Friday, November 01, 2013

Ideas on an iPad Nano

Vidit Bhargava

Rumors are ripe that Apple’s going to do a “Phablet” for the iPhone 6. But It makes more sense if Apple were to create a 6.6inch iPad “Nano”. A more pocketable iPad which works like a a small sized notepad is certainly something to ponder upon. An iPad Nano could certainly bring the same joy of having the latest Apple product just like an iPod Nano did some years ago.

"A Smaller iPad is way better than an extra large iPhone"

The Truth is, Apple about 6-7 years ago was targeting a large variety of price points. There were “regularly updated” and advertised iPods which started at $49 and extended unto about $299. Each iPod had certain charm to it. You could pick up anyone of them and bring home the joy of a latest Apple Product. Then there was the iPhone starting at about $599 (without contract) and then the MacBooks which were on and above $999. The scenario today is different, with the iPods on a slow decline and a bi-annual upgrade cycle make Apple’s most prominent products start at $229 which leaves a wide whole for someone wanting the latest and greatest of Apple technology.

The iPods were a raging success because Apple was able to churn them out for an extremely low price and by presenting a user experience that was unheard of. iPads are similar products. The tablet market just like the MP3 Players market only gained prominence after their Apple variants were shown. But unlike iPods, the iPads don’t share an unchallenged market share. They aren’t the only tablets people consider. There are people who’d love to buy a tablet (just to get started using them) but not want to spend $299. So they turn towards Android Tablets (which in turn aren't that great and result in making people wary of investing 300-500 dollars on a tablet, be it any brand). The market is ripe for an iPod Nano like entrance of the iPad.

A 6.6 inch iPad Nano with a 1024x768 resolution which moves up the PPI to more than 200 (making it nearly retina), A7 Chip complete with the latest iOS, would any day be better than a Phablet. It will be more usable in the sense that it will have all the Applications of an iPad but in a smaller form factor. Just imagine playing drawing sketches on Paper By 53 on a tablet that’s just large enough to fit in your pockets? It’ll also be great at watching Movies and playing games like Infinity Blade III (Phablet users often say, that one of the main reasons they buy such large phones, is because movies and games run way better on them). So much fun at something that’s priced at $199 is sure to boost the sales of a device that’s the best representation of a tablet computer. The iPad does need to sell to more people to become an unavoidable commodity.

By even further reducing the form factor of an iPad, Apple could very well cater to the needs of iPad buyers. An iPad Air is a portable content creation + consumption device. The iPad Mini is for those who consume more than they create (still great for small spreadsheets, charts and presentations) and an iPad Nano for those who only use it to watch Movies, Play Games and read books. (Ideally they should be discontinuing the Mini in favor for Nano! Just like they did with the iPods).

"Ideally they should be discontinuing the Mini in favor for Nano!"

An ultra-portable and pocketable iPad definitely has many uses. Its does all the key tasks of an ideal tablet very well ( refer to the Jobs image below :) ), and if its priced at something closer to $199, its sure to be the catalyst iPads are waiting for to make the final move in becoming an integral part of our lives. Honesty! Its better to have a small tablet than have an extra large mobile phone which makes you look funny while holding it up to your ear.

The traditional Apple way is to make the best user experience first, and then try to make it possible at lower price points. An iPad Nano certainly does meet those criteria. Only if Apple were to create something like this.

All that is left now, is to hope that we don’t see an iPhone with such an atrociously large display but an iPad with a smaller “Nano” like appearance next year or whenever Apple decides to make a 6.6 inch device.

Image Credit: iMore, Apple

Friday, October 04, 2013

Thoughts on the New iPhones

Vidit Bhargava

It makes for a great visitor count on a blog to write about an apple or iPhone flaw. Or to talk about how the company is doomed or how much a disappointment the phone is. This post falls in none of the categories. It talks about the innovation, the design and construction of the new iPhones.

A fresh new Interface, new ways of user interaction, improvements in the usability and a few other bold changes. Changing the design of an operating system changes a lot of things, it changes how we perceive a piece of software and even more so in touch interfaces, where changing user interaction has significant changes on the software's usability and productivity itself.

But even with so many changes, iOS still remains an operating system with its own identity. It remains the OS which let's an app, take full space of the screen to convey its idea. Your iPhone is a phone, wide screen iPod with touch controls, Internet communications device, gaming console or a camera. Thanks to its operating system it can take various shapes. This is what makes iOS different from android or windows phone or blackberry OS.

The software's identity gives users a choice to select from. Android (Low Cost, Lots of Geek Stuff and Insanely customizable) or iOS ( Apps, Quality, Usability and efficiency ) ? it's your pick.

Color vs Forward Thinking
Unlike previous years, apple has given two choices to its buyers this time. One of a premium quality device with a colorful enclosure and the all the pre-requisites of an iPhone. The other with newer technology like a fingerprint sensor, advanced camera options breakthrough flash technology, 64 bit architecture and a motion co-processor. The price points, a question of much debate are actually very interesting here. Let's just take every prejudice away from our minds and think. A new iPhone until last year started at $199. This year, it starts at $99. Which seems to be a good deal. But is the iPhone 5c really a new iPhone?

Meet the new iPhones

The iPhone 5c lacks speed improvements from the iPhone 5. It's just as fast as the iPhone 5 but not quite as fast as the iPhone 5s. But the 5 itself wasn't a very slow device. Infact, the 5c does very well in benchmarks. The iPhone 5c has a significant advantage over 5 and to some extent 5s when it comes to the form factor, construction and fun-ness. The polycarbonate shell on the 5c is much more easier to grip and hold than the aluminum enclosure of the iPhone 5 or 5s. Also, the new coat of colors is definitely going to appeal the youth (the lower cost also helps).

