#500

Good, Better, Best, Best Plus

As I noted on Twitter a few days ago, one of the weirdest things about this iPhone upgrade cycle is how hard it is to choose which device to get. I feel like I know exactly which of the “millions” of permutations of the Apple Watch I want (this one). But deciding between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus has been an exercise in agony.

The thing is, this is really the first iPhone cycle that doesn’t have an obvious “winner.” Apple has long taken the “good -> better -> best” approach with the distinctions demarcated by price. But this year is less straightforward.

Yes, the iPhone 6 Plus is the more expensive model. And yes, it bears the “Plus” moniker. But there are trade-offs.

“Plus” doesn’t necessarily mean better here. It means bigger. With its 5.5” screen, by almost all accounts, it’s massive. So large that it will turn away many buyers.

And that includes those of us who would normally default to the more expensive variety of iPhone, assuming it’s the best one money can buy. This is now more subjective than ever before.

Yes, the iPhone 6 Plus has slightly better battery life (thanks to the additional volume) and a slightly better camera (thanks to room for optical image stabilization). But beyond those two features, the device is identical to the iPhone 6. And to many people, that device’s 4.7” screen is actually the plus.

Last year, there was also a choice between the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s. But Apple made it pretty easy since the 5s had a not insignificant performance edge thanks to its faster chip. Even though I liked the design of the iPhone 5c a bit more, it was still ultimately a no-brainer to go with the iPhone 5s.

Again, this year not so much.

I have ultimately decided to go with the iPhone 6 Plus. My rationale is simply that the two factors I care most about: camera and battery life, are slightly better on the bigger device. But I’m not entirely sold. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may change my mind when I start to use the thing day-to-day.

As for color, I went with Silver. Gold is so 2013.

Update: Yes, because of the different screen sizes, the devices also have different resolutions. And yes, the iPhone 6 Plus screen also has a better PPI — but, oddly, a slightly worse contrast ratio.

(Written on my iPhone)

Scoffing

I’ve always been fascinated by scoffing. It’s such a weird human reaction. It’s wanting to say something is stupid without directly saying it. Or sometimes without saying anything at all. The key is contempt. You simply cannot be bothered to even find the fucks to give.

We see this a lot in the tech world. There’s a lot of “that’ll never work” scoffs simply because something has been tried and failed in the past. Never mind the fact that nearly everything in the history of humanity was tried and failed before it eventually worked.

And then there’s competitor scoffing. Everyone knows the infamous Ballmer iPhone scoff. What makes it so bad isn’t just the derision, it’s what we can see with the benefit of hindsight. Ballmer is staring point blank at the device that will eventually eat his lunch and is faced with a choice:

  • He could say, “wow, we have to work harder.”
  • He could scoff.

He chose… poorly.

I find myself thinking of this type of scoffing on the eve of the “iWatch.” I’ve had a lot of conversations about the mythical device over the past several months and the unifying thread across most of the conversations has been scoffing.

It’s not necessarily that people don’t think Apple will make a nice wearable, it’s more that they’re sure it will be a meager, maybe even gimmicky product. In other words, like most of the wearables we’ve seen thus far. Not a game changer.

And yet, over the past several days, news has been trickling out that this device may be much more ambitious than just a thing on your wrist that tells time and maybe allows you to see an SMS or two. What if this device is not only the future of fitness, but the future of health monitoring, the future of payments, and maybe even the future of your living room to boot?

Maybe it won’t reach that potential. Maybe it won’t reach even half or a quarter of that potential. But it still seems silly to scoff at the device.

Nothing works until it does.

(Written on my iPhone)

The Stand-Along App

The most interesting thing about Instagram’s new app, Hyperlapse, isn’t that it’s a stand-alone app, it’s that it’s only a lens.

A lot has been made in recent months of companies “unbundling” their apps to create simpler, more streamlined experiences for users. The jury is still very much out on this strategy actually working. But again, I don’t view the Instagram move with Hyperlapse as the same thing exactly.

The thing is, on the surface, there isn’t much to Hyperlapse itself. It’s a video camera which allows you to speed up the playback after shooting (there’s obviously a lot more going on behind the scenes to make this work and seem as simple as it does). You can then share those videos to either Facebook or Instagram (not Twitter, naturally and stupidly), but there is no Hyperlapse social element beyond this share functionality. The real social component of Hyperlapse stays on the existing Facebook social backbone (since Facebook also owns Instagram, of course). And even the editing beyond the playback speed occurs on Instagram still.

So in this regard, Hyperlapse is “only” a layer on top of those existing services. It’s sort of like a new lens you might attach to your camera – albeit a tricked-out lens that can speed up time!

I think this secondary app strategy is a much more clever one than the typical “unbundling” one. Just look at the App Store top lists now; there are dozens of apps for altering the output of existing popular apps – Vine, Snapchat, and yes, Instagram, amongst others. Why wouldn’t the app-maker want to play in this space as well? The end result is just making their core app more popular. And they get to remain in control of the user experience.

Not a stand-alone app, a stand-along app.

As an aside, in my mind, the oddest thing about Hyperlapse is that it does something that not even its parent does: work natively on the iPad.

(Written on my iPhone)

On The Go

I find myself on vacation. For me, that means getting away to a nice (usually new) place where I can read in peace. (And completely fail on my stated pledge not to check email – but that’s another story.) It also gives me time to think, which I find I rarely have these days. Naturally, my mind drifts to writing.

I started the year hoping to write more – 500 words a day, in fact. That lasted barely a month. It simply was becoming too much of a chore at the end of each day. I soon switched to writing thoughts on Medium, hoping its beautiful writing interface would spur me on. It has, a bit. But still not as much as I would like.

Thinking about this today, I realize that I have a pretty strong aversion to using my computer these days. It’s a cumbersome device I only associate with work. More importantly, I increasingly find myself only carrying around my iPhone and perhaps my iPad. And I’ve been writing a lot on my iPad (with the Logitech keyboard attached), but I still usually publish when I get back to a computer (on Medium, for example, you can still only publish from a desktop browser). There are too many steps involved.

So I’m going to try to force myself to write more on the go, when I’m nowhere near my MacBook. Like this post, which I’m typing on my iPhone (using Byword). With years of practice now, I’m actually quite good at typing on my phone (and even my iPad without the Logitech keyboard). So I’m not sure why I haven’t been doing it more. Other than the fact that old habits die hard.

This may also force me to keep things shorter than usual. Which I view as a good thing.

(Written on my iPhone)