Nov 09

Apple gets a little tetchy

Uh oh. I’m sensing a disturbance in The Force.

This is one of two new spots that just started running for iPhone. Both are doing something iPhone has never done before: they’re responding to an alarm. It seems that Verizon is scoring points with their relentless pounding of the widely disliked AT&T network, and it’s getting hard to ignore.

These commercials put up a decent defense but, unsurprisingly, they feel a bit defensive.

The network vs. network argument is actually a distraction for Apple. Because when they talk about the network, they stop talking about their truly monstrous advantage — 100,000 apps. They’re reduced to claiming simultaneous voice and data capability. In this sub-debate, whose advantage would you really prefer? Apple’s simultaneous thing, or Verizon’s vastly larger network that doesn’t drop calls?

Both of the new iPhone spots give us examples of AT&T’s “superiority,” then deliver the punch line: Can your phone and your network do that? The challenging, inelegant tone actually feels more like Verizon than Apple.

To be honest, I find it odd that Apple is even suiting up for this fight. The crummy network is AT&T’s fault. If the ship is springing a few leaks, I’d expect Apple to fire off a note to AT&T: “If you really love me, you’ll go beat up Verizon for me.” Who knows, maybe they’ve gone back and forth on that one.

Whatever their mission, Apple’s creative standards can’t be compromised. If they feel it’s important to go toe-to-toe with Verizon on the network issue, they have to find an Apple-like way to do that. They’ve pummeled their foe masterfully in the Mac vs. PC campaign. Surely they can find a way to slap Verizon around — and entertain us along the way.

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  • Ken, this is not a commercial from Apple. It’s a commercial with AT&T. And they should be defensive.
    My service is so bad, but I choose not to darken this space with expletives out of respect for the author.

    I actually went into a Verizon store yesterday to find out about their service. Yet the devices are so ugly and bad I couldn’t pull the plug on my iPhone. Great little computer, awful little phone. (sigh!)

    You can’t tell me with a straight face that Steve Jobs uses AT&T service. His phone must be hacked in someway to Verizon, or a Satellite, or a secret Apple digital network.

    Defend away AT&T. Better yet, forget the ads and spend the money on making the service better. (But that would make too much sense).

    (Insert holiday turkey pun about AT&T here).

  • Stephen Sonnenfeld

    The spot does have a brilliant line at the end of it, “Can your phone do that?”

  • but Stephen, that’s the point: regardless of what a great phone the iPhone is or isn’t or how clever the line might be, AT&T can’t and doesn’t deliver on their promise… i too have meandered into Verizon stores and checked the HTC Droid offerings, not because my iPhone isn’t a great phone but because AT&T service is sooo shoddy…

    at the end of the day it’s not really about what your phone can or cannot do, it’s about what service you (and your phone) are at the mercy off… and if Bob is right and it IS AT&T behind the spots and they’re relying on Apple’s merits to carry them over some obvious shortcomings on their end, then it’s really sad…

  • Stephen Sonnenfeld

    I was actually making an inside joke to Ken about the “Can your phone do this?” line. It was a campaign we came up with, and quite a good one actually, when we were pitching the Vonage business at Agency of the Past – Enfatico.

  • Joel Fagin

    And yet the adverts are still showing off some of those 100,000 apps. In spite of the fact they’re responding to Verizon, the ad still shows off the UI, like every other iPhone ad, and puts some useful apps centre stage, like every other iPhone ad.

  • Chuck O’Rourke

    I think this is in response to Apple losing young men to Motorola. See here:


    It’s hard to believe this could change so quickly and harder to believe it will stay like this what with Androids problem with app storage. I think once these fickle young guys find out Droids beautiful big screen won’t be able to play games due to the lack of addressable storage they will come back to Apple with a new found appreciation and their tails between their legs.

    It’s amazing the pass the Droid and Android have gotten over this and the fact that this is part of the problem inherent with Android. It is taking over all the Microsoft mobile phones hence the lack of room for apps.

