GP Apps

team lead, strategy

Real-time app download wall at WWDC

From Mona and Lino at WWDC: We want to share this photos we took this afternoon. It is about the visualization of the 50,000 most popular apps in App Store displayed on 30-synchronized 24-inch LED Cinema displays. The app falls when downloaded as being signified by the falling images. We were happy to see Period Tracker Lite and iVidCam Free.

All the apps being downloaded separated by the color of their icons

the falling icons of the apps being downloaded

Period Tracker Lite is one of the many apps downloaded here

iVidCam Free together with the other apps having red-colored icons.

iPhone 4: Is it a Gamer Changer?

Today Steve Jobs announced the latest and greatest, iPhone 4.  He mentioned that they’ve been working on this for 18 months, and it shows.  The new iPhone is 24% slimmer than the 3g/3gs model and it’s faster, better battery life, better camera, better screen… basically better everything.  He also announced FaceTime, which allows video calls on the iPhone 4.  The demo seems very simple, in fact the video Apple put together is quite emotional (<a href=”Watch theFaceTime video“>See video</a>).

I was especially struck by how much time and energy went into hardware innovation and improvements.  (See hardware design improvements).   The iPhone 4 gets a gyroscope which basically lets the phone track movement in more detail than an accelerometer.  The screen is a retina display which claims to be amazing.  And the phone gets a complete overhaul with a custom steel alloy acting as a frame and antenna.  The iPhone 4 is the biggest hardware upgrade to the iPhone to date.

The genius of the iPhone 4 is that it’s the most sophesticated phone hardware on the market, yet it’s the simplest.  This goes with the new camera, new FaceTime video calls, new OS, etc.  This is why so many people love Apple products… they’re beautifully designed, they’ve got great hardware features, and they’re super simple to use.

The big spoiler of the day was AT&T.  FaceTime is only with wifi video calls, because Apple needs to “work things out” with the carriers.  This is too bad… FaceTime really needs to be via cellular connection to have a mass adoption. Also, there was no Verizon (or Sprint or Tmobile) announcement today.  This means people like me still can’t make calls on their phone.  I wish Apple and Google would have partnered to buy out a cell company a few years back and use it for cellular data.  Let people have a “data only” plan at a reasonable cost with no commitment.  Soon people will only need cellular data as voice can go through the internet with Skype and eventually Google Voice and others.

So back to Apple’s headline, “This Changes Everything.  Again.”  Does it really?  I think it really is a big improvement to the iPhone and iOS 4 has some major improvements as well.  If Apple didn’t have to work with cellular companies, I think they could blow the competition out of the water.  But the cellular companies make things more complicated – distribution is more tricky, releasing features is more complicated, and it’s overall more costly to the consumer all the fees cell companies are charging to consumers.  Why has it taken AT&T over a year to release iPhone tethering?  (actually it’s still not out yet.)  And now FaceTime has to be wifi-only.  This is in addition to the terrible voice coverage of AT&T.  This really puts a damper on the iPhone.  Apple puts all this time/money/effort in innovation and going to market with features like videos calls, only to be hampered by cell providers.  The real game changer will be reformation of the cellular provider industry.  But in the meantime what will it take for the iPhone 4 to be a game changer right now?

The iPhone 4 needs to be offered on more than just AT&T in the U.S.  Apple needs to work with Verizon, Sprint and Tmobile to all carry it. This will give it more potential to be a real game changer.  Second, FaceTime has got to work with a cell connection and not just wifi.  Hopefully, we’ll get this in early 2011.  Third, FaceTime needs to take off as an open standard and get integrated into 3rd party apps like chat clients, Facebook, and others, then it can really be a gamechanger.

What is Apple referring to when it says iPhone 4 changes everything, again?  I think it refers to FaceTime.  Look for 2011 to be the breakout year for video calls and video conferencing on the iPhone and other phones.  Maybe the iPhone 4 introducing FaceTime will go down as a industry changing innovation like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, AppStore, and iPad.

