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  • Newsletter Issue #720

    September 16th, 2013

    THIS WEEK'S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Notice that there isn't much more in the way of ongoing discussion about the impact of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The real talk this week is which iPhone 5c color people prefer. Now that's the ticket.

    But it's also true that there are still ongoing discussions about what Apple left out of the iPhone. Sure there's always something left out, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily am mission critical feature for which users are clamoring. Yes, there are always wish lists for iOS, things that Apple hasn't done well, could do better, or hasn't done at all. The same can, I suppose, be said for Android, except that it doesn't matter near as much. Even if Google adds a feature, there's no guarantee how well it'll be executed or whether most people who own an Android phone will ever be able to download the upgrade, so what difference does it really make?

    Now on The Tech Night Owl LIVE this week, cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, from Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider, dissected the media and financial community's disconnect with Apple's real achievements in announcing the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c. This is a subject that remains endlessly fascinating, and I'll have more to say about it in my lead article for this issue.

    You learned something about the ins and outs of fonts and font management with Leith Speights, U.S. Sales Director for Insider Software. Now maybe you don't care much about managing thousands of fonts; perhaps you have a few hundred. But font use and font conflicts have always been an irritant of the graphic artist. Maybe it doesn't seem as important if your goals are Web design, but print isn't dead, and the proper use of fonts can be extremely important.

    Tech columnist Rob Pegoraro, who writes for USA Today and other publications, also looked at Apple's iPhone announcements and their impact. He argued in favor of putting NFC on the iPhone, and also discussed the prospects for Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch, and how the Apple TV set top box might evolve.

    On this week's episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present the new Executive Director for MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, Jan Harzan. Is he  the right person to bring MUFON back from the brink of controversy? Harzan has been interested in UFO for years, the result of significant sighting when he was a child. He is a retired IBM executive, and previously headed the Orange County, CA MUFON chapter for a number of years.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We're taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: "Separating Signal From Noise." We've also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.

    THE MEDIA REACTION TO THE APPLE EVENT WAS PREDICTABLE

    If you believe that the stock market provides an accurate reading of a company's prospects for success, you must think that Apple's media event was a total failure. Yes, the product introductions were largely predictable and all, what with loads of information being leaked via the supply chain. But that doesn't mean there were no surprises.

    Consider the jump to 64-bit processing. Some suggest it doesn't mean anything and won't mean anything until iPhones and iPads come with more than 4GB of onboard RAM. But that's not quite true. By crunching data more efficiently, there is a real performance improvement. One article suggested from a few percent to nearly twice as much, and the latter is what Apple is claiming for the A7 processor.

    Now take a look at the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy S4. Supposedly the latter does indeed deliver benchmarks up to twice as fast as its predecessor. But that's done by deliberately overclocking the processor when the benchmarks are being run; it's not a real rating based on real-world performance. It's a fake, a fraud.

    In the real world the S4 is not that much faster than the S3, except, perhaps, for gaming frame rates. I've spent a lot of time with both, and the actual advantages of the new model over the old are barely perceptible beyond a somewhat larger display. The system still bogs down unaccountably from time to time, and it's still important to have a system optimization app that can quickly kill unused apps so they don't hurt performance. If that's good design, I'm living on the wrong planet!

    Now Apple is experienced at the 64-bit game having made that transition relatively seamlessly on OS X. So bringing 64-bit libraries to iOS and leveraging the power of a 64-bit chip is being done in a way that makes it easy for developers to get with the program. On the Android side of the ledger, even if handset makers get a 64-bit chip, the problem of adding that support to Google's mobile OS is not easy. It involves having Oracle deliver 64-bit support for the Java libraries used in Android, and updating the kernel. And there's no love lost between Google and Android. So it's not a trivial process, and there's no mention of such support for the next version of Android, version 4.4 KitKat.

    But it's fair to say Android handsets and tablets need more memory than an iPhone or an iPad to work efficiently.

    Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor is also a credible innovation. Based on published reports from the tech media who managed to spend a little face time with the iPhone 5s, setup is fairly quick, and it seems to just work. You may not always be able to say that about fingerprint sensors on notebooks and other gear. Besides, Apple acquired AuthenTec, the very firm that provided that technology to much of the industry. So any advances from here on will come strictly in Apple's own products.

    Overall, Apple focused on significant features that make real differences in using an iPhone 5s. The camera has technology that allows you to take better pictures, particularly in low light. Videos will be smoother, because of the higher performance stabilization capability. Instead of packing the camera with useless bullet point capabilities that don't accomplish much except for sounding good, Apple appears to be doing things that deliver real improvements to people without forcing them to jump through hoops or even understand the technology behind everything.

    The M7 motion coprocessor focuses and components that will be used for fitness apps and mapping, and clever app developers will find other solutions over time. Imagine having your iPhone 5s know that you're no longer in your car, but walking, and deliver the appropriate navigation data.

    That's what "just work" means.

    In contrast, many of the apps that stuff the flash memory of a Galaxy S4 simply do not work, or barely work. Tilt to Scroll? Give me a break! Why isn't the tech media lambasting Samsung for stuffing their smartphones with useless software? What about dealing with Android's real performance issues?

