Graham Spencer

877 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university, and a fan of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.

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Apple Doesn’t Have Accurate Apple News Reader Statistics

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has mistakenly been underestimating the number of readers using Apple News and providing those inaccurate numbers to publishers:

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, said the company missed the error as it focused on other aspects of the product. The company didn’t explain how the problem occurred or say exactly when it might be rectified.

“We’re in the process of fixing that now, but our numbers are lower than reality,” he said. “We don’t know what the right number is,” but he added that it was better to undercount than overcount traffic.

A curious admission from Apple, particularly given that the issue has not been fixed yet. No details are given about the scale of the miscalculation, so it's unclear as to whether this will result in a minor adjustment or significant adjustment in reader statistics.

Executives from Apple, including Mr. Cue, met with publishers late last year to discuss the product and address concerns. Mr. Cue said Apple will continue to spend a lot of time getting feedback from publishers.

Two months ago there were a few reports, including this one from Digiday, which noted that publishers were "underwhelmed" and "dissapointed" by Apple News, and the reader numbers.

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Petition for Apple to Keep Headphone Jack Reaches 200,000 Signatures

There's a petition on SumOfUs.org, calling on Apple to keep the standard headphone jack on the iPhone, following more reports that Apple is planning on removing it with the next iPhone.

This is right out of the Apple corporate playbook. A few years ago it swapped out the original iPod-dock connector with a new one, making countless cords, cables and chargers obsolete.

Apple plays up its green credentials, but the truth is that Apple only invested in renewable energy, and began phasing out toxic chemicals when public pressure became too strong to ignore. People power did it before, and we can do it again.

Tell Apple to keep the standard headphone jack and ditch planned obsolescence!

Look, this is a ridiculous and hysterical petition which blows the situation completely out of proportion. But having said that, the fact that this petition (on a website I've never heard of before) has exceeded 200,000 signatures in just a single day just goes to show how big a task Apple has if it does decide to remove the headphone jack with this year's iPhone (remember, these are just rumors for now).

Last month, when these rumors first started circulating, I took the time to document some of my own thoughts about how Apple could minimize the frustration of consumers – as well as explaining why it will be a more painful transition than the 30-pin to Lightning switch, and some other tangential questions that this scenario raises. I don't want to rehash it all again here, but here's a snippet:

In essence, I think Apple should do three things. Firstly, acknowledge the trade-off Apple have made and the frustration some customers may feel. Secondly, clearly enunciate the benefits of switching away from the 3.5mm audio jack to the Lightning connector and Bluetooth audio. And thirdly, make the customer's transition away from the 3.5mm audio jack as painless as possible. I'll leave the first two up to Apple's marketing team, but I do have some thoughts on the third.

Who knows if these rumors will even turn out to be true, but there's an awful lot of smoke already. But even if it doesn't happen with this year's iPhone, it will inevitably happen – and when it does, expect an almighty backlash. The real question is how many steps Apple takes to reduce the pain to consumers.

(Via 9to5Mac)

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Record-Breaking Holiday Season for the App Store

Apple Press Release:

In the two weeks ending January 3, customers spent over $1.1 billion on apps and in-app purchases, setting back-to-back weekly records for traffic and purchases. January 1, 2016 marked the biggest day in App Store history with customers spending over $144 million. It broke the previous single-day record set just a week earlier on Christmas Day.

“The App Store had a holiday season for the record books. We are excited that our customers downloaded and enjoyed so many incredible apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV, spending over $20 billion on the App Store last year alone,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We're grateful to all the developers who have created the most innovative and exciting apps in the world for our customers. We can't wait for what's to come in 2016.”

These are some incredible numbers and unsurprisingly Apple dedicates a significant portion of the press release to spruiking how Apple creates and supports 1.9 million jobs in the U.S., 1.2 million jobs in Europe, and 1.4 million jobs in China.

Apple also details some of the most popular apps in the App Store:

Gaming, Social Networking and Entertainment were among the year's most popular App Store categories across Apple products, with customers challenging themselves to Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Trivia Crack and Heads Up!, and staying in touch with friends and family using Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Snapchat. Games and subscription apps dominated this year’s top grossing titles including Clash of Clans, Monster Strike, Game of War - Fire Age and Fantasy Westward Journey, as well as Netflix, Hulu and Match.

The launch of the all-new Apple TV® and Apple Watch® have paved the way for entirely new app experiences, changing how people consume content through their television and providing useful information at a glance on Apple’s most personal device yet. Since its launch in October, the new Apple TV’s most popular apps include Rayman Adventures, Beat Sports and HBO NOW. Chart-topping apps for Apple Watch owners include fitness apps Nike+ Running and Lifesum, and iTranslate and Citymapper in the Travel category.

Curiously (or perhaps not), there was nothing in the press release specifically about the Mac App Store – which today celebrates its fifth anniversary (more on that shortly).

