Apple launches ‘Path to Apple Card,’ a 4-month credit worthiness improvement program

Apple is launching an interesting new Apple Card program for people who have their application declined.

Declined Apple Card applicants may begin seeing notifications on their device later today that offer them the Path to Apple Card program. It’s an opt-in program that can run for up to 4 months. It leverages the information that Goldman Sachs used determine their credit worthiness to outline why they were declined and to help them improve the specific financial markers that would make them more likely to get approved next time.

Once a user opts in on their device, they get a once-a-month update on their progress on specific tasks that are personalized to their rating.

Examples include:

  • Resolving past due balances
  • Making payments to secured and unsecured debt accounts on time
  • Lowering credit card and personal loan debt

The updates also include specific steps to take to improve each of those markers.

Once a customer has completed the program, they are invited to re-apply to Apple Card.

Doubtless the points above seem pretty straightforward to anyone with strong basic knowledge of how credit works. But I encourage anyone to whom those seem simple to consider how many people do not have a real window into the factors that determine whether an underwriting process at a financial firm accepts or rejects their application. No other interactive program like this exists in the credit card world as far as I know

Normally, when you get a decline from a major credit card bureau, you get a message that you’ll get a letter in the mail days from now with ‘reasons’ why you’ve been declined. The result is usually a bunch of paper with a relatively unhelpful single sentence telling you the factor that was an issue. Nothing proactive.

On the privacy front, Apple only knows whether you have chosen to participate in the program. It does not retain personally identifiable information or know details about the participants’ financial situation. Goldman Sachs is also not sharing this data with third parties for advertising or marketing. Pretty much the same deal as the Apple Card itself.

I’ve been bullish before on the way that Apple Card handles fiscal transparency. The ‘payment wheel’ inside the card’s interface on iOS devices is one of the clearest, most well made interfaces for any credit card ever offered. The approach Apple takes — an all out effort to make it as easy as possible not to pay interest on purchases unless you absolutely feel you want to — is wildly different from the industry norms.

This additional financial health tool fits well within that overall philosophy. And, as a side benefit, these steps will doubtless result in an overall credit score improvement for participants.

Apple has also recently launched an additional website that details the exact criteria that Goldman Sachs uses to determine acceptance and credit limit. It also offers additional details about things like how interest is calculated for the platform.

Article updated to note that the invites to participate are received on devices.

TechCrunch’s Early Stage, Mobility and Space events will be virtual, too

You may have heard the news: We’re taking Disrupt virtual. As you would expect, we are taking three of our other events this year virtual, too.

The virtual version of TC Early Stage will retain its focus on giving founders the opportunity to absorb direct, practical knowledge about how to grow and develop their startups.

Early Stage will take place over two days, July 21-22, and leverage the unique capabilities of virtual event platforms to host interactive breakout sessions with top investors, operators and ecosystem experts. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and learn from the top minds in fundraising, law, growth marketing, recruiting and many other important key arenas that normally go unexamined. We’ll also host a small number of highly impactful main-stage sessions: Reid Hoffman of Greylock will join us, as well as founders like Dylan Field from Figma and Mariam Naficy of Minted. You can pick up a ticket here.

The virtual edition of TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility will also occur over two days, October 6-7. Last year’s inaugural event was a massive success, bringing together every major player in the mobility startup space. Now, we’re aiming to make it more accessible and valuable to founders, investors and industry watchers. We will host a pitch-off for early-stage mobility companies during the show and talk to some of the most innovative startups and leaders from established tech firms. Stay tuned for more announcements as the date approaches. You can pick up a virtual ticket to the show here.

Virtual TechCrunch Sessions: Space will follow a two-day format as well, and will happen on December 16-17, 2020. Join TechCrunch editors for fireside chats and panel discussions with the top investors, founders and technologists forging the future of space. From smallsats to crewed vehicles, space has never been a more exciting opportunity for young companies. We’re here to help dive into this phenomenon in the way that only TechCrunch can. Get your ticket here.

Just like Disrupt, we expect these events to be even bigger and more inclusive than they were in past years. In the programming, we’ll be able to include startups, investors and experts from around the world, and your ability to attend is only limited by your ability to connect to the internet.

See you online soon!

TechCrunch Disrupt 2020 is going virtual

The headline says it all. TechCrunch’s big yearly event, Disrupt, is going fully virtual in 2020. As you can imagine, this is largely due to the impact that the coronavirus has had on the world. But it also gives us a chance to make our event even more accessible to more people than ever before, and we’re incredibly excited about that. And Disrupt will stretch over five days — September 14-18 — in order to make it easier for everyone to take in all the amazing programming. 

This is a daunting and intense task for all of us, but we’re also insanely excited by the challenge. We know how to make great in-person events. Now, the rules are re-written and we get the chance to set that same high standard in the virtual events space.

This is a challenging time for the industry that we cover relentlessly. There are massive risks, and massive opportunities for companies, investors and entrepreneurs. That’s what this Disrupt will be all about, helping you to understand our new realities in order to build hardy, innovative companies that not only weather this storm, but flourish.

Some of the companies that were founded during the last financial crisis or in its aftermath include Uber, Slack, Pinterest, Airbnb, Square, Instagram and Stripe. We’ll look at lessons from those companies and founders, and talk to investors about what they’re looking for from the startups of the future.

Our job now is to build a stellar virtual experience for speakers, sponsors, attendees and, most importantly, the startups that depend on Disrupt. Just like at our physical events, you will be able to meet investors, bring your innovative products to market and connect with media. You will be able to check out hundreds of startups, listen to and interact with some of the most important people in the startup world and attend virtual networking events. You will be able to build new partnerships, talk about your programs and build awareness of what you’re making. 

One of the things we’re most excited about is that anyone from anywhere around the globe can join us in a virtual event. And, because of this, we expect this to be one of the largest and most diverse events in Disrupt history. 

Entrepreneurs from around the world have always gathered at Disrupt, but now the barriers to attend will be lower than ever. Great companies from San Francisco to Seoul can participate in the Startup Battlefield competition this year, making it more possible than ever for us to gather the most incredibly interesting companies together with no geographic or logistical restrictions.

When 2020 began, we didn’t expect to be taking on such a big project this year. But the truth is, we’re ready. As news of the true spread of the coronavirus broke, the TechCrunch team began taking action. We launched Extra Crunch Live, delivering virtual events with guests like Aileen Lee, Kirsten Green, Mark Cuban, Charles Hudson and Roelof Botha. We’re taking our learnings there and applying them to the programming of our two virtual stages at Disrupt. 

