I spent some time with the new iPhone SE this morning, a good hour in the shop as I chatted with a friend, and I must admit that I was won over.
My first concern was that I would struggle to see what was happening on screen now that I am used to the 6s, but I was surprised that everything felt natural from the first time I used it. Sure there are some minor adjustments to be made when compared to how web pages etc are displayed on a larger screen, but I was won over by the size and design of the SE compared to the 6s.
I have never liked the iPhone 6 design for a number of reasons. It is not easy to hold without a case, to the point that you must use a case with it which makes the design pointless anyway. It is arguably too thin to be easy to hold due to its size and doesn’t make sense to me on so many levels. The iPhone 5, however, was a brilliant design and Apple has kept true to that notion with the SE. It still feels fresh and modern, and crucially it is exceptionally easy to hold and drop in a pocket. No case required.
The lack of 128GB in the SE is annoying, but it is something I can adjust to. I have so many apps and games on my 6 that I don’t use so it would be easy to strip a few of them away and be left with 20 GB spare. The lack of 3D Touch is invisible to me because I never use it and the only other change is the slower fingerprint sensor, which in some ways is an advantage because I would actually get to see the lock screen again.
The more I think about it, the more enthused I am with the SE and the more I realise that the iPhone 6 never grabbed me in the same way previous models did. I think it’s time to go small again.
Gregor Alsch posted the above image on Twitter earlier today and the responses were predictable, outraged and in some cases quite smart. Here are a few examples-
"what's annoying is I'm a paid subscriber and I still get this."
That's not good.
"If ads are the only way one has to make money maybe one should consider a new business-model?"
Really? You have a website, you gain lots of traffic and magic beans will suddenly fall out of the sky to pay for the hosting and journalists etc.
"So that's the NYT and Forbes as sites I wont visit anymore."
And that's the point. If you expect such journalism completely for free, you are not exactly a great loss to the NYT.
"lots of negative comments on malware, paywalls, data, but no one has said how they want to fund quality journalism?"
No one ever does. They just say things like 'a new way to make money is needed.'
"really like this, adblock users are the worst enemy of quality journalism these days."
"wrong. Lazy companies who don't filter out bad ads (malware etc) are the enemy."
The above comes from Apple's environment FAQs and as you can see the company offers what it considers to be expected product life cycles. If we ignore Phil Schiller's ill-informed comment recently when he said "This is really sad. It really is." in reference to the fact that there are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over five years old, the fact is that for many people, Apple products last longer than what the company is quoting.
My mid-2011 iMac is still going strong, albeit with a couple of minor niggles, and we still have a functioning iPhone 4 in the house that would suffice as a daily phone for a non-power user. Our Apple TV is working OK, ignoring the instability of AirPlay, and I know people who have Macs that are much older than mine.
People are more and more looking for devices that will last them for many years, and even if Apple does not want people to do that, the fact is that many Apple products still outlast much of the competition.
A perfect combination.
The question above is one that has been asked countless times in the past couple of years and it is one that is incredibly difficult to answer with any certainty. If I could offer an accurate assessment, I would likely be on stage offering my mystical powers to a gullible audience rather than posting a few random thoughts here.
We have seen incremental improvements recently from Samsung (a needless curved screen), Apple (a needless 3D Touch feature) and LG (a strange accessory-driven offering) and none of them feel like features that will genuinely improve daily use.
Phones have not only become incredibly popular, they have also started to creep into every aspect of our lives. From organisation to social networking to photography to gaming to navigation to... you name it and our phones can help fulfil the task at hand. This means that meaningful improvements can become incredibly important for the owner of said phone.
Meaningful improvements can be small and have a dramatic effect. Fingerprint unlocking and digital payments come to mind, but it is safe to say that the manufacturers are going to have to think bigger to continue the phone boom which is starting to follow a shallower curve than before.
