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kottke.org posts about iPhone

Wanting to be liked

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2013

This interview with a 14-year-old girl about how she uses her iPhone and social media is almost equal parts fascinating and terrifying. Some choice quotes:

“I’ll wake up in the morning and go on Facebook just … because,” Casey says. “It’s not like I want to or I don’t. I just go on it. I’m, like, forced to. I don’t know why. I need to. Facebook takes up my whole life.”

“I bring [my iPhone] everywhere. I have to be holding it,” Casey says. “It’s like OCD — I have to have it with me. And I check it a lot.”

Not having an iPhone can be social suicide, notes Casey. One of her friends found herself effectively exiled from their circle for six months because her parents dawdled in upgrading her to an iPhone. Without it, she had no access to the iMessage group chat, where it seemed all their shared plans were being made.

“She wasn’t in the group chat, so we stopped being friends with her,” Casey says. “Not because we didn’t like her, but we just weren’t in contact with her.”

The most important and stress-inducing statistic of all is the number of “likes” she gets when she posts a new Facebook profile picture — followed closely by how many “likes” her friends’ photos receive. Casey’s most recent profile photo received 117 “likes” and 56 comments from her friends, 19 of which they posted within a minute of Casey switching her photo, and all of which Casey “liked” personally.

“If you don’t get 100 ‘likes,’ you make other people share it so you get 100,” she explains. “Or else you just get upset. Everyone wants to get the most ‘likes.’ It’s like a popularity contest.”

“If I’m not watching TV, I’m on my phone. If I’m not on my phone, I’m on my computer. If I’m not doing any of those things, what am I supposed to do?” Casey says.

Josh Miller asked his 15-year-old sister about social media trends. That was six months ago, so everything has probably already changed, but it’s still an interesting read. (via digg)

How blind people use Instagram

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2013

Tommy Edison shows how he uses Instagram on the iPhone.

So we’ll just take a picture of the crew. Why I’m holding the thing up to my face like I can look through the thing is beyond me, but here we go.

His Instagram feed is available here. (via ★precipice)

What if Apple launched iPhone 5 on Kickstarter?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 26, 2012

If Apple launched the iPhone 5 on Kickstarter, it would have been the first $1 billion campaign:

iPhone 5 on Kickstarter

$1.7 billion in sales for a weekend…not bad. I got the rough first-weekend sales numbers from Asymco and fudged the rest.

iPhone in CSS3

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2012

iPhone CSS3

Is it real or is it CSS3? Amazingly, the above image was made entirely in HTML and CSS3 by Dylan Hudson. (via ★interesting)

The iPhone: maybe the best thing for the blind since Braille

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2012

For some visually impaired folks, the iPhone has been nothing short of revolutionary.

For the visually impaired community, the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 seemed at first like a disaster — the standard-bearer of a new generation of smartphones was based on touch screens that had no physical differentiation. It was a flat piece of glass. But soon enough, word started to spread: The iPhone came with a built-in accessibility feature. Still, members of the community were hesitant.

But no more. For its fans and advocates in the visually-impaired community, the iPhone has turned out to be one of the most revolutionary developments since the invention of Braille. That the iPhone and its world of apps have transformed the lives of its visually impaired users may seem counter-intuitive — but their impact is striking.

See also Austin Seraphin’s account of the first week he spent using an iPhone.

The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color Identifier. It uses the iPhone’s camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience.

I have never experienced this before in my life. I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don’t really have a color, just light sources. When I first tried it at three o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t figure out why it just reported black. After realizing that the screen curtain also disables the camera, I turned it off, but it still have very dark colors. Then I remembered that you actually need light to see, and it probably couldn’t see much at night. I thought about light sources, and my interview I did for Get Lamp. First, I saw one of my beautiful salt lamps in its various shades of orange, another with its pink and rose colors, and the third kind in glowing pink and red.. I felt stunned.

(via NextDraft)

The iPhone, an automobile for your mind

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2012

Tom Vanderbilt says Americans don’t walk as much as they used to; automobile usage has eaten into our perambulation time.

