By John Gruber
Put an audio mixer inside your Mac. Save 20% on Loopback, with coupon code FIREBALL20.
Medium seems to continue to grow in popularity as a publishing platform, and as it does, I’m growing more and more frustrated by their on-screen “engagement” turds. Every Medium site displays an on-screen “sharing” bar that covers the actual content I want to read. This is particularly annoying on the phone, where screen real estate is most precious. Now on iOS they’ve added an “Open in App” button that literally makes the last 1-2 lines of content on screen unreadable. To me these things are as distracting as having someone wave their hand in front of my face while I try to read.
Here’s an annotated screenshot (and threaded rant) I posted to Twitter while trying to read Steven Sinofksy’s WWDC 2017 trip report on my iPad Pro review unit last week.
Safari already has a built-in Sharing button. It has all the options for sharing I need. And as I scroll the page, it disappears so that I can see as much text on screen as possible. Safari is designed to be reader-friendly, as it should be. But it’s trivial to get that Sharing button back when I want it – just tap the bottom of the screen and there it is. Easy.
This is now a very common design pattern for mobile web layouts. Medium is far from alone. It’s getting hard to find a news site that doesn’t put a persistent sharing dickbar down there.
TechCrunch’s waste of space deserves special mention, for having a persistent navbar at the top and a persistent ad, in addition to their sharing dickbar.
I’m sure “engagement” does register higher with these sharing dickbars, but I suspect a big part of that is because of accidental taps. And even so, what is more important, readability or “engagement”? Medium wants to be about readability but that’s hard to square with this dickbar, and especially hard to square with the “Open in App” button floating above it.
iOS also has a standard way to prompt users to install the app version of a website — Smart App Banners. And it’s user-dismissible.
For any piece over a page long, I read Medium pieces with Safari’s Reader Mode. Medium is supposed to be a reader-optimized layout by default. It should be one of the sites where you’re never even tempted to switch to Reader Mode.
I’m frustrated by this design pattern everywhere I see it. But I’m especially disappointed by Medium’s adoption of it. I don’t expect better from most websites. I do expect better from Medium.
I don’t expect to break through to the SEO shitheads running the asylums at most of these publications, but Medium is supposed to be good. When people click a URL and see that it’s a Medium site, their reaction should be “Oh, good, a Medium site — this will be nice to read.” Right now it’s gotten to the point where when people realize an article is on Medium, they think, “Oh, crap, it’s on Medium.” ★
Federico Viticci, MacStories, “The 10.5-inch iPad Pro: Future-Proof”:
A good way to think about the iPad’s new display with ProMotion is not the difference between low-res and Retina screens, but the jump from 30fps to 60fps. You see more of every animation. Text is more legible when you scroll and doesn’t judder. It’s hard to explain and it has to be seen and experienced to be fully understood. Every scroll, page transition, and app launch animation on the 10.5″ iPad Pro is absurdly smooth to the point of feeling unrealistic at first — hence the common reaction that something doesn’t quite compute. But as you spend some time with the new iPad and start using it on a daily basis, its display becomes normal and you wish that other Apple displays were the same.
I’m not even a week into my tests with the 10.5″ iPad Pro, and I think scrolling on my first-gen 12.9″ iPad Pro looks choppy now. I’d be surprised if 120Hz displays with ProMotion don’t expand to the iPhone later this year and other Apple computers in the future. The combination of hardware and software really is that good.
Last year when True Tone was introduced with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Phil Schiller said something to the effect of “Once you get used to True Tone, you can’t go back.” I optimistically took that as a sign that the iPhone 7 would have True Tone. It did not, and the reason is probably that True Tone requires additional hardware sensors on the front face to pick up the ambient light temperature, and the iPhone has less room for additional sensors. But with ProMotion, I’m really hopeful that it’ll make its way into this year’s new iPhones. ProMotion doesn’t require additional sensors — only a super-fast GPU (which the iPhone will have) and intricate software support in iOS (which work Apple has already done for the iPad Pro).
Anyway, it’s really hard to quote just one bit from Viticci’s review. If you only thoroughly read one review of the new iPad Pro, it should be his. Nobody outside Apple cares as much about iPad as he does.
Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch, “Apple Pays Off Its Future-of-Computing Promise With iPad Pro”:
After playing with the new iPad Pro 10.5” for a few days, I am convinced that it’s fairly impossible to do a detailed review of it in its current state.
Not because there is some sort of flaw, but because it was clearly designed top to bottom as an empty vessel in which to pour iOS 11.
