That iPhone is Outmoded

Shout to Squagles!  Square Bagles!

The iPhone won’t make it to the future.  Sure it’s Apple’s cash cow right now but I see it going away in importance over the next couple of years.

Think about Apple current main product categories:

  1. smartphones (iPhone)
  2. tablets (iPad)
  3. wearables (watch/iPod/headphones)
  4. set-top boxes (AppleTV)
  5. macintosh laptops and desktops

All of those work together in the apple ecosystem. Assuming you have them hooked into your Apple account, they all work together, and can handoff all sorts of tasks between them. They continue to add iCloud features that make the lines blur more.

#2, 3, and 4 above will be the focus over the next 5 years. The smartphone will continue to become less important in the mix.  Several factors are leading to this.

  • There is almost nothing the iPhone does that is unique from the other devices. It did it first, it does it from your pocket/purse, but it’s not the only device to do those things anymore. You can call people, take pictures, stream, and do all of that from other devices now.
  • Over the last 8 years, competition has caught up to many of the physical iPhone specialties – thinness, glass quality, battery life, feature set.
  • Apple’s sweetheart deals with phone carriers which helped to launch the iPhone in it’s first 5 years are gone and not coming back. iPhone is an expensive rig no matter who you go through.
  • Automobiles and transit are beginning to roll out wifi services and built-in GPS
  • Everyone has a smartphone and you only need one max, if one at all.

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I see the mobile phone of the future going back to what it was originally used for in the 90’s – safety and vanity.

Safety is for the kids, the travelers, the person needing a lifeline no matter where they wander or work. The rest of us are on wifi 95% of our day and don’t need a cell radio at all.

Vanity is for the rich, the teens, the geeks, to impress us with an I don’t need wifi stance.

Perhaps security can be in here too, but it’s really hard to predict the future there. I can imagine a private cell network being more secure than a public wifi spot but there are many variables there.


We will all have tablets for the next 50 years, but the tiny pocket tablet is going away in importance soon. The wearable watch or badge or wallet will contain our cell radio (if needed at all) and all of the other devices already have wifi and location awareness.

Screen size is critical here. Walls will be screens wherever you can project onto them, so perhaps the iPhone has a future life as a pocket projector?


star-trek-communicator-pin-beam-me-up-1324783598

The design model for the future iPhone. If this thing had a cell radio, wifi, iOS, and a projector that could turn anything in front of you into a display….. well there ya go. Goodbye iPhone, hello iPin.


I guess it comes down to the iPin. This baby will have all of the iPhone’s location and connectivity features without that tiny glass screen in your pocket. If it can’t project to or take over screens in your vicinity then it will operate with voice or hand gestures.

I better get to go on a star ship. Maybe that’s why Apple cancelled the car project…?

[Squagles starts at 3:24]

Time for Apple Watch?

chronometer-faces-01


Here’s a nice write-up from someone that has lived with the Apple Watch for half a year. He feels it’s in a similar place as the first iPhone iteration – not essential, highly flawed, yet still leaning into the future with simple and effective features he’s starting to appreciate.

I still don’t have one but his review sounds about what I expected. Apple follows a very tight script with these iOS products and all of them have gone through very similar stages of growth.


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Wrist Input Is Just Starting

The Apple Watch could really change things. Fundamental concepts of how we interact with a device/machine are progressing and the new wearable iOS interface by Apple is opening huge opportunities to leave the interfaces of the 20th century behind.

bone-and-muscles-of-the-hand-31-638We know it has a touch screen and accepts voice commands, just like the android watches. I think those are both clumsy and greatly flawed interfaces. Voice control is on version 1000 and it’s still crappy. Touch works great when you can see what you are touching, but not so much on a screen the size of your fingertip.

