Thursday, October 23, 2014

Inbox - What your inbox should look like

Last night, Google’s Gmail team announced Inbox: its mobile-first reimagining of the email inbox, now available by invitation only.

Google has applied its learning's from Google Now to Inbox, transforming your email inbox from a list of messages to a feed with added value by calling out important information. Similarly to the Google Now app, Google’s server will read your emails and use that information to help get you "just the right information at just the right time." For example, when I receive an email with a boarding pass, Inbox will highlight that and show it in my so that I don't need to dive into the email.


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Google even made a web version but to be honest its nice but just not the same as the app which has all the lovely gestures in it




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In the screenshot above, the attachment is front and centre for easy access. This makes perfect sense -- why have attachments been at the bottom of emails or tiny icons for so long? For example, I might not read the email from Motorola (above), but I am going to want that attachment for my records. A simple tap from the inbox allows me to immediate download it, all it takes after that is a quick swipe and it is gone and in the done pile. Simple, fast, beautiful and efficient -- just what mobile should be. It is worth noting that “Done” is just another word for “Archive.”

You can’t really mention Inbox without mentioning Dropbox’s email application Mailbox. Mailbox is all about getting your inbox to zero. However with Inbox by Gmail, that is just a small feature that it can do. I feel that Inbox is less about getting your inbox to zero, but rather about keeping important messages and files easily accessible.

I did a quick video below to give you an idea of how it works. Because it was built as a mobile application, Inbox excels at condensing important information and making sure it is easily accessible. Inbox also has the ability to tie into Google Now, allowing you to set reminders which can be triggered by time or location.



Google has proved its mobile-first work ethic by launching on both Android and iPhone simultaneously. The Gmail team is less interested in platform loyalty and more interested in access to users, they don’t care if you are on iOS, Android or even Windows Phone they want to reach as many people as possible. For them its all about the users and delivering a truly mobile first strategy is launching on both iOS and Android

To peak interest and build anticipation, the tech giant has chosen to roll out Inbox in the trendy invite-only method. While some companies adopt this practice due to scaling issues, Gmail product director Alex Gawley joked to The Verge that "We're good on servers,” hinting that it is more than likely not a technical limitation.

Another limitation is that Inbox only works for email addresses ending with Gmail.com which is a bit of a problem for those with apps accounts, particularly enterprise accounts. Which means I can’t take the power of Inbox and let it loose on my work account which is a bit of a shame. Much like the role out of Google+ though I am guess that option will be rolled out soon.

It may not seem at first like game-changing technology, but Google has effectively made your email smarter and as a result, your life easier by bringing important information front and centre. Hopefully, the end is in sight for the dumb inbox.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why is TV shit?

Why is the experience of using a TV just soooooo bad even down to the UI? I mean really some of these companies Samsung, Sony, LG and Sky are huge companies they can afford at least one good software designer and one good hardware designer right?

Or is there so much red tape at these companies they cant even make an easy to use remote?

You know what my perfect remote is ...

...we can make this screen into whatever we want. This screen can learn that I never press the red button only use volume and the on/off button showing me only the buttons I need and not the buttons that the company wants me to press.

In fact it was one of the reasons I cancelled my Sky subscription (not to mention its ludicrous price) it was just not the easiest thing to use and didn't really give me what I wanted. It drove me crazy flipping between channels searching for something to watch. Isn't the idea of channels crazy? It's all wrong who cares that Archer is on FX I care about the show not the channel. Which is why TV in its current form will die a much deserved death and things like Netflix and iPlayer will take over. We don't want entertainment ruling our lives waiting for Monday so you can watch the next episode or having to record it while you are out. I know people think that Sky+ is amazing but its still relies on you remembering to record something. What if you find out afterwards its a great show and should watch it? Plus TV is not recorded on tape anymore it's digital so get everything online so we can watch it whenever we want. The BBC really showed networks how it should be done, even though what would make it even better is allowing me to see everything they have ever done, that would be amazing.

Then there is the whole piracy thing which isn't just people trying to get things for free, its people screaming we want this content but you are too dumb to give it to me the way I want it. Do you really think there would be as much piracy in the world if as soon as something was done in the cinema you had it on Netflix for example? Imagine how awesome that would be I don't want to own a DVD it takes up space and I am only going to watch the film a couple of times. This is why Spotify and Netflix are so great you get access to all this great content and can explore and find new things. I know networks and publishers want the revenue that DVDs bring but sooner or later customers are going to get bored of grabbing their ankles.

Personally I now have Netflix, YouTube, 4OD, BBC iPlayer and a range of other on demand services and have never been happier or richer for that matter with the added moral high ground of doing everything legally.

What reaffirmed that I made the right decision is that today it rained all day so I stayed in with my fiancĂ©e and just watched the entire series of Bojack Horseman and we loved it. No channel hopping just watching the show we wanted to watch when we wanted to watch it. The only downside I guess was that we watch it all.

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.