Month: September 2023

Dr. Drang:

Finally, we come to Jason Snell’s surprise at how light the 15 Pro seemed when he played with it in the hands-on area. He mentioned this not only in his Macworld article, but also in the post-keynote episode of Upgrade. You wouldn’t expect a change from 206 g for the 14 Pro to 187 g for the 15 Pro would be that noticeable, but Greg Joswiak mentioned it in the keynote and Jason confirmed it. How can that be?

Drang questions if where the mass is distributed within the iPhone’s body could play a role in how much lighter the phone feels — apparently, more than its specs suggest. But most people upgrading to a new iPhone will probably have a phone much older than last year’s model. The iPhone 15 Pro weighs just two grams less than my 12 Pro, according to Apple’s spec sheet, which is a negligible difference. If the weight distribution plays a role, it is possible it will feel much lighter than it actually is.

The last time I can remember commentators remarking upon the weight savings of a new iPhone was with the iPhone 5, which was 112 grams compared to its predecessor’s 140 grams, and the iPhone 5 spread that weight across a taller body. The weight difference then was 28 grams compared to just 19 between the 14 Pro and 15 Pro.

Update: I feel obligated to mention that the iPhone 4S to iPhone 5 weight savings was the result of two materials changes: the iPhone 4S’ stainless steel band and back glass panel were both replaced with aluminum.


Apple today announced its first-ever carbon neutral products in the all-new Apple Watch Lineup. Innovations in design and clean energy have driven dramatic reductions in product emissions of over 75 percent for each carbon neutral Apple Watch. This milestone marks a major step in the company’s journey toward its ambitious Apple 2030 goal to make every product carbon neutral by the end of the decade, including the entire global supply chain and the lifetime use of every device Apple makes.

Great logo design, too.

Justine Calma, the Verge:

When it comes to climate commitments, boasts about a specific product’s sustainability can distract from the far more important goal of reducing the company’s overall environmental impact. Apple has a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, the key measure for which we should hold it accountable.

The explainer video Apple showed during the presentation was a clever and surprisingly entertaining way of stating its environmental progress. Apple’s goals are laudable and it is making progress — it even bragged about repairability today — but even the best efforts should not escape scrutiny. In that video, for example, various Apple executives (and actors) rattle off clear, specific changes: no plastic in product packaging by the end of next year, and using recycled aluminum in all MacBook, Apple TV, and Apple Watch enclosures. Then there are two claims which need more context:

  1. Someone representing Apple says the company is “shipping more products by ocean […] which reduces transportation emissions by 95%” compared to air travel, but does not clarify what is the total effect this will have on all of Apple’s transportation emissions.

  2. Lisa Jackson says Apple has reduced water usage by 63 billion gallons, but it is not clear how much that represents. That is obviously a lot of water in absolute terms. But how much is it relative to the company’s total water usage?

    Some additional context is provided on page 50 of Apple’s annual environmental report (PDF), where it clarifies this is a total water savings since 2013. It also says water usage in its supply chain represents 99% of its footprint, and that its own facilities in 2022 used 1.5 billion gallons. That may mean its total water footprint in 2022 was 150 billion gallons, but it is not clearly stated, and I am not sure these figures are actually comparable in the way that I did.

Like all corporate responsibility programs, there is an undercurrent of marketing cynicism that is hard to unwind from the honest good happening here. That is a shame because I really do believe Jackson, and Tim Cook, and Apple want to minimize the environmental impact of the company’s products. I think that is something they care about earnestly.

Even so, this ought not be the effort of a single corporation — or even multiple ones — that they opt into or out of. The value of the Earth is not a competitive advantage. Nor, for that matter, should individuals have to make purchasing choices on that basis. If we really consider our environment a priority, these are things we should be investing in on a societal basis and with legal teeth.

The iPhone 15 Pro line announced today managed to tick most of the rumour boxes: it is made of titanium and available in a range of tinted greys, it will be able to take spatial video compatible with the forthcoming Vision Pro, the big model has a more impressive telephoto camera, and it has a USB-C port in place of Lightning. Apple cites a wide range of benefits:

The iPhone 15 Pro lineup offers convenient new ways to charge, find friends in busy places, and stay connected while travelling. Both models use the USB‑C connector, a universally accepted standard for charging and transferring data, allowing the same cable to charge iPhone, Mac, iPad, and the updated AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Users can also charge AirPods or Apple Watch directly from iPhone with the USB‑C connector. iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max support USB 3 for data transfer speeds up to 10 gigabits per second, up to 20x faster than before.

But, as rumoured, the speed advantages are limited to the Pro models. Even if you use a faster cable with the standard iPhone 15, it will only support USB 2 speeds — the same data transfer standard used by the iPods Apple sold twenty years ago. It also appears to me that the cable included with the Pro models is limited to USB 2 speeds and taking advantage of the faster speeds of a standard now ten years old requires the purchase of another cable.

