Opinion


Opinion

Why Can't People Make Things Clear?

19th November 2020 PERMALINK • 2 min read

Sorry for the rant, but I just had to get something off my chest.

One of my strongly held opinions is that if you are trying to share information, then it is your duty to make it as easy to understand as possible. Especially in a professional sense.

It still baffles me that all through school and in every job I've worked, there's always been a problem with communication and sharing clear information. I'm talking about emails, documents, and even simple chat messages.

Here are the main problems I've encountered, and I bet quite a lot of other people have:

  • More than one font in a simple document.
  • Random line breaks throughout the document.
  • Assortment of bold, underlined, and italicised text. Sometimes used in combinations.
  • Text colour seemingly decided per sentence based on the current mood of the author.
  • No structure.
  • Worse than no structure. Bad structure. Sections in the wrong order, the visual hierarchy doesn't match the content, etc.
  • Different headings used to style text based on a whim not based on the content structure.
  • Many more that I'm forgetting.

I used to put it down to people just not being able to use computers properly. Because maybe it was my interest in computers that lead me to learn how to use them better? But while that may have passed 15-20 years ago, I don't think it does anymore. Especially in the technology-dominated roles that I've worked.

At one of my old jobs, emails would regularly come with more than three text colours, multiple fonts, sometimes font sizes, no clear headers, and probably only two or three paragraphs of text. What's worse, is that it was usually important information that people needed to understand in order to do their job.

When I read badly written/formatted documents or emails I always think to myself, why has this person not just put a bit more effort into making sure people can understand it? Or sometimes it feels like less effort would make it easier to understand.

If you want people to value the information you are sharing, make it easy for them to understand.

Sure, even if something is a real mess, most people will probably be able to understand it. But it may lead to misunderstandings, or questions later on when people want to clarify something. So by keeping things simple and to the point, you save yourself a lot of time.

There's also the fact that you could look unprofessional if you are incapable of making things clear. Because to be honest, if I read something that has no structure, no clear message, and the formatting is all over the place, my opinion would be that the author didn't understand the topic they're writing about.

Maybe when I try to explain things at work, I spend too much time making everything easy to understand, but I definitely think some people don't find it important at all. And maybe this is unimportant to most, but it really irritates me.

HomePod Mini First Impressions
Opinion

HomePod Mini First Impressions

18th November 2020 PERMALINK • 2 min read

My HomePod arrived this morning, so I thought I'd give my first impressions of it. I've had an original HomePod for quite some time, and I love it, but I did always think I'd like a smaller one in my office. That's why I ordered a Mini as soon as it was available.

Turns out, it was a pretty good decision too. Because for £99, I think the HomePod Mini is much more value for money than the £279 HomePod. I'm not saying the HomePod isn't worth that amount of money, but instead, I think the Mini is so cheap for what it is.

Obviously, the main part of the HomePod is what it sounds like. The original HomePod has an incredible set of speakers and can be pretty loud. With that in mind, I was expecting a speaker the size of the Mini would sound drastically different. I mean, still Apple quality, but noticeably worse than the bigger variant. However, they're a lot closer than I imagined.

The HomePod has an expected much higher level of bass, but the Mini still has a decent amount. I've complained in the past that the HomePod has too much bass, so I wasn't going to complain if there was a little less. It can also be pretty loud. I have it around 50% right now and it's certainly enough. I had them working together at one point, and it was amazing, so I'll probably end up getting another Mini at some point.

I tried sending music between the Mini and my iPhone 12 a few times, and it's definitely faster than before. But I have to be honest and say that it wasn't as fast as I've seen in reviews, so maybe I need to find the sweet spot?

One side-note I have about the Mini is that the cable it comes with is what all future Apple cables should be made out of. It's a braided cable, similar to the bigger HomePod, but the thickness of a typical cable.

While the HomePod will always have the size advantage over the Mini, the difference in sound quality doesn't seem to match the difference in size. The Mini is a great speaker. I think that this is the product that will Apple to compete with other devices from Amazon and Google. I don't think that they will ever match the price points or ubiquity of either two, but I can imagine a lot more people are going to be thinking about a HomePod now.

Opinion

More Thoughts on Apple Silicon Macs

12th November 2020 PERMALINK • 2 min read

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Macs transitioning to Apple Silicon today. I started focussing on the differences between Mac models, and also how they can improve the chips in order to transition higher-end Macs like the MacBook Pro 16” and even the Mac Pro.

It sounds like a mammoth task, especially when the Mac Pro has a configurable option for a 28-core Intel Xeon processor. And also that much larger memory options than 16GB exist, with quite a few people finding the sound of 16GB too low anyway.

