Using Apple Watch for Work

Apple Watch (Three Models) (Apple 2016)

Some context…

Last year, I was one of those people who rushed to pre-order the Apple Watch, keenly anticipating its arrival on launch day. Luckily, I received it without a delay and like a child with a new toy, I excitedly set up and customised the thing to my liking. Now that I’ve had it for just over a year, I’ve been reflecting on how I use it on a day-to-day basis. There hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t worn it since first setting it up, and I can honestly say that I use a large number of features often.

Every day, I use the Activity and Workout apps to track my movement and exercise; I can say honestly that I have become more aware of my general health and have been motivated to integrate more exercise into my day. Messages and Twitter are also fantastic to have on the wrist, and it’s really cool and convenient to select music in the car simply by saying “Hey, Siri”. While dismissed as somewhat of a gimmick, I also use Digital Touch (sketches) every day with my girlfriend and family members, whether it be in the form of colour-coordinated tap codes (e.g. three white taps left to right = “I’m on my way”), or little sketches just for fun.

Aside from all of these features, however, I’ve also thought about how the watch contributes to my productivity each day. I was surprised to discover just how much use the device for work.

Below, I expand on some of the apps and functions that I use the most for work and commuting.

Watch face and Home screen

Well, this goes without saying, really. The watch face is central to the Apple Watch experience and is the first thing that you see when you raise your wrist and the display illuminates. Whilst I do swap faces every so often, sometimes to match a different band, the Modular face is (to my mind) the most useful one for linking to various apps. On my Modular setup, I link to the app Streaks (for encouraging new habits), Activity, Weather and most importantly for work, Calendar, which is integrated into the day/date display in the centre. Having your day’s events and appointments a tap away is a fantastic thing.

While I’ve heard that a number of Apple Watch users don’t go to the Home screen much to navigate between apps, I do this often. Rather than litter my Glances section with a lot of apps, I prefer to click the Digital Crown on the side of the watch to reach the Home screen and swap between my apps. It’s easy to re-organise the apps and get to the one you want quickly. Alternatively, you can just ask Siri to open the desired app.

Calendar

Flowing on from the watch face, Calendar is an indispensable app. Some may prefer to use an alternative calendar app such as Fantastical or Sunrise, but the default calendar on iPhone, iPad, Mac and so on has always worked well for me. The app is great for viewing what’s coming up in the week ahead and keeping track of meetings and appointments.

Something I would love, however, would be the ability to browse different months with a year, rather than just one, even if it were just for checking days and dates. It is understandable that Apple would limit the range of events that one can view in a stream, as it would quickly become ridiculous to scroll endlessly through future appointments with the Digital. That’s where the iPhone comes into play.

Notifications

Many tech commentators emphasise the need for a “killer app” on any given device; notifications on Apple Watch may be that killer app.

In a productivity context, notifications on Apple Watch are powerful and reliable. With a simple tap on the wrist using the Taptic Engine (and my watch always set to silent), I can receive subtle notifications on my wrist as I work, whether from Messages, Mail, Messenger, Slack, Calendar, Twitter or any other myriad apps installed on my watch or purely on my iPhone.

This is particularly useful for meetings, when I can monitor new notifications coming in with a simple turn of the wrist, rather than pulling out my phone, which can come across as even more impolite.

Mail

The beauty of Mail on the Apple Watch is its simplicity. All e-mails from multiple accounts are showed in the unified inbox and it’s super-easy to flag, reply, mark or trash individual e-mails. Like all apps, it’s easy to navigate by scrolling with your finger or the Digital Crown, or tapping the top of the screen to fly to the top.

Replying via e-mail can be done with quick phrases or dictation, the latter of which isn’t necessarily advisable in a quiet office environment, but it’s great to have on the go. It’s fantastic to be able to manage things like this when away from the desktop or rushing down the street.

Slack

Slack is big enterprise favourite for messaging and for certain organisations it is an entire replacement for e-mails. Slack works like the default Messages app with dictation features, also giving you access to both group and direct/private message streams. Again, accessibility and simplicity on the wrist coupled with the instant tap notification system means you’re not going to miss important work messages.

