It Just Works

For close to six years now, I have been using Android phones. Because the iPhone was late to join Verizon, my current wireless carrier (VZW has the best coverage where I live although I am very tempted to try T-Mobile…but I digress), I went with Android early on and then stuck with it through some of the lean early years of that platform. So when my wireless contract ended in March and I became a wireless phone/carrier free agent, I started to debate what phone I should get?

During the past 3 years or so, I have also been migrating a lot of my house to the Apple iOS/OSX ecosystem – iPads, Apple TV, iMacs, MacBook Airs, AirPorts – but during that time I was sticking with Android for my mobile phone. Yet I was starting to waver with my mobile device – do I stick with Android and go for a Samsung Galaxy 4 or do I make the move that seemed inevitable with the migration of the rest of my digital life – and go over to Apple’s iPhone.

And so a few weeks ago, I took the plunge and picked up the new Apple iPhone 5S. There was no specific attribute or feature that drove me into Apple’s hands, but more of a growing frustration with the Motorola/Android devices that I have used the past few years. With my Android phones, it always seemed that they slowed to a miserable computer processing crawl after about 10-12 months. Whenever I tried to do the most basic of mobile computing tasks – opening apps, sending messages, making a phone call (novel concept), etc. – it became an ordeal. And the real kicker was when I tried to take a photo with my Android phones – oh, the countless photos that have been missed waiting for the photo app to load. To sum it up with my Android devices, whenever I *really* needed it to work – to capture a photo, to make a phone call quickly, to find an address/location – it failed me. When I didn’t need it in a crunch, oh, it worked fine.

My initial impression of iOS on an iPhone is much different (in a good way) compared to what I have been exposed to on the iPad. The processor and the apps are really snappy. The software and iOS experience is so solid and tightly integrated. So far, my experience with my first iPhone has been great and for now, I’m not looking back.

Droid Still Does?

There has been a lot of talk about the iPhone’s arrival in Verizon stores and how it will be a game changer relative to Verizon’s investment in Android phones (via their “Droid Does” campaigns). But as Dan Lyons (of Fake Steve Jobs fame) openly questions, is iPhone too late to the Verizon game here?  A clear benefit of Android is its flexibility and the ability for the user to have more control of the experience, while Apple’s iPhone is a very rigid and controlling experience, where Apple (or Steve Jobs) is almost dictating what the user wants and needs:

The iPhone is like omakase, the style of sushi where the chef chooses what you’re going to eat, and might even tell you how to eat it, no wasabi allowed on this, no soy sauce allowed on that. Definitely no California rolls.

That’s the way Apple has always been. One of Apple’s big failures 15-20 years ago in the PC “wars” was the fact that it would not cede control over its licensing and distribution…and on that war, it got its ass kicked by Microsoft from a market share perspective (Yes, Apple’s products are more profitable per user but that’s a story for another post). We’re actually seeing signs of this scenario repeat itself with Android surpassing iOS in terms of installed devices and market share .

The game is much different now with Applications, Mobile, Social Networks and, most importantly, the clear shift of power and conversation to the customer through the Internet and self publishing tools. You could argue that Apple’s “rigid” approach is a metaphor for the old school marketing approach, where the “brand” talked to the customer as opposed to talking with the customer.

No doubt that Android has its flaws, while Apple has some amazing features and benefits. And there is no way to avoid the fact of their recent success and valuation in the marketplace. But to me, it will be very interesting to see if people will be willing to let Apple dictate the experience so rigidly with something so personal as your personal mobile device. Combine this with Apple’s recent announcement that they will be taking 30% of all subscription revenues and its impact on publishers’ iOS content and service offerings, and you really have to step back and wonder how this will all play out

Android Share Rises

In the continued battle for mobile dominance, it appears that Android is taking the route of Windows when there was the OS battle between Apple and Windows back in the day:

About 26 percent of U.S. smartphone users said an Android device was their primary phone in the three months ending in November, compared with 25 percent using Apple Inc.’s iPhones, comScore said. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. still held the first-place spot, but its share of users declined to 33.5 percent from 37.6% in August.