However, as I’ve been using my iPad Pro 10.5”, I started to think about how well this performs. It came out in 2018, and iPads have come a long way since (which is also why I plan on moving to a 12.9” soon). But still, I have never experience a time where I feel like the machine was too slow.

When Apple announce a new iPad, they tell us what chip it has, and in relative terms how much more capable it is. But when it comes down to it, most people don’t really care what chip is in their device. They just want to use the device for the tasks that they want to achieve.

That’s something that I think Apple has really achieved with the iPad platform. With models being separated into the iPad, iPad Mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro, you don’t need to know the technical details, you just need a rough idea of what type of use you want to use the machine for. If you want to use it as a consumption device, maybe you just need the base iPad, or if you’re working with big video editing tasks, you may want to opt for the Pro.

All I’m saying is, with the iPad, you match the model to the job you want it to do. But with Macs, you also had to choose between processors, which is something the ordinary person probably doesn’t know too much about. So if Apple starts using the same line of thinking with the Mac lineup, maybe the choices will become even simpler?

I think if you break the lineup into three categories, laptops, workstations, and desktop computers, they can start to be easier to understand:

  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro 13”
  • MacBook Pro 16”
  • Mac Mini
  • Mac Pro
  • iMac 21.5”
  • iMac 27”
  • iMac Pro

In most cases, you’ll know what type of Mac you want, you just need to pick which variant. For example, if you wanted to pick a laptop, you could be left with two questions, “Do I need a Pro model?”, and “Do I need the bigger screen and graphics capabilities?”

If each model comes with its assumed uses, Apple can design each model to fit. Which means the messaging to customers can be even simpler. You want a portable Mac for typical use? MacBook Air. You still want it to be as portable, but also need some more power? MacBook Pro 13”.

Apple would essentially be saying, no matter what your use case is, there’s a Mac for the job, and it just works.

The Secret She Keeps
Opinion

The Secret She Keeps

12th November 2020 PERMALINK • 1 min read

I can’t say I’m one to write regularly about the various films and series that I watch, here on this blog. But I just finished watching a short series on BBC called The Secret She Keeps, and although it’s only 6 episodes long, I found it rather gripping, and intriguing.

I won’t spoil the plot, but the story is about two different pregnant women come together, while major secrets in their lives start to see the light and some that are quite shocking. At a few points, the storyline can be predictable, but there’s still enough plot twists to keep you on your toes.

So while I won’t say this is a masterpiece, it’s a gripping series, that will certainly keep you entertained.

You can watch it on BBC iPlayer.


One reason I decided to write a short post about this series is the IMDB score, it’s got just a 6.8, and for some reason, people rate it pretty low. I’ve found that with a lot of films and series that I enjoy have rather low ratings, so maybe I should start writing more about them.

Opinion

What's the Deal With Apple and Power Adapters

9th November 2020 PERMALINK • 1 min read

I'm not sure what has gotten into Apple recently, but they seem to have developed an aversion for including power adapters with products that require power adapters.

The reason for not including it in the new iPhones is supposed to be environmental. I don't fully believe that, but I'll let that one slide for now.

The fact they remove the power adapter from already existing products, without altering the price, tells you that it's not fully environmental reasons.

But when you think that one of the biggest features of the new iPhones is MagSafe, you would expect that a lot of people will be purchasing a MagSafe cable. That MagSafe cable costs £39. It also doesn't come with the required 20W power adapter. That comes separately at a cost of £19. So, £58 for a cable and power adapter which is meant to be the new way of charging your phone.

When looking into the Watch charging options, I came across the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock, which I had completely forgotten about. Released in 2015, it's essentially the charging disc of the Watch charger, but at a 90° angle, on top of a small circular base. And that will set you back £75. It requires the old 5W power adapter, and that will cost you another £19. So all together, it costs £94 for an Apple branded Apple Watch charging dock.

Coming soon is the MagSafe Duo charger, a small foldable case which contains a typical MagSafe wireless charger, and a magnetic Watch charger. To use this charger, you use a single Lightning to USB C cable, plugged into the 20W power adapter. Except again, the power adapter doesn't come in the box. Alongside the £129 it costs for the charger, you will again need to spend another £19 on the power adapter, bringing this solution to £148.

I'm not sure if Apple is trying to make this a new normal, where products that require power adapters simply do not come with them. But to me, it seems absolutely ridiculous.

Opinion

I Don't Like It When Apps Change Their Tab Bar Items

8th November 2020 PERMALINK • 3 min read

In the past few weeks, two apps I use a lot on my phone have changed the layout of their tab bars. It sounds like something that you couldn't get annoyed about, but here I am. I'm sure this annoyance happens to other people, and to other apps that I don't use, but the two that are bugging me today are Instagram and YouTube.

