Sunday, August 15, 2010

iPhone 4 CDMA - More Features to Come?

We are seeing more and more evidence that a CDMA iPhone is on the road to launch in Q1 2010. There are several reasons why Apple is looking into a CDMA iphone, including the fact that AT&T's U.S. iPhone Exclusive is likely to end in 2010, which will let Apple increase its market share in the US, and will also open new markets for the iPhone, mainly in China. 

However, the iPhone 4 CDMA launch comes in a very unique position to Apple because:
1. It is the first time Apple is releasing a different flavour of the same product and not a new one.
2. It is the first time Apple is releasing a "version 2" of a prodcut where there is a known fault ( AnntenaGate ) in version 1.
3. It is the first time no white iphone is present when a newer product is launched.

Lets analyse each of the items and their potential effect for the iPhone 4 CDMA.

Different flavour, same product:

Up until now, each new iPhone release included both improved HW and improved SW features. Replacing the GSM baseband for a CDMA one does not make this iPhone a new "generation" or a new product.  What can Steve Jobs is able to say about this product on its presentation? Is it "magical"? Is it "revolutionary"? If only replacing the baseband alone, this is just a different flavour, same product. 

Feature #1: Should we expect new HW/SW features other then CDMA? 

Version 1 of the product have a known fault

Well, we all know about the antenna issue. This is the most significant fault that Apple had with the iPhone yet. Now, imagine that you were Apple. You don't want to modify the iPhone 4 design in order to fix this issue, therefore the solution you are suggesting is a free silicon case. But wait - you are about to release another version of the iPhone 4. For that, you already made changes in your design ( CDMA chip instead if GSM ). Wouldn't you add a simple fix to solve the antenna issue?

Feature #2: Should we expect a plastic patch that fix the antenna issue in iPhone 4 CDMA? 

No White iPhone 4 is Available

Why is the absence of a white iPhone 4 related to the iPhone 4 CDMA? Well, in a matter of fact they are closely linked. As to this date, not a single white  iPhone 4 has been shipped to costumers, due to continues problems in fabrication. Add to that the fact that a new design ( the CDMA one ) should be shipped soon as well, and you got a mix of pressures - on the one hand, need to solve the white iPhone manufacturing issues, and on the other hand prove a new design and start with its manufacturing as soon as possible. There is some logic in combining the two efforts together, having a white iPhone 4 CDMA available before a black one. This way Apple kills two birds with one stone. Unless the white iPhone 4 issues are solved by Nov 2010, the time when Apple should start manufacturing the black iPhone 4 CDMA, there is a viable option that the two manufacturing paths will be combined.

Feature #3: White iPhone 4 CDMA.

To conclude: In order to have the "wow" effect for the iPhone 4 CDMA, to fix an earlier version fault and to combine efforts with the white iPhone fabrication, there is a chance that the Jan 2011 iPhone will be iPhone 4, CDMA, with new HW/SW features, some sort of patch for the antenna issue, and in white color.

Wild guess? maybe. Anyway, it will be interesting to see...

Photo Credit: re-ality

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Phones are not perfect. Neither some press conferences.

Apple press conference on July 16th, in response to the "AntennaGate", was not satisfying at all. Although Apple promised free cases,  and a full refund ( 2 out of the 3 steps suggested 20 days ago ) as a remedy, something is still missing. What is still missing is Apple confession that there is a real issue. Not a SW glitch, not a manufacturing defect, but a real design fault. The fault is that the iPhone 4 is the only phone that its user must physically contact its antenna directly when holding it. This is a major design decision, that benefited Apple with compliments for a sophisticated design, but now, when the same design backfires, it ignores the consequences of that important decision.

Lets go over Steve Jobs presentation at the press conference step by step. But before that, let me start with the obvious: Steve Jobs was at its best at the conference, as always in such gatherings. His presentation was flawless, sharp and well managed. I love to hear his presentations, no matter what the subject is. The problem was with the message he tried to convey. The message was wrong, and he was barking up the wrong trees.

Part 1 - Phones are not perfect

Jobs showed here 3 popular phone models from RIM, HTC and Samsung that drop bars when gripped in a similar manner, and said that phones, including the iPhone, are not perfect. Steve - those are the wrong trees! People expect to hear answers about your iPhone, not about other phones! Are you suggesting that the iPhone is just like any other phone in the market? What kind of message is that?
And when you put in the same bed RIM, HTC and Samsung, except to hear responses as sarcastic as RIM's, saying "One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity."

