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Apple VR, iPhone 14, and iMessage controversy - An exclusive interview with Rene Ritchie

On this special episode of the AppleInsider podcast, we interview Apple pundit Rene Ritchie and discuss the Apple VR headset, what he hopes to see in future versions of iPhone, and whether iMessage lock-in is Apple's problem.

Rene Ritchie has been covering Apple since 2008 and is now an independent journalist creating in-depth videos on YouTube. We kick off the show discussing how Apple could differentiate its VR headset from competitors while leveraging services like Fitness+ and Apple Arcade.

Lossless audio could be coming to the next version of AirPods Pro but would require new wireless technologies to provide enough bandwidth. We discuss future audio technologies and whether Apple would still support Bluetooth wireless in AirPods.

Google's Hiroshi Lockheimer recently spoke against Apple's iMessage platform claiming it is a lock-in strategy for Apple. While Apple attempted to work with carriers on interoperable message standards, RCS was chosen to solve rich messaging across platforms but has yet to succeed.

We look ahead to WWDC and the features we hope to see in future versions of iOS and iPadOS. iPad Pro in particular has been given incredible hardware but still lacks fundamental utility such as proper USB audio support and secondary displays.

Rene comments on recent "iPhone 14" leaks and features he would like to see in future models. We round out the show with a lightning round of favorite devices from 2021, and what we're looking forward to this year.

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Interview with Rene Ritchie transcript

Stephen Robles:

Welcome to the AppleInsider podcast, this is your host Stephen Robles. And today we have a special guest, Rene Ritchie. He has been covering Apple for a long time. I've followed him from back in the iMore days and now he has an incredible YouTube channel where he covers all things Apple. It's a pleasure to have him on the show, Rene, thanks so much for being here.

Rene Ritchie:

Thank you so much for having me. It's terrific. Thank you.

Stephen Robles:

Now, how long have you been covering Apple? Can you recall?

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, it was since 2008. That was when I first started.

Stephen Robles:

Okay, that's interesting. Because you were at iMore and now you're independent?

Rene Ritchie:


Stephen Robles:

Were you anywhere before iMore, or is that kind of where you got your start.

Rene Ritchie:

I was doing product marketing for an enterprise database company. And I loved marketing, but enterprise was just so deathly dull. And I used to hang around the Treo Central forums. And then when I saw the iPhone keynote, I wanted one, but the iPhone wasn't coming out in Canada.

For the first version, I've actually managed to smuggle one across the border and jailbreak it with a TIFF file, because those were the days.

And I noticed that the Treo Central people had started a website called Phone Different. And it was being slow to update. So I just kept yelling that they were slow. And eventually, the guy who was running it said, "Well, then why don't you write something." And that was Dieter Bohn who eventually now is at The Verge.

But he hired me and right away just said "write about Apple," and I said, "it's one company with one phone on one carrier in one country, there's not gonna be anything to write about."

Stephen Robles:

Little did we know even at that time. That's awesome. If our listeners don't know, you are from Canada, and maybe the most important question of this interview. I didn't prepare you for this. So I don't know what your answer will be. But I've never had the privilege of experiencing it. But is poutine really all it's cracked up to be?

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, I mean, I think so. The drinking age in Quebec is 18. Famously, as everybody who lives in New York and Vermont knows, and you need something to soak that up, because the bar is also basically never closed.

So I think they had the great idea. You know, french fries by themselves were too dry, especially at 3am. So throw some gravy on that. And then that's just not rich enough. So you might as well throw some cheese curds on top of that, too. And then you know, poutine was born.

Stephen Robles:

Very good. Okay, well, one day hopefully get up there and try it. Well, since I have you, you have super detailed, super in-depth videos on all things Apple on your YouTube channel. There'll be a link in show notes too. I want to talk to you about a number of things.

But first of all, Mark Gurman from Bloomberg, he is saying that this is the year, 2022 that we should expect to see an Apple VR headset. It's been long rumored we kind of have the VR rumors, and then some AR glasses rumors but it's looking like that's a few years out. Probably not this year.

I wanted to hear your thoughts on if you are expecting it this year. But also, Apple always tells a story when they announce a product. And I've been trying to imagine when Apple announces a VR headset, is it going to look like the Oculus, where the selling points are games, fitness and the metaverse, or do you think they'll have something additional to it? I don't know. How do you feel about the VR headset that might come from Apple?

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, just to step back for a moment. So Apple always has these SPG groups, special project groups, and they go off and they work on things like cars and virtual reality. Because Apple is such a big company, such a rich company that they can afford to actually first just talk about, then think about an experiment, then prototype pretty much anything that any blogger, video person, Twitter person, anything you can think about, they can actually go and try it.

