Thomas Phinney busts up a Wired puff piece on Roboto, but makes a much greater, more valuable point near the end:
Now, if Google/Android and Apple want to claim that they are making their UI font choices for design reasons, that’s fine. But when they (or Wired) start touting the awesome legibility of their choices, I have to call them out on it. Nonsense.
Yosemite’s switch from Lucida Grande to Helvetica Neue1 is obviously controversial. It may create some consistency on Apple’s platforms, but at the cost of being less legible at UI sizes, even on a high-resolution display. No matter how much I like the way it looks, I can’t deny the decrease in legibility.
In addition, it’s strange how Phinney himself confuses “design” and “aesthetics”. If Apple were to choose a UI typeface for design reasons, it wouldn’t be Helvetica. Where’s Apple Sans when you need it?
I took the liberty of rewriting Wired’s headline for this article — “Square Bets Big on Next-Gen Credit Card Tech” — because the rest of the world has used EMV cards for at least several years.
Square’s implementation is as you would expect from a team fronted by former Apple hardware designers: elegant in its simplicity. It’s not as nice as the current reader, mostly because of all of the additional hardware required to read chip cards, but it’s certainly more refined than a chip-equipped PIN pad.
This looks really promising to me as Square tries to up their international game. Not only is this going to mean greater security for Americans, it’s going to allow more international users to feel more comfortable using Square to pay for stuff.
Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt, quoting an anonymous former IDC researcher:
Even the growth rates are fiction. The fudge is in the “others” category, which is used as a plug to make the numbers work out. In fairness, we did do survey work, calling around, and attending white box conferences and venues to try to get a feel for that market, but in the end, the process was political. I used to tell customers which parts of the data they could trust, essentially the major vendors by form factor and region. The rest was garbage.
Paul Carr of Pando Daily, quoting from Chen Ma’s suit:
…Plaintiff alleges that while using her iPhones, including her current iPone [sic] 5S, she was not given notice that her daily whereabouts would be tracked, recorded, and transmitted to Apple database to be stored for future reference. She was not asked for and thus has not given her consent, approval and permission nor was she even made aware that her detailed daily whereabouts would be tracked, recorded and transmitted to Apple database.
Apple, in the Terms and Conditions that Ma agreed to when setting up her iPhone:
By enabling Location Services on your iPhone, you agree and consent to the transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of your location data and location search queries by Apple and its partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based and road traffic-based products and services.
It’s not going to be this cut and dry — these things never are — but this seems so frivolous to me. This is the most interesting part of this suit:
According to belief and information, Plaintiff further alleges that Apple has released and disclosed the above described private information of iPhone users to third parties, including but not limited to US government who, according to information, has made more than 1,000 information requests to Apple.
Isn’t this legal effort better directed towards the NSA who issued those information demands? National Security Letters are essentially orders, not mere requests.
But you know what? Perhaps there’s some substance to this. Let’s take a look at the seven things the iWatch “needs to do” if Apple would like to “win”. Whatever the hell that means.
It has to be a watch. First, tell the time. That’s the ballgame. It’s why the Pebble Steel, despite its remarkable lack of functionality, is the best smartwatch currently on the market.
Even the Nike FuelBand — Pierce quotes Tim Cook’s praise of it at the top of the article — tells the time. But the iPod Shuffle has been super successful without a screen. I think it’s more likely than not that the hypothetical Apple wearable will sport a display and will tell the time, but who knows?
My iWatch should be MY iWatch. As time goes on, Android Wear’s inability to let developers build custom watch faces frustrates me more and more. Apple should take note: any watch made mostly from a screen ought to be infinitely customizable. If I can’t choose my own watch face or download one from the App Store, Apple blew it.
Actually, I’m a little stumped on this one. After all, it was acceptable to launch the iPhone without a native SDK because it was an entirely new platform.1 A wearable product would be something new, but it might not be an entirely new platform (that is, it could conceivably run an iOS variant).
But if you were only able to use, say, a selection of ten watch faces that came with the device and there were no additional faces available for download, would that be blowing it? How many sales would Apple forego if that were the case?
Personalization is about more than just software, too. Apple needs to conform to standards: include swappable watch bands or get out.
