Tag Archives: iphone

About FaceID

I’ve seen the hottest of terrible hot-takes over the last couple of days about Apple’s announcement this past Tuesday (although leaked a few days before) that their new flagship iPhone, the iPhone X, will use a biometric system involving facial identification as the secure authentication mechanism for the phone. No more TouchID, which uses your fingerprint as your “key” to unlock the phone, we are now in the world of FaceID.

Let’s get this out of the way early in this essay: biometrics are for convenience, passcodes are for security. This doesn’t mean that biometrics aren’t secure, but they are secure in a different way, against different threats, for different reasons. The swap of FaceID for TouchID does nothing to lessen the security of your device, nor does it somehow given law enforcement or government actors increased magical access to the information on your phone.

You’d have thought, from the crazed reactions I’ve seen on Twitter and in the media, that Apple had somehow neglected to think of all of the most obvious ways this can be cheated.


and my personal favorite

The Wired article above, by Jake Laperuque, includes the breathless passage:

And this could in theory make Apple an irresistible target for a new type of mass surveillance order. The government could issue an order to Apple with a set of targets and instructions to scan iPhones, iPads, and Macs to search for specific targets based on FaceID, and then provide the government with those targets’ location based on the GPS data of devices’ that receive a match.

If we’re throwing out possibilities…any smartphone could do that right now based on photo libraries. If there was a legal order to do so. And IF the technology company in question (either Google or Apple, if we’re sticking to mobile phones as the vector) did indeed build that functionality (which would take a long, long time) and then did employ it on their millions and millions of phones (also: long time), it would involve an enormous amount of engineering resources. Coordination of the “real” target vs family members who just happened to have photos on their phones of Target X should be fairly easy to do via behavioral profiling and secondary image analysis.

But that, like the FaceID supposition above, is bonkers to believe. If anything, FaceID is more secure in every way than the equivalent attack via standard photo libraries. If a nation-state with the power to compel Apple or Google into doing something this complicated and strange really wanted to know where you were…they wouldn’t need Apple or Google’s help to do so.

The truth of the matter is that FaceID is no less secure than the systems we have now on Apple devices (here I am not including Android devices as there are simply too many hardware makers to be certain of the security). TouchID, the fingerprint authentication process that is available for use on every current iPhone (and the new iPhone 8 and 8 plus), every current iPad, and multiple models of MacBook, uses your fingerprint as the “key” to a hash that is stored on a hardware chip known as the Secure Enclave on the phone. When you place your finger on the TouchID sensor, it isn’t taking a picture of your print, or storing your print in any way. The information that is stored in the Secure Enclave isn’t retrievable by anything except your phone. Your fingerprints aren’t being stored at Apple Headquarters on some server. There is no “master database” of the fingerprints of all iPhone users. The authentication is entirely local, as witnessed by the fact that you have to enroll your print on every iOs device separately.

FaceID appears to be exactly the same setup, with exactly the same security oversight as TouchID. It’s entirely local to the phone, and all of the information (a “hash” of information about your face…it’s really not fair to call it a “picture”) is stored on the Secure Enclave within the iPhone. We haven’t seen the full security report on FaceID and iOS 11 yet, but I am certain it will be available soon (iOS 10 and TouchID is available here). Given the other well-considered aspects of security on iOS 11 that we have seen, such as requiring a passcode before trusting an untrusted computer, I am confident that iOS 11 and FaceID will be at least as secure as their previous iterations.

Is it possible that Apple, the most valuable technology company in the world in large part due to their ability to develop hardware and software in concert with each other, completely missed something in making FaceID? Of course it’s possible. But all of the ways that technology of this sort has failed from other companies (racial bias, poor security models, data leakage) have not yet been true for TouchID. I do not believe they will be true for FaceID either.

Even setting aside the purely technical aspects, legally there is no difference in the risks of using FaceID over using TouchID. In the tweet above about police holding your phone up to your face to unlock it, it would be important to note that they can compel a fingerprint now. It is entirely legal (with a lot of “if”s and “but”s) for a police officer to force your finger onto your phone to unlock it. No warrant is necessary for that to happen. FaceID is exactly the same, as far as legal allowances and burden of proof and such, as TouchID is now. In the case of preventing law enforcement access to your phone, the only answer is a strong password and your refusal to give it to someone.

