The novelty value

Time was that the release of a new phone, PDA or tablet had the geeks of the world running around in circles with excitement. No matter how small the change, whether it be a bigger screen or a slightly faster processor, there was a large crowd of people for whom constant upgrades were a way of life. I was of course one of those people, but over the past few years that has all stopped. Give me something that works and I am happy to stick with it until (Apple tells me to upgrade) a new phone is released that feels worthy of my money.

This is something I have witnessed with many others who used to upgrade as often as I did. We have settled down and are no longer involved in the pointless chasing of the perfect device which will never appear anyway. We use our devices to do things and do not buy them just to have the latest and greatest, and this is of course how it should be. It’s a bit like owning a PC. If I bought the latest iMac tomorrow with the wonderful new screen, I would likely be extremely impressed for the first few hours and then get some work done on it, and the new screen and design would become an invisible part of my life.

Phones have followed the same route for me. I got the iPhone 6, was impressed by the slim design and bigger screen, and now it is just an object I use for multiple tasks every day. I am constantly impressed by it in a sub-conscious way and I feel no need to change. There is little novelty involved in the process and thus less emotion, and I suspect that many of you who used to hanker for the next Palm PDA or Sony Clie feel the same.

Ironically, the people who do get excited by the next big phone or tablet are not geeks. They are perfectly normal people who have discovered that mobile technology can be transformative and highly beneficial. I am making a presumption here because it cannot possibly be true that all of the hype is just because Apple is involved. Can it really be the case that Apple has created a phenomenon where anything the company releases is greeted with lines and lines of people desperate to get their hands on the product? Notwithstanding the scalpers who have people waiting queuing for them every day, when a new iPhone is launched people around me talk about it and know what is coming, people who have no real interest in phones.

Mobile technology has taken over the world and left those of us who were in the ‘geek club’ as a small group in millions rather than just being a small group who others thought were strange. It has also reached the point where there is no longer such a need for support and these devices do, on the whole, tend to work without any problems no matter what competency level the owner is at.

Apps have been a major talking point over the years, but I for one am finding that I have a core set of tools that I use and it is very difficult for new releases to make it to my home screen. There are countless apps available for every conceivable task and thousands of games in every genre so it can feel as though everything new is just a variation on a theme. Many, many good quality apps are still being released every week, but it has reached the level where it is difficult to find the good ones so maybe some help is needed there.

What I am thinking about is what to write about on a daily basis for the site. I get that there is still some excitement for all of the new Android phones that get released so often, but I struggle to muster any excitement at all for them. I don’t know why because I should love the flexibility and the constant striving to make the technology better, but I just don’t. I don’t hate it at all, but I don’t have the motivation to keep changing and to keep tweaking phones and tablets. My motivation has changed to doing things with my devices and getting use out of them; emails, navigation, podcasts, music, reading and so on. That’s what I want and my phone can do it all perfectly well so why move to something new?

How about you? Where are you in your mobile evolution? Are you still excited by what is being released now and in the near future or are you like me, content with what you have?

Is the Kindle Voyage too perfect?

I was reading a book on my Kindle Paperwhite last night and as ever enjoyued the experience. The small imperfections in the text because of the low resolution screen and the less than even backlighting are noticeable, but not in a negative way.

You see, these imperfections make a Kindle book feel like a…. book. Yes, that’s it. It really does feel like reading a real book and even the mechanism used to turn pages feels real. 

Books are not perfect and they never will be. Small creases, an uneven surface and the light spillage of ink within every letter somehow work together to add atmosphere and a homely feel to the experience. The Kindle Paperwhite mimics this very well.

The Kindle Voyage, however, boasts a higher resolution screen and an easier method of turning pages. It tries to automate the experience further and to make the text as perfect as possible which in some ways could be disadvantageous. 

The Voyage does not offer enough for me to upgrade and the Paperwhite is perfect for my needs, but I do wonder if these ‘improvements’ are actually beneficial?

The inCharge

Hello Shaun,
First I'd like to compliment you for the very well balanced and interesting content you publish on LIM. Thank you for all the time and passion you put in, and allowing us to enjoy reading you insights and opinions. 
I wanted to share with you a very clever new product I just came across, and hope it's of interest for you. 
The inCharge 
Thanks again and keep LIM alive for all of us who care much about it. 
Ciao
Patrick

That is a sweet design and the price is good as well. Could be worth a punt. 

Oh sorry, didn’t realise I had accidentally included the whole email saying how good LIM is…

Apple pulls PCalc widget

Apple has told me that Notification Center widgets on iOS cannot perform any calculations, and the current PCalc widget must be removed.
I’m going to try to escalate the decision, but it sounds like it was made high up and won’t be changed.
I would be allowed to make a widget that let you to “enter a formula” but it couldn’t perform the calculation in the widget.
And yes, Apple is currently featuring PCalc in the “Great apps for iOS 8” section, under Notification Center widgets.
I’m not angry, I’m just really really sad. Sorry if I can’t reply to everybody tonight.
Tweets by James Thomson, the developer of PCalc.