We launched the Disrupt Digital Pro Pass that offers live stream and video on demand access to all of the programming, great targeted networking opportunities, access to Startup Alley and access to our sponsors. We’ve launched virtual sponsorship options that will give our partners the opportunity to build their brand, deliver their content, network with interesting people and develop the critical relationships that will help their businesses thrive. 

Disrupt’s dates are coming up fast (September 14-18th, 2020) so register as soon as you can. 

Stepping off this ledge is one of the scariest and yet most thrilling things we’ve ever done at TechCrunch and we’re really glad that we have an audience that knows exactly how that feels. 

Thank you, and we’ll see you at the first-ever TechCrunch Disrupt online.

 

Joey Hinson

Director of Operations

 

Matthew Panzarino

Editor in Chief

Apple Operations SVP details supply chain safety changes due to COVID-19

Today, Apple released its 2020 Supplier Responsibility progress report. In it, Senior Vice President of Operations Sabih Khan published a letter that details an outline of the plan it created to increase safety and protection efforts in its supply chain worldwide.

As far as I can tell this is the first time that Khan has written publicly since he was appointed to this role in 2019. The letter walks through some of the efforts Apple has made to ensure, as Khan states, a “right to a safe and healthy workplace” for Apple employees and supply chain members.

As a pole position company that is the premier manufacturer of consumer electronics in the world, Apple’s stances and efforts here are obviously under an incredible microscope. The measures that it takes will serve as a playbook for worldwide manufacturers going forward.

After thanking Apple’s suppliers around the word, Khan says that thousands of its employees worked with suppliers to create a plan to continue business in a fashion that took to account health recommendations in each country as well as the universal rules that govern coronavirus spread mitigation.

Apple Senior Vice President,
Operations, Sabih Khan

A few actions it has taken at its supplier facilities:

  • Health screenings
  • Limiting density and enforcing strict social distancing
  • Requiring the use of PPE both during work and in common areas
  • Implementing enhanced deep-cleaning protocols
  • Deploying masks and sanitizers to employees

Apple has also redesigned and reconfigured factory floor plans at its suppliers where needed. It has also introduced flexible work hours like staggered work shifts to ensure social distancing measures can be maintained.

In addition to executing protections at its own suppliers, Apple is sharing its plans with NGOs and other organizations to help establish standards across the industry.

“We put people first in everything we do — and require everyone we work with to do the same — because we want to uphold the highest standards,” Khan says in the letter. “Our Supplier Code of Conduct prevents discrimination and harassment of any kind, and supplier employees are provided anonymous channels to speak up. We partner with our suppliers to create educational and training opportunities, including traditional college degree programs, vocational training initiatives, and health and wellness programs so their employees can learn new skills and work toward fulfilling their goals.”

Apple’s supplier report would normally be released in the February-March time frame but it wanted to take some time to plan and execute protection measures first before issuing the report and details of its adjustments due to COVID-19.

“While COVID-19 has been an unprecedented challenge, we’ve also drawn hope and inspiration from humanity’s renewed focus on the health of our colleagues, friends, and neighbors. That consciousness — of our health and the health of others — is something we can always carry with us,” Khan finishes. “Our work to protect people and the planet may never be finished — but we’ve never been more confident that our brightest days are still ahead.”

The supplier report this year is based on interviews of 52,000 workers in its supply chain. It is also auditing suppliers in 49 countries now, up from 30 in 2018 — with a total of 1,142 audits in 2019. Apple’s Zero Waste program was introduced in 2015 in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and waste from its supply chain. This report says that the program is now integrated into final assembly, testing and packaging across all of its major products. Apple diverted 1.3 million metric tons of waste from landfills last year and re-used 40% of water from its manufacturing process — some 9.4 billion gallons.

The full text of Khan’s letter is below.

Health comes first. Now and always.

As people around the world continue to face many challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded of the importance of protecting the planet and treating everyone with dignity and respect — values that inform every decision we make.

Our Supplier Responsibility Progress Report is a look back at the progress we achieved in bringing those commitments to life last year. But I first want to share some of the actions we’re taking in our global supply chain right now to address COVID-19’s unprecedented challenges, and to ensure people are able to return to work safely — because everyone has the right to a safe and healthy workplace.

This pandemic has left no country untouched, and we want to thank all our suppliers around the world for their commitment, flexibility and care for their teams as we navigate COVID-19’s complex and rapidly evolving impacts. From the outset, we worked with our suppliers to develop and execute a plan that puts the health of people first.  Thousands of Apple employees have worked tirelessly to execute that plan in partnership with our suppliers around the world.

First and foremost, that’s meant working with our suppliers around the world on a range of protections suited to the circumstances in each country, including health screenings, limiting density, and ensuring strict adherence to social distancing in their facilities. We’re requiring the use of personal protective equipment — both during work and in all common areas — and have worked together to implement enhanced deep cleaning protocols and deploy masks and sanitizers.

Our teams have also partnered with suppliers to redesign and reconfigure factory floorplans where needed and to implement flexible working hours — including staggered work shifts — to maximize interpersonal space. We continue to work closely with leading medical and privacy experts to develop advanced health and safety protocols.

As we develop tools and implement best practices across our entire supply chain, we are also sharing what we learn within our industry and beyond.  We haven’t allowed COVID-19 to undermine the values that have long defined who we are — values rooted in the responsibilities we have to one another and to the planet.

This year’s Supplier Responsibility Progress Report describes our work to bring all of those commitments to life in 2019. Whether it’s helping with the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, or training millions of people on their workplace rights, we apply our values in all aspects of our business, and every year, we raise the bar that our suppliers must meet as well.

We put people first in everything we do— and require everyone we work with to do the same — because we want to uphold the highest standards. Our Supplier Code of Conduct prevents discrimination and harassment of any kind, and supplier employees are provided anonymous channels to speak up.  We partner with our suppliers to create educational and training opportunities, including traditional college degree programs, vocational training initiatives, and health and wellness programs so their employees can learn new skills and work toward fulfilling their goals.

We’re committed to transparently reporting the progress we’ve made and have yet to make. This report draws on interviews from more than 50,000 employees in our supply chain and more than one thousand audits of supplier facilities across 49 countries — including surprise audits. The same attention to detail and innovation that goes into our products informs this report, and the work to ensure our worldwide network of suppliers upholds the standards themselves.

The environment we all share is fragile, and we are more dedicated than ever to fighting climate change and reducing emissions. Through strategic partnerships, we’re helping our suppliers shrink their carbon footprint and conserve precious resources, like water and energy. Green manufacturing is smart manufacturing, and, more broadly, we know what is good for the environment is also good for business.   

While COVID-19 has been an unprecedented challenge, we’ve also drawn hope and inspiration from humanity’s renewed focus on the health of our colleagues, friends, and neighbors. That consciousness — of our health and the health of others — is something we can always carry with us.

