Link: Apple Rectangles

Mark Stanton writing on Hacker Noon:

“Ever since iOS 7, app icons went from being rounded squares to something more complex and refined. Apple has created design consistency between their hardware and software.”

This article is fascinating. Fair warning, it’s pretty nerdy, but it’s a really cool and obscure “turns out” that I had never heard before. The level of detail that Apple puts into both hardware and software is incredible. I for one didn’t even notice the app icon change in iOS 7. ••


The S-Cycle for Software

Have Apple software updates seemed a bit… rushed lately?  With both iOS and Mac OS X on yearly release cycles, we seem to be getting more quirks and bugs than I’d like.  When this topic is brought up, the solution always seems to be to just do big software releases every two years, or do small pieces throughout the year, instead of having a monolithic update every 12 months.  However, I suggest that Apple’s software team do what their hardware team does: use the s-cycle.

What is the s-cycle?  The s-cycle is the way Apple releases their iPhones.  For example, the iPhone 4 (2010), then the iPhone 4s (2011), then the iPhone 5 (2012), then the iPhone 5s (2013), and so on.  People say, “Well the software team needs to get it together, because the hardware team releases a new iPhone every year with no problems.”  But they really don’t.  They really only release a totally new iPhone every two years, and then release a small update the years in between.  This is the s-cycle.

And it seems to work great.  People still get excited about the -s models, and it’s less demanding on the hardware team, which allows them to make something truly great every two years.  I think that this is what Apple should do with iOS and OS X.

Let’s focus on iOS here.  Suppose that only every other version of iOS had big changes.  The other years would just include some minor updates, and maybe one new headline feature.  But instead of making the -s year the same for the iPhone and iOS (because those years would be a little boring), maybe they could alternate.  That would mean that this fall, we’d get the iPhone 6s (a minor update), and iOS 9 (a big update).  Then next year, we’d get the iPhone 7 (a big update) and iOS 9s (a minor update).  iOS 9s could just include the new features required by the new iPhone hardware, things like Touch ID and Apple Pay, but not much else.  This would allow the software team to slow down a bit, pay more attention to quality control, and make the features they do add really count.

The main problem I see with this alternation is that it’d be sort of confusing.  Because of this, maybe it’s better to just keep calling it iOS 9, 10, 11, etc., but then apply the principle of the s-cycle.  (Another thing: say “iOS 9s” out loud.  Exactly.)  The last thing you want to do to your customers is confuse them – confusion kills excitement.

And that excitement is why Apple should continue to do something every year, instead of every two years.  Why?  Simple psychology.  When something happens every year, people remember it.  Around September, people know that there will be a new iPhone and a new iOS update.  Releasing iOS every two years makes things more complicated.  Come September, people will have to try to remember whether there was an update last year, and whether they should be excited for an update this year.  This sounds trivial, I know, but you want people to be excited about your brand, not hesitantly excited.  You also don’t want to let down the people who thought this was an update year but it wasn’t.  This same psychology also applies to, oh I don’t know, say, weekly blogs and the like.

As you can see, adding an s-cycle to Apple’s software production could slow down the sometimes-breakneck train we call iOS.  Don’t get me wrong, I love new features as much as the next guy, but the last two iOS updates in particular (7 and 8) have been enormous.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dialing back iOS updates just a little bit, especially if they can do it in such a way that still appears to be a yearly update.  Hey, it’s worked for the iPhone.  ••

Technology for Everything

Technology is everywhere these days.  It’s not just in phones and tablets, but in all kinds of other devices.  There’s so much innovation going on right now, and technology is being applied to more and more things that have never had it before.  That being said, I’ve selected three cool products that really stand out.  These are certainly good products, but more importantly, they are unique, innovative ones.  Smartphones came first, but pretty soon, all kinds of things will be smart.  Things like what, you ask?  Here’s my three picks.

Runtastic Libra Smart Scale
1.  Runtastic Libra Smart Scale
Price: $116

What is it?
This scale doesn’t just measure weight.  It also measures body fat, calculates BMI, and syncs via Bluetooth.  It seems everything syncs via Bluetooth these days (especially health related devices).  I think this is a good thing, partly just because I’m a nerd and I love a good graph.  But honestly, I’m not sure the fancy visualization is always the point.  Sometimes, just getting that data in front of our faces, and often, is enough to drive it through our heads.  The more we think about something, the more likely we are to act upon it.

94Fifty Smart Basketball
2. 94Fifty Smart Basketball
Price: $249

What is it?
This basketball is chock full of sensors.  As you shoot, it analyzes your shots.  When you’re done, you sync with your phone via Bluetooth (see what I mean about Bluetooth?).  This data allows you to improve your shooting skills, no expensive training coach required.

Nest Smart Thermostat
3. Nest Smart Thermostat
Price: $249

What is it?
Sure, most thermostats can be programmed, but does your thermostat learn?  When you change the temperature at the same time several days in a row, the Nest remembers.  It figures out your schedule – when you wake up, when you go to work, etc. – and remembers your favorite temperatures for each time.  The Nest can tell when you leave the house as part of its goal to save you energy by only using heat and air conditioning when you need it.  More importantly, it strives to make reaching that point as hassle-free as possible.  The Nest also allows you to control it with your smartphone.  Say you’re coming home from work early, and you want the Nest to warm up your house early too.  A few taps later, and you’re ready to come home to a toasty house!  ••