Mobile Communications and the abstraction of computing devices


Why hello there old friends. I have now moved countries, changed positions, exited the Mothership (Nokia – through the gift shop no less) gathered more devices, experienced more differing approaches than ever before, and am now re-emerging out of the NDAs. I have met some very interesting people along the way, some disrupting the space they inhabit, some oddly reveling in mediocrity, and some just…..waiting.

As a dusting of fingers occurs ready to write once again, I shall start with the topic of PHOTOWARS – the impending pissing-match to render the most authentically-degraded photo possible, all while ironically arguing about which smartphone has the best camera….

It’s good to be back.


Oh the times they are a’changin…

It is time to start writing again. At least a post a week. C’mon, can’t be that hard eh?

Testing post from N900

Trying out MaStory blogging client on the Nokia N900…….


Damn, what can I say? My time is taken up by so many things. I have a few new topics to discuss, and they WILL appear shortly.

Btw. The blog now looks nice on webkit-based mobile browsers (e.g iPhone and S60)

News update (BREAKING NEWS)

I put the ‘Breaking News’ in the title for kicks, but anyway….

Well, it’s been a crazy journey. Only a few posts ago, I mentioned that I had a new job as Technical Concepter at iconmobile in Berlin.

Um…I have a new job. At Nokia, in Berlin, as Senior UX Designer.

It was time to go deep into the heart of the Mothership, and spread some ideas. So what this all means regarding this blog, is that I will maintain impartiality regarding smartphones in general. But I will not make any comment on Nokia’s future offerings. That’s the way it is folks. No info from me, so if you are looking for Nokia rumors…you won’t find any here.

The scope of this blog will expand slightly, taking in more aspects of interface design (still on mobile devices), and more commentary on the experience of mobility in general. As far as posting frequency, well, I have to fit this around my job/girlfriend/baby. Rather than posting frequent content of limited interest, I would rather post well thought out arguments and analysis. So less is more, actually.

Palm Pre = is this really a new idea?

As most of you technologically-savvy smartphone watchers will have noticed, Palm is back from the dead. And they have got a whole load of newness to show the world!

After what seems like a decade, Palm has brought a ‘whole new UI paradigm’ to the smartphone table. Apparently, there are no applications on this phone. Just a whole load of……cards. This is apparently also enough to convince certain people that the UI is way ahead of everything else, including the iPhone UI.

I call shenanigans. Colour me a non-believer.

I’m really sorry, but I like to call a spade a spade. Those ‘cards’ ARE applications. There is nothing ‘groundbreaking’ about a merged email/IM client application. There is also nothing amazing about ‘multitasking’, because *most* smartphones have been doing it for years. Now, I commend Palm for making a UI that looks nice, and feels very ‘now’ but really – an iPhone killer?

And I am also sceptical of the developer environment: a mix of HTML/JS/CSS. Erm, isn’t this what Apple proposed for the iPhone’s ‘Web apps’ SDK, and then universally derided for not providing a *true* SDK that allows access to the hardware? With no access to the lower-level API’s, there is no fun. Just a whole load of ‘widget’ style apps. If you think that the AppStore is currently flooded with crap ‘..ifart’ style apps, then just wait for the Palm appstore.

Of course, I love the fact that ANY competition is good in the phone industry. It will make the next-gen iPhone even better. It *may* make Nokia try harder. It will help RIM fix their UI problems (storm).

In the end it is good for the smartphone.


WordPress in your pocket

This post has been written using the new WordPress application, available for free from the appstore. There is not a lot to say really, other than it just works perfectly. This turns my iPhone into a viable blogging platform. The only thing I would like to see is the use of landscape mode for typing, which makes long posts just a touch easier to write. One thing I noticed: I find it quicker typing a post on the iPhone (due to the auto spelling correction) than on my laptop. Hmm…why isn’t there an auto-correct for lousy typers on the desktop?

Overall the application is a joy to use and will make my blogging that much quicker. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


So…..um…….where was I?

O.K. (deep breath). Here are the reasons why there has not been any activity over the last couple of months:

1) I, or rather my girlfriend, are having a baby. Any day now. So a LOT of things have had to be sorted out..

2) I have a new job (started in mid-may) that I will explain later.

3) New Job+New Baby+No iPhone news= No updates.

I have finally got things back in order now. All my ducks are in a row. There has been massive changes over the last few months to my life, but now the dust is settling. I apologize to the readers for seemingly abandoning this blog, but this is not the case at all. So…enough with the formalities, let’s get back to business.

MY (new) JOB:

I have completely left the computer industry. I am no longer a System Consultant, nor a Daylite Consultant (although technically I still have the qualification). I am now doing what I always wanted to do: Be involved on a high-level with the mobile/smartphone industry. This happened out-of-the-blue in mid May, when a company approached me and wanted to know more about my skillset. To cut things short, they gave me the Job. I am a Technical Concepter at iconmobile

I am involved in the initial planning, researching and designing of mobile devices, for a range of clients/companies (which due to signing multiple NDAs, I cannot talk about). I am currently working on a project with a very-large client, that will only see the fruits next year. This has given me an amazing insight into the mobile industry. Coming from the computer industry to the mobile industry has been a shocker. The mobile industry seems to be a bit…well, lost. The iPhone has had an impact that is hard to really grasp until you are in the middle of high-level meetings, and realize that every benchmark, every bit of design, every bit of marketing kudos is centered around the iPhone. That’s all anyone talks about. BELIEVE ME. A million Nokia handsets could be launched at the same time, and it would get nothing more than a passing recognition. Apple has to do nothing, and everyone is on tenderhooks, nervous about what Apple may launch next, to solidify its position in the market even more.

