Mar 162011
 

You’ve no doubt seen AT&T’s latest ads touting the benefit of talking and texting at the same time, something you cannot do on Verizon’s more-dated CDMA network. What you probably didn’t know is that, in addition to crafting snarky commentary, TMA also moonlights as a screenwriter. My angle – get this: representing things as they actually are in real life. Obviously, this radical approach to moving pictures isn’t for everyone. The producers at AT&T rejected TMA’s attempt to realistically script the events depicted in “Talk and Text at the Same Time”, but that doesn’t mean this work of art can’t be appreciated by a (nominally) larger audience. I present to you: TMA’s take on Talk and Text.

INT. OFFICE – NIGHT

MAN sits at conference room table, staring intently at the numerous papers. All other lights in OFFICE are dark and MAN is obviously under some kind of deadline.

MAN looks over at smartphone on table.

MAN

What the…voicemail? It didn’t even ring!

MAN presses button to play voicemail on speaker.

WOMAN

What…? Are you there? Did you forget what today is? Where are you?

MAN

Crap!

MAN dials number frantically.

MAN

Hello? Honey? Honey?

WOMAN

–ere are you? You —- –pposed to —- vations for-

MAN

What? Jesus – let me get to a window.

MAN frantically scampers away from conference table sending papers flying. MAN runs to window.

MAN

Hello?!

WOMAN

You did make the reservations tonight, didn’t…BOOP-BOOP-BOOP

Phone disconnects.

MAN

Argggg!

MAN opens smartphone browser, progress ball spins for 25 seconds as page begins to load.

MAN

Anytime today! What the f…

Phone rings, replacing browser screen with incoming call screen.

MAN

Hey! I lost you! Of course we’re on for tonight!

WOMAN

So where…

MAN pulls phone away from face to look at browser, which is still loading. He puts phone back to ear.

WOMAN

So?

MAN

So what?

WOMAN (irritated)

Where are the reservations? Are you even listening? What else are you doing when I’m trying to talk to you?!

MAN

Nothing!

MAN pulls phone away again to check browser. Google Maps is 75% loaded.

MAN (tersely)

I need to call you back.

MAN hangs up and goes to computer. Clacks at keyboard for 10 seconds. Dials smartphone again.

WOMAN (very irritated)

Real special night so far, jerk. Are you through just making the plans?

MAN

Don’t be ridiculous…we’re on at…BOOP-BOOP-BOOP

Phone disconnects.

MAN (enraged)

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!

MAN throws smartphone through nearby LCD, walks over to landline, dials.

~FIN~

 Posted by at 11:37 am  Tagged with:
Feb 152011
 

I remember my first generation iPhone, newly minted from Apple for the super-reasonable price of $599. I marveled at Apple’s native apps, messed around with some pre-SDK web apps. The iPhone was obviously so much better than anything before it, its shortcomings were camouflaged by a backdrop of Apple ease-of-use. Having every third call drop in the metro NYC area was a small price to pay for privilege of having access to the next generation of mobile computing.

Every iteration of iOS came with some set of features that distracted me just enough from the reality that my carrier sucked. First came native apps, then cut and paste, then multitasking. Even as AT&T’s network continued to burn while Ralph de la Vega played his violin and asserted that data-hogging iPhone users were the reason; even as tethering and MMS remained absent while every other smart (and dumb) phone user laughed at me, I stayed loyal to Apple, which meant being tied to AT&T. When the legitimate Verizon iPhone rumors surfaced, it took about 14 nanoseconds for this particular AT&T customer to make the decision to switch. There are some memories I’ll always cherish, though:

Remember that time I dictated 3 pages of inspired prose into Dragon Dictate and your network – without my moving an inch – passed me from 3G to EDGE and I lost it all?

How about that time I was on vacation and couldn’t get to a computer and you dropped 5 consecutive calls to the bank, then choked on the purchase of their 12 MB banking app that would have saved me a hunker of a late fee on my credit card?

Or the times you were showing me 2 or 3 bars, but couldn’t complete a phone call for 20 minutes at the train station, right before my battery ran out?

Yea, good times. It’s with a heavy heart that I take delivery of my new Verizon iPhone 4. Yes, I know there will probably be an iPhone 5 in half a year. I don’t care. When you do manage to find a decent connection on the mean streets of Manhattan, you don’t even have the faster data rate you brag about. I’m sick of knitting every 3rd word of a conversation into a sentence and habitually jamming my finger in my ear to have the best chance of doing so. My new iPhone and I have many more good times to look forward to. Don’t think of my defection as a snub, Ralph. I’ll be one less data burden dragging down your otherwise super-robust 3G network. So in the end this is really a win-win.

