Give the Gift of an App Subscription This Christmas

Anything But Fruit’s remaining December episodes will be a two-part Festive Gift Guide Special. On the shows, we’ll run down the top ten gifts for your tech-loving loved one - gifts that are ideal both for the stocking and as main presents. Make sure you check out the episodes - they’ll be available Friday 8th & Friday 15th December.

On the show, we’ll talk you through the great physical gifts, but now app subscriptions are getting more prevalent (and expensive), they’re also a great idea for a gift for your tech-loving loved one.

Over the last year or so, app subscriptions have become a legitimate way for app developers to make money from their apps. For years, we’ve been subject to a situation where (a) app developers aren’t making money from their truly great products or (b) we’d have great apps, ruined by ugly, intrusive ads. These two situations aren’t ideal.

In many cases, charging a one-time fee for an app isn’t great either. It means that an app developer never gets rewarded for updating their app, & app-buyers don’t get to try before they buy.

Enter the app subscription.

Paying regularly to use a great app is seemingly here to stay. I didn’t know how to feel about this at first - some of my favourite apps have gone subscription-only - but, like any service in the real world - if it’s good, you gotta pay.

With this in mind, here’s five app subscriptions that any tech loving loved one will be thrilled with...

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Headspace

Headspace isn’t what you’d expect. It’s a mindfulness app, but what sets it apart form the rest is the charming personality of Andy, your mindfulness coach. When you open the app for the first time, you’re introduced to the virtues of taking a little time for yourself every day, and very quickly you’re along a path to genuine mindfulness.

Headspace isn’t “spiritual” in the classic sense - it allows the everyperson access to mindfulness. Andy & co avoid references to religion & meditation, and put mindfulness in a language everyone can understand.

It’s one of my favourite apps, and has had a profound affect on my day. We actually spoke about this way back in Episode 2 of Anything But Fruit, which you can hear here.

Headspace is available for £74.99/year, £9.99/month or, if you really love this person, you can become a lifetime subscriber for £399.99.

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Day One

In a similar way, Day One is one of my favourite apps. It stays in my Dock on my iPhone & iPad, so I’ve got easy access to my journal.

In the same vein as taking some time for yourself at the beginning of the day, it’s also incredibly important to take some time to reflect at the end. Day One helps you do exactly that. It’s a comprehensive journaling app, allowing you to have multiple journals for the different aspects of your life. It’s clean, simple, syncs across your devices, and makes taking a little time to reflect on your day a walk in the park (you could actually journal whilst walking in the park, thinking about it).

I use it to clarify thoughts in my personal life, and to learn from every day in my professional life.

Day One is available for free, but the Premium Service offers a lot more, including an unlimited number of journals, photos & cloud sync. That’ll cost you £3.49/month or £31.99/year.

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Ulysses

I’m actually using Ulysses to write this post right now. It’s an incredible way to write, as it gets rid of distractions and focuses simply on writing.

Ulysses is based on Markdown, a really simple language that affords writers great formatting options without getting in the way of the writing process. I was sceptical at first; I didn’t understand how it worked or why it was necessary, but I recently invested some time in learning how, and I can tell you - it’s brilliant.

Markdown allows you to format your text and then export it in a lot of different ways. This particular post will be formatted for the site, but with one tap it’ll transform it into a PDF, a .docx file, or even HTML.

Basically - if your loved one needs to write for your job, get Ulysses. It’s ace.

Ulysses starts with a 14 day free trial, and is then either £4.49/month or £35.99/year.

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A Subscription to Their Favourite News Outlet on Apple News

I’ve found Apple News to be a really solid News Aggregator, and with iOS 11 that includes Siri Intelligence, meaning the more you read, the more it can suggest new topics & articles.

Publications will often simply support their writing with ads, but more and more are now offering subscriptions via Apple News. In the UK, for example, you can subscribe to The Telegraph for £1.99/week, or National Geographic for £2.29/month.

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Apple Music (or Spotify... I Guess...)

