So the new iPad Pro came out this week. And I subsequently spent over $1,200 for a new 12.9-inch 256GB WiFi model. Ouch.
I would have bought the 512GB version, but I’ve already spent enough money this year on the iPhone XS Max and the Apple Watch Series 4.
Look, I love Apple stuff, but I enjoy having a low credit card balance and a stress-free relationship with my wife. If I spend any more money on Apple this year she will almost certainly kick my ass.
I actually decided on the 256GB because I use the iPad primarily for apps and streaming at home as my main after-hours computing device; I don’t travel with the thing or load it up with music and other content. My iPhone XS Max is the 512GB version because it has my entire music library on it. It’s still probably overkill for my needs.
A number of the things I predicted about this crop of iPad Pros came true. But some important things did not.
For starters, I expected the CPU horsepower of the A12X SoC to be somewhat lower — it’s a 4X4 asymmetrical chip, rather than a 3X4 or a 3X6 in terms of core arrangement. It actually exceeded my lowest expectations in that respect; even the GPU is a 7-way versus a 6-way.
The actual real-world performance remains to be seen, and I am optimistic. With that much computing horsepower, you can absolutely drive a very high-resolution 4K or 5K display. It even can do it on an external monitor with the USB-C capability on this device and I can’t wait to test that out.
But on the 12.9-inch model, we didn’t get a built-in 4K display in the new iPad Pro, we got the same display resolution we got last year, and the year before that… and the year before that.
Look, 2,732 x 2,048-pixel resolution is nothing to scoff at; that’s a lot higher resolution than virtually all broadcast and subscription TV content, which is at 1080p or 720p in many cases. But it’s not 4K, which is 3840×2160.
I expected better for this year’s price bump. Sure, it’s an edge-to-edge display with the reduced form factor, and it has the FaceID stuff from the new iPhones. But I am not exactly a huge fan of FaceID because in real-world use, it’s less reliable and nowhere near as fast as the TouchID it’s replacing.
Granted, the new Apple Pencil is a huge improvement for creatives with the induction charging and magnetic connector to the iPad. But I don’t use an Apple Pencil — mine from 2015 is still sitting in the box, unopened. And apparently, I can’t use it on the new iPad Pro, so I guess I need to sell it or give it away.
The USB-C, however, I did not expect, given that the iPhones this year did not migrate to USB-C. So while I am overjoyed the iPad Pro has now joined the rest of the Apple MacBook family and the rest of the personal computing and mobile world, I am annoyed that we have to go through yet another year of charging cable insanity because my iPhone XS Max doesn’t match charge connectors now.
It means I need to have a dedicated charging area for my iPad Pro versus using the same ones I use for my iPhones. It was an ideal setup having the same USB-C to Lightning USB PD cables for my 2017 iPad Pro and my iPhone X. When one was done charging, I charged the other. With USB PD, it’s very fast, so it’s rare that one of the devices completely dies out while the other is charging up.
For my Android devices, I use a separate USB PD charging station, or I use USB-A to USB-C cables on the spare ports. It isn’t particularly fast, but it gets the job done.
Sure, I could just yank the USB PD to Lightning cable I use for my iPhones and switch out with a USB-C to USB-C cable when it needs to happen, but I absolutely hate pulling cables constantly. I buy cables and connect them to chargers and leave them there.
And forget the legacy ports on those chargers — you really don’t want to charge an iPad Pro with a USB-A to USB-C cable. It’s so ungodly slow at 2W. It takes forever.
Okay, I admit that is a minor nitpick. I have my (arguably much slower) Qi charging pads I can use with my iPhones and Androids too when the iPad Pro is using up USB-C PD cords. I got multi-port wall chargers plugged into receptacles all over the house. I can make this work, right?
Ultimately, what disappoints me is the realization that — like the current crop of iPhones — iPad may have hit its “peak”.
We have reached a point in the development of these products where there are very few new features that can actually be improved upon without significant advances in the telecommunications infrastructure they actually run on.
The lack of a 4K display reflects a barrier that won’t be broken until we have ubiquitous 5G, gigabit-plus broadband and next-generation WiFi capabilities in the average residence.
