The Hub Cool News

Phantom Drones

phantom-droneA Chinese company is producing the "Model T" of drones, report Jack Nicas and Colum Murphy in The Wall Street Journal (11/11/14). "Back in the day, you could talk about cars, but pretty much every car on the road was one of the Model Ts," says Matt Waite of University of Nebraska, drawing the parallel. The ‘Model T’ of camera-equipped drones, popularly known as the Phantom, is made by Shenzhen-based SZ DJI Technology, which is "selling thousands of its 2.8-pound, square-foot devices for about $1,000 each."

This not only makes DJI "the world’s biggest drone maker by revenue," but also "the first Chinese brand to pioneer a major new global consumer product category." The Phantoms are attracting all kinds of interest, having "garnered fans for their aerial footage of extreme sports, fireworks and Niagara Falls, and famous users," including Steve Wozniak, Jamie Foxx and Martha Stewart. They are being used "in filmmaking, farming and construction — all in defiance of the FAA’s effective moratorium on commercial drones."

Founded in a university dorm room in 2006 by Frank Wang, DJI had "90 employees and $4.2 million in revenue in 2011." It now has 2,800 employees, three factories, and this year expects to post sales three to five times greater than in 2013, when it posted $130 million in revenue. This has led to growing pains, including lawsuits and customer-service issues. "Their innovation rose them to the top very quickly,’ says Stephen Burtt, CEO of Aerial Technology, a drone retailer. "But then it was: ‘Oh wait, how do we clean up the trail we just blazed?’"

Oculus News

oculusThe Des Moines Register hopes virtual reality will reinvent the news experience, reports Lukas I. Alpert in The Wall Street Journal (9/22/14). The newspaper is "incorporating the technology of Oculus VR, computerized game platforms and 360-degree cameras." In this way, a story about "how a sixth-generation Iowa farming family is struggling to maintain its traditions in an increasingly globalized world of agribusiness … takes a viewer into a computerized world of cows, soybeans and grain silos."

Basically, the reader gets a sense of "roaming around a farm in Page County, Iowa." This does require "strapping on Oculus’s virtual-reality headset," but it allows viewers to "walk up to the family’s machine shop and click on an icon that places them inside a 3-D video feature about maintaining high-tech farming equipment," for example. They "can view the information in any order," not unlike a videogame. If they don’t have an Oculus helmet, they can still interact in 2-D "on any computer."

Roy Peter Clark of Poynter Institute says it has limitations. "Although we call it multimedia, most of these stories are hybrids that use the visual elements to amplify the underlying narrative," he says. "You can take a virtual tour of a building where an event occurred, but that is a different thing than having characters who are fully explained." Other limitations are that the "virtual-reality technology" makes some people dizzy, and currently only 125,000 Oculus headsets are in circulation.

Design Deceit

crosswalk-buttonEytan Adar has "collected hundreds of examples of deceptive design" in technology, reports Kate Green in Pacific Standard Magazine (9/3/14). For starters, "the standard user interface on your computer — a desktop with folder and trashcan icons … hides a universe of code behind a simple, ‘usable’ facade." Then there’s "the progress bars presented on computer screens during downloads, uploads and software installations maintain virtually no connection to the actual amount of time or work left before the action is completed."

There’s a long history of such deception in technology: "In the 1960s, the hardware that comprised the byzantine switching systems of the first electronic phone networks would occasionally cause a misdial. Instead of revealing the mistake by disconnecting or playing an error message, engineers decided the least obtrusive way to handle these glitches was to allow the system to go ahead and patch the call through to the wrong number … most people assumed the error was theirs, hung up, and redialed."

So-called placebo buttons are another common example — "many crosswalk and elevator door-close buttons don’t actually work," but do "give the impatient person a false sense of agency." In the future, "true artificial intelligence systems will alter the game significantly," and may get a sense of "biological cues (variations in heart rate, skin conductance, eye movement)" and respond accordingly. This is not unlike the way humans "suss out whether it might be best to fudge the truth with someone we care about."

Data Magic

stitch-fixThe magic of the emerging shopping experience — online or off — "comes from the data," reports Molly Wood in The New York Times (8/15/14). For e-commerce enterprises, the data enables a level of personal service that approximates — or potentially improves upon — that which can occur naturally in a store. "In traditional retail, they have the benefit in that they have real people who in theory could offer a very personalized experience," says Katrina Lake, founder of Stitch Fix, an online women’s clothing retailer.

