What or how?


I may have written a similar article to this recently, but a listen to the latest Talk Show podcast made me think about the subject a little deeper.

John Gruber in particular waxed lyrical about the true tone display of the iPad and the new 120Hz ProMotion display on the latest iPad Pros. The discussion continued to cover many subtle changes that were announced in this year’s keynote and past launches where many new features crept out under the noses of those who wanted innovative and exciting new toys to play with.

I was taken by the way John enthused about the true tone display and how he understood the true benefits of the technology. His understanding of what true tone meant was revealing and a world away from what 99% of us see, but it is the entire point of this article.

When I look back at the retina display, Touch ID, 3D Touch (possibly), the screen enhancements and so much more, it all comes down to ‘how’ the products work. This is why I use an iPhone. It has always been the fact that ‘it just works’ 99.9% of the time. Yes yes, it just works is a cliche of the highest order and it causes the rolling of eyes amongst many a non-Apple customer, but there is a seamless usability about the product that is hard to quantify.

When I pick up my iPhone, MacBook or iPad Pro and just start working I appreciate the software and hardware without actually realising it. When I wear the Apple Watch for days on end, I occasionally stop and realise that it is a good watch. It genuinely is.

I then think about the Lenovo laptop I use for work every day and every Android phone or tablet I have used and that feeling is simply not there. I miss the how, but I do then realise that I am perhaps behind the curve in terms of the what.

A quick look at any modern Android phone highlights that it is Apple who is behind the curve in terms of pushing the boundaries of what phones and possibly computers can do. There are many features that are genuinely exciting and which deservedly gain recognition from the masses, and for those like me who are stuck in the Apple world it can be quite surprising what can be done.

The old joke about Apple inventing features and products that have been around for some time is actually true. The company does not explicitly say that new products are completely new to the industry, but it does fail to acknowledge what was there before. However, Apple’s patience is why the ‘how’ works so well so we are left with a choice.

I am going the how route because I want things to work and I don’t want to mess around with settings etc. There is a temptation to go with the what, but I am no longer someone who wants new features for the sake of them. I want to get something from my devices and I want them to benefit me.

How about you? Are you a how or a what person?

Categories: Articles

4 replies

  1. I guess more of a “what” though I usually think of it as “interested in nuance or no” with, roughly, nuance corresponding to how.

    But I like big new visceral interactions, not superb execution. Usually I’m insensitive to the quantitative superiority, wake me up when it becomes qualitative enhancement in what I can experience

    That said I’d be GREATLY interested in knowing some of the specifics of “A quick look at any modern Android phone highlights that it is Apple who is behind the curve in terms of pushing the boundaries of what phones and possibly computers can do”. I try to keep my eyes open to that… once upon a time it was “Android can run grey market video game emulators” and “Android can do voice transcription”. Haven’t seen much, and I find the topic fascinating.

    (I remember this really interesting list of new User Interaction ideas Samsung launched with the Galaxy 4 : http://marketingland.com/samsung-galaxy-s-iv-36261 – how many of those became anything other than gimmicks? )

    Of course, any “pushed boundary of what phones and possibly computers can do” new cool life changing feature has the caveat of that thing being so worthwhile it’s worth making all the sacrifices of a switch, and taking on what the ecosystem does worse, even to the extent that “worse” means “I’m not used to it”

    Anyway; in the way a quantitative superiority becomes a enabler of qualitatively different experience; I wonder how badly Siri is lagging other voice control features, and at some point could be a differentiator in the other direction.

  2. Is it just me, or do the AirPods look angry?

  3. Interesting question. I don’t mind figuring things out, but only when that’s the intent. For example, if I get a new app, I don’t mind taking the time to learn how to use it, but when I do want to use it, I expect it to do its job. I don’t want to start a war here, but that’s been my experience with Windows versus MacOS. I can get into Windows settings and what not and I know what questions to ask if I’m at a loss, but too many times, it gets in the way of what I want to do. I’m not saying that MacOS is perfect by any means, or that I never change settings, but generally, it doesn’t get in my way. So I guess the bottom line, not that this is a true binary, is that I’m a how person.

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