Casey Neistat created a 6 1/2 minute film called Black Market Takes Over the iPhone 6 Lines that shows portions of what happened at the Apple Store SoHo and other Apple stores in Manhattan on the day before and the day of the iPhone 6 release.

The film focuses on a number of people of Asian descent who do not appear to speak English waiting in line to purchase iPhones. The purchase pattern illustrated was that these buyers bought iPhones (presumably unlocked models) for cash and then, almost immediately and in the vicinity of the Apple Store, apparently sold these phones to other people for cash.

The film says that the purchasers are agents representing resellers in China who will resell these phones. Presumably, most of these resales will occur before the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus officially go on sale in the People's Republic of China.

I think what's important to note about this film is that the issue is not Apple's worldwide product release method at all. At most, the resale activity Neistat depicts represents a side-effect of the failure of the Chinese state regulatory agencies to approve the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in a timely manner. These regulatory agencies include agencies like the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and collectively function as the equivalent of our Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and perhaps our Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

I would argue that, in an effort to show that they control the Chinese smartphone market and Apple does not, these agencies delayed approval of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus beyond Apple's planned worldwide release date. By doing so, they created a situation where a graymarket of epic proportions could redevelop overnight. This graymarket may now be exploited in the fashion described in the film.

The only thing I'm really sorry about with respect to this film is that the filmmaker chose to highlight the Chinese people standing in line in New York as if they're victims being exploited by criminals from China who are referred to as "Chinese mafia". (Some people also call use of the term "Chinese mafia" racist.) I imagine that the people who waited in line made enough of a profit on resale of the iPhones they purchased to justify their time standing in line.

In this case, one person's criminal is another person's street-level entrepreneur.

"Hey Siri" Settings

Let's say we are in a room full of iPhones.

If "Hey Siri" could be enabled by default without a constraint like having the phone plugged in to power, when one of us said, "Hey Siri," all of the iOS devices in the room would start listening and responding at the same time.

It may be true that the "Hey Siri" feature in iOS 8 is primarily configured the way it is in order to not kill the user's battery. But, that configuration works well in several use cases:

  • In the living room of an iPhone user's home..
  • In the car where there is only one (or two) charging points.
  • In someone's office.

iPhone 4s Performance Under iOS 8 is Good

Messages With Keyboard Showing QuickType on iPhone 4s

Some of you may know that I am using an iPhone 4s temporarily because I broke my 5s about a week ago.

I upgraded the 4s I'm using to iOS 8 this afternoon, and the performance of the 4s feels about the same to me under the new operating system as it did under iOS 7. It is not quite as fast, but it is still definitely usable.

Overall user experience is better, because there are new features of iOS 8 that are accessible by 4s users. Examples are:

  • standard iOS 8 keyboard with QuickType,
  • the "Hey Siri" feature,
  • Notification Center widgets,
  • Recent and Favorite contacts in the App Switcher.

I think the best illustration of limited iOS 8 functionality on the 4s is the Messages app screenshot I published at the top of this article. Although the keyboard looks good, and QuickType works, there really isn't enough room for text entry and display of the current message thread.

If you get in this situation on a 4s, send your message quickly so you can see what your friend / relative / colleague is saying.

Tim Cook on Privacy

Update: This article was published about 12 hours before Apple published A message from Tim Cook about Apple's commitment to your privacy.

Here's Part 2 of Charlie Rose's interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook:

I thought that the most interesting part of the second part of this interview was right near the beginning, about 3 minutes in, where he talks about privacy of customer data.

I believe him when he says:

How do companies make their money? Follow the money. And if they are making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what's happening to that data. And companies should be transparent about it.

But I think a lot of the biggest concerns that leaders of many Silicon Valley companies have with the way the NSA and CIA monitor communications is that they do not want the same scrutiny that people want to apply government surveillance to fall upon their companies.

In other words, I think some of these Tech Company CEOs want to be able to say, "Well our views on the value of your personal data are reflected in our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy," and change the subject as quickly as possible.

Kudos to Tim Cook for saying, "Our business is based on selling these. {He gestures off camera to the iPhones on the table.} Our business is not based on having information about you. You are not our product." I wish every company in our industry could operate that way.

One of the first things that my son Jimmy asked about when he saw the film previewing the Apple Watch was, "Will I be able to use it?" Jimmy is left-handed.

