Sebastiaan de With:

The challenge here is serious: the longer the lens, the harder it is to keep it steady from your shaky, pathetically unstable human hands. Most people do not take photos the way a tripod does — which means the iPhone camera has to do several things:


Getting a handheld shot, at night, without a tripod, or really too much effort on my part on a 120mm-equivalent lens is magic. There’s no other word for that, because there’s such complicated technology involved on a hardware and software level that it makes my head spin.

If you are not reading this review every year at least to gaze at de With’s gorgeous images, you are missing out. New York is a photogenic city, but it takes a skilled photographer to see these kinds of framing opportunities — especially with the real and virtual focal lengths available on this iPhone.

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

All first-generation Apple Watch models released in 2015 were added to Apple’s obsolete products list on September 30, according to an internal memo obtained by MacRumors. As a result, these outdated “Series 0” watches are no longer eligible for repairs or other service at Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Provider locations.

As it happens, one of the original gold Apple Watch Edition models is currently available on Chrono24 — for €7,500. That is a fair bit more than a Reddit user who paid $6,000 USD for one in 2016.

Truly one of the strangest products Apple has ever released.

Michael Geist:

The CRTC last week released the first two of what is likely to become at least a dozen decisions involving the Online Streaming Act (aka Bill C-11). The decision, which attracted considerable commentary over the weekend, involves mandatory registration rules for audio and visual services that include far more than the large streaming services. The Commission says the registrations would give it “de minimis information about online undertakings and their activities in Canada, which would give the Commission an initial understanding of the Canadian online broadcasting landscape and would allow it to communicate with online undertakings.” By contrast, the inclusion of registration requirements for a wide range of undertakings, including some podcast services, online news sites, adult content sites, and social media left some characterizing it as a podcast registry or part of “one of the world’s most repressive online censorship schemes.” So what’s the reality? As is often the case, it is not as bad as critics would suggest, but not nearly as benign as the CRTC would have you believe.

Anis Heydari, CBC News:

It’s a perspective echoed by Canadian podcaster Jesse Brown, publisher of Canadaland, who told CBC News that Friday’s announcement by the CRTC is concerning to him.

“What they’re signalling is, ‘We are going to be regulating the space, but we’re not telling you how.’ That makes it very hard,” he said.

I do not think it is as mysterious as this quote from Brown suggests. The goals of the Online Streaming Act are public information and, while its objectives are laudable for Canadian media producers and publishers and some of its problems have been corrected, it remains a flawed piece of legislation. Not so, however, for the reasons espoused by Elon Musk or the permanently frenzied Glenn Greenwald, who authored that quote at the end of my excerpt of Geist’s article. It is far more nuanced than Twitter’s reality detached commentariat claim.

After Apple released Big Sur in 2020, many users were unable to launch applications for several hours because the Online Certificate Status Protocol check was failing. This quickly became a — misguided, in my opinion — privacy fiasco, culminating in a November 2020 support document on Apple’s website documenting the various Gatekeeper checks. Apple also promised to add a “new preference for users to opt out of these security protections” at some point “over the the next year”.

Nearly two full years after a December 2021 deadline, at the latest, no such preference has appeared — and, now, it is likely one never will.

Fred McCann (via Michael Tsai):

Remember when Apple said they’d add a preference to MacOS to let you opt out of gatekeeper checks within a year back in 2020? They’ve silently removed that language from their website.

This is no AirPower, but it is not often Apple announces something and then quietly reneges on it. I am sure there is a reason — there always is — but this preference was promised and quickly forgotten. Apple improved OCSP security, as it said it would, so why is there no option to opt out, not even on the command line?

Miles Klee, Rolling Stone:

Dead NFTs: The Evolving Landscape of the NFT Market” is a new report from dappGambl, a community of experts in finance and blockchain technology. Upon analysis of 73,257 NFT collections, the authors found that 69,795 have a market cap of zero Ether (ETH), the second most-popular cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin. In practical terms, that means 95 percent of NFTs wouldn’t fetch a penny today — a spectacular crash for assets that reached a trading volume of $17 billion amid a frenzied bull market in 2021. The study estimates that some 23 million investors own these tokens of no practical use or value.