I don't understand why Apple would do this.

Then again...

Just had a phone call from Apple - decision has been reversed, no changes required to PCalc’s widget. Thanks to everybody for their support!

Is Android Wear already killing the Apple Watch?

Wondering if you’ve seen this. More and more, I’m wondering if Apple Watch will actually launch?

One of China's leading tech firms has unveiled two Android-powered smartwatches that it says can last about a week between charges.
That represents a substantial gain on alternatives that can struggle to run longer than a day.
The Geak Watch 2 models achieve the feat by using a hybrid screen that switches between a "high definition" LCD colour display and a "standby mode" battery-saving e-ink one.
One expert said this was "very clever".
"One of the big challenges that smartwatch manufacturers have had is that people stop using the devices, and one of the reasons they do so is that they have to be charged on a regular basis, whereby they are being taken off constantly," said Ben Wood from the tech consultancy CCS Insight... More at the BBC.

Peter's thought about the Apple Watch not even launching may be a bit extreme, but I will gladly repeat what I wrote the other day. If Apple releases a 'watch' the needs charging every day, it is dead in the water.

I get that some people who do not currently wear watches will not see a problem, but trust me- when you have to deal with daily charging it will be a real pain, especially if you start to rely on a product that is always attached to you.

Add to this the fact that some of these new Android Wear watches are looking very impressive now and I do fear for the Apple Watch. I can only go on personal feelings, but it does not grab me at all whereas some of the Wear devices do. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Apps targetted at kids

I had to do something on the iPad last night and so I asked my daughter if I could borrow it. She was playing with an app called Kids Face Paint which looked like good fun. Unfortunately by switching away from the app, the current creation is lost and so I promised my daughter I would recreate it for her.

What a nasty little app this is. Most of the options are locked unless you pay for them which is not a problem in itself, but full-screen ads also constantly pop up which are difficult to dismiss without actually tapping them and going to the adverts. I am an adult and I struggled so I can see how this could be a nice little earner for the developer when kids are involved.

This type of targeting is appalling in my opinion and I am surprised Apple allows such things through. Even worse, it is far from alone on any mobile platform.

Why iOS 8.0.1 went wrong

Joswiak acknowledged the mistake in the initial update of Apple’s iOS 8 mobile operating system — but said the problem resided in how the software was “wrapped,” not with the update itself.
“It had to do with the way the software was being sent over servers,” Joswiak told Re/code on Tuesday at the Code/Mobile conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif. “It was the way software was being distributed.”
Joswiak said the company reacted within an hour of discovering the problem, and it swiftly offered a software fix. But he brushed off questions about whether Apple has a larger issue with quality assurance.
“Whenever you’re pushing software and doing some very advanced things, you’re going to have some mistakes,” Joswiak said. “What we try to do is very quickly fix them.” More at re/code.

Nice to hear the story behind this.

Charging it daily

"We think you're going to end up charging it daily," he says. "Overnight — that's what we think."

That is what Tim Cook said about the Apple Watch yesterday. For me, the key word is 'watch' and I cannot imagine wearing something on my wrist which has to sit in a cradle to charge overnight. Apple launched this device as a watch and invited fashion media and even those who deal only in watches, those people who surely will struggle to understand the inconvenience this brings with it.

If Apple wants to 'solve' problems with new products where there is already competition, this is one of the major areas and it doesn't appear to have been addressed.

The ugly afterlife of crowdfunding

A project can go off the rails and fail even after its funding succeeds for a number of reasons. There can be unforeseen costs, or design problems, or a team member quits or fails to deliver their part of the project. Often, when a project skids to a halt, the final updates are obscured from the public and sent only to backers, which may be part of the reason failures are often not well-publicized. Occasionally, backers who receive them pass them on or post them publicly on forums, which is as good as it gets in terms of letting the outside world know a project did not ultimately pan out... More at ars technica.

A great read, but one which may make you think twice in the future.

Phone e-readers

What a Kindle boasts in book-ish niceties, it lacks in ergonomics. Enter the big phone—a device that makes reading easier by simply being itself.
Think about all the different settings and scenarios in which you read books. On the couch, in bed, on the beach, on the train. Chances are a good chunk of it is most easily performed with the use of a single grasping tool we call the human hand. This is where e-readers lose me. It doesn't matter how light or thin it is, as long as I can't curl my fingers around it, it feels unbalanced. Throw in the task of moving your thumb around to turn a page (whether a button or touch-screen), and holding an e-reader one-handed becomes an ergonomic nightmare... More at Gizmodo.

