Our transformation into device people has happened with unprecedented suddenness. The first touchscreen-operated iPhones went on sale in June 2007, followed by the first Android-powered phones the following year. Smartphones went from 10 percent to 40 percent market penetration faster than any other consumer technology in history. In the United States, adoption hit 50 percent only three years ago. Yet today, not carrying a smartphone indicates eccentricity, social marginalization, or old age.
What does it mean to shift overnight from a society in which people walk down the street looking around to one in which people walk down the street looking at machines? We wouldn’t be always clutching smartphones if we didn’t believe they made us safer, more productive, less bored, and were useful in all of the ways that a computer in your pocket can be useful. At the same time, smartphone owners describe feeling “frustrated” and “distracted.” In a 2015 Pew survey, 70 percent of respondents said their phones made them feel freer, while 30 percent said they felt like a leash. Nearly half of eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-olds said they used their phones to “avoid others around you.”
Poor little TextEdit! Despite having a rich history—starting life as Edit in the Next’s NextStep operating system before becoming a feature in Mac OS X—the app gets little regard. But it deserves our attention. It’s the best and simplest place to go in OS X for converting among text formats and has features that are still missing in Pages 5 after they disappeared in the bump up from Pages 4 (’09).
HazeOver helps you deal with multiple windows by masking the ones that are in the background, putting a sort of translucent curtain behind your frontmost window. Instead of seeing multiple windows with their text and graphics distracting you from your task at hand, HazeOver lets you focus on the app and window you're working in. You can dim your Twitter client, your email app, and Messages, so their changes don't catch your eye when you're browsing the web or writing in a word processor.
Apple didn't buy airtime during America's National Football League 2016 Super Bowl, but some of its products did turn up playing a cameo role in a variety of commercials.
Is this the beginning of a new trajectory towards the Toaster-Fridge singularity? The mix of keyboards, trackpads, screen-touch interactions, and styli seems to want to converge into something coherent. After using my iPad Pro for a while, I find myself reaching for the screen on my MacBook – and I read online that I’m not alone.
But it’s a work in progress. Looking at Apple’s proven ability to design “desktop-class” Ax processors, the company’s preference to cannibalize itself (rather than giving others the opportunity), and the respective ages and abundance-of-bugs in OS X (old) and iOS (fresh), one senses a promise for the evolution of a hybrid device.
May you have a wonderful start to the Year of the Monkey.
Thanks for reading.