Apple Watch Not Just Behind Glass In Retail Stores

29 March 2015


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.1 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.

Clayton Morris On Apple Watch

16 March 2015

Clayton Morris:

Apple Watch won’t save us from shitty behavior but it will limit our distractions. Think of the Watch as a seive through which only the most relevant information lands on your wrist. Your interaction with that information is also whittled to nearly a few contact points: read, respond, or reachout.

The overwhelming attitude I’ve seen in the past few days is that the tech community treat notifications as a social bad, that people hate consistent alerts and buzzes. As Clayton describes it, for this group of people, the Watch can act as a ‘sieve’ to help prioritise and sort what’s important.

That’s fine. In addition, however, I think there’s another group of people who have been overlooked in commentary about smartwatches. These people love notifications and lap up new ways of staying ‘tuned in’ to their friends and the world. From secondary school through to university, I have never seen someone get annoyed at the number of times their phone is buzzing for attention. These people want to be able to respond even faster than they already can. For these people — I would guess people of this class are typically of the younger generations — getting notifications isn’t a frustration but an addiction.

What’s genius about the Watch is that it can serve both groups of people well. For people like Clayton Morris, it can be an intermediary filter to let only significant things through. For others, it can be used as a second screen, a medium that can keep them even more connected.

The Apple Watch I'm Buying

13 March 2015

I’ve decided I am buying an Apple Watch Sport in Space Grey. I don’t want to splash out an steel casing with a product I still have many questions and reservations about. By the second-generation, I’ll be able to make a better assessment about how much I want to spend on a smartwatch. I can’t really dilly-dally in deciding this value proposition either: I’m concerned that the Sport will sell out through preorders.

Regarding colour, I like black things. They fit in best for me. If I was going to buy a steel, I’d probably end up with a space black one of those too. Moreover, the only way to get a black band (without buying a band separately) is to get a Space Grey Sport. If Apple offered silver aluminium with black band in their preset collections, maybe I would have bought that instead.

On size, as much as I want to have the larger display to have the higher resolution display, my wrists are so small that the 42 mm will look ridiculous. Using the ‘Actual size’ comparison in the Apple Store app confirmed this. From my perspective as a developer, I think using a 38 mm as a daily driver is beneficial because I believe that’s the screen size that most normal people will buy as well. Having the same hardware as my app’s users is definitely a factor for me. Therefore, albeit mostly driven by the constraints of my physical anatomy, I’m buying the 38 mm Watch for $349.1

1 Well, £299 really.

A Weird Discrepancy Between Navigation Controllers On iOS And Watch OS

13 March 2015

The user interface of Watch OS is a distilled form of the iOS platform, in many ways refined more so than iOS has been since Forstall’s departure. On a technical level, Watch OS is iOS but that is irrelevant. The UI layer is independent.

Whilst the visual style is a large distinction (I would argue superior interpretation of a flat UI than achieved on iOS), Watch OS exhibits the same behaviour as the phone. Apps have push-pop navigation, table views, top-left back buttons1, pages with a row of dot indicators and scrolling content. The Digital Crown augments the experience … the fundamental ways to structure your app remain the same as UIKit.

However, one thing I noticed is that the layering of navigation controllers is the opposite as to what you would expect coming from iOS. On iOS, views are presented as stacking top-to-bottom. This means when you use the swipe gesture to go back, the finger pulls back the top view to reveal the second one underneath.

Weirdly, this metaphor is not carried over to the Apple Watch. On Watch OS, views stack in reverse. When you pull back, you pull the previous view over the top over the current view. The ‘cards’ get laid on top of each other when navigating backwards. You can see this in the video demo above; compare how view A replaces view B when gesturing on the watch and the phone.

This difference will go unnoticed by the general public. After all, it doesn’t affect how navigation controllers function, sliding back still goes back. changed the metaphorical hierarchy on this new platform. I don’t know why they did it — there’s a chance its simply an oversight — but I have a theory.

At small sizes, which the Watch screen certainly is, it’s easier to see something new coming onto the screen than something old getting removed. Being able to tell early is important because — when using the swipe gesture — your finger will obscure much of the display. The Watch OS even makes the disappearing view recede to further emphasis which context is ‘going away’. Making it easier to see what is happening makes it easier to see if you started the back gesture by accident, which might be a common error with edge-swipe gestures on a tiny touchscreen canvas. It all adds up. I may also be drastically over thinking this. I’d love to hear about any alternative explanations though.

1 Due to limited space, the title of the back button on the Watch is actually the title of the current view. On the iPhone and iPad, this title would normally reside in the center with the title of the previous view in the stack associated with the back button.

'My Year Ripping Off The Web With The Daily Mail Online'

8 March 2015


The production process was simple. During a day shift—8 a.m. to about 6 p.m—four news editors stationed together near Clarke’s desk assigned stories to reporters from a continually updated list of other publications’ articles, to which I did not have access. Throughout the day, they would monitor the website’s traffic to determine what was getting clicked on and what to remove from the homepage.

