Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

An iPhone without Contracts

September 25, 2009

By joseph.young.2009

apple-iphone-3gs-1

The best smartphone on the market today is the iPhone 3GS. This isn’t news. They’ve sold over 30 million iDevices (iPhone + iPod Touch). The app store has had over 1.8 billion downloads and hosts 75,000 apps. Compare these stats against the Palm Pre, Google G1 or myTouch, Blackberry Storm, or Nokia N-Series. Apple is killing it. That’s not to say that the other players aren’t working hard and may some day catch up. Just not today. But that’s another discussion.

What were here to talk about is how to get the best smartphone on the best network, today. We’ve already determined the best smartphone is the iPhone. But even if you don’t think it is, this method works for your smartphone of choice. The best carrier for coverage and download speed in San Diego is Sprint. Yes, Sprint. I thought it was Verizon too, but recent studies show that Sprint has spent a lot of money on the network and it’s starting to pay off.

sprint

How do you get iPhone on Sprint? Beyond the technical issues of CDMA vs. GSM radio frequencies, the iPhone is tied to AT&T by an exclusivity contract. We’d have to wait a year to hear if there’s the possibility of Apple’s iPhone on Sprint. And the truth is, Verizon would probably snatch up Apple before Sprint, as recent rumors have pointed to. So the solution is to get one of Sprint’s snazzy new personal Wi-Fi devices. Marketed as “MiFi 2200,” it’s a personal hotspot that goes wherever you go and gives you 831K (about 1/2 DSL or 1/3 cable internet speeds) of bandwidth in San Diego. Now get your iPhone, or better yet, iPod Touch, and connect to your MiFi and have high speed internet with you at all times. With any iDevice, you can use the Skype app and have people call you directly. Eventually, the Google Voice app will be released and you’ll be able to use your Google Voice number to call, text, and everything else you need a phone to do. But instead of paying $199 down and $75 a month for 450 minutes and 200 text messages, you pay $199 down and $60 a month for (nearly) unlimited calls, texts, emails, and webpages. Plus you’re on a faster and more reliable network. I could go on about how the MiFi would allow you to surf at the airport, in long car rides, and at any coffee shop, but Steven Levy already talks about it in this month’s issue of Wired (Oct. 2009).

The Back Up Phone

June 22, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

virginmobilephones

Unsubsidized prices of Virgin Mobile phones

I recently went to Cincinnati to visit my family for vacation. While I was out there, I drove over to Paramount’s Kings Island to enjoy the roller coasters. What I didn’t expect at the park was to loose my phone on the very first ride. My iPhone. My personal assistant, phone book, calendar, and primary channel for communication.

Let’s face it, we don’t use the home phone anymore. We consider it a back-up, and only use it when we’re low on batteries, or have bad reception. The cellphone is a personal communication device that has changed society forever. And to be without yours, is a strange feeling.

But I digress. I returned from my vacation without a phone and needed a solution quickly. I had been trying to decide between the new iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre. Both phones look interesting, and could be a worthy replacement for my iPhone. But my phone would not be defeated. In checking my voicemail tonight, I received a message that my iPhone was still alive and most likely, working. They gave me a phone number to call, and I realized that I didn’t have a phone to call with.

At the end of my second quarter as a Teaching Assistant for our core marketing course, I came across a very interesting case. Virgin Mobile‘s pricing strategy was the students’ final case. Reading through the situation and the decision facing the management, it was interesting to see how carriers and customers have a combative relationship. Consumers want to leave carriers for bad service. Carriers lure consumers in with phones and hidden fees. We’ve spent so long in these contracts, that we don’t blink an eye at 2-year contracts. And here was a new player that identified the pain points for the consumer and created a plan that reduced customer acquisition costs, and protected themselves from high customer churn. This strategy ultimately proved successful for them.

