August 15, 2018

Link: Verizon and AT&T Have Vastly Different Ideas About Phone Cases ☍

Ashley Carman for The Verge:

Verizon has already overhauled 200 stores with a focus on cases and accessories. In these “Next Gen” stores, as they’re called, customers are able to touch and see cases outside their packaging in displays Verizon has designed to resemble “best-sellers at your local bookstore.”

Why the huge investment? Verizon needs people to buy phone cases because selling the actual phones results in little profit, according to analysts who spoke with The Verge. The company has to diversify its revenue lines, and cases are an easy cash opportunity. “Cases are a part of every phone launch, and [every phone] has to have phone cases, regardless of priority and size,” [Verizon phone case product manager Helena] Elicerio says.

The whole article is a fascinating look at how Verizon and AT&T are handling their case sales and marketing, especially in the face of literally everyone else selling cases. Somehow, the idea of testing accessories for Verizon actually sounds like it might be a really fun job.

Link: The Apple Pay Coffee Discount ☍

Mike Pomranz for Extra Crispy:

If you happened to be wandering around San Francisco’s Castro District last week, you may have seen some pretty damn good deals… like a $5 Réveille coffee for just $1. But this deal came with a twist: You could only get it if you paid with Apple Pay. Otherwise, full price for you.[…]

But for those interested in raging against the future, it’s important to know that an employee at Café Réveille confirmed by phone that the deal wasn’t the coffee shop’s idea. Instead, he said that he believed it was sponsored by Apple and the payment-processing company Square. Additionally, he said the concept wasn’t just tied to Réveille: “I think they were doing it at a lot of stores in the Castro,” he added.

The promotion has ended, but it’s an interesting move that these have been popping up. Apple has been doing promotions like this in a few isolated areas, and Square seems to be pushing NFC payments, too. My big gripe is that Apple seems to be targeting their backyard—areas in California that probably already have decent use of Apple Pay. I’d love to see some wider-reaching in-person promotions, especially in areas like the Midwest, where there are quite a few places that have the capabilities, but mindshare is still very low.

July 21, 2018

Link: Samsung’s New Ads Miss the Point ☍

Joe Rossignol for MacRumors:

Samsung has expanded upon its “Ingenius” ad campaign with three new videos titled Dongle, Fast Charger, and Camera.

In each of the videos, Samsung depicts an Apple Store employee having a conversation with a customer, attempting to justify the iPhone compared to the Galaxy S9, as it relates to the camera, dongles, and more.

In the first ad, a customer asks if he can use his wired headphones with the iPhone X, and the Genius informs him that he will need a dongle. The customer then inquires about charging at the same time, and the Genius says he’ll need another dongle. The customer then says, “so, a double dongle.”

The arguments in these ads aren’t wrong—the Galaxy S9 has some features that the iPhones don’t. I think they miss the mark because they don’t show you the Galaxy S9 or talk about why it’s better if you aren’t looking for one of those features. The Apple Genius parody is a bit played out and lazy. The Galaxy S9 may be an amazing piece of hardware, but the selling point isn’t if it has feature x, but rather getting someone who has a lot of investment (both monetarily, time, and familiarity) in Apple’s ecosystem.

Instead, and I want to reiterate that this comes from leaving any of my own pro-Apple bias out of the equation, Samsung should focus on advertising why their phone is better than every other Android manufacturer’s, and if you happen to be an iPhone user considering switching, why you should choose a Galaxy over a Pixel, ThinQ, or something else.

July 10, 2018

Link: Smart TVs Still Suck ☍

Sapna Maheshwari for The New York Times (via Nick Heer):

Still, David Kitchen, a software engineer in London, said he was startled to learn how Samba TV worked after encountering its opt-in screen during a software update on his Sony Bravia set.

The opt-in read: “Interact with your favorite shows. Get recommendations based on the content you love. Connect your devices for exclusive content and special offers. By cleverly recognizing onscreen content, Samba Interactive TV lets you engage with your TV in a whole new way.” […]

“The thing that really struck me was this seems like quite an enormous ask for what seems like a silly, trivial feature,” Mr. Kitchen said. “You appear to opt into a discovery-recommendation service, but what you’re really opting into is pervasive monitoring on your TV.” […]

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said few people review the fine print in their zeal to set up new televisions. He said the notice should also describe Samba TV’s “device map,” which matches TV content to mobile gadgets, according to a document on its website, and can help the company track users “in their office, in line at the food truck and on the road as they travel.”

With their horrible interfaces, software support that fades after a few years, and just general user hostility, I hate smart TVs. Give me nice picture quality and a few HDMI inputs and I’ll add my own device to stream content (lately, it’s been an Apple TV). If the day comes that I have to replace a TV and it has some sort of smart capabilities, I don’t think I’d be welcoming it onto my home network. The lack of accountability going on behind these sloppy interfaces is maddening.

In case you were wondering about the title, it’s a sequel.

June 9, 2018

Link: WWDC 2018 Idle Thoughts ☍

Gabe Weatherhead:

In all truth, I feel much better about my status as an Apple fan after the 2018 keynote. In many ways, it felt like an acknowledgement of two major categories of buyers: The young and the old. It’s fine to joke about MeMoji and the silliness of 32 person FaceTime parties but that’s the stuff that will pull in younger users. There are very few 11 year olds that want sudo access to their shell. But then we get things like dark mode and audio APIs for the watch. That’s clearly targeting us old crusty folks that like to shake sticks at things.

Any time that Apple introduces some new, “fun” features to iOS, a lot of tech writers complain that it doesn’t appeal to them, so it’s a sign the company is unfocused and missing a step. Instead, Apple is finding ways to engage everyone, which has always been a goal for the company.