My Samsung GS4: Where’s the Whimsicality?

So I am the proud new owner of a Samsung Galaxy S4. It’s a sleek piece of equipment. There’s no doubt anymore in my mind that Apple has fallen behind. Perhaps due to the loss of Steve Jobs. Perhaps they are just victims of the innovator’s dilemma: having amassed such a large following that they’ve become frozen with fear of innovating too far and losing even a portion of their masses. Whatever the reason, as I look at the GS4 on my desk, I can’t help but picture it in the same surreal iPhone commercials featuring close ups with crystal clear reflections, set on a black backdrop. Form and function, intertwined as one, coming down from the heavens this August. I feel compelled to turn it over and over again in my hand.

Yet something feels wrong. Previously enthralled with my new toy, I feel, dare I say…disappointed. Perhaps it’s the modesty of it all. Sure the device is powerful and includes every chip and function I’ve been told I want. But when the screen turns off, I’m left with little more than a cleanly molded block of glass, plastic, and metal. The child in me remembers a more magical view of the future. Weren’t the devices supposed to be a bit more elaborate? Automated tools that unfolded like Inspector Gadget’s hat? Lights and speakers that blared my music? Legs that sprouted out so it could walk away? Dr. Seus would be disappointed with us.

Seriously, why have consumer electronics become so emotionless? Some of the most valuable and profitable corners of the web connect with their users on a deeper level by showing off their creative side; from Google’s homepage doodles, to the fail whale on twitter, or the links to funny videos from Freddy, the MailChimp. I understand that there are unique challenges to developing electronics products. Yet, I would argue that even auto manufacturers, a backwards industry from the perspective of a technologist, are producing products with more character than cellphone manufacturers today.

Don’t get me wrong, I love minimalism as much as anyone. I briefly studied Industrial Design back in college, where I developed an infatuation for with the work of Dieter Rams and studied his 10 principles of design. In my own work in user experience design, I’ve repeated the mantra  of “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Less was more back when there were overly bloated and poorly designed products to oppose. Now minimalism by itself just another form of drab conformity.

And cases aren’t personalization. They’re a cop-out.

Maybe this is why new device releases have becomes so disappointing. Bezels are vanishing. 4 buttons became three, than one. Ports, cameras, and speakers are artfully hidden. There’s nothing left to remove. Faster processors, higher resolution cameras, and more wireless connections, packaged into a thinner lighter package. But none of that really surprises us anymore.

It’s striking to rewatch Apple’s 1984 commercial (preferably within the context of my favorite cult film, Pirates of Silicon Valley). As the woman throws the hammer into the image of Big Brother, broadcast on a giant screen, the irony sets in that Apple deserves credit for streamlining our electronics to the point of sanitization. In 2013, we carry around the same bland devices, obsessively staring into them rather than face with the possibility of genuine social interaction. Is this our future?

Why can’t our digital devices helps us interact socially in the real world as well as on the web? Why can’t they inspire a sense of wonder? Why can’t they reflect us in more than polished glass? Certainly, modern manufacturing processes afford us the ability to develop more than just a 3 sizes fits all lineup of devices. So from my safe perch as a software guy, I say unto the world of personal electronics (in the words of my uncle), it’s time to up your game.

Bring back the whimsicality.

We Won the Startup Bowl Because Our Team Is Fucking Awesome

I’m not big into using profanities. Generally I think it demonstrates an inability to express oneself due to a limited vocabulary. Yet every once in a while, one emphatically declared expletive can bring the appropriate degree of emphasis to a statement. Our team isn’t just good or great, it’s [...]

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Designing Your First Startup Office

My mother, whom I love dearly, has always held slightly alternative worldly perspectives. Back in college, when she found out I had cold, she would call me to suggest that, in addition to taking the latest herbal remedy, I make sure I clean the dirty laundry off my floor that was, in her opinion, creating [...]

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On behalf of the entire FoundOPS team, I am pleased to announce an update to our pricing structure. Beginning immediately, our entire application will be available for free until January 1st, 2013. Any payments that were made since we launched will be applied to charges incurred after January 1st. There will be NO changes to the level of service [...]

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5 Ways to Leverage University Resources for Your Startup

Can you imagine Silicon Valley without Stanford? Boston without MIT? Great technology ecosystems are built around great universities. The reason is simple; universities are a hotbed of talent, ideas and resources, just waiting to be tapped into. So, how can your startup make the most out of your local university? Our startup, FoundOPS, reaped countless benefits from being [...]

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Top 3 Mobile Devices for Your Field Team

It has been an exciting summer so far at FoundOPS. Last week, we launched our Android and iOS apps (although at the time of this post, we are still waiting on approval from Apple for our App Store listing) thanks to a ton of hard work from the whole development team, especially our mobile developer Rod. While this is great news for field service teams looking to get connected, some businesses may be overwhelmed by the hundreds [...]

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How to Make a Green Business Even Greener

Lately, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of green companies providing waste vegetable oil (WVO) recycling services. If you are unfamiliar with this business model, it’s a really cool emerging industry that you should keep your eyes on. In the old days, restaurants would either dump their used vegetable oil down the drain where it would wreak havoc on the plumbing, or they would bottle it up and send it to the land fill. Recent innovations have [...]

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5 FAQs (With Straightforward Answers)

Since launching the FoundOPS application earlier this year, I have noticed a lot of similar questions about our app and cloud computing in general. I thought I would take a few minutes to answer the most common ones in this blog post. [...]

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Vehicle Management Tools

Now that the client management, service management, and dispatching sections have taken shape, as Product Manager, my attention is shifting to other sections of the FoundOPS platform. One area I have heard a lot of feedback about is vehicle management. [...]

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Consumer Grade Design

Software companies tout the term ”enterprise grade” as an excuse for their application’s convoluted maze-like interfaces and grey forms designed circa 1990. Supposedly, it offers some unmatched level of stability, security, and scalability. In reality “consumer grade” technologies (such as Gmail) are easier to use, have enjoyed higher reliability, and are hassle free. FoundOPS is committed to “consumer grade” design and in this article I will discuss why your company should be too. [...]

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