So a lot of times when we see what comes to market is because they've actually spent a few years working on it. And the VR headset is one of the biggest ones. And you can usually tell the big ones because they get a senior vice president attached to them, someone who's responsible to the executive committee, and Dan Riccio was doing that along with a lot of other stuff.

But in the last year, he's become dedicated to working on on these projects. And that's usually a good sign that they're maturing to the point where they're going to get productized. And I think you're absolutely right, the story part is essential.

Tim Cook is famous for his doctrine, which is, Apple only wants to bring to market products that they believe are both highly differentiated, they control the most fundamental, important technologies, and they can make a real experiential difference to customer lives. And if it doesn't meet those things, they don't do it just because they run their company, like a bunch of little startups, and they have very limited bandwidth.

And doing one thing means not doing a bunch of other things. So you have to get everything lined up to support another whole product that at least in Apple's mind, could one day be an Apple TV sized product, or an iPad sized product, or maybe even another, eventually an iPhone size product. And I think the story behind this, at least my understanding is the VR and the AR are completely different products.

And they're not even so much products in that Tim Cook believes that autonomy, artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented reality are going to be three of the fundamental technologies of the future. They're not products, which is why he's happy to talk about them because Apple's not gonna sell like a box of AI or a box of VR.

Stephen Robles:

It's hard to ship.

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, exactly. There's sort of like the confluence of technologies that resulted in the iPhone where there were LCD displays, couldn't have made an iPhone with CRT back, like the original iMac had to get to LCD first. And then wireless networking and the miniaturization that came from the iPod. And you put those together, it makes an incredibly compelling consumer technology. And I think Apple is looking at VR and AR the same way.

But like, eventually, a lot of things will have AR components, a lot of things will have VR components, what is the best product we can make, and when can we make it, and they've sort of settled on AR glasses which are going to be like the Apple Watch. They're going to be very constrained at first dependent on existing products at first. And they're going to be a convenience device, where they give you glanceable information and notifications.

But the VR headset, that can be bigger, that can have more powerful silicon on board, like compute power on board. And that's sort of an extension of the Apple TV, where it's whole thing is going to be about immersion. You're not 10 feet away on a sofa, you're right up in there, but it's the same services that they've been building. So the same way they've been setting up AR with the iPhone and the iPad for years to get to where they're going to be with the glasses.

They've been setting up all the services on Apple TV, everything from Apple Arcade to Fitness+, to the educational products that they have. And it's gonna be really about you put this on and it's your personal highest experience possible.

We could never charge 3,000 bucks for an Apple TV, but wow, can we sell you one screen for your head? That's $1,000 at first, right?

Stephen Robles:

And it is interesting. They have Apple Fitness+, they have Apple Arcade, they have Apple TV, which again, are those three main selling points of something like the Meta VR goggles, but I feel like when Apple will announce it, there's got to be something else. In addition to those things, that kind of make it special or make it unique to Apple. Do you have any ideas about what else that they might include in like a feature set? Or is it just the integration? What do you think?

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, it's integration, I think also Apple's direction, because I think their goal is not to make a virtual reality that you live in. I think there's certain things are just anathema to Apple's culture, they want to give you experiences that you can enjoy, they don't take over your world, I think they see that as sort of like big social tobacco, the way that Facebook is positioning Meta, and they want to provide an alternative that is more privacy centric, that is more human not humane, that's a whole other product, but like very human.

And it's going to be that integration, which they started like the one of the reasons from emoji is that we would be comfortable with having avatars of ourselves augmented reality VR avatars of ourselves, they've been really boiling that water for years, so that their experience is going to be you're already used to doing all these things.

Now you can do them like your Apple Music, you can have that in a live concert venue. You can have your Apple TV on an iMac sized screen, you can have your Apple Arcade, and whatever they escalate Apple Arcade to you can have that as a VR experience and all of it within like the Apple ecosystem, that all your like your Apple Watch ties into Fitness+, and your iPhone ties into these other aspects of it, and it just becomes a very holistic product for them.

Stephen Robles:

Yeah, well, I'm excited to see. Do you think it's gonna be this year? Or do you think we're gonna be waiting longer?

Rene Ritchie:

I think if Apple has their druthers, if everything goes their way, it'll be a Fall of this year product. Right. But you know, as we've seen, in the best of times, those sorts of things don't always line up.

