The Accidental-Alerts Edition Saturday, October 19, 2019

iPhone Has Some Serious UX Problems With Its SOS System, by Amber Case, Medium

The fact that many other iPhone and Apple Watch users report problems with accidental SOS alerts suggest that a better UX is needed. The emergency process on my iPhone model is initiated by rapidly pressing the side or top button. This might not be ideal for situations where the iPhone is in a handbag, surrounded by objects which can bump against it. (My SOS signal has also been triggered when I put the phone in an airport security tray, apparently due to being jostled by the conveyor belt.)

Another aspect of the UX that Apple should consider addressing is the SOS countdown alert. While it’s important to warn the user that the emergency protocol has been triggered (giving them time to disable it, if necessary), there are many scenarios where this blaring alarm could be extremely embarrassing — or worse, dangerous. While there is an option on iOS to disable this alert, a better alternative might be this: enable the user to choose complete silence, or a unique ringtone, buzz, or audio file to act as a countdown, a warning that only they will recognize as such.

A Month On, Apple Arcade Is Too Cheap To Quit, by Engadget

It's been almost exactly a month since Apple Arcade launched. That means that a lot of free trials are about to expire, and it's time to decide: Is it actually worth your $5 a month? Like you, a number of Engadget editors have been testing out Arcade's various games in our spare time and, for us, the answer is a resounding "yes." The subscription gaming service has won us over in a very short time, including those that were initially on the fence.

We all have our own reasons, whether it's seeing Arcade as a potential solution to skeezy free-to-play mechanics, a tool to play titles across various devices or just a way to play some good games without paying a lot. Join four of us as we dig in a little deeper, and highlight some of our favorite games from the service along the way.

How To Use A Smartphone To Photograph The Northern Lights, by Zach Honig, The Points Guy

This latest generation of smartphones can capture outstanding photographs in low light. I was able to snap some incredible shots using only a handheld iPhone 11 Pro Max, but Samsung’s latest Galaxy devices and the upcoming Google Pixel 4 should have you covered as well.

I’ll focus on Apple’s night mode here, since that’s what I used, but other recent models offer similar functionality. Also, note that you’ll be able to capture these same results with all iPhone 11 models, since night mode works with the wide (1x) lens. Here’s how to get it done.

Coming Soon

16-Inch MacBook Pro Possibly Referenced In macOS Catalina 10.15.1 Beta, by Joe Rossignol, MacRumors

The icon looks similar to the 15-inch MacBook Pro asset that is included in previous versions of macOS, but with slightly thinner bezels. The notebook is depicted in both Silver and Space Gray, with "16" in both filenames presumably referring to the larger 16-inch display expected for the rumored machine.

Mac Pro Puts The Pedal To Metal In Apple's Race With Nvidia, by Daniel Eran Dilger, AppleInsider

The new Mac Pro is a long-anticipated development for Apple's high end pro users, but it sure looks as if the company also created the machine for its own strategic benefit —specifically to help make its Metal API become a dominant standard for GPU-intensive software. That could have big implications for Macs, iOS devices, and Apple GPUs going forward, with history providing some insight into why this matters.


Hands-on: Roku's Apple TV App Helped Me Cut The Cord — From Apple, by Jeremy Horwitz, VentureBeat

From a user experience standpoint, the Roku app is essentially a slightly slower version of what you’d get on a native Apple TV device. You’ll notice it taking a moment to load from the main Roku menu, and sometimes briefly spinning the waiting wheel when accessing content. Visual transitions that are smooth on Apple’s device have just enough of a stutter here and there to remind you that you’re not enjoying the “seamless integration of hardware and software” that you’d get from a $149-$199 Apple TV box.

But at this point, that doesn’t really matter. As smart TV prices have dropped, Apple’s own devices have stood still at the same price points, such that you can now buy an entry-level Samsung smart TV with Apple TV app support for only $100 more than a standalone Apple TV box. Unless you’re really interested in playing Apple Arcade games on your TV, or deeply appreciate the added speed of an Apple TV box, there’s little need for the standalone device any more. Apple TV might not be a failure, but it’s not essential, either.

Apple Arcade Just Released Pac-Man Party Royale, Ballistic Baseball And More, by Shelby Brown, CNET

Apple Arcade added four more games to its new $4.99 monthly subscription service on Friday. Players can check out Pac-man Party Royale, Ballistic Baseball, Manifold Garden and Things That Go Bump as part of Apple Arcade's growing catalog of games. The games are available on iPad, iPhone and Apple TV to start, with some beginning to roll out to the Mac as well.

The service also added ShockRods, Stela, Mind Symphony and Decoherence earlier this month.


Why Aren’t We Curious About The Things We Want To Be Curious About?, by Daniel T. Willingham, New York Times

Einstein famously advised a young student to “never lose a holy curiosity.” Given our evolutionary history, there’s little danger any of us will. The challenge is changing its focus from the momentary to something more enduring.


Apple’s China Stance Makes For Strange Political Alliances, As AOC And Ted Cruz Slam The Company, by Jonathan Shieber, TechCrunch

In a rare instance of bipartisanship overcoming the rancorous discord that’s been the hallmark of the U.S. Congress, senators and sepresentatives issued a scathing rebuke to Apple for its decision to take down an app at the request of the Chinese government.

Signed by Senators Ron Wyden, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Congressional Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski, the letter was written to “express… strong concern about Apple’s censorship of apps, including a prominent app used by protestors in Hong Kong, at the request of the Chinese government.”

The Smartest People In The Room? What Silicon Valley’s Supposed Obsession With Tech-Free Private Schools Really Tells Us, by Morgan G. Ames, Los Angeles Review of Books

Just as technical backgrounds have not insulated techie Waldorf parents from specious reasoning regarding vaccines, they have afforded them no privileged ability to assess technology’s influence on us more generally. Technical training as it generally exists today may even do the opposite, encouraging a degree of arrogance. As a society, we must see the technology world for what it is: an industry as insular as it is influential, and in desperate need of many more kinds of expertise.

Coffee Is Hard, by Peter Welch, Still Drinking

After playing the first two, I realized I’d been programming for 17 years and could probably make my own, especially when all the art is 320 pixels wide and that’s about how many pixels I can work with before people give me a sideways look and ask if I really have a liberal arts degree. I decided to base the story loosely on my novel, for two reasons: first, if the game happens to get the kind of notoriety my novel has not, I might be able to boost sales by claiming the novel can serve as a hint book. Second, I spent nineteen years writing that stupid book, and this seemed like a good a way to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Three weeks later I’d built a rendering engine I’m quite proud of, a simple command and scene logic processor, and accidentally reinvented GIF compression.

The was only one thing left to do: come up with ways to die.

Bottom of the Page

Random Saturday:
1) I'm too timid to turn on SOS service on my iPhone.
2) I hope Apple is not using price as a differentiator between macOS and iPadOS.
3) I don't have a good idea of what Northern Lights look like.
4) Oh, and I've just learnt about AV Plugs. For the dead.


Thanks for reading.