What product designers can learn from iOS 8’s iMessage changes

Scott Hurff writes about what designers can learn from the new iMessage.

Apple’s iMessage announcements can teach us a lot about the value of knowing our customers. It’s not enough to build products based on rumor, anecdote or speculation. We have to know exactly how and why our customers do what they do, and in what context they’ll be using our products.

That requires a cultural awareness of their fears, pressures, and how they’re using competing or complementary services. And finally, it requires that we as product builders respect our customer’s time and intelligence.

Push to talk will be very useful for people who communicate in languages that are hard input. It also makes it easier for people who can’t type, usually due to illiteracy, to send messages. This feature is already available on other messaging apps but iMessage has the advantage of coming shipped with the iDevices.

This reminds me of a recent piece by Dr Dang.

Steve Jobs’s “design is how it works” gets a lot of lip service, but when most Apple bloggers and pundits say design they still mean how it looks. Flat design, skeuomorphic design, “clean” design—these generate millions of words of heated discussion, but they have little to do with how your computer operates. You could go to the Iconfactory and change every icon on your machine, but that wouldn’t change how you or it work.

Reaction to health sensors show bias against Apple

TheNextWeb claims that Apple’s Health app needs to do three things or it will be considered a flop.

If they try to play it safe, however, and just some add Apple polish to the same tracking technologies already on the market, Health will flop. It will end up on the shelf with other beautifully designed, but seldom used, Apple products. Remember the Newton? The G4 Cube?

Compare this to how TheNextWeb reacted to Samsung’s health event.

Relevance of Google Search and advertising

Let’s take a look at a specific part from this excellent article published by AppleInsider back in April.

It wasn’t a fluke that the Moto X flopped. Google has only ever flopped in its hardware experiments. But make no mistake: Google desperately needs a hardware business, and it knows it needs a hardware business. That’s why it has spent incredible billions trying to buy its way into the hardware game, first with Motorola and then with Nest the moment it found a buyer to offload Motorola.

Why the need for a presence in hardware? First, Google’s partners have been terrible at implementing Google’s reference designs across the board. Additionally, Google just announced results for the March quarter that outlined that the profitability of its core ad business is collapsing, with 26 percent more clicks resulting in 9 percent less revenue.

Google needs to find ways to increase its ad business and a possible solution is to expand advertising beyond smartphones.

Steve Jobs pointed out four years ago that Apple had discovered that mobile users were different from desktop PC users in that they don’t start with Google’s search in the web browser when looking for entertainment, information or products to buy. They use mobile apps.

“On a mobile device,” Jobs noted, “Search is not ‘where it’s at.’ People aren’t searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop. What’s happening is that they’re spending all their time in apps. When people want to find a place to go out to dinner, they’re not searching. They’re going into Yelp. They’re using apps to get to data on the Internet, rather than a generalized search. And this is where the opportunity to deliver advertising is.”

Google uses Google Now bring the power of its online services to mobile users in very practical situations. The question is, how is Google going to monetize? Ads?

Google predicts ads in odd spots like thermostats

WSJ.com Digits write about Google’s prediction of ads on your smart devices

Google made the statement to help justify why it shouldn’t disclose revenue generated from mobile devices, a figure the SEC had requested and that companies like Facebook and Twitter both disclose. Google argued that it doesn’t make sense to break out mobile revenue since the definition of mobile will “continue to evolve” as more “smart” devices roll out.

“Our expectation is that users will be using our services and viewing our ads on an increasingly wide diversity of devices in the future,” the company said in the filing.

Before you use the thermostat, you need to watch an ad. You want to open the smart fridge, here’s another ad. Microwaving dinner? You skipped the past few ads so now you’re forced to watch the full ad before your microwave works.

Google’s ad-driven web

Marco Arment writes about the future of MetaFilter.

A depressing look at the ad-funded web today, and what it’s like to depend completely on Google for your business. Google owns the ad-driven web: their search brings all of your pageviews, and their ads bring all of your income. You’re just along for the ride, hoping to stay in Google’s good graces — an arbitrary, unreliable, undocumented metric that changes constantly. (Google’s only “open” with the trivial, unprofitable parts of their business. Search and ads are closed, proprietary, and opaque in every possible way.)

Just ask web publishers whose pageranks have been murdered each time Google changes its search algorithm. They are under the mercy of Google.

My websites are all ad-free. I learnt long ago not to rely on Google for monetization.

The rise of smartphone notifications

Mat Honan writes about the rising importance of notifications.

