Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Google IO 2014

Last week, Google held their annual developer conference, Google IO 2014, where they announced major updates for all products including Google Cloud, Android and Chrome.
This year, it’s evident Google is slowly but surely making all our dumb things smart, from cars to TVs. They previewed loads of products but below are a few key areas that they focused on:
  • AndroidOne initiative, get the next 5 billion online
  • Android Wear
  • Android Auto
  • Android TV & Chromecast
  • Chrome OS  gets closer to android
  • Enterprise gets a boost
  • Google Fit

To give you an idea of the scale and reach Android has to date, Google started the presentation with the following stats:

  • 30 day active users are now 1 billion up from  530 million in 2013
  • 20B text messages are sent every day
  • 93m selfies per day (31 million are apparently duck faces)
  • Users take approximately 1.5 trillion steps per day
  • Phones are checked a total of 100B a day
  • 62% of all tablet shipments are now Android (not included forks of android like the Amazon Kindle’s)
  • On YouTube 28% of all engagement last year was on Android tablets, it has now grown to 42% in 2014
  • App installs went up 236%

Overall, Google has seen a meteoric rise of the Android ecosystem and this years IO was all about getting Android into even more areas of your life.

Let’s look at how Google’s new products will probably impact brands.

Android Wear

Earlier this year, Google announced Android Wear which would be launching with 2 devices,  the LG G watch and the Moto 360. Last week, we discovered a little more about the OS and that Samsung would also be entering the Wear family with the Galaxy Live. This was such a big focus for the company that every executive was wearing one of the devices and they even gave out the watches to all attendees at the end of the keynote.
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The important thing about Android Wear is it’s potential to dominate the smart watch market very quickly, considering it works so closely with the Android Smartphone OS.

Now applications can be controlled and notified directly from a customer’s watch. For example,  instead of showing a voucher via your smartphone you raise your wrist and scan the using your smartwatch. You’ll see forward-thinking brands like Starbucks bringing payment to the your Android Wear watch.


Android Auto

Android Auto is Google's response to Apple’s Carplay, an OS that allows you to connect and control your car and entertainment system using your phone.

After the keynote, Audi demonstrated Android Auto in an A3 where attendees sat and saw how it worked. My favorite part of Android Auto is all your contacts and favorite places are projected from your phone, meaning that your maps will be powered by Google Maps--no more relying on the car’s GPS program!
Brands will be able to create experiences for their customers inside a car. Currently companies like  MLB.com, Pocket Cast and Spotify have already created apps for Android Auto.

And lastly, Android Auto allows you to control and find information using Google’s “best-in-class” voice recognition.

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Enterprise

With Apple practically eating their lunch in the enterprise space, there was some big stuff in the area of enterprise which Google really did have to address.

Android OS and Google Drive
Two of the biggest updates were to Android OS and Google Drive. Android will now support Android for Work which allows Android phones to seamlessly bring together a user’s business and personal apps, meaning no need for two phones!

Google also made a massive move by incorporating Samsung Knox software into the Android system so that it can be adopted and used by all manufactures. Big news since Android has been getting a bit of flack around security for big businesses, but with this update however Android suddenly gains a fair about of gravitas.

Google Drive will now be able to edit Microsoft Office documents directly within Drive,meaning that you can do all your work on a Chromebook. A direct blow to Microsoft as Google takes more marketshare away from Office. You can now have users collaborate within a Word doc all from Drive, making collaborative work far easier especially if you are working in a company that already uses Google Apps.

Google Fit

Google Fit is a platform that developers will be able hook into, with the permission of the user. Not only that, but apps can view that data and act upon it. For example, Nike could now offer you a discount on a pair of shoes after recognising that you are running a lot, even if you don't use the Nike+ app for your running.

Because Google Fit uses personal data of the user, they have complete control over what and who has access to that data; they could even completely delete the data if they wished.

This adds up to applications being able to better understand their users and start to deliver extremely more personalised experiences.

Conclusion

Interestingly there was nothing on the smart home so it seems that the only news in that area was Nest opening up their api for developers earlier in the week.

This is of course a very cut down version of the 3 hours that the Google keynote went on for and more is being discovered as the conference goes on. If you want to read more about what happened at IO here is a link to The Verge where the did a complete round up everything that was announced.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The impossible task Android doing iPhone

Now every now and then I move between phones and most of the time (maybe 99%) I usually go between android devices. Last year I used a total of 13 phones in one year, a record for me and one I don't think I could ever beat. By use I mean USED put my sim card in and copied over my whatsapp messages and re-login to everything and use it as my daily driver. Sometimes the playing around would last 2 weeks and other times more, currently the phone I was using the Moto X held the record of 3 months if you include this January.

