72 hours with the iPhone 7. A love story.

iphone-7

Last week, I picked up my new iPhone 7 from the job and immediately got to playing with it.

I’d watched the Apple announcement a few weeks prior and was interested to see whether the actual product lived up to they hype.

My initial response was disappointment.

I’d ordered the Black phone. Not Jet Black. Just Black.

Sitting before me, however, was the 256GB Jet Black 7 Plus.

Ummm…I ordered black.

I wasn’t interested in sporting the shiny patent leather version.

I wanted the understated matte.

But due to some administrative oversight, I now owned the much showier version.

I wasn’t happy about it.

Beyond the ostentatious nature of shiny things, from a purely practical perspective, it’s too slippery.

I can’t tell you how many times the bloody thing slipped out of my mitts.

And all that shininess makes it hard to tell the front from the back.

At first glance, they’re virtually indistinguishable.

They’re both maaaaad shiny.

If you miss the camera or Apple logo, as I often did, you don’t realize that you’re looking at the back of the phone until you can’t find the home button.

The headphone jack is another conundrum.

Listening to music and charging your phone at the same time?

Uh-uh. That’s not happening anymore.

On the positive note, apps on the 7 are  much faster.

With the exception of my work mail in the Mail app,  I’ve had no real problems.

And iOS 10 is made for the 7.

Apple introduced a series of subtle gestures and button presses that let you to navigate seamlessly.

I really dig being able to immediately wake my phone to the app I was using simply through a long press of the home button.

You don’t actually ‘click’ through.

You just press and hold the home button past the Touch ID and viola!

The last app or screen you were in appears.

Just rises into view.

Magnificent.

I’m no longer forced to run the gauntlet to get to my shit.

Just gently hold the home button and my app (or whatever) is literally at my fingertips.

You know what?

I was fronting earlier with that shiny comment.

I love it.

I’ve been enamored with it since I got it.

This joint is so sleek and beautiful, I haven’t even put it in a case.

Like I do ALL my new phones.

I have cracked enough sapphire screens to know better.

But I can’t help it.

I stare at it.

Hold it lovingly in my hand.

Marvel at its beeps, chirps and buzzing tactile caress.

If you’re not a fanboy, like I am, why I’m so transfixed will escape you.

If you’re a true Apple aficionado, you know what I’m talkumbout.

The iPhone 7 is beautiful.

I don’t know how many of you have even gotten your pre-orders or copped your phone from a store.

But when you do, I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Me? I’m in love.

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Filed under iPhone, mobile

The top 10 things I love and hate about iOS 10.


Disclaimer: this list only contains seven – I repeat SEVEN items. I know there is “click” value to this title, but I genuinely planned on doing ten things and got bored. But the title stays.

I, like many of you, immediately upgraded to iOS 10, when it dropped.

I was initially impressed, because it was all shiny and new. But now that I’ve lived with it – let it marinate, as it were – I’ve got a more informed perspective.

And I will now bestow upon all of you, my thoughts.

Here are the top ten (ahem) seven things I love and hate about iOS 10.

The (f*#!ing) lock screen. iOS 10 should have come with an onboard Rosetta Stone. Real talk. Navigating these new screens requires some form of advanced degree. Instead of maintaining the intuitive gestures we’d come to know and love, iOS 10 presents a slew of new button presses, sequences, swipes and gestures to access and unlock things that just weren’t there before. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but for now, negatory. ūüĎéūüŹĺūüĎéūüŹĺ

Chat. I’m a little ambivalent about this new chat ‘window’ that opens when you’re responding to texts. Sure you can respond to texts without opening the messaging app – like you could before. But now your stuff is all on front street with this big ass indiscreet overlay. No buenos. Give me back my drop down – and privacy! ūüĎéūüŹĺ

Alerts. iOS 10 comes kitted up with new beeps, whirls and chirps providing sonic feedback for your taps, swipes and scrolls. I was quite tickled posting this opine from my iPhone as I listened to the little ‘pops’ of my typing. Well done Apple. Well done. ūüĎćūüŹĺ ūüĎćūüŹĺ

Power drain. Apple, you’re killing me with this ridiculous power consumption. How we avoid Samsung battery meltdowns is beyond me. No it’s actually not – because it’s an Apple and we don’t do that. I digress. Wait…did you notice how I said “we” and I don’t even own the stock. OMG am I sheep? Whatevs, battery life is seriously compromised with this update. I find myself charging it literally all the time now. And I’m a let-it-run-down-all-the-way-to-preserve-battery-life kind of fellow. So I know I’m not tripping. ūüĎéūüŹĺ

Home. I’m not really checking for how much more I’ve got to interact with the home button to get shit done. I used to be able to wake my phone and go right to my apps. Now I go to a lock screen of no inherent value. It’s just a blocker. Sure I can now open to the camera by swiping left, but in one step more and I can be there swiping up from the bottom of the screen. ūüĎéūüŹĺ

Making phone calls. How the hell do you end a call? I used to able to tilt the phone, see and end an active call. Now ending calls is like trying to solve a Rubix Cube! If i navigate away from my call, good luck finding that screen again. I mean WTF. Am I the only one? ūüĎéūüŹĺ

The camera app. Although I’m not checking for he new lock screen, I am checking for how you’re able to open directly to the camera by swiping the lock screen to the left. Truth be told – I’m a budding cinematographer and actually like this. I’ve shot a few home movies, which I’ve compiled on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. Please enjoy my opus.ūüĎćūüŹĺ

Now that I’ve waxed eloquent about my likes and dislikes, what do you think about iOS 10?

