Archive by Author | Steve Westgarth

Google Glass – The demise

In some ways it seems Google have read our last blog post and agreed!

It seems there is actually no use for Google Glass in its current form and Google have acknowledged it by discontinuing the explorer programme.

I stand my comments in the previous blog post that Glass does have a use – but maybe Google are right that it needs to be worked on further behind closed doors without the pressure of deadlines and Glass Explorers.

Hopefully Google will recognise us dedicated Glass explorers in the future and find a way to allow us to recoup the £1000 we invested in the product!

Google Glass – Is there a use for it?

In June last year Google announced the release of Google Glass in the UK. It had a very hefty price tag at £1000 which was designed to deter consumers and promote use amongst hard core techies and those who really intended to explore and find new uses for the product.

At Footsqueek we are always keen to explore new technology and see what it can be used for so we thought we would invest.

Initially its fair to say that glass had a WOW factor – no-one had seen anything like it before and it was surprising the number of people in the street who wanted to try it on and have a play. It was a little disappointing how few apps were available in the Glassware store but for the first 3 or 4 weeks we literally could not put Glass down.

Then the novelty wore off – we became irritated by how limiting the interface is; quirks such as it being impossible to hashtag from glass when sending a tweet and also the lack of integration with iOS. We also found one of the biggest limitations was that you need to spend so much time talking to it “Ok Glass” this and “OK Glass” that – talking to yourself just doesn’t “look” cool. Also imagine if 10 people in the same room had Glass – surely we would all end up talking to each others devices and having our own devices activate when we don’t want them to.

So with all of that said …. does that mean we hate glass?

NO! We just don’t think its ready yet – and given that Google isn’t pushing it perhaps they don’t think it is either. We are also not convinced that it will ever become a true consumer product and that it has a far greater appeal for use in business. Maybe the role of Glass is to assist supermarket staff when doing a stock take, or finding products on shelves. Or maybe it could help on a building site when a bricklayer has his hands full and needs to consult a document.

Or maybe Glass has another use that we haven’t yet considered ….. to this end we’ve decided to see what we can come up with. On 31st January we are holding a Footsqueek Hackathon and the topic is “An App for Google Glass”. It will be interesting to see what ideas we can come up with – and of course we’ll let you know!

Have you tried Google Glass?  Or do you have an opinion to share? Let us know!

The demise of foursquare

Do you know what foursquare is?

I’ve been a reluctant user of the service that allows users to “checkin” and earn badges based upon checkin locations. A couple of years ago I got really into it, particularly when on holiday and would literally check in 10’s of times every day.

The social side of the service never really took off though – a few of my friends had it and it was fun to compete to become the mayor of some local hotspots. Then life took over and I found I didn’t really have a need for it and although still installed on my phone wasn’t an essential everyday app.

In 2014 Foursquare came back into my life (briefly). I opened the app and the service insisted that I download SWARM. This is apparently the new foursquare, and the foursquare app is apparently used for other things. I didn’t really understand the new foursquare or SWARM so out of interest I did a little research. Apparently the core functionality of Foursquare is its “yelp like experience” – clearly I had been missing something.

Having researched it – I still didn’t understand what foursquare was now for, so I deleted it. I wonder how many others did the same? The usage data reported here seems to suggest many did.

So on the back of that my prediction is that 2015 will see the true demise of Foursquare.

What does this teach us? Companies need to focus on what they do well and make sure that they don’t confuse their customer base. I believe that consumers like things simple and easy to understand – if you’re going to launch a new product don’t replace an existing product with something that is totally different and unexpected. Seems simple but even the largest and most well financed companies sometimes get it wrong – and sometimes once it goes wrong there is no way back.

Do you think Foursquare will recover?

Generating Money from Mobile Apps

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend IOSDEVUK in Aberystwyth. The conference, which is organised by the University of Aberystwyth is a chance for IOS developers from around the UK to come together share ideas and find out what’s new in the world of mobile apps.

One of the most interesting things at the conference was a talk given by Craig Lockwood (@craiginwales) entitled “The state of the Union”. The talk focussed on some fascinating facts which are important to anyone considering developing an app.

