Realising The iPad Pro's Potential

As part of my day job at Bloomberg, our team just released a pretty mammoth update to our iPad app. In one monthly release cycle we added pencil support, picture in picture video, iOS multitasking, plus our own in-app split screen multitasking. I've written a fairly techy blog post over at Bloomberg about it, go have a read!

Notes On Apple TV

There will be a million of these posts by Monday so I'll keep this brief but not to the point: others have done that already.

That Remote

  1. It's a lovely object
  2. You pick it up the wrong way around exactly 50% of the time
  3. It feels like magic that it also works as an accelerometer

Incidentally, you charge it by the lightning port on the front. So it's okay for some but not others, huh Apple?


Well, game. I said brief. I went with Asphalt 8 because everyone else will have gone for for Crossy Road. Plus I love a good racing game: years ago my friends bought be a steering wheel for my Playstation 2, and it wasn't even my Playstation 2. Control-wise, I assumed I'd be sliding my thumb around on the touchpad bit of the remote to steer - I'd completely forgotten the controller has accelerometers - and so the moment the game asked me to hold the remote sideways to steer was a proper "ooooh" moment. The next surprise for me, and bear in mind I'm not a big console gamer, was that steering via a remote is so much better when the controller isn't also the screen. Time after time I've bought racing games on the iPhone, iPad mini and iPad and each time forgotten how annoying it is to have steering affect what you can see. While the controller is a bit small and light to really feel like a steering wheel (you think?), it's really quite good for casual gaming. Furthermore, not touching the screen makes the experience so much more like playing on a console than an iPhone or iPad.

All this contributes to the big thing here: games do not feel like iOS games. This is a big thing.

Y U No Help Me With Music Siri?

I swear the WWDC presentation showed Siri controlling music? Yet "Sorry, I can't help you with that" is all I get every time I ask for Taylor Swift. Or even Ryan Adams. I guess Siri doesn't want to show bias.


Apps. On your TV. There's not a lot to say really - it's all about the individual apps, and this is a review of the Apple TV, not the content. And so more importantly is the question of:

Missing Apps

I was expecting the UK channels to take a few days to make it to the Apple TV, although seeing as someone got an iPlayer app working before the box was released, surely it can't take them too long? Now TV is even more embarrassing - it's listed on Apple UK's site as a partner. Where are my bingeworthy boxsets, Sky? The forums are getting angry, quite rightly since the explanations aren't forthcoming.

In the meantime, you can chuck your whole Mac screen to the TV with the press of a button, so no need to get up from your sofa and smash the thing into a billion pieces just yet.

Unnatural Scrolling

On-screen you're moving a cursor around with your thumb, and as you'd expect it moves in the direction your thumb goes. But when this means going a long way from the top to bottom of a screen, it actually feels like you're scrolling - and the direction is the opposite of "natural scrolling". It's not really a problem, I just think it's quite interesting. File Under Unexpected UX Consequences.

Unexpected Bonus App

"CATS! Right Meow". Trust me.


Get ready for an awful first-world problem rant. Indulge me.


DPD were scheduled to delivery my Apple TV on launch day, October 30th. I was at work. Apparently to DPD "leave with a neighbour" means "don't try leaving with a neighbour".


And so I elect to "collect from Southwark depot". A tube, then a bus, then a walk to the address given by DPD and I find myself at Royal Mail's delivery office. Right. Not DPD. A helpful Royal Mail employee directs me on my cross-country walk to DPD's office. I say office: a service road to a truck delivery centre and a portacabin. I ask the lone man in the portacabin, who's on the phone, and he gets me to sign a visitor pass and - I shit you not - gives me a high-vis vest and directions to the "customer entrance". Across the truck park where a high-viz must be worn to get to the "customer entrance". At the "Customer entrance" I buzz at a door for a few minutes. No one let's me in: I am Jack's unsurpised spleen. I put my head around a wall to find the door doesn't even lead to a building, it is a doorway to more outside, where a queue of confused people are standing in high-vis jackets. They let me through the pointless door. I wait in line and after 20 minutes I receive my parcel. My Uber has already been and gone. Surge pricing begins. I sob.

I don't really: I go out for steak.

It was marginally easier than this.

This is only Apple's fault in the sense they picked DPD as a delivery company, from an admiteddly poor lineup. Tip: use Royal Mail. Don't use HDN. Don't use DPD. Screw you, DPD.

The Home Button Should Go Back To Having One Use

The Home Button on iOS devices is a great example of hardware and software design working in harmony: its role as a safety, a reset button that you can always depend on to get you back to the comfort of the home screen. And it is true that the iOS home screen is genuinely comforting: you are at home, where your device can do its primary things (an iPod, a phone, an internet communicator…), where your apps are in the places you put them, each a little tempting button that will do just what you expect. Even the icon on the home button shows you what you're going to get. As we enter an age where we are used to how touch devices work, we no longer need our training wheels: we need fewer affordances to let us know how things might react. This to me feels right, and for proof take a look a look at an 8 or 80-year old with an iPad. The new gestures unveiled in iOS7 at WWDC  show how we will soon be able to navigate around our devices in a faster and more fluid way, power users and regular users. (There are actually some neat animation speedup tricks for the real power users that make the experience even quicker.) In fact most of the gestures are ones that have been introduced in apps over the last few years and at least some of us are so used to we try to use them even when they aren't there.

The home button at first may seem out of place in this new world, but actually its primary use as an escape button is still a great piece of UX, something that is essential on a device that you way want to call an ambulance on as well as play a few rounds of dots.

The problem with the home button is not its primary role. It is its secondary role: as the app switcher. Nothing feels more clunky than, having unlocked with a gesture, navigated around using back and forward swipes, accessed notification centre and control centre, than then attempting to switch between apps by double tapping the home button. You feel your nippy journey around your device suddenly slow to a crawl as your thumb depresses the button, once, then again. The satisfying audible feedback you once liked is now a dull thud in your ears. The whole experience shakes you out of the future and back three years.

Arguably, the tertiary role is just as bad, it's just not used so much. Siri, the time-saving feature that lets you talk instead of act, takes two full seconds of waiting with your thumb pressed down. Siri shaves two seconds of a tasks if you're lucky, and so this method of invocation feels like a prank being played on you for trying to use the feature in the first place.

There are many aspects of iOS7 that really bring the futuristic feel back to iOS devices, the combinations of physical gestures and on-screen animations especially. In the next few months, two more gestures need to be found to not let the home button be a burden around its neck.