Tag Archives: iphone

Spotify’s Interface Insanity

How not to design multi-platform

I’m a huge fan of Spotify, and love their product — it’s profoundly changed the way that I consume music. I use their product across a wide range of platforms however, and I’m constantly baffled by the lack of interface consistency.

Every different platform (see the images below) uses a different menu layout, slightly different iconography and unique labels —all without making use of any platform-specific interface options (like gestures). Although I’d like to believe it has to do with the different use cases of the different platforms, I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Check it out and LMKWYT:

Spotify on the iPad — lovely start screen

Notice the layout of menu options. Playlists — which are the most important feature of the system — are buried near the bottom of the menu. And for good measure, when you first login, you get that nice, ugly, blank search screen (where the majority of the real estate isn’t devoted to search, but rather to telling us about how much of the world’s music is available). Also unique to the iPad version is a menu called “What’s New” that doesn’t exist in any other interface. At least settings is somewhere logical.

Now, take a look at the iPhone:

Spotify for iPhone: Now with Discover!

So in the iPhone version, we have a new feature called “Discover”, a new concept called “Me” (how existential), Search and Browse are together, Radio comes before Inbox and settings is not separate from the other menu options. Maddeningly, playlists are once again below search, discover and radio…as though Spotify on the iPhone isn’t about playing existing music, but rather about deep discovery.

Now, let’s look at the desktop (Mac) version’s menu:

Spotify on the Mac Desktop

Here, search is in a completely separate area, there’s a concept called follow, I can play a queue — and because it’s probably really important — one of the highest priority menu items is “(manage) devices”. For kicks in this interface, there’s a new concept of a “collection” that includes local files (even though local files are also available on every mobile device). Playlists here are conveniently shown at the bottom of the pane, “starred” is not a playlist (instead living in the collection area),and playlists are not ordered by any obvious/logical order.

Also unique to the desktop client interface, the mini player and play controls live in this left pane….not in the central area as they do on the apps.

Spotify Web Client

Answering all of my prayers, Spotify has also released a web client that runs in standard modern browsers — though it’s in beta. Although this app uses the same real estate as the downloadable client, they chose to follow the iPhone client interface…somewhat. Here, search and browse are separated again, playlists is where it “should” be (if you don’t actually care about usability) and all the social features appear to have been rolled into follow. Below this, settings is where I expect it, but the web client also appears to introduce a new set of options: my profile (the avatar), a music chat bubble and notification buttons. These options don’t exist in the top level nav of any of the other versions.

The web client is the cleanest and best-designed app, though I’m sure you’ll be as frustrated as I was when you discover that it’s not available directly by logging in at Spotify.com — you have to click a music link to actually launch it. I’m sure this feature will come in the future, but it’s just another example of the company’s current UI bipolar disorder.

Which Spotify is which? I have a lot of respect for the company, and their product is transformative. But as my quick tour of their apps illustrates, they are not approaching UI with a common vision — and I’d posit that they don’t really even understand how their users use the service (evidenced by how poorly Playlist nav is handled). A consistent experience from one platform to another would go a long way to raising usability and eliminating confusion.

And just for shits and giggles: if you are a Sonos user…have a gander at the Spotify navigation there. I know it’s under Sonos’ control, interestingly, it is the cleanest nav in my estimation. What do you think?

Spotify for Sonos — really consistent, huh?

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How the iPhone Changed The World — Not By A Tech Analyst

Before using an iPhone, I was skeptical towards it.

Mostly because it came one month after I got a Samsung Jet and my phone contract doesn’t support iPhone (I have to wait another 2 years), secondly because it looked so cool and awesome but I couldn’t afford it and thirdly because the Jet was so laggy and less functional and less beautiful as compared to the iPhone.

I made up reasons and convinced myself an iPhone sucked. The parts and displays were made by Samsung, what I was using was Samsung! Mine is better! iPhone users are mainstream! I am the alternative smartphone guy!

But as months went by and I saw more people using it. Tech sites were talking about it all the time. I was at Razer at that time, doing product development and there were Apple fanboys too.

The designer fanboys were in awe of the smooth product design, the packaging and the screen resolution even though it was around the 3GS era. They talked about how awesome the camera was, everything was so functional and beautiful etc etc………..

The engineers were using it. The project managers were using it. Even my direct reporting assistant director was using it.

One of the many things he mentioned about the iPhone: “Once you use an iPhone, there’s no going back.”

And its true.

I realised the iPhone is magical and revolutionary. Yet the idea is so simple, but not easy. It is the first of its kind. Something so amazing and spectacular in a form of beauty never seen before.