Our work to protect people and the planet may never be finished — but we’ve never been more confident that our brightest days are still ahead.

Sabih Khan is Apple’s Senior Vice President of Operations.

Sabih leads Apple’s global supply chain, which includes Supplier Responsibility.

Apple’s Magic Keyboard Review: Laptop class typing comes to iPad Pro

Over the past two years, I’ve typed nearly every word I’ve written while traveling on the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard Folio. For more on why you can see my iPad Pro review here.

For the purposes of this look at the new Magic Keyboard, though, you should probably just know two things:

  1. It was reliable, incredibly durable and never once failed me.
  2. It kind of stunk in every other way.

The Keyboard Folio’s plastic coated surface made it impervious to spills, but it also made the keys much less responsive. It rendered them unable to give your fingers the feedback necessary to confirm that a key had been struck, leading me to adopt a technique where I just hit every key with maximum strength at all times.

The new Magic Keyboard is as different from that device as the new MacBook Pro keyboards are from the low profile ones that dominated headlines over the last couple of years. It’s a huge jump forward in usability for the iPad Pro — and for last year’s model too.

I am very relieved I don’t have to slam my fingers onto the plastic keyboard anymore, because over long and fast typing sessions I could feel a numbness that would begin to radiate from the tips of my fingers a bit. An enervation of sorts. It wasn’t precisely painful but it was noticeable.

The Magic Keyboard offers a lovely, backlit deck that holds its own against the 16” MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air for best portable keyboards. The key travel is excellent — in between the two laptops in my opinion — and the feel is tight, responsive and precise. This is a first class typing experience, full stop.

I’ve been testing the three keyboards alongside one another for the past few days and I can’t stress enough how stable the keys are. Even the MacBook Air allows a tiny bit of key shift if you touch your finger to it and gently circle it — though the MacBook Pro is better. There’s such a small amount of that here that it’s almost imperceptible.

It’s a tad spongier than the 16” MBP but more firm than the MacBook Air, which has a bit more return and travel. In my opinion, this keyboard is ‘louder’ (due to the plastic casing being more resonant than the aluminum), than the 16” MBP, but about the same as the MacBook Air. The throw feels similar to the 16” though, with the Air being slightly deeper but ‘sloppier’.

So a hybrid between those two keyboards as far as feel goes, but a clear descendant of the work that was done to turn those offerings around.

Construction

Among my biggest concerns was that Apple would get overly clever with the hinge design, making the the typing an exercise in wobble. Happy to say here that they took the clear path here and made it as sturdy as possible, even if that was at the cost of variability.

The hinge is a simple limit stop design that opens far less than you’d expect and then allows a second hinge to engage to open in an arc between the 80 and 130 degrees. The 90 degree and fully open positions basically mimic the angles that were offered by the grooves of the Keyboard Folio — but now you can choose any in-between position that feels natural to you.

Apple has obviously put this hard stop fold out limit in place to maintain balance on tables and laps, and its clever use of counter opposing forces with the second hinge combines to limit tipping and to make typing on a lap finally a completely viable thing to do. The fact that you don’t have to hammer the keyboard to type also makes this a better proposition.

For typing, these positions should be just fine for the vast majority of users. And the solid (very high friction) hinge means that the whole thing is very sturdy feeling, even with more moving parts. I have been quite comfortable grabbing the whole assembly of the 12.9” iPad Pro plus Magic Keyboard by the deck of the keyboard and carrying it around, much in the way I’d carry a laptop. No worries about accidental floppiness or detachment.

At the same time, the new design that floats the iPad in the air allows you to quickly pop it off with little effort by either your left or right hand. This makes the Magic Keyboard take on the use case of a desktop based dock, something that never felt right with the Keyboard Folio.

The touchpad physically moves here, and is not a haptic pad, but it is clickable across its entire surface. It’s also a laptop-class trackpad, proving that Apple’s engineering teams still have a better idea about how to make a trackpad that works crisply and as expected than any other hardware team out there.

I do love the soft touch coating of the case itself, but I believe it will wear in a similar fashion to these kinds of surfaces on other devices. It will likely develop shiny spots on either side of the trackpad on the hand rest areas.

The responsive half arrow keys are extremely welcome.

Some other details, quirks and upper limits

The camera placement situation is much improved here, as you’re less likely to hold the left side of the iPad to keep it stable. The lift of the keyboard (at times about an inch and a bit) means that the eye line, while still not ideal, is improved for zoom calls and the like. Less double chin up the nose action. Apple should still move the iPad Pro’s camera on future versions.

The keyboard’s backlight brightness is decent and adjustable in the settings pane once it’s attached to iPad Pro. The unit did use more battery in my tests, though I haven’t had it long enough to assign any numbers to it. I did notice during a recent Facetime call that the battery was draining faster than it could charge, but that is so far anecdotal and I haven’t had the time to reproduce it in testing.

This is not the case that artists have been waiting for. This case does not rotate around backwards like the keyboard folio, meaning that you’re going to be popping it off the case if you’re going to draw on it at all. In some ways the ease of removal feels like an Apple concession. ‘Hey, we couldn’t fit all this in and a way to position it at a drawing angle, so we made it really easy to get it loose.’ It works, but I hope that more magic happens between now and the next iteration to find a way to serve both typing and drawing in one protected configuration.

A little quirk: when it’s tilted super far back to the full stop I sometimes nick the bottom edge of the iPad with my fingers when hitting numbers — could be my typing form or bigger hands but I thought it worth mentioning.

It’s a bit heavy. At 700g for the 12.9” keyboard, it more than doubles the weight of the whole package. The larger iPad Pro and keyboard is basically the weight of a MacBook Air. Get the 11” if weight is a concern. This keyboard makes the iPad 12.9″ package feel very chunky. The

The fact that this keyboard works on the older iPad Pro (the camera just floats inside the cutout) means that this is a fantastic upgrade for existing users. It really makes the device feel like it got a huge upgrade without having to buy a new core unit, which fits with Apple’s modular approach to iPad Pro and also stands out as pretty rare in a world where the coolest new features are often hardware related and new device limited.

At $300 and $350 for each size of Magic Keyboard, the price is something you must think about up front. Given that it is now easily the best keyboard available for these devices I think you need to consider it a part of the package price of the device. If you can’t swing that, consider another option — it’s that good.

I’d love more angles of use here and I’m hoping that they include more — that said! If you work seriously with the iPad and that work is based on typing, the Magic Keyboard is essentially mandatory. It’s the dream keyboard for all of us who found ourselves crossing the Rubicon into iPad as primary computer over the past couple of years. It’s not without its caveats, but it is a refreshingly straightforward and well executed accessory that makes even older iPads feel like better laptops than laptops.

