Archive for category iOS

Recap of MWC 2011

I’ve been away for a week or so. I went to Mobile World Congress and I just needed a long weekend after that. There have been a lot of in the press about the event however, it seems like quite a few things got missed.

Nokia adopting Windows Phone 7 pretty much overshadowed everything else. I had the chance to attend the Nokia analyst event on Monday morning so here is what was not covered in the press. Nokia is adopting WP7 because they desperately need to reduce OPEX. Effectively what this means is that Nokia is content with the idea that they are never going to be as big as they were. The gold days are over and now they have to scavenge whatever is left from the wrecked ship. There are no talks about expanding market share. It is all about stopping the decline and maybe retaining the existing market share. Windows is being adopted because it reduces OPEX and because as it is, turning Symbian in to a smart phone OS would take too much money. I personally doubt very much that that is the case but that’s just me. For me, Nokia is chopping off their nose to spice up their face but hey we’ll see how it works out for them.
A lot of people are upset that Nokia did not pick Android but here are the facts about Android. Motorola aside, Android is the OS of the Far East. East Asian OEMs are the ones selling Android phones and Nokia cannot compete with any of them when it gets to OPEX. They desperately had to get out of that market and despite what WSJ says Android was actually never close to adoption. A statement like that seems uneducated and overly enthusiastic.

Here is the ugly side of the deal. Nokia is giving up Ovi maps. Yes Ovi Maps never brought the company any direct sales but it was one of the selling points for Nokia phones for years. Nokia has agreed to give the Ovi maps content to the Bing so now certain, or all Bing content will be powered by Ovi maps. It is not clear at the moment, but the difference might be that Ovi maps run from the phone on Nokia and off the web with other phones, but essentially they are the same maps. However, given the tone of the analyst briefing, Nokia Windows phones will be very very similar to any other WP7 phone and more likely than not, they all will have the same version of Bing Maps. It was not discussed why Nokia chose to give up so much, but there were talks about supposed revenue sharing with MS.

Symbian is not going anywhere. It will stay on smartphones (low end ones) until Nokia and MS figure out a way to put WP7 on them. Symbian will also power all the feature phones for as long as they exist.

RIM was a complete disappointment. No new phones and nothing to show so they rented out their own booth to software providers. Oh and the tablet is an utter disappointment. It has a small screen and apparently the whole interface was written in Flash. Really Flash! It runs OK and they were showing off some games, but the device is strictly consumer oriented. I don’t care what the press says, this is not a corporate device unlike iPad. I was amazed to see so many people at WMC using iPads actually. Looking back, it is a bit like when mobile phones hit the streets. Almost everyone had one and it was the same with iPads.

HP had a very nice demonstration of devices. WebOS is truly great but I am not sure if it can make it. There are simply too many competitors. Oh and HP has skipped NFC … what were you thinking. The touchstone does not use NFC but rather a proprietary standard, as if we needed another.
But to be fare the devices are nice and I hope HP gets to release them soon.

All the new Android devices are absolutely pitiful. The interface is slow and when you consider that they are running crazy fast chips compared to my iPhone 3GS it makes them look even slower. Also the new LG phones kept locking up constantly and there is no way in hell that I am buying a device like that. 3D displays are mostly a gimmick unless you have one of the Sharp phones that Docomo sells. Those actually work well.

Overall there was a bit of a confusion over NFC and we got a lot of conflicting statements. It seems like operators and suppliers of NFC chips cannot make up their mind whether embedded NFC is a good or a bad thing. But this will sort itself out by next year.

What was really amazing is to see small software developers being represented at MWC. You have 5 man outfits churning huge profits and being able to afford the entrance fee and this is simply unheard of in an industry that is basically pinching pennies. That said, Huawai was spending money like it was the end of days. By the looks of it. it was the company with the biggest show budget and this is hardly an exaggeration. But then again when you pay hardly anything to most of your workers and expect then to work well over 12 hours a day you can afford to splurge every once in a while.

