Kahney’s Korner

Ex-Apple engineer tells how the company’s manufacturing works

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Instrumental founder and CEO Anna Katrina Shedletsky
Instrumental founder and CEO Anna Katrina Shedletsky, who is using her experience as an Apple product design engineer to bring AI to manufacturing.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Almost all electronic products are still assembled by hand, even hundreds of millions of iPhones.

But that’s changing. Apple’s supply chain is rapidly automating using AI and robots.

At the forefront of this is an ex-Apple product design engineer, Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, who is using her expertise to help other manufacturers build their products.

On this episode of the Apple Chat podcast, we talk to Shedletsky about her new AI startup, Instrumental; Apple’s giant manufacturing operation; the role of product design; and much more.

If you’re curious how Apple makes its products, listen to the podcast or check out the full transcript below.

Former Apple product design engineer reveals how Apple runs its factories

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Instrumental CEO Anna-Katrina Shedletsky
Anna Katrina Shedletsky is a former Apple product design engineer who is using her experience to build AI that helps companies streamline manufacturing.
Photo: Instrumental

On this week’s Apple Chat (the podcast formerly known as Kahney’s Korner): I talk with former Apple product design engineer Anna-Katrina Shedletsky about her take on modern manufacturing and how AI will revolutionize factories. She introduces us to her new company, Instrumental, which is using machine learning to help manufacturers identify and fix problems on their assembly lines.

Using her hard-earned experience at Apple overseeing the production of the first Apple Watch and several generations of the iPod, Shedletsky says machine learning is coming fast to manufacturing. Amazingly, almost all consumer electronics products are still assembled by hand — including hundreds of millions of iPhones.

But that’s changing. Manufacturing is undergoing a huge sea change with the advance of robotics and AI.

The job of a designer is to be a psychologist [Podcast interview]

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Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Photo: Oliver Seil/Belkin

In the last decade or so, lots of companies have gotten design religion. Design has been brought in-house, where it can shape products from the very get-go. There’s an obvious source for this idea — Apple.

This week on the Kahney’s Korner podcast, I talked to Oliver Seil, senior design director of Belkin International’s Innovation Design Group. We discussed Belkin’s products and design process; the surprising complexity of USB cables (and why they cost so much); and why Apple has had such an enormous influence on design and manufacturing.

You can listen to the podcast or read a full transcript of the interview below. (Or dive into the show notes.)

How the tech industry outsources pollution to China [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Death by Design documentary
The hard-hitting Death by Design documentary is a sobering look at the environmental legacy of the tech industry.
Photo: Death by Design

The tech industry appears to be nice and clean, but it has a long and toxic history of environmental damage. Silicon Valley is home to the most Superfund cleanup sites in the country.

A new film, Death by Design, takes a sobering look at the electronics industry and its toxic environmental legacy — both in the United States and in China. The film offers a behind-the-scenes look at the cost of the devices we consume in some measure of ignorance.

Apple features heavily in the film, though it’s not the only tech company implicated.

This week on Kahney’s Korner, I talk to the documentary’s director, Sue Wiliams, about Apple, pollution and Silicon Valley.

How industrial design is changing the tech industry [Kahney’s Korner Podcast]

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Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Photo: Oliver Seil/Belkin

For many ugly years, manufacturers considered industrial design an afterthought. They would outsource the task to a contractor or neglect it altogether, in an effort to get products out quickly and cheaply.

The result: hideous-looking products that didn’t work well or proved difficult to use.

Nowadays, companies like Apple are changing the game when it comes to incorporating industrial design and user experience into product engineering.

On this episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk with Oliver Seil, senior design director with Belkin International’s Innovation and Design Group. Seil is Belkin’s Jony Ive, the top designer who overseas the company’s diverse array of products.

Belkin specializes in mobile accessories, from power packs and iPhone cases to WeMo home automation products

How this money man helped Steve Jobs turn Pixar into a powerhouse [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Lawrence Levy former Pixar CFO
Lawrence Levy, Pixar's former CFO and author of To Pixar and Beyond.
Photo: Lawrence Levy

In the early ’90s, Pixar was in the middle of creating its first movie, Toy Story, but the company was in disarray. It was bleeding cash and floundering around looking for a business model.

To help turn it around, Steve Jobs hired Lawrence Levy, a former corporate lawyer, to help figure out how to make Pixar a real business.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk to Levy about how exactly he and Jobs made Pixar into one of the most successful movie studios in history.

