The MacBook Pro Touch Bar

4 November 2016


Calculator uses the Touch Bar to display the primary arithmetic operations, like add, subtract, multiple and divide. In general, Touch Bar controls do not use bright color palettes but Calculator uses the theme orange color from the app itself to highlight these primary buttons. There are also shortcuts for percentages and decimal points by default. These shortcuts change dynamically to reflect the calculator mode; using Calculator in Scientific mode will show more mathematically advanced buttons on the Touch Bar.

I don’t usually link my own 9to5Mac articles, but I’m making an exception with this Touch Bar post. Several comments derided the Calculator Touch Bar interface as stupid and unnecessary. It may be simple and ‘boring’ but I do believe it is useful. Putting buttons for common math operations right next to the number keys is incredibly convenient.

On a traditional keyboard, the ‘add’ and ‘equals’ characters are on the same key, next to backspace. To sum, you have to press the Shift key and the ‘+=’ key simultaneously. This requires a surprising degree of mental coordination to do when your brain is primarily occupied by typing in a long string of numbers. It’s scarily easy to mess up and press equals when you meant add, or vice versa. Frustratingly, making just one mistake means computing the wrong answer and needing to start over.

With Touch Bar, the modifier key mental gymnastics aren’t necessary and the task can be pulled off with one hand. It doesn’t make sense for normal keyboards to dedicate space to these single function buttons as they would be unused in non-math apps.

However, this is exactly the kind of thing a bitmap touchscreen (that can display arbitrary content dependent on context) excels at. It doesn’t matter that the virtualised buttons are only relevant in Calculator because they only take up space on the Touch Bar whilst the Calculator app is being used.

Calculator is a basic example, obviously, but it shows the potential of what is possible in apps that use the Touch Bar in more sophisticated ways. It’s early days — and I am withholding a legitimate commendation until I’ve got the actual hardware to try — but the Touch Bar integration in Photos is lining up to be a fantastic experience.

Syncing The New iPhone To The New MacBook Pro

29 October 2016

Since the Apple event, I’ve read a lot of complaints about the inability to sync Apple’s flagship phone to its flagship laptop, the iPhone 7 and a new MacBook Pro, without buying adaptors. In summary, the iPhone ships with a Lightning to USB Type-A cable which is obviously incompatible with the USB-C only MacBook Pro.

First off, this is not a new predicament. Apple has been shipping USB-C only laptops for almost two years, since the 12-inch MacBook’s debut. Apple is yet to bundle a USB-C Lightning cable with any iOS device. Internally, Apple would have already been mulling the issue for a while (longer if you account for the behind-the-scenes product development period).

Two iPhones have launched since the first USB-C MacBook and the company hasn’t changed what’s included in the box. They’ve obviously made a decision not to and I wouldn’t expect anything to change until the next iPhone; I really doubt Apple would mix up the accessories mid-cycle.

I don’t think Apple is wrong either. The vast majority of iPhones sold today are received by people who have no computer at all, a Windows machine, or an existing Mac. In other words, owners of computers that don’t have USB-C ports. Changing the cable to USB-C is a trade-off to satiate the early adopter MacBook crowd and annoy everyone else. The most sensible choice is to keep the USB-A as is. Apple’s new MacBooks come at a time of transitions and this is why they sell the 2015 models still. If you desperately require old-style USB ports, you can buy a Mac laptop with them. It’s not an ideal situation but it is available.

Unlike the early years of iOS, the operating system is sophisticated enough such that syncing to a computer is not a requirement. In an imaginary world where adaptors and dongles didn’t exist, you could still use an iPhone 7 and a MacBook pretty damn well. Moreover, saying the iPhone can’t be synced to the new Mac is simply not true. You can sync over WiFi ever since iOS 5. As Apple forges fearlessly into the wireless world, “just don’t use the cable” is the easiest retort to the dissent. It’s a pretty good answer too, I always use WiFi to sync and backup to iTunes. The wired cable is for charging at a power outlet.

Syncing to iTunes is hardly a thing anymore, regardless of connection type. Services like iCloud and Apple Music have supplanted the need for an iOS device to be symbiotically linked to a specific PC.

