iPod Nano Scratches | October 24, 2005

I’ve wanted an iPod Nano ever since they were released, and yesterday I went ahead and bought one. I was concerned by the reports of scratching, but Apple said this only affected a tiny proportion of models, so I wasn’t worried.

I had to nip to the post office today to pick up some mail, so I thought I’d give it a try. I slipped my iPod nano into an empty coat pocket, chose a podcast to listen to, and went for a 30 minute walk. Before I left my iPod Nano screen was pristine. By the time I’d returned it was covered in tiny little scratches. I can’t believe that after 30 minutes of use, the screen is almost as scratched as my girlfriends two year old classic iPod.

I’d be interested to know if any of you have experienced similar problems?

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iPod Nano | September 15, 2005

I bought my girlfriend an iPod a couple of Christmases ago to make her commute up to London a bit more pleasant. I though about getting an iPod myself, but I never really listened to that much music on the go, so felt it would be a bit of a waste.

I thought about getting an iPod mini, but the same thing applied. It looked good but probably wouldn’t get that much use. By the time the iPod shuffle came out, Apple had wore me down. It was the perfect size and weight to have in my pocket all the time, and was great for the occasional trip to London, or the increasingly occasional trip to the gym. Perfect for filling up dead space.

I’ve been doing a lot more travelling the last couple of months, going up to London for meetings, training sessions and events. The last few trips I’ve started to feel the limits of the iPod shuffle. First off my shuffle is limited to about 150 songs, so you do end up getting repeats over the course of a day, especially if you skip over songs you don’t fancy listening to. Secondly there is no way to tell what a song is, so if a song comes on that you like, you can’t find out what it is or rate it.

The iPod shuffle is an excellent entry product. You get a very cheap product that shows you the benefits of having a portable mp3 player, but is limited so that after 6 months, you want to upgrade. Very smart. And what happens around 6 months after the iPod shuffle is launched?

That’s right, the iPod Nano.

ipod nano

The pictures of the iPod Nano look pretty impressive, but you honestly can’t get a feel for how small and compact these things are unless you see them. I went up to the Apple store on Sunday to have a look and I have to say I was blown away. Now the iPod classics are by no means bulky and the mini’s are, as their name suggests, pretty small. However the iPod Nano is tiny. Just like the Shuffle, the Nano is an MP3 player that you’ll just slip into your jacket pocket or bag and carry everywhere with you. However unlike the Shuffle, it has all the features, and more, of the iPod classic.

The visual styling is fantastic, looking like you’ve left your iPod classic in the washing machine and it’s shrunk. The colour screen is crisp and clear, making me wonder how people ever managed with a black and white screen. They just look so dated in comparison. The only problem is that it looks so small you feel it would snap in half if you forgot to take it out of your back pocket when you sat down. Not to fear however because the new Nano’s have been thoroughly stress tested and seem to be pretty robust. Just don’t expect them to work properly after you’ve dropped them out of your car at 50mph and then driven over them.

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Aeron Chair by Herman Miller | September 10, 2005

Aeron office chair

A few of weeks ago I talked about wanting an Aeron chair. Richard Rutter pointed out an auction on ebay and a couple of days later we are both the proud owners of new (well slightly used) Aerons. They really are very nice, providing an excellent combination of comfort and style. So if your in the market for a new chair, I can highly recommend them.

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My New D750 | August 29, 2005

After my little mobile phone usability dilemma I settled on a compromise. I wanted functionality and usability over style, but style was still very important to me. Rather than go for the gaudy orange W800, I noticed that T-Mobile had their own custom branded version, going under the name of the D750. While it was still nowhere near as nice visually as the K750, It had much more usable keyboard.

d750.jpg

I know some of you don’t like the K700 for various reasons. However I personally believe, form factor wise, It’s a brilliantly designed phone. I think it’s a real shame that mobile phone vendors remodel each time they upgrade a phones capabilities. I understand that they do this in order to differentiate models and make phone purchasing easier on the consumer. It would be a real pain for instance, if you went into your local mobile phone shop and all the phones looked the same. However I think it’s a shame that this enforced redesign means when they finally come up an ideal form factor, it’ll only last as long as the next technical advance.

Design should be about innovation, but more often than not, it’s purely about differentiation.

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Mobile Phones: Style vs Usability | August 26, 2005

A while ago I mentioned my desire for a new mobile phone. Now I have to admit that there isn’t actually anything wrong with my current phone. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s the best phone I’ve ever had.

The K700i is small, lightweight, looks great and has pretty much all the features I’ve ever wanted in a phone. The bevelled sides make the phone pleasant to hold while at the same time reducing its perceived size. All in all, a very impressive design.