This was just one of many articles citing this same report, and they all suck for the same reason. Molly White debunked it, and you should definitely read why it is wrong, but I wanted to highlight this paragraph:

However, what annoys me in particular about this report being laundered into the mainstream news cycle is that Rolling Stone and The Guardian — in their evidently neverending quest to both-sides any issue placed in front of them — are also printing the authors’ optimistic predictions for the NFT industry. A bunch of crypto casino reviewers promoting the rosy future of NFTs probably wouldn’t have made it into multiple mainstream media outlets had it not been for the fact that it was included alongside the eye-catching, but misleading, 95% figure.

Ed Zitron:

NFTs were never a “great investment” or the “future of intellectual property” — they were a vehicle used to extract capital from consumers. They were (and are) a gruesome, exploitative scam, creating just enough collateral and artwork to fool the average person into believing that this was a lasting product, engaging the language of conspiracy theorists and televangelists to tell people that they were “going to make it” and that others would “have fun staying poor.” […]


The overall exploitation of cryptocurrency is something that should be studied as a symptom of a global state of economic desperation and pain. This horrible industry took root because the average person cannot simply work and thrive — they must hustle, they must suffer, they must find any way they can to make even a modest wealth, and that same desperation makes them susceptible to con artists that promise an easy way out.

Permanently excitable grindset guy Gary Vaynerchuk jumped straight into NFTs and managed to parlay his doodles into the foundation for an entire conference. Last year’s event was promoted in a press release as an “NFT-ticketed super conference” which would “united the Web3 community”, and the press release for this year’s conference similarly highlighted “NFT industry projects” and “Web3 community”. But the 2024 conference was announced in a much lower-key fashion — relatively speaking — without a single mention of NFTs and only one passing reference to “Web3” in Vaynerchuk’s bio. VeeCon is now a “contemporary business conference that is all about ‘the now'”. There are also no mentions of any NFTs or crypto-adjacent things in the conference FAQ, but it does note you will need to buy a ticket for yourself and your baby if you would both like to attend.

The desperation Zitron describes is on full display in the subject of the latest video essay from Dan Olson. I know it is long but it is well worth its entire runtime.

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

John Giannandrea, a former Google executive who now oversees machine learning and AI at Apple, has a giant search team under him. Over the past few years, his group developed a next-generation search engine for Apple’s apps codenamed “Pegasus.” That technology, which more accurately surfaces results, is already available in some Apple apps, but will soon be coming to more, including the App Store itself.

But the best evidence of Apple’s search efforts can be seen in Spotlight, which helps users find things across their devices. A couple of iOS and macOS versions ago, Apple started adding web search results to this tool, pointing users directly to sites that might answer their questions. During different points in time, those results were powered by either Microsoft Corp.’s Bing or Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Siri also uses that technology to offer up web results.

Gurman says Apple has long thought about building a rival to Google search and, if it ever launched it, figures an ad-supported service would “potentially create a revenue stream about the size of the Apple Watch”. Apple’s search engine project is something we have heard about many times before and it highlights the unique tension between Apple and Google.

Even without its own website with a text box, Apple has plenty of search functionality in its own apps, as Gurman writes. It is unclear to me which system apps are taking advantage of this newer, better search engine, but I still run into bizarre errors in Maps, especially, similar to the one posted by Sebastiaan de With.

Also, “Pegasus” is a weird name for an iOS feature, even if it is only for internal use.


With Visual Look Up, you can identify and learn about popular landmarks, plants, pets, and more that appear in your photos and videos in the Photos app. Visual Look Up can also identify food in a photo and suggest related recipes.

Meal identification is new to iOS 17, and it is a feature I am not sure I understand. Let us assume for now that it is very accurate — it is not, but work with me here. The use cases for this seem fairly limited, since it only works on photos you have saved to your device.

Federico Viticci, in his review of iOS 17, suggests two ways someone might use this: finding more information about your own meal, or saving an image from the web of someone else’s. One more way is to identify a meal you took a picture of some time ago and may have forgotten what it was. But Visual Look Up produces recipes, not just dish identification, so that suggests to me that this is to be used to augment home cooking. Perhaps the best-case scenario for this feature is that you stumble across a photo of something you ate some time ago, get the urge to re-create it, and Siri presents you with a recipe. That is, of course, assuming it works well enough to identify the meal in the photo.


Except that, well, 🤌 I’m Italian 🤌. We have a rich tapestry of regional dishes, variations, and local cuisine that is hard to categorize for humans, let alone artificial intelligence. So as you can imagine, I was curious to try Visual Look Up’s support for recipes with my own pictures of food. The best way I can describe the results is that Photos works well enough for generic pictures of a meal that may resemble something the average American has seen on Epicurious, but the app has absolutely no idea what it is dealing with when it comes to anything I ate at a restaurant in Italy.

