September 21, 2021
Good morning! This Tuesday, iOS 15 says a lot about Apple's plans, El Salvador bought more bitcoin, Coinbase Lend is no more, and DoorDash is now (finally) delivering booze.
The Big Story
Apple's software story
What's a computer? It's not just the question posed by one of Apple's commercials, but one that Apple increasingly seems to have an answer for. Phones, laptops, tablets — they're all computers, Apple thinks. And they should all act like it.
Apple released iOS 15 and iPad OS 15 yesterday (and watchOS 8 and tvOS 15 and HomePod 15, but those aren't as interesting) and millions of people spent a chunk of their day learning the ins and outs of the new iOS. Luckily there's not a ton that's different; these are fairly iterative updates to the iPhone and iPad. You should always upgrade, for security reasons alone, but there are some fun new things here, too. (Here's a good rundown of all the new stuff.)
Parity is the theme of the new software. The lines continue to blur between Apple devices. iPhones can now run browser extensions! It's much easier to multitask! Everywhere you look, Apple is bringing iOS apps and interaction to Macs and Mac-like power to iOS.
Beyond that, here's what iOS 15 says about Apple's plans:
- It's (a little) more cross-platform. Windows and Android users will soon be able to join FaceTime calls, though the feature isn't part of the first version of iOS 15. It's not the multi-device iMessage we've been hoping for, but it's a nod in that direction.
- Well-being matters. Apple has made a lot of noise about caring for users' attention and sanity, but the new Focus modes are the first truly consequential proof that it does care. You can even set your phone to alert others when you have notifications turned off, which is almost as good as just bringing back away messages.
- Widgets are taking over. They're still inexplicably non-interactive (except for a couple of Apple's own widgets), but there are more and bigger options, and they can go on the iPad's home screen now. Doing more without opening apps is clearly part of the future of iOS, and whether it's Siri or widgets or Shortcuts, it makes everything feel more connected.
- More stuff happens offline. Siri can now process commands locally, as can Apple's photo-scanning AI, which is both good news for privacy and for solving the interminable wait for Siri to just set a freaking timer.
- Speaking of privacy, Apple hopes that's how it can sell iCloud Plus. The new Private Relay feature is a sort of spin on a VPN, and comes free if you pay for iCloud storage. You get more-secure video storage, too, and a way to keep your email address private.
- Safari is a sign of things to come. It took Apple a few revisions — and a lot of public criticism — but it landed on a new, bottom-of-the-screen design for Safari that could be the beginning of a new era of mobile design. You might want to fire up the Figma files and see how your own app looks with everything in thumb's reach.
The iPad is the device to watch here. We've been saying for a while that Apple clearly views the iPad as the primary computing device of the future; in 2030, the company seems to imagine you might have AR glasses on your face, a watch on your wrist and a tablet in your bag. And who needs phones? That's why Apple's trying to make it the best of all worlds, iPhone easy and Mac powerful. And it's getting there, albeit slower than users might like.
But the iPhone is far from dead. Preorders for the iPhone 13 started Friday, and demand is reportedly through the roof. Carriers are desperate to upgrade people to 5G devices, Apple's one of the few companies that doesn't seem to have crippling supply issues, and there's a pink one now!
- There's even higher demand for the iPhone 13 than for last year's iPhone 12, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the more accurate predictors of Apple's plans. And last year was a big one for Apple.
- As for the next big thing? Kuo predicted a foldable phone is coming in 2024. Just in time for you to upgrade your 3-year-old iPhone 13. Hopefully still in pink.
A MESSAGE FROM ALIBABA
This year, China will become the first country where ecommerce sales will outpace brick-and-mortar transactions. U.S. businesses are using Alibaba's platforms to sell to 900 million digitally savvy consumers in China and untap new opportunities for long-term growth.