The iPhone 5c might not seem to be an improvement over the previous generation iPhone 5 on a spec sheet but it definitely is, when it's held in the hand and played with. Apple innovates again, this time by giving us a polycarbonate shell that feels premium and extremely sturdy (steel reinforcements along the edge make sure of that ).

The iPhone 5s is a great stability upgrade and one with significant other features as well. The 5s has a significant speed bump, it also brings in a 64 bit ( some tech-guy should really explain me how it helps ) version of iOS7 and there are some major camera improvements. There are graphics improvements to which mean better games and much better UX. Again, apple isn't playing a spec-sheet battle over here. It doesn't pack 8 cores & doesn't even mention RAM. But it delivers a benchmark trumping performance with a dual core A7 Chip. True innovation doesn't lie in packing as many cores as possible it lies in optimizing the software that it runs faster on two cores only. Apple does the same with its iPhone camera. The 5s has an 8MP camera but with much larger pixels ( bigger pixels = better picture ) and a breakthrough camera app. I specially like the slo-mo camera. It does some awesome & professional looking stuff in 120fps and is really cool. The burst mode and the white balance flash are great too.

But the feature that makes every other phone look stale in comparison is the finger print sensor. It's the first stab at an age old tradition of passwords. It's great! You can buy stuff on your phone with a fingerprint authentication! ( everyone knows how cumbersome is it to manage passwords ). Perhaps more than the technology itself it's implementation is much more brilliant.It's the first fingerprint sensor I have seen which doesn't look or work terribly.

So there we are, two new iPhones both on the same fundamentals as all other iPhones. Significantly better than their predecessors (yes! the 5c too is better than the 5 ) and fully focused on a wonderful user experience and great usability. The screen sizes are just appropriate. The technical specs, good enough to top benchmarks and features that attract a lot of people who wish to do different things on their phone.

 Image Credits: iMore and TechCrunch

Friday, August 23, 2013

iOS7: Looking beyond the Aesthetics

Vidit Bhargava

So we've all seen iOS7 getting previewed. We've had our first impressions from the launch video. We've all complained about the icons and we have also seen iOS7 improve dramatically from Beta 1 to Beta 6. Its near perfect now. The confusing lock screen isn't confusing anymore. The extremely high-saturation in the iTunes App Icon has gone, I am getting used to seeing larger circles and 3.5" phones look nice again!

A bit more on the screen size first. iPhones have largely been criticized for their small screen sizes. 3.5" inch phones don't stand anywhere against 6 inch phones, perhaps. Perhaps Not! What matters with screen sizes is the User Interface. A Cleaner user interface with more working area makes your 3.5" phone look just as workeable as a large 4.7" phone would with a pathetic user interface and little reading area. To give more perspective, while a 10 inch laptop looks extremely cramped up, a 10 inch iPad is often told as a large canvas. The difference is of an optimized UI.

iOS 7 Plays a major role over here. Right from the moment you wake your screen you perceive it looks larger because its a cleaner user interface which gives the screen a lot of open space instead of a cramped up iOS6 lock screen where more than half of the space was eaten up by a large slide to unlock bars and time & date headers. They've gone for good. Then there's the browsing content, where the navigation bars and the address bars just slide away to give a better full-screen reading experience and this seems to be, by and large the approach of this operating system throughout its default apps, be it the translucent keyboard or the semi-transparent navigation options of the camera app. They are perhaps the most important efforts put in iOS7 to improve the phone's form-factor. A perfect example of where the software helps the hardware in every way possible for a greater User Interface and is definitely a great way to solve the screensize problem.

UX: User Experience

Perhaps the most important aspect of a human's interaction with a device is its UX where more often than not we seem to ask the question, "How does the software behave to your touch?" And here come some of the most ground breaking 'changes' that apple has made to the phone's operating system. Coming to the home screen again, when you slide to unlock your phone now, you slide the screen and not the slider. The icons also fly in instead of just being statically placed there. The phone gives a depth perception. You feel as though the screen had 'layers' of content instead of a static display making the operating system feel three dimensional. The parallax on the home screen is just an extension to this effect. The sliding from the edge of the display in Safari and Mail now make you go to the previous screen, an extremely intuitive way of navigating. There are developer APIs for the same too. By redoing the entire UX for iOS7, Apple has made a bold move where they've practically changed the way the entire operating system works on your touch but have kept your touch just the same. You still slide to unlock but now you are sliding the screen instead of the slider.

iBeacons: Low-Cost transmitters which involve a greater level of hardware and software interaction by detecting your location. Simply put iBeacons could have the potential of you being able to turn off a light automatically as you leave your room. Or say you go to a museum, the museum's app could interact better with you with the help of IBeacons for example it could provide you more information and dynamic content on an exhibit as you pass by it. iBeacons are all set to develop a different hardware software interaction than what you've seen previously & probably in a big way. I am guessing there'll be greater integration with Apple's own apps as well and ofcourse iBeacons will work in a bigger way in future Apple Devices like the rumored TV change or a watch accessory.

Smartwatches and Game Controllers: New Bluetooth APIs help your iPhone and iPad interact better with these devices. So your shiny new Pebble watch will have greater access and so will the nike fuel band. Also, there's Game Controller support.

AirDrop: Friends have constantly asked me whether there are apps that let them share 'files' via bluetooth. Much to their disappointment they can't. iOS7 changes that. Developers now have access to use AirDrop which will allow users to share content like photos or links with fellow iOS7 owners. Developers are sure to pounce on the opportunity to create apps which allow sharing of notes, documents and what not!