My reaction was to say that you can probably turn the face 180 degrees, and swap the top and bottom connectors between the Watch and the Watch's strap, and it would work on your right wrist.

This was confirmed by John Gruber, in a tweet from last night:

Maybe you were blown away by Apple's announcements yesterday: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch. Wait, what?

We were ready for the introduction of a wearable device. Some people were sure it was a watch. Some people thought it was the iWatch. It turned out to be the Apple Watch.

What do you think of it? Here's what I think:

The two sentences above are all that fits in a single tweet. The truth is that we don't know a lot about how the Apple Watch is really going to work that can make it worth or not worth the price.

For instance, if I can use an Apple Watch in place of my iPhone with RunKeeper and listen to a playlist from my iTunes library on wireless headphones, that would be worth the cost of an Apple Watch to me.

Great post this morning by Dave Mark on The Loop called iWatch speculation, where he cites James Gill's Why Would Apple make a watch? Gill said:

Not long after Tim Cook took over as full time CEO, he made a promise: "We're going to double down on secrecy." A few years on from that comment, it seems, as with most of Tim's public comments, that it was more than just empty marketing speak. From the completely redesigned iOS 7 in 2013, to the launch of a whole new programming language, Swift, at this years WWDC, to the announcements that are about to be unveiled, Apple are tighter lipped and appear to be more controlled than ever.

To which Mark added:

So much has been written about the iWatch, but have you seen even one leaked image? If Apple does indeed announce an iWatch tomorrow, full credit must go to Tim Cook's ability to keep his "double down on secrecy" promise.

What if Tim Cook's quip, "We're going to double down on secrecy" turned out to be a brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed corporate plan?

Doubling down on secrecy probably didn't mean that everything would be kept secret.

Perhaps Tim Cook's approach to secrecy is pragmatic: really try to keep secret the things that don't involve the supply chain, and not worry so much about the details leaking on stuff that other companies are manufacturing in mass quantities. If that's the case, he may be succeeding beyond the wildest dreams of his fans and his critics.

What will be most interesting to me is if there are reveals tomorrow about aspects of things previously discussed at WWDC that they managed to keep secret while third-party developers were working with the announced aspects of the APIs.

Don't be surprised if a few developers had access to some of these previously-hidden API or internal hardware details, and will have been working with them under lock-and-key on the Apple campus somewhere.

In the wake of the targeted attack that was perpetrated on the individual iCloud accounts of a number of female celebrities, an Apple Media Advisory recommended that "all users... always use a strong password and enable two-step verification."

This resulted in stern criticism for Apple from some writers and analysts. For example:

  • David Auerbach said in Slate, "Two-factor authentication {another name for two-step verification} wouldn't have worked anyway... because Apple doesn't enforce two-factor authentication for iCloud logons even if you have it turned on...."
  • Michael Rose on TUAW, "It's pretty clear that Apple's doing its best to guard your wallet with this implementation -- anything that might cause a credit card charge via an unfamiliar iOS device is going to force you to authenticate. Other than that, 2FA {2FA = two-factor authentication, another name for two-step verification} doesn't get involved in guarding your privacy as far as I can tell."

I think that articles such as these may be making a somewhat false assumption about why Apple is recommending two-step verification to its customers.

Although confirmation of some iCloud account changes through a two-step verification process arguably strengthens overall iCloud account security, the added security measure that Apple may most want customers to adopt is the replacement of security questions with verification codes sent to a user-selected, trusted device.

In Frequently asked questions about two-step verification for Apple ID, Apple says:

Do I still need to remember any security questions?

With two-step verification, you don't need to create or remember any security questions. Your identity is verified exclusively using your password, verification codes sent to your trusted devices, and your Recovery Key.

After all, Caitlin Dewey in The Washington Post says, "The 'secret question,' writes security researcher Nik Cubrilovic, is the single most popular, most effective way for a hacker to gain access to your online accounts." (I agree that Nik Cubrilovic's Notes on Celebrity Data Theft, her source, is really good, as far as it goes.)

But the real question remains, did Apple recommend two-step verification to improve security with verification codes, or because enabling two-step verification altogether does away with the security questions in an iCloud users profile?

Today's Wall Street Journal also indicates that CEO Tim Cook has spoken out about the need to increase the number of places in iCloud use and account management where two-step verification codes are required.