People Are Talking
OnePlus is merging deeper into Oppo, but CEO Pete Lau said it's not the end of the hotshot phone startup:
- "We have a focus on bringing together the OnePlus and Oppo teams to be able to bring together the strengths of both sides into the merged entity."
On Protocol | Fintech: Most financial institutions are still trying to grok the future of money, Anchorage Digital's Diogo Mónica said:
- "It's a common conversation that we have with institutions, not necessarily about NFTs. Even to this day, a lot of institutions already have bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but we have this conversation over and over and over again."
On Protocol | Enterprise: Canva's now a $40 billion company in need of revenue, but co-founder Cameron Adams said there's no money grab in store:
- "Turning a free feature into a private paid feature doesn't do customers any justice. It's definitely not part of our philosophy."
Now that civilians have been to orbit, everyone wants in, SpaceX's Benji Reed said:
- "The amount of people who are approaching us through our sales and marketing portals has actually increased significantly. There's tons of interest rolling in now."
Bitcoin dropped, so El Salvador bought 150 more, and President Nayib Bukele offered some … interesting investing advice:
- "They can never beat you if you buy the dips."
WeWork is reportedly going public. But, like, for real this time. Its SPAC deal could mean shares hit the market on Oct. 21.
Rajiv Aggarwal is the new director of public policy at Facebook India. He has experience in the Indian government and recently did a stint at Uber.
Coinbase dropped its crypto lending plan. The SEC made it pretty clear that Coinbase Lend was not going to be looked upon kindly, so the company gave it up.
Jeff Bezos pledged $1 billion to environmental conservation efforts. It'll come out of the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund.
In Other News
- Tech acquisitions are up in a big way. Tech companies have spent at least $264 billion on sub-billion acquisitions (the ones that don't have to be approved by the FTC) in 2021 alone, which is double the previous record set during the dot-com boom.
- DoorDash delivers booze now. Alcohol delivery is a fast-growing and suddenly competitive market, though there's complicated regulation to contend with.
- Want to know what Microsoft is launching tomorrow? Good news: It pretty much all leaked. Looks like we're getting new Pros, a new Duo and a whole lot of Windows.
- The SEC is investigating Activision Blizzard. It's looking into claims of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination, based on concerns that those issues may have been hidden from investors. The list of probing eyes on the company seems to grow every day.
- Did Zuck strike a deal with Trump? A new book on Peter Thiel says so — that Mark Zuckerberg promised not to fact-check political posts, and then-President Trump would go easy on regulating tech — but the timeline doesn't match, and Zuckerberg has denied it.
- Social media still dominates news consumption. But the numbers are declining a bit, according to a new Pew study: About 48% of Americans said they get news from social media at least "sometimes," down 5 percentage points from last year. And, no surprise, Facebook and YouTube are the main sources.
- On Protocol: Congress wants action on privacy. Nine senators wrote a letter to Lina Khan asking for a rule-making process that sets a national standard for data privacy and security.
- Some Instacart shoppers are protesting for better treatment. They want more (and more reliable) pay, a better rating system and improved benefits. They also expressed frustration with changes under new CEO Fidji Simo.
One More Thing
Remember when we all thought we'd be back in the office by now? Simpler times, huh. Well, the extended WFH stay has made a lot of us (including a lot of us at Protocol) reinvest in our home offices. Turns out, "epic home office YouTube" is a deep rabbit hole.
Matthew Encina is one of our favorites. He's a designer and creator who seems to spend his spare time endlessly renovating and redesigning his home office. He has great tips on improving your Zoom setup, a ludicrously well-curated bookshelf, lots of expensive but wonderful desk toys and much more. Watching him work is almost as fun as recklessly buying everything he suggests. It's for work, right? Totally a write-off.
A MESSAGE FROM ALIBABA
The future of retail is digital, experiential – and happening now in China. U.S. businesses are going digital and using Alibaba to create immersive experiences to sell to the 900 million Chinese consumers on Alibaba's ecommerce platforms.
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