Epic Tweet Storm about Apple’s Development Process

This is an epic tweet storm about Apple’s development process by Steven Sinofsky. If you don’t know him, he ran the Microsoft Office business unit for over a decade. This rant touches on how to balance quality, launch dates and features, IBM, iPhone dominance and more…

Favorite Tech Purchases of 2017

I made a few fun purchases in 2017. Here’s two that captured my attention…
AirPods
They look ridiculous but man are they useful.  I love them over all my other headphones because they
  1. They connect to my phone every time, immediately and magically.
  2. The charging mechanism is genius. Having the storage compartment be the charger is so smart.
  3. Siri is nice on it. Every day, as i’m walking out of work, i pop them in my ear, hear a little noise that notifies me that they are on and connected. I then just double-tap the side of the earphone and say “Call Diane” and, having no idea where my phone is, a call is placed to Diane. It’s a big of magic.

Apparently, i’m not alone. The customer satisfaction surveys around these are off the charts – 98% from all customers with NPS of 75 and many people believing that this is the best Apple invention since the original iPhone.

 

Apple Watch
I usually get a new iPhone every year so i can experience the latest and greatest. I spend hours a day on my phone and i justify the cost by this time and usage. However, this year’s lineup of iPhone X and 8 didn’t seem to be the latest and greatest. Sure there’s FaceID but having a new way to unlock my phone isn’t a reason to buy. There’s the big screen of the X, but i already have a 7 Plus which has a big screen.  So, i wasn’t buying.
I WAS impressed with the new Apple Watch. It seemed that they had put the phone into the watch. This seemed like the new phone to experiment with. I also could imagine a future as: Apple Watch + AirPods + AR glasses = iPhone is just a battery pack that I never take out of my pocket. So, if that’s the case, I wanted to see what this future looked like.
I do enjoy it. Some observations
  • I have the LTE option so I don’t need my phone ever to get calls or texts or updates.  While that’s cool and I do leave my phone at my desk at work all of the time now, I am rarely that far away from my phone. So, i never get the chance to really test this feature.
  • The battery life is great. I can go almost 3 days without a charge.
  • I do wish the watch was smaller. It’s too fat. I want a version that’s slimmer and has half the battery life. I’d be okay with that
  • The exercise app is the killer app for me. It keeps me putting it on every day as i want to see my steps, stands, and calories and how it measures up against other days. I’ve always been a sucker for gamification and motivates me.
PS: Shout out to my parents and wife for getting me both of these as birthday presents. You guys rock.

Apple’s No Jack City

Apple announced the new iPhone 7 yesterday and announced that they are removing the headphone jack.  Some quick thoughts on that…

Short Term Pain

It’s annoying to have to live in a world where my phone does not have a headphone jack as I have many different headphones laying around and to use them I have to use an extra dongle that i have to carry with my phone.  Also, for people who want to listen to music and charge their phone at the same time – a common use for Uber and Lyft drivers, this is now impossible (although i did see this solution). For all of these reasons, I think it will be a pain in the ass for many people – including myself in the short term.

Moving towards the future

I do think that the wireless technology of headphones is underrated and way more advanced than we are aware.  By forcing the issue and making these headphones mandatory, Apple will bring more and more great wireless headphones available.  I can imagine a world in 5 years where everything is wireless.

From my use of the Echo, I does seem that the only thing between the cloud and my is voice. Having a sweet set of headphones that can access it all of the time seems like the right way to go.

The use of the word “courage”

This was totally ridiculous.  Apple, even if you think it, don’t say it.  When you’re causing so much short-term pain to your customer, don’t get up on stage and pat yourself on the back. That was a dumb move.

The Apple eco-system

Now all headphone manufacturers who build a lightning connector are married to the iPhone. Doing this will result in more lock-in than ever before.  This was definitely part of their thought-process when coming to this decision.  Apple loves the lock-in.

