So, wait… what is Vector? It’s a question I’ve gotten a few times about this column specifically and about my work in general. What’s the intention behind it, the mission, the goal? What exactly am I trying to do here and how exactly am I doing it?
Totally fair question, especially in today’s day and age where the internet, social media, blogs, podcasts, and YouTube have not only given everyone a voice and a face, but has also made it much harder to distinguish signal from noise.
So, before we go forward, let’s take a quick look back.
Once upon a time, I was blogging news about Apple. That eventually evolved into breaking news. The rumors and leaks you see today is what I was doing not every day but often enough. But, you know, other people were doing it too, and after a while, I started to become less interested in what Apple was doing and a lot more interested in why they were doing it.
See, back in the day, Apple communicated even less than they do now. Like almost not at all. So, you can break the rumors and eventually watch the announcements and see how they match up, but the reasons for their actions — or often times apparent lack of action — that remained a mystery.
And mysteries, when it comes to consumer tech, inevitably create confusion, anxiety, frustration, and even distrust in the market. In other words, absent real, solid information, we often end up with the sum of our fears, doubts, and, yeah, clickbait.
Now, I love a mystery. So, instead of trying to figure out what Apple was doing, I started to try to figure out why they were doing it. In some ways, it was way less intense and less stressful, because I absolutely hate being wrong on the internet and not only can you get rumors wrong, but because you’re writing echoes from the past about products for the future, and things can and do change, you can end up retroactively wrong. And I hate that.
So, I began to shift from reporting to analysis. Not just why things were happening either but what else needed to happen. What problems remained to be solved and how Apple might go about solving them.
In some cases, the end result was indistinguishable from rumors, like figuring out what was needed for the next iPhone redesign a couple of years before iPhone X, or what frameworks or features were needed for ARKit or FaceTime before WWDC. And, who knows, maybe one day buttonless and portless devices with persistent, ambient security as well.
Because, just like I used to share news when I got it, I wanted to share understanding when I was able to suss it out as well.
Of course, sharing why Apple is doing something, by definition, means sharing Apple’s reasons, Apple’s rationales, and Apple’s point of view. And, because the internet is the internet, presenting that point of view is almost always conflated with taking on that point of view. So, the presumption becomes that, because I’m explaining Apple’s side, I’m also taking that side.
Sometimes that’s true and sometimes it’s not, because sometimes I personally agree with what Apple is doing and sometimes I don’t. But, the job I’ve set for myself is to explain what I think is going on regardless of my own personal belief. Or, perhaps more accurately, before explaining my own personal belief.
And I think that’s important. Absent accurate information you can’t make informed decisions. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you or I or anyone end up agreeing or disagreeing with what Apple is doing and why they’re doing it. The important thing is understanding it before you or I or anyone decides to agree or disagree.
And, if you or I or, anyone ends up hating something, some product, service, or decision even more because of the information and reasoning I present, like why that LCD isn’t 1080p in 2018, or why the AirPort had to die and AirPower could never really live, that’s fine. That’s great. That’s the way it should be. Because even hate has to be smart. There’s nothing worse than knee-jerk, uninformed, pure stone stump stupid hate. All hate should be educated and informed. The more the better.
That’s why, when I write scripts for this channel, almost all of which are between 2000-3000 words, I research the stuffing out of them, read and listen to and watch as much as I can on the subject from as many experts as I can, to make sure I cover the subject as thoroughly as possible. It’s why I frequently get them checked by other people in the industry who have specific expertise around the topic, especially when I don’t think their takes will be the same as mine, to make sure I’m being accurate and being fair.
That all takes time. So, I’m not often if ever first. When Apple debuted the smart battery case, and it was being judged based on milliamp size, it took me a couple of days and more than a few calls, both to get information and to fact-check it, before I figured out and could state with certainty it was really about something new: milliamp efficiency.
It’s why, when it’s something like the iPhone camera piece from a couple of weeks ago, or any of the breakdowns I’ve done, or any of the explainers, I include as many sources and references as I can, and put links to them in the description, so that anyone and everyone watching them can check them out for themselves, make sure they’re accurately presented, and use them as a starting point for their own research.
It’s why, I bring on people like John Poole from Geekbench to talk about the A9 or performance gating, Daniel Bader from Android Central to talk about Samsung or Huawei phones, analysts like Ben Bajarin and Carolina Milanesi to talk about industry trends, Nilay Patel of the Verge to talk about tech regulation, or Gui Rambo of 9to5 to talk about frameworks current and upcoming. Because the only thing better than quoting specific experts is putting them right in front of you.
Bring your own bias
Sure, like anyone and everyone, I have my own personal tastes and biases. In general, Apple currently tends to care about the same kinds of things I currently tend to care about in a product, and that’s the stuff I point out in my reviews. But I also make sure to point out things I think they need to change. Like the oft-cited MacBook keyboard, which I called on them to change even before there were reports of failures — because a lot of people simply hate the way it feels regardless and that’s just not tenable for any product that has only one manufacturer.
And, again, because I hate being wrong on the internet. I hate it. It’s what keeps me up at night. Often all night, researching and fact-checking and getting corrections, again and again. Sometimes all through the night.
It’s why I do everything possible to make sure I get the product or story right. And when I fail, because everyone screws up and fails, it’s I do everything possible to make it right.
Because I know I have all of you to hold me accountable. To call me out.
For example, re-reviewing the iPad Pro when you all told me, regardless of the software story not changing, I needed to cover that it hadn’t changed. Or when I started to think about the potential benefits of iMessage beyond Apple’s own platform, something I’d heavily discounted in the past.
Even though I took a lot of your feedback on my iPhone XS — 7 months later review, especially around which phones you actually had and how long you planned on keeping them, and what constituted real value to you, I plain missed out on addressing the modem issues because I live and travel in places that are soaked in signal so it wasn’t top of mind. And that was totally my bad.
And that’s what this column, podcast, and video series — Vector, is about, what I’m about: Explaining what’s going on with Apple and related technology companies, and why, as accurately as possible, all the time, every time. But to do it as part of a larger conversation with you, to listen and learn from your feedback, to get better and to make the videos on this channel better, hopefully, every time.