Popular Tech Website's iPhone XS Review

We'll start with a pointless introduction. The first paragraph will be a history lesson on previous products, to make our article feel more grandiose.

Right from the start, we'll set a precedent that our writing style must be obnoxiously wordy and hard to parse. For example, instead of simply stating, "iPhone XS has a 5.8" screen, iPhone XR has a 6.1" screen, and iPhone XS Max has a 6.5" screen," we'll shove in a bunch of flowery words, like, "at the extremes of the screen real estate spectrum lie the iPhone XS and XS Max, with a 5.8" screen and a larger newcomer 6.5" screen respectively, and the iPhone XR sits in between them at 6.1"." Writing in a confusing way like this makes us feel smart.

The pointless introduction, which you're about to finish reading, will always be three paragraphs long. You will never get any useful information from these because they're all boilerplate filler that we old-fashioned writers think we need to include to make the article as a whole "feel right". What we don't understand is that readers just want to get to the fucking point.


Actually, we don't even know what design means. Of course, design isn't just about hardware, but software too, and it's not just about how hardware and software look, but how they function too. So a "design" section should really include analyses of the user interfaces for the new features. But no one ever told us that, so what we actually mean by "design" is we're just going to show you a bunch of photos of the device.

On the rare occasion that we actually have an interesting observation, we'll constantly do this annoying thing where we describe something in detail, like "there are now 6 antenna lines, compared to 4 on the X and XR. Lines have been added to the top edge's right side, and the bottom edge's left side. This means the bottom edge is no longer symmetrical, which it had been since the iPhone 7 removed the headphone jack; there are now only 4 holes on the left for the microphone, compared to 6 on the right for the speaker." But for some incomprehensible reason, instead of immediately inserting photos of what we just described, we'll just move right along to the next point. This makes our writing disjointed and hard to follow. We have such low standards for our work that we don't care that the flow of reading the review—which is our entire product.

But most of our "observations" won't even be worth your time. Throughout this section, we'll make a bunch of blatantly obvious statements, like "it's similar to the iPhone X" or "the back is made of glass." It's like we're so degrading to our own readers that we think they can't notice these things with their own eyes.

And in between all the blatantly obvious statements, we'll sprinkle in equally pointless comments, like "it's similar to the iPhone X, but the new gold color keeps it looking fresh," or "the bezels are really thin, which looks very futuristic," or even things as useless as "the battery life is better, which is nice." Of course, this is irrelevant to you because if you already saw something and felt some way about it, then you already had that thought and you don't need someone else to tell it to you. These interjections just lower the information density of our writing even more, while also giving you the illusion that we actually have anything meaningful to say. Seriously, we have no insightful observations whatsoever. Why are you still reading this?


Our reviews always follow the same pointless structure: fixed sections for "design", "screen", "camera", and "battery life" or whatever. This way, even if there's nothing worth talking about for one of these sections, we'll still crap out a bunch of filler because we feel like we need to have all of them. Also, this encourages us to always think in fill-in-the-blank structure, as if all phones were the same to begin with, instead of thinking about what's actually worth talking about for each new device and organizing our thoughts into sections accordingly.

For example, for the iPhone X last year, a section called "ergonomics" would have made a lot of sense, because even though the device was about the same size as the iPhone 7, expanding the screen vertically made the top and bottom harder to reach, making it harder to go Home or swipe down for the Lock screen. Watching videos became less ergonomic too, because the glass back and steel sides were more slippery than aluminum, and you couldn't clamp your thumb on the front where the bezels used to be, because now you would activate something on the screen. Also, iPhone X brought a new button combo for taking screenshots, which was notable because now you could take screenshots more quickly and with just one hand, but this also meant lots of accidental screenshots whenever you tried to press the side button or the volume-up button. All three of these points would have fit well under a section titled "ergonomics". But none of us wrote an "ergonomics" section in our reviews because we were thinking in form-field structure.

