iPhone Forever →

MG Siegler on The $1,500 iPhone, the next (last?) stop on the march towards 'Apple Prime':

It just makes sense. I do believe this year may be an aforementioned test of Apple’s customers willingness to pay insanely high prices for a phone. I can’t see the trend continuing with the $2,000 iPhone. But actually, I can! It will just be obfuscated by monthly payments. Just as it used to be in the days of carrier subsidies! But this time, such payments will be going directly to Apple.

Again, this is already happening for those of us on the iPhone Upgrade Program. And it means there is no $1,500 iPhone, it’s more like a $60/month iPhone. And you can easily talk yourself into it because thanks to being eligible for a yearly upgrade to the latest iPhone, you’re never paying full price for a device. Instead, if you do the math (which most won’t), you’re paying roughly half the cost for the top-of-the-line model over that year.

Of course, you’re also paying Apple in perpetuity! And this monthly bill is only going to go up as they bake in AppleCare (which they do), theft protection (new this year!), and eventually all sorts of other goodies: iCloud storage, Apple Music, Apple Television (the service, not the box), etc.

This is how Apple truly becomes a services business. And it’s happening in front of our very eyes.

This is exactly what makes Amazon Prime so successful — start with a killer service, charge a monthly fee, constantly add new value and perks to make it impossible for subscribers to leave, and slowly raise the price.

I can absolutely see Apple working towards this.

I’m not sure when Apple realized and started executing upon this gradual price increase strategy. My best guess is just after 2011, when the top-of-the-line price started inching upwards again. Perhaps (almost certainly?) not coincidentally, this was the same year they let carriers subsidize old models down to $0. Apple let the lowest iPhone hit the bottom in order to set the top-of-the-line on a trajectory towards the stratosphere.

And it worked, rather beautifully. Now, I believe, the $1,500 iPhone offers a glimpse into Apple’s next phase. The $99/month, forever, iPhone.

iPhone forever.

Smartphone Depreciation →

MusicMagpie:

Like most technology, smartphones lose their value over time. As new models are released with improved features and capabilities, people start to lose interest in older models, and with this decreased demand comes a dip in value.

However, this depreciation doesn’t always happen at a steady rate – certain things can cause sudden drops. Knowing the best time to sell your phone can help make sure you get the most money possible.

Study: Google's Data Collection on Stationary Android Phones →

Douglas C. Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University, cataloged how much data Google is collecting about consumers and their most personal habits across all of its products and how that data is being tied together.

Here is what he found:

  • A dormant, stationary Android phone (with the Chrome browser active in the background) communicated location information to Google 340 times during a 24-hour period, or at an average of 14 data communications per hour. In fact, location information constituted 35 percent of all the data samples sent to Google.
  • For comparison’s sake, a similar experiment found that on an iOS device with Safari but not Chrome, Google could not collect any appreciable data unless a user was interacting with the device. Moreover, an idle Android phone running the Chrome browser sends back to Google nearly fifty times as many data requests per hour as an idle iOS phone running Safari.
  • An idle Android device communicates with Google nearly 10 times more frequently as an Apple device communicates with Apple servers. These results highlighted the fact that Android and Chrome platforms are critical vehicles for Google’s data collection. Again, these experiments were done on stationary phones with no user interactions. If you actually use your phone the information collection increases with Google.
  • Google has the ability to associate anonymous data collected through passive means with the personal information of the user. Google makes this association largely through advertising technologies, many of which Google controls. Advertising identifiers—which are purportedly “user anonymous” and collect activity data on apps and third-party webpage visits—can get associated with a user’s real Google identity through passing of device-level identification information to Google servers by an Android device.
  • Likewise, the DoubleClick cookie ID—which tracks a user’s activity on the third-party webpages—is another purportedly “user anonymous” identifier that Google can associate to a user’s Google account. It works when a user accesses a Google application in the same browser in which a third-party webpage was accessed previously.

Study: iOS Security Updates are Best in Industry →

SecurityLab shared their analysis of smartphone manufacturers' security updates, focusing on four specific questions:

  • The shortest time to publish a security update following discovery of a vulnerability
  • The maximum delay in making the update available to all
  • Whether or not updates were independent of carriers
  • How long a device is supported with security updates

The top-rated brand was Apple, scoring green in all categories. Of Android brands, just two scored reasonably highly.

Apple's had an embarrassing rough patch of bad software bugs in the past few months, but they're the fastest in the industry at patching it up.

Apple Slowing Down Old iPhones →

Brian X. Chen of NYT:

What Apple is acknowledging is a power management technique in which the iPhone scales back processing power to keep the device running for longer when its battery health is low. Lithium ion batteries have a limited number of charge “cycles” before they can no longer be recharged properly. Apple’s website says the battery loses about 20 percent of its original capacity after 500 charge cycles.