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Mobile ads…please stop sucking. Five tips for making mobile ads better.

mobile ads

I play a lot of solitaire on my iPhone.

It’s my go-to game when I’m taking the train, talking to someone boring or just passing the time mindlessly.

Sure there are other games out there, like the insanely addictive Pokemon Go.

But I can’t be walking around tryin’ to catch ’em all, walking into people and draining my battery in the process.

And I really am not about the brightly colored, sensory stimulating, action/adventure games in abundance in the App Store.

I’m good with a simple game of solitaire.

I play a free version of the game created by MobilityWare.

mobilityware-squarelogo-1457378873808

Because it’s free,¬†between each game – win or lose – they serve an ad.

I’ve played well over 10,000 games of solitaire, so I’ve seen thousands of ads.

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Some of the ads are for other games, apps, insurance, cars, television shows or movies.

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Some are static ads, video, or interactive surveys or animated game tutorials.

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Most of the time I just ignore them, but recently, I’ve been paying attention and I’ve noticed something interesting: mobile ads suck.

More accurately, the companies that serve mobile ads suck.

I know I’m generally a caustic dude, prone to being overly critical.

But in this instance, I’m being particularly objective.

Mobile. Ads. Suck.

A few months ago, a recruiter reached out to me about a position with a company which specialized in mobile ads.

Their client was looking for someone with deep native mobile experience and wanted to forward my resume.

When she sent along the job description, I checked them out and thought it made sense to do some research.

If they called me in, I could articulate what I thought about the current state of mobile ads and not sound like a total dolt.

So I started to pay attention to the ads being served between my countless games of solitaire.

What I observed was that mobile ads suffer from all types of fuckery.

But these are the top five offenses I observed (and things you should avoid if you’re serving mobile ads in your app).

1. Size matters. A mobile screen is small. So why wouldn’t your ad fill ¬†the entire screen? If you’re trying to make an impact, you’re not going to do it by forcing users to strain their eyes to make out your shitty ad. Make sure that the ad platform or service¬†you use delivers high quality, fully scaled content that fits the dimensions of the screens being served.

So UPS, what were you planning on doing with the other 1/3 of the screen?

So UPS, what were you planning on doing with the other 1/3 of the screen?

2. Orientation. I typically play solitaire in portrait mode. And for the most part, the ads that are served automatically mirror the orientation of my screen. But every so often, there’s one that doesn’t. Not only is the ad in the wrong orientation, but it’s also locked in that orientation, forcing me to turn my screen to watch/read it or access the exit button. If you’re delivering mobile ads, be sure that they’re not in a fixed position. And if the optimal viewing perspective is portrait (or landscape), make sure that you’re not forcing your user to only view it in that orientation.

This ad started off in landscape mode, but re-orientated, when I turned my screen.

This ad started off in landscape mode, but re-orientated, when I turned my screen.

3. Give us free! One of my absolute pet peeves is when there is no way to exit out of an ad. Most ads have an “X” prominently displayed on he screen when they show up, allowing me to immediately close it and resume playing solitaire. Others have a slight delay, with the “X” appearing about five seconds after the ad is displayed. But the offenders have no means of exiting their ads or worse still, when you do click on the “X” another ad appears forcing you to exit it again! Motherfuckers! Can I play my solitaire? Always give your users an out.

I thought that pressing the x in the upper right hand corner would do the trick, but no!

I thought that pressing the x in the upper right hand corner would do the trick, but no!

The trick was on me. I had to exit out of this ad twice!

The trick was on me. I had to exit out of this ad twice!

IMG_7205

How about this ad with no “x” at all!

4. Short and sweet. Have you seen those ‘countdown’ ads, which show you how much time remains in the ad? How about the ones which count down how much time before you can exit out of them? Presumably, they do this because they know folks have short attention spans and don’t want to suffer through ads. And these are the better ones! Many ads are just too long and for no good reason. Ads are intrusive and if you’re going to intrude, make sure its no longer than it has to be. Best practice says a video ad shouldn’t be more than 15 seconds, and if you’re going to be delivering ads between content, make sure users can exit out at will. Per Tip No. 4, don’t make them watch to the end if they don’t want to.

5. Call to action. The point of any ad is to get the viewer to do something after they engage the ad. This engagement is the call to action. It’s the thing you want the viewer to do, the step you want them to take or behavior you want them to engage in. So many ads had obtuse, ill placed or no call to action at all. Don’t be among this group and make sure you have a clear, unambiguous, prominently placed call to action in your ad.

"See All"? That's your call to action? Boo Hiss!

“See All”? That’s your call to action? Boo Hiss!

So there you have it, the top five tips for not having sucky mobile ads.

If you’re managing ads yourself, observe these tips. If you’re working with a mobile ad network, make sure you’ve got the ability to review the ads being served to make sure that they meet these standards.

Feel free to share your experiences with mobile ads and any tips you might have for making them better.

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Filed under advertising, mobile ads, opinion, social media

Apple vs FBI. Why the outcome matters.

pandoras-iphone-201922

Unless you live under a rock or are completely off the grid, you’ve seen the multiple stories about the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI.

This battle is being waged by both parties on two fronts: in court and in the court of public opinion.

For most people, it’s an interesting story and nothing else.

