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.

Rumination No. 39: Behold the Catapostrophe!

Back in March, I had a big whinge about how people misuse (or rather, don’t use) hyphens. Whilst it was frustrating to view these cases at Aldi in person, it was good fun to write that piece.

It may seem strange to you that I haven’t complained yet about what is possibly the most misunderstood punctuation mark of all: the apostrophe.

Frankly, I thought that it would be a bit tiresome to carry on about the apostrophe, since so many grammarians already complain about it, whether in cases of contraction or possession. Many of these errors are seen on café blackboards or signs at fruit shops, for example, ‘scrambled egg’s on toast’ or ‘fresh tomato’s’. They’re just horrid to read, aren’t they?

Of course, this topic just had to creep up on me in an unexpected way, so here we are. I just couldn’t resist drawing your attention to what is quite possibly the most ridiculous misuse of the apostrophe that I have ever witnessed.

I present to you: the ‘catapostrophe’ of local takeaway food shop, Figgy Kebabs…

What you see here on this white sign is truly baffling. In the word ‘today’s’, we see the correct use of a possessive apostrophe. About whose specials are we talking? We are talking about today’s specials.

Move your eyes to the next line and you’ll see an apostrophe included incorrectly in what should just be the word ‘specials’. Are we meant to believe that this apostrophe makes the word possessive, which means that we still don’t know what today’s special actually owns? It’s unfinished!

Otherwise, are we meant to think that it’s an incomplete sentence with a contraction? That would make it: ‘Today’s special is…’. or the even more nonsensical ‘Today is special is…’. What is today’s special then?! What is with all the ‘is’es?! Nothing is complete!

The icing on the cake is that the name of this shop, Figgy Kebabs, shows the correct use of a plural. Do you see an apostrophe in the word ‘kebabs’? No, you don’t.

This, my friends, is a true catapostrophe.

Not to mention, their choice of typeface for the sign is dreadful. All hope is lost.

macOS ‘About’ Boxes

There’s been a lot discussion recently about the state of Mac apps, particularly on what the future holds with Marzipan bringing iOS apps (and their design language) to macOS.

Naturally, many Mac enthusiasts have been concerned about how Marzipan could corrupt the look and feel of macOS—look no further than Mojave’s additions of Home, Stocks, Voice Memos and News last year for noisy complaints.

These apps are early demonstrations of what will be possible from WWDC this year and most notably, Steve Troughton-Smith has been reassuring users of the positive aspects of such a transition, both with his tool Marzipanify and recent videos on Twitter, showing the last major transition from classic Mac OS to Mac OS X. People should calm down—we’ve been through this before and some degree of inconsistency has always been present in macOS. (Just look at the three different ways that I had to write the name of the operating system in this paragraph… Apple has changed its mind over time too.)

With Apple set to make a massive cross-platform effort, the company and its third-party developers can only work to improve the experience in the system.

A great example of the current inconsistency in macOS is the variety of ‘About’ boxes in default and third-party apps. Sometimes this variation can be frustrating; other times it can add personality. Let’s look at a few examples.

The default ‘About’ box generally looks something like Safari’s below.

screen-shot-2019-05-28-at-5.19.34-pm

Top-quality macOS citizens, such as Pixelmator Pro and Ulysses for Mac follow Safari’s simple, default design.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.20.47 pmScreen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.21.08 pm

Of course, iTunes does its own thing.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.22.38 pm

Slack, as a somewhat controversial Electron app, still manages to keep consistent with this design, however it does not honour the activation of dark mode in Mojave.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.21.31 pm

Reeder 4 for Mac, whilst an entirely new app that respects Mac conventions like keyboard shortcuts, has its own ‘About’ box design which is completely inconsistent with other apps. That being said, it is clean and includes nice credits to the creators of the app.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.21.47 pm

Pastebot also includes a different type of ‘About’ box and is yet to support dark mode on Mojave, however, like Reeder 4, it also includes a nice list of credits.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.22.22 pm

Mactracker takes its focus on Apple history seriously and even extends this philosophy to its own ‘About’ box, going into more detail about the make-up of the app.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.22.55 pm

Perhaps the worst example that I have ever seen, Microsoft Teams, (an Electron app like Slack) opens a line of descriptive text within the app window rather than as a separate window. In fact, the app doesn’t even support multiple windows, which is dreadful in macOS.

Whilst other inconsistent ‘About’ boxes may be frustrating or out-of-date to some, at least they can be interesting or offer some personality and variety to the interface. Teams flies in the face of macOS design sensibility and convention.

The lesson to take from this is that design consistency, whilst aesthetically pleasing and particularly great for accessibility, can be bent a little bit in macOS to add variety and personality. With the exception of Teams, which disrupts the macOS norm, each of these developers can their own special something to their ’About’ boxes, along with the design of their apps.

As we approach the era of Marzipan and truly cross-platform apps for macOS and iOS, we should be positive and enthusiastic about the change that is coming. Apps will look different; their ‘About’ boxes will certainly be different… but new and perhaps even better ideas about interface design should rise to the top.

Furthermore, with easier development tools from UIKit, we will hopefully see more developers keen to develop for the Mac platform. In an ideal world, we’ll all receive great, new interfaces over time that are consistent overall, yet still bring their own special something.

If you’re still not convinced by this and fear a horribly inconsistent design future for the Mac, check out this interesting piece by writer Riccardo Mori on the history of vintage Mac ‘About’ boxes. Things have always been a little different and there’s certainly nothing to fear.