Every feature, every hardware advancement, every piece of understated technical acrobatics is in the service of making Apple’s next-generation software shine.
Dieter Bohn, The Verge, “iPad Pro 10.5 Review: Overkill”:
I was all set to complain that increasing the size from 9.7 to 10.5 was not a big enough jump to justify requiring people to buy new keyboards and accessories. Then I started typing on the on-screen keyboard and on the new hardware Smart Keyboard. Even though I’m dubious about Apple’s claim that the software keyboard is “full size”, I find the slight size increase makes touch typing much easier. It’s still a little cramped, but it’s much easier to bounce between this and a real keyboard now.
It really does make a difference in typing, and no practical difference at all in terms of holdability.
To me, if you’re going to spend $650 on a computer, it should almost surely be your main computer. And if you’re going to make the iPad Pro your main computer, you should probably get more than 64GB of storage and you should also probably get a keyboard to go with it (to say nothing of the Apple Pencil). It hits the $1,000 mark very quickly.
I don’t agree with the notion that a $650 computer should be your “main computer” at all. Apple stuff isn’t for the budget-conscious — news at 11.
Brian X. Chen, The New York Times, “New iPad Pro Inches Toward Replacing PC, but Falls Short”:
Five years later, Mr. Jobs’s successor, Timothy D. Cook, took the iPad a step further. Unveiling the iPad Pro, a souped-up tablet that worked with Apple’s keyboard and stylus, he remarked that people would try the product and “conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.”
That prediction has not appeared to come true. Many professionals say they use an iPad in addition to a personal computer, and sales of iPads have shrunk quarter after quarter for more than a year, an indication that hordes of people were not trading in their PCs for tablets just yet.
That situation is unlikely to change with Apple’s newest iPad Pro, which will be released this week. […] But after about a week of testing the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, I concluded that Apple’s professional tablet still suffers from some of the same problems when compared with a laptop.
That’s a slanted truncation of Cook’s quote. Cook’s full quote: “Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.” Chen’s truncation makes it sound like Cook claimed the iPad Pro was a Mac or Windows replacement for everyone. He didn’t. And the fact that the new iPad Pro debuted alongside new MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and even more-megahertz-in-the-box MacBook Airs shows that Apple doesn’t think so either. Update: And I completely forgot to mention the solid updates to the iMacs and the announcement of the iMac Pro.
“I prefer a laptop to an iPad Pro” is very different from “A laptop is better than an iPad Pro”. Me, personally, I much prefer working on a MacBook Pro to an iPad Pro. But I can see why others feel the opposite. That’s the whole point of Apple’s strategy of keeping them separate, rather than unifying them Microsoft Surface-style.
iPad’s slowly diminishing sales are a real thing. But I don’t think that can be used as a gauge for whether more and more people are using an iPad as their main computer. And iPad sales are still more than double those of the Mac. There’s no reason to doubt that “many, many people” are concluding they no longer need a Mac or PC.
Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica, “The 10.5-Inch iPad Pro Is Much More “Pro” Than What It Replaces”:
Of all the computers Apple sells, none of them has screens that do quite as much stuff as the iPad Pros are doing.
That list starts with DCI-P3 color gamut support (new in the 12.9-inch Pro, returning to the smaller one) and an anti-reflective coating, features also present in recent iMacs and MacBook Pros. But the True Tone feature, which detects the color temperature of the ambient light, adjusts the display’s color temperature to match. Most significantly, the iPad’s refresh rate has been bumped up to 120Hz, twice the normal 60Hz. The screens in the iPad Pros are the best screens Apple ships, which is appropriate for a thing that’s just a giant screen by design.
The 10.5-inch Pro has a 2224×1668 screen, up just a little bit from the 2048×1536 in 9.7-inch iPads. The density is identical, so photos and text are exactly the same size they were before; you can just fit a bit more of them on-screen at once.
That’s important to note. There was some clever speculation by Dan Provost a few months ago that the 10.5-inch iPad would have the same pixel dimensions as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with a higher pixels-per-inch density. That’s what Apple did with the iPad Mini. The problem with that speculation is that while the math worked out, the size of things on screen would not. Everything would be shrunk by 20 percent. Not everyone’s eyes can handle that. That’s fine for the Mini — which is often used by sharp-eyed children — but not fine for the standard size iPad.
I had been thinking that maybe what Apple would do is what Provost suggested, but offer a choice between standard and zoomed mode like the Plus-sized iPhones do. Nope. I think what they’ve done is better though, because I think a scaled “zoomed” interface would look blurry at just 324 ppi. The iPhone Plus displays have a resolution of 401 ppi.