I agree with the premise of this article to a point. Put an e-ink screen on the phone, either the front or back, and I may be sold on the idea.

Misfit Shine review

The Jawbone UP24, Fitbit Flex, Nike FuelBand, Withings Pulse O2, Garmin vivofit, TomTom Runner, Fitbit Zip, Garmin Forerunner, Sony SmartBand, LG Lifeband, Fitbug Air, SYNC Distance, Sync Fit, Sync Elite, Polar Loop, Beurer Speedbox II... and so the list goes on to include the succinctly named 'Vidonn X5 IP67 Bluetooth V4.0 Pedometer Smart Wristband Bracelet with Sports Sleep Tracking Activity Tracker Compatible with iPhone App Store / PCs'.

The world of fitness trackers is big and growing all of the time which makes choosing one extremely difficult. They range in price from throwaway to equivalent to a mid-range smartphone, but the general functionality is similar throughout. There are obvious differences though; some are only worn on the wrist whereas others clip to clothing, some need charging every other day whereas others can run for months and some can sync in the background while others require physically connecting to make them work. Oh, and some track sleep and others do not and some are good at monitoring whereas others seem to make a best inaccurate guess and you have to live with it. It's a minefield and one that is confusing, ripe with poor quality and in cases such poor design as to make them uncomfortable to wear 24 hours a day.

I have tried the Fitbit Flex (had 2 and they both broke), the Nike Fuelband (highly uncomfortable and very fiddly), the Withings Pulse (returned within a day for so many reasons) and the Jawbone UP24 which has been by far the best I have used to date, but it broke quite quickly. I returned it and for some reason did not replace it until my wife and I invested in a Misfit Shine each on impulse.

It wasn't exactly impulse that drove us, but rather the very high reviews it has received on the app store, on Amazon and various other retailers. It would seem that the product is very well liked by the majority and there are other advantages-

It comes with a wrist strap that you can upgrade to a leather model with metal surround, thus making it look and feel like a watch.

A very clever magnetic holder is also included that lets you attach it anywhere. It is a very strong magnet and can be worn on a shirt pocket, a belt, on running shoes and almost anywhere else your imagination will let you put it. I even managed to put it at the base of my watch strap which is particular useful because I still only have one device on my wrist, and it highlights just how small the actual tracker is.

Battery life is measured in months so you can just buy a standard watch battery when it runs out, no charging every day or week, and the battery tool looks as though it came from Apple. A minor point of no consequence apart from the fact that everything from the packaging to the build quality of the components is up there with the very best, and an awful lot of care has obviously been put into making it a practical and almost invisible product in daily use.

So, we tested both units out over a period of a few days and were very impressed with what we saw. My wife's iPhone 4S and my iPhone 6 never once struggled to sync with the Misfits and the way you can place it on the screen, if you want to, to sync is fantastic. It will sync automatically when you open the app as well so you do not need to connect the phone and Shine at all.

Sleep is measured without you having to set it up to do so, it just happens automatically, and the steps counted were very accurate. Cycling, even on an exercise bike, was also impressively accurate. The exercise bike showed 3.5 miles and so did the Shine. That's reassuring.

There is a clock function which will suffice for most people, but the fact that it only shows lights every 5 minutes means that the time will be out by between 2-3 minutes quite often. 1:05pm on the Shine could mean anything between 1:03 and 1:07 and it will jump to 1:10 at 1:08 if that makes sense. That should be close enough for most I guess, but obviously not for a time-obsessed person like me.

I have been most impressed with how the Shine covers all of the bases. It is flexible in how it can be worn which is particularly handy for my wife as she is a midwife and cannot wear trackers on her wrist during work. It does not need charging, the tracking is accurate and sleep is included, and it is competitively priced. It straddles all of the features of the competition and, in my opinion, comes out on top.

Ratings

Product: Misfit Shine

More info / where to buy: Misfit

Price: £79/$99

Description: An elegant personal activity tracker. Works with the Misfit App. Sport Band and Clasp included.

Effectiveness 9.7 / 10

Value for money 9.6 /10

Build Quality 9.7 / 10

Overall 29.0 / 30

My Word for Mac

For a long time now I have used Bean as my word processor of choice. It is very light, very simple and has worked flawlessly through hundreds and hundreds of freelance articles that need to be submitted as Doc files.

Over time, however, and due to a lack of development some problems have started to creep in and so I was on the hunt for a replacement, one with only 2 requirements. It had to be light (not Pages or Microsoft Word are thus out straight away) and it had to display word and character counts at all times with the ability to display counts of selected highlighted.

