The 10.5-inch iPad Pro, The Tipping Point and All That

I think a lot of people, myself included, have been somewhat unhappy with our Macs and iPads. The Mac does not feel like it’s where it needs to be, and that’s why so many people were upset with the 2016 MacBook Pro models. The problem is that Intel has not been where it needs to be, and might not get to where it needs to go. X86 is a truck. It can do mobile, but will never be mobile like the Apple A-series chip.

The iPad was not where it needed to be either but that’s all changed now with the new ‘WWDC’ iPad Pro models, especially the 10.5 inch, iOS 11 and the A10X chip. I have read many 10.5-inch iPad Pro reviews the past few days, to me the best one is The Brooks Review. Ben Brooks’s analysis feels just right, John Gruber’s review roundup is a runner up. Both of them quote Federico Viticci’s review (iPad Pro with Smart Cover/Smart Keyboard fits inside the new leather sleeve, nice catch).

Brooks sums it up nicely:

I suspect that people won’t only be moving to iPad from Macs, but people who have long used only their iPhones (though they likely have a laptop somewhere) will look at these changes and decide there’s now a compelling reason to grab an iPad. To talk about using iPads.

It’s going to be a hell of a holiday iPad season.

APFS and Unicode Normalization

One key feature of macOS High Sierra is the arrival of Apple File System (APFS) as the default file system format. The iOS 10.3 update migrated the iOS file system from HFS+ to APFS, an amazingly smooth transition that was celebrated at WWDC last week.

The WWDC APFS developer session video is well worth your time if you have access. I am familiar with font encoding issues but was completely unaware of the Unicode Normalization file system issue that developers outside the ASCII bubble have been worried about. The best blog to read about APFS and Unicode issues is The Electric Light Company by Howard Oakley. His take on AI is great too.

I particularly enjoyed reading his explanation of Unicode file naming and the limits of having the file system handle normalization. There will be two different flavors of APFS, native normalization will be default for iOS 11, the default for macOS High Sierra is normalization-insensitive. This should work well. The basic encoding issue that affects all systems everywhere however, remains:

it is time for the Unicode Consortium to map indistiguishable characters to the same encodings, so that each visually distinguishable character is represented by one, and only one, encoding.

That is a stark challenge, and one that I am sure will never even be started. But until we do, today’s minor running sores will only fester and grow.

I have heard similar complaints about the Unicode Consortium from Japanese font developers over the years. Unicode has done many good things but like any human organization there are agendas and politics. For some, the Unicode Consortium working method is too top down for comfort. Sometimes grand plans don’t work out, like IVS.

As Oakley points out, getting a big new effort off the ground is too much to ask of the Unicode Consortium.

Apple Maps Flashes Some Pink

I don’t know why, but all three major Japanese map products use the same color to indicate large underground structures: pink. It’s a perfect slyly perverse color choice for Shinjuku, a place that Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki called ‘the lucky hole of Tokyo.’

Yahoo Japan Map and Google Maps have offered detailed indoor mapping for some time. After vamping with “carefully curated navigation instructions so it’s easy to get around Japan’s extensive underground tunnel networks.” Apple Maps is about to get serious with indoor mapping and flash some real pink in iOS 11 as Tokyo is one of the launch cities for indoor mall maps.

Tokyo malls are underground shopping arcades attached to the large private rail train stations and department store retail empires of Keio, Seibu, Odakyu, Tokyu, etc. JR East only got started with the privatization of JNR in 1987 but has furiously rebuilt Tokyo station underground into a formidable retail area.

Shinjuku is the world’s busiest station and the most complex. The core JR East station is surrounded by multiple onion-like layers of  private line stations and subway lines interlaced with mazes of underground shopping malls. Here is a quick comparison of the big three Japanese map products focused on Keio Mall in the Shinjuku underground west exit side.

Apple has not uploaded any indoor map data for iOS 11 developer beta yet, I suspect it will come late in the beta cycle. Here is the current Apple Map view of Shinjuku west.