Apple implementing a dual-camera system in the iPhone 7 Plus seems an obvious winner to me. If it could, and it is a big if, truly take photos that rival a DSLR this would immediately become another staple use that makes the phone feel more necessary than it already does.
The big question, however, is what follows? We cannot simply continue with spec improvements and minor changes that the majority care little about. Those who have a seriously geeky interest in such things lap it all up, but everyone else just shrugs and waits for something worth upgrading to. And everyone else is who Apple, Samsung and the rest really need.
Battery surely has to be the next big improvement. Give us 3-5 days of use from one charge and people will flock to a phone capable of that, and it will truly change how people use their phones in the future. The more barriers that can be removed the better and it seems to me that battery is the last great hurdle for most people.
We have grown to live with the relatively small screens, the tiny keyboards and all of the minor frustrations that come with modern phones. If we can think bigger and enhance what is already there, the phone will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
If you asked me what inherent problems there were in the traditional Kindle line of products, I would struggle to come up with any. They are what they are and they deliver on the promise of hassle-free eBook reading with aplomb.
The battery performance and ease of holding the Kindles would be way down on my list of complaints, but Amazon has still chosen to make these the two stand out changes in the new Kindle Oasis. There are other improvements, but these are what make the Oasis look and feel different to the Paperwhite and Voyage models, but they come with a substantial price hike.
£269.99 feels awfully steep for a dedicated eBook reader (not the 3G model by the way) to me and especially so when compared to the latest Paperwhite (£109.99) and even the Voyage (£169.99).
There is a good argument that the Voyage does not do enough above the Paperwhite to justify the extra cost, and an extra £100 for month's of battery life on one charge is far too big a leap surely. The inclusion of a case is welcome because these are not cheap, but they have always been extremely well made and add extra usability to the package.
I do wonder how Amazon decides what to upgrade on the Kindle because they nailed this product right from the start. The backlight on the Paperwhite is likely seen as necessary to many casual readers, but have you ever heard anyone complain about the current battery life of approximately 1 month? No, of course not and so I feel that Amazon is pushing where it can in the Kindle range, and that is not in many places because it already works beautifully.
Very casual readers could suffice with the Kindle at under £60 and casual to serious readers should be more than happy with the Paperwhite. If the Voyage is only for a sub-set who are extremely serious about their reading, the Oasis must appeal to an even smaller group.
I'm not trying to be critical here. I love my Paperwhite to bits and use it every day, but the Oasis feels like an upgrade that ticks all of the boxes that were ticked long ago, only with a thicker pencil.
I have owned an Apple Watch, a moto 360, an Asus Zenwatch and both the Pebble Time and Pebble Steel, and I didn’t really like any of them.
The main reason for my negativity was because they lacked personality and a practical use that made them feel worthy of my left wrist. I am a watch guy and really do enjoy wearing a nice watch, and no smart watch to date has felt like a nice watch. Add to this the blindingly obvious fact that the screens are too small to do anything with and I was left with the same feeling every single time- what exactly is the point?
I like the idea of tracking my activity and sleep, and also the notifications which ensure that no call or text is ever missed, but the smart watch feels like overkill because most of the above fail to do everything well. Activity tracking has been flaky to say the least and at times the notifications would simply stop working on the Android Wear devices. Add to this the need to do a crazy hand movement to even see the time on some of them and I was sold. Sold on the idea that a smart watch is not a good idea.
When I say not a good idea, a smart watch technically is, but I still haven’t found a third party app that is useful and most of the default ones are more convenient and easier to use on a phone, which most smart watches need to work anyway. The bits that do work can be covered by fitness trackers and in particular, fitness trackers that can handle phone notifications.
Enter the Garmin Vivosmart, a device that is not new, but which can be bought now for little money. It is nicely designed and suitable for men and women without ever looking gaudy or too big. It comes with a weeks worth of power from one charge and the ability to do a lot of different things. Step counting is an obvious component as is the ability to track sleep (in a fairly basic way), but it also handles all of the notifications coming in to my iPhone and it does so very effectively. You cannot manage the type of notifications coming in, but when you receive an email and realise that you can scroll down to read it, the use of minimal space is pure genius in the way it is implemented.
