Posts Tagged: apple iphone

Sep 13

About that little Apple event…

Now that the iPhone 5s/5c event is behind us, we can get down to what’s really important — the whining and complaining about what Apple did wrong.

Okay, I’ll try to keep that to a minimum. I actually think the new iPhones are impressive. But every Apple event provides lots of new conversation fodder, and this one is no exception. So here are my thoughts on yesterday’s festivities. I’ll look forward to hearing yours.

The surprises. Oh right. There weren’t any. Though Apple did fill in a lot of the details, the broad strokes had leaked well in advance of the event: the product names, the fingerprint sensor and the colors. Many don’t realize how extremely important the element of surprise has been in building the modern Apple — and how it’s generated countless millions of dollars’ worth of free publicity around the world for every product launch. Apple has always had zero tolerance for anyone violating the secrecy rules inside the company or any of its vendors, but its size makes that difficult today. Too bad, because from a PR and buzz standpoint, the leaks cause real damage. The good news is: leaks or no leaks, the new iPhone features should appeal to a great many people. Continue reading →

Oct 11

Siri makes her TV debut

Welcome to Steve Jobs Authorized Biography Week. Shame on me for not writing about the Isaacson book today — but hey, that thing is long. Meet me back here in a few days.

For now, let’s talk Siri, which is shaping up to be a giant leap for such a “disappointing” iPhone 4S.

What better way to celebrate a giant leap than with a TV commercial. And the verdict is…


Like Siri, this spot feels new. The music track has a sense of magic. What we see is simply a sequence of different people interacting with Siri in different ways. It may be an obvious way of demoing Siri, but when you have an extraordinary feature, obvious is your best friend.

Siri comes off like the practical application of the technology we’ve seen forever in movies like 2001 and Star Trek. (With slightly better results than 2001.) It feels like the cast is talking to a person rather than a computer, which of course is the whole point of Siri — and what makes it such an “on-brand” technology for Apple.

There are nice touches in the writing that add to the humanity. Like “How do I tie a bow tie again?” Siri doesn’t particularly care about the “again” part, but that’s how people talk. In the last clip, we get more of a lament than a question or command: “I’m locked out of the house.” Siri seems almost empathetic.

If Siri is a world-changing feature, Apple could have run a grand manifesto ad to boldly proclaim the beginning of a new age. Instead, they went the quieter route, demonstrating how Siri fits into our lives. We hear Siri speak only once — which is another part of the crafting, as too much of Siri’s voice would only draw attention to one of her weaker areas.

So congrats to Apple and Chiat for a job well done.

Anything to quibble over? One small thing. In a spot where “human and natural” is the theme, the shots of Mr. Hand holding an iPhone (first and last scenes) feel unnatural — because they are lifeless still images of a hand rather than film. I’m sure this makes it easier to add the screens in post production, but surely the technology exists to do the same with real film. I think I know what Siri would say:

“I’ve found three digital effects studios fairly close to you.”

Conan O’Brien has already done his version of this commercial. See that here.

Sep 11

iPhone 5 and the riddle of the sphinx

I’m not sure why this tickles me so, but it does.

We know that any move by Apple sets off wild speculation, but this time it was better than than ever. Within minutes of the official iPhone 5 launch invitation going out, articles were being written to “decode” its contents.

Look! There’s a “one” in the phone icon! That means no second model! Yep. It could also mean you have one message, and you’re looking at it.

Look! It says “Let’s talk iPhone.” Talk? Don’t you get it? Real voice recognition is here! It could also mean there’s one message for you, and you’re looking at it.

I wouldn’t normally get swept up in such things, but there are three other obvious clues here and nobody seems to have noticed:

1. The Push Pin. Look closely at that Map icon. See where the push pin is pointing? Not to Infinite Loop. It’s pointing to the middle of De Anza Blvd. That’s right. This event will make history (though the traffic noise may be a problem).

2. Form Factor. Sure, that’s always been the phone icon. It may also be the shape of iPhone 5. It’s been hidden under our noses all this time. They’re toying with us.