I am probably one of the very few people that can actually reliably consume streamed 4K content because I have gigabit fiber to the home (FTTH) broadband and an 802.11ac 5Ghz WiFi network that an iPad Pro with its MIMO baseband transceiver can talk to in excess of 400Mbps. Most people do not have extreme connectivity setups like this, not even in the most connected areas of the country.
4K media files in high-quality — even when compressed in lossless formats — use up a lot of data and chew up a lot of bandwidth. With the rate caps and throttling that are likely going to come in place under the current FCC rules, few people are going to want to download that and wait that long to get it on their device before watching it.
And while I am hopeful that we will have nationwide 5G deployments in the next few years, the reality is very different from what is being promised to us.
Honestly, this may be one of the last new iPads I buy over the next few years. Even for someone who writes about technology and wants to keep up with things, it’s too expensive to do it each year along with all the other stuff that’s on an upgrade cycle, given the ever smaller incremental advances that are possible.
And that makes me sad.
Was the 2018 iPad Pro everything you thought it would be or hoped for? Or have we hit “Peak iPad?” Talk Back and Let Me Know.
Snap to launch a new Creator Marketplace this month, initially focused on Lens Creators – TechCrunch
Snap on Wednesday announced its plan to soon launch a Creator Marketplace, which will make it easier for businesses to find and partner with Snapchat creators, including lens creators, AR creators and later, prominent Snapchat creators known as Snap Stars. At launch, the marketplace will focus on connecting brands and AR creators for AR ads. It will then expand to support all Snap Creators by 2022.
The company had previously helped connect its creator community with advertisers through its Snapchat Storytellers program, which first launched into pilot testing in 2018 — already a late arrival to the space. However, that program’s focus was similar to Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager, as it focused on helping businesses find Snap creators who could produce video content.
Snap’s new marketplace, meanwhile, has a broader focus in terms of connecting all sorts of creators with the Snap advertising ecosystem. This includes Lens Creators, Developers and Partners, and then later, Snap’s popular creators with public profiles.
Snap says the Creator Marketplace will open to businesses later this month to help them partner with a select group of AR Creators in Snap’s Lens Network. These creators can help businesses build AR experiences without the need for extensive creative resources, which makes access to Snap’s AR ads more accessible to businesses, including smaller businesses without in-house developer talent.
Lens creators have already found opportunity working for businesses that want to grow their Snapchat presence — even allowing some creators to quit their day jobs and just build lens for a living. Snap has been further investing in this area of its business, having announced in December a $3.5 million fund directed towards AR Lens creation. The company said at the time there were tens of thousands of Lens creators who had collectively made over 1.5 million Lenses to date.
Using Lenses has grown more popular, too, the company had noted, saying that over 180 million people interact with a Snapchat Lens every day — up from 70 million daily active users of Lenses when the Lens Explorer section first launched in the app in 2018.
Now, Snap says that over 200 million Snapchat users interact with augmented reality on a daily basis, on average, out of its 280 million daily users. The majority (over 90%) of these users are 13-25 year olds. In total, users are posting over 5 billion Snaps per day.
Snap says the Creator Marketplace will remain focused on connecting businesses with AR Lens Creators throughout 2021.
The following year, it will expand to include the community of professional creators and storytellers who understand the current trends and interests of the Snap user base and can help businesses with their ad campaigns. The company will not take a cut of the deals facilitated through the Marketplace, it says.
This would include the creators making content for Snap’s new TikTok rival, Spotlight, which launched in November 2020. Snap encouraged adoption of the feature by shelling out $1 million per day to creators of top videos. In March 2021, over 125 million Snapchat users watched Spotlight, it says.
Spotlight isn’t the only way Snap is challenging TikTok.
The company also on Wednesday announced it’s snagging two of TikTok’s biggest stars for its upcoming Snap Originals lineup: Charli and Dixie D’Amelio. The siblings, who have gained over 20 million follows on Snapchat this past year, will star in the series “Charli vs. Dixie.” Other new Originals will feature names like artist Megan Thee Stallion, actor Ryan Reynolds, twins and influencers Niki and Gabi DeMartino, and YouTube beauty vlogger Manny Mua, among others.
