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Newsletter Issue #926


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Maybe it’s the dog days of summer, but most of the chatter in the tech universe seems to be little more than a repetition of the same old stuff. All right, there’s that Samsung Galaxy Note 8 which, one hopes, doesn’t suffer from the defective battery symptoms of its predecessor. But, aside from being larger, its feature set doesn’t strike me as being altogether different from the Galaxy S8 smartphones.

But if you must have big, I suppose the Note 8 may be the one to get.

Indeed, there are already comparisons with the iPhone 8, even though no such product has been announced. One review I read compares the Note 8 to a mockup of the alleged 10th anniversary iPhone, and it’s mostly a comparison of real and rumored specs. I’ll be gracious and suggest such a story is sci-fi, since it’s about a near-future unannounced product.

Still, the official announcement of whatever Apple is going to produce is just weeks away. Maybe the invitations will go out to the media in the next week, ahead of Labor Day. Speculation will thus intensify, so if you think it’s too much now, just put on your seat belts and enjoy the show.

In the meantime, this past weekend we ran an encore episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE. All right, call it a repeat. I’m moving to a new apartment Monday, and we’re working overtime packing our stuff.

This episode featured outspoken commentator and podcaster Peter Cohen. As part of an extensive agenda, Gene and Peter talked about self-driving technology, and what Apple might be planning. Gene explained how air bags and seat belts helped save his life during a serious auto accident. What about the claims from Greenpeace, the environmental organization, about whether Apple is engaged in planned obsolescence by making its products difficult or impossible to upgrade? What about a survey that some 25% of Windows users in the U.S., who plan to buy new computers in the next six months, are going to choose Macs?

You also heard from Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer. The discussion started with a brief pop culture segment, as Gene mentioned that Joel Hynek, the son of the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the well-known astronomer with a fascination for UFOs, is an Oscar-winning special effects artist. On the tech front, the discussion moved to whether self-driving technology will spread to car-sharing. Instead of buying a car, you will share autonomous vehicles with other drivers. Just how will it impact the car-buying experience? Jeff also talked about a recent Greenpeace report, and the flaws in the smartphone and notebook test methods employed by Consumer Reports magazine. Can you really get 20 hours battery life from a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar?

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene, Chris and guest cohost/panelist J. Randall Murphy present a return appearance by the inimitable Don Ecker, long-time UFO researcher and curmudgeon. On this episode, Ecker talks about some of the unsavory characters he’s encountered in the UFO field over the years, including Sean David Morton, Dr. Steven Greer, Kal Korff and Stan Romanek. Both Morton and Romanek have been convicted of crimes. Ecker will also talk about such subjects as undersea UFOs, possible ancient astronauts and advanced civilizations, UFO group follies, and whether it’s at all possible to do serious UFO research anymore. And that’s just the beginning!


Let’s put it this way: If someone from a polling company called you up and asked about your buying plans for the next month, or the next year, how would you respond? If you did provide some answers, what sort of responses would you give, and just how serious would you take such questions?

After all, would you follow those purchase plans to the letter, or are you just thinking about them casually? Now I suppose if you were hoping to buy a new home, had the mortgage approved along with a realtor actively searching a suitable location for you, the chances are high that you’ll follow through.

I suppose the same might be said for that new car you’ve been eyeing. The 2018 models will be arriving at the showrooms over the next few weeks — well most of them — and perhaps that old clunker is, well, clunking. Again, a purchase plan would likely be carried out. I will grant that, unless you are always loyal to a certain make or model, what you end up buying might change.

But what about a tech gadget? Here the decisions are less certain. You may decide that the new model you expected to acquire isn’t so much better than the one you have. Maybe just wait for a while. Unless your gear is falling apart, there’s no rush. I suppose the same thing is true about an auto. If it runs OK, there’s no rush unless you absolutely need something different, say to provide more room for a growing family. Or you have convinced yourself that you must have a particular model.

Now when it comes to future purchase decisions about tech gear, you just know that Apple will be in the forefront. Even if the survey might appear to concern another company, somehow getting Apple involved is bound to generate extra hits and thus more ad revenue.

So let’s look at what someone might ask about a future iPhone. There are all the rumors about an iPhone 8 — and even if such a thing is released, it’s not at all certain what name it’ll have — and one of the persistent rumors is the price.

Today’s most expensive model — the iPhone 7 Plus — is $969 plus tax for the 256GB version. If Apple plans on producing a higher end gadget, it will cost more. So when speculation arises about a list price of $1,000 or more, that makes perfect sense. Having a top-of-the-line iPhone 88 debut at $1,069 with 256GB is logical.

That would appear to be the end of the story, but why not poll buying intentions based on price?

To make matters somewhat more interesting, there are rumors suggesting an iPhone 8 priced as high as $1,400, although the logic behind that move wouldn’t appear to make a whole lot of sense. Granted, the expected decision to use an OLED edge-to-edge display means a higher bill of materials, but not that much higher. Remember that similar displays are already being used by Samsung and other companies without seriously impacting their list prices.

So we have a survey of 2,100 iPhone owners from Fluent, a market research firm, suggesting that two-thirds of those surveyed believe that $1,400 is too much to pay for a smartphone. All right, that makes perfect sense. It’s certainly too much for me, and thus I’d be among that crowd. But what about the other third?

Another predictable response is that almost 80% plan to buy another iPhone when the time arrives. This is the sort of brand loyalty that would be the envy of any company.

There are other interesting tidbits in this survey, and it goes to show the impact of all those rumors about the next iPhone. So a surprising 40% say they plan to buy an iPhone 8. Really?

Remember that this is an unannounced product, but I suppose there’s little harm in tallying purchase decisions about something that doesn’t exist to judge the impact of all that speculation. Here 40% say they will buy the iPhone 8, whereas 19% indicated plans to purchase the iPhone 7s Plus, and 17% indicated a preference for the iPhone 7s.

Obviously, the successors to the iPhone 7 series haven’t been announced either, but such models would be expected based on Apple’s usual marketing plans about such gear. About the only change in this predictable tick-tock pattern is the fact that the iPhone 7 didn’t look altogether different from its predecessors.

But remember that the iPhone 7 actually had quite a few improvements, and the fact that the case was almost the same shouldn’t have been such a huge deal. Indeed, just how many improvements did the iPhone 6 have over the iPhone 5s beyond the larger case? Remove that factor, list what really changed, and you’ll see what I mean.

For entertainment value alone, I suppose the Fluent survey might be interesting enough. As I said, I’m not altogether surprised that people don’t want to spend $1,400 on a smartphone. I am surprised how many would be interested in buying an iPhone 8, however, because it’ll still be expensive even if it is only $100 more than the regular models.

What you probably won’t see, however, is a comparison between survey results and actual buying decisions. True, Apple doesn’t do model-by-model breakdowns, but sales figures from carriers and dealers might reveal enough to see whether stated buying intentions had any resemblance to fact.

Now that would be the kind of information I’d really like to see. But if sales fail to validate surveys of buying intentions, it wouldn’t help Fluent and other market research firms that do such things.


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

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