Apple, I’m doing the best I can to keep you going…


Yesterday, Apple sent markets into paroxysms by issuing a poor earnings report and blaming it on the Chinese economy.

And I’m sure slowing Chinese growth, complicated by Trump’s trade war, isn’t helping.

But there may be something else going on as well.

On a previous post, Doug dismissed my concerns about America no longer being a country that did big things by saying the private sector does big things, which of course pleases him because of his strained relationship with the concept of government.

But is that right? When’s the last big thing the private sector did? Smartphones, right?

Well, that was 12 years ago. Or at least, that was when the smartphone came into its own. I had a Blackberry, and before that a Palm Treo, and before that the primitive Palm Pilot (no wifi or cell connectivity, but you could dock it to sync with a PC). But the iPhone and its imitators are what made the magic happen.

In a piece in the NYT today headlined “Is This the End of the Age of Apple?,” technology writer Kara Swisher worries that the magic is gone, and the next thing is failing to pop up on the horizon:

The last big innovation explosion — the proliferation of the smartphone — is clearly ending. There is no question that Apple was the center of that, with its app-centric, photo-forward and feature-laden phone that gave everyone the first platform for what was to create so many products and so much wealth….

Now all of tech is seeking the next major platform and area of growth. Will it be virtual and augmented reality, or perhaps self-driving cars? Artificial intelligence, robotics, cryptocurrency or digital health? We are stumbling in the dark….

Her piece ends plaintively:

Where is that next spark that will light us all up?

I dunno. But as far as Apple is concerned, I’m doing my bit to at least keep them afloat. I got a new iPhone during the campaign. Not only was the battery, despite my plugging it in every time I was near an electrical outlet all day long, giving out, but my 5s just couldn’t keep up with the social media pace — not to mention that I kept running out of space for photos and video, which was completely unacceptable since I was churning out posts such as this and this all day, every day.

So on Oct. 3 I got an iPhone 8, which got me through that last month. In fact, it did a lot to make up for the inadequacies of my laptop and my old iPad, both of which were also on their last legs.

And now, I’m about to replace my 6-year-old iPad 4 with the new 6th generation that came out in 2018. I’m pretty excited about it. For a year or two now, it’s been freezing up on me — probably between five and 10 times a day during the campaign, which was more frustrating than I think you can imagine (which is why I turned more and more to my phone in those last weeks).

When I say “freeze up,” I mean the screen just… freezes. It won’t respond to touch. I can’t scroll, or go to the Home screen or anything. The Home button doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t respond to any sort of input short of a sledgehammer, which I haven’t tried in spite of the temptation. This lasts for anywhere between a minute and five minutes. Then, it either resumes working, or reboots and then resumes working — until the next freeze.

I don’t mean to badmouth my iPad. I love it, and it has served me well for a long time now — about twice as long as the useful life of a PC. But it’s time.

Hence my placing an order for a new one. So as I say, I’m trying to help Apple. But here’s the thing about that…

I’m not ordering anything new, in the sense of being a life-changing departure. I just want an iPad that functions the way my old one did when it was new. Well, that, and more storage — going from 32g to 128.

And basically, it was the same with my iPhone. I didn’t even want the size to change. In fact, I delayed getting a new phone until it became clear that Apple was not going to put out an updated version of the SE. But I stopped at the 8. I had zero interest in the supposedly (but not really) revolutionary X.

And I have no interest in an iPad Pro, or an iPad Air. You know why? Because they don’t really offer anything impressive that is also useful. Which is great for me, because the cost of a basic iPad with 128 gigs has dropped considerably as Apple has pushed those higher-priced models.

To me, the basic iPad is the pinnacle of its type of tech. It’s something I had been waiting for ever since 1994, when a guy who worked for the same company I did, Roger Fidler. Don’t believe me? Watch the video. I was on fire to have one from the moment I heard of the concept — just as I had been anxious to deliver the news electronically ever since my paper had gone from typewriters to a mainframe in 1980. I couldn’t wait until I had a tablet of my own, to replace newspapers, magazines and books. I knew that when I did, I’d carry it everywhere.

And now that I have one, that’s exactly what I do. The iPad is as much a part of me as most people’s wallets are. I had to wait more than 20 years, but I finally got me one.

But… that was the acme. All you can do for me now is make my tablet a little faster or expand the storage. I don’t need more functionality, beyond a new app now and then. The model I’ve ordered will work with an Apple Pencil, and my reaction to that is “meh.”

I don’t need any startling new developments. And Apple hasn’t offered any.