For some, its a matter of national security, and Apple needs to help the FBI get into the phone so that we can stop terrorists.

Others think that opening a ‘back door’ to the Apple’s iPhone security protocol would set¬†a dangerous precedent, forever compromising our civil liberties.

Regardless of what side you come down on – disinterest, the government or Apple – it’s important that you pay attention because the ramifications will be far-reaching.

As a general rule, people are apathetic.

If it doesn’t affect them you¬†who gives a fuck. Right?

They’re not trying to get into my phone, so what’s the big deal?

If you’re an Android user, you care even less.

This is about Apple. Who cares what Tim Cook and those Apple fan boys think?

If the order says you’re supposed to help the FBI¬†disable the auto erase function of the pass code¬†lock (currently preventing them from utilizing a brute force approach to figuring out the phone’s pass code) then write the frigging code and be done with it.

If you’re a flag-flying patriot, your interests turn on Apple’s duty to ‘Murica.

Apple needs to do it’s American duty and protect it’s citizens.

Open the damn phone and let’s¬†excoriate the terrorist cancer from society.

But if you’re an Apple user, concerned¬†citizen or privacy advocate, you understand the true implications of Apple complying with this order.

No one would disagree that stopping terrorism is a valid reason for assisting the government with any inquiry involving a suspected terrorist’s mobile device.

But at what point does assisting the government end and infringing upon civil liberties begin?

In this instance, the government wants Apple to do something unprecedented: write code to obfuscate the utility of the current security protocols Apple has in place to protect individual users of it’s products.

While the order is written to narrowly apply to one device, we all know that once the FBI has access to a tool that creates a back door to users’ devices –¬† the FBI has access to a tool that creates a back door to users’ devices.

Through high profile exposes from investigative journalists, Wikileaks and various former government whistle blowers, we know that the government frequently¬†oversteps legal boundaries in pursuit of it’s objectives.

NSA’s data collection activities, widespread eavesdropping on citizens, clandestine drone strikes on Americans – I could go on and on -prove unequivocally¬†that we can’t necessarily trust what we’re told about the government’s stated intentions.

More importantly, (true to form) the government has allegedly already been working on methods to break the encryption technology that companies like Apple and Google have developed in light of the Wikileaks scandal.

Whether or not it would be easier if Apple ‘helped’ the government, is immaterial.

What matters more is that a company shouldn’t be forced to compromise the security measures it’s developed, when other less drastic alternatives exist.

We already live in a time where virtually everything we do is monitored, whether we know (or consent to) it or not.

The few illusions we have of privacy are important, especially as data collection assails us from all directions, from our computers, to our mobile devices, to our new found obsession with wearables.

The advent of IoT means that even more data will be collected of our every digital interaction.

If the courts do not reverse their order and if Apple is unsuccessful in their appeal, the precedent could extend to the maker of any data collection device being forced to add ‘back doors’ to circumvent security protocols.

And that is what is truly at stake.

It’s one thing to be asked to turn over data pursuant to a properly obtained subpoena.

Its quite another to be asked to expend development resources of a private company to assist the government to breach the security protocols of an individual’s device.

If the back door was already there, no problem.

But to be forced to create the back door, that’s an entirely different creature altogether.

How this ultimately plays out remains to be seen.

Will Apple capitulate to the government’s request (kicking and screaming as many pundits anticipate) or not? Who knows?

I, for one, hope not.

Because once Pandora’s box has been opened, you can’t undo that.

I’m sure many will disagree with me and that’s fine.

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

One final thought, if you’re interested in following the debate on social media, you can using¬†the hashtag #applevsfbi

 

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Filed under advocacy, iPhone, mobile

It shouldn’t be so hard to fall in love. An expert’s review of the Apple Watch.

Apple_Watch_OmniFocus

Late last year I let one of my friends borrow my Apple Watch and take it for a test drive.

His wife was contemplating buying him one for his birthday, but he wasn’t quite sure he wanted her to drop that kind of cash for what I had already told him was an expensive toy.

The basic issue (beyond cost) was whether the utility of the Apple Watch justified being perpetually monitored.

For him, unless the Apple Watch did something materially better than the iPhone, he wasn’t interested in having Apple (or anyone for that matter) knowing exactly where he was at all times.

And he wasn’t one of those always-on-his-phone types, so I knew that not being tracked (or trackable) was not some conspiracy theorist type objection, but a very real objection he had¬†to this always-on culture of today.

So it was not without a bit of excitement that I handed over my watch, knowing that dude was about to go in on the Apple Watch.

You see, I’m a casual user of my Apple Watch.

I’ve never been so impressed with it that I took a deep dive to uncover the little kernels of goodness that would covert me into a fan.

My initial critiques weren’t positive.

The watch face is small.

Navigation isn’t terribly intuitive.

Doesn’t have a heck of a whole lot of utility beyond glances.

And as a casual user, I felt that my perspective was uninformed.

But now I had someone who was willing to apply a very scientific approach and¬†take the Apple Watch through it’s paces.

Mark Hines aka “Yoda” aka “He Who Sees the Future” aka “The Brain” was going to go completely desconstruct¬†the Apple Watch and share his feedback with me.

A bit of background on his testing is in order.

There are three (3) primary apps Mark rocks on his iPhone in order of importance: OmniFocus, Remote and Wink.

