“Apple” Category

SketchParty TV

Federico Viticci wrote a nice review of SketchParty TV, a Pictionary-like game that uses the iPad and Apple TV via AirPlay Mirroring:

We ended up playing SketchParty TV until 6 AM. At one point, I was laughing so hard at my friend’s attempt to guess a platypus (I’m terrible at drawing) that I dropped wine all over my elegant New Year’s Eve outfit (I’m also terrible at laughing without causing things to fall off desks and/or tables).

It’s a very well done game. You break people up into two teams, and then one team member (attempts) to illustrate a word they’re given so their group can guess it. The team member draws on the iPad and can see the word, while everyone else sees what they’re drawing on the TV but cannot see the word. I bought it for a little party a few months ago, and everyone absolutely loved it. It’s a lot of fun.

It’s also a very good use of iOS’s AirPlay Mirroring feature. There’s a ton of untapped potential here for party games of this sort—one I can imagine is Taboo, where the person trying to give hints to their team has the list of “cards” on their iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, and each team’s score is shown on the TV screen.

In any case, I highly suggest checking out SketchParty TV. It’s a great game.

January 3rd, 2013

Brooks Responds On Retina Displays

Earlier this month, I responded to a post by Ben Brooks where he argues that retina displays do indeed significantly change the usability of devices. I argued that while retina displays certainly do make for a better device (reading especially), the contribution it makes doesn’t substantially change the device’s functionality. To illustrate that point, I explained that although I would prefer a retina iPad Mini, the iPad Mini’s smaller size and weight has dramatically changed the usability of the iPad for me. The lack of a retina display hasn’t reduced the iPad Mini’s usefulness; despite the non-retina screen, the iPad Mini is more useful for reading than the full-sized, retina-equipped iPad.

Ben responded to my post:

This is missing the point.

The argument isn’t: which is more useful iPad with retina display, or iPad mini. The argument is that retina displays, by themselves, are not a disruptive technology — a notion which I firmly call bullshit on.

Ben, I’m afraid, is missing the point. Ben stated in his original post that “Retina displays, on any device, absolutely change the usability of the device,” and “If you even once find yourself saying: ‘after using technology X, you can’t go back to technology W’ — then you sir have just found a feature that is fundamentally important.”

Ben appears to think that I’m simply arguing that an iPad Mini is more useful than a full-sized retina iPad. That’s true, but that wasn’t what I argued; rather, I was showing that (for me!) the retina display is absolutely something I can live without, and that it did not “absolutely change” the usability of the device. That the iPad Mini—a device with a visibly inferior screen to the iPad 3 or iPad 4—is more usable than its larger sibling puts that into dramatic relief. If the retina screen is such a boon for usability, that wouldn’t be the case. I would have begun using it again for the more usable screen. But my iPad 3 has sat around since the Mini arrived going unused, despite its beautiful screen.

For Ben, though, I’m sure the retina screen is that big of a difference. After seeing a retina display, with its incredibly sharp text and beautiful colors, he can’t stand the thought of going back to a non-retina display. For Ben, there is no going back. And that makes sense—they’re beautiful screens. But that’s part of the point, too: that simply isn’t true for everyone. It isn’t true for me, someone who absolutely loves retina screens, and it isn’t true for many of the people purchasing an iPad Mini rather than its larger sibling. I expected to hate the iPad Mini’s screen. I was wrong.

There’s no doubt that retina displays will replace all non-retina displays going forward, and I am happy for it. No doubt, because they’re simply superior. But it’s also true that they haven’t fundamentally changed our devices’ usability, as Ben originally argued.

December 18th, 2012

iTunes 11′s Complexity

Lukas Mathis argues that iTunes 11′s attempt to mask complexity with the new top bar that’s used to shift between media types results in even more complexity:

One of the main problems introduced in iTunes 11 is the new bar atop the iTunes window. This tiny thing combines a vast number of features that were previously served by many different UI elements in iTunes. Sure, the bar seems simple and friendly. How much damage could this tiny thing possibly do? Well, you can’t cram so much stuff into such a small UI element without causing problems.