1Password

I worship this app. For those who may be unfamiliar with it, 1Password is a fantastic password vault and generator that syncs beautifully between versions designed specifically for the Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac. All you have to do is remember one password to unlock all the others.

In order to keep things tidy, the Apple Watch version will only display passwords that you have saved on your iPhone and marked with “Add to Apple Watch”. Upon entering the code in the app, you are then granted access to your favourite or most used logins and passwords.

Whilst I personally use Apple’s iCloud Keychain on my Mac at home to accelerate login (passwords are entered automatically in fields), I prefer not to save all of my passwords on my Windows desktop at work. Using 1Password means that if I want to log into an app or service that I use less frequently, I can easily check my watch instead. For added security, Apple has programmed the watch to lock itself when removed from your wrist at all times. If someone were to steal your watch, they would need to know the code to unlock your watch and the one for 1Password as well.

World Clock

Here’s an app with a very simple use case. As I work at the German-Australian Chamber, I sometimes need to know what time it is in Germany (surprise!). Having the time in Berlin only a tap away (or even in the Glances section or as a watch face complication) is really useful. Naturally, one can add more cities to the list and it reflects whatever is set on your iPhone for consistency.

Maps

Maps has improved by leaps and bounds ever since its rocky release back with iOS 6 back into 2012. It has gained public transit information, many more 3D Flyover locations and is much more detailed and reliable than ever before.

On top of this, it now includes even more information from popular sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. I used to keep Google Maps on my iPhone just in case something went wrong with Apple Maps, however now there is absolutely no need for that.

Maps on the watch is executed extremely well. For meetings in Sydney CBD we’re I’ve had to go by foot, or even in situations driving by GoGet, Maps has been a significant aid in getting me to the right place at the right time, using either the on-screen map display or taps that tell you when to turn.

TripView

Much like Maps, Australian transport app TripView is absolutely brilliant (as the full app and in Glance mode). I use it every day for train times to and from work, as well as in situations when I’ve had to catch buses and trains during work hours.

iTranslate and WordBook

As I work in a German- (and English-) speaking office, German words tend to come up quite often. When not using the dict.cc German-English dictionary on my desktop computer, iTranslate has proven to be really useful for translating words on the fly. Simply say the word that you want to translate and the app will do it for you. A light Force Touch on the display will also allow you to change languages.

The same principles apply to English dictionary app WordBook, except there is also the expanded functionality of definition history, bookmarks and new words to learn day-to-day.

LinkedIn and Xing

While LinkedIn doesn’t have its own Apple Watch app, there is still compatibility with notifications to stay current with new connections and received messages. Xing, Germany’s equivalent to LinkedIn, does have its own dedicated watch app, which allows users to keep track of message history and recent profile visitors.

Calcbot

One of the iOS community’s favourite third-party calculator apps is Calcbot (made by Tapbots, developers of the beloved Twitter client Tweetbot). Tapbots has done a fantastic job of compressing a decent calculator into a tiny space. Tapping the buttons is easy with a low error rate, plus a Force Touch on the display reveals mathematical functions. It’s fantastic for performing quick mathematical operations that exceed the power of my own measly brain.

Siri

Last, but certainly not least, Siri is a great productivity tool. As much criticism as Siri and other digital voice assistants such as Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana often receive, in my experience, Siri is always improving in its accuracy and responsiveness. Each day, I use Siri to add new reminders, calendar events/appointments, start a navigational route in Maps, check the weather forecast, open apps on the watch and more.

To conclude…

Contrary to some of the criticism of this first-generation product, once personalised properly, it really is a powerful assistant. The true power of Apple Watch, aside from its customisation and personalisation, is its ‘glanceability’; it’s always there on your wrist, delivering the most important notifications and saving time that you would otherwise spend periodically checking your iPhone. I can recommend it highly as a productivity tool and can’t wait to see where Apple will take the device in the future.

Title image credit: Apple 2016

Review: My First Week with Apple Watch

Apple Watch 42mm Sport Black
Apple Watch 42mm Sport with Black Band (displaying customised ‘Modular’ face)

Well, I spent about seven months waiting for the Apple Watch, along with many others around the world, and it’s finally here. This waiting period saw Apple further refine the device’s battery power, readying the retail try-on experience, online pre-order process and of course, allowing time for developers’ app submissions, which now number at least 3500. It’s impressive that a first-generation product has such a great app marketplace already.

