CloudMagic is now Newton

So the email app CloudMagic has just become Newton, expanded its functionality and at the same time dropped into a premium priced product at up to £40 per year. And lost me (and many others I fear) as customers and users.

CloudMagic has been my go to email client for a while now. Beautiful design. Flexible and powerful functionality. IMAP support. Lots of quick time saving functions. And works on iOS and Android alike.

So to go premium will cost me £90pa (fees for iPad and Android).

And as I can get everything that Newton does for free via Spark on the iPad, that’s where I’m headed.

I believe in paying for products that work and for buying into tools that I value. But the jump from free to £40 for an app when the marketplace supports free apps that do the same and paid apps that do most of the same for a fraction of the price was always going to be a challenge. We need to understand better what we expect for free and what we need to pay for. But providers also need to think carefully about user loyalty and price points before jumping in.

Goodbye CloudMagic (sadly). Hello Spark. I’ll be watching Newton keenly over the months to see how their pricing strategy works.

[update: hats off to CloudMagic for reacting to user feedback quickly by following up and explaining via email what they are up to. Nice to be kept in the loop, but no changes to the pricing strategy (which will probably keep them afloat in the long run, but might drop them off some customers short term.

Good customer service makes up for technical errors

A technical problem with Spotify nearly had me cancelling this week. But after 24 hours their customer support came to my help via email, sorted my problem extremely efficiently and politely, made me happy and kept me as a customer.

Via the Spotify website I swapped from a monthly card payment to PayPal only to discover soon after that I’d been charged twice but had also lost my Premium ability on all the devices I was running Spotify on. Out of pocket with no service of value.

Help pages, customer support contact form and a number of email exchanges later and everything working again and my double payment credited.

We/you are always going to have problems with your service or product. But if you put the right customer service in place then you’ll go a long way to making your customers more tolerant of those faults.

Well done Spotify. Not for the problem in the first place (you still need to fix that). But because of the way you dealt with the issue and kept me as a customer.

OneDrive is letting Microsoft down

Mostly OneDrive and the Office 365 suite are great. I use them on my windowsphone, on my PC and on my iPad. And with Office 365 Home I even get 1Tb storage on OneDrive for all my backups and piece of mind.

But file editing synchronisation in OneDrive/Word etc sucks. I’m ending up with a range of duplicate documents as I move between platforms. Work on a Word document on a PC, swap to an iPad and it can’t handle the editing conflicts and handoffs between devices, so you need to create a duplicate just to continue editing.

Perhaps you might live with this (and I do), but it must be faintly embarrassing for Microsoft to not manage this when the younger upstart Google makes this totally seamless and functional. Move between devices in Google Drive/Docs and you’ll never even notice – editing and handoff just works. So if they can do it, surely Microsoft could get this right?

I still like the Microsoft suite – because it works for the way I work – but please Microsoft, get some of the basics right before you make things prettier.

Needing a grant to meet a need

Today I manage to send off a funding application for a mobile App we’d like to build.

We know there’s a need. We know what we want to do, how to do it and that if we do, there will be a real impact. We know that we’re able to do this well.

The frustration is that we need to apply for funding in the first place. Without it, we can’t allocate the time and resources ‘on a whim’ to be able to make a difference. So we have to cross our fingers instead that the funding will appear (obviously we have to earn the right to be funded too).

Another frustration is the way funding can work. I can describe many layers of the problem and initiative we want to define. Yet the first stage application gives us 100 or 150 words here or there on a couple of questions in which we are supposed to paint a complete picture of what is needed and what we can offer. It’s understandable, and the second round (if successful) will be more in depth and allow for these details to come out. But it’s a frustration I’ve had time and time again over the years – not even having a full ‘elevator pitch’ in which to ‘get a foot in the door’.

But ultimately the frustration is that the good work we/others try to do doesn’t ever get to happen because of the difficulties in the funding model. I wish it were in some way different.

So I’m pleased with what we’ve submitted and we’ll be crossing our fingers.

But it’s also a reminder to keep looking out for funding models that might work – grants might not be the only way. Crowdfunded app anyone?

Elections, change and taking matters into our own hands

It’s Election Day today. And when all the counting and talking and dealing is done, we’ll have a new(ish) government who’ll have a new set of ideas about how the country should be run.

But in the meantime, we’ll keep on working and going about our lives, the world will keep on turning, and for communities and non-profit organisations (such as VANEL) we’ll still be looking to solve the same issues and provide the same sorts of support for a while yet.

So really it still seems that it’s up to us to decide how to support our local communities – rather than waiting for government on high to come up with ideas.

And in thinking that I’ve just been reading an open letter from Stuart Etherington (Chief Executive, NCVO) which explores this exact issue and proposes that we (the non-profit and community sector) take the issues into our own hands and decide our own future and destiny.

You can read his letter here (and as .pdf here).

So tomorrow is another day, and hopefully tomorrow I (and you) will still be doing something that’s helpful to our communities.

Election day is just marking a change for now. There will be another one along soon!

Right first time? No.

I bought into the new Microsoft Lumia 535 when first released.  And I encountered the same things that all reviewers did (perhaps I should have taken heed).  The screen response was awful (beyond awful – adversely affecting usability).

A well specified device at a good price point essentially ruined.  

My Lumia 535 now works just fine. A few months and a number of significant (but quietly rolled out) O/S updates later and all the screen horrors seems to have gone.  The phone is useable again.  Thank you Microsoft.

But I wonder how many purchasers a) are still stuck without a working phone because they haven’t updated and so are at a disadvantage, b) have decided that Microsoft can’t release a working product, or that Lumia devices are rubbish, or that Windows 8.1 is awful, and therefore perhaps will never touch or recommend one of these devices ever again?

I only stuck with it because of my technical understanding and belief that Microsoft would get it right eventually.  But it’s an awful way to release a product and treat new or existing customers.

If they could fix it eventually on something so fundamental as a piece of hardware they created, then they should have fixed it before release.  Hopefully someone at Microsoft has learned some hard lessons over this, but it’s also a lesson for consumers.  Don’t these days expect any tech device to work straight from the starting gate (iOS 8 users know this right?) – but perhaps be patient.

Oh, and the Lumia 535 is currently/now quite a nice device!

I’m not excited by the Apple Watch (yet?)

It’s a significant week this week – Apple launches the Watch. And yet… It’s probably the first product coming out of Cupertino that I can’t get excited about.

And I’m trying to work out why.

I love and need watches. I can’t live without one on my wrist. I love classic watch designs, and mechanical watches are complete marvels. I love tech too.  But I guess there has to be a need for technology for me, and I’ve yet to see that in Watch. 

No matter how good it looks or how well it works, it will quickly, over a couple of years, become out of date and need replacing or will revert back to doing the most basic of functions only (as the apps get cleverer and more reliant on tech from a few years hence). My original iPhone went the same way.  Still works as it always did, but apps moved on until nothing new or extra or useful could sit on it and add to its basic functions – so it sits in a drawer.

I can still pick up a Quartz watch from 30 years ago and it will give 100% of the functionality and design that it had then.  A mechanical watch from 50 years ago should still be going strong.

Will someone pick up a 2015 edition Apple Watch in 2035 and still wear it with full 2035 useful functionality? Or will it just tell the time?

So thanks Apple for continuing to innovate and for raising the game on this niche tech market.  But I’m strangely uninterested for now.  But I’ll keep watching…