Category Archives: Application Review

My Favourite Gadget, Book and App in 2016

Every year I list my favourite gadget, book and app from the last twelve months, so here they are for 2016:

Favourite gadget

A smartwatch. I never expected them to be this useful.

During the summer I ran my first marathon and bought a running watch to track my runs. The watch, a Garmin Forerunner 235, has a number of smartwatch features, including alerts that show on my phone, such as text messages, calls, Facebook alerts and so on, also show on my watch.

The watch also has a step and sleep counter, which I’d never as useful beforehand, but the step counter is moderately addictive. I can tell how well I sleep – I don’t need a watch to tell me.

Although the user interface on the watch is terribly over complicated, I still love the watch. Friends who have an Apple Watch still need to charge them daily, and the Forerunner can last at least a week.

Favourite book

The book that stopped me tweeting before boarding flights

I haven’t read as many books this year, but my favourite was ‘So you’ve been publicly shamed’ by Jon Ronson. I like Ronson’s style of writing, and I’m constantly worried (and telling the kids) of the dangers of a simple social media update upsetting others.

If you are interested in social networks, I thoroughly recommend the book. Since reading the book I try not to tweet when I’m boarding a plane, just in case autocorrect strikes.

Favourite app

I have a few friends who have started producing podcasts, and they use Podbean. I’ve been using the Podbean app for a while, but I still don’t find it very intuitive. It could be much simpler.

My favourite app for 2016 was Google Maps. Google have released a number of new, really good features. As a family we travel all over the UK. Google Maps has excellent voice recognition and smart route navigation, taking real-time traffic into account. But the 2016 killer feature is being able to search for something en-route, such as a petrol station or a specific restaurant. This is also voice controlled, and results are shown along the route.

 

This leaves me to wish everyone who reads this site, and your family, a wonderful holiday period, together with a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.

I’ve found the best app and it’s not Pokémon

If you see these in the street, watch out for the impending stampede
If you see these in the street, watch out for the impending stampede

There is a trend for financial and retail companies to offer additional benefits at the checkout – whether it’s spreading payments for large purchases, insurance or charity donations. Some banks are offering ‘save the small change’ functionality, rounding the purchase up to the nearest dollar or pound and putting that change into a holding account.

I know a few people who collect small change (or a particular coin). Every day they put it in a jar, then at the end of the year they donate it to charity or buy themselves a gift. This is obviously harder to do with electronic payments at the moment.

With new challenger banking apps appearing on users’ smartphones, retail banks are starting to offer their customers value added services at the point of payment. Continue reading I’ve found the best app and it’s not Pokémon

Robot Assistants: Google Inbox v. Microsoft Office 2016

The infamous paper clip - the first robot assistant (we just didn't know it at the time)
The infamous paper clip – the first robot assistant (we just didn’t know it at the time)

Last October, one of Gartner’s predictions for the digital future was that we will have robot assistants helping us perform work – not mechanical work, but office-based work such as content creation:

By 2018, 20 percent of business content will be authored by machines.

This is a bold claim – two years isn’t a long time, and 20% of office productivity is a lot of… documents and spreadsheets and presentations.

I’ve long been a fan of Google Inbox, the alternative interface to Gmail. Inbox recently announced that 10% of email replies using Google Inbox are now written by the built-in SmartReply feature – probably the biggest current implementation of a robot assistant. Continue reading Robot Assistants: Google Inbox v. Microsoft Office 2016

Watching TV in the Howard House

Chromecast - the best bit of kit on our television
Chromecast – the best bit of kit on our television

Like many households in the UK, our TV viewing habits have changed in the last few years, and continue to change.

To set the scene, we have four kids, ranging from 9 to 14 years old (plus Mrs H and I).

Our TV package consists of the following, each of which I’ll then describe:

  • Sky TV
  • Netflix
  • BT Sport
  • Now TV
  • YouTube
  • Google Play
  • And recently… an Amazon Prime Trial

Continue reading Watching TV in the Howard House

My Favourite Gadget, Book, App and Award in 2015

Every year I list my favourite gadget, book and app from the last twelve months, so here they are:

Favourite gadget

Gone are the days of opening Word. Now its a case of "Which Word?"
Windows 10 – a second placing for new technology of 2015

In early December my trusty Samsung S4 finally died. It had a few battle scars from daily use (read: abuse) yet worked well. One day it decided not to charge its battery any longer and despite changing a few components it was time to replace it. I had the offer of an iPhone but chose a Samsung S6 (you should have seen the look on my kids’ faces at the prospect of turning down an iPhone) – and I love it. It’s fast, big (almost tablet like) and stable. It’s the best phone I’ve owned.

