Category Archives: iTunes

The Razr’s Edge

It is amazing how my two year old HTC Incredible phone managed to die just as the Moto Razr was released.   While there are 100s of reviews of this phone on the web, I have not found any that describes a real life experience, with the ups and downs of getting this new super phone to work for you.  So here it is…

To begin with there are a few things you have to understand about an Android phone.  No two phones are alike.  Phones that come from different manufacturers have their own custom software add-ons and interfaces.

Android phones are like your Thanksgiving dinner table.  You look around and can tell that most of the people are genetically related, but each has their own “special” qualities and quirks.

This is why these phones are popular with the various carriers and manufacturers.  They have, in theory (and I think its just a theory) the ability to differentiate their offerings from one another.  It gives the marketing folks a “raison d’etre”.

Android phones are not the one size fits all that you get from the iPhone.  Android phones are very capable devices. But as they say “With great Power comes great responsibility”  In this case its your responsibility to make the phone do exactly what you want.

With that preamble, you will understand that my moving from an HTC Android to a Motorola Android required a bit of a learning curve.

I lost the HTC Sense UI that I had grown use to and now have some alien  form of Moto Blur (really a bad name for a UI!) and straight Android.  I also went from my “Froyo” version of Android to “Gingerbread”, with the promise of getting upgraded to “Ice cream sandwich” in the new year.  Unlike Apple, many Android devices have been orphaned at lower versions of their operating system.

Now for the actual device.

The Razr Droid is bigger (length and width) than most phones.  At first it feels awkward in your hand but you get used to it after a day or two, so no “big” issue.  The larger size comes with  a great screen.  It is a crazy thin phone and an amazing bit of consumer electronic packaging. There is also no user replaceable battery.  In this regard it is the same as the iPhone

It has a Kevlar backing and I am sure someone will try to shot it and see it its actually bullet proof.  Note to person wanting to try that, It is not bullet proof, trust me! Leave that stuff to the MythBusters show.

You will also realize that this phone is really, really fast.  Dual Core, lots of Ram , yada, yada, yada.

Once you get over how cool looking and fast the phone is, you have four main tasks.

Getting your email and social media accounts hooked up, finding, installing and arranging your applications, loading up you media (songs. videos, pictures, etc) and figuring out how to make the battery life last longer than 6 hours.

I will assume that you know how to do the first two.

To load up you music and other media “stuff”, the Dorid ships with a app called “MotoCast” whicj can sync any files from your home PC or Mac to your phone.  Motocast works as long as your home PC is on and connected to the Internet.  It took a few tries before I got it to work properly.  It’s a personal cloud service.  In the past I used an app called sailing media to do the media syncing via a usb cable.   I was able to sync up my droid with my fav music and videos, although nothing is as simple as syncing an iPad or Iphone on iTunes

I will now focus on what I did to extend battery life.

There are some basic tricks to start with

Wouldn’t it be nice if something in your phone just knew to do all this for you?

Now comes the Motorola magic part……

The Droid Razr comes with an app called smart actions.  This app lets you set up various triggers and then tells the phone what to do.  Some of the triggers are time based such as what to do in the morning, evening and night, some are based on remaining battery level, and some are based on lack of motion of the phone

Here are the battery saving settings that I use from Smart Actions:

Low Battery Saver:

1.            If Battery is less than 20% and the Device is not charging then:

Make Brightness 0%,  Turn Off GPS (just in case its on), disable Background Syncing of Data ,  Turn Off Wifi, Turn Off Bluetooth, Send a Notification to the phone (make it vibrate) to inform me of this condition, and launch the application LTE On/OFF (to remind me to turn off 4G, just in case its on)

Motion Detector:

2.            If no motion is detected for a couple of minutes, and the phone is Not Charging then:

Turn Brightness to 0%, Make display timeout 15 seconds,  turn off Wifi, turn of GPS,  turn off Background Syn

Call Detector:

3.            On Incoming Calls

Make display timeout 15 seconds, make brightness 0%.

Charge me Please

4.            Charging Reminder

If not charging and time is later than 10:00 pm

Then sound a chime to remind me to plug in the phone to charge it

“Hey its dark and warm in here…

5.            Pocket Detector

If your phone is determined to be in your pocket (not sure how this done, ambient light?  Warmth? )

Turn display off.

