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Day 194: The iPhone 5 – Thoughts?

Having followed the Guardians live coverage of the unveiling of the iPhone 5, I’m not quite sure what to think. There were certainly no shockingly exciting innovations or updates that were completely new to the press at least – from the design to the dock and from 4g down to the number of apps on screen, it had pretty much all been predicted.

So the questions today are:

- Is the iPhone 5 really as good as it could possibly be?

- Was I simply expecting to be surprised in a world that doesn’t really ‘do’ surprised anymore? With a company the size of Apple, can we expect things to stay under wraps until release?

- What is the deciding factor for you that either sells it to you or puts you off it?

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Day 96: Zombies, Run!

I’m a pretty serious Apple geek. There’s just something about the external simplicity and internal intricacy of their products that I find fascinating; not to mention that they are increasingly helpful in every day life. My most recent ‘app’ purchase was certainly interesting enough to warrant its own blog post.

Zombies, Run!

Less than satisfied with my fitness, I’ve used multiple running apps over the last year. They are brilliant – not only do they track your time but also your route. It’s incredibly clever…but even with this clever technology, I still found running boring. Last night I downloaded an app called ‘Zombies, Run!’, a running/game combination that that places you into the centre of a zombie apocalypse. Having chosen your music, you run around your neighbourhood whilst listening our for fictional radio broadcasts that tell you where the zombies are and what you need to collect for the last remaining human camp where you live. You collect the items automatically, but the real twist is when zombies start attacking. You hear the mumurs and growls of the zombies and have to run for your life (go with me on this, we’re playing make-believe)! Once you complete missions and arrive back home, you can use the items you’ve collected to upgrade areas of the camp. Genius.

I’m aware at this point that some of you might not be sold on the idea of running from zombies at 07:00, but I found it a fantastic incentive to run and ultimately, keep fit. At £5, I can openly admit that the sky-high price is ridiculous for an app, but I was thoroughly impressed with it nonetheless. I find it hugely encouraging to see that technology is combining with the gaming world and the health and fitness market to create a product like this. Perhaps I won’t feel so guilty playing FIFA any more!

What do you think? Is this a step too far? Is this the right way to go? Am I the only person who thinks that it is a good idea?

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Day 73: Recharge

I’m addicted to my iPhone. I use it to listen to music, take photos, read emails and keep up with people around the world. I use it to tune my guitar when away from my pedal board, take notes, get directions, record videos, read books. I use it to beat my friend Beth at chess and I use it as an alarm in the mornings and sometimes…I even use it to call people. The bottom line?

I LIVE ON MY PHONE.

Anyone that knows me can validate that statement. I’m kind of ok with it. I could be better at pulling myself away from it, but it helps me do things with ease that just wouldn’t have been possible a few decades ago. The only problem with it? The battery.

My iPhone’s battery takes a beating every day and eventually, it crashes out and the screen turns black. Rarely does my phone avoid this during the day and as a result it takes a whole lot longer to charge in the evening.

I think we can sometimes run like my iPhone.

It’s so easy to fill our days to overflowing, extracting every last piece of energy that we have to do the things that we want to do. The problem is, when we really crash it takes an awfully long time to recharge. If I’m completely honest, I feel like I’m getting to a point where I’m taking longer and longer to recharge my batteries because I’m pushing myself all the way to the edge of shutting down. It’s not clever. I think I need to be a bit more efficient with the little energy I do have in order to make it last a little further. It’s much harder than it sounds.

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Day 62: The Avengers

Five years is a long time. Five years ago, Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, Apple unveiled the iPhone and Justin Beiber (with his mother’s permission, of course) uploaded his first videos onto YouTube. Five years ago I was on the verge of finishing my secondary school education. Five years ago I first heard out about the Avengers movie.

As an uber-geek with a chronic superhero addiction, the Avengers concept was something I couldn’t resist. A series of different movies depicting the characters I’ve loved growing up with (the unfortunate exclusion of Spider-man understood but noted), eventually combining into one to create one super-powered super-hero…err, super, experience. Approximately 22% of my life has passed with the knowledge that this historic cinematic event was approaching. Would it live up to my expectations?

Yes.

No fluff, no deliberation. I loved every second of it. It felt about as close as you could get to bringing the pages of a comic book to life and the way the characters were represented (with the exception of a pretty uninteresting Hawkeye in my opinion) was everything I’d hoped for. I left the cinema feeling inspired and uplifted…but also asking myself a question:

What is it about superheroes that I, along with a huge proportion of the general public find so alluring?

Superhero movies have been all the Hulk-like rage for well over a decade now and with new Batman, Spider-man, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Superman and even Antman movies announced among many others, the train shows no sign of stopping without some kind of super human assistance. Ok, I’m done with the geek puns, really. I promise. We are drawn to stories of bravery, sacrifice and honour. The idea of good prevailing over evil is something that grips the majority us in the most fascinating of ways. It’s like something inside us is telling us that we need a saviour, or want to be able to save others. What would you do if you were given the power to save lives? To change destinies? To battle the forces of evil regardless of the odds and win? What if you had a chance to follow the greatest leader, the greatest teacher and the greatest saviour this universe has ever seen?

Would you take it?