Control Center:  If not in as major a way as AirDrop or iBeacons, control center gives iPhone its own share of quick access content. You can start playing music, turn on/off bluetooth, airdrop, wifi and more, goto to camera, calculator or timer instantly. This is going to be quite a handy tool for iOS Device owners.

Multitasking: More multitasking abilities will now help apps download content in the background, iOS7 now supports complete multitasking abilities and better optimisation ensures you still get the good battery life.

iTunes Radio: You can select from a selection of featured stations which are based on genre or artists or select from suggested stations which are customised to the user's listening habits. iTunes Radio is Apple's answer to the deteriorating iTunes listening habits of people  and a shift to pandora and spotify. This is also a clear indication that the next generation of iPods are likely to have WiFi!

Well there we are, i've not even talked about the flat Aesthetic yet. So you see, beyond UI, UX & Aesthetic changes there lie a lot more meaningful improvements to the operating system. iOS7 devices will have the ability to interact with devices that have been traditionally unassociated with modern day tech, and that is what excites me to use iOS7 which is well and truly the biggest update to the operating system. Both Aesthetically and technically! This is definitely worth an upgrade from iOS6.


We often hear from Apple's critics and Android Adopters about how closed and guarded the iOS platform is and how much open the Android platform is. And yet with all its openness, Android has failed to produce a single app which is technically superior in working than any iOS app. Infact the only place where the openness is openly visible is the malware industry which is at an all time boom on Android devices.

Image Credit: CNET & iMore

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

If this than that - Trial Post


via Instagram

Glyph Buttons vs Text Buttons

Aesthetics vs Metaphors
Vidit Bhargava

Skeuomorphism in UI is defined as something that uses real life 'metaphors' to help people get familiar with a completely new interface, its that part of the design which is meant to convey confidence to the user, that what he is deleting will go into a sort of digital trash-can, that an app is a digital notepad of sorts where you can write things, its the interface to on which hinges the app's usability.  its a part of design more than it is of the aesthetic.

Flat Aesthetic: Its not an interface, its just a method of conveying an interface. There is nothing like Flat UI. It is only Flat Aesthetics that we talk about when we talk of Flat UI. Flat Aesthetics are a way of conveying skeuomorphic or non-skeuomorphic elements.

Glyph Buttons VS Text Buttons
A graphical user interface (GUI) was designed in the early 1980s to help the humans get familiar with a computer. A command line interface couldn't achieve that. Skeuomorphic elements like a trash can were put on the screen to tell people where to put their discarded files, a pencil generally denoted an option to edit, a ticking clock meant you had to wait. The same happens when we design an interface for a touch-screen. We need to convey our message to the user and for that sometimes, the use of metaphors is necessary. 

Buttons on a computer screen are so much more different than buttons on a touch screen. A touch screen is usually controlled by our hands (which are less precise in pointing than our hands) while we use point and click devices like a mouse on a computer screen which are more precise. Using a text button on a computer screen can be helpful because pointing at a text button on a website with a mouse becomes much faster than pointing at a glyph button on a website. Things get reversed on a touch-screen, our fingers occupy a larger area, they need larger buttons and for that a glyph button is much better. Its like the Serif vs Sans Serif Debate, Sans Serif is much better on a computer screen while Serif is much better on a printed paper. The same's with Glyph buttons and text buttons.

Notes on Sans Serif and Serif Fonts

Notes on Serif and Sans Serif Typefaces
Vidit Bhargava

Until recently I wasn't really interested in typography analysis, Myriad Pro was as good for me as Helvetica. Frankly I didn't even know what a serif was! But just a few days ago when I reading a post by Dave Wiskus regarding the design of his new app Vesper, I was fascinated to see just how many fonts they actually went through to choose the 'right' font. I was intrigued!
(You can read about designing Vesper over here: 

The first thing i wanted to know about fonts was The difference between Sans Serif And Serif Fonts. I did a bit of Wikipedia search to find out much more about it. This image explains the basic difference in a serif and Sans Serif font.

On computer screens serifs tend to be disproportionately be larger and harder to read than in print. Hence the general inclination towards sans serif. Sans Serif is more legible on a computer screen. However in Print, Serifs tend to be more legible and are highly preferred as body text fonts, while sans serifs aren't really good for print reading. Hence, what Helvetica is to computers, Times New Roman is to the printed text!

-- Note: As we move further into this post you'll only find a deeper classification of fonts. The information about classifications are based only on my reading of the Wikipedia articles --

Sans Serif Fonts are further classified into four categories

Grotesque: Ancient Sans Serif 

Neo Grotesque: These are Modern Sans Serif Typefaces. The Most commonly seen Sans Serifs today belong to this category.

Humanist: They are the most Calligraphic of the four types and are also the most legible of all the sans Serif fonts. 

Geometric: These fonts are based on perfect circles and squares. 

Serif Fonts are also classified into four different categories:

Old Style: These typefaces are so old that they date back to 1465! Old Style serifs are also usually referred to as Humanist fonts. They generally have a diagonal stressing. Example: Adobe Garamond

Baroque: These are transitional typefaces which date somewhere between the old and modern (didone) serif fonts. The differences in thick and thin lines are more pronounced than the old style. Example: Times New Roman

Didone: These are modern serif typefaces, they have a vertical stressing and are characterized by an extreme contrast in thick and thin lines. Example.: Badoni

Slab Serif: These fonts have little or no difference in thick and thin lines and their serifs are usually as thick as the vertical lines, giving them a bold look.
Example: Rockwell

Source: Wikipedia: 
You can read more here:

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Lootera - Review

Movie: Lootera
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Music: Amit Trivedi
Actors: Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, Vikrant Massey, Adil Hussain
Cinematographer: Mahendra J. Shetty
Adapted Screenplay: Bhavani Iyer & Vikramaditya Motwane
Adapted Partially from O'Henry's Last Leaf
Running Time : 135 Minutes

Vidit Bhargava
As I walked out of the theater, there was a group of young university student's talking about how boring the movie was. Evidently, they didn't like the movie. They couldn't have been more incorrect than that. The movie isn't boring. It isn't bad, rather its awesome. Its steady & being steady turns out to be great for the movie.

