What’s on my phone’s home screen?

2017 is almost over, so I wanted talk about the apps that have taken the most important space on my phone during this year, and whether or not I think they’ll still be there next year.

Let’s start with a screenshot of my home screen:

I place apps in my home screen based on the frequency in which I use them. I try to minimize the amount of times I have to go to other pages of the home screen, so these are truly the apps that keep me going. But are all of these apps equally important for my daily tech routine? Will they stay in such a prominent position next year? Let’s break them into categories.

Connecting with friends & family

Messages, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Mail are absolutely critical to stay connected with family and friends, especially those in other countries. I’m convinced that I’ll keep these around since they are literally the first thing I check every morning.

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have been part of an interesting migration during 2017: most of my friends stopped posting on Facebook and became more active on apps where their posts have a 24 hour expiration date. So far, most of my friends are choosing Instagram, probably due to the fact that it has a classic profile of everlasting posts; Snapchat will have a hard time recovering after the aggressive takeover from Instagram, so I would not be surprised if Snapchat didn’t make it on my phone through the next year.

Consuming entertainment content & news

I don’t see Twitter or YouTube as simple social networks anymore; I use these apps to consume news and media content. I can see what’s trending in the world or I can follow the creators that I want, and get content directly matching my interests. Twitter is not dead (even if you don’t use it to connect with friends) and YouTube is not getting substituted by Snapchat (not in the next year at least) as my main video provider.

Feedly, LinkedIn and MSN News (which I use to read many Spanish newspapers in one single place) also keep me informed, but they are usually secondary sources in my daily routine. Feedly is there because it’s where I keep my old RSS collection (rest in peace, Google Reader), and it’s the app with the highest probabilities of not making it one more year.

Now, about the Podcasts app: I acknowledge this might sound weird, but the first time I ever listened to a podcast was just a few months ago. Considering that podcasts are a relatively old form of audio broadcasting, this may be surprising, but I had not found a compelling reason to try it until I found this amazing podcast. I then turned to Facebook asking for podcasts recommendations and my friends gave me enough titles for the rest of my life. This app is a keeper.

Tools

This category is also critical, but individual apps can easily be substituted if a better alternative appeared in the market. I use many Apple stock apps due to their integration within iOS, but I’m not too attached to them. In fact, I have already substituted some 1st party apps: Notes with OneNote, Calendar with Google Calendar or Music with Spotify.

I have a love-hate relationship with Apple Maps: Google Maps has better content, but I like Apple’s design and it usually finds what I’m looking for. I have switched back and forth between Google Maps and Apple Maps at least twice during 2017, so we can officially call this an unresolved situation.

WordPress and Medium are my basic blogger tools: even though geekonrecord.com is hosted in WordPress.com, I also publish in Medium on my own account and on Medium publications like Hacker Noon. It’s safe to say that these apps will remain in my home screen as long as I keep writing.

Work

This might sound like the most boring part of my home screen, but as a Microsoft employee I enjoy using apps like Outlook, which is a way better email client than the Apple Mail app (I use both to separate my personal and work email), or Teams, which is Microsoft’s response to Slack.

What’s next? Which new apps will appear on my home screen next year? With the popularization of augmented reality (AR), I hope to see new and exciting apps in 2018: a successful crossover between social media and AR could dramatically change which apps stay in that valued home screen. The future can’t come fast enough.


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Image taken from my own phone, with a wallpaper provided by Marques Brownlee

Would you give up your privacy for unlimited movies? interview with René Sánchez from CineSinFronteras.com

MoviePass is a subscription-based service that allows users to watch almost any movie in theaters for a flat monthly rate. In August, the company announced a surprisingly low price of $9.95, leaving many scratching their heads. I interviewed René Sánchez, cinema expert and movie critic at CineSinFronteras.com, and we discussed the privacy implications and the potential impact to the online streaming industry.

moviepass.png

Even though I’ve been using it for a month already, it still feels too good to be true. Were you surprised by the MoviePass announcement?

Yes, I was surprised by their announcement to reduce the monthly subscription price to just $9.95. It is such an amazing deal, especially when you consider that a regular, 2D movie here in the Seattle metro area costs between $12-15. So even if you only watch one movie every month, you will be saving some dollars with MoviePass! What shocked me the most was to know that the major exhibitors and theater chains were onboard with this change. I expected a lot of pushback from them, considering their old-school ways to operate. So far, only AMC has tried (and failed) to restrict the use of MoviePass in their theaters.

