Saturday, April 24, 2010

Another feature to organize life!!

Think of this: You're on a business trip visiting multiple places and your last leg of your trip you'll cover by train via New York City, with an hour's wait time. Your wife's tasked you with picking up something important while you're in NYC.
While on your trip, you're completely tied up with calls, resolving issues. You realize that you need to set a reminder so that you don't forget to pick up your item. So, you pick up your cell phone and you set a reminder for 2:00 pm on 23rd of June 2010, because that's when your train arrive at New York city.
On the day of your train journey, you're even more busy with calls. And because one of your appointments got cancelled, you boarder a train one hour earlier. Now, you can board your train back home from Grand Central at 1:00 pm instead of 3:00 pm. In the middle of all these, you completely forgot about the item you need to pick up. You reached there early, say at 12:00 pm. Your reminder doesn't kick off as it's too early. And as you've been so much caught up in other tasks, you completely forget about this one task which you can accomplish only while you're in the New York City. Two hours later, at 2:00 pm, while you're riding your train back home, your reminder blows off and you're made aware of the fact that you haven't done this one thing on which you've to provide a status to your boss (wifey) when you reach home. You think, "Ghoss... why am i such a mess?"
But wait a minute, what if you think a bit deeper, as if you're preparing a root cause analysis report. Now you'll ask another question: why can't I set up a reminder by location instead of time? Why not? Your phone can locate you to where you're, at least to a couple of feet's precision. Well, this is yet another feature which can be provided by the cell phone (could be another app on iPhone) to make our life a little bit more organized, a little bit more easier: Ability to set reminders by location!!
BTW it's totally a different discussion on whether these additional features have made our life easier or more complicated!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

IPhone: Another slice of the Apple

I can’t say I didn't like it at the first sight. But it was definitely not love at first sight. I was not ready to pay anything for it. But when my wife gifted it to me, I just couldn't resist blushing at my fortune. With time, I blushed even more. Now, here I am, just a few months into this relation, which is still building strong, with my IPhone. Sometimes it does make me wonder how this little thing has managed to amaze me so much. I am a very choosy person. And far as I know myself, it takes quite a bit to truly impress me. It is not that I’m used to criticizing everything in front of me. It’s just that I hardly get completely satisfied with anything. So, when I get satisfied with something, do stop to ask myself - “why”. This interests me even more knowing the fact that, it is not only me who’s so satisfied with the IPhone, but in general IPhone has succeeded considerably in satisfying its owner.

This post is about me analyzing what I like in my IPhone by bringing it to a very general perspective. I will not get into technicalities and any specific feature, but will discuss some of the general characteristics which made the difference.

So, what do you like in your IPhone? When I asked that to myself, I found the following very critical things, which as per my interpretation, has largely contributed to its success. While I feel all of it, most of it could be felt subconsciously, without any realization unless I press for it. And even when I feel it, it might go away pretty fast. That being said, you may think, “well what is it good for”. Hmmmmm! The important point is that it happens every single time I go back to the phone. That’s where the cumulative satisfaction counter adds up.

Stony soft hardness: This is what I feel when I look at it. It is sleek, but it is solid with high density mass. This is one of the factors which add gravity to it. Its curved edges bring in enough smoothness in its look and touch. But the gravitating mass and the glazy top entrust the hardness in its feel. You can feel the same with some round stones curved by water. The result: You know it’s going to be soft to you while it will be strong enough to do its due. This same look and feel has been continued inside, I mean in the OS and the applications. You can get a feel of the same in its icons. While its there inside, but you would feel that the softness predominates the hardness.

Human touch: What happens when you touch another human? Or your pet? It reacts. This goes back to the basic human psyche of command and action. We are used to giving commands by our voice as well as our body. Remember body language? This is natural to us. Even if I have a stick made of diamonds, I’d love to hold the hand of my dear one and bring her close to me. Mouse, Scroll buttons, Joysticks and keypads are like diamond sticks. With these, I can very well give the command. But it’s not natural to me. When click on the icon with my finger and see it reacting and opening an application, it gives me the feel of my touch. When I slide the screen by moving my finger on the screen, it gives me the feel of my touch. This is all about going back to the basics.

More to see: We humans have a full vision of whatever is in front of us. And our sight is restricted by barriers such as through a window of a wall or grills, we get irritated due to the lack of visual information. Thus, even though we have got used to viewing in the small area of a television, we are more satisfied when we get a bigger area to view at. Obviously, we see a trend in moving to bigger and bigger television sets. By incorporating the keypad as a dynamic touch keypad in the screen, which goes away when it is not required, Apple did a great job of providing more area for the user to view, resulting in more satisfaction. This again happens when you turn your IPhone to view something in the landscape mode.

Well, IPhone is not the only phone to provide these features, including this. There have been other phones with these features too. But in most case, they did not have all of these features packaged together. And even if they had, the combination was not exactly an IPhone.

Searching in the Real World

This is about a privilege we enjoy in the e-world but we don’t in our real world.

We all read and write. Earlier we used to do that only with pen and paper. Now-a-days we also use a computer for it. And with all those things that we can do using a computer, we really get used to it; sometimes so much that we start hating the real world for its limitations.

And when it comes to reading and writing, one thing which everyone might have added to their wish list, maybe very secretly, is to be able to search words, phrases or any text in their real world as they can do it in their virtual world. This is one thing which has made life online much simpler than life offline. Be it a text file, document or the internet, you can search for that text with some vital clue to the problem you are trying to solve. And “BHAMM”… here comes the result. You now know if your memory is in fact correct in telling you that the text is there and you don’t need to search the complete book or document to get to this line on the second-last page.

Searching a whole book without even scanning the pages, sound more like asking for some sort of magic. However, searching a scanned area, such as a page from a book, as it appears on the display of your digital camera is more down to earth. To make this even more realistic, we can imagine a cell-phone with this feature. I consider cell phone as being more realistic because, today’s cell phones (at least medium to high price grade ones) already have two components essential for this feature: a way to enter what you want to search (keypad) and a way to scan and display the page (camera display).

Now imagine this: You are running late for this flight. Even though you had checked in online, you’re sure that you’ll miss the flight. While entering the terminal from the parking lot you see this flight status display board. But, how hard you try, somehow you are not able to locate the flight (just due to sheer nervousness). Finally, you thought, why not confirm that your flight is not listed in the board and move on. You point your camera phone’s camera to the board and type in the flight number and ask it to search… and “BINGO”, there is your flight! The gate has been changed and luckily you’ll not be heading to the wrong gate.

I know that’s a bad example. But it’s an extreme case that can actually happen. Now that I have already discussed about one feature which we could borrow from our technology world to our real world, one very important question comes up: Who would actually do it and why would they do it. In terms of who, it’s an open world, whoever finds the right answer to why will do it. However, as I stated above, cell phone companies are in a much better position to do it. As cell-phones are becoming more and more of a bundled product of assorted functions, companies are trying to build in more and more features into their phones. If one company hinges in this way, we could see everyone going for it. That answers a possible why for it. Before closing this topic, I’d like to bring up one technical hurdle we might have to cross in order to achieve this. Here it goes a bit technical: The processing required for this kind of search is very intensive, as it will have to make two dimensional comparisons of image data rather than text data. So, we should be okay if our cell-phones are able to do such a kind of processing. Well, if not today, we can certainly see this feature coming out in the next few years to come.