Over time, having read many blogs and watched many videos (Apple and third-party) about the product, I was optimistic about the Apple Watch. Sure, I expected there to be a few first-generation glitches and shortcomings, but I was generally optimistic. Now that the device has been released, the general reaction to the watch has been positive, and Apple is thought to have sold at least two million of them as initial pre-orders.

Many consumers, it still seems, are sceptical of the device:

“It’s just another screen in my life.”;
“It’s too expensive.”;
“The battery life will not last long enough.”; and
“It will make everyone anti-social.”

…for example

Most of all, there is the question as to what on Earth the watch actually for… what is its purpose? Well, I hope to explain its purpose to you after a week’s worth of experience with the device.

First of all, I’d like to talk about the hardware and industrial design of the Apple Watch. I purchased a 42mm Apple Watch Sport in the space-grey aluminium finish with black fluoroelastomer sport band. This model retails in Australia for $579. The watch is impressively light, and sits comfortably on my wrist, despite the concerns of many that the 42mm version of any of the watches would be too big and thick… and believe me, my wrists are aren’t that big. The Apple Watch (stainless steel) and Edition (18-karat gold) models are of exactly the same dimensions, but weigh a bit more respectively (not so much so that they are uncomfortable… I have tested the stainless steel model with Milanese Loop).

The anodised aluminium case is smooth and consistent in its finish. The band is soft and supple, without feeling flimsy. The Retina display is also beautiful, presenting great picture quality, typography, brightness and colour.

On the right-hand side of the case (assuming you’ve configured the watch for use on your left wrist), you can find the digital crown and side-button. The digital crown is great to use, acting as the watch’s input mechanism for zooming and scrolling, making up for its smaller display than iPhones and iPad. You can scroll through lists using the touch-screen and you can zoom into photos by double-tapping, but using the crown is much nicer. The screen remains unobstructed and the motion is smooth and almost oily-feeling. The side-button is devoted to your favourite watch friends and the Digital Touch function, which I discuss more later in this article.

The back of the watch also boasts a beautiful, circular engraving of text, denoting the model and serial number, wrapping around the four light sensors that monitor health during everyday activity and specified workout sessions.

With regard to the hardware, my first week with Apple Watch has been brilliant. Even as one of the cheaper Sport models, the watch is fashionable, comfortable and exceptionally well-made. Apple has put a lot of consideration into making something that anyone can be proud to wear, even as fashion items for women. What other wearable tech product can do that?

Moving onto Apple’s watchOS, while reminiscent of its bigger brothers OS X (desktop) and iOS (mobile), is quite a different beast. Yes, it uses a minimalist design language, but rather than employing bright, white app backgrounds, the watch uses black backgrounds for high-contrast with white text. The heavy use of black is also an effective method of conserving battery power. The watch uses Apple’s custom font San Francisco rather than traditionally-used fonts like Helvetica Neue, Lucida Grande and Myriad Pro. This choice was to make it easier to read on a smaller display, and it works. Furthermore, with accessibility settings, the boldness and size can be adjusted along with colour to fit more or make the text easier to read if you have poor vision.

Upon turning on the watch for the first time, I was instructed to set it up by connecting to my iPhone via Bluetooth and configuring it with the Apple Watch app. This was an absolute breeze to set up, requiring Bluetooth and the camera to scan the display. The Apple Watch app for iPhone is really easy to use, as it mirrors the layout and functionality of the Settings app on iPhone, albeit with toggles for the watch, including app installation, app layout, connectivity and so on. Many of these things are configurable on the watch too, but can be done more easily on the iPhone all at once if you’re already using.

watchOS, as I stated earlier, is reminiscent of iOS, but works differently. Yes, there is an app home screen, but the basis of the watch is the watch face, which lives in the centre of the displayed app universe. Native apps live on the Apple Watch, and for the moment third-party apps are extensions of those already residing on the iPhone. Third-party apps will behave more like native ones later this year, according to Apple, but for the moment this is of no concern. Contrary to some reports of constant slowness in loading, my experience has been great. I’ve only had two apps that froze or slowed down upon startup, and I am sure that future updates will resolve this.

