Tag Archives: Apple

From Desktop to Pocket: Why Americans Are Making the Switch to Mobile

Reaching a Breaking Point

In the years since Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the way that people are accessing the Internet. The landscape has changed so swiftly, in fact, that many have been left in the dust. In 2014, an incredible milestone was reached: for the first time ever, users spent more time accessing the Internet via mobile devices than they did on their PCs. Here are just a few reasons to believe that a movement to mobile is more than just a passing trend.

A Short, Snackable Experience

Since the rise of the smartphone, we’ve seen an influx of content that’s designed for a quick visit and nothing more — what some are referring to as “snackable” content. This could be anything from a short video to an infographic to a concise, easily navigable list.

We already know that peak Internet usage happens during lunch breaks, commutes, and decompressing time at home. But in a U.S. market where more than a whopping 178 million consumers now carry smartphones, content is often consumed in even shorter increments. More and more, users are harnessing just a few seconds to tune into the Internet on their mobile devices — and content generators are taking notice, churning out shorter, more digestible tidbits.

Apps on the Rise

Much of the newest research and data on user behavior suggests that users prefer smartphone apps to traditional browsers, and why not? Apps are elegant, to-the-point, and mobile by definition. The best ones make comparable websites seem bloated or even obsolete. In 2014, mobile app usage grew by 76%, and smartphone owners now download almost 9 apps per month on average.

Mobile Can Do It All

Last but certainly not least, users are ditching their PCs for mobile devices because phones and tablets can, simply put, do everything. Look at the device in your own pocket: chances are it can get you in touch with loved ones, snap a high-quality video, help you make an important purchase, check a flight time — the list goes on and on. Once upon a time, consumers felt a need to balance mobile devices with the desktop experience in order to meet all their computing and Internet needs. But PC sales have been declining as more users find their demands met by a slim, lightweight device that’s always within reach.

Looking Toward a More Mobile Future

Make no mistake — the mobile Internet is here to stay, and its reach and popularity is growing daily. Facebook and Google are still the biggest playmakers, with dominant lineups that include YouTube and Instagram. If you’re looking to build a following online, those remain the best places to start.

But don’t discount emerging mobile platforms, including lifestyle and shopping apps, which grew more in 2014 than any other category. It’ll also be in your best interest to refresh and update your traditional website — users still need to visit them, but they’ll be looking for a streamlined, simplified, and responsive interface that more closely resembles the mobile experience.


The Big Picture Implications of the New iPhone’s Outsized Screen: What It Means for Design, Development, and UX/UI

When Apple’s Tim Cook finally announced the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, he was greeted with rapturous applause from diehard fans, snarky attack ads from sour competitors, and an unlikely #bendgate controversy about skinny jeans warping the slick devices.

Coming in at 4.7 and 5.5 inches across, these behemoth new screens are much more than a status symbol, copycat tactic, and structural liability—they also open a brave new world for developers, designers, and user experience / user interface (UX/UI) strategists.

How will apps adapt to the new real estate, and how will users respond? The outsized screens present both a challenge and an opportunity for the future of mobile design.

New Territory: A Lot of Space to Fill

While the new phones are appreciably bigger, on first glance, you may not realize just how many more pixels have been packed in: the 6 features 38% more space than its 5s predecessor, while the 6 Plus adds a whopping 68% increase.

Devs and designers will jump at the chance to give users more content and information, without crowding the interface and throwing off iOS’s trademark simplicity and Zen-like minimalism. They can also use the opportunity for more detailed graphics and bigger fonts. That’s great for readability, but what about reachability?

Solutions for Sore, Stubby Thumbs

An iPhone 5s sits comfortably in the palm of your hand and allows easy access to every corner of the screen—perfect for subway rides, multi-handed multitasking, and texting on the go. As this handy (heh) graphic shows, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are a little less accessible. This places many navigational tools—typically at the top of an app—inconveniently just out of reach.

Apple’s solution? Reachability, a feature launched by a double-tap on the home button that brings the top half of the screen to the bottom. Interesting idea, but some UX/UI experts are already declaring it “hacky and completely unintuitive.” A better approach may be moving the nav buttons down below deck and integrating more gestural controls.

As bigger screen sizes continue to gain popularity and become the new normal, designers will be forced to innovate, reinvent, and rethink the way our digits and digital devices interact.