Siri struggles with my home cooking, too, often getting the general idea of the dish but missing the specifics. A photo of a sweet corn risotto yielded suggestions for different kinds of risotto and various corn dishes, but not corn risotto. Some beets were identified as different kinds of fruit skewers or some different Christmas dishes; the photo was taken in August.

In many places, getting the gist of a dish is simply not good enough. The details matter. Food is intensely binding — not just among a country, but at smaller regional levels, too. It is something many people take immense pride in. While it is not my place to say whether it is insulting that Siri identified many distinct curry preparations as interchangeable curries of any type, it does not feel helpful when I know the foods identified are nothing like what was actually in the photo.

Update: Kristoffer Yi Fredriksson emailed to point out how Apple could eventually use food identification in its health efforts; for example, for meal tracking. I could see that. If it comes to pass, the accuracy of this feature will be far more important.

Today is fitting a theme so far that is, unfortunately, just about the heaviest thing I publish here, but I have a couple things I think I need to add.

Giacomo Zandonini, Apostolis Fotiadis, and Luděk Stavinoha, for Balkan Insight, investigated how CSAM scanning companies have lobbied in favour of a new law to screen everything — including private messages — for illegal media:

Though registered in the EU lobby database as a charity, Thorn sells its AI tools on the market for a profit; since 2018, the US Department of Homeland Security, for example, has purchased software licences from Thorn for a total of $4.3 million.


ECLAG [the European Child Sexual Abuse Legislation Advocacy Group], which launched its website a few weeks after Johansson’s proposal was announced in May 2022, acts as a coordination platform for some of the most active organisations lobbying in favour of the CSAM legislation. Its steering committee includes Thorn and a host of well-known children’s rights organisations such as ECPAT, Eurochild, Missing Children Europe, Internet Watch Foundation, and Terre des Hommes.

Another member is Brave Movement, which came into being in April 2022, a month before’s Johansson’s regulation was rolled out, thanks to a $10.3 million contribution by the Oak Foundation to Together for Girls, a US-based non-profit that fights sexual violence against children.

These multimillion-dollar numbers pale in comparison to, for example, the $20 billion Apple makes every quarter in digital services revenue alone. Still, though these are non-governmental mission-orientated organizations, they do have products and services to sell, hence the lobbying efforts.

If the name “Oak Foundation” sounds familiar, that is likely because it also funds the Heat Initiative. That is not a surprise: CSAM prevention causes are among the largest beneficiaries of the Oak Foundation’s grants, representing over 10% of its grant-making in 2022. That is an understandable place to spend a lot of money; who can disagree with efforts to fight among the world’s bleakest genres of crime?

But for anyone who remembers the arguments made in the 2000s justifying wholesale invasions of personal privacy in an effort to combat terrorism, this all feels a bit too familiar, and we know the consequences. I do not buy speculative slippery slope arguments but, in this case, there is no need to: we know this kind of surveillance has poor oversight, expands beyond its initial scope, produces post hoc rationalization for crimes, and leads to escalating competition between nations. That the E.U. is proposing on-device scanning is little comfort when, by design, there is little understanding of how any of these systems work and what their limits are.

Last month, a new organization called the Heat Initiative launched an aggressive, high-profile campaign intended to pressure Apple to more comprehensively scan for child abuse materials in users’ messages, photo and video libraries, and iCloud storage. About a week after its debut came Apple’s annual iPhone launch presentation, during which time Heat Initiative flew an airplane banner over Apple Park. Lest you think this is original and clever, the Electronic Frontier Foundation did the same thing in protest of Apple’s then-recently announced plans for locally scanning users’ iCloud-destined photo libraries. It also placed a full-page ad in the New York Times. None of this comes cheap, which may make you wonder where the organization is getting such generous funding.

Sam Biddle, the Intercept:

Something the Heat Initiative has not placed on giant airborne banners is who’s behind it: a controversial billionaire philanthropy network whose influence and tactics have drawn unfavorable comparisons to the right-wing Koch network. Though it does not publicize this fact, the Heat Initiative is a project of the Hopewell Fund, an organization that helps privately and often secretly direct the largesse — and political will — of billionaires. Hopewell is part of a giant, tightly connected web of largely anonymous, Democratic Party-aligned dark-money groups, in an ironic turn, campaigning to undermine the privacy of ordinary people.