It’s not ideal being caught in a chasm between two standards but I don’t think it’s terrible and I don’t think it’s a sign of Apple’s dire incompetence, as some have made it out to be on Twitter. I would classify it as awkward and a little irritating.

The Nintendo Switch

24 October 2016


Nintendo provided the first glimpse of its new home gaming system and revealed that it is called Nintendo Switch. In addition to providing single and multiplayer thrills at home, the Nintendo Switch system also enables gamers to play the same title wherever, whenever and with whomever they choose. The mobility of a handheld is now added to the power of a home gaming system to enable unprecedented new video game play styles.

In summary, it’s a six-inch tablet with two controllers, one for the left side and one for the right side. In this configuration, it looks (and operates) like a modern-day Game Boy Advance. There’s two analogue sticks and an array of other buttons. The tricksy part of this product is that the bits on the side are actually detachable.

They become two wireless controllers when separated, usable by one person using two hands or two people with one controller each. Nintendo calls them Joy-Con Controllers; I hope the branding team takes another pass at this name before the Switch ships. The ability to transition from a one-person handheld to a local multiplayer console instantly, the unit has a kickstand so it can sit on a desk or table, is unique.

You can also dock the Switch in the home to project the games onto a television, effectively turning it into a home console. In theory, no additional accessories are required because you can use the Joy-Con controllers on the go or at home.

I think the Switch represents a shift in Nintendo’s strategy, after the failure of the Wii U and the mediocre sales performance of Wii in its final years. Unlike those predecessors, this console doesn’t have an interaction gimmick like the motion controls of the Wiimote or second-screen experience attempted by the Wii U gamepad. The Joy-Con attachment mechanism is novel but the way you actually interact with the console is not revolutionary in any way: games are played by pressing buttons and swivelling joysticks.

The company is yet to discuss technical specifications but the advert intentionally features adults playing well-known games; Nintendo is appealing to the same core market as Xbox and PlayStation.

The display is a capacitive touch screen according to leak specs — the official video does not reference its existence in any way. Nintendo wants to discourage comparisons to tablets and phones and highlight the deep gameplay experiences of AAA titles. As a handheld, the Switch differentiates itself away from smartphones by offering physical input controls and the nifty option to setup local multiplayer with no additional accessories or devices required.

The iPhone may be getting Super Mario Run, a one-button side scrolling platformer, but it pales in comparison to the rich 3D open-world Mario adventure exclusively available for the Switch, teased in the video. You have to own a Nintendo console to play real Nintendo games.

Cards Against Humanity Hilarity

18 October 2016

Ella's Art blog:

this says i get an instant 1$ rebate. and it’s on the inside. that mean i get a dollar back instantly! now just how exactly did they do that?

they put a dollar inside. a literal actual dollar. imagine my reaction when i saw a dollar inside of this little package, cause it was literally the first thing i saw.

I don’t have any tangible connection to the game itself, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game of Cards Against Humanity to completion. The concept is good but I’m not confident enough to make the crude jokes which are the crux of the gameplay.

Even so, I think the Cards Against Humanity company is a fantastic entity. Everything they do feels like it was thought up by a group of people sipping drinks and coming up with stupid ideas that are nevertheless practically possible. As an added bonus, the company raises a lot of money for charities along the way.

I haven’t bothered to verify if the Tumblr story is true, that every CAH packet sold at Target advertises a $1 rebate and includes a real $1 bill inside. In general, I would be very skeptical about such an anecdote due to the questionable legality of reselling currency as retail goods. It’s a funny, dumb, minor joke that no normal company would bother navigating the statutory legalese (or suffer the 25% drop in unit margin) to actually execute. Yet, because it’s Cards Against Humanity, it’s believable.

Replacement Galaxy Note 7 Units Also Catching Fire, Samsung Halts Production

10 October 2016

Wall Street Journal:

Samsung Electronics Co. has temporarily halted production of its troubled Galaxy Note 7, according to a person familiar with the matter, the latest setback for the South Korean technology giant as it struggles to manage a recall of 2.5 million smartphones.

The move comes after a spate of fresh reports of overheating and fires with phones that have been distributed to replace the original devices, which also had a risk of catching fire.

