Category Archives: Rant

Dear Apple: iPhone 5S Availability Could Lose You A Customer

Dear Apple,

I have had an iPhone since 2008. I have suffered hardware issues with micro-fractures, antenna-gate, and sticky Home buttons. I have endured software issues causing rapid battery consumption, alarm clock failures, Apple Maps, and loss of storage space (from automatically downloaded iOS updates). And most recently, I have seen the utility of my iPhone 4 plummet in combination with iOS 7. I can only assume that the new operating system was not fully tested on what was deemed to be an irrelevant device. User inputs and application transitions are unacceptably laggy, with each day compounding the annoyance. It also took Bluetooth integration (with my new Alpine car stereo) several steps backward.

For almost a year now I have been out-of-contract with AT&T. Why didn’t I get the iPhone 5? Like many people, I expected a device with a larger screen. One that would make reading easier on the eyes, and easier on the pocketbook (compared with the redundancy in having both an iPhone and an iPad). Because AT&T doesn’t reduce your service charges when out of contract, this means I have been directly subsidizing their profit, or indirectly subsidizing the device upgrades of others to the tune of $225/yr (half the $450 difference between iPhone 5S 2-yr contract/no-contract prices).

Now you have “released” (I use in the loosest sense of the word) an updated device (the 5S) that I simply have to get because a 3 year old smartphone is subjectively 10x less useful than a 5 year old desktop computer. You didn’t pay attention to my need for a larger screen, and instead split development between an expensive replacement (5S) available in a new, gaudy color, and a slightly less expensive replacement (5c); of which reports indicate you are ramping down production. I’ll bet a non-trivial contingent of users avoided the 5c because you did not explicitly discuss how the micro-fracture issues from the 3G/3G S had been resolved for the 5c. Furthermore, while I expected 32/64/128 GB capacity, you only delivered 16/32/64 GB despite a continued loss of capacity available for user storage from OS bloat.

Why didn’t I pre-order the 5S? I couldn’t! You only allowed pre-orders of the 5c. Being the busy professional whose productivity is increased by technology, I wouldn’t suffer the ignominy of waiting in line for the first batch (which typically has an increased rate of manufacturing defects you hesitate to acknowledge publicly, but for which your stores readily replace). Why don’t I order one now to be assured a place in the virtual queue? I’m grandfathered in to an unlimited plan with AT&T, which is the only reason I stay with them. So to avoid any potential for a botched change in plan, I will only get my iPhone 5S through a retail outlet directly operated by AT&T.

Here’s the crux for me, my dad needs to take my carrier-unlocked iPhone 4 to Germany in early November as his iPhone 5 cannot be carrier-unlocked. Although the iPhone 5S doesn’t have a bigger screen and isn’t available with greater capacity, I need a new device. But here we are a month after the 9/20/2013 release date, and there aren’t any! (At Apple stores, or by way of extension, AT&T stores.)

Screenshot from http://iphone-check.herokuapp.com/

iPhone5SSilverAvailability_20131020

I enjoy Apple’s entertainment ecosystem: iTunes, AirPlay, AirPort Express (with its optical audio output), and iPhone with its Remote app. But I also have three other devices (PC, Xbox 360, PS3) connected to an HDTV that are capable of substituting parts of that ecosystem, and my Apple Lossless files can be readily converted to WMA Lossless or FLAC.

Unless I can find an iPhone 5S before 11/6/13, you’ll lose a customer to Windows Phone and the capable Nokia Lumia 1020.

 

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Auto Industry Double-Take: Turbine Wheels

Mercedes did it first. Now both Tesla and Jaguar offer factory turbine wheels. I’m sure OZ Racing will have some painted knock-offs in Discount Tire for tired, mid-00’s sports cars in a couple years.

Image Credits: jaguarseattle.com, teslamotors.com, wikimedia.com

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We Want to Buy Your Civic

I frequently receive ‘offers’ to sell or trade in my Honda. Here is some ad content from the latest email campaign:

We are making it very easy to upgrade your ride. Now through August 4, trade in your current Civic for a brand new Honda of your choice and make about the same monthly payments you’re making now, with the benefit of owning a new or newer vehicle. [emphasis added]

Maybe you have receive similar offers? The wording is subtle, but intentional.

I have a couple key points in response to this offer:

  1. You don’t own anything if you’re making payments. Possession is not ownership. If you live in a home, and have a mortgage, you’re still a renter — you’re just renting from a bank. And once you’ve paid back the bank — you’re still renting from the government if there are real estate taxes. For example, one would pay $180K in taxes on a home valued at $300K with a 2% annual real estate tax over 30 years. Assuming home value is equal to its purchase price (and never changes), that’s 60% of the purchase price you’ll have paid in taxes! Real estate taxes (esp. combined with rising price levels) are a mechanism that force residents to participate in “external economies”, fostering dependency.
  2. It’s not okay to take on new liabilities simply because the monthly payment is the same. Managing your net worth matters, every new debt is a step backward. Ask yourself how long you want someone else to be entitled to a portion of your labor. Each of us has 24 hours a day. If you survive by exchanging time for resources (ie, ‘the working class’), make sure that you protect those resources. Nobody is entitled to your labor, unless you owe someone a debt.

Be vigilant.

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The Escapist: Next Gen Buyer’s Guide

Fast forward to 4:28 for TL;DR summary.

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Energy Efficiency, Pedestrian Crossings & Social Costs

My daily commute often includes coming to a complete stop from 40 mph due to a pedestrian crosswalk (with full stoplight) on Bridle Crest Trail. The road has 2 lanes in each direction and is far enough from major intersections such that there are regular opportunities to cross without needing to manually trigger the light.

Bridle Creek Trail (Google Maps)_20130509
Image Credit: © 2013 Google

Each time the stoplight is triggered, approximately 20 vehicles must come to a full stop on either side of the road (40 vehicles total). Assuming a typical weight of 3,200 lb, the minimum kinetic energy lost and expended to regain the speed limit is 18.6 MJ(*). Given that a gallon of gasoline contains about 130 MJ, each crossing ‘consumes’ 14.3% of a gallon. At $3.85/gal, the crossing costs society $0.551 or about $0.014 per motor vehicle.

(*)This is conservative as starting from a stop is the least efficient mode of operation for a typical motor vehicle, and more energy must be expended to regain what was lost. Here I have simply doubled the lost kinetic energy. Furthermore, I am not including gasoline consumed at idle for the duration of the crossing..

Assuming average vehicle mileage is 20 mpg, each similar crossing translates to 2.86 miles of motor vehicle travel. Ironically, if the crossing is used by a pedestrian or bicyclist who otherwise drives a Prius (as their behavior may indicate), this increases to 6.44 miles (assuming 45 mpg as their specific opportunity cost).

Therefore, we can say that if a few people cause a sufficiently large number of motor vehicles to fully stop frequently enough  (in this case once every 3 miles), society would be better served by that person using a motor vehicle.

Source for energy content of gasoline: The Impact of Stopping on Fuel Consumption, Victor Miller (Nov 19, 2011).

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