Baked-in Markdown

Image source: icon8

Since the Mac App Store’s visual refresh, one of my favourite features has been the stories that highlight various apps, developers, extensions and usage tips. I’ve discovered a number of useful apps through these stories!

One of the things that really seems to have been embraced by Apple on the store is the great range of Markdown-compatible third-party apps , including Ulysses, 1Writer Pro, Marked 2, Focused and more. Markdown, which was created by John Gruber of Daring Fireball, is a great pro(sumer) feature, enabling novelists and bloggers alike to write in a distraction-free environment and format easily for the Web. I’m using Markdown now to write this piece in Ulysses. If you want to learn more about Markdown, check out John Gruber’s original resource and explanation.

Given Apple’s willing promotion of third-party Markdown apps, I can’t help but wonder why the company hasn’t included it as a baked-in feature across macOS and iOS native apps. Notes and Mail naturally spring to mind… but imagine iMessage with Markdown. Over time, the experience of messaging on iOS has become more engaging and expressive, with plentiful emoji, integrated apps, sticker packs, bubble effects and location-sharing. (Of course, Messages on macOS is still catching up.) With at least basic support for Markdown features in Messages, other than pre-existing image-attachment support, users could have access to list styles, headings, quotes and rich formatting, which would take Messages to an entirely new level of expression and style.

I envisage this being a pro-level feature that you could activate in the Settings and System Preferences apps, much like the yet-to-be-released mouse support under ‘Accessibility’ in iOS and iPadOS 13. More casual iMessage users could continue as if nothing has changed, however those who wish to turn on the feature could simply toggle support for Markdown. Apple has already taken this approach with features such as multi-touch gestures and split-view functionality on iPad. Naturally, with Markdown already increasing in popularity on the App Store, once knowledge of such a baked-in feature on Apple’s own apps were to spread, this would only enhance the stickiness of tools such as iMessage.

With much of the low-hanging fruit now taken care of in iOS and iPadOS, it will be interesting to see what future enhancements will come. Following an exciting WWDC 2019, Apple now seems to be even more committed to pleasing its enthusiasts and pro users. Little enhancements like this can go a long way to extending the experience.

Apple and the Cult of Personality

Image source: Inexhibit (2016)
Image source: Inexhibit (2016)

If you’re a tech enthusiast, you’ve certainly heard that Apple’s Chief Design Officer (CDO), Sir Jony Ive, has announced that he is leaving the company to start his own firm, LoveFrom. This is massive news, as Ive has played a major part in the design and success of a wide range of Apple hardware, from the original iMac G3 in 1998 through to today’s iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.

As with any major tech news, there have been myriad stories across the Web, both good and bad. Ben Thompson of Stratechery wrote a very insightful piece called Jony Ive Leaves Apple, in which he details Apple’s growth as a company from hardware through to software and now services.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball quickly produced a fantastic analysis of Ive’s role as Apple’s tastemaker in the post-Jobs era, inspired by his collaboration with the co-founder. Gruber also expresses his concern about the handing-over of design to operations and defines what has made modern Apple so great:

I’ve never been an “Apple is doomed without Steve Jobs” person. But part of what made Apple the Apple we know in the post-1997 era is that when Jobs was at the helm, all design decisions were going through someone with great taste. Not perfect taste, but great taste.

Another compelling piece came from Matthew Panzarino in the form of Apple Sans Ive on TechCrunch. In it, Panzarino details how Apple observers generally follow one of two narratives about Ive:

  • Jony had checked out, become incompetent or just plain lazy
  • Apple is doomed because he is leaving

As Panzarino explains, these viewpoints are totally contradictory. How can it be that a man who was apparently so integral to Apple’s design success was also a major liability, prioritising form over function? It doesn’t make any sense and Panzarino is correct.

Whilst I agree with Panzarino that there are two major narratives here, I believe that there is a third narrative: one that encompasses not only tech writing about Ive, but the entire representation of Apple as a company.

This narrative is the cult of personality and it has tainted all reporting on Ive before and after his announcement—even in high-quality tech publications and blogs.

OK, let’s take a step back. Apple and its fans have long been described as cultish. What does it mean to be or have a ‘cult of personality’ though?

