nexus 7 customer service number – Google Search

July 11th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

For posterity

I realize that the Nexus 7 is not yet available but I find it quite humorous that performing a search for “nexus 7 customer service number” turns up my blog post as the first result. Humorous for me, not so much for the people trying to receive some customer service. If anyone can dig up the right phone number for me I’ll post it on my site.

Update

well that didn’t last long. Now I’m down to #6.

Leave a comment

OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console by OUYA — Kickstarter

July 10th, 2012 § 8 comments § permalink

Hands down the coolest Android product I’ve seen yet. The first good example I’ve seen of the so called “open” advantage. Obviously there is no way this could be done with iOS which is a damn shame.

Update

Controller for the OUYA


A comment from Alfred made me realize that I need to clarify what I meant. I have never been one to advocate open software as an ends in it of itself. While it can be a means to an end I usually find that the finished product is lacking in basic usability. I realize this is a dramatic over simplification and there are exceptions but in my opinion they are exceptions that prove the rule.

In the case of OUYA1 the benefit I see is that they have been able to leverage an existing platform to create a console that already has thousands of games on it! Granted most of those games will probably need to be updated to work with a controller but this console has a huge advantage over previous attempts to create an open console. Namely that they are not asking developers to learn a new platform or create new games for their platform. They are merely asking them to modify their existing software to work with a different control set. If these same developers like the console then perhaps they will start building apps specifically for it using the knowledge they have already attained building Android games. They also don’t have to worry about distribution or online credit card transactions which are both pretty big hurdles.

When I said “there is no way this could be done with iOS” I did not mean to imply that there won’t be a way to play iOS games on your TV. I fully expect Apple to update their AppleTVs to allow third party apps to be installed, including games obviously. This system will be far superior to the current Airplay method of playing games which I find to have way too much latency to be enjoyable. I don’t expect it to be a particularly great console though and because Apple doesn’t license iOS nobody else will be able to come along and leverage the iOS app store to build a better one.

  1. pronounced “Oh-yeah”? []
Leave a comment

The difference between iOS and Android notifications: discoverability

June 14th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

iOS 5 Notification

iOS 5 Notification

If you were to read a description of the new iOS notification system it would be very hard to distinguish it from what Android has offered for quite some time. I’m sure many people will be reveling in “start your photo copier” jokes1. While many will be quick to point out all the similarities, and there are many, the small changes and additions that Apple have made make a huge difference. For even the most clever feature is, in my book, all but useless if your average user can’t easily find it. The main difference between iOS and Android on this is simply one of discoverability.

While many Android users have been crowing about their superior notification system for some time I find it a fundamentally flawed system. The Android notification bar is basically a dressed up version of what I had on my Nokia in 2001. While I paid close attention to which icons were being displayed I certainly found myself in a very small minority. The vast majority of people I knew at the time were perfectly content to ignore them. And for good reason. Icons without text, especially tiny ones, require the user to learn what they mean either by guesswork or reading a manual. Someone who hasn’t seen a missed call icon before is not going to have any idea of what it means. This is made evident by the complete lack of a standard missed call icon. I’m willing to bet that the majority of “normal” Android users, you know the ones who don’t even really know what “Android” is, only pay attention to the signal strength and battery icons. The rest are all but ignored.

Ok, so people ignore the stupid icons, who cares? For one this is a primary method that users are notified of events in the Android OS. Secondly the user is somehow supposed to know that they can now manipulate this bar. They can drag it down to show an entire list of notifications. This bar that has been around for 15 years and has never been something the user interacts with is now a launching point for what is arguably one of the most important features of the phone; keeping it’s user informed about what they missed. While I agree that this is a great way to give the user access to this critical feature from anywhere in the OS while not using up valuable screen real-estate, the completely opaque discoverability of this feature actually makes the old iOS pop-ups look good.

