Monday, February 6, 2017


Got my AirPods today.  Some quick observations and a rant about poor customer service...

Fit.  I knew they would not feel super secure because I already knew that regular wired EarPods don’t fit well in my ears (and most reviews have said they are pretty much the same shape).  So I won’t be running or doing cartwheels with these but that is not a surprise or a disappointment.  What is interesting is, as many other people have noted, the lack of wires means they feel more secure than regular EarPods because there is simply less weight trying to pull them out of my ears.

Sound.  They sound fine.

Controls.  I found that my right pod did not respond to the Siri double-tap at first.  But, after about ten minutes, it started to work (but still less consistently than the left).  Perhaps I wasn’t double-tapping the right way but, really, how many ways can there be to double tap?  I’ll keep an eye on this.

Siri.  As others have said, Siri seems to work better on the AirPods than on the phone (she is more likely to understand what I am saying).  A feature request: I would like to be able to control the volume of Siri’s confirmation beeps.  A related feature request:  An app (like for Apple Watch) would be a nice addition, especially as AirPod controls are scattered throughout the phone.

Pairing.  The initial pairing is as seamless as universally noted.  However, I’ve found that opening the case near my iPad doesn’t trigger the battery display as, I think, it is supposed to (the iPad is clearly connected as I can switch my audio to the AirPods from the iPad easily and I can force the battery widget to show me the AirPod battery remaining).  It works on my phone so I’m pretty sure I’m doing it right.

Purchase.  I used in-store pick-up today and had the WORST experience I've ever had at an Apple Store.  Very disappointing.  My intake person was too busy talking to a co-worker to help even though she was standing at the entrance.  I opened the Apple Store App to show her the barcode and she said I was doing it wrong (I was not, as I showed her).  She then stood next to me for 10 minutes, playing with her phone, not seeming to notice or care that I hadn't received my product (the store was pretty much empty with about a dozen staffers wandering around, straightening up, etc.).  Finally, I asked if it was supposed to take this long.  She seemed puzzled and then said "I don't know if they are picking it up from the back or here.".  She wanders off.  About five minutes later, after I complained to another staffer, she comes over, super proud that she has the AirPods.  They were sitting in a drawer about two steps from where we were waiting.  She said: (i) it wasn't her job to intake customers (confusing then, why she processed my pick-up); (ii) she wasn't allowed to go to the counter to get merchandise (seems strange that she then broke some rule to do so?); and (iii) I was having a bad day (true - because of her).  The fact that she didn't care that her own customer was standing around waiting for something that ought to take maybe 2 minutes (again, the store was pretty much empty with tons of staffers unoccupied) and then said it wasn't her job to help me was unbelievable.  Apple Stores can be a little bit slow-motion but this was just rude and antagonistic behavior.  I hope she gets fired.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

W1's killer app

The killer app for Apple's W1 chip is CarPlay.  Assuming a modest cost to create the chip, Apple could offer the chip to automakers to embed in the dash at no-cost to permit one-tap pairing, a more stable and smarter connection, etc.  Pairing headphones is painful but pairing in a car is worse as automotive systems often have two different Bluetooth profiles for the phone and audio – in particular, Siri runs over the phone profile and so will interrupt audio streams.

Headphones traditionally (but maybe not for long) use wires but cars traditionally use wireless.  I think W1 is starting with headphones but is intended to be extended out to a range of IoT devices and headunits, including and especially the car.

Monday, June 6, 2016

iPhone SE backorder

I ordered an iPhone SE on May 26. Apple estimated it would take about 2-3 weeks for delivery (that is around June 14).

I figured that, as has been typical for Apple, 2-3 weeks was a conservative estimate and the phone would arrive well before that. Instead, the delivery window hasn't shifted at all.  In fact the estimate for the earliest delivery date is now 3 weeks from the order date and the outside date has shifted to 4 weeks...

A few questions:

1) were sales completely underestimated? It seems clear that original estimates were low (given that the phones immediately went on backorder upon release).  But now it seems that estimates continue to remain wrong?
2) why are they still backordered? Is it supply and not demand?  Has demand increased and so made even revised sales expectations too low? Or is supply somehow constrained as Apple gears up for iPhone 7 (if there even will be a major change to an iPhone 7).
3) why were sales so underestimated in the beginning and, perhaps, now?
4) will up-to-date iPhones henceforth come in 3 sizes (4, 4.7, and 5.5 inches)?
5) will Apple change the launch cycles for iPhones and iPads to Spring and Fall, respectively?  I think this would better match gift cycles (it is cumbersome to gift an iPhone because of carrier subscriptions and so moving away from holiday makes sense).

All in all, the pessimism around Apple seems odd if even a phone that is cosmetically identical to the 4 year old iPhone 5 can sell out for weeks (and perhaps months).

Thursday, March 10, 2016

TiVo Mini and Apple TV

I am dedicated to TiVo - I've had multiple boxes for nearly 15 years.  I like the ease of use, the reliability, etc.  It's a great product and service (but very expensive).

I love the TiVo app for iOS.  It works great, it has a lot of flexibility, and has a pretty good interface (pretty good as it tries to do a lot, including acting as a soft remote control for multiple TiVo boxes).

