End Of The Rainbow

I'm certainly no "Apple insider" and I don't have any sources to confirm or deny my theories, but that hasn't ever stopped me from taking a few stabs in the dark a few days before an Apple announcement. I have read about the proposed "gold" or "champagne" iPhone 5S color option. I have heard it mentioned on several podcasts and I got curious enough to even go look at some of the "leaked" photos of supposed components. Based on nothing more than my gut feelings and trying to think about how Apple has operated in the past few years when it comes to supply chain management, here are my predictions when it comes to the iPhone 5S (should it carry this name).

The iPhone 5S will come in two color choices. Those choices will be "White & Gold" and "Black & Graphite". Currently, the iPhone 5 comes in "White & Silver" and "Black & Slate". All the articles I've read agree that the gold option would be paired with white components that mirror the existing "White & Silver" iPhone 5. I do not believe that Apple would offer both a "White & Silver" and a "White & Gold" option for the 5S. The majority of the articles that discuss a gold iPhone 5S propose the primary motivations are to offer customers more choices and appeal to a more global style or cultures. While I don't disagree that the latter might be a valid benefit, I think it is more about differentiation than it is about an additional SKU for the 5S. The colors we'll likely see with the iPhone 5C will provide enough choice for those that hold it above other core design elements.

Slightly altering the shade of the metal body and backing for the 5S makes sense for so many reasons. When the iPhone 4S launched, there was an overwhelming tone in the reviews from major media outlets that it was not different enough. This was based solely on the looks of the device. If you look at an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 4S, there is virtually no difference. The iPhone 5 launched with a larger screen that stretched the device's overall height. The metal frame expanded to wrap around the back of the device. While many people said the design was still too similar, the iPhone 5 was a natural and beautiful progression in the industrial design that the iPhone 4/4S made famous.

When a smart and mature company has an iconic design that is as popular and striking as the iPhone has become starting with the 4, there is no reason to scrap it completely in an effort to reinvent itself. Ferrari and Lamborghini both have striking designs that are almost immediately distinguishable to even a novice car enthusiast. As new models have come and old models retired, there is a common design language that spans the brand dating back decades. Even with all badges removed, I'd be willing to bet that most people would be able to identify either of these brands from a line-up. Apple has accomplished the same thing with the iPhone. The color of the metal being different on the 5S vs. the 5 would, at a minimum, give reviewers a reason to pause and think twice about saying it looked too similar to its predecessor. By also adjusting the "slate" to a different tone and calling it "graphite", the same occurs for both the black and white iPhone 5S options.

Lastly, Apple likes being a step ahead of the competition, especially when it comes to the design of their hardware. The iPhone 4 was the first phone to introduce a full glass front and back. A couple of years later, it was a design element that was "borrowed" by the Nexus 4 by LG. The iPhone 5 incorporated more metal into the unibody frame. HTC took notice of this trend and the HTC One was released with a full-body aluminum enclosure design. Apple will continue to push the envelope when it comes to industrial design of its products. They are running an ad in movie theaters that shows off nothing except the design of the new Mac Pro. I'd argue that the design of Apple products, and the constant refinement vs. redesign of those designs, is what makes the hardware sexy to the millions that choose it over the competition.

Biracial Cheerios Commercial

As the proud dad of two mixed kids, this video gives me hope for how their generation will see them.

Morgan says it best:

Some people just fall in love like that.

Thinking Now About Reading Later

I won't take the time to detail each and every feature difference between Instapaper and Pocket. That information is readily available in countless reviews and comparisons on the web. They are both "read later" services which allow you to essentially bookmark articles on the web to read at some future point in time. They both strip out the ads and make the reading experience much cleaner and more enjoyable for the reader. Macro Arment recently sold a controlling stake in Instapaper to Betaworks. I hadn't realized it until the sale, but a large part of why I used Instapaper exclusively was because I enjoyed the idea of supporting Marco's work. With the sale, I decided to see what the other major player in the space had to offer. Along the way, I stumbled upon another option that I found worth consideration.

Pocket Change

Pocket has a lot to like. They have native Mac, Android and iOS app. Instapaper has no native Mac app, and the Instapaper web app leaves a bit to be desired visually. Pocket's apps on all platforms are free, which most people would see as a benefit. During the last few years, I've come to believe that if you are going to invest your time and attention into integrating an app or service into your workflow, you should understand the relationship you have with the person or company that offers the app/service. With Pocket, the fact that the service and apps are free concerns me. They have no clear business model that I have been able to observe. This leads me to a healthy suspicion that if I put all my "read later" eggs in Pocket, I may be in the position to have to completely restructure my read later workflow again in the near future. This would likely be due to them being acquired by another company, or deciding that making any revenue in this space was not worth the effort and closing its doors.

The interface of the Pocket apps is very clean, which I enjoy. Pocket allows you to organize articles through tags, versus Instapaper's folders. This took some getting used to for someone coming from Instapaper, but after a couple of days it was not a major issue. One annoyance is that the apps across the various platforms have slight differences in user experience that can sometimes cause confusion. Managing multiple articles at once, for example. The Android app offers a "bulk edit" feature that the Mac app does not. My brain has trouble accepting that a desktop application offers fewer features than a mobile variant.

Reading List

For a moment, I carefully considered using Safari's Reading List feature instead of either Instapaper or Pocket. The advantages are pretty striking. It is baked into both the OS X and iOS operating systems since the Safari browser ships as the default browser on both. It is afforded system level integration that third-party services are not. Installing the "Read Later" bookmarklet for either Instapaper or Pocket is a pretty painstaking task compared to "Add to Reading List" in the share sheet in Safari. The bookmarklet installation in mobile Safari on iOS is even more of an Indiana Jones effort.

After much deliberation, there were three reasons I decided that Safari's Reading List just wasn't the right solution for me (though it would be a very viable one for many users):

  1. Reading List is only on Mac and iOS. I use an Android phone and a Windows computer at work. While about 85% of my reading happens on either my Mac or my iPad, I know I would miss the 15%.
  2. Reading List has no tag or folder organization methods. I archive very few of the articles that I read through any "read later" service, however, it is nice to have a method to organize the things that I feel have long-term value. The solution with Reading List would be to move any item to a bookmark service like Pinboard once it has been read. Pinboard has tags so it would not be a horrible work around, however, it seemed more complicated than either Instapaper or Pocket.
  3. Reading List does not format articles for "distraction-free" reading. Safari offers a feature called "Reader" that performs a similar function in this regard. What that means is that any time I would want to use Reading List + Reader to mimic the functionality of Instapaper/Pocket, I'd have to open the Reading List, click on the article, then move to the address bar and click the Reader button. That feels too much like work.

Back To The House That Marco Built

So, at the end of a month long journey to evaluate where my loyalties and preferences reside with regards to reading articles later, my choice is a return to Instapaper. I'll be deleting the Pocket apps from my various devices and re-installing the Instapaper apps. I'll miss the native app experience on my Mac (I'm aware of the Words app, but don't care much for it). I'll miss being able to put the same article in multiple categories via tags. What I will not miss is having the constant paranoia that Pocket is going to be sold or shut down tomorrow. I won't miss the lack of font and theme options (Instapaper really shines here). I won't miss wondering if Pocket is making money mining my reading habits and selling them to the highest bidder.

I don't know what the future holds for Instapaper either. The service was recently sold and the company that now owns the control of Instapaper's future, Betaworks, also bought Digg not all that long ago. They could decide to merge the two products or combine features across them that make Instapaper something different than what I want it to be. That's the risk I'm willing to take.