Amazon 4-star. What is it designed to do?

Amazon has made a big thing of its new retail store in Bluewater and yesterday Jo and I got to visit it while we waited for Apple to repair an iPhone.

As we walked around, the store is not big so it didn’t take long, we were approached by a lady doing market research for Amazon.

Thirty minutes (!) later we had finished offering our thoughts on an experience which was so bland that I was left wondering what the reason for it is. She said that a lot of our feedback mirrored what she had heard from other people, but that we went quite a bit deeper.

Here are some of my thoughts-

  • The store is small and the range of products is limited. Amazon states that the products are curated and are 4 star and above items in terms of reviews. Surely no one believes most Amazon reviews any more?
  • The number of products per category was very small and as such it led me to instantly want to go online (to Amazon of course) and compare pricing. So, Amazon is competing with Amazon?
  • The interior of the store was really strange. It did not offer a retail experience in any way and looked positively low rent when compared to Apple and John Lewis. It also did not quite go the full factory outlet route and so ends up being a mishmash of, well, I’m not really sure. It is remarkably unemotional.
  • The only good part I could see were the pricing tickets that change price automatically, but which look like paper tickets. Sadly I only became aware of them when the lady asking us questions pointed them out.

I was left with one question- why?

Why is Amazon doing this retail experiment? Is it to give back to the retail sector? Unlikely. Is it to make more money through stores than online? Surely not? Is it branding and to increase awareness of services like Prime? Possibly.

No matter why it is happening I was left confused by the experience because to me Amazon wins by speed of delivery, reliability, pricing and online experience. None of that is enhanced by a retail store that offers nothing at all above any other retail store. Any ideas why you think Amazon is doing this?

It’s like we lost all the margin in our lives, and there’s no time to be creative and enjoy the ride.

I keep thinking about what you said about how our hobby is dead – it’s what everyone uses now and is no longer a hobby. It used to be fun. You didn’t have to be a pro, you just had to have interest and common sense to contribute to the community. You didn’t have to do things the way everyone else does it, so there was room for variety. It was fun. Now everything is so competitive and cookie cutter. Even work has become so ultra professional and efficient. People are all overworked and overstressed trying to compete and succeed. It’s like we lost all the margin in our lives, and there’s no time to be creative and enjoy the ride. I’ve become the older generation now. I now understand how the previous generation felt when I came in along with the computer generation – their way of life was dying and their value declined as the world changed and different skills were sought after. These days people just want action and accomplished tasks, whether they make sense or not. No wasted time, just do something! I have to admit younger people get a lot accomplished that way even if they miss the big picture. Everything moves so fast, they can be really wrong all the time, but adjust until they find answers… Bob R.

A brilliant thought sent in by Bob and it’s something I hadn’t thought of before in terms of tech. I have long thought about it in terms of work and what I witness; the obsession with stats, hitting targets and ‘being seen’ to do a good job or complete a task.

There does not seem to be time for creativity or for thinking of better ways to work, and if anything the negativity that comes back when trying to improve could easily put all but the most hardened off. It’s almost like the more time-saving tech we can use causes an inverse lack of time. Too many processes appear to be set in stone and the notion of having to stay in your lane is strong today.

Whether it is politics, work or even leisure time, we do seem to be suffering from a lack of margin in too many areas of our lives. I could write a lot about this, but may instead do a podcast episode to explore the subject further.

UPDATE: I ended up covering this in episode 81.

The first iPhone camera that feels like a real camera

Over the past few years I have seen gradual improvements to the iPhone camera with some objects way out of reach, fireworks and the moon come to mind.

The macro feature in the iPhone 13 Pro, however, has changed things somewhat alongside what appears to be a generally much improved photography setup.

There is still a sense of ‘digital’ to the images, especially so the macro efforts, but it feels closer to a DSLR than it ever has.

I am no photographer and have no real idea what makes a good photo, or how to take a good one for that fact, but I am liking what I see and I have been more than impressed by what I have captured so far.

It feels to me as if phone cameras are getter better at a quicker rate than DSLR and standalone cameras are improving, and as such the latter are struggling to be profitable to a greater degree every year.

For video capture the iPhone 13 is easily more than enough for my needs and for stills it is enough. I suspect that some will still need a ‘proper’ camera, but that this group of people is shrinking all of the time.

Well done Apple, the iPhone 13 Pro camera is superb and you have made it highly unlikely that I will never own a standalone camera ever again…

The Queen is irritated. She has no right to be

The Queen has appeared to suggest she is irritated by people who “talk” but “don’t do”, ahead of next month’s climate change summit.

Her reported remarks were overheard during the opening of the Welsh parliament on Thursday.

The monarch, who is due to attend the UN’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, said she did not know who was coming to the event.

Prince Charles and Prince William have also spoken of their climate concerns.
Global leaders are meeting in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November to negotiate a new deal to stall rising global temperatures… More here.