TiVo makes a TiVo Mini. This is sort of a weird product - it is like a headunit for a TiVo that allows one to replicate the functions of a TiVo on a different monitor.  But, at its heart, is really just the TiVo app in hardware form.  And it is very expensive ($149).  And, even weirder, it is inconvenient to set up - it requires a hard wire (coax or ethernet) connection.  No wireless permitted.

My wish: that TiVo would release its app for Apple TV.  I know this would cut into TiVo Mini sales but I wonder how many people are really buying a Mini. I also wonder how many people would find TiVo more attractive if they could own one and watch in multiple locations with an AppleTV.  AppleTV seems to work fine on WiFi (unlike the TiVo Mini).  And the programming effort for TiVo is likely trivial (I believe tvOS is closely related to iOS).  I know that the TiVo remote won't work but, given that the main benefit of the TiVo Mini is just to stream from the "main" TiVo box, I think it would make sense for TiVo to offer this.  It would bring more people into the TiVo fold and that's probably a good thing.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What is a success?

I’m not cheerleading for the Apple Watch (exactly matching this article, I find myself simultaneously: telling most people not to buy it and yet, personally, wearing the Watch every day).

However, when it comes to determining if the Watch is a success, it seems like it would be useful to think about the right frame of reference.

The wrong frames of reference:  Annual sales in comparison to the iPhone’s revenues.  Annual sales in comparison to Apple’s overall revenues.    Benchmarking against the most successful product of the past 10 years? Revenues of the most valuable company in the world?  I agree they are relevant for the purpose of figuring out if the Watch will be a “needle-moving” business for Apple but they are bizarre benchmarks for success of the Watch itself.

I don’t know what the right frame of reference for success is but suggest that they might include:

1) Familiarity/Recognition.  This is measuring the success of building mindshare and interest in a new product - how well was the product rolled out.  Here, we have a product introduced less than a year ago that is widely recognized on sight and at a distance.  Even more conspicuously, if I say: “Is that The Watch?”, a large portion of listeners will assume I mean the Apple Watch.  For a newly introduced product, that seems like a measure of success.

2)  Market Share.  Unclear what the right scope of the market is (all watches?  all watches over $200?  all watches over $200 but less than $1000?) but it seems like it would be fair to compare the Watch against well known names.  Taking the three largest Japanese watchmakers (Seiko, Casio, and Citizen), their combined annual revenues are about $3 billion.  The largest Swiss watchmaker is Swatch/Omega.  Its revenues are about $10 billion.  If Apple Watch has sold anywhere near the numbers guessed (maybe 10 million), Apple is one of the largest sellers in the world by revenue in its first year (probably $7 billion).  For a watch (not a mobile phone, not an automobile), that seems like a measure of success.

3) Creating Prospects.  Apple Watch is a very imperfect product.  Releasing it in its initial state may have been a mistake (then again, given the above, maybe not?).  But, maybe a measure of success is how well Apple has created a potential platform.  The work of figuring out size, positioning, appearance, functions, and relationship with the phone seems to be pretty on target (given the balancing required by the state of technology and battery life).  The Watch doesn’t do all the things it should and many of the things it purports to do it doesn’t do well but, if part of the job is to create a credible platform that is worth paying attention to, again, the Watch seems to be a success.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

iOS adoption rates

I wonder to what extent iOS adoption rates are affected by the longevity of iOS devices.  For example, if the rate is truly determined by looking at the number of unique devices that access the App Store, older devices that cannot support the most recent iOS release would drag down the reported adoption rates.

It would also be interesting to see official adoption rates by device (iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, etc.) or at least device type or vintage (iPad, iPod Touch, etc. or 2015 purchase).  There are unofficial trackers that do exactly this, but it would be nice to have more authoritative data.

Finally, it would be nice if the official page gave some detail on the methodology beyond being “measured by the App Store”.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Perhaps a small product portfolio and growth are not at odds?

This DaringFireball post made me think a little bit about the recurring (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012) theme of "Apple is too dependent on a single product".

There's no doubt that Apple's results and future are closely tied to the iPhone's continued success.  But I also think it is important to think about how much that concentration on iPhone has created the success.

Gruber's comment about Apple's rapid and enormous growth (i.e., both its rate as well as its rate in the face of its large size) highlighted, again, the importance of having a small suite of products (the fabled: "We can put all of our products on the table you're sitting at").  It's not news that the sharp focus allows Apple to break the mold of low-return device sales.  My small question of the day is whether, beyond customer satisfaction, the only way to manage a giant company (at least by market cap) successfully is to have a narrow portfolio of products?  I'm distinguishing between a complex company and a complicated product mix.  There can be a lot of activity (a complex company) that supports the sale of those products but, to make sure efforts are coordinated, the products (and thus goals) must be few.

And the portfolio is even smaller than it may appear.  The criticisms of "iPad is a just a big iPhone" and insight that AppleTV is just a display-less iPhone also mean that the products have significant overlap.  Which means that the supporting underlying activity for each is largely complementary.

And, as I write this, I realize it may be captured in the Asymco post I just linked to - from 2010 (of course Asymco figured this out a long time ago).  Oil companies (the title is "Apple vs. Exxon-Mobil") are another example of giant complicated companies with small portfolios.