Returns department

As of late yesterday, store.apple.com actually goes to a store page again instead of just the Apple homepage. Apple, you see, used to have a dedicated online store page and then it went away since all the links to product pages were on the top bar anyway and getting rid of it meant they could fire Gary, the store page maintenance guy, who had become a bit of a liability for certain HR reasons that I won’t go into (this is a joke, as far as I know). Now the physical stores are closed so they had to re-open the virtual store. It’s all very simple. If somewhat bonkers in a worst timeline kind of way.

I used to prefer the dedicated store page, if only because muscle memory had me type in “store.apple.com” every time I wanted to check the price of something I probably wasn’t going to buy, so I felt put out when they got rid of it. If you had told me then “Good news! It’ll be back! Bad news, it’ll be because of a global pandemic.” I would have burned that monkey’s paw instead of making a wish on it.

Also, that was a terrible waste of a wish. “Bring back the online Apple store page”? What was I thinking?

(Via 9to5Mac.)

» Macs from alternate timelines

Some of them you’ll wish had been real. (Like the Macintosh III+.)

Review: The iPhone 9

Who else would you turn to for a review of the 2020 iPhone SE than the person who has not bought a new phone for four years?

What do you mean “Literally everyone else.”?

Rude.

I’m going to let you in on the dirty secret of the iPhone SE reviews you might have read on those other sites. All those people — your Grubers, your Sterns, your Panzarinos, your Bohns, your Brownlees — have all used other phones between the previous iPhone SE and this iPhone SE.

They didn’t love the original iPhone SE like I loved the original iPhone SE.

Let’s be clear right off the bat: the 2020 iPhone SE is not a real iPhone SE. And rather than keep referring to it as the iPhone SE Second Generation throughout this review, I’m going to just call it what it is: the iPhone 9. In fact, that’s what I’ve named mine.

iPhone 9

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what Apple calls it and I know that “SE” is an acronym that stands for “sell [it] e-gain”, but the reason I bought the original iPhone SE after owning an iPhone 6 and then an iPhone 6S was not because it was cheap, although that was nice. It was because it was small. Wonderfully, perfectly small.

And the iPhone 9 is simply not as small as I’d like.

Har har, Trump hands, LOL. Yes, you’re so funny. It’s unbelievable that your jokes have yet to convince me that my hand size is somehow incorrect. Surely it is pure stubbornness on my part as the jokes are devastating.

True story, though: it’s actually more about my lifestyle than the size of my hands, which are skeleton-like in their thinness, but not particularly remarkable in their breadth. Even before All This™, I didn’t spend a lot of time outside the house. For me an iPhone is for quick jaunts to the store, picking up the kid from school and nights out at the bar with friends when I’m conversing more than looking at my phone (or, well, it used to be). If I’m going to play a game or watch something or read something, I’m going to grab my 11-inch iPad Pro.

My dissatisfaction with its lack of compactness doesn’t mean that the iPhone 9 isn’t a nice phone. It might not be much better kit than the iPhone 8, but it’s substantially better than the iPhone 6, 6S and 7. If you’re upgrading from those devices, you’ll really like the finish and feel of this device.

I got the Product Red version, my first red cellular phone since my Sony Ericsson T610. And the red is very nice. The edges are metallic, the back a glass-covered cherry red and the face black, all almost exactly like the iPhone 8, which is just another sign this is the iPhone 9.

If, like me, you’re a crazy person and you haven’t bought a phone for four years, you’re going to like the camera. Even if you haven’t bought a phone for two years you’re probably going to like the camera. My wife has an iPhone XR which I tell her has the same camera as this phone, but with this phone’s enhanced processing capability, it actually has a bit of an edge on the iPhone XR. She does not need to know this.

Portrait mode works great, even if it doesn’t work on dogs which is mostly what I take pictures of during quarantine because everyone in the house looks like jumbled piles of bewildered dirty laundry that don’t know what day it is. Fantastic time to suddenly get portrait mode. A+.

Unlike the iPhone SE, the iPhone 9 (YES, WE’RE STILL CALLING IT THAT) taps when you complete certain actions. Like a tweet in TweetBot: tap. Swipe to delete an email in Mail: tap. This is how phones that have been purchased since we entered the darkest timeline apparently react. Is there a correlation? It doesn’t seem like it? It seems like a nice feature. But, I’m not a theorist in quantum causality.

As others have noted, there are no haptic interactions for notifications on the lock screen. I guess this is a bummer, but I never would have noticed this for two reasons: first, coming from an iPhone SE, I didn’t have this feature and, second, because I mostly work by myself at home where my wife also works, I don’t get that many notifications, unless you count yelling up the stairs. Your mileage may, and probably should if you care about the financial welfare of your family, vary.

Overall, I would say I have done it again: I have purchased a very nice phone. Yay, me. It is not, however, exactly what I want in an iPhone. Rumors indicate that Apple will be releasing another small phone this year, a 5.4-inch edge-to-edge phone that will be slightly larger in area than the first generation iPhone SE but significantly smaller in area than the iPhone 9. This is probably the phone I want but I couldn’t wait for it. I had already asked too much of my iPhone SE, the poor thing.

