What’s Not in the Box

2nd July 2020

If you’re interested in Apple, or you simply follow tech news, then you’ll probably be aware of the rumour that Apple may not include a power adapter and EarPods in the box with the 2020 iPhone models. If you’re somehow in the weird intersection of not following iPhone news, but do read this my blog, then I’d recommend Sam Byford’s piece on The Verge as a brief introduction.

I’ll prefix everything in this post with the fact that this is just a rumour. So while it’s getting a lot of attention, it’s not official. Therefore every reaction to this is purely based on a hypothetical situation.

My opinions on this rumour are predominantly based around the potential lack of power adapter in the box. Not specifically because I don’t care about EarPods. I mean, I don’t care about EarPods. But that’s not the reason I see them as two separate scenarios to be discussed. The obvious distinction is that you need to be able to charge the iPhone to be able to use it, and EarPods are an optional accessory.

I haven’t used EarPods since I got a copy of the very first AirPods. In fact, the pair of EarPods that I got in my most recent iPhone two years ago, the EarPods went straight to my girlfriend. Who incidentally is starting to think about making the switch to AirPods as well. So while my sentiment is more than likely clouded my by own bias, I don’t think not including EarPods with every iPhone is a big deal. Simply because they are not required for typical use, and I bet a lot of people don’t use them at all. And that could also be for a few reasons, maybe they don’t need EarPods because they have a third-party option already, or maybe they already have a pair from their last iPhone, or maybe they just don’t use earphones at all. Nevertheless, I would assume that the people that really want to get a new pair of EarPods when they get a new phone, would most likely be willing to purchase them separately. Or that the amount that would mind, wouldn’t be a large enough of a percentage to matter.

The power adapter, however, is a completely different story. Because without one, you wouldn’t be able to use your phone after the battery ran out. Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it? Imagine paying a huge amount for a phone, only to find out that you need to buy a power adapter separately. That’s going to get you some bad press. And surely a lot of confused and angry customers. It certainly sounds like a case of Apple being greedy.

However, that reaction would most likely only be the case if Apple didn’t include a power adapter in the box, but offered no reason why, and let customers pay extra for it. And like most situations, there would probably be a lot more nuance that can’t be captured by a headline.

Because let’s face it, most people that buy the iPhone probably don’t need another power adapter. And in a lot of cases, it will be left in the box, which obviously means unnecessary waste. In Dieter Bohn’s piece on The Verge about the situation, he quotes an interview in 2018 between Nilay Patel and Steven Yang, the CEO of Anker, where Yang estimated the level of waste from smartphones that include a charger in the box:

[Say] every smartphone has a charger with it. We had 1.5 billion smartphones that shipped last year. … That’s only for phones. When we have tablets, laptops, power drills, [and more], we estimate a total of four billion chargers (were shipped last year). We estimate about 300,000 tons of e-waste just from these in-box chargers.

So there’s the environmental angle that Apple could push, which to be honest is something that Apple likes to do. But I still think that if they simply said “Most people don’t use the power adapter that we include in the box, so to reduce waste we’re not giving you one”, then they will still get a ton of bad reviews. And for a CEO that loves his “customer sat”, I’m not sure if he would do that. Or at least, I don’t think he would do something as simple as explaining it was better for the environment and leave it like that.

I think the general angle will be on reducing waste, but in my opinion, there are a few different potential benefits:

  • Obviously, the lack of EarPods and power adapters means less waste for people that wouldn’t use them.
  • If the box contains just the iPhone (and all the paperwork), then the box can be really small. That’s a good win for waste reduction, but it also benefits the logistics side of things as more boxes will be able to fit in a smaller area.
  • This may or may not be passed down to the customer, but the costs would be reduced. Meaning higher margins, or lower prices.
  • This is just a thought, but maybe by not including a pair of EarPods in the box, if they do decide they want a pair of earphones/headphones, they may decide to buy something more upmarket. Maybe a pair of AirPods, or even a pair of Beats. The same could also apply to power adapters.

