Apple is compensating for two mistakes (1) the failure of Apple TV. (2) big investment in content too quickly without figuring out distribution.
I’ve owned a ton of them over the years, and I’ve had both good and bad experiences with the cars. Currently I own two — a 1970 XKE and a 2014 F-Type — and they are about to get a sibling. I’ve ordered a new Jaguar I-Pace, which is the first legitimate challenger to Tesla, which surprised the automotive industry much like Apple surprised the mobile phone industry.
Tesla was first to build a decent electric car for this century. Not only that — its Model S set records in terms of safety and reliability. Most of the problems the firm has had have been due to a lack of competency in manufacturing and a borderline insane CEO. However, the design of the cars, with the exception of the Tesla X, generally has been better than first rate.
I recently read about Motor Trend‘s head to head challenge between the Tesla Model 3, the I-Pace, and the Alpha Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (don’t get me started on naming). Even though the I-Pace was designed to run on the track, it trailed both the other cars and the Alpha won — but not by much, and the Alpha is a decent track car.
I’ll share some observations about cars and close with my product of the week: the BlackBerry Key2, which I’ve been using for several months now and still love.
I-Pace vs. Tesla vs. Gas
As noted, the I-Pace (pictured above) is the first real challenger to Tesla’s dominance. You’d think I’d be disappointed that it didn’t do better on the track, given it was designed for the track. However, the I-Pace is a crossover, not a sedan, and when was the last time you saw an SUV run against a hot sedan and win on the track? An SUV is designed to go on and off road. It sits higher, and thus it won’t corner as well. Plus, it has far more wind resistance.
Until recently, Tesla cars, when tracked, would go into limp-home mode after a lap or two. You couldn’t track them at all until Tesla did a software tweak and introduced Track Mode in the Model 3, and now it’s a decent track car. On my last track day (I track a Mercedes GLA45 AMG) there was a Model 3 on the track, and it did impressively well. It was surprisingly competitive.
Now the issue with tracking any electric is where the hell do you charge the thing up? You use a ton of fuel when you track a car. I went through about a tank and a half of gas in my fast hatch in that one day on the track, and fortunately there was a place to fill up at the track.
There was a charger as well, but it looked to be a low-powered charger (not high-powered or Tesla supercharger), which means a full charge is measured in days not hours. That makes tracking any electric really risky. You could end up getting stranded at the track if you don’t allow enough reserve power to get to a high-powered charger (there aren’t many out there) or a supercharger (there are more, but they’re still not exactly as common as a gas station).
Why the I-Pace Didn’t Do Better
Now what has been driving a number of us nuts is that the I-Pace has a far bigger battery than the Model 3 typically ships with, and yet it has less range. The cause appears to be threefold: The car is an SUV and thus not as aerodynamic as the Tesla; the front motor Jaguar uses (which may be better off-road, but this hasn’t been confirmed) can’t be turned off to save energy; and the battery appears to have far higher protection against premature aging than the Tesla’s.
The battery’s life span is largely speculation, but it appears that Jaguar uses less of the battery than the Tesla does. I used to be the lead battery analyst for North America years ago, and I recall a Toyota test that concluded if you kept a battery above 10 percent charge and below 90 percent charge it would last indefinitely. It was charging to the limits that caused the battery to degrade.
Both Tesla and Jaguar have settings that are designed to reduce battery loading, but the Tesla’s settings can be overridden while the Jaguar’s appear hard-coded, which is why many of us are speculating on why the Jaguar doesn’t have a greater range.
The Mystery of the Jaguar Grill
One of the funny things that keeps coming up on the Jaguar I-Pace is the fact it has a grill and none of the Tesla cars have one. Folks talk about this as being a styling thing, but the reason that Tesla cars historically have gone into limp-home mode on the track is that their batteries overheat.
I once read that to get the car around the track, one car magazine would buy a ton of ice and park its car on top of it, in order to bring down the battery temperature enough to track the car.
