Temporarily disconnect WiFi and Bluetooth from iOS 11 Control Centre

Over this week, I’ve been constantly asked by a couple of friends over why the iOS 11 Control Centre doesn’t “turn off the radios”. 

So here’s the thing: iOS 11 puts WiFi and Bluetooth to sleep mode when the little blue dots turn grey on the control centre. With WiFi & Bluetooth disconnected the radio’s are still on but they aren’t actively looking for connections. 

They aren’t turned off, so AirDrop and AirPlay still work without being connected to a WiFi network. 

Another thing that I was asked was that if the WiFi and Bluetooth are temporarily disconnected will the connect to known connections automatically when they come near one? As in you walk into your room and you’re automatically connected to the Bluetooth Speaker, even if the control centre indicates the bluetooth to be inactive. Nope, this doesn’t happen. When the Bluetooth and WiFi are inactive, they don’t connect to known connections automatically. 

Turns out this is not a bug, but a feature, and arguably a good one. I have been trying out iOS 11 since the first beta, when it rolled out in June, earlier this year. Not once did I notice that the WiFi and Bluetooth wouldn’t turn off, the change in the implementation is pretty seamless and this doesn’t affect the battery life in any way. 

Pi wants to extend the reach of wireless charging | TechCrunch

Pi wants to extend the reach of wireless charging | TechCrunch

Apple’s needless cult of secrecy

Apple’s needless cult of secrecy

Here’s the Ionic, Fitbit’s long-awaited answer to the Apple Watch

Here’s the Ionic, Fitbit’s long-awaited answer to the Apple Watch

WSJ: ‘Apple Readies $1 Billion War Chest for Hollywood Programming’

WSJ: ‘Apple Readies $1 Billion War Chest for Hollywood Programming’

How Venice Beach influences Snapchat’s design

Vidit Bhargava
On a recent vacation to Venice, California, I had stumbled upon Snapchat’s old headquarters on Venice Beach. It was a white house with a blue rooftop that just blended in with the rest of the neighbourhood’s building. Also, I found the unique vibe and culture of Venice beach to be a good opportunity to understand what influences snapchat’s unique experience, and also to understand what design means to Venice and what drives the popular culture at the famed beach.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that Snapchat is an extremely culture driven company. There app’s design and graphics are very opinionated and while their user flow may have some issues, there’s a distinctive colour palette followed and a unique visual styling followed by the app. Venice Beach has a strong influence on the design, just roaming on the boardwalk, I felt if there’s anywhere that snapchat felt home, it was this place, it’s a perfect playground for snapchat’s use cases and a great inspiration board for anyone starting to design at snapchat.

Ephemeral Content

ephemeralContentRoll

Venice Beach famous for it’s eccentricities has a bunch of activities that happen every day, these events are short and fun, they gather your attention for a while but hours later there’s something else happening that gathers your attention.

This is just the kind of content that fits into the Snapchat narrative of photos, videos and stories being ephemeral. If I look at these events as a locale and not a tourist, none of these events would capture my attention for a long time, because there’s so much happening everyday.

Snapchat stories on the Venice Beach would be the best representation of the concept. Ephemeral and there’s always something new to share.

In fact this translates not just to the events but to the pop-up shops, that sell all the interesting goods near the beach. Even these shops keep changing over the course of the day. There’s very little at Venice beach that feels permanent and Snapchat’s inclination towards the ephemerality of the content shared by it’s users doesn’t feel coincidental.

Visual Styling – The Pallete of Venice Beach

VisualPallete
If you were to walk a bit further towards the city from the boardwalk, you’d be greated by more permanent shops, a ton of street art and a few residences. What stands out though is the colour. The street art, the shops and even sometimes the rooftops, they hall have this distinctive colour palette that it strikes out. Move a little further towards the beach, and even the beach sheds are soaked in the vibrant colours of Venice Beach.

A look at the snapchat app, and the choice of colours strikes as familiar to much of what’s used in the neighbourhood.

VisualPalleteRoll

Moreover, there’s this scrappy vibe to Venice Beach which doesn’t feel super-artistic and is far from minimalism. There’s a lot of street art, a lot of scrappy -hacked together art around the beach. A glance at the sticker dock in snapchat or at the newly released map feature or even the integration of bitmoji into the app, and you’ll see the scrappy, hacked together feel seep into the app.

