Travelin’ Tim Talks TSMC

The Daily Observations

Travelin’ Tim hits Arizona, pricing changes for the App Store, and new homes for HomePod mini.

Apple CEO Joins TSMC Factory Ceremony 

Travelin’ Tim hit the Grand Canyon state Tuesday. A number of reports, including one from The Mac Observer and another from 9to5Mac, say Apple CEO Tim Cook was on-hand for ceremonies around the first of at least a couple of chip fabs being built by TSMC. The TMO piece had Cook confirming that Apple will source chips from the Arizona facility, which reports indicate should be capable of cranking out 4-nanometer and (eventually) 3-nanometer chips. Meanwhile, the piece from 9to5Mac says Cook:

…confirmed that [Apple] will work with TSMC to manufacture Apple Silicon chips at this new plant in Arizona. “These chips can be proudly stamped ‘Made in America’,” he said. “It’s a chance for the United States to usher in a new era of advanced manufacturing.”

While some have downplayed the significance of the TSMC facility, the company’s own words make it sound significant. Another piece on the ceremony from AppleInsider had TSMC Chairman Dr. Mark Liu saying:

When complete, TSMC Arizona aims to be the greenest semiconductor manufacturing facility in the United States, producing the most advanced semiconductor process technology in the country, enabling next-generation high-performance and low-power computing products for years to come… We are thankful for the continual collaboration that has brought us here and are pleased to work with our partners in the United States to serve as a base for semiconductor innovation.

TSMC’s first Arizona factory is expected to go live in 2024. The second, focused specifically on 3-nanometer chips, should be up and running in 2026.

Apple Adds 700 New Price Points to App Store

Big news for developers Tuesday. Apple has announced not one new App Store price point, not two, not 346, not 571… Actually, there are lots of numbers of new price points they didn’t announce. 700. ish. The Mac Observer says Apple on Tuesday announced 700 new price points for the App Store, kind of. The piece breaks those down saying it “includes 600 new [defined] price points, with an additional 100 higher price points available upon request.” This brings the total number of price points available to 900 — “almost 10 times as many choices as previously available,” according to TMO. The piece says prices can start as low as $0.29 and go as high as $10,000. 10K is one of those special-request price points, though.

In addition to the new prices, developers are getting more granular control over price increases. You know that thing where sometimes Apple “updates prices in certain regions based on changes in taxes and foreign exchange rates”? Starting sometime in 2023, TMO says “developers with paid apps and in-app purchases will be able to set local territory pricing, which will not be impacted by automatic price adjustments.”

Along a similar line, Apple says this week’s changes will let developers “keep their local currency constant in any storefront of their choice, even as foreign exchange and taxes fluctuate.” According to the company:

This means, for example, a Japanese game developer who gets most of their business from Japanese customers can set their price for the Japan storefront, and have their prices outside of the country update as foreign exchange and tax rates change.

Big news today, but don’t go looking for 29-cent apps just yet. Apple’s press release on the change says:

These new pricing enhancements will be available for apps offering auto-renewable subscriptions starting today, and for all other apps and in-app purchases in spring 2023…

Apple Self Service Repair Program Launches in UK and Europe

DIY folks in the U.K. and Europe can now get their kit from Apple. The Cupertino-company issued a press release Tuesday announcing the launch of its Self Service Repair program for that region.

There’s something incongruous about that — the world’s most valuable company offering “self service…” Anyway, eight new countries now have access to the program, including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. For those not familiar, the release says:

The Self Service Repair Store provides access to more than 200 individual parts and tools, as well as repair manuals. The program enables customers who are experienced with the complexities of repairing electronic devices the opportunity to complete their own repairs, using the same manuals, parts, and tools as Apple Store locations and Apple Authorized Service Providers.

Folks who want to try it can now get gear from Apple “to perform many of the most common repairs for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups,” according to Apple, as well as for Mac notebooks powered by Apple silicon.

New Homes for HomePod mini

HomePod mini can call new countries home, soon. MacRumors says Apple’s small smart speaker will launch in Finland, Norway, and Sweden next Tuesday, Dec. 13. A little less than a week later — Monday, Dec. 19 — the same piece says it’ll land in South Africa. Then Denmark… will take a while. 

