Why statheads think Trump will actually win the nomination now

Last week, after Donald Trump won the South Carolina Republican primary, I got into a heated argument with someone. He said he thought Trump would win the nomination and I vehemently disagreed. I read election news religiously, I majored in this stuff in college, I watch every new poll and development. Simply put, I argued the evidence wasn’t there for Trump to keep winning.

Well, I was wrong.

Everything changed on February 23rd. Yes, that’s when Trump won in Nevada. But it’s the way he won that has every politico & pundit scrambling to understand the monster they’ve unleashed.

Here’s why all the evidence says Trump is now the heavy favorite to actually win the nomination:

The case AGAINST Trump before 2/23

When Trump announced he was running last summer, everyone laughed. Remember his ‘Mexicans are rapists and drug-dealers’ comment? That was in his announcement speech!

But even when he started getting traction and polled around 20%, it could be explained away:

  • Early polls are notoriously bad because they usually represent awareness of a candidate more than support. A year ago, how many people had heard of Bernie Sanders? Similarly, if you were being polled and were asked about a bunch of unknown Republicans and Donald Trump, you might just go with the name you’ve heard of before.

  • Only half of the US population votes. And half of those vote Republican. So polls of “likely GOP voters” represent about 25% of the population. That means when Trump was polling at 20% nationwide, it represented 5% of the US population. And when you remember that 20% of the US population still believes Obama is a Muslim (really), Trump’s poll numbers don’t seem entirely crazy.

  • Trump’s favorability numbers were awful. They suggested a natural ceiling for his support.

  • Trump kept making controversial comments (Mexicans are rapists, McCain isn’t a war hero, ending birthright citizenship, banning all Muslims, lying about 9/11 celebrations, mocking a disabled reporter, Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, and so much more). At some point, something had to stick, right?

  • The entire party was against him. At the first debate, even the Fox News moderators tried to undermine him. And if nothing else, “The Party Decides” theory offered a viable argument for his downfall once the candidate pool winnowed.

In other words, Trump’s popularity was unexpected, but there was evidence to suggest it was limited. And when it came time for people to actually vote, he’d lose.

And at first, that happened. In Iowa, he underperformed compared to his polls and lost to Ted Cruz. Surely his reign was ended?

Except Trump bounced back. He got 1st in New Hampshire and 1st in South Carolina. But still, it could be explained away:

  • He was winning with pluralities, not majorities. He’d hit his natural ceiling of ~35% and would start losing as support consolidated behind 1 or 2 other candidates.

  • He continued to underperform compared to the most recent polls.

  • Generally, 50% of people decide who they’re supporting the last week before a primary vote. Of that group, folks were voting for anyone but Trump (he was only getting 18% of late-deciders, again significantly worse than his polls).

The case FOR Trump after 2/23

But in Nevada, Trump confounded every expectation and turned the conventional wisdom upside-down:

  • He actually overperformed against the polls. He was polling around 40%, but got 46% of the votes. And before you say that was because Jeb dropped out, note that Jeb was only polling at 1%(!).
  • Won in a low-turnout state. Before Nevada, it could be argued Trump was only winning in high-turnout states (by bringing in new voters). But Nevada had a decidedly low turnout and he still won.
  • Won in a caucus state. Caucuses have significantly lower turnout than primaries and generally bring out very committed partisans. In this election, that’s Cruz’s base. But Trump won nonetheless.
  • Won with Hispanic voters. Yes, the sourcing on this is thin, and Trump is still heavily underwater among Latino voters nationwide (80% unfavorable, at last check). However, the race right now is still being won in the media and this story got a lot of traction.
  • Won with evangelical voters. Trump got 4 in 10 Evangelical voters. Again, this was supposed to be Ted Cruz’s base.
  • Won with every other damn demographic group. Trump won very conservative voters, moderate voters, voters without a college education, voters with a post-graduate degree(!), and with just about every other group of voters out there. Stunning.
  • Has gone from winning pluralities (24% in Iowa, 35% in NH, 33% in SC) to nearly an outright majority (46% in NV). This may be the scariest development of all. If Trump starts getting over 50%, it’s all over. Even if everyone but Rubio dropped out, Trump could win a 1-on-1.

So Trump won Nevada convincingly. And he did it in a way that demonstrates he’s even stronger, amongst nearly every demographic, than anyone anticipated.

On top of that, the Republican primary calendar has 2 dates rapidly approaching that are hugely important:

  • 3/1, aka Super Tuesday, when 11 states vote. Right now, polls show Trump significantly ahead in 8 states and competitive in the others. He’s only significantly behind in Ted Cruz’s home state of Texas (but delegates are awarded proportionally, so even a strong 2nd-place showing will still net Trump a lot of delegates).

  • 3/15, when states are finally allowed to allocate delegates winner-take-all. The Republican National Committee designed the calendar this way because you usually have a presumptive nominee by this point and they wanted him or her to be able to quickly lock up enough delegates to make it official. Well, this year that’s Trump and he is killing it in Ohio (Kasich’s home state) and Florida (Rubio’s home state). There will be a strong push for those two to drop out if they don’t win their own state (especially Kasich, who has only been competitive in 1 state so far).

Vox has a very good article on how Trump could essentially lock up the nomination by 3/15. You should really go read it now.

But if you still don’t believe me, go look at the betting markets. People who actually have money on this have Trump at 77%, Rubio at 19%, Cruz at 2%, and Kasich at 2%.

Finally, in the most shocking development of all, Trump’s starting to get endorsements from real politicians. First, Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) endorsed him. Still, they’re kinda fringe guys. But on Friday, Trump dropped a bombshell when he got sitting NJ Governor Chris Christie’s endorsement. That possibly opened the floodgates, because he soon got former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s endorsement as well as one more sitting politician. If you don’t know who, I strongly urge you to read this fantastic NYT article all the way to the bottom for a real kick-in-the-pants.

Why Rubio probably can’t win anymore

Rubio is now clearly the only viable Trump competitor left. But it’s probably too late, especially because the other competitors don’t look like they’re going anywhere soon:

  • Rubio’s “robot” debate gaffe hurt him significantly in the New Hampshire primary, getting 5th place when he was poised to get 2nd (just a 5% difference!). Instead, he let Kasich win amongst “establishment” candidates, giving him a credible reason to stay in the race. And now all indications suggest Kasich won’t drop out before 3/15, until Ohio votes.

  • Rubio’s closest competition is still Ted Cruz. But unless Cruz loses Texas (highly unlikely, based on current polls), he will probably stay in the race for a while too. He’s always been the best-funded candidate after Bush and has the best ground organization of anyone.

  • And you’d think Ben Carson would have dropped out by now, but his campaign is running on a shoestring budget with minimal staff so he’s happily chugging along and picking off ~5% in each state. Last year, he even took a month off the campaign to go on a book tour (right when he topped Trump in the polls too!), so his campaign may be more about publicity than the presidency.

So while Rubio might be able to win a 1-on-1 with Trump today, it doesn’t look like he’ll have that chance anytime soon. And by March 15th, 60% of all delegates will have been allocated. Even if every other candidate drops out then, Rubio would need to win 2/3 of the remaining delegates to catch up to Trump.

What happens next

The way I see it, the race plays out in one of three ways:

  1. Rubio fights back.

    I drafted most of this blog post before Thursday’s debate, when Rubio and Cruz finally went on the attack against Trump (even Jeb, Trump’s most direct target all year, used barely any of his $100 million to fund ads against him). Rubio got the best of it and then followed it up the next day by taking the fight to Trump the only way left—fighting insults with insults. And dare I say, it might work? I was entranced by his new “stump speech,” mocking Trump’s tweets1 and behavior at the debate. It’s Trump’s shtick, but from a candidate with substantive policy proposals to go with it. As Stuart Stevens noted, it’s not too late to stop Trump and this just might be the way.

    But for the comeback to work, Rubio will have to do 2 more things: frame the race as solely Trump-vs-Rubio (hoping voters increasingly ignore Cruz), and perform better-than-expected on Super Tuesday. Rubio’s competitive in Minnesota and Virginia and if he can actually pull off the win in both, he will rewrite this race yet again.

  2. Trump wins the nomination and the party tries to undermine him.

    If Trump wins the nomination, the GOP will be fractured. Some will support him, figuring he’s better than Hillary, but many won’t. They’ll figure it’s better to focus on 2020, when Hillary would be trying to win a 4th consecutive term for the Democrats, a rarity for any party in modern politics. In fact, Mitch McConnell is already telling Senate Republicans up for re-election this year that it’s OK for them to run ads against Trump.

    And if Trump wins the nomination, I think there’s a very good chance some Republican will run as a sacrificial candidate, splitting the GOP vote and essentially throwing the election. The problem for the RNC is that all 16 of this year’s other candidates are barred by the “pledge” they created last year to force every candidate to support the eventual Republican nominee. They thought it would force Trump to get behind a real Republican nominee, but now all the other candidates are going to have to get behind Trump!

    My money on such a sacrificial candidate is Mitt Romney. He’s out of politics now and wouldn’t be messing up a chance at another race down the line by “defecting” from the official Republican ticket. In addition, having him on the ballot would help protect downballot candidates, giving Republican voters a chance to still vote the “party line,” but not for Trump.

  3. Trump wins the nomination and the party gets behind him.

    Republicans know floating a 3rd-party bid would give the White House to Democrats. And when they already have the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and 2/3 of all state legislatures, maybe they’d rather take an unpredictable Republican than a Democrat as POTUS.2

    If Trump gets the full backing of the national party, including fundraising and endorsements, voters will notice and perhaps get in line. And as a dovish Republican who says same-sex marriage is the law of the land & Planned Parenthood does a lot of good, he might even pick off some independent- to-liberal voters.

    Look, when the GOP race started, no one thought Donald Trump had a chance. If he wins the nomination and has the backing of the party, I’m not counting ANYTHING out of the realm of possibility any more.

Of course, this is all assuming we don’t get a brokered convention or Trump third-party bid. The way this election has gone, who knows what’s going to happen next!

  1. Call me crazy, but I think Trump posted those multiple misspelled tweets intentionally. Did you notice he left them up for hours, even after thousands of retweets? I think he knew he had an underwhelming debate performance and, as he always does, tried to shift the media narrative by doing or saying something crazy. He only deleted them and posted correctly-spelled versions after Rubio mocked them relentlessly (and CNN started showing a split-screen of Rubio’s speech and Trump’s tweets). ↩︎

  2. The fact that Republicans control every other branch of government is also a very good reason why they DON’T need to support Trump as their candidate. Here’s hoping! ↩︎

Read more ▸

Tracking when every 2016 candidate dropped out (plus complete debate & primary calendar)

I’ve always been curious about when presidential candidates drop out of the race, especially relative to important election dates. Some candidates drop out after underperforming in a primary. Others call it quits after having problems raising money following a bad debate performance. Or, in 2012 for example, Tim Pawlenty dropped out after a poor showing at the Iowa Straw Poll.

I looked around for a good, simple calendar with this information, but didn’t find one. So I made my own!

First, I grouped important events by type (because it was a lot easier to skim and read). But, at the bottom of the post, I also merged them all into one big completely chronological & color-coded list. If you find any missing/mistaken data, let me know!