Stitch Fix "sends its customers boxes of clothes picked by a combination of personal stylists and big data." The advantage over, say a mall or a traditional e-commerce play, says Katrina, is that it eliminates the often overwhelming array of choices. Bill Gurley, a Stitch Fix investor, says the data science involved in making this happen is significant. "There’s a 15-page profile, there are over 66 characteristics tracked and there’s a predictive heat score for every single item against every single user."

Birchbox uses a similar approach with beauty products. "We use curation and personalization as a way to make the internet have some of those fun and satisfying elements of shopping," says Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp. "There is still this desire to work with somebody that you trust." Birchbox takes a similar approach at its sole physical store, where Birchbox’s online customers can provide their email address to an employee, who then directs them to relevant items, based on their profile.

Lechal Buzz

lechalA new kind of shoe buzzes to let wearers know "where to turn to reach their destination," reports Dhanya Ann Thoppil in The Wall Street Journal (7/26/14). Made by Ducere Technologies, an Indian startup, the Lechal running shoe syncs "with a smartphone app that uses Google Maps and vibrates … in the left or right shoe" to "lead the way." "The shoes are a natural extension of the body," says Ducere co-founder Krispian Lawrence. "You will leave your house without your watch or wristband," he notes, but not your shoes.

Originally, the shoes were intended "to help blind people who rely on walking canes. Canes can help the visually impaired detect obstacles, but they cannot tell them which way to face or when to turn … While testing the shoes, the company realized their potential for the sighted as well. Joggers, mountain bikers or tourists can plug in their destinations and not have to stop to check their phones as they move; they just turn when their shoes buzz. The shoes can also be used to record distances traveled and calories burned."

Lechal means "take me along" in Hindi, the shoes are protected by a total of "24 international and Indian patents." This apparently has something to do with Krispian’s past as a US patent prosecutor. The shoes "will come in red or black" and cost $100 when they go on sale in September. Krispian "says he already has orders for 25,000 pairs and expects to sell 100,000 by March." Runners aside, there are about 250 million visually-impaired people worldwide, with about 90% "in developing countries, including India."

Enchanted Objects

bullfrogDavid Rose thinks household objects should "mimic the qualities found in magical tools of fantasy and folklore," reports Penelope Green in The New York Times (7/17/14). He means things like "the swords of Arthur and Frodo, say, or the talking mirror in ‘Snow White’." The goal, he says, is to fulfill "human drives with emotional engagement and elan." His concept is to embed, for instance, "his keys, his musical instruments, his wallets and his pens … with special powers."

David refers to such devices as "enchanted objects." For example, "an umbrella that tells you when it’s going to rain, a trash can that orders food, a table that displays your Facebook photos." In his own home, he has "talking pill bottles, a teleporting cabinet (open a door and it connects by Skype to his parents in Wisconsin)." An instructor at MIT’s Media Lab, David envisions the home as a kind of "app store." This is now possible, he notes, because the "computer has atomized … and its functions can be distributed."

The limiting factor, some say, is the inherent connection to the Internet, the data it collects, and the companies that might have access to it. Among the critics is Sherry Turkle, also of MIT and author of Alone Together, who decries what she calls a "regime of memory." "We didn’t get to vote on this regime, there’s no law and there’s no going back … The new regime comes with an extravagant language of gifts and miracles … Well, that’s the way people in fairytales talk. But if you remember your fairy tales, there is always a cost."

GoPro Experience

goproGoPro is successful not because of its camera, but rather the experience of using it, reports Issie Lapowsky in Wired (6/26/14). GoPro, as you’ve likely heard, is a small, high-definition, wearable video camera that people have used "to record their every sky-diving, drone-flying, shark-riding adventure." It raised $427 million in its IPO — unusual for a camera-maker because smartphones are not only cameras but also a GPS, video game console, stereo … "and, oh yeah, a telephone."

However, as Ben Arnold of NPD Group notes: "They don’t just sell a video camera, they sell the memory of the wave or the ski trip down the slope … I think we are entering the age where lifestyle in technology is becoming very important." The power is in devices that "say something about the people who wear them … when you see someone with one of those GoPro Hero 3 cameras strapped to her chest, it’s a signal to the world that she is about to do something awesome."

