Tag Archives: mobile tech

AT&T and FaceTime – Why are you Surprised?

FaceTime over cellular from AT&T will only be available to Mobile Share customers:

Customers who stay on a grandfathered unlimited plan or a tiered plan will be limited to using FaceTime over a WiFi connection. 

(Via TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog)

Not to be a jerk, or anything. But duh. You really thought AT&T was going to allow unlimited free long-distance video calls over their network? 

I’ve been telling people for years that holding on to an old grandfathered unlimited plan was a waste of money. If you are only using 2-6 GB of data every month (which most people are), but keeping the unlimited as a “future proof” strategy, you’ve been spending more money every month for nothing. And sooner or later, when it really mattered and you really DID have some new feature that would eat up much more data, AT&T was going to pull the rug out from under you, anyway. 

The house always wins.

I thought it would be 4G (the real 4G, LTE, not the nonsense “4G” that AT&T gives us now) that would spell the end of unlimited data for all. Now it looks like FaceTime over 3G beat it by a few months. 

Pay your early cancellation, if you want, and move over to Verizon or somewhere else. That’s your right. But don’t be surprised that AT&T wasn’t going to give this one away for free just because you’ve been loyal. That’s pretty naive, you have to admit. 

Market Share isn’t Everything

In fact, Nokia, Samsung and LG combined sold roughly 400M mobile handsets worldwide in the first half of 2010 with a combined value share of 32% of handset industry profits, while Apple sold roughly 17M units over the same time period and captured an estimated 39% of industry profits, or greater than the top three global handset OEMs combined. Apple leads the industry in every metric except for unit share…

Apple figured out a long time ago that you can easily make money without having the most popular product. Just make sure you have the most profitable product. And profitable doesn’t necessarily mean “most expensive” either.

Personally, I think market share is a crock. The method of counting is always skewed. With PCs, they count all sorts of products, like cash registers at supermarkets, and other types of machines that Apple doesn’t even make, as PCs. And they compare Apple with every other manufacturer combined, since all those other manufacturers make Windows machines. You rarely see comparisons between Apple sales and Dell sales, for instance.

For this reason, most people still believe that only about 5% of people have Macs in their houses. That’s never been true, and is far less true today than it was ten years ago. Macs are still far from the majority, but they have a lot more share than we’re led to believe.

With phones, every single type of Android phone is counted as one item vs. the one iPhone. As if Android phones really had that much in common. They never show you a chart with the Droid X vs. the iPhone. Or the Nexus One vs. the iPhone. Any such chart with any other single device would be an embarrassment next to the iPhone.

Sooner or later, all these other manufacturers are going to figure out that even with the free Android, they still can’t make a whole lot of money on phone sales, no matter how many they sell. The only company benefitting from Android is Google. It’s not a mutually beneficial relationship to HTC, Motorola, etc.

Some are saying that soon the iPhone will shrink down to a 5% market share, just like the Mac. Even if that were true, Apple would still make plenty enough profit to keep making iPhones. But it won’t be true, because Android phones (and Windows 7 phones, and RIM phones, etc.) can’t beat the iPhone on price. At least not by much. Phones are pretty much $200 with a 2-year contract, no matter which phone you buy. So why would people not choose an iPhone?

The price difference was the leading factor to PC dominance throughout the 90s.

With the iPad, the competition is still trying to figure out how to react. Samsung seems to be resorting to locking people into another 2-year commitment in order to appear to be price competitive. I’m not so sure people are going to fall for that. If manufacturers can’t figure out how to beat Apple’s $499 entry price without a contract, Apple is going to enjoy another year of dominance in the tablet market in 2011. Even before you factor in the improvements Apple will make with the next gen iPad early next year.

Consumer Reports on the iPhone 4 (again)

The consumer buying advice group announced Monday on its official blog that it continues not to recommend the iPhone 4. Apple’s decision to discontinue the iPhone 4 free case program was seen as “less consumer-friendly.”

“Putting the onus on any owners of a product to obtain a remedy to a design flaw is not acceptable to us,” wrote Consumer Reports.

I’ve questioned Consumer Reports’ motives on this issue before, but at this point I don’t think it’s a question any longer. They have shown their true colors and have lost credibility, as far as I’m concerned.

Note that Apple is still giving a free bumper to anyone who asks for one; the only difference is that now you have to specifically ask for one. And the reason for this is that most people don’t need the bumper, because most people either don’t have the antenna issue or are buying other cases on their own. So why would Apple still give away millions of cases to people who don’t want or need them?

