Back to Basics

About a week ago, Apple released a physical book – “Designed by Apple in California” – to the public for the cool price of $300. The book is dedicated to Steve Jobs and explores 20 years of Apple design.

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Apple’s newest innovation – the book.

What I find fascinating about this book is that Apple – one of the tech giants that really set forth the digital and mobile revolution – decided to publish this manifesto in the form of a heavy book instead of an app or a video.

Though photo printing and coffee books have been around for quite some time now, there’s been a revitalization of print. In fact, it could even be considered a glorification of print.

Artifact Uprising is an example of a company that’s capitalizing on this print renaissance. With their services, you can get your Instagram photos printed individually on matte-finish paper or create a softcover photo book for your coffee table. Photo books from my childhood always seemed a little tacky and cheesy – they were also only one of few ways we could keep and share photos. Now that there are so many platforms on which to share photos – the majority of them being free – we have plenty of choice in the digital space. But there’s something to be said for a beautiful photo book filled with your own curated photos that will live on even when there’s no wifi or outlet.

Like Apple’s new book, seasonal magazines that are en vogue such as Cereal, Kinfolk and Drift are definitely pricier than the average magazine, but they’ve become akin to status symbols. Complete with stunning photos and plenty of delicious white space, these magazines are more art than content at times. If you were worried that print would vanish soon, make no mistake – the sexiness of print is here to stay.

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Magazines – the ultimate… accessory?

And on the flipside of that – though we have Evernote, OneNote, Wunderlist and so on and so forth, we simply remember information better if we write it down. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of glamorized analog is RIFLE PAPER Co., a charming stationary brand that sells calendars, notebooks, planners and much more. Sure, I could buy a 50 cent notebook from Staples… but getting to open a cloth-bound, copper-foiled planner every day for the next year sends chills of excitement down my spine.

Then there’s the resurgence of physical “pens” and “pencils” for digital products. FiftyThree sells $30 “pencils,” and Microsoft and Apple have been duking it out in terms of who has the better “pen”.

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The prettiest planners you ever did see.

 

Amazon had initially made books more consumable, and still do. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is hard to say. These days, buying a book is as easy as two clicks of a mouse – nothing particularly rejuvenating. In fact, the discovery of the Japanese word tsundoku – the act of stockpiling books never consumed – was a hit among popular media recently. It’s just another testament to how much we take buying books for granted.

Before Amazon, you probably went to Barnes and Nobles and embarked on a mini-scavenger hunt looking for books and stumbling upon others along the way. But the book shopping experience is long from forgotten. There’s been a resurgence of independent bookstores, bringing back dusty bookshelves and bargain book finds.

Amidst all of this rambling, I think what I’m trying to say is that there will still be a place for books, stationary, pencils and erasers in many of our wired hearts. Yes, there are many who are full-blown digital and are completely plugged in with smartwatches, Kindles, iPhones and all. But when the portable battery runs out of juice, will you then lunge for a book? When your computer is malfunctioning during a lecture, will you go through your backpack, searching for your paper and pencil?

Whether you’re drooling over the recent issue of Drift or caught up in an unexpectedly good dollar novel, keep it up. Continue to support print in any form. Maybe even check out a couple of books from your local library if you want to take it a step further – bonus points for using the Dewey Decimal System.

Update:

Other resources I’ve found a couple of days after I posted this…

People are falling in love with a simple productivity system that just uses pen and paper
http://qz.com/701309/people-are-falling-in-love-with-a-simple-productivity-system-that-just-uses-pen-and-paper/ 

Nothing can kill our love of books, not even e-readers
http://qz.com/829076/nothing-can-kill-our-love-of-books-not-even-e-readers/

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The Case for Wrist Wearables

I remember when Pebble first came out on Kickstarter. I didn’t really know why I would need so many extra features on a watch, but I knew one thing for sure: I had to have it.

However, since I was in college at the time and pinching pennies, I ended up not getting one. But perhaps it was for the best. Though Pebble might have killed it on Kickstarter, it wasn’t a formidable company compared to the likes that started joining in on the smartwatch fun. Soon, and predictably enough, Samsung, Motorola, Sony and – of course – Apple came out with their own versions.

