How Leveraging Technology To Resolve To Read The Bible This Year Can Help You Stay On Track With Other New Year’s Resolutions

Bible AppsLast year I posted New Year’s Resolution: Read The Bible and it ended up being the most read post of the year for ILikeTek.  To ring in the new year I’ve decided to offer a followup post.  As mentioned in the original post my app of choice was The Every Day Bible App however I ditched it midway through the year.  There was nothing wrong with the app, in fact it delivered daily on what it promised to do but I found myself longing for an actual Bible….in print.  I eventually filled this urge with the purchase of a study bible which came with free access to the study content in the publisher’s accompanying app (ESV Bible App).  Wanting to go deeper into Bible study turned out to be a precautionary tail of be careful what you ask for as I picked one of the most in depth study guides available which in turn took up all of my available daily reading time and eventually led me to falling behind on my reading plan on days I opted to read other things.  Since I’m not one to skip anything available to read in front of me I knew that if I was to get back on track and complete my New Year’s resolution I needed a straight forward approach for days when I just wanted to read the Bible and therefore it must exclude access to study material for those days.  It was around then that I stumbled on to the NeuBible App.
Herein the NeuBible App I found a beautifully polished app whose emphasis is solely on quick access to scripture with further emphasis on font.
I love a good font and it has a crisp selection.  I fell in love with the app’s straightforward approach with a simple swipe right gesture to select a book and swipe left gesture to select a chapter.  Best of all it always remembers precisely where I left off even if it was mid-chapter which came in quite handy as though I wasn’t using the Every Day Bible App anymore I was still following its year long reading plan.  Its plan was nice for its app where following from top to bottom every reading was laid out daily but trying to pick up outside the app was tedious since it jumped around to at least three different passages each day with some leaving off mid-chapter.
My next dilemma was knowing what each day’s reading consisted of.  This usually involved opening the Every Day Bible App to find out what it was and then opening whatever alternative app or print edition I chose to read from that day.  This just felt silly so I decided to improvise.  I would open the Every Day Bible App periodically and log ahead a few days’ readings into a list I created in my favorite to do list app – Wunderlist.  This allowed me to set reminders which I could access from my notification center at any time and check off complete as I read each passage.  It also helped me keep track of readings if I got behind easier than I was able to within the Every Day Bible App which reset each day.  In fact returning to the most popular Bible app the Youversion Bible App for an occasional reading plan didn’t even offer reading plan visibility from its notification center widget like I now could through my Wunderlist… eh list.
Now that I could get daily reminders and pick up my reading from any Bible app or print edition of choice I quickly got back on track and even finished my resolution to read the Bible in a year a few days early!  Besides as most experts will tell you the best way to complete New Year’s resolutions is to form habits.  For me daily checking off a year long goal and remaining mostly on track kept my other New Year’s resolutions fresh in my mind.  While I didn’t complete all of them it’s safe to say I completed more and made more progress on others than any other year in recent memory in large part due to the daily satisfaction of checking off each daily Bible reading in my to do list.  It’s no shock that good things really do come from reading the Bible every day!
Advertisements

5 Things I Wish Apple Would Design

Vending MachineApple’s design accomplishments are legendary.  Their design prowess in most ways sets the benchmark.  Their feats and are often credited with inventing new categories of products we never knew we needed when I think they actually are simply the best at perfecting ideas.  With that said what if that prowess extended far beyond the technology stratosphere and reached many of the simpleton things we encounter on a daily basis.  Here’s my list of 5 things I wish they did just that.

