Good Reads for April, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of tastefully threadbare — if slightly longer — reads about the wonderful world of Apple. One in every three is guaranteed to be from Medium (or your money back), and at times, the others will be criticising recent Apple design decisions, praising someone else’s criticism, or even all of the above. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Over the last month, there have been more criticism levelled at Apple’s HomePod than I care to admit. Some of those criticisms were even valid, particularly when it came to pointing out Siri’s failings when compared to the Amazon Echoes and Google Homes of the world. Over at TechCrunch, Lucas Matney defends the HomePod as part of Apple’s overall home speaker strategy, admitting that while Siri needs work, the strength of Apple’s ecosystem will be what gives it the edge over the other smart home speakers.

It’s also why I don’t think Apple needs to be as worried about getting a $50 product like the Home Mini or Echo Dot out there, because while Amazon desperately needs a low-friction connection to consumers, Apple doesn’t gain as much by putting a tinny speaker into a can that will do even less than what “Hey Siri” on your iPhone could do.

  • The three stages of Apple criticism, as explained by Jonathan Kim, tell us about anger, victim-blaming, and acceptance in the context of AirPods. A lot of Kim’s argument is built on articles posted at The Verge by Vlad Savov, who eventually gets a pair of AirPods and recognises, like everyone else, how great they are. There are undoubtedly many people who think that they’re not perfect, but they’re damn good wireless headphones.

If you think Savov’s take on the AirPods seems uniquely hyperbolic and unhinged, it’s actually not unusual for the commentary that surrounds the unveiling of most new Apple products, where every decision is ridiculed or raged against, serving as evidence that Apple has lost its way, is out of ideas, is hostile to its users, and is doomed without the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs.

  • As the complaints regarding the butterfly keyboards on Touch Bar MacBook Pros reach fever pitch, Fast Company claims Apple’s new design ethos is making devices that are easy to sell, but hard to use. Apple’s pursuit of ever-thinner and ever-lighter gadgets places aesthetics over usability, with Cliff Kuang citing the swipe-up home gesture on the iPhone X as being a “birth defect” that “straight-up sucks”.

Others have noticed the various failings among current Apple products: awkward new gestures, the iPhone X that can now shatter on both the front and the back, MacBook Pros that are comically fragile. But what people aren’t talking about is how these failures connect to a greater shortcoming: Apple’s pursuit of making new gadgets that are easy to market instead of easy to use.

  • Matt Gemmell, who has been using an iPad Pro as his main computer since the end of 2016, recently came to the realisation that the iPad is just a big phone. Not that you can make actual calls on iPads or anything, but the convenience offered by a super-portable tablet running the best touch OS in the world is hard to contend with. Even if you’re used to the narrative that you can’t get real work done on an iPad, what you need is for iOS to support the paradigms that you’re used to, which may all happen sooner than you think.

Whenever I talk about the iPad as a work machine, I get some pushback that essentially says it’s not viable because it doesn’t do such-and-such. That’s fine — as long as you frame it accurately. Is it about a deficiency of modern computing, or is it just that you need something that isn’t actually tied to traditional computing, which may temporarily be unavailable for newer stuff?

  • There have been plenty of profiles of Susan Kare, the famed designed behind many of the early icons on the original Macintosh. This one by The New Yorker discusses her work in light of Kare becoming a recipient of the prestigious AIGA medal, recognising her exceptional achievement and contribution to the field of visual design and communication.

At one point, there was to be an icon of a copy machine for making a copy of a file, and users would drag and drop a file onto it to copy it, but it was difficult to render a copier at that scale. Kare also tried a cat in a mirror, for copycat. Neither made the cut. She also designed a number of the original Mac fonts, including Geneva, Chicago, and the picture-heavy Cairo, using only a nine-by-seven grid.

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