There’s also one more thing that probably isn’t a real benefit to anyone, but I think it makes things simpler. Well, maybe more so for the EarPods. Because if you buy an iPad or Mac, you don’t get a pair of EarPods. I’m not sure if that thought process works regarding the power adapter but is certainly takes the product to it’s most essential form (Apart from going as far as removing the need for a power adapter, but I’ll get to that later).

Alongside the potential benefits, there are also potential drawbacks:

  • First-time buyers will need to purchase a separate power adapter.
  • Even current iPhone owners that are buying a new iPhone may need a new power adapter or EarPods, so they are in the same situation as first-time buyers.
  • Damage to Apple’s reputation. They’re already thought to be a greedy company by some, and the products are expensive. So this will only make that worse.
  • If people have to purchase a separate power adapter and earphones, then that purchase might not be made through Apple. Meaning they lose out on potential revenue.

I’m sure there are more pros and cons to the potential situation, but that’s what’s in my mind. And to be honest, my first reaction to it was a negative one. It seemed like such a fundamentally stupid idea that you could buy a smartphone, and have it not come with a power adapter in the box. Because at the face of it, it’s absolutely a dumb thing to do.

Having said that, I then read other articles about it, including M.G. Siegler’s, and also watched MKBHD’s video, and my mind started to change. I decided to step back and truly take a look at how Apple could deal with the situation, and I’m starting to think that’s there’s a potential to do it well. So I’ve come up with a few things that I think Apple could do to make the best out of it, some of them better than others. They won’t be able to do them all, but maybe just one of them, or even a mix would be beneficial.

Reduce the cost. Simply subtract the retail price of the EarPods and a suitable power adapter away from the cost of an iPhone, and have them available as optional extras on the product page. This one would be difficult to see on its own though, seeing as by subtracting the retail price would be reducing the margins of the iPhone. So it would have to be part of a bigger story about reducing the cost of an iPhone or adjusted slightly to make it possible.

Offer a discount for a power adapter or earphones/headphones. Probably the most obvious idea. But, essentially if Apple wants to sell the iPhone as a device-only package, by offering a discount on EarPods or the power adapter that would have typically come in the box, then at least customers have a less annoying solution if they really wanted one of those. Then the message becomes a bit more friendly, and not as if the decision is purely about trying to make customers pay full price for every accessory.

Don’t change the default configuration but let customers “opt-in” to not having EarPods or a power adapter included. This way no-one is negatively affected. In fact, it only benefits people that don’t want these “extras” and would be happy for them not to be included in the box. Although this would make logistics more complicated, as there would need to be flexibility for the product to come with different things in the box.

Have different configurations of each iPhone. In a similar vein to the previous idea, Apple could have multiple “default” configurations of each iPhone. If they did it this way, you probably wouldn’t be able to have all four options (with/without either EarPods or a power adapter), so it might just be that you get the iPhone as we expect, and a “device only” option.

Differentiate based on the model. One way to try and please more people is to decide on a model-by-model basis. It just allows for slightly finer control and has a chance to give more people a better default. My first thought was that maybe the base iPhone would just be the device, but maybe the “Pro” model would include EarPods and a power adapter. However, I can imagine it wouldn’t be as simple as that. Seeing as you might find that customers that opt for the more expensive model, might also have their alternatives, so you’d be benefitting the wrong side. I’m sure Apple would have more data on this, so if for example they knew that the majority of customers for a certain model threw their power adapters away, then they could make the decision specifically for that model. It has the potential to be messy. But one example that I think may work, is singling out the cheaper model, which right now is the iPhone SE, and having the “main” set of iPhones device only.

