Thursday, 21 May 2015
Steven Berlin Johnson finds the digital crown button convoluted:
If you press this button, these are the potential events that will
transpire on your Watch’s screen:
- You’ll be taken to the “watch face” view.
- You’ll be taken to the “home screen” app view.
- You’ll stay in the “home screen” view, but it will re-center on
the “watch face” app.
- You’ll move from a detailed view of a notification back to the
His proposed solution:
Fortunately there is an easy fix for this confusion, which is to
streamline the Digital Crown so that it focuses exclusively on the
Watch’s two homes. Pressing the Digital Crown should simply toggle
you back and forth between the “watch face” and the “home screen.”
(Its other functionality could all be achieved through other
means; for instance, you can already re-orient the “home screen”
simply by dragging your finger across the Watch’s screen.) That’s
still more complicated than the iPhone home button, but it’s the
kind of thing most users would pick up in a matter of minutes
using the Watch. And it has a conceptual clarity that is sorely
lacking in the current design.
His whole piece is worth reading, because it aptly describes, almost exactly, how I felt about Apple Watch after using it for just a few days. Several of his complaints, which I would have agreed with in my first few days of Apple Watch use, I no longer consider problems.1 And even now, with seven weeks of daily Apple Watch experience under my belt, when I first read his suggestion for simplifying the digital crown button, I was nodding my head in agreement. But when I sat down to write about it, I realized there’s really only one small thing I would suggest Apple change: the last of its four roles noted by Johnson — its function as a hardware “back” button while looking at the detail view for a notification.
Otherwise, I would keep the functionality of the crown button as-is:
- If the watch display is off, pressing the crown wakes it up.
- If the watch is showing your glances or notifications, pressing the crown takes you back to the watch face.
- If the watch is displaying your watch face, pressing the crown switches you to the home screen showing all your apps.
- If you’re using any app, pressing the crown takes you back to the home screen, with the view centered on the app you just left.
- If the watch is on your home screen and the clock app is not centered, pressing it will re-center.
- If the watch is on the home screen, centered on the clock, pressing it will switch you to the watch face.
That looks more complicated than it is. And I’m even leaving out at least one other scenario: when you’ve put your home screen into edit mode — where you can delete and rearrange the installed apps — pressing the crown takes you out of editing mode.
Here’s a better way to think about it — and without thinking about it, the reason why I think most people aren’t frustrated or confused by the crown button after a week or so. It’s best to think of Apple Watch as having two modes: watch mode, and app mode.
You do not need to understand this to use the watch. Most Apple Watch owners will never really think about this. But this idea of two modes is central to understanding the design of the overall interaction model.
- Shows your watch face by default.
- Swipe down for notifications.
- Swipe up for glances.
- Tap a complication — date, weather, activity — to launch its corresponding app.
- Tap a glance to open to the corresponding app.
- Force tap to switch or edit watch faces.
- Shows your home screen, centered on the clock app, by default.
- No notification list or glances.
- Tap an app to open it.
- Long-tap on the home screen to open editing mode.
Watch mode is where you take quick glances at information and notifications; app mode is where you go to “do something”. Watch mode is where most people will spend the majority — perhaps the overwhelming majority — of their time using Apple Watch. App mode is a simple one-level hierarchy for “everything else”.
If you think about Apple Watch as having these two modes, the role of the crown button is clear:
- From the “default” view of either mode, the crown button switches you to the other mode.
- From anywhere else, the crown button takes you to the default view of the current mode. (There’s a slight exception here in app mode: if you’re using an app, pressing the crown first takes you to the home screen centered on the app you were just using, and you have to press it again to center the home screen on the clock app.)
Consider: What happens when you press the digital crown button while in, say, the Weather app? The answer is: It depends how you got there. If you start from the home screen and tap the Weather app icon, the digital crown button returns you to the home screen. If you start from the watch face, though, and launch the full Weather app by tapping the Weather glance, then the digital crown button returns you to the watch face.
This sounds confusing. And if you’re expecting Apple Watch’s digital crown button to work like iOS’s home button, it is not the expected behavior. But in practice, I think it works very well. I suspect this arrangement wasn’t designed in advance but was instead the result of many months of play-testing by the designers on the Apple Watch team.
Again, I agree with Johnson that if you’re looking at a notification detail view, the crown should take you all the way back to the watch face. You have to tap on screen to get into a notification detail view, and they all have a large “Dismiss” button at the bottom if going “back” is what you want. “Back” just doesn’t feel right for the digital crown button. It should simply mean go home in the current mode, or, if you’re already home, switch to the other mode.
