Ask Juan: Yeti USB Microphone for Youtube Video VO?

Screenshot (88)A question from Timi on Twitter:

How good is the Yeti mic. $149. Looking for something to dub review videos.

I’m a big fan of the Yeti. I recently reviewed the Yeti Pro (black version) here on the site. It’s one of the more versatile USB mics you can pick up.

But do you need that versatility?

If your main use is to record yourself for the voice over behind video, the Yeti might be overkill. Having variable polar patterns which change the “shape” of what the mic will pick up probably wont be necessary if you’re recording videos with similar tone and if you’re in a consistent space while recording those voice overs. I’ve also produced a video explaining polar patterns if you need more info.

The Yeti also makes for a fine interview mic, so maybe it’s worth grabbing it if you think you might want to do that. If that’s not really on your radar however, you’ll be spending cash on features you wont be using.

Some alternatives? 

Taking a step down to Blue’s Snowball can save you some cash, and it now comes in fancy new colors.

You could also take a look at Audio-Technica’s lineup. The AT2020 USB is an entry level standard, and many have started their home recording careers with that mic. If you don’t mind the price tag bump, A-T recently updated the AT2020USB Plus to include on-mic volume and headphone controls. Compared to the Yeti these mics aren’t as versatile, but in my opinion they do their one job better than the Yeti does that one job.

Now all of these will be fine options for dubbing a review video, but in terms of maximizing your bang-for-buck, you just need to be honest with yourself regarding what capabilities you actually need.

Happy hunting!

Google’s misguided denial of Windows Phone

windows phone microsoft google youtube app somegadgetguyBrand management is critical. You don’t want consumers interacting with services that show your company in a poor light. When you’re a services company like Google, your reputation depends on people having good experiences using apps like GMail and Youtube.

Which is why I find Google’s current strategy of ignoring Windows Phone so interesting. Yes, I understand the official reasoning, you don’t support an OS with so few users until it’s popular enough to force you to support it. Much like how Google NEEDS to be on iOS. Though it’s a somewhat childish corporate tactic ignoring Windows Phone, hoping it’ll just go away.

Unfortunately for Google, Microsoft is the new number three smartphone ecosystem, showing fairly strong growth in Europe, and by buying Nokia they open up an entire market of potential customers around the world. Plenty of markets where low cost Lumias will start to show up against locally-made entry-level Android fare.

We’ve seen Google end support for Exchange which upset how calendar and contact info was synced on Windows 8, and now their current squabble is over Youtube. Google has refused to release any of their own services as apps for Windows Phone. No Voice. No Maps. No Now. No Gmail. No Docs. Nothing. Many of these are being replaced by third party developers, but Youtube was special. Microsoft delivered a pretty decent Youtube app for Windows Phone. Google broke the app by revoking the developer key, citing some conflict that the app wasn’t “fully featured” enough.

Now it would seem that negotiations between Google and Microsoft have broken down even further. Now in its place, the official Windows Phone Youtube app (from Microsoft) is essentially just a web portal, a lame version of the experience you’d have firing up the browser.

And for what? 

You might win some people over to Android by making Google services painful to use on Windows Phone, but you’re equally likely to just piss other people off. For my own personal use, I try to only leave the house with one phone at a time. If I’m reviewing a Windows Phone for the day, what happens? I interact with Google services less. I post on Twitter and Facebook a LOT more than I do on G+. Funny how it works out that way.

And why?

Google doesn’t make money on Android directly. They make money on advertising and mining user data. Ignoring Windows Phone wont make it disappear. Microsoft is perfectly content to lose money building a reputation over years. Yes, you’d be developing for a smaller user base, but why not get that community’s data too?

Much like how Google will be sneaking Chrome OS onto Windows 8 computers,why not infect every Windows Phone with Google apps and services. If you really want to cut Microsoft off at the knees, take users away from HERE maps and Microsoft Office. Offer up better gaming services than the still somewhat lame XBox integration. Google might even be doing some of their hardware partners a favor as Microsoft makes more money per phone on Android patent agreements than it does on Windows Phone 8 licenses.

