Shatterproof displays are coming

Yesterday Verizon & Motorola unveiled the Droid Turbo 2 with "the world's first shatterproof display" and a confident 4-year hardware warranty. Their 'making of' video is mostly marketing speak, but two quotes seem realistic to me:

Shattered screens are a pain point. We... tested it with consumers and said, "if you had a screen that was shatterproof, how does that rank in terms of your prioritization of features?" And it was right at the top, number 1 or 2, all the time.


I think that we'll look back on this design at this time, and think how antiquated phones were when they used to shatter.

I agree, and I don't doubt that durability was something their focus group wanted. I've seen many, many phone screens on the subway and at school with dings, cracks, or entire chunks of glass missing. This ad for the Turbo 2 may be a bit cliché, but the fear it tugs at is real.

As I wrote at the beginning of the month, Apple's new iPhone financing plan with included AppleCare makes them financially incentivized to tackle accidental damage more seriously. The iPhone 7 will likely be the result of that prioritization, and I fully expect shatter resistance to be something they advertise.

The timing seems right, and early rumors of a non-metallic body and non-curved display glass already suggest a major structural re-think. If for some reason Apple doesn't do it in 2016, every other competitor will.

A few thoughts before Apple's September 2015 iPhone event

There are three things in particular that I'm interested in seeing later today.

1) Whether Force Touch (or 3D Touch) on an iPhone will enable anything interesting

The rumored example is being able to press down on the Phone app icon to quickly launch into voicemail or something that you can manually set, but that's honestly boring as heck and not worth the learning investment. The quick action features we've seen on OS X like previewing your calendar or a map location are nice, but I struggle to imagine myself using them frequently enough to matter.

The phrase "3D Touch" makes me think of being able to feel textures through the screen using piezoelectric currents, but the lack of discussion about that makes it unlikely. That feature will be game-changing - what we'll see today will probably be far less so.

2) What the Apple TV's remote will look, feel, and work like

I think the affordances provided by the next Apple TV's remote will ultimately be more important and worthy of discussion than the box itself, or maybe even the UI.

The rumored trackpad I understand, and it'll be one of those things that Apple doesn't implement first, but nails on the first try. Swiping through lists and pressing down to select things should feel quicker and nicer than buttons (for those without arthritis, at least) and I'm sure they've come up with simple ideas for video scrubbing and volume control as well. Grandparents should be able to understand it and like it, or else just use Siri for almost everything. Text entry might get weird though.

The rumor that the remote will also be the primary game controller for the semi-console really confuses me though. If the face of the remote only has 2 buttons, they're probably directly below the touchpad within thumb's reach. If that's the case, turning the remote horizontally (like a Wii Remote) would be pointless. I'm also not sure how the buttons could be used anyway, given that one would be needed to exit out of the game and the other is likely dedicated to activating Siri.

If Apple intends for people to buy MFi bluetooth controllers, well, good luck with that. Some kind of standard needs to be set, and right now it sounds like accelerometer-based games that work with the Apple Remote included in every box will dominate. That doesn't sound fun to me.

Charging and battery life should also be interesting.

3) The iPad Pro and its stylus, keyboard/stand, and primary orientation

Recent reasonable doubts aside, the iPad Pro is the thing I'm most interested in seeing today.

I've been using a Surface 3 in pretty much every scenario it was designed for since last May. Someday I might collect my thoughts on that device into a review, but the relevant gist of that review would be:

  1. A stylus as a secondary input device is actually really helpful for "pro" things like sketching user interfaces, which I've been doing a lot recently
  2. Tablet display latency still needs to improve before taking quick notes like they do in the commercials becomes viable
  3. The kickstand and type cover aren't quite as annoying or clunky as I thought they'd be, and I much prefer them over the iPad's lack of both (the Smart Cover is no longer good enough)
  4. A larger 12-13" screen is better for a work-oriented device (and me personally), but the ability to connect to an external display is even more critical

The concluding point would be that if the iPad Pro doesn't take a more Surface-like approach to tablet productivity, I'm likely going to get a Surface Pro 4 when it's released. I'm fully aware that people knock its weird hybrid design, but I honestly prefer it over the even kludgier Bluetooth keyboard + landscape case combo that seems pretty common among people who use their tablets for work or school.

The mysterious second port on leaked models and power button on the upcoming bluetooth keyboard make it seem like the iPad Pro will move in that general direction, but until the logo on the back is rotated 90 degrees I think those changes are only half-hearted.

At the moment I prefer the Surface's approach, but I'd love to think otherwise by the end of the day.

Automating Peter Pan's passenger-facing systems

Last night I took a Peter Pan bus from Boston to Hartford, CT. The interior was brand new, and so was the little spiel the driver gave as he pulled out of the gate.

He thanked us and gave us an ETA, directed our attention to a short safety video from Peter Pan corporate, and told us that he'd talk about mobile devices and Wi-Fi afterward.

But he forgot. His speech was never finished, the Wi-Fi was never enabled, and he also forgot to turn off the screens, so the bright DVD menu stayed on for the duration of our nighttime trip.


But I'm not complaining - it was an interesting design case study. Clearly the new bus smell and procedure had distracted the veteran driver enough to miss a couple of steps, but I don't blame him at all. I blame the design of the bus' systems instead, and whoever caused them to work that way.

The bus' Wi-Fi and screens are passenger-oriented systems that are entirely unrelated to what the bus driver should be focused on: driving the bus. I'd argue that the driver shouldn't have to worry about the state of either system, and that they should take care of themselves automatically based on the bus's speed and display input activity.

Unless I'm missing an important component here, it seems like if the bus has been traveling for a few minutes (meaning it's out of the terminal where random people can mooch off of its connection) then the Wi-Fi should turn itself on, and if the A/V system hasn't displayed anything or been controlled after a certain number of minutes, then it should turn itself off. DVD players did this many years ago, and in-bus accelerometers/GPS are far more advanced than they'd need to be for auto-Wi-Fi.

If these errors had been anticipated or spotted during usability testing and fixed, our fancy new bus ride experience could've been close to perfect. Instead, most of us were mildly annoyed by the driver's mistake without considering the actual root of the problem: poor systems design.