OmniFocus (which I’ve written about before) is¬†a personal task manager that lets you¬†capture thoughts and ideas into lists¬†which you can then¬†parse and organize.

Remote is the iOS app which allows you to control you iOS devices via your iPhone.

Wink is a smart home app that lets you control connected home appliances from your iPhone.

Combined with apps like Shazam, these apps were the apps that factored significantly in Mark’s daily flow and the ones¬†he wanted to test¬†on the Apple Watch.

One month later, he felt he had arrived at a place where he could report back.

It was not good.

His initial impression was that as another iOS device, it should have been plug-and-play right out of the box.

But it was anything but that.

It was – inelegant.

He went into excruciating detail about the level of effort required to get OmniFocus to work on the Apple Watch (similar to how he had set it up on the iPhone) and the workflow hacks he needed to have Wink work in a more streamlined fashion than was possible out-the-box.

One of his¬†biggest hurdles was having Siri send reminders not to the default To-Do list or calendar, but to OmniFocus instead, which involved working with the cats at Omni (big ups to The Omni Group) who took Mark’s feedback and incorporated them into subsequent builds, which enabled him to hit that ‘sweet spot’.

Besides the limitations of the Watch version os most apps, the one thing that drove Mark absolutely bonkers was the fact that if you were outside the range of your iPhone, the Apple Watch was rendered – essentially – useless.

Mind you, Mark lives in a modestly sized apartment.

So you can imagine his chagrin being in another room, less than 30 feet away from his iPhone, and finding that the watch was no longer connected.

Having to be cognizant of where the phone was, relative to the location of the watch, felt counterintuitive, especially considering the Apple Watch’s promise to free the user from their phones.

The reality is that you’ve still got an invisible tether, requiring you to stay close to your phone or lose functionality.

Sure, some things still work, but none of the basic things you’d probably want¬†like¬†messaging, Mail, the phone, Maps, Camera Remote, Weather, and Stocks.

These features rely on an active data connections or GPS signals, neither of which an Apple Watch can do without an iPhone.

Siri¬†also won’t work¬†as it requires a data connection to process commands.

I could give you a watered down version of his assessment, but I’ll just share his actual written report.

Report to Stephen:

I been keeping a journal. Really hated it the 1st week. Took DUMB troubleshooting and tech support to get OmniFocus working. Then further calibration to make it behave the way I wanted…Yesterday was the 1st full day having it actually do the things I envisioned.

I don’t hate it now, but need to exercise it. OmniFocus, Remote and Wink (home automation) are the sweet spot for me. Without those, I definitely wouldn’t care for this at all. With them, I may be on the brink of something special.

No, dude, I literally hated it.

I hit an ill stride today where I can spit into it and I’m catching OmniFocus gems I have lost many times before ‘cuz I was looking around for my phone and when I found it, I forgot what I was gonna put in.

Getting stuff in my head, out and into Omni, path of least resistance, is pure gold. I’ll know in like a week what’s really hood. I know they average cat ain’t jumping thru all these hoops I am so, the thing out the box is under impressive.

You gave a totally accurate review.

Omni’s support was solid but they didn’t have the solution. I created one and shared it back with them. I couldn’t even install that shit onto the watch till Tuesday.

I don’t think a nigga should have to try so hard to fall in love.

A nigga shouldn’t have to try so hard to fall in love.

Deep.

 

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Filed under Apple Watch, mobile, technology

Shazam. It’s not your grandmother’s listening device.

Man uses an ear trumpet

Last week, I took the kids to see Daddy’s Home, with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

During the pre-previews (the drivel that they show you before they actually show upcoming movie previews), there was an ad with a Shazam logo in the bottom left corner of the screen.

For those of you familiar with Shazam, you know to whip out our phone and open the Shazam app whenever you see that logo.

Usually, when you Shazam, you’ll get details about a particular song.

Can’t remember the name of that song on the radio? Shazam it.

Forgot which label released this song by your favorite artist? Shazam it.

Unable to recall¬†the name of the artist pumping out of the store’s speakers? Shazam it.

You get my drift.

If you need to identify a song, Shazam was the app for you.

Although not quite as ubiquitous as “Xerox”, the term “Shazam” has essentially become synonymous with music identification.

But sitting in the theater, Shazam was prompting me to open it up and get details for some innocuous promotion or another.

You can imagine my amazement being asked to Shazam for non-music identification purposes.

Please try to contain your excitement, I’m not done.

And this was not the first time that I was asked to Shazam for a non-music discovery end.

The last time was during some weekend football preview show a few weeks ago.

The show segment was brought by Coke Zero and during the segment the Shazam logo appeared on screen as the sports casters talked about Coke.

The gist of their banter was that I could get a free Coke if I Shazamed before the segment ended.

Not to miss out on an opportunity to get some free shit, I did and got this.

Shazam was on some straight promotions shit!

Now, if you’ve ever used Shazam, you know that they’ve got ads a plenty.

No big deal.

Shazam a song and you’ll get back a result plus a bunch of music-related ads from Pandora, Rhapsody or iTunes.

Pandora, iTunes, Rhapsody Ad

Scroll further down the page, and the ads become less music-related and now you’re just being marketed at.

Salesforce Ad

Usually, these ads are a minor nuisance – an ancillary element of the result that’s being returned.

So it’s not totally unheard of that Coke Zero was leveraging it¬†for promotional purposes.

But what made it unique was that it was only returning the Coke Zero ad and no music.