Apple doesn’t say that it’s introducing a game-changer that often.  Today was one of those special days.

iPad Nano and iPad Pro

At the All Things D conference, there were two interesting tablet demos. One was the Dell Streak which is a 5″ Android Tablet with 3g/wifi. It’s pretty much a big phone. Then there was the Kno tablet device, which is two 14″ tablets stuck together to simulate textbooks. It’s actually quite impressive. After watching these two demos, I’m starting to see there could be a market for a bigger iPad and a smaller iPad. I’m sure Apple has/is/was considering it. I’d like to see a 7″ iPad targeted more for readers at a lower price point than the current 10″ iPad. If they could get a 7″ iPad out for $349, that’d be great. Then, also I think there’s a market for a bigger iPad, the iPad Pro. This could be a 13″ or 14″ iPad. I think this would overlap with the notebook market, and I think could do very well as more and more iPad apps show the power of the iPhone OS platform.

Kno video demo

Dell Streak demo

AT&T data plan changes

AT&T announced changes to their iPhone and iPad data plans today. Press Release
First, I’m disappointed that they’ve changed the iPad data plan options. They’ve removed the $30 unlimited data plan and replaced it with a 2gb $25/month plan. Many people (myself included) were getting a 3g iPad so they can take advantage of the unlimited data plan when traveling along with the option of turning it on or off when needed. Now you’re stuck with a cap on your data usage, something most people won’t go over but it’s still constantly in your head. I wish AT&T would have just kept the $30 unlimited plan, and made some kind of announcement explaining what’s going on… something like “iPad traffic is costing us too much money, but we’ll still keep our plans until June 1st, 2011 and then we’ll make changes then.” That would have been the honorable thing to do. Also, the $30 unlimited plan was one of the major selling points Apple used to pitch the 3g iPad. Sure, AT&T is offering to grandfather those who are already signed up to the unlimited plan, but that doesn’t help most of the folks who wanted to turn on and off the unlimited plan option when needed. Someone on Hacker News wrote a FTC complaint worth reading, See link
Second, I’m disappointed that they’re charging $20 for tethering when they also are limiting data to 2gb for $25/month. Sure, most people don’t use 2gb and it’s $5 less than unlimited. But if you’re paying for 2gb data per month, you should be able to use that in whatever manner you’d like – either on your phone, or tethering to your laptop or iPad. It’s ridiculous to charge $20/month more for tethering when AT&T isn’t even doing anything. The tethering function is built into the iPhone OS and doesn’t require AT&T to lift a dime. AT&T should let people tether for free, now that they’ve capped data at 2gb for $25/month.

Third, I’m disappointed that AT&T is marketing these changes as “lowered data prices.” They should call it just “changed data plan prices.” What they’re doing seems disingenuous.

This is on top of not being able to use my iPhone inside my home because AT&T coverage is so poor where I am. AT&T is not gaining any points with me. The pressure is building. Apple, free the iPhone from AT&T and open it up to all willing carriers.

6/3 Update:
more specifics on the data plan changes
Good and Bad about AT&T Data plan changes by John Gruber

6/5 Update:
David Pogue on AT&T data plans – David Pogue basically agrees with my first two points: 1) bait-and-switch of the 3g iPad unlimited plan, and 2) $20 extra tethering charge.   I do agree with him that the $15/month 200mb and $25/month 2gb plan for iPhone is not bad and will save most people money.