  1. Vending Machines.  Vending Machines universally suck.  They constantly rip you off.  They’re giant, orca giant, and noisy.  Can you say, “Siri, can I have a Milky Way please?”
  2. ATMs.  Also universally suck.  “Siri, give me a Benjamin please.”  “Certainly, how would you like that?”  “Three 20s, two tens, two fives, and the rest in ones will do.”  Notice I never had to select my language preference in this exchange and yes I’m aware of Apple Pay but the vending machine I frequent isn’t and is perfectly content stealing my cash.
  3. Microwaves.  Now these don’t normally suck but how cool would it be to pop in your tv dinner, shut the door and it started automatically because it read some NFC tag or bar code that in turn translated to the proper wattage and heating time.  It will even pause to tell you in Siri’s wonderful voice it’s time to remove the wrapper over the refried beans and stir them.  Oh and the door makes virtually no noise to open or close.  Why are microwave doors always so loud anyway?  Loud buzzers, forget about it, just Siri’s delish voice.  Step out of the room when the timer ends no problem, a gentle notification to your iPhone or Apple Watch will let you know your dinner is ready.  It would also alert you when it detected metal and not operate until it is removed.
  4. Automatic faucets.  You know the kind in public bathrooms.  Seriously why do these never work when I put my hands under them and why do they stop when I haven’t removed my hands?!  The urinals usually work as do paper towel dispensers and air dryers why not faucets?
  5. A Kid’s Tablet.  Because my 5 year old has access to a LeapPad, a Kindle Fire, a Nintendo DS, and a Xbox Kinect but almost always prefers my iPhone 6 I believe because it offers the most hassle free experience for him.  This may not qualify to be on this list because it’s still a tech product nevertheless I just want to see what Apple would do with a product designed from the ground up exclusively for kids.

The Third Party Keyboard Fail

Apple Third Party KeyboardsI lauded the arrival of iOS 7 more than another other iteration of Apple’s mobile software mostly because I was so ready for its new flat look but it doesn’t remotely compare to my anticipation for iOS 8 and with it the arrival of third-party keyboard support.  Apple’s stock keyboard has been much maligned for every successive iteration of their software and for me has been the single greatest point of frustration with iOS.  Reasons for my frustration are quite simple and don’t really have much to do with snazzy gestures or pretty color templates so much as it has to do with accuracy.  I simply just can’t master typing on the stock keyboard.  It’s really quite maddening how poor I can be at times.  It’s not rocket science but for reasons both known and unknown I can nary type a single sentence without an error and at this point I’m honestly resigned to the fact that I just suck at it.  I had great hope that some third-party keyboard would come along and rescue me from my unmanageable thumbs.  By the title surely you’ve guessed by now I was disappointed with the results.  So here’s what lead me to the ultimate conclusion that I am ditching all third party keyboards for the stock Apple keyboard.

Somewhere in all the buzz leading up to the launch of iOS 8 and with it third-party keyboard support I came across news that a third-party app available on other platforms had set the Guinness World Record for fastest typing.  Its name was Fleksy and after reading up on it I was immediately sold on its gesture based predictive algorithm.  It seemed so fluid and quite slick.  You see my crutch is simply typing accurately.  I can spell just fine.  I know how to structure a sentence.  Still it’s a mystery to me why I err so much because I don’t have fat fingers, I consider myself very dexterous, and my thumbs keep in shape playing Xbox nevertheless I’ve always sucked at typing on the iPhone.  The UI presented to me by Fleksy just seemed to hit the sweet spot because unlike most other keyboards including Apple’s it doesn’t try to predict as you type instead it just tries to predict what you just typed.  Translation, it basically auto corrects your spelling.  After downloading iOS 8 Fleksy was the first new app I installed.  Frustration set in immediately as the keyboard crashed the very first time I took it out for a spin.  After about a day of constant crashes I would learn that all iOS 8 users were experiencing the same thing and that the issue was baked into iOS 8 and affected all third-party keyboards.  I would stumble on a couple more days until I just turned off the keyboard entirely to wait for Apple to offer up an update to fix what was a widely reported major bug.  The first update supposed to fix the bugs we would quickly learn could brick phones and a successive update for the update would promptly come out soon after.  I gave things a couple more days to smooth out before downloading that update.  What’s important to note here is in that brief period while Apple was ironing out the kinks to the kinks so to speak I got some time with the updated stock Apple keyboard and discovered as advertised it had improved by leaps and bounds over the last one.  It’s prediction engine was quite good and I would have to say did cut down my errors to some extent. That didn’t stop me from reactivating Fleksy once I finally downloaded the iOS update with fixes for third-party keyboards.  I had after all already made my mind up to ditch yet another stock Apple feature for a better alternative something I have successfully done with practically every other stock Apple app or feature to date where alternatives existed.

