The Apple Falls – From ‘It Just Works’ to ‘It’s Hard Work’

Something is wrong at Apple – they seem to be lost in a mire of confusion and missed opportunities. I started to feel this after the iPhone7 launch; the new MacBook Pro launch just cements it. I’ve long been a fan of Apple’s (well, Steve Jobs’) ethos: creating beautiful products that make your life better. I simply don’t think that they are doing that anymore. Their last two product launches have been disappointing to say the least, with poor decisions – dropping headphone jacks and USB ports – and lack of innovation. But more than that, their crown of creativity is now being wrested from them. Google’s Pixel phone is an iPhone killer. Even Chinese super-manufacturer Xiaomi is launching a phone that looks like the iPhone7 should have been. And now the severely compromised MacBook Pro’s. Apple’s product range used to ‘just work’, now it’s just hard work.

MacBook Pro Fails

The latest MacBooks have missed the point completely. In abandoning USB in favour of Thunderbolt ports, you now basically have to carry a bag of dongles and cables to connect your other devices. You can’t even connect an iPhone 7 with the cables they provide out of the box – epic fail! They also didn’t bother to increase the power of the chips – with similar RAM and processor specs to those released years ago (still 2.4Ghz as standard, so 2010. 2.9Ghz?, oh that’ll be $3,000…). And the Touch Bar not only fails to add real value (quick access emojis ffs!), it does away with the ‘Esc’ key – effectively alienating one of their core demographic –  programmers and developers. They focused too much of their energy on ensuring that apps and programs can communicate effectively and seamlessly through Cloud software but forgot the basics.

Lack of Innovation

The introduction of the Touch Bar had the potential to be innovative but they sacrificed the function keys to make room for it. It’s almost they said ‘You don’t need those complicated things! Look – shiny icons!” – it feels more like a distraction rather than an innovation. Apple are forcing users to divert their attention away from the screen whilst they scroll through selected icons to find the app or program they need. Microsoft, in the meantime, came up with the Surface Dial – a cleverly designed peripheral allowing users to interact with every millimeter of the display.

The Surface Dial is an all-encompassing control device which combines simplicity and practicality – bringing a new dimension to hardware and software interaction. When placed side-by-side, there are some obvious advantages to having a dial which can be placed directly onto the screen, rather than the Touch Bar – which users actively have to break their concentration to use. Compared to the Apple Touch Bar the Surface Dial is innovative, has almost limitless applications, and is perfectly targeted at its audience – creative designers and developers, an audience that used to buy Apple without question.

In the summer, I wrote a piece about how important it is to ignore your competitors and listen to your customers instead. Apple seem to have done neither of these things, preferring instead to  look to the past. Now even Microsoft – formerly the antithesis of Apple, creatively – are beating them at their own game.

I’m Out

On the one hand it’s great to see more competition at the top end of the tech market. Ultimately this is good for consumers – more choice, better products, lower prices. But I’ve long been a fan of Apple, and it’s sad to see them fail so hard. Steve Jobs changed the world with his manic desire for beautiful designed products that define perfect user experience. The limitations of the new MacBook Pro are simply too much for me. I’m ditching my iPhone and switching to Google’s Pixel phone, and i’ll take Microsoft’s Surface Studio, or the Lenovo Yoga. I don’t think Steve would be happy with this state of affairs.

How do you feel about Apple’s new developments? Have i missed some genius strategy in their product line-up, or are they now being left behind by Microsoft and Google? Let me know in the comments using #NewMacBookPro.

Snapchat Spectacles – 20:20 Vision Or Myopic Mistake?

The brand formerly known as Snapchat has been making headlines this week with two pretty big announcements. The first was the name change to ‘Snap Inc.’ (signifying a diversification of the brand away from simply video messaging apps); the second was that of Spectacles (‘Specs’) – the latest in wearable video technology.

Specs are modified sunglasses which allow you to record video clips of varying lengths – either 10, 20 or 30 seconds. They’re available in three colours (black, teal and coral); rechargeable (the case doubles as a charging dock); and store snaps internally until the user transfers them (via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) them to a smartphone to view and share on Snapchat (this is all eerily similar to the plot of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror episode ‘The Entire History of You’).


