Apple's hardware lineup is in a bit of a weird state at the moment. Nearly every Mac is due for a refresh, and the most notable rumor about the next iPhone is that it's going to drop the headphone jack, which doesn't sound like an improvement.
Jason Snell of Six Colors wrote a good takedown piece describing why none of the potential reasons for the headphone jack's removal are good enough, and says this about wireless headphones:
Wireless is the future! Bluetooth is great! I own a set of Bluetooth headphones, and they’re fine. Wireless headphones have to be charged, which is a complication wired headphones don’t suffer from. Bluetooth is problematic. It’s complex to pair, connect, and disconnect headphones. And even now, I have weird audio issues with Bluetooth connections both on my headphones and in my car, where the sound drops out or has a strange clicking or ticking noise until I turn my iPhone’s Bluetooth off and on.
Among many other podcasts and articles, Episode 159 of The Talk Show echoes this sentiment (around 1:00:19), with John Gruber wondering aloud why Apple is choosing to make the transition this year rather than next year when the iPhone gets a new physical design.
There's one potential reason that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere which could explain both the timing of the headphone jack's removal and the current Mac hardware lull. It's a bit presumptive and reminds me of my days complaining about AirPlay Direct, but there could be something to it.
I think the next iPhone may be the first smartphone to include Bluetooth 5, with a compelling selection of reliable wireless earbuds and Beats headphones ready to purchase at launch. New Bluetooth 5 mesh networking features would allow those headphones and other devices to more easily switch between Mac/iOS devices (like Handoff) while laying the groundwork for new Internet of Things (IoT) products to strengthen Apple's HomeKit ecosystem going into 2017.
There's some precedent for this to happen. Bluetooth 4.0 was completed in early 2010, and the iPhone 4S was the first smartphone to include it in October 2011, with Android devices (and Macs) catching up in early 2012. Accessory-makers took a while to make anything that was Bluetooth 4.0-compatible, however, so the iPhone's inclusion of it felt a bit premature.
We're told that Apple wants to see a new wave of app-based accessories using the new Bluetooth Low Energy profile in Bluetooth 4.0, with a particular focus on next-generation health and fitness gadgets like the FitBit Ultra and Jawbone Up....
Unfortunately we don't have a timeline for any of this stuff, but we get the feeling it'll be a while before it comes to fruition: the iPhone 4S is currently Apple's only iOS product with Bluetooth 4.0, and vendors are just getting protocol information on some of these new features now.
It was a nice forward-looking inclusion, but Apple and others didn't capitalize on Bluetooth 4.0's benefits until much later with new low-energy fitness devices and the Apple Watch (which didn't even end up supporting the iPhone 4S).
In November of last year we started hearing that the next generation of Bluetooth would have 4 times the range, twice the speed, and support mesh networking to eliminate the need for a central IoT "hub". Bluetooth 5 (the most marketable name the spec has had in a while) was formally announced on June 16th and slated for late-2016 to early-2017 with a heavy emphasis on its IoT benefits, including this interesting line:
With the major boost in broadcast messaging capacity, the data being transferred will be richer, more intelligent. This will redefine the way Bluetooth devices transmit information, moving away from the app-paired-to-device model to a connectionless IoT where there is less need to download an app or connect the app to a device.
Although the timetable for Bluetooth 5 to be included in the next iPhone is seemingly much shorter than Bluetooth 4.0, as a member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) I suspect Apple has had access to the new tech for a while now. Reading the description above, iOS 10's inclusion of a new all-in-one Home app and Control Center widget along with HomeKit updates seem to be particularly well-timed with Bluetooth 5's release, and the mesh networking capabilities and extended range of Bluetooth 5 could explain why it would be beneficial to synchronize the iPhone's release with updated Mac hardware - particularly if Apple is planning to release some kind of Amazon Echo competitor in the near future.