All these rules are completely variable and configurable by the user.  I arrived at this set for myself after a bit of trial and error.  With the tricks I listed above and creating these automatic actions , I can get about 10 hours of usable time on my phone before a charge.  This is about what I got on my HTC Android.

As a backup I carry a small rechargeable “Energergizer to go”  model xp2000.  This is about 1/3 the size of the phone and carries one complete re-charge.

I would recommend this phone if you want a thin, yet large screen device,  with lots of speed.  If you get it you will have to spend some time tweaking it to get it just the way you like it.

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Filed under android, Apple, Droid, Droid Incredible, Google, HTC, HTC Incredible, iPad, iphone, iTunes, mobile, Motorola, movies, Music, Razr, Smartphone, social networking, Thanksgiving

Windows Mobile – Just not Cool

With the holiday season upon us, my son is back from college.  Yesterday he had a dozen of his friends over to “hang out”.  Since this was costing me around 100 pizza bagels and a couple boxes of mozzarella sticks, I thought it was only fair for me to have an impromptu mobile focus group of college students.

Most of them were on the Verizon Network, with one on AT&T and one on T-Mobile.  There were 7 Smartphone class devices (1 iPhone, 3 Blackberrys, 3 Android), 3 Multimedia class devices and 2 feature phones.  Those who had the more impressive devices were much quicker to wave them in the air and show them off, while the feature phone owners were trying to avoid eye contact.

Their preferred manner of communicating with each other was text first, then voice, then Facebook, then IM, and lastly email.

I then described the features of a Windows 7 phone, without naming it.  The live tiles, music integration,  gaming system integration, etc.  I got a reasonable concurrence that those features were “cool” and was asked if they were available on their “app stores”.

More on that a little later on.

I then asked them if they heard of the Windows 7 phone and what they thought of it?  I got lots of frowns and looks of disgust,  “A Microsoft Phone?, not cool” , “That’s for computers, not phones”, “Will it work all the time?”.  You get the general reaction.  The group thought the basic features of the Microsoft phone were desirable, but had a very negative reaction to the name and software system.

I asked them if they would trade in their phone for a free Windows 7 model?  Only the feature phone owners indicated that a free Windows phone would be better than the 2006-era voice and text via t9 models they were forced to endure.

This result is similar to other impromptu focus groups I have managed with my kids’ friends.  Their phone is a social accessory. It is the most important electronic gear they own since they have it with them 24/7.  Blackberry’s have strangely entered the “cool zone” and are as socially acceptable to the teen crowd as iPhones and Droids.  Windows phones are clearly not cool, even though their features are desirable.

What does this mean for Microsoft?  They made a big mistake, another in a long list of mobile missteps, by naming their mobile phone after a PC operating system.  Did I mention that 75% of my sample group used Apple computers as their main machine?  Microsoft has been very successful with XboX, partly because it was NOT called Windows Vista Game System.  Microsoft called their mp3 music player “Zune”, not Windows music player.  Zune has been a market failure, not because of its name, but rather it was outclassed and out marketing by Apple iTunes and iPod.

Microsoft released sales figures for their mobile device on 12/21.  They touted 1.5M devices sold in the first 6 weeks.  This number, however, reflects the number of devices that are in the Carriers stores and pipeline, not how many have been sold to actual subscribers.  Verizon has over 2000 direct retail outlets and easily a similar number of resellers.  You can appreciate how many phones you have distribute to fill the distribution pipeline.

In comparison Android is activating 300K phones a day and Apple sold (really sold) 3M iPhones in its first 3 weeks on the market, over three years ago.

What should the team in Redmond do now?  I believe the clue is in one of the comments from my son’s friends.  “Where can I get these in the App store?”  If XboX gaming on a mobile is valuable, then Microsoft should develop their own apps for Blackberry, iPhone and Android and make money from their “competitors” mobile platforms.