Will Apple Pay Make Tap-And-Pay Mainstream?

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is here, and just like the Apple II in 1977 and the iPod in 2001, it promises to make giant waves. The platform will support NFC (near field communication)-based payments from the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, and the Apple Watch, promising to bring tap-and-pay to the masses for the first time… well, sort of.

The truth is, NFC-enabled phones have been around for almost four years—an eon in tech years. The first was the Samsung Nexus S, debuting in late 2010. After the phone’s release, Android was quick to roll out updates, including tap-and-pay functionality linked to Google Wallet.

But it never caught on. Although you can find NFC tap-and-pay devices in NYC taxis, Walgreens, and thousands of other small-purchase, high-volume retailers, few people use them. So what makes Apple Pay different? Three words: timing, timing, timing. And a fourth: Apple.

Making Security a Priority

Putting sensitive information on a device that can be hacked, broken, or left in a taxi makes people uneasy. When they lose a credit card, most people know exactly what to do—but the rules for digital wallets are not as simple. To capture this market, Apple has positioned Apple Pay as safer than predecessors. The system uses tokens to add a layer of security, making sensitive information tough for hackers to reproduce.

Perfecting v. Inventing

Heightened security and brand name aside, timing is everything. Precisely because Apple isn’t the pioneer of NFC-enabled payments, the company is in a position to perfect it (sorry, Samsung). Furthering the hardware inroads made by Google and MasterCard, Apple can claim some 220,000 retail and dining partners, lending further authority to its culture-generating brand. Many of these retailers were early Google Wallet adopters and haven’t had to change a thing in their stores.

Striking Hot Iron

But Apple isn’t just hopping on a bandwagon. It’s positioned on the crest of a wave: a long-planned, nationwide transition to a new, more secure payment standard called EMV. EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, and is a global standard for inter-operation of integrated circuit cards (IC cards or “chip cards”) and IC card capable point of sale (POS) terminals widely used in Europe. This change will require merchants to upgrade to IC-capable POS terminals, or risk being held responsible for fraud. Since all new terminals accept mobile NFC payments, they will go from rare to the rule.

We won’t fully know how much users will embrace Apple Pay until it’s tested on the free market. But we’ll put our money—and our iPhones—on a giant shift in how we buy.


How iOS 8 Might Just Change Everything—From Health to Home

As the legions of Apple fanatics waited with bated breath, CEO Tim Cook announced at June’s WWDC that iOS 8, the new operating system for iPhones and iPads, will be released this fall.

At first glance, the update doesn’t seem as radical as 2013’s iOS 7, which ushered in a major design shift. Yet when you look a little closer, you’ll find it packed with new features that could forever change the way we interact with our devices—and how developers craft experiences for us.

The overarching theme of iOS 8 is convergence—bringing everything together into an integrated, neat, easy-to-use whole. Nowhere is this clearer than in Apple’s two new toolkits for developers centered around health and home.

HealthKit: Bringing a Complete Medical Profile to Your Pocket 

In one of the more eye-catching announcements, Apple revealed its attractive new Health app. Imagine tracking the miles you ran, calories you burned, food you ate, heart rate you reached, and sleep you got all in one place.

Drawing from formerly disparate wellness apps and fitness devices, Health unites all their data into centralized graphs displayed with Apple’s trademark elegance and simplicity. The app seems designed to beautifully bring together wearable tech devices like Nike’s FuelBand, FitBit, and—some speculate—Apple’s rumored iWatch. More than just a nifty chart tool, Health was prepared with help from the Mayo Clinic and Nike, and has already caught the attention of doctors.

“This could be revolutionary,” said one physician on Quora, clearly impressed with the health data able to be stored in the app, including lab results, allergies, medications, vitals, and more. “I feel that HealthKit might well be the first step in creating something akin to a universal [Electronic Medical Record]. [This] could potentially solve one of the single worst problems in healthcare today: the inability to easily transfer patient records from one care location to another.”

HomeKIt: Building the Home of the Future

Just as the HealthKit unites external fitness devices and fractured medical info, HomeKit empowers Apple’s devices to control virtually everything in your home.

Your iPad could very well be the central remote to your very first smart home. It seems like something out of a sci-fi flick: picture yourself dimming the lights, locking the doors, turning off the TV, and turning up the A/C with a few swipes and taps.

