Details on Apple Music Redesign

Mark Gurman, of 9to5Mac, is back with some great scoops about the rumored Apple Music redesign reported on this morning:

The new version of Apple Music, which Apple recently announced has 13 million users so far, focuses on a redesigned user-interface, a few new functions, and reorganization as well as simplification of existing features. The new user-interface ditches the current colorful and translucent look in favor of a simpler design that emphasizes black and white backgrounds and text. For instance, the user interface in the albums view will no longer change in appearance based on the color of a particular album’s art. While the new interface will eschew color in the user-interface, album artwork will become “huge” and a larger part of the interface in order to avoid a dull black and white look, according to people who have seen the updated Apple Music service.

More details in the full piece. Interesting to say the least. I just hope this leads to an easier to use and more trust-worthy experience. 

Also, the monochromatic UI sounds more like a pre-iOS 7 design – I’ll be curious as to how it gels with the rest of the system or if it seems out of place (perhaps it is a move that signals an intent to gradually shift the design of iOS slightly as we approach OLED displays and potentially a “dark mode theme”?). Interesting to see where they take this.

Apple To Revamp Apple Music

Bloomberg on the (somewhat expected) news that Apple will be making changes to its Apple Music streaming service:

Apple is altering the user interface of Apple Music to make it more intuitive to use, according to people familiar with the product who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. Apple also plans to better integrate its streaming and download businesses and expand its online radio service, the people said. The reboot is expected to be unveiled at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The changes will be accompanied by a marketing blitz to lure more customers to the $10-per-month streaming service. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

I use Apple Music every day, and I really enjoy it. I do think Apple and customers would benefit from a cleaner and more intuitive experience, especially through iTunes and the music app. I’m curious to see what approach to take – WWDC 2016 cannot come soon enough. 

CNBC’s Jim Cramer Interviews Tim Cook

Interesting interview with Tim Cook over on CNBC with Jim Cramer. The Loop has a great transcript of the interview. Worth a view.

One of my favorite parts:

“The most important thing is that customers love our products,” Cook said.

What mattered most to Cook is that he sees the highest satisfaction and loyalty rates for Apple products than ever before.

“That is the most important thing for the long term of Apple,” Cook said.

Right on, Tim!

Apple and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Drop in iPhone Sales

John Gruber has a great piece on Apple’s Q2 2016 Financial results over on Daring Fireball:

Worth noting that Apple’s actual results were very nearly in line with the company’s own guidance for the quarter, given three months ago. (Revenue was within guidance, but gross margins were slightly low.) A year-over-year decline is never good news, and is a possible harbinger of a sustained decline, but these numbers, along with Apple’s guidance for the June quarter, should not have been a surprise to anyone paying attention. Certainly not enough to justify today’s 6.25 percent drop in the company’s stock price, which knocked about $40 billion off the company’s market cap. That’s more than the value of Netflix. Welcome to the casino.

Apple Financial Results – Q2 2016

Today, Apple will release their Q2 2016 Financial Results. If you are interested, you can listen in on the call here via their investors page.

It is expected that they will announce a drop in iPhone sales – expect a lot of doom and gloom for the next few weeks. With WWDC coming up, new iPhones and other updates to their product lines, I think good things are coming their way (and ours)!

Update: Apple has released their earnings results. Summary below:

Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2016 second quarter ended March 26, 2016. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $50.6 billion and quarterly net income of $10.5 billion, or $1.90 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $58 billion and net income of $13.6 billion, or $2.33 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 39.4 percent compared to 40.8 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 67 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

A Flop Unlike Any Other…

M.G. Siegler on the incredibly “underwhelming” Apple Watch:

Last year, Rolex did $4.5 billion in sales. A solid year for the premium watchmaker. Of course, it was no Apple Watch. That business did roughly $6 billion in sales, if industry estimates are accurate.

The point here isn’t to compare the two devices — an Apple Watch is just about as comparable to a watch as an iPhone is to a phone. But it does provide an interesting context for Apple’s fledgling business — a new product category which has come under a lot of scrutiny since its launch a year ago. Many have called it a “flop,” which, again, is interesting in context.

As usual, a great read. Any other company would be grateful to have an “underwhelming” business like this. Amazing how Apple can create an entirely new business selling smart watches, earn about six billion dollars in a year, and still be labeled a failure. 

Apple Watch: One Year Later

Yesterday, marked one year of Apple Watch for me and many others around the world. Many have already written at length about Apple Watch, along with it’s shortcomings and strengths. I wrote a review of the Apple Watch last year after spending some serious time using it and getting to know it. A year later, my attitude has remained positive toward the idea of the Apple Watch.