The result is that in "2013 alone, GoPro users have uploaded 2.8-years worth of video featuring GoPro in the title. In the first quarter of 2014, people watched over 50 million hours of videos with GoPro somewhere in the title, filename, tag or description … And so despite the fact that GoPro only sells cameras … it became better known as an adventure sports brand than as a camera manufacturer." Among other things, GoPro now plans "to launch a GoPro Channel on Xbox Live" and "turn itself into a media company."

Creme de la Stream

beats headphones"Fans will pay top dollar for a music accessory or a music event … They just won’t pay for, oh yeah, music," writes David Carr in The New York Times (7/9/14). This emerging reality is a direct result of cost-free music streaming on Spotify, Pandora and similar services — the "outbreak of free" as David calls it. This is a bonanza for music fans but a crippling blow to artists who make the music they love, as royalties on streaming are beyond the scope of "the 73-year-old agreements that govern" music licensing fees.

The Justice Department is looking into this, but in the meantime, "the musician Van Dyke Parks" recently told The Daily Beast "that in the good old days, a song he recently co-wrote with Ringo Starr would have provided him ‘with a house and pool.’ But at current royalty rates he estimated that he and the former Beatle would make less than $80, which means he would have to choose between a dollhouse and a kiddie pool and then share it with Mr. Starr." (link)

Some complain that the sound quality also suffers, but NYU’s Clay Shirky notes that, for most, "good enough is good enough." Especially if it’s free — which frees up cash to buy "expensive Beats headphones – $300 and up in a variety of colors so they also serve as a fashion accessory" or pay hundreds of dollars for live shows. Spotify, meanwhile, "has doubled its number of subscribers, paid and unpaid, in the last 18 months, and reached a milestone of 10 million paid subscribers worldwide last month."


Jimmy Iovine says the difference between Apple and other tech companies is that other companies are "culturally inept," reports Ben Sisario in The New York Times (5/29/14). "You go into any recording studio in the world and you see candles, lights and that Apple light from a Mac," says Jimmy, who along with Beats Electronics co-founder Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, will now try to help the Apple brand "see around corners" and find its way in the music business.

Having sold Beats to Apple for $3 billion, the two men will join the company "in senior positions," reporting to Apple content chief, Eddy Cue. While there’s no truth to the rumor that the merged company will be called Beatle, Jimmy was a long-time friend of the late Mr. Jobs and once fetched tea as John Lennon’s recording-session gopher. Jimmy and Dr. Dre are expected to bring not only music-industry acumen but also a certain star power that’s been missing from Apple since Steve Jobs died.

Venture capitalist David Pakman offers a mixed prognosis for the Apple-Beats deal, however: "Jimmy has time and again proven his ability to understand the tastes of the mass market, in an extraordinary way … But he hasn’t yet proven his ability to get a digital music service off the ground," he says. Pop star Gwen Stefani refers to Jimmy’s persistent style as "Jimmy Jail" — as he repeatedly sent her back to the studio to write "that career-changing track. "The good news is, he’s Jimmy," says Gwen. "The bad news is, he’s Jimmy."

Textual Feelings

text messagingEmail and text messages have a ‘body language’ all their own, reports Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal (5/20/14). It’s relatively easy to ‘read’ someone face-to-face, but a bit trickier when the only clues are of a digital sort. One tip-off is the "use of emphatic language. It doesn’t necessarily mean s/he is lying, but rather that s/he really wants you to believe what is being said. This is also the case when a person keeps saying the same thing over and over in slightly different ways."

In person, "someone may unconsciously distance himself by crossing his arms in front of him. In writing, he can achieve this same effect by omitting personal pronouns and references to himself from a story. Say he receives a text that says, ‘Hey, I had a great time last night, did you?’ He might reply, ‘Last night was fun.’" Then there’s the "unanswered question," which could mean s/he "doesn’t like saying no, or doesn’t want to hurt your feelings," or that s/he is "keeping something from you."

"This is all very subtle," says Tyler Cohen Wood, author of Catching the Catfishers. Pay attention if a "usually chatty" person turns quiet, or someone who generally provides a lot of details suddenly goes vague on you. Phrases like "pretty sure" and "must have" signal evasion, and "to be honest" can mean just the opposite. Watch out for "tense hopping." If someone is telling a story, and switches from past to present tense, it just might mean s/he’s making something up on the fly.

