Tag Archives: tech

2014: What to watch – the wearable era.

25 Mar

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2014 is set to be a big year in the technology industry. Since the beginning of the tablet era in 2010 we haven’t had a revolutionary new product category that has really hit it off. 4 years later, we are getting a glimpse of how technology will continue to integrate into our lives.

Smart watches are by no means a new category, they’ve been around for some years now in the form of the Pebble Smart watch or the Galaxy Gear. But neither of these have been big successes, in fact, they’ve been seen as a massive failure. I guess the biggest question is why haven’t they taken off yet, and whats to say that they ever will?

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There are two fundamental issues with the current portfolio of smart watches:

  1. They do not integrate as efficiently as they could do
  2. They really don’t look great

For a Smart Watch to be successful, it firstly has to integrate into our lives without any fuss. We want it to be easy to use and have all the information we need readily available for when we need it. Such as todays meetings, the weather, our contacts and our messages. All in a format that is easily readable on the fly.

Secondly, it needs to look good. But at the same time satisfy a varied number of consumers. Watches, more often than not are fashion accessories (when not being used to tell the time). So if they look bulky, clunky and ugly they aren’t going to sell. But making a generic look that appeals to the mass is a difficult hurdle to overcome. Customisation is key, both physically and digitally.

The Android Wear announcement last week brings a completely new competitor to the table, the first serious player in the smart watch market. The videos shared of the Moto 360 have set a high bar for what could be a game changer for wearables. The previews show a beautiful and elegant interface that shows off everything that a smart watch should be.

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The Moto 360 also demonstrated another important variable for the wearable era: health monitoring. Personally, this will be a massive selling point for me. I currently use the Nike + app on my phone for running and I have always had an interest in getting a Nike Fuelband. With leaked screenshots of Apple’s iOS 8 health book app, it seems that this year’s technology announcements will be very health orientated.

I think that this is a fantastic opportunity for encouraging a healthier lifestyle. Smart phone manufacturers can harness the power of a device that millions of its customers already have, and couple it with a new peripheral that can change the way people live their lives.

The same way the iPhone revolutionised the mobile phone market back in 2007, the Smart Watch era will change the way we access our most important data on the fly, whilst at the same time keeping tabs on our body to improve our fitness without us even realising.

Watch this space.

 

 

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Post PC era, reality or marketing ploy?

5 Jan

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First of all it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything – I think life may have just gotten in the way. But as I sit here feeling those January blues on this dreadful Sunday evening, I thought to myself I would make my Sunday even worse by using my brain for something productive.

Now that I’ve got the happy introduction out the way, let’s move on!

Post-PC Era is a term used to describe the decreased PC sales in favour of mobile devices (tablets and smart phones). With the rise of tablets over the past years the Post-PC Era is a phrase that has been thrown around a lot, and every time it is mentioned I still feel as uncomfortable as the first time I heard it.

When I think of Post-PC, I envision a world where tablets replace PC’s. This scares me. To an average consumer, it’s great, their device does everything they need it to using a simplified operating system. But to a more advanced power user it’s a nightmare. As much as device manufactures want to promote their device and applications with user productivity in mind, I strongly believe that you can not get the same amount of productivity out of a tablet.

At the start of the tablet era, just before Apple announced the first iPad, I was hoping (more than anything) that it would come with a feature rich, fully functional operating system. Alas, it didn’t, and productivity in the early days of tablets wasn’t to be seen. I will give it some credit through,  with the addition of better suited apps it is much better than it was.

But even to this day I couldn’t use my iPad as a device for website programming, it is just not practical. I need a fully functional operating system will full versions of applications. There is still so much that a tablet restricts you to.

I have been through various iPads – I’ve had the iPad 2, iPad mini and iPad mini retina. Each time I have purchased one I have questioned over and over how it will fit into my life. I have a phone that does everything I need on the go, and my laptop that I use for all my more advanced tasks. I could never replace my laptop with a tablet so why do I need a one when my current devices do everything the tablet would?

I don’t think the full sized iPad is the way to go. After my iPad 2 I was very much ‘anti-tablet’, it was too big and bulky and I hardly used it. I could have just carried around my laptop instead. It was too big to play games, read books, or watch movies on. So when Apple released the iPad Mini, my interest in tablets resurfaced, and eventually I purchased one.

