Several days ago my daughter and I went to Palo Alto, California on a daddy-daughter outing. First we stopped by Blue Bottle Coffee. I ordered an Americano and she got a hot chocolate. “Too sweet,” was the verdict. The Americano was a little over-extracted  and had more bitterness than what I would have preferred. Expensive and less-than-perfect. While we were waiting, a tall thirty-something man walked by and I noticed his AirPods.

Both left and right ones were in, and both were sticking out — not down like you normally see them in ears — but sticking out about 30 degrees. This otherwise good-looking man looked downright idiotic to me with those goofy-looking things sticking out of his ears. That’s what I thought anyway. But what I really wanted to know was what my daughter thought of the look. I spoke quietly into her ear, “Hey, there are these white wireless earplugs some people wear to listen to music and make phone calls. If you see someone with them on, let me know what you think of them.” She scanned the area and spotted someone wearing his AirPods. These weren’t sticking out.

“They’re weird looking.”

Apple & Music

1000 songs in your pocket. That was the promise Steve Jobs delivered with the original iPod. Apple focused on quantity because when it was announce in 2001 we wanted all of our music, nicely ripped into mp3 format, with us wherever we went. Other mp3 players used flash storage; the original iPod used a small hard disk called Microdrive by IBM that enabled every music lover to take all their music with them wherever they went.

Of course the iPod had a headphone jack, because people who love listening to music know you get higher quality with an actual connection.

Fast foward to 2016. The iPod is no more. The iPhone subsumed the iPod, all versions of it, except the iPod touch. And Apple has decided the headphone jack needs to go in the then new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. For those who have headphones and prefer to have a physical connection to the iPhone, Apple included a dongle. Apple threw in a dongle for all you music lovers.

From a company who catered to people who love music and up-ended the portable music player market we now have an iPhone — that almost completely eliminated the need for an iPod — without a headphone jack. Apple seems to be having problems remembering its heritage and solving problems no one seems to have. Are there any music lovers out there who wanted Apple to get rid of the headphone jack in the iPhone?

Apple seems to be less interested in people who love music and more interested in people who turn on music in the background.

PS: Several months ago Tim Cook did a video interview on Bloomberg and claimed that Apple deeply cares about music. He was talking about the HomePod as something that will bring a great music experience in the home. In light of the decision Apple has made to get rid of the headphone jack on the iPhones I find it a little paradoxical to hear Tim Cook say that Apple cares deeply about music. Compared to other smart portable speakers the HomePod likely will have better audio quality, but is that saying much?


Marques Brownlee has a great commentary on smartphone DxOMark ratings (it’s a YouTube video). The MKBHD video explains how these ratings are calculated (it’s kind of a black box), and what you should look for to find the right smartphone for you based on what type of photos you like to take.

The highest DxOMark-rated Pixel 2 might not be the best smartphone for you, depending on what camera feature you think is most important. If you’re into portraits the best smartphone according Brownlee, based on zoom and bokeh sub-ratings on DxOMark, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Definitely check out the video; you’ll learn a lot about DxOMark. I know I did.

Low-Margin Hardware

Low-margin hardware brands can’t sustain their business by only selling you low-margin hardware. They need to find other ways to generate profits, and one way is to collect your data and sell it to the highest bidder.

OnePlus runs OxygenOS, which records data:

  • when you lock or unlock the screen
  • when you open, use, close apps
  • which WiFi networks you connect to

And some more:

  • your phone’s IMEI
  • your phone number
  • your mobile carrier

Security researcher Chris Moore says with the last three data points it’s not hard to identify you. But OnePlus doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem and points out you can easily turn off the data collection (the first set of three data points), but not the second set of three data points.

Most smartphone manufacturers hardly make any money selling smartphones. With Apple capturing 80%? or more of smartphone industry profits and the rest going to Samsung, the rest are either breaking even or losing money. So how do they then make money selling smartphones?

By collecting your data and selling your data.

According to AndroidPolice, that cute smart speaker that Google came out with? Home Mini. It got caught recording everything. A defect, affecting only a small number of units, says Google. What if no one had found out? Does Google make enough money selling you a Home Mini for $50 to keep going? Probably not. The Home Mini is a cute, cheap conduit that serves up your data to its search-based increasingly AI-based ad-selling money-making machine.

Source: The Verge


What comes after user-friendly design?

I was going through my RSS feed and came across an article titled “What Comes After User-Friendly Design?” The thought that popped into my mind was, “Are we even good at user-friendly design?”

Are cars user-friendly? Are smartphones user-friendly? Are computers user-friendly? Are vacuum cleaners user-friendly? Are homes user-friendly? Are dishwashers user friendly?

In my world the answers to these questions are no, no, no, no, no, and no. Look around and you’ll see that almost everything is very much user-unfriendly. What do you mean what comes after user-friendly design? We’re not even close to designing user-friendly stuff.