It was embarrassing enough to have the flagship Note 7 catching fire in the first place, let alone that the replacement devices (which included firmware to display the battery indicator as a ‘safe’ green colour) also seem to have the same fault. I think Samsung has been lucky that none of these reported cases have resulted in serious injury.

I’m not sure how many more chances Samsung gets to fix the problem before regulators enforce a sales ban. Reports indicated that the company believed the problem with the original devices was the battery itself; the replacement devices used batteries from other suppliers. With those now spontaneously combusting as well, it seems more likely that the issue is inherent to the design of the phone, rather than an isolated defective component.

I’m assuming Samsung will take its time before releasing its replacements for the replacements, so the Note 7 will almost certainly miss the holiday sales window.

iPad Mini Pro Rumoured For Spring 2017

4 October 2016


According to well-placed sources, they say the next iPad Pro (12.9-inch) gets the iSight camera 12 million pixels and True Tone flash and True Tone display correspondence to Display P3 will be adopted.

iPad mini 4 will renew as iPad Pro (7.9-inch), get Smart Connector, and change into the specification of 4 speakers audio. Also, the iSight camera of 12 million pixels, True Tone flash, and True Tone display correspondence to Display P3 seem to be adopted.

With the iPad mini previously pronounced by some as a dead line, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear about Apple’s 7.9 inch tablet form factor again. I’ve never sought a Mini myself but it serves a nice niche for people who just want an eBook reader, as well as a cheaper tablet for children. Or at least, that’s what the Mini used to serve.

This rumour by Macotakara is intriguing because it speaks of a ‘pro’ iPad mini with high-end features, effectively describing an iPad Pro with a 7.9 inch display. Naming and pricing is unknown but if it is called an iPad Pro 7.9 inch, I doubt it will be targeting the budget price points that the Mini currently does. It’s like how Apple offered 13 inch, 15 inch and 17 inch MacBook Pros at one time. Three flavours of the same basic product.

The alternative is that the new Mini is still positioned in the range as a cheaper option with the refresh bringing many of the Pro-tier features to the lower-end price points now that components are cheaper. My hesitation with this, though, is that a cheap iPad Air is also rumoured. It would be weird to have both hanging around, I think.

Not sure what to make of this whole thing just yet. I still like the outcome that KGI had implied before, where the Mini is removed from sale and a cheaper iPad Air is substituted in as the new lower price iPad.

Snap Spectacles

24 September 2016

Wall Street Journal:

At a price of $129.99 and with limited distribution, it won’t be relied upon for significant immediate revenue. Spiegel refers to it as a toy, to be worn for kicks at a barbecue or an outdoor concert—Spectacles video syncs wirelessly to a smartphone, making it easily shareable. “We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out,” says Spiegel. “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.”

Here’s the announcement video. I liked the premise of Google Glass as much as I like the premise of these Spectacles, in that you can interact with a computer that can see the world from the same perspective that you do.

Current technology, though, limits the realisation of this vision in a big way. Smart glasses are too conspicuous and too invasive. I remember something Tim Cook said this on topic in the run-up to Apple Watch; “I wear glasses because I have to”.

This stuff will all catch on once it can be made smaller and integrate into people. The technology needs to get miniaturised so that it can be invisible. Even contact lenses might be too much of a barrier to entry (fiddly to apply, dry out quickly). This is really futuristic stuff but until it is a reality, I think Spiegel is right to characterise the Spectacles as a mere toy.

It’s worth nothing that the company has rebranded and is now called Snap Inc, subsuming Snapchat, Spectacles and whatever else they are working on. They aren’t betting on wearable eyeglasses at all, it’s a stepping stone. They are firmly a camera company now, moving with technology as it evolves.

Sadness With Sierra

21 September 2016

I run betas on my iOS devices but I stay on public releases for macOS (née OS X) as I only have one machine and stability is mission critical. As such, I installed macOS Sierra for the first time yesterday when it was released to the public.

It would be unfair to call Sierra buggy. I haven’t seen any apps crash or any system hangs. Reports from the beta seeds concur that 10.12 is solid. I do get the impression that Sierra is somehow unfinished, or rushed. There are only a handful of headline new features, but I’m hard pressed to call them complete.