Likewise, they could provide a Zune application for music on these platforms (well maybe not iPhone).  My point is that if Microsoft has valuable applications then sell them as applications.  If my small sampling is at all indicative of how Microsoft’s core targeted market is reacting to their mobile device, they have to seriously re-think what they have done.  Find a cool name for the phone, don’t rely on a Zune/Xbox positioning, and tout the basic phone interface as better than other Smartphone’s.  To some degree they have tried the latter with the ad campaign promoting the ease of use of their device.

The real question will be is the market willing to accept another smartphone platform at this point? What do you think?

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Filed under advertising, android, Apple, AT&T, Droid Incredible, facebook, Google, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile, Verizon, Windows, Windows Mobile, wireless, XboX, Zune

Saying Goodbye to my iPad – Is there an App for that?

Since my iPad loaner period is about complete, its time to record what I like and don’t like about the sexiest device to hit the market since…..  well probably ever.

If your main activity is light web browsing and email, the iPad is in your sweet spot.  The apps that are made specifically for the iPad are  really few in number, so Safari and Mail will likely dominate your use.   As the regular readers now, I am a fan of Google docs, which couples with the iPad nicely.  Google docs gives me great compatibility with word, excel and powerpoint.

One of the companies I consult with makes extensive use of the “Dropbox” application, which works great on the iPad.  Dropbox is a virtual “cloud” drive that easily mounts on a Mac , PC, Android Phone and iPad.  It is clearly the most promiscuous and functional file sharing application I have come across.

I would be remiss if I also did not rave about the incredible battery life of the iPad.  When I use it as an occasional browsing and email device, I only have to charge it about once a week.

There are, however, a few things that the iPad is not. It is not a device that is meant to be shared amongst friends, family or colleagues.  If you use the email app and let someone else borrow your iPad, they have all of your email.   If you install an app and then let someone use the iPad and they also install apps, you will need each others iTunes credentials to enter into the iPad when those apps have updates.  The iPad I have been using has been passed between three users.  I can only update the apps that I installed.  So scratch multiuser friendliness for now.

Most sadly the iPad is not a great video entertainment device.   It could be the ultimate travel entertainment device,  but it fails.  I say this because of the annoying lack of Adobe Flash support.

If you want to watch a show from a network site…. fail

If you want to use your HBOGO subscription….. fail

If you want  to play your favorite game on Facebook….fail.

Anything with Flash…..epic fail.

The war of words on this issue  between Steve Jobs and Adobe are well chronicled in the Press and the  Blogosphere.

Speaking as a user and developer on the iPad, I view this as a major Faux Pas.  I know you can download video from the Net, convert it to an iPad supported format and load it via iTunes, but that’s really beyond most users capabilities and completely misses the point of a Net connected device.

If there were a competitive Android Tablet device on the market that compared head to head with the iPad, I would get the Android version just for the Flash Support.   When I now want to watch a web videoon the go , I use my Droid smartphone because of the Flash Support.

This would be like developing a PC that only supports one browser.  Even Microsoft in its most Machiavellian days permitted other browsers to be installed within its operating system.   I wish I could say this was anything other than Apple trying to drive all video for the iPad to be within apps and iTunes. The Apple Flash policy is pure, raw monopolistic power being wielded, clear and simple.  To call it anything else is just poor technical rationalization.  Apple used to be the underdog, the company of the people.  Oh well.

(Click Here for Jon Stewart’s take on Apple’s Corporate Aggressiveness – funny)
This is a real shame because the iPad could be a super personal video device.  And yes, I know that there are videos available on iTunes and special built video apps, but the world is bigger than iTunes, and a Net connected browsing device should be compatible, with the Net! (End of Rant)

Prophetic commercial?

The next question is will I miss not having an iPad in my electronic arsenal?  In this case I am probably very unique among iPad users.  How many give up there iPad after a month?

My iPad has been useful in business travel and meetings .  Somehow I managed to survive travel and meetings without this wonder device in the past and I bet I will be just fine without it.   I just won’t look as cool!

If I suffer severe withdrawal symptoms I will let you know!

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Filed under Adobe, Apple, Content, Droid, Droid Incredible, E-Commerce, facebook, FLASH, HTC, HTC Incredible, HTML%, iPad, iTunes, microsoft, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, netbooks, sex, smart phone, Smartphone, wireless

HTC Droid Incredible – The Rest of the Story (Spoiler Alert!)

