Archive for October, 2008

Joe Pemberton

AT&T Gives Free Wi-fi to iPhone Users

AT&T announced today that they would give free wi-fi access to AT&T iPhone subscribers. The move gives US iPhone users access to thousands of AT&T hot spots around the country at hotels, airports and Starbucks (as their marketing materials exuberantly boast). The announcement comes 6 months after they replaced T-Mobile’s stake in Starbuck’s Hot Spots.

AT&T announced today that they would give AT&T’s iPhone wi-fi instructions from AT&T seem to indicate they’re authenticating your session based on your mobile number.
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//  The G1 is here.  Good start… further to go
T-Mobile’s long awaited “G1” has finally arrived, and it did so with a splash. Pre-orders for the device rumored totaling 1.5M. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the launch was far from the big splash that early reports might have indicated.  Few companies can rival the hoopla that accompany Apple’s product launches, but did the G1 live up to its moniker as an “iPhone” killer?  The verdict seems to be mixed.  Its 3.2MP camera, the QWERTY keyboard, and its open-source Android-powered operating system are headlining features.  But once people have dived into it, they’ve uncovered battery performance issues, an underwhelming selection of applications in the Android Marketplace, and a non-standard headphone jack.  Dealbreakers?  Maybe not.  Time will tell how this device fares against the legion of capable “smart phones” out on the market or debuting soon, but what can be said with certainty is that the premise of an open source mobile phone OS has become reality.  How it evolves, changes and grows into itself will now become the key item to watch.

//  Mobile phone skin rashes, found BAD
Remember when you thought the radiation emitted from cell phones was going to give you brain cancer?  Well, the FDA doesn’t think you are at any risk for adverse health effects from cell phones.  But…BAD thinks you can get skin rashes!  The British Association of Dermatologists notes that cell phones containing nickel could produce unexplained rashes on the face and ear.

//  We swipe our iPhones, but what if they tapped us back?
Apple’s introduction of gestures and multi-touch has changed the way we interact with our cell phones.  Flick.  Pinch.  Swipe. Drag.  Microsoft wants in on the game too.  But they want our phones to participate as well.  What if your phone could “tap” or “rub” you when you received a text message or some other notification?  Though incessant vibrating can become obnoxious, I am not too sure that tapping or rubbing would be any better.  If my phone “rubbed” my palm, I might drop it in disbelief.  Maybe these are new, less-intrusive ways for our devices to communicate with us, but somehow, I think most people might opt to remain with their obnoxious vibrating phone.

Andres Jimenez

RFID and Mobililty

File under: technologies you’ve heard about, but aren’t sure what the possibilities are.

Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID) has been around since the 60s. If you work at a large office building you probably have an RFID key card with you all the time. If you commute through a toll booth you might have an RFID transponder on your dashboard that broadcasts a radio signal to the receiver at the toll booth.  And you know that piece of metal you have to cut out of your Gap clothing or peel off your DVD purchase? That’s an RFID transponder that sends a one-way signal to an in-store security system, saying “hey, I’m here and I’m active.”

The RFID system is made up of a receiver and a transponder. A transponder is a portable thing that, when hit by a radio wave sends back an ID; usually a number.  Over the past decade the price of transponders has gone down and the technology has greatly improved. Transponders are now able to store more data and transfer it to other transponders, opening up new possibilities for innovative products.

So, what? Well, here comes Poken.

These advances have led to a few interesting recent developments. Let’s start with Poken, a product of an angel-funded project, in Lausanne Switzerland.


Poken is an RFID transponder you carry with you. When you interact with other Poken carriers the device stores information that you later connect to your online social networks.

To activate your Poken you separate the “hand” from the “body” of the Poken and connect it to the USB port in your desktop computer. A web browser opens to the Poken web site where you register and input the social networks you wish to connect to. You are then ready to use your poken in real life social situations.

When you meet a person with a Poken you ‘high five’ with their Poken hand and they exchange IDs. Each ID is linked to a user’s public profile from a set of user-defined social networks. Users can manage privacy levels at the point of exchange by double clicking on their Poken. The next time you connect your Poken to a computer the IDs are uploaded and the public social network profiles are displayed. Each profile links to the social network’s full profile link letting you connect with people you’ve met or interacted with in person.

This product brings together natural physical interactions to the social networking world. Handshakes are a formal way of acknowledging meeting a person in many cultures. In many cases you are exchanging your ID, or name. You then log into social networks and add the person to your network of friends.