Shortcuts: Entrance dates / Republican dropouts / Republican debates / Republican town halls / Democratic dropouts / Democratic debates / Democratic town halls / Primary & caucus dates / General election dates / Sources / Complete color-coded chronological calendar


Notable entrance dates

  • 2015-03-23: ENTER - Ted Cruz is 1st Republican to officially enter race
  • 2015-04-12: ENTER - Hillary Clinton is 1st Democrat to officially enter race
  • 2015-07-30: ENTER - Jim Gilmore is 17th & final Republican to officially enter race
  • 2015-09-06: ENTER - Lawrence Lessig is 6th & final Democrat to officially enter race

I didn’t include all the candidates because these dates are mostly meaningless. Serious candidates form a Presidential Exploratory Committee 3-6 months before officially entering the race. As I understand it, these committees used to actually be “exploratory” - candidates used this time to test the waters and figure out if they should seriously run or not. But nowadays, every candidate who creates a committee is almost certainly running and uses the exploratory period to instead raise unlimited money for their Super PAC…which they can legally do because they haven’t “officially” declared they’re running for President. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Democratic dropout dates

  • 2015-10-20: DROPOUT [D] - Jim Webb suspends campaign (after 1st debate)
  • 2015-10-21: DROPOUT [D] - Joe Biden declines to run (after 1st debate)
  • 2015-10-23: DROPOUT [D] - Lincoln Chafee suspends campaign (after 1st debate)
  • 2015-11-02: DROPOUT [D] - Lawrence Lessig suspends campaign (after not qualifying for 2nd debate)
  • 2016-02-01: DROPOUT [D] - Martin O’Malley suspends campaign (after Iowa vote)
  • Still running: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders

Republican dropout dates

  • 2015-09-11: DROPOUT [R] - Rick Perry suspends campaign (after 1st debate)
  • 2015-09-21: DROPOUT [R] - Scott Walker suspends campaign (after 2nd debate)
  • 2015-11-17: DROPOUT [R] - Bobby Jindal suspends campaign (after 4th debate)
  • 2015-12-21: DROPOUT [R] - Lindsey Graham suspends campaign (after 5th debate)
  • 2015-12-29: DROPOUT [R] - George Pataki suspends campaign (after 5th debate)
  • 2016-02-01: DROPOUT [R] - Mike Huckabee suspends campaign (after Iowa vote)
  • 2016-02-03: DROPOUT [R] - Rand Paul suspends campaign (after Iowa vote)
  • 2016-02-03: DROPOUT [R] - Rick Santorum suspends campaign (after Iowa vote)
  • 2016-02-10: DROPOUT [R] - Chris Christie suspends campaign (after NH vote)
  • 2016-02-10: DROPOUT [R] - Carly Fiorina suspends campaign (after NH vote)
  • 2016-02-12: DROPOUT [R] - Jim Gilmore1 suspends campaign (after NH vote)
  • 2016-02-20: DROPOUT [R] - Jeb Bush suspends campaign (after SC vote)
  • Still running: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ben Carson

Republican debates

  • 2015-08-06: DEBATE - 1st Republican primary debate (Fox News)
  • 2015-09-16: DEBATE - 2nd Republican primary debate (CNN)
  • 2015-10-28: DEBATE - 3rd Republican primary debate (CNBC)
  • 2015-11-10: DEBATE - 4th Republican primary debate (Fox Business)
  • 2015-12-15: DEBATE - 5th Republican primary debate (CNN)
  • 2016-01-14: DEBATE - 6th Republican primary debate (Fox Business)
  • 2016-01-28: DEBATE - 7th Republican primary debate (Fox News)
  • 2016-02-06: DEBATE - 8th Republican primary debate (ABC)
  • 2016-02-13: DEBATE - 9th Republican primary debate (CBS)
  • 2016-02-25: DEBATE - 10th Republican primary debate (CNN)
  • 2016-03-03: DEBATE - 11th Republican primary debate (Fox News)
  • 2016-03-10: DEBATE - 12th Republican primary debate (CNN)
  • 2016-03-21: DEBATE - 13th Republican primary debate (TBD)

Republican forums & town halls

  • 2015-08-03: FORUM - Voters First Forum - Republicans (C-SPAN)
  • 2015-11-20: FORUM - Presidential Family Forum - Republicans
  • 2015-12-03: FORUM - Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum
  • 2016-01-09: FORUM - Kemp Forum - Republicans
  • 2016-02-17: FORUM - Donald Trump Town Hall (MSNBC)
  • 2016-02-17: FORUM - Republican Town Hall (CNN)
  • 2016-02-18: FORUM - Republican Town Hall (CNN)

Democratic debates

  • 2015-10-13: DEBATE - 1st Democratic primary debate (CNN)
  • 2015-11-14: DEBATE - 2nd Democratic primary debate (CBS)
  • 2015-12-19: DEBATE - 3rd Democratic primary debate (ABC)
  • 2016-01-17: DEBATE - 4th Democratic primary debate (NBC)
  • 2016-02-04: DEBATE - 5th Democratic primary debate (MSNBC)
  • 2016-02-11: DEBATE - 6th Democratic primary debate (PBS)
  • 2016-03-06: DEBATE - 7th Democratic primary debate (CNN)
  • 2016-03-09: DEBATE - 8th Democratic primary debate (Univision)

Democratic forums & town halls

  • 2015-11-06: FORUM - First in the South Democratic Candidates Forum (MSNBC)
  • 2015-11-24: FORUM - MoveOn Democratic Forum (MoveOn.org)
  • 2016-01-11: FORUM - Brown & Black Democratic Presidential Forum (Fusion.net)
  • 2016-01-25: FORUM - Iowa Democratic Town Hall (CNN)
  • 2016-02-03: FORUM - New Hampshire Democratic Town Hall (CNN)
  • 2016-02-23: FORUM - South Carolina Democratic Town Hall (CNN)

Primary & caucus dates

  • 2016-02-01: VOTE - Iowa (first caucus!)
  • 2016-02-09: VOTE - New Hampshire (first primary!)
  • 2016-02-20: VOTE - Nevada (D), South Carolina (R)
  • 2016-02-23: VOTE - Nevada (R)
  • 2016-02-27: VOTE - South Carolina (D)
  • 2016-03-01: VOTE - Alabama, Alaska (R), American Samoa, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia
  • 2016-03-05: VOTE - Kansas, Kentucky (R), Louisiana, Maine (R), Nebraska (D)
  • 2016-03-06: VOTE - Maine (D), Puerto Rico (R)
  • 2016-03-08: VOTE - Hawaii (R), Idaho (R), Michigan, Mississippi
  • 2016-03-12: VOTE - District of Columbia (R), Northern Marianas Islands (D)
  • 2016-03-15: VOTE - Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Northern Marianas Islands (R), North Carolina, Ohio
  • 2016-03-19: VOTE - Virgin Islands (R)
  • 2016-03-22: VOTE - Arizona, Idaho (D), Utah
  • 2016-03-26: VOTE - Alaska (D), Hawaii (D), Washington (D)
  • 2016-04-05: VOTE - Wisconsin
  • 2016-04-09: VOTE - Wyoming
  • 2016-04-19: VOTE - New York
  • 2016-04-26: VOTE - Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
  • 2016-05-03: VOTE - Indiana
  • 2016-05-07: VOTE - Guam
  • 2016-05-10: VOTE - Nebraska (R), West Virginia
  • 2016-05-17: VOTE - Kentucky (D), Oregon
  • 2016-05-24: VOTE - Washington (R)
  • 2016-06-04: VOTE - Virgin Islands (D)
  • 2016-06-05: VOTE - Puerto Rico (D)
  • 2016-06-07: VOTE - California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota

Important general election dates

  • 2016-07-18: CONVENTION - Start of Republican convention (Cleveland, OH)
  • 2016-07-21: CONVENTION - End of Republican convention (Cleveland, OH)
  • 2016-07-25: CONVENTION - Start of Democratic convention (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 2016-07-28: CONVENTION - End of Democratic convention (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 2016-09-26: DEBATE - 1st general election debate
  • 2016-10-04: DEBATE - Vice Presidential debate
  • 2016-10-09: DEBATE - 2nd general election debate
  • 2016-10-19: DEBATE - 3rd general election debate
  • 2016-11-08: VOTE - Election day!

Sources & further reading


Chronological calendar

  • 2015-03-23 - ENTER - Ted Cruz is 1st Republican to officially enter race
  • 2015-04-12 - ENTER - Hillary Clinton is 1st Democrat to officially enter race
  • 2015-07-30 - ENTER - Jim Gilmore is 17th and final Republican to officially enter race
  • 2015-08-03 - FORUM - Voters First Forum [Republicans] (C-SPAN)
  • 2015-08-06 - DEBATE - 1st Republican primary debate (Fox News)
  • 2015-09-06 - ENTER - Lawrence Lessig is 6th and final Democrat to officially enter race
  • 2015-09-11 - DROPOUT - Rick Perry suspends campaign (after 1st debate)
  • 2015-09-16 - DEBATE - 2nd Republican primary debate (CNN)
  • 2015-09-21 - DROPOUT - Scott Walker suspends campaign (after 2nd debate)
  • 2015-10-13 - DEBATE - 1st Democratic primary debate (CNN)
  • 2015-10-20 - DROPOUT - Jim Webb suspends campaign (after 1st debate)
  • 2015-10-21 - DROPOUT - Joe Biden declines to run (after 1st debate)
  • 2015-10-23 - DROPOUT - Lincoln Chafee suspends campaign (after 1st debate)
  • 2015-10-28 - DEBATE - 3rd Republican primary debate (CNBC)
  • 2015-11-02 - DROPOUT - Lawrence Lessig suspends campaign (after not qualifying for 2nd debate)
  • 2015-11-06 - FORUM - First in the South Democratic Candidates Forum (MSNBC)
  • 2015-11-10 - DEBATE - 4th Republican primary debate (Fox Business)
  • 2015-11-14 - DEBATE - 2nd Democratic primary debate (CBS)
  • 2015-11-17 - DROPOUT - Bobby Jindal suspends campaign (after 4th debate)
  • 2015-11-20 - FORUM - Presidential Family Forum [Republicans]
  • 2015-11-24 - FORUM - MoveOn Democratic Forum (MoveOn.org)
  • 2015-12-03 - FORUM - Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum
  • 2015-12-15 - DEBATE - 5th Republican primary debate (CNN)
  • 2015-12-19 - DEBATE - 3rd Democratic primary debate (ABC)
  • 2015-12-21 - DROPOUT - Lindsey Graham suspends campaign (after 5th debate)
  • 2015-12-29 - DROPOUT - George Pataki suspends campaign (after 5th debate)
  • 2016-01-09 - FORUM - Kemp Forum [Republicans]
  • 2016-01-11 - FORUM - Brown & Black Democratic Presidential Forum (Fusion.net)
  • 2016-01-14 - DEBATE - 6th Republican primary debate (Fox Business)
  • 2016-01-17 - DEBATE - 4th Democratic primary debate (NBC)
  • 2016-01-25 - FORUM - Iowa Democratic Town Hall (CNN)
  • 2016-01-28 - DEBATE - 7th Republican primary debate (Fox News)
  • 2016-02-01 - VOTE - Iowa (first caucus!)
  • 2016-02-01 - DROPOUT - Martin O’Malley suspends campaign (after Iowa vote)
  • 2016-02-01 - DROPOUT - Mike Huckabee suspends campaign (after Iowa vote)
  • 2016-02-03 - DROPOUT - Rand Paul suspends campaign (after Iowa vote)
  • 2016-02-03 - DROPOUT - Rick Santorum suspends campaign (after Iowa vote)
  • 2016-02-03 - FORUM - New Hampshire Democratic Town Hall (CNN)
  • 2016-02-04 - DEBATE - 5th Democratic primary debate (MSNBC)
  • 2016-02-06 - DEBATE - 8th Republican primary debate (ABC)
  • 2016-02-09 - VOTE - New Hampshire (first primary!)
  • 2016-02-10 - DROPOUT - Carly Fiorina suspends campaign (after NH vote)
  • 2016-02-10 - DROPOUT - Chris Christie suspends campaign (after NH vote)
  • 2016-02-11 - DEBATE - 6th Democratic primary debate (PBS)
  • 2016-02-12 - DROPOUT - Jim Gilmore suspends campaign (after NH vote)
  • 2016-02-13 - DEBATE - 9th Republican primary debate (CBS)
  • 2016-02-17 - FORUM - Republican Town Hall (CNN)
  • 2016-02-18 - FORUM - Republican Town Hall (CNN)
  • 2016-02-20 - VOTE - Nevada (D), South Carolina (R)
  • 2016-02-20 - DROPOUT - Jeb Bush suspends campaign (after SC vote)
  • 2016-02-23 - FORUM - South Carolina Democratic Town Hall (CNN)
  • 2016-02-23 - VOTE - Nevada (R)
  • 2016-02-25 - DEBATE - 10th Republican primary debate (CNN)
  • 2016-02-27 - VOTE - South Carolina (D)
  • 2016-03-01 - VOTE - Alabama, Alaska (R), American Samoa, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia
  • 2016-03-03 - DEBATE - 11th Republican primary debate (Fox News)
  • 2016-03-05 - VOTE - Kansas, Kentucky (R), Louisiana, Maine (R), Nebraska (D)
  • 2016-03-06 - DEBATE - 7th Democratic primary debate (CNN)
  • 2016-03-06 - VOTE - Maine (D), Puerto Rico (R)
  • 2016-03-08 - VOTE - Hawaii (R), Idaho (R), Michigan, Mississippi
  • 2016-03-09 - DEBATE - 8th Democratic primary debate (Univision)
  • 2016-03-10 - DEBATE - 12th Republican primary debate (CNN)
  • 2016-03-12 - VOTE - District of Columbia (R), Northern Marianas Islands (D)
  • 2016-03-15 - VOTE - Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Northern Marianas Islands (R), North Carolina, Ohio
  • 2016-03-19 - VOTE - Virgin Islands (R)
  • 2016-03-21 - DEBATE - 13th Republican primary debate (TBD)
  • 2016-03-22 - VOTE - Arizona, Idaho (D), Utah
  • 2016-03-26 - VOTE - Alaska (D), Hawaii (D), Washington (D)
  • 2016-04-05 - VOTE - Wisconsin
  • 2016-04-09 - VOTE - Wyoming
  • 2016-04-19 - VOTE - New York
  • 2016-04-26 - VOTE - Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
  • 2016-05-03 - VOTE - Indiana
  • 2016-05-07 - VOTE - Guam
  • 2016-05-10 - VOTE - Nebraska (R), West Virginia
  • 2016-05-17 - VOTE - Kentucky (D), Oregon
  • 2016-05-24 - VOTE - Washington (R)
  • 2016-06-04 - VOTE - Virgin Islands (D)
  • 2016-06-05 - VOTE - Puerto Rico (D)
  • 2016-06-07 - VOTE - California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota
  • 2016-07-18 - CONVENTION - Start of Republican convention (Cleveland, OH)
  • 2016-07-21 - CONVENTION - End of Republican convention (Cleveland, OH)
  • 2016-07-25 - CONVENTION - Start of Democratic convention (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 2016-07-28 - CONVENTION - End of Democratic convention (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 2016-09-26 - DEBATE - 1st general election debate
  • 2016-10-04 - DEBATE - Vice Presidential debate
  • 2016-10-09 - DEBATE - 2nd general election debate
  • 2016-10-19 - DEBATE - 3rd general election debate
  • 2016-11-08 - VOTE - Election day!
  1. Yes, this is the same Jim Gilmore who got 12 votes in Iowa (not 12%…just 12 actual votes) and got fewer votes in New Hampshire than 3 candidates who had already dropped out. ↩︎

