Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why widgets make a difference

There is one feature that I find sorely lacking in the iPad, which is the widgets feature. Unless Apple fan boys have used it, they wouldn't know what they are missing. Many Android users are not even aware they are using widgets, which they think are mere shortcuts.

Widgets are more than just shortcut icons. Some people describe the widget as an offshoot of an app. Some people see it as a shortcut (icon) that is placed on the "desktop" of a mobile device. A widget actually does more than just launch an app. Some apps come with widgets, ready to be moved to the main display screen. Others apps do not have accompanying widgets.

A useful widget, as opposed to a mere shortcut icon, displays information that is active and is working whenever the device is powered on, regardless of whether the app is launched or not. For example, a clock widget displays time. A weather widget displays the weather A news widgets gives you the news feed. All these things happen as soon as the device is powered up. There is no need to launch any of the apps.

To further illustrate, I have a Sticky Notes widget. The note appears as a post-in note on my desktop. Simply click on it to edit, or to add another note. On an iPad, one will have to launch the Sticky Notes app in order to see the notes.

I have an alarm clock widget which is active all the time, whenever my smartphone is switched on. There is no need to launch the alarm clock. It can never be accidentally closed. In contrast, the alarm clock on an iPad has to be launched and running in the background all the time in order for the alarm to ring at the appointed time.

I am convinced that widgets sets the Android platform far apart from the iPad/iPhone platform. Apple cannot afford to ignore this feature for long. The lack of widgets puts Apple in the same era as PC's, where every application must be launched before it does something.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Emerging feature in digital cameras

There is an increasingly common feature in digital cameras: connectivity. As more and more people take to photography, albeit using their smartphones, many non-techies are expecting to be able to post their photos to the social media effortlessly. That means, directly from the camera.

Here are some of the ways and means: 

1. Samsung and Nikon introduced their Android cameras (i.e the Galaxy Camera and the S800c, respectively  just less than 6 months ago. It was a great idea at that time, but now it is looking dated.

2. Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and perhaps a few others have also included a built-in wifi in some of their cameras even before the Android cameras came out. The idea was good, but the implementation was too cumbersome to catch on seriously.

3. Eye-fi introduced a new technology several years ago where wifi is built into the SD card. This works only on a select number of cameras. While it is able to transfer images automatically to the smartphone or the PC, I find it to be too cumbersome to use regularly. Transferring images is an all-or-nothing affair. You either set it to transfer all images or none. You can also set it to transfer from camera to smartphone for immediate viewing after a shot, either in full resolution or none.

Fortunately, technology keeps evolving. Last week Transcend announced their SD Wifi memory card that promises to do a better job. Working like the Eye-fi, the smartphone app is much more straightforward  It is a lot easier to set up for connecting to the camera. You can choose to "shoot and view", or "browse" after a shooting spree. How well it actually performs remains to be seen because at this moment there has been no reviews yet.

Wifi built into the camera is not dead. Canon's latest DSLR announcement, the Canon 6D (full frame camera) has a built-in wifi feature that does an impressive job. You can view-focus-shoot straight from a smartphone app, or browse the shots residing in your camera directly from the smartphone or PC. Then you can select which ones to download and send to social media. When downloading to a smartphone, it reduces the RAW or JPEG image to 1920x1080 resolution, which increases the transfer speed and also makes it more suitable for social media. This is the most impressive camera wifi implementation I have seen.

I believe this trend in camera connectivity has taken a serious turn and will be a standard feature in the next Photokina exhibition.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Packaging in style

Good packaging implies that due care and attention is given to the product. I recently bought a used DSLR (the Nikon D700) on eBay. The packaging was as sloppy as it could get. As soon as I saw the parcel, my heart sank. Sure, the camera was bubblewrapped for protection; carelessly, I might add. Yes, all the components were delivered as expected. The camera came in a patched up D90 box (not even the original D700 box). This box was placed in a much larger mailing box, with a completely unopened roll of bubble wrap thrown in, in a lame attempt as stuffing material. The good news is that the camera is working fine after some rigorous shootings. But I'll never forget the callous attitude of the person who shipped the item to me.

So here is a lesson for Christmas, if you are buying a gift for someone: wrap the gift with lots of love and seal it with a kiss wrap the gift with due care and attention if you want it to convey that you do care about the gift and the person receiving it.