AT&T NYC Plans

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: iPhone | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Because of AT&T failures to provide adequate iPhone service in NYC, I can’t continue to recommend the iPhone for most users until the network issues are addressed. This unfortunate state is solely AT&T fault and they are acutely aware of this.

One could say AT&T is guilty of Fraud, Misrepresentation, Interference with Business Relations, Deception and Unjust Enrichment, just to name a few causes of action. I believe that AT&T should issue a credit to iPhone users, such as a free month of service to compensate for their failures.

9 out of every 10 calls I make or receive are dropped. Despite having “5 bars” there are times my iPhone will not ring. Callers sometimes do not even get my voice mail and instead are told that I have refused to accept their call, or that I have not enabled my voice mail. There are times when voice mail is not delivered for hours or even days.

Today, my phone shows 5 Bars and no 3G and I can not make or receive calls.

I called AT&T Customer Service to complain and after a few “passing the buck” phone transfers I was very surprised to find myself speaking to a high level AT&T executive on the issue of the iPhone in NYC. We spoke for about 30 minutes.

While he did not mention that any of the information shared with me was confidential, I do not wish to identify this person at this time (just in case). Let’s just say that its a name I’ve heard before.

Here is some interesting information that was disclosed to me during the call.

AT&T is acutely aware of the network issues they are having, in particular with iPhone users.

Some of the problems are not the cell towers themselves but the backend end. The switches, routers and fiber infrastructure is operating at (and sometimes) over capacity. This explains why one can have 5 bars of service and get “Called Failed” messages.

AT&T is (finally) installing “picocells” in NYC and other cities. Picocells are used extensively in Europe and Asia and are tiny little cell transmitters (often about a square foot in size and flat) attached to the side of a building or a lamp post rather then the much larger cell antennas that are on the roof tops of buildings. Picocells handle fewer calls but put one on every block and coverage increases exponentially. Another benefit is that picocells reduce the power needed by a cell phone radio since the signal is much closer to the phone.

US Carriers have often resisted the use of picocells since they increase number of units requiring maintenance and service but are known to install picocells inside corporate office buildings.

I had an employer once who used Sprint for the 300 or so corporate cell phones and Blackberry’s. We had virtually no Sprint service in the office building and Sprint installed a couple of picocells on the floor. Suddenly everyone had great cell service, even in the stairwells.

Picocells are similar to the home based “Microcell” product that AT&T is rolling out for home users (which plugs into your internet connection).

AT&T is also converting and/or adding cell sites to operate at 850 Mhz rather then 1900 Mhz. Why is this good? Lower frequency signals travel through buildings much better then high frequency signals. This means that more phones will be “line of sight” with a cell tower despite having a building blocking the visual line of sight. It also means that people in office buildings will have better signal strength inside the building and penetration underground (e.g. subway stations) will also improve.

During the call, I pointed out that the network is often overloaded when special events take place, such as Fashion Week or the UN General Assembly. These events concentrate thousands of users in a small area completely overpowering any existing infrastructure. Anyone at Fashion Week in NYC last week knows how difficult it was to make or receive any calls in the vicinity of Bryant Park.

My suggestion was simple. Keep track of the events taking place in this cities and bring out mobile cell trucks to handle the overload.

This was proven at this summer’s SXSW conference in Austin, TX, when thousands of iPhone users showed up and could not use their phones. The following day AT&T rolled out some portable cell towers and alleviated the congestion.

They can mitigate many complaints and improve the service at the same time.

I also suggested they provide an application such as “Signals” (iTunes Link) and allow the users to report back signal strength. They can benefit from the crowd sourcing of data collection to improve the service. The iPhone 3GS with its built in GPS can provide pretty accurate location data which combined with signal strength can really go a long way to improving the quality of service.