There’s a lot to be said for the latest Snap innovation, and it comes in parallel a new brand direction (they are already now describing themselves as ‘a camera company’). This is a bold move for a brand who, just a few days ago, were known only for the sharing of ephemeral video clips.

Are Specs the new Glass?

Well on paper they could be mistaken for the most recent incarnation of Google Glass – remember how well those devices did in 2012? Sure, they still see resurgences in certain niche sectors from time to time, but they never did reach the mass-market consumer heights Google was aiming for. However with the Specs there are some key differences:

1. Appearance

Google Glass was criticised for the ‘nerdy’ appearance and the fact that they seemed too futuristic or ‘dorky’. It took Google 2 years to take this feedback and transform the design into something more fashionable – and even helpful, with the incorporation of prescription lenses – but it seems to have been too little, too late. Specs definitely look more fashionable – though this is of course slightly subjective.

2. Price

Glass was originally priced at £1,000 for developers – the consumer-ready version never materialised. Whilst Glass appeared to be expensive, it incorporated a lot of features and had a wider range of uses than Specs do. Specs have only one function – recording video – and the price reflects that – at $130 (£100) for the Specs, charger and charging case, the price seems to be spot-on for early adopters. and for their target market: Ray-Ban wearing teens.

3. Marketing

Google decided to drip-feed Glass to the market, whilst pushing a high price and promising to change lives – this excluded a lot of excited adopters and limited the overall appeal of the device. However, Snap have a done a great job here – Spectacles are a cool design, simple to use, and will be sold at an accessible price point. They’ll be drip feeding the product to the market in limited numbers, much like Google did previously, but the price will not exclude those they seek to interest.

“We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out…it’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.” (Snap CEO – Evan Spegal)

They’re also launching at the right time – the number of people using video doubled between 2009 and 2013. Video is more widely created and shared than it was when Google Glass launched – 54% of adult internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves have created, so the audience is already primed and waiting for this creation.

4. Privacy

One of Google Glass’s main pitfalls was privacy – they were quickly banned from public places including bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas. There were many difficulties in overcoming the public’s fear of being recorded without giving consent and ultimately, the limitations and fears overcame the excitement, causing the demise of the device.

Snap Spectacles offer the very same feature which caused the demise of Glass – in fact, it is the only feature, so how are they planning to avoid the same fate we have already witnessed with Glass? Lights. The Spectacles feature a light on the inside to let the wearer know that recording is taking place – as well as an external light alerting those around the wearer that the glasses are recording. Whilst slightly more prominent than the ‘recording’ light on Google Glass – this doesn’t really solve the issue.

Despite the design and product features that Snap have incorporated into the spectacles (that are all arguably aimed at countering the invasion of privacy issue that basically sunk Google Glass), I don’t think it’s enough. People are, more than ever, aware of privacy and the risk of having it invaded, either first hand (being covertly filmed) or second hand (having photos/videos hacked and stolen from online storage). However I don’t believe Snap fully deal with the main reason Google glass was essentially a wearables fail: privacy. Ok, so there are a features that have clearly been included to counter the whole privacy thing, but I don’t think they’re enough to take it mass-market.

I think the majority of people are still not comfortable with the prospect of being spied on by people wearing devices that record what they’re doing. For me this is a major hurdle that any wearables product needs to leap, and I’m not sure Snap have delivered enough here to do that. They may nail some key segments – 18-24 year olds specifically – who are more comfortable sharing everything they do online, and are already using their app all day. And in this they also have the potential to increasing their 63% UK market share; but they also risk alienating the more security-conscious technology adopters, who are likely to react this like they reacted to Google Glass.