The watch faces, as the centre of the device’s app universe, are fantastic. I spent a number of days trying to conclude which one I liked best. I jumped from the “extra-large” face that only shows the time in large type, to the simple face with adjustable complications, then finally the modular interface. This is all really a matter of taste. Apple has included 10 faces, most of which can be extensively customised in aesthetic and function. The modular face was my personal choice as it is bold, simple and yet still shows rich information in such a small space, each of which can be tapped, taking you directly to the app. Rich information on the screen enables you to keep fewer tools in your Glances section, which is a swipe up from the bottom of the screen. I have found the app glances for TripView, Shazam, Twitter and the Music app particularly useful, as I have instant access on my wrist to train times, my iPhone’s music library, trending topics and the ability to identify unknown music instantly.

I could spend a long time talking about all of the apps on this device, but by far the best experiences I’ve had so far have been with Messages, Mail, Phone, Activity and Workout apps, as well as Digital Touch… all of the default stuff! What Apple has achieved here is a super-convenient shrinking of useful iPhone apps to provide über-convenience for the wrist, but with a focus on what is essential to enable smooth, ‘glance-able’ experiences. I’ve loved being able to answer phone calls on my wrist at home, use Siri to dictate messages (text and audio form), read entire e-mails and track my activity throughout the day.

I was initially a little bit worried that the Apple Watch’s notifications would be obtrusive, distracting me more than my iPhone ever has. This has not been the case. The Apple Watch is an amazing filter, gently tapping me on the wrist with its taptic engine whenever I receive a notification, giving me the power decide what to act on and when. It may sound strange, but it has saved me time. I no longer check my phone for the sake of it, or get lost in apps, distracted from the initial reason that I picked up my iPhone. The watch keeps me informed in a subtle way that no one else can hear or feel, and most importantly, it makes me use my iPhone less. Apple CEO Tim Cook and designer / Head of Human Interface Jony Ive weren’t kidding when they said that Apple Watch is the most personal device they’ve ever made and that it helps you to live a better day. Consistent reminders to stand, calorie-tracking and more keep me aware of my movement, and subsequently have made me feel better. The ability to send cute little sketches makes you feel way more connected to this thing than you do with a phone. Digital Touch, whilst viewed as a gimmick by some, is truly great. It just feels different, the same way that emoji in messages is so much more fun these days than the early days of e-mail and SMS.

All of thee amazing functions are delivered in something that truly does last all day. Sure, the battery doesn’t last for months or years like traditional, mechanical watches, but look at the extensive use cases and apps available for this device at this price. I have not run out of battery on any day so far, even with consistent scrolling, exercise and notification checking, and have ended each day with no less than 25 per cent charge left. I find that to be exceedingly impressive.

So, coming back to the whole idea of this post, what is the Apple watch actually for? Where does it fit in the world of computers? Desktops and laptops are the hub, or basis, of our computing experiences, largely for storage and heavy content creation. iPhones, built on the enormous success of the iPod, are our mobile computers, giving us instant informational access around the world, and even tools for productivity and creativity. The iPad, while still questioned, sits between the iPhone and desktop, providing simple yet powerful computing to novices and pros alike. Sometimes you just need that bit of extra space over an iPhone, or want to sit on the lounge with it like a magazine. Hell, you may even want to create an album with it. The watch, for many people, is not as clear in its purpose, even with a long marketing campaign across numerous media by Apple. After a week with the device, I feel that I can explain it. Much like the rest of Apple’s products, which as Steve Jobs said, stand at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, the watch stands at the intersection of technology and fashion. The Watch is powerful, informational, quick and simple, helping you to monitor your health, stay connected with people and even filter the noise that bombards you during the day. Most importantly, however, it is personal. The focus on fashion gives you choice to have a different band, a different case material, a different watch face. Apple has long been criticised for its supposedly inferior level of customisation on iPhones when contrasted to Google’s Android OS. Well here, Apple has beaten all other wearable products. This product is personal and helpful, and you feel proud to wear it. Other wearables have felt downright geeky, except for perhaps the Moto 360. As time goes on, and more software features, health sensors and designs are added, the wearable space will only improve.

