

The Biggest Startup in the World

Neil Cybart has collected into one place much of what is known about Apple’s “Project Titan” car, reasoning that it has reached mid-2000s-era iPhone development:

Evidence suggests Apple Car is Apple’s growing priority. Project Titan leadership has reportedly been poaching employees from other divisions, and one should expect this trend to intensity in the coming years. This is not to suggest that the iPhone, iPad, and Mac will be put on the back-burner. Instead, Apple is only now finding its stride with those products. As seen with the iPhone 6s / 6s Plus, Apple did not settle for a “S” cycle update but is instead much more focused on shipping new iPhone features each year that help support the shift to a leasing paradigm where many iPhone buyers upgrade to the latest iPhone model every year. Take a look at iPod trends back when the iPhone was being developed; Apple actually saw increasing iPod sales on new and innovative models all the way up to 2008. It is important to not underestimate the breadth of talent Apple has dedicated to its current product lineup, even after taking into consideration losses to Project Titan.

Ars Technica’s El Capitan Review

El Capitan will be released tomorrow, but the review embargo has been lifted today. It’s odd seeing Ars Technica’s review not bylined by John Siracusa; no surprise that it took two people to replace him. It’s not as entertaining as one of Siracusa’s, I don’t think,1 but it is extremely comprehensive and well worth the read.

I’m sure this week’s ATP will be solid, though. (That link will be a dead end until the episode is posted.)

  1. Apologies to Andrew Cunningham and Lee Hutchinson, both of whom worked very hard on this review. But they’re going up against a legend. ↩︎

If It Ain’t Fixed, Break It

In iOS 9, Siri was updated to provide haptic feedback instead of audible feedback upon activation, by way of pulsing the vibrator in a similar pattern to the familiar “ding-ding” sound. I really liked this change; it felt more personal and connected.

So you can imagine my surprise — after upgrading to an iPhone 6S — to not have any feedback upon holding down on the home button. I figured that it must be a bug in the integration between the Taptic Engine and the lack of audio feedback,1 and I planned on filing a Radar.

So did Daniel Jalkut, until he figured out why this change was made:

Apple “broke” the haptic feedback associated with invoking Siri, by “fixing” the problem that there had ever been any latency before. Have an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus? Go ahead, I dare you: hold down the home button and start talking to Siri. You will not escape its attention. It’s ready to go when you are, so it would be obnoxious of it to impose any contrived delay or to give taptic feedback that is uncalled for. Siri has become a more perfect assistant, and we have to change our habits to accommodate this.

Jalkut is right: this is way better. The lack of feedback is disconcerting at first — if you’re like me, you want some way for Siri to tell you that it’s ready to accept input. But it never really comes, apart from a visual on-screen indication via the histogram.

This somewhat mimics the Watch: if you raise your wrist and say “Hey, Siri” and then proceed to pause as you wait for the words “Hey, Siri” to appear onscreen, the request will likely be sent prematurely. The Watch is slow enough while activating Siri that it creates a pause in which it thinks you’re done speaking. I’ve learned to just plough ahead and hope that Siri catches up, which it does most often.

(The times that it doesn’t — whether it’s due to the speed of the Watch, the connection status of Siri, its fudging of dictation, or whatever — are still very frustrating. It is those times that you’re reminded that it doesn’t matter how natural-language Siri feels, it’s still software.)

  1. The Taptic Engine is somewhat connected to the speaker.

    If you have a 6S, there’s a cool way to feel this by selecting Sounds from Settings, then choosing Text Tone. Pick any of Apple’s tones and notice how the vibration matches the audio. This is made possible by the new “Synchronized” vibration pattern, selected by default. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with third-party ringtones. ↩︎

Previously-Purchased, Discontinued Software Unavailable for Download in Both App Stores

Juli Clover, Macrumors:

Apple recently removed older versions of OS X and other discontinued software from the Purchased tab of users who had previously purchased or downloaded them. With the change, it is no longer possible for users to download Aperture, iPhoto, OS X Lion, OS X Mountain Lion, and OS X Mavericks from the Mac App Store.

Even if my beloved Aperture weren’t mentioned, this is still disheartening. And it’s not just the Mac App Store. Panic:

We’ve seen this too. iOS removed-from-sale apps, like Prompt 1, may be unavailable for re-download as well.

This might all simply be a misconfiguration or a mistake, but I’ve long been worried something like this may happen. This is software that was previously purchased; while it’s no longer available for general sale, it should still be offered to those who purchased it to download again. I certainly hope this isn’t a deliberate change.

On the Supposed Water Resistance of the iPhones 6S

Earlier today, I linked to a YouTube video that supposedly showed the iPhones 6S surviving constant immersion in water for over an hour while powered on. That’s an impressive feat, especially considering previous attempts at this sort of thing only worked in advertising. And it genuinely came as no surprise to me; it seems logical that the iPhones that followed the Apple Watch would benefit from the latter’s waterproofing innovations.

Upon further consideration, though, a few doubts or caveats linger. For a start, I claimed that iFixIt found no evidence of better waterproofing, but I was reminded that the four adhesive strips affixed to the display gasket could be interpreted that way. But, I must say, I doubt four pieces of tape are all that would allow an iPhone to last underwater for over an hour.

Which brings me to my second question: why wasn’t this set up as a test against previous iPhones? There are stories of older models being lost underwater for days, though these are probably the exception rather than the rule. Surely, though, this video would be far more useful if the 6S were compared to its predecessors.

I wouldn’t try this if I were you, obviously. I hope an adequate testing body can take this for a more thorough spin and see if there’s something to the idea that the new iPhones are far more water resistant. In the interim, keep your new iPhone dry.

Facebook Notes Gets Some Love

I know you will be shocked — shocked — to learn that the people who designed Medium now work at Facebook.

Update: Geoff Teehan says that he had nothing to do with this redesign. Seems silly that Facebook would feel the need to hire the designers behind Medium, and then not utilize their skills while creating their similar-looking product. Thanks to reader Ishtaarth for pointing this out via email.

Rule Britannia

When I post a link to an article from the Intercept, I’m sure some of you grumble and think “what is it this time?” It turns out that if you’ve browsed the internet since mid-2007 or so, much of your traffic has probably been scooped up and stored by British intelligence. Surprise!

Ryan Gallagher:

By 2010, according to the documents, GCHQ was logging 30 billion metadata records per day. By 2012, collection had increased to 50 billion per day, and work was underway to double capacity to 100 billion. The agency was developing “unprecedented” techniques to perform what it called “population-scale” data mining, monitoring all communications across entire countries in an effort to detect patterns or behaviors deemed suspicious. It was creating what it said would be, by 2013, “the world’s biggest” surveillance engine “to run cyber operations and to access better, more valued data for customers to make a real world difference.”

Metadata records in bulk with no identifying information are somewhat inconsequential; it’s basically a giant analytics engine at that point. What GCHQ decided they needed was to align metadata — domain names, access time, IP address, and the like — with actual records:

All GCHQ needs is a single identifier — a “selector,” in agency jargon — to follow a digital trail that can reveal a vast amount about a person’s online activities.

A top-secret GCHQ document from March 2009 reveals the agency has targeted a range of popular websites as part of an effort to covertly collect cookies on a massive scale. It shows a sample search in which the agency was extracting data from cookies containing information about people’s visits to the adult website YouPorn, search engines Yahoo and Google, and the Reuters news website.

Want another reason that targeted, profiling web ads suck? The U.K. government — and, probably, the U.S. government, too — is associating those profiles with scooped web traffic.