I spent two weeks without my iPhone. I was completely off the grid for the first week but then spent the second week online, on my MacBook Air and Kindle, but no iPhone. I got home on Sunday and have had my iPhone turned on the past few days. I’ve used it as a phone, but I’ve largely stayed off of the web, email, and twitter with it. Instead, I’m only done this when I’m in front of my computer. I played around a little with the new Gmail iPhone app (which I like) but I’ve been limiting my email to “intentional time” – early in the morning, late at night, and when I have catch up time in between things.
I don’t miss my iPhone at all. It sits in my pocket most of the time. Every now and then I hop on a phone call and do a conference call with MobileDay. I used it for a map. I checked my calendar a few times.
Yesterday, it occurred to me that I was much more mentally engaged throughout the day in the stuff going on (I had a typically packed day). I had dinner with my brother at night. No phones were on the table, no checking in to Foursquare, no quick scanning of Twitter in the bathroom while peeing. When I got home, I hung out with Amy – no email. This morning, I just spent an hour and went through the 200 emails that had piled up since 5:30pm when I’d last checked my email. My inbox is empty.
There’s some magic peace that comes over me when I’m not constantly looking at my iPhone. I really noticed it after two weeks of not doing it. After a few days of withdrawal, the calm appears. My brain is no longer jangly, the dopamine effect of “hey – another email, another tweet” goes away, and I actually am much faster at processing whatever I’ve got on a 27″ screen than on a little tiny thing that my v47 eyes are struggling to read.
Now, I’d love for there to be a way for me to know about high priority interrupts – things that actually are urgent. But my iPhone doesn’t do this at all in any discernable way. There are too many different channels to reach me and they aren’t effectively conditioned – I either have to open them up to everyone (e.g. txtmsg via my phone number) or convince people to use a specific piece of software – many, such as Glassboard – which are very good, but do require intentional behavior on both sides.
I’m suddenly questioning the “mobile first” strategy. Fred Wilson just had two posts about this – yesterday’s (Rethinking Mobile First) and today’s (A Blog Post Written On The Mobile Web). He’s coming at this from a different perspective, but it’s an interesting meme and thought process.
I don’t actually care about the hardware much – it’s going to evolve very rapidly. As is my way, I’m completely focused on the software. And I think the software is badly lacking on many dimensions. Since so much of the software is happening on the backend / in the cloud, we have the potential for radically better user interaction. But we are far from it.
Fred talks in his second post about living in the future. My future, five years from now, has my “compute infrastructure” integrated into my glasses. I no longer have a smart phone – I simply have glasses. I have no idea if I carry a device around in my pocket or have an implant, nor do I care. Again, the hardware will happen. But I don’t want to live my life having all my emails appears in my glasses. And I especially don’t want a tiny keyboard that I can barely see anymore being my input device.
I don’t know the answer here so I’m going to run a bunch of experiments for v47 of me. I’ll spend some months, like this one, with email turned off on my phone. I’m going to dig deeper into “cross channel” software that helps me deal with the flow of information. I may hack together a few things to help me manage it. And I’m continuing to shove more and more communication online – via email or videoconferencing – and away from the phone in the first place.
What’s missing is my control center. I’ve been looking for it for a while and never found anything that’s close, so I end up with a manual control center in my browser. Maybe I’ll stumble upon it – finally – this year. Or maybe I’ll create it. Either way, my smart phone is officially not working for me anymore.
Each day I do at least two, and sometimes as many as a half dozen, audio conference calls. I make almost all of them from my iPhone when I’m walking somewhere or driving in my car. I find the process of dialing into a conference totally insane, maddening, and archaic. Here’s how it usually goes when I’m in the car.
- I go to my calendar on my iPhone at the appointed conference time.
- I try to memorize the conference call id. If I’m lucky, the phone number is underlined so I don’t have to remember that.
- I dial the number (or it dials automatically). Once the conference bridge answers, I press the keypad (#) icon on the phone.
- As I’m driving, I try not to crash into something as I type the conference code.
- By this point, I’ve often forgotten the code, press the home button on my iPhone, go back to my calendar, read the code again, press the home button, go back to the phone icon, and try to finish entering the number before it times out. If it times out I get a second chance (usually) and go back to step #4.
- Usually I’ll get into the conference. But if I don’t, I go back to step #1, but only after screaming “fuck” at the top of my lungs at my phone.
- Once I’m in the conference, I once again go back to concentrating on driving. I usually realize that I’ve paid no attention to the road for the last 30 seconds.