There are loads of articles talking about how phones were like before and after the iPhone. Today there are more choices of touchscreen phones other than the iPhone. So “Once you use an iPhone, there’s no going back” is still true, to me.

Because today’s smartphones are based on the iPhone.

Soon the day came where the Jet no longer satisfies me. In fact I regretted when I unboxed it (but convinces myself its not that bad, but failed). It was laggy, design was bad, videos were slow, typing was slow, graphics were ugly, they’re not colourful and attractive, emails were complicating to check, the browser lags, the list goes on and on…

An iPhone 3GS alone beats everything.

And obviously, I soon got it and I remember it was a white one. I loved it.

The feeling was… inseparable. It was like when I received my first favourite toy. I want to have it with me at all times. Bring it with me to all places.

My peers, colleagues, friends, relatives.. were mostly using iPhones.

When I take the train, the bus, people were using it to watch shows, listen to music.. Cab drivers were using it to navigate.

Soon, more and more apps began to surface. Games, utilities, informative, news apps… and of course, Social Media.

The iPhone became viral. It spreads. The idea of it spreads. The usage of the product spreads. Tech sites, News sites, Finance Sites all talk about it. How the iPhone changes different worlds.

I’m glad I have the opportunity to be part of this phenomenon. This viral process. It’s crazy, and fun. People still talk about the iPhone today. But the magic has faded. The craze has lessened. The innovation is lesser.

Functions are better, faster and stronger. It’s thinner. Displays are amazing.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibilities.

The power Apple have is innovation. Now that they have changed the world with the iPhone… the world is looking at them that it is their responsibility to change the world, again. And again, and again.

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The FLIR ONE Case Gives Your iPhone Thermal Vision

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The FLIR ONE iPhone case significantly ups the imaging powers of your iPhone 5 or 5S, making it into a thermal imaging camera that lets you see heat signatures from either live people and animals from up to 100 meters away, or from environmental sources including heating ducts, wall gaps and more.

Most of FLIR’s products to date are aimed at hunters and professionals, but this iPhone case brings an affordable smartphone-based thermal camera to the masses for the first time, the company told me at CES. The FLIR is $350, which might seem steep for a case with a built-in camera, but it’s actually around $750 cheaper than their least expensive standalone model currently available, and it provides an easy-to-use interface that anyone could quickly learn.

The app for the FLIR ONE offers numerous modes that interpret thermal data differently, with some showing many degrees of temperature, and others more clearly showing more or less binary differences between extreme heat, average temperature and extreme cold. Amazingly, it also picks up residual heat, like that left by a foot on a carpet for quite a while after a person was there.

At first, I was a little skeptical about the potential use cases for a thermal iPhone case for the average consumer, but the company’s representative at CES explained that you could use it for something as simple as figuring out whether your dog is climbing up onto your bed when you leave or not. It could also be used for home security, detecting thermal leaks in your house, or finding water leaks in pipes behind the walls.

Of course, it can still be used for industrial and commercial applications, too, including contracting, home inspection and building maintenance. Users can snap photos of infrared images for their phone’s library, and share pictures from within the app. There’s also a plan for an SDK later in 2014, to let others build apps for the case.

The case also has a battery within that powers the camera itself for up to four hours of continuous use, which can also provide up to 50 percent more power for your iPhone, too, if used as a backup battery. The company says it’ll ship this spring, but pre-orders are open now. Thermal imaging might not be on the top of every smartphone user’s wishlist, but it could end up appealing to more people than you might suspect.


What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Learn From Food Trucks

If you just build it, they probably won’t come.

In the era of Amazon, Yelp and Rotten Tomatoes, buyers are increasingly choosy when it comes to what they’ll spend their money on. To woo potential clients, brands have to offer something extraordinary. And then there’s the small issue of retaining those new customers.

I’ve noticed that in the race to win consumers’ hearts (and wallets), entrepreneurs—from restaurants to software vendors—are increasingly turning to an old-fashioned fix. Their quaint recipe for success: Don’t make the customer come to you. Go to them.

These companies—many of which just so happen to be household names—have all found ways to make it easier for clients to engage and transactions to happen. Think of it as door-to-door sales for the digital age.

Food trucks: Bringing tasty, affordable cuisine straight to the customer.

The explosive growth in popularity of food trucks in North America over the past few years has been hard to miss. Food trucks are featured on reality TV shows, they’re being Zagat rated and they’re the focus of hundreds of adoring blogs and massive media coverage.

