The Apple iPhone wasn’t a miracle just a repurposed design from arrogant salespeople

 

It really needs a glove with the case built in for the left hand.

It really needs a glove with the case built in for the left hand.

I just got an iPhone.

 Since all the hype has died down about these iPhones 2 years later, and people have accepted this device as the most amazing thing ever I thought I would post my reactions to this nice but not miraculous device.

The first thing that I realized when I got this iPhone was that its a video iPod. (of which I also own) It is a repurposed design of a former product. That isn’t revolutionary at all.

It’s like someone at Apple said, wow I like my iPod so much I’d like to make calls from it and ditch my phone. And they did it. All the technology was already developed for a former device. Some new things did have to be added and re-engineered. But there is so much re-purposed from 5-7 years ago, the development costs were probably not that high because they knew pretty close how to use the materials to do this from past experience.

Now I see this Apple tablet image in the news and think they are re-purposing it again on a larger scale. I get the if it’s not broke don’t fix it idea, but their marketing and PR hype is a bit off.

I think these functions work really well:

  • The touch screen is better than the old Palm Treo one and more intuitive. I am impressed at how they solved the QUERTY problem with a touch screen.
  • I think the apps are also very good and its nice that they share the love with the app companies that develop them. I don’t think $5 an app is a bad price for what they deliver and plus you should think before you download a ton of apps and a cost helps you do that. The alternative is that your HD gets full and crashes quickly.
  • It syncs with Yahoo email very well, which is what I use for one of my accounts. It turns out that email is very doable on a small screen.
  • I like the pull the corners effect to read web pages and increase the size of the fonts so you can click a link. This is very intuitive.
  • The GPS is pretty good. I watched my phone show a blip of my location on a map that was about 2 seconds behind where we really were as we drove home. That is pretty good bouncing off a sattelite that fast. I think the directions from where we are to an address will be very helpful in the future.
  • Doing the convergence thing and having the phone, music player, GPS, camera and email all together works great.

I think these things need work:

  • The rss feeds don’t always work on the iPhone. Not that it doesn’t literally work, but these are items I’d like to read in more depth, and on a tiny screen its hard. Also all the links go out to the web and I am finding that I can’t get that data very easily in Chicago.
  • The web issue is still an issue with web enabled phones. I hated that things took so long to download on my old Treo 650 and 4.5 years later its still an issue with the iPhone. (heck its an issue on my computer sometimes with Google reader)
  • I think people who have iPhones use them on the go a lot and the backup for the wireless network are free wireless networks. Which means you’re in trouble if you want to download an rss feed in google reader online. (meaning the bandwidth exceeds the ATT mobile network and that is sometimes spotty with its coverage)
  •  The Metra commuter train and Chicago CTA don’t have free WiFi on their trains and busses and you can’t always find one when you are on the street either. (neither do our cars) So, there are a lot of times/places I look down at my phone and can’t connect to anything (phone or internet network). fail.
  • I feel like we’ve developed content and a device for reading things in real time that wants to be downloading info/updates 24/7/365 and the networks still look like swiss cheese or a spider web, with gaping holes in them. We need more ubiquitous universal access before these devices can really be life changing.
  • The touch screen is great but then switching to a physical button for on/off seems counter intuitive. Why not make all the functions be a part of the touch screen? I keep looking for an off button in the screen itself. 
  • The battery life is horrendus. If I read email and rss feeds on the train and bus between home and work I use 50% of my battery life. Holy Monkeys, this needs a better battery or a plug that pops out the side that you can stick in any outlet you find.
  • I also like that Steve Jobs has the kind of what I say goes power and involvement in the details to make his products good on many levels and keep the design level very high. It’s impressive he has been able to hang on to that power in a large company, it is rare to see and keeping one person in charge makes decision making faster, easier and true to the original purpose. Its how things get done if that person is well rounded in knowledge and willing to enforce what they preach.
  • There is also the annoying problem that on any field you need to enter text you can’t click to put the cursor anywhere on the field to start typing except the end. If you want to change one letter you have to backspace the entire field until its blank and start over. We need to have a click to cursor ability/function, do apples just not do that?
  • The me.com thing they sell as an add-on is cool but way way overpriced. I cited that 1 yr of Flickr unlimited access is $25 and 1 yr of full LiveJournal access is $25. Why is syncing my phone to the web $100 for the year? Assholes. I did get a small discount and got it for $65.
  • The Apple sales guy was over the top. I really hope I never have to go back to that Naperville Apple Store again. He was about 18 and very arrogant. He made me (age 34) feel stupid for not knowing everything about the iPhone or web phones and his Apple Brand Arrogance and demeaning tone was disgusting. Why ask us about our computers at home? Why rip on them in front of us? When you don’t even own one? Admit most people have windows machines and then say why you might consider the Apple, don’t just say everything else sucks. OMG, and don’t explain everything for 2 hours when I just want to buy the damn phone. Dragging things out forever and then asking 7 times if we want to buy the apple care program that I didn’t want. And when someone says they will look it up online and then decide later, don’t say look it up now on this Apple, that is a high pressure sales technique and if I didn’t need a phone that day I would have walked out of the store at that moment. Totally unethical and wrong to do to a customer while you are looking over their shoulder. So, at all costs avoid Apple sales assholes that admit they don’t even own any of the Apple products they sell.  Just buy stuff online if needed. 

