Quick updates on my new iPhone

If you haven’t read why, here’s an explanation why I recently bought a new iPhone. Having spent about a week with it, here are my quick updates on the whole package:

  • For a company that prides itself in top-notch quality, I have seen quite a few spontaneous reboots on my phone. This will most likely be fixed soon, and for that I will be thankful as compared to Windows Phone updates, but the fact that there are some pretty severe crashes tells me something’s not right somewhere.
  • I am still getting used to the Notification Center. I like it a lot but I am trying to optimize the use of it. Together with some apps that can provide their own notification sounds (like WhatsApp does), I feel one of my bigger complaints with Windows Phone is addressed nicely. Toasts (“banners” in iOS) could be captured in Notification Center so I can always go back and look at what I may have missed. One issue though, some notifications from Facebook app do not get registered in the Notification Center but some others do. I suspect it is a Facebook bug, but it doesn’t do away with the problem I have.
  • I am glad I am finally able to connect to my work WiFi :-)
  • I am loving TouchID to unlock my phone and to make new purchases. However, it seems like restoring apps previously bought using iTunes password don’t work with TouchID so that is annoying.
  • I am taking a lot of slo-mo videos although that could be only because it is a novelty. However, the huge downside there is that when I share the video via WhatsApp or upload it to SkyDrive, it does not maintain the slo-mo. That’s a bummer. I wonder what is the reason, but in the end, I am left wondering how I can easily share with non-iPhone friends and family.

As for my fears of missing key functionality as I move from Windows Phone:

  • People Hub: Yes, absolutely miss it. My current workaround? Create a private twitter list with all those who I had pinned to my Start Screen, and separately, mark as “Close Friends” in Facebook all whom I had pinned to Start Screen. With Close Friends, I get notification for every post they make, which is somewhat of a compromise to achieve what I could so easily achieve with People Hub.
  • Haven’t missed secondary tiles or camera yet, but have sorely missed the auto-upload of photos AND videos as well as wireless sync/download of photos and videos off the phone to PC. I cannot believe there is no elegant (read: native) solution to offload photos and videos from phone to PC. I know there is PhotoStream that sends photos to the cloud, but it doesn’t send videos. Also, there is iTunes Wi-Fi syncing, but it is only one-way from the PC to the phone. I tried Dropbox, Loom and Amazon Cloud Photos but none are as hands-free/worry-free as Windows Phone’s native auto-upload and wireless sync features. I really, really hope PhotoStream gets video support soon, even if it needs to detect Wi-Fi so it does not take away valuable cellular broadband bandwidth. More importantly, I cannot wait for wireless sync to PC so I don’t have to remember to connect my phone to the PC every now and then.

I will try to update more as I have more solid thoughts/feedback about my experience.

I just ordered the iPhone 5s

If you know me or follow me, you will know I am a big, big fan of Windows Phone. I bought a Windows Phone 7 device as soon as I was able to (2-year contract was not up until Thanksgiving that year) and have made the move from that Samsung Focus to a Nokia Lumia 800, to my current Nokia Lumia 920.

I love Windows Phone 8 and had written not so long ago about how I do not intend to be swayed by iOS despite some holes I saw in Windows Phone operating system.

Yet, I ordered the iPhone 5s. (I went with Space Grey, 32GB in case you care.) There are several reasons for doing so, and in no particular order, these are:

  • Notification Center: Windows Phone 8, and especially hardware like Lumia 920 have come a long way from the initial Windows Phone 7. Notably, they have really improved the reliability of push notifications and I have many apps that send me toast notifications. Invariably, I find myself hearing a notification from the phone and not realizing what it was for by the time I pick it up from across the room. Could it have been an ESPN score alert, or a News360 breaking news alert? If it is a WhatsApp message, I know the live tile gets updated, but what if the tile already had a non-zero number? Was it a Twitter mention or a WhatsApp message then? See the issue? With Notification Center, I know those toast notifications get stored and I can always go back and see what happened while I was away. I really miss it now that I have so many apps sending me toasts and since all notifications except text message, email and voice mail have the same sound.
  • Enterprise features: My new office has wifi everywhere on campus, but they use Microsoft Protect EAP (PEAP) for network authentication, which I couldn’t get to work on my Lumia. As I understand, it is not supported by Windows Phone 8 and is not available in GDR2 either. Similarly, our company uses VPN and I do need it occasionally and even though it is not a deal-breaker, I know that with iOS, I at least have the capability to use it.
  • Updates (lack thereof): Speaking of GDR2, I haven’t received the update on my AT&T Lumia 920 yet. I know there are some features I really want to have on my phone that are included in GDR2 and Amber, the associated Nokia firmware. It is an extreme pain to have to keep checking for updates daily and realizing that it is outside of Nokia, Microsoft or your control. AT&T really has no incentive to push the update out. I was really hoping Microsoft changes this with Windows Phone 8 and the “Windows 8 underneath”. Sadly, it hasn’t happened, and I don’t expect that to change.
  • iPhone hardware: I like the idea of TouchID, especially for buying apps. I also like that they have the motion co-processor M7 which will enable a new category of apps and look forward to being on the leading edge rather than patiently waiting for those apps to make it to Windows Phone a year or two later. Even though I dislike the fact that the iPhone is tall and narrow, I like that it actually has flat edges and not rounded edges like my Lumia. I find that the flat edges help me hold the phone much better than the rounded edges do. Finally, I really dislike the capacitive buttons which create mistaken taps all the time, especially when handing the phone to someone else for taking a picture. The simplicity of a physical, single home button is sorely missed.
  • Family/Friends: Most of my immediate family (dad, brother, his wife, his two kids), friends and cousins are iPhone users. Needless to say, it would be great if I could iMessage with them and FaceTime with them for free. I know there is WhatsApp and we use that a lot, and I know there is Skype and it is quite pain-free to setup and use, but I have to admit, they end up using “SMS” without knowing it is iMessage and FaceTime because it is in the contact card. I think it is about time I gave up convincing them to be platform-agnostic and just join them.
  • Windows Phone direction towards low-end: A disturbing (to me, as an enthusiast) trend I am noticing is that Windows Phone is being adopted in large volumes by first-time smartphone users and/or users very sensitive to price. Hence, the popularity of Lumua 520/521. I am afraid Windows Phone engineering team may switch priorities and assume that the current feature set is ok for that user base and the need to focus on the high-end is not as severe. Well, I wouldn’t blame them. They need market share at the moment, and the way forward for them in that regard is via the low-end. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me. If that were the case, I would have been happily using my Samsung Focus or even iPhone 3GS that preceded it. Let’s hope that is not true and we see some high-end innovation come to the OS quickly. I am not talking about the one hardware device that is truly innovative, the Lumia 1020, where Windows Phone OS had to be modified. I am talking Notification Center, and Google Now-like features that leapfrog the competition.
  • Waiting game: I absolutely love Windows Phone. I have waited patiently since Windows Phone 7 first launched, for the “next” release that would fix many things/everything. Even though Windows Phone 8 broke away from Windows Phone 7 in a way that my purchases of WP7 devices became sunk costs, I stuck around. I even bought a Lumia 920 off-contract, with a premium no less, importing it from the UK when it wasn’t available in India (where I was living when it launched). Yet, the “Early adopter and enthusiast program” which was publicly announced on stage at the time of Windows Phone 8 platform event in June 2012 is nowhere to be found. As a loyal customer and supporter of the platform, I feel cheated in multiple ways.