Apple vet creates iPhone sex toys that would cause a buzz in Cupertino [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Suki Dunham OhMiBod
Working at Apple helped sex toy entrepreneur Suki Dunham launch a line of iPhone-connected vibrators.
Photo: Suki Dunham/OhMiBod

It’s true: music can put you in the mood for love. A Spotify survey found that music is more arousing than touch. That’s why OhMiBod’s iPhone-connected sex toys make sense; they enhance the mood as well as buzzing in time to the beat.

“Our massagers offer an unrivaled sensory experience that allows singles and couples to not only hear their favorite music, but feel it as well,” says the firm’s website.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk to Suki Dunham, cofounder of OhMiBod, a female-owned and operated company that makes a line of iPhone and iPad controlled female pleasure products.

Suki used to work at Apple, where she learned a lot about product design, packaging and marketing, which she applies to her business selling high-tech vibrators.

How iFixit made its incredible iPhone 7 teardown [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Kyle Wiens, CEO iFixit
Thanks mostly to Kyle Wiens of iFixit, iPhone teardowns have become a tech culture phenomenon.
Photo: iFixit

iFixit’s iPhone 7 teardown involved 30 people in three countries, an X-ray machine and lots of sleepless nights. Thanks to iFixit’s hard work, iPhone teardowns have become a tech-culture phenomenon. Millions of fans eagerly await details of the internal components of Apple’s latest devices.

A lot of this has to do with Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, the second-biggest supplier of Apple parts after Apple itself, and publisher of the huge and amazing iFixit repair wiki.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk with Wiens about all the work that goes into making the iFixit teardowns for a massive global audience, and the hardware secrets of the iPhone 7.

The future of Siri [Kahney’s Korner]

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Kahney’s Korner podcast with ArcTouch
ArcTouch devs Adam Fingerman and Paulo Michels give us a peek into the future of Siri.
Image: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has opened up Siri to third-party developers, which means we’ll soon be able to do a bunch of things — like ordering pizza or sending money — simply by speaking to Apple’s intelligent assistant.

It’s a big change, and another step toward a friction-free future in which we will talk to our devices instead of poking at them with our fingers.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk with Adam Fingerman and Paulo Michels of ArcTouch, a mobile development company that works with big media companies like ABC, NBC and CBS. As they’ve explored the Siri API, they’ve gained insight into what we can expect when iOS 10 and macOS Sierra get released to the public this fall.

How the Apple Car will make you money, and more fun about robot vehicles [Kahney’s Korner]

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Kahney's Korner podcast with robocar expert Paul Godsmark
Autonomous cars are going to change the world like nothing we've seen before. A fascinating interview with robocar expert Paul Godsmark.
Photo: Paul Godsmark/Stephen Smith

The old adage is that new cars depreciate the minute you buy them. However, the rumored Apple car might be the first vehicle to actually make you money after you drive it off the lot.

If Apple’s car is autonomous, it’ll earn its keep delivering people or goods when you’re not using it. So says Paul Godsmark, a robocar consultant and one of the leading experts on the upcoming autonomous vehicle revolution.

In this fascinating interview, Godsmark talks about the enormous changes that are coming up fast with self-driving vehicles, including Project Titan, the rumored Apple Car.

Buckle up! Everything is about to change dramatically — from the way we travel to the way we work.

Apple’s new file system, Kahney’s Korner, iPhone photographers and more

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Cover

Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

In this week’s packed-to-the-gills Cult of Mac Magazine, we give you the rundown on Apple’s new file system (APFS) — which has remained unchanged for 30 years. Discover all the reasons why switching to the new APFS makes sense for you!

Listen in to Kahney’s Korner podcast where our guest, Gumdrop Cases CEO Tim Hickman, talks about the race to be first to market with new iPhone cases, and the killing companies can make in the days following an Apple launch.

Learn about the growing number of professional photographers and filmmakers who are foregoing traditional equipment to embrace the iPhone for their creative pursuits.

All this, and much much more, in Cult of Mac Magazine, free for you right now.

Here are this week’s top stories.