Set in the early 1950s West Bengal with the Zamindari system on the way out. Lootera is a story about a Zamindar whose land is to be used for excavating for clues of a new civilization by an employee of the ASI. What follows next gives this Movie a Romantic & Thrilling turn and talking about the plot any further will give spoilers.

Craftily directed, Lootera isn't about loud dialogue exchanges or much action or about animated (excited) characters. Lootera is crafted with soft voices, beautiful landscape which play an important part of the story as well and long pauses which convey much more than what melodramatic dialogues would. The music as well has been blended with the background score giving the movie its extra edge. The meticulous use of the landscape, silence and dialogues by the director is what makes Lootera unique to its genre.

While the first half's based in 1950s' West Bengal with a steady and even pace and has largely a romantic edge to it, the other half's in Dalhousie with a slightly more thrilling turn of events giving the movie a slightly faster outlook. Actors, Ranveer Singh & Sonakshi Sinha play their parts wonderfully. Its Ranveer Singh who was earlier seen in Band Baaja Baarat, who surprises with his acting skills and does wonders to the character of Varun. Vikrant Massey as Ranveer's  friend is witty and charming while Adil Hussain performs his role with finesse.

Amit Trivedi's Background Score and Soundtrack is brilliant. Its perfectly blended into the movie. The Music sticks to you even after the movie in a good way. This one's an award winning performance by the young National Award Winner. Mahendra shetty's cinematography is picture perfect & infuses life into the movie. Its the cinematography which makes this such an enjoyable experience. Dipika Kalra's editing is snappy and is just about right & with a running time of 135 minutes the movie never stretches too long. The 1950s set creation is also perfect, from the Old Benz to the character's attire, there's a lot of detail in there.

The most talked about point of Lootera will be its pace. Its quite a steady pace. Some might even consider it slow. But the slow pace gives the movie a calm environment to portray its story which Much unlike Barfi where I found the movie slow for an unnecessary show of artistic tapestry and some heavily plagiarized and recycled humor only suitable for 6 year olds or so. Here the calm surroundings and long pauses convey a deep meaningful story.

Lootera is a must watch and probably the best this year. Specially the end, which leaves you with a smile as you walk out. This one's surely a masterpiece by Vikramaditya Motwane. I couldn't really find anything wrong with the movie apart from the fact that some might not appreciate the steady pace. Going with 9/10 for Lootera.

Rating: 9/10 ( Gem of a movie)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Argo (Review)

Movie: Argo
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Actors: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman
Screenplay: Chris Terrio (Basedon on a Real story)
Running Time: 2 hours & 1 Minute

"Can a CIA Exfiltration specialist's bizzare plan of rescuing 6 american refugees from Iranian Revolution pull of?"

Rating: 8/10 (A Must Watch)

"This sounds so bizzare, that it might actually work!" ejacuates one of the characters at one point in the movie. The mere idea of saving 6 American refugees from Iran was so bizzare that anyone would ask if it could ever happened. And yet it did. The very fact that its a true story makes the movie more spectacular than it is.

There's a constant sense of tension that keeps building with the ticking movie, even though you can kind of predict what's going to happen in the end. Here comes the tough job of being a thriller movie for Argo, even with a predictable plot, Argo manages to create the thrills with its music, acting and some superb editing which all together make Argo a gripping tail of exfilteration if not surprising.

The screenplay & editing great here. The shift from a tense refugee environment to a hollywood setting on the sets of Star Wars to a CIA. The transitions are just the right kind and at right moments. Seldom hitting a false note, Argo is both evenly paced & entertaining, the hollywood part could have been snappier though.

Argo's a true story iron-cast to be adapted into a movie Its probably the simplest most exciting plot one could think of for an exfiltration mission thriller & yet its all true not much was cooked up.

Watch Argo for some superb performances & an entertaining and thrilling movie.   

Friday, May 03, 2013

Flat or not?

Vidit Bhargava
The binary language doesn't really come naturally to humans. Ever since we started operating electronics we've looked for an interface to make them usable to the common man. A calculator has the interface of a certain combination of keys which we are so accustomed to that we'd recognize it as a calculator from far off. Likewise, the modern day computer has a monitor, keyboard and a mouse, this is distinctly recognizable too. The outer look of the operating system, the keys on the keyboard everything is designed to give pointers to a human, to operate a complex electronic machinery. These pointers define the user interface, which ultimately defines the user experience.

The qwerty keyboard has the same set of combinations that you would see on a typewriter. It was designed so, because it gave a sense of familiarity to the users. The tradition continues to touchscreens, where you would even find the 'f' and 'j' are marked, something that was meant to be on the physical keyboard, for blind people. No its not stupid to carry that to the touch screen, its only to give a deeper sense of familiarity to the users. So in a way, the skeuomorphic keyboard on the touchscreen which replicates the look and feel of a physical keyboard, which replicated the look and feel of a typewriter is just a pointer for the people to quickly adapt to a new technology.

So that was the first instance of skeuomorphism. Is that bad? Does it look terrible? Will Jony Ive be removing all that in iOS7? NO. Skeuomorphism isn't bad. What's bad is adding unnecessary skins to your software. That might be removed from iOS7, yes. So when people say, Jony Ive is all going to go for a flat design, its only partially true. Skeuomorphism remains an integral part of any user experience only the outlook might change. The textures might change, from leather to something more simpler.