The volume slider in the menubar is now horizontal. The reason is because it is also shows output devices in the same list so it gives quick access to Bluetooth headphones or the living room Apple TV. This is fine and the change is well-motivated once Apple’s new AirPods wireless earbuds ship.

It’s not buggy, the volume will change when you drag it, but it isn’t ‘done’. Note how the selected audio output is indicated by a checkmark. When there’s no AirPlay outputs, the view adapts just to show the slider and nothing else. Disappointingly, the view doesn’t collapse the inset for the checkmark that is no longer visible, so the volume bar is off-centre. Not off by a couple of pixels, off by a lot: the left gap is almost twice as wide as the right gap. Someone said this was ready to ship and it’s clearly wrong. I noticed the misalignment within hours of installing the update.

Another example is Siri, marketed by Apple as the single biggest new feature of Sierra. Does it work? Yes. You can dictate queries and returns responses inline to the popover panel. It doesn’t feel finished, though. I found multiple things ‘wrong’ just with the Help screen (press the little question mark); the subtitle font is tiny and the (lack of) contrast makes the subtitles hard to read; the detail views will push without releasing to confirm the click; errant padding at the bottom of most of the suggestions and the back button is styled so discreetly you can’t see when it appears1.

I’ve barely used macOS Siri and I already have a list of niggles and unfinished edges. I’m even ignoring things that are potentially debatable and just focusing on things that are unequivocally wrong. Even if you discount that stuff, there’s still the major gaps in functionality to consider like the lack of any third-party app integration into Siri on the Mac despite heralding a Siri SDK for iOS 10 as a flagship feature.

I can’t get Universal Clipboard to work, full stop. I copy a string of text on my Mac. I press Paste on my iPhone. Several seconds pass, and nothing happens. If I go the other way, the Copy command freezes my phone for multiple seconds and the laptop Ctrl+V freezes my Mac for multiple seconds. In both cases, no data ends up getting pasted at the destination. The seconds of waiting seems like it knows it wants to transfer some data but it is yet to succeed.

There is nowhere to check Universal Clipboard connectivity so I’m basically left in the dark about how to fix this because it fails silently. If it was done properly, it would flag up a ‘Universal Clipboard Failed’ alert with details of the error. As it is, I have no recourse apart from crossing my fingers and hoping it sorts itself out. I have verified that the devices are connected to each other over Bluetooth as I still get Handoff suggestions to continue application activities. Until it randomly starts working, copy and paste is simply broken on my devices. Even if it was doing what it is supposed to, I’d still have complaints about its design.

My biggest frustration is the Sierra’s Messages app. It supports so few of the new features in iOS 10. Most of my communications in Messages on the Mac are to people using iOS devices. Screen and bubble effects ungracefully fallback to a ‘(Sent with Lasers)’ message. If people send stickers to me, my conversation is gimped on macOS by gigantic images as the app can’t understand how to position them. Other iMessage apps just won’t work at all.

I expected iMessage apps not to work outside of iOS because they are iOS extension binaries. I expected stickers to be viewable, with the correct placement and scale. I expected all the new iOS 10 bubble effects to be sendable from the Mac and receivable on the Mac.

Messages on the Mac exists to continue conversations that take place on my iPhone. Now, Apple’s brand-new proprietary fancy adornments are completely unsupported by one of their operating systems. The fact they don’t is — honestly — deplorable. Cross-platform integration is a central benefit to Apple’s ecosystem and they are letting themselves down.

For reasons unexplained, there is one supported bubble effect implemented on macOS — Invisible Ink. One out of ten, right? No. The macOS version is so much worse. It looks like a snow globe from Windows 1998 with large pixels and a strange dispersion effect, like blocky particles are blowing in a gust of wind. It also naively covers the entire bubble like a dust sheet whereas the iOS implementation has the particles gently emanating over just the textual content. On iOS, you can almost see the shapes of the words behind the particles.

It’s difficult to convey the difference from static screenshots: look at Messages on Mac and iPhone side-by-side in real life and it’s easy to spot which is nicer. The Mac effect is embarrassingly mediocre and pales in comparison to the high-res fidelity of the iOS effect. The iPhone and iPad animation is so much more refined and so much more beautiful.

