Before every episode of The Vergecast I sit down, read through a bunch of news, and take a bunch of notes. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my week, and I started thinking it might be fun to do every day on the site. So, every day this week I’m sitting down and writing some notes on the news as though I’ll be talking about it later. Are you into this? Am I into this? I don’t know. But it’s fun to do! Give me some feedback and we’ll keep mutating this into something good.
It’s what Dieter called “a red meat tech news day,” with big announcements from both Apple and Google. Let’s start.
SURPRISE APPLE DROP, PART 1: NEW IPADS AND IPHONES
- Apple announced a bunch of new stuff via a press release and Apple Store update today in lieu of an event, and the most notable was the new iPad, which starts at just $329.
- That low price is achieved in part by a big step back in display tech from the iPad Air 2: Apple confirmed to me that the new iPad’s display does not have an anti-reflective coating and is not laminated to the cover glass, so it will look just like the first-gen iPad Air. Which means there will be a visible air gap between the display and the glass.
- The new iPad is also thicker than the iPad Air 2 — in fact, it’s the same thickness as the first-gen iPad Air.
- Add it all up, and what you fundamentally have is a processor and memory bump to the original iPad Air. (The addition of a fingerprint sensor is nice, too.)
- You could make a strong argument that a refurb iPad Air 2 is a much better value if what you’re going to do with your tablet is mostly read text and watch video; you don’t need the (significantly) more powerful A9 processor to drive those things, but the better display will be extremely noticeable. Especially since tablets tend to kick around forever.
- I haven’t found a real reason to buy an iPad Pro yet, because I love my iPad Air 2. I get the feeling that I won’t be replacing it until it dies and I’m forced to buy something new.
- Nothing major on the iPhone front: a Product Red iPhone 7 and an iPhone SE with 128GB of storage.
- The red iPhone 7 looks very pretty.
SURPRISE APPLE DROP, PART 2: CLIPS!
- Just yesterday I wondered how Apple would bridge the gap between “we make cool camera tech” and “we do not run a social network to distribute the cool camera stuff we can do,” and today... Clips!
- Clips is a neat little app that makes social videos for Instagram, Snapchat, and the like. It looks really clever; I haven’t played with it but it looks fun to use in a way that screams “Instagram fad.”
- The question is whether people will stick with it after the fad dies out, or if we’ll think about clips like we think about Meitu or whatever.
- On the plus side, Apple’s probably not tracking a bunch of your data and sending it to China like Meitu, so that’s something. But privacy as a wedge into the Insta-fad game doesn’t seem like the hottest hashtag in town.
ANDROID O BOY
- Google also showed up today with the announcement of Android O, which means we’ll have to endure months of teasing games about the final name until IO when it’s officially released. I am really into the idea of Google releasing an OS called Android O’Henry, but of course the smart money is on Oreo. Get those licensing deals, Google.
- The big news about O today is that it’ll be far more aggressive about battery management, particularly in regards to shutting down background processes. That’s cool; it’s the sort of thing Google can do with Android that doesn’t rely on app developers updating for new APIs. Which usually takes forever.
- But I think the bigger news is that Sony pushed forward support for Hi-Res audio support over Bluetooth in O — the first sign of the coming war for hi-fi wireless audio between Apple’s W1 stuff and whatever actual Bluetooth standard emerges for everyone else.
- Google’s also putting a lot of thought into notifications management by grouping them into “channels” and letting you set priorities for channels.
- I love love love this idea.
- But... are app developers really going to mark their notifications as being in the “marketing” channel and letting users default ignore them? This presumes a lot of good behavior.
- You can also snooze notifications, which is very smart. I hope Apple rips basically everything about Android notifications off; nothing would make me happier than a little war between Android and iOS around making notifications better and smarter.
WTF IS THIS FLYING TABLET BAN
- The US and UK today banned people from bringing devices “larger than a phone” on direct flights from various Muslim countries, a new rule that appears to have been rushed out and involves many, many inconsistencies. Amar Toor has the explainer you need.
- The biggest inconsistency is that “bigger than a phone” presumes phones generally come in standard sizes, but of course there are phones bigger than some tablets out there. Russell Brandom did a bunch of asking around and basically neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the airlines can definitively answer whether or not phablets are allowed on planes.
- Nintendo Switch owners hoping to put a big dent in Zelda on their Dubai–JFK flights have got to be pretty pissed off right now.
- Adi Robertson dived into the long history of “people search” companies, which started off as online phone books, but now basically exist as scammy enterprises that make it easier for trolls to dox people.
- Ale Potenza and Loren Grush interviewed identical twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly about the Twins Study and how they’re different after Scott spent almost a year in space while Mark was on the ground. It’s fascinating, and they’re both such characters.
- Finally, Google Fiber has canceled “hundreds” of installations in Kansas City. All that deregulation Ajit Pai wants has really spurred increased investment in broadband!