I wonder if her intervention was planned and if so it may have a positive effect. However…

The Queen’s lawyers secretly lobbied Scottish ministers to change a draft law to exempt her private land from a major initiative to cut carbon emissions, documents reveal.

The exemption means the Queen, one of the largest landowners in Scotland, is the only person in the country not required to facilitate the construction of pipelines to heat buildings using renewable energy… More here.

Hypocrisy is hypocrisy no matter how important you are.

iPad mini + iPhone 13 Pro > Galaxy Fold

The above is an excellent overview of the new iPad mini and it covered what the benefits are in the real world.

When Michael talked about the Galaxy Fold and the potential of 2 Apple devices fulfilling what it does this made a lot of sense to me. iPhone 13 Pro (£1,049) + iPad mini (£479) = less than the £1,599 Galaxy Z Fold3 5G.

I have never seen a use case that would suggest that a folding phone makes it worth the extra cost and when I compare it to those 2 devices it seems like a no-brainer to me.

The entire Apple Watch series 7 launch feels rushed, screwed up and verging on deceptive…

Yikes. Apple did not have many stainless steel or titanium models available for launch, especially in the UK. The first date I was offered (1 minute into the store opening) was in November, regardless of playing with options.

There’s a couple of people on macrumors who got launch day, but they don’t seem to be in the UK. Interestingly, even now the dates are still the same time in November. Suspect that’s the real date production ramps up… Peter

Peter added the above to the McGST WhatsApp group and this is similar to what I saw when I checked the stock situation, although in my case with no intention to buy.

None of this launch has felt right and it I am now more than 100% certain that this is not the watch Apple wanted to release.

Content overload

After spending the past 18 months working from home I have noticed that my digital content consumption has increased dramatically. I haven’t wanted any TV series and only a couple of films, but my podcast listening and news reading has reached a worrying level.

The need for something (anything!) to be playing in the background has become normal in a way that I had not expected, even though all of our information gathering has increased over the past decade. I have lost the ability to simply sit down and concentrate in silence.

YouTube can be on for hours at a time and I swear that I don’t watch half of what is playing. A podcast can be playing in the background and it just passes me by with barely any of the words taken in. It isn’t just about the content, it has become a noise that needs to be there all of the time just filling the silence.

I wonder if this is a common thing that many have experienced as they have become accustomed to working from home or simply being at home a lot more than they were previously. It could be that this will change in the future as life goes back to how it was, but I suspect that for many people a little bit of this new habit will remain somewhere in their lives, likely in the background as they sit with AirPods stuffed in their ears to block out the real world.

It appears to me that some people have discovered what is really important over the past 18 months, I have certainly grown to appreciate my family more, but I suspect that there are many who will carry negative habits to the future that they do not need anymore.

Is 5G worth the battery?

I was quite impressed with the top left number above yesterday as I waited in a queue to buy a coffee. The top right number, however, is concerning and maybe highlights some of the issues trying to use 5G brings with it.

When I sat down with my coffee I could not connect on my 13 Pro and eventually had to disable 5G and everything worked fine. I have very sporadic 5G coverage at home, constant changes as I move around and the bizarre popping up of 3G in certain locations in place of 5G. If I have disabled 5G in the same area 4G pops up so something odd is happening.

It could be the iPhone implementation or more likely it is not. Every single person I have spoken to who can use 5G has effectively given up on it at this time. It is likely that it will be hugely beneficial in the future and it will bring with it many benefits above raw speed, but for now I don’t believe it to be worth the battery hit.

If you want to move to 4G only on an iPhone go to Settings / Mobile Data / Mobile Data Options / Voice & Data and select ‘4G’. Problem solved, for now…

Apple Watch fitness rings are a pain, or are they?

But one application on the watch — the one which made the watch-wearing experience compulsively addictive — may actually drive me to give up the whole thing. I’m talking about the one-two hit of the Apple Watch and the Fitness app. 

Why am I thinking of ditching a mostly-convenient device just because of one application? I’m at a point where the relationship I have with my watch is shot through with irritation and life is honestly too short to seethe every time I get an admonition to check my daily ring progress… More here.

I am in two minds about the fitness capabilities of the Apple Watch. On the one hand they add stress we do not need on a daily basis. On the other, I would likely drop off very quickly without being nagged.

It’s a tough one to consider because through the lock downs it was a godsend. As things start to move back to normality the facility feels nagging and annoying a lot of the time.

Is the future for work e-ink?

Sometimes, 16 shades of gray are enough for productivity workloads. This month Onyx International began to sell one of the industry’s first 13.3-inch E Ink monitors that can be used as an external display for laptops. The company is also prepping a 25-inch E Ink monitor for desktop PCs… More here.

I could see this being an option in the future, and especially one where you could flick between e-ink and true colour depending on the task you are undertaking.

Every day I end up with a headache of some sort which is directly proportional to how long I have been staring at a screen and reading my e-ink Kindle after does not make things worse. The quicker we can move to affordable e-ink monitors the better.