Streaming services like Apple Music (or Spotify) have been around for a little while now, and are so much more than just catalogues of music. A particular highlight from Apple Music for me is the exclusives that Beats 1 have - from Elton John’s Rocket Hour to Zane Lowe’s back-catalogue of shows. Apple Music’s Playlists are great too - there’s a huge selection of human-built playlists, as well as “New”, “Favourites” & “Chill” Mixes - which use machine learning to update weekly based on what you’re listening to.

There’s a lot of options for Apple Music - you can buy your loved one a year’s subscription for £99, which ends up as 12 months for 10, or it’ll be £9.99/month. If your loved one is student, it’s £4.99/month, and you can also sign up for the family plan, to share between up to 6 people, for £14.99/month.

Television

Last week on Anything But Fruit, Luke & I discussed the state of TV in 2017. We spoke about how the UK’s networks aren’t keeping up, and about how international (American) players are set to dominate TV for the next few years. Interestingly, what sets these American-international content companies apart is that they embrace technology, and anticipate trends. That’s something TV companies used to do well - but not anymore. This is something I want to explore more, here.

I think there’s a really interesting parallel to draw between the way that the Music Industry embraces technology versus how the TV & Film Industry does. For this, let’s jump all the way back to the iPod.

iPod

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In 2001, Apple launched the iPod. It became a hit, and a cultural icon. It was a hit, in part, because it had behind it the biggest, most easily accessible library of music ever collected. The music industry, though hesitant at first, eventually played ball with Apple, and reaped the rewards. The reason Apple & the music industry were successful is because the music industry, by-and-large, left the user experience to Apple, whilst they focused on the music. Illegal downloads, though they persisted, became less popular, and digital downloads became mainstream. This, in my view, sets the scene for content delivery on the internet. It’s the first time that content executives ceded user experience to the user experience experts, and it worked. People loved the iPod because it was so easy. It’s true, content executives weren’t able to squeeze as much money out of the individual consumer as before, but the aggregate number of users was much higher because the iPod became so popular. What did all this mean? A great experience for the consumer, and a profitable (but not greedily so) model for record labels.

This, of course, isn’t the model we’re used to now. But, the point here is that it set the scene. When technology companies design the user experience and content companies focus on content, consumers win. Now, Apple & Spotify dominate content delivery of music, because they’ve created great user experiences. Music is profitable again, and arguably as popular and diverse as ever.

TV & Technology

The TV Industry didn’t embrace technology like the Music Industry did, and until recently, it feels like it’s paid the price. TV companies are too eager to control too much, desiring a bigger bottom line at the expense of user experience. Where the Music Industry made trade-offs, the TV industry didn’t. Personal technology has grown over ten years at an exponential rate - music along with it. Everyday people use their handheld, touchscreen devices to listen to music (and pay for it with streaming services), but many, many fewer are watching content on these magnificently designed displays. 

 Image Credit:  The Verge      

Image Credit: The Verge  

 

However, this is changing, slowly but surely. And there isn’t a single traditional broadcaster playing a part in this. YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Snapchat & Instagram are all ploughing millions of dollars into producing original or user-generated video content, and people are watching it. YouTubers are shaping opinion, Snapchat stories are sharing breaking news & Facebook videos are the newest way to get your comedy fix.

Traditional broadcasters aren’t innovating. They’re stuck on analogue, live TV.  

Yes, they have “on demand” apps. But they’re awful. They’re not designed from the ground up for 2017 - they’re reverse-engineered - working for the live screen & backwards to the app. Their revenue model is based on in-line ads, like their analogue TV experience, and without innovating on this front, it’ll stay stale. 

With personal computing devices (including big-screen devices like smart TVs) being as advanced and capable as they are, there has to be a better way. 

TV in the Future

 Apple’s TV app: content from different sources, across different devices

Apple’s TV app: content from different sources, across different devices

In the future, TV needs to think about how users want their content. Before, it was easy - stream live content to a static device in the home. Now, there are multiple devices, of different shapes & sizes. These devices have unlimited access to unlimited content, with new, exciting ways of interacting with that content.