A separate MacRumors report says Apple has updated its Danish regional store. That shows HomePod mini hitting that country in spring of 2023. The news is somewhat surprising. The piece says folks had expected Denmark to get the device alone with Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The piece says that expectation was “based on the fact that Siri on HomePod was updated earlier this year to support those countries’ respective languages.”

Apple Music Sing: Karaoke Without the Disks

It was a big day for press releases for Apple on Tuesday. There was one for the App Store changes, one for the DIY crew in Europe, regional releases for the HomePod mini announcements, and one good for a song. Or several songs. On that last one, Apple’s press release announced the upcoming arrival of Apple Music Sing. 

It’s like a karaoke machine without the karaoke disks. According to the release, the service will let users “sing along to their favorite songs with adjustable vocals and real-time lyrics.” Real-time lyrics they’ve already got. It’s the adjustable vocals that makes it a thing. With adjustable (thought not removable) vocals, the company says:

Users now have control over a song’s vocal levels. They can sing with the original artist vocals, take the lead, or mix it up on millions of songs in the Apple Music catalog.

Animated, Dancing Lyrics and More Features

Lyrics also get a bit granular. According to the release, real-time lyrics let users “sing along to their favorite songs with animated lyrics that dance to the rhythm of the vocals.” Lyrics for background vocals “can animate independently from the main vocals to make it easier for users to follow.” And there’s a duet view, where Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis sing everything. Oh I’m sorry. That’s Duets. In duet view, Apple says, “multiple vocalists show on opposite sides of the screen to make duets or multi-singer tracks easy to sing along to.”

In addition to the various modes, the piece says Apple Music will feature 50+ playlists dedicated to the Sing thing. These are “epic songs, duets, choruses, and anthems” that you almost can’t help singing, “fully optimized for the Apple Music Sing experience.”

Apple Music Sing will go live sometime this month. Apple says it’ll work on “compatible iPhone and iPad models as well as the new Apple TV 4K,” which is not super helpful. For super helpful, we turn to MacRumors. That site says compatible iPhones include iPhone 11 or later, compatible iPads include the third-generation iPad Pro or later, and they are not kidding about the new Apple TV 4K. They mean the one announced in the fall and powered by the A15.

You know, between the Thread support confusion and now the music thing… Apple TV 4K differentiation is started to get a bit messy. 

Awards Season in Swing

‘Slow Horses’ Episode Nominated for WGGB Award

And finally today, news of a few award nominations for Apple TV+. AppleInsider says the Gary Oldman-led spy series “Slow Horses” has been nominated for a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award. 14 awards will be handed out across categories covering TV, film, radio, theatre, novels, and video games. Among the 42 nominees is Will Smith — not that one. This one is probably best known for his work on the series “Veep.” He’s now nominated for Best Long Form TV Drama for his “Slow Horses” episode “Failure’s Contagious.” That was the first episode of the first season. 

AppleInsider says winners will be announced on 16 January. If you want to see the work for which Smith was nominated, all of season one of “Slow Horses” is available to stream now on Apple TV+, with the first two of the second season’s six-episodes available as well. 

Apple TV+ Up for 10 Critics Choice Awards

Back on this side of the pond, a piece from AppleInsider says the Cupertino-streamer has picked up ten Critics Choice Awards nominations, with series and individual performers up for nods. According to the piece:

Both “Severance” and “Bad Sisters” have been nominated for Best Drama Series, while both “Pachinko” and “Tehran” have been nominated for Best Foreign Language Series.

On the performance side: 

  • Adam Scott is up for for Best Actor in a Drama Series for his part in Severance
  • Sharon Horgan is up for Best Actress in a Drama Series for Bad Sisters
  • Both Ray Liotta and Paul Walter Hauser are up for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie for Black Bird
  • Dominique Fishback is up for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie for The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
  • Samuel L. Jackson is up for Best Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie for The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey 

Winners of the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards will be announced on Sunday, Jan. 15. 

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

Longtime Apple podcaster and longtime friend Adam Christianson will be by with his take on Apple’s App Store changes for developers. Plus — with 18 years of Apple news under his belt, we’ll look at what’s been most surprising, and what excites him ahead. That’s all today on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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