This might be the best argument yet for Apple merging the development environments of iOS and OS X. Right now, they have to make everything twice and they clearly didn’t have the development resources to do the macOS implementation justice.

My excitement about installing Sierra quickly changed to disappointment. This is an abridged list of such complaints where stuff consistently falls below my expectations for Apple software. I always have niggles to discuss but it is different with Sierra. This year, it is way more severe.

Maybe they were strained on engineering, maybe resources had to be reassigned, maybe Apple’s new reaffirmed focus on software quality has put more priority on not having things crash and consequently time spent on actual feature development and design QA is more limited. Regardless of the real reason, it gives the impression that Apple doesn’t care anymore about the platform. I hope that isn’t the case, I love the Mac, but that’s how it feels.

1 Intuitively, I thought a left arrow keyboard press should perform the same backward navigation. Alas, it doesn’t.

iTunes 12.5.1

15 September 2016

iTunes 12.5.1 surprised me; Apple actually changed a lot of stuff with sweeping changes to many views of the music library. Mirroring iOS 10, the new iTunes removes dynamic colour tinting and translucency effects, in favour of a plain white theme with occasional accents providing a splash of colour.

iOS 10 uses a pink tint colour but — for some reason — the new iTunes on Mac uses a blue shade. This discrepancy in colour palettes is jarring and I don’t see a reason for it to not match the Music app on iPhone and iPad. Aside from that, I really like the changes. The design is much cleaner and they’ve tidied up many loose ends. There is also a noticeable performance jump: the list of albums finally scrolls at a solid frame rate on my Retina MacBook Pro.

As another example of Apple’s iOS 10 design trends, the selected album is now delineated by a subtle shadow. The chosen artwork pops up from the library. Heavy San Francisco font faces are also used for the main titles and subtitles. They fit in well with the rest of the app and the font sizes are appropriate, unlike the equivalent iPhone fonts.

I was pleasantly surprised with the breadth of the UI changes in an update that, on the surface, has a pretty innocuous bump in the version number.

Apple Font Weight

9 September 2016

Apple seems to be switching up its preferred font weights. There is a renewed tendency by Apple design towards heavier weights overall. The iPhone 7 packaging uses a heavier weight for the box branding. iOS 10 uses heavy fonts too with the News, Home and Music apps. The keynote slides used a lot of bold San Francisco too. It’s not all San Francisco though, Myriad is still used on the new product pages.

I like the move back towards thicker fonts. The super-thin font trend brought about by iOS 7 is annoying. When everything is thin, the impact is lost. There are also readability issues (which even Apple has to specially workaround sometimes) with using thin fonts for everything and limits the backgrounds the text can be superimposed on.

All text faces need to be used in moderation. Everything bold or everything light is not a good balance. Bold faces are good for titles and logos. Use them.

Monstermoji - Emoji Sticker Pack For iOS 10

8 September 2016

Download Monstermoji for iMessage now. 26 beautiful stickers. Emotive monsters. Original artwork.

Available with iOS 10 is a new sticker pack developed by me and James Byrd. Beautiful emoji monsters drawn just for the iMessage App Store. Send reactions like happiness, laziness or tears of joy with just a tap. Peel off the Monstermoji and place them anywhere in your conversation. Monstermoji adds a dimension of emotional communication that normal emojis can’t provide.

Version 1.0 is launching with 26 exclusive stickers. Stickers include VoiceOver Labels, so they are accessible to all. I hope you like them and send them to your friends.

To use Monstermoji, find it in the iMessage App Store on iOS 10. Select the iMessage app from the drawer and then simply tap or peel the stickers into an iMessage chat Use them as conversation starters or place onto individual bubbles to convey additional emotion and feeling.

Send or receive Monstermoji on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Buy them now. Use Monstermoji on your iOS device with iOS 10.

What’s a sticker pack?

Sticker packs are a new type of iMessage app for iOS 10. They appear in the Messages app and allow you to peel off and place little drawings and bits of clipart anywhere in a Messages conversation. Find Monstermoji (and other sticker packs) in the App Store for iMessage.

