It’s always made me crazy that phone experiences aren’t better integrated with the desktop. On the desktop you have the space to manipulate large data sets and UI elements very easily and quickly.
There have been feeble, wretched attempts made by Nokia and Sony. I’m disappointed with the integration Apple has offered so far with the iPhone via iTunes. It’s extremely limited and frustrating. The new Mobile Me interface seems promising, but I’m not holding my breath that it’s what I want.
In the video below, Google demos the type of customisation that I’m looking for. At about 3:30 they show how you to customise the phone experience through a desktop interface. Just drag-and-drop content and UI widgets to your phone. Finally somebody has done it right!
I’ve previously mentioned my antipathy for OSX. It’s been two years since I made a go at switching to a Mac. I can’t say anything major has changed with the Mac since then. What has changed?
My Vaio has become unacceptably sluggish
Adobe apps now run properly on the Mac
There’s no way I’m going to use Vista
Most of my work happens in a browser, so the OS is secondary
But perhaps the biggest factor: my iPhone. The iPhone has really made me lust for more. More luscious details. More speed. More fun.
It’s now been about 5 weeks since getting my hands on Darryl’s old iMac 24″. That’s 3 weeks more than I endured last go round! Many of my previous gripes still linger. Like the inability to maximize app windows. Font rendering. On the 160 dpi iPhone type is stunningly gorgeous. Font rendering on the 72 dpi Mac is a sad imitation, often resulting in butchered illegible type that makes my eyes bleed. I really don’t understand how type purists delude themselves so relentlessly.
Lucky for me, I have a couple Mac die-hards sitting nearby who have been showing me all the secret five fingered key commands, hidden settings and special software that makes working with a Mac tolerable.
So far, the best thing about being on the Mac is…
The beautiful bright screen
The beautiful visual design details like sublime: gradients, drop shadows, translucent windows, and animations
The beautiful hardware
Networking is finally acceptable
It’s fast and stable, unlike my experience 2 years ago
Overall, I’m happy with the Mac experience. I certainly don’t think it’s flawless. But the speed, the lickable graphics (in spite of the type rendering) and the hardware win me over. I admit that it’s starting to make my eyes hurt whenever I go back to using Windows.
There does seem to be an interesting correlation between the increasing number of iPhones and Macs at Xero. Everyone seems to be switching. Even Grant switched.
With the abject failure of Vista, the mainstream switch-to-Apple tipping point is truly upon us. Jobs is well on his way to resurrecting Apple from the dead, while Microsoft have dug their own grave.
Fifty or a hundred years from now I suspect history will smile broadly on Jobs as a monumental business and cultural icon, while reflecting on Bill Gates as a one-time antagonist in the Steve Jobs story.
Thanks to a few truly dedicated people (I’m looking at you Mike and Tash) Wellington just played host to a geek orgy of supreme quality. First rate speakers, venue, schwag, branding, web site, and perhaps most importantly coffee…mmm…people’s coffee.
A couple of Yahoos
I was particularly looking forward to sessions by Cal Henderson (slides galore), Tom Coates (notes and old slides) and Michael Lopp (notes and more notes). Each delivered a superb presentation. I was hoping for a few radical new ideas to completely rock my world, but it was predominantly a refresher course on “the web as platform”. Which was still excellent and inspiring.
Tom Coates’ sneak peek of Fire Eagle was pretty interesting (tho what’s up with the lame name?). Fire Eagle aggregates and broadcasts geo-data, so other apps can retrieve or publish your geolocation at any given moment. The implications of this concept were nicely amplified by Nigel Parker’s 8×5 session on privacy and pervasive online tracking – some kids (his…doh, mine too) have been online since they were in the womb, while other people are implanting RFID tags under their skin, and a few people currently broadcast their geolocation via GPS.
The fireside chat with Sam and Rowan was fun. Rowan roasted Sam with a hilarious video from the nascent days of TradeMe, when Sam was just a young pup. They waxed nostalgic, but also dissected the TradeMe deal starting with how Sam struggled to get investment funding and then buggered off on his OE just when it started to break even. Upon his return the business started taking off. He got serious buyout offers from Yahoo and Telecom, but upped the ante and ultimately landed the Fairfax deal.
Usability for evil (aka profit)
My world did get unexpectedly rocked by Amy Hoy. Her session was about coercing people through design and language (excellent notes from her session here). For somebody in advertising, this might have been a basic refresher. However, Amy made it especially relevant and compelling by presenting great offline and online comparisons. For instance, I’ve always wondered why Amazon presents people with an overwhelming and chaotic array of information and options on every page. Where’s the usability and good design in that, right? It’s intentionally that way. For the same reason that malls (and casinos, for that matter) are designed with burrowed interiors: to get you wandering around, somewhat lost. It’s there to keep you busy and distracted, because it’s well known that the more time you spend in a store, the more money you spend.