Apple introduces new $399 iPhone SE with Touch ID and 4.7″ screen

Apple has dropped a new iPhone SE on the market today. It’s a 4.7” iPhone with a physical home button, Touch ID, a single rear-facing camera and the A13 Bionic chip on board. With a $399 starting price point, the new SE is aimed squarely at new iPhone users or first time smartphone buyers but could appeal to those who want the smallest iPhone model currently available above other considerations.

It comes in black, silver and Product(RED) editions and features a single rear-facing camera and a single front-facing camera. This is Apple’s new entry-level iPhone.

The overall package is pretty appealing here. It’s got the same A13 chip as in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro and Apple tells me that the processor performance in the SE is comparable and not toned down for the more affordable unit.

The display is Apple’s Retina HD unit, which is an LCD panel. It is not a Liquid Retina display like the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR. I’m still waiting on specs to see what we’re looking at from a contrast ration perspective here, but it does have True Tone.

Probably the biggest defining feature of the iPhone SE besides its size is its inclusion of a physical home button with Touch ID instead of the Face ID system we’ve come to expect on new iPhones. It’s not clear now whether that’s due to size constraints preventing the inclusion of the needed front-facing True Depth Camera array — but pricing is probably just as likely to figure in this calculation.

Touch ID is reliable and even preferred by some users, though the physical home buttons have long been one of the biggest hardware failure points of iPhones with the feature. In our new mask-using world, though, some ground swell of Touch ID enthusiasm has been gaining. It’s hard to make Face ID systems properly recognize you behind a cloth wrap covering half of your face. This has been an issue for a while in Asia, where mask wearing has long been a matter of courtesy during allergy season or when a person is ill.

Camera and Comparisons

A couple of main items make Apple’s claim that the iPhone SE is ‘the best single-camera system’ supportable. You may recall that the iPhone XR also supported portrait mode and had the same resolution of rear camera. But with the iPhone SE, you have the A13 bionic, a new ISP and the Neural Engine that have improved things significantly in the machine learning department — allowing for segmentation masks and semantic rendering, two big improvements that make the portrait mode far more effective in recent iPhone models.

Apple only supported 3 lighting effects on the XR — the ones where you didn’t have to strip away the background. Those require more beef in the rendering and separation pipeline so the iPhone SE can do those now. The iPhone SE also has the improved Smart HDR that came to the iPhone 11 — once again tied to the chip.

You also get a bunch of other benefits of that new image pipeline including expanded dynamic range while shooting video at 4k 30fps, 4k 60 cinematic stabilization and the improved smart HDR while shooting still images. Also brought all 6 lighting effects to the front facing camera in this model.

It’s very like you’re getting iPhone 11 Pro image pipeline attached to a single-camera system — but, and it’s a big but — you don’t get Night Mode. Night Mode is one of the most compelling iPhone camera features in a very long time, so buying the new SE is really a price and size over camera equation.

Lineup Placement

This lineup puts the current iPhones Apple produces at roughly 7 as far as I can tell. The iPhone XR, XS and XS Max, iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro and this new model. The iPhone SE’s pricing is incredibly attractive at $399 with 64GB of storage with only a $50 bump to $449 for 128GB.

If you’re comparing the iPhone XR to the iPhone SE, your only real consideration for the older model would be that you must have the larger screen size. But that seems like a hard sell at $200 more.

Overall, Apple seems to be working hard to mortar over the gaps in its iPhone pricing umbrella, making entry into its ecosystem more attractive. Once in, iPhone users tend to stick for the most part, both because of service-based lock-ins and high customer satisfaction.

Ooni’s Koda 16 pizza oven is the rare kitchen gadget that delivers on its promise

Ooni (nee Uuni), has been around for a few years now, but its latest oven, the Koda 16, launched in March. Just like everyone else, I’ve been cooped up at home for weeks with nothing but all of the projects I would get around to one day.

At the top of my list was learning how to make decent pizza at home (we don’t have many decent pizzaiolo’s in my town). I’d been hearing about the Ooni oven for a while — mostly via Neven Mrgan’s great Instagram feed — so I spring for the Koda 13” and started firing some pies.

I was immediately enamored with the eye popping results. Chewy, crispy, well cooked Neopolitain-style pizza within 30 minutes of taking it out of the box. And I’m not exaggerating. After a couple of pizza launching disasters (this is not as easy as it looks, people), I was eating the product of my own hands and the Ooni’s 800+ degree baking surface. While not even an advanced amateur chef, I have always had somewhat of an aversion to single-use gadgets. Technique always wins, right?

The problem with that thinking is that it is really impossible to cook true Neopolitain pizza at home in the US because our ovens just don’t get hot enough. A ton of experimental dough situations have resulted in a few workable New York style pizza recipes for 500 degree ovens. But for thinner crusts there is zero substitute for that true 800-1000 degree cooking environment.

The Ooni delivers that in under 20 minutes attached to a bog standard propane tank. It’s brilliant.

Ooni co-founder Kristian Tapaninaho started messing around with building a decent pizza oven in 2010. He got into making home pies and realized that there was pretty much no way to do it other than building a large, expensive oven in his back yard. He began prototyping what became the company’s original oven in 2012, and he says that the original oven’s design stemmed from a super simple yet super obvious (in hindsight) design constraint: what could they ship affordably?

Due to shipping restrictions, it had to be under 10kg and had to fit in a certain footprint. Everything piece of design work on the first oven stemmed from those constraints. Why, for instance, does the Ooni oven have 3 legs? Because the 4th one would have put them over weight.

Within those constraints, the original oven took shape — delivering that super high-heat surface with a simple wood-fired unit that more than doubled its original funding goal on Kickstarter. Kristian and co-founder Darina Garland defined this high-heat, high results at-home outdoor pizza oven market at scale, along with other later entrants like Roccbox.

I had a bit of a chat with Kristian about how Ooni was doing lately, with the specter of coronavirus and the new business realities that have resulted.

“This COVID-19 situation began for us in mid January as our suppliers started informing us that they were delaying return to work from Chinese New Year,” Kristian said. “At the time the worry was if we’d have enough supply for the summer which is of course peak season for us. As our supply chain was restarting, it was clear that we’d have similar lockdowns in our main markets as well. Overall, however, we started the year at a strong inventory position which helped buffer any interruptions.”

He says that Ooni was lucky given that the initial production run of the Ooni 16 was already in warehouses by the time things got really hairy in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. And the team was fairly ready for the new challenge of stay-at-home work.

“Much of our team comms already happened over Slack so the team’s been really quite well setup for working from home,” he told me. “We have great relationships with our 3rd party logistics providers and while they’ve been incredibly busy, they’ve been able to maintain a good level of service, at least in the grand scheme of things.”