So… Ms. Swisher seems to have a point. The Age in which Apple drives revolutionary change may well be at an end…

17 thoughts on “Apple, I’m doing the best I can to keep you going…

  1. Karen Pearson

    I’ll stick with an android, thanks; my one attempt with an ipad drove me nuts. It may be intuitive, but if so, it’s someone else’s intuition. I think Apple has gone a little crazy shrinking so much to wrist size. It just what we need; people walking around squinting at their wrists. We have enough problems with people wandering across Assembly, for example, staring at their phones. I’m glad nothing terribly new is coming out. We need a chance to recover from/adjust to this technology. I would love to see an energized space program (not a space force) that concentrated on discovering space and developing means of expanding our knowledge. We aren’t just throwing millions of dollars into space; that money goes to pay the miners who mine the metals, the employees who build the different components, and the technicians who design the various components. In the process we discover or create new devices and products, which in turn lead to new gadgets, like iphones. And we gain new knowledge that we can apply to future problems.

    1. Doug Ross

      Agree, Karen. I hate all Apple products. Every time I pick up my wife’s iPhone or iPad I curse Steve Jobs. It’s style over substance.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I hate Macs. They slow me down too much because the keyboard functionality is so different.

        But I love iPhones and iPads.

        The only advantage to a Mac is how well it meshes with iPhones and iPads.

        If my PC could do that, it would have saved me a great deal of aggravation back during the campaign.

        Most of our communications were via iPhones. James and Mandy communicated that way exclusively. But I always do any serious writing in Word on a PC laptop.

        So, if was going to release a statement, I’d write it on the laptop, copy what I’d written, paste it into an email to myself, call up the email on my phone or iPad, copy it again, and paste it into a text message to James and/or Mandy (and campaign manager Scott Hogan after he joined us).

        Then, once I got their feedback, I’d have to do it all in reverse to get back to my document and edit it… before doing what I had to do to get it out to reporters.

        Since Macs also have the messaging app, which is synched to the iPhone and iPad, a Mac would have made my life much easier — but only in that one respect.

        Actually, that inconvenience forced me to accelerate my development as a communications director — at least, in the press-secretary part of the job.

        It made me ditch my training wheels.

        Early on, I was hesitant and wanted to make sure James and Mandy were on board with anything and everything I said to the media. So there was a lot of tedious back-and-forth.

        Eventually, as I got more comfortable with our positions and the way James wanted to express things, I just started giving reporters responses off the top of my head. Made things a lot easier — definitely a lot faster — and in many cases led to better results….

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’d have done a much better job if I’d been able to join the campaign sooner. While I went in with a lot of understanding of issues that a typical press secretary might never have, there was still a learning curve on nuts-and-bolts stuff.

          For instance, only once did I actually appear on TV as “spokesman” for the campaign, although I was quoted by text-based media daily. And that was on election night. ETV was so impatient to have James on in the initial hours after polls closed that I finally just broke down and said, “put me on instead.” So they did.

          Apparently, I did OK because I got good feedback from people later. Someone even said “that was a good speech you gave last night.” I was like, WHAT speech? “When you were on ETV.” That was no speech; that was just me riffing at great length and running out the clock on the live segment…

          Anyway, if I’d been on the campaign earlier I’d probably have done a lot more of that during the fall — although I would always have preferred to put the candidates themselves out there. After all, getting James known by more voters was our aim. To that end, I was constantly seeking free media for him, and Mandy as well…

        2. Norm Ivey

          So, if was going to release a statement, I’d write it on the laptop, copy what I’d written, paste it into an email to myself, call up the email on my phone or iPad, copy it again, and paste it into a text message to James and/or Mandy (and campaign manager Scott Hogan after he joined us).

          Then, once I got their feedback, I’d have to do it all in reverse to get back to my document and edit it… before doing what I had to do to get it out to reporters.

          If you had used a Google Doc, you could share it with James and Mandy, they could make revisions, you could review and edit their revisions, and it’s good to go. Don’t like the revisions? Revert it to an earlier version with a couple of clicks. Tied to Word for initial composition? No problem. Write in Word, upload and convert to Doc format and then share it. Docs even works on Apple devices, so….

          Full disclosure: I despise Apple, I use a Google phone, and I am a committed Googlephile.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            We were all on iPhones, and James and Mandy communicated exclusively via text message. Whether it was text, photos or video, if the candidates were involved, we shared it that way.

            But others — such as campaign manager Scott Hogan (who HATED the text thing) and some other senior staffers — were more email-oriented. So in collaborating with THOSE folks, we worked a lot in Google Docs. For instance, Phil Chambers and I filled out a lot of candidate questionnaires that way. Usually, he’d get it started and I’d jump in and add some elaboration on the Google Doc and then he’d usually finish it and send it in to the group that had sent it to us. And if we needed someone else’s input, they could jump in.

            Basically, I got adept at all sorts of collaborative technology, in a hurry.