Read more ▸

The biggest album sales weeks of all time

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I had a hard time finding consistent first-week album sales information. Even the industry bible, HitsDailyDouble, doesn’t archive old sales data (and uses slightly different numbers than most other sites). Where’s the music version of BoxOfficeMojo when you need it?

But then, at the last second, I came across an amazing treasure trove of data by user oldbloke on the UKMix forums Best I can tell, he’s been posting weekly & cumulative album sales for 10 years! I don’t know if he exports it from SoundScan or compiles it himself, but it’s really fantastic.

I went through as much of the data as I could find, using lots of Regex, Markdown & Excel to clean it up and combine it all. Analysis and interesting finds below!

Rank Chart Date Sales Week Artist, Album & Chart Position
1. 2015-12-12 3,377,885 1 Adele / 25
2. 2000-04-08 2,415,859 1 NSync / No Strings Attached
3. 2001-08-11 1,879,955 1 NSync / Celebrity
4. 2000-06-10 1,760,049 1 Eminem / The Marshall Mathers LP
5. 2000-12-09 1,591,191 1 Backstreet Boys / Black and Blue
6. 2002-06-15 1,321,799 2 Eminem / The Eminem Show
7. 2000-06-03 1,319,193 1 Britney Spears / Oops!…I Did It Again
8. 2014-11-08 1,286,544 1 Taylor Swift / 1989
9. 2001-01-06 1,258,667 6 Beatles / 1
10. 2012-11-10 1,208,290 1 Taylor Swift / Red
11. 2016-01-09 1,160,000 5 Adele / 25
12. 2005-03-19 1,140,638 1 50 Cent / The Massacre
13. 1999-06-05 1,133,505 1 Backstreet Boys / Millennium
14. 2015-12-19 1,112,162 2 Adele / 25
15. 2011-06-11 1,108,403 1 Lady Gaga / Born This Way
16. 2004-04-10 1,096,213 1 Usher / Confessions
17. 1998-12-05 1,085,373 1 Garth Brooks / Double Live
18. 1993-01-09 1,061,483 6 Soundtrack / The Bodyguard
19. 2000-11-04 1,054,511 1 Limp Bizkit / Chocolate Starfish…
20. 2010-11-13 1,046,718 1 Taylor Swift / Speak Now
21. 2004-02-28 1,022,149 1 Norah Jones / Feels Like Home
22. 2008-06-28 1,005,545 1 Lil Wayne / Tha Carter III
23. 2013-04-06 968,018 1 Justin Timberlake / The 20/20 Experience
24. 2011-09-17 963,970 1 Lil Wayne / Tha Carter IV
25. 2007-09-29 956,936 1 Kanye West / Graduation
26. 1993-11-06 950,377 1 Pearl Jam / Vs
27. 1995-01-07 907,114 2 Garth Brooks / The Hits
28. 1997-12-13 896,932 1 Garth Brooks / Sevens
29. 2001-12-08 887,229 1 Creed / Weathered
30. 1994-12-24 877,000 3 Pearl Jam / Vitalogy
31. 2002-12-07 874,137 1 Shania Twain / Up!
32. 2003-02-22 872,082 1 50 Cent / Get Rich or Die Tryin
33. 2004-11-27 870,730 2 Eminem / Encore
34. 2002-01-05 865,030 5 Creed / Weathered
35. 2005-09-17 860,330 1 Kanye West / Late Registration
36. 1995-12-09 855,473 1 Beatles / Anthology 1
37. 1998-02-28 847,500 10 Soundtrack / Titanic
38. 2004-12-11 839,696 1 U2 / How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
39. 1993-01-02 831,000 5 Soundtrack / The Bodyguard
40. 2000-12-30 823,587 5 Beatles / 1
41. 2003-03-01 822,275 2 50 Cent / Get Rich or Die Tryin
42. 1995-01-07 819,000 8 Kenny G / Miracles: The Holiday Album (#2)
43. 2000-04-15 811,298 2 NSync / No Strings Attached
44. 2003-04-12 810,488 1 Linkin Park / Meteora
45. 2002-06-22 808,708 3 Eminem / The Eminem Show
46. 1993-12-11 802,858 1 Snoop Doggy Dogg / Doggystyle
47. 2000-06-17 793,713 2 Eminem / The Marshall Mathers LP
48. 2013-11-23 792,394 1 Eminem / The Marshall Mathers LP 2
49. 2016-01-02 789,821 4 Adele / 25
50. 2008-11-08 784,288 1 AC/DC / Black Ice
51. 2002-09-14 779,828 1 Dixie Chicks / Home
52. 2005-03-26 770,887 2 50 Cent / The Massacre
53. 1991-10-05 770,000 1 Guns N’Roses / Use Your Illusion II
54. 2004-09-11 765,739 1 Tim McGraw / Live Like You Were Dying
55. 1996-01-06 759,000 12 Mariah Carey / Daydream
56. 2008-01-05 756,590 11 Josh Groban / Noel
57. 2001-11-24 745,744 1 Britney Spears / Britney
58. 2007-12-01 742,426 1 Alicia Keys / As I Am
59. 2010-07-10 741,413 1 Eminem / Recovery
60. 2005-06-25 737,294 1 Coldplay / X & Y
61. 2001-03-17 732,720 1 Dave Matthews Band / Everyday
62. 2012-03-03 729,900 52 Adele / 21
63. 2006-01-07 727,163 1 Mary J Blige / The Breakthrough
64. 2001-01-06 724,067 5 Backstreet Boys / Black and Blue (#2)
65. 2006-04-22 721,747 1 Rascal Flatts / Me and My Gang
66. 2008-07-05 721,207 1 Coldplay / Viva La Vida
67. 1994-12-31 718,000 7 Kenny G / Miracles: The Holiday Album
68. 2001-06-09 716,003 1 Staind / Break The Cycle
69. 2002-07-13 714,114 1 Nelly / Nellyville
70. 2007-11-17 710,946 1 Eagles / Long Road Out Of Eden
71. 2004-11-27 710,880 1 Eminem / Encore
72. 2002-11-16 702,226 1 Soundtrack / 8 Mile
73. 2009-12-12 700,779 1 Susan Boyle / I Dreamed A Dream
74. 2000-01-08 698,403 1 DMX / And Then There Was X
75. 2015-12-26 695,043 3 Adele / 25
76. 1995-01-07 694,500 5 Pearl Jam / Vitalogy (#3)
77. 2007-09-29 691,304 1 50 Cent / Curtis (#2)
78. 2000-12-16 689,578 2 Backstreet Boys / Black and Blue
79. 1997-04-12 689,535 2 Notorious BIG / Life After Death
80. 2001-01-06 688,339 6 Various / Now That’s What I Call Music 5 (#3)
81. 1991-10-05 685,000 1 Guns N’Roses / Use Your Illusion I (#2)
82. 2006-09-30 684,461 1 Justin Timberlake / FutureSex/LoveSounds
83. 1998-01-10 684,000 5 Garth Brooks / Sevens
84. 1998-08-01 681,572 1 Beastie Boys / Hello Nasty
85. 2006-12-09 680,052 1 Jay-Z / Kingdom Come
86. 1996-06-22 680,000 1 Metallica / Load
87. 1998-01-03 678,000 4 Garth Brooks / Sevens
88. 2000-12-23 670,673 4 Beatles / 1
89. 1999-01-09 670,227 1 DMX / Flesh of My Flesh Blood of My Blood
90. 2007-12-29 669,161 10 Josh Groban / Noel
91. 1998-02-07 664,500 7 Soundtrack / Titanic
92. 1996-11-23 664,000 1 2Pac / The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
93. 2001-05-19 663,280 1 Destiny’s Child / Survivor
94. 2000-12-09 662,077 2 Beatles / 1 (#2)
95. 2010-01-02 661,227 4 Susan Boyle / I Dreamed A Dream
96. 1999-05-29 660,807 1 Ricky Martin / Ricky Martin
97. 2013-10-12 657,922 1 Drake / Nothing Was The Same
98. 2000-05-06 654,596 5 NSync / No Strings Attached
99. 1998-12-12 649,496 2 Garth Brooks / Double Live
100. 2000-01-08 640,000 6 Celine Dion / All The Way…A Decade of Song (#2)
101. 1999-07-10 634,877 1 Limp Bizkit / Significant Other
102. 2011-12-03 630,571 1 Drake / Take Care
103. 2008-01-05 629,366 1 Mary J Blige / Growing Pains (#2)
104. 2002-12-14 625,580 2 Shania Twain / Up!
105. 1998-01-10 624,000 6 Celine Dion / Let’s Talk About Love (#2)
106. 2007-06-02 622,827 1 Linkin Park / Minutes to Midnight
107. 2003-08-02 621,725 1 Dave Matthews Band / Busted Stuff
108. 1999-06-12 621,621 2 Backstreet Boys / Millennium
109. 2001-08-18 621,419 1 Various / Now That’s What I Call Music 7
110. 2003-03-15 621,030 53 Norah Jones / Come Away With Me

This data should be accurate through the end of 2015. It includes the first 5 weeks of sales for Adele’s 25 which goes through 12/24/2015. If Adele sells another bazillion records the week after Christmas, I’ll update this chart!

Terms

Chart date is when SoundScan certifies the sales totals, a few weeks after the sales week begins—apparently 18 days back when albums were released on Tuesdays and 22 days now that albums are released on Fridays (but even then, it’s not always consistent?). So a “chart date” of 2015-12-12 is actually for the sales week of 11/20-11/26.

I believe Sales are pure album sales through the end of November 2014, and then include SEAs and TEAs, per SoundScan’s updated rules.

The Week indicates how many weeks the album has been on the charts (so Week 1 is the album’s debut week). I think you can assume higher numbers equal how many weeks an album has been out, though it’s possible an album could drop out of the weekly Billboard Top 200 and then re-appear.

A (#2) or (#3) next to an album represents its chart position that sales week (I omitted the #1’s to make it easier to scan). Most weeks you only have 1 album that sells in huge numbers, but there are a few weeks where you had 2 or even 3 albums that each sold enough to break onto this chart.

Analysis

  • If you see an album on this list that’s not in its debut week, check the chart date: it’s almost always December or January, AKA Black Friday to Christmas (remember, the “chart date” is a couple weeks after the sales date). I didn’t know so many people gave CDs as gifts either!

  • Of the 110 weeks listed here, 67 were for an album’s first-week sales. The other 43 are for later weeks (most during the Christmas season).

  • The albums that charted high in later weeks and NOT during Christmas: NSync’s No Strings Attached, which had a huge debut and then for some reason spiked again five weeks later in late April/early May; the Titanic soundtrack, which peaked in week 7 and then again in week 10 (though those are just its highest-selling weeks…it actually stayed at #1 for 16 straight weeks!); and Adele’s 21 & Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me, which got massive post-Grammys bumps 52 and 53 weeks after release respectively. In fact, those were the highest sales weeks ever for each of those albums!

