Business Technology

On Apple Rumors: A Tale of Two iPhones?

In the time I spent working for Apple Retail, I was constantly asked about rumored product releases, and more often than not, the customer asking would fail to believe that we employees didn’t have any sort of advanced knowledge. That really was the case, and even if we did know something, we couldn’t tell them anyway, so why bother asking?

I guess because that wasn’t 100% true.

The thing is, while we almost never had advanced knowledge confirming new products, we were all engrossed by the Mac news/rumor sites. Although we were contractually obligated not to contribute to them, nothing stopped us from talking and speculating to one another during lunch or at the bar after work. As an employee, you get to know Apple’s psychology pretty well, and it was often easy to tell which stories were real and which were fake.

So while we didn’t officially know what was coming down the pipeline, it was often the case that we “knew,” but we still couldn’t talk about it. There is a certain amount of buzz to rumors combined with timing and the company’s actions that would make it clear that something was up.

Recently sites have been talking about the next iPhone being only a mild upgrade and referring to it as the “iPhone 4S”. For as long as it has been around, I’ve HATED this rumor.

There seems to be an assumption that because there was an iPhone 3Gs to follow iPhone 3G that Apple is going to repeat this pattern and even call it the “iPhone 4S”. The major flaw in this conclusion is so obvious it boggles my mind that sites miss it.

The iPhone 4’s “4” in its branding is different than the 3G’s “3”. The 4 in the iPhone 4 represents it being the fourth model of iPhone, whereas the 3 in the iPhone 3G represents the 3G speed of its connection.

Apple is a company tightly fixated on branding. Even if the next upgrade were a small one they simply wouldn’t just slap an “s” on the end of the “iPhone 4” and call it a day instead of releasing an iPhone 5. Regardless of what the marketing name would be, it would still be the 5th model of the phone. They especially wouldn’t then just call the next phone the “iPhone 5” the following year as it would actually be the 6th version and so on. The logic is broken.

Branding aside, it also seems clear to me that after waiting more than a year, Apple’s going to do more than a modest bump to the iPhone. While the iPhone 4 is doing exceptionally well after 15 months on the market, the changes will need to be significant if only to keep consumers interested and competitors behind. The rumors of a larger screen, better camera, and a tapered form factor seem to gel with that.

Meanwhile, the now two-year-old iPhone 3GS is the second best selling phone on the market. It is clear Apple benefits from giving customers the choice of a lower-priced option. This one-two punch has served them well at retaining market share in the face of Android so the logical conclusion would be that an iPhone 5 will be announced this fall, and Apple will keep the iPhone 4 around discounted like they did the 3GS.

But the rumor is that the next iPhone is also now coming to Sprint and T-Mobile too, which would make sense. The problem is T-Mobile’s 3G network uses a different frequency than AT&T, so if Apple wants to support them, they need to introduce either a separate phone for their network or a phone with a chip that is compatible with both networks. Meaning they’d have to manufacture three different iPhone 5s for the 4 different carriers, and that’s not counting storage sizes or colors and this still leaves them without a low-cost option on T-Mobile’s network.

Then I start thinking about this and the fact that before the Verizon iPhone 4 was launched, there were all sorts of antenna redesigns that leaked that contained SIM card slots, which the Verizon phone does not and now suddenly similar things are showing up again.

All signs seem to be pointing at it, but no one seems to notice. My gut says that Apple is planning to launch not one, but two new iPhones this fall, and both will be available on all four major US carriers. I believe we will see a mildly revamped iPhone 4 and an “all-new” iPhone 5.

Apple will, however downplay the 4’s revamp with a comment like “the iPhone 4 has proven to be the most popular phone in history, and it’s not slowing down so today we’re making it available to T-Mobile and Sprint customers too”. No new name, and no upgraded specs, they’ll want the press to focus on the iPhone 5, not a bunch of internal changes to a 15-month-old device.

How will they do this? Instead of individual models for individual carriers, I believe that both the revised four and the new five will have both CDMA and GSM chips in them will be compatible with all four carriers right out of the box.

Externally this does away with customer confusion as most people don’t know/understand/care about the differences between cellular networks and frequencies; they simply want to buy a phone and have it work. Secondly, this dramatically simplifies their product line, inventory, and manufacturing and allows them to further leverage the economies of scale that CEO Tim Cook so masterfully does already.

Wouldn’t be half bad for his first public move as CEO either.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Business Chicago Technology

SEO Food For Thought: Critical Mass Chicago

In Chicago there are two prominent “brands” that operate under the name “Critical Mass.”

One is a digital PR agency.

The other is a monthly gathering of cyclists who flood the streets with bikes on the last Friday of every month.

One represents brands such as Clorox, Nissan, AT&T, and Rolex on the internet. Including brand monitoring and campaign management.

The other has no branding, no official leaders, and a very loose digital presence.

Guess which one has better SEO?

Excuse me, I’ve got a bike to go ride.

Business Technology

“Valued” or Why I Cancelled My AT&T Internet as Exemplified by Trying to Cancel

When I moved to Chicago almost four years ago I set up AT&T DSL as my home internet provider.

Toward the end of last year, I upgraded the Mac Mini hooked up to my TV to the newer server model and decided I needed a static IP address. However, AT&T’s pricing for such options were not great, and I found I was able to get a better deal elsewhere. Even so, I decided to hold off.

