Category Archives: Smartphone

My excellent iPad adventure in the land of Les Habitants

During the past couple of weeks I have been using an iPad and trying to figure out where it fits in my digital hierarchy.  For the record my technical stack includes an iMac , a  MacBook,  a netbook and, an HTC Droid Incredible and a Kindle.   While at home the iPad was a toy.  It was something to use while watching television.  Thus it was slightly more convenient than having a macbook or net book  for light browsing and email.  As a book reader it was much nicer than my Kindle (which I still like).  I installed the Kindle app on the iPad and read  a couple of books on it.   It was aggravating that movies that I can watch online easily with my Droid phone cannot be watched on the iPad due to the lack of Flash support.  When will we have an Android Pad?

The interesting part of my iPad experience came when I had a business trip last week.  Instead of taking my laptop I went cold turkey and just took the iPad as my second device, in addition to my Droid phone.  This decision shocked my colleagues, including the one who lent me the iPad to try out!

The iPad did well on the plane as I read the New York Times.  This was especially interesting since the person next to me had the paper version and lusted after my alternative format.  After finishing the Times, I read USA Today, played a couple of games and started to read one of the books I had downloaded via the Kindle app.

I could also imagine that the iPad would make a great personal Video device for longer flights.

At the business meeting I was the cool kid at the table.  After all, what do you really do with a laptop at a meeting? You browse the web, check email and possibly access a presentation.  Since I did not have a presentation to show, the later two were just fine.  For the record if you want to display a power point presentation on your iPad the easiest way is to upload it to Google Docs and then access it directly from the Web.   The iPad is really shines as a net connected device and thus using cloud services is the way to go.  If you don’t have Web access then converting the presentation to JPG images or video also works.  I also installed dropbox on the iPad and it worked great giving me access to my Cloud virtual drive.

The funny part of my day occurred as I was leaving to fly home.  My meeting was in Montreal and that day was also the first day of  iPad sales in Canada.  At an airport sports bar I was killing about an hour why reading on my iPad.  I attracted a crowd of very interested on lookers.  The waitress even brought her boss out to have a gander (Canadian Goose reference…)  Again, I was the cool kid.    This was similar to elementary kids who have their school lunch sandwiches cut on the diagonal, instead of squares.  (Or at least that is what I was told by my kids)

When I passed through Canadian security I was asked if   I had a laptop and I of course proudly proclaimed, no – I have an iPad.  At that point Ihad no less than 4 inspectors handling my device.  They made me turn it on for “security” reasons.  Once I had it on I demonstrated some apps and the book reader.  I was decl

ared safe.   It was a slow day in Montreal for air travel.  This had the makings of a real live Apple commercial.

Note to Steve Jobs:  Get that security tape and air it – great publicity.

When convinced that I no longer was a threat to Canadian airspace with my iPad, I proceeded to the gate.  The flight was an hour late and I began to read my book on the iPad.  Again I drew a crowd when a little kid pointed and yelled – Look DAD, that’s an iPad , cool! I was then obligated to give another demonstration and let some of my fellow passengers check it out.    Just when I was feeling my coolest someone asked me – “hey it looks cool, what does it do?”  All I could thing of was – “It will do whatever you want, once someone figures out what you want”

Understand ? Ehh?

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Filed under Apple, AT&T, cloud computing, Droid, Droid Incredible, Google, HTC, HTC Incredible, humor, Incredible, Incredible, iPad, iphone, Ipod, MAc, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, smart phone, Smartphone, social networking, Steve Jobs

HTC Incredible – The Bright Side

After getting lots of comments on the frank discussion of my new Droid, I decided it was time to give the other part of the story.  In general, I really like this new superphone.  Yes, I’m still having battery issues.  I  recently had a day in NYC, away from my home office, and I was down to 15% by noon.  But lets not dwell on that.

I have downloaded about 30 free apps for my phone.  I have kept about half of them and trashed the rest.  My advice is to stick to brand name content and carefully reviewed apps.  If you just browse and download whatever you like, you will have many apps that don’t work or worse…

While the HTC Friends widget gets lots of publicity, the individual Facebook and Twitter Apps are better for me.  For the record I use “Peep” for Twitter.  The Foursquare app works well, the LinkedIn app – not.

Many of the most useful apps are targeted at managing your Droid phone.  Among these I recommend “Lookout”.  This is a combined virus scan, backup and lost phone locater – and is presently free.   As I mentioned in my first review a Droid is more like a PC.  When you download  “Caveat Emptor”   For the lost phone feature, you can locate your phone on a Google Map on the Web and even have it emit a siren sound.  Warning- don’t give your web lookout password to anyone or you will likely have a siren in your pocket at the worst possible time!

The widgets that come prepackaged for managing Bluetooth, WIFI , GPS and mobile networking are very useful in managing battery life.  Just keep everything off that you really don’t need.  I have found the GPS is a particular battery hog.