  • There were 8 weeks where multiple albums each sold enough to make it onto this list. Of those, 6 were during the Christmas season. The other two are 1991-10-05, when Guns N’Roses released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II simultaneously, and 2007-09-29 when Kanye West and 50 Cent both released new albums and famously tried to outsell each other (50 has yet to retire, as he promised if Kanye outsold him).

  • Eminem is the only artist on this list to have an album sell more in its 2nd week than its 1st (and have both weeks chart this high). Encore was rush-released to stores because of widespread piracy, so his first “week” of sales (710k) was only a couple of days, whereas he moved 870k units the full week after that. (Sound familiar? The same thing happened with his previous CD, The Eminem Show! It sold 284k copies in its first 1.5 day “week” and then followed it up with another 1.321 million in its first full week.)

  • Lil Wayne would do great on The Price is Right. He has one album just above the 1m mark (Tha Carter III, 1.005 million) and one just below (Tha Carter IV, 0.964m).

  • Of the 22 weeks over 1m, Adele has 3, Taylor Swift has 3, Eminem has 2, NSync has 2, and the Backstreet Boys have 2.

  • Most artists only have 1 or 2 albums on this list. The exceptions: Garth Brooks (3 albums), Taylor Swift (3 albums), and Eminem (5 albums). If you count the 8 Mile soundtrack, that’s 6 Eminem albums!

  • Many artists on here have 1 album for 2+ weeks OR 2+ albums for 1 week each, but only four have 2+ albums that each charted for 2+ weeks: Garth Brooks, the Backstreet Boys, 50 Cent, and Eminem.

  • The oldest albums on this chart are from 1991-10-05, the first year SoundScan started tracking album sales: Guns N’Roses’ simultaneous release of Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Interestingly, the latter sold more!

  • The newest albums on this list are Taylor Swift’s 1989 (the only 2014 album to make it) and Adele’s 25 (the only 2015 album to make it).

  • One peculiarity I came across in my research: did Japan have the first 3m+ first-week album sales of the SoundScan era…14 years before Adele? This list of the fastest-selling albums in Japan is perplexing, especially because their population was half that of the US in 2000.

  • Similarly, that Wikipedia article says that a JFK memorial album sold 4m copies in a week at $0.99 each and a Beatles album sold 3.3m copies in its US debut, though the sourcing is thin (SoundScan started tracking sales data in 1991).


Google didn’t make it easy to find these, so for anyone else looking, here’s the data I used to compile the above chart:

(One weird thing I noticed: Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed A Dream shows up at #87 on the 1991-2012 list, but disappears on the 2015 list. And Garth Brooks’ Double Live shows up at #94 on the 1991-2015 list, but wasn’t on the 2012 list. I don’t know if SoundScan changed something, but I included both on my list above.)

Finally, a HUGE shoutout again to oldbloke for maintaining this data. I tried to post on the forums to thank him, but new accounts are not permitted. So oldbloke, if you ever come across this post, thank you so much!

Read more ▸

Adele's crazy-pants sales numbers

When I saw the initial sales projections for Adele’s new album ‘25’—selling 2+ million copies in its first week—I thought someone had made a typo. The all-time record, 2.4 million, was set way back in 2000 by NSync, before the music industry cratered. In the last 10 years, nobody has sold more than 1.3 million in their first week.

Instead, Adele actually sold 3.4 million units. IN ONE WEEK.

That number is mind-bogglingly huge in this day and age. It’s nearly the same as Taylor Swift’s last 3 albums combined. Adele is an outlier of an outlier.

Timeline

The amazing thing about this album is that experts expected it to do big numbers…just not anywhere close to THIS huge. Check out this timeline:

Week-by-week sales

And, if anything, ‘25’ continues to exceed expectations in the weeks since its debut. Here are sales week-by-week:

It took Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ more than a year to sell 5.57 million units. Adele’s ‘25’ has already sold 7+ million copies in just over 5 weeks!

Adele’s previous albums

Adele’s only real competition is herself. Billboard did a good job of putting this into perspective: ‘25’ has sold more copies than any other album since Adele’s own ‘21’ (which has sold 11.37 million units since 2011!). In fact, Adele’s ‘21’ and ‘25’ are the two biggest-selling albums since 2009.

Just how high can sales go? Well, let’s compare it to her previous albums’ early sales:

  • ‘19’: Debuted in UK at #1 (Jan 2008), in US at #61 (June 2008) (Inexplicably, I can’t find actual sales numbers anywhere.)
  • ‘21’: 352,000 first-week US sales / 208,000 first-week UK sales
  • ‘25’: 3,354,773 first-week US sales / 800,000 first-week UK sales

Notice that? ‘25’ sold nearly TEN TIMES as many copies in its first week in the US as ‘21’ did. You’d think such front-loaded sales would precede an inevitable dropoff, but we have yet to see evidence of that. So if ‘21’ has sold 11m copies to date and ‘25’ has already sold 7m copies…the sky is the limit!

Biggest one-week album sales of all time

Thomas Nassiff wrote a really great article looking at the 19 albums that have sold more than 1 million units in a week before now. But as he points out, most of those albums were sold in the early 2000s, at the height of CD sales and a time when you had to buy an entire album to hear one song.

Here’s a full list of albums that have sold at least 900,000 units in a week, including Adele (I’ve bolded the albums released in the last 10 years):

  1. 2015 / 3.378 million / Adele - 25
  2. 2000 / 2.416 million / NSync - No Strings Attached
  3. 2001 / 1.880 million / NSync - Celebrity
  4. 2000 / 1.760 million / Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
  5. 2000 / 1.591 million / Backstreet Boys - Black & Blue
  6. 2002 / 1.322 million / Eminem - The Eminem Show (2nd week)
  7. 2000 / 1.319 million / Britney Spears - Oops!…I Did It Again
  8. 2014 / 1.287 million / Taylor Swift - 1989
  9. 2001 / 1.259 million / The Beatles - 1 (Christmas week)
  10. 2012 / 1.208 million / Taylor Swift - Red
  11. 2015 / 1.160 million / Adele - 25 (Christmas week)
  12. 2005 / 1.141 million / 50 Cent - The Massacre
  13. 1999 / 1.134 million / Backstreet Boys - Millennium
  14. 2015 / 1.112 million / Adele - 25 (2nd week)
  15. 2011 / 1.108 million / Lady Gaga - Born This Way (see note below)
  16. 2004 / 1.096 million / Usher - Confessions
  17. 1998 / 1.085 million / Garth Brooks - Double Live
  18. 1993 / 1.061 million / Whitney Houston - The Bodyguard OST (Christmas week)
  19. 2000 / 1.055 million / Limp Bizkit - Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water
  20. 2010 / 1.047 million / Taylor Swift - Speak Now
  21. 2004 / 1.022 million / Norah Jones - Feels Like Home
  22. 2008 / 1.005 million / Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
  23. 2013 / 0.968 million / Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
  24. 2011 / 0.964 million / Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV
  25. 2007 / 0.957 million / Kanye West - Graduation
  26. 1993 / 0.950 million / Pearl Jam - Vs.
  27. 1994 / 0.907 million / Garth Brooks - The Hits (Christmas week)

A few things to note based on this list:

  • Adele’s ‘25’ is the first album to ever sell more than 1 million copies in multiple weeks: its debut week (3.38m), its second week (1.11m), AND its fifth week (1.16m).

  • Since 2006, only 3 artists had sold more than a million units in one week: Taylor Swift (3 albums), Lady Gaga (1 album, but subsidized - see below), and Lil Wayne (1 album, barely). And now Adele.

  • The only artists to sell 1 million albums in a week more than once: Taylor Swift x 3, Adele x 3, NSync x 2, Backstreet Boys x 2, Eminem x 2 (all but Adele for different albums).

  • Of the 20 albums that sold a million-plus, 5 came out in 2000. No other year had more than two.

  • Before researching this, I assumed an album’s first-week sales were always its highest. Not so! Turns out the week leading up to Christmas is huge. Adele sold more albums in the Christmas week (1.16 million) than in her 2nd week (1.11 million). And The Beatles, Whitney Houston, and Garth Brooks all saw more sales in the Christmas week than in their respective albums’ debut weeks. Crazy!

  • One more week artists can expect a huge bump in sales? After the Grammys! It’s not quite enough to show up on this list, but Adele sold a staggering 730,000 copies of ‘21’ the week after the 2012 Grammys, Outkast sold 275,000 copies of ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’ the week after the 2004 Grammys, and Norah Jones moved 621,000 units of ‘Come Away with Me’ the week after the 2003 Grammys. Full list of the post-Grammy bumps here.

  • Wondering why ‘The Eminem Show’ shows up in this list for its 2nd week of sales but not its first? To combat massive piracy from an early leak, Eminem’s label let retailers start selling it a week and a half sooner than expected, on a Sunday (instead of the traditional Tuesday). So its first official sales “week” was only 1.5 days, in which it sold 284,000 copies. In its first full week of sales, it moved 1,321,799 units.

  • Lady Gaga’s appearance on this list is somewhat dubious because Amazon sold her album for $0.99 (cheaper than a single song on iTunes for $1.29!). Amazon, which sold 440,000 copies or 40% of its total sales, took a significant loss on this stunt to drive up publicity for its MP3 store because it still paid Lady Gaga for the full price of the album. Billboard later changed its rules to only include albums that sell for at least $3.49 in its charts.


A note on numbers and sources: If you see small variations between numbers in this post, it’s because it’s really hard to find a single consistent source of information. Some sites use traditional album sales, some use TEAs (track-equivalent albums, where buying 10 digital singles = 1 album purchase), and some include SEAs (stream-equivalent albums, where 1,500 Spotify/YouTube/etc streams = 1 album purchase). In addition to some of the links above, I used a Billboard list of albums that have sold 1m+ in a week, a Complex list of the 25 biggest FIRST-week album sales, an article that mentioned the fastest-selling albums in 2013, and a list of the fastest-selling albums of 2014. But just as I was finishing writing this post, I found an old but amazing resource for the biggest sales weeks of the Soundscan era that was invaluable for correcting numbers and which I hope to write more about in a future blog post soon!

Read more ▸

How the Grammys early cutoff hurt Drake & Adele and comparing it to other award show timelines

The Grammy Awards nominees were announced recently. And, like every year, there was something that bugged me: the award show isn’t until mid-February, but a lot of recent songs aren’t nominated.

The Grammy Awards, more than the other major award shows, seems to have a way-too-early cutoff for submissions. Why? I started looking at the full submission timeline, but quickly found myself knee-deep in the arcane rules and procedures of the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and Tonys (EGOT!).

Into the rabbit hole we go!

Grammys

  • Timeline
    • Grammy written entry deadline: Aug 26 (but July 1 for releases through July 30)
    • Grammy album release cutoff: Sept 30, 2015
    • Grammy nomination voting: Oct 14-Nov 4
    • Grammy nominations announced: Dec 7, 2015
    • Grammy award voting: Dec 16-Jan 15
    • Grammy award show: Feb 15, 2016
    • Total time from cutoff to award show: 4.5 months
    • Sources: timeline, rules

My first thought when reading this: what’s the difference between the entry deadline and the album release deadline? Good question! The album release deadline is simple: it’s the last date the album can officially be released for sale. But the entry deadline is when you have to submit your album for consideration to be nominated.

But wait, isn’t the entry deadline BEFORE the album release deadline? Yep! And turns out, it’s like that for all the award shows. Basically, if your album comes out at the end of the eligibility period, you have to submit it for Grammy consideration before its official release date. Weird, but whatever. What’s even more unusual is if your album comes out before July 30th, you had to submit it by July 1st for consideration.

If the Grammy committee gets submissions so early, why does it take so long to actually give out the awards?!

Let’s look at just how long it takes. The album release deadline is Sept 30th and the award show is on February 15th. That’s FOUR AND A HALF months in between. What takes so long? Well, they allocate about a month for nomination voting, another month until actually announcing the nominees, a month for the final round of voting, and then wait another month until the awards show. That’s SO LONG (especially compared to the other awards shows, as you’ll see below).

Now, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal? Well, let’s look at how it affects two of the biggest artists in the world:

  1. Drake: There wasn’t a consensus song of the summer this year, but there sure was an omnipresent fall song: Hotline Bling. It’s Drake’s biggest hit and would probably be the favorite for Best Rap Song this year. But it wasn’t nominated. Even worse, it wasn’t even submitted for consideration!

