The Case for Physical Keyboards on Phones – Why I use a Blackberry in 2018?

Last year, BlackBerry did what it should’ve done a decade ago. It switched to Android OS on a Blackberry carrying a Physical Keyboard – called the KeyOne.

Physical keyboards is still an essential hardware for modern day computing. It’s a device which is not broken, just not as necessary for a smartphone. A Touchscreen reproduce the effect of a keyboard/mouse on a display and more. It was the obvious tradeoff for a device characterized by compactness.

Why we still use Physical Keyboards?

While smartphones is a good balance of the many ways we express and interact, people do have some predominant methods. Some capture, some draw, some speak and some write. 2017 was the year we saw different smartphones cater to specific use cases like Gaming (Razerphone), Filmmaking (LG V30), and now writing — BlackBerry KeyOne. That’s what I see it as – not just an email machine but a device for long-form content. A physical keyboard is an instrument to a writer. I can interact with a software to tell a computer to produce specific sounds at specific times, but a pianist never composes that way. For him the best interface is a piano. He needs physical keys that syncs muscle memory with thoughts. Continue reading “The Case for Physical Keyboards on Phones – Why I use a Blackberry in 2018?”

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Why Vlogs is one of my favourite Art Forms?

Have you ever ran to the nearest mall to see your favourite actor in flesh n bones? Or couldn’t stop narrating how you once ran into the National Team Player in a Hotel Lobby? To me, these stories has always felt hollow. Incidents like these don’t count as a memory in my diary. I need more. Maybe a brief conversation with that person, a live performance, or a good speech. I guess I can safely say I have never indulged in typical fandom. Until, I discovered Vlogging.

Vlogging is a sub-genre of filmmaking that had always felt a bit mundane to me. Why would I wanna see a person carry around his camera all day, capture everything and dump it all in a video. Lazy Narration and Low Production is not what I wanna watch in a film.

There are few art forms that can be cited as condescending as vlogging. To assume people should care about what you’ve to say is in itself a bit condescending. In this context, Vlogging as a product seems to be just feeding off of people’s addiction to indulge in famous lives.

When arguably the most acclaimed vlogger, Casey Neistat, started his vlog, his wife Candice saw it as egotistical, an attempt to “be famous for just being famous.”

BUT

Casey Neistat saw vlogging as using your life as a narrative for a daily series. He made two choices which changed vlogging forever :

  1. “My goal has never been to share all the initimacies of my life. This ain’t a journal. I want to share a STORY — typically a three act narrative. A entertaining piece of content based on his life – his perspective… everyday.”
  2. “I constantly want to UP the production level and make every video seem more like a Movie.”
Picture by Nerdwriter (Evan Pushack)

A DSLR on a gorilla pod is way heavier to carry around all day than any hand-held vlogging camera from the past. I say past because everybody switched to this rig after Casey introduced it to the platform. Just like everyone else, Casey employs a variety of cameras for his videos. As Evan Pushack explains in his video essay, “each camera and each lens has it’s own personality and Neistat is constantly switching them around.” The fact that he carries such a heavy rig is itself evident of the fact that he wants the show to look real, not be real.

The camera becomes a part of the show and this realism is what gives the viewer a raw slice of life. Sitting in India, my impression of New York is largely based on what Casey has depicted and less based on 100s of episodes across various NYC sitcoms.

I believe the choices that Casey takes with his content parallels the choices we make when sharing our day with a friend. If you like telling stories, you never start out chronologically morning to evening, but instead you pick your set of events and introduce relevant context, warp space and time to build an interesting story as in a video edit. The art is in the edit. These simple stories told day after day contributes to the image that your friend has of you.

An entire vlogging culture has taken over the platform with each creator sharing their daily perspectives. Vlogging feeds off  of the same curiosity that makes us talk to strangers while travelling. That’s the effect a daily series based on someone’s life create – that of a distant friend.

Vlogs are animated by the personality of the creator, uploaded without any filter between the creator and the person. I think meeting Casey will be very much like meeting a friend. You’re NOT caught off-guard by the question, “How is the celebrity in real life?” I exactly know how Casey is with his fans, family and colleagues as I have seen it in tens of vlogs.

The stories that our friends tell us, strangers on our travels tell us, are of some actual value to us. Insta-stories and Snapchat are popular for the same reason. YouTube has successfully commoditized these stories and provided a business for people who used to just love telling their stories to their friends.