One major reason for this is because as part of my job I need to know my way around all phones and how their UI and use cases differ. Within android all the different skins make each device different whereas the iPhone has stayed pretty static, even the recent update was more a lick of paint in my eyes than a complete rethink of iOS. The second is the fact that it is for me anyway really easy to move across between android devices, text messages, whatsapp, images and signing into the many Google apps I use.

In my head I am a not an Android fanboy(maybe more Google) I am someone who feels that I use whatever is best for the situation. An Android phone an iPad mini and Macbook Air that is my set up, however to really feel that way and dispel people at work and friends calling me a fanboy I have to prove it.

The challenge 

Starting today I will be using an iPhone 5S as my main device of operation meaning that all my devices will be Apple ones so it will be interesting to see how the integration will work. Especially the difference in experience with Google services and products, I use Google+ for my photo uploads Gmail for work and personal email so how they all work so seamlessly in Android is what keeps in that ecosystem. Not to mention they way Android allows apps to talk to each other my favorite example being when in the gallery of my Moto X i can share a photo to any app I want whereas on my iPad I wish I could. Things like that I find infuriating but hey lets see what happens.

Every week I will post my annoyances and pleasures of using the iPhone. I already have a few positive and a few negatives but I feel those will change over time.

This is really a diary of an Android boy through and through using an iPhone. Let the games begin


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Next Billion



An interesting thing is happening in mobile and that is the fact that mobile is becoming the first internet connected device for a majority of the next 1 billion people to get online. This next billion will not be mainly from the developed world but the developing world and that is where there is a hell of a lot of innovation taking place to make that a reality.

Having access to the internet can change lives whether that's access to a medical journal and doctors or knowing what the weather is doing so you know when is best to harvest crops, having access to the internet will be one of the biggest changes for good in this century. We can start to see the importance of mobile in the developing world where often you can’t invest billions of dollars in wiring to get peoples homes connected to broadband. This is why you have to think out of the box and innovate in different ways, for example in Kenya nearly 33% of the countries GDP actually goes through mobile. What an incredible number! All born out of people using mobile airtime as cash so that they could send money to each other via text. Safaricom the local carrier saw this and instead of going against it they decided to make it into a real thing and called it M-Pesa.

The World bank also has said that growth in africa for 2013 is around 5% which is being driven by mobile and the access to the internet. So how else can high speed internet reach everyone in the world efficiently and easily? Well Google think they have the answer with Project Loon which comes out of dream factory Google X. An amazing project that wants to float hundreds of balloons into the stratosphere to beam down internet all over the world. Where companies may be slow to install 3G let alone high speed internet service this technology is one step closer to getting the next billion people online. Below I have put a video that will give you an idea of how the technology works.



With all these new things happening we are going to need devices that people can afford and get them online. It is unlikely that the iPhone 5S is going to be the device that gets the next billion online. The device needs to be cheap its not about technology and features but about the basics like a good battery, good screen and can take a beating in harsh environments. Only a few companies are trying to carve the space up to themselves and one of those is Motorola. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love the Moto X as it is the first phone in a about 3 years that I have used for over 2 months and not gotten bored and moved on to something else. But the phone that blows my mind more than the Moto X is the Moto G a phone that I would recomend to anyone and everyone as their first smartphone and it costs off contract £100. Don't get me wrong this is still a massive amount of money but for what it does it is a step in the right direction and even Motorola released it first in Brazil. Sooner or later we will end up with a similar collective as the $100 laptop but with a phone which can be made cheaper and have broader access to content and applications.

So those are some of the things that I find interesting at the minute and of course I look forward to the future and the innovations that comes from it. There is still a long way to go but the fact that so many people are working on this is great and with mobile about to change the world in ways we haven't even thought of yet to me this is what gets me up in the morning.

Monday, December 9, 2013

New Hobby picking locks #throughglass

I have a new hobby and thought "hey Glass is all about sharing your experiences". Now some people may go skydiving and what not but I do more things with my feet firmly on the ground.

My new hobby for chillout time and focus enhancement is picking locks. Of course only my own and only on my property. Anyway here is me picking one of my first locks after a couple of days of practice #throughglass  

It was a bit of fun and thought I would share




Friday, October 4, 2013

Vertu Constellation

Held at a venue near mayfair the space was beautiful. But before I get into it I want to point out the difference between a tech company like Samsung and Vertu.