Like there can always be battery life issues or, you know, supply chain issues, and especially in 2020, 2021, and now God help us 2022, it's even harder to judge how critical components are going to be in supply and and when they feel it's right to launch the product, I hope end of this year, but you know, could be beginning of next year, too.

Stephen Robles:

Well, speaking of other future technologies, a video you actually just released yesterday, as our listeners listen to this interview is talking about how Apple, maybe can destroy Bluetooth or kill Bluetooth and talking specifically about AirPods Pro 2. We discussed this rumor on the last episode of the AppleInsider show that they might be investigating a wireless communication where you can deliver lossless audio to AirPods.

And that might start with AirPods Pro 2, and AirPods Max hopefully, and it would just be a proprietary way or maybe not proprietary.

Maybe they will allow other companies to use it. But I'm curious your thoughts. You know, if Apple moves this direction, they come up with maybe it's an ultra wideband, or some kind of Wi-Fi type protocol to deliver audio from a device to AirPods so it can be lossless would they still support Bluetooth? Or do you think they're really just might get rid of it entirely breaking compatibility with a bunch of other devices?

Rene Ritchie:

Well, my personal preference would be that they use Bluetooth as a fallback or a sort of a failsafe right to just because one, I don't want to see Nilay Patel's head literally explode. Like I think all of us enjoy him enough. We want to keep him around. We want to keep him healthy. We want to keep him alive. But I have a suspicion that the HomePod never got Bluetooth because Apple feared that the first thing everybody would do would be to set it up as a Bluetooth speaker.

Especially everybody who works for publications like AppleInsider, or makes YouTube videos like me, and then with like the very thin pipe of Bluetooth, it would sound exactly the same as a discount speaker from Amazon. And they would just be dealing with like review cycles, which say this thing as a $300 Bluetooth speaker.

So by withholding that they force everyone to use AirPlay. And then people can say, "Oh, it sounds much bigger and richer and has a much better soundstage. And I'm getting all this spatial audio. And it just blows away all these cheap Bluetooth speakers."

And I think that was a very deliberate product design decision. But for AirPods, I think it's more like Apple Music, where Apple Music goes so far as to have an Android client. And part of that is because their family plans. And Apple understands that some families have big gadget love, you know, they're not all about iPhones, sometimes there's Android phones in the mix, they don't want people to not get an Apple Music family plan just because they're not a completely Apple family.

And I think this is going to be similar to that where these are accessories, you know, maybe one day there'll be more primary computing devices, when the Apple Watch becomes the iPhone and the AirPods become the Apple Watch. Maybe Apple starts thinking more about locking.

But I think in the beginning, Apple is going to want these to work on older devices. And also not necessarily just Apple devices, in case you have multiple devices. And you specifically opt out of buying them just because they won't work with your you know, your side Pixel or your side Galaxy.

Stephen Robles:

Right. And you know, it's interesting, you mentioned the HomePod. And maybe they didn't ship it with Bluetooth for fear that it would sound like other things. I almost wonder if something like Bluetooth or at the very least like an aux-in jack on the larger HomePod would it have saved it from destruction? Would more people have bought it? Maybe if it could have been a little more future proof in that way? Do you think?

Rene Ritchie:

I don't think it would have saved that. There's this thing like on tech Twitter and tech YouTube, where nerds like to think that our minority opinions are majority opinions. And they almost never are. We really are like 5% to 10% of the market. And we would have loved it like everyone who would talk about it on Twitter or in comments on blogs would have absolutely loved it.

But that's a very small part of the market. And the whole reason that Apple made the the HomePod to begin with was that they felt people didn't have easy ways to just enjoy all these music products that they were creating. And they wanted to make a box that you didn't like you didn't have to think about or worry about a cable, you just drop it in the room and it would sound great no matter where you were in the room throughout the entire room on the idea of running cables back and forth.

That is a complete niche nerd need that I would have loved to have seen. Yeah. But it was not core to the product. And I think that's that's sort of the reason why they avoided that there.

Stephen Robles:

So there were other rumors that are still circulating that maybe Apple will bring back a larger speaker, but in conjunction with some kind of screen device to match like the Echo Show, or the Google Nest Home devices with a screen and maybe Apple's would be like a HomeKit control plus iPad plus speaker. I've been hesitant to really dive into like, yeah, they're definitely going to do that.

I don't know, do you think they'll either at least bring back a higher end audio device? Or do you think this screen speaker device is actually something we might see.

Rene Ritchie:

I would love them to get like just me personally, I would love them to because the HomePod mini is good but it just doesn't have that room filling big bass sound the way the HomePod biggie did. Just making another one of those that isn't quite as expensive I think would fill the niche that is the Apple higher end home speaker market.

