Car UI by Dr. Drang →

April 6, 2015 · 09:58

Dr. Drang:

It’s common for Apple users to say they wish Apple could take over their car’s user interface because the auto manufacturers do such a bad job of it. This is typically a comment on the electronic user interface, as many cars now have a little computer screen in the center of the dashboard with poorly laid out buttons and displays. I agree and take it further: I wish Apple (or anyone who thinks carefully about design for use) would have a go at the physical controls, too.

User interfaces in cars used to be all buttons and have recently been upgraded with screens and even touch screens. Tesla has gone a step further than anyone else. The problem with touchscreens is that they do not provide physical feedback nor can they be operated without looking at the screen. This is both good and bad and unfortunately the bad can cause you to die in a fiery crash. I still recall Auto Motor Und Sports car infotainment driver attention test from a few years back, just when BMW’s iDrive, Mercedes’ COMMAND and Audi’s MMI were becoming popular—drivers unfamiliar with these systems were timed at performing various basic tasks while driving. The data was compared against an old Mercedes 190 which had a button-only interface. The results were staggering–the new systems required over two minutes of attention for tasks that took a few seconds in the old Merc.

Perhaps voice is the future, but it will need to get better quickly. Neither Siri nor Google Now is even close.

Dr. Drang also mentions his windshield wiper stalk:

My pet peeve on my Toyota Camry is its windshield wiper stalk. It grows out of the right side of the steering column and has a variety of controls. The stalk as a whole can move up and down into one of five positions shown in the little graphic near the left side of the photos below. From the off position, you can move it down into the intermittent position, the low speed position, and the high speed position—the heavier the rain, the further down you move the stalk.

 

Audi windshield wiper stalk

VW, BMW and Audi have done this the other way around. One swipe down (stalk returns to OFF position) just wipes the windshield. One position up from OFF is intermittent mode, then low speed and high speed. The interval control in the middle of the stalk controls and length of the pauses between wipes—down is long and going up decreases their length. I’ve had this system in all the german cars that I’ve driven in (perhaps apart from Mercedes and Opel, they might have a different system if I recall correctly) and it’s always been intuitive. Intermittent mode is also aided by the rain sensor if the car has one and this works perfectly on my Audi at least (and a 2000 BMW 3-series too).


The Night Before Apple Watch →

March 8, 2015 · 12:34

John Gruber wrote an especially insightful post about his thoughts on the Apple Watch and what we can expect tomorrow and in the future:

But there is one good reason for last-minute speculation: this is fun. Apple tends to be such a predictable company that we often know the basic gist of what to expect before one of their media events. Not this time. The many unknowns surrounding the watch are what makes it so fun to ponder prior to next week’s event. So let’s have some fun.

John made a point of explaining exactly how hard it is to create the Link Bracelet band:

If it truly takes nine hours to cut the links for each band, and each one is polished by hand, and they’re mechanically complex (and they definitely are), this is not a $200 bracelet. I’m thinking it’s about $1000, judging by the description, and based on the prices for replacement stainless steel link bracelets from Rolex, Tudor, and Omega.

But then, in his price guesses, he places the Milanese Loop lower than the leather straps and Link Bracelet, pricing it at $949/999 for the 38 mm and 42 mm Apple Watches respectively, with the latter being closer to $2000. Apple comments how the Milanese Loop is made:

A modern interpretation of a design developed in Milan at the end of the 19th century. Woven on specialized Italian machines, the smooth stainless steel mesh wraps fluidly around your wrist. And because it’s fully magnetic, the Milanese Loop is infinitely adjustable, ensuring a perfect fit.

Despite the less impressive wording, I believe it will be the more expensive of the two—Link Bracelets are common in the watch industry, Milanese Loops are not. Also, Marc Newson created one a few years ago and gives a little insight into its creation process.

There is one point in which I completely disagree with Gruber:

Lastly, many readers have suggested a trade-in program, where you could bring in your old Apple Watch Edition and get a significant trade-in on a new one. No way. First, as stated earlier, the value of the raw gold in a gold watch is just small fraction of the price. Second, trading in used goods is not part of a luxury shopping experience.

This discussion continued on Twitter and is basically incorrect. I personally experienced what the exchange and/or upgrade process looks like in Bvlgari and Cartier (in their Berlin boutiques in case you’re wondering). After confirming that your purchase was made in one of their official boutiques, they will appraise the product and offer up to 50% of the price according to the current price list (if you bought it cheaper a few years earlier you will get more than 50% back). The value returned obviously depends on the product itself as well as materials used and physical state of the product. Neither Bvlgari nor Cartier will give the customer cash–they can provide in-store credit only which can be put towards a new purchase. The appraisal takes up to a week in most cases and the whole history of each product and customer is stored in their database, allowing them to trace it back to the day of creation.

Having said that, I don’t believe Apple will offer a program for the Apple Watch. But they should, especially for the Edition.

Update

Obviously I was wrong regarding the Milanese Loop and Link Bracelent pricing—the former is between $300 and $400 cheaper than the latter. Which is still suprising to me—I would love to see the creation process behind the Milanese Loop; it must be much less fascinating than I imagined.


I Do Want a Thicker Phone →

February 24, 2015 · 09:19

Rene Ritchie on iMore:

Take an iPhone 6 as thick as the iPhone 4 and imagine how heavy it would be. Apple was deliberate when they pointed out the iPhone 6 was actually lighter than the iPhone 4. They did that because, while thinness is nice and certainly improves the feel of the phone, it’s lightness that matters. Lightness is what improves usability.

While I often agree with Rene, I have to disagree regarding lightness—it does matter, but it’s not what improves usability the most.

The idea of a thick phone with longer battery life sounds great precisely until you actually try to hold it up for prolonged periods of time. Then it causes fatigue and eventually prevents you from using it for as long as you’d really like to.

We’re talking about 129 grams in the form of the iPhone 6 here. I actually have a 143 gram HTC One M7 on hand, with an 4.7″ screen and the weight difference is negligible. What really makes the 6 usable is it’s thinness, allowing me to use the phone with one hand. My hands aren’t that big, hence this whole argument varies from person to person, but the 2.4 millimetre difference in thickness plays a much bigger role in ergonomics than it seems it should. I assume—and I admit that this is just a guess, but backed by experience with other thicker and heavier phones—that I could easily sacrifice one extra millimetre for a bigger battery, as well as some additional weight, just to make it last a bit longer.


iPhone 6 Screens Demystified →

September 12, 2014 · 18:30

Peter Krajcik, Mike Antonic and Matt Dunik explain the details behind the new screen resolutions of both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, including the downsampling part of the equation. The more I think about the 6 Plus’ resolution however, the more I wonder if a higher resolution panel didn’t make the cut in the last few moments before production, similarly to the new rumours regarding the sapphire screens. John Gruber would have otherwise been right on the money with his calculations