Will Verizon’s paperless receipts be part of Isis?

According to IntoMobile, Verizon is about to introduce paperless receipts at their retails stores.  This seems like a great idea for existing customers though I’d love to see this get some NFC integration … tap to pay have it billed via ISIS (the VZ invested consortium) and show up in your docs and receipts.

I don’t even use VZ, but this seems like a very natural fit that could offer great customer benefit.  Isis has yet to announce what phones will be supported though Verizon does currently carry the payments-capable Galaxy Nexus.  I’m not sure you’d really even need the secure element aspect of NFC payments (opening to potentially more NFC devices) though it would benefit the Isis bit more if they focused on that for newer phones and upgrades.


Reading on Android

Following my last post I though it would be interesting to show a quick comparison between the options for InstaPaper (InstaFetch), ReaditLater and Readability. This is far from scientific and really just a single article but in my experience still highlights the reading experience. Of course this is purely subjective and your preferences may vary.

As I was perusing Flipboard over coffee I found a good piece with lots of links to catch up on. Here’s the first I decided to read … before becoming distracted with this test.

Here’s what that piece looks like via InstaFetch:



And now in ReaditLater:


And finally in Readability:


Readability stands as my favorite as it tends to render the cleanest copy and also provides a terrific desktop experience if you want to use it there. Both InstaFetch and ReaditLater can sync in the background which is great for offline access. Readability is perfect for real-time conversions … at least until the app appears when I expect it will suit the full range.

Optimum Online – Wifi – Authentication – Sorry

Optimum Online – Wifi – Authentication – Sorry.

I’m sure I’ve ranted about this previously but Cablevision needs to get a clue.  I use this service daily while at the train and find it helpful, though frustrating to manage … You can’t update your devices for their metro wifi service when connected to it in the city or on your mobile device.  It only works from home when connected via your home service.  You also have to understand and find the MAC Address which is not really very consumer friendly at all.


Firespotter Labs launches their first product – Nosh

Today, Firespotter labs has revealed their first product called Nosh. As you may know, Firespotter is a spinout of some former Googler’s including Craig Walker of Google Voice / Grand Central fame. They received funding from Google Ventures in April of this year and sprinted towards this month with their initial release.

So what is Nosh? Well it’s a social recommendation system for restaurants and food, though unlike other services which focus on the restaurant, Nosh is looking to get down to the item level. This detail will provide much better insight into what’s good and importantly what’s not so great at restaurants all around you.

They’ve posted a nice video overview which I’ll share here to give you the full pitch.

Nosh: Three Dinners from Firespotter Labs on Vimeo.

Nosh works on both Android and iPhone which is great. The experience is quite similar across both systems. Here’s how it works – First either browse your feed for interesting posts and pictures to find what’s good to eat nearby. Or if you like you can explore the local establishments in the directory or even add your own. When you get to the place you’ve decided to dine, you can add the item you’ve chosen, give it a quick rating and snap a pic. Everything is synced up on the Nosh website though I believe you need to be initiating posts via mobile to confirm (via GPS) that you were in fact there …


While Nosh is just getting started, it’s a very interesting service. The goal of Nosh and Firespotter according to Mr. Walker is to empower users with information in industries that are ripe for change. Given that the essential dining and discovery experience has stayed the same for quite a while, they prioritized Nosh as their first shot. There are currently about 150,000 menus in the system to ease the process of reviews, but there’s also quite a bit missing, which isn’t a ding it’s just the reality of starting something so large.  I look forward to sharing and learning from you … be sure to add me as a buddy if you signup, I’m just getting started myself.

Google Sync For iPhone

I guess I knew about this, but had yet to consider why I’d want to switch my Gmail config over to Google Sync.  5 minutes later I can assure you that it’s the right move.

Thanks to Business Insider’s quick guide, you can setup sync for Mail, Calendar and Contacts which has immediately reconciled my years of .Mac BS sync conflicts and duplications in contacts and added a multi-calendar view as well.  Mail remains the same …

With the addition of Google+, I’m  deep in Google services and this just keeps it all nicely together. And no I don’t have any invites at the moment unfortunately …




After all these years … iPhone goes unlocked

Waking up to see the iPhone finally and officially offered as an unlocked device made me quite happy. It’s somewhat ironically showing up the day Apple also agreed to settle with Nokia over their long debated patent issues which is interesting given my long history using Nokia unlocked devices.

