They don't make them like they used to

My wife's iPhone 4 died this week.  I upgraded it to iOS 6 after most of the bugs I experienced were solved to pave the way for an upgrade to an iPhone 5.  The upgrade went well, and it looked as if everything worked until she went for a run.  No music played.  She told me about it, and I thought it must just be something wonky with iTunes Match.  No problem, most iTunes Match issues are easy to fix.  Just turn off Match and turn it back on.  If you want to get really serious, turn off Match, restart the phone and then turn Match on again.

I did both, but Match still didn't work.  It would hang on the iCloud-icon-plus-progress-bar screen for hours before ultimately showing some artists and playlists full of songs but with no titles, artwork or content–just numbers.  A little Googling lead me to a few very busy topics on Apple's support forums with a few solutions that were working for a minority of posters.  I tried them all.  Nothing helped.

We're running a race this weekend, and Jenny likes to run with music.  If Match won't work we can do this the old fashioned way.  I can just sync her music via iTunes. That was a good theory, but in practice iTunes froze every time I connected her iPhone.  Uh oh. There are more options.  All our iOS devices are connected to iCloud, and they're all set to backup.  I checked the Settings app, and a successful iCloud backup happened the night before.  I did a manual backup and then erased the phone via settings.  The phone rebooted and I went through the setup screens–until the phone froze.  Oh boy.

Let's get serious.  I forced the iPhone to turn off, and held the home button and connected a dock cable to go into recovery mode.  I used iTunes to reset the phone.  It worked and the iPhone rebooted.  And froze.  No amount or rebooting or entering recovery mode helped now.  In the words of Mr. McCoy, "He's dead, Jim."

Now I have a problem.  An iPhone 5 will take some time to acquire.  It could take weeks.  There's no way my wife can be sans phone that long.  It's time to visit the AT&T store and see what my options are.  The next morning I was out front, waiting for the doors to open.  I told them my story.  They tested the phone and confirmed it was quite dead.  First order of business, order an iPhone 5.  Their order system said it would ship within 24 hours–which sounded too quick to me.  Even if was true, the iPhone 5 ships from China.  Even with air freight, that's a multi day affair.  I asked about the no contract pricing for the iPhone 4 and 4S.  $350 to $650 depending on memory.  Ouch.

Next the sales person directed me to a $35 GoPhone for prepaid customers.  I imagine my wife trying to text people via T9, but I don't see what my other options are.  I buy one and we activate it.  I notice a few things immediately.

  • It's tiny.  It's thicker than an iPhone, sure. But it was also more narrow and shorter.
  • It's light.  2.68 oz versus 3.95 for the "20% lighter" iPhone 5.
  • It's solid.  The phone is light and plastic.  I would never worry about dropping it.  Not just because it's $35–the light weight and plastic shell means it would not likely gather enough force to do damage.
  • It had a USB port.  This gave me hope that I'd be able to get her contacts on to the phone, even if I had to use a VM.
  • It didn't have Bluetooth.
  • It's confusing to use.  I couldn't unlock it without help.  I could get to the menu or text.  Discoverability was low compared to any touch screen phone.
  • Tactile feedback is good.  On the other hand, once I was shown where things were, my T9 muscle memory came back and I could dial, text, unlock and perform other tasks without thinking or looking at the phone.  From unlock to dialed I could beat any smartphone user with ease.
  • The battery lasts forever.  In the time we used this thing, the battery never showed any drop from full.
  • The reception and call quality are better.  In a basement?  On a low road?  Calls continue and sound good where other phones fail.

Engineering is making tradeoffs.  Smartphone makers have to design a tiny computer and then also add a phone to it.  A feature phone doesn't have to worry about a large screen, fast processor, WiFI antennas, or the other trappings of a smart phone.   This phone could have been smaller, but I suspect that would have made it hard to hold.  Instead, there's just a lot of empty space inside the case.

With no contacts, Jenny had a hard time calling people, or even knowing who was texting her.  She was never the T9 messenger I was either.  If I can load her contacts this will be better.  I connected the phone to our iMac with USB and nothing happened.  A little more Google searching and I discovered that the USB port on this phone is for charging only. The only way to copy contacts is via a SIM card.  Not an option.

You can't throw a rock in our house without hitting an iPod, so I decided to sync her contacts to an iPod she could carry with her.  Ah, but I quickly discovered that iCloud contacts don't sync with iPods unless its an iPod Touch.  There are workarounds, but most of them bring the risk of duplicating contacts. Our only iPod Touches belong to my daughters.  I was starting to feel defeated.