Although Bluetooth 5's announcement doesn't explicitly state that connections are more reliable, the quadrupled range and halved latency lead me to think that's the case. Imagine for a moment that this is finally the year that Bluetooth becomes frictionless, due in part to Apple's close shepherding of its development since Bluetooth 4.0. To avoid another false start and capitalize on being the first to introduce the new tech, they acquired Beats in 2014 not only to bolster Apple Music, but also to ensure that they would have a compelling line of high-margin Bluetooth 5 headphones and earbuds to sell at the launch of 2016's iPhone and Macs. The rumored new EarPods and completely wireless "AirPods" could be the result of that strategic decision to align with Bluetooth 5's launch.
If that's what Apple is planning to do, their recent summertime Back to School special offers also make sense. Apple used to bundle iPods before they were refreshed in September to help clear stock, and I suspect they may be doing the same with Beats' headphones. Last summer Apple offered a pair of wired Beats headphones with the purchase of a new Mac, and then culled Beats' wired headphones a few months later in January. This summer their promotion is a bit better; offering wireless headphones with the purchase of a new Mac and wireless earbuds with the purchase of a new iPhone or iPad Pro. If Apple/Beats is planning to introduce significantly better wireless headphones soon, this latest special offer seems like a good way of making shelf space.
Is it the right time to ditch the headphone jack? It doesn’t feel like that to me, but it’s arguable. The replacements—Lightning via an adapter or Bluetooth—don’t seem like clearly better options that solve problems in the current technology that’s making consumers restless and uneasy.
There's no question that Apple's going to get flak for dropping the headphone jack in the next iPhone, but if this pet theory is correct and Bluetooth 5 is finally good enough, this year may actually be the best time to transition people to wireless. By the time next year's all-new iPhone comes out, people will already have Bluetooth 5 accessories and lightning-connected headphones ready to go, with no headphone jack controversy tainting the iPhone 7's launch.
During Apple's iPhone keynote I would expect the IoT and HomeKit benefits of Bluetooth 5's mesh network capabilities to be explained quite a bit, emphasizing that the iPhone is the first device to include the new technology. At some point they'll have to explain the lack of a headphone jack, and assuming Bluetooth 5 is more reliable, I expect them to introduce new Bluetooth 5-based Beats and Apple-branded wireless headphones that "just work" the way we always hoped they would. Switching between devices would behave like Handoff and be doable within Control Center, and the connection wouldn't drop through walls as easily thanks to the new mesh capability and improved range. Pairing or switching the new headphones could also be done quickly by tapping them to the NFC area of the iPhone, like Apple Pay. The "Bluetooth 5" branding (which I wouldn't be surprised if Apple suggested) would be pushed heavily during the keynote as the next big thing to look for in wireless headphones, and new Apple/Beats hardware would be ready to purchase on day 1.
I suspect that Lighting-connected EarPods - not wireless - will be included in the next iPhone's box. For seemingly the vast majority of people, those earbuds with a built-in mic and controls are good enough and are typically only used with the iPhone anyway. An adapter won't be included, but will be available for people who want to continue using their own earbuds/headphones without "upgrading" to Bluetooth 5 accessories from Apple or Beats.
From what I can quickly google, Broadcom - Apple's supplier for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips - hasn't announced any hardware that supports Bluetooth 5 yet. Before Bluetooth 4.0 was included in the iPhone 4S in October of 2011, Broadcom had already written press releases in February and May for new chips that were compatible. The lack of hardware is a bit surprising considering Bluetooth 5's press release says to expect compatible devices this year, so I'd expect Broadcom to make an announcement pretty soon if they're going to meet that schedule (unless Apple is keeping them quiet for now).
I'm also not very confident that Bluetooth 5 will be as great as the press release says it'll be. As John Gruber notes, reliable Bluetooth has long-been something that's just around the corner but never ends up meeting expectations. Bluetooth 5's mesh networking sounds interesting and will theoretically herald a new generation of IoT devices, but so far Apple's HomeKit has been primarily Wi-Fi based, which has always seemed to be more stable than Bluetooth.
Even if Bluetooth 5 is great and all of the pairing and connection issues are figured out, there's still the annoyance of charging accessories. The AirPods rumor mentioned a chargeable carrying case, but listening to music while charging would still be difficult or impossible. Extended range wireless charging is a sci-fi-sounding possibility that might be included in the 2017 iPhone and other accessories, but that still wouldn't help when you're on a bus or outside the range of a transmitter.
