Fitbit vs. Apple Watch or Solution vs. Platform

Beginning of December market research company IDC released their market numbers for smartwatches and fitness devices (the summarize is as wearables) with fitbit leading the pack with a strong 23% while the Apple Watch only makes it to place 4 with 4.9% (here)

I found this quite surprising, but can now add a personal view to it.

For the last year I have been wearing and using a fitbit charge HR – as a fitness tracking device and to a lesser extent as a watch. The watch functionality is really very limited, especially as I switched off the “switch on by turning your wrist“-feature. I find this very annoying in the night and I don’t like switching off the feature every night. Also because it can not be done on the device, but requires syncing with the phone. Maybe someone could put a feature request in to sync the feature with the sleep detection. The major drawback of the fitbit, however, is that it looks pretty ugly.

But for some time I also wanted to try out the Apple Watch. Mainly because it is a nicer „watch“ combined with a different flavor of fitness device. So now I have been wearing an Apple Watch for a few weeks. And I have to say the experience is somewhat disappointing.

On the positive side, I still have the “turn on by turning your wrist“ feature switched off, but it is way easier to tap on the Apple Watch screen to get the time then on the small “screen” of the fitbit. Although admittedly the new fitbit charge 2 has a bigger display and I have not tried the fitbit Blaze.

The largest disappointment, however, was the fitness and health functionality. Especially as this has been the major taling point for apple through several keynotes. On the fitbit you have the watch and a single app that compiles all the information into one simple screen. At least the information I am mainly looking at: heart rate – across the day, sleeping pattern and training sessions and the floors I climbed. The fitbit automatically detects training sessions and detects sleep and sleep pattern with surprising accuracy. And the fitbit app also serves as the main configuration tool for your device. On the Apple Watch you are first left with 3 different places to configure the fitness functionality: the watch itself, the watch app on your phone and the health app. Very confusing and difficult to understand which part is configured where. The health app itself only provides a very limited functionality in itself and relies on other applications to provide additional data.

The first thing I looked at was sleep tracking. Enthusiastically I invested money in 2 apps only to find that they do not automatically detect sleep, but I have to explicitly start them or indicate that I start sleeping (as said the fitbit detects this automatically and reliable, even for the short power nap after lunch :-).

The next thing that my fitbit did automatically was detecting floors I walked up. My combination of Apple Watch and iPhone does not do this, but the Health app only receives data from the iPhone, i.e. when leaving the iPhone at the desk the stairs I climb are not counted. Maybe this is a configuration topic, but going back to the previous point I have not managed to do this appropriately.While the heart rate monitoring is provided automatically the information value of the provided graphic is rather limited.

And overall the Health app looks very overloaded and lacks nice, simple look of the fitbit app. For example the introduction videos in each section of the Health app are very much out of place within the app.
But through all this I came to the conclusion that Apple Watch and fitbit have a fundamentally different approach to smartwatches and fitness tracking. While fitbit provides a complete solution with a well thought trough application to accompany all the functionality of the fitness device, the Apple Watch is just a platform or framework for creating an ecosystem of many different applications. This is inline with the experience and approach Apple has used for the iPhone and is also now trying in the Apple TV and tvOS.

However, in todays implementation this leaves the user with a lot of cracks in the user experience and way less satisfying than comparable fitness devices. I also understand that the capabilities of the Apple Watch are way beyond what today’s fitness devices can deliver and there are probably also battery considerations that make some solutions not feasible, but I don’t see any technical reason why you can not create a seamless health and fitness user experience on the Apple Watch. It appears that Apple tried to achieve too much with their first release of the OS and app (well actually the third by now)

Maybe I will learn to love my Apple Watch the same way I do my fitbit (which now gets to rest for a while).

One card to rule them all

When we did the Design Thinking exercise last year this was what I was looking for. Startup Coin has created credit card sized gadget that consolidates a number of credit cards and makes them usable in the normal way. You can select which card it should be and then swipe it as any normal card.

Very cool – and a very cool website (just scroll down)

IxDA Munich: Holistic User Experience

We had a great IxDA Munich event tonight hosted by designaffairs in their new office. Claude Toussaint presented designaffairs concept and approach to Holistic User Experience (HUX)

Designaffairs has identified 21 factors that are important for product design. But using the standard Marketing approach and asking customers which factors they value as most important, the normal result is that all factors are clustered very closely together in their rating. So the questions is how to determine the factors that are unconsciously really driving product decisions.

Instead of asking the customer about what they think is important they turn around and ask them about their existing product. The products performance against the 21 factors is evaluated. They then use a multi-regression analysis to identify the importance of the different factors.

This approach enables them to have a qualified analysis on what factors are important for customers. One example they did was evaluating washing machines in the USA. It turned out that the brand is not an important factor in the purchasing decision. And in the design process the collected information is used to prioritize investment decision.

It was very interesting to see an analytic approach to evaluate customer needs, requirements and preferences. Although this approach is not suited to evaluate innovations because it only works with products already established in the market it sounded like an excellent basis for any design project. With an adaptation of the relevant factors it could also be used for service or digital product design.

Design Thinking: The Wallet and Mastercard

Mastercard announced to release a next generation display card in Singapore. The interactive payment card has a built-in display and touch sensitive buttons.

