Leaked: iPhone 6 Sapphire Screen

July 8th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I was skeptical of the rumors that the new iPhone display would be made of sapphire crystal but this part leak looks pretty authentic. Not only is the clarity amazing but wait until he tries to scratch and bend the paper thin display. Vow!

Here is another impact test where they go a bit further.

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An iOS Wish List

September 11th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

On the eve of Apple’s announcement of the next iPhone I find myself less curious about the new hardware than ever before. Partly this is due to an, at least by Apple standards, unprecedented number of hardware leaks that has all but spelled out exactly what the phone will look like1. This does not mean, however, that I’m am not look forward to the event as I am eagerly anticipating their software announcements. Even though they announced the majority of the iOS feature set back at WWDC I except them to have kept a few things in their back pocket. This happened last year with the announcement of Siri and while I don’t expect anything as big this year I’m still look forward to some new toys.


Better performance and access to third party apps are obvious items for anyone’s Siri wish list but I’m going to focus on things I want improved within the existing limits. Performance, after all, is a constant battle and opening up access to third party apps is a more complicated than we’d like to believe. Here are some things I would like to say to tell Siri.

  • Remind me to buy diapers 20 minutes after I get to work.2
  • Tell me when my wife leaves her current location.3
  • Add Alfred to Find My Friends.4
  • Remind me to fill out the TPS report when I get to work on friday.5
  • Turn on Bluetooth/WiFi.6

Notification Center

Notification Center is, in my mind, a great place to have fiddly little things that nerds like me love. Every time I have to cycle my WiFi or Bluetooth I am reminded that for certain tasks life is much better in the Android world. It seems to me that the Notification Center is the perfect place to add some quick settings. Anything that can be found in the Settings app can be pinned to the Notification Center for quick access. I’m envisioning little toggles, right on top. I’m sure people that use lots of accessibility settings would be over joyed at the prospect.

I would also like to see the widgets opened up to third party apps. It would be a great place to check sports scores or local traffic conditions.

Find My Friends

Why oh why is it so hard to add a friend on Find My Friends? Unless they are already adept at using the app I almost always have to physically take the phone from them and set it up. Why do I have to know the person’s AppleID? Most people I’ve added to the app gave me a blank stare when I asked them. Why can’t I just send them an iMessage or email that has a custom FMF URL?

I’d also like a way to setup location change alerts. I often find myself checking the app neurotically to see if someone has left their current location yet7. I know my wife does this regularly to find out if I have left work yet so she can start dinner. It would be great if she could simply setup an alert that told her every time I left work. Ideally it would be fiddly enough to only send a reminder after 5pm but that’s probably asking for too much.

Default Apps

This is by far my biggest pie in the sky hope that will probably never come to pass. I want to be able to change my default apps. I’ve come to the conclusion that while Apple makes fantastic eco systems I don’t much care for some of their apps. While they are typically elegant and easy to use8 I sometimes find them to be more like “proof of concept”. They begrudgingly add features like threaded emails and sometimes do so in an inelegant or even insulting manner. I picture a cranky old man sitting at a desk saying “fine, you want this dumb feature *scribble* *scribble* *scribble*, there is your damn feature!” The App store has proven that Apple is far from the only source of innovation out there and I’d like them to get out of the way.

To do this they need to allow users to replace the system apps with third party apps much like we can do on desktop operating systems. This would mean that when I say “Siri, remind me to bake a cake” it could set that up in Due. It would mean that the next Sparrow could have push notifications and that Agenda would be able to sync without having to be launched regularly. The most dramatic change would be the browser since “Open in Safari” can be found in so many apps. To me Chrome is useless because it can’t actually replace Safari.

If implemented right it could even result in a more secure ecosystem for users. I’m envisioning a system where you would still setup your email in the Settings app and the mail client you installed wouldn’t even have access to them. It would simply hit the API and ask it to download the emails. Obviously we would be able to replace all Apps but here is my list in order of preference.