If you don’t want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone 4 is the best choice. It arrives without a micro-SIM card, so you’ll need an active micro-SIM card from any supported GSM carrier worldwide. via Apple Store U.S..

In the years since I’ve left Nokia, I’ve also gone back to buying on contract for my personal devices as the Apple / AT&T upgrade plan has worked just fine and I’m fortunate enough to be able to migrate devices for business using a work-provided SIM. I haven’t seen anything but positive reporting about the changes to iPhone availability … some noting of course the “high” pricing though those prices are close if not even more expensive than the historical “expensive” unlocked Nokia devices which used to be counted against them.

As times have continued to evolve courtesy of the pressures Apple has been able to provide in the industry it’s likely the real buyer is the more niche traveler (able to find micro sim cards) but really the grey market. With an unlocked iPhone now available you don’t even have to jailbreak it to resell in a capable GSM country. It’s ready right from the box ….

Not my favorite color

Last night’s launch of Color is certainly getting a ton of press. They have a great team, a ton of cash and an interesting app – at least on paper. Having tried to use it a few times in the day as well as last night, I’m not sure I’m really going to care all that much.

The purpose of Color seems to be enabling social through the intention of proximity. In other words, you are able to share because you are close to someone else. You might not (and probably don’t) know these people but because you are nearby you can gain a new and shared perspective. I think that’s a pretty cool idea. What I would really like to see however, is the inclusion of my existing social network so that I can also get a prioritized and shared view with people I already have a real interaction with — even if these are just digital buddies. I love social discovery, but not at the exclusion of my existing base.

I transitioned from Instagram to Picplz and much like my journey from twitter to jaiku (and back to twiiter). I engaged with a community of people with shared interests. In many cases these interests actually came from using the services. Picplz and instagram are really quite similar. They are both simple, let you have fun with your photos and make it very easy to share externally as well. What I also like about both is that I can use an existing picture and then push it out which means I have the original locally to my device – and in the case of picplz also backed up on dropbox. Color forces me to snap a new picture of myself as an ID and then continues to “force” me to snap a new picture if I want to share. Perhaps part of this is due to the focus on that shared perspective of a location (the context of the social to begin with), but it forces a very strict type of sharing.

Color comes with no instructions and initially the UI while completely fresh, is far from easy to use. There don’t seem to be any guidelines with how things are used or shared and that actually bothers me. Because it’s far from self-evident, I find a level of discomfort here and that’s not good. Also, because Color is complex not actually that fun. When I installed it a second time on my Nexus S I had to start over. My presence from the iPhone was in no way transferable … in fact it seems as though you are essentially disposable. Without a way to associate yourself to your content or contacts, you just float through.

I shared the hype of Color last night with some co-workers and quite a few people actively played with it today around the office so it’s easy to see how a collection of people and images starts to work. I’m just not sure it’s actually for me.

I usually get a good feel quickly and Color is making me work too hard to use it.

AT&T and Metro North Testing Wifi?

I spotted a new hotspot while waiting to depart from Grand Central tonight …

ND ATT Metro North Trial

Unfortunately, I was unable to connect from my iPhone or laptop, but signal was pretty decent for a few fleeting moments regardless. I really hope that this is an active test and that wifi starts to rollout. Currently there is wifi along the train line via Cablevision, Time Warner and Comcast though it’s impossible to actually use on the go.

Battle of the cable company wifi networks

I obviously have no helpful information on this possible test, but can say I’d be very interested in using it and would even pay.  AT&T is looking to glean an extra $45/mo for tethering and while that would be bandwidth I could use all to myself, a slightly slower shared connection would be of great use.  I tend to use the iPad rather than my laptop, but there are plenty of times when the laptop would be handy …

I wonder if Metro North is serious with this and even if they’d consider free.  For pay, I’d love to see it packaged or validated with a monthly rail pass.


Quick thoughts on the Xoom

I got my first taste of Honeycomb this past weekend via the Xoom … or should I say the Motorola Xoom with Google.  Powered by Android 3.0 on the Verizon Wireless Network.  Let’s come back to that mess.