3. The Second Hand. The second hand on the clock is conspicuous because it’s atop the minute hand. Get it? “Second hand”? Apple will announce a new program offering second-hand iPhones. It’s obvious.

Let’s see who’s right.

May 11

Anatomy of an Apple rumor

“Daddy, where do Apple rumors come from?”

Good question. Though conspiracy-mongers believe Apple masterfully manipulates journalists and bloggers, providing millions of dollars’ worth of free buzz, that’s hardly the case.

The Apple rumor/buzz machine stopped needing any help from Apple eons ago. That, thanks to years of phenomenal success and a famously mercurial CEO.

It takes only a hint of a fact, a mere whiff of a story, for journalists and bloggers to spread the story like wildfire. A good example of this is the recent avalanche of rumors surrounding the mysterious launch date of iPhone 5.

It started innocently enough:

Two months ago, Apple sent out an invitation its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The invitation had only one line of text: Join us for a preview of the future of iOS and Mac OS X.

This invite was accompanied by a release from Phil Schiller, in which he said, “If you are an iOS or Mac OS X software developer, this is the event that you do not want to miss.”

Jim Dalrymple is a blogger known for his reliable sources. Jim immediately posted an article entitled No iPhone, iPad or Mac hardware coming at WWDC. His first sentence: “Apple closed the door this morning on any speculation that it would announce new hardware at its Worldwide Developers Conference saying it would focus on iOS and Mac OS.”

Apple “closed the door”? Yikes. A bit extreme, considering:

1. The invitation went out two months in advance of the WWDC. Apple has never, ever announced an intention to unveil new products two months in advance.
2. Apple’s developer event is, by no coincidence, aimed at developers. Every WWDC invitation in history has focused on software.

However, none of this stopped the story from being picked up by tons of news services and blogs, including the well-respected John Gruber at Daring Fireball. Most ran with with headlines like No iPhone 5 at WWDC this summer.

Of course Jim Dalrymple may well have other sources that lead him to this conclusion. But again, Apple did not close any doors.

And that was only the start of this rumor. Following this “definitive” word from Apple came more reports trying to scoop the initial reports. Analysts gleaned information from their sources. An Asian manufacturer had information indicating there would be a summer launch after all.

Just a few days ago, it was reported that Apple has been urging journalists around the world to attend the WWDC. To those all over this story, that meant something big was going to happen. One blogger said, “the obvious conclusion is that Apple is announcing a new iPhone.”

Gruber quoted that story, but doubted the “obviousness” of the conclusion by noting, “Again — Apple spread word just two months ago the WWDC wasn’t going to be used to introduce new hardware.”

Cut that out! Apple did nothing of the sort. Apple simply sent out an invitation to its annual software event, as they do every year. Everything else is a hunt for hidden clues.

I have absolutely no idea when iPhone 5 will be announced. Nor do I have any idea what will be announced at WWDC. Hard to tell with so much detective work going on.

But if you’re going to draw any conclusions, you might want to read between the lines of those who are reading between the lines.


Apr 11

iPhone’s perfect storm

How I spent my winter vacation, courtesy of iPhone

If the iPhone location-tracking mess has you alternately muttering, “How dare they,” “Who the hell cares,” and “You tell ’em, Apple,” there’s good reason.

This particular blip in iPhone history is being fueled by three different forces.

For starters, there’s the growing national/global paranoia about our personal information falling into the wrong hands.

Then we have the never-ending obsession with Apple — with anti-Apple forces eager to pounce on any perceived chink in the armor and admirers eager to leap to the company’s defense.

Last, we have Apple tossing out its own statement yesterday — too late for some people’s tastes — and with enough fodder to give both sides some good ammunition.

Personally, I find it odd that people would get bent out of shape that their approximate location history has been stored somewhere in iTunes. (A) I could care less who knows where I’ve been, and (B) I thought we Mac users were so smug about our computers being safe and secure.

If someone did break into my computer, the iPhone location file is the last thing I’d care about them finding. My computer contains everything: my contacts, credit cards, bank accounts and information about the secret second family I have in Wisconsin. (Damn, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.)

