John Gruber Loses His Mojo

I love Daring Fireball and John Gruber is one of the best tech writers out there. But since the election Gruber seems distracted. A lot of people probably are…still. He writes more about politics, which is fine, but unless you are a Gore Vidal, writing political stuff is tricky business. And if you are not a Gore Vidal, it is distraction. Witness Gruber’s take of Neil Cybart’s Above Avalon post Apple’s Achilles Heel. Let me explain.

Steve Jobs at his last appearance with the soon to retire Walt Mossberg had some great things to say. Not just about Adobe Flash or words of wisdom, but something from his soul; the essence of all that he had learned.

Apple is a company that doesn’t have the most resources of everybody in the world, and the way we’ve succeeded is by choosing what horses to ride really carefully…
And if you choose wisely you can save yourself an enormous amount of work versus trying to do everything, and you can put energy into making those new emerging technologies be great on your platform rather than just OK because you’re spreading yourself too thin.

Limited time, energy, and resources. Choose wisely and you can put those precious things to the best possible use and make a difference. Gruber:

The iPhone hasn’t suffered because Apple is focused on the Mac. New iPhones come out like clockwork every year. Apple has really gotten it down to a science in recent years. The Mac lineup, however — and the Mac Pro in particular — has clearly suffered from a lack of attention. Where did that institutional attention go? Surely much of it went to iPhone.

I’m not arguing that it’s a mistake for Apple to devote more attention to the iPhone than any other product…. But it’s a mistake to focus so much attention on the iPhone that other important products suffer.

Too much, he says. To paraphrase Jobs, iPhone is still in its spring, the Mac is in its autumn. I agree with Cybart and Jobs. Apple has limited time, energy and resources. Is choosing the Mac Pro the wisest choice? I don’t know. But making a choice means giving up something else. It always does.

A Week With Suica Apple Pay

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Matsumoto-KiYoshi Drug Stores now accept Apple Pay.

Got Suica Apple Pay – Need AirPods
My Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus arrived last weekend and I finally got to use Suica Apple Pay instead of just writing about it. Loading Suica commuter pass into Apple Pay was quick and easy, and I was on my way through a regular work week. This time with iPhone 7.

My first impression matched  Japanese Suica Apple Pay user comments on Twitter: “It works…Sugoi!” Suica transit is slick and fun to use with iPhone 7 but I quickly realized how much I want those soon to arrive Apple AirPods. Listening to music with wired headphones while pulling out iPhone to go through the station Suica turnstile in one smooth motion takes practice. Too often I find myself digging deeper in my pocket to avoid tangling the headphone wires which still manage to catch a backpack strap or coat button.

I also learned not to play Pokemon Go while going through a Suica turnstile, it kills the iPhone Felica NFC signal but this seems to fixed in the iOS 10.2 beta.

Suica store purchase experiences were varied. Mini Stop, 7-11 and Sunkus convenience stores were all easy and seamless. Lawson and Aeon stores force you to choose the payment method first before putting iPhone near the reader. And then there is the Transaction Media-Networks UT1-Neo NFC reader.

The TMN UT1-Neo reader is temperamental and in my experience always fails if you rest iPhone on the reader. If you run across a UT1-Neo reader, and you will,  hold iPhone at an angle above the reader, not flat, just like they do on the Apple Japan page. That has worked well for my iPhone 7 Plus.

How Apple is Giving Design a Bad Name

Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini are pretty harsh on Apple’s post-iPhone UI design philosophy. They have been on this track for a long time and I do not agree with much they say, but they do have, a few, valid points.

We conclude by summarizing the statements in Apple’s current guidelines, statements that are correct and appropriate and that convey the proper design philosophy.

Deference. The UI (user interface) helps people understand and interact with the content, but never competes with it.

Clarity. Text is legible at every size, icons are precise and lucid, adornments are subtle and appropriate, and a sharpened focus on functionality motivates the design.

Depth. Visual layers and realistic motion impart vitality and heighten people’s delight and understanding.

As I pointed out in my Apple Maps in Japan review, the atrocious Apple Maps cartography is a perfect example for everything wrong with Apple UI design here: no deference, no clarity, no depth. A comparison screenshot shows it all:

Maps of Shinjuku. Apple (left), Google (center), Yahoo Japan (right)
Maps of Shinjuku. Apple (left), Google (center), Yahoo Japan (right)

In this case this is the result when the UI designers impose western typography assumptions on a language that requires different design choices.