Pebble didn’t give up even with the addition of these new competitors. They still had the advantage of being the scrappy trailblazers – the startup that was ahead of the game and identified something that people really wanted before the tech giants did. But it wouldn’t be accurate to say that they’ve had tremendous success with their business so far.

But as we’ve seen since Pebble’s debut, smartwatches and general “wrist wearables” – wearables that primarily go on wrists – still haven’t been proven to be nearly as groundbreaking as personal computers, smartphones or, these days, the other kind of wearables – headsets for AR/VR.

Breaking down wrist wearables, we have two categories:

  • Long-term wrist wearables
  • Short-term wrist wearables

Long-term wrist wearables are those that are meant to be worn over a long period of time, usually daily. These wearables include smartwatches and activity trackers (i.e. Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone, etc.).

Short-term wrist wearables are those that are meant to be worn during certain occasions or events. These wearables include first-party wearables (e.g. Disney’s MagicBands) and third-party wearables (e.g. PixMob).

Long-term wrist wearables are obviously much more of an investment. Companies like Fitbit and Apple have partnered with high-fashion brands to position them as luxury items, hoping to make these wearables more desirable.
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Despite all of the hype, long-term wrist wearables have (so far) only accomplished: 1) Tracking and collecting data for activity and 2) Bringing some smartphone capabilities – literally – at your fingertips.  The former purpose is more helpful and seems to be stickier with users. Yet, it’s still not as effortless as it could be. There’s still manual syncing involved, and if there are syncing-related bugs in a new version of iOS or Android – users will abandon the wearable in droves. Not to mention, there’s the added hassle of charging all of the time.

I’ve owned a Fitbit, Jawbone and Microsoft Band at different times, and have worn them exclusively. I’d be optimistic at first about keeping track of my activity or hitting 10,000 steps daily. But gradually, I’d grow apathetic, leaving my house for a run without a wearable because I stopped caring or I had forgotten to charge it. Of course, this apathy could stem from the fact that I’m not a hardcore athlete looking to improve mile times.

Short-term wrist wearables, on the other hand, seem to do a good job of satisfying my short millennial attention span. I’ve been seeing PixMob wristbands more and more at events like concerts and conferences. They don’t require much effort on the user’s end since event staff is usually coordinating the wristbands – plus, they have pretty colors.

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Though I haven’t personally used a Disney MagicBand before, I’ve heard great things about the experience. Like PixMob wristbands, MagicBands do all of the work behind the scenes – WIRED has a great article on the technology. For instance, Disney characters will already know visitors’ names and where they’re coming from based on data that the band stores.

Despite the fact that short-term smart wrist wearables had a slightly later start than long-term  wrist wearables, I think they are proving to be more exciting. When long-term wrist wearables get to the point of syncing effortlessly with devices and doing more of the “magical” things that short-term wrist wearables are accomplishing… perhaps I’ll change my mind.

The most ironic part about all of this that you didn’t see coming? With all of this talk about wearables, I’ve been typing this blog wearing the simplest one of all – a $10 Casio Analog Watch I bought from Amazon.

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As a non-expert on wearables, I probably missed some details and would love to hear about your experiences with long-term vs short-term wrist wearables. Do you see any up-and-coming players in the space to watch for? Any companies doing extraordinary things with wrist wearables? I want to hear from you!

Update: Pretty cool – MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research worked together to come up with this new connected temporary tattoo.

No-Pants Fine Dining: The Seattle On-Demand Food Scene

During my first few weeks in Seattle, meals were more of a headache than they were happy occasions. At that time, I didn’t have much cookware in my apartment and I didn’t have many friends yet to go out and eat with.

Instead of moping around and eating canned corn and peas for dinner every night, I decided to turn mealtimes into opportunities. I set out to try each and every on-demand food service in Seattle.

Hand-in-hand with my lack of meal options was also my lack of local startup knowledge. Having been in Los Angeles for over four years, listing the local startups there became second-nature.

I hardly knew about Seattle tech at the time, and trying these on-demand food services would, at least, serve as my foray into this community.

Lish

I started with Lish, having seen some ads for it in my Twitter feed once I moved up here. I also had a promo code for $5 off, so I gave it a shot.

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Received a free cookie and a handwritten note from my first order.

