Monthly Archives: September 2012

Traveling with Tech

This weekend I’m visiting Dublin – a city that I’ve never been to before. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the technology that I’ve used to get me here and how I’ve relied on technology to enhance my visit.

My journey to Dublin actually started when I booked my flights. In this day and age everything can obviously be done online – my booking confirmation was e-mailed to me and the day before flying I simply checked in and printed my boarding pass from the comfort of my sofa. (Everything going good so far).

Once at the airport my boarding pass is scanned, again everything seems to be working although it’s a little disconcerting to think that I’m now entirely reliant upon the Ryan air booking system to recognise that I have a flight that I’ve paid for.

We could obviously spend a lot of time discussing the technology of the plane and computer systems in the airport …..

So now I’m in Dublin does my reliance on technology stop? Well I guess it could ….. But I have been rather lazy using my iPhone to help me navigate, booking tickets for the Guinness Storehouse online to receive my 10% discount and even writing this blog post while grabbing a coffee.

So lets take stock for a moment. Is technology taking the fun out of traveling? Obviously there is technology that is now essential to travel, the booking of the flights and the systems that actually get me here ….. But now I’m here wouldn’t it be more interesting to see the city without my technology leading the way? To navigate using a traditional map, or by speaking to people and asking directions …..

If that we’re the case its’s unlikely I’d have found the costa coffee shop that I’m now sat in …. And I wouldn’t have been able to check reviews of restaurants before choosing one for lunch. But is that actually important? If the restaurant had been dreadful it would have made for an interesting story to tell when I get home.

Maybe i should try traveling the old fashioned way and see how i get on ….. not on this trip (obviously) Maybe that’s an experiment for another time. Or maybe it’s something you’ve done, or do? Does traveling without tech create more adventure?

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Categories: Apple, Invention, Social, Technology | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Technology and Customer Service

I had cause to visit my local Audi Dealership today at Cheshire Oaks earlier today. I’ve been considering a new car for some time and thought that today might just be the day.

During my visit the customer service I received wasn’t what I would consider up to scratch – I was made to feel like I was there for the their benefit and they didn’t seem to care about me as an individual. At the point I was told that I could either wait 45 minutes while the salesman finished the other quotes he had to do (and then do mine) or could have my quote e-mailed to me really annoyed me ….. so I left.

This experience made me start to question how important is customer service when accessing technology. If you want technology badly enough would you put up with poor customer service.

Take Apple as a casing point. I’m always been blown away by the level of service that I receive whenever I have cause to speak to Apple – but would I still want that new iPad, iPhone 5 or accessory if the company didn’t make me feel special?

I return to Audi, the reality is I probably still do want to get an Audi – but i’d be unlikely to purchase it at Audi Cheshire Oaks. My instinct as a customer is to shop at an outlet where I get the best customer service. I guess this is fine for a large company, but what about smaller organisations – if they are they only vendors of a product not shopping with them could be cutting your nose to spite your face.

Would you buy something from an organisation that had annoyed you or didn’t value you as a customer?

Categories: Apple, Customer Service, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Footsqueek Blog: How long do you spend online?

As some readers might know I am Managing Director at Footsqueek (The Mobile App Company). Footsqueek does a lot of works schools and has a keen interest in education. One of the contributors to the Footsqueek blog recently posted a fascinating article about Information Overload in the 21st Century and as part of the article he examined what happens in 60 seconds on the internet:

Infographic by- Shanghai Web Designers

This really got me thinking about what I do on the internet; indeed I started considering how much time I spend being productive online and how much time I spend procrastinating. For me the internet is definitely a recreational tool first and a work tool second; in reality, however, I couldn’t be without the internet in either context – I would estimate I use the internet for in excess of 6 hours every day, 365 days a year.

Amazing to think that the web has went from a “nice to have” to being an essential tool in less than 15 years.

How long do you spend on the net?

 

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Is Design More Important than Functionality?

I have worked for several years with developers and designers; arguments often rage between the two groups about what’s more important design or functionality.

It’s also interesting to put clients into this mix. When demonstrating a new system it always fascinates me how end users react. Typically if the system “looks” visually stunning functional deficiencies will be overlooked by the end user – but presenting a system that is functionally perfect without a stunning design often leads to disappointment.

Steve Jobs was notorious for placing huge value on the aesthetics of a product, this is evident in products like the iPhone and the iPad – but does this mean that design is more important than function?

It seems apparent that users like to use systems that feel superior – the human race is notorious for being a little shallow at times and traditionally place a lot of emphasis on the first impression – I guess this is also true of products and product design. In this sense design isn’t necessarily “more” important than functionality but it is incredibly important to always give a good first impression.

