There’s incredible restraint in the amount of compression applied to the music in ‘Photos Every Day’. […] My point here is that if you caught this on TV, it would be substantially ‘quieter’ sounding than other ads around it.
The same philosophy exists in this ad, too; odd, in an ad ostensibly about music. But, in fact, it isn’t so much about the music as it is about the beautifully quiet way that the iPhone brings music into your life. Ever since the iPod, Apple has been the company that has made music portable, and their legacy continues with the iPhone.
I really like these new “…Every Day” ads. It’s advertising at its emotional best. But Federico Viticci thinks this is the end of the line for this format:
Sadly I don’t think there’s room for more Apple “…Every Day” ads. “Work/Messages Every Day” aren’t as emotional. Maybe FaceTime again?
I disagree. Apple can show off web browsing, as more people use the iPhone to browse the web than any other phone. Even Viticci’s example of something work-related, like calendaring or email, can be given an emotional edge if the iPhone makes work enjoyable. But I think the difficulty in that case is to establish a way in which the iPhone is used more than any other phone.
I think a combined iMessage-FaceTime ad would give the greatest emotional connection, though. Or Apple could always use David Chartier’s suggestion.
There is something about sending tens of billions of dollars to a holding company that has tax residency in no country on earth that seems to violate the spirit of the law – despite Cook’s assertion to the contrary.
But what will be remembered about Nocera’s latest Apple column is that he called Tim Cook a liar — accusing him of telling, under oath, a “whopper” and a “flat-out lie.”
Despite some initial hesitation, I’m still a Mailbox user. The combination of a gesture-based interface, snippet reading, and fast replies have made it my go-to Gmail app. I’m glad to see it make its way onto my iPad.
Update: The app has no portrait-oriented version. Weak.
Yet another great article from John Kirk at Techpinions:
Not only do the high priests of market share have it wrong, they have it exactly backwards. The company with the lower market share and the higher profits has all of the leverage. The goal is to increase, not decrease, the ratio of profits to market share. Increasing market share at the cost of profits is a recipe for disaster, not a formula for success.
Speaking of hard-to-read blogs, Matt Gemmell wants you to make your blog suck less for readers:
Having had a decade to think about it, I want to share my views on what I think you do and don’t need on a blog today. Your needs may be different, but perhaps you’ll find something to think about. I bet you could simplify your blog in some way without detracting from the reading experience.
I freely break a few of these rules: I will remove my sidebar when Gemmell uses a much less ungainly font. But the ethos of a simple background, clean type, and few distractions is one that is decidedly not user hostile.
I wondered after thinking about this just how readable the web really is — well the web that I encounter. So I took a look at twelve different sites to see if I thought the designers behind the sites were optimizing for reading, or for ads/pageviews/money.
Out of desperation, far too many websites optimize for ad revenue. It’s hard to blame them for trying to earn an extra buck in a world where users demand everything for free, and install AdBlock. But these same companies overlook why people install AdBlock, or use Instapaper (disclaimer: I use the latter, but not the former).
Make no mistake — Gemmell has some great points in this article. But the underlying reasons as to why the web looks more like The Next Web than Daring Fireball must be addressed. A paywall certainly helps, but that’s not a universal solution (and certainly not a good one for most bloggers).
Virginia Roberts, on the speculation of how much any of Tumblr’s developers will make on the $1.1 billion acquisition:
Why am I so up in arms about the finances of some software developer across the country? Because this shit is private, people. The fact that Marco [Arment] has ever mentioned anything related to any of his finances on any of his projects is a generous gesture on his part, because he clearly takes some stupid shit for it. We really are like paparazzi in this weird little nerd world, and it’s uncomfortable to share figures and income.
The site is, charitably, not the easiest to read, but it’s worth it for the point here. There’s a lot of crap and speculation being thrown at Arment, trying to figure out how much he’s making on this deal. On the well-informed side, there’s Matthew Flamm of Crain’s; on the uninformed (and stupid) side, there are people at Hacker News trying to figure out Arment’s cut based on the cost of yachts and helicopters. But none of this matters because it’s possible to be curious without being a dick. And it’s pretty dickish to trying to figure out the pay cut of anyone involved in the deals of private companies and individuals. Via Harry Marks.
From the New York Times’ live blog of the hearings:
Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, has taken the floor with a very different tone. He says he is “offended” by the hearings. Who, he said, doesn’t try to minimize their own taxes?
“Tell me what Apple has done that’s illegal,” he said.
Reasonable people here aren’t arguing that what Apple has done is illegal or criminal, just devious. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) issued a press release, in which John McCain (R-Arizona) states as such:
“Apple claims to be the largest U.S. corporate taxpayer, but by sheer size and scale, it is also among America’s largest tax avoiders,” said Sen. McCain. “A company that found remarkable success by harnessing American ingenuity and the opportunities afforded by the U.S. economy should not be shifting its profits overseas to avoid the payment of U.S. tax, purposefully depriving the American people of revenue. It is important to understand Apple’s byzantine tax structure so that we can effectively close the loopholes utilized by many U.S. multinational companies, particularly in this era of sequestration.”
The question here is not one of legality. Rather, like Arne Svenson’s “Neighbors”, it is a question of morals. Here, it’s an implicit requirement of compliance with a 35% taxation rate. Apple doesn’t comply with this, but no large corporation in the United States complies with this either. That doesn’t make it okay, but nor does it mean that it’s criminal. The tax structures created by most US companies are complex by design and by necessity.
David has an impeccable sense of what’s best for Tumblr, and he doesn’t need anyone else telling him what’s best for the product. Many people, myself included, have tried to convince him to go different directions, and we’ve been proven wrong every time.
Apps powered by data from Yahoo Finance and Yahoo’s weather site already come preloaded on iPhones. Some Yahoo data, such as sports stats, help power Apple’s voice-activated “assistant” Siri.
But the companies are discussing new arrangements, including possible deals to get more content from Yahoo News and its other Web properties loaded onto Apple devices or available through an expanded Siri partnership, one of these people said.
Or, perhaps, a redesigned Flickr that’s suddenly ready for the spotlight in 2013 could be deeper integrated into iOS. Flickr uploads are already integrated into OS X.
The cap on WWDC tickets means it won’t go the way of SXSW – a wildly successful conference that has grown consistently since its inception. I used to go every year until one late night we looked around a huge sea of strangers and decided that we no longer knew this conference.