I know lots of people will write this off as a petty complaint for a feature not many people will use and even fewer will take full advantage of — that USB 2 is good enough for most people. But the thousand-dollar “Pro” model iPhones are not supposed to be good enough; they are supposed to be the flagship models, showcasing the best of what Apple is able to do for that year. Besides, USB 2 has not actually been good enough for a very long time. It was Apple’s decision to neglect that connectivity even at a time when more people were regularly using wired data transfers.

But, at the very least, it is here: you can buy a $10 braided cable from Monoprice and get fast wired transfers plus, as Apple is wont to brag, universal charging for all your stuff. Imagine that.

One rumour that did not pan out as expected is a $100 across-the-board price increase. Greg Joswiak emphasized that the iPhone 15 Pro “will start at the same price as last year, $999” and noted that, while the Pro Max appears to have a $100 price increase, it starts at a 256 GB of storage instead of 128 GB, so it is also the same price as an equivalent iPhone 14 Pro Max. The U.S. press release reiterates this claim — “iPhone 15 Pro remains at the same starting price”.

That is not necessarily true elsewhere. In Canada, Apple increased the price of a base model iPhone 15 Pro by $50 compared to the equivalent outgoing model, while there is a $100 price bump in Australia and New Zealand. In the U.K., the new models are £100 less expensive than their predecessors.

I am looking forward to reading some reviews of these next week. My early impressions are pretty positive as far as what I was looking for. It is barely lighter than my 12 Pro, but it is a little narrower and thinner (Update: I got mixed up; it is actually thicker by 0.85 mm); its telephoto camera is much improved, though not as much as the one in the Pro Max; and it has considerably better battery life. Based on what I have seen so far, I think I know what I am getting: a 15 Pro in Natural Titanium. And a handful of Monoprice cables.

Roman Dillet, TechCrunch:

Last week, the European Union named the six big tech companies that should be considered as gatekeepers in one way or another under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). And just a few days later, as WABetaInfo first reported, a new beta version of WhatsApp features a new screen called “third-party chats” — this represents the first example of the new EU regulatory framework.

Javier Espinoza, Financial Times:

Apple and Microsoft have argued with Brussels that some of their services are insufficiently popular to be designated as “gatekeepers” under new landmark EU legislation designed to curb the power of Big Tech.


Separately, Apple argued that iMessage did not meet the threshold of user numbers at which the rules applied and therefore should not comply with obligations that include opening the service to rival apps such as Meta’s WhatsApp, said the two people.

So far, it seems the only two messaging services impacted by the Digital Markets Act are Meta’s: Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. Perhaps the best argument in favour of displaying messages from other clients within dominant apps was made by Meta itself when it began merging its many messaging clients.

Meta’s Adam Mosseri and Stan Chudnovsky in September 2020 (emphasis mine):

In our research, four out of five people who use messaging apps in the US say that spending more time connecting with friends and family on these apps is important to them, yet one out of three people sometimes find it difficult to remember where to find a certain conversation thread. With this update, it will be even easier to stay connected without thinking about which app to use to reach your friends and family.

Of course, I have many questions about this would mean from a security and privacy standpoint. I have no idea what this would look like. Perhaps third-party clients will be able to develop plugins for Meta’s messaging apps which will permit their functionality — including end-to-end encryption — in a secure environment?

Hey, remember that time the Attorneys General of two U.S. states sued key members of the Biden administration, partially because of stuff that happened before the Biden administration took office? Well, after a bit of back-and-forth, the Fifth Circuit court has mostly sided in favour of the administration — but you might not know that if you read most stories

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

Much of the reporting on this suggests it was a big loss for the Biden administration. The reality is that it’s a mostly appropriate slap on the wrist that hopefully will keep the administration from straying too close to the 1st Amendment line again. It basically threw out 9.5 out of 10 “prohibitions” placed by the lower court, and even on the half a prohibition it left, it said it didn’t apply to the parts of the government that the GOP keeps insisting were the centerpieces of the giant conspiracy they made up in their minds. The court finds that CISA, Anthony Fauci’s NIAID, and the State Department did not do anything wrong and are no longer subject to any prohibitions.

The full ruling (PDF) was too quickly celebrated by people — including those with generated profile pictures — as a unique “landmark on collusion”. Masnick’s analysis is more thorough and nuanced than you will find anywhere else, and well worth a fuller read. I did want to highlight one specific paragraph:

Note that in the paragraph above, the one that the 5th Circuit uses to claim that the platform polices were controlled by the CDC, it admits that the sites were reaching out to the CDC themselves, asking them for info. That… doesn’t sound coercive. That sounds like trust & safety teams recognizing that they’re not the experts in a very serious and rapidly changing crisis… and asking the experts.

It bothered me when I saw criticism of platforms for involving the CDC and Surgeon General and taking their advice. It seemed like a knock against the very idea of expertise, and a celebration of forced topical ignorance.

There are those who believe platforms should not take any moderation action against any posts made by users, but they are a fringe group and largely not worth taking seriously. The question about moderation is not if platforms should be involved, but where they should draw the line — and there are many circumstances where the answer to that will be unclear. Why would they not ask subject matter experts for their input? Platforms are still able to make their own choices about which posts are violative and what action may be taken against them. Involving experts seems like moderators are taking their responsibilities to balance expression and safety more seriously, not less — even when those experts work for the government.