The basic thing is that the phone was worth the $288 that I paid (for the 16 gig). I paid like $300 for the Treo 650 in 2005. I think if this works for a few years it will be ok, and worth the purchase. But it really doesn’t need the hype or the arrogance.

New Media and New Information Paradigms

I have been hearing about the demise of the newspapers, the rise of search/social networking/new media and the internet fragmentation concept for years now. (almost a decade?) And I just read about it again today with the newspapers secretly meeting to try and sort out monetization methods to save their business. At the same time I am a Guinea pig living through this time of change/shift in how people find information, use information and consume things. Here are some of my observations although not in a concise dissertation format yet. 

  • We are at an odd time in internet evolution, on pause between big developments. We got email, IM, web sites, RSS feeds, Blogs, social networking and now Twitter. We don’t need more services or ways to interact on the web. We need better all inclusive ways to connect and consume all in one. Ways to make the experience more relevant and more inclusive of many kinds of content at the same time. Not wasting our time.
  • I can’t help but notice that at 33 I have never really “read” a newspaper. This indicates to me that newspapers were not that important back in the 1980’s to my generation when their profits were healthy and the internet was but a dream for most of us. (Except being something to line litter boxes and bird cages with.) I hate the size format, I hate the ink and I always have. I actually like the ads though, especially the Sunday fliers. 
  • Weeks go by without my watching any TV. This started about 3 years ago when I got high speed internet. It’s not that I don’t like TV, I just don’t have time to sit for 2 hours plus and I know if i sit down I won’t get up and get anything accomplished in the evening/weekend. And I don’t like overly repetitive things. I was watching the sell that house shows on HGTV to get ideas about how to sell mine and after about 3 I got it and didn’t need to watch any more. Reruns aren’t nostalgic to me really, more just boring. And reruns is all Cable TV is about.
  • The only TV I will drop everything for is Top Gear UK. When it is in Season we trek over to my parent’s house and watch wwith extended family weekly. Everybody drops everything to watch that show. It makes you laugh, it makes you dream of fancy cars and it inspires you to take grand adventures regardless of what the outcome is.
  • This leads me to a general cluelessness about a lot of local and newsworthy (?) events. Things like buses that are Hijacked and what the weather will be tomorrow. I also find that these things weren’t essential to me in the first place. I carry an umbrella, what’s the big deal?
  • I find myself focusing on things I’m interested in. Maybe this is the political polarization people speak of? I read my marketing emails/newsletters/blogs as well as home design blogs and write my own blog as well. I check status on Facebook/Twitter/Flickr and maybe update if I have something interesting to say. And I work a lot. I also am always investigating 2-3 new directions for my work/career. Not all of them pan out, but they help me figure out what is evolving that I need to know about.
  • I do still use the phone (yes the land line). It is the best way to reach my parents and Steve’s parents. Steve’s parents email but mine are not really into it. And we try and go visit once a week in person. In person time still matters.
  • I am a book reader because I am a train commuter. I have been for years now and it has created a small library of business/marketing/analysis books. I order from amazon when I see something I like and then go consult the pile of books for something new.
  • And that is all I have time for. Now with a husband (fiancee really for one more month), 3 cats, 4 litter boxes, a yard, wedding planning, condo selling, house hunting, family organizing, laundry, food shopping & cooking I am overbooked. I don’t even get to skype/call my friends very often. A party invite seems really daunting these days with the schedule we keep.