We'll see how things actually play out in September, but if Bluetooth 5 ends up happening and Apple/Beats is ready to sell nice-looking, highly-reliable Bluetooth headphones on day 1, I think the sting of the headphone jack's removal could be dulled a bit. If not, things will be pretty painful for a while.
Allow any video to be pinch-zoomable like they are in the Photos app
Allow videos to be viewed in landscape without disabling portrait rotation lock. Watching landscape video is the only time I ever toggle the switch in Control Center. The YouTube app forces landscape view in its in-app player to work around this.
Replace the media skip controls with 15 seconds forward/back. In most contexts, skipping ahead is basically like tapping "Done", and skipping back to the beginning of a video isn't very helpful.
Inline (not fullscreen) video playback on iPhones, like iPads do. iOS 9.3's Apple News app already does this - why not allow it elsewhere?
Relatedly, allow muted HTML5 looping videos to autoplay, essentially turning them into high-quality GIFs with significantly smaller file sizes. This would save everyone a lot of bandwidth.
Website push notification support (which is already available in Safari for Mac)
Make "View as Desktop" also change the virtual screen resolution, forcing responsive websites to look like they do on a widescreen display. The current implementation only really works on old "m.website.com"-style sites, which are inreasingly rare.
WebRTC support for client-to-client media streaming (basically Skype in the browser)
Face tagging, like the OS X app has
Ability to view your entire collection on a map; not just one year at a time. Making the map view more obvious to access would also be good.
Ability to sort shared photostreams by date taken rather than by time uploaded. Collaborative photostreams are a complete mess without this capability.
Fix a weird bug that deletes an app if an update fails to apply correctly. This has happened to me 4-5 times back when I updated apps manually. The update would hang and never finish, and the app would be completely gone if I rebooted.
Group calls, both video and FaceTime audio. This was added to an iOS 8 beta years ago, but never materialized.
Screen sharing, similar to Screen View in iOS 9.3 but hopefully faster. This would make remote tech support or collaborative work way, way easier.
Ability to hyperlink text
Faster Gmail syncing. At this point I use the Gmail app to notify me of new messages.
Somehow prevent banner notifications from making games lag horribly
Improve third party keyboard UI performance and switching experience. They simply can't compete with the stock keyboard right now.
Faster animations, or a near-zero animation mode that's faster than the "Reduce Motion" accessibility option
An official method for reading QR codes. I know they're not great, but a camera icon within Safari's new tab page might look okay, or maybe something within Siri. The ability to scan raw URLs or scan objects Amazon-style might also be handy.
Ability to not open links using an installed app (YouTube, Twitter, etc.) and use Safari instead. Right now the options are either "Cancel" or "Open".
Ability to open/import audio files from other apps. It's currently not possible without using iTunes.
Alan Stern, project leader of the New Horizons mission that collected photos and data from Pluto last year:
We had to fly through one little window in space, that was only 60 by 100 miles across, and you could not arrive more than 9 minutes early or 9 minutes late after a 9-year journey. Somebody did the math and said that that aim is equivalent to hitting a golf ball from LA to New York and landing in a soup can in Manhattan.
"What are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid as an indie developer?""
By far, the biggest mistake I see indies make is having unrealistic expectations of how much the market will value what they’re making, assuming they can indulge themselves in months or years of fancy construction and consumers will pay for it.
It’s easy to look at successful, painstakingly crafted, impeccably designed apps from well-known developers like Panic or Omni and attribute their success to their craftsmanship, design, and delightful details. Far too many developers believe that if they polish an app to a similar level, they’ll be successful, too. And then they pour months or years of effort into an app that, more often than not, never takes off and can’t sustain that level of effort.
The craftsmanship and design were indulgent luxuries that their successful market fits enabled them to do, not the other way around. Most people buy these apps because they’re useful and necessary, not because they’re pretty.
It’s not enough to make something fancy — it needs to have sufficient value to the market first, which can then fund the fancy design and technical extravagance you want to do if it takes off.