Rumination No. 38: Dining in with Takeaway

I’m assuming that you, dear reader, have visited restaurants and cafés before. You know the drill: you walk in, find a seat, order some food and/or drinks and then consume your chosen items around the table. If you’re with friends or family, then you may even engage in some enjoyable banter.

Natasha and I went out for breakfast to one of our favourite cafés in Audley, which is in Royal National Park, north of Wollongong. We followed the general process that I outlined above and were enjoying some delicious pancakes for breakfast. We observed something at a nearby table, however, which did not gel with the natural order of things…

Another young couple had walked into the café, placed an order at the counter, then sat down at a table for a few minutes. Rather than receiving food at their table, their order was called and they went to retrieve two takeaway coffees. ‘Ahhh…’, you must be thinking, ‘They were just waiting to receive their takeaway coffees before venturing out again’. Incorrect—they sat back down at the same table with their paper coffee cups.

I have two major issues with this. First of all, the café offers ceramic cups for indoor consumption of hot beverages. Why on Earth did these people think that it was appropriate to use disposable resources that can’t be recycled entirely (such cups are laminated), when a reusable alternative was present and much more appropriate for the dine-in context?

Second, this couple sat at a table and benches that could comfortably fit six people and for a good deal of time, they just stared at their phones.

This is a perfect (yet all too common and mundane) example of the arrogant, self-centred behaviour that is prevalent in modern society. It’s similar to waiting until the last few metres of an ending freeway lane to merge into the next one, leaving unwanted grocery items in the wrong aisle, tossing a cigarette in the street or stopping in the middle of a busy pathway to take a selfie. Why is it so hard for people to be considerate of others and the environment around themselves?

Let’s be frank: it’s just easier to sit down, block out the real world and monitor your likes on Instagram.

Rumination No. 37: LinkedIn Tales of Love and Adversity

Back in March, I ruminated about the horrendously boring meme culture on LinkedIn in a piece called Key Leadership ‘Learnings’ of Collaborative Synergy and Digital Disruption #AI #blockchain. I felt that summed up things nicely.

In that piece, I made a brief reference to the prevalence of ‘broems’ on the site. I’d like to revisit that particular topic now. Quite simply, they are poems by bros (‘broetry’, if you will)—these elongated, one-line-at-a-time tales of corporate success and revelation are some of the most pointless pieces of text that you’ll find on the Web.

Generally, they will deal with topics such as making the most amazing, unexpected hire (a unicorn!) or how having a latte with that one special suit changed one’s life forever, leading to a rewarding career journey of unimaginable heights and KPI-fulfilment. Their stretched-out presentation suck you right in and before you know it, you’ve clicked on the ‘See More’ button and you’re scrolling to get to the end in the hope that it will be worth it.

Well, I think that I’ve found the most pointless broem ever. It is so devoid of any detail or storytelling, that I’m completely baffled by the number of reactions that it has received. Surprisingly, it’s also a short one.

OVER 73,000 REACTIONS

MORE THAN 2000 COMMENTS

Apparently, all that you need to do to be successful is inhale and exhale, then repeat this process consistently until your particular moment of adversity has passed.

Now, I chose not to include the name of this person in the screenshot because that would have been unfair. I have no doubt that this person and his wife did in fact have to deal with hardship at some point. Unemployment is extremely difficult and they were obviously in a difficult situation.

Where is the story though? How can we appreciate this tale of triumph if the author can barely be bothered to share it properly? How can people out there, who may be looking for guidance through similar issues, possibly take anything from this? Why not offer something that’s genuinely helpful?

Somehow, sites like LinkedIn have become hubs for the production and consumption of pure mediocrity such as these broems… and people are rewarded for it with virtually meaningless likes and shares.

The next time that you see something like this online, don’t enable it. Let’s strive for a higher quality of writing in this amazing place called the Web.

Rumination No. 36: Advance Australia… Yeah, Nah…

During this weekend’s federal election, Australia showed that it is a nation divided, indeed, a nation of great contradictions.

I believe that Australia generally sees itself as a forward-thinking nation—one of progressive ideas, innovation and the ‘fair go’. We apparently value equality and are early adopters of numerous consumer technologies.

Yet, when it comes to our politics, with the re-election of the Liberal-National Coalition, Australia has really shown the total opposite. Rather than choosing to wind down negative gearing and franking credits, in order create a more stable and equal housing market, Australia chose to maintain the status quo.

Instead of choosing parties such as Labor or the Greens, which trumpeted a clearer commitment to renewable technologies and electric vehicles, voters kept a man in office who once entered the House of Representatives carrying a piece of coal as a prop for Question Time.

Furthermore, Australia would like to consider itself to be a politically stable, developed nation, yet a government that has suffered the turmoil of three different prime ministerships has just been re-elected. Disunity apparently isn’t death, but in fact a benefit.

I am by no means a full-blown supporter of any given party, however I believe that this weekend’s election result is an embarrassment. Australia had the chance to start afresh with an entirely new government. Rather than progressive ideas and positive messaging, Australia fell for a scare-campaign from the right.

Somehow, with the constant carry-on from the Coalition and policy-free outfits such as Palmer’s United Australia Party, the nation has fallen for the idea that any investment in services, whether education, health or energy, comes at the expense of the economy. Surpluses are all that matter and any kind of spending is to be questioned. This may come as a surprise to some, but economic growth and new jobs can arise from investment in people.

I’m not sure how long it will take for Australia to get over this economic obsession. Let’s see where the next three years will take us.