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Sandwich Launches Theater for Vision Pro (and Will Livestream The Talk Show Tomorrow)

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Zac Hall, 9to5Mac:

Earlier this year, Sandwich Vision introduced its first-ever app with the debut of Television. The app lets you watch content on a range of virtual TV sets that you can pin in your real-world environment through Vision Pro.

Television supports viewing your own video files as well as content from YouTube. You can even watch Television with friends synchronously over spatial FaceTime on Apple Vision Pro.

Sometimes, though, you just want to enjoy a film in a proper movie theater setting. What if you could do that for every movie? Enter Theater: the new Apple Vision Pro app that transports you to the perfect venue for movies.

Theater will let you experience the theatrical cinema release feeling (even if the original Star Wars film isn’t showing at your local movie chain). Want to watch a movie at the same time with friends or family who can’t be together in person? Spatial FaceTime makes that possible in Theater.

You know the immersive theater environments in Apple’s own TV app and Disney’s VisionOS app? Theater is like that, but for any video. It’s like watching YouTube on a 100-foot screen from the best seat in a cinema. I’ve been testing it, and it’s so great. I love it. And:

Sandwich is collaborating with the duo at SpatialGen, Michael Butterfield and Zachary Handshoe. See their expertise on display as they produce the first-ever stereoscopic livestream of The Talk Show Live.

The studio is also collaborating with SpatialGen to livestream John Gruber’s The Talk Show Live in stereoscopically-captured 3D video using high-end cameras and lenses. [...]

“I started to think ‘what if John’s audience that can’t be at the California Theater could join us anyway?’ That’s when I pitched the idea to my co-developer, the genius Andy Roth,” Adam [Lisagor] says. “He loved it, he found SpatialGen, and I pitched them the idea. And we had roughly 8 weeks to make this happen, and I can’t believe it all came together.”

Live-streaming an event and making it look good in realtime is hard enough. But doing it in 3D video? That’s new territory, especially considering Apple Vision Pro was just previewed at last year’s WWDC and launched in the United States in February.

“Gruber was fascinated by the idea but a little skeptical it could work — it just seemed too ambitious,” Lisagor adds. “The world’s first livestreamed 3D video event? In an immersive theater environment? Admittedly seems like a pipe dream. But nope, it’s real.”

To be clear, the exclusive way to watch the livestream will be through Theater on Vision Pro. Murphy’s Law willing, it should be pretty cool. We’re still shooting the event with traditional cameras, for a traditional version on YouTube, which will go up later this week.

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40 days ago
I hope they paid Gruber a lot for this, because "exclusive to the Vision Pro" seems like a thing he'd otherwise complain about.
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Apple’s 2023 App Store Transparency Report (PDF)

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One segment that caught my attention:

Apps removed from the App Store subject to government takedown demands: 1,462

By country or region:

  • China mainland: 1,285
  • South Korea: 103
  • India: 30
  • Russia 12
  • Indonesia: 8
  • Lithuania: 5
  • Ukraine: 5
  • Malaysia: 2
  • Mexico: 2
  • Philippines: 2
  • Thailand: 2
  • Türkiye: 2
  • Hungary: 1
  • Libya: 1
  • Pakistan: 1
  • Vietnam: 1

There are footnotes on the China and South Korea numbers. For China it says “There were 1,067 game apps removed for lack of a legally required GRN license.” That’s a 2020 law that requires a government license for any paid game. For South Korea, which one doesn’t think of as a repressive country, it says “There were 102 game apps removed for their inappropriate age rating”, which accounts for all but one of them.

A few other items:

  • Average weekly app downloads: 787,999,950
  • Average weekly app redownloads: 1,656,894,821

I long suspected users engage in frequent churn with certain apps installed on their phones, but this seemingly puts a number to it: redownloading previously installed apps is more than twice as popular as downloading new apps. But 788 million weekly app downloads is a big number.

  • Average weekly automatic app updates: 52,623,848,130
  • Average weekly manual app updates: 562,782,228

No surprise that automatic app updates dwarf manual updates, given that automatic updates have been the default setting for many years. These numbers indicate there are almost 100× more automatic updates than manual ones. (I update manually, typically each day, because I enjoy perusing the release notes, just in case there’s anything interesting in them. I’m glad Apple still offers manual updates as a setting.)

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63 days ago
Redownloads have become more common for me in the last few months as my phone seems to have gotten much more aggressive about offloading unused apps.
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StopTheMadness Pro

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The previous item was a good reminder that I haven’t linked to StopTheMadness in a while. I first recommended it back in 2018, and mentioned it again in 2022 after developer Jeff Johnson added a font substitution feature at my request. As I wrote then:

It’s such a little thing, and I know most people can’t detect the differences between Helvetica and Arial and don’t care, but it makes me so happy every day never to see the cursed fonts Arial and Courier New.

