Good Reads for September, 2015

Every month, we’ll be bringing you the best, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be in-depth looks at the latest and greatest iPhone feature, or opinion pieces about why you’ll want to wait before upgrading to whatever Apple has released. All I know is, you’ll need to bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • I’m not really sure what’s going on with the weird GIFs in Bloomberg’s piece on how Apple built 3D Touch. It’s been a month since it was published, and I’ve thought about those personified Apple logos in their various sweating, shaking forms, at least a couple of times a week, and I’m baffled why they’re there. Still, the explanation of how Apple builds features like 3D Touch into products like the iPhone is a good one, and for that reason, it makes the cut.

But 3D Touch is to Force Touch as ocean swimming is to a foot bath. Screen size makes a difference, but the software on the iPhone 6S has a liquid ease. Apply a tiny bit of pressure anywhere you want to explore something—a restaurant link inside a text, an 11 a.m. meeting invite buried in an e-mail—and a peek at the restaurant’s Web page or a window into your calendar hovers expectantly in the middle of the screen while everything else blurs into temporary opacity.

  • Mashable interviewed Beats President Luke Wood on a variety of topics, including how Beats works with Apple. Despite Beats having its own streaming music service, there’s been no bad blood between the companies, as their goals are similarly aligned. And when it comes to what the two companies are doing to push the envelope when it comes to audio technology, similarities between the two companies, despite their different focuses, means the two companies get along incredibly well.

We’ve always been consistent at Beats with focusing on premium audio. We’re looking at our little audio slice of the world and trying to focus on creating a stellar product experience. I think that’s also the fundamental DNA of everything Steve wanted to accomplish at Apple. By product experience, that includes ID, design, technology, innovation, simplicity. Those are always things that have been fundamental to our DNA, too.

  • It wouldn’t be Good Reads without a little ranting, and when it comes to ranting and raving, nothing makes users as passionate at the skeueomorphic design debate. There’s a few too many words between quotation marks and italicised words that are strictly necessary (almost as if the author is trying a little too hard to make their point), but the argument is sound enough: by making everything flat, Apple’s new design in iOS 7 and onwards harms users, who now don’t know the difference between what can be tapped, and what can’t.

You can strip the hardware to bare simplicity, as long as the software can pick up the slack; you don’t need a physical back button if the software is clear and consistent. You don’t need a physical alarm clock with dials and switches, if its software replacement is simple, forthright, logical.

  • Eli Schiff has written way too many words about software keyboards, starting with the change between the visual style of the keyboard introduced in iOS 7. More importantly, Schiff also says that Apple has completely sidestepped the issue of the unintelligible shift key, solving other issues like the overall design of the keyboard or the constantly-changing glyphs in an attempt to bring the iOS keyboard in line with the rest of the current flat design trend.

The keyboard that launched with iOS 7 featured paper-thin glyphs, and was particularly bright with low-contrast. But for all its faults, it did feature three unique shift key states. As soon as this minor bit of coherence was noticed by Apple designers, it was found to be out of place with the rest of the minimalist operating system, and had to be promptly changed.

  • Apple’s new Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro might be one of the better keyboard accessories out there, but this isn’t Apple’s first iPad keyboard. The original iPad also had its own keyboard accessory, only it was a combination keyboard and dock that let you use the iPad in portrait mode — awkward as it may be to actually use, the original portrait keyboard dock was undeniably a leader in making people realise they could do real work with an iPad.

For me, it’s the perfect 21st-century reinvention of the typewriter. It keeps distractions to a minimum—I can’t unthinkingly Command-Tab to another app when I defocus mid-sentence, and I’ve deliberately suppressed notifications and installed few apps on this old iPad. But it’s sufficiently modern that it’s easy to get my writing off it, in stark contrast to every other time I’ve tried to use older tech to create a distraction-free writing tool.

  • Last but not least, Neil Cybart’s words on the tick-tock iPhone upgrade cycle points out that somewhere along the way, Apple started shipping major features in the S cycle that it could have saved for the regular iPhones. Cybart also writes that the new S cycle could be more strategically important for Apple than the cosmetic changes brought about in the non-S cycle, which leads us to the introduction of his theory of Pixar-based iPhone development.

At any one time, Apple has a number of iPhone features under development since it takes more than one year for many features to go from concept to finished product. Even though the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were just announced, Apple has already been working on features for next year’s iPhones and even the iPhones for the year after. The goal is to have a new iPhone with at least one major new feature at least every year.

Notable Replies

  1. Is there really a problem with the shift key? It seems a non-issue to me bitched about by those that aren’t affected by it either.

  2. A lot of it just seems like people complaining because things are different now, but better? The jury’s still out on that one.

  3. AVC says:

    This shift key storm in a teacup non-issue is really starting to annoy me. Seriously is it that big a deal? To me it makes more sense having the shift key as it is now (iOS 9) as it makes the most sense. People really like to analyse things to the nth degree don’t they?

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