What do you think? Let me know below, or on Twitter @bradindigital

IFA Berlin – Why Crazy Tech Is Great News For Everyone

I love Berlin – it’s got a rich history, gothic charm and baroque tradition; and, as one of Europe’s top tech startup hubs, also has it’s eyes firmly fixed on the future. It’s architecture is a mash-up of new and old with a strong creative edge. It is therefore somewhat fitting that this week ,rolling into Berlin, came the IFA Global Innovations Show, which heralded a slew of new, risky and innovative tech from some of the world’s leading consumer brands.


Innovation (However Left-field And Crazy) Should Be Encouraged

What I found exciting about this year’s batch of IFA product announcements was a return to pushing the boundaries of what is expected from new technology. Stepping away from “conventional” tech, some brands – Lenovo, Acer, HP – are taking risks with their products, both to stand out from competitors and also to engage their consumers. By way of comparison, Wednesday’s Apple event – announcing the iPhone 7’s and Apple Watch 2 (plus a Pokemon app and some insta-lose ‘Airpods’…) – seemed like a bit of a snooze-fest in comparison. Slimmer, lighter, whatever!

A particular highlight for me was a new laptop from ACER. They seem to have listened to their niche gamer audience and announced one of the talking points of the show with their Predator 21 X laptop – a step into the future of gaming and full of design quirks: fully customisable mechanical keyboard, customisable backlight settings per key (!), built-in wrist supports, a curved screen and clamshell case… It’s a product unashamedly for the hardcore gamer. At an unwieldy 8kg it is also not for the faint hearted, but the sheer amount of tech inside makes it both ludicrous and groundbreaking, both in it’s field and if you were to drop it!

Likewise the Lenovo Yoga Book with its innovative halo keyboard and built in stylus, 3-axis hinge, lightweight design and beautiful aesthetic means has marked it as true original in a market full of Macbook-a-likes. The ‘Halo’ keyboard alone makes this a product miles ahead of the competition. Essentially this is a laptop with two screens, that can utilised as a tablet, laptop and an artists pad all in one. A true leap into the future.


Elsewhere, we have the HP Pavilion Wave, which has a dual functionality as a high-end Desktop computer tower and a speaker unit. Utilising a unique textile approach, the entire device is wrapped in a lush fabric coat. Where the dressing adds nothing to the tech, it certainly lends the whole package a pretty design quirk, and stands it out from the crowd.

Finally, the Botvac Connected from Neato is a nifty innovation in vacuuming that is internet connected, can laser scan a room to map its path and route and has a handy homing beacon and “find me” function if it gets lost around the house (yes, really) that be activated via your smartphone. You can also plot its routine and course on your smartphone via the app. Add a GoPro and you could have hours of fun chasing your cat around the house.


It’s A Core Principle Of Entrepreneurial Enterprise To Test And Learn

It’s great to hear how some consumer brands are taking risks. It’s important for product innovation and for consumers. It’s a return to the test and learn, risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit that has been largely missing from the Samsung and Apple tit-for-tat product launches. Having over-engineered gaming laptops and a robot hoover with a location beacon gives me hope that manufacturers will once again push the envelope and deliver innovative new products.

Even in the face of fashionable trends and common sense amongst your peers – a daring new product can make your company for the next ten years – or end you in a heartbeat, and this is what innovation is all about.

In an earlier blog post I spoke about how it’s more important to listen your customers rather than your competitors. When developing my own services and brand, I made the conscious decision to stop watching my competitor’s every move to make sure that I was in line with them. I can see why people would ask how I could be sure that my business was relevant, if I didn’t know what my competitors were doing. To be honest, I didn’t know whether my products were on par with those of my biggest rivals, what I did know was that my products matched what my customers wanted and answered their needs.

More brands need to push the envelope with risky innovations, give their customers the excitement of trying new tech and listen to the feedback. It’s great that leading brands are taking these risk with design, aesthetic and the expectation of their consumer base – this variety of product, of design and of idea is good for the companies, the consumer and – most importantly – keeping the field interesting and moving forwards. The only way we’ll get to the future is by taking the big risks to get there.