So, if you want something cool and personal to wear on your wrist, that will make you focus on improving your health and cutting down on the time you spend rudely staring at your phone in the company of others, buy an Apple Watch.

For screenshots and a more visual impression of what the watch can actually do, please check out the gallery below. Also, click here to see some cool films by Apple showing off further software features and the craftsmanship involved in the watch’s manufacture.

Why the Apple Watch Needs to Be Expensive

Apple Watch with Link Bracelet (Apple, 2014)

This morning at 10 am Cupertino time in California, Apple held a keynote event at the Yerba Buena Centre. The company unveiled ResearchKit (an amazing way for health professionals to launch global medical research projects via iPhone) and a sexy Retina MacBook that reinvents notebook design. Impressive as both of these announcements were, the hot topic on everyone’s minds was the Apple Watch, and more importantly, when it would be made available and for what price.

Well, now we have the answers.

The Apple Watch Sport starts at AU$499 (US$349), leading up through the middle Apple Watch range all the way up to the ceramic-strengthened gold Apple Watch Edition, which at its most expensive hits AU$24,000 ($US17,000). There is a great variety of models in anodised aluminium, stainless steel and strengthened gold finishes, each with a multitude of customisable/interchangeable bands at a range of prices. Rather than list them all in this post, you can view the prices here at the American Apple Store or here at the Australian store.

There was an expectation from many in the tech and fashion communities that the watch would be priced quite high, but many still seemed surprised about the price of the bands. For example, an über-desirable Milanese Loop band costs $AU299. If tech fans are surprised, just imagine the reaction from general consumers who don’t wake up at odd hours around the world to view Apple keynotes.

Apple Watch with Milanese Loop (Apple, 2014)

In all honesty, I think that the Apple Watch needs to be expensive. Apple’s choice of high pricing is incredibly clever for two major of reasons. The first reason is the watch’s power to challenge the existing timepiece industry. Whilst I would argue that AU$499 is stil incredibly accessible as a starting price,  higher prices as you ascend through the range reflect the level of functionality, customisation and impressive manufacturing processes that Apple is bringing to the industry. No other watch (smart watch or not) can do what Apple Watch can currently do, and definitely not with the same finesse and integration with existing devices, whether they be smartphones, home automation kits or medical devices. Add to this the fact that the Apple Watch is the most accurate timepiece ever created (within +/- 50 milliseconds) and you have a truly compelling product. The Apple Watch needs to be expensive to reflect its capability and challenge existing watches effectively.

The second reason is one that I believe has been talked about less, and is just as important, if not more important: branding. The Apple brand has always historically been one for creatives, professionals and those with discerning taste. It sounds snobby, and I’m no real creative professional, but it’s true. Film studios and professional photographers, for example, generally prefer Apple’s offerings. Even through Apple’s dark years in the late 1990s when they were mere months from bankruptcy, there was a kind of ‘elite’ Apple user and developer community which stayed impressively loyal to the company.

Since returning to success (ridiculous success, at that), Apple has won over many more users and new fans through its desktop and mobile products and services. Whilst remaining more expensive than the competition in general, the company has reduced prices gradually to make their offeringsmore accessible. One of the major potential side-effects of this, interestingly, is a dilution of brand exclusivity. Democratisation of technology, whilst empowering for the masses, can spell trouble for the companies that provide it. Apple has gone from exclusive underdog to global powerhouse. When exclusivity disappears, people who are more interested in status than function and design (brand-switchers) start to look elsewhere. In the tech and fashion industries there is always the threat of someone newer, bigger and better just around the corner.

Apple Watch, as a expensive product with a huge range of uses, reinvigorates the Apple brand with exclusivity and desirability. This isn’t just a tech product, it’s a highly-customisable fashion accessory as well. I may be incorrect, and time will tell, but I predict that the Apple Watch will be a success. People may complain about some of the prices now, and Apple may end up making some adjustments, but all-in-all, human beings are social animals often hell-bent on impressing others or appearing better than others. Those who don’t jump straight onto the Watch because “there’s no real use case”, “it’s a just a pretty toy”, “I don’t need this” or “it’s too expensive” (all of which were said about iPods, iPhones and iPads), will soon start to see others wearing them. They will probably end up wanting one too. If they choose not to buy an Apple Watch and instead decide to purchase a competitor’s offering, then that’s also a good thing. Purchase of any new wearable technology breeds competition, new development and the growth of the category.