Seeing it again at the movies reinforced the fact that Shazam is looking to expand it’s utility beyond music identification into marketing and advertising.

Personally, I think it’s a smart move.

We live in an era where folks routinely rock and use multiple devices simultaneously.

We watch TV while tweeting.

We surf the internet while shopping.

Folks are already used to Shazaming to get song info.

Why not Shazam to get a free Coke, or enter a sweepstake, or even schedule a test drive while we’re at it?

The possibilities are limitless.

I’m curious to see where else that Shazam logo is going to show up.

Have you seen a noteworthy implementation of Shazam recently? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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Top Tech Trends of 2015. A top 5 list.

homer

As 2015 draws to a close, we’re inundated with lists.

Best of lists.

Epic fails lists.

Prediction lists.

Everyone’s trying to get in on that end of year metrics booster as people search for reports, studies and stats on how well we did this year or how well we’re predicted to do next year.

I am no different.

But I’m not particularly interested in offering any scientific or metrics-based opinions.

I’ve read no studies to support any of what I’m about to say.

No reports inform my perspective.

In fact, I’ve been told by at least one person, that my list is bunk.

Kick rocks.

I know what the fuck I’m talkimbout’.

Anywho, I think we can all agree that 2015 was a banner year for tech.

This year, we saw curved screens, wearables, virtual reality, and streaming music explode.

Everyone had skin in the game and we (consumers) benefited from all of it.

Everywhere you looked, technology was changing the way we did things, the way we saw things and the way we interacted with the world around us.

And that trend is likely to continue unabated.

So here are my top 5 tech trends of 2015 (in no particular order).

Wearables are a thing.

wearables_tech

Without question, 2015 was the year of wearables. Anyone who was anyone wanted to create a wearable device, demonstrating that they ‘got it’ when it came to wearable technology. While brands like Tag Heuer had their head turning high end $1,800 Android watch, one wearable stood out among the rest: The Apple Watch. Heralded as the device that would ‘free people from their phones’ (considering the fact that it’s a tethered device – that’s a bit of an overstatement, but nonetheless) Apple sold more than 4.2 million watches in the second quarter of this year, making it the most successful wearable device ever. I’m not a fan (be on the look out for my expert’s review) of the Apple Watch, but I’ve got to give props where they are due and the Apple set the bar for wearable lifestyle integration.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

the-cloud

2015 was the year that Cloud came into it’s own. Principally, in the form of highly publicized hacks. Who can forget last year’s infamous Apple iCloud hack. Seeing Jennifer Lawrence’s naughty bits brought the issue squarely into – ahem – focus. Ashley Madison’s subsequent hack once again showed the vulnerability of data in the cloud. But where many see problems, cloud providers and security experts see opportunity. The demand for cloud services will invariably increase due to the advantages of high computing power, low¬†costs, high performance, scalability, accessibility and¬†availability, and¬†cloud vendors are reaping the benefits with¬†50% annual growth rates. Data breaches will continually be the bane of virtual data storage, but cloud is definitely the future and the trend clearly got a foothold this year.

Drones, drones everywhere!

amazon drone

In 2013, when¬†Jeff Bezos introduced the planned delivery drones of Amazon Prime Air on 60 Minutes to the befuddlement of Charlie Rose, it was a fantastic and¬†futuristic moment. Two years later, drones are an every day part of our lives. Whether it’s the small toys for kids, the more advanced camera toting variety or Amazon’s delivery drones, drones have become a defining element of 2015. Drone were so prolific this year they prompted legislators to draft bills prohibiting them and the FAA to issue regulations regarding flight¬†ceilings¬†to prevent their unfettered use in airspace by the general population. Drone technology continues to advance as innovative applications are constantly being¬†developed.

Mobile became a gateway.

mobile gateway

Mobile is the gateway to everything. The explosion in social media, wearables, IoT, streaming, cloud all owe their origin to mobile.¬†Mobile has become one of the largest contributors to retail, providing a¬†cushion to waning brick and mortal sales. The use of mobile in stores, to scan barcodes, search for comparable items, and pay all from the same device has increased the frequency and number of touch points that can be exploited by brands to help influence consumer behavior. The sheer amount of data generated by mobile¬†users is a treasure trove for brands interested in harnessing the value of that data. As users become device agnostic, opting to use the device appropriate for the moment, mobile will become synonymous with¬†‘mobility’ and not devices.

Social Media

social media

Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Social media has become a disruptive element to virtually every space. From finance to politics to the reporting of world events, social media has helped spread information light years faster than traditional media. Breaking news is no longer coming from news outlets, but from people on-the-ground broadcasting events in real time to online followers and members of their digital social networks. Nowadays media outlets are piggybacking on stories sourced from social media, with the more savvy media outlets devoting entire units to social media listening. Social media has also grown niche audiences, speaking to its power to engage both mainstream and previously less engaged or insular communities.

The items that didn’t make this list (because I was lazy or¬†harangued by my more critical peeps – you know who you are) include: machine to machine, 3D printing, digital pay – I could go on.

Suffice it to say, this is just an entr√© for a deeper discussion for 2015’s top trends.

What other trend stood out for you in 2015? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under Apple Watch, iPhone, mobile, social media, technology

I’m sorry Apple Watch. I miss you.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 12.28.30 PM

It’s been exactly one week since I let my business partner, Mark, borrow my Apple Watch and my feelings of withdrawal are palpable.

