Beeping hell. Tech companies and movies, please stop with all the *beeping* beeping

I have an induction hob in my kitchen. The second seemingly a single drop of water ends up on its controls, the thing emits an ear-piercing beep. This means when I’m cleaning the thing, it helpfully deafens me until the point it’s dry again. Presumably, the ‘feature’ is designed to help should its owner be furiously tapping out angry blog posts while the spaghetti boils over. In reality, it’s just another example of a notification convention that’s becoming ubiquitous – and that someone needs to take out back and shoot.

Beeps are bloody everywhere. You turn on a piece of electronics. BEEP! You turn it off. BEEP! You change a setting. BEEP! On the telly and in movies, it’s become shorthand for “I just did something on a computer” – from Tony Stark working with cutting edge technology to a detective somehow transferring files from a computer to a USB stick by holding it limply near to a display. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

In both cases, it’s lazy. On the telly, better direction or an actual range of sound effects could get across the fact someone has performed an action much more easily without resorting to shrill beeps every single time. As for in the home, companies need to start providing options to turn these hideous noises off. Because the more of these things that assault my ears, I just want to throw the designers into the *beeping* sea.

May 29, 2018. Read more in: Opinions, Technology

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Apple’s App Store Preview needs to steal some ideas from Google Play

Apple just refreshed iTunes Preview for apps. Now called App Store Preview, the result is awful. In fact, it’s arguably worse than it was before, with tiny screenshots, absurdly small grey-on-white pricing, and body copy that on my iMac looks like ants have crawled across the display. Perhaps apps are now only for the young, and anyone fortunate enough to have 20/20 vision when blazing into their 40s and beyond.

Worse, though, is that App Store Preview remains a joke compared to Google Play. Look at the pages for Lara Croft GO on Apple’s effort and Google’s. Arguably, Apple’s looks better from an at-a-glance graphic design standpoint, with its white space and minimalism. But it’s very much form over function. Google’s page beats Apple’s in every important area of usability:

  • The typography is larger, making it more legible
  • There’s wish-list functionality, so you can save things you like for later
  • Pricing is within a bold, clear button, not hidden as grey-on-white tiny text
  • You can buy apps and games online, right from your web browser
  • Also, those games with ads (Lara Croft GO isn’t one, but Threes! Free is) have, in bold text, ‘Contains ads’

The point about purchasing is perhaps the most important. If I read an article about new Android apps and games and end up on Google Play, I can click a price button, pay for the item, and send it to my Android device, ready for when I next use the thing. With Apple, I can, what, email a link to myself like it’s 2003? It’s absurd that with such a joined-up ecosystem in so many ways, Apple lacks joined-up thinking when it comes to its store.

It’s 2018. Apple has Apple Pay. If I’m sent to An App Store Preview page after reading an article about an amazing new iOS app, I should be able to buy it there and then, and send it to my iOS devices. Likewise, if I’m on my iPhone, I should be able to buy and send an iPad-only app to my iPad (or vice-versa). I shouldn’t have to remember it later, by sending myself an email or note. Or perhaps Apple’s going to this year follow up Apple Pencil with Apple Pen – an actual (and – if Jony Ive has anything to do with it – “carefully engineered, extraordinary, painstakingly designed”) pen, with which you can scrawl the names of apps and games you like the look of across your hands, arms and forehead. After all, it doesn’t look like Apple wants to help you in any other way.

For anyone hankering after an iOS apps wish-list, I wrote for TapSmart about how to use Reminders and Notes for that task. Neither is an ideal solution, but both are better than what Apple offers itself – which is nothing whatsoever.

January 19, 2018. Read more in: Apple, Technology

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iPhone X Home indicator, go home. (As in: away. Forever.)

You probably know by now that in its desire to eradicate buttons, Apple’s ditched the Home button from the iPhone X. Instead, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go Home. (Control Centre is now activated by dragging downwards from the top-right of the display.) Presumably to help people get used to this, a Home indicator sits at the bottom of the screen. Which is fine. But it never goes away. Which is not.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. If you’re watching full-screen video and don’t interact with the display at all, the Home indicator temporarily buggers off. But if you’re playing a full-screen game, or using a full-screen app? It’ll be lurking, in all its glory, like someone’s scrawled across the bottom of your screen in pen. Bafflingly, it also turns out the thing sticks around on screen grabs, which will be just wonderful for journalists. And notably, developers are forbidden from hiding the indicator when interaction is happening on screen. The most they can do is fade it a bit.

Apple got heavily criticised for a lack of affordances when iOS was stripped back to Ive-level minimalism a few years ago. But the problem there was primarily in not knowing whether buttons were buttons. You had to tap things to discover whether or not they were interactive, which is terrible design. The Home indicator, though, feels like a really weird decision. By all means, have it there to begin with. And for those users who need the reminder, let them keep it. But for everyone else, there needs to be a setting to banish the thing for good. Having it sit there permanently is a distraction that feels decidedly un-Apple.

November 7, 2017. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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Dear news outlets: please drop your drop tests for iPhones and other devices

A number of years back, I was getting out of a car, and my Nintendo DS took a tumble on to the tarmac. On retrieval, I discovered it was in a bad way. More recently, I’ve had an iPod touch fly across the office and survive entirely unscathed, and an iPad Air hit the floor with a sickening thud, but that was found to be totally fine when examined.

Oddly, I didn’t feel the need to write articles for major newspapers about these events, because they weren’t news. When you drop stuff, it might break. That’s not news. If the things you drop happen to have glass screens and surfaces, they might break. That’s not news. And yet today I was pointed at a ‘news’ piece about the new iPhone X. It wasn’t news.

The publication dropped their new iPhone on to tarmac from three feet up. The screen cracked after the first drop, which they argued was “not good”. On what basis? What’s “not good” is this type of bullshit clickbait article that is ultimately entirely worthless. (And, no, I’m not linking to it.)

Still, presumably said publication is ensuring its various stupid, wasteful tests are all equivalent, so they can accurately gauge the relative strength of the various devices they’re ruining?

Tough to say, because none of our tests are scientific

You just hope when these idiots arrive at the Genius Bar, Apple knows who they are, notes they dropped the device with the intention of breaking it, notes some kind of AppleCare condition they’re in breach of, and hands over a roll of gaffer tape rather than a replacement iPhone.

November 6, 2017. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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Apple didn’t send me an iPhone X review unit. Here’s what I’m going to do about it

Apple didn’t send me an iPhone X review unit. Clearly, I should now be outraged or something, and so here’s what I plan to do:

  • Get on with my life, continuing to write about Apple as I see fit, working with my existing iPhone that’s only a couple of months old, and which I’m actually perfectly happy with anyway.
  • Keep an eye out for iPhone X coverage, because I’m naturally interested in it, and may well upgrade to that line when next year’s model’s released.
  • Pop into a local Apple Store when the iPhone X is on display and the crowds have died down a bit, to play around with one.

Here’s what I don’t plan to do:

  • Whine about Apple giving some people who aren’t wealthy white guys iPhone X review models to talk to their readers about.
  • Complain about Apple further widening its reach beyond tech bloggers, by giving people in other areas of journalism (including YouTube) a chance to talk about the new phone.
  • Conflate people being seeded with a review unit with them seemingly getting a bit of hands-on time, to make a short video.
  • Call out and insult the 19-year-old nephew of a writer who was provided a review iPhone X, because said reviewer gave the kid the iPhone for a bit to see what he thought about it.

Because that would be a shitty thing to do.

October 31, 2017. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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