Oh yeah Qualcomm had a little show and tell about Mirasol … unfortunately the portable light was dead but that was hardly the only problem. The demo was basically a video running in a loop and was exactly the same as the last one we saw. Yes the device is light and thin but Mirasol displays are like the display on my sister’s truly ancient GBA. Only when Nintendo released GBA, expectations were a lot lower and we both didn’t care that an addon light was needed to play it in the dark. No offence to Qualcomm but the market for a Mirasol display is shrinking very fast. But you never know. Maybe Amazon can make it a success despite the small size.

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Why does iAd matter

Ok this is not going to be a comparison of advertising methods or the offerings out there. This is just my view on the subject and quite frankly I am not expert. But here is the thing, iAd is this Apple product that I never cared about. I am not the type of person that clicks on ads and I tend to avoid them like the plague. But iAds have started popping up in applications all over the iOS place so I must admit it, I clicked on one or two of them. And I must admit, iAds are by far some of the best online advertising that I have ever seen. Sorry Adobe but Flash is dead! I don’t know how hard it is to create an iAd but they are actually apps within apps. You get to watch an ad and most of the time after that you get to interact with the ad elements. Yes you can do that with Flash ads and it has always been the appeal of Flash advertising but get this, there is actually quality control on ads and I am loving it. Clicking on a flash ad actually makes me absolutely livid. Windows start popping up everywhere, the supposed games are designed by complete idiots and the add does not makes me like the product more, it makes me hate the company for using such cheap tactics. Not to mention that even well designed Flash ad campaigns take forever to load and well, do nothing other than make my surfing experience slow as molasses.
iAds are still annoying because they take up like 1/10 of my screen hight, but they actually never run unless you click on them. There is this little bit of added level of control that makes you feel in control of your workflow. And when you do click on an iAd, you are presented with stunning graphics, hardware accelerated transitions and quite a few other cool effects. The few that I have seen included a simple game, and the ability to listen to the music of the ad. Pretty cool actually. Oh and you get a link to iTunes where you can buy the song. Now that is cool if you ask me. There have been a few times when I though an advert song sounds good and finding it in google can be a real challenge and then after than you still need to find a place where you can buy the song. Well iAds seem to understand quite a few predicaments that people have (sometimes) and it’s like the designers actually knew that you had a problem and solved it for you without you even having to request it. Well that is not really the way it works but you get that feeling. And that feeling is exactly what makes a good product great. I actually think that iAds create a connection between the view and the product and they do connect a positive emotion in the user. Next time you see the product you will think of the ad and the positive emotion will surface. And if you have the money you will buy the product. If you ask me, that’s exactly the stuff that great advertising is made of.

I am all for freedom but I think Apple’s curated advertising experience is actually the best web experience that I have ever had which kinda makes me want to stay an iPhone user even if iPhones are not quite the best business tools at times and the plans tend to be more expensive than BB ones (at least where I live). I must say that Apple made an excellent decision with iAds and I have no problem letting them control that bit of my life.

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Apple and the NFC race

There have been rumours about Apple including NFC capability in both iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Just to be clear about this, Apple has no choice in the matter if they are to sell a high end device. This is not at all the same as LTE. LTE is a network with is currently under consideration by most mobile operators and some have started running trials. Coverage is bad, the chips are still in their first generation meaning that if you want backwards compatibility you have to include a 2nd chip, and at the end of the day all you get with LTE currently is faster data speeds. That might be great for iPad but is hardly anything for the iPhone. Considering that the coverage is currently horrible and Apple revises hardware annually it is no wonder that LTE is not being considered for the upcoming iteration. Actually it probably won’t be considered for the next one either.

NFC however, has been around for many years. The problem was that noone seemed to care about NFC and various IC manufacturers had their own implementation. Well the smart card manufacturers (mostly of Europe) have come to an agreement and there is an NFC standard and an organization that does nothing but promotes the technology. Various pilots were completed and the response is overwhelmingly positive. Telcos and financial institutions are all onboard and have mostly come to an agreement as to the revenue split and all is about to explode. Apple has no choice other than to include NFC. The 2nd half of 2011 will be marked by multiple operators around the globe releasing NFC enabled SIM cards and devices simply have to be ready for them. The way NFC will go forward is with a SIM embedded NFC application that uses the antenna provided with your phone. Now that most likely does not mean the same antenna as the one you use to connect to the telco but the phone has to be NFC enable too. Apple sells premium devices and the NFC cards will first go to premium users so there is nothing to think about and Apple simply follows the needs of the market.