The future lies in the other three input methods –

  1. The “Digital Crown”, Apple’s name for the multifunction wind dial that can scroll, click, and home button. This is the perfection of 15 years of iPod/iOS interface, shrunken down to millimeters. Every Apple wearable will rely on this scrollable interface control and I’m sure GoogSung will copy it soon enough.
  2. The motion sensing abilities, including movements like shaking, rising, falling, walking, running, and rotating. Imagine the possibilities here if the device is responsive to these various movements.
  3. The pressure sensing touch screen. Apple is not clear if it’s got 2 levels or more, but the touchscreen knows if you are hitting or caressing it.

Put that watch on the wrist of a drummer and think of the data it could generate! C’mon Apple, let the OS accept continue/cancel commands from movement…. turn in for Accept, turn out for Cancel…. Use different faces or run commands based on orientation & movement….. so many new ways to integrate the technology and hopefully assist us in finding some sort of modern happiness ;-).

If they went so far as to give the scroll wheel a slight tactile click and then standardize the clicks needed to get to various tasks, it would actually allow for a pattern-based navigation that could be used by an impaired user:

press button, 3 ticks up, turn wrist in = call home
turn wrist in while 1 tick up = go to latest message

This could be our future interface when a large screen or keyboard isn’t available, and I hope Apple will continue to put their R&D, marketing, and integration skills into building this out.

My take deals mainly with how we interact with the controls of the watch. Here’s a great overview of the ways this new platform could be used in the world.

 

Watch The Script & Watch the Apple Watch Become A Hit

The Apple Watch 1 follows the script perfectly for Apple’s version 1 products. If you look at their bottom line over the last 15 years, it’s a great script to follow.


First iPod — They said it couldn’t hold quite enough songs, couldn’t do enough other things than play music, and you needed a new mac with firewire to sync it. It was nearly useless on it’s own. People accused it of being a toy for rich kids, and without more features or capacity it would not compete against the existing MP3 players. Besides, Apple knows nothing about music so of course Sony will crush them.

So easy your grandma could use it.

Yet many overlooked it’s actual differentiating feature – the scroll-wheel interface. This is hardware and software working together seamlessly, something Apple focuses on. This simple round scroll wheel interface (an ancient interface brought to the digital age) meant anyone could manipulate the hardware, regardless of hand size, finger strength, or steadiness. It worked at all angles and fit perfectly into your hand regardless of what you were doing. A single thumb could do most of the operation.

The software end of the early iPod was a simple drill up, drill down mechanism that slid left and right. I’d say 90% of users figured out the whole operation in 2 minutes or less. That’s huge for a new product. Easy hardware. Easy software.

The advertising message — dancing to headphone music like a walkman, except this time, digital with a higher capacity (and white plastic instead of black!). Simple: “All people like music. All people like to dance (at least in private). This little object is the best, fastest, most obvious way to play music.”

Anyone argue that iPod wasn’t a mega successful product line?


First iPhone — couldn’t touch-type, couldn’t add any more apps, and you needed a decent mac to sync it. People accused it of being a toy for the rich. Without more features it could not compete against the Nokia’s and Blackberry’s of the world. Plus Apple knows nothing about mobile so AT&T or Sprint will crush them. Sound familiar?

Huh? Where’s the keyboard?

Yet many (less this time) overlooked the key differentiating feature: the touch interface running an actual touch OS. Touch and gestures – another ancient interface brought to the digital age.

The hardware: a dramatic black/silver slab with a chrome ring and what appeared to be a single button. It looked nothing like a phone. It was a “huh?” moment for most of us. Then the finger starts driving that huge bright screen, we notice there are a few extra buttons for pocket needs, and OMG I want one starts. Instantly all competition looks dated. Nearly everyone copied and today, 7 years later, probably half the phones on earth look like that first iphone.

The software was a shrunken OSX designed for touch input only. Companies like Microsoft had been demoing tablets and touch interfaces for a decade but hadn’t bothered to actually design a touch OS. The UI is dependent on the input mechanism so Apple did the work, in top secret, to develop an actual touch OS that worked on small screens. It had the stability of unix with the home button being the best Escape key ever made. You just always went home first, and the icons were always in the same place. Easy software to go with the Easy hardware.

