The Next Iphone is Coming!

Week in Tech: The Next iPhone Is Coming

Check out this week’s round-up of tech news to know, including the latest rumors on the new iPhone and Samsung’s forthcoming smartwatch.

 

Each Monday, I cover the tech trends, gadgets, business services, and apps of note. The goal is to highlight not just consumer flash-in-the-pan ideas, but actual developments that could impact your business. Post in comments if you spot other essential headlines!

1. Join.me gets a facelift
One of my favorite screen-sharing tools is getting a major update. Join.me is great because it actually works reliably compared to services like Go To Meeting and Web Ex that require that you install extensions. (Half the time, they don’t work for me, especially in Google Chrome.) The app will now record the session and the audio for sharing in the cloud. There’s also a new app for iPad and iPhone that makes the sharing process even easier.

2. Seedcamp week starts
The tech event Seedcamp starts in London this week running through September 6. There are 20 start-ups in the mobile, Web, and software markets. There are keynotes, classes, and social events that match up the 20 companies with about 400 other interested parties.

3. Leaked Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch photos
ABC News reports that the photos for an upcoming smartwatch called the Samsung Galaxy Gear have leaked. The watch looks a bit like a squished down smartphone. In another leak, details circulated about the watch having 6GB or 8GB of storage, a 1.5GHz processor, and 1GB of RAM. Would you buy one of these? Let me know in comments.

4. ZoomDeck debuts
I like this new photo identification app as proof that there are still bright ideas out there. The app lets you mark an area of a photo and then let other users help you figure out what it is. You can also link these “spots” with wikis, maps, and other background info.

5. Apple media event next week
Apple will hold a media event next week, presumably to reveal the next iPhone. Most experts are saying it will probably be an iPhone 5S that’s faster and lasts longer but does not offer any new hardware features. I’m more interested in the purported iPhone 5C budget model which could offer an interesting lesson in how to maintain your brand when you offer a lower priced version of a similar product.

Four Great Space-Saving Printers

Smaller multifunction printers may seem best suited for home use. These new all-in-one models are packed with business-friendly features, including the ability to print from mobile devices.

Best for speedy printing
Canon imageCLASS MF4890dw

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A good buy for a laser printer, the imageClass pumps out 26 pages per minute, or PPM, in black and white (sorry, no color). It has keys for quick scanning and copying and can scan multiple documents into one file. Our favorite feature: a dedicated Quiet Mode button that slows down printing and reduces noise. A free mobile app due out from Canon this fall will let you print files from an iPad or iPhone. Cost: $299

 

Best for secure e-printing
HP Photosmart 7520 e-All-in-One

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The Photosmart can handle 14 PPM in black and white and 10 PPM in color. The ink-jet printer, which has a 4.3-inch touchscreen, lets you scan directly to email. You can also scan multiple documents into one file and print files from iPads, iPhones, and Android devices. For added security, you can use PINs to verify the identity of users printing via mobile devices.Cost: $199

Best for specialty jobs
Epson Expression Premium XP-800 small-in-one

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This wireless ink-jet model, which has a 3.5-inch touchscreen control panel, prints 12 PPM in black and white and 11 PPM in color. It can print on a variety of specialty materials, including DVDs, and scan directly to email, a memory card, or PDF. You can print files from iPads, iPhones, and Android devices using Epson’s mobile app. Cost: $279

The Best New Office Furniture

Today’s offices are designed to respond easily to change. With that in mind, furniture companies are rolling out versatile offerings that suit different needs. Here are five particularly adaptable options.

ICF Sense Mobile Glass Board
An elegant alternative to standard whiteboards, this glass board has a wood veneer base. You can connect boards to create a larger writing space. Another plus: The glass is easier to clean than the usual plastic surface. Available in natural or black stains.
Cost: $2,423

 

Loftwall Wave Divider Screen
Loftwall’s recycled aluminum screen features curved surfaces that diffuse sound and light. It measures 78 inches tall, comes in three lengths, and can be connected to other dividers. Available in white, black, orange, yellow, and red.
Cost: Starting at $1,090 for a 4-foot-long screen

Knoll Toboggan Chair
Designed to encourage spontaneous gatherings, the Toboggan Chair has a backrest that doubles as a small desk. The chair, created for Knoll by Antenna Design, has a molded plywood seat and back, and a steel frame. It comes in a variety of colors.
Cost: Starting at $375

Darran Rift Table
This sit/stand desk can also serve as a conference table. The desk, which has a wood veneer top and steel base, can be raised or lowered with the flip of a switch and includes a system for hiding cables. Available in several shapes and sizes.
Cost: Starting at $3,690

Luxo 360 LED Task Light
The compact Luxo 360 takes up minimal space but can light a large area when fully extended. The lamp, which is 19.3 inches tall, swivels 360 degrees at the base and head. It can be dimmed and set to shut off after four or nine hours. Available in black, gray, and white.
Cost: $290

 

Tech Trends: Next on the Agenda

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 6.10.33 PM

Check out cool apps that keep you on schedule all day.