The story gets bigger mostly because it involves Apple. In the last few weeks, there have been two far more serious threats to our confidential information, neither of which seems to have gotten as much press as LocationGate.

Just days ago, the Playstation Network was hacked. About 77 million had their email address and possibly credit card number stolen.

A short time ago, the marketing company Epsilon was hacked in the largest name and email heist in history. You’ve probably received a number of warnings from big companies who relied on Epsilon, advising that your email address has been compromised as a result. They’re very sorry for the inconvenience.

So excuse me if I don’t get upset that a hacker who hasn’t yet broken into my computer might one day sneak in and find out that I drove down to Florida a couple of months ago.

But now Apple blasts into the news with an official explanation. They say they’ve been silent because, basically, they’ve been working on it. They should know that the most frustrating part of air travel is when the pilot leaves us in the dark. A simple “we’re experiencing a delay, and I’ll get back to you when I have more information” would have sufficed.

Reportedly, Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall worked on the response together because they wanted to get it right. Unfortunately, parts of their explanation sound more like spin than they should. For example:

The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location…

Kind of the same thing, isn’t it? I look at my own iPhone location map, and I’m sorry — those are in fact the locations I visited.

They say that saving a year’s worth of data is a “bug,” because it should only save a week’s worth. It’s also a bug that data collection continues even when you turn off location services. To common folk, bugs are things that make software crash or perform improperly. In both of these cases, the software is doing exactly what Apple told it to do. They seem to be more errors in judgment than bugs. Especially when we know that this information is collected on purpose.

In the end, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Apple could have been more straightforward, but I take them at their word that the collected data is anonymous and used only to improve future services.

In fact, this could be a huge moneymaking opportunity if you have the hacking skills. Imagine: Location Maps of the Stars. How fun it would be to see the 12-month location maps of the rich and famous — starting with Jobs, Schiller and Forstall.

Mar 11

iPod: Apple’s quiet monopoly

Remember the good old days when iPod was Apple’s most thrilling product?

Damn those iPhones and iPads, stealing iPod’s thunder like that.

Sure, iPods still get their buzz every September with the new holiday line. The crowds still show up. But clearly today’s iPod lives in the shadow of its more glamorous siblings.

Relatively speaking, iPod goes about its business quietly — if it’s possible to be quiet when your business is maintaining a massive, competition-crushing stranglehold on your category.

Shortly after its birth, iPod grabbed over 80% of the music player market. It was simple, elegant, and the combination of iPod/iTunes just couldn’t be matched.

But nothing’s forever, right? Every intelligent observer assumed that at some point, competitors would appear to bring iPod’s market share back down to earth.

That never happened. Later this year, iPod will celebrate its tenth anniversary — and its tenth year of dominance.

In technology terms, that makes iPod a senior citizen. Yet it still performs like a newborn.

I honestly can’t remember any one product line that’s held such a lopsided advantage for so long. The most recent numbers I can find (July 2010) show iPod owning 76% of the category. Holy hell.

Not that others haven’t tried. Zune was probably the most credible challenger, but could only sputter.

I once had an inside look at the iPod-killing business. I was invited to work with an agency making a pitch for a new Sony music player. Some assignments seem silly only in retrospect, but this one seemed silly even at the time. Our mission: “Bring down the iPod.”

It was an incredible delusion on Sony’s part. Not only was this particular music player a faint echo of an iPod, Sony was willing to invest only $15 million in the marketing effort — while Apple was pouring over $100 million into iPod. To light the fire under the agency, Sony also demanded to see “demonstrable results” in three months.

As long as companies are driven more by delusion and hope, iPod’s 75%+ market share is probably safe.

In fact, at this point one could reasonably argue that iPod will spend its entire life unthreatened by real competition. If anything, the category will simply fade as smartphones make standalone devices less necessary.

I suspect it will be a long, long time before another product dominates like iPod has.

(Yeah, I know. iPad now has 90% market share. But let’s meet back in a year on that one.)