A few gripes
On the downside, many of the sessions were tediously academic. Too many bullets points. Too much bleating and pontificating on theory. There was a frustrating absence of demos and real world case studies from the trenches. It should be an absolute requirement to show demos, which must include a breakdown of the design/dev/business decisions that lead up to the finished work.
Simon Willison was the only person I saw who did a real world demo with live code, showing Django in action. It was interesting and impressive, but not where my head is at these days. His session on OpenID was excellent and it definitely caught my interest, but it still didn’t leave me with huge confidence in the OpenID standard, as it currently stands.
Another serious downer was the Wifi situation. It was utterly disgraceful and humiliating to watch so many prominent visitors from across the globe unable to get a working internet connection. At a web conference. It’s like having a world conference on electricity and we don’t have enough power to keep the lights on. How bad does it need to get in this city and in this country before internet connectivity becomes an angry-mob-inducing crisis? (as I’m writing this my TelstraClear connection has been down for hours – now’s good, huh?)
That’s how Apple rolls
As always, there were sessions I was frustrated I couldn’t attend. I heard from many people that Mike Lopp’s session on design management was fascinating. Sadly, it’s also one of the few that will not be made available online. Damnit! Apparently, he described how Apple creates 10 different pixel perfect prototypes for each new piece of functionality in their software! I can’t say I buy into that approach. I know how much time it takes to finesse every little gradient, drop shadow and icon. I appreciate how important those details are in the final product, but when you’re exploring new ideas you tend to lose the plot when you focus on fine tuned pixel pushing. Worst of all, you get way too precious with your design, since you’ve invested so much time and energy.
Nothing could have capped things off more perfectly than the happy coincidence of Phoenix Foundation playing in Frank Kitts park. It was a beautiful night, the buzz of the crowd was blissful and the band rocked hard. It was purely intoxicating.
To finish things off here’s a short, but brilliant clip from the show…
On Xmas-eve-eve-eve, Emory and I went to town to get some final stocking stuffers, then we looked for ways to enjoy the beautiful sunny day. Emory was super keen to do some rock climbing, while I really wanted to go out kayaking. Emory climbed up every wall, then pulled himself up a hanging rope all the way to the roof, 12 metres up! Afterwards, we kayaked out to Oriental Bay, stopping to get some gelato at Kaffee Eis.
Sadly I won’t see my photos from Emory’s climbing. Or anything from the rest of the afternoon. The iPhone never saved any of the hundreds of photos I took. And I’m pissed. (The only reason I got some photos from kayaking is that I decided to use my K750, for fear of dropping the iPhone in the harbour.)
Googling around to figure out what happened I came across this post from Jeff Zeldman. It turns out that it’s a known bug. It seems that the problem occurs if you regularly delete photos off the camera. Wow. That’s fucked. And from what I can tell, Apple hasn’t been doing anything about it, let alone responding to people on their support forums. Note: This is happening to non-hacked phones.
In the forums people seemed to find a way to fix it. Albeit, a time consuming, painful fix. I used a variant of the fix and I thought things were sorted.
Nope. I lost heaps more photos today. This is a deal breaker for me and the iPhone. I’ll use it as an iPod and a web tablet. But I’m really devastated that it’s not the great 1.0 device I imagined it to be.
I’m really praying that the next update has a fix for the camera (and let’s me actually make calls). Jeff??!
My beloved K750 has crapped out on me. It’s not beloved anymore.
To replace it, I almost bought the N95. Then I played around with it. It has a killer feature set, but it’s extremely expensive and it has the absolute worst hardware and software design. It’s pitiful. For half the price I got the iPhone. Thank god for that.
The iPhone is almost certainly, as my friend Wayne put it, the best 1.0 product ever. I’m really dying to know how they pulled it off. How did they manage to design such a refined user experience in a 1.0 – without news of the phone’s details leaking?
I say that even though my version of the iPhone lacks the ability to make or receive phone calls, text messages, or email/web on-the-go via GPRS!! I can NOT wait until they work out the crack.
So what’s to love?
The drop dead beautiful UI design and hardware. That’s obvious just looking at screenshots, but using it is far more impressive.
