Jul 24, 2014

3 Interesting Usability Improvements with latest iPhones and iPads

Usability is usually measured by examining the efficiency of the software user interface for achieving the user’s goals. Recently I’ve been working on a long user interface presentation (more details soon), and while working on It I came to realize there were 3 significant improvements Apple did with latest iOS and iDevices (iPhone/iPad) that most people rarely talk about, probably because they are not directly related to the software’s visual design.

And still, talking about usability as a whole, here are 3 significant usability improvements implemented by Apple with latest iPhones, iPads and iOS7: 

1. Touch ID

Regardless to how secure it really is – Touch ID provides a usability boost to iPhone users.
Most of us unlock our phones over 100 times a day. Given that you have a password protecting your phone, it takes around 3-5 seconds to unlock it, reaching up to around 500 seconds which stand for over 8 minutes per day, 4 hours per month in which you are wasting your time unlocking your phone.


With Touch ID this can be reduced significantly: the ease of unlocking the phone allows you to do it much faster than with a password lock, and it’s easier too, especially when you are on the move. 
For the sake of the discussion – let’s assume this usability boost can result in around 2 hours per month. Not bad for busy people…


2. Lightning Cable

We are all spoiled and seek for the simplest way to get things done.
It takes 3 attempts to plug in a USB cable (try once, fail, rotate, fail again, realize the second failure was more definite than the first one, rotate back, done), and with micro USB it takes 1-2 additional seconds to plug the cable to the phone. With the new Apple cable this task is easy. Given that you charge your phone at least 2 times in 24 hours – this is another usability improvement when dealing with with Apple’s devices.


3. Back Button

Well, no, I am not hallucinating. iPhone did not add a back button, probably the biggest missing feature in the history of iPhone (the top left corner back buttons are simply not usable). However, iOS7 brought something much better than a back button: a back gesture (along with a bunch of other useful gestures).

Why do I think it’s better? because when gestures are well implemented they create a superior experience to any button (virtual or physical). Buttons require accuracy, and when you are on the move it’s easier to perform a quick swipe (all over the screen) than to locate the accurate location of the button, especially when dealing with large phones where the back button might be hard to reach.

Switching from Android to iPhone always required some adjustment to the fact the back button is not there, but now with the back gesture, using a Windows Phone or an Android feels like the back button is simply outdated.

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Jul 17, 2014

Productivity War: Evernote vs. OneNote. New World vs. Old

productivity apps

I’m a huge fan of productivity tools and I use different apps to arrange my daily activities, collect information, write down my ongoing thoughts and manage my action items.

When it comes to working with my own teams – I had the chance to test many alternatives like Google Tasks, Asana, Remember the milk, Any.Do, Producteev, Trello, Basecamp, they are all great, some of them are amazing, and yet, I ended up designing my own tool on top of ClickMobile, a product I’m leading at ClickSoftware.
To make a long story short – ClickMobile is a mobile application development platform that allows enterprise organizations to rapidly develop their own mobile apps, with a strong focus on back-end integration, reliable data synchronization, flexible forms, offline capabilities, amazing cross-device support (agnostic, responsive), knowledge collaboration and more. The ClickMobile product is highly optimized for field service use and less for engineering activities, but with all of the flexibility it holds I figured I better be “drinking my own champagne” than using other apps.

And still there’s this thing I needed. My personal notepad. A quick & dirty to-do list. A notebook.  
This little paper replacement you want to carry with you anywhere you go.


From OneNote to EverNote

Before SoMoClo (social mobile cloud), I used to use Microsoft’s OneNote. For many years it was my number one tool for notes taking, managing to-do lists, saving screen captures, arranging my customer visits information, storing my technology notes, code snippets and more.

It was unbeatable.

And then came mobility… and just like that… OneNote was a dead product to me.

The minute I had to synchronize my data between few devices (where few means bigger than 1) it was over. Microsoft, like in many other aspects of mobility, was (understatement ahead:) “slow” to react to my emerging needs, and instead of a powerful sync I ended up facing conflicts, disconnections and data losses.

Then came cloud. Real cloud.

I switched to Evernote.

