Good Reads for January, 2019

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of automatically attractive reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be comparisons about the difference 10 years makes when it comes to app design, interviews with Apple execs, or running commentary on the state of Apple technology as it affects us today. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • We kick off Good Reads this year with a visual comparison of apps since the introduction of the App Store way back in 2008. While we’re now past the 10th year of the App Store, the recent introduction of the 10 Year Challenge is a good opportunity to see the changed design paradigms of iOS apps, whether that’s less typing input overall, less prominent buttons to interact with, or even changes to overall navigation style. We have larger screens than ever before, and at times, that means more of a focus on content, as shown on the Flawless blog on Medium.

Just last year App Store celebrated its 10th birthday. In 2008 it launched with 552 apps and some of them are still live inside your iPhones. Time has passed and design trends have changed dramatically. #10yearchallenge is a good opportunity to see how fast the evolution is and notice changes in the oldest iOS apps. Can you spot the difference?

  • Of course, this month’s Good Reads wouldn’t be complete without some commentary about Apple’s updated financial guidance, even though their results speak for themselves. Apple’s second-best quarter ever may have been lower than their original expectations, but as explained by Ben Thompson at Stratechery, the original guidance was off due to a number of errors and blind-spots that Apple made and had. All of which were predictable enough — even if they weren’t accounted for originally — that it was surprising Apple had to issue updated revenue figures in the first place. Of course, all of this is easy to say now that we have Apple CEO Tim Cook’s reasons for the missed guidance in the first place (hindsight is 20/20, after all), but it’s not as if Apple’s stock price has dipped and recovered before.

What makes this quarter seem so much worse was both the already negative sentiment surrounding the shift in Apple’s reporting (the presumption being the company wanted to hide declining unit sales), and also the fact that Apple’s management forecast was so off.

  • Although it may seem like we feature an interview with Apple SVP of Retail and Online Angela Ahrendts every month, that’s definitely not the case. It’s every other month, for starters, and no matter how many times I think I can read about Apple’s ongoing retail strategy, there’s always something new and different each time. This time around, Vogue Business talks to Angela Ahrendts about Apple’s retail strategy. She takes the opportunity to tell us how the retail strategy of one of the largest companies in the world is not just expansive new and refurbished stores, but coupled with daily Today at Apple learning sessions, help build Apple’s vision of retail that builds relationships with customers, both in-store and online, as part of one business and one brand.

It’s easy to look at Apple’s grand new fleet of flagships and be dazzled by their surfaces: the Foster + Partners-designed Champs Élysées store boasts floor-to-ceiling glass, trees in the courtyard, and a preserved carved wooden staircase connecting hyper-modern rooms. But the real difference, Ahrendts claims, is much more fundamental. Apple stores show a vision for retail in the way they help Apple build long-term customer relationships, the way they are financially accounted for and the way they connect a network of 70,000 employees across the globe.

  • I can’t help but feel that Cal Newport’s piece in the New York Times on how Steve Jobs never wanted iPhones to be our constant companions is a little click-baity. After all, it’s a thinly-veiled promo for his upcoming book, and surmising that the late Steve Jobs never wanted iPhones to be used constantly like they are today based on the introduction of the iPhone and how Jobs didn’t immediately point out the iPhone’s internet connectivity is an extremely long bow to draw. But he has something of a point: we’re now using our smartphones more than ever before, and some see that as a bad thing.

The presentation confirms that Mr. Jobs envisioned a simpler and more constrained iPhone experience than the one we actually have over a decade later. For example, he doesn’t focus much on apps. When the iPhone was first introduced there was no App Store, and this was by design.

  • Also from the New York Times (albeit from December), is a kind of prelude to this month’s piece about the failures of Apple sourcing screws for the 2013 Mac Pro in the US. While you should read that piece if you haven’t already, the story of how Apple computers used to be built in the US in the early days, and how much of a mess that was, is also interesting reading. Silicon Valley, despite Steve Jobs’ best efforts, never caught onto the whole manufacturing industry, and when he hired Tim Cook — then a master of manufacturing supply chains — in 1998, the message was clear: outsourced manufacturing was the way to go. Or perhaps, Jobs was simply ahead of his time.

In 1983, Mr. Jobs oversaw the construction of a state-of-the-art plant where the new Macintosh computer would be built. Reporters who toured it early on were told that the plant, located just across San Francisco Bay from Apple’s headquarters, was so advanced that factory labor would account for 2 percent of the cost of making a Macintosh.

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