Go full-on configurable. One way to ensure each customer gets what they want is to let them configure every part of it. So instead of having one default configuration for the iPhone, or even just having the option to include a power adapter or not. What if, when you went to buy an iPhone, you could choose from the usual model, colour, and storage size, expand that to audio, charging, and maybe even a few other types of accessories. For example, Apple wouldn’t be removing EarPods, they would simply be letting you choose from having nothing, EarPods, AirPods, Beats, and maybe select third-party options. The same applies to charging as well, maybe you don’t need another power adapter, but at the same time, you might want to buy a 5w charger, a fast charger, or even a Qi charger. So instead of the story being Apple removing things from the iPhone box, it becomes a story about Apple giving customers more freedom and flexibility to choose what’s right for them.

After thinking about all of these ideas, and potential ways Apple could handle the situation, I’m not 100% certain what I would do. As it stands now, I think the best solution is to lean into the idea around letting users personalise their iPhone package, and making everything configurable. But that would need to be coupled with discounted options for things like EarPods and power adapters.

However, I am aware that if I was in charge of this decision at Apple, then I’m sure I would have totally different motives behind the decision. For example, if it was to increase the margin on the iPhone, to reduce electronic waste, or even because they want to encourage more people to make the switch to Qi or AirPods. But as I don’t know Apple’s motives, I can only offer an outside perspective on the situation.


It all changes though if the iPhone didn’t need a power adapter, or at least what we expect as a power adapter, a cable and a plug. What if the iPhone only charged via a Qi-compatible For example, what if the iPhone had no ports? And you had to have a Qi-compatible charger. Then it would be a whole new set of circumstances to deal with. And maybe all of this is simply preparing people for that future. But that debate will have to wait another day.

The Lopifit “Electric Walking Bike”

1st July 2020

I just came across this product via an Instagram post, and I just had to share it. I just can’t stop laughing about it.

It’s a bike that’s designed for exercise. Specifically high-cardio workouts. But instead of just making a normal bike that people can read, they’ve taken out the seat and pedals, and put a treadmill in the middle! So it’s not an “electric walking bike” like they claim, it’s a treadmill scooter. Which now I think about it, is no better than just walking!

Who even comes up with these ideas?

How To Remove YouTube Tracking

30th June 2020 | Permalink

Dries Buytaert:

After some research, I discovered that YouTube offers a privacy-enhanced way of embedding videos. Instead of linking to youtube.com, link to youtube-nocookie.com, and no data-collecting HTTP cookie will be sent. This is Google’s way of providing GDPR-compliant YouTube videos.

(via Daring Fireball)

I was completely unaware that this GDPR-compliant version of YouTube embeds were available. But, seeing as it makes no sense to use the standard embed when this one exists, I’ve made changes to my site so all YouTube embeds will automatically use the -nocookie version.


Just in case this helps anyone else add this to their blog, RavanH posted a code snippet on the WordPress.org forums to make WordPress shortcodes automatically convert YouTube embeds.

Random Prnt.sc

27th June 2020

Okay, so I was bored today, and that led to me building a website. Specifically one that lets you find random images that are hosted on Prnt.sc.

Background Information

Basically, there’s a screenshot utility called Lightshot, and it has the option to upload your images to the web. is a screenshot utility that allows you to quickly customise screenshots, and upload them to the internet. These images can be found on a website called Prnt.sc, and they’re publicly available.

In fact, all you need in order to find an image on Prnt.sc is a 6-digit alphanumeric identifier. Which is easily generated.


This afternoon I was playing around with random combinations, trying to find anything amusing. But I’m a lazy person, so I try to make any manual process easier.

My first idea was to somehow built a simple website that could actually find images from Prnt.sc, and display them inline. However, due to cross-origin resource sharing, it seemed way to complex for a fun afternoon project. So I settled on simply generating random identifiers, and opening a them in new tabs.


The website is now live, and you can view it at chrishannah.me/prntsc. And it comes, as I mention in the footer of the page, “built with minimal style”.

I’m not sure what type of aesthetic this is, but it always reminds me of the purities of the web. I much prefer a website that has well structured HTML, and little to no CSS. I mean, I didn’t even add any styles to links, and it still looks good!

