As a kid I always loved to watch the James Bond movies. Mostly because of his gadgets. I am pretty young still so I started watching the movies when Pierce Brosnan was the protagonist. We are talking 1995+ here. I don’t know for certain (although I am pretty sure) if you still remember some of his gadgets in that time.
There were this very cool looking BMW Z3, Z8 and the famous 750iL which he drove through Hamburg (the city I am currently living in). Every vehicle he drove was equipped with all kind of cool things from missiles over spikes to fax machines. The coolest thing for me was the Ericsson JB988 he used to steer his BMW 750iL in „Tomorrow never dies“. Although just a concept phone I fell in love with the idea to have such a powerful and diverse technology in my pocket.
Later Nokia started producing the communicator line in 1996 starting with the Nokia 9000 Communicator. Although I can’t remember the first model I still remember the Nokia 9210. It came out in 2001 and featured a 66 MHz processor, a color display and a real file explorer. Of course it was aimed at managers and other busy people, but as a kid I wanted it so badly because of the first Bond movies and the endless things you could do with it. I asked my mom if I could get one of these and she had a friend who got one. She asked her about the device and she really didn’t like it. It was very heavy (244g), had an internal hard drive and because of that it had no vibration alarm on it. Mobile internet access was still a pain, very expensive and so my dream went unfulfilled.
I have had a lot of mobile phones since then starting with some regular Nokia devices like the 3210, 3310. Despite the usual suspects I always were a fan of unusual phones. I started my career as an owner of non-regular phones with a Nokia 5510. It featured a full qwerty keyboard but besides that it was a usual phone. But it looked very cool and different. I also owned a Nokia N-Gage which was meant for playing games you could purchase in a physical form. But despite them getting better displays and increased processing power I was still far from my James Bond experience.
And although I could talk about the mobile phones of my youth for hours and hours, it is time to move to the mobile phone that changed my live in a very significant way.
The path to my first iPhone is a lengthy story. As you all know it came out in 2007 and I was 16 at the time. Purchasing an early iPhone while living in Germany wasn’t the easiest thing at this time. You had to wait until November 2007 to buy an official one in Germany. But of course you could not just buy one, you had to agree to an overpriced contract with T-Mobile or GTFO. My parents aren’t very rich and getting a 50€+ per month contract to your 16 year old son is not the wisest thing you could do. So we searched for alternatives and found a way to get two contracts (one for me and one for my mother) and get an imported iPhone with it. Of course the deal failed because the dealer went out of stock. So he gave us 700€ and we bought an imported one for 586€ on eBay.
I had to start working because I paid for the phone and the contract myself. So I started working in a Pizzeria nearby cleaning dishes for 25€ a day. Still I was one of the happiest people on earth having a first generation iPhone in Germany. It was very rare and everyone who had one was pretty proud of it. I remember getting it delivered after lunch but the battery had died so I couldn’t try it out immediately. After my shift at the pizzeria (which was about 7 hours) I finally went home to get to know my new friend.
I immediately jail broke it, because that was what you did at the time, to install some apps. I stayed up all night until my mother got up at 7 in the morning showing her all the stuff I found out in the night and went to sleep.
After installing some early apps like the piano keyboard (which name I don’t remember anymore), some cool ringtones and downloading some songs, I realized that I couldn’t just start our car and drive with it :wink:.
iPad and living iPad only
While doing my apprenticeship I got my first iPad which was an iPad 2. I decided that I didn’t need the first iPad because no apps were really ready for it.
I used it once in a while but not really much. Owning one was more a status than a need. I also think I wasn’t using it much because I would use my MacBook and do some programming instead, which is kind of silly. I believe that to craft beautiful iPhone and iPad apps it is a necessity to own and use one excessively. That is why I introduced iPad only weekends when traveling to various relatives. These weekends made me realize that the iPad ecosystem is far, far from perfect. I don’t think this is because of the device itself. It is mainly because the apps really don’t play together. Let me give you an example:
Me and my girlfriend were visiting her parents and went on a boat trip on a small river. Immediately I took the opportunity to use my GoPro, which is laying in the corner 364 days a year and I took some amazing underwater videos. I imported them to iMovie the same day using the Apple Camera Kit and edited them in iMovie. Editing in iMovie on the iPad may not satisfy truly passionate filmmakers but I found it very joyful. Of course to increase my social media footprint I wanted to upload it to my almost empty tumblr account. That’s where things hit the fan and I discovered that uploading a 50 MB video from the iPad is the worst thing you could try. I used the tumblr share extension and it failed silently or just aborted at some point. I was so disappointed that no one saw the video ever again.
That may be an edge case for most people, but I was so encouraged coming that far with just a GoPro and an iPad that all my excitement went into sadness.
If that example was too special for you that’s totally ok, but let me give you another short one:
I would love to blog more and being a programmer I would love using jekyll for that. Guess what: there is no easy way to blog with jekyll on the iPad. Of course there are a ton of markdown editors out there and they all are perfect for just that, but how do you get that piece of art on your blog? Here is the solution: You need a laptop, git and an email address (or iCloud). If you are done writing you just sent it to yourself, open the laptop and do the usual commit and push on the laptop. I find that far from optimal.
Not only the broken workflows are a problem but also the cross device experience. A while ago I went back from using AirMail, Chromes and others to using Apple apps like Mail, Maps, Messages, Safari. I don’t think you can get that kind of cross device feature rich experience from any third party business, yet.
I write this article on my 3rd gen petition iPad mini on Ulysses which I find nailed the writing experience on the iPad and on the Mac. Everything just works the same way (except for the statistics) and I don’t have to think if I am on an iPad or on the Mac.
Finally building better apps
After you heard me complaining about all the issues I have, let me give a short conclusion:
- I have access to devices that are just as cool as James Bond’s gadgets, but I cannot do really cool stuff with them.
- I want to use my iPad or my Mac all the time if I want to and have an easy and effortless transition between them.
- I don’t want to have to use my computer because someone hasn’t thought of an app based solution yet.
What does this leave us with? I have to create some apps, brb.
I decided that in order to solve my own issues and potentially the issues of a few more people, I need to tackle them myself. That’s why I want to pursue my dream of nerdish by nature becoming a small company crafting beautiful universal apps for professionals. I think we as professionals are left out most of the time and a lot of developers only think about photo editing and sharing apps because that’s where the money is. Don’t get me wrong I find photo apps cool, too. I just don’t take photos, I create apps.
Maybe doing apps for professional usage is a bold idea but I am happy to try it.