For the last few years, Business Insider has made a name for itself by finding a way to point out the negative implications of current technology news on Apple Inc. So, I was surprised to read Jay Yarrow's post, It's Pretty Clear That Apple Is Winning The War With Samsung, which discusses the many ways that Apple's premium product strategy is producing benefits for Apple, while increased competition seems to be squeezing Samsung in ways that hurt their bottom line.

This article is making the rounds of the Pro-Apple blogs and websites today. But it's important to stop and consider what it's saying.

The squeeze that's on Samsung results from forces at both ends of the market. According to Yarrow, "At the high end it's competing with Apple. Apple isn't going anywhere. It remains strong thanks to a sterling brand, high-quality phones, and iOS, the best mobile operating system in the world."

Apple has a huge advantage in terms of its ability to control the total user experience on the iPhone and the iPad. The strategy it uses of one coordinated hardware and software release per year is not only making device choice easier for its users; It's also allowing third-party developers the time to release apps that take advantage of new features almost as soon as they are released.

There are a lot of Smartphone users in the United States who are in denial of the difference in quality between Android and iOS, the terrible impact that practical limitations and restrictions of Android version upgrades are having on that user community, and how much the open platform and "ship it first" mentality of Google and its licensees is a major security incident waiting to happen.

Samsung cannot compete with Apple at many levels because it doesn't have complete control of the operating system on which its flagship smartphones operate. As such, it cannot optimize the low-level features of the OS for its devices. Many people look at the continued inclusion of replaceable batteries and ultra power saving modes in Samsung Galaxy devices as great features. I would argue they are not great features, so much as they are practical reactions to the limited control that Samsung has over Android's performance on Samsung's hardware.

Jay Yarrow's article also says, "At the low-end of the market it's competing with upstarts like Chinese phone maker Xiaomi and an army of Android phone makers that use Android. There's little reason for a consumer to pay a premium for Samsung phones instead of a Samsung clone."

I would personally love to see Xiaomi enter the U.S. market in a larger way, because it would give people who like Android a sense of how to market Android with panache. However, I see a lot of similarities between Xiaomi's marketing in Asia and Apple's marketing in North America, and I wonder if they would be hurt by the conclusion that Xiaomi is taking too much of a "me too" approach.

Last night's Hall of Fame game between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills was the first official NFL game where Microsoft Surface tablets were available as an alternative to printed overhead black and white photos.

Operation Gadget was one of the first sites to capture a live picture from an NFL game where a Microsoft Surface tablet was being used.

Availability of photos on the sidelines at NFL games has always been closely regulated, in order to not provide either team with a competitive advantage. So no one should be surprised that the NFL is carefully managing these tablets.

The NFL is employing Surface tablets as a part of a technology partnership announced with Microsoft in May 2013. That multi-year partnership, reportedly valued at $400 million, has resulted in the creation of a new system called the Sideline Viewing System, which is an attempt to replace printed sideline photos as well as notes and diagrams drawn on top of those photos. Although the primary use will be on the field, ProFootball Talk reported, "Teams also will be permitted to take the {Surface} tablets to the locker room during halftime to review photos with notes. During halftime, however, the tablets won't be connected to the wireless system."

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports, "... several conspicuous alterations made to the company's standard tablets {were made to Surface Pro 2 tablets at the NFL's request}. The NFL's Surface tablets have had their cameras disabled and can connect only to a private in-stadium wireless network. The devices can only run a single program, which allows people to browse through digital game photographs."

The article continues, "It's not exactly a groundbreaking moment of innovation in football. The photos displayed on the tablets are in now color and arrive to the sideline slightly faster than before. The tablets also allow annotations to be made on the screen, and specific plays can be saved for later review. Other than that, there's no difference between the tablets and those binders you've always seen quarterbacks poring over."

Where we disagree with BusinessWeek's take on Surface use at NFL games is that we wouldn't call them "crippled". By making the tablets weatherproof, connecting them to a private wireless network in each stadium, and limiting them to a single app, the NFL is avoiding many of the foreseeable performance and reliability issues. It's also maintaining ownership and control of the devices to be used on the sidelines, which is going to take off-the-table the potential competitive advantages of a more open bring-your-own-device system.

The rollout of these Surface tablets raises a lot of interesting technical and league rule questions that we hope to explore as we talk to our contacts within the NFL.