Yeah, but how does it work?

Once Kristian saw that I was playing with my Ooni 13 he offered to send the newly launched 16″ model over to play with. I jumped at the chance to make a bigger pie.

My experiences with the Ooni ovens so far have been nothing short of revelatory. Though I’ve pondered indoor options like the Breville Smart Oven, I knew in my heart that I wanted that brilliant taste that comes from live fire and the high heat that would let me enjoy super thin crust pizzas. I’ve now fired over three dozen pizzas in the Ooni and am coming to know it a bit better. Its recovery time, rotation needs and cooking characteristics. I have never used a more enjoyable cooking utensil.

I’ve tried a few dough recipes, because I know I’ll get questions about it, but I’ve used two to good effect. Ooni’s own recommended dough (though I hydrate a bit more) and this Peter Reinhart recipe, recommended to me by Richie Nakano.

The pizzas that result are bursting with umami. The oven enables that potent combination of cheese, sauce and randomly distributed carbonization that combines into the perfect bite. Your pie goes in somewhat pedestrian — whitish dough, red sauce, hunks of fresh mozzarella — and you see it come to life right in front of your eyes.  Within 60-90 seconds, you’ve transmogrified the simple ingredients into a hot endocrine rush of savory, chewy flavor.

As I mentioned before, the setup is insanely simple. Flip out the legs, put it on an outdoor surface with some support and attach a propane tank. An instant of lighting knob work and you’re free to step away. Fifteen minutes later and you’ve got a cooking environment to die for. The flip down legs make the 13” model super great for taking camping or anywhere you want to go to create your own pizza party. Ooni even sells a carrying case.

The design of the oven’s upper shell means that all of the heat is redirected inwards, letting the baking surface reach 850 degrees easily in the center, up to 1000 degrees near the back. The Koda 16 has such an incredibly roomy cooking surface that it is easy to see to the sides and around your pizza a bit to tell how the crust is rising and how the leoparding is coming along. Spinning your pie mid-cook is such an important part of this kind of oven and the bigger mouth is smashing for this.

Heck I even cooked steak in it, to mouth watering results.

“Our core message has always been ‘great restaurant quality pizza at home’ and while the situation is what it is, more people spending more time at home looking for great home cooking options has been strong for our online sales,” Kristian said when I asked him about whether more people were discovering Ooni now. “Pizza making is a great way to have fun family time together. It’s about those shared experiences that bring people together.”

This mirrors my experiences so far. I’m not precisely ‘good’ at this yet, but I’m plugging away and the Ooni makes even my misses delicious. This weekend I was even confident enough to hold a socially distanced pizza pick-up party. Friends and family put in their orders and I fired a dozen pies of all kinds. Though I couldn’t hug them, I could safely hand them a freshly fired pizza and to most Italians like me, that’s probably better.

In my mind, the Ooni Koda pulls off a rare trifecta of kitchen gadgets: It retains the joy and energy of live flame, delivers completely on its core premise and still remains incredibly easy to use. Highly recommend.

 

Apple and Google are launching a joint COVID-19 tracing tool for iOS and Android

Apple and Google’s engineering teams have banded together to create a decentralized contact tracing tool that will help individuals determine whether they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Contact tracing is a useful tool that helps public health authorities track the spread of the disease and inform the potentially exposed so that they can get tested. It does this by identifying and ‘following up with’ people who have come into contact with a COVID-19 affected person.

The first phase of the project is an API that public health agencies can integrate into their own apps. The next phase is a system level contact tracing system that will work across iOS and Android devices on an opt-in basis.

The system uses on-board radios on your device to transmit an anonymous ID over short ranges — using Bluetooth beaconing. Servers relay your last 14 days of rotating IDs to other devices which search for a match. A match is determined based on a threshold of time spent and distance maintained between two devices.

If a match is found with another user that has told the system that they have tested positive, you are notified and can take steps to be tested and to self quarantine.

Contact tracing is a well known and debated tool, but one that has been adopted by health authorities and universities who are working on multiple projects like this. One such example is MIT’s efforts to use Bluetooth to create a privacy-conscious contact tracing tool that was inspired by Apple’s Find My system. The companies say that those organizations identified technical hurdles that they were unable to overcome and asked for help.

The project was started two weeks ago by engineers from both companies. One of the reasons that the companies got involved is that there is poor interoperability between systems on various manufacturer’s devices. With contact tracing, every time you fragment a system like this between multiple apps, you limit its effectiveness greatly. You need a massive amount of adoption in one system for contact tracing to work well.

At the same time, you run into technical problems like Bluetooth power suck, privacy concerns about centralized data collection and the sheer effort it takes to get enough people to install the apps to be effective.

Two Phase Plan

To fix these issues, Google and Apple teamed up to create an interoperable API that should allow the largest number of users to adopt it, if they choose.

The first phase, a private proximity contact detection API, will be released in mid-May by both Apple and Google for use in apps on iOS and Android. In a briefing today, Apple and Google said that the API is a simple one and should be relatively easy for existing or planned apps to integrate. The API would allow apps to ask users to opt-in to contact tracing (the entire system is opt-in only), allowing their device to broadcast the anonymous, rotating identifier to devices that the person ‘meets’. This would allow tracing to be done to alert those who may come in contact with COVID-19 to take further steps.

The value of contact tracing should extend beyond the initial period of pandemic and into the time when self-isolation and quarantine restrictions are eased.

The second phase of the project is to bring even more efficiency and adoption to the tracing tool by bringing it to the operating system level. There would be no need to download an app, users would just opt-in to the tracing right on their device. The public health apps would continue to be supported, but this would address a much larger spread of users.

This phase, which is slated for the coming months, would give the contract tracing tool the ability to work at a deeper level, improving battery life, effectiveness and privacy. If its handled by the system, then every improvement in those areas — including cryptographic advances — would benefit the tool directly.

How it works

A quick example of how a system like this might work.

  1. Two people happen to be near each other for a period of time, let’s say 10 minutes. Their phones exchange the anonymous identifiers (which change every 15 minutes).
  2. Later on, one of those people is diagnosed with COVID-19 and enters it into the system via a Public Health Authority app that has integrated the API.
  3. With an additional consent, the diagnosed user allows his anonymous identifiers for the last 14 days to be transmitted to the system.
  4. The person they came into contact with has a Public Health app on their phone that downloads the broadcast keys of positive tests and alerts them to a match.
  5. The app gives them more information on how to proceed from there.

Privacy and Transparency

Both Apple and Google say that privacy and transparency are paramount in a public health effort like this one and say they are committed to shipping a system that does not compromise personal privacy in any way.

There is zero use of location data, which includes users who report positive. This tool is not about where affected people are but instead whether they have been around other people.