 

I’ve always had a hard time staying on schedule during business trips, which usually include multiple meetings in various locations. If I had my way, I’d bring along an assistant. On a recent trip to Denver, I tried the next best thing: two new mobile apps, Google Now and Cue.

Google Now, which comes loaded on smartphones and tablets running the new Android 4.1 operating system, works with Google Calendar, Maps, and searches, along with your device’s GPS. I tested it on Google’s Galaxy Nexus phone. During the day, I could touch the Google search bar on my home screen to see “cards” with timely information.

Before I left my hotel, Google Now served up a card with the weather forecast for Denver. As I drove downtown, a card appeared with information on a nearby bus route. Later that day, I received a reminder for a 3 p.m. meeting one hour in advance, along with a map, directions, and an estimated driving time of 55 minutes based on current traffic. I hustled out the door and arrived just in time. Thanks, Google Now.

After two days, the software got smarter. Each morning, for instance, it provided an estimated driving time from my hotel to downtown Denver. As I headed back to my hotel around dinnertime, it pulled up cards with details on nearby restaurants, including links to a map, directions, and reviews. Not quite an assistant, but close.

On the second half of my trip, I tried Cue, a free app for iPhones. Unlike Google Now, Cue is not location based. Instead, it organizes your daily schedule by scanning information in linked apps on your phone. The free version of Cue lets you choose from more than a dozen apps, including Gmail, Google Calendar, and OpenTable (for dinner reservations). You can also pony up $4.99 a month for a premium account that you can link with business-friendly apps, including Salesforce and Evernote.

When I added an appointment with a Denver start-up to my Google Calendar, it appeared on my Cue schedule in about 10 minutes, along with the location and name of the marketing director who e-mailed the meeting invitation. When I received a FedEx shipping confirmation in Gmail, the tracking number and a link to FedEx.com popped up on my schedule. Cue handles flight confirmations the same way. The level of detail was impressive, but I missed the maps and real-time traffic updates. In fact, I was late to some appointments because of traffic.

The bottom line: If you spend a lot of time on the road, Google Now is great. If you’re looking for a scheduling app that works with a variety of programs, Cue is the way to go. For me, there was a clear winner: Google Now, you’re hired.

 

Business-Ready Tablets

tablets

For years, tablets have been touted as the Next Big Thing in consumer electronics. Finally, there are several models suitable for serious business use. We tested four tablets, running four different operating systems, to see how they stack up.

Acer Iconia W700

Our top pick, this Windows 8 tablet, which can run desktop versions of Microsoft Office programs, functions much like a laptop. The tablet has a sharp 11.6-inch, 1920- by 1080-pixel display and a speedy Intel Core i5 dual-core processor. It also has front- and rear-facing cameras, as do the other tablets here. During our test, it booted in 10 seconds, and the battery lasted nine hours. On the downside, the 2.1-pound tablet is a bit hefty and has a smaller app selection than do Apple or Android models. Cost: $999 for a 128GB solid-state storage drive

iPad Fourth Generation

The sleek 1.4-pound iPad, which runs on Apple’s iOS platform, offers the best selection of business-friendly apps in our test group, including a full-featured version of Square’s mobile cash register. The tablet’s 2048- by 1536-pixel Retina display, which measures 9.7 inches, was crisp and colorful, topping the other models here. Powered by Apple’s A6X processor, it booted up in 20 seconds during our test, and the battery lasted a respectable eight hours on a full charge. Cost: $499 for 16GB of storage

Google Nexus 10

A nice traveling companion, this 1.3-pound Android 4.2 tablet comes loaded with Google Now, an app that automatically serves up meeting reminders, flight details, and other timely information. Its 10-inch, 2560- by 1600-pixel display looked crystal clear during our test. The Nexus, which is made by Samsung, also includes a near-field-communication chip for transmitting data with a tap. Powered by an Exynos 5 dual-core processor, it booted in 19 seconds. One gripe: The battery lasts only seven hours. Cost: $399 for 16GB of storage

Surface with Windows RT

Much like the Acer, this 10.6-inch Windows RT tablet features Microsoft’s new tile-based start screen and has a limited selection of business apps. The 1.5-pound Surface offers mobile versions of Office programs, but they are not designed for use by businesses. Powered by a quad-core processor, the Surface booted in 26 seconds, the slowest time among our group. During our test, its 1366- by 768-pixel display looked a bit washed out. The battery lasts eight hours. Cost: $499 for 32GB of storage

4 Ways To Make Your Workspace More Productive

Researchers have found some utterly surprising ways to minimize distractions and insert subtle signals to help your staff focus. productive

What’s happening around you can be just as important as what’s going on in your head. Open floor plans might promote collaboration, but they are clearly hotbeds of distraction. So there’s a trade-off: More collaboration, less productivity.

Other research has yielded more surprising results.

It turns out, for example, that bad weather is good for productivity.

 

It all comes down to distractions, according to a Harvard Business School study. The more distracted people are by the opportunities good weather offers, the less they get done at work. Though no business owner can control the weather, there are ways to work with it. Orienting desks away from windows can boost productivity, for example. Francesca Gino, a Harvard Business School associate professor and co-author of the study, also suggests allowing employees to work shorter hours on good weather days, provided they clock out later when the weather is bad.

