Dear Retailers, An Idea About Product Reviews

Product reviews have been a part of the online shopping experience for almost as long as the internet has been “interneting”. The in-store shopping experience in retail outlets hasn’t really changed all that much either when you really think about it.

Nonetheless I’m just a little surprised that retailers like Best Buy or Bed, Bath & Beyond (that have amassed hundreds of thousands of product reviews) only make their product reviews visible online and ignoring a placement that may just be equally convenient and informative for customers.

Here’s the thing; if information adds value to customers online does it not also add value offline?

I’m not saying it makes sense in every store, or for every product category. But, just think about having that information right there in front of you. No more do you have to browse your phone while you browse through stores. There’s surely a clear benefit for the customer that helps reassure them of their purchase.

Admittedly, integrating technology that ties online reviews to in-store products is not a simple challenge. That said, I pictured installing small low-energy e-ink displays to a network that brings key product information to the consumer.

This isn’t limited to displaying reviews with star ratings. Price point, reviews, savings, and all manner of product data could then be controlled via the same system. This provides a data rich and dynamic platform from which to control product data in-store and online. No more printed labels, less room for pricing errors… there are a lot of possibilities there.

In thinking on the idea, I kind of get excited by the potential even though it’s quite a simple thing. I do however realise that the same problems with online product reviews would trickle down into store data. Fraudulent reviews are a common problem online, however, retailers should be tackling this as Amazon does with verified purchases.

I haven’t read much about the internet of things, but from my limited knowledge on the concept, there’s a relationship between this idea and the intent of IoT… and who knows, maybe this is already a thing. Anyone out there seen any evidence of such an idea being executed in a retail environment?

Photo credit: Bill Branson (Photographer)
Source http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Women_grocery_shopping.jpg

Moto 360 Quick Review with 5 Favourite Watch Faces

I have had the Moto 360 for a number of months now as I received it as an early Christmas present. The model I have is the Black version with black steel band, which I think still looks great. The build quality is really impressive and even after nearly 5 months of daily wear I have yet to see any marks or scratches.

Battery

Usually I get a full day of use and that involves putting the watch on at around 7am and it’ll usually need a charge by 10-10.30pm each night. I have a charger at home and at work so I can give it a boost whenever, so I don’t really have any frustrations with the battery life.

Screen

The screen is clear and bright for most circumstances, and the sensors to a pretty good job most of the time to detect when the screen should light up. An example of when this doesn’t work well is when I have my arms crossed and wrist is up-turned. There are occasions when the dimmed screen just won’t light up when lifting your wrist but this isn’t the norm… you just have to press the button on the side to activate.

Style

The band and watch are light and comfortable to wear all the time, I find the fit is good and I have yet to notice it catch on shirts or anything like that. The depth of the watch itself is substantial and I don’t love that it’s so thick but it’s not really a problem.

Software

Day to day use, Android Wear is reliable and the integration of Apps to the device is pretty light and superficial. I’ve yet to find many situations where having the watch feels like it adds to the functionality of my Phone’s Applications. Android Wear is smooth 90% of the time but it does get a little slow to respond and on screen lag is noticeable; I’m not sure if this is just OS related or if it’s a result of weak hardware but it doesn’t last long.

What I can say is that I expected Android Wear to advance more quickly than it has. From a functionality point of view there have been very few developments, and none of those released to date have been very significant. The Verge posted news of an update coming to Android Wear that will enable wifi connectivity and some other new features arguably to compete with the Apple Watch.

Voice Commands

Like most and voice based technology out there today, it works well when it works. I find that voice commands function well around 75% of the time and almost always fail when I try to demonstrate them to somebody. The same challenges exist here as do with all voice based service providers; you really need to be deliberate in what you’re saying or your phone will end up doing things you didn’t want it to. This can lead to funny or even embarrassing situations, sometimes both at the same time.

Watch Faces

Having a wide range of options for watch faces is definitely one of the nicer aspects of owning an Android Wear device. I have purchased about 4 or 5 premium watch faces and here are a list of my favourites:

  1. Pure Watch Face
  2. Spotlight Watch Face
  3. Street Art watch face
  4. Odyssey Premium Watch Face
  5. ustwo Smart Watch faces

Oh and just a few more

  • Pop Watch Face – I like the style of this face, and there are lots of options to customize

Google Glass: Not the future…

Towards the end of my time with Glass I took it to see some Baseball.
Towards the end of my time with Glass I took it with me while at the Football with some mates.

I was a while ago now that I was ‘nominated’ to be a part of Google’s Glass Explorer program, December 2013. I have since returned my Google Glass Explorer kit and wanted to share my thoughts for anyone else out there that may be interested.

Social awareness: Glass isn’t a ‘social’ friendly device whereas your mobile phone feels personal and social. You can share a video together on your phone, I can’t say the same for Glass.