Then Jenny said "what about our old iPhones?"  Hidden in a drawer were our original, aluminum backed iPhones.  I'd saved them because I thought someday they's be as iconic as the original Macintosh.  Hmm.  Interesting.  Would they even work at all?

I picked up the iPhone and I was reminded that the original iPhone was alway my favorite in terms of feel.  It doesn't have the fragile glass back of the 4/4s or the slippery plastic of the 3G/3GS.  The rounded aluminum back is more comfortable in the hand than the hard edges of the 4/4S.  I connected the 4 GB iPhone to a charger and the screen lit up with the battery icon.  I let it charge for a few minutes and then it started up.  Success!  I erased the phone using settings and it failed to reboot.  I tried recovery mode and iTunes brought it back running iOS 3.1.3.

I synced it and then swapped the SIM card with the little GoPhone.  After a reboot it activated and connected to the EDGE network.  It received calls.  It texted.  It browsed the web. Good.  No contacts.  No email.  No apps.  Not so good.

Apps weren't going to happen.  No one is targeting iOS 3 anymore.  Email, well that should work.  iTunes set up the iCloud account as MobileMe–and of course Apple discontinued MobileMe.  Manually setting up an IMAP account fixed that easily enough.  Contacts looked harder.  I could use the same methods that would work on an iPod, but I still ran the risk of duplicating contacts.

But what about Gmail?  iOS 3 supports Gmail and Gmail supports contacts.  I setup a gmail account for Jenny and then added it to the iPhone.  There was no option to enable contacts or calendars.  Hmm.  OK, I remember that Gmail supports Exchange and iOS 3 does too. I deleted the Gmail account and added it back as an Exchange account.  Once it was done I turned off Mail and turned on Contacts.  Now we're talking.

In Contacts on the Mac in turned on Google sync.  Nothing.  It will only grab local contacts.  I know Google will take a CSV for contacts, but Contacts on the Mac will only produce VCF files.  Well, I can convert VCF to CSV.  I did that.  It worked.

Well, almost worked.  Most of the contacts don't have phone numbers.  I could go back and work on the CSV, but what first let me see if Google will take the VCF dump from Contacts.  I deleted all Jenny's contacts from Gmail and then imported the VCF–and this was a total success.

Phone? Check.  Texting on a QWERTY keyboard? check.  Web?  Slow, but check.  Email? Check.  Contacts? Check.  Apps?  Nope.  iMessages? No, but everything but group messages falls back to SMS after a delay.  This will at least work as an acceptable life raft until an iPhone 5 arrives on the doorstep.

What about the original problem: music while running?  An iPod Nano will fill that need really well.  Sometimes we just have to take the long way around, I guess.

The iPhone 5 Ads

A very perceptive friend of the agency provided the inspiration for the following commentary by sending me this article in AdWeek covering Apple's TV spots for the iPhone 5.  You can see all four of the spots by visiting that link, but here's one for reference:

AdWeek points out that this spot seems to be a back-to-basics approach to Apple Ads following the disappointments with the widely unpopular "Genius Ads."  While the point is interesting, I don't think it shows a long term understanding of Apple's advertising.

Think back to the late 90s.  Steve Jobs has just returned to Apple as a consultant and somehow managed to out the CEO and replace the Board of Directors.  One of his first moves as acting CEO was to rehire TBWA's famous agency Chiat-Day (as a matter of disclosure, I work for a TBWA network agency).  Apple's product pipeline wasn't promising, and Apple needed a way to convince its remaining loyal customers that the company would not only survive, but return to growth.  Apple's ads made an about face going from this:

To this:

Think Different was risky.  No product is shown in the ad.  For that matter, no computers of any kind appear during the campaign.  If you're not a professional marketer, you may have never seen a Brand Anthem.  Often agencies will produce longer form, high-creative work aimed at marketing people or internal audiences.  These typically aren't shown to the public because media is expensive and customer attention is scarce.  If you have the money for media and the customer's attention, the safe bet is generally on a product message.  Under Steve, Apple made the realization that there was no good product message, and Apple had to buy time.  So, they drew a line in the sand and publicly proclaimed what they stood for.  In those days, most people believed Apple was going out of business.  Windows 95 was eating away the final advantages of the Mac.  Luckily, Think Different worked.  It was lifestyle advertising at its best, and it rallied the troops–both internal and external to Apple's payroll long enough for new products to reach production.