If walking is a casualty of modern life the world over — the historian Joe Moran estimates, for instance, that in the last quarter century in the U.K., the amount of walking has declined by 25 percent — why then do Americans walk even less than people in other countries? Here we need to look not at pedometers, but at the odometer: We drive more than anyone else in the world. (Hence a joke: In America a pedestrian is someone who has just parked their car.) Statistics on walking are more elusive than those on driving, but from the latter one might infer the former: The National Household Travel Survey shows that the number of vehicle trips a person took and the miles they traveled per day rose from 2.32 trips and 20.64 miles in 1969 to 3.35 and 32.73 in 2001. More time spent driving means less time spent on other activities, including walking. And part of the reason we are driving more is that we are living farther from the places we need to go; to take just one measure, in 1969, roughly half of all children lived a mile or more from their school; by 2001 three out of four did. During that same period, unsurprisingly, the rates of children walking to school dropped from roughly half to approximately 13 percent.

Sherry Turkle says young Americans don’t converse as much as they used to; usage of mobile devices like the iPhone and iPod has eaten into our chat time.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

A cockpit or perhaps the safe bubble of the automobile? Steve Jobs was fond of saying the personal computer was “a bicycle for our mind”:

I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

Perhaps then the iPhone is an automobile for our mind in that it allows us to go anywhere very quickly but isolates us along the way.

ps. This photo that accompanies Vanderbilt’s article is kind of amazing:

Walking fail

Totally speechless. I think it’s further from my desk to the bathroom here in the office than it is from that house to the bus.

Turn your iPhone into a toy car

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2012

Makego is an interesting iPhone app…it turns your phone into a toy vehicle. This short video explains:

Makego turns your iPhone / iPod Touch into a toy vehicle. It encourages fun, open ended collaborative play between parent and child. Combining creativity and imagination with the virtual world on screen. Select your vehicle within Makego, then interact with the drivers and their world through animations and sound. This release has 3 vehicles to play with: a race car, ice-cream truck, and river boat.

I could easily see building a neat case out of paper and having Ollie and Minna playing with it. I could also see Ollie taking the race car over a big jump and smashing it into another car and oh shit the screen is cracked. The Lego case option is cool though…just slap some wheels on it and away you go.

Mostly dead liveblog of Apple’s event

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 07, 2012

Despite my half-hearted and shameless plea on Twitter for an invite to Apple’s product announcement, I am sitting at my desk in NYC today, sucking on lemons. Lemonade tastes better, so to that end I will be blogging the liveblogs blogging the announcement. Blog, bloggy, blog, blogggggggggggggg. Bla. Guh.

The thing starts at 1pm ET, so come back then for the only mostly dead Apple liveblog set in Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ lovely Whitney ScreenSmart typeface. Can you beat that, Gizmodo or GDGT or Ars Technica or Engadget or The Verge or Macworld?

As a teaser, I’d like to offer the world’s worst prediction for today’s event: Apple announces the iPhone 5. Could you imagine though? After Apple declined the version number bump with the introduction of the 4S, what would a device need to do to warrant it? A fusion energy source? Teleportation? A camera that sees into the future? My money’s on a built-in quadrotor system so that your phone could autonomously run errands for you or spy on your enemies.

Update: Notes will appear here, newest at the top.

The event is over. Thanks for joining me. I miss “one more thing”. :(

So Apple has now used “iPod classic” and “new iPad” for product names. Uh, New Coke?

They are keeping the iPad 2 on sale. $399 for 16 GB Wifi model.

They *still* haven’t told us the name of the new iPad. Is it just iPad? No 3 or 2S or HD or whatever?

John Gruber: “iPhoto looks brilliant.”

The Colts released Peyton Manning. This doesn’t make sense to me.

iPhoto for iPad. Photo editing, effects, photo-beaming, and “photo journals”. $4.99, available today.

iMovie for iPad looks nice…edit 1080p video right on the camera. The trend in devices has always been towards smaller…will the capabilities of the iPad-sized touchscreen make them bigger again?

Henry Birdseye: “I’m waiting for a keynote where Apple says, ‘We don’t have a new, magical iPad for you. The magic was inside you all along. Now go outside.’”

“This new device has more memory and higher screen resolution than an Xbox 360 or PS3.” Your company? There’s an app for that.

The blurry photos taken at the event by the various livebloggers aren’t really doing justice to the new iPad’s retina display. That looks….great?

The stock market is reacting violently to Apple’s news…AAPL is up over 0.06% on the news. Whoa!

App demos. Zzzzzzzz….. Give us more things we can say in words. Words!!

Robin Sloan is in the future, live-tweeting the iPad 8 launch. “Cook listing all the ways people use iPads today: reading, faceblasting, watching 3DHD, drone control, genome browsing, etc. Boring…”

New iPad starts at $499 and it costs the same as the iPad 2 does now. Pre-orders available today, shipping on March 16.