Sadly Fleksy would turn into a maddening disaster.  The predictive gestures were fun but what sunk it for me from almost the first day was its over corrective tendencies.  How can you over correct the spelling of a word you ask?  Simple really.  Take the word “gun” for example.  Typing it correctly would often yield a different word like “fun”.  It begs the question how does this happen really?  Wouldn’t in the hierarchy of rules a correctly spelled word take precedence over really any other rule?  With Fleksy replacing a correctly spelled word with another word entirely happened astonishingly frequently.  This left me altogether pissed off frankly.  If I couldn’t correctly type in a word and have it accepted (especially since we’ve already established how much trouble I have typing accurately to begin with) then what is the point really?  I researched the 3 major keyboards getting buzz at launch (Fleksy, Swype, and SwiftKey) and I’m not sure if I made it past two full days with my first choice, Fleksy, before moving on to my next choice.  SwiftKey.

The lure for me about SwiftKey was really 3 things.  First it was free which helps considering I had to purchase Fleksy, next it incorporated swipe to type gestures and learned your typing patterns getting better the more you used it (allegedly), and last you could always tap away if you didn’t want to swipe.  I was at first really impressed with it but quickly discovered that learning your typing patterns was too much of a good thing.  If I incorrectly misspelled a word in the same way a couple of times well…the incorrect spelling became its default first prediction thereafter.  After 2 or 3 weeks I found myself full circle with the keyboard over correcting too often albeit now with a slew of misspellings.  I could easily reset the keyboard to rid myself of all my polluted predictions but as I stated with Fleksy what’s the point of using their keyboard then?  Truly frustrated I took a brief hiatus from third-party keyboards and went back to the stock Apple keyboard.  At this point though I found that I had grown quite fond of the swipe to type gesture.  It just felt more natural for one-handed use especially with the bigger iPhones that have virtually eliminated the ability to type one-handed so I finally convinced myself to drop a buck and download my third option.  Swype.  As luck would have it Apple would make it the FREE app of the week the very next day.  Go figure.  Nevertheless I found myself as with SwiftKey quite smitten with it I think mostly because it worked better (at first) than the previous keyboard I had tried, but not perfect.  In fact Swype‘s fatal flaw is no different from all the others for me.  Over correction.  I don’t understand it really.  I found it had trouble acknowledging swipes for words with two identical successive letters but not in the way you might think.  For example I can’t tell you how many times it replaced “to” with “too”.  Such a common word…too pun intended!  Ultimately I concluded I was spending just as much time correcting Swype‘s predictions as I was correcting my own typos in the stock Apple keyboard so like I’ve stated the other two times what then is the point?!

I’ve been mulling this question over for some time as my frustration level has continued to build.  Not mentioned with these three different experiences is the one factor that is the same across the board that muddles all of these third-party keyboard experiences.  Crashes.  Yep they are still a constant despite Apple updates meant to address these crashes.  I know it’s not just my phone because in the middle of this experience I actually switched iPhones (for other reasons) starting from a clean slate rather than restoring from a backup.  Users still complain of the constant crashes.  They’re certainly better than at launch but nevertheless they are a daily miff.  Honestly it’s astonishing really how prevalent they are and how little attention it’s getting.  There’s another factor that has influenced my choice to spurn third-party keyboards.  Emoticons or lack thereof.  Support for them varies between the apps I tested with Fleksy doing the better job nevertheless emoticon support seems more or less an afterthought.  I’m not really sure why.  Perhaps it’s a combination of both iOS restrictions and/or lack of creativity on the part of third-party app makers to incorporate them better.  It seems petty to include this as a deciding factor but I must admit to embracing emoticons as a significant portion of my day to day mobile communication and to have it buried sometimes 3 taps back is off-putting to say the least.

It’s taken me two and a half months to finally throw in the towel but I finally did.  It really boiled down to simple math for me.  In the negative column you’ve got a common theme of over correction, constant crashes, and a case of emoticon denial.  In the positive you’ve got an improved stock Apple keyboard that at least is stable and better at offering you up predictions while not jamming them down your throat.  Ultimately though the deciding factor for me was my general level of frustration.  When I use a third-party keyboard I have this expectation that it will work better than the stock one and that some launch bugs are expected but not to this degree.  I expect it will not just be pretty but actually make the task of typing easier or more efficient for me.  None of these have remotely been up to the task.  I got more frustrated using third-party keyboards than with the stock keyboard which I guess in part is because I have come to accept some level of frustration already over the years with the stock keyboard.  I’m left now with only one choice to return to the Apple stock keyboard.

