ThingThing iOS Keyboard App Review

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A few weeks ago as I was doing my usual social media tour and I noticed a new company that started following my account @georgeiswrite.

It was a UK based company @Thingthingapp.

I was a bit curious as to how they were planning to do it. I worked on Sermonotes which had a similar concept but was build for the Christian population to have easy access to the Bible while taking sermon notes.

The concept of productivity on mobile devices has been around for quite some time. But ThingThing is focused on taking productivity through a new route and that is via your iOS keyboard. Apple started supporting third-party keyboard with iOS 8 and ThingThing saw this as an opportunity where no big keyboard makers like Swiftkey or Fleksy keyboard has gone. They basically became a link to the rest of the services we all frequently use on our device.

On-boarding

The on-boarding process was fairly simple and straight forward which was followed by a video on how to activate the keyboard. (Deep inside I wished it was a trailer for ThingThing instead). That showed they’ve gone lengths into ensuring the user gets to experience the app fully with no stones left unturned. Once activated, there was a handful services readily available. I was impressed by the ease of getting these services connected.

Using the app was a breeze and it doesn’t have a steep learning curve. The UI was smooth and responsive and didn’t crash on me like other apps have. They mean business.

There was only one let down

There was no keyboard.

Shocking but true. I reached out with the ThingThing team and they assured me that it was in the works but no timeline was given.

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One thing that caught my eye was how they communicated their unique approach to work and life. They spoke about their principles behind why they do what they do and how they do it.

Principles behind ThingThing_georgeiswrite

Respect.

The other portion was their stance on privacy and why you will never be a product and explained it further on their blog. Because its all about trust.

Conclusion

I love ThingThing and their passion in what they do as a company. Their product is polished but not complete but having said that, ThingThing app is definitely on standby mode and will go on Turbo mode when they release that keyboard.

I was not paid to write this…#justsaying

Did Apple deliver on September 9, 2015

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Apple has finally set the rumor mill to rest.

There was so much speculation on the next iPhone that you could print all the blog posts and compile a thick book. But as the rumor for the next iphone was going on, slowly rumors about the next version of Apple TV started showing up. The writers wrote that Apple has a new streaming service lined up with some original content. It was soon followed by more speculations during the first week of September that the next iteration of iPad, the iPad Pro was going to be announced and that is the reason why the chose such a huge venue. Then came the leaked images of the Force Touch display, saying the device would be thicker than the previous version to accommodate this new tech.
Cult of Mac wanted to beat the crowd so they did on rumor on iPhone 7! Too soon?
You know what, now it’s all laid to rest. So this is what happened.

Did Timmy deliver?

The day came, saw and conquered every media outlet possible. Tim Cook was at his best. He was comfortable and knew where he was leading the crowd to. He took all the viewers through a great storyline and stitched it all up and ended the event with One republic singing “Counting Stars” which was a fitting end.
But let’s take a step back, let’s break it down and look at each product announcement objectively.

iPad Pro

Initial impression was it was a big iPad. But slowly it started to fade away when they showed the lengths at which Apple took to showcase iPad Pro beyond a consumption device to a creator device. Phil Schiller shared a lot of numbers and stats as to why this is a redefined desktop class device rather than your regular iPad. They showcased the ease of editing movies to music creation and even rendering on Autocad!
Man! I’e used Autocad when I was in school and even my PC couldn’t keep up with it.
So who was it made for?
I seriously am still confused on who is their target audience. Its a tablet and not a PC. Microsoft’s Surface has been there and done that. Only time will tell what is it finally going to be used for. So far, Apple has gained the support of IBM and Cisco as their Enterprise customers and that is a good thing.

With the iPad Pro, they introduced a sidekick called the Apple Pencil. I initially thought it was a joke and Phil kept his cool, then we knew it was real. Apple Pencil has a nice touch to the entire iPad Pro storyline.

I recently invested in a Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 inch just to replaced by diary because I love to write. I love styluses because they take note taking to a whole new level.

Every tech blogger started reminding us on how Steve Jobs hated styluses at the iPhone launch. But when you look at the context, he was referring to using a stylus for all touchscreen input. This was so common back then with the Windows touchscreen phones.