Pop-Up Shops – Snap’s way of selling glasses

PopUpShops

Coming back to the shops near the boardwalk there’s one by Snapchat as well. And it’s just a garage which holds a claw machine to get a snapchat ghost toy and a snapbot vending machine that lets you try the Snap spectacles. It’s just a little better than a pop-up stall on the boardwalk opposite it. If anyone were to make them shut their garage, the snapbot and the claw machine would find home very easily on the boardwalk.

Now, Snapchat’s could have sold their glasses online from day one. But they set up these snapbot pop-up booths which’d turn up at random places around the city And soon be gone. If that reminds you of how the Venice Beach’s pop up stalls, you aren’t alone. These snapbot are based on a similar, even if a little more permanent, concept. Much like the Venice Beach stalls, you’ll probably not see a random snapbot lurking around at the same spot.

Giving it back to Venice Beach – Influence and Work

But Snapchat doesn’t just benefit from the Venice culture, there’s a lot that it contributes to the neighbourhood as well.

givingItBack

Sometime back earlier this year, Snapchat partnered with an LA education firm called Planet Bravo, to bring computer education to an elementary school in Venice. The Elementary school now thanks Snapchat for this genoristy on the display at the front gate.

But Snapchat’s influence has been a bit beyond brining computer education to Venice. It’s had an impact on the real estate of the place as well. Snapchat’s old headquarters which weren’t nothing more than a beautiful blue beach house, are now eclipsed by newer offices which look a lot more like a Silicon Valley office building, and they do sort of standout against the strong colourful vibe of the place and I fear there’ll be more startups mushrooming around the neighbourhood. But I hope they’d embrace the Venice culture in a similar way.

Having said that, while Snapchat’s offices stand out and can be distinctively seen from far away, they never feel out of place. The company does such a good job at embracing the neighbourhood’s culture that it never feels out of place.

Much like what Silicon Valley was to companies coming up around the 70s, Venice is to Snapchat. It’s a very different culture from Seattle or the SF Bay Area and that’s why Snapchat’s actions feels different from much of the valley’s startups.

Snapchat Final

Going home with the an edge to edge phone

Vidit Bhargava

The home button offers a clear exit path for the user to exit an app. It’s a comforting experience, a case of clear of navigation, that the iPhone has always had. 

Last week’s accidental firmware leak all but confirms an edge to edge phone, with a valley (a notch is a more pointed cut) at the top and a rounded rectangular clipping at the bottom. This makes for an interesting user interface and navigation challenge: What would the famous exit path for iOS users look like if it were to be based on software?

Here are a couple ways in which apple currently uses a virtual navigation.

Based on what Apple’s currently doing with the interface, I have a few ideas as to what that could look on the new iPhone.

Idea 1: Improving the navigation with a virtual HomeBar
A home bar like functional area would not only offer a home button but improve upon the device’s navigational structure. Basically, if you go by Apple’s HIG, a good navigation is based on three points :

1. Where am I?
2. Where did I come from?
3. Where can I go next?

and fourth, offering a clear exit path to the user.

The home button fits in to provide an exit path. With it going virtual, there’s room to do more with the navigation. Look at the CarPlay interface for example, it shows the recently used apps on the right as a way to quickly access them. The iPhone also offers Siri-Suggestions on the lock-screen to quickly launch an app. A virtual home button could offer all these in a single tray to offer better navigation to a user.

More than just improving the navigation, something like a virtual home bar also puts the iOS proactivity function to be at the front and centre of the interface. Intelligently notifying users to use the app they’re most likely to use next.

Idea 2: Using a pre-existing solution: Assistive Touch
Turns out Apple already made a virtual home button interface in the first version of iOS. It’s called “Assistive Touch”, an accessibility option that offers a virtual home button, in case you find it tough to press a physical one, or break it. The home button floats on top of the display and fades into a grey-ish icon once you start interacting with the phone. It’s a neat solution, and the home button can be anywhere you want it to be on the screen. Moreover, why spend so much time on a virtual home button when you already have one? 

