The distance between humans and computers

When computers first made their entry into mass market, there was at least one internet connected computer in a locality. We used to go to browsing centres to browse the web and send e-mails.

When they became even more affordable, there was a computer in every home.

When Laptops started to become a trend, there was a computer in every room; along with the advantage of them being somewhat portable.

And now, there is a computer in every hand; always accessible, always connected; just an arm’s length away – the smartphone. They are computers in every true sense of the word; packing quad core processors and 2 gigs of ram along with a camera and much more would have been considered to be a joke 10 years ago.

The smartphone is not an evolution of the phone; its an evolution of the computer. As time goes on, the distance between humans and computers will only diminish.

The era of real ‘personal’ computing has just started.

You, not it

Specs don’t matter. As a keen Apple follower, I have learnt it to be true. Specs really don’t matter. And yet, people seem to poke around in depth for the specs of a device.

When you are in the market to purchase a device, keep this in mind:

It doesn’t matter what ‘it’, the device can do. What really matters is what ‘you’ as a user can do with the device.

And after you purchase a device, read my Good vs Awesome theory to get more out of your device.

Good vs Awesome

As with all things in life, smartphones too become boring over a period of time. There are so many things one can do with them and yet, we hit a roadblock sooner or later. People often think that there is only so much that a device can do. The iPhone comes pre-loaded with a few stock apps. And they are good. Good, as in ‘not-so-good to be called as very good’. They are like government clerks who do the same job every day but never ever step out of the ‘good’ territory. ‘Good’ is something which works, but doesn’t make you feel great. It’s ubiquitous, but not so delightful. And anything that’s not delightful becomes boring over time. I have always heard the ‘iPhone is boring, so I am going Samsung’ moan. The very same users jump back to the Apple camp after a frustrating user experience at sammy which they never admit to. These users are the ones who seek awesomeness. They want change. There is a popular saying -’we often miss what’s under our nose.’ When things get boring on an iPhone, I seek awesome apps. Not other platforms. There are so many awesome apps which can put the stock apps to shame by trumping them in terms of design and functionality. 

Its funny how people never bat an eyelid when purchasing dump-worthy devices like the note tab or some other behemoth phones in the market, but are determined not to purchase an app to make their existing iPhone better. You can always promote your iPhone experience from good to awesome, just by replacing stock apps with 3rd-party ones. I will list out some of the apps which I have on my iPhone that makes the experience awesome. 

Camera

Good: Apple’s Camera app. With every iteration of iOS, the fruit company has improved the app with HDR, lock screen shortcuts etc, but again, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Awesome: Camera+. Its a great app with tons of editing features, and some clever controls. All this doesn’t just add to the experience of using the app, it also makes your photos much better than what they would have been as a product of the stock camera app. $0.99 on the App store.

Notable app: Camera Awesome. Its free to download, but has a dozen in-app purchases which makes it a more expensive alternative to Camera+. Free, with IAP on the App store.

Notes

Good: Apple’s stock Notes app. The font choices Apple made here are underwhelming, but its a good app to take some quick notes.

Awesome: Simplenote. This cross-platform omnipresent service is a powerful notes app with the ability to add tags and cloud sync. The interface is simple and minimalist so that you can focus on the content and nothing else. Free on the App store.

Browser

Good: Mobile Safari. There is nothing wrong with mobile safari, but I have become bored of this browser of late. 

Awesome: Google Chrome. The ability to sync tabs, bookmarks and history makes it a great alternative. The tab management interface is also well implemented. It may not have the speed of safari or the sharing options provided by the stock app, but it still has plenty of strong points going for it which makes it my primary browser of choice. Free on the App store.

Twitter

Good:  Twitter’s official app. Twitter demoted this app from very good to good status when they killed the original tweetie interface. I like the ‘discover’ tab, but nothing more. Its a basic twitter app and simply a no-no for twitter addicts.

Awesome:  Tweetbot. Arguably the best twitter app for mobile devices in the whole universe. The design, powerful features and gesture based navigation are too good to resist. $2.99 on the App store

Instant Messaging

Good: iMessage. Instant messaging apps are a god sent for message lovers as it gives you unlimited free texts. iMessage is simple, works well and is baked into the stock messages app. The catch: You can send iMessages to iOS and Mac users only. 

Awesome:  Whatsapp messenger. It has all the goodness of iMessage in addition to the ability to send messages to users on any platform. Use this app for communication because not everyone loves Apple. $0.99 on the App store.