Why? Food trucks did what most bricks-and-mortar restaurants couldn’t. They brought their tasty, affordable offerings straight to the festivals, street corners, and office buildings where their target consumers live, work and eat. Forward-thinking vendors chose a new, more direct way to reach their target consumers. I think there’s a lesson there for all of us.

Zipcar: Convenient transportation for people who didn’t even know they needed it.

When Zipcar first emerged in the early 2000s, it seemed like a far-fetched idea. Sharing cars? Ten years later, the company is at the head of a flourishing worldwide car-sharing industry. In fact, earlier this year one of the world’s most established car-rental brands Avis Budget Company, purchased Zipcar for a cool $500 million.

Why did Zipcar take off? For starters, they parked their rentals along streets in heavily trafficked urban neighbourhoods—right under their target customers’ noses. Zipcar brought cars to drivers instead of waiting for drivers to come to them. Sprinkle in a bit of tech savvy behind the scenes and convenient registration and you’ve got a formula for success.

Netflix: Home entertainment straight to your doorstep. . . and TV screen.

It’s hard to believe that less than 10 years ago, Netflix was David to the then-Goliath Blockbuster movie rental chain. Fast forward to the present and Blockbuster is nearly defunct, while Netflix has turned the video rental industry on its head, changing the way that people consume home entertainment. And the company shows no signs of slowing down, having hit all-time stock highs this year.

Netflix’ enormous success over the past decade is of course largely due to the fact that it skipped storefronts and instead reached its target consumers more directly via the internet and their mailboxes. By taking this non-traditional approach, Netflix was able to reach and lock down a loyal new consumer base.

Square: Easy, on-the-go transactions in the palm of your hand.

A friend of mine was recently blown away when he went scuba diving in the tropics and was able to pay for his equipment and training session on the beach using his iPhone. Three years since its launch, Square has become a runaway hit, giving merchants armed with just an iPhone the ability to conduct seamless credit card transactions—from anywhere.

Today, over 3 million merchants have signed up for the Square transaction service to process $12 billion a year in transactions. By taking the point of transaction to the consumer rather than making the consumer come to the point of transaction, Square has transformed how we shop.

Hootlet: Social media, everywhere.

In just under a decade, social media has emerged as a game-changing technology, forever altering the way we communicate with each other—at home and at work.

At my company we’ve recently added a new tool that lets people tap into social media easier than ever before. With the Hootlet, users can (while browsing the web) immediately share anything they find to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more, without ever leaving the window. They can also search for geo-specific social media messages by others in real-time, all from within familiar platforms like Google Maps or Yelp.

In short, we’ve taken a page from the food truck strategy, bringing social media directly to our users, rather than making them go to social media. Once installed into your Chrome browser, the free Hootlet is there instantly, adding a social element to anything you do on the web.

How do extraordinary brands win your heart? Do you prefer that companies come to you?

Did you like this post? To read my weekly insights on social media, leadership, and tech trends, just click the ‘follow’ button at the top of this page.

For more social media insight and to learn more about my company, follow HootSuite on LinkedIn.

Image Credit: Timothy J Carroll

Posted by:Ryan Holmes


Need a Digital Detox? 5 Free Apps to Simplify Your Life in 2014

December 30, 2013

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Here’s some irony: Thanks to amazing advances in technology, we now have an endless selection of ingenious, time-saving apps and tools to fill our beloved smartphones, tablets and laptops. But thanks to these very technologies, we’re also finding we really don’t have a second left to spare.

What’s the solution? Yes, it would be nice to unplug and tune out. But for many of us—me included—that’s just not possible. Running a social media company, I can’t afford to turn my iPhone off, even for a few hours.

But I have found a few great tools to simplify and streamline my digital life. Here are five free apps—some classic and some new—that will help you save time and be more productive in 2014:

LastPass: Stop password madness
According to a recent ranking by SplashData, the most commonly used password last year was, you guessed it, “password.” If you’re ready to upgrade your security options but hate remembering dozens of different passwords, it’s time you finally got LastPass. Introduced all the way back in 2008, LastPass stores and automatically fills in all of your login credentials. It can even generate hack-proof passwords if you want.

But maybe you’ve been holding out all this time for the obvious reason: If someone hacks LastPass, won’t they have access to all of your sites? Consider this: LastPass stores your data online in a form that even the company (and the NSA, for that matter) can’t read. Plus, they offer two-factor authentication options to ensure you’re actually who you say you are. (While LastPass is free, the mobile edition starts at $12 per year–a small price to pay to never have to fumble through a login with your iPhone keypad again.)