Idea 3: Gesture based interactions for Multitasking and the Sleep wake switch for the HomeButton
If rumours are true, the next iPhone will work on face detection mechanisms to recognise a user’s identity. That makes the process of unlocking a device, more proactive, with the phone doing all the heavy lifting, where as the user just taps the phone, raises it, or presses the sleep/wake button. 

Imagine the scenario, press the sleep/wake button, the phone’s IR camera wakes up and recognises its you, and goes directly to the home screen, instead of the lock screen. The concept of a lock-screen is gone. If you’re in front of the phone, you don’t need to go through that screen anymore. At that point the sleep/wake button is no more a button to wake your phone to a lock screen, but the button that takes you to the home screen. It makes a lot of contextual sense in that case to be the exit route for when you want to exit an app. A single press to home, longer press for sleep and even longer to shut down, wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Reach navigation and the idea of putting the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.
There’s an interesting idea floating around that Apple may put navigation bar items to the bottom of the display. While it’ll be a good utilisation of the space at the bottom, and definitely a more ‘reachable interface’, putting the interface at the bottom of the screen would mean rethinking of a lot of iOS’s current interaction system. Basically, much of the iOS interactions would need to be redone, assuming that the navigation bar is now at the bottom, and moreover navigation bars also have custom views, that run through the entire width of a navigation bar, it’s going to be tricky to accommodate that into the bottom of the screen.

To be honest, All this is just conjecture, Apple could introduce a completely radical user interface for a virtual home button, or just make the assistive touch interface as the new normal and not even talk about it, but it’s a very interesting design problem to solve. And one that’s opened the possibility of rethinking the core iOS navigation for the first time in all these years. 

Affinity Photo for iPad: Review

Vidit Bhargava
Back in 2014, with the announcement of the iPad Air 2, Apple demoed Pixelmator, the photo editing app that wowed users with its retouch tools and an easy to use iOS-first interface, which made it an ideal prosumer application for photo editors and people looking to do more and more of their computing tasks with the iPad. However, Pixelmator was no photoshop. There were a lot of effects, settings and tweaks that photoshop offered on a mac. While Pixelmator didn’t eventually widen its offerings, another big player did. Serif, the makers of Affinity Photo, released the software for iOS this month. And with a complete pro feature set.

Usually when there’s a piece of “productivity” software for the iPad, it’s either easy to use, but limited in the feature set it provides, or it’s professional grade but one that’s based on an interface for the mac. The workflow isn’t quite “made for the iPad”, interactions that are more ideal for a mouse based device are pasted on a touch-device, but never really translate well And eventually we have a product that could theoretically do the desired task, but it would be much slower and more combursome, and eventually not worth the switch.

Where would Affinity photo fall in this spectrum? It needs to be iPad optimised and professional enough to be a worthy switch from photo editing on the mac to the iPad.

Selection Tools

Affinity Photo offers a host of selection tools which are extremely precise. But more importantly they are tools optimised for iOS. They’d be faster on iOS than on a mac. If you’ve ever used design tools on your computer one of the trickiest part of the process is using a selection tool on a complex part of an image. On the iPad, combined with the Apple Pencil the selection tools on affinity photo provide a quick way to select complex shapes. I particularly liked the refine tool, which allowed me to get a rough cut followed by a precise one.

If you were to start image editing today, you’d have a far easier time doing a lot of this stuff on Affinity Photo instead of photoshop, solely because of selection tools. They may not be technically superior but they are far easier to get a hang of, than something like photoshop on a computer, which takes some time to get used to.

Layers

The layer management on Affinity Photo includes things like the ability to mask objects, which is a happy inclusion in the app, since there are very few on iOS that’d actually do it (Apart for the the iWork apps, and Bez, I don’t recall many doing that).

Selecting Multiple Layers offer Boolean operations that allow for creating complex objects and shapes. There are Layers effects like Bevel and Emboss, 3D, Shadows, Glows, Overlays, etc. to provide a good host of editing opportunities to create decent renders. In my experience with the software, while these may not be efficiently grouped (Boolean Operations are in the three dots menu on top corner, blending effects like multiply, appear in the three dots menu in layer manager, and there’s a separate menu for layer effects which contains the shadows and glows etc. ) , they do offer a good catalog of options which were otherwise not available on iOS previously.

