A pictorial guide to my Business portable Samsung Galaxy S4 office

mobile-large_thumb.gifAs I am preparing for the Gartner symposium in Barcelona, due to take place on November 11 – 14, having been kindly invited by Samsung to join a team of bloggers, it seemed only natural that I would write up a little story about how I am using my brand-new Samsung Galaxy S4 as a portable office. I have not yet studied all the possibilities, and my device hasn’t been fully customised either, but I have already set up a number of applications and spotted a great number of things to my liking. Let me share them with you here in a few pictures:

1. first and foremost, I have sorted out all my apps by category. Just below my Google screen (the android search feature is very useful I find) I have put a number of utilities, namely related to multimedia functions which I use rather often. Page number 2 shows a number of my most used applications including email, cloud storage spaces, maps, Kindle, Evernote and a few newspapers including the Independent and flip board. other pages are devoted to utilities and personal stuff. I haven’t had time to install my many online banking apps yet, but I can add as many as I wish on the large screen.

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  1. Evernote premium is probably one on my favourite applications. I am using it across all my devices. I have 242 living notes in my notebooks at the moment, but many more have been deleted in order to unclutter the space on my desktop. Evernote is one of these applications you cannot put down once you’ve tried them. I use it to update my posts on the go, after they have been processed through voice recognition and stored in that application for editing.

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  1. One of the nifty business applications I have found on Google play and installed on my Samsung Galaxy S4 is the camcard business card reader which scans any business card, or almost any business card, and turcs it into a proper virtual card for for your Exchange contacts list.

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  1. as a business professional, I spend my time reading and reading and reading and reading. And I’m not just reading novels. I buy my books from Amazon and store them on my Kindle application on my S4. It’s very convenient because the screen is large and very comfortable so that reading is plain and easy on this new device. I love it and keep reading all the time. By the way, for those interested in innovation, I definitely recommend Edmund Phelps’s mass flourishing opus.

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  1. as a digital professional, I spend a lot of my time in blogs and writing pieces in WordPress. The WordPress android application makes it easy for small corrections and editing to be implemented. It’s quite convenient to be able to update your blog on the fly. Here I’m showing my own personal blog, but of course I do this for business most of the time and manage quite a few of them.

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  1. the Samsung S planner is the standard calendar application for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and I find it very convenient. For one, you are able to mix different calendars which is very good because I have 2 of them (one on Google calendar, for personal events, and one on Exchange for business events. It is important for me to keep things separate). The tabs on the right-hand side make it easy for you to access different views including tasks.

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  1. the Samsung S memo application is something I discovered quite recently. As long as you have a screen-friendly soft stylus, you will be able to add handwritten information into your Samsung Galaxy S4 in order to keep that information at the ready. It’s very convenient and you don’t need to type on a quirky software keyboard. After all, handwriting is probably the most advanced technologies of all!

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  1. working with pictures as far as I’m concerned is not just a hobby. It’s part of my job. One of the things that I first noticed on my new galaxy S4 is the fact that my Picassa albums as well as photos from the camera and screenshots etc. were all put together into the gallery application. For even more convenience, I have selected the option which backups all pictures to dropbox on the go. As a matter of fact, as soon as I get back to my desktop, I can download all the pictures taken from my phone into whatever blog post of document in which I wish to include those pictures.

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  1. Last but not least, the ability to read attachments directly, be they office documents or PDF files like this one, is a very useful business helper.

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As a conclusion, there are very few things nowadays that you can’t do without a mobile phone like the new Galaxy S4. I’m not even mentioning NFC payments or security features. Imagination is the limit. Combined with cloud computing and Software as a Service, we are moving closer and closer, every minute, to Mark Weiser’s ubiquitous computing dream.

As a conclusion, there are very few things nowadays that you can’t do without a mobile phone. I’m not even mentioning payments or security passwords. Imagination is the limit. . Combined with cloud computing and software as a service, we are moving closer and closer, every minute, to Mark Weiser’s stream of ubiquitous computing.

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first few slices of technological innovation at #mwc12

reporting live from MWC2012 in Barcelona

You certainly know you are in Spain when you can spot the Patanegra at a buffet, but the motivation for the happy few who were present and invited act the showstoppers event in Barcelona today, didn’t quite come for the quality of the cured ham. Press pass bearing delegates (including bloggers) were indeed allowed in after a short wait a little after 4pm on Sunday 26th and therefore I was able to spend two hours looking at some of the innovations which were on display. Here is a selection, enhanced with a few pictures .

It all started with Nuance, the makers of Dragon NaturallySpeaking – the voice recognition giant of which I am a faithful user and (even unofficially) behind Apple’s SIRI technology – who are into the development of the next generations of set top boxes, ones which will understand you thanks to natural language recognition. For instance, you will soon just say “show me a film in which Tom Cruise is playing” and you will be shown a selection of films starring the famous actor. We’re not there yet, but it may well mean the end of EPG (Electronic Program Guides) browsing.

The next stand at which I stopped was that of Gracenote, a system mainly know by users who wish to digitalise their – legally purchased – music on their computers. Gracenote is a database containing minute details about music albums but also films. Yet, Gracenote – now part of Sony for 5 years – is making money on its APIs, not on the database itself (which is updated and maintained collaboratively by its users). The most interesting thing they showed was what they called Moodgrid which lets you choose music according to your mood as shown on the tablet of the above picture. Other potential applications exist, namely for car music systems.