Mike Monteiro: “I bet Schiller looks awesome in HD. You can SEE the individual meals!”

4G LTE. Whatever that means. Fast mobile network I guess. Lots of megaflops per hectare or something. Weird bit of acronym soup from Apple who usually eschews such nonsense.

You can talk to the iPad and it will write down what you said. Not quite Siri I guess?

New iPad will have the same camera as the iPhone 4S. With 1080p video recording.

And they are announcing the newest version of this iPad, which shall remain nameless for now (slide says “The new iPad”). It has a retina display. (Surprise!)

Apparently Apple makes a product called the iPad. Interesting.

iCloud will sync movies. iTunes supports 1080p. New Apple TV (just a box, not a whole TV…at least not yet). $99, available March 16.

iOS 5.1 will be out today.

Nothing yet.

Plastic surgeon pushing iPhone FaceTime facelifts

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2012

In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote that videophone technology wasn’t popular due in part to vanity.

And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.

Now DC-area plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Sigal is offering what he calls the “FaceTime Facelift”.

“Patients come in with their iPhones and show me how they look on [Apple’s video calling application] FaceTime,” says Dr. Sigal. “The angle at which the phone is held, with the caller looking downward into the camera, really captures any heaviness, fullness and sagging of the face and neck. People say ‘I never knew I looked like that! I need to do something!’ I’ve started calling it the ‘FaceTime Facelift’ effect. And we’ve developed procedures to specifically address it.”

(via @timbritton)

Apple to fix iOS address book access

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 16, 2012

Apple is going to modify their iOS software to force apps to prompt for address book access. From John Paczkowski at AllThingsD:

“Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines*,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD. “We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.”

This is good news.

iOS apps and your address book

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2012

Details are finally starting to trickle out about how various iOS apps use the address book data on your phone. The Verge and Venture Beat both have good article on the subject. What they’re finding is nowhere near the 13/15 ratio that Dustin Curtis reported last week but Curtis has also said:

Second, for obvious reasons, I promised the developers I reached out to that I would never reveal who they are. Many of them have, since last week, changed their practices.

What I like about The Verge and VB articles is that they both end with Apple’s role in all this. In a future release, Apple should make sure that rogue parties can’t do stuff like this. If you’re going to have a store where every app has to be approved for the good of the end users and the integrity of the system, this is *exactly* the type of thing they should be concerned with.

Update: Insider did some digging as well.

More on iPhone address book privacy

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2012

Yesterday, developer Arun Thampi noticed that the Path iPhone app uploads a user’s address book to their server without asking the user first. And by address book, I mean all the phone numbers and addresses and email addresses of everyone in your phone’s address book just gets sent off to Path. And not only that, Path stored that information on its server. To their credit, Path apologized and deleted the data from their server.

But this is a larger problem than just Path. In a post from earlier today, Dustin Curtis reveals the dirty little secret of iPhone developers everywhere.

It’s not really a secret, per se, but there’s a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user’s entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference. It’s common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database. Obviously, there are lots of awesome things apps can do with this data to vastly improve user experience. But it is also a breach of trust and an invasion of privacy.

I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records. One company’s database has Mark Zuckerberg’s cell phone number, Larry Ellison’s home phone number and Bill Gates’ cell phone number. This data is not meant to be public, and people have an expectation of privacy with respect to their contacts.

13 out of 15! Zuckerberg’s cell phone number! Maybe I’m being old-fashioned here, but this seems unequivocally wrong. Any app, from Angry Birds to Fart App 3000, can just grab the information in your address book without asking? Hell. No. And Curtis is right in calling Apple out about this…apps should not have access to address book information without explicitly asking. But now that the horse is out of the barn, this “quiet understanding” needs to be met with some noisy investigation. What happened to Path needs to happen to all the other apps that are storing our data. There’s an opportunity here for some enterprising data journalist to follow Thampi’s lead: investigate what other apps are grabbing address book data and then ask the responsible developers the same questions that were put to Path.

Update: I am aware of this very confusing display of data from the Wall Street Journal. It indicates that of the ~50 iPhone apps surveyed, only three (Angry Birds, Facebook, and TextPlus 4) transmit address book data to a server. That’s not exactly the widespread problem that Curtis describes (the data sets are likely different)…it would be nice to see the net cast a bit wider.