What Droid Incredible Really Does – and Does Not (Unofficial Review)

After resisting Droid-Rage during the holiday season, I succumbed to the uber- hyped latest Android super phone – the HTC Incredible.  My venerable Blackberry Curve just was not as sleek or sexy and clearly did not have the cool robot graphics.

There are numerous blog reviews and YouTube videos that will espouse all the virtues of Verizon’s number 1 smartphone.  While they are largely correct, they do not tell the whole story.  Yes it is fast, works on a great network, has more features that a human can possibly comprehend, or use – and even makes phone calls.   I will provide another article with my fav Droid features – this article is about the other side.

To quote Paul Harvey  – “And now the rest of the story….”  Here are my top six issues with my Droid.

1. Speed comes at a cost – The Achilles Heal of the Incredible

All the blazing application response and connectivity comes at a cost in battery utilization.  The first day I had my Droid I had to charge it 2 times.  What good is all that capability if the phone is dead?  If you get a Droid you must stay close to a charging source and become an active energy manager.  You should turn-off the GPS when not needed, limit the number of running applications and even re-consider all of those really cool active widgets which use periodic connectivity to update themselves.   If you need an icon of the sun to let you know its sunny outside, perhaps you need more than a new phone.

2. The display rocks – unless you want to use it outside during the day

The AMOLED technology used in the HTC screen is the latest, but not quite the greatest.  The display is great when used inside.  I just got back from a round of golf and the phone was practically unusable in the sunlight.  The bigger issue is using the super Google driving directions app with a map view.  The map will not be viewable in a car during the day!

3. Its not the number of Apps that matters – its having the right ones and ones that actually work

I never got that impressed with the claims of absolute number of apps on device platforms.  If the iPhone has 300K and the Android 30K , what does that really mean?  It’s a little like counting the number of Nukes that the U.S. and Russia have in their arsenals. .  Quality, not quantity really matters. Android has the basic Facebook and Skype apps.  Its the other 30K that may need some help.  My impression is that the apps on the iPhone are not just more numerous, but are generally of higher quality.   Perhaps the Android platform chased absolute numbers to claim lots of apps without as much quality consideration.  Several apps just did not work at all and others just stopped working.  I tried to download the linkedIn app and had a failure.  This is an area that the Android platform will likely get right at some point.

I want quality apps for the handful I will actually use.  Android has to close the app quality gap with Apple.

4. iTunes Integration – Music and Video – ???

The iPhone clearly excels at music and video desktop integration.  The challenge for any other platform is to create seamless integration for their platforms with the defacto standard for online music. Given the critical nature of this feature, one might assume that HTC or Verizon would provide a solution that makes this happen.

And you would assume wrong.  There are a couple of solutions that purported to achieve this function.  I tried both SailingMedia and DoubleTwist.  Both of these third-party solutions did not work.  While I could probably play with them for another hour or so and figure out what the issue is – why should I have to do that?  I did load my music directly by dragging my music to the mp3 folder on my device.  The music plays fine and the external speaker is loud –if that matters to you.  There does not appear to be a pre-loaded video player and I have yet to get a video, other than YouTube to play successfully.  Again, I’m sure I will figure it out – but why should I have to?

5. Gmail Good – Gmail Bad

I use gmail for my personal email domain, I figured that the Android platform would be a good choice for my use.  For the record my Blackberry worked perfectly with my gmail account.  As expected my gmail account integrated easily with my Droid.  My issue with email is the rather poor gmail app on the device.  I tried to use the HTC mail app and for whatever reason it does not seem to work when my gmail application is active.  As with my other issues, I am sure with a little time I can get it to work.

6. Steve Jobs is right – One button is enough

The Incredible Droid has 7 physical buttons -Home, Menu, Back, Search, optical trackball with click, volume and power/wake-up.  In addition to these physical inputs the standard screen has four soft keys – an up arrow to access all programs, a phone button (yes it can make a phone call!), a “+” key for adding widgets, programs and folders to a screen, and lastly a hidden slide down at the top of the screen that gives a list of alerts and running programs.  Wow – that’s a lot of things to keep straight!.  The really annoying input is the totally useless optical track ball and click selector that just happens to occupy the same spot as the single “home” key on the iPhone.  Needless to say, I have been pushing that click selector by accident through pure muscle memory from my iPhone and iTouch.  An optical trackball on a touch screen device?  Why?