For an organization demanding that Apple scour the private information of its customers, the Heat Initiative discloses extremely little about itself. According to a report in the New York Times, the Heat Initiative is armed with $2 million from donors including the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, an organization founded by British billionaire hedge fund manager and Google activist investor Chris Cohn, and the Oak Foundation, also founded by a British billionaire. The Oak Foundation previously provided $250,000 to a group attempting to weaken end-to-end encryption protections in EU legislation, according to a 2020 annual report.

Though Biddle highlights Hopewell’s association with causes supporting the U.S. Democratic Party, this does not seem like an argument divided among political affiliations, and I certainly hope it does not slide in that direction. This is a disagreement between people who understand the social and technical risks of what is proposed, and those who earnestly believe those trade-offs are worth it. I understand their objections — I do not think they are naïve — but I will continue to disagree on the basis that personal cloud storage ought to be considered an extension of local storage. Organizations like the Heat Initiative are not much interested in a nuanced discussion.

Vox Media held its Code Conference this week in Laguna Niguel. It was the first iteration of the conference in which hosting duties would not be handled by Kara Swisher, who was only listed as a speaker. It seems that Swisher was supposed to interview General Motors CEO Mary Barra, but Barra could no longer participate for some reason, and so Swisher instead interviewed Yoel Roth.

About an hour after Swisher and Roth finished their surprise session came the highlight of the event, if you can call it that: an interview with Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino — who reflexively insists on calling it “X” for some reason — in which she was both evasive and unprepared for the kinds of questions you might expect she would be asked.

Alex Heath, the Verge (non-paywalled link):

Throughout the conversation, she repeatedly dodged specific questions about the state of X’s business, at times revealing that she may not actually know the answers. X now has “something like” 200 to 250 million daily active users, she said at one point. She clearly didn’t know the status of Musk’s plan to enforce a stricter paywall and said it’s looking like X will turn a profit sometime early next year.

Yaccarino sounded confused and surprised to be asked about the paywall idea, which was announced over a week ago. In fairness to Yaccarino, it can be hard to keep up with news, which is why it is so useful to have an app on your iPhone’s first home screen that allows you to keep your finger on the pulse.

Peter Kafka, at Vox (hey, it is a Vox event, so I might as well quote liberally from the company’s writers):

On the health of Twitter’s platform under Musk: She repeated earlier claims that the company now has more than 540 million users — more than double than the user base Musk cited last November. “When you look at the length of time spent, engagement on X, the key metrics are trending very, very positively,” she said.

Kafka cites a Reuters article to bolster the “more than double” claim, but it does not provide evidence of that. Reuters, in July, repeats Musk’s claim of 540 million monthly users, but it is comparing that to the 229 million monthly active users in the pre-Musk era of Twitter. Those metrics — much like view counts — are not interchangeable.

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

But… we’re not done yet. Because the other data point Musk revealed: “100 million to 200 million posts per day” also tells us something.

That is… below what Twitter used to have. Way below. A study in 2019, that had tracked tweets per day from 2012 through 2019 showed that in 2019 tweets per day were between 320 and 340 million per day. Or… somewhere around twice what Musk is claiming today.

It is Yaccarino’s job to make Twitter more palatable — especially on a public stage — and to act as a sort of buffer for its owner’s whims. It is Kafka’s job — and the job of media personalities — to avoid simply repeating what was said without giving it adequate context.

Alex Pasternack, Fast Company:

The bigger irony is that Google employees’ chat conversations had “history off” set as the default. That explanation dovetails neatly with part of the government’s own argument about Google’s anticompetitive behavior.

Google, argues the DOJ, knows the power of defaults to influence user choice, and was able to maintain its monopoly partly because it weaponized that power, for instance by paying Apple billions a year to make Google the default search on Safari on iPhones. The placement was apparently crucial for Google, which the DOJ estimates controls 89% of the U.S. search market. At trial, it emerged that Apple once tried to divert a fraction of search data to its own search engine, in a possible prelude to competition; Google quickly nixed that.

My “I talk about [Revenue Sharing Agreement] related things all day and I don’t have history on for all my chats :)” t-shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by my shirt.