Update: Oh, and that WSJ survey is two years old. (thx, @marcprecipice)

Your not-so-secret iPhone address book

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2012

I take this to mean that any iPhone app can download your address book to their servers? What. The. Hell! Apple?

Upon inspecting closer, I noticed that my entire address book (including full names, emails and phone numbers) was being sent as a plist to Path. Now I don’t remember having given permission to Path to access my address book and send its contents to its servers, so I created a completely new “Path” and repeated the experiment and I got the same result - my address book was in Path’s hands.

Unicorns and wheels: Apple’s two types of products

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2011

A common reaction to Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 4S yesterday was disappointment…Mat Honan’s post at Gizmodo for instance.

I was hoping for something bold and interesting looking. The iPhone 4 was just that when it shipped. So too were the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G. If I’m going to buy a new phone, of course I want it to look new. Because of course we care about having novel designs. If we didn’t we’d all be lugging around some 10-inch thick brick with a 12 day battery life.

Mat’s is an understandable reaction. After I upgraded my iPhone, Macbook Pro, and OS X all at once two years ago, I wrote about Apple’s upgrade problem:

From a superficial perspective, my old MBP and new MBP felt exactly the same…same OS, same desktop wallpaper, same Dock, all my same files in their same folders, etc. Same deal with the iPhone except moreso…the iPhone is almost entirely software and that was nearly identical. And re: Snow Leopard, I haven’t noticed any changes at all aside from the aforementioned absent plug-ins.

So, just having paid thousands of dollars for new hardware and software, I have what feels like my same old stuff.

Deep down, when I stop to think about it, I know (or have otherwise convinced myself) that these purchases were worth it and that Apple’s ease of upgrade works almost exactly how it should. But my gut tells me that I’ve been ripped off. The “newness” cognitive jolt humans get is almost entirely absent.

For me, yesterday’s event, Apple’s continued success in innovation *and* business, and the recent CEO change provided a different perspective: that Apple makes two very complementary types of products and we should be excited about both types.

The first type of product is the most familiar and is exemplified by Steve Jobs: Apple makes magical products that shape entire industries and modify social structures in significant ways. These are the bold strokes that combine technology with design in a way that’s almost artistic: Apple II, Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. When they were introduced, these products were new and exciting and no one quite knew where those products were going to take us (Apple included). That’s what people want to see when they go to Apple events: Steve Jobs holding up a rainbow-hued unicorn that you can purchase for your very own.

The second type of product is less noticed and perhaps is best exemplified by Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook: identify products and services that work, continually refine them, innovate at the margins (the addition of Siri to the iPhone 4S is a good example of this), build interconnecting ecosystems around them, and put processes and infrastructure in place to produce ever more of these items at lower cost and higher profit. The wheel has been invented; now we’ll perfect it. This is where Apple is at with the iPhone now, a conceptually solved problem: people know what they are, what they’re used for, and Apple’s gonna knuckle down and crank out ever better/faster/smarter versions of them in the future. Many of Apple’s current products are like this, better than they have ever been, more popular than they have ever been, but there’s nothing magical about them anymore: iPhone 4S, iPod, OS X, iMacs, Macbooks, etc.

The exciting thing about this second type of product, for investors and consumers alike, is Apple is now expert at capturing their lightning in a bottle. ‘Twas not always so…Apple wasn’t able to properly capitalize on the success of the Macintosh and it almost killed the company. What Tim Cook ultimately held up at Apple’s event yesterday is a promise: there won’t be a return to the Apple of the 1990s, when the mighty Macintosh devolved into a flaky, slow, and (adding insult to injury) expensive klunker and they couldn’t decide on a future direction for their operating system (remember Copland?). There will be an iPhone 5 in the future and it will be better than the iPhone 4S in significant & meaningful ways but it will also *just work*. And while that might be a bit boring to Apple event watchers, this interconnected web of products is the thing that makes the continued development of the new and magical products possible.

Apple predicted Siri 24 years ago

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2011

In 1987, Apple made a video showcasing a concept they called Knowledge Navigator:

The crazy thing is that the year in the video is 2011…and Apple announced something very much like Knowledge Navigator (Siri, a natural language voice assistant) at their event yesterday. (via waxy)

Multi-touch finger paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2011

Ha! Evan Roth is selling a series of “multi-touch finger paintings” called Open Twitter, Check Twitter, Close Twitter. The paintings are made by placing tracing paper over an iPhone screen while he checks Twitter with a painted finger.

