Mobile Musings 10/31/13: Wearables monitoring the brain, Glass directory, responsive design

Wearables & Brainwave Pattern Matching

A company called Neurocam debuted a wearable device at the Human Sensing conference that makes use of brainwave detection to gauge interest level in whatever happens to be in a user’s line of vision and saving what it considers the cool stuff. Form function aside (not likely people are going to want something that looks as if a smartphone was glued to the side of their head), there are plenty of use cases where I think this kind of technology makes a ton of sense. I just think it makes more sense to focus more attention on the software side and producing a minimal piece of hardware to “play nice” with Glass, rather than a completely separate device. Emotiv, which raised half a million dollars on Kickstarter back in the summer, is building a similar device slated for release in 2014.

A new home for Glass Apps

Google recently launched its own official directory of Google Glass applications. This will function as a repository for all Glass apps that have gone through Google’s own vetting & approval process, which will likely become the standard moving forward when the device hits the consumer market sometime in 2014.

Responsive Design = Not About Just Screen Size

Form factor isn’t the only criteria that should inform a mobile web design strategy, according to mobile usability expert Luke Wroblewski. While the size of a device has a significant impact, there are other factors to consider, including proximity from view & user posture, among others.


Mobile Musings 10/28/13: Smartphones making us oblivious to violence? Tablet markets, Android-First or no?

Smartphones Making Us Oblivious To The World: Take 458

The Wall Street Journal posted an op-ed last Friday from Christine Rosen positing that smartphones have made us less empathetic and more oblivious to the world around us. A common refrain and one that’s probably grounded in some truth. In this case though, she focuses on a murder case in San Francisco where a student was killed on a crowded train by a man who just moments before, was waving a gun in view of the other passengers.

As security footage shows, before the gunman fired, he waved around his .45 caliber pistol and at one point even pointed it across the aisle. Yet no one on the crowded train noticed because they were so focused on their smartphones and tablets.

Of course the oblivious bystander in violent encounters is hardly a new phenomenon for social scientists. The most famous example of this is the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in NYC, where, while its accuracy has been brought into question, the narrative goes that nearby neighbors heard and ignored her repeated cries for help. Strangely, the author actually mentions this case (among others) later in the piece. Yet the fact that this happened in a time long before the smartphone era would suggest that this is a social phenomena and not something driven by technology. In fact, the author doesn’t cite any statistical data that would seek to bolster the argument of distractive smartphone use playing a role in increasing this sort of aloofness. We’re all aware (sometimes too aware) of heads-down distracted users killing time at a bus stop or on a subway car but is this behavior actually driving society to be more oblivious? Or are we simply killing time the way we’ve traditionally done in the past with idle chit-chat, Walkmen, books & the like. Actual data supporting one conclusion or another would be welcome here, methinks.

Tablet Market Dynamics

Analyst Ben Evans has another great post capping off Apple’s announcement week with a look at what he feels are the two main markets in the tablet space. The first is the premium market where the iPad, thanks to superior hardware capabilities to comparable, continues to reign supreme. The other is the lower end of the market, particularly in places like China where a proliferation of cheap Android tablets has led to greater adoption than maybe some anticipated. Check out the post here. Might this lead to some app developers (particularly those developing software that don’t eat up gobs of system resources) going Android first?

Android First: The New Normal?

…which of course is a nice segue into the next story. So despite a lot of evidence mounting up in favor of iOS-first in developing mobile software, there are still some edge cases where building for Android makes sense; especially when it takes advantage of Android’s inherently more customizable platform. Cover looks like a good example of this. Being able to have the apps I use most a swipe away cuts down on some of the resistance one might have on iOS, even if you do have the apps you use most on one screen. While I think Josh Kopelman may be overstating Android’s viability as a first choice for developers, I think there are situations like this where it can work and work well.

Mobile Musings 10/17/13: Nobody wants a cheap iPhone and what it means for app developers, plus MapBox may not be the only one thinking mobile-first

Nobody wants a cheap iPhone

So the iPhone 5C has gotten off to a rocky start, with retailers cutting the phone’s future distribution. Since people have traditionally purchased the iPhone because of its best-in-class features and, as many news outlets have pointed out, the price drop was not large enough to accommodate the majority of the lower-end smartphone market, this result seems pretty logical. There just aren’t enough people that want a cheap iPhone at a not-so-cheap price.

What does this mean for app developers? Well, maybe it’s more about what it doesn’t mean: a debate into the tradeoff of speed and feature sets to accommodate inferior hardware in apps that now won’t have to take place.

Mobile Maps

MapBox sounds interesting. The open source nature of the platform should lend itself to lots of interesting innovations. Of course this quote from founder Eric Gunderson struck me:

So many of these companies are not building for mobile first

I’m not sure I agree with that. I think Google is pretty well aware of the majority of Maps use cases happening through its mobile app and are building accordingly. Even when I’m at the office and I’m looking to get directions somewhere, I always use my phone because I’m going to end up in my car (or using the walking directions if I’m in the city) anyway.

The other point to the dynamic maps arrangement Eric spoke about is that some of the use cases are already covered by the Foursquares of the world, when you think of the social aspect: shared destinations of interest, etc. I can already get that kind of stuff with them. Do I need another option for that? I’m more interested in some of the other potential uses for the platform: traffic patterns and some of the psychology around time management. For example, if we’re freelancing, are we more productive in one coffee shop over another etc. Those kinds of things would be neat, even if they seem minute to some.


Not mobile-centric but I love these posts from Phin Barnes & Brad Feld respectively on the “rubber duck” theory that’s become synonymous with programming strategies but really can be used in the context of any big project you happen to be stuck with, even writing. It’s a great little life hack and I do it constantly, although I usually don’t have the prop alongside me. When you’re working from home you have carte blanche to talk to yourself though. Trust me. You have my approval.