Keep It Keen

sharon loveOnly the most insightful can thrive in today’s Darwinian shopping terrain. By Sharon Love. We live in a world where few things seem steadfast. Trusted brands with long histories and heritage falter; new brands enter our consciousness and own the shelves seemingly overnight. The ways people think, behave and interact are a constantly moving target.

Traditional retail has intersected with emerging commerce, creating an on-demand environment in which people are now able to exercise their personal power to decide when, where and how they engage with your brand. Technology is driving so much of the evolution, along with people’s expectations of the space and experience.

Their technology-driven shopping experiences have shaped the way they move through the dynamic retail space. The space will continue to evolve and at a faster pace. Old and new are coming together, creating a Darwinian retail environment, where only the insightful survive. continue

Smartphone Revolution

firefox smartphoneThe global economy will change as smartphones get a whole lot cheaper, writes Andy Kessler in The Wall Street Journal (5/13/14). That eventuality is already upon us, with "a Chinese manufacturer … showcasing a $35 smartphone" and Firefox "flirting with selling one for $25." (link) Once "dirt-cheap" smartphones — not cellphones — are widely available, they will become "a productivity platform for wealth creation," Andy writes, as those in "the developing world can build lives with a $35 smartphone."

"Poor villages and townships will finally have a platform to escape despair," says Andy. "Now we need applications to use $5-a-day workers to eyeball documents, photos, blueprints and anything that requires human cognitive skills, things that can’t yet and may never be coded into artificial-intelligence algorithms. This is the greatest challenge for Silicon Valley that it doesn’t even know about." Indeed, the smartphone business currently "is staggeringly lucrative."

According to iSuppli, a research firm, a "16-gigabyte iPhone 5S," selling for $649 without a carrier contract, cost just $191 to build. "The Samsung Galaxy S5 contains $251 of materials." Of course, consumers aren’t just paying for components; we buy "the experience of the look, feel and touch — for the software, operating system, graphical user interface and apps." Andy argues that such distinctions will inevitably dissipate, ushering in a "post-iPhone era," with smartphones re-born as "an antipoverty program."

The 78 Project

prestoA filmmaker and a journalist are “turning the tables back” to 78 rpm records, reports Andy Beta in The Wall Street Journal (3/22/14). The filmmaker is Alex Steyermark, who along with journalist Lavinia Wright recorded and filmed artists including Rosanne Cash, Marshall Crenshaw and Richard Thompson cutting acetate 78 rpm records. The resulting film, The 78 Project, recently debuted at the South by Southwest Music Festival.

Both Alex and Lavinia say they were influenced by Alan Lomax‘s legendary “field recordings rendered on a Presto.” Lavinia, who is 30, says she grew up listening to her father’s collection of 78s. “It was a big ceremony in my household when as children we learned how to properly put the needle down,” she says. “My parents took it very seriously.” Recording artist Joe Henry, who contributed a track to the project, feels the 78 does indeed create a special kind of “listening experience.”

“To play a 78, you pick a song and make a deliberate act out of sitting in front of it and listening to it go by, lifting the needle after,” he says. “You have to bring yourself to it in a way that most people don’t any longer. It insists upon your full engagement.” Moreover, because “of the nature of the acetate, where every playback slowly destroys the record,” each of these 78s would only be played once, to transfer them to digital. “You listen very differently when you understand that it will be the only time you have this particular experience,” says Joe.

ModVic Man

modvicBruce Rosenbaum says he was "steampunking before he knew what it was," reports Megan Buerger in The Wall Street Journal (2/21/14). Originally, back in the 1990s, Bruce was in the "direct-mail marketing business targeting consumers based on major life events." On the side he "set up a workshop to explore his artistic interests." His first effort "was a mission-style coat rack festooned with Victorian hardware and topped with a World War II clock." He didn’t realize he was on the cusp of an emerging trend.

By 2007, he and his wife, Melanie, set up a new business, ModVic, which "began as a Victorian-home restoration company." That didn’t last long, thanks to the financial crisis, but Bruce and Melanie "re-launched the business, focusing on period furniture, such as clocks or arm chairs." Today, ModVic turns out "about 100 pieces every year that range in price from $5,000 to $250,000, sometimes more." Typically, they repurpose "salvaged, often antique furniture into functioning, modern pieces" — a desk made out of a bandsaw, for instance.