  1. It appears that Apple’s success has been it’s own downfall in their attempt to “double down on secrecy”. I’m assuming that they are producing iPhone 5’s at an unprecedented rate and each new layer in the supply chain is a potential information sieve. []
  2. There are other apps that let you do this but since they don’t have Siri integration they aren’t as easy to add new items []
  3. I’m thinking this would require an upgrade to Find My Friends and there are privacy issues with that so it would require a password to finalize. []
  4. The current method for adding friends to the app is even more miserable than trying to manually setup a location based reminder in Reminders. []
  5. Currently you can not have a location based reminder that also has a date requirement. []
  6. It’s sad that this would be easier than the current 62 taps it takes []
  7. Not in a creepy way, I swear. For reals. []
  8. Notable exceptions being Find My Friends & Reminders []
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Apple’s Official WWDC 2012 App Could Represent The Future of iOS

May 31st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Will Apple update the UIKit widgets in iOS 6 to this sleek new gray? I certainly hope so.

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The 4-inch iPhone

April 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

A great summary of the pros & cons of a widescreen (16×9) iPhone. I’m still not sure where I stand on the idea. Letterbox would be nice for watching video and playing games but I agree with Dan that landscape mode for everything else would be even worse than it currently is. Paramount is the reach issue however. The ability to hold your phone with one hand and easily reach all parts of the screen is the difference between a handheld computer and portable one. It’s anecdotal at best but whenever I see someone using their 4-5″ phone it’s a two handed operation. After years of being able to do everything with one hand I think that would get old rather quickly.

I’m sure these are some of the pros & cons that Apple has weighed and I’m curious to see which path they decided to take1. It would be cool to see a bigger screen but my guess is that they won’t change it.

  1. I’m assuming that they have picked an aspect ratio for the next iPhone by now. Even if manufacturing hasn’t started it seems they would have to already be working on the software. []
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My favorite iPhone/iPad feature that you aren’t using

April 23rd, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

If you have ever tried to type “omw” on an iPhone or iPad you may have been surprised that it was replaced with “On my way!”. This is the default keyboard shortcut that came with iOS 5 when it launched last September alongside the iPhone 4S. Given the slew of other features and the esoteric history of “keyboard shortcuts” it is no surprise that they didn’t get much attention but I have come up with a few that I find incredible useful.

iOS Shortcuts

iOS Shortcuts 1

The ones on top are not terribly interesting. “np” being replaced by “No Problem!” fixes an auto-correct that was the bane of my existence for a time. Someone would text me with a “thank you” and I would reply “np” and hit send. Since “p” is right next to “o” auto-correct would ever so helpfully change it to “no” right before it sent the message which is kind of the opposite of “no problem”. I replaced “lol” with “that is hilarious” because typing lol is very easy but being something of an old school nerd I can’t stand that phrase anymore. I rarely use fmin because I don’t remember it.

The most useful shortcuts are “@@”, “1321” and “sb”. Using “@@” to enter your email address is a great time saver and it ensures that you don’t mistype your email address. It wasn’t until I added this shortcut that I realized how often I have to type my email address. If the form was built properly you will even get an @ key on the first screen of the keyboard. No “shift” required. “1321” is great because I don’t have to remember it. I just start typing my mailing address and bam! “sb”, “la”, “sf” & “nyc” are great city replacements as well. I almost made one for my zipcode before I realized it would save me nothing.

How To

To add your own shortcuts do the following on your iPhone or iPad

  1. Tap Settings on your home screen
  2. Tap General
  3. Scroll down to Keyboard and tap it
  4. Tap Shortcuts and then the + button in the top right

One thing I found confusing at first was that you type the phrase (eg: 1321 Main St) first, and then you type the shortcut (eg: 1321). Perhaps this makes perfect sense to you but for me it was completely backwards.

  1. This isn't what the screen actually looks like, I stripped out all the ridiculous address book type organization so I could fit it all on one screenshot so to speak. Looks better don't you think? []
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Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android by Pebble Technology — Kickstarter

April 23rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve long fantasized about a watch that would use bluetooth to show me who is calling and text messages but assumed we would need better battery tech before it was feasible. I hadn’t even considered e-paper. Brilliant.

Also, kickstarter is amazing! I feel like we are at the beginning of a manufacturing revolution and a return to a time when small groups of people invent a physical product. Brilliant.

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Siri, the little things that make a big difference

December 1st, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink


The nice version of HAL 9000

I believe that in 30 years most of us will look back at Siri as the birth of true artificial intelligence (AI). For the first time we can talk to a computer. I’m not talking about voice commands where the computer recognizes a few words and does a ridiculously poor job of interpreting them; I’m talking about a computer that takes natural English and figures out what underlying commands you want it to perform. Below you will find some of my favorite uses that were not shown in the Siri ads. The obvious examples like “Read me my text message” and “Call my wife” are great but are only useful when you aren’t able to look at the device; I want to touch on the myriad of uses that trump using your thumbs.

