Marques Brownlee podcast with Craig Federighi: new keynote format, widgets on iPad, Siri UI, iOS-ification of macOS


Following on from John Gruber’s video podcast with Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak, a Marques Brownlee podcast is next in line, talking through iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and macOS Big Sur with Federighi.

I’ve only had time to listen to parts of it so far, but it’s definitely an interesting discussion. Brownlee starts by sharing my view that the pre-recorded keynote format worked really well, and asking whether this might be a permanent change …

Federighi wouldn’t be drawn on the specifics of that, but did say that the company was very happy with it, and that it wanted to learn the lessons and then see what seems best for future keynotes.

Although you might have thought the format would allow plenty of time for Apple to review the whole thing, Federighi said that he actually only saw the complete presentation for the first time on Monday.

Brownlee then asked what Apple saw as the key theme or philosophy behind iOS 14. Federighi said that personalization and convenience are key.

Personalisation and convenience are huge. Having more information available at a glance, that’s more convenient. It’s also very personal how you choose to configure that. Things like App Clips, where we envisage you being able to with much greater ease now move about the world and discover things you can do with your phone, and take action super-quickly.

He also explained why Apple is perhaps going a little slow when it comes to letting users set their preferred default apps for different things. iOS 14 currently limits this to email and web apps, and Federighi implied that this was because Apple wants to manually vet apps that make it into the list.

Email and web apps need Apple approval to be eligible to be set as the default apps: the company wanted to prevent abuse, like a random game including WebKit capabilities just for the visibility it would achieve to see them in the scroll list.

Brownlee raised one of my complaints about iPadOS 14: that widgets are limited to the sidebar, and therefore to only the first screen. Federighi suggested this might change over time.

Whether over time we want to let you push that further, letting you move widgets out of their designated spot beside the app icons or not, we’ll see. But we felt like we had a great balanced solution for this already.

Another common complaint has been the Siri visual interface. Federighi said Apple has actually coded two completely different approaches, one where you can scroll behind Siri, one where you can’t, and is open to feedback on this.

We’ll continue to listen to what people have to say during the beta period, because like I say, we actually have it working both ways. But our feeling was we wanted to achieve a great lightness, not just visually, but in terms of being able to dip into Siri, get an answer and move on.

A long-running concern expressed by Mac enthusiasts is whether Apple is dumbing down the Mac, and making macOS more iOS-like. The macOS Big Sur design rings alarm bells for some, appearing to move further in this direction, but Federighi said that people should reserve judgment until they’ve used it for some time.

First, I’ll say that we are all so attached to the Mac UI. I mean, we use it all day long. […] It’s a huge part of the visual scenery of our lives at this point, so what seems right is partly what we’re used to seeing on that screen every day. When it changes, immediately there’s all kinds of little pattern recognizers in our brain that go ‘Hold on! Something’s different.’ I feel that after you use the UI for– I’ve been living with it for months– It feels natural and fresh and clearly, distinctly Mac, and I love it.

You can listen to the Marques Brownlee podcast here, and Brownlee promises ‘a deep dive video’ later in the day.

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