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My Favorite Products of 2014: From Applications to Gadgets

For the past several years, I have used December to write about my favorite products, digital habits, etc. And here again is my annual list of things I habitually use, love and rely on. There are obviously many, many other great products, apps, tools and gadgets - some fun and others meaningfully important to tech trends... this is simply a list of those things I use each and every day.

Applications, Tools and more...

Nuzzel and Pocket Both of these are new habits in 2014: Nuzzel is a new product and I simply find it to be the most effective and most efficient way to find and consume great content. And while, Pocket has been around, I have found myself using it daily in part because Nuzzel and Pocket work so well together, because Pocket works so well across device and Platform (iOS, Android, MacOS, etc) and because it works offline (great for reading during travel).

Spotify Spotify has been on this list since it launched… and in terms of daily minutes consumed, it is probably my most used product. We use it as a family and it's as much a part of my routine as my kids' (Raffi was our #1 artist of 2014… says a lot, right?). Once you spend the time to set playlists and explore new artists - the switching costs are also very high. I cannot imagine moving my music activity outside of Spotify: not only is it a great experience… it would be a great deal of work.

SportsCenter & WatchESPN Naturally I am a sports nut and am quite biased, but... I use these applications daily. SportsCenter for scores, stats, news and highlights (which has a major update coming in a few weeks) - and I use WatchESPN to watch Duke Football (whether on phone, Apple TV or other connected devices).

sportscenter widget

Overcast, Audible & iTunes Audio Books From Bill Simmons & Grantland to Serial to books on tape - I listen to a lot of audio content. I use: - Overcast for podcasts (like Serial and Bill Simmons) - the SportsCenter App's new On-Air functionality for live ESPN audio (like Mike & Mike and live games) - Audible and iTunes for audio books

Camera+ Gets better and better… Lots of other great options like Litely, but I eventually find myself happily returning to Camera+.

Twitter Notifications and Facebook Groups & Facebook Messenger Writing that Twitter and Facebook are part of my digital life would be rather obvious. So a couple features I now routinely use: - I actively manage and use Twitter Notifications to stay atop of news and content. Examples include getting notifications for @NikeStore (read more here), @BillSimmons, @BenedictEvans, @CNNbrk, and @AdamSchefter. - On Facebook, I use Groups regularly (both on web and now via application). We use it actively at ESPN for in-group communication and sharing. And I use Messenger more and more each month… particularly with friends who I do not regularly SMS with.

facebook groups app

iOS8 Widgets and... iOS8 Extensions - Pocket, Buffer, etc Extensions and Widgets have been a part of android for a while (or the capability) - but with ios8, this functionality opens up so many different use cases for users and app publishers. Pocket, Evernote, Pinterest, SportsCenter, Nuzzel, Wunderlist, Buffer and others suddenly become more routine / daily behaviors for me.

pocket-extensions

Travel Bundle: United, Uber, Passbook, Tripit, HotelTonight I've been on the road quite a bit recently and each of these apps is used with each trip. The United App is totally redone, reliable and integrates nicely with Apple's Passbook. Tript is terrific and I forward plans and confirmation reservations to the plans@tripit email service. Works perfectly. I have also used HotelTonight several times this past year and been pleasantly surprised by how elegant and easy it is… and they answered my biggest ask: the ability to book multiple days ahead.

Health Bundle: MyFitnessPal, Argus, Pedometer+ and Instant Heart Rate by Azumio No rhyme or reason as to how I use each of these together… but 2014 was the year for me where I moved entirely from hardware tracking to software. I use MyFitnessPal for tracking nutrition habits and logging activities. Pedometer+ is the simplest way to view movement (I use their simple iOS8 widget. And I use Argus and Instant Heart Rate to simply monitor and log simple performance during cardio workouts.

Video Bundle: iTunes, Netflix, Watch Disney Junior & Watch Disney Channel, Apple TV Maybe this is more a habit of the kids… but they have amassed quite the library on iTunes and a queue of favorite characters and shows via Disney's Watch apps and Netflix's playlist.

watchdisneyjr

Dropbox On this list year after year… deserves to be on this list more this year than any before - between file management, photo backup, and team collaboration.

Skitch Old reliable. Use it several times each day.

Evernote Skitch's parent company and product - Evernote is also old reliable. They are a great example of platform ubiquity and interface consistency across all of those products. From iOS native application to the MacOS Desktop App - Evernote works seamlessly across all of my devices and the content is readily accessible and editable.

