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ExtraBITS for 11 January 2016

This week in ExtraBITS, Jason Snell of Six Colors has issued a report card for Apple’s 2015 efforts, based on survey results from Apple experts, including a number of TidBITS contributors. Circus Ponies has closed the stable on its NoteBook information management app, Marco Arment tries to explain why Apple still sells old MacBook Pros, and the Nielsen Norman Group weighs in on 3D Touch.

Apple’s 2015 Report Card — Jason Snell of Six Colors surveyed 24 Apple experts, including our own Adam and Tonya Engst, Rich Mogull, and Josh Centers, to get a sense of how Apple did in 2015. The grades that Apple earned were: A for the iPhone, environmental and social issues, and overall hardware quality; B+ for the iPad; B for the Apple TV and Mac; C+ for software reliability and quality; C for the Apple Watch; C-/D+ for cloud services; and D for developer relations and HomeKit. Head over to Six Colors to read the full report, including our comments.

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Circus Ponies Closes Its Doors — Circus Ponies, maker of the outline-based information management app NoteBook, has closed its doors. Despite the joke on the company’s Web site about going to “that great Alphabet company in the sky,” Circus Ponies has not been purchased by Google parent company Alphabet. You can try sending email to Circus Ponies support if you need technical support or a copy of NoteBook 4.0, but the company doesn’t guarantee a reply. As with most orphaned software, Notebook will likely continue to work fine at least until the next version of OS X, but Notebook users should start looking for a

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Marco Arment on Why Apple Still Sells Old MacBook Pros — Apple’s MacBook line has changed significantly in the past few years: screens have been upgraded to Retina resolutions, optical drives have disappeared, and upgradability has been curtailed to reduce size and weight. But there’s one notable exception: the 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro, which remains surprisingly popular. Developer Marco Arment lists some reasons why he thinks that’s the case, including the machine’s optical drive, upgradable RAM and hard disks, and low cost. Apple should be asking itself if the constant push for smaller and lighter is meeting
the needs and desires of all of today’s users — keeping old models available isn’t a long-term solution. We’d like to see Apple serve this group of users with a new MacBook that retains the design goals of the 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro while using newer technologies. It’s not like the MacBook line could get any more confusing than it already is.

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Evaluating 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s — If you have a new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, are you familiar with Apple’s new “3D Touch” gesture? It’s like Force Touch on an Apple Watch, but where Force Touch is associated with the entire screen, 3D Touch is connected with a particular interface element. And where Force Touch presents a menu for the watch screen you’re looking at, 3D Touch can provide either a quick-actions view or a peek-and-pop content preview, both of which are contextual to where you made the 3D Touch. In a post from late last year, Raluca Budiu of Nielsen Norman Group explains the benefits of 3D
Touch, and while acknowledging the significant challenges the new gesture faces, she encourages iOS developers to support the feature so we users have a chance to learn it — if too few apps support 3D Touch, we will be disappointed too many times to build the gesture into our usage patterns.

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