Beware Of Following The Gospel Of Minimalism, Preached By Apple | Co.Design | business + design

Beware Of Following The Gospel Of Minimalism, Preached By Apple | Co.Design | business + design

Apple has long preached the gospel of minimalist design, and that's been a clever business strategy. But it's one that other companies would be foolish to follow closely.
The cleverest trick that Apple has ever pulled isn’t convincing us to pay $500 for a phone or MP3 player, but rather convincing the world that if you want good design, then you have to follow Apple’s template of clean lines and stripped-down details. You can see how that happened: The company has become so synonymous with both good design and minimalism that most people assume those two things are one and the same. They’re not: You can have good design that’s fanciful and wacky; likewise, you can have minimalist design that’s horrible.
The fact is, minimalism has been a business strategy for Apple--and maybe their most successful business strategy of all. While just-in-time manufacturing and a stand-alone retailing have earned it hundreds of billions in sales, minimalism built the brand that made their gadgets lust-worthy to begin with. Let’s dissect how that works.

Every Gadget Sells The Others

One of the best features of Apple’s gadgets hides in plain sight: Each one looks closely related to the others. The Apple TV interface isn’t too far different from that of iTunes; iTunes itself borrows the basic feel of the Apple OS. Meanwhile, the gadgets themselves take up that same sort of family feel: The iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and iPhone are all radically different devices but they’re immediately recognizable as cousins thanks to their shared detailing and material palette.

To appreciate how unique that is, simply look at some of their competitors. While Microsoft’s new mobile OS is remarkably well designed, its design language has no relationship to the xBox UI, or the Windows OS. Not only do HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung make boring black boxes, but every single black box they make seems to have no relationship with the others. As Apple has proved, that’s a massive missed opportunity. Each one of Apple’s gadgets quietly sells the others, every single day you have it. When you buy an iPhone, you’re buying into the Apple design language, and the little details you come to appreciate are details you know you’ll find in all their other products--from the laser-etched buttons to the stunningly beautiful screws to the dead-simple UI layout. When you finally decide to buy another Apple gadget--say, an iPad or a MacBook Air--you’ve already been primed to love it.
It would extremely hard to pull that off without a minimalist design language. The wilder your detailing and form-factor are, the harder they are to translate to totally different products. Not so with a minimalist palette--in that case, simply lifting a few, select details such as an aluminum case or a particular rounded corner, is enough to suggest a strong, familial relationship.

Redesigns Never Destroy Brand Equity

Brands are only as good as their last redesign: Almost every industry, from cars to computers to clothing, is littered with some cautionary tale about a run-away success that was replaced with a disaster. The goodwill that a company can build with a remarkably designed product can disappear overnight, if its successors don’t live up to expectations. Over time, and with greater and greater successes, the inherent risk that you carry with a redesign only grows.

Thus, it’s no surprise that Apple’s own designs have grown more and more conservative over time as the company has evolved from a nearly dead also-ran into the world’s most valuable company. Take the iMac. The original design announced the company’s overhaul, and its boldness was a response to the enormous challenges that the company faced in 1997. The "sunflower" design that followed that was no less radical, with its swiveling flat-panel monitor. But since then, the iMac’s evolution has slowed. Today, it’s own design language moves in lock-step with Apple’s broader design language. Much of the same thing has happend with the iPod: The original, all-white design language has given way to a larger and larger screen--which means that the canvas for the rest of the design has grown successively smaller, so that these days, when you see a new design for the iPhone or the iPad, the redesigns are remarkable in how little actually changes.
The point is, by reducing the design language to such relatively small gestures--the curve of an edge or the etching on a button--Apple has reduced the risk associated with rolling out new products.

HP’s Envy notebook computer. Look familiar?

It’s Only Growing Harder To Catch Apple

The growing screens and shrinking cases of our gadgets today mean that there’s actually very little to design in today’s products. I don’t mean that it’s easier to design these gadgets, but rather that the sheer footprint of the physical design has shrunk. Today’s CE designs aren’t much more than a glorified frame for a big black screen, and so the range of possible design gestures has become vanishingly thin.

All of that plays directly into Apple’s hands, because it becomes harder and harder for other companies to distinguish themselves with less and less real estate open for redesign. If you’re simply designing a minimalist case for a laptop, and that laptop barely has more to it than a keyboard and a screen, then by default, almost anything you do is going to look like a copy of an Apple product. Phones are another good example: The actual case almost comes to nothing on today’s biggest phones. So even though the Nokia Lumia 900, for example, is a remarkable bit of industrial design, it’s impossible to imagine it as a breakout hit when its form factor is such a small part of its overall experience.

