Good Reads for December, 2014

1-_wTDCc8JTSs0plEisNo85AThe last Good Reads of 2014 has more of the same, really: one or two pieces about an Apple product or two, one or two pieces about Apple and its culture, and another little something about how Apple is one of the best companies in the world. Like other Good Reads, all featured works were published in its named month (December, in this case), but this Good Reads is particularly special as it kinds of wraps up a year of Apple news and opinions. Well, I think so, anyway. Your Instapaper account has nothing on this.

  • With the Apple Watch coming out sometime this year and only a handful of people outside of Cupertino having gotten hands-on with Apple’s latest, Thibaut Sailly has an interesting look at the device based on currently available information. To date, that’s a document from Apple outlining the Human Interface Guidelines, a couple of marketing pages on Apple’s website, Apple’s announcement at its September special event, and last but not least, an SDK.

Glances are the watch’s notification center, and notifications are the push notifications we already know, only much smarter. Although these features are very similar in their nature, using this new terminology isn’t all marketing. It’s helping thinking and communication when designing, avoiding mixups between what an app does on the phone and what it does on the watch. Use them early on.

  • Easily the longest piece to be featured in Good Reads thus far, Design Explosions number one takes a deep dive into Google Maps and Apple Maps. It teaches all about how the two apps compare, how they’re differently designed, and what user experience lessons can be learnt from both apps. If you have any intention of doing any kind of design work or user experience design, you would do well to read this.

The screen size of an iPhone 5 is 640 pixels wide and 1136 pixels tall. In that space, both Apple and Google have a map with several buttons and options. But it’s interesting to look at how differently they approach the canvas.

Apple has a very conservative style (four right angles, no appreciable transparency) whereas Google is cutting everything back as much as possible (floating buttons and transparency).

  • If there was one thing the pundits said about Apple and its products in 2014 — beyond the usual naysaying, I mean — it’s that the iPad was almost always doomed. Sales declined for the first time in the iPad’s history, which many interpreted as doom for Apple’s tablet range. But Ted Landau says the iPad is anything but doomed, even in the face of declining sales. After all, he argues, it took until 2014 for Apple to kill off the iPod Classic.

Across all markets, there’s a growing sense that the “post-PC” tablet may have been oversold. Despite all the wonderful things you can do with an iPad, there are still many times when you want a keyboard and trackpad, a larger display, more storage options, an easily accessible file system, and all the other advantages of a true laptop, such as Apple’s MacBooks. If you can afford both, great. But if you’re forced to choose one or the other, laptops appear to be re-emerging as a popular alternative.

  • But wait, there’s more! Not only was the iPad doomed, but Apple was, too. Longtime Apple observer Philip Elmer-DeWitt writes Apple’s prognosis at the beginning of 2014 was poor, and AAPL stock wasn’t looking too flash-hot, either. Events during the year turned things around, starting with a stock split and finishing with the reveal of Apple’s next couple of years.

By the time the Sept. 9 event was over, Apple had introduced two sustaining products (the big and bigger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus) and two new product categories (Apple Pay and Apple Watch) with the potential to disrupt whole new industries. One month later Apple refreshed its iPad line and introduced what even Windows loyalists conceded may be the best desktop computer on the market.

  • If I had to give an award for the best Apple-related blog, it’d be hard to look past Ben Thompson’s excellent Stratechery. In one of his pieces published in December, he says that as much as Apple’s success is tied to creating the best items in every product category that it enters, a lot of that means they to have the necessary focus to do so. There are those who will say Apple spread itself a little too thin in 2014, and there are others that say they’re not too far off the mark.

That’s the thing though: the quality of a user experience has no ceiling. As nearly every other consumer industry has shown, as long as there is a clear delineation between the top-of-the-line and everything else, some segment of the user base will pay a premium for the best. That’s the key to Apple’s future: they don’t need completely new products every other year (or half-decade); they just need to keep creating the best stuff in their categories. Easy, right?

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