WWDC isn’t just the sessions — developers can get the sessions online if that’s all they want. It isn’t about the Bash, or the keynote, or the ability to chat with Apple engineers, or the crowd.
The Yahoo board has approved a massive $1.1 billion all-cash deal to buy Tumblr.
Sources close to the board said the deal was a foregone conclusion and was an unanimous vote by the Silicon Valley Internet giant.
The deal will be announced Monday morning, said numerous sources.
Some are born cool, some achieve coolness, and some buy it for over a billion dollars. And by “coolness”, I mean that Yahoo just bought a bunch of stupid blogs, animated GIFs, and porn, and I’m sure they’re thrilled about that.
I bet this works out well for Yahoo, though. They need people to think they’re still relevant, and this is an easy way of doing that. They haven’t been able to say that they own one of the hottest Web properties for a long time, but now they can.
If you’ve been following the crop of links I’ve selected this week, it’s clear that it has been a big week for Google. From Mat Honan’s mockery to Nick Bilton’s privacy, and from video codecs to my disdain for Google+’s redesign, it might appear that I’ve been crafting a narrative of displeasure with Google over the past few days.
That hasn’t been my intent at all, however. What this week has illustrated is that Google is in an awkward place as a company. Their internal culture, their external perception, their realized products, and their conceptual ideas are all floating in a soup which has been brought to the front burner owing to this week’s I/O conference.
In the middle of the keynote of a geological time scale, Dustin Curtis tweeted:
Before last year, everything Google made was uninspired crap. Now it is carefully executed, designed well, and part of a massive vision.
I think it’s hinting at a massive vision, but I think what’s being realized throught the articles I’ve linked to this week is a clear sense of the blind spots in that vision. Google’s no longer the benevolent college search engine project. The company has the most popular search engine, smartphone operating system, and web advertising platforms, plus a massive quantity of other products of varying popularity. It’s not a small company any more; Google’s fucking enormous, but I think a great deal of people lack that sense — a perspective that has been cultivated through its spokespersons’ crafted statements which imply a sense of a smaller startup.1
This image is only one component of the cracks showing in these growing pains. What happened this week was due in part to the sheer quantity of updates announced over the course of the keynote presentation, each of which has been (and will continue to be) analyzed and critiqued. Google’s bigger vision is coming into its own, but the company is in an awkward phase of its realization of just how big they are. The commentary that you read this week has reflected that.
The soft, froggy voice startled me. I turned around to face an approaching figure. It was Larry Page, naked, save for a pair of eyeglasses.
“Welcome to Google Island. I hope my nudity doesn’t bother you. We’re completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It’s something I learned at Burning Man,” he said. “Here, drink this. You’re slightly dehydrated, and your blood sugar is low. This is a blend of water, electrolytes, and glucose.”
Yet when it was finally my turn to approach the rows of white urinals, my world came screeching to a halt. There they were, a handful of people wearing Google Glass, now standing next to me at their own urinals, peering their head from side to side, blinking or winking, as they relieved themselves.
Auto-uploading to Google+ for all the world nobody to see.
“The Neighbors,” currently on display at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea, is, at first glance, a quiet, painterly collection of intimate yet semi-abstract images. A seemingly nude male figure stands illuminated behind a curtain. A woman sits serenely, holding a menacing pair of scissors. A lone figure naps on a couch. A figure in a green dress crouches on the floor, her rear pressed close to the glass.
None of the photos show the subject’s faces, but the residents of the luxury condo across the street from [artist Arne] Svenson are understandably none too thrilled to see their asses turned into artwork — that’s fetching up at up to $7,500 a print, all without their consent.
This is something I constantly question when I’m making work: the difference between implicit and explicit consent. Anything visible within a public realm is typically fair game, but it’s uncomfortable. Anything on Instagram that’s public is, in theory, alright to appropriate (provided you follow their terms of service, naturally), but is that fair to the subjects? Are public tweets of private matters okay to more widely broadcast? Consider the @NeedADebitCard Twitter account, for just one example.
In these cases, it’s not a legal question, but an ethical one. In the meantime, if you live across from Svenson, you might want to close your blinds. Via Dave Pell
Ethan Jewett decided to fact-check this bit of speculation:
Turns out, the analysis is based on a “what if” scenario assuming that Apple had a Return On Invested Capital (ROIC) for 2012 of 70% and for 2013 (to date) of 52%. These drive a calculated Economic Book Value per Share around $240, which is apparently Trainer’s target.
Because the media loves controversy, Trainer appeared on CNBC and was featured on MarketWatch, despite his calculations lacking any factual merit whatsoever, and nobody promoting his theory questioned nor double-checked his math. Asinine.
“If you adopt VP9, as you can very quickly, you’ll have tremendous advantages over anyone else out there using H.264 or VP8, (its predecessor),” said VP9 engineer Ronald Bultje in a talk here at Google’s developer conference. “You can save about 50 percent of bandwidth by encoding your video with VP9 vs. H.264.”
From what I can find, the only widely-used products with VP8 implemented are YouTube and Skype, but the former also supports H.264-encoded video. The latter must also partially support H.264 because its iOS app appears to use the Core Video framework. Why would VP9 be adopted greater than VP8 has (or, for that matter, get greater play than Theora, Lagarith, OpenAVS, or any of the other free video codecs)?
Furthermore, why doesn’t Google spearhead the adoption of the codecs they proselytize by encoding their Play Store’s movie library in VP8 or VP9 format?1 Why doesn’t Google recommend VP8 or VP9 to their Android developers?
Standards are great; that’s why we have so many of them.
Google doesn’t publicly acknowledge what video format their Play videos use; however, their requirement for Flash Player strongly suggests H.264 encoding. ↩
With WWDC just a few weeks away, I thought it’d be beneficial to the Internet at large to compile a working list of everything that is expected of Apple during their Keynote and subsequent “State of the Union” addresses in order to appease the Internet. Failure to introduce each and every one of these features and updates will result in another stock price plummet, calls for Tim Cook’s ouster and an infinite amount of comments on tech blogs decrying that Android is superior to Apple’s iOS.