I think Apple was wise in introducing a stylus but does it justify the price and how does it affects the future of Adonit, Paper and Evernote is yet to be seen.

Apple TV

Finally, after so many year Apple decides to take on TV again. It morphed itself from a setup box to a fatter set top box with Amazon Fire like features. It didn’t feel ground breaking at all. Apple basically borrowed ideas from everywhere and created a hybrid device with a refreshed interface. Nothing new here.

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

As usual they stuck to the iPhone routine. Every “S” model would follow the predecessor in terms of hardware design and then would upgrade everything internally. This time with the “6S” they improved the cameras, processor, display and so on. The biggest announcement was the introduced of “3DTouch” aka “ForceTouch”.

They showcased mobile screen interaction to a whole new level. By applying a little bit pressure you could have a sneak peek into what was underneath and press a tad harder it will launch you directly into what you were peeking at. It reminded me a lot of Samsung’s Air view feature which was deemed a gimmick.

Apple_3DTouch15_georgeiswrite

I don’t know why whenever Apple does the same no one calls it a gimmick?

The question in every consumer head is, “Why should I buy this phone?”. Apart from 3D Touch, they have some neat features on the camera front. It was the 12 megapixel, 4K shooting, Live Photo holding phone was the one that made people go quite. It was beautiful.

There were surprises and it didn’t come form Apple.

Let’s just say Microsoft was invited. Apple has had a long standing love-hate relationship with Microsoft and this event seems to me that this was a sign that they have moved on and have buried the hatchet.

Even though Microsoft delivered a great product and a cringeworthy performance on stage, its good see them play nice.

Conclusion

Overall, it was a great warm fuzzy event but it lacked the “WOW” factor that I’ve experienced before. It was an update or “catch up” to times and didn’t feel revolutionary.

May be my expectations are high or may be Apple is saving it for something bigger for a better time.

Thoughts on Ashley Madison hack and why its just the tip of the iceberg

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Privacy in his digital age is an illusion

What we share online is as open as it gets. No level of checked “I Agree” is strong enough to hold the fort. What you share on any platform is owned by the folks who run them.
I’m not telling you what to and what not to share but at least know that it would be good to keep a track of what you are willing to give away.

What do i mean by sharing?

Sharing is not only the deliberate action you take to put things on social media but the voluntary access you give to online services to access your data. Dropbox, Google Photos, SkyDrive and iCloud Photo backup are all those services in this case. Once you agreed to the T&Cs, you are pretty much a hamster on the Ferris wheel of supplying data.
So is it bad to do that? Absolutely not!
Don’t get me wrong, I love these services and I am glad that these information gets backed up automatically. I no longer dread when I see my external hard disk crash with all my wedding photos in it.
Tech giants really want users and they’ll do anything to get you onboard. They offer you, Unlimited space, bandwidth, sharing, editing, streaming…name it you have it. They even have world class security with 256 bit encryption. But the sad truth is all these services are bound to get hacked. If it hasn’t, it’s only a matter of time. Either companies caught up with the latest or hackers catch up. Ashley Madison is no exception to that rule.
The world is so fessed up about it because Ashley Madison stood for something outrageous.

Redrawing new boundaries

Ashley Madison is a business like anything else and only a few make their name by creating new boundaries. Look at PirateBay, LimeWire, Napster to name a few who redefined the movie and music industry by paving way for Apple Music, Spotify, Rdio and so on.
Were they rogues? Of course they were! but did they make us rethink and reconsider a new approach? None of that is the big picture we all ought to see. With the recent hack more proactive approach is taken in implementing new laws, guidelines and requirements to establish better services. But it also establishes new awareness and boundaries for us.
All this is a win for the public…but at a price.

How Fossil is set to save the future of the fashion world

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Failure to embrace change leads to market cannibalisation.