- If I’m driving to the Denver airport, I can guarantee that at least one time during the call I will drop and have to start over at step #1.
All I really want is a notification to pop up on my phone when it’s time for a conference call that allows me to have one touch access into any conference call automagically.
This is what MobileDay does. And it’s available now on iPhone and Android. Go try it and give me feedback.
It’s an early release so there will be plenty of rough spots, conference call numbers that don’t have the right sequence in their database, and funny iPhone glitches (since Apple locks down a lot of the phone dialing stuff), but I’ve been using it for all scheduled phone calls for the last 30 days and it’s rapidly improving with each release, especially based on user feedback as we learn all the different cases we need to solve for.
The MobileDay team has been quickly adding features like being able to – within the app – send email and SMS messages to meeting participants (for example to tell people I’m running five minutes late) and automatically map locations of meetings from the address block.
I was involved in the creation of reservationless audioconferencing, which was pioneered by Raindance (I was a seed investor) in 1997. Today, reservationless audioconferencing is ubiquitous (and I view it as a platform for communication), but the UX has been relatively unchanged and is still optimized for phones with keypads that don’t have integrated calendars and scraps of papers with numbers scribbled on them. It’s time for a completely new way to interact with this platform and MobileDay is obsessively focused on this. Play around and help us focus on the key things that are needed to make this a completely flawless experience.
I love Fitbit. We had a board meeting yesterday and there is so much amazing stuff coming from this company in the next few quarters. James and Eric are product creation machines – they love what they do, love their products, obsess about every bit of them, and have a vision about human instrumentation and where it can go that dwarfs anything I’ve heard from anyone else. Oh – and they’ve built a killer team that shares this vision as well as the ability to execute on it.
The newest Fitbit (the Fitbit Ultra) is out – if you’ve been holding off buying one don’t wait any longer. And today they just released the iPhone app for the Fitbit. I’ve been using it for a few months and it’s a great companion to the Fitbit.
My belief that in a decade humans will be fully instrumented – and be able to have the instrumentation create realtime feedback loops – is one that causes some people to look at me funny. But, whenever someone who has a Fitbit hears this, and then asks me to explain more, I see their head start nodding up and down.
I’m really lucky I get to work with these guys.
Last week on Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals we offered a huge discount on Ruby classes, and had one of our most successful offers ever. This week I asked my friends at Udemy to cook up another great deal on the course “Creating iPhone Games for Beginners”. They came up with an offer where $39 takes you through the process of building a complete iPhone game (normally $99).
Leave a comment and give me your pitch for a new iPhone game. The best idea by midnight tonight gets a free course.
For a limited time, Occipital’s Panorama 360 is free. If you don’t know why this is such an awesome app, watch the short video demonstration below.
We closed our investment in Occipital last week and I wrote about it in the post titled The World Is Just A Bunch Of Pixels. The Occipital gang is going to create a bunch of amazing stuff and now’s your chance to get on board with a one minute iPhone download. And, if you are reading this after the free offer expires, it’s still worth getting for the couple of bucks they are charging.
Today on Brad Feld’s Amazing Deals I’m bringing you another offer from the online academy Udemy.com. A few months ago, Udemy was responsible for one of my most popular deals to date, a suite of deals relating to startups. Today they are offering your choice of two courses for $75 (normally $250). Pick either Learn to Develop an iPhone or iPad application in 4 weeks or Learn Python the Hard Way. Both courses include multiple videos, lectures, and code examples.
If you were one of the 100+ people that bought the last Udemy deal, I’d love to hear your feedback on the course.
Now that my Apple and Google experiments have been huge successes, I thought I’d try an Android phone one more time. I like my iPhone 4, but it’s pretty weak with all the Google apps. Specifically, I badly want better contact integration, clean email sync, and Google voice. Plus, AT&T still blows in Boulder.
Any suggestions out there for the “best Android out there today.” I was using a Sprint EVO for a while (and liked it a lot) until it was stolen by my assistant Kelly. So, I open to any choice – suggest away.
I love when companies I’m an investor in use acquisitions to build out their product line. In April Rally Software did one when they acquired AgileZen; yesterday they announced that Rally Software has acquired the ScrumAway iPhone app from Blue Hole Software.
Rally has re-released the product (previous a $15 download) as a free product called Rally for the iPhone that tightly integrates with the Rally SaaS-based Agile software lifecycle environment. If you are a Rally customer, this is a no-brainer app for you; if you aren’t a Rally customer but are an Agile development shop that also has a bunch of iPhone users, take a look at Rally’s products.
