Apple Posts Final Three Apple Watch Guided Tours

23 April 2015

Apple:

Apple Pay: Pay quickly and securely. And setup is simple.

Activity: Track your daily activity and stay motivated to sit less, move more and get some exercise.

Workout: See metrics like distance, pace or speed, calories burned, and heart rate during workouts.

Ignoring the ridiculousness that it took Apple the day before the Watch ships to complete these videos, the Apple Pay video is really cool. The Watch plays this animation as your preferred bank card appears, with light glare reflecting off the surface. It’s also timed with a slick 3D transform.

The Activity and Workout apps also look well done, with a logical navigation structure and cute accompanying animations to guide the user along. One oddity I did notice, though, is that at the end of a workout Apple Watch specifically asks the user if they want to Save or Discard the workout record. I’m not sure why this intermediary step exists — workouts should just be saved automatically without user intervention.

Apple Giving Custom Sport Band Colours To Some Celebrities

18 April 2015

9to5Mac:

Earlier today, images emerged of a red Sport band, and now Apple appears to be showing off several more exclusive Sport bands at tonight’s event in Italy. An image posted to Instagram shows dark blue, light pink, red, and yellow Sport bands. All of these colors were previously unreleased by Apple and never before seen.

I don’t mind that celebrities are getting free watches but I am annoyed that they are being given the choice of colours that aren’t available for general purchase. Some of the ‘exclusive’ sport colours look really nice and it is frustrating that I am barred from buying them because I am not a high-profile person.

KGI Estimates 2.3 Million Apple Watch Preorders

16 April 2015

9to5Mac:

In a new report from KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo, the usually accurate analyst estimates that global pre-orders for the Apple Watch will top 2.3 million units through May. A report earlier this week claimed that Apple Watch first day pre-orders were at almost 1 million units.

Further breaking it down by specific model, Kuo estimates that the Sport model of the Apple Watch accounted for 85 percent of pre-orders, while the Apple Watch accounted for 15 percent, and the Edition less than 1 percent.

At least according to KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo, who I tend to regard as reputable, the orders were overwhelmingly stacked towards Sport models. Although the Sport was always going to be the predominant model, 85% of orders is domineering with a practically monopolistic control of demand.

Another interesting point is that, under consideration of the raw financials, the stainless steel Apple Watch had the smallest effect on Apple’s bottom line. Even at just 1%, the Edition’s high profit margins will mean that the returns from this collection will exceed the profits from the Apple Watch models, which made up 15% of sales. Similarly, the Sport watches should exceed profits of the stainless models due to the volume shipped.

If the trends continue, the collection which shares its name with the product itself, Apple Watch, will be the most unyielding for Apple financially.

ICAAN Concerned About .sucks Domain Name

11 April 2015

Motherboard:

On March 27, one of ICANN’s advisory panels, the Intellectual Property Constituency, sent a letter to the organization asking it to step in and stop Vox Populi’s “predatory, exploitive and coercive” practices.

“ICANN is the sole entity in the world charged with the orderly introduction of new gTLDs in a secure, reliable and predictable manner,” president of the panel Gregory Shatan wrote. “If ICANN is unwilling or unable to put a halt to this, then who is?”

ICANN has since sent letters requesting an evaluation from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US and the Office of Consumer Affairs in Canada, where Vox Populi is based––a rare course of action.

The main issue here for me is that the .sucks TLD vendor is charging significantly higher fees ($2500 per year) for businesses to secure registered trademarks. It is clearly trying to exploit the fear businesses have about ‘hate domains’ springing up using the .sucks suffix. If the vendor charged the same fee to companies as they do individuals, I wouldn’t have any problem with it.

Apple Watch Lets You Add A Time Offset To The Clock

11 April 2015

9to5Mac:

In Watch OS, Apple has included the ability to manually adjust the time displayed on the watch face of your device.

Apple notes, however, that only the information displayed on your clock face is affected by adjusting the time via this setting. All notifications and alerts will still come in at the correct time. With this feature, users are simply moving displayed time ahead of the actual time in one minute intervals.

Apple Watch has some weird edge-case features. A thousand no’s for every yes was applied loosely here. It’s not necessarily bad but it is different to previous Apple product releases.