Call The Natural Cafe

One of my favorite examples of natural language interpretation is when you ask Siri to call a business that you don’t have in your address book. Here I asked Siri to “Call the Natural Cafe”. Any other voice command software would have said either “I can’t find a natural cafe in your address book” or even worse “Calling Nathan Cole”. Siri, on the other hand, somehow recognized that I want a business and used Yelp to search for “The Natural Cafe”. She then went the extra mile and returned just the right amount of information. Business Name and the Street it’s on along with distance from my current position as well as the average review rating. Within about 10 seconds of pulling my phone out of my pocket it’s dialing a number that would have taken an experienced user a minute to retrieve, never mind a novice.

Siri starting a timer

Siri getting cheeky

By far the most common thing I ask Siri to do is start my timer. Like most things in life I’m very particular about how long my green tea brews and I’ve always relied upon some sort of timer to get it just right. I’ve used web apps, kitchen timers and iPhone apps but nothing compares to the ease of using Siri. Sometimes she even likes to get a little cute with me as she did here. I’ve also taken to using Siri to start my timer while I’m cooking. Using headphones my phone came with I can just hold down the button until I hear a beep and say “Start a 20 minute timer”. No more burnt cookies.

Siri Reminder

Location Aware Reminders

Ok this one is in the ads but it’s just too damn useful to pass up. All I have to say is “Remind me to call my sister when I get home” and when I get home the phone will buzz and pop up a handy little link that dials my sister. Don’t gloss over the when you get home part as it’s simply amazing. Some would even call it magic. Now, technically you don’t need Siri to set this up, you just need iOS 5, but doing so manually is quite tedious. By my count it’s a minimum of 10 taps plus typing out the actual reminder and I don’t know of a way to add a contact to the reminder which means no handy link. This is my 2nd most common use of Siri but by far the biggest time saver. It’s amazing how much more reliable I have become at completing items on my never ending honey-do list.

Siri Unit Conversion

How many ounces in a pint?

Back when I had a Nokia feature phone I discovered the wonders of searching Google via SMS (text message) and by far the most common thing I used it for was converting things from one unit to another. If I was cooking a special recipe I would bring an ingredients list and there would inevitably be some ingredient that would need to be converted. For example the recipe might say “1 pint” but the bottle in the store would be measured in fluid ounces. I was very proud of myself for being able to Google such a thing back in 2004 but the process was still a bit tedious. Even on my iPhone typing such a thing out accurately was something of a chore. Siri makes it the most trivial of tasks. You can also use it for converting currency which sounds like a great travel aid.

Siri understanding spanish words

I had no idea how to spell pasilla

I was having dinner at a friend’s house shortly after I unboxed my iPhone 4S and my wife, a little tired of the praise I was heaping on my new girlfriend, said “Well ask here if she knows what the difference between Pasilla and Pablano chilies is”. Of course Siri doesn’t know such an esoteric thing but I thought I would give it a try to push the language interpretation a bit and I was quite surprised when she got every single word correct. I now use Siri for any Google search that requires more than two words. I have also found myself asking her questions in plain English which can yield surprisingly good Google results. I also enjoy the look of incredulity I get from people I start talking to my phone like I’m a character in Star Trek. Siri rarely lets me down.

Correcting Siri

Not quite right Siri

The last tip I’ll leave you with comes in handy when Siri doesn’t quite get it right. I have found that 90% of the time she gets something wrong that word or phrase is underlined in red. Give that word a tap and she usually suggest the one you were looking for. Even if it’s not there the keyboard pops up and you can correct it. So even in this worst case scenario1 you are still saved time by not typing out most of your query.

  1. Well, worst case scenario is obviously when Siri can’t do anything because of either internet connectivity problems or an overloaded server but lets not be pedantic. []
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The iPad would have been a flop if not for its iPod roots

October 10th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Jump yourself over to an alternate universe where Apple’s iPod doesn’t wipe out all of its competition. Perhaps they leave it tethered to the Mac too long1 or a competitor swoops in and steals their thunder. For the sake of simplicity lets also assume that they went on to develop the iPhone and iPad as they currently exist today. In that world I believe the iPad would simply be yet another marker along tablet failure highway. While I do believe that the iPad is a remarkable device it’s consumer faith that has allowed it to become the runaway success.

Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field

The iPod was the first device to come along that allowed your average consumer to listen to digital music on something besides PC speakers. It opened up the wonderful world of downloadable music to a group of people that had been too intimidated or too busy to learn how to use the myriad of tools needed to listen to an MP3. Assuming the user actually went through the arduous task of learning how to use these tools they would still be woefully unprepared for trying to choose an MP3 player. The long list of features would be almost entirely meaningless and the sheer number of choices would leave most consumers in a state of decision overload. Put yourself in the shoes of one of these consumers and imagine that a friend of equal technical savvy is showing off their new iPod. They load up iTunes, buy a song and plug in their iPod to sync. Already you would be impressed at the simplicity of the process and when you actually pick up the device and navigate down a few intuitive menus to find yourself listening to the latest Avril Lavigne hit you would be stunned. All within 5 minutes. Tops. You have now witnessed the birth of the “Reality Distortion Field”; it had nothing to do with Steve Jobs and everything to do with an expectation of usability. Apple has always promised to deliver a superior user experience and they rarely disappoint. It’s reliability that brings people back, not some magical marketing aura.

Consumer Revolution

While the tech elite chalked the success of the iPod up to the fashion symbol of using white headphones they were completely blind to revolution that was taking place around them. As people discovered a product that did what they wanted it to in an intuitive way they were quietly changing the way gadgets were built. When Joe Shmoe found himself able to make a purchase decision without having to rely upon his 18-year old nephew he became the target. Instead of being able to impress buyers with feature charts and acronyms gadget producers would soon find themselves having to focus on esoteric things like usability and aesthetic design. As they would soon find there was a sleeping giant ready to dominate that field.

Apple Awakes

The iPod introduced people to the Apple ethos of “it just works” but it was the next six years of product upgrades that cemented Apple’s title as king of usability. What is now known as the iPod classic was gradually improved without losing usability while side products like the iPod shuffle impressed consumers with it’s compact size and minimal feature set. Yes that’s right, minimal feature set. By taking things away Apple has made their products simpler, easier to use and ultimately more attractive to consumers. By improving without cluttering they showed consumers that newer can indeed be better. I dare you to find someone who upgraded MS Office for anything but .docx compatibility.

Enter the iPhone

People have been carrying around crappy feature phones with little incentive to upgrade to so called smartphones. So wait, it’s bigger, uglier, shorter battery life and comes with a task manager? Thanks, I’ll keep my Nokia+iPod combo that gets the job done. With that kind of landscape it’s no wonder the iPhone and it’s open source clone Android were runaway successes. All Apple had to do was announce a new phone and I’m guessing most iPod users would have bought it sight unseen.

I don’t believe Apple could have jumped straight from the iPod to the iPad and achieved the same level of success. The iPhone proved to the world that Apple was not a one-hit wonder2. They entered a new market and promptly put the entire industry to shame. Apple’s role as a market disruptor was solidified by the success of the iPhone.

A new product category

Building upon these successes Apple was able to repeat it’s most impressive feat yet; they created a new product category. Up until now all so called tablet computers had merely been desktops that you held in your hand with no discernible advantage. Windows had been in development for 20 years with the keyboard and mouse in mind so how would allowing someone to essentially hold their monitor in their lap improve the experience3? Clearly it didn’t as nobody had been able to sell a table computer with anything approaching success. Apple took the opposite approach. Instead of giving people a desktop in their lap they decided that there was a product category somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop computer that needed to be filled. Nerds were incredulous and called it a giant iPod touch but consumers would once again prove them wrong.

Perhaps we should not have been so surprised that Apple was able to create a new product category though. After all they had done it before with this thing called the Personal Computer.

  1. the first iPod used Firewire to transfer music which was something very few Windows users had []
  2. Yes, yes there were plenty of minor successes in the past but nothing mainstream []
  3. add a keyboard and mouse and you have something useful. A laptop. []
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The irony of the iPhone 4S “disappointment”

October 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Mac Rumors iPhone 5 mockup

I placed disappointment in dick quotes because while the tech elite of the world cry their crocodile tears and swear up and down that Apple has truly screwed up this time sales have actually been through the roof. AT&T is reporting it’s best iPhone launch yet while Sprint also seems to be quite pleased1 despite it’s multi-billion dollar gamble.2

I expect this news is really throwing the technorati for a loop because they have long been able to dismiss Apple’s success as consumer vanity. People liked iPods because they came with white headphones not because they were superior portable music devices. The same belief is prevalent today so the further success of an 18 month old form factor is a mystery to them. Surely because the iPhone 4S looks the same as the iPhone 4 people will not upgrade. How are people going to know they just dropped a few hundred dollars on their latest gadget?