They have to determine your Tim Cook as he uses pivot tables and figure out if that's a big enough market to justify the attention resources and money that goes into it. But Apple again, they experiment I've heard about HomePods with displays, I personally would prefer a dock, like I like the Magic Keyboard you can slap an iPad on, slap it off.

I would love a HomePod that you could slap an iPad onto and it uses a smart connector to just show you a bunch of HomePod things like instead of CarPlay you'd have like HomePlay and it would just give you like dedicated version of HomeOS with touch controls on it, then you pull it off and you can use it as an iPad. Because the idea of just having like an Apple quality display locked into my kitchen speaker kind of irks me. So I think it's probably a simpler solution for people who aren't me.

Stephen Robles:

Right. My dream Rene is then Apple gets back into the Wi-Fi router business. Yeah, but that it's a Wi-Fi router with Thread support for HomeKit with Private Relay. So all your internet communication goes through the iCloud Private Relay stuff. And then it could also be a speaker like the larger HomePod. I feel like I don't know, that's one of my dream devices that I could just, you know, give back to Apple, the Wi-Fi router stuff. So I don't have to use all these companies being bought by Amazon.

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, I would love that too. And like for a privacy centric company, the idea that the the gateway between our personal data and the Internet data isn't protected. Right.

Again, it's irksome. It irks me. I think they feel like it's like a commodity solved problem and they can't differentiate, but I feel like you take the Apple TV, you take the HomePods, you take anything that you can plug in and those all become nodes on a mesh Apple router network, right.

And then you can do everything you talked about. You can pre-stage software updates, you're not waiting for them to download on a small device all the time. There's so many interesting things they could do. But again, it's like that formula where we have we can manage five things in this cycle, which five things are they going to be and the router falls off because they got to ship an iMac.

Stephen Robles:

Yeah. Well, speaking about fallback technologies from AirPlay to Bluetooth, I wanted to talk about this article from The Wall Street Journal. This was a recent article, and it was talking about "Why Apple's iMessage is Winning, Teens Dread the Green Text Bubble." That was the headline. And this article is basically saying that because Apple has relegated any non iPhone user, if they're going to be texting an iPhone, it goes over SMS, and then those bubbles are green, that teens are actually experiencing peer pressure and ridicule for not having the blue bubbles.

And even a Google SVP got in on it, tweeted the article and says like, Yeah, this is not good.

And I think it's so interesting, this attack on iMessage as some closed system, and that I don't know that Apple needs to open up or something which is ironic actually looked back. And Scott forestall back in the day tried to get carriers, at least here in the US to join a rich text message service.

So it didn't have to be such a disparity between iMessage and SMS. But I never got a chance to see that article, at least the headlines going around, but what are your thoughts about that iMessage lock in and what it quote unquote, could be doing to kids?

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, I think it's really interesting. I think one of the, one of the I forget who was talking about it might have been Jessica Lessin when she came back to The Information yesterday, about how a lot of big publications have sort of taken on this influencer mentality where they want to make as big a splash as possible with every headline with every piece. And I don't wanna say it's a hit piece, like everything becomes a hit piece, everything becomes gotcha journalism, or everything becomes sort of hyper sensationalized, but it really does feel like we're sorely lacking in nuance, especially from business publications, where they're not like looking at the facts and then drawing out the story.

But they're thinking, oh, this would be a great story, what can we put behind it to sort of justify our publishing it? And I don't want to downplay that they're absolutely socio-economic issues behind iMessage and Apple devices.

And yes, it's not the same in every part of the world, because in some places, WhatsApp or WeChat, or Line or something else is is far more important. Right, then iMessage but you know, for American teenagers, it is important, I think one thing that gets lost often is that originally messages were just green, and Apple added the blue color for iMessage. Because they are different in kind from SMS messages.

And Apple believes that you needed a visual cue, which we can argue about colorblindness stuff, but you needed a visual cue that told you this was not being sent through the SMS system, you're not being billed for it the way you would an SMS message.

It is also encrypted, unlike an SMS message, so if you send a group chat, for example, or someone changes phones, and the message comes back green, you now are in you have an indication that the conversation is no longer secure, it is no longer end to end encrypted. And you might alter your behavior because of that.

And there are side effects to every decision. And there are good and bad consequences. And you know, tools can be used to heal people and to hurt people. But I think, iMessage the way it is now is is that way for a very specific reason. And I think adding a lot of this noise to it does doesn't address what you were just talking about, which is the need for better interoperable communication standards.