The system works by assigning a random, rotating identifier to a person’s phone and transmitting it via Bluetooth to nearby devices. That identifier, which rotates every 15 minutes and contains no personally identifiable information, will pass through a simple relay server that can be run by health organizations worldwide.

Even then, the list of identifiers you’ve been in contact with doesn’t leave your phone unless you choose to share it. Users that test positive will not be identified to other users, Apple or Google. Google and Apple can disable the broadcast system entirely when it is no longer needed.

All identification of matches is done on your device, allowing you to see — within a 14-day window — whether your device has been near the device of a person who has self-identified as having tested positive for COVID-19.

The entire system is opt-in. Users will know up front that they are participating, whether in app or at a system level. Public health authorities are involved in notifying users that they have been in contact with an affected person. Apple and Google say that they will openly publish information about the work that they have done for others to analyze in order to bring the most transparency possible to the privacy and security aspects of the project.

“All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems,” the companies said in a statement. “Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.”

You can find more information about the contact tracing API on Apple’s page here including specifications.

Apple Card gets updated privacy policy on new data sharing and more transaction detail

Apple is updating its privacy policy for Apple Card to enable sharing more anonymized data with Goldman Sachs, its financial partner. Apple’s reasoning here is that this will make it able to do a better job of assigning credit to new customers.

The data is aggregate and anonymized, and there is an opt-out for new customers.

Three things are happening here:

  • Apple is changing the privacy policy for Apple Card with iOS to share a richer, but still anonymized credit assignment model with Goldman Sachs in order to expand the kind of user that might be able to secure credit.
  • There is also a beefed up fallback method to share more personal data on an opt-in basis with Goldman Sachs if you do not at first get approved. Things like purchase history of Apple products, when you created your Apple ID and how much you spend with Apple. This has always existed and you may have seen it if the default modeling rejected your Apple Card application — it has a few more data points now but it is still very clearly opt-in with a large share button.
  • Apple is also finally adding detail to its internal transactions. You no longer have to wonder what that random charge labeled Apple Services is for, you’ll get detail on the Hillary Duff box set or Gambino album you purchased right in the list inside Wallet.

As a side effect of the Apple Card policy evolving here it’s also being split off from the Apple Pay privacy policy. Much of the language is either identical or nearly so, but this allows Apple to make changes like the ones above to Apple Card without having to interleave that with the Apple Pay policy — as not all Apple Pay customers are Apple Card customers.

The new policy appears in iOS 13.4 updates but the opt-in sharing of data points will not immediately roll out for new Apple Card users and will begin appearing later.

Here is the additional language that is appearing in the Apple Card privacy notice related to data sharing, with some sections highlighted by us:

“You may be eligible for certain Apple Card programs provided by Goldman Sachs based on the information provided as part of your application. Apple may know whether you receive the invitation to participate and whether you accept or decline the invitation, and may share that information with Goldman Sachs to effectuate the program. Apple will not know additional details about your participation in the program.

Apple may use information about your account with Apple, such as the fact that you have Apple Card, for internal research and analytics purposes, such as financial forecasting. Apple may also use information about your relationship with Apple, such as what Apple products you have purchased, how long you have had your Apple ID, and how often you transact with Apple, to improve Apple Card by helping to identify Apple metrics that may assist Goldman Sachs in improving credit decisioning. No personally identifiable information about your relationship with Apple will be shared with Goldman Sachs to identify the relevant Apple metrics. You can opt out of this use or your Apple relationship information by emailing our privacy team at [email protected] with the subject line “Apple Relationship Data and Apple Card.” Applicants and cardholders may be able to choose to share the identified metrics with Goldman Sachs for re-evaluation of their offer of credit or to increase their credit line. Apple may share information about your relationship with Apple with our service providers, who are obligated to handle the information consistent with this notice and Apple instructions, are required to use reasonable security measures to protect any personal information received, and must delete the personal information as soon as they have completed the services.”

Some thoughts on all of this.

The fact that Apple is sharing a new anonymized, non-personally identifiable information (PII), customer model with Goldman likely engenders two valid responses.

First, there is more data being shared here than there was before, which is always something that should be examined closely, and all of us should be as cognizant as possible about how much information gets traded around about us. That said, your average co-branded card offer (say an airline card or retailer card) is controlled nearly entirely by the financial services side of that equation (basically the credit card companies decide what data they get and how).

Apple’s deal with Goldman Sachs is unique in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that Apple has controlled the flow of data from customers to Goldman very tightly from the beginning. Evidenced by affordances it continues to offer like skipping your March payment to Apple Card without incurring interest. This new arrangement outlined in the privacy policy does not share any PII unless there is an opt-in, and even allows an opt-out of the anonymized model share.

I cannot stress enough how rare that is in financial products, especially credit cards. Most cards take all of the above information and much more in their approval process, and they don’t do any work beyond what is required by regulatory law to inform you of that. Apple is doing more than most.

THAT SAID. I do wish that the opt-out of the anonymized data model was presented in the flow of normal signup, rather than existing as an email address in the privacy policy. I know why this is, because the model is likely far more effective and a lot more people will likely get approved for an Apple Card using it.

But in keeping with the stated Apple goals of protecting user privacy and making the policy as transparent as possible I would prefer that they find a long-term solution that communicates all of those factors to the user clearly and then offers them the ability to risk non-approval but limiting data share.

The idea behind the new model sharing and the secondary opt-in disclosure of 9 key bits of actually personal information about your purchase history and other things is that Apple will be able to offer credit to people who may be automatically rejected under the old way of doing things. And, out beyond that, it will be able to build tools that help customers to manage debt and credit more accurately and transparently. Especially those new to credit.

Any time an agreement changes to enable more data to flow my eyebrows arch. But there is a pretty straight line to be drawn here between the way that Apple transparently and aggressively helps users to not pay interest on Apple Card and the potential for more useful financial product enhancements to Apple Card down the line.

If you’ve ever looked at a credit card statement you know that it can often be difficult to ascertain exactly how much you need to pay at any given time to avoid interest. In the Apple Card interface it’s insanely clear exactly how and when to pay so that you don’t get charged. Most of the industry follows practices that prey on behavioral norms — people will pay the minimum payment by default because that’s what seems logical, rather than paying what is most healthy for them to pay.

My hope here is that the additional modeling makes room for more of these kinds of product decisions for Apple Card down the line. But, my eyes are up and yours should be too. Check the policy, opt-out if it makes sense to you and always be aware of the data you’re sharing, who with and what they plan to use it for.

Review: 100,000 miles and one week with an iPad Pro

For the past eighteen months the iPad Pro has been my only machine away from home, and until recently I was away from home a lot. Traveling domestically and internationally to event locations around the world or our offices in San Francisco, New York and London. Every moment of every day that I wasn’t at my home desk, the iPad Pro was my main portable machine.