Despite these issues, I am sure I will get around the downsides of this device and make it into a very useful tool for business and personal use.  However, how many customers will take the time to become an I.T. manager for their phone?

For the past several years I carried my Blackberry for phone use and light Internet use and an iTouch for fun.  The true test will be if I go to one device.

The iPhone, like all Apple products – just works out of the box.  The Droid can work, and even do more, but you have to know what you are doing and be willing to investigate the necessary solutions.  The Droid is clearly still rough around the edges.

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Filed under Apple, Droid, HTC, Incredible, Incredible, iPad, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Steve Jobs, Verizon, wireless

Appvertainment from Jobs-Apple and the iAd

The announcement of iPhone OS4 changes the Smartphone  world – yet again.  As Steve Jobs described the 7 tent poles of the new iPhone/iTouch/Ipad OS, it was clear that the tent was not quite large enough for everyone. The center pole of this tent is clearly– iAds.

The raison-d’etre  for the much heralded multi-tasking feature is Appvertainment.  (e.g. iAds).    Do not be distracted by the fact that he introduced multi-tasking first and iAds last.  They are intimately linked.

Apple is pursuing their app centric  vs. search (Apple vs. Google) strategy for smartphones  through the introduction of their own OS integrated  ad serving technology.  Multi-tasking is the key component in this ad strategy to permit a user to return to an app after an ADHD moment is fulfilled by playing with a cool appvertainment.  Without multitasking you lose your application state/status and have to start over again.  Jobs is trying to change user behavior and reward users for clicking on an ad with an engaging experience, instead of punishing them by having them have to re-start their app.

Appvertainment targeting was not discussed. The social  and geolocation information that the host apps maintain on users will most likely be used for targeting purposes.  The Apple social game network API will no doubt  be used for providing this targeting information for game hosted appvertainments .    Apple is betting that App hosted ads will be valuable than Internet style search ads.

Jobs boosted that the Apple platforms would be capable of serving 1 billion app-ads per day by the summer of 2010.  Even if we cut that number in half and apply a modest $10/CPM ad rate – that represents daily gross appvertainment revenue of  $5M.  Apple’s vig on the ad revenue is 40%.  This is easily approaching a $1B+ annual revenue opportunity for Apple.

Click for full commercial

Another interesting aspect of this strategy is that Apple is clearly focusing on large brands and advertising agencies – in other words, the folks with the largest budgets.   This clearly makes sense.  The cost of an appvertainment production can easily be in excess of $250K+.  The inclusion of integrated and compelling video with engaging interactivity is not the domain of amateurs, but rather professional digital agencies.  The examples that Jobs demonstrated during his presentation (Nike, Disney and Target) are all major national brands with large budgets and big Madison Avenue agencies.

As I watched the presentation another thought came to mind –  “Is this legal?”  What would happen if Microsoft integrated a proprietary ad serving system in their OS and demanded 40% of the revenue of every ad served on a Windows machine?  This topic will clearly be discussed in the blogosphere and perhaps courtrooms in the future.

Did anyone hear a mention of sharing ad revenue with Mobile Carriers?

Another  “pole” of significance is the enhanced suite of enterprise features. Corporate CIOs have had a set of killer issues that prohibited the iPhone from significant corporate sanctioned and supported utilization.  Apple is trying to remove these roadblocks with OS4.  In addition to the enhanced  security and email capabilities is device management.  Device management includes the feature of permitting corporations to load their own private apps on the iPhone.    The execs at RIM should be concerned about their Blackberry franchise.

Apple would not be investing in enterprise features while maintaining an exclusive relationship with AT&T.  OS4 changes Apple from the Trojan Horse of a sexy consumer device on AT&T to a machine poised for world domination.

The competition between Google and their Android platform and Apple will only get fiercer.  Nokia is the only other global player who can play at this level.   Palm, RIM and even Microsoft will fight for the leftover niches.  It is a battle of the controlled and planed eco-system of Apple vs. the Open-Source world of Android.