Stephen Robles:

Right. And, you know, it's interesting. And just to be clear, it is not just like the color difference, because as some of the teenagers would say, group chats, it's very noticeable when it's not an iMessage group chat, because you can't add or remove people easily. You don't get the ellipses when people are typing, you lose the message reactions and other things specific to the iMessage ecosystem.

So it is a feature disparity, not just a visual disparity, and that's, you know, the teams obviously, realize that I think adults do too, you know, you can, you know, and you're not an iMessage chat.

So Max Weinbach. He covers Apple as well, he actually had a TikTok where he was saying the green bubbles are all Apple's fault. And he was saying it's, you we have RCS which is rich communication services on Android phones, and if Apple just adopts it, then it would all take care of itself. And I actually did a little response because ironically, it's not just Apple who is working against this idea of interoperability.

If you look up Verizon page and AT&T's page, they only support RCS on their own network, Verizon, Verizon, and AT&T. They're not cross network compatible. T-Mobile's trying to be cross network, but they're not really getting there. And not all phones support it. And so this is a larger issue than just Apple needs to flip a switch or not. And I feel like a lot of that nuance gets lost in the conversation.

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, it's a double edged sword too, because it's not anything new either. Like back in the day if you weren't on BBS, you know, BBM, BlackBerry on a Blackberry. You weren't like you, you couldn't work on Wall Street like right didn't have the CEOs on your pin chat system like these things have always existed and they just keep moving like if you're not on WhatsApp in Brazil, you have serious problems.

It's not just an Apple issue. But I do think that one of the arguments for Apple supporting RCS is that Apple is such a change agent that if they did get on board with it, it would help force other carriers in other areas to get on board with it.

It's just like I said, the maturity point yet. I don't think Apple's deliberately ignoring it. I do think there there are weighing the lock and value of iMessage with the interoperability advantage of RCS and I can see them switching out SMS for RCS as soon as it has, critical mass enough that them adding to it would make it a done deal. I just don't get the I don't know the right word is the agita, right, that surrounds all these things in an ignorance vacuum for so many years.

Stephen Robles:

Right. And I think you know, if Apple would have flipped a switch and say, Okay, we now support RCS in the Messages app natively, there would be immediately a million support requests, because if I'm on AT&T, and I tried to message my friend on Verizon, they have an Android but I have an iPhone, but supposedly we both support RCS there would be a question of why isn't it working? And now it's not has nothing to do with Apple.

If Apple supports it. It's all to do with the carriers. And I think some of those disparities just don't get teased out. Again, like Scott Forstall even tried to go to the carriers before iMessage launched to try and convince them of interoperability standard, we don't realize how much power the carriers actually having in some of this interoperability.

Rene Ritchie:

And how much money I mean, I forget what the numbers were. But at one point, they were saying that for Nokia, text messaging was the single biggest legal moneymaker ever devised by humanity, right? Because people were paying 25 cents to send like three words or something, and it was making so much money it was in there, and they used it as a carrier lock in. Because it was very hard to change systems and bring your, your message history with you. I think that's all true.

And I think Apple wouldn't even announce it unless they had critical mass from the carriers, which means that they would have to go like they did with 5G. They didn't put out 5G as early as anybody else. But when they did, they had spent a good two years. Well, one, you know, making sure the carriers actually support the iPhone, because putting anything on an iPhone means hundreds of millions of people are going to hit it. And most early networks will just fall down.

But they also spent a lot of time working with the carriers to come up with something that was, you know, utterly transparent to the user. And there's again, only so much capacity to do that any given year either.

Stephen Robles:

Exactly. Well, I want to move on to some software questions. And then iPhone 14 lastly. But when it comes to software, again, WWDC will be coming up. In a few months, we'll be seeing iOS 16 and iPadOS 16. And I want to touch on iPad for a moment, because I'm a big iPad user when it comes to podcast production.

I edit all my podcasts on iPad, and a lot of my workflow is directly on iPad except for recording because there's some holdups there as far as what the iPad can do hardware wise. And now I am not a proponent of just put macOS on iPad, I think that's a) not going to happen and b) not a good idea.

I think iPadOS is good. But there are definitely some things that need to be added. In your experience and opinion, do you think that Apple will begin or continue to add some power features. Again, like I have an M1 iPad Pro, it's got a Thunderbolt port, I can plug in Thunderbolt peripherals and USB microphones, but two apps can't both access the same microphone at the same time. Like something as simple as that, that doesn't add any visual complexity. It's strictly a utility that needs to be enabled, do you think there's actually going to start doing that like secondary displays? Or is iPadOS kind of going to be stagnant?