And – if you are an entrepreneur running a company that you think fits with any of the companies I’m an investor in, don’t ever hesitate to drop me an email to explore things.
Another TechStars company has been acquired. Well – part of it has been acquired. Today it was announced that eBay has acquired the RedLaser product from Occipital. The Occipital guys tell the story in their post titled Arrival at the Launchpad.
Occipital’s founders – Jeff and Vikas – are the epitome of bootstrap entrepreneurs. Every TechStars class seems to have one and Occipital wins the bootstrapper of TechStars Boulder 2008 award. At the end of the program they had a few chances to raise money but weren’t happy with the valuations so decided to hunker down and just bootstrap things. They reinvented themselves several times until they launched RedLaser which has been a runaway hit (over two million copies sold to date.) As RedLaser took off, they had another set of interesting investment offers but no longer have any need for outside capital.
While they were on their way to creating an interesting mobile ecommerce company, they wanted to work on a much bigger set of technical challenges than RedLaser in computer vision and augmented reality, their areas of passion and technical expertise. In their travels they had a few inquires for an acquisition of the company, but really only wanted to sell the RedLaser product, not the entire company. Fortunately, eBay was very interested in the RedLaser product and the match worked extremely well for both parties.
Given this sale, I expect Occipital is now a long way from ever raising outside capital. Jeff and Vikas are now extremely well funded, are scaling up a very interesting team, and going after a huge vision. Oh – and RedLaser is now free in the iPhone AppStore. Congrats to Occipital, Vikas and Jeff!
Google gave all 5000 Google I/O attendees an HTC EVO (I guess it’s a Sprint EVO) running Android. For the past two years I’ve been using an iPhone and have become increasingly disgusted by AT&T’s service which is horrible (and deteriorating) in the cities I frequent – most notably Boulder, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, NY, and Boston. So – I decided to give the EVO+Android a real shot and use it for a week as my permanent phone.
When I wrote my post Open Android vs. Closed iPhone right after Google I/O a few folks took shots at me for pimping a free phone that I got at a conference. Given the amount of money I regularly shell out to screw around on hardware and software (I’m one of those guys who happily buys things just to try them out) I shrugged this off but figured it was worth pre-empting since I’m sure this nonsense will come around again. So – there’s the disclaimer – I got this phone for free (although I did sit on two panels and spent a day and a half talking to people at Google I/O.)
While there has been plenty of fan boy and anti-fan boy chatter about this phone, I can only find one thing to complain about – the battery life. It’s still running Android 2.1 so I expect there will be plenty of battery tune up in Android 2.2, but out of the box the battery only lasts about six hours. I’ve tuned my settings so I can get a full day out of it, but am still carrying my USB cord to grab some juice from time to time. There a few tricks (like charge it with it turned off) that help a lot, but it feels like the iPhone 3G did when it first came out where I was always paying attention to how much charge I had left. Fortunately this will get better with software (quickly) and – since the battery is removable, I can just carry a spare around.
Ok – that’s literally the only thing I don’t like. The screen is phenomenal. All of the apps I run on my iPhone are available on Android – I even found a few new ones. The camera is killer. The email client is much better than the iPhone. Search for anything is lightening fast. Voice recognition – er – recognizes my voice. I have a phone that tethers and – if I want – I have a hotspot (bye bye MiFi.) My applications remember their state and come up instantly because they are still running in the background. The browser is fast. Google Maps + Navigation is incredible, especially for someone who can’t read a map to save his life. I can dial a phone number, look up an address, and get directions from within the calendar. The weather app knows where I am. Google Voice works great and is tightly integrated.
And – for the payoff – I can make a fucking telephone call on this thing. I can’t remember the last time I looked back after a day and thought “wow – I didn’t drop a single call today.” Now the only dropped calls I’ve had are when I’m talking to someone on an iPhone and they drop.
I’m looking forward to iPhone 4.0 coming out so I can see how it compares. My guess is that I’ll get the Android 2.2 upgrade at about the same time so I’ll have both to play around with in June and July. The real result will be to see which phone I’m using when I get back from Alaska in August. In the mean time, the HTC EVO is a winner and – as a result – the smart phone thing is going to get interesting now that Apple has some real competition and can no longer just walk all over Microsoft and Palm.
Did I mention that I can’t wait to get my hands on an Android Tablet?