    How is that possible? Because, of course, the Grammys timeline is awful. It’s explained here, but basically remember the deadline for submitting the song: August 26th, 2015. At that time, Hotline Bling was just recently released and was only #57 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. No one knew what a huge smash it would quickly become.

    And so Drake’s team submitted other songs, like “Energy”, which was nominated instead. It might win, it might not. But it’s nowhere near the lock that “Hotline Bling” would’ve been.

  2. Adele: She just destroyed the all-time record for first-week album sales with 3.4 million sold. Her lead single entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #1 and has stayed there for at least 7 weeks running. But she won’t be on the Grammy stage. Not as a nominee, at least. Why? Again, a victim of the Grammys timeline.

    Her song, “Hello”, came out on October 22nd, 2015. Her album, ‘25’, came out on November 20th, 2015. But remember, the deadline was September 30th. So even though we are firmly living in the Age of Adele these next few months, she won’t be up for any Grammys this year.

    Of course, she’ll be eligible at next year’s awards. But it will have been nearly 16 months by then. Will she be able to repeat her sweep from last time, or will her moment have passed because of the long hiatus?

So, not only is the Grammy process unusually long, it actually does a disservice to the songs and artists that should be nominated. But is it unusual or do other award shows do better? Let’s take a look!

(PS. The Grammys need to fix other things too: most notably, a recent rule change that allows the entire voting body to vote on individual genres, which they may not know about. This came up when Macklemore won Best Rap Album over Kendrick Lamar a few years ago and actually apologized for it. If you’re curious about other ways the Grammys need fixing, definitely read this article too.)

Emmys

  • Timeline
    • Emmy written entry deadline: May 4
    • Emmy show airdate cutoff: May 31, 2015 (but…hanging episode rule!)
    • Emmy nomination voting: June 15-26
    • Emmy nominations announced: July 16, 2015
    • Emmy award voting: August 17-28
    • Emmy award show: Sept 20, 2015 (Creative Arts ceremony on Sept 12)
    • Total time from cutoff to award show: 3.66 months
    • Sources: timeline, rules (hanging episode rule on page 4)

So the Grammys have a 4.5 month delay between the deadline and the award show. Are the Emmys any better? At first glance, not especially: it’s more than 3.5 months from the airdate deadline to the award show this year.

But wait, it’s actually a lot better than it looks! A few things come into play:

  1. The awards are intentionally timed to the beginning and end of the TV season. The Emmy awards started as a way to honor broadcast TV (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc), whose season runs from September through May. That’s why the cutoff is the end of May. And the award show itself is usually held on the first day of the new TV season in mid-September, providing a great promotional opportunity for all the new fall TV shows. So the lengthy Emmys timeline is actually intentional, unlike the Grammys. (And the 2014 Emmy awards were held in August because of a scheduling conflict, demonstrating they could shorten the timeline if they really wanted.)

  2. The hanging episode rule. What happens when the Emmys airdate deadline arrives in the middle of a TV show’s current season? Not to worry! As long as a show airs more than half of its episodes before the cutoff, any episodes that air after that (but before the end of voting) are still eligible. They do have to air on the same platform (so a network can’t just put unaired episodes online) and the complete season must be 6 episodes minimum, but they are indeed eligible.

So TV is a fundamentally different medium than music and the Emmys process reflects that. Of course, the awards are no longer for just broadcast shows—in fact, broadcast shows are increasingly shut out of the major categories in favor of cable and streaming shows. And perhaps the Emmys should push back the May cutoff as a result.

For example, Netflix releases Orange is the New Black in early June every year, which is just after the cutoff. So at the September 2015 Emmy awards, everyone was talking about Season 3 of the show, but Season 2 was the one in consideration for awards.

It’s not just streaming shows that are affected by the May deadline though. FX’s Louie gets awful ratings, but the network keeps it around because it’s a perennial Emmy favorite. In 2014, Louis CK finished up Season 4 a little late, so FX actually aired 2 episodes back-to-back every week just to make sure it hit the Emmy cutoff. When networks start scheduling shows to accommodate award shows and not viewers, you know it’s time to update the rules.

Overall though, the Emmys timeline is still better than the Grammys. What about the Oscars?

Oscars

  • Timeline
    • Oscar written entry deadline: Dec 2
    • Oscar movie screening cutoff: Dec 31, 2015 (start of one-week qualifying LA run)
    • Oscar nomination voting: Dec 30-Jan 8
    • Oscar nominations announced: Jan 14, 2016
    • Oscar award voting: Feb 12-Feb 23
    • Oscar awards: Feb 28, 2016
    • Total time from cutoff to award show: 2 months
    • Sources: timeline, rules

Compared to the Grammys, the Oscar timeline is downright expeditious. It’s pretty simple: if your movie came out in calendar year 2015, it’s eligible at the February 2016 Oscars. That’s great!

A couple of notes:

  1. The above timeline is for “General Entry” films. Animated films, foreign films, short films, and documentaries have significantly earlier cutoffs.

  2. If a music album comes out on a certain date, that’s when everyone generally gets to hear it for the first time (critics used to get them earlier, but the fear of leaks has mostly ended that). On the other hand, movies are rolled out gradually. Especially awards-bait movies—-they’re generally shown off at Cannes, Telluride, TIFF, and other film festivals before their official release in, say, late December. So keep that in mind when comparing the Grammys and Oscars timelines.

  3. The cutoff for movies is December 31, but that’s only for a “one-week qualifying Los Angeles run.” Basically, as long as a studio releases their movie in one theater in LA, it qualifies for that year’s Oscar awards. So if a studio knows they have a solid Oscar contender, they could delay the movie’s wide release until closer to the actual award show, presumably hoping the extra press translates to more tickets sold.

The Oscars do a pretty great job of not stretching out their timeline too much. Where the Grammy awards give voters a MONTH to turn in their ballots for each round of voting, the Oscars give little over a week. And the award show itself is only 5 days after the voting deadline (the Grammys and Emmys, inexplicably, wait about a month!).

However, that doesn’t mean the Oscars process isn’t without its peculiarities either. Leading up to this past year’s Oscars, Julianne Moore was a huge favorite to win Best Actress for her role in Still Alice. I was excited and wanted to see the movie, but it wasn’t out in theaters yet. When she won the Oscar, I checked again for showtimes…but the movie STILL wasn’t out! That’s right, Julianne Moore won the Oscar for a movie that still hadn’t been released nationwide. I know Oscar voters usually get DVD screeners of nominated films, but it makes you wonder…did they all actually watch Julianne Moore’s performance or did they just vote for her because experts said she was the favorite?

All in all though, the Oscars have a pretty solid timeline. The eligibility period is timed to the calendar year (so it’s easy to tell which year of movies they’re honoring) and they don’t waste much time leading up to the award show.

Tonys

  • Timeline
    • Tony written entry deadline: not found
    • Tony play debut cutoff: Apr 28, 2016 (must open on Broadway)
    • Tony nomination voting: not found
    • Tony nominations announced: May 3, 2016
    • Tony award voting: not found
    • Tony award show: June 12, 2016
    • Total time from cutoff to award show: 1.5 months
    • Sources: timeline 1, timeline 2, rules

I spent a LONG time, looking very hard & trying every search term I could think of, to find details on the written entry deadline and voting periods for the Tonys. Alas, to no avail. If anyone has more details, please let me know so I can update this!

As far as I can see, however, the Tonys are the fastest of them all. From the time a play has to debut on Broadway to the actual award show itself, there’s only a 6-week turnaround. That’s great! I don’t know how the Tony Awards do it so quickly, but the other award shows could definitely learn from them.

BONUS: Golden Globes

  • Timeline
    • Golden Globes written entry deadline: Oct 30, 2015
    • Golden Globes movie screening cutoff: Dec 2, 2015
    • Golden Globes TV airdate cutoff: Dec 31, 2015??
    • Golden Globes nomination voting: Nov 25-Dec 7
    • Golden Globes nominations announced: Dec 10, 2015
    • Golden Globes award voting: Dec 21-Jan 6
    • Golden Globes award show: Jan 10, 2016
    • Total time from cutoff to award show: 1.25 months
    • Sources: timeline, rules

Just for good measure, I decided to take a look at the Golden Globes timeline too. The Globes are actually a very interesting case study for a few reasons. First of all, they honor both TV shows and movies. Moreover, their award timeline turnaround time is little more than a month. In fact, their TV cutoff is apparently only 10 days before the award show! (I couldn’t find a definitive deadline for TV shows, so I’m going by their rules PDF which says all TV shows in a calendar year are eligible.)

How can this be? For one very simple reason: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which votes on the Golden Globes, has only 90 members. For comparison, the Oscars have more than 6,500 eligible voters. The Emmys have more than 15,000 eligible voters. The SAG Awards have 165,000 eligible voters. Compare that to NINETY.

So, basically, view any actual Golden Globes winners with a very heavy dose of skepticism. Heck, Globes voters have repeatedly rewarded studios who bribe them with fancy dinners & private concerts, free DVD players & watches, or even all-expenses-paid trips to Las Vegas. And that’s just the stuff we know about!

The worst part is that the general public views the Golden Globes as a worthy predecessor to the Oscars. In fact, winning a Golden Globe is better than winning an Oscar for a movie’s bottom line—around $14 million vs $3 million!

Long story short, the Golden Globes indeed have the shortest timeline, but that’s because you can’t take them seriously.

Conclusion

  • Summary:
    • Time from Grammys cutoff to award show: 4.5 months
    • Time from Emmys cutoff to award show: 3.66 months
    • Time from Oscars cutoff to award show: 2 months
    • Time from Tonys cutoff to award show: 1.5 months
    • Time from Golden Globes cutoff to award show: 1.25 months

I’m glad to see I wasn’t crazy when I thought the Grammys took unusually long to decide awards. They’re the only award show not timed to the calendar year (or TV season), even though the date of the actual awards show would suggest otherwise. In fact, they air around the same time as the Oscars, but the Grammys cutoff is 3 months earlier than the Oscar cutoff!

Grammys, step your game up.

UPDATE: After all this, turns out not all award show deadlines are actually final! A week after originally announcing their 10 nominees for Best Picture, the Critics Choice Awards just added the new Star Wars movie as an 11th option after an internal vote. More details in this Deadline story.

Read more ▸

Links to Sepinwall's episode-by-episode reviews for every show in his book, The Revolution Was Televised

UPDATE (2016-06-09): Just launched a new version of my site. If you had this page bookmarked and prefer the old version, it’ll be up at http://old.raviudeshi.com for a while. Thanks!

My favorite TV critic, Alan Sepinwall, is releasing the updated version of his book The Revolution Was Televised today. I love the book, especially because it introduced me to shows I’ve since watched and absolutely loved (Friday Night Lights!).

As I catch up on some of the other shows in the book, as I do with every episode of good TV I watch, I immediately go to find Alan’s episode-by-episode reviews, which add lots of detail and insight. To make it easier for myself, I decide to compile all the links in one place for each episodic review for all the shows covered in his book (and one more!). Hope this helps anyone else that likes to read Alan’s reviews!

NOTE: I tried to build this list programmatically using a combination of thetvdb.com and Google ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ searches, but it didn’t work. In the end, I went through Alan’s old and new blogs and hand-copied each link into a huge Excel spreadsheet. It took forever (and I accidentally spoiled myself on a few character deaths in shows I haven’t seen yet, grr), but hopefully every link is right. If not, or if you spot any typos, please contact me via email or, preferably, on Twitter—I’m @rkudeshi. Thanks!

Table of Contents

  1. Oz
  2. The Sopranos
  3. The Wire
  4. Deadwood
  5. The Shield
  6. Lost
  7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  8. 24
  9. Battlestar Galactica
  10. Friday Night Lights
  11. Mad Men
  12. Breaking Bad
  13. Game of Thrones

Oz

As far as I can find, Alan hasn’t written about Oz individually.

The Sopranos

Alan reviewed various Season 4-6 episodes for the Newark Star-Ledger and did a Season 1 rewatch in 2015.

The Wire

Alan made a list of all of his reviews of The Wire in 2014, so I’ve mostly copied from that list. The “Newbie” reviews are for people watching the series for the first time, while the “Veteran” reviews have future spoilers for the whole series.

Deadwood

Like The Wire, Alan did “Newbie” and “Veteran” reviews of Deadwood. However, after episode 208, he consolidated them into one and noted that first-time watchers should avoid the comments, where future spoilers are allowed.

The Shield

Alan only started reviewing this show with Season 6, so nothing available before then.

