Drop the version number in next iPhone

Drop the version number in next iPhone

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are out, people are raving about them.  It won’t be long now until the rumor mill stars up for what will be touted as Apple iPhone 7.  (running iOS 9)  Give it just a little time, it’s coming.

I believe we are likely to see Apple release this next version as just “iPhone”.  I’d actually love to see them just drop the “plus” and “s” monikers from the lines entirely.   If you look at the full set of names over time, it feels clunky compared to what Apple is known for.  It’s not quite as bad as Microsoft branding, but it’s not great.

  • iPhone (2007)
  • iPhone 3G (2008)
  • iPhone 3Gs (2009)
  • iPhone 4 (2010)
  • iPhone 4S (2011)
  • iPhone 5 (2012)
  • iPhone 5S (2013)
  • iPhone 5C (2013)
  • iPhone 6 (2014)
  • iPhone 6 Plus (2014)
D4941AC7-79FC-4B2F-BC91-7075D2BEA608

It started to get strange early on.  Why was the second iPhone called 3G?  Oh, because they wanted to tie the model to the faster 3G network.  Then what happens when you want to improve upon that name?  Make it the 3Gs.  (wait, is that a plural?  or is the ’S’ symbolic of something?)  As it turns out, the S was meant for SPEED.   Does this imply the 3G was not fast?

Okay, so I am clear now.  The number on my iPhone means what network I can use?  So the 4 is 4G?  Oh wait.. no.  I have to wait for the iPhone 5 for 4G speeds?  (let’s not get into the TMO/ATT debacle of calling 3G HSPA, 4G.  We all know 4G globally was lining up to mean LTE)

Let’s take a bit of a detour here.  Remember iPad?

  • iPad (2010)
  • iPad 2 (2011)
  • iPad (3rd generation, but just called iPad) (Early 2012)
  • iPad Mini (late 2012)
  • iPad (4th generation, but just called iPad) (late 2012)
  • iPad Air (late 2013)
  • iPad Mini (with Retina Display) (early 2014)

Apple started going with a named approach, and scrapping the version numbers.  I feel like they were getting better on this line.  We did get size as part of the naming convention, but it made sense.   I don’t agree with using Retina as part of the name.  Give it a premium name, just don’t call out a technical feature.  I am not sure why, but it drives me a bit nuts.   I get why they name iMacs with the size screen in them.  People are used to screen sizes as a strong callout.  I don’t agree with the core processor speed being part of a name.  (although Apple’s website sort of shows them in that way)

I understand why they went with iPad Air. It was lighter.  Did you intend to have another iPad in market that was heavier?   iPad and iPad Air?  No.  Hmm..so what happens when they next iPad comes out that is lighter than the Air?    Is is the iPad AirS?  (S meaning Somewhat Lighter) ?

Summary

Getting back on track here.  I just wish they’d simplify the lines.  Next release, just tell us about the iPhone.   We can all talk about the iPhones.  I don’t need to be saying that I have the iPhone 14S in 10 more years.  I’d love to see Apple simplify the naming across the board.

  • iPhone Mini (current iPhone size)
  • iPhone (iPhone 6 size)
  • iPhone Plus (I am ok with this based on size being larger)
  • iPad Mini
  • iPad
  • iPad Plus (you know they will come out with a bigger iPad soon)
  • iMac (21.5” size)
  • iMac Plus (27” size)
  • AppleTV

Then.. tell me about spec level details later.  How much RAM, Drive space, etc…Does it have a Retina display or not, does it have 4G, 5G, 6G speeds.. hell, I care/don’t care.  I want an iPhone, then I want to look into the specs.   Get out of the rat race of naming, keeping up with the Jones, etc. Just simplify the naming down to a more consumer friendly name that makes sense over time.

You are welcome world.  I didn’t solve any real problem with this rant, but it did make me feel better by getting my naming convention frustration off my chest.