Open Twitter, Check Twitter, Close Twitter

Modern day cargo cults

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2011

Adrian Hon cites Kickstarter & iPhone clones as evidence that cargo cult thinking is alive and well in the modern age.

Kickstarter isn’t the only success to attract cargo cults. Mere months after the iPhone was announced in 2007, a parade of competitors built their own cargo cults around it, hoping that by mimicking the iPhone’s design and its characteristic ‘apps’ they’d attract customers who don’t know any better, even if their phones didn’t have the same range of apps as Apple, or weren’t as fast.

(via waxy)

Fluorescing tattoo for tracking body chemicals

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2011

Using a modified iPhone and a fluorescing nanoparticle tattoo, researchers at Northeastern University have found a way to monitor chemicals in the blood without drawing blood.

The team begins by injecting a solution containing carefully chosen nanoparticles into the skin. This leaves no visible mark, but the nanoparticles will fluoresce when exposed to a target molecule, such as sodium or glucose. A modified iPhone then tracks changes in the level of fluorescence, which indicates the amount of sodium or glucose present. Clark presented this work at the BioMethods Boston conference at Harvard Medical School last week.

The tattoos were originally designed as a way around the finger-prick bloodletting that is the standard technique for measuring glucose levels in those with diabetes. But Clark says they could be used to track many things besides glucose and sodium, offering a simpler, less painful, and more accurate way for many people to track many important biomarkers.

Best of Damn You Auto Correct!

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2011

I’m sure a bunch of these iPhone autocorrected conversations are made-up, but I was still almost crying with laughter by the time I got to the end of the list.

Gum In Puss

Faking native iOS apps with HTML/CSS/JavaScript

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2011

Matt Might has a nice tutorial on how to make mobile web apps look like native iOS apps using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

If you a flick a web app past the bottom or top of the page, the page itself gets elastically tugged away from the URL bar or the button bar (or the bottom/top of the screen if it’s in full-screen mode).

This behavior is another giveaway that your app isn’t native, and it’s rarely the behavior you want in a native app.

To stop this behavior, capture touchmove events on the document in JavaScript and cancel them. You can do this by adding a handler to the body tag, and invoking the preventDefault method on the event object.

Huh, you can even do “pull to refresh” in JavaScript.

One big advantage of native apps that cannot be addressed by HTML/CSS/JS is the browser interface itself. The Gmail web interface is fantastic, but every time I open a link in my email, the browser goes through its elaborate new window opening process. And then when I want to go back to my email, I have to touch the windows button, close the current window, and then click back on the mail window. The whole process is too inefficient and slow compared to the same process in a native app: no starting browser animation process and one touch to get back to what you’re doing. If Apple addressed this issue — say by making it possible for a web app to “open” a sub-browser with different open/close interactions instead of a full-fledged new window — using web apps would be less of a pain in the ass.

Foursquarathon

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2010

If you’re running the NYC marathon tomorrow, have an iPhone, and are a Foursquare user, 4SQ CEO Dennis Crowley has the low-down on how to track your progress throughout the race by auto-checking-in to 4SQ at all the mile markers.

I’m going to use Mayor Maker tomorrow during the NYC Marathon to auto check me in to every mile marker as I run past them. I’ll be running w/ my iPhone in my pocket (with GPS turned on). Every time I run over a mile checkpoint, Mayor Maker will send that checkin to foursquare and foursquare will send it back out to Facebook and Twitter. Cool, right?

Muji iPhone and iPad apps

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 02, 2010

The Japanese no-brand retailer Muji is taking an interesting approach to their iPhone and iPad apps. Instead of just having a product catalog/store app (although they have that too), they’re also offering apps that are very much like the products they offer in their real-world stores. There’s a simple calendaring app that syncs with Google Calendar, a notebook app for sketching and note-taking, and an app called Muji to Go that combines a bunch of different functions that travellers might need (weather, currency exchange, power socket guide).

iPhone: a revolutionary device for the blind

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2010

A blind man buys an iPhone and it changes his life.

The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color ID. It uses the iPhone’s camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience.

I have never experienced this before in my life. I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don’t really have a color, just light sources. When I first tried it at three o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t figure out why it just reported black. After realizing that the screen curtain also disables the camera, I turned it off, but it still have very dark colors. Then I remembered that you actually need light to see, and it probably couldn’t see much at night. I thought about light sources, and my interview I did for Get Lamp. First, I saw one of my beautiful salt lamps in its various shades of orange, another with its pink and rose colors, and the third kind in glowing pink and red.. I felt stunned.

