Friday, September 21, 2012

The iPhone Craze

My wife says to me at lunch yesterday, that there are already people in line at stores waiting to buy the iPhone 5 -- "tomorrow!"  Many people have wondered just what it is that makes people stand in line that much in advance.  I am among those people wondering that.  However, all of my life I have seen this phenomenon.

I first noticed this in 1980.  In 1977, movie making and watching (and the business of films) changed forever with the introduction of what I thought sounded like a dumb film.  Star Wars.  20th Century Fox didn't know what they had, so they signed away the rights to everything except the film.  It ended up being the highest grossing film of all time (in adjusted value), still, but Lucas made much more money on the merchandising.  Then, in 1980, the long-awaited sequel came out.  People camped out in front of the movie theaters to be the first to see it.  How many other films, or film series, have generated lines of people around the globe waiting to get their eyes on it?  How about a day in advance of the showing?

Similarly, in 2007 the iPhone came out.  Think about this.  That's right, 5 years ago, there was no such thing as an iPhone.  5 years ago Apple was called "Apple Computer, Inc." and they made computers, that's it - now look at their revenue, mostly mobile devices.  5 years ago, everyone had a cell phone, the market was pretty saturated, and who were the market leaders?  Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, RIM (Blackberry).  And yet, look at today - who even holds a candle to the iPhone market share of 65%?  RIM is almost out of business, but all others make up 35% combined.  Apple alone, 65%.  And that's growing, still growing, up over 2% from previous quarter.  Let that sink in a moment.

Almost overnight, cell phones were turned upon their proverbial heads, and the industry changed forever.  And, have you ever heard of a cell phone, any cell phone of any type besides iPhone, that people stand in line for days for?  Hours maybe - maybe in some stores for the Galaxy SIII.  But globally, in all stores?  Only the iPhone.  Love it or hate it, you have to admit it is a phenomenon.

I have said before that there really isn't all that much new in the iPhone 5.  And yet, people are standing in line a day before its release - again.  And is it really any wonder?  After playing with a lot of other devices in stores and bought by friends, there is not another device I would use except iOS-based ones (aka Apple).  It's kind of like you get a car with automatic headlights, power windows, power seats, heated and cooled seats, you know, all the amenities.  Then, you get The Thing - the VW Thing from the 70's, butt ugly, and absolutely no amenities on it.  You might have The Thing around for a fun fling, but as your primary means of transportation on a daily, year-round bases?

So is it any wonder, really, that people pay homage to a cultural icon?  That their hearts beat faster and their pupils contract whenever they think about the upcoming release date?  That they open up their wallets with money they don't quite have (oh, I can delay that credit card payment one month just to get this thing)?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New iPhone iOS Features - First Blush

I have to admit, although I had my hands on iOS 6 Beta for many months, I was totally afraid to upgrade my phone because I rely on it from moment to moment for just about everything in my life!  Pathetic, eh?

So I updated yesterday when 6 came out, and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised.  Just a few new things I noticed:

  1. Panoramic pictures - YEAH!  This is SOO cool, and if you have a fairly steady hand it turns out with almost no distortion.
  2. New Map app - everyone was so up-in-arms about replacing Google Maps, I always said big deal, the Google Map app on iPhone sucked anyway.  Apple's is better, I only will use it occasionally for searching (and not for traffic, directions, etc. - I use MotionX, much better at all of the above!)
  3. Update social networks from Siri - YEAH!  Finally.
  4. In fact, tons of new features on Siri, totally great, I already am about ready to replace my wi...WiFi.  Yeah, that's what I was gonna say.
  5. Do Not Disturb mode in Settings - sends all calls to voice mail, but you can still use your phone.  Great for when you are doing MotionX and trying to navigate, say, the streets of Boston or Pittsburgh!
  6. Privacy (in Settings), allows you to control app access to Twitter, Facebook, and other phone services - FANTASTIC
  7. Snappy!  Yes, iOS 6 has tons of new features, but I think it may even be faster than 5, if that is possible.
  8. THE BIGGIE:  Passbook.  I know people wanted NFC to do wireless payment, but the tech is nowhere near mature and secure enough, so Apple steered clear.  Good move.  Now they offer a common "wallet" where you can store loyalty cards, gift cards, boarding passes, tickets (movie/sport events/concerts/etc.), and more.  App developers need to write their apps to take advantage of Passbook, and store the stuff you get in there, but there are a handful of apps out as of Day 1, and more in process.  This is really great, Droid doesn't have anything to compare.
  9. Support down to 3GS - iOS 6 is retroactively supported down to those old phones, so most current customers can get the cool new features (except Siri of course, and I understand turn-by-turn guidance on the map app, but then again - go ahead and get MotionX).
All in all, I am VERY happy and impressed.  Kudos, Apple (like you need more).  Maybe your stock will break 700...oh, wait.  It did.  Well, maybe it will stay above.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

iPhone 5 Announcement Reaction

Well, the Apple event just got done, so let's do a round-up of what they announced.

