Maybe I would have done better sitting with the normal kids at lunch and not taking a handicapped bus twice a week to hang out with every nerd my age in town.
— Meaghan O’Connell on the social dilemma of “gifted” programs.
Maybe I would have done better sitting with the normal kids at lunch and not taking a handicapped bus twice a week to hang out with every nerd my age in town.
— Meaghan O’Connell on the social dilemma of “gifted” programs.
It felt like there had been a massive evacuation, followed by an aerial bombing, and no one had returned. Far from the interstate, the ghetto received little through-traffic. I wondered if being out of sight of the highway kept these areas looking the way they did. Far more people travel by car than by train. If more people saw these neglected places, would they stay the way they are?
— Emily Guerin: The Northeast Corridor By Rail
The problem is that, golly gee, why just programmers? Surely there are people out there in different professions–you know, candlestick makers, robotics engineers, and designers of favicons–who could use a site much like Stack Overflow to get answers to their hard questions. And some of these people must have questions, themselves, about candlesticks, positronic brains, and teeny tiny pixels, and they must be frustrated when they go to a bulletin-board site and the right answer is buried on page 50.
So we created Stack Exchange to bring the technology behind Stack Overflow to a much wider variety of sites. We tried charging for Stack Exchange, and that didn’t work so well. So we asked ourselves, “How would the people of 1999 solve this problem?”
And the best answer we could come up with was, let’s make the damn thing free, and get some VC somewhere to pay for it.
I’ve been following Stack Overflow since its announcement, mostly by listening to every episode of the podcast. (Really. Even when Jeff says something I don’t like about PHP.)
I’ve used the site to get answers numerous times, nearly always starting from Google and finding myself there from the first cluster of hits. And the Stack Overflow results are always of higher quality and relevance than anything else in Google’s first few pages.
So I’m happy to be tangentially involved with Stack Overflow’s next steps on their “board of advisors”, which means I get to sound like I do a lot of work but really just share my experience and opinion whenever they ask (and sometimes when they don’t).
The Stack Overflow team and investors comprise such a wealth of wisdom and ability that I have no doubts about their future success.
The view from the old commute:
(photo by gak, fortunately not conveying the smell of the Broadway-Lafayette F platform)
The view from the new commute:
(photo from the train on Monday, please ignore the big dirt spots on the window)
We don’t see many or most of the display ads we see online (this post isn’t talking about search ads btw). And it’s more than just “blindness”. I’m told over and over again the most popular firefox extension is ad blocker. And some of my favorite extensions like rapportive blow out the ads on gmail to make gmail better.
As a result of all of this, ads need to get smarter. That’s just evolution at work.
I disagree. No matter how “smart” ads get, there are going to be many people who, in some or all contexts, object to them enough to ignore them or seek out solutions to disable them.
If you currently block ads, is there anything the ads themselves can improve that would make you change your mind? (I’m guessing there isn’t.)
Even the best ads are still ads, and still aren’t always appropriate or wanted. I don’t think smarter ads are the solution to this problem. I don’t think ads are the solution to this problem. What if more ad-supported sites and services offered paid no-ads subscriptions?
And what could motivate ad-blocker users to pay for those subscriptions?
Would you pay $5 per month to remove every Google ad across all of their services and the content network (other sites displaying Google ads)?
Does your answer change if, instead of Google, it’s $2 per month to remove ads on your favorite indie blog or service? What if it’s messaged as a premium “supporter” subscription that makes you feel good about supporting your favorite blog, and it happens to remove the ads as well?
A video demo shown on the Kin site offers a scenario where you might drag a concert venue, a band’s MySpace page, a few photos you’ve taken, and a friend’s status update to the Spot and then send an email about going to show… but no one really works like that, and the Kin UI doesn’t make it any more logical. It’s actually a really cumbersome way to communicate — dragging one abstract thing towards another abstract thing doesn’t make more sense than deciding to send an email, typing a few addresses, and throwing some pictures or links into the message… it just doesn’t.