In the last twelve months, I have used my Apple Watch every single day. Literally, without fail – I strap it on in the morning and put it on the charger before bed. One of the highlights is that I never have to worry about the battery running out on me. It is typically around 45 to 50 percent by the time I am ready for bed. I have an iPhone 6s Plus and there are days my Watch outlasts it by a wide margin. Yes, this is partially due to how much I use my phone – but it is still impressive given that I use my Watch all day long. 

That is one of the strengths of Apple Watch – it’s best features are working in the background (or passively) without needing to distract you. Health tracking happens with the screen off and syncs to the health app – keeping track of your exercise achievements (and on some days lack of them) and motivates me to keep moving. It has helped to motivate me and I have lost ten pounds due to increasing my activity to fill my activity rings. It’s addictive in a good way. Notifications remain one of my favorite features on the Watch – knowing the most important notifications will arrive via a tap on my wrist has helped me ease up on checking my phone constantly. Apple Pay on the Watch continues to be some sort of sexy dark magic – there is not one cashier who does not look at me in awe as I pay with a subtle Jedi hand wave. Pretty great stuff.

Truth be told, there were a few months with watchOS 2.0 where I grew incredibly frustrated, due to lag and inconsistency. I would often resort to using my phone. I thought about selling it briefly. Then Apple released watchOS 2.2 and I am glad I rode out the storm. With the update, my Watch feels new again. Despite how many folks complain about how slow it is – in the way I have used my Watch, it is just fast enough to warrant using it. Since the update, responding to texts is once again a smoother and faster affair than pulling out my 6s Plus. Lag is virtually gone – when using glances and checking for notifications. Raising my wrist to display the time works well and I usually do not have to resort to any wild gestures to get it to light up. Could it be faster? Sure – but so could my iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Pro and MacBook Pro. Anything could be faster. It is the law of technology – and it will get better and faster in the future. However, I do not agree with the assessment by some that it is “slow as molasses” – at least in the ways I use it. 

Another aspect I still LOVE, are the bands. I never have been a fashionista but I have enough bands to match any outfit. Along with a Milanese and Link Bracelet, I have purchased or been gifted several Sport Bands in different colors – I still want a Nylon Band – and I still find it fun to swap out bands and match my outfits. In fact, I would not upgrade to a new Apple Watch (2.0) if the bands were not interchangeable and compatible with it. Luckily, I have heard they are not making any drastic changes – in the next year or so  – to the Watches physical appearance or dimensions (which is great, given how much I love the way it looks) so bands should continue to function just fine.

Looking back, the Apple Watch has made a difference in my life. I do not regret buying one and I love the one I am wearing now. Looking forward there are definitely areas for improvement. Speed, being the most requested, would be handy if Apps became more useful on the Watch. Apple had pushed apps in the beginning and has eased up as it has seen the use cases by customers. That is an area where I think a lot can be accomplished. Apple needs to focus on what Watch Apps should look like and how they should function (and then give developers the support to enable new experiences) and then the speed will come in handy. 

There have been rumors about Apple adding cellular to the Watch in the next generation and it strikes me as too early. Right now, for me at least, the Watch would benefit from a better and more capable processor – but adding a camera or cellular are not important yet. In the future, cellular might really be a great addition – but given I bring my iPhone everywhere I go, Apple might be better off looking for a better quicker way to connect and transfer information (future updates to Bluetooth and AirDrop-type technologies may enable this) between the two. I do not need another bill for another device. I like that my Watch can currently work independent of the iPhone over Wi-Fi, and at the moment I would not see a need to purchase a separate cellular plan to add a data plan to it.

The biggest area where Apple can improve upon the Watch is software. With WWDC coming up in June, I am curious and excited to see what Apple’s vision of watchOS 3.0 looks like. Now that they have over a year of data from actual usage, I am curious to see what and how they rethink the experience. It is likely we will not see the true extent until they unveil the second generation Watch hardware, likely sometime in the fall. This year has been unusually silent without any major leaks in the software department, so there is still a lot we do not know (Matt Birchler has some nice ideas on his site, BirchTree about what watchOS 3.0 should focus on).

Nevertheless, despite those who hate the Watch and say it is doomed to fail, the last year has shown me otherwise. The Watch is an incredible device that is just in need of iterations, like iPad and iPhone before it. The first iPhone and iPad were similarly “underpowered” and “limited” – look at them now. The Apple Watch remains one of my favorite products and I enjoy using it everyday. It is not perfect, but it certainly is not a “flop” or a “bad idea”. It is just the start of an incredible product line that will evolve and get better with age. If this is 1.0, I am very excited to see where Apple takes it for the next iteration and beyond. The Apple Watch is a gem of a product in my opinion. For me, it’s my opinion that counts. Long live the Apple Watch.