The iPad mini is fantastic for reading books, it’s about the same size as a book so it just feels natural. The screen on the retina makes the text look crystal clear too. It’s also brilliant for playing games as it’s lightweight and easy to hold, and watching TV no longer requires a gym membership to hold the device up for long periods of time.

Even after being happy with my iPad mini, there was still doubt in my mind. How will this fit into my life? Will I stop using my phone or laptop? I don’t want any of my devices to be redundant!

Now I think it’s key to really think how tablets have emerged and become so popular, so quickly. It’s provided easier accessibility to the internet for people who were reluctant to use a big scary computer. Any idiot can pickup a tablet and use it, they are intuitive devices, and this is where the majority of their market share comes from. However, for the more ‘techy’ folk, this isn’t a replacement device, it’s a new device completely.

I still use my laptop for the more advance tasks and I use my phone for simple tasks (like making phone calls!!!). My iPad seems to have flown right in and settled as a new device in its own right.

At work I now use my iPad for listening to music, my phone doesn’t hold all my music but with the extra 16GB I have on my ipad I can store all my music. The free Deezer app that I get with my contract is great on the iPad for streaming music too. It’s great for quickly replyin

It’s that interim device that I can use when I am not on foot, such as at work or on a train commute. It doesn’t replace my existing devices – it extends them. It may mean that I use my phone and laptop less, but, thats all for good reason.

Yes – It has taken me 4 years to finally fit a tablet into my lifestyle.
No – The Post PC-Era is not reality, its a marketing ploy. A Post-PC Era indicates a time after PC’s.  Mobile devices will not replace PC’s (completely), they will work alongside them for a long time to come.

iPhone 5C… Crayola?

10 Aug

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No, of course not. It isn’t going to be called Crayola, but i’m not far off as iPhone 5 Colour seems like a very safe bet.

I haven’t blogged for a long time due to my lack of time to do so, despite spending the majority of my life sitting at a computer desk I do not have the time to allow my thoughts to be put into blog form. However, it’s getting to a very popular time of year in terms of technology, and this is a subject that I cannot pass up writing about.

It’s become no secret to the world that Apple are releasing a budget iPhone in the fall, no official announcement of the sort but an abundance of panel leaks have proven that we will be on the receiving end of a budget iPhone in an assortment of colours.

Why?

Well that is a good question. Many people might think that the iPhone is already a mass produced product, so why release a less powerful, plastic version when you can just get the latest high-spec one with diamond cut “chamfered” aluminum housing? To win over the cheap budget Android phone users is why.

Although a budget iPhone may not sway existing iPhone users to a new phone, it is certainly going to bring in a new wave of iPhone customers. Presently, people who have an iPhone can not only afford one, they generally want to have one. People that don’t have one are sitting on the fence of being unsure of owning one, and eying up that cheaper Android alternative.

There is a perfect gap in this market for Apple, they know they already have their existing high-end customers with the standard iPhone. The people who are caught on the fence, and ultimately end up going for a cheap Android handset on a £15/month contract will now have the option of a better quality iPhone alternative for roughly the same sort of money.

Maybe I am being bias here by saying the cheap Android aren’t good quality, but it is true. I have nothing against Android phones and the Galaxy S 4 is a fantastic phone, but it is up there with the same price range as the iPhone. The cheaper phones are rubbish, and if someone releases a high quality low spec phone it will be a massive goldmine for the first past the post.

The only mistake I see Apple are making with this launch is timing. As part of their yearly refresh of phones they have a major launch one year followed by a spec bump launch the following year, usually giving the iPhone a trailing “S” on the spec bumped model. By releasing the low budget coloured phones alongside the “S” model, may be enough to pull away the people who are sitting on an iPhone 5 and unsure of whether to upgrade to a 5S.

If you are one of these people, and are not satisfied with the difference between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5S, you may find yourself considering going for the C. As it’s something different and something new. Apple will have to be very careful not to pull away their current customers onto the cheaper model, they must market it perfectly for it to work and provide a clear gap between the two markets they are now targeting.

