Friday, September 29, 2017

Clearing up the iPhone ‘FM Radio’ situation →

Rene Ritchie for iMore:

In the wake of the devastation wrought by recent hurricanes and earthquakes, politicians in the U.S. are calling for Apple and other manufacturers to turn on the FM radios that they presume are lying dormant in iPhones and other phones. I really wish — and I suspect Apple and other manufacturers really wish — it was that as simple. But it’s not. And, unfortunately, politicians aren’t often well versed in technology, and they often don’t ask before they soundbite.

Statement from Apple provided to Rene:

“Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that’s why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products,” Apple told iMore. “Users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen, and we enable government emergency notifications, ranging from Weather Advisories to AMBER alerts. iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.”

Rene on older iPhones and other phones:

For older iPhones and other phones, even if it was possible to just “flip a switch” and enable FM on the chipset, significant additional roadblocks remain. Those chips may not be connected in a way that makes FM radio even possible. Assuming they were, changes would likely require an update to the wireless chipset firmware (Apple rolls its own, other manufacturers would need to request updates from Broadcom, Qualcomm, Intel, or whichever company manufactured the chip).

It’s a nice sentiment, but politicians don’t know what the hell they are talking about in regards to technology. What else is new, right? I’m increasingly convinced we need way more technology-minded folks in office.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

3D Touch App Switcher gesture to return in future iOS 11 update →

Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi in an email reply to a MacRumors user:

Hi Adam,

We regretfully had to temporarily drop support for this gesture due to a technical constraint. We will be bringing it back in an upcoming iOS 11.x update.

Thanks (and sorry for the inconvenience)!

I’m glad to see this coming back, but I wonder what the technical constraint was. Maybe something to do with iPhone X? Speaking of which, I wonder if it will even be enabled on iPhone X; it’s much less needed there due to the new navigation gestures. Either way, I’ll enjoy seeing it return to the iPhone 7 I use for work.

One other thing they need to bring back is quick access to Spotlight Search from Notification Center. I’m not talking about the existing one in the Today/widgets view, but the one where you could pull the Notification Center shade down just a little bit, release, and get to Spotlight Search. I used this so much to quickly get into another app.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

iOS 11 Review: Most Meaningful Features

Introduction

iOS 11 is out today, beginning at 10AM Pacific. I’ve been using it exclusively on my iPhone 7 Plus and iPad Pro 10.5-inch since the developer beta was released back in June. I have to say, this is probably the most jam-packed iOS release Apple has ever published. There are so many features, but I’m going to give you my thoughts on the ones I believe are most meaningful and important after using them day in and day out.

Read on

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Father Of Mobile Computing (Alan Kay) Is Not Impressed →

In a long interview with Brian Merchant (author of ‘The One Device’), Alan Kay discussed his detailed views on computing. Specifically, Kay outlines how our amazing computers are usually deduced to consumption devices due to lack of education.

This is a fantastic insight into Alan Kay’s thought process and computing vision. Although I don’t agree with everything he says, he makes a lot of striking points.

Some backing on Kay:

Kay is one of the forefathers of personal computing; he’s what you can safely call a living legend. He directed a research team at the legendary Xerox PARC, where he led the development of the influential programming language SmallTalk, which foreshadowed the first graphical user interfaces, and the Xerox Alto, a forerunner of the personal computer that predated 1984’s Apple Macintosh by 11 years (only 2,000 of the $70,000 devices were produced). Kay was one of the earliest advocates, back in the days of hulking gray mainframes, for using the computer as a dynamic instrument of learning and creativity. It took imagination like his to drive the computer into the public’s hands.

Kay describing the Dynabook (one of the article’s main focuses) in his own words:

“Imagine having your own self-contained knowledge manipulator,” they implored—note the language, and the emphasis on knowledge. “Suppose it had enough power to outrace your senses of sight and hearing, enough capacity to store for later retrieval thousands of page-equivalents of reference materials, poems, letters, recipes, records, drawings, animations, musical scores, waveforms, dynamic simulations, and anything else you would like to remember and change.”

