Category Archives: Devices

What I want from an Apple TV

I’ve been reading some articles about what the new Apple TV — or iTV or whatever it’s called — will offer: Siri, motion control, cinema display…

That’s all well and good, but what I care about is the user experience. 

So as a user, let me provide a brief example of the experience I want to have with an Apple TV.

[Feet up, relaxed.]

“Siri, I want to watch Community.”

“Would you like to rent it from iTunes, watch it on Netflix, or find it playing live?”

“Find it playing live.”

“It’s going to be on tomorrow at 8pm.  Would you like me to put a reminder in your calendar?”

“No, but please record it.”

“Okay. I’ve set to record Community on channel 606, Tuesday May 8 at 8pm.”

“Perfect.  Actually, I also feel like watching it now, can you please bring up episodes of Community on Netflix.”

“Here are episodes of Community on Netflix.”

“Play Community season two, episode seven on Netflix.”

“Playing Community season two, episode seven on Netflix.

[Feet up, still relaxed]

If the new Apple TV is in the hands of providers like Rogers and Bell right now (as the rumours say it is), they’d better be integrating this kind of functionality into their “TV apps.” 

If anything, I’m sad Telus isn’t in on this right now.  I use Optik TV and their Optik TV app, and I think this would be a great adaptation.



On Why iOS Should Be Worried About Google+

After a week of using Google+, it’s become clear to me the platform that should really be afraid, is iOS. 

There’s been lots of talk about “social network” comparables.  Is it Twitter?  Is it Facebook?  It’s a bit of both, but thruthfully, it has the potential to blow them both out of the water.  How so?  One word: Android.  Mobile isn’t just how Google+ will survive, it’s how it can explode.

I’m an iPhone guy, but I’m not an Apple nut (though they’re close to making me one).  I like iOS and iPhone because the UI / device compatibility is almost flawless (the virtues of which I’ve extolled) and the ecosystem they’ve created — I also have an iPad — is easy to get sucked into.  Hands down, it’s the best phone on the market.

But, as most everyone knows, Android is the mobile OS market leader.  Sure there are compatibility problems, it’s open source.  But the fact of the matter is, more people have Android phones in their hands than iPhones and that’s the key here.

There’s a reason why there have been rumours of a Facebook phone.  There’s a reason Apple has strategically aligned iOS with Twitter.  Social isn’t just about sharing.  It’s about sharing in the moment.  People don’t want to have to wait until they get home to tell people what’s happening, because by today’s standards, that makes it ancient history.

Before Google Buzz’s (failed) launch, The Tech Journal posted an article that contained some interesting stats about mobile social sharing:

  • There are more than 100 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
  • People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice more active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
Heads up: the future isn’t just mobile, it’s social. 
Google hasn’t been able to get a foothold in the social sphere and it’s no doubt been frustrating for them, which is why Google+’s success (so far) is as exciting to early adopters as it is threatening to Google’s competitors.
I’m not sure how much Apple and Twitter knew about Google+ when they struck their partnership, but if they didn’t know much, then they were prescient, lucky, or both.
If Google can effectively and seamlessly integrate G+ into the Android platform as the default method for social sharing…?  Well that’s the sound of Apple, Twitter, and especially Facebook, shaking in their respective boots (collective, in the case of Twitter and Apple).
It’s the step Blackberry couldn’t make.  This could be Google’s BBM.  Sure they’ll have the iPhone app available, but its real power will be in its integration with Android.  And if Android users can bring their friend networks over to Google+, then guess what: people are going to want a “Google+ phone”. 
Or, you know, the phone Facebook wanted to make.
Apple’s in a better position, having Twitter in its corner.  It’s an established social network and Apple’s facilitating the ability to use that network.  Facebook is still the giant, but hey, so was Friendster at one point. Its biggest asset might also be its biggest risk: not being strategically aligned with a mobile platform.
We’ll see how this all plays out over the next year or so, as iOS 5 is realeased, a new iPhone(s?) comes on the market, and Android brings a newer version to the party.  Google prides itself on being open, so we’ll see how developers take to the API.  If I can post to Google+ from Twitter with a “#g+”, maybe it won’t be such a big deal, but quite frankly people don’t need this many social networks (I know I don’t).  Someone’s going to come out ahead.  The question is: will it be a social network or a mobile patform? 
Because right now, Google’s got both.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!