So easy your grandma waited in line to buy one.


>Now there’s The Watch.
[Small-eyes have been left behind after a good run of what, 18 years of things starting with “i”?  #iWillMissU.]
 

Nice watch.

iSee nice watch.

 
The first watch – just an iPhone touch on your wrist, plus you need a new iPhone just to use it. Just a toy for the rich. The hardware – it looks like a watch, we were expecting that. No big surprise it’s a very generic looking watch with what appears to be 1 button and a winder knob for authenticity. It does have the most important new iOS chip – NFC payment chip. All the new weird health sensors and charging stuff is on the bottom, hidden while wearing. Easy to dismiss, but even easier to accept. Easy.
 

3 Apple UI's on 1 Device - Touch gestures, scroll-click, and single home with apps.

3 Apple UI’s on 1 Device – Touch gestures, scroll-click, and single home button/screen

 
The software is a lighter version of iOS, and actually relies on a full iOS nearby for some functions. I suppose this is very much in development over the next 6 months.

But that UI uncovers hardware features that aren’t obvious at first glance – besides the expected touch screen, the wind knob is actually the iPod scroll wheel and the iPhone home button in one! Win+Win could be sweet. That obvious button below it goes right to the contacts/social app – that’s new, but I get it. Why wake up, go home, and then select contacts each time? This is your communicator! There’s not even a dock/shelf to put favorites on the watch. [I bet they eventually let that button hook to other apps ].

 

Your away party.

Your away party.

The other feature hidden from the naked eye is the haptic IO – input and feedback. “Haptic” is when the machine physically shakes or moves to contact us, and we can shake or poke the machine to contact it. The watch screen knows how hard you are pushing it so it can do another layer of functions per touch. Then, like game controllers, the watch can do all sorts of fancy vibrates including left/right, heartbeats, and even relay tapped messages from another watch.

Haptic screen. Haptic vibrations. Sensor array on your wrist.

Haptic screen. Haptic vibrations. Sensor array on your wrist.

Overall, the input and UI for the watch is a new model. It combines 3 of Apple’s UI stalwarts into a single device: the touch screen gestures, the scroll wheel interface, and the single home button model.
Assuming it works nearly as good as the first iPods and iPhones, it should find similar success. By version 3 you won’t need an iphone or constant charging, and the competition will probably have adopted versions of the scroll-wind interface and haptic features. Welcome to the future, space cadets!

iWatch, iBuy?

iWatch


Will Apple put out a wearable? The Android makers are going full speed into Android watches, regardless of reviews and actual ship dates. They want to appear to be flooding the market but I haven’t seen a single one out in the wild yet. But if Apple does iWatch you will start to see these things everywhere.

I’ve written some thoughts on wearables before, here and here. As we get closer to the possible announcement next week, I was thinking about this opportunity for Apple to define the market again. Remember, the iPod was not the first DAP, the iPhone was not the first smartphone, and the iPad was not the first tablet, but each of them came to define those markets within the first year.

A wrist-worn computer is a very different form factor than a phone, tablet, laptop, TV screen and desktop. This requires a completely different UI model. When working with new form factors it is critical to focus on core functions. It’s never enough to resize existing interfaces to the new screen. There are many things a watch can do that the others can’t. There’s also many things you can’t or shouldn’t do on a watch.

Apple’s design restraint should really be an advantage here. While other makers are going to put entire Android smart phones on your wrist, I fully expect Apple to define it’s own space with a very focused product that, at first glance, doesn’t “do as much” as the android wearables.

But much like the iPod and all subsequent iDevices, the advantage will be that Apple says “no” to all sorts of features that distract from the main functions.