It will be interesting to see if this will now influence developers to release Android apps at the same time as iOS/Apple apps, or shift to release Android first and then iOS/Apple.

via All Things D.

Designing For Mobile Gestures

An interesting article from Nokia on how their industrial designers are incorporating human gestures into their mobile product/device design. They are basically tapping into the “relationship” that everyone has with their mobile device these days, and are using human gestures as a new dialect of interaction and communication with the phone. I’m sure we’ve all looked at our phone with one of those WTF expressions. It appears that in the future, there will be an app for that. :-)


So its been about a month in which I’ve owned my Motorola/Google/Verizon Droid phone. And I have to say that I am just loving this phone. But I don’t even think it can be called a phone, because the phone function is just one of many applications and features that the device runs. I’ve found the Android OS very easy and intuitive. The applications that I use are very well engineered and designed. There is deep and intuitive integration with social sites like Facebook and Twitter. When I first got the phone from Verizon, I didn’t have to deal with transferring information or setting up my contacts. I simply logged in with my Google Username and password and instantly, all my information was there ready to go. One of the slickest features is that whenever I see someone’s “icon”, I just long press on it and all the different ways I can connect with them slides into the screen – whether its email, IM, Facebook, or where their address is. It’s pretty cool. And the Droid’s much publicized killer app is its GPS Navigation application. It is just fantastic and just as good as any TomTom, or Garmin product (Note to each of them: be afraid, be very afraid). The Navigation app is fully integrated with Google Maps and Google Street View. I’ve used it several times and I have been nothing short of impressed. Since its open source, I’m hoping some enterprising soul adds an app so you can choose different voices for the Navigation’s audio.

With all the positives, there are a few items that I’d love to see them address:

  • With the Audio player, they should not allow two audio based applications to run at the same time. A few times I’ve had podcasts running and have hit music songs by accident and then had two things playing at once. If Podcasts are playing, you should not be able to play music and vice versa
  • The camera could be improved a bit. And the button to take pictures is on the screen, not on the hardware itself. So if you are taking a photo and you can’t see the screen/button, its not the easiest thing in the world to do.
  • Whenever I connect it to my computer, you always have to click on a button to enable it to sync with your machine. There should be a setting to just do that automatically.
  • The Keyboard is just ok. It could be improved, especially with its alternate characters and numbers.

I’m not going to go out and call this an iPhone killer…yet. But the Droid does everything I need, its easy to use, and its on the Verizon Network where you can actually make phone calls. In fact, the other day I left my iPod at home by mistake and I did not miss it at all.

Frustrated With Search

Here is an interesting analysis from eMarketer that notes while Search spending is steady, marketers are becoming frustrated with the results. The bellwether of the online marketing arsenal is showing some cracks in the armor. To be honest, this does not surprise me too much. Online users are getting more savvy with regards to online marketing, and search specifically (clicks on banner ads have been in free fall since the first one back on Wired in 1998).  In turn, searchers are clicking less on paid results and increasingly looking more towards the “natural” results.  They are searching for relevant conversations about whatever it is they are looking for.  Further, we are seeing the behaviors of Searchers change over time too. Queries are becoming more complex, more in the form of natural language questions, and we are seeing a big rise in mobile search. Add this together and the result in less “advertisable” Search impressions – paid search is not as effective in matching against such complex queries, and mobile search has less physical space to deliver advertising.  With less search impressions, there is less inventory, meaning prices will inherently rise while performance declines. Not a good equation if you are a marketer.

But I think this is another element of a much broader movement that is going on. What we are seeing validates the argument that will be outlined in Bob Garfield’s upcoming book The Chaos Scenario, where he outlines the massive changes that are and will be happening in the media world.  In part, he argues that while the customers are still out there, they are placing less value in word of the marketers (or institutions) and more value in the advice of other customers:

“They’re still an audience,” he writes, “but they aren’t necessarily listening to you. They’re listening to each other talk about you.