Two New Black Case Colours Expected For iPhone 7

4 September 2016


KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo says that the iPhone 7 will be offered in two new case colors which are called “dark black” and “piano black”. Space Grey — as it is exists today — will be removed from the lineup meaning iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be offered in a total of five colors. The piano black is described as glossy and corroborates leaked SIM trays seen previously. Due to low yield, piano black may only be offered exclusively on high-capacity iPhone 7 models, at least at first.

First off, KGI’s general accuracy does not seem to have extended to the names of these colours. “Dark black” makes no sense; there are no shades of black. I’m guessing what he means is dark grey, not wholly black but a substantially darker shade of grey than what Space Grey is today. Piano black is a descriptive name: it’s like the glossy finish of a grand piano. It’s worth noting that KGI does not know (or claim to know) the final marketing names.

I’ve been lusting for an obelisk black iPhone finish for several years. It’s finally happening and in a better way than I even wanted; two new black options are coming along at once. It will be interesting to compare the piano finish with the Apple Watch’s Space Black appearance; it’s the same idea but with different raw metals. I am also a bit concerned about propensity to smudge or scratch.

KGI says that the glossy black will be reserved for the more expensive iPhones, at least initially, due to yield issues. Regardless, it’s a win. Everyone will have access to a new dark grey colour anyway. Plus, KGI thinks the exclusivity window on the piano SKU is only temporary so people won’t be forced to shell out to get the cool colour … if they have some patience.

Apple Ordered To Pay 13 Billion Euros In Back Taxes

31 August 2016

Tim Cook:

In Apple’s case, nearly all of our research and development takes place in California, so the vast majority of our profits are taxed in the United States. European companies doing business in the U.S. are taxed according to the same principle. But the Commission is now calling to retroactively change those rules.

Beyond the obvious targeting of Apple, the most profound and harmful effect of this ruling will be on investment and job creation in Europe. Using the Commission’s theory, every company in Ireland and across Europe is suddenly at risk of being subjected to taxes under laws that never existed.

Preface: I am not a lawyer.

Apple’s effective tax rate in Ireland was lower than 1% since 2004 according to the findings. On moral righteousness grounds, I think it’s fair to concede that Apple should have paid more tax in Ireland than they did. Even as an operations funnel, <1% regional tax seems ridiculously low.

However, both Apple and Ireland insist that nothing was illegal at the time. Apple made an agreement with Ireland back in the 1980’s and it paid off years later, when Apple grew into a huge corporation.

If the European Commission thought what Apple was doing was unlawful or incorrect, it had years to raise a formal complaint. What I really detest about the Commission’s judgement is how they are imposing their ‘new’ position to the past. The Commission is demanding repayments of ‘unpaid’ taxes from more than a decade ago. To me, that is unequivocally unfair.

Force Apple (and Ireland) to change its practices going forward, by all means. If Apple and Ireland were acting illegally (which both parties refute profusely), then levy fines. Reaching into the past to claim taxes that Ireland didn’t ask for at the time, and still says it isn’t owed today, is ridiculous.

Pinterest Acquires Instapaper

24 August 2016


All of these features and developments revolved around the core mission of Instapaper, which is allowing our users to discover, save, and experience interesting web content. In that respect, there is a lot of overlap between Pinterest and Instapaper. Joining Pinterest provides us with the additional resources and experience necessary to achieve that shared mission on a much larger scale.

Instapaper provides a compelling source for news-based content, and we’re excited to take those learnings to Pinterest’s discovery products. We’ll also be experimenting with using our parsing technology for certain Rich Pin types.

Most software company acquisitions in the tech world at the moment are head turning and puzzling but this isn’t one of them, as far as I’m concerned. Pinterest is a social bookmarking website with a focus on photography. A purchase of Instapaper allows them to easily grow into other content types, namely text.

Hidden at the bottom of this announcement is a ‘sunsetting’ of Instaparser, a paid API endpoint for developers to take advantage of Instapaper’s intelligent article parsing. The service is shutting down in November. It launched in April, now being shuttered in the same year it was debuted. This is pretty crappy especially given Instaparser was a paid service charging hundreds of dollars per month for an API key.