There is however one issue about NFC that is important. See you don’t have to use NFC only for payments. Yes it is a painfully slow connection and you will not be transferring files over it any time soon. However, cleverly designed applications can use NFC for some quite innovative and cool things. And if Apple wants to have the competitive advantage over Android, they simply have to allow developers full access to NFC. Unlike what Google would like you to believe, there is no issue with security. Payment applications are stored on the SIM itself. What that means is that the only way you can access that data is with the SDK that was used to program the SIM. Well I don’t know much but I know this, you can write SIM programs in a way that noone has access to their data and not only that but most of them are exactly like that. Also data out of the SIM for the payment applications would be encrypted and you cannot decrypt AES on the fly on any mobile that will be released in the next 10-15 years.

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the unexpected genius of iPad

[sorry but i went back and changed the original content. Was a bit on the rambling side]

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year, you know how big of a success the iPad has been. Actually a calculation that I recently did tends to suggest that the iPad sales mover almost exactly like what the iPhone used to be for the first so many quarters only on a higher scale. All that aside, I think that the genius of the iPad is in providing a very minimalistic interface (3 buttons 2 of which control the volume) and basically allowing you to live out your childhood dreams. Anyone that has ever used a computer know the frustration of having to use a mouse. Sometimes you just want to grab things on the screen and move them. Well tablets give you exactly that ability and with iOS you actually have only controls that ARE designed for finger gestures (of the nice kind). But I’ll write about that some other time.

So you know how people have been talking about digital versions of things replacing the analog/physical ones? It never really happened did it? Applications help you do things faster but only after a paradigm shift i.e. there is a learning curve. iPhone and iOS in general gave  us software with almost horizontal learning curve. You didn’t even need to know how to use a computer to achieve that. Actually you would love the iPad/iPhone if you have never seen a computer. It has a very natural and almost child like approach to controls and that is the beauty of it. But what the iPad has is a large enough screen so that you actually don’t feel a need to use a computer. Ok it was not like that until recently but now that 4.2 is out you really have a self sustained computing device. And yet the device is so simple and so flexible. And that’s exactly where the appeal lies. You get a digital tub of putty, and you can create anything you like from it (provided that you have the skills). The screen is large enough so that you can actually create large interfaces and you don’t need a lot of tricks to get things to feel natural. Yes the iPad is an ebook reader but 3rd party developers have made it into so much more that that. You have digital guitar effects, drawing boards, information management and so many other things. And yes iPad cannot do everything! But what it did do and will keep doing is it makes computer usage fun and enjoyable. And it does so in a very life enriching manner. I supposed the iPad is a simple enough device yet the SDK is easy enough that you get an amazing combination.

So talking about digital substitutes of physical ones, there is this game Settlers of Catan (yeah I know it’s old news). Problem is the board version cost about £15 on Amazon and then you pay even more for each expansion. If you buy one board game in your life (for use with your family or friends) this is the one to get. It is a tat bit harder than monopoly but a lot more fun. It’s been available for iPhone for a while now and trust me it is a lot of fun even when you play against the computer. So I though I’d check if they have it for iPad. Just imagine this, you have an actual digital board game. Yeah sure, the size of the board is about 10″ but the cost is less than a 1/3 of the board game, the size of the game is … well virtually 0 and the cool factor is huge. Anyway if you have an iPad that you think was not the best investment because you do not use it enough do yourself a favour, buy Catan HD. Your whole family will love it!

It is unbelievable but a computer can actually create a social experience. This reminds me very much of what Nintendo’s party games used to do and is quite unexpected because the purpose of iPad was to provide a personal experience …

A word of caution, the game is only available in the US and UK app stores.

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