True, Evernote never had the same richness like OneNote. The notes were limited (at first), and the functionality was basic. But Evernote represents all the amazing things that happened in the software industry in the past 6-7 years: it is (by design) lightning fast, works across all devices (including PC and Mac), completely cloud-based, easy to join, connect, install, and most importantly – Evernote was designed for users like me who constantly switch from one device to another, using phones, tablets, laptops, desktops. Those notes are always in sync.

Evernote and the era of BYOA

For a few years I’ve been a huge fan of Evernote. Promoting this app everywhere I go, not only in terms of the app itself but also due to the underlying platform that is used by a few more apps built on top of it. It’s fascinating to see how such a basic thing like notes taking can evolve into the giant Evernote became.

Evernote is one of the biggest ambassadors of today’s BYOA (bring your own apps) trend which is becoming even more significant than BYOD. When Gartner analysts talk about Shadow IT they talk about the likes of Dropbox, Asana and EverNote. Those products were born as a result of a growing need to have decent consumer-style productivity apps, and today they are quickly penetrating the enterprise because they are easy to use, fun, and cost nothing to implement. This process is fascinating and slowly reshapes the role of IT in those organizations from bringing in new software to accepting software brought by the employees.

In a world of Shadow IT and BYOA, I ended up having all my data managed by cloud-based apps such as Dropbox, Pocket, Feedly and EverNote. Without them I am unable to function. They are all installed on any gadget I come across, be it a new iPad or a Windows Phone.

Microsoft’s Comeback

Recently I gave OneNote another try. After all, Microsoft is making a huge effort to remain relevant in this fascinating SoMoClo game with the releases of Outlook.com, OneDrive and other goodies.
You can feel the difference between older Microsoft tools and the ones that were released in the past 3-4 years. They are changing. Even their annoying error messages are replaced with a friendlier: “something went wrong…”

I decided to give OneNote another (last) try and I must admit I was very impressed.


Microsoft maintained the rich functionality and made the mobile version of OneNote simple to use, cross platform (that iPad app s gorgeous!), well designed, and above all – useful and reliable with regards to data sync between multiple devices.

While Evernote is currently evolving into becoming bigger, stronger, and a bit heavier (first examples can be seen by the latest updates which actually took the UX backward and added complexity) – Microsoft made OneNote simpler, faster, cleaner, nicer…

Surprisingly enough, I’m now back with OneNote. I still have Evernote installed everywhere I go, but it’s mostly for my older stuff. Talk about a twist in the tale…

What’s next?

We are leaving in a world of mobile, cloud, and IT consumerization. People vote with their feet and employees are people. We want software that is simple to use, easy to learn, and works exactly how we expect it to work.
If the giants can’t provide such software – they will be replaced with others.

There are almost 1 millions apps in Apple’s AppStore. Thousands of them are productivity apps.

Microsoft is making a very interesting move by making tools like OneNote free and available across all devices. Gone are the days where it was enough to support only Windows. Microsoft understands that and is acting more like Evernote by making the software accessible to everyone. Microsoft understands that selling to the IT departments can only be good to some extent, and if we, the end users (and employees) will not like what we see we will simply replace it with something else.

Ask Evernote.

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Jul 10, 2014

What is iBeacon and can it compete with NFC?


A year after the release of iOS7 it seems like iBeacon is generating more and more traction in the mobile world.

Will it be the NFC killer? Will it become a standard for all mobile phones? I think those questions are just me trying to be provocative and start and argument with my own self. iBeacon is different than NFC and will probably perform a different role in our lives. A fascinating new chapter in mobile history begins…

What is iBeacon?

iBeacon is an indoor proximity system using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy).  
It was developed by Apple and was designed to allow different iOS devices to interact with low-cost, low-powered transmitters.

While iBeacon can provide bi-directional data syncing, the classic usage is for those tiny transmitters to notify mobile devices of their presence, acting as “living objects” sending context and location aware push notifications to our phones.

Of course, there are hundreds of potential use cases for such technology, but the very first thing that pops to mind is location aware advertisements and shopping assistances; imagine you are entering a store, and your shopping list immediately turns into a shopping map, with tens of push notifications telling you about special offers that relates to your list.


Reminds me of that (awful) movie Hardwired where they (the bad guys) planted chips in people’s heads so they can easily transmit virtual (augmented reality style) advertisements straight to their brains, control their mind, and monitor their location. Well, in that movie (which I definitely do not recommend on seeing) the people’s heads ended up exploding (I guess there are bugs in any technology), but in our case iBeacons are already being used successfully in the Apple stores (more details in here) and being deployed in other large retail stores these days.