  • iPhone 5 - I'd have to say, for me this was a BIG disappointment.  This is not at all because everything they announced were in line with the rumors we already were aware of.  I find the 5 is a very small improvement over the 4S.
    • They improved size (a bit bigger, slimmer), but not significantly.  I think the screen needed to be much bigger, like the Samsung.
    • LTE, finally, what really took so long?  Should have been out last October.
    • Third mic, small incremental improvement
    • Ear Pods - OK, really so what?  Third party ear buds are always better than the OEM, because otherwise no one would buy them.
    • Lightning connector - this is a big improvement, smaller and reversible, but no mention of whether or not it is faster
    • Systemwide integration with Twitter.  I don't get Twitter.  It really is not very useful to me, I can definitely go the rest of my life without another tweet, and not miss it one bit.  What about other social networking, like you-know-who, or G+, or a myriad of others?
    • Improved battery life, speed, etc.
    • No NFC wireless wallet features - this is a VERY GOOD THING!  Apple holds the line on security, and doesn't deploy a technology until it is well thought out.  Remember Bluetooth?  Just a few years ago, it was so totally insecure, that hackers could break into your phone and steal all your contacts, or render your phone useless because it is constantly prompting you to pair a device.  NFC is definitely not ready for prime-time, and I would not trust my bank account to it.  (I don't have an Enhanced Drivers License as well, thank you very much!)
    • OVERALL: Not really much different, not enough to make me want to jump out and buy one right away.
  • iPod
    • New ones, redo the Nano, OK.
    • BIG HAPPY on the new iPod Touch 5th generation, that is a very good thing, EXCEPT they should have gone all out and put the best camera on it they could.  Then customers would buy it instead of a point-and-shoot camera altogether.
  • iOS 6
    • x00 new features, blah blah blah.  Incremental improvement, nothing earth shattering.

The Bottom Line

Apple is the undisputed leader in the mobile phone, mobile device market.  They have a good thing.  Why rock the boat?  Basically they incorporated some must-haves.  I can understand.  However, I must make an appeal - APPLE, THIS IS YOUR LEAD TO LOSE.  Like Chrysler says, "Lead, Follow, or get out of the way."  Leadership means taking the risks, not on unproven technology, but on innovating new or existing products.  How about these features on the iPhone:
  • Wider screen (in portrait mode...)
  • FM receiver, and Radio app with DAR
  • Social Networking integration, not just Twitter (which I just don't get!)
  • Allowing certain kinds of apps on the Lock Screen (so include in the App Review Process some vetting to ensure valid apps get certified for Lock Screen display, or let the user choose)
  • Password security on each app - users can set up an App Password, then lock chosen apps so they can't be launched without the password.  This further secures certain apps that aren't otherwise secured, from your 3-year-old who picks up your phone, or from a stranger.
  • Electric razor with screen so you can shave while walking
OK, just kidding about the last one.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Apple's New Announcements - and what do they mean to you?

This coming Wednesday, Apple will have new product announcements.  Since Apple is the biggest company in the world (by market cap), and they own both the mobile phone and tablet markets, (oh yeah, and they are making huge inroads to the PC market), there is much speculation.  I have been eagerly reading the blogs (on my iPhone of course), and navigating the rumors.  My big question - what does it all mean to you?  If these rumors are true, what do they really mean?  Here's a roundup of the rumors so far, and my reaction.

iPhone 5

According to many (AllThingsD, MacRumors), these features are likely:
  • Longer screen, but not wider - BOO!  This I have to say is my first disappointment, why didn't they do something like the Galaxy S3 and give us a much bigger screen, not just 16:9?
  • Smaller dock cord - OK
  • Move headphone jack to bottom - OK
  • Faster processor - Sounds great
  • LTE antenna (and 2 antennae, one at top and one at bottom for better reception) - this sounds great, but those of us stuck with AT&T can't take advantage of it.  Our iPhones already say 4G because AT&T's service is non-LTE 4G - much slower than LTE, but not available in a lot of areas.
  • So far, it seems that the 5 is really not very exciting, unless Apple has kept some deep dark secrets.  We shall see.

iPad Mini

  • Smaller than iPad
  • Cheaper than iPad
  • GREAT - should compete with the low-end, probably wipe out all the competition; however, 2 years ago I made a suggestion via their web site: they should come out with an inexpensive full-size iPad shell, that you can plug your phone in, and get the bigger screen.  It could sell for $149 or $199, you get a full size iPad, no additional 3G plan.  Still no word on that.


  • Rumors that since the new 1080p model came out, they won't be announcing another one.  Did you hear, Apple TV sales outpaced XBox? They don't need to.  Roku who?
  • So far, my Apple TV rocks - and it is way beyond my expectations.  Hulu showed up last month, and iTunes Festival last week.  Keep it coming!

Apple TV

  • There were also some rumors floating around that Apple may come out with a new TV set.  What would they call it?  Confusing.  Anyhow, they seem to be debunked - really, what would Apple do above and beyond the others?  Vizio is great.
  • There are also some scuttle about Apple negotiating content and for a streaming service with the cable companies.  Might be interesting.