On Why WWDC is More Important Than the Delayed iPhone

There’s been a lot of kerfuffle about the potential iPhone push back to September.  Is it a good thing?  Is it bad?

In my opinion, it’s a great thing.  And that’s not just because I don’t want to have to afford a new iPhone this summer. 

Dan Frommer wrote an excellent article about the positives of the iPhone delay that appeared on Yahoo Finance recently.  Building on his comments…  

Apple is OS driven, it’s why they prefer a closed ecosystem.  For them, product design is the process of creating the best hardware to leverage the OS.  In my estimation, June’s OS announcement will be pretty big.  They don’t just tease stuff like this for fun, people — Apple takes their OS very seriously.

Is it a closer linking between iOS and Mac OS?  Maybe cloud-based sharing for all Apple devices?  Steve only knows.

Apple fanboys and casual consumers alike are probably disappointed, if antsy about the delay. 

And from a marketing perspective, Apple’s getting exactly what they want.  

If they can follow through on some new, potentially revolutionary features and functionality, it’ll almost guarantee demand for their product(s).  It’s tough to say if the hardware will necessarily be all that new, but we can be sure they’ll be able to fully realize the new OS features, which is what Apple’s all about.

A few other reasons:

  • Let the Verizon / CDMA user-ship increase before pushing an upgrade on them.
  • Let AT&T and others (I’m looking at you, Rogers) catch up and implement their LTE 4G network so that the new phone and likely iPad (could be the “September iPad / iPad 3” some have been rumour mongering about) can leverage multiple carriers. 
  • Give developers time to play with the new OS features to make the
    product(s) more robust at release.

There are lots of potential reasons for Apple to delay the product release, but none more important than ensuring the OS and features are at the centre of it all.  iOS, the apps, the user experience — it’s always been what drives the line of iProducts, not the hardware.

As for the iDevices?  They know we want them.  They know we’ll probably buy them anyway.  More importantly, they know that making us wait won’t change a thing. 

Except maybe build anticipation (read: frothing frenzy of fanboys) once we see what they can do.

On The iPad 3

Everyone please hold their horses and, if necesary, their friends’ horses as well.

I still want an iPad and I was waiting on iPad 2, now they’re telling me I should continue to hover my hand over my pocketbook in anticipation of the iPad 3 in September? I don’t buy it. (In the figurative sense — because I’m definitely buying an iPad of some variety in the literal sense).

A few months ago I posted On iPad 2 and iPhone rumours. While my call on the iPhone 4G was off, I’m still confident in its eventuality, and now I’m pinning my iPad 4G call to it as well.

Just this January, the Verizon iPhone was released to no one’s surprise. That said, I was surprised that it wasn’t 4G capable. But now I see what they’re doing (in the same way I read tea leaves and animal entrails — which is to say I don’t really).

The iPad 2 (or whatever it’s called) will be released in March/April as everyone has been “speculating,” but it won’t be the “iPad 4G” as I have uncouthly labelled it. It will no doubt be improved, but will still only have 3G models.

Instead, my guess is that this now much-buzzed about September release may be Apple’s 4G coming out party.

With the iPhone 4G likely debeuting in July and AT&T trying desperately to catch up and be ready, I suspect they will launch a 4G compatible iPad to capitalize on its GSM/CDMA capabilities at some point. That said, they won’t want to steal the iPhone’s thunder, but guess what Apple product line doesn’t get as much attention anymore and therefore could use some sizzle while keeping with the Cupertino Co’s predictable release schedule?

If you guessed something that’s a vowel removed from “iPad,” you’d be right.

So there it is. I don’t think the “iPad 3” is really anything to get too worked up about, unless you really care about 4G connection. I honestly don’t think Apple is going to do a major hardware upgrade in the same calendar year, especially since they didn’t do it for the Verizon iPhone.

This “iPad 3” will likely be similar to the Verizon iPhone launch — amazing news for some, but an option for most.

On Crowdsourcing The Kinect

Backtracking on their “hack the Kinect and we’ll prosecute” stance was the smartest thing Microsoft’s done in a long time.

Multinational corporations that fear manipulation of their carefully crafted devices come across like old people who wrap their sofas and remote controls in cellophane (Apple just has better branding).   At the end of the day, the Kinect is a technologically impressive device that, if Microsoft lets the momentum ride, could have a significant impact on the future of user interface. 