I made the switch on a trip to Brazil for our conference and Startup Battlefield competition (which was rad, by the way, a computer vision cattle scale won the top prize) on somewhat of a whim. I thought I’d take this 1 week trip to make sure I got a good handle on how the iPad Pro would perform as a work device and then move back to my trusty 13” MacBook Pro.

The trip changed my mind completely about whether I could run TechCrunch wholly from a tablet. It turns out that it was lighter, smoother and more willing than my MacBook at nearly every turn. I never went back.

iPad Pro, 2018, Brazil

The early days were absolutely full of growing pains for both the iPad and myself. Rebuilding workflows by patching together the share sheet and automation tools and the newly introduced Shortcuts was a big part of making it a viable working machine at that point. And the changes that came with iPadOS that boosted slipover, split and the home screen were welcome in that they made the whole thing feel more flexible.

The past year and a half has taught me a lot about what the absolute killer features of the iPad Pro are, while also forcing me to learn about the harsher tradeoffs I would have to make for carrying a lighter, faster machine than a laptop.

All of which is to set the context for my past week with the new version of that machine.

For the greater part, this new 2019 iPad Pro still looks much the same as the one released in 2018. Aside from the square camera array, it’s a near twin. The good news on that front is that you can tell Apple nailed the ID the first time because it still feels super crisp and futuristic almost two years later. The idealized expression of a computer. Light, handheld, powerful and functional.

The 12.9” iPad Pro that I tested contains the new A12Z chip which performs at a near identical level to the same model I’ve been using. At over 5015 single-core and over 18,000 multi-core scores in Geekbench, it remains one of the more powerful portable computers you can own, regardless of class. The 1TB model appears to still have 6GB of RAM, though I don’t know if that’s still stepped down for the lower models to 4GB.

This version adds an additional GPU core and ‘enhanced thermal architecture’ — presumably better heat distribution under load but that was not especially evident given that the iPad Pro has rarely run hot for me. I’m interested to see what teardowns turn up here. New venting, piping or component distribution perhaps. Or something on-die.

It’s interesting, of course, that this processor is so close in performance (at least at a CPU level) to the A12X Bionic chip. Even at a GPU level Apple says nothing more than that it is faster than the A12X with none of the normal multipliers it typically touts.

The clearest answer for this appears to be that this is a true ‘refresh’ of the iPad Pro. There are new features, which I’ll talk about next, but on the whole this is ‘the new one’ in a way that is rarely but sometimes true of Apple devices. Whatever they’ve learned and are able to execute currently on hardware without a massive overhaul of the design or implementation of hardware is what we see here.

I suppose my one note on this is that the A12X still feels fast as hell and I’ve never wanted for power so, fine? I’ve been arguing against speed bumps at the cost of usability forever so now is the time I make good on those arguments and don’t really find a reason to complain about something that works so well.

CamARa

The most evident physical difference on the new iPad Pro is, of course, the large camera array which contains a 10MP ultra wide and 12MP wide camera. These work to spec but it’s the addition of the new LiDAR scanner that is the most intriguing addition.

It is inevitable that we will eventually experience the world on several layers at once. The physical layer we know will be augmented by additional rings of data like the growth rings of a redwood.

In fact, that future has already come for most of us, whether we realize it or not. Right now, we experience these layers mostly in an asynchronous fashion by requesting their presence. Need a data overlay to tell you where to go?  Call up a map with turn-by-turn. Want to know the definition of a word or the weather? Ask a voice assistant.

The next era beyond this one, though, is passive, contextually driven info layers that are presented to us proactively visually and audibly.

We’ve been calling this either augmented reality or mixed reality, though I think that neither one of those is ultimately very descriptive of what will eventually come. The augmented human experience has started with the smartphone, but will slowly work its way closer to our cerebellum as we progress down the chain from screens to transparent displays to lenses to ocular implants to brain-stem integration.

If you’re rolling your un-enhanced eyes right now, I don’t blame you. But that doesn’t mean I’m not right. Bookmark this and let’s discuss in 2030.

In the near term, though, the advancement of AR technology is being driven primarily by smartphone experiences. And those are being advanced most quickly by Google and Apple with the frameworks they are offering to developers to integrate AR into their apps and the hardware that they’re willing to fit onboard their devices.

One of the biggest hurdles to AR experiences being incredibly realistic has been occlusion. This is effect that allows one object to intersect with another realistically — to obscure or hide it in a way that tells our brain that ‘this is behind that’. Occlusion leads to a bunch of interesting things like shared experiences, interaction of physical and digital worlds and just general believability.

This is where the iPad Pro’s LiDAR scanner comes in. With LiDAR, two major steps forward are possible for AR applications.

  • Initialization time is nearly instantaneous. Because LiDAR works at the speed of light, reading pulses of light it sends out and measuring their ‘flight’ times to determine the shape of objects or environments — it is very fast. That typical ‘fire it up, wave it around and pray’ AR awkwardness should theoretically be eliminated with LiDAR.
  • Occlusion becomes an automatic. It no longer requires calculations be done using the camera, small hand movements and computer vision to “guess” at the shape of objects and their relationship to one another. Developers essentially get all of this for “free” computationally and at blazing speed.

There’s a reason LiDAR is used in many autonomous free roaming vehicle systems and semi-autonomous driving systems. It’s fast, relatively reliable and a powerful mapping tool.

ARKit 3.5 now supplies the ability to create a full topological 3D mesh of an environment, with plane and surface detection. All with greater precision than was possible with a simple camera-first approach.

Unfortunately, I was unable to test this system, as applications that take advantage of it are not yet available, though Apple says many are on their way from games like Hot Lava to home furnishing apps like Ikea. I’m interested to see how effective this addition is to iPad as it is highly likely that it will also come to the iPhone this year or next at the latest.

One thing I am surprised but not totally shocked at is that the iPad Pro rear-facing camera does not do Portrait photos. Only the front-facing True Depth camera does Portrait mode here.

My guess is that there is a far more accurate Portrait mode coming to iPad Pro that utilizes the LiDAR array as well as the camera and it is just not ready yet. There is no reason that Apple should not be able to execute a Portrait style image with an even better understanding of the relationships of subjects to backgrounds.

LiDAR is a technology with a ton of promise and a slew of potential applications. Having this much more accurate way to bring the outside world into your device is going to open a lot of doors for Apple and developers over time, but my guess is that we’ll see those doors open over the next couple of years rather than all at once.

One disappointment for me is that the True Depth camera placement remains unchanged. In a sea of fantastic choices that Apple made about the iPad Pro’s design, the placement of the camera in a location most likely to be covered by your hand when it is in landscape mode is a standout poor one.