Another paradigm people create about flat design, is about buttons. When we start looking at flat designs and see the buttons, most of them are un-intuitive and this partially carries to Apple's current design strategy too. Here's a small pic to make you understand better:

While the in its current state, when i press the play button, it gives me any sensation of a button at all, however on the right side if I tap the play button, the whole thing moves slightly down. giving me the sensation that I pressed something. While the left side is a rare case of un-intuitive button behavior in iOS. The right side, neither imposes skeuomorphism or flat design to suggest a solution. So while the play back bar is minimalistic and flat, the buttons need not be so un-intuitive. This is just one example, many popular iOS apps follow a similar design strategy regarding buttons. I wonder, is it the flat effect or just the designer's lazy-ness to create a button?

The Flat effect
Its true that the flat design is new, its fresh and its full of possibilities. But Skeuomorphism needn't be killed to make way for flatter designs. They can co-exist. A simple example would be the calculator:

While both of them are skeuomorphic. The default iOS calculator draws inspiration from a real life brand of calculators (Braun Calculator) , the calculator on the right side doesn't draw inspiration from any particular brand of calculators but still replicates the look and feel of a calculator to a large extent, deploying flat design practices to make it look fresh and different from the default calculator.

So, skeuomorphism isn't just an Apple thing, its everywhere. From your keyboard to your mobile phones. Flat Design is a fresh design practice, it looks fresh and is definitely different but Flat designs don't imply unintuitive touch inputs for e.g. unintuitive flat buttons and in the future skeuomorphism and flat designs will both coexist. Leather textures might not.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Iron Man Three - Review

Vidit Bhargava

It came quite as a surprise to me to see the number of people who had come to watch the movie for a morning show on a bright summer morning, honestly this wasn't the case in 2010 when Iron Man 2 came out. Not many knew about the skills of Robert Downey Jr., even fewer knew that there would be a post credits scene as well. Time's changed. Downey Jr.'s skills are being praised all over. People who came to see the Iron Man, came partly to witness the phenomenon called Tony Stark as well & to witness how Robert performed, with ease the role of Iron Man. Surely, Iron Man was quite successful in building a franchise. But unfortunately, the franchise has only gone downhill from the first in the series.

The movie begins post Avenger's. The invisible guy here is facing anxiety issues, he's never been the same after the wormhole incident from Avengers. But lets continue with the review. There's destruction all around. Bombs, buildings and people everything just blows up. In the midst of all this, we are reminded of an incident that happened sometime ago. A bio-tech scientific discovery, an accident, enemies and a terrorist called Mandarin (Pandit Bhanji a.k.a Sir Ben Kingsley ), Its Iron Man's job to give everyone a nice little christmas present, honestly there's so much Christmas cheer in the movie that it seems a little awkward watching it in May. This should've been released on 25th December. The destruction, incredibly life threatening situation & mortal dangers at every turn of the street  all seems melo-dramatic, unnecessary & futile, given that everyone realizes that heroes aren't meant to die in a super hero movie. I was strongly reminded of Dan Brown who is in a habit of putting its actors in situation of extreme danger in just about every chapter of the novel.

But viewers have something better in store its in the form of Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce both of them, a treat to watch. And obviously, Robert Downey Jr. and  is at his usual best. Together these three make this Dan Brownesque, Super Destructive Sci-Fi Thriller of sorts more watchable and provide a few genuinely fun moments which leave you with a good taste about the film which would otherwise have been a total disaster.  Don Cheadle who played the War Machine in Iron Man 2, is re-branded as Iron Patriot in the third installment, plays his role well. Jon Favreau also stars in a guest appearance in this movie, given that he had directed the first two, it probabibly isn't a bad idea to play body guard to Iron Man in the third installment. Talking of Iron Man, The Iron Man suit is as brilliant as it gets. The Mark 42 suit has a lot of surprises in store and again makes this movie so much more fun.

Stan Lee's appearance in this movie is quite hard to figure out. He comes and goes within 30 seconds. And you won't know its him unless you really are looking for it.

The character of Tony Stark: the billionaire former head of Stark Industries, is slowly iron casting itself into a Hollywood recreation of Elon Musk. Downey had spent a lot of time with Musk, before the start of the franchise, just to get a better shot at Tony Stark, Musk starred in Iron Man 2 and In Iron Man 3 we also see a mention of Stark wanting to do Spaceships and rockets before he went for weapons. Its not hard to draw parallels with Musk over here. Honestly, If Iron Man franchise continues even further, we'll either see Stark founding Tesla Motors or Musk getting into weapons manufacturing business or better still turning into Iron Man and revealing his identity on a tech-summit, All Things Digital would be the right place! :D

Watch it For the actors and specially Robert Downey Jr. but Unfortunately, Iron Man 3 neither has genius of the first part, nor the splendor of the second. Its some sort of a mashup of the first two. And ends up falling just short of the level of awesomeness you'd expect from the series.  Go with modest expectations and you won't be disappointed. I'll go with 3.5 / 5 for Iron Man 3. Its not as good as the previous two, but its not bad either.

Rating : *** 1/2

P.S. Wait for the post credits scene it changes the entire perspective of the movie. And if your theatre is as stupid as the one I went to, and doesn't show the post credits sequence, ask for the money back, or you could watch it on YouTube.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Goodbye Google Search! A sad demise of User Experience

Vidit Bhargava
Step 1: Open Google Chrome
Step 2: Goto Start searching in address bar. Press Enter
Step 3: Look at the Results Page
Step 4: Click on a few links, top results? They seem bogus. They are bogus, but you'll never know what they contain before you visit them.
Step 5: RETIRE IN RAGE and Start typing this blog post.

