Autonomous Cars: Too boring for fantasy

April 24, 2017

Technology brings wonderful gifts with it. Autonomous Cars have been touted as the next big gift from technology, and they are seen as a great boon to humankind. Sure, with a world full of autonomous cars, once the technology has been perfected, the rate of accidents might just drop, but, is it worth what we lose in the process. 

Cars have always been an extension of one’s personality. The color or type of car you own says a lot about you. It’s almost like the clothes you wear, they’re a part of who you are. 

With the possibility of autonomous cars becoming the go-to for most governments (I live in dubai where, by 2030, 80% cars would be autonomous) the traffic would be so mundane to say the least. No driving= no excitement on the road. For most people who love driving, they can’t really sit in a car that’s being driven by someone else, and for them specially, autonomous cars would be a big no-no. 

Ya sure you will have a lot of extra time to do the things you want while you’re travelling. You might want to catch a nap or watch a movie or browse social media but why take the fun out of driving. 

Driving is a great stress buster for me and many whom I know. I urge governments to kindly not stick to any plan whereby 100% cars on the road would be autonomous, or else it would be a case of one more fun task vanishing into oblivion. 

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The Unimpressive era of Mobile Phone Technology

April 22, 2017

Yes, If I had to describe the current crop of smartphones in one line, this would be it. For a teenager who saw nokia change the foreground of advancement in the mobile era and motorola define the path-breaking design of the motorola RAZR, this is an era where evolution seems to have almost come to a standstill. Every tech website talks about smartphones in specific, but no one addresses the mobile phone evolution as a whole, and the evolutionary lag I wish to address with this article.

For a true handheld aficionado, the landmark year was 2007, when apple changed the way the mobile landscape looked. The basic design of mobiles had changed. Gone were the HP iPaQ’s and Palm Treo’s. It was time to say hello to the glass slabs. Sure we have come a long way since then, the internet speeds have become faster and video calling is almost the norm now. The mobile is now the centre of our universe, and most of us never feel the need to lug around an iPad or a laptop; desktops, for personal use, are almost extinct. This one fact should actually accelerate mobile technology evolution but is it really happening? Samsung – curved screens with smaller bezels- you call that a redesign? Apple – water resistant phones and a decent camera – that’s your selling point?

The times are so bad that when a nokia 3310 re-launches we are almost excited to know if it has whatsapp, since we might consider it worth a buy. Really? A phone from 17 years ago can also raise serotonin levels in this age? This teaser ad from motorola (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVzE1YS9UWM) almost made us believe that the RAZR was making a comeback. It was trending on twitter the moment this ad came out. Alas, motorola made it clear that the RAZR wasn’t coming back, it was just a way of reminding consumers how legendary were the phones they made – Damn – a phone from 14 years ago gets our pulse racing. Do you realize why?

At the chip level, yes a lot of advancement has taken place. 128GB is the norm for internal storage, and most cellphones have a camera good enough to leave the DSLR at home, but wheres the evolution in design? Smartphone companies have been testing foldable screens for years now; when will these designs come out of labs and into consumers hands. With Steve Jobs gone, apple is taking incremental steps into slightly improving the iPhone step by step, simply because the visionary who could imagine and create is no more, and all apple wants to do is keep people tied to their ecosystem and not do anything drastic that might move their ever-committed, ever-loyal customer base.

Samsung doesn’t really need a mention because aping apple is all that it has always done. The Galaxy Note 7 fiasco just shows how ignorant the mobile phone companies have become when it comes to production of phones. Between 2001 and 2009, the age I’d prefer to call the nokia era, there was a new flagship in the market every 3 months and there were new phone launches almost every 10 days. All these phones weren’t a bar or a clamshell, many had disruptive designs which did (Nokia 7600 and N-Gage) or didn’t (Nokia 7280) work, but atleast there was variety. We had options. Today, a cheap, unbranded, android-running phone from china can resemble the iPhone (Yes, they’re different on the software) and it would click equally good pictures, but the only reason they aren’t bought is due to the lack of reliability.

If any mobile researcher reads this, please don’t stop experimenting with designs for the safety of your profits. Evolution is necessary. Stagnation is boring, and disruption is never a bad idea.