Eric Ries vs David Heinemeir Hansson

Watched this interesting video from LeanCamp in London yesterday.  This video features a debate between Eric Ries (Lean Startup model advocate) and David Heinemeir Hansson (Rails creator and advocate of Profit from day one model).  Basically, David Heinemeir Hansson advocates charging from day one and focusing on profit when starting a business.  He is strongly against the Facebook/Twitter model of finding a business model later.  Eric Ries defends that there is a place for the venture backed business and the Facebook/Twitter model.
I think both speakers have their arguments and are articulate.  It seems that David Heinemeir Hansson speaks deeply from personal experience and observations over the years.  In terms of the AppStore, he advocates the paid app ecosystem.  Eric Ries, though he agrees with David Heinemeir Hansson that their model is a legitimate model, he argues that profit from the beginning is not the only model, nor in every case the best one.  It’s helpful to understand Steve Blank because Eric Ries seems to expand on some of his thoughts and more.
Another way to look at this debate is David Heinemeir Hansson is arguing common sense from his experience and observations, while Eric Ries is advocating a model (the Lean Startup Model) that tries to minimize the failure rate of businesses as they try to find a scalable business model.
My summary in my own words…
David Heinemeir Hansson – “Use common sense.  A business makes profit.  Start a business that makes money by charging people.  This is the way most every business makes money.  Forget the lofty dreams of not charging and trying to find a way to make money later.  It only works for the one in a million business, like Google.  It’s not the norm, and it’s not something you should be trying to attain.”
Eric Ries – “Be open.  The important thing is to not burn through too much money as you’re trying to find your business model.  So, be lean and put out a minimum viable product to see if you’ve got something that can scale.  Build into your startup systems and processes that help you to engage in customer feedback early.”

Hope it’s not true

Arghh.  I hope it’s not true, but blogs are reporting that Apple originally agreed to iphone exclusivity with AT&T until 2012.  AppleInsider Article. Please, tell me it’s not true.  I can’t imagine what Apple must have been thinking to agree to a 5 year exclusive deal with AT&T.  Did they not know of AT&T poor network, poor reception, and dropped calls?  Argghh.  I’m on AT&T solely because of the iPhone, and I’m waiting, waiting, waiting for Verizon to get the iPhone.  I can’t get decent reception at my house.  I bought a $200 gadget that is supposed to boost cell reception inside, but it doesn’t work.

Let me continue my ranting.  5 years!!!  1 year would have been ok.  2 years maybe.  But 5 years! With such a poor network.  Arghh.

Another Article points to the pent up demand for the iPhone among Verizon customers.  People are waiting, waiting, waiting.  But can they really wait for 2 more years?

So, this all leads me to the hope.  The hope that maybe Apple renegotiated the 5 year exclusive deal with AT&T, and somehow miraculously it all ends this summer and Verizon gets the new iPhone HD.  Maybe Verizon will allow tethering on the iPhone as well.  I really hope that Steve Jobs announced a Verizon date at WWDC, July 7th.

Verizon iPhone

I can’t wait till Verizon gets the iPhone. My guess is that Apple will announce something at WWDC on June 7. Now that everybody has seen the next iPhone, they probably have some other news, including the Verizon announcement, to share. But there’s always the chance that they don’t have things lined up with Verizon yet and something is announced later on in the year. But it makes sense that they launch the new iPhone with a bang, and announce it together with a Verizon iPhone.

When the iPhone goes to Verizon, I’m expecting lots of people to switch from AT&T to Verizon (including myself). I get such poor reception at our house that my iPhone at home is basically just an ipod touch. My Dad who’s on Verizon might switch to an iPhone if Verizon gets it. I just met with a friend who’s telling his 4 year old daughter that he’s going to ditch his Blackberry and get an iPhone when Verizon gets it (he gets no reception at home with AT&T, so he’s forced to go with Verizon). And I think there’s a lot of people just waiting to get a Verizon iPhone.

Come to think about it, why shouldn’t the iPhone be on Tmobile and Sprint as well? I say the more the merrier. Give customers a choice of whatever phone carrier they want.

Also, I know Apple doesn’t want to fragment the iPhone market, but I think it’ll be a good move if Apple comes out with different versions of the iPhone, just like they have different versions of the iPod. Maybe an iPhone Nano. And the regular iPhone with colors. There’s just so many Android phones coming out, Apple needs to give the customers more choices.

Here’s my guess on what the next iPhone will be:
iPhone HD
double screen resolution, 640×960 (best screen on mobile phone ever)
better battery life
better reception due glass-like backing
720p HD video recording
5 megapixel camera with flash
front-facing camera with iChat app for video conferencing
AT&T version available mid to late June
Verizon version available in August-September timeframe