Although Marco's wording and examples are a bit loose here - "design" is also about focusing on the right problem, which isn't really an indulgence, and janky-feeling apps don't inspire much loyalty (see: Meerkat) - his point still stands. Despite knowing this for many years, getting caught up in the details is still something that I struggle with.
"What is the biggest roadblock to the maker movement?"
I have so many answers to this, but none I'm really qualified to give. I'm not avoiding the question, it's just that if I said something like "standardized, one-size-fits-all testing" etc, I'd want to be actually right than shooting from my hip.
Here's my thing: I know that making is the gateway drug to critical thinking, as I'm fond of saying. I'm not a policy expert, nor should I pretend to be. My wheelhouse is talking about why I think that inculcating kids early with an understanding that things don't always go according to plan is one of the most valuable ways to prepare them for life.
Here's an example of a little detail you'd hardly ever find mentioned in a traditional product review.
The device on the left is a Surface Pro 4 with this website open in the Edge browser. On the right is an iPad mini 2 with the same page in Safari. My fingers are off camera, but I'm slowly sliding up on each display as if I were reading the article casually.
Notice the jitter on the Surface Pro 4. My guess is that either Microsoft's touch driver is wonky (not surprising) or maybe the digitizer itself is less precise, but the 2-year-old iPad mini is perfectly smooth by comparison. It's still possible to read while slowly scrolling on the Surface of course, but the experience is just... suckier.
This slight suck is something that many people would just adapt their behavior to, probably unconsciously. They'd just scroll faster and less frequently, or scroll in large chunks. The difference isn't as obvious as Android vs iOS a few years ago, but it's still an unnecessary quirk that makes using the Surface as a tablet less pleasant.
I never ended up publishing my review of the Surface Pro 4, but even putting the terrible driver issues and lack of apps aside, there are so many similar annoyances (like stylus lag) that I'd be hard-pressed to recommend it to anyone looking to replace an iPad. Microsoft might fix Windows' bigger issues within the next year or two, but I have a feeling that little details like these will continue to suck for much longer.
It's the web's simplicity. Born out of a need to connect documents. As much as that might have changed with the latest generation of developers who might tell you that it's hard and complex (and they're right), at the same time it is not complicated. It's still beautifully simple.
If you sit back for a moment, and think about just how many lives you can touch simply by publishing something, anything, to the web, it's utterly mind blowing. That's why I love working with the web.
I still remember the first time I right-clicked and inspected a website back in 2010. I didn't really know what I was looking at, but being able to change headlines on The New York Times' website was pretty wild. If Chrome hadn't included that option in the right-click menu by default, my life would look pretty different today.
Like Remy, the relative simplicity and potential impact of websites is what I love the most. Piecing together my Dad's site with WordPress in 2011 was difficult, but boy was it worth it. The testimonials page contains only a tiny fraction of the appreciation my Dad has gotten for his work. His articles have helped many thousands of IT pros solve technical issues, learn new things, and spend more time with their families, and that's awesome.
I'm constantly surprised by how powerful websites can be, and I plan to continue making the ones that I build faster, lighter, cleaner, and simpler to use.
In 2011 I was surprised to find out that my typing speed on a flat touchscreen wasn't much slower than my speed on a traditional keyboard. For science's sake, I've been recording my typing speed on various devices ever since.
My 2011-2014 tests were conducted using the TapTyping iOS app. Everything since then has been done with the popular AOEU typing speed test website (which also has a great histogram of typing speed data). TapTyping's inclusion of words like "thou" and weird character names from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea often tripped up iOS' autocorrect, so I switched.
My method is pretty consistent - comfortable position, no distractions, not tired, and no do-overs unless errors start to snowball.
I'll continue to update this article roughly once a year with whatever devices I'm using at the time.
Tested's coverage of VR has been excellent these past few months, and their expertise is evident in this comparison. Well done.
My takeaway is that this first hardware battle is a close fight, which is great. Close competition is much better than an immediate incumbent. Content and unique experiences will be the battle for the next year or so, and the second generation of hardware should bring big steps forward.
