Chiming In

Every once in awhile the online tech community has an indirect, passed-around discussion - wherein someone kicks it all off by stating their opinion and others chime in over the following days with their own takes or agreement on the issue.

The past week or so has brought two of these to the fore of the blogging-circle I follow, and so I figured I'd throw my voice into the ring and - well - chime in.

On Still Wearing the Apple Watch:

Both Casey Liss and Eddie Smith kicked off this conversation in response to some other high-profile Apple-tech-persons who don't wear their 'fancy computer watches' anymore. Casey and Eddie give solid statements about why they do still wear their watches every day, and I'm game to throw in alongside them.

From Casey:

"Thinking of the Apple Watch as a standalone device that replaces the functionality of your phone is a fool’s errand. The Apple Watch improves your visibility into what is happening in your phone, like a satellite giving you a bird’s eye view of the earth. Neither will give you great detail about what is happening, but either can give you a lot of general information very quickly."

And Eddie:

"Maybe I’m a Watch apologist, but Watch’s failures have not made me wear the Watch any less or feel that the roughly $400 I spent on the Watch was wasted."

As for me, I agree with them both. The Apple Watch is nowhere near a perfect device, but the freedom I feel from not having to check my phone or how it helps me be concious of my daily fitness has made it irreplaceable.

Every day I use my watch to check the weather with Dark Sky, log my caffeine and water with the excellent Workflow, keep an eye on my wellbeing with Apple's health suite and David Smith's "++" family of apps, use the watch's dictation, navigation, and music controls to stay safe whilst driving - oh yeah - and to check the time.

It does all this while also keeping me from getting on my phone so darned much, and keeps it so my pocket remains blissfully ding and vibration free.

Maybe for some it's more trouble than it's worth, or the myriad of things about apps and glances that don't work so well are too much a glaring inconsistency for them to want the watch in their life, but for me it's become something essential.

I hesitate short of saying that I love my Apple Watch, but I surely like and use it a whole darned lot. Given another few years, some added iterative improvements, and I might be persuaded to use "the L word" to describe it even still. Only time will tell.

On 3D Touch:

Jason Snell is the origin for the second discussion this piece with an Op-Ed at Macworld. It's been 6 months since 3D-Touch debuted on the iPhone(s) 6s, and Jason wrote his thoughts on where Apple needs to take the feature next.Serenity Caldwell then followed up with her own take for iMore, and I find myself agreeing with some points they make while differing on others.

Jason says:

"In other words, most of the time I don’t see any benefit to using 3D Touch to reveal content in apps over just tapping to reveal that content the usual way. It’s a solution to a problem we didn’t have. And this says a lot about the problem with the way Apple has deployed 3D Touch in iOS."

His piece makes concessions to that 3D-Touch can be useful, but he's of the opinion that it's been mostly squandered thus far on weird, optional features. He also proposes that the long-press and 3D-touch be combined for the sake of making the new features enabled in the iPhone(s) 6s available to more users & more important to developers. More on that later.

Serenity follows up with:

"I've found my daily reasons to use 3D Touch, and I'm so happy I did: They make my workflow quicker, more comfortable, and enjoyable on an iPhone. But I understand if you're not on the 3D Touch train yet: Apple has some work to do if it wants to make it truly appealing to the average user." ... "It's of course, hard to do this without offering the same action to users on older iPhone or iPad models. But that's a great excuse to unify long press and 3D Touch: People are already comfortable with long pressing to edit apps or get contextual information. Unifying the gestures in iOS 10 would open Apple up to some big experimentation with how pressure and timing-based touches can be central to the iOS ecosystem."

Serenity finds herself using 3D-Touch more often than Jason does, but still thinks Peek and Pop are mostly worthless paradigms and that Apple ought to "without question" make a long press work to trigger 3D-Touch on older phones.

(Serenity also had a great conversation with John Gruber on this week's episode of The Talk Show about the issue that's worth a listen to hear her thoughts more fleshed out.)

I agree with some of both Jason & Serenity's points, but find myself using 3D-Touch for even more than just the quick shortcuts around the system. I don't find Peek and Pop useful everywhere, but especially in browsing apps like Tweetbot and Narwhal being able to 'peek' into content makes loading images and links feel much more fluid, quick, and natural when skimming. I'd absolutely miss it if it were gone.

Where I really find myself feeling differently to 'Ren and Jason is when it comes to combining the 3D-Touch and long-press gestures. I agree something should be done to make clear which gesture should be used in what way and in what contexts, but combining the two strikes me as short-sighted. Doing so throws away a decade of UI-paradigm muscle-memory, jeopardizes some 3rd party support, and taking all the options available between the two and putting them into one menu starts to sound like Apple Music's overflow menu at-launch all over again.

Serenity states in her piece that Apple rethinking "pressure and timing-based touches" would be a good thing, and with that I wholeheartedly agree. Making a clearer divide between when you'd think to use a 3D-Touch and when you'd think to use a long press will be essential going forward, but I don't think combining the two is the answer.

My take isn't bulletproof by any means, but I feel pretty firmly that to try and just combine the two gestures into one would create a big mess. Maybe Apple can pull it off right with a radical rethinking of how these sorts of gestures are used in iOS, but if the company isn't ready to do that then I sure hope they don't screw things up.

iOS 10 would be a prime time for such a rethink, and writing about these sorts of things has me excited to see what Apple has in store at WWDC - which isn't so far off now.

These blogging-discussions are one of my favorite parts of the online community, and they let many - hopefully intelligent - opinions be expressed and heard that wouldn't be otherwise. If you are so inclined feel free to chime in for yourself. Even if you don't agree with me I'd love to hear what you have to say.