Good Reads for September, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a handful of notoriously notarised, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. August was particularly quiet in the Apple blogosphere so there were no good reads to be had, but we’re back now that Apple has announced and launched a few new products that give us some hint of what the future will hold. Bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • September saw the launch of iOS 11, which was always going to be a deal whether you were getting a new phone or not. Changes across the board meant that we expected some rough edges in the early betas, but leading up to the iOS 11 Gold Master, things just didn’t seem to have the same level of attention to detail that Apple has previously shown. A bug affecting Mail accounts using Outlook.com, Exchange, or Office 365 somehow made it into the public release, and even though it’s now been fixed, there are other tiny design inconsistencies all over the place, all of which contribute to making iOS 11 feel somewhat less polished than previous releases.

The unfinished feeling in iOS 11 mostly comes from UI and animation. UI elements in iOS are quite inconsistent, mixing a variety of UI elements, which might look quite similar but introduce a disconnected feeling for UX. The inconsistency of those elements majorly stems from those UI element updated in iOS 11, such as Large Title and new Search Bar. In my opinion, those newly introduced elements, which might be unfamiliar and new even to Apple engineers, have caused many inconsistent UI experience in iOS 11.

  • In case you haven’t been keeping up with Apple’s papers posted to their machine learning blog, Wired has the story of how Apple are making Siri sound more natural using AI and machine learning. They say that despite Siri’s shortcomings when it comes to general knowledge or context, making the virtual assistant sound more like a human and less like a robot is what Apple are currently focusing on. The improvements in iOS 11 really speak for themselves. Or herself, depending on what gender you choose for Siri on your iOS device.

This fall, when iOS 11 hits millions of iPhones and iPads around the world, the new software will give Siri a new voice. It doesn’t include many new features or tell better jokes, but you’ll notice the difference. Siri now takes more pauses in sentences, elongates syllables right before a pause, and the speech lilts up and down as it speaks. The words sound more fluid and Siri speaks more languages, too. It’s nicer to listen to, and to talk to.

  • Troy Hunt’s take on Face ID and the security it offers first takes a look at security compared to having a PIN, having a PIN and using Touch ID, and finally, using your face to unlock your phone. Bearing in mind that very few people outside of Apple has used Face ID in the real world, it’s about pragmatic security — and often, the most widely adopted security measures are the ones with the best user experience and the least friction.

What we have to keep in mind here is just how low the security bar is still set for so many people. Probably not for you being someone interested in reading this sort of material in the first place, but for the billions of “normals” out there now using mobile devices. Touch ID and Face ID are so frictionless that they remove the usability barrier PINs post. There’s a good reason Apple consistently shows biometric authentication in all their demos – because it’s just such a slick experience.

  • When the rumours first claimed Apple would launch a new, high-end device alongside the models with more modest improvements over the previous generation, I was sceptical. Who would possibly want the regular iPhone when the best model was a few hundred dollars more and offered the latest and greatest technology? With the iPhone X, Apple is doing the opposite to the iPhone 5C, introducing a new product at a premium over the regular model. Over at Stratechery, Ben Thompson tells us about the lessons and questions of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X — but time will tell to see if this strategy works out.

That said, I think Apple is taking a pretty significant risk with the iPhone 8 in particular: we know the company can succeed by selling the “best” phone, but the one example we have of building a less-than-best phone was underwhelming; to that end, how many iPhone buyers will forgo the 8 to wait for the X?

  • When the iPhone was first introduced, Steve Jobs famously called it a small-screen iPod, an internet communicator, and a phone. You know what Apple introduced on stage in the Steve Jobs Theater which is also a small-screen iPod, an internet communicator, and a phone? The Apple Watch Series 3, now with LTE. Horace Deidu of Asymco points out that even though the Apple Watch is still tied to the iPhone, how long do you really think that will last?

So not only is the Series 3 Watch more powerful than the original iPhone but it is also poetically capable of the same tentpole jobs. But it’s not just a miniature iPhone. It has a new, completely orthogonal attack on non-consumption and market creation: fitness and health. This is a key point. The iPhone was born a phone but grew up to be something completely unprecedented, unforeseen by its creators and, frankly, undescribable in the language of 2007.

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