But the obtuseness of this user experience doesn’t stop with the Spot — it permeates the entire interface as though decisions about how things should work were made almost arbitrarily, without anyone stopping to test them in the real world.
John Gruber’s response to the Kin phones:
Why do these products even exist?
The Microsoft of today is a bureaucratic, inefficient behemoth throwing tons of cash around to do absolutely nothing remarkable or compelling. Their products are wasteful and underwhelming, and their marketing campaigns are puzzling at best.
Think of the resources that went into this new Kin platform, Windows Mobile 6.5, Windows Phone Series 7, Zune, and Zune HD. Imagine what Microsoft could have done if, instead of fragmenting their product line, developer community, and internal resources with all of these, they instead focused on one great platform the way Apple has done with iPhone OS.
Clearly, there’s a huge effective vacancy in top leadership. There’s nobody running this company.
Sure, there are managers. Microsoft has a lot of managers, and under Ballmer, the hierarchy has deepened. Oh yeah, there’s Ballmer. But he seems only reactive to immediate and operational needs, lacking the creativity, foresight, insight, or focus to steer the company in any new or even coherent directions. He’s like a low-level operations manager who got promoted too far via the Peter Principle. He can keep the company going on its established path, but he misses every major new market opportunity, and when something important breaks, he doesn’t know what to do.1
The people making decisions seem more out of touch with reality than ever before. As Joel noted:
Now when you talk to anyone who has been at Microsoft for more than a week you can’t understand a word they’re saying. Which is OK, you can never understand geeks. But at Microsoft you can’t even understand the marketing people, and, what’s worse, they don’t seem to know that they’re speaking in their own special language, understood only to them.
Microsoft’s products from the last decade have felt like elaborate rides. Much of the operation of the OS is done via a large collection of wizards, with users (not customers) clicking Next, Next, Next so Microsoft can do whatever it wants or tells you that it needs to do. (Watch how non-geeks use their Windows computers. It’s sad.) It’s really Microsoft’s computer, not yours — you’re just the consumer along for the ride. Excuse me, the experience.
Combine this effect with the terrible, puzzling marketing campaigns — what are they trying to say? — and it’s no wonder that the products that do make it out of Microsoft are so often confusing, pointless, and inexplicable.
I fear the same may apply if Tim Cook inherits Apple’s CEO seat when Jobs leaves it. ↩
I went to buy Angry Birds on Topherchris’ recommendation and got this:
The first two pages of search results for “angry birds”.
The first two are real. Rocket Bird 3D and MY BEST FRIEND are other things (although probably keyword spammers). The other six of the top ten results for this game’s name are pure spam. Judging from the number of customer ratings, a lot of people are downloading them — and, reading the reviews, it looks like they’re mostly scams and ripoffs.
Most are from a handful of squatters. InTekOne, LLC has 58 apps, nearly all of which are “cheats” or “guides” for top App Store games, violating nearly all of their name and icon trademarks in the process and ripping off thousands of buyers.
ESCAPP is similar with 24 apps, 13 of which are scam “cheats” apps that violate other games’ trademarks (and I bet most of the others violate various photo and text copyrights):
Ben Cousins has 86 scammy apps, including 12 “cheats” apps and many more “guide” and “trivia” apps, plus a few more audacious squats such as “iFart - Epic Rip Edition” (the famous iFart app is made by someone else):
And I found all of these from just the top 10 search results for one popular game. (And I’m not even mentioning popular-app keyword spam today, which is still massively widespread even though some apps get rejected for including names of other apps in their keywords.)
Apple’s reviewers are in a difficult position: any large-scale developer bans in the App Store are likely to attract negative press, so they’re probably reluctant to do any.
But when so many obviously spammy and trademark-infringing apps are getting through, it makes every trivial rejection by real developers even more frustrating.
When an app is infringing on your copyright or trademark, the proper procedure is to send a clear notice to email@example.com citing your intellectual property and which apps are infringing it (provide their iTunes URLs to eliminate ambiguity). As part of this notice for trademark infringements, you can request that apps not be allowed to use your trademark to market themselves in search results (keyword spam).