In fact, thanks to Siri-integration, you could even do all that with five simple words—simply saying “Siri, I’m going to bed,” could make your home sleep-ready in seconds. Partners already on board include Phillips, iHome, Haier, and many more.

Converging Everything

In the realms of health and home, iOS 8 sees Apple devices flexing their muscles and exerting power well beyond their rounded-corner edges.

Whether it’s bringing together diverse medical records or uniting all the hardware in your house, iOS 8 shows that Apple is serious about becoming a central part of our lives. It’s a clear signal to both users and developers: Apple doesn’t just want everything in your life well-connected—it wants it all to be beautifully cohesive.

Author: Zack Smith

Alternative Passwords: Would You Give Your Right Arm?

New technology always brings about change––and fear. Often this fear relates to learning something new, losing privacy, or being left behind. Alternative passwords, however, have introduced something new. If something needs a body part in order to be unlocked, what does that mean for personal safety if the item is stolen from the user?

The iPhone 5S’s fingerprint recognition system for unlocking the phone brought to the masses a new fear of losing limbs. Unlocking your phone with a fingerprint instantly makes security more personal and secure, but what happens if someone tries to steal your phone? Does the thief have to take a finger as an extra souvenir?

The short answer is no, so go on without fear. The long answer is that Apple has thought this through. The 5S has RF (radio frequency) capacitive sensors built into it that only acknowledge a live finger using the layer of living skin under the surface of your fingerprint.

Hollywood films, however, depict body dismemberment all the time to grant someone access to a top security site. One of the most famous recent examples is the removal of an eye for a retina scan in The Avengers. The film takes into account the necessity of a living organism to complete the transaction––could it ever be a reality? Science fiction often influences technology that is being developed and points out what should be avoided.

If Apple has proven anything, it is that no one intends to put us in any sort of danger due to technology. With every innovation, we are being asked to invest more of our body and soul, which naturally leads to worrying about what happens if either body or soul needs to be compromised. For all its faults, we seem to be in safe hands with the technology industry, which thus far has kept our flesh and blood in mind. Anything to the contrary is an exception rather than the rule.

Author: Zack Smith

Behavior-Changing Apps: A Vanguard Direct Survey

Behavior Changing Apps

Steve Jobs and Apple revolutionized how we understand communication and information. He completely shifted our society. It was his products that transformed, in a way, how we think and behave. And it’s this last point that is the most fascinating. Behavior. Our behavior is different simply because of a small, handheld device. This was enough to drive Utterly Orange to ask: How else has our behavior changed as a result of technology? And in particular, which applications have leveraged the mobile platform and really changed our world?

We surveyed over 100 Vanguard employees on this topic and received, as you might imagine, a plethora of opinions. I’ve done my best to collate those opinions into something more chewable. However, one can’t help but wonder what makes one app’s utility more important than another’s? Yelp has blown away Zagat as the number-one restaurant-reviewing site/app. Foodies live and die—and, likewise, restaurants—by Yelp and its five alluring stars. But is it more transformative than, say, the flashlight app? Did you ever think you’d be bringing your phone camping in order to properly navigate?

So while I’d like to say our list is exhaustive, it’s limited and inherently subjective. And oftentimes it’s like we’re comparing Apple and oranges.

Banking & Financial Apps

The day that I heard I could deposit a check without having to go to the bank, I pretty much flipped. Or transfer money to a friend simply by typing in her email address? Who knew? There was a time when one would scan through thousands of ticker symbols in order to see if his Kodak stock went up a half point or not. Today it streams in real-time on the home screen of my phone.

These financial apps may not be the sexiest, but they certainly have changed our behavior.

Honorable mention goes to mint.com and its highly intuitive, highly beautiful app. Connect with every financial account you maintain (if you have the gumption) and see your net worth. From setting budgets to tracking your spending trends, your eyes will awaken to how you spend a dollar. You can’t help but want to modify your behavior.

News-aggregate Apps

We’re living in a content-driven world, and Vanguard is a content-driven girl. The Information Age is a tired expression, but it’s still undoubtedly accurate. Our survey suggested Vanguard has an overwhelming enthusiasm for apps that curate content.