I don’t mind the “re-center and re-zoom on the clock app” extra action for the digital crown button. To me, it’s directly analogous to the way the home button takes you back to the first home screen in iOS. More importantly, you don’t have to go back to the watch face (or, as I’m referencing it here, watch “mode”). That just happens automatically when you lower your wrist and stay away from the watch for 30 seconds. You don’t have to “clean up” and go back to the watch face manually. It just happens automatically when you stop using the watch. A few special apps behave otherwise — Workout and Remote, so far — but in both of those cases that makes sense. And, yes, there is a setting (General → Activate on Wrist Raise → Resume To) that allows you to always return to the last-used app, but I don’t see why anyone would use that unless they stubbornly insist upon treating their Apple Watch like a miniature iPhone. Another way to think of this option is as a toggle between treating “watch mode” and “app mode” as the primary mode.
Another insight: the side button exists outside either mode. It behaves the same way no matter which mode you’re in, no matter what you’re doing. One press of the side button brings up your Friends circle. A double-press initiates Apple Pay. In either case — Friends circle or Apple Pay — pressing (or double-pressing) the digital crown button dismisses the side button mode you entered. ★
Jason Snell on the ‘Utility’ Apple Watch Face ★
Utility works for me as a more minimal face, but it also works as
an information-dense one. It’s adaptable and beautiful. What I’m
saying is, Utility has quickly settled in to be my favorite Apple
‘Finally’ of the Day, iPhone Dock Edition ★
G. Keenan Schneider, writing at No Octothorpe on the widespread description of today’s new iPhone dock from Apple as the first in the Lightning era:
It’s obnoxious enough to have the inane insertion of the word,
“finally,” into the headline, but tech blogs have decided that’s
the new goto when they want to subversively neg Apple. What’s even
more obnoxious is that this story isn’t even factually correct.
Apple did release a Lightning dock with the 5c and 5s. I have
one. It’s great.
Gene Munster Gives Up ★
Also on CNBC:
For years Piper Jaffray’s closely followed analyst Gene Munster
proclaimed that Apple would soon launch a television set. On
Tuesday, he offered a mea culpa after a report surfaced that the
company gave up on the project more than a year ago.
“This is a tough day for me. It’s a hard reality to accept, and I
think that is the reality of it: the TV is on hold,” Munster told
He continued to say, “It’s a small consolation that they were
aggressively looking at this. At the end of the day, I was wrong.”
$10 says he doesn’t stop asking about it on the quarterly analyst calls.
Carl Icahn Still Thinks Apple Will Make TV Sets ★
Appearing on CNBC, to discuss Daisuke Wakabayashi’s aforelinked WSJ report claiming Apple has abandoned plans to make TV sets:
Moreover, Icahn still thinks there will be an Apple TV. “I read
the article,” Icahn said, “not what Tim Cook said or didn’t say,
but the whole thing is ridiculous … I’m not backtracking in
anyway. I believe they will do a TV. That’s my belief.”
Icahn posted a rather rambling “open letter” to Tim Cook, reiterating his belief that Apple will release an “ultra high definition television set” in 2016 and an electric car in 2020.
Wakabayashi reported that Apple has given up on plans for a standalone TV set, according to “people familiar with the matter”.
One way to read it is that Apple gave Wakabayashi this scoop in order to throw cold water on Icahn’s speculation — they’re not doing a TV set and they want everyone to know it, so that when they announce a new Apple TV box at WWDC next month (I know nothing about that other than that it’s widely rumored) everyone will understand that there is no TV set coming next year to wait for.
WSJ: Apple Shelved Plans to Make TV Set ★
Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:
Investor Carl Icahn said he expects Apple Inc. to introduce an
ultra-high-definition television in 2016. But after nearly a
decade of research, Apple quietly shelved plans to make such a
set more than a year ago, according to people familiar with
Apple had searched for breakthrough features to justify building
an Apple-branded television set, those people said. In addition to
an ultra-high-definition display, Apple considered adding
sensor-equipped cameras so viewers could make video calls through
the set, they said.
Ultimately, though, Apple executives didn’t consider any of those
features compelling enough to enter the highly competitive
television market, led by Samsung Electronics Co. Apple typically
likes to enter a new product area with innovative technology and
The most surprising thing about this, if true — and with Wakabayashi and “people familiar with the matter”, that’s a big if — is that Apple was still pondering their own TV sets as recently as a year or two ago.