I wasn’t able to find this information when I first looked for it when I had an Instapaper squatter, so I’m publishing it here with permission in case it helps other developers.
At Least When Business Insider Copies My Articles Nearly In Their Entirety, They Write Their Own Sensational Titles To Replace Mine And Make Me Sound Much More Critical Of Apple Than My Posts Really Are, Every Single Time I Write Anything About Them.
If you’re reading this, there’s a better-than-average chance that you own an iPad. Have you tried to show it to someone extremely nontechnical, like that parent or grandparent who has never really used computers, or those friends who are always scared of technology because their computers always confuse them and cost them money?
You hand it to them, the screen auto-rotates, and they freak out for a second and think they broke something.
With universal auto-rotation, the massive touch screen, and highly reactive apps, the iPad (and the iPhone, but it’s worse on the iPad) is always “hot” — touch anywhere on the screen, brush off a speck of dust, or change its orientation slightly (often unintentionally), and something changes. You did something. Maybe you think you broke something, maybe you lost your place, or maybe you’re disoriented for a few seconds.
We’re not accustomed to this. You can pick up a TV remote, twirl it around, and run your finger over some buttons without triggering anything. It has very small hot zones that you’re unlikely to accidentally trigger.
When the hot zone is the entire device, and it’s a device you’re likely to be frequently picking up and handling, using it is actually slightly stressful: you don’t want to accidentally trigger unexpected behavior, so you’re more careful and cautious. Every time it auto-rotates when you didn’t intend it, it’s a minor frustration: this device isn’t working right, it isn’t listening to you, and you kinda suck at it.
One reason the Kindle seems like a more “peaceful” ebook reader, and why the Kindle 2 is so much better than the first Kindle, is that it has almost no hot zones. Accidentally rotate it a bit in bed? Nothing happens. Grab the side and pick it up? Nothing happens. Accidentally rest your thumb on the button without deliberately pushing down on the inner edge? Nothing happens. Brush some dust off the screen? You guessed it: nothing happens.
When you want to take an action, it’s not difficult or hard to find — it’s just hard to trigger actions accidentally.
By minimizing hot zones, the result is a lower-stress product that’s more pleasant for people with low technical confidence. When everything is a hot zone, user stress and frustration increases.
Everyone, two years ago: “Why aren’t you making a Facebook app, Marco?”
Most things are great so far. The reward we’ve reaped as a society for shoving greenbacks into Apple’s bank account for the last decade is that we have much better stuff now. It’s the exact opposite effect we got from making Microsoft big.
— Mike Industries: A good problem to have
Intel’s stock performance over five years, as this chart shows, has been mostly flat to down. Much like Microsoft. Just as they have always been, the fates of the Wintel duopoly are still pretty intertwined. From the looks of it, both companies are going nowhere fast. Which is amazing considering that both companies still have a monopolistic control over the personal computer ecosystem.
— Om Malik: Why Intel Will Be a Mobile Loser
The hero of the Times Square bomb attempt was an immigrant. A Muslim. Senegalese newcomer Aliou Niasse was the first to notice the smoldering car and draw attention to it. He had no time left on his cell phone and realized his English probably wasn’t up to the task, so he got a passerby to call 911. In Arizona the cops would have hauled him off to jail while the car exploded.
— Some Assembly Required (via AZspot)
Android phones have been selling extremely well and outsold iPhones in Q1. A big chunk was taken out of iPhone sales, but a bigger chunk was taken out of BlackBerry sales.
I suspect that what we’re seeing says a little about Android and a lot about Verizon.
Android is getting a lot of fans for its own sake, but the biggest reason for their recent growth has been the availability of Verizon phones and a massive push in Verizon stores and marketing materials towards their Droid line (and away from BlackBerries) as the premier high-end phones.
Google can take credit for this sales boost if they want, but if a Verizon iPhone becomes available and Android sales plummet in the following quarters, they’ll need to explain the loss, too.
The devices aren’t the problem.
Jakob Nielsen’s “cards vs. scrolls” analogy is interesting for iPhone and iPad usability decisions.