Harry McCracken, Fast Company, “A Better Window Into The World Of Apps”:
You can suss out a lot about Apple’s priorities from the aspects of a product it leaves alone and the ones it never stops obsessing over.
Consider the iPad. Every generation of Apple’s tablet since the first one in 2010 has had the same stated battery life–“up to 10 hours”–which suggests that the company thinks that shooting for anything in excess of that would be wasted effort.
That 2010 iPad weighed a pound and a half, and felt a bit hefty in the hand. With 2013’s iPad Air, Apple whittled that down to about a pound. And there the mid-sized iPads have stayed, weight-reduction mission accomplished.
However, when it comes to the iPad’s display, Apple has never been satisfied to rest on its technological laurels. ★
The Verge has an exclusive (and lengthy) excerpt from Brian Merchant’s The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, which comes out next week. Merchant seemingly has many first-hand sources on the record, including Tony Fadell and perhaps Scott Forstall. (I say “perhaps” because it’s not clear from the excerpt whether Forstall spoke to Merchant, or if Merchant got the Forstall quotes from somewhere else. It seems like there should be a lot more from Forstall in this story if he actually talked to Merchant.)
But Fadell spoke to Merchant extensively, including this shot at Phil Schiller:
The iPod phone was losing support. The executives debated which project to pursue, but Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing, had an answer: Neither. He wanted a keyboard with hard buttons. The BlackBerry was arguably the first hit smartphone. It had an email client and a tiny hard keyboard. After everyone else, including Fadell, started to agree that multitouch was the way forward, Schiller became the lone holdout.
He “just sat there with his sword out every time, going, ‘No, we’ve got to have a hard keyboard. No. Hard keyboard.’ And he wouldn’t listen to reason as all of us were like, ‘No, this works now, Phil.’ And he’d say, ‘You gotta have a hard keyboard!’” Fadell says.
I don’t know if it’s true or not that Schiller was singlehandedly pushing for a Blackberry-style keyboard. But even if true, it only looks foolish in hindsight, especially if this argument took place before the iPhone’s software team had come up with a proof-of-concept software keyboard. Today it’s clear that the iPhone needed a good keyboard, and that a touchscreen keyboard can be a good keyboard. Neither of those things was obvious in 2005. And in the context of this story, it’s clear that at the time of this purported argument, Steve Jobs and Apple weren’t yet sure if the iPhone should be a pocket-sized personal computer or a consumer electronics product that would have no more need for a keyboard (hardware or software) than an iPod did. My guess is that Schiller was insisting that the iPhone needed to be a personal computer, not a mere gadget, and it wasn’t unreasonable to believe a software keyboard wouldn’t be good enough. For chrissakes there were critics who insisted that the iPhone’s software keyboard wasn’t good enough for years after the iPhone actually shipped.
I do know that Schiller’s hard-charging, brusque style and his obvious political acumen have made him a lot of enemies over the years. It sounds like Fadell is one of them.
So I’ll just say this: this story about Phil Schiller pushing for a hardware keyboard comes from one source (so far — if anyone out there can back that up, my window is always open for little birdies), and that one source is the guy who admittedly spent over a year working on iPhone prototypes with a click wheel interface.
Then there’s this:
Schiller didn’t have the same technological acumen as many of the other execs. “Phil is not a technology guy,” Brett Bilbrey, the former head of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, says. “There were days when you had to explain things to him like a grade-school kid.” Jobs liked him, Bilbrey thinks, because he “looked at technology like middle America does, like Grandma and Grandpa did.”
Hats off to Bilbrey for putting his name on this quote, but having spoken to Schiller both on- and off-the-record many times, the idea that he “looks at technology … like Grandma and Grandpa did” and needs things explained to him “like a grade-school kid” is bullshit. Especially off-the-record, Schiller can drill down on technical details to a surprising degree. I don’t know what Schiller did to piss off Bilbrey, but Bilbrey either has a huge chip on his shoulder or was severely misquoted by Merchant.1
Here’s a story from Yoni Heisler for Network World on Brett Bilbrey’s retirement from Apple in 2014. Bilbrey headed Apple’s Technology Advancement Group. Merchant describes Bilbrey as having led “Apple’s Advanced Technology Group”. It’s a small detail, and the names are clearly similar, but the Advanced Technology Group was Larry Tesler’s R&D division at Apple, from 1986-1997. It was among the numerous divisions and products that Steve Jobs shitcanned after he rejoined the company. ↩︎