On the Notion That Your Phone Sucks

In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane.
Oscar Wilde

Yesterday, Apple announced an onslaught of new laptops, software updates, and general awesomeness at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

Like all WWDC keynotes in recent years, it was a great day to be an Apple fan. When the company releases new products, its not only a chance to drool with excitement and start contemplating selling your organs. It’s also a reminder of why we in the Apple community stand so firmly behind the company.

Apple perpetuates what we believe in: simplicity, elegance, and sophistication.

But it’s not for everybody. Nothing is.

Try as I might, I couldn’t help but encounter the usual Internet skepticism and criticism about Apple’s announcements — people who scoffed and rolled their eyes while promoting their own obviously superior brands and devices.

There was a time when I would have taken their criticism personally. Apple is doing what I believe in, and therefore, when you insult Apple, and you insult me. We could have a lengthy discussion about how and why a company engenders such emotional attachment, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that I’ve learned not to waste my energy trying to disprove someone’s opinion.

As long as they believe blue is red, you can’t have a rational conversation about the color of the sky.
Patrick Rhone

If you believe your phone is better than mine, that’s OK.

If I believe my computer is better than yours, that’s OK.

But trying to convince the other person that their opinion is wrong is futile.

And why bother?

What do you have to gain from telling me that my phone is stupid? What do I have to gain from letting you know your computer sucks?

Nothing.

When we feel strongly about a thing or idea, we attach ourselves to it. It becomes a part of our identity. To have someone bash your thing is to have them bash you as a person.

But it’s not worth preserving that attachment. Someone will always disagree with you, and so the more attached you are to your idea, the more likely you are to have your inner peace disturbed by a willful dissenter.

Instead, be content to let the other person think whatever it is they think. Chances are their way of thinking makes them happy. Why rob them of that happiness?

Let go.

It’s pointless to defend a personal preference. It’s like trying to make an intelligent case for your favorite color.
Merlin Mann

If you don’t like my phone, don’t buy it. I won’t buy your computer.

And we’ll all be OK. Trust me.

Thanks for reading! Want more? Grab the free QLE Manifesto. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

Thoughts on Yesterday's Apple News

As you no doubt have heard, Apple unveiled a new iPad and more yesterday. Here are a few of my thoughts.

The Name

It seems like the biggest buzz around yesterday’s announcement was about the name: “The new iPad.” Some are declaring this to be a stupid move, as if Apple was “unable” to come up with a better name. Such thinking is, of course, laughable. I’m sure “iPad 3”, “iPad HD”, “iPad Pro”, and others were considered, but Apple made the right move here.

Three reasons off the top of my head: In five years, do you really think Apple would want to be announcing the “iPad 7”? The “iPad 13”? No, the numbers had to go sooner or later, and I suspect we’ll see the same for the new iPhone later this year. Furthermore, most casual users are going to call it “the new iPad” or “the new iPhone” anyway. Now there’s no need to explain that, “Well, it’s the fifth iPhone, but it’s called the 4S…” etc. Instead: “Hey, is that the new iPad?” “Yes, yes it is.” Finally, Macs and iPods do not have numbered names. There’s no “MacBook Air 4” or “iPod 12”. Getting rid of the numbering system makes Apple’s product line consistent and simple.

Slightly complicating the matter, though, is the fact that the iPad 2 is still going to be available for $399. It does seem a bit odd to envision Apple Store employees explaining the two devices: “Are you looking for an iPad 2, or the new iPad?” But, I think such a question is designed to entice customers to buy the new iPad. “iPad 2” might as well mean “the old iPad” when used in the same sentence as “the new iPad”. Plus, when comparing the two side-by-side, I don’t think people will have a hard time figuring out which model they want.

The Retina Display

…is what’s it’s all about. I remember turning on my iPhone 4 for the first time, and the screen was astounding. I can’t wait to see what the Retina Display looks like on the iPad. I’m curious to see how the reading experience compares between the new iPad and a Kindle. The Retina reading experience will undoubtedly be much better, but the new iPad is still backlit, allowing e-readers to hold onto their e-ink advantage. Still, the iPad is a multipurpose device, and browsing the web, email, photos, movies, et al. are going to be gorgeous. I will continue to own both.

iPhoto for iOS

I’m not a huge photos guy. I snap a lot of pictures with my iPhone, but I do little in the way of organizing, editing, sharing, etc. Nevertheless, the iPhoto demo (which starts at minute 62:00) really impressed me. At $4.99, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it, and don’t overlook the fact that it’s a universal app and can be used on the iPhone as well.

See Viticci’s in-depth review of iPhoto for iOS over on MacStories.

The New Camera

0.7 megapixels to 5.0 megapixels is a huge upgrade, and being able to shoot 1080p video is nice, but I still don’t see myself holding up an iPad to take photos or videos very often. I’ve seen people do that with iPad 2s on a semi-regular basis though, so it’s a worthy addition. At least now the pictures will be of comparable quality to those taken with an iPhone 4.

A5X Chip for Quad Core Graphics, 4G LTE, and 10-Hour Battery Life

Mmmmm… speed. I’m most excited about the fact that a 4G iPad strongly suggests a 4G iPhone later this year. The same 10-hour battery life is great. I charge my iPad every few days, and it’s impressive that Apple — predictably — made no sacrifices in this department.

