“Go ahead and toss metrics aside; trying to justify a closer, deeper relationship with a customer base using a bean counter is a foolish endeavor.”
— Darren Murph
Opinions
Google Glass Consumer Feedback

Google Glass’ direct-to-consumer feedback mechanism renders the focus group dead

By on December 31, 2013 at 12:15 PM.

Google Glass’ direct-to-consumer feedback mechanism renders the focus group dead

In a few short days, I’ll be headed to the year’s most frenzied electronics gala — a little gathering known as the International Consumer Electronics Show. I’ve been going since 2008, but this year I’ll be accompanied by something new: Google Glass. I recently joined a growing herd of Explorers, primarily to test out, report on and improve upon Weber Shandwick’s wpForGlass plugin — a piece of software that enables Glass users to publish entire WordPress posts on the go. (Full disclosure, I’m employed by Weber Shandwick.) As someone who knows all too well the friction-filled process of photographing, note-taking, securing a power outlet, cursing oversaturated mobile data networks, and attempting to file stories from within the crammed Las Vegas Convention Center in real time, the promise of this initiative is a potent one indeed. More →

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Review
Polar Loop Review

Training with the Polar Loop fitness tracker and H7 heart rate monitor

By on December 30, 2013 at 12:00 PM.

Training with the Polar Loop fitness tracker and H7 heart rate monitor

The wearables market as a whole began to gain steam long before fitness trackers were en vogue, but there’s no question that the likes of Fitbit, Nike and Jawbone have benefited tremendously from the resulting collision course. Truth be told, it’s becoming somewhat difficult just to keep track of all of the options for keeping track of your health.

Polar has been dabbling in the fitness space for longer than most, but it’s just now churning out a wrist-worn apparatus that aims to rival the Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand, Basis, Larklife and Bowflex Boost (among others). The $110 Loop is pretty much exactly what you think it is: a lightweight, long-lasting band that tracks your steps and displays a smattering of data points using a spartan LED display.

Where it surges ahead, however, is its compatibility with two of Polar’s heart rate monitors. More →

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Review
Ona Bags Lima Presidio Review

Ona Bags Lima and Presidio camera strap review: Classy, sexy, useful

By on December 27, 2013 at 3:45 PM.

Ona Bags Lima and Presidio camera strap review: Classy, sexy, useful

For those who’ve been following my reviews over the years, you’ll likely be well aware of how fond I am of Ona Bags. It’s a small, service-focused outfit that has expanded from building some of the world’s greatest camera bags to building some of the world’s greatest accessories, too. The outfit’s DSLR bags, backpacks, and shoulder bags are constructed from some of the most durable, stately materials found anywhere, and I’ve long since sworn by them. Sure, they’re more expensive than anything mass-produced with ho-hum threads, but put simply, Ona’s stuff is unequivocally worth it for those willing to splurge. More →

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“We no longer have to seek news, we have to seek refuge from it.”
— Darren Murph
Opinions
Twitter Analysis

2013: The year Twitter became too big to actually follow

By on December 24, 2013 at 11:00 AM.

2013: The year Twitter became too big to actually follow

Do me a solid, will you? Imagine the sweet, succulent release in finally letting go of something that’s been dragging you down, and then take a moment to ponder the agony of having no choice but to admit defeat and move on from something good sans finality. I get the feeling that a lot of Twitter users are now finding themselves in one of those two camps. For me, 2013 has become the year that the white flag was waived over Twitter.

A service that once acted as a curation engine for all of the noise that eventually hits the web has now found itself in dire need of curation, and as the stream crests, I’ve found myself disillusioned with the prospect altogether. Twitter has long since attempted to mimic Facebook’s crème de la crème News Feed approach with its Discover tab, but most would agree that said attempt has failed.

When your only hope of ever keeping up with Twitter is to simply unfollow people, brands, and services that you truly do care about… one has to question the usefulness of the infrastructure itself. More →

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Pebble Smartwatch App Store

Pebble joins the smartwatch ecosystem war with its own app store

By on December 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM.

Pebble joins the smartwatch ecosystem war with its own app store

You knew it was bound to happen, and happen it has. While it apparently still has a ways to go to catch up to Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, a Kickstarter-backed company moving some 200,000 or so units in a matter of months is nothing to scoff at. To wit, Pebble‘s seeing a massive spike in developer action now that SDK 2.0 is in the wild and the watch has added full iOS 7 Notification Center support. In a bid to funnel all of that activity into a central location, the outfit on Wednesday announced that the Pebble appstore will launch “in early 2014,” and interested developers can begin submitting their SDK 2.0 Pebble apps immediately. More →

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“There’s massive power in unifying a series of separate services.”
— Darren Murph
Featured
IFTTT iOS Automation

How IFTTT automated (and archived) my digital life

By on December 13, 2013 at 11:35 AM.

How IFTTT automated (and archived) my digital life

Right around this time three years ago, a five-letter service was born. Like most startups, it took some time to simmer… to cultivate enough respect to make its way around the wild, wild tubes that us folk refer to as the internet. In the time since, IFTTT has rapidly evolved, supporting all sorts of new services, popping out an iOS app, and creating something of a budding ecosystem with shared recipes. For those unfamiliar with IFTTT, fret not — it’s a pretty nerdy service. But here’s the thing: it exists to simplify the life of the layperson, too. More →

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“If you’ve already nailed down a use-case scenario for a tablet in your life, this one’s worth the premium.”
— Darren Murph
Review
iPad Mini Retina Review

Retina iPad mini: The best tablet you can buy, but do you really need one?