For syncing music, I finally got SallingMedia to work.  The trick is to create playlists for anything you want to sync and then to just sync those lists.  For video you can just drag an mp4 into the video folder on your phone.

One of the pleasant battery surprises was that I was able to watch a 2-hour movie on my phone and still have over 50% battery left!  There are a couple of decent free video players in the app store.  You should try mvideoplayer or stream media player. ( A free shout out to anyone who correctly guesses which movie I debuted on my droid –  there is a hint in this article)

A key to the usability of my Droid is mastering the notification pull down.  Just slide down your finger from the top Verizon logo and you bring down a list of recent emails, messages, program alerts, etc.

For sheer fun there are many “soundboards” in the app store.  These soundboards provide famous sound clips for many movies and TV shows.  I downloaded several and keep them in a folder.

Another app that I like is “barcode”.  It is a build in barcode reader that auto generates a search and shopper price comparison.  Don’t know if I ever will really use it “in real life”- but it’s pretty slick.

I also downloaded “SkyDroid”.  This is the one paid app I have.  It cost 99 cents.  It provides a GPS function linked to golf courses.  I am playing a round on Friday, so I’ll let you know how it works.  The website has a nice interface to map out any golf course that is not yet in their database, and of course it uses Google maps.  It took me about 30 minutes to enter the local course.  I am sure it will not help my golf game, but it is a cool thing to have.

There are apps that are un-Verizon-like in the store.  These include porn, a way to download “free” mp3s and a program to turn your Droid into a broadband modem for your laptop.  The former is surprising for the normally protective Carrier, the later 2 are ways to violate your contact TOS and bypass Verizon’s own broadband connect service.  The world of openness has its consequences.  You have to exert personal responsibility – just like the real world.  Just be careful if you give one of these to a minor.

Lastly, my absolute favorite feature on my Droid is the voice recognition with speech to text.   This is really great.  I thought my biggest issue would be with the virtual keyboard – however I respond to most messages and emails by speaking into the phone.  Imagine – a phone you can speak to!  What a concept.  The voice recognition can be used for almost any text input field. I have used it for emails, SMS, Google searches and contact searches.  Its accuracy is very good – although it needs a little work on its Yiddish!

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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

HP answers Palm Code Blue

New Icon on Palm Web OS Smartphone?

The Smartphone business has been very busy this week.  One day before Verizon officially releases the Droid Incredible (I am tracking mine via Federal Express), HP scoops in and acquires Palm.  Palm does have some pretty good technology and mobile handset know-how.  Do they have $1.2 Billion worth?  HP says yes and, anyway – that’s just a rounding error for them.

If you have seen the Web OS on Palm’s devices you have to be impressed.  Why this really makes sense for HP is that it is so much more than Smart Phones.  Perhaps you noticed that Apple iPad launch last month?  Tablet and netbook computing are the next disruptive technologies.   The Palm OS will likely make a bigger near term impact on HPs tablet and netbook devices.    This is not good news for Microsoft.

The OS landscape for the sub-laptop market is rapidly fragmenting.    Android from Google, Chrome OS (Google competing with itself?), Web OS from Palm, Apple OS4, Windows 7,  Windows 7 mobile,  RIM and Symbian (Nokia).   The environments that appear limited in scope are RIM and Windows 7 mobile (just SmartPhone) and Windows7, Chrome OS (Netbooks). Android, Palm Web OS, Apple OS and Symbian all provide (in theory) a unified sub-laptop platform.

What’s a developer to do?    Can an OS thrive with a single hardware vendor – Steve Jobs would certainly say yes, so why not HP?

The near term loser is likely Microsoft.  By the time they have Windows Mobile 7 devices in the market, HP/Palm should have been able to iterate an upgraded device and spend significant marketing bucks attracting both consumers and developers.

All of this competition is good for innovation and good for consumer price points.  It will take at least another 3-4 years for this market to shake out completely.  When the dust settles you can count on Apple and Microsoft still standing – their present overall positions in OS technology are virtually unassailable.  What will be interesting is their relative market strength in this very interesting sub-laptop market.

If you dominate this new market you are THE company for the next generation.

HP has placed their chips on the table.  Who is next?

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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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Kudos to Verizon for taking on Leadership – Mobile without Phone Numbers

Approximately one year ago I wrote an article entitled “The Future of Mobile – without phone numbers.” In my discussion I put forth the proposition that social networks would take over the fundamental connectivity for individuals and that phone numbers would be a network “IP address”.   This article generated 100’s of emails and questions, some supportive, some not, but all thought provoking. It was clear that I had hit a nerve.