Materials tend toward "leather, copper, iron and bronze" and clients are often "history lovers who pine for the craftsmanship and detail of a bygone era." Gary Sullivan, a ModVic client, says that steampunking is on the rise partly because of "an exhaustion with modern objects that have built-in obsolescence." Bruce describes its appeal as the combination of "history, plus art plus technology," adding that "function is the key. Real steampunk art includes purposeful mechanics, not just random doodads. It has to perform."

Bell’s Intel

Intel’s resident anthropologist sees the future in being present, reports Natasha Singer in The New York Times (2/16/14). "What would it be like to have technology that celebrated presence, not absence, that grounded you in being in that place, not being somewhere else?" says Genevieve Bell, director of user experience research at Intel Labs. The idea is "to encourage real-time communication between people who are in the same place at the same time, offering a physical complement to virtual networks like Facebook and Twitter."

The corresponding technology is a laptop with two screens — one facing the user and the other facing the public. Users can "post photos and text messages of up to 140 characters on the exterior laptop screens." Intel has tested this "in cafes in and around Portland and Seattle," and at first people "would glance quickly at the screens, then look away. But if researchers posted a question — like … ‘Do you think Nordstrom has good customer service?’ — strangers would start talking to one another."

"We keep talking about how technology is destroying social activity," says Genevieve. "It was reassuring that, when you give people technology that reinforces presentness, they embrace it." Such insight is at the center of Genevieve’s charge at Intel, which is to transition the company from "turning out increasingly efficient technology for industrial customers" to focusing on "consumer happiness as a starting point of product development." "I am firmly in the present," says Genevieve. "But sometimes I want to drag the future here and see if we want it."

Steel & Brass

The rise of technology has resulted in a rebellion "against the coldness of steel," reports Julie Lasky in The New York Times (1/30/14). Gaining favor are "rosy and golden metals," such as brass and copper, according to Tom Dixon, a British designer whose recent work favors warmer materials. "Steel will always be hard and gray, but brass and copper are malleable and take on a patina making them more distinctive with age … They also mix well with new technology." Where incandescent bulbs made "brass lamps uncomfortably hot … LEDs lower the temperature."

The color of brass and copper also "improves any harsh quality still found in LED light." Tim Brauns of e27 studio in Berlin, has designed "a lamp called Light Drop … for Pulpo, a German company." It is a "metal-mesh-and-glass lamp" that he says is designed for use with today’s devices. "You don’t need much light with hand-held devices and TV," he says. At the same time, most people don’t want to rely solely on the "glow of our electronics, so Light Drop provides atmosphere. New technology has given rise to a new typology."

In a similar vein, "a sofa bed by Christian Werner for the French company Ligne Roset" promotes "the idea that the family that surfs together on individual devices needs a new style of furniture." So, where a "traditional couch … is placed against a wall facing a television," the Prado sofa is "big, armless, backless" and moveable, so that "family members can sit or lounge on it, facing different directions." This, and other, designs were featured at Maison et Objet, "a trade fair held every January and September in France." Started 19 years ago, it now fills "eight pavilions."

Pulp Fiction

books in browsersThe future of books may be more distant than predicted, reports David Streitfeld in The New York Times (12/2/13). The concept of ‘books’ is “apparently embedded so deeply in the collective consciousness that no one can bear to leave it behind.” Apple may have filed “a patent to embed autographs in electronic titles,” and Amazon may have developed Page Flip, “which mimics the act of skimming.” However, “efforts to re-imagine the core experience of the book have stumbled. Dozens of publishing start-ups tried harnessing social reading apps or multimedia but few caught on.”

Among the stumblers is Social Books, “which lets users leave public comments on particular passages” and Push Pop Press “whose avowed aim was to reimagine the book by mixing text, images, audio, video and interactive graphics.” Peter Page, author of Breaking the Page, says the issue is that many “of these solutions were born out of a programmer’s ability to do something rather than the reader’s enthusiasm for things they need … We pursued distractions and called them enhancements.” This has not stopped digital entrepreneurs from developing new platforms, however.

For example, Safari Flow “offers chapters of technical manuals for a $29 monthly subscription fee.” Another service, Inkling, lets users buy single chapters for $4.99 – for instance the pasta chapter of a cookbook. Citia reduces lengthy tomes into a series of “digital cards that can be read on different devices and sent through social networks.” So far, it has “done cards for only four books,” but sees potential for brand storytelling. Peter Brantley of Books in Browsers, says the innovations are coming not from publishers but from technologists who think in terms of “storytelling platforms” rather than the stories themselves.