When a writer was free to write a story, he or she simply would shout “I’m free” and an editor would assign a link to an article on the list. In many cases, it would be accompanied by a sensationalized headline—one that may or may not have been accurate—for the writer to use.

During a typical 10-hour shift, I would catch four to seven articles this way. Unlike at other publications for which I’ve worked, writers weren’t tasked with finding their own stories or calling sources. We were simply given stories written by other publications and essentially told to rewrite them. And unlike at other publications where aggregation writers are encouraged to find a unique angle or to add some information missing from an original report, the way to make a story your own at the Mail is to pass off someone else’s work as your own.

And now you know why headlines like this pop up on Apple ‘will sell an 18-carat gold, sapphire and crystal watch for $10,000’ in unprecedented move away from its ‘affordable luxury’ trademark. Note that the headline misleadingly suggests $10,000 is the official price and there is no indication that this is, in fact, mere speculation.1

In fact, the use of single quotes to construct false statements is directly addressed by James King in the Gawker piece:

But so it goes at the Mail, which has all but abandoned the word “allegedly” in favor of putting quotation marks around a paraphrased description of the deed in question. The phrase in quotation marks never even appeared in the story. The punctuation served merely as a distancing mechanism.

It really is shameful.

1 For the benefit of people reading this in the future, this article was posted two days before Apple will announce its official pricing for the Watch lineup.

Some New Apple Watch Details And Nuances

6 March 2015

Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac:

Sources have praised the Watch’s next-generation force-sensing touchscreen interface, saying that “the screen feels like a giant button than you just want to press in the manner needed for Force Touch.” A source added that the feature “feels natural” on the small screen. Also, the Digital Crown input device is required to use the Apple Watch, as the Watch differs from the sixth-generation iPod nano in lacking pinch to zoom capabilities: it registers touches and movements up, down, left, and right.

Really good post discussing various details about how certain features of the Watch work by Gurman. Force Touch is one of my big question marks about the product, so I’m happy to see that ‘sources’ say it works well functionally. I still think it will take a while for users to grasp the concept of a tapping gesture that doesn’t directly relate to an onscreen UI element. I also foresee some people with particularly forceful taps1 to need some to readjust their handling.

The breadth and depth of the software features on offer with Watch OS really don’t feel like a 1.0 release. This feels like mature software — Apple is covering a lot of bases with the initial firmware.

1 Seriously, some people press the screen of their non-pressure sensitive iPhone really hard.

Apple In Talks To Get HBO Now On Apple TV

5 March 2015

International Business Times:

Apple has been most aggressive in courting HBO in a bid to add the service to Apple TV, sources say. Apple TV already carries HBO Go for current HBO subscribers, but it may add a second app for HBO Now. Apple has spent the past several years negotiating for the rights to offer its own linear TV package; in the meantime, HBO Now is seen as an added service to drive adoption of Apple TV.

I said on the Happy Hour podcast this week, the announcement of a new Apple TV is easily given away by watching for ancillary reports that say that Apple is negotiating TV content deals1.

It is interesting that Apple is pushing ‘aggressively’ to get HBO Now, but it doesn’t count as part of above rule. This should not be treated as evidence of an imminent launch of a new Apple TV, in my opinion.

The future Apple TV will revolve around content deals that involve a direct service from Apple itself, not an amalgamation of third party services. As the report suggests, the negotiations surrounding HBO Now are targeted at improving the content offerings for the current Apple TV hardware.

1 For whatever reason, Apple’s talks with content providers have a very high tendency of leaking to the public in the press.

The Samsung Galaxy S6

1 March 2015

Samsung Mobile:

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge will be available globally starting from April 10, 2015 with 32/64/128GB storage options available in White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz (Galaxy S6 only) and Green Emerald (Galaxy S6 edge only).

Funny how you don’t see anyone complaining about the lack of a 16 GB model.

Tim Cook On Privacy

1 March 2015

The Telegraph:

It is also entirely at odds with the position adopted by David Cameron and most governments around the world, who believe that they need ever-increasing monitoring powers to combat crime and terror, dismissing the concerns of civil libertarians.

Cook disagrees fundamentally. “None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information. This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don’t understand the details.”

The debate here is about a new policy of some tech companies, Apple included, that encrypt data in such a way that the decryptions key are only stored locally on user’s devices. Entities like the NSA cannot simply subpoena Apple’s servers to get at data stored in this way, because the unlock codes are in the possession of the user, not on Apple’s servers.

Obviously, governments hate this. This means collecting evidence for things like terrorist plots is now much, much harder and politicians are starting to push back against this type of security.