What’s the problem that MoviePass is trying to solve?

People don’t go to the movie theaters anymore. Studios and exhibitors keep blaming Netflix and other rival streaming platforms for their audience loss, instead of recognizing the real root cause: the movie-going experience has become very expensive and obsolete. Ticket prices rise every year (the same goes for concessions), studios keep releasing sequels and remakes no one asked for, and most multiplexes scream for renovations (uncomfortable seats, run-down interiors, and poor image and sound quality). To top it off, patrons can sometimes be rude and annoying.

Again, it’s really not Netflix’s fault that people want to stay at home, rather than going out to watch a movie. Who wants to pay more than $60 (including tickets, food and parking/Uber) to enjoy a mediocre movie in a rickety auditorium, while everyone else is either talking or staring at their phones?

Continue reading “Would you give up your privacy for unlimited movies? interview with René Sánchez from CineSinFronteras.com”

Visiting the Oculus office in Seattle: is augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) the future of user interfaces?

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting the Oculus Seattle office for a private tour, some cool demos and a very interesting conversation. During the whole visit, a question kept popping up in my mind: will augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) ever become the standard way of interacting with our desktop or mobile devices?

User interfaces have evolved over the years in very significant ways: we moved from punched cards to command-line interfaces, and from there to graphical interfaces, which ended up evolving into what we know today, mouse, keyboard and touch. With recent advances in artificial intelligence, we are beginning to transition into conversational interfaces, where we can use natural language to get things done, sometimes even without touching a button or reading a line of text.

Is the future of user interfaces an (almost) invisible one? In many cases, yes, just watch the 2014 movie Her to see a glimpse of where we will be in a few years (minus the “falling in love” part):

However, for many other tasks we will still need to read, type, touch and draw. This doesn’t mean that we will be tied forever to a screen, and here’s where VR and AR come in.

Continue reading “Visiting the Oculus office in Seattle: is augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) the future of user interfaces?”

How Mexico is using technology to help people after the 7.1 earthquake: interview with Paulina Bustos

Is that an earthquake?” the candidate asked with their eyes wide open, as everything around us started shaking. On September 19th, a 7.1 earthquake hit Central Mexico shortly after 1pm, and I was there interviewing university candidates for Microsoft. We were able to exit the building without issues, and even though my phone was unable to make any calls, it had data connectivity, allowing me to contact my family and friends over WhatsApp.

Many others weren’t so lucky: 369 people were killed, and over 6,000 were injured. The earthquake occurred on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed around 10,000 people. After spending the following days inspired by the amazing reaction of the Mexican society, united and determined to help each other, I wondered how different the situation would have been without technology’s help. How long would it take for people to find out if their families and friends were OK? How would they be able to find help or where help was needed?

My good friend Paulina Bustos was the perfect person to talk about these issues, so I decided to interview her. Paulina studied Computer Science at the Tecnológico de Monterrey University, worked at Microsoft in Redmond, WA for over 3 years and is now living in São Paulo doing a Technology Fellowship with Artigo 19; she is the co-funder of Cívica Digital in Mexico, where she worked with several non-profit organizations and governments to strengthen citizenship using technology, and she also teaches Software Design & Analysis at ITAM University.

Where were you during the September 19th earthquake in Central Mexico and what was your immediate reaction when you realized the magnitude of the event?

I was in Sao Paulo in a meeting, when my cellphone started ringing with all the messages from family and friends. My oldest sister lives in Mexico City and she usually texts back within the first 5 minutes after an earthquake. This time she took almost an hour. I knew immediately that something was off.

Continue reading “How Mexico is using technology to help people after the 7.1 earthquake: interview with Paulina Bustos”

About the iPhone X notch controversy

The iPhone X was already controversial even before it was officially introduced last Tuesday, mostly due to the rumored removal of Touch ID in favor of Face ID.

However, Apple’s presentation caused a new controversy: the infamous notch. Even though the array of cameras and sensors got leaked long before the event, nobody knew how Apple was planning to do in order to integrate it with iOS 11. We have the answer now: Apple is so proud of that black bar that they decided to render the user interface around it.

Since Apple controls the operating system, they made sure it looks good with most 1st party apps. But what happens with 3rd party content like a website? The notch gets in the way. Continue reading “About the iPhone X notch controversy”

3 reasons why I’m excited about the new iPhone

Apple will present the new iPhone this Tuesday and, as usual, most of the details have already been leaked.