StopTheMadness Pro does so much more than that. I’ve been using it for so long now that I’m taken aback when I use a factory-fresh no-extension installation of Safari. StopTheMadness Pro is a canonical example of a great power user utility, and Johnson updates it with new features (and new workarounds for web development dark patterns) regularly.

$15 one-time purchase, with support for iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS — and (optional) iCloud sync for shared settings across all your devices. Highly recommended.

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68 days ago
Oh man, I somehow missed previous mentions of this but this is an instant purchase just for unblocking paste. Websites that prevent me from pasting in account numbers or similar for "security" reasons drive me batty.
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★ From the Department of Spending Tim Cook’s Money: Online Photo Storage Is Surely Expensive to Offer, but Apple Should Offer More

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Some follow-up comparison points regarding my gripe today about Apple’s new commercial telling iPhone users they needn’t worry about photo storage:

  • The free tier for Google One offers 15 GB of storage. That’s still not much, and only a fraction of the on-device storage for any recent phone, but it’s 3× more than iCloud. 10 extra GB doesn’t sound like much, but 3× is a large factor.

  • I shot 2.07 GB of footage (96 photos, 5 videos) on Easter Sunday alone. Those are the keepers, after culling all the blurry and meh shots. (iPhone 15 Pro for videos and a few photos; Ricoh GR IIIx for most of the photos.1)

  • Google used to offer “unlimited storage for photos and videos” to owners of Pixel phones, but they dropped this offer starting with the Pixel 6 in late 2021. That was such an appealing offer — especially considering that much of the appeal of Pixel phones comes from their renowned camera systems. I can only surmise that this proved more expensive to Google than they deemed worthwhile.

  • You don’t need to pay for iCloud to back up a large amount of iPhone storage — you can still back up to a Mac or PC manually. I don’t know any non-expert users who do this, though, and there are zillions of iPhone owners who don’t even own a Mac or PC. For the masses, iCloud backup is the only backup.

Here’s a comparison of the current U.S. pricing for cloud storage, including photos, from Apple and Google:

Price/month iCloud Google
Free 5 GB 15 GB
$1 50 GB
$2 100 GB
$3 200 GB 200 GB
$10 2 TB 2 TB

Google’s only clear win is at the free tier, and once you start paying $3/month, they’re tied. Both companies offer additional storage beyond 2 TB at the same price: $5/month per extra TB. Google only shows those more-than-2-TB storage tiers if you’re signed in and already pay for storage. $5/month per extra TB is also exactly what Dropbox charges.

So on the one hand, it’s not like Apple’s iCloud storage pricing is out of line with its competitors. But on the other hand, the free tier of iCloud has been stuck at 5 GB since the day iCloud was announced, which was so long ago that Steve Jobs announced it at his final WWDC keynote in 2011. iCloud’s $1/month 50 GB and $3/month 200 GB tiers have been unchanged since 2015. Like the stingy U.S. minimum wage — which was last increased, to $7.25/hour, in 2009 — these tiers ought to be adjusted for “inflation” periodically, but aren’t.

In the case of the minimum wage, “inflation” is, well, actual inflation. In the case of cloud storage, “inflation” should account for factors like increased device storage (2011’s iPhone 4S was offered with 16, 32, or 64 GB) and increased image size (the iPhone 4S only shot video up to 1080p 30 fps, which consumes about 65 MB per minute; today’s iPhone 15 shoots up to 4K 60 fps, which consumes about 440 MB per minute).2 [Update: Mike Gore reminded me that the iPhone 4S only shot H.264 video, not the more efficient HEVC format that debuted with iOS 11 in 2017. 1080p 30 fps video recording in H.264 is about 130 MB per minute.]

It’s very easy for me and you to just declare that Apple ought to just foot the bill to offer more storage for over a billion users worldwide, but we’re not the ones making new TV commercials telling iPhone 15 users they needn’t worry about photo storage. If Apple really wants iPhone users not to worry about photo storage, they should offer more with iCloud, cost-to-Apple be damned.