This is what I did in the last few minutes, when I went to Google to search for something. User Experience? Its been murdered and stamped upon at the 'new' Google Approach of cleaning.  One spring they just take out their brooms and strip google of tons of services. No matter how many people want to use it or like it or find it highly useful, if Google thinks its unpopular It is ready to pack its bags and off it goes. Recently Google shut down Google Reader, this caused a lot of public uproar. More recently, Google showed the door to Instant Previews, not much uproar, didn't even make it to the news but for a certain minority of people like me it has just ruined the search experience.

Here's what I use to do when Google had this nice little Instant Previews feature:
1. I would search for something.
2. Skim through the preview of every page,
3. And if I found it useful I would open the link.

Instant Previews have for long been a great tool to keep my computer away from Malware. If I would find a website of slightly suspicious nature in the preview, i would definitely not open it. But Now I am left with no other option but to guess.

What I am left with, now is:
1. I search for something.
2. Have to figure out the right page for me, by the website name or link.
3. Sometimes when in a hurry, i am looking for a blog post, i end up on a forums page.
4. I know longer feel like I am using a modern search engine. It looks as though i am using something from the 1990s.

Its disgusting to see that Google removed this. Its practically a 'The End' to whatever user experience was left on Google Search Results. I no longer feel like using it. I am thinking of shifting this blog to somewhere safer too, I might wake up one day to find that google has shut down Blogger because of 'low demand' or worse still, they might 'upgrade' it to one of their Ugly, unresourceful dynamic themes. GOODBYE GOOGLE SEARCH! I shall look for a better option soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Curiously Boring Phone

Vidit Bhargava
If the tech blog headlines are to be believed, the state of the iPhone brand is thus:

iPhone 5 sales have been abysmally low! Yeah, 2 million pre-orders within hours, Hundreds standing in Lines to get their hands-on the gadget, A 45k product that’s priced 10k higher than its should be, is sold out within a week in a developing country like India and until this story was published, foxconn, sharp and LG were having a hard time catching up with its sales. YET the sales are so low that SHARP and LG have cut the iPhone Screen production to half and that’s apparently, no official word from Apple or SHARP or LG yet but it doesn’t stop tech bloggers to misunderstand a business based speculation by WSJ. How do these things happen to an Apple product and not any other product is quite hard to understand. 

Here’s a little info about how the iPhone stories come up. In the world of technology and blogging anyone with a close Apple contact (someone who is ready to give hints) can start a tech-blog claiming to be an Apple fanboy. Visit Cult of Mac, 9to5mac, Appleinsider and all such rumor mills whose daily task is to scoop out Apple’s plans of future products, etc. 

Now, its all very interesting until all the news is a speculation. It was a speculation that Apple would come up with a music player on 23rd October 2001. It was a speculation that Apple will come up with a phone in 2007 and It was a speculation that Apple will launch a tablet ‘mac’ on January 27th 2010. In all these cases the viewers got more than just a music player, phone or tablet. They’d always get more than what would be speculated, upgrades were all hush-hush so say a design upgrade to the iMac was as surprising as the launch of the iPod. But was the design upgrade to the iPhone in 2012 a mere speculation? Wasn’t iPhone 5 inevitable? Didn’t 9to5mac and others kill the excitement months before the iPhone launch by gathering all the parts, even going as far as to predict things down to what processor what speed and how would the actual interface look like? They did. And so did all the newspapers, tech-blogs and every one else. 

So everyone now looks up-to these websites for the Apple news. A misinformed rumor, a slightly complicated business report, a far fetched thought, the readers buy it all! And that’s when ‘people’ even start looking at iPhone as boring, as Apple failing (Almost everyone jumps on to that conclusion whenever Apple ‘stock’ falls slightly, just because the news booms everywhere within minutes and a lot of people misunderstand stocks and shares and go on to declare reports that Apple is failing) And that is how the iPhone sales are low RUMOR came up.

Now to the actual story of this short article. Its about the boring device called iPhone.
“So, iPhone is boring. Its got this same UI for the last three years, and the same Apps launcher ever since its launch in 2007. Its boring. Its boring. Its Boring. What’s interesting is widgets, adventures with Viruses! clunky heavy themes. Quad Core processors, GBs of RAM, We want More Cores, We want More RAM! Even if we don’t know what it does! Bigger is better. More is Better. Larger is prettier. That’s just 4”, People have ‘upgraded’ to 6.3” phones. That Lumia is more colorful! iPhone’s only black or White, more color is always cooler, its interesting! Why, Apple won’t do that. They did,  they’re just looking after market share now. The Apple that was, isn’t now! Maps! Oh My God! I’ll get lost in the woods and be beaten up by Centaurs and Trolls if I buy an iPhone, no I Love my life, i’ll instead donate it to the good cause of customizing my phone for ever!“

That’s the crass people speak or intend to anyway, when they have to defend their decision of buying an Android/ Windows Phone instead of the iPhone. Yes, all this makes partial sense when looked at superficially. After all haven’t we always compared gadgets buy their processors and RAMS? Well, here’s why I will always prefer an iPhone over Android or Windows Phones: 