Let Microsoft do all the heavy lifting getting a device to market. Let them convince people that it’s a solid alternative to the current Apple/Samsung battle. Then take all their users away with software, clouds, and apps. Now’s the time to do it, while Microsoft is a weak third place competitor in the United States. This Trojan Horse style combat becomes harder as Microsoft becomes a stronger third place and consumers realize the Live, HERE maps, and Skype work pretty well…

Nielsen, Twitter, and making sense of changing metrics

nielsenThis is where established companies stumble. Adaptation.

We can all agree that Nielsen’s model of ranking television is woefully dated. This antiquated notion of sampling individual families and asking them to log what they watch and when they watch it. All of this fantastic technology, you’d think by now there would be a way for users to opt-in to a piece of software which can be run as an app on a DVR or TIVO. Alas, we still don’t have that, but Nielsen is trying to take some steps to track the popularity of content moving forward.

Their preferred platform to watch? Twitter.

Now I’m not saying this is a bad idea. Twitter has shown a terrific aptitude for being culturally relevant down to the instant news might hit the internet. Those momentary and temporary interactions are great for surveying a general sense of a trend, but the biggest issuetwitter logo in social media metrics is tracking actual engagement. Often when using Twitter as benchmark we can only confidently talk about “potential impressions”. I have a couple thousand followers on Twitter, so when I tweet, there’s the POTENTIAL for a couple thousand people to encounter my message. There is, however, no concrete way to determine how many of my followers stopped to actually read my tweet.

Which is why Nielsen’s announcement is so perplexing to me. My DVR knows what I watch and when I watch it, even when I’m watching live TV. It knows how long I watched a show, exactly when I turned it off, if I returned to finish a show, and whether I wanted to keep it stored on my drive. It also is able to serve me recommendations based on what I’ve watched in the past. If we’re looking for relevance, for actual metrics on TV viewing, this to me would be a more appropriate first line to partner up with.

Neilsen’s notion that they can derive viewership based on authored tweets, and extrapolate that out to people who aren’t tweeting but still watching TV seems even less accurate than their current method of tracking viewership.

I get it. Twitter is hip right now. But the other issue is one of institution. Neilsen still looks like it’s operating with the notion that once a system is constructed that operating within that structure will provide meaningful results. The way communication is generated online evolves on a daily basis, and each individual network has it’s own etiquette which also adapts to changing trends. Whats vogue today might not be tomorrow, and viewership probably changes by platform. Meaning, you’ll be likely to see some subtle yet unique trends in viewership moving from Twitter to Facebook to  Google Plus to Reddit, etc.

Combining that data with location becomes vital, not only the physical presence of where a person was when watching, but whether it came from terrestrial “air”, cable, or some web portal like Hulu or Netflix. Decisions are made every day on renewing or cancelling shows based on data generated by services like Nielsen, but I’m not sure their new strategy here is really going to make them more relevant…

In light of their upcoming IPO though, this is fantastic news for Twitter.

(via Deadline)

Read Nielsen’s full statement after the jump. Continue reading “Nielsen, Twitter, and making sense of changing metrics”

PSA: Windows 8.1 available for pre-order, but should you buy Windows 8 now instead?

Screenshot (91)For those of you looking to install some live tiles on your desktop or laptop, Windows 8.1 is available for pre-order now. The standard version of Windows 8.1 will retail for $119, and Windows 8.1 Pro will cost $199.

As I mentioned in a previous editorial, Microsoft is finally offering full retail versions for sale with support, but they are getting rid of upgrade options. If you’re currently running a Windows 7 system, and are looking to upgrade, you’re FAR better off buying a Windows 8 upgrade now, and when Windows 8.1 is released you’ll be eligible for a free upgrade.

How much better off will you be? The Windows 8 Pro upgrade can be had for $83. Yup. Windows 8 Pro is cheaper than the Standard version of Windows 8.1.