The Nokia Lumia 900: Well designed, but unlikely to break out.

The Untapped Opportunity

Everything I’ve laid out above might seem like unalloyed praise for Apple. But that’s not my aim at all. I’m merely trying to point out that Apple’s minimalism isn’t just about aesthetics; rather, it’s a massively important piece of their overall business strategy. And as a result of their success, Apple has inseparable from most people’s definition of what "good design" means.

Is that a good thing? It’s not uncommon to hear people claim that Apple has singlehandedly improved the standard of design across myriad industries, simply by showing the massive profits that can result from better-designed products. That’s probably true. But I also believe that Apple might have reached a point where the company is actually bad for design, because their own example is limiting people’s imagination for what good design can truly be.

For one, it’s become almost impossible for anyone to design anything that isn’t in some way a response to Apple. Sometimes that’s good. For example Lytro, a start-up camera company, designed their product with the founding ideal of a dead-simple UI. That emphasis on simple, intuitive interactions is a legacy of Apple’s approach that should be followed forever. But more often than not, companies hoping to emulate the company’s success don’t realize that they simply can’t win by mirroring its current design strategy. They forget that before Apple became the world’s most valuable company, it bet the farm on the wildly weird iMac design.

But the broader problem with all this Apple adoration is that Apple isn’t dreaming nearly as big as it used to when it comes to design. I can think of one particularly huge gap in their imagination: The linkage between the pixels and the physical world. The design language you see on your iPad screen has very little to do with the physical design of the computer itself. While the case lives in a world of clean minimalism, the UI is filled with fussy, ridiculous details, such as the wood-paneled iBook store or the very iconography itself, which is beginning to feel dated and static. By contrast, I can see a day where the physical products are entwined with the beauty of the pixels inside--when every last physical detail evokes those within the UI, and vice versa.
It probably won’t happen soon, but eventually Apple will have to become an example not only of how you do things, but how much is left to be done. I’m eagerly waiting for it to happen.


How to use Google Drive on Android | How To - CNET

How to use Google Drive on Android | How To - CNET

Google Drive was officially launched this morning, complete with an Android app to help you manage your Drive. Take a quick look at the official Google Drive app to see how it works.
You may have noticed shortly after the official announcement of Google Drive that Google Docs was no longer on your Android device. Instead, you can find the Google Drive app in its place. If for some reason your Google Docs app hasn't made the switch yet, you can download the Google Drive update to your device from Google Play. Let's take a look at how the Android app integrates and works with Google Drive.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)
The main screen of Google Drive provides a few options for navigating the new service. You will have quick access to files in your Drive, any documents that have been shared with you, any files or folders you have starred, recently opened, or edited, as well as any files you have downloaded for offline access.
The account name (blurred out in the screenshot) at the top of the screen acts just like it does in all other Google apps; tapping on it will allow you to quickly switch between Google accounts and the respective Drive accounts.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)
To create a new item on your Drive, tap on the menu icon then select New. You will then be given the option of creating a document, spreadsheet, document from photo, or to upload a file. If you used Google Docs on your device previously, you should be familiar with the first three options. Upload, however, is new and specific to Google Drive.
When you select upload, you're able to browse and upload files stored on your Android device to your Drive account. One important thing to note, however, is that installing a file manager, such as Astro File Manager, is required to browse files outside of your music and photo galleries.
Keep in mind if you want to place the new item in a specific folder, you will need to navigate to that folder in the app before you upload or create it. If you create a new item from the home screen, it will be placed in the root directory of your Drive.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)
The settings for the Google Drive app allow you to set the amount of data you will want the app to cache, starting at 50MB topping out at 250MB. You can also enable/disable encryption of offline documents as well as enable a reminder to be displayed when you are updating files over a wireless connection, not Wi-Fi.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)
When viewing your folders and files, you can favorite any item by tapping on the star located next to the item name. If you tap on the arrow icon located on the right-hand side of the listing, you are presented with a list of options.
These options allow you to save the file for offline viewing, sharing, sending, renaming, deleting, and opening with another app.
You can share, rename, and delete entire folders, but you cannot make them available for offline viewing or send them.
At anytime in the app you can tap on the familiar search icon and search for a specific document or folder. The items stored in your Drive aren't automatically updated in the Android app. So, if you have recently placed new items on your Drive and they aren't yet appearing in the Android app, tap on the menu icon and select refresh.
If you have any extra tips or tricks we missed for Google Drive on Android, please share them below in the comments.

