Good Reads for March, 2019

Every month, we’ll bring you a handful of carefully curated, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Some will be commentary on the sad state of logging bugs for Apple, others will lament Apple’s one-size-fits-all strategy for certain accessories, while others still may speculate on Apple’s strategy with regard to various aspects of their business. All I know is, bring your Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • March saw the release of updated AirPods hardware. Now with optional wireless charging case and a new wireless chip for always-on Hey Siri capabilities as well as a little more talk time, Apple’s AirPods can now be seen everywhere. The tiny earbuds have exploded in popularity seemingly overnight, and GQ spoke to Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive to try and find out why. As it turns out, there’s a lot to like about AirPods, but it’s more than that, too. When Ive was asked about why using AirPods for the first time leaves you looking like a puppy might look at a butterfly, he said:

I think this was common on the initial reaction to the AirPods—it’s a reaction based on an academic understanding of them, rather than a practical daily understanding of them. What we tend to focus on are those attributes that are easy to talk about, and just because we talk about them doesn’t mean that they’re the important attributes. All that means is they’re the ones that are easy to talk about.

  • New AirPods hardware is all well and good, but all that presumes that you have the right sized ears to be able to use AirPods comfortably. For those of us with slightly larger or smaller ear-holes than the prescribed size, using AirPods is something between mild annoyance at how often they fall out with the slightest motion of your head, or a delicate balancing act as you try and remain as still as possible. Over at TechCrunch, Natasha Lomas cautions against AirPods setting a dangerous precedent for a one-size-fits-all methodology when it comes to tech, especially the kind that could open up new methods of interaction down the track.

But the underlying issue is much bigger than Apple’s (in my case) oversized earbuds. Its latest shiny set of AirPods are just an ill-fitting reminder of how many technology defaults simply don’t ‘fit’ the world as claimed. Because if cash-rich Apple’s okay with promoting a universal default (that isn’t), think of all the less well resourced technology firms chasing scale for other single-sized, ill-fitting solutions. And all the problems flowing from attempts to mash ill-mapped technology onto society at large.

  • Corbin Dunn tells us what happens when you log a bug with Apple, which has somehow resulted in the sad state of logging bugs for Apple that we have today. Sure, your bugs will always get looked at. But that’s where the problem begins: as an Apple outsider, you aren’t privy to the inner workings of one of the largest companies in the world when it comes to software development. This lack of transparency and feedback means that although your bugs can contribute to Apple’s overall software quality, more often than not you’re left wondering why you even bothered to log a bug in the first place, creating a vicious cycle where less bugs are logged, so less issues are resolved, and things start to slip through the cracks.

You find a bug in macOS or iOS. Something in the software isn’t working the way it should work. You decide to let Apple know, and head over to and login with your Apple ID. You fill out the required form, list the reproduction steps, hit the special key chord to generate a fat sysdiagnose, attach some screen shots, and hope they fix it.

  • Over at Charged, Owen Williams dissects Apple’s response to Spotify’s claims it isn’t playing fair when it comes to Spotify competing with Apple Music. Williams says Apple responds to Spotify with words, but no real answers to any of Spotify’s questions regarding anti-competitive practices that they accuse Apple of. Regardless of who you think is in the right here, there are some great points from both sides, although after reading it, I’m not sure which company has my best interests at heart.

I find myself reading the long letter, which tries to rebuke each of Spotify’s points, thinking that the PR doublespeak is incredibly eloquent. Apple avoids touching on any of the issues in the ecosystem, while sometimes unintentionally reinforcing Spotify’s point: it controls a broad swathe of the ecosystem’s destiny, with little oversight.

  • Once upon a time, you could have pointed at the Apple Watch and said that it was more about fashion than function. From interchangeable bands to customisable watch faces and custom models designed for celebrities, at the start the Apple Watch seemed to be at the intersection of wearable technology and fashion. The New York times postulates that’s no longer the case, with Apple saying goodbye to fashion as interest in wearables has more or less waned and the Apple Watch has positioned itself as a significant health device rather than something you wear to turn heads.

But while once upon a time there were rumors about other designers joining the gang, and third parties like Coach and Kate Spade have made bands for the Apple watch, the talk these days is all about the watch being a platform for health and fitness — which is also why the fitness brands (Nike especially) are still gung-ho.

  • The Rolling Stone tells us all about GarageBand, Apple’s entry-level, loop-based music editing app that is still used today to great effect. It might not have the same pedigree as other professional audio editors, but GarageBand still holds its own. Not bad for a 15-year old Mac program, and the story behind the Music Apps studio that works on the app is one you just have to read for yourself.

Sprawling 175 acres and 2.8 million square feet in the suburbs of Cupertino, California, is the recognizable glass spaceship known as Apple Park, the official global headquarters of Apple Inc, housing 12,000 employees on four immense, rotund floors. Tucked away in a much more traditional, unmarked building a few minutes’ shuttle ride away — all-glass walls here turn into solid brick and thick, soundproof foam padding — is the windowless studio where a small group of sound engineers decides how musical instruments can possibly be played with a computer.

Notable Replies

  1. Apple’s in-ear Beats range come with several ear tip options. I dare say most wireless earbuds do; Apple’s AirPods are the exception here, not the rule. I get this user’s frustration about not being able to own a pair, but they do have options, even from Apple itself.

  2. It is true that there are alternatives and it’s also true that Apple is big enough for it not to matter than a minority of their customers cannot use that product.

    But I have to ask… is it good customer service to do so? Would it be really so hard to produce an XL and XS version of the plastic shell and make that an ‘order online’ option?

  3. Maybe? Wouldn’t changing the shell change the sound?

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