Snap’s shows were watched by over 400 million people in 2020, including 93% of the Gen Z population in the U.S., it noted.
Twitter rolls out bigger images and cropping control on iOS and Android – TechCrunch
Twitter just made a change to the way it displays images that has visual artists on the social network celebrating.
In March, Twitter rolled out a limited test of uncropped, larger images in users’ feeds. Now, it’s declared those tests a success and improved the image sharing experience for everybody.
On Twitter for Android or iOS, standard aspect ratio images (16:9 and 4:3) will now display in full without any cropping. Instead of gambling on how an image will show up in the timeline — and potentially ruining an otherwise great joke — images will look just like they did when you shot them.
Twitter’s new system will show anyone sharing an image a preview of what it will look like before it goes live in the timeline, resolving past concerns that Twitter’s algorithmic cropping was biased toward highlighting white faces.
“Today’s launch is a direct result of the feedback people shared with us last year that the way our algorithm cropped images wasn’t equitable,” Twitter spokesperson Lauren Alexander said. The new way of presenting images decreases the platform’s reliance on automatic, machine learning-based image cropping.
Super tall or wide images will still get a centered crop, but Twitter says it’s working to make that better too, along with other aspects of how visual media gets displayed in the timeline.
For visual artists like photographers and cartoonists who promote their work on Twitter, this is actually a pretty big deal. Not only will photos and other kinds of art score more real estate on the timeline, but artists can be sure that they’re putting their best tweet forward without awkward crops messing stuff up.
Twitter’s Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis celebrated by tweeting a requisite dramatic image of the Utah desert (Dead Horse Point — great spot!)
We regret to inform you that the brands are also aware of the changes.
The days of “open for a surprise” tweets might be numbered, but the long duck can finally have his day.
Facebook’s Oversight Board throws the company a Trump-shaped curveball – TechCrunch
Facebook’s controversial policy-setting supergroup issued its verdict on Trump’s fate Wednesday, and it wasn’t quite what most of us were expecting.
We’ll dig into the decision to tease out what it really means, not just for Trump, but also for Facebook’s broader experiment in outsourcing difficult content moderation decisions and for just how independent the board really is.
What did the Facebook Oversight Board decide?
The Oversight Board backed Facebook’s determination that Trump violated its policies on “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations,” which prohibits anything that praises or otherwise supports violence. The the full decision and accompanying policy recommendations are online for anyone to read.
Specifically, the Oversight Board ruled that two Trump posts, one telling Capitol rioters “We love you. You’re very special” and another calling them “great patriots” and telling them to “remember this day forever” broke Facebook’s rules. In fact, the board went as far as saying the pair of posts “severely” violated the rules in question, making it clear that the risk of real-world harm in Trump’s words was was crystal clear:
The Board found that, in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible. At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions. As president, Mr. Trump had a high level of influence. The reach of his posts was large, with 35 million followers on Facebook and 24 million on Instagram.”
While the Oversight Board praised Facebook’s decision to suspend Trump, it disagreed with the way the platform implemented the suspension. The group argued that Facebook’s decision to issue an “indefinite” suspension was an arbitrary punishment that wasn’t really supported by the company’s stated policies:
It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored.
In applying this penalty, Facebook did not follow a clear, published procedure. ‘Indefinite’ suspensions are not described in the company’s content policies. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”
The Oversight Board didn’t mince words on this point, going on to say that by putting a “vague, standardless” punishment in place and then kicking the ultimate decision to the Oversight Board, “Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities.” Turning things around, the board asserted that it’s actually Facebook’s responsibility to come up with an appropriate penalty for Trump that fits its set of content moderation rules.
Is this a surprise outcome?
If you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said that the Oversight Board was more likely to overturn Facebook’s Trump decision. I also called Wednesday’s big decision a win-win for Facebook, because whatever the outcome, it wouldn’t ultimately be criticized a second time for either letting Trump back onto the platform or kicking him off for good. So much for that!