Microsoft’s decision to now be “excited” by the community’s interest in their toy will likely do more to advance the innovation of their own creation than they ever could.  Forget sitting in a boardroom trying to figure out what people want from a motion-driven device — let them play with it and tell you. 

It’s like market research, except the market is researching for you at the same time.

So here’s my thing: what are people actually doing with it? 

Everyone’s been watching the guy who used a PC emulator to play the original Super Mario Bros using body motion control.  Pretty cool.  And there’s also a fellow who turned his Kinect set up into a digital puppet controller.  Probably tougher than it looks and definitely impressive.

Still…  I mean, these are great and all, but I’m looking for that breakthrough use.  That thing where everyone goes “ah ha — this is where it goes next.”

The most exciting development to me so far?  Finger tip recognition with multi-touch interaction and navigation.  Researchers at MIT have basically made Minority Report a reality:


There are others who’ve done a variation, but this example was easily the most impressive.  The ability to recognize and interpret individual finger motions is, technologically speaking, nuts.  Touchscreen technology always seemed like a matter of time, but multitouching the air always seemed like the future.  Still does, really.

Now where are my moving sidewalks?

On iPad 2 and iPhone Rumours (Piling On)

WARNING: What you are about to read is my totally non-insider, mostly unsubstantiated assumptions about what Apple may or may not decide to do with their iOS devices in 2011.

But really, how different is that from anyone else?

The iPhone 4G (AKA “The Verizon iPhone”)

Yes, I’m even making a call on the name.

I’m pretty sold on this one. There’s no way Apple’s going to move onto an iPhone 5 already. They need to extend the iPhone 4 brand’s lifecycle. Want proof? Exhibit A: iPhone 3. Exhibit B: iPhone 3G. Exhibit C: iPhone 3Gs.

Verizon is already starting to make waves with its “most advanced 4G network” claims for the New Year (or sooner) and AT&T won’t have their act together in time to compete. Quite frankly, I can’t see Apple missing out on having its astoundingly popular device available on a “lightning fast” network. I mean seriously, 4G? Isn’t that just too conveniently sequential to pass up?

Plus there’s also the distinct possibility that Apple’s so-far-underwhelming FaceTime functionality could get a facelift via 4G support. Imagine that: getting to use FaceTime when you actually need it!

And that leads into my presuppositions over the next (and probably more) highly anticipated Apple product:

The iPad 4G (AKA “The iPad 2”)

Okay, I’m less confident in this name.  But hey, Apple is nothing if not consistent.

For the most part, I suspect they want to start pushing the iPad as a communications device. The front and rear-facing cameras are all but given. Apple is smart and easily 2-3 years ahead of what they’re revealing; they wouldn’t roll out FaceTime without knowing iPad would eventually join the party. The question is: how is it going to work?

With the iPad not being tethered (pun intended) to a mobile carrier, its 3G functionality is free to play with any provider. And with a 4G network in the wings that might even have the bandwidth to support millions of users FaceTiming, doesn’t it just make sense to send iPad an engraved invitation?

Being Canadian, it all seems like a moot point since none of our networks are preparing for an imminent 4G upgrade, but I get the feeling that once the next iterations of iPhone and iPad come out, it’ll be the world’s mobile carriers who are trying to play catch up more than smart phone and touch tablet competitors.

2011 will probably be a good year for Apple, but it might be an even better year for Verizon.

On Samsung Galaxy S Marketing in Japan

Engadget posted a link to the new Samsung Galay S campaign in Japan.

Brilliant I say.

While most “iPhone killers” are feature-heavy and, arguably, offer more than the iPhone, the fact of the matter is Apple’s marketing and branding has made it easier to identify with (and desire) their products. Sure I think the iPhone’s UI is best of breed — but try selling that to the person who has to ask “what’s a UI?”

You know what you can sell, though? Darth Vader.

Screen Cap Credit: Engadget

Samsung’s positioning positioning strategy is great. Apple is light and trendy? Fine, we’ll be dark and cool. At the end of the day, anthropomophizing their product by using a character already embedded in the cultural psyche with its own built-in set of connotations as a way to accelerate the brand-building process was slick and clever.

Now we just sit back and wait for the Justin Long / John Hodgman / Darth Vader spoofs to pop up.