‘On iOS 11 Design’

Smart, as usual, insights from iMore’s Rene Ritchie. The lede is great:

By embracing rather than running from the affordances of the past, iOS 11 makes iPhone and iPad not just more legible but more comfortable.

As I tweeted yesterday, I’ve thought about writing a story on iOS 11’s design, but Rene beat me to it. He says pretty much everything I would’ve in my own article.

In using the iOS 11 public beta, a thought that’s persisted in my mind is just how close the OS is, design-wise, to iOS 6. That is to say, where iOS 7 threw the baby out with the bath water in many respects—buttons are a prime example—Apple’s design team seems to have revisited some of the affordances of the “classic” iOS look. To me, iOS 11 takes the best of the old way (e.g., buttons) and updates them with modern sensibilities so as to fit the current style. It does look good, but more importantly, iOS 11 is much improved functionally in terms of visual accessibility. I’ve long maintained that, despite the heavy handedness with faux textures and the like, the Forstall-era iOS design did many things well for accessibility. I think this has gone largely under-appreciated, but again, it sure seems like Apple is moving the needle closer to where the old design excelled.

’How Apple is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads—Literally’

Great deep dive by Steven Levy for Backchannel on Apple’s Made for iPhone hearing aid initiative. Specifically, Levy’s story gets into the nitty-gritty of Apple’s collaboration with Cochlear to build iPhone-compatible cochlear implants for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

There is a larger lesson here. At a macro level, the work Apple has done with hearing aids is important because it shows the company can and does deliver innovative products. Most in the mainstream press overlook these kinds of smaller yet not insignificant measures. So many fans and industry watchers are so laser-focused on the big and shiny (and profitable) products, like the iPhone, that they overlook stuff like the Made for iPhone hearing aid program. It is innovative work that’s clearly important to Apple, as well as the customers who rely on the technology to get the most from their iPhone. Put simply, to say Apple doesn’t innovate is myopic bullshit, and Levy’s story is proof.

Chicago Cubs Give Steve Bartman 2016 World Series Ring

Julie Unruh, reporting for WGN News:

Steve Bartman has received an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring as a special gift from the Ricketts family and the Cubs organization.

Arguably the team's most infamous fan, Bartman is remembered for tipping a foul ball that left fielder Moises Alou unsuccessfully tried to catch in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.

[…]

Bartman received the ring before noon Monday in Ricketts' office. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and President of Operations Crane Kenney were also present. Ricketts then showed Bartman around Wrigley a bit, so he could see what was new since he'd last been to the park.

Here’s the play that made Bartman infamous. Kudos to the Cubs for the cool gesture.

‘How Jony Ive Masterminded Apple’s New Headquarters’

Christina Passariello wrote a feature story for the WSJ Magazine on Apple Park and Jony Ive’s role in designing it. The piece is accompanied by gorgeous photography that make me even more excited for the building’s official opening.

These related passages in particular caught my eye:

The design called for four stories of office space, more than Ive had hoped, but few enough that “it means that you don’t need to use elevators, you can walk to visit people, you can walk for meetings,” he says. Blueprints and photos capturing the designs wallpaper a building across the street from the campus that serves as a headquarters for the construction project. (At the height of activity in February, 6,200 construction workers were on-site daily.) A diagram lays out where the different divisions will be located in the main building: The fourth floor will be home to the executive suites (including Ive’s design studio), the watch team and part of the group working on Siri, which will also occupy a fraction of the third floor. The Mac and iPad divisions will be interspersed with software teams on the middle levels.

[…]

Ive wants movement to be at the core of the work environment—something that seems unavoidable with such a large campus. There will be 2,000 custom bikes made by Public Bikes and painted “Apple gray.” Some employees talk about bringing a change of shoes for the quarter-mile hike from the parking structures at the edge of the campus to the main building, but there will also be electric golf carts and a commuter shuttle between the parking structures and the ring. To help employees find their way around, the campus will be mapped on Apple Maps.

As stories have been published about Apple Park, I’ve wondered about just how accessible it is. Ive says in this story that he and the design team approached Apple Park like any other Apple product—blueprinting and prototyping, etc. Knowing what I do about the company, surely accessibility was part of the design process. Thus, with the emphasis on nature and open space and collaboration, I do wonder what affordances Apple Park has for people with disabilities. How do you get to and from the upper floors if you have trouble (or can’t) walk up stairs? Are there Braille signage for the various areas? Can you get a golf cart if you can’t walk for distance? How many disabled parking spaces are there?

Apple Park is decidedly of Apple, by Apple. As such, accessibility—as a core value of the company—has to be part of the design, which is why I’m so curious for answers to the aforementioned questions. It’s an important aspect of the building’s story.