Anyway, this section will be a pain in the ass to read, because we tend to just spit out an assload of numbers without giving you context. If we were good writers, we would say something understandable, like "the XS Max has the same 458 pixels per inch as the XS and X, just adding more pixels to get 6.5" instead of 5.8"." But instead, we'll just dump a ton of information, like "the 6.5", 1,000,000-to-1 contrast ratio, 1242x2688 px–at-a–2.1642512:1 aspect ratio P3 OLED screen looks pretty good." That's how we talk in real life.

Some of us will mention screen area, measured in square inches or centimeters. We have no idea why we even do this. It's not like anyone's trying to see how many tiny objects they can fit onscreen at once in an arbitrary arrangement. If someone made a phone 0.5" wide by 200" long, it would have the most screen area of any phone on the market guaranteed, but it wouldn't matter because videos on that screen would be about 0.5" tall by 1.5" wide. The size and amount of a screen's contents are determined by the screen's width and height, and the content's aspect ratio, not the screen's literal area.

We won't mention any information that might actually be interesting, like how the XR actually has the same point resolution as the XS Max, which means it shows the same amount of content and controls, just a little smaller and less clearly.

  • XR: 828×1792 px at 2× pixels per point = 414×896 pt
  • XS Max: 1242×2688 px at 3× pixels per point = 414×896 pt

Points are the measurement units that lay out the controls and content on the screen. You get pixels by rendering each point into a square of either 2×2 or 3×3 pixels. The XR and XS Max have the same point resolution, so they show the same amount of content, and the XR just renders it in less detail. And because the XR fits that same number of points into 6.1" instead of 6.5", the content appears smaller.

But like I said, we're really uninformative writers who can't explain things clearly, so we won't mention any of what I just explained.

Battery Life

How do we manage to write multiple f*cking paragraphs about battery life? It's one goddamn number. All we have to do is tell you how much battery life we got in our tests (if we even did them) and how it compares to Apple's claims.


Wait a minute. We aren't photography experts, because we started out writing about tech. It was only because phone cameras started getting pretty good that we all went, "oh, we suddenly need to start talking about photography too." And instead of realizing how little sense that makes, and hiring a photographer onto our team to test these cameras and see what an actual expert pays attention to, every "camera" section of every smartphone review is a bunch of tech people pretending to understand a field that they actually don't. I mean, "we".

But it gets worse. Because what's the one thing you want to see in a camera review? Direct comparisons! We should be using this iPhone, the previous iPhone, and some competing phones to compare the same photos taken at the same angles. After all, having a whole bunch of phones to test is something that only big publications can really do, so it would make a ton of sense for us to take advantage of that to give you that useful information. But no. It's literally the most obvious thing you could ask for, and a bunch of us don't do it.

So what did we do instead? We just took some random photos with the one iPhone we're reviewing and published those. Without other cameras to compare to, these photos are literally useless. You don't know what the lighting or the colors looked like in real life, and you don't know how other cameras would perform in the same conditions, so is the new iPhone camera… way better? Or only a little better? Or only better for certain kinds of photos? You won't get any of that information here because we did not do the tests to produce that information. This is us at our best, not doing our obvious duties as "tech reviewers".


alright, i'm just gonna break character now.

most "reviews" have disgustingly low information density. they just state one obvious fact after another, inserting shallow opinions in between, and not following up with any insightful analyses. if you want to tell people what's noteworthy about a new phone, you can just list a bunch of bullet points with brief facts and comparisons instead of writing out lengthy paragraphs that make it harder to find the useful information. someone please do that. people would actually read it.

most of these popular tech websites simply have nothing insightful to say. that's the polar opposite of what i try to be. for iPhone X, i wrote an excessively long design analysis solely about its new gestures because i thought there were insightful things that no one else was saying. i try to make things that are worthy of people's time. and if you think my writing is worthy of your time, then i thank you for reading.