Sometimes I want to just change my blog completely to a static site, with a super basic design. But I’ll leave that to another day.

Back Tapping on iOS 14

25th June 2020

I haven’t had time to go through a lot of WWDC content just yet (I’m currently spending most of my time laying a new floor in my house), but I did install iOS 14 and macOS 11 to my devices essentially as soon as they were available. I’m really impressed with all the updates this year, and I’ll end up writing about the things I really enjoy. But for now, the feature I love the most is Back Tap.

It’s an accessibility feature at the moment, found in Settings → Accessibility → Touch → Back Tap. And it lets you assign actions to a double or triple-tap on the back of your iPhone. For example, you could double-tap the back of your iPhone to lock it, or you could take a screenshot. There are quite a lot of possibilities. There are currently 14 general actions, 7 accessibility actions, and 2 scroll gestures to choose from. That’s not including the fact that you can also choose a custom shortcut to run as an action.

What intrigues me is how it actually works. I imagine it’s detecting the shake, and not necessarily a “tap”. But it’s still interesting that a new feature was added that simply makes use of current hardware in a different way.

When I was trying to work out what actions I wanted to assign to my iPhone, I was trying to think of things I want to perform quickly, or without a delay.

The first was obvious, opening the camera. There are tons of times where I just want to quickly take a photo of something, usually, it’s my cat being weird, so that’s definitely going to be useful. There’s no standard open app action, but as you can run a Shortcut as an action, I made a simple one that just launches the camera app.

The second one took a bit more time to think of, but I settled on creating a tweet. This had to be a shortcut as well, but it was just as simple. One action that creates a new tweet in the Twitter app.

So I can double-tap the back of my phone to open the camera and triple-tap it to start writing a tweet. Who would have thought that would be possible with just a software update?

Although it’s currently hidden as an accessibility feature, I can imagine this being pretty popular. Certainly, enough for it to make its way to becoming a “real” feature.

Text for Proofing Fonts

9th June 2020 | Permalink

Jonathan Hoefler, on the problem with panoramas when proofing fonts:

In years past, our proofs were full of pangrammatic foxes and lynxes and the rest, which made for some very merry reading. But invariably, I’d find myself staring down a lowercase J — and if I questioned the amount of space assigned to its left side, I’d set off in search of some confirmation in the proof. Each time, I’d be reminded that while pangrams delivered all kinds of jocks and japes and jutes and judges, even our prodigious list featured not a single word with a J in the middle. I also started to notice that Xs had an unusually strong affinity for Ys in pangrams, because pangrams make a sport of concision. Words like foxy and oxygen deliver real bang for your buck if you’re out to craft a compact sentence, but to the typeface designer noticing that the pair XY looks consistently wrong, none of these words will reveal which letter is at fault. I’d find myself rewriting the pangrams, popping in an occasional ‘doxology’ to see if the X was balanced between round letters, or ‘dynamo’ to review the Y between flat ones.

It’s an interesting problem, and one I can’t say I’ve ever thought about. But it makes sense that when proofing a font, you’d want to be able to capture a high majority of scenarios, not just a few good looking panoramas that probably aren’t similar to what a real sentence would look like.

However, Jonathan has come up with a proof that tackles things such as the spacing between different types of letters, how each letter looks at the start of a word, what double letters look like, and most likely more things that I won’t understand. Font proofing is certainly nothing I’ve considered before, but I always find it intriguing to see how people identify problems, and especially how they come up with a better solution.

Why Jurassic Park Looks Better Than Its Sequels

9th June 2020

I just come across a video by Jonathan Burdett, a YouTuber that predominately creates video essays on blockbuster films for his channel, Films&Stuff. In the video I watched, he talked about the original Jurassic Park movie and how it looks better than the sequels.

As you’d expect, it comes down to various factors. However, I found it curious as to why the sequels weren’t at the same level. I would think that the sequels would build on the skills learned from the first movie, but clearly there was something missing.