According to Oxford Dictionary, a personality cult involves:

Excessive public admiration for or devotion to a famous person, especially a political leader.

One of the most notable historical examples of a cult of personality was in the Soviet Union, under the rule of Joseph Stalin. Through the widespread use of the arts and propaganda, Stalin was established as the ultimate political personality: a hero of the people and the source of national success. It was as much a media exercise as a governmental one.

Whilst the concept is generally associated with the promotion of political leaders by their own parties and government-controlled media, today I argue that their place has been assumed by corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, be it Jobs, Bezos or Zuckerberg.

We saw this first with the return of Jobs to Apple following the NeXT acquisition. As he rejoined the company and took the role of interim CEO (iCEO), Jobs remade the company according to his own vision, establishing a simpler product matrix and a renewed focus on design. Jobs discovered Ive upon his return, inspiring him to stay and contribute to the new mission. Their collaboration was undoubtedly instrumental to Apple’s survival and ongoing success.

With Apple’s renewal, a cult of personality formed around Jobs that was so strong that following his death, the ultimate sensationalist narrative was perpetuated by technology and business media: Apple is doomed without Steve Jobs.

In the years since 2011, this narrative has proven to be incorrect. Apple has been taken to its greatest heights by none other than the operations guy, Tim Cook. Long been criticised for lacking the product vision of his predecessor, Cook has been viewed by tech and business journalists through the lens of Jobs’s cult of personality. The media have been unable to see the broader story of Apple and its transformed employee and design culture. Jobs was indeed integral to Apple’s success, however only with the ability to choose his desired ‘A-players’, such as Cook and Ive.

Cook’s Apple has been making an overt, concerted effort to avoid the same kind of personality cult it suffered under Jobs, which was both the making of its co-founder and the media, much like Stalinist Russia. For example, where keynotes were once conducted almost entirely by Jobs, major announcements are now shared by numerous diverse employees, such as Jeff Williams and Kevin Lynch for Apple Watch, Craig Federighi for macOS and iOS, Lisa Jackson for environmental initiatives, John Ternus for pro Mac hardware, Phil Schiller for iPhone and camera developments and even other rising keynote stars such as Colleen Novielli and Jennifer Bailey.

This has also been complemented by a de-emphasis of Ive’s role in design, which has been twofold:

  1. the past introduction of key members of Ive’s design team such as Alan Dye and Richard Howarth; and
  2. the reduction of Ive’s appearances and product videos, which had earlier become a brand cliché and led to an excessive amount of parody material online.

To me, this has been one of the master strokes of Tim Cook’s Apple. Aside from its astounding sales success, Apple has strived to make itself a more open, accessible company, with a diverse range of speakers that represent its growing complexity and various product and service offerings. Furthermore, it has attempted to shift the focus to issues such as user privacy and sustainability.

Cook’s preference in spending less time onstage during keynotes is often seen as an admission that he isn’t the product guy that Jobs was. Instead, I believe that Cook has made a strategic PR decision to change the face of Apple, guarding it from the same kind of ‘Apple-is-doomed-without…’ narratives that battered the company following Jobs’s death. Much like the Soviet Union’s attempt to ‘de-Stalinise’ follow Stalin’s death, Cook’s Apple is attempting to create a more diverse, inclusive image.

Yet, for all of this effort, business and tech media have jumped on the next simple narrative of personality, with Ive as either the last guard of Jobs’s design vision or a tired character of the past who has prioritised form over function.

This brings me to the final great misunderstanding of Apple, which I initially hinted at in my piece Apple and the Craftsmen, about the services event in March:

Truly, Apple is no longer just a corporation—this event’s purpose was to tell the story of Apple and its craftspeople and show just how invaluable its technology is to various markets and art forms.

Business and tech writers, for all of their knowledge of Apple, still the see it as a hardware company. Design is held above all else as Apple’s greatest attribute. With the death of Jobs and now departure of Ive, this sacred value is apparently now under threat… or at least uncertain.

From the time of Jobs and Ive all the way through to today, we see a company that has taken great strides beyond the world of hardware design, into digital content streaming, news, cloud sync services, mapping, social networking (e.g. iMessage), machine learning, AR, refreshed retail stores and new products such as HomePod, Apple Watch and accompanying watch bands as fashion accessories.

