macOS 10.12.2 Removes Battery Life Time Remaining Estimates

13 December 2016


Apple didn’t have a ton of public information about how the battery life estimations were calculated, but we’ve talked to those in the know to get the scoop on why they’ve decided to remove it entirely following the MacBook Pro battery life concerns.

Our understanding is the reason is due to how the latest low-power processors work in addition to relatively newly introduced iCloud syncing features in macOS Sierra. The inaccurate ‘time remaining’ predictions were unable to keep up with or provide accurate information for users on the newest machines.

My personal experience is that this estimate was always widely inaccurate on every MacBook I’ve owned. It would change erratically and jump from seven hours to three hours on a whim, based on whatever intensive task was just opened. Its removal doesn’t come as a hindrance, therefore, because I was never really basing my computer usage around what that readout said. Some Windows manufacturers have already removed battery time estimates from their PC laptops.

The new update makes the Mac mirror how iOS has always worked, you can only see a percentage of battery capacity remaining represented numerically or graphically in the menubar icon. You quickly learn what a percentage of battery is roughly equivalent too. If you see the percentage drop rapidly, you will intuit that you are doing battery-intensive tasks and can adjust accordingly. When it falls below about 30%, in your head you can make a decision about whether to keep using it, do light work, or hunt for a power adapter. In short, just one number is enough information to be useful.

Now, there is an open question as to whether Apple could have engineered a more accurate time remaining algorithm, instead of merely canning the whole feature. Apple seems to think that isn’t possible — due to new CPU architectures, iCloud background processes — but I’m sure they could have developed a superior calculation than the very naive estimate they had before if they set their minds to it. There’s an elegance to matching iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch though.

This is also ancillary to the underlying point about 2016 MacBook Pro battery life being subpar. My interpretation of everyone’s anecdotal accounts are that it is lower than the 2015 model — any regression is disappointing. Personally, I’ve observed 7-8 hours of casual use on one charge. I would have happily traded some slimness of the chassis for a bigger battery that would have yielded another hour or two of longevity.

Topical Twitter

30 November 2016

I love Twitter, I check it constantly and tweet multiple times a day, but recent events have highlighted a deficiency in its simplicity. Having only one timeline is frustrating when the hive mind isn’t talking about things that I am interested in.

This limitation has come to the fore in recent months with the calvacade of political events that have happened this year. My personal enjoyment of Twitter has been hampered because my feed is just flooded every single day with news about Brexit, Farage, Hillary, Trump and countless other political topics.

Politics is important and these radical happenings (with world-changing consequences) are worth discussing, but I don’t personally go to Twitter for this stuff. I have carefully tuned my following list to focus on technology news and design. These past months, I’ve seen my timeline dominated by anything but technology, predominantly reactions to whatever stupid thing Donald Trump said.

It sucks. It’s grating. I didn’t sign up for that. Twitter is my escape from the real world where I can talk about USB ports, CPU speed and how the watchOS 3 Siri visualisation doesn’t animate in response to voice input. I feel like I’ve done what I can to curate my feed to my interests, I follow zero government commentators or political party representatives, yet the hive mind can still takeover on a whim and drown my timeline with news.

I think this is a fundamental constraint with the single timeline approach. Muting isn’t a solution; filters are laborious to maintain and don’t catch everything. The issue is not solely related to my reading list either. It’s also about the people that read my contributions: I think my technology tweets in the past couple of months have seen significantly less engagement because everybody is being overwhelmed by the political world headlines.

A sub-community to discuss technology, for example, just isn’t a concept in today’s Twitter. Stating this now it’s obvious but its never hit home in my head until now. I don’t think there’s been such an all-encompassing topic that has lasted this long before. I’ve always applauded Twitter for its simplicity and never before appreciated how alienating it can be.

As a result of my Twitter timeline being effectively hijacked, I’ve been spending more of my time on Reddit. Reddit has a main page comprising the most popular stuff but it also has categorisation called subreddits. If you visit r/apple, you are in a section of the site where you will only see stories about Apple, only see comments about Apple and only be talking to other people with a mindset to talk about Apple.

As Twitter searches for ways to make its product more approachable, I wonder if adopting some kind of topic-based timeline system has wider appeal. Twitter groups would bring users into a dedicated place to talk about a particular thing, isolated from the scrabble of the unfiltered main timeline. A peaceful island that acknowledges the wider world but is focused on a single collective subject. These topics would be curated by real people and ultimately managed by Twitter. (All tweets would continue to appear in the main timeline stream, in accordance with the existing visibility rules which control when replies and mentions show up.)

Apple Reportedly Closes AirPort Router Division

21 November 2016


Apple Inc. has disbanded its division that develops wireless routers, another move to try to sharpen the company’s focus on consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue, according to people familiar with the matter.