The natural evolution of Poken is to simplify it by removing a couple of the steps that make it socially awkward or that require the user to plug something in. If the RFID were embedded in a data-connected device you already have on your person, you could conceivably let the devices exchange information more passively, without an awkward high five of a plastic hand. Also, an already-connected device would let you push the data to the social networking site(s) over the air without the need to go through a USB port to a browser.

Joe Pemberton

Twitter Etiquette:
Avoiding Twitter Abuse

Twitter is popular because it’s insanely simple — which means it’s easy to abuse. Here’s some etiquette that will make Twitter a less noisy, more relevant way to connect.

Five Guidelines for Twitter Etiquette

1// Replying is fine. In fact it’s an interesting way to discover people and ideas. Just remember your followers are only listening to half of your conversation. Fill your followers in on the topic at least. For example “@joetheplumber Haha, my cat does the same thing” is more usable information than just “@joetheplumber ha ha“.

People don’t follow everyone you’re talking to, so if you reply to someone in public, give everybody else some context. If it truly is worthy of a live reply, chances are your followers will want to see who you’re talking to. For more on relevant replies, see #2.

2// Twitter isn’t chat! I didn’t follow you so I could listen to you have a back and forth conversation with someone I don’t know. I followed you because you have interesting updates and bits to share. Learn the value of the direct message, d instead of the reply @. This especially applies to corporate Twitter accounts. The most common mistake is broadcasting the same announcement as a reply to individual users, seemingly forgetting that everybody else is seeing their redundancy.

3// Don’t hog the screen space. When you tweet every 3 to 5 minutes you selfishly fill up your follower’s Twitter window, burying their other friends’ messages. Uncool. (This is the reason I don’t follow Robert Scoble @scobleizer anymore. His tech geek powers were overcome by his Monterey weather updates.)

4// Finally, filter yourself. Leave the text unsent for a second. If it still sounds clever, witty or smart it’s probably good enough for your public time line.

5// Saying “good night Twitter” at the end of your day is kind of cute, but it’s mostly just sad. Sad and weird.

A few Twitter resources: For help with managing Twitter followers, try FriendOrFollow. For a great desktop Twitter client, check out TweetDeck.

You can follow @joepemberton on Twitter.

Joe Pemberton

Innovative iPhone Apps: Evernote

TITLE // Evernote

PRICE // Free from the iTunes Store.

PUBLISHER’S DESCRIPTION // Evernote for iPhone is part of the Evernote service, which is made up of desktop clients (Mac and Windows), a web version, and clients for other mobile devices. Whenever you add or edit a note in one version, it is quickly made available across all others, so that you can answer your notes and memories any time.

Of their broader service, Evernote says: Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere.

USER EXPERIENCE INNOVATION // Embrace the cloud. There are a handful of iPhone apps that let you create, edit and manage your text, audio and photographic notes. Evernote stands apart because of it syncs to an even more impressive desktop application. Evernote uses a “cloud” paradigm that performs impressively. Even photos and audio notes show up on the web or on your desktop version within seconds.

Notes are synced automatically. No need to press send or wonder if you left notes on your mobile. Deleted items get deleted across the cloud.

Doesn’t the Mac have notes apps as part of Mail app? Yes, it does, but they don’t sync. The best you can do with the built in Notes app is send a note as an email.

In case I haven’t been clear, the real power of Evernote is the access to the content in the form that’s most convenient in whatever context you’re in. Evernote has struck a nice balance of features between it’s mobile and desktop versions, not trying to cram everything into the mobile version, but not skimping on the tools that make it invaluable to use.

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Joe Pemberton

Context, Sensing & Mobile Design

Gabriel White, Interaction Design Director at Punchcut affirmed context as king in the design of mobile and location-aware computing at Australia’s 4 day Web Directions South conference.

Mainstream mobile devices are being loaded with sensors. These devices can be used to create experiences that are tailored, adaptive and responsive to the way people live and work. Location-awareness allows devices to respond to place, networked address books enable socially rich communication experiences, and motion and gestural sensors empower designers to respond to context of use. All these elements are creating a ’sensitive ecosystem’; mobile devices that adapt gracefully to context and use.

This presentation will explore some of the design and technology trends that are shaping design for mobile devices, show examples of devices and services that are starting to take advantage of these trends, then explain how designers need to rethink design problems to take advantage of this technological ground-shift.