Spin failure #1.

Part 2&3 - AppleCare Data and Phone Return Rate

Jobs presented the number of  0.55% complaints about reception/antenna that was accepted at AppleCare. Plus, the phone return rate was 1.7% return rate. We can not argue with such numbers, but we can only ask: Does Apple document what is the costumer reason for returning the phone? it would be interesting to know how many costumers returned a phone due to a reception issue.

Part 4 - Call Drops

Jobs was not willing provide the total numbers of calls dropped in iPhone 4. He was only saying that the ADDITIONAL call drop of iPhone 4 compared to iPhone 3GS was  <1. When refereeing to delta numbers, and not absolute numbers, the immediate response  is try to guess what the original number is. Assuming iPhone 3GS has 1 call drop per 100 calls drop. If iPhone4 adds 1 more call drop, that's 100% increase -  That's an amazing number! 
But notice Jobs theory about it - the additional call drop number is due to lack of matching silicon cases/Bumpers. Ahh? Are you listening to yourself? Using the iPhone with no silicon cases results in increased call drop? That's how useful is the phone without a case? 

Spin failure #2.

Part 5 - Free Cases 

Jobs promised here a free case for each iPhone owner.
Listen Steve: You buy an apple iPhone because of its design. Because it feels great in your hand. If you wanted to hold a plastic feeling phone, you could have bought a plain old Nokia instead, at a fraction of the price.

To conclude:
I still think no recall is needed. The phone is useful, best in its class even according to the Consumer Reports magazine. In case you experience your phone to be dropping more calls, buy/get from Apple a bumper case. But I am sorry that such a great company as Apple, a company that invents neat and coll stuff, can not face the public and say: There is a fault in our design. Luckily for us, a silicon case solve it and no recall is needed.

There is only one simple truth: If there is no problem in iPhone4, why you need to deliver free cases?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

No reason to recall

Consumer Reports review of the iPhone 4, which resulted in a "don't buy" recommendation, initiated a debate about a possible iPhone 4 recall. Consumer Reports argued that the infamous antenna issue prevents the magazine from recommending it to consumers. In all the other aspects that were tested by the magazine, iPhone 4 scored best. 

But no recall is needed. There is a much simpler solution, which is also cost effective. Each iPhone 4 owner should receive from Apple a silicon case at no cost. The same one Apple is selling in its online store for 30$. Apple should provide it in white, in black, just give it to them already!. But Apple will not do it. Since such an action will admit that there is a genuine fault with the product. The product that they praise so much. The product that has "changed the mobile game again". Not to mention that this silicon case will hide the outer design of the cell phone, the same design Jobs was to proud of in the keynote speech.

But how come such a basic fault was not revealed in early testing? Were Apple engineers not holding the phone the way a normal human being does?

I believe the answer is simple. We all know Apple paranoia from new designs leaking to the public, making Steve Jobs speech useless. But iPhone 4 must be tested. And it must be tested in real life. So how would you do that? Simple - you camouflage it. And the easiest way to do that is using a case. That's right. The same case the SOLVE the antenna issue.

Here is a qoute from there:
The case it came inside was a fully developed plastic case to house this phone to disguise it like a 3GS. This wasn't just a normal case; it had all the proper new holes cut out for the new switches and ports and camera holes and camera flash. But it looks like something from Belkin or Case-Mate. It's a perfect disguise.

Isn't that amazing?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There is an App Inventor for it

Remember Apple's "There is an App for it" commerciale?

Unlike Apple's walled garden approach, Google honestly believes software should be free, and accessible to everyone - even to the 10 year old who just want to have a picture of his teacher produce a fart noise every time you click on it. Thanks to Google's App Inventor, there is an App for it as well! 

Like MS-BASIC for the IBM DOS days and Visual Basic for the Windows days - App Inventor can play this rule for the SmartPhone era. One of the reasons that made the IBM based PCs so popular in those days was to ability to easily write programs using the BASIC programming language. Programs can be written relativly easy, and distributed freely. Same is true for Visual Basic - that revolutionized Windows application development.