 

 



Bezos Interview: Publishing and Fire Phone

I recently read this interview of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos.  It’s pretty interesting.  Some thoughts:

eBooks / Publishing

I had always assumed that the print/book industry was really struggling – similar to the music industry.  However, Bezos’s quote of, “…the facts are wrong. Publishers are having unparalleled profitability, and the book industry is in better shape than it ever has been, and it’s because of e-books” is interesting.  

It’s also interesting that they take such a long-term view for the Kindle.  As Bezos states, “The vision for Kindle is every book, every imprint, in any language, all available in 60 seconds.”  That’s quite a mission.  They are definitely doing really well so far. 

The Amazon Phone

He admits that it’s a flop but contends that it’s just the start of them being in that business.  He states, “The Kindle is now on its seventh generation. The Kindle Voyage, the new premium product, is just completely killer. Fire TV, Fire TV Stick — we’re having trouble building enough. Amazon Echo, which we just launched. So there’s a lot of activity going on in our device business. With the phone, I just ask you to stay tuned.”

I wonder how many times they plan on iterating on the phone.  He talks about bold bets with things like Kindle, AWS and third-party resellers, but building a phone and competing against Apple, Android (they aren’t using core Android), Samsung and others is entirely different.  While audacious, i’m not sure I see how they can differentiate. 

Drones

He did an interview with “60 Minutes” and showcased their drone delivery system.  It was awesome.  He was asked about it here.  As you’d expect, he thinks the main thing holding it back is the regulatory issues, saying, “The most interesting part of this is the autopilot and the guidance and control and the machine vision systems that make it all work. As for when, though, that is very difficult to predict. I’d bet you the ratio of lawyers to engineers on the primary team is probably the highest at Amazon.

I think it’s the same for self-driving cars (I have a bet they’ll be here by 2023).  It totally works right now but the world is just not ready for it.  There are so many unanswered questions, such as: if someone gets killed or severely injured by a self-driving car, who’s liable?  Is it the person who bought the car, the company that built the car? Is there some level of insurance that you can get?  

Anyway, some good thoughts in there.  It’s worth a read.

 

 

Thoughts on Apple’s iPhone 6 & ApplePay

I listened to the announcement last week and have a lot of thoughts on the upcoming iPhone. 

Apple’s launch event came, and delivered (mostly) what had been leaked and/or expected: a larger iPhone & a phablet, payments and a smart watch. The phones are mostly predictable: the customer is always right, and the customer has decided to optimise for pocket size and experience over thumb size (the changes in iOS7 & iOS8 have made it possible to do this, incidentally).

Why did they make it bigger?

Basically, Apple dominates the high end of the phone market.  They like it that way.  To date, there has been a few high-end Android phones eating away at their sales (mostly Samsung phones).  There are currently six reason people buy these phones (taken from Benedicts’s Blog): 

  1. Their operator subsidies an Android but not an iPhone – this has now ended, with Apple adding distribution with all the last significant hold-outs (Sprint, DoCoMo, China Mobile)
  2. They don’t particularly care what phone they get and the salesman was on more commission to sell Androids or, more probably, Samsungs that day (and iPhones the next, of course)
  3. They have a dislike of Apple per se – this is hard to quantify but probably pretty small, and balanced by people with a dislike of Google
  4. They are heavily bought into the Google ecosystem
  5. They like the customizations that are possible with Android and that have not been possible with iOS until (to a much increased extent) iOS8 (more broadly, once could characterize this as ‘personal taste’)
  6. They want a larger screen. 

The first has largely gone, the second is of little value to an ecosystem player and nets out at zero (i.e. Apple gains as many indifferent users as it loses) and the third is small. Apple has now addressed the fifth and sixth.  That is, with the iPhone 6 and iOS8, Apple has done its best to close off all the reasons to buy high-end Android beyond simple personal preference.  As Benedict Evans states, “You can get a bigger screen, you can change the keyboard, you can put widgets on the notification panel (if you insist) and so on. Pretty much all the external reasons to choose Android are addressed – what remains is personal taste.”

What’s the deal with ApplePay?