Rene Ritchie:

I think there's like, I don't the right word is not inertia, really. But I think like when Steve wanted the iPad, he really did not want it to be a Mac, like violently did not want it to be a Mac. His goal was to make ever more mainstream computing devices.

And he saw this as something that people who still looked at a Mac and saw it as inaccessible or alienating or intimidating, that they could just pick up this piece of glass and tap it. And that's why you have things like the home button, you could never get lost, you just press the home button, you'd go back to a known state like all of these things were designed to be the antithesis of the Mac in so many ways.

I don't know if he used his words, but the tyranny of computer scientists who had made us live with hierarchical file systems, and all this universally cruft for so long, and that's why I like for as many people who would love to have Steve and Scott back in charge, they couldn't even push out AirDrop under Steve and Scott like it was just that was considered too nerdy there was that they had this line where like, you will not cross it, you will not make a files app you will not do even when it became so much more complicated to work around not having it right.

They had these lines in the sand like this is gonna be a mainstream device. It's not that they haven't changed their minds. I think they have I think like, Craig is so much nerdier and wants so much more functionality in all these devices. You know, it's a very different team, but so many it's like the same reason.

It's the worst analogy. It's the same reason you still can't scroll properly on an Android. There were so many decisions made about how it was implemented, that they have spent years trying to overcome things like overdrawing cells, or just the way that the multitasking system works. Apple was so sandboxed. And so like security was everything. It was built to have so much separation between apps that they've been sort of plugging different RCA cables back and forth for years.

And it probably requires a way more substantive rewrite. Like we're talking about the home pod, the home pod got delayed because the original AirPlay was a hack job.

And they'd spent years ignoring core audio and other foundation API issues. And they have to go back and re architect all that there's so much technical debt. And I think just like the way the iOS was built, having having something connected to different audio streams simultaneously was a security risk. Like they didn't want anybody to be able to break through that app barrier.

And it seems ridiculous now, but in in their grand vision, that's how it was designed. And they can patch it up. And they have with like a few different API's. But at some point, they're going to have to go back and decide, it's okay, that it's not a Mac, but it still has to do these things.

So how do we make it do these things in a way that, you know, does not make it a Mac retains its usability, but also satisfies the utility? Right? And that I think is like we spent three years like drag and drop hell, because those are hard problems to solve.

Stephen Robles:

Sure. Yeah, absolutely. Hopefully, what new things that we'll see across the operating systems, I'm actually hard pressed to think about more features that I want to see, you know, a lot of people have been talking about, maybe Apple should just make it a bug fix year, Snow Leopard-esque where they just, you know, clean everything up.

But we know Apple's gonna announce new features they always do. And so aside from like, clipboard management on, like, built into macOS and iOS, I haven't really thought or really, you know, can think about new and more features that I would want. Do you have any things that you have been hoping for maybe that we hope to see added at WWDC this year.

Rene Ritchie:

I always have like these wish lists, and I don't know how reasonable they are. And some of them are completely not things that I want, but things that I think are might be valuable.

Like, for example, a lot of people have been talking about how complicated we were just talking about how complicated iOS and iPadOS have become how far away they are, from that original vision of the of the first iPhone and iPad. And I saw I think it was Gartenberg, formerly of Apple, yesterday, asking if if it needed an easy mode, like when you turn it on and set up.

I was joking and said like, do you read tech Twitter? And if you say no, then it gives you like a super simple, almost original style iPhone. And if you say yes, then you get like all the customization options.

Stephen Robles:

Yeah, and you get Shortcuts just thrown on their homepage.

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, no like Absolutely. But like some people now are still saying the Photos app doesn't give us the manual controls that we really want need. While other people are saying photos is so crap full of controls, I can barely use it anymore. And as markets mature, the user base becomes different.

You know, when it says that, like you say, like, any company large enough is indistinguishable from evil. It's just because as your customer base grows, their needs become so different, it's it becomes harder and harder to satisfy all of them. So that's when you start segmenting.

I don't know if we're at that point yet. But like the idea of a guest mode, so that, you know, if someone just wants to borrow your tablet at a conference, whenever conferences become a thing again, or you want to just give someone your phone to use Apple's prototype, this they've never shipped, they've never shipped it, something that keeps you in, in sort of like a quasi pre-board limbo.

So they don't have access to your device, but they can still pull up a webpage, make a phone call, those sorts of things. And then ThemeKit, which I think was also prototyped at one point where not just Night Mode and bright mode, but you actually can choose between and Google's actually already shipped this, which is ironic in some ways.

