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Newsletter Issue #903


A CrackBerry? Wasn’t that long ago and far away?

As most of you know, CrackBerry is the nickname for the BlackBerry, a pioneer smartphone that featured a physical keyboard rather than the touchscreen; the latter a feature that came to dominate after Apple released the iPhone in 2007. Indeed, early efforts by Google’s Android and Samsung in that market resembled a warmed-over BlackBerry until the iPhone changed the rules.

These days, the remnants of what is now known as BlackBerry Limited are licensing hardware technology to others to build smartphones with physical keyboards that apparently run on Android.

That takes us to this weekend’s edition of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, where we featured the one and only CrackBerry Kevin (Kevin Michaluk), who was in the process of traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada hosting KeyOne meet-ups for diehard BlackBerry fans. The KeyOne is a long-awaited traditional BlackBerry smartphone with physical keys that runs the Android OS. Kevin also presented a detailed history of the BlackBerry, and where the original executive team went wrong in attempting to compete with the threat of the Apple iPhone. It’s a fascinating story of what might have been.

The KeyOne doesn’t appear to be my cup of tea, but BlackBerry fans might come to love it though there’s little chance it’ll gain a significant market share. I wouldn’t presume to suggest, though, that diehard BlackBerry users might be in the same category as fans of vinyl records. But I wish TCL, the maker of the new smartphone, lots of luck in trying to bring back the past.

You’ll also heard from prolific author Joe Kissell, who discussed one of his recent books, “Take Control of Your Digital Legacy.”  This was a far-ranging discussion that started with physical belongings that can be converted to digital format, including floppy disks, vinyl and tape media and photos. There was also a lengthy discussion on preparing a digital will, and which assets can be transferred to your heirs. What about the music and movies you bought from iTunes and other online vendors? Will you be able to transfer the license to a family member, or will they be forced to rely on your username and password if they want to use these assets? Simple backup techniques were  also discussed, and Joe will explain some of the problems he’s encountered with macOS Sierra.

This is the sort of discussion that really got me thinking. I make multiple backups of my stuff, and my son pretty much knows how to access my digital assets if the need arose.

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Dr. Robert Davis, author of “The UFO Phenomenon: Should I Believe?” returns to The Paracast withan update from the Dr. Edgar Mitchell Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters (FREE),” where over 4,000 experiencers have responded to a questionnaire about their encounters. You’ll also hear from Dr. Maree Batchelor, a psychic healer. According to Dr. Davis, “Maree was able to facilitate a life changing transformative awakening in me through a channeling session. Others who I referred to her have had similar positive psycho-spiritual outcomes (i.e., kundalini awakening, ascension, etc.).” During this episode, Dr. Batchelor will be asked to demonstrate her healing abilities on Gene.


There’s a story in a certain blog, which has a curious ability to constantly get things wrong about Apple, that suggests that Samsung is mostly in the clear about the aftereffects of the tragic failure of the Galaxy Note 7 phablet. As most of you know, Samsung had to discontinue the product because an unusually high number of units overheated or flamed out due to defective battery designs.

While Samsung apologized for this tragic misstep, it took a clumsy route to that destination. The product had to be recalled twice, the second time because a promised fix failed to actually eliminate the problem. Only after a second round of failures did Samsung throw in the towel.

It may be that the Galaxy Note 7 was rushed to market to beat the iPhone 7. It appears the manufacturer didn’t take enough care in designing and testing the batteries, thus resulting in those frequent failures. You’d think a company with Samsung’s experience would understand the downsides of lithium-ion technology, and the need to take extra care in designing and manufacturing such parts.

So why should people give Samsung a pass and consider buying one of their new smartphones?

That’s a question that forms the topic of an article entitled, “Samsung’s Note 7 disaster won’t stop people from buying the Galaxy S8.” The source of this blog doesn’t matter, but you will see how easy it is to take a survey and mislead people about the contents.

Unfortunately, this headline appears to be deliberately designed to take advantage of the fact that busy people tend to look at headlines and not actually read a story that may say something very different.