My view of wearable technology is that it should remove the need for other devices, Glass is very much dependent on having a phone in your pocket. This will probably change but for now Glass is really a tethered accessory for your phone. So now you’re charging two devices or more every night… are you running out of space on your bedside table?

Real life interruptions with Glass: Google say that the intention is to have people look up and be more focused on the world around them. To me, this vision was a part of the appeal of Glass. However in the real world, Glass manages to a provide more interruptions as it notifies you with sound and the screen will activate regardless of the timing.

As Glass evolves and becomes more closely integrated with various apps and services I see this only getting worse. While Google have tried to put a positive spin on the technology and why you should wear it. Google want to be with you every moment and be a part of answering every question. And creepy as that sounds, it’s only going to become more of an issue in the coming years.

Wearable Tech: A Review of Pebble & Essential Apps

pebble wrist watch
A pretty smart watch

To start with you should know I’m running my Pebble via an Android phone, the HTC One.

I originally pre-ordered the Pebble via their website but ended up cancelling and buying direct via Best Buy. I didn’t get in on their Kickstarter project which was a huge success raising over $10m with a goal of $100k.

What makes the watch smart? Your smartphone does. Via Bluetooth,  your phone pushes notifications and information you choose directly to your watch.

Typically the watch will then vibrate and the backlight will appear. That, and it will tell you the time, date weather or even let you play a game of Snake which some of you will remember from the days of the Nokia 3310.

Of course, you can also customise your Pebble with ‘watchfaces’ which you may download via the Pebble app. There are around 12 to choose from now (9/2/2013).

Pebble watchface options
Colour options and watchfaces

Design

I think the original mock ups looked stylish and minimal. I ordered the ‘cherry’ red which was a bit of a mistake as the red is brighter than I had expected based on the original images seen on the kickstarter page.  Overall, I think the design is good, not great. The build quality is solid and sturdy. After knocking it around a little already I can’t see any visible scuffs.

Pebble as seen on Kickstarter
Original Pebble design mock-ups

The screen is easy to read although I have noticed that there is a faint ‘streak’ visible on the inside of the screen.

While the screen is also easy to read, it’s obviously no retina display and can only successfully display basic graphics well. I look forward to seeing a more detailed e-ink display in future models. I’m not interested in a colour display if it means the screen is more difficult to read in sunny situations.

Battery

The charge lasts around 5-7 days but will obviously vary depending on how you configure your apps. Even out of the box I got  a few days charge. I’ve only charged the watch once overnight in the first two weeks, with a little bit of charging at the office when I first unboxed it.

The power adaptor connects magnetically to the watch which is a nice touch, however the magnet is quite weak. Check out the connector here:

How to charge the Pubble
Pebble: Side profile

Summary

I’m pretty happy with it overall, keeping in mind that as an early adopter of a device like this makes you the subject of mockery. I’ve dealt with that before, I am not bothered by it, but you may find it a little embarrassing.

I’m not attached to the colour of the Cherry model, I think I’d prefer the Black version so I’m hunting around for a good skin to stick on and protect it. I tried the Skinomi but I was not at all happy with the fit after installing. That was a waste of $20!

Is it for everyone, no. The Pebble has a lot of potential as 3rd developers ramp up their efforts. The challenge I have is finding a balance between useful notifications and burdensome without rendering the Pebble somewhat useless. Take it from me, don’t set any chat apps to notify you of every message, I realized very quickly that this was an exercise in stupidity.

Ultimately, this is where I think the Pebble fails: I feel like I need to do the work to to make it super useful and fun to own, but that really should be clear out of the box.

Getting more out of Pebble

In an attempt to see what else I can get from the device I have so far installed the following apps onto my Android:

  1. Duh, the Pebble App – installing this first party app will give you all the functionality you need to get started, with the ability to choose which Music app you want to control with your watch. Notification options are Calls, SMS, Calendar events, Emails, Google Hangout messages, Facebook, WhatsApp, and ‘3rd party’ notifications. I think 3rd party includes apps such as Runkeeper.
  2. Pebble Notifier – In short, this application allows you to select and activate from virtually any app you have installed. Some do what you might expect, but others, such as Pulse don’t push notifications as you might have thought.
  3. Glance – This app is a great addition for any Pebble owner, giving you more watchface options, most of which pull in weather data, and unread messages and missed call counts.
  4. Pebble Tasker ($1.99) & Tasker – If you want to really get tricky and geeky, install these apps. You can set triggers that will send almost any notification to your Pebble you can imagine. I’ve only tinkered with this briefly, it’s not super user-friendly.

Up close

Some more pics of the watch face and sides:

Front face, cherry red, Pebble
The Pebble “Text Watch” watchface