My last blog post was in June this year. That level of activity is not really good enough so I’m thinking about where this blog fits into my life these days. The problem is that I’m becoming more reflective about technology and social media, and their place in our daily lives. For me, I’ve become very self-aware of how much time I spend staring at my phone or tablet whenever I have time to kill. Be it on the tube, at home, on my lunch break at work, it is so easy to just get out my phone and absent-mindedly stare at an app until something else comes along, and it is really beginning to bother me.
There’s always been a lot of discussion about what Apple’s play for the living room would look like. Some people think they’ll build an actual TV while others think it will be some form of set-top box.
Personally, I think it is neither. I believe their TV solution is already here, and it is called, funnily enough, the Apple TV. You can pick one up for £99 and it will instantly let you rent movies and stream music and video from your iOS devices.
But this is just the start. One of the lesser-publicised announcements at WWDC, as part of the iOS 7 feature list, is support for 3rd party game controllers, by allowing them to be certified for use under the existing “MFi” (Made for iPhone) program.
This means that soon, you can use a console-like controller with an iOS device, and you can bet your bottom dollar that this will be rolled out to the Apple TV. All that is required is an app store for Apple TV and you’re set.
So, we have a £99 box that streams all your content and can play games. That to me sounds like a pretty compelling proposition.
The only bit I haven’t figured out is the hardware. Apple have spent the last few years slimming down the Apple TV, removing built-in storage in favour of streaming. However, to run apps, it will need storage, and to play decent games it will need beefier hardware, which will bump the price. There’s still a big gap up to the next level, so there’s room to increase the price, but it does change the dynamic somewhat.
Anyway, can’t wait to see what they come up with.
Some more great commentary on this by Austin Sweeney on his blog
Last week, I went to a Microsoft Store and bought a Nokia Lumia 920. I frequently say that Nokia has some of the best looking phones in the market today and have also publicly shown my admiration for Windows Phone. However, these things have never convinced me to switch perviously. So the question is, why now?
Well, it’s iOS 7.
Andrew elaborates briefly on what he dislikes with iOS7:
To me, iOS 7 is sailing in a completely wrong direction. What needed to happen was a significant rethinking of iPhone but all we received was a facelift.
Feel free to gush about or criticize Apple’s new “design language” in iOS 7. For some people, that’s important. But for most iPhone users, once they get used to the new look — which is, obviously, a work in progress — their phone is going to work pretty much the same way it did before: Screens of squarish icons for apps that don’t really talk to each other very much.
My thoughts exactly.
A lot of prominent Apple bloggers and designers seem to be reading a huge amount into the ‘layered’ and ‘dynamic’ design of iOS7, citing things like transparent menus and parallax wallpapers as means to engage the user in an interface full of depth (as opposed to the “misconception” that it is actually “flat”).
Either I just don’t understand design at the same level they do, or I don’t need to, because to me, while these elements may be true, they are an excuse for the authors to focus too much on one discipline and ignore the bigger picture.
iOS7 does indeed herald a more modern era for iOS, but to try to imply that the visual overhaul somehow means iOS works better is a real stretch. As Dan says, there is no better app-to-app integration and no ‘opening up’ as hinted by Tim Cook recently.
For all the talk of iOS7 representing a more respectful approach to the proficiency of smartphone users, Apple is still treating its customers as ones unable to make their own decisions when it comes to the overall experience they should have from their phones.
Yesterday was the first day of Apple’s Wordwide Developer Conference (WWDC), in which Apple announced the next iteration of their mobile operating system iOS, version 7. You can find a summary of what was announced all over the web, e.g. The Verge, but for now here are my initial unordered thoughts:
Perhaps as a January depression-busting technique, I bought myself a new camera. I’ve always enjoyed photography, especially nature photography, but have only ever invested in point-and-shoots (my last camera being the Sony DSC-TX7). Initially I intended to buy a dSLR such as the Canon 110D; i.e. an entry-level dSLR that would allow me to take good quality photos and learn the ways of manual photography. However, I got swayed by the size of the Compact-System-Cameras (CSC), namely the Sony NEX-F3, which is the one I settled on.
The reviews of the Surface Pro are in, and one recurring theme seems to be that everyone is trying to work out what the device actually is, and who exactly is it for.
So I’m very much enjoying my iPad mini – I went with the 3G-enabled 64GB version – i.e. fully tricked out and cost £529.
I was looking forward to using it everywhere, as it is small enough to fit in my coat pocket. Where I used to use a phone or briefly a Nexus 7 I owned, I would now be able to use the iPad mini and take advantage of all the iOS apps I’ve already invested in.
What I noticed was something unexpected. I started to feel self-conscious/worried about using it in some scenarios. There was something unsettling about getting out a £540 tablet on a bus in London. Us Londoners are accustomed to being on our guard and not generating attention while out and about on public transport, but this thing makes that quite difficult!
I didn’t mind so much when it was a £180 Nexus 7, which I didn’t feel was that attractive to others anyway (owning Android doesn’t exactly shout “I’m likely to have expensive things on me”), but a £540 device suddenly requires an extra element of foresight before use in public.
Maybe I just need to get used to it. Or move to Silicon Valley.
Instagram, purchased by Facebook back in April, have made their first update to their Terms of Service since the acquisition. As expected, these provide Facebook with more access to Instagram’s (and thereby your) data.
To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata) and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.
This means that basically Facebook can now use your Instagram photos, location tags, username and any other associated data in ad campaigns paid for by Facebook’s advertising partners or other 3rd parties. Your data may now become an ad, and certainly you won’t know about this, be asked permission, or receive any financial compensation.
We may share ‘User Content’ and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of…
Similar to the previous clause, this basically means all your Instagram data is shared with Facebook’s ad partners to allow for increased targeting of ads.
Then my favourite:
You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content or commercial communications as such
This is all to be expected. Facebook is an advertising company that uses a social network to increase the value of its product (i.e. you and your data). I think it does somewhat remove some of the inherited joy of using Instagram though, knowing that its purpose for being is no longer to provide a great service, but to monetise your activity.
I can’t see myself using the service for much longer, which is easy for me as I wasn’t a particularly frequent user in the first place. Others will likely not know or care about these changes and will no doubt continue to enjoy using it.
There goes another independent service to one of the ‘big four’ (Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon). Up next, Foursquare…
P.S. If you want to delete your Instagram account (I’m seriously considering this), you can do so here. If you’re looking for an alternative, you could do a lot worse than the just-updated Flickr by Yahoo. Still a free service so there’s probably still an advertising undercurrent, but Yahoo are currently in such a state of recovery that they are going to do everything in their power to look after their users – they can’t afford to do anything else.