What seems guaranteed is that we’ll see 3 models being introduced: the iPhone 7s, 7s Plus and a special edition to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. That special edition has been known until now as iPhone 8, iPhone Edition, or iPhone Pro, but the official name iPhone X has been confirmed (among other details) thanks to the final version of iOS 11 leaking.

These are the top 3 reasons why I’m excited about the iPhone X.

Continue reading “3 reasons why I’m excited about the new iPhone”

One month with the Nintendo Switch

Scarcity is “the fundamental economic problem of having seemingly unlimited human wants in a world of limited resources“.

Many thought that Nintendo was the master of artificial scarcity because of how difficult it was to find in stock the Switch (and other Nintendo consoles). It increased the hype for all those fans who were anxious to get their new toy, and for those who got it, it created a feeling of exclusiveness.

However, reality is slightly different: even today, over 5 months after its worldwide release, many retail stores still have limited availability or are sold out. Nintendo is actually having supply issues, which I bet they are trying hard to resolve before the holiday season.

Now, does the console live up to its hype? After a few weeks playing with it, I have to say ‘absolutely‘. The Nintendo Switch surprised me with its versatility as a powerful docked console and as a portable gaming device that doesn’t compromise.

Continue reading “One month with the Nintendo Switch”

Women in engineering and public office: interview with Bea Q. Rico, candidate for Port of Seattle Commissioner

Becoming an engineer is not an easy task. Excelling at it is even more complicated. And if you happen to be a woman and part of an ethnic minority, things will be remarkably tougher for you.

Today, I’m interviewing Bea Querido-Rico, an engineer with over 12 years of experience in the aerospace industry, who is also running for Port of Seattle Commisioner. Join us while we talk about what we can do to improve the world for future generations.

Education is one of the big challenges of our time, with less students choosing STEM degrees each year. How would you encourage the younger generations to become the professionals that we need as a society?

The strategy that works the best is inspiring through understanding first what motivates younger generations. Once the motivation is understood, then link that motivation to S.T.E.M. and pair it with relevant fun courses as well as role models that they can relate to.

Growing up I was only exposed to sports, accounting, and nursing. Some people in my family took steps into starting a business and my brother pursued engineering in college but all of that in my world was so abstract until I landed an internship at the Boeing Company working for the C-17 military cargo aircraft. That summer internship in aerospace widened my perspective and heavily influenced the way I think and operate professionally.

Continue reading “Women in engineering and public office: interview with Bea Q. Rico, candidate for Port of Seattle Commissioner”

Using a Surface RT, 5 years later

Right before my last trip to Spain, rumors of a laptop ban in flights from Europe to the U.S. started appearing. I didn’t want to take my Surface Book and risk being forced to throw it inside my luggage on my way back (we all know how airlines treat luggage).

So what options did I have? Either leave my laptop at home, or travel with a device that I could live without, in case it broke after being handled like a sack of potatoes.

That’s when I thought of my old Surface RT, abandoned in a shelf for years. I wasn’t sure it would be “enough of a tablet” for my trip but coincidentally, that same week happened to be the 5th year anniversary of its presentation, so it was perfect timing for a test.

Would I be able to use my email? Write a little bit? Upload pictures to Facebook? Read Twitter? Buy tour tickets and make trip reservations? Would any of the old apps work?


The answer to all of those questions was, surprisingly, yes.

Continue reading “Using a Surface RT, 5 years later”

My experience with Snapchat’s Spectacles

I got the Spectacles over Christmas thanks to my good friend Carlos. Back then, it was difficult to buy them because Snap was playing a genius scarcity game.

Today you can buy a pair online and get them delivered to your home in 1-2 weeks. Gone are those days when the Spectacles would sell on eBay for $3000.

Now, you might be thinking: “should I get them?” Let me help you.

Have you ever had a vacation to a sunny place, taking pictures here and there to immortalize the scenery? Having your phone with you all day might not be convenient, especially if you want to disconnect.

Have you ever been at a wedding where everyone is looking at their recording phones? Most of these people end up having just the memory of what their camera saw, not their eyes.

Can you think of a summer day when you hiked through a trail with breathtaking views? Getting your hands busy to take pictures might be uncomfortable and even dangerous.

I have been in these situations, and the weird-looking sunglasses truly allow me to be in the moment while capturing the memory.

Continue reading “My experience with Snapchat’s Spectacles”