• Newsletter Issue #933

    October 16th, 2017


    It is becoming clear that the TV that VIZIO sent me for review is going to become a different sort of story than I expected. I received it as part of their “blogger” program, in which the set is provided in exchange for posting a review. Period. They are not asking that the review be favorable or otherwise, and I will begin to work on the story once the set is installed.

    Alas, that will take a little more time.

    My current set is a vintage 55-inch VIZIO, which is set up on a three-shelf stand. There’s plenty of room to accommodate the set, but mainly because it is supported by a single center-mounted base. More recent VIZIOs, though lighter in weight, have separate legs towards the edges of the set. The design decision appears to make them more stable, which is a good thing. But not for me. You see, on the new set, from VIZIO’s M-Series, the metal legs are 43 inches apart.

    As a result, it won’t fit on my existing stand, which is 41 inches wide. I didn’t even think that there’d be a problem until my helper (a neighbor who works for the cable company) helped me unpack the set and attempt to place it on the stand. The set has been returned to the living room waiting for me to replace that stand, or maybe I’ll just try to find a cut piece of glass measuring approximately 20×45 inches, which may be the more affordable solution if I can find one.

    So stay tuned, no pun intended.

    As to TVs, this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE focused heavily on Apple TV 4K and Apple’s reported efforts to provide original TV content. Tech journalist Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles, explained why he is not buying the newest Apple TV. There was an extensive discussion of the state of cord-cutting, and the report that Apple has inked a deal to reboot Steve Spielberg’s anthology series from the 1980s, “Amazing Stories.” Just how does Apple plan to offer this 10-episode show, via Apple Music, separate downloads, a new streaming service? Does the world need another source of streaming TV? There was also a discussion about Movies Anywhere, a free service that integrates movies and TV shows from several major studios.

    As I explained clearly on the show, I barely have enough time to watch the shows already on my DVR. I really don’t need any more right now. My workday is just too long to have much time for relaxation.

    You also heard from Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer. In this episode, Brian talked about the Apple TV 4K and whether it can have any impact in the set-top box market, currently led by Roku. In discussing iOS 11, released in late September, Bryan explained how the new Control Center delivers misleading messages to users. So the act of turning off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi doesn’t actually turn those services off. Gene explained one of the actual reasons for the slower iOS 11 adoption rate, and he also talked about his offbeat methods for handling unsolicited phone calls, and about a visit by a UPS days after they left a VIZIO TV set, sent by the company’s PR department for review, on the open patio of Gene’s Arizona apartment. Was that the responsible thing to do?

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and guest cohost Paul Kimball present Dr. Scott Kolbaba, who will discuss the book, “Physicians’ Untold Stories.” The book includes near-death experiences, unexplained miraculous healing, apparitions, dreams foretelling future events and more, such as a physician who wakes up with an unmistakable intuition about his patient’s mysterious malady.  Dr. Kolbaba has been featured in Chicago Magazine as a “Top Doctor” in internal medicine, and is currently an internist in private practice in Wheaton, Illinois.


    It does appear that the media is sometimes just aching to find bad news about Apple, even if it’s indirect evidence. It represents the ongoing viewpoint that years of success has all been a fluke. It was a stroke of luck, and if the fates had behaved properly, Apple would have disappeared long ago, or would have remained strictly a personal computer company struggling in a declining market. In other words, yesterday’s news.

    Or maybe it represents the efforts of one or more competitors to feed fake news to bloggers in order to skew Apple coverage negatively. That doesn’t mean I believe the usual offenders are dishonest; some of them may actually believe Apple will soon confront a negative reality.

    It is true that, after years of stellar growth, the iPhone stumbled for a quarter or two before increasing again. But the increases have been modest, no doubt representing saturation of the market. Apple’s tougher prospects in China haven’t helped, and it also explains why it’s expanding to other developing countries, such as India, hoping to gain traction.

    But this isn’t just about Apple. The entire smartphone industry is facing a similar dilemma. It still hasn’t stopped Samsung from selling expensive gear, nor Google. But Samsung’s most recent financial successes are more about component sales than finished products.