Ben Thompson, on the almost complete lack of Android from this year’s very long Google I/O keynote:
For Google, Android was a detour from their focus on owning and dominating web services; it ensured that those services would be freely accessible in this new world of computing, including on the iPhones and iPads that were used liberally in nearly every keynote demo. And, now that Android is successful, Google is back to focusing on “the best of Google”.
All AT&T Mobility customers can use any video chat app over cellular that is not pre-loaded on their device, but which they download from the Internet.
Remember that whole kerfuffle over how FaceTime was disabled over cellular unless you bought a much more expensive plan? We liked that PR disaster so much that we’d like to repeat it.
For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we offer all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share, Tiered and soon Unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices.
Don’t blame us, man. Blame Google. They’re the ones who have the most skin in the game if Hangouts are available over our cellular network.
It’s up to each OS and device makers to enable their systems to allow pre-loaded video chat apps to work over cellular for our customers on those plans.
Seriously — ask Google. File one of those bug reports or something and I’m sure they’ll get back to hey where are you going come back here.
Gruber’s use of the word “fans” in the first sentence is too reminiscent of the “fanboy” word — which I detest — but the sentiment is correct: Google is not a benevolent organization. They are a for-profit company, and behave like it, despite the sentiments expressed by their spokespeople.
Here come Amazon Coins! A place to put your money where you can’t get it back out and it’s possibly worth less over time and it can only be used to buy shitty Android games! Sign up today! (Lots of ca-ching! sounds and cheering.)
Microsoft is killing off its Points system that’s primarily used for its Xbox console. The death of Microsoft Points has been a long time coming, and follows Microsoft’s move away from the virtual currency towards cash in Windows 8. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s Xbox plans have revealed to The Verge that the software maker plans to replace Points with a new gift card system. […] We’re told that normal cash transactions, using credit and debit cards, will also be supported.
People seem to hate stupid lock-in faux currency. Why would Amazon think this is a great idea?
Google held their long-ass opening keynote today, introducing a myriad of new products and refinements to existing ones. Most of these products are — as you’d expect — dependent on the use of Android and Google+ and the Google ecosystem, so they are less interesting to me. The improvements to speech recognition are amazing, but I’ve noted many times my disdain for speaking to my computer. Judging by my Twitter feed, many people are excited by their newfound ability to speak to Google, so it’s probably a personal issue.
There were some notable standouts, though. Maps received a massive overhaul, making for a beautiful product which is much more user-friendly than the current iteration. While I haven’t had significant issues with Apple’s mapping software for a long time, Google shows a significant advantage — particularly on the web.
Gilbert explained that when Google started working on the new look, the idea was to take a lot of information and show it in as simple a manner, giving the eye the visual cues to understand the importance of content. Bigger photos, for instance are indicative of their importance. Photos become bigger based on analysis of past relationships to the people and the content and their ensuing interactions, Gilbert explained.
This seems clever, until you actually use the product. The multicolumn layout creates clutter, making it difficult to navigate, read, or interact with content.
Facebook attempted a two-column interpretation of profiles last year which they called “Timeline”. Coincidentally, Facebook just finished migrating all user profiles to a single-column version of Timeline yesterday. There’s a very good reason why they reverted: time is linear. A single column in reverse chronological order is a natural way of organizing data that is updated over time.
The other standout product was the launch of Google’s Spotify and Rdio competitor. Dubbed “All Access”, the service costs $10 per month, and is available only for Android users in the United States. Google did not announce which labels had signed with the product, nor a rollout timeline for other countries or platforms. The price point is the same as both Rdio and Spotify, both of which are available in plenty of countries outside of the US and have much larger music catalogues. It’s hard to see why anyone would choose All Access over the other two products.
All of this is without mentioning Larry Page’s bizarre question and answer period following the nearly three hour long keynote. From The Verge’s liveblog:
It is really hard to explain this experience. Larry is just quietly riffing on the future of computers and the world, and this giant room with 6000 people in it is pin-drop silent.
While the company has been successful with its mobile offering, it can’t seem to figure out how to enter the living room. Or at least find a permanent home there.
The company’s first attempt at connecting the living room to smartphones and tablets was also a flop. Its Internet-connected TV, Google TV, has struggled to sign on programming partners and to get along with hardware makers.
Over the weekend, Mikey Campbell of AppleInsiderreleased a report which claimed that iPhones would no longer be regularly replaced through AppleCare. He quoted an Apple employee (punctuation, capitalization sic):
“The way it is now, if almost anything is wrong with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, the entire device is exchanged for a like-new re manufactured (sic) device, whether brought into an apple store or sent in for mail in repair. Now we are starting to actually repair the products and return the same device to the customer.”
This is a major change in the way in which issues with the iPhone and iPad are dealt. I’m one of many who have been impressed by the speed and convenience of a device swap policy. But this policy is clearly not cheap. Campbell continues his report:
In another huge departure, Apple will reportedly reconfigure its paid AppleCare service as a subscription model, or introduce a new tier, which will be attached to a customer rather than a specific product. Under the proposed system, a customer is entitled to in-store training similar to the One to One program available to new Mac buyers, with each device owned being covered by the warranty. The new AppleCare may also include “exclusive” 24/7 support, though that has not been confirmed as a full set of features and pricing is not yet etched in stone.
All in all, I’m not encouraged after reading AppleInsider’s report. While AppleCare and the surrounding services aren’t perfect, most of these changes — on the surface at least — seem like moves in the wrong direction.
If Stores can’t keep up with demand, Geniuses should be able to replace a phone at their own discretion, if that’s what’s right (or faster) for the customer.
From my experiences at Apple Stores, Geniuses seem to have significant flexibility with their decisions. While this has been reduced as Apple has grown and expanded, the Genius Bar still seems like the epitome of a customer-first approach in retail. While they may save one Instagram with these changes, it needs to be balanced in the scope of the future of Apple’s legendary service.
Not that he’s not smart any more, just not a capital-g genius. I’ll see myself out. ↩
Matt Gemmell, on the potential for iOS 7′s new user interface direction under Jony Ive:
The reality is that skeuomorphism enshrines and validates a failure of vision, and even worse, a failure to capitalise on the medium. That’s a betrayal of a designer’s implicit duty of trust to make something that is the best, and to treat all other goals as secondary. I think that’s a responsibility that Ive feels very strongly. I doubt that anyone has ever had to remind him of it.
