Data Squeeze

Over the past week several new events have happened in the smartphone world, specifically the iPhone world.  The first change, which has solidified my choice to leave the iPhone behind for greener pastures was the decesion of AT&T to no longer offer its unlimited data plan for the iPhone.  Instead they will offer 2 cheaper but ultimately more limited options.  200MB for $15 and 2GB for $25.  Both are cheaper then the current unlimited for $30, but both also come with conditions noticeably absent from the unlimited model.  Overage charges. If one were to go the lower priced model you would be charge $15 for each additional 200MB.  Equaling the price tag but not the service of the unlimited plan.  The penalty for the larger plan is $10 per gigabyte, making it more expensive than the unlimited plan but still more limited.

AT&T argues that for 98% of the people using iPhones right now the data plans are suffient and little to no overages will occur as long as people pick the right plan for them.  So I decided to check my data usage and over the past 3 months I have used at least 2GB.  Granted I use my phone a lot.  I steam music, podcasts, videos, and use the web and email a lot.  I can recognize that I am far from an average user.  I decided to check a more casual user’s data, my wife.  She only uses the phone for occasional email, web browsing, and the rare video.  Over the last 6 months she has only been under 200MB twice, and both instances only by 10MB.  
If I’m reading the numbers and usage correctly the only people that would qualify for the 200MB plan would be people who don’t use any data on there phone aside from the rare email.  AT&T said that 98% of people fit into these plans.  I wonder how many would fit into the 200MB plan.  Based on the data I have, I’m betting less than 10%.  
This is all just the tip of the iceberg though.  With iPhone 4 and iOS4 coming out soon the average data usage on a phone is going to skyrocket.  With backgrounding FINALLY enabled people will be able to listen to music services like pandora while still being able to do email and browsing all while keeping the battery fairly alive.  Netflix is coming to the iPhone finally!, but with each movie coming in at 225MB forget about using it without at least the 2GB plan.  Even then you will be limited to <10 movies if you plan on doing anything else with your fancy new phone.  iAd is coming down the pipe to save the average user money through fancy interactive ads.  iAds will actually cost people once all that pretty interactive ad data starts pushing people over the newly imposed data limits.  Suddenly the casual users will become much larger data users and not completely by their own choice. 
The one announcement that was absent from this week was that iPhone 4 would be on other carriers.  Its starting to look like that always rumored, never confirmed “AT&T exclusive till 2012” rumor is in fact true.  I’m rather surprised that Apple didn’t have the fore-site to also make the unlimited data plans part of that deal.  Without any actual alternative carrier choice, AT&T has dealt a major, possibly mortal, blow to the iPhone.  Price is already the biggest hold out of the general public in the decision to get a smartphone.  Sure the new super-cheap $15 plan will draw out a fair amount of those people, but after they are forced to upgrade to the $25 plan to save money, due to data limits, and still have to watch their usage I feel that this move will hurt sales and the image of both AT&T and Apple.  Worse for Apple is will also cause a stall in sales and decline in popularity because who wants a super fancy phone that you are unwilling to use due to fear of massive debt?  Not to mention that there are plenty of incredible phones on other carriers that do not have these limitations.
I used to think that I could choose my phone based on the model of phone that I wanted alone.  I now know that to be a foolish and childish notion.  You have to look at the whole picture or you will be paying for it for a long time.

I have 6 months and counting till my contract is up. I was considered paying the early termination fee until AT&T doubled it just before the new data plans were announced, a coincidence I’m sure.  On the bright side I get to hang onto my unlimited data until I change anything about my account.  Luckly the next change is going to be canceling my service Jan 6th 2011.  Till then I look forward to the 15+ new android phones to pick from.  Current choice is the HTC Droid Incredible with Verison.

Haters, WTF?

>Haters, WTF?

I've always been confused by all the haters out there.  Haters are people that spend a large portion of their lives seeking out things to hate.  The concept that I find so perplexing is that a "hater" will activly search out, study, get angery over, and then complain about something which they all ready knew that they hated.  All that work to only prove to themselves that they do indeed hate the thing that they hated.  It would be fine if it stopped there, but its a constant struggle for the hater to find the next reason to hate its target.  Its like knowing fire is hot, but touching it anyway and then blaming the fire for being hot, then repeating the whole process again.  The fire is hot idiot, gerbils know better than you.

Part two of their odd personality is that they don't seem to understand that their opinion is just an opinion, not holy law handed down from God himself on stone tablets.  In their minds there is no distinction between opinion and fact. Perhaps its not their fault.  They may have some hormone imbalance that disrupts the distinction between fact and opinion, despite the news placing them in two different sections of the paper.  I'd ask a hater to explain themselves but i dont have the time to hear about how the moon landing was faked.

And we come to part three.  Haters will start off simply and slowly lure and misdirect you until you have somehow marched from "Nice day isn't it?" to "Tiananmen square was a crime against democracy!" You look back and you have no recollection of how you arrived at this topic.  The short answer is that you were tricked into a hater battle!