This all being said, the Apple Watch is no iPhone. I don’t think we can expect sales anytime soon that quite approach those of the iPhone, largely because the cost of an iPhone is generally spread out for most people over a two-year contract. I believe, however, that super-high sales are not the most important thing (at least at first). Apple is very future-focused though, and is happy to cannibalise its own products with new ones. It may sound ridiculous, but the watch could supplant the phone in years to come. What is important now, however, is that the Apple Watch instils further desire and design excellence into the Apple brand, which at this stage no other company can match.

Looking Forward to the Apple Watch

I’m a massive Apple fan and have been since I was five years old. My aunt recommended strongly to my father that we buy a Mac in 1997, at a time when Apple was only a few months from bankruptcy. Our first Mac was a Power Macintosh 6500, a beige machine inspired by the era prior to Steve Jobs’s return. I loved that computer. I typed stories on it, listened to audio CDs, played CD-ROM games (yay Myst and You Don’t Know Jack) and learnt how to navigate the Web.

Since then, I’ve followed every development in the Mac Universe very eagerly, watching Apple set the standard in every product category that it touches. They’re not always the first to market, but that’s precisely the point. Apple takes existing ideas and combines them to make the simplest package possible. Apple creates products that are designed so beautifully and made so approachable for pros and beginners alike, that every competitor, and I mean *every competitor*, copies them. Look no further than Samsung with the iPhone, or PC makers’ ultrabooks with the MacBook Air.

It is with this zeal that I await the Apple Watch. I look forward to seeing if it will be an enormous success, a dreadful failure or somewhere in between. I predict that it will succeed, but that it will sit in a similar position to the iPad. It is almost impossible to imagine that anything could take off as well as the iPhone (now the greatest business in the history of all business, following Apple’s last quarter). It will sell well, but will probably face the same scepticism that meets the current wearable market. If anyone has the power to change this, it is Apple, just as it did to the tablet market.

Models include the Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition

Since the Apple Watch was first revealed in September last year, I have been wondering what it’s most useful feature or features could be, or what would matter to me specifically. In my broad reading about the watch, it seems that some people cannot see how it could be useful. They state that it needs a ‘killer app’ to be successful, something that it can do that no other device can.

This is not the point of the Apple Watch, as I see it. I believe that the Apple Watch can be summed up with two words:

customisation + convenience.

The iPad had and still doesn’t have a real ‘killer app’. The iPad is a deliberately expanded iOS device that does all of the same things as an iPhone (except for phone calls). Apple understood that a gap could be filled. People wanted larger displays than what they had on their phones, but wanted something that was more comfortable than a laptop to carry around or nestle with on a lounge. The iPad has been a resounding success, applicable in both work and leisure situations. The Apple Watch will enable people to not only check notifications more easily and control various another devices and accessories, but also be personalised in a way that no other modern, wearable technology has before. That’s what some critics do not understand; it is not about specifications, numbers, unique hardware-enabled features and geeky stuff. These things help, but what truly matters is the marriage of good design and engaging software to create a unique experience for every individual. Apple creates magic with its products by paying attention to these small details. No other company can do this. No other tech company can inspire the same pride in its consumers.

CEO Tim Cook triumphant at the September 2014 event, unveiling Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and Apple Pay

I imagine that my primary uses for the Apple Watch will lie in social media notifications, music playback, glances at weather and other location information, plus a little bit of Siri. With the way that the Australian dollar is going at the moment and the knowledge that the Apple Watch will be starting at $349, let’s hope that I can actually afford it. #firstworldproblems

Apple can make the watch cool for younger people again, many of whom have given up on wearing watches in favour of awkwardly (and somewhat rudely) pulling out their smartphones to check the time. I’ve always loved to wear watches and see the Apple Watch as the first compelling, modern take on the traditional timepiece.

