Apple Sha Tin, Hong Kong.

I would rate Today at Apple 7/10.

Literature and Productivity are themes I can’t find and I hate those “free” session.

Today at Apple is the Retail promotion program that teaches and inspires people how they can better-utilized their Apple product. Let me makes it clear first, I am a fan of Apple but I am not happy about Today at Apple. The professional host does deliver a well-prepared lesson with decent supplementary materials.

However, I believe there’s something Apple can do even better. Music, video and app making are the dominant topic in the program. Themes like that directly linked to the sales of iTunes and App Store. What frustrated me is nothing for the Books Store.

No compensation received from Apple and Microsoft.


Table of Content


A Today at Apple

A1 What I observed before my session

▲ Another session prior to mine.
Left: Many mid-age customers were attending the photography session
Right: The facilitator with Apple green t-shirt was highlighting what can be done better after his praises.

I went to the store 30 minutes earlier. Before my session began, there’s a small seminar about photography. I am surprised that that event is filled with full of senior people. Apple store seems a good gathering place.

The host solicited the attendees' masterpiece taken via AirDrop. Then, he displayed some photo on that big screen. Like the one on the right shot in the classic public estate in Hong Kong, he recommended enabling the HDR function so as to keep the blue sky. He then retouched it by tilting it a little bit. Clapping ended that photography course.

▲ Materials presented at first.
Left: “Nature changes our emotion, contributes our sense of belonging to Earth.”
Right: “Do more by less resource.”

▼ A Music Lab promotion citing the song from singer Madonna (YouTube).

A2 What I experienced in my session

5:30 pm started my Cantonese session, Design Lab: Drawing Treehouses Co⁠-⁠created with Foster + Partners. Following with a video that conveyed some design ideas for a tree house, the presenter verbally inspired us what should we consider.

Foster + Partners is a famous British architecture studio. Hong Kong International Airport and HSBC main Building are one of the projects by their firm.

With a fluent and confident speech, Maxx, the staff had introduced us to some iPad multitasking features like split screen (running two apps side-by-side). Pulled from Safari, he demonstrated us how to drag a photo and traced it in the drawing app Procreate (this is a solution for people not that creative, haha). After the quick walkthrough, he even made himself a self-portrait sketch. The green guy is a good teacher.

That expert in the session guided us on how to draw some straight/curved lines (that’s the only technique I don’t know though I am a frequent Procreate user), how to use layers for easier spatial arrangement, how to switch painting instruments and colors, and you name it.

However, the store is a bit noisy. Well, it is impossible to keep the store as quiet as a library. I don’t like the uncomfortable wooden seat either. To be honest, it is hard for my butt, especially for a 90 minutes workshop.

Certainly, Maxx is an experienced instructor on the stage. In the end, we airdroped our works to his iPad. He exhibited and replayed the timelapse of everyone’s piece. A kid was so happy when her work projected on the screen. She may not well-acquired the drawing knowledge but I can feel her joy and come again next time. Today at Apple is the result of well user experience research.

The overall Today at Apple experience is seamless and delightful.

▼ End of the session.
Left: The artwork created by Maxx.
Right: My above-the-cloud “tree” house. (It looks like a hamburger in the hindsight.)

A3 Problems of FREE sessions

Another 90 minutes workshop I joined earlier is about how to brainstorm ideas for an app. The moderator Alex is charming also. He educated us on how to markup the given PDF in Files app and to create a Keynote document for an app prototype by orange alignment line, slide transition/link, and built-in symbol library. That is a smaller workshop and only three attendees presented. The staff did tell me the popularity is not that high.

No, I am not happy.

All the sessions are free and that’s the problem. Late-comers, absentees, newbies all join the session. I don’t like being interrupted all the time. Some participant doesn’t even know app Keynote and Files, let alone summoning the Dock from the bottom. A plain term can be horrible jargon to junior users. Some amateur has no knowledge of using an iPad. The free session comes with full disruption.

Today at Apple can be an expansive service. WWDC is a paid conference and why not Apple charge some of the items in Today at Apple? Customers would pay more attention to what they learned if there’s a price. Some clients are willing to pay for a comfortable service, service with value.

Or, Apple may consider some member invite-only sessions. The same workshop can be free but only available to the audience who do know Apple devices. The instructor can be more focus and interact better with attendees. Some loyal but practical customers (like me) know their choice if you don’t convince them to.

Perhaps I am wrong. I want Apple to try something different, some measure to distinguish the dummies and loyal professionals. If success, such priced session would bring another stream of income and more entourage to Apple.

A4 Signing up for sessions

To register a session, just head to App Store and search “Apple Store” or search the term for the official website. After log-in your Apple ID, switch to the tab “Sessions” which compiles the schedule of all the upcoming workshops near your location.

It is like a gallery and you can scroll to the topics that interest you most. Literally “Signed-up” and add the confirmed event in Calendar. When you arrive, just tell the host your last name and borrow the devices (if needed).