It has to be part of a bigger connected picture. Apple’s always been uniquely good at building devices that work well on their own and better together, and the iWatch needs to be the best example yet.
No, Apple’s not going to make an iWatch that plays nicely with your Android phone or your Windows PC. That’s fine. What it needs to do is build a device that is powerful and useful in its own right, and becomes even more so when it’s paired with other Apple devices.
This, I agree with. It makes complete sense. Remember Apple’s early-2000s “digital hub” strategy? As much as the proverbial cloud is the replacement for that, the iPhone is the new local hardware hub. It’s your instant messenger, your news reader, your iPod, your casual gaming machine, your satellite navigation unit, your camera, and your phone. And it’s always on you.
At the same time, I’d think that an Apple wearable could stand on its own. Joggers would appreciate not needing to take both their iPhone and wearable with them.
I should be able to use Evernote for taking notes, Lyft for calling cars, Spotify for music, Google for maps, and anything else I choose. A watch is personal; it’s not good enough if it doesn’t work the way I do.
Good luck with that, Pierce.
It needs a killer app — and a lot of other ones.
But at first, the iWatch also needs a single primary raison d’être, a reason for being in the first place. […] The iWatch needs a single revolutionary story Apple can tell about what it is, why the world needs smartwatches — and why they need this one.
Agreed. That’s what Apple’s really good at, which is what Pierce appears to be hinting at:
No other manufacturer has figured out how to sell their smartwatches, how to convince users they need one. Apple needs to get it right.
But this is entirely backwards. The meeting for any product like this wouldn’t start with Schiller standing up and saying “Hey, guys, let’s build a watch!” but rather a problem. For example, that could be a question of whether fitness tracking devices are as good as they should or could be. Only after the product goals are established does it take shape.
Take the development of the iPad, too. Steve Jobs:
It began with the tablet. I had this idea about having a glass display, a multitouch display you could type on with your fingers. I asked our people about it. And six months later, they came back with this amazing display. And I gave it to one of our really brilliant UI guys. He got scrolling working and some other things, and I thought, ‘my God, we can build a phone with this!’ So we put the tablet aside, and we went to work on the iPhone.
Apple’s strategy is really simple. What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes. That’s what we want to do and we want to do it this decade. And we really want to do it with a radio link in it so you don’t have to hook up to anything and you’re in communication with all of these larger databases and other computers.
The iPad was born from this idea; the idea was not grafted to fit a 10-inch piece of glass. It’s a subtle but critical difference.
It should do things for me, and make it easy for me to do things too.
I like things. And stuff.
Whether I’m opening apps, making phone calls, or just turning on Airplane Mode, I’ve come to rely mostly on Siri.
Siri’s cool, but you rely upon it to open apps? Really? Okay.
Apple can’t win without good battery life. There’s only one spec that can singlehandedly prevent the iWatch (or any smartwatch) from ever being mainstream: battery life. A device that lasts a day or less is going to be forgotten on the bedside table one morning, the habit lost, the device returned.
I agree that it should have great battery life, but I disagree that it needs more than a day of typical battery life. Most people I know who wear a wristwatch take them off before bed, including myself. Remember that cellphones used to last a week or more on a single charge; now, we’re accustomed to plugging them in every night or so.
Most of the time, the iWatch should do nothing. It should sit forgotten on your wrist, alerting you only when there’s something worth paying attention to. And that won’t be every notification, every alert, every message. The iWatch needs tools to be finely tuned, and needs to be smart enough to tune itself to show me only what I need to see right now.
It wasn’t, however, acceptable to launch the “sweet solution” Apple promised at WWDC 2007. By the way, if you haven’t seen that keynote recently, check it out. It’s, uh, not great, to say the least. ↩︎
The industry is currently in the midst of a massive cultural shift. There’s a growing disconnect between the nearly half of gamers that are female, and overwhelmingly male population of games journalists and game developers.
When you wonder why women aren’t rushing to fix that balance, remember this is the fucking emotional and even physical minefield they’re signing themselves up for. Growing a thicker skin isn’t the answer, nor is it a proper response. Listening, and making the industry safer for the existence of visible women is the best, and only, way forward.
