Guarding the user experience

What you do is get yourself a tape recorder ...

2013-01-22    »   rant

So, Tom Dale posts a lengthy monologue that can basically be summed up as ‘I want Google Now on IOS’, but with a few digressions along the way to explain why he’s confused (but not why he’s so confused about being so confused).

You can read the full ramblings at

It’s another of those ‘I finally moved from Apple’s crap product to Android, and it’s definitely better, but I have to explain why it’s not actually better, otherwise it looks like I’ve been making a really stupid series of decisions these past few years’ type of rant.

They are increasingly common, and typically found with Apple/Microsoft refugees that move to GNU/Linux, ex-heroin addicts, ex-alcoholics, ex-Instagram users, ex-Facebook users, and ex-overweight people.

Or perhaps they’re just as common as they ever were, and it’s just annoying me more lately. That’s actually a bit more likely.


A few months ago, I switched from my iPhone 4S to a Nexus 4. This was quite an aberration for me, as I have been a dyed-in-the-wool Apple fan since the age of 7.

Oh. Well there’s some heady credentials right there.

Translation: I’ve been horribly wrong this long, so it was quite a surprise to stop.

Tom then shows us a photo of him at age 15, wearing a Mac OS X t-shirt (just after it (presumably the OS, not the t-shirt) had been announced).

The first few versions of Android were awful, awkward, ungainly things …

Wikipedia writes about the initial version of OSX that it was ‘… slow, incomplete, and had very few applications available …’

More importantly this just sounds like vanilla post-decision-making rationalisation.

He then lucidly explains:

There are some rough edges, but the moments where I wish I still had my iPhone are few and far between.

I’d rather be an iPhone user, though.

Yes, the sense is strong with this one.

I rarely wish I still had my iPhone. But I would prefer to have my iPhone.

Perhaps this is the way all Apple fans think.

The build quality of the hardware is still far superior, and I prefer the smaller size.

There’s lots of these types of claims (here, of build quality) that aren’t substantiated.

There’s some insanely heavy-duty (waterproof, jump-up-and-down-on-proof) Android handsets out there. There’s also lots of variations in sizes of handsets.

Perhaps Apple iPhone users don’t quite get this - the idea that you can buy a phone to suit your budget, robustness requirements, physical and screen sizes preferences, and so on.

I don’t have small hands, but they’re not overly large, either.

Translation: I have hands of average size.

Trying to tap elements near the top of the screen single-handedly on the Nexus 4 feels a bit too much like yoga for my tastes.

Use your other hand. Select a differently sized phone (you can try them out before buying them). Don’t use the top line for icons that you need to use single-handedly. Get some fucking perspective on the world. That’ll be 5c, thanks.

When I was driving home from the holidays this December, I hit a pothole and blew out two tires on a remote stretch of highway about 100 miles south of San Francisco. It was that moment that made me realize just how important battery life is.

Translation: I need to learn to drive better.

Battery life is arguably important. A cigarette-lighter USB charger (presumably he didn’t manage to destroy the car battery at the same time that he took out two tyres), or a standalone battery charger, or even a spare battery (I carry 3 when I travel) would be (more) arguably useful here.

Spare batteries are about US$5 each. Car chargers to micro-USB are probably around US$20.

I can mitigate the Nexus 4′s poor battery life in my day-to-day by just leaving it plugged in at the office.

Translation: I’m not too sure how to use the word mitigate.

But outlier events like traveling and emergencies can be a wake-up call that sometimes you will be away from a power source for extended amounts of time, and I for one depend immensely on my phone in those situations. I was glad my travel partner had an iPhone, or I’m not sure what I would have done.

Indeed. People that punctured two tyres 100 miles from San Francisco more than six years ago used to just die by the roadside. Many of the bodies are still there, as you’d expect. It was a dark age, the early 2000’s.

Look, just buy a spare battery already. Or even a spare cheap handset that you keep in the car, turned off – charge it monthly, or just constantly via the cigarette lighter, if you don’t think people will ever stop to assist in the wilds of North America.

You can’t always rely upon someone nearby having an iPhone to save your fucking life all the time.

Tom then explains:

Yet, my entire digital life runs on non-Apple digital services. Through a combination of technical and business restrictions, Apple has made using those services on iOS terrible. Two examples:

Bizarrely the two examples he provides are:

  • He likes Kindle and thinks Apple’s 30% tariff is bad for business
  • Google Now is going to be hard for Apple to emulate

I know what you’re thinking.

I’m already thinking it.

That a) he should buy a decent ebook reader (this guy really enjoys the sensation of being shafted by his hardware providers, doesn’t he?), and b) the fact Google Now exists isn’t an example of Apple making the use of iOS with his ‘digital life services’ really terrible.

He proceeds to explain the joys of Google Now (as only ex-Apple addicts need to):

Let me emphasize why this feature is amazing. Let’s say I’m traveling to Prague for a conference. Let’s also say that I’m an AT&T customer, so data rates abroad will be usurious.

Translation: I’m not too sure how to use the word usurious.

He proceeds to go into the details – specifically that if he received an email from the organiser, then myriad actions ensue thanks to Google Now – flight status (and changes), navigation, reminders on departure times, boarding pass, and airport->hotel directions – will all be prepared and ready for him via the application.

There’s doubtless a churlish joke to be made in here regarding the danger of having Apple Maps being used to guide you from an airport to a hotel. But we digress.

Tom reckons that this:

… is groundbreaking. It will change the way people travel.

Maybe it will, but probably only the sort of people who would otherwise travel incompetently.

In fact Tom’s so taken by Google Now that he reckons:

And this is just one small facet of Google Now, which I view as the vector by which Google has figured out how to weaponize the stack of PhDs it has been accumulating for the past decade.

Which is pretty stunning, if only for all the wrong reasons.

Another comment of the ‘I don’t miss my iPhone — I wish I still had my iPhone’ type comments follows:

I’m not optimistic that Apple’s culture can change, and I’m not sure I want it to.

He’s optimistic that Apple can continue to be crap? He’s distraught by the idea they may get better?

So many unanswered questions.

But I do want iCloud (and Siri, and Apple Maps) to have to compete on an even playing field.

Translation: I don’t understand what an even playing field is.

Mobile devices aren’t the grand experiment they were in 2007. At the time, and in the years afterwards, I was supportive of the restrictions Apple put in place to guard the user experience.

Some more breath-taking insights typical of the proprietary / lock-in platform fan.

I was supportive of the restrictions … to guard the user experience. From what, or whom, did the user need guarding? How did these restrictions help people who didn’t run into potholes?

Android is effectively the escape valve for mobile developers that want to do cool new stuff that doesn’t fit inside the box that Apple gives you.

With implicit apologies to all the WebOS, Maemo, Meego, and other platform advocates and developers out there.

Also note that Apple apparently gives, rather than sells (or more accurately forces) this set of restrictions to/on you.

There will be more products like Google Now in the future, not less. I want to be an iPhone user, but I also want access to all of the cool new stuff.

Translation: I don’t understand why Apple’s heavily guarded user experience feels so … heavily guarded.