Now that I’m reluctantly all in on the Apple keyboard train I offer a couple of thoughts for the masses who might agree with me.  Why can’t we have different colors schemes for the stock keyboard baked in?  It’s surely not because it’s not possible; I find a different color themed keyboard when I’m utilizing spotlight search versus Messages already.  How about long presses to a secondary keyboard much like Swype already employs?  Yes I know there’s already the trick to long press the 123 button already to get to that secondary keyboard but it’s nowhere near as intuitive as the Swype keyboard in this regard.  What about adjusting the size of the buttons like Fleksy offers?  This one really seems like a no brainer especially with the bigger screens for the new iPhones.  How about the option to add a top row of numbers or characters so I can easily tap out #comeonalready?  Am I asking too much…really?  Final parting thought, I wonder how long it’s going to take me to untrain all the different gestures and shortcuts I’ve learned the past 11 weeks and just get back to my normal pace of error laden typing?  Er I feel worse off than when I started.

What’s On Your Home Screen?

iOS 8 Home Screen


It doesn’t matter what operating system you’re on and how you organize your screens there’s always one main go-to screen.  In iOS that’s called the home screen.  Everybody organizes their apps in different ways but one thing remains fairly consistent and that’s the most important or most often accessed apps typically end up on the home screen.  I actually arrange my screens based on themes.  For example I have a full screen devoted just to camera and video editing apps.  Since they are my guiltless pleasure I have nearly enough to fill up an entire screen.  I reserve another screen for entertainment apps such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, iTunes, etc.  The theme my home screen has going for it though is quick access to my most used apps.  I’ve decided to share my home screen with a brief description of the apps encompassing it.  Think of it as my top ten list for app recommendations (in this case top 28 list because that’s how many can fill up my iPhone 6 screen including the bottom four located on the dock).

Here’s my list in order from top to bottom and left to right according to the included screen shot (click on any link to download):

1)  Fantastical – I’ve tried several calendar apps and I just keep returning to Fantastical.  I believe it really sets the benchmark for calendar apps.  I prefer agenda (list) views over calendar (monthly) views and an agenda view is front and center in this app.  Rotating your screen horizontally gives you the traditional calendar view so it should appeal to everybody.  It’s always worked fluidly and flawlessly for me and easily bests the stock Apple Calendar App. You’ll notice that speed and reliability are very important to me as you read through the rest of this list.

2)  Photos – I’ve replaced virtually all of the stock Apple apps except for 9, 8 of which show up on my home screen mostly out of necessity.  There are other photo apps but in my experience the stock Photos App gives me the fastest access to my pics and until iOS 8 was the only place you could delete photos.

3)  Litely – As previously mentioned I’ve got another screen that houses all my photo and video editing apps except for this one (and Instagram but it’s also a social network).  With its dozens of preset filters and zippy/simple interface it’s really my secret sauce to serving up endless sunsets that are so easy to come by in my part of the world out to my social feeds. Turns out Litely was written by the same guy who wrote seven of the original Instagram filters.

4)  Google Maps – One word…Awesome!  Does any other mapping and navigation app come remotely close?  It recently saw an update to Google’s Material Design experience and it’s oh so lovely to look at.

5)  Checkmark 2 – Little known and still overdue for an iOS 8 update it’s still the best reminders app in the App Store in my opinion.  It’s best feature is location-based reminders with the ability to postpone said reminders.  For example you can set a reminder to take out the trash 10 minutes after you arrive home because if you’re like me and if your phone dings in the car the second you pull into the driveway then by the time you get in the house and are gang tackled by the kid and dog you’ve done forgot about the reminder 5 minutes later.

6)  Safari – Necessity here because though I love Chrome on any other platform Safari just offers a zippier experience in iOS though that’s changing as Apple is opening up their walled garden more and more.

7)  Settings – Necessity again because I change a system setting at least once a day (usually wallpaper) or am usually looking to connect to a wifi network.

8)  App Store – Because I shop for apps and look for updates daily.  Still a choppy experience but getting better.

9)  Google – Two words…Google Now!  Check it out.  It’s both a little creepy but so so cool when it dazzles you with just the right information at just the right time or place.

10) Weather – This is the lone Apple app that I actually prefer over third-party apps because I think Apple got it right.  I’ve tried a half-dozen weather apps and I recently dumped them in favor of the stock Weather App because it just does one thing and does it well.  It quickly displays all the pertinent weather info upon opening the app and does it blazingly fast.  It’s got a decent flat interface that doesn’t fill your screen with ads like so many other weather apps do.