‘You Should Not Force Quit Apps on iOS’

John Gruber has an important public service announcement:

The single biggest misconception about iOS is that it’s good digital hygiene to force quit apps that you aren’t using. The idea is that apps in the background are locking up unnecessary RAM and consuming unnecessary CPU cycles, thus hurting performance and wasting battery life.

That’s not how iOS works. The iOS system is designed so that none of the above justifications for force quitting are true. Apps in the background are effectively “frozen”, severely limiting what they can do in the background and freeing up the RAM they were using. iOS is really, really good at this. It is so good at this that unfreezing a frozen app takes up way less CPU (and energy) than relaunching an app that had been force quit. Not only does force quitting your apps not help, it actually hurts. Your battery life will be worse and it will take much longer to switch apps if you force quit apps in the background.

Apple Launches Machine Learning Blog

Apple:

Welcome to the Apple Machine Learning Journal. Here, you can read posts written by Apple engineers about their work using machine learning technologies to help build innovative products for millions of people around the world.

The first post is entitled “Improving the Realism of Synthetic Images.” An interesting read, but obviously written for a highly technical audience. It’s good to see Apple continue being more open about what they’re working on—even if this “journal” goes unattributed.

‘Writers Dish on Scoops That Slipped Away’

Elon Green, writing for Columbia Journalism Review:

I imagine that to actually get scooped on a story must feel considerably worse. So over the last two weeks, I contacted a number of journalists whose work I admire, and asked what it was like to be scooped. Some said that, like me, they’d managed to dodge a bullet. Others were not so lucky. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

I like the response from the NYT’s Mike Isaac:

I will say, though, that scoops are great but have an incredibly short half-life, journalistically speaking. Everyone quickly ends up matching your scoop, and years from now no one really remembers who the first reporter to publish such-and-such mid-level Google executive left their job to go to Facebook or whatever. These days I’m hoping to focus more on the longer, more enduring pieces that leave a strong impression on the reader for years to come.

That’s not exactly easy to accomplish and often takes much more time and effort to knock out. But I think it’s worth it.

First Impressions of the 10.5" iPad Pro

Apple's announcement at WWDC last month of an updated iPad lineup was one of many hardware highlights of the keynote. In particular, Apple unveiled an all-new 10.5" iPad Pro model, the successor to the 9.7" model that debuted in March 2016.

I've been using the 10.5" iPad Pro (a review unit provided to me by Apple) for almost two weeks now—I'm using it to write this piece, in fact—and can say without hesitation or hyperbole that it's the best computer I've ever used. In every way, this iPad bests the (still great) first generation 12.9" iPad Pro I've used (and praised) since it came out in November 2015. It is truly a marvel of industrial engineering.

With that sentiment in mind, here are some assorted thoughts on the new 10.5" iPad Pro.

Size & Weight. I have written numerous times about how, despite how much I love its big screen, holding and carrying my 12.9" iPad Pro is a chore. No matter how thin and light it is, there's no getting around the fact the "Biggie Pro" is a beast physically. Reading and watching video is great due to the large screen, but it's not the kind of computer one can schlep around very easily. Yet given my affinity for the iPhone Plus, the trade-off in ergonomics and portability for a large, high-resolution screen was one I was willing to make.

The 10.5" iPad is so thin and so light, holding and carrying it is a breeze. It makes the 12.9" feel like a load of bricks.

Choosing the 12.9" model over the 9.7" was an easy choice because of the jump in screen size. But the 10.5" closes the gap considerably. Apple says the 10.5" screen is 20% larger than that of the 9.7", and it shows. In my use, I definitely notice the difference. The 10.5" screen feels bigger without the actual device feeling big. Put another way, I haven't found myself wanting for more real estate; in fact, a thought that has persisted in my mind is this new iPad seems like the "Goldilocks" iPad. It has the "just right" combination of screen size and portability, and I've fallen in love with it.

Display. The marquee feature of the new iPads is the 120Hz ProMotion display. Maybe it's due to my low vision, but I haven't noticed a huge jump in scrolling and whatnot switching between the 10.5" and 12.9" iPads. I've seen others comment that scrolling on non-ProMotion displays is janky compared to the new tech, but again, I can't tell. But it is there!

Two things I do notice, however, are overall quality and True Tone. At a glance, I can immediately see a difference in quality between the 10.5" iPad's screen and that of the 12.9". Everything on the former seems much more bright and vivid, which is aesthetically pleasing but also reduces eye strain and fatigue for me. I vastly prefer the display on the 10.5".

Regarding True Tone, the 10.5" iPad is the first iPad with the technology that I've used for an extended period. I like it very much; unlike ProMotion, I can actually see the display responding to the ambient light in real time. True Tone feels similar to Night Shift insofar that the adjustments in appearance really helps to conserve visual energy. I find it handy during nighttime hours when there's naturally low light. Here's hoping the iPhone's screen gets True Tone someday.