Instapaper Pro’s reading view presents a scrolling interface, but pagination temporarily and dynamically splits it up into virtual pages (like Nielsen’s “cards”) for easy reading. The critical difference between Instapaper and other reading apps on the iPad, including iBooks and Kindle, is that Instapaper’s pagination can be toggled off and switched to scrolling at any time.
To me, this made sense: web pages are Instapaper’s content, and they’re natively long, unpaginated columns. The long column is the actual form of this content, and the pagination is simply a more convenient form of scrolling tacked on top of it.
Instapaper enjoys a few advantages as a result of this structure: for instance, it’s the only paginated reading app I know of that lets customers select a block of text that spans across a page break1, because as soon as a text selection is started, Instapaper temporarily turns off pagination and allows the content to be scrolled normally.
Text selection is important to Instapaper customers so they can copy, email, take note of, or blog about passages from what they’re reading.
In practice, this implementation requires Instapaper to forgo certain features, like multiple columns2, consistent page numbers, and most fancy page animations. But I’m willing to break from the print metaphor whenever necessary to allow modern niceties to enter the product.
On the actual Kindle 2 device, selections can span page breaks. But not on the Kindle iPad app, because they’re using UIWebView (like me), and it’s simply not possible to do in any sort of remotely practical way with their implementation of pagination. ↩
I’ve been unable to find an iPad app with multi-column text that allowed text selection at all, let alone across column breaks. Even in Mobile Safari, when displaying CSS3 columns, it’s nearly impossible to get a selection to span a column break. ↩
The Big Picture: Disaster unfolds slowly in the Gulf of Mexico
TJ’s excellent interpretation of my release notes:
Perhaps second on my list of “Favorite Release Notes To Read” is Instapaper. What is impressive is not the ongoing development and improvement of an application that is already widely considered “essential” by many people, but also what gets removed from each version.
“X was a bit of a hack to deal with Y. I’ve dealt with Y so X is now gone.”
“Q was a bad idea so I’ve replaced it with R.”
“Previously there was an option to do G or H, but G was buggy and so H is the only option from this point forward.”
And so on…
It takes either a lot of arrogance or self-confidence (which of course is a very fine line to begin with) or to do this. On more than one occasion I have found myself thinking, “BUT I USE THAT!” and soon afterwards thinking “Yeah, but I don’t really miss it.”
Exactly. What Instapaper does, in both the website and the iPhone app, is a small, solid foundation under a massive collection of hacks and just-barely-working features to do things that you’re not supposed to be able to do. That’s why they need to be hacks.
Parsing text out of a web page? Easy. Trying to figure out which parts of the input are not important with enough confidence to remove them? Pile of hacks.
Showing HTML content in an iPhone/iPad app? Easy. Making it behave like a book and tilt and paginate and adjust fonts and save your position and work offline and not look like hell? Pile of hacks.
Any time a pile of hacks is involved, it’s going to need to be updated and improved frequently. Sometimes, that means removing some of the hacks. But there’s a bigger point, even for simple features.
Making a product better often requires removing features.
I have to give credit to Brent Simmons for helping me get over my fear of feature removal, by his example and expressed philosophies.
Dealing with the negative feedback is tough. Every feature removal, even if minor, is greeted with an initial barrage of emails from people whose lives I have just completely ruined by this change to my free website or my $5 iPhone application. I still get an email about once a week from someone who wants to burn down my hose1. It’s especially tough with web and iPhone apps, for which there’s no good way, or no way at all, for the offended customers to just keep using the old version.
But the result, once the fire has died down, is a much better product for the majority of customers.
If I could never remove features, I’d never add any.
In short: Like everything about AT&T’s network, it disappoints.
Starting today, I’m joining BankSimple as a co-founder, with the role of Chief Product & Technology Officer. In a nutshell, I’m going to make sure we build something that’s simple, beautiful, and works really really well.
Banking today is one of those unfortunate industries in which nearly every choice is bad. Most people choose between a handful of giant companies that are largely the same and equally ill-intentioned.
Better choices by people with modern technical and product sensibilities would be a welcome alternative.