None of the players in the Google antitrust case want any of this stuff public. They are all — including Apple and Samsung — taking extraordinary measures to avoid scrutiny by observers and the press. It appears many of these same businesses have learned from that time executives like Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt conspired to minimize cross-company poaching, proved in part by emails like those from Schmidt which read “I don’t want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later”.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games:

As we shared earlier, we are laying off around 16% of Epic employees. We’re divesting Bandcamp and spinning off most of SuperAwesome.

Nicole Carpenter, of Polygon, says about 830 people will be without a job. I feel bad for them.

Songtradr bought Bandcamp:

Bandcamp is an online music store and community with over 5M artists and labels where fans can discover, connect with, and directly support the artists they love. This acquisition will help Bandcamp continue to grow within a music-first company and enable Songtradr to expand its capabilities to support the artist community.

Songtradr will also offer Bandcamp artists the ability and choice to have their music licensed to all forms of media including content creators, game and app developers and brands. This will enable artists to continue to own and control their music rights, and increase their earning capacity from Songtradr’s global licensing network.

I hope Songtradr will be as hands-off as Epic Games was.

I suspected Epic acquired Bandcamp last year as part of its competition arguments against app marketplaces. Indeed, less than two months after it bought the company, it was using it in a complaint (PDF) against Google.

It seems notable to me that Bandcamp workers recently unionized, and that performers in video games might strike if studios do not comply with their reasonable requests, like a “set medic to be present at dangerous stunts, just as on film and television sets”, according to Danielle Broadway at Reuters.

Matthew Cassinelli asked how people are using their iPhone’s Action Button and collected some of the best responses in this post. Unfortunately, I do not see any with download links; if you would like to use one, you will need to re-create it. There are some great ideas here, though.

I have set mine to launch Obscura.

Update: If you are so inclined, you could use it to file bug reports in Feedback Assistant.

Fresh off of duplicating the math round from “Countdown”, the New York Times decided to take the Connecting Wall round from “Only Connect” and subtly rebrand it as Connections. It was released in June, but I only learned about it today via Andy Baio, who points to Conlextions by Lex Friedman as a more challenging option.

Or, if you like, you could play PuzzGrid, which I think is a more faithful interpretation of the Connecting Wall with the spirit of a fan-made tribute rather than the Times’ rip-off.

Matt Stoller:

But this Google trial? By far the most important moment was when Judge Mehta denied a third-party motion to broadcast a publicly accessible audio feed of the trial for fear that information Google wishes wouldn’t be disclosed become public. Indeed, Google lawyers have explicitly argued that the judge should avoid allowing documents to become public solely because it is “clickbait.” To put it differently, the search giant literally argues material should stay sealed merely because if that material is interesting. Imagine if Bill Gates, or say, a routine defendant in any case, could have availed himself of that innovative legal argument!

The New York Times live-blogged the first day of the trial, but has not done so for any subsequent days. Given the recap posted by Stoller, it is not hard to see why: most of it has been conducted behind closed doors and away from the press using sealed evidence. Perhaps these discussions really would cause irreparable harm to Google if they were publicized. Notably, however, Judge Mehta tipped his hand ahead of the trial by noting he would “take seriously when companies are telling me that if this gets disclosed, it’s going to cause competitive harm”, which is kind of like laying out the instructions for how to ensure anything untoward remains a secret.

Kate Knibbs, Wired:

Obituary pirating, where people scrape and republish obituaries from funeral homes and websites like, has been an ethically dubious business for years. Piracy websites are often skilled enough at search engine optimization to rise to the top of search results, and they use the resulting traffic to charge a premium for digital ads that appear next to text lifted wholesale from funeral homes, local newspapers, and other authorized obituary publishers. Occasionally, these pirate sites go a step further, manipulating bereaved people into buying sympathy gifts like candles or flowers and pocketing the money.

The flood of YouTube obituary videos is a janky update on this practice. Some of these channels upload dozens of death notice summaries every hour, abandoning any pretense of looking like an official source of information in an effort to churn out as many videos as they can.

I stumbled across this industry earlier this year after a family friend died. Two of the three YouTube channels I found in June are now gone, but the third continues to churn out videos with titles that are copied from English-language obituaries, but with what sound like unrelated contents in a different language.

A few weeks ago, my wife generously gifted me the Lego Concorde set. I got around to building it this weekend. It was the first time I had experienced a full Lego set in about twenty years, but it felt exactly as magical as I had remembered. As a kid, I would have felt all the joy and wonder of something so intricate — and so large; the Concorde model is over a metre long — replicating what has to be the most captivating airplane ever built.