Elana Scherr, reporting for Car and Driver in June (via Charles Arthur):

Every city has its secrets. Washington, D.C., may have more than most, but I wasn’t there to dig up bodies, corporeal or political. My interest in visiting our nation’s capital was to find out more about a covert society, an organization of carpoolers who use codes and word of mouth to work around D.C.’s notorious traffic jams and exorbitant tolls. Under cherry blossoms light as dreams and in the long shadow of the Washington Monument, I set out in search of slugs.

Mark Duell and Arthur Parashar, Daily Mail (I know; this is going somewhere, so bear with me):

Families visiting Chessington World of Adventures Resort can avoid Sadiq Khan’s hated Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) by parking nearby for free and getting a bus — as visitors share tips on how to dodge £20 charges.

Commuters in Washington DC are avoiding “notorious traffic jams and exorbitant tolls” by carpooling; people in the U.K. are “dodging” expanded emissions pricing by taking public transportation and walking. Regardless of whether you think high-occupancy lanes and the ULEZ are good ideas, this is the system working as designed. There has got to be a name for this framing of intended behaviour as acts of defiance.

Anyway, Apple is going to introduce phones with the universal USB-C port tomorrow instead of its proprietary Lightning port.

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Why will Apple be so upbeat about a change it didn’t ask for? That’s because the company has an iron-clad rule: When it’s introducing a new product or dealing with the media, it always wants to operate from a position of strength. Apple’s keynote presentation won’t mention the European Union or make reference to the many times over the past few years that it criticized the government’s decision to require USB-C.

Apple — like any company — is going to market its products as good and innovative regardless of circumstance. Its presentation of USB-C will likely be no different, but it will be conspicuous how much this decision matches legislated requirements, even if Apple wants to present it as a decision it made for users’ benefit.

Will Oremus, Washington Post:

Already, one of the book’s critical passages has sparked geopolitical drama — and an embarrassing public walk-back by Isaacson. In an excerpt from the book published in The Washington Post on Friday, Isaacson recounts how Musk single-handedly foiled a Ukrainian sneak attack on a Russian naval fleet in Crimea by cutting off the Starlink satellite internet service Ukraine’s drones were relying on. Isaacson writes that Musk made the decision because he feared the attack could lead to nuclear war, based on his conversation weeks earlier with a Russian ambassador.

But when CNN obtained the excerpt and reported on it, Musk tweeted a different account. He said he didn’t cut Ukraine’s Starlink service in Crimea; it was already deactivated there, and he refused the Ukrainians’ emergency request to activate it so they could carry out the attack. Isaacson tweeted Friday that Musk’s version of the story was accurate, meaning the passage in his book is misleading.

This can be considered, at best, a mixed review of Isaacson’s book, but is that fair? If there is already one pretty significant error in Isaacson’s original reporting in this high-profile, all-access biography — one that its own author is pointing out days ahead of its Tuesday release — that gives me pause, especially considering Musk himself is not a reliable narrator.

Update: In a lengthy interview with Shawn McCreesh of New York, Isaacson seems to believe Musk has sent a rocket to Mars, something which has not happened.

I like Kagi’s idea of shuffling indie blog posts — kind of like a directory-based StumbleUpon — but I am most curious about its announcement that it will be elevating posts from these sites in search results.1 Surely authority and relevance carry heavier weighting in ranking these search results, but the idea of bringing more independent voices with fresh links onto a search results page is intriguing. The fact that it is based on an allow-list means it is more limited, but also perhaps less prone to manipulation.

(Via Andy Baio.)

  1. Including, I should disclose, my own. I was not asked to participate in this, nor do I expect I should have been asked, but I feel like you should know. ↥︎

Ligaya Mishan, New York Times Style Magazine:

The path of vanilla to our table is less straightforward, and its provenance is often still elusive on commercial labels. But already you can find vanilla beans from Madagascar at Walmart and order beans and bottles for making homemade vanilla extract (alcohol not included) on Amazon. Small companies like VanillaPura and Native Vanilla offer rarer specimens online, from the Malabar Coast of India, the Amazon rainforest and the Mexican Yucatán; Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Uganda, Ecuador and Peru; and the islands of Comoros, Oahu, the Marquesas and Vanuatu. You are enticed with notes of toffee, guava, flowers, earth, ripeness, shimmer. In a word, the world.

I loved this article. A well-made floral vanilla ice cream is a beautiful thing. It is hard to believe such a delicate and complex ingredient became a synonym for boring or basic. It is even used in computing: if you are not using a JavaScript framework, you are writing “vanilla JavaScript”, for example.

I feel compelled to mention that most do-it-yourself vanilla “extract” recipes — like the one from King Arthur Baking, or Martha Stewart, or in this kit and others like it — make something closer to vanilla flavoured vodka instead of a true extract.