Some of the best analysis of user interface design. From a developer, no less.
Update: Via Matt Zanchelli, this appears to be an internal build icon used unintentionally. You can see it at the 31:24 timecode of this developer video, ironically in a section of the presentation devoted to differentiating between an internal build and a release build.
In March, the New York Timesunveiled a major redesign of individual article pages. The company billed it as an interpretation of the newspaper for the online experience of 2013, replete with a requisite responsive design, web fonts, and bigger photography. In addition, the newspaper eschewed pagination in favour of a single-page format.
I received my invitation to test the prototype earlier today. In the email, the Times promised that this redesign was “optimized for iOS 6 on iPad”, which is an oddly-specific targeting. However, it speaks volumes about the shifting device demographics. The website for one of the most widely-circulated newspapers in the world is primarily targeting iPads — not desktops, not laptops, and not “tablets”. That’s huge.
But a focus on a contemporaneous website doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful web experience. It’s important to keep in mind that this is just a prototype, and is very much a work in progress. But, as of right now, it requires a lot of work in order to progress:
A couple of other issues were immediately noticeable: the lack of scrollbars is presumably another byproduct of the odd scrolling implementation, and graphics throughout the prototype are not optimized for a retina display. Finally, the prototype doesn’t work at all on my iPhone.
I must stress that this is obviously a prototype, and doesn’t (yet) represent the shipping product. However, the Times is releasing these early previews in an attempt to solicit feedback and issues. I’m only too happy to oblige.
The HTC First, or “Facebook phone” as many prefer to call it, is officially a flop. It certainly wasn’t a good sign when AT&T dropped the price of HTC’s First to $0.99 just one month after its debut, and now BGR has confirmed that HTC and Facebook’s little experiment is nearing its end. BGR has learned from a trusted source that sales of the HTC First have been shockingly bad. So bad, in fact, that AT&T has already decided to discontinue the phone.
Life gets a bit easier when your Google products work well together—whether that’s inserting a Drive file into an email or sharing a photo from Drive on Google+. As this experience becomes more seamless, separate storage doesn’t make as much sense anymore. So instead of having 10 GB for Gmail and another 5 GB for Drive and Google+ Photos, you’ll now get 15 GB of unified storage for free to use as you like between Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos.
Very smart update. The great thing is that if you don’t use Google+ or Drive, you now (theoretically) have 15 GB of Gmail space.
After digging for answers and even a couple attempts at contacting their customer support, I’ve concluded that LinkedIn is by far the creepiest social network. The primary reasons LinkedIn is the mustached, trench coat and wire frame glasses wearing mouth breather of the internet are the “People You May Know” and “People Also Viewed” features.
In related news, Facebook is no longer the creepiest social network, and I’m sure they’re thrilled to lose that trophy.
It’s just about a month before the big WWDC keynote, which means that the rumours are flying as to what the new versions of OS X 10.9 and the perhaps more anticipated iOS 7 will bring. Since October’s announcement that Sir Jony Ive has been tasked with overseeing all of the design that comes out of Apple on both hardware and software fronts, the rumours of a shift away from leather and wood in the company’s user interface design were perhaps inevitable. A shift to a flat Metro-esque design, the rumours often claim, is in the cards for iOS 7.
This line of thought betrays a certain lack of thought into the processes of a design-driven company which, of course, is what Apple is. In November, the mysterious Kontra wrote:
Like industrial design of physical devices, software is part form and part function: aesthetics and experience. Apple’s software problems aren’t dark linen, Corinthian leather or torn paper. In fact, Apple’s software problems aren’t much about aesthetics at all…they are mostly about experience. To paraphrase Ive’s former boss, Apple’s software problems aren’t about how they look, but how they work.
The debate within Apple is likely not a case of skeuomorphism vs. solid block colours, for example. This is a gross oversimpification of what the redesign process entails for something that is as complex as iOS. The questions likely being asked will be more abstract than this, but more intelligent — questions like “how much detail is necessary to impart functional meaning for users?”. Perhaps a bigger internal question is something like “how do we make the operating system better for users to match their new use cases compared to when the OS was launched?”
The way we use iOS has changed since 2007 but, as I have noted previously, app management has barely changed since that time. Idealism would suggest that there’s no reason to have 86 apps on my iPhone (including, for some reason, five Twitter clients). Pragmatism would state that this isn’t a huge number of applications, and that there must be a better way of dealing with them than by increasing the depth at which I can store them.
That isn’t to imply that there are no aesthetic concerns at Apple; that would be ludicrious. But the problems aren’t limited to the colour palette and icon gloss. The above-linked article by Kontra provides a short list of some of the problems that Apple faces with their current applications and services, based wholly on function and not on appearance. But, as much as I’d love to see Notification Centre eschew the linen texture from my glossy iPhone’s screen (seriously: glossy linen?), I’d much prefer a better way to deal with incoming notifications than whittling down my fingertip to tap the clear buttons. And, no, the better way is not to make the buttons bigger.
Two fascinating articles regarding Netflix from the past two days. First up, Ashlee Vance for Bloomberg Businessweek:
On a normal weeknight, Netflix accounts for almost a third of all Internet traffic entering North American homes. That’s more than YouTube, Hulu, Amazon.com, HBO Go, iTunes, and BitTorrent combined. Traffic to Netflix usually peaks at around 10 p.m. in each time zone, at which point a chart of Internet consumption looks like a python that swallowed a cow. By midnight Pacific time, streaming volume falls off dramatically.
Meanwhile, Dan Frommer has a comparison of the number of subscribers to Netflix vs. AOL, over the years. I knew Netflix was a big deal, but I didn’t realize just how much of a big fuckin’ deal. It’s a staggering achievement — succeeding at a scale where all the other big players have never reached.
You might have seen this story by Tim Culpan yesterday. You didn’t see it here, because it was too full of garbage to even consider posting. But Philip Elmer-Dewitt isn’t afraid of some pesky reporter making things up, so he got to the bottom of the story.
While I may be using more apps than the “average user”, I believe my iOS 7 wishes go beyond feature requests you’d only expect from “power users”. iOS is a mature platform with a rich app ecosystem and powerful hardware; I’d like iOS 7 to fix annoyances, remove cruft, and start building the foundation for the next six years of iOS.