It isn’t clear to me if FaceID is going to be a good user experience…without devices in user’s hands, we have no idea. But the knee-jerk response that somehow Apple is building a massive catalog of faces is neither true, nor possible given the architectures of their hardware and software.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some real danger somewhere:

I think Zeynep has this (as most things) exactly right. This technical implementation is really quite good. The normalization of the technology in our culture may well not be…but this is why I am so vehement about defending this positive implementation as positive. Let Apple’s method of doing this be the baseline, the absolute minimum amount of care and thought that we will accept for a system that watches us. They are doing it well and thoughtfully, so let’s understand that and not let anyone else do it poorly. And for goodness sake don’t cry wolf when technologies understand their risks and are built securely. Because just like the story, when the real wolves show up, it will be that much harder for those of us paying attention to raise the alarm.

EDIT: After writing this entire thing, I found Troy Hunt’s excellent analysis, which says many of these same things in a much better way than I. Go read that if you want further explication of my take on this, as I agree with his essay entirely.

Apple’s September 9th 2014 Announcement Predictions


Over the years, I’ve become known as a fan of Apple’s hardware and software solutions…and it’s true, I am overly fond of the way they do things. This isn’t to say that I’m not critical of them, as I do think they make mistakes (iPod HiFi anyone?). But I’ve been following them for many, many years and have a good understanding of their predilections.

On September 9th, Apple will be holding a press event that is promising to be one of the most interesting in many years. September is always their biggest press event of the year, as it’s when they introduce the newest model of iPhone, by far Apple’s most important and popular product. There have been lots of rumors and discussion around the Internet that seem to point to this year being particularly revolutionary. We don’t have the whole story yet (no one holds their cards closer than Apple does) but here are a few of the things that seem like good bets, and that might be interesting to Libraries and Librarians.

The first is the new iPhones. Yep, that’s plural, since it appears that Apple will be launching two new phones, for the first time in two different screen sizes. All of the rumors point to Apple releasing a 4.7 inch version and a 5.5 inch version of the iPhone this time around, marking only the second (and third!) time they’ve changed screen sizes with their phone. The original iPhone through the iPhone 4S were all 3.5 inch screens, the iPhone 5, 5C and 5S are all 4 inch…and now it looks like we’ll get 2 phones that are larger than that. This isn’t a huge surprise, as the overall cell phone market has been growing their phones for years now…the newest Samsung Galaxy 4 has a 5.7 inch screen, for instance. For Apple, growing screen sizes is harder, because the iPhone human interface guidelines insist on appropriately sized touch targets for the interface, and increasing the screen size while also increasing the pixel density can be hell on developers trying to make apps that work for every device. The best guesses yet for the resolution of these new phones comes from Apple blogger/journalist John Gruber, who puts the 4.7 inch screen at 1334×750, or 326ppi, with the 5.5 at 2208×1242, which works out to an incredible 461ppi, more dense than a printed magazine page.

The new phones will also undoubtedly be thinner and faster, most likely running a new A8 chipset that was designed by Apple. The A7 that debuted in the iPhone 5S is a remarkable processor, giving an insane amount of processing power at efficiencies that are hard for other devices to match. If they’ve improved on that, the A8 is likely to be a breakthough, giving desktop-level processing power in a mobile package.

It also appears that there is something happening with the new iPhone and a payment system for the real world. Bloomberg and others have reported that Apple has reached some type of deal with all of the major credit card companies (Visa, Mastercard, et al) and the rumor that they will finally be including some type of NFC technology in the new phones (my money is on a new, software-based system that allows for on-the-fly programming of the NFC communications protocol) that would allow for tap-to-pay interactions at all of the vendors that support such.

Add all that (new sizes, payment system, new processors) on top of the announcements that they made back at WWDC regarding iOS 8 and the massive changes that it will bring to the platform…it’s gonna be a big day for the iPhone. iOS 8 brings the most radical changes to the platform since the introduction of the App Store, including the introduction of true inter- and intra-app communication abilities (to the extent that apps can even have functionality that extends INTO another app, for instance one photo app “loaning” a filter to another totally unrelated app for use). It’s not exaggerating to say that iOS8 will change how the iPhone can be used by people, adding huge amounts of additional functionality. I’m perhaps most looking forward to custom keyboards (one of the aspects of Android that I most miss on the iOS platform), but I’m excited to see what developers come up with, because Apple is handing them a whole new suite of toys to play with.

