Monday, June 18, 2007

Why All the Coverflow?

Designers and the rest of us mere mortals have been clamoring about the incorporation of coverflow into everything apple. iTunes has now made full use of it, it will be a major part of the iPhone interface, and in Leopard the finder seems to be all about it.

But what is the big deal? Why has Apple based so much of its UI around it? I mean, it's pretty and all, but it really is a very difficult way to find something. Horizontal scrolling with a mouse is just difficult and slow. So why has Apple invested so much in it? I believe the answer gives us some insight into future Apple products.

Take a second look at the iPhone. OK, you've probably looked at it more than once by now, anyway. Take yet another look. This interface is the future of the mac platform. If Apple can get people used to typing on a screen, and they can use iPhone early adopters as beta testers for on-screen typing to really tweak it until it's good, then you can expect to see the iPhones's touch screen on your next macbook. What, did you think they could only make it 3.5 inches? Your next macbook will have no external buttons. Just a screen and a home/sleep/wake sensor.

So how does coverflow prove this? When you're looking again at the iPhone, notice how anyone interacts with coverflow. Flicking left and right with your fingers is extremely natural. It's even more natural than vertical scrolling. Think of it like reading a book and flipping pages. It's a very natural wrist movement. Apple introduced coverflow to iTunes way back when, but the iPhone was already in design at that point.

Face it, we are being primed for touch-sensitive tablet macs, and coverflow will be the center of the new mac OS UI.

Monday, June 11, 2007

iPhone's Not-So-Hidden Features

Many people have said "I don't want my phone to be several things, I just want it to be a phone." What they haven't realized is that the convergence of devices opens many new features to each individual device. Here's a list of things that convergence will allow you to do... if not upon immediate release, then only a software or firmware update away.

1. Wi-fi iPod
People have been clamoring for a wi-fi enabled iPod for some time now. We want to be able to sync our iPod without the wires. We want to download songs from the iTunes music store wirelessly. We want to share songs with other iPod users. Now you have it. Every iPhone (and thus iPod) has wi-fi and Edge, so all of the above is completely possible. It won't be long until you see the iPhone version of iTunes, so you can download songs, TV shows and movies over wi-fi or even edge. Sharing songs between iPhone users ala zune? It will be here before you know it.

2. An iPod with a built-in speaker.
Wouldn't it be nice to lay at the beach and listen to your music without earphones and without lugging around extra speakers? The iPhone has a built in speaker phone, so listening to your music and movies through the speaker is right around the corner, if not already possible.

3. An iPod with a built in mic.
No more line in mics. Record lectures, meeting notes... long format memos directly to iPod using the built in phone mic.

4. An iPod with built in bluetooth.
Expect many bluetooth earphone accessories very soon. EXTRA NUGGET: Go to Apples new iPhone section here and notice under "bluetooth" it reads "instantly connect to the iPhone Wireless Headset and other bluetooth enabled devices". Looks like we can expect Apple branded bluetooth headsets... no doubt with music listening support.

5. Email your voice mail.
Your voice mail will be treated as individual audio files, meaning you will be able to attach them to email on your phone and send them to others to be played on their computer.

6. Call the internet.
It's a wi-fi phone, people. Why hasn't this been said before? How long until skype builds a web app that let's you make free wi-fi calls from your iPhone? If you can pull up skype and use your built in mic and speakers on your computer, you better believe people will be racing to create this for the iPhone.

7. Add your phone to your organizational system.
When developers start creating online apps for safari on iPhone, expect communications to be at many of their cores. Access basecamp from your iPhone, and touch a contact to call them immediately, then record the conversation and save it in basecamp. Think of it this way... you can organize every communication but phone calls, until now.

8. Wi-fi camera
2 mega-pixels is nothing to sneeze at. Take a picture, it automatically is uploaded to flickr. Share pictures with other iPhone users wirelessly.

As you can see, convergence brings many new possibilities. These are simply a few, there are many more. Hopefully this list will get you thinking. Why not leave your ideas in the comments for all to see?