Slightly Thicker, Slightly Heavier

Negligible. Skeptics will be glad to have something to nitpick over, but the hardware upgrades above more than compensate for a few extra millimeters and grams.

Will I Be Getting One?

Sadly, no, I don’t think so. My iPad 2 is only a year old, and I love it very much. I think the new iPad is going to be amazing, and like Marco has been saying, the Retina Display alone makes it a worthy upgrade. But, I will be buying the new iPhone later this year, guaranteed, and I’d rather stagger out my iDevice purchases than buy two in the same year. I think owners of the original iPad would be crazy not to upgrade, and even iPad 2 owners aren’t crazy to at least consider it. It’s very tempting, but I will save my $499+… for the time being.

If you are in the market for a new iPad, however, be sure to consult Marco Arment’s buyer’s guide.

The Latest Apple TV

Like Mr. Stephen Hackett, I’m glad the Apple TV is still an independent box rather than a full-fledged television set. I just upgrade to the new software, and the new interface and other improvements looks good. Notably, the only difference between the latest Apple TV and the previous generation is that the new one can play 1080p video, while the older one lacks the hardware capabilities to do so. At the same price of $99 though, I’ll strongly be considering giving/selling my Apple TV to a family member and picking up one of the new models. The fact that iTunes in the Cloud now supports movies is also pretty awesome.

iOS 5.1

Small, but nice, updates, including an always-present camera button on the lock screen. I never remembered to double click the home button before, and the swipe up gesture to open the camera is well done. Also, photos can now be deleted from Photo Stream, which is great because I can stop worrying about clogging up Photo Stream with screenshots and other throwaway shots.

“2012: There’s a Lot to Look Forward to”

Tim Cook:

“Only Apple could deliver this kind of innovation in such a beautiful, integrated, and easy-to-use way. It’s what we love to do. It’s what we stand for. And across the year, you’re going to see a lot more of this kind of innovation. We are just getting started.”

Tim’s tantalizing promise about the year to come confirms that it’s still an exciting time to be a member of the Apple community, and that it will be for the foreseeable future. Certainly, Apple could merely continue to improve upon its existing devices and do very well, but I can’t wait to see what the next big thing is.

No other company creates an experience that instills such passion and dedication in its customers. It’s why people love, support, and stand so proudly alongside Apple.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

Should You Put a Case On Your iPhone?

Dave Caolo, of 52 Tiger fame, has noted that Gizmodo wants us to stop ruining our phones with stupid cases. Writes Jamie Condliffe:

It’s time to lose your cover for good, and let your phone roam free, nude, as nature intended.

I have no love for Gizmodo, and while I disagree with the tone of Condliffe’s article — even though it bears the site’s “Rant” tag — I also don’t use a case on my phone. I frequently discuss the issue with fellow iPhone users, so I thought I’d lay out my thoughts here.

On my iPhone 3G and my current iPhone 4, I’ve used a handful of cases with varying degrees of intensity. I started with the tank-like Otterbox Defender on my 3G, which can supposedly withstand being run over by a truck. Eventually, I realized this case was overkill, and over time I settled at the opposite end of the spectrum with the minimalist Incase Snap. This case offered little more than scratch protection, but it felt good.

When my Incase Snap cracked, I replaced it with what turned out to be (according to reviews) a knockoff from Amazon, which was made of a different material and didn’t fit properly. Well, no iPhone of mine wears a knockoff case, so I decided to go try going without. I haven’t used a case for probably six months now, much to the shock and awe of my friends and family members.

In retrospect, I believe my progression from indestructible to minimalist cases helped grant me the confidence to let my iPhone go naked. When it came time to ditch my phony Incase Snap, I asked myself, “How much protection is this case really providing anyway?” In other words, going from a very thin case to no case at all wasn’t much of a leap. If you’re contemplating going sans-case, might I suggest moving to a thinner case first as a stepping stone.

But that brings us back to the original issue and Gizmodo’s article: why would you want to go without a case?

Let’s take a look at Gizmodo’s three points. The first is that “it’s unnatural”:

Putting a case on your phone is a little like painting your Ferrari with rust-proofing paint, then wrapping it in burlap. Sure, you’re less likely to scratch it. But you obscure every beautiful detail of the bodywork. “It’s sensible,” you say. Lies. It’s not more sensible. It defeats the point of designing the phone in the first place.

There’s a valid point here. The iPhone 4/4S is a beautiful device, no question about it. Much of this beauty is due to the glass screen and back, which consequently give it a fragile feel. I’m not going to go into the technical specifications of the type of glass Apple uses, but what it comes down to is showing off your beautiful device versus protecting your prized possession. If you drop things a lot, a case might in fact be the “sensible” option. That’s up to you, not Gizmodo.

Personally, “showing off” isn’t the reason I don’t use a case. While it does look better, it also feels better. Holding a bare iPhone after using a case for a long time is pretty amazing. If you haven’t taken your case off in a while, try it, and remember how the device is supposed to feel, if only for a moment. That being said, there are some wonderfully grippy cases out there that feel great in the hand. Still, I prefer the feel of a naked iPhone. Giggity.

