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Review: The iPhone X Goes To Disneyland

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Alan Dye, who was responsible for leading the software design teams that had to decide how to handle the sensor package, says that it felt the most honest.

“We’ve got this amazing True Depth camera system packed into this space at the upper center of the display. And we thought a lot about how to design for that. And ultimately we felt really comfortable with this notion of being really honest about it and allowing for the content to push out into those beautiful rounded corners,” says Dye.

Dye says that Apple did consider using digital bezels. “We did look at various different design iterations and considered some things that kind of acted as digital bezels if you will. But ultimately we never really felt comfortable with this notion of cropping into the content. We really love the new display, we love that it’s edge-to-edge. We love the way that it fits. It feels so perfectly designed for the overall form and so we’re encouraging people just to kind of push the content right out to the corners.”

In use, I have to say, the notch is just zero problem for me. I don’t give a rat’s ass about it. I know I’ll probably catch heat but I’m not carrying water for Apple here. I think it is absolutely a compromise but, after using Face ID and the True Depth camera for other stuff, I am willing to deal with it.

And beyond “dealing with it” I can tell you that as one of a few people outside of Apple to have used it for more than a day — you stop noticing it very, very quickly. It’s a part of the display, the areas to the sides are or aren’t used and that’s it. Major apps like Instagram and Facebook have already been updated for the iPhone X screen and they look fine. Apple had to do some serious engineering to make it to the corners too, as the OLED is flexible.

Watching video in landscape defaults to cropped in and I largely forget to zoom it. YouTube’s new app reminds you to pinch to zoom out so it fills the screen and it looks cool in my opinion. I think it’s neat and a bit futuristic. I’ve been waiting for asymmetrical screens that are tailor made for their use case forever. They’re in every sci-fi movie ever and we’ve all been stuck with rectangles since the iPhone hit. I’m okay with a change.

I (about half jokingly) called the True Depth area a “flap” back in September. Given that when you minimize an app you can see that it is a whole “card” that slides out from underneath – and screenshots show the area filled in, I am technically correct about that. In the interface design world of the iPhone X it is a flap that covers that area, not a notch that cuts that area out. It means nothing but if you like completely malleable digital content to conform to a definite physicality, this paragraph was for you.

If, however, you use your iPhone for data entry or browsing or whatever in landscape, the True Depth camera is going to be bang in your way, especially if it’s on the left. No getting around it. If that bothers you, don’t get an iPhone X. But even if you think it’s going to bother you I’m not sure it actually will once you spend a few days with it.

Which is sort of the mantra of the iPhone X: Give it a few days and it all gets a lot clearer.

Using iPhone X

Day one of using an iPhone X is profoundly strange and cumbersome in a lot of ways. If you’ve spent years whacking a home button you’re not going to be able to break down those memetics in a couple of hours. I had to get used to swiping up, across, down and up again instead of tapping the button, double tapping the button or double tapping and swiping.

Day two is better. Some actions already felt super natural, like tapping on the screen to wake it, swiping across the home bar to switch directly from one app to the next, rather than bringing up the heavy app switcher. Quick and light. Other actions like quickly dropping out of an app still result in a mash of a home button that doesn’t exist.

Day five is the turn. The point at which the hardest habit to break, tapping the home button to move from any other screen to your home screen, is starting to break up.

Day six is when things started getting weird with my old iPhones. I started swiping the home button up and staring stupidly at the screen waiting for it to automatically unlock.

Anecdotally, I got the phone on a Monday and until Saturday I was still stabbing the home button to go home. Today, a week later as I write this, I swiped the home button on my iPhone 7 to try to unlock it. So give it a week or so to acclimate.

Once you do, it’s sweet. The faster 120hz refresh rate of the touch screen means that every action is buttery smooth and reacts immediately to your touch. If it didn’t, the whole thing would break down. You no longer have the affordance of the time it takes your finger to leave the home button and reach up to hit the screen before you take action on something. Everything has to happen immediately because your finger never leaves the screen. And that never leaving the screen is so key.

From opening the phone to flipping back and forth between apps to closing one and opening another, it’s all action start to finish. There is no more “out to the home button and back to the screen” bouncing. It’s super-fast and fluid and makes it feel like you’re getting more done more quickly.

The switching from app to app action is not an issue at all on the fingers or hand, by the way. I know there was some super awkward spy stuff out there but you just swipe along the bar left to right or right to left to swap apps. It’s easy and relaxed. If you want to access the switcher with the “swipe up and pause” action, you can, but I don’t see any major need for it.

Grabbing Control Center with your left hand is rough work, and I’m still not sold on the placement of it in the top right corner, or the fact that the controls are at the top.

When you’re walking around with a kid in one arm and trying to snag a FastPass for your next ride and you need to adjust brightness or toggle screen lock or anything like that it is damn near painful to do it the regular way. And it’s only slightly more pleasant using your right hand.

Which is why I am so glad that reachability still exists. It is incredibly useful here. It’s also tied to a much more intuitive activation process. You can pull the whole top of the screen down with a slight “tug down” of the home bar. Then, Control Center is easily reachable with your right hand and at least not impossible with your left. Reachability is now tucked away in Accessibility, if you’re reading this and looking for it.

The strongest recommendation I can make for the new “no home button” paradigm is that after just a week, regular home button actions like double tapping feel much too heavy after just a week of using it. Ten years of the home button, it turns out, was enough to allow us to move on.

Another interface tidbit: I really like the new force-press to activate the camera on the home screen. It feels much more definitive than the fumbly “swipe from right to left” that could go awry on a notification or not trigger because you didn’t quite hit the edge.

