Posts Tagged ‘tech’

The Extinction of Physical QWERTY Keyboards

April 2, 2013

The Blackberry Z10 made headlines recently. A million units were shipped in the last three months. But I’m more excited about the company’s Q10 (scheduled to be released this month). It’s not that I’m a Blackberry fan, I’ve never even used one before; it’s that the Q10 is part of a dying breed of smartphones with physical QWERTY keyboards. UnderwoodKeyboardTheir disappearance has largely been blamed on the success of the iPhone. During the iPhone’s first few years, competitors offered plenty of physical keyboard/touchscreen combo smartphones: just look at this top ten list from 2011. However, as the iPhone came to dominate the market, smartphones all started to look more and more like iPhones.

The smartphone is an essential tool for most people who work in PR. At a recent industry event, one of the panelists chided the audience (all PR pros), that more of us weren’t live Tweeting the event. We’re expected to be constantly connected, at the very least while working at events or when dealing with a crisis. At Bridge, we specialize in PR for overseas-based companies, and we often need to communicate with clients and media in different time zones, so work hours can vary a lot, too. Most of us would probably agree that we’d feel lost without smartphones.

I bought my first smartphone in 2010, the LG Ally, and I stuck with it because I never found a much better option with a physical keyboard. I’ve been an iMac user for years and I always wanted an iPhone for the syncing capabilities, but I couldn’t fathom using a touchscreen keyboard. The keyboard has always been the most important factor for me when choosing a phone. I text like a rabid teenager (I’ve sent/received 1,036 text messages in just the last 7 days), and I take lots of lengthy notes. There is also something much more satisfying about pressing down on actual buttons versus tapping on a screen. I type much faster on a physical keyboard, and I never quite took to autocorrect. I’d rather a few typos than have my phone try to guess what I’m trying to write. After three years with the same phone, I finally came to terms with the fact that touchscreen keyboards are here to stay. I begrudgingly started shopping around when I stumbled upon this gem: a Bluetooth slide-out keyboard for the iPhone 5! I happily traded in my old phone for an iPhone 5 and after fumbling with the touchscreen for a few days, I ordered the Bluetooth add-on from Amazon. Without further ado, here’s my review.

Abco Tech® Bluetooth Sliding Keyboard iPhone 5 Case (White)

Abco iPhone 5 Keyboard

Set-up was extremely easy and intuitive. I paired it with my iPhone like any other Bluetooth device, and the phone snapped snugly into the top part of the case. It comes with a micro-USB charger and as far as battery life, I’ve been charging it at least every other night and have had no issues (though I expect battery life will decline over time). The keys take a bit of getting used to, but if you type a lot, you’ll be fine with a few days of use. There are “lock” and “home” keys, as well as two “command” or “Apple” keys which let you use basic keyboard shortcuts (ie: copy, paste, select all, undo) without having to touch the screen. There are also 4 arrow keys which let you navigate long bodies of text with ease. If you compare the proportions to a normal keyboard, the space bar is very small and off-center. This is quite annoying because you have to strain your right thumb to reach it. Functionally, this is probably the biggest flaw in the design.

Aside from the space bar, there are other obvious aesthetic flaws. The keyboard just about doubles the thickness of the phone which may be a huge turnoff for many. I got the keyboard in white, which has a matte finish that gets dirty very quickly. I haven’t tried to clean it yet, but from reading other reviews, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to do it.

At the end of the day, whether you’ll like this product or not will largely depend on how much you value function over form. Most of my friends react with disgust when I whip this huge thing out of my pocket. The iPhone’s sleekness is its main draw and if Steve Jobs saw this bulky case, I’m sure he’d be rolling over in his grave. However, if you’re like me and often feel the need to draft entire novels on your smartphone, you should give this keyboard a try. It’s about the price of a normal iPhone case ($25-$29) and Amazon has a solid 30-day return policy so you don’t have much to lose.

 

Diana Kim

Is Silver The New Gold? Tips From The World’s Fastest-Aging Market

March 8, 2013

One of the biggest fears among young people is simply the fear of getting old, and society is obsessed with youth. Get ready, because the world population is aging fast. According to the World Health Organization, by 2050 22 percent of the world’s population will be over 60 and the number of people 80 or older will quadruple. This change has major implications for the global economy and all aspects of life – from healthcare to housing, workforce to personal finance, and product development to branding, marketing and communications.

Japan is the world’s fastest-aging society. With the highest life expectancy in the world (86), one in four people are currently over 65. This is expected to increase to one in three by 2040. This presents serious challenges in coping with increasing costs for pensions and healthcare in Japan. On the other hand, increased spending by seniors (called “the silver market” in Japan), estimated to be 100 trillion yen (US$1.27 trillion) a year, is creating new opportunities for the economy. Japan seems to be out front in developing and marketing new products and services targeting seniors and penetrating the growing silver market. Here are some examples.

  • Fujitsu just showcased a prototype of its New Generation Cane at the Mobile World Congress 2013. This product is a “smart cane” with GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It has an LED panel on top that displays information and provides simple directional instructions for the user. A sensor on the top of the device monitors heart rate and the cane can also keep tabs on location, humidity and temperature, sending the information back to the user’s family, friends and caretakers.
  • Japanese wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo launched a new line of smartphones in 2012 targeting seniors, called Raku Raku (meaning easy easy). The phones have larger fonts and icons with simplified steps for sending email and taking photos. Senior-friendly features include audio adjustment that can slow down and clarify the voice on the other end. Also, with one push of the ‘how to use’ key, the phone will connect users to dedicated Raku Raku customer service staff.
  • Just about every Japanese girl has owned a Licca-chan doll, the Japanese equivalent of Barbie, since it was launched in 1967. (Barbie never caught on in Japan because she looked too foreign and adult to young Japanese girls.) Last year, Takara Tomy, Licca-chan’s maker, introduced a new doll, Licca-chan’s grandmother, named Yoko, targeting real grandmothers who enjoy playing with their grandchildren.

    Licca-chan & Yoko

  • Last year, Toyota unveiled a robot for seniors that can fetch, carry things and perform simple tasks using its fingers. Multiple companies are developing these types of robots with innovative technology to act as caretakers. A survey showed that 80 percent of Japanese seniors welcome the robots because they hate to burden their families with their care.
  • An electric kettle is a must-have item in a Japanese household. Zojirushi developed one for seniors living alone. When the kettle, “i-pot,” is used, the information is sent in the form of an e-mail to family members so they can monitor their parents/grandparents’ daily activities and be assured that everything is normal. Some communities are offering similar measures, products that use sensors and wireless networks at seniors’ households to monitor their safety. The Japanese government also introduced a measure with a more human touch in 2011: postal workers check up on people over 65 once a month by handing seniors seasonal greeting cards.
  • Retailer Aeon opened its first supermarket aimed specifically at seniors, with a range of products and services geared to their needs, such as a shopping cart with a built-in magnifying glass. Many supermarkets and department stores are shifting their business models in this way with items, displays and services catering to the silver market.
  • Large numbers of “dankai-no-sedai,” Japanese baby boomers, born between 1947 and 1949, have been retiring, and the travel industry is capitalizing on increased spending by the growing retiree population. According to a Japan Association of Travel Agents survey published last year, senior travel was stronger than travel by families, students or honeymooners. Since Japanese companies are not generous with vacation days, traveling is at the top of everyone’s wish list after retirement. The tourism sector is eagerly introducing new products and services targeting active retirees as well as the elderly with health-issues, including medical help and assistance from people who act as “travel helpers.”

What’s the best way to market and communicate to these growing consumers? I’ll cover that in another post.

Keiko Okano


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