What Next?

When you combine context and location together (along with the time factor which is always known to our phones) you get endless options for new types of services. The ability to tie digital content (images, text and videos) to our physical world is going to be amazing. It will help us in any aspect of our lives, starting with health, sports, art, shopping, productivity, indoor navigation and more.

Digital gadgets will finally become smart. I mean really smart.
They will notify us if someone is taking them away from us, help us easily find them when they are lost, they will become active when we are around or inactive when we are away.

Of course there will be some negative sides to it as well. Sophisticated kids will be able to place an iBeacon transmitter in their parents car so they know when to find the their parents are back home. The big brother will be watching us even closely than before, our boss will be able to count the times we go to the toilets and who knows what else, but hey, you win some, you lose some, right?

Back to the NFC Question

I don’t believe iBeacon will ever be an NFC killer.
First of all, both technologies have a lot to go before they can become a “killing target”. NFC is not yet widely adopted, while iBeacon is currently an Apple technology.
Secondly, the two technologies are different. NFC is for very short distances and has a powerful encryption and as such can (and should) be used for specific use cases, mostly secured mobile payment. iBeacon, on the other hand works on a much bigger range and doesn’t have the required security capabilities just yet.

Here’s a nice infographic comparing the two (click to enlarge):

iBeakon vs NFC

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Jul 1, 2014

15 Innovations The First iPhone Brought To The World

first iphone

This week, 7 years ago, the iPhone was announced.

My first days with the iPhone came as a complete shock to an old school WinMo/Palm/BlackBerry user like myself. I remember playing with the new gadget all day long, discovering new features and things I didn’t even imagine would exist on a mobile phone. Especially after spending years with cranky Windows Mobile devices, Palm and limited BlackBerry smartphones.

Today most of those innovative features seem obvious, but it was not the case back in 2007. Even though the original iPhone missed way too many basic capabilities – it started the mobile revolution and led the way to an even bigger revolution in the entire software industry.

iPhone was focused on getting the core experience right (today we call is UX, but 7 years ago it was still that topic most companies didn’t want to spend a lot of budget on). The operating system had good speed, consistency between apps, and was loaded with innovative ideas.

Here’s a list of my favorite innovative features of the first iPhone, I’m sure there are plenty of others…

  1. Overall design: a phone with (almost) no buttons and definitely without a ‘Send’ and ‘End’ buttons… How on earth would you make a call?
    The original design was bigger than the average phone size, but mostly made out of screen. Today it is considered to be tiny.
  2. Capacitive screen: Back in 2007 we had to use a stylus (or a trackball) to get things done.
    Resistive screens were the standard and we didn’t know capacitive even existed until the iPhone came out…
  3. Everything is Touch: Apple made touch the primary interaction model.
    It was almost as perfect as it is today from the very beginning!
    Quick, responsive, accurate, it was as if the technology was brought from outer space.
  4. Inertial scrolling: today it seems trivial to slide your finger up and get that fun scrolling experience. Elasticity was also part of it, creating what is called today: “delight” in UX. Back then it was just… cool!
    And it worked well too. Years later, inertial scrolling is part of any mobile software or OS.
  5. Internet – created as an innovative internet communication device, the iPhone had a completely new browser experience allowing sites to be fully presented, with perfect rendering, running JavaScript and overcoming real-estate challenges.
    Before the iPhone we had to settle with limited BlackBerry browsers or horrible distorted alignment of web site elements (in Windows Mobile).
    We were made to believe that’s the best we could get. Apple proved differently.
  6. Multi-touch: although Apple did not invent the technology, it was the first one to incorporate it with such elegance into a simple consumer device.Pinch-to-zoom was one usage of it. 
  7. Virtual keyboard: I mean, a virtual keyboard that actually works.
    Before the iPhone we had physical keyboards or tiny QWERTY keyboard used with that stylus again… brrr.
    After a month with the iPhone I was able to type much faster on that touch-based keyboard than with any other BlackBerry device I previously owned. 
  8. Visual voicemail: remember we used to call a number, then wait for instructions, click some numbers and so on? with the iPhone you had a shortcut that allowed users to jump directly to any voicemail.
  9. Proximity Sensor: quote from Apple’s first iPhone press release: “iPhone’s built-in proximity sensor detects when you lift iPhone to your ear and immediately turns off the display to save power and prevent inadvertent touches until iPhone is moved away”. what a geeky description for one of the coolest features ever! So simple! So great. So “how come no one did it before!?”
  10. Accelerometer: iPhone’s built-in accelerometer detected when the device would change orientation and immediately reacted to it.
  11. Responsive UI – Today a hot trend in the entire software industry, back in 2007 – still unknown.
    The calculator app was one of the first mobile apps to automatically change the behavior when switching from portrait to landscape mode.
  12. Mobile OS as a Platform: Although the AppStore came only in the second version of the iPhone – it was obvious from the very beginning that iPhone is more than a phone. It was a computer. A platform.
  13. Gestures (as a substitute for buttons): Apple’s design philosophy was to limit the number of buttons on each screen. As such, some actions were performed using gestures, which over time became the standard in the mobile industry and in software in general. (swipe to delete, slide to unlock)
  14. Magnifying glass: before the iPhone we had buttons with arrows, home, end, and other ways to navigate through text. With the introduction of the buttons-less iPhone Apple invented the magnifying glass concept that was a very creative way to place your cursor on an accurate location. Today’s Android implementation is actually better to be honest. But the original idea belongs to Apple.
  15. A lesson to all product managers out there: The first iPhone had a lot of limitations and yet it sold 1M units after 7 days. It was another proof that a product can be very successful without being perfect. Users act based on subjective reasons and emotions. Making a great product doesn’t always mean you need to have everything available on first release. Battery that cannot be replaced, no memory extension, no copy paste, years later we have seen companies mimic even those limitations (Microsoft, HTC, and others).

