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The New iPhone

Apple announced their new iPhone today: the iPhone 5. I, along with the rest of the world, have been waiting for this day since the iPhone 4S was announced back in October of 2011. In fact, I’ve been dead set on purchasing the iPhone 5 sight-unseen, for the past ten months. Why? I like toys, and I trust in product evolution.

I’ve been carrying a cellular phone since I started college. Back in my day (read in the standard crotchety old-man voice), we used the Nokia 5160, got 200 minutes per month, no texting, no data, and we liked it. The alternative was the pager, which was a fad for a while, but you still needed a payphone to go with it. Eventually, I went on to use the 6190, then the 8100 (which I bought an aftermarket kit to imitate the top-of-the-line 8800 slider). The Motorola RAZR, however, was the first phone I really fell in love with. I even ditched my old carrier (T-mobile) for the AT&T (then Cingular) exclusive. When the iPhone was first introduced, I ignored it as a fad. After all, who would want to use such a feature-rich device as a phone? It seemed like it was trying to do too much. I said the same for the iPhone 3G. I did, however, pick up an iPod Touch. It was at this time that I started to get into the iTunes media ecosystem. Pepsi had their free iTunes download promotion a few years earlier, which really got my music library started. When the 3GS was introduced, I bought-in.

Since then, I’ve become entirely dependent on the iTunes storefront for all of my media. I rent movies on my AppleTV. If I miss a television episode and can’t find it on Comcast’s OnDemand service or on the broadcaster’s website, I’ll buy the episode through iTunes. I’m even happy to buy full seasons of really good television (Game of Thrones, Sherlock, etc.). It’s safe to say that I can never stop using iTunes, because my media library would be worthless.

When the iPhone 4 hit, I immediately upgraded. When the 4S was announced, I felt something was lacking. I’m pretty sure I was stopped by the fact that it looked exactly like the 4, and only offered a few speed improvements. That’s how I knew the 5 would be incredible. Apple took some heat over their perceived lack of innovation with the 4S. The 5 would have to astound; they really had no choice in the matter.

Here are my notes from today’s keynote:

  • Earpods: 10/10 will buy.
  • iPhone 5: 11/10 will buy.
  • Faster/thinner/taller/lighter
  • Dig the lightning connector
  • LTE with the same battery life? Unpossible!
  • Facetime HD
  • Three microphones, and wide-band audio <– This one is huge. iPhone voice quality has always been garbage. Carriers need to add support ASAP.
  • So glad they named it iPhone 5 instead of “the new iPhone.”

The last two bullets are important for me. I’ve always thought that the call quality on the iPhone was pretty terrible. Even with a nice headset, the outgoing voice quality was barely intelligible. It was much better through Facetime. If the wide band audio over cellular works even half as well as Facetime’s audio, it’s worth the upgrade on that alone.

Also, I would have been really disappointed if they tried to push their “the new X” product scheme on me. I bought “the new iPad,” and I call it the “iPad 3,” because that’s what it is. Sticking “the new” in front of a product name is worthless as an identifier for more than 2 seconds. Imagine if people tried that with their kids. Meet “the new Smith.” 30 Years later, “the new Smith” introduces you to his son, “the new Smith.” And so on. It was a bad marketing idea, and I hope that it died with “the new iPad”(3).

Some might call me a “fanboy.” That’s okay. I wouldn’t categorize myself that way, even though I fit all of the criteria. I’m just happily married to the Apple iTunes ecosystem, and everything that entails – including the iPhone and iPad. I may also technically be trapped in the same ecosystem, but so far, I haven’t seen anything that really makes me want to leave, so I don’t worry about it.

I’ll be up past my bedtime on Thursday night, refreshing Apple’s website until I can get my preorder in. It’s worth it.

Facebook, Revisited

Yes, Facebook, I’m single. I get it. I’m not sure how the “Saturday Night Church” got into my ad stream, but that’s a thing as well.

It’s been three weeks since I joined the unstoppable social-juggernaut that is Facebook. Since then, the stock is down nearly 10%. Causal? Probably not, but I can’t be certain. Coincidence? Not entirely.

Although I was inspired to join Facebook by the ever-changing life events of my moderately large extended family, I’ve had an interest in their stock since the IPO. I remember considering calling my broker when the $38 price point was announced. It seemed like a good deal at the time. Now that it’s trading for less than half of the IPO price, I suppose it’s a good thing apathy stayed my hand.

But who could stop Facebook? It seems like social networking will always be around. Barring the possibility that German-style social modesty becomes a fad in America, we’ll always be driven to show-off, or peep into virtual windows (or both). I only mention “German-style social modesty” because a friend mentioned that his friends and family in Germany found it odd and “borderline offensive” to provide such a detailed account of one’s life.