This is why I think Apple’s TV app is brilliant. It’s Apple returning back to the “we’ll control the user experience, you control the content” model. The TV app aggregates content from multiple broadcasters. It presents your favourite shows, next to each other, in a super-user-friendly way. It syncs across your devices, so you can start watching on one device, and pick up on another, later. We’re familiar with this idea from Netflix, who’re also providing brilliant user experiences around their own content. 

Amazon extents its popular “X-Ray” feature found in Kindle books to it’s video service. For supported shows & movies, a simple tap on the screen will reveal a huge amount of context around the video you’re watching, including actors, soundtracks, useful historical context & more.

Traditional TV broadcasters need to take note of Amazon & Netflix’s success. Instead of being stubborn & closed, not wanting to think about the future, they should work with Apple on their TV app - where they have no work to do on user experience. Let content creators be content creators, and let user experience designers do their job. I’m not saying this should be Apple’s market to revolutionise - but frankly, TV execs need someone, anyone to design a user experience that’s fit for great content on our devices. 

On Anything But Fruit, I asked Luke whether he watches any British TV anymore. His answer was no. Mine is too. American players from YouTube to Amazon, Netflix to Facebook, make it far, far easier for me to watch their content. 

If the British TV industry isn’t careful, it won’t be long before millions more Britons are like Luke & me.  

 

Anything But Fruit - Hamburger-gate: "Soggy Bun, Cheese Doing Nothing".

This week, we talk:

 

  • Hamburger-gate: Google designed its Burger Emoji wrong; Luke & I take big issue with it. We also discover it exposes a much bigger emoji problem... (You'll want to read this article, from The Verge).

 

  • Yet more issues with Google’s Flagship Phone, the Pixel 2 XL.

 

 

  • Google & Samsung’s advances in wireless headphone technology.

 

And, of course, You Should Use This is Back this week, it’s Luke’s turn to convince me to use something.

 

You can subscribe to the show (and please do!) on Apple Podcasts.

Anything But Fruit - "You'll Be Pleased To Know, I Absolutely Hate The Merlot."

Anything But Fruit is a Technology News Podcast. Luke & I are big fans of a large, fruit-based company - but we've challenged ourselves to explore the wider technology world. 

Join Luke & I this week as we talk new products from Sonos & Ultimate Ears and discuss the omni-presence of Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service on these products. (13.16)

We also explore Fitbit’s foray into smart watch technology - their first product since purchasing the original innovators - Pebble. (35.58)

And finally, on “You Should Try This”, I reintroduce Luke to a beloved app... We talk task management, and Luke gets a little bit too excited... (52.16)

Thanks so much for listening! We’d love to hear from you @JackCully & @LukeWilson_95 on Twitter. 

You can (and should!) subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Anything But Fruit - "Alexa, Create Two Amazon Fanboys."

Episode 2 of Anything But Fruit is here! 

This week, Luke & I unpack Amazon’s surprisingly massive range of hardware products. We talk the new EchoEcho PlusEcho SpotEcho ConnectFire TV & more.

We also discuss mindfulness - there’s a huge range of mindfulness apps available today, so I test drove a few & discuss my thoughts with Luke.

(You can find Headspace here, and Meditation Studio here).

Finally - The G Suite. Luke makes his case for using it’s many products, and how, in particular Maps & Calendar make life way easier. Am I convinced? Listen to find out.

Make sure you subscribe on Apple Podcasts, here.

Anything But Fruit - Episode 101: "Duck It!"

I'm really proud to share with you the very first episode of Anything But Fruit - a brand new podcast series I'm piloting with my excellent friend, Luke Wilson. On the show, we talk about technology, but avoid our favourite technology company as a topic. We're on a mission to understand the wider technology space, and we share that journey on the show.

I'd be really humbled if you gave it a listen and let me know what you think. You can find it on Apple Podcasts, or listen right here.