I took no special care to preserve battery beyond what I normally would, which is to try to stay off Twitter at Disneyland (you can see that I failed fairly miserably in this regard). The temperature was in the low 90s for the most part, which isn’t crazy for Southern California, but doesn’t do batteries any favors. The reception is still fairly poor in many areas of the park and the radio goes to seek a lot inside rides, leading to greater battery drain. Despite that, and despite the fact that I shot hundreds of photos, the battery lasted all day.

I started the day by unplugging the charger at around 8:24 and skated into our hotel room at about 9:11 PM at 6 percent on power save mode. Not a bad 13 hours 2 minutes on standby and 6 hours, 4 minutes of usage in such punishing conditions. This is far less than I’d expect to get on any typical day, but not at the parks, where batteries go to get tortured. My iPhone 7 did not make it the full day. The iPhone 8 Plus made it, but I didn’t use it as heavily when I wasn’t shooting comparison photos. And the battery is larger.

Physically, the iPhone X is great. Gorgeous, shiny, it looks just fine. It feels heftier and denser like a piece of high-quality watchmaking. The chrome-like stainless steel ring around the phone is picking up some fine abrasions but they look normal, and I tend to run without a case and scratch the junk out of my phones, so it’s not an alarm bell issue. The glass back still looks great, with a multiple layer backing that has a very light pearlescent sheen below the top sheet of glass. I also like that they cut down on trying to “bevel” the camera bump. It is what it is and it looks just fine with as minimal a bezel as possible. From the front, well, you get the screen and you get the notch/flap/True Depth camera array.

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Microsoft will launch a Surface Pro with built-in LTE Advanced in December

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Microsoft today announced that in December it will launch a Surface Pro with built-in LTE Advanced support to its business customers. Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Windows devices, made the announcement at the company’s Future Decoded event in London.

In the announcement, Panay argues that as the global workforce evolves, being a mobile worker will become the new default for many. “The office is no longer restricted to a set of buildings – it’s at home, in a café, a city across the globe, or on a plane,” he writes. “With so many changing locations your device becomes your office, and many of our customers tell us that’s what their Surface is to them – a mobile office.”

That’s obviously where the Surface Pro with LTE Advanced fits in. Microsoft says the new Pro will feature a Cat 9 modem and support for 20 cellular bands, so you should be fine in virtually any country in the world (assuming your roaming plan doesn’t bankrupt you when you use your Surface Pro with LTE Advanced to stream Netflix abroad). The promise of LTE Advanced is higher bandwidth and Microsoft promises download speeds of up to 450 Mbps, compared to about 300 Mbps for a standard Cat 6 modem you’d find in other current LTE-enabled devices.

All of that connectivity isn’t very useful if your device runs out of battery after half an hour, of course. For the Surface Pro, Microsoft expects 17 hours of video playback time. That doesn’t tell us much about how the device will fare with LTE enabled, but it should still be plenty of time for most use cases.

The most basic version of the Surface Pro with these new connectivity options (Intel i5, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD) will set businesses back $1,149 and the one with an i5 processor and double the RAM and SSD storage will cost $1,449.

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Latch touts first deliveries via NY Jet.com smart access tie-up

Comments are closed Latch touts first deliveries via NY Jet.com smart access tie-up Comments are closed

In July b2b smart access startup Latch announced a partnership with ecommerce platform Jet.com to install 1,000 of its smart locks on residential apartment buildings in New York. It’s now announced the first “secure, unattended deliveries” enabled by the installations.

Writing in the customary Medium post, co-founder Luke Schoenfelder says Latch-enabled unattended deliveries kicked off on Monday — and are currently available for “thousands” of New Yorkers (though installations attached to this partnership are still continuing, so it’s not yet completed the full batch).

“Thousands of people in New York City are able to order anything they want from our partners online and know that they can return home to their packages without the threat of theft, inclement weather, or the dreaded ‘sorry we missed you’ door tag,” says Schoenfelder.

“While it may seem like a straightforward idea, executing on this user experience has been surprisingly complex. It has taken us just over four years to perfect and actualize this experience for customers, building owners, and partners, including countless hours of product research, hundreds of people, and millions of dollars in development to make this moment possible,” he adds.

Some of those Latch development dollars have been spent part-funding installations of the smart lock hardware. And it’s clearly hoping the product will get to work marketing the benefits of smart access to convince more building owners to sign up.

On the smart lock front, it’s always looked like a challenge for consumer targeting startups in the space to convince masses of individuals to manage the risk and complexity of a smart lock installation in their own home. (See: August Home selling to a veteran lock giant earlier this month, for example.) And indeed, those living in rented accommodation or apartment buildings likely don’t even have the option to swap out traditional locks themselves.

Latch’s b2b positioning sidesteps that problem. Though it does mean the company still has the challenge of convincing building owners to upgrade a key piece of infrastructure that they might otherwise be happy to leave unchanged for years.

Hence its strategy of part-funding some installations itself to try to get thousands of tenants chattering about the benefits of unattended deliveries — and generate market pull for smart locks to be installed by landlords. Whether this approach pans out the way they hope remains to be seen as Latch is just kicking things off.

“This is just the beginning,” writes Schoenfelder, sketching out his wider disruptive hopes. “We believe these new delivery capabilities will create a fundamental shift in consumer shopping behavior, where people increasingly order more and more products to their urban building (and suburban home) without ever going to a store.”

The startup’s big ambition to shift even more shopping activity online does also carry some risks too though — as the backlash against the messaging from a startup like Bodega shows. Add to that, when your target customers are building owners chances are they might also be in the business of renting real estate to commercial clients too (who may not be so happy about the prospect of reduced footfall to their bricks-and-mortar stores… ).

How Latch manages to pluck all these variously tensed threads will be interesting to watch. So far the 2014-founded startup hasn’t broken out overall sales metrics for its various smart access products. When/if it does will be key.

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