In other words, if your iPhone is beginning to run out of battery capacity, these slowdowns might kick in to keep it running for longer or prevent it from shutting down unexpectedly.

This isn't a ploy to get old iPhone customers to upgrade. On the contrary, this is an engineering decision made to keep your old iPhones running longer.

Engineering-wise, I think Apple made the right decision. But user experience-wise, I definitely think Apple needs to better communicate these limitations of lithium ion technology, especially when an iPhone customer's battery has degraded past a certain threshold.

Every iPhone customer should know the cheapest solution is to replace the battery through Apple for $79.

Two Weeks with iPhone X

Whenever a new technology or big redesign comes along, reactions tend to split between two types of people:

  1. Those who like things just the way they are.
  2. Those who embrace change.

Those in the first group, Apple introduced the iPhone 8. It's for those who like the familiarity and comfort of the same hardware design since 2014. It's for those who want the same iPhone, but better.

The iPhone X is for iPhone customers in the second group. Those who are happy in the Apple ecosystem but are eager for something new.

After using the iPhone X for two weeks, I'd like to share some of my experiences for those who are considering it and highlight some details you probably missed.

Read More

Open Letter to Apple: Sharing Priceless Photos…in Full Quality

Hey Craig [Federighi],

The iPhone is the best and most popular camera on the planet…yet sharing photos & videos in full quality with friends & family is so hard! I wish sharing full-quality photos/videos was as easy as sending stickers to a group chat in iMessage.

I was recently on a trip to Hawaii with a dozen of my childhood friends. 10 of us had iPhones and 2 had Samsungs. We’re all taking photos, with plenty of candid shots, great group shots, and just living the moment. But when we wanted to share each other's best photos on Facebook, we were faced with several options that all have downsides:

  • Send over iMessage — but then everyone receives a downscaled version of each photo and video.

  • Send via AirDrop — (my Samsung friends were getting a jealous about this, lol) but AirDrop assumes all phones are unlocked and within bluetooth range, which isn't always the case. It forces us to take ourselves out of the moment just to make sure all our iPhones are unlocked and ready to accept the AirDrop.

  • Share folders via Dropbox or Google Photos — but not everyone has an account on either of those.

  • Use iCloud Photo Sharing — but not everyone has that enabled. And even if I send them a link to the album, photos/videos are downscaled to lower quality.

I take pride in the quality of photos I take with my iPhone! It’s a shame though that with all these priceless group photos on our phones, we either have to take ourselves out of the moment to coordinate an AirDrop with everyone, or we have to settle with downscaled versions of photos that are meant to last a lifetime.

I feel that of all the companies in the world, Apple is the only company that could solve this elegantly. Hope you take this into consideration!

-Mel

Keiichi Matsuda Hyper-Reality

Augmented Reality for the Masses

While everyone is talking about next-gen smartphones like the very impressive Galaxy Note 8 and the highly-anticipated iPhone X, I'm more interested in what's being built on top of smartphones that will bridge us to the next big thing.1

Let's talk about Augmented Reality.

What is AR?

You've actually seen it before, you just don't realize it:

  • If you've ever watched a game of football on TV, the yellow line on the field that constantly moves to indicate the first-down…that's augmented reality.

More recently:

  • If you've ever went outside hunting for Pokémon characters…that was augmented reality.

  • If you use Snapchat to turn your face into a dog and send it to all your friends…that's augmented reality.

Not to be confused with Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality is about overlaying digital information on everything you see. To put it another way:

Virtual Reality is about teleporting you to a new world. Augmented Reality is about enhancing the world around you.

AR Today: Incubation Phase

Here's the current landscape of AR summed up by Timothy Buck:

Google's Project Tango has been around since 2014, and it is almost universally considered a flop. Project Tango only works on specialized hardware that relatively few people own, and because of that, the software landscape is bleak.

Update: Google's ARCore, which is basically Project Tango minus the required specialized hardware, was announced just a few weeks ago. When it launches (release date TBA), it will be limited to Google Pixel (1+ million units shipped) & Galaxy S8 (20+ million).

Microsoft's HoloLens was announced in early 2015, and it's really quite impressive by all accounts. But it's not really a consumer product. The HoloLens starts at $3,000 and is marketed as a developer edition. At this point, they have too few users to truly attract developers in large numbers. Obviously, this could change dramatically if they announce a truly revolutionary consumer device.

Facebook's AR Studio is only a few months older than AR Kit, and Facebook has 2 billion users. But at this point, Facebook isn't offering a way for developers to monetize their AR Studio creations. This means it will be filled with AR "apps" that are essentially ads for companies that monetize in other ways.

In the fall, Apple will update their iPhone line and hundreds of millions of iOS devices being used today will be updated to iOS 11 and capable of running ARKit apps. This is serious incentive [for app developers], and I expect to see a cascade of AR-enabled apps in the App Store at the end of the year.

