Rumor mill fail: Apple delivers legit surprises at iPhone 11 event

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Tim Cook delivers the goods at Apple's iPhone 11 event.
Tim Cook delivers the goods at Apple's iPhone 11 event.
Photo: Apple

In an age when almost every detail of an Apple keynote leaks ahead of time, Tim Cook managed to pull some genuine surprises from the hat Tuesday. Taking the stage at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple HQ, Cook and Co. announced at least three big things we weren’t expecting at all.

This in itself is a surprise. Even though Cook pledged that Apple is “doubling down” on secrecy, most of the big details about new Apple products typically trickle out ahead of time. Most of the main features of the 2019 iPhones already leaked. Every Apple blog and YouTube channel under the sun has been playing with detailed iPhone mockups and models for weeks.

Still, Cook’s surprise trifecta did not consist of insignificant things. All three were fairly big and meaty announcements — and there wasn’t a peep about them ahead of time. Here’s what took us by surprise during the “By Innovation Only” event.

Why Apple will miss Jony Ive’s fabulous ‘fiddle factor’

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Apple will miss Jony Ive's tactile approach to technology.
Apple will miss Jony Ive's tactile approach to technology.
Photo: Mariah Dietzler/Flickr CC

As a design student back in the 1980s, a teenage Jony Ive spent a semester with a design agency in London, the Roberts Weaver Group. One of his first projects was designing a new pen for Japan’s Zebra Co. Ltd., a pen-maker based in Tokyo.

Ive’s TX2 pen was made of white plastic — the beginning of a life-long obsession with the color — and had a pair of rubbery side panels for a better grip. But what set the pen apart from every other was a nonessential feature — a ball-and-clip mechanism on the top that served no purpose other than to give the owner something to fiddle with.

Ive noticed that people fiddled with their pens all the time. So he decided to give his pen something he called the “fiddle factor.” This crucial insight ultimately became an essential element of Apple design as Ive rose to become Cupertino’s chief design officer.

How new Mac Pro borrows from Apple’s best designs

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Mac Pro cheese grater
Trump calls for homemade components instead.
Photo: Apple

WWDC 2019 bug It’s obvious that the new Mac Pro, unveiled this week during Apple’s WWDC keynote, is a reboot of the venerable Power Mac G5, a machine released in 2003 that featured a distinctive “cheese grater” grille.

Aside from looks, there are many similarities to the G5, plus a couple of ideas from other older Apple machines. Here are some of the clearest design influences on the new Mac Pro.

Apple guns for Facebook with new ‘Sign in with Apple’ privacy feature [Update]

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Sign in with Apple
"Sign in with Apple" is a new privacy feature in iOS 13.
Photo: Alfred Ng

WWDC 2019 bug Update: Apple says “Sign in with Apple” will be mandatory for third-party apps that require sign-ins, according to these new App Store guidelines. That means apps that currently use Facebook or Google to sign in will also have to support “Sign in with Apple.”

“It will be required as an option for users in apps that support third-party sign-in when it is commercially available later this year,” the new guidelines say.

Apple is targeting Facebook with a new privacy feature in iOS 13 that privately logs users into third-party apps and services.

Called “Sign in with Apple,” it aims to replace popular cross-web login services like ones offered by Facebook and Google.

The new privacy feature prevents third-party apps and web services from tracking users via their logins. It creates private, disposable logins for every service or app.

Charge all your Apple devices with Zens Dual+Watch, now in white

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Zens Dual + Watch wireless charging mat in white.
Zens Dual + Watch wireless charging mat in white.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Zens’ popular Dual+Watch wireless charging pad is the one-stop charging system for all your Apple gadgets. It can charge three devices simultaneously, including your Apple Watch, iPhone and the new wireless AirPods.

The Dual+Watch mat is perfect for the bedside table or desk at work, and it now comes in white to match your AirPods.

Your iPhone could be ‘unbreakable,’ if it were just 1 mm thicker

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Corning's Silicon Valley research center
Corning's Silicon Valley research center.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Update: Corning sent an email to clarify some of the claims made in this post, which I’ve included in the body of the post and at the bottom.

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Even though the latest iPhones are made from glass front and back, they would be “nearly unbreakable” if just a bit thicker.

That was the message from glass manufacturer Corning during an open house at its Silicon Valley research center Tuesday.

“If the glass on the latest smartphones was just a little bit thicker, it would be nearly unbreakable,” said Dave Young, a Corning marketing communications specialist, at the event.

Apple’s wearables is now the size of a Fortune 200 company

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Apple Watch arm wrestling
Apple's Apple Watch business grew 50% last quarter.
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

Apple’s wearables business continues to grow like gangbusters.

Sales of the Apple Watch grew 50% compared to the same quarter last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Apple’s Q2 2019 quarterly analyst call Tuesday.

If Apple’s wearables business — which includes the Apple Watch and the popular AirPods earbuds — were a stand-alone company, it would be in the Fortune 200, Cook said.

Apple and Foxconn, a history [Cook book outtakes]

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Foxconn workers spell company's name
Workers spell out the company's name at one of Foxconn's giant plants.
Photo: Foxconn

Tim Cook book outtakes: How Apple's Operations department works This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length or continuity. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on geeky details of Apple’s manufacturing operations.

Foxconn was founded around the same time as Apple, although 6,000 miles away on the other side of the world. In 1974, when 19-year-old Steve Jobs was working at Atari, 24-year-old Terry Gou borrowed $7,500 ($37,000 in today’s money) from his mother to start up a business.

How Ops operates back at Apple HQ [Cook book outtakes]

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Blind survey
Operations accounts for a big part of the staff headcount at Apple Park.
Photo: Duncan Sinfield

Tim Cook book outtakes: How Apple's Operations department works This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length or continuity. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on geeky details of Apple’s manufacturing operations.

As iPhone growth exploded, Apple struggled to keep up with demand. Every year, the number of iPhones sold would double, which meant that Apple kept adding new suppliers and assembly operations to keep up. It was a monumental struggle.

Inside Apple’s factories [Cook book outtakes]

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Apple factory workers in China
Workers examine a camera module in one of Apple's factories in China.
Photo: Apple

Tim Cook book outtakes: How Apple's Operations department works This post was going to be part of my new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, but was cut for length or continuity. Over the next week or so, we will be publishing several more sections that were cut, focusing mostly on geeky details of Apple’s manufacturing operations.

A good measure of the size of Apple’s manufacturing operations is its capital expenditure, the amount of money spends on things like buildings and equipment.

Apple’s capital expenditure, or CapEx, is mindboggling. To get an idea of how big it is, take Apple’s new spaceship campus in Cupertino – which is the fourth most expensive building in the world. It cost the company an estimated $5 billion to construct.

Apple spends a similar amount every six months on manufacturing equipment.