You can choose like I want like reds or greens, or I want this, this theme for my iPhone. And then everyone just gets that in UIKit. And all the apps are as easily updated as they were for dark mode.

It's like a bunch of those sorts of things, our actual working font kit, like there's so many things that you can put as Comic Sans on your display. But so that, you know, they're not so hard to work with.

Stephen Robles:

Yes, absolutely. That'd be, that'd be wonderful. And speaking of also looking forward to new things. So iPhone 14, we don't have a ton of information on it. There's some leaks that you know, might have a hole punch display. But we don't really know the story. We don't know what features and so like, OS's is I'm not too sure what I want there.

Do you have any wishes for the iPhone 14 There was that rumor of the satellite connectivity, where if you were outside of cellular connectivity that you'd still be able to like send a message or something over a satellite. Yeah, we didn't see that in the iPhone 13. Maybe it'll come in the 14 but any features that you hope come to the hardware when we see a new iPhone this year?

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah. And again, I'm just going to go back to being incredibly selfish for a minute and for me, it's like as someone who shoots 10-bit video on my big camera every day and takes it off using Thunderbolt having to transfer video off an iPhone now 10-bit ProRes 4:2:2, which is six gigabytes per minute using the original Lightning cable, which is still USB 2.0 speeds. I think it's like half a gigabit per second. Yeah, it's not feasible.

It's like you could make this amazing chipset that has a ProRes accelerator on it, you can make this incredible IO system that can get all of that on to SSD without dropping a single frame. But you're just you're missing the IO controller that lets me get it off the thing afterwards. It's like, Yes, you got two thirds of the way there.

So I don't care if it's Lightning 2, I don't care if it's USB4, I don't care if it's ultra high, fast wireless. I just, I want something that would let me get this ProRes footage like and make now into Final Cut.

Stephen Robles:

You know, I had hoped the last couple years that may be USB-C would come maybe in the form of Thunderbolt to the iPhone, but I'm less and less inclined to think that will ever happen. I think we're gonna get a port-less iPhone before we get USB-C.

I don't know, do you think we'll ever see it go to USB-C? Or will it always be Lightning and then nothing, wireless?

Rene Ritchie:

Yeah, I mean, Apple is usually like they have this idea like a decade per connector, like they switch from Firewire to dock. And that was almost 10 years ago, it was just just a few months shy of 10 years, then they switch to Lightning anticipating that was going to be 10 years, it's harder for me that they didn't increase the speed of light like they did with the camera kit on the iPad, right, but never on the iPhone.

And I understand like in their thinking there was just no need for it. But it's like the same company that's making progress like that, you've got to anticipate those knees and at least give me Lightning 3.0 speeds.

I think there's like a bunch of trade offs that with USB-C that are sort of transparent to nerds, especially just how terrible the spec is and how terrible the power management of the spec is, and the quality control. And I think Apple made people's lives very, very easy, like not perfect Lightning has some quirks about it too. But pretty much you can buy any lightning cable, plug it in, and it will manage the charge state of your device, which is not true in the USB-C world.

And it doesn't need the same peripheral compatibility, because there's much fewer people plugging their iPhone into a printer than their iPad. And iPads have much bigger batteries are there. There's just like there's so much more of a buffer on iPad. So I get it. But it's beginning to be that point where we need to switch to something.

Stephen Robles:

You've been using MagSafe for charging and mounting and stuff like that?

Rene Ritchie:

I do. I mean, I always love it when people complain about micromanaging their charging and then slap it on the least efficient wireless charger ever. But like at night, I plug into like the original iPhone charger because it's very low wattage and it just charges slowly and it's going to be plugged in overnight, and I let the system manage it.

But then if I have a MagSafe charger in my car, and I have one next to my desk, and I like those because they hold it up and I can see the display while it's charging. So I just use whatever's convenient.

Stephen Robles:

Okay. All right lightning round. Last three questions here. What was your favorite product of 2021. Favorite Apple launch, release, hardware-wise, what was your favorite of last year?

Rene Ritchie:

It's for me, it's the M1 Max MacBook Pro just for three really quick reasons. One is that it is so much faster than Intel. I save minutes on every hour. It's also instantly responsive, like an iPad. So there's no more drag an effect wait, drag an effect wait, I save seconds on every minute. And also because everything is offloaded to rendering engines. When I hit that button, on Intel, I would hit that button and not be able to like web browser easily because the CPU was just completely floored.

But on this it doesn't touch the CPU or GPU so I can tell it to render go make a thumbnail surf the web, it's like having a second Mac. And like the whole concept right is so good that just nothing else is gonna come close for a while for me, I think.