Yet this is not the case. While having an iPhone may be a status symbol for many that’s not what keeps them coming back. A device that does what it’s supposed to do and does it well is a novelty in the tech industry. One that is also easy to use and is wrapped up in beautiful aesthetic design is one of a kind. People come back to apple not because of some stupid reality distortion field but because Apple lives up to it’s word.

  1. Ina Fried @ All Things D/ via DaringFireball.net []
  2. Though I suppose Sprint would have to say that to avoid a further stock pummeling. []
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Apple vs. Google : The Flawed Gaming Console Comparison

April 28th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The 80’s Desktop Wars are not the only historical models people are using to predict how the iOS vs. Android battle will play out. In an attempt to show that market share can change dramatically despite an overwhelming lead people point to the gaming console wars of the past 3 decades. Atari started out with a dominating lead only to be usurped by Nintendo’s NES console in 1985. They held this lead, despite heavy competition from Sega, until 1995 when Sony released their first Playstation. More targeted at 18-25 market it quickly supplanted Nintendo as the major player in the console market. Sony held this lead with their Playstation 2 but lost out to the Wii and XBox 360 as Nintendo and Microsoft brought new innovations to user interface (WiiMote) and gaming communities (XBox Live). As the 5 year gaming console life cycle grows to a close it’s anybody’s guess who will come out on top in the next round1. I find this to be a more compelling comparison to the current battle between Apple and Google than the Apple vs. Microsoft one but I think it has some serious flaws.

There can be only one

If you look at the behavior of the consumers of gaming consoles as compared to the consumers of smartphones there are some key differences. A smartphone user will almost universally choose one product over another. With rare exception do people carry around multiple cell phones and I would guess that when they do one of them is a feature phone2. For people who buy consoles the decision is not as absolute but rather a preference for one platform over another. If you purchase an XBox today there is no reason that you couldn’t purchase a Wii later. Switching between the two is just an input button away.

Consoles are not “sticky”

As Horace Dediu posits in his How sticky is Android? article the stickiness of a platform really comes down to the software. As I pointed out yesterday it was this very issue that helped Windows maintain a huge lead over Mac OS in the 90’s. If you want to switch sticky platforms you have to give up all the money you invested in software. For gaming consoles, however, this does not hold true. When someone upgrades from one console generation to the next they are all but expecting to lose their software investment. Sure there are some consoles that are backwards compatible but that does little more than free up a display input on your TV. If you really want to play those old games you can leave your old console hooked up and it costs you nothing. Even these people are the outliers though because when someone does decide to make the leap into the next generation they are doing so because they want to play new and improved games. They aren’t just expecting to lose their investment, they want to.

This is simply not the case for platforms such as smartphones and desktop operating systems. People might get bored of games and be willing to lose that investment but it’s the productivity apps that are going to have a big influence over whether someone switches platforms. I would argue that this gives iOS the upper hand because of their superior apps and the fact that their customers have invested more heavily in them but that is besides the point. The Android Marketplace could improve and Android customers could start buying Apps.


If there is one area of this historical model that HTC, Motorola and Google should  be paying attention to it’s that of profitability. Despite being unable to catch up to the Playstation 1 & 2 or the XBox Nintendo maintained their profitability throughout. Through tighter control and a more hands on approach to making games they have not only survived but thrived. Had they not so done I’m sure they would have ended up producing crumby games for their competitors consoles such was the fate of Atari & Sega. Instead they took that money and went back to the drawing board for the Wii. They abandoned the classic console battle of producing better graphics opting for a better user experience and an insanely low priced product instead. Proving once again that innovation and profitably trump market share any time.

  1. My guess is that Nintendo and Microsoft will continue to mop up market share as the hardware driven ethos of Sony fails to bring innovations that consumers really want. Ok, your graphics are better, that’s great, but I would rather play a fun game over a beautiful one []
  2. These are old school Nokia type phones that despite their name only have a few features like calling, texting and being hard to use. []
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