Jason Koebler, of 404 Media, two weeks ago:

For the last few months Instagram has served me a constant stream of ads for hard drugs, stolen credit cards, hacked accounts, guns, counterfeit cash, wholesale quantities of weed, and Cash App scams, as well as a Russian-language job posting seeking paid-in-cash massage therapists. Nearly all of these advertisements link directly to Telegram accounts where the drugs or illegal services can be directly purchased. With one tap, I was repeatedly taken from bouncing through Instagram stories of my friends on vacation to Telegram chat accounts where I could buy automatic weapons, meth, and stolen credit cards.

Besides being delivered directly to me by Instagram’s algorithm, thousands of these ads can be trivially found on Meta’s ad library by searching “,” which is the link shortener for Telegram, exposing a massive content moderation and ad screening failure by the company.

Koebler, today:

A Meta spokesperson originally told me that views for illegal goods make up less than .05 percent of what people see, though with billions of users, that still makes up potentially millions of views. Again, Meta is being paid to inject these into people’s feeds (but has no problem throttling journalism about its practices).

So, two weeks later, let’s see if one of the richest and most powerful companies in the world has discovered how to perform a basic search on its own platform.

In addition to guns, drugs, counterfeit currency, and duplicated credit cards, I also found counterfeit passports, betting rings on what are claimed to be fixed soccer matches, steroids, and various foreign exchange investment schemes which are likely fraudulent. It is plausible to me that a similar problem may exist on Google Ads, but its Ads Transparency Center does not permit full-text search. I often see ads for sketchy supplements, financial advice from deep-faked celebrities, and variations of the power saver scam.

All of these ads would be rejected by any ad provider worried about maintaining a reputation for quality. For Google and Meta, they are an everyday occurrence.

Brian Krebs:

In November 2022, the password manager service LastPass disclosed a breach in which hackers stole password vaults containing both encrypted and plaintext data for more than 25 million users. Since then, a steady trickle of six-figure cryptocurrency heists targeting security-conscious people throughout the tech industry has led some security experts to conclude that crooks likely have succeeded at cracking open some of the stolen LastPass vaults.


Dan Goodin at Ars Technica reported and then confirmed that the [LastPass] attackers exploited a known vulnerability in a Plex media server that the employee was running on his home network, and succeeded in installing malicious software that stole passwords and other authentication credentials. The vulnerability exploited by the intruders was patched back in 2020, but the employee never updated his Plex software.

I completely missed this development, which was reported earlier this year, regarding the cause of the LastPass breach. It is an extraordinary heist: a security problem in Plex, of all things, has probably resulted in the theft of $35 million worth of cryptocurrency from a bunch of LastPass users.

Cristina Criddle and Anna Gross, Financial Times:

The UK government will concede it will not use controversial powers in the online safety bill to scan messaging apps for harmful content until it is “technically feasible” to do so, postponing measures that critics say threaten users’ privacy.

A planned statement to the House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon will mark an eleventh-hour effort by ministers to end a stand-off with tech companies, including WhatsApp, that have threatened to pull their services from the UK over what they claimed was an intolerable threat to millions of users’ security.

The statement is set to outline that Ofcom, the tech regulator, will only require companies to scan their networks when a technology is developed that is capable of doing so, according to people briefed on the plan. Many security experts believe it could be years before any such technology is developed, if ever.

Zoe Kleinman, Tom Gerken, and Chris Vallance, BBC News:

The government has denied that its position has changed. In a statement in the House of Lords, the minister, Lord Parkinson, clarified that if the technology to access messages without breaking their security did not exist, then Ofcom would have the power to ask companies to develop the ability to identify and remove illegal child sexual abuse content on their platforms.

Indeed, the Bill already stated that the regulator Ofcom would only ask tech firms to access messages once “feasible technology” had been developed which would specifically only target child abuse content and not break encryption.

The government has tasked tech firms with inventing these tools.

The statement, which begins at around 16:16:57 in this recording, does not sound to me exactly as the Financial Times described. Here is what Lord Parkinson, speaking in alignment with the government as a Conservative, said, as best as I could transcribe it:1

A number of Noble Lords have mentioned — and I am aware of — press coverage about encryption. There is, let me be clear, no intention by the Government to weaken the encryption technology used by platforms, and we’ve built strong safeguards into the bill to ensure that users’ privacy is protected.

While the safety duties apply regardless of design, the bill is clear that Ofcom cannot require companies to use proactive technology on private communications in order to comply with these duties. Ofcom can only require the use of a technology — [sic] a private communications service by issuing a notice to tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse content under clause 122. A notice can only be issued where technically feasible, and where technology has been accredited as meeting minimum standards of accuracy in detecting only child sexual abuse and exploitation content. Ofcom is also required to comply with existing data protection legislation when issuing a notice under clause 122 and, as a public body, is bound by the Human Rights Act of 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.

When deciding whether to issue a notice, Ofcom will work closely with the service to help identify reasonable, technically feasible solutions to address the child sexual exploitation and abuse risk, including drawing on evidence from a skilled persons report. If appropriate technology does not exist which meets these requirements, Ofcom cannot require its use. That is why the powers include the ability for Ofcom to require companies to make best endeavours to develop or source a new solution. It is right that Ofcom should be able to require technology companies to use their considerable resources and their expertise to develop the best possible protections for children in encrypted environments.