So a New York-based marketing firm known as Fluent conducted the survey, involving 1,500 “American consumers,” about to whether they’d consider buying the forthcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone in light of the failure of the Note 7. Based on the headline, you’d think that almost all of those surveyed indicated their plans hadn’t changed.

But that’s not entirely true.

According to the article, 63% of current owners of Samsung mobile handsets said that the Note 7 debacle “had no impact on their likelihood to purchase a Samsung phone in the future.” That means that 37% of the respondents expressed less certain points of view, which is a sizable percentage. It should be a matter of extreme concern, especially at a time where Galaxy smartphone sales are not as high as they used to be.

But what about people who owned a Note 7 before it was recalled? Of these, 46% said that the episode wouldn’t have any impact on their purchase decision, while another 52% suggested it wouldn’t hurt Samsung’s reputation. So the former result means that 54% of Note 7 owners indicated it would affect them in varying degrees. Again, a sizable number that may result in the loss of millions of potential sales of Samsung mobile gear.

Yet another set of numbers was even less promising. It comes as no surprise that 89% of iPhone owners indicated they’d buy another iPhone. Samsung owners? 58%. While responses to a survey aren’t set in stone, and people do change their minds, Samsung has lots to worry about there too. It doesn’t mean all the lost sales will go to Apple, of course. Some might consider a Google Pixel, an LG and, perhaps, even a  BlackBerry KeyOne.

In short, the suggestion that Samsung is not being impacted by the failure of the Note 7 is just not true, despite that misleading headline. If anything, the company has lots to be concerned about.

Over time, I suppose it’s possible owners will forget this episode; well, except for those who had to turn in their Note 7 and buy and configure something new. That’s not something easily ignored. Sure, other Samsung customers may not have paid attention to the twin recalls, nor the news stories on the subject. It’s not as if it made much in the way of headlines beyond some initial coverage.

At the same time, Samsung has other troubles, such as the recent arrest of its CEO, Jay Y. Lee, on corruption charges. That story also didn’t get a whole lot of attention outside of the financial community. If you survey tech fans about this matter, I am willing to bet my usual $1.00 that most are unaware that such a thing happened.

Compare that to Apple. If Apple had to twice recall and eventually stop making an iPhone due to defective batteries, the story would dominate the world’s press for months, or years. There would be demands for Congressional hearings and lawyers would be leaping over themselves trying to sign up claimants who were willing to file class-action lawsuits to recover real or imagined damages.

The company’s reputation would be severely tarnished for years, and stockholders would be demanding accountability by firing Tim Cook, Sir Jonathan Ive and other key executives. Such a story wouldn’t just vanish into near-irrelevance. Apple’s sales would tank overnight.

As you might imagine, if a key Apple executive was arrested for a serious crime, the story would also receive high-profile coverage by the mainstream media. The trial would also get day-to-day coverage, a white collar counterpart to the O.J. Simpson case. Again, Apple’s sales and standing would be severely damaged, perhaps beyond repair.

It’s clear that this particular survey of Samsung owners demonstrates that Samsung has lots to worry about. A decent percentage of customers are concerned, and lots of potential sales may be lost. At this point, it may pay for Samsung to run high-profile ads illustrating the quality control steps being taken to make sure that the batteries in the newest models are as safe as the technology allows. It doesn’t have to refer back to the Note 7, but simply convey the message that the company is dedicated to building the highest quality gear.

That, and hefty price cuts, may convince people to stop worrying about a smoking Galaxy S8. It won’t hurt for Samsung to go to Consumer Reports magazine and suggest they run some abuse tests to demonstrate the safety of these products, assuming, of course, that they will pass such tests. Remember that two supposedly water-resistant Galaxy S7 Actives failed CR dunk tests last year. That story didn’t get near the coverage of the one where 2016 MacBook Pros delivered inconsistent battery life in CR’s screwy test routines — well, at least until an obscure macOS problem was fixed.


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

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