  • @ chuck: not sure that on-phone storage will be an issue in the near future… everything being pulled from Wi-Fi hotspots means gaming will go multi-player on-line as well… and Tetris, no matter what device you play it on is still Tetris… i would be surprised if there wasn’t an iPhone version of Jenga waiting in the wings, seeing as how the majority of iPhone apps are less than useless, i mean really??? 17 different ‘fart noise’ apps?…

    but seriously, isn’t the retreat of consumers from one phone to another (therefore one provider to another) trackable to a problem with the service? most of that demographic are still toting around PSP’s and other stations to get their gaming fixes on… i think Droid, etc., are touting faster online connections, less drop out and more stable connections to more people and that’s Verizons strengths, for the moment…

    small confession: i bought an iPhone because of the problem free linkage to my iMac, if Droid et al offered that? i’d be gone in a NY minute…

  • Liebman

    Tetchy? I had to look that one up.

  • Chuck O’Rourke

    marino a gallo, Why bother posting useless nonsense and non-thought like that? High quality games and apps (of whatever quality) aren’t the major driver of iPhone sales and people aren’t going to be disappointed that they have to re-load apps all the time from the cloud and can’t even run decent iPhone quality games because their Droids addressable storage can’t handle them because they’re a holdover from the Microsoft phones these Android phones are inheriting their hardware from. Let me be the first to tell you: your wrong! It will be a very long time before anybody is playing 3D games on a Droid from the cloud.

  • didn’t mean to offend chuck, put down the kitchen knife… we can talk about this like adults…

    it’s just that i remember working on the Verizon account a few years back (4 to be exact) and i thought it would be great if we could hook up Rock Star Games (Grand Theft Auto, the biggest name in gaming at the time) and some new phones that Verizon was going to carry… and i thought it might be worth looking into to see if we could have a phone version of the game that could be played globally via the new phones (supposedly VERY powerful little things) … without having to do anything phone-side as WiFi was starting to catch on. it would all be fed to the phones via some voodoo they called clouds… the only thing on the phones themselves would be the core user data and system.

    it was those evil Verizon tech guys that perverted my thoughts, i swear! they said in a few years, cloud technology would be prevalent and it wouldn’t be a problem just not yet, while storage, accessibility and connections would always be a problem on PDA’s, smart phones and cell phones in general until then. the target date they mentioned? 2010-2012.

    well, you can imagine my hayseed surprise upon hearing that! but then again, if someone had told me just 2 short years ago that i’d be looking at pdf documents on my iPhone and making comments on an advertising campaign like that (until i could get into the office), i’d have thought them possessed by the devil himself!

    my point was not that the apps and games were THE factor, but certainly A factor? if you look at ALL the iPhone messaging (print and TV) the games and apps are THE talking point. and we’ll see how that plays out in another year… netbook sales are starting to pick up dramatically, Apple’s gearing up for a wireless tablet, Archos already has 2 models (the 9 is what i’m waiting for) that are rocking Europe and on severe backorder here… Korea’s even chipping with several offerings whose sales (in Korea and Japan) are through the roof… viewed globally, this idea might be catching on: how do you deliver whatever you want to deliver to as many people as possible? make it easier for them have access: smaller, faster devices with clearer more available bandwidth…

    the future might be lot closer than we’d like to think is all i’m saying… they said it would be a very long time until mechanicals were dead in the advertising workplace and now, i can’t think of one ad agency, design studio, video editor or marketing firm that releases final work in a non-digital manner (digital has become the ‘traditional’), thumbdrives, DVD’s, hard drives and FTP sites routinely handle immense and complex postings and assignments and no one’s looking back, ditto for smart phones, iPhones, PDA’s and tablets…

    well, almost no one’s looking back…

  • just a small question, and then i’m off to work ( i know, sucks to be me working on a holiday weekend): did you think that you had Google Maps or the GPS system on your iPhone or Blackberry or Droid? you’re already accessing a hardline ‘cloud’ to get that satellite intel, it’s just a small step to softer, faster, more dispersed servers…

    now if you can get all that real world info, via linkage to really large servers holding REALLY large bits of variable data, fairly commonly these days actually, what’s the jump off point to Halo or Borderlands or Assassins Creed II on a cell, tablet, whatever (in real time)? not too much of a running start needed there, i believe…

    and how big of a selling point will that be to the largest demographic of new smart phone purchasers? it wasn’t corporations that lined up to buy those millions of iPhones (or Droids, to be fair) that went out the door and when they (iPhones) release in Korea (in December, i believe?) it won’t be salarymen that line up on droves to get one… that’s right, it’s the ‘youth to adulthood’ segment… the non-business segment, the one’s interested in apps and games and such…