What new tech is getting you excited? Let me know below, or on Twitter @bradindigital

The Startup Mentor: Product Development and Adaptation

Uncertainty is still a huge issue for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, especially in these Brexit times. The economy and the business landscape are very much in the hands of both politicians and the future business leaders. After discussing why now is the best time for business owners and start-ups to make their own mark on post-Brexit Britain, I want to now discuss how exactly to go about doing it. Following last week’s post on the importance of agility in start-ups, this week I want to narrow the focus to product development and how the ability and willingness to flex and adapt to the surroundings of the business are the key to navigating and staying afloat during the uncertain times which lie ahead.

Agile Principles

Lean product development is the application of a process to ensure that the product development cycle is responsive and flexible, so that changes can be made almost on the fly. A flexible approach allows start-ups to modify their products and services quickly to adapt to changing demands and respond to feedback in a sharp, intuitive way. By allowing for small, constant changes, businesses and start-ups eliminate the need for lengthy product development cycles, which can cause frustration to investors and cause them to lose interest in what may eventually become a successful product. An example of how lean development can be applied to digital product cycles has been investigated by PC Quest. 

The key lesson here is in bringing prospective clients into your circle of trust. There is always the option of creating a team of clients who get access to early versions of your product on the basis they give you honest feedback. You could even call this type of thing an ‘innovation committee’. If you have built a good relationship with some of your clients, they will value input on innovation. It gives them a sense of primacy and kudos that you respect their opinions; they will also appreciate having prioritised access to new tools or services that may give them a competitive advantage.

The Lean Methodology Checklist

1. Determine whether the product is interesting.

A common mistake made by start-ups is to rush head-first into designing and creating a product that they think people want, and then approaching investors with a prototype after internal reviews. In reality, talking to prospective investors – the businesses and organisations who really may be interested in the product – before creating anything beyond a brainstorm or an idea, is the best practise.

When I started I was meeting prospective customers before a line of code had even been written! The idea is to position it as a passive request for their opinion and expertise: “I’m planning on building something that would work like this, what do you think? Would this be useful in your space? How can I improve it? How could I make this an easy decision for you”.


2. Keep the initial ideas basic

Start-ups don’t need an extensive master plan, the key to being flexible is taking a more laid-back approach to developing products. A rigid, unyielding development strategy offers no flexibility and can be shaken apart by the slightest unforeseen complication.

That is not to say that start-ups should not be looking into all possible eventualities. As we discussed last week, having multiple basic plans to account for a range of possibilities is better than one military-style plan which will not hold up if external factors differ from the expected.


3. Experimentation Is more effective than extensive planning

Smaller changes and trying something new is much more effective and adaptable than planning an extensive design without any feedback. Make smaller changes based on first impressions, rather than redesigning the entire product at each stage. Over-engineering causes start-ups to lose sight of the goal – which is creating a product which has an advantage over competitors and piques the interest of investors.

Regarding over-engineering… What is often see is that  businesses load up on features and they think that they will offer so much that people can’t say no. This is generally a fallacy. If this is a new-to-market product it actually makes it harder for people to understand. Look at the iPhone, when it was announced the CEO of Blackberry (RIM) stated that he wasn’t concerned because they didn’t have the features the top of the range Blackberry, specifically a qwerty keyboard:

The most exciting mobile trend is[…]full Qwerty keyboards. I’m sorry, it really is. I’m not making this up. People are running out of their two-year contracts and they’re coming into the stores and they want to be able to do Facebook and they want to be able to do instant messaging and they want to be able to do e-mail and they ask for those features thinking that they’re going to get another flip phone and they’re walking out with a (BlackBerry) Curve or a Pearl because they’re the best devices for doing those kinds of activities. And so what is the defining factor? The keyboard.”

What he demonstrated by saying this was; whilst Blackberry were busy trying to build ‘features’, Apple simply made a product that was easier to use- and therefore easier to choose – and we all know what happened after that…


4. Keep it small, keep it simple

Small changes are quicker to make and easier to plan than large changes – the best changes are those which respond to the external feedback without affecting any other factor of the product. As a simple example, a plastic-cased product which receives the feedback ‘This would be more exciting if it were available in metallic silver’; the answer is not to recreate the casing in metal, but to apply a layer of paint or use a different colour of plastic. This keeps all other factors – ones which have not received any complaints – intact.