Sounds like the iPad, right? As Brian points out here, though, the key word is knowledge as a central point. Instead of being an open book to venture off, Kay essentially thinks tablets should be primarily utilitarian and productivity-driven.

Kay on the original iPhone:

When I first got to Apple, which was in ’84, the Mac was already out and Newsweek contacted me and asked me what I thought of the Mac. I said, “Well, the Mac is the first personal computer good enough to be criticized.”

So, after Steve [announced] the iPhone [in 2007], he brought it up to me and handed it to me. He said, “Alan, is this good enough to be criticized?” And I said, “Steve, make it this size [as big as a tablet] and you’ll rule the world.” Now, that has been misunderstood, because I didn’t know what they were doing. But as a scientist-engineer, I would’ve bet a thousand dollars–and I would’ve won–that there was already an iPad.

Quite an accurate prediction by Kay. We know without a doubt that Apple was already working on the technology in tablet form before the iPhone.

Kay on computing comprehension:

If people could understand what computing was about, the iPhone would not be a bad thing. But because people don’t understand what computing is about, they think they have it in the iPhone, and that illusion is as bad as the illusion that Guitar Hero is the same as a real guitar. That’s the simple long and the short of it.

This is the problem with television. Television is 24 hours a day and it seems like an entire world. It is a kind of a world, but it’s such a subset. And it’s so in-your-face that it essentially puts you into a dumb world. It’s got stuff going on all the time and almost none of it is of a

This right here is an incredibly tall order. Kay essentially says the iPad is viewed to the masses as a television, which I would mostly agree with. However, as he will go on to describe in detail later, the problem is education.

Kay on the original iPad and lack of dedicated stylus holder:

First thing I did was to test how good the actual touch sensor was. I had to go out and get a capacitive pen, because one didn’t come with the iPad. You’re supposed to use your finger on it. There were five things that you could draw with on it and only one of them was good. And with that [Autodesk] pen, I was able to draw, take a ruler and draw lines with this thing, and see how linear it came out on the display, and the thing was a lot better than it needed to be. You’re kind of drawing with a crayon, but they actually did a hell of a good job on it.

No place to put the pen though.

So, I talked to Steve on the phone [about adding a standard pen and penholder]. I said, “Look Steve. You know, you’ve made something that is perfect for 2-year-olds and perfect for 92-year-olds. But everybody in-between learns to use tools.”

And he says, “Well, people lose their pens.”
And I said, “Well, have a place to put it.”

Kay really wants a defined place to store his stylus. Here’s my philosophy: unless you’re using a folio of some sort, traditional paper notebooks don’t come with a defined pen holder, so why should the iPad? That said, most pens have caps, so you could just clip it to the notebook — something the iPad and Apple Pencil can’t do, of course — point notebook. Technically, the Apple Pencil can be held by the iPad’s internal magnets for the Smart Cover, but it’s a side effect not to be trusted versus an actual feature.

For the latest iPad Pro models, Apple has made an optional leather sleeve with a Pencil holder at the top. It looks great, but also costs $129 (10.5-inch) or $149 (12.9-inch). Plus, most people seem to prefer actual cases over sleeves. There are 3rd-party options, but they typically add bulk, and Kay wants something built in.

As for me, I really don’t see it as a big deal. I carry my Apple Pencil in the quick-access slot of my bag 1, so it’s usually just a few seconds away when I need it. I don’t see Apple solving Kay’s problem anytime soon, as they clearly view the Pencil as an ancillary device only to be used (and purchased) by those who truly need it. Otherwise, it would come with the iPad.

I think a better case could be made for including the Smart Keyboard with the iPad if it weren’t for the cost increase. People use keyboards way more the styluses. 2

Alright, back to Kay, now on human universals…

Expand

Years ago, this anthropologist Donald Brown wrote a book called Human Universals. This was just gathering up what generations of anthropologists had gleaned from studying thousands of traditional societies.