The 90’s was just the beginning

For years the tech companies remained as technology focused enablers for the business world. Focusing on building supercomputers to punching cards by solving business problems. But as time passed the tech industry morphed in doing what it was already good at and also transisitioned into the personal tech revolution. Apple in 1984 introduced the first truly personal computer and then the revolution contnued with the introduction of Windows 95, iPod, Smartphones and so on.
The 90’s marked the transition into the personal space but it wasn’t enough. The industry pursued even more aggressively into the next phase of personal tech. It became so personal that privacy become a concern, I discuss my thoughts on privacy extensively in my previous post “Why I switched to DuckDuckGo and ran back to Google running”, you can read more here.

Design takes centerstage

As time flew, services were created around great personal information we openly shared. But these were all softwares, web based and digitally contained. It was difficult to transition these great services into tangible products that could be held, felt and to interact with. Motorola with the introduction of RAZR did try to address this void but it was created in an era of no services and ended up becoming a one hit wonder.
Introducting Jony Ive of Apple. He believed that it made a lot of sense to introduce design centric products. Products that did not separate the hardware and software experiences but melded it together to create a “one-ness” when users interacted with Apple’s products and services. Everyone took notice.
JonyIve_georgeiswrite
Jony’s revolution inspired other personal tech giants to incorporate their design centric philosophy to their products and services. Some did extremely well and some failed poorly. This approach left to these tech giants to define what personal devices had to look like from phones, laptop computers, thermostats to even your own watch.
To me there is an inherent flaw to this approach. If tech industry defines what design and fashion looks like, we are going to only get and see designs that accommodate their tech.
The fashion industry may have been taking a beating to stay relevant. But for years they have been trying hard to enter the tech space but failed because they tried to create their products by themselves and in vacuum. Take Will.i.am for example, he has been churning out products what he thinks is fashionable and technologically advanced but all were huge failures as it was not created with good partners. Brands like Vertu tried and only a few get to use them because of their high price tag and small shelf life.

A new partnership is necessary

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For anyone, its incredibly tough to survive the tech industry. New startups, products and services are created every minute. Fashion has eras, seasons and periods. Meaningful partnerships are the only way out. Look at Beats, they initially partnered with Monster to create their headphones and they did redefine the music industry.
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The good news is, Fossil announced this week that their partnership with Intel to create smartwatches and accessories. Fossil has been making leather goods and fashion accessories for years and their recent move to smartwatches may be a reaction to the reception that Apple Watch has been getting. Its a smart move partnering with Intel and Google to create a robust product. Intel has been wowing audiences for many years on the internet of things and Google has been the perfect enabler for any business   to enter the tech race. This means trouble for Apple, Motorola, LG and Samsung if this partnership goes well.

Fashion forward

I believe this is the only way forward for the fashion industry. If the fashion doesn’t take the lead in defining personal tech industry, other industries will define it for them and that’s a fact. Look at what Samsung and Apple has been throwing at us for years. The same old and predictable.
With Fossil’s entrance the revolution has begun.

The future of Apple lies in the watch 

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Apple has done extremely well over the past few years. Even after the passing of its visionary leader and brand icon Steve Jobs, Tim Cook has steered the ship to even greater unknown territories without flinching a bit.

The death of Apple was greatly exaggerated

There might be a couple of reasons why Apple remains successful;

  1. Apple is following through the roadmap they have worked on with Jobs for the next 10 years. So nothing changes and company’s got Jobs blessings.
  2. Jobs was just a father figure and it’s still business as usual after his passing.

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The reason for this posting is nothing to do with Apple’s future as a business because we all know that they are gonna be fine. Even if Apple makes a terrible move, they can still ride the wave with the kind of cash reserves they have. My intent of this post is to serve as to where Apple is headed  as a consumer and how do I see it coming. Previously it was the iPhone that pointed to what we could expect for iPad, iPod and so on. But I feel iPhone is just going to follow something else, a new entrant.

A few days ago I purchased the Apple Watch Sport. I was a bit skeptical at first because I’ve read various reports about Apple Watch’s dwindling sales but then I thought you know what! Let’s do this!