His wife wanted to get him an Apple Watch for his birthday, and he asked if he could take mine for a test drive before she dropped coin.

He’d previously heard me complain that the Apple Watch wasn’t all that, and he wanted to assess it for himself.

So I unpaired it from my iPhone and let him rock out.

What did I care, it was just a stupid toy, right?

One week later, as I reflect on how much I’ve maligned the Apple Watch, as being an expensive and glorified toy, I’m starting to realize the error of my ways.

Dare I say, I miss my watch?

I no longer have the convenience of doing the simple things like glancing at my watch for the time, or more sophisticated tasks like getting turn-by-turn directions.

I’ve been reduced to pulling out my phone for these tasks, which I thought were mere trifles when performed on my watch, but I now see were much more than that.

They were convenience.

How could I have been so wrong?

You’re probably asking yourself, “what is this fool talkimbout?”

I’ll tell you what I’m talkimbout.

Ever since I got the Apple Watch as a birthday gift from my wife, I’ve been fairly consistent in my characterization of it as a glorified – and expensive – toy.

Sure, it’s cute.

Sure, it’s got a nice design.

Sure, it’s baked with apps and loads of ‘cool’ features.

But so friggin’ what?

It’s not all that!

Whenever anyone noticed my watch and asked me what I thought, I’d give them the following rundown:

“The Apple Watch is a nice toy. But that’s all it is – a toy. Since I’ve had it, I use it mostly for the alerts: new emails, text messages, incoming phone calls, the activity monitor. It’s got other features, like the ability to make and receive phone calls, but what am I? Dick Tracy? Making phone calls from your wrist is just awkward. You can also control other iOS devices, using the Remote app on the watch, but that’s also not the best user experience. Or taking photos. Unless you remember to use the time delay mode, all your shots will have you pressing your wrist. Texting? Talk to text. You can send either a voice message or the text version of your message from your watch. And you can also ask Siri to perform certain tasks, but invariably, you’ll probably use your iPhone instead. All in all, it’s cute, but I wouldn’t spend money for it.”

One week without my watch, and I’m truly starting to appreciate that I derived significant utility from my watch.

For all the things I claimed I wasn’t or wouldn’t use it for, there were a host of things that I was using it for.

Like those damn alerts.

I’ve always got my phone on silent.

No vibrate.

Not low.

Silent.

So whenever any alert came to my phone, invariably unless I was using it at the time, I missed it.

Phone calls, text messages, emails, breaking news, whatever – I’d receive well after they were delivered.

It wouldn’t be like an hour later – usually a few minutes or so.

But my response time was usually unintentionally delayed because of this gap.

With my watch, I could intentionally delay my responses or not, because I knew when the notification arrived.

The other day, a friend of mine from high school hit me up on Facebook asking if she should get the Apple Watch for her son for Christmas.

And I gushed.

Apple Watch praise

I couldn’t even help myself.

For all my smack talking about the Apple Watch being a toy, when asked, I offer an unabashed endorsement.

One week later without it, and I’m slowly realizing exactly how much my Apple Watch means to me…

If you’re in the market for an Apple Watch, then you should definitely check out the reviews out there for a less impassioned perspective.

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Mobile is dead. Long live mobile. 5 tips for brands in an untethered world

mobile is dead

I recently heard a director of digital and e-commerce of a retail brand say, “we don’t really care about mobile” and nearly shat myself.

I’d recently had Mexican, and it wasn’t agreeing with me.

I’m kidding…their statement did almost cause an involuntary bowel movement.

Luckily I have a strong sphincter (read: I do kegels) and the crisis was avoided.

I was, however, momentarily stunned by the statement of someone I assumed knew that mobile commerce was one of the largest contributors to retail revenues in 2015 Рto the tune of a projected $104 billion according to Internet Retailer.

With mobile accounting for more than 30% of all US e-commerce traffic, I chalked the executive’s statement to early morning alcohol consumption, clandestine drug use or undiagnosed Turrets.

But as I thought on it further, I realized that perhaps the functional addict of an exec was actually on to something.

A decade ago websites were the holy grail for e-commerce.

Five¬†years ago¬†SMS was an absolutely essential component of brands’ marketing strategies.

A few years ago having a mobile site or app was critical to a brand’s success.

And now brands are weighing the importance of having a wearable strategy.

All this to drive traffic, increase engagement and conversions on websites, mobile sites, and apps.

With the advent of IoT, wearables, ‘smart’ devices, and thin clients are going to enable incomprehensible levels of engagement – making the actual platform used to connect¬†virtually irrelevant.

This shift is changing the way we interact with the world around us and the brands that want to reach us.

So in honor of the wayward exec I maligned, here is my top 5 list for preparing for an IoT world.

1. Accept that people are always on.

We are always reaching for our devices. Sleep seems to be the only time we’re not literally on our devices. But with devices like¬†the¬†Apple Watch doubling as a nightstand clock/alarm clock, we’re closer than ever to achieving¬†actual ‘always-on’ status. At a glance, we can get weather updates, stock tips, heath status, schedule and virtually any random piece of information one desires. No longer are we required to ‘boot up’ a computer or suffer some cumbersome process in order to get information. Today, we can just ask Siri, Cortana or any of a dizzing number of virtual assistant (even on our damn tvs!) and activate/initiate some desired action. With IoT, there’s no going back.

