Freshly Baked – Winter in Bendigo

I needed some inspiration the other day so I decided to walk into Bendigo and take some photos with my iPhone. It was a pretty cold and wintery day, but I had a great time and I hope that you like the results.

I buy a new iPhone every couple of years and one of the features that I look forward to the most is the upgraded camera. With the iPhone 6, I think that the camera has become so good that I cannot imagine buying a "point and shoot" type of camera ever again.

 "Twist "

 "4" 

 "Trash? "

 "Intersection" 

 "BWR" 

"Down Below" 

 "Old Growth" 

 "Green Tee" 

 "Love Lost" 

 "I'm Lichen this Moss" 

 "Texture" 

 "Fallen Pt1" 

 "Fallen Pt2" 

Freshly Baked – Forget the Digital Crown, Siri is the Killer Interface Tool for the Apple Watch

When Tim Cook launched the Apple Watch in September 2014, much was made about the digital crown being the next revolutionary input device to have been introduced by Apple (following respectively, the mouse, click wheel and multitouch). Having spent three weeks wearing my Apple Watch, however, I think that Apple have misjudged the importance of the Digital Crown. The Apple Watch does have a killer new way of interacting with the device, it just happens that it isn't the one they are touting. The Apple Watches killer interface tool is Siri.

I am not saying that the Digital Crown is not a useful and innovative piece of hardware — for example, it is great for scrolling through long e-mails and texts. What I am saying is that it is not nearly as important, or as useful as Siri. Let me explain.

Much has been written recently about the Digital Crown and the difficulties it poses when navigating the device. I agree with John Gruber that the Apple Watch essentially has two modes, watch mode and app mode. If we accept this argument, let's have a look at the role the Digital Crown plays in navigating each mode.

In watch mode, the Digital Crown is almost never used. Touching a complication takes you directly to the selected app and checking notifications and glances is accomplished by swiping down or up respectively from the watch face. The only time one might use the Digital Crown is if you are scrolling through a long list of notifications or a notification that contains a lot of text.

The Digital Crown becomes more necessary when you want to switch modes from the watch mode to the app mode, however, this is where the role of the Digital Crown can become confusing. I think that both Steven Berlin Johnson and John Gruber are correct here in asserting that the confusion comes from people expecting that pressing the Digital Crown is analogous to pressing the home button on the iPhone.

Using Siri solves the confusion surrounding the Digital Crowns role and radically simplifies the interaction model for the Apple Watch. To illustrate, let's look at the steps a user might take using the Digital Crown exclusively to navigate to an app from the watch face and then compare this to using Siri.

Let say I want to listen to a podcast in Overcast. When using the Digital Crown as my interaction device, here are the necessary steps:

  • I leave the Watch mode by pressing the Digital Crown and launching app mode
  • I then navigate around with my finger until I find the Overcast app icon. I then press the app icon to launch the app
  • Once I have selected my podcast and it is playing I now press the Digital Crown, it takes me back to the app mode with the Overcast app centered
  • I then press the Digital Crown again and it centers the watch app
  • Finally, I press the Digital Crown again and then I return to the watch mode

Compare that to completing the same task using Siri.

  • I launch Siri by either saying 'Hey Siri' or pressing and holding the Digital Crown
  • I then say 'Open Overcast'. Siri launches me directly into the app and I select my podcast
  • When I'm done, I press the Digital Crown once and I'm back at my watch face in watch mode [^fn-1]

There is another advantage to this method. It strips back significantly the need for clogging up watch mode with lots of glances. Glances are great, however, once you load too many, it becomes cumbersome to navigate through your glances to find the one you want. In addition, glances are fairly limited at this point. To use Overcast again as an example, unless I simply want to view the playback controls of my podcast — which first assumes that you have one already playing — I must force touch the glance to complete any other task, such as selecting a new podcast from my list or changing an effect. Force touching causes the glance to open the app anyway, defeating the purpose of having a quick glance in the first place.

If we are using Siri to navigate, we can now remove the Overcast glance completely — along with any other glance that is linked to an app — as they are more easily accessed by simply asking Siri to open them directly from the watch face. We can now radically simplify the glance view and only use those glances that are uniquely suited to that space — in my case that means the connection, now playing, movement, heart rate and battery complications.

By using Siri as the primary navigation control for the Apple Watch, we can now use the Digital Crown in a much more logical way, as a home button to take us back to the watch face from an app and as a means of scrolling through long strings of text without covering the text with our finger.

