Mobile Platforms and Technical Debt

One way to look at this is that iOS and Android have been converging – they arrived with more or less the same capabilities despite starting from opposite ends. Apple has given up control where Google has taken it. And of course Google has had to add lots to Android just as Apple had to add lots to iOS (and they’ve generally ‘inspired’ each other on the way), and just as Apple has added cloud services Google has redesigned the user interface (twice, so far).

But the underlying philosophies remain very different – for Apple the device is smart and the cloud is dumb storage, while for Google the cloud is smart and the device is dumb glass. Those assumptions and trade-offs remain very strongly entrenched.

Mobile platforms and technical debt — Benedict Evans

Don’t Overpromise


Microsoft’s recently announced HoloLens, a holographic augmented reality headset, looks quite impressive, but despite a deluge of media coverage, it’s quite difficult to get a proper understanding of how far advanced the technology actually is. Reading first hands-on experiences from reporters who were given the opportunity to try it out, albeit without any equipment to record the experience, it sounds like the technology is still far from being market ready. Let’s hope they figure out a way to turn this into a bigger and longer lasting success than the Kinect:

The bizarre thing is a huge amount of effort and time and money goes into researching the tech, like the Kinect tech and scanning the bodies, and there’s always this one line that hardware manufacturers – whether it be Microsoft or anyone else – say and that’s ‘we can’t wait to see what happens when it gets into the hands of developers.’ Now if Apple had said that when they introduced the iPhone, I don’t think we’d ever end up with the iPhone! What really should happen is that they put a similar amount of money into researching just awesome real world applications that you’ll really use and that work robustly and smoothly and delightfully.

Molyneux warns Microsoft: Don’t overpromise on HoloLens |

Chinese Mobile App UI Trends

Dan Grover recently moved from San Francisco to Guangzhou and became a product manager on WeChat, a popular messaging app in China. In an extensive blog post he shares some insights into Chinese mobile app UI trends and how they differ from the US and Europe. There are many interesting observations in his post, such as a trend towards walled gardens and portals in China, whereas in the west there’s a trend towards app unbundling. Benedict Evans also wrote about these two contrasting trends back in August.

One of the most interesting little tidbits for me, however, came as part of the description of WeChat’s Moments feature, which provides a news feed, but in subtly different ways than we’re used to from Facebook:

When you like or comment on a friend’s post, only they and any mutual friends can see it – not all of both parties’ friends, as on Facebook. This means that only the author of a post has an accurate idea how many people liked or commented on their post. This lowers’ users inhibitions in engaging with their friends’ posts.

This makes so much more sense to me than how Facebook’s news feed works right now. On Facebook, the reach and visibility of my actions is beyond my grasp and control. In that sense, interacting with Facebook feels like an act of performance in front of an unknown audience to me, and for that reason I refrain from doing so at all. By restoring a measure of privacy in Facebook interactions, it could become a much more intimate and useful communications tool. Then again, judging by the contents of my news feed, I’m pretty sure that Facebook is much more interested in being a media publishing company than a communications service provider.

Post Flat Design

Wells Riley:

I propose post flat design – not just as a new way of thinking about design aesthetic – but also creating sensible visual hierarchy and more understandable interfaces for our users. Some qualities of a post flat interface may include:

  • Hierarchy defined using size, and composition along with color.
  • Affordant buttons, forms, and interactive elements
  • Skeuomorphs to represent 1:1 analogs to real-life objects (the curl of an e-book page, for example) in the name of user delight or affordance
  • Strong emphasis on content, not ornamentation
  • Beautiful, readable typography

I’m not quite sold on the Post Flat moniker, but those are some design principles I can easily and gladly get behind.

Watch Etiquette

Stephen Hackett:

The promise of a wrist-based notification system is one of glanceable information. “There’s no need to be rude and pull your phone out,” the wearable market says. “Just discretely look at your wrist!”

What I’ve discovered is that there are lots of situations that looking at your watch is also considered rude.

Warren Ellis:

But I am 46 years old, and I am here to tell you that there was a time when looking at your wristwatch during a conversation was considered bloody rude. Hell, it arguably cost George HW Bush an election. Am I the only one who remembers “oh, is there somewhere else you have to be?” or “oh, am I keeping you?” or “did you know it’s rude to look at your watch while having a bloody conversation with someone?”

Cicret Bracelet

The Cicret Bracelet‘s promise is a projected phone interface on your skin. It’s a neat idea, but given my understanding of the current state-of-the-art of projected interfaces, what they are promising doesn’t seem remotely feasible – so please don’t take this post as an endorsement to give them money because I’m highly skeptical this project will come to fruition (I’d love to be proven wrong though).

Nevertheless, their pitch video is a decent enough piece of design fiction to keep it for reference:

A Smartwatch That Projects Buttons Onto Your Skin

“How you make a watch bigger without actually making it bigger?” asks Gierad Laput, a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon in the Future Interfaces Group. His answer? Turn your arm into an extension of the watch. In a recently-published paper, Laput and his team explore projecting interactive buttons onto skin as a way to extend a smartwatch’s display.

via A Smartwatch That Projects Buttons Onto Your Skin | WIRED