My Take

The Apple Watch is weighty & porcelain piece of art. The software was a beast by itself. There is nothing familiar about the OS, it was something new. It was smooth, fluid and personal. It told me to stand up, told when my email came and even took my heart rate! I was not blown away instead I finally understood where Apple was heading.

I was watching the introduction of iOS 9 at WWDC 2015 and I finally saw how this is all gonna make sense for the experience that Apple is looking to bring to the masses. Previously, the iPhone always pointed what iPad would be receiving in future but now it’s the Watch that is going to show what the iPhone and the iPad is going to get.

Here are the features that we are going to see on the next iPhone & iPad;

1. Hey Siri voice activation
2. Circle UI App management
3. Force Touch for revealing additional features
4. Magnetic wireless power charger
5. Lift to activate phone from sleep
6. Proactive contextual alerts
7. Digital crown (I wish)

fin.

Why I switched to DuckDuckGo and ran back to Google crying

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In the name of Proactivity

In this day and age of connected living, our lives have been radically changed for the better. But on the down side, our privacy took a beating. In the name of proactive services, tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft started creating services to “enrich” our lives with services like Facebook Advertising, Google Now, Siri and Cortana. Your behaviour online is fodder for these tech companies to create services, analyse future trends and monetize their ads network.

The last of the tech giants, Microsoft has now baked their cloud services extensively in the latest Windows 10 by collecting anonymous user logs back to its servers. This has been extensively covered by The Verge, click here for more.

If you use them, you will know how amazing these services are. These services made me feel like Tony Stark with my handy wingman Jarvis. These experiences were not only cool and got creepy at times in a good way.

Enter Super-Duck

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Here comes DuckDuckGo, founded by Gabriel Weinberg, He decided to take real privacy to a whole new level. DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn’t collect any user data. Of course, they don’t need to collect anything as they don’t have any other services to offer other than give you relevant search data. Fast Company magazine wrote an amazing article titled “Inside DuckDuckGo, Inside Google’s tiniest fiercest competitor“, click here to read more.

I got even excited when Apple made DuckDuckGo as an option to use as your default search engine for iOS. Apple during their 2015 WWDC announced that are taking strides in ensuring they are not taking the Google route and that privacy is a real concern and a matter of importance for their consumers. Click here to read more on TechCrunch

Embracing a bold new philosophy

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I bought into their philosophy and immediately started taking steps to ensure my data was iron clad. I changed my default search engine to DuckDuckGo, revised my privacy setting in Google and diversified my tech portfolio (yes, I started using Microsoft Services).

It was great at first, I searched on DuckDuckGo and I was pretty surprised with the quality of the search results it produced. The UI was familiar and navigating around the site wasn’t a chore. On the other hand, Google Services started acting out. To name a few, Google constantly reminded me on how great life would get if i enabled Google Now to how terrible it would be if I didn’t enable the search history on Google Maps. Facebook too kept on asking me to enable location, update my phone number, update about me and so on. The only winner in this period was Microsoft as I started using Outlook as my primary email driver.

The next phase of my life didn’t want change

Then I entered the next chapter of my life with the arrival of my baby girl. I share more about my experience on daddy hood on Daddylogs. I searched constantly on how to swaddled her, feed her and what each of her need meant. But frustration grew as the search results were not what I was looking for. I had to move around quite a bit and Google couldn’t deliver as I didn’t fully embrace their services. Thinking it was only a phase, I grew even more frustrated and I manually started typing google.com and started searching for results. Two weeks later, I threw in the towel and changed to Google and its services.

Conclusion

Google has immensely invested into refining its results and its technologies over the years. Even with the introduction of Alphabet, Google’s world class algorithm is still a force to be reckoned with. Changing a behaviour that has been engrained over the years is not easy and I didn’t want to reorganise my digital life just because of a new philosophy. Even though I do understand the gravity of privacy and the need to defend it, I am a firm believer that companies will eventually circumvent these issues and create new concerns.

Basically, its a never ending cycle of cat and mouse.

What Samsung really showed to the world on Unpacked 2015

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Today Samsung introduced the 2015 edition of their next-gen in the Note series with the the introduction of Galaxy Note 5. They also surprised the crowd with the long rumoured Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and followed by a sneak peak onto the upcoming Samsung Gear S2 watch.