The closest competitor to Facebook is Linkedin. While they’re also a social network, Linkedin targets a slightly different audience, for a wholly different purpose. Then, there’s Twitter. While they don’t compete in the same realm as Facebook, it seems like Twitter may have an advantage: transience. Where Facebook relies on person-to-person mutual connections (“friends” in both an exact, and yet very loose sense of the word), Twitter uses “followers.” Followers aren’t necessarily “friends” in any sense of the word. You can follow someone you don’t even know on Twitter – no mutual acceptance required. While it opens the door to some obvious cyberstalking issues, it has the advantage of being quick and almost anonymous. Anonymity is, after all, one of the cornerstones of the internet. The method of sharing is also simple: 140 characters to your followers. There’s no timeline, tagging, or liking to worry about. Just don’t try to use it for private messaging. It’s not a good idea.

The bottom line is that Twitter brings in almost double the ad revenue that Facebook does. Does this mean I’ll be investing in Twitter if/when they announce an IPO? Probably not. Not yet, at least. While I like their core concept, I still feel like the experience is missing something. Maybe it’s the lack of a rich social web that shows up when you have a two-way connection. Or maybe it’s because Twitter doesn’t know I’m single, so I feel offended when it doesn’t try to hook me up with hundreds of singles in my area. Who knows?

Facebook Update

Facebook has ads. That’s their big revenue source, and that’s fine with me. I was in college during the “dot com bubble.” I entered the workforce a few years after the bubble burst. At a very basic level, I know how these things work. Free services are only “free” so long as somebody is getting paid. On the internet, that’s done via advertising.

At first, I was overwhelmed by the interface. I couldn’t pick out an ad from anything else in my “timeline.” Maybe there weren’t ads for the first few hours of my experience. After all, if I “had no friends,” and my timeline was empty, was I really a person? Could I be targeted with ads? If I got a random smattering of ads, would I be offended, and stop using the service? All serious questions for an ad partner.

Well, I’ve got ads now. Here’s the first set I noticed. Obviously, picking “single” as my status and noting that I was “looking for women” triggered the first ad for a dating app. That seems relevant, although I didn’t join Facebook for that purpose. It’s not that I wouldn’t keep my options open; the odds of anything fruitful coming from a Facebook relationship seem lower than low. It’ll be interesting to see long it takes them to figure out that I’m not interested – or if they’ll be able to figure it out at all.

Next up: Tequila. Good guess given my age and gender. Not good when you consider that it’s at the bottom of my list of favorite liquors. Looking at the rest of my data, I’m a little surprised they even suggested tequila. Maybe a number of my friends liked it at one point or another? Maybe people who showed interested in my schools or employer overwhelmingly liked tequila. Maybe I’m some kind of weird non-tequila-drinking minority among my peers. Either way, I guess if I were to go out and “like” some bourbons, I’m sure that would remove the ad entirely.

After that, two ads for games. The first one looks like a Bejeweled clone. “People like Bejeweled” is a reasonable general statement if you look at my country of origin, and primary language. The second is a racing game. Also good for males of my age range (but not interesting for me since Mario Kart 64 back in the 90’s).

Lastly, an ad for Facebook Marketplace, specifying used cars. Okay. I’ve only been “on Facebook” for a few hours. Maybe there isn’t enough data on me to generate a full set of targeted ads yet. I’ll check back in a week or so, and see what it suggests.


Goals, Life, Learning

Facing Future

I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a blog for the past 11 months. Why is it only going live today? A lack of time, content, craft, and motivation. After doing some research, it turns out that cultivating a blog takes a lot of work.

Time: It’s finally the right time. I finally have time. Four months post-WoW. Three months post eye surgery. Summer travel is finally done (as is Summer). Winter travel is still a few months away.

Content: The goal of any blog is content delivery. This will be no different. I’ve decided to write about my goals, life, and learning over the next five years. Five years seems like a reasonable time frame to affect real change in my life.

Craft: Writing has never been my strong suit. Prior to this endeavor, I administrated and participated in a small community of World of Warcraft players (yes, a guild). During that time, I’ve had a chance to practice my writing and communication skills. Curating a blog seems like the logical next step for me.

Motivation: Why write a blog? What better motivation than motivation itself? When left to my own devices, I tend to let my life stagnate. If I open my life to the internet, I’m accountable to… someone (even if it is the internet). And that’s really all I need.

So, all that’s left now is to publish. Publishing frequency, while important, is something I can’t promise. This has to be a hobby, and a labor of love. It can’t be another job.

Here’s to a fruitful five years.