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


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


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.

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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


A perfect journo email app

From my article on Medium:

After years of working with journalists and writing myself, the challenge of composing emails that stand out in the right way has become something of an obsession.

But I wonder, could you design an email client for journalists that did smart things with the messages to make their life easier and the process smoother? And could that help them get to the crux of each message faster — the story it had to offer?

Read the full article here

June 13th, 2013


Who will build Android for Dummies?

From my post on Medium:

I like my new Android phone. It has power, it lets me have more control over the experience than my iPhone ever did and for a lot of people, it delivers in exactly the areas that iOS is increasingly frustrating and/or boring them. But this is not a phone I’d recommend to my Mum. Or most of my friends. Or, in all probability, you.

My Nexus 4 is a great, complete, mobile experience. The word that comes to mind again and again is “unrestrained’. Where iOS cajoles you into certain behaviours and typically ‘we know best’ UX, Android will play on your terms. Want to use Face unlock? Fine. Want to rinse your battery telling Evernote to update 60 times a day in the background? Fine. Want to sideload ROMs, new firmwares etc? Fine. On your head be it!

I’d say I’m a technological grownup. I understand how to tamper with technology and make it do what I want — but I’m old enough to deal with pretty much any consequences if it goes wrong. Most people aren’t like this. Most people don’t want this.

Read the full post here

June 11th, 2013


Glass Half Empty

From my latest on Medium:

Smartphones rose to power because they took a device you always had with you and crammed it full of extra value. These portable computers used the ‘phone’ concept as a trojan horse at just the right time of mobile data, miniaturisation and social networks. Before long, most people will have smartphones without even thinking about it.

But they also only impact you at the point of consumption. Until you take it out of your pocket, it’s out of sight and out of mind. Like your watch, these inventions are hidden but just a ‘click’ away when required – like menus in web design.

Glass is different. It’s always there, ready to notify you or leap into search. But there’s a price: it sits there benignly on your face all day every day, whether you’re using it or not.

Read the rest here

May 21st, 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


Beaten: Xbox Mini could give Apple TV a run for its money

Today, a lesson. Don’t leave blogs making predictions about tech in your drafts folder so long that the rumour mill of those ideas coming true catches up with you.

Looks like Microsoft is considering the Xbox Mini that I’d been toying with in the following post. See what you think…

-starts-

Console and set top box manufacturers have been keen to rush into the main position under your primary TV, but most have kept cards relatively close to their chest when it comes to companion devices.

A console manufacturer such as Microsoft could launch into this space and provide more than just the same streaming abilities you get with the competition. Think “Xbox Mini” — a device that lets you shuffle your gaming session to a screen in another room. it would add a whole different kind of value for Xbox owners over competing consoles.
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November 21st, 2012