Haters wouldn't bother me so much, but they literally bother me.  Which brings me to part four off my hater-hate.  The must voice their God given opinions (facts) from the hill tops and force your attention and understanding, lest you get a tongue lashing of facts that support their soapbox declarations.  They will continue bombardment until you yield your point and walk away in shame. 

The internet has spawned a whole new breed of haters, aka Trolls.  Haters with an aversion towards sunlight have found a haven in the anonymity and instant gratification of the web. It has created a battlefield for trolls, large and small,  to face off against each other on a public stage, at the expense of normal non-haters.  Which is possible the greatest aspect of the hater club, There are two(or more) sides to every topic.  Troll battles have reached such magnitude that some major web sites have turned off comments to deny Trolls their battlefields. All of this is at the expense of non hates who just want to know when the new iPhone is coming out.  Presently you cannot find an actual fact on the internet that hasn't been buried by the muck of hater battles.  
The vast majority of people out their are not haters, but they are also the soft spoken ones.  A single troll can silence and subdue a platoon of normal people.  Mostly because normal people have better things to do than to argue with BiGnUts4U about the validity of JJ Abrams alternate timeline theory in the new Star Trek on (It's awesome BTW)

Some(trolls) will argue that this post also makes me a hater.  I will just point out that no one has to read my crappy 2-bit blog, and I freely admit that this is just my opinion and no one has to agree with me.  And maybe I have a little hater in me too.

Bad Silo! Gimme my Content!

On this week’s episode of TWiG,, Jeff Jarvis discussed an interesting concept.  That mobile apps are anti-discovery.  He talked about the fact that media companies make apps to have complete control over their content and by doing so they limit the options to access the content to this one portal.  He compares these apps to “Silos,” contect in side and only coming out the other.  He points out that this kind of content distribution will ultimately fail just like Encyclopedias on CD-ROMs failed.

This notion stuck me as odd and far fetched at first, but then I found my self agreeing with him completely.  The turning point for me was the realization that I don’t have any mobile apps that fit into this category. The majority of apps I use on a daily basis are just mobile UIs, that only exist to make it easier for me to access content on a smaller screen with a touch interface.  I have avoided apps like the Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, and The Elements without even knowing it.
I get all my news from a variety of websites and I aggregate them together into an RSS reader.  I have a personalized newspaper that continually updates itself with the the stories that might interest me.  I have an app on my phone to access the aggregate, but I can also check it on any computer, mobile device, or anything with a data connection. The app is just a portal to access my data.  I’m not locked into a single platform or a single app.  So if I loose my phone, or the battery dies, the screen cracks, or any other techno-accident takes place I can still access my news with no loss in information.  This also allows me to share the information that I found with anyone else, not just people who are on the same system or app as I am.
Apps like The Elements: A Visual Exploration are a whole other pile of silo-shit.  This app takes a $29.99 book and turns it into a $13.99 application hat only runs on the iPad.  The Apps looks amazing with its examples of the elements in independently spinning eye candy, but does it really offer anything in functionality?  Nope.  All the information contained in this app is also contained in the front cover of any 8th grade science book, or a poster in any college co-ed room with a focus in chemistry.  The app is completely irrelevant to anyone in the sciences, because it doesn’t present the relevant information correctly.  For the general population after the initial eye-candy-sugar-high wears off you can’t sell the app to the next sucker or lend it to a friend, you’re just stuck with it.  

The apps that I like provide either functional utility or that offers a user interface of an existiting web service.  I mentioned RSS readers earlier and I currently use Byline to sync to my Google reader account.  It provides a great UI with all the functionality I want from my RSS reader.  But i can also check my feeds at when ever I want.  I use Tweetie to check and post to my twitter.  BeeJive for IM.   Wikipanion for winning bets. The list goes on and on.  But the one thing that all my apps have in common is that none of them are a solid pipe from the the content to my phone, the content is all accessible from anywhere.  Why would I ever pay money to get information, on one propitiatory device, that is readily available everywhere.  I’ll pay money to make it the experience easier and more functional on one device though.

In conclusion, apps as silo pipes = Shit.  Apps as UI overlays = Good

My iPhone got “Paul Sheldon’ed”

Apple pulled the curtain on iPhone OS4 last week and I thought that I would weigh in on all the hullabaloo.  Let me first state that I, shamefully, own an iPhone 3G.  I say shamefully not because I dislike the phone, but because Apple has abandoned it, like last years prized poodle that has lost all control of it’s bowels. Sadly I wont be able to take advantage of all the cool features in the new OS including multitasking.  But I guess I can’t expect LAST YEARS PHONE technology to be cutting edge anymore, right?

Fuck That.
Steve Jobs you are a douche.  You told everyone who bought an iPhone more than 10 monthes ago, “Thanks for the cash, now go fuck yourself and gimme more”
Not only can my pathetic 3G multitask, it has been doing just that from the day it came out of the box.   I activated the advanced features mode on my iPhone codename Jailbreak.
I don’t subscribe(bend over) to the thought of Apple’s “closed garden.”  Apple created an amazing piece of hardware, an amazing operating system to run the amazing hardware. Then they put a giant padlock on the door with a signing saying “Steve says.”  Its a travesty.  Its like grilling up an amazing steak and then cutting that the off the char and blending the core into a fine paste, then pushed into my stomach via tube.  Sure I ate a steak, but the experience is missing out on something.