What I know I will miss 100% are some of the key features that I really love in Windows Phone 8 and my Lumia 920:

  • People Hub: I have a few groups of folks pinned to my start screen and I cannot express how useful I find that feature to be. I am able to see my closest family’s, friends’ and cousins’ updates across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all in one place. I would ordinarily not see those updates, most likely, and I do need a plan to handle that in iOS. Maybe create some specific lists and somehow see if I can get notified? I don’t know.
  • Live tiles/Secondary tiles: Many don’t like the flipping live tiles, but I happen to *love* them. In some cases like the People Hub, the flipping may be excessive and in others like the Music+Videos tile, it should have been there while it is not, but in general, I like apps that have live tiles for a quick overview of whatever that app does. Weather, stocks, news, People, calendar, etc. are prime examples. In addition to just the live tiles, I like the concept of secondary tiles where I can actually pin sections of apps to the start screen to get even more granular info. For example, in the Bing Finance app I have some specific companies pinned. In Pandora, I have a few of my stations pinned.
  • Camera, especially low light: I have seen some of the 5s vs 92x vs 1020 photo shootouts and while the 1020 is a clear winner, 92x is very close to the 5s. Except in low-light, where even though the 5s does a good job and especially over the 5, the 92x produces better images. I will miss that.

Having said all of the above, it will be hard for me to switch 100% over to iOS. I do intend to use my 5s close to 50-50 with the 920. I may even take the 920 out when we have dinner plans at restaurants and so on because the low light pics with the Lumia are apparently superior.

Finally, to those whom I recommended Windows Phone, please note that I still stand by the recommendation. I don’t recommend WP blindly to all, so if I told you WP is best for you, I do mean it is.

My impressions soon after using the iPhone 5s.

Wow, how misguided and ignorant can someone be?

(I must admit, I took this MG Siegler set of posts a little bit too seriously. I had sworn off that guy, but since his nonsense was being discussed by others I follow on twitter, I had to peek.)

First issue I have is why is he concerned that Microsoft actually updated the OS after RTM and before GA? It is a *great* thing, as I said on twitter. Not sure why it is being spun as a negative.

Second, after Ed Bott brings it up and appropriately schools him on how Windows works within the OEM ecosystem, MG goes out and shoots himself in the foot by arguing (like a kid, nonetheless) that OS X was only updated after it became generally available to the public. Well, that is bad, isn’t it? That would mean Apple let a buggy OS out to the masses and only fixed issues a month or so later.

Oh, and that nonsense about calling Ed an “Apple malware blogger”? Sigh. More childishness.

As my friend Amir pointed out on twitter, Highlight is not going to be considered magical anytime soon and is nowhere near the Square atmosphere :-)

The iPhone is 5 years old!

Wow, time has flown. It feels like only yesterday that I was rocking my Blackberry Curve 8300 (no WiFi) and actually proud of it. I did not buy into the iPhone hype when it was released and stayed out, mostly because my Curve had video recording capability which the iPhone didn’t. Believe me, I took some videos on that thing that I still cherish, bad quality and all.

Instead of doing a normal retrospective I thought I’d pick up random articles written around the time the iPhone launched, and laugh at the ones that mocked the iPhone and predicted its doom, some even before it was released. Hindsight is so beautiful, innit?

Ad Age: Why the iPhone Will Fail

Prediction No. 1: The iPhone will be a major disappointment.
The hype has been enormous. Apple says its iPhone is “literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” A stock-market analyst says, “The iPhone has the potential to be even bigger than the iPod.”

Prediction No. 2: The media will blame the execution, not the concept.

Suckbusters: Apple iPhone Debut to Flop, Product to Crash in Flames

Instead, the iPhone is going to fail because its design is fundamentally flawed.

First, the iPhone ignores the main reasons that the iPod succeeded: simplicity and ease of use.

Second, the iPhone crams too many functions into a single box.

Third, users will detest the touch screen interface due to its lack of tactile feedback.

An iPod with just a cell keypad on the back would have been, may still be, a smash hit product for someone. But the iPhone as currently consituted? Forget it.
Because its designers forgot Platt’s First, Last, and Only Law of User Experience Design (“Know Thy User, for He Is Not Thee”), that product is going to crash in flames. Sell your Apple stock now, while the hype’s still hot. You heard it here first.