Personally, I didn’t see the motivation for Instaparser to exist. It sucks for those who adopted it but shutting it down is the right strategy for a company that is otherwise very focused on just doing one thing. It was a mistake to release Instaparser at all.

Eddy Cue And Craig Federighi Discuss Apple Maps' Problems

10 August 2016

Fast Company:

How do we know when a new golf course opens up? We’re not exactly driving around looking for golf courses. But we know it’s there, because there are all these golf apps that get used at a golf course. If we see that all these golf apps are being used at a particular location, and we don’t show that as a golf course, we probably have a problem. You can discover that pretty quickly. It’s not as if you need a year, or anything like that.

The inferences made by the crowdsourced data are then followed up on with ground truth teams (people that drive around verifying locations actually exist), web research or checking satellite data. It’s unfair to say that Apple is powering maps by crowdsourcing but it definitely plays a role in finding points of interest and road changes.

What I think is interesting is how much Federighi and Cue play up the benefits of data collection elements, I’ve never seen them emphasise it like this before. Usually, it’s very quaint with endless assurances about privacy and anonymity. In this interview, though, they admit that the data they do collate is enough to accurately pinpoint new sports venues. It may not be personally-identifiable but the fact Apple can trace the construction of golf parks from App Store downloads is pretty wild.

Cue’s enthusiasm also runs counter to Apple’s company message that they don’t want your data. I am in the camp that Apple could do better stuff if it did collect more data and it sounds like Cue and Federighi are almost begging for the opportunity to use it. I hope Apple relaxes its privacy stance somewhat and offers features that simply aren’t possible without accumulating a centralised store of user data on servers. Health data cloud syncing is the obvious example.

Apple Changes Pistol Emoji To Toy Water Gun In iOS 10

2 August 2016


iOS 10 includes over 100 new emoji in total with new female gender options for athletes and professionals, new family characters and redesigns of the most popular emojis.

Apple is working with the Unicode Consortium to ensure representation of diversity across emojis. In iOS 10, Apple is adding new female emojis for runners, cyclists, swimming, builders and more. There is also a new rainbow flag (assumedly representing LGBTQ Pride), and the pistol emoji is now depicted as a toy water gun.

In the Unicode standard, this character is defined as a ‘pistol’. The Emojipedia definition describes the emoji as “a weapon that has potential to cause great harm”.

With previous iOS versions, Apple presented this emoji as an actual gunmetal pistol. With iOS 10, they’ve changed it to a green toy water gun. I don’t like how they have handled this. This has nothing to do with the associated political implications of free speech and everything to do with the way Apple has implemented this technically.

My personal qualm is that Apple has distorted the integrity of the Emoji language by replacing the glyph for a character which has a very different meaning. A toy water gun depicts very different intentions than a real gun. The 🔫 emoji now has an ambiguous meaning because it represents different objects across devices and operating systems.

On iOS 10 devices, the emoji in the previous paragraph looks like a water gun. On iOS 9 or on my OS X El Capitan Mac (on which I am typing this post) it looks like a serious weapon — a handgun. By the way, VoiceOver will describe that character as a ‘pistol’ on all devices, including iOS 10.

I tried to show a more sinister example on Twitter where the meaning of a message can now be misconstrued if the recipient and sender are not using the same OS.

Rather than recycle the same character code point, here’s what I think Apple should have done. Remove the pistol emoji from Apple’s keyboard completely. Lobby the Unicode consortium to add a new emoji that depicts a ‘water pistol toy’ and include that in the keyboard.

This handling is better because it does not affect usage of the handgun emoji on other clients, Apple would just be disabling the ability to write it on its systems. The water gun emoji would then be true to itself with a unique code, a consistent depiction of a toy water pistol across all platforms that support the latest Unicode standard and the correct labelling for VoiceOver accessibility.

Assuming Apple followed my suggestion, there’s still a question about how to display a message that includes a handgun emoji sent from someone else. Apple could let the symbol display, meaning iOS 10 would allow users to read, but not write, the gun emoji. Alternatively, it could treat the handgun as an unknown character and display the typical ‘character unknown’ black box placeholder glyph. I think either is fine, although the latter makes a more forceful statement on society.