Do People Actually Think About This Stuff?

One question has been stuck in my brain for the last week or so. One that was not flippantly asked, but asked with conviction and pursuing a real answer. Zac Cichy pressed his guest Rene Richie to see if people at Apple actually think about the changes that their products and services actually make to not only their users, but also society at large.

This sounds like an obvious question, and one that was answered quite honestly by Rene, being that Steve Jobs and to a certain point many people at Apple, have a more positive view point when talking about their products or advancements in technology. With a natural blind spot to all the bad things that these can also cause. For every boost in communication and productivity gain you get a Facebook and Google (his choice of companies not mine, although I would agree with them).

This invention has the power to drastically alter the nature of human existence. I think it could help humanity. But it could also make things even worse. — Ready Player Two

We trust the brands we invest in, with both our money and our attention, to have the best interests of their users in mind when producing their products. Which in the vast majority of cases is well-founded. However, there are companies where it is more obvious their intentions are more nefarious.

In Steven Levy book “Facebook: The Inside Story” he goes into great detail, whilst being led by several people that are familiar with the matter, on Facebooks problems and therefore its users problems. Brought about by its relentless pursuit of growth at all costs. “Chasing growth that hadn’t happened naturally, attempting to crush competitors” and a leader hell-bent on becoming everything that Facebook wasn’t.

One “unintended consequence” after another proves that not all people think about this stuff, or instead are so shortsighted that it doesn’t even register. Undoubtedly, this happens in every single company on the face of the planet at some stage or another. With every great stride forward comes another towards a future of more technology ingress into our lives, something that can be amazingly positive but also end life as we know it!

I hope to god people think about this stuff, but I have my doubts, and if they do I don’t think they do it hard enough.

The iPhone 12 Line Up Points Out The Flaws In Me

I am a few days away from deciding on which iPhone 12 size to go for and it’s making me think deeper about myself than I am comfortable with. It’s a ridiculous issue to have, but it’s one that I have, so here we are.

For the last few years I have bought the new iPhone released no questions asked. iPhone 5s, 6, 6s plus, 7, X, XS Max and 11 pro. I chose each phone with little hesitation and carried on my merry way without a second thought. Something changed halfway through my time with the 11pro and I realised just how little I was using my £1000 smartphone, so I sold it and used an iPhone SE until the iPhone 12 launch.

Why is this important? Well, this just gives you backstory because this year the line up brings me so much indecision that I ordered three phones! Which is great and all but I now can’t decide which one to use.

There is enough between them to make the choice important, but this issue speaks about my current situation more than it does about the phones themselves. In a pandemic and working from home perhaps dictates a different choice in technology, and whilst I felt the Pixel 5 was made in a pandemic I think the iPhone 12 range is made for a very different work to the one we have now.

Which User Am I?

The iPhone 12 mini is the phone I want to be a user of. It’s small, light and fills me with minimalistic dreams that I can’t ignore. It’s everything I want from a smartphone, and most of all it leaves much less a mark on my life than the others do.

The iPhone 12 Pro is my default. It’s boring, unassuming but very able to do pretty much everything. It’s the compromise phone and consumes enough of the others in the line ability to potentially be my Goldilocks phone.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is me giving into my desires and getting what I really want. It caters to my narcissistic urges, is the most powerful and unapologetically massive. You can’t use it one handed very well but it does what it does best and gives you arguably the best media experience. It’s fulfilling my fear of missing out and does more than everything else.

There’s a huge difference between getting what I want and what I need. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is great in some situations but due to its size feels a little like wearing skis all year because you go in the winter. Whereas I know which phone I should use, to remove it as much from my life as possible.

These issues are all internal, and I am aware of this entirely. It’s a stupid issue to have, but I think about it nonetheless. Which one I choose my speak more about myself than actually about the phone.

My Journey To Apple

I’ve been delving into origin stories of some of my sons favourite superhero’s and it got me thinking about mine. You might think I have been around here for ages. Bleating on about Apple news like some kind of village idiot and generally writing things no one reads. However, my Apple usage has been a relatively short one, and started at random points during the last 10 years.

iPhone

I came to the iPhone really early in its life but was gone quickly. I managed to convince my mum to get me an iPhone 3G on a ridiculously expensive monthly contract about 2 weeks after it came out. At the time I had a Nokia N73 and touchscreen phones were the way to go, but nothing came close to the iPhone.

After this brief time with a 3G I left and never looked back. Then began a long stream of Android phones that when I look at now, although fun to use, never lived up to an iPhone. The problem was, iPhones were much more expensive and exclusive to one network, which meant they were impossible to consider for quite a while.