Is it professional enough

With enough tools to offer, Affinity Photo certainly gets the pro factor right and with decent import and export support, Affinity Photos is certainly one of those apps, which even if they don’t constitute of a primary workflow, would make sure you don’t need to fetch your laptop every time you want to tweak a shadow change the tone balance of an image you just clicked on your iPhone.

It’s not as though there haven’t been apps in the past that could do this sort of stuff, the name of Pixelmator comes up often, when we discuss about photoshop like on an iPad . However, Affinity Photo’s feature set pretty much blows all its iPad competition out of the water. You could look at it this way, If Pixelmator is GarageBand, Affinity Photo feels a lot like Logic Pro.

If Pixelmator is GarageBand, this feels more like Logic Pro.

The User Interface

Precision is easy to achieve

One of the nice things about the Affinity Photo interface is the fact there are enough precision tools to keep the app from being handicapped while maintaining an iPad like interface. Moreover, the interface for precision tools is really nice, with preset suggestions for values which are most oftenly used, along with a number pad for more control.

Typographic options are great.

There are enough typographic options in here to keep a type nerd engaged. You can change the tracking, leading, kerning, or enable ligatures, small caps, subscripts, super scripts, et all. If you are someone who cares about type, there are enough options to make things look great. Add to that, the makers of the software have added a range of custom typefaces as well.

However, typing is the worst feature of Affinity Photo. Even with a host of options, typing text on Affinity Photo is a horrid nightmare. Given Affinity Photo’s utter disregard for platform conventions, they’ve built in a custom clipboard for their app, which allows only the text from their app to be copied and pasted. A custom clipboard, text selection tool and the absence of proper quick type suggestions, makes the experience feel flaky and half baked.

Add to that, if you were hoping to use Affinity Photo to create miniature fliers or posters on the go, when you export in PDF, the text is rasterised! Making it unselectable on any other editor. Good luck with Affinity Photo, if you plan to right more than a couple of lines Of text.

Unfortunately, Affinity Photo’s disdain for platform conventions leads its UI into making a mess of simple things like deleting and renaming files. Infact much of Affinity’s interface is so far off the iOS paradigms that it feels almost alien to the platform at first. While some of these decisions do pay off, Most of them feel overdone.

Placing a document requires a minimum of two taps! and poor grouping of Layer based options, leaves users juggling between different menus

One of the biggest casualties of shunning iOS interfaces is the inclusion of circular sliders. Sure, they’re the coolest looking UI elements for a pro app. But they’re astronomically hard to use. Add to that, these sliders are very sensitive to random taps. They can drastically change their values, due to a single accidental tap on the screen. Making it even more difficult to work. I almost always end up using the precision controls. Which shouldn’t be the case if only minor tweaks were to be done.

Sure, they’re the coolest looking UI elements for a pro app. But they’re astronomically hard to use.

Affinity Photo is a powerful tool. There’s no doubt about it’s capabilities. But it’s also one that feels over designed. It’s a software which would have benefited a lot from better grouping, smarter interactions, and a better understanding of the platform it’s being built for. There’s no mistaking that Affinity Photo’s UI Design leaves a lot to be desired.

Does it help in creating a workflow?

All said and done, if an app is usable enough, if its professional enough to provide users with what they “need”, in a package that’s not catastrophically bad, I think there can be some workflow that can be formed around it to achieve certain tasks which it can do faster than its computer counterparts.

Affinity Photo allows that to a large extent. It makes some of the complex image editing tools easier, just because of their focus on a touch-screen optimised interface for selections, retouching and image manipulation.

Having said that, Affinity Photo has a long way to go to displace photoshop on a computer as a primary design tool. For it to be a real alternative, it needs to be faster than photoshop at doing some key tasks that users want, and it should be able to provide a large enough canvas to go from a white screen to a pro-shot.

Coming back to the spectrum of pro design apps on iPad. I’ll rank it somewhere here:

Pixel Quiz July 2017

Vidit Bhargava

Q1. X is the official alias for Lockhead Martin’s Advanced Development
Programs group. The name X originated back in the World War II days,
when Lockhead Martin was  first given a contract to build  fighter jets. X is
widely used to describe a group within an organization given a high degree
of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, with the task of working on
advanced or secret projects.

