Apple Product Line (My Take)

Let’s pretend for a moment that for some weird reason someone asked me to layout the Apple product offering lineup and naming. Yep, not going to happen, but humor me. Below would be how I would do it in order to make the best possible user experience when it comes to choice.

  1. Macbook and Macbook Pro now cover sizes 12”, 13”, 14”, 15”.
  2. “iMac” is now “Mac”, but with 3 sizes. Headless models at both ends of the spectrum.
  3. Streamlined Tablet Choices.
  4. Streamlined Phone Choices.

Do you agree? Do you think I am crazy? Did I nail it?

Using Apple

RSS has been my news collection and curation tool since the beginning. Throughout time, RSS as a technology has been pretty stable and it was the job of the reader applications to bring features to the curation. At it’s core, you add feeds to a list and then those feeds are checked on a schedule, and this allows you to view many different sources of information from a single entry point. As time went on, we got better tools to help shape the way we were consuming the information from a rapidly growing set of data. For the most part, RSS works very well, but it does have some downsides. The biggest one is simply the shear volume of information that is available and having to parse through it all. I have filters and rules to aid in not viewing duplicates from multiple sources, but too often I still ended up with the Inbox “1000+” problem. This would often result in a click of the “Mark All As Read” button. At that point why even bother with it at all?

I looked at alternate means of staying informed when it came to the topics that interest me. I tried Nuzzle as a single source, but found it to be too hit or miss. I looked at Flipboard, but found the interface and navigation not to my liking.

Finally I looked at Apple News which was recently launched with iOS 9. Apple News caught a lot of flak when launched as not being that good. Truthfully, when I first looked at it, I didn’t really find it appealing. Then I realized the problem. People were opening the app, finding that it wasn’t showing them the exact news they wanted, closing it, and saying it sucked. However, Apple News is just like every other news app in that it doesn’t read your mind. I sat down and spent about 30 minutes getting the feeds added that I enjoy most and looking through the “Explore” section to add things I may not have known about. After doing this small amount of work to get it customized to my liking, I found Apple News to be a really great interface for keeping up with stuff that interests me.

Apple News is currently only on iOS, so there is no way to view items on your Mac. At first I immediately marked that as a con, but it has turned out to not affect me, personally. Outside of work, my primary computer is my iPad Pro, so it makes sense for me.

It definitely seems that for some reason if an application comes preinstalled on a device, it is somehow held to a higher standard and should be exactly perfect for your exact needs out of the box. If you download an RSS reader app and don’t add feeds, it isn’t very useful either. Of course, Apple News is not the end all be all News consumption app for everyone, but, what is?

If you were curious about how Apple News might work for you, take a couple minutes to get it setup with your likes and see how it works out!

Alt. Mobile Gaming

Generally, the term “Mobile Gaming” refers to playing video games on a mobile device such as a smartphone. For the purpose of this post however, I am referring to mobile gaming as the ability to move a game and its state from one device to another, seamlessly. The game that sparked this post and my modified definition of mobile gaming is Oceanhorn. Oceanhorn is a universal app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. This game and the platforms in which you can play it are pretty amazing.

First, the fact that a game of this quality and polish only costs a mere $8.99 blows my mind! But, follow that with the ability to play this game in the living room on a TV in 1080p, to an iPad, to an iPhone, migrating all play states seamlessly through iCloud, and now you have a true definition of ‘mobile gaming’. With the launch of the 4th generation Apple TV, gaming was made out to be a big push for the device. It was easy to be weary of this, mostly due to the fact that it could easily just be about phone games on the living room TV, and that didn’t sound compelling. Oceanhorn was the game that made the idea of gaming on the Apple TV make sense. This game represents the type of gaming platform I have always wanted: something that is versatile and changes to fit my surroundings. At home, a bluetooth controller in hand in front of the TV. In a hotel room traveling for work, on my iPad Pro with that same controller. Waiting for car service, on my iPhone 6s. The game is capable of adapting to all of these scenarios without losing any of my progress.

The Apple TV comes with the new Siri Remote, and that can be used as a controller for games. For a game like Oceanhorn, however, a traditional gaming controller is really the way to go. At the time of this writing, the best controller out there is available from the Apple Store and is called the Nimbus, by SteelSeries. It is very comfortable to operate and has all the buttons you could want for games like this. Because it is Bluetooth, you can connect it to all your iOS and Apple TV devices. It pairs really nicely with the iPad Pro for on-the-go gaming.

Gaming is an always evolving area when it comes to technology, and I hope ideas like this help to push gaming more towards bringing games to where we are instead of pushing us to be where the given platform is. Of course, this setup is still technically all one platform, but it still does a much better job of bringing my game to me than any of the major console makers who have had living room consoles and handhelds for years and failed to implement this tight integration.

Transformation. Mobile Photos.

My wife and I went on vacation to Japan this year! Whenever I travel anywhere, part of my packing process is figuring out what photography gear I am going to bring to capture our adventures. This vacation’s packing process started out no different. As I started packing up lenses, charging batteries, and gathering memory cards, I started to wonder if I _really_ needed all this stuff.