 

You Too Can Participate in the Fragmentation of Wearables

You Too Can Participate in the Fragmentation of Wearables

For those that know me, I may be a bit of a gadget geek.  I think the first step in fixing a problem would be to admit you have one.  The challenge is, I have no intention of fixing my tech-trending life.  I enjoy it.  I think I counted over 10 phones I have had in the past two years.  (much to my wife’s dismay)

Lately I have been focused on wearable computing.  While not participating in all of the gadgets, I am very much interested in this space.   The only wearable I currently have is my Pebble Watch.   I must admit, I enjoy it but it is in it’s infancy.   It doesn’t do everything I’d like and I am not sure it ever will.

Pebble Watch
Pebble Watch

As a product manager by trade, I always think about the process when a product was coming to market.  What problem were they trying to solve?   Wearables are trying to solve user problems that fall into a couple different buckets as I see them.  First you have notifications.  Can this device stop me from pulling out my true personal computer (mobile phone) every time it buzzes or rings?  Second I see some lightweight utility apps.  (think navigation or weather)   Finally, the big bucket I look forward to is a bit more predictive information.  Now, to be fair, predictive information as a category can be hard to quantify.  Are they really notifications just being sent to the wearable?  (Google Now).  Is the mobile device doing more of the computing and the wearable is just a display?  I think both could be true.  The difference in my mind is the sensors that a wearable can bring to provide the context necessary to “surprise and delight” me as a customer.

Here is where things get challenging for someone like me.  What problem do I care about being solved by a given piece of technology?  While I am perfectly fine with glancing at my watch to see a notification about my upcoming meeting, I have learned I am less happy with getting my text messages on my wrist.  Why?  Consider this.  How rude is it to pull out your phone to check a text while in conversation?   (I personally try to never do that).  I assumed I could just glance at my wrist and still stay focused on the conversation at hand.  What happened?  Now I just appear to be bored with you and I am checking the time constantly.   Something I didn’t anticipate.   For me, glancing up at something like Google Glass would be much more appropriate for incoming text notifications.  Subtle yet available if I need them.

I am still trying to figure out in my own head which wearable solves which problems better for me.   As for now, until I am a little more clear, it makes it harder to think through the next problem.. WHICH wearable of which type to purchase.

Smart Watches

The big challenge here is what capabilities and devices will survive the fragmentation challenges of the Smart watch world.

Pebble ($150)
Great notification watch with some simple applications.  Pebble is really focused on building out a world-class SDK that developers can leverage. I still have high hopes here.

Martian Watches ($250-$300)
These watches tout voice control as their big differentiator.  The screens don’t lend themselves to much digital real-estate however they are really nice watches with a little more.

I’m Watch ($350)
Great looking watch with it’s own developer platform as well.  (although I don’t see this getting as much press)

Sony Smartwatch 2 ($200)
The screen and stock capabilities do pretty good here although developer support is not as strong

Samsung Galaxy Gear ($300)
I believe this is one of the more promising platforms, although for whatever reason they have decided to only sell it for a select few Samsung devices.  Bad move in my view. If you want developer support, make it worth their while by being broadly available.

 Glasswear

These devices are a bit more on the geeky side, but I still want one eventually.  I believe I will hold our for at least 1-2 more revisions.  The big challenge as above, how do you attract the right developers to get your platform to move forward.  I think it will be key for these guys to just flat out fund key applications to get done right.  If not, it will be seen as a gap when you are missing key apps.

The two key ones I am watching are:

Google Glass ($1500)
Obviously the big news-getter here.  Lots of cool things happening.  I think we’ve only scratched the surface of the potential here.

Meta-Pro ($3500)
These guys are going ultra high-end.  I am excited to see what they are doing.  It seems they have quite a developer following as well.

Oakley, Oculon and others are trying to get into this space as well. Oddly enough, it seems as though more devices are landing in this space in 2014 than great new watch ideas.   Check out this article for more glasses.

Summary

My challenge is to really decide what capabilities are going to be in the device I think best serves that need for me before I pick a winner.  Getting a Kickstarter Pebble Edition was just an eye opener for me as to where things are going.  Fragmentation for developers will continue to be a problem. If the program owners for these devices can fund key apps, they can mitigate risk and increase positive perception amongst the mass market.

