When is Good Good Enough?

I’ve been pondering this for a while. I’ve had four or five different iPads and three or four different iPhones during the short period they have been available, usually quick to jump on the newest model.

And I’ve owned a significant number of laptops, both for business and personal use over the years. Interestingly, I’ve had my current laptop, an HP EliteBook 9470m, for over 18 months. This is a technology eternity for me. So what makes this product different from the others? It is solid, very functional, lightweight, and performs great (screen, keyboard, connectivity, etc.). Sure, there are new features available with newer models (touch screen, foldable 180 degree devices, etc.), but this hardware package is very good. Mostly importantly, it’s good enough to meet my needs.

Why? I believe that the “use cases” for this hardware have stabilized. My uses include creating content, connecting to corporate networks, traveling within the office, to the office, and on the road. Wi-Fi standards, battery life, disk drive technology have all reached a solid level. Video, audio, fingerprint scanning, and peripheral connections have stabilized. There are plenty of vendors trying to provide new reasons to buy new hardware, but I think good is good enough.

Has the marketplace reached the same point with smartphones? For iPhone 4 and 5 owners, many have voted by keeping their current models and have avoided the lure of an upgrade. Their phone is paid for and it’s doing its job. What more could they ask for?

The same goes with the iPad. There are plenty of 2 and 3 generation old devices that are satisfying what the user wants and more.

My conclusion is that the upgrade game is not solely about the hardware anymore—there is only so much one can do with the form factor. It is now about expanding the use cases and/or reducing the costs and expanding the market. That includes global markets outside of the U.S. that seem to have almost unlimited potential. Tech geeks like me will continue to be drawn to the newest shiny objects. But for the masses, they are going to need more compelling reasons to keep trading up.

As an aside—remember the good ol’ days when everyone was excited about mobile phones getting smaller and smaller? When the Motrola MicroTAC was replaced by the Motorola StarTAC (1996), that was considered a big darn deal.

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What’s New from Apple

Apple just made their always-anticipated September product announcements. Featured this year were the iPad Pro, new iPhones, Apple TV and OS 2.0 for Apple Watch. There are many summaries you can read about the details, including:

The upgrades are interesting, but are not compelling me to purchase the new devices, at least in the short term. I made the following post on Facebook…adding up the cost of all of the new devices and making a comparison to a desktop computer purchased 17 years ago.

comparison

Certainly I enjoy the camera technology, and the camera and video technology upgrades look interesting. Apple TV and, specifically, the remote are nice (and overdue) improvements.

Here are my key takeaways:

  • The iPad Pro could become my replacement for my home laptop. Its screen is larger and has a much improved keyboard (compared to third-party devices). Besides, my trusty five-plus-year-old MacBook has been sitting on the floor in my office for at least two months without me turning it on. Why? There isn’t anything I have had to do on it that I couldn’t do with my iPad or an occasional simple task on my work laptop (create a bike route, type something, fill out a longer form or interact with a legacy (non tablet friendly) website). Data is in the cloud. Devices sync wirelessly to the cloud or they don’t need to sync.
  • The iPhone will become a new standard. The camera and 3D Touch, improved glass and additional hardware features are nice.
  • The biggest improvements are iOS9 software-related. In particular, the multiscreen presentation on the iPad and 3D Touch navigation on the iPhone. This creates new possibilities for application developers and increased ease of use in a variety of situations.

But when is good enough good enough? I’m sensing a topic for my next post.


Is “Smartphone” a Misnomer?

On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone as a combination of three devices: a “widescreen iPod with touch controls,” a “revolutionary mobile phone” and a “breakthrough internet communicator.” It’s pretty amazing how it has transformed in six short years, to the point where I don’t really think of my iPhone 6 Plus as a phone at all. Wouldn’t “smartdevice” be a better name, given its many features and functions?

Perhaps you don’t even realize all of this technology is packed into your device or understand how it can be used—I didn’t for quite some time. Depending on the situation or user, those features and functions are more or less important and are used to a greater or lesser degree.

Hardware Feature Function
Microphone, speaker Audio recording and playback
Camera (front and back) Video capture
HD touch display Output display and device navigation
Accelerometer Measures speed and distance
Barometer Measures elevation
GPS, iBeacon micro-location and others Various ways to determine location
Touch ID Identification.
Cellular, wireless data, Wi-Fi Data transmission
Gyroscope Orientation of the phone
Proximity sensor Distance to sensor
Ambient light sensor Senses ambient light

It is the applications that create value and functionality based on these features. A few examples:

  • Panoramic photography uses several of the sensors to compensate for your unsteady hand and put together a 180 degree view.
  • Photos are tagged with the location taken based upon GPS and access to the internet over the data connection.
  • iHealth application records steps, distance and elevation along with other coming attractions.
  • Location technology is not only integrated into mapping, but into many other aspects of the phone. Examples include tagging photos, ‘find me’ or people tracking, alert to location before the battery dies and location-based reminders (such as “pick up laundry” will alert you when you drive by the cleaners).

We’ve come a long way, and I can’t wait to see how these smartdevices continue to evolve in the future.