As I am sure you know the Xoom is being considered the first tablet competitor to the iPad and launched a few weeks ago.  I was fortunate to get a loaner via the office and used it extensively over the weekend.  I got myself setup with Google and Exchange accounts and my data synced right over.  I was immediately live with the device and was able to connect quite easily and well on Verizon’s network as well as work and home wifi.

The core Google apps and services are rock solid.  Maps is gorgeous, fast and powerful.  GPS acquired quickly enough and I was able to zoom around 3D and streetview modes which look awesome on the large screen.  YouTube worked great and I spent a good bit of Saturday morning watching some videos which all looked and sounded clear.  Apps outside the core Google suite were something of a mixed bag.  Accuweather failed completely, but WeatheBug worked well.  CNN and USAToday have tablet optimized apps, but frankly I don’t spend any time on their sites regularly so aside from checking the apps out for a few minutes I didn’t find them all that interesting.  They worked fine and look polished … CNN offers and audio counterpart to the reading if you like as well as video snippets.

The browser and email were where I spent most of my time and these are clearly the workhorse apps for any connected device.  Both the Gmail and Email (Exchange) app work very well.   The browser worked well too though can offer mixed results.  While it loads tabs in the background quickly and renders pages nicely there were things I really missed from the iPad.  For starters, while my bookmarkets synced over, I could not get any of them to work.  My work around for this was to use the Share intent native to Android and push links via Seesmic (phone version which is less than stable) or out to mail.  I also found a handy app which lets you setup quite a few more options for sharing.  I could not get any extensions to load and the Chome web store states clearly that it does not support the browser.  I also found myself forced to the mobile view of sites quite often even though I went in thinking this was a desktop-like browser.

The Xoom is more narrow than the iPad and accommodates portrait mode pretty well.  The weight of the device is less balanced though and it felt heavy in the hand more than the iPad which is larger.  When reading through Google Reader I would rotate over to portrait mode and found the bottom edge (now on the left) was a bit too rough on my hand.  This made it less comfortable to hold than I’d like.  The upper edge of the device has a slight curve to it which makes it less sharp.

The Xoom is the first Verizon device I’ve used in well over a decade.  I’ve always imagined that the network was better, but have found myself drawn to GSM based units and so I’ve largely ignored VZ.  While on the commute, I discovered that in fact VZ doesn’t really offer the best coverage.  There was plenty of 1x (the CDMA equivalent of EDGE) and even a lack of coverage on the track in Grand Central where AT&T has always provided a signal.  Additionally the network in it’s current 3G state is (subjectively) slower than what I’m used to seeing with load times.  I didn’t do any real tests …

The whole time I was using the Xoom, I left my iPad sitting idle.  This was a good test to see whether Honeycomb and the Xoom could replace my current usage.  In general, it’s close.  There’s a lot to like here, though there are definitely some rough edges and even some bugs.  Occasionally when installing an app via Market (which only loads in landscape) another application would randomly open instead of installing the new one.  There’s no flash support at the moment, and while that’s not been an issue with my iPad usage for the most part, it failed to load a few YouTube embeds and made using Zoodles (a cool kids app) impossible since it requires Flash for the games.

I have a feeling this platform is going to mature very quickly and that by the summer the range of devices will make this a very interesting choice.  Sure the iPad 2 is here now as well, but it’s good to have options and Android really is a power user OS.  I’m personally very curious now about the smaller form (7-9″) factors and whether something like that might actually fit nicely into my mobile lifestyle.


Good idea, poor execution Sprint


I just caught this ad in the latest Wired and since I’m the proud owner of a new Nexus S I was intrigued by the highlighted apps. The problem was when I went to get them …

Instead of using the standard QR code which works with the android barcode reader, Sprint decided to use scanlife which means I need to download an app before I can even respond to what I’d being suggested.  The mention to download scanlife is quite small and noted via an asterisk … lame.

Let’s keep it simple … unless you really don’t want consumers involved.

Configure Safari for Apps

Configure Safari for Gallery

An interesting development within the .Mac Gallery App for iPhone is the ability to configure the iPhone to redirect activity to the app over the browser.

I could easily see this evolving quickly to include all kinds of apps that can deliver a richer experience over the browser.  If you are a publisher, this seems like a no-brainer.  The New York Times showed off their swanky new iPad app this week and I would certainly want to direct traffic to that once installed.  The mobile web is great, but the richer experience of the application is much more compelling.