December 14th, 2012

Replicating iTunes 11′s Album Color

Wade from Panic details how he replicates iTunes 11′s expanded album view, which matches the text colors to the album artwork. Really cool to read through, especially if you’re a developer.

(Via The Beard.)

December 12th, 2012

‘That’s Bullshit’

Ben Brooks responds to Shawn Blanc, who said retina displays don’t fundamentally change usability or use-cases for the iPad:

Sorry Shawn, that’s bullshit.

Retina displays, on any device, absolutely change the usability of the device. Retina displays make text sharp, make text readable, reduce eye strain and they absolutely make me want to use these devices more.

Retina displays are indeed better for reading—to my eyes, they’re less harsh and allow a smaller font size. And they are undeniably beautiful, too.

But text is more than readable on the iPad Mini’s screen, despite having a dramatically lower pixel density than the iPhone’s or iPad’s displays. In fact, because the iPad Mini is much easier to hold comfortably while sitting down and dramatically easier to hold while walking around, I’ve used the Mini for reading books in the last 5 weeks much more than I did the full-size iPad. The Mini is small enough and comfortable enough to hold that picking it up to read a book feels rather close to picking up a paperback—something that you do without much thought or effort. You can just pick it up and read.

The full-size iPad, because of its size and weight, never felt like that. It’s simply too big. At least for me, for most uses, the iPad Mini’s more ideal size and weight make it a much more usable device than it loses by including a less-than-retina display. I would prefer a retina iPad Mini obviously, but between a retina display and a small, lightweight form, I choose the smaller, lighter form. It contributes more to the device’s usability than does a brilliantly clear and beautiful screen.

So I think “that’s bullshit” might be a bit rash.

December 10th, 2012

Apple to Manufacture Mac Line In U.S.

Apple’s Tim Cook said that Apple will begin manufacturing an existing Mac line in the United States next year. Cook also said that it will not just be final assembly.

Absolutely good news. But what’s better news is, presumably, that Apple believes doing so is efficient enough for their needs.

December 6th, 2012

Twitterrific 5

Twitterrific 5 is out.

The new Twitterrific is simply beautiful. Even if it’s only to study the custom user interface (which you should, if you have any interest in interface design), go get it. It’s stunning.

December 5th, 2012

Fantastical for iPhone

Fantastical for iPhone is out, and it looks, well, fantastic.

Fantastical for Mac is my favorite way to enter new calendar events or to see what’s happening soon, and now it’s on the iPhone. Lovely app.

November 29th, 2012

Tokens for Mac

If you’re a Mac or iOS developer, you need Tokens app. It makes giving promo codes to people, something that’s a big pain in the ass, effortless. It’s too bad Apple hasn’t gotten their act together with iTunes Connect, but until then, applications like these are a godsend.

November 20th, 2012

Endless Musical Choice and the Endless Web

Mike Spies:

Because how else can you form a relationship with a record when you’re cursed with the knowledge that, just an easy click away, there might be something better, something crucial and cataclysmic? The tyranny of selection is the opposite of freedom. And the more you click, the more you enhance the disposability of your endeavor.

I don’t think this is a made-up problem or some kind of misplaced nostalgia for a past where new albums cost no less than $16, required you to drive to a retail store to purchase, and we had very little idea how good they were until we bought them and listened to them.

This issue isn’t unique to music. The web brings an endless abundance of information to read and reference, and of new content, always something better behind a click or tap. When that’s the case, there’s no time to focus on what’s in front of you, to absorb everything in it, to understand what it is or what it’s saying, and to think about what it means or how it relates to other things. There’s always a better album, a better article, a new breaking story, so we’re always moving on toward greener pastures.

