Random Thoughts on Random Apple Stuff

My iPhone sucks article lucked out in terms of SEO for some reason and it sent me a bunch of traffic during the iPhone frenzy that is still plaguing the blogosphere. I honestly can’t open up my RSS reader without sifting through pile after pile of iPhone stories. Obviously, with half a million units in sales and the lovefest that followed, Apple did something right. I’ll admit that the iPhone certainly exceeded my expectations (at least from secondhand accounts). Still, even the folks at Apple can’t get everything right the first time especially with hardware. No cut and paste as well as some other basically missing features put the initial buyers in the “pioneers” field. Do any of us envy people who have the first generation iPod? No. So minus bragging rights and impatience, it’s always good to wait before “taking the plunge”. I guess the greatest coup for Apple is that they were able to tap into latent demand for something better in the field of smart phones.

The traffic bonanza:

And now for my rants…

Battery Life

Whether it’s the new fancy iPhone, iPods, or MacBooks I’d say the battery is the most important component across all Apple products. Yet I’m amazed at how much the battery life of iPods and any other Apple product really sucks. Batteries suck in general but the magnitude of how much batteries suck on the iPod really boggles my mind. The only way I’ve found to make an iPod last is to play it on shuffle and never ever touch the scroll wheel. Just let it play whatever because lighting the screen and selecting songs will drain the battery like a thirsty vampire. Stay away from that dial.

The iPod easily has the worst battery life of any portable music player I’ve owned from cassette players on. Is Apple already banking on fuel cell technology? The battery adds the most dead weight and also affects enjoyment of portable products. We can do better.

Apples HIG Revisited, An Alternate Theory

Read The HIG still matters, even with special effects and The New Leopard Dock and the HIG. Obviously, Apple struck a nerve with their translucent menu bar and the new dock’s design.

Casting the debate about which is better aside, I think the main issue is caused by the fact that:

  • Designers use large LCD monitors at work
  • Many of the current crop of designers have no background in non-digital production

    I think there’s a big difference between a translucent menu bar as seen on a 30 inch Cinema Display and a tiny MacBook. I think this shift in the designer’s perspective is affecting the look and feel of software that we use (including web services). I think the Apple interface designers are losing touch with common folk on this. I think programmers are more likely to do a higher volume of work on a laptop than designers. I just can’t picture a professional designer firing up Photoshop or Illustrator on a MacBook at the local wi-fi cafe to finish up their UI design. However, this always wasn’t the case. Cheap LCD monitors are a relatively recent phenomenon. Monitor size does affect productivity so this isn’t a call to shrink everyone’s screens but I think it still plays an important part in the aesthetics of the design trends we are seeing.

    Another is the fact that many of the current crop of young designers are cutting their teeth on digital production methods without a firm background in non-digital art production. All modern graphics software take care of shadows and perspectives for you with the click of the mouse. Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a price. Just look at some of the mind-boggling special effects you see in Hollywood movies. There’s something weird about digital explosions and other fanciness that don’t follow the laws of physics.

    It’s the same with some aspects of the interface. You need an eye for detail as well as lots of hands on experience with shadows and perspectives. Whoever did the new designs for Leopard obviously uses a large monitor and has a weak background in non-digital art production (can’t draw with pencil or brush).

    The Great Intel Migration

    Spending a lot of time on a Power PC G4 tower with 4GB of RAM confirmed a suspicion of mine that Apple still has a long way to go before they can truly claim to be optimized for the Intel platform. I’ve heard quite a few mac users complain about Intel macs being unstable and prone to weirdness. I’m hoping a lot of it has to do with software but you never know.

    Using the G4 reminds me of what using an Apple computer should be like: always stable. It’s just as fast and responsive as my Intel MacBook too, only stable.

    I’ve got my fingers crossed that Leopard will have many of these issues silently dealt with in the background through a variety of optimizations to the platform. Apple is doing a great job considering the magnitude of the task but we must not forget that mac diehards have long memories.


    Forget the iPhone, I can’t wait for Leopard.