Apple Maps view of Shinjuku station with pink underground structure outlines added in iOS 10.1

Close up of Keiko Mall underground (pink) west exit of Shinjuku station (purple). The small round green Family Mart icon is roughly center point of Keio Mall
Here is the same Keio Mall area in Yahoo Japan Map:

Yahoo Japan Map view of Shinjuku west Keio Mall underground. Nice clean detail that is a hallmark of Yahoo Japan cartography. The different connecting station parts are clearly shown with platform stairs and exit signage exactly matching what you find on the ground. Store backgrounds are color keyed without icons and labeled clearly. The square green Family Mart icon is the same store as the round green icon in the previous Apple Map screenshot.

Larger view of Shinjuku station clearly shows how everything connects which Google Maps does not. Again, note that exits are clearly marked in yellow.
Here is Google Maps view of Keio Mall:

Keio mall google
Google and Apple both have a cartography obsession with three C icons that distract and clutter up information. Notice that Google Maps simply places text labels where they fit with no attempt to align anything, also Google does not display any of the surface exits clearly marked in Yahoo Japan Map.
Here is the indoor Apple Maps image from the iOS 11 preview page:ios11-indoor-maps eidt.png

Even with just the sample we can already see that Apple’s indoor maps will look a lot more like Google than Yahoo Japan: lots of ‘triple C’ (custom color keyed) icons though store background colors remain neutral grey with tiny colored dots indicating store type. The sample shows promise but we won’t know until we see it in action as indoor maps are incredibly difficult to do well.

It will be fascinating to see how it all works in Apple’s take of Shinjuku station, the world’s most complex indoor mapping challenge. If Apple Maps can crack it, or even just match Google, Japanese users will certainly see it as another success following the well received launch of Japan transit.

Real Indoor Apple Maps

ios11 indoor mapsCraig Federighi “finally” announced indoor mapping in Apple Maps for iOS 11 during the WWDC keynote. I say finally because this has been in the works for a very long time. I knew that Apple had been working hard mapping Tokyo indoor locations and was perplexed by the faux indoor mapping used in Apple Maps Japan Transit rollout. In my review at the time I wrote:

The big question is where does Apple’s indoor mapping effort go from here. Will they go the Google way of mapping everything above and below ground, or take the Yahoo Japan way of just showing above and below structures directly related to the station? If Apple only wants to show exits and entrances they could vastly improve the current experience by increasing on route exit signage size and providing information cards with real information.

So we finally get:

detailed floorplans
Detailed floor plans
Place cards
directory and search
Directory & Search
browse by floor
Browse by floor

The launch list includes Tokyo and I hope to check out a real indoor Apple Map of Shinjuku station underground malls in the iOS 11 public beta. If Shinjuku station is not supported I’ll be seriously disappointed because if Shinjuku station underground doesn’t qualify as a Japanese mall in the Apple universe, nothing will.

indoor mapped malls
Apple Map Indoor mapping launch list

Japan is not on the airport indoor map launch list but the major Tokyo stations are a much better place to start.

The Fine Print

iOS11The big announcements from WWDC are fun to read about but so are the small print features the flash by during the keynote. Some of the highlighted ones appear on Apple’s iOS 11 preview page, Automatic setup for example. Others do not, NFC reader mode…interesting.

Everyone will be analyzing everything in the days and weeks to come. Here are ones I look forward to reading about or trying in the iOS 11 public beta: one-handed zoom in Maps, English input for Japanese Romaji keyboard, QR code support (is it only for China?), iCloud file sharing, Enhanced Dynamic Type support (developer side only?).

Of course there is also the fine print at the bottom of the iOS 11 preview page:iOS11 fine print.png

Scratch items 1, 3, 5 from the Japanese market until further notice, or the next major iOS release.

macOS HS features.jpg
macOS High Sierra features

There are fewer but small surprises on the macOS High Sierra side too, especially for Japanese users: Bilingual English/Japanese input and Japanese autocorrection that appears to use AI to learn and adapt to the user. Both are highlighted on Apple’s Japanese macOS High Sierra preview page.

english japanese bilingual input
Bilingual English-Japanese input
Japanese predictive correcting
Japanese auto correction