This is a tough read. I can’t begin to imagine what women are subjected to on a daily basis in any context. This is just a small look at an obviously more enormous problem.
When Apple explained the diagnostics toolset and published a detailed support document, Zdziarski said that Apple’s acknowledgement of its not-secret developer tools only proved him right, and that this meant Apple was admitting to his claims of making iOS vulnerable to authorities’ snooping by design.
Zdziarski says he “doesn’t believe for a minute that these services are intended solely for diagnostics.”
And with one word — “believe” — we have the nut of what’s becoming a big problem in the state of security and journalism for everyone.
Pedro de Noronha, managing partner at hedge fund Noster Capital, said he was unsure about the Silicon Valley-based company’s long-term potential.
“I need to know where a company is going to be in 5-to-10 years. I mean look at Apple, a company we all admire…I don’t know where they are going to be in three years,” Noronha told CNBC in a TV interview.
“It’s a very competitive landscape. They might become obsolete in two-to-three years, as we’ve seen with dozens of technology companies.”
Or space aliens that look like poodles but are the size of elephants may pop up in three years. You just don’t know.
That’s why I’m bullish on poodles the size of elephants.
Fresh scuttlebutt. Apparently, Nilay Patel will be returning to take over as Editor in Chief, after his recent brief stint at Vox. Topolsky, meanwhile, will be going to Bloomberg. I doubt the direction of the Verge will change substantially because of this change of editorial staff — Patel has been at Topolsky’s side since the Engadget days, so his editorial direction will likely be similar to Topolsky’s. If there are substantial changes, I think they will be more due to external factors or for traffic reasons, not because of this change of staff. Unfortunately.
Apple’s going to be posting a public beta of Yosemite tomorrow for members of their AppleSeed OS X Beta program (which has, confusingly, not replaced the standard invitation-only AppleSeed program). As best as I can recall, this is the first time Apple has released a public beta of OS X since Mac OS X, well, Public Beta. It’s probably going to be the same build as the current developer build, which is still somewhat buggy, but nowhere near as bad as it was before. I wouldn’t yet use it in a high-risk production environment, but it’s stable enough that you can put it on a machine that gets used mostly for web and email stuff.
What caught my eye, aside from the glimpse of the old six-color Apple logo at the end, was the fact that each sticker is clearly on a different, real machine. It would have been easy for Apple to position one blank MacBook Air in front of the camera and then digitally add the stickers. But no: each sticker is affixed to a different MacBook Air. You can tell by watching the bottom edge, which shifts slightly, and also by the scratches and dings that appear on some models.
Apple is getting better at showing their products in non-showroom condition. Consider the iPhone cases in the “… Every Day” ads, or the iPads in cases in the “Your Verse” spots. But these are super used MacBooks. They’re in worse exterior condition than my (admittedly babied) seven year-old MacBook Pro. But this is clearly how they’re intended to be used. I’ve heard a fair number of people complain about the use of aluminum, and how it doesn’t stay “perfect”. That’s the point.
Also interesting to note is the third-party customizability Apple is showing in a lot of their ads as of late. Whether it’s apps, or cases, or stickers, it seems like they’re getting more comfortable with the idea that people will use these products every day, and not necessarily with the default setup. (Though, I don’t think I’ve seen any ad that features apps that replace the defaults.)
First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.
Rich Harris, chief executive of AddThis, said that the company began testing canvas fingerprinting earlier this year as a possible way to replace “cookies,” the traditional way that users are tracked, via text files installed on their computers.
“We’re looking for a cookie alternative,” Harris said in an interview.
And wrong. Consider the two main ways you may attempt to avoid being tracked by advertisers on the internet:
using the Do Not Track setting in your browser; and,
changing your browser’s cookie settings to block third party cookies.
The first setting is completely optional for advertisers to follow, rendering it effectively meaningless. The second setting does not impact this fingerprinting scheme in any way, which means that this is similar to Google’s workaround for Safari’s default setting to block third party cookies, for which they were fined $17 million.
So how do you opt out of this? Well, cookies are back in style:
He added that the company has only used the data collected from canvas fingerprints for internal research and development. The company won’t use the data for ad targeting or personalization if users install the AddThis opt-out cookie on their computers, he said.