Also of note: Evernote's product marketplace is very unique. The products within are of terrific and surprising quality. The Pfieffer product line is really fantastic.

Mobile Day I wrote about Mobile Day last year and am still shocked by how few people know about it. If you take a lot of phone calls - you'll just love the app. Note: As of this past week, MobileDay has introduced a freemium model for users who place more than 10 calls a month.

Wunderlist I love the interface, shared lists and the new integration into ios8 widgets / extensions. Easy integration with other users (family or teammates) and easy integration via email (simply forward tasks or emails to me@wunderlist.com). I have fiddled with several list / to-do services and this has become my favorite. An ask for 2015: the ability to send tasks from multiple email addresses.

Screenflow & Android Screencast Both excellent tools to capture, share and test product design and functionality. Screenflow allows editing and Android's Native Screencast makes it so, so simple.

Gadgets and Gear and Misc...

iPhone 6+ The size discussion is polarizing for many, but the benefits far outweigh any perceived size inconvenience: - more real estate and new usability formats from developers - bigger and better battery live - amazing, amazing camera (can't be overstated how good it is)

OnePlus I love this Android device. I love the build, the size, the feel. I really like the Cynogen / Android install and the customization opportunities. Really well done. And perhaps most importantly: I love price. Unlocked and 64GB for $349. The price is a game-changer.

Tile Took a little longer to ship than I had hoped - but the product is really well made and the software pairs easily and nicely. I have a Tile on each of my keychains and find myself clumsily having to use the app once a week. Also a great, fun gift.

iPhone & iPad Connection Cables I give several presentations and demos in a given week.... And I almost always prefer to give it as a live demo and off of the actual device. These cables are life savers and I keep a pair (hdmi + dvi) in the office and in my bag.

Bose Wireless Headphones Note: I am NOT an audiophile. I look for comfort, ease, sound, and size.

I bought these bluetooth early in the year and, while other headphones might have better sound quality, I really enjoy them. I really wanted a pair of wireless, bluetooth headphones for travel - and ones that would be comfortable after many hours of usage. The Bose headphones work terrifically. My only critique (but I think newer models are improved) is around battery life.

If you want more research, here are some good comparisons by The Verge and Gizmodo.

NiteIze Gear Ties These things are brilliant and I go through them like candy… simple way to keep your cables organized. With daily use, they last 6-12 months and are an easy add-on to any Amazon order.

Bobo Bars and Raw Revolution Bars I eat the same thing each morning for breakfast: either a Bobo Bar or a Raw Revolution Bar. Both are great (although everyone's tastes are obviously different).

Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee I eat the same thing every morning and I drink a lot (yes, a lot) of coffee. THe new Nespresso Vertuo machine is just terrific. Unlike past generations which only brewed espresso - this now also brews coffee. It's delicious.

Lists from others...

Some related "best of" lists from other sources... what did I miss?

- Mashable: 11 Most Useful Tools of 2014 - The Verge: Best Gadgets of the Year - Cult of Mac: Best Apps of 2014 - Slate: Favorite Apps of 2014 - CNET: Best Products of 2014 - The Verge: This is my Next (a general collection of gadget "best of's") - TheNextWeb: 65 of the Best iOS Apps Launched in 2014

Note: I am an investor in Nuzzel and MyFitnessPal.

A New ESPN.com Is Coming

espn-redesign1 Earlier today, we began to open the doors to a small group of ESPN users for the new, redesigned ESPN.com. It is the first day of our Beta process - a multi-month process in which we will gradually open the doors to more and more fans, continuously test and iterate, and build towards the eventual site launch. Mashable covered the redesign last night (you can read here).

And you can learn more about the redesign and request early access here.

espn-redesign3

Below are some questions and my answers from the Mashable article:

What are the goals for the new ESPN.com?

Simply put, we set out to build a modern ESPN.com that showcases our expansive content (scores, analysis, highlights videos, and games) beautifully and intuitively across all devices and screen sizes. Furthermore, we aimed to create a cohesive aesthetic and experience across the new ESPN.com and our native applications like SportsCenter and Fantasy Football. Over time, you will hopefully notice that our site and our applications feel connected and familiar.

How were those goals translated into the current beta? And how much will that evolve over the next several months, based on user feedback?