The Register: Why the Apple phone will fail, and fail badly

This one is a great read because all the reasons mentioned in the article are exactly what Apple destroyed with the iPhone. Incredibly, a lot of the same type of chatter is heard now for the TV business, except the bad guys in control are the Hollywood mafia and not the carriers. We shall see how that story unfolds later in 2012.

Commsday: THE LONG VIEW: Why the iPhone will fail

But then – and here’s my prediction part – something strange will happen. In a week or two the fuss will fade and people will start to realise an important point: it’s just a phone, and not a particularly “smart” one at that. And then people will start to find flaws in it, because let’s face it, version 1.0 of anything is going to have flaws, particularly something loaded with sensitive radios and electronics like a mobile phone.

And finally, there’s the competition. The likes of Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG won’t be idle bystanders as Apple tries to do to the mobile phone market what it did to MP3 players with the iPod. Building a mobile phone isn’t rocket science – it’s much more complex than that. And the traditional guys have been doing it for the best part of 20 years.

ZDNet: Open spectrum is why the iPhone will fail

It’s hardware, it’s proprietary, so I really planned on keeping my mouth shut about it. But there is one point I have decided to make, one related directly to this beat, which is the real reason I believe the iPhone will, at best, disappoint in the market.

Open spectrum. We don’t have much, and we are nowhere near getting more.

Bloomberg: Apple iPhone Will Fail in a Late, Defensive Move

The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. In terms of its impact on the industry, the iPhone is less relevant.

First, Apple is late to this party.

Next, the mobile-phone industry depends on cooperation with the big networks.

Lastly, the iPhone is a defensive product. It is mainly designed to protect the iPod, which is coming under attack from mobile manufacturers adding music players to their handsets.

The best one, by John C. Dvorak on MarketWatch: Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone

There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business this competitive. Even in the business where it is a clear pioneer, the personal computer, it had to compete with Microsoft and can only sustain a 5% market share.

What Apple risks here is its reputation as a hot company that can do no wrong. If it’s smart it will call the iPhone a “reference design” and pass it to some suckers to build with someone else’s marketing budget. Then it can wash its hands of any marketplace failures.

It should do that immediately before it’s too late. Samsung Electronics Ltd. might be a candidate. Otherwise I’d advise you to cover your eyes. You’re not going to like what you’ll see.

(Thanks to Kevin Nunez for reminding me about Dvorak’s classic.)

Finally, a couple of point-by-point mythbuster pieces by Tom Reestman, which in fact were inspiration for this blog post: Red Ferret’s list of “serious problems” with the iPhone touchscreen, and What a shock. Another BS (Baltimore Sun?) list of reasons to avoid the iPhone.

Oh, how the world has changed. “Late to the party” is now Motorola and Nokia. “Carriers control the whole thing” is now flipped over to carriers like TMobile begging to get the iPhone. “Too complex” is now flipped over to the iPhone being the simplest and the most intuitive user interface.

Let’s all use this 5th anniversary of the iPhone to thank Steve Jobs and everyone at Apple who opened this new world up for us, where it’s not just smartphones but mobile, highly-connected devices that help to get work done more efficiently and in more places than ever before.

Hat tip, iPhone.

My 30 minutes at the new Microsoft Store

The Valley Fair Microsoft Store opened last week. I intended to go for the opening, but saw the long lines being reported, and decided not to bother.

So finally, today I went to check the store out. It is almost exactly opposite the Apple Store in Valley Fair, but I didn’t care about that too much. My idea was the check out the Microsoft Store and see if there is anything to like, and then compare the experience to that of being in an Apple Store.

The store is big, and has a lot of open space. The first thing you see from the outside is a bunch of people playing Dance Central on the Kinect. That is clearly the crowd-puller, both to get the people to come in, and also to get people to gather around.

