Microsoft Office for iPad is here and it’s brilliant!

Microsoft has finally released Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad and they look beautiful.

Excel for iPad

It’s taken Microsoft 4 years to release Microsoft Office on the iPad. It’s all forgiven because it looks brilliant and seems to have a great user experience.

At this stage you can view/read Word, Excel and PowerPoint for free. Creating and editing will require an Office 365 subscription which starts at $80 USD for students and $100 for the general public.

I’m personally really surprised at how great the apps look and feel. They’re fast and fluid even on my 2nd generation iPad. The user experience seems to have been a major focus when developing the apps. Microsoft has done a great job of creating an iPad app that’s not just a stretched out iPhone up. It really feels like it’s made for iOS7.

This release along with the rebranding of Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure signals the new Microsoft that Satya Nadella is heading up. He’s doing a great job.

Make sure you give the iPad Office apps a try by clicking on this link.

Facebook’s “Context Album” using facial recognition

Think about this for a minute

  1. How many photos people take
  2. How many people are in all those photos unintentionally

There are a lot of scenarios where candid photos include people outside the intended subject of the photo. Think about photos in tourist areas, crowds at stadiums, shots of friends with lots of background, photos at night clubs or cafes or selfies.. The amount of people in photos is a n to n relationship. Now think about how many of those photos will include people that the photographer doesn’t know explicitly.

Facebook

Facebook’s Deppface project has reported that it’s facial recognition software has the ability to match faces with varying conditions such as light and angle to a 97.25% accuracy. That’s astoundingly good.

Unfortunately all Facebook can do with this technology is detect and suggest faces and people when Facebook users upload their photos. A pretty straightforward use of this technology.

Think of this interesting use case… what if Facebook released a feature that can detect a user’s face in all of Facebook’s photos. Think of it like this

  • User requests that Facebook finds all photos where it can recognise the users face
  • Facebook scans all it’s photos, finds matches
  • Facebook sends notification to the photo’s uploader to allow this person to a) see the photo and b) approve tagging this person (Should they request it)
  • Facebook can produce a small infographic of how many photos it’s found, how many the user can see, varying degrees of accuracy etc.
  • User can then see the plethora of photos that were taken of them unintentionally or otherwise

In essence this allows Facebook users to find photos of themselves that others have taken in whatever scenario it may have been. Imagine how many photos will be returned (Of course this depends on so many factors) of each user. The “Context Album”.

There are privacy and people issues in the mix here which Facebook’s product marketing will have to deal with but technologically it’s definitely possible now.

What are your thoughts? Would you use this feature and would you allow Facebook to tell others that they are in your photos?

Android Wear, the real future of wearables is here

Google has it’s hands firmly dipped in the mobile market with Android, they’re tackling the augmented reality market quite publicly with Google Glass and now they’ve released Android Wear.

Android WearWhat you need to know in a nutshell:

  • It’s a SDK (Software Development Kit), that means developers have a platform like Android to build their apps and release wearable devices such as watches, heart rate monitors etc.
  • It will allow developers and manufacturers to create wearables that adhere to guidelines like Android, essentially a platform
  • It will sync with your devices via Bluetooth
  • It’s highly contextual, it’s based on Google Now, it’s aimed at giving the user quickly glanceable information when it’s relevant
  • It’s interface is controlled by gestures and voice
  • It’s aimed at also monitoring your health and fitness

See the video below so that you can get a good idea of what you can expect from it

Before you get too excited, this isnt a device. Although it’s likely that Google will release a device which is made by a 3rd party much like the Nexus program.

Motorola’s Moto 360 and the LG G Watch are the first devices that are using Android Wear. Details are far and few, right now all we know is that they will be released in the summer. 

Of Course smart watches are nothing new at the moment, ever since Apple was rumored to release a smart watch. Many other manufacturers have jumped into the wearables market. Most of them aimed at the fitness market. Check out this list by Engadget. The most famous of which right now are Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Pebble.

So keep a look out for these around the end of the year because there will be a whole host of new wearable tech that’s using Android Wear. It’s definitely an exciting time!

Galaxy S5, more of the average copycat you can expect from Samsung

Full Disclosure: I’m by no means an Apple fanboy.

Samsung Band-aid

So.. yet again Samsung has decided to ‘stay’ ‘ahead’ of the curve while being the same unoriginally average copycat that they are. It infuriates me how much they copy and I’m not even an Apple fan boy. At least when Apple copied they changed things for the better.