The I-Pace uses what appears to be far more effective battery cooling, thanks to that front grill. It also conceals an impressive front spoiler, which provides additional downforce for cornering. Granted, that front spoiler also may increase drag, but it should improve track behavior.
In many ways, the Tesla Model 3 is the more practical car. It uses Tesla’s increasingly convenient charging network; it is a sedan, which is likely closer to the way most of us drive — few SUV drivers ever go off road; and, as the third Tesla line, its design showcases lessons Tesla learned over the last two cars.
However, the Jaguar arguably is better looking. It is rarer (though all electrics are rare) and should convey more status. It reflects higher quality (given that it isn’t cheap, it likely should). Since my wife and I use our SUV mostly as a pet carrier, the SUV design is far more practical for us, and the huge ugly thing that the Tesla X became just isn’t an attractive alternative.
The Jaguar is just closer in design to what we need, and since we rarely drive more than 50 miles a day, the charging and range limitations aren’t issues. Still, had Tesla made a small, attractive, SUV with fold-down back seats and without those cool (but very unreliable) gull wing doors, our selection process might have ended very differently.
What many are just getting around to understanding is that these new electric cars can change a lot with software updates. The Track Mode thing with the Model 3 is relatively new and expected to migrate to other Tesla vehicles (meaning you eventually might be able to make it around the track in a Tesla Model S, and the I-Pace’s track performance is likely to improve as well). Unlike most gas cars, your electric likely will improve over time.
The car I’ve ordered is supposed to be in before the end of the month. I’ll provide a more in-depth review at that time, but for now, I’m still glad I ordered an I-Pace. That said, with other electrics from Mercedes, Audi, and particularly Porsche entering the segment, in a few years I may find another that catches my fancy more.
The competition between Google and Apple is fierce. Android phones generally provide greater value (bang for the buck), but Apple phones provide greater status. They’d better, because you are paying Apple a huge premium for them.
The issue with Android phones is that they are known to be relatively unsecure. I have no desire to see the stuff on my smartphone show up on the Dark Web, along with an impressive number of my old and obsolete passwords and IDs.
In addition, I still think the move from phones that had keyboards, like the Palm and BlackBerry, to phones that don’t, like most Androids and iPhones, was stupid. You can blind type on a keyboard phone, while you largely can’t on a screen phone. I believe this one thing is what has caused the massive uptick in distracted driving and funny YouTube videos of folks walking into things like open manholes and fountains.
The BlackBerry Key2 is more secure, although it is an Android phone. It runs BlackBerry DTEK, which tells you how secure your phone is, and it loads Android on top of a BlackBerry platform, making the phone very difficult (if not impossible) to rootkit (that is, to put a piece of malicious software below the OS, fully compromising the phone).
It has a twin sensor camera and a decent flash, making it competitive with other smartphones in that regard. I’ve experienced no unique problems with Android apps, including Dell Mobile connect (which puts your phone screen on your PC monitor and allows you to drag and drop from, and remote control your phone from your PC).
Oh, and when I must type a long note, I am a ton faster on the BlackBerry Key2 than I am on a regular smartphone or a tablet. Thus, the BlackBerry Key2 is my product of the week.
Honing your typography skills for UI design — an action plan
Just recently I felt the need to improve my typography skills for UI design, so I outlined this action plan for myself, and I hope it will also help you in designing better interfaces with better typographic choices!
Action 1. Read
Here are 5 books on typography that I consider must-reads for user interface design.
Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students
— by Ellen Lupton
I first came across this book as a textbook for a design course. It laid the foundation for a solid understanding of typography.
I was able to use what I learned in design projects right away.
Filled with visual examples, this book is a definitive guide on typography for visual communication.
The Elements of Typographic Style
by Robert Bringhurst
This is the book to get if you really want to nerd out on typography and get a deep dive into the technical aspects of it.