With this obsession for Jobs and now Ive as cult personalities, the tech and business media—perhaps unintentionally—hold onto a memory of Apple as a simpler company that used hardware design as a key differentiator when it was necessary for its survival.

Thompson alluded to the shift to software and services over time but I believe that it goes deeper, changing the very values of the company in a way that will empower the company to be so much more. Like I wrote in Challenging Three Apple Myths, we now see a company that can walk and chew gum at the same time.

As we enter the newly dubbed post-iPhone/post-NeXT/post-Ive era, I hope that tech and business media will begin to analyse Apple and its personalities in a way that is less narrow. Appreciating Ive’s legacy means more than just his relationship with Jobs—it requires an appreciation of his design work’s interplay with hardware engineering, software, services, marketing and environmental policy, along with thousands of people who made this all happen.

Apple is not just a design company anymore; it is an experience company. It’s time for the tech and business media to catch up.

Rumination No. 43: Why I Still Use Twitter

Over the past few years, alongside the controversy that has plagued Facebook, Twitter has also received its fair share of criticism. From enabling cyber-bullying to being Donald Trump’s global megaphone of choice, it is often regarded as a toxic hell-stew or ‘dumpster fire’, as numerous American tech podcasters like to say.

Other than the major issues of online abuse, fake news and propaganda, Twitter has also taken away functionality from some of the third-party clients that made the service popular on mobile in the first place. Notable examples include Twitterrific and Tweetbot.

I constantly review my own use social media platforms nowadays, given how distracting they can be. Whilst at university, I reached my social-media-usage zenith with 25 accounts on different services. This was largely due to the encouragement to experiment with various services during my communications degree. I certainly didn’t use all of them constantly and some of them did shut down over time. Others I deleted due to privacy concerns or because they were useless.

My ultimate social-media-usage review occurred last year when I finally deleted my Facebook and Instagram profiles, shifting my personal social media presence to Micro.blog with my site Feld Notes. In addition, Lounge Ruminator solves the problem of having a place to write longer-form content. These two sites are all that I really need.

Still, my Twitter account lives on and I continue to use it. If I have the two most (personally) meaningful spaces possible to record my thoughts and communicate with others, why do I still engage with the platform?

There are two simple answers to this question.

The first is that despite all of Twitter’s issues, the site is still the best place to connect with world news and issues, beyond your immediate circle of friends. Twitter is a space that is almost entirely unrestricted, which is simultaneously its greatest strength and greatest weakness. I prefer Micro.blog as a platform because it is much cleaner in its presentation, it leads to more genuine conversation and you have more control of your content. Twitter, however, continues to be the place where you ‘See what’s happening in the world right now’. Whether it’s fellow tech enthusiasts or some important contacts or friends, they tend to be on Twitter.

The second reason, which is really the more powerful one for me, is that I can still use Twitterrific as my preferred client. Whilst it now has zero access to the polling features or instant push notifications that are reserved for the official app, it still offers an ad-free experience, a customisable interface and a chronological timeline. These are much more enticing features to me.

There is also a level of of fit and finish in Twitterrific that just isn’t present in the official Twitter app. I can choose my own custom icon, I can move buttons, I can change typefaces and I can even choose different colour themes. The Iconfactory, which makes Twitterrific, is so dedicated to the design of its apps that it even hides whimsical elements in parts of the interface. One of the best examples that I can give you is what happens when you click on Ollie the bird’s face in the ‘About Box’ of the Mac version. (I have further thoughts on ‘About Boxes’ if you’re interested.)

Sure, this is useless but it makes using Twitter fun in a way that the company has sadly been unable to do by itself. This kind of whimsy is also a hallmark of great Mac apps. (Not to mention, Twitter pulled its Mac app and is only set to return now that Project Catalyst has made it easier for the company to do so… lazy).

Last year, I almost deleted my Twitter account when I made the big shift to Micro.blog, inspired by Casey Liss’s mini-speech about the platform on Accidental Tech Podcast. I decided to stay because of The Iconfactory and the features that it continues to add to its already fantastic cross-platform app.