The first major introduction after Steve return was the Power Macintosh G3 and the Apple Store online.  The Power Mac G3 featured a new processor that offered some genuine, if overstated, performance advantages for that time.  The hardware was very nice in terms of serviceability, but not all that different from previous Power Macs.  Apple introduced a little bit of swagger into it's ads with "Toasted."

Toasted was another stop gap ad.  The Power Macintosh G3 family was well into development by the time Steve returned, but you can see modern elements to Apple's ads in this spot.  There is a plain white background.  One product feature is communicated during the entire 30 second spot.  The ad is simple, direct and focused.

In August of 1998, the first real fruit of Steve's return was born: the iMac.  With this spot, we can see the formula for all of Apple's subsequent Mac product ads.  Let's watch one now.

When the iMac was introduced, connecting to the Internet was confusing for most people.  You needed a modem, and you needed to configure things like PPP and TCP/IP in order for that modem to offer Internet services.  This spot was devoted to showing the iMac was easier.  Every iMac ad highlighted a single feature.  Apple's Mac ads continued with this formula all the way to the present.  Take a a look at the latest ads for the Retina MacBook Pro.

One product is featured for the entire 30 seconds.  One feature is the focus of the entire spot.  It is explained simply, directly and focused.  Look back at Apple's Mac ads.  Dozens of product spots all support this message.  From the candy-colored iMacs, to the funky floating display of the iMac G4, to the weapons grade Power Mac G4 and into the modern age of impossibly thin portable computers the formula has remained remarkably consistent.

Of course, Apple doesn't just do product ads.  They also produce higher-order campaigns to sell platforms.  The first such campaign was "Switch."  These ads were straight-shot testimonials from former Windows users who made a move to the Mac.

The switch ads were well liked by most Apple fans, but were the source of considerable debate in the larger world of tech.  No one could say for sure if these ads were really convincing people to buy Macs.  Apple's sales were improved, but that wasn't saying much–Apple was coming back from the verge of collapse.  After the Switch campaign ran its course, the Get a Mac campaign filled the Mac campaign role.  I'm sure you remember its opening line.

We see that Apple has two concurrent ad models for the Mac.  On the one hand you have the very consistent product ads.  On the other, you have higher-concept campaigns that lay the groundwork for the product spots.  The most recent Mac campaign was Mac Genius, and it hit the market with a thud.

I actually like these spots.  As a technical Mac person, I get interrupted by well meaning people seeking Mac help a lot.  I had high hopes for this series, but the crowd spoke quickly and loudly.  Apple pulled these spots in record time, and the Mac campaign spot is left empty.

Today, Apple makes more than Macs.  It may seem strange, but there was a time when the idea of Apple making something other than computers and peripherals was an oddity..  As great as the iMac was, it was not the product that propelled Apple to the forefront of culture.  That honor belongs to the iPod.  When the iPod was introduced, it was a Mac only MP3 player.  There was no iTunes Music Store.  Apple had to explain what the product was, and the first spot shows us a bridge from the product focused Mac spots and the lifestyle focused iPod campaigns to follow.

I love this spot.  You see the torch pass from the Mac to the iPod.  The dancing man also lays the groundwork for the future direction of iPod advertising.  In 2001, the iPod was a strange new thing from Apple, but once Windows compatibility and the iTunes Music Store were added, Apple was suddenly the leader of a market by sales volume.  Everyone knew what the iPod was, and so iPod ads could focus on lifestyle.  "Silhouettes" took Apple advertising in a new direction.

Like the Mac product spots, iPod ads remained remarkable consistent.  Although the visual production gained texture and depth as the spots evolved, the iconic product representation remained, and the effect of the music on a dancing silhouette was the payoff.  These spots worked with youth culture in a way the Mac ads never could, and cemented Apple as a dominant leader in music, and consumer electronics.  Apple was no longer the maker of a niche computer brand.

Fueled by a resurgent Mac and explosive iPod growth, Apple made a bold move by launching a smart phone.  The iPhone represented a fundamental shift in user interface models, and so it was not enough to show the hardware and use voiceovers about new features as worked for the Mac.  Likewise, the iPod lifestyle ads couldn't convey how new and remarkable the iPhone was.  Apple and TBWA created a new direction for iPhone product ads where a product demo is shared for the entire spot.  This worked well because the iPhone's interface was novel and captivating.

iPhone (and iPad) ads have been just as consistent as Mac and iPod ads.  Every spot is a direct product shot showing a demonstration of features and usability–at least they were until Apple introduced a new interface model for the iPhone.  Siri demanded something special.