In essence, you’re not opting out of the collection of your data, but instead hoping that AddThis won’t use the data it collects for anything other than internal research. Which is soothing, isn’t it?
[T]he incentive structure [for retention specialists] is really about punishment. Reps start out the month with a full commission, but every canceled product deducts from that amount. Once reps fall below a certain threshold, they get no commission at all. That means a rep could get all the way to the second-to-last day of the pay period only to have a customer cancel four products. Suddenly the rep is below her goal, losing $800 to $1,000 off her paycheck.
Deplorable. And, in many markets, Comcast has no competition — not “virtually no”, but none. Why would they even try to make their customers happy?
John Napier Tye, in a guest column for the Washington Post:
Issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to authorize foreign intelligence investigations, 12333 is not a statute and has never been subject to meaningful oversight from Congress or any court. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has said that the committee has not been able to “sufficiently” oversee activities conducted under 12333.
Unlike Section 215, the executive order authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons. Such persons cannot be individually targeted under 12333 without a court order. However, if the contents of a U.S. person’s communications are “incidentally” collected (an NSA term of art) in the course of a lawful overseas foreign intelligence investigation, then Section 2.3(c) of the executive order explicitly authorizes their retention. It does not require that the affected U.S. persons be suspected of wrongdoing and places no limits on the volume of communications by U.S. persons that may be collected and retained.
The means of intelligence gathering have changed substantially since 1981, but this loophole remains open.
Microsoft’s strategy is focused on productivity and our desire to help people “do more.” As the Microsoft Devices Group, our role is to light up this strategy for people.
I haven’t talked face-to-face with anyone in a non-managerial position since the mid-2000s which explains my jilted language here.
To align with Microsoft’s strategy, we plan to focus our efforts.
Good luck with the job hunt.
The roots of this company and our future are in productivity and helping people get things done.
The Office productivity suite includes Word, which is great for putting together your résumé.
Our fundamental focus – for phones, Surface, for meetings with devices like PPI, Xbox hardware and new areas of innovation — is to build on that strength.
The wide variety of game titles available on the Xbox will help out when you’re waiting around to hear a callback from a potential employer.
While our direction in the majority of our teams is largely unchanging, we have had an opportunity to plan carefully about the alignment of phones within Microsoft as the transferring Nokia team continues with its integration process.
I am burying the lede.
It is particularly important to recognize that the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy.
I am stalling.
Our device strategy must reflect Microsoft’s strategy and must be accomplished within an appropriate financial envelope. Therefore, we plan to make some changes.
So many of you are fucked.
We will be particularly focused on making the market for Windows Phone.
My announcement of these layoffs will be drawn out like an X-Factor season finale. Here’s the first commercial break.
In the near term, we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest growing segments of the market, with Lumia. In addition to the portfolio already planned, we plan to deliver additional lower-cost Lumia devices by shifting select future Nokia X designs and products to Windows Phone devices. We expect to make this shift immediately while continuing to sell and support existing Nokia X products.
I’m using the word “we”, but there’s a really good chance you’re not part of this “we”.
We expect these changes to have an impact to our team structure.
Pack up your desk.
As part of the effort, we plan to select the appropriate business model approach for our sales markets while continuing to offer our products in all markets with a strong focus on maintaining business continuity. We will determine each market approach based on local market dynamics, our ability to profitably deliver local variants, current Lumia momentum and the strategic importance of the market to Microsoft. This will all be balanced with our overall capability to invest.
I was allowed approximately one thousand words for this memo and I intend to use that entire length.
We plan to right-size our manufacturing operations to align to the new strategy and take advantage of integration opportunities.
We are voting “manufacuring” off the island.
We plan that this would result in an estimated reduction of 12,500 factory direct and professional employees over the next year.
Eleven paragraphs in, here’s the news. I am currently updating my LinkedIn profile to add “buring the lede” to my list of skills. Speaking of LinkedIn, hope yours is up to date.
We recognize these planned changes are broad and have very difficult implications for many of our team members. We will work to provide as much clarity and information as possible.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the past several weeks have seen a reduction in the number of posts published daily, and a difference in the typical timing of those posts. I respect your time, reader, so I feel like I owe you an explanation.