If Twitter continues to strip APIs and features from third-party developers, then reason number one may not be enough of a justification for me to stay.

The Conversation: With cryptocurrency launch, Facebook sets its path toward becoming an independent nation

Writing at The Conversation, author Jennifer Grygiel of Syracuse University contributed this fantastic article about Facebook’s announcement of its new cryptocurrency, Libra.

This is a particularly powerful section:

Facebook’s entrance into the financial industry is a threat to democracies and their citizens around the world, on the same scale as disinformation and information warfare, which also depend on social media for their effectiveness.

It may be hard for world leaders to understand that this is an emergency, as they cannot see the virtual powers aligning against them. But they must huddle quickly to ensure they have – and keep – the power to protect their people from technology companies’ greed.

Grygiel goes on to describe how Zuckerberg is essentially building something similar to the Roman Empire, with a central bank, currency and himself as the corporate dictator.

Ever since reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I wondered what would come after the nation state. As our world becomes increasingly globalised, do we really face a future of megastates? It seems like we do, however we haven’t really considered the possibility that such nations won’t be national in the traditional sense. What if this dystopian future of surveillance—which is already upon us in many ways—actually gives birth to a new type of nation: the ‘corpornation’? Indeed, will we start to see ‘corpornational’ wars between Facebook and the likes of Google, Amazon and WeChat in the future?

This may sound ridiculous but people around the world are increasingly losing their belief in traditional institutions and political systems. The leaders of the future may be corporate rather than parliamentary.

My advice is simple: delete your Facebook account. Be a part of the open Web instead.

Challenging Three Apple Myths

Image source: Apple (2019)
Image source: Apple (2019)

People love stories. Most of all, people love myths: stories that boil things down to their simplest form, regardless of their basis in actual fact. There’s good and evil, right and wrong, winner and loser. Myths often persist despite strong evidence to the contrary.

For many years now, I would argue that three myths about Apple have taken hold, all deployed against the company by the tech press for clicks. Apple is by no means a perfect company but unfortunately, many of its fans have come to accept these myths and the short-term thinking that underlies them. In some cases, we even start to see a kind of factional fandom, where Mac users persecute iPad users for their preference and vice versa.

At last week’s WWDC 2019, I believe that we witnessed a momentous turning point in Apple’s history: a single moment in corporate communications that challenged the greatest myths about the company. In the following sections, I wish to address each of these myths and how they have been dispelled in the Tim Cook era.

Myth No. 1: Apple Can’t Do Services Well

Ask anyone what Apple does best and they’re likely to answer with hardware. For years, Apple has been famous for its attention to detail: whether the diamond-chamfered edges of iPhone 5S; the fluid, intuitive design of iPod’s click wheel; or the use of curvature continuity in the design of various products, such as Apple TV and Mac mini.

Of course, software has always been the second thing to come to mind, whether it be macOS, iOS or apps such as iPhoto and iMovie HD, which helped to usher in the digital hub of the early 2000s.

Despite the crucial role that services have had in Apple’s playbook for years, they have never been fully understood. Consider the iTunes Store, App Store, iCloud and iMessage: these are massive Internet undertakings that have come to form the basis of an unfathomably huge global ecosystem of products and ecommerce.

To my mind, the argument that Apple can’t do services well was cemented in people’s minds by the failure of iCloud’s predecessor, MobileMe. Plagued by synchronisation flaws for mail, contacts and calendars, anti-fans and devoted fans alike felt that this was evidence for Apple’s services myth. No matter how hard the company tried, it just couldn’t weave its hardware magic on Internet services.

With the App Store and iCloud, Apple really began to dispel this myth, tying together millions (then billions) of mobile devices.

More recently, in March this year, Apple also held its first ever services-focused event. This was a big move that showed Apple’s willingness not only to appeal to different (less techy) audiences, but also the company’s courage to communicate beyond its bread and butter of hardware and software. I wrote about this event at the time and you can read more about it here.

At WWDC 2019, I believe that Apple finally proved that it can do services well and communicate about them effectively. The WWDC keynote is arguably the hardest communications piece that Apple has in any given year, as it must not only address a room of thousands of third-party developers, but also millions of customers through the live stream, all of whom have varying interests, experience and understanding of the company.