  • Chuck O’Rourke

    Sorry, Gallo didn’t mean to get out of hand but I think my reasoning holds water. I’m just amazed at the pass Google is getting on these products. The fact that Android phones are repurposed Microsoft phones with significant limitations that aren’t being called out by the tech press is amazing to me. The same with Chrome OS. That’s being lauded as a sure thing when it’s anything but. I also feel that about the Apple Tablet. A media device that requires earbuds? Between that and the ergonomics on a device like that I wonder how great it will be. I can only imagine a big iPod touch so maybe Apple has some mind blowing design that will shut me up but if not I’ll take a 27″ iMac at home and an iPhone or iPod Touch for the road. I don’t want a 10″ media device that won’t hook up to my existing iPod speaker docks and that is aggravating my carpal tunnel while I read/watch it. As always it will be great to see what Apple comes up with.

    As for the cloud. I would suggest moving cautiously in that direction. So far I think the things that have worked there make sense: maps, directions, etc. The high profile cloud failures (Microsoft Danger/Palm Pre/ Various Google outages, I just saw something from a Nokia exec apologizing) make me think Apple’s backup to the PC is the sensible way to go and especially the Mobile Me\ device synch so you have the info in the cloud and on the PC. An apology from an exec from Google when something goes hideously wrong ain’t enough for me.

  • hey chuck, marino’s fine …

    all good points you just made and i didn’t mean to sound as if the answer was right around the corner and it would work right out of the box, but i do feel it’s in the works and not really so far down the road… lots of makers will get lots of passes as it gets worked out… Apple got lots of passes over the years, it’s only fair that everyone does as well. remember when Apple told us that our motherboards would contain swappable chips and we wouldn’t have to upgrade the WHOLE box? everyone sort of let that go as it became apparent that they weren’t going to follow through, cut Google et al some slack is all i’m saying.

    when i saw the first laptop, i was floored, the first iPod? i was floored, followed by being floored by Archos tablets, $250 netbooks, crowd sourced creative efforts, etc.

    one thing i’ve personally taken with me from all these floorings is a simple POV i’ve adopted: the world rolls on, with me or without me, and with so many really smart people working on their interpretations of an ‘answer’, i feel it’s better if i roll with it…

    from what i’ve seen of some interesting cloud proposals and from what i’ve been able to gather: we have to move away from the ‘single user-single computer’ model and move towards global interaction more like ‘one cell phone connected to an immense provider’ model where very little is actually on the handheld device (so it can be fast, small and cheap) and most of my stuff resides somewhere out there all password protected and snug…

    and don’t worry too much about an apology from an exec about what happened to your stuff… that’s one of the interesting things about cloud architecture, there’s way more than one in way more than one spot…

  • Chuck O’Rourke

    Marino, sorry again! For me it should be less about giving anybody a pass and more about purported experts doing there job so people can make a good decision. It may not matter to me that I can’t use the phone while accessing the data plan but I’d like to know. I’d also want to know that the amazing screen on the droid is going to be of little use playing games because of storage issues. Reviewers need to do a good job.

    As for there being more than one copy of cloud info. Here’s some quotes from an AppleInsider story about data loss:
    “Earlier this year, Nokia also experienced a cloud services failure with Ovi, its mobile online service then operating in a public beta, after a server accident resulted in database problems. Despite having “regular backups,” the company said “we were not able to set it right” and had to revert to an older database performed three weeks earlier at its previous hosting center.

    “We’re sorry for the lost contacts in your phonebooks,” Nokia’s Ovi Contacts project manager Kristian Luoma posted to the company’s blog. “We’re sorry that the profile pictures you love, and we love too are gone. Nothing can make this right, we know, but we’re hoping that you can forgive us and give another chance to give you good service.”

    Yea, sure Kristian because I’m clearly an idiot who has nothing better to do than pay you guys to give me the shaft.

    Full story:

  • so the lesson here might “never jump on the first release of anything”? i learned that lesson the hard way a few times (Apple included)…

    still beats having EVERYTHING wiped out as was reported in certain MS Windows cases a few versions ago when people gleefully loaded the new OS only to be looking nothing but the new OS when they rebooted…

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