11) Evernote – This one’s actually just filling a void left behind when my favorite note taking app was shuttered.  I was a big fan of Springpad, a direct competitor to Evernote until it abruptly closed up shop.  When it did it offered a streamlined method to port all of your notebooks directly into Evernote hence it’s arrival on my home screen.  Nothing against Evernote which actually is quite pleasing on the eyes and is certainly light years more robust than the stock Apple Notes App.

12) Rise – Rise is my alarm app.  I was duped into purchasing it with the allure of tapping the screen anywhere to snooze but found out after the fact that you had to leave the screen on all night in order to take advantage of its full feature set.  Leaving the screen on all night albeit dimmed just seems silly so I don’t.  Nevertheless I keep it because it’s stock set of alarm sounds and remaining feature set are better than the stock Apple Clock App.

13) Mail – Another Apple mainstay but only on my home screen until Inbox (see below) accepts my Hotmail account.

14) Wunderlist – Bar none the best list making app and I’ve tried them all!  Super easy to use and uncluttered but can be as feature rich as you want it to be (think sub lists for lists).  Especially love sharing a grocery list with my wife because you can go back through completed items and re-add them to the list again.  Handy for things you need every week like milk and bread.  Completely free to use and ad-free to boot.  It syncs shared lists with ease and allows you to drag to reorder items.  It’s the small things that count and being a lifelong list maker Wunderlist truly lives up to its name.

13) Drafts – One thing Apple’s stock Notes app does well is it allows you to dive right into creating a note fairly quickly.  Drafts one-ups it.  The app defaults to opening right into a brand new note every time you open it.  It’s got a nice selection of fonts and share options so for me it really has replaced the stock Notes App more so than Evernote has.   At $9.99 it’s a bit pricey though.  I’m still on an older version and waiting for a deal to upgrade to the latest but it’s still the fastest app period when needing to tap out a quick note.

14) Misfit – This is the accompanying app to the fitness tracker I use (the Misfit Flash).  The Jawbone Up app gets all the attention for fitness trackers but I find Misfit’s to be more than par for the course.  It’s got a crisp flat design and for an app that I frequently check throughout the day I can’t honestly think of a single hiccup I’ve ever experience.  It’s quite stable and that should always count for something.

15) Google News & Weather – Seems I’m always trying out a different news service.  This is the flavor of the month for me.  It’s claim to fame is being able to Google any term and creating a whole news feed on it.  For example when I was researching the aforementioned Misfit Flash fitness tracker prior to purchase I created a whole news feed that offered up several pre-launch reviews since it was new to the market.  It also tipped me off when it was finally available for purchase since they were being tight-lipped on the exact date.  It also shows a snap shot of local weather on its home screen.

16) Asana – Another list taking app.  This one’s claim to fame is that’s an enterprise app.  I’ve begun to track my projects and daily to-dos in it at work.  Not sold on it yet and really it is meant for team collaboration which I don’t do a lot of because that’s how I roll.

17) Kindle – The king of reading apps.  No other reading app comes close to its feature set yet it will get out of the way when you need it to and let you just read.  I bought into the Amazon reading ecosystem long ago when I preordered their 2nd generation Kindle eReader and have never looked back.  The Kindle App a mainstay on my home screen and each successive version adds clever little things to further enhance reading experience like page numbers, percentage completion, their X-Ray service, and estimated time remaining to read.

18) Pocket – A read it later service.  It literally is formerly known as “Read It Later”.  It’s an app that allows me to read web links that I save to read later in an uncluttered mobile friendly canvas.  It gives the Kindle app a run for the money on number of reading features.  It’s one of the few apps that actually gets the low light reading experience right by offering a dark gray background with off white text rather than the deep black with bright popping white letters most other reading apps do.  It’s so much easier on the eyes in the dark.

19) Paper – Facebook sucks but like the other billion people on the planet like it or not I’m stuck with using it because all my other friends use it.  Paper is one of the rare things they cooked up that actually enhances the experience.  Born out of one of their labs it’s basically a heavily gesture based alternative to the traditional Facebook App sans ads (for now).  It also allows you to subscribe to a stream of curated news feed.  Not fond of their daily selection of news content I’ve turned off those feeds and use it exclusively for viewing and posting to my Facebook feed over the decidedly vanilla and cluttered traditional Facebook App.