With Tim Cook’s opening piece about services and the segue into tvOS, Apple showed that it understands the equal part that services now play in its offerings. Hardware is what made Apple famous, software is what keeps the die-hard fans in the ecosystem and services are the new glue that attracts and keeps new users in its fold.

iCloud, the App Store and Apple ID showed that Apple could create successful services. The March event showed that they could announce more. The WWDC 2019 keynote showed that they could plan new Music, Podcasts and TV apps to make them a tangible reality on their oldest platform. With services now on billions of devices around the world, Apple has proven itself as a services company.

MobileMe was over 10 years ago and Apple and its followers should now consider the services myth dead.

Myth No. 2: Apple Is Doomed without Steve Jobs

This is perhaps the most quoted myth and with good reason—Jobs left once before and Apple almost collapsed. With his return in 1997, the world witnessed arguably the most unbelievable comeback story in the history of business. Apple was the underdog but by thinking different, it rose to become the ultimate tech giant. Again, people love stories and this is a simple one to follow.

Jobs died in October 2011 and despite considerable evidence to the contrary, users, anti-fans and the business and tech press believed only one thing: Apple was doomed without him. Cook had covered Jobs during his medical leave before and not long after taking over, clearly expressed his intention to take Apple further and address major issues such as privacy and the environment. There was Apple University too, a training programme intended to carry on Jobs’s values, yet many still didn’t believe that the company could be as successful under Cook.

Even with Apple University, Jobs reportedly told Apple’s senior management that in his future absence, he did not wish for the company to be paralysed by the thought of, ‘What would Steve do?’. In the years since his death, we have seen (in random order):

  • the release of Swift;
  • the biggest corporate push into augmented reality;
  • the most vocal corporate promotion of user privacy;
  • soaring iPhone profits;
  • the reboot of iPad sales growth;
  • the introduction of an entirely new platform in the form of Apple Watch, which is now the world’s most popular watch;
  • an answer to Spotify with Apple Music and the reintroduction of the white earbuds (AirPods) as a global auditory status symbol;
  • the creation of one of the world’s most popular (yet arguably hidden) social networks in the form of iMessage; and
  • Apple’s achievement as the world’s first trillion-dollar company.

WWDC 2019 showed us that Apple continues to think differently without Steve. With the introduction of the new Mac Pro during the opening keynote, for example, Apple displayed two important things: its ability to apologise and ability to change its mind.

Back at the Mac round table in 2017, Apple explained the failure of its 2013 ‘trash can’ Mac Pro, apologised to its pro customers and committed to making a computer that, until that point, had been all but replaced with the all-in-one iMac Pro. Jobs was (in)famous for changing his mind—think iPod Video—and with the new Mac Pro, Apple also changed its entire pro strategy after listening to customers. Despite many saying that Apple had no interest in ever returning to the pro market, it has made a truly modular computer with upgradeable parts and brilliant display that even the most optimistic fans did not think was possible.

Furthermore, on the privacy angle, at WWDC 2019 Apple announced ‘Sign in with Apple’ and a new, offline location feature under the ‘Find My’ app and service. In a global Internet industry where tech giants have profited from the harvesting, sharing and exploitation of user data, Apple has shown that it’s determined to do the opposite. The iPhone might have been its cash cow for some time but with its diversification of products and services, Apple is finding ways to grow its cash pile whilst respecting the data of its customers.

For the last eight years since Jobs’s passing, despite missteps such as Apple Maps, the earlier de-emphasis of the Mac and everyone’s favourite (cough) laptop keyboard, the company has shown that it is willing to listen to customers and is not doomed without him.

Myth No. 3: Apple Can’t Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time

During Macworld 2000, as part of the introduction of Mac OS X, Steve Jobs outlined Apple’s intention to implement a ‘single-OS strategy’. You can see it in the video below, with his mention of the strategy 30 seconds into the presentation.

This was a pivotal moment in Apple’s history. Mac OS X was described as a system that would take Apple through the next 20 years. Leaving behind years of wasted time and efforts across a confusing product line, Jobs’s strategy was to offer appealing products in a simplified Four Quadrant product grid, with OS X at the core of the digital hub experience.