Here's the launch trailer for the Oculus Rift (careful of the volume):
Loud music paired with a deluge of brief game clips from a first-person perspective. To the layperson who's only barely familiar with VR, it's inscrutable. It doesn't convey what VR actually feels like, and it over-emphasizes the headset (and dinosaur cliché).
Now here's SteamVR / HTC Vive's launch video:
It's longer, sure, but it's far more enjoyable to watch and explains everything from the setup process to the safety grid while gradually building up excitement.
Using a green screen was extremely smart, and so was using realistic groups of relatable people. The experience and fun of VR is emphasized instead of the goofy-looking hardware, and it concludes with people enjoying their new headsets at home. I can easily see segments of this video become ads on TV, and blow peoples' minds.
My favorite part from Maciej's roast:
In May 2015, Facebook introduced ‘Instant Articles’, a special format for news stories designed to appear within the Facebook site, and to load nearly instantly.
Facebook made the announcement on a 6.8 megabyte webpage dominated by a giant headshot of some dude....
Further down the page, you'll find a 41 megabyte video, the only way to find out more about the project....
Facebook has also launched internet.org, an effort to expand Internet access. The stirring homepage includes stories of people from across the developing world, and what getting Internet access has meant for them.
You know what’s coming next. When I left the internet.org homepage open in Chrome over lunch, I came back to find it had transferred over a quarter gigabyte of data.
Surely, you'll say, there's no way the globe in the background of a page about providing universal web access could be a giant video file?
But I am here to tell you, oh yes it is. They load a huge movie just so the globe can spin.
This is Facebook's message to the world: "The internet is slow. Sit and spin."
As MacRumors explains, there's good reason to believe Energous is working with Apple on this for either the iPhone 7S or 8. It clearly beats currently-available alternatives that require large coils and mats.
In addition to performing poorly on many devices, fancy animations on the web have accessibility implications as well. Val Head provides some good guidelines.
Different people have different conditions and reactions, of course. But these examples show that the triggers are more nuanced than one might think if one simply assumes that any or all animation will be problematic. Three factors, in particular, play a big role: the relative size of the movement, the direction of movement, and the perceived distance an animated object covers.
A bit late to this, but it was nice to see the discovery of gravitational waves talked about so widely last month. Brian Greene's segment on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert was particularly well-done.
Impressive engine improvements, and a really neat launch trailer. It's surprising how much better Leap Motion was able to make their 3-year-old device without new hardware. This comparison video from UploadVR shows off the myriad of occlusion and tracking enhancements.
So the day after Firewatch ships, Steve and I fly down to San Francisco and head to Thee Parkside, a tiny little dive bar that shares a wall with Campo’s office. We drink and joke and eat a lot of corn dogs and I profusely thank everyone on the team, one by one, probably a little bit too emotionally (but I really meant it!), thanking them for their sacrifices, their creativity, their hard work, their brilliance. Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin of Campo get up and give a real nice speech, which is never easy, to everyone in the room doing the same, and it’s lovely. All of us find ourselves in the same weird afterglow of actually having done it, something I think feels weird and almost hilarious to all of us. How did this happen? What are the odds? We made this thing. So I give Sean a hug, and he leans in and says “let’s do this again.” That’s how Firewatch really ends.
This post feels like the written equivalent of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Oscar acceptance speech. Surprise, excitement, thankfulness, and emotion. Very well-deserved.
This video by Lazy Game Reviews of the in-game photos you can develop is also great. The team at Campo really put themselves into every detail, and I'm really glad to hear that they're continuing.
Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch and turn AssistiveTouch on
Go to your home screen and drag the AssistiveTouch icon to the bottom-right corner of the screen
Swipe down to show Spotlight search, and swipe up when the AssistiveTouch icon finishes moving above the keyboard. You don't need to lift your finger. Do this a bunch of times until Spotlight becomes noticeably faster.
Open an app and the opening animation should be gone. If not, repeat step 3.
Disable AssistiveTouch to hide the icon.
Animations will resume when you reboot, but until then things should feel a bit faster. The official alternative is to use Accessibility > Reduce Motion, but that still adds a few milliseconds of blur animation to every action.