Side Note: You might wonder why I use a Smart Cover on my iPad if I prefer having nothing on my iPhone. While I do prefer the feel of my iPad 2 without it (considerably thinner), the Smart Cover was designed by Apple specifically for that device. It doesn’t just add protection with minimal bulk. It also provides increased functionality as a stand and sleep/wake mechanism. If Apple came up with a Smart Cover equivalent for the iPhone, I’d probably jump on it.

Gizmodo’s second reason is that “it’s not worth it”. They say you’re going to upgrade to new phone in a couple of years, and any scratches only reduce the resale value by what a case would have cost anyway. Plus:

But remember that a few knocks along the way add character. Those little scratches will remind you of things that actually happen in your life. I have a ding in mine from when I walked into a wall drunk. That was a good night. I like that it reminds me of it.

But then, maybe things don’t actually happen in your life, given you spend so much time worrying about protecting your damn phone.

If you need to damage your phone to remember your drunken escapades, you might take a step back and reevaluate. Perhaps consider the Camera app. But anyway, ignore the quoted douchebaggery here for a moment, and let me say what could have cut this response down by about a thousand words:

Whether or not a case is “worth it” is a matter of personal preference. If it helps you sleep at night, by all means, get one. If you think it’s a waste of money, don’t buy one. It’s very simple. There’s no reason another person’s decision about their phone should cause you personal angst.

A $40 case is an expense, for sure, but if you’re accident-prone, it’s probably worth it for you. I will say, however, that I’ve treated my iPhone 4 better since removing the case. When it’s not covered in plastic and rubber, I remember that I’m holding a beautiful, $300 piece of technology. I’m more mindful when using it. I rarely even toss it on the couch or my bed.

My phone is usually in one of four places: in my front left pocket (alone… keys go in the front right pocket, wallet goes in the back right) with the screen facing my leg; in the center holster of my car; on the flat surface next to me; or in my hand. When my iPhone is in transit between these locations, I’m very aware of where it is. I always put my phone in my pocket before getting out of the car. I usually put it down on top of a book or legal pad if I’m at my desk, and I make sure the surface doesn’t have crumbs or other abrasive materials. These are habits I’ve built since going case-less. It’s not to say accidents don’t happen, but being consistently mindful has helped me reduce the risks and feel confident about having a naked iPhone.

On to Gizmodo’s third and final point:

A quick survey reveals that every phone in the Gizmodo office is nude. That’s right; we’re not just talk. Our phones run naked and free, as nature intended, and haven’t yet had occasion to regret it. Neither will you.

“Our final reason for being anti-case is that none of us use cases.”

All right.

A phone case is a matter of personal preference, and thus my point is two-fold.

First, the preference. If you’re going to be stressed out carrying $300 worth of unprotected technology around in your pocket, do get a case. The forty bucks is worth the peace of mind. On the other hand, I happen to think it’s worth learning how to live without a case. It’s nothing to be scared of. It just takes a bit of mindful practice. I’ve no interest in forcing anyone to adopt my point of view, although I’m happy to share it.

Which brings me to the personal: You worry about you and your phone. I’ll worry about me and mine.

If you enjoyed or benefitted from this article, please consider sharing it with the button below! Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

Game Over, iPhone

I’m a proponent of removing clutter. A clean workspace, physical or digital, helps reduce stress by eliminating distractions and adding lightness to your day. When the weight of clutter is removed from your desk, it’s also removed from your mind. Clean is calm.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to take a drastic step and delete the Games folder on my iPhone.

Going game-less on the iPhone is something Stephen Hackett has talked about on his site, 512 Pixels. I touched on it, but only recently have I decided to adopt Stephen’s thinking.

iOS is a terrific gaming platform, and there are many fun and beautifully designed games out there. But, in the four years I’ve owned an iPhone, there’s never been a game that has held my attention for very long. Maybe a month, if I was playing it with a friend, but such games are rare. Even ports of games I loved as a child, like Mega Man and Chrono Trigger, go mostly unplayed after the first couple of days.

So, I’ve decided to try getting rid of them, and I think the benefits will outweigh the consequences.

  1. No games = more space. Some games are pretty large and take up quite a bit of room on my phone. This isn’t a huge problem because I own a 32GB model iPhone 4, but now that iCloud is in full effect, I’m keeping more and more music on my phone instead of a separate iPod. There’s simply no reason to take up valuable space with unused apps, games included.

  2. No games = save money. I know: most iOS games are a couple of bucks at the most, but those dollars add up. According to iTunes, I’ve downloaded 240 apps since I got my first iPhone circa 2008. Some of those were free, but some of them were $4.99 or more. If I don’t have a Games folder on my iPhone, I’ll hesitate before buying any new games, especially since I can’t stand the thought of a folder with only two apps in it.

  3. No games = more productive. As I said, I’d rarely play the games on my iPhone, so it’s not like they were preventing me from getting things done. However, sometimes I’d choose a mindless game over doing something more useful, like reading an article in my Instapaper queue. Some may argue that it’s good to mindlessly play a game for a few minutes during a work or study break, but I think reading — or even not looking at a screen at all — is far more relaxing.

