Content Consumption & Screen Size

German-born designer and typographer Erik Spiekermann shares his ideas about content consumption as it relates to screen size:

There are physical limitations as to certain size. It’s nice to read 10 words a line, 50 to 60 characters. This is science. This is not me. This is something that we like, the way our eyes move in little segments. There are physical limitations to our eyes: the curvature of our eyeballs, the space we have in front of us, the distance from the eyes. That’s human, and no machine can ever change that.

There’s a certain size that looks good to us. There’s a certain contrast. Total black and total white is horrible. That’s why books are nice, because they’re not totally black or totally white. We like a little softer.

When you’re reading on your smartphone I think 10 words might be a little too many. I’d say it should be about 8 or 9 on a 4.5-inch-ish smartphone. For older folks with poorer vision the fonts will need to be even larger.

Optimal size depends on our vision. Optimal size also depends on screen size, not because the science of vision changes, but because our preferences and expectations change based on screen size. We hold our smartphones closer to us and expect things to be a bit more succinct. On a 30-inch monitor — with enough pixels (~2560×1600 or more) — we expect the visual experience of reading an electronic version of a magazine to be identical to reading the real one. A 6-inch E Ink grayscale Kindle? We expect something different yet.

iPhone 5se?

[ 9to5 Mac ] Mark Gurman:

The new device is internally codenamed “N69,” but the launch name will likely be the “iPhone 5se.” The “se” suffix has been described in two ways by Apple employees: as a “special edition” variation of the vintage 4-inch iPhone screen size and as an “enhanced” version of the iPhone 5s. Indeed, the upcoming “5se” features a design similar to 2013’s flagship but upgraded internals, software, and hardware features that blend the old design with modern technologies from the past two iPhone upgrades.

An iPhone 5 with the iPhone 6’s curved cover glass and internals. I don’t know. iPhone 5se sounds a bit much for Apple.

Just the other day my friend SooSang and I were reminiscing about old games. He had taken his family to a video arcade in Oakland packed with old video games like Street Fighter, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Defender, Phoenix, Centipede, Pac Man, etc. He also mentioned he has a Mac SE.

SE. I guess Apple did use that so they could use it again. I guess.

Smarter Watches

[ re/code ] Walt Mossberg:

But my $700, stainless steel Apple Watch? If that somehow went away, I expect I’d stop missing it after a few days. Sure, it does just enough for me that I don’t feel terrible about buying it, or wish to get rid of it. But since I started wearing one after it launched last April, it just hasn’t become an integral part of my life. Unlike my phone, if I left my smartwatch at home one day, I wouldn’t drive back to get it.

I consider myself a technology early adopter. I make a calculated risk or investment expecting the new technology to have a positive impact on my life. Looking back at my life: PC XT in 1986 (upgraded to 256MB max RAM a year later — man did that boost the speed!), LCD laptop in 1992, Palm Pilot Professional with 1MB RAM in 1997 (I practiced and practiced my Graffiti) , Apple iPod in 2002 (the U2 version), Palm Treo smartphone in 2003 (and some other early smartphones like the Motorola Q), the Apple iPhone in 2007 (the day it hit Apple Stores on June 29), and the iPad in 2010. But the Apple Watch? I’m not interested. Why? I’m not convinced it will have a positive impact on my life, yet.

Back to Mossberg:

If the smartwatch can’t eventually do something smarter and more useful than it does now, it risks becoming a footnote.

In terms of just looks I prefer circular — not the 270-degree ‘circles’ in the Moto 360 or the Casio — smartwatches like the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Samsung Gear S2.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Says Tech Companies Should Not Have Any Say In Encryption Debate

[ Ars Technica ] Jon Brodkin:

“I don’t think it is Silicon Valley’s decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do,” Stephenson said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I understand [Apple CEO] Tim Cook’s decision, but I don’t think it’s his decision to make.”

In Tim Cook Shows Courage on Encryption I wrote:

Tim Cook is against designing in special backdoors for law enforcement.

Here’s a doozy via John Gruber about a New York Times article back in August 2015 reporting on AT&T’s ‘extraordinary’ relationship with the National Security Agency:

The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.

While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.”