Sure, there are many visual programming languages out there that make it easy to build small and colorfull projects - however, this time it comes to your PHONE. Just imagine the options which now become available: from coffee shops building an app for their menu, artists that can product a business card in the form of an Android app, or even start-ups for a product mock-up or demo.

Google's marketing effort to position this as a K12 learning tool is brilliant - Next time a kid asks his parents to buy him an Android smart phone, he must not forget mentioning its educational properties as well...

Google looks to fully utilize the phone capabilities with this tool. From early drilling into the product documentation it looks as most of the phone capabilities will be accessible: GPS, SMS, call creation and termination, web browsing, and so on. This is not just a tool that can create Apps to display nice pictures and sound, but something can be easily find legitimate business causes to use.

So Apple, what would be your reaction? Can you bit this brilliant move?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The case against Apple

Imagine you just bought a new shiny car, the car that you always dreamed about. You take an excited first look at your new purchase, move your hand around it to touch the curves, click on the alarm remote control to open the door with a fancy little "blip!", and make yourself comfortable in the driver's seat. You start the engine and start your first ride. Oooops - the engine stops working. With a hesitating hand you start it again, just to find out the engine is not working again. It turns out, that when you sit in the driver's seat in the way you always used, which is the most comfortable way there is, the engine will stop working. In any other position, the engine will work ok.

How disappointed you would feel? Would you feel you have been cheated?

This is exactly what I think about the iPhone 4 reception issue. This is no minor issue, a malfunctioning side feature, or a small typo in the GUI menu. This issue is within the core functionality of the device. The fact that holding the device in a certain way would drop your connection is a major issue. Specially when this exact way of holding the device is the most comfortable when you do your internet browsing or any other operation that requires to click on the iPhone surface. So comfortable that this is how Steve Jobs himself use it. And lets not forget the lefties - this is how they hold the phone in order to make a call. 

Apple just launched an upgrade to a device - sorry, in order to use it, you need to upgrade yourself and change the way you hold it.

What was Apple reaction to this issue? How embarrassing is that? 

"Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."

They don't even acknowledge there is a real major issue, nor they apologize! 

But that's not all. Since Steve Jobs isn't the guy to let go of a good crisis. Not without making an extra buck from it. Since using a case for your iPhone 4 should solve the reception issue. And guess who is making those cases? correct - Apple does. Surely, cases for iPhone existed from the very first one, however this is the first time Apple produces an official one with the Apple name on it. If I were more cynical I would say Apple knew about this problem before hand, therefore produced a "fix" in the form of a case.

I would expect from a company as big as Apple, that produces products with such a high price tag, to be sincere, admit there is a fault and apologize. I would also expect it to announce:
   1. Anyone that purchased the iPhone 4 can return it and get his money back
   2. Recall to all the iPhones for a free fix, if a fix is possible
   3. Provide the Apple case for free

Some alternative translation to Steve Jobs reply on the issue:
"There are no reception issues. Stay Tuned."

Let the phone stay tuned - this way you will not have any reception issues.

Fake Steve Jobs take on the issue:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Not enough air for WiFi

On his blog over at Enterprise Irregulars, Zoli Erdos talks about The Chaos of BYOW (Bring Your Own Wi-Fi).

This is what happens when too many geeks gather together - none have his WiFi working...

The WiFi networks operates in the unlicensed 2.4Ghz/5Ghz spectrum, which means anyone can create a network without paying any royalties to a regulator. However, the FCC does regulate the WiFi devices ( and other wireless devices ) in regards to their maximum transmission power ( Tx Power ). The FCC does that in order to ensure public safety, by limiting the device radiation. The current maximum transmission power for WiFi devices ( 30dBm ) is good enough for places where you have few networks, operating at different channels, not crowded enough to make any real congestion. However, in today's world, when each person can create his own network easily, current power limitations might not be sufficient.

I would like to suggest that devices which are defined as mobile - mostly cell phones ( when used as Access Points for Tethering, not when used as Stations ) and MiFi devices - must be regulated for a much lower maximum Tx power. This would limit their wireless reach, and will not affect neighbour devices. After all, this devices are used for creating a network in a very small physical distance. Not to mention this can contribute to much longer battery life.

What do you think? Should we force such limitations?

More on WiFi networks:

Wi-Fi (802.11) Network Handbook