From what I’ve been reading

  • Boring ‘safe’ design. Since Apple won their trial and proved Samsung copied, their hardware design it’s gotten worse
  • It comes in bandaid and Nexus 7 2012 models
  • Slightly larger display, really Samsung you can only increase your display size to improve your spec sheet year over year by so much
  • Terrible implementation of the fingerprint scanner. No surprise there.

  • The heart rate monitor is nothing new, many apps can read your heartrate from your LED or camera.
  • IT’S NOT EVEN RUNNING THE LATEST VERSION OF ANDROID!!
  • Samsung TouchWiz UI and apps, need I say more?

As you can tell, I’m not impressed with Samsung nor will I ever be. They continue to copy what Apple does a year after they do it and what’s worse is that it’s always just a blatant copy with no thought as to what problems they’re trying to solve for consumers. They’ve always approached their hardware and software design from a “What looks better on a spec sheet?” perspective. Often completely ignoring what problems they’re trying to solve and how. The fingerprint scanner and S Voice are prime examples of gimmicks that look good on paper and in advertising yet completely fail in implementation.

I’m surprised their interface didn’t change completely too, oh wait I suppose 5 months isn’t enough time to completely overhaul a mobile phone UI and update all apps too. Maybe the S6 will…

Thanks to Marques Brownlee for the Samsung Bandaid reference and image.

SwiftKey’s Note is a great way to penetrate iOS and eventually Windows Phone

Since SwiftKey introduced it’s Android keyboard I’ve never used any other. It’s fast, intuitive, customisable and it learns! I can typically type full sentences with just a few touches.

Unfortunately iOS users never knew what they were missing out on because they’re stuck on the stock iOS keyboard. There’s nothing wrong with it.. but that’s just it.. it’s just a plain keyboard that just does that. Some thought that since the iPhone 5 stretched the screen that it should have given way for Apple to add word predictions but they never did.  And they never allowed 3rd party keyboards so SwiftKey was always going to be stuck to Android only.

SwiftKey has figured out a way to penetrate iOS with a simple yet clever note taking app that has the prediction engine that SwiftKey is famous for.

The SwiftKey note app has 3 key features

  • Smarter autocorrect that learns from the user
  • Predicts your next word
  • It’s synchronized with Evernote to the cloud

I think what’s important about this is how clever SwiftKey has been about this, they’ve been able to enter a platform that has blocked them. If this is a success then they can also replicate this on Windows Phone giving making them a player in all major smartphone markets.

Download the app from iTunes here.

Essential Android apps in 2014

I’ve recently had a few family members and friends purchase Android phones. So rather than send each person an individualised list of essential Android apps I thought I’d just create a quick blog post. These are just some of my favourite essential apps for Android.

Android Apps

Make sure you install, update and use Google Now. It’s great app that just does everything for you from checking your flight status to money conversion and following your sports teams.  It tells you today’s weather before you start your day, how much traffic to expect before you leave for work and more.

Communication: I’m a big fan of not using SMS because of the cost that is usually involved. Any excuse not to use is great because you save money and typically the user experience of these apps is much better.

Facebook Messenger - A must for communicating with your Facebook friends. You can use it while using other apps. Using Facebook as a way to message your friends is also great because you can easily do it from any device like a computer or tablet too.

Google Hangouts - This is a great alternative that also allows group video chat. You can use this via Gmail and Google+ as well. 

WhatsApp - Just incase some people don’t have Facebook, WhatsApp is great multi platform messaging app as well.

Social Media: Great ways to keep in touch with the different social circles in your life as well as keeping in touch with the world in general.

Facebook - Facebook app, make sure you give Facebook Home a try.

Instagram - Photo Sharing that most of your friends are likely using.

LinkedIn - LinkedIn app, catch and keep your business circles up to date.

Snapchat - Great way to communicate via fleeting pictures.

Twitter - Twitter is a great way to keep in touch with the world and follow the things you love, it’s not about sharing and reading how others are feeling (although there’s a lot of that too if you’re looking for it).

Education: Learn something, you phone can help you do that!

Duolingo - Want to learn a new language? This app helps you do that. It’s a great example of gamifying learing.

Entertainment

Flipboard – Great way to catchup on news and other media, this app is built like a magazine.

Local: If you’re in a new place or looking to eat or do something new, let your phone help you.

Foodspotting - Rather than finding places to go based on reviews, find them based on pictures of their food!

Foursquare - Find the best places and things to do nearby, I’m always checking this app when I’m out and about.

Travel: Forget hotels, book villas and people’s homes rather than your typical accommodation, can be cheaper and a much more local experience.

Airbnb - Great for booking places to stay all around the world.