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of criticism as luddite nostalgia for a world that never really existed, or as “first-world problems”—in other words, the substance-free complaining of people who should be happy with what they have and should shut their mouths because they’re lucky to have it. But that dismissive retort, one used all-too-often in the technology community, ignores what I think is one of the great challenges for the technology community: to make the age of the web not just one of unlimited access to unlimited information, but one that empowers people as humans.

November 19th, 2012

Walmart’s iPhone App Has “In-Store” Mode

Walmart is taking advantage of mobile devices to make their stores less sucky:

If you opt in, Walmart will use your location to provide you with an app designed specifically for that store. Head to another Walmart and your app will work for that store. It has useful features: You can make a list by speaking into the phone. You can search a product by typing in a word or phrase — tissues, say, or light bulbs — and the app will show you what aisle to go to. It has an interactive map. It shows you promotions specific to that store. And Walmart is testing a feature called “Scan & Go” that would you scan can items as you shop, so you can go quickly through self-checkout.

Cheers to Walmart for embracing mobile computing to make their stores better, and especially for using it to make the checkout process better. I go out of my way to avoid Walmart because, among other reasons, their checkout process is dreadful.

November 14th, 2012

The iPad Mini Dividing Line

David Sparks:

For now at least, I think one of the big dividing lines between the iPad mini and the larger size iPad is content consumption versus creation. If someone is just going to be reading books, surfing the web, checking email, the iPad mini is perfectly adequate. If someone is going to do significant writing, digital art, or any of the other more traditional “creation” tasks, there’s a really good case to be made for larger iPad.

(Via Shawn Blanc.)

That’s exactly right. For how I use the iPad—reading and writing—the iPad Mini makes all the right trade-offs (except, of course, for the non-retina screen). Writing and editing on the iPad Mini isn’t much different for me than it was on the full-sized iPad. But for other purposes, the full-size iPad is absolutely superior.

When I wrote about the (then theoretical) iPad Mini earlier this year, one of my concerns was that a smaller screen would make creative tasks like sketching, painting, creating presentations, or other tasks which benefit from a physically large screen difficult, and thus would water down the iPad’s potential for more creative functions right when we’re defining what it’s for. After using the iPad Mini, I think I overstated that argument then, but the heart of it is true.

I also think, though, that the benefits—making the iPad something that even more people can use, and expanding the iPad to new contexts—will be a net gain for it. Developers will have even more reason to build for the platform, and will have new use-cases to build applications for. There’s even potential that the iPad Mini’s smaller screen-size will result in developers re-thinking how certain tasks, like spreadsheets or editing text, can be better accomplished on a smaller screen, which would also benefit the full-sized iPad as well.

November 14th, 2012

Siri’s Future


A transactional Siri has the seeds to shake up the $500 billion global advertising industry. For a consumer with intent to purchase, the ideal input comes close to “pure” information, as opposed to ephemeral ad impression or a series of search results which need to be parsed by the user. Siri, well-oiled by the very rich contextual awareness of a personal mobile device, could deliver “pure” information with unmatched relevance at the time it’s most needed. Eliminating all intermediaries, Siri could “deliver” a customer directly to a vendor, ready for a transaction Apple doesn’t have to get involved in. Siri simply matches intent and offer more accurately, voluntarily and accountably than any other method at scale that we’ve ever seen.

Siri could undermine mobile advertising as a whole because it knows (or at least can know) what the user wants. There’s no need to display ads, because the user’s desire is already known: all Siri needs to do is connect the user to the appropriate service.

Fascinating point from Kontra. In large part, by only connecting users with services or vendors when they ask for it, this approach also avoids much of the privacy creepiness that Google’s approach entails. The user affirmatively requests Siri to do something for them, and then it uses their information to take an appropriate action.

November 13th, 2012

Marco On the Cost of Retina

Marco Arment:

But the non-Retina screen is rough. If you’ve never used a Retina-screened device, you probably won’t care, but if you’ve been spoiled by Retina, you’ll notice the lack of it in the Mini almost every time you turn it on. I stop noticing after I start doing something with it, of course, but those first few seconds are a rough reminder every time.