I look forward to seeing how this next device will go on to influence our lives as the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad all have. Even the Apple TV, a supposed “hobby” product, has dramatically changed my lounge room space at home and how my family consumes content.

Apple’s influence is mammoth and there is plenty more to come.

Interface @ the Powerhouse Museum

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney to check out the exhibition Interface: People, Machines, Design. Featuring both retro and recent consumer products (primarily from Apple, IBM and Braun), the exhibition focuses on the significance of consumer products in our lives today. More importantly, it illustrates the strong emotional connection that we develop with such products, due to the marriage of effective industrial design, iconography and typography. Ultimately, for a technological product to be successful, it must tell a story and be clear, simple and accessible to as many people as possible.

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My wonderful girlfriend, Natasha, was kind enough to attend with me and watch me giggle with glee as I surveyed the numerous exhibits. My Apple zealotry has (of course) infiltrated her life, and I’m pleased to say that she enjoyed it as well. 🙂

As we toured the rather small exhibition, it became clear that the space itself was constructed to reflect the products featured; everything was minimalist, considered and ordered chronologically, showing the influence of early democratic design by legends like Braun’s Dieter Rams through to today’s ubiquitous smartphones and tablets.

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The exhibition does a wonderful job of tracking the history of modern industrial design. Take for example the history of Braun: on the one hand, the Nazis’ Volksempfänger (people’s receiver) radio was used to restrict radio signals from outside Germany; in the post-war period, Rams’s Weltempfänger (world receiver) was a challenge to this former dark time, opening up to foreign frequencies and ushering in welcoming, open design.
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The original Macintosh ushered in a new era for personal computing. With the inclusion of a graphical user interface (GUI) and mouse (first implemented together by XEROX PARC), Apple popularised a new way of interacting with computers that was easier and inviting for everyday people. You didn’t have to be an enthusiast to use it.

It was fantastic to see the history of Apple laid out so well, obviously by people who understand the significance of the personalities involved beyond Steve Jobs. Jony Ive, Helmut Esslinger, Susan Kare… all were mentioned appropriately.

I would highly recommend this exhibition to just about anyone. If you own a smartphone (which you do), it’s amazing to look back and appreciate the immense change that occurred during the 20th century, and the change that continues to occur every day. We take our digital products for granted, along with the empowering connectivity they facilitate. There has never been a better time to be alive.

Rather than bang on forever, it’s best to give you some links to find out more.

To view more photos of the included products, head over to my Flickr page.

For even more information about the exhibition and the specific products, visit the museum’s website.

What Is Accessibility?

Social media encourage online participation, interactivity, connection and access through a variety of devices every day (Dreher, 2012). Goggin and Newell (2007) describe digital technology as a ‘texture’ of how we think, feel and communicate. Prior to undertaking BCM310, a subject during my study at the University of Wollongong, I was unaware of the social exclusion that digital media can create for people with disabilities. There is a great range of medical and pharmacological technology that aid those living with disabilities (Goggin and Newell, 2007), but digital media (and many other technologies) are often slow to meet their needs, only tailoring to the broader, ‘non-disabled’ community.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the organisation responsible for establishing global Internet standards, with 66 guidelines for website design and instructions for technical implementation (Green and Huprich, 2009). One of the Consortium’s primary goals is to make the benefits of the Web “…available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability” (W3, 2012). Some organisations have adopted W3C-recommended inclusive technology. Apple, for example, has integrated screen-reading and voice capabilities into their Mac OS X and iOS operating systems (Goggin and Newell). Social media, however, have been slow to adopt such technology. Perhaps the most perplexing example is Twitter, which is often regarded to be the simplest of social networks. Twitter’s interface, for those with visual impairments, can be complex to navigate. To combat this, however, developers have created a site called ‘Easy Chirp’, an alternative site that allows users to login with their Twitter accounts, and use a simpler interface, with larger fonts, easier navigation between tweets and coloured highlighting for selected items. Screenshots comparing the original Twitter interface and alternative Easy Chirp can be seen below.

