My husband got an iPad mini for Christmas. Or, OK, to put it another way, I bought my husband an iPad mini for Christmas. Yes, it was a vicarious purchase.
A friend had been extolling the virtues of the iPad mini. It's lighter, you can hold it in one hand and you don't notice the smaller screen size. My friend claimed to have swapped his iPad3 for an iPad mini. So I was intrigued - could the iPad Mini really be that much better?
I've always been a great one for efficiency and utilisation (squeezing out the last of the toothpaste before buying a new one, for example) and so the first thing that strikes me about the iPad Mini is the opposite of the first thing that struck me about the iPad1. The screen... goes... all the way... to the edge of the iPad!! There's no useless black border round the edge. (Well there is a little bit at the top and bottom, but I can live with that.) Given this, the second thing that strikes you is that the amount of screen real estate really doesn't seem to be that much lower. So far, so good.
The screen resolution of the iPad Mini falls far short of the new iPad (163 compared to 264 pixels per inch) and for hardcore gamers, the iPad2 processor inside the Mini might not react quite as seamlessly. If these aren't your primary concerns the Mini seems to win hands down - plus it's significantly cheaper. Once again Apple has released a tablet that improves upon apparent perfection.
So if you are looking to purchase your first iPad, the Mini seems like a solid bet, but is it worth throwing away a perfectly functioning iPad3? Another of my friends, an academic, recently showed me his Towers of Hanoi-esque pile of Mac products. He'd recently completed the set by buying a Mac Book Pro, which meant that he literally had an Apple product for any occasion. For me the answer to my question is no, I don't see enough (any?) uses for a Mini where I couldn't use my iPad3. But, in addition to making great products, Apple's other strength is creating the kind of fans that my friend is. And for them, perhaps, the answer is yes.
Over the last couple of weeks I've come across two organisations who are aiming to get more use out of the things we own.
Streetbank was set up to bring neighbours together - to foster community and generosity by encouraging people to share their things, skills and time. Trying to combat the trend towards owning more and using it less (Streetbank say that the annual average usage for a household drill is a mere 14 minutes), Streetbank encourages people to post items they would be happy to share with their neighbours from books and DVDs, to electrical equipment and even skills and services. A common trade is language teaching in return for cleaning.
I've always had an aversion to throwing things away, so when on signing up I was given an option of something to rent, a skill or an item to donate, I immediately opted for giving away an overly fluffy wool dress that was waiting for me to take it to a charity shop.
I wasn't sure if I'd get a response, but sure enough a message appeared in my inbox 3 days later from a local lady offering to pick it up. A few emails later and the dress had a new home and I had a heart-warming new message "Thank you so much Zoe, the dress is really beautiful.".
At the other end of the market from my simple wool dress, Anna Bance's Girl Meets Dress has all of the designer offerings you could wish for. Cited as "The answer to your prayers" by Vogue and "Rental's answer to Net-a-Porter" by the Sunday Times, Girl Meets Dress has both found a way to increase utilisation of those wear-once-in-a-lifetime pieces and to make them more affordable.
Anna thinks that the rental model is win-win for consumers and designers, “The ability to wear several different outfits is a definite crowd pleaser. Imagine it: you can wear a bright yellow cocktail dress to dinner tonight and a full-length ball gown for tomorrow night's party. Different crowd, different place, different you. Around 98 per cent of our customers try a new brand they have never worn before in their lives – that is a huge marketing opportunity for designers trying to reach new customers, and the next generation, on a mass scale.”
So if you've got a party to go to, get more chic than usual at girlmeetsdress.com, and if you've got some shelves that need putting up and no drill, head over to www.streetbank.com.
I have to admit that I am completely addicted to my smartphone. When I find it getting close to running out of battery, I start to get a little frantic. Because I use it so much, I can often think of situations that would be better served with an app on my phone - so imagine my joy when I was presented with a life changing app that I hadn't even considered!
Meeting some friends in The Plough on London's Museum Street I found that the triangular cardboard advert had some more exciting news that usual. The Plough were piloting a new app called Orderly, which allows you to choose your drinks from the comfort of your seat and avoid the crush at the bar.
The app is a web app, so you don't need to download anything before you order, and the free wifi in the pub means that it works however strong your signal. Reception amongst my friends was mixed, with some finding it exciting and some prefering to walk to the bar.
Orderly is only on limited release trial at the moment, but Know, who are the digital agency behind it, plan to expand the system in 2013. I see a lot of technological innovations, but this is one of those that I think will be commonplace within a few years.
Managing Director of Softwire, technology and backgammon presenter. Plus a little bit of new music radio.