2. Be diffuse but don’t dilute.

water down

Once upon a time, mobile sites we trimmed down versions of full desktop sites. The thought process was that with the smaller real estate, users wouldn’t be able to process the same amount of information, and that information overload was the equivalent of a poor user experience. So many brands opted for ‘brochure’ mobile sites, stripped of the functionality available of desktop sites save a few basic options. Today we know better. With smart phones housing increasingly¬†powerful processors, greater real estate for presenting content from larger screens, and loads of data about mobile user behavior, having a mobile site that functions like a full desktop site or offers the same utility, and is¬†adapted to¬†mobile user behavior ensures that you’re enabling your users rather than hampering them. In the age of IoT, brands will become adept at¬†applying the lessons learned in mobile to¬†wearables to¬†avoid watering down utility.

3. Meet your audience where they are.

meet people where they are

I’m sure you’ve heard of brands adopting a multi-channel or omni-channel strategy as it relates to targeting their users. Basically, these terms refer to the evolving mindset that you can no longer build it and expect them to come. Today, you’ve got to meet them where they are, which increasingly requires that you first understand where they are, and second how to engage them in those spaces. You cannot simply say, “I’m going to make my website available on mobile and tablet devices and wearables” (unless you want to fail miserably). Yes, you should have an approach or strategy for intelligently being present in the spaces your users are, but don’t blunt¬†the efficacy of your presence with¬†a one-size-fits-all mindset.

4. Build bridges back to you.

hyperlink

I once received an email offer in my inbox with no hyperlink to a landing page or the website for the offer itself. There was no specific call to action or clear indication of how to take advantage of the promotion. Outside of communicating that there was a sale, the brand didn’t make it particularly easy to take advantage of it. Major miss.¬†If you’re a brand with a compelling offer, make sure that you make it super simple for recipients of that offer to take advantage of it. For example, if you’re offering 20% off at checkout and that ad is my entry point, make sure there’s a cookie that auto fills the promo code box at checkout and the user doesn’t have to backtrack to find the code.

5. Think like a user.

personas

I recently read an article about a shopping app, in which the app’s creator was the first user/shopper. The¬†article went on to explain how¬†the app’s creator continued to use the app to shop, even though he had thousands of shoppers and a staff of thousands.¬†Why? Because knowing the user experience from a first person perspective was critical to ensuring that the app contained to meet the needs of shoppers.¬†As a brand, it’s one thing to have an idea and quite another to see how you idea manifests in the real world. Make sure you’re putting down your marker, stepping away from the white board, and walking in the shoes of your users to know exactly what their experience is in the real world. As a corollary to this point, make sure you build personas which speak to the different types of people who will engage your brand, so you’re thinking through not one user journey, but the many possible¬†user journeys of the various users.

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Apple Care+ FAIL! Geniuses my arse!

cracked apple watch

Note: You can read this long ass post or skip to the end and watch my video recap instead. The choice is yours!

This post was originally going to be a rant about the Top 10 Things I hated about iOS 9 (.1, .2, etc.), but my recent trip down the Apple Genius Support rabbit hole has me too hot to poke jovial fun at them.

Why am I all hot and bothered, you ask?

Well, because a few weeks ago, after working out and sculpting my exquisite ebony physique, I opened my locker, pulled out my gym bag and heard the distinct shatter of Ion-X glass.

A chill ran up my spine as I slowly looked down to see my precious Apple Watch.

Face down on the cold granite floor.

Even before I reach down to picked it up by one of it’s delicate rubber straps, I knew.

The sound I heard was true.

A horrible crack coursing along the length of the bottom and up the watch face greeted me as I turned it over.

Running my finger over the fissures, I could feel the splintered glass.

Damn! Damn! Damn!

Although I’ve maligned the Apple Watch as a mere toy, it was an expensive toy to which I’d become accustomed.

It’s once annoying subtle haptic taps had become welcomed reminders, alerting me to meetings, calls and milestones reached.

And it told time!

But all was not lost.

You see, I had Apple Care+, so getting this fixed would be nothing but a chicken wing.

When I got back to the office, I popped open my MacBook to schedule a repair appointment.

Alas, there were no appointments anywhere local until the following day.

So I made an appointment to take my watch into the Apple Store at Grand Central at noon.

When I arrived, I was seated by one of the Geniuses, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I waited for an hour and a fucking half before I had to just grab someone and be like “What the fuck?! I’ve been here an hour and a half, is anyone going to help me?”

Befuddled, the genius (notice I’ve gone to lowercase “g”) asked me my name, my appointment time, why I was there (didn’t you have all this already when I checked in?) and scurried off.

A few minutes later (I was giving her the evil eye the entire time – lest she forget her charge) she returned to advise that someone would “be right with me.”

True to her word, two minutes later a multiple-piercing sporting, gauge-earing wearing, mohawk rocking vertically challenged genius walked over to “assist” me.

When I showed him my watch, he told me that they didn’t perform these types of repairs in-house and that my watch would have to be sent out for repair.

He further advised me that it would cost me $79 (or something in that neighborhood) when the repair was done, which I would pay when I came to pick up my watch.

Finally, he said that it would take five to seven days for the work to be done, but that I would get an email notifying me of everything we had discussed.

The entire transaction took 90 seconds.

I waited an hour and a fucking half to essentially hand over my watch.

Un-be-fucking-lievable.

Mind you, did I get a confirmation email, like I did when I scheduled my appointment?

Did I get a follow-up email five to seven days later?

