Apple Weighs Letting Users Switch Default iPhone Apps to Rivals

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is considering giving rival apps more prominence on iPhones and iPads and opening its HomePod speaker to third-party music services after criticism the company provides an unfair advantage to its in-house products.

The technology giant is discussing whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on Apple’s mobile devices, replacing the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, according to people familiar with the matter. Since launching the App Store in 2008, Apple hasn’t allowed users to replace pre-installed apps such as these with third-party services. That has made it difficult for some developers to compete, and has raised concerns from lawmakers probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry.

That would be fantastic news! If Apple can find a way to make a cheaper version of the HomePod that can compete more with the lower-end speakers on the market and also allow them to independently play from a music service other than Apple Music, you’d see sales take off. We’re not going to see HomePod become a market leader by any stretch, but a lot of Apple users who are on the fence between a Sonos One and a HomePod might choose differently than they do today.

Doesn’t fix the fact that Siri on the HomePod is no match for the Assistant/Alexa setup on the Sonos One, but some folks are okay with that.

As far as iOS defaults go, I think that’s a great start. Allow users to choose defaults for a few things like mail, web, mapping, messaging and music would be a huge win for users. Still a rumor at this point.

Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy

The New York Times:

EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. The Times Privacy Project obtained one such file, by far the largest and most sensitive ever to be reviewed by journalists. It holds more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans as they moved through several major cities, including Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles

One easy solution on the phone maker side would be new granular location permission levels. For example, most apps just need to know what city you’re in to offer weather, restaurant or event info. The default could report back a fuzzy location. Other than mapping apps, not many iOS apps really need my precise coordinates.

Mitt Romney’s remarks on impeachment vote

POLITICO:

This verdict is ours to render. The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty. The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Yes, he did.

The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.

The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.

The President’s purpose was personal and political.

Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.

 

Spotify is buying Bill Simmons’s The Ringer

Peter Kafka, for Recode

Spotify is making yet another big budget purchase aimed at getting a lead in the growing podcast industry: The streaming music company has agreed to a deal to purchase The Ringer, the podcast-centric media company run and owned by Bill Simmons.

Good for Simmons and The Ringer. I do worry about where we’re heading with targeted ads, walled content gardens, and podcast fragmentation though. For now, they appear to intend to follow the Gimlet acquisition model of making content available freely to all. You wonder for how long, however.

Also, I hope some of the great writing continues, as the Ringer and The Athletic are two of the best sports sites out there right now.

watchOS 7: A BirchTree Concept

Matt Birchler:

My ambitious, but largely practical concept for what I’d like to see from the next generation of watchOS.

A pretty neat concept that includes a few things I’ve really hoped for: integrated sleep tracking, the idea of a “day off”, smarter auto-replies and an improved low power mode.

I use AutoSleep but would love to see if Apple could add to this space – either adding new APIs or rethinking the way sleep tracking is done.

YouTube + RSS

Thomas Brand:

YouTube used to make its videos more accessible to visitors by publishing the channel RSS feeds, but ever since the algorithm took over YouTube has obfuscated RSS in an effort to control content delivery and drive advertisement revenue. Don’t be a victim to the algorithm in 2020, subscribe to RSS feeds on YouTube and support the Open Web.

This is a clever way to keep up with the YouTube content you want to without needing to log into the site or deal with algorithmic suggestions that you may not be interested in.

Donald Trump is impeached and faces trial in the US Senate

BBC News:

Donald Trump has become the third US president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, setting up a trial in the Senate that will decide whether he remains in office.

There’s what, a 1% chance that Trump gets removed via a Senate vote? Even knowing that, the House did the right thing. Even if this turns out to be a slap on the hand for the president, it’ll be a historical marker that we said his behavior is not okay and there are consequences for bribery, obstruction of justice, and lying.

The Vox explainer on the subject is super helpful. The sentence “President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office” says it all.

Project Connected Home over IP

Apple Newsroom:

Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance today announced a new working group that plans to develop and promote the adoption of a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products, with security as a fundamental design tenet. Zigbee Alliance board member companies such as IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian are also onboard to join the working group and contribute to the project.

While this is just a press release, it’s still good to see these companies trying to move closer together, not further apart. I’ve been slowly migrating things in our house over to a Homekit / Homebridge setup but still using our Google Homes to trigger a lot of actions with voice. Ideally, keeping things platform-agnostic would allow me to just choose the best tech and then all of the main voice assistant vendors would work with them.

The name Project Connected Home over IP really rolls off the tongue, eh?

Introducing MusicBot: The All-in-One Apple Music Assistant, Powered by Shortcuts

Federico Viticci, writing for MacStories:

The result is, by far, the most complex shortcut I’ve ever ever created (MusicBot spans 750+ actions in the Shortcuts app), but that’s not the point. MusicBot matters to me because, as I’ve shared before, music plays an essential role in my life, and MusicBot lets me enjoy my music more. This is why I spent so much time working on MusicBot, and why I wanted to share it publicly with everyone for free: I genuinely believe MusicBot offers useful enhancements for the Apple Music experience on iOS and iPadOS, providing tools that can help you rediscover lost gems in your library or find your next music obsession.

Uhhh, this is kind of amazing. I hope that someone sees this and makes a proper app that does roughly the same thing! Marvis Pro does a lot of neat things with the Apple Music API but this is on another level.