To realise that this is true you only need to look at the shock reaction when Susan Boyle demonstrated she had an outstanding voice – or the day that Paul Potts aced his audition. An assumption had been made in both cases that because they didn’t look like traditional pop stars they were not going to be able to sing.

I wonder how many websites have suffered this fate – functionally brilliant but simply didn’t live up to design expectation. What’s you view? Can superior functionality ever live up to expectation without quality design?

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two Android’s and an iPhone

I’m in the process of developing a couple of apps for the Android platform. To anyone who knows me this is almost unthinkable as i’m the biggest Apple Nerd you will ever meet ….. well apart from my mate Andy Davies who I actually think wants to BE Apple!

As i’m releasing apps for Android it makes sense that I need to test them. I’ve looked into different ways of purchasing Android devices and finally settled on taking out a business contract which allows me to get two phones at a very reasonable price.

I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours in the O2 store in Chester this morning where a girl called Alex provided me with excellent customer service. I walked out of the store with a new Samsung Galaxy 3 and a new HTC one.

Now other than a fleeting glance at an Android phone i’ve never used the platform …… so I was quite excited to get back to the office to really see for myself which device I believe is the best.

So now in front of me on my desk I have two Android’s and an iPhone….. sounds like some weird movie title ….. I now decree that i will give you my opinion!

At this point you’re probably thinking this can go one of two ways …… he’s either going to slate Android and big up iOS because Apple has the superior product or alternatively he’s going to have a revelation and announce that iPhone is dead and that up until now he has clearly been going down the wrong path in life – time for a change?

Packaging

In his biography of Steve Jobs, Isaacson discusses how Jobs was fascinated by the user experience. It is well documented that Jobs believed that the user experience begins the moment you open the box. I remember when I got my iPhone 4s, the product was a pleasure from the very moment I started to open the packaging.

I decided that the first test of my new Android devices would be how pleasurable it is to open the boxes.

Samsung Galaxy 3

I liked the box, it looks elegant and in honesty reminded me of the box my iPhone came in (No wonder the legal disputes continue). Once out of the box though I started to get frustrated – the battery wasn’t charged so I needed to plug it in, but before I could plug it in I had to assemble the charger ….. not just a case of plugging in the USB cord, I had to attach the plugs pins – sounds easy but it wasn’t very intuitive. Therefore I give the Samsung Galaxy 3 6 out of 10.

HTC One

Unlike the Galaxy I don’t like the HTC packaging. It feels cheap almost as if its made out of Polystyrene. I also nearly dropped the phone because when I opened the box the upper layer got stuck in the lid as I removed it from the box. The phone did have a little charge on the battery which was a bonus and there was no issues building the charger ….. but then I noticed the smell …. most products have a nice new smell ….. the HTC one smells like wet cardboard. 3 out of 10 and I think that’s generous.

Look and Feel

This is a very basic test ….. what does the device look like and does it feel good to use.

Samsung Galaxy 3

There’s no denying it, the Galaxy 3 looks sexy. The phone I bought is in white and it’s gorgeous. That said to my mind its a bit thin and light – it’s got no weight to it at all which makes me a little scared i’m going to snap it. Also the on button is on the side which doesn’t feel intuitive – I guess if they’d put it on the top they would be facing another law suit from Apple … I give the galaxy a respectable 8 out 10.

HTC One

The packaging feels like cheap cardboard, and being honest the phone does as well. It’s not shiny (I know that must sound very superficial) and as a result it feels cheap. The connector for the charger is in a bizarre place (left hand side toward the top) – and the phone has too many buttons (no risk of an Apple law suit for that). As is said to the uk each year in Eurovision “nil point”. That may sound very unfair but at least i’m being truthful.

Initial Set – Up

It’s important even though you only do it once ….

Samsung Galaxy 3

It was fairly simple – quite a straight forward process. The keyboard has some quirks that I don’t like, and I find myself hitting the wrong letters but I think that’s just because i’m used to the iPhone ….. I guess with time I can get good on the Galaxy keyboard? I also quite like the vibrate feedback when you press a button. My only difficulty was that the phone didn’t like connecting to my wireless network and as a result I had to create some the suggested accounts after i’d made a couple of tweaks in settings. Not a deal breaker through – 7 out of 10.

HTC One

Finally, something to write home about! All I can say is that it worked! There was no setup requirement ….. I switched the phone on and immediately it was ready to make a phone call. I couldn’t fault the process – 10 out of 10 – the iPhone wouldn’t have achieved that …..