The New Photos App And iCloud Photo Library

11 April 2015

David Sparks:

I sat on my couch this morning and had my laptop and my iPad open simultaneously. As quickly as I was deleting, favoriting, and modifying images in one device, they showed up on the other. These photos are all large file sizes and this demonstration of cloud-based syncing is impressive coming from Apple. After we’ve all made Apple the cloud services whipping boy for so long, I’m actually surprised more people aren’t making a bigger deal about how stable Photos cloud sync is just a few days after launch.

I think this would be much bigger news if it hadn’t been drowned out by the Watch and MacBook launches. Also, a lot of the ‘tech circle’ have been testing the new Photos app for months so the appreciation has been diluted.

I only installed OS X 10.10.3 on Wednesday so it’s a new experience for me. Like Sparks, Photos is a fantastic iPhoto successor and iCloud Photo Library is rock solid in terms of reliability. It’s late in coming, but great nonetheless. It really fulfils the promise of iCloud.1 Unfortunately, the biggest roadblocks for adoption is iCloud storage pricing and the continued stinginess of Apple’s free tier.

1 When I originally tweeted that iCloud Photo Library is great, everyone thought I was dripping sarcasm. I think that speaks to iCloud’s reputation up to now, valid or not.

The Apple Watch Sport

9 April 2015

Daring Fireball:

The Sport Band is a downright revelation — I’d go so far as to call it the most comfortable watch band I’ve ever worn. I’ve rolled my eyes at Apple’s use of fluoroelastomer in lieu of rubber to describe the material of these bands, but it truly does have a premium, richly supple feel to it. The way the end of the band tucks under the other side of the strap — a design Marc Newson first used at Ikepod — is brilliant. Up until now, it struck me as odd that the $10,000 Edition models came with the same bands4 as the entry-model $349/399 Sport watches. Having worn it, it now strikes me the other way around — that the $349/399 Sport watches are equipped with straps that can genuinely be described as luxurious, fluoroelastomer or not.

When the Watch was first revealed in September, I misinterpreted the Sport model as the ‘cheap’ variant. As time has gone on though, I realised I was wrong. Cue and Cook wear the Apple Watch Sport, with sport bands. The Sport is a first-class piece of hardware. I jumped to conclusions and originally modelled the Apple Watch Sport as the iPhone 5c equivalent of the iPhone 5s, a pale imitation of the real deal.

Now, I see it more like the Sport being the main model — at least for this generation, the model I am recommending people buy. The steel and gold casings should be seen as luxury options, available for those that can appreciate the materials and higher-quality jewellery finishes.

If you want to stretch an analogy, you could position the Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the phone lineup, respectively. The iPhone 6 is the primary ‘new’ hardware that most people ought to buy. The Plus is the ‘added extras’ model.

The Edition doesn’t translate to the current iPhone range at all (although I don’t think you should rule out Apple making an ‘iPhone Edition’ in future). It is truly in the space of unnecessarily exuberant wealth, a field that Apple has not approached with any of its other products to date.1

1 I don’t think the Edition is a mistake. It has a purpose.

The Whimsical Details In Apple Watch

8 April 2015

WIRED:

Yet what Dye seems most fascinated by is one of the Apple Watch’s faces, called Motion, which you can set to show a flower blooming. Each time you raise your wrist, you’ll see a different color, a different flower. This is not CGI. It’s photography.

“We shot all this stuff,” Dye says, “the butterflies and the jellyfish and the flowers for the motion face, it’s all in-camera. And so the flowers were shot blooming over time. I think the longest one took us 285 hours, and over 24,000 shots.”

The minutiae incorporated into this product is incredible. Ultimate flamboyance. If you have ten Apple Watches in the same room with the Mickey face, the Mickey’s on every Watch will tap their feet together. Everything is synchronised.

These details have nothing to do with whether the product is good or not but it is damn cool. Whimsical nuances have been lacking in recent releases of OS X and iOS, but the Watch is full of them.

Apple Watch Guided Tours

4 April 2015

Apple:

To take advantage of its size and location on your wrist, we’ve given Apple Watch new interactions and technologies. These Guided Tour videos will show you how to use them to do all kinds of amazing things.

The iPhone had guided tours when it launched. The iPad didn’t: you already knew how to use it. Unlike the iPad, it’s an open question as to whether users will be able to grok the Watch’s new interface paradigms.

Speaking of new paradigms, I spotted this interaction in the first video. In the Calendar app, the title of the page doubles up1 as the table section header. This is a clever, efficient use of limited screen space. As the user scrolls the table, the new header pushes the previous header upwards, like tables in iOS. Neat.