The touch keyboard works extremely well. I often use one hand to type and I’m definitely much faster typing on it than a standard mobile keypad. Admittedly, I was never one of those hyper-thumb freaks.
The speed of the interface. It’s incredibly responsive and smooth. Just like Macs, putting it to sleep and waking it up is instantaneous.
The photo quality is very good. I thought the K750 took decent shots, but the iPhoto pix are significantly better (however, I do have some gripes about the camera).
The apps (calendar, maps, notepad) are stunning. Purely from a UI design perspective it’s beautiful. The interactions are very quick and very smooth, with nicely anticipated shortcuts and navigational details.
I can’t transfer songs from different machines. WTF?! That’s absolutely fucked. That is just stupid, lame and IMO really cripples the device.
Camera controls. The thing I used most on my K750 was the camera and the MP3 player. Same goes for the iPhone. The K750 definitely had better hardware controls for both. The iPhone is sorely lacking a hardware camera shutter button. The touch screen shutter is awful. It’s the one time I desperately need tactile feedback and precision. The touch screen sensitivity doesn’t always work and that is maddening when you’re trying to capture a split second moment. It also could really use auto-focus and a macro. Plus, they need to move the lens – my finger always shows up in photos!
Audio playback controls. The volume buttons are great, but I also need controls for play/stop and next/previous without using the screen. I know the Apple headset has those controls on the mic clip, but I don’t use Apple’s headphones and that controller isn’t so elegant anyway. My K750 would do next/previous by holding down the volume up/down. I wish the iPhone did the same. For play/stop it should use the camera shutter button I want added. Finally, scrolling through long audio files like This American Life episodes is hellish with the scrubber. Here’s a great suggestion from Chris Fahy: an on screen jog dial for scrubbing audio.
The wifi reception is really weak. And it doesn’t always activate automatically.
As I mentioned, the touch sensitivity is not always reliable, which can be pretty maddening sometimes.
The predictive text is terrible and it always messes things up. I wish I could just turn it off.
I constantly want to use the home button as a back button in the iPod
Here’s an idea: Wifi syncing. Duh. I’m sure they must be working on this.
What I miss from my K750?
The LED light. It was ostensibly the camera flash, but I used it mostly as a flashlight and reading light. It came in super handy on many occasions, especially camping.
The radio. I expect a radio will be available on future iPhones. It’s really nice to listen to the radio sometimes.
I won’t miss…the flimsy/broken connector jack, the flimsy/broken thumbstick, the flimsy/broken camera shutter button.
The iPhone is definitely giving me Apple love. I’m still not quite compelled to switch to a Mac. I’d really just love to use my iPhone as my primary OS. If I could connect my iPhone via wifi to a big screen and keyboard then BAM…I’ve got my pocket computer that has most my data in the cloud and acts as a Web OS client device.
Based on some of my previous blog posts, I don’t think Apple would be too keen to hire me for this job…
Senior Human Interface Designer
Complete mastery of the Mac OSX platform.
Deep understanding of Appleâ€™s human interface design language and the ability to translate it into future designs of Appleâ€™s professional applications.
Read: must drown yourself in Apple flavored kool-aid.
But I do like these skills criteria:
Exceptional understanding of fundamental design disciplines (typography, composition, information architecture, color and animation) and principals (affordance, clustering, consistency, usability etc…)
Attention to detail and pixel-perfect fit and finish worthy of â€œone of the crazy ones.â€
The ideal candidate is not afraid of a blank white board and can wield dry erase markers with divine-like inspiration.
“One of the best pieces of advice Mickey ever gave us was to go rent a warehouse and build a prototype of a store, and not, you know, just design it, go build 20 of them, then discover it didn’t work,” says Jobs. In other words, design it as you would a product. Apple Store Version 0.0 took shape in a warehouse near the Apple campus. “Ron and I had a store all designed,” says Jobs, when they were stopped by an insight: The computer was evolving from a simple productivity tool to a “hub” for video, photography, music, information, and so forth. The sale, then, was less about the machine than what you could do with it. But looking at their store, they winced. The hardware was laid out by product category – in other words, by how the company was organized internally, not by how a customer might actually want to buy things. “We were like, ‘Oh, God, we’re screwed!’” says Jobs.
But they weren’t screwed; they were in a mockup. “So we redesigned it,” he says. “And it cost us, I don’t know, six, nine months. But it was the right decision by a million miles.” When the first store finally opened, in Tysons Corner, Va., only a quarter of it was about product. The rest was arranged around interests: along the right wall, photos, videos, kids; on the left, problems. A third area – the Genius Bar in the back – was Johnson’s brainstorm.