"i'm covering my ear to hear you better"

Sony makes this headphone with Quick Attention Mode, which lets in ambient noise when you cover one of the ear cups.

who the hell designed this?


usually, if you're pressing on on your ear cups, it means you're trying to block out outside noise so you can hear your audio better. that's the exact opposite of what you want here. did no one on the design team realize that putting your hand over your ear makes you look like you're intentionally ignoring the person you're trying to listen to?

a feature that lets you quickly let in ambient noise is a good idea. but that doesn't excuse the stupid design for using it. i would never use this because it would simply make me look rude. i'm far more inclined to just do the more human thing—take the headphone off.

just like how looking at your smartwatch makes you look like you're checking the time and in a hurry, design affects and is affected by social interaction, and designers need to consider that.

i can think of at least one better option for activating Quick Attention Mode: a button on the upper back of the ear cup.


it would have to be high enough to make people press it with their fingers and not their thumbs, yet also low enough to be behind the ear and not above it.

this way, pressing the button would look like you were cupping your ear, which is the natural gesture for trying to hear things better, not trying to block them out. this gesture would fit into social interactions far less unobtrusively, which is what they were going for originally.

if Sony had actually shipped this gesture, i might have actually liked it, and maybe even found it charming. i don’t understand why they instead shipped a design that in real-life situations is exactly counterproductive.

Analog Microwaves Are Fucking Better

microwaves should not have buttons.

look at this mess.


Popcorn? Pizza? Potato? Defrost? Reheat? Cook by Weight? i assume these modes use sensors and whatever to do all sorts of fancy shit like change the power level and cook time, but exactly how so? could Pizza mode and Potato mode possibly be that different? i have no idea and i'm not even going to figure it out.

why is there a timer on my microwave? microwaves are for cooking, not timing. when people want to set a timer, they don't walk over to their microwave. a timer kind of makes sense on an oven or stove, but a microwave already operates on a timer no matter what (there's no "stay on" mode on a microwave because it cooks so fast).

how the hell do you set the power level? every microwave forces you to press the buttons in a specific order. on some microwaves you can't set the power level until after setting the time, and sometimes you can only do it before. and to actually set the power level, you might press a number, or you might press the Power Level button repeatedly. it's always different and it's always arbitrary. if only there were a way to set the power level that didn't involve buttons.

and yes, i said microwaves should have no buttons, and that includes the Stop and Start buttons. even those are unnecessary. don't believe me?


this is the true form of the microwave.

there are two dials. one sets the power level. the other sets the time. it couldn't be any simpler.

it's totally clear what the current power level is, and it's totally clear how to change it. you can change it whenever you want, not just when the microwave says you can.

to set the time, you turn the Time dial and the microwave starts automatically, and the dial decreases to zero.

that's it.

setting the time with a dial instead of a keypad makes more sense. why should 15 seconds mean the difference between 1-4-5 and 2-0-0? on a dial, it's just turning a little further in the same direction. time is continuous, so by its very nature it fits better with an analog control.

more importantly, a dial does everything you would otherwise need a screen and over a dozen buttons to do, and it does so more intuitively. you don't need a screen because the time is shown by the position of the dial. you don't need ten numerical buttons. you don't need a Start button because the microwave starts when you turn the dial. you don't need a Stop button because it stops when you open the door. you don't need a Resume button because it resumes when you close the door. you don't need a Clear button because you just turn the dial to zero.

best, you don't need that silly Add 30 Seconds or Add 1 Minute button, because you just turn the dial some more. you can turn it a little to add a little time, or you can turn it a lot to add a lot of time. wow, isn't that genius? you can even decrease the time.

Start, Stop, Resume, Clear, and Add Time buttons are nothing but clumsy imitations of what a dial does intrinsically—by its very design. with a dial, you can do more things (decrease the time), with more precision (by a specific amount), with fewer controls (obviously), and with less thinking. all of these functions are just natural consequences of how a dial works.

the instant you look at an analog microwave, you already understand it better and can do more with it than you could ever do with a digital microwave.

that's good design.