The next day you would receive an email from Apple Store. It prompts you to rate the performance of the host. Rather replying it, I write this article.

B Topics I can’t find: Productivity, Literature

Now it turns to my struggle part.

Though the current menu does match my taste, “Today at Apple” can do more. I am going to attend a health course next time. App Store editors feature apps from any category but not AppLE Store. It seems to imply that only music, videos, apps are the way to change the world. Today at Apple is not yet the best version of itself.

In the following chapter, I am going to share my thoughts on what Apple should highlight, Productivity and Literature.

B1 Productivity

I am quite frustrated. As you can spot out on the official website, “Photography”, “Video”, “Music”, “Coding & Apps”, “Art & Design”, “Health & Fitness” and “Products” but nothing about Productivity.

Productivity is important, too. The closest program is Products. As a fan of Apple, I am amazed by the well-rehearsed WWDC this year, especially the iPad OS. iPad Pro is my on-the-go computer and my MacBook is now a peripheral device. As a student, the iPad is a stable tool for me to handle clerical stuff and take notes in the classroom.

One thing to note, the recent cooperation benefit we customers. I love Microsoft and Adobe bringing their subscription-based services like Office 365 and Lightroom on the Mac App Store. In reality, my workflow includes apps developed by multiple companies. Would be game changing if Open/LibreOffice, GIMP, Inkscape, Blender joins the game.

▼ Craig is demonstrating how to open two Microsoft Word documents side-by-side on WWDC 2019 (screenshot on 1:06:32). Android tablets do provide the same function years ago but not the comparable smoothness.

▲ Imagining new Today at Apple session providing tips of productivity.

Repurposing the Screen as a Channel

Too many unnecessary advertisements are in the Store. The person who entered the store must be interested in its content. They know the brand. Along with the attractive iPhones promotion clips, Apple may recruit some video of tips and how-to on that big screen. Apple Support is an excellent choice.

▲ That backdrop is extraordinary but it should sell the solutions, not the products.

Imagining how cool it is to be one of the selected works featuring in that big screen? In Hong Kong, we call such encouragement in Cantonese as 「貼堂」 (“sticking onto the wall”). Seeing other customers creation may give a tangible, receptive idea of what the “Today at Apple”.

This is an incentivization that informs customers that they don’t merely own the products. It reinforces the message that they can create something, they can. (Embarrassing to say, I want my work to be showcased on that display too, haha) In-store casting the best content created may increase the usage of “hashtag todayatapple”. Customers crafted work is more convincing than the official cover picture.

By the way, Apple may consider owning a blog too. I always fast forward videos and reading is more engaging for users don’t like watching.

B2 Literature: Readers / Writers Club

People change because they hate the status quo.

Perhaps it is silly, another specific thing I am proposing is a reading club. Apple organizes tutorials to produce photos, videos, apps but where are texts? In real life, I don’t create things all the time but read. No idea of how many have the same experience, the Apple Store is cozy for me read there. Writing and Reading can be done on the least powerful Apple device.

Literature is one creative art form but is missing in the Apple Store now. Today at Apple does bond people, even they are stranger to each other. The public library is a good educational center but shall not the exclusive venue to educate the community. Apple Store has the potential.

▼ Ideas of how literacy can be promoted at Apple Store.
Left: A Chinese public-domain fiction from Apple Books Store.
Right: Similar to the Video Lab, the educator may recommend some literature knowledge, or some reading strategies, for the young and the mature.

Everyone can “read”

The strength of Apple is to inspire others.

In education and cognitive psychology, reading is fundamentally different from listening and watching. People need more imagination cognitively before they can comprehend and feel the experience of the author. Other’s reflection is a shortcut for me to be a better person. Compared with other vivid, stimulating forms of work, texts are less attractive but it practices my patience. Everyone knows the benefit of reading.

Apple may invite some publishers or less-known authors to “read aloud” their books that are selling on the Apple Books store. Lessons may cover writing thoughts on Notes by Apple Pencil, rearranging words in a poem with three-finger gestures in iOS 13, looking-up build-in dictionaries for better word choice, moving some digital props on Swift Playground. Making other shine defines Apple.

As a user myself, the redesigned Books app is stunning with the enhanced typography. I prefer reading on my iPad Pro and iPhone X than Kindle, though there is a limited collection of Books store in my city. I believe Books app mean something to Apple, otherwise, the company can just kill it but not revamping it.

Author slash Reader

For younger readers, the librarian disguised by Apple staff may provide some additional resource in guiding them to think the behaviors of characters, playing interactive picture-text matching materials, imagining the story plot with illustrations, skimming for useful ideas, narrating the content together with parents and Siri (that natural TTS is great).

Technologies improve people’s lives and that’s why I love both psychology and technology. There are many studies suggesting how to become a good reader but few recognize the difference between traditional and digital reading. Let’s kids can read what their parent read via Family Sharing. As an iOS feature, Screen time can provide insight for parents to balance children reading time between games and books. Rather than being an extremist, the coexistence of entertainment and production is the best.