By on December 12, 2013 at 11:10 AM.

Retina iPad mini: The best tablet you can buy, but do you really need one?

Listen, I don’t have the greatest history when it comes to tablet relationships. We have… a checkered past. I was pitched on this fabled third device long ago, but I can’t help but feel that we’ve all been hoodwinked. I’ve found myself maximally productivity on a flash-based laptop, and on the go, with a phone at least keeps me in the game. I’ve been struggling to figure out how a tablet fits into such a workflow for years, and after living for a while without one, I talked myself into giving the whole thing another whirl. More →

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“I started by strapping yet another notifier onto my wrist, but I came away a far less stressed individual.”
— Darren Murph
Review
Pebble Smartwatch Review

More is less: How a Pebble smartwatch brought sanity to a hyperconnected iPhone user

By on December 11, 2013 at 11:45 AM.

More is less: How a Pebble smartwatch brought sanity to a hyperconnected iPhone user

It’s the Kickstarter project that has largely defined what’s possible on the service, and if you’re reading this, you’re well aware of how many millions the Pebble team raised in order to concoct a wrist-worn notification device. A device that just so happened to emerge as the term “smartwatch” was taking hold. It was something of a perfect storm, really; years ago, Fossil and Sony Ericsson tried to bring the Dick Tracy motif to the masses, but the world wasn’t yet ready. Today, we’re all ready. More →

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“We now live in a world where there is no downtime.”
— Darren Murph
Always-on Lifestyle

Email, Twitter and the always-on lifestyle: Today’s double-edged sword

By on December 2, 2013 at 10:50 AM.

Email, Twitter and the always-on lifestyle: Today’s double-edged sword

Today, I made a choice. I made a choice to carve out a chunk of time to write this article, but I did so at the expense of communication. I very intentionally decided to cast my eyes in the other direction by ignoring a deluge of inbound inquiries, and to be honest, I’m still unsure as to whether it was the right decision. Five years ago, I might have suggested that those employed in the digital industry would understand where I was coming from, but today, I’m more inclined to believe that everyone in a developed country would get the gist. This is the era where personal time becomes a relic, silence is the new distraction, and 24/7 expectations bleed from petrol stations into every possible aspect of your life. Consider this: how many requests are you presently ignoring by taking the time to read these words?
More →

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“A single app profile can track up to five Links across five different vehicles, which should satisfy everyone outside of the following professions: pro sports; movies; having Kardashian as a last name; drug dealer.”
— Darren Murph
Review
Automatic Link Review

Automatic Link review: An elegant, data-driven way to track your rides

By on November 19, 2013 at 1:00 PM.

Automatic Link review: An elegant, data-driven way to track your rides

OBD-II. At a glance, you’re probably assuming that this is a little-known member of the Wu-Tang Clan who somehow escaped the 36 Chambers. Close, but no cigar. What it actually is is a specification embedded into practically every gasoline-powered automobile built since 1996, and if you’ve ever bothered to look above your gas pedal, you’ll probably see a rectangular port just waiting to be loved. Traditionally, that port has been used by mechanics with custom diagnostic readers in order to better describe what that warning light on your dash was about. Today, it’s empowering you — the all-important motorist. While OBD-II devices (and accompanying apps) have been around for years, Automatic’s Link is different. It’s beautiful. It’s elegant. And, perhaps most importantly, it just works.

From my perspective, the automobile is the next great mainstream frontier for technology to truly pervade. Comically long lead times — often reaching 7 years or longer — have prevented even high-end motorcars from embracing the newest of technologies, but tools like Automatic help to circumvent the issue. In a nutshell, the Link is a small, white nub that plugs into your car’s OBD-II port. It’s fairly useless without the accompanying app, which runs quietly in the background of your phone and speaks to the Link via Bluetooth. For now, the app is iOS-only, but a beta build is expected to hit next month for the Android faithful. What’s it do? Monitors your acceleration and braking to give you tips on better a more fuel-efficient driver, alerts people of your choosing should you end up in a crash, gives you instant information on any warning lights, and keeps a beautiful record of your trips without any effort on your part. To me, however, the real potential of the $99 Link has yet to be tapped. Head on past the break to hear why. More →

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“This is the first ultra-compact, “pro-grade” machine from Apple that can last nine hours with the display on.”
— Darren Murph
Review
Apple 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro Review

Apple 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro review (late 2013)

By on November 18, 2013 at 11:40 AM.

Apple 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro review (late 2013)

It happened: the MacBook Air has officially been trumped as my recommended road warrior machine. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s another Apple product that’s doing the trumping. Released last month alongside the iPad Air and revised iPad mini with Retina display, the Haswell-infused 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has been my sole computer for the past four weeks. For those who slept right through the announcement, here’s a bit of a refresher: it’s dramatically faster than last year’s model, it’s cheaper, and most impressive of all, it’s thinner.

How thin? At its rear, the 13-inch MacBook Air measures 0.68-inches, whereas the new 13-inch rMBP measures 0.71-inches. (Save your effort reaching for the calculator — this new rig is just 0.03-inches thicker than the MBA’s thickest point.) To boot, Apple dropped the entry price for its smallest pro-grade machine to just $1,299, placing it just $200 north of the baseline 13-inch MacBook Air. For those who spend an embarrassing amount of time in airline seats, Town Cars, and/or questionable-designed hotel rooms, there’s a new champion in town. Read on for my take on Apple’s most fit-for-travel workhorse yet. More →

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