  • I wonder about new media uses and if we will really care about anything not personally relevant to us in the future? Will a police chase matter to everyone in Chicago or just the people who live by the highway where it happens? Will we be less distract-able by sensational news and distracting entertainment? Will we be able to channel the news, information and analysis we really need into our lives and ignore the products/content we really don’t care about?
  • On the other side of the coin, how will we ever discover new things? I find myself looking to find out what is happening on the internet a few times a week and look to Google News and the Yahoo home page. Not the Trib. Yet somehow the list at these sites is always limited and not really anything relevant either.
  • There has to be something in-between a completely open fire hose of information and one select rss feed with just content from one niche area. There has to be some middle ground between being hijacked by ads for 20 minutes of a 60 minute program on TV and not knowing at all where to find a dress for my rehearsal dinner when my usual 5 clothing websites didn’t pan out. (who has time to go to a mall?) ((and why does Google shopping suck when the main search is generally good??))
  • People won’t pay for news. Period. They will pay for some kind of extra relevant cool service though. They will pay for innovation, new products that are noticeably better for some reason. Things that simplify your life.
  • Ads should not be integrated more with content as if they were the content. It blurs the line in what is really true and what is marketing speak. And although they may pay the bills for a while, people will eventually figure it out and abandon that medium that does this.
  • We need another search player. Google is not enough and although they do some things well, I am not a fan of everything they create. I would like more companies to work on real time indexing of information as well as historical archiving to keep information accessible if anything happens to Google’s accessibility. At some point people will be so hooked they will be able to charge for a (low cost) subscription to the search engine itself. 
  • More people need web enabled phones with internet use active. I just read yesterday that out of 57 million people in the US with internet capable mobile phones only 18 million have internet enabled! (netpop stat comparing us to China) 31.5% of the people with internet use phones don’t even pay for internet access? (only 13% of all the cell phones total) This is a huge hurdle to making info more relevant and accessible because people carry their phones everywhere. Things like bigger screens, flatter profiles and easier software app use on these phones will help the adoption rates improve. 
  • Identity management and security is also a problem. We might like something like OpenID but only if sites still allow anonymous comments too. Privacy and being able to say something important without being hunted down in person for your opinion necessary for getting people to adopt this identity management software and make our lives easier between all the hundreds of web sites and e-commerce activities we do in a day and consolidating that information for our own personal use.   
  • Data mining is going to have to improve. If statistics are wrong 25% of the time like stated in the Numerati book, we really need to combine automated data crunching with human decisions about data more often. Numbers are meaningless without someones explanation. This completely changes what and how data is configured, crunched and reported and can determine/undermine your results even if you manage to collect it perfectly.
  • All this plus the only way out of a recession is through innovation. We’re waiting.

Can ordinary people manage the risk in the stock market for their retirement?