Now I was at the same venue last year for the launch party of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and like most of Samsungs events no expense was spared there were celebrities everywhere and Olympic athletes with their gold medals. Big loud and full of big personalities. Plus one of the best parties I have ever been to with Kylie a mere foot away and me with a real gold medal round my neck.

So when I was in the cab on the way to the Vertu event I kinda knew the venue and knew what to expect however the entrance was where the similarities stopped. More bodyguards than I have ever seen protected the entrance and 2 ladies controlled the flow of people. Once in the main part you see the embodiment of what makes Vertu special, its attention to detail. In the middle of the room was this huge tree and ivy decorating the walls even gorgeous chairs and sofas for relaxing in. Of course an open bar and staff distributing food and top ups.

#throughglass

Overall the atmosphere was far more subdued with with clientele being mainly journalists and customers. Making it feel more like being at a hybrid between an art gallery and a high end nightclub, where you grab a cocktail walk around look at the phone sitting in glass boxes with ivy all around then wander over to have a look at the accessories and a demo of the phone.

My favorite part of the night was talking to the Vertu staff who build the phone and know it inside out. Listening to them talk about the leather and that they get it from the mountains in Europe from a family run business where they inspect each piece of leather looking for the perfect piece. Talking to them also reinforces something that I do like about Vertu which is their attention to detail and everything on that device is made by people with loving care, of course you do pay a lot for this care and love.

#throughglass

The Fix of the big problem

Now I am going to be honest before the Ti even if I had a lot of money burning a hole in my pocket I would never have bought a Vertu phone and that is because of the software. Symbian is not a smartphone OS but now they are running Android. Plus a very stock version of Android with only the changes that enhance the experience unlike Samsung, HTC and LG with their bloated skins which in my opinion are more a hindrance than a help especially when there design lags so far behind stock android.

The Constellation runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean close to stock with a beautiful screen shut down which reminds me of my Nexus. Overall there was no lag and it really was smooth as butter even considering it is running some pretty middle of the road specs. Which is a testament to the Vertu software team that are not of the same size as the mammoths of LG and Samsung yet they have made a phone with a smooth OS with no lag that I experienced. And personally I don't care about internal specs anymore I just want a great experience if you can give me the same experience of a quadcore processor on a dual core one then good on you. 

As for the hardware this phone has an almost soft and warm feeling when you hold it due to the leather back, making it very comfortable unlike the iPhone 5 and 5s with its sharp cold edges. Of course it has the usual Vertu embellishments of rubies, sapphire crystal screen and titanium but of all the Vertu phones ever made this is far more understated and one that is elegant without the harsh lines of the Signature or Ti. 

Final thoughts

With the phone costing $6,000 it is expensive but it is also the first Vertu that I would happily recommend to any rich friends with its access to the Google Play store you can now get access to some great apps and services and even play angry birds because even rich people like to play. Plus how many things can you get out there that are made with the finest materials and by a person that signs each phone they make.

The Constellation marks a new direction for Vertu a high resolution touchscreen phone that can be seen as a smartphone that stands alone not as the second phone to someones iPhone. I cant wait to see what the rest of the range will bring and maybe one day I might even treat myself.






Friday, September 13, 2013

The Next Phase of Apple's iPhone

The latest iPhone event was huge. Maybe one of Apple’s biggest to date.

Apple talked about their new OS, a new lower-cost iPhone with a brand new design, and a new top of the line handset with innovative bespoke technology.

But what do these announcements really mean for Apple and iPhone users?



iOS 7

iOS 7 is finally coming on the 18th of September. A huge change. 700 million devices will be visually refreshed, bringing a new look to what was becoming a tired-looking operating system. Gone are the skeuomorphic elements, replaced by beautiful typography, a new sense of depth, and a bigger focus on content.

We’ve known about the new operating system for a long time but now we know exactly when millions of devices will get their visual overhaul, and when the app community will follow suit. To find out what changes need to be made to your apps, read our previous post - what does iOS 7 mean for brands, developers and users.



iPhone 5c

The iPhone 5c, which will replace the iPhone 5, is a whole new look and direction for an iPhone. The changes are mainly skin deep though. The 5c will come in five different colours (it’s basically a colourful iPhone 5) to complement the new colour palette used in iOS 7 (bright and vibrant), bringing the hardware and the software much closer together.


The 5c really is the device that Apple wants to use to compete with the cheaper Android devices out there. With the biggest news being that the iPhone 5 will be discontinued and replaced with the iPhone 5c making the 5s a much more stand out product. Apple will also be launching this phone in China on launch day for the first time, with the intention that they can take over the market there. The aspirational Apple brand might help make for an easier sell, but will it be enough? We’ll have to wait and see.