Timeless Tablets

Media today is more like it was in 51 BC than it was in 1951 AD, posits Tom Standage in Writing on the Wall, as reviewed by Henry Hitchings in The Wall Street Journal (10/19/13). Tom delineates three great media eras: “really old media, which lasted from 51 BC to 1833; old media which began when Benjamin Day … launched the cheap, ad-heavy and aggressively touted New York Sun; and new media, which dawned in 1993 with the release of the first popular web browser." His argument is that "the 160-year reign of old media was an anomaly."

Back in the first century BC, a "message being sent over a short distance was written on a wax tablet" that looked "very like an iPad," according to Tom. "Messages traveling longer distances were written on papyrus, which was lightweight and comparatively expensive. Delivery was often informal and therefore not secure – a concern that will seem familiar to today’s user of, say, an open Wi-Fi network." In the 16th century, "ambitious young men circulated handwritten copies of their poems … not unlike the self-promoting Twitter activities of latter-day wannabes."

The ensuing century saw the advent of "the coranto, an unattributed newsletter," that represented a "proliferation of new and untrustworthy news sources." Tom compares "the chaotic and adversarial media environment" of the period to the "fiercely partisan" nature of today’s blogosphere. In 1776, Thomas Paine’s "Common Sense," a "48-page pamphlet," spread rapidly, i.e., "it went viral." One difference between then and now is that, in the past, social networks were not commercial ventures. Another is that publications were not searchable. However, the "novelty of the digital age" may actually "be a rebirth."

Smule Nation

smuleAbout 125 million people are using an app that lets them record and share their music-making skills, reports Brad Stone in Bloomberg Businessweek (10/14/13). Smule offers a total of "18 mobile apps" for voice, guitar, piano and more that allow users to "post their own songs" as well as "sample tracks" from others. "We’re making the internet a big campfire," says Smule chief executive Jeff Smith. "Most of the songs are quite bad, but some are pretty good, and now we’re enabling people all over the world to listen to them."

The five-year-old startup recently "unveiled a revamped website, Smule Nation, which highlights select performances from users across all of its apps through a social network accessible online by anyone with a personal computer. It’s a big step for the company, whose apps previously were usable only on mobile devices." The software isn’t necessarily easy to use. For example: "The company’s Ocarina app … requires users to blow into their phones to play notes." Smule advisory board member Perry Cook says the apps are part of a long-term trend toward the democratization of music making.

Smule has also attracted "well-known artists, including Grammy-winning country group Lady Antebellum," which has "used the app to connect with fans." Reality TV shows, including The Voice and American Idol reportedly have been in touch about the possibility of using Smule Nation to audition singers. For now, the Smule "apps are free," with money made on ads and "ad-free subscriptions. For $40 a year, heavy users can also store an unlimited number of songs on the startup’s servers." The company expects to "turn a profit in the next few months."


telephone receiverAllan Ripp thinks BlackBerry could make a comeback by bringing back a dumbed-down smartphone (The Wall Street Journal, 10/8/13). Allan admits that he was slow to let go of his Motorola flip phone in favor of a BlackBerry, but was forced to make the switch because his clients complained about his relative inaccessibility, as in: "Where the hell are you and why haven’t you responded to this mother-of-all demands I sent all of 30 seconds ago?" His dependency on the device came quickly, but his grief began when he dropped his BlackBerry Bold, cracking the screen.

By that time the Bold had been discontinued, so Allan was forced to get a Q10, which "looked sleek and ultra-functional" – until he "tried to use it." Among other things it lacked the "nifty little keyboard and actual cursor," replaced by a "nonresponsive" touchscreen that "sent icons and messages whizzing by like the view from a bullet-train window." So, Allan got the screen fixed on his old Bold, but senses that he’s "not alone" in his "aversion to the prevailing smartphone gauntlet of flicks and jabs and kazam-like bursts of the hand."

He also suspects he’s not the only one who has "little use for the phone as an entertainment multiplex and archive of all human achievement (or personal newsfeeds), who merely want an easy-to-use workhorse device in order to stay connected." His advice to BlackBerry: "Market the hardy Bold and Torch as the Volkswagen of phones, in a stripped-down, app-free version that boasts a working physical keyboard and cursor for the no-nonsense user and a battery that lasts all the livelong day," adding: "There are a lot more of uncool types out here than you think."