That’s why I was valuable. Because I come from the enemy’s side. The mere thought of Apple, a computer company walking into the mobile industry and seemingly taking over, sends shivers down the halls of a lot of these companies that are stalwarts of the telecommunication industry. They want to understand what it is that makes Apple get all the glory. Of course, its relatively simple: Apple does not design products based on market demographics, personas, etc. It is an entirely selfish process. Apple designs products that are for themselves. It knows that if it works, people will buy it. End of the story. Whereas the mobile industry is running around looking for that secret elixir…that answer to their problems: to make a compelling product.

Anyway, rather than go on and on, just a heads-up that the regular blogging will recommence now (especially since I now have the WordPress blogging client on my iPhone…)

So get ready for the 2nd Wave.

The case of the disappearing iPhones…

So O2 in the UK has no iPhones left, T-Mobile in Germany has a few left. What’s going on Apple? It seems that something is waiting around the corner… In the meantime you could go and buy the new HTC Diamond, which on the surface looks nice, a commendable effort. But underneath that laggy ‘TouchFlo 3D’ interface is the hard reality. Windows Mobile. The iPhone killer is still not here. Expect massive media frenzy in T-minus 30 days over something else.

(UPDATE: O2 has declared that they DO still sell the current iPhone, it’s just that they are out of stock at the moment)

Consistency vs. Possibilities

So Sun is still trying to get Java onto the iPhone. And Adobe is trying to get Flash on the iPhone. And a small subset of iPhone purchasers want to have these two add-ins on their iPhones. And what is Apple’s current answer?: NO. While it may seem unfair, and uncompetitive of Apple to have this stance, it also makes perfect sense.

On the majority of standard mobile phones out there, Java is a valid contributor to allowing applications to be installed on low-power, closed OS handsets. On smartphones Java exists, but is also seen as the ‘poor-mans’ way to getting apps on your devices. Just look around the various other smartphone-related websites, and you will not see a lot of love for Java apps. Most people prefer native-coded applications on smartphones, due in part to the way an app can integrate into the overall OS experience. Java does not integrate very well on the surface, sitting inside it’s own JVM sandbox, using the JVM to translate/hook in to the underlying OS. There is no ‘write once, run anywhere’, as you only have to look at the J2ME app-scene to see that this doesn’t work. Screens on mobile devices have different sizes, resolutions, different input methods (touchscreen, multi-touch screen, joystick controlled etc). And whether Java devs agree or not, my personal experience with Java/J2ME on mobile devices is that the apps run SLOW. Screen redraw is slow. Launch time (which is critical on mobile devices) is slow. So why would Apple, who clearly have spent a great deal of time developing the iPhone’s interface, the time spent streamlining and optimizing the OS, the time spent developing the SDK for developers want to allow a legacy framework on their hardware? Well, they wouldn’t. And if I was making the decisions at Apple, I also would not allow Java. It just doesn’t fit with the tightly-controlled HIG that Apple has set for the iPhone. Imagine the torrent of awful Java applications that would appear on the iPhone, all obeying their own sets of rules, all giving (possibly) a different experience than each other. The iPhone, as an interaction concept, would die. Lack of consistent dynamics across the platform / UI. So what about this Innaworks company that Sun is talking to? (Innaworks are developing a cross-compiler to go from Java to Objective-C). On the surface this seems quite a good idea, but really….why would Java devs spend ages coding just to recompile in a completely different language? Is it really worth the time? After all, if a bunch of new programmers, with no official frameworks, no support, and no documentation can produce applications that rival ANY Java app, what does this say for Java. I am talking here about the Jailbreak-scene. This community did it all with no official support and no documentation whatsoever. A large majority of the devs were entirely new to programming. But inside of one year, there are now hundreds, if not thousands of natively-coded applications. And all this was done for free, in spare time, with no real financial incentive (Ok, now this has changed, due to the possibilities with the official SDK / App store). So when I hear Java devs moaning about the lack of Java on the iPhone, I have no sympathy whatsoever. I say go and learn to program in Objective-C, after all, if the ‘newbie’ devs of the jailbreak scene can code a to-do list in a few hours, why do we need sandboxed Java apps? The same goes for Adobe’s Flash. While I can see it’s value on the web (in more ways than one), it is not an application framework. Flash Lite is not Flash ‘Full-Fat’. I can see some value in Flash for interface ‘rapid prototyping’, but really, if you want to build an application LEARN a language! This is why I have massive respect for developers that have learnt to REALLY code in C (this goes not only for the basis of the iPhone OS, but also Symbian as well). It’s not pretty, it’s not easy, but…in the end you have a far more powerful application than Java or Flash-based apps could ever be.

Java and Flash have their genuine value in other areas, like the server-space and web-based multimedia. But really, they don’t belong on the iPhone as a environment, in my opinion.