Mail

Good:  Sparrow Mail app. This is an exception where the stock app betters this 3rd-party app by Dom leca. Sparrow has some really useful features like tag and folder management right inside the app. The interface does look good visually, but it takes more taps than the stock app to get things done. Lack of push notification is also a thing to worry about. Most of the shortcomings of this app is more due to Apple’s restrictions than the developer’s fault. Moreover since google has purchased Sparrow, it won’t be long before it launches in a new free avatar. If you are not too convinced with the stock mail app, and want a good alternative, go for sparrow. $2.99 on the App store.

Awesome: Apple’s own Mail app. This app has stood the test of time. It hasn’t changed much since its first version in 2007, but is still the fastest mail app on iOS. It may not be too glamourous visually, but the user experience is almost perfect. Even though I have Sparrow, I find myself using this more than any other app for my e-mail needs.

Files

Good: Apple’s ‘No file system’ theory. This theory ties actions and content with apps and not some age-old file structure. The theory holds good for the future, but we are still lugging on to files and thumb drives. Apple’s theory sounds good but not practical for those of us who are slowly making the transition from a file-filled world to Apple’s no-files world.

Awesome: Readdle docs. This app is a powerful file manager for all your files. It also acts as an app for accessing your dropbox and drive accounts. Some other powerful features include the ability to auto-download all your attachments from e-mail to your documents folder. It also lets you wirelessly transfer files from your desktop to iPhone/iPad. $4.99 on the App store.

Springboard

Good: Apple’s 4 x 4 homescreen grid layout. Its been there since 2007, its still there in the upcoming iOS 6.

Awesome: My excitement goes a notch higher whenever I am allowed to skip a step in a process. With the simplistic UI of iOS, getting some things done feels too lengthy; like a magician’s handkerchief. Fortunately, I came across Launch center pro. Its the most handy app on iOS and one of those few apps which is not for novice users. The kind of actions you can setup in launch center are endless. Go buy it and thank me later. $4.99 on the App store.

Calendar

Good: Apple’s own calendar app.

Awesome: People say Agenda is great. I don’t use calendar much, but if you do, Agenda is a great option. $0.99 on the App store.

Scanning Documents

Good: Cam scanner free. It does some great scans, but the ads.. I hate ads.

Awesome: Readdle’s Scanner pro. It scans pretty well and has plenty of nifty features. I love the way it creates folders. Other than that, its a universal app and keeps documents in sync through iCloud. I use it for all my scanning and automatically backup all my scans to a folder on dropbox. Very handy. $6.99 on the app store.

Weather

Good: Apple’s stock weather app. It’s not ugly, but it’s no beauty either.

Awesome: Weather neue, Solar, Soaring.. There are plenty of great-looking apps in the app store for the avid weather watcher.

The list can be endless, but you get the point. By spending a little over 20$, you can upgrade your experience by leaps and bounds. Give these apps a chance and it will spice up your otherwise boring stock iPhone. 

What are they?

iPad Its the undisputed king in the tablet world. You can write, mail, paint, play, watch videos and read books. You don’t need a laptop if you have an iPad. Period.

Laptop The devices which try to be a full-blown desktop and fail at that, but not so miserably. For all the designers and developers, its the best road machine.

Desktop Its ageing, its immobile. But its still the ultimate powerhouse for content creation. I think it should be used only by designers and developers. For others, the iPad is best.

iPad mini/ Google Nexus/ 7′ tablets This is a new category, and only time can tell how users adopt it. In the future, these will be considered as less-powerful alternatives to tablets. Only for consumption, not creation.

Tech horror: This guy’s iCloud account got hacked

Tech horror: This guy’s iCloud account got hacked

This raises questions about how trustworthy cloud services are. Mat Honan says his account was hacked but the hacker didn’t use the password to do it. The hacker got in via Apple’s technical support system. This is really scary. Can we really trust cloud services yet? I am afraid not.

via daring fireball

How many People use Twitter’s official apps?

How many People use Twitter’s official apps?

Benjaming mayo has done an interesting analysis of the usage of Twitter apps with a million tweets as input. 6 out of the top 7 clients are official. Another thing to note is that 77% of people use official apps. On Twitter’s decision to ban third-party clients he says,

For people that think Twitter will never ban third-party clients because there would be too much backlash, I think this 77% figure shows that Twitter could do it with ease. A large portion of the 23% would be happily herded to a first-party client, as they don’t really care what app they use — it just turned out that the client they first downloaded wasn’t a Twitter-owned app. The only people who would care would be the geeks, like me and anyone else who could be bothered to read this post, who actually care about the client they are using. And let’s face it, Twitter doesn’t care about geeks.

This kinda worries me and I dread to think of the day when I won’t be able to use my favorite apps like Tweetbot on iOS and Echofon on windows. Twitter really doesn’t care about geeks.

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