You can also see your progress throughout the day, receive alarms and do many other things with a tap here and a swipe there. It feels completely natural to use and is the perfect addition to a real watch which when worn together make a perfect combination of stylish timepiece and smart technology. The fact that the progress is viewable on the device itself means that you only need to open the app on your phone once a day so you can turn Bluetooth off for the majority of the time. Also, it synchronises much quicker than Jawbone trackers I have used and has not failed once so far.
The app is not great to be honest. It offers a lot of detail, but in a cluttered manner which makes it hard to understand the data with a quick glance. You also cannot track your food intake and in some ways it feels half-finished, but it does do the job that it is intended to do and works just about well enough for my needs.
Accuracy seems fairly good as well, but as with all fitness trackers your mileage may vary. For me, it is more accurate than the Fitbits I have tried, but less so than the Jawbones. Remember though that we are talking within 5% of true accuracy so you can still use the history to see if you are improving which I guess is the main goal of any fitness tracker.
For me, the Vivosmart handles the main benefits of a smart watch and provides much better battery life alongside more accurate and detailed activity and sleep tracking. It is inconspicuous, allows me to wear a real watch and is a hassle-free experience overall. Potentially, smart fitness trackers can easily outpace smart watches purely on the basis that nobody has found out what a smart watch needs to offer to be truly beneficial. With better battery life and lower costs as well, devices like the older Vivosmart and the new Fitbit Alta have the opportunity to lead the wearable race at this time, and to sell in much greater numbers.
My wife and I took our children to visit my father over the weekend and the experience was truly awful. He has advanced Alzheimer’s which has grown steadily worse over the past 5 years. Recently he broke his hip and then caught a chest infection so his health has deteriorated markedly in recent weeks. None of this, however, prepared us for what we saw on Sunday.
He can no longer speak in coherent sentences and can barely say any words. He dribbles all of the time, when he is awake which is rarely, and he has visually changed. The biggest shock for me was seeing my father with a different face. That sounds strange I know, but his face has actually changed shape and his eyes have lost a lot of their colour. We lost his personality long ago and now it seems as though the rest is changing as well.
Three people had to lift him from a chair to a wheelchair so that we could spend some time with him and the same thing happened when we returned to the main care room which was full of people just like him. Tens of people who were suffering varying degrees of the illness and whose time is so obviously limited. My mother broke down, the first time I had ever seen her cry. I broke down the moment I saw him and my daughter was inconsolable. It was if he had died right in front of us.
He has now reached the stage where we are just waiting for the inevitable. He would not get out of bed today and fought anyone who came near him so the doctor had to be called to give him some pain relief. That was done because he can no longer express if he is in pain so they wanted to try anything to see if it helped.
The next stage is a secure unit if today is repeated, a room with bars and people whose job is not to provide care for a man who has worked all of his life, brought up children and never done anything but help others. I can’t stand the thought of him living the way he does now let alone being in a secure unit in his final days. There is something so dreadfully wrong with that.
If he was a dog, he would have been put down long ago, but he is a human being and so gets the legal right to lose all of his dignity in his final weeks. He is my father and so was always larger than life, always someone to be respected and he always showed me the right way. He was possibly too nice for his own good, but nobody deserves to be living in semi-consciousness, possibly in pain and with the shock of wondering what the hell happened when he does awaken for a few moments.
The moment he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s was the moment he could no longer say he wanted to travel to Switzerland and deal with things his way. And that would most definitely be his way. We now have to wait, possibly only for a couple more days, for nature to take its course or for a doctor to do the decent thing.
We all know that end of life care will, and should in my opinion, involve giving someone their dignity back if life has become intolerable by releasing them from the pain. It seems crazy to me, however, in situations like this where every professional knows that there is no good served by him still being alive that we just have to sit there and watch him fall apart, while we all fall apart around him.