Jan 11

Adwatch: Intel soars, BlackBerry splats

These two ads have been around for a bit, but I’m sharing them anyway. Try and stop me. One proves that there’s always a creative way to say what’s been said before. The other proves that lame strategies lead to lame ads.

Starting on a positive note, here’s Intel’s effort:

In one of my first-ever posts 18 months ago, I raved about the new creative work from Intel via agency Venables & Partners. In following months, I gagged at their embarrassing Sad Robot and Penguins spots. These guys are giving me whiplash now, because this ad for their i5 processor is really, really good. (Correction 1/25 2:59pm: Venables did not create the Penguins spot, just the Robot spot.)

Not only is it fresh and mesmerizing, it’s a great job done under difficult circumstances.

Intel makes processors. Every new processor is faster than the one before. So, chip after chip, the creative guys are asked to come up with a new way to say the same thing. It’s one of the tougher challenges in this business. Then there’s the not-insignificant fact that working with Intel can make the veins in your head burst. So when someone makes a great ad, and Intel doesn’t peck it to death, this is big news.

Now brace yourself. Here comes the clunker:

Suppose for a minute that you’re BlackBerry. Your market share is in a well-documented free-fall. You’re watching as Apple and Google fight it out for new customers — a huge chunk of which happen to be your current customers. You get that apps are the big deal in mobile technology, but your own App World is a pathetic also-ran to Apple’s App Store and Google’s Apps Marketplace. (You’re only behind by a couple hundred thousand apps.)

But you’re feisty. There’s still some fight left in you. You bring in your top strategists and creative hotshots, and allocate a nice chunk of marketing money to the cause. And what do you get? An ad that basically says: With BlackBerry, you don’t just get apps — you get “super apps.”

It’s stunning, actually. You would think that grown adults with even a fleeting familiarity with the smartphone market would know better. Does anyone believe there’s anything about the BlackBerry OS that would allow it to run apps that are more “super” than Apple’s and Google’s apps? What the hero of this spot does seems to be easily accomplished via iPhone or Android. This is simply BlackBerry wishing things would be different — but the cold reality is there for all to see.

BlackBerry once had such a commanding share of the smartphone market, it’s hard to imagine them fading to nothing. But ads like this make you think that’s a distinct possibility.

Nov 10

iPhone sleeps a little late

You’ll have to forgive that disheveled guy who stumbled into the office late this morning. It was his iPhone’s fault.

He was just one of those poor unfortunates who didn’t get the message last week that the newest iPhone software is a bit time-challenged. The system recognized the end of daylight savings time, but repeating alarms did not. (iPhones in the U.K. and Australia recently had similar issues coping with local time changes.)

This is a particularly interesting bug, because (a) Apple customers aren’t used to this type of thing, and (b) Apple has a distinguished history when it comes to time-consciousness.

Remember, Macs were immune to the grand-daddy of all time-related glitches, the “Y2K bug.” Corporations agonized (expensively) for a year leading up to the year 2000, trying to protect themselves against that little glitch in Windows that threatened to cause a global meltdown when the new millennium arrived.

Apple so enjoyed the PC’s predicament, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell the world that Macs were better designed than that. They ran the the HAL commercial in prime real estate on the 2000 Super Bowl — right after kickoff.

Douglas Adams penned the headline, the agency took it from there (click to enlarge)

Lesser known is the Y2K ad you see here. It was designed to be a full-page newspaper ad, but I believe it only appeared on the Internet. This is a personal favorite, because the headline was actually written by the late Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He thought it was worthy of sharing, and we thought it was worthy of using. I was demoted to copy-boy on this one.

In just a few words, Adams did a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of Apple. He found a way to be both boastful and self-deprecating. It was human, a trait that historically separated Apple from other technology companies.

That “we may not get everything right” part of Apple’s personality is still there today, though it isn’t nearly as cute as it once was. (It was trotted out repeatedly at the Antennagate news conference.) This, of course, is a by-product of Apple’s runaway success. It’s hard to be folksy when you’re #1.

Today’s iPhone glitch is small in the scope of things. It’ll be forgotten tomorrow. Still, one does have to wonder how it happened in the first place. It’s not like we haven’t been using our iPhones for three years without having this problem before. Somehow, that little gremlin sneaked in there unnoticed.