Did I receive any communication whatsoever from Apple regarding my repair.

Thrice, “no”.

And I was missing my watch.

So on the one week anniversary of dropping off my watch, I called Apple Support.

I actually called the Grand Central Station Apple Store at (212) 284-1800, but once I selected ANY option, I was re-routed to their general support call center.

After running the automated attendant gauntlet, I was connected with a human who established that:

  1. I was never assigned a Repair Id typically issued with every repair
  2. The Case No + Serial number combination typically used to track repair orders in lieu of the Repair No. didn’t work

When she finally pulled up my repair status, it confirmed that my watch had, in fact, been left with Apple at Grand Central for repair.

And it further showed that it had been received by the service center, assessed and that a replacement product was ‘pending’.

To figure out why I hadn’t received any notice and resolve the hold up, the operator asked me to hold for a few minutes so that she¬†could contact someone at the Grand Central store for some answers¬†– and presumably reunite me and¬†my watch.

A few¬†minutes on hold became five minutes, then ten, then fifteen before she rejoined to ask me if I wouldn’t mind waiting a little longer while she attempted to get someone at the store.

At this point, I had been on the call for over 30 minutes and wasn’t keen on holding longer.

“I gave you my number at the start of the call in the event we got disconnected, can’t you just call me back when you reach someone?”

“Oh no! We can’t call you back. You’ve got to stay on the line.”

“Well what would you have done if we had been disconnected?”

Silence.

“You know what, I’m going to go.”

By this point, I had learned that the store should have had my watch on premises and decided it made more sense to go to Grand Central and handle it personally than wait on hold for the operator to talk to someone at Grand Central.

Which is what I was originally trying to do before being re-routed to their call center.

But I digress.

Not looking for a repeat of my previous trip, I accosted the first person I encountered with a genius shirt and iPad and asked where my watch was.

Befuddled (they’re always befuddled), the genius asked for my repair id and serial number, plugged them into her iPad and reported that the repair center had determined that the watch could not be repaired and my watch was going to be replaced.

Duh!

She then traipsed off to the back to see if my watch was in stock.

Returning five minutes later, she told me that there was no inventory, but that I’d receive an email when they had more inventory.

I wasn’t going to be so easily put off.

“Can you see if another store has the watch?”

Connecticut.

“Can you ask them to send it?”

Apparently just because it showed up on her iPad as being in their inventory didn’t necessarily mean that they had it in store, and “no” they couldn’t ship it to me.

Satisfied that I was one step closer, I left on her promise that I would be notified when my watch was in stock.

That was one week ago.

Have I been notified?

Do I have my watch?

Negatory.

Oh, it’s on!

New tactic: chat.

I wanted to make sure I had a record of the tom foolery that Apple was putting me through, so I hit them up via chat.

Surprisingly, “Kathleen” was on-point.

She found my repair record, reviewed the notes, and listened to my experience with a sympathetic ear (or eye rather, since it was all being communicated via text Рbut you get my meaning).

Per Kathleen:

According to our Dispatch, due to a recent update in our system, the store should be providing you a replacement, directly from their stock, which is what Dispatch thought they were doing. It appears the store wasn’t aware of this, which is why I’d like to have a Phone Advisor contact the store with you on the line, to set it up so you can get it right away.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

True to her word, someone was called me while we were still on our chat.

Gratified, I thanked her profusely, let her go and continued my saga with the “Phone Advisor” who was going to get results!

Or so I thought.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This little hussie wanted to argue with me about what they were telling her at the store.

Why hussie, you ask?

Well because I was on hold for an HOUR only to have her come back and tell me the same shit they initially told me when I called a week prior.

Every time I tried to explain why what she was telling me was pure crap, she starting taking on top of me Apple-splaining why “product replacement pending” meant “repair in progress.”

I was too through.

Too. Through.

I told her that I needed her¬†to put someone else on the phone who could help me, and that’s when I received¬†the coup de grace – Marlene Caldera, Apple Care iOS Senior Advisor.

Now we’re getting somewhere, right?

Wrong!

She got on the call, all official-like, promising that she would own this issue through resolution.

Impressive sounding indeed.

But it was all downhill from there.

She explained that “product replacement pending” actually meant that my Apple Watch could not be repaired, so the store had ordered a replacement watch, and that replacement was not yet in.

Confused, I advised Marlene that this was contrary to what Kathleen had explained about the store replacing my watch from inventory, as well as what the (so-called) genius at Grand Central had represented.

And then our call was promptly dropped.

Yes. You heard me correctly.

Our call was dropped.

As in dial-tone.

Luckily, Marlene had provided me with her direct contact details for just such an event.

So I called her back.

And got her voicemail.

And called her again an hour later.

And got her voicemail again.

And called her a third time an hour later.

And got her¬†voicemail thrice (it’s my word o’ the day).

Way to own this issue, Marlene.

Did Marlene call me back.

Am I pissed as hell?

Well lets just say…

f you guys

Apple is making me very angry, and as Bill Bixby used to say…

I’ve got a few takeaways from my recent experience:

1. Apple Care+ is not the service it’s positioned to be.¬†The service I received makes me wonder why I even paid for it.

2. Never, I repeat never go to the Apple Store at Grand Central Station. It’s one of the nine circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno.

3. Don’t drop your watch. They break and replacing them is a bitch.

For those of you who don’t like to read, here’s my video rant.

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