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Day 42: Instagram – $0 to $1 Billion in 500 Days

If you are lucky enough to own an iPhone, it’s fairly likely that you’ve heard of an application called ‘Instagram‘. It’s very simple; you take a photo, apply a polaroid-styled filter to it and upload it to to various social networking sites. It’s a particularly easy way to show the world what you are seeing at that exact moment in time. Founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger started the company less than two years ago…and have just sold it to Facebook for $1 Billion. Yes, that was a ‘b’.

Wow.

There are a  few things we can learn from the Instagram story:

1. If you don’t know what ‘apps’ are, you need to learn. Fast.

Apple revolutionised the way we use mobile devices by introducing the ‘App Store’ in mid-2008. The ability to easily download new applications (often for less than £1 or completely free) instantly increased the lifespan of its iPhones and iPads…but more importantly, it opened up an entirely new market with one master stroke – Apple also released a ‘Software Development Kit‘ that enabled the technologically astute to create and sell apps through the company’s store. The Apple App Store has grown from just 500 apps to well in excess of half a million apps in less than four years. There are even a few household names that have arisen out of the app market; most notably the ‘Angry Birds‘ brand. Instagram jumped on the band wagon only around 500 days ago – there are now over 30 million users of the app and the company has just sold for $1 billion, despite the fact that it doesn’t actually make any money at the moment! The app market is still far from saturated and with countless companies from Microsoft to Samsung picking up on the ‘app revolution’, don’t be surprised to see similar success stories popping up over the coming years.

2. Keep it simple, stupid.

Instagram is an incredibly simple product. The process goes like this: take photo – apply filter – upload photo. It’s hardly a shining example of mobile capabilities nowadays, but it works. It fulfills a need that people will always have – connecting with other people. Facebook has never really gotten to grips with the web-to-mobile device transition and consequently, Instagram were able to capitalise on the ‘photos on the go’ idea. And capitalise they have. This is just one example of many thousands that follow the ‘keep it simple, stupid’ rule that my old music teacher taught me as a teenager. Time and time again, we see that simplicity is key – whether music, design, businesses or technology. Doing the simple things very well is often the making of a great idea. Usually, it’s when we try to complicate or ‘over-think’ things that they don’t have the impact that we’d hoped.

3. The future is mobile.

More and more people are living out of their mobile devices. The app revolution has vastly accelerated what is already an exponentially growing industry – there’s no getting away from it: mobile devices are the way forward. Get used to seeing the ‘#’ symbol a lot more along with QR codes, targeted online marketing and greater interactivity with everything you see. Expect websites to be utterly transformed within the next five years  (drop down menus will almost certainly be redundant within that time), expect all televisions to be ‘socially integrated’ and physical newspapers to finally be a product of a time gone-by. We’re living in a time where seemingly infinite amounts of information and and tools are at our fingertips around the clock. This is something we need to embrace. I think we’ll see more and more business success stories around mobile devices in the next five years.

I’m intrigued to see what the future holds for Instagram; will they soar to new heights and transform the online world as we know it? Or will the company coast for a while before falling into relative obscurity before the next ‘fad’ comes along. What do you think? 

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Day 27: Incremental Is Not My Style.

There’s nothing like the feeling of making progress. That feeling of satisfaction as you distance yourself from your start point and close in (whether quickly or painstakingly slowly) on your destination. I’m an ‘ideas’ guy. A dreamer. I could quite happily sit in a room filled with whiteboards and note pads and conjure up blue prints for the future – the next big project, the idea that will really mean something special.

The problem is, execution is not my strength.

While I’d say I’m a little impatient, I think the people that work with me would probably describe me as frustratingly so. I want the ideas to happen now! In Jim Collins’ book, ‘Great By Choice’, he discusses how many great ideas, projects or companies actually start by firing bullets and then cannonballs when they have a great idea. Testing the water before diving in, if you like. Take the example of (now don’t be shocked, but…) Apple’s iPod. They fired small bullets to test their target, releasing the iPod only for Apple computers. When they knew it had the potential to be a phenomenal success, they fired their cannonball, rolling out the iPod for non-Apple platforms, expanding their market by nearly twenty times. The rest is history.

I think it’s a fantastic concept, but I find it really difficult to execute. I’m more of a ‘fire nuclear missiles then see what happens’ person. I tend to put every ounce of energy that I have into a project until it’s complete (which, for the record is always as soon as possible) and then enjoy the spoils. It’s not that I don’t like planning; it’s just that I am a big fan of new ideas and that feeling of obvious, tangible progress. Incremental is not my style. Which makes a project I’ve been working on recently both infuriating and liberating at the same time.

Let’s just say I’ve had one of my ideas. I actually had it over a year ago and have spent the last 12 months planning, putting off or postponing it but last night, I think we finally made some serious progress. You know there’s always that one guy you know that happens to be a borderline genius? My one happens to be a good friend called ‘Neeeil’ (no, that wasn’t a spelling mistake). Neeeil has been on board with this idea since around September/October last year, but we have just struggled to make any progress for various reasons.

Imagine the frustration!

Last night was it. Progress! I feel like we are finally getting somewhere…and that’s if the idea even works in the end. But after looking back at the things God has done with our worship ministry at Kerith Community Church (see here), I can’t help but find comfort in the knowledge that God’s timing is perfect. Whether I find the progress I’m looking for or whether it’s more like a dripping tap, God knows the timings He has for me. Progress will be made with the Kerith Worship team. Progress will be made with ‘the idea’. However, I’m wasting my time if I’m looking at my own schedule – it’s really not for me to know.

What matters most is that we let God guide us unquestionable faith, regardless of our own desires.