Innovations can be typed/written simply

Knowledge, Resilience, Values, Actions… can be all found from books.

Books inspire more ideas. Their content feeds us ethics, empathy, and ecstasy. Unlike what I had been taught as a kid, children in 21 centries can scroll virtually the bookshelves. Reading is much easier these days but finding the right book needs patience. Through Books app, juvenile and senior bookworms can grasp any wisdom on their screen. Every volume conveys new thoughts.

◤ Emulating an event card about note-taking skills. The pic is adapted from one of my article, Note-taking with OneNote as a Psychology student.

Lived from WWDC 2019, Apple showcased the new iOS text editing functionality. Other than Pages and Microsoft Word, editing and note-taking apps I have, like Ulysses, Drafts, Scrivener, and my favorite Bear, can take advantage of these new services instantly.

Apple Store can be a match lighter to writing. Since there are already sessions instructing customers like me how to create music via Garageband, or painting with some third-party apps like the aforementioned app Procreate, how about inspiring people to turn their scribbles into impactful articles?

Both Apple and Microsoft devote a great number of resources on technological pedagogy. Rather than competing with each other, combining the most advanced educational technologies would greatly enhance outcomes for the learners’ in the 21st centuries.

C iPod for Music and iPad for Books

App Store and iTunes Store are so successful and why can’t the Book Store?

Commercially, would be great if Apple put more money on fostering new writers, just like how the company is supporting the artist on Apple Music (see the public statement, Addressing Spotify’s Claims). Or, a subscription version of Books store definitely makes a difference. Unlike music, podcast, and movies, text-based books occupy small local storage but unproportionally entertain me more as I feel it myself. Only Apple can unlock the door to future publishing.

Instead of the Game Centre, how about launching a new app Library/Reading Hub? Like the Health app, this can be a separate app maintains the user’s course of reading. Daily reading rewards acknowledge readers of their continual effort. Siri may prompt the best reading time in Calendar/Reminder. Instead of a meaningless reading competition, the app may feature something like “what my friends highlighted/quoted” so as to make prominent the content inside and relive one’s favorite sentences like the Photos app in iOS 13.

Limited collection in other locations is a problem. The shelf in Apple Books store is, honestly, empty in Hong Kong (also the Maps but I am glad this year we have a new Maps report interface in iOS 13). Though we have iBooks Author and Pages, Apple may consider investing more in their own publishing business, similar to Apple TV+ and Medium.

Silent orchestra

Or, what if, like a File Provider extension / Fonts in iOS 13, Books (also the Map) app invites third-party service providers to supply their paid collection. On macOS, there’s an app literally called Dictionary. Apple should make an iOS version and allow users to purchase for a new dictionary like Font in iOS 13.

I hate the term “Genre”. Labels like that is a stigma. It cannot well describe the nature of every artwork. As I recall, Apple introduces “Tag” on OS X Mavericks in WWDC 2013. An app/song/podcast/news/book can be assigned for multiple categories, just like we human. Rules that we are accustomed to do not necessarily right.

And then, a bundle for all sort of Apple service… I can listen to OST when reading the book at home. Then, I can watch the adaption movie on Apple TV+ on my sofa. During commute time, I can play the same title game.

▼ Screenshot of Apple website
Left: New Text Editing gestures featured in the upcoming iPadOS update.
Right: Holding all the Harry Potter books on the go with ease.

Conclusion: Apple’s DNA?

…we’re also a company where our idea is we’re building stuff that we would want for ourselves…

▲ Craig Federighi concluded in The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2019 (YouTube, 1:41:35)

For the world, Apple always working on “insignificant” stuff, like accessibility, digital privacy (vs censorship and surveillance, on-device machine learning), environmental protection (100% renewable energy), health issues and more. These things mean a lot to many people. This differentiates Apple from other tech companies. Apple always surprise me.

Multimedia and programming are the dominant topics in Today at Apple. More than a retail store, the Apple Store is a good physical platform for paid services. Public beta demonstrated a willingness for Apple that they have an ear to customers voices. I am looking forward to the diversify version of it.

In a small city Hong Kong with 7.4 million population, we have 6 Apple Stores. I want the Apple marketing and education team partition some time on other domains.


Remarks: iPad 2 is my first Apple device, and later iPhone 5, MacBook Air, iPhone 6s, MacBook, iPad Pro 12"+Apple Pencil, AirPods, Apple Watch S1, iPhone X, Apple Watch S4.

27th June 2019: Corrected some grammatical errors, Rearranged the content. Rewritten the introduction.

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🐟Curtis Chan Chun Tsong

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讀心理學,鐘意科技同效率相關題材。A Psychology student is hooked on technologies and productivity. #地鐵迷 #非火車迷 #科幻 #電子化 #硬筆書法#手寫 #metro #digital #handwritten #calligraphy

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