Editorials

Good Reads for October, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a handful of openly opined, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be profiles of Apple execs, some smart thinking about the way Apple do business, or perhaps even a video about an oft-forgotten Apple product, the likes of which was never seen again. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • It’s pretty easy to see Angela Ahrendts’ influence on Apple Retail. In the three years she’s held the position of Senior Vice President of Retail, we’ve seen an entirely new breed of Apple Stores appear, ones with more of a community feel and focus than the transactional and technical assistance from the stores of old. Buzzfeed’s profile of Ahrendts paints the picture: retail is dying, but Apple thinks they have some ideas that can turn the tide. Now, if only they could do something about taking the entire online store offline every time they need to update it, we’d be in business.

And now, after streamlining and simplifying the company’s e-store, Ahrendts is turning to its brick-and-mortar storefronts, overseeing an ambitious redesign, and taking the reins of an organization that went through a tumultuous 10 months under former executive John Browett, who was eventually fired, leaving Apple retail without a leader for 18 months.

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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.

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Apple’s September 2017 Event Wrap-Up, We Knew Something Edition

It was incredibly touching to open Apple’s first-ever event at the Steve Jobs Theater with his voice. Before anyone stood on stage to tell us all about the new Apple Watch, the new Apple TV, or the new iPhones, it was great to hear Jobs talking about what keeps Apple, Apple. Amidst all the design details of the Steve Jobs Theater, from the revolving elevators to the exquisitely crafted staircases, Jobs shared words about being true to who we are, and remembering who we are. And with that, it was on with the show.

Well, kind of. Apple CEO Tim Cook had a quick spiel about Apple Park, this being the first event in Apple’s new space, and it looks pretty great. The new visitor centre, with its own Apple Store and augmented reality experience, will be open later this year, and just like you might expect, it’s all powered by 100% renewable energy.

Apple SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts talked about Apple’s retail transformation. If you’ve been reading the news you’ll know what this is about; Apple’s been revamping the retail experience in a number of different stores worldwide, and they’re incredibly proud of transforming retail outlets into modern town squares. Ahrendts discussed a few new upcoming stores, including the return of the glass cube at Apple’s redesigned Fifth Avenue location, the Carnegie Library Apple Store, and Chicago’s latest flagship store on Michigan Avenue.

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Good Reads for July, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of meticulously memorised, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be a comprehensive explanation of why ARKit is a big deal, or the latest breakdown of what made news in the Apple blogosphere recently. Other times, they’ll be an extremely technical read on a recent vulnerability that affected millions of iOS devices up until a few weeks ago. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • While recent news has focused on Apple’s removal of VPN apps from the Chinese App Store, none of this is particularly new. People have been talking about Apple’s “walled garden” for as long as the App Store has been around, and Motherboard writes about the long and storied history of Apple removing “objectionable content” from the App Store. All of this is true, of course, as is the statement that with more than nine years of the App Store, we haven’t seen any widespread malware threats.

Each day, Apple is tasked with a near-impossible job: keeping its sprawling App Store free from malware, blatantly offensive content, and spam. In order to do it, the company requires each of the App Store’s roughly two million apps, from iFart to Twitter, to undergo an extensive approval process.

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Good Reads for June, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of lightly laundered — if slightly longer — reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes, we’ll highlight what you can do on your iPad to make it feel like a true laptop replacement, discuss Apple’s famed culture of secrecy, or just reflect on how the original iPhone came to be. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • June marked the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone. While us Aussies didn’t get the original and had to wait until 2008 for the iPhone 3G to make its way to our shores, we’ve felt the iPhone’s impact just as much as anyone else has. Wired interviewed former Apple employee and “podfather” Tony Fadell, who says that for all of the advances that the iPhone has brought us, for every aspect of your life that has changed because the iPhone changed the game, it’s important to keep it all in perspective and not forget about “the analogue portion” of our lives. If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend watching Scott Forstall talk about how the original iPhone came to be at the Computer History Museum, too.

And, even more so, it has changed how my kids are growing up compared to how I and my wife grew up. And sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s a bad thing – and it requires all of us to make the proper changes in our lives to make sure we don’t lose the analogue portion of our life and we don’t just stay digital and mobile all the time.

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Apple’s WWDC 2017 Wrap Up, Machine Learning Edition

Apple just blew through six major updates on stage at WWDC, telling us about the future of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and even the iMac and iPad. While the keynote was run at breakneck pace and went for close to two-and a half hours, the pervasive theme — besides rumours spoiling nothing — was that Apple are focusing on machine learning to power many technologies moving forward. When Cook’s update about Apple was brief and to the point — “Apple’s doing great!” — you knew you were in for a good time. Let’s break it down.

1. Apple TV

Amazon arriving on the Apple TV was the first cab off the rank, a seemingly minor update to the platform. Coming later this year, Amazon Prime Video will be good for all Amazon Prime subscribers, but less useful for those of us that live outside of the US or the UK don’t get all the advantages of Amazon Prime.