Handhelds are here to stay

April 22, 2017

Google glasses, a chip embedded in the brain controlling an entire interface, oculus, smart earbuds, smart headbands, smart clothes, and smartwatches are all great accessories in the digital ecosystem of mankind but its the main handheld that is here to stay. No other interface shall replace it anytime soon. Yes, google glass almost made us believe that this interface was the next big thing but theres a lot more technological advancement required at the chip level to make that a viable reality. Right now our handhelds are the most convenient thing to use coz we all are used to it, a switch can only take place to a new device if the interface is simple and the learning curve isnt steep. 

Sure, the form factor of our handhelds may change.. We might see mainstream smartphones being the ones that can convert into tablets or worn as a wrist band but the idea of having anything else as a central device would be completely ridiculous to say the least. 

The neptune pine was a great attempt at trying to change the location of the main device. It was an experiment in the right direction but it failed miserably for the right reasons – convenience and user experience. 

Using a good device satisfies us psychologically at the hormonal level. That need is fulfilled with a handheld that lets us immerse ourselves in the digital world. 

And that immersiveness can only be bettered by a device that is so artificially intelligent (a way more advanced version of glass) it feels like you have no device on you. 

Blackberry and its relevance in 2017

April 21, 2017

With a smartphone market share of less than 1%, a company that was known to be a leader in smartphone sales worldwide, with a share of over 25%, 8 years ago, is probably heading for doom, or is it?

Many have questioned the relevance of blackberry smartphones in today’s day and age when they are just another manufacturer trying to have their own space in the large pie of android smartphones sold globally every year.

Having the DTEK app or a physical keyboard on half of the smartphones they have in the market does help them maintain their individual brand characteristics, they may argue, but are they really relevant in a world where smartphone technologies seem to have stagnated. Well, honestly, as a tech aficionado I honestly feel smartphone technology isn’t really advancing leaps and bounds and its been like this for years. Aren’t we honestly tired of comparing processors to argue whether this phone is better or that one. OK, OLED screens are better and so are phones with bigger batteries, but in a world where all the phones virtually function the same way, the world desires something truly different. Truly different is not defined by disappearing bezels but by adding relevant features which the consumer would need in everyday usage.

In 2010, I remember writing my first blog which mentioned that I dreamt of a phone which would have the keyboard of a blackberry (I was rocking a BB Bold 9700 back in the day) an Iphone like user interface and the ability to customize like android; come 2016 and I bought myself the BB Priv which was simply a wow device. It was a dream come true for a true blackberry lover.

Android and apple have their own fanboys today and its been like this for years, but this isn’t half as exciting back in the day when everyone was rocking a nokia or better, when blackberry was being compared to crack (read crackberry) for its addictive nature. Hell, the crackberry book by Kevin Michaluk was the holy grail for us blackberry users and abusers. It was a beautiful time to have a blackberry when you were in class and you didn’t need to see the phone to bbm your mates. BBM was far far better than whatsapp today. After all it was the first true blue messenger for the mobile world, and you knew the songs your friends were listening to.

With all this history, blackberry had a responsibility towards its fan base, to evolve. It seems for a while they stuck to their roadmap and didnt really evolve in the way the consumers evolved as they got used to their idevices and androids, but adopting android was a step in the right direction – Copyrighting DTEK, the blackberry hub, that quintessential keyboard and the “secure and suited up” brand image is what they have going for them even today.

While I am not really a big fan of the usual glass and metal superphones, I am a huge fan of evolving handhelds and am looking forward to the death of this trend with Samsung Lg folding phones and blackberry’s taking back their share from this world of glass slabs, which has definitely reached its pinnacle. The end of this glass and metal slabs is near, users need something really new, disruptive, a new form factor, graphene batteries and then we would have some evolution really taking place in the mobile spectrum.

Enough with huge advertisement campaigns to boost the sales of devices with incremental changes or worse, changes such as adding the color red to their devices. C’mon consumers, you aren’t that dumb. Demand the change you deserve, or better, grab yourself a Blackberry KeyOne to own something really better, evolved and really different.

With over 25 shortcuts on the keyboard your every action is really just a tap away, now that’s called making life easier. This is something truly evolutionary. Those buttons wont just open apps, they’ll actually do the whole task for you like calling mom or wife and gone will be the days when we shall go to contacts or favourites after opening the phone app to dial a simple damn number.

I’m sold, are you?