About Ewan Spence
Ewan Spence is a blogger, author and writer based out of Edinburgh, Scotland. In addition to his own blog, he has contributed and contributes to BBC News, BBC Magazine (online), The Stage (UK Arts and Entertainment Newspaper), Computing (VNU), iProng Magazine, IT Pro, O’Reilly’s Make Magazine, Palmtop Magazine, Podcast User Magazine, UK Tech and UK Mobile Blognation, PDA Essentials, Mobile Messaging 2.0 and All About Symbian.
He wrote the book Rapid Mobile Enterprise Development for Symbian OS and has audio program commissions for BBC Radio 5 Live – Through the Night and Pods and Blogs, Computer Outlook Talk Radio Show and Talk 107. He also regularly speaks at and moderates panels at high profile technology conferences around the world.
Latest Posts by Ewan Spence
I know it’s the artistic choice, but anyone with a passing knowledge of Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb” will know that The War Room set was decked out in green baize so it resembled a poker table, even though it wouldn’t show up in the black and white prints. Looks like AirBNB went for the best picture possible, rather than accuracy, when they decked out their board room in the style of the Ken Adams set.
I think there’s a pun somewhere in that mix about the AirBNB service…
San Francisco magazine says the room, which has its own Foursquare listing, is all part of the “arms race” for inspirational office space so you will never (ever ever) stop working. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bubble—just don’t forget how this movie ends.
The cinematic homage isn’t the only affect in Airbnb’s new offices at 888 Brannan Street in Soma. It also features a Skee-Ball machine. An infantilizing extravagance? Hardly, saysMetropolis magazine. It’s a riff off an early listing that tried to sell a Skee-Ball machine as sleeping quarters, making Airbnb new workplace “game section” muy authentico.
There’s even a replica of “the living room of the founders’ original Rausch Street apartment, faithfully copied down to the lucky red velvet Jesus statue,” in case you were wondering whether Airbnb’s cofounders gave themselves enough credit.
The architects behind this wallpaper war sound every bit as self-aggrandizing as their clients, by San Francisco magazine’s account:
“There were times when we were challenged as architects to push the limits more than other clients would ask us to,” says Lisa Bottom, a principal at Gensler, the global design firm behind the Airbnb and Facebook offices. “But our job was to be an enabler of their company’s culture.”
After all, when work-is-life-is-work, getting compensated for your labor is a secondary concern:
“It’s not enough to give employees a big paycheck and a Ping-Pong table anymore. You can only throw so much money at people,” says David Galullo, chief executive officer of the branding and design firm Rapt Studio.
The architects brush off the memory of abandoned ping pong tables and Aeron chairs rolling down the hills of San Francisco:
“A lot of gimmicky design—silly furniture for silly furniture’s sake—came out of the last dot-com boom,” says Collin Burry, design director at Gensler. “That world is kind of trite now; that irrational exuberance is tired.”
All that effort put into Airbnb’s headquarters and no one installed a mirror.
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[Image via Metropolis magazine]
One of the interesting quirks of my trip to San Francisco last week was I spent the time using an iPhone 5S in anger, as opposed to my regular Windows Phone device.
Cards on the table, this is not going to be a forensic review of the iPhone 5S. Seven weeks ago it reached the hands of the public, and since then Apple has struggled to keep their latest flagship smartphone in stock. It’s hard to disagree with those sort of sales numbers, and after spending two weeks with the iPhone 5S I haven’t found any reason to even try. The iPhone 5S is the best all-round smartphone on the market right now.
Yes, that’s a statement that’s going to raise a lot of eyebrows (and I can imagine the comments are already being mentally composed). There is a lot of choice in the smartphone market right now, and there is no right answer to the question of ‘which is the best phone to buy.’ Every handset and every operating system is a collection of compromises, and the iPhone is compromised in a different way to an Android, Windows Phone, or BlackBerry handset.
You can read the full review of the iPhone 5S over on Forbes.
Photo from Engadget of 5S versus the iPhone 5c.