That has been our longstanding policy position. Our stance on tackling child sexual abuse online remains firm, and we have always been clear that the bill takes a measured, evidence-based approach to doing so.

The second paragraph, as I have transcribed it, appears to be missing a connecting word — “by”, perhaps? Even though that is unclear, this argument is tautological: the government is arguing that technology companies will not be required to use technology which does not exist or is impossible. Which, well, duh. But then it says Ofcom is empowered to demand tech companies develop this impossible technology to the best of their abilities: “that is why the powers […] require companies to make best endeavours to develop” something which can meet the requirements it sets out.

I could be misinterpreting this, but I do not think I am. It really sounds like the U.K. government wants operators of encrypted services to throw their “considerable resources” at doing as much as possible to solve the impossible. And then Lord Parkinson has the gall to conclude this bill is “evidence-based”.

The BBC:

Another view is that this is an attempt at a last-minute diplomatic resolution in which neither the tech firms nor the government lose face: the government says it knew all along that the tech did not exist and removes immediate pressure from the tech firms to invent it, and the tech firms claim a victory for privacy.

This seems like the most realistic interpretation of this statement and, perhaps, it will close the book on the specific risks of the online safety bill for now. But, make no mistake, we will be having this same conversation in a few years. Maybe it will not be in a British accent — there are plenty of governments which are eager to weaken end-to-end encryption based on a wide variety of excuses — but we will be talking about this again very soon.

Update: Reader Ashley pointed me via email to the official transcript of Lord Parkinson’s remarks in which it is clarified that he had said (emphasis mine) “Ofcom can require the use of a technology by a private communication service only by issuing a notice to tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse content under Clause 122″.

  1. Lord Parkinson is the same guy who defended his government’s reintroduction of imperial measurements by saying they were “universally understood” and then completely botched some basic conversions. That is not relevant but it is very funny. ↥︎

Tanner Kohler and Amy Zhang, of the Nielsen Norman Group:

Dark mode is more popular than ever. You might even think it’s essential — at least if you were to read many of the web-design articles devoted to the topic. However, it takes valuable time and resources to fully support dark mode and “wear it well” because most designs are built in light mode first. To understand how much dark mode impacts users, we recently conducted a survey and some mobile usability-testing sessions in dark mode on mobile.

In all cases, the best thing you can do is mirror a user’s preferences and the system default. On the web, this can be achieved very simply by using CSS variables to define page colours for light mode, and then use a prefers-color-scheme: dark media query to redefine those same variables for dark mode. (Or, if you prefer, the other way around.)

One finding I was surprised by is how many people surveyed by the NNG did not notice when an app violated their preference by showing a light-mode screen when it should have been in dark mode or vice-versa. For many, it seems dark mode is mostly an aesthetic preference, though the NNG notes some possible benefits for those with visual disabilities.

Jen Caltrider, Misha Rykov, and Zoë MacDonald, of Mozilla:

Car makers have been bragging about their cars being “computers on wheels” for years to promote their advanced features. However, the conversation about what driving a computer means for its occupants’ privacy hasn’t really caught up. While we worried that our doorbells and watches that connect to the internet might be spying on us, car brands quietly entered the data business by turning their vehicles into powerful data-gobbling machines. Machines that, because of their all those brag-worthy bells and whistles, have an unmatched power to watch, listen, and collect information about what you do and where you go in your car.

All 25 car brands we researched earned our *Privacy Not Included warning label — making cars the official worst category of products for privacy that we have ever reviewed.

General Motors announced earlier this year that its cars will no longer support CarPlay. The objective, according to Brian Sozzi of Yahoo Finance, is that it is “aiming to collect more of its own data to not only better understand drivers, but to pad its longer-term profit margins“. According to Mozilla’s researchers, GM’s major brands — including Chevrolet and GMC — are among the worst of this very bad bunch.

Mozilla has supplementary articles about how automakers collect and use personal data, and they are worth a read. It is entirely possible these privacy policies reflect an overly broad approach, that cars do not actually collect vast amounts of personal information, and that the data brokers who have partnered with automakers are marketing themselves more ambitiously than they are able to deliver. But is that better? Automakers either collect vast amounts of private information which they share with data brokers and use for targeted advertising efforts, or they are lying and only wish they were collecting and sharing vast amounts of private information.

I want to try something a little bit different: a review of a product at what is likely the end of my using it. Early product reviews are great buyer’s guides, but they tend to dwell on the novel, which is understandable for using a product for only a week or two. I have lived with my iPhone 12 Pro for nearly three full years — I got mine on its release day in October 2020 — so I know it very well. Here is what I am still impressed by, what has not held up as well, and what I will be looking for when I replace it this year.