The entire antenna kerfuffle has proven to have cost Apple very few iPhone 4 sales, and there are no signs of long-term reputation damage to the company. The only loser here is Consumer Reports, who is still flogging this story for reasons that defy comprehension.

Open and closed?

A new release from Web traffic firm Net Applications has revealed that iOS share overtook Linux in July, when it represented 1.06 percent of all Web traffic, verus the 0.93 share of Linux. Apple’s mobile platform grew even more in August, when it represented 1.13 percent, compared to a shrinking share for Linux, down to 0.85 percent.

So much for Open always beats closed. Apple’s 3-year old mobile platform is outperforming Linux’s decades-old desktop platform.

By the way, “Open beats Closed” is a canard. It’s never been true of any platform. Ever. Windows was not an open platform. Linux has never been commercially successful. My guess is this is why Google is making more and more closed deals with Verizon and others lately.

Android and anti-piracy

Google Android evangelist Tim Bray responded to Case’s concerns in a post on Google’s official Android blog. He says that the sample verification code supplied with the LVL framework wasn’t really intended to be used unmodified. Because it was created to demonstrate how to use the framework, it was deliberately written with an emphasis on simplicity rather than robustness. Bray also contends that the sample applications compromised by Case didn’t use robust code obfuscation, which would have made it considerably more difficult to compromise the software.

“The licensing service provides infrastructure that developers can use to write custom authentication checks for each of their applications. The first release shipped with the simplest, most transparent imaginable sample implementation, which was written to be easy to understand and modify, rather than security-focused,” Bray wrote. “Some developers are using this sample as-is, which makes their applications easier to attack. The attacks we’ve seen so far are also all on applications that have neglected to obfuscate their code, a practice that we strongly recommend. We’ll be publishing detailed instructions for developers on how to do this.”

Bray’s points suggest that LVL offers more effective protection when it is used properly and developers don’t just copy and paste Google’s contrived example validation code, but he also acknowledged that the framework is not mature yet and still has room for improvement.

Same old story from the Google evangelists: “Nothing is our fault. Everything is your fault.”

This, I believe, is yet another reason why developers are not flocking to Google. And I’m not convinced Google cares.

Essentially, what Google is saying to developers is the same thing it has always said: Everything is your responsibility. If you want security in your apps, build it yourself. We’ll hand you some sample code, but the heavy lifting is up to you. We don’t care if people pirate your intellectual property. As long as they click on ads.

Understand, Tim Bray is a key spokesperson for Google, not some low-level idiot with a Twitter account. And he literally said that the security code for Android “was written to be easy to understand and modify, rather than security-focused.” The security is not security-focused?

And people still take Android seriously?

Whatever you may think about the future of mobile technology, I can assure you that security is going to be THE issue in a couple of years. Hackers are already starting to target all the major mobile platforms; Google is handing them the keys instead of installing new locks.

Apple, in stark contrast, locks down the security of iOS so hard that it often gets criticized for being a complete control freak. And that is probably true, but still. At least as a user, I get the sense that they care a little about me.

I’m not a developer (though I do some work for one), but when given the choice between a security protocol that’s baked into the platform that I essentially get for free (minus a few hassles), and one that I have to create myself from scratch—that’s a pretty easy financial decision.

This notion that Google is going to sell a billion Android phones and then suddenly a market for software will appear is complete craziness. And as I said before, I don’t think Google even cares. They want ads, and ads in apps are proving very ineffective, anyway. What Google really wants is to drive everyone to the browser again, which is clearly not what the users want.

So again, someone remind me how Google is supposed to win this battle in the long run? They are poised to be the least cohesive, most insecure platform with the least appealing apps. And their phones aren’t even cheaper than the competition. So where’s the world domination part come in?

Daring Fireball Linked List: Whither the iPod Classic?

Dan Frommer wonders whether Apple is set to eliminate the hard-drive based iPod Classic next week. I wouldn’t be shocked if they did, but I bet they won’t. The iPod Classic is like the Mac Pro — not something that sells in huge numbers compared to Apple’s mass market products, but it fills a lucrative and important niche. Some people really do want 200 GB of music in their pocket.

Yeah. I’m one of them. Actually, I don’t want 200GB of music in my pocket; I want it in my car. And make it 500GB while you’re at it.

There’s no good reason to update the iPod Classic. But there’s no good reason to kill it, either. Not unless Apple can sell at LEAST a 128GB iPod Touch at a reasonable price. A 256GB iPod Touch would be even better.

I’ve been quietly hoping that my Classic will last long enough so that I don’t have to replace it before Apple releases such a Touch, but if I have to replace it, I will.