If that were all that Apple was announcing and showing off, it would be a huge deal. But it seems like they may have finally chosen this as the time to announce their Wearable computing platform. Exactly what that means, only Apple really knows, but all of the rumors seem to point to some sort of wristwatch-like object that does…something. It’s really a mystery, but one Apple reporter quipped that the so-called iWatch is going to be a watch in the same ways that the iPhone is a phone. Whatever it is that they announce, it’s almost guaranteed to be interesting.

The other thing that’s pointing towards this being a big day for Apple is the choice of venue. Apple is using the Flint Center for this announcement, which they have only used 3 times in their history. Once was for the original announcement of the Macintosh in 1984, and once was for the return of Steve Jobs and the original iMac. To be fair, the third was for the iMac SE, which was a much smaller deal, but the two others are among the biggest announcements ever from Apple, ranking with the launch of the original iPhone in how important they were to the history of the company. It appears that Apple has built an entirely new building just for the announcement of their new products at the location of the Flint Center, and this is shaping up to be quite the September for Apple.

iOS8, two new iPhone models, a wearable device of unknown purpose and type, something that requires an entire building to show off….this Tuesday is gonna be really interesting. Join me at 12pm Central on Twitter @griffey for the annual live-tweeting of my thoughts. See you then for all the excitement!


One of the refrains I often get in the library community when I do posts like this that focus on gadgets, especially specific gadgets, and even more especially Apple’s specific gadgets is “But how does this relate to libraries?”. As if libraries didn’t, oh…help patrons navigate their gadgets every single day or have dozens of electronic resources that need to interoperate with these devices. Perhaps there are even a few librarians that use these devices to help patrons in the real world. I don’t really have a single answer as to why librarians should be interested in the most popular hardware that runs the second most popular operating system used to access the Internet. Perhaps not all librarians need to be completely aware of this stuff, but someone certainly does, hopefully someone in your library or library system.

Photos, backup, iPhone 4S

Over at Librarians Matter, my friend Kathryn wrote a post about how to deal with removing photos from the Camera Roll on your iPhone when they become burdensome. In her case, it was 3000 or so photos from her recent jaunt around the world. Here’s an easier way to deal with photos on any iOS device, make sure you have plenty of space on your iPhone for more pics, and make sure that you have backups of all of your photos.

What you need: an iOS device with a camera running iOS 5 or higher, a Mac at home running the most recent versions of iPhoto or Aperture, and…well, that’s it, really. Oh, an iCloud account as well. But if you have an iOS 5 device, iCloud is a no-brainer.

Turn on Photostream on both your iPhone and inside iPhoto on your Mac (on iPhoto, it’s an option in the preferences). Anytime your iOS device is attached to a wifi signal, it will send any photo that is in your Camera Roll to your Photostream. From there, your Mac running iPhoto (just leave iPhoto running while you’re out) will grab the Photostreamed pics and save them to your computer. I assume that you are backing up your system in some automated way, including your iPhoto or Aperture libraries, so…as soon as the pic you take shows up in Photostream, it should be safely in the hands of your home computer and part of your regular backup process (I backup my Aperture library and other important files from my desktop automatically using Crashplan)

Your iPhone will show you your photostream, so you can actually check to make sure that the photos in question are uploaded (photos don’t show up in the “photostream” section of your Photos app until they are uploaded). Once they are in your Photostream, you can safely delete them from your Camera Roll.

If you are a techno-traveller and have a laptop with you on your travels, you can use it as a first-stop backup (sync your iPhone to it), and Photostream as a safety net. But in practice, Photostream seems to work amazingly well. During our trip to Disney World this past October, I took somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 pictures with my iPhone, all of which were waiting on me when I got back home to sync to my home computer. With iCloud and Photostream, you technically never have to plug your iPhone into your computer at all to get photos off.

Things that can go wrong

If your computer at home isn’t online for any reason (powers down, loses connectivity, etc) or if iPhoto or Aperture closes for some reason, your photos won’t be saved locally. They will still be in the magical land of Photostream, however, which holds the last 1000 photos that you took. So you’ve got a thousand pic buffer before you’ll chance losing anything. If you are never in a wifi area, and instead rely on 3G for all your data needs, your pics will never be uploaded to Photostream in the first place.

So while it’s not 100% solution at all times, I’m betting it’s a 99.999% solution for most people. Give it a try…iCloud and Photostream are free from Apple for this purpose, so there’s no downside.