So AT&T – hurry up with the improvements and consider what you can do for those iPhone users who have suffered for your lack of preparation and planning with your network.



iPhone needs a common file storage & transfer API

Posted: September 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: iPhone | Tags: | Comments Off on iPhone needs a common file storage & transfer API

The iPhone API has one very big and very non Apple (e.g. inconsistent and unintuitive) behavior due to the lack of a common file storage API. Any application that will allow the user to access its files lacks any consistent method to transfer files and to share files.

This lack of a thought out API for files (other then an applications own files) and for any form of file transfer as resulted in the mess iPhone users find themselves in today. Applications might use a desktop client, or they might use a web server or an ftp server, all extra code that is completely different from one application to another.

The iPhone really needs a common file system, like the Newton’s “Soup”, that allows applications to access this common storage area that can be separate from the rest of the OS file system.

Because each application is “sandboxed” it can only view and act on its own files and on photos. The user should be able to transfer a file, say a PDF or a JPG, and any program that can read / write the file should be able to have access to it.

A common file system will also eliminate another problem, the potential loss of data when a user updates an application or has to delete it and then reinstall it.

The File System API should allow:

  • Bidirectional file transfers via iTunes (or other)
  • Allow files to be private to a specific program
  • Allow files to be available to any program
  • Backup separately from the rest of the iPhone backup process


Palettes

Posted: August 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: iPhone | Tags: , | Comments Off on Palettes

I’ve tried a number of color palettes and tools and Palettes currently takes the top spot. Its ability to pull the colors from URL’s and photos is excellent as is the reporting/exporting of color palette data. It also creates .clr files which are used by OSX’s color picker tool and thus available to any Mac program (not just Adobe).

The inclusion of pantone would be a welcome addition!


iPhone AppStore

Posted: March 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: IA & UX, iPhone | Tags: | Comments Off on iPhone AppStore

The AppStore is the only interface available for managing iPhone applications and as it is currently implemented suffers from an overly simplified interface. When applications first became available, the interface had the feeling of a minimal implementation in order to get something up and running.

But now there are over 26,000 applications in the AppStore, a number of them compelling to most iPhone owners. Clearly the user experience of the AppStore was never considered in the context of its success and the high volume of apps that have been produced.

iTunes suffers from two major problem areas. The first is with the App Store’s browse and buy cycle and the second with iTunes and its management of apps that one has purchased.

Problem 1 : The App Store

The Applications Library feels like a separate application that was shoved into iTunes and is almost stripped of functionality. This is a perplexing problem since much of the missing functionality is already available for almost everything else in iTunes.

Beginning with browsing apps, the problems begin to emerge.

It is way to easy to accidentally purchase an application you had no intention of buying, in particular in the result pages which place 20 or more “Buy Now” buttons on a slow loading page. Yet there is no support for the Shopping Basket that is available for almost all other iTunes content.

The lack of the ability to use the shopping basket is particularly curious. The capability is already built into iTunes, so why doesn’t the AppStore support it?

There should also be easier ways to manage the search results, to manage programs that one is interested in.

For example, why not implement a “buy later” checkbox that allows me to collects apps I’m interested in yet but not ready to buy?

A “compare” feature would also be a welcome addition. With more apps that perform similar functions, I may be trying to comparison shop. Take guitar or instrument tuners. There are a number of these available. If you want to try to figure out which one you want to buy, the user is forced to undergo unnecessary complexity to track something and be able to jump back to it later.

The Applications part of iTunes also is feature poor. The only view provided is the relatively large icon view. There is no grid view – I would expect that at a minimum the grid view would be provided, so that applications can be sorted differently.

In a glaring oversite, there is no simple link to take you to the AppStore page for an application you have already purchased. You can’t right click, you cant get to the URL from the application info panel. What if the user purchases an app, uses it for a few days and now wants to write a review? There is no easy way to jump to that application.

Much of this functionality is already built into iTunes for managing music and video. Why should the AppStore be completely different and inconsistent with the rest of iTunes?