I tweeted as I was packing:
“Do I really need this many cameras for one trip??”

The amount of stuff I thought I was going to bring was ridiculous! It consisted of the following:
– Sony A7 Body + 4 Batteries
– 50MM f/1.8 Lens
– 35MM f/2.8 Lens
– Sony RX100 III + 2 Batteries
– Small Tripod
– iPhone 6S

As I was getting all this gathered up, I FINALLY figured out that I am going on vacation to enjoy myself, not be a documentary photographer! That is when I decided to cut the above list drastically. And by drastically, I mean the list became this:
– iPhone 6S

That’s it?! Yep! That is the only camera I was going to bring on the big Japan trip.

Every photo that I took was done using my iPhone 6S and no other accessories other than my hands. I have to say, it was a very freeing experience. No lugging around a ton of camera gear, and no pressure to “get the shot”. Using my phone as my only camera made my shooting very versatile as well. When you are using a big camera and lens, it can be intimidating to people, regardless of what you are photographing. When you are using your phone, it is seen as no big deal and no one cares what you are taking photos of.

With all the tech that is inside of your phone, you get some great bonuses on the software side as well:
– Geotagging
– Multiple Photo Modes
– Immediate Review and Edits
– Automatic Backup (iCloud Photo Library)
– Uploading / Sharing Anytime

These benefits continued to pay off once I got home. One thing that didn’t change was that fact that I had a ton of photos to go through once we got back. But, because I took all pictures with my phone and they automatically uploaded to iCloud Photo Library, there was no transferring of images from SD cards. I simply picked up my iPad Pro, opened Photos, and all my photos and videos were waiting for me. This really felt like the future in terms of photography “workflow”. Side note: these photos were already on my iMac as well, due to iCloud Photo Library. To add to the awesomeness, any edits I did on my iPad automatically synced to the iMac, and the opposite was true as well. This means that anything I did, on my iPhone, iPad, or iMac everything was the same and I could manipulate any of my photos anytime, anywhere. To me, this kind of versatility is way more powerful that having a big “pro” app that is dedicated to a single machine.

iCloud Photo Library also allows me to have access to every photo I have ever taken. This means I can search for any photo throughout time and have access to it. That is huge! I have 30,000+ images and can view any of them on my iPhone, iPad, or iMac at anytime.

One final item that confirmed my decision to only use my iPhone was geotagging. The majority of big cameras don’t yet have geotagging capability. When you use your phone, it is a free bonus. Historically, I didn’t really care about geotagging, but I have seen the light on this one. Being able to look at a virtual globe and pick out places you have taken photos is really cool and useful. Also, every picture is going to be tagged exactly where you took it. With big cameras you have to go through some process of adding geotag data, and you might get rough estimates for batches of them, but it’s a pain. This process has gotten much better in recent years, but still requires either special hardware, manual work, or some combination of the two.

So, am I happy with how things turned out? Absolutely!

Do I wish I had brought my other cameras? Nope. (In fact, this trip caused me to sell my Sony RX100 III.)

I got some great memories captured, and quite honestly, probably more than I would have with a larger camera. Most importantly, I was able to experience the whole trip. I spent no time trying to frame shots, setup gear, or charge clunky batteries. The pressure was off to enjoy the experiences with my wife. I am sure she was happy as well to not have to deal with all this camera crap, or holding one lens while I swapped to another.

This was a transformative trip for me in many ways, and one of those ways was how I think about capturing memories with one of these things we call a camera.

If you would like to check out the photos from the trip, head over to my Flickr Album.

3D Touching Into The Future

In the Apple world, our first introduction to a screen with multiple depths of interaction was Force Touch on the Apple Watch. From the first time I used it, I knew I wanted it on my iPhone as well. Flash forward to the launch of the iPhone 6s and my wish was granted, and then some. With the iPhone 6s, we got an advanced form of Force Touch called 3D Touch. With the Apple Watch we have two distinct levels of pressure. The iPhone with 3D Touch upped this to three levels. At first glance this could easily be mistaken for a gimmicky trick to mimic the ability of pressing in on the screen. The truth is however, an amazing amount of new technology has been built into seemingly the same screens we have been using for years.

As with all new technology additions like this, it will be some time before its potential is fully realized, but out of the gate it’s kicking ass already.

The ability to “peek” and “pop” within applications is a new way of accessing information more quickly. The ability to press in on application icons to access shortcut menus may be my favorite aspect of 3D Touch so far. This is the kind of feature that will become customizable over time I believe, and change how we navigate in and out of apps on our devices.

History has shown us with most new technologies in the Apple world, it starts with the iPhone and then trickles down from there. With the addition of the Apple Watch we are now seeing another level to this feature sharing. Now we will start to see new technology transition through the lineup as follows:

Watch ➤ iPhone ➤ iPad ➤ Mac

WatchOS ➤ iOS ➤ OS X

3D Touch is the type of feature that doesn’t seem as though much has changed, mostly because it is not immediately seen. Heck, if you didn’t know it was there, you could conceivably never find it. I definitely believe this feature will drive major fundamental changes in iOS and all users will greatly benefit.

Get to pressing!