Responding to the Shifted One

So my previous post definitely got some responses, as I thought it might. Among them was a great, lengthy response from Jenny Levine (@shifted), and it was detailed enough that I decided to just repost the bulk of it here, and respond directly to the issues she raises. Here goes! (Jenny’s text is blockquoted)

As you can probably guess, though, I’m still going to disagree with you. I think Apple makes design decisions that you take for granted that aggravate the average user. For example, why the proprietary cable on the iPhone when they could have helped standardize on mini-USB? Why no right-click button on Macs when that would clearly help users? And don’t even get me started on the VGA dongle-thingy-that-everyone-forgets-at-home. My technophobic aunt wouldn’t know what to do with the apple icon in Mac OS, nor would she understand the command key. Best for n00bs? I don’t think so. Better than some other systems for some people? Sure.

2nd generation iPod connectionI think that the vast majority of Apple’s design decisions have a lot of consideration and thought behind them. Why the proprietary cable? The 1st and 2nd generation iPods didn’t use a proprietary cable at all (I assume here you refer to the 30 pin dock connector). They used a firewire port, standard at the time on Macs but largely missing from Windows machines of the era (2001-2002). By the 3rd generation of iPods, Apple had a problem…they needed to support their legacy products that used Firewire to sync and charge, but they wanted to move towards the now-solidified USB 2.0 standard (keep in mind, USB 2.0 was only ratified in 2001, and the first Apple computers to have USB 2.0 didn’t appear until 2003). So how do they do that elegantly? They design a cable that handles both protocols, and can connect to both USB 2.0 and to Firewire…not a simple thing, technically. The two protocols have different charging standards, and Apple did what, at the time, was the simplest thing they could…one cable for any user. It wasn’t until the 4th generation of iPod hardware that sales really started taking off, and as sales grew accessory manufacturers began to license the connector in order to interface with the iPod. Now Apple had two problems: they needed to continue the march to USB and they had an existing set of accessories that they had to think about. So they kept the 30 pin Dock Connector…and didn’t switch to Mini or Micro USB.

If you ignore all that history, it’s easy to say “why do they maintain a proprietary connector”. But if you look at the timeline of the development of the technology, there’s nearly always a reason for seemingly silly decisions. It is also true that by licensing the dock connector (to which they hold the patent) they make additional money from accessory makers. But I think that’s a side effect, a happy accident on Apple’s part. I think they got here by trying to do the right thing for existing customers.

Why no right click? I’m sorry, but every time someone busts out this canard, I laugh. Apple has had right mouse button functionality built in since OS 8.6, over 10 years ago. And the fact that you assume that right-click helps users only illustrates your point made later, that everyone who is familiar with a technology assumes it’s the right way to do things. Right-clicking is a UI choice, and it’s one that Apple downplays, on purpose. If you’ve ever had to walk a new computer user through the “no, that’s a left click…yes, now that function is a right click” dance, you’ll understand why Apple makes the decisions it does on the OSX interface. But if you want, it’s there, and has been for a decade now.

The VGA dongle annoys me. But it annoyed me the same amount that having a VGA connector and needing a DVI connector does on non-Mac machines. I don’t fully understand why Apple chose to go down the mini Displayport route, but if I had to guess, I would guess it had something to do with aesthetics, and keeping the profile of their laptops where it is. But on the scale of computing annoyances, it’s pretty low…and I use the dongle all the time. Most laptop users never hook their system up to an external display.

And after all, if Apple truly is designing the best experience for the average user, why deliberately price their products in a way the average user can’t afford? I think Apple fails to understand that the average user cares more about the cost of the data plan than having the highest number of pixels on a screen.

This is another point where I think you underestimate how non-fanboys feel about this issue. You say yourself that you honestly don’t care about cost, and that’s fine. But I don’t believe that’s how most people feel. I realize you’re giving your opinion here, but it’s the statements that imply “best for everyone else’s purposes” that I think cause those misunderstandings.

I’ve never said that “I don’t care about cost” end-of-sentence. I’ve said that cost isn’t a function of what I judge to be well-designed on the user interface front. I think that the en toto user experience of a 2011 Jaguar XK is probably objectively better than the user experience of the Honda Civic that I drive. The fact that I can’t afford the Jaguar doesn’t effect my ability to identify that it’s a better car, in a specific set of ways that could be enumerated, than my Civic. If you asked the average person which they thought would be the better experience, I think most people would choose the Jaguar. And if you had the ability for people to drive each of the two cars, I think that more people would say that the Jaguar was easier to drive, more pleasant, and that they like it more. All of those things are independent of whether or not a particular person can actually afford the Jaguar….and if you don’t like Jaguars, insert your car-of-choice into the equation.