For this to have been worth leaving his job at Twitter, I bet this is going to kick ass.
Rationalizing the purchase of an iPad usually includes a few of these:
After a month of heavy use, I don’t think it’s good for any of those. A more accurate list might be:
The iPad is a great device, but what’s it for, really?
Logically, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for most computer owners. In reality, if you needed a laptop before, you probably still need one. If you want to read novels, the Kindle is still a much better device for that. If you need a small computer for ancillary tasks that’s always connected and always with you, an iPhone is better (and you probably already have one). And, even though it’s a great deal for the hardware, most people will have trouble justifying the $500 entry price.
But using it is satisfying and delightful, and there are some things that it does better than a computer. That list isn’t as big as I, and probably most early buyers, initially assumed. And that’s OK.
The Kindle has a built-in web browser and is always connected to the internet for free. That’s amazing. Imagine how useful that is! But, in reality, it’s not. It’s such a terribly suited device for web browsing that the browser is buried in an “Experimental” menu and almost no Kindle owners are likely to have used it more than once. The Kindle isn’t even great at reading all “books”: textbooks and anything relying heavily on graphics, color, navigation, or precise formatting are all nearly unreadable on the Kindle. Even most periodicals offer a passable-at-best reading experience, despite having the huge technical advantage of scheduled, automatic, wireless delivery.
It doesn’t matter, though, because the Kindle is great at one thing: reading novel-length text.
We don’t need every computer-like device to do everything. A gadget just needs to be good at something that you need or want to do.
For me, my iPad is the ideal Instapaper device. It’s also a lot of fun for games, especially with multiple people gathered around. And it’s convenient to casually browse RSS, Twitter, and the Tumblr Dashboard on it while hanging out around the apartment away from my computer, even though I also do these things on computers. It’s the perfect living-room computer that lives on the coffee table and can be used to quickly look up a fact, find a restaurant, check mail, browse news, and play a game.2
It’s absolutely not a productivity device for me, but that’s OK: I have computers for that.
Accepting that the iPad isn’t an all-purpose computing device is going to be a slow process for everyone, including Apple. They can’t quite explain what it’s for, either, which is why the launch marketing, software, and accessories are a bit scatterbrained. For instance, if you’re using a hardware keyboard with the iPad very often, you’d probably be much better served by a MacBook Air.
This doesn’t make the iPad a worse product or a waste of money3. It’s just not as general-purpose as a regular computer. (Nothing could be. That’s an impossible goal.)
Find the balance: use the iPad for what it does well, accept that it won’t be everything, and use other tools for the rest.
Plants vs. Zombies has probably sold more iPads than iBooks has. ↩
The iPhone also does all of these things, but I’d rather use the iPad if it’s nearby because the additional screen space will allow me to do these things more effectively and efficiently than on the iPhone. It’s like having both a desktop and a laptop: you use the desktop if you’re near it. ↩
But you may not be able to as easily rationalize its cost, e.g.: “If I buy an iPad, I can sell my laptop!” Because you probably won’t. ↩
Do me a favor, will you? Stop giving me the run around just like the rest of the world does. I am sick and tired of reaching for something, following all the directions, etc., etc., only to find out I can’t have it.
— From the saddest email I’ve received today.
It’s from an Internet Explorer user, frustrated that he couldn’t get Instapaper’s “Read Later” bookmarklet installed. (It’s incredibly clunky to do in IE, because IE doesn’t support the troops, poisons your children, and gives you cancer.)
It’s a sad look into the everyday browsing life of a user who, for whatever reason, is exclusively using Internet Explorer in 2010.
Read It Later is a competitor to my Instapaper service. I was asked for a comparison via email, and rather than pretend like a competitor doesn’t exist1 and keep silent about it on my blog, I’m comfortable addressing it (oh no! giving traffic and attention to a competitor!) and clarifying the differences.
There are many features that are exclusive to only one of us. But if your needs fit into the overlap between both products, the reasons to choose one over the other are more fundamental.