I love the parts of the book where the history and evolution of typefaces are discussed.
Getting to know the history of typography helped me understand what makes a font look old-timey, what makes it look modern and what gives it a contemporary twist.
This knowledge really comes in handy when choosing the right font pairings.
Parts of this book can be packed with exhausting details that you may not be able to read through in one sitting.
However, you can use the rules and guidelines for reference anytime you want to create that typographic magic for a design project.
Type on Screen: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Developers, and Students
by Ellen Lupton
This book concerns mainly typography in digital forms, such as how people read on different devices and common interaction patterns.
It also includes lots of example case studies that can immediately be put to use by a digital product designer.
I especially love the highly applicable do’s and don’ts on elements like navigation, tables and data display.
On Web Typography
by Jason Santa Maria
I wish I had read this book when I was a junior designer. It covers the essential aspects of typography that a digital product designer uses on a daily basis.
It includes sections on choosing and pairing fonts, setting hierarchy and creating contrast when composing a typographic system.
My favorite section of the book is when Jason cautions designers on using free fonts.
Before you go download and use that free font from a random corner of the internet, read this book first!
by Bram Stein
When it comes time to implement the fonts that you have chosen for your designs, this is the book to get.
Whether you’re in a position to implement your own fonts of choice or you’re working with a developer, knowing the technicalities outlined in this book will help get your fonts to load fast and render correctly.
This will greatly reduce your chance of hearing: “Well, maybe we’ll just switch back to using Arial…”
Action 2. Practice
I wanted to give myself a chance to experiment with choosing and pairing fonts for a variety of projects.
You don’t always get to do that in a work situation, so here are two ways that I found that offer designers a chance to play and experiment.
Daily UI Challenge
You’ve probably heard of the daily UI challenge before. It’s a great way to experiment with typography with a project a day sent by email.
These projects can be small and quick. Over time you may be surprised by the amount of work and progress you’ve made!
Focus on how your typographic choices influence the user’s overall experience.
Action 3. Observe
Have the critical eye running in the background of your daily life
There are tons of typographical user interfaces in the physical environment that we live in.
For example, highway signs, furniture assembling instructions and emergency exit signs to name a few.
Keep an eye on how these text and signage look, and your experience interacting with them.
Keep a visual collection
When you encounter interesting typography examples in digital products or design inspirations from around the web, take a screenshot and save them in a collection that you can go back to later.
When you need some inspiration for a project, you may just find the perfect solution from your personal visual collection.
It’s time for action
I hope this action plan gives you some steps that you can take right away to start honing your typographic skills for UI design.
I believe that no amount of reading or looking can replace doing the actual design work.
So go forth and design something with typography today!
Editor’s Corner—Apple TV will die so TV+ can live
Apple may have whiffed on its Apple TV+ announcement Monday by offering too few key details about the service. But the company did say that its TV app was coming to Roku and Fire TV devices, essentially sounding the death knell for Apple TV.
Apple had been telegraphing this move for months. At CES, the company announced that a version of iTunes was launching on Samsung smart TVs later this year and touted incoming AirPlay 2.0 support for smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio. These moves, while not a complete distribution strategy by any means, signaled Apple’s willingness to break down its walled garden for the sake of getting its video service further out into the world.
Wide distribution is key if Apple wants to take on Netflix—which is the notable holdout for Apple’s video aggregation scheme. As Strategy Analytics pointed out, Apple’s new TV app (arriving via update in May) is starting out with a huge built-in disadvantage, with only 175 million addressable TVs compared to more than 900 million for Netflix.
Apple has plans to close the gap. The company is launching the TV app on Mac this fall; launching on smart TVs, starting with Samsung in spring followed by LG, Sony and Vizio; and on Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices “in the future.”
The Roku and Fire TV agreements were the announcements of the day, according to Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at consulting firm TV[R]EV. He pointed toward a tweet from Prashanth Pappu, founder of Vizbee, as a good summation of why those two deals are significant.