The potential for a brand to earn greater traction within their app just by tweaking an existing consumer behavior – clicking a shared link in email –  is quite high in this case and something I definitely want to consider for client engagements we develop in the near term.

BTW – The Gallery app also includes  a friend feature which while totally manual in nature (adding people) is I believe Apple’s first real nod to social connections.

When unlocked really means locked

I’m psyched for the iPad probably getting a 3G model and already an ATT customer so I don’t really care about what I am about to suggest …

It occured to me in one of the many conversations about the iPad today that while the device is being sold and marketed as unlocked, it really doesn’t even matter.  With the new microSIM format you need to find a carrier that also offers this new sim card or you can’t use it.  The illusion of choice, end of story.

AT&T can afford to offer a very competitive rate on the data because there’s no other option.  It’s actually pretty brilliant marketing for both Apple and their pending carrier partners.

iPad offers a clean slate


What is the iPad?

On the surface, the iPad is a larger iPod Touch.  What it represents however, is an opportunity for considerably more.  While tablets have been tried many times and failed, Apple is leading the curve of thinking with a very new approach that solves against emerging consumer technology needs.  Instead of taking the failed routes of the past and forcing a desktop computing metaphor into a touch-based interface, Apple has instead evolved the mobile phone experience developed for the iPhone into a broader experience.

It’s easy to see the form factor and initial core apps as just larger format iPod apps, but the extra speed, enhanced multi-touch controls, 10-hour battery and larger size reveal the potential for Apple to extend into a few possible areas.  All day connected access in an ultralight and slim form factor is very strong base on which to build.  As much as we tend to use our iPhones now the experience will only evolve substantially through a more immersive and engaging platform like the iPad.  Size matters.

Apple has clearly covered their core mobile applications, but provided all the cues on how to enhance applications from the iPhone into the iPad format.  Using the new enhanced gesture controls and UI components a standard for handheld computing can quickly and consistently evolve.  The core suite of multimedia functions combined with an enhanced (larger & faster) browsing experience and the iTunes Store ecosystem for content delivery and management make for a robust out of the box experience.  In typical fashion, Apple has thought through the entire user experience.

With iBooks, the iPad handily defeats the Kindle DX even with fewer launch titles.  The recently announced Kindle API will have to combat the inertia from what Apple has already earned with 140,000 (compatible) applications.  Apple’s battery life (claim) removes the perceived limitation of color screen ebook readers.  The lower than expected screen resolution and pixel density may have some eye-strain impact, but we will have to wait and see if there are any true complaints or issues.

On first glance the lack of both a 16×9 format screen and an HD output may seem like critical oversights, but seeing how Apple is crafting a new category, it’s easy to see why they are actually very smart choices.  The iPad’s Pixel-doubling screen technology enables the vast library of existing iPhone apps to work automatically and why would we want to play HD video from the iPad to an HDTV, when it’s most likely going to remain in our hands for multi-screen consumption.

Pricing is very competitive and considering this is likely to be a 3rd mobile device following a phone and laptop, it needs to be.  Apple announced that all iPads will be sold unlocked unlike the iPhone, so regardless of whether there’s a carrier deal in place, there’s little risk for an international purchase.

What’s particularly interesting for the iPad is what lies ahead.  A new category means the opportunity for new use cases.  Many companies have envisioned how the digital home or office will evolve and Apple has provided a clean slate on which to ponder new opportunities.

Please don’t turn location updates into info spam

As more people start to use location services like Foursquare  Gowalla we are starting to see an influx of I’m here posts across Twitter and Facebook which is annoying but more importantly carries no value.

In my own usage I find that the pure check-in action stays within the location network.  Anyone who’s linked to me there can see that as desired.  By choosing not to share that simple pin on the map claim, I’m doing two things … not sharing my location directly and reserving the attention any social network friends might have for something I actually have to say.    If I have something to say about the location I’m in, I might choose to push that out to both twitter and Facebook as an update to add a bit of additional context to what I’m doing.

Location should be something of interest.  When we can connect to each other in a meaningful way, things get interesting and should add value to the potential of our conversations as well as lead to potential experiences.