  4. No games = guilt-free. Most would argue that games don’t have feelings, but it’s hard not to feel bad about never playing that $9.99 5-star role-playing game you splurged on two weeks ago. Gone are those negative feelings; every little bit helps.

I’m probably going to personally offend a few friends with this decision, so let’s call it an experiment for now. I’m keeping the games on my iPad for the time being, since its larger screen is better suited for playing. As for my iPhone, unless the greatest game of all time becomes available for iOS, I can’t imagine I’ll miss my old Games folder. Although, if that day comes, I might have to give it a spot on my home screen.

It Feels Like Trust

Randy Murray on his recent visit to the Apple Store:

And then I remembered the new Apple Store iPhone app. I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded the app right there on the spot, using the Apple Store’s wifi. I opened the app and it recognized that I was in an Apple Store. It let me scan the barcode on the product, confirm the purchase using my iTunes account, and showed me the receipt. I asked a passing Red Shirt if that was all I needed to do and he smiled and said, “Yep, you’re good.” So I put the adapter in my pocket and walked out of the store.

Haven’t had a chance to try this myself yet, but it sounds pretty awesome.

Celebrating Steve

Apple has posted a video of its special event celebrating the life of Steve Jobs, which was filmed live at its Cupertino, CA campus. Great stuff.

Also, in case you’ve been off the grid, Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve is now available, and you can watch his 60 Minutes interview online as well.

No Cables in the Cloud

I usually go to great lengths to hide wires and cables. My MacBook Pro’s power cord is fed neatly through a hole in the back of my desk. The cables for my entertainment system are tightly bound with twist ties. When I worked at SCSU, I ordered a wireless mouse and keyboard to make the Dell I was using a little more tolerable.

Cables are ugly, and they can be a significant source of clutter if not managed properly.

One cable that I’ve been unable to do away with is the USB cable for my iPhone and iPad. Until now! With the release of iCloud, I hardly have any reason to connect my devices to my Mac ever again.

iCloud offers wi-fi sync, which allows me to sync my devices wirelessly. Even now, my iPhone is sitting here on my desk, and I can see it in iTunes.

iCloud backs up my devices while I’m sleeping. I don’t have to plug my iPhone or iPad into my Mac to back it up anymore. When I wake up and check the settings, my devices read “Last Backed Up: 4:42 AM”. Every time. It’s automatic and awesome. Backing up everything to iCloud also means that, should I have to wipe my device or get a new one, I can restore everything on the spot, without having to go home and plug into my computer.

When iTunes Match becomes available at the end of the month, I’ll be able to download any of the music in my collection wirelessly. That means I won’t have to carry my iPod around anymore. I can have access to my entire library wherever I am.

iOS 5 also provides wireless software updates, so I don’t have to connect to a computer to update my devices.

All this equates to a sense of freedom. While the cynic would argue that I’m bound to Apple’s ecosystem, I’m actually free to leave at anytime. I don’t resent living in Apple’s ecosystem because it’s the most frictionless option available. Everything works seamlessly as a unified system. This is an incredibly exciting time to be part of the Apple community, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how things develop over the next few years.

Steve

The morning after Steve Jobs died, I was sitting at a traffic light, watching cars go by on the Berlin Turnpike.

I had woken up sad, with a feeling of “Oh no… that really happened.” I didn’t know I could feel such emotion over the death of a public figure, but then, it doesn’t seem to happen very often. I wasn’t even a thought in my parents’ minds when President Kennedy was assassinated. I wasn’t alive for Elvis or John Lennon. I thought Michael Jackson’s death was unfortunate, but I wasn’t close enough to his music to be affected in the way millions of others were.

But the morning after Steve Jobs died, I found myself wondering if those people in their cars knew what had happened. “Does that person know? Does that person? Or that person?” I wondered if they felt the way I did, or if they had just frowned and said, “That’s too bad” before going about their lives.

It’s weird when someone dies because everything still looks the same. If someone was looking down on Earth from space, nothing would appear out of the ordinary. They wouldn’t be able to tell that anything had happened. But today, you don’t need to go any further than Google’s homepage to realize that something is wrong. Someone is missing.

I’m a young member of the Apple community in the sense that I’ve only been cognizant of the company’s existence for maybe seven or eight years. I got my first iPod in high school, but I never used a Mac until I got to college. My university had outfitted all of us with Lenovo ThinkPads, so it wasn’t until I applied to Apple’s Campus Rep program that I received a glossy black MacBook and subsequently saw the light. I had to give that machine back when the program ended just a few months later, but I had already been converted. I received my first Mac, a 2009 15” MacBook Pro, as a graduation present, and it’s still my main machine today. Like so many others, I’ll never go back.

If you were to construct a pie chart of my identity, it would be composed of several things. One slice would be for karate. Another would be for music. Another would be for eastern philosophy. And another would be for Apple. Each one was added to the pie chart in a moment of discovery, when it changed my life and shaped who I am today. These moments are the foundation of my identity. The day my parents dragged me into a karate studio, which led to fifteen years in the martial arts as a student and instructor. The day I came home to find a Dave Matthews Band DVD playing through the home entertainment system, which led to an intense passion for good music and nearly ten years of learning how to play the bass guitar. The day my college philosophy professor walked into class and taught me that we aren’t just bags of skin, which began instilling the tenets of Buddhism and Taoism that continue to bring me comfort and inner peace on a daily basis.