Call it fandom, but buying Casey’s merch is a souvenir to these direct, unfiltered relationship developed over the years. I went from not liking the art-form to indulging in ‘fandom’ for the very first time. Filmmaking is now a sport. CN is, indeed, my Creative Hero!

I keep dabbling with the idea of starting a vlog someday.

Photographs that make me feel Jealous

LESSON :

“If you want to grow, step out of your comfort zone.” Well, jealousy is pretty discomforting. I feel a sense of envy when I come across certain pictures which I could have created as well with the gear I had. I feel envious of pictures which were clicked at the same location as I was, in the same lighting I had. I feel envious of situations which I came across but never taught to capture. Better pictures by my Junior photographer.

Now, there are some saints who don’t feel this emotion. But imperfect people like me tend to feel a sense of it, every now & then. Now generally, you would choose to ignore it.

Instead, I choose to save these photographs. Now you can argue on the motivational drive from jealousy. But what I am interested in is the fact that these pictures are essentially in my reach. In photography, the equipment available to you plays a big role. Hence, consuming pictures which are achievable with current resources is of paramount importance.

Hence, I dissect these pictures from the thought to camera settings to final editing. The fact is: these pictures are the most direct examples of the very next step into growing my photography.

The emotion of Jealousy is a sign. Someone asked me recently, ” I want to consume pictures that will help me grow my perspective.” Well, you can start with pictures that make you feel jealous.

REMEMBER, REMEMBER :

  • Try to understand the new tricks applied and the purpose. And when you yourself apply these tricks, first check if it serves the purpose.

iPhone X is in its first gen. Should you buy one?

iPhone X is so drastically different from the previous iPhones, that it just didn’t feel right to treat it as the next iteration. It is the final chapter to the first installment into what the future of Apple Ecosystem will look like. Apple thinks that iPhone X marks the next stage of Smartphones and is accordingly priced and named. And that makes me wanna look for the first gen. signs in this new genre i.e. the iPhone X. Let’s Go.

Bezeless Display

This seems like a definite update. But our dream phones agreed to no Left/Right Bezels. No top/bottom chin will place the UI elements in a new position. Like the keyboard will be further down, the notification swipes further up. We will have to see how that plays out in real world use and …drop tests.

My prediction: It would be fine, given Apple went with the perfect screen size.

Face ID

First, Face ID sensors have to prove as reliable & secure as Touch ID.

Second, it has to prove the Software routine built around Face ID is as intuitive & fast as the Touch ID.

Third, Face ID has to prove as robust as Touch ID, meaning, no matter how you hold the phone, whenever you want to unlock the phone, it should unlock.

My prediction: Optimistic about first two, not so much about the third. That hardware looks rad though!

No Press to Home

When Google advocated getting rid of physical buttons, I applauded it. Software design was ditching skeuomorphism in favor of flat design, coz it didn’t make sense to imitate the physical world when you are spending most of your time interacting with virtual elements. Hence, to have a physical button as part of an interface that was saying goodbye to physical buttons didn’t seem right.

A physical home button felt more like a full stop in our App routines. It always felt like ending the job in one App and switching to another. But communication b/w apps proved multiple apps can contribute to a single JOB. Hence, Multitasking button should feel like a comma and Home button should feel like a semi-colon. The power button is the full stop. Now, whether gestures or tap is the way to go, that remains to be seen.

Fun Fact: Both approaches were originally conceived by Matias Duarte & his team. Gestures in the Web OS, and Taps in Android.

My prediction: I like gestures. But at times it may feel more cumbersome than simply forcing down the display.

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ARKit

Apple’s big new API is augmented reality and has a lot of hardware to support that. It is certainly more extensive than any other phone out there. Though it is not as extensive or capable as Google Tango, which is admittedly the Mobile AR from the future. But in 2017 Hardware, Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore is what we have to settle with. Will AR on Apple’s hardware help justify the higher price or should you wait out a year for the platform to mature remains to be seen?

My prediction: It’ll probably take at least another year before AR becomes an integral part of your Lifestyle.

Edit : Possible AR Applications make me believe that Google might just have better software and more data to better execute it. And judging on the original Pixel, the Pixel 2 hardware seems promising. Although, Google will attempt to translate all its services to ARKit on iOS.  Also, ARKit will likely attract more support from developers. 