In recent years apps have received much publicity in which it is demonstrated that creators have made huge sums of money. This is certainly the case with apps such as angry birds having generetaed in excess of $70,000,000. What I hadn’t realised was that only 1.3% of apps downloaded on android are paid for by it’s user base – this lead @craginwales to the conclusion that “Android Users Are Broke”.

It would a fair question to ask how android developers make their money. In terms on Angry Birds the answer is simple – Advertising. The company generates an estimated $1 million each month. This model is fine for apps that are extremely popular and well used, but what about the lesser known apps …. how do they generate a revenue?

Compare this to downloads from IOS where an estimated 18% of apps are paid for resulting in $2.5 billion paid out to developers.

Whether you have an iPhone, Android, Windows Phone or a dare I say a Blackberry mobile devices are here to stay. More than half of us mobile users now use our phone in place of an alarm clock. 28% of us use our phone instead of a laptop and the iPAD alone is now outselling PC’s from all manufacturers combined. The fact that surprised me most was that currently more iPhones are being purchased in the UK each day than there are people being born!

So why is all of that interesting? For me it demonstrates that IOS devices have the most longevity because they have the most robust financial model. It also re-enforces the potential market if you can come up with a new and innovative app idea. The problem? The more apps that are created the harder it is to come up with an idea that no-one else has done.

So what’s your idea?

Charities Given the Opportunity to Win a Free Mobile App

Footsqueek are giving Charities, Sports Teams and Good Causes the opportunity to win a free mobile smart phone app during July and August 2011.

There are now more than 500,000 apps in the apple app store (Apple, 2011) with more than 1 billion mobile app downloads in the week leading up to Christmas 2011.

Mobile apps can be used to provide a key communication tool which is particularly useful to membership led organisations but the cost if often prohibitive meaning that organisations are not able to take advantage of the resource.

Anyone interested in entering the competition should like the FaceBook page where details of how to enter will be published on Monday 9th July 2012.

Steve Westgarth (Managing Director) said “Mobile apps are becoming more prevalent in everyday life however good causes often miss out because they don’t have the financial resources to commit to the development cost.Footsqueek hopes to demonstrate that a mobile app can be of huge benefit to smaller organisations by building a free app for a local good cause.”

E-learning in the 21st century

The term e-learning is possibly one of the most overused phrases in education. In recent weeks we have been having several conversations with educationalists about the term; what has been surprising is the range of views we have encountered as to what e-learning actually is.
One superficial answer that is often given is that e-learning is our “Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)”. Scratch below the surface and very quickly it becomes apparent that in many instances all the VLE is used for is a document sharing repository where students can access PowerPoint slides or worksheets that have been used as part of an in class exercise.
I have received many odd looks when I have then asked “what part of your students learning takes place online?” The answer is inevitably centred around providing easy access to materials from any location, which, is clearly important but to my mind is a very small part of the e-learning picture and something that can easily be achieved without the investment in a fully deployed e-learning platform; after all even open source platforms such as Moodle need to be supported by a team of technicians which is inevitably costly.
E-learning in its truest form was originally pioneered by organisations such as Learn Direct. These providers delivered content solely in an online format where students were required to logon and follow the on screen instructions. The model worked well but inevitably many users had difficulty and as a result a number of “Learn Direct” centres were set up where users could go to learn “online” in a supported environment. This style of teaching can certainly be classified “e-learning” but in many ways current delivery methods seem to have regressed in favour of simply sharing documents.
To my mind e-learning is only beneficial if a student is able to get something from the electronic medium that they would not get through face to face contact. A good example is the use of a Twitter Wall presented using a website such as By using this technology the educator is able to get live feedback from students during a presentation, and the feedback can be shared amongst participants. The use of this technology does not require a “VLE” and as a result purists may argue that this is therefore not “e-learning” – I, however, would suggest that using tools such as this in a supported environment is e-learning in one of its most advanced formats.
A recent experiment was undertaken by a module leader at the University of Chester where a series of seminars were delivered entirely using FaceBook as a delivery medium. Students participated in discussion activities, skype calls and made extensive use of the chat function. Clearly document sharing was required element of the delivery but it was a relatively small part of the package.
As a result of innovations such as this it is evident that visionary educators are exploring alternative means of e content delivery which can be used to deliver distance learning or to enhance a blended learning approach – the industry does have to overcome a damaging misconception that seems to have become embedded into education that if the organisation has a VLE then without any further effort the organisation is allowing students to learn online.
Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that e-learning strategies that have not fully evolved are already being superseded.

iPad 3 – Are we going to see a new iPad in March?