My phone can do amazing things, even if Steve says it can’t.  This problem goes back a long long time, but i’ll stick to phones.  The original iPhone still can’t legitimately do MMS.  There has been a jailbreak patch for this problem, but its still not supported through Apple.  It can email pictures, post pictures to facebook, flickr, myspace, picasa, but it can’t send it via a text message.  Why?  I dont know and I doubt it isn’t anything more than a reason to make you upgrade.  My iPhone 3G will never be able to, because of hardware “limitations”, multitask or record video according to Apple.  But guess what?  It can and it does.

When Jobs first introduced the iPhone the leap in technology it embodied was amazing, but since then its advancement has been limited to slowly catching up to the hype.  The orginal iPhone lacked several key features that other smartphones or general handsets of the day had; 3G, video capture, copy and paste, applications, multitasking, MMS, Custom ring/sms tones, wallpaper, exchange support, GPS, and the list goes on and on.  All the later versions of the phone have just introduced one or two of these features at a time.  Features, as said before, that should have been in the phone at its first launch.  And in each iteration the oldest model, bought but the earliest of adopters, have been locked out of the latest features for no reason other that to increase sales of the latest and “greatest” model.
My point is that Apple abuses their products and by association their customers, aka me.   They cripple the product with missing features and hardware.  Then they slowly release updated models, one feature at a time, and strap the prior model to a bed and hobble it once and for all before putting it out to pasture never to be thought of again.
So here I stand, with my rejected and hobbled bastard of a son iPhone 3G.  I’m just waiting for its screen to break, or battery to die, or some other mortal wound to catch, which if my brother is any indictator should happen every 2 months or so.  When it does I’m off the Apple boat.  I’m not positive where I’m going yet, but it wont be with a company that thinks I’m an idiot.
I’m not going to even start with iAds
Side Note:  Feel free to comment but I will not respond to flamers, other than to label you an asshole.  This is my opinion if you don’t like it or agree with it, piss off.

I HAVE THE POWER! (in my pants)

In the last month I have had the opportunity to tag along with my wife to 2 cities that I have never visited before.  My ignorance of these two cities was compounded by the fact that, other than plane and hotel booking, I did ZERO research into entertainment, transportation, or food options.   I arrived in the cities, the first by car and the second by plane with only my luggage, my lovely wife, and my trusty smartphone.

    It had never occurred to do any research on the cites.  I merely arrived at the city with a hotel name and address in hand and expected it to all work out for the best and it did.  I was able to call cabs, order food, manage calendars, get directions, arrange a commute via the local mass transit system, rent a car, plan a cave touring day, buy tickets for a comedy show, even look at the rare risqué lady image that some man-friend had sent me. All of this was accomplished with one single device. 
    It didn’t seem strange or even the slightest bit techno-nerdy to be able to do all this until a few weeks later when my boss asked me “What would you do if you didn’t have that phone?”  The only answer that I could come up with at the time was, “Lay down and die.”  While this was an overreaction for the current situation of “Was Journey a hair band or not?” it might have been true in far and away cities.  
    I pictured myself landing in an unknown city with no map, no giant local phonebook, no entertainment listing, and no documentation on how I was getting home.  I don’t think I would have had as much fun as I did.  In fact it would have been a terrible trip full of seedy diners, crooked taxis, and hours of being lost looking for the freeway.  Ideally i would have spent hours researching my destination made reservations and created a very strict itinerary, complete with maps and contained in a spiral bound notebook, to follow.  
    I guess the big question is, have I and everyone else become dependant on a piece of technology that could easily be lost, broken or stolen?  Personally I don’t think I have.  Sure I use my little smart phone to look up hair metal classifications and directions to the nearest Hard Rock Cafe, but I also remember how to do those things without a handheld gateway to the Internet/(everything I ever wanted to know and also lots of porn).  I’m not sure the current generation of children will have my ancient skills, but that’s a rant for another day.  But the fact remains I don’t have to have use those skills and use/lose the hours they require anymore.  I can fly by the seat of my pants without a hour by hour itinerary.  The freedom that my little smartphone offers is staggering.
    The point I’m trying to make here (and getting sidetracked a lot) is that smartphones are awesome.  They combine portability and functionality and enable a person to know everything about anything from nearly anywhere.  Take a second to consider that for a moment.  Everything, Anything, Anywhere.  This whole concept and technology snuck up on me so slowly and gradually, that I took it for granted and never realized what had.  The future turned into the present overnight and i didn’t notice.  
    Well enough sappy pondering.  End of the day we have amazing pieces of technology that fit into our pockets that save us a lot of time (And waste a lot too).  I like to be able to look up what a jackalope is while sitting in the woods.   I like being able to take a picture of my adorable dog and send it to everyone that I know.  I just never took a step back and thought about the awesome the power that a little phone could has.  Now if it could just multitask.