The Apple tent has room for enterprise applications, has a new revenue source for app developers, and embraces big brands, ad agencies and publishers.  Adobe (no Flash support) and Google are outside the tent of OS4.  Microsoft got the biggest slight in this announcement as their mobile efforts were ignored as though not relevant.  And what about the mobile carriers?  Do they exist in the Apple world? Continue reading

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iWant my iPad – iJust don’t know why?

With the much anticipated launch of the iPad, I stepped back from the hype and techno glitz to ask the question,”Is Apple making the same mistakes of 25 years ago?”

The macro headline for Apple of that time would be “Great Product, lack of licensing and eco-system cedes market to Microsoft” So what’s different this time and what is the same?

The differences are that Apple, under Jobs is an innovation engine that is inventing new product classes – iPod, iTouch,  iPhone, iPad, etc.  The new products are launched and live in a ecosystem  under a benevolent dictatorship (or is it?).  One architecture, One way of getting apps, ads or “tunes” through their closed garden eco-system.  Everyone pays a tax to Apple to play.  This works as long as there are not viable alternatives to the Apple product.

In the case of the iPod, Apple’s eco-system became so powerful that it all but squeezed out all comers. Does anyone own a Zune?  The iPhone, however,  will likely be a different story.

The iPhone was the techno-product equivalent of a genetic mutation, the first of a new species.  It leveraged the eco-system of the IPod , then enhanced it with a vibrant app store.  So what’s the problem?   Apple’s problem is that Google is not the Microsoft.

The Android Platform will mutate and evolve dozens of times a year.  The Apple Iphone is on pace for one major release a year.   Add to this mix Nokia’s Symbian platform, Palm, Blackberry , and yes even Microsoft – and the challenge to Apple’s smartphone bonanza is formidable.   The challengers permit innovation from many hardware vendors  ( HTC, Samsung, Motorola and LG  to just name a few).  The innovation of smartphone products with a common eco-system(s) (Android, Symbian, Nokia, etc) will be more than Apple can bare.  Their share will become a significant but much smaller niche.  This will happen unless the iPhone OS is permitted to evolve outside of Apple.  Since the history of Apple is to control their value chain, this is not likely.

But have no fear you Apple devotees.  Apple’s respond is to morph new species, not new versions of an old one.

Thus enter the iPad – Not a netbook, not a laptop, not an iTouch….  It’s something new- and yes it leverages the vibrant iPhone eco-system,  Another key aspect of the iPad strategy is cloud computing.  The more your “stuff” is stored online , the less you need mass local storage.  Ironically a leader in this space is Google with their Google docs.   I recently purchased a Netbook for around $250.  Rather than double that investment with a version of Microsoft Office, I use Google Docs.  For most use cases it works great and all the docs are backed up – check that – live on the net.  If the iPad is going to squeeze in between netbooks and laptops, it has to have cloud computing for email storage, simple “office-like” apps and document storage.

Is there room in this Darwinian e-volution tree for this hybrid being?  Apple is betting yes – and if successful it will provide them another 5 year run before competitors really catch up.  In the mean time, they invent a new product category, while the previous product hits start to get caught and even surpassed from a market share and innovation standpoint.   Apple cannot afford to compete in every e-category of consumer products with 100% of the innovation – no company can compete with the entire industry.

The secret to this strategy is not to suffer from innovators dilemma.  Apple seems very content to re-invent products categories, even if they diminish the position they have in a previous market.  It is hard to come up with many examples that rival such a strategic culture.   Rather than invest in two more iPhone iterations or faster innovation on an Ipod – they re-invent them all.  This is the truly amazing aspect of Apple and can only come directly from Steve Jobs.  They bet the company on continued hit products.  The strategy works as long as the hits keep coming and Jobs remains at the helm.  Apple would not have been able to sustain a “Vista-like” disaster and have a flagship product be a complete bomb for years.

So – now its off the Apple store to buy my iPad.  Why?  I don’t know – but I’m sure I’ll like it when I figure it out.

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Filed under advertising, android, Apple, cloud computing, iPad, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile