The iPhone on AT&T is like putting lipstick on a pig

In fall 2009, Verizon was pummeling AT&T with a series of “map” ads, claiming that AT&T’s spotty 3G network was to blame for poor service. Even if AT&T had wanted to respond with iPhone ads, Apple would have refused. “We would have been letting them use the iPhone to put lipstick on a pig.”

Wired repeatedly tries to blame Apple for AT&T’s network problems. Steve Jobs refused to cripple YouTube on the iPhone. Apple didn’t advertise for AT&T. Apple wanted tethering. Apple used nonstandard chips. All these things caused the AT&T network to collapse under load.

AT&T: it’s your network and you need to get your shit together. Don’t blame the iPhone for your issues. The iPhone works great in other countries off your system, and you have done nothing but ruin the experience for us here.

AT&T has raised prices, killed unlimited plans, and simply not kept up with the demand on their network. These days, I actually use the Skype app to make calls when I’m at the office. My iPhone fails as a phone because of AT&T.

AT&T has become a mere toll-taker on the digital highway, an operator of dumb pipes that cost a fortune to maintain but garner no credit for innovation or customer service. Meanwhile, the likes of Apple and Google will continue to pump out products that push the limits of what the carriers can provide, training customers to use more and more data.

Oh boo hoo. This is the way it should be. Let me pay AT&T (or another company) some amount of money for a data feed and then let me do anything I want with it. The old system where carriers have all the power is coming to an end.
Decouple the devices from the service. I want to see data providers battle and innovate to bring me faster and cheaper data. And device makers innovate to use that data feed in great ways. Let innovation in phones come from companies who can innovate.
Wired: you think training customers to use more data is a bad thing? You think AT&T will have to raise prices continually to keep up? I call bullshit. Don’t try to make AT&T the good guy here.

The fact that people are using more data is a great thing. AT&T should rise to the occasion and give people what they need. They should see this as a time to get a ton of new customers and significantly increase revenue. Figure it out.
When building the iPhone, Apple innovated in every way they could and built the first true smart phone. If they had let AT&T cripple the device to keep network traffic low, they would have ended up with a dumb phone plus iPod.

FaceTime will be successful because you don’t need an account

One-tap simple.

FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using FaceTime is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your best friend. Just find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins. It’s all perfectly seamless. And it works in both portrait and landscape modes.

This is going to change everything. I can’t wait to be able to do video calls with my parents, with Kate, with friends all over the world. iChat failed here because it was software. FaceTime will work because it doesn’t change the device you use or your existing behavior.

But lets deconstruct the software side of this for a second. Any phone can add a front facing camera, and any phone can add a Skype like application that does video phone calls. But how did Apple make it work out of the box, without accounts?

FaceTime currently works over WiFi only, yet it must use the AT&T network to initiate the connection. How else can my phone find and connect to my mom’s phone 500 miles away, using nothing but her phone number?

Leave it to Apple to go the extra mile. Any other company would have made you sign up for something new. But Apple focused on making the software great, and even had to do some custom integration with AT&T. That’s what will make it a break out feature, not just something for geeks. My mom and I will do a video call the first day we both have new phones.

At Posterous, we’ve always believed in avoiding account creation as much as possible. You can post without an account, and you can subscribe without an account. Accounts get in the way. Apple feels the same.

So how does FaceTime work? I guess we’ll learn more tomorrow, but it seems something like:

  1. Initiating iPhone contacts receiving iPhone using standard telephone protocol (using AT&T).
  2. iPhones communicate to determine if both support FaceTime and both are on WiFi.
  3. iPhones then create a direct peer to peer connection over the internet. The iPhones deal with all IP addresses, firewalls, NAT issues automatically.
  4. Participants can now do a video call over WiFi without use of the cellular network.

But users don’t know this is happening. It just works. And that’s what makes this technology truly amazing.

Kudos to Apple for making FaceTime an open standard. Skype, you suck. Hopefully we’ll see FaceTime added to other devices and networks and it becomes the standard for video chat.

Even when my iPhone is busted, Apple finds a way to bring me joy

My iPhone stopped functioning as a phone on Saturday. I could use the device on WiFi but couldn’t make or receive calls, texts, or 3G data. I’d like to blame AT&T for this, but it was definitely an iPhone issue.

Being without a phone is painful. I’m definitely over dependent on mine. I feel lost without it.

Getting my iPhone replaced couldn’t have been easier or more pleasant.

  • I went to the Apple Retail website and made an appointment to see a Genius. I hate the inefficiencies of standing in line (as I blogged about here). So this makes a lot of sense to me. 
  • I arrived at my scheduled time and walking up the stairs, I saw my name on the screen above the Genius bar as “next customer for iPhone.” I got a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. 
  • The Genius attendant greeted me by name and noted down my issue. Incredible. 
  • I waited just a few minutes before a Genius could help me with my issue. He ran some diagnostics, and then promptly said he would replace my phone. Wow. 
  • One of the great features of the iPhone is when you sync, it backs up the entire phone. So I was able to restore that backup to my new iPhone in just a couple clicks. It restored not just my contacts and email, but also my SMS history, my apps, all my data within those apps, even which web pages I had open in Safari. It restored my life.

Before phones got smart, losing a phone or replacing a phone meant you lost all your contacts. I still remember people on Facebook asking, “I replaced my phone. Please send me your number.” But the iPhone went further than just restoring contacts. They made it completely painless to get your life back in order when you replace your phone.