As for the AT&T piece, if you want to talk about a revolution, Apple blew the telecom one big time by limiting the iPhone to AT&T. That’s more my complaint than the crappy networks in big cities. Apple could have opened up all cell carriers but instead chose its traditional path of high-end, expensive monopoly. That’s their choice, but we don’t all have to agree that its the best one they could have made. So while they’ve innovated in some areas, they’ve hurt innovation in others. Like any company, they’re good and bad but I’d hardly call them the best, certainly not for everyone. Ask your friends on Ping how they feel about that “best” or “innovative” label. ;-)

No, as a matter of fact, Apple could not have “opened up all cell carriers”. Apple didn’t limit the phone to AT&T…as a matter of fact, Verizon turned Apple down when it was offered to them. Apple’s decision point had nothing to do with which carrier to offer the iPhone on, it had to do with shaking up the traditional balance of power in the mobile industry.

In the US, all of the power in the cell phone equation once lay with the carrier…the carrier, whether it be Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, decided what features the phones they offered could have, how those features were implemented, and what limitations could be placed on them. The manufacturer of the phone had to bow to the wishes of the carrier, because otherwise they couldn’t sell their phone at all. Verizon was once legendary for this behavior, forcing handset makers to limit the bluetooth stack on their phones to prevent customers from being able to connect and retrieve the pictures from their phones without paying Verizon a fee for doing so! When Apple, a complete upstart in the mobile phone world, went to the carriers and said no to the usual demands for limitations on the phone hardware. Cingular was, at the time, the only carrier who agreed to Apple’s demands…most people forget that it was Cingular that actually got the iPhone contract, and that it purchased AT&T Mobility and changed it’s name afterwards. Apple signed a deal with Cingular/AT&T precisely because they were the only carrier who would let them make the phone they wanted…a phone without the crapware, without the custom UI skins, and without logos emblazoned all over it.

Re: Ping. I never claimed that everything Apple does turns to gold. They’ve had some real flubs in the past…iPod HiFi anyone? Ping isn’t likely to go anywhere without Facebook support, and they are still working that bit out. But to list Ping as an indication that Apple isn’t innovative? Come on…you’re kidding, right?

I’ll also reiterate what Josh said. Using market cap as a criterion is a little crazy. By that measure, Microsoft was a better company than Apple until this year. Is that really the point you want to argue? I sure don’t, least of all because I don’t see how that can be considered “objective.”

I wasn’t using Market Cap as an illustration of the better company. I was using market cap as an illustration of whether or not people believe the company is doing a good job of the thing that company does. I would never begin to argue that Exxon-Mobile is a morally good company. I would, however, argue that they are very good at what it is they do…that’s why they are worth what they are worth. Microsoft was, for many years, better at what they did than Apple was…but I don’t think they were at all doing the same thing. Market Cap isn’t a measure of Apple’s actual innovation, but it is very much an indicator of what the public qua public believe about Apple. And clearly they believe that Apple is doing a good job at what Apple does. We can bicker about what it is that Apple does, however, which is what we are doing with the rest of the discussion. 🙂

If you want to argue it is, then let’s talk about how quickly the Android OS is catching up to iOS. If it overtakes Apple in the smartphone market, are you prepared to acknowledge that more people think Google is a better and more innovative company than Apple? You made a prediction earlier this year that the $99 iPhone would blow everything else out of the water but it hasn’t, so I would counter-argue that a lot of people *disagree* with you, too.

Apple has never been concerned with being having the highest market penetration rates for their hardware….and I don’t think anyone paying attention would disagree that Android is going to dominate the cell phone market. It already is! Android is winning the overall market in the same way that Microsoft did for the PC market in the 1980’s: it’s providing a hardware-agnostic OS that will run on just about everything. Consequently, just about everything is running it. As well they should…Android is a phenomenal operating system. I said before: I wanted to buy an Android handset instead of the iPhone 4. But I couldn’t because the good handset was on another carrier (sound familiar?).

I’m obviously not daft enough to argue that numbers alone decide the best in anything.