Lightning Port

Apple spent the last year re-defining the next era of its eco-system. And they have finalized the standards they will be using with the release of their Flagship device. Lightning port on all Portables & Home Devices, USB C on the Macs, W1 Chips for wireless pairing, Qi Standard for power, & Siri, AirDrop & AirPlay to tie them all. Is this the best eco-system functionally & economically?

My prediction: Apple’s Software plays well in its ecosystem. But the very existence of USB-C to LIGHTNING dongle doesn’t speak well for that decision. While Apple has poorly communicated its decision to choose the lightning port, it won’t matter to you much unless you invest in LIGHTNING PORT peripherals.

Pricing

An iOS device with a bezel-less OLED display, AR capabilities, the plethora of depth &  light sensors at the front and 60 fps 4k Video has no precedence. It is a new generation of devices. Hence Apple could’ve priced it whatever the hell they wanted. Now how this pricing plays out in the market remains to be seen.

My prediction: Pricing is possibly the biggest downside, decisively not worth it. iPhone X pricing suddenly made bezel less display a novelty, rather than a characteristic of a 2017 Smartphone.

iPhone X is Apple’s statement of what the next gen. of Smartphones will be like. Apple is playing with a lot of new hardware & whether it is all rightly integrated and priced, should be tested before being bought. If history is any indication, Apple has always fucked up their first gen. devices.

iPhone X pricing suddenly made bezel less display a novelty, rather than a characteristic of a 2017 Smartphone.

What thin phones & no audio jacks taught us about Consumers?

Recently, I have been using an LG v20 and though it was launched 8 months ago, nobody knows about it. It was one of the unpopular phones. It didn’t receive much attention, & why would it? It wasn’t the thinnest phone with beautiful colors, it made no controversial decisions like removing audio jacks, and it had V20 stamped on the back, not Apple. In fact, LG V20 was launched a day before the iPhone 7. LG marketing team must definitely be fired.

And by now, you are convinced that I am an Android fan boy invariably hating on Apple. And I can’t blame you for that. You were aware of this popular thing, procured information that comfortably proves this thing and made your decision. Well, this is how most people buy phones as well. And the thing is often the iPhone or the S8.

It’s always a comfortable, quicker purchase if a popular phone happens to be a well-recieved phone.

One of my friends bought a OnePlus 5 few days after launch and everybody wanted to check it out. And almost everyone commented how awesomely thin the phone feels. That gave my friend a big smile, his latest phone got all the ‘likes’, and 10 minutes later he dropped it. Why? Because the phone was too thin to securely grip. Inevitably, he bought a phone case and took it off whenever he wanted to show off his latest toy. Smiles & Security!

Smiles & Security – This is characteristic to jewelry. But smartphones are no jewelry, it is an incredibly powerful tool designed to change the way we live, while gold is still gold. Don’t get me wrong. Designing your smartphone like a jewelry isn’t blasphemy. In fact, designing electronics like jewelry majorly helped Apple make technology from intimidating to friendly for consumers. It is what made these devices “trending”, winning the attention that these devices need to be adapted to the human lifestyle.

#Trending – In the age of Social Media, what’s trending is what’s being bought. You don’t need me to tell you that. The goal of a good marketing campaign is to popularize a piece of information and make the consumers believe that the information is complete and enough to make the purchase. This belief is stronger when propagated by consumers, instead of the “evil companies” and in today’s social media, consumers have a louder voice than ever before. That’s what makes this trends VIRAL.

Now when you don’t conform to these trends, you miss out on your place in this pop phenomena. You’re like the weird dude not dancing to Chainsmokers. That can be unsettling when online media plays such a crucial role in our social lives. For example, I get a lot of hate for not preferring something about the awesome new iPhone.

When they removed the Audio Jack, I expressed my dislike. When it comes to Audio, I wanted to see Apple fit a really high-quality DAC/Amp inside the phone to power the awesome headphones created by legendary companies like Sennheiser or Audio Technica. The technology is there. LG v20 has it. But Apple didn’t opt it. And well they had a damn good argument. They wanted to popularize Wireless headphones.

But observe a trend here: Wireless Tech, Thin phones. This is the ‘cutting edge’ technology that can be advertised on billboards. The kind of things that makes you believe that Apple is selling you the latest & greatest mobile tech. When people check out my LG v20, they try to get a feel of the tech inside it. They ‘feel’ the phone, take pictures and see how it all looks on the ‘big beautiful’ display and forms a notion of the tech inside it.

