iOS 7 and “interface churn”

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When my daughter, who is 10 (and relatively sophisticated about Apple products), saw my iPhone 5 with the new operating system on it, she thought I’d bought a new phone. That’s pretty much how I felt, too. The new operating system, iOS 7, does make it seem like you’ve got a new phone. (more…)


Smartcameras, Apple, and the future of photography


samsungI’ve got an article at the website Connect (part of Digital Photography Review) about what I see as a dilemma for fans of Apple’s iOS and iPhone photography apps. Smartcameras are starting to appear — that is, point-and-shoot cameras with the Android operating system and photo apps — and I fear that Android, and not iOS, will dominate this smartcamera trend. I’d love to buy a smartcamera at some point, but I would want it to be a camera with iOS apps — that is, all of the photography apps I’ve got on my iPhone. Will that happen? I’m not quite sure, and in my Connect article I come up with a bunch of scenarios (Apple buys Nikon, Apple introduces its own digital SLR, etc.) for how things will shake out. Realistic ideas? Not always, but it’s fun to speculate.

If you’re wondering about the smartcamera trend, check out my posts about smartcameras and Android cameras at What I See Now.


Why is my TV so complicated to set up?

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Here’s how I started a recent Star-Ledger column: “Among your home gadgets and home electronics, what’s the most difficult one to set up and operate?”

What’s your pick? Your computer? Your smart phone? Maybe your camera?

I doubt it. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s the TV, and I know I’m not alone in this.

The recent Consumer Electronics Show had lots of TV-related announcements, but nothing to really transform the TV. In the column, I tried to tackle what’s wrong with today’s TVs. Among the problems? Too many remotes, expensive cable providers, and too many boxes (for a gaming machine, a DVD player, and so forth). I know there’s talk of Apple doing something about this, perhaps with a genuine Apple-branded television, but it’s a lot to tackle. Read my column.

Tech, Writing

The joy of minimal, easy-to-follow instructions

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The holidays have come and gone, and with them, several weeks of intermittent box opening, toy assembling, and instruction reading. Much fun was had, but I do have a complaint/observation: Why must companies continue to churn out really, really bad instructions? The instructions included with toys, gadgets, and other miscellaneous whatnots are laughably bad.

I have these specific gripes:

  • The writing isn’t clear.
  • The type is often minuscule.
  • The design is nonexistent.

Things don’t need to be this way. As Apple has demonstrated, it is possible to include set-up and operating instructions that are a joy to follow and make it possible to unbox your item, from a Macintosh computer to an iPhone, and start using it within minutes. Yes, minutes: even if it’s a marvel of technology. To do that, you need to leave a lot out of the instructions, or else make the device so completely simple you don’t need any instructions at all. Instead, many devices come with an instruction manual that’s a motley-looking mishmash of words thrown on a page and tossed in a box (or so it looks to someone hoping to play with something, rather than struggle with it).

Is there a secret to easy-to-follow instructions? Not really — though it helps if the product is designed in such a way that lots and lots of instructions aren’t necessary. Beyond that, it’s great if the company (1) offers very brief and clear instructions just to help you get started (a “Getting Started” guide, with big type and a friendly design), and (2) provides more detailed instructions online or in a separate guide or manual.