    So are there any hints about demand for the iPhone 8?

    Well, there are certainly reasons to expect lower sales, largely because of the iPhone X. It won’t ship until early November, which means people who want one are still waiting. Even then, amid reports of production problems from the supply chain, it may take a few weeks or months for supplies to catch up with demand. If there is a huge demand, sales might be depressed for a while.

    So how many people are waiting? I suppose Apple has a good idea.

    Are there any clues as to what’s really going on? Well, Apple didn’t disclose sales for the launch weekend, but they didn’t do that last year either, and the iPhone 7 fared pretty well. But it didn’t occupy a second position waiting for a promised flagship to arrive.

    But there is a report about AT&T indicating that, in the September quarter, there were 900,000 fewer upgrades compared to the comparable 2016 quarter. So what’s up with that?

    To be fair, AT&T is not scheduled to release its quarterly financials until later this month, so this may represent only a preliminary report. For the sake of argument, I’ll accept it as reasonably accurate pending more detailed results.

    The quickest theory is that this apparent sales drop must somehow be Apple’s fault. Fewer people are interested in buying the iPhone 8. Maybe some are waiting for the iPhone X, but they clearly aren’t going to Samsung or another handset maker.

    But is it all about the iPhone, or just that the overall market is slipping a little? Maybe it also represents AT&T’s inability to compete with Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, not to mention prepaid carriers. Just how well are they doing, and isn’t there another factor that resulted in somewhat lower sales? I’l get to that shorty.

    Anyway, the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus were only available for one week at the end of the quarter, so it’s hard to believe they made much of a dent in sales. How did the iPhone 7 fare? Was lower demand for an “aging” model responsible?

    Or none of the above?

    One article I read suggested that more people are buying their iPhones direct from Apple, though I doubt that should be such a big factor. After all, you can specify which carrier you want when you place your order, unless you buy an unlocked version at full price. Besides, wouldn’t the sale of an AT&T model via Apple count as a smartphone upgrade?

    Of course, the open questions can be answered if AT&T simply released a product breakdown, so we can see which models are moving and which are staying on the shelves. Does AT&T sell so many iPhones that even a slight drop in demand can have a major impact on sales? But don’t forget that quarterly financials have yet to be released.

    What about the impact of the hurricanes that caused tens of billions of dollars damage in Florida and Texas? Did that suppress demand? Of course it did! It certainly impacted the auto industry and, in fact, the entire U.S. economy. So why assume it must be about the iPhone or any smartphone for that matter?

    But it’s just too easy to avoid inconvenient facts and pretend that Apple, all by itself, was somehow responsible for an alleged sales decrease. More to the point, as the affected areas are reconstructed, you can expect higher sales. People who put off buying new smartphones after the hurricanes struck may simply buy them later in the year, after they deal with more important matters, such as rebuilding their homes. People out of work, even temporarily, because of the bad weather will thus have less available cash and may choose to stick with the gear they have for a while. Assuming it wasn’t damaged.

    Facts are funny things. They sometimes get in the way of validating conspiracy theories.


    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
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis

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    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #933”

    1. Ed Hubble says:

      “Period. They are not asking that the review be favorable or otherwise, and I will begin to work on the story once the set is installed.”


      You should NOT accept “free” products. They taint your commentary. Those who write fair, but pointed, or systematic critiques will NOT receive such goodies.

      No matter how much you say you won’t be influenced, it happens. For sure, it gives the appearance of a conflict of interest, which damages your reputation as a straight shooter.

      Note: Those who have analyzed the give-always on Amazon have repeatedly found that recipients of free goodies rate the products higher than those who actually bought them!

      You’re better than all that! Send it back and refuse the freebies in the future!

      • gene says:

        Nearly every reviewer and every tech publication receives products free, except for Consumer Reports, which buys them at retail. There is nothing whatsoever unusual about that.

        Apple has sent me gear for years, with different timeframes for return of the material.

        Did you think all those publications just went out and bought the things they review? Sometimes they do, but rarely.


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