In the world of technology, we’ve often seen this technique (X) being
used.Most notably, when Steve Jobs established a 50 people lab to develop
the  first Macintosh. Or more recently the Google X Labs. Simply name X, the
name for which comes from a comic strip called “Li’l Abner”.

Q3. The name X derives from the from a greek Titan Y, a minimalist graphic of
whom also serves as its logo. The logo is a rendition of how we’ve forever
seen Y, being punished to hold up the heavens. X’s flagship product was released in 2004, called Jira. Jira, derives its name from the Gojira, the Japanese name for Gozilla, which itself is a reference to Jira’s primary competitor
at the time Bugzilla. With Jira, the titan that we saw in X’s logo, was made to
juggle different circular elements instead (since it’s a project management
tool). Simply identify X.

Q3. Examples stated by the creators of Granthika include :
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, before Harry and Hermione
go back in time, readers learn that Buckbeak is tied to a tree; however when
they go back in time, they see something else; In Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sher-
lock Holmes series, Watson’s war wound migrates from his shoulder to his
leg.

Granthika is a publishing tool, created by Vikram Chandra of the Sacred
Games fame. What problem Granthika aim to solve?

Q4. X was founded in 1994 when Paul Mercer, a software developer at Apple,
left to form his own company. Known for it’s simple navigational structure,
X was able to scale from greyscale displays to touch-screens, and existed in
the market for close to 16 years. X was one of the popular operating systems
in the early 2000s and yet few people ever knew the name. What is X and
Which famous product was the OS used for?

Q5. Nerdalize is a cloud computing platform that offers cloud servers for
households. You can buy and install an off the shelf server like you’d buy
other home appliances. However, there’s a bigger picture to installing the
server at your house. The company wants to harness the byproducts from
the server for another use as well. What dual purpose do these servers solve?


Download the latest edition of MVDIT TECH BOOK for more in technology and design : here 

Pixel Quiz June 2017

Vidit Bhargava

Q1. According to it’s creator Y, X was inspired from his own adventures
around the hillsides of a village called “Sonobe”. In an interview Y explained,
“When I was a child, I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise
for me to stumble upon it. When I traveled around the country without a
map, trying to  nd my way, stumbling on amazing things as I went, I real-
ized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.”

There was this one time when Y on one these Sonobe trips, discovered a cave
entrance. Y explored the inside of the cave through a lantern. All of these,
eventually make it to the gameplay of a very popular game X. Identify X and
Y.

Q2. Ben Curtis, an actor, got really popular in the early 2000s, for playing
the role of Slacker Steve, or popularly known as X, in a series of highly suc-
cessful commercials. The commercials would usually feature Steve informing
prospective buyers of all the perks of owning a Y, and when they were sold
on the idea, Steve would close with the catch phrase, “Dude, You are getting
a Y”. ID X.

Q3. A popular surveillance device by the Harris Corporation, X is named
after a species of marine animals. An X basically, gathers information from
phones by sending out a signal that tricks them into connecting to it. The
naming of the device to X works in two ways,  rst it’s a word play on the
nature of signals transmitted to the cell-phone. Secondly, you could associ-
ate the sending of signal to that of a “whip-like action”, akin to an X’s attack.
ID X.

image

Q4. These are switches of a particular kind, made by a german brand called
Cherry. Generally available in 4 di erent varieties, Blue, Black, Red and
Brown. While Red and Black o er a linear action. They aren’t loud. On the
other hand, Cherry Browns are more “Tactile. For which products are the
switches classi ed in this manner?

Q5. The name AIRA comes from a combination of AI and the “Eye of Ra” an
Egyptian mythological symbol, that symbolises, “protection, and the power
to perceive and interpret both the seen and unseen in the universe.”. AIRA
is the name of an organisation that uses technological platforms, to achieve
something. So, recently, AIRA came out with a Google Glass app (and an app
on other AR Platforms) that would allow the users to share real-time,  rst
person video. The app is way for people to use AIRA’s product. Simply ex-
plain what does AIRA do.