Apple Special Event – September 12, 2018

Random notes as I watched the iPhone Xr/s and Apple Watch Series 4 launch.

Phil Schiller

Watching the introductory clip, this felt like an event designed mostly for an internal audience. The events have become a parody of themselves with very well worn tropes.

Company and eco-system update

  • Apple stores: 500,000,000 visitors per year. The stores have free wi-fi and classes, so this isn’t just about purchasing or building loyalty with customers. It has become public private space.
  • 2 billion iOS devices – many users will have replaced at least three devices so the community of likely iOS users is probably closer to 600 million. iPad tend to end up being communal devices in family homes and so have a longer life.
  • Apple Watch is the number one watch – I found this clip suprising. I find that hard to believe given the ubiquity of the Casio G-Shock range, or the F-91W family of basic digital watches

Apple Watch series 4

It is clever in some of the engineering: mass producing a ceramic back. the way Apple has managed to squeeze an ECG function in there. But there is a lot not to like about the watch
The case design preportions seem off in the video, it may look better in real life. I am guessing that part of the move is about the cellular aerial, but then you have the ceramic back

  • They still haven’t sorted the crown positioning and protection – it will still fire up Siri for no apparent reason
  • The device is only minimally waterproof
  • The awful information design in the face used on Apple Watch hero images

Which got me rooting through old copies of Wired magazine. They used to have a ‘Future of’ section on the back inside cover. And lone behold

iPhone Xs

I was really unimpressed by this. Don’t get me wrong it looks ‘nice’ and takes a lot of engineering. There isn’t an upgrade reason for X users. I find the AR applications are gimmicks rather than necessarily being regularly used apps. The notable exception would be the measuring tape app included in iOS 12

Screen pixel counts are now getting ridiculous – you won’t be able to see the difference in terms of pixel refinement. Contrast may improve in HDR.

The sound on the device doesn’t recognise that consumers use headphones. It was all about louder speakers.

For iPhone 6/7/8 users the battery life descriptions fo the new X devices were weasel language that I would be wary of upgrading on this cycle.

Facial recognition but no in screen biometric touch sensor means that you still have a notch. It also means that there is a dissonance in experience between the touch sensors on the latest MacBook Pro models and iPad models. How will Apple be handling websites that have integrated Apple Pay validation?

As a MacBook Pro user, this told me to hang on to my current device. Wait and see if Apple changes the authentication again on the next round.

A12 Bionic chip. 20 years ago five trillion instructions per second would have been impressive as this would have been a super computer. Now it is pretty much in line with what one would expect in Moore’s Law. Intel are squeezing double the rate fo computing power out of FPGAs. You’ve got all that power and you get animojis…

How the software handles the paralellism of the chip is key. That is something that Sony found in the Cell architecture of the Playstation 2. Don’t expect that power to be obvious in 3rd party applications. The addressable memory claim surprised me. Its a 64 bit processor, so of course it could address 512GB of memory.

  • How much of the A12 chip is required to get FaceID to work?
  • How will the software get the most out of the cores?
  • There isn’t modem integration which helps rivals with their circuit board designs.

iPhone camera ‘breakthroughs’ seem to come from intellectual property that Lytro developed?

Dual SIMs – it is definitely a minority interest. It is likely to annoy carriers in mature markets with the exception of challengers like T-Mobile US.

The SIMs are all non-standard formats which is a pain in the backside. eSIMs are only supported by EE and Vodafone in the UK. The nano-SIM is yet another smaller format of SIM which will be hard to sell to carriers. The most attractive model is the China market one with two physical SIMs.

This could be:

  • Because China Mobile, China Unicom or China Telecom wouldn’t get on board with eSIMs
  • To screw with the Chinese grey market for iPhones (which is on the decline anyway
  • An unfortunate side effect is that it makes the China models more desirable for a (minority) consumer like me. So the grey market is likely to go the other way

iPhones are coming with a USB rather than USB C cable in the box, which raises questions about the longer term commitment to Thunderbolt 3…

iPhone Xr

Why did Apple create so many colour versions. It has too many colour variations. One of Apple’s historic strengths has been keeping a tight leash on the product portfolio.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

The End of Days Is Coming — Just Not to China – Foreign Policy – interesting essay on why China doesn’t produce as much apocalyptic fiction as the rest of the world

Zegna’s radical reinvention | How To Spend It

Starbucks debuts in Italy with premium brews, novelty bar – The Mainichi – the irony…

Good strategy

Riffing of a couple of tweets on good strategy by Matt Holt. Strategy and planning are considered to be disrupted by changes in the advertising industry. It often boils down to ‘ who needs good strategy when you have big data / machine learning’.

Big data tells you retrospectively where you should have zigged rather than zagged. It doesn’t plot an overall direction.  It is usually pretty reductive only focusing on sales now. It doesn’t think about future sales through building a brand and its good standing.

In marketing automation, it is focused on ‘harvesting’ from the end of the marketing funnel.