Case maker talks secret iPhone CAD files, Chinese intrigue [Podcast interview]

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Veteran case maker Tim Hickman talks about iPhone 7 leaks out of China.
Veteran case maker Tim Hickman talks about iPhone 7 leaks out of China.
Photo illustration: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The market for iPhone cases is worth billions of dollars. The first manufacturer with a case that fits a new device — say, the iPhone 7 — can make a killing in the days following an Apple launch.

For this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talked with industry veteran Tim Hickman, CEO of Gumdrop Cases. Over the years, he’s tried all kinds of tricks and strategies in the race to be first to market with new iPhone cases — including making thousands of cases that turned out to be wrong.

This time around, Hickman has received several CAD files from mysterious sources in China that supposedly show the exact dimensions of the upcoming iPhone 7. Will he bet his company’s fortunes on these files of dubious origin? Let’s find out.

Ex-Apple ad man Ken Segall talks Apple and simplicity [Podcast interview]

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Author Ken Segall worked in advertising with Steve Jobs for more than a dozen years. His new book is called Think Simple.
Author Ken Segall worked in advertising with Steve Jobs for more than a dozen years. His new book is called Think Simple.
Photo: Doug Schneider Photography

Ken Segall is a former Apple ad man who worked closely with Steve Jobs for more than a dozen years. Segall is the guy who put the “i” in iMac and worked on the famous “Think Different” campaign.

The big lesson he learned from Steve Jobs was keeping things simple. But easier said than done. How exactly do you keep things simple?

Segall went out and found 40 business folks who keep things straightforward. His new book based on those interviews is called Think Simple:How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity.

In a new podcast, Kahney’s Korner, Segall talks about some of those lessons, how Steve Jobs kept things uncomplicated and about how Apple is doing these days without him.

This episode of Kahney’s Korner is supported by TunnelBear, an award-winning service that gives you fast and private access to the internet.

This post contains affiliate links. Cult of Mac may earn a commission when you use our links to buy items.

Tiny preamp will solve your biggest audio problems

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beachtek dxa-slr ultra
Filming Leander for his Kahney's Korner videos is always a challenge, but thanks to the DXA SLR Ultra, now there's no need for a hissy fit.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Best List: Beachtek DXA-SLR Ultra preamplifier

Hssssssssss.

Hssssssssss.

I told one of my favorite photographers, Mike Kepka, that I was trying to shoot a little video, but that my audio sounded horrid. He happens to be pretty decent videographer. And a little bit of a gearhead (at least in comparison to me).

“Get a Beachtek,” said Mike.

“What is the hell is that?” I said. “And do you have one?”

Kahney’s Korner: iPhone 6s unboxing special

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Check out our unboxing of Apple's new iPhone 6s Plus below.
Check out our unboxing of Apple's new iPhone 6s Plus below.
Photo: Cult of Mac

It takes years to understand the appeal of the unboxing video. On the face of it, they’re very silly. And yet unboxing is one of digital video’s most popular and enduring genres.

Who wants to see someone else opening the box of a brand new gadget? Wouldn’t you want to do it yourself?

And therein lies their appeal — the vicarious pleasure of seeing a stranger enjoy a gadget you covet.

With that, here’s our contribution to the genre: Cult of Mac’s first unboxing video. Watch in enraptured fascination as we take the iPhone 6s Plus from its box.

Kahney’s Korner: Treat yourself to an iPhone-free vacation

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Kahney's Korner iPhone vacation
If you want to take a real vacation, turn off your iPhone.
Photo: Cult of Mac

My family and I just got back from a too-short vacation in Italy, and we learned something important while we were there: Real vacations don’t have e-mail.

See, my wife was worried about us racking up unspeakably high bills while we were abroad, so we ended up almost completely disabling our iPhones for the entire trip. How we fared without them is the subject of this week’s Kahney’s Korner.

Kahney’s Korner: Presenting the Cult of Mac Magazine app

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Cult of Mac is proud of its new magazine app on iTunes.
Cult of Mac is proud of its new magazine app on iTunes.
Photo: Cult of Mac/YouTube

I am super-psyched to introduce you to a new app coming soon to iOS: the Cult of Mac Magazine app.

The new version of our magazine app will be published every Saturday. I think it’s a really great way to read all the stuff we publish here during the week.

Kahney’s Korner: Apple’s 5 most important products of all time

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Leander Kahney counts down Apple's greatest hits.
Leander Kahney counts down Apple's greatest hits.
Photo: Cult of Mac

What vaulted Apple from its humble Silicon Valley origins to the absolute top of the business world? From its first desktop computer in 1976 to today’s category-crushing Apple Watch, the company is intensely focused on creating technology that will delight the masses.