Another contender is Windows 10 (OK, not really a gadget, but new technology). Continue reading My Favourite Gadget, Book, App and Award in 2015

Sitecore EMEA Partners Summit 2015 – conference notes

Today was the Sitecore EMEA Partner Summit 2015 at the Riverbank Park Plaza hotel in London. We, Endava, are a Platinum Sitecore partner and I’ve often considered Sitecore’s partner programme one of the best developed technology partnership programmes out there – and certainly one that other companies could learn a lot from.

These notes were taken at the conference using OneNote and a stylus (or perhaps it should be called a Microsoft Pen ha ha!!) – which I then quickly converted to text. I’ve had a quick read through, but if anything looks out of context, it probably is – please comment at the bottom of the post and I’ll correct it.

Continue reading Sitecore EMEA Partners Summit 2015 – conference notes

Reviewing the new Google Play Movies Second Screen Experience

Last night I sat down with Mrs H last night to watch Kingsman (an except film, highly recommended) on Google Chromecast. The film was pay per view, which was selected on my smartphone and then ‘transferred’ to Chromecast.

Kingsman - a great film, and the real life gadgets are almost as good as the fictional ones
Kingsman – a great film, and the real life gadgets are almost as good as the fictional ones

I noticed a new feature last night – while the film was playing I looked at my phone and the screen showed the characters and actors currently on the TV screen, as well as the music soundtrack. It was like Shazam on steroids!

How many times have you been watching TV and wondered who a specific actor was? If this happens to you regularly, you’ll love the experience.

Continue reading Reviewing the new Google Play Movies Second Screen Experience

Favor: This is going to be the next big mobile app

Favor app. Someone in my office thought this guy looks like me. I'm not so sure.
The excellent Favor app. Someone in my office thought this guy looks like me. I’m not so sure.

Whilst I was in the US last week I heard about Favor, a new app which provides a concierge/ delivery service. Although Favor is only available in half a dozen US cities, it seems to be growing very quickly and it’s only a matter of time before it’s available internationally.

Favor enables a customer to order an item from a nearby shop and have it delivered straight away. The average delivery time is 35 minutes. It costs $5 plus 5% of the product(s). The product can be food, dry cleaning, clothing, groceries, etc., although this being America, they won’t deliver alcohol.

Continue reading Favor: This is going to be the next big mobile app

Windows 10 – six month review

The Windows 10 start menu. It's back!!
The Windows 10 start menu. It’s back!!

I’ve run Windows 10 as the Operating System on my work laptop since the start of January.

I’ve been through some ups and downs with the latest version of Windows, and came very close to uninstalling it. Six months on though, I’m delighted with Windows 10. It’s evolved a fair bit, and Microsoft claim it will be ready for general release during this summer.

Before I go into detail, note that I’m running Windows 10 on some pretty beefy hardware – a Surface Pro with an i7 processor, 8Gb memory and 500Gb solid state hard drive. I don’t know how Windows 10 will perform on lower spec hardware. I’m on build 10162 which has been very stable (as in, one blue screen in a fortnight – more details below).

The two key areas I think Microsoft have improved upon are the Start menu and notifications. The rest feels a bit like some simple repainting on previous features. Continue reading Windows 10 – six month review

A Review of Google Inbox

New Google Inbox - the names and subjects have been blurred to protect the guilty
The new Google Inbox. The names and subjects have been blurred to protect the guilty

Last week one of my Endava colleagues came over to my desk in the office and caught a glimpse of my Outlook Inbox. The way I organise my email is really simple – unread emails in my Inbox constitute my Items To Do. Once I’ve acted upon the email, or strictly speaking, the item-to-do, I then delete the email. I could just rename the Deleted Items folder as Done – to me it’s the same thing because I keep all the emails in my Deleted Items anyway.

To my Endava colleague, my extra simple organisation of Inbox and Deleted Items was alien – they preferred multiple folders, and Follow Up flags, and categories (which I do use in the Calendar, but not email). In fact, she was most upset that most of her emails appeared in my Deleted Items folder – because I’d acted upon them, and not filed away in a project folder .

Continue reading A Review of Google Inbox