Aug 26, 2015
Aug 25, 2015
May 13, 2015
I came to my first date with the Apple Watch with low expectations.
My previous relationships with wearables ended up badly. They thought me that smartwatches are fun at first, when everything is still new and exciting, but they turn out to be extremely annoying after a while, with their high maintenance, less-then-a-day battery, and their repeating, counter-productive notifications.
Will the Apple Watch be different? I didn’t think so. But that was before I knew it…
I spent the night (well, it was more like two days, but let’s stick with the title…) with the watch, and these are my thoughts so far. Not a complete review of course, but still some (hopefully) interesting insights.
A platform, not a gadget
Make no mistake, the Apple Watch is much more than a gadget. It’s a platform, and a pretty big one too.
It’s amazing how much functionality Apple managed to squeeze into the first release of this tiny device. It’s mainly a good thing but it also has a down side: the Apple Watch is complicated to operate. It’s very different than iOS and will take you longer to explore and get used to.
The WatchOS includes a homescreen, watch face, notification center, glances area, touch, pinch, force touch, scroll, context menus, digital crown, and apps, tons of apps already, using all of the above. Impressive.
But first thing first, let’s start with the design.
Hardware – General Look & Feel:
There are many over-detailed reviews out there so I will be brief; The Apple Watch feels great, the material is of high quality and it’s surprisingly noticeable. It feels perfectly on the hand, better than any other smartwatch I have tried so far.
If, like me, you thought that it’s a bit thick – then don’t worry about it. It doesn’t look or feel that thick on your wrist because of how it’s designed. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the design:
Hardware – Buttons
I already mentioned there are many ways to operate the Apple Watch. Beyond the touch and force touch functionality there are also 2 buttons on the right – the digital crown and the quick contacts button (also known as “the other guy”). Those two buttons can get a bit tricky as it’s not always easy to tell which one to use when you want to go back to the homescreen or make a selection. I admit that one date is not enough to really know someone or something, but I also think that Apple always says a product should be self explanatory and the Apple Watch is not 100% there.
There is a lot of excitement around the digital crown – I am not excited about it at all. It feels like a step backward in technology rather than forward. It’s true that the crown is well made, but having a home button on the right means you need to use 2 fingers to click it (one for the button, one to support the watch from moving). It’s kind of annoying. I would prefer to have a home button in the bottom of the device like Samsung did with the Samsung Gear.
2 fingers, 2 hands, this is becoming too demanding!
Yes, I know, I pay attention to small things, I cannot help it. When I’m on a date I check everything, from top to bottom. The first defects you find can either disappear over time or grow to become real pains. Never underestimate a defect…
Think about it for a second: to operate a smartphone you only need one hand (to hold the phone), and one finger (to operate the touchscreen). A smartwatch is supposed to be easier to operate and more accessible than a phone, but to operate the Apple Watch you need your 2 hands (no need to explain why), and at least 2 fingers that keeps changing their positions (moving from the touchscreen to the side buttons and back to the screen).
Is that a usability problem? I think it is. Keeping your left arm in a position that will prevent the watch from turning off the screen can become annoying after a few seconds, and the same goes for using your two hands to operate the thing for long. Smartwatches are not meant to be used for long. 2-3 seconds per session and that’s it.
Software – Notifications:
Before I get into the functionality – a word about notifications: like with new relationships they are fun and exciting at first, but then they don’t stop, they never stop, they never go away, they keep on buzzing and bugging you all day long; emails, facebook, twitter, more emails, meeting reminders, text messages, news, more emails, when you have too many of them, they end up being a disturbance more than a productivity aid.
If you are spending most of your working hours in an office – you get to deal with those notifications anyway (on your computer, tablet and smartphone). In such conditions you need to ask yourself what added value will a smartwatch provide. However, if you are spending enough time on the move, or in a non-ideal conditions to hold your phone next to you – a smartwatch can truly improve your response time.
The Apple Watch surprised me big time with the whole notifications experience.