As wearables continue to be the big tech trend going into 2014, I have taken a look at Sony’s third version of a smartwatch, the snappily titled Sony SmartWatch 2:
I actually found it really useful when writing, Because the email is flashed up on the screen I could simply tilt the wrist and decide if that email needed to be dealt with immediately, or if I could mentally defer it and keep writing, with almost no break in my typing. It’s also a discreet option when in meetings or in situations where you wouldn’t feel right going to your smartphone.
The smart thing about this smartwatch is that it was designed with a rigid idea of the function it would fulfil. Couple that with very little feature creep on the product, and Sony has a product that works incredibly well in the role they have defined for it. While some companies struggle to build a watch that will do everything, only talk to their own hardware, or try to do far too much with not enough battery power and watch that looks like a prop from a 1970′s British dystopian space opera, Sony’s minimalism and iteration has resulted in a product that works in the real world.
Unlike certain other smartphone products (principally the Samsung Galaxy Gear), the SmartWatch 2 can be used with any Android device, although I’m sure that Sony would prefer that you use one of their Xperia handsets. I’ve been using the SmartWatch 2 for the last fortnight with an Xperia Z1.
On the hardware side of things, Sony has managed to find a good mix of form and function. Even more than a smartphone, the size of a smartwatch determines almost all of the functionality, and the two primary considerations are battery life and the user interface.
Starting with the screen technology, the SmartWatch 2 has a 220×176 transreflective LCD screen, which is touch sensitive. Given the nature of this watch you’re not going to need to make precise inputs with your finger, so the interface is driven by finger sized icons and a blend of swipes across the screen to scroll through lists.
One gesture that is missing from the SmartWatch 2 is the pinch gesture. Sony previously employed this as a gesture to take you to the home screen, but this has been depreciated since their first smartwatch design in favour of something more familiar to Android users, namely the three soft keys under the screen. You have a ‘back’ button, a ‘home’ button, and a ‘menu’ button. These don’t light up, but are marked with a silver colour to stand out against the black fascia of the watch. Along with Sony logo top centre of the watch, this is a smartwatch that on a second glance is clearly ‘more than a watch’. Wearing it out and about, it has caught the eye of many people with an excited “what’s that?”
Read the full review over on Forbes.
One-off Etsy design of a USB keyboard in a ZX Spectrum housing. Its almost as expensive as the original ZX Spectrum. Part of me hopes that the guts of the Spectrum donated for this project are being hardwired into an Apple Bluetooth keyboard to make a futuristic iSpectrum.
Travel back to the 1980′s with this original Sinclair ZX Spectrum converted to work as a fully functional USB keyboard. Inside, there’s a controller board running my custom software which transforms the Spectrum’s keyboard into a USB keyboard. This will work anywhere a normal USB keyboard would, most laptop and desktop PCs, and some tablets. No software is required to run on the PC end, just plug in and go.
The Nokia Lumia 625 Windows Phone is an interesting handset that sits squarely in the budget range, alongside the Lumia 520 and 620 (and mirrors much of the hardware specifications), but it pushes the boat out with a large 4.7 inch screen and 4G LTE connectivity. Can this budget monster really deliver?
While it is available in the first world markets, I do feel that the Lumia 625 is aimed more towards the BRIC countries, where the combination of the lower price and larger screen should prove to be an attractive lure. High end capabilities without high end pricing is always attractive.
This is where Windows Phone 8 comes in especially useful. There is very little difference in terms of speed, look, and feel, between the OS running on a Lumia 1020 and the Lumia 625. In contrast to the wide range of performance issues on Android, Windows Phone 8 is a remarkably consistent platform.
With a 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Krait CPU, and the Adreno 305 GPU, the Lumia 625 is a well specced budget device, and it includes MicroSD support to expand the storage. Probably the only point in the specs worth noting is the RAM and the Lumia 625 sports the lowest possible configuration for Windows Phone 8, just 512 MB.
This is similar to the best selling Lumia 520, and while it does mean some of the larger games available in the Windows Store (mostly the 3D driving and FPS titles) will not run, but the vast majority of applications are available. In terms of compatibility with the rest of the ecosystem, there are very few issues with the Lumia 625.
The biggest compromise is the biggest element. The 4.7 inch screen is an IPS LCD unit, and it features a number of compromises to bring the Lumia 625 into the lower price range. First of all it’s still the lower resolution WVGA screen. At 800×480 pixels, this gives the Lumia 625 one of the lowest pixel per inch numbers of a smartphone in a long time, just 201ppi.