    All right, it's true that the other new product, the iPhone 5c, is basically the original iPhone 5 with some updated chips, a bigger battery, and lots of colors. So what! Rather than buy last year's model to save $100, you get something that's up to date in every respect. That's actually an advantage, at least from a marketing standpoint. For those who want cheap, there's still the iPhone 4s, free with a regular wireless contract. You can even get an iPhone 4, circa 2010, in China and some other countries. I expect the prices are more aggressive than ever.

    Yes, Wall Street felt the iPhone 5c should have been cheaper, but people who buy solely on price still have a choice with an Apple label on it. Compare any iPhone to all those cheap handsets that run Android.

    Meantime, Samsung had its own media event a week ahead of Apple's. Aside from a smartwatch that few will buy or care about, you wonder why Samsung's stock price isn't plummeting because of that company's clear lack of innovation. Google? Well, we don't know what Android 4.4 will have, when it will arrive, or whether owners of Android gear will even be able to upgrade. So why isn't Google's stock price plummeting too?

    A COUPLE OF RANDOM ENCOUNTERS WITH WIRELESS CARRIERS

    A wireless carrier joins cable TV as a company you love to hate. If it isn't poor customer service, what about simply placing an order for a new product? Well, I collected a couple of tales from acquaintances wanting to purchase a spanking new iPhone 5c on Friday, September 13, when preorders were first accepted.

    Now I can't speak to actual demand, but it does seem the carriers and Apple were better prepared this time, as I haven't heard many reports of customers being unable to get on a company's site. I randomly checked a few, but I'd rather report on the experiences of actual customers.

    So one person told me of trying to sign up with T-Mobile as a new customer, and order the iPhone 5c. The first part of the process appeared to move along smoothly. You choose the phone, the color, and the service plan, and move to the checkout page. Here is where things got dicey. As a new customer, you enter your shipping and billing addresses, along with your driver's license and social security number for a routine credit check.

    Now the customer in question had placed a fraud alert on his credit report to protect against possible identity theft, so he was presented with a screen message that he had to contact T-Mobile to respond to some routine questions to verify his identity. He had the option of using the online chat system, or just placing a call.

    Well, upon calling T-Mobile, and this was shortly after their call center opened at 5:00 AM Pacific time, he explained his situation to one representative who promptly sent him to yet another. That one claimed he couldn't locate the order, after the number was read to him several times, but nonetheless said he just got a memo that they were no longer able to accept preorders.

    Rather than give up, the prospective customer tried again, this time opting for the chat feature. The rep claimed that the order somehow didn't complete. He entered the order from scratch three separate times, from different browsers, so the cookies wouldn't list him as the same person. Each time he got the same response. Finally, the third chat person agreed to call him back to finish processing the order. He stayed on the phone for over 30 minutes until T-Mobile was able to confirm that his shipping address, where he'd received mail for years, was genuine. But he was finally able to complete an order. Maybe he shouldn't have bothered.

    AT&T fared a bit better in yet another example of attempting to place a preorder for the new iPhone. This time, the order went through quickly enough, but when the receipt was received from AT&T via email a few hours later, it seemed that the order system garbled the order. It was for the wrong color (blue, instead of white).

    Now this particular customer had been using AT&T for several years, so the upgrade order should have been a simple process. He insisted that he checked and double checked the original order before placing it, and he indeed ordered a white iPhone 5c. Just as an aside, it appears, and I've confirmed this, that the order page lists white as the first (and thus default) selection. So it takes an extra effort to chose a different color.

    A phone call to AT&T had, at first, disturbing and frustrating results. The first two representatives didn't seem to understand what the customer was trying to do, which was, of course, to correct the order. Finally a third rep, who claimed to be a supervisor, managed to cancel the original, and put the corrected order through.

    To make the customer feel better, the supervisor also provided free overnight shipping, which pretty much assures that the white iPhone 5c will arrive on September 20, assuming nothing else goes wrong.

    Now as to the iPhone 5s, preorders won't begin until 12:01 AM Friday, September 20. That will give Apple extra time to stock up on product, but it's not at all clear how quickly supplies will run out.

    Consider that, in 2012, when the iPhone 5 first arrived, Apple moved five million units the first weekend. Tim Cook said they would have done better had more stock been available. This time, Apple is selling two distinct models, which will certainly complicate the supply management issues.

    But whatever Apple does, the media and the stock market won't be surprised. If sales match or exceed the iPhone 5, that will be better than any company has done so far. Even Samsung's Galaxy S4 didn't reach sales of ten million until four weeks had passed.

    And, readers, I do plan to post preliminary reviews of the iPhone 5c, and perhaps the iPhone 5s, in the next issue of this newsletter, or shortly thereafter.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #720”

    1. Jase says:

      My expectations were definitely exceeded by the iPhone 5S. I thought that I would be put off by the color scheme of iOS 7, but it actually does not look that bad. Before I had a chance to see all of the features of the iPhone 5S, I had pretty much decided to go with the Galaxy Note 3. Now I am not so sure. I like the fingerprint reader, the M7 co-processor, the fact that the A7 chip is much more powerful than the A6 processor as well as 64-bit going forward, and some of the new capabilities of the camera.

      Probably by this time next year we will have an iPhone 6 with a 5 inch or greater display. I would also like a micro SD card and a removable battery, but I can't see Apple ever giving us that.

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