Apple managed to somehow turn this painful part into a delightful, even relaxing, fun experience:
- Sound – the Apple Watch produces short & gentle sounds, they are almost addictive. They are not annoying at all, even if you get tons of messages one after the other.
- Taptic Engine – guys, this is like a freaking spa. The sounds on one hand, and this unusual haptic feedback that is very different than any vibrate effect I ever felt.
I’m not sure what it is or how it works (does it use electric shocks?), but when a friend of mine sent me his heartbeat tones it was a creepy yet joyful intimate moment…
- Animation – the notifications start with an image and then change to present text. This perfectly tuned animated sequence provides the most out of your 2 seconds glimpse at the watch. Perfect sequence.
- Informative – in many smartwatches the notification includes a limited number of characters. The Apple Watch is not limited and each notification can hold the full text in a very clear and easy to read design. It makes notifications more useful.
- Actionable – the watch notifications are far more actionable than most smartwatches I tried so far, and that means you can do a lot more straight from your wrist, without opening your iPhone: talk back, dictate text, use templates, open more details, etc. A very good start.
Notifications are the center of a smartwatch, but they can easily turn into a destructive thing if not done properly. The notifications on the Apple Watch are so much better than in any other wearable device and this is a big deal.
Software – Homescreen:
My biggest complaint (so far) with the Apple Watch has to do with one of the most important functions of the watch (after the notifications of course) – the honeycomb-style homescreen.
Simply put: I hate it.
It’s crowded, the icons are too small and too close to each other, it is unorganized so once you have enough apps loaded into your watch you cannot really find anything, there is no way to search for an app nor to create sections or pages for apps based on categories, and the worst part is that in order to open an app you need to use both the touch screen and the digital crown.
If there is one thing I would change completely with the Apple Watch – the homescreen is the one.
What were the design considerations for the homescreen? My assumption is that the watch was designed primarily to react to incoming notifications, a task driven device, and therefore the main playground is not the homescreen at all (but instead – the watch face and the notification center). I think Apple doesn’t want you to open apps too often, it will just drain your battery and provide a limited functionality of the original iOS app, so why should you do it?
Does it make sense? Yes, maybe… but can it be used as an excuse for the current homescreen design? I don’t think so.
Stability, performance & battery:
Enough said about the usability side, let’s talk a little bit about other areas:
- Stability – Magnificent.
I’m sure there are and there will be bugs, but when I compare the Apple Watch to the first few Android Wear devices I played with – it’s incomparable; Android Wear crashed 7-8 times a day, apps didn’t open, bugs happened all the time – this is not the case with the Apple Watch and in fact, even though I’m known as a “bugs-magnet” (this is my team’s way of telling me I suck as a user) – I didn’t encounter a single issue so far.
- Performance – Generally OK.
Two areas still need improvements: the scrolling experience (which can be a bit sluggish at times), and the loading time for heavy apps like maps or photos.
- Battery Life – Beyond my expectations.
After reviewing Apple’s warnings and disclaimers about the battery usage I was sure the watch will last less than a day. I tested it for 2 days (without exercising though) and managed to keep it running until a late night hour. You know how it is with first dates – you stay up late…
Read also: Apple is now the biggest wearables player
There are some nice surprises when using the Apple Watch. For example, just when I got an hour to sit in my office without having to move from one meeting room to another – I got this message: “time to stand!”. How lovely. No, seriously, someone out there really cares about me. This is what I call digital intimacy.
There are, of course, some disappointments as well. WhatsApp for Apple Watch is an outrage, useless. Microsoft’s Outlook app doesn’t separate the email title from the body, and the standard email app can’t deal with half of the formats used in emails (tables, attachments, rich text).
Those are the cases where you must go back to your smartphone to complete an operation you started on your watch. Those are the cases where you feel stupid for even thinking a watch can replace a smartphone, and where all smartwatches (including Apple’s) simply fall short.
The Apple Watch is a champion, but it doesn’t reinvent the smartwatch category. It’s the best smartwatch to date, but with the current competition, being the “best” doesn’t mean it’s “perfect”.
