Apple’s Siri speaker could be announced at WWDC in June

The Verge:

Apple could announce its rival to the Amazon Echo at the iPhone-maker’s developer conference this June. Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo made the prediction (via 9to5Mac), stating that the product will be a high-end speaker with built-in Siri. Apple will reportedly market the device as having superior sound quality and computing power to the Echo and Google Home, with the product set to sell for a similarly premium price-tag.

I’ve no doubt that Apple can pull off a great looking and sounding smart speaker, but before it does that Siri itself needs to get a whole lot smarter.

Switching to an iPhone SE

Michael Tsai on his reasons for switching to an iPhone SE from an iPhone 6S:

The iPhone SE is much more comfortable in the hand, and especially in the pocket. Sometimes when walking or sitting I find myself checking with my finger to make sure that it’s actually in my pocket—that I didn’t leave it somewhere.

..the SE’s less slippery and sharp shape means that I can use it without a case.

The other big difference is that it’s much easier to reach the upper corners of the 4-inch screen one-handed. Again, I got used to the iPhone 6s, but I didn’t realize how much shimmying I was doing until I no longer needed to.

The final area where the iPhone SE feels better is the buttons. The layout with the power button on the top just seems more natural and less confusing, and the volume buttons feel better and are easier to find by touch. There’s also no camera bump, although that’s less relevant since my iPhone 6s would lie flat in its case.

I can see why someone would prefer the size of the 5/5S/5C/SE generation to the current sizes of iPhone, and I agree with what Michael has outined here. The only thing I would miss would be the screen size if I were to go back to an SE, but it’s still nice to have the option to move back. Hopefully there will always be a place for a smaller phone in Apple’s lineup.

Packing The Laptop

David Sparks, on the decision whether or not to bring his laptop on a trip:

There’s a part of me that would love to leave it at home. I do a lot of computing from the iPad and I can often go days without needing a Mac. However, some days I really need a Mac. If I can leave the laptop at home, it means significantly less gear and weight.

There is also the intangible part of this equation. I just enjoy working on the iPad. I like the relative simplicity of it. I like being able to use the Apple Pencil when the mood strikes me and I particularly like the way using (essentially) a piece of glass as my computer makes me feel like I’m living in the future.

There are plenty of obvious benefits to bringing only a tablet while travelling. 1 It depends really on what you need to get done. For me, it’s highly unlikely that I need to get any work done while travelling so the iPad is the perfect device 99% of the time. But if I needed to get work done there is no question that I would need to bring my laptop, which is something David highlights in his post:

I always have to stop and think about what work I intend to get done and whether the iPad is up to the task. On this particular trip I’m worried because I’m still in the process of finalizing a large client transaction which means I may need to spend time with a significant number of files and some complex Microsoft Word documents. Microsoft Word is great on the iPad except when it comes to making changes to style formatting, which it can’t do. When I work on big transactions, there is lots of style formatting.

The real problem is that we all have this list of things that are either impossible or a lot more difficult on the iPad than they are on the Mac. When deciding whether you are going to use a iPad for 10 minutes or a five day trip, we still have to go through the same calculus. Until the iPad can get closer parity to the Mac where we don’t have to go through this mental journey every time we take a trip, the iPad will never reach its full potential.

I’m looking forward to a day when the choice between which device to bring will purely be one of preference. We are still a long way away from that, but I hope it’s not as far away as it seems.

  1. Thinner, lighter, better battery life, can be used while sitting or standing etc. 

The Mac Pro Lives

John Gruber:

Let’s not beat around the bush. I have great news to share:

Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.

There is far too much in this article to quote, but this is definitely good news for both casual and pro Mac users. Keep an eye out for the new episode of ATP where I’m sure this will be covered in detail.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the episode.

iPad naming conventions

Just like the iPhone, the iPad has never had naming conventions that have made much sense. The latest release just further confuses things:

  • iPad
  • iPad 2
  • The new iPad (with Retina display, 3rd generation)
  • The new iPad (with Retina display, 4th generation)
  • iPad Air
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad

Not confusing at all. And strangely seems to have just worked its way back to the original naming.