I think the second-to-last paragraph started out to be your strongest (well, except for the market cap detour), and I wish you’d fleshed out some of the additional “and another thing” pieces, because I think that would help address the “blind fanboy” label. This post still comes across as “yay Apple, best company ever,” rather than as a balanced critique. Each of your main points above still ends with a “but Apple’s still awesome and right and releasing unicorns into the world.”

I am, honestly, completely agnostic about Apple qua Apple. I don’t own Apple stock. I think that they have some incredibly talented people…Jobs is a mad genius, and Jon Ives is a brilliant designer. When Apple still had DRM on the music they sold in the iTunes store, I couldn’t stand it…so consequently I didn’t buy things from the iTunes store. Still don’t, for the vast majority of things, because I prefer the Amazon MP3 store. But what I didn’t do was conflate the issue that the iPod was still the best MP3 player I could buy, even though I didn’t like the store attached to it. I really disagree with the rules associated with developing for the App Store, and have publicly told libraries that have asked me that they are better off developing for the web than for a given private platform. But I can believe that, and still think that the User Experience for an iOS device attached to the App Store is best-in-class. As Whitman said: “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Whew. If you’ve read both these posts, thank you. I’m tired of writing about Apple now. Maybe I’ll curl up with my iPad and read some more Whitman. 🙂

Problems with Apple

Apple TV has overheated againI will fully admit that a Twitter debate about Apple products is possibly the most First World thing in existence, but…here we are. Today I spent some time debating with a number of my library friends on Twitter about the relative merits of the Apple UI and whether or not it is superior and/or better in an objective way than it’s competition for the average user. One tweet in the stream that particularly caught my eye and made me feel like I needed to respond more fully was from Jenny Levine (@shifted):

@griffey I used to think that because I haven’t seen blog posts or other pieces you’ve written that note/address Apple issues & problems.

I decided to poke around a bit. As it turns out, Jenny is right…I haven’t written much here about Apple’s shortcomings. So, I decided to list, once and for all, the Things that Bother People About Apple & Their Products (complete with why I don’t think they are a big deal):

The lack of ability to load apps on to iOS devices outside of the App Store

WWDC 2010I would love to be able to load apps directly onto my iOS devices outside of iTunes, whether for testing or just because I want to use an app that doesn’t fit into Apple’s licensing terms for entry into the App Store. Of course, I can do this…I could jailbreak my phone (and I have, whenever I wanted to test something non-Apple approved). There is a very good reason that Apple doesn’t allow this by default: the average user benefits from having a controlled ecosystem for their mobile device. It ensures stability, battery life, consistent interface, and (mostly) prevents malware. It has been suggested that the proper course of action here is for Apple to bury a “let me sideload” option deep in the Settings somewhere, and let people choose to open their device up if they want. However, having jailbroken my phone a half-dozen times, I will say: I have consistently reinstalled to the stock OS.

Apple Hardware is Expensive
Apple's two most recent handheld computersThis one comes up every time I talk about the iPhone or any other piece of Apple hardware…Apple is largely perceived as considerably more expensive than its competitors. First off, this is a relative value proposition, placing unsure values on things like build quality and discounting the cost of software completely…neither of which is a fair comparison.  Apple systems come with the iLife suite built in, some of which can be adequately mirrored by free software on the PC side (Picasa) and some of which really don’t have a good free analogue (Garageband). Windows Movie Maker is better than it used to be, but it’s not really in the same class as iMovie, when you get to actual usage.

But my real issue with this point is: So What? If I argue, as I did today, that Apple puts together a better user experience than any of the other PC makers, what difference does it make that they are more expensive? It’s probably the case that a Lexus dealership puts together a better user experience than Lying Larry’s Used Cars does, even though both sell things with four wheels that move you around. I don’t have a problem with Apple products not being price-competitive with generic PC makers. That’s not what I’m concerned with, and has nothing to do with why I think that they are a better user experience than Generic Windows 7 PC #47 (although in all fairness to Microsoft, Windows 7 is a HUGE improvement on everything they’ve done before).

People hate AT&T
Not happy with AT&T right nowLet’s be clear: people in certain large cities hate AT&T. San Fransisco, Chicago, New York, and more are under-towered for the number of users that are attached to them, but in many cases this isn’t AT&T’s fault. AT&T would LOVE to spread towers over every inch of San Fransisco, but they can’t because SF won’t let them. The converse of this problem is that in many rural areas (like mine) AT&T is literally the only option…where my house is, the only provider with a tower anywhere even close is AT&T.