That vision is best exemplified by Apple’s five most important products, which I’ve rounded up in this week’s edition of Kahney’s Korner. Some made the list for reasons that might surprise you.

Kahney’s Korner: The Apple II deserves its own festival

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There's a festival that celebrates the Apple II. Mind blown.
There's a festival that celebrates the Apple II. Mind blown.
Photo: Cult of Mac/YouTube

It’s festival season and there’s a festival for everything – even one for Apple II users.

It’s called KansasFest and it has been going since 1989. It’s one of the longest-running computer festivals out there and the amazing thing is the Apple II was discontinued in 1992.

The endurance of this machine is the subject of this week’s Kahney’s Korner.

Kahney’s Korner: Apple could learn from the Amazon Echo

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Leander Kaheny likes his Amazon Echo and wonders what if Apple created such a device.
Leander Kaheny likes his Amazon Echo and wonders what if Apple created such a device.
Photo: Cult of Mac

I’ve had the Amazon Echo sitting on my desk for the last couple of months and it’s an odd device – and I actually think it’s pretty great.

It’s a voice-controlled, speaker-cum-shopping tube that can go in your kitchen, living room or bedroom. You use it for simple queries like, “How’s the weather?” or “How is my commute? or “What is Barack Obama’s middle name?”

Listen to me interact with this device on this week’s edition of Kahney’s Korner.

Kahney’s Korner: Lessons from having my MacBook stolen

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Leander Kahney had a scare when a backpack full of computing power was stolen.
Leander Kahney had a scare when a backpack full of computing power was stolen.
Photo: Cult of Mac

I want to spare you some of the pain that recently greeted me after a night out with friends. I returned to my car to find the rear window smashed out and my backpack gone. It contained my brand new MacBook and iPad.

The worry, of course, was whether my backpack was in the hands of tech-savvy crooks, so I prepared for the worst.

What I learned over a long weekend about my own approach to security is the subject of this week’s Kahney’s Korner.

Kahney’s Korner: Something’s missing from new MacBook – magnetic attraction

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Leander Kahney likes Apple's use of magnets. So what happened with the new MacBook?
Leander Kahney likes Apple's use of magnets. So what happened with the new MacBook?
Photo: Cult of Mac

Leander is having a bit of a moment. One of his favorite features of Apple product design is missing on his shiny new MacBook.

Jony Ive, what have you done with the magnet?

You can commiserate with our Editor and Publisher over the loss of the magnet that secured the cable to the charging port in the latest Kahney’s Korner video.

Kahney’s Korner: Why I can’t wait for Beats 1 radio

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Kahney's Korner Beats 1
Find out why Leander hopes Beats 1 is as cool as BBC Radio 1 in this week's Kahney's Corner.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Why is Leander super-excited about Apple’s new Beats 1 radio service?

It’s simple, really: For him, listening to BBC Radio 1 was possibly the greatest thing about growing up in England in the ’70s. More importantly, it’s still how he discovers loads of new music today — and Apple’s 24/7 live internet radio station promises that same kind of magic.

Get the lowdown in the latest Kahney’s Korner video.

Kahney’s Korner: Why Jony Ive’s promotion is fantastic news for Apple

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Far from an exit strategy, Jony Ive's promotion means more great design for Apple.
Far from an exit strategy, Jony Ive's promotion means more great design for Apple.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Can’t Apple’s design guru catch a break? After Jony Ive received a well-deserved promotion to become Apple’s chief design officer, some pundits misinterpreted the happy news as a bad omen.

Our own Leander Kahney reads the tea leaves completely differently: Ive’s promotion is nothing but good news for Apple.

Kahney’s Korner: Addicted to ASMR

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Leander's got a new addiction: ASMR videos.
Leander's got a new addiction that might be even stronger than the Apple Watch.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

You know something’s up at Cult of Mac headquarters when you see Leander sitting with his fingers steepled, exuding an air of complete calm.

It’s like a zen garden around here ever since I told him about ASMR videos, the strangely addictive YouTube phenomenon that turns quiet sounds into something like an aural orgasm.

Now he can’t get enough of the weirdly creepy clips — and I feel a little like a guy who inadvertently turned his friend on to crack.