5. Maintain feedback

Little and often is the key to maintaining an adaptable approach to product development, where small, regular changes are the aim, feedback which suggests a lot of changes, but which is only received occasionally will not be practical.  A regular reporting system, and a ‘one feature at a time’ approach is much more useful.


Product development is arguably the most important focus when planning a start-up, each improvement leans toward a more successful end product and early interest and input from investors give start-ups the opportunity to create a product that the larger clients will already be familiar with and connected to. If this is a problem that you are facing right now as an entrepreneur, or if you have a totally different take on it, I’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment below, or connect with me on Twitter: @bradindigital

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Cut Off

When is the work ‘cut-off’?

Last week, news broke that French legislators have passed a law which gives employees the right to ignore work e-mails outside of working hours. I believe that this is great news for two reasons:

1. E-mail is outdated and inefficient anyway.

2. It is important that people are given the chance to switch off when they are not at work.


The New Law

Article 25 of the El Khomri Bill allows employees of organisations with over 50 staff members to avoid reading, responding to or acting upon digital communication which is received outside of business hours. This includes e-mails, messaging applications and collaborative platforms. The law has been introduced in an attempt to combat the effects of work-based stress and to curb the effects of being ‘switched on’ around the clock.


The Problem With E-mail

I don’t like e-mails full stop. In my opinion people use it as a way to delay decisions and push accountability on others. It also means endless ‘reply all’ chains, mysteries surrounding information they never received, the issues of attachments and the awkwardness of getting the balance between sounding friendly and professional just right.

In more recent times, the rise in mobile devices and the ability to be contacted anywhere, anytime, work-based e-mails have leaked past the end of the working day and have become a round-the-clock venture. It begins with ‘just checking’ on a project from earlier today, spreads into tying up loose ends at the weekend and eventually answering Wendy’s questions about how to get the printer to work whilst lying on a beach in Spain. Further to this, by escaping the time-constraints of business hours, e-mails have become the scape-goat for avoiding accountability – ‘lost’ e-mails are held responsible for missed deadlines and poor Paul from accounting is so lost in a team-wide thread of information that he really doesn’t know what his boss is expecting him to do this week.


The Digital Age & New Apps

The evolution of digital has opened up a wealth of communication methods which have infused the professional world with useful benefits, such as unlimited organisation apps and ways to collaborate on projects. With all of the messaging and collaboration channels available, E-mail is definitely becoming outdated and the benefits of more modern applications and software are being noticed by industry experts, who are using e-mail as their primary communication channel less and less.  For example, Trello and Slack are two of the most popular collaborative, team-based applications available. With 3 million monthly users, Trello offers a workspace designed to encourage productivity and collaboration, whilst Slack, with 1.7 million monthly users, combines all of the useful parts of instant messaging to enable smooth communication between team members. With innovation and productivity channels becoming more and more readily available, it is not hard to see how e-mail is falling behind and becoming less favourable in the eyes of professionals.


The Importance of Switching Off

With so many applications, software suites and communication channels available at the fingertips of employees, it is easy to imagine how projects and discussion can spread into everyday life – outside of working hours. Many professionals use the same devices at home as they do at work, meaning that the communication apps they are using to discuss projects are still open in an evening and during the weekends. This makes it harder for employees to switch off and disconnect from their responsibilities, which can lead to stress, work overload and ‘burnout’; a physical, mental and emotional inability to continue working in a productive manner due to overwhelming stress from the workplace environment.  The ability to switch-off and take time away from work is lauded by industry specialists – and it’s not hard to imagine why – with a French study showing that 1 in 5 Executives are at risk of ‘burning out’.