This is a good list of stuff that real users will notice and care about.
LinkedIn fails to hit absolutely basic product features that should have been in there 5 years ago, both on mobile and desktop. Instead, the core features get buried under successive layers of mediocre non-core products, the latest being a flood of me-too news aggregation that’s creeping through the product like ivy, and none of which can be properly configured, let alone turned off.
Peter Belanger, in an interview with The Verge about his product photography:
I need to have control over each and every surface so when the client asks for a highlight to be elongated, I can do that. It’s similar to working on a file in Photoshop: you don’t do all your work on one layer. I think of my lights as layers that I can adjust individually to get the desired results.
Peter Belanger is one of two photographers that Apple works with on a regular basis. He’s behind the photos of the iPad Mini, recent iPods, and the newest iMac.
The other photographer that Apple usually works with is Doug Rosa, who likely has a similar working method. Dwight Eschliman created the promotional imagery for the fourth generation iPod Touch.
“With Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to gain share in what has been dominated by the iPad-type device,” Gates said. “A lot of those users are frustrated. They can’t type. They can’t create documents. They don’t have Office there.”
Coincidentally, Apple just released their all-time top App Store downloads. In first place for paid iPad apps? Pages.
The iPad Mini will get a refresh in the third quarter with a Retina display, NPD DisplaySearch predicted late Sunday.
Weird. The actual quote from DisplaySearch:
“We see two refreshes coming. One in the second half of this year, then one in Q1 [first quarter] of 2014,” analyst Richard Shim told CNet late Sunday night.
“The Q1  device will have a Retina display plus an updated processor,” Shim added.
Whatever the timing, either Apple has secured an amazing LCD panel contract with their vendors, or analysts are suggesting that what little margin Apple makes on the iPad Mini is about to be dramatically reduced. And analysts love their margins.
A purely visual overhaul would not have a WWDC deadline. iOS 7 is not expected to be released until the fall, and betas could use old visuals until then. The fact there is a WWDC deadlines suggests there are real functionality changes that developers need to know about.
I think that those who think iOS 7 is going to be a massive redesign of the whole operating system are going to be disappointed. I base this on nothing more than a hunch; recall that when an Apple tablet was rumoured back in 2009, many people considered it necessary to create a brand new operating system for it. But if you think Jony Ive is just going to replace the leather in Reminders with a solid grey background, you’re sorely underestimating the value he brings to the company.
“In America, there’s a sense of fairness that’s culturally true for all of us,” [Eric] Schmidt said. “The lack of a delete button on the Internet is a significant issue. There is a time when erasure is a right thing.”
Later adding, “for anything I’ve ever said publicly, for example.”
Lots of great stuff for photographers in this release, including the insane de-blurring feature demoed at the last Adobe MAX conference. But the stuff I’m interested in is only briefly mentioned in this video: editable rounded rectangles (finally), and subpixel type smoothing (also finally).
The CC name refers to Creative Cloud. Adobe will no longer be selling individual Creative Suite products, and will instead be selling subscriptions to their cloud products. Harrison Weber of The Next Webexplains:
For Adobe, the reasoning behind this decision is simple. According to our sources, the company had long searched for ways to stabilize its revenue. Previously, it would receive bursts of income every two years with the latest Creative Suite release. Convincing uses to upgrade was a daunting task that left an impact on product decisions.
It makes sense for Adobe and for users of multiple formerly-known-as-Creative Suite applications who want to stay updated every year. But the lack of choice in whether to purchase a single product for a one-time fee and know that it will work indefinitely means that it’s an easy choice as to whether I will be upgrading: I won’t.
In what universe does Google+ actually have 343 million “active” users? Take a look at the sharing stats on the very post this is linking to, for example: as of writing, it has 1,056 tweets, 714 Facebook likes, and 182 +1s. According to the stats in the post, that translates to 189,394 active users per share on Twitter, 1.55 million users per share on Facebook, and 1.88 million users per share on Google+.12 Obviously, these won’t be proportional — the demographics of each social network are different enough that there won’t be an even correlation. But how does a tech-savvy audience like that of Google+ share a nerdy link at a significantly reduced rate compared to Facebook?
David Chartier’s observations strongly reflect my own experience with the product. I’m not saying Google is juicing their numbers here, but I simply haven’t heard of anyone actively using Google+ on a regular basis to nearly the same extent as Tumblr, for example.
Update: Apparently, this data is already out of date. According to GlobalWebIndex (of which Google is a client), Google+ now has 359 million “active” users (though only 135 million are active posters). GlobalWebIndex uses surveys to gather this data, though, which makes it suspect. Google hasn’t released any official data since December 6.
I’ve chosen a users-per-share metric because it gives manageable numbers. The inverse — shares-per-user — produces very small numbers which are harder to grasp. ↩
Note that smaller numbers in this metric correspond to greater shares per user. That is to say that user interaction is higher on this particular post when the number is lower. ↩
John Siracusa, on what he anticipates in the visual design of iOS 7 and OS X 10.9:
I expect Ive to focus on harmony between the look and feel of the software, the materials and finish of the hardware, and most importantly, the intended purpose of each specific application.
While I’m excited for the unveiling of both, OS X 10.9 seems to intrigue me more due to the inattention paid by others to it. It’s quieter and subtler, but I think it’s the area where Apple can experiment to a larger extent because its customer base is so much smaller and less diverse (what’s the ratio of professionals to grandparents on Macs versus iPads?).
Instagram was updated to version 3.5 today with a way to tag friends in photos, which is neat, I suppose. The (unmentioned) part of the update that I like the most, however, is the new Instagram logo designed by Mackey Saturday. Immediately, you’ll notice how much sturdier it appears compared to the original logo.
A widespread estimate of Mini sales is around the 12 million mark in the last quarter, meaning it now handsomely outstrips iPad sales.
Oh, you think this is good news for Apple? That’s only because you don’t know how “watered down” the iPad Mini is.
The Mini is a watered down version of the iPad.
Its launch risked the dreaded cannibalization effect, potentially eating into iPad sales. But it looks as well to have sustained Apple’s market share considerably.
What if Apple loses iPad sales to another iPad?
The point is that real growth is down market and what is needed there is an iconic phone to sweep it up. The idea of a really cheap iPhone offends some sensibilities but we have a really cheap tablet in the iPhone Mini [sic], one that is well below the innovation capabilities of Apple but one that is really preserving Apple’s presence and reputation as a market leader.