However there is one thing has always bugged me, and that was the poor quality of the camera. Now I understand it’s a phone I’m talking about here, not the latest digital ixus. As such I shouldn’t expect professional quality images. However the K700 really doesn’t take good pics at all, not even good enough for posting to flickr. So despite loving my phone, I’ve been looking forward to the next generation of 2 Megapixel camera phones.

I had originally wanted to get a Sony Ericsson K750. I quite liked the look of the phone, although I wasn’t sure about the black finish. However the main problem with the K750 was the keypad. If you look at the keys, the two main function keys are tiny and set back into the body, making them difficult to use.

k750-keyboard.jpg

Also the number 2 on the keypad has a reasonably large chunk taken out of the top, also making it difficult to use. Now while I understand that you have to pack a lot of features into these smart phones, it shouldn’t come at the expense of their primary function, making phone calls.

I much preferred the keyboard on the W800.

w800-keyboard.jpg

The main control buttons are much easier to use, and while the actual number buttons are smaller than the K700, they don’t have any stupid chunks chopped out of them.

The W800 has the same features as the K750 with the addition of a dedicated music player only option, and a much bigger memory stick. The only problem was the colour, bright orange. Now call me a design snob if you will, but orange really isn’t my colour of choice for a mobile phone. Also the W800 looks that bit more chunky, boxy and plasticy than the K750 and doesn’t fit as nicely in the hand as my beloved k700.

So I was left with a bit of a dilemma. Get a phone I liked the look of, but had a badly designed interface, go for a more usable option who’s design I didn’t like, or stick which my current phone that looks good, is easy to use, but lacks a key feature I want.

This opens up and interesting question. Which is most important, design, usability of features?

Would you choose design and usability over features? Or if features were important, would design win out over usability, or the other way around?

I’ve made my choice, but I wonder what you’d choose.

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Herman Miller Chairs | August 3, 2005

In a recent post I mentioned that because I spend a very large portion of my life on a computer, I want to make sure I have the best system available. I was going to use the analogy of the travelling businessman wanting to get the most reliable, conformable and fully featured car available, before moving swiftly into the over used comparison than Apple were the BMW of the car market. Owned by people series about their cars.

However I realised that despite my fine words, I wasn’t actually practising what I preached. Sure I had a nice computer, and lots of cool gadget. However my working environment was less than comfortable because of the cheap lump of plastic and foam I laughingly call an Office chair.

If my Apple is the BMW of computers, what is the BMW of office chairs? Well in my mind there is only one answer. It has to be the Aeron by Herman Miller.

Aeron chair by Herman Miller

The Aeron is a design classic, as seen in advertising agencies, PR companies and architects studios all over the world. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of you gracing one as you read this post.

Unfortunately I’m no hot-shot creative director with a loft apartment and a six figure expense account. So an Aeron, however nice, is a little above my budget. However the Aeron does have a younger sister in the shape of the Mirra.

Mirra chair by Herman Miller

While not quite as flash as the Aeron, it still looks pretty slick, and is supposed to be just as comfortable. So I fully expect this to be the next in a long line of expensive gadgets I obsess about for ages before finally biting the bullet and splashing out on one.

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Sony Ericsson k750i | April 6, 2005

Last year I purchased a Sony Ericsson k700i and I have to say it’s the best mobile phone I’ve ever owned. However my one gripe is the camera. If you’ve seen any of the advertising you’ll know that the phone is marketed on the basis that its form factor looks like a digital camera. As such, you’d expect the phone to have semi-decent imaging capacities. Unfortunately you’d be wrong. I’d hoped that I could take the odd picture and upload it to flickr for a bit of moblogging action. However the quality of the images isn’t really up to that. Instead the camera has been relegated to taking disposable pictures of drunken nights out.

Now to be honest I didn’t really expect to get quality pictures. I knew the resolution wasn’t great, and after all, it’s only a phone. I’ve spoken to many people about this and they always tell me to carry a camera with me wherever I go. However I really can’t be bothered having another digital device loading down my pockets, just on the off chance that I want to take a picture. Instead I’d much prefer to have a single device that could do both jobs.

One of the other reasons I bought the k700i was it’s integrated mp3 player. I’m not a massive consumer of mobile music, but I occasionally find myself on a bus or train and it would be great to be able to listen to some tunes. When I first got the phone I transferred some music over, however the phone could only fit about two thirds of an album on it. I think I used the mp3 player twice before getting bored of the same 8 tracks. Instead I went out and bought an iPod shuffle and my k700i headphone are now gathering dust in a draw somewhere.

Sony Ericsson k750i

Enter the k750i, the k700i’s bigger brother. Now this looks like a really slick bit of kit. It has all the feature I like about the k700i, with the addition of a 2.0 megapixel camera and up to a gig of removable storage. The specs arn’t such that you’ll be throwing away your digital camera and mp3 player. However they are good enough to fill a useful niche, and I’ll be upgrading as soon as my contract allows. That’s assuming an even better phone isn’t release in the meantime.

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