Let’s finish this birthday celebration with the key notes from the first iPhone event:

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Jun 28, 2014

How to project your iPhone/iPad screen to your Windows PC


If you don’t own a mac, you probably know that projecting your iPhone or iPad screen in presentations or remote meetings (webex etc.) can become a real challenge.

Mirroring360 is the perfect answer. It lets you mirror your iPhone or iPad to any computer running both Windows or OS X.

Ever since I switched back from using a Mac to be using Windows 8 – I missed this capability, so I gave Mirroring360 a try and it works smoothly and fast. It’s good.

So if you need a way to show and reflect your iPhone/iPad app during meetings, presentations, or webinars – give Mirroring360 a try. The app costs $7 and has a trial version.



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Dec 21, 2013

10 Takeaways From VisionMobile’s Recent Mobile Developer Economics Report

VisionMobile Report

If you’re a mobile fan or developer, VisionMobile is an analysts company you should follow.

I recently downloaded the Mobile Developer Economics report by VisionMobile, and here are my 10 main takeaways from it. I recommend downloading this free report from here.

10 Takeaways From VisionMobile’s Latest Developer Economics Report:

  1. The Mobile Developer Mindshare Q3 2013 shows Android leading at 71% of developers using the platform, followed by iOS (56%), and HTML5 (52%).
  2. Android: Fresh mobile developers have a much stronger preference towards Android, with almost twice as many novice mobile developers preferring Android (40%) than iOS (21%).
  3. iOS: still leads the revenues chart with $5,200 compared to Android ($4,700), Windows Phone ($3,600) and HTML5 ($2,900).
  4. Windows Phone: Despite extensive marketing efforts, slightly increased sales of Windows Phone devices and generous developer programs, Microsoft is still struggling to convince developers that its platform can compete head-to-head with Android or iOS, since the platform lacks in user reach, which is the top motivator for developers to invest in a platform.
  5. BlackBerry 10: BlackBerry has managed to retain Mobile Developer Mindshare, with the new BlackBerry 10 platform having almost the same mindshare as the legacy BlackBerry 5/6/7 had just before the release of BB10 six months ago.
  6. HTML5 developer statistics: 38% of HTML5 developers develop mobile websites, 23% developing
    mobile apps, (i.e. incorporating offline functionality and deeper browser integration), 27% developing Hybrid apps, (with the likes of PhoneGap).
  7. Samsung Bada: Samsung’s bada experiment is coming to an end, having failed to gather Developer Mindshare, despite a promising user reach that saw higher sales than Windows Phone in 2011 and most of 2012.
  8. FireFox OS: 27% of developers are planning to adopt Firefox OS. In terms of Mobile Developer intention, this puts Firefox OS just ahead of iOS (26%) and Android (22%).
  9. Who selects what? The research shows that developers’ platform choices depend very much on the goal they aim to achieve. When it comes to platform selection, contract developers will opt for platforms that will generate more revenue, CIOs will focus on efficiency and low cost, CMOs will focus on reach, while hobbyists will want to experiment with newer platforms…
  10. Mobile developers use 2.9 platforms, typically: Android, iOS and something else (HTML5, Windows Phone, or BlackBerry 10).