So, scores so far ….. Samsung Galaxy 3 21 out of 30, HTC One 13 out of 30 ….. and where do I believe Apple sits? I would be lying if at this stage I said that in my opinion Apple didn’t have a much superior product – aesthetically it beats both the Galaxy and HTC by a country mile …. although the aesthetic gap between Samsung and HTC is also in my opinion HUGE.

My gut instinct is that the Galaxy is working toward what Apple have ….. and that’s the problem ….. Apple already have what I view as best smart phone, therefore to get something that works as well as the iPhone Galaxy need to copy Apple or their product in my eyes will never be quite as good – another court case anyone?

The other option is for Samsung to take a risk and come out with something completely different – a game changer ….. you need a visionary like Steve Jobs to do that though and I don’t think Samsung have one …..

Now that I have my new phones i’m going to play with Android and decide if I do like it ….. my instinct at this stage is that it’s not as simple and streamlined as iOS ….. but I have an open mind – i’m going to use the phones and then make an informed decision which i’ll feed onto the blog in due course.

In terms of the devices themselves, as it currently stands …..

HTC = *Aldi
Samsung = *Tesco or *Morrisons
iPhone = *Waitrose or *Sainsbury

Anyone else got any views? The can of worms is unleashed 😉

*No offence intended to any supermarket chains mentioned in this article 😉

Categories: Apple, HTC, Mobile Phones, Samsung | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

APP REVIEW: Chirp

Chirp Screen ShotChirp is a brand new app, developed by University College London (UCL) explores the concept of using sound to transmit data between phones. In many ways it seems ludicrous that this is such a new innovation given that humans have been communicating via sound for millenia.

Chirp works by associating a short high pitched noise with every photo, url or note which is to be shared. When the app hear’s a chirp it looks up the noise in its database and returns the item that the user wants to share.

So what’s all the excitement about? We love it because of the possibilities of sharing information with a wide range of people at the same time. Imagine a conference speaker playing a “chirp” as part of his talk in order to allow everyone in the room to access some exclusive content simultaneously – or what about the possibilities of using it as part of interactive TV.

It’s important not to get bogged down by the fact that currently you can only send certain data types. It doesn’t take much to imagine a whole host of data being sent including audio files, video and documents.

For more information check out this article on the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18927928

Chirp is a free app and is available in the Apple App Store.

Categories: Apple, Apps, Invention, Technology | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Technology Statistics

There are currently more than 500,000 apps available on the Apple App Store (Apple, 2011). I was recently researching a presentation and I came up with some interesting stats that I found interesting:

  • 1 in 3 adults in the UK now own a smart phone.
  • There are 75,750,000 active mobile phones in the UK today and 92% of adults in the UK are active mobile phone users.
  • Over 1 billion apps were downloaded in Christmas week 2011.
  • On christmas day 2011 4.5 million new smart phones were activated in the UK
  • 15% of adults now live in a home that has a mobile phone but no landline
  • 50% of UK adults now use social networking websites at home.

These statistics give an indication of how technology really is invading our world and how it is changing our everyday lives. The question I ask myself is if technology always changes life for the better? Is it healthy to spend so much time using technology?

These are questions that don’t have a simple answer if indeed they have any answer at all. What do you think?

Categories: Social, Statistics, Technology | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future and Social Networks

Social networking is an interesting concept in todays society – I guess like most people who use the internet it’s become part of my everyday life. The question i’ve been asking myself recently though is why? It seems that once everyone you know is a friend on facebook it somehow looses it’s appeal – anyone else with me on that?

In the early days part of the fun was finding people who you knew or had known in the past. Now that this novelty has worn off is there a point to FaceBook? I certainly don’t update my status 20 times a day like I did when the site was first launched.

Part of the problem with social networking is that brands like FaceBook and Twitter seem to own the concept. I said FaceBook and Twitter as though this were the only form of social networking – and to many this really is the case. Most people have heard of those brands and have an account on those websites ….. how many other networks do you regularly use? Are you part of the “technorati” for example? Has “pinterest” grabbed your attention? is there room for another brand or is the market now saturated? Is it even possible that people are starting to get board of the concept and look for the next new thing?

It seems to me that the primary function of social networking is marketing and in my view this will be short lived as internet users will begin to turn their back on brands such as FaceBook as the appeal starts to wear off and they slowly become desensitised to the promotional adverts. The idea of sponsored stories which is currently common place on FaceBook is certainly clever but do people want to use a website that consistently asks them to engage with and “like” new things?

In many ways the social networking boom could be compared with the .com boom in the late 1990’s; the .com bubble eventually burst and maybe this will also be true of the social networking phenomenon. I’m not sure if the recent FaceBook stock market floatation can be seen as a true indicator of the future for social networks but it certainly does make you wonder if social media has peaked – controversial? Let me know your views.

Categories: Social, Technology | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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