Apple has probably determined 2-4 core features for iWatch, and will remove any other features that delude or counter those core functions. The first iWatch will be quickly attacked for what it can’t do, while those living with it will more than likely start to understand Apple’s design decisions as time wears on (badump!). Simple, consistent operation is the key to a smart watch, and that plays to Apple’s design strength.

I found Apple products to be designed for long-term use, while many other makers design things for the sales portion of it’s life. They appear to have lots of flashy features, more than the Apple, and at a lower price! What a deal! But much of what draws you in is fluff, crud, and marketing, and the day to day use of the device often lacks the “polish” of the Apple device.

Jon Ivey also likes going back in time to classic designs. The iPod was a melding of a 1960’s transistor radio and a 1980’s walkman. With his comment about Swiss watchmakers needing to take notice of Apple, that tells me they will push forward with a design that takes from some classic watches of the past.

If the simple iWatch v1 is successful, Apple will take 3-4 iterations to slowly add more power features and complexity. They smartly don’t compete on the feature checklist chart, they play the long game of daily use, enjoyment, and ultimately continued purchases in the Apple ecosystem.


IMHO you shouldn’t have to touch a watch very often, and when you do it should not require focusing on a small touch screen sort of thing. If it tries to do everything my phone can do but on my wrist it will fail. I want a new concept that might ultimately replace the phone (especially since I’m down to about 1 real phone call needed per day). I also have 2-3 fully capable screens near me at most times, and I don’t want that on my wrist 24/7. If my watch is constantly blinking and buzzing about every email and tweet I think they missed an opportunity to simplify.

I’d like to see time, weather, calendar and notifications on the main screen, with quick access to Nav, Messages, and Health tracking. I’d like to see it pair with a wireless headphone/mic so you can do some voice control and dictation of messages. I’d like the whole thing to to be very quiet and unassuming, using custom vibrations and maybe slight color changes to the frame to indicate.

The best UI mockups I’ve seen so far are the column-wristband types — where it’s iOS app icons in a single scrollable column on a narrow rounded band. 1 flick either way slides you into that app, maybe with a dock sort of concept that keeps the critical time/date info in front. It looks a little feminine to not have a big bulky watch head and I can imagine the jokes about everyone wearing Apple jewelry, but keeping that UI simple and brand new (it’s not a small smartphone) could be the key to Apple’s success.

HUD FUD

Heads Up Displays: Fear Uncertainty & Doubt. Seems as though the future is here now, and it kinda sucks.

We have predicted in-eye HUD’s for decades now. But it was for fiction and hollywood visuals, not day to day life. Regular people simply don’t need a data stream in their eye, we already have it at our touch and it can thankfully be put away.

Does anyone really want HUD’s on them while they work? Lack of concentration is our biggest problem and this is another distraction.

Unless these HUD displays were really giving us interactive and visually clear assistance, why not a poster, a tablet, an HD monitor, a book, or (gasp!) your memory to assist you?

I see a small yet critical market like Linemen and people working at high/dangerous locations, using specially built vertical-apps in their HUD, not wikipedia or google. Climbing all the way up there to be greeted with a surprising part # would lead them to wanting the proper schematic and not having a free hand to click and call up the information.

I also see law enforcement loving this – here’s comes big brother officer, able to “run you” (not just your plates) using facial recognition. This has positives of course, depending on who is the good guy and bad guy at that moment. Cops will become walking video cameras, ID’ing and storing every human interaction they have. Robocops soon thereafter.

All hail the wise ones, our robot masters.

Computer Shoes Zap You With Feedback

There have been shoe computers before. Since the early 1980’s people have been shoving embedded computers of some sort into their shoes for mileage and step tracking. Apple & Nike have been doing this for 15 years too.

Now, started as a system to assist the blind, there are shoes that will track your location and give you “haptic” feedback (physical). Walking the wrong way? Bzzzzz. Walking into a no-pedestrian zone? Buzz. Walking away from a hacker’s pre-determined location? Buzz!!!  Running from the police? Buzz buzz buzz!!!!