We have very different styles and design philosophies. Read It Later started as a Firefox extension, and Instapaper started as a bookmarklet and an iPhone-optimized text parser. Both products show their respective roots throughout, in everything from visual design to feature selection and implementation.
They’re different enough that most users of one would not be satisfied using the other, so we’re not really competing for the same users. In that way, we’re hardly competitors at all, and both of us have been respectful of each other in not trying to step on each other’s toes too much.
My top priority is reaching the 99% of iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad owners who have never heard of either of us.
A lot of other copycat services have cropped up since Instapaper’s launch in January 2008, but most of them are web-only (the easy part) and don’t have iPhone or iPad apps or good text parsers. Read It Later, whose Firefox extension (but not web or iPhone app) actually predated Instapaper, is the only real alternative on this scale. ↩
John Gruber on Android’s disproportionately low web-browsing share compared to its increasing market share:
I’m not sure how Android’s relatively low share of web traffic jibes with NPD’s report last week that Android phones outsold the iPhone last quarter. BlackBerrys are still the best-selling smartphones in the U.S., and their web presence rounds down to zero, so it’s certainly possible that Android users are more like BlackBerry users than iPhone users. But I always assumed that the reason BlackBerrys had such a small web presence is that RIM’s web browser was so crummy, and the screen sizes so small. Android phones have iPhone-size displays and a very good WebKit-based browser.
When the iPhone’s installed base was still small and it was doing a disproportionately large share of web browsing, we attributed the gain to the quality of Mobile Safari relative to all other mobile browsers (a gap that, while much smaller, still definitively exists today).
Now, I think that was only part of the story. And now that the same disproportional gain is happening with the iPad, I think we’re seeing the effects of other factors.
The reason browser quality matters for web usage is that if a feature is painful or impractical, people don’t just reduce its usage relative to their satisfaction — most of them just don’t do it at all.
But poor browser quality isn’t the only reason why people would choose not to browse the web very much on their phones: another big reason is that they just don’t feel like browsing the web on their phones. Or they don’t like it. Or they never need to. Or they don’t know that they can.
The people who bought the first iPhone, and the people who are now buying the iPad, are not these people. Early adopters will browse the web on their new devices even more than they feel like, or enjoy, or need to, because it’s novel and we like doing novel technological things.
Android’s most recent gains can be almost entirely attributed to the dominance in Verizon’s lineup of high-end Android phones, plus a massive marketing push from Verizon with both advertising and in-store promotions. There are huge banners plastered all over the stores. The phones get prominent display placement. The employees are given bonuses and entered in contests for selling the most Android phones, specifically. If you walked into a Verizon store today wanting a high-end phone and you didn’t have a strong affinity to any particular platform, you’d almost definitely walk out with an Android phone.
(Six months ago, you would have walked out with a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile phone in this scenario, which is why they took huge dives corresponding with Android’s rise in that NPD report.)
My theory is that the people buying the majority of Android phones sold today aren’t geeks or early adopters anymore: they’re “normal people” who don’t care enough about web browsing to do it in great quantity. The phase in which the early adopters were buying Android phones just wasn’t strong enough to build up a big proportion of them: not enough were swayed from the iPhone.
I think most geeks who have been using iPhones and haven’t already switched to Android are unlikely to switch for the foreseeable future. The early-adopter window is closed on Android already. They’ve moved on to mainstream competition, and the mainstream doesn’t include nearly as many people, relatively, who like to browse the web on their phones.
Some people are criticizing John Gruber’s piece on iPad and Android browser share because Apple-product owners are more likely to visit his site (a bias he clearly acknowledged). I was curious to see more widespread numbers, so I got permission to post Tumblr’s OS percentages from Google Analytics for the tumblelog network.
This includes most human visits to all Tumblr-hosted blogs, not the tumblr.com site itself, to best represent “average” people online who happen to come across Tumblr-hosted sites, not just Tumblr members. Granted, this still isn’t perfect, but it’s probably the biggest and least biased sample that we’ll be able to find in the indie-Mac-pundit world.
Left: Including “normal” computers. Right: Only mobile devices.
Sample from May 9-15, 2010, as measured by Google Analytics.