Nokia offers Free Navigation to everyone

Nokia free navigation

Today Nokia announced Maps with free navigation for everyone which is a very big deal.  Previously the only way to get turn by turn navigation was to buy a Navigator device. Nokia had offered free trials of the navigation service on most newer mid to higher end devices but to put it all out there is a very powerful offer.

The goes beyond just the turn by turn piece and includes all the premium content within Maps – again a very cool and substantial detail. You now have full access to all the premium content:

  • Free Drive navigation
  • Free Walk navigation
  • Free maps and map updates
  • Free Events guides
  • Free Lonely Planet guides
  • Free Michelin guides

When Google first announced Android 2.0 would include free navigation it was a bold move, and became an instant black eye for everyone else.  Nokia’s initial response with the 5800 Navigation Edition was pretty limited by comparison while today’s play is substantially more bold!  I’m sure this was not an easy pill for management to swallow given Navigation is one of the larger revenue generating services.

Nokia’s reach and share is still larger than anyone else’s and I expect others to follow suit as a result.  Consumers are now going to expect navigation as a standard feature of a smartphone – in the same way maps previously was.

Currently trending on Foursquare

@foursquare Trending Now

This is a very cool new way to show the live nature of the service …

This used to be what I had done in a particular area but seems to be
expanding quite nicely to include the broader population.  With a check-in happening  every second, this really becomes a real-time view into the world around you.

Foursquare currently works via app on iPhone, Android, Maemo and soon Blackberry. You can check-in via mobile web as well if you like. The latest update even let’s you (finally) check-in via GPS, so you no longer need an exact address.

How do you define an active user?

mocoNews reports today on Nokia’s positive growth in “active” Services users, yet also reveals a dirty little secret about about how companies claim to count who’s active.

But this is only a small silver lining to a bigger cloud: the company counts as active users every consumer who has used a service just once over the last six months. And considering that there are an estimated 1.1 billion Nokia (NYSE: NOK) users worldwide today, this is a far cry from critical mass.

Nokia is far from alone in how they report numbers like this. It’s obvious why companies do this – it makes things look better. But it’s total BS.  There’s likely to be a considerably amount of float in this calculation for users who trial and never return … consider the services bundled with new devices as an easy example.  Try Maps with Navigation for that 7-10 day trial but then never use it again.  For at least half the year that batch of new sales considerably bumps the base figure and if you continue to push out bundled “solutions” you can game the services figures.  I doubt that’s really the intent and I’m not trying to be completely harsh, but come on this is just BS!

I can’t imagine building a relationship with people who use your product an average of  twice a year.  Good luck with that retention plan …

Maybe T-Mobile wasn’t sleeping this whole time

Walking to the train tonight it suddenly hit me how awesome T-Mobile’s network announcement (Full HSPA+) was today.  It’s unclear how long they knew the Nexus One was coming, but clearly they knew enough and had enough lead time to pump out the upgrades for launch day.  Doing so takes the network issue  largely off the table.  By partnering with Google, they were able to ride the wave into what will hopefully be the start to how consumers consider their mobile purchase.  AT&T … not quite so fast.

Google has confirmed that Nexus One, and all subsequent Google phones sold via the company’s online store, will be available unlocked for use on every participating carrier. If a particular Google-branded phone is not on a particular carrier, then that’s only because that phone doesn’t have the proper radio to support its network. In addition to being unlocked, the phones will also have bundled plan options where the pricing and details are up to the carrier.

By offering a lineup of phones that is essentially carrier-independent (with the radio compatibility caveat), Google has separated the two previously interlocked parts of the phone/plan-buying experience—phone selection and carrier selection—and has done so in a way that threatens one of the most important enablers of carrier lock-in.

In short, what Google announced today wasn’t just the Nexus One, but the world’s first carrier-independent smartphone store; the Google store is now the only smartphone store in the world where, for every phone on offer, you first pick which phone you want, and then you pick a network and a plan on that network. So you can comparison shop among networks based purely on plan price and network quality, because you already have your phone picked out. via Ars Technica

I’m intrigued by the Nexus One, but not buying anytime soon. I definitely like where Android is going and have a good deal of respect for what Google is trying to do. I’m just not compelled enough to pick up a second mobile bill (@ $80/mo+tax) especially since while the G phones run on GSM, it’s another network band meaning sadly I still do need to consider where I want my 3G.