20) Twitter – Nothing flattering to say here.  Does its job adequately, no praises per say but no complaints either.

21) Instagram – I must admit to a bit of nostalgia for Instagram.  It did after all spawn my shutterbug app addiction.  It works well and stays fresh enough.  I just never understood it’s love affair with square photos.  Why does it always seem when technology gives us more screen real estate something comes along to put black bars all around it?  Still mad they sold out to Facebook too.  Forever tainted but like Facebook, we’re stuck with it because everybody uses it.  At least it’s been mostly left alone to thrive since selling out and the few ads that I’ve seen begin to populate my feed are usually tasteful.

22) Bible – Did you know this app has been downloaded 161.4 million times and counting?! There are actually better apps for traditional bible study (see Faithlife Study Bible) but the Bible App has the best overall package with a thriving social feed and an ever-growing library of free community supported devotionals many authored by prominent Bible thumpers.


Dock Apps

23) Phone – These next four apps encompass my dock apps that show up on every screen.  The first is the stock phone app and I’m beginning to rethink its place here as I consider how little I use it.  I don’t place a lot of calls and most usually am on the receiving end of calls so I’m not sure I can justify its coveted place anymore in the dock.  I’ve never really pondered searching for a replacement phone app.  Open to suggestions…

24) Inbox – This is Google’s next great thing.  Think Google Now for Gmail.  It’s currently an invite only affair and I’m super glad I snatched an invite.  It replaced my all time favorite app (Mailbox by Dropbox).  Though I believe it still carries a Beta moniker it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  What Inbox does is basically serve you up a feed of emails automatically organized in categories like Promotions or Financial but rather than leaving you guessing at content by what the subject line says it will pull out the pertinent parts and put them front and center.  For example it will offer a link to track a package without having to open the message or serve you up a movie ticket confirmation number right in the subject line.  It is also written with a heavy dose of Google’s new Material Design experience which personally I can’t get enough of.  It takes liberally from many of my favorite features offered up by Mailbox and even gives you the option to add reminders to your message feed which just seems to be a natural place to add reminders after all.  How has nobody else thought of that yet?

25) Songza – If there’s one app on this list I would encourage anyone to download it has to be Songza.  You simply will not find a larger library of curated playlists anywhere.  You can pick from moods to genres to activities.  Google recently purchased and incorporated these playlists into the Google Play Music App but for now seem content to leave this free ad-supported service intact.  The ads aren’t in your face either and mostly consist of a small static banner at the bottom of the screen and you can rest assured that no loud car commercials will interrupt your feed like so many have ruined the Pandora experience for me.  Please download it, you’ll thank me later…tip check out the “Songs From Apple Commercials” playlist.  It’s delish!

26) Messages – And finally the last app in my dock is the stock Messages App because it’s adequate for me especially now with the latest feature set added with iOS 8.  Most of my friends use iMessages so really it’s a no brainer for me.  I’m actually aware of the plethora of better alternatives but truthfully none of my core friends and family use them so…

Size Matters | The Screen Size Debate

Credit:  Apple

Credit: Apple

September 20th was the official launch of the new iPhones 5C and 5S and just prior to it’s release every tech site and news site all rushed to get out their verdicts on the new models.  For the most part all the reviews were positive.  It’s really hard to argue with Apple’s solid hardware designs and reliable and vast App Store but every single review I read dinged Apple on one common thing – screen size.  The rumors were all abuzz with a larger screen for the iPhone but all proved to be untrue.  Android has toppled iOS in worldwide market share in large part due to affordable designs and big and bigger screen sizes.  It’s the same game that has played out year after year whether it’s TVs, laptops, or smartphones.  What’s lost here is the value of true functionality, portability, and ultimately purpose.  The purpose being that of a smartphone.  By definition a smartphone is limited by size because of it’s inherent requirement to be portable but size can also limit functionality.  How do you define and strike the right balance of portability, functionality, and features?  That’s ultimately the debate in play in the smartphone market with ever increasing screen sizes.  Personally I define it one way with one question.  Can you fully operate the device in one hand?  This is precisely the marketing ploy Apple baits us with.  Most people can touch their thumb anywhere on the iPhones’ screen without having to readjust the phone in any way with another hand.  This simple subtle fact I believe is at the core of the very purpose of a smartphone.  In my opinion if it takes two hand to operate it then just save you money for a full blown tablet.  Don’t be swayed by giant phone screens unless you just don’t care about portability.  Make the overall experience your priority.  I do believe there’s a market for larger screens sans the Galaxy Note 3‘s 5.7″ display but I treat that market as really the outer fringe of the tablet market.  Even Samsung knows the Note’s screen is a stretch that’s why they’re solely paring it with the Samsung Gear smartwatch for now.  Gee I wonder if the smartwatch market will play out the same way?  Will we soon be toiling over whether 1.3″, 1.6″, or 2″ is the proper screen size for the smartwatch?

