Insults to Intelligence

It’s no secret that advertisers think we’re stupid. Intel certainly isn’t the only one.

Case in point: Exxon Mobil is touting its “Synergy gas” that has “7 key ingredients, to help you get better gas milage” (The quote is from their website, not the TV commercial in the previous link.)

What are those wonderful ingredients? Well, start with “Fuel Detergent Number 1” and “Fuel Detergent Number 2”. Somehow those names, with their echos of Thing One and Thing Two from The Cat in the Hat don’t inspire much confidence, but OK, I can see the potential value.

Then there are “Anti Adhesion Compound,” “Corrosion Inhibitor,” and “Demulsifier.” I question whether a properly maintained engine really has enough problems with rust and water intrusions that these mystic chemicals really do much for mileage. But again, OK. Legitimate problems, even if I suspect they’re overblown in the ad.

Number Six is where we start getting into trouble. “Solvent Fluid.” According to Exxon Mobil’s website, “Changes in temperature can cause some ingredients to get jammed. Solvent Fluid helps break them up, preventing congealing and letting the good times flow.” Uh, which “ingredients” are getting jammed? The ones in your gas! Right, one of the magical seven ingredients is included only to keep the others from screwing up your engine. Picture me banging my head on the desk.

And then there’s Number Seven. Lucky Seven. “Marker Molecules.” According to the website, these “signal the dosage of the additive in the gasoline so the balance is perfecto.” Leaving aside the question of whether you can trust anyone who thinks “perfecto” is a real word, they’re saying that something they include to make sure they have the right amounts of the other things they throw into your gas somehow helps your mileage in and of itself. Even better, they’re implying that only their “Synergy” gas has marker molecules. Guess again. Every brand of gasoline includes marker molecules, because their real purpose is to identify the producer and track the gas to ensure that taxes have been paid and shipments haven’t been adulterated. Absolutely nothing to do with fuel economy.

It’s depressing to learn what big companies think of your intelligence, isn’t it? Kellog’s–yes, the big name in breakfast foods (or “foods” if you have low tastes like me)–is a sobering example.

I’m not going to apologize for eating the occasional Pop-Tart®. But after reading the instructions for heating them, I’m reconsidering my position. Yes, that’s right. Kellog’s thinks you need instructions for heating a Pop-Tart®.

According to the box in my cupboard, you can use a toaster or the microwave:

FOR TOASTER:
1. Warm pastry in toaster at lowest heat setting.
2. Cool briefly before handling.

FOR MICROWAVE:
1. Place pastry on microwave safe plate.
2. Heat on high for 3 seconds.
3. Cool briefly before handling.

I’ll spare you the list of cautions that are obviously included solely to ward of litigation from anyone who can’t follow the instructions.

But really, guys. If you’re getting picky enough to tell us to use the lowest heat setting on the toaster, regardless of our preferences in pastry crispness, and specifying that the number of the nuking shall be three, why not go all the way and remind us to remove the Pop-Tarts® from the foil bag before heating? And, gee, maybe you should tell us to eat them before they cool!

Sigh.

You know what’s really depressing, though? The realization that we may actually be as stupid as the big companies and advertisers think we are.

Consider this: there’s a YouTube video that claims you can access a hidden headphone jack on the iPhone 7 by drilling into the shell. The video has racked up over 11,000,000 views in the ten days since it went live.

Inevitably, the comments section is filled with posts from people claiming to have tried it and destroyed their phones. Maybe some of them are real. But that’s not the depressing part of the story.

The depressing part is the sheer number of news outlets reporting as fact that people have been drilling into their phones and warning people against it. Without having done any investigation of the claims

Don’t take my word for it. Google “iphone 7 drill” and cast your eyes down the list of results. The Guardian. Fortune. USA Today. All repeating slight variations on the same thing: “I can’t believe I have to say this, but don’t take a drill to your iPhone 7”.

Fact checking is apparently as dead as a drilled iPhone 7.

Insert Apple Joke Here

Well, well, well. Seems it’s that time of year again. You know what I mean: the time when Apple announces its new hardware. Oh, joy, oh rapture. So, as usual, here’s my take on the goodies coming our way soon. Feel free to flee now. I won’t be offended.