Problem 2 : Springboard

Springboard is the iPhone application that shows you the apps you have installed. It is restricted to a max of 9 pages of 16 apps plus the 4 in the dock. Currently you can install 128 apps on the phone. That may seem like a lot, but the truth is you can quickly fill the available space.

There is also no way to effectively manage the applications. It would be great if the user can create folders or have some way to navigate apps using categories.

The lack of effective organization of apps presents another problem. While the user can move apps on or off the iPhone, doing so can result in apps becoming rearranging themselves in Springboard, making them more difficult to find.

The limitations with the number apps that one can install and the difficulty managing the apps lead to another problem. Users will stop purchasing applications when they cant put any more on their phone.

Since iTunes is the only way to install apps on the iPhone, I would like to see the ability to organize apps in iTunes as well. There is no reason why the management of the apps can’t take place there. The user can instantly see what pages have what apps, and move apps on/off the iPhone that way.

iPhone OS 3.0 is coming soon and we can only hope that the limitations of the Springboard will be overcome.


ABC News application for the iPhone

Posted: January 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: iPhone | Tags: | Comments Off on ABC News application for the iPhone

The ABC News iPhone application is now available from the AppStore.

Get it now

ABCNewsApp1.jpg  


iPhone largest Google Mobile Platform

Posted: February 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: iPhone | Tags: | Comments Off on iPhone largest Google Mobile Platform

Google is reporting that the iPhone accounts for 50 times more search requests that any other mobile device. That’s an amazing number! The number is so huge that Google thought they made a mistake and had to redo their traffic analysis.

I’ll be interested in seeing how this number holds once Android devices start to ship. Welcome to the new Mobile.

See the story on AppleInsider.


Mad TV – Ipod Nano Feist 1234 Commercial

Posted: January 8th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: General, Music, Video | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Mad TV – Ipod Nano Feist 1234 Commercial

An amusing take on the Apple Feist 1234 iPod Commercial by Mad TV:


Things the iPhone needs fixed

Posted: October 25th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: iPhone, OSX | Tags: | Comments Off on Things the iPhone needs fixed

Without question the iPhone is the best mobile device I’ve ever owned or used. I’ve had Treo’s and Blackberry’s in the past, but nothing comes close.

I receive an awful lot of email on a daily basis and for the past 2 or so years, I’ve never had an inbox that had no unread messages. Since I’ve been on the iPhone (since they come out), my email situation has changed and I’m now almost always caught up with my email. That alone makes it very valuable to me.

However, it’s also clear that the engineers at Apple don’t live in cities and drive around in cars all day long.

The most annoying thing about the iPhone for me is that it has all kinds of problems when you ride the subway. In New York City, the subways do not have cell coverage, but do from time to time have spots in the system where a single can be received and transmitted. However, the iPhone becomes “stupid” in the situation.

When one is sending an SMS message from someplace with a very weak or no signal, the SMS message will sit in the window. You will get an error message that it could not be sent. Every other phone I’ve ever had always queued outgoing messages and that’s what the iPhone should be doing, sending it when a signal does become available.

The same thing more or less happens with the iPhone Mail client. While it does allow you to “send” the message, it’s usually followed up by multiple alerts on the phone about how it can’t send the message. This becomes rather irritating, as it interrupts whatever you are doing with a dumb notification that shouldn’t even appear (unless maybe when the message can’t be sent after a couple of hours.

It really dumb when you get these alerts when you are on an airplane, with the Airplane mode turned on (meaning that the radio(s) are turned off. Of course it can’t send the message! Why bother me with such redundant dribble continuously until I land and it sends the message?

Another, very annoying behavior is when you type a message, hit send and press the button on the top to turn the screen off. Guess what happens – the email message will not be sent until you tap the home button and wake the phone! Even when it was in the middle of sending it – the connection to our SMTP server will be dropped. To add insult to the injury, it often doesn’t even send it when it checks the email (every 15 minutes in my case).