  • Good strategy is sacrifice. It’s about making choices and saying no
  • Good strategy is specific. There is a specific well-defined problem to be solved. 
  • Good strategy is simple to explain (even if the subject matter is complex). If you’re setting a direction, the roadmap has to be clear for all stakeholders.
  • Good strategy has elegance. Which is a good measure of its simplicity.
  • Good strategy steers tactics. It provides a directional lens to the data and helps in deciding KPIs (key performance indicators) and HVAs (high value actions).
  • Good strategy is stubborn in the face of the shiny and new. Strategy is not a fad is a long term roadmap. The shiny and new can be a facilitator at best. At worst its a distraction. 
  • Good strategy is saying no to excess. Keep the strategy focused on the objectives that it addresses
  • Good strategy has its own intrinsic quality.
  • Good strategy seems self evident in retrospect. It’s not just a way to solve the problem, but has been sweated out to optimise it to the point that it seems self evident in retrospect.
  • Good strategy is emergent, not realtime. A strategy needs to be able to flex as conditions change. Its the direction, not an exhaustive road map.
  • Good strategy is not ‘big data’. It can be a source of insights that will help develop a strategy, but it’s not a strategy in of itself. 

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

IBM Used NYPD Surveillance Footage to Develop Technology That Lets Police Search by Skin Color – you might feel a bit squeamish about the application but this is established image recognition that Google (and Yahoo!) search engines used 12 years ago

eBay builds its own customized servers to ‘replatform’ its data center infrastructure | SiliconAngle– surprised that they weren’t doing this already

Luxury Daily | eBay extends authentication program to high-end watches – Paywall

Immersive art – JWT Intelligence – In China, where fine art isn’t typically part of a school curriculum, art collectors and curators have been working with mall developers and brands for a number of years to create crossover opportunities among Chinese audiences, fueling interest and building a culture around art. Zheng’s approach is to focus on making his visitors the protagonists in his exhibitions to help them “accept art as an element in their lives.”

WE ARE IN AN EFFICIENCY BUBBLE – BBH – at the expense of effectiveness. Just good enough commotised creative

The Path Ahead: The 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation | China Africa Research Initiative – (PDF)

Cryptocurrency exchange Changelly admits it can steal users’ Monero (if it wanted to) – I think this is over egging the opportunity and underestimating challenges

WeChat, Alipay to Block Crypto Transactions on Payment Platforms – CoinDesk – surprised that this is taking so long

JD CEO’s arrest steps on governance landmine – Breakingviews – (paywall) it shows how tenuous ‘foreign’ shareholding in Chinese entities are. According to The New York Times he has some form for these kind of events

Manipulation, Chinese style – Nikkei Asian Review – cunning and clever. This should be compulsory reading for anyone doing lobbying or in corporate communications. It mirrors some of the Russian philosophy on information warfare, but the Russians take it in a much more kinetic direction.

The “experiential advantage” is not universal – the less well-off get equal or more happiness from buying things – Research Digest

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

Things that made my day this week:

If you work in marketing, you’d have had to hidden in a remote jungle outpost to avoid all the industry big opinion pieces and social discussion over Nike’s latest brand campaign. The outrage was over a social image of Kaepernick supporting the video content below

Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.

Everything has become political. New Balance got the whip end of it from liberals during the early part of the Trump administration because of its domestic manufacturing plants and his focus on American jobs. The New Balance CEO made positive remarks about the president focusing on domestic manufacturing and liberals burned their sneakers on social media.

So from the beginning Nike was in the ‘not Trump camp’ because of its business model. The question would be should it put its head above the parapet or not? From a marketing history that has worked with directors like Spike Lee – this is almost a non question.

Nike also has demographics on its side, banking on the African American community and urban kids over aging Trump supporters. This will also play well in western European markets.

Nike has trends behind it at the moment. Hypebeast style is on the ascendency, even in preppy lookbooks you are likely to see the blazer and chinos paired with a pair of Air Max in a colour scheme that pops.

In my mind working with Colin Kaepernick was inevitable because it was such a Nike thing to do. Down the road Kaepernick is going to make a stylish articulate spokesperson, think Michael Jordan but with more of a ‘thinking man’ image. (Yes I know Michael Jordan is sharp as a button but he’s got more swagger).

From Nike’s perspective it was a good tactical move. The timing was ideal to get out ahead of the NFL season, rather than being seen as a reaction to it. Scott Galloway went as far as to call it the ‘gangster marketing’ move of 2018. But no it wasn’t particularly brave on the part of Nike. From a Nike point-of-view this kicks the inevitable liberal media cyclical discussion about Nike and children working in third-world sweatshops a bit further down the road. I guess Nike won’t have to worry about yet another set of shoe brands like Starbury, Patrick Ewiing or And1 coming up anytime soon. Commentators tend to forget that they emerged because Nike was seen to be using black athletes to gouge poor consumers out of excess cash and fuelling criminality to have the ‘right’ shoes. What a difference a president makes.

Secondly, there is an issue of has bravery become an overused word?

  • By using it to sell sneakers and track tops are you cheapening the sacrifices of fallen first responders, civil rights activists or military personnel?
  • Where do whistle blowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden fit into it?
  • And what does it say about America when you have to be brave to use your constitutional rights?

Everything has become weaponised, how do we step back from this?

its a rare one of the columns when I am dealing with two pretty grim subjects in a week. The Register broke the news about western intelligence services declaring a new war on privacy – its a even more alarming when you think about how populist politics has blown up in the past few years. This is the best written reaction that I have seen to it. Schneier is a online security expert and I’d trust his judgement over any politicians: Five-Eyes Intelligence Services Choose Surveillance Over Security – Schneier on Security. Go and have a read, I’ll still be here when you come back.

As you can understand I’d like to lift the mood a bit. The reaction of Japanese people to western swear words once they are explained to them is priceless.

NASA on the Cray super-computers that they used in the mid-1980s

My former colleague Haruka is doing a daily illustration challenge, creating artworks on 1 inch x 1 inch paper square. (An inch is 25.4mm)


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