The most surprising part of this, to me, is how well the Macintosh is faring against Windows. But in the mobile space, Android is actually doing quite well, given its tiny installed base relative to iPhone OS. My premise in this post may have been completely wrong.
The iPad is putting up an especially impressive performance given that it’s only available in the U.S. so far, has only been on sale for 6 weeks, costs at least $500, isn’t subsidized, isn’t always in your pocket, and isn’t being given away in two-for-$99 sales by the largest cellular provider in the country.
Microsoft—in a nutshell—is a company that had one successful product that we are all beholden to—that then used that capital to buy other people’s products and ruin them. They are not bad people, but they do stab their friends in the back. Also, they are a bunch of nerds, which is probably why they have never managed to produce a decent interface.
Google—in a nutshell—is a company that had one successful product that we are all beholden to—that then used that capital to buy other people’s products and ruin them. They are not bad people, but they do stab their friends in the back. Also, they are a bunch of nerds, which is probably why they have never managed to produce a decent interface.
Apple is a company that produces amazing, human-usable products. I love them for the same reason I love any such company, and I forgive them their eccentricities because their products are so amazing. They make decisions that I’m told are bad for me, yet I don’t see that reflected in their products as I use them.
— Mike Lee (via caseyliss)
I’m a huge fan of Cole Haan’s fancy leather Kindle case, so when I got an iPad and quickly realized it needed a case for convenient carrying outside of the home, I was disappointed to see that nobody had made a great leather case. Every other folio-style case I saw looked like a cheap cellphone case from 2002.
But Piel Frama’s magnetic-closure case looked promising. It was only available for preorder, nobody had reviewed it, and it cost 110 € with shipping (about $137 today) — not unreasonable for a nice leather case, but not cheap.
I took the risk and ordered one for The Good Of The Internet. (Well, for myself. But I’ll share it with you.)
The leather and craftsmanship are both very high quality. The price is right.
It’s a basic folio design with no surprises. Holes are cut for all ports, including the speaker on the bottom edge and even the ambient light sensor in the top bezel.
The top cover has an interior pocket — the line by the spine is actually a flap — but putting anything beyond a sheet of paper in there would ruin the shape of the case and stretch out the pocket’s flap, so it’s not particularly useful. Piel Frama included a little suede rectangle in the pocket to buff fingerprints off the screen, which is convenient and probably the most useful thing to carry in the pocket.
The magnetic closure is especially nice, with just the right strength that it won’t accidentally open but not so much that opening it is a chore. You can see the round magnet outlines in the right-side corners of the bezel cover:
Like the Apple case, the top cover has a folding flap that allows the iPad to be propped up such that the iPad’s top edge is about 1.75” above the surface it’s resting on.
Unlike Apple’s case, this is the only non-flat orientation in which this case can safely be propped. If you need to prop it up in any other orientations, this isn’t the case for you.
As you can see, the leather flaps that cover the bezel don’t rest completely flat. With mine, it’s more pronounced on the top and right sides, with the left and bottom being almost perfectly flat. I don’t usually notice this during use.
Inserting the iPad is easy: slide it in. To remove, just push a bit on the right edge, and it slides smoothly out from the left side. Installation and removal from Apple rubber case, by comparison, is extremely difficult because of the rubber’s texture.
But the Kindle 2’s side-clip mechanism is much better than anything I’ve seen for the iPad. Apple may not be able to copy it because of Amazon’s patents, but some kind of build-in mounting support in the iPad would be a welcome change (that I don’t really expect to happen) for version two.
There’s one big reason you might not want this case, even if you’re fine with the cost: compared with Apple’s rubber mess of a case, it adds a bit of weight and a lot of thickness, at about 1” thick when closed.
Apple’s rubber case at left, Piel Frama at right, flat on a desk with iPads in them.1
Since the iPad is a bit too heavy to comfortably hold up for a while without resting it on something, you could argue that adding weight with a case is a terrible idea. But I find that since I’m leaning it on something anyway, the extra weight doesn’t matter.