If you are interested, you can check out my Pebble Watch Faces and others posts.

Don’t get religious on your stance for web design

Don’t get religious on your stance for web design

While responsive web design has been around for  a while, it really seems  like the past 6 months or so it’s bounced back into the spotlight.  I have seen a lot of articles talking about the pros and cons of using such approaches. Some of these articles are quite prescriptive on the approach.   For those who are less familiar with it, let me give a quick summary.

Responsive web design is a technique that can leverage standard markup, CSS, and Javascript.  There is no magic or trickery..other than the actual know-how to get such a site designed and built properly.  By no means do I know a ton about Responsive Web Design, I am merely using this as a tool to help make my point.

Many groups recommend you actually start with the mobile view first.   The mobile first movement suggests you look at the key things your user will want to do in mobile (assuming the most simplified view) and then build up to the tablet or desktop view from there.

Progressive Web Design is another tactic that is leveraged in these common approaches outlined above.  The idea here is to use basic markup; then based on browser capabilities you can “enhance” the experience.  In simple terms start with a basic level 1 experience, then you test to see if your browser is advanced enough to get experience level 2 (or 3, or whatever you want to name it) and then if so, the code gets executed.

This seems like a great approach to solve my problem of building multiple websites!  Right?  Well, all good things come with a catch.   If you think about a news style site, like SmashingMagazine.com, it doesn’t matter if the user is on their desktop reading articles or on the bus viewing the site on their phone.  They are doing the same tasks, just optimized for a screen type.  If you have different scenarios for your mobile users that are unique, does this mean it’s broken?

This is where my frustration comes in on the articles I’ve seen.   Too many people are taking the view on one of two dimensions.  FIRST:  Responsive is the end all be all approach and really solves world hunger. (ok, maybe a touch over blown).   Yes, it does great things that appear magical, it helps me build to a single code base and it helps my SEO story with a single URL approach.    SECOND:  Responsive doesn’t help me because I need to optimize my business for mobile differently than I do on the desktop site.

By all means.. both views are important, and both have merit.   What you need to realize is this:  Getting religious on how people should build sites is a bit like.. well, getting religious about your religion vs. someone else’s religion.  Neither one of you may be wrong.. but you have your beliefs.

I’d say take what you need from each approach.  (back to the tech talk here, not religion).   There is no reason you can’t leverage the great flow layouts from a responsive web design and still have very mobile specific approaches to solve for specific scenarios that are different across device types.   These can be handled on the server side with some intelligent code at run-time.

Leverage Progressive for building up capabilities on the fly.  Be smart, be adaptive.  Leverage business intelligence at the server layer to make content choices, optimize images, custom deliver CSS and optimize where you can.   Finally.. go with Responsive for a single code base for rendering across devices.   PAR… this approach of Progressive, Adaptive and Responsive is a way to be smart while still leveraging what others have done without handcuffing you to a single approach.

The purist view of responsive means you do everything client side to determine what shows on devices and how it renders.   We just know that we have certain things we want to be smart about given ample opportunity. This is why with an adaptive approach you can:

  • Not send a single image and scale it via % widths from desktop to mobile.  Do try to optimize and load the right JPG based on device width
  • Use EM for fonts.
  • Using @media-query options is great at run time.. but could you save code on the download and optimize on the server side based on device width?  (rather than user-agent)
  • Be smart about content, not all content has to be sent back.   Send content ABC where it makes sense and mix/replace XYZ with proper events when triggered.

So.. this is just a suggestion, but don’t get overly critical about how people are approaching their site design and implementation.   Personally I have always found the thing that works best is to leverage the best of all approaches and make it work for me.  PAR just happens to be a good blend of capabilities as I see it.