Sunrise: A calendar app to actually get excited about
Even if you don’t really get excited about calendar apps and you’re perfectly happy with iCloud or Google calendar, I suggest taking a quick peek at Sunrise for iPhone. Not only does it pull in all the events from the aforementioned calendars, it also incorporates social data from services like Facebook and other networks. So, for instance, you can see Facebook events and friends’ birthdays, Foursquare check-ins, and more on one synchronized calendar. Plus Sunrise has a seriously eye-pleasing interface, with a two-week view up top and your day’s schedule in detail shown in a panel below.

Apart from those key features, it’s the little stuff that sets Sunrise apart from other free competitors. You can send and respond to event invites from within the app itself. A tap brings up a handy map to help you get to your next appointment. And, my personal favorite, Sunrise pulls in weather for your location and shows a little icon next to events throughout the day, so you always know when to bring the umbrella.

Hootlet: Stop wasting time on social media
Considering how popular social media has become, it’s still a headache in a lot of ways. To post to social networks or view the latest Tweets or updates, you generally have to stop whatever you’re doing on the net and go to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Hootlet ends all that. (Disclaimer: This little free tool is from my company, HootSuite.) Install it on your Chrome browser, and you can share any webpage with just a click, across any (or all) of your social networks (and even schedule when the updates go out). Then there’s the really cool stuff. Do a Google search and you’ll automatically see the latest relevant Tweets. Search for a restaurant on Yelp, and the most recent Tweets on the venue pop up. Put in any location on Google Maps and see Tweets sent from nearby.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Instead of having to make an effort to go to social media sites, Hootlet brings relevant social media to you–integrating Twitter and other networks into your browsing in all kinds of time-saving (and long overdue) ways.

Vizify: Your digital self on one snazzy website
You’ve got reams of social and professional info scattered across all corners of the net–on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and who knows how many other networks. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could somehow consolidate it all–with a few clicks–into one professional-looking website?

This is the charm of Vizify, which stands apart from existing personal site builders with its eye-catching, customized infographics. To set up the site, you just need to connect existing social profiles, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Relevant data is then pulled in and automagically arranged into not just a homepage but an entire website, with pages dedicated to your resume, education, social-media activity, and more.

It takes a bit of tinkering to get things looking just right, but the layout and graphics are top-notch. Among the coolest features: a timeline of all of your tweets showing which words you mention most from month to month; an instant graphical resume; and a customized animation illustrating all the places you’ve called home over the years.

Evernote Web Clipper: Never lose another web gem
For anyone who devours the web on a daily basis, the biggest problem is too much of a good thing. There’s so much extraordinary content–from articles to images, videos and Tweets–that it’s almost impossible to keep track of it. You read the most amazing gluten-free pizza recipe at work, for instance, and by the time you get home you have no idea where you saw it.

Enter Evernote’s Web Clipper, a browser extension that lets you “snip” out those little gems you encounter online and store them all in the cloud–neatly catalogued and accessible on any device. You can select a piece of text or an image or choose to save the entire article or page. The selection can even be highlighted and marked up with text and arrows, so you remember exactly what caught your interest and why. Plus, this can all be shared via email or on social networks. Web Clipper has been around for years now, and it’s hard to imagine my digital life without it.


Did you like this post? To read my weekly insights on social media, leadership, and tech trends, just click the ‘follow’ button at the top of this page.

For more social media insight and to learn more about my company,follow HootSuite on LinkedIn.


Posted by:Ryan Holmes


Snapchat, Vine among top smartphone apps of 2013

By Natasha Baker

TORONTO Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:36pm EST

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(Reuters) – Snapchat, Vine, and Candy Crush Saga earned coveted spots on smartphones this year, making them among the most downloaded apps of the year.

There are more than a million apps on Apple Inc’s App Store and Google Inc’s Play store, the two dominant marketplaces for apps, which see billions of downloads each year.

This year, the most downloaded apps were new takes on communication, gaming, and entertainment, according to mobile app experts.

“2013 was a really interesting year in terms of maturation, milestones and new trends,” said Craig Palli, chief strategy officer at Fiksu, a mobile marketing company based in Boston.

“The most downloaded apps were in familiar categories, but offered new twists,” he added.

While old favorites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter — available for iPhone, Android and other devices – continued to be popular ways of communicating with friends, Snapchat eclipsed them in downloads in 2013, becoming the sixth most downloaded free app of the year on the App Store, according to Apple.

