I Ask You: Does Carrier Branding On Your Phone Bother You?

htc one max evleaks carrier branded ATTQuick show of hands, who here knows what carrier their smartphone is on? Pretty much as I figured. If you’re savvy enough to use a web browser to find my site, chances are pretty good you know what carrier you send money to each month for your phone. Good.

Welp, new press images have surfaced courtesy of @EVLeaks, showing the HTC One Max not only for Verizon, but also for AT&T. It looks like there might not be CDMA exclusivity for HTC’s up coming phablet. Neat. Of course, this wouldn’t be internet news without something to complain about, and many HTC faithful checking the renders out are somewhat upset by the fact that on both the Verizon and AT&T shots, HTC’s branding between the home and back buttons has been shoved out of the way for AT&T’s globe and Verizon’s awkward off center check mark thing. I’m serious, for a mutli-billion dollar company, that logo never looks like it’s on straight, but I digress…

This got me wondering, why does this bother people? Is it aesthetics? Brand loyalty? Are you ashamed to be doing business with your carrier? I’d be curious to hear people’s thoughts on the matter. Living in an age where everything is branded, clothes, cars, technology, what is it about the carrier logo which might upset folks?

The Perils of Monetizing Free Sites – Reddit Convinces Users to Go Gold

reddit goldWhen a service starts out free, then tries to monetize, you can pretty much count on a negative reaction from the user base. It’s an incredibly delicate tightrope to walk. A company needs to make money, but it can’t push to fast lest it turn off its fans. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have been dealing with their evolving markets for years now, but neither has entirely locked their solutions for making money. Traditionally, the first steps towards monetization usually involve serving ads off to the side, and then incorporating ads into the content people interact with. Recently Instagram announced it too would start serving ads into users photo timelines. Responses for the most part were less than positive.

This makes Reddit’s latest turn really interesting. Sure Reddit serves ads in a sidebar, and the top position post is usually a sponsored post, but according to a recent Q&A session, Reddit still found itself often in the red. This galvanized the Reddit faithful, and the site saw an explosion in its premium service subscriptions.

Dubbed ‘Reddit Gold’, it’s a monthly or yearly subscription which unlocks premium content filtering, and provides discounts and extras at a number of partner sites including iFixIt, UPS, and car service Uber. To encourage community participation, users can also gift Gold to other members to reward interactions on the site. It’s an interesting way to push more money through a service without resorting to more aggressive advertising or trafficking in user data.

Well Reddit noticed the increased Gold sales, and now they’re communicating more with their users. Now on their sidebar is a daily Gold goal. Reddit is already somewhat addictive, as there’s a gamification element to submitting news stories. People vote on good stories and users get points to show how effective their participation has been. Now, users can see daily if there are enough Gold sales to help keep Reddit in the black. As the program is fairly new, and a direct response to the Reddit community’s activity, users have been extremely active in buying and gifting gold, easily besting the daily goal.

And that’s all cash in Reddit’s coffers.

(via Reddit Blog)

Quick Tip: Boot Directly to the Traditional Desktop in Windows 8.1 – Super Easy!

Screenshot (91)I’ve been a fan of Windows 8 from the first release. I think it’s elegant, and it’s very interesting that Microsoft (of all companies) will be the first to offer up a unified UI across all of their various products.

However, I also totally get that for people on non-touch screen devices, the traditional desktop might be a better fit for getting work done. With the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft has now included an option to boot directly to the traditional desktop, so let’s walk you through setting that option up!

Our Reluctance to Embrace Change In a World of Constant Change…

We could be looking at the beginnings of an internet-wide burnout and backlash…

Ok, maybe that first sentence is a touch dramatic, but something’s in the air. Consumers tend to be fairly conservative with technology in general. They don’t like taking risks, especially on priority services like communication. Lately however, thanks to internet-echo-chambering, nearly every new update, product, announcement, or release has been met with a viscerally negative reaction.

yahoo emailWe can look at the response to Microsoft changing the UI of Windows 8. iOS users seem to be a little cranky with iOS7 when I talk to them face to face. Most recently, petitions and forums are buzzing about Yahoo changing the interface for YMail. At some core, fundamental level consumers don’t like actual “New” things.

To a degree this makes sense. We count on products like email or our operating system to get things done. However, we’re also witnessing the immediacy of internet communications coloring the perception of a change before anyone has a chance to try out that new thing. That cycle happens far faster than any developer or manufacturer’s PR can handle the discussion. People who have never handled a Windows 8 product for example, still love to tell me how much it sucks and why I’m wrong for liking it, because “so-n-so at such-n-such blog eight months ago said it was confusing to blah blah blah…

Continue reading “Our Reluctance to Embrace Change In a World of Constant Change…”

The Pros and Cons of Owning a Smartwatch…

29 gearA casual chat with you fine folks, sharing my experiences using a couple different smartwatches.

I think there’s something interesting happening with consumer markets and wearable computing. It should be clear by now that I’m something of an activist for being a more responsible tech citizen. Not only to better protect people from careless behavior like watching movies on your tablet while driving, but also to improve our social interactions both digital and AFK. Our smartphones empower us, but they can also shield and block us from the world immediately in front of us.

What are your thoughts about strapping notifications and communication gear to your wrist?

The Post Where (so help me) I Defend the iPhone 5C…

iPhone5c_34L_AllColors_PRINTDamn it tech press! See what you’re making me do here…

It should be pretty clear by now that I’m not pre-disposed to liking Apple products. That’s not to say I don’t think they’re quality tech solutions. They’re just not my cup of tea, and lately I’ve been worried that Apple is missing critical opportunities with recent product releases. No NFC Passbook? Really? But I digress…

While spending some time with the iPhone 5S, I’m actually coming around on the iPhone 5C. I was initially one of those “know it alls” that panned it when it came out. An iPhone 5 in plastic? Meh…

What’s getting frustrating however is the media’s expectations of success. Every new phone or tablet which is released is now expected to be a “hit” instantly out of the gate. No one can really explain what sales metrics a device needs to hit to be considered a “hit”, but apparently no phone recently released is capable of meeting those expectations. After a point, one has to wonder if maybe these new phones aren’t the problem, and that maybe we’re giving too much consideration to analysts who are fantastically terrible at predicting the future.

Apple is launching a new product line.

Sometimes that works for them like the iPad Mini. Sometimes it’s a slow burn like Apple TV. Apple isn’t immune to this kind of market pressure. Customers know the iPhone. They know that a new number comes out, then an “S” model arrives the following year. They get it. They’ve been trained. They don’t know this “C” model. Just like any new company walking into the mobile space now, it should be expected that Apple will have to build credibility for this new line over time. Customers wont part with cash until they see it’s going to stick around for a while and get support and accessories. Anyone expecting the 5C to be a hot seller has no business calling themselves a tech pundit or analyst.

At best we can judge relative success by comparing 5C sales to 4S sales last year, but even then we’d be comparing a very well established phone (the iPhone 4 and 4S sharing a number of accessories) to a completely brand new phone. It doesn’t matter that the internals are similar to phones we’ve seen in the past, Apple customers are a fairly conservative demographic. Tech consumers in general tend to shy away from anything actually “new”.

So there it is. I get what Apple is doing with the 5C. I think they need to diversify the iPhone line up like they did with the iPad. I don’t know if the 5C is the right answer, but they needed to do something. However this fake shock, and the tech backlash towards cool sales is getting terrifically frustrating. From users and consumers, I completely understand the cynicism and skepticism, but so-called “journalists” need to cool it with the constant barrage of fanboi hate.

I mean DAMN IT! You just made me defend the iPhone 5C…

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…