This was one eye-catching phone out of the box. Compared to the standard iPhone 12’s glossy glass back, the bead-blasted glass of the Pro models is a subtly luxurious and almost soft finish. I chose the silver model, which I still think is the nicest of the four colours it was available in at launch — the others being graphite, gold, and a finish Apple insists on calling “pacific blue”, all lowercase — and the flat polished steel of the phone’s edge trim lost its magic after just a few months. I rarely use a case and, so, I was expecting scratches. But I did not anticipate some kind of corrosion or blooming on its top edge, which has made the stainless steel look more like chrome-mimic plastic. I bought a stainless steel wristwatch with similar polished surfaces the same year and, despite being knocked around a fair bit and sitting immediately on my skin, it has held up far better.

The steel body is also pretty heavy. It is only fifteen grams heavier than the iPhone X it replaced in my pocket, which was also a steel phone, but I wish iPhones were trending in the other direction. Thinner and lighter may be widely mocked, but for devices carried every day, it is better for me if they dissolve into my life.

Thankfully, the iPhone 15 Pro is rumoured to be made of titanium which — all else being equal — is considerably lighter than steel. The standard iPhone 15 will likely continue to be made of aluminum, which means either model would likely be a lighter phone than the ones I have carried for the past six years. I do have some questions about the wear-and-tear I will be able to expect with a titanium body. Titanium has a mixed history at Apple, but retrospective reviews of Apple Watches made of the material indicate it is holding up far better.

The battery life of my iPhone 12 Pro has also seen some wear-and-tear. After three years of daily use and an uncareful charging regiment, the Battery Health screen says it has retained 87% of its from-new capacity. That is not too bad, especially considering some iPhone 14 Pro owners are reporting similar capacities after just one year. But this generation of iPhone was notable for a slight regression in battery life expectations compared to its predecessor when it was shiny and new, and I have felt that in particular when it is not connected to Wi-Fi. This has been used almost exclusively as an LTE phone — more on that later — and its cellular radio seems hungry.

I bought the 12 Pro over either of the standard iPhone 12 models primarily because of the 56mm-equivalent camera and the larger RAM package. And I am glad I did — around 43% of photos I shot with this phone are from that telephoto camera, compared to 51% captured with the main camera, and only about 6% using the ultra-wide.

These two cameras — the main and telephoto — have performed well. iPhone photos have leaned toward neutrality, with only a minor warm bias, and the images I have captured with the 12 Pro have been no exception. Images captured outdoors in bright daylight are an accurate representation of the scene, with clean HDR matching my own perception. Where this camera shines most is in low-light scenes indoors, and outdoors at night. This is the area where phone cameras have struggled — small sensors do not capture as much light as bigger sensors, of course — and software advancements have played a key role in creating images which look less noisy, more colourful, and better lit. Automatic Night Mode remains a difficult adjustment for me: three years into owning this phone, I still have not gotten used to the idea of holding it in near-stillness for longer than it takes me to tap the shutter button.

Neither image has been processed apart from straightening and cropping.
Photo at night of a dark hilly street and a taillight streak from a passing car.Photo at dusk of an empty outdoor ice rink with overhead industrial-style lights on cables.

I have also noticed a dramatic improvement in images shot in Portrait Mode. While it is supposed to approximate the foreground and background separation you might see with a larger sensor and a portrait lens, I rarely used it on my iPhone X because subjects looked like they were crudely cut from the scene. It is a night-and-day difference with this iPhone: there is a more natural falloff from in-focus areas to backgrounds, the faux bokeh looks more realistic, and it does a better — though still imperfect — job of understanding glassware. I do not take many pictures of people; here are some photos of food I shot with Portrait Mode:

The food images have been processed; the bottle image has not. I do not know if I am in a position to give advice, but here is what I do for food photos: I use the “Vivid” filter to improve image brightness, colour, and contrast. Then, under Adjustments, I play with the image warmth after increasing the image’s magenta tint; the “Vivid” filter is often too green and cool for food.
Photo of a plate of cut, seasoned beets of various colours.Photo, close-up, of an open glass drink bottle.Photo of a tray of prepared falafel balls before frying.Photo of a dark bowl containing cut tomatoes made very glossy by olive oil.

I still find Apple’s photo processing pipeline too eager to reduce noise and, consequently, detail, though this is somewhat offset by other parts of the pipeline like Deep Fusion. This is exacerbated in Night Mode, of course, because it is beginning with a grainier image. I understand why Apple uses high levels of noise reduction; shooting RAW on an iPhone will reveal what the sensor captures before it is put through that pipeline. A very grainy image is probably not going to be appreciated by most people. But these sensors are very good for their size and, in most lighting conditions, some grain is more tasteful to me.

The other thing I feel compelled to mention about the iPhone 12 Pro’s cameras is how they are not the same as those in the 12 Pro Max — unfortunately. The Pro Max had a much larger sensor in its main camera and better stabilization, and its telephoto camera was a little different as well. It is unfortunate because I am not interested in buying a larger phone; the smaller Pro size Apple has settled on is already too large for my liking. And, while successive model pairings — the 13 Pro/Pro Max and 14 Pro/Pro Max — shared identical camera systems between the smaller and larger sizes, rumours suggest the line will repeat the 12 Pro’s bifurcation. If that is true, I will be disappointed, even if it is for good and practical reasons. Not upset that physics cannot be bent to accommodate my purchasing preferences, mind you, just painfully aware of the compromise I would make with either choice.