My Word was the first app I found that could do this and which also supported images. The interface is incredibly clean and the counts are displayed without being distracting. Full formatting is in place and Doc support is included so in theory I have everything I need.

It is the experience that counts though and it did not let me down here either. It is sublime in the way it works and offers just enough features to bring flexibility to the experience without ever feeling bloated. At such a low price, there really is nothing to criticise here and I can see it joining a select few apps that I absolutely rely on every day. If you want a light word processor that offers a stable and simple experience, you may want to take a look at My Word. It is a very carefully considered solution.

Call us to cancel

To cancel your digital subscription you must call us on 0800 092 4054. Cancellations are subject to clause 27.4 in the Terms & Conditions.

I was very tempted by a Sunday Times offer that I discovered on Friday which included the following-


    The Sunday Times print edition with all your favourite supplements
    Smartphone app
    Full access to The Times and The Sunday Times websites
    Receive regular email bulletin on areas you are interested in
    Digital access to The Times archives from 1785 to 1985
    Access to more than 9,000 Crosswords and other Mind Games
    Access to Times+ exclusive offers, events and extras every week
Is there a special offer available with this pack?
    Free Spotify Premium for 12 months. Listen to the music you love instantly, with 12 months of unlimited music with no ads, and the option to download songs so you can listen offline.
What contract am I buying?
    £2 per week (£8.67 monthly)
    12 month minimum term, followed by a flexible monthly contract thereafter

That is a pretty good deal when you consider that Spotify Premium is normally £9.99 / month on its own. The problem, and it may seem like a silly one to you, is that clause at the top of the screen. I can sign up with the click of a mouse, but have to call to cancel and presumably to be harangued into trying to get me to continue. If a company makes it easy to leave (Hover, Squarespace are two examples) I am much more likely to stay because it speaks volumes about the faith they have in their products. If they make it difficult, I am persuaded to never spend any money with them.

 

 

iPega Bluetooth Controller with Touchpad

iPega Bluetooth Controller with Touchpad is a new wireless Bluetooth Controller (IPEGA PG-9028) which supports different Android / iOS / PC games. Built-in 2 inches Touchapd. It can be used when connected with the Bluetooth Smartphones without any drivers. Convenient and easy to use... More at Brando.

I like the fact that this is compatible with many devices and the price is good, but of course the way it plays with many games will be the real test.

Traction and coupons

The situation is Android has had NFC payment for a while, but companies only decide to BURN IT DOWN when ApplePay is on the scene. That echoes a narrative of features coming out on Android, but only getting traction when Apple gets behind them (and that narrative is for reasons good and dumb). Kirk.

That's a good point. Yes, the reasons are not always logical, but it does seem that if Apple releases something that Android has offered for some time, it is often the case that much more traction is gained despite having a lower market share.

Kirk then followed the above up with some real-world examples of why the retailers will not like the new payment methods offered by Google and Apple.

I use company-specific, QR based / loyalty card-ish payment for my daily Dunkin Donuts and my favorite lunch place Sweetgreen.
Sweetgreen does it right, and starts quickly, and brings you right to the QR code, if that's where you left off. They tend to lump several payments together into one credit card charge.
Dunkin has more of an explicit "charge-up" feature, where every month or to I have to explicitly add money to it. Worse, it always tries to check the current balance when you fire up the app - and the connectivity inside the subway station is weirdly spotty (though fine once you're on the train and underway, go figure) and it's frustrating waiting for the "ok, we timed out, we'll just use the last balance" to kick in. Plus even then it's a tap or two away before the QR shows up.
Dunkin does give me some free drinks. They drink is for a medium rather than my usual preferred "large iced coffee", so I use it for more expensive higher prep drinks there.
Oh, and that CVS receipt image in the Daring Fireball link is absolutely true. It's kind of a parody of itself, about 4 or 5 different coupons each time. So they are concerned about usage data, but I guess they could still ask people to swipe a loyalty card or give their phone...

Retailers are stupid

Following Apple's announcement last month, both Wal-Mart and Best Buy confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that customers would not be able to use the system in their stores. Earlier this week, a leaked internal memo from Rite Aid revealed that the drug store chain was modifying or disabling its NFC readers, preventing access to Apple Pay (and other systems, like Google Wallet and wireless carrier-backed SoftCard, which also depend on the contact-less technology). A representative later confirmed the news to iMore. Today, CVS followed suit and shut out Apple Pay, according to reports. Both will support CurrentC on launch next year... More at The Verge.

So let me get this right. Physical retailers are struggling against the likes of Amazon because the online retailers are highly price competitive and they make shopping extremely easy. In response, some of them are blocking these new systems which increase security and make shopping in a retail store easier so that they can use their own payments system which offers no advantage to their customers at all, unless you consider their own promotions and coupons to be advantageous. I guess this is how cartels work.