While a positive example of technological adaptation for those with disabilities, Easy Chirp has its flaws, such as a lack of sans serif fonts. In addition, the lack of accessibility improvements in Twitter itself, and the need for a third-party solution further proves the lack of insight and innovation in redesigning online user interfaces to aid those living with both physical and mental disabilities (McLellan, 2011).

References:

  • Berkeley, 2009, Educational Technology Services, retrieved 07/04/2012, from http://ets.berkeley.edu/images/apple-accessibility-logo?size=_original.
  • Dreher, T., 2012, Digital Social Inclusion: Focus on Disability, BCM310, Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, delivered 2 April.
  • Easy Chirp, 2012, martinfeld Timeline, retrieved 08/04/2012, from http://www.easychirp.com/app/tweetroll.php.
  • Goggin, G. and Newell, C., 2007, ‘The Business of Digital Disability’, The Information Society, Vol. 23, pp. 159-168.
  • Green, R. and Huprich, J., 2009, ‘Web Accessibility and Accessibility Instruction’, Journal of Access Services, Vol. 6, pp. 116-136.
  • McLellan, P., 2011, ‘Web Accessibility’, Master of Arts Thesis, IT Leadership Graduate Program, The College of St. Scholastica.
  • Twitter, 2012, martinfeld Timeline, retrieved 08/04/2012, from https://twitter.com/martinfeld.
  • W3, 2012, About W3C, retrieved 07/04/2012, from http://www.w3.org/Consortium/.

This post was written originally as part of the undergraduate BCMS course at the University of Wollongong.

iPay. iLearn.

Image: Amber Hunt, 2010

Today, information is king. We are now witnessing the boom of digital ‘cognitive capitalism’, where information and education are bought and sold with great ease. Cognitive capitalism, however, has existed for centuries within the institution of the university. Tertiary institutions have held at their “…centre the highly-credentialed content expert who generates individually-authored print documents fully protected by copyright” (Miller, 2009, p. 147). Copyrighted materials have been offered at a high price in the form of textbooks, and more recently, through online subscriptions to journal article databases that have been paid for before they even reach students. Miller (2009) describes the university as ‘frozen in time’, a prehistoric world almost completely separated from the effects of globalisation and democratising technology.

In the last 25 years, the ‘ivory tower’ of the university and associated publishers has worsened, as they have become high-technology, low-skilled industries driven by economic growth and Fordist expansion (Dyer-Witheford, 2005, p. 71).

Global publishers now potentially face a challenge with Apple’s entrance into the textbook market. Apple now sells interactive, multimedia textbooks (US$14.99 each) in its iTunes-based iBookstore, featuring powerful annotation tools. Apple also offers a new application called iBooks Author, which enables independent authors to create and sell content without the need for a publisher.

Whilst Apple’s new foray into textbook production and distribution does empower students and authors, it still exhibits cognitive capitalism. For example, iBooks textbooks may only be sold through the iBookstore, and are limited to the proprietary iBooks e-book format (Reid, 2012). Reid (2012) asserts that the technological industry is begging for standardisation.

Universities and publishers need to exit the ‘ivory tower’, and move beyond the archaic media and distribution channels of textbooks and journal article subscriptions. They must, however, exercise caution before adopting a potentially worse proprietary environment that controls students, scholars and authors alike.

References:
  • Dyer-Witheford, N., 2005, ‘Cognitive Capitalism and the Contested Campus’, Engineering Culture: On The Author as (Digital) Producer, New York: Autonomedia, pp. 71-93.
  • gearlive, 2012, Apple Introduces iBooks Textbooks, retrieved 01/04/2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6HeyTldraw.
  • Hunt, A., 2010, 3 Ways You Can Manage Your Debt – Quicken Loans Online, JPEG, retrieved 31/03/2012, http://www.quickenloans.com/blog/ways-manage-your-debt.
  • Miller, R., 2010, ‘The Coming Apocalypse’, Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, Vol. 10, No. 1, Duke University Press, pp. 143-151.
  • Reid, C., 2012, ‘iBooks 2: Reinventing Textbooks or Lulu on Steroids?’, Publishers Weekly, Vol. 259, Iss. 4, New York, p. 1.

This post was written originally as part of the undergraduate BCMS course at the University of Wollongong.