Interactive notifications will spur all sorts of new behaviors. (And yes, Android already has interactive notifications, but the ones in iOS 8 look to go beyond what KitKat can do.) Some of these will be simple, like the ability to reply to an email or text message. But they’re powerful in that you can do this without quitting whatever you’re already doing. And this interactivity is not just limited to system apps. Third-party developers can take advantage of this new capability as well, so you could comment on something on Facebook, respond to a tweet, or even check in on Foursquare. But others are going to be radical, stuff we haven’t imagined yet. Once developers begin to really harness what interactive notifications can do in iOS 8—and they will—it’s going to cause one of the most radical changes since third-party apps. With the advent of iOS 8, notifications are the new interface frontier.

We saw of glimpse of such use of notifications on OS X Mavericks. And we will be getting it on iOS 8 across all apps that support it. This will help to increase app engagement. Instead of being irritated by a notification because opening it would bounce you into another app, you can respond to it and continue with whatever you were doing. As Mat mentions, it will bring about a lot of changes to how your apps will want to engage you.

Tie this in with Continuity and the circle is complete. You can reply to SMS messages and answer phone calls from your iPad and Mac. I’ll be able to continue working on my Mac when I get calls or green bubble messages while my phone is across the room.

For people who claim to be disappointed by WWDC

Harry McCracken goes through a decade of WWDC keynotes.

I have been hearing about how people are disappointed by this year’s WWDC. If you didn’t know, WWDC stands for World Wide Developer Conference. As you can tell from the name, it is a conference for developers.

Once a year, Apple kicks off its World Wide Developer Conference with a keynote presentation, such as the one coming up on Monday, which I’ll be covering for Technologizer. Many people seem to think they’re famous for involving Apple dazzling consumers with an array of new products, to the rapturous approval of everybody involved.

Which is weird, because that’s not the point at all.

Sure, consumers are watching, and Apple hopes that they’re dazzled. But WWDC keynotes are usually the least gadget-centric events which Apple holds, and even though people who covet new Apple products pay close attention, they’re not the primary audience.

It is funny how critics would always have something bad to say after each conference.

How Google’s self-driving cars work

The Atlantic writes about Google’s trick to make its self-driving cars work.

“We tell it how high the traffic signals are off the ground, the exact position of the curbs, so the car knows where not to drive,” he said. “We’d also include information that you can’t even see like implied speed limits.”

Google has created a virtual world out of the streets their engineers have driven. They pre-load the data for the route into the car’s memory before it sets off, so that as it drives, the software knows what to expect.

Although Google is not wrong to call them self-driving cars, these car are still not true self-driving cars. They can only work on streets that Google has mapped out. This means that Google will need to recreate a virtual version of every street that the cars will operate on. Google might be able to achieve such a task but it is still a staggering job.

Apple’s take on cloud

Benedict Evans writes about Apple’s announcements at WWDC 2014.

So edit a photo and the edits are on all your devices, run out of room and your photos stay on the cloud but all but the previews are cleared off your phone, tap a phone number on a web page on your Mac and your phone dials it. But none of this says ‘CLOUD™’ and none of it is done in a web browser. Web browsers are for web pages, not for apps. Hence one could suggest that Apple loves the cloud, just not the web (or, not URLs). This is obviously a contrast with Google, which has pretty much the opposite approach. For Google, devices are dumb glass and the intelligence is in the cloud, but for Apple the cloud is just dumb storage and the device is the place for intelligence.

Each of them are utilising the cloud from their area of expertise: Apple in making devices and Google in online services.

I’ve described this before by saying that Apple is moving innovation down the stack into hardware/software integration, where it’s hard for Google to follow, and Google is moving innovation up the stack into cloud-based AI & machine learning services, where it’s hard for Apple to follow. This isn’t a tactical ‘this’ll screw those guys’ approach – it reflects the fundamental characters of the two companies. Google thinks about improving UX by reducing page load times, Apple thinks about UX by making it easier to scroll that page.

Google’s approach relies on a good internet connection, whereas Apple relies on the device to do the lifting and might be a more feasible in places where connectivity is spotty. This difference might be subtle for users living in big cities with high speed mobile internet, but it would have a big impact in emerging markets where internet connectivity is not prevalent. Project Loon makes a lot of sense from Google’s point of view now, doesn’t it?

Foursquare and Swarm

It’s 2014, and the unbundling of mobile apps continues.

“The simple story with Swarm is that this is an app that has just four basic screens in it, and it’s the fastest and easiest way to keep up and meet up with your friends,” Crowley says. The app benefits from technology enhancements that were impossible in the early days of Foursquare, making checking-in a breeze (Swarm “is probably what foursquare would have been if it was invented in 2014 instead of 2009,” Crowley adds), but just as importantly, it removes that mechanic from the main Foursquare app.

via The Guardian