They first looked at traditional societies for differences, and found they’re all very different in detail but they’re all very similar in category. They couldn’t find a society that didn’t have a language, that didn’t have stories, didn’t have kinship, didn’t have revenge. They couldn’t find a society that did have equal rights. So, the things that were common to every society without fail, they started calling human universals. Most of them are probably genetic.

Suppose you want to make a lot of money. Well, just take the top 20 human universals and build a technological amplifier for them—like communication.

He goes on to reference the creation of the telephone as an example. The brilliance of this really resonates with me. Throughout history, we have continually improved communication, which I view as the most important human essential.

Kay on education in the 21st century — essentially what we need to do to increase people’s understanding of computing:

Brian: Do you think most people care about this stuff?

Kay: They never have. You know, if you look at [educator Maria] Montessori’s first two books, both were really important. […] One of the things she said was, look, the problem is, the culture around most children, whether at home or in school, is like the 10th century, and we’re living in the 20th century. If you really want them to learn, if you want them all to learn, it can’t be like choosing a musical instrument because you’re interested in it. Everybody learns their culture, because it’s in the form of a culture, and that trumps any particular interest we have. This is what [Marshall] McLuhan was talking about too. That’s a big deal. It’s a difference between taking a class in something and living in something. So if you want to fix this, you gotta fix the schools, and get the kids to grow up in the 21st century, rather than being in a technological version of the 11th century.

This really hits the nail on the head. A good example I can think of for grade school is handwriting. Who the hell needs handwriting anymore? Not to mention, through high school, everything is still largely taught from paper books or in the textbook format. Why don’t we have computers in every grade starting with kindergarten and new, immersive ways to teach?

I remember we had a computer lab in grade school. Though some of the teachings consisted of word processing, most of it was garbage educational games. I was fortunate enough to go to a technical high school and study Computer Science, but the other classes were still as old-school as ever.

Kay on the lack of teaching our devices do, an example being iPhone’s “Shake to Undo” feature:

So, in theory, you’re supposed to shake the iPhone and that means undo. Did you ever, did anybody ever tell you that? It’s not on the website. It turns out almost no app responds to a shake. And there’s no other provision. In fact, you can’t even find out how to use the iPhone on the iPhone. You ever notice that?

I agree with Kay here. Shake to Undo has always been an odd interaction method, with no indication the feature even exists (kind of similar to 3D Touch in certain respects). Apple really should re-think how to better implement Undo/Redo globally, because it really sucks. Maybe a two-finger counter-clockwise gesture for Undo and clockwise for Redo? I always feel like an idiot when I need to shake my phone to undo something.

Apple has always strived for intuition with their UI, but things like Shake to Undo and some of 3D Touch really stray from that path.

Kay thinks computers should better teach us how to use them:

Kay: It’s been an idea in the ARPA/PARC community—which hasn’t been funded since 1980 or so, but a lot of us are still alive—one of the ideas was that in personal computing, what you really need is some form of mentor that’s an integral part of the user interface.

Brian: Something like a digital assistant?

Kay: It’s something just like the GUI, which I had a lot to do with designing. I did that, more or less, as a somewhat disappointed reaction to realizing [AI] is just a hard problem. We had some of the best AI people in the whole world at PARC, but the computers were really small for what AI needs.

We’re getting closer to solving the AI hurdles thanks to things like machine learning, and Apple has been making a huge push for Siri to be at the forefront of all its products. Perhaps one day Siri itself will say something like “Welcome to iOS 11, let me give you a guided tour”, while proceeding to take you through the top new features natively on your phone, as opposed to just playing a video. Siri then ends with “Those are the biggest changes in iOS 11, but just ask if you want to learn more, or about something more specific”.

Optimism is key here. We’ll probably get to Kay’s vision one day, when people no longer view technology as something to be afraid of.