Faced with a need to buy a “loner” phone tonight, I went to Target to go shopping. I was surprised to see so many players in the pay-as-you-go section of the mobile phone aisle. But I can understand why. I see this phone as a one time purchase that provides me with freedom to make calls and text messages. I’m paying $45 for a disposable phone booth that I can carry around with me. The funny part of this situation is that my 200 minutes doesn’t even exceed the 210 minute talk time of a full charge. As the price of products is driven down with innovation (technical, operational, etc.), products become commodotized and I now see this mobile phone as a thow-away product; something I would have ever considered 10 years ago.

Self-Segmentation

April 22, 2009

Michael Fassnacht wrote a strong piece for AdAge about the rise of self-segmentation in marketing.  His premise points to three cultural shifts that mitigate the impact of traditional consumer segmentation.  Paramount among these are that consumers are moving between segments.  And if consumers are dynamic, moving ever more easily between segments, the onus is on the brand to make itself accessible at all of the relevant possible points of discovery.  As Michael puts it:

It’s not surprising that two of the most successful product and retail companies, Apple and Amazon, are not masters of consumer segmentation but experts in building relevant products that consumers choose. Their marketing communication is segment-based but does not depend on pursuing an ever-increasing level of micro-segment-specific relevance. They are far more focused on building and communicating relevance relationships than in micro-segmenting consumers by any kind of attributes.

The rise of social networks has allowed for even greater fluidity among customer segments in both expression and discovery.  On Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, I connect to different groups with different interest (multiple forms of self-expression) and in those environments I am exposed to new conversations (which leads to discovery).  Through My Family connection on Facebook, I am now exposed to my Aunt Nancy’s ardent evangelism for Harley thanks to her new motorcycle.

The article provides 4 tips for encouraging consumer self-segmentation [excerpted here]:

  1. Build correlation clusters between purchased products and services, and serve them up as recommendations (Amazon, Apple’s Genius feature).
  2. Offer networking opportunity based on self-acclaimed interests (Facebook, LinkedIn).
  3. Design and provide content or a deal-alert function that automatically informs consumers about something new or interesting in the “opted-in” interest domain of a consumer (Google Alert, Orbitz Fare Alert).
  4. Enable sharing of consumer-generated content or feedback in the context of your brand (BlueCross’ “Power of the Human Voice” campaign).

The lesson here: in addition to consumer segmentation, marketing departments are going to have to work extra hard to make their brands more discoverable and accessible to consumers.  Consumers’ interests are ever-changing, they have infinite choice and now they have a say in your brand.

– Forrest Wright

Apple’s New Closed System

March 16, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

ipodshuffle_original

For all the talk about how revolutionary Apple is and how draconian Microsoft is, I find it a bit interesting that Apple has managed to turned headphones into a closed system. With their latest version of the iPod Shuffle, Apple has made headphones something that you have to buy from Apple directly, or from authorized accessory manufacturers.

The funny thing is that this isn’t the first time they’ve done this. Remember the iPhone 2.5G? When the product first came out, only iPhone or iPod headphones would work with it. The recessed outlet forced user to use Apple only headphones. Got a pair of $300 earbuds? Great! All you have to do is pick from the rapidly growing adapter market. I’m sure there’s warehouses full of these adapters today with little to no market value.

Back to the announcement of the latest iPod Shuffle. After watching the video on how to use your new Shuffle I realized that I have to memorize how to use my iPod Shuffle or be stuck with a fashionable piece of metal that I don’t know how to work. There’s a point where simplicity goes too far. I’m still not sold on the one button for my iPhone, but at least having a large touchscreen for a strong user interface. A heaphone with a ‘+’, ‘-‘, and blank button do not scream intuitive to me. More important than usability is the fact that I now have to use Apple headphones for listening to music. It’s well known that the standard headphones for iPods are not the greatest. Now I have to live with the fact that the headphones suck and I can’t use anything else. My true fear is that I’ll loose the headphones and have to pay Apple at least $29.99 just to listen to my music again. In an effort to simplify design (and reduce cost), the data connection shares the same port as the headphone jack. So every time I sync music onto the Shuffle, I run the risk of loosing my headphones. Fantastic.