I decided around the same time to disconnect my landline phone. AT&T offered a “dry loop” option, so I moved to it to lower my rates. However, doing so raised my internet rates but not my total bill (since the phone cost was removed). Soon after, I started getting hounded via email to combine my wireless service with my internet service, or they would raise my rates again. I looked into this and learned that the discount I received from my employer on my wireless service would be removed, so I opted not to. Still, I received pseudo-threatening emails to do so.

Then the last straw came when I learned about the new DSL terms and conditions introducing data caps and other customer hostile tactics. I contacted a new provider, had them set up, and called on Saturday to attempt to cancel my service. The setup took all day Friday, and once I was up and running, I saw it was past business hours, so I would call AT&T in the morning to cancel.

However, it seems AT&T’s billing department was not open on Saturday. So I called customer support, and they let me know they were unable to cancel my account on the weekend but gave me a direct line to call on Monday. The rep then ended the call with “Thank you for calling AT&T where you are a valued customer.”

If AT&T’s customers are so “valued,” why is the billings department only open weekdays from 8-5? Most people have Monday to Friday jobs during those hours. This makes it very hard to call to straighten out a billing issue if necessary. It certainly doesn’t seem like AT&T values my time. Luckily I had today (Thursday) off and I gave the billing department another ring. Here is what followed:

The first rep answered the phone and didn’t give me her name. She asked me for my phone number and was confused when I told her I have a dry loop. She then asked for my account number, which I gave her, at which point she then told me she needed to transfer me to billing.

The second rep picked up, didn’t give me her name, asked for my phone number, and then was confused when I told her I have a dry loop. She then asked for my account number, which I gave her, at which point she told me she needed to transfer me because she was in Texas.

The third rep picked up, actually gave me her name, asked for my phone number, and understood when I told her I have a dry loop. She then asked for my account number, which I gave her, and she asked what I needed. I then told her I wanted to cancel; she then told me she needed to transfer me. Frustrated, I informed her that this would be my third transfer, and I kept being told that I would be directed to the right person. She then apologized thoroughly and promised me this would be my last transfer. She then gave me a new direct line to call in case I get disconnected.

The fourth rep picked up, didn’t give me her name, asked for my phone number, and then was annoyed when I tell her I have a dry loop. I then gave her my account number. She asked me for the rate I paid on my last bill and was annoyed with me when I didn’t know off-hand. She then asked again, and I told her I had paperless billing, so I was unsure of the exact amount.

The rep then angrily told me she “cannot allow me to pay over the phone if I don’t have more information about my account” and that I “will need to call back with the right information.” I then politely thanked her for the help and but that I wasn’t calling to pay a bill. I was calling to cancel my account. Stunned, the rep got quiet for a moment, and then sheepishly asked why I was canceling.

I informed her that I had got a better rate somewhere else, and the new service had already been installed. She then told me she needed to transfer me. Flustered, I then told her that the last rep had promised this would be my final transfer, that she was the fourth person I had talked to, and that I had been assured that she could handle my problem.

She then half-sincerely apologized and stayed on the line until I was handed off to my next rep.

The fifth rep picked up, let me know her name was Vanessa. She then asked me what she could do to make me “a satisfied customer today.” I let her know that, while I am sorry there was nothing she could do, I had decided to switch and was calling to cancel my service. She then asked me why and I told her I had gotten a better rate through another provider at a heavy discount.

The rep then said she understood, “especially in this economy,” and asked if they’ve already set up the new service. I tell her they had. She then went ahead and canceled my account and asked if there was anything else I needed. I then asked her what I needed to do with the DSL modem they provided, and she then told me I own it.

Each person passed the buck. Rarely could they be bothered to try and get things right. Sure, I was trying to cancel, and they had no chance of keeping me, but the way this was handled, to me, exemplifies the kind of “service” AT&T offers. Rarely was I treated like a human. The experience felt like I was passed around like a piece of garbage that no one knew where to dispose of. I don’t feel like I was very “valued” at all. But hey, at least now I’ve got a worthless DSL modem to throw out.

Thanks, AT&T!

Business General Photography Technology

Quick Thoughts About AT&T DSL

For a long time, I have been a big fan of AT&T’s cell phone service. I have been with AT&T (then Cingular) since 2002 and have been extremely pleased.

However, I do not share the same opinion about AT&T’s DSL offerings.  Here in Chicago, my broadband options are more diverse than what I had in Brooklyn several years back (Verizon DSL or nothing). When I moved to Chicago, I had three options: Comcast, RCN, and AT&T. I loath Comcast. My opinion of that company could fuel a whole other entry by itself, so I quickly dismissed it. I had never heard of RCN, so I dismissed it as well, and that left me with good ol’ AT&T.

Since signing with AT&T, I’ve had random outages, suspected a few incidents of bandwidth throttling, and read a lot of stories about the company sharing customer information. But, in truth, I have not once have I needed to call customer support, so my opinion had been neutral thus far. However, last night, my internet dropped out without warning when I really needed it. Quickly a friend on Twitter confirmed that the outage was seemingly citywide. The outage was short but it was enough to screw up my plans and leave a sour taste in my mouth. Then I read something while updating my Flickr profile.  One sentence changed my opinion:

You have a Pro account, at no cost as long as you keep your AT&T Yahoo! service.

Okay, so Flickr Pro is only around $20 a year (and probably the best deal on the planet,) and it’s a small contribution when you boil it down. But that said… it was enough to make me smile, bring me back to the neutral ‘meh’ I was at before, and almost turn me into a promoter.

They found my weak spot. Photography is the key to my heart.