good reads

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.

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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.

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Good Reads for September, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of very voluminous, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes, they’ll be commentary on the state of Apple’s largest revenue stream, technical explanations of what makes the iPhone camera as good as it is, or a thoroughly enjoyable oral history of Apple’s Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • September saw the release of new iPhones, and Ben Thompson of Stratechery points out it has done so for the past 11 years. And even though everyone’s talking about the new top-of-the-line iPhone, both about how it’s the most expensive iPhone ever and the fastest and whatever other superlatives Apple want to bestow upon it, Thompson says it’s the non-flagship iPhones that speak volumes about how Apple thinks about the iPhone strategically — no small point, given that the iPhone still accounts for roughly two-thirds of Apple’s revenue — and itself.

The iPhone X was the “future of the smartphone”, with a $999 price tag to match. A year on, it is quite clear that the future is very much here. CEO Tim Cook bragged during yesterday’s keynote that the iPhone X was the best-selling phone in the world, something that was readily apparent in Apple’s financial results. iPhone revenue was again up-and-to-the-right, not because Apple was selling more iPhones — unit growth was flat — but because the iPhone X grew ASP so dramatically.

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Good Reads for August, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a handful of voraciously vicarious, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be thoroughly thought-out concepts of doing something a little differently on iOS, a walk-through of creating fluid interfaces that make even the blandest of apps a pleasure to use, the story of a company that time has seemingly forgot, or even debate about whether we should forgive Steve Jobs for being a terrible father. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Over at the UX Collective blog, Kévin Eugène shares his concept called iOS Mogi which takes an idea originally centred around making Siri useful in more contexts and applying that across the board to bring a better level of multitasking to the entirety of iOS. Instead of having a screen just for interaction with Siri, a non-intrusive panel drops down much like the banner notification would, only these “Live Notifications” are capable of pretty much anything without — at least not completely — interrupting what you’re currently looking at. There’s plenty of animated GIFs so you get the idea, but it’s the kind of thing that seems obvious when you see it.

Since the beginning, I have wanted to find an elegant way to bring multitasking to the mobile, and splitting the screen was never an option. I wanted something that was more coherent with the mobile approach, and I hope you find that Live Notifications are a good step into that direction.

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Good Reads for July, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a handful of whimsically wordier reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be reviews of their latest laptop, inside stories from the annals of Apple history, or even timely republished interviews with Steve Jobs following the just-passed tenth anniversary of the App Store. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • July saw the first hardware update to Apple’s laptop lineup since June last year. Depending on which way you look at it, Apple’s timing was either perfect or way off the mark, as the refreshed 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro somehow managed to land right in the middle of a cacophony of keyboard-related complaints. The good news is, both machines got slightly more than the usual speed bump, making them the fastest and most secure Mac laptops ever released. As for keyboard reliability, while Apple’s stuck to their butterfly-switched guns and added a silicon barrier to prevent dust and debris from throwing a spanner in the proverbial works, it remains to be seen what long-term reliability is like. Samuel Axon from Ars Technica has the full review.

From marketing to design decisions, we can see exactly which professional users Apple targeted with this refresh: video editors, software developers, music producers, photographers, and, to a lesser degree, scientific researchers. The refresh doesn’t necessarily serve every kind of professional who has ever wanted a high-performance Mac, but it generally does an admirable job of offering something to get excited about for people in a wide range of professions.

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Good Reads for June, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a handful of very valid, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be stories about little-known teams within Apple, discussion about the part design plays in both Apple’s products and others, or yet another post on using an iPad Pro as your primary computing device. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Like many of us, Paul Stamatiou had used tablets before. And just like many of us, he never really got into them, finding their utility to be constrained — not quite as mobile as a phone, or as useful as a laptop. But after a few months using Apple’s largest tablet, he’s come to really enjoy the hardware and the software combination of an iPad Pro running iOS 11 — while multitasking features like Split View let you view more than one thing at a time, the iPad’s strengths lie in how effortless it becomes to focus on one particular task.

Even with all this new multitasking functionality, there’s one thing that still feels different compared to using a desktop OS. Doing anything on the iPad Pro is a focused experience. There’s no way to accidentally multitask. It’s a conscious effort you have to make. And even if you have two apps open in Split View, they’re taking over the entire screen and there’s nothing else that can distract you. No other apps partially in view in the background, no badged or bouncing apps in the dock trying to get your attention.

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Good Reads for May, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of uniformly unedited, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Some of the time, they’ll be pieces you already read from other sources, interviews that should have appeared in the news but I felt deserved a little extra attention, or thought-provoking looks at the past or present state of technology and how Apple fits into the puzzle. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • We kick off this month’s Good Reads with Hodinkee’s interview with Jony Ive. For those that remember when this was first published in early May, this was more of a piece that focused on Ive as a watch designer. Benjamin Clymer compared and contrasted the differences between the technology-centric Apple and the sheer craftsmanship of traditional watch makers. Design is one aspect Apple prides themselves on, and that shows in spades with what they’ve done with the Apple Watch.

I think how much the Apple Watch has impacted watchmaking. And I realize, just like the iPod changed music and the iPhone changed personal communication, the Apple Watch will certainly change not only watchmaking but how we interact with the world around us. I am quite sure it will be for the better.

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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.

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Good Reads for March, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of spectacularly scrumptious — if slightly longer — reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be reflections on a decade of iPhone programming, a look at the HomePod’s place in the home, or forgotten stories about Apple’s video game console. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • Early on in March we saw the tenth anniversary of the iPhone SDK. The Iconfactory’s Craig Hockenberry tells us about how it was when it all started, from jailbreaking the original iPhone to see what could be accomplished outside and ahead of the official SDK itself, lamenting the original proposition of slow, JavaScript-based apps versus the speed and power of the native apps of the time, and the iPhone’s very first Twitter app. Now, iOS development is a lucrative business in and of itself, with an audience of millions.

The iPhone SDK was promised for February of 2008, and given the size of the task, no one was disappointed when it slipped by just a few days. The release was accompanied by an event at the Town Hall theater. Ten years ago today was the first time we learned about the Simulator and other changes in Xcode, new and exciting frameworks like Core Location and OpenGL, and a brand new App Store that would get our products into the hands of customers.

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Good Reads for February, 2018

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of ravishingly rectangular — if slightly longer — reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they won’t actually be reads, or about how Apple is the world’s most innovative company. Sometimes, they won’t be exactly about Apple per se, but you know what? Those ones make for the best stories. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed out a video in Good Reads, and the bad news is, it probably won’t be the last. The good news is, Motherboard’s mini-documentary on how iFixit became the world’s best iPhone teardown team gives us the behind-the-scenes perspective of a company that believes in everyone being able to repair their own devices. Plus, some of it was shot in Australia, because thanks to the magic of timezones, we get the privilege of being among the first to get hands-on with new iPhones.

The most important thing that happens when a new iPhone comes out is not the release of the phone, but the disassembly of it. The iPhone teardown, undertaken by third-party teams around the world, provides a roadmap for the life of the iPhone X: Is it repairable? Who made the components inside it? The answers to these questions shift stock markets, electronics design, and consumer experience.

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