Fair warning as right now Windows 8 is even cheaper than older licenses for Windows 7. Windows 8.1 retail versions ship October 18, but why not be ahead of the curve?

Ask Juan: Can Windows Phone Compete with Graphics and Gaming?

From the Twitters:

windows phone xbox live gamingHey Yasi,

So here’s the deal, long story short, current Windows Phone Handsets will run at a deficit compared to current Android handsets when it comes to gaming. Microsoft’s hardware mandate pretty much guarantees that all Windows Phones will rock similar hardware. To date, that means Qualcomm’s older dual core Snapdragon chipset. Even though Windows Phone 8 is a decently lean OS which runs more efficiently than Android, and for day to day tasks you’d be hard pressed to see much difference in operation between WP8 on dual-core and Android on quad-core, gaming is one of those phone taxing activities where the extra horsepower comes in handy.

It’s not to say that the gaming experience is bad, far from it. I’m having a blast playing Halo: Spartan Assault, and Where’s My Water 2 was released on WP before Android. All things being equal though, playing the same game on Android and WP8, like Asphalt 7, I find levels load faster, game play lags less, and newer Android phones tend to run a little cooler than WP handsets. We’re just running into the upper limits of what this older chipset is capable of delivering.

Other comparisons become a bit more subjective. Some claim that the 1080p resolution found on newer Android fare looks better than the 720p screens on Windows Phones. Also, that the better graphics hardware means fancier lighting and particle effects. Both are certainly true scientifically, but I’ve honestly had a difficult time seeing a tremendous advantage on screens smaller than five inches.

It’s not all bad news though, as the Nokia Lumia 1520 phablet is rumored to be the first Windows Phone featuring both a 1080p screen and Qualcomm’s new 800 series chipset, pretty much catapulting Windows Phone up to the current ranks of the premier Android ecosystem. On phones rocking a larger than five inch screen that resolution bump becomes a little more noticeable in fine detail and clarity.

Thanks for the question Yasi!

Windows Phone hitting double digit market share in Europe

nokia lumia 920 windows phone 8 smartphone homescreen live tiles somegadgetguyI keep telling you people, the actual gadget matters less than the ecosystem of customers+hardware+software+accessories. You can’t fake that. Customers will not be impressed by one new handset no matter how good it is. Every manufacturer wants to jump into this market and sell as well as the iPhone does. It’ll never happen, and people forget that the iPhone didn’t just waltz into the smartphone market without some teething pains. Anymore, a company needs to show us at least three years of steady growth, refinement, and support before they’ll start to crack into consumer awareness.

Well wouldn’t you know it, Microsoft is getting to that three year point, and I’m starting to see the occasional Windows Phone out in the wild. Here stateside, MS is a distant third place competitor growing to only around 3% of the smartphone market, stealing the third spot from Blackberry. Recently announced by analysts at Kantar World Panel however, Windows Phone is cracking into double digit share in Europe. WP is within one percent of the iPhone in Germany, makes up 10% of the French market, and stands at 12% in Great Britain. Averaging the five largest European markets Windows Phone is currently at 9%.

The Nokia brand still counts for a lot in those markets, especially the blend of unique design and bleeding edge camera technology. Unfortunately Nokia somewhat abandoned us here in the States, so they’re pretty much rebuilding their consumer base from scratch. We do get to see some very general trends though, and from my anecdotal experiences, the push into entry level devices is serving Nokia very well. Doesn’t hurt that outlets like CNET can’t figure out the difference between a phone which costs $100 out the door, and a phone which costs $100 on contract. Surprisingly, Nokia’s 520 does a remarkably good job of competing against phones which cost four times as much.

Plus with a two faction war between Apple and Samsung, those consumers who want something a little different only have Microsoft to turn to. Never underestimate someone’s desire to go a little hipster. We live in an age where new smartphone consumers will know Apple like people from my generation saw Microsoft.

Read the full write up at Kantar World Panel.

Do we need mid-range phones anymore?