I am beginning to think there is no way an average American can invest in the market and make any money for their retirement in a 401K. I was reading this morning that 5 and 10 year returns in the portfolios of most mutual funds are negative now when they calculated in the huge losses from recessions in 2001 and 2008 and the beginning of 2009. (Q1 hasn’t been kind) 

As an investor (for my 401K) I look at that and say: yuck! Why would I put my money in something that has no long term value?

My fiance sent me this article saying that now 20 and 30 years are the benchmarks for best overall performance in mutual funds and stocks in the market. Yikes! 20-30 years? Who has that much time before retirement? Who can invest for that long anyway?

When you consider that most people’s salary starts dropping when they reach their 50’s (because employers don’t value old employees and can’t spend time/money updating their skills) you really have 25 years max to work with as far as investments for retirement.

You start your first real paying job with a 401K at age 25 and you may not be fully employable by age 50 although you will likely live to the age of 80 or 90.  There’s your 25 years to save and invest for 30-50 years of retirement.

I also think there is something else going on here affecting the 20-30 year market profit numbers. The US Markets benefited from a long term technology/innovation and growth curve from WWII to the 1980s. Personally, I think that was a one time deal and we will never see that kind of long term prosperity again.

Why? 1. Because we don’t understand enough about technology to innovate on that level again to create that much growth. 2. Because the US has higher paid workers than anywhere else in the world and everything gets manufactured and produced (and serviced) somewhere else. 3. Because we’re too complacent and have too much entitlement as a country of workers. Work creates wealth, not shell games with securities.

That brings up another point: We’ve been playing a shell game with our economy since the 1980’s. De-regulate, re-regulate, stimulus, fix, fund, trade, outsource, sell, leverage, whatever… It’s all a shell game to us worker bees and the internet has been the only significant improvement in technology to create new industries and jobs in the last 20 years. We need more than that to survive and prosper as a nation and a world.

I don’t know about you but I can’t stand to take that much risk with my money. I have some in a 401K but mostly my retirement is locked in a 5 year CD IRA at 5.25% that was a promotion this fall when banks wanted more cash reserves. I changed companies in 2006 and rolled over the old 401K to a bank in 2007 because I knew the 10 year recession was coming soon and I didn’t want to risk timing it.

There will always be people who game the market and come out ahead, but those of us without finance degrees, huge money to invest in undervalued markets or inside scoops will never really profit on the whole. Many of us will get out exactly what we put in and maybe less considering our lack of  investment prowess. So, in that level of risky why not just put it in the bank? Positive 3-5% sounds a lot better than negative 40%.

I hate the inflation argument that says that 3-5% isn’t enough to make money after inflation. Guess what? Inflation has been very low and inflation doesn’t stop when you have negative returns either. I’d rather have some money dependably than none at all when prices are higher. 

You may be asking why I want more innovation and less investment in the market? Doesn’t investment in the market lead to more innovation?

NO. Most of the mutual finds and stocks you can buy that are highly rated are in huge old (one trick pony) risk averse companies that have already peaked and can’t figure out how to do anything new. They sell shares to raise cash and then have old people make decisions like the old days. Venture Capital,  new small businesses and Universities are the place where innovation happens. If I could invest in those, I would. But then again I don’t have millions of dollars and apparently I won’t any time soon.

What are the best proven ways to fund your retirement and create wealth then?

1. Have a side job for extra income you can save (part-time weekends or evenings a few nights a week)

2. Own rental property for extra income (you need to live near it for this to work)

3. Have fewer kids if you’re contemplating having a family (ok we don’t always control this, and we love kids, but nobody is going to debate that they are expensive) 

4. Own a smaller home (smaller mortgage = smaller amount in interest paid (lost) to the bank)

5. Don’t go into debt on credit cards or car loans (hello! 25% interest, MONTHLY! on some cards)

6. Live frugally generally, keep your cars 10 years, don’t buy new clothes every month and don’t buy big ticket items like TVs and Computers every few years. Spread out the expenses over the long term.

7. Share what you have with others. Seriously, knowledge, help with projects, donating time and donating items you no longer need, as well as hand me downs between families help kids and neighbors live better within their means and help the community live better too.