Speculation is rife across the internet concerning the imminent launch of the apple iPad 3. This week the rumour mill went into overdrive as it was reported by several technology sites (including AllThingsD and iMore) that the new device will be launched on March 7th 2012.
Many questions surround the launch, not least what will the new product be called – will the market stand the release of an iPad 2s? Or is consumer demand focussed on accepting nothing less than a true next generation iPad 3?
Another key concern is that the iPad 2 has only been on the market for 12 months. It is surely unlikely that early adopters of iPad 2 will be willing to upgrade so quickly – perhaps, however, iPad 2 users are not the target market. I adopted the iPad original in September 2010 having waited first to see what all the hype was about. I decided last March I simply couldn’t justify an upgrade – does this make me the perfect iPad 3 candidate? I guess the answer is am I going to buy one? The answer is obvious – YES.
There are many reasons for my decision …
Firstly I am the only iPad user that I know without a camera. I originally thought I didn’t need one but in only a few short months I have come to realise that the iPad camera is more than just a gadget. The ability to make skype calls on the move has over the past year become a critical requirement and in my view the iPhone screen is simply too small to use all of the features available during video calls.
Another key reason is that I am desperate for a better battery life. The iPad original simply cannot stand the levels of usage that I require without having to be charged midway through the afternoon. The rumours that iPad 3 will be thicker than iPad 2 to accommodate a better battery life don’t concern me, I’d much rather have a device that works all day.
The rumoured better screen resolution as a result of the ‘Retina’ display, faster A6 quad core processor, increased 128Mb memory, and the fact that the device will be 4G ready, also clearly have an impact on my wanting the latest device. I am, however, still concerned that Apple will in 12 months-time release another iPad that will make iPad 3 old news.
I’m not sure an iPad upgrade every 12-24 months  can be justified or be sustainable, simply because I don’t know what else I want the device to do. Yes, iPad is useful in my everyday life and has changed the way I think about tablet computing but a part of me wonders how much more my viewpoint can be stretched before I am simply happy with the revolutionary device that fits my everyday need.
Despite this view Apple historically have a tendancy to reinvent the way consumers think about technology. I won’t be surprised when the next feature becomes a core part of my life even though as yet I don’t even know what that feature is!

iPhone 4s – Is It worth it?

If, like me, you’ve religiously following the iPhone craze since the beginning you too were probably very disappointed when Apple announced last year that they were launching the iPhone 4s and not the iPhone 5.

This decision certainly led me to question whether upgrading from the iPhone 4 to the 4s was worth the time, effort and expense. So much of the decision seemed to rest upon the timescale for the release of the next version of the iPhone …. at least that was my first thought.

iOS 5 released a wealth of new features, many incredibly useful, the new notification centre, the reminders app and Find my friends to name but a few. Initially I thought I had effectively all of the 4s features on my iPhone 4 but then, as people around me started to get the 4s I very quickly found myself craving what I origionally thought was a novelty – I really wanted Siri!

When I first heard about the concept I wasn’t excited, I didn’t see the point of being able to ask my phone to do things, but as I started to see demonstrations of the ease with which the phone could interpret natural language I started to feel that the technology had a natural place in my life.

Earlier today I took the plunge! having wrestled with myself for 4 months I decided I couldn’t do without it any longer. I’ve spent the whole evening playing with Siri and entertaining myself by asking it to find information, set reminders, send text messages and more.

For me the technology is incredibly exciting, not just because of what it can do now but because of the potential it has in the future. The accuracy of the voice regognition is so good that it’s not an unrealistic proposition that it could be extended to simply transcribe what is being said around me, in meetings, on the bus and on the move. The GPS tagging feature could even be used to geotag transcribed voice notes and automatically set reminders to follow up on meeting actions. In many ways this seems to be the beginning of a resolution where computers actually understand and interpret what we want or ask them to do without us taking explicit action!

To return to my initial question, is it worth it? I guess for me it depends if you like useful gadgets. I like new gadgets as long as they are useful. For what it’s cost I think Apple are once again going to have an impact on my life that will change the way I do things and as such I believe iPhone 4s to be worth every penny!

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