Yep. I terribly miss my full-sized iPad’s retina display, but everything else outweighs the loss. Apple made the right choice.

November 12th, 2012

Not the iPad Mini. The iPad.

I pre-ordered an iPad Mini and received it November 2nd, the day it was released. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it; the small size and weight was exciting, but I love my third-generation iPad, and especially its incredibly beautiful display. I use it every morning to read the New York Times, read RSS feeds in Reeder, and in the evening, to read Instapaper and books in Apple’s iBooks application. I also often write first drafts of articles and papers on my iPad, so I take full advantage of both the retina screen and screen size.

My assumption before it arrived was that I would appreciate the iPad Mini’s small size and weight, but that I would miss the third-generation iPad’s screen, and would continue using the full-size iPad. I was wrong.

After more than a week, I haven’t picked up the regular iPad except for doing a little bit of testing for Basil. Every time I’ve wanted to use an iPad, I’ve picked up the iPad Mini. The reason is because for everything that I use the iPad for, it’s a much better device. I can hold it while reading something or browsing the web, rather than rest it on my leg. This sounds insignificant, but in use, it’s a dramatic change. Whereas the full-size iPad is something that you bring with you and set up to use, whether that’s on a desk or on your lap, the iPad Mini is a device you can use while sitting or standing, because you can comfortably hold it in your hands.

At the end of class last Monday night, I had begun reading an article on the iPad Mini as the professor was wrapping up. Normally, if I wanted to continue reading it as I walked across campus after class, I would have put away the full-sized iPad and pulled up the article on my iPhone. The full-sized iPad was always too big and cumbersome for me to use while walking around; it wasn’t that much better than walking around and using a notebook computer, so I only used the full-sized iPad while stationary. But as I left class, something different happened: I was tempted to grab the iPad Mini and continue reading where I left off as I walked out of the classroom. And I did.

So I walked across campus and read the article on the iPad Mini, and it was perfectly natural. It wasn’t forced. The iPad Mini is small and light enough so that it feels fairly similar to holding a paperback book. This is a fairly powerful computer that is comfortable to walk around with and use.

That’s a big deal. The full-sized iPad is like an easier to use (and, in many ways, much more useful) notebook computer because of its size and weight: it’s something you sit down and use. The iPad Mini, though, is almost as functional as the full-sized one, but can be used in more contexts.

It’s not just important because it will mean more people will be using it and will use it in different places. It’s also important because the iPad Mini feels personal in a way the full-sized iPad doesn’t. Because it’s so convenient to bring with me, it feels much more like an iPhone: it’s a computer that I can have with me and use in many places, but it’s more capable than an iPhone. I have a feeling we are going to see people bringing the iPad Mini with them much more often than we did the full-sized iPad.

The implications for some purposes are obvious. It’s a perfect fit for doctors, salespeople, contractors, et cetera. But I think we may need to re-think the purpose for some existing iPad applications and their design. For Basil, one thing that’s immediately obvious is the the iPad Mini is the perfect device for bringing with you to the grocery store and using as a shopping list. That’s something I never did with the iPad because it’s too big and heavy to be used while shopping, but the iPad Mini absolutely isn’t. As such, I need to think about Basil as an application people will use while walking around and focused on other tasks, rather than while they are sitting on the couch or have their iPad propped up in the kitchen.

The iPad Mini’s smaller size is, of course, a trade off. It absolutely isn’t as useful for certain tasks like sketching, painting, writing on screen, or even browsing the web (to a lesser extent)—tasks that benefit from a more expansive screen. But what is equally obvious to me after using it is not only do the benefits outweigh the costs for most people’s primary tasks, like browsing the web or reading email, but that it opens up entirely new contexts for where the iPad can be used, and thus opens up new uses.

It’s a very powerful computer that’s little bigger than a paperback book. This isn’t just a smaller iPad. Going forward, it is the iPad.

November 12th, 2012