Now I don’t want you leaving this post thinking that I hate Apple. That’s completely untrue. I like them. A lot. But I’m not so enamored by the Apple hype not to see a closed system when it’s staring me in the face. I just read a post stating that 3rd party headphones will require and Apple-licensed authentication chip. They obvious feel that they’re not making enough money off their users already.

How Dell will Revolutionize the Mobile Industry

February 6, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

I was reading one of my preferred blogs and came across some news that Dell is trying to decide between Windows Mobile and Android for a potential mobile device.One quote that tipped me off was

“SAI also heard that the device would focus on ‘customization,’ whatever that means” – MG Siegler

“Customization” means that Dell is going to do for mobile phones what it did for the PC industry: just in time manufacturing.

The mobile industry has been making one-off designs for as long as I can remember. Though there where form factors that had lasting power, Motorola’s StarTac and Razr series, no cell phone company has standardized phone designs and operating systems. Dell will enter the mobile market with two popular form factors: candybar and slider.

The first is the candybar touchscreen. The leader in this form factor is Apple’s iPhone. It’s the gold standard that all other candybar touchscreen phones aspire to be.

Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone

The other rumored form factor is the qwerty horizontal slider. Though there isn’t a design leader in this form factor, and the best one that comes to mind is the T-Mobile G1. Though it’s not a pure slider, it’s the best of the bunch.

t-mobile G1

t-mobile G1

With these two form factors, Dell will offer at least two operating systems. Windows Mobile will be targeted towards business users, and Android will be tarted towards the consumer. Dell can create a unified OS for the two operating systems so that using them can be very similar. The idea is to get customers used to the Dell smartphone. It can have the design team that worked on the Studio line of laptops work on the phone too. By knowing your form factor and your operating system, Dell can create products almost as well as a vertically integrated company (Apple).

If these initial shapes and OS’s are succesful, Dell will most likely attack all segments of the market quickly to capture as much market share as possible. They may also try to integrate Symbial s60 into their phones as well. At that point, Dell would only need to focus on hardware design and integration with a limited number of platforms. The combinations for customers is tremendous though. Three operating systems and four form factors results in 12 different devices. But from the manufacturing standpoint, it’s all the same. The only difference is the firmware you load on all the last minute with region and OS specific cables and documentation.

Microsoft’s new brand character is…a middle-aged guy from the 90’s?

August 22, 2008

Yesterday, Microsoft announced a $300 million dollar Windows advertising campaign intended to boost the brand perception of its beleaguered Vista operating system.  This is surely counterprogramming to Apple’s highly successful Mac vs. PC ads which feature John Hodgman as the frumpy, stuffy, middle-aged personification of PC (i.e. Microsoft and Windows).

Their new brand ambassador in this campaign?  Jerry Seinfeld.  Read the rest of this entry »

Now Rocking My Phone

August 12, 2008

by atremble

Last month Pandora launched an iPhone application that has revolutionized a corner of my world. The service is already the 4th most popular application on the phone (first in music) and it drove a record 3.3 million songs streamed in one weekend to iPhone listeners alone. Yet it has no ads. Given that Pandora’s revenue model depends on clever advertising with high CPMs, how can Pandora afford the royalties and bandwidth? One explanation is to view the launch as a massive—and massively successful—marketing expense until the user base can be monetized.

It’s not yet clear how Pandora and Apple plan to do this. Read the rest of this entry »

A New Chapter for Apple?

May 21, 2008

The Apple brand is going to have to start telling a new story soon.

In the 1980s, Apple launched their “1984” ad. They were not just introducing the new Mac brand with this campaign, but also a new product category — the personal computer. Apple portrayed their product launch as something groundbreaking, revolutionary and — at least metaphorically — heroic. The words: “…why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” The pictures: a female athlete hurls a sledgehammer and destroys the image of Big Brother. In filmmaking, this storyline falls under the superhero genre. Someone or something comes along to overcome incredible odds and save us. That’s what Apple promised and that’s what Apple did.

Read the rest of this entry »