One thing on my phone that I love having: the entire SMS history between me and Kate from our first date until today.


What other gems are hidden in SMS history? When I first saw Kate on the night we met, I messaged my friend Roy because I needed a wing man. We still have the proof.

This is why Apple isn’t just a company that makes products I use, but a company that powers my digital life and memories. Apple brings me joy.

The leaked next generation iPhone looks amazing. But there is one reason why I think it might be a fake

Apple marks all prototypes with a code so that if photos are leaked online, Apple know who leaked it.

The marks are usually indentations around the edge of the iPhone/iPad and are designed to be visible in photos.

Overall the leaked photos and the video of this iPhone look very legitimate. But this detail makes me wonder if the whole thing could be a hoax. I haven’t seen these marking anywhere.

Forcing iPhone developers to write native apps gives Apple the ability to switch architectures more easily

Imagine if Flash was allowed to do this and a year from now let’s say 10% of the apps in the app store are going through Flash rather than writing specifically through x-code to the native SDK and Apple wants to do something with iPhone OS 5 a year from now that isn’t compatible with the output right now of Adobe Flash CS5. Well all of a sudden 10% of the apps in the app store can’t be updated to the latest version until Adobe updates their developer tools. And we’ve seen this before…

A really great point by Louis Gerbarg.

Flashback: 2003 Apple issues a recommendation, advising developers to switch to XCode developer tools. I was working on Final Cut Pro at the time. The switch from CodeWarrior to XCode wasn’t easy, but we knew we had to do it.

2005, Apple announces they are switching to Intel Macs. Developers who switched to XCode can simply flip a switch in the IDE and their application will compile for both PowerPC and Intel Macs.

By forcing all developers to use a single development platform and set of SDKs, Apple was able to change the most basic, critical, low level chip inside the Macintosh computer with minimal effect on developers and users.

Today, we see web development slowed because of compatibility with Internet Explorer. What if in the future, Apple couldn’t make massive, innovative, cutting edge changes to their platform because apps didn’t adhere to strict standards?

I’m all for being a little more strict, and a lot more cutting edge.


Note: Updated title. Was previously “IE6 caused the web to mature slower than it would have otherwise. Flash would do the same for the iPhone”

The Finder is dead. Soon, a PC won’t have files, folders, or documents. It will have “apps” like an iPhone

There’s a major shift occurring in the way we interact with PCs, applications, and files. It’s being led by Apple with the iPhone, the iPad, and I predict, the next major version of Mac OS.

1. We will no longer interact with applications or files on a desktop PC

When you launch iTunes, you see your music. When you launch iPhoto, you see your photos. When you launch Mail, you see your email. Where is it all stored? Who cares. Apple stores these files on your Mac in a folder or “package” that isn’t meant to be examined or manipulated.

People resisted this model for a while. For some reason, users wanted to manage their files on a desktop, a paradigm that was revolutionary back in 1984. But I always loved Apple’s model. It makes everything easy to organize and backup. I don’t want to deal with the details, just make it work.

Apple used this as the de facto model for the iPhone. Each application has its own sandbox of files and data. The user isn’t aware of or troubled by the concept of files or storage.

The iPad works the same way, and for most people, so will their next PC. In just a few years, everyone but pro users will be using a device centered around “apps” instead of files. If you aren’t a developer, designer, or video editor, this simpler data model is all you need for the web, email, and media.

2. The central point of syncing your data will no longer be your PC, it will be Mobile Me (the cloud)

Right now you sync your iPod, iPhone, iPad, and AppleTV to your computer. Why is the computer the central point of all this? As these other devices evolve and become more powerful, we’ll use our PC less and less. The central point of sync should be the cloud, the internet.

I want to be able to access all my data on my iPhone, iPad, and iCar. And I want them all to be in sync. I want the data to be managed automatically, backed up, secure, and fast. If I buy a video on my iPad, sync it to my TV instantly. If I take a photo on my iPhone, sync it to my iPad. Don’t ask me anything, just make sure everything is everywhere.

The cloud will be the hub for everything, and each device will sync to it. When you want to replace the battery on your iPad, Apple will simply replace your entire iPad. Why not? Just resync all the data.

Back in 1998, Apple killed the floppy drive with one fell swoop. Killing the PC desktop won’t be as quick and easy, but Apple will do it over time. It started with the iPhone, and in a few years we won’t even remember the Finder.

Say goodbye to the desktop.


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PicPosterous 1.1 is out. It does on the iPhone, what I wish iPhoto did on the Mac. Apple doesn’t understand the web

A few years ago I was chatting with some folks at Apple and I told them I wanted iPhoto to sync with a website, my online photo gallery. I didn’t like publishing my photos online manually.

It’s 2009 and this still isn’t possible. I still have to do some set of curation/export/attach/send steps to get my photos online. It’s a pain. How cool would it be if my iPhoto/Aperture was always online? Anytime I make changes on the desktop (add/remove photos, add captions, etc), it would just sync with the web.

At least that’s how it works on my iPhone now. Step 1, create albums. Step 2, add and remove photos and videos to albums. There is no step 3. My photos and videos are just always online, instantly. I don’t have to consciously think about “posting” them.

This goes right along with our belief in making web publishing easy, natural, and built into the tools we already use. Reducing friction is always the way to go.