Making Causality

John Chidgey on making his podcast, Causality:

Unsatisfied with the English translated section of the Amagasaki “accident” report I spent hours digging through the Japanese version of the sections relating to mental state of the driver bouncing between different translation tools to try and understand whether the driver had been getting enough sleep. Unable to locate a single definition source of information about Flint Michigan I went over dozens of articles on what lead up to the incident and dug through some textbooks on corrosion control techniques to understand what actually happened to the water supply. Unhappy with the popular documentary on BP Texas, I went through the multi-hundred page report and the Chemical Safety Board depiction of the event and stripped out the details that made the most sense as the root causes. That’s just three examples that come to mind.

I had no idea such an amount of work goes into making these episodes.

The Cases for (and Against) Apple Adopting USB-C on Future iPhones

Federico Viticci on the potential move from Lightning to USB-C:

USB-C represents the dream of a single, small, reversible connector that works with every device, and it’s being adopted by the entire tech industry. USB-C isn’t as small as Lightning but it’s small enough. More importantly, it’d allow users to use one connector for everything; USB-A, while universal on desktop computers, never achieved ubiquity because it wasn’t suited for mobile devices. USB-C is.

Conversely, Lightning is under Apple’s control and Apple likes the idea of controlling their stack as much as possible (for many different reasons). A transition to USB-C would be costly for users in the short term, and it would be extremely perplexing the year after the iPhone 7 fully embraced Lightning.

Furthermore, unlike the transition from 30-pin to Lightning in 2012, Apple now has a richer, more lucrative ecosystem of accessories and devices based on Lightning, from AirPods and Apple Pencil to keyboards, mice, EarPods, game controllers, Siri remotes, and more. Moving away from Lightning means transitioning several product lines to a standard that Apple doesn’t own. It means additional inconsistency across the board.

Good summary from Federico Viticci about the arguments for and against moving to USB-C in the next iPhone. The arguments for moving are obvious, but the arguments against it are a bit more interesting.

There’s definitely more of an argument to be made for moving to USB-C than there was for ditching the headphone jack. It would also mean that the lifespan of the Lightning connector has been very short. There are plenty of people still using an iPhone 4/4S or iPad 2s - and those people will have completely missed the switch to Lightning.

N.O.V.A. Legacy

Back in 2009, Gameloft released a first person shooter game on iOS called “N.O.V.A. Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance”. This was as close as you could get to Halo on mobile, and for it’s time 1 it was a huge achievement in mobile gaming. It had an in depth story set across multiple maps, different weapons and enemies as well as local and online multiplayer.

Avoiding snipers in "The Mirror, The Ghost and The Gambit"

Gameloft followed up with two sequels for NOVA, as well as producing another great first person series alongside it, Modern Combat, which is more of a Call of Duty clone.

Gameloft have now announced that they are releasing a remastered version of the original NOVA game, which will be free to play. This has sparked a debate over on AppSpy about the value in re-releasing mobile games.

Harry Slater:

The question all of this raises is an interesting one– is this really something we want to see on the App Store? Not just NOVA, but the whole concept of older games getting new leases of life. And I guess there are two standpoints.

On the one hand the App Store is a flighty and changeable place. We’ve seen games disappear without trace, and thanks to Apple’s constant upgrading of iOS, there’s little chance that we’re ever going to get to play those games again.

From that point of view, it’s good to see developers going back to games and refreshing them for a new era. Especially the likes of NOVA, which in its time was a resource-heavy AAA production, but now looks a little bit on the wonky side.

But on the flip side of that, is this just another example of the creative malaise that’s sweeping through gaming as a whole. It’s not just another dude shooter, it’s a dude shooter that we’ve all already shot a whole bunch of dudes in before.

To a certain extent I agree with this standpoint. I don’t see much value in re-releasing games that were only released a few years ago on iOS. What has worked really well, and I hope to see more of, is when console games get ported to mobile. Rockstar Games are making this biggest success of this with their release of some console classics, most notably the Grand Theft Auto series.

I think that’s where these kind of remasters make most sense - bringing them to mobile for the first time. Having said that, I can’t but be happy to see an App Store classic like NOVA being re-released in all its glory.

  1. Bearing in mind that this was still barely over a year into the life of the App Store, and iOS had only just learned the complex task of cut, copy and paste. 

Overcast 3

Marco Arment:

Overcast 3 is now available, and it’s a huge update, mostly in the design and flow of the interface. I’ve been working on it since last summer, informed by over two years of testing, usage, and customer feedback.

A massive update to my favourite podcast app.