When iOS 11 launches later this month, Augmented Reality will be supported on iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, all iPad Pros, the 2017 iPad, and all new iPhones launching this month.

How many devices is that? Some number crunching by David Barnard:

326m iPhones have been sold since the iPhone 6S was released. Some were iPhone 6/6 Plus, but 350m total compatible devices is realistic.

78m iPhones and 13m iPads shipped Q1 (Oct-Dec) last year. And quite a few 7/7 Plus in Q4. iPhone 8 will push it to 450m by the end of 2017.

To put it another way:

Overnight, iOS becomes the largest Augmented Reality platform in the world.

While everyone else gets bragging rights for demoing AR years ago, Apple hits the ground running in the race that matters — first to critical mass.2

AR 1.0: Coming Soon

This past June, Apple opened its doors to developers with the release of ARKit. In just three months, developer adoption has been phenomenal. Here are a few demos I want to highlight:

  • Imagine going to a concert, fair, or festival and finding out your friends are there too:

  • Imagine navigating around a new city like this:

  • Imagine going to a new restaurant and picking out the perfect meal:

  • Imagine moving into a new home and planning out your interior design:

  • Imagine your kid playing games like this in the living room:

  • Imagine trying on new clothes, makeup, and hairstyles like this:

  • Imagine floating a little virtual charm above your head as a status message for the real world. Share your mood with an emoji. Rep your hometown with your favorite sports team logo. Put up a little Fuck Off DND sign when you want to be alone.

  • These two are just flat out cool:

  • For 40+ more demos that I've handpicked, check out all the videos I've posted under Made with ARKit.

Yes, these demos are more on the gimmicky side. But let's put it in perspective:

When the iTunes App Store opened in 2008, novelties like Super Monkey Ball and fart apps were all the rage. They weren't game-changing themselves by any means…but getting developers to invest into the platform was paramount.

Over the years, app development matured and the world was introduced to cultural phenomenons and world-changers like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Uber.

AR 2.0: Beyond Smartphones

Today's AR comes in the form of Pokémon Go & Snapchat filters. Tomorrow's AR will come in the form of fun & gimmicky demos on next-gen smartphones. But what will AR be like in the years ahead?

  • What happens when we move AR from our smartphone screens to glasses that are comfortable, stylish, and affordable? What happens to smartphones & tablets when all we need is wireless voice-enabled earbuds, AR glasses, and a powerful smartwatch?

  • What happens when multiple people in the same room can share the same augmented experience? What about entire sports arenas? Entire cities?

  • What happens to child development when groups of kids grow up together building & interacting with the same elaborate fantasy worlds right in your living room?

  • What happens when we can replace web browsers & URLs with AR glasses & QR codes in the real world?

  • What happens to online shopping when you can augment any product imaginable onto your body, your driveway, or your home?

  • What happens to offices & conference rooms when we don’t need monitors or TV screens? What happens to interiors of cars when we don’t need physical dashboards or navigation consoles?

  • What happens to international travel when every sign is automagically translated for you? What happens when you can talk to anyone in the world and their words are subtitled for you in real-time?

  • What happens when we can hold up signs anywhere but only allow certain people to see them?

  • What happens to parties & socialization when virtual name tags can only be seen by those with mutual friends? What happens to clubs, concerts, festivals, and dating when singles can display their statuses above their head to only compatible matches?

In Closing

There's so much more to innovation than showing off a flashy demo, impressing loyal fans, or being first to market. Innovation is more than just improving the status quo.

Innovation is about challenging the status quo.

Innovation is about getting new technologies into the hands of millions, driving people to break old habits & create new ones. Innovation is about disrupting the way companies do business, forcing entire industries to rethink their product strategies, operations, and business models.

The next big thing isn't a better-looking smartphone with beefier hardware specs that one-ups the competition. The next big thing will be new AR software & services in the real world...and smartphone AR will be the bridge that takes us there.

It will take years for AR to mature into a world-changing technology. Up until now, Augmented Reality has been limited to early-adopting developers & big-spending enthusiasts. AR has yet to prove compelling, convenient, and affordable enough for mainstream adoption. As the saying goes: "The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed."

With the upcoming launch of iOS 11 in the next couple weeks — which will unlock Augmented Reality for 450 million iOS devices this year — AR finally makes its first real step for the masses.3


  1. We can argue that Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning are the next big thing, especially since they are fundamental building blocks for AR, voice recognition, automation, etc. But AR is a little more “tangible” to consumers. 

  2. "First to critical mass" doesn't necessarily mean dominant market share; Apple just needs enough third-party support & mainstream adoption to carry its ecosystem through the next paradigm shift. Google's ARCore will follow shortly after and, if I had to make a slap bet, likely end up dominating the rest of the AR market to form a duolopoly. 

  3. Mainstream adoption doesn't necessarily mean Apple will "win", but don't make the mistake of betting against them.