Apple, too, changed my life. The day I opened up my first MacBook, I started to care about things I previously had no knowledge of. Things like design, typography, simplicity, and minimalism. Stuff like creating things that are insanely great. Paying attention to detail. How to give a great presentation. Making sure everything in my life contributes positively to it in some way. Eliminating things that don’t, things that have no meaning for me. Without Apple, I wouldn’t have discovered all of my favorite writers who inspire me every day. I wouldn’t know that computing can be a joyful experience. I wouldn’t know that no one needs permission to be awesome.

Steve Jobs’ spirit drives Apple, and it will continue to do so many years into the future. So, to say that Steve Jobs changed my life is not an exaggeration.

I can understand why some people don’t get it. For them, Steve Jobs was just a businessman, a CEO of a technology company. He made consumer electronics. I don’t ask anything of these people other than that they stay quiet for the people who do get it. For millions of nerds and geeks around the world, this is our Kennedy, our Elvis, our Lennon. It’s been said that Steve Jobs didn’t just create a company. He created a culture. For people who wanted to think different, and for people who cared about changing the world.

I use his creations every day. To communicate with friends and family. To make things I’m proud of, like this website. To learn and satisfy my curiosities about new things. To listen to music I’m obsessed with. Every day, Steve’s creations make my life easier, simpler, and more fun. They inspire me every time I pick one up. But most of all, they never fail to bring me joy.

So many great things have been written about Steve since Wednesday. My emotional blathering here is only a drop in the bucket, but I felt the need to say something. I can’t really express how thankful I am to be a part of this community, and I am proud to consider Apple a part of my identity. I have Steve to thank for that. While we never came close to meeting, I am privileged to have lived alongside him, on the same planet, at the same time. I will miss him, and I’ll continue to remember him in my quest to do great things.

Thank you, Steve, for showing us it’s possible to put a ding in the universe.

Required Reading: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

Required Reading is a series of articles, videos, podcasts, etc. that I consider to be unmissable. These are the things that have inspired me the most, and they’re the things I keep coming back to for repeated readings, viewings, and listens.

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

The full text is here, and the video is here.

We’ll miss you, Steve.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

This morning, my iPhone woke me up.

I used it to listen to a podcast on the way to work, and then to take notes during a meeting.

When I got home, I spent the afternoon typing away at my thesis on my MacBook Pro.

I listened to The Long Winters on my iPhone while I drove to my mom’s house.

I spent the evening reading on my iPad before dinner.

I was discussing the iPhone 4S with my mom’s boyfriend when I got a voicemail from my grandmother telling me the news.

Rest in peace, Steve. And thanks.

iPhone Expectations

In just a few minutes, Apple will begin its on-campus “Let’s Talk iPhone” event in Cupertino, CA.

Like all Apple product announcements, it’s a big day for nerds all over the world, but this one has a particularly high level of anticipation because it’s been almost seventeen months since the iPhone 4 was announced. Traditionally, Apple unveiled a new iPhone every year at WWDC, but this year’s conference was dedicated entirely to software: OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud. There were no new hardware announcements. Thus, the Apple community has been starved for a new iPhone for longer than usual.

Notably, this will be the first product announcement with (presumably) Tim Cook at the helm as CEO. It’s also being held in Apple’s on-campus Town Hall auditorium, rather than at a huge convention center.

Rumors and speculation about new products is part of Apple fan culture. It’s fun and exciting, because Apple’s products mean a lot to people in ways that other phones, computers, music players, and software don’t. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype.

As Stephen M. Hackett wrote in his article, “On Expectations and New iPhones”, it’s important to recognize the value of managing your expectations and not letting them run too wild.

Some of this year’s rumors include multiple iPhone models, improved voice control, a faster A5 processor, 4G compatibility, and so on. With all the speculation flying around, people become increasingly vulnerable to disappointment. If you’re really looking forward to one special feature, and Apple doesn’t include it, you’re going to feel like a sad trombone.

The better strategy is to look forward to the announcement, knowing that this new iPhone, whether it’s a 4S or a 5, will be a great device. It has to be, or Apple wouldn’t release it. However, the only certainty is that it will be better than the iPhone 4. How much better will be the subject of debate for the next few weeks. Since we’ve had to wait an extra long time, there’s an additional expectation that this new iPhone needs to be leaps and bounds better than the iPhone 4. It doesn’t. The iPhone 4 is still a tremendous success today, seventeen months later.

Apple itself seems to be downplaying today’s event. The press invitation for the announcement suggests there will only be one new iPhone announced. The event is being held at a much smaller and intimate venue. The event’s tagline, “Let’s Talk iPhone”, suggests that that will be the singular focus.

That’s good strategy. It’s all about managing expectations. It’s much easier to under-promise and over-deliver than it is to set a bar so high that it becomes unreachable.