I recently completed my post-secondary studies and have begun full-time employment. This has been the single largest factor, among several, that has contributed to the odd and infrequent post schedule.
I intend to keep writing Pixel Envy on a regular (week-daily) basis, and I’m excited to share some longer-form articles that I’ve been drafting. Becoming a moderately-functional adult has slightly got in the way, though. I’m sure you understand.
Marco Arment has released his much-anticipated new podcast app, Overcast, and Macworld’s Jason Snell is mighty impressed:
I’ve used just about every iPhone podcast app out there, most of them for fairly large amounts of time. Overcast is the one I’m going to stick with—for now, anyway. The podcast-app space keeps changing and is quite competitive, but Overcast best fits the way I listen to podcasts today.
Podcast adoption has always been driven primarily by ease of listening, which has improved dramatically with the rise of smartphones, podcast apps, and Bluetooth audio in cars. When it’s easier to listen, not only do more people listen, but listeners find more opportunities to listen. There’s still plenty of potential to help people who already like podcasts listen to more of them.
I’ve been noodling around with Overcast since it was released today, and I am absolutely smitten. I’ve made known my disdain for the rambling style of so many podcasts, so I only really listen to a handful, and not on a regular basis.
For a start, Overcast is an exquisitely designed app. There aren’t many apps this well designed in any category. There are the big things, like the excellent typography and the gorgeous directory view. But there are littler things, like the ability to “scroll” the album artwork on the playback screen and see more information about the episode, as culled from the RSS feed.
There’s one notable design oddity: the toolbar at the top is a little reminiscent of a Mac app’s toolbar rather than an iOS app. I understand the limitations of integrating the playback bar into the lower portion of the app, but that doesn’t make it not entirely odd. Not bad, just different.
Your standard podcast app stuff is all here: subscriptions, time skipping, sleep timer, and so forth. But there are much smarter features, too. Most podcast apps have a playback speed control, but it’s kind of “dumb” — it just makes things go faster. Which is what you kind of expect, but perhaps it doesn’t work quite right. Say you’re listening to an episode of the best podcast of all time, and you notice that Merlin Mann talks hella fast, and Adam Lisagor talks hella slow. Mann squishes words together, while Lisagor tends to leave long gaps. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your podcast app could compensate for both? Overcast has a really great feature called Smart Speed which does exactly that. It works by reducing the amount of dead air, and it’s constantly changing its playback speed to compensate. It’s really, really nice.
The real test for me is going to be over the coming weeks: will I listen to podcasts more? Of course, there are a lot of reasons I haven’t been listening to podcasts; a lack of a favourite podcasting app is just one. But I’ve put Overcast on the first page of my home screen (sorry Strava) and I’m going to give it a try.
Apple’s on-again-off-again relationship with IBM is on again, for the first time since the switch to Intel. This time, it’s a huge partnership between the two companies for big enterprise support. Apple PR:
Apple and IBM’s shared vision for this partnership is to put in the hands of business professionals everywhere the unique capabilities of iPads and iPhones with a company’s knowledge, data, analytics and workflows. Specifically, the two companies are working together to deliver the essential elements of enterprise mobile solutions.
Yeah, I know — *snore*. This is a huge opportunity for Apple to increase their enterprise footprint, which has traditionally been one of Apple’s weakest sectors. As the press release notes, Apple has an okay hold on that market:
[O]ver 98 percent of the Fortune 500 and over 92 percent of the Global 500 [use] iOS devices in their business today.
But this doesn’t say how popular iOS is these environments, just that iOS devices exist in enterprise. This IBM partnership sounds like it’s going to make things better for existing users while significantly increasing adoption among holdouts.
Comcast says it’s very, very sorry. “We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize,” the company said in a statement.
“The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. […] “
It’s vague, but this sort of statement usually means that they’ll reprimand or terminate the employee. While it’s unlikely that this particularly aggressive rep is the standard for contract cancellation calls, it’s also unlikely that this is an isolated case. This is endemic of much greater institutional problems at the worst company in America.
Also, why is Comcast using the word “embarrassed” for this call? That’s the same word I use when I tell the story of the time I was caught eavesdropping on someone in the eighth grade. This is so much greater than petty embarrassment.