“The iPhone 5c is beautifully unapologetically plastic” Jony Ive

iPhone 5s

The biggest news was the 5s (which now comes in gold!). Announcements centered around three pillars - the camera, the processor, and security.

Camera

This was the first time in almost two generations that the iPhone camera has had a major upgrade, with a bigger sensor and smarter software. Interestingly, Apple didn't fall into the pixel war trap, not mentioning it’s an 8 megapixel camera, because it really doesn't matter that much. Rarely do we blow our images up to that size. In a similar way to HTC when they launched the HTC One earlier in the year, Apple are instead focusing on providing a great experience. Plus, they may be staying with 8 mega pixels, but the pixels themselves have been made bigger which means they can take in more light, thereby theoretically making low light photography far better.

This upgrade really will in all likelihood position the iPhone 5s as the the smartphone camera to beat. The dynamic flash should prevent white outs and bad flash photos, so you can finally have the flash on for photos without worrying about it being too harsh. Also, you can now take slow motion HD video. So overall, the photos this phone will take will be the best on the market.

Processor

This has had some major changes, starting with the power, which has doubled compared to the iPhone 5. The new A7 chip is 56 times more powerful for graphics than its much older brother, the original iPhone. Pretty impressive. And the change goes even deeper with the introduction of a 64bit processor.

64bit allows the processor to perform tasks twice as fast as 32bit processors that all other mobile devices run. Of course, it will only do this if your software is compiled for 64bit, which means upgrading your app to take advantage of the extra power to make apps run more efficiently. Luckily Apple have made this relatively easy, apparently. One of the developers of Infinity Blade 3 said on stage that it took him two hours to make the necessary changes to the game. This change will also make apps load more quickly, and the camera function more efficiently as well.

The second part of the processor announcement was around a new chip they are calling the M7. The M7 takes care of the gyroscope, accelerometer and compass, offloading it from the main processor so that it can be more efficient. It also is constantly on and listening, meaning your phone can now be smarter and more contextually aware of what you are doing - recognising when you are walking, running or driving. This idea is currently being tried by the Moto X with its X8 architecture that has two chips dedicated to the gyro and a second for language recognition.

What is great about this is that you could have these sensors on all the time without any real effect on battery life. Allowing for smarter apps that understand you and what you are doing on a daily basis. The example shown was an app that would replace your Nike fuelband and measure your movement all day.

Security

Finally, this is where the largest change in aesthetics came for the new 5s. There is now a flat home button with a metal ring around it. Housed within this home button is something that’s nothing short of amazing - a fingerprint scanner. And not the one like on your Dell laptop where you have to slide your finger along it. With this, all you do is touch it and you’re done -  finger scanned and phone unlocked.


It sounds like developers will be able to implement this technology as well. Imagine never again having to type a password - just confirm a payment in by scanning your thumb.

Think about how much time it will save and how much more secure your phone will be due to fingerprint scanning - it really is great! No more entering your password to download a new app, just touch the home button. Want to log into your banking app? Just touch your home button and you are done.

Conclusion

Overall, Apple is moving in the right direction. And given the growing pressure from Android, this is exactly what Apple need to continue to be seen as THE mobile innovators and trendsetters.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lots of Google stuff

The past 2 weeks have been big weeks for Google with the announcement of 3 new products and a new version of the operating system Android.

Jelly Bean Upgrade

First off I am going to go through the software which is called Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. If you have a Nexus device you should have the option to install it. From a design point of view this is not a massive change in fact you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between 4.3 and 4.2.2. Which is to be expected as it is just a point upgrade. So if it isn't the looks then for this to be any kind of an update there needs to be some under the hood goodies and there are a few and I have focused on the main three.

Restricted profiles for tablets: this aims directly at the stat that a lot of tablets are used by more than one person. So what Google have done is create a way for households to have one tablet with multiple profiles, each with their own apps and logins effectively making the tablet change to whoever is using it. Plus with one Admin user (parent) you can control and restrict what other users of the tablet can do making for a safer and more controlled environment for those with young children.
Bluetooth Smart support (a.k.a. Bluetooth Low-Energy): If you are a fan of wearable tech and not having to charge your bluetooth gadgets often this is great news. Especially considering how much power you could save if all your bluetooth devices used Bluetooth Low-Energy. This also opens the door for solutions similar to Apple’s iBeacons which uses Bluetooth low energy, as it is always on, to allow for notifications and location positioning.
Accelerated 3D graphics with OpenGL ES 3.0: Enjoy beautiful graphics and amazing realistic scenes with OpenGL ES 3.0 you really can bring some fantastic graphics to mobile devices where we can enjoy more immersive worlds. Of course this is mainly aimed at games developers but that should not stop people from thinking about how they could use the technology to create great experiences on mobile.