For me, even if the new iPhone only features the A5 chip and an improved camera, it’s still an exciting day to be an Apple nerd. I’m not due for an upgrade until February, so I probably won’t own this generation of iPhone. That’s fine, because I’m still perfectly happy with my iPhone 4, and I’ll get to enjoy the iPhone 6 when it’s announced next year. I’m not saying I won’t be drooling over whatever gets announced today, because I almost certainly will, but I like to keep things in perspective.

Whatever gets announced today, just remember that we’re lucky to have a company that produces such consistently fantastic products at such consistently reliable intervals. No matter what happens, it’s a great day to be part of the Apple community.

Fantastic 4

Shawn Blanc:

I have now owned my iPhone 4 since the summer of 2010. And it blows all of those past phones out of the water. Sometimes I wonder if I ever even owned a cell phone before I owned an iPhone, and the 4 is the greatest iPhone to date.

I feel the same way. My iPhone 4 is sixteen months old, which is forever in technology time, and I’m still just as satisfied as I was the first time I laid eyes on that Retina display.

Unless AT&T suddenly goes out of their way to offer me a sweet upgrade deal, I won’t be buying an iPhone 5 this year, and while I’m sure it’s going to look great when it’s announced on Tuesday, I’ll still have just as much love for my iPhone 4.

I approve of all of Shawn’s bullet points, but you can also read my own why-I-love-my-iPhone post here.

Don't Fear the iPhone

Leo Babauta on wanting stuff:

I don’t, however, buy the iPhone. I’ve lusted after the iPhone since it first came out in 2007, and for more than four years, I’ve resisted getting one. Not because I like torturing myself, nor because I think I’m too cool for an iPhone, but because I don’t want to give in to the lust. I know I don’t need the iPhone, and I know my brain has been tricked into wanting it.

I love minimalism as much as the next guy, but I don’t fully agree with this.

What is the fear here? What will happen if you buy something you’ve wanted for four years, or “give in to the lust,” as Leo calls it, with scary music in the background.

Obviously, none of us need an iPhone like we need food, shelter, and love, and I don’t think everyone should have one. But the notion of “resisting” buying an iPhone for four years seems counterproductive. That’s four years of internal struggle because of a cell phone.

Minimalists often recommend a 30-day waiting list to avoid impulse buying. When you see something you want, you write it down and see if you still want it in a month. If you genuinely do, go ahead and buy it guilt-free. I think this is a practical idea and not too extreme of a suggestion. But why does the iPhone not apply?

I agree with Leo that advertising convinces the mind that we need much more than we actually do. His tips for reducing desires are great, and I adhere to most of them. But I don’t think owning an iPhone turns me into a victimized consumer either.

Leo’s tweet about Steve Jobs received a decent lashing, and I was among the criticism. My life is different because I own an iPhone, and I’m not ashamed to admit I believe it’s been for the better. As I wrote in my post on why the iPhone is minimalist, it makes my life easier. It makes communication and learning easier, which makes growing easier.

Leo responded to his critics shortly thereafter:

If you have been convinced a product changed your life, then it has. That’s how the magic works.

That’s not magic; it’s common sense. Your perception is your reality. If I believe the sky is red, then to me, it is. The logic here is so circuitous that it’s almost impossible to refute. The more I protest, “But the iPhone really has changed my life!”, the more effective Steve Jobs’s trick was, according to Leo. All of us who tweeted back only made him feel more validated.

Leo takes pity on us in his article, saying its not our fault. We’re only human and easily tricked. My problem is with insinuating that Steve Jobs set out to trick us with his shiny devices. Unfortunately, arguing either way is futile. If that’s what you believe, then that’s what he did.

This issue is a matter of semantics. There’s no convincing either side otherwise. I believe Apple has changed our lives regardless of whether we own any of its products. If you agree, you agree. If not, then in your eyes, I’ve been duped. I just don’t think an iPhone, or an iPad that allows a 99-year-old woman to read and write, is the same as a commercial telling you to buy unhealthy food or pointless possessions. Maybe I’m wrong, though.

I advocate minimalism because I think it solves problems. There are many different degrees of minimalism, which work for many different people. Leo’s way works for him, as mine does for me. However, what I don’t advocate is implying that people who do not adhere to a certain level of minimalism simply by having a passion for a tangible object are somehow worse off. Again, the argument is cyclical. These people have only “given into the lust” if you believe they have. Such language, intentionally or not, plays on fear by making people think, “Oh no! I don’t want to give in to lust! Lust is bad! I don’t want to be tricked!” That’s not constructive; it’s minimalism-mongering.

The iPhone is not harmful enough to warrant four years of mental struggle. Leo will be fine whether he owns an iPhone or not, and so will the rest of us.

Be Not Afraid

New CEO Tim Cook in a letter to Apple staff:

Team:

I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as CEO of the most innovative company in the world. Joining Apple was the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years. I share Steve’s optimism for Apple’s bright future.

Steve has been an incredible leader and mentor to me, as well as to the entire executive team and our amazing employees. We are really looking forward to Steve’s ongoing guidance and inspiration as our Chairman.