That’s not to say they all the sequels are bad. But, when I think about it, if I had to rank all 5 current films, there probably would be a downward trend. As a rough estimate, if I could give each film a score out of 10, this is what it would look like:

Film Rank (0-10)
Jurassic Park 9.5
The Lost World: Jurassic Park 8.5
Jurassic Park III 9
Jurassic World 6.5
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom 6

I like all of them. But the first three are massively better than the Jurassic World films. I’m still holding out for Jurassic World: Dominion though. Because that looks like it’s going to explore a whole new perspective, not just the same idea of a dinosaur park being made, then turning out to be a bad idea.

This Fantastical Sea Creature Helps Remove Planet-Warming Gases From the Atmosphere

9th June 2020 | Permalink

Rosanna Xia, writing for the LA Times:

It was decades ago when Bruce Robison first looked through the plexiglass sphere of a submersible and spotted a most curious critter in the waters off Central California.

Nearly transparent and no larger than a fist, the squishy tadpole-like animal was surrounded by an enormous balloon of mucus about 3 feet wide. Robison could discern chambers intricately inflated within this sticky structure, speckled with particles of food and plant debris.

Robison spent years in the open ocean studying these gelatinous animals, which are too large and too fragile to bring back into a lab. Known as giant larvaceans, they inhabit seas across the world. Tens of thousands of them live just outside Robison’s office in Monterey Bay.

He and fellow researchers eventually learned that these creatures and their snot palaces play an outsize role in helping the ocean remove planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — one more part of a vast and underappreciated system that makes the ocean an unsung hero of climate change.

There are some truly fascinating creatures in the ocean, and the giant larvacean is certainly one of those. Who would have thought that something so small could grow that big?

Watch the video by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to get a proper look at what the giant larvacean, Bathochordaeus, looks like.

A Better Computer

5th June 2020 | Permalink

Matt Birchler, introducing his new YouTube channel:

Today I’m excited to introduce my new YouTube channel, A Better Computer. This channel will be devoted to helping you make the computer in front of you, whether it be an iPhone, and iPad, or PC, better than it was before; we want to make it a better computer.

It’s not just another tech YouTube channel though, the idea is that the videos will be short, but highly produced, and have a very limited scope. For example, alongside the trailer for the channel, there are already three great videos to watch:

My favourite so far has to be the most recent one, about making tasks smaller in order to get more done. Since this is something I’ve been doing myself for a while, and I’ve always found it to be a very effective way to get big chunks of work done. Because for me personally, while I want to complete big tasks, the idea of them usually puts me off. But if I split the one big task into various small tasks that can be individually actioned, then it’s so much easier to make progress, and eventually complete it.

As you can tell, A Better Computer is going to be one great YouTube channel, so I definitely recommend subscribing.

Battle at Big Rock: A Jurassic World Short Film

5th June 2020

I watched Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom today, seeing as it’s now on Netflix. After it finished, I immediately searched online to see if there were any sequels being planned, or if I’ve just missed a release entirely.

Well, of course, there is a sequel being planned for release in 2021, I just forgot about it. It’s Jurassic World: Dominion. So nothing I could watch right now.

But I did noticed something new on the Jurassic Park Wikipedia page. Last year, a short film was released called “Battle at Big Rock“.

It is a very short film. All together, including credits, it’s just over 10 minutes. However, I see it more as a glimpse into what we will expect to see in Dominion. Especially as it was directed by Colin Trevorrow, and written by Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael, and they are also the director and writers of Dominion.

The film is set after Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and as you may remember, that ends with the dinosaurs ending up on the US mainland. Which is something that we’ll have to adjust to seeing, in future films1.

But for now, all we’ve got is Battle at Big Rock, and luckily it’s on YouTube:


  1. Producer Frank Marshall has already announced that Jurassic World: Dominion will not be the final film in the franchise, but instead lead to a new era of it. – Collider