Apple may have lost some of its innovation since Steve Jobs, but they still have a huge team at their disposal, and if they market the iPhone 5C right it will be a huge success for them. I just hope that it’s followed closely by something new and innovative.

- DC

iOS 7 – A review of sorts

13 Jun

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If you had read my previous blog, you will have seen that Apple recently announced the next installment of their mobile operating system – iOS 7.

Since writing my last blog I have had the chance to download, install and use the operating system for a few days. I am starting to get to grips with it.

Prior to installing I was very skeptical about it. I did not like the idea of flat design as I believed that it was going against everything that Apple had always “been about”. I felt like Apple were giving in to their rivals, because lets be honest, there is nothing innovative about iOS 7. Its practically a polished up Android design.

One of the reasons I own Apple devices is because I’ve always liked the easy to use, skeumorphism designs that the company are known for, and turning to flat designs made me question if it would be better to go for another phone that have had more time to develop their ‘flat’ designs. Such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, which is a very nice phone indeed. However, after using the new operating system it is clear that Apple’s take on flat is very different, and much better than first pictured.

Ease of Use

Even though iOS 7 looks different to previous versions, you can tell that the six years worth of work that the team at Apple have put into this operating system still exists. The very core of the OS has not changed at all, it pretty much just has a new lick of paint with some added features.

Everything works in pretty much the same way, we have new features such as the control center that gives us features that our long loved jailbreak SBSettings has provided us with for many years now.

The only noticeable design change that has hindered the ease of use occurs mainly within the calender application and some other little aspects of the OS. The new design in many cases does not provide clear separation between different sections of various applications. It is most noticeable within the calendar app where by there is no separation between the months. You can see this within the screenshot below. It can be confusing and a clearer method of presentation could be used.

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Design

The design I believe is a refreshing update from what was a stale and outdated operating system. Although I was originally skeptical to move away from what I thought was great and worked the way I wanted, I now look back at iOS 6 on my old devices and wonder why I ever put up with the old clunky design. The new IOS makes much better use of the retina display too, the lockscreen is beautiful.

There is more good news about iOS 7 too, according to reports it is still in its very early stages of design. Between now and the public release there are going to be many different design changes to the OS, meaning we should not worry about some of those awful looking icons, as they are most definitely not here to stay.

Jony Ive has also reported that it wasn’t actually his own design team that worked on the icon set for iOS 7. He passed on the task to the company’s marketing and website design team. A strange but clever move, because after all, why use the same designers that have been working on the old design when you could bring something fresh to the mix?

I am very excited to see what the final product will look like. Jony Ive has only had 6 months to put this together, he now has a further 3ish months to finish the job properly.

RIP SBSettings.

-DC

iOS7: Flattened all over

10 Jun

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Well, as expected – say goodbye to skeuomorphism and hello to flat.

It’s been half an hour since the WWDC ended and all through the event I kept seeing parts of the new iOS that I did not like, to begin with I hated the icons, they looked like Apple had fired all their designers and used a free source icon set they found on Google. But when picking the photo to use for this blog post, my opinion had already changed. I like them.

Change is never good, except when it is. At first people don’t like change if it is too different, it puts people off when they have to sway away from what they are used to.

This is what will happen with iOS 7, people will see all these changes and their minds will go into overdrive trying to work out how this new system works. This in turn will make them want to hold onto something they are used to – iOS 6.

We all wanted change and that is exactly what we got. I imagine it will be a huge success and people will grow to like it. I can already feel myself liking the things I didn’t like to begin with, I’m sure this will continue.

Throughout the announcement I couldn’t help but think that if Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall were still at Apple then this (flat design akin to other phones) would not have happened, the move goes against everything that Apple used to stand for. A lot of people will argue that Apple has changed since Steve passed, we are still waiting to see if this will be a good thing.

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There are certainly some design elements that Apple could improve on in iOS 7, they could have done SO much better. The look of “Control Centre” for example, is atrocious, they could have made it look so much nicer. To me, its the most disgusting feature I have seen on a phone, and goes against everything Apple have ever said about “Simple, beautiful design”.

