The MacStories Reading List is back, and it features the best articles about the most important news of the past weeks. From the Instagram acquisition to renewed interest in bigger iPhones with different screens, the Apple blogging machine picked up steam after the release of the new iPad and is now looking forward to WWDC ’12, which Apple is rumored to be announcing soon.
Until then, put on your favorite reading glasses, and follow us after the break for this week’s best Apple-related writing.
Thomas Brand on the best keyboard Apple ever made:
The original Apple Extended Keyboard is the best keyboard Apple has ever made. Code named “Saratoga,” it is larger in size and heavier in weight than its successor. The Apple Extended Keyboard features the same 105 key layout as later models, but unlike the Apple Extended Keyboard II it only contains the superior Alps Electric Co. brand mechanical key switches. When you purchase an original Apple Extended Keyboard you are guaranteed quality. When you purchase an Apple Extended Keyboard II you are taking a risk on inferior key switches.
Matt Gemmell has a fantastic piece on what makes great interfaces intuitive and enjoyable.
Design an experience. Make it as beautiful – and as emotionally resonant – as it can possibly be. Then adorn the core experience and content with only as much functionality as is absolutely necessary. Functionality – and software-based thinking in general – is like seasoning. A little is an enhancement; any more destroys the flavour, subsumes the artistry of the chef, and may well be bad for you.
Apple Design Award winner Jeremy Olson has been studying interfaces that have taken a buttonless approach in the past year, and ended up with an interesting take on buttons and UIs.
Mental model: using gestures for certain functions will feel extremely forced. Gestures only work for functions where the user’s mental model matches how the gesture works. You can help form the user’s mental model using metaphor. If it’s a book, the user expects to drag the page to flip it. Users can easily grasp gestures where they are directly manipulating objects like that but many functions are so abstract that you will be hard-pressed to find gestures that feel natural for them.
Stephen Hackett explains why Apple is making the entry-level iCloud account free for everyone.
Unlike the iTunes, iBooks and App stores, iCloud has no way of making money directly. It’s a big, bold red line on the books. But Apple made and gives iCloud away because it makes their hardware more desirable.
In the future, will apps learn from our behaviors?
For example, if the majority of the time, I open Mail to create a new message, then always open mail and drop me into a draft message. If I always open Simplenote, WriteRoom or Nebulous Notes1 to create a new note, then they should anticipate my action and open instantly into a new note editor. If I primarily open my calendar and switch to my weekly view, then the app should start me off there every time I come back.2
But how great would it be if apps could learn our routines and adapt? If they could know how my intentions vary throughout the day and week, I’d get more value out of each app launch. Human lives are relatively methodical and oscillate with dependable frequencies. Sounds like a good problem to try and solve.
MG Siegler writes about Instagram getting acquired by Facebook.
I know I’ve said this before, but it’s so easy to get cynical in today’s tech world. Uncapped note here, billion dollar acquisition there, IPO over there… At the end of the day, you have to bet on great entrepreneurs to do great things. You have to bet on 5 years from now, not today. You have to bet on the world evolving enough to be ready for what’s coming.
Matthew Panzarino on recent speculation that Apple may be increasing the size of the iPhone by bumping the device’s height:
Unfortunately, this hits a wall when you’re talking about apps that heavily use custom graphics across their interfaces, rather than stock Apple components or list views. These apps don’t get off easy with the ability to stretch the listview sections out. They have to be rebuilt entirely. Many of the high quality apps on the App Store use largely custom graphics.
- A widescreen 4″ iPhone? Maybe, but your hand says no, Matthew Panzarino (@mpanzarino)
Businessweek has an interesting profile of Apple-focused Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
Munster, who’s single, lives in a Twin Cities apartment filled with Apple gear. Part of a three-person team that also covers Amazon.com (AMZN), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Google (GOOG), he says he produces about 350 research notes a year, an output that he claims is about double that of many analysts. He travels three or four days a week, and may hold 250 meetings with investors and 125 sessions with companies, including Apple suppliers in Asia, in a typical year.
Paul Miller on what makes apps like Instagram and Paper great:
I’m terrible at photography. I’ve never taken many photos outside of my work, and I’ve never even been proud of my gadget shots. I have no “eye,” no flair for framing, and everything always turns out blurry, underexposed, and awkward. If I ever dare to Photoshop my work, it always turns out worse.
But Instagram doesn’t know that. Instagram doesn’t judge. It takes what I do, and makes it look pretty. It doesn’t overload me with sliders and options and “masks,” it just gives me a few simple “make it look good” options, and leaves it at that. It doesn’t make my photos “good” by any empirical means, but it makes them tolerable to be viewed by human eyes, and for that I’m grateful.
Dropbox founder Drew Houston shares his vision of the future of the company in an interview.
Will Dropbox one day become more than a network for file sharing?
Absolutely. The explosion of mobile devices means that the world needs an elegant solution for the new problems people have. It needs a fabric that ties together all of their devices, services, and apps. Even though today people may think of Dropbox as a magic folder on their desktop, what we’re really excited about is the opportunity to make all this other stuff you use better. We envision little Dropbox icons everywhere, analogous to the Facebook icons you see everywhere. When you take a picture, it should save your photo to your dropbox; and when you make a to-do list on your iPhone, it should save the list to your dropbox. Any app or device should be able to plug into Dropbox and have access to all your stuff, because that’s where it resides.
- Dropbox: Founder Drew Houston Simplifies the Cloud, Jason Pontin (@jason_pontin)
The New York Times tells the story of Instagram’s humble beginnings.
In a matter of hours, thousands downloaded it. The computer systems handling the photos kept crashing. Neither of them knew what to do.
“Who’s, like, the smartest person I know who I can call up?” Mr. Systrom remembered thinking. He scrolled through his phone and found his man: Adam D’Angelo, a former chief technology officer at Facebook. They had met at a party seven years earlier, over beers in red plastic cups, at the Sigma Nu fraternity at Stanford University. That night in October 2010, Mr. D’Angelo became Instagram’s lifeline.
- Behind Instagram’s Success, Networking the Old Way, Somini Sengupta, Nicole Perlroth and Jenna Wortham (@sominisengupta, @nicoleperlroth and @jennydeluxe)
Dan Moren argues that iMessage and iChat should be separate apps on the Mac.
If you’ve been paying careful attention—and I’m sure you have—you’ll have noticed a theme running through all of these points: control. For instant messaging, users are given a large degree of control. On the flipside, that also makes the software more complex, with a steeper learning curve; by comparison, text messaging is more or less drop-dead simple.
- iMessage and instant messages deserve different apps, Dan Moren (@dmoren)
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