As I wrote back in March I didn’t expect the difference between what android had and what Apple would announce to be much. The small differences, what I called the last 10%, make a huge difference when it comes to usability however. As I pointed out before it’s all but impossible for even the newest iPhone user to miss an alert like a text message. Android, on the other hand, requires the user to learn the idiosyncrasies of their notification system before they will be able to keep up with it. The non-intrusive, yet obvious, notification at the top not only draws the user’s attention to what’s happening but also, by rolling away, gives them a subtle cue that they can interact with it. While the notification tray is hidden just like it is in Android I would argue that this is not what makes it ingenious. Showing the user how to use the notification tray without any sort of training (“how to” video, document, son-in-law) but by using the notification system itself is what makes this a brilliant feature.

  1. Ironic since the original android prototypes looked exactly like Blackberries until the iPhone was announced []
Leave a comment

Apple vs. Google : The Flawed Gaming Console Comparison

April 28th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The 80’s Desktop Wars are not the only historical models people are using to predict how the iOS vs. Android battle will play out. In an attempt to show that market share can change dramatically despite an overwhelming lead people point to the gaming console wars of the past 3 decades. Atari started out with a dominating lead only to be usurped by Nintendo’s NES console in 1985. They held this lead, despite heavy competition from Sega, until 1995 when Sony released their first Playstation. More targeted at 18-25 market it quickly supplanted Nintendo as the major player in the console market. Sony held this lead with their Playstation 2 but lost out to the Wii and XBox 360 as Nintendo and Microsoft brought new innovations to user interface (WiiMote) and gaming communities (XBox Live). As the 5 year gaming console life cycle grows to a close it’s anybody’s guess who will come out on top in the next round1. I find this to be a more compelling comparison to the current battle between Apple and Google than the Apple vs. Microsoft one but I think it has some serious flaws.

There can be only one

If you look at the behavior of the consumers of gaming consoles as compared to the consumers of smartphones there are some key differences. A smartphone user will almost universally choose one product over another. With rare exception do people carry around multiple cell phones and I would guess that when they do one of them is a feature phone2. For people who buy consoles the decision is not as absolute but rather a preference for one platform over another. If you purchase an XBox today there is no reason that you couldn’t purchase a Wii later. Switching between the two is just an input button away.

Consoles are not “sticky”

As Horace Dediu posits in his How sticky is Android? article the stickiness of a platform really comes down to the software. As I pointed out yesterday it was this very issue that helped Windows maintain a huge lead over Mac OS in the 90’s. If you want to switch sticky platforms you have to give up all the money you invested in software. For gaming consoles, however, this does not hold true. When someone upgrades from one console generation to the next they are all but expecting to lose their software investment. Sure there are some consoles that are backwards compatible but that does little more than free up a display input on your TV. If you really want to play those old games you can leave your old console hooked up and it costs you nothing. Even these people are the outliers though because when someone does decide to make the leap into the next generation they are doing so because they want to play new and improved games. They aren’t just expecting to lose their investment, they want to.

This is simply not the case for platforms such as smartphones and desktop operating systems. People might get bored of games and be willing to lose that investment but it’s the productivity apps that are going to have a big influence over whether someone switches platforms. I would argue that this gives iOS the upper hand because of their superior apps and the fact that their customers have invested more heavily in them but that is besides the point. The Android Marketplace could improve and Android customers could start buying Apps.

Profitability

If there is one area of this historical model that HTC, Motorola and Google should  be paying attention to it’s that of profitability. Despite being unable to catch up to the Playstation 1 & 2 or the XBox Nintendo maintained their profitability throughout. Through tighter control and a more hands on approach to making games they have not only survived but thrived. Had they not so done I’m sure they would have ended up producing crumby games for their competitors consoles such was the fate of Atari & Sega. Instead they took that money and went back to the drawing board for the Wii. They abandoned the classic console battle of producing better graphics opting for a better user experience and an insanely low priced product instead. Proving once again that innovation and profitably trump market share any time.

  1. My guess is that Nintendo and Microsoft will continue to mop up market share as the hardware driven ethos of Sony fails to bring innovations that consumers really want. Ok, your graphics are better, that’s great, but I would rather play a fun game over a beautiful one []
  2. These are old school Nokia type phones that despite their name only have a few features like calling, texting and being hard to use. []
Leave a comment

Apple vs. Google : This isn’t the 80’s

April 27th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Update: This story by Jean-Louis Gassée does a great job of showing how Apple’s “Failure” in the 80’s was a result of decisions and circumstances that simply aren’t true today.