Because nothing says “market leader” like making a “really cheap” version of an existing product.
Surely then would it be rational for Apple to enter the low cost market, possibly with one of its existing devices, for example taking the iPod Touch into the 3G realm. The Touch already does good Face Time once users are in a WiFi zone – and more and more homes, as well as public spaces, have WiFi.
Surely it would be rational for Apple to nuke their margins from low earth orbit. Nothing helps a company more than short-term gains at the expense of a long-term strategy. Right, Wall Street?
(Aside: “iPhone Mini”? “Does good Face Time”? Did Forbes fire all of their editors?)
Recall, if you would, yesterday’s fantastic Benedict Evans piece:
Phone are also bought on price, and the iPhone is expensive, but the subsidy system weakens the effect (to a varying degree depending on the market and on the proportion of contract versus prepay). Moreover, the price gap between an iPhone and a cheap Android is much smaller in absolute terms than the gap between a Mac and the cheapest PC.
Meanwhile, back in Forbes land:
ABI estimates the low cost smartphone market will more than triple, in devices sold, between now and 2018 whereas the mid-range will grow at only (roughly) 50%. Mid range is estimated at the $250 – 400 mark, while low cost is sub $250.
Take a $299 iPod Touch, add some 3G capabilities, and sell it for $250. What could possibly go wrong?
At the risk of sounding like your prototypical hipster, today’s rumors just aren’t as good as they used to be. The devices that we hear whispers about now — a smartwatch, a television, a cheaper iPhone — seem lackluster compared to the rumored products of days past — products that, when they actually appeared, changed entire industries.
Remember how Tim Cook quipped that the company would be “doubling down on secrecy” at D10? How much has been leaked of the contents of iOS 7 or OS X 10.9? Apple’s quieter, so the rumours are only as big as the imaginations of analysts and bloggers.
On that note, let me toss one in for iOS 7: the possible return of Street View. You’ll recall that this time last year, the switch to an in-house Maps application was already rumoured. Turns out that C3 — the company that built the 3D mode — has also done street-level mapping.
In other words, Apple has product/market fit in the phone market in a way that it never had in the personal computer market. ALL of the key dynamics that doomed it in the computer market are fundamentally different in the phone market – this time, they all work in Apple’s favour, and in favour of the high-end market in general.
Very smart. Much unlike the way I worded the lede.
Rene Ritchie of iMore, on the rumour that iOS 7 will be delayed:
Until Apple announces something, it can’t be “delayed”. If they’re not meeting internal schedules, if they’re adding resources from other projects, if they’re pushing features out to future versions, if they’re doing any number of things a company their size does when working on a project of iOS’ size, that’s not “delayed”, that’s “development”.
It seems that every new product that Apple is rumoured to be working on will be delayed. The iPhone 5 was rumoured to be delayed in 2012, and in 2011. In 2011, the delays were owed in part to a flexible OLED screen. Of course, none of this was true,1 but that’s not important. It’s drama in the world of Apple, and that’s what counts.
Apple’s in-house technical support service, the Genius Bar, rated as high as support provided by phone or online. Whatever way readers asked for tech help—by phone (the most common way), online, or in person—Apple was also able to solve more computer problems. Independent shops that make custom computers came closest to Apple.
Genuine question: where does one take a Nexus, or a Samsung, or an LG for service? Best Buy? Your cell carrier? The list seems to be filled with companies that are annually ranked as some of the worst in terms of customer service.
The next time you have an idea rolling around in your head, find the courage to quiet your inner critic just long enough to get a piece of paper and a pen, then just start sketching it. “But I don’t have a long time for this!” you might think. Or “the idea is probably stupid”, or “Maybe I’ll go online and click around for-”
The future is extremely hard to see through the lens of the present. It’s very easy to unconsciously dismiss the first versions of something as frivolous or useless. Or as stupid ideas.
Both are excellent articles centred around early drafts. Bell’s tackles the internal perception of an idea, and the difficulty in making that a reality. Curtis covers others’ initial derision to unique ideas.
I recently had experience with both of these facets. A few months ago, I began work on a sculpture which polled Twitter in real time, looking for tweets containing phrases of a confessional nature. It would then print a tweet every thirty seconds using a receipt printer, which would be hung well above the gallery floor to create a cascade of others’ anonymized confessions.
I didn’t know where to begin this piece. Initially, this was going to output to a display because it would be easier, but I knew that it was a cop-out. Finding a receipt printer was massively difficult, too: receipt printers are designed to have bulletproof reliability, so they’re around $300, and most still use a parallel port. Throughout the development process, half the people I told this idea to wrote it off, or were uninterested. Even hanging it in the gallery was more difficult than it needed to be.
Everything seemed to conspire against this project, but I eventually finished it. “Confessional” was done.
When the gallery held the reception for this group show, this piece was widely admired. Crowds gathered around the bottom to read out old tweets from the pile that built up. It satisfying and thrilling to see my stupid idea become a fairly respectable reality. That’s the reward I received for sticking with something I knew to be worth the effort. I highly recommend the resulting feeling.
David Chartier shares his observation that Google+ seems like a ghost town. I’d agree, but I haven’t opened Google+ apart from to check the reviews page of a restaurant near me which, incidentally, I didn’t realize Google had migrated away from Maps.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, in an interview with Bloomberg:
“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins said in an interview yesterday at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles. “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”
I think there’s another company named after a fruit that would disagree with you, Mr. Heins. Maybe your PlayBook didn’t sell because it was terrible.
When I was asked about inviting people to Path as I installed the app I said no, and without entering much in the way of personal information Path decided to text my entire phone book for me the day AFTER I uninstalled it from my Android.
By default, Path assumes you want to send a message to all your Facebook friends, displaying a list with every name checked. The user must then tap “unselect all,” or Path will text a signup link to every friend. This configuration has been in place since Path’s last release on March 6th.
I have a lot of @Apple stock— and I miss Steve Jobs. Tim Cook must immediately increase the size of the screen on the iPhone. It should be slightly larger than the Samsung screen- and they better get it right fast because they will lose a lot of business. I like the larger screen.