It is the biggest screened Windows Phone device outside of the high-end, and to achieve that the resolution remains at a lower level, and the screen does not have the full range of Nokia technology. There is no polarising layer that is used in the ClearBlack Display technology to enhance the colours and effectiveness in sunlight. The IPS screen also feels to be a lower quality, so the colours on the handset are muted, overall the display is not as bright as others, and the colours suffer washout away from the ‘looking directly at the screen’ angle.
Right here is the decision that you need to make if you are interested in the Lumia 625. Do you want better colour reproduction and quality in your display, or is the larger screen size a deal breaker?
Slightly complicating the decision is the inclusion of 4G LTE connectivity in the handset as well as HD voice if it is supported on the network. This is the first ‘low cost’ Windows Phone handset to support the faster data transmission of 4G, and as such it is very much future proofed for users, and also allows carriers to have a budget handset for pay as you go and contract free handsets at a low price.
See full write-up review over on Forbes. Photo credit: Nokia Lumia 625 (Photo credit: vernieman).
In short, high end specs that match the best Android has to offer, but the OS is insanely focused on messaging capabilities to the detriment of the rest of the platform. Step outside the focused remit of the BB10 developers and the Z30 stops being an effective smartphone.
BlackBerry is now clearly playing in the niche category, but messaging and connectedness is a good niche to be in. If they can navigate their current corporate issues and still be able to develop the OS and handsets with limited runs in twelve months time, they’ll still be around inn a form where they can serve a subset of smartphone users with insane focus.
On its own the BlackBerry Z30 is an interesting smartphone that does just enough to be attractive outside of the faithful Blackberry crowd. But seen in conjunction with BlackBerry’s financial issues, it’s very hard to judge the Z30 in its own right.
The problem is that BlackBerry bet the house on the Z10, and the market did not buy into, resulting in an almost one billion dollar write-down due to the overproduction of the Z10. While the Z30 is in improvement in almost every area of hardware and software, BlackBerry has much less goodwill from the consumers still to buy into a BlackBerry 10 powered handsets, and as a company BlackBerry is not in a position that promotes long term confidence.
There’s a lot to like about the Z30. There’s also a lot to be wary about. There are no show-stopping issues, but there are a handful that would stop me recommending the Z30 to someone blindly. If you are fully aware of the capabilities and limitations of the Z30, it’s going to be a solid handset, but for the general public I don’t feel BlackBerry has done enough to future proof the Z30.
I’ve reviewed the Z30 handset in more depth on Forbes, head over there to read it in full.
Photo credit: Getty Images.
The Nook HD, now available for just £79 for 8GB in the UK, is a nice piece of kit. It’s not cutting edge, but it does the job, its comfortable to read on for long periods, and with the inclusion go Google Play, you can be sneaky and install the Kindle app if you’re locked in to Bezos’ ecosystem.
It is possible to use the Nook HD and Nook HD+ as purely Kindle readers, which does feel a touch subversive as a user, and I did wonder how sales from the Barnes and Noble store have performed since the opening up of the Kindle. Interestingly Managing Director Jim Hilt told me earlier this month that “sales have not been diminished with the inclusion of Google Play.”
Barnes and Noble still has a significant number of apps available through the Nook Store, but having Google Play available should give the switched-on user more confidence to buy a Nook.
If for any reason the Nook ecosystem was switched off, the inclusion of Google Play, and the ability to side load content and apps over the USB cable would mean the tablet would still be usable.
As if the world of smartphones wasn’t satisfied with Microsoft buying Nokia, Google have announced the new version of Android (v4.4) will be called…
Seriously was Google so annoyed that nobody had written about Android for eight hours that they just rolled out the wackiest, craziest, idea possible? With Kit-kat advertised on every Android handset, and Nexus handsets advertised on ever Nestlé chocolate wafer bar for the next few weeks, it reminds me of the sort of crazy moves Google used to pull on April Fools Day in the past.
Android 4.4 KitKat is the next major version of its mobile operating system.
Photo credit: www. idownloadblog. com from Google.