Good Reads for September, 2016

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of genuinely grandiose reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes, they’ll contain speculation about upcoming Apple products, or analysis of why the latest iPhone is the worst one ever. Other times, they’ll be lengthy review of operating systems, followed up by the usual “Apple is doomed” commentary. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • John Siracusa may not be writing reviews of Apple’s Mac operating systems on Ars Technica any longer, but that doesn’t mean Ars Technica has stopped reviewing them. Now known as macOS, Sierra 10.12 adds new features in the way of bringing Siri to the Mac, as well as improvements to core OS apps such as Photos, Messages, and smarter storage management features that eschew much of traditional file management away from users. But once all that’s said and done, it’s still an iterative release that runs on ageing hardware — even if that hardware runs any task you wish to throw at it comfortably.

Sierra is a perfectly fine operating system update. Like other yearly macOS releases (and the new periodic Windows 10 releases), it makes solid improvements without pulling the rug out from under users of the current version. It cuts hardware from the support list somewhat arbitrarily, but those aging Core 2 Duo systems can’t be expected to last forever and they’ll still get El Capitan security updates for a couple of years.

  • I’ve read plenty of Apple is doomed stories, but Austin Frank is the first to put together a somewhat compelling argument about the age of Apple being over. He writes that while Tim Cook’s Apple is doing just fine, it’s not the innovative powerhouse that Apple was under Steve Jobs, and that could be bad news for those looking for the next big thing. Soon, the best camera on a smartphone won’t be enough, and by not taking risks, Apple is now the new Microsoft (and we’re talking about the 90’s Microsoft here, not the Microsoft of today).

At a certain point, companies stop being truly innovative. They lose their competitive fire and balk at moonshots — they value preservation over expansion. When you’re hungry, you take risks. When your belly is full, you’re risk-averse. With its core products established and markets effectively saturated, Apple can only improve its products incrementally and play the quarterly earnings game; buying out smaller companies takes the place of innovation.

  • While Apple themselves call their decision to remove the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus courage, Ian Bogost of The Atlantic says it’s merely another case of Apple selling its controlling ways as futurism. Comparisons to the removal of the floppy drive and optical drive, flawed as they may be, say that by trusting Apple with these decisions, the alternatives are forever lost to us.

Apple’s aggressive battle against the retrograde pull of hardware standards also exerts an implicit control on its users. Buying an Apple product becomes an exercise in trust for the future it will bring about. And the problem with the future is that it’s very hard to think about how it might have been different once it arrives.

  • Apple’s AirPods aren’t out yet, but already sites like Slate are calling them the future of computing. You can joke about how they’re going to be lost easily, or maybe even swallowed by curious toddlers, but the simplistic pairing process and convenience of Siri in your ear are hard to overlook. And yeah, Apple will sell you a single AirPod, if you lose one.

To think of AirPods as Bluetooth headphones is to miss the point in two key ways. First, they aren’t Bluetooth, or at least not only Bluetooth. Second, they aren’t headphones, or at least not only headphones.

  • But don’t take my word for it, or even Slate’s. Take the word of Chris Messina, product guy, inventor of the hashtag, and ex-Googler. In a completely hilarious piece, he says that Silicon Valley is completely wrong about Apple’s AirPods, and that they’ll sell like proverbial hotcakes because, well, I won’t spoil it.

What Apple has done is produce something that isn’t a technology product, but is, rather, a fashion object—a piece of jewelry, an entertainment product, a status symbol, a genie in a bottle—that drips with sex appeal. I mean, that iPhone 7 launch video probably was directed by The Weeknd, because I want to watch it, Often, followed by a cold shower.

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