Instagram

Okay, so putting aside the fact that Instagram seems to change their interface weekly, with the option to create a new post or story being moved all around the interface. They clearly do this only for a few users, as a lot of people I know haven't seen any kind of change. But at least for me, every week there's at least one thing that's moved.

For now, I'll focus on the tab bar. Although, who knows, it might even change tomorrow.

So what I have now is five items, Home, Discover, Reels, Shop, and Profile. I get that they want to push Reels as a feature (even though I think it's terrible), and yes you can buy things on Instagram now (I also think this is bad). But why do these items need to fill up 40% of the tab bar?

I liked having the Activity item in the tab bar before, but you could argue that regularly checking your likes, comments, and follows isn't that healthy. So moving that away from the tab bar, and adding just a tiny bit of friction may be helpful for some people.

But what about the most important part of Instagram, posting photos? Surely that deserves to be the most prominent action in the UI. Rather, it's (currently) in the top left, at least for me, and only when you are on the Home screen. Weirdly, if you are on your profile you also have a button in the same place, but this is just to open a list allowing you to create a post, story, highlight, IGTV video, or Reel. Why there needs to be 5 content options is beyond me.

YouTube

This change isn't as drastic as what Instagram is doing, but it still messes with my muscle memory a lot.

The change here is the addition of the Create button in the centre. Although pressing this doesn't actually take you to the upload interface. Instead, you get a boring list interface like the Create option on Instagram. But here you only have two options, to upload a video, or to start a live stream.[1]

It's sort of the opposite of Instagram, where the changes there are to make you view Reels and use the shopping feature. But in the YouTube app, they seem to want you to create more.

I would argue that the opposite is how people use these platforms. Sure, a lot of people upload videos to YouTube, and maybe some people like to watch Reels and shop on Instagram. But at least in my mind, YouTube is the app where the majority of people would be consuming content, and Instagram is the place where you are more likely to be sharing content. Also seeing as the phone app is the only place where you can post images, since there is no iPad app (which I think is totally idiotic), and you can't upload anything on the web interface.

Most of the time when apps change their UI, the annoyance is purely down to muscle memory and having to readjust to a new layout. But these changes just seem to be stupid to me. They seem to be geared towards attracting desired behaviour like shopping or starting live streams, rather than showcasing features that users do more often.


  1. These two options are also totally pointless for me. Seeing as I don't upload videos, and if I try to start a live stream I get told I'm not actually eligible to stream from a mobile device. ↩︎

The Apple Watch Series 6
Opinion

The Apple Watch Series 6

16th September 2020 PERMALINK • 1 min read

I’ll start with the fact that I’ve not been the Apple Watch’s biggest fan for a while. I’ve used a Series 0 and Series 3, but for quite a few months I’ve been watch free.

In my ideal scenario, I’d like Apple to offer a smart band instead of a full watch. But I’ve come to terms that it’s probably not going to happen any time soon. And in a weird U-turn, I ended up ordering a Series 6 yesterday in size 101.

The watch I ordered was a 44mm Space Grey Aluminium one with a Charcoal Braided Solo Loop. And it was because of a few reasons:

  • The new blood oxygen sensor. Maybe not impressive on its own, but I think having that and the heart rate monitor, the health/fitness capabilities will increase massively.
  • watchOS 7. I haven’t had a good look at watchOS 7 before this event, and I was really surprised to see how good it was. Especially the new watch faces. (Matt Birchler has a great review on watchOS 7).
  • Going back to work. A big reason why I stopped wearing the watch was because of the lockdown, and that I was no longer commuting to work anymore. Well, I’m going to have to start again soon, and I used my watch a ton while on the way or at work.
  • The new straps. The new Loop and Braided Loop straps are really nice. I found it really annoying that the buckle of the Sports Loop always dug into my wrist, so that’s definitely a good thing.
  • It’s a decent upgrade. As my last watch was the Series 3, the changes over the past three years have added up to become quite a large improvement. So I’m just generally interested in what an Apple Watch can do for me now.

  1. If you want more information on the new watch strap sizes, I did a tiny bit of investigation

My Thoughts on Apple One
Opinion

My Thoughts on Apple One

16th September 2020 PERMALINK • 1 min read

A lot of people have been crying out for a single Apple subscription for quite some time now, and we’ve finally got one. It’s totally the right time for such a bundle. Especially with the new Fitness+ service coming soon. As Apple have been able to create three different plans with up to six different services.

I think the way they’ve split the plans make sense. One for the user that wants the fundamental services of music, television, and games. The same but for families. And one big plan for people that simply want everything. And they’re all topped off with different amounts of iCloud storage.

The iCloud storage probably won’t be one that draws people in, but I think people will definitely see the benefit of the extra storage once they use it.