Interesting times, interesting times.


An Iowa teenager who has had a cellphone for all of eight months won a national texting contest and took home a cool $50,000. I guess that prize money will cover last month’s cellphone/txt bill. From the article:

In the final showdown, she outtexted 14-year-old Morgan Dynda, of Savannah, Ga. Both girls had to text three lengthy phrases without making any mistakes on the required abbreviations, capitalization or punctuation. Moore squeaked through by a few seconds on the tiebreaking text, getting the best two out of three. As she anxiously waited for confirmation of her win, tears streamed down her face.

End of Landline Days

A full 20% of US households have given up their landlines. And that segment is now outpacing the number of landline only houses, which stands at 17%. A generation very soon will not know the concept of a home phone line. But in today’s mobile device world, everyone will have their own unique device where talking is just another embedded or installed feature. And I would argue that talking on the phone is almost a secondary function these days, behind emailing, texting, Twittering, and posting to Facebook. But are we losing something here too? Is technology chipping a little bit more away from how the traditional elements of the traditional household and family? Like the boy calling the girl’s house and having to talk his way through the suspicious father? Or brothers and sisters battling for phone time?

One Network To Rule Them All

All the well deserved hype about Apple’s iPhone this past week overshadowed a very interesting and innovative announcement from T-Mobile that was highlighted by the NY Times’ David Pogue. I’ll defer to Mr. Pogue’s article for all the detail.

The basic premise of the innovation was that T-Mobile is offering a Wi-Fi phone/network service whereby when you are in the range of any Wi-Fi network, your mobile phone call will be carried via Wi-Fi instead of their (weak, pathetic) mobile network. And they are also giving away network routers so that you can set up Wi-Fi in your house and essentially make free calls via the home Wi-Fi network.

I find this product offering extremely interesting and compelling on several levels, however the most interesting to me is that what T-Mobilie has done is taken a big, giant step towards supreme network convergence on an Internet Protocol backbone (with all due respect to Skype and Vonage). They have essentially broken down the barrier between their Mobile network and the Internet. With the release of the aforementioned iPhone multi-purpose device, it seems immensely silly that you have to connect to one network to make a phone call and another to surf the internet.

I’ve always felt that eventually all forms of data and information will travel along the Internet backbone, with the one barrier being universal Wi-Fi/connectivity. This offering by T-Mobile may well be a big first step towards that. The Mobile carriers steel handed grip on their networks may be loosening a bit.

The Day My iPod Died

This past Friday, my iPod died.  I was sitting at work listening to some tunes and cranking out a project brief, when all of a sudden it just stopped playing.  When I picked it up, the back of it was smoking hot to the touch, and the software was freezing and sputtering.  If it was a car, it was the equivelant of lurching and choking and shaking violently.

As any normal person would do, I started to hit every button to see if it would start playing again but nothing happened.  Then, I went to the Internet.  How can I reboot this thing?  Maybe it just needs a little refresh as in my 1.5 years of owning it, I’d never rebooted it.  As we all know, we all need to reboot every once in a while.

A ha! I found it. A very informative iPod site detailing exact instructions on how to reboot my iPod.  “Your data will not be effected when you reboot your iPod.” it said.  I hit the “Menu” and “Play” buttons at the same time for about 10 seconds (yes, I had the 3rd generation iPod which I’ve always been somewhat bitter about, being that I purchaed it all of two weeks ahead of the 4th generation release…but we won’t go there) and it rebooted.  Ok, this is good, I said.  It appears to be working fine now.  But to my horror, every song, podcast, and piece of information on my iPod was gone…Casper…no where to be found.  Yes, everything was in iTunes on my home computer, so it was not an unmitigated catastrophe (unless you consider the commute home that evening), but this was not expected based on what I read (Mistake #1:  Everything on the internet is not fact).  And the iPod was still smoking hot on the back too.  Now I knew something was seriously wrong.