Everything works better on the Apple Watch (except for the homescreen which I really don’t like), but the big limitations of smartwatches remain: limited functionality, small screen, battery life, dependency on the smartphone OS, limited sports-related capabilities.
The big advantage of the Apple Watch right now is that everyone wants to be part of it, the platform is solid and with the right creativity we will soon see better apps providing stronger productivity. I thought it will happen at launch, but it takes longer. Once those apps are part of the ecosystem the Apple Watch will be even more attractive.
Meanwhile, what should you do?
- If you are an Apple fan – well, you probably already own an Apple Watch…
- If you just love technology, get yourself the sport version and experience the next big thing in tech
- If you are not sure about smartwatches yet – wait for the second version of the watch: it will be lighter, the battery will last longer and by then there will be plenty of cool apps and new use cases.
- If you are still skeptical about smartwatches, take your time. The evolution will eventually convince you to get onboard. but there is absolutely no need to rush into things
And as for me? I had a great time with the Apple Watch. I’m sure we’ll keep running into each other, especially given that we will be working together, but for now there isn’t going to be a second date.
I’m going to keep playing hard to get. Will keep using my Microsoft Band for my sport activities, try out different wearables for my research, and keep a close eye on the progress of the Watch platform.
May 7, 2015
Comparing great products is a process that can easily end up with a long, exhausting report. I recently gave 2 strong work collaboration tools a try and ended up with only one as my clear winner.
Asana vs. Trello. Which one worked better for me? Read this short comparison to find out.
Both Asana and Trello are designed to help you manage your work items and to-do list either as an individual or as a small/medium team. Both tools are modern and are relatively easy to get on-board and use. They turn the team work into a collaborative and communicative process – done in one place (reducing but not eliminating the need for excels, emails, phone calls, IM’s, etc.).
Asana provides an all-in-one environment where you get to see your team members, projects, tasks and details. The application is very crowded and a bit hard to get used to – but once you do – you have the entire project details in front of you. The advantage of Asana is that it doesn’t dictate a certain way to plan and execute your work – there are many templates to select from and each team can use the one that fits best. This advantage can be easily turn into a disadvantage because the Asana playground is often too messy and overloaded with data.
Trello is build as a Kanban board where each task is a card that can be edited or moved across categories (for instance: backlog, in progress, done).
Functionality wise Asana wins over Trello. It has more features, and it can be used for a wide range of needs. Trello is designed as an extra simple tool and as such there are some minor capabilities missing (such as searching inside details text of each task).
In my opinion, this is the most important category of this comparison and where it becomes more interesting.
The UI for such kind of tools is critical in order for users to keep using the system and do it often.
Asana’s user interface has issues; it’s way too complicated and simply puts everything inside frames, all on one screen. To me it’s just overwhelming and too difficult to work with. Especially when dealing with medium/large sized projects
Trello truly shines when it comes to usability and design: both the web app and the mobile apps are slick, the kanban board is simple and a lot of fun to use.
Mobile support is a critical part of any modern productivity product. We need our productivity tools to be available from everywhere, while on the move, beyond working hours. Mobility, in this respect, is much more than a nice-to-have capability.
Trello’s mobile app for iOS (I checked it on both iPhone and iPad) is very impressive and provides a similar experience to the web version of the app: boards, drag & drop, colorful UI, etc. It’s very slick. The iPad version enjoys a few extra capabilities thanks to the wide screen.
Asana on the other hand, has a very unfriendly mobile app. Every item you select takes a noticeable amount of time to open. For some reason everything is too slow, beyond the normal performance you would expect from a professional product. The mobile app, like the web version, is a bit too detailed, again…
The iPad version of Asana misses the traditional split view. As a result, the main lists are simply stretched to fit the wider screen but you do not get any advantage from using a tablet over a phone.
Trello allows you to take a picture (screenshot or photo) and create a card out of it. The card will then include the picture(s) as attachments. This is actually a very important feature if you plan on storing your bugs or issues in your collaboration tool.