The first Siri ads were great.  They showcased actual use cases and response from the product.  Although shot differently than traditional iPhone spots, this was appropriate.  Siri is a different way to use an iPhone.  Siri ads followed a formula of their own.  The focus was on Siri–in most case the full face of the person using Siri is obscured. The focus was on the iPhone and on Siri.

Apple broke this formula with the celebrity Siri ads and I never liked them.  The were celebrity focused instead of product focused.  Apple has used celebrities to good effect in the past–Will Ferrel did a couple of amazingly funny switch ads. But these ads didn't accurately communicate the product experience.  While anyone with an iPhone 4S could try the examples given in the first Siri ads with great success, the celebrity ads were too scripted.  Just try asking your 4S to remind you to "put the Gestapo on ice" as Samuel Jackson did–I've never seen this work in the wild.

As an aside, some of my favorite Apple ads are for the iPod Touch.  These ads combine the iPhone style demonstrations with iPod style fun and lifestyle focus.  The iPod Touch is a mashup product, so it makes sense for its ad formula to be a mashup as well.

With all this in mind, it seems clear that Apple has very consistent formulas for product advertising.  The new iPhone spots aren't a retreat from the Siri ads at all–they're a continuation of the approach that extends all the way back to the iMac ads of 1998.  Apple's Siri ads shouldn't be viewed as an aberration.  Instead, they are part of a new family of Feature ads.  Look at the spots for iCloud, or IOS 5 for other examples.

No company can execute flawlessly all the time, and there have been some bad ads in Apple's history.  A careful examination of Apple's ad history should make it clear that the iPhone 5 ads aren't an attempt to right the wrongs of the Mac Genius spots–they are the normal formula for new iPhone hardware.  Apple exhibits remarkable discipline in maintaining a brand that is consistent in how it communicates.

We haven't seen the last of the Apple feature ads.  Just don't confuse them for product spots.

The iPhone 5

I haven't ordered an iPhone 5 yet, but I thought I'd share my impressions for anyone who's interested now that I've had the chance to actually use one.  Consumer response the the iPhone 5 is obviously off the charts.  Apple sold 5 million of them over the weekend.  Although I'm still not sure if I'll keep my 4S another year or upgrade, my hands-on time with the device makes a few things obvious.

  • The build quality on this phone is better than anything Apple has ever made.  You get the feeling of a luxury watch instead of a cell phone.
  • It feels much lighter than the 4S.  It's dramatic.
  • The 4S is not slow, but the 5 is much faster.  If I use a 5 too much, I won't be able to keep my 4S.
  • The camera is remarkable, especially in low light conditions.
  • There aren't any opportunities to test LTE networks in Tallahassee.
  • This phone is a big win for international travel.
  • I don't know if I like the taller screen.  I'm craving a smaller iPhone, not a larger one.  I am very much in the minority here.
  • The color fidelity on the iPhone 5 is remarkable.

My wife has an iPhone 4, so I plan to upgrade her to the iPhone 5 when supplies get better.  What about you?  Did you make the jump?  Are you planning to?

The Plight of the 8 GB iPhone - How to install iOS 6 when you are low on free space

Apple released iOS 6 to the world at large yesterday.  Compared to Mountain Lion, or even iOS 5's initial release, iOS 6 seems a little rough around the edges.  I've experienced strange issues with Passbook with an even stranger fix.  More troubling is the ongoing issued with WiFi connectivity which may be fixed.  As always, the smart idea with any major update is to wait a week or two.  I tend to update on day one as a job necessity–if there's a problem I need to know how to deal with it.   Let other people deal with the teething issues of a news OS if you're not in IT or development.

There's one question, however, that I've gotten enough that it warrants a blog post: "How do I upgrade my iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch when I don't have enough free space to download the update?"  This is most common in devices with 8 GB of storage that support iOS 6, but I've also gotten it from people who use all the space on their device.  Dozens of people told me they've tried deleting apps, music and movies but they still can't install iOS 6.

Fret no more.  This procedure should work for any device that can run iOS, as long as you either use iCloud, sync with iTunes on a computer, or both.

  1. Backup your device.  If you're using iCloud, connect to a WiFI network and open Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.  Make sure iCloud Backup is on and then tap Back Up Now.  Let this backup finish completely.
  2. If you sync with iTunes, update iTunes to version 10.7.  Once iTunes is running 10.7, do a full sync/backup.  Open iTunes preferences and click Devices once the backup is complete.  Check the date and time and verify the backup you have is current.
  3. Make absolutely sure you did either