Good Reads for October, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of warily waterproof, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be commentary on how iPhones are hard to use, in-depth technical deep dives on iPhone camera minutiae, or what developers think the Apple TV needs to succeed as a gaming platform. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Joe Clark says iPhones are hard to use. He provides numerous examples of obscure features and curious design decisions that make iPhones hard to use for anyone with even minor accessibility needs, all gated by near-impossible burdens of knowledge that mean only the most switched-on Apple enthusiasts, the people that follow and watch Apple keynotes where features are demonstrated, know how to use everything. Even then there’s probably still things you or I don’t know about. While I’m inclined to agree with the general gist of what he’s saying, I wonder: what technology product with over a decade of history doesn’t have some kind of usability problem? And how much of these “problems” he brings up aren’t specifically iPhone issues (although it may certainly exacerbate the issue), but ones more applicable to technology in general?

Very advanced, very tuned-in people learn about, and learn how to use, new Apple features by watching them being demonstrated onstage during Apple keynote events. Then there’s everybody else. […] With an alleged one billion “iOS devices” in use over a decade, Apple’s mistakes are the butterfly effect writ large. Anything that people could get wrong, or simply not know about, will be gotten wrong or will go unknown by tens of millions.

  • The iPhone XS represents leaps and bounds in terms of computational photography. Whether it’s stitching together multiple exposures, or taking many single frames before and after you press the digital shutter button, its reliance on computational photography means that it’s a whole new camera, as explained by Sebastiaan de With on the Halide blog. It’s those same leaps and bounds that was “smoothing out selfies” — an issue now resolved as of iOS 12.1 — or combining multiple exposures with more aggressive noise reduction. While it’s a little marketing for the admittedly very good third-party camera app Halide, don’t miss their followup on how the iPhone XR has a few tricks up its sleeve for depth calculations with a single rear-facing camera, too.

Apple is smart. They see diminishing returns cramming more and more electronics in a fingernail-sized sensor. Photographic technology is the science of capturing light, which is limited by optics and physics. The only way to circumvent the laws of physics is with something known as ‘computational photography’. With the powerful chips in modern iPhones, Apple can take a whole bunch of photos—some of them before you even pressed the shutter—and merge them into one perfect shot.

  • At the end of September, Microsoft discontinued the Apple TV version of Minecraft. It came as a bit of a surprise, given that the meagre resources needed to maintain Minecraft on the Apple TV wouldn’t have been too much trouble for Microsoft — or so you would think. Ars Technica’s Samuel Axon saw this and ran with it, coming up a piece on what developers say Apple needs to do to make the Apple TV a gaming console. Maybe not to compete with the likes of Sony or Microsoft, but to provide another avenue for people to be introduced to and play some video games.

As we observed in our review last year, the Apple TV 4K has so much potential for gaming. Its hardware is actually pretty powerful given the type of device it is. It shares development tools and infrastructure with one of the most successful gaming marketplaces in the world—the iPhone and iPad App Store. But a recent announcement shows that, instead of thriving as a gaming platform, Apple TV is struggling.

  • With all of the song and dance being made about how the Apple Watch needs custom watch faces recently, a kangaroo thinks it’s time the Apple Watch has its own App Store. Like iOS is better with custom apps that come from the App Store, it makes a lot of sense — and will probably make more than enough money to be viable — for the Apple Watch to have custom watch faces on its own App Store.

Sure, there will be some terrible watch faces. Sure, let’s even grant for the sake of argument that those bad ones will hurt the Apple Watch’s brand (which Uluroo finds to be a silly assumption). But if we think bad faces will have negative consequences, it makes sense that, conversely, the good faces will have a positive impact on the brand. And users are more likely to use good faces than bad faces. Ultimately, the points people make against custom Apple Watch faces are also points against the App Store, arguably the most successful marketplace of this century. If you believe that the App Store was a good idea, you shouldn’t attack third-party faces with arguments that also attack third-party apps.

  • Even if you’re not an iOS power user, it’s useful to know some tips and tricks on making your device work for you. The Better Humans blog has a very complete, very long guide to iPhone productivity, focus, and longevity, combining settings from every possible aspect of your device to make you more efficient and less distracted, as well as apps that optimise for productivity and focus above all else. If you’ve already done all of that and have your device setup just the way you like it, read through the behavioural principles underpinning their suggestions and real-world examples of what an ideal iPhone setup looks like.

There are a handful of exercises in this article that have very small surface-level productivity gains. Does it really matter if you save one second every time you open your phone? I say yes. In my experience training people to break procrastination or enter flow states, those pauses are prime times for you to get distracted. In those cases, a two second pause can turn into a 30 minute break.

Notable Replies

  1. Personally I think that this is true, with each (major) version of iOS things that were previously easy to do by a single tap of an icon or selection of an item become harder to do - case in point creating a new contact from a phone number that has dialled you seems too difficult on iOS 12 (commented to me by a fellow Apple fan and user of iPhones and other Apple devices for a number of years)

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