A lot of people are saying “they are going to make a ton of money with ApplePay!” and “They are going to crush PayPal!” – both are not even close to true.  If you look at what they are actually doing here, it’s not to take on banks, credit cards or any actual payment system.  They are taking on the wallet.  If you look at what they did with music – they didn’t put Universal Music out of business, they didn’t come up with a better way to be a label, they just crushed the music store (like Tower Records).  It’s the same here.  You still need a credit card.  You still need a bank to issue thecard.  You just don’t have to pull it out or even have it when buying something.  

 

I just pre-ordered my new iPhone 6 (not the Plus) to get it on Friday.  What about you?  You buying one?

 

The Secret Behind Snapchat’s Popularity

I was chatting the other day about why Snapchat is so popular.  Most people think it’s because of sexting and the fact that the photos disappear, but i think it’s more than that.  I recently came across a speech by the Snapchat founder (Evan Spiegel) and thought it was pretty enlightening as to how he sees usage occur.

He talks about how people today don’t want to fully recreate their offline experience online. They want to be online but understand that their online profile isn’t the sum of them.  It’s a pretty different view.  A highlight of the speech:

Traditional social media required that we live experiences in the offline world, record those experiences, and then post them online to recreate the experience and talk about it. For example, I go on vacation, take a bunch of pictures, come back home, pick the good ones, post them online, and talk about them with my friends.

This traditional social media view of identity is actually quite radical: you are the sum of your published experience. Otherwise known as: pics or it didn’t happen.

Or in the case of Instagram: beautiful pics or it didn’t happen AND you’re not cool.

This notion of a profile made a lot of sense in the binary experience of online and offline. It was designed to recreate who I am online so that people could interact with me even if I wasn’t logged on at that particular moment.

Snapchat relies on Internet Everywhere to provide a totally different experience. Snapchat says that we are not the sum of everything we have said or done or experienced or published – we are the result. We are who we are today, right now.

He then also talks about how when you take the photo away, it’s more about the feeling and not the photo.  It’s subtle but powerful difference.  He says: 

Snapchat discards content to focus on the feeling that content brings to you, not the way that content looks. This is a conservative idea, the natural response to radical transparency that restores integrity and context to conversation.

Snapchat sets expectations around conversation that mirror the expectations we have when we’re talking in-person.

That’s what Snapchat is all about. Talking through content not around it. With friends, not strangers. Identity tied to now, today. Room for growth, emotional risk, expression, mistakes, room for YOU.

I like that concept.  And with that it’s clear why people, especially teenagers, would want a more forgiving medium. 

Note: blogged about Snapchat almost a year ago and the massive growth they are having: http://loo.me/2013/06/lets-talk-about-snapchat/

Foursquare Swarming and the death of the Mayorship

I’m a big FourSquare user and i have been since they launched. I think I was one of the original 10k users to sign up for the service. Looking at my profile, i can see that i’ve done over 5700 checkin and am the mayor of over 20 venues.  I’m all over it. 

I learned a few weeks ago that 4S was going to change up their business.  They discovered that there are two distinct personas that use their app:  (1) the user who checks in a lot and views where their friends are; (2) the user who uses the app to find places to go and search for tips. They found that they were constantly limiting each personas experience so they could wedge both into the service. They also recognized the rise of “App Constellations” where multiple services such as Facebook, Dropbox and others are producing multiple apps that deep link to each other (read this good Fred Wilson blog post about it). So, they announced that they are splitting their business into two apps: one for the checkin user (like me) called Swarm and another for the venue researcher called Foursquare (which will compete directly with Yelp).

Swarm screenshots

I like this change.  Since it happened, i found myself using Swarm a lot and because it didn’t have the other stuff in there, it’s more streamlined and easier to use.  They also were able to add a few extra features like “Where are you going to be?” because they have the room.  In short, I love the new strategy and like the new app.  