As you enter, you notice the red color like the new Windows Phone theme across the entire store. You also notice video running on the giant screen that wraps the store. It has videos of Windows Phone, Xbox games, PCs, etc. showing in a loop.

Another thing I immediately noticed was the familiar fonts from Windows Phone and elsewhere, identifying the various sections in the store, like Windows Phone, Xbox and accessories, Service, Business, Cloud Services, etc. The middle of the store had a few tables with various laptops. The all-in-one PCs and tower desktops were lined up along the side. Xbox games and accessories were on the back and so was boxed software on the other side at the back.

The Windows ecosystem has a huge benefit in terms of choice it offers customers when it comes to buying a PC. I saw several laptops, from the regular and boring types to ultrabooks/ultralights and large-screen, gaming type of machines. I saw slates running Windows 7 from multiple providers, all-in-one PCs of different sizes and desktop PCs with large monitors set up for gaming and high-end graphics work.

I saw the new Windows Phones (and in fact, witnessed a regular guy buying a Windows Phone!), many custom Xbox consoles including a Stanford themed box and of course the “Service” desk which imitates the Genius bar from Apple Store. I saw a lady who had brought what seemed like at least a 5 year old laptop, trying to get something addressed there.

The very back of the store had a giant (~70 inches easily) screen hooked up to Xbox (I think). Since I went so early (almost at the time of store opening), I didn’t see that area being used.

I settled down at the Samsung slate and was playing with it when Foo (seriously, his name tag said that!) came by, introduced himself and started a casual conversation about tablets, technology, etc. No sales pressure, mostly consulting/advice and product stuff (“yes, all these PCs are upgradeable to Windows 8″). After a few minutes of discussion I went over to see the other PCs. I was actually impressed with the various ultrabooks on display. I liked them a lot and can’t wait for one of my PCs to die so I can replace it with an ultrabook.

The other PCs I liked included an HP laptop with red accents (seemed like a gaming machine?) and the Samsung Series 9 laptop, which I saw for the first time. After seeing those ultrabooks, the Series 9 seemed just-ok.

Finally, the had Windows Phone placed in multiple places and I especially liked the HTC Radar and the Samsung Focus S. The Focus Flash, which looks chunky (to me) in pictures, is actually quite cute. Speaking of the Focus Flash, as I entered the store, I overheard one of those consultants talk to a customer and the thing I heard was the customer saying “what? it’s only $50??”. Later, I saw him buying the phone. I guess the hard cost of the phone is in fact important sales factor, never mind that the cost of the phone with the 2-year contract includes a $15 data plan for 24 months.

Finally, the “Service” area, aka Genius Bar for the Microsoft Store. I did not actually interact with them but while I was waiting for closing out my transaction I saw a lady who had got her old (seemed VERY old) laptop with keyboard, extra battery, power, etc. and was talking to the consultant about the problem. Compared to the Apple Store, these “geniuses” have to understand/handle such a large variety of software and hardware combinations. Wonder what kind of quality of service they provide.

I ended up buying a Nyko Kinect accessory (to reduce the distance requirements in my house) and the 320GB Xbox hard drive.

I typically don’t go to Apple Store, and I don’t see myself going to the Microsoft Store much either. However, I do see that the store becomes a place where Microsoft can show off their consumer-related stuff like Windows Phones, Xbox, Kinect and also a place where they can aggressively sell “pure” PCs with the Signature image. In my limited experience with the Apple Store in the same mall, I felt the Microsoft Store was more cheerful, happier, colorful and generally, more fun.

These things will not be making money for Microsoft anytime soon, but will definitely help in increasing awareness among the non-tech crowd, brand recognition, and hopefully for them, therefore, sales.

Who can compete with the iPad?

The iPad has been the king of tablets. Windows 8 and Amazon tablets, rather than Android, RIM Playbook and HP TouchPad tablets are viable competitors

Who can compete with the iPad?