Jan 232012

Verizon’s been taking a couple of stabs at advertising the second-best smartphone operating system and I have to say, the latest tie-in kinda nails it. Ladies and gentlemen, R2D2:

What better way to advertise Android than with an actual droid? The resemblances between Lucas’s reboot of the Star Wars franchise and Android don’t stop there, however. To wit:

  • Both bastardize popular original ideas to turn a buck with vastly inferior offerings
  • Both substitute eye-catching features to cover for their lack of substance
  • Both feature lead characters that have the likability of wet cardboard
  • Both have successfully suckered in millions, only to have them regret the experience

Android: the Episode I of smartphones.


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?

Jan 042011

Happy New Year to the TMA readership. My resolution: 2560 x 1440.

/boom-tish. Try the Salisbury steak.

With a new year, writers across the land feel compelled to make a bunch of baseless predictions and tech is no exception. I came across some from Google employee Tim Bray in his “ongoing” blog. I didn’t find any of the prognostications in “Year-end View of the Mobile Market” particularly insightful or interesting, but they do speak volumes about how Google thinks. Mercifully, Bray does prepare readers for how patently obvious many of his predictions are. I’ve taken up the challenge of summarizing each of his “things that seem obvious” in 5 words or less. You can click through to see how I did.

In 2011, the smartphone market will/be/continue to (OK, I cheated a bit):

  • Sell a lot of phones
  • Further squeeze “dumb” phone sales
  • Apple, Android > RIM, Nokia, Microsoft
  • Windows 7 Phones: Verdict Unclear

Then he says something about a $500 contract free phone being less than a $199 phone with a contract and wonders when someone will offer financing. Like they have for appliances. Really.

So what are Bray’s not-so-obvious things?

  • The major barrier for tablets replacing laptops? “High-speed low-friction text input”. Translation: the opposite of Android’s touchscreen input.
  • “I’m increasingly coming to think that people buy phones based on the quality and volume of old-fashioned advertising put behind the products. Not coincidentally, not only are the iPhones and iPad excellent devices, they have what is to my eye probably the best advertising in the mobile industry.” Ladies and gentlemen: our first moneyball. The difference between Apple’s and Android’s relative success is marketing. You can see this theory expanded on over at Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite.
  • Apple is going to do a 7″ device. That’s certainly not so obvious. In fact, that’s about 3 colors of the rainbow into Fantasyland. Why will Apple do a 7″ device? “(It) still fits in one hand and you can use for four hours in a row sitting up.” Does Bray mean you can’t use an iPad sitting up for 4 hours? I certainly can. Does he mean having a device that can be extended at arm’s length for 4 hours? Try doing that holding nothing. He concludes emphatically with “This argument is over“, and by the italics you can tell he means it. They should bring Bray in for closing arguments. He could be a Mariano Rivera-esque consultant to defense attorneys. James Spader’s character in Boston Legal just peed his pants a little.

But Bray is at his most compelling in the section titled “Apple vs. Android”, where he pits the advertising powerhouse in Cupertino against the Open Source champions in Mountain View. Who wins?

“I think Apple will sell a ton of devices because they’re good, and superbly marketed. I think a bunch of people will sell a ton of Android devices because they’re good and there are so many options for different needs and networks and price-points.” Emphasis mine

Both are good devices, but that goddamn marketing – those fucking unicorn tears – that’s what lands Apple those insanely high margins EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE ON ONE CARRIER IN THE U.S.!

Let me break it down for you, Tim. The difference – that most obvious of obvious factors you allude to but don’t quite concede – is Verizon. Here’s an illustration of Verizon’s current smartphone unit sales, a period of time I like to call “Before iOS” or “BiOS”, or as you’ll come to remember them: the Salad Years.

This is what will happen at “Zero Hour”, which is immediately after the iPhone becomes available on Verizon. This is also the beginning of “In the year of our Jobs” or “AiOS”.

Finally, once most people are able to rid themselves of their existing contracts and avoid cancellation fees, the landscape should be pretty-well stabilized. Until the iPhone 5…

To wrap up the piece, Bray waxes optimistic about future of the Android platform”

“And there’s nothing fundamental in Android that would get in the way of a industrial-design and user-experience rock-star team, whether at Google or one of the handset makers…”,

And there’s nothing fundamental in the way of my becoming the next Justin Bieber. I can inflect my speaking voice in a way that qualifies as singing, even though I’m not something you’d pay to listen to – or stick around for long if it were free. I have a blog, so there’s really minimal distance between, say, an entry in Douchebag’s Row and some hit single that makes sane people claw at their eyes. I can play chopsticks on the piano, so I am musically inclined – fundamentally. Everything between here and the Top 10 is details.

“…testing the hypothesis that these things are central to Apple’s success.”

Testing the hypothesis that something besides the snappy songs in those ads are what make Apple the most valuable brand in the technology sector. Because – you know – they’re engineers. They need to test all hypotheses, no matter how unlikely.

I’m picturing the Android team’s faces when smartphone unit sales are announced for the first and second quarter of 2011. The genuine looks of befuddlement will be the best part.

Oct 012010

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ChangeWave, a company that asks people stuff then charges a lot of money for what they say, released a report today which showed that people are developing more of a preference for the Android operating system on their mobile phones, stealing preference share away from the iPhone. I’ll save you the $1,500 to purchase the report and quote you the relevant statistics:

Wow – looks like people are really starting to warm up to Google’s mobile OS, right? Ummmm…no. Continue reading »

Aug 092010

Google and Verizon have done some important work for the U.S. government: they’ve drafted a policy for an open Internet ripe for cutting and pasting by the FCC. With the exception of item #6, this represents good things for consumers. Because Google and Verizon no doubt meant to see all internet traffic equitably distributed and would never contemplate rigging the policy governing wireless broadband to favor either of the 2 companies, I’ve done a little editing, which I know conveys the true sentiment felt by both of these communications juggernauts:

Sixth, under this proposal we would apply the wireline principles to wireless, including the transparency requirement.

I even made it more succinct for you, which I find is helpful when you’re explaining things to government agencies. You’re 99% of the way there, guys. I appreciate your efforts so much, I won’t even bill you for the redrafting.

Jul 022010

Excellent article by Daniel Eran Dilger on why it makes zero sense for Apple to release a CDMA version of  the iPhone with Verizon – or even maintain it as a skunkworks project. The money paragraph:

The top 15 global mobile carriers handle around 3,000 million subscribers, and they’re all GSM/UMTS carriers. Below Verizon and AT&T, there’s another 800 million subscribers handled by the next 15 largest mobile carriers, and again, they’re all GSM/UMTS carriers too. So should Apple aim at selling the iPhone to 3,800 potential subscribers worldwide, or should it focus its attention on making a single new generation of CDMA iPhone to target some of the 140 (million) subscribers in the US with a phone that will be obsolete in two years?

Analysis like this absolutely shames the majority of Apple punditry out there. Not only does he box Rob Enderle’s ears periodically (see the first comment), his articles at Roughly Drafted are simply the best deconstructions of anti-Apple cruft out there.

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