“Snapchat went from being a niche app to achieving much more critical mass, so much so that Facebook was reportedly willing to spend billions of dollars to acquire the company,” said Palli.

With Snapchat, users can send photos and videos that disappear shortly after they are viewed.

Launched in 2011, the app’s user base continued to grow rapidly in 2013, with over 13 million people using the app in October, according to the latest available estimates from global information and measurement company Nielsen. In December alone, over 400 million pieces of content were shared through the app, according to Snapchat, based in Venice, CA.

Vine, a video sharing app released earlier this year by microblogging company Twitter Inc, was the fourth most downloaded free app in 2013. The app, for iPhone, Android and other devices, allows users to share videos under six seconds in length. Nielsen estimates over 6 million people in the US were using the app in October of this year.

Snapchat and Vine fall into a category that mobile analytics firm Flurry calls camera-enhanced messaging, which they said grew eightfold in 2013.

“The communications category underwent phenomenal growth this year. Messaging apps like Snapchat, Line, Kakao (KakaoTalk) and WeChat are all exploding and becoming bigger than the carriers in their home countries in terms of users,” said Simon Khalaf, chief executive of San Francisco-based company Flurry.


Games were another popular category, with Candy Crush Saga for iPhone, Android and Kindle Fire securing its position as the top downloaded free app, and as the top revenue grossing app. It has been downloaded over 500 million times since its launch last year, according to its creator King, based in the UK. Nielsen estimates that over 20 million people in the US were playing the game in October of this year.

In the entertainment category, Pandora continued to be the leading way to stream music and was the ninth most downloaded, and third top grossing, app in 2013.

“Clearly the device has swallowed radio,” said Palli. “Despite the new entrants, Pandora remains the dominant player in the space,” he added.

But the biggest trend of 2013, according to Palli, is the emergence of apps as a way to control companion devices, which he believes will continue to grow in 2014.

On Christmas Day, apps that pair with devices were among some of the top downloaded apps on the App Store.

The Fitbit app, for iPhone and Android, pairs with an electronic wristband to track metrics such as steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned. It was the 16th most downloaded app on December 25, according to Palli, who monitored the Apple rankings.

Other apps that pair with devices, such as Chromecast, UP by Jawbone, and GoPro were also among the top downloads that day.

Khalaf predicts that apps for televisions will be the trend to watch for 2014.

“I think 2014 could be the year the TV industry gets disrupted by mobile,” said Khalaf.

“If you think about it, every American spends $100+ dollars per month on a service that is not personalized and not mobile. It’s an area that’s ripe for disruption and I think someone will come up with new content, maybe a new device and more importantly a better business model.”

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Gevirtz)

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Longposting: the case of Apple’s iPad

Life on iPad — this is how the text storytelling sells

View story at Medium.com

Apple has recently launched its “Life on iPad” campaign,

This is the brilliant example of how the longposting works:

  • Long-form type of content: stories and examples illustrated
  • Communication: not a direct sell, but a storytelling

Let’s analyze it in few steps.


The campaign runs for all languages.




See the skin-diver in the bottom row? That’s a tile for the campaign.

Cover image

By choosing a cover image Apple signals that it will be showcasing interesting stories, not products technical characteristics.

And we see it by clicking the tile.

“Life on iPad” English page


The title of the story matters. A lot.

First of all, Apple highlights that the tile is about stories. Simply compare: iPad Air — iPad Mini with Retina Display — Life on iPad.

Second, the word “Life” is strong enough to be ready to listen to stories and to express emotions.

Now it’s time for stories

That’s about Apple’s presentation of stories on iPad.

Already familiar with the approach? May be. A collection of stories, big pictures, even more visual power, utilizing cover images, typography, spacing.


The new idea about stories’ pages is that Apple shows it as real stories/articles, the ones we used to on Medium: full-screen text, large quotes, titles and subtitles, left/right aligned images, even more pictures, also with text above.

Just compare it with iPhone 5S Forward thinking page to notice some incremental changes.

And see any of Medium’s Editor’s Picks as well to understand the beauty of long stories.

Full-screen text, large quotes, titles and subtitles, left/right aligned images, even more pictures, also with text above.

So these are the elements of Life on iPad articles.

Cover image and title

Subtitles and short article description


Text illustrations

Smart typography

To sum up.

Apple has used the longposting approach with all the style it has.

And that’s all.

Who’s next?

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Just in case. Business cases. Visual Storyteller. Sarcasm alert! Twitter: @redisflat | The voice of @StepicLab