Noah Brier | March 28, 2019

Why is this interesting? - Thursday, March 28

On Apple and real estate

Recommended Products

AirPods 3

The new Airpods announced by Apple include better battery, faster Bluetooth syncing, and 'Hey Siri' support. Described as transformative, they offer a cordless experience with easy music control and the ability to perform tasks without needing to use your phone.

As you’ve surely heard at this point, Apple announced a credit card in partnership with Mastercard and Goldman Sachs. It sounds interesting and fits into the broader theory I have about how Apple and Facebook are in a race to become WeChat for the Western world (I’ll save the details for another day). While Card, News+, and the vague TV announcement got most of the press, the most exciting Apple moment of the week for me was opening my new Airpods last night. The update was announced last week and includes better battery, faster Bluetooth syncing, and “Hey Siri” support.

Why is this interesting?

I think the Airpods are the most transformative product Apple has released since the iPhone. I have the Watch and the iPad, the only other real post-iPhone competitors, and neither of them has taken up status as a “can’t remember life without it” gadget for me (my iPad often goes weeks without use). Something about removing cords, tapping to start and stop music, and being able to do some basic stuff without digging your phone out of your pocket, seemed magical from the moment I got my first pair. When all of that was combined with generally seamless Bluetooth syncing (at least until predictable Apple aging set in) and above average call quality, it made for an all-around great device.

I haven’t worn the new ones enough to comment on battery life and Bluetooth connection time was never a big deal for me, but the “Hey Siri” thing is pretty fascinating, even on day one. While I was definitely searching for uses, a few obvious ones popped up instantly. Call a friend and resume my current podcast are easy and I had used both in the old double-tap world, but when I finished a meeting and was looking to get a coffee a quick “Hey Siri, where’s the nearest coffee shop” was an interesting new way to navigate the city sans phone.

Apple analyst Horace Dediu wrote a post on Wednesday about the runaway success the Airpods have been, something he believes is as much about the form as the function. “As all things distinctive enough,” he writes, “the distinction rubs on the user and that distinction begets new users and new distinction, and so on. So now we have a bona fide cultural phenomenon.” In other words, the white stalks that felt so weird when we all first saw them have now taken their place amongst other iconic Apple silhouettes. While the company doesn’t break out Airpods sales, wearables, which also includes Watch, is growing at over 50% per year off a very large base.

Ian Bogost, one of my favorite digital thinkers, actually wrote about these new updates last Summer (you might have seen the link “below the fold” last week). And while I don’t think it’s a hugely impressive bit of prognostication (it was pretty clear this was the direction Apple was headed), his assessment is spot on: “Even as augmented and virtual reality promise to immerse users in space and information, speech offers a simpler answer that is no less science-fictional: Being able to talk at a computer and have it respond. Echo does so in the room, Siri on your phone, and AirPods right inside your skull.”

Alexa for your room, Siri for your skull. In the end all tech is just a real estate game. (NRB)

Quick Links:

From the Archives:

We are a little light on reading today, so I thought I’d share an old favorite longread. How about the always excellent Evan Osnos on the North Korea? Since Instapaper saves my highlights, here’s a fascinating snippet:

"In recent talks, when Americans have asked whether any combination of economic and diplomatic benefits, or security guarantees, could induce Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons, the answer has been no. North Koreans invariably mention the former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. In 2003, when Qaddafi agreed to surrender his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, Bush promised others who might do the same that they would have an “open path to better relations with the United States.” Eight years later, the U.S. and NATO helped to overthrow Qaddafi, who was captured, humiliated, and killed by rebels. At the time, North Korea said that Qaddafi’s fall was “a grave lesson” that persuading other nations to give up weapons was “an invasion tactic.”" (NRB)

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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