Let’s break it down

Samsung Galaxy Note 5


The new Galaxy Note 5 is a beast in itself when looking at the specs. But the design reminded me so much of the Xiaomi Mi Note Pro with its inspired back. I didn’t feel there was any new as it was heavily S6 inspired. They did take fast charging to the next level with the Super fast wireless charging. While watching the presentation I assumed they would be using the reversible micro usb (found on Kickstarter) but it was not.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+


It’s basically a big Galaxy S6 Edge. That’s it. They may have been pushed to introduce that with the success of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus. The specs may be all jacked up but I feel the experience remains the same with that of the Galaxy S6 Edge.

Keyboard Cover


The new Note 5 Keyboard Cover accessory was genius and could mimic what Typo aspired to do with the iPhone. I also foresee the keyboard cover being a serious contender for Blackberry and it’s future.

Samsung Pay


The Samsung Pay presentation was a reiteration of what they presented earlier at the launch of the Galaxy S6. It focused primarily on their roll out plans for world domination. What I liked about Samsung Pay was it was immediately usable and didn’t require fancy tech. Samsung has the bandwidth to taker over the rest of the world compared to Apple and it might success at this for once.

Samsung Gear S2


The next gen Gear was introduced via a trailer. It’s round, classy with a familiar design and horrible UI. My toes curled when I saw the interface for the Heart Rate monitor. It’s a not an Android Wear device and I see Tizen raising it ugly head again. More details to be seen on their upcoming presentation on September in Berlin.

Conclusion

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ looks unsurprising and very familiar, S6 familiar. Samsung is good in adding new technologies but shy of removing old tech, which Apple is good at. They kept touting about single hand usage but I’ll just keep it at that as its nothing to rave about and is purely a design choice. Samsung, I believe is looking to releasing big screened phones together for future releases. This is aligned much better with their manufacturing schedule. The surprising aspect in all this was the phones would be available on the 20th of August, just a week away.

Let me know your thoughts on Samsung’s Unpacked 2015 launch.

What Google’s move to Alphabet means to us

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The unlikely geeks emerge

We all have been immensely blessed by the services Google offered over the past decade. I still remember how mind blown me and my buddies in college felt when Gmail was launched with 1GB of free space compared to 100MB (if i recall correctly) which Hotmail offered during that time. Google has grown tremendously since, with Youtube being a household name via acquisition and Android taking over the world and not forgetting Google itself evolving itself from a sage on top of a mountain to your trusty wingman through Google Now.

There has been a couple of shuffles in Google over the past few years. This is very common in the IT sector but most of the time restructuring usually happens when companies struggle to stay afloat. But what Google did with the announcement of Alphabet was somewhat radical and unexpected because everything was going fine the way it was.

From AT&T to IBM to GE to Microsoft, tech companies have always searched for a way to avoid becoming the next incumbent that gets complacent and then disrupted. Google tried X, now it’s trying Alphabet. — The Verge

The Billion Dollar question is whether is Google to Alphabet a rebranding exercise or was it something bigger than all that?

My Take

I believe there are a FIVE desired outcomes with the introduction of Alphabet.

  1. Google becomes a part of the puzzle than the main solution itself.
  2. Entities within Alphabet like Youtube, Google X, Android and so on gets more freedom by operating as individual entities than align to Google’s vision.
  3. Even though structurally the Larry, Page and Brin still are overseeing Alphabet, they get to venture into new moonshot projects.
  4. Decentralizing helps Alphabet operate as a funding source and bring a startup culture to the overall business. This also helps make acquisitions easier and integrating it better. Do the remaining entities need to be profitable to exist is yet to be seen.
  5. Sundar Pichai. He has been the talk of the town after he took over Android and has been the crowd favorite. I do have a gut feeling that its going to give rise to many tech superstars like him.

Conclusion

At the end of the day its business as usual and there will be more offerings from Alphabet to the world. Would it deliver the same shock and awe experience we all did in the early 2000s? Lets sit this one out.