Lost

Alan reviewed Season 2 more sporadically, which is why not all episodes have reviews. After that, he covered everything though.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I believe Alan reviewed at least some Buffy episodes for the Newark Star-Ledger (some of his quotes are cited on Wikipedia pages for individual episodes), but I can’t find the full articles anywhere. However, he and Dan Fienberg did a re-watch of season 1 on their podcast in 2012. They also discussed the series finale on the podcast in 2015, so I’ve included those links below.

24

Another show Alan reviewed very sporadically (especially in its later lesser seasons), but he did review every episode of the 24: Live Another Day revival in 2014.

Battlestar Galactica

Alan’s early reviews didn’t include the episode name in the blog post title, so I matched the date of his blog posts with the show’s air dates. Please contact me if there are any mistakes!

Friday Night Lights

This is probably my favorite show of any on this list…if you haven’t watched it, go to Netflix right now and start! It’s so good!

Mad Men

As one of the newer shows, Alan reviewed every episode as it aired. Don’t miss his additional articles at the end too.

Breaking Bad

As one of the newer shows, Alan reviewed every episode as it aired.

Game of Thrones

Bonus! I compiled the links for this show because I figure it’s the next most likely Alan would’ve included in his book (and his reviews were VERY helpful for me when I caught up on the show a couple years ago).

Read more ▸

What I want in iOS 9, OS X 10.11, and a new Apple TV

In last year’s iOS wish list, I noted that Android had finally caught up to iOS. This year, for the first time, it really feels like Google has surpassed Apple. Most importantly, Apple’s recent breakneck pace of innovation has led to self-inflicted wounds—you can only keep adding new features at the expense of stability for so long before it all breaks down.

Thankfully, it seems like Apple realizes it’s time for a ‘Snow Leopard’ year. Both iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 are rumored to be focused on stability and optimizing existing features. Understanding that, I’ve tried to focus less on pie-in-the-sky features and more on basic system improvements and refinements.

Here we go!

iOS 9

Big picture stuff:

System-wide ‘Dark mode’: A lot of people like the “night themes” in apps like Pocket and Tweetbot and Reeder. But I had no idea how many until I saw this short post by Marco Arment: more people want a dark mode in Overcast than any other feature! It’s also an accessibility feature for some people, especially because the flat design in iOS 7+ means most screens are much “whiter” than previous OS versions, as Matt Gemmell visually documented. Now that Apple has added options for Dark menus and docks in OS X Yosemite, it seems like this is on their radar. Hopefully, they build a system-wide toggle right into iOS so that you can enable a night theme in all apps at once.

Lock screen “Complications”: Apple still won’t allow widgets on the home screen, only in Notification Center. Fine. How about porting “complications” from watchOS back over to the mothership OS? Then, like on the Apple Watch, you could have the temperature or your daily step count or your next event right on your home screen.

Add stickers to iMessage: I’ll always have a soft spot for emoticons, but it’s clear emoji are better. But the new rage in Asia are “stickers” — think even larger, more intricately-drawn emoji. And instead of being based on a Unicode standard, which makes it hard to create new emojis, apps can add new stickers anytime. I think it’d be a lot of fun to see a bunch of Apple-designed stickers in the Messages app.

Allow all apps to use the NFC chip: I was ecstatic that the iPhone 6 finally included NFC. But Apple has restricted outside developers from using it, reserving it for Apple Pay. I get it, you want to keep things simple and make sure your new payment service is secure. But now, with a year under your belt, it’s time to open it up. Allow developers to make apps that can read the balance on your NFC-based public transit card, share contact information with nearby NFC-enabled phones, or change system settings based on proximity to NFC tags.

Third-party default apps: I feel like a broken clock saying this every year, but it’s pretty much the biggest low-hanging fruit left (that notably has existed on Android forever). I will not rest until I can make Mailbox or Outlook or Spark or Inbox or CloudMagic my default app for creating new emails from other apps.

Video player

Video mini-player: As I encounter more and more videos, I can’t help but increasingly feel hostage to them. On my computer, it’s easy to open a video in one window while you keep working in another. But on iOS, you can’t do that. My solution? A small mini-player, just like the YouTube and Twitter apps already have, but system-wide. Apple should look to their own FaceTime app’s “picture-in-picture” for inspiration—make it small and draggable so you can put it in whichever corner of the screen you want.

(I know Apple is working on split-screen apps, especially for the rumored 12-inch iPad Pro. But that’s a LOT more work for developers. Instead of just designing for the whole screen, they would have to make responsive designs that only take up 25%, 33%, and 50% of the screen. Think about how long it took most websites to adapt for smartphone screens. A video mini-player sounds a lot easier to implement now, right?)

Always horizontal videos (even if rotation lock is on): You hold your phone vertically while using it. But every time you come across a video, you turn it horizontally to see the video full screen. But if your rotation lock is on, it doesn’t work. Instead, I propose that iPhones always play videos horizontally. That way, you don’t have to disable rotation lock before and re-enable it afterwards every time.

Rewind 10 seconds button: Why does Apple’s default video player make it so hard to skip back a few seconds? After 8 years, it still only has rewind and fast forward buttons. Even the HBO GO app finally added a ‘skip back 10 seconds’ button. Get with the times, Apple.

Don’t force embedded videos to always play full screen: On an iPad, you can play embedded videos in place and still scroll around the web page, just like on a computer. On an iPhone, videos can ONLY be played in fullscreen. Sometimes you just want to listen to a video while reading other parts of the page; your iPhone shouldn’t restrict you from doing so.

Phone calls:

Caller ID for all numbers, not just those in your contacts: I know there are technical and financial reasons behind it, but it still sucks that landline phones have caller ID with names and cell phones generally don’t. But now, Android apps like TrueCaller and Facebook Hello can use the Internet to instantly find information about numbers that call you. Either Apple needs to open up the APIs to allow apps like this to come to iOS or build it themselves. I want to always see a name when someone calls me, whether they’re in my contacts or not.

Talking caller ID: If you’ve never experienced this on your landline, you’re really missing out. Instead of getting up and walking across the room just to see that a telemarketer is calling, my desk phone will literally speak aloud the name of whoever’s calling. It’s great and it’s time to have this option on my smartphone too.

Phone calls as regular notifications, not fullscreen: John Gruber has been making the case for this for a while. We use the phone apps on our smartphones less than ever and it’s annoying to have an incoming call take over your whole screen when you’re in the middle of something else. An option to have phone calls as regular banner notifications, that’s all we ask.

System improvements:

Option to quickly block future notifications from an app: Nice guy that I am, I always say yes when an app asks to send me notifications. Most apps are pretty good about only sending useful notifications…and then there are the troublemakers. The apps with spammy or way-too-frequent notifications. Instead of making users dig deep into the Settings app, it would be great if there was a way to instantly block future notifications, just like the spam button in email clients.

Really chronological notifications: Far too often, I pull my phone out of my pocket and use Touch ID to unlock it immediately without realizing I had notifications waiting for me on my lockscreen. So I go to Notification Center to find my most recent notifications and they’re all over the place. Instead of grouping notifications by app, maybe it’s time to sort them individually in chronological order.

Customize control center buttons: Having a bunch of system shortcuts consolidated in Control Center is great. But not everyone toggles the same options or needs the same app shortcuts. Time to let people customize both the top and bottom rows of Control Center.

More useful battery usage info: iOS 8 added a Battery Usage panel, but it’s not very useful. It just shows which apps you use most, which I already know because, well, those are the apps I always open. Instead, show me which apps use the most battery for every minute they’re open, or how long apps stay open in the background, or what small tweaks I can make to increase battery life.

Search bar in Settings.app: The Settings app is more bloated than ever and it’s getting nigh-impossible to find some settings. Like System Preferences on a Mac, it’s time to add a search bar.

Health app redesign: I was really excited last year for the debut of the Health app. I thought it would be fantastic to have a centralized place that analyzed your health data and surfaced interesting trends and suggestions. Instead, the current Health app is more like Excel with some graphs. I really hope Apple takes what they learned in making the beautiful Activity app for the Apple Watch and bring it over to Health. If nothing else, at least redesign the home screen of the app to feature more useful, actionable information.

Increase tab limit in Safari: When iOS 7 was announced 2 years ago, Apple promised you could open unlimited tabs in Safari. Unlimited! Unfortunately, sometime between announcing the OS at WWDC and actually launching it, they changed it to a 24-tab limit. With iOS 8, that limit increased to 36 tabs. But power users use more tabs than that on their computers. If they can’t honor the original promise of unlimited, I hope it at least gets bumped to 48 tabs this year.

Don’t overwrite open tabs in Safari: If you already have the max number of Safari tabs open and you open another one, do you know what happens? Safari silently overwrites your first tab with the new one. Even worse, you won’t even know you’re nearing the limit because, as of iOS 7, Safari no longer shows you a number for how many tabs you have open. So if you want to know whether you’re near the limit or not, you have to manually count your tabs. Stop it, Safari. Just stop it.

OS X 10.11

Here’s my complete list of things I want to see in the new OS X:

  1. Make it work again.

That’s it. I don’t care if we don’t see any new features, I just want everything to work well again. OS X used to be a bastion of amazing new features that worked perfectly on your computer thanks to Apple’s vertical hardware/software integration. But what world are we living in that Windows 10 now runs better on the new Macbook than OS X?!

Even decades-long Apple developers like Craig Hockenberry are fed up with Yosemite’s constant problems. When it gets this bad, it’s time to take a step back and re-assess.

I know it would be cool to see small things like a new Get Info screen or Control Center or Siri on the Mac, but the most important thing is fixing the existing problems. I said it last year and I’ll say it again: “for the love of god, just don’t screw it up.”

New Apple TV

What was Apple originally going to announce at WWDC?

  • iOS 9 (OK, but I wouldn’t mind no new features if it worked better.)
  • OS X 10.11 (Great, hope it’s focused on stability too.)
  • Apple Watch native apps (Better late than never.)
  • HomeKit (Could be big, could be nothing, we’ll see.)
  • Streaming music service (Yet another Spotify clone? Yawn.)
  • Streaming TV service (The first mainstream Internet TV service? Around $40/month for all the good channels? YES PLEASE.)
  • New Apple TV (YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!!!!)

And then the bad news rolled in last week: no new streaming TV service, no new Apple TV.

ARRRGGGH.

The Apple TV hasn’t seen a meaningful update in 5 years. Five years! I understand needing time to lock down the deals with TV networks for the streaming service, but I really thought they had turned the corner and were ready to show off a new super-powered Apple TV with 3rd-party apps. Alas, not yet. But when that day comes (hopefully just a little later this year), here’s what I’m hoping to see:

App Store with native apps

This one’s a no-brainer. Now that we know Tim Cook has given up on the full-fledged Apple television set for now, there’s nothing holding them back from letting developers build real 3rd-party apps for the set-top box, not just web apps like I previously expected.

Some people don’t think we need TV apps. But right now, only the big boys can make deals with Apple to get their apps preloaded on the set-top box. Your ESPNs and HBOs of the world. But what about all the smaller TV channels? What about web video networks? What about upstart streaming services, like Sling TV? What about iTunes competitors, like Amazon Prime and Vudu? A true open-to-all App Store would allow all of them to make TV apps too, not just Apple’s preferred partners.

Bluetooth or RF remote

The current Apple TV remote, like most remotes, uses infrared: you have to point it at your TV to get it to work. But once you’ve tried a remote that doesn’t require line-of-sight, like the Dish Hopper’s RF remote or the Amazon Fire TV’s Bluetooth remote, you can never go back. It’s glorious to not have to worry about how you hold the remote or angling it towards your TV. Even better, you can use them while staying cozy under the covers of your bed or even from another room. Time to step into the (very basic) future, Apple.

AirPlay via Wi-Fi Direct

I love AirPlay. It’s the single most compelling reason to have an Apple TV and the only reason anyone still cares about Apple’s current stagnating box despite impressive competition. But it sucks that it only works if both your phone and your Apple TV are on the same Wi-Fi network. It means that if a guest comes over to the house and wants to fling something to the big screen, I have to give them my very, very long Wi-Fi password (I like my router’s guest Wi-Fi network for security, visitors like it because the password is much shorter).

Fortunately, there’s already a solution. Wi-Fi Direct. Basically, 2 devices can see and talk to each other without needing a router in the middle. I know Peer-to-Peer Airplay was quietly announced last year, but it apparently requires Bluetooth and doesn’t work too well. I’m hoping to see a better implementation on any new set-top box. (And while you’re at it, how about making AirPlay more reliable again?)