  1. 10 Days after buying a phone, I don’t care about how it’s home screen looks, I don’t care which widget i’ve got to add today. On a busy monday morning, I’d rather jump straight into my email app and send that important mail. Or I’d rather just bring up the Notification center and check the stock update. I DON’T want to customize my phone, or play with its settings all day. I just want to get things done and quick (1).
  2. Android Phones are prone to viruses and malware. My old PC had viruses and I’d always install that disturbing anti-virus which hampered the productivity of that PC popping up whenever not required to. I don’t want the same to happen to my Phone. Its just a phone. Let it stay free from malware or viruses and most importantly “Anti” Viruses.
  3. Its a phone! Its supposed to fit into my hands properly. But perhaps most premium Android phones are too large. They either come at 4.8” , 5” or even 6”. To most larger-screen size means better, just because its a better way to watch multi-media content like videos. But for me, a phone ought to fit in my palms, I want to be able to use it to call my friends, not just watch videos or play games. And Content creation is still pathetic at 6” so it doesn’t matter if Its 4” or 6” , I’d rather buy that 9.7” inch tablet if i had other things to do like read books, create documents on the go.
  4. All phones are either too simple to be called smart (Windows Phone doesn’t even have a notification center or a native notes app) or are too complex to be called smart. (Android) After all I don’t want to run things like Task Manager, File Explorer on a phone or any device. Its the dirty job which I’d love to keep away from on any device, be it a phone or PC.
  5. The app experience in iPhone is far more fluid and intuitive than other devices like Android Phones or Windows Phones. But you may say, that Android and iOS apps are almost same! After all, Twitter on iOS is the same as Twitter on Android. But my point is, that you need far more power and there are far too many options to choose that right phone which offers a fluid UI without making me feel bad about buying it. No  thanks, I’d rather stick to easily choosing the boring iPhone which is still smart enough to run apps nicely.
  6. As a keep observer of design, the unnecessary metal strip, the inconvenient hardware design, the bulging camera lens, the unwanted battery ‘door’ or a wrongly placed sleep-wake button bother me very much. I’d like things clean, I don’t want a battery door! Or don’t wish to take extra care of my phone’s camera lens or don’t want it to keeping rocking on desk, just because its unstable because of a camera. The iPhone has a state of the art design, Its just right! it feels awesome to hold.
  7. Even if Apple Maps are quite bad, I’ve got alternatives. I’ve got alternatives for almost every native app which i don’t feel like using. Be it maps, reminders, weather, there’s an app for what’s not natively available and an alternative for the native apps. So there is no ‘-’ point yet.
  8. True, Apple’s approach to the OS is restricted. They ‘approve’ apps. As a developer, I can tell you exactly what stuff doesn’t end up on the store. Its the malware, the Apps that don’t do what the intend to, or apps that leek memory or slower your device, or the apps which are counter-productive providing unnecessary pop-ups etc. Its the stuff that I don’t want anyway. And as a user, I feel safer to download or buy an App from the store. True, the numbers would have been larger if the apps that were rejected were actually approved but then I wouldn’t buy an iPhone if they didn’t screen the apps before giving them to the consumer. Good Job Apple!
  9. It costs quite a lot. But then it lasts even longer. As an iPhone user, i can expect it to work well for at least three years. That’s a longer life-span than most phones. Also, given what I am getting at pushing a thousand bucks more to the seller, I am getting infinitely more. As a whole, its a good experience. I don’t have to sulk everyday just because my phone won’t do something that i desire.

    1. - Doing things quickly doesn't mean adding as many cores as possible into the processor or more RAM. when the software and hardware are integrated things can still be done very fast even if the processor is only dual core. So comparing a phone by its processor or RAM is a bad idea.

A short note on the term “boring” : iPhone’s design has been iconic. Partially the reason why so many phones want to look like an iPhone. Its simple and just clicks. Coca-Cola’s ‘iconic’ bottle design never gets boring, the iconic beetle design isn’t boring even though, the front has only been given minor tweaks ever since its launch! So iconic is not equal to boring. And iPhone’s Springboard UI and Hardware design is iconic. You know an iPhone from the circular home button, the rounded rectangle screen, its always going to stay charming and fresh.

So here it is. This why I prefer an iPhone more than Android or Windows Phones. But that doesn’t mean that any of you readers don’t have to buy an Android/ Windows Phones. If you guys, don’t mind these subtle things and would rather go for something more customizable and hackable. Go ahead, buy that shiny new Android Phone from the store. 

But Here’s how Apple’s condition is better than what it was in late 1980s and 1990s. Unlike Windows, Android cannot betamax Apple. Simple reason, the mobile market is governed by apps today. Developers can’t afford to stop making apps for iOS. That’s where they get their bread and butter from. Android can hardly provide a stable platform  for mobile purchases. So its only Android that’ll always live in the threat of being knocked off by a competitor. All these theories of Apple failing are nothing but mere speculations. Apple’s got a far more stable system this time. They’re dominance isn’t going to end so soon. Meanwhile, I’ll always enjoy the state-of-the-art productive, premium and boring iPhone!

P.S. You might think I am an Apple Fanboy, I am not. I just happen to like a few of Apple’s products and am open to accepting good competition. As a matter of fact, the new blackberry 10 is awesome. If there’s an OS that’s as simple and productive as iOS its gotta be Blackberry 10 OS. So don’t judge this as a fanboy article. :D

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Aaron Swartz & His contributions to Reddit

Vidit Bhargava
11th January 2013 was a really dark day for technology and web in general. Its a sad day for Web Development  Aaron Swartz is no more.