2. watchOS 4

Kevin Lynch was up next to talk watchOS 4, which features new watch faces, improvements to workouts, and the new ability for watchOS to talk to gym equipment to exchange information, so that both the watch and the equipment can share information that the other doesn’t have.

There’s a new proactive Siri watch face in watchOS 4, which tells you about upcoming things like the trip to work, upcoming meetings, and what the weather is like today. It’s powered by machine learning to understand your habits and learn about them over time, in order to tell you about what you want to know next, and the updates even change over the course of the day so they’re always showing you something relevant. The new Siri watch face joins the trippy Kaleidoscope (Apple’s version of an Apple Watch fidget spinner, to be sure) and new Toy Story animated watch faces featuring Woody, Jessie, and Buzz.

Improvements to workouts include smarts that allow multiple workouts during the same workout, workouts automatically starting a playlist of music, and some swimming-related workout improvements that can tell you how you’re doing when you take a short break at one end of the pool. Activity improvements compare you against your past self, encouraging you to move more than the previous month.

WatchOS 4 will be a free update this fall, which probably means after September.

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Good Reads for May, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a series of somewhat scrutinised — if slightly longer — reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Whether they’re commentary on Apple’s latest project, a detailed analysis of how Apple keeps itself ahead of the competition, or reflecting back on ten years of the iPhone, they’ll have something for everyone. Bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • The standout piece from May was from Steven Levy, who over at Wired had a deep dive into Apple Park. Apple Park is undoubtedly as much of an Apple product as your iPhone or iPad is, from the attention to detail to the wood that made up the walls in offices, to the workplaces designed to increase collaboration between individuals and teams. (As a bonus, Levy’s piece in Backchannel tells us the story of David Muffly, the guy in charge of the trees at Apple Park.)

It’s probably more accurate to say that Apple Park is the architectural avatar of the man who envisioned it, the same man who pushed employees to produce those signature products. In the absence of his rigor and clarity, he left behind a headquarters that embodies both his autobiography and his values.

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Good Reads for April, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a series of handpicked, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be about what Apple is doing with a product purchased by a single-digit percentage of Mac users, other times, they’ll be a critical analysis of what Apple are doing with the Mac as a whole, when the news is filled with rumours of new and shiny iPhones. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Early in April, Apple did something unprecedented and invited some select few to Cupertino to discuss the future of the Mac Pro. You can read the full transcript of the discussion over at TechCrunch, but the gist of it is that Apple knew they had made some wrong design decisions with the 2013 Mac Pro, design decisions that ultimately delayed any kind of hardware refresh to the tune of being untouched — no spec bump, much less a hardware refresh — for over 1200 days.

In the interim, we know there are a number of customers who continue to buy our current Mac Pro. To be clear, our current Mac Pro has met the needs of some of our customers, and we know clearly not all of our customers. None of this is black and white, it’s a wide variety of customers. For some, it’s the kind of system they wanted; for others, it was not.

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Good Reads for February, 2017

Each month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of jokingly jovial, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes, they’ll be about how Apple has lost its way and needs to buy another big-name company to stay afloat — or not, as the case may be. Other times, we’ll be looking for replacements for macOS like this hasn’t all been done before, or wondering about what Steve Jobs had in mind for the iPad, in a post-computing world. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • A rebuttal to Ian Bogost of The Atlantic’s piece about the myth of Apple’s great design from Nick Heer of Pixel Envy, tells us about this whole “design” thing. What is “sufficiently great design”, anyway, and could you say any Apple product released in recent memory has it? If Apple products didn’t have some semblance of design, whether we’re talking about the how it looks or how it works, would the company be doing as well as they are? You be the judge.

Everything that has ever been designed has required a series of decisions based on what’s possible, what’s necessary for the final product, and what reasonable compromises can be made for everything to work correctly. “Sufficiently great design”, in this context, is also about making choices and compromises that produce a better product in typical use.

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Good Reads for January, 2017

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of intelligently instigated reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Normally they don’t appear as part of the daily news, even though the news covered tangentially-related events, such as the iPhone’s first tenth birthday, or Apple’s 2016 in review. All I know is, you’ll need to bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • If we’re starting this edition of Good Reads off with anything, we’re starting it with a story about the history of the iPhone. The internet history podcast takes us back to 2007, when Apple Computer, Inc, was riding on a wave of iPod-related successes, and the Mac was flourishing because of that. Then the iPhone was announced, Apple dropped the “Computer” part of its name, and, well, you pretty much know the rest.

And so, a skunkworks tablet project became a skunkworks phone project. At the very least, by 2003-4, in the form of various initiatives, Apple was hard at work on some sort of portable device that would merge the iPod with a phone and become an all-encompassing unitary device.

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