You know the battle is heating up when average consumers start staking their claim in their respective territories of a platform battle. Both my mom and my mother-in-law have opinions about whether the iPhone is better than the “Droid”. Having no real idea what it actually meant one of them championed the “openness” of Android. I’m guessing that for most people ideas about the relative merits of one mobile OS1 over another begin at their local wireless carrier store. You know, the bastion of well informed, unbiased and intelligent salesman waiting to educate the public about this incredibly important issue. AKA: A bunch of 22-year-old morons who spent 5 minutes on the internet and really really really want to make a sale. Would you like GPS navigation with that smartphone?

Unfortunately it’s that 5 minutes of Googling that seems to be shaping much of the debate around the issue. Unable to form new and complex models talking heads trot out tired historical models and try to squeeze Apple and Google into the roles of former combatants. So uninspired are they that they can’t even find a model with different actors so Apple fills the role of Apple while Microsoft is played by Google and it’s Mac OS vs. Windows all over again. And clearly Windows (aka Android) is going to win because .. well, uh, Apple is closed and expensive!

To my mind the desktop battle of yore was “won” in two parts. First off, Microsoft didn’t want to sell hardware; they wanted to license their OS. This allowed them to step above the cut throat competition of making cheap hardware and focus on making their software work with as many hardware combinations as possible. Perhaps it didn’t work so well but it worked. Apple, in a desire to control their product from a soup to nuts perspective, opted to build their own hardware which allowed them to spend less time worrying about various hardware combinations and more time focusing on their OS and user experience. The end result was that you could buy a Mac with a superior OS or spend half as much and get a Windows computer that got the job done.

So far the model seems to fit the iPhone vs. Android comparison. Only Apple makes iPhones and they cost more than many of the myriad of Android phones. I’m biased but I also believe iOS also offers better overall user experience for this premium. The flaw in this, however, is the scale on which we are talking about. When you are talking about spending $1500 vs. $3000 that Mac OS premium is hard to justify. But if you are talking about $50 vs. $100, or even $50 vs. $200, consumers are far more willing to overlook the price difference. They may even see that price difference as a rational for upgrading to an iPhone. Then if we really want to get serious we can look at the tablet market where it doesn’t appear anyone can beat Apple’s iPad prices2.

The second phase of the desktop OS battle was about software. As Microsoft’s dominance grew software manufactures started to focus more and more on the OS that would earn them the most money. Why spend as much money developing a Mac OS version of your software when it was going to generate 1/10 the return. This meant that even if a user wanted to switch to a Mac because they were sick of Windows they would not only have to repurchase all their software, but it might not all be available. Fast forward to the late 90’s and Microsoft has >90% of the desktop market and Apple is on the brink of bankruptcy. So does this mean game over for the iPhone? Is it’s death inevitable? Hardly. There are two key differences here.

  1. The Apple App Store is widely considered to have both more, and higher quality apps than Google Marketplace3. This may not always be the case but Apple clearly has a huge lead here.
  2. iOS users are more willing to pay for apps making it a more lucrative target for developers.

iPhone vs. Android If anything Apple is in the shoes of Microsoft here as anyone who already has an iPhone would have to make significant monetary sacrifice to switch to an Android device. All that money they spent on high quality apps would be down the drain and replaced by mostly free, but ad supported and lower quality Android apps. If there is even an Android equivalent for their favorite app. Android users, on the other hand, have invested very little in terms of software into their phones. Since most of their apps are free and they give up very little in switching to iPhone and gain in availability and quality of apps.4

Then of course there is the fact that the past decade was a very different story as first the iPod and now the iPhone has ushered in a new generation of Mac users making Apple the most profitable computer manufacturer in the world5. Yes, you read that right. In fact they are the only computer manufacturer that actually grew their computer sales last quarter in a year-over-year comparison. So perhaps the Apple vs. Microsoft model will work out in the long run. We’ll have to check back on the Desktop OS war in 5 years and see how Microsoft is doing.