Those emotions hit me pretty hard as an adult building it, too, but I could not help but think of how different the real-life version of projects like these used to be conceived compared to how they are now. In the Verge’s coverage of this Lego set, Sean Hollister notes a resurgent interest in supersonic planes, with orders from several airlines for the Boom Overture. As it happens, I am currently reading Ashlee Vance’s “When the Heavens Went on Sale” about the rapid privatization of space.

I am not an expert in any of this. This is not a history lesson, though I did try to avoid any factual errors. Call this little more than a late Sunday night rambling post of how I am feeling now. Pure vibes ahead.

Both the Concorde and the majority of space exploration are products of extraordinary engineering efforts backed by entire countries, bestowing them with a larger purpose than simple business economics. To be sure, it is incredible to read about how private spacecraft from Rocket Lab deliver into orbit tiny satellites made by Planet Labs which create global imagery that, for example, gets used by journalists to uncover oil tankers spoofing their location. That is incredible.

I also wish there was room for these kinds of big, national-level projects of collective pride. Landing on the Moon was a big moment for the entire world, but a particularly special one for people in the United States; the Space Shuttle continued the record of having a national space icon. Concorde was a partnership between British and French interests and it produced something (almost) entirely unique. I do not mean this in a nationalist sense, nor do I want to sound like a full-on communist — though it is strange to me how those two vastly different labels could be seen in the same set of things. Magnificent projects like these seem as though business motives were disregarded in favour of doing something really, really great. Something special.

It is hard to look at the 1950s or 1960s and want to bring almost anything to the present day. The world now is overall a much better place than it was then. Perhaps my rumination is misplaced. But it is bizarre to feel like efforts like these are not possible today because they lack a purpose we care about now. The closest approximation we have now seems to be NASA’s attempt to send people to Mars in the 2030s. NASA is planning to build to that by sending people to the Moon in around 2025, in a craft outsourced to SpaceX. This mission, like Boom’s existence, feels like a retro chic callback to a glorious past mixed with the financialized world of today. Perhaps I do not have an accurate point of reference but it would be nice, I think, if projects like these were a more collective effort that entire nations or the whole world could get behind, as projects for the good of humanity.

In case you have not already heard, let me break the news: this year’s iPhones have a USB-C port where the Lightning port used to be. Aside from the physical attributes of each, the main difference between these ports is that Lightning is a proprietary port specific to Apple devices, while USB-C is an open specification which anybody can use. Or, rather, it is an open set of specifications, and everybody who wants to sell a product in Europe must have a compliant charging port beginning next year. This situation is mostly good today, if a little confusing, and I think it will still be pretty good years in the future.

The main problems with USB-C have been well-documented, here and elsewhere. In short, while USB-C describes the shape of the plug, the indistinguishable cables and ports can each support a vast range of capabilities, from audio adapter mode, through power delivery and USB 2.0 speeds, all the way up to Thunderbolt 5. The plugs look the same, and the cords do not differ in any way other than thickness. This confusion is not exclusive to USB-C: the USB 3 standard was introduced with USB-A ports that looked the same as their USB 2 counterparts, especially in Apple’s implementation; and Lightning has supported USB 3 speeds on some iPad models, but only with some accessories that look very similar to their USB 2-only counterparts. But USB-C takes this mix-and-match approach of capabilities, ports, and cables to an extreme.

The confusion is the bad news. The good news is that I have read seemingly everywhere that most people do not sync their iPhones with a cable any longer. Apparently, there are “wireless” technologies which can do this stuff over the air. The living future is wild. If the only reason you connect your iPhone to a cable is to charge it, I have good news: basically none of this matters and just about any USB-C cable should work fine. I swapped the Lightning cable on my nightstand for a spare USB-A to USB-C cable that came with my keyboard — standards are great. If you, like me, still have an ample supply of USB-A wall adapters and have purchased a non-Apple device in the past five years, you probably have one laying around as well. This is the most any of this is relevant to many people.

But transfer speed matters to me and, well, this is my website. I still sync my iPhone over a wire: I do not trust Apple’s cloud music matching shenanigans and, while I have Wi-Fi syncing enabled, it is dramatically slower than even the miserable cable Apple has been shipping for a long time. I used iPerf to test the Wi-Fi transfer speed between my iMac and my MacBook Pro, and it reported an average of about 100 Mbps. That is a steep downgrade from even USB 2 speeds, never mind USB 3.1 This is important enough to me that it is one of the reasons why I bought the 15 Pro over the standard iPhone 15.