1 In fact, this one label actually has another use: it’s also the back button for the current navigation stack.

WIRED Interview With Kevin Lynch On Apple Watch

3 April 2015

WIRED:

As the testing went on, it became evident that the key to making the Watch work was speed. An interaction could last only five seconds, 10 at most. They simplified some features and took others out entirely because they just couldn’t be done quickly enough. Lynch and team had to reengineer the Watch’s software twice before it was sufficiently fast. An early version of the software served you information in a timeline, flowing chronologically from top to bottom.

WIRED’s interview is decent with some interesting background, like the experimentation with a timeline interface a la Pebble Time. The real gem in this story is that Apple gave WIRED a gallery of Apple Watch UI assets. I’m fascinated by the intricacies of the Watch’s software design. It is cool to see Apple publicise this aspect of the device in similar regard to how they present their custom alloys of aluminium, steel and gold in marketing. It shows they care about it.

Polar Clock Compared To Apple Watch Activity App

1 April 2015

Dane Baker, Twitter:

@eli_schiff Also the Activity app design is identical to 8-yr-old PolarClock screensaver, equally hideous colors

I don’t care that a cool calendar visualisation from 2007 bears a resemblance to Apple’s fitness tracking visualisation from 2014. Design is as much about how it works as how it looks. These two pieces of software behave very differently.

Unlike Polar Clock, the rings in the Watch’s Activity app can go round the circle more than once, to indicate more than 100% percent completion. It’s not clear from static screenshots1 but the Activity app is actually three-dimensional. The more intense shadow denotes that a particular ring is ‘stacked up’ on itself, like a coil.

The Polar Clock is a very different metaphor. The rings fill to 100 and then reset to 0 on a two dimensional plane. The labels are inscribed into the rings. In contrast, the Apple Watch labels statically float at the top centre of the screen and animate outwards, leaving small symbols that are also fixed in place.

My aim is not to ‘defend’ Apple or vilipend Dane Baker’s criticism, whether you believe Apple ripped off Polar Clock or not is immaterial. On pure aesthetics, I think the Activity app colour choices are poor and very generic. That’s beside the point, though.

I’m just trying to convey a sense of the things that makeup application design which are not represented by motionless screenshots. It’s not a simple matter of aesthetics and functionality. I call it ‘behaviour’ but that’s not an encompassing term. A better word eludes me.

Apps can look good, have many features but behave poorly. iOS 7 is an example of the opposite; something that behaves well but looks ugly in many places.

1 In most images, Apple shows the Watch with unfilled bars … meaning no shadow is displayed as none of the Move, Exercise or Stand goals have crossed 100% completion.

Apple Watch Not Just Behind Glass In Retail Stores

29 March 2015

9to5Mac:

If a customer wants to try out the Apple Watch without going through the try-on and sales process, they will be able to use a new demo unit connected to an iPad mini. Additionally, customers who already know which Apple Watch they would like to purchase can buy one via a dedicated purchase station.

Gurman’s story has a lot of new details about the store sales process, but this stands out. The ‘watches-under-glass’ approach Apple has spoken about before felt lacking to me. The appeal of the Apple Store is that you can walk in off the street and immediately touch iPhones and iPads.

Interacting with Apple’s products is a huge part of clinching the sale. Regardless of how pretty Apple’s jewellery tables are, they do not offer the same customer experience opportunities as Apple’s other products which are not locked behind glass.

I would be concerned if Apple’s only answer to this problem was to make an appointment. I’m really happy to see that Apple will also put these ‘placards’ on show for anyone to try out the Watch impromptu. The text on the iPad mini in the photo confirms that the Watch unit is responsive to user input, rather than just looping a demo video.

Tim Cook On Tevanian Wanting To Leave Apple

24 March 2015

Chapter 16, Becoming Steve Jobs:

Tim Cook, now Apple’s CEO, says that he worried about Tevanian leaving, and urged Steve in 2004 to figure out another challenge to keep the brilliant software engineer at Apple. “Steve looked at me,” Cook remembers, “and goes, ‘I agree he’s really smart. But he’s decided he doesn’t want to work. I’ve never found in my whole life that you could convince someone who doesn’t want to work hard to work hard.’”

I highlighted very few things in my reading of Becoming Steve Jobs, but I highlighted this. Tim Cook pushed Jobs to find Tevanian a new ‘challenge’ to keep him at Apple. This has direct parallels to recent stories about Jony Ive who has apparently considered leaving his role at Apple in the last decade. True or false, some see the Apple Watch as a way to keep Ive interested in staying at Apple. This anecdote shows that the executive team would at least consider projects of this nature.