The complete guide to using Android with a Mac | How To - CNET

The complete guide to using Android with a Mac | How To - CNET

For some reason it's a common belief that Android devices and Macs just don't get along. This misconception may have been true back in Android's infancy, but nowadays there's a long list of methods, apps, and services that let you use your Android device with your Mac. It's impossible to cover every app and service available, but I'm going to share the best of the bunch.
Most of the services listed below rely on the cloud to make the process of moving data between devices painless, while other methods require the tried and true method of data transfer through a USB connection.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)

Syncing documents

Unlike with the iPhone, transferring files is as easy as dragging and dropping. The way you do this, however, will depend on what version of Android your phone runs. Not only can you sync documents on your Android device, but your phone can also act as a jump drive, storing vital documents for you or helping move files around among computers.
Older Android devices have a USB Storage Mode that can be activated by plugging your device into your Mac, pulling down the notification shade, and tapping on the USB notification. From there, select "Turn on USB Storage."
At this point, your Android phone will appear as a drive on your desktop. Open it, and you'll be able to move files to and from your phone's various folders.
When using this method, make sure you unmount your Android device before disconnecting it from your Mac. To do this, open Finder and click on the Eject icon next to your device. Not ejecting, or unmounting, your device before disconnecting can corrupt the storage on your device, which results in lost files.
Newer Androids require you to use an app to sync files between your two devices. Google recommends you use its Android File Transfer (AFT) program, which you can download at Android.com/filetransfer. With AFT you can browse the folders system of your Android device and drag and drop files between it and your Mac. The program is very basic, but it works.
While AFT is more than sufficient for basic file syncing, other apps such as Droid NAS make it possible to wirelessly share files between your device and your Mac with ease. The program works by effectively making your phone or tablet appear as a shared computer in your Mac Finder, allowing you to transfer files without ever reaching for a USB cable. Read through Ed Rhee's guide to Droid NAS to see how you can set up syncing profiles based on Wi-Fi networks. I've been using this app and love it.
Another way to wirelessly access files and other content on your Android device is to use AirDroid, a free service that lets you remotely access and modify your phone's files from a browser window. AirDroid 2 is currently in an open beta and will allow you to manage a long list of items on your device wirelessly. Or you can install the original version of AirDroid, should you not want to mess with a beta.


There are a number of scenarios that will determine how you sync music files on your computer with your Android device. As you know by now, you could just drag and drop your entire music library on to your phone, but you'll run into a couple of issues. First, you don't want to have to do this each time you download a new song. Second, you might not have enough room on your device to store all those files.
Luckily, Google Music solves these problems and makes the process of syncing music easy. With Google Music, you're able to upload your entire music library (up to 20,000 songs) and stream or download to your phone so long as you have an Internet connection. And, each time you download a new song on your Mac, it'll become available on your phone.
To get started with Google Music, you'll first need to download the Music Manager app.
After downloading the app on your Mac, you'll need to show it where your music is stored. Once you've given it a folder to monitor, the app will automatically upload your music to Google's Music service. Not only does this method provide a simple way of getting your music to your device, but it also frees up storage space that would otherwise be taken up by music.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)
Once you've set up your library, you can download any artist, album, or playlist via Wi-Fi or cellular connection within the Android Music app itself. Just tap on the pushpin icon to start the download process.
Best of all, you won't have to fuss with iTunes when syncing music between your Mac and your Android device. You simply tell the Music Manager where your music library is; when new files are added, they're automatically uploaded for you. You can store 20,000 songs for free.


There are a few different ways to sync photos between your Android device and your Mac so that each time you take a photo, it's backed up to your Mac. The beauty of some of these approaches is that -- beyond initial setup -- you don't have to do anything else to get the photos from your phone to your Mac. Not only does this type of system allow you to easily access photos on your computer, but it also ensures that you constantly have a backup of your photos should you lose your phone. Before you continue, sign up for a Dropbox account if you don't already have one.
Dropbox provides a free way for your photos to automatically sync via its service, which downloads them to a Camera Uploads folder on your Mac. This is the quickest way to get photos from your device to your Mac, but not the only way. SyncMate Expert will also help you achieve the same results, as will the AFT and Droid NAS apps, albeit not automatically as Dropbox does.
There's also another app called DoubleTwist, which has an AirSync add-on feature. The app requires you to install software on both your Android device and your Mac. Once installed and set up, you can sync your music, photos, and videos wirelessly between the two devices.