I currently sync around 107 GB of music from my Mac to my iPhone. While the math suggests that should be accomplished in around half an hour at USB 2 speeds, it is not so simple. From previous experience, I know a fresh sync usually takes at least 45 minutes, if not closer to a full hour. Unfortunately, while the iPhone 15 Pro is capable of transfer speeds twenty times faster than its predecessor, the cable in the box is not. However, I have a high-speed cable at my desk already — again, standards are great — so I could take advantage of this. The same fresh sync with my new iPhone took just twelve minutes.

Yeah, this rules.

Okay, so that is not even close to a 20× improvement, and those of you who have Android phones are probably laughing at how long it took for the iPhone to get here. To the latter crowd, I hear you. To the former, I do not think music syncing has ever run at full USB speed ever since it was baked into iTunes. I have no idea why.

Nevertheless, that is a huge improvement, which raises the obvious question: what took so long? If Lightning was capable of USB 3 transfer speeds, why was it limited to a handful of iPad Pro accessories? Why did Apple replace Lightning with USB-C in the iPad in 2018 but retain Lightning in the iPhone, AirPods, and its “Magic” line of Mac accessories? While I do not think it was spite or ego driven, Apple has not provided its own rationale. The closest it ever came to explaining Lightning’s longstanding presence was when it introduced the standard in 2012 — when Phil Schiller said it was a “modern connector for the next decade”. That is less of a defence than it is a commitment and, to be fair to Apple, it exceeded those expectations by one year.

So Apple established an ecosystem with its proprietary connector, and it said it would keep it around for ten years. But that does not preclude improving Lightning, as it did in the iPad Pro. There might be some great reasons why Apple never evolved the iPhone’s connector, but we are only able to speculate. That is also true for keeping a mix of USB-C and Lightning products in its lineup. It could have felt stung by the negative press coverage after the Lightning transition, or maybe it wanted to preserve its ecosystem of first- and third-party products out of stability and perhaps control.2 But we do not know because it has chosen to put its weight behind objecting to the E.U.’s mandated USB-C standard instead of explaining why Lightning is just so darn great.

So let us talk about that.

Apple’s Greg Joswiak, in an interview with Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal last year, said he prefers to understand what governments want to accomplish, but to leave the details to businesses like Apple. I kind of get where he is coming from on this. Joz also cites the E.U.’s previous dedication to standardizing around Micro USB, which likely would have sucked today, and it is not difficult to see a similar problem for the future. If Apple or some other business develops a wired connection which is better for the iPhone than USB-C but incompatible with its spec and plug shape, it will be hamstrung, right?

Not so: it already produces a dizzying array of iPhone SKUs, including region-specific variations: the United States has a version without a physical SIM card, while the version sold in China and Hong Kong supports dual physical SIM cards. In addition, there are two other versions depending on local cellular frequency requirements. When multiplied by colours and capacities, I count 232 individual iPhone 15 and 15 Pro SKUs. If Apple needs to make a special E.U. market version, it already has that capability — and if the rest of the world gets a much better iPhone, you can bet Apple will emphasize that in its marketing. E.U. users will complain to their representatives. It will work out just fine.

This is all speculative, however, and these arguments would be far easier to believe had Apple updated its Lightning implementation on the iPhone since its launch. If it was constantly innovating in port design or speed, sure, I would have more sympathy. But it has not and, so, I do not. Besides, the rumour mill is certain the next major innovation in iPhone ports is no ports at all. Selfishly, I hope that is not the case; see my own experiences above. We can also only speculate about whether the iPhone was due to get USB-C this year regardless of legislation pushed by the E.U., or if Apple would continue to ride the Lightning connector.

What I do know for sure is how much better my iPhone user experience has been out of the gate with this high-speed USB port. Setup was faster, accessories are more universal, it is a more capable product, and I faced no transition problems. Your experience may vary. Mine, though, is much better than it used to be, and it is baffling to consider the non-cynical reasons why it has taken this long to get here.