Resetting the Boundaries

In the midst of the digital age, where information is accessible at all hours, in all places, it is time to begin resetting the boundaries which have been broken by new technologies. Businesses have been taking advantages of the unrestricted access to communication channels – but the adverse effects that this is having on employees should be more than enough reason to re-establish the ground rules of courtesy and personal time. It is important that employees are able to take time away from the responsibilities of their job and spend it however they like. The ability to spend time being creative and unwinding leads to more productive employees and a more focused attitude during work hours, compared to individuals who never truly relax due to committing so much of their personal time to work-related activities.

Throughout all of the discussion surrounding digital means of communication, the good old telephone has been largely ignored – in its original form, anyway – but it could provide the answer to the ‘cut off point’ issue. Since the invention of the phone, an unwritten, unspoken rule has developed surrounding the acceptable times to call. For managers and employees, calling outside of working hours is usually reserved for emergency situations; whilst friends and family tend to keep each other’s schedules and habits in mind when deciding when it is okay to call.

Here is a great clip from one my favourite TV shows: Curb Your Enthusiasm that I feel sums up the concept of a ‘cut-off’.

Given that technology-based communication, such as e-mails can be used negatively as an excuse for poor work performance, a lack of productivity and unimpressive work-ethics, it is to be hoped that, by restricting the times during which these methods can be used, the ways in which they are used may also be affected. By concentrating the permitted usage, hopefully the work produced and productivity levels will also be condensed. In short – if employees are using their professional communication correctly during working hours, they have every right to ignore them outside of those hours. I firmly believe that the out-of-hours ban on work communication should be implemented everywhere – morally, if not legally.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know I am one week early, and although we don’t celebrate this particular holiday over on my side of the pond, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my American friends a very, happy Thanksgiving! I think it’s a great holiday, and in the spirit of gratitude I thought I would share with my readers the things for which I have been most thankful during my entrepreneurial journey.


Family and friends

The key figures in most people’s lives are family and friends. Those close few that truly support your every venture, help you through your toughest times and give you solid advice when you need it most. Ultimately, they are also the people that keep you relatively sane through the rocky road to success. Not only do they provide the emotional and physical support you sometimes need, but they also provide (often painful) financial assistance that can be crucial to your next investment. This support is not without sacrifice and shows a huge commitment and belief in future success and fulfillment. Your friends and family can also be the listening ear and even give you ideas and the feedback you need to reach your next phase and eventually succeed, after all they should be the people you trust most! So a big thank you to my friends and family for sticking by me through it all!



I don’t feel I have ever had a ‘direct’ mentor – by this I mean someone I have met face to face and from whom I have sought advice over an extended period. However, I feel I have taken some of my most memorable and valuable advice from the authors of notable inspirational texts. For example, I would have loved to meet Felix Dennis, who wrote ‘How to get rich quick’ Felix is one of the authors who has most inspired me, and I see him as a mentor. I am thankful for his wise and encouraging words, along with those of other authors in the field. No matter the time, day or night, however, unsociable the hour, I can call upon the dog-eared pages of a favorite text and find solace, self-belief, and re-light that all-important spark of motivation.


My team

I have always tried to motivate and incentivize my team to ensure that they are happy in their jobs. As an entrepreneur, I know there comes a point when you can’t do everything alone, and you need the support of your team. This period is a daunting one, but your team, if well-supported and fulfilled themselves, will become loyal and trustworthy, and in turn begin to drive the success of the business. From then on, you will be safe in the knowledge that you can rely on them whenever you need them.


My clients and customers

My clients and customers have always been fantastic, especially in the early days. They gave me the chance to pitch my idea and understood what I could offer them in terms of business value, not just financial gain. The ongoing support and retention of a customer base allow a business to continue to grow and further succeed. Also, their wealth of advice can be crucial for those important next steps.


My blog visitors & Twitter followers

If you’re reading this post, then thank you! This year I created my blog and started to tweet again. In the space of six months, I have gained so much inspiring feedback and engagement from a wide variety of readers. I appreciate this hugely, and I will continue to update both my blog and Twitter in future. You can follow me on Twitter here: (@bradindigital).


So one last note, a big thank you to everyone for helping me through my entrepreneurial journey, and a reminder to you to thank those who have been instrumental in your business and personal lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!