Swartz was a genius. At the age of 13, he won the ArsDigita Prize, a competition for young people who created "useful, educational, and collaborative" non-commercial Web sites. The prize included a trip to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and meetings with Internet notables. How many 13 year olds would have dreamt of that? At 14 he was already collaborating with experts as a member of the working group that authored RSS 1.0. He also created something that's extremely popular in the world of web development and available as an open source project. He was also an editor at Wikipedia. Aaron Swartz work doesn't stop here, he did a whole lot more in the world of internet and internet activism. I won't be talking about them today, some other day maybe. Meanwhile you could read his Wikipedia page.*

Lets start with Reddit. Reddit was founded by Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman. When I first read the news about Swartz' death, the headlines boomed "Reddit Founder commits suicide". I wondered why would either of Alexis and Steve commit suicide? Until I scrolled down and found the image of Aaron Swartz. Its a common mistake and even though the founders have often noted that Aaron Swartz just moved over to Reddit after it merged with Infogami (A start-up by Aaron Swartz) this doesn't stop the websites to stop reporting that Swartz was a co-founder of Reddit. Its good to highlight the good work (in this case great work) done by a person but it doesn't make sense to wrongly attribute some work to him. True, Reddit is what it is today because of Swartz. It ran on a technology developed by him for a long time but he didn't co-found it. So please stop spreading 'wrong' information about him. Let people remember him for who he was and not what he never did. A special request to popular newspapers like Guardian and WSJ. [image on left]

Reddit comment by spez [Steve Huffman]

Here's remembering the genius for what he was. His work on the RSS, his work architecting the Creative Commons License,, Open Library, his great work in the field of internet activism and his contributions to Reddit have immortalized him in the world of web development  and as those creative commons stickers stick out on our websites lets add another one, saying "Thank You! Aaron Swartz", this one's for all he gave us and the world wide web.

* - The Wikipedia pages are all a part of the creative commons licence, co-architected by Aaron Swartz. A part of this post was deliberately copied from Wikipedia  paying homage to one of its best editors and the guy who let us copy all this 'legally'. Only asking for a bit of credit to its real source.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

5 Inch is so commonplace

Vidit Bhargava

So we’re in that part of the year when we see large crowds gathering in Las Vegas for watching a Consumer Electronics Show take place and even more people watch it online via Liveblogs, twitter updates, tech-blogs, etc. CES is one big event, even if it has turned out to be a no-show in the last few years, as the attention has shifted to other larger events like E3 and Mobile World Congress where the mobile manufacturers are more likely to come up with Flagship phones. But CES has its share of phones too. And 2013 is proving out to be the year of 5inch phones.

“5 inch phones? They are so commonplace, everyone makes them! What’s new? Do you  know what’s better than a 5 inch phone? A 6inch phone, that’s right!”

I bet this is what goes through the manufacturer's brains when the make phones these days. Sony, Huawei and Vizio have already gone on to announce their 5 inch screen phones at CES. Samsung has been making them for an year and a half and all others are readying their 5 inch screen phones for a Q1 launch. 

However senseless the idea may seem but 5” inches is just too large to be called a phone. And there exists no such mid-range called a “Phablet” where it becomes almost humorous to see people pulling these gigantic touch-screens to their ears for listening a phone. Years ago, when Dell came out with its own 5inch smart phone it was ridiculed for its awkward design. People have found a way round this though, they’ve reduced the bezel size, the phones have come up with these awkward shapes just to fit something as large as a 5” inch screen in your palms, it still doesn’t but it has hit the markets surely.

This year companies aren’t stopping at just 5inches. They’re ready with their 6inch phones too. 5inch phones too commonplace? Looks like. The competition is for the largest possible screen in your palm I suppose. 

But if we look at the whole system of pricing these phones, its becoming increasingly absurd. The low end phones that cost between Rs.15-20k are the ones which feature a 3.7-4.0” screen. The Mid Range features 4.0-4.7” screens they cost Rs.20-30k, the high end phones with their extra large 5.0 ‘or’ 5.5 or even 6” cost between Rs.30-35k. Yes! We’ve gone screen size crazy again. This is the sort of things that happened to TVs but its happening to phones as well. And it makes no sense at all.

Here’s why it doesn’t make sense to price phones by the screen size:
  1. Phones are meant to fit in your palms. Larger screens never meant the former statement would hold true.
  2. Even though big screens cost more and those phones need to be priced high but that doesn’t make phones with smaller screens low end. Pricing them low and providing them with old hardware is saying, “You may want to use these but buy our 5” inch phone, its larger and its better” Dumber too.

Here’s what the mobile manufacturers apparently think when they make these phones:
  1. “The iPhone has a 4” inch display. Lets dwarf it, lets make 4” inch the new low end. This way buyers will see it as a low-end phone only.”, absurd as it may seem but the truth is some people think this way too only to say that they thought out of the box.
  2. “Larger Screens mean more usability space, with a large screen you’ll definitely be able to use those content creation apps better.” - Thanks! but NO. I’d rather have a tablet than buy an awkwardly sized phone which doesn’t even make sense to hold it to the ear.

Here’s a quick look at a few recent and upcoming 5 or 6 inch phones which end up to be larger than necessary some of them announced at CES 2013:

Huawei Ascend Mate - 6.1inches screen. The phone was announced at CES 2013, surely no one needs a tablet now. Do they?

Sony Xperia Z - Sony isn’t far behind when it comes to following the herd. This ‘premium’ 5 inch screen phone has a glass back too.

Vizio is a lesser known company. This is their bite at limelight. A gigantic 5” screen phone bound towards China.

Here’s summarizing my stand on ‘large’ phones:
  1. They aren’t meant for me or any human with an average palm size.
  2. They look funny when someone picks them up to answer a call.
  3. Na’vi’s will love it maybe
  4. Extra large phones aren’t smart. They are dumb!
  5. 6 inch phones? No thanks, I’ll save my money for a mini-tablet rather.
  6. I’m more than happy with a 3.7 or 4.0” screen size form factor.

P.S. Here’s another phone from the 5” inch line of phones. Yes, i am not kidding its a phone! :)

* Image Credit: The Verge