The Hills Are Greener: Up and Down

The Hills Are Greener: Up and Down

Jan 28, 2013

When comparing iOS and Android, there’s a fairly curious dichotomy between the two platforms and their patrons, Apple and Google.

Apple’s stock took a hit recently based off of what some may consider misconceptions. One, Apple posted record revenues and profits yet saw their stock take a dip on the unconfirmed rumors of iPhone 5 orders being cut, and their failure to hit analyst projections.

Meanwhile on Android, Google’s running into problems with stocking their Nexus and Chromebook devices. The Nexus 4 has been sold out for weeks. The Nexus 10 has been sold out for a while as well. Even the Samsung Chromebook has been sold out for…well, I don’t recall ever seeing it actually on sale. Perhaps it never was. Even in retail stores it’s still sold out.

Yet, these show how far apart the two companies are: Apple, who are extremely susceptible to the rumor scene, can ahve massive dips in stock prices based solely on rumor and speculation, never mind if it’s actually true, as Tim Cook seemed to hint at. But at least Apple can sell iPhones – while stock was tight early on, things started to even out and it’s a lot easier now to go and buy a new iPhone 5.

Meanwhile, Google should be facing severe stock questions, in that even in dealing with multiple suppliers, they can’t provide adequate numbers of devices to meet their demand, what’s going to happen when they finally start to take advantage of their Motorola acquisition? Will they be able to produce enough stock to meet up with demand? Or will the short supplies of Nexus devices turn people off? I still want a Nexus 4, but the lack of availability of one helped turn me into an iPhone 5 owner (though I’d still like one for testing!). I’d love a Samsung Chromebook too, but good luck buying one. I sometimes pop into Best Buy to see if they have them, but nope.

Google is in a good position of where they know that people want to buy their phones and tablets from them. Long-term, that’s a good thing. But confidence in doing so needs to be built, and for the Nexus devices to have been out of stock this long is surely throwing off people who would have otherwise bought them by now. Compare this to Apple, who are able to make enough phones and tablets for everyone, yet fear that they may have too many is throwing off their stock price.

It’s a crazy world in the land of Apple vs. Google.

The Hills Are Greener: Why Android is Here to Stay

The Hills Are Greener: Why Android is Here to Stay

Dec 10, 2012

So, it seems like iPhone, at least in the US, is finally reaching a point of ubiquity among the major carriers. Not only has T-Mobile been rolling their network out to start supporting the iPhone’s cellular hardware, but there are reports from their investor meetings that they will start selling Apple hardware in 2013. What this means and when is unclear, but it means all 4 of the nation’s biggest carriers will be going iPhone.

The immediate reaction might be to despair for Android fans: the last bastion of Android-exclusivity has become corrupted by the Cupertino colossus. Yet, that is missing out on why Android has gotten to this point where it is the primary competitor to Apple: because it took on all comers in the smartphone OS world and has won.

Think about why Apple succeeded with the iPhone. In a world of user-unfriendly smartphones, largely focused on business customers, Apple introduced something that was very intuitive. Android followed with something aiming for the same goals, while being open-source. BlackBerry was king of the smartphone mountain, but didn’t have the kind of usability that iOS and Android introduced. Windows Phone never really dominated, Windows Phone 7 has floundered, and Windows Phone 8 is a total reboot. Even well-appreciated hardware like the Lumia 900 wasn’t enough to popularize the platform. WebOS…it existed.

The fact that AT&T had the iPhone exclusive for over three years does count for a lot. But think about it: Android is still going strong, right? There’s still reasons for people to go Android, and the carriers still love it. Bloatware and various carrier-specific customizations are there for many reasons. Just because a carrier has gotten the iPhone doesn’t mean that it’s been a death knell for Android. And the iPhone becoming available on seemingly every carrier only means that it’s an option for more people.