Also, the mayor is being killed off. From the foursquare blog

Mayors 2.0. We wanted to get back to a fun way to compete with your friends instead of all 50,000,000 people who are on Foursquare. With these new mayorships, if you and a couple friends have been checking in to a place, the person who has been there the most lately gets a crown sticker. So you and your friends can compete for the mayorship of your favorite bar, without having to worry about the guy who is there every. single. day. Mayors 2.0 means that places can have many different mayors, one for each circle of friends, instead of just a single mayor at each place.

I am mayor at 20+ places and found daily enjoyment in that fact. This change is a bummer. I guess it reflects society’s need for everybody to be a winner, which is also stupid. But I understand why they’re doing it, but i also hate it.  It’d be nice to have a global mayor. 

As a side note: I’ve currently checked in to Illegal Pete’s for 79 consecutive weeks.  I feel like that’s some sort of record. 

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My New Favorite App: PaperKarma

My brother-in-law (aka TheBoss) tipped me off to this wonderful app the other day.  It’s called PaperKarma and here’s how it works: 

  1. Get your mail from the mailbox
  2. Get a bunch of crappy catalogs in the mail – always happens to me for some reason
  3. Load up the PaperKarma app on your phone
  4. Take a picture of the catalog that you don’t want to get any more, marking who it’s addressed to (me or my wife)
  5. Upload it into the app
  6. That’s it

They then will take care of everything that’s needed to cancel the subscription.  The amount of paper that’s wasted on sending catalogs to my house is incredible.  In the past two months, i’ve used PaperKarma to cancel 28 catalog subscriptions.  Some of those were coming every quarter.  It’s ridiculous. 

Anyway, give it a shot.  You won’t be disappointed. 

 

 

Earn Points with Grandma: The Postgram App

I was visiting my grandmother last weekend.  This is the same grandmother that was spotted on the streets of Manhattan at age 90 and asked to be a model for GNC (blog post: My Grandmother is Amazing).  She was remarking about how she loves to see photos of the great-grandkids.  I have one cousin who sends her an email of a picture every day.  I left feeling like i was really laking in my picture sending.  

Then, enter the Postgram App.  With this app, i can grab any picture on my phone or in Instagram and send it as a postcard.  You enter in a message and an address and it gets sent automatically.  Viola. 

Now, my grandma is getting mail all the time of pictures.  Yes!

 

Yahoo! is on it’s way back

I had pretty much written Yahoo off.  I thought they were dead.  They hadn’t done anything new and interesting for over 5 years.  Their webpages looked like crap.  They were just treading water.  That all changed lately.  Specifically in the past 6 months, they’ve done some things that really make me think they’ll be a player in the future.

First, let’s talk about Flickr.  I’ve always used it as my default photo service where i store all my photos online.  It used to be the best (in 2003-2006) and then it got abandoned.  I still kept putting my photos there because i was locked in, but i knew it was dead.  They added one small feature a year. I had seen that playbook at AOL.  It means it’s only a matter of time before it’s time to leave.  Then something magical happened.  They pushed out a new iPhone app for it that was actually decent.  Then they updated it to make it really slick.  Then they announced 1 terabyte of free storage.  Then they announced automatic iPhone uploads of photos.  Whoa.  All of the sudden, it was one of the best photo apps on my phone.  All in about a 6 month period.

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Second, they released a new News Digest app that is basically The Week magazine but a daily app.  It aggregates 8 to 10 recent news stories and sends them to you twice a day.  Once you’ve read the morning stories, you have to wait for the evening delivery. It’s beautifully made and is really easy to consume.  It’s not the main way I get mainstream news.

Finally, they launched a new Tech site that claims to be different than current tech sites.  The premise being that all tech sites today are focused on the top tier tech enthusiasts and people who care a lot about Silicon Valley.  Yahoo Tech will be focused on the other 90%. People who want to know what the best TV is, not which Palo Alto exec just changed jobs.  I think that’s a great idea.

So, it’s good to have another player back out there.  Someone is building new things and innovating.  I’m excited.  It seems that Yahoo! is indeed earning the exclamation point on their name.