Hopefully that vision is are strongly evidenced within the beta site, which is an ever-evolving product experience. Rather than building in wireframes and static files, we have stressed working and living in live, beta-experiences… so we have been using some form of the Beta internally and using it for extensive user-testing and experimentation. That will continue as we now open the beta publicly – the site will change routinely, we will launch and test new product and content experiences, and we will learn from fan feedback and interactions. The Beta site – like the eventual site launch – is an evolving, living organism.

Why did you choose for it to look, feel and function the way it does?

Aesthetically, we are aiming for a clean, modern look that works intuitively across all screen sizes and feels connected to our mobile applications. The site is designed responsively, starting first with the mobile phone and responding to larger screens (tablet and beyond). You will notice that the site is organized into three distinct pillars:

Favorites: prominently delivering *your* teams, news, and fantasy scores… this has been a tremendous hit with fans during user-testing

News: the best news of the day, as delivered by our amazing content team. It is organized in an ever-scrolling news feed, rich with video and big imagery

ESPN Now: this is a new content experience that brings together lively and real-time content from what’s happening in the sports world now, at this moment. Content comes from our news desk, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more – and it too is rich with video and imagery.

These all sit beneath a much-simplified navigational header and a cleaner, more visual scoreboard.

introducing espn

ESPN, Google & World Cup Highlights in Search Results

Yesterday, Google and ESPN combined to deliver real-time video highlights directly into Google search results via Google's homepage, World Cup related search queries and Google's new World Cup page, and so on. This integration will be live during the entire 2014 World Cup - meaning soccer fans can find their highlights.

- on ESPN.com & ESPNFC.com, ESPN's suite of mobile apps - on social media through integrations like Twitter Cards that play directly in-line and are sharable and embeddable - and now on Google and directly within search results

At ESPN, our mission is simply to serve sports fans, anytime and anywhere. This is another great, big step in that direction with our partners at Google.

World Cup 2014 Google and ESPN

Press coverage (as represented by Techmeme):

Chris Welch / The Verge: Google and ESPN partner to put World Cup highlights in search — If you're stuck in a cubicle at work and unable to watch every minute of the World Cup, Google and ESPN will at least help you keep up with the latest highlights. The two companies have teamed up to pair both in-progress …

More: The Official Google Blog, Re/code, GeekWire, The Next Web, eWeek, LAPTOP Magazine, Gigaom and Quartz

googlesearch world cup

Today on ESPN: US Open, World Cup 2014, NBA Finals

Today is one of those special days at ESPN: live on our networks and our digital suite of applications you'll find the US Open at Pinehurst, the opening game of the 2014 World Cup (Brazil vs. Croatia) and then Game 4 of the NBA Finals (Spurs at Heat). And that's in addition to a roster of other sporting events, news and happenings. It's a magical sports day and you can follow it all live and live-streamed on ESPN and ESPN apps. Everything will be available on Watch ESPN - which you can access on web, iPhone & iPad, Android phones & tablets, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, and more.

And you can follow along with the SportsCenter App (on iOS and Android) and the new ESPN FC App for World Cup and soccer (on iOS and Android).

You can also listen live via ESPN Radio, which is now available on iTunes Music, and of course via web, iOS, and Android.

It's a fun, unique day to be a sports fan - enjoy!

Schedule: US Open - 9am EST on ESPN, ESPN Radio & Watch ESPN App World Cup - 4pm EST on ESPN, ESPN Radio & Watch ESPN App NBA Finals - 9pm EST on ABC, ESPN Radio & Watch ESPN App SportsCenter - 11pm EST on ESPN & Watch ESPN App

june12sportscenter

ESPN Radio Now on iTunes Music - In time for World Cup 2014

Ahead of tomorrow's opening World Cup game, ESPN Radio has launched on iTunes Music. To access the live stream of ESPN Radio, just open iTunes Music on your iPhone or iPad and either click on the ESPN Radio channel or search for 'ESPN'.

And with World Cup starting tomorrow (Brazil vs. Croatia at 4pm EST), you will also be able to listen to the game live on ESPN Radio within iTunes Radio or the iOS / Android apps.

More to come on World Cup 2014...

