The Las Vegas Strip is a strange place at any time of year, but many of us only experience it during CES when it is overflowing with an eclectic mix of tech geeks, box-makers and execs all looking for - or touting - the next Great Invention. Without CES, the crowd is the more typical mixture of tourists and party-goers armed with “selfie-sticks” and smartphones, as I discovered this week.
Twenty-five years ago last Friday, Depeche Mode inadvertently almost started a riot. The band had finally become “big” in the U.S., but had not realized just how big. As a result, when they agreed to a CD signing session at a local record store – the Wherehouse record store – they had no idea that 15,000 people would turn up. Whoops. The message went out on the radio: “for all of you with radios listening to this, pass the message that Depeche Mode will only be here for three more hours.”
I break things. It’s (usually) not intentional, but a surprising number of devices stop working for me. My connected scales have refused to tell me my weight recently (that should tell me something), my automated door lock froze to death and my smartphone mysteriously re-boots on a regular basis. And that’s before I do anything unusually dumb, such as dropping them, throwing them in water, or losing my shorts (with my phone in them). So when I was recently loaned an “ultra rugged” phone – the Sonim XP7 - I couldn’t help but devise an unusual range of tests to see how well it would survive in my world.
The last year or so has seen the beginning of a subtle trend towards disconnecting from the always-on world that we live in. Some hipsters have embraced the not-so-smart flip phone, along with film-based cameras and other such curiosities from the technological past. We even got temporarily swept up in it a couple of years ago when I put my smartphone away for a week or so and dusted off my old Motorola Razr. It was an interesting experience, but hardly life-changing. What I learned most was the value of self-control: I didn’t HAVE to check my email as soon as it arrived. It could wait.
Tuesday’s Apple event proved, once again, that the industry should never underestimate how successfully Apple can break the mold or flaunt conventional wisdom. Everyone knew two new iPhones were coming – and that they would be 4.7” and 5.5” and that they would look nice, and that they would fit neatly into the current buying, stocking, and usage trends for smartphones in the U.S. (as we discussed in our press release last week). But seeing a mock-up, or sketching something out as a model, or examining a pirated photograph is a poor substitute for seeing something in person. And it is impossible to express how slick both new iPhone models are until you see them in person and hold them in your hand.
My first car was a 10-year old Mazda Miata sportster, bought when I headed to college. I test drove the car, with the top down, and immediately fell in love with it. There’s nothing quite like the wind in your hair to close the sale… and to hide all of the strange noises that the car is making.
It’s official: AT&T plans to plunk down nearly $50 billion to purchase DirecTV in a deal that, on the face of it, is a head-scratcher. Why exactly would AT&T be interested in the satellite TV business when u-Verse delivers a next generation solution? And at a time when the cable companies are seeing most of their growth come from broadband services, not new TV subscribers.
Just six months after launching its free tablet data (200MB) offer, T-Mobile is back, pushing the boundaries further. Dubbed Tablet Freedom, the new offer gives tablet customers an extra 1GB of 4G LTE data for free until the end of the year. And there’s more: to help boost tablet sales, T-Mobile is subsidizing the price of 4G-enabled tablets, creating price parity with the Wi-Fi only versions (in the case with the iPad Air 16GB, customers will be able to purchase the 4GB version of the tablet for $499 versus the regular price of $629) with a zero-down installment plan. Moreover, customers will be able to trade in their old tablet (including Wi-Fi only tablets) and upgrade to a new tablet. And as a little more icing on the cake, T-Mobile will pay the ETF (Early Termination Fee) for those customers churning their tablet data subscriptions from rival carriers.
I recently participated in a panel debate at the NPD DisplaySearch US FPD conference on the future of the smartphone and tablet, considering which, if either was more likely to drive greater market disruption moving forward. My inclination was to back the sure thing: the smartphone has already disrupted so many surrounding technologies and I see no reason why it will slow down any time soon.
As day two of Mobile World Congress comes to an end, the key themes of the show have become very apparent. While the obligatory plethora of devices have launched, and network congestion has been discussed, an overriding focus has been on health and fitness in one shape or another.