(thx, david)

MoMA iPhone app

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 16, 2010

The only reason I ever go to MoMA anymore is so that my son can see the helicopter and whatever motor vehicles are on display in the design collection, but if I get a chance to sneak away soon, I’m definitely making use of the MoMA’s new iPhone app: tours, a catalog of thousands of works, events calendar, etc.

2004 iPhone prediction

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2010

Paul Graham’s Hackers and Painters, published in 2004, contained the following footnote:

If the Mac was so great, why did it lose? Cost, again Microsoft concentrated on the software business and unleashed a swarm of cheap component suppliers on Apple hardware. It did not help either that suits took over during a critical period. (And it hasn’t lost yet. If Apple were to grow the iPod into a cell phone with a web browser, Microsoft would be in big trouble.)

Then again, a few footnotes later Graham writes:

I would not even use Javascript, if I were you; Viaweb didn’t. Most of the Javascript I see on the Web isn’t necessary, and much of it breaks. And when you start to be able to browse actual web pages on your cell phone or PDA (or toaster), who knows if they’ll even support it.

Maybe he meant Flash? (via oddhead)

How to hold an Apple press conference

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2010

Apple is holding a press conference today, which will presumably address the antenna problems that few actual customers seem to be having on the still-selling-like-hotcakes iPhone 4. I have a number of sources at Apple and based on my conversations with them, here’s my prediction on how today’s event will play out:

Steve Jobs will come out on stage and will sit in front of a large olde tyme cash register. He will immediately begin taking questions from the assembled journalists and bloggers. As the first-question scrum begins, Jobs will start madly ringing up purchases on the very loud register while pointing to his ears, shaking his head, and shouting “gosh, I’m sorry I can’t hear you guys over the sound of the register”. This will continue for several minutes and then the press conference will be over.

Someone on Apple’s board suggested a more conventional press event but Jobs quickly wrote an email back saying that they were not going to “hold it that way”.

Art for the everyone

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2010

Scott Snibbe’s interactive art projects are available for sale on the iPhone/iPad and he’s pretty happy about it.

Over the past few days my first three apps became available on the iTunes store: Gravilux, Bubble Harp, and Antograph. I’ve been dreaming of this day for twenty years: a day when, for the first time, we can enjoy interactive art as a media commodity no different from books, music, and movies.

I remember the Gravilux Java applet from back in the day and happily bought it for the iPad.

Quiet iPhone wallpaper

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2010

Add my voice to those saying that the default wallpaper choices for iOS 4 are too busy and high contrast. So, I’ve made an iPhone wallpaper called Tranquil that will hopefully help with this problem.

tranquil iPhone

On the iPhone, just tap and hold on the wallpaper image until the “Save Image” dialog appears. Enjoy!

Toddler mode for the iPad

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2010

Peter Merholz says there should be a toddler mode for the iPad (and probably iPhone as well).

You know how iPhone and iPad have “airplane mode”, which turns off all connectivity? Right under that, I want “Toddler Mode”. When switched on, you’ll get a dialog letting you know you are entering Toddler Mode, and an explanation of how to get out. Unlike Airplane Mode, you can’t get out of Toddler Mode through settings, because there’s no way Toddler Mode should allow access to the settings panel. I haven’t figured out the best way out of Toddler Mode, but I’m thinking a quick triple-click on the home button, followed by a swipe, should work.

The problem with toddler mode is that the capabilities of kids change very quickly at that age. For instance, the home button is only a problem for a short time. My almost-3-yo son Ollie pretty quickly figured out that if he wanted to keep doing what he was doing, he had to lay off the home button. Now he knows exactly what it does: gets him back to the screen where he can pick a new activity. He also has no problem finding his apps…he knows exactly which of those icons mean fun and which do not.

(BTW, if you’re an interface/interaction designer and you haven’t watched a preschooler using a touchscreen device, you really should. It’s fascinating how quickly they learn some things and just can’t get the hang of other things. It’s a really eye-opening experience.)

Can the human eye see individual pixels on iPhone 4?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2010

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy takes on Steve Jobs’ claim that iPhone 4’s pixels are too small for the human eye to see individually. I have confidence in Plait’s conclusions:

I know a thing or two about resolution as well, having spent a few years calibrating a camera on board Hubble.

He may as well have pulled Marshall McLuhan out from behind a movie poster.