Asana has a limited version of this capability; it doesn’t let you select the target project or task – which means that there are a few more manual steps to make inside the app to complete this scenario.
Summarizing the mobile part – Trello wins big time due to a much nicer user experience, better design, and better mobile functionality.
Ecosystem & Plug-ins
Both Asana and Trello are extremely popular with large communities. And yet, it seems like Asana has a variety of apps & plug-ins (both free and paid) while Trello simply doesn’t. With Asana you can add charts, reports, a Gantt, and all sorts of additions while Trello has very little to offer in this category.
In the plug-ins section Asana wins with a knock out.
While Asana has more functionality to offer, bigger flexibility (in project structure), and many plug-ins – it is simply not much fun to use; the user interface gets too busy and detailed, and the mobile experience is not good enough. I gave Asana a decent try and I understood that I simply don’t like it that much even though I can see how powerful it is.
Trello keeps things simple, but it seems to be doing the things it does in a brilliant way. The user interface is incredible in all platforms (web, mobile, even as a Windows 8 app) and the board concept is visual, colorful and simply fun to use.
My subjective preference after trying out both Asana and Trello is to go with Trello, hoping that more plug-ins will become available pretty soon, as I do want to see some reports and charts available on top of the core product.
May 4, 2015
Enterprise software is going through a massive change.
Up until few years ago, it was considered to be completely different than consumer apps. The following reasons made enterprise software unique (read: weird):
Why is Enterprise Software So Weird?
1. The buyer is not the user
In the case of enterprise software, the buyer is often not a user and not even managing the users (but instead managing the managers of the users…). The decision is made by C-level management together with the IT managers – all of them are not going to use the software on a daily basis, which means their interests and needs are different than what actual users would expect, and as such – the selected software might not be the perfect one in the eyes of the actual users.
2. The buyer has multiple personality disorder
When you buy an app for your personal use – you know exactly what you are looking for. For enterprise companies it’s more complicated than that; In order to properly define the requirements, a company needs to establish a project team. Teams represent different people with different needs; prioritization becomes a challenge, sometimes it’s THE main challenge, and when you can’t say what’s more important – you look for ways to do everything.
And that’s what enterprise software does best: “everything”. It has options, parameters, API’s, plug-ins, add-ons, apps, integration-hooks, customizations and more. An “all-in-one” software can do a lot, but it often suffers from a poor user experience.
3. Rich functionality before usability
Another side effect of a wish list that ended up being too long is that enterprise companies often focus their software evaluation process on checking “what does it do?” rather than examining “how does it do it?”.
Usability, overall experience, delightful moments, efficiency, stability – are often being left behind as the primary objective becomes checking as many checkboxes as possible in the endless wish list even if they are partially right.
The bottom line? Enterprise apps can do much more than consumer apps can, but they are way more complicated and less fun to use.
4. The buyer buys more than the software
When it comes to enterprise software, the buyer buys 3 things: a software, a service, and an insurance policy.
The software part is obvious, the service is something that stays for long and often involves support, implementation services, coding, integration, etc. – those are all part of a long term relationship between the customer and the vendor and they often tip the balance towards a certain software regardless to its’ functionality.
The third part is the insurance policy. Everyone knows the phrase; “You’ll never get fired for buying IBM” (excluding Lotus Notes…) but in reality it’s not just IBM. It’s very hard for young, small, innovative companies to succeed in the enterprise world because they cannot provide the same kind of insurance policy that bigger companies do.
Shadow IT to the Rescue
Some call it Shadow IT, others call it BYOA (Bring your own app), or another variation of IT consumerization, but the phenomena is here and growing steadily: cloud-based tools and apps, often delivered as freemium solutions, modern, web-based, mobile, focused on specific functional areas and great user experience – are penetrating the enterprise through the back-door.
That back-door is the employees. They realize they can actually gain more productivity by using simple cloud-based tools than using their own complicated IT tools. And since the modern tools are very easy to use, and come for free – there is nothing to prevent them from trying them out. Once a tool was successfully piloted, it spreads very quickly within the organization.
