What has the smartphone ever done for us? Lots. But don't trust IT to deliver you the tech you need as comms people.
by Steven Davies
It's the ten year anniversary of the iPhone. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, it’s the two year anniversary of the Basic Video Skills Workshop featuring that @danslee bloke, me, and often @sophie1ed. I say ‘perhaps not’ because those workshops would be very different affairs if it hadn’t been for ‘Project Purple’ back in 2007. I won't be so brazen as to say that without the iPhone making video on your phone wouldn’t be possible - it both would and is - I just image it would be quite different if the WWDC launch hadn’t happened.
Early advances in smartphones
Before the iPhone, Blackberrys and Windows CE phones were the mobile enterprise machines with keyboards and styluses and lame WAP based internet experiences. Email was a fiasco as I remember, and multi-layer full HD video editing was basically science fiction. I can't credit the first iPhone with bringing video to the masses though. The first iPhone didn’t even shoot video - but it was a game changer for plenty of other reasons. It offered up so many new ways of interacting with your phone. No buttons, really, greatly improved sync, real web browsing, but most of all, my highlight from the keynote “You had me at scrolling”.
And the best advances
If you ask me, that was the greatest end-user advancement that came with iPhone - Multi-Touch. Scrolls, swipes, pinches and other gestures that made using a touch screen not just pleasant, but actually possible. Ancient history alert, but you might remember it was a long time coming if you’d used a touch screen before 2007!
Caution: beware the Windows phone
Jump forward 3650 days and basically all phones scroll and pinch and swipe and take photos and shoot video and selfie and face swap. But they don't all do video editing quite as well as each other.
Disclaimer: This isn’t an iPhone advert. Very much not, actually. If anything it’s a 99% of smartphones advert. Or an argument to tell your IT department to drop the <1%.
I use an Android phone as my everyday. I also use an iPad, an iPod a Mac a Chromebook and a Windows PC basically daily too. It’s what I don’t use that’s the root of the matter, though, and that’s a Windows Phone. That’s the <1% and the elephant in the IT department.
Actually, let’s put Blackberry in there too, if you can actually find one that you might seriously consider buying - it’s in that <1% too - although many of them will run Android apps these days, so they’re not real BB’s, I guess.
We run workshops for video making on smartphones of almost every creed and colour. iOS and Android, all are welcome. But Windows Phone? That I can’t help you with I’m afraid. At least fortnightly, sometimes weekly we’ll get an email from a prospective attendee that says “IT have issued us all with Windows Phones - can I bring that?”.
Bring it by all means if you want to check your Outlook at lunch, make calls, update Facebook, but we won’t be using it to edit video.
It’s a shame, really, because there are a number of things that I really like about Windows phones. I really like the look of the interface. I think MetroUI is really attractive and is ageing well. I think some of the phones have great hardware and specs, some even have some excellent cameras. But what they don’t have, I’m afraid, are apps.
Video apps to use
In our workshops we use iMovie and Kinemaster. iMovie is Apple only and that’s fine, Kinemaster was Android only and is now recently Android and iOS. We’ve chosen those apps because they let you perform real life useful tasks on your phones and tablets and they’re compatible with the vast majority of modern devices.
Yes there’s some video editing software for Windows phone, but it doesn’t give you anything like the control and layer options like Kinemaster.
Fundamentally, the scale of the markets for Android and iOS mean it’s worth developers sitting down and making software because hundreds of millions of potential users are out there. iOS represents around 12 per cent of the global smartphone market and Android makes up about 87 per cent That means that less than 1 per cent of all of the phones out there are Windows Phones. The result is that a developer’s entrepreneurial spirit is going to be far better positioned in Xcode or Android Studio than it is making software for a relatively tiny market.
Beware Windows phones
The trouble is that like the rest of us, IT are squeezed too. They need to do more with less like the rest of us and so Windows Phones represent a way to deploy and manage devices in familiar ways with recognisable security features.
The problem here is that the longer this goes on happening, the steeper the inevitable transition will be when your organisation or business has to move over to either of the dominant ecosystems. My advice is to get on the bandwagon now, at a time of your choosing, before you’re forced into a decision for all the wrong reasons. Microsoft already aren’t even supporting Windows Phone for some of their own products!
Plus, Android and iOS have really risen to the challenge of enterprise. Remote management, erase, lock, certification - it’s all there for IT teams to keep things in check.
But the real reason to get over to the dominant OS’s though aren’t the negatives of Windows Phone - it’s the benefits of the others: hardware and accessories that are developing at an amazing pace. 64bit phones with 8gb of ram, 4K cameras and UHD displays. Killer hardware running killer apps. Software that lets you do with a finger the kinds of things that you could only do with teams of people and towers of hardware infrastructure even post iPhone - at the start of this decade even.
I learned to edit on a Windows PC, an Intel Pentium II with 64mb of ram. It taught me a lot about working cleverly and balancing performance against cost. At the same sort of time as these independent exploits, my Maths teacher was driven to tell me on a weekly basis that I needed to learn my times tables off by heart because I wouldn’t always have a calculator with me.
That’s obviously not where we are today and I think it’s a safe bet to say that it’s only going to keep happening. Convergence - more and more functions in that one device in your pocket. All I can suggest is that you make the device in your pocket one that isn’t limited by the ecosystem it belongs to.
Google Pixel: the smartphone to have in 2017
My 100 per cent rubber stamped recommendation for a phone for use in 2017? Google Pixel. One of the best cameras in a smart phone ever, running an up to date OS, with good security options and all the apps you need to get things done… But, maybe wait a few months if you can because there’s probably going to be a Pixel 2 by Q4. That should give you just enough time to butter up the folks in IT to let you have one!
Steven Davies is creative director of filmcafe and co-delivers comms2point0 video skills workshops.
Picture credit: Atlas Coillection / Flickr.