A third innovation I found particularly interesting was … not really an innovation but a way of showing that sometimes, older is better than new! The company is called Emporia and is Austrian. It has been operating for 20 years but has only been active in the mobile sector for 6 years. Everything happened when Dr Albert Fellner, the CEO of Emporia, realised that each week when he visited his Mom he had to explain to her how her phone works. It had nothing to  with dementia but really with the fact that the product isn’t suited to elderly persons. So he decided to build special phones, with special features of which:

  • a torch is always made available on the outside of the handset and is operated at the touch of a button
  • a simple alarm button (black button hence less conspicuous)
  • a simple lock button (a real button, not a complex combination of key strokes)
  • a simple charger base (see picture above)
  • very large buttons which elderly people can press easily. The company even works with Cambridge university on the usability of their phones

A very clever design which shows that innovation isn’t always equal to modernity.

Last but not least, I stopped by HZO’s stand, a company which is working with handset manufacturers in order to equip all phones with thin protective and invisible layers one can add on the motherboards in order to protect phones from water. Their demo was amazing as they showed phones in perfect working order which had spent up to five hours in a bowl full of water. This innovation should equip new handsets progressively, in the next 2 years according to HZO representatives who aren’t selling their solutions to the public though.

With innovations like these, should never be afraid anymore of flushing your phone through the toilets!

>> see a demo on this online video

is user-friendliness a sure marketing bet?

Very often, I hear people say that you have to make your end-user’s lives easier to generate a marketing success. However paved with good intentions this statement may be, I did ask myself the question whether making users’ live easier is a sustainable marketing argument for the development of a business. Here are my thoughts on this subject:

First and foremost, I wondered whether revenue could be linked to user-friendliness and ease of use of the service? Very often, it is said that what made Apple’s success was the user-friendliness of its products. This explanation, however, is very debatable. What could be simple for a certain user, mainly because he is used to a certain feature or a certain way of doing things, may seem complex to another. And this is even true of such well-designed products as the Mac Intosh, or the iPOD. For instance, it happened to me many times that I advised new Apple buyers who were complaining about the lack of the contextual click on their new Mac mouse. I had to show them that they had to press the button for approximately one second in order to display that contextual menu. This simple gesture may seem very user-friendly to most Mac users, whereas having a two button mouse may seem very unusual and quirky to them. But to most Windows users (just a little reminder, this is 97% of the population) this way of working with a mouse is very quirky too. Can we easily conclude that these design particularities (which could be considered as great by some and quirky by others) are a good selling argument, which are sufficient to explain how successful the product was? I’m not really sure, due to the fact that there are a number of users who discover these design features after buying the products and not before.

Secondly, I’m wondering whether user-friendliness is a constant with time? As a matter of fact, I think that user-friendliness can be pictured on a curve (similar to the hype cycle curve by partner), which explains the evolution of a user and the user-friendliness factor in the course of the usage of the machine or software. By the time a user gets used to the features of the new software or the new hardware, including those which are very exotic, the end-user will become more and more exacting. A feature which might be unusual, or even useless when you start using a product for instance, may eventually prove very useful and even compulsory with time. For instance, when I started using my newly purchased HTC 7500 advantage, the 3-D communication capability seemed to me superfluous; but I started using it more and more, and then I started to dive into the complexity of the menus and options. Now, the 3-G capability of my PDA has really become irreplaceable. If I were to lose it, I would struggle goes straight away to shop and buy a flat fee subscription for 3G, because I really need this feature now. As a conclusion, what seemed complex and useless at the outset (menu configurations to connect, proxy parameters, etc) very shortly became an absolute necessity for me to connect my machine to the Internet and use it to the full.

Thirdly, it may happen that a feature, which seemed user-friendly, and convenient in the beginning, becomes useless and irritating with time. For instance, we could describe the T9 (so-called ‘predictive text’) feature on mobile phones as very useful when we discover it for the first time. When you don’t have a keyboard on your mobile phone or your smartphone and you want to type a text (short message, note, calendar entrey, etc) this feature may seem really great and useful. You start typing the beginning of the words, and then the system will fetch into the dictionary and will complete the entry. However, with time, this feature appears quirky, and even generates unwanted effects. As a result, the feature which was meant to simplify usage becomes cumbersome, superfluous, and it even gets on your nerves to a point where you actually de-activate it (as long as you are able to work your way through the menus to re-instate manual entry). Eventually, users and mostly youngsters prefer to use abbreviations, and even this weird phonetic SMS lingo to communicate. This is a good example of a feature which seemed useful in the beginning, and was meant to make users’ lives easier, but which at the end of the day is so complex that the users want to get rid of it.

Other pertinent examples can certainly come to your mind, but as a conclusion of these brief article, I can add that user-friendliness is probably what is the most difficult thing to achieve in this world, because it is both subjective and personal (what seems easy for one may seem difficult to others) and because it evolves with time, with the usage of the system in one way or another. At the end of the day design can be a hell paved with good intentions, where user-friendliness and simplicity is aimed at but where one generates a lot of irritation and frustration. Most importantly, because this criterion is very subjective, it would probably generate a halo effect if we were to try and measure its impact on sales and revenues, or even worse if we were to predict future revenues based on user-friendliness. Conversely, we can certainly find a very good number of products or services, which went through huge commercial success despite the fact their usability was really bad or even downright awful (one will remember. Siemens’ Gigaset telephones, which were tremendously successful from a commercial point of view a few years ago whereas their menus were absolutely useless; for instance turning on your speaker phone required that you pressed the ‘INT’ key and then press eight for what it means!?). I hope that this article however is not going to entice manufacturers to make lives even more difficult for users, because I think this is hard enough as it is.

However, and however much we regret it, we think it would be wrong to believe that user-friendliness and the quality of a user manuals is a recipe for success.