This plays very well with two design thinking activities I had during this summer.

The Xing Design Thinking Group Munich had a great event in July at the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship

Florian Huber, who is managing the ape program at the SCE gave a very interesting introduction and then it was do-it-yourself. We all did a practical Design Thinking exercise in redesigning the wallet. In pairs we reflected on, i.e. tried to understand, customer needs and requirements for the wallet before we started the design and prototyping work. A lot of fun with pizza and beer

And then on August 1st, Daniel Bartels transformed combinat56 coworking space into a Design Thinking lab. He gave an introduction into Design Thinking before again everybody jumped into the Redesign-the-Wallet exercise.

Besides the great introductions into Design Thinking, doing the same exercise – redesigning the wallet – with a different partner in a different setup was a very special experience. Each round brought great insight, but very different solutions and designs.

But now coming back to the Mastercard initiative. The last design was based on the idea that the main purpose of the wallet today is to carry different cards (credit cards, payment cards, passports, driver license) around. So why not combine all those into a single multi-purpose card and make that the key component of the next generation wallet. The same form factor as today’s credit cards, hosting a programmable magnetic stripe and embedded chip that can emulate any other real credit card. And a screen to manage the different identities of the card as well as to display other information, like pictures.  Additionally there would be a programming device that would copy all the other cards into this single multi-purpose card. Not sure about the technical feasibility of the design, but it sounded like a pretty cool device.

Why would this be better than a smartphone with NFC and the corresponding wallet application. Well as long as the credit card is the form factor that works at any point of sales it is just easier to have something that behaves as a credit card with the flexibility of a smart device.

Maybe Mastercard just released version 1.0 of our wallet design.

The Tale of Two Designs / Cities (Bus vs. Cab)

Just coming back from a trip to London with its shiny new busses I was reminded of an article I read in a local newspaper (sorry no link available) recently about the design of the new New York cab or the Taxi of Tomorrow as it is called (see here).

The article (as well as this report in Metropolis Mag on the unveiling of the new taxi)  stressed that the needs and wishes of taxi drivers and passengers have been put above the aesthetic appearance. And thus creating a car that misses the iconic presence of it’s predecessors of the Ford Crown Victoria or the Checker cab.

Now compare this to the redesign of the London Transport Bus, replacing the aging and no longer manufactured Roadmaster double-decker bus.  The design was driven by renowned Heatherwick design studio. And while it was faced with similar design criteria, like fuel efficiency, ease of access, etc. as their New York counterparts, they managed to not only come up with a functionally appealing concept,  they also created a beautiful design.

Here lies the great art of design. Combining the needs and wishes of users with an aesthetically appealing form.

Campus Party 2012 Berlin: Fail Spectacularly

Really great talk by Jamie Finn of Telefonica/O2 at the Campus Party 2012 in Berlin describing his experiences with failing applications and how to turn them into a success. He also describes their use of A.D.S – the Application Definition Statement – to focus and prioritize application features.

… and then fail quickly and often to arrive at the product (application or service) that the users want.

Creative Process: Early use of examples improves output

An interesting, scientific study published by Stanford University suggests that using examples (i.e. copy prior work) early on in the creative design process improves the creativity of the output. The emphasis here is on, early in the process. Using prototypes and repeated look at examples improved the output even further. However, using examples also increased the conformity of the output.

 Also interesting considering the outcome of the Apple vs. Samsung case.

What’s your design approach ?

Playful, designful or crowdsourcing ?

Ok, here is some background to the question. It was triggered by a number of conversations I had during the last weeks.

It all started with an interesting presentation at the “Unternehmer Live” series at the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship by Philipp Karmires, who is New Business Development Manager at Google in Munich. He presented the design philosophy at Google. (See a similar presentation he gave at Creative Innovation Summit 2012)

At Google 20% of time spend on projects out of the daily work and some innovation rules, create a playful environment to try things out with the assumption that at some point something important will arise. Recent examples are Google Goggles and the Driver-less car.

So this is the playful design approach. Let many smart people in small projects try something out and eventually something great will happen.

In parallel the new book by Ken Segall: “Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success” gives some insight into Apple’s design philosophy around “small teams of smart people”. Designing the end-user experience from end-to-end with a small team – no focus group research – has created some of the coolest and market-changing or rather market-defining products in the last decades.

Obviously the designful approach, with a small and focused team designing the complete product and user experience also works successfully.

These 2 approaches very much focus on small teams of smart people, but as an additional dot to connect to here, I was at an interesting event organized by Lithium, maker of a community and social media platform enabling companies to create brand followers and communities.

One of their key examples of community driven product design – and one that is very close to my daily work – is UK-based Mobile Operator giffgaff. They did not start with launching a service, but with launching a community platform that allows potential future users to define their tariffs and products. Once they had this defined, they started operating their services. Fully outsourcing the product definition to users.

Crowdsourcing product design and innovation seems to become more popular across industries and proves to have some merits.

I don’t have a clear answer on which approach is better, because for all there are successful examples. It also very much depends on available resources, market and industry. Especially interesting for me is to understand,  how these approaches work in the Business-to-Business (B2B) space.

So now back to the questions: what’s your design approach?
(and how does all this relate to Design Thinking ?)