Digitally Lead: Graphite’s September Roundup
7 mins read
Published on Wednesday 28th September 2016
In what seems like the natural next step in Snapchat’s worldwide takeover, they’ve surprise-dropped their first wearable. They’ve even given themselves an ominous, Bond villain-esque new name Snap Inc. to release the Spectacles. They’ll allow wearers to capture 10-30 seconds of footage straight from their eyeline and upload straight to their Snapchat Story or to their Camera Roll. Available in Coral, Teal or Black, the success of the glasses is inextricably tied to how much young people latch onto them, but at 1/10th of the price of Google Glass, Snapchat obviously had this top of the list in their board meetings. Where Google’s effort felt like a clunky effort to do too much at once, the Spectacles might just succeed in their low-stakes simplicity.
iPhone 7 Announced
Arguably the biggest conversation starter both in the office and the world alike was the unveiling of the latest iPhone. It’s waterproof! It’s got amazing battery life! It shoots lasers! (That last one may or may not be based on fact) The biggest uproar came from Apple’s bold move to remove the 3.5mm headphone connection leaving only the Lightning port. This was met with outcry from nostalgists ranging from bleary eyed eulogies to drilling actual holes in their phones. Aside from the fact that you can’t charge your phone and have wired headphones plugged in simultaneously (how much do you do that anyway?) we think it’s a brave leap into a new direction, one that few others but Apple could carry off. The arrival of AirPods next month will be the real weather vane as to the fate of the 3.5mm headphones but from this writer, I’m bidding a solemn but understanding Farewell.
iOS10 iMessage Apps
Of course, while we wait for the new iPhone the rest of us upgraded to iOS10 for a taste of what’s to come. There was a lot to get through from a control centre redesign to improvements to Maps and Music and a questionable unlocking alteration. However the most interesting moves came in iMessage with a whole host of integrated apps. Send money instantly with Square Cash, lead your friends to you with CityMapper and make your response witty and #relatable with GIF Keyboard. This is all interesting as Apple have long been in competition with the increasingly omnipotent Whatsapp and this latest update seems to finally bring it closer to matching its rival. Also you can send little drawings to your friends through it so, you know…that’s cool.
Google Showcase Shopping Ads
Google launched it’s Showcase Shopping ads, allowing brands to capitalise on non-brand, generic search terms (sunglasses, party dress) which apparently make up a large 40% of shopping search terms. The searcher will be presented with a series of images at the top of the results page and clicking on one will bring up a catalogue-style page hosted on Google. The brand pays each time a user clicks through to a specific product. This was timed well for the Christmas rush which we’ll inevitably begin tumbling down now that the sunshine is starting to wane, and it feels like something that will genuinely make the user experience smoother and easier rather than just herding you with intrusive advertisements.
New Lush App
Lush showed us how a successful high street brand’s app should look this month as theirs was launched to great praise. A triumph in UI, it really demonstrated how a brand can build on the reputation they have offline, and bring it seamlessly into digital. Utilising vibrant textures and imagery while thinking outside the box with their categorisation (Calm/Energised, anyone?) sets them apart from other cosmetic brands and carries on their distinct character into the app. They’ve also utilised location features effortlessly and even built in an editorial section to extend their reputation as forerunners for ethical produce. Bravo, Lush.
Hot on the heels of Deliveroo’s fancy new rebrand, Amazon Prime offers London customers a one-hour delivery service. If you’re in the right postcode in the capital you can get food from places as varied as Strada to Planet Hollywood direct to your door. This follows UberEats’ launch just 3 months ago and is the latest in the big restaurant-delivery plays for dominance. But with Amazon Dash and Amazon Fresh both making an impact too, surely the shopping giants will this particular arms race – time will tell. People will always be lazy in the week, hungover at the weekend; we can’t see this trend slowing down. One thing is for sure, Amazon Restaurants are going to have to make some key hires if they’re ever going to beat this particular Deliveroo hero.
Spotify and Tinder Partner
Another trend that seems here to stay is the dating app, with Tinder still indisputably wearing the crown. But in a big move this month they partnered with music streaming giants Spotify to allow online-daters to incorporate a Tinder Anthem to their profile. Launching with a baffling promo video – which doesn’t show anyone actually using the new function – this will no doubt alienate the uninitiated even further. But as anyone who has dipped their toe in this particular pond will tell you – if a poor taste in music turns you off then this could save you a very awkward first date when they tell you how much they love Little Mix after a few drinks. However, this sparked a great conversation as to the most repulsive song title you could choose for your profile. For my money it’s got to be that song by The Prodigy.
First song to be written by AI
While we’re talking about music, we’ll round off this month’s post with something a little haunting. Scientists at Sony CSL Research Laboratory used their Flow Machine software to have an AI scan through over 13,000 basic melody scores from different genres around the world in order to emulate a given style a produce an original piece. The song below is apparently in the style of The Beatles and was produced and had lyrics written by French composer Benoît Carré. Responses have ranged from “a dire warning to humanity” to “pretty good, actually” but we’re veering more to the former as we try desperately to battle our creeping sense of Uncanny Valley in order to focus on the celebration of technological advancements. It’s catchy anyway…