The iPhone 12 lineup was the first iPhone to support the MagSafe accessory connector, and the first to support 5G cellular networking. I have used neither extensively. I do have an Apple case which is identified by MagSafe by its colour, but I never purchased a compatible charger or any other accessories. As for 5G, my cellular provider only recently added support on its network. Working from home for most of the past three years has meant little cellular data usage, so I would not have taken advantage of any possible improvements if I had switched to a carrier which adopted 5G earlier. My provider recently added 5G support and, in the interest of being comprehensive, I recently upgraded to a 5G plan to see what it would be like in my area. From my desk, using the Speedtest app, 5G transfer speeds were 129 Mbps down and 39 Mbps up; LTE from the same spot recorded 113 Mbps down and 28 Mbps up. I have seen LTE speeds as high as 156 Mbps down and 45 Mbps up from the same spot. On my balcony, 5G tested at 178 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up, while LTE was 74 Mbps down and 18 Mbps up. Latency and jitter differences are a similar tossup. I was promised life-and-death stakes and all I got was this slightly more expensive phone plan.

Neither of these features holds any weight for my iPhone 15 purchasing decisions. The iPhone 15 line will almost certainly switch to a USB-C port after eleven years of iPhones with slow, proprietary, and unchanged Lightning ports. Alas, that means the cables on my nightstand and desk — and in my bag and car — will need to be swapped, though one will be included in the box. I may have avoided noticing this change had I purchased MagSafe charging cables. But, at $55 Canadian a pop, it would have been an expensive way to make the transition easier.1 Since USB-C is an industry standard connector, I can buy all the cheap and fast cables I need.

The iPhone 12 Pro line was also the first phone from Apple to include a LiDAR sensor on the back, which apparently helps with autofocus in low light scenes, and enables better spatial tracking for augmented reality. It is hard for me to say whether I get faster or more accurate autofocus, but I have found the A.R. enhancements surprisingly useful and fun. It is not something I am using every day. But when I stumble across a furniture website with A.R. options, for example, it is immediately rewarding to see the piece in my space and get a pretty accurate impression of its size, with pretty stable real-world object tracking. The biggest knock against anything using the LiDAR sensor is the hit it takes on battery life, which you can feel by how warm the phone gets. Visually, A.R. experiences are smooth and fast, but the warmth you feel is an indication that this phone is being pushed to some kind of limit.

So, that is my three-year experience with the iPhone 12 Pro. I am not somebody who feels compelled to upgrade every year, and even before Apple announces this year’s iPhone lineup in less than one week’s time, I can already expect big changes based on the models available today: a brighter, faster display; better cameras paired to a better image processing pipeline; macro photography; and emergency rescue features I hope to never need. But there are also plenty of unknowns, like whether the new models will continue to increase battery life, or if the phone will feel more pocket-friendly — the iPhone 13 Pro was heavier than my phone, and the 14 Pro heavier still.

I have occasionally wondered whether the 12 Pro was worth the extra cost over the standard 12 for me. The standard models had way better colour options and a Mini version, and the 12 Pro is 15% heavier than the regular model of the same size. But the camera breakdown speaks for itself: I use the telephoto camera so often that it really is a no-brainer. That is what I am looking for most of all in an iPhone 15 model: a better telephoto camera and better battery life in a model that is lighter than this one.

  1. I will tell you what was expensive, which was the USB-C to Lightning cable I bought last year for my travel bag. I have gotten one year’s very light use out of that $25 cable. ↥︎

Doha Madani, NBC News:

Elon Musk on Monday posted that he was against antisemitism and blamed the Anti-Defamation League for lost advertising revenue since his acquisition of X, formerly known as Twitter.

The tech mogul posted his stance on free speech and antisemitism seemingly out of the blue on his verified account Monday afternoon. When asked by a user who was questioning his stance, Musk alleged that the ADL has been “trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic.”


The ADL said Monday that as a matter of policy it does not comment on legal threats. A spokesperson referred NBC News to a general statement the organization made in response to a recent #BanTheADL campaign on the platform, which Musk has engaged with.

When I opened Twitter today to look into this, the first advertisement I saw was for a show on Apple TV Plus. According to the “why this ad?” screen, the reason I saw the ad was because I am over 25 years old, and I am in Canada; it does not appear that it had anything to do with the device I was using it on, for example.

It could not be clearer whose pockets are lined by a Twitter ad spend: it is a private platform with, nominally, a single owner who happens to be the richest man on Earth yet pretends to be some kind of heterodox underdog deep thinker, fighting a supposed establishment — of which he is somehow not part of — with his contrarian ideas. Nonsense. This is not considered thinking; it is scapegoating from a conspiracy poisoned brain. It seems inconsistent, at the very least, with Apple’s professed values to continue giving money to this caustic rich lunkhead. The ADL may be an imperfect activist organization but it is pretty clear which audience is thrilled with the new Twitter direction.