Accessories. My review kit from Apple included the Smart Keyboard and the new Leather Sleeve. The Smart Keyboard is functionally identical to the one on my 12.9" iPad, just smaller. Unlike a lot of people, I actually quite enjoy the Smart Keyboard. I'm not a touch typist, so key travel isn't so much an issue for me. The real reason I prefer it most the time over, say, the Canopy by Studio Neat is because its "all-in-one" nature makes it convenient and more accessible. Instead of carrying two items (iPad + keyboard), I can attach the Smart Keyboard (which doubles as a cover) and carry both as a single entity. Sure, the Magic Keyboard may be an objectively better typing experience, but the Smart Keyboard is surely capable of meeting my needs. So, I stick with it.

I haven't tried the sleeve yet, let alone open it. I will at some point, but for now, I've been comfortable carrying the iPad with the Smart Keyboard in my backpack. That said, one nicety about the sleeve is the built-in Pencil compartment. (Speaking of, it baffles me Apple has yet to do something magnetic with Apple Pencil, but instead sells this thing.)

Productivity. Full disclosure: My 10.5" iPad is still running iOS 10. (I put the iOS 11 public beta on the 12.9".) Even with the primitive (relative to iOS 11) multitasking experience iOS 10 gives you, I've been pleased by using Split View and Slide Over. To reiterate a point I made earlier, I haven't been wanting for more screen space. Information density seems pretty good on the 10.5" despite the fact you can't see two full-sized iPad apps at once. Of course, iOS 11 offers a considerable improvement to multitasking, so I'll reserve final judgment until I put the new software on here. Nonetheless, I see no reason why the 10.5" iPad Pro can't be a legitimate productivity machine. As someone who had an 11" MacBook Air for college once upon a time, using the 10.5" iPad—preferring it, even—is not dissimilar to choosing the 11" Air over the 13" Air. Smaller, yes, but still plenty usable.

Microsoft Releases Seeing AI App for iPhone

Ryan Christoffel at MacStories reports on an app developed by Microsoft aimed at helping blind and low vision users experience augmented reality (AI). Christoffel writes that Smart AI “converts the visual experience of the world into an audible one. As you point the camera at things in the world around you, the app will describe that world in a quick, informative manner” and works solidly.

This app makes me wonder about the accessibility of augmented reality going forward. Things like ARKit, as well as whatever else Apple decides to do in this space in the future, are incredibly fascinating. How accessible this new technology is or will be is unknown, but I do know VoiceOver will play a key role in making AR available to everyone.

The MarsEdit 4 Public Beta

Daniel Jalkut has announced the new version of his popular Mac blogging app, MarsEdit.

Back when this site ran on WordPress, MarsEdit was the app I used to publish when I was on the Mac. (On iOS, I loved Poster before it was acquired by WordPress.) I like Squarespace overall, but their iOS apps suck, quite frankly, and I'd switch to MarsEdit in a heartbeat if I could. The mobile experience is atrocious; they clearly want you in a desktop browser.

The iOS 11 Public Beta

Apple yesterday launched the iOS 11 public beta. The company recommends backing up your devices and not run it on your primary device(s). Public be damned, a beta is still a beta.

Personally, being the nerd and intrepid reporter I am, I installed the beta on my 12.9" iPad Pro this morning. I'm still getting used to it, but man, the new multitasking stuff is legit great. I'll surely have thoughts to share on all this stuff, accessibility included, in the time to come.

Casey Liss Reviews the 12-inch MacBook

I very much enjoyed Casey's take on his new "MacBook Adorable":

I was discussing the MacBook with my friend _David Smith. He’s had a MacBook for a while and was debating upgrading to the latest version. Dave said to me something that I think is spot on:

The MacBook is the “old person’s iPad”. The affection I have for it reminds me of what folks like Myke and Federico say about their iPad, but I’m too set in my ways to make the switch.

Thanks to the MacBook, I don’t have to.

Even as an iPad Pro aficionado, I still lust after the MacBook. Its form is incredible.

Remembering the Original iPhone

Over the weekend, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA hosted an event at which John Markoff interviewed members of the original iPhone team, including former SVP of iOS Scott Forstall. I enjoyed both talks, but Forstall's was particularly good—and anticipated.

Forstall's segment begins at the 1h:07m mark. One highlight to me was the anecdote Forstall told about the 99-year-old woman with cataracts and an iPad. The joy with which he relayed that story jibes with things I've heard about Forstall's attitude towards accessibility while he was at Apple. It seems clear Forstall pushed heavily to make iOS accessible to everyone.

Accessibility aside, I do wish Markoff would've asked Forstall about his thoughts on the iOS 7 redesign, as well as what his plans were for iOS 7 had he not been pushed out in 2012.