The larger screens commonly found on Android devices make them ideal for watching movies. But you don't only have to rely on Netflix, Hulu Plus, or HBO Go for your entertainment; you can load movies you own on your phone and watch them anywhere, even when you're offline. Transferring movies or large videos between your Mac and Android will be time-consuming, so make sure you're not doing this when you're rushing to make a flight.
Solutions like AirDroid, DoubleTwist, SyncMate, Droid NAS, and AFT will all allow you to transfer movies and videos to your Android device from your Mac. But, do keep in mind that some of the wireless services may be slower than the wired approach the Android File Transfer app offers.
No matter which method you choose, you'll need to add any movie files to the Movie folder located on your Android device. If the folder isn't already present, go ahead and create it.
Where you're likely to run into problems is with playing the various video file types on your Android device, as the stock video player only supports so many formats. But if you'd rather not worry about that, download MX Player from the Play store and use it as your primary video player. It supports a long list of file types.
Of course, all this video-transferring will quickly hog precious storage space, so consider incorporating a cloud solution. One option is to stream videos stored in your Dropbox account through the Dropbox app. Just keep in mind that streaming videos over a cellular connection will eat into your data plan.

Contacts and calendars

Many of us would be completely lost if we were to lose the contacts in our address book. Long gone are the days of memorizing phone numbers, addresses, and birthdays; now we rely on our devices to store this vital information for us. Also long gone are the days of needing a USB connection to sync this type of information between devices; now service providers such as Google and Apple ensure that all of our devices are up-to-date with important information once it's added to an account.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET)
The good news is that Google and Apple really do play nicely together when it comes to syncing your contacts and calendars. On your Mac, sign in to your Google account in both the Contacts and Calendar apps. You can do this by launching either app and navigating to the Preferences (from the menu bar, click on the app name, then click on "Preferences"). Once you can see the Preferences page, click on the Accounts icon at the top. In the Contacts app, click on "On My Mac" and then check the box to begin synchronizing with Google. You'll need to sign in to the same Google account you used on your Android device.
The process in the Calendars app is similar, but instead of selecting On My Mac, you'll need to click on the "+" sign at the bottom of the window and then select Google from the list of services you can add. Again, log in with the same Google account as you did on your Android device.
On your Android device, launch the Settings app and view your Google account under the Accounts section. Tap on your account name and make sure the check box next to Calendar and Contacts is checked. Any changes made to this information will wirelessly sync between your Android device and Mac on a regular basis. Most of the time the changes are near-instant, but there can be slight delays in syncing.
If you're an iCloud user who would rather not switch over to Google services for your contacts and calendar needs, check out the SmoothSync for Cloud Calendars or Contacts apps. Either of these apps will allow you to sync your iCloud information with your Android device.

Browser bookmarks and tabs

Syncing your browser's bookmarks and tabs is one of those features that once you start using it, you don't understand how you ever lived without. It allows you to seamlessly switch from your Mac to your smartphone (or vice versa) and continue browsing where you left off. Instead of e-mailing or messaging yourself a link, you simply launch your browser and everything will be waiting for you.
The easiest way to ensure that your bookmarks, open tabs, and other browser preferences sync between your Mac and your Android device is to use Google's own browser, Chrome.
If your Android device doesn't come with Chrome preinstalled, you can download it for free here. And of course you'll need Chrome for Mac, which can be downloaded here.
Log in to Chrome on both devices with the same Google account and then view the Settings page. Check the box next to the services you'd like to sync.
Note that you'll need to be using an Android device running Android 4.0 and above to install Chrome. If you happen to be running an older version of Android, you can try using SyncMate. The free version doesn't provide bookmark syncing, so you'll be looking at paying $35 for the Expert version.
Obviously we can't cover every app or service when it comes to using an Android device with a Mac, so if you have one you're fond of, please mention it in the comments. And if we left any categories out, please let us know so we can go back and add it.

Droid NAS,
MX Player,
Google Music,
Android File Transfer,