  1. Peak Design Messenger bag, if you were wondering. 
  2. Side note: I’m incredibly surprised by how much I love the Smart Keyboard. Everything I write for Gaddgict is written on it. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

iPhone and Apple Pencil: Will they ever be friends? →

I would love for Apple Pencil to work on the bigger iPhone, especially with iOS 11’s quick notes feature. Like Jason says though, it would probably need to be a shorter version. Writing on an iPhone with the current Apple Pencil would be kind of comical. iPhone would also need the special screen layer found in iPad Pro to track it properly. We’ll see.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Former Google SVP praises iPhone camera over Android →

Linking to Business Insider’s coverage of this story.

Vic Gundotra, former Google SVP of Engineering, posted the following on Facebook yesterday in reference to recent shots taken of his family with an iPhone 7 Plus:

The end of the DSLR for most people has already arrived. I left my professional camera at home and took these shots at dinner with my iPhone 7 using computational photography (portrait mode as Apple calls it). Hard not to call these results (in a restaurant, taken on a mobile phone with no flash) stunning. Great job Apple.

In a later comment, he goes on to explain why other phones trail behind. Here it is in its entirety, because it’s fantastic:

Here is the problem: It’s Android. Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung gallery or Google Photos?

It’s because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera) they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API. That can take YEARS.

Also the greatest innovation isn’t even happening at the hardware level – it’s happening at the computational photography level. (Google was crushing this 5 years ago – they had had “auto awesome” that used AI techniques to automatically remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add vignetting, etc… but recently Google has fallen back).

Apple doesn’t have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it.

Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don’t mind being a few years behind, buy an Android.

Damning words by Gundotra. If you have ever scoffed when Tim Cook says “this is something only Apple can do”, remember this post. It all goes back to owning as much of the technology stack as possible (hardware and software). As Gundotra points out, Apple has virtually no limitations when it comes to innovating because of this. Also for good measure, and because it’s so true, here’s Alan Kay’s legendary quote: “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” Google has just begun to do this with their Pixel phone line, but they’ve got a long way to go to execute at the level Apple does.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

An Apple A Day

Part I: The Wonderful World of Healthcare IT

They say an apple a day will keep the doctor away, but this Apple will keep them even closer.

Welcome to Part I of a series covering Apple’s growing Healthcare ambitions.

Apple began cozying up to healthcare with the iOS Health app and Apple Watch. You can sign up to become an organ donor in the Health app, and most people know the Watch can do simple things like track your workout, record your heart rate, as well as the beginning of advanced tasks like remote patient monitoring. However, Apple is not not stopping there. There’s been a large amount of activity surrounding their healthcare efforts as of late, which I’ll highlight. They’re clearly building towards something big.

I have worked as an IT Consultant for a major healthcare organization going on ten years now. Let me walk you through where I think Apple can make the biggest difference.

Read on

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Happy tenth birthday, iPhone!

Great video with David Pogue, Walt Mossberg, Steven Levy, and Ed Baig, the four journalists who received review units of the original iPhone before it launched.

I remember switching to my brother’s AT&T Family Plan just to get the original iPhone, since my parents were on Verizon and still had dumb phones. I upgraded from a Motorola RAZR1, which was the coolest flip phone at the time. Since then, I’ve been iPhone all the way and have never looked back.

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years; a relatively small amount of time in the grand scheme of things. That just makes me even more excited for the next ten years, which we’re just now beginning to fathom with the workings of AR, VR, Wearables, and beyond.

06/25/2017 at 10:35PM

The Wall Street Journal posted the above video interview with Greg Christie, Tony Fadell, and Scott Forstall focusing on creating the UI for the original iPhone. Quite a bit of it is a rehash of the information told last week by Forstall and others, but he touches on the software keyboard and how they knew it would be looked down on some compared to a hardware keyboard. Definitely still worth a watch. Fadell talks about testing the iPod Click Wheel to navigate a phone UI—highly impractical. Even Steve made a joke about it during the keynote with a fake reveal.


  1. I have great memories of the RAZR. It was the original ‘cool phone’ back in High School. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017