Overall this is a pretty small update and hopefully it means that manufactures can get there devices updated quickly to 4.3. An important point because Android has finally gotten some traction with Jelly Bean having a 40.5% slice of the Android cake. When you compare that to Apple and its 98% iOS 6 penetration Google is helping manufacturers get their phones up to date.


At the same event they also talked about hardware, the Nexus 7 and a new device called the Chromecast. Before Google started to talk about their new tablet they set the scene with some stats all about how the growth of tablets is exploding and that the Play store now has 1 million apps in the app store 50 billion downloads and 2.5x increase in revenue per user.

Nexus 7 (2013)

After that they went straight into the Nexus 7 (2013) a joint device between Asus and Google which is a higher resolution thinner and more powerful version of the original Nexus 7 (2012). Unfortunately nothing really revolutionary here just evolution.

Chromecast

Chromecast however was a bit of a surprise mainly because it wasn't really expected. So what Google have done is create a way for cross platform sending of content to TV’s. Very much like Apple’s very usefully AirPlay but the difference here is this is cross platform, whether you are on an Android tablet or an iPad you will be able to implement this into your app and allow for the sending of content to your TV.

Chromecast itself is a dongle like product that plugs into the back of your TV and is powered by the USB that is in the back of most modern TVs.
This really is an interesting piece of technology mainly because the product is only $35 which makes it almost the cost of an impulse buy. Due to their cheapness and the fact that you got 3 months of free Netflix with it meant the effective price of the devices was $11. For that price Google will probably get a fair bit of penetration, however the only thing that will hold them back is whether or not they get app developers to integrate the code to make their apps compatible. Which brings us to a major difference between Airplay and Chromecast, with Apple’s version being very easy to implement because it is done so by Apple on all of their devices almost no work needed from developers.

At the minute of course as it is new there are not many apps that work with it, the list consists though of some big hitters Google’s YouTube and Netflix. What is clever is that the Chromecast goes off and fetches the video so that you can still use your phone for other things and if you leave the house for example the video will continue to play if say you were watching with a group. The final feature of the Chromecast is the ability to mirror your Chrome browser from your laptop, its a little laggy but for $35 you can't really complain.

Moto X
Finally is the big one the phone that all geeks and Android fans were waiting for. I will freely admit that this phone was so hyped I don't remember being so excited for a phone since the original Palm Pre (great phone tradagiady Palm no longer exists). The reason for the hype is because this is the first phone that was produced under the wing of Motorola’s new parent Google. Meaning this phone really had to be good, unique and change how we look and use our phones.

The big question is if it lived up to the hype and in a few ways it did but unfortunately most its thunder was taken when the new Droids were announced by Verizon that have a lot of the same features as the Moto X.

What makes this device different? Mainly it’s the way it has been designed. Motorola has gone for a more Apple approach where the experience is key, who cares how many cores your processor has as long as it delivers a beautiful and smooth experience? Personally this is how we should do things when it comes to tech too many companies are stuck in this spec war where their phones have more megapixels, 2.0GHz processors and tonnes of features without telling consumers why it is better to have those things. As a consumer I don't care about processor speed or numbers of cores (as a geek I do) mainly because Android has matured enough that it is a solid operating system that is smooth and consistent. In the past you needed the extra horsepower because of the lag you got when using older versions of Android.

There are three things that make the Moto X unique gestures, always listening and customisations.

The Moto X has an extra 2 cpu cores that are dedicated to voice recognition and gestures. these low power cores are always on and always listening meaning that you can activate the camera at any moment by just giving the phone a double twist like you're turning a door handle. The second core is always listening for your voice and can be activated by you and only you by saying “Ok Google Now”. Allowing you to have a hands free experience and interaction with your phone.

These 2 features are really a great example of the rise of the natural user interface these interactions don't need UI just the knowledge of how to interact with your device. One could argue that this is one of the first Natural User Interface phones available.


The final a major differentiator is that this phone has 504 different combinations form the front plate to the back and the buttons all can be changed with different colours and textures, my favourite being wood. They can do this in the USA because they have moved assembly to a factory in Texas making for a 4 day lag from ordering it online and it arriving at your front door.

From all this we can almost get a peek at the future and see how we are going to interact with technology. You will have wearable devices always connected to your phone delivering you up to date information and you will be able to have a conversation with your phone asking it to perform complex tasks. With all of this on a device that was pretty much designed by you for you. Bringing us closer to the world of pixels where you will be able to interact with screens all around your environment.