Making boxes that connect to TVs — like Apple TV as it stands today — that makes sense to me. Making actual TV sets, though, I’ve long been skeptical about. Years ago, I thought, “Why should Apple settle for selling a $100 box connected to a $2000 TV instead of just selling the $2000 TV set with the box built in?” The problem, though, is that TV set prices have dropped dramatically, and people don’t replace their TV sets that frequently. The only way to build a large TV-based platform is to make boxes that connect to the TV sets people already own. There has to be a standalone Apple TV box. In theory, Apple could make an actual TV set, too, but I’m unconvinced that makes strategic sense.
The Dalrymple Report ★
New podcast, co-hosted by Jim Dalrymple and Merlin Mann. First episode is mostly non-tech (unless you consider electric guitars to be “tech”). Good stuff. Here’s a shortcut to subscribe in Overcast.
Apple Introduces New iPhone Lightning Dock ★
Truly curious about the timing on this — why not unveil it back when the iPhones 6 came out last year? I like using docks for my phone, and for years I used Apple’s. Ever since I switched to the iPhone 6 last year, though, I’ve used two third-party docks, both of which I like very much.
On my desk I use a black Twelve South HiRise Deluxe. It’s a bit fiddly to set up, but that’s because it’s adjustable to perfectly fit any iPhone or iPad Mini. It doesn’t block the home button, keeping the phone completely usable while docked. It’s lightweight, but it’s still easy to undock the phone one-handed. (Be sure to get the the HiRise Deluxe, not the regular HiRise. I have one of those, too, and the Deluxe model is definitely better. Twelve South should just discontinue the regular one.)
On my bedside table, I have a black and walnut Spool Dock from Quell and Company. The Spool Dock covers the home button (mostly), so it’s not a good option for my desk, where I sometimes actually use the phone while it’s docked. But I love it as a bedside dock. The “micro-suction pads” on the bottom really work — it never moves, and it’s easy to dock and undock the phone one-handed.
One thing both the HiRise and Spool Dock have in common with the new dock from Apple: they’re designed to work with iPhones of any width and thickness — past, current, or future.
Apple Watch OS 1.0.1 ★
Finally, support for the new emoji on Apple Watch.
Here’s Apple’s support document with instructions for how to install it. The first-ever software update for a new product always gives me pause, but it went just fine on my watch.
Debug 64: Horace Dediu of Asymco ★
Speaking of Horace Dediu, I much enjoyed his appearance on Guy English and Rene Ritchie’s Debug podcast, recorded a few weeks ago in front of a live audience at the Úll conference. Great stuff.
iPhone, Killer ★
In reality, the killers seem to have all faded away while the
iPhone continues. We could just shake our heads and move on, but a
deeper analysis is possible. Take a look at the graph above. Note
that iPhone’s (and hence Apple’s) ascent has not caused decline in
its nominal competitors. When seen in the context of the graph
above, the success of the iPhone has in fact been complementary to
those companies who would be its killers.
Interesting point. Obviously Apple has profited the most from iPhone, but it’s pretty clear that it’s led to a boom in the whole industry.
‘Upon This Wrist’ ★
Speaking of “a week or so with Apple Watch” reviews, I much enjoyed Craig Mod’s:
Very few notice the thing on the wrist. That makes me happy. But
some do see it. Once they see it they say, Oh is that the thing?
And I say, Yes it is the thing. And they ask, Has it changed your
life? And I shrug. And they are so disappointed. They want me to
say, Yes. Yes it has changed my life. The wrist thing. It’s made
me a better man, a stronger man, a more thoughtful man. But, no.
This is what I say: I say, Look, it shows maps. And they Ooooo.
And I show them the remote camera and they Ahhhhh. And I say,
look — my heartbeat. And they say, Wow, you have a high resting
heart rate. And I sigh and say, I know. Oh, how I know.
Longtime Pebble User Stephen Orth on Apple Watch ★
Interesting “one week with Apple Watch” piece by Stephen Orth:
However, to get back, you must tap the tiny on-screen navigation
button in the upper left corner (much like the standard navigation
controls in iOS). This seems weird to me. I find myself wanting an
actual physical button on the upper-left side of the watch that
takes me back (much like the Pebble, or even one of my beloved
Casios.) What I think could have really worked is if Apple had
placed the “friend” or Side Button on the upper left side of the
watch instead of below the Digital Crown — the functionality
could be the same — if you’re viewing a watch face and you press
the friend button, it works exactly as it does today. However, if
you’re deep in an email, or an iMessage, or a Yelp review, you
merely hit the friend button a couple of times to get back to the
app screen and maybe once again to the watch face.
A hardware Back button at the top left is an interesting idea, but, I think, a bad one. I do agree about the problem though: those tiny on-screen back buttons are too small to tap reliably. I’ve found that swiping from the left edge is a far better way to go back on Apple Watch — so much so that I never actually try to tap those back buttons any more.