There’s a pretty good argument to be made for using a sleeve-style case with the iPad instead of a folio so you can enjoy its slimness during use. If you go that route, the nicest iPad sleeve I’ve seen by far is Jeff Rock’s WaterField Designs iPad Smart Case: it holds its shape without the iPad in it, so inserting it is much easier than a typical floppy sleeve, and the soft liner rubs fingerprints off the screen every time it’s inserted or removed.
Sleeves have a major downside: they’re not self-contained, so when you’re using your iPad, you need to put the sleeve somewhere. Depending on where and how you use it, that may be inconvenient enough to go with a folio. (For me, that’s usually true.)
So should you get this case? That’s up to you, but if you want a nice leather folio-style case, don’t mind the cost, and don’t need any other propped-up orientations except the basic slanted-typing one pictured here, this is a very good choice, and definitely the best that I’ve seen so far.
I apologize for the poor quality of this photo relative to the others. I had to take the opportunity when someone else was around with an iPad and an Apple case, so I shot it last week at work with my S90, no flashes, and no softbox. ↩
I don’t have an Apple rubber case anymore and returned it before I could weigh it, but some random forum posts I found a few weeks ago (and can no longer find, sorry) said it was about 170g. ↩
It’s easy to glorify Verizon as an iPhone owner, because AT&T is so awful. But Verizon sucks, too — just in different ways, for the most part.
I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer since 2004: phones for the first 4 years, and data via tethering and EVDO modems for the entire time. I recently upgraded to a MiFi 2200 and renewed my data contract for another 2 years. I’ve traveled all over the east coast, mostly in New York, using Verizon voice and data services (data-only in the recent years), and I use their data service every day in Manhattan and the surrounding area.
It’s not that great. Among the problems I’ve had:
So if there’s a Verizon iPhone in the future, there’s no guarantee that it will be significantly better than AT&T’s.
Verizon won’t be generous with plan pricing or terms. Expect to pay about the same rates as AT&T: a voice plan, separate charges for SMS/MMS, and $30/month for data (which will be required). They’ll probably even charge separately for Visual Voicemail.
Everyone criticizes AT&T for indefinitely delaying iPhone tethering, but once we can actually get tethering, many of the protestors will loudly object to the likely $30/month additional cost. Verizon will almost certainly charge the same rate, and is likely to limit it to 5 GB per month and specify terms that prohibit many common uses such as streaming video, streaming audio, and VoIP, just like all of their current data and tethering plans.
There would almost definitely be a Verizon Wireless logo somewhere on the iPhone’s case, probably on both the front and back. There may be separate Verizon music, video, and app store icons that you can’t delete. A built-in feature may be disabled at Verizon’s request because they want to sell you their own version for an additional monthly fee. Verizon may want a cut of any iTunes or App Store revenue from on-device purchases, the cost of which Apple would probably happily pass along to either users or developers. (My guess: Developers.)
This is Verizon we’re talking about. They might “save” us from some of AT&T’s problems, but they’ll bring their own.
It’s easy to think that the grass is always greener away from AT&T, but keep in mind that these are cellular carriers: massive oligopolists that don’t give a shit about us. Their phones are ARPU vending machines, first and foremost, not communication tools. Cellular carriers are only a small step above cable and phone companies in the contempt and disregard they show for their customers.
AT&T and Verizon are much more similar than not.
On May 21, 2008, the You Look Nice Today crew released their 8th episode, Sacks-Minnelli Disease. During the first 15 minutes or so of that episode, they discussed dance moves, including their own prototype (at that point) dance called “The Fishstick.”
On May 25, 2008, the man known only as lonelysandwich released his Fishstick video, and the world was forever changed.
To celebrate the 2nd anniversary of “Fishstick”, I am proud to present “Fish Schtick” — a collection of friends doing the Fishstick, with background music Tighten Up Pt. 1 (LP Version) by Archie Bell And The Drells. […]
I can either be a guy who writes novels, or I can be a guy who answers email. Realizing I cannot be both, I’ve made the decision, and now I live with it.
— Merlin Mann paraphrasing Neal Stephenson (via jonathan-deamer)