There’s a difference between cutting products because they don’t make enough money and cutting products because they don’t align with the product strategy. Some products justify their existence in ways that aren’t about profitability or sales metrics. I think Apple TV is a good example; it makes very little money but gives Apple a crucial presence in the living room which enhances the usability of its other products. The iPhone is better because I can quickly AirPlay my photos to the television and that is only possible because of the set-top box.

Discontinuing products that don’t generate significant revenues is a slippery slope. If you extended the naive strategy to its extreme, Apple would drop every product that isn’t an iPhone because nothing comes close in revenue terms’ an outcome that is obviously unhealthy. It has to be more nuanced than that.

The relevance of a WiFi router is hard to judge. It is a pervasive part of iOS devices and Macs so a router is an essential component of the experience. However, Apple has failed to demonstrate that it can contribute features and functionality to a WiFi router that a third-party cannot.

I hope that Apple evaluated the AirPort roadmap, decided there was little scope for improvement over the status quo, and then shuttered the division. Whether I believe that Apple could add value to the router space is irrelevant; I have to trust Apple is in the omniscient position here about its own lineup.

On the other hand, if AirPort development was cancelled simply because it ‘only’ made a few million dollars, I would be deeply disappointed. Accessories support the core products — it is unreasonable to expect them to make money. Apple has the privilege to make choices that aren’t constrained by financials. Abandoning products that don’t make money is what companies on the brink of bankruptcy do.

Apple Releases Photo Book Celebrating Apple Product Design

16 November 2016


“Designed by Apple In California” chronicles 20 years of Apple design through 450 photographs of our products and the processes used to make them. A visual history spanning iMac to Apple Pencil, complete with descriptions of innovative materials and techniques, it captures every detail with honesty and intention. Printed on specially milled German paper with gilded matt silver edges, using eight colour separations and low-ghost inks, this hardback volume took more than eight years to create and has been crafted with as much care and attention as the products featured within. It is both a testament and a tribute to the meticulous design, engineering and manufacturing methods that are singularly Apple.

Conceptually, I don’t object to the idea of Apple making a portfolio book of its best work. Using custom inks, meticulously chosen materials, and printing processes, Ive and the Apple design team are showing off twenty years of beautiful, marvellous, world-changing products in a bespoke photo book.

The products are photographed in stages, showing how things are made as well as the final results. Apple says it took them eight years to make this; Ive says that they had to reshoot some of the earlier products as camera technology improved so much in the interim the older photos looked antiquated.

I was disappointed that the book is just a collection of photos; accompanying text describing some salient design points for each of the products featured would have been nice to include. Anecdotal additions like that would have made the book more timeless, like an official record of significant Apple history.

I can understand, though, why it only focuses on imagery. One big photo per page is striking and impressive, achieved by disregarding ancillary clutter like words and names. It’s an aesthetic expression of ultimate focus and priority, which is what Ive would probably describe as Apple’s core design values.

I’d love to own this book but I can’t stomach the price. The high price was criticised a lot on Twitter for being insane but the $199 version really isn’t outrageous for what it is. Hardbound photography books are not cheap and this is not a mass-market item; part of the appeal is its exclusivity.

The $299 ‘upsell’ offering is where I draw the line on what’s acceptable; the fact that exists is a bit ridiculous. I don’t see a justification for manufacturing this in two different sizes. Make it big or make it small, doing both weakens the integrity of the whole thing.

The Retina Divide

10 November 2016

Six Colors:

What’s struck me in all of this is the challenge Apple’s had in getting the base prices of Macs down as it converts the entire product line to Retina displays. Since the first Retina MacBook Pro arrived in 2012 for more than $2000, it’s been a question—how long would it take before Apple could clear away the non-Retina laptops and iMacs from its product line while keeping the lowest prices of its product lines intact?

The chart excludes the iPad completely which I think gives a more accurate view of the lineup. You can buy a 9.7-inch iPad Pro with a high-density wide colour Retina display for just $599 and the analogous 12.9-inch model starts at $799, albeit currently lacking the P3 spectrum. Considering those prices, the Air sticks out like a sore thumb.

Windows manufacturers don’t seem to have a problem selling laptops with ‘Retina’ resolution displays far below the Air’s $999 retail price. They may not be as good as the new MacBook Pro or iMac displays but they are leaps and beyonds ahead of what the Air has. I don’t expect the $999 Mac laptop to feature a wide colour gamut screen, but I do expect it to have a resolution higher than 1400×900.

To take advantage of scale efficiency, I think Apple could easily package the same screens used for the current 12.9-inch iPad Pro, in a MacBook Air chassis. Bump the CPU/GPU slightly and you have a new Retina display MacBook Air. Straightforward, but way better than the current offering which is embarrassingly under-specced.

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.