I resisted is as long as I could but came back again to the iPhone 5s. It was the first iPhone for a while reviewers were raving about and I was looking for something to work with my iPad. Couple this and my blossoming love for the iMac meant that an iPhone just made sense.

iPad

When the iPad first came out I wanted one, but couldn’t get hold of one anywhere. It was months later before I got my hands on one as a Christmas present. I liked the idea of being able to play games with my kids on it and Lucie loved swiping around on the screen. This felt like the future to me, but it stayed very much a consumption device and the initial excitement faded into the background.

At the time I was hardcore into Android and had a long stream of new tablets to try out through my day job. I then didn’t pick up an iPad again until I moved into a new career and was handed an iPad Air as my main device. I didn’t really know what to do with it, but had to complete site visit reports on it so it also became my Laptop.

I poured over guides from MacStories, downloaded editorial guides and a year or so later began to lose hours of my life to the new hot thing that was Workflow. I bought a Logitech keyboard cases to go with it and never used anything else other than my iPad when I wasn’t sat at a desk. It became my computer a long time before Apple started marketing it as one, and before it came the new hotness to brag about on Twitter.

Mac

I began using a MacBook alongside an Android phone simply because Windows PCs became unappealing to me. When looking for a new laptop in a local electronics store I was encouraged to have a look at a MacBook. I am sure this was to try and upsell me something, but I was unimpressed with Windows 8 and really didn’t want to mess around with it any longer.

Over the next few weeks I did some research and settled on a used MacBook Pro. I bought this through Facebook, and picked it up the next day. I have no idea what model it was but it was in incredible shape and did me proud. A few months later I picked up a new MacBook Air for a steal as it was being replaced by a new version. This was the old non-retina version and although great it didn’t quite live up to my old MacBook Pro.

About six months later I picked up a New MacBook Pro Retina on Boxing Day sales and my life with a Mac continued ever since. When I began podcasting a lot I picked up a second hand iMac from the head of our IT department and only upgraded this last year to an iMac Pro.

My journey into the Apple ecosystem has been a long one but an interesting one. The reverse of many other stories I have heard, as most then to start with an iPhone and go from there. I have considered trying to jumping the walls a few times in the past, but never manage it. The Apple Echo system just suits me, and its simply where I feel most at home.

Features I Would Like In Hey

Nothing can ever be perfect, and Hey is no different. It takes some thought to get used to all the features, but there are some things that I would really like to see implemented in the near future. I have every confidence the service will be imported following feedback, so investment in this is well worth it in my opinion. Heres some things that I would like and ideas about how they could work.

Import of Mbox

This is a biggie, and almost the one that put me off switching over. I really would like to see the ability to import all my old email, so I can be done with gmail forever. There are emails, files and all sorts fo information I am almost constantly referring back to, so I really need to only rely on once service.

Hey allows you to export your email in the mbox format, so I would really love to see them allow it the other way. This would allow me to set up my filters better than ever. This would put strain on their storage and servers though, and I do understand that they want you to have a fresh new start.

Smarter Notifications

As it stands currently there is no way for me to know that there are emails in My Feed or Paper Trail. I am currently checking periodically and it’s a bit of a pain. I completely understand that these types of emails are supposed to be out of sight, but some notification would be great.

Currently, I can turn notifications on for some emails that go into the feed, such as my wonderful newsletter but I think it is too much work to filter these. Being able to set notification or notification levels would be the perfect balance. Perhaps I don’t want a push notification, but a discrete banner to let me know my bill has arrived such as below.

Navigation Improvements

The team need to improve the way to get from Imbox to Paper Trail and The Feed particularly on mobile. Currently, you must tap on the Hey button, tap the area you wish to go to. This isn’t too much hassle, but when you wish to go to the next area, swiping back and the repeating the process becomes tiresome.

A tabbed menu at the bottom would be too much and defeat the whole purpose of putting marketing emails and receipts out the way, so some thought around this is needed.

The Feed

Newsletters are my thing. Reading them in Hey is great as they are all filtered out, bar a few marketing emails mixed in that I still want to see. However, What about them disappearing from the feed completely when I have read them?

Currently, the feed displays everything that has arrived with nothing to say you’ve seen it before. A small notification for some that I like reading straight away would also be a helpful addition.

There you have it. Not many things that I haven’t got my head around and made Hey my email service of choice. I would really like to see the mbox import if all else fails. Just so I can finally move over completely. 🙏

iPad Pro Magic Keyboard First Impressions

When is it too early to give your opinions on a product? This seems a pretty blurred line. Dependent a lot of the time on the type of review you want to give. It’s a debate for another time, because I have had my hands on the new Magic Keyboard for my 2018 iPad Pro for just a few hours and already have loads of thoughts to share — but a full review will follow later.

