Minuum is easily the most innovative keyboard available for mobile devices, and it aims to introduce the most advanced way to type. The idea is disruptive as much as the seemingly unsolvable problem: Keyboards follow a traditional design pattern of the classic typewriter.
QWERTY keyboards are extremely inefficient for small screens. Typing on a small device, even at sizes of the iPhone 6 Plus, is still quite awkward and requires training time to get used to it.
The disadvantages of typing on a touch display actually outweigh the benefits of a tactile keyboard. But because a virtual keyboard does have some advantages for diverse mobile applications, we are willing to live with the trade-ins.
Minuum seeks to fix this issue using a drastic approach: it resizes the keyboard to a much smaller size. It looks strange when you see the keyboard shrinking and at first you may think this won’t work at all.
One would think that bigger is what would improve the experience, not smaller, but it appears the opposite is the case. At least the makers of Minuum think it is, and I wonder if they ar right. If Whirlscape, the company behind Minuum, did their homework and ran cycles of extensive user testing, not just for usability but also overall experience (testing how well Minuum integrates into the user flow), they might be onto something that could be potentially big.
Minuum let’s you use eight languages and claims to have a great predictive type engine. Personally, I find the Minuum approach more appealing than the Swype idea. We will see if it is as intuitive as it should be to be able to take off on a mass adoption scale.
Maybe you have heard of Ping. I know, it uses the same name “Hop” first used. Media describe Ping as “incredibly simple” and “mysterious”. Maybe those words came from the originating company, Secrets Inc., which also makes Secret. No surprise there.
I installed and tried it out. This is what I see as the next generation of apps. Why?
It is UI by storytelling. It is guiding the user through the experience the same way we were guided by the hands of grown ups when we were two years old children. Not top-down, not condescending, not forcing a new system onto you. But providing one hand, one door knob, one key, curtain or rabbit hole to see what’s next. And as we move forward, we learn, and the app learns from us.
What happens in background, the input-data driven algorithm, stays in the background. The app talks to me as if it was a person. The same way like we were talked to as little children, it begins at the most intimate level of trust: I am here to help you.
I find this the most impressive achievement of this new app. It shows incredible talent, not in programming, but in achieving an experience, so pure and straight forward, it finds no comparison to any other app I have seen.
(Photo: Alex, Flickr)
After a day of using Ping I have to say, it’s simpler than I thought. If there actually is an algorithm working in the background, it is not working very well. Apparently it just pushes anything in a channel I selected, with no filtering at all. I will keep using it for a while to figure out more about how it works.
To be honest, I won’t be surprised if Apple does not announce an iWatch today. The concept of an iWatch has been largely driven by competitors picking up rumors, starting their own development programs to create wearable wrist-based computers, and the media picking up on those devices, comparing them to each other only to state the obvious:
The market for such devices has not been created yet.
Sure, there are various small devices available today in the wearable computing segment. These can be accounted to the gadgets category: they are fun products for enthusiasts, which could be generously described as a geek market. It’s by far not ready for mass consumption. Apple has proven of course that it can create and establish entire market sections that didn’t exist before, starting with the original Macintosh, the iPhone and the iPad. With the iPod they didn’t create a market, but they took a very tiny segment and implemented it in a way that found immediate traction with consumers.
In fact, the iPod introduction was Apple’s first serious foray (earlier gaming and TV devices not accounted) into a lifestlye electronics mass consumer market, beyond regular pro, desktop and laptop computing.
And this is the mistake people make when they talk about Apple today. They still see the computer company that also makes music players, tablets and phones. This is clearly not Apple’s perspective. I believe Apple’s product strategy spans much wider, it doesn’t stem from a thought model of “people buying electronic devices”. It begins with the thought of how design improves people’s lives. And with design they don’t mean just how great it looks, they mean how great it works.
Apple may make a big step into wearable computing today. In doing so, they will not introduce yet another smartwatch, just like they wouldn’t introduce yet another Internet ready TV. Apple doesn’t work this way. They are looking at the market, sure, when they are expanding on product categories. But when they are thinking about new products, they think people first. They don’t see consumers, they see people and how they live and work. They look at their passions, at what excites them and what seriously improves their lives.
There is this ongoing mocking of Silicon Valley start-ups, claiming that they all want to improve people’s lives. This running gag doesn’t come out of nowhere. It basically started when Apple introduced this mantra and everyone began to follow it. Isn’t that what we all want, an improved life? The wave of start-ups with seemingly fresh ideas failing to achieve what they believe in gives you an idea of how hard it is today to really innovate.