If you really think about it though, this is only the start of flat design at Infinity Loop. It has its flaws but I will still use it in hope I will grow to like the new designs or they will change. Thinking back to iOS 1, it was horrible compared to iOS 6. Here is to iOS 13.

- DC

Back to the future

22 May

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I’d like to reiterate and adjust a point I made in my previous blog – XBOX THRE… ONE.

I previously noted that the biggest downfall of this device was the inability to play old XBOX 360 games on the console. After giving it some thought, I’d like to retract my point and replace it with “The lack of backward compatibility within the XBOX ONE is a brilliant move from Microsoft”. Why? Read on.

The XBOX 360 era is over saturated with games, some games such as the Call of Duty titles are repeated year after year without much difference between them, and by removing backwards compability, the XBOX 360 ERA is put behind us.

It was brilliant! We all loved and enjoyed it. But its an old era now, akin to the old era of the SEGA mega drive. The XBOX ONE is a new platform that allows a new era of games to be developed using the x84 architecture.

Many people (myself included) are annoyed that we need to use two separate consoles – but upon reflection I believe there needs to be a separation, a barrier, between the old generation and the new generation. It’s a completely new console that requires new IP’s and a new lease of life. The XBOX 360 and its games had lost a lot of their fire because the same similar games were being produced over and over again and it was becoming the same old. By not allowing all these games to be carried over Microsoft are wiping the slate clean, starting over, regaining interest and giving developers a chance to rethink and redesign their games for the new era.
Here’s to the future… not the past.

 

-DC

XBOX THRE… ONE

21 May

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Well. Microsoft, you surely know how to do a press conference don’t you? Instead of bothering with all the stats, the conference got straight to the point. Less than five minutes in and we had visuals on the console. Sony, take note – customers like to see the product you are trying to market.

Some may think that Sony’s choice not to release the design of their console was all a strategic plan to build up the hype. I do not agree, the design of the PS4 has not yet been revealed for one of two reasons:

  1. Sony have not yet finished the design of the PS4, they are either struggling with the design or taking their time to make sure it is perfect. Either way they are slacking behind.
  2. They have chosen to wait to see what Microsoft produced, and to try and produce something better.

Judging by the short teaser that Sony released on Monday (following confirmation that Microsoft would in fact show the look of their new console today), Sony panicked. Realizing that the attention would be drawn away from the PlayStation, and in an effort to bring the attention back, they released a teaser that still really doesn’t give much away about the design.

It is all a bit strange.

If you had read my previous blog The Next-Next Generation of Gaming I predicted that there would be no new major features to this console, and this has proven true. What Microsoft have done, is taken what they already have, and built it all into one unified polished system. We already had voice commands and hand gestures through Kinect on the 360, but this seemed to be a main focus of the event for the XBOX One. It is clear from the event that the Kinect integration is deeper than it was with the XBOX 360, with added features such as smart switching.

The added processing power also helps run more intensive commands through Kinect providing more accurate responses and more capabilities. The graphical processing power is going to make a huge difference between the consoles, from what they have shown it is set to look incredible, but so will the PS4’s graphics.

  • Biggest benefit to the XBOX ONE: Exclusivity. Microsoft seem to have very strong links with EA and Activition, and as a result they are getting content exclusively for XBOX. In a console war where both sets of consoles will have similar features. This is a huge benefit.
  • Biggest Downfall: No backwards compability. A truly unified system would allow you to play old games on the console, getting rid of the need for a second (old) console. They are totally going against their own marketing campaign in not offering this feature.

All in all a bery well polished presentation for a very (seemingly) polished system. Lots of nice new little features such as the smart swtiching (saves having to annoyingly switch between tv and xbox using input changes) and easy and fast swtiching between games, movies and music. We have also finally got ourselves a blue-ray player, this is a massive feature for me as I have no standalone blue-ray player. Hardware specs seem promising, a massive 8GB RAM, which is a huge jump from the 512MB in the XBOX 360.

This product has to be the only recent release that Microsoft has got right. The XBOX seems to be the only product in their catalouge that is of any success. Keep it up guys.I wonder how much this is all going to cost? Either way, take my money please Micrsoft.

- DC