Cool Stuff

A 9-post collection

I’ll miss you, HomePod

I woke up on Saturday to read the Apple news (yes, this is what I do with my Saturday mornings) and saw via TechCrunch, that Apple is discontinuing the original HomePod.

Say what?!

Here’s the statement from Apple:

HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.

I honestly couldn’t believe it – many have criticised the HomePod for its high price point, and for Siri’s unpredictable nature, but I absolutely love my HomePod, and everyone I know that owns one seems to have a similar affection for theirs.

Apple rarely discontinues a product – it’s especially rare for them to announce that they’re discontinuing a product. I can only think of AirPower in recent memory as being a product discontinuation Apple has announced – and that was a product they never actually shipped in the first place!

I’m keen to break this event into two questions: why would Apple discontinue the original HomePod? And why would Apple announce the discontinuation of HomePod?

Why announce the discontinuation?

If Apple were looking to replace the original HomePod with a newer model – for example a slightly smaller iteration on the original, an updated A-series chip, the addition of a U1 chip, more colour options, etc. then they could simply run supplies down over time and introduce the new model to much fanfare.

There would be no need to announce a discontinuation – just as they don’t announce the discontinuation of every Apple Watch or iPhone model when they introduce new versions.

The reason seems clear: the future of the HomePod “line” is the HomePod mini as far anyone can see today. Apple’s statement emphasises that their future efforts will focus on HomePod mini and nothing else.

Apple never talks about future products, but if they had exciting plans for the future of home audio, their statement doesn’t seem to tee anything up. It’s like Apple is dousing the flames of any hope that there’s a vibrant future to Apple’s home audio.

Praise for HomePod

I have thoroughly enjoyed owning a HomePod since shortly after it was announced. I have one HomePod in our kitchen – I have never tried the stereo pairing but people seem to rave about how great it sounds.

I have always been blown away by the sound quality of our HomePod in the kitchen. It’s always a talking point with guests when tunes are playing – the sound is phenomenal.

The simplicity of the device sets it apart from other speakers for me – there are no extra plugs or ports, no ugly buttons, no

Drone footage through a bowling alley

Right Up Our Alley

I'm a sucker for cool drone video footage.

An ad for a bowling alley could be pretty dull – everyone’s seen a bowling alley before.

But this just blew me away – the continuous long shot reminded me of great scenes like the long shot from Goodfellas, but with less drama.

The angles and tight spaces that a drone can manoeuvre through just seem impossible. I’ve watched this a handful of times now and I can’t stop ducking when the drone flies through the tiny gaps under the ball returning machines.

So good!

Apple Store Bangkok Vortex Ceiling

Vortex Ceiling, Apple Store, Bangkok
Vortex Ceiling, Apple Store, Bangkok

There are few better ways to spend a Saturday in lockdown than drawing. I find it incredibly therapeutic, and I get a thrill from finishing a piece and sharing it with others to see their reaction.

This is no masterpiece – just a quick sketch – but I felt compelled to quickly draw the vortex ceiling of the Apple Store in Bangkok, Thailand.

Apparently this ceiling is made from 1,800 pieces of oak. I’ve never been to the store, or Thailand at all for that matter. Perhaps one day we’ll be allowed out again and I can see this for myself!

I drew this on my iPad Pro, with Apple Pencil, and used Procreate – the best value app I think I’ve ever purchased.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CMFkI2WpUHn/

Amazon Basics vs Peak Design

A tale of two Slings

I love this response from Peak Design.

When a huge megacorp such as Amazon blatantly rips off your work, you can respond by complaining, by writing angry tweets, by reducing your prices, by panicking, or... by putting together a hugely entertaining ad.

Always a good reminder that every day we get a chance to influence the world around us: vote with your wallet.

(Via Gruber)

Trying out Ulysses

Screenshot of Ulysses on Mac
Screenshot of Ulysses on Mac

I came across Ulysses after asking on Twitter if there was a better way to write blog posts on my iPhone or iPad, instead of relying on the Ghost web interface.

It appears there is – it’s called Ulysses and it’s what I can only describe as a delightful native app for iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS.

It’s so great, the (rather talented) developers would rather you paid for a subscription.

Subscribe to an app for writing? Really?! It’s a very reasonable subscription (£5 / month), but it still feels weird to pay a monthly fee for an app to write when so many free options exist.

I took the plunge and I am going to see how it performs – if I write more because of Ulysses then it’s easily worth the 2 coffees a month for the experience.

I’m writing this in Ulysses right now and the writing experience on both iOS and on my Mac is just delightful. I love Markdown and I love the balance they've found between complexity and simplicity to make an overall experience that is easy to get started with, but advanced enough to cater to every need I've had so far.

The best laptop hinge ever designed

iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard

I haven’t used it yet – as far as I’m aware, no one outside Apple has.

But the new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro looks fantastic.

Sure, it has the trackpad that many have been clamouring for for many years, but it’s the hinge that blew me away.

I felt the previous keyboard covers for the iPad were some of the most confusing products Apple has ever made – the hinge and flaps were so complicated. They always reminded me of when you have a large map and you try to fold it back up to put it away and can never quite fold it exactly as it needs to be.

This new hinge – with the ability to adjust the screen on multiple axes – appears to give the user more options in viewing angle than any current laptop.

It begs the question – if it's great for the iPad, would a "floating cantilever" not be great for MacBooks too?

A first look at Pitch

I am so excited for this product. What a beautifully made, perfect teaser video.

I really want to get my hands on this – I get the feeling it's going to make Keynote and Powerpoint feel like they're from the stone age.

Their full post has some more information about a few features, and the rollout of Pitch – a rethink on presentation software.

General Magic

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to see one of the first screenings of General Magic in London.

Since seeing the movie, I've been telling everyone I meet about it.

It’s a story of one of the greatest teams of product, engineering, marketing, and leadership people coming together to build a device eerily similar to the iPhone, but in the early 90s.

Sketches of the original Genral Magic device

The movie pieces together with original footage how this incredible team came together, worked their socks off, and ultimately failed to deliver what they set out to achieve. It’s a story that makes you question the definition of failure – a ridiculous number of people from General Magic went on to practically define the world we live in now, and the ideas behind the device were spot on – they just took longer to get here than orignally thought.

Just a few of the people who were involved with General Magic:

  • Tony Fadell – joined General Magic as an intern, co-inventor of iPod and iPhone, founder of Nest.
  • Marc Porat – the CEO of General Magic, and visionary of the original device.
  • Megan Smith – became CTO of US, and VP at Google.
  • Andy Hertzfeld – member of original Macintosh team, also co-created Google Circles.
  • Joanna Hoffman – another member of original Macintosh team.
  • John Sculley – former Apple CEO, also launched the Newton to compete with Genral Magic.
  • Kevin Lynch – former CTO of Adobe, creator of Dreamweaver, VP of technology at Apple.

Huge thanks to Emma Sinclair for arranging a screening of this movie, and to Sarah Kerruish and Steve Jarrett for the fascinating Q&A after the movie.

If you're interested in the history of computing, you want to see a wealth of on-the-ground footage from one of the most influencial teams of people in technology, or you just want to be inspired by the willpower and hard work of an incredibly smart group of people, you have to watch this movie.

Learn more about General Magic the movie