The Digital Crown Affair

As Apple  CEO Tim Cook pointed out at the unveil of his company's new watch, every new computing platform has its unique input device. The mainframe had a terminal, the Mac a mouse, the iPod a click wheel, the laptop a track pad, the iPhone multitouch gestures. And, now, the Apple Watch has the little metal windey thing that sticks out of its side. 

On an analog watch that thing is a crown and it's used to set the time. Apple calls its windey thing a digital crown and it's used to scroll through menus, zoom in on photos and change settings on the high resolution screen of what has to be the most stylish smart watch on the planet. While that's a bit like saying the snappiest dresser in Math Club, it really is a fashion plate by any Swiss standard. 

But it was the digital crown that most impressed me. It's a perfectly Apple piece of industrial design. It echoes the functionality of a crown in an analog watch, looks like it belongs and yet is the perfect input device for a tiny screen your fingers would obscure if you tried to use multitouch. 

And, it was only one of a handful of design details that demonstrates how much Jony Ive and his design team care about user experience. 

Another is the rounding of the glass on the surface of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. That gentle curve not only picks up and carries around to the front, the curved back edges, but also means that when you swipe left and right, the tactile experience trails off with a lovely fade, instead of a sharp edge. 

On the subject of the new phones, I think the new 5.5 inch size is the real winner here. It seems to have all the functionality of an iPad mini but in pocketable form. And the new keyboard layout with dedicated cut and paste keys means it could be an ideal two thumbs writing slate. Plus, its going to be the only iOS device with an optically stabilized camera for video and stills. Since it also now shoots 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second, it could be the only recording and writing device a field reporter would need. It is, I think, the new iPad Mini. 

I suspect the next iPad lineup will feature a 12 inch model and the iPad Mini will disappear. 

But then, I thought the big white mystery cube at the event would be a house, not just a big demo area, so, what do I know?