Tag: Apple

Uber Apple Watch app discontinued

From MacRumors last month:

Uber appears to have silently ended support for its Apple Watch app last month, and multiple Uber users have noticed that they are no longer able to hail a ride from their wrists.

The Uber Apple Watch app has been available since the Apple Watch app launched in 2015, but it always had more limited functionality than the iPhone app. It did not support uberPOOL, fare splitting, ETA sharing, or contacting an Uber driver, which could be why it’s now been discontinued.

Part of the promise of having an LTE-enabled Apple Watch is being able to leave home without your phone. There’s something that feels “lighter” about not having a social media machine in your pocket. With AirPods and an LTE Apple Watch, you can get text messages and phone calls, pay for things anywhere Apple Pay is accepted, and even scan the boarding pass for a flight or the ticket for a movie.

For many city dwellers, the Uber Apple Watch app would be an integral part of this phone-less experience.

The one and only time I did try to use it, I was puzzled that it didn’t ask me for a destination when hailing a car. My driver was even more puzzled not to see a destination in my ride details; I imagine that’s probably impossible when using the phone app. I had brought my phone with me in case something like this happened, so I had to boot it up and enter my destination in the Uber iOS app.

A year or more ago I noticed that the Uber watchface complication stopped working; later, that the app would only show one or two types of cars (Uber XL and Uber Pet, I wanna say?); until finally I saw the message shown at the article linked above: “Please switch to the Uber mobile app We [sic] no longer supporting [sic] the Apple Watch app. Sorry for the inconvenience 😢”

It’s a shame that this sometimes critical app can’t be used independently from your phone, nearly 8 years since the Apple Watch was introduced. (Lyft dropped support for their Apple Watch app in 2018.)


Incidentally, another thing I noticed about going out without a phone when dining at a restaurant during the pre-Delta COVID lull in the summer of 2021: You can’t scan a QR Code menu with just a watch.

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WSJ perpetuating “green bubble” myths

A few points regarding the Wall Street Journal’s recent piece about the social stigma that comes from texting on non-Apple devices:

From the beginning, Apple got creative in its protection of iMessage’s exclusivity. It didn’t ban the exchange of traditional text messages with Android users but instead branded those messages with a different color; when an Android user is part of a group chat, the iPhone users see green bubbles rather than blue.

It’s commonly misremembered that green bubbles were invented for Android and other non-iMessage users, green being chosen explicitly to evoke the color of the Android logo. (It’s also misremembered that it’s the incoming message bubbles that are green, thus branding the sender as an Android user.) But SMS messaging on iPhone used green bubbles for outgoing messages from day one.

Here is the very first moment anybody outside of Apple saw what SMS messaging looked like on the iPhone in 2007:

Green bubbles!

Apple didn’t brand SMS messages with a different color; it branded iMessages with a different color when iMessage was launched four years later, in 2011.

It also withheld certain features. There is no dot-dot-dot icon to demonstrate that a non-iPhone user is typing, for example, and an iMessage heart or thumbs-up annotation has long conveyed to Android users as text instead of images.

The typing indicator and “tapbacks” aren’t withheld from standard SMS conversations; they’re not possible with standard SMS conversations.

I’m not saying Apple isn’t motivated to keep iMessage exclusive to their OSes; this passage in particular is pretty damning:

“In the absence of a strategy to become the primary messaging service for [the] bulk of cell phone users, I am concerned the iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s chief software executive, said in a 2013 email. Three years later, then-marketing chief Phil Schiller made a similar case to Chief Executive Tim Cook in another email: “Moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us,” he said. Another warning that year came from a former Apple executive who told his old colleagues in an email that “iMessage amounts to serious lock-in.”

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Even Mark Gurman doesn’t actually think the Apple TV is “pointless”

The click-baitiness of Mark Gurman’s much-linked piece today — titled alternately “Apple’s TV Box Is Now Mostly Pointless” and “Why Should I Buy an Apple TV Instead of Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast?” — is quickly given away when he writes: “In recent years, the Apple TV has become a less obvious purchase for many Apple fans and content junkies.”

Is it “a less obvious purchase” or “pointless”? Or is it indeed “useful,” as per this later line:

“Integration with HomeKit, Fitness+, AirPods and the iOS remote app is useful.”