Personally, I tend to agree with Cook. Apple should not be prevented from offering this level of privacy, simply to enable institutions to detect criminal activity made by a minority of the user base. Threats of terrorism cannot hold back technological development that has far-reaching benefits to society.

That being said, I think Cook will relax this stance, to some degree, in the future. There will come a time when Apple wants to release new products and features that rely on personal data analysis. When this happens, I expect Apple to make everything explicitly opt-in to remain consistent PR-wise.

Google Now Owns The .app TLD

27 February 2015


The mission of the proposed gTLD, .app, is to provide a dedicated domain space for application developers. The term “app” is associated with a wide variety of applications, including mobile applications, web- and browser-based applications, cloud-hosted applications and even desktop applications. Charleston Road Registry expects uses of the gTLD will include a wide variety of uses across all of these types of applications, not limited to any specific platform or provider. The proposed gTLD will enhance consumer choice by providing new availability in the second-level domain space in which application developers can deliver new content and offerings. It also creates new layers of organization on the Internet and signals the kind of content available in the domain.

Honestly, I am uncomfortable with the idea of either Apple or Google owning the .app TLD. In its filing, quoted above, Google pledges that this “won’t be limited to any specific platform” but who really knows what level of control the company is allowed to enforce on the domain.

It may sound like abstract scare-mongering but monetisation of app marketing is a huge business. Google is currently considering paid app placements in the Play Store, for example.

Pebble Time

25 February 2015

Pebble, Kickstarter:

We’re announcing a new watch called Pebble Time with a new timeline interface. Pebble Time features a new color e-paper display and microphone for responding to notifications. No compromises on what you love about Pebble: up to 7 days of battery life, water resistance and customizability. Pebble Time is fully compatible with all 6,500+ existing Pebble apps and watch faces. Three colors available exclusively on Kickstarter. Pebble Time starts shipping in May.

It’s going to retail for $199. When compared against the $349 Apple Watch Sport, I can’t comprehend how this product is compelling for iPhone users. This smartwatch doesn’t ship until May — even if you are unsure about the Apple Watch, you might as well wait until April to compare.

At a software level, the Apple Watch will outclass the Pebble Time in every way. Third-parties cannot integrate with peripherals as closely as Apple can. The Watch has special privileges: it can have a permanent connection with the host iPhone, sending data far beyond the current list of notifications. I foresee features like Handoff are crucial to the smartwatch-phone experience and you will miss them on non-Apple accessories.

On hardware, Pebble has gone in a different direction to Apple. (Small devices require tradeoffs). Rather than OLED, the Time uses a colour eInk display, which can show 64 colours1. This means you could play a NES Super Mario platformer on your wrist, but things like photos are not going to work. This is an interesting decision. Although I question whether users will want to look at their ‘universe of photos’ a la Apple Watch, almost any app notification nowadays benefits from a full colour image. Facebook profile pictures being the obvious example.

In addition, e-paper display refresh rates are lacklustre. The Pebble Time UI has some interesting context transitions, reminiscent of hand-drawn animations. The Clock irregularly transforms into a smaller representation, for instance. It’s a cool effect on the concept videos. However, on the watch itself the frame-rate of this transition is severely impaired by the screen technology. It looks bad.

The e-paper display does mean that the Time has a week of battery life. This sounds awesome, but I really don’t think battery longevity is enough to ‘outperform’ Apple’s efforts. Smartwatches have natural charge cycles. Use in day, charge at night. As a long as a smartwatch can last the waking hours, I don’t think anything beyond that threshold matters2.

Bringing utility to the table is much more important than battery life. The Apple Watch simply does a lot more stuff than the Pebble does. Plus, ostensibly, it looks a lot nicer on your wrist and is available in far superior material finishes.

1 An improvement over the original Pebble, nonetheless, which could display only black and white.

2 Tradeoffs. One day backlit smartwatches will have several day battery life.

Twitter Blames iOS 8 For Regression In Active User Statistics

6 February 2015


Well, one million of those users were people who downloaded iOS 8 and either never reopened Twitter, or forgot their password and couldn’t log back in. The other three million were lost due to Safari’s Reader section, which no longer pings Twitter automatically for content like it did in iOS 7. Users who were counted as active because of this automatic pinging on iOS 7 were then lost when they updated to iOS 8.

Basically, Safari’s Shared Links section made you count as an active Twitter user, even if you never opened the view on iOS 7, as long as you had a Twitter account logged in in Settings. iOS 8 stops Twitter from counting you as an active user because it only fetches when Shared Links is opened. Twitter blames this change for 3 million users ‘leaving’.

However, I don’t think you can say that users have left Twitter because of iOS 8. These users should never have been counted as active, because they really weren’t. The way the Safari app worked before just made them classify as active in Twitter’s analytics. It was over-counting.

The new behaviour is a more accurate representation of how many people actually use the service. The three million weren’t “lost” — they should never have been included in the statistics at all.

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