Bill Welense

Designer at Isobar, lecturer at DePaul. Experimenter & musician. This blog chronicles my attempts to understand the impact of connected technologies on our daily lives.

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Several weeks with Apple Music

I’ve been an iTunes user for years. I’m probably one of the few people out there who really enjoys the app, specifically how powerful it can be for managing a large music collection like mine. I was also an early adopter of Beats Music, so I was naturally excited when Apple acquired Beats and as much as announced they’d be building their service into iTunes. Beats recommendations inside of iTunes, yes please. My music collection and Beats’ streaming catalog all in one app, sign me up.

In execution however, the marriage can be quite a goddamn kludge.

First, the good parts. The content of Apple Music is really great. The “For You” recommendations are spot-on and fun. The playlists Apple’s curators and partners have assembled are an improvement over even those from Beats Music, and are by my subjective measure, inarguably the best of any streaming service. Trust me, I’ve tried them all....

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Apple Watch Pricing

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I plan to get an Apple Watch. Hell, they’re practically coming out on my birthday. I’ve been thinking about what model to get an I’ve decidedr on the Sport. It’s not like I’d ever consider dropping $10,000 on a gold watch, like the Apple Watch Edition, anyway. However, I do think there’s a market for the model, albeit a very small one.

If you’re a VP at Apple working on a new product, you’re expected to use that instead of what you currently use. Giving up a shitty Palm or Nokia for an iPhone makes sense, as does a PC for a Mac to most extent. But giving up a Rolex for an aluminum sports watch does not compute. I think Apple made the gold Edition models for themselves and since they had to ramp up production anyway, why not make a “limited” supply for the few others out there like themselves.

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iTunes for Android

Putting iTunes on Samsung and other Android-based smartphones is not about selling music, it’s about selling wearables. Apple put iTunes on Windows to sell iPods to PC users. It created a halo effect with PC users switching to Macs, then the iPhone and iPad.

With their foray into multiple new product categories, as CEO Tim Cook puts it, Apple will need software for Android with which an iWatch, or iBand, or wrist-worn iPod Nano can communicate. In 2004, everyday consumers, not technology nerds or gadget heads, synced their iPods with their Dell laptops. Then they bought Macs after learning how much they liked Apple’s products.

The same can happen in 2014: everyday people will buy an iPod Nano for their wrist and sync it with their Samsung smartphones. This is why iTunes needs a subscription-based catalog similar to Spotify, most Android users have never used iTunes, let alone ripped a...

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“Even adjusting the volume of the radio is difficult.”

This article reminds me of an IxDA meetup from back in 2010. It was hosted by IDEO at their then brand new Chicago studio, brilliantly timed with the announcement that week of MyFord Touch.

The design team talked about the process they went through, including hacking together a real car’s steering wheel, their center stack prototype, and a PS3 running Gran Turismo. They showed some novel concepts for navigation which didn’t rely on game controller-like direction-pads or tons of buttons on the steering wheel, while stressing how deliberate and important the physical buttons and knobs were in their center stack design.

And then they played a clip of Ford’s PR rep giving a demo of MyFord Touch. (I tried and failed to find the exact video on YouTube.) The PR rep stressed multiple times how important it was to have d-pads on the steering wheel and a big touchscreen because they felt they...

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Stop Saying You Don’t Need an iPhone

“I got a Samsung because I don’t need an iPhone.” -Every single one of my friends, family, and acquaintances who own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone

With the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S5 expected at this week’s Mobile World Congress, I’d like to take a moment to unpack(1) this all-too-common argument. First however, I need to confess something: I’m an iPhone user and I love the Android operating system underpinning Samsung’s smartphones. I’ve happily used various Android devices for months at a time, including the Nexus 4 and 5, and the Moto X. There’s a lot I enjoy about Android as a platform: widgets on the home and lock screens, apps that configure settings and run actions based on my location, and sharing content easily between apps.

So with my experience using both Android and iOS devices, I think I’m in a rather objective place to argue the merits and costs of each. However, the...

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Empathy: Where does yours come from & how do you use it?

empathy: noun. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

I recently came across a piece on empathy by Chad Fowler. Chad’s point is how the most successful people are highly empathetic. I agree with this, and I do tend I think of myself as an empathetic person. Specifically, I think empathy is an essential for those who create experiences with technology. Fortunately, it’s a skill you can practice and learn.

Sympathy is sometimes confused with empathy, which is the ability of parties to relate due to mutual experience. Sympathy lacks the requirement of having this shared experience. For instance, I never in my life have broken a bone, but I can sympathize, offering comfort to someone who has. I actually find it easier however to empathize with others, putting myself in their shoes to feel their pain by projecting unto them my own experiences as reference.


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That feeling when something new half-works

I’m a power user and I know it. When I find a new product or service useful enough to spend time digging into, I won’t stop digging until I’ve submitted several bug reports and feature requests to its creator. Even then, I usually don’t stop there.

I’ve had Google Glass since the beginning of January, so about 5 or 6 weeks as of this writing. I’m currently taking an intentional break from it while my new frames are off at the lab to have my prescription put in, so I’m using this time to think back on my digging. For how polished it is and how much buzz the wearables category is generating lately, much has been written of how Glass is still a very novel, raw concept. My use corroborates this, and I keep a running list of almost every idea, bug, and “nice-to-have” I come across. That simple task–keeping a list–is so common to all peoples and technologies, yet it’s one of the most...

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Hello again, World!

It’s been years since I blogged. Frankly, my writing has had little focus or purpose over the years, perhaps with the exception of my most recent and now defunct foray, Across the Line, which covered the intersection of music & technology for several months in 2010. As good as parts of it were, even it lacked the kind of truth and honesty I now seek. I believe my time away from writing has helped me break those habits. Secondly, I’ve always felt an intimidation factor that comes with any blog I wrote. The time to write for and maintain it being the most evident. Apparently this problem isn’t unique to me, hence why platforms like Medium and Tumblr exist.

And so, here I am starting to write again. I promise what I write here will always have a focus, a single, running thread: to act as a chronicle of my experiments with technology.

Over the past year, I’ve experimented with...

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