Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for November 25th, 2011

The X-Factor

I consider myself something of an advertisement aficionado. That is not to say that I enjoy all ads, but rather that I like the concept of advertising. It’s a blank canvas on which motion graphics, video, music, text and any number of other elements can culminate in an attempt to sell me on a product or service. The thirty-second TV spot is a playful limitation in which an ad firm can experiment.

Apple’s advertising has traditionally been some of the best out there. It has been recognised the world over and hailed as an example of what good advertising looks like. From the iconic “1984” Superbowl spot (which was more like a very short film) to the “Think Different” campaign, and right through the “Mac vs. PC” ads and the ubiquitous iPod silhouette campaign, Apple is the king of buzz (with the help of TBWA Chiat/Day, of course).

I think Apple’s recent ads have lived up to this precedent. “There’s an app for that” is a phrase oft heard in non-tech circles, for instance. “We Believe” is an ad that isn’t so much regarding the iPad, but Apple itself, and it works marvellously. Recent iPhone ads are also particularly effective, with their shallow depth-of-field creating an air of quality, and the careful framing emphasising the use of speech when communicating with Siri.

A couple of days ago, Apple released a new ad for the iPod touch, and it feels somehow different. It has all of the right elements: the white backdrop, the indie pop soundtrack, a youthful cast and high production values. But something about it is missing. An indescribable x-factor.

Consider some previous iPod touch ads, such as “The Funnest iPod Ever”. It has similar elements, but is immediately more engaging. The music is that much stronger, the action more fulfilling. Aside from the hands in the foreground, there isn’t a cast. But that’s okay, because the ad is strong enough without one. Likewise for “All Kinds of Fun”, the penultimate iPod touch ad. The inclusion of a cast cannot be the issue, however, as this old iPod nano ad demonstrates. It has all the right ingredients, resulting in an excellent spot.

The new iPod touch ad lacks the magic of these ads, for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. It could be the tempo, or the people, or the editing. There’s something missing, and since the ad will be playing frequently for the next month, it’s bound to irritate me every single time.

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin

Benjamin Wallace, reporting for Wired Magazine:

From early April to the end of May, the going rate for a bitcoin rose from 86 cents to $8.89. Then, after Gawker published a story on June 1 about the currency’s popularity among online drug dealers, it more than tripled in a week, soaring to about $27. The market value of all bitcoins in circulation was approaching $130 million.

[…]

“People have the mistaken impression that virtual currency means you can trust a random person over the Internet,” says Jeff Garzik, a member of bitcoin’s core developer group.

In between these two pull quotes is a story of betrayal, experimentation and disaster. It’s what you should be reading.

Dark Sky

How is it possible predict the weather down to the minute? What’s the catch?

Well, the catch is that it only works over a short period of time: a half hour to an hour in the future. But, as it turns out, this timespan is crucially important. Our lives are filled with short-term outdoor activities: Travelling to and from work, walking the dog, lunch with friends, outdoor sports, etc.

If this works half as well as they say it does, it will soon be indispensable. They’re nearly at their $35,000 goal, but it would be great to get to even more than that, to allow the expansion of the service around the world.

TellMe vs Siri

Yesterday:

“The Tellme facility’s been in the Windows 7 phone for more than a year,” [Microsoft Chief Research Officer Craig] Mundie said. “So I mean I just think people are infatuated with Apple announcing [Siri].”

Today:

Create a meeting tomorrow at 10:00 AM

The punchline is in the video.

Ice Cream Sandwich

Ryan Heise:

There are still two big problems, though. First, the ecosystem is the same: shitty compared to iOS. Second, this really feels like a complete reinvention of Android. Even the guy whose phone it was, who is a stalwart Android user, agreed that he was having to relearn a lot of the OS.

Far from a shit sandwich. In some places, it’s a complete rethinking of what the OS needs to accomplish, occasionally to the detriment of initial user experience. In some places, it’s just a buff and a shine, keeping Android familiar to long-time users.

But in some places, particularly the marketplace, there has been little progress, if any. That’s the one massive area that needs to be fixed. In iOS, the sticking point used to be notifications, which Apple fixed in iOS 5. The ecosystem is Android’s notifications dilemma.

Heise also makes a couple of notes regarding the Galaxy Nexus. Overall, he likes the phone and he likes the OS. I agree — Ice Cream Sandwich is a massive improvement.