• Newsletter Issue #955

    March 19th, 2018


    As if Apple hasn’t received enough media criticisms in recent weeks, the latest is all about Siri’s persistent problems, at least if you can trust what former employees say. But it’s not that easy. A former Apple executive helping to head up Siri said it was all OK. A New York Times tech columnist said it worked fine in the early days, and problems only occurred when it was scaled up to a much larger user base. A former Siri executive was part of the early team at Apple suggested it was the fault of the people who brought you Apple Maps.

    Regardless of who was responsible — and perhaps they all were — Siri is far from perfect, and routinely rates worse than Amazon Alexa and Google Voice in reliability and accuracy. One reason is said to be the fact that those two companies are storing what you say in the cloud, rather than afford you privacy or machine learning to fine-tune responses. One of my colleagues in the tech media suggested that Siri loses because Apple doesn’t emphasize trivia questions, but focuses on more important requests.

    Now it may well be that one of Siri’s problems is the server load. It was clear from the beginning that its accuracy level became worse once it went public. Scaling to higher and higher loads may also explain why iCloud has had occasional episodes of flaky performance and outages.

    As Apple continues to expand its network of datacenters around the world, one hopes the development team is working on these issues. Services are too important to continue to disappoint customers.

    Now on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented a classic encore show featuring John Martellaro, Senior Editor, Analysis & Reviews for The Mac Observer. John’s talking points included the HomePod, and whether some of the critical reviewers, including Consumer Reports magazine, were expecting too much from it. He also brought up a possible sensitivity with nearby objects, where the presence of a salt shaker close to a HomePod seriously hurt sound quality. The discussion moved to 4K/UHD TV, which John says has finally come of age. In a slightly technical discussion, John explained how the costly iMac Pro can exploit up to 18 cores and whether any of that holds value for the typical Mac or PC user. There was also a discussion about a blogger’s curious and overwrought reaction to a pair of visits to an Apple Store that, after some delays, had a favorable result. And why is Apple’s complex product lineup “perfect?”

    You also heard from Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles, who explained how he got an Apple TV 4K at a big discount, and why he’s becoming disenchanted with the product and why he likes Google Chromecast  more and more. In turn, Gene reminded listeners that his VIZIO TV has an embedded Chromecast system known as SmartCast, and why he hasn’t used his Apple TV, an older model, in over two months. And what about the HomePod and the so-called scandal involving white rings being left on oiled or waxed wood surfaces by its silicone base? Should Apple have explained this limitation earlier? What about reports that the Sonos One also leaves white traces from its silicone feet? Josh also explained why he’s about to give up on Apple Music.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast:  Gene, Chris and guest cohost J. Randall Murphy present an exclusive interview with former Air Force intelligence agent Rick Doty, long regarded as one of the more controversial figures in UFO research. What about the claims that he was a government disinformation agent, that he may have been responsible for forging such documents as MJ-12? What about his efforts to feed fake information about alleged alien visitors to one Paul Bennewitz in the 1980s? This will be a forthright interview that covers lots of topics and leaves you wanting more. Richard served his country in the US Air Force and was hired by the Air Force Office of Special Investigation after attending an intelligence course taught by the DIA and CIA. He served at Kirtland AFB as a counterintelligence officer snd also saw duty at Nevada Test Site, Air Force Test Center, Detachment 3 and Groom Lake, Nevada.


    One thing is certain: Apple’s critics and loads of alleged pundits and industry analysts got the iPhone X completely wrong. Even when the features were correctly described, there were incorrect inferences, or just plain fear-mongering about things that might happen but never did.

    When it went on sale, the iPhone X was presumed to be an obvious failure from the very first day, but for different reasons. And don’t forget all those misleading claims about alleged Face ID privacy issues, even though it uses essentially the same technology in which to store biometric data as Touch ID — the secure enclave. But because of security concerns about Android smartphones, it was assumed that Apple must suffer from the same problems.

    Even though it took up to several years for Apple to create Face ID, it was assumed to be a last-minute move because Touch ID couldn’t be embedded beneath an OLED display. Why? Because Samsung couldn’t do it and blah-blah-blah! But even if Apple has devised a way, they have switched to Face ID now, and you’ll see that feature appear on other iPhones and even iPads going forward.

    Towards the end of 2017, it was reported that Apple had reduced iPhone X parts orders by 50%. They also managed to bring production into sync with demand more quickly than expected. So was the iPhone X a huge failure. Indeed, Apple’s stock price fell for a while because of supposed supply chain stories about collapsing demand.

    When Apple announced that the iPhone X was the hottest selling smartphone on the planet during the weeks it was on sale, the critics pretended it never happened. It was still a failure, and thus a significant problem for Apple. Facts didn’t matter.

    Now there have been consistent rumors that Apple will launch three new iPhones this fall. There will be a version similar to the present iPhone 8 design with a larger edge-to-edge LCD display and a notch of course. There will be a refresh of the iPhone X, plus a larger model to be dubbed, as you’d expect, iPhone X Plus.

    According to industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, who came up with this game plan, the smaller iPhone X will be the best seller, earning half the total sales. Now although he tends to be more accurate than most tech prognosticators, he is certainly not perfect.

    So a tech pundit has decided that the larger, more expensive iPhone X Plus must be the biggest seller. Why?

    One reason is based on the fact that the iPhone 8 Plus has higher sales than the iPhone 8. That has been a gradual development, as the first Plus iPhone sold fewer copies than its little brother. One reason might be Portrait Mode and other camera enhancements exclusive to the larger model, not to mention the larger display.

    Evidently paying $100 extra isn’t an issue, and certainly paying $999 and up for the iPhone was less of a deterrent than expected.

    But remember that, if you buy an iPhone on one of those 24-month lease/purchase plans (in countries where they are offered), the price difference is just a few dollars per month. So it’s not such a big deal; well it is to me and others for whom even a tiny price difference may be significant.

    Obviously, the iPhone 8 Plus (and no doubt the larger iPhone X if it is produced) are more difficult to carry about. My wife would never fit one in one of her tiny purses. I’ve tried the two sizes of regular iPhones in my pants pocket. I can manage an iPhone 8 Plus, but just barely.

    Now if the next iPhone X is also priced at $999, it would mean the larger version might cost $1,099, to follow Apple’s example. So the price difference on a monthly basis would also be modest, and I suppose it is possible that more people will buy it than one might expect. I certainly didn’t expect the average resale price of iPhones to increase so much in the December quarter.

    I’m not altogether sure what Apple expected since, of course, you wouldn’t know their internal marketing data. At this point, though, predicting potential sales for unannounced products months before they are released is an exercise in futility. Maybe in the weeks ahead of the release of the new gear, when the specs are nailed down.

    For now, there are far better things to do with one’s time.


    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis

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