I am terrified of my father dying, but I am more terrified of him living the way he is now.
You can read more about this at The Loop, but it is safe to say that Apple quietly walked away from Newsstand and didn't even look back. There has to be potential in such an idea, but traction never came.
He looks like one of those people who truly deserves good fortune.
The HP Spectre is stunning in so many ways. It is expensive, but Apple has shown that there is a market for premium laptops. I do wonder, however, if all of the goodness will be dented by three virus blockers, countless unnecessary apps and promotions and a terrible initial experience. I do hope that HP has chosen to match the beautiful hardware with a conservative software setup.
"Find something that you enjoy doing so much that you would be willing to do it for nothing, and you will never work a day in your life." Ronald G Wayne.
When I think back to my career choices, I realise now that I should have persevered and stuck to writing. Even though I write freelance now, there are moments when I regret not having chosen what I always wanted to do as my main career, which is why when I see positions like this I wish I could turn back the clock and start over.
Working in one of the best places in the UK and in a company which is truly fun to work for, and on a subject that will always offer variety? If it suits you, get in touch with Imagine and have a chat to see what you can offer each other.
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For people like me, the idea of not wearing a traditional watch is not something I would even consider. I do, however, like tracking my movement and sleep so I guess the only option is a fitness tracker on the other wrist. Then again, there is already a selection of ideas poised to jump into the middle ground between watches and trackers and so I thought I would take a look at what is coming, and also which of these appears to be viable.
I like the idea of a smart strap because it means that larger watches can still be worn as before without the need to increase the depth. As an example, my current watch is 14mm high and I’m not convinced that adding more to that wouldn’t look daft.
The Smart Watch Strap is capable of monitoring steps, distance travelled, speed and calories burned, as well as monitoring your fitness goals, but I can’t see any mention of sleep tracking. It also includes an NFC tag and notification support for phone calls, text messages, e-mails or calendar reminders without having to look at your phone. The strap vibration and multi-coloured LED will likely performa better than some smart watches in this area. You can also reject a call with one tap, access your music player with two taps, and choose how you want to interact with your smart strap. And finally, when you walk away from your phone, Unique will vibrate to let you know you’re in danger of leaving it behind.
So, it’s all looking good so far and I like that the buyer can choose the size, colour, thread colour, quantity of loops and shape of the strap buckles as well so that it fits your favourite watch perfectly.
My first concern is that there is a bespoke app for the strap and we know how many big names have struggled to make decent companion apps. Secondly, it is expected to ship in the second half of April (has been delayed slightly from the original kickstarter projection) so there is a slight risk there, and you cannot actually buy it clean yet. Thirdly, the early-bird pledges were $139 so expect to pay more for a retail version.
I love the idea, I like the included features, but I remain slightly sceptical about how well it will work.
Chronos looks like a more secure proposition in that you can pre-order it already for $89 and something tells me that the company has a more serious intention to produce a good product. You can’t always explain why, but I get a good feeling with this product.
It offers the expected functions including fitness tracking, alerts for calls, texts and alarms plus the ability to tap to find your phone. At just under 3mm thick this could be a problem for those of us with deeper watches, but I like the fact you get 3 days of usage from a 1 hour charge.
Again we have a custom app, but time will tell as to how well it all works. I would be likely to wait on initial reviews before stumping up for this.
I’m not convinced about the design of this one, with the display and workings situation in a stub at the bottom of the strap. It has the potential to look ungainly from the side and to feel uncomfortable when resting your hand on a desk. The 5 day power reserve from 1 charge is decent as is the feature-set with notification, activity tracking etc built in, but as it stands I believe that you can only buy it with a Montblanc watch which makes it an expensive proposition. It’s also worth remembering that just because the company makes great pens, this does not necessarily translate to watches.
I remain confused about the design, when it will be available and how seriously this product is being taken.