Apple began its event yesterday with a reminder: Apple Music is still around and “keeps getting better”. Good to know that it’s not getting worse, I suppose, but “keeps getting better” is awfully faint praise.

We’ve also been reminded that the Apple App Store is still around, and it’s far and away the most popular app store for Apple apps that ever ‘appened. Or something like that. I got distracted wondering why Nintendo coming out with a Mario game for iOS is the first story Apple wanted us to hear. Isn’t that leadoff slot supposed to be the most important one, the equivalent of above the fold on the front page of the newspaper? If so, why does Apple want to bury the new iPhones somewhere in with the local news?

Sorry, I wandered off again. Moving on.

Apple still supports schools. They just want you to know that. Oh, and iWork now supports live collaboration, just like Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, and everyone else. How thrilling!

In hardware news (finally!), we’ve got some software news (what?). Remember all of the goodies for WatchOS 3 we heard about at WWDC in June? We’re getting it. Yes, including the “Breathe” app for everyone who needs a reminder not to inhale and exhale simultaneously. In addition, now that the Pokemon Go fad is fading, Pokemon Go is coming to your Apple Watch! Hurray?

Oh, here’s the hardware part of the news. The Apple Watch Series 2 is coming. Water-resistant to 50 meters. Built-in water spitter. Seriously. How else would you interpret “The speaker design has been changed to eject the water after a swim”? OK, maybe it just sort of dribbles out. But where’s the fun in that? Come on, Apple, make it a high-pressure stream suitable for backyard water fights! Beyond that, it’s faster (presumably not the time-keeping portion), brighter, and has its own GPS independent of your iPhone.

And, speaking of the iPhone, Apple announced two new phones today, the latest in the line of what they modestly call “the industry gold standard, the phone to which all others are compared.” Headband getting a little tight, Tim?

iOS 10 is, of course, coming. We knew that–you told us about it in June. And, coming with it, (surprise!) the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. High-gloss black finish, smooth curves, shiny anodized layer. Sounds more like a sports car than something you make calls with. Not that anyone makes calls on an iPhone; they just use it to run apps, right?

Anyway, aside from the design innovations and the inevitable boost in processing power*, the new phones have better cameras (similar to, but of course, even better than what we saw in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro). If you’re a photographer, you’ll probably appreciate having a RAW API; presumably only used by third-party camera apps. The 7 Plus goes even further by adding a second camera. No, not for 3D–they’re too close together. One camera is for wide-angle, the other for telephoto. 2x zoom is a true optical zoom. 3x to 10x is still digital zooming, “but still better quality than before”. OK, then.

* “120x faster than the original iPhone.” (And that’s just the CPU. The GPU is “240x faster than the original iPhone.”) Does anyone really remember how fast that phone was–or rather, wasn’t? What good is a comparison that nobody has a referent for?

What else? A new display (like you didn’t see that coming…) that’s brighter and with a wider color display range than ever before. Stereo speakers, one at the top, one at the bottom. (Now there’s a unique concept.) Twice as loud as last year’s phones. And, if you prefer to keep your music to yourself, you can get new “EarPods”. Yes, Apple has confirmed the rumors that the new phones do not have the traditional earplug jack*. The EarPods plug into the Lightning port. Hopefully, there’s a pass-through so you can listen to music while your phone is charging. The phones will come with an adapter, so if you’re an old fogy who prefers the ancient headset you bought last month, you can still use it.

* Apple hasn’t taken this much flack over a design decision since they single-handedly killed off the floppy drive.

Of course, if you stick with your caveman-level Bluetooth (or worse yet, wired) headphones, you’ll be missing out on Apple’s new “AirPods”: wireless earphones that detect when they’re in your ears, have a direct connection to Siri, and can easily switch between all of your (Apple) devices.

Preorders for the new iPhones open tomorrow, and they’ll be shipping on the sixteenth. Are you going to be online, trying to get your preorder in before the allocation runs out? iOS 10, by the way, will be out on the thirteenth.

And, speaking of “by the way”: those AirPods won’t be coming until late October. So you’ll have about a month to get used to using your new iPhone without ’em. Or, if you’re a Beats loyalist, you can wait for Beats’ version. No release date specified, but since Apple now owns Beats, it’s probably in the same general range.

Happy listening, the AppleWay®.