I wanted to get an Android phone for my last upgrade, and almost certainly would have bought a Droid or an Evo, except that I can’t use either of them in my house. But I don’t blame Verizon for that, or Motorola for that matter. If it made economic sense for Verizon to have a tower in my area, they would…it’s ridiculous to think that corporations wouldn’t move into a profitable area if they thought there was profit here. But there isn’t, so I have exactly one option for carrier where I live: AT&T. And I don’t think anyone would seriously dispute that the best phone on AT&T is the iPhone…they are beginning to get a few decent Android handsets, but 6 months ago it was a wasteland.

I wish that Apple devices were less expensive, and I wish that Apple would allow OSX to be installed on non-Apple hardware, and I wish that Jobs didn’t hate buttons quite as much as he appears to. I really hate the arbitrary rules in the App Store process. I despise their use of DRM. But I do believe, strongly, that even with the problems, Apple devices are almost always better designed, more elegant, more thoughtful, and just straightforwardly more usable than the competition. There are a lot of people that disagree with me, and I’m sure I’ll hear why in the comment on this post. But I think there is objective proof that the public agrees with me…take a look at Apple stock over the last five years. Apple is, by market cap, the largest technology company in the US right now, and the second largest company, period. They could, in theory, overtake Exxon-Mobile in Market Cap…which is insane.

I also admire Apple because they are one of a very, very few technology companies that have consistently changed the fabric of the technology landscape. Apple changed personal computing with the Macintosh, and they changed media consumption with the iPod, and they changed mobile computing with the iPhone…and it’s possible that they’ve now changed personal computing again with the iPad. I defy someone to name another company that’s had such an effect on the landscape of technology over the last 30 years. Microsoft is a great business, but Apple is a revolution engine. Do I wish they did some things differently? Absolutely. But I also think that nobody else comes close to them for usability and user experience.

Seriously, AT&T?

In preparation for ordering iPhone 4, I went about adjusting our AT&T plans this evening…the new tiered pricing actually works out for us, as Betsy rarely uses over 200Megs of data a month. As I was switching her over, I read this amazingly silly EULA from AT&T:

DataPlus 200 MB for iPhone

Terms and Conditions

DataPlus 200MB for iPhone may only be used for the following purposes: (i) internet browsing, (ii) personal email, and (iii) consumer applications. Using iPhone to access corporate email, company intranet sites, and/or other business solutions/applications is prohibited.

Bwahahahaha. Corporate email is prohibited? WTF? Talk about your unenforceable EULA’s….you can’t visit an intranet, for frak’s sake? Seriously, AT&T? Seriously?

And you wonder why people hate you.

Ebooks explode this week

This week, ebooks were all over the tech news, and there were at least two huge announcements. Well, one announcement, and one not-so-secret launch coming Monday.

The announcement was the Google Book mobile service, which gives users access to 1.5 million books from the Google Book scanning project OCR’d and formatted for mobile screens, like those of the G1 and the iPhone. In one fell swoop, Google has made these platforms the home of the largest electronic book library in the world…the Amazon Kindle store currently has 230,000 books, while Project Gutenberg has just over 100,000.

The upcoming announcement is that almost certainly on Monday, Amazon will announce the Kindle version 2. Leaked photos make the v2 look sleeker, more updated, and with much better physical form-factor. What I’m most excited about is the possibility of v.2 of the software, which better UI and possibly more features. As long, of course, as the software is ported back to the original hardware.

Are these the things that will finally push ebooks firmly into the public consciousness? Time will tell, but I can hope.

No iPhone for me


To say that I am disappointed in both AT&T and Apple would be putting it mildly. I understand the need to pump up anticipation, as well as moderate supply in order to maintain a certain marketing illusion for the 3G, but the experience of standing in line was so remarkably poorly managed that I find it hard to believe that AT&T has any idea what dealing with customers should be like. They clearly didn’t exhibit any customer service skills on Friday, July 11 during the global launch of the iPhone 3G.

First off: You know how many iPhones you have, and what type. The proper way to handle the line is to print up vouchers for the available stock, walk the line asking people what type they are planning on buying, and give them a voucher. You can tell people without a voucher to come back in the afternoon and place an order…but there is no excuse for letting people stand in line for 3 hours when you know that they aren’t going to be able to buy the thing they are in line for. I’m talking to you, AT&T of Chattanooga: big fat failwhale for your customer service! The minute that your exclusive contract is up with Apple, expect people to bail with their phones like mad…way to think short term.