Mobile Developers Platforms

You can download the full report in here.

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Dec 14, 2013

15 Easy Ways To Save iPhone’s Battery Life [With iOS7]


Away from power source with an empty battery? Don't panic, here's what you need to do:

So here’s what you need to do if you see that disturbing ‘Low Battery’ message saying you have 20% of battery remaining:

  1. Don’t panic, 20% still means you can use your phone for even a couple of hours.
  2. The screen is the biggest battery eater: open the control center and reduce the brightness level to the minimum needed (20%-30% should do). If you have auto-brightness turned on – make sure to turn it off.
  3. Turn off AirDrop and Bluetooth.
  4. Make sure you don’t have any GPS/Map application open, not even in the background. Navigators drain your battery even if you do not actively use them because they run in the background.
  5. Avoid using messages apps like WhatsApp which use Push Notifications. Push Notifications consume a lot of energy.

So those are 5 immediate things to do if that 20% battery remaining message catches you off-guard.

Here are 10 additional tips for keeping that iPhone battery full even with iOS7 installed:

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Dec 12, 2013

So what is the third largest mobile OS in 2013?

Predictions season is here. Towards the new year everyone tries his shot in predicting the next trend in the technology world. Before I give it a try myself, I went back to see some older stuff we had here at the mobile spoon earlier this year.

Smartphones Market - The Mobile Spoon

Almost a year ago I asked myself (here, in writing that is) what will be the third largest Mobile OS in 2013?

Well, 2013 is almost over and I think it’s time to answer this one, but before I do – a few important notes.

First, the mobile sales numbers are often very different between one research to another. The reason is that every research measures different things: some are checking operating systems (resulting in a mixture of devices including music players to tablets) while others are checking specific devices or focusing on specific regions, and therefore the noticeable differences. We do know, however, that today the smartphones sales are higher than PCs and account for more than half of the global mobile phone market.

Close to the end of 2013, some of the new mobile OS mentioned hin my post are still not publicly available and I doubt they will succeed to make a real impact on the market.

And as to the question who comes third after Android and iOS, the answer is Windows Phone which finally starts to make an impact; while BlackBerry’s free fall continues to the area of 2-3% of sales across the US and Europe, Windows Phone climbs all the (short yet noticeable) way to the range of 10% of smartphones sales in Europe, breaking a small record of 12% in Great Britain. 

And speaking of predictions…
In 2011 both Gartner and IDC predicted that Windows Phone will steal second place from iOS by 2015.
Same Gartner company recently predicted that by the same year of 2015 Apple OSes will overtake Windows.

Think about it next time you read a technology prediction…

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Dec 9, 2013

Can a mobile business improve effectiveness?

I had the honor to participate in a debate published by The Telegraph in Business Technology. The topic was: Can a mobile business improve effectiveness, and the answer, as expected, was yes. But how exactly? Here’s my view:

business technology

Mobile Business turns employees into super-employees by making them smarter, faster, and closer to each other.

Accessing information in real-time means users can avoid delays and get answers to things that might slow them down. It can be their own stored data or records taken from back-end systems; everything is accessible within seconds and that makes them smarter, efficient, and always up-to-date.

Speed is a growing success criterion for individuals and companies. Mobility saves time for every individual through automatic processes, scanning technologies, digital invoices, and context aware data capture. It also minimizes errors done by users which are time consuming from many aspects.

More importantly, managers can free up bottlenecks when on the move by replying to an urgent email or approving an urgent budget request.

Mobility turned popular social trends into mega trends and brought knowledge collaboration to the field. Now businesses and employees welcome knowledge collaboration more than in the past and it makes the entire organization closer, knowledgeable and efficient.

Here’s the full post (click to enlarge image)

Mobile Effectiveness

The full digital version of Connected Business

Business Technology Debate

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