I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

I love Apple and I am looking forward to diving into my new role. All of the incredible support from the Board, the executive team and many of you has been inspiring. I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is.

Tim

Thank You, Steve.

Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple and is now Chairman of the Board:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Home Button Follow-Up

In my post about why the iPhone is minimalist, I mentioned that the Home button serves a single purpose: to return to the home screen.

I’d say this is true the majority of the time. However, Luke Wroblewski actually came up with thirteen different functions for the Home button, most of which I hadn’t thought about.

I stand corrected, but Luke’s list doesn’t make the Home button any less minimalist. After all, one button is far simpler than thirteen different ones.

Via The Brooks Review

Simplicity In Your Pocket

(Or, Why the iPhone is Minimalist)

Dave Caolo rolls out his new, practical 52 Tiger with a post on how to de-clutter your iPhone. It’s a good article with simple strategies for keeping your device clean and tidy. A personal favorite:

I like to keep the bottom row icon-free. This habit developed when I bought the original iPhone years ago, and there was a dearth of apps for it. Since then, I’ve always keep that bottom row empty. It looks nice and provides an obvious lane for swiping back and forth.

I’ve been keeping my bottom row free since I got my iPhone 3G, and I find it makes a world of difference in how calm my home screen looks and feels.

Still, as with all Apple products, the iPhone itself is designed with focus and simplicity in mind so you don’t have to actively think about keeping it clutter-free.

From a software point of view, iOS has a uniform design; everything is consistent across each screen. Every icon is the same shape and style, and they’re all organized into a neat grid in the order of your choosing.

A friend once asked me to fix one of the icons on her Android phone, which was inexplicably out-of-line with the others. I tried several things, but the icon refused to conform with the grid. Staring at one rogue icon all the time would drive me nuts. Fortunately, the iPhone makes it impossible to have a messy home screen. Even if you have the maximum twenty icons or an entire page of folders, they’re still neatly arranged and offer a soothing user experience.

Dave also suggests being ruthless about which apps you keep on your device. I generally don’t keep apps that I might need “someday” for the precise reasons Dave describes: Re-downloading an app from the App Store is simple and free, and iOS 5 will save my app data even when I remove unused apps. Quick and painless.

Any self-respecting nerd will tell you home screen organization is a science. A judicious approach to app selection allows me to only have two screens-worth of icons. My home screen contains my most used apps, and the second screen contains folders for games, reading, utilities, and apps I’m intrigued by or experimenting with. This setup keeps all my apps only a swipe or tap away and protects me from having to dig through pages and pages of icons to find what I’m looking for.

Of course, the iPhone’s minimalist design is not only limited to software. The hardware itself is also clean and free of any extraneous buttons, keyboards, or trackballs. The iPhone’s Home button, for example, has a single function: return to the home screen. Its simplicity allows virtually any user to be able to navigate the phone within seconds. There’s practically no learning curve; if you’ve pressed it once, you’ve mastered it. This ease-of-use is what enabled my grandmother to look up something on Wikipedia despite having never owned a computer.

“But it’s so expensive!” you protest. “How can can something so expensive be considered minimalist?”

You could certainly make an argument that a free flip-phone is more minimalist than an iPhone, but this brings me to the issue of quality.

I’m a fairly ardent minimalist, but I agree with Marco Arment on this issue:

If you sit on, sleep on, stare at, or touch something for more than an hour a day, spend whatever it takes to get the best.

Why? Well:

  1. Quality lasts longer. You can buy something cheap that will need to be frequently replaced, or you can buy a high-end item that will serve you well into the future. My iPhone 4 is fifteen months old — forever in technology years — and it still seems brand new.
  2. Quality feels better. I love using my iPhone. I don’t get frustrated with it because I can’t figure out how to do something or because something isn’t working properly. That’s one less source of stress in my life.
  3. Quality inspires you. My MacBook Pro is so enjoyable to use that I actually want to write posts with it. My iPad makes me want to read articles, essays, and novels. I don’t dread using these devices, so they actually allow me to get more done. Could I get by on a phone that just makes calls? Yes, but I’m a nerd, and I need more than that. Maybe not as a human, but as Andrew Marvin, I need to be able to read the latest news and check Twitter and play a game here and there because those things make me happy.

Everyday, the iPhone makes my life simpler and easier. I don’t have to carry a dictionary around with me. I don’t have to wait until I’m at a computer to send a quick email. I don’t need to buy a GPS for my car or a pedometer for exercising. I don’t need to keep a planner or a book with me all the time. The iPhone simplifies all of these areas in my life, which in turn makes me more productive, calmer, and happier.

Shawn Blanc Reviews the New MacBook Air

Shawn Blanc, in a characteristically great review:

After using the 13-inch MacBook Air for almost two weeks, it has been difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about this laptop that makes it so great. I don’t think it’s so much in what the Air is, but rather what it is not — or rather, what it doesn’t have. The Air doesn’t have an optical drive, it doesn’t have many ports, it doesn’t have a removable battery, and it doesn’t have much weight.

It’s the subtraction of all these things that adds up to make the Air such an attractive and incredible computer.

The MacBook Air will definitely be my next computer. My 2009 MacBook Pro is still going strong, but I can’t wait to see what the Airs look like in a couple years.