Maybe Apple just needs that grand stage to do their best work. They do better with centuries than they do with hours.

Sep 10

Do I detect a little sensationalism?

Journalism isn’t the usual topic here. But I’m stunned enough by what I saw over the weekend that I wanted to share it.

This is the photo and caption that ran on the front page of on Sunday morning:

Good lord. By now most of us are familiar with the story of Foxconn, Chinese builder of iPhones, which reported 11 suicides in the first five months of the year. Most of us are also aware of one important fact: the suicide rate at Foxconn is actually lower than China’s overall suicide rate.

Then there’s this other little tidbit: the suicide rate at Foxconn is even lower than the rate in each of our own fifty states.

So of course MSNBC led with the idea that Terry Gou would be making history — if only his people weren’t killing themselves.

That’s too bad, because the article itself paints an interesting and thorough view of Terry Gou’s accomplishments. It only starts with the suicide story. But throughout many pages of detail, not once does it mention that Foxconn’s suicide rate is statistically irrelevant. It’s an astounding omission, considering that this fact was widely circulated when the news broke many months ago.

By no means do I diminish the importance of the Foxconn suicides. Every death is a tragedy, and if working conditions contributed, that needs to be corrected. However, when the facts provide important perspective, it’s the journalists’ professional duty to report them. Using sensationalistic lead-ins to suck readers in is more Enquirer style than MSNBC. At least it used to be.

This misleading image/caption disappeared from the MSNBC home page later in the day, and now does not appear in the main story either. So clearly somebody came to their senses. But for allowing it to happen on a front-page story in the first place, MSNBC — with its partners at Bloomberg Businessweek — get a well-deserved whack on their typing fingers. Watch it, fellas.

Aug 10

Battle of the philosophies

Any right-thinking person has to believe that competition is good. As Apple and Google go about thrashing one another, we all reap the benefits. And right up front, I do have to admit (gasp) that I’ve now tried a few Android phones, and in my superficial test drive they felt pretty good.

However, the philosophies behind the platforms remain night and day. To some, this means nothing — legitimately, they may only care about the phone in their hand. To others, it means a lot — because it affects the way they the platform is managed and perceived around the world.

Apple, as many point out, is into the control thing. This is exactly why so many people love their iPhones. Apple guarantees the experience by crafting both the OS and the hardware, and polices the App Store to at least attempt some quality control. The dark side of Apple’s approach is the perception that they are stifling freedom. (225,000 apps be damned.)

The world of Android is very different. Google supplies the OS while a legion of manufacturers compete with one another to make the hardware. This guarantees choice. But the dark side is the potential for fragmentation, where certain phones run certain versions of Android, some are missing features, upgrades can be delayed or unavailable, etc.

In fact, it’s hard to classify this as “potential” anymore. In the short time Android phones have been among us, fragmentation is already rearing its ugly head. PC Magazine just observed that the rollout of Android 2.2 was a mess. To paraphrase:

• The first Android 2.2 (Froyo) upgrades to Droid failed to deliver Flash. An upgrade to the upgrade will shortly fix that.
• The overseas Droid (called Milestone) gets Froyo in late Q4, but only in Europe and Korea. Froyo is “under evaluation” for Canada, Latin America and Mexico.
• Motorola phones with pre-2.1 versions of Android won’t get Froyo anytime soon.
• The Motorola Cliq, Cliq XT and Backflip are waiting for Android 2.1, but the Devour won’t get it.
• Owners of the Droid Incredible are still waiting for their upgrade.
• The brand-spanking-new Dell Streak was delivered with Android 1.6 and won’t get an upgrade till the end of the year.
• Samsung Galaxy phones are expected to get Froyo, but no one knows when.
• The only company to “ace” the Froyo launch was … Google. Nexus One users got their upgrades back at the end of June.

Like I said, none of this matters if you love the phone in your hand and could care less about the guy sitting next to you. But if you’re a fan of simplicity — or even democracy — it’s hard not to be turned off by the fragmentation of Android.