Of course, achieving innovation as a company even as big as Apple, with many stakeholder’s interests virtually at stake, this isn’t a trivial task either. Everyone seems to be worried if Apple is still innovative under Tim Cook. That’s the wrong kind of question. Apple was always innovative, it was its management in the past that changed and either stiffled or promoted Apple’s innovation spirit. Apple has not reached it’s peak in innovation, its very nature prevents any hill or peak. Expansion doesn’t mean just growth for Apple, it means steady internal improvement.
As some people have pointed out, the fashion factor does play an important role, but I think that factor is overhyped. If Apple did its homework, they are aware that there is no mass market for watches anymore. It may be that the new device (or one of them) will be a wrist-based wearable device, which would work pretty much like a watch and maybe even shows the time. But thinking that wearable = fashion is a narrow-sighted simplification.
The main hurdle with the upcoming wearable computing market won’t be the question if it’s fashionable. Partnerships with designers and brands will help. How I look wearing something is undeniably important. But there is another, even more important layer added to wearable computing, and that is how well it fits in our life. What does it add we find indispensable after we use it?
A watch is dispensable. A phone on your wrist, or even a “smart iPod like device” on your wrist that counts your steps, is equally dispensable.
A device that integrates with a home device, with your iCloud account, joining data to enable platforms such as a unified, life long health-tracking system that ties in with insurances and the medical system—this comes closer to a future ecosystem that at some point could become indispensable. And that’s just one side of it.
The devices Apple will introduce today, whatever they may be, a new TV experience or a foray into wearable computing—they will define new categories in themselves. They will take what we thought something is (like an iWatch) and turn it into something entirely new. Don’t underestimate Apple’s strength when it comes to endure extremely long research and development processes, to come out with something that is really different.
(Image: Apple website screenshot)
Wikipedia’s summary of Customer Experience provides a solid overview:
“Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy. It can also be used to mean an individual experience over one transaction; the distinction is usually clear in context.
Analysts and commentators who write about customer experience and customer relationship management have increasingly recognised the importance of managing the customer’s experience. …
… A company’s ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its customers serves to increase the amount of consumer spending with the company and, optimally, inspire loyalty to its brand.”
Customer Experience is intrinsically important for product development. I will write more about the influence of the Customer Experience (CX) in the near future. Particularly the differences between User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience seem to cause a lot of confusion. It is admittedly not easy to see through the jungle of information you find online, so I will try to clear up the most common misunderstandings and provide a summary of key factors that make CX work.
(Photo: Terry Johnston, Flickr)
FastCo.Design is a bit yellow press, often going with a populist mainstream opinion and bashing Apple where they can.
Recently they asked renowned type designer Tobias Frere Jones about his opinion on Apple’s decision to switch from Lucida Grande to Helvetica Neue as a system font:
Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems have been gradually converging for some time. So it was inevitable that one typographic palette would displace the other. With OS X 10.10, Mac desktops will sport Helvetica everywhere. But I had really hoped it would be the other way around, with the iPhone taking a lesson from the desktop, and adopt Lucida Grande. Check the lock screen on your iPhone. You’ll see Helvetica there, a half-inch tall or larger, and it looks good. Problem is, there aren’t many other places where it looks as good.
Despite its grand reputation, Helvetica can’t do everything. It works well in big sizes, but it can be really weak in small sizes. Shapes like ‘C’ and ‘S’ curl back into themselves, leaving tight “apertures”–the channels of white between a letter’s interior and exterior. So each shape halts the eye again and again, rather than ushering it along the line. The lowercase ‘e,’ the most common letter in English and many other languages, takes an especially unobliging form. These and other letters can be a pixel away from being some other letter, and we’re left to deal with flickers of doubt as we read.
Lucida Grande presents open apertures, inviting the eye to move along sideways through the text. It has worked really well–for years, and for good reason. For any text, but particularly in interfaces, our eyes need typefaces that cooperate rather than resist. A super-sharp Retina Display might help, but the real issue is the human eye, and I haven’t heard of any upgrades on the way.
I think he has a point there.
FontShop has announced it has been acquired by Monotype. In the company’s press statement, the headline says FontShop has “joined Monotype”. Monotype’s statement is a little less romanticising.
From my point of view it was only a matter of time for FontShop to struggle as a company. FontShop was founded in the early nineties and grew big the now faded age of Desktop Publishing. Once a legend in its field, FontShop missed the opportunity to adapt, or even lead the digital revolution as the primary usage of fonts moved from paper to screen. It failed to innovate in areas of screen rendering, hinting and responsive typography. TypeKit, Webtype, Linotype’s Fonts, Google Fonts and lastly Typography.com from H&Co. stole the thunder in terms of innovation and economic efficiency.
(Photo: FontShop Blog)