 

 

Android tablets won’t see the success of the Android phones

Android tablets won’t see the success of the Android phones

There is no doubt that Android is killing it in the phone space.   They have come to market with an open platform that allows the flexibility for OEMs to bring a variety of devices to market.   These devices can be a low end 128mb Smartphone for free to consumers (or very cheap on the open market) all the way up to a high end device with fantastic processors, large amounts of storage, NFC and stunning design.  If you are on the market for a Smartphone.. Android will have one that fits your pricepoint.. and arguably can do it quite well for that price.  It doesn’t mean it’s a better phone than an iPhone or Windows Phone 7.. but it is good enough for the price.

The challenge standard Android tablets are running into are partially due to some of the same things that are making the phones a success.  When users look at a “luxury device” like a tablet, they are falling into two buckets.   People who want basic email/browse capabilities with a few applications, or the power users who want a lot of applications and the ability to be more productive with them.  The problem is, Android is unable to compete for the consumer market with either one of these scenarios.

iPad is killing it with market penetration on tablets right now.   They have captured the hearts of the general consumer and are getting people to spend the money to get the best tablets available on the market to day.   Many people will argue these are not full computers.. and are limited to content consumption.  I disagree.. with the right applications, you can be very productive.  The iPads are easy to use, accessories are everywhere and they just work.

Windows 8 tablets will be here.. well, eventually.  No solid dates but we all know they are coming.  Microsoft released the Windows 8 consumer preview this week and it’s getting great reviews.   The benefits to Windows 8?  Well, first off.. it IS a real computer.  Not some limited device.  This literally will be a take-along device that is your full system.  Accessories will be everywhere for them and people will get to know the OS  very well.  I am excited about what will come with these new tablets/slates.

Standard Android tablets .. where does this leave you?   Sure.. you can try to compete against a $399 iPad price point.. but with weaker hardware and an outdated version of Android.  Do you think that will get much more market share than geeky devs looking to toy around?  Have you ever tried to hook an SD reader to an Android tablet?  Did it work?  Fragmentation, an open source OS and hardware limitations are going to be the death of Android tablets ever making it fully mainstream.  Sure there will be people buying them.. but in a year, the items you will see people carrying are going to be Win8 and iPad primarily.   The iPad will have a nice low price point with great hardware.. and Windows 8 tablets will be covering those who want a real computer with them.  This doesn’t leave much room in the market for mainstream products.

One tablet I left out was the Kindle Fire.  While technically this is an Android tablet, I put this into  special category.   Amazon was smart.  Leverage the base of an open OS and customize the heck out of it to target a more niche play.  Curate the app store to protect your users and focus on some key scenarios.  (quality apps, kindle book reading, media)   This is the one area I think you will see Android succeed.  If there are niche markets to be had.. Amazon is the one figuring it out.   The Fire is a great device.   Now.. if only they could contribute back to the Android source code.

WindowsPhone Omnigraffle Templates

I am working on a project at work going through some product concepts on WindowsPhone, seeing what sort of interesting things I can build.  The problem I have had so far is doing mockups.  The PSD files Microsoft gives out are not so friendly.. and honestly, I prefer to use Omnigraffle for my mockups anyway.  Unfortunately there were no Omnigraffle WindowsPhone templates.

I went over to the Microsoft site here… http://goo.gl/8qpw  to grab a PDF they had on their design templates.  I am now trying to re-create these in Omnigraffle.. one by one.  It’s a little slow.. but will be helpful for me when done.

Eventually I plan on creating a Stencil..but for now I am just creating them as individual canvases.  If you are interested in using these. (the pics are just a few examples).. download the attached ZIP file.

Also.. jump over to Microsoft’s site and download their design template ZIP file. It has the font files you will need for this to work right.  They are using a font called SegoeWP. It is a clean metro style font.. and required for the templates to render correctly.

Get the files here:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/48848/WindowsPhone%20Templates%20V2.zip

Give me any feedback you have.. I will be posting updates as I go.
– jeff

Blackberry Torch thoughts…

I have to say, it's only been a couple days however, the Torch seems like a complete #FAIL to me.  Sure, I'm an avid iPhone user, but in no way do I see this thing winning over any iPhone or Android users at all.  At best, you'll take a Blackberry Curve user who hates their web browsing and convince them to stay with RIM for one more contract cycle.  After that, if RIM can't pull some magic.. they are destined for major failure. 

