Let's Talk About The Notch

You might be aware a little company called Apple held a keynote event this week. In a brand spanking new Theater, the rather impressive looking Steve Jobs Theater no less. I was slightly more interested in this year's presentation because of the phone rumors. That's what we all watched for, right? I don't think anyone really cared about the retail or Apple TV portions. Just get to the phone announcement!

And so the worst kept secret in tech (thanks leakers!) was revealed to the public and the iPhone X made official. My immediate reaction was, I don't really like it. So I sat on it for a few days and watched the presentation again last night. I don't really like it.

Before I go any further, in case there's any doubt, I consider myself an Apple fan. You pick a side, right, you're either all in with Google or all in with Apple. For me it really boils down to Apple being the company I chose for my first smartphone and I'm really not interested in retraining my muscle memory to learn something new. So Apple it is.

But I was underwhelmed with the iPhone X. I understand many will love it and it will probably sell like hotcakes. It's just not quite for me. Yet. Take all this with a pinch of salt, it all sounds rather negative, and obviously I haven't even used or seen one in real life.

That Notch

Phew boy. Alright, all those sensors have to go somewhere, I get that. But why not make the thinnest possible forehead on the phone and have the notch just be a bar that goes all the way across? Now we have that ugly bump with silly looking tiny rabbit ears that once seen cannot be unseen. Was the marketing draw of "hey we have an edge to edge screen now" important enough that it won over every possible argument against more aesthetically pleasing options? "That would never have happened if Steve Jobs were alive" is often said and most of the time it's bollocks. But I can't help feeling it hits close to home on this one.

Control Center

And while we're talking about those rabbit ears. I'm in control center constantly. It's one of my most used gestures on the phone. The iPhone X handles this differently because you swipe down from the top right rabbit ear instead of swiping up from the bottom. The iPhone X is taller than the non-plus phones, and I can't help but wonder if my thumb will reach the top corners? And if you're a left hander, you're really going to have to stretch to get at it. My wife has a 7 Plus and when I use her phone, I can't get to anything at the top of the screen using one hand. Maybe this is a time will tell situation and when I get the phone in my hand I realize there's nothing to worry about and I can reach it no problem?

Face ID

I'm not sold on this at all. Why is this better? I kinda like my home button. And I just love Touch ID. It's so blazingly fast at unlocking the phone as I take it out of my pocket that I can't imagine a better experience. From the demo onstage, they made it seem like you have to now bring the phone up to your face, wait for the little unlock animation to fire, and then you can swipe up to start using it. Which will be far slower than my current place my thumb on the fingerprint sensor in the same motion as I pickup the phone action. Perhaps they didn't do the best job at explaining the unlock mechanism in the demo. Maybe it will be faster in practice than it appeared onstage?

Inductive Charging

Nothing revolutionary and Apple are catching up with other phone manufacturers in this space. I'm just not really sold on this either regardless of the phone you own. I'll have to go buy a charging pad thinger at $40+ only to have to plug it into a socket in my kitchen and then walk over to it every time? I already do that kitchen walk today, and plugging the cord in is no big deal, and it's saved me $40. Never mind the fact that I'll need a charging pad for different areas of the house. That's a lot of money just because I can't be bothered to plug a cord in.

So You'll Get One Then?

No. Shocker! I only just got an iPhone 7 a couple of months back when my 6 died. So this upgrade was never on the cards for me personally. But I'm not excited to get an iPhone X, and that's perhaps my biggest take away here. It just looks like a bigger 3GS, and a bit like an existing Android phone if I'm honest. I dunno, maybe in a few years they'll have changed the notch design. Maybe any kinks in Face ID will be worked out and it'll be just as fast as Touch ID ever was. Time will tell.

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On Dropping Tech Giants

John Gruber links to an interesting thought experiment from the New York Times, which tech giant would you drop?

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are not just the largest technology companies in the world. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my column, they are also becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world. But which of the Frightful Five is most unavoidable? I ponder the question in my column this week.

But what about you? If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

Here's my list, from first dropped to last.

1. Facebook. Easy one. I don't, and won't, use Facebook. Nor do I use Instagram. So no tears to be shed if they suddenly disappeared off the planet tomorrow.

2. Microsoft. Almost the same as above. I don't use any Microsoft products these days, so this one is also easy. Well to be fair once a week we have a work conference Skype call. But calls in Slack are great (and actually better quality) so if Skype went away everything would still be ok.

3. Amazon. Unlike almost 100% of the planet, I don't really use Amazon for anything on a regular basis. I'm really an instant gratification person. If I want something, I'll drive an hour to get it so I don't have to wait. Even paying for next day delivery is too much for my got to have it now mind. Although I'd have to say that it is super handy for buying presents for my family in the UK, so I do use it about 3 times a year at most. Work wise, we do have some things on AWS that would be a pain to migrate. But not impossible.

4. Google. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the Goog. They make some good tech, but are still an advertising company first. It's complicated. You'll hear me say I'm not overly keen on tracking and having my data mined. And yet in the next breath I'll say I still use a couple of their tools. The hypocrisy is strong with this one. I don't use Chrome – Firefox on desktop and Safari on mobile. I don't use Search – I switched to duckduckgo a few years ago and haven't looked back. I don't use Android – I can't really see me migrating away from an iPhone any time soon. (And here comes the but) But we do use Google Docs at work quite heavily and it's actually not terrible. And I'm a huge Gmail user. I pay Google to host my kevinspencer.org mail as I haven't got the time nor patience these days to maintain my own mail server. There's something to be said about having something "just work". Gmail has always ticked all the boxes for me – I've used it since it was invite only (remember that?) and can't imagine using anything else now. And YouTube. Who doesn't love a little watch that concert from that band from the 80s nostalgia?

Which leaves…

5. Apple. No real surprise. We're a Mac shop at work, and since 2008 Mac at home too. There's something to be said for Unix with a pretty face. My wife and I have owned iPhones for as long as I can remember. The cameras are so good these days that I don't use my DSLR anymore. My brain is just wired for iOS and I really don't fancy learning anything new. Oddly I find that I don't use any of Apple's other software or services. I don't use iCloud for anything, don't use their Doc suite, don't use their photos app, and the Kevin Spencer of 2010 will be shocked to hear that I rarely use iTunes much these days. But Apple's hardware and operating systems are just second to none and it would be super painful to switch to anything else now.

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