QuikTeks V4

  • 1367739444_clockTwo words…Fax Machines!  How are they still remotely relevant?
  • Got stuck in line behind a lady trying to pay for her already bought Groupon deal!  I think there should be some state administered exam people must pass prior to first purchasing a smartphone.  Nah that will never work; they’d make it a written exam and then fax the results to the wireless carrier of your choice who would charge you an administrative fee because you didn’t go paperless.
  • (Apple) I get the spirit of competition but not putting Google in your auto-correct dictionary?  I thought you prided yourself on making things just work.  Google is your default search engine (for now) so this makes no sense.
  • Why does my Walgreens app not recognize their own bar code nor their RX number I enter in its place but will send my Instagram photos to their 1 hour print lab effortlessly?
  • Why am I not asked anything when deleting something but am asked twice whether I want to resume viewing a video after I already selected ‘resume’? (Amazon Instant Video)
  • One word…Routers!
  • The problem with cable companies is they farm their equipment to the lowest bidder and we can’t do anything about it.  I’m on my fourth cable box (identical model, all hard drive failures); need I say more.

I Just Can’t Get It To Zip Up!

IMG_2972

I have many fond memories of going camping with my family every summer.  Most memorable is the eager anticipation as we drove there, the agonizing wait to set up our tents before we could hit the water, the lazy days that followed, and then the more agonizing task of packing up.  Let’s face it there’s just no joy in packing up particularly at the end of 10 days with your entire family that by now needs another year off from each other.  No camping trip would be complete without the dreaded process of taking down and packing up the tent.  Queue the ominous music “Da da dun”!  Specifically the rolling and putting away of the tent.  This was always a grudge match full of grunting, stretching, and straining the fabric to get it into the tightest bunch we could muster just so we could get it to fit in the tent bag which was clearly designed to fit the tent only if it was precisely folded or rolled just like it was by some automated machine at the factory.  My mom would undoubtedly end up going off on an obscenity laced tirade because we would of course forget the tent poles or rain flap after fussing for ten minutes with the zipper of the bulging bag.  (Thank goodness my mom lives in the technological dark age and will likely never read this or else I would be the recipient of one of her famous obscenity laced tirades).

Did the engineer or designer not ever try to unpack and repack the tent as part of the design process?  Sounds like such a reasonable question right?  I tire of so many things that just don’t fit the container they come in once unpacked.  If it comes with a reusable bag or case it’s a guarantee it is undersized by at least a third.  This goes for the aforementioned tent bags, sleeping bag bags, and headphone bags just to name a few.  Even the almighty product design prowess of Apple is not immune to this.  This is evident in the recently updated Apple earphones.  They come with a case to wrap the cords that like all the other examples I mentioned barely fit unless the headphones are perfectly wound tight.  I struggle to close the lid every time and have even cracked it as well as rubbed some of the jacket off of the cables trying to close it.  I expected more of them honestly.

Read More

What’s My Favorite Gadget?

