• Newsletter Issue #938

    November 20th, 2017


    We covered a variety of topics this week on the The Tech Night Owl LIVE, which featured tech journalist Josh Centers, Managing Editor for TidBITS, and author of “Take Control of Apple TV” and other titles. Josh talked at length about his iPhone X, and perhaps its most controversial feature, the notch. He explained how easy it was for him to adapt to a smartphone that doesn’t have the traditional Home button. As the owner of a new Nintendo Switch portable gaming console, Josh explained how he, his wife, and his son have been using the new gadget. Gene delivered an update on whether or not he’s changed his mind about not buying an Apple Watch, and the discussion moved to the case of the missing spare tire, as most cars come with either a limited use donut spare tire, a canister with which to repair a flat, or a “run-flat” tire that is costly to replace.

    You also heard from columnist Bryan Chaffin, co-founder and co-publisher of The Mac Observer. As the interview continued, Bryan explains that he was waiting for the overnight delivery service to bring him his new iPhone X. Did it show up, or was there a false alarm? He also discussed his decision to buy an Apple TV 4K even though he doesn’t have a 4K TV. There was also a brief discussion about an article from Bryan’s colleague, John Martellaro, about why Apple needs a “smarter way” to manage macOS upgrades. He suggested several system checks, including whether apps are compatible with the new OS and making sure the user has backups. Gene expressed his skepticism about comments made by Sir Jonathan Ive  about Apple’s innovation process, in a Time magazine interview in connection with the iPhone X being listed as one of the top 25 inventions of 2017.

    I made a bit of a deal of Ive’s comments, not because of what he said, but on the fact that the media has taken it all at face value without critical comment. What about simple corporate spin?

    But don’t forget that Apple has this image as a magical company whose DNA was instilled with the sensibilities of the late Steve Jobs. They understand how to remove features from a product and replace them with something new, not stick with things forever.

    Although such things as disk drives and peripheral ports are history, the Mac perseveres. Beyond the ways you expect things to change over all those years, though, how close are today’s models to the original 1984 model?

    Well, that model shares one thing with most of today’s Macs. It’s an all-in-one computer that cannot be upgraded. It might as well be a sealed box, and, yes, a notebook is a portable all-in-one computer obviously, so in that respect the original vision of the Mac as a personal computing appliance doesn’t seem to have changed for better or worse.

    These days, Mac sales are at record levels, so clearly most customers aren’t as concerned as power users about the lack of easy upgrades. That’s probably also true about the enterprise, where computers will be bought in specific configurations and deployed throughout a company. Obviously, it’s less expensive to just buy the product than to have paid employees install RAM and other upgrades.

    In any case, Apple’s main focus doesn’t seem to have changed, nor the image the company wants to retain that Ive remains a design mystic. True or not, it’s still meant as a marketing message.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and special guest cohost Curtis Collins present veteran UFO researcher, writer and publisher Philip Mantle with a UFO field update. Subjects include MUFON’s emphasis on entertainment over research, whether large UFO research organizations have any value, and Philip’s various UFO book projects. Mantle is a long standing UFO researcher and author from the UK. He was formerly the Director of Investigations for the British UFO Research Association and the MUFON Representative for England. He is the founder of FLYING DISK PRESS and can be contacted at: http://flyingdiskpress.blogspot.co.uk/. Note: We encountered slight reception problems with our guest’s Skype connection.


    You can manipulate sets of numbers to prove most anything you want, and even with the best of intentions, there’s a margin for error. Does either situation explain why Mac sales for the September quarter were severely undercounted by Gartner and IDC, two major market research firms? While Apple reported sales increases of over 10% year-over-year, Gartner and IDC estimated flat or slightly declining sales.

    It isn’t the first time they screwed up. In the past, IDC claimed that Windows Phone — remember that one? — would eventually achieve a higher market share than the iPhone, thus putting it in second place. While Microsoft surely loved the news, it didn’t work that way in the real world. These days, Microsoft has mostly unraveled its smartphone presence. Market share is only a tad better than a rounding error.

    So did Gartner and IDC apologize to the media for providing erroneous sales estimates, or making projections the turned out to be the opposite of the truth? Are they offering refunds to their clients for failing to deliver accurate information?

    How about the news media that takes such surveys at face value and simply repeats them rather than provide the necessary critical comments?

    That takes us to a certain survey of U.S. adults, and which smartphones they want for holiday presents, which was published in, believe it or not, The Korea Times. Why would a news site from South Korea care about what people in this country prefer?

    When Samsung is the survey winner of course.

    Take a deep breath.

    According to that survey, some 38% of the American adults who were surveyed would prefer to receive a Samsung Galaxy S8 as a present. The iPhone X? Only 20% according to the survey; the iPhone 8 was preferred by 22%.

    Teenagers had different preferences. The Galaxy S8 earned 28%, and the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 each received 35%.

    Lest we forget, the iPhone 8 reportedly wasn’t such a top seller; the Plus phablet apparently gets the love, but the article doesn’t break down specific models. How many, for example preferred the Galaxy S8+.

    Now is this the sort of survey you should take seriously? From where did it come. While it was quoted by some of the larger media outlets in the U.S., as with IDC and Gartner, it didn’t receive the widespread coverage I might have expected. That is, if the results are to be respected.

    According to the report, the survey, involving 1,034 adults and 507 teenagers, was conducted by a heretofore unknown market research firm known as Propeller Insights. I never heard of them, so I checked their site, which offers few insights as to survey methodology and their record of expertise. The background information under “About Us” names just two people as “principals,” and it is not at all clear if either has a proven track record. The pair claim a total of 22 years of experience, but at which firms? It’s not at all clear if they have previously surveyed the tech industry and, in fact, where their main office, if there is a main office, is located.

    Not a single existing client is named. It’s a pig in a poke so far as I can see.

    The report claims that Ebates, a firm that tracks company rebates, commissioned the survey. But who commissioned Ebates?

    The Korea Times article goes on to repeat the well-known criticisms of the iPhone X’s price, and cites media complaints about the iPhone X’s lack of a headphone jack, and the switch from a fingerprint sensor to facial recognition. But the loss of the former is last year’s news. The issue was dealt with when the iPhone 7 arrived, and after an initial outcry, it appears that most customers have come to accept the change. Reviewers mentioned it, of course, but by and large, their ratings were still high.

    Even Consumer Reports, which tends to downgrade Apple gear, disposed of the issue quickly, concluding: “This iPhone lacks a standard 3.5mm headset jack, which may inconvenience some users.” It wasn’t even listed among the product’s “Lows.”

    There was plenty of media fear-mongering about Face ID before the iPhone X shipped, but actual reviews are pretty positive about it. Glitches are few.

    While there are estimates of how many copies of the iPhone X will be available this holiday season, the real numbers aren’t known. It remains on backorder, with delays quoted at two to three weeks at Apple’s online store. Their projections for the December quarter are extremely positive, and there’s little to indicate that it has a lick of trouble selling every product it can make. There’s little to indicate that the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphones are doing any better than previous models.

    So far, this survey of alleged consumer desires for holiday giving appears to be an outlier. That the survey was done by an unknown research firm with no track record whatsoever makes it doubly suspicious.

    In the end, can you blame Samsung for these curious results? I just wonder who wrote the checks to Ebates and Propeller Insights, and whether any responsible U.S. media outlet should take it seriously. The long and short of it is, so far as I’m concerned, the survey smells and is best ignored as meaningless.


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

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
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