I Want An “Exciting” Phone: or An Appreciation for Iteration

This is the Estwing 16 oz. Cureved-Claw Rip Hammer:

Doesn’t look that crazy right? Surely this is just a random hammer I found at Home Depot, right? Nope, according to The Wirecutter, this is the best hammer money can buy.

There are plenty of other hammers you can buy that are bigger, have crazy materials, and more interesting designs. These exist and that’s fine, but if you’re just looking for the best tool for the job, this “boring” hammer is where The Wirecutter says you should spend your money.

I think about stuff like this when I see reviews for the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. These phones took everything good about the iPhone XR and XS from last year and…

  1. Added lots more battery
  2. Improved the camera system a ton
  3. Improved the build quality
  4. Shipped the fasted chip in any smartphone (or most PCs)
  5. Added WiFi 6 and a billion other wireless bands that help people today

And of course these phones run the mobile operating system that has the best library of first and third party apps that will actually take advantage of these new features.

So what they did was take a very good phone in the iPhone XS and made everything about it better in meaningful ways people will appreciate every day they use these phones.

And yet, many reviews have a tinge of boredom to them. Snazzy Labs said he was almost embarrassed to say he loved the phone and thought it looked like it came out in another decade from the just released Note 10+, which is patently insane because this is what an iPhone from another decade looks like:

But I digress. I think that it totally makes sense that enthusiasts like Snazzy Labs, me, and probably you (yeah, you) to get excited about new hardware and unique devices, but when we review products and want to even pretend that we’re talking to a mainstream audience, I think a lot of us come up short. We talk about these things like enthusiasts, not as people trying to help people make informed buying decisions.

Is any real person besides the jackyls in the YouTube comments section going to pick one phone over another because one has a 30% smaller notch? Hell no! Is someone going to buy the OnePlus 7 Pro over the iPhone 11 Pro because the screen-to-body ratio is higher on the OnePlus? Nope.

Smartphones are a hobby to us, but they are a tool to most people. A tool they’re proud of and a tool that they would like to look nice as well, but a tool nonetheless. And so when Apple takes a very good phone and makes everything about it better while adding features that will specifically make its users lives better every single day, all while staying up to the bleeding edge with 90% of what other phone makers offer, and while maintaining its huge lead in first and third party software quality…well that’s a pretty good update in most people’s eyes.

I’m sure the 2020 iPhone will indeed have a new design and a whole host of new goodies, but there’s something to be said for the last version of an iPhone design style. The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are as good as these designs could really be and there’s value in that. Just because it’s not the flashiest phone in the world (although I’d contend this thing is gorgeous) doesn’t mean it’s not also the best phone for many people and you certainly don’t need to feel guilty or embarrassed for liking it.

My Quick iOS 13.2 Video Options UI Revamp

iOS 13.2 beta 2 came out today for developers and Apple finally added the ability to change the video settings for resolution and frame rate from within the Camera app itself. This is great! We’ve been asking for this for years and it’s wonderful that it’s coming right around the corner.

However, the UI for this feature is extremely minimal and not discoverable at all. Also, once you know how it works it’s still hard to use because the touch targets are quite small. At the top of this post is my minimal effort UI change I’d suggest they make before releasing this to the public.

I’m not arguing this is gorgeous or anything, but if Apple intends for these buttons to actually be used then they should make these look like the buttons they are. Maybe Apple’s product team believes these should be there and those who know about the controls (probably nerdier users) can use them, but most people will never use them. If that’s the case, then I’ll give it to them that their design looks nicer. It’s all about priorities and what problems they’re trying to solve.

Another Look at Deep Fusion

I happened to be wearing a sweater yesterday so I decided to take a selfie in low light and see if there were any differences.

Here’s another couple shots where I got Deep Fusion to turn on and off.

Long story short, I noticed a few differences, but you really need to look close to see the improvements. I think I need to play around more in even lower light to try and eek out a little more of Deep Fusion’s power.

Podcast #206: Microsoft Surface: Inverse Taco

Microsoft unveiled their new Surface products yesterday and as someone who likes Surface products quite a bit, I wanted to take some time to go over what they talked about.