For one thing, putting a button directly across from the digital crown would lead to the same problem some people have with the iPhones 6: when they try to press the power or volume up buttons, they accidentally press the wrong one, because they’re right across from each other, and the natural way they hold the phone is with a finger on one of the buttons and their thumb on the other.
William Zinsser, Author of ‘On Writing Well,’ Dies at 92 ★
Douglas Martin, writing for the NYT:
William Zinsser, a writer, editor and teacher whose book “On
Writing Well” sold more than 1.5 million copies by employing his
own literary craftsmanship to urge clarity, simplicity, brevity
and humanity, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was
His advice was straightforward: Write clearly. Guard the message
with your life. Avoid jargon and big words. Use active verbs. Make
the reader think you enjoyed writing the piece.
He conveyed that himself with lively turns of phrase:
“There’s not much to be said about the period except that
most writers don’t reach it soon enough,” he wrote in “On
I’ve mentioned Zinsser and On Writing Well a few times over the years. I could not recommend that book any more highly. Everyone could benefit from reading it — and, every few years, re-reading it. A classic for the ages.
Apple Says First HomeKit Smart Devices Coming in June ★
Daisuke Wakabayashi, writing for the WSJ:
Apple said the first HomeKit-enabled smart-home devices are coming
out next month, refuting a report that said delays with the home
automation software platform would push back the launch until
August or September.
“HomeKit [hardware certification] has been available for just a
few months and we already have dozens of partners who have
committed to bringing HomeKit accessories to market and we’re
looking forward to the first ones coming next month,” said Apple
spokeswoman Trudy Muller.
Apple’s statement comes on the heels of a report in Fortune that
said Apple’s software platform — which will allow the company’s
devices to control connected home appliances — was experiencing
problems and that the introduction of the first HomeKit devices
were being delayed.
Update: The Fortune story, reported by Stacey Higginbotham, has since been updated to add “for some devices” to the headline, but as published originally, and until Apple gave this story to the WSJ, stated unequivocally “Apple Delays HomeKit Launch”. You can see it in the URL slug, which comes from the original headline. Fortune blew this one.
This feels like another case of the new, more open, Apple PR. They used to never respond to stories like this, or, if they did, it wasn’t with an on-the-record statement from a named company representative like Trudy Muller.
Apple Watch Can Be Reset Without Passcode ★
I’m not sure whether this is a bug, or by design. But at least for now, you can force a factory reset on Apple Watch by:
- Locking the watch. (Take it off your wrist.)
- Long press on the side button to bring up the “Power Off” screen.
- Force tap on the “Power Off” screen.
At this point, you’ll see a new screen with two buttons: “Erase all content and settings” and “Cancel”. It’s a rather ugly layout, which makes me think this is a diagnostic feature, not something that was intended to be exposed to actual users. The only restriction on erasing all content and settings is that the watch has to be connected to a power source — you’re never prompted to enter your passcode.
(Calling this “How to Steal an Apple Watch” earns Philip Elmer-DeWitt a Clickbait Headline of the Day award. Congratulations.)
Facebook Instant Karma ★
With Instant Articles, Facebook has not only done a 180 from
what Mark Zuckerberg has called the company’s biggest
they’ve now done another lap just to prove a point. Not only
is the web not fast enough for apps, it’s not fast enough for
And you know what, they’re right.
Such a stance will be considered blasphemy in some circles. But it
doesn’t change the very real and very obvious truth: on mobile,
the web browser just isn’t cutting it.
Speaking of that “end,” it’s important to note that Facebook is,
of course, still powered by that very same web. What it’s no
longer powered by is a web browser. That’s very different.
Apple Intervening in RadioShack Sale to Protect Customer Data ★
Joseph Keller, writing for iMore:
Apple is intervening in the sale of RadioShack, filing a motion to
prevent the sale of some customer data to bidders for RadioShack’s
assets. While the company doesn’t object to the sale in general,
they are hoping to block the sale of the personal data of
customers who purchased Apple products from RadioShack stores.
Apparently selling that data would violate Apple’s reseller
agreement with RadioShack, according to Law360.
Seems like they’re going above and beyond on this one.
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Michael Reckhow, Facebook product manager:
As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make
the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot
of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date,
however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load,
by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant
Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster
than standard mobile web articles.
A few thoughts:
This looks beautiful. Clearly it’s built by the team that did Facebook Paper, with things like the way you tilt the phone to pan around large photos. The knock against Paper is that it only “works” if your friends and family post beautiful, well-crafted content to their Facebook feeds, and, well, that’s not the case for most people. Instant Articles, on the other hand, is all about professionally-produced content.