Does Apple really want to pay to place its ads between posts like these?

Max Hoppenstedt, Washington Post:

On a recent Wednesday evening, a university professor in a large town in western Germany was preparing several paintings to be sold through the British auction house Christie’s. Using his iPhone, he took pictures of the inherited works at his home to upload to the company’s website. Within a few weeks, the site promised, Christie’s would give him an estimate of their value and tell him if it was interested in auctioning them.

But by uploading the images, he not only sent pictures of the pieces to Christie’s, he also revealed their exact location for anyone to see online, according to two German cybersecurity researchers. Hundreds of other would-be Christie’s clients, including Americans, were exposed to the same vulnerability, the two researchers, Martin Tschirsich and André Zilch, told The Washington Post.

Linking to that exploration of EXIF metadata reminded me of this story from last month.

The reaction from Christie’s’ representatives seems like it should raise questions about the organization’s trustworthiness. Stripping metadata is a common practice when photo uploads are permitted, if for no other reason than to save a little server space. Sure, everybody makes mistakes, but denying assistance from researchers and neglecting to inform potential clients of their exposure is poor.

Harley Turan:

According to iOS’ Photos application, I’ve taken 73,281 photos over the past 14 years of owning an iPhone.

Each one of those images doesn’t just contain the photo you see as you scroll through the Photos app — it contains a wealth of information stored encoded directly into the image file itself. It details useful metadata such as where the photo was taken (so that you can view your photos on a map at a later date), the time and date the image was taken at, which lens and zoom levels were used, the exposure, ISO, and aperture, amongst many others.

This is an excellent exploration of EXIF data and how it can be used, including in some pretty surprising and privacy-hostile ways. I cannot recommend enough that you play around with ExifTool, just to see what is known about different files — and not just photos: while it may be named for a photographic term, ExifTool can surface all kinds of metadata.

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch:

X’s recently updated privacy policy informed its users it would now collect biometric data as well as users’ job and education history, Bloomberg spotted earlier this week. But it appears that’s not the only thing that X plans to do with user data. According to an update to another section of the policy, the company additionally plans to use the information it collects and other publicly available information to help train its machine learning and AI models, it says.

It seems extraordinary to me that services can decide to change their entire raison d’être and longtime users have barely three choices: accept the new contract, make their account private, or delete their account.

In this case, the management running the slowly decaying corpse of Twitter has decided to go all-in on machine learning as part of the company’s new strategy to do everything, all of the time. For seventeen years, users have posted little messages — most of them public — which the company can now mine as fuel for what it hopes is its future. You did not think that was what you were agreeing to when you tweeted that funny thing your kid did ten years ago, but that is now part of the reservoir for the new big thing.

Stephen Hackett today updated a great, easy-to-follow guide for setting up a Time Machine server on your network. This is something I have been meaning to do for about a year and I figured a Friday evening before a long weekend would be a superb time to make it happen. After all, I already had a Mac to use as a server — my MacBook Air I upgraded from last year — and a hard drive. And Hackett describes it as “easy”.

How hard could it be?

Well, the first series of steps in Hackett’s guide took me fifteen minutes, and ten of those minutes were spent trying to find a Thunderbolt cable. Then I got to the part in the guide where it says I should be able to authenticate and mount the drive, and I hit a wall: I could not move past the user name and password dialog. It was not that my password was being interpreted as though it was incorrect — that comes later — but that it would accept it and then show the dialog again. I could not even mount the external drive in Finder, and sometimes it struggled to mount any drive on the host MacBook Air. I kept seeing errors like “The operation can’t be completed because the original item for ‘Remote Backup’ can’t be found”, and “There was a problem connecting to the server ‘Remote Backup’. You do not have permission to access this server.”

At some point, I also managed to lose access to my MacBook Air through the Screen Sharing app on my MacBook Pro. I would type my user name and password and it would reject it, as though I got either one wrong. But if I launched Screen Sharing from the network-mounted MacBook Air in Finder, it worked fine.

Hours later, I found the solution. System370 on Reddit pointed out in a months-old thread that smbd needs to be granted Full Disk Access permissions in System Preferences on the host Mac. That is the SMB protocol daemon; SMB is the file sharing protocol used to mount the drive on a remote Mac. I enabled Full Disk Access for the daemon, completed Time Machine setup on my MacBook Pro, and it is now creating a Time Machine backup remotely.

I mean absolutely no criticism of Hackett or this guide. In fact, I am grateful for the reminder to set this thing up — finally. But none of the error messages I saw on either machine nor any of Apple’s support articles mention this simple yet critical step.

So, here it is again: if you are enabling File Sharing for a remote disk and something is not working, skip all the troubleshooting you find elsewhere on the web. First, ensure smbd has Full Disk Access, under System Preferences (or System Settings), Security & Privacy.

I hope this keyword-filled post saves others some troublesome troubleshooting, and that Apple will reconsider its strategy of erroring in silence or with irrelevant messages. This is apparently a known problem because, yes, my host MacBook Air is stuck on Catalina.