Of course the elephant in the room on this issue seems to be profitability. Most of Apple’s detractors seem to have a blind spot for their +$300B market cap and the fact that despite the fact that they represent 25% of smartphone sales they hold over 50% of the profit. Now one could argue that profit is not a guarantee that a product will succeed but with margins that big and $60B in the bank Apple can afford to play hardball if they want to. At this point they could start a 3-month iPhone give away6 if they valued market share over profitability and it would be but a hiccup in their earnings report.

  1. Operating System []
  2. This Tablet Comparison Chart has the classic tech review pitfall in that it compares raw specs but it’s still an interesting chart. []
  3. As John Gruber points out, Where Are the Android Killer Apps? []
  4. Horace Dediu has a brilliant theory relating Android’s lack of high quality/paid apps as a reason that it’s not a “sticky” OS. How sticky is Android? []
  5. http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1632414 []
  6. with a 2-year contract of course []
Leave a comment

iOS Notifications & the last 10%

March 1st, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

iOS Notifications

iOS Notifications

There is a great post on the cocoia blog contrasting the various notification systems on iOS, Android and WebOS1. Much like the dark days before Copy/Paste I have full confidence that Apple is not holding back a new system out of laziness or greed but because of their top down ethos of perfectionism. A friend of mine put it very well when he said “they don’t like things that sometimes work, it either works or you can’t have it.”2 The mistake that Apple often makes is that they spend so much time getting the UI right that it seems obvious that it should have been that way all along. I’m sure they have implemented many notification alternatives that were at most 90% acceptable but instead of suffering through half a dozen iterations that slowly approach decent UI they go through one. They are holding out for that last 10%.

 

If you looked at the mobile OS copy/paste solutions before Apple implemented one it was laughable. Often involving a scroll ball and/or many button clicks they were not only opaque to the average user but inconsistent to the point where it was anyone’s guess whether some bit of text could be copied or not. While many people rolled their eyes and said “about f-ing time” when Apple released their version of this seemingly simple UI element I had quite a different reaction. I had suspected they would do something with a tap+hold but their selection implementation was so brilliant that it seemed obvious and simple. It instantly made every other mobile OS look antiquated and, well, stupid.

Everyone loves to say that Android has a superior notification system to iOS and while I have always agreed that I would appreciate it I have also suspected it was unsuitable for the average user. This was cemented for me when my stepmother upgraded from a blackberry to a Droid X. Having been a savvy texter since her Nokia feature phone I often communicate with her this way because she is hard to get a hold of on the phone. Which is why I didn’t think too much when I inquired about her birthday plans and didn’t hear back. I just assumed that she hadn’t figured it out yet. As it turns out she didn’t get my message for 3 days because it was lost in the sea of notifications. I can’t imagine this happening to even the most inexperienced iPhone user.3

Not until she casually opened her messages app did she happen to notice my unread message. I then showed her how you could swipe down from the top to reveal notifications and she was stunned despite having had the phone for 3 weeks. I couldn’t blame her either because the only reason I knew about the feature was because I had read about it online. There is absolutely no visual indication that shows the user how to access this vital area. The modal window may be annoying but you sure as hell aren’t going to miss a message.

I’m assuming that sometime in June or July Apple will announce a new phone, a new version of iOS and probably a new notification system. It will be simple, easy to use and impossible to ignore. It will seem so obvious that people will roll their eyes and wonder why it took them so long to implement it. While it will borrow much from Android and WebOS it will be both subtly and vitally superior. It won’t take much for them to catch up but that last 10% of UI design is arguably the most important and the most difficult.

  1. Via Daring Fireball []
  2. Alfred Morgan []
  3. I would be curious to see what the SMS adoption rates are for iPhone users compared to Android. In my anecdotal experience even people who didn’t know what text messages were have started using them when they switched to the iPhone. Being easy to ignore on a feature phone the modal windows on an iPhone force the user to at least dismiss them. []
Leave a comment