A lot of us didn’t see the “straight up toss the ball back into Facebook’s court” option as a possible outcome. It’s ironic and surprising that the Oversight Board’s decision to give Facebook the final say actually makes the board look more independent, not less.
Facebook likely saw a more clear-cut decision on the Trump situation in the cards. This is a challenging outcome for a company that’s probably ready to move on from its (many, many) missteps during the Trump era. But there’s definitely an argument that if the board declared that Facebook made the wrong call and reinstated Trump that would have been a much bigger headache.
What does it mean that the Oversight Board sent the decision back to Facebook?
Ultimately the Oversight Board is asking Facebook to either a) give Trump’s suspension and end date or b) delete his account. In a less severe case, the normal course of action would be for Facebook to remove whatever broke the rules, but given the ramifications here and the fact that Trump is a repeat Facebook rule-breaker, this is obviously all well past that option.
What will Facebook do?
We’re in for a wait. The board called for Facebook to evaluate the Trump situation and reach a final decision within six months, calling for a “proportionate” response that is justified by its platform rules. Since Facebook and other social media companies are re-writing their rules all the time and making big calls on the fly, that gives the company a bit of time to build out policies that align with the actions it plans to take. See you again on November 5.
In the months following the violence at the U.S. Capitol, Facebook repeatedly defended its Trump call as “necessary and right.” It’s hard to imagine the company deciding that Trump will get reinstated six months from now, but in theory Facebook could decide that length of time was an appropriate punishment and write that into its rules. The fact that Twitter permanently banned Trump means that Facebook could comfortably follow suit at this point.
If Trump had won reelection, this whole thing probably would have gone down very differently. As much as Facebook likes to say its decisions are aligned with lofty ideals — absolute free speech, connecting people — the company is ultimately very attuned to its regulatory and political environment. Trump’s actions were on January 6 were dangerous and flagrant, but Biden’s looming inauguration two weeks later probably influenced the company’s decision just as much.
In direct response to the decision, Facebook’s Nick Clegg wrote only: “We will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate.” Clegg says Trump will stay suspended until then but didn’t offer further hints at what comes next.
Did the board actually change anything?
Potentially. In its decision, the Oversight Board said that Facebook asked for “observations or recommendations from the Board about suspensions when the user is a political leader.” The board’s policy recommendations aren’t binding like its decisions are, but since Facebook asked, it’s likely to listen.
If it does, the Oversight Board’s recommendations could reshape how Facebook handles high profile accounts in the future:
The Board stated that it is not always useful to draw a firm distinction between political leaders and other influential users, recognizing that other users with large audiences can also contribute to serious risks of harm.
While the same rules should apply to all users, context matters when assessing the probability and imminence of harm. When posts by influential users pose a high probability of imminent harm, Facebook should act quickly to enforce its rules. Although Facebook explained that it did not apply its ‘newsworthiness’ allowance in this case, the Board called on Facebook to address widespread confusion about how decisions relating to influential users are made. The Board stressed that considerations of newsworthiness should not take priority when urgent action is needed to prevent significant harm.
Facebook and other social networks have hidden behind newsworthiness exemptions for years instead of making difficult policy calls that would upset half their users. Here, the board not only says that political leaders don’t really deserve special consideration while enforcing the rules, but that it’s much more important to take down content that could cause harm than it is to keep it online because it’s newsworthy.
So… we’re back to square one?
Yes and no. Trump’s suspension may still be up in the air, but the Oversight Board is modeled after a legal body and its real power is in setting precedents. The board kicked this case back to Facebook because the company picked a punishment for Trump that wasn’t even on the menu, not because it thought anything about his behavior fell in a gray area.
The Oversight Board clearly believed that Trump’s words of praise for rioters at the Capitol created a high stakes, dangerous threat on the platform. It’s easy to imagine the board reaching the same conclusion on Trump’s infamous “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” statement during the George Floyd protests, even though Facebook did nothing at the time. Still, the board stops short of saying that behavior like Trump’s merits a perma-ban — that much is up to Facebook.
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