Trivoly is another disc style watch accessory that offers notifications, smartphone controls and fitness tracking, but there is also a heart rate sensor included which is unusual. Expect to pay $99 to pre-order one now, but looking at the product there is a sense of multiple funding projects to get it where it is today.
It has lots of potential, but maybe worth waiting for the official release before you pay for one.
Perhaps this product, more than any other, offers a glimpse of the uncertainty that shrouds this developing industry. It has been promoted for a long time now and is extremely impressive from a technical standpoint, but it is still not available to buy and seems likely to remain a concept forever. Probably best to not even consider at this point.
There are other products available that aim to turn your favourite watch into a smart device without changing the look or feel of the watch itself, but maybe I should counter that and say that none of the above are available at this time. As it stands, I cannot see any smart device that will attach to a watch, but surely one day the potential will be seen and executed in a way that actually works. People like me shall continue to wait for the day when the watch I love can be made smarter.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard of Gadget Magazine I was sceptical because I don’t particularly like the word ‘Gadget’. It feels geeky, childish and far from serious, but it is also a word which sums up the content well in this instance.
I’ll be honest again and say that I have connections to Imagine Publishing, but I will never write anything that is not true or it wouldn’t be worth the time you reading what I have to say.
I purchased a copy because I wanted to see what the writing style was like and how well it was put together, and boy was I in for a surprise. Over a period of 24 hours, a few people at work picked it up for a browse and time and time again I heard the words “Have you seen this?” From super high-tech cars to electronic writing pads to almost everything else, the content and the way it was all presented became immediately interesting to work colleagues. It also dragged me in almost instantly; one of those magazines that makes you pick it up countless times to see what you have missed, and you have always missed something of interest.
My second issue, the latest one, includes racing drones, virtual reality guides and a brilliant section which discusses vinyl vs digital for music. It continues with 3D printing, a barista bot, some brilliant DIY tools and much more that I have not got to yet.
It is all too easy to think of modern technology as being phones, tablets and smart watches, but a quick look at Gadget Magazine will open your eyes to how cleverly modern technology is used in a huge variety of devices which span all aspects of our lives. The presentation is really quite superb and shaped in a way which makes the content obvious, but also deep enough to keep you coming back.
I read quite a few magazines, but this is easily one of the best new publications I have read in a long time and my subscription will be set up today. Some say that the future of magazines is bleak, but with publications like this still popping up I can see nothing but positives to come.
I suspect that the lack of money being spent on apps is a natural progression of the app industry rather then people being cheapskates, as Cult of Mac puts it. I buy very few apps these days and tend to stick with the ones I have used for a long time with only the occasional game capturing my interest despite the fact that most cost less than a cup of coffee. How about you? Has your app purchasing declined over time?
This article from the New York Post highlights a trend which may be irreversible. Smart watches are not having a huge impact on the number of people wearing watches, but there is little doubt that phones are being used more and more by younger people as their main timekeeper. It's sad for people like me who are fascinated by watches, but it is happening for sure.
Apple screwed up the Music app when the Apple Music service was released. It became busy, difficult to navigate and generally made finding tracks very difficult. You may not agree, but almost everyone I know agrees on this topic and so I went in search of a solution.
It came in the form of Cesium Music Player which strips away all of the clutter while throwing in some nice gesture controls and a rather sweet queuing function. If the new Apple Music is getting you down, give this app a try.
The above from The Guardian does make me wonder about the damage such technology has the potential to inflict. It does sound like killjoy-speak, but I have had balance problem for the past 3 years and a ride on The Simpsons ride in Universal Studios caused me to need medical attention because it completely screwed me up. I asked if it was like a roller coaster and was told that it wasn't, but it ended up being a virtual ride where the visuals did not quite match up with the physical sensations. It only takes a millisecond here or there and people with balance problems can have their condition made much worse. This is why I am skeptical about how much medical research has gone into this new breed of VR.