Companies know these. That’s why the buzz words are: rich high definition Display, best Camera Quality, professionally-crafted Phone Case & great Slo-Mo Videos. But while our videos look better & better, they still sound shit. This is what I had against Apple. They could’ve popularized buzz words like “Real Sound”. But well, Apple made no such noble promises. And it’s fine as long as we buy the phone that serves our purposes.

Except, we don’t. The modern smartphone was born & always been consumed in this Viral culture. And what goes viral? The “latest” tech. Except that there’s no such thing as the most advanced smartphone, nor that there needs to be one. In fact, Smartphones are the most personal computing devices ever built. Your choice of smartphone should simply satisfy your specific needs. Put simply, Apple telling everybody needs an iPhone is them telling one size fits all.

Now, Apple is not entirely wrong. The iPhone does appeal to a wide audience. But that’s where the problem lies. In this viral culture, every company wants to make a phone that satisfies the common needs of the widest audience. To go trending, to sell.

Companies can design their phones, include & omit features to adhere to a specific demographic. But then these phones won’t find itself in the “Trends.” And that’s a problem for a company like Samsung. While SPen is useful to only a certain demographic, Samsung wants to advertise that the new Note 8 will help everybody. Dear Samsung, I know the Note packs all the latest & greatest tech, but has it occurred to you that I don’t need it. It’s been 10 years since the original iPhone, and my buying decisions are no longer controlled by owning the latest smartphone but owning the smartphone I need. I know what I do with a Mobile computer.

But Samsung, Apple, or LG, they all want to make the same statement – “we have the latest & greatest flagship device.” They want to appeal to a wider audience. In doing that, they make compromises that were otherwise prized by a niche demographic. For example, people who want the High Fidelity Audio or Manual Controls for Video often have specific routines which demand things like removable batteries, extendable storages, etc which are being discarded in the name of Appealing Design.

It’s fine if you only have common needs from a smartphone. Thankfully, today you can meet these needs very reliably at a very economical price from companies like the OnePlus. The year is 2017. And companies must have a line up of, say, a Business Smartphone, a Designer’s Smartphone, a Filmmaker’s Smartphone and not just running after the “latest & greatest” Flagship Smartphone. Make your choice you rich consumers!

The Next Stage in the Evolution of Smartphones

No matter how much these companies try to convince you that their LATEST phone is going to change your life, smartphones have reached a Plateau. The five basics of Smartphone: Build, Display, Camera, Performance & Battery have matured to a stage, where they can do mostly everything we hope to do with our phones, even for the next 2-3 years. And I think this is not something to be disappointed about, but something that should be celebrated. It allows for the smartphone industry to fine tune the various inventions made over the years, most importantly to be able to integrate these little pieces of ‘magic’ into the very strata of human lifestyle. And this is perhaps the most exciting part… as Smartphones’ true potential lies in the democracy that it brings to Personal Computing, weaving the Next Billion into this stage of civilization.

Smartphones have to overcome their Socio-Economic hurdles, be as robustly accessible and consumed as, say, ELECTRICITY.

For this to happen, smartphones have to overcome their Socio-Economic hurdles, be as robustly accessible as, say, ELECTRICITY.  And that can’t be sufficed by great engineering. For that, companies have to catapult the socio-economic nature of smartphone age.

One key aspect is : “contagious adoption”. This, in the shadow of modern networking, has never had featured such INFLUENTIAL levels.  And what we call, the Information Age, is literal to the phenomena like OnePlus, or Justin Bieber.

Continue reading “The Next Stage in the Evolution of Smartphones”

How Apple should’ve eliminated the Audio Jack!

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It created a lot of chaos and trolls when Apple removed the Audio Jack. It is hard to get rid of a port which has been a standard for over a century. And yes, it took courage. But this is what big companies are supposed to do : pioneer new trends in the industry!

This is what Apple was always known for. For being unapologetic about their decisions against all critics. Be it the elimination of the physical keyboard on phones, optical disk drives, flash support etc. Time and time they were proven right, and the Apple standard became the industry standard. And this was because they did it RIGHT, Steve Jobs did it right! But I am afraid this time Apple didn’t quite play the right symphony on it’s magic pipe.

Continue reading “How Apple should’ve eliminated the Audio Jack!”