Lion's Hairpin Turn

I finished John Siracusa’s Lion review late last night, and as I’ve said before, it’s a tremendous achievement. The level of depth and insight is wonderfully impressive.

A few episodes ago on Hypercritical, Siracusa explained his desire to weave a narrative into his Mac OS X reviews, rather than provide a laundry list of technical changes from the previous version. The result is a better understanding of the big picture: Mac OS X’s history, its current state, and where it’s heading in the future.

In keeping with that mindset, the final paragraph of Siracusa’s review reads:

Over the past decade, better technology has simply reduced the number of things that we need to care about. Lion is better technology. It marks the point where Mac OS X releases stop being defined by what’s been added. From now on, Mac OS X should be judged by what’s been removed.

Apple has always had an affinity for simplicity and minimalist design, and Lion is the next evolution of those tenets. As Siracusa explains in his review, the emphasis of OS X has shifted from the addition of new features to the subtraction of those deemed obsolete in the computers of today and tomorrow. Tiger (10.4) introduced over 150 new features, and Leopard (10.5) boasted over 300. Then things changed: Snow Leopard (10.6) explicitly contained zero new features, instead offering many under-the-hood improvements. It’s as if the first six incarnations of OS X saw Apple speeding toward an optimal number of features, and, once reached, Snow Leopard finally saw it putting on the brakes.

With that deceleration comes the ability to change direction. Much has been said about how Lion challenges computing conventions that have existed for decades, and what we see with 10.7 is Apple moving its desktop OS even further into the realm of simplicity. The removal of scrollbars and introduction of Fullscreen apps both contribute to a decluttering of the interface. Features like Autosave, Resume, and Launchpad all seek to remove barriers from the average user’s experience.

For us nerds, however, these changes can be quite unnerving. Siracusa repeatedly mentions “geek panic!” in his review and on last week’s episode of Hypercritical, when he revealed many power users misinterpreted his review’s final paragraph as containing a negative tone. That is, “removal” is a bad thing, more akin to maliciously taking something away than simplifying or improving an experience.

I disagree with this reading, and I think Siracusa makes it very clear that these changes are, overall, for the better. As he explains, technology should eliminate, rather than create, things we need to worry about. Lion eliminates visual elements, like scrollbars, but it also eliminates the fear of not saving, the fear of not knowing where you installed something, and the fear of finding documents amidst what seems like hundreds of files. The realization of these fears can be catastrophic for a typical user. But in Lion, the features that made those users feel unconfident about their computing abilities are now gone, replaced by reassurances and safety nets.

So, as OS X turns a corner and heads off in a new direction, we have “lost” some features of old, but we have gained a simpler, more user-friendly experience. And while it may take time for us nerds to adjust, Lion also opens up a host of new possibilities, and for the majority of its users, a world with far less fear.

Much Ado About Scrolling

Arguably, no other feature has caused more of an uproar than OS X Lion’s new “natural” — that is, inverted — scrolling. On a trackpad, for example, you now swipe up to move the page down, and down to move the page up. Additionally, in keeping with last October’s “Back to the Mac” event, Apple has brought its fading scrollbars to the desktop: gone are the scroll arrows and alleys, and the thumb now only appears when in use.

Ever since the first developer preview of Lion, many people, even the most Mac-savvy among them, have been disturbed by these changes. I know several of my Mac-owning friends will soon be experiencing a similar reaction, so to them and all of the afflicted, I offer two reassurances:

  1. Yes. You can turn these features off. But!
  2. Give it a week first. If you’re still unhappy, then you can turn them off.

As John Gruber and Dan Benjamin discussed at length on last week’s episode of The Talk Show, Apple seeks to bring a more natural feel to the way we interact with content on our machines. As Gruber put it, Apple has “removed a slight layer of abstraction” by doing away with scrollbars.

According to the naysayers, this form of scrolling is a perfect fit for iOS, but doesn’t make sense when translated to the desktop. On the iPhone and iPad, screen real estate is limited, so the presence of a permanent scrollbar would have been both displeasing to the eye and a waste of space. Further, the touch interface makes the inverted scrolling feel natural because your finger is making direct contact with the content. Flicking the page up to go down feels good, as does going in the opposite direction.

As for the fading, the arguments against it are well-founded. An always-present thumb shows your position on the page, and its size allows you to know approximately how many more screens of content you have left before you reach the bottom; i.e. a thumb that’s a third the height of your window lets you know you’re looking at a third of the total content on that page. Subsequently, you know you have about two more screens worth of content to go.

For my part, it only took a couple of days before I got used to the new scrolling, and I’ve always loved the fading scrollbars. Everything looks much cleaner. To help ease the transition, imagine you’re grabbing and moving the content itself rather than a scroll thumb. Apple clearly believes we’ll be better off accepting the changes, since the inverted scrolling is described as “natural” in System Preferences, implying that the old way is unnatural. Again, I recommend sticking with it for a week or two, but I think you’ll start to prefer it much sooner than that.

For a more impressive analysis of Lion’s scrollbars, check out John Siracusa’s colossal Lion review over on Ars Technica. It’s an incredible piece of work.