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What really matters to Apple

What really matters to Apple

Good morning! This Wednesday, takeaways from Apple's iPhone 13 launch, Facebook knows that Instagram is bad for teens, and Gary Gensler is a lot of things, but he's not your daddy.

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The Big Story

Upgrades all the way down

Apple launched some new things! The iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 Pro, the Apple Watch Series 7, the new iPad, some new accessories, meditation videos! Not exactly Apple's most earth-shattering event, but lots of upgrades nonetheless.

Apple events are a useful indicator of what the company cares about. And this time, there were a few recurring themes:

  • Privacy. Even as Apple devices continue to get more sensors, more AI and more potentially creepy insight into your life, Apple's pressing hard on the idea that it is the company that cares about your privacy. Keeping users' trust is crucial to Apple, and as we've seen with things like the recent CSAM kerfuffle, it's only going to get harder to do.
  • The environment. Apple always includes a slide and pays lip service to how recyclable and sustainable its products are, but the issue was unusually front and center this time. (Though if you read the fine print, Apple's still got some work to do.)
  • Webcams. Obviously cameras are important to Apple and got a lot of stage time during the event, but the front-facing ones have gotten a lot more attention over the last year or so. One of the biggest selling points of the new iPad, for instance? A webcam meant specifically for virtual school and meetings.
  • Fitness+. Other than the iPhones, nothing seemed to get more screen time than Fitness+. Apple clearly sees the service as the perfect selling point for its watch, and is investing in it in a big way. Jay Blahnik, Apple's head of fitness, is a name you're going to want to know.
  • Battery life. Study after study shows that the No. 1 thing people want from their devices is longer battery life, and Apple noted a number of times that it's increasing it on its latest devices.

This year's hardware upgrades were relatively minor, all things considered. (The only device that was meaningfully changed was the iPad Mini, which I'm personally very excited about.) Apple seemed to know it, too: It led with an update on Apple TV+ and spent most of its time talking about use cases and services rather than its traditional deep-dives on new technology.

  • Apple has been slowly, subtly downplaying the importance of hardware for the last few years, as the incremental upgrades on iPads and iPhones have shrunk. But that's just a sign of the times. When there is a new upgrade to shout about — the M1 chips on the newest Macs, or whenever those Apple Glasses come out — Apple's still happy to spout specs.
  • Keep an eye on Apple's ship dates, too. iPhone 13 preorders start Friday and ship next week, but it'll be interesting to see how far into the future those ship dates slip. As for the Watch, Apple said only that it's coming "later this fall." Apple is unmatched in its logistical capabilities, but the chip shortage comes for everyone.

Apple came off as ultra-confident yesterday, the same peak-of-its-powers company it always looks to be in these infomercial events. There was no mention of the internal unrest that is gripping the company, or the ongoing battle with Epic and other developers, or the overall antitrust action against the company. It's easy to forget when watching these events that it's anything other than a beloved hardware company with a really impressive marketing team. Which is exactly the point.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)


Facebook supports updated regulations, including four areas where lawmakers can make quick progress:

  • Reforming Section 230
  • Preventing foreign interference of our elections
  • Passing federal privacy law
  • Setting rules that allow people to safely transfer data between services

Learn more

People Are Talking

Gary Gensler says he's not your daddy, but Sen. John Kennedy thinks he acts like it:

  • "Why do you impose your personal preferences about cultural issues and social issues on companies?"

Elizabeth Warren doesn't think the crypto market is very financially inclusive:

  • "High, unpredictable fees can make crypto trading really dangerous for people who aren't rich."
Don't make too much of China's new tech-industry regulations, Kai-Fu Lee said, the country is still all-in on tech:
  • "There should not be an overinterpretation of the intent to limit the scope of large internet companies … into an overreaching slowdown of the tech economy. That would be a mistaken interpretation."

Andy Jassy thinks there's more room for Amazon in entertainment:

  • "We're off to a great start but we do believe we have an opportunity to provide a unique viewing experience for our customers with really original and creative content."

Making Moves

Christina Smedley is leaving Robinhood. She was the company's CMO for just over a year.

Activision Blizzard is replacing its chief people officer, Claudine Naughton. She'll be replaced by Julie Hodges, who worked at Disney as SVP of human resources.

Sukumar Rathnam is stepping down as Uber's CTO. Rathnam had reportedly clashed with the company's chief product officer, Sundeep Jain.

Brad Smith is now Microsoft's vice chair. He's been with the company since 1993 and serves as its top lawyer.

Candi Castleberry Singleton is joining Amazon next month as head of global DEI. She'll move over from Twitter, where she's worked as a VP focused on diversity.

Maryana Iskander is the Wikimedia Foundation's next CEO. Iskander is a former Planned Parenthood COO and most recently led a South African nonprofit.

Shanti Ariker is joining the board at The Software Alliance. Ariker is Zendesk's SVP and general counsel.

In Other News

  • Gavin Newsom survived the recall fight in California. It wasn't even particularly close, as it turns out, and so far his loudest critics in tech have been quiet on the subject.
  • Facebook knows Instagram is damaging for teen girls, according to company documents revealed by The Wall Street Journal, and it hasn't done much to address the issue.
  • On Protocol: Activision Blizzard is facing unfair labor charges. The Communications Workers of America is alleging that the company tried to stop employees from organizing while discrimination and sexual assault claims surfaced.
  • On Protocol: Comcast is making its own smart TVs. The company is reportedly teaming up with Hisense to sell two models, and they could be coming soon.
  • The Solana blockchain is back up. It crashed hard earlier this week under heavy volume, but its maintainer said it's stable once again.
  • Amazon doesn't think it's too late to get into health care and is trying to level up services for hospitals and consumers to compete with Microsoft and Google.
  • On Protocol: App Annie is facing securities fraud charges. The SEC is accusing the company of deceiving businesses over how it would use their data. App Annie will pay a $10 million settlement.
  • TikTok is dealing with two EU data probes. One looks at how the platform processes data by its underage users, and the other relates to worries that "maintenance and AI engineers in China" could access EU user data.

One More Thing

Steve Wozniak's space plans

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson want to send people to space. Steve Wozniak, meanwhile, apparently wants to clean space up.

The Apple co-founder is working on a private space company, called Privateer, alongside Ripcord's Alex Fielding. There aren't a lot of details about the new venture; Wozniak just tweeted that the company will be "unlike the others," and attached an obscure YouTube video that ended with the words, "The sky is no longer the limit." But based on an August press release from 3D-printing company Desktop Metal, which appears to be working with Privateer, Wozniak's startup plans to monitor and clean up space junk. Just don't mistake all those Starlink satellites for junk, Woz, or else Elon will be pretty unhappy.


The internet has changed alot in the last 25 years—the last time comprehensive internet regulations were passed. Facebook supports updated regulations—like reforming Section 230, to set standards for the way larger tech companies enforce rules about content.

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