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Apple’s App Charts: 2015 Data and Trends

For the past two years, Gilad Lotan (Chief Data Scientist at Betaworks) has been collecting data from Apple's App Store RSS feeds. Last week Lotan published nine interesting findings in a post on Medium – complete with over a dozen fascinating charts.

Here we can clearly see both weekly cycles in app usage, but also longer term trends throughout the year. Facebook Messenger, which relaunches as ‘Messenger’ in June, stays very close to the top position throughout the whole year, while both Viber and Tango start strong and slowly drifts down the chart. Find My Friends, on the other hand, displays high volatility — drastic changes in ranking, hence app engagement — especially throughout the summer months, and Twitter has clearly weekly cycles.

The best part of Lotan's story is definitely the accompanying charts, which really help tell the story alongside his commentary. But here's one more snippet to encourage you to read his whole article:

Here we look at new applications that not only reach a notable spot in the top chart, but also sustain it to some degree. As you can see below, a handful of these apps are music related: SongFlip (free music streaming), Musicloud (stream music from your Dropbox mp3's), and Free Music HQ (what it sounds). Moments is the Facebook app that helps you find yourself in friends’ photos, and Triller helps users make music videos on their phones. There are also two applications that help upload content into Snapchat. See a trend here? Media, media, and more rich media!

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Apple Announces Q1 2016 Earnings Call for January 26

Apple's Investor Relations website was yesterday updated to note that Apple's earnings call for the first quarter of fiscal year 2016 (October, November and December 2015) will be held on Tuesday, January 26, 2016. As is usual, Apple will provide a live webcast of the conference call on the day.

Apple's guidance for the first fiscal quarter of 2016 is revenue between $75.5 billion and $77.5 billion, gross margin between 39 percent and 40 percent and a tax rate of 26.2 percent. But as is illustrated above, Apple's guidance in the past has often underestimated the actual numbers by quite a significant degree.

As we have for previous earnings calls, MacStories will cover the conference call on our site’s homepage on January 26 starting at 2 PM PT, posting charts of the results, collecting key quotes from Apple executives and highlighting interesting Tweets from others.


Apple’s 2015: Year In Review

2015 was a big year from Apple, arguably its biggest yet. Over the course of the past twelve months we've seen Apple release the MacBook, Apple Watch, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, iPad Pro, new Apple TV, refresh the MacBook Air and iMac, and even release updated iPods. Then there's all the new software from iOS 9 to OS X El Capitan, to watchOS 2, and even the unveiling of tvOS.

In assembling this story, I thought about how I could present the information in a way that wouldn't be overwhelming and would hopefully be unique from everyone else's "year in review" stories. As you can see below, I choose to display it in an interactive widget. You'll be able to see at a glance which months were significant for Apple, and for what reason (iPhone, Mac, TV, etc). Then you can dive into a particular month and swipe across to get summaries of the big stories from Apple. If you want to learn more about a particular story, there's a link that'll take you to the full story.

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VLC Update Adds Support for iOS 9 Split View

The VLC app for iOS was yesterday updated to version 2.7.0, adding support for a number of iOS 9 features, as 9to5 Mac reported:

The latest update includes an updated watchOS 2 app for Apple Watch users and several new iOS 9 features for iPhone and iPad.

VLC now supports system wide search through Spotlight, Split View for side-by-side apps on the latest iPads, and Touch ID unlocking on iPhones and iPads with fingerprint scanners.

A solid update to VLC, with new features and adding support for iOS 9 and watchOS 2. But I must admit, I was surprised to realize that although they added support for iOS 9's Split View, VLC still doesn't work with iOS 9's Picture in Picture mode.

The initial release notes incorrectly stated that the update added an Apple TV app for VLC – in fact it does not. But the VLC Apple TV app is coming, and soon.

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60 Minutes: What’s Next for Apple

60 Minutes (the US edition on CBS) today had an in-depth feature on Apple. 60 Minutes' correspondent, Charlie Rose, spoke to a number of Apple Executives including Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Angela Ahrendts and Phil Schiller.

Apple is one of the most interesting business stories in generations and it finds itself at the heart of some of the biggest issues facing American companies today: the way terrorists may be using encrypted technology to plot attacks, the battle over the corporate tax rate, and the challenges of working in China. We talked about all of that with Apple CEO Tim Cook as part of a journey through the world's biggest and richest company.

There wasn't a huge deal of new information in tonight's program, but Rose's interview with Tim Cook, particularly regarding encryption and corporate tax rates makes it well worth a watch. Although perhaps more interesting is the brief look at a new design for Apple Retail Stores with Angela Ahrendts, as well as a look inside Apple design's studio with Ive (complete with cloth-covered tables).

If you're in the US, you can watch the 60 Minutes segment on Apple on their website. You can also read a transcript of the program here.

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