Music: Does anyone need to actually download or purchase music anymore? Streaming is the way to go.

doubleTwist - Great music app but I use it to browse, download and listen to podcasts. As far as I can see all iTunes podcasts are available via this app (in app purchase that is worth it)

Spotify - Spotify being technically free on mobile now so you can listen to music like a radio station without the DJs.

VEVO - All the latest music videos available at your fingertips.

Photography

Pixlr Express – Great app to edit and stitch photos and make collages.

Productivity

Google Drive - Google Drive’s mobile counterpart, online storage but more importantly free spreadsheet and document creator and editor.

Keep - Great note taking app that also syncs online with Google Drive.

Quickoffice - Create and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your Android.

Shopping

Amazon - Amazon app, need I say more?

eBay - eBay app, need I say more?

Etsy – Great shopping app for hand crafted items, if you love browsing and buying from Saturday market stalls then this is the online version of that.

PayPal - If you don’t trust websites and apps with your credit card details then PayPal can help you.

Tools: These are my favourite apps to use in general.

AirDroid - Manage your Android from a browser, send text messages, copy images, install apps and so much more.

Device Manager - For locating all your Android devices for when you’ve misplaced them or when they go missing.

Pocket - This app is a great way to save any website, article, video etc so that you can revisit it later. It’s great because almost every app can share to Pocket.

Silent Time - Very simple app, automatically silences or puts your phone on vibrate. I use it to silence the phone at night and vibrate when I’m at work.

SwiftKey - The best Android keyboard alternative.

Sync.ME - Are your contacts missing pictures and details? No problem, this app syncs photos and details from social networks for you.

Google Translate - Break through language barriers with Google Translate. Translate between more than 70 languages

Yet Another Auto Brightness – Great app that personally doubled my battery life. Use it if your screen is draining your battery.

Games

Dots - Great simple game.

If you have another apps that you think need to be added to the list then let me know in the comments and I’ll include them.

Facebook needs to point it’s focus back on people and privacy

** UPDATE April 2014: Facebook has begun reducing Pages spam, see here **

facebook-logo-spelledout

I’ve read a few articles recently about how Facebook is dropping in daily and monthly active users especially in the teenage demographic. Some articles pin it to the fact that more and more parents are joining Facebook, some pin it on the advent of other social services like Google+, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat etc. I’ve got some different ideas. It’s simple, Facebook has been oversharing.  1. Stop sharing everything that everyone does. Get rid of the ticker! 

Nobody likes this (Ok except attention seekers). The ticker and News Feed are filled with low quality posts like John Smith liked a picture from 2012 or Joe Bloggs commented on someone’s post who’s not your friend. People have started realising that they don’t want to share what they do especially not when it happens automatically in the background without the ability to turn it off. I personally think it’s because they see the reflection of this happening when they’re browsing facebook and how much it tells you about exactly what others are doing. This causes people to double think about everything they do on Facebook because undoubtedly someone will see what they’re doing. Why do you think engagement has gone down?

2. Provide a clear visual warning (not a dismissible tooltip) to anyone posting anything with a public privacy.

I know it’s Facebook’s ethos to make the world a more open place, I commend that but the majority of people don’t. Again, people have started realising that they don’t want to share what they do and definitely not publicly. I’ve had to review so many friends and family members’ privacy settings, especially the older demographic. They don’t understand these things until someone points it out for them and corrects it (even then some don’t understand it and there’s no stopping them from unintentionally changing it back). Facebook’s strategy regarding public data is confusing, it’s really only ‘Facebook public’. Even if someone shares something publicly, Facebook doesn’t actually let search engines crawl it’s information so it’s still not technically public. Maybe focus on educating users about that.

3. Facebook’s privacy settings are complicated again. (Although were they ever simple?)

The need to put the focus back on simplicity, a large chunk of their demographics are older people. Not that this should matter because the majority of people are not strong on IT stuff. Privacy settings

In my opinion since Facebook went public with it’s IPO’s it’s taken it’s focus away from people to revenue. This typically gets in the way of privacy. Facebook needs to gain people’s trust again and to do that privacy is the key to return engagement and slight growth.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Google Now’s latest update is… “In your face”

Dear Google,

Your latest Google Now update on Android has gone backwards and has a “In your face” attitude that I’m not liking.

Home ScreenGoogle Now TransitionGoogle Now

1. Constant notifications for weather, transport and others that I can’t turn off

  • I don’t want these on my notifications because I have to constantly swipe them away
  • It’s annoying that I used be able to control the notification for each card. Now you think you know what’s best for me, you don’t
  • Turning off the notifications for Google Now means I don’t get actually important reminder notifications. Silly right?