  1. Much like with Fuji’s deservedly-heralded X100 line, the fixed-lens Ricoh GR IIIx is seemingly backordered everywhere — perhaps because Ricoh recently announced a minor upgrade. I bought a Fuji X100S in 2014 and loved it; but bought the GR IIIx a little over a year ago because it’s small enough to fit in a pocket and the X100 cameras aren’t. I just find myself carrying the smaller Ricoh more often than I did the X100S. They’re both absolutely terrific cameras. ↩︎

  2. Idle thought that just occurred to me: is the paucity of available iCloud storage in the typical user’s account — free or $1/month — the reason why iPhones still default to shooting 1080p video rather than 4K? Default settings really matter. There are surely tens of millions (hundreds of millions?) of iPhone owners who shoot 1080p instead of 4K only because that’s the default. That’s a big difference in resolution for permanent memories. But I suspect almost everyone with 128 GB or more of storage has plenty of available space on device to store 4K video. It’s iCloud where they’re running short on space. ↩︎︎

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103 days ago
I only noticed fairly recently that my phone defaulted to 1080p video, which is maddening. I will happily pay for whatever storage I need to keep the best quality photo/video memories possible.
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Steven Levy: ‘Apple Shares the Secret of Why the 40-Year-Old Mac Still Rules’

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Steven Levy has a great piece at Wired commemorating the Mac’s 40th anniversary, including interviews with a slew of Apple executives:

For the past few years, the form factors of Macintoshes have been fairly stable. Could a Mac in the future look totally different, as when the iMac morphed from a basketball to a lamp?

“There’s definitely the possibility for a revolution in the future,” says Molly Anderson, a leader in industrial design at Apple. “When we start a new project, we don’t start by thinking of the constraints of how popular our existing products are. We’re always focused on trying to design the best tool for the job.” Joswiak adds that it has taken courage to keep changing the Mac to keep it on the forefront — always, of course, in a deliberate fashion. “The road to tech hell is paved by people who do things because they can, not because they should,” he says.

Jony Ive told me once that one of Apple’s guiding principles was never to make changes for the sake of change alone. If an idea doesn’t make the product better, they don’t do it. If that means some products only change radically in form factor once or twice a decade, so be it. Good design should stand the test of time.

Levy also includes an excerpt from a piece he wrote for Rolling Stone on the original launch:

If you have had any prior experience with personal computers, what you might expect to see is some sort of opaque code, called a “prompt,” consisting of phosphorescent green or white letters on a murky background. What you see with Macintosh is the Finder. On a pleasant, light background, little pictures called “icons” appear, representing choices available to you. A word-processing program might be represented by a pen, while the program that lets you draw pictures might have a paintbrush icon. A file would represent stored documents — book reports, letters, legal briefs and so forth. To see a particular file, you’d move the mouse, which would, in turn, move the cursor to the file you wanted. You’d tap a button on the mouse twice, and the contents of the file would appear on the screen: dark on light, just like a piece of paper.

This seems simple, but most personal computers (including the IBM PC) can’t do this.

“When you show Mac to an absolute novice,” says Chris Espinosa, the twenty-two-year-old head of publications for the Mac team, “he assumes that’s the way all computers work. That’s our highest achievement. We’ve made almost every computer that’s ever been made look completely absurd.”

Espinosa might be the only person at Apple who can say “40th anniversary? That’s nothing.”

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179 days ago
I'm certainly happy with Apple's products in general, but the notion that they don't change things just for the sake of change is just bunk. The iPhone design going from square sides to rounded sides back to square sides?
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Signal Will Cost $50 Million Per Year to Run

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Meredith Whittaker and Joshua Lund, writing for the Signal blog back in November:

Instead of monetizing surveillance, we’re supported by donations, including a generous initial loan from Brian Acton. Our goal is to move as close as possible to becoming fully supported by small donors, relying on a large number of modest contributions from people who care about Signal. We believe this is the safest form of funding in terms of sustainability: ensuring that we remain accountable to the people who use Signal, avoiding any single point of funding failure, and rejecting the widespread practice of monetizing surveillance.

But our nonprofit structure doesn’t mean it costs less for Signal to produce a globally distributed communications app. Signal is a nonprofit, but we’re playing in a lane dominated by multi-billion-dollar corporations that have defined the norms and established the tech ecosystem, and whose business models directly contravene our privacy mission. So in order to provide a genuinely useful alternative, Signal spends tens of millions of dollars every year. We estimate that by 2025, Signal will require approximately $50 million dollars a year to operate — and this is very lean compared to other popular messaging apps that don’t respect your privacy.

Signal funds itself through voluntary donations. Most of its competitors are funded through advertising. But iMessage is funded through device sales. If it costs $50 million per year to operate Signal, I’d guess it costs Apple more than that to run iMessage.

I know the Beeper thing is last month’s news, but the fact that iMessage costs a lot of money to operate is generally overlooked by those who think Apple should be forced to “open it up”, whatever that might mean.

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180 days ago
It's pretty clear what "open it up" would mean. I'm not saying that Apple necessarily should do it, but let's not play dumb. The general form of an API and identity management for a messaging service is well understood.
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