But for the sake of argument, I’ll assume he really does believe the Apple TV is “pointless,” and I’ll boil down his argument into what I see as his three main points, paraphrased by me.

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It’s never too late for SharePlay

Twice now I’ve seen the sentiment that SharePlay might not make much sense in the near future, since COVID Is Over™.

Federico Viticci on MacStories:

SharePlay is neat but can feel already dated now that more countries are rolling out vaccinations and returning to a semi-regular social life.

Victoria Song on Gizmodo:

Listen, this would’ve been great at the height of the pandemic, but it’s still useful to watch videos and listen to music with your buds on a FaceTime call.

As though now that pandemic restrictions are lifting, everybody’s going to come over and watch movies with me? I don’t know about you but my friends have kids and lives and aren’t going to schlep across town on a Tuesday night just to watch a movie with me, much less a single episode of a TV show — let alone several friends! (Is this a brutal self-own? Do people really just have hoards of friends swinging by all the time?)

And doesn’t anybody have friends in, like, other cities?

I use Plex regularly to watch things with friends remotely, and it’s a flawed experience. Hulu and others started rolling their own “watch together” solutions that frequently required watching from a browser and other hassles. That SharePlay will be a system-wide API that streaming services can tap into is huge, pandemic or not.

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“Spatial Audio” and “Dynamic Head Tracking” are two separate things

Ever since Apple brought “Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking” (emphasis mine) to the AirPods Pro, there has been a lot of conflation between these two distinct features. Recently two Apple experts talked about this with regard to Apple TV. It’s often assumed that Spatial Audio is not possible on Apple TV, because the Apple TV doesn’t have a U1 chip, but this is due to a misunderstanding of what Spatial Audio is.

Spatial Audio mimics having the multiple speakers of a surround sound system by running a 5.1, 7.1, or Atmos audio source through some algorithms to create a binaural audio effect. This is similar to using ear-shaped microphones to capture sound so that when played back on standard headphones, the audio sounds like it’s coming from different directions. Also known as “holophonic sound,” Disney did this at Epcot with an attraction called “Soundsations”:

This is separate from Dynamic Head Tracking, which is what most people seem to think Spatial Audio is. Dynamic Head Tracking is what makes it sound like the audio is coming from the device that is playing the video, even as you turn your head.

Just as it would be possible to have Dynamic Head Tracking without Spatial Audio — basically a flat stereo sound that remained “stationary” while you moved your head — it would be possible to have Spatial Audio without Dynamic Head Tracking.

In fact, for accessibility reasons, you can turn off Dynamic Head Tracking while leaving Spatial Audio on:

By default, spatial audio makes it sound like the audio is coming from your iPhone, even when your head moves. You can change this behavior so that the audio sounds like it’s following your head movement.

What this means is that there seems to be no technological reason that existing Apple TVs couldn’t do Spatial Audio, or that if there is, it’s because they’re not powerful enough to process the surround sound data through the necessary algorithms, which seems unlikely.

Honestly, I don’t know why Apple TV doesn’t support Spatial Audio, but it’s not the lack of a U1 chip.

And as long as I’m talking about Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking, I’m a bit surprised that things like Apple Fitness+ and Apple Arcade don’t feature them.

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Apple’s celebrity worship mangles their “Time to Walk” Fitness+ feature

The Apple Watch can be a great motivator for fitness. Closing rings and the hourly stand reminders can be just enough to nudge you into getting off of your ass once in a while, and that’s great. Since watchOS 4, there’s even been an end-of-day reminder to close your rings if you haven’t already:

If needed, toward the end of the day, they’ll be told exactly how long they should walk to close their Activity Rings before the day is over.

This notification will say something like, “You’re so close to closing your Move ring. A brisk, 11-minute walk should do it.” (Often, to many people’s chagrin, this will happen at 10:45 PM while it’s raining outside.)

What’s nice about this is that walking doesn’t seem as miserable as maintaining a 160 BPM heart rate while a Peloton trainer screams at you. It’s inviting! Why not take a walk around the block? The habit of daily walking is probably easier and more beneficial for most people than doing 20 minutes on a treadmill once a month.

I was excited when the reports of Apple Watch’s upcoming “Time to Walk” Fitness+ feature started circulating, and that they’d feature audio content. Cool! I need an excuse to listen to more podcasts anyway.

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