May 9, 2017

Link: T-Mobile’s Free Data for Life Ends ☍

Alex Wagner for TmoNews:

A few years ago, T-Mobile launched Free Data for Life as part of Un-carrier 3.0, giving tablet owners 200MB of free cellular data every month. Fast-forward to today and it looks like that program has been quietly killed.

T-Mobile has updated its Free Data for Life support page to say that the program is no longer available for new activations as of May 7, 2017. Anyone that signed up for Free Data for Life on or before May 6 can keep it with that tablet as long as they own the device.

T-Mobile’s official explanation was later posted:

When we launched Free Data For Life in 2013, 200MB of high-speed data was a lot. Today, customers want unlimited and we’re all in with T-Mobile ONE. Customers who have T-Mobile ONE can add unlimited LTE data on a tablet for just $20 a month with autopay.

Nothing changes for current customers with Free Data For Life on a Tablet. They can keep it as long as they like.

I always thought this was a neat promotion—a bit of data for anyone with a cellular-capable tablet and a way to test out T-Mobile’s network. As most users with this service were prepaid users, it also ensured that you’d keep a T-Mobile SIM in your iPad and throw a few bucks their way when traveling. The nice thing about it is that the account and everything was always active.

Unfortunately, in a case of poor timing, I just had my iPad replaced under warranty, and T-Mobile ties the Free Data for Life SIMs to the original device’s IMEI. In any other device, nothing works except T-Mobile’s sites and account management. The other side-effect is that any purchased data gets used after the 200MB, which doesn’t work in the replacement device. Therefore, even after reaching out to T-Mobile and emphasizing that it’s not an issue with my device, the solution is to buy a new SIM card and set up an entirely new account. Recently, T-Mobile SIMs have been pulled from most retailers, so the only official way is to pick a new one up from the company, either online or from a retail store.

April 29, 2017

Link: Rough Times in Surface Club ☍

Peter Bright for Ars Technica:

Microsoft’s third-quarter financial results were published yesterday, and they had many high points: cloud revenue is growing well (though we have some misgivings about how the numbers are reported), Windows outperformed the PC market, and Office 365 passed 100 million corporate seats. But there were a couple of significant black marks: Phone revenue has dropped to effectively zero, and Surface revenue was down sharply year on year, with a 26-percent drop in revenue. […]

With this stagnation, falling sales are inevitable. Until Microsoft shows the brand some love, the decline will only continue. We’re not expecting to see that love any time soon, either; the company’s guidance for the current quarter is that Surface sales will continue to fall. Microsoft is holding an event next week, and we expect there to be some hardware element, but we’ve also heard from sources close to the matter that there won’t be updates to the Surface Pro or Surface Book.

I’m not really sure what the deal is, as the Surface hardware is pretty nice and if anything, sets an example for the rest of the Windows world. With the way Microsoft treated their Lumia line, I hope the same thing doesn’t happen. Having picked up a Lumia 650 as a spare device to play with, Windows 10 Mobile is pretty nicely designed and different enough from iOS and Android to feel original. The big downside is that apps aren’t there, even basic ones that most would expect on a mobile platform and that’s what did Windows Mobile in as a whole. For the Surfaces, they’re running regular Windows 10, which has a healthy ecosystem of legacy applications, this shouldn’t be a problem.

April 14, 2017

Link: Nintendo is Stupid ☍

Jose Otero for IGN:

A Nintendo representative provided the following statement to IGN:

“Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product.”

Additionally, a representative told IGN, “NES Classic Edition wasn’t intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans.” The company has no plans to produce more NES Classic systems for North America. This announcement includes the discontinuation of the NES Classic Controller. As for third party accessories, Nintendo said the decision whether or not to continue production of accessories will be up to each individual manufacturer.

The crux of this story is that the wildly-popular and impossible-to-find NES Classic that went on sale last year has been discontinued. Rather than use it as a way to make a few extra bucks, even though the margins and ongoing purchases are much less than the Switch, it kept Nintendo in the minds of people during the gap of the Wii U and the Switch. To be honest, I have yet to see one in the flesh and numerous regular visits to GameStop and Toys R Us stores near me and even then, it had been weeks or months since they’ve gotten them in.

The thing is, I have no desire to buy a Switch, so if this was some sort of tactic, it’s flawed. Trying to think of an analogy, it would be if I was an Android user and the only Apple product I’d buy was the iPod shuffle. I’m sure Apple would love if I were to buy their headlining product (the iPhone in this case), but I also think they’d be glad that I’m at least giving them some money and keeping a product in my life.

Instead, Nintendo basically couldn’t keep up with demand for a product that was an impulse buy and decided to discontinue it before the market even got somewhat saturated. They basically could’ve printed their own money, but instead, the only people that are profiting are those re-selling these on eBay. Dumb.

April 11, 2017

Link: Game Changed? ☍

Yours truly, seven years ago:

Where the iPad shines is that it is the appliance computer idea that the Mac was supposed to be all those years ago. You buy one, you start using it, and there’s little maintenance. I have a TiVo and just about anyone who comes and visits can use it without any explanation. Computers aren’t like that—if you’re familiar with Windows, Mac OS X may take a bit of getting used to. The iPhone OS doesn’t need that adjustment step. You pick what you want to do and you go about your business. For those who aren’t familiar or comfortable with computers, there isn’t the confusion of when to click, double-click, or right-click. There isn’t much to really worry about as far as where things are stored or keeping track of your file system. The iPad is the computer that gets out of your way.

While iOS has gotten more complex and one iPad model and size became multiple, this philosophy continues. While it hasn’t been able to replace traditional desktop computers for everyone, some of my earliest concerns were fixed by iOS 5:

Unfortunately, there is one fatal flaw with the iPad—it’s still dependent on another computer. For many, an iPad would be able to replace a computer for everyday tasks, but you still need a computer to set it up, load music on it (apart from iTunes purchases), and update the operating system. The iPad (at least right now) cannot print directly from every application either. These two things will make it dependent on a computer (for the time being)…

Finally, I think the phrase at this time should have been used as a qualifier:

I could never go iPad-only, as I need specialized software such as an FTP client, HTML editor, video editor, and more, but for the majority of the population who just need basics, the iPad could really give traditional computers a run for their money.

Going back through my old posts regarding the iPad, I’ve gained a better appreciation of how much things have changed and improved, despite the constant reports of doom and gloom. Places where the iPad has really demonstrated its strengths include content consumption, education, ultra-portable applications, kiosks, and other places where traditional computers were either too large, too complex, or required too much maintenance and support. Only now are we fully starting to see iPads becoming primary computers outside of those with very intentional workflows and I find that amazing.

April 7, 2017

Link: Contact Less ☍

Horace Dediu:

When applying this dichotomy to competition, we need to be careful about who we define as competitors. Note that I said that Apple Pay is in a fight with non-consumption. It’s tempting to say Apple Pay competes with some other payment system like Samsung Pay or Google Pay. But none of these alternatives are as powerful as the existing mix of contact payment systems: cash, credit card magnetic swiping and some other hybrid of codes and user experiences (especially online.)

I’ve had a few friends joke about how many ____ Pay services are out there now. While it may be a bit silly that Apple, Google, and then many Android phone manufacturers are introducing their own payment systems, all have one thing in common—NFC. If one works, generally, they all work. Because of this, it’s more about getting a merchant to accept any of these than for Apple to win and Google to lose.

Apple Pay also has the web/in-app component, which is in the works for Android Pay, but I’ve enjoyed this more in that I’m not entering my details multiple times (shipping & billing) or storing my actual card data with a particular merchant or service. That may be the big win for Apple Pay in the long run.