When Amazon bought Eero just over a year ago, I wrote that the whole thing felt disappointing. It was a small, independent company that made a tech product people loved in part because it was made by a small, independent company. But it got purchased by a big tech company and so we had to worry what the big tech company would do with the small, independent company. We had to worry about what would happen to the product we loved, and also worry that the fate of all good, small companies is to get absorbed by a giant one.
For iPhone users, the Dark Sky app will continue to exist and continue to cost $3.99. It will continue to provide hyper-local weather forecasts that are capable of telling you that it’s going to rain in your area in the next 15 minutes. It will still be very well designed and you will still be able to trust that your location data will be held in safe hands.
For Android users: sorry for your luck, the app is shutting down on July 1, 2020. Oh, and those other apps that you might switch to? A bunch of them depend on Dark Sky’s weather API (as do many iPhone apps), which the company charges developers for access to, and they’re all going to have to switch providers.
That’s because Apple is shutting down Dark Sky’s API at the end of 2021. That’s nearly two years from now, so it’s not as dire as the Dark Sky app itself shutting down, but it’s still disappointing.
Actually, I said it feels “petty,” on Twitter, which is both fair (it’s how Android users feel!) and wildly unfair (Apple doesn’t run a charity and has no obligation to help Android users out).
Dark Sky was a favorite amongst Android users because it was so well designed. That feels rarer on Android even if it isn’t — it seems like you have to wade through more junk on the Google Play Store before you find the good stuff. Dark Sky was easy to like and easy to recommend — and it was downloaded well over a million times because of it.
Dark Sky is also rare among weather apps in that you didn’t have to constantly worry if your data was being bought and sold. That’s a significant problem on both iPhone and Android, to be super clear. But on Android in particular it stings because another formerly beloved app — Weather Timeline — was acquired by a company with a history of selling location data a little over a year ago.
We’ll have some recommendations for Android apps tomorrow — although many of the best ones utilize Dark Sky’s APIs. Those developers are already tweeting about looking for alternative weather data sources. I currently use Carrot on both Android and iOS — partly because it has a very good Apple Watch complication and partly because I’m a sucker for the weird jokes it makes.
I’ve written before in this newsletter about Sherlocking, when Apple duplicates a third-party app with its own app and knocks the legs out of the market. This is something different and although it’s annoying that a great Android app is going away, I don’t really think it’s knocking the legs out of anything. Eero was a sign that making it as an indie hardware developer is very hard. But I expect that new weather apps are going to continue to be made.
And again, I don’t begrudge Apple for buying a very good company nor its decision to shut down the Android app or the API. I’d like to remind the people in my Twitter replies especially that you can be sad about your Android app without being angry at Apple. There’s a “don’t hate the iPlayer” joke in here somewhere but we’re all better than that (okay I’m not, I just made the joke).
There are columns to be written speculating what Apple wants to do with Dark Sky, its well-crafted app, and its very well-crafted system of collecting and making sense of weather data. Will it be built into Apple’s own weather apps? Will it become yet another monthly subscription service alongside so many others that Apple offers?
The time will come to wonder about all of that, in the way we always wonder what these giant companies are up to and what products they’re working on. For now, though, I’m looking forward to what a lot of smaller companies are going to do to fill the gap Dark Sky is leaving on Android.
I love paying for apps from independent developers. My three or four or twenty bucks means so much more to them than my annual subscription fees mean to Apple, Amazon, Google, or Microsoft. The next time you have the opportunity and the wherewithal to pay for an independent app, don’t think twice, do it.
New product releases
┏ Muto review: a near-perfect electric city bike. Very good review from Thomas Ricker. This bike looks stupendous.
┏ The Fitbit Charge 4 is a much more powerful fitness tracker disguised in its old body. Took a while to get GPS in this model, but it’s finally here. I could see a strong case for getting this instead of an Apple Watch. You’d miss out on a bunch of advanced smartwatch features but gain a device you only have to charge once a week.
┏ Tim Cook personally lobbied US tariff chief as China tariffs loomed. Scoop here from Russell Brandom. We knew this lobbying was happening, and this confirms it took up quite a lot of Cook’s personal attention.
Also, remember when the trade war was the biggest thread to business?
“Tim and POTUS had a discussion today about this as well which I can fill you in on,” an Apple staffer wrote on July 5th, after sending the specific tariff lines that affected parts of the Mac Pro. “Tim was hoping to speak to the Ambassador sometime this weekend if at all possible to follow up.”
┏ Self-isolation has stressed networks, and no one knows if the FCC can step in. The FCC gave up so much power over broadband providers that all it can do is ask them nicely. So far that’s worked just fine, to be fair, but if it ever isn’t enough that could be a serious problem. Makena Kelly reports on how we got here.
┏ FCC requires anti-robocall tech be used by June 2021. Here’s a good example of a mandate working better than asking pretty please.
Feel-bad stories about video chat
┏ Microsoft’s Skype struggles have created a Zoom moment. It really is remarkable how badly Microsoft and Skype blew the lead here. Good look at how from Tom Warren.
Feel-good stories about video games
┏ A new Humble Bundle offers tons of great games to raise money to fight COVID-19. This is a list of very good games.
┏ You can play Candy Crush with free, unlimited lives this week. I’m sure Candy Crush is also good, but in my opinion you’ll get more out of the Humble Bundle.
┏ Persona 5 Royal is the definitive version of an already brilliant RPG. Megan Farokhmanesh explains what’s new in this edition.
Feel-both-ways stories about cancelled things
┏ April fools’ day is canceled, you monsters. We’re saving the receipts.
┏ Trump rolls back Obama fuel economy rule, increasing emissions during a climate crisis. What a mess from top to bottom. Sean O’Kane has lots of details in this report.
While automakers started lobbying Trump to roll back the standard within days of him taking office, even they balked at a full freeze. They’ve since split in their alliances. Volkswagen, Ford, Honda, and BMW each struck a deal last year with California to commit to 3.7 percent year-over-year increases in average fuel economy, while General Motors, Toyota, and Fiat Chrysler filed support for the Trump administration concurrent attempt to revoke California’s authority to set its own emissions standards.
┏ Samsung Display is getting out of the LCD business. There is a very strong joke to be made about Foxconn’s fiasco of an LCD factory in Wisconsin but I can’t quite find it. More important is that this has implications for Samsung’s TV business long-term but weirdly nobody knows exactly what tech Samsung is going to settle on long-term. Or rather: Samsung isn’t saying.
Although Samsung Display says that it will be able to continue supplying its existing LCD orders through the end of the year, there are questions about what Samsung Electronics, the largest TV manufacturer in the world, will use in its LCD TVs going forward. Samsung told The Verge that it does not expect the shutdown to affect its LCD-based QLED TV lineup. So for the near-term, nothing changes.
┏ Google ends sales of the Pixel 3. Goodbye to the Pixel 3 XL especially, contender for the most ridiculously large notch of all time. It will still get full software support through Oct 2021, of course.