I’m intrigued by the emphasis on speed. Not only is native mobile code winning for app development, but with things like Instant Articles, native is making the browser-based web look like a relic even just for publishing articles. If I’m right about that, it might pose a problem even for my overwhelmingly-text work at Daring Fireball. Daring Fireball pages load fast, but the pages I link to often don’t. I worry that the inherent slowness of the web and ill-considered trend toward over-produced web design is going to start hurting traffic to DF.
There’s also a convenience advantage over per-publication native apps. People are already checking Facebook many times a day on their phones. When they encounter these Instant Articles, they’re one tap and a moment away from reading them. People just don’t check many apps — check the New York Times, check National Geographic, check BBC News — that just isn’t how people use their phones. At best, standalone per-publication apps can get our attention through notifications, but notifications are bothersome in a way that something scrolling through your Facebook feed is not. And an aggregator of content from multiple sources — like, say, Flipboard, to name one obvious competitor — is asking users to check an extra app every day. There are only so many apps people will check for “new stuff” every day.
Like Paper, Facebook Instant Articles is iPhone-only, and from what I can tell, Facebook hasn’t said a word about Android support. (Paper is even
North America US-only — Instant Articles are supported worldwide.) Many are presuming it’s forthcoming, but Paper remains iOS-only. For the moment at least, Facebook isn’t really treating “mobile” as their first-class target platform — they’re treating the iPhone as their first-class target platform. (Instant Articles isn’t even available on iPad yet.)
I’ve been skeptical about this whole thing from the publishers’ angle. Seems dangerous to cede control over your content to a company like Facebook. But it sounds like the business aspects are very favorable. Publishers can use their own ads and keep 100 percent of the money; if Facebook sells the ads, they use a 70/30 App Store-style split of the money. And there’s no exclusivity. ★
Friday, 8 May 2015
Great piece by Jason Kottke, “Asking ‘Who’s the Customer?’”:
This might be off-topic (or else the best example of all), but
“who’s the customer?” got me thinking about who the customers of
large public corporations really are: shareholders and potential
shareholders. The accepted wisdom of maximizing shareholder
value has become an almost moral imperative for large
corporations. The needs of their customers, employees, the
environment, and the communities in which they’re located often
take a backseat to keeping happy the big investment banks, mutual
funds, and hedge funds who buy their stock. When providing good
customer service and experience is viewed by companies as opposite
to maximizing shareholder value, that’s a big problem for
This is my biggest long-term concern regarding Apple. They’ve gotten to this pinnacle by focusing on making great products for us, their customers. I believe Tim Cook and his executive team are consciously aware that they need to maintain that focus — that maniacal focus on great products and doing right by their customers is the foundation of the machine. And while the profits continue to grow, “the market” seems to agree that for Apple, this product-driven customer-first focus is aligned with shareholder value.
But eventually they’ll hit a dry spell. Slumps are inevitable. And I worry that eventually, during such a slump, “the market” will put irresistible pressure on Apple’s future leadership to start acting more like a typical company — one that only pays lip service to creating great products and putting customers first. For just a small taste, consider all the 2013 pieces, written at the time with straight faces, about Samsung “out-innovating” Apple.
Apple University exists to perpetuate Apple’s product- and customer-driven culture. I think it’s a wonderful idea, one of the smartest things that company has ever done — a signal of institutional self-awareness that Apple’s success, no matter how large, is fragile. But it’s only a way to strengthen the company’s focus internally. External pressure, from investors and “the market” — is outside the company’s control.
The best example I can think of is the airline industry. With few exceptions, airlines are set up to please investors ahead of passengers. Perhaps the most depressing business news in the last year was JetBlue succumbing to investor pressure to add baggage fees and reduce legroom in their cabins. It wasn’t because JetBlue was unprofitable, it was because they weren’t profitable enough to satisfy their investors.
No one but a fool would argue that Apple is not profitable enough today. But as soon as they stop growing, the chorus will start. And someday, inevitably, Apple will find itself in a slump such that the chorus will grow loud.
We can still laugh at reporter Bob Keefe asking Steve Jobs why Apple doesn’t booger up its computers with “Intel Inside” promotional stickers back in 2007, but silly though it seems, those stickers are sort of like airline baggage fees. As noted by John Siracusa at the time, Jobs’s final line in his answer to the question was telling:
“We put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and say, what do we want?”
Apple’s leadership still understands that this customer-driven focus is what drives their exceptional success. But it would be better for the company’s long-term prospects if everyone else — Wall Street in particular — understood this too. It’s not a luxury Apple can afford because it’s insanely profitable; rather, it’s the reason why the company is insanely profitable. ★