Shadow IT apps are easy to define:
- They are lightweight: they focus on solving specific niche, but they do it well.
- They are super-simple to use and provide great user experience.
- They are ridiculously easy to on-board (1 minute registration, no training needed)
- They are available through web, and mobile – what makes it very easy to install or access even without involving IT.
- They are fun to use
Shadow IT truly shines when it comes to mobility.
The reason is that many enterprise legacy systems simply failed to create a decent mobile version. This led the way for many smaller apps to provide mobile alternatives for those tools (either by providing a compatible mobile app or by creating a new fresh service with a mobile app). For years we have seen apps compatible with salesforce, MS Office, Exchange and others. Giants such as Microsoft and IBM started their mobile journey very late in the game and they did it mostly through acquisitions. They are still few years behind.
The Dark Side of Shadow IT
In most cases employees using their software of choice, end up being more satisfied with their overall productivity, but not everything is positive – there are some negative aspects to Shadow IT:
- Wasted time and investment of non-IT workers evaluating different tools, reviewing alternatives etc.
- Inconsistent business logic across different tools
- High risks of data loss, leaks and security holes
- Lack of control by the management and IT
What’s Coming Next?
While I cannot say Enterprise Software is dead – I can definitely say it is changing dramatically.
As Shadow IT presents a true alternative to old-fashion enterprise tools, software vendors are reinventing themselves to create cloud-based, modern solutions which are simple to implement, easier to use, and mobile friendly.
Enterprise software vendors which are not able to adapt themselves to the new world will cease to exist.
Others are trying to create their next generation products but they have a few challenges before being successful in doing so:
- They have to think differently and act differently: cloud, mobile, lightweight functionality. this is not trivial.
- They have to put more weight on usability.
- They have to shift from on-premise software to cloud – and this means a serious financial risk.
A company that does it very well lately is Microsoft. The latest versions of Office are simply amazing; they remain solid and features rich, but they are truly mobile, they run over the cloud, they work across all platforms, and they are fun to use.
But there are not so many companies that can do what Microsoft can do – the real question is what will smaller software companies do in order to remain relevant, and will they have the knowledge, mindset and financial strength to do it successfully within a reasonable time.
May 1, 2015
Microsoft recently updated its’ “how old are you?” technology and you can now access it through this website: http://how-old.net.
The site allows you to upload a photo and get an estimated age of the people in the photo.
I gave it a decent try, and my conclusions are:
- I often look a bit younger than I am, but next to the undertaker I look older than him…
- The Joker looks older than his real age
- When I’m drunk I look like I’m 63
- Master Yoda is ageless
- Given that my friends & wife got pretty old age estimations I think Microsoft just created a perfect tool to annoy friends and family…
Head over to http://how-old.net and check out your age.
Apr 28, 2015
After trying out more than a few my answer is: Quicklytics.
Took me a while to find the best mobile Google Analytics app, but after trying out around 10 different options I am pretty convinced that Quicklytics is the best one.
My needs are pretty basic: I am addicted to the daily stats; (some people check their stocks, others check their website stats). I need an app that can show the statistics on a daily basis and also present the result of the current day. I focus on the number of visitors, number of page views, top pages and traffic sources.
Quicklytics provides a perfect user experience for such kind of needs and has much more to offer.
The UI of the app is simple and clean, it provides a very easy navigation model even if you have more than one website to monitor, and it lets you easily navigate between graphs and tables.
For the power users out there, Quicklytics provides more than 80 different reports, including browser types, operating systems etc. It even has the "right now" view presenting the "live" stats.
Well, I don't want to sound like someone who got paid to write such a positive review so I will stop here. Check out this little app. It's good, and in case I forgot to mention: it’s totally free.