I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing myself regarding Apple One. Because right now I pay for Apple Music, tv+, and 200 GB of iCloud storage. The 200 GB costs £2.49 a month, tv+ costs £4.99 a month, and I still somehow get student discount, so I pay only £4.99 for Apple Music. A total of £12.47. Less than any of the Apple One plans.

Maybe if I lose the Apple Music discount, then it would make sense. But I’d also have to pay extra for higher iCloud storage. I was hoping that I could use a bundle to try out News+, but £29.95 seems a bit much for my usage. Because I certainly won’t be using Fitness+, and I’ve already cancelled my Apple Arcade subscription because I wasn’t playing any of the games.

Opinion

Folding Phones

2nd September 2020 PERMALINK • 1 min read

I haven’t really been paying attention to the news around foldable phones, or been interested in any of the hype surrounding them. But this video “Fold, Flip, or Duo: why fold a phone?”, Dieter Bohn did for The Verge at least provided me with some context on why people would actually want one.

I still don’t see myself ever wanting a foldable phone. But I’m slowly starting to agree that it could be a compelling product for a lot of people.

Opinion

My Opinions on Widgets in iOS and iPadOS 14

3rd August 2020 PERMALINK • 4 min read

I’m a big fan of the new widgets in iOS/iPadOS 14, but there are a few ways in which I think it can be improved. They’re obviously still in beta in beta, and things can be tweaked before the official release. But I thought I’d at least get my early impressions out.

First of all, one of the best things I like about widgets now is that they can be placed alongside apps on the Home Screen on iOS. Which therefore makes the fact that this isn’t the same on iPadOS one of my biggest disappointments. Sure, you can place widgets on the Today View on iPad OS, and you can have this pinned to the left of the Home Screen. But in my opinion, having them alongside the apps in the iPad OS Home Screen would be much more suitable. I think the fact that it’s like that on the iPhone is simply down to the screen size. But I think you could also apply the same idea to the iPad. I think because the iPad has a larger screen, that it should have widgets integrated into the Home Screen. And instead of having the Today View to the left of the Home Screen, the grid size should be increased. Which might even allow for more sizes of widgets.

Adding widgets on iPadOS

Another thing I like, which is specific to iPadOS, is how you can add widgets to the Today View. Admittedly it’s a bit of a consolation in my eyes, as the reason it works well is that the widgets are limited to the Today View, and it can make use of the rest of the space on the screen.

If there’s one aspect of the new widgets I don’t like, it’s the level of customisation. Although I’m not sure how much of this is the system itself, or just the built-in widgets that are currently available. It’s mainly the Reminders and the Shortcuts widget that have me feeling like this, so I hope it’s something that can be improved over time. And possibly even during the beta stage.

For the Reminders widget, the first thing that bugged me is that you can’t have it show all tasks. Because to be honest, while I do use various lists in Reminders to keep things organised, when I’m actually viewing tasks, it’s normally via the “All” section. But after a while, I realised that I only need the tasks assigned to today, and possibly a few more lists.

Reminders Widget Stack

Therefore, I decided to combine three Reminders widgets into one using a Stack. Which means, if I want to switch between the three different lists I have set up, all I need to do is a vertical swipe on the widget. I would still prefer to have a more configurable widget, but I suppose a Stack will work fine for now.

Shortcuts widgets

As for the Shortcuts widget, I haven’t yet worked out how I’m going to make use of it. It’s partly due to me working out what Shortcuts I think would be most beneficial on the Home Screen, but also due to the widget itself. In my opinion, the buttons in the widget are far too big. The huge size makes it look a bit childish too me. I would prefer them to be half the size they are now. Maybe the best solution is more widgets or better configuration?

Shortcuts widget customisation

Coincidentally, the level of configuration is also the other part about this widget that annoys me. Since the only configuration that is possible right now is to either select a specific folder or all shortcuts to appear. It means that, at least for me, there’s no nice way to have specific shortcuts appear ƒin the widget. Because now you can have folders in the Shortcuts app, I’ve been using them to organise shortcuts in groups like “Writing”, or “Utilities”. But I think I’m going to have to create a separate folder to control what will appear in the widget. One option I’m thinking about is to have my shortcuts organised how they are currently, but have “wrapper” shortcuts in a separate widget folder. That way it doesn’t mess with my structure.

All in all, a lot of these opinions are based on my experience so far with iOS/iPadOS 14, and therefore will most likely change as I use it more. There could also be changes to these widgets before the end of the beta, which I’m hopeful for, but I can’t say I’m expecting biog changes before the official release. However, I do hope that any improvements are released during iOS 14 in minor releases. Because I think it’s going to take everyone a while to adjust to the new system, and to work out the best solution for their needs.

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