I wake up on Saturday and try to sync it with iTunes, and again it fails.  I bitterly head downstairs to eat breakfast, and there it is…slapping me right in the face.  Its an article in the NY Times by Joe Nocera titled “Good Luck With That Broken iPod” (fyi…the online article is behind the NYTimes “Select” service, so I can’t link to it).  The timing was impeccable.  The article essentially said that if your iPod breaks, there is little that Apple will do to help other than saying “Go buy a new one” and offering an extended warranty.  Bitterness turned to frustration.

On Sunday, fearing the worst, I took my injured iPod to the local Apple store right when it opened.  One of the salespeople took it and tried to bring its software back to factory condition.  Alas, that did not work as he determined it was a component issue, which costs $250 minimum.  As the article said, “Go buy a new one.”  So I did, reluctantly.  Some silver lining is that I was able to give my broken one back to Apple and they took 10% off the cost of my new one.  This time, I did buy the warranty.

So now I have the new iPod Video with an extended warranty.  My plans to replace my 5 year old behemouth of a digital camera will have to wait another year or so.  I use my iPod every day when I commute to work.  I’m not going to say “its more trouble than its worth” because there is no way I could survive my commute without it.  But still, its been a rocky relationship….

iPod guilty pleasures

Out and about on the Internet, people are confessing about those skeletons buried in the back corners of their iPods. You know who you are. Britney, Burt Bachrach, Neil Diamond…they are there on your iPod. As for me, well…I will admit that I have a few Sinatra songs, I have a Tony Bennett CD cued up, ready to download, and I am seriously thinking of adding some Elvis to the mix.

Rotten Apple

So all of two weeks ago, I proudly noted that I was a new owner of an Apple iPod. And what does Apple do? They go and release a new version of their iPod with a more robust battery, some software enhancements, a new navigation wheel, and a thinner body (barely). And to top it all off, the cost of their 20GB version was $100 less than what I paid for the same storage capacity, and their 40GB version was the same price as what I paid for 20GB!! So if I had known, I would have obviously waited, and then would have almost definitely purchased the 40GB version for the same $399 price. Needless to say, I am not happy about what has transpired. After multiple calls to American Express and Apple, Apple was able to issue me a $100 credit for my purchase to reflect the new price of the 20GB unit, and I do appreciate that. The price difference really irked me but I think the bigger frustration is that if I had waited two measly weeks, I could have purchased the newer model. I am still trying to figure out how I can get the new one, but if not, I am more than happy with what I have and getting the price break definitely makes me feel better about the situation. But I just knew something like this would happen. Its just my luck!!


So I ordered an Apple iPod this weekend. Looking forward to loading it up and using it!! I ordered the 20GB size basically because I could not justify spending $500 for it. They were running a promotion where I could get it engraved for free, which I gladly took advantage of. I put this url and my email address on it figuring that if I ever lost it, maybe some kind soul would email me and return it. Also, I figure 20GB is more than enough space for most of my current CD collection plus other songs that I will eventually acquire from iTunes. My wife was even nice enough to purchase a $15 Gift Certificate for me to get started on iTunes. I would have preferred the BMW for my iPod but beggars can’t be choosers. Rock on.

Update – The iPod was delivered by FedEx ahead of schedule at 10:18AM on Friday July 9th! Yay! Can’t wait to use it.

Mobile E-Mail/SMS

I read an interesting article in the NYTimes “Circuits” section yesterday about a company called Teleflip (although I don’t know how much of a company it is since its service is free). Essentially they enable you to send an email to any mobile phone in the US, no matter the carrier, by sending an email to [any-mobile-phone-number] Its really a pretty simple concept – the email is sent to their server, they associate the number with the right carrier, and then re-route it to the appropriate domain. So check it out by clicking on the email link above.