This served the company well but over the years, the myth took hold that Apple was incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Apple could never scale its obsessive hardware and software design to the masses without compromise and it certainly couldn’t juggle multiple platforms. Any additional platforms, product or strategies would take the company astray and repeat the disaster of the 1990s.

At WWDC 2019, we saw the final proof that this myth is utterly incorrect. At breakneck speed, Apple made numerous major announcements across all of its platforms, including macOS, iOS, tvOS, watchOS, audioOS (as part of iOS) and even the entirely new and rebranded iPadOS. This doesn’t even get into the amazing work that was done with SwiftUI.

With iPadOS and Project Catalyst particularly—Apple’s effort to bring iPad software to the Mac and vice versa—Apple has shown that it is willing to redefine its own idea of computing on tablets and the Mac and throw out the single-OS strategy. This strategy, whilst useful at the time of Jobs’s return, is now outdated. Instead, we see a world of varying devices, all designed with different form factors, users and contexts in mind. Although it has had great success in its cloud services for the enterprise, Microsoft has inherited the single-OS strategy, attempting to shoehorn the same operating system into devices of varying sizes, without the elegant size-classes or appropriately shaped buttons for each case. This is a consequence of having missed the mobile revolution.

In the place of the single-OS strategy, which was once necessary for survival, Apple has opted for a multiple-platform strategy, all unified by the same code base. By giving developers easier, faster tools and a more consistent development experience for each OS, Apple can now build an even more compelling ecosystem for its varied global user base.

Returning to the point of long-term thinking in the second section, all of these OS efforts have taken an extraordinary amount of time to develop. Moreover, they rely on Swift, one of Apple’s most groundbreaking recent announcements, even to be possible.

Long described as a big company with start-up-style thinking and business practices, Apple has brought together a multitude of working parts over years of development to usher in what is essentially the post-NeXT era. Indeed, Mac OS X has served Apple for around 20 years as Jobs predicted, even as the basis for development on iOS, the company’s most successful platform. We are now moving into a time when Catalyst and SwiftUI will radically transform the way that we think about and use our devices, as well as the experiences that Apple can offer.

The fact that Apple was able to coordinate teams across hardware, software and services to announce simultaneously all of these developments at the WWDC 2019 keynote is simply astounding. Consider the third and final myth officially busted.

One More Thing…

WWDC 2019 instilled more confidence in the Apple developer community perhaps more than any conference before it. Finally, Apple’s years of fruitful labour have been put on show. There’s so much to look forward to as developers tinker with Apple’s newest tools.

As we quickly approach a new decade and inevitably look back at Apple’s explosive change and success in the 2010s, I have no doubt that a new, unexpected myth will begin to spread:

Apple is doomed without Tim Cook.

WWDC 2019 Short Wish List

Image source: Apple (2019)
Image source: Apple (2019)

Like every other year, there have been so many WWDC feature wish lists that I would simply be repeating others’ points if I were to write my own extensive version. We all want dark mode, we all want new replacement apps for iTunes and we all want Marzipan to be the real deal. Great, now that’s covered.

What I’d like to do is simply list one super-specific, less typical feature that I would personally love to see added or enhanced in each operating system.

iOS

The Photos app would be far better if it had support for editing image metadata, like on the Mac. I frequently need to import photos from my DSLR to my iPad Pro and am unable to edit dates, times, locations, keywords or descriptions. This is a big deal while travelling.

macOS

Currently macOS only supports audio output to a HomePod stereo pair if the content is being played in iTunes. Quite often, I wish to play DVDs with video that isn’t on a streaming service and I’m unable direct the audio to both of the HomePods.

watchOS

Since 2015 when the Apple Watch was first released, watchOS has grown in leaps and bounds and become more independent. Strangely, there still isn’t a Notes app to check your latest entries or scribble or dictate a new one. This seems like something that should have been there on day one. It doesn’t need to have full support for folders but recent items would be great at the very least.

audioOS

One could argue whether we’ll even hear anything about audioOS at all! Aside from requests for multi-user support, I would love to see speed improvements to Siri Shortcuts. I frequently ask my HomePods, for example, to play a podcast with Overcast. The stereo pair completes the task but it’s always a little bit too slow to communicate with my iPhone. The HomePod experience, great as it is, would be much better with quicker third-party app feedback and lead to more confidence in the product.

tvOS

This is probably the weirdest wish but I would love to see Safari on tvOS. Yes, we have AirPlay screen-mirroring but imagine how great it would be to have a full-screen Web browser baked right into the operating system.