Wolk said that Apple used to be able to sit back, wait until an emerging product category became nascent, and then swoop in with a superior product and take over. But lately that strategy has failed, with Apple Music still dwarfed by Spotify and the pricey HomePod lagging behind Amazon and Google in the smart speaker market.
Apple TV is another example of the company’s hardware strategy falling flat. According to Parks Associates figures from the first quarter of 2018, Amazon and Roku combined control more than 50% of the streaming device market among U.S. broadband households. Apple has about 15% of the market. A big contributing factor to Roku and Google’s market dominance over Apple TV has to do with their $30 price points compared to Apple’s $180.
“There aren’t that many people going ‘I want to spend six times as much money,’” Wolk said.
Apple has been able to create perceived value because its products are so expensive. But Apple’s rigid adherence to premium pricing has come back to bite the company in the form of iPhone sales plateaus and sagging revenues for the company’s other devices.
“They’ve hit a point of diminishing returns,” Wolk said.
That hardware conundrum had sparked Apple’s renewed focus on growing its service revenues. The strategy appears to be paying off. In January, Apple said fiscal first-quarter services revenue reached an all-time high of $10.9 billion, up 19% over the previous year. That figure could keep climbing considering that, in addition to its video streaming service, Apple on Monday announced a subscription news and magazine service, a credit card and a streaming video game service.
The tradeoff for this services pipeline, at least in terms of video, appears to be the abandonment of the Apple TV. Once the Roku, Amazon and various smart TV deals are in place for the TV app, the Apple TV will essentially become an overpriced streaming box stripped of some of its exclusivity with Apple software and services like TV+.
Wolk said that at that point, Apple can let the Apple TV slowly die off and stop pushing upgrades; or do a complete reboot and put out a less expensive version of the device, similar to what the company did with the iPod Nano.
Google Stadia Gaming Service ‘Will Not Have Any Adults-Only’ Content, Executive Says
A Google executive offered new details on Wednesday about the company’s upcoming video game streaming service, telling Reuters that game makers may use competing cloud providers and must avoid some inappropriate content.
Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, unveiled Stadia on Tuesday, saying the service launching this year would make playing high-quality video games in an internet browser as easy as watching a movie on its YouTube service.
The game would operate on Google’s servers, receiving commands from a user’s controller and sending video streams to their screen. Player settings, leaderboards, matchmaking tools and other data related to the game would “not necessarily” have to reside on Google’s servers, Phil Harrison, a Google vice president, said in an interview.
Hosting the data elsewhere, however, could lead to slower loading times or less crisp streaming quality, he said.
“Obviously, we would want and incentivize the publisher to bring as much of their backend as possible” to Google servers, he said. “But Stadia can reach out to other public and private cloud services.”
The approach could limit Google’s revenue from Stadia. It has declined to comment on the business model for the new service, but attracting new customers to Google’s paid cloud computing program is one of Stadia’s aims.
If a game publisher was using Amazon for some tools, “the first thing I would do is introduce you to the Google Cloud team,” Harrison said.
In addition, Stadia will require games to follow content guidelines that build upon the system of Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a self-regulatory body, he said.
“We absolutely will not have A-O content,” Harrison said, referring to the ESRB’s moniker for the rare designation of a game as adult-only because of intense violence, pornography or real-money gambling.
He said Stadia’s guidelines would not be public.
Asked about growing public concerns about game addiction, Harrison said Stadia would empower parents with controls on “what you play, when you play and who you play with.”
Google views Stadia as connecting its various efforts in gaming, including selling them on its mobile app store, Harrison said. But game streaming, he said, is an opportunity to tackle among the most complex technical challenges around and potentially apply breakthroughs to other industries.
“We think we can grow a very significant games market vertical,” he said. “And by getting this right we can advance the state of the art of computing.”
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