WP_20130728_004

Nailing pricing in the mobile industry is a delicate and necessary balance. We accept $50 tiers separating the highest of high-end premier phones all the way down to the cheapest off contract entry level affair. Where a phone lands on that spectrum can make or break a device. Premier phones typically make sense. You put the most cutting edge gear into a slab and we expect it’ll be around $200 on a two year contract. Ditto the low end, slide in well known low power hardware and a price between $100 and $200 off contract can be compelling. The mid-range is a lot trickier. Which leads me to wonder, do we even need mid-range phones anymore?

It’s around that $100 on contract price point we start really running into issues. Purpose building a phone for that price point is becoming an increasingly dicey proposition. Manufacturers can still make a nice device at that price, usually with very few compromises, but you still need to ask your consumers to accept a “lower end” experience while paying more than the entry level kit. Often those compromises involve less storage, lower resolution screens, and reduced processing power. All those things which make using a phone nicer.

htc one mini synthetic benchmarks somegadgetguy video reviewAlso there’s a certain cachet to using a premier phone. Geek is chic. It’s fashionable, and we recognize the difference between Galaxies and iPhones like we do the difference Audi and BMW.

Outside those image concerns, we also have a timing problem. Tech devalues fast. If you need to exist at the bleeding edge, you pay a tax not unlike buying a new car. If you can wait a month or three, what was once a premier expensive handset can usually be purchased at a mid-range price. For example, at $100 on a two year contract you can get a perfectly acceptable HTC One Mini. Not a bad buy by any means. I’m really enjoying it. However, for that same $100 on contract you could also get an LG Optimus G Pro phablet. I just sat through a commercial offering a promotional deal for the Galaxy S4 for the same price too. Is the HTC One Mini as “good” as the GS4? Probably not.

We also see around a two year lifespan for phones. Apple popularized this with the iPhone. When a new iPhone is released the current iPhone drops in price. At carriers you can often find phones like the Galaxy S3 still kicking around. The GS3 still gives phones like the HTC One Mini a run for its money in terms of specs and it’ll carry more of that fashion statement. To continue a bad metaphor, people will be more impressed by last year’s Lexus than this year’s Toyota.

iPhone5c_34L_AllColors_PRINTLastly, manufacturers could save a little money by purposely pushing older premier phones into the mid-range. Releasing a phone comes with its own unique design, quality assurance, and support issues. Bug fixes, software updates, warranty issues, a company goes through that once for their top of the line gear, then they could purposely ride that investment for several years after. It would also be a boon to third party accessory manufacturers, knowing that their R&D will have a longer tail to recoup. That can only improve a company’s ecosystem when customers know they can count on accessories, replacement parts, and service for a while after they purchase, even if they purchase late.

I’m usually the first person to celebrate more choices and options, but right now we’re in an era where even successful companies are trying to manage consumer and stock holder expectations against risk. Unless I’m missing something glaring (and please point it out in a comment if I am) releasing a phone into the mid-range seems like the riskiest move a company can make…

My Morning Commute – Woman watches video on tablet while driving

WP_20130924_08_53_17_Pro__highresWe have to be better than this people.

We all get comedically outraged when we see bad tech behavior from people operating motor vehicles, when we recount those stories at dinner parties. However, there’s something sickeningly shocking about actually confronting this behavior head on. Out in the wild. Actually on the street. That momentary, icy chill when you realize that someone values their video watching more than the lives of all the people around them on the road.

Distracted driving has become one of my causes. It’s already illegal to use tech in this manner, but that doesn’t seem to act as much of a deterrent, and over 100,000 crashes a year involve technology. We need to do a better job of making it unfashionable. We need to make it as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving. We can be responsible tech citizens.

Moments after I took this photo, I honked my horn to see if I could snap her out of it. She didn’t even flinch before she turned to merge on I-405.

And yes, the irony of me using my phone to snap this pic isn’t lost on me.

For more info on the dangers of distracted driving, I would humbly ask you check out www.ItCanWait.com, please share the free documentary From One Second to the Next (directed by Werner Herzog), and you can also check out a recent event held here in LA to encourage people to sign the pledge to curb distracted driving.