iPhone_5_AngledSharp_Front_Back_White_PRINT-p17uj3u2cm11ml131n172t1camj0u

Credit: Apple

Kindle Paperwhite

Credit: Amazon

If you asked four years ago, three years ago, even one year ago my answer to this question would have been one and the same – my Kindle eReader.  Really?  Yes, I’ll get to why soon but to answer that question today is a bit of a conundrum.  First you need to know that I’m a voracious reader and naturally by reading this you must know that writing is a passion of mine so it might make some sense that the Kindle was my choice for so long but that’s not the main reason.  I’m a big fan of things that focus on doing only one thing and not things that try to be all things to all people.  I’ve owned a Kindle ever since I pre-ordered the 2nd generation Kindle back in 2009.  I”m referring specifically to the Kindle with an E Ink screen, not the Kindle Fire tablets that get so much attention.  Next to paper E Ink is still the best way to go for pure reading.  I pretty much ditched print from the get go allowing exceptions for only a couple of my favorite authors.  I won’t even attempt to knock print form because I actually morn its decline with many of you but I stop short of feeling guilty.  Let me tell you why.  Amazon’s Whispersync cloud technology means that I can go anywhere with my entire library of books and just like how iTunes and the iPod freed most of us from those giant cd albums once you go paperless so to speak you’ll never go back.  Amazon’s controversial low pricing practices don’t hurt either. Read More

Dear AT&T Please Open The Throttle: What I did with access to a month of unlimited data

IMG_2921

I live in the heart of tornado alley, in fact I live within 20 miles of the very powerful EF5 that struck Moore, OK and the largest tornado ever recorded just a few days later near El Reno, OK.  Aside from a very near miss the day before the Moore tornado and spending this past weekend repairing my fence I’ve come out mostly unscathed as this year’s tornado season starts to wind down.  Not that I take joy in others’ misery but a fortunate thing occurred this past month as a result of the massive damage and lives put on hold.  AT&T decided to lift most voice and data restrictions for those in the affected area for a month.  Apparently that included me.  You see I’m one of the dwindling holdouts who purchased an unlimited data plan.   AT&T wooed me into another contract with the promise to grandfather my unlimited data plan in only to throttle me two months later.  That’s been about two years ago now and I’m still very bitter about it.  I pride myself as being one with common sense and knowing when to timely interpret the writing on the wall but on this issue I’ve decided to dig my heels in.  If there’s not a clearer issue of false advertisement I haven’t seen it and I just can’t understand why one of those big brother federal agencies you always hear about haven’t stepped in yet to squash the practice of throttling users with unlimited data plans.  I’ll get off my soapbox for now and get to the meat of this post which is what I did with a month of unfettered data access on a device running on arguably the fastest LTE network in the states.

To start I simply unleashed the reigns on one of my favorite music apps Songza.  Songza is one of many music streaming apps whose approach differs by allowing you to choose playlists by the mood you’re in.  It’s also got a great pool of playlists created by artists and brands.  Tip: check out the Songs From Apple Commercials playlist, it’s fantastic and surprisingly lengthy.  It’s fair to say I streamed from Songza at least four hours a day.  When I was in the mood for a specific artist or song I happily tuned in to Spotify and selected my choice at will at its extreme music quality setting no less.  This was a welcome experience after months of dealing with Spotify’s confusing interface and juggling my iPhone’s limited data storage when on wifi just to download the next day’s playlists.  If I ever felt in the mood for one of my own albums stored in iCloud I guiltlessly downloaded at will scoffing at the data warnings barked at me.

When tired of music I easily cleared out my queue on my Hulu app.  Now I don’t typically spend much time on YouTube except to view a video link I come across through the digital universe but I must say I got into the spirit quite easily a couple of times as I chased a couple rabbits after viewing a link.  There were a couple of  video podcasts that I usually would wait to download offline that I purposely streamed because I could.  When it came to watching Apple’s 2 hour long keynote speech and iOS 7’s unveiling at this year’s WWDC I skipped my employer’s putrid internet connection in lieu of my iPhone’s Safari stream.  The whole experience was quite liberating to be honest.  When the dust finally settled I had burned through 10 GB of data twice the normal amount I’m allotted on my unlimited data plan before being throttled on LTE (note: it is 3GB if you’re on a HSPA+ only device).  To be truthful I probably am the type of user that the powers-that-be at AT&T legitimize the decision to throttle but I must ask why else build the LTE network?

Relaxing restrictions for tornado ravaged victims was quite gracious of AT&T no doubt but I must say there’s massive amounts of irony in the fact that I finally got to experience my promised unfettered access on my LTE enabled device as a result of restrictions lifted to help victims.  Here’s some unsolicited advice AT&T, if you want to create some sort of brand loyalty, don’t offer your customers the promise of the the fastest network in America by getting halfway there by limiting their access.  Final thought, the folks at Chevrolet could make the Silverado the most fuel efficient truck in history overnight by adjusting the speed governor to 35 mph right?  Is this a fair comparison?  Sorry I just couldn’t stay off my soapbox.