Craig Hockenberry: 'iOS 7 Was As Much A Strategic Move As An Aesthetic One'

24 March 2015

Craig Hockenberry:

I’ve always felt that the flattening of Apple’s user interface that began in iOS 7 was as much a strategic move as an aesthetic one. Our first reaction was to realize that an unadorned interface makes it easier to focus on content.

But with this new display technology, it’s clear that interfaces with fewer pixels have another advantage. A richly detailed button from iOS 6 would need more of that precious juice strapped to our wrists. Never underestimate the long-term benefits of simplification.

I really don’t believe that the aesthetics introduced in iOS 7 was a tactical manoeuvre. Ive’s flat design was not ‘strategic’. I think you can say iOS 7 was triggered by company politics because I think the actual reason iOS changed appearance so radically is easily traced in time.

Between iOS 6 and iOS 7 Forstall left and Ive took charge. Ive liked the flatter aesthetic which meant that iOS became flatter. The cause and effect isn’t hidden here. Forstall may have wanted to move away from skeuomorphism eventually but he wasn’t planning on it for 2013: new features like iTunes Radio had already been built out with iOS 6 aesthetics by the time Forstall left in November 2012.

If Forstall was still in power, do I think the Watch would feature Corinthian leather and glossy textures? There’s a chance. The square iPod nano shipped with exactly that. The more likely outcome is that it would be toned down to suit a 1.5 inch display because the design of iOS and Watch OS are on different tracks.

I think this approaches my bigger point. Watch OS and iOS are not mirror images of each other. They are different. A skeuomorphic iOS and a flat Watch OS could definitely coexist. A ‘strategic’ master plan to have both devices on the same design path is unnecessary. There are bits of Watch OS that will never come back to iOS and there are bits of Watch OS that should come back to iOS. But, if there really was a long play to synthesise both OS’s then they should already be the same. Arguably, iOS should already feature dark black UI’s. It doesn’t though — proof by contradiction that they are independent products with independent user interfaces.

I hear the same revisionist perspective on iOS 8 extensions. ‘Extensions would have never worked without a redesign like iOS 7 due to the clash of design elements’. This is not true either. With iOS 7, Apple overlays extension UI with little adornment. However, in a iOS 6 design world, Apple would have just shoved massive drop-shadows between the pieces of UI to make them distinct units.1 It seems like the obvious progression today but I think people forget what tricks were used before.

It is thoroughly documented, almost more than anything of recent Apple journalism, how iOS design became dictated by Ive and Apple rushed to engineer the new direction under his leadership. I don’t see why people find it necessary to conjure up other reasoning for the change.

1 No, massive shadows wouldn’t look weird because that is what we were used to back then.

Larry King Tweets By Voicemail

19 March 2015

Washington Post:

When Larry King wants to tweet, he doesn’t log onto the Internet. He pops open the flip phone stored in the shirt pocket between his suspender straps and calls the number for a voicemail set up specifically for this purpose. Then he dictates a thought that will be picked up by an assistant and transcribed onto his @KingsThings Twitter account. And nearly 2.6 million followers are there to receive it.

I still find it funny that Twitter was initially meant to be used though SMS messaging. Twitter’s roots in SMS defined its success in many ways; things like the 140 character limit.1

1 SMS messages can be up to 160 characters in length. Twitter tweet character limit is 140 because it left 20 free to write the target username (for a DM) in the text message.

Google Now Has Real People Approving Android Apps Submitted To The Play Store

17 March 2015

Android Developers Blog:

Several months ago, we began reviewing apps before they are published on Google Play to better protect the community and improve the app catalog. This new process involves a team of experts who are responsible for identifying violations of our developer policies earlier in the app lifecycle. We value the rapid innovation and iteration that is unique to Google Play, and will continue to help developers get their products to market within a matter of hours after submission, rather than days or weeks. In fact, there has been no noticeable change for developers during the rollout.

It’s worth noting that Google’s human-based review process is measured in hours, not days. You could argue that Google’s review process is not as extensive as Apple’s, but even taking that as given, Apple’s turnaround times look ridiculous. Doubling the amount of time it took Google to investigate each submission would still represent a much shorter period that the rate at which the iTunes team processes submissions. Apple could definitely improve turnaround times.

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