ESPN Radio iTunes Music

Hello SportsCenter App & 8 Takeaways

On Thursday, we launched the new SportsCenter Application, an update to ESPN's existing and popular ScoreCenter application. With 50m downloads and millions of daily users, ScoreCenter is certainly successful and our hallmark application. We didn't set out to replace it; rather, we set out to expand the experience and better present the vast array of content that makes ESPN so special: video, articles, imagery, television clips, social activity, statistics, and more. You can get it here: - for iOS: http://es.pn/scapp - for Android: http://es.pn/scappandroid - Or, dial **SC from your cell phone

sportscenter app

A handful of product highlights

- Scores / News / Now: ScoreCenter delivered scores and stats... SportsCenter does that alongside News (video, highlights, articles, analysis) and ESPN Now (tweets and live scores) - SportsCenter's Best Of: The SportsCenter Tab is the best stuff of the day (games, breaking news, analysis), merged with your favorite team scores. - Personalization & Inbox: The focus of the app is on delivering a personalized experience through alerts, favorite teams, and the new Fan Inbox (which is a personalized feed of your favorite teams' news, highlights and scoring alerts). - Clubhouses: My favorite enhancement is the introduction of Team Clubhouses. Fans can quickly access each team's scoreboard, newsfeed and social feed... and set alerts directly within the Clubhouse.

Here is a screenshot of the Duke Football Clubhouse which is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it is relatively long-tail content that would not elevate to the national level - but it is important to me. Second, the content is fantastic. These are in-game highlights, streaming live into the feed seconds after they occur on the field. It's a tremendous experience that is highly personalized.

duke clubhouse

That's the new app. I hope you download it, enjoy it and pass along feedback. I also thought it would be worthwhile to share some takeaways:

It's a Mobile World

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about ESPN's recent digital patterns. September was a record month for ESPN in three ways: 1. we saw record overall traffic 2. during that period, more fans accessed ESPN via mobile than desktop 3. over 36% of users accessed ESPN exclusively via mobile

It's a mobile world. The focus on re-imagining ScoreCenter was predicated on better serving our fans in an increasingly mobile world. And if you haven't done so already, read Benedict Evan's Mobile is Eating the World deck.

It's a Native Mobile World

It's a mobile world... but it's also a native world for applications. Long gone are the days or porting a single app from platform to platform. Users don't want this... and neither do the platforms themselves. Experiences have to be built and designed specifically for the platform and the device portfolio. The challenge of course is to maintain brand familiarity and consistency while also designing differently and specifically for each platform. It's a difficult but critical balance.

Native also applies to platforms beyond the mobile operating systems (ie iOS, Android, etc). For instance, we took care to make sure that the application leverages native integrations with Twitter and Facebook - both within the application and within their own platforms. This, for instance, is a screenshot of the new Twitter Card integration:

twitter cards

Disrupt Yourself

AllThingsD wrote a nice piece on the SportsCenter launch entitled: "ESPN ScoreCenter App Is a Hit, but It’s Getting an Overhaul Anyway: New Name, More Video, More Stuff". It's an important mentality: don't wait for something to break before considering / forcing change. The world changes too fast - technology, platforms, standards, habits - to sit still.

Scaled, Pre-launch Distribution and Usage

Between services like TestFlight and Google Beta, it is relatively painless to distribute pre-launch builds and collect usage data / feedback from large numbers of relevant users. It's the purest form of user-testing and user-feedback. For SportsCenter, somewhere around 1,500 fans played with the application ahead of launch. Others like Facebook are doing that at grand scale using the Google Beta program:

facebook google play

Press as Pre-Launch Users

My friend Matt Schlicht of Hipset recently wrote a nice Medium piece about driving press for your startup. My strong opinion here: treat everyone as a user and a fan. SportsCenter received some excellent coverage and those writers had access to the test builds of the application for several days (or more). That translates into more organic coverage (good or bad), deep insight, and some unique perspectives. It is also how pieces like Ryan Lawler's on TechCrunch get written - where he had a fantastic, in-depth usage video.

Advice: trust that your product is high-quality and give users and writer's full, early access.

