Downstream: Living with Pebble

A few thoughts, in no particular order.

  • Forget ‘smartwatch’, Pebble is better described as a HUD on your wrist. You can ignore your phone, not worry about missing anything, not have to keep flicking the screen on in case you’ve got notifications. You can just get on with things — and that brings the ‘smartphone’ age into a more positive balance for me.
  • Smartphones have created a swarm of new common habits, while simultaneously becoming overkill to perform them. Apps can surface their most important actions or information in a far more convenient way. And because there are often so many, the time saved adds up fast.
  • I want more of this “spoke and hub” design to my gadgets. Why not have my iPad act as a central brain, with its solid processor and battery, powering all these little devices? Then my iPhone could just be a connected screen, my Pebble could be a dumb little eInk screen, Nest is a dumb sensor on the wall etc. I imagine the challenges are not insurmountable.
  • The App Store is at once very exciting and very disappointing. Currently it’s really hard to discover new apps and know which ones are worth trying. But the best ones are real gems.
  • Should you get one? As much as you should buy yourself any toy you don’t need. It’s not in the realm of whether you could live without it, it’s more about whether you’re the kind of person who will get a kick out of what it lets you do.

Some of my favourite everyday uses:

  • Checking items off my Evernote shopping list
  • Bus/ train times in a click or two
  • Multiple countdowns and timers for cooking
  • Google Maps turn-by-turn directions on my wrist
  • Controlling Chromecast, Netflix, Spotify remotely

May 22nd, 2014


“Blue sky thinking” to popularise the Year of Code with today’s youth

The Government’s Year of Code is off to a mixed start, to say the least. But it is possible that increasing the next generation’s knowledge of these valuable tools could be key to increasing our country’s future prosperity. So what are we to do?

Drawing on my own childhood computing interest and some classic ‘blue sky thinking’, here are a few suggestions to get things moving.

1. Turn off the App Stores

It can be done. Egypt has done it, Syria has done it — isn’t it about time someone used filtering of communications as a force for good? With access to the exciting and useful array of apps now gone, the App Store home pages can be replaced with a guide to writing your first programme. Or the source code for Flappy Bird and Snapchat. Today’s industrious youth will have hacked together an alternative in no time — I mean, what else are they going to do, read a book?

2. Give the project to Reddit to run instead

Loading up the home page and seeing George Osborne grinning back at you is enough to put anyone off. Seriously though, the Government is not cool, school is the biggest institution you ignore the advice of, and men in suits who work at Google are not aspirational figures. Reddit is an online community founded by young guys who had no idea what they were doing and smashed their way to success. And if nothing else, the community gets things done.

3. Bring back TV storylines where kids hack computers to change their grades

This used to happen in literally every children’s TV show when I was young and they made it look easy enough to try. Given the state of most Government IT, they probably stand a good chance at success.

Joking aside, if you want to learn more about the Year of Code and get a more optimistic view on the subject, you could do worse than read this analysis by Benjamin Southworth. Ben was previously in the belly of the beast as Deputy CEO of the Tech City project so his perspective is not your average Joe’s.

But hopefully, if all else fails, my suggestions above can remain a solid Plan B. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments.

March 4th, 2014


The only interesting things about the new iPhones/ iOS

Not interesting:

  • colours
  • cheap vs expensive
  • ‘flat’ design/ transparency/ parallax effects
  • 64 bit processor

Interesting:

TouchID + Bluetooth Low Energy (iBeacons)

Apple just put a method in your pocket to verify your identity instantly with any device it can connect to through this new bluetooth standard. Want more security? Use voice recognition in tandem to verify a phrase.

Put it in a watch and it’s more convenient than ever. It’s no co-incidence that iCloud Keychain is also on the way to keep all your passwords in one place. And don’t forget Passbook securely holds things like your plane tickets right through to your Starbucks card. Your thumb is now the easiest way to access all of this, in an instant.

Controller support… but no controller announcements

iPhone gaming is an unexpected success (Apple has never cared about the area before) — but is hamstrung by not being able to do ‘traditional’ games justice. Seeing the glitzy graphics of Infinity Blade (a game that really only works on a touchscreen), you have to ask how far out of reach Vita or even current gen console games are on the device.

Perhaps an explanation for the lack of updates on this major area will come in the pre-Xmas Apple event this year. Considering the lineup, it’s iPods and iPads for sure — where they’ve really played up the gaming message recently. If they come on stage and account proper controllers in conjunction with a new Apple TV that gets games onto the screen in an elegant fashion, this would make sense.

A dedicated motion CPU

The fact that the quantified self movement relies on devices outside your phone, even for simplistic things like step count, is stupid. I don’t care if it’s on your wrist or a little widget in your pocket, these devices are a mess today and unlikely to go mainstream in contrast to the integration announced today. By making the phone itself handle the laborious ongoing tracking, it means you can add sensors for specific tasks (heart rate) or sync with nearby devices (e.g. a running machine via iBeacon.)

I still don’t totally buy into the idea that these things present meaningful value and accuracy yet, to the degree the mainstream would need and expect. But by becoming an effortless add-on that doesn’t kill your battery, the selection becomes more about software than hardware. And this area is ripe for a “there’s an app for that” approach. 

Did I miss something? Let me know.

September 12th, 2013


A history of iPhone taglines

Any marketer knows how painful it can be getting a tagline/ strapline that you’re happy with — and the choice of ‘forward thinking’ for the new iPhone seemed curious to me. So I took a look at the previous history of iPhone taglines.

I presume the stark change is to do with having two models, forcing them to abandon the ‘superlative’ approach (“Best iPhone yet.”)

See what you think.

iPhone: Touching is believing

iPhone 3G: The iPhone you’ve been waiting for

iPhone 3GS: The fastest, most powerful iPhone yet

iPhone 4: This changes everything again

iPhone 4S: It’s the most amazing iPhone yet

iPhone 5: The biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone

iPhone 5S: Forward Thinking

Check out the full ads for each after the break.

(more…)

September 10th, 2013


Evernote Moleskine: a confused review

I like Evernote. But there’s only so far I think you can really love software. By contrast, my notebook is like a trusty familiar idea-steed. Yes, Idea-steed. From the ceremony of pinging away the elastic to leafing open a page, It even makes me love my favourite pen more as it scratches away on the paper.

But it’s primarily a writing experience to me, not a reading one. The medium is transient and the information I’m recording is as much to make me think in a different, more patient way as it is to get the notes down. Luckily, I’ve never had a panicked moment of desperately searching for an important detail lost in the pages of one of these slick tomes.

(more…)

August 13th, 2013


A different path to Inbox Zero

New Gmail got me thinking:

Alongside archive/ action, now there’s a third, lower maintenance option: scan the subject lines. They say decreasing decision fatigue helps you concentrate on the things that matter — and I think the new Gmail represents a step in that direction. Nagging notifications are dismissed just by viewing tab.

July 23rd, 2013


Your oldest outdated device

Old tech is cool.

http://news.yahoo.com/your-oldest–most-outdated-device-010249339.html

July 4th, 2013


Product satisfaction: It’s all about the upgrades

There was a time when you had to invest in pricey new hardware if you wanted to have anything to look forward to in gadgets you’d bought. But these days everything from the smallest mobile app to film services like Netflix and console OSes continue to add value and innovate after their release.

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March 24th, 2013


“When words become empty, the listener loses faith in the speaker. Apple has lost control of the…”

“When words become empty, the listener loses faith in the speaker. Apple has lost control of the narrative”

Apple is Losing The War – Of Words | Monday Note

March 21st, 2013