That said, our sample comes from digitally savvy New Yorkers who have the subway free-time and industry knowledge to be interested in these sorts of apps. However, you cannot deny how we think about information today. It’s completely different from ten years ago. And without getting too grandiose on you, think about what this says about our evolution as human beings. I can barely fathom the implications.

Honorable mention goes to Flipboard. It’s intuitive. It’s user-friendly. And it works. Our senior management team loves it––and if they get it, you will.

Barcode-based Apps

Genius. There’s no other way to describe the utility of these apps other than to say simply: Genius. Want to know if that protein bar isn’t actually filled with carbs and sugar? Scan it. Want to sign up for a chance to drive a Lamborghini? Scan it. Want to know if that product was made in a child sweatshop factory in China? Scan it. Boycott it.

Never in a million years did someone think a telephone would have this sort of function. And yet, here we are. Honorable mention goes to Fooducate. This handy app scans your food and assigns it a letter grade. Skippy peanut butter gets a C? The app suggests a more healthful, A-rated alternative.

Music-driven Apps

Regardless of whether you hate all its ads or not, Shazam is 100% a unique game shifter. You can call it an app, but it’s an invention that has revolutionized our relationship with the sound waves coming out of your bar’s speakers. The minute you even hear the concept behind this app, you’ll get goose bumps.

Honorable mention goes to apps like Spotify and Pandora, which have changed radio forever. They’re like the news-aggregate apps from above, but for the soul.

Google Apps

Google is a category of its own. One cannot put down in writing the impact that its array of products have had on our organization, our culture, and our world. Your phone tells you when to turn left and when to turn right. Thanks, Google Maps! Your phone tells you that the phallic object in the middle of Buenos Aires you’re viewing is the Obelisco de Buenos Aires. Thanks, Google Goggles! And on that note, what does “Obelisco” mean in English? Obelisk. Thanks, Google Translate!

Google Now, a new app designed to adapt to where you go and what you do to predict behavior, is creepily amazing. But wait, there’s more!

I won’t go on, but this stuff is incomprehensible. And there are plenty of honorable mentions for me-too products, but we all know they’ve just been modeling themselves after Google.

These five categories and their top apps were chosen because of their utility and surprise. Did we think that we’d be talking to people using video someday? Well, yeah. It was in Back to the Future Part II. That isn’t to say it isn’t impressive; it really is. Social apps and game apps have altered how we interact with peers and friends. We are social beings, and these apps have encouraged social behavior. As I said in the beginning, this list is certainly nowhere near exhaustive––if you had to suggest another, what app has surprised you most?

Author: Eric Swenson

Tighten Up Internet Security

Over the past month, there has been a strange phenomenon. Companies, both large and small, started revealing that they had fallen victim to hackers who had compromised social media channels, websites, and online security. Everyone from Evernote to Microsoft had a story to tell. So the question is, are companies forgetting the importance of Internet security?

The surge started on social media, specifically Twitter. As most people with a Twitter account noticed, the beginning of February brought with it a fresh, new phishing attack. Through direct messages and the ploy of a possible questionable picture (“Did you see this pic of you? lol”), plenty of passwords and information were captured from both experienced social media professionals and the casual user.

Then another surge occurred, this time involving hacking into corporate Twitter accounts, such as those belonging to Burger King and Jeep. Whether due to poor passwords or expert hacking from accused group @DFNTSC, it was a PR mess for both companies. Naturally, as is the way with the Internet, parodies arose, with MTV and BET leading the charge and pretending to hack into each other’s accounts in a similar style to the legitimate hacks. Maybe they hoped to get a larger following (Burger King gained 30,000 followers in the hour following its hacking incident), but it was a rather obvious PR move regardless.

On a more serious level, companies like Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Evernote have all recently reported security compromises. Some, like Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, claimed that no data was stolen, but all reported symptoms that suggest the attacks originated in malware from China. Twitter and Evernote, on the other hand, feared their own hacks so much that they had users set new passwords to make sure nobody fell prey to the attack.

The bottom line is, it seems that both companies and individuals might need a reminder that Internet security is not to be taken lightly. With the spotlight shining brightly on big data, companies with private information cannot afford to be hacked. So spend the money on better passwords, stronger firewalls, and a well-trained IT team, because this will not be the last wave of hackers. Consider this your warning.

Author: Zack Smith