Over the time I’ve been using iPad Pro as my portable machine I have turned it to portrait mode a small handful of times, and most of those were likely because an app just purely did not support landscape.

This is a device that was born to be landscape, and the camera should reflect that. My one consideration here is that the new ‘floating’ design of the Magic Keyboard that ships in May will raise the camera up and away from your hands and may in fact work a hell of a lot better because of it.

Keyboard and trackpad support

At this point enough people have seen the mouse and trackpad support to have formed some opinions on it. In general, the response has been extremely positive and I agree with that assessment. There are minor quibbles about how much snap Apple is applying to the cursor as it attaches itself to buttons or actions, but overall the effect is incredibly pleasant and useful.

Re-imagining the cursor as a malleable object rather than a hard-edged arrow or hand icon makes a ton of sense in a touch environment. We’re used to our finger becoming whatever tool we need it to be — a pencil or a scrubber or a button pusher. It only makes sense that the cursor on iPad would also be contextually aware as well.

I was only able to use the Magic Trackpad so far, of course, but I have high hopes that it should fall right into the normal flow of work when the Magic Keyboard drops.

And, given the design of the keyboard I think that it will be nice to be able to keep your hands on the keyboard and away from poking at a screen that is now much higher than it was before.

Surface Comparisons

I think that with the addition of the trackpad to the iPad Pro there has been an instinct to say ‘hey the Surface was the right thing after all’. I’ve been thinking about this at one point or another for a couple of years now as I’ve been daily driving the iPad.

I made an assessment back in 2018 about this whole philosophical argument and I think it’s easiest to just quote it here:

One basic summary of the arena is that Microsoft has been working at making laptops into tablets, Apple has been working on making tablets into laptops and everyone else has been doing who knows what.

Microsoft still hasn’t been able (come at me) to ever get it through their heads that they needed to start by cutting the head off of their OS and building a tablet first, then walking backwards. I think now Microsoft is probably much more capable than then Microsoft, but that’s probably another whole discussion.

Apple went and cut the head off of OS X at the very beginning, and has been very slowly walking in the other direction ever since. But the fact remains that no Surface Pro has ever offered a tablet experience anywhere near as satisfying as an iPad’s.

Yes, it may offer more flexibility, but it comes at the cost of unity and reliably functionality. Just refrigerator toasters all the way down.

Still holds, in my opinion, even now.

Essentially, I find the thinking that the iPad has arrived at the doorstep of the Surface because the iPad’s approach was not correct to be so narrow because it focuses on hardware, when the reality is Windows has never been properly adjusted for touch. Apple is coming at this touch first, even as it adds cursor support.

To reiterate what I said above, I am not saying that “the Surface approach is bad” here so go ahead and take a leap on that one. I think the Surface team deserves a ton of credit for putting maximum effort into a convertible computer at the time that nearly the entire industry was headed in another direction. But I absolutely disagree that the iPad is ‘becoming the Surface’ because the touch experience on the Surface is one of the worst of any tablet and the iPads is (for all of the interface’s foibles) indisputably the best.

It is one of the clearer examples of attempting to solve a similar problem from different ends in recent computing design.

That doesn’t mean, however, that several years in the iPad Pro is without flaw.

iPad Promise

Back in January, Apple writer and critic John Gruber laid out his case for why the iPad has yet to meet its full potential. The conclusions, basically, were that Apple had missed the mark on the multi-tasking portion of its software.

At the time I believed a lot of really good points had been made by John and others who followed on and though I had thoughts I wasn’t really ready to crystalize them. I think I’m ready now, though. Here’s the nut of it:

The focus of the iPad Pro, its North Star, must be speed and capability, not ease of use.

Think about the last time that you, say, left your MacBook or laptop sitting for a day or two or ten. What happened when you opened it? Were you greeted with a flurry of alerts and notifications and updates and messages? Were you able to, no matter how long or short a time you had been away from it, open it and start working immediately?

With iPad Pro, no matter where I have been or what I have been doing I was able to flip it open, swipe up and be issuing my first directive within seconds. As fast as my industry moves and as wild as our business gets, that kind of surety is literally priceless.

Never once, however, did I wish that it was easier to use.

Do you wish that a hammer is easier? No, you learn to hold it correctly and swing it accurately. The iPad could use a bit more of that.

Currently, iPadOS is still too closely tethered to the sacred cow of simplicity. In a strange bout of irony, the efforts on behalf of the iPad software team to keep things simple (same icons, same grid, same app switching paradigms) and true to their original intent have instead caused a sort of complexity to creep into the arrangement.

I feel that much of the issues surrounding the iPad Pro’s multitasking system could be corrected by giving professional users a way to immutably pin apps or workspaces in place — offering themselves the ability to ‘break’ the multitasking methodology that has served the iPad for years in service of making their workspaces feel like their own. Ditch the dock entirely and make that a list of pinned spaces that can be picked from at a tap. Lose the protected status of app icons and have them reflect what is happening in those spaces live.

The above may all be terrible ideas, but the core of my argument is sound. Touch interfaces first appeared in the 70’s and have been massively popular for at least a dozen years by now.

The iPad Pro user of today is not new to a touch-based interface and is increasingly likely to have never known a computing life without touch interfaces.

If you doubt me, watch a kid bounce between six different apps putting together a simple meme or message to send to a friend. It’s a virtuoso performance that they give dozens of times a day. These users are touch native. They deserve to eat meat, not milk.

This device is still massively compelling, regardless, for all of the reasons I outlined in 2018 and still feel strongly about today. But I must note that there is little reason so far to upgrade to this from the 2018 iPad Pro. And given that the Magic Keyboard is backward compatible, it won’t change that.

If you don’t currently own an iPad Pro, however, and you’re wondering whether you can work on it or not, well, I can and I did and I do. Talking to 30 employees on multiple continents and time zones while managing the editorial side of a complex multi-faceted editorial, events and subscription business.

I put 100,000 (airline) miles on the iPad Pro and never once did it fail me. Battery always ample; speed always constant; keyboard not exactly incredible but also spill sealed and bulletproof. I can’t say that of any laptop I’ve ever owned, Apple included.

I do think that the promise of the integrated trackpad and a leveling up of the iPad’s reason to be makes the Magic Keyboard and new iPad Pro one of the more compelling packages currently on the market.

I loved the MacBook Air, and have used several models of it to death over the years. There is no way, today, that I would choose to go back to a laptop given my style of work. It’s just too fast, too reliable and too powerful.

It’s insane to have a multi-modal machine that can take typing, swiping and sketching as inputs and has robust support for every major piece of business software on the planet — and that always works, is always fast and is built like an Italian racing car.

Who can argue with that?