Streaming TV service with full DVR

I can’t stress this enough: I don’t care what other innovations Apple comes up with for their eventual streaming service, I just hope it has a DVR. Store the recordings in the cloud, store them on a large hard drive in the new Apple TV, whatever…I just want to be able to record any show, watch it months later, and be able to rewind and fast-forward at will.

Around 15 years ago, ReplayTV and TiVo debuted. And it was glorious! You could record shows and skip over the commercials. But now, in a world where about 50% of cable subscribers have a DVR, television networks are increasingly fearful for the viability of their cash cows. Instead of recording your favorite shows to watch later, they want you to use the VOD feature, knowing you can’t skip the commercials (think Hulu, but on your cable box). And so services like Sling TV, while incredibly promising, don’t have true DVR capabilities—the networks won’t let them.

And so, as we begin to transition from DRM-free cable TV to IP-based streaming TV services, I really hope that Apple uses their bully pulpit as the largest company in the world and pushes back on behalf of their users. Viva la DVR revolucion!

Read more ▸

Tidal might succeed, but not for the reason artists want

Tidal, a music streaming service Jay-Z recently bought, relaunched today with 2 major differences compared to the competition:

  • It’s owned by artists. A lot of A-listers: Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Coldplay, Daft Punk, Jack White, Jason Aldean, J. Cole, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Deadmau5, Madonna, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Usher.

  • It pays more in royalties to artists.

You can watch the star-studded launch event here:

Here’s where the problems start. That bit about paying musicians more? It’s not exactly true:

Before today, that premium tier was the only one TIDAL offered. This morning it introduced a $9.99 service with standard definition audio, which will pay just the standard royalty rates. The double royalties only get paid on streams for customers who sign up for the $19.99 plan, which promises higher quality audio files, but is twice the cost of a typical Spotify subscription. In other words TIDAL is bound by the same economics as its competitors, but it choose to move up the food chain, away from the free ad-supported tier that pay the least per stream.

So Tidal may or may not actually pay artists more. But if they want to promote it that way, all the power to them. Unfortunately, I think that message will only resonate with a minority of customers. I think most people choosing a music streaming service care more about cost and catalogue.

And that gets to the competitive advantage this service could actually succeed with: exclusives.

Supposedly, Jay-Z is trying to get artists to launch new albums with timed exclusives on Tidal. So Kanye West’s new album might be on Tidal only for the first month before being released to the other streaming services. If the other co-owners start launching new songs and albums on Tidal first, and especially if they can wrangle up enough other musicians to join them, then maybe Tidal can steal away some Spotify customers.

But Spotify has a huge head start in a couple key areas:

  1. Users. As of last count, Spotify had 60 million users, 15 million of those actually paying. Before today, Tidal had 17,000 total users (all paid, though).

  2. Technology. It’s not easy building a successful celestial jukebox…just ask before-their-time bygones like Rhapsody, Mog, and Zune Pass. Spotify perfected the necessary tech: ubiquitous apps, algorithmic recommendations, and integrated social.

  3. Payment model. Tidal doesn’t have a free tier because the new owners believe it devalues music. Like Taylor Swift, they think music should not be a commodity. But do you know why Spotify succeeded where so many else failed? They let people get a free taste. So many people try Spotify for months on end before paying up for the premium tier. Freemium works.

Though, detractors might say, look at what happened in streaming video. Netflix had a runaway lead, but Amazon Prime and Hulu and HBO Now and Yahoo Screen and others are catching up. And in the face of balkanization of content, consumers have been willing to pay for more than one service.

But streaming music is not streaming video. The completeness of your catalogue matters. People will subscribe to the service that has the music they want. Or, more accurately, people WON’T subscribe to a service that doesn’t have their favorite musicians. Until now, music streaming services have competed on a mostly even field: everyone has the same basic catalogue so they instead had to differentiate themselves on features and price. Tidal’s entry is poised to upend that.

As consumers, all we can do is sit back and see if Jay-Z can pull off the ultimate boss move: get Tidal’s co-owners to follow Taylor Swift’s lead and remove their music from Spotify entirely. Now that would really be upending the industry.


UPDATE: Bob Lefsetz and Ben Thompson have written much better, more astute articles on the topic here and here. Definitely read them.

Read more ▸

What I want in iOS 8 and OS X 10.10

We’ve hit a tipping point. Long-time Apple evangelist Paul Stamatiou now argues Android is better. Quite convincingly, too—even I’m thinking about switching this year. Apple can no longer coast on its past successes now that developers and consumers have arguably better options now.

The only things we got from last year’s wish list were a pedometer in the iPhone and iBooks on OS X.

Still missing: better inter-app communication, Safari extensions, improved App Store rankings, Wi-Fi phone calls, a Siri that can actually compete with Google Now, and storing iOS apps in the cloud instead of on our computers. (Oh, and Apple TV apps, which I’ve been going on about for 2 years now.)

Given that, here’s what I’d like to see in the next versions of iOS and OS X.

iOS

1. Ability to return apps

No one likes what the race to the bottom has done to iOS apps and games. If Apple won’t add a robust trial mode, then at least match Android’s ability to return apps for a refund within 15 minutes. Eliminate any hesitation from trying high-quality paid apps and games.

2. Option to ‘archive’ apps

Six years into the app revolution, some of us have accumulated a LOT of apps. And we’re running out of space, even on the largest capacity iOS devices.

Right now, you can delete apps and re-download them from the App Store, but you lose any data (e.g. game saves, user files). This also hurts app developers because once you’ve deleted an app, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever download it again.

I propose that Apple give us an option to ‘archive’ apps. Leave the icon on the homescreen, save any data, but delete the app itself. If I ever want to download the app again, I can just click on the icon and the OS should be able to essentially lazy load it.

3. Delete apps from all devices

When you download a new app/book/song, Apple will happily initiate an automatic download on your other devices. But it makes no similar functionality available for when you want to uninstall an app from all of your devices. And if I don’t delete an app from my computer before I sync my phone, sometimes it will show up again.

When I delete an app from my iPhone, give me an option to automatically do the same from my iPad and computer.

4. Centralized health management

The rumor mill suggests Apple is going to include a Healthbook app in iOS 8. I really hope it acts as a platform, not just an app. I want to be able to log my meals, weight, and exercise and have it available to any app I choose. With an army of modular apps tapping the central data store, you could switch apps if and when someone makes a better version.

We’ve already seen this with the proliferation of apps that take advantage of the M7 processor (aka, the pedometer). Before iOS 7, the only apps that could monitor your step count were Moves and Argus thanks to their proprietary algorithms. With the release of iOS 7, we saw small purpose-built apps like Pedometer++ from independent developers. And now we’re finally seeing a third wave, with apps only tangentially focused on step-counting like MyFitnessPal and Day One integrating this data.

Think about the possibilities. Your doctor could ask to see your activity log to confirm a diagnosis. Your insurance company could give you a discount if you share your blood pressure readings.1 You and your friends could have a weight loss competition even if you use different apps.

Just as new social networking apps can tap your phone’s contacts to hit the ground running, hopefully a new wave of salubrious apps will be able to piggyback on Healthbook.

5. Third-party apps as default

Despite Apple’s best efforts, the App Store is NOT a meritocracy. There is still no way to set a different default browser or camera or email app.

Humble thyself, Apple, and open up the floodgates. We already bought your phone, you don’t need to force us to use your apps too.

6. Fix Notification Center

All indications are that we’re going to get this in some form. Apple is going to kill the ‘Missed’ tab and make Notification Center simpler and more intuitive. Good. Maybe even steal a page from Android and make notifications actionable in-line.

7. Kill Newsstand

Users hate it. Developers have no more use for it. Let it go.

OS X

1. Optimize iPhoto for the way we take photos now

Amusingly enough, Apple has only itself to blame for the phenomenon plaguing iPhoto: it made the iPhone camera too good.

Way back when, taking your camera somewhere was a special occasion. But now, we shoot scenery and selfies all day, every day.

Right now, iPhoto requires you to manually import your photos into Events and Albums. The Photos app on iOS 7, on the other hand, auto-organizes your pictures into Moments and Collections based on the time and location data embedded in every snapshot.

It’s easy, Apple: take the schema you introduced in iOS 7, add it to iPhoto, and make it stupid-simple to import our photos. If anyone wants to group their photos manually, they can—but they shouldn’t have to anymore.

2. Open the App Store to ALL apps

For all its flaws, people put up with the iOS App Store because it’s the only game in town. But on a Mac, the App Store is a choice.

And increasingly, developers are choosing to avoid it.

Look no further than Panic, arguably the biggest and most influential Mac app developer—they’re taking their flagship app Coda out of the Mac App Store and selling it independently. Why in the world would they give up the simple distribution, high rankings, and promotional boost from being featured in the store? Because Apple still doesn’t know how to treat developers right.

The world of Mac apps is beautiful and bountiful. But the Mac App Store only accepts a small selection of them. Powerful and complex apps that really dig into your computer are not allowed, ostensibly for security reasons.2 But when a company like Panic can’t get their app to work with sandboxing restrictions—even after getting direct help from Apple, a pipe dream for just about anyone else—its time to step back and re-evaluate the situation.

Desktop apps are more complex than mobile apps and Apple should aspire to have every app sold through the App Store. Heck, use the Mac App Store as a place to try out more flexible options with an eye to bringing them over to the iOS App Store. For example, set aside different sections for sandboxed (“extra secure”) and non-sandboxed apps. Or even a section for verified apps that can issue updates without needing to be reviewed by Apple every time.

Lead with a carrot, not a stick: get every app into the App Store and then work with developers to make them more secure over time.

3. Fix iBooks file management

For ebook lovers, OS X 10.9 was one step forward, two steps back. Apple finally added an iBooks app and it works well for reading books on your computer. Unfortunately, they totally bungled the way the app stores your files.

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at iTunes and iPhoto:

  • Whether you rip CDs, import MP3s, or buy from Apple’s music store, iTunes saves your songs in the same place: in ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Music. Go ahead, take a look…you’ll see your albums neatly organized into files and folders that you can access and backup easily.

  • iPhoto saves everything into ~/Pictures/iPhoto Library. If you right-click and select Show Package Contents, and then go into the Masters folder, you can see your photos organized by date. In the event of a data disaster, you can easily get your pictures out. You’re carefully curated events and albums are more hit-or-miss, but at least your photos are stored in a standard, easily transferable format.

So what cardinal sin does iBooks commit? It takes your industry-standard ePub files and converts them into proprietary folders with cryptic filenames.3 Adding insult to injury, it buries them in a hidden system folder (~/Library/Containers/com.apple.BKAgentService/Data/Documents/iBooks/Books).4 You can’t get your files out easily and you certainly can’t open them in another program without a lot of work.

The other big issue with the handoff from iTunes to iBooks in Mavericks is that you can’t edit the metadata anymore. If your ebooks have a misspelled title or author, or you want to change their category, you’re out of luck.

As a Seattle basketball fan might say, bring back our Sonics sane file management.

4. Restore colored labels

Call me a curmudgeon, but I hate how Apple implemented tags in Mavericks. Before, if you added a colored label to a file, it put the whole filename in a colored bubble (like a text message on iOS 7). Now, if you add a tag, it puts a small colored bubble way to the right of the filename. Just look at this comparison picture.

The problem is the colored tag bubbles are too small and far away from the filename to be useful. The colored labels were great because they were large and easy to scan.

There’s no shame in calling a mulligan, Apple. Just go back to the way it was and we’ll forget you ever messed it up.

(Or at least put the tag circles closer to the filename.)

5. For the love of god, just don’t screw it up

When Apple fired Scott ‘Skeuomorph’ Forstall and installed Jony Ive as head of software design, the people rejoiced. Personally, I worried: hardware design is very different from software design and Jony Ive has little experience with the latter as far as I know.

Since then, iOS 7 came and went and everyone has more-or-less adapted by now. But a desktop OS is a different beast and I use my computer way more than my phone. And, let’s face it, OS X is pretty perfect as-is (note that all of my above gripes have to do with certain apps, not how the OS works).

Look Jony, throw a fresh coat of paint on the thing if you must. Just please, please don’t screw it up.

  1. This is, understandably, a very slippery privacy slope. But the fact of the matter is that people are doing it already. For example, car insurance companies offer discounts if you let them monitor your driving for a few days↩︎

  2. For the record, I’m not just talking about sandboxing. Even before that, the App Store was really only a place for small single-purpose apps. Even something as simple as f.lux, that needs to run in the background and make small system modifications, is not permissible. Don’t even get me started on OS X stalwarts like TextExpander, Launchbar, iStat Menus, Dropbox et al. ↩︎

  3. A more technical explanation: iBooks unzips your ePub files, renames the folder with a hashed title, and then does god-knows-what with the files inside. If you’re wondering why they’d do this, it probably has something to do with the weird way Apple likes to manage ebook metadata: instead of modifying the standard .opf file inside an ePub (the equivalent of ID3 tag data for an MP3), iBooks files save that data in a iTunesMetadata.plist file. See here and here for more details. ↩︎

  4. A big issue with storing books in a system folder is that online backup services typically ignore these folders by default. So while your music and photos are stored in standard locations in your user folder and almost certainly backed up, your ebooks may not be. (If you use Backblaze, go to System Preferences and check which folders are not selected for backup—you might well be surprised.) ↩︎

Read more ▸

What I want in iOS 7 + OS X 10.9

Tomorrow, Apple will kick off its Worldwide Developers Conference by showcasing iOS 7 and OS X 10.9. We already know some of what will be revealed: iOS will feature a design overhaul, native Flickr and Vimeo support, and better vehicle integration; OS X will improve Finder, Spaces, and multitasking for power users.

Last year, I discussed what I wanted in iOS 6. Before starting this year’s list, let’s take a look back. Did anything improve in the last year?

We got a Google-created YouTube app, background app downloads, and apps now have to ask before accessing your contacts and photos. But Safari is little-changed, App Store search and discovery is still fundamentally flawed, apps can’t truly share files, and Wi-Fi phone calls are still a pipe dream.

Alas, still no progress on the Apple TV. Like last year, I still think we won’t see apps until Apple releases its full-fledged television set (not just a set-top box). However, I have come up with a novel middle ground that has some precedence and would work very well as a stop-gap until that time, which I’ll discuss below.

Going forward, here’s what I want to see in iOS and OS X.

iOS

1. Improve communication between apps

Improved multitasking arrived in iOS 4. Notification Center arrived in iOS 5. Apple Maps arrived in iOS 6. The time has arrived for better app interoperability in iOS 7. It’s pretty much the only major low-hanging fruit left. Simply put, iOS is stuck in the dark ages right now, with apps having to resort to kludgy hacks to share information with each other.

For example, after you take a picture on iOS, your only options for sharing are Facebook or Twitter. Why don’t apps like Instagram, Vine, Dropbox, Picasa, Flickr, SmugMug or Google Plus show up in the share menu? Because Apple won’t let them right now. Or say you just jotted a quick letter in Simplenote and now you want to edit it in Pages. If you use the “open in…” menu, it creates a second copy of the file.

Compare this to Android and Windows Phone (not to mention every computer ever made), where documents can be shared between apps and newly installed apps automatically show up in share menus. Apple should be ashamed that it’s taken this long to add a similar feature on iOS.

(If Apple wants to go one step further, I’d love to see the ability to set third-party apps as the default for email, web browser, and so on. But this opens a bit of a Pandora’s box and I expect inter-app communication to come first.)

2. Merge Photo Stream into Camera Roll

Photo Stream was a great idea two years ago. It was hard to keep your photos in sync between your devices and Photo Stream ostensibly solved that. Unfortunately, in practice, Photo Stream is complicated and cumbersome. I can’t even count how many people ask me what it is, why it takes up so much space on their phone, and how to get rid of it.

So let’s simplify: drop the separate Photo Stream tab and just keep everyone’s Camera Rolls in sync between devices. As you take new photos, they only show up in the Camera Roll. Easy to understand and your phone doesn’t have to keep multiple copies of photos stored.

(While we’re at it, how about letting us create “events” on our phones, Apple? It really sucks that I have to wait until I import my photos into iPhoto to sort them into events.)

3. Improve Siri

Let’s face facts: Google Now has put Siri to shame. To claim otherwise is to reveal yourself as a blind zealot.

Allow me to count the ways in which Google Now is better: it’s faster, it has better voice recognition, it can tap into your email and calendar, it works proactively behind-the-scenes, it learns your preferences the more you use it, and it works across more devices. If you don’t believe me, go download the Google iOS app and try it out. You’ll be shocked how far behind Apple and Siri are.

Don’t get me wrong, Google Now has its shortcomings too: it’s a privacy nightmare and it only works with Gmail and Google Calendar. So what can Apple do with Siri to achieve feature parity without being creepy? Make the whole thing faster and do background data processing on your phone itself. That way, you can use any email and calendar provider, but Siri can still learn about your events, appointments, flights, package tracking, restaurant reservations, and so on (without storing all your details on Apple’s servers).

4. Add comprehensive data usage monitoring

As far forward as iOS hardware and software have come, we have seen one step back in recent years: data plans. Most carriers have dropped unlimited data plans and many people on a budget (like me) are stuck with only 200 MB per month. When we lived in a world of free-flowing cellular data, data usage monitoring didn’t matter. But now that almost everyone has some limit on their data, it is time for Apple to make it easier to monitor your data usage.

Right now, your only option is to delve deep into the Settings app (Settings > General > Usage > Cellular Usage) to check your total data sent and received, but it doesn’t reset monthly. Some carriers have stop-gap solutions: you can call *3282# on AT&T to get a text message with your current monthly data usage, but it only updates every 24 hours. And some apps like Data Usage can monitor your data in the background, but they use extra battery cycles and aren’t 100% accurate.1

Android has a data usage section in its settings, where you can see your up-to-the-minute total data used per month. It even tells you how much data each app is using. Apple needs to copy this, pronto.

5. Add a pedometer + fitness tracking

Have you tried Moves for iPhone? It uses your GPS, accelerometer and intelligent algorithms to figure out how many steps you take per day. Timelines and maps show you when and where you walked the most. It’s incredible. It’s a pedometer on steroids.

It’s also a huge battery hog. Why? Because your phone’s location tracking has to be on all the time (not just when you open the app, like Maps). If the next iPhone had a built-in pedometer, Moves and every other app could tap into it. Imagine the possibilities:

  • Weight monitoring apps could automatically track how many calories you burn everyday
  • Running apps could tell you which songs get you moving faster
  • Podcast apps could rewind a few seconds for every step you take backwards
  • Games could unlock a new level if you do 20 jumping jacks in 30 seconds

This also isn’t a totally crazy idea. Did you know the current iPod Nano has a built-in pedometer? So did the previous-generation iPod Nano. And the one before that. That’s right, there’s been a pedometer in your iPod since 2009. We’re way past due for one in the iPhone.

So here’s the plan for iOS 7, Apple: add a pedometer, create a basic first-party fitness app to track exercise and log food intake, let third-party developers take it from there, and rake in the millions. My check’s in the mail, right?

OS X

1. Create an iBooks app

It’s honestly befuddling why Apple hasn’t made an iBooks app for OS X. At the very least, I should be able to preview my iBooks on my computer before syncing them to my iPad. If you don’t want to build a whole separate iBooks app, let me at least open ePub files in Preview.

(The lack of a good free ePub reader really exacerbates this problem. Trust me, I’ve tried just about option out there and they’re all lacking. I buy a lot of books from independent authors, who give you both ePub and PDF versions, and it’s nigh-impossible to preview them to figure out which one looks better on an iPad. For now, I’ve settled on BookReader, but it doesn’t support DRM-protected books purchased from the iTunes store.)

2. Store iOS apps in the cloud instead of on our computers

Right now, your desktop iTunes library probably includes music, movies, books, and apps. You can play the first two natively in iTunes and books should be next. But why do you still have to keep a copy of your apps in iTunes?

I try and buy lots of apps. I currently have 352 apps taking up 15.26 GB in iTunes right now. That’s almost 10% of my hard drive being used by files that can’t even be opened on a computer.

iTunes 11 brought full support for songs stored in iCloud. Your purchased songs are stored in the cloud and you have the option to stream them or download them to your library. Apps should work the same way. Simple as that.

3. Add support for all text messages to Messages.app

I personally love the desktop Messages app. When I’m working at my computer and I get an iMessage, it’s fantastic to be able to reply without switching devices. But after getting used to that, it’s especially annoying when I get a normal text message and have to switch to my phone. Why should my workflow be affected by whether my contacts have iPhones/iMessage or not? I should be able to reply to all text messages, iMessage-flavored or otherwise, from my computer. Point blank period.

Technically speaking, I know it’s not easy to make this work seamlessly. Either my phone and computer have to be linked via Bluetooth or I’d have to proxy all of my text messages through iCloud. Neither solution is perfect. But both would be better than the status quo.

4. Don’t screw it up

This might be the most important “feature” of all. Desktop operating systems have been around a long time now and there’s an inevitable itch to tinker with what works. But it often leads to re-conceptualizing basic OS principles and becomes a usability nightmare (I’m looking at you, Windows 8 and Ubuntu Unity).

OS X has been a model of stability in comparison. Even large updates like Leopard and Lion have mostly brought under-the-hood changes, while leaving the basic operating interface the same. Let’s keep it that way.

Say it with me: more evolutionary updates for OS X, save the revolutionary stuff for iOS.

Apple TV

Last year, I said I wanted apps on the iOS-powered Apple TV but I didn’t think it was going to happen yet. I still think Apple is going to wait for their full-fledged television set with voice control and a camera before letting developers make “real” apps.

Fine, no native apps. But is there anything Apple can do before the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One arrive and suck up the hearts, minds, and wallets of set-top box consumers?

For that, we can look back at Apple’s own history for a clue. When Apple introduced the original iPhone in 2007, it didn’t support third-party apps. So users started jailbreaking their phones and developers starting making unauthorized apps. Apple recognized the demand and relented, adding third-party app support to the iPhone.

But not for the kind of apps we all know and love today. Before the “true” App Store arrived in 2008 with the iPhone 3G, Apple originally only supported “web apps” on the iPhone. That is, developers could make websites masquerading as apps and users could “install” shortcuts to them on their home screens.

Fast forward to today. The Apple TV doesn’t support apps and doesn’t have a browser. So developers can’t make apps for it, right?

Wrong. An enterprising developer has created PlexConnect, an Apple TV app for Plex Media Server. How does it work, you ask? It requires you to run a small piece of software on your computer and change one setting on your Apple TV. This ingenious workaround allows the PlexConnect app to replace the Trailers app on your Apple TV using XML.

Voilà, a new third-party app on your Apple TV, no jailbreaking necessary!

So, what can we learn from this and how does it help lead to Cupertino-sanctioned apps for the current Apple TV? So-called web apps for the Apple TV can provide plenty of functionality and they do NOT require native API access. And users clearly like Apple’s hardware, but want it to stream video from more places.

What can Apple do to capitalize on this, priming the marketplace for Apple TV apps without cannibalizing marketshare for the inevitable full-fledged Apple television set?

One of two things:

1) Add a browser to the Apple TV. The Apple TV already runs iOS, so porting over Safari shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s something every other set-top box already has (even Microsoft finally relented and added a browser to the Xbox 360, after claiming for years that no one would want it). Then, it would work just like the original iPhone’s browser: you can install a shortcut to any website on your home screen. But just as the original iPhone’s web apps could tap into some native functionality (making phone calls, sending emails, displaying maps), Apple TV web apps would support streaming video and all buttons on the remote.

2) Create a web app marketplace. If Apple doesn’t want to make a browser, they could create a basic marketplace for XML-based apps like PlexConnect. Just as Apple’s website indexes OS X Dashboard widgets and the iTunes Store indexes podcasts, Apple doesn’t have to host the content themselves or support paid versions. Rather, they could just provide links to the free XML apps and have an easy way to add them to the Apple TV’s main screen.

Either option would be a huge step up from what we have now. It doesn’t require Apple to create a new API. It trains users to start using the Apple TV for third-party apps. It saves the really interesting apps and games, which need more power or tap into system services like Siri and FaceTime, for the full-fledged television set whenever Apple is ready to introduce it.

All in all, Apple TV web apps would be a great middle-ground between Apple, developers, and users. Let’s hope we hear something about it sooner rather than later—preferably tomorrow!

  1. I’ve tried a few data monitoring apps and Data Usage is, by far, the best. It’s rarely off by more than a couple megabytes and it displays your % data used as an application badge (the same way Mail shows you number of unread emails in a red bubble on the app icon). Stay far away from DataMan, DataMan Pro, DataMan Next and their ilk—they’re not nearly as accurate and the developer has a habit of pulling the apps from the store (so you can’t get updates any more) and re-adding them under a new name. There’s also Onavo Count and Onavo Extend, which can monitor and compress your data. However, I don’t use them because they require you to route all of your data through their servers. ↩︎

Read more ▸