Download Quicklytics from the AppStore
Apr 26, 2015
Amazing Apple Watch sales in the first week
According to estimates from leading analyst slice intelligence Apple sold almost 1 million watches in a single day. Of course, we are talking about the first day the Apple Watch became available for pre-orders, and the majority of buyers are proud owner of other Apple products such as iPhones, iPads and Macs:
“Among those buying an Apple Watch, 72 percent purchased an Apple product in the past two years (iPhone, Apple computer or iPad), and 21 percent of them pre-ordered an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus mere months ago. Nearly one-third purchased two Apple products and 11 percent bought all three devices, in addition to their new watch.” (source)
According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (KGI Securities), who has a respectable track record at reporting on Apple, Apple Watch global sales has exceeded 2.3 million units. Another amazing number.
Read Also: How to select the right wearable?
What do those numbers mean?
As many people expected, Apple is reshaping the smartwatch industry as we speak:
1. In just one day Apple sold more smartwatches than Android Wear did during entire 2014
I recently wrote about the existing smartwatch operating systems in this guide: A List of All Operating Systems Running on Smartwatches [Wearables] and mentioned that Android Wear accounted for just 15% of smartwatch sales in 2014 - total of 700,000 devices. If this is the case then Apple Watch managed to sell more in a day than Android Wear did in entire 2014.
2. In just a few days, Apple jumped to being the biggest smartwatch player with 50% market share
4.6 million smartwatches and smart-bands were sold globally during 2014 (according to Canalys). That’s a combination of sport bands such as Fitbit and smartwatches, but even with that in mind, Apple is now the biggest player in this space with sales estimation of over 2.3 million watches representing 50% of the market. That’s almost too easy…
3. Even before launch, Apple Watch had over 3,000 apps
Apple did a pretty good job onboarding developers to start building Apple Watch apps. At launch there were over 3,000 apps (3,061 apps according to App Annie). Much higher than the initial number of any other wearable platform out there.
It’s really impossible to predict what will happen next with the Apple Watch (and with the entire smartwatch industry). Apple seems unbeatable right now.
On one hand, there is a good chance that the Watch will continue to shake things up in this industry as the iPhone did with smartphones. Apple will remain dominant and profit will continue to grow.
On the other hand, we are talking about a different product category than smartphones. I definitely see a scenario where sales will slowly decrease to a point where people who buy the Apple Watch are either wealthy enough to get one every 1-2 years or technology/Apple fans. In such scenarios, smartwatches will remain a relatively small niche market with a few vendors (with Apple as the leader).
The third option is that history will repeat itself and Android Wear will quickly catch up in terms of capabilities (and apps) while cheap models will turn smartwatches into commodity. In such scenario Apple’s Watch will continue to act as the high-end model of an industry of hundred of different Android-based watches.
Terms you may have been looking for:
How many apple watches did Apple sell? How many apps are there for Apple Watch? How many apps are there for Android Wear? Apple Watch sales figures. Apple Watch vs. Android Wear.
Apr 22, 2015
There is one area where Windows Phone actually has more apps to offer than iOS and that’s of course apps compatible with Microsoft Band.
The Windows Store is becoming pretty loaded with Band apps - some are designed to add extra functionality to the Band using its’ unique 10 sensors, while others are adding customization options to the Band UI.
Switching back from Lumia 1520 to iPhone 6, I wanted to enhance my Microsoft Band experience with some apps, but found that there is only one dedicated app in the AppStore for customizing the Microsoft Band.
The App is called ReBand and it is pretty basic: it allows you to place an image as the background of the "today tile".
Not much, but that's definitely a start (You can download the app in here).
Earlier this year the Microsoft Band managed to steal some positive attention while the tech world was still waiting anxiously for the Apple Watch and had to settle its' wearables thirst with something. The time window has now ended and today the Watch is getting most of the wearables attention - both by developers and consumers.
It's going to be hard to find iOS developers out there building apps for Microsoft Band; first of all because the motivation to build a Watch apps is insane right now, and will grow even further once Apple start sharing the high sales numbers of the Watch. In addition, the majority of people buying the Microsoft Band are Microsoft fans and as such, they are most likely to own a Windows Phone and not an iPhone, which means that the natural place for Band apps is the Windows Store.