A major step towards my view of the future of mobile communications was taken by Verizon in the last week.  Verizon Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and later confirmed and launched at CTIA 2010, an integrated Skype calling service.  This service enables users to click any Skype username, make a call, and not be charged for mobile minutes.  This service even uses the mobile voice connectivity of Verizon for the wireless network of the call.

This is a major watershed event for the industry.  A major carrier embracing voice as a data service, with calls completed outside of the carrier’s equivalent phone number – DNS.

In fact, this capability had been  available by such applications as ISkoot.  What is big news is that Verizon is openly promoting this service and not charging for mobile minutes.   Another advantage of the Verizon version is that it is “always-on”.  I received my first Skype call on my mobile yesterday.  It just happened like any other mobile call.  It was an important business call and all I could think about at the conclusion was – that was cool.

The use of social networks and non-phone number connection services implies that that contact DNS aggregation services will become even more important.  My network contact list will be an amalgamation of my Facebook, Linkedin, Skype, Twitter,  existing phone books, AOL IM list and likely several others.  Aggregating my contact lists, storing them in the network cloud and presenting them to me on demand in a usable form is essential.

While at CTIA I was on a panel discussion with   Mike Mulica, CEO of FusionOne.  FusionOne is a leading example of such a network based contact/address book that spans social networks.  They are certainly a company worth watching in the future, as they appear to be “on the right side of the technology curve”.

A question that remains is how does Verizon generate revenue by connecting calls for free?  Simple answers include increased data subscriptions and greater subscriber growth via churn from other carriers.    In the U.S. market, with mobile penetration approaching 90%, carriers can only increase subscribers by churning their competitor’s customers.   Since the Skype app on iPhone is not as full featured and cannot be “always-on”, VZW has given leading edge users a reason to switch NOW.

In the future I would expect connections between Skype calling capability and other applications on Verizon, especially those provided through the Verizon’s own app store.  I also expect that full mobile video calling and even video conferencing via Skype is no doubt on the roadmap.

This feature is only available to VZW smartphone subscribers , and that means a $29.99/mo data charge.

Regardless of the long term revenue sources, VZW has taken a clear leadership position in its market and now has the their competitors determining a catch-up strategy.  Kudos to Verizon on this move.

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The iPad– “Thou shall have apps…

The much heralded announcement of the iPad brings with it profits (or prophets?) as well as naysayers.  Perhaps Steve Jobs should have dressed in long ropes, grew a long white beard and walked down to the stage with a view of the mountains in the background?  The scene might be further played out with the masses dancing around and worshipping the netbook, the new deity of computing.

Steve Jobs raises his two iPads and declares that he has heard the word of the almighty and has declared that these tablets are the new iReligion.  Then he declares that he alone will now lead them from their transgressions to the land of endless apps.

(Note to Mr. Jobs:  If I recall my bible studies it took Moses another 40 years to find the Promised Land)

The announcement of the iPad will cause debates, forecasts, and predictions of successes and/or doom.  One thing is clear; the iPad is Apple’s near-term answer to the netbook phenomenon .  According to eWeek, netbook sales topped 33M in 2009 and Acer predicts sales in excess of 50M in 2010.   Apple sells about 3M Macs a quarter.

The sub $300 price point of the netbook did create a new category of device.  A device that is intimately linked to the trend of cloud computing.  Netbooks are good at email and web browsing.  They are not great entertainment devices.

The iPad promises to be as good as netbooks in what they do well – email and browsing – and also be a fun personal entertainment device.  The iPad wisely brings along over 100K apps at launch from the iPhone/iTouch world.

The question that the iPad raises for me is – how many personal connected devices can one person have?

The emergence of the smart phone category (iPhone, Android, Symbian, Blackberry, Palm, Windows Mobile) has created the instant connectivity to email, web and apps.  These devices fit in your pocket , are reasonably robust, and cheap to buy.

The laptop category, as Steve Jobs pointed out in his keynote, is another version of mobile computing.  With the weight of laptops hitting 5lbs and below, and with desktop computing capability, they have become the standard for students and professionals

Netbooks have created a bridge between the two major device areas as a lightweight computing device.  Now, enter the iPad at a $499 pricepoint.  Will the iPad grow the mobile Internet market or cannibalize other sales?

My prediction is market cannibalization.

The smart phone market is secure and growing.  The basic functions of instant and multimodal communications are clear and a continued focal point of human need.

The laptop and netbook markets are likely to be the feeding ground of iPad sales.

But how and why?

The answer is personal cloud computing.  The more the consumer environment transforms from local storage and processing to cloud storage/computing with local display and data entry – the better the market environment will be for the iPad.   The Apple entry into personal cloud computing – MobileMe – has been less than compelling.  This is especially true as Google, and others,  offer many of the same capabilities for free.

The iPad equation still requires one more piece of the puzzle to reach the Promised Land.  Steve Jobs will have to climb the mountain again and come back with another divine revelation.

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