Quartz Weekend Brief—Apple’s comeback, reinventing breast pumps, fixing Iraq, Scottish aristocrats

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Since Steve Jobs died in 2011, the question surrounding Apple has been: Is its incredible run about to end? Once Tim Cook’s engineers and designers exhausted Jobs’ final product roadmap, would Apple slump into inevitable decline?

At this week’s massive unveiling event in California, complete with private U2 concert, the company answered convincingly “no.” Its big, new iPhones are arguably its most handsome yet. Its mobile-payments system will launch in the US with unprecedented support, including deals with the biggest credit-card companies and banks. And the company placed arguably its biggest bet since the original iPhone in 2007: the Apple Watch, a hybrid device that combines utility with fashion.

The watch is a bold call that the future of computing is beautiful, intimate, and wearable—or that the future of wrist jewelry is in its chipset. It signals that Apple can still innovate; it’s been praised both for its watch qualities and its gadget qualities.

However, whether it will become a giant hit is something we won’t know until it goes on sale next year. The iPad too had its skeptics at first, until the sales figures silenced them.

What if the watch is only a modest success, or worse, a flop? That may re-energize Cook’s naysayers. But it’s worth remembering that the iPhone accounts for over half the company’s revenue, and its new, larger screen sizes could even steal market share back from the bigger phones Samsung and Google have been making for a while. And so what if they got there first? Many of Steve Jobs’ best ideas were borrowed; he just executed them better. If Apple can keep doing that, it may not need blockbuster innovations to be a success.—Dan Frommer

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

The Chinese moguls who may revolutionize the way you shop. O2O isn’t a molecule: It’s online-to-offline retail, a form of shopping that Western megastore chains are increasingly using as a defensive play against the likes of Amazon. Gwynn Guilford explains how the peculiarities of China’s retail landscape means the real innovations in O2O could come from there.

The slow, sad decline of RadioShack. “As Hemingway wrote… there’s a very simple answer to the question, ‘How you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’ We seem to be just about finished with the gradual part.” In nine damning charts, Matt Phillips makes the case for the iconic electronics store’s impending demise.

Non-parents are better off than parents in every respect—except one. John Dick of the polling platform CivicScience reports on its survey of a million American adults, which finds that, compared with their childless counterparts, parents report being more stressed, less healthy, less free, more cash-strapped… and happier.

Finally, a hackathon for something useful. If you’ve never used a breast pump, Mitra Kalita would like you to know just how awful they are. Luckily, the MIT Media Lab has decided to bring dozens of technologists and other experts together for its fall hackathon to design a better one.

Ten things we learned at New York Fashion Week. From the “torso triangle” to “flatforms” to Amish ninjas to “menswear, womenswear, what’s the difference?”—Jenni Avins, having braved a week’s worth of runway shows and fashion parties, brings you the all-in-one illustrated guide to the season’s most important trends.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The rise and likely fall of the talent economy. Since the mid-20th century brains have overtaken natural resources as the basis of America’s biggest companies. But, argues Roger Martin in the Harvard Business Review, as those brains make ever more money on trading assets rather than building them, a correction is needed to prevent wealth from concentrating and the social compact from breaking down.

The shameful secret of attraction. Anne Helen Petersen did an experiment: She built a fake version of the dating app Tindr to figure out what governs people’s attraction to others. The outcome, she writes on Buzzfeed: “We’re constantly inventing narratives” about people based on subtle signs in their photos. “We swipe… because of semiotics.”

How to rethink humanitarian aid. After over a century, the aid-agency model—shuttling resources from rich countries to poor ones—no longer works, argues Paul Currion in Aeon. He argues that humanitarian aid needs to become less about institutions and more about global networks that create a more equal relationship between the victims of disaster and those trying to help them.

Why Iraq is so hard to fix. ISIL may be grabbing the headlines now with its barbarism. But the four books that Max Rodenbeck surveys in the New York Review provide sobering accounts, both fictional and factual (indeed, he observes, “fiction here seems merely to be more concise than fact”) of the institutional and cultural patterns that have steeped Iraq in blood and conflict, and promise to keep doing so long after ISIL is gone.

Aristocrats against Scottish independence. Some 400 people own half the private land in Scotland. In a story as delightfully quirky as its subjects, Sophia Money-Coutts of Tatler checks in on their castles to find that the nobility—such as the marvelously-monikered Peregrine Moncreiffe of That Ilk—are distinctly cool on the idea of secession. “What if Salmond imposes a mansion tax?” asks one plaintive duchess. “We’re done for.”

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Tindr profile pictures, and Scottish wealth declarations to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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