2. Google Now is available by swiping from the left in the Google Experience Launcher (GEL) and I can’t turn off

  • It’s actually more convenient for me to have more app shortcuts to the left and right of my home page rather than Google Now
  • It takes more swipes now to get to my other apps since I have to swipe to the right twice, you’ve added a +1 swipe to each extra home page
  • Why can’t I just turn this off without disabling Google Now entirely? I want to use Google Now just not by swiping from the left

I know what you’re thinking, just don’t use GEL. Well turning something off isn’t a solution. There are a few reasons why I actually want to use it..

  • I like the look of the new launcher
  • The large icons are nice
  • Widgets aren’t part of the app drawer
  • The ability to only have the amount of home screens that you use instead of a hard 5 is a nice change
  • Transparent navigation buttons and notifications!
  • It signifies Kit Kat 4.4 for me. It’s about the only visual change that Kit Kat introduced. At the least the main change.

I know that you’ve put Google Now a swipe away because not all devices have soft buttons which means a swipe up from the home button is not applicable to most devices but you’ve ignored the Nexus line of products by doing this.

Fear not, there are simple solutions to the above problems

  • Add a “Turn off Google Now from the left swipe” switch
  • Bring back the full list of cards in settings and allow me to control the notifications for each (Even Google Now on iOS at least lets you turn on and off cards)

/Rant

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Google Now.

It’s no longer Steve’s Apple, it’s Tim’s Apple now

iPhone5c

The guys at iSource have a very nice write up about what the iPhone 5c represents to Apple. They’ve taken a slightly different angle in their article than what I’m going to write about.

It got me thinking that time has gone by long enough that Steve’s influence has worn off (not completely) and Tim’s is starting to show. What Apple has done with the iPhone 5c is very clever, they’ve essentially made it look slightly different but kept most of the iPhone 5′s internals.

They’ve done that for 3 reasons

  1. To the general consumer it’s a shiny new iPhone, it looks different therefore it must be new! To a certain extent it’s going after the younger crowd and the developing markets. (Although I personally think that’s why they have the iPhone 4s at the lowest price point)
  2. Apple has figured out that they can sell a lot more of the previous generations hardware by just slapping on a cheaper case to manufacture. This is also coupled with the likely price drop from suppliers for previous generation hardware.
  3. Please investors, if this maneuver can increase their profit which it likely will then Apple’s profits will start climbing again which will increase their market cap.

Call me naive but I don’t think Steve would have done this, Steve was always about consolidating product lines and removing choice from the user, less choice means quick and easy choice. Steve was about having the best possible product and only the best. This is where the iPhone 5s comes into play, it’s Apple’s best choice.

iPhone5s

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

The iPhone 5C isn’t about marketshare after all | iSource.

LG Google Nexus 5

 

Nexus 5

It’s exciting times as speculations and leaks begin to come out. The LG Google Nexus 5 is shaping up to be a great smartphone to own. For me the low Nexus prices and buying them out of contract mean I can cheaply update my smartphone each year!

From the leaks/rumours so far we know what it looks like, we’ve got glimpses of Android KitKat 4.4, price and specifications. They’re shaping up to be a winning combination.

The form factor and hardware design are a very welcome step up from Nexus 4 which sported a rather ‘plain’ hardware design. Google has worked with LG to bring a little more flare to the design as you can see above.

Android KitKat 4.4

Android 4.4 from what we know so far has a slightly revised UI. This includes the colour of the status bar matching the colour of the app that is running, this providers a more ‘fullscreen’ feeling for the apps. Some of the Android icons have changes as well, sporting a flatter cleaner look. There is a leak that suggest payments will be built into the OS, while I’d love this to be the case I’m not holding my breath that this will be an out of the box feature for any country apart from USA.

The price is rumored to be $350USD although we’re not sure which version this is for. The rumor mill has it that it will come in 16 and 32GB variants so likely $350 for the 16GB version. Which is much cheaper than any other Android smartphone with similar specs from other manufacturers such as HTC, Sony and Samsung.

The hardware will be top of the line. That’s about as much as it matters to say these days when it comes to smartphones. It rivals the leading smartphone manufacturers’ flagship devices. Here are the rumored specs anyway for the Nexus 5 which will include a Full HD screen either 5in or 5.2in in size, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz and 3GB of RAM.

What we don’t know just yet is how good the camera is going to be on the Nexus 5, all we know is that’ it’s potentially an 8MP camera. I do have to say that was the most disappointing feature of the Nexus 4, a mediocre camera. Something that most manufacturers don’t have a grip on often just purchasing off the shelf components from suppliers.

As of writing this article Google is yet to announce a date for the release or press conference. Speculation is late october which is fast approaching!

Read more here