Décor also matters. Do you cringe at cloying posters of adorable kittens? Get over it. Several recent studies have made the peculiar claim that cute imagery enhances mental focus. The first, published in 2009, came out of the University of Virginia’s psychology department and showed that viewing “very cute images” of puppies and kittens enhanced fine motor skills. Then, last year, researchers at Hiroshima University found that subjects who viewed pictures of baby animals, as opposed to adult animals or pictures of food, performed better on both dexterity tests and a visual search test.

That last finding suggests that viewing cute images doesn’t just heighten our evolutionary instinct to be physically careful around babies. It makes us mentally careful, too. “If people can concentrate on the task at hand without being distracted by other things, their productivity should increase,” says lead researcher Hiroshi Nittono.

Simply turning up the thermostat can increase productivity throughout your workplace. A study of office workers at a Florida insurance company, conducted by Cornell’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, found that as office temperatures increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees, typing errors decreased 44 percent. Meanwhile, typing output improved a whopping 150 percent.

10 usability tips for web designers

1. Include a Tagline

A tagline is a statement or a motto that represents a company’s, or in our case a website’s, philosophy and mission. It should be the most obvious element on a website’s front pageand it should clearly describe the website in one phrase.
Statistics show that a website has just 8 seconds to capture a visitor’s attention for them to browse the site further. Without a clear tagline a website would have a hard time keeping visitors long enough to browse the inner pages.

2. Implement Site Search

As with taglines, site search is a very important element on a website. When users are looking for something they typically look for a text field where they can enter their search term.
According to Jacob Nielsen’s web usability tips, make this search box 27 characters widein order for the text to be clearly visible and easy to use. Place the search text field on the top of your web page, because users tend to search a website according to the F pattern, meaning from the top left to the bottom right.
Include a search button and clearly specify the search text, don’t use text such as Go or Submit, because these expressions tend to mislead your website’s visitors.
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3. Don’t Use Extensive Graphics

Abusive use of design elements and graphics are always bad for a website, they just mislead the site’s visitors. Only design to improve the web page not just to decorate it. From a usability point of view, less is always more.

4. Use Site maps

Site maps are a relatively new website feature that improves web page navigation and also search engine optimization (SEO). Site maps in essence are a structural representation of a website’s pages and architecture. It can be a document in any form, or a web page that lists the pages on a web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion.
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Recently, search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN have started offering a Sitemap protocol which is similar to a website’s site map page, but the data is organized in XML format. There are Sitemap XML generators that create these documents for a specific URL.
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5. Don’t Break the Workflow

By workflow we mean every operation that a user is doing on a website. For example filling out a form, registering on a website, browsing categories, archives, etc. Don’t break these workflows, let the user cancel any operation. By not letting the user cancel an operation, we’re forcing them to finish it even if they don’t want to.
Not every operation on a website is obvious for users, guide them through the specific workflow by using descriptive tips. (e.g. when filling out a form). Javascript links usually break the workflow, so it’s not recommended to use them on your website.
Another mistake is not changing the color of visited links, this results in breaking the navigational design. Let users know where they’ve been and where they are on a website.

6. Create Easily Scannable Web Pages

Easy to read web pages plays an important role in maintaining visitors’ loyalty, keeping them on your site and reading your content. Usability tests show that the majority of users don’t read web pages, they scan them, looking for titles, bold, emphasized text or lists.
Eye tracking studies conducted by Jakob Nielsen show that users read content that resembles an F shape, meaning that the reading starts from the upper left of the web page, next it moves down a little starting from the left again.
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Nielsen also states the implications of this reading pattern:
  • Users won’t read a web page content word by word, they will extract important paragraphs, bold text, etc.
  • The first two paragraphs are essential on a web page. These must contain the most important information that your visitors are looking for.
  • Sub headings and lists stands out from the regular paragraphs. Use these elements to notify users on important information.

 

One important method that we can learn from traditional printed newspapers is that the journalists thought of a catchy headline and a catchy first paragraph to make readers read the whole article. They organize the content in an inverted pyramid format, just picture an upside down pyramid. The broad base represents the most important information in the whole article and the narrow tip represents the least important information.
We can use this format to organize web content by putting the most important pieces on top and the least important ones on the bottom, but how do we know which information is important and which is not? With the help of news values.

7. Don’t Design Misleading UI Controls

By user interface (UI) controls we mean web page elements, components and widgets that a user can interact with (e.g. a button, drop-down list).
Don’t design graphic elements that looks like a button, but is not. We often see text that is underlined and looks like links, but are not clickable.
By not having the action that the users were expecting, they would think that the site is broken and eventually leave. One other important usability tip regarding UI controls is consistency: Make sure that your UI controls are consistent.
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Yahoo, as the above image shows too, is a good example of consistent UI control design. Every tab on the page looks and behaves the same, every link is underlined on mouse over, every button looks the same, etc.

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