The iPhone’s screen “must immediately” get bigger because Donald Trump likes a bigger screen. Also, it must be slightly bigger than “the Samsung screen”, but it’s hard to know which one he’s referring to. And you can trust Trump on this because he misses Steve Jobs.
If Trump has a lot of Apple stock, wouldn’t he like Tim Cook a lot more than he apparently does? The stock under Cook has risen far higher than it ever did under Jobs.
According to multiple people who have either seen or have been briefed on the upcoming iOS 7, the operating system sports a redesigned user-interface that will be attractive to new iOS users, but potentially unsettling for those who are long-accustomed to the platform.
The new interface is said to be “very, very flat,” according to one source. Another person said that the interface loses all signs of gloss, shine, and skeuomorphism seen across current and past versions of iOS.
I’m excited to see this. As I’ve said previously, iOS is used by hundreds of millions of people. They can’t radically change the OS in a way that would disorientate longtime users, but it sounds like they’re trying to hit a sweet spot of redesign.
Then there’s this nugget (emphasis mine):
iOS 7 is codenamed “Innsbruck,” according to three people familiar with the OS. The interface changes include an all-new icon set for Apple’s native apps in addition to newly designed tool bars, tab bars, and other fundamental interface features across the system.
I don’t want to get too speculative, but if the WWDC logo was hinting at anything, it seems to me that many of the default app icons are represented within its colours:
Orange is Music, green is both Phone and Messages, magenta is iTunes, and red is Calendar. Just something to ponder.
If 2013 is the last year of WWDC as we know it, I’ll be sad to miss the sessions. I’ll be sad to miss the access to Apple. But I’ll be most sad to miss having the excuse to get together with my friends — my inspiration.
WWDC isn’t just one thing — it isn’t the keynote, the engineering sessions, the access to Apple engineers, or the community. It’s all of these things.
Apple has recognized that the developer community has outgrown WWDC, however, and is bringing the sessions and the engineers on the road:
For those who can’t join us in San Francisco, you can still take advantage of great WWDC content, as we’ll be posting videos of all our sessions during the conference. We’ll also be hitting the road this fall with Tech Talks in a city near you.
Good news all around. But there’s still a nagging feeling that WWDC needs to be bigger. Moscone is the biggest convention hall in San Francisco, though, so where could they hold it?
Last night the Rolling Stones played the ideal show that everyone wants but no one ever gets to see. They played a short set of their best hits and favorite covers at a small, “surprise” gig at the Echoplex, a 700-person Los Angeles club. Be jealous, because you weren’t there.
These kinds of gigs are unbeatable. New York’s Bowery Ballroom is famous for performances from acts big and small, despite having a capacity of just 500 patrons. A few years ago, Nine Inch Nails took the stage.1 In 2010, Kanye West performed his then-new album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” in its entirety. And, just recently, Bob Mould rocked the house with some special guests. (There is a language warning on all of those videos, naturally.)
The Echoplex is a famous venue for Pitchfork-level indie acts, so to see the Rolling Stones play that club would be an incredible experience. Of course, it’s 2013, so secret shows aren’t so secret any more. Indeed, footage from the evening has surfaced on YouTube.
“Acidjack” recorded a great bootleg at this show, if you want it in its entirety. ↩
Google Now is a critical selling feature of Android, and to bring it to iOS seems like Google is shooting themselves in the foot. But their revenue strategy relies upon having products on as many platforms as possible, which is why this makes sense. Google is also probably betting on the halo effect to bring more customers to Android.
The product still gives me the creeps, though. Even though it’s automated, something rifling through my email, contacts, and calendar to try to predict what information I’m going to need is unnerving.
After the Apple earnings conference call Tuesday, several analysts noted that the average selling price of iPhones had fallen to $613 from $641 in the previous quarter, the result of what William Power, a Baird analyst, said in a report was “greater focus on the lower-priced iPhone 4.”
The iPhone 4 is still a decent piece of hardware, which poses a difficult problem for Apple: how can they sell more of the recent higher-priced models when the old, less-expensive models are great? Remember that challenge when you consider the rumours of a cheaper iPhone model. Not only would such a model need to be less expensive, it would need to be produced with a bigger profit margin margin, too.
On Wednesday, Apple posted an interactive timeline chronicling a decade of easy, convenient, and inexpensive digital music purchases on the iTunes Store.
In the past ten years, the iTunes application has grown from a ghastly brushed metal interface to today’s beautiful Helvetica-and-artwork-heavy interface. Of course, not everyone thinks today’s iTunes package is great. Roberto Baldwin1published a guide for Apple to making iTunes 11 “awesome again”. I don’t agree with all of his advice; for example, on search:
Now iTunes crams a list of items that relate to your search in a drop down menu instead of the player window. That’s not better. It’s confusing. If you choose an artist it pushes you into the Artists view. Not so helpful if you’re looking for a certain song by an artist where the list view would be a quicker search solution. Roll search back.
I prefer the new iTunes search, even though it’s desperately slow with my library. But if you dislike it, you can roll back to the old-style search by clicking the magnifying glass, and unchecking “Search Entire Library”. This, though, I agree with:
Even in iOS, Apple has separated videos and music. Stuffing all the media into the app has led to bloat. Video felt tacked on when it was introduced, and that hasn’t changed.
It’s such a gnarly way of mixing two media. At least iTunes 11 separates out movies with a much different interface, but it still feels tacked-on.
Over at The Verge, Nathan Ingraham has posted a good history of the necessary negotiations, iconic advertising, and key milestones in the iTunes story. Most intriguing is the section dedicated to the fate of various “iTunes killers” that have come and gone over the past decade.
Samsung’s relationship with Google in particular is growing more complicated by the day, Mr. Golvin said.
“Google is to some extent reliant on Samsung as the dominant seller of Android phones,” he said. “At the same time, Samsung is reliant on Google for the larger Android ecosystem, people building Android apps and delivering them through Play.”
Samsung is so dominant that this new store might — with emphasis on might — be able to sway control over Android to them. What if Samsung forks Android, and makes a proprietary version? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Samsung’s dominance must scare the shit out of Google.
Pretty sure he’s not one of the Baldwin brothers. ↩
If you’re sick of tech reviews that don’t provide a solid opinion as to whether a product is worth buying or not, don’t fret. Brian Lam’s The Wirecutter is exactly what you need. It has recently been redesigned, but the recommendations are as good as ever.