The Siri Remote may not be the best input device for this but with Bluetooth keyboard support, it would make the Apple TV a much more compelling presentation device for classrooms, boardrooms, airport lounges and even at home. Think about it: with a Web browser, you could have access to further content beyond what is supported in the App Store and essentially have a super-cheap, alternative Mac mini in your lounge room.

Well, what do you think my chances are of getting any of these features?

watchOS Independence

Image source: Apple (2019)
Image source: Apple (2019)

Earlier this week, 9to5Mac writer Guilherme Rambo tweeted about the appearance of keywords ‘independent’ and ‘independence’ in yet-to-be-released watchOS code. The suggestion here is that Apple Watch could run by itself, with its own App Store and without the need to be a tethered accessory to iPhone. Naturally, it has been discussed on a range of websites and podcasts as an exciting (but kind of expected) development for Apple Watch. The future and profitability of the watchOS platform may depend on such expanded functionality and perhaps even compatibility with Android handsets. We’ll see next week at the WWDC 2019 keynote if this comes to pass.

Since the announcement of the first-generation Apple Watch in 2014, I’ve been excited about the device’s potential to become a meaningful daily replacement for the iPhone. Now, let me clarify: I do not mean that the iPhone should disappear nor that Apple Watch could address the entire range of features that iPhone offers. The difference in screen size alone has a huge influence on the types of app and feature that are possible on each device. Different circumstances and use cases suit different people.

Still, since the release of the Apple Watch Series 3 and now with Series 4, I’ve enjoyed the near-independence that cellular capability has granted the device. I go out frequently with only my Apple Watch and AirPods, leaving my phone at home. I do this whether I’m exercising, visiting the shops, catching up with a friend for coffee or going out for dinner with my wife. There are numerous situations in life when you do not actually need your phone, either because it’s heavy, rude to have out or just plain unnecessary. Remember when phones were becoming smaller? The smaller that your Nokia was, the cooler it was. Now we live with the opposite, with gargantuan phones for Snapchat filters and AR apps. Apple Watch is the contemporary equivalent of the tiny mobile phone.

So, in a potential world where an Apple Watch does most of my essential daily tasks (without a tethered handset), such as messages, maps, email, activity-tracking, workouts, phone calls, music, podcasts, weather, transport times, banking and Apple Pay, what is the actual point of carrying an iPhone? At this stage, the only missing functionality—albeit a big one these days—is the camera.

As ridiculous as it may sound, If I were able to run an Apple Watch with a mobile payment plan that’s iPhone-free, I would seriously consider ditching the iPhone. After all, I have a Mac and an easily portable iPad Pro when I need it for work, messaging or Web-browsing.

On an additional note, the recent refresh of the iPod touch also got me thinking about the size of my current phone, the iPhone 7 Plus. Sure, Apple’s newest models come with bigger displays in a smaller overall package, however they are still huge phones. Other than the tantalising dual-camera set-up that drove me to buy my 7 Plus, I have never been totally fond of the device’s size and believe that the sweet spot exists somewhere around the dimensions of an iPhone SE or 8.

Many podcasters (to whom I listen) were pleased to see that iPod touch received a bit of an upgrade, but struggled to think of who would need such a device besides young children or those who work in services such as hospitality.

I’m telling you: I would buy such a device and consider it as a replacement for an iPhone, whether for its camera or to plug into my car for music. The ability to have smaller, lighter device and be less distracted by an iPhone would be fantastic. Moreover, it’s cheaper and the A10 processor is more than capable.

I love my iPhone but since first buying an Apple Watch, I have pushed myself to think differently about how I use my tech. We should ask ourselves what is actually necessary and what’s just nice to have. How can we use technology in a way that isn’t only cost-efficient but also enables us to pay more attention to our physical surroundings and the ones we love?

Let’s see what WWDC 2019 brings. I may sound even crazier in a few days.