Here’s what should excite you about the new iPhone 6S

Apple has released some new iPhones. They come with the company’s new operating system, are available with a new aluminum finish, and boast a bunch of the incremental upgrades that accompany every new product under the sun.
In these ways, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus would be easy to dismiss as the same off-year product updates Apple popularized with the iPhone 4s or 5s. But these new iPhones also have features that will change how people take photos, interact with their phones, and view the concept of ownership in this new age.
Apple iPhone 6s

Cosmetic changes & improved specs

First the easy stuff. These new iPhones are available with a new Rose Gold finish, and Apple claims that it has developed new forms of aluminum and glass to make the devices more durable than their predecessors. They have updated processors, ship with iOS 9, and boast improved front-and rear-facing cameras.
iPhone 6s Live Photo

GIFs & Live Photos

Then comes the more interesting things, starting with Live Photos. These are basically animated GIFs that the new iPhones make whenever someone takes a picture. They have sound, are about three seconds long, and can be viewed by making a long press on any photo captured with these devices’ new cameras.
Automatically generating these GIFs is a nice nod to the forms dominance on the Internet. Who wants to watch a video or see a still image when an animated GIF is available? I suspect these Live Photos will be very popular — and that their popularity will be increased by the fact that services like Facebook will support them within the year, thus helping them attract all kinds of attention.
It’s hard to overstate how having Live Photos available on something like Facebook could help sell the new iPhones to many consumers. There’s nothing like good ol’ fashioned jealousy, especially where social media is concerned, to make a bunch of people want something they might have otherwise dismissed.
The interaction that allows people to view Live Photos — a long press — is part of a much larger change Apple is making to how people interact with the sheets of metal and glass that serve as windows into much of their lives. Apple is calling the upgrade 3D Touch, and horrible name aside, it’s kind of a big deal.

A screenshot showing the iPhone 6s' 3D Touch capabilities in action.

A screenshot showing the iPhone 6s’ 3D Touch capabilities in action.

3D Touch – Awful name, big addition

3D Touch is essentially bringing the concept of a right-click to the iPhone. Instead of restricting people to interacting with content shown on the screen, 3D Touch allows iPhone owners to view pertinent information or perform common tasks with little more than a long, forceful press or simple gesture.
This means things that previously required a few taps, like responding to an email or viewing flight information from a text message thread, can now be found a little more easily. It might seem like a small change, but this could make the day-to-day experience of using an iPhone less painful than before.
Features like 3D Touch and Live Photos aren’t going to make anyone want a smartphone. Hell, both of them probably sound like gobbledygook to people who aren’t already sold on animated GIFs or using smartphones every day. Instead, the features are supposed to appeal to people who already own a smartphone, whether it’s an iPhone or some Android device or another.
Apple iPhone Upgrade Program

iPhone upgrade program

That’s where the iPhone Upgrade Program comes in. Apple wants to make it easier for people to get a new iPhone every year. To do that, it’s offering unlocked devices for a monthly fee starting at $32, effectively allowing people to rent the latest-and-greatest iPhones for the 12 months between releases. Once that new device is available, consumers will be expected to turn in their old one.
It does sound tempting. But, then again, I’m also a foolish consumer who has been willing to do obscene things with his Verizon account just to get new phones whenever an old one starts showing any kind of problem, or a new one is announced with enough new features to warrant even a little excitement.
And it’s hard not to think of this as an iPhone-as-a-service play. Instead of having something you own forever, Apple is basically asking people to pay for their phones the same way they pay for their Netflix subscription. Why buy a movie when you can rent all of them? Why get an iPhone you’ll eventually replace? It’s so much more convenient to just rent one out for a little while.
That could have questionable consequences for the concept of ownership. Do we really need to rent everything we use? Wouldn’t it be nice to own some things outright instead of having everything depend on monthly payments? Those are just a few of the concerns I have about this new upgrade program.
Still, I have to hand it to Apple: the company picked the right time to introduce this new, potentially lucrative pricing structure. These new iPhones aren’t just incremental upgrades; they’re poised to change the way people use their phones or share moments from their lives. I’d pay a few bucks each month for that.

Could I do 80 percent of my work on an iPad?

How much work can you really get done on an iPad? After Apple CEO Tim Cook said he did 80 percent of his work on an iPad, I examined my day to see how much I could get done on one.

Google’s play for the smart home

I remember when the iPad came out and I sensed that the biggest fear Google had about the iPad was that it was Apple’s grand claim to the home. While I think Google was concerned about Apple locking up additional conduits for delivering media, the company seemed equally worried that Apple could further control the point of contact in the home for communicating with everything from your TV to how you discovered new content.

The Nest acquisition made a lot of sense in this regard. It gave the company direct access to a hardware input device—a thermostat—that most people use almost everyday. Add to that the reality that this device is collecting information in your home, from the temperature to whether you’re at home, and one can see how the connected thermostat could be very interesting to a company that had honed its business model optimizing the delivery of advertising to consumers. The more Google knows about you, the better its advertising becomes, particularly in a mobile, location based world.

And so what about the minor controversy, spawned by Google’s letter to the SEC that The Wall Street Journal’s Rolfe Winkler picked up on? From the letter:

We expect the definition of “mobile” to continue to evolve as more and more “smart” devices gain traction in the market. For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.Our expectation is that users will be using our services and viewing our ads on an increasingly wide diversity of devices in the future, and thus our advertising systems are becoming increasingly device-agnostic.

Wait, did Google just say we could be looking at ads on thermostats? Isn’t this precisely what loyal Nest supporters don’t want done to their sleek and refined thermostats? More importantly, would Google aggregate Nest user data to improve advertising?

Now to be fair to Nest, CEO and founder Tony Fadell has always said two things. First, that the data he collects is used for product improvement. Second that any changes would be transparent and perhaps most importantly, opt-in. Most of the biggest privacy flouters, like Facebook, rely on opt-out models where the onus is on the user to figure out how restrict data collection and opt out of data collection policies. Additionally, Nest’s business model isn’t an ad supported one, something Fadell reminded everyone when the WSJ article showed up. He went beyond that, actually, to say that he doesn’t think ads are right for the Nest experience. Which is fairly apparent in that Nest feels very much like a premium Apple hardware experience better left unsullied by low brow Google ads.

But, the question for me is not really will we ever see advertising on a thermostat.  But rather, is the data that Nest has access to more important for Google than any device specific advertising? And for, Google, is it more important to begin building out a smart home ecosystem that one day becomes governed by a Google account so that Google has the richest data possible to optimize advertising across not a single thermostat but across tablet, phones, watches, glasses?

If it’s not apparent already, I’m not worried about seeing ads on a Nest thermostat. I do, however, have my eye on Nest’s privacy policies. I don’t think it’s imminent but I wonder if there will be an Instagram moment when it becomes apparent that the acquiring company wants the acquired company to fall in line with its overall business strategy.

No doubt Google and Nest have learned from the Instagram terms of service debacle. But I also wouldn’t be shocked if Google figures out a new way to to acces Nest’s data, like for example in future generations allowing users to easily control their Nest through a Google account, which further tie together the product offerings. But for now, one can rest assured that neither company is dumb enough to show you ads for ice cream on your thermostat.

Reading the tea leaves on app sandboxing in OS X

What’s behind Apple’s decision to require sandboxing in OS X apps? It is not a far stretch to consider that this shift in approach might have a connection to Apple’s long-term plans to make iCloud the center of their strategy for the next decade.