[^fn-1]: Some may say that they do not like talking to their watch. As an introvert, I have some sympathy for this position. I would, for example, never answer my watch Dick Tracy style when my phone is ringing. Speaking to the watch briefly to ask it to perform a task using a few words, however, is less of an issue for me. There may be a few examples where using Siri to launch apps may not be appropriate, however, in my experience, these are few and far between.

Freshly Baked – The Apple Watch and Beats

I have been reading a lot about the Apple Watch lately.

Perhaps because of the scant details provided about the Apple Watch at the launch event, there has been no shortage of opinions regarding the possible pricing and features that are likely once the watch is released in the new year. John Gruber’s analysis, for mine, is particularly interesting. 

There is one point related to the watch, however, that I think has been under-appreciated. I believe that the Beats acquisition is absolutely fundamental to Apples strategy with the Apple Watch. 

Many technology pundits have wondered aloud as to what was the point of the Beats acquisition. Was it for the Beats music service? Was it simply to inject some marketing talent? I think that a large factor behind the acquisition was the Apple Watch.

For me, a watch as a standalone communications device will never make sense. In the Apple Watch introduction, it was clear that the watch can register phone calls and that it was technically possible to take the call from the watch; however, does anyone really think that speaking into a wrist watch and then clumsily holding it up to the ear to hear a reply will be a good user experience? A smartwatch as a standalone device will only ever make sense when it is paired to a set of wireless headphones.

If you have ready access to a pair of headphones, taking phone calls becomes easy, without headphones, you look like a dick. Wearing headphones – and crucially having access to them at all times – turns the Apple Watch into a truly useful communication device. Voice messages, Siri commands and listening to music are only going to be enjoyable if you are wearing – or can quickly gain access to – headphones whenever you are wearing your watch, which for most of us will be all day.

This is a really difficult problem though. Nobody currently wears headphones at all times and – when you do wear headphones – you often look like a bit of a dork. If only there was a company that actually made it cool to be seen in headphones…oh, wait a minute.

Beats has the caché to make wearing headphones all day cool. If the style and marketing gurus at Beats can make us comfortable with the idea of using headphones all day, the $3 billion dollars Apple paid to acquire Beats all of the sudden seems like a steal.

It could also become a very profitable venture. It is likely that – just as we will want several watch bands for our Apple Watch – we will want several pairs of headphones. Sports headphones are great while you are working out, but can look pretty stupid with a suit. I can well imagine a future in which we have one pair of headphones for sport and casual wear and one for the office and formal occasions. Apple owning Beats also means that it can match the headphones to your personal watch preferences, Beats “edition” headphones anyone? I therefore expect that at the formal Apple Watch launch event in early 2015, companion Beats headphones will also be announced.

I think that the smartwatch linked to headphones scenario could have some very interesting implications for our expectations about communication. 

People will very quickly begin to resent having to pick their smartphone out of their pocket in order to communicate with someone by typing. The Apple Watch demonstration made it clear that people will be able to send audio messages when replying to texts, this functionality is baked into iOS8. I think this will lead to a massive increase in voice traffic on Apple’s Messages application. 

I can imagine a lot less e-mails being sent as physically typing out messages on a mobile will start to be recognised as the chore it has always been. 

Want to remind someone about an upcoming meeting? Voice message them. Sending a voice message is cool; seriously, if you have iOS8 installed, give it a try. Now compare this to standing in the middle of the street pecking out a quick e-mail reply. I am not suggesting that e-mail is dead, only that our use of e-mail for quick correspondence will decrease as our use of wearable technology increases.

If, in the future, wearable technology – by which I mean a smartwatch and headphones paired to your mobile phone – can become the preferred option for telling the time, receiving alerts, messaging, listening to music and personal navigation. What then for the future of the mobile phone?

There are some things that wearable technology cannot replace. Browsing the web, for example, will never be a joyous experience on a screen the size of a postage stamp. Want to watch a movie or YouTube clip? Use your phone. Need to review a document or jot down some ideas for an article? Phone wins every time. But I do think that as wearable technology matures we will be increasingly leaving our mobile phones in our pockets and purses, just as I expect that the wearing of headphones will shift from being something we do when we commute or workout, to something we have ready access to at all times.

Freshly Baked – Latest Episode of the 4 Bits Podcast (ep 41)

The latest episode of the 4 bits podcast has arrived jam packed with banter about the following:

  1. Mod Notebook — Have you ever wanted a scanned copy of your physical notebook? No, me either.
  2. Apple's Logic Remote – The iOS app that will transform the way you record music on the Mac.
  3. Dubble – Expose yourself to strangers!
  4. Powershop – A utility company that gives you the power?

Presented as ever by yours truly and Simon Kirby.