Good Reads for November, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of youngish yucatecian — if slightly longer — reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be interviews with Apple executives on Apple’s latest and greatest, in-depth technical explanations of how Apple’s custom silicon beats out the competition against any metric that you care to name, or what hurdles the iPad Pro still needs to overcome to accomplish Apple’s lofty goals. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Before we get to all of that, a lengthy piece by Justin O’Beirne points out plenty of changes in Apple’s new maps. Covering just 3.1% of the land area of the United States and 4.9% of its population, Apple’s new maps are leaps and bounds ahead of any previous iteration, and in some cases even better than Google Maps. Despite the tiny coverage area, the improvements are significant and real, although there’s a few oddities that can be explained away by the application of algorithms to mapping data. Still, there’s still plenty of work to be done, and on top of that, Apple needs to scale if it wants to catch up to the overall quality of Google Maps.

In “Google Maps’s Moat”, we saw that Google has been algorithmically extracting features out of its satellite imagery and then adding them to its map. And now Apple appears to be doing it too. All of those different shades of green are different densities of trees and vegetation that Apple seems to be extracting out of its imagery. But Apple isn’t just extracting vegetation—Apple seems to be extracting any discernible shape from its imagery.

  • The Independent interviewed Apple’s Jony Ive in early November, right after the new iPad Pros were announced. While we didn’t get Jony Ive explaining in a white room explaining how the new iPad Pros came to be at Apple’s event, Ive’s interview does have some indicators about the kind of design decisions, the small parts that make up the whole. Reading Ive’s thoughts on how the curved corners of the display make the entire device seem like one consistent product, you can feel the kind of thought that goes into the smallest details.

Apple products are known for a purity of design, a simplicity and avoidance of clutter. The new iPad Pro tricks you into thinking that it’s just a screen, in which you can become immersed, but making something appear that simple is anything but, Ive says.

  • Ars Technica had something very interesting not too long after the new iPad Pros were announced. None other than Anand Shimpi of Anandtech fame — and now Apple’s Hardware Technologies — and Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller sat down with Ars to talk shop about the incredible power and capabilities afforded by the completely custom silicon of Apple’s A12X SoC. As far as I’m aware, it’s Shimpi’s first public showcase of his work since he left Anandtech in 2014, and what an appearance to make.

We wanted to hear exactly what Apple is trying to accomplish by making its own chips and how the A12X is architected. It turns out that the iPad Pro’s striking, console-level graphics performance and many of the other headlining features in new Apple devices (like FaceID and various augmented-reality applications) may not be possible any other way.

  • Craig Morey’s deep dive on front-end web development on an iPad Pro contains learnings from previous months, but starts with the harsh reality that unless you’re building within a narrow, specific set of products, it’s hard to recommend the iPad Pro as your productivity workhorse. Morey says that the more you rely on development tools, the more you’ll be frustrated about the iPad’s limitations, all of which are limitations imposed by the software.

Many app devs spent huge amounts of time building custom solutions before any good options existed, only to see little in terms of revenue to encourage them to rewrite their app as new APIs came along. The iPad Pro marketplace needs to be turning a corner in terms of viability to bring these apps back into the modern iOS world.

  • Craig Mod echoes these thoughts, saying that although the iPad Pro’s hardware is from the future, the software feels stuck in the past. The hardware is improved in every measurable way, yet the software remains more or less the same as it always has. There’s entire debates being had online about whether the iPad is a computer, what computers are, and what computing is, but at the end of the day, there are absolutely basic, menial tasks that require jumping through multiple hoops, which shouldn’t be what computing is about.

Computers are nothing if not a constellation of design and engineering details that either work for or against you. They either push you forward, smoothly, an encouraging tailwind allowing you to get done the work you want to get done, or they push back, become abrasive, breaking you from flow states, causing you to have to Google even the simplest task. […] iPads should be better. They’re so close. And they’re certainly powerful enough.

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