Before All This™, I repeatedly joked that Apple was cleverly timing the release of the 2020 iPhones in order to catch up on me by making me buy two phones in one year. Now, however, I’m probably not going to do that, even if the iPhone 12 is priced at the rumored $649 level. I’ll probably wait another year and hop back on the fall release schedule in 2021, assuming the murder hornets haven’t killed us all by then. (Spoiler: they will kill us all by then.)

It is frustrating to have had my desires be at odds with what Apple wanted to ship for four years. I’m sure the company knows the size of the market for small phones better than I do. I only have my anecdotal evidence, but it is very much at odds with whatever spreadsheet they’re looking at. Everyone I know who had an iPhone SE loved it for its size more than its price. If the company does release a smaller iPhone in the fall, to my mind the lineup will be set straight: new phones ranging from small to very large and a low-cost option in a previous format. Perhaps at that point I’ll be able to recognize the iPhone 9 as the new iPhone SE and all will be right with the world. It’s just a shame they couldn’t have done it six months earlier.

» ‘It’s time to stop using the iPhone SE 2 name now; it won’t be one’

I could not agree more with this sentiment from Ben Lovejoy.

There were those who wanted a relatively cheap, relatively modern iPhone. The SE met that brief by providing modern internals in an older casing, with (for Apple) a wallet-friendly price.

But the iPhone SE also sold to people like me. Those who wanted a more pocketable phone, and who loved the classic styling of the slab-sided design first seen in the iPhone 4. The fact that the model was relatively cheap was simply a pleasant bonus. Technically, I was downgrading from a more expensive phone, but I saw it as an upgrade because the SE gave me more of what I actually wanted.

I will probably buy an 8-sized iPhone if it does appear in the spring, but grudgingly and only because my SE will be four years old by then and I fear may not be able to run iOS 14. I had an iPhone 6 and then a 6S and I chose the SE because I simply prefer that size. In an era when Apple sells six different iPhones in a variety of sizes as unit shipments stagnate, it continues to baffle me that it refuses to sell me an iPhone in the size that I want.

» ‘Fuck Facebook’

John Gruber has some choice words for Facebook and their desire to wall off posts and force you into their service in order to read it comfortably. It’s actually worse than he knows since he doesn’t use Facebook.

My wife was trying to show me something a friend of hers had posted on Facebook. A cute shiba inu or guinea pigs jumping over CGI pits of fire or some political thing or something. She had seen it earlier in the day and wanted to share it with me and she knows the best way to do that is just show it to me on her phone because, while I do have a Facebook account, I’d rather cut my eyelids off and eat them than log into it.

But she couldn’t find it. She scrolled and scrolled and scrolled but Facebook’s shitty algorithmic timeline just kept showing her crap it wanted her to see instead of what she wanted to see.

So, not only can’t you access Facebook content from outside of Facebook, half the time you can’t access Facebook content from inside Facebook, either.

» Minecraft mods on Google Play rife with malware

Lukas Stefanko on WeLiveSecurity:

Minecraft players have been exposed to scams and aggressive ads brought by 87 fake Minecraft mods recently spotted on Google Play.

The apps appear to have originally provided mod functionality but requested administrator rights at the time of install. Now they just hijack the device to show ads system-wide. My kid would not think once, let alone twice before installing one of these. Which is probably one of the reasons he doesn’t have an Android device.

» ‘Living and dying on his own terms’

I owe a debt to Tom Negrino and Dori Smith that I could never hope to repay.

You may not know this because I only talk about it all the time, but years ago I wrote a dumb fake Apple news site. It’s true. I did it for seven years and then, only five years after it stopped being funny, I stopped writing it with any regularity and went on to write other things. For money, even. The reason I could do that was because of Tom and Dori, who introduced Jason Snell and others at Macworld to my dumb site back in the day, which they inexplicably seemed to like well enough to eventually let me write for the magazine. Writing for the magazine allowed me to go on and write and do other things that were more fun than corporate IT.

I met Tom and Dori in person for the first time in 2007 when we had dinner together the night before Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. Tom had just bought a BlackBerry Pearl I think it was and the three of us mused on how in the world Apple could make a phone that was better than that. Somehow they did, if you haven’t heard. It was in all the papers.

Tom and Dori helped grease the skids that let me to quit my day job toiling away in the SQL mines which I had come to hate. They changed my life. They made it better.

Tom is dying and will shortly leave us. But the lives that he touched, like mine, will be a lasting and heartfelt legacy. Thank you, Tom.

» ‘Apple in 2016: The Six Colors report card’

I and a cast of thousands contributed to the Six Colors report card for Apple’s 2016.

» ‘Why I’m an (Almost) Everyday Apple Watch Wearer’

Jon Mitchell’s ode to his Apple Watch is a great read and, man, his Watch face game is on point. His prayer face blew me away in terms of customization to fit a specific need I had never considered. I’m going to have to step it up. I also picked up at least a couple of apps I’ll be checking out as well as these great-looking bands.

Still, the Apple Watch is a total flop. I read that somewhere.

» Do not collect them all, do not trade them with your friends

Patrick Wardle provides a comprehensive look at all the Mac malware of last year. Very well done list. I certainly don’t agree with his last sentence, though.

(Via Rich Mogull.)