I have, for the most part, been avoiding the weirdly negative reviews and comparisons that focus on small issues blown out of proportion. As I covered in my newsletter, I’ve been really excited to get this keyboard and it arrived a day later than it was supposed to. So I found myself consuming quite a few reviews to satiate my desire to use it. But that is not to say that if I had been forced to write this within the first hour or so of taking the Magic keyboard out the box my feelings would have been very different.

It’s Heavy

Let’s get this out the way straight away. Attaching the Magic Keyboard to your iPad Pro makes it heavier. Not just a bit heavier, there is a lot more weight and no avoiding this. This keyboard is not a Smart Keyboard by any stretch of the imagination. So if you’re looking for something similar you’re going to be very disappointed.

Many reviews have focused on this. While comparisons to the weight of laptops and other Windows variations are somewhat valid, they are a little logically flawed. Sure it’s about the same weight as a MacBook Pro, so is the argument that I should carry that instead? Whereas it’s down to the weight you want to carry. Without getting into the specs of the different machines and OS, there are some huge differences. I can’t take the screen off a MacBook, nor annotate a PDF by drawing on the screen, so we are not comparing Apples here. If I’m going to carry 3lb I will carry a 12.9” iPad and Magic Keyboard no question — whereas many others may not.

Now we have that out of the way, we can move on. There are numerous reasons for the weight of this accessory, which I wont go into here, but it ads a proper keyboard. Gruber summed it up best when he described previous attempts iPad keyboards as covers you can type on. There was nothing wrong with these versions, I used them very happily for a long time. Whereas this is a proper, full sized keyboard with back light and decent key travel. With a trackpad thrown in for good measure. This is tiny when compared to any other Apple version but about the same size as everything else on the market. One thing to note is that it is ridiculously loud when clicking.

The keyboard keys are’t quite as bad, but they are not far off. They give in my opinion a perfectly clicky feedback. With the right amount of movement in the keys to make typing a delight. Typing on them feels somewhere between the current Mac Magic Keyboard, with a little of the stiffness of the butterfly keyboard left in. But to be clear these are lovely scissor switches, so lets hope they last.

I have no reason to think they wont, because everything about the unit feels premium and worth the money. Sure this is an expensive accessory, but in a world where the Smart Keyboard Folio is £199, for the extra £150 you get much more for your money. One of my initial trepidation’s was the rigidity of the keyboard when using it on my lap, but I am happy to report there is zero flex. Both of the hinges for positioning the iPad feel study and robust, clicking into place with reassuring tactile feedback.

Screen Positioning

The Magic Keyboard floating style is quintessentially Apple. Say what you want about a better design, but this screams designed in Cupertino. You’re going to see loads of these in coffee shops when we are allowed out again. That’s not to say the design is the right choice, thats a very personal opinion. It just looks like something Apple would do. The design also brings the iPad closer to your face which is a nice touch, saving some neck ache. The two hinges allow movement from 90 to 130 degrees.

This range of movement sounds like plenty depending on your usage. I am not getting into the whole drawing mode debate comparing to something that has never been advertised, but unfortunately it isn’t much movement at all. I feel as if the screen positions are almost as limiting as they were before. This isn’t going to bother me going forward and I completely understand why it is like this. However the furthest 130degree position is just about suitable for my needs and at this point  still feels a little top heavy when on my lap.

Wants For The Future

It is very early days in my usage, and despite my early disappointment I am happily typing away on it.

The Magic Keyboard feels very much like a first-gen product with some important lessons learnt from the covers that have gone before. There are design choices that have been made to get the best from the form factor. Ultimately boiling down to a few nitpicking details.

I’d love to see the power connector able to also transfer data so I don’t need any more dongles hanging out the side, but this would mean a redesign of the iPad technology rather than a better case.

I would also like to see the keyboard get a row of function keys or at the very least an FN key to perhaps use the numbered row. I don’t adjust the backlight to my keyboard very often, but when I do I expect it to be right in front of me along with volume control and screen brightness.

I will refrain from any major judgements just yet and save them for a full review, but there are surprisingly few things I would change, and none that put me off completely.

Conclusion

With all things said, this is the sort of keyboard I have always wanted for my iPad. The robustness of a proper keyboard was without doubt a limiting factor in previous years and one of the reasons I started using a Laptop again.

The iPad Pro Magic Keyboard is the best keyboard you can get for your iPad Pro but its far from perfect. This isn’t;t going to be for everyone. If you want a laptopesk experience on iOS then look no further. For anything else, move along.