Lish is only available in Seattle which I think is pretty cool. Their niche in this space is something along the lines of “like having your own personal chef.” The order window is up until 7 pm, and all ingredients in these dishes are local.

I like the the concept a lot, and they have a great menu that caters to all sorts of different tastes. On any given day, you could have a menu that has everything from Louisiana Jumbalaya to Gnocchi Bolognese.

The only catch for me? It gets pricey, with entrees ranging from $12 to $16. But with local ingredients, the price is somewhat justified.

Munchery

I’ve always been curious about Munchery. I decided to do some research one afternoon to see if it was available in Seattle, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was.

I received $10 off just by joining, and could get an additional $10 off for each friend I referred.

At first glance, I was already won over by the design of Munchery’s app. Simple and beautiful. Even the daily specials looked that much better because of aesthetics. I decided to order their Miso-Glazed Salmon with Soba.

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The meal didn’t come as pictured above, but it tasted just as good as it looks here.

It can be a little difficult to track when something will arrive from Munchery. Like most of these apps, you get texts when food will arrive soon. But without any accurate live-tracking, the ETA on the screen isn’t always 100% reliable.

Regardless, it’s only a minor inconvenience and very minor since the food is just SO good. I did not expect such quality from what I ordered. Since then, I’ve continued to order from time to time, and haven’t been let down once – portions are always just enough, and the food is always very tasty.

Munchery is more generous with its discounts than other on-demand food services in Seattle and prices are reasonable too.

Want to give Munchery a shot? Use the Promo code: JCGD34A3

Peach

Founded by three former Amazon employees, Peach is a lunch-delivery service that is only available depending on where you work.

Let’s say you work at Microsoft. If you’ve signed up for Peach via SMS, you’ll receive a text in the morning with the daily special. To order, all you need to do is text back “YES” and you’ll get lunch from your receptionist.

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Peach is bae.

It’s that easy – and it’s ingenious.  Your first lunch is $5, and any referrals will get you more $5 lunches.

How’s the food quality? Really good. Meals come with silverware and are packaged tightly and neatly. The restaurant choices that Peach offers are also well-curated. After redeeming the discount price, meals tend to range between $9 and $11, which is more than decent.

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My fresh and beautiful poke lunch.

Work in Seattle or San Diego? Redeem a $5 lunch here.

UberEATS

I unfortunately had a bit of a subpar experience with UberEATS. To start, the interface is a little confusing. Even in UberEATS mode, the app still looks as if you were about to order an Uber – except for the pull-up menu at the bottom.

I also had a discount code which I thought had applied and gone through – however via email, I was told the feature was buggy and that it did not work.

I had ordered a stew, which I knew wouldn’t look like how it was pictured in the app…

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Looks hearty, indeed!

… But it didn’t really even resemble the photo.

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Hmm…

Nevertheless, the taste was fine which made up for the ordering experience. I would say the options given daily are so-so. The restaurant choices are good, but they don’t always offer the items I would order.

Amazon PrimeNow

When in Seattle – use Amazon PrimeNow for food! The day before I was leaving for the holidays, I realized I didn’t have any food in my fridge. So I opted for PrimeNow, where I could scroll through the partner restaurants and select the available items I wanted.

Even though Prime can be pricey, I will admit that the experience is really good. Real-time tracking is very accurate and the food is hot – we are, after all, talking about THE leader in shipping and e-commerce. I was definitely pleased with the experience.

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The black box was added in afterwards – sorry, Internet.

BiteSquad

After seeing a couple of BiteSquad cars from time to time, I got curious enough to see what BiteSquad was all about. Being completely honest, I didn’t really see the difference between BiteSquad, UberEATS, PrimeNow or any of the other delivery services besides the fact that 1) BiteSquad is more “transparent” with its ordering and delivery process and 2) those cars.

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Get live updates about your food!

BiteSquad probably has the biggest selection of restaurants to choose from out of all of the services. The delivery is either free or is a small fee depending on where you’re ordering from.

Prices are reasonable through BiteSquad, and I definitely enjoy the live updates – I can time things perfectly if I’m coming out a meeting.

If you’re hungry and you’re reading this, you shouldn’t have any problem getting food now. Did I miss any other services? Other non-Seattle services that are worth mentioning? Let me know!