Not surprisingly AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson denies it as ‘silliness’. Hmm… I’m on U-verse.

Light Field Display

The Mill:

Whilst capturing light field data is an amazing step forward in technology, the next link in the chain is light field display. A light field display releases the same data set that a light field camera captures. That is, rather than just pixels that glow different colors and intensities making a flat image, a light field display reproduces the direction of the photons being released. This adds amazing new qualities to the image and is a paradigm shift in the way we view screens.

The only catalyst powerful enough to get light field camera technology into the mainstream is the smartphone. And not just any smartphone from some no-name brand, but smartphones from major brands like Apple or Samsung.

If in the future Apple decides to put light field camera technology into an iPhone or if Samsung did the same with one of its Galaxy smartphones then light field camera technology will definitely go mainstream. But that also means Apple or Samsung will have made the smartphone with a light field display. What’s the use of capturing light field images if you can’t fully see them?

Capturing light field images and being able to display them sounds really cool. But it might take a while.

4K TV? Wait?

[ The New York Times ] Brian X. Chen:

But after interviewing several technology companies and testing a premium Samsung 4K TV for more than a week, I was less than convinced that 2016 would be a good year to buy one of the sets. Televisions with the 4K feature remain expensive, ranging from $1,000 to tens of thousands of dollars. More important, the content available in the new 4K video resolution is sparse. And while images encoded in 4K do look better than normal high-definition ones, the differences aren’t jaw-dropping.

Look out for 4K content that takes advantage of a technology called HDR or High Dynamic Range. TVs with backlit LED arrays can perform HDR and HDR 4K TVs displaying HDR 4K content look way better than 1080p. According to Brian Chen, “Marco Polo” is a Netflix original HDR 4K.

4K TVs will continue to get bigger, better, and cheaper. At some point you’ll need to bite the bullet. I’m planning to buy a 55-inch 4K OLED TV when prices fall to below US$1000. I don’t know exactly when, but I hope it’ll be sooner than later.

Shameless Lack Of Creativity

[ via John Gruber ] Neil Cybart tweeted marketing material from Apple in 2015 and Lenovo in 2016. The position and angle of the laptops, and how much the lid is open, etc. are all identical. Shows laziness, shamelessness, and a lack of creativity. As someone preparing to enter the UI/UX design industry I find it important to call out this type of shameless copying of someone else’s work.

Tim Cook Shows Courage on Encryption

John Gruber:

Tim Cook is right, and encryption and privacy experts are all on his side, but where are the other leaders of major U.S. companies? Where is Larry Page? Satya Nadella? Mark Zuckerberg? Jack Dorsey?

Apple is the only major tech company publicly defending unbreakable encryption against intrusive surveillance. Tim Cook is against designing in special backdoors for law enforcement.

[ The Intercept ] Jenna McLaughlin:

Apple CEO Tim Cook lashed out at the high-level delegation of Obama administration officials who came calling on tech leaders in San Jose last week, criticizing the White House for a lack of leadership and asking the administration to issue a strong public statement defending the use of unbreakable encryption.

Is it not common sense to conclude if backdoors are designed into encryption systems for law enforcement, those same backdoors will eventually get hacked by those who don’t give a damn about the law? Then you’ll end up with an encryption system that is virtually useless. Us regular folks will be the only ones to lose out.

Samsung Fixes Upside-Down S Pen Issue on Galaxy Note 5

[ Android Central ] Alex Dobie:

“Samsung can confirm that the Note5 internal S Pen mechanism has been changed to avoid the issue caused by inserting the S Pen incorrectly,” A Samsung spokesperson told Android Central. “As always, we recommend following proper instructions for storing the S Pen.”

In Samsung Galaxy Note 5: S Pen Warning! I quoted Samsung’s warning: if you put the S Pen stylus into the Note 5 the wrong way you can damage the stylus and the Note 5. I also noted it as a terrible user experience design. How did the product designers, user experience designers, etc. at Samsung think it a good design to allow the stylus to be inserted the wrong way? And if you do you might damage the stylus and the phone? And then warn the user? Absolutely absurd. I’m glad Samsung is fixing the problem, but it should never have been designed that way from the beginning.