Blackberry-torch

They should really just consider adopting Android across the board and making some good Blackberry hardware, BES server integration, etc.  See if the can't pull it off. 

The discussion we had at work this week was around focus.  RIM is trying to build a new OS, control the hardware and release multiple phones this year.  
Google is focused on the OS innovation and letting the OEMs handle bringing new hardware to market for all of their releases
Apple is focused on owning the entire device, hardware and software.. but only doing one phone per year. 

I think RIM is lost.. and needs to regain some focus badly, otherwise in 12-18 months you will see their marketshare well below 15%

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Digging the Evo…

The HTC Evo has been a great phone so far.. Sure, the battery started out sucking, but it appears to be stabalizing and yesterday I got  a solid 13 hours out of it.  That includes using the tethering option on the bus to work for an hour.. and about 40 minutes on the ride home. 

Top things I like so far.. 

  1. Tethering (without rooting or Jailbreaking).. just being fair.. it works great
  2. True background Apps
  3. Google Navigation (I can't tell you how great this is even over my paid iPhone Navigon.  I do miss the lane assist option.  
Things that are not so good

  1. Battery flakiness.  If I want Flaky, give me a biscuit
  2. Sprint TV not working on WiFi  (WTF really?)
  3. 4G Spotty and Slow coverage.  (it is great sometimes.. most not)

 
Sprint-htc-evo-4g

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Mobile Application Fragmentation – The Harsh Truth

I have these talks time and time again with people about the state of application development in mobile.  It is hard.  No matter how many people get excited about the buzz of applications on the iPhone.. no matter how many developers want their applications in an app store and no matter how many people want to buy applications, this is a challenging space.

If you are looking for the best opportunity to make a difference in people’s mobile world, you have limited options.  Take away the discoverability of the apps.. and just looking at platforms.  Here is my view on top bets.

CURRENT:

  1. Web-Kit HTML 5 based web-apps
  2. iPhone
  3. Android
  4. RIM
  5. Windows Mobile
  6. Palm Web OS
FUTURE (2-3 years)
  1. Web-Kit HTML 5 based web-apps
  2. Android
  3. iPhone
  4. Palm Web OS
  5. RIM
  6. Windows Mobile
Sure.. while I love the UI of a downloadable application, I think that pushing the envelope in the Web Application space has a better chance for daily high-value use.  Certain things limit you, sure.. but time to market, limitations in an app store, lack of installation.. all contribute to getting that customer use.  How do people find you?  You will definitely have to solve that problem.. but I still like this option best.

Android will overtake iPhone in the next few years with the way the app stores are panning out.  More manufacturers are developing handsets, new ideas are popping up all the time.  With the open-ness of Android, it does not have some of the limitations Apple is putting in place.  Developers still have the risk of fragmentation here, but I hope Google helps solve that at the OS level and leave the developers to solving problems for end users.

Palm Web OS is going to take better hold over time.  There are a plethora of developers that can develop for this platform with a low learning curve.  It will be interesting to see where this pans out.

Unless you are developing corporate applications for RIM or Windows Mobile, I would struggle to see where you will get much traction through those app stores.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to try to take on that challenge and see how it pans out.. but it will be tough for sure.

Anyway.. that is my $0.02 for where things are heading.  As an application developer, getting distribution scale is a challenge to make money. People are not used to paying for web-apps yet, although as they get better and have integrated off-line use, it will be an option.  I love applications, don’t get me wrong.  I just think it is a challenge for developers to pick a single platform to be successful.  Don’t spread yourself too thin.. it wont work.

One side note.. this is clearly a US focused post.. and not touching on Symbian, Samsungs new plans or even what Google is trying to do with “go”.  I am sure we will see more interesting things come up in the next 18-36 months.  OEMs, please reduce fragmentation.. don’t make it worse.