            But James and Mandy, always on the run but always with their iPhones (James carried two, so I generally texted both of them), stuck to texting…

  2. Doug Ross

    Would you say Uber is a big thing? How about Tesla? You’re probably not aware of what is happening in cloud computing.. It’s a game changer as big as the Internet. The film industry in the US is exploding due to CGI and it’s reach is now more global in a way that was never possible ten years ago. The recent Marvel Avengers movie did 650 million in the US and twice that in foreign markets. Think about how many jobs a 2 billion dollar movie creates. Now, tell me what the biggest thing the government has produced in the past decade? A crappy Obamacare website?

    1. Doug Ross

      And what will eventually kill Uber and Tesla? Politicians who will try to figure out ways to tax and regulate them in order to protect entities that donate to their campaigns. Tesla already faced backlash in North Carolina when car dealers used their influence ($$$$) to force Tesla to have an actual brick and mortar store in order to sell cars in the state. The car dealers had the nerve to suggest they were so involved in their communities that it wasn’t “fair” to let anyone sell cars online. That’s what government gets you: corruption and greed based favoritism. Uber and Lyft have to fight tooth and nail to get access in many cities.. Why? To protect taxi driver monopolies .

    2. bud

      Uber is nothing but a taxi service. Tesla? Please. Electric cars have been around for 120 years. Amazon is moving but a 21st century version of the Sears catelogue. Real innovation like space probes are government accomplishments. Big corporations, especially banks and pharma are ruining America. I’m all for more, not less government involvement in the economy.

      1. Doug Ross

        Sure, Bud. And the telephone is just smoke signals. The internet is just a printing press. Uber has forced taxi services to actually compete rather than provide a monopoly supported ride in a smelly rickety vehicle. That’s what government regulation gets you: high cost, low quality, and poor customer service.

        As for Tesla, if they are no big deal, why are the car dealers so afraid of them that they try to buy politicians to stop them? Anyway Musk and Bezos are doing more, faster, better than NASA could ever do in terms of space exploration. Billionaires with dreams and brains beat government flunkies and corruption every day

        1. Doug Ross

          Compile data points on Uber.. At the Pittsburgh airport tonight, as I waited for my Uber, I estimated about a ten to over ratio of uber/Lyft riders to taxis. And having made that ride in a taxi before, it is thirty percent cheaper for the Uber. That’s great for all consumers but bad for monopoly taxi drivers.

          My driver also told me that in Pennsylvania, the number if DUI arrests have been reduced 50% over the time before Uber existed. That’s lives saved thanks to innovation and competition in the free market. Rejoice!

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Forgive me for talking like Bernie here, but an interesting thing about Uber is the way it illustrates worker exploitation in a new, unregulated industry.

            It started as a great deal for the drivers. I know some things about this up close because a couple of my kids have driven for Uber as a secondary income source.

            Then, gradually, the driver’s share got smaller and smaller, and they started to get squeezed — putting them in a bad spot if they were full-timers.

            Sort of like the way at the outset of the Industrial Revolution, workers were exploited before the Progressive Era came along and manufacturing jobs became a path to the middle class.

            I’m not making a sweeping statement here, though. Web-based businesses are also famous for lavishing perks on their employees. Of course, I suppose those tend to be those with high-tech skills. If you’re a driver for Uber, or a warehouse worker in an Amazon “fulfillment center,” your prospects can be pretty grim.

            From privacy to protecting kids from predators to worker rights, there are a lot of areas where we haven’t figured out how to deal with the Web.

            But the greatest challenge yet may be the changing nature of our perception of reality itself, from the fantasies that Trump voters believe in to the disturbing implications of Deepfake software, this is a challenge to something profoundly deep about human existence — cognition itself…

            I think I might make this a separate post…

          2. Doug Ross

            But the beauty of having competition (Uber and Lyft) is that they will determine what the market feels is the right price to pay drivers. Driving for Uber full time is probably not a wise idea — too much competition from part time drivers who offer exactly the same service – there is no differentiation that would entice a rider to choose a full timer over a part timer. That’s what happens with commodities. I hear Uber is planning to offer a monthly subscription trial for $300 a month. That’s great for consumers but might prove to be a problem for insurers and counties that rely on people paying property taxes on cars that aren’t used very much. I’m sure local governments will find a way to implement an Uber tax any day now.

            Another data point on Uber reducing DUIs:

            “In the past four years, DUI arrests made by Miami-Dade’s two largest police departments have plummeted. In Miami-Dade, the largest police department in the Southeastern U.S., arrests were down a staggering 65 percent in 2017 from four years earlier. Miami-Dade police arrested more than 1,500 people each year from 2013 through 2015. Only 594 were arrested on the same charge last year.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Remember when the “Let It Be” album came out, and we were all shocked to see that the Apple had turned from green to red? It was the harbinger of the end…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I tracked the package, and my new iPad comes Thursday.

    Can hardly wait. Now, when my old one freezes up multiple times in a day, I actually enjoy it, because I know it won’t be long now…

    I’m going to leave the old one around the house for the grandchildren to play with.

    The new one will go everywhere I go, as the old one has done for six years…

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