I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and work at PlaceIQ.


Posts tagged Apple

Looking Forward to Our Smart Watch Future

The Apple Watch feels like the first iPhone or iPod. It’s too expensive, too bulky, lacks apps other than a few example Apple entries, but is good enough to convince us that a smart watch future is inevitable.

In a few years, a sub $200 device will land in a semi-mature ecosystem and sweep the holiday season. Apple’s watch will almost certainly have it’s iPod Nano moment.

The big question is whether Apple or Google will launch this ideal device.

Apple clearly will nail the hardware, but Google will lap Apple when it comes to services, contextual data, and algorithms. Most of a smart watch’s interface is invisible. It is the health, location, movement, social, scheduled, and other context data which drives the device 95% of the time. And right now I’d bet on Google Now over Siri.

But it’s close. Google products are contextually aware but socially awkward. Apple products are socially aware but contextually awkward. Google ships a face computer. Apple ships jewelry.

I’ll be thinking about our wearable future in the coming days and weeks, but my immediate reaction to Apple’s show yesterday is an excitement for the eventual change in how we interface with technology. As wearables improve, I’m looking forward to:

  • Shorter, responsive emails that are more like conversations than memos.
  • Contextualized decisions based on health and context data. (For example, if you use your free hour between 3 and 4 to go to the gym your fitness chart will look like if not it will look like that.)
  • Biometrics based security.
  • Practical dictation tools.
  • Smartphone-format devices we mostly leave in our bags and pockets.
  • Smartphone-format devices that don’t need to manage notifications.

An Explainer Regarding Apple's MAC Address Updates 

There’s lots of handwringing going on. Hoping to bring some context to this news and why it’s an important change:

So Apple was faced with a challenge: their users’ devices were being logged without their knowledge, without their consent, all while using a hardware-based identifier. Apple’s adherence to standard network practices – broadcasting MAC addresses to WiFi hubs – created an environment where this situation could occur. So Apple made moves to change that standard practice.

Starting in iOS 8, iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches will broadcast random MAC addresses. In Apple’s words, “The MAC address for WiFi scans may not always be the device’s (universal) address.” Companies that log MAC addresses won’t be able to connect individual visits to a single device. They’ll know someone is there, but not where else they’ve gone. >

Some have suggested that this move is a play to get more people using Apple’s own iBeacon API. This may be true. But iBeacons are much more user friendly. To see a company’s iBeacons, users must install an associated application and grant it the appropriate location permissions. Applications that use iBeacons are opt-in and users are always able to opt-out by managing their location permissions in their device settings.

Read the rest here.

On Apple & Beats

Perhaps the best way to think about Apple’s acquisition of Beats is to think about Disney’s acquisition of Marvel. Here’s what The New York Times had to say:

The brooding Marvel characters tend to be more popular with boys — an area where Disney could use help. While the likes of “Hannah Montana” and the blockbuster Princesses merchandising line have solidified Disney’s hold on little girls, franchises for boys have been harder to come by.

Disney bought an audience to which their current products did not speak. When you’re selling content, there are no tech specs. Appeal is based on emotion, culture, and fashion. Disney bought Marvel in order to buy the attention and devotion of comic book fans, an audience which is strong in demographic segments where Disney was weak.

I believe Apple bought Beats largely for this reason: Beats is popular with the same 14-25 year olds that care less about Apple products. It is no mistake this is the audience Samsung, Motorola, and HTC have been addressing. Each of these firms did their market research and realized Apple was weak with youth.

Consider this and feel ancient: the first iPod or iPhone this youth audience had access to was likely their parents. The ways in which Apple was cool do not apply to this segment (U2 iPods anyone? Alicia Keys announcements?) Cool is fickle, and only very rarely does one remain in vogue across two consecutive generations1.

Compounding Apple’s waning cool is the trend of technology products to be evaluated for qualitative reasons. This is a trend Apple itself kicked off, starting with the first Bondi Blue iMac. The features and specs of a technology product are becoming less and less important. Read Sam Biddle’s excellent back-room history of Beats to see this in action: the alleged technical brains behind the original Beats were literally ousted and the company didn’t miss a step.

As technology becomes wearable, this trend towards quantitative assessment is exacerbated. People hesitate to buy a gadget they keep in their pocket or bag if they don’t like the way it looks. People will never buy a gadget they keep on their wrist if they don’t like the way it looks. Period.

If Apple isn’t fashionable, any wearable they launch is dead in the water. Regardless of it’s technological abilities. Apple is cool for the older, “U2” audiences. If it is even questionably cool for young audiences, a wearable product will never become a mass success. Young people are crucial for new product categories. They have high disposable incomes and lots of disposable time (to take on learning curves).

Apple’s purchased Beats for it’s demographic appeal. Without this appeal, all wearable product lines were at risk.

  1. Though generation-skipping cool is the norm. (We’re just borrowing our grandfathers Filson bag, scotch, and facial hair.) 

"Designed by Apple in California" 

Wow. Click through, watch the video. With the new Pro, the new OS designs, and this statement it’s crystal clear: Apple is now Ive’s vision and Cook’s operation.

If Job’s Apple was the intersection of technology and liberal arts, Ive’s Apple looks to be the intersection of technology and emotion.

It’s a brand new era. How exciting.

Think Different.

Wired put up a collection of “Lost Apple Products" but missed my personal favorite: the Apple QuickTake 100, which could capture and store 8 640x480 images of questionable quality.

(Images via Carl Berkeley)

iTunes is dead. But it’s still the big play. Microsoft became trapped in the Windows legacy and now, it appears, that Apple is becoming trapped into the iTunes legacy.
We don’t do focus groups - that is the job of the designer. It’s unfair to ask people who don’t have a sense of the opportunities of tomorrow from the context of today to design.

Jonathan Ive was interviewed by the Evening Standard.

On competitors’ failures:

Most of our competitors are interesting in doing something different, or want to appear new - I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us - a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better. Committees just don’t work, and it’s not about price, schedule or a bizarre marketing goal to appear different - they are corporate goals with scant regard for people who use the product.

And on innovation and spending time on details:

It’s incredibly time consuming, you can spent months and months and months on a tiny detail - but unless you solve that tiny problem, you can’t solve this other, fundamental product.

You often feel there is no sense these can be solved, but you have faith. This is why these innovations are so hard - there are no points of reference.

Every additional interview with Ive further convinces me him and his team share the motivations of Benedictine Monks, who stole away from society to obsess over meticulously hand-written Bibles.

Siri responded to a man in China looking to pick up an iPad 3. Whoops.

Guess they’ll be in-store tomorrow. (Via MIC Gadget, via TUAW)

Siri responded to a man in China looking to pick up an iPad 3. Whoops.

Guess they’ll be in-store tomorrow. (Via MIC Gadget, via TUAW)

An Apple commissioned study by the Analysis Group (and their department of boring names) estimates that Apple has created roughly 514,000 jobs in the USA.

Half-a-million might seem large, but when you consider the infrastructure required to deliver $500 billion in value the estimate seems conservative.

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