The iPhone makes a great personal iPod when I’m commuting by train or walking, but in my car it’s a lousy iPod.

Android Developer talks about his success

7) 24-hour return rate – I have read multiple stories that the 24 hour return rate hurts sales.  In a way, it does but it’s not bad.  On average I get a 5% return rate a day.  However, I would rather have the ability for users to test applications and then decide whether to keep them or not.  One of the reasons why iPhone apps may generate more is because of users buying stupid apps and having no way to refund them.  This is a reason why fart apps do so well on iOS and not on Android.  Most of them will be refunded.  Apple does not dare to implement such a feature for the iPhone knowing for sure this will hurt app sales.  They try to protect revenue stream for developers and not for users.  As a developer, you won’t care, but it’s bad business to always try to trick users into buying apps.

Very interesting article from an Android developer. I keep complaining that we never hear from Android developers about their success stories selling apps. This guy has obviously done fairly well, though it appears that he is on the extreme high-end of success for this platform. Way above the norm. And yet he’s making nowhere near what a successful iPhone developer would make.

Still, I was convinced that NO ONE was making money as an Android developer, and that’s obviously not true.

His thoughts in the quoted passage above about the 24-hour return rate are off the mark, I believe. I don’t think anyone tries to trick users into buying fart apps on iOS. It’s pretty obvious from the previews and the reviews whether or not an app is any good. And Apple does a fairly good job of rejecting apps that claim to be something they are not. Sure, there are apps I’ve downloaded that I end up not using much, but with a $.99 price point for most of those, it’s hard to get worked up about it. I don’t think a 24-hour return period would make that much of a difference to most users. Meanwhile, Google’s lack of concern for the revenue stream of developers is a serious issue that continues to keep most serious programmers away from this platform.

I’m sure this developer would argue that his success is a clear sign that Android is going to be a viable platform for developers for years to come, and that it’s only going to get better. But from what I’ve been reading lately, it appears that Google is poised to kick Android developers to the curb in favor of a web-only Chrome platform as soon as it can possibly get away with it. So I’d say the development ecosystem for Android is pretty far from a good investment of a developer’s time.

On RIM’s upcoming “BlackPad”

“As long as it’s a good-enough product, they should have a
fighting chance,” said Kumar.

That’s a bold endorsement if I ever heard one. As long as you make something that’s just good enough not to suck, RIM, you’ll do fine.

When is the tech world going to learn that the era of Microsoft is over? Being just good enough isn’t going to cut it in a market dominated by an Apple product.

We don’t live in a Mac vs. PC world anymore. It’s iPod vs. every other MP3 player. You have to design great products to compete.

And I seriously hope that’s an internal code name for the product, not the actual shipping name. Blackpad? That’s even worse than iPad.

Article: Mobile Flash Fail: Weak Android Player Proves Jobs Right

How bad is mobile Flash? When I went to ABC.com and tried to play a clip, I waited five minutes while the player said “loading.” During that time, it was nearly impossible to scroll around the page or tap objects on it. Eventually, I scrolled up to see a message that was previously obstructed and said  ”Sorry. An error occurred while attempting to load the video. Please try again later.” It gets worse…

I’m going to let this one speak for itself. If you’re still holding out hope that Flash is going to survive in the long term, or that it will ever be a successful part of any mobile platform, go ahead and read the article linked above.

Ars Headlines Strike Again: “Apple iAd control freak tendencies take advertisers aback”

Apple’s “slow” turnaround time doesn’t come without rewards, though; Nissan told the WSJ that iAd “has driven exceptional results to date.” This sentiment is mirrored by some members of the Mac developer community (who can now take advantage of Apple’s “iAd for Developers” program); several developers told Ars that they have generated impressive income through iAd so far. Of course, the developers don’t benefit from weeks’ worth of Apple’s creative efforts, but it’s clear that the ads are making an impact—once they run.

Once again, there’s some disparity between an Ars Technica headline and the story’s conclusion.

The headline for this piece should have been “Apple takes advertisers to school on how to make effective ads.” But that wouldn’t have generated as many clicks.

This is the classic Apple agenda at work. Rather than dumping hundreds of crappy ads on users and failing to make any real impact, Apple is shaking up the whole industry. If they anger some clients in the process, so be it. If they fail to gain enough support for their new platform, so be it. They do it right, or they don’t do it. That’s how Apple rolls.

My guess is that Apple isn’t interested in entering this market just to add a bullet point to a marketing presentation. They literally want to change ads on mobile devices for the better—something that Google hasn’t managed to do, by the way, despite the fact that Google’s entire future rides on mobile advertising.