And Android in and of itself, because it is really just a common OS that these disparate devices use, still represents options. It is the backbone of increasingly-capable low-cost prepaid options. It still has bigger phones than Apple may be interested in making. And for those on the cutting edge of network speed, Android has been first at 4G. It’s not as clean and crisp of an experience as iOS is, no. But just because iPhone exists doesn’t mean that Android can’t coexist. Maybe because Apple allowed Android to gestate through its AT&T deal. But there are reasons why the battle is iPhone vs. Android and not Windows Phone or BlackBerry.

The Hills Are Greener: Not Buying What Google’s Selling – Because They Can’t Sell It

The Hills Are Greener: Not Buying What Google’s Selling – Because They Can’t Sell It

Dec 3, 2012

Let’s compare the approach of Apple and Google.

So Google has a hot new phone on their hands. It’s been sold out for weeks. They finally get in, or at least release, new stock of their new phone. They announce when they’re selling it. It sells out in seconds. Literally: I’m sitting at my iPad shortly after I notice the clock turn to 2:00 pm central on a Tuesday afternoon, and the Nexus 4 is sold out. Already. And there’s no recourse, no preorder process for future batches, nothing. In short, if I want a Nexus 4, I’ve got to wait.

Now look at Apple’s website. Try to buy an iPhone from them. Why, they are quite happy to sell you an iPhone well in advance. They’ll give you an estimate of how long it’ll take to get your shiny new piece of Apple ephemera. They’ll even let you go to pick up your shiny new toy from an Apple Store if there’s one in stock. It works all too well.

I suppose that as a tech addict, it should fail to surprise anyone that I have an iPhone 5 now, considering that the unlocked one finally went on sale? Yup, I’m back on the dark side. Sure, it makes sense for me considering I also love doing iOS reviews, but I also admit that it was something of an impulse buy because I couldn’t get the Android phone I wanted. The Galaxy S III is still a really nice phone, but something was calling me elsewhere. The lure of a cleaner, stock experience, and if Google wasn’t going to give it to me, Apple was.

Now granted, in this situation of selling phones directly to customers, Google doesn’t have the kind of retail and e-commerce experience that Apple does. But still, to be in a position where people that want your product pretty much can’t buy it? It seems like a bad experience. It may build up hype, yes (their phone sold out in an amount of time best measured in seconds), but it’s also a bad experience for people who actually want the phone and not just the hype. And if the reports that Google’s probably backordered for a month during one of the biggest shopping periods, when people will be wanting new phones, are true? Well, it’s just a mess. Good for Google that they have a phone that people want, but they need more stock. They can provide it with the Nexus 7 – it’s time they do it with the 4 as well.

I’m still rocking my Nexus 7, as it is: it’s still a great tablet, after all. But it is weird, making the transition back to iOS as my primary phone and notification source. If only you could have sold me a Nexus 4, Google, I was ready!

The Hills Are Greener: iPhone 5 and a Falling Apple?

The Hills Are Greener: iPhone 5 and a Falling Apple?

Sep 17, 2012

This is the first thing to be said about the iPhone 5: it is a capable phone, one that will make Apple more money than God – again – and should keep them at the top of the food chain for a while longer. But in following the events on and around the announcement, it was hard to sit there and not think that the once-mythical Apple had lost some of its luster.

The announcement itself was severely anti-climactic. Thanks to pretty much every detail leaking, nothing was a surprise. It was all an inevitability. Part of this is inevitable: Apple is a behemoth, and with all their hardware partners, something had to give. It’s hard to stay secret when everyone wants to know what’s being kept secret. Still, this could be part of what is lost with Steve Jobs gone, as Michael Jurewitz points out: Steve Jobs railed against leaks. The past year was full of them to the point that the biggest surprise was probably the new iPod nano (even a leak of the internals for the new iPod touch made it out at some point) that was announced.

But the other thing was that this felt more like Apple becoming reactive instead of proactive. The iPhone 5 is 16:9 only because they needed to make it bigger to keep pace with Android phones. They kept it about the same width to keep developers happy and for the ergonomic guidelines they set. So, it’s bigger, but still smaller than other flagship phones. They added a panorama mode to the camera, which is impressive due to the high-resolution stitching, but it’s also a pretty standard function now. New software features are coming to iOS 6, but most will be part of previous-generation hardware as well.