8. Take care of your health. Eat less junk, lower fat, lower salt, lower carbs. Exercise daily. Take vitamins. Don’t work in an industry that has a side effect of cancer. Visit the doctor regularly and if something comes up treat it early, it will cost so much less in the long run. Heath issues start in your 30’s and get more frequent in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Expect to pay more every decade for health costs in your life/budget.

These are all real tactical changes we can make to save more money monthy and yearly that will get better returns than the stock market and help prepare for inflation. What else do you think can help?

New E-Book Reader: Kindle

e-book, reader, kindle, read write webI saw this today via read-write-web and I was amazed by the fugly-ness of this device. I was hopeful that an electronic book reader would be revolutionary and evolutionary at the same time and this looks like it is from 1989. Was it designed then? Couldn’t they find any better materials? Why beige? Ugh. It doesn’t look comfortable to hold while riding to work on the train either. Someone from Apple should redesign it in 5 years when all the bugs have been worked out. In the mean time I will stay with reading my books in print just like the old days.

What are Vampire Electronics? Do I own any?

Vampire Electronics?

Ok, the topic of saving electricity either for the purpose of saving money or saving the environment or both is getting more popular. I just read in TIME magazine about this new term called Vampire Electronics. They are electronics you have in your home that still suck down electricity and energy while they are not in use. Things that are in this category according to the blurb were coffee makers and cell phone chargers. I would also think that computers in sleep mode (better than being on though) DVD players, external hard drives, radios and your kitchen appliances would fit in this category too since they all have led lights, clocks or some kind of process running in the bakground at all times. Some of these things are necesities (you can’t unplug the fridge when you leave to go to work) but others are not. Unplugging the toaster, coffee maker, cell phone charger and dvd player when not in use can add up to $2-$5 bucks savings in a month by my best guess. If you have many of them (and a lot of electronics in general) you may save a lot more if you just shut down completley and unplug them.

Getting a good deal on a new computer

It’s always tought deciding which computer to buy and knowing what a good price is for the options you want. The last time I got a new computer I ended up shopping around for a while and then getting one built for me. I have noticed though that you can get a pretty good computer at a lot less than what I paid a year and a half ago. They can be really reasonable despite all the options. Discount computers are a lot more likley to be available also because the holidays are coming up. If you are looking to buy one soon you should subscribe to some email newsletters from the stores you might buy from. Many places send out email alerts about discounts to members before letting the general public know. Some places even have RSS feeds available that update with new offers throughout the day. This also helps you spot a good deal before anyone else. And lastly there are usually some local newspaper inserts that have discount coupons for some additional discounts from time to time. It’s good to keep your eye out for those as well. All these strategies should get you a good deal on your next computer.

Solar Decathalon 07 Results

You didn’t know there was a solar decathalon did you? Well thanks to the NY Times, I just read about it. More of these contests seem to be funding research into new emerging technologies and making the leap into the next frontier before risk averse companies get into the act. Plus a competition doesn’t have to be profitable or sell anything. So it does make sense to a point.

The event was one where universities (at least they all seem like universities) competed in a contest (judged by 10 categories hence the decathalon name) to build a 800 sq foot self sustaning off the electricity grid home. I bet you’re thinking you’d like one. I would too, but we’re a ways away from that. The top 10 designs were invited to bring their homes to Washington DC and assemble them there for all to see and for the judges to see also. Then they of course got judged and ranked and all that. But the cool thing was that the public could go see these homes and weigh in on whether or not they would buy one entirely or just parts of the home or process for their own existing home. While no polls were taken that I can find, I think the public was very accepting of the technology and if it was more affordable people would be lining up at 5 am at home depot to buy solar cells.

Anyway, the designs were innovative using the earth to heat them and the sun to power them and I would like to see more consumer products available for our homes now so that we can do a lot better with the energy use without building a new one from scratch.