I ditched Google for DuckDuckGo

Technology is getting more personal and without really realising it, we’re trusting huge internet corporations with more and more of our data every day, with very little knowledge of what the consequence of that trust is. 

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Search is the most pervasive part of the internet. It’s the gateway to everything. It gets us to where we want to go, in the quickest way. We don’t think about it - but we do it a lot. We search for holidays, for the weather, for directions. We’re finding the best restaurant, or learning about history. We’re finding things to buy. We’re looking for instructions to that furniture set. 

This is undoubtedly great. We seriously take for granted how easy it is, here in 2017, to get information. But, the way in which we get that information is concerning. Google knows what you’ve searched, when you searched it, where you searched it. It knows which devices you used to search, and it is talking to advertisers about it. It’s also giving that information to law enforcement without notice.  

I’d never considered this before. I didn’t think it was important. Who cares if Google knows all about me?  And then I realised, Google knows all about me. This is really, really creepy.

I’d remembered that, back in 2014, Apple had introduced DuckDuckGo, an alternative search provider, to its default search options in Safari on macOS & iOS. I didn’t know much about it - so I decided to go all-in; to ditch Google completely and try DuckDuckGo instead. I was apprehensive - I know I can rely on Google for relevant searches, and it knows me & my preferences. But - for the sake of research, I allayed my fears and dived right into DuckDuckGo. And DuckDuckGo is awesome.

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When you Google something, Google actually know a lot about you. Google (and others) record who you are, what you searched for, which link you clicked on, where you are right now (by your IP address), what device you’re using, what browser you’re using. It can also install a “cookie” into your browser, which continues to track your movements, even after you’ve left Google. Google, of course, uses this information to provide you with super-smart, relevant ads that’re uniquely tailored to you and your preferences. But, as this data exists, and is stored, can be subpoenaed for legal cases (it’s being used in divorce cases, most recently), and could be vulnerable if it got into the wrong hands. 

DuckDuckGo approaches search in a different way. It doesn’t know about you, on purpose. It doesn’t know who you are, because it actually goes to a considerable level of effort to anonymise your search. When you search for something, DuckDuckGo doesn’t try to identify you. It just gives you results. When you click on a link, it redirects you to a website in such a way that it doesn’t send your search terms or your information to the site or anywhere else for that matter. 

By default, any website is designed to record visits. It’s something that happens automatically. Websites will usually store this information because (a) well, just in case, and (b) because it might be useful one day. DuckDuckGo doesn’t do this. It built its engine to not save searches, not save IP addresses and not to tie the two together. With other search engines, even the fact that this data exists is dangerous. It could conceivably be stolen, or requested by governments & law enforcement, and used without explicit consent from users. DuckDuckGo ensures it doesn’t exist, so there’s nothing to steal, and there’s no data to request.

Other search engines will use “cookies” - these are unique identifiers that track internet usage. They’re a sort of “memory” function to a browser. They’re super useful for users, in that websites will remember who you are, so you don’t have to start again every time you visit. They provide a personalised experience. Where they become an issue, though, is when cookies are used to convenience the corporation, rather than the user. Traditional search companies will track internet usage to better serve ads, yes, but it’s also a scary amount of information. DuckDuckGo uses cookies, but they’re only stored locally on a web browser, and are never shared with DuckDuckGo. Where another search company knows your entire web activity, DuckDuckGo knows none of it. 

DuckDuckGo will also connect you, automatically and without asking, to the encrypted versions of any site where it can. That means that the connection between you and the website is completely private.  

And so I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for about two weeks. It’s been great, but I haven’t used it enough to review it. I really want to put DuckDuckGo through its paces before I record my opinion. What I can say, though - first impressions are great. It’s been a seamless transition, and in some circumstances, I’ve actually found it to be more useful than other search engines I’ve used. 

I’ll be thoroughly testing DuckDuckGo, and I’ll get back to you when I’ve got some thoughts.