As I’m standing here, staring at those two fucking keys laying on the floor of the hatch, mocking me, all I can think about is how much I hate Enterprise and the entire rental car establishment right now. And that squirrel over there, looking at me with that stupid blank look on his smug little furry fucking face. Is there anything stupider than providing two keys with a car, and then joining them permanently together with a piece of braided steel cable? No, there isn’t.
Quick: what are the top three smartphones that you can buy today?
Now score each of those smartphones on a ten-point scale. Tricky, isn’t it?
There are certain quantifiable metrics by which a smartphone, in this case, can be judged: screen resolution and size, battery life, or cell radio capabilities. But these metrics do not define the whole experience; you’re not just buying a screen or a battery, are you?
This necessitates the introduction of subjective scoring of other aspects, like hardware design, or the niceness of the onscreen interface. Each of these qualities is impossible to score objectively, or numerically, for that matter. What specific qualities separate “8” hardware from “7” hardware? Even aspects of a phone which are ostensibly measurable are no indication of their value to the end product. Processor frequency, for example, can be measured, but it is not the only factor that may influence performance or battery life.
All of these issues were combined recently with The Verge’s review of the Samsung Galaxy S4:
The Galaxy S4 is fast and impressive, but it’s also noisy and complex. The One is refined, quiet, comfortable, beautiful, and above all simply pleasant. I love using that phone, in a way I haven’t experienced with anything since the iPhone 5. That’s why, when my contract is up in June, I’ll probably be casting my lot with HTC instead of Samsung.
Taken this summary paragraph alone, you would be forgiven for assuming that this is not a recommended product. It’s unpolished, and full of “noisy” features. But the phone itself received an 8.0 rating which, in a vacuum, you would be forgiven for assuming is a recommendation of it. Both cannot be true at the same time.
The problem is endemic of the industry as a whole. You can say all you want about my opinions — whether I am right or wrong — what you can’t say is that I don’t have one. I will take you disagreeing with me all day long over being a bland yes man.
I think this stems from the notion that subjective qualities can be ranked on an objective scale. This is completely absurd, yet it’s the basis for most popular review sites in the technology space and elsewhere. Pitchfork, for example, ranks albums on a 10.0 scale. What makes Cassie’s RockaByeBaby precisely 0.3 better than Phoenix’s Bankrupt!?
My objections aren’t simply that all of these rankings are opinions. It isn’t even the way these subjective rankings are masquerading as objective scores, though that is certainly part of my objection. Rather, it is the notion that there is some necessity in ranking or scoring things with numbers.
Make no mistake: there is a need to have reviews of the new products, new music, and new whatever that competes for our attention and money. But the idea that they need to be judged on a numerical scale is completely ridiculous. A much simpler and more honest approach would be to either “recommend” a product, or to “not recommend” it. Perhaps there could also be a “highly recommended” ranking, for particularly good things (and, for the pessimists out there, an “avoid” ranking, for truly terrible things). This system appears to be more vague, but it is no less accurate than an arbitrary number score.
Of course, this ranking system would require people to read reviews, rather than hopping to the comments to immediately complain about the numerical score. C’est la vie.
I’m happy to announce that I’ve sold a majority stake in Instapaper to Betaworks. We’ve structured the deal with Instapaper’s health and longevity as the top priority, with incentives to keep it going well into the future. I will continue advising the project indefinitely, while Betaworks will take over its operations, expand its staff, and develop it further.
I was finally tasting Esmeralda Especial, a highly renowned coffee from Panama’s Hacienda la Esmeralda, which holds the distinction of the highest price ever paid for coffee at auction — in 2010, the auction price of the highest-grade lot reached a hundred seventy dollars per pound. It is both the pinnacle and logical conclusion of how the specialty-coffee industry wants to transform coffee itself.
I’ve been lucky enough to drink some Esmeralda Especial. Its price is steep, but it is — without question — one of the most delightful cups of coffee I’ve ever had to drink. It’s complex and requires far more attention to detail, but the results are worth it.
Spoiler alert: Android is still winning, if you ignore pesky things like “numbers”. The subplot here is that Android — being a free operating system — can be installed on substantially cheaper products which are closer to feature phones than smartphones, and which are sold for lower prices in countries with lower median incomes. That’s unsurprising, but the US activation numbers are a reminder.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach, of course. It’s a good way to get a broad installation base and produce activation numbers which look good. But they’re not as impressive nor as relevant as revenue share to both investors and developers. Just because a new Android app can be installed on more phones than developing the same app for iOS, that doesn’t mean that the developer stands to increase revenue.
But all that business of waving your hand or moving your eyes to scroll while reading — it only works in the crummy Android browser. It does not work in Chrome, where I do all of my browsing. It doesn’t work in Google Reader or Flipboard or Instapaper or the Kindle app, where so much reading happens. Looking away from the screen doesn’t pause a video in YouTube, only in the Samsung video player. The trick where you wave your hand to advance songs only works in the default music player, not in Rdio or Sonos, where I do most of my listening. The camera extras — the HDR feature, the photo filters, and the tool for making animated GIFs — all yield results that look cartoonish. I just took regular photos.
If the only apps that make available the most-touted features of the phone are the apps that you don’t use, then what’s the point of them?
Hey, remember Monday? Remember how Bloomberg said that LG Display’s profits were a miss among analysts because of poor Apple sales? Well, I think we found out where those sales went:
LG’s profit fell 22 percent year-on-year as a stagnant TV market offset the company’s resurgent mobile business. Despite shipping 10.3 million smartphones in Q1 2013 in what the company describes as its best performance since entering the market, low sales of plasma TVs meant that operating profit fell to 350 billion won ($322.88 million) from 448 billion won ($400 million) a year ago.
What’s to bet LG’s television business uses LG Display panels? That’s a stupid question, obviously. Of course they do, and of course Apple didn’t cause LG Display to falter.
Tom Foremski, for the spookily-named and -typeset Silicon Valley Watcher:
Google Glass a product designed by engineers that clearly don’t understand interpersonal interactions.
This is perhaps the most laser-guided totally-nailed-it analysis of Google Glass. Make no mistake — I don’t think we’ll be looking at glowing glass slabs for the next fifty years. Glass is simply a poor interpretation of what the future should be like.