A couple other pieces: - TechCrunch: ESPN’s SportsCenter App Combines News And Highlights With New Personalization Features - AllThingsD: ESPN ScoreCenter App Is a Hit, but It’s Getting an Overhaul Anyway: New Name, More Video, More Stuff - PandoDaily: ESPN Launches Personalized SportsCenter Feed Web App, Proves It Just Gets Digital - AdAge: This Is 'SportsCenter'...on Your iPhone

Twitter As Real-Time Customer Service

This is obvious for most: Twitter is immensely powerful as a real-time insights and customer support platform. During launch, we were seeing 50+ tweets per minute. Between sentiment tracking, bug monitoring and usage habits - we had an immediate understanding of how fans were engaging and interacting. This isn't shocking to anyone... but one point worth noting: I have spent a lot of time responding to tweets of all ranges: positive, negative, open questions, etc. Users were almost always happy to hear from someone connected to the product. Feedback was universally helpful and, even when a user was unhappy, the outcome was positive.

It's Iterative

There are things we got wrong. There are things we had to cut due to time. And there are things we didn't get to but are on the roadmap.

It's an iterative process. It has to be... in part because user feedback will dictate changes and time won't allow for everything to built. The challenge is determining what viable release requirements are... and communicating iteration to users.

I'm Old

Along with the core team, we read every single tweet. The big lesson: my vocabulary is very out of date, emoji are king, and I'm clearly old.

twitteremoji

Introducing the Watch ESPN Live Toolbar

We just released a major update to the WatchESPN app on iOS for iPhone and iPad. The latest WatchESPN version introduces several new enhancements, including Live Toolbar, which enhances content discovery and introduces more interactivity. Live Toolbar – available for iPad only – is designed with three main tabs across the bottom scroll of the screen.

- Live TV Lineup – an interactive channel guide that allows fans to easily navigate between ESPN live programming without exiting video - Scores – allows fans to navigate between live, upcoming and concluded games with scores, stats and video highlights - Top Videos – robust on-demand video offering of the latest news, highlights and analysis. Fans are able to watch Top Videos in spilt screen mode simultaneously with live programming Additional enhancements to the update for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch include:

- Access to ESPN3 for college students and military personnel on the WatchESPN app via on-campus (.edu) and on-base (.mil) Wi-Fi networks - App to app linking to the WatchABC app which enables easier navigation to view ESPN on ABC events

You can download the WatchESPN application here.

WatchESPN_iOSAppUpdate_LiveTV_081513-730x547

WatchESPN_iOSAppUpdate_TopVideos_081513-730x547

More:

- Todd Spangler / Variety: Fox Sports TV Everywhere Service Is No-Show, as ESPN Beefs Up iPad App - Peter Kafka / AllThingsD: Multitask Nation: ESPN Lets iPad Users Call Up Scores, Clips, While they Watch Live Video - Ryan Lawler / TechCrunch: ESPN's WatchESPN iPad App Adds A Live Toolbar With Scores, Stats, And On-Demand Clips - Jordan Golson / MacRumors: WatchESPN Updated With - Split-Screen Live and On-Demand Viewing for iPad [iOS Blog] - Jordan Kahn / 9to5Mac: WatchESPN app updated for iOS 7, adds ‘Live Toolbar’ that lets you stream two videos at once - Janko Roettgers / GigaOM: Good news, college students: ESPN now lets you stream for free to the iPad - Paul Sawers / The Next Web: WatchESPN for iPad now serves up stats, scores and on-demand clips via a live toolbar

ESPN Fantasy Football 2013: Live Drafting on Mobile

The NFL is upon us and ESPN is yet again your home for fantasy football. You can create or reactive your league here. Notably new for 2013: the ability to perform live and mock drafts directly from your iPhone and iPad. It's a terrific experience and screenshots are below.

You can download the ESPN Fantasy Football applications here: - iPhone (5 stars) - iPad (5 stars) - Android

fantasy football ipad app

And finally, here is one of ESPN's new Commish video units:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcrZ51O14Xc

ESPN.com Moves to Facebook Comments

Starting this past Thursday, ESPN.com comments are now done through Facebook comments / authentication.We had tested over the last several months on various ESPN properties like ESPNW, X Games, Grantland and ESPN's Major League Baseball section. The results were overwhelmingly positive and we are excited about the resulting quality of conversation and social connections made through ESPN + Facebook. With roughly a quarter-million comments each day, we are excited about this step forward and have more to come. Feel free to provide feedback.

"We want people to be candid -- actively engage in strong and thorough debate, but do it in a way without anonymity,” Patrick Stiegman, editor-in-chief of ESPN.com told Poynter. You can read Patrick's entire interview with Poynter here.

facebook comments