  1. I am not sure why this is the case, as the router and devices on the same network each report internet speeds of upwards of 200 Mbps, and the router shows it is connected to each of my Macs at somewhere between 500 Mbps and 1 Gbps. Alas, I would rather have a nail through my foot than spend a weekend diagnosing network problems. What matters is how fast Wi-Fi syncing is in the real world — in my real world — not in theory, and wired connections blow it out of the water every time. ↥︎

  2. The press coverage after the USB-C transition has been nothing like it was with Lightning eleven years ago. The most negative article I found was from the Telegraph and, frankly, that barely counts. CNBC went with a headline focusing on the cost of an adapter, Dan Moren, for Macworld, pointed out all the places Lightning still exists in Apple’s lineup, and USA Today published a weird article that places the iPhone’s cost on a timeline of its connector options. Maybe some publication crappier than the Telegraph posted something even click-baitier, but that is basically going to be disreputable by default. ↥︎

Normally, I would not cover a patch update, even if it does contain fixes for three actively exploited vulnerabilities — something which seems increasingly routine. In this case, it is notable because many of you will likely be receiving new iPhones shipping with iOS 17.0 in a matter of hours. (It is before 11:00 am in Australia as I write this.)

You may wish to make one of two choices:

  1. update your current iPhone, and be sure to update the new one before trying to restore from backup; or

  2. wait to update until after your new iPhone arrives tomorrow and you have restored from backup, and perhaps enable Lockdown Mode to be safe.

The latter option is probably not your best choice, but either way should preserve backup compatibility. Just something to keep in mind.

Update: Well, after I hit “publish”, I saw a tweet from Ramal showing an iOS 17.0.2 update that Apple says is available for all iPhone 15 models, and “fixes an issue that may prevent transferring data directly from another iPhone during set-up”.

Jared Spataro, of Microsoft:

Today at an event in New York, we announced our vision for Microsoft Copilot — a digital companion for your whole life — that will create a single Copilot user experience across Bing, Edge, Microsoft 365, and Windows. As a first step toward realizing this vision, we’re unveiling a new visual identity — the Copilot icon — and creating a consistent user experience that will start to roll out across all our Copilots, first in Windows on September 26 and then in Microsoft 365 Copilot when it is generally available for enterprise customers on November 1.

This is a typically ambitious effort from Microsoft. Copilot replaces Cortana, which will mostly be dropped later this year, and is being pitched as a next-generation virtual assistant in a similar do everything vein. This much I understand; tying virtual assistants to voice controls does not make much sense because sometimes — and, for me, a lot of the time — you do not want to be chatting with your computer. That is certainly a nice option and a boon for accessibility, but clear and articulate speech should not be required to use these kinds of features.

Microsoft’s implementation, however, is worrisome as I use a Windows PC at my day job. Carmen Zlateff, Microsoft Windows vice president, demoed a feature today in which she said “as soon as I copy the text, Copilot appears” in a large sidebar that spans the entire screen height. I copy a lot of stuff in a day, and I cannot tell you how much I do not want a visually intrusive — if not necessarily interruptive — feature like this. I hope I will be able to turn this off.

Meanwhile, a bunch of this stuff is getting jammed into Edge and Microsoft 365 productivity apps. Edge is getting so bloated it seems like the company will need to make a new browser again very soon. The Office features might help me get through a bunch of emails very quickly, but the kinds of productivity enhancements Microsoft suggests for me have not yet materialized into something I actually find useful. Its Viva Insights tool, introduced in 2021, is supposed to analyze your individual working patterns and provide recommendations, but I cannot see why I should pay attention to a graphic that looks like the Solar System illustrating which of my colleagues I spoke with least last week. Designing dashboards like these are a fun project and they make great demos. I am less convinced of their utility.

I get the same kind of vibe from Copilot. I hope it will be effective at summarizing all my pre-reads for a meeting, but I have my doubts. So much of what Microsoft showed today requires a great deal of trust from users: trust in its ability to find connections; in its accuracy; in its ability to balance helpfulness and intrusion; in its neutrality to its corporate overlords. One demo showed someone searching for cleats using Microsoft’s shopping search engine and getting a deal with the browser-based coupon finder. It is a little thing, but can I trust Copilot and Microsoft Shopping are showing me the best quality results that are most relevant, or should I just assume this is a lightly personalized way to see which companies have the highest ad spend with Microsoft?

It seems risky to so confidently launch something like this at a time when trust in big technology companies is at rock-bottom levels in the United States, especially among young people. Microsoft is certainly showing it is at the leading edge of this stuff, and you should expect more from its competitors very soon. I am just not sure giving more autonomy to systems like these from powerful corporations is what people most want.