Stephen Robles:

Have you figured out what to do with all those dongles you've bought over the years.

Rene Ritchie:

I've always I mean like, depending on I've worked in production for a long time and I've never known a dongle-free life. It was like FireWire 400, 800 dongles DVI, dual-link display port, VGA, HDMI, like I just get different dongles. And that's why like, personally, I would have preferred eight USB, USB-C, Thunderbolt ports, and anything else because I can't turn HDMI into an SD card reader, but I can turn Thunderbolt. You know and vice versa

Stephen Robles:

The HDMI was the most curious addition to the new MacBook Pro. Like I don't know when I'll ever use it. But yeah, corporate uses I guess.

Rene Ritchie:

Some people really like it. I mean, that's the thing is that you'll never please everybody. So I think they please the vocal Twitter contingent this time.

Stephen Robles:

All right, what are you most excite for, for this year 2022 as a hardware release.

Rene Ritchie:

I really want to see how they continue to scale the M1 platform and get into the M2 platform and basically just the whole platform, because we've seen with the A series, what they can do generationally like A13, to A14 to A15. And we've seen how they've extended those before like A12X and A12Z, we've got M1 and we've got M1 Pro and M1 Max now but I want to see what they do for like the Mac Pro.

Is going to be dual and quad die layouts? And then when they get into M2, that's going to be ultra low power. But then how do they make an M2 Max or Pro? Because they didn't make X? They didn't make like an A11X or A13X, we wait 18 months? I'm so fascinated with how they roll this whole thing.

Stephen Robles:

Yeah, especially naming I mean, will there be an M1 Max Pro, Max Pro Ultra. Yeah, I don't know.

Rene Ritchie:

What I hope is that it's just Dual M1 Max and Quad M1 Max. Just keep it super simple.

Stephen Robles:

Oh, that'd be good. That makes sense. All right on your Mac, where's your dock and is it hidden or not?

Rene Ritchie:

It is not hidden and it's on my left, which I keep getting crap for whenever I post my screen, but it's because like originally I was a web developer and vertical height was everything to me like the Dock took way too many pixels, and though it was just never fast enough if it would auto-hide or not, and I'm right handed, so I'm always moving from left to right.

It might seem more logical like to just throw it on the right but I keep accidentally going over it that way. So I throw it on the left hand side that way it's out of the way unless I purposely go left but it's immediately available the minute I do that.

Stephen Robles:

Okay, I also have it on the left but I autohide because okay, I find Spotlight is so good now that I just end up launching everything from Spotlight even if it's in the Dock.

Rene Ritchie:

I do the same except it's not as bad like iOS for some reason I can't find basic apps and spotlight anymore. It's just they're completely gone. And it really annoys me but like the today I typed in Final Cut and you think I use Final Cut every day, I launch it from Spotlight every day. I had to type "Final Cu" before it would show up and I don't know what the difference is.

Stephen Robles:

Man. I get it. Okay, I'm gonna do right now. Spotlight "F", Final Cut Pro.

Rene Ritchie:

I got it with "F" too. Yeah, if I go, it's and I'm getting it for the whole thing. Like before I was getting like random database files. It was very annoying.

Stephen Robles:

Oh, yeah, that is weird. Okay, I'm gonna sneak in one more just because I'm curious. Do you remember your first Apple device?

Rene Ritchie:

Yes, it was an Apple II+, my father was an IBM engineer. And he back in the days of mainframes. And he didn't want to have to go downtown to be able to do spreadsheets and stuff.

So he took me to the computer store and we bought an Apple II+ with VisiCalc. And it had like one of those CRT green displays. And it was like the most amazing thing I've ever seen. And I played way too much "Castle Wolfenstein" on it.

Stephen Robles:

Ooh, now but what is the first Apple device that you bought for yourself?

Rene Ritchie:

Oh, that I bought for myself. Probably a Performa. I'm going to blank on which one. But I got into Amigas for a while and then when Amiga died I bought a Performa. Wow, I'm not familiar with that. I'll be honest, this thing was like a Compaq Presario.

Stephen Robles:

Wow, that's hilarious. Well, Rene, thank you so much for joining us on the AppleInsider Podcast. We will link to your YouTube channel in the show notes, of course. And on Twitter, you should follow Rene. Is there any place else that you would like to direct people so they can read your work or see your work?

Rene Ritchie:

I put up transcripts on so like if anybody wants to read it, rather than see it, they can just go there. The video's there with all the text.

Stephen Robles:

Very good. Well, again, thank you so much, Rene, for joining us. Appreciate it.

Rene Ritchie:

Thank you so much.

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