It’s got a more powerful processor for gaming, but of course it would have one. Better graphics are nice, but eepected. Many of the iOS 6 features will be useful, but we knew about most of those. There’s no NFC, a feature that Apple doesn’t appear to be interested in putting in until they have to. That’s not a forward-looking company; that feels like the kind of conservative company that Apple squarely is not. The Apple that announces the iPhone 5 doesn’t feel like the Apple that would have ever released the iPod, iPad, or the original iPhone in the first place because it was too much of a risk. The iPhone 5 is safe. Safe will sell, but the iPhone is still in a position to sell pretty much no matter what.

No, I’m not predicting the collapse of the iPhone and Apple. Not even close. But I willsay this: in the past two years, if you look at where Android and its hardware has come from compared to the iPhone, the software experience is getting much better, and there is some high-quality hardware being released. The iOS software experience feels like it’s barely changing. The hardware is thinner, lighter, and more powerful, sure. But still, it feels like the mysticism of Apple that has developed is wearing away. The iPhone feels practically conservative at this point, and for a product that was revolutionary (feel free to shout at me, #BoycottApple folks), it’s kind of sad to not be wowed in even the slightest by what Apple is doing. The company made its mark by not being conservative, and yet: they did exactly what was expected with the iPhone 5.

It seems silly to say that Android is clearly a bigger threat than ever when Apple’s going to probably make so much money our heads will spin, but history could note this as the first day of the decline of the iPhone as the status symbol of mobile phones, that it’s not the sole taste-maker any more.

The Hills Are Greener: Size Matters

The Hills Are Greener: Size Matters

Sep 10, 2012

Size matters. This past week, we saw Amazon try to take on the iPad with a tablet size that's still a bit smaller than the flagship iPad, but definitely something more for the tablet customer who wants a bigger device, without paying the iPad premium. This will likely be competing for dollars with the Nexus 7 this holiday season as well, and Amazon's hooks in traditional along with online retail make it a force to be reckoned with, especially if the device is as powerful as it could be.

Meanwhile, with Apple holding an event this week, reportedly for the iPhone 5 as hinted by the big "5" shadow in the invitation, it will be all about getting bigger as well. Reportedly, the iPhone 5 is going to grow taller to 16:9 resoultion, while remaining 640 pixels wide for the comfort of developers used to the screen width.

Expect iPhone apps to go through some hurdles. With no time to prepare for the new aspect ratio like with the iPad being announced months ahead of time, and with developers not used to designing around aspect ratio neutrality, there could be a slew of awkwardly-designed apps. Android developers, used to bajillions of hardware and resolution permutations, were born ready for every resolution on the face of the earth, or at least ready for when resolutions change. iPhone developers may need to learn quickly, though the horizontal resolution remaining the same will make it simpler.

But the very fact that even Apple is recognizant of the idea of different screen sizes after staying static for so long shows that there is a shift in the market. Consumers like being able to have big phones, and occasionally smaller tablets. That may be part of the reason why Android has gotten to take off: it's provided a choice that Apple has not. And though Apple is now starting to expand into this area, it may not be in time to really slow down Android to a significant degree, though it could win them back customers who liked Apple, but not enough to prefer Android's options.

As well, if NFC is not in the iPhone 5 as rumored, then it's another blow to mobile payments, and one that could be hurting the entire movement due to Apple's largesse. It's a catch-22: they won't take off until iOS uses them, but Apple may be hesitant to put them in because of their non-ubiquity. What a confusing web being woven.

Of course, what this is really leading to is the singularity 6" size, something big enough to fit in our pockets without sticking out (even if it's uncomfortable), but something that we can all enjoy. The one size to rule them all! Of course then no one except me, who wants a huge phone anyay, would be truly happy.

It's silly. These device sizes are really only nominally bigger than each other, and yet they're such a big deal. In the world of mobile technology, size does matter. What a first world problem. And yet, as a mobile technology addict, I know how the subtle differences do matter.