Jan 112011
 

Someone finally did the legwork to test TMA’s hypothesis about Android’s competitiveness on a multi-carrier network in the U.S (shout outs to (gulp) Silicon Alley Insider for their original graphic and asymco’s addition of iPhone data). For every Android phone on AT&T’s network today, there are 15 iPhones. Fifteen. AT&T also carriers eight flavors of Android phone versus Apple’s two (the 3GS and 4).

What do you think is going to happen to Android’s 7 million units on Verizon?

Nov 102010
 

Despite many self-inflicted blows to the head, I cannot get that sound byte out of my head, which I guess is the point of most Microsoft advertising. It’s one of the things I imagine they teach in “Introduction to Advertising”. Except for the part about the impression associating positively with the brand. Redmond’s ads are memorable like Creepy King.

Anyway, Windows Phone 7 debuted their offerings with AT&T (yes, the same network that is holding the iPhone hostage) and it doesn’t look like it made a huge splash, despite whoring out Maroon 5 and Katy Perry in an attempt to sell them. I guess launching on the same network as the iPhone wasn’t that great an idea after all. Despite some critics’ hypothesis, which is that Microsoft burned its bridge with Verizon when they yoinked the Kin after 2 months, I actually think there’s a larger strategy at play. Microsoft wants to be the best by beating the best. Really. This is the same company that threatened to open its wildly popular retail stores next door to Apple Stores. I apologize in advance for any sarcasm detectors I may have just broken.

On a related note, I despise Katy Perry. You know by listening to her music that she sold out approximately 14 seconds postpartum.

“Let’s make a pop song about lipstick lesbianism!” /giggles

“I’m married to wild child Russell Brand and I have him trained!” /giggles

Is it any coincidence that Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani have both shilled for Redmond? They’re the same schtick, people. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen them together. File that rant under “Haters gon’ hate”.

Oct 252010
 
Desperate to try and disassociate itself with its network’s bad rap, AT&T announced that it was moving away from its historic “swirly globe” icon and towards an icon that its customers were more familiar with.
Out:

In:
A spokesperson for AT&T stated that the new logo – nicknamed “pokey” – tested especially well with focus groups in New York and San Francisco, where users cited a high degree of familiarity with the new icon.
 Posted by at 3:28 pm  Tagged with:
Oct 012010
 

After years of sitting on their Windows Mobile operating system and watching their market share become smartphone segment cage liner, Microsoft announced its Madonna-like reinvention in February: Windows Phone 7.

Resistance is futile.

The OS that drew heavily from the less shitty Zune UI began to build buzz, with several dozen Gizmodo and Engadget commenters anxiously awaiting a definitive announcement. The armies of loyal IT drones received their transmissions from the Collective and stood ready to recommend Windows 7 phones as the “enterprise solution” mobile device. Today, Microsoft finally released the details of their first Windows 7 phones…

…which will be available exclusively on AT&T’s network.

The same carrier that has an exclusive agreement with Apple to sell the iPhone. Continue reading

Sep 282010
 

So you’ve read about the financial difficulties of running a newspaper because of competition from lazy, incompetent news aggregators that don’t check sources and don’t provide much critical value. Print media is struggling to find its way in the digital economy, even though their role of honest broker is one of the most important in all of media. Bloomberg gives us a good example of what we’re losing.

The premise of “Sprint Lures AT&T iPad Users With Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots” is that the introduction of AT&T’s tiered pricing for 3G data and the exclusivity of Apple’s contract has created an opportunity for Sprint. For only $59.99 (or $30 more than AT&T’s 2 GB/month data plan), you can have unlimited data back. Tell me what these statements would lead you to believe, or risk stupidity blindness by reading it yourself:

Sprint’s palm-sized Overdrive 3G/4G hotspot device allows users to connect to the lower-priced Wi-Fi-only iPad from anywhere the carrier has coverage.

Sprint Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse has said the Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier has no plans to end unlimited data plans.

(Portland resident Bob) Morgan said he’s found the Overdrive to deliver 3G speeds where other carriers don’t reach, such as on 11,300-foot Mount Hood in Oregon.

You’d think that coverage would be universal across their entire network. Well, as “universal” as coverage gets on a network shittier than AT&T’s anyway.

Well, nowhere in the process of regurgitating the mindless drivel from the PR flacks at Sprint did it occur to Greg Bensinger that he should ask about the universality of this great deal. Because it only applies to Sprint’s 4G network, which makes for one of the most hilarious coverage maps in telecommunications. Seriously, see if you can discern one 4G coverage area on Sprint’s website when you zoom out to the U.S. view.  3G is capped at 5GB/month. This restriction is mentioned a total of zero places in the article. It’s not even implied.

Oh – and about those intentions of keeping data unlimited? If Sprint really had the balls required to steal customers from AT&T, they’d stop being grossly disingenuous with their media enemas and either open up their “unlimited” plan to include 3G or guarantee that 4G would be unlimited for life for those signing up. Because these great sounding proclamations about unlimited data sound an awful lot like AT&T and Verizon did last year.

Jul 152010
 

On June 7, John Ciancutti, VP of Personalization Technology for Netflix announced the availability of Netflix for the iPhone “this summer”. A month later, not a word more about the port. The topic’s discussion thread on the Netflix board is filled with “where is it?” posts with nary a peep from management in reply.

So what could be the holdup? I mean, the app exists for the iPad; it’s essentially the same port. These announcements are usually followed by a product in relatively short order. What could be responsible for the delay?

Unlimited. Data.

You see, there’s a shitload of iPhone users out there (present company included) that didn’t think a $5/month savings on their AT&T bills was worth it – especially when 3G streaming media options were in still their infancy.

There are 14 million Netflix subscribers and over 35 million iPhone users. This is in no way scientific (and doesn’t account for Microsoft’s Silverlight abomination, which doubtless adds overhead) but while monitoring my Netflix stream on my laptop, the smallest pull I could achieve was about 250kb/second. If this is even close to what an iPhone app would pull, AT&T’s network would be toast.

AT&T may be stonewalling until more people switch to capped plans or new users join (unlimited data is no longer an option for new accounts); it may have no intention of allowing the app it at all. I don’t believe the company is in any position to allow its network to be jammed up any further, and that’s exactly what Netflix on the iPhone would do.

Update: On August 26, Netflix finally released their iPhone port. In my testing, it played flawlessly over WiFi and just about as flawlessly over the black hole of 3G also known as Manhattan (there was a 2 second period of stutter when I first started “Objectified”). The only 2 drawbacks in my limited experience: you can’t manage your DVD queue from the app and for some reason the “Resume” button means “Start me over”, which is annoying. All in all, a great addition to the iPhone and a huge win for people who decided to stick with unlimited data on their AT&T plans.

Jun 052010
 

So AT&T has killed off the unlimited bandwidth plan for new subscribers. TUAW has a nice summary of the changes. While it’s usually safe to assume the most evil of intentions when it comes to AT&T, and the bitchier strata of the blogosphere are wringing the tears out of their boxer briefs, the net net of it isn’t horrible.

Except for the $20 tethering tax – on data that’s capped – is a given. I chalk this up to the singularity of ignorance that is AT&T.

On a more granular level, there are 2 related points that I’d like to call bullshit on:

-The timing of AT&T’s message sucks. They announce a network partnership with Apple for a device that’s bound to make the iPhone’s data consumption look like grandpa’s urine stream. But lo and behold, the data’s still unlimited – and you can turn it on and shut it off any month you want! Man, that’s groundbreaking. Well, now it’s more like: enjoy the month of unlimited data, jagoffs. After June 7, if you’re not already enrolled in the $30 monthly unlimited data plan – and keep it in perpetuity – your data options are capped at 2GB a month. This cuts a lot of the “gee, that was pretty cool of them” factor out of the opt-in/out feature and replaces it with more of a “wow, you guys are fucking dickheads” feel. Which brings me to the related point…

-I know from my iPhone’s use – and reading about a lot of other people’s use – that a 2GB cap won’t be a problem. However, when Jason Snell at Macworld (a staff writer, not one of the asshats from PC World) did his original review of the 3G iPad, the longevity of AT&T’s 250Mb plan was not encouraging:

Streaming video, in particular, is hugely intensive: using the Netflix application can easily rack up in excess of 100MB in an hour. One feature-length movie can put you within spitting distance of your bandwidth cap.

So that’s 20 hours of streaming video before you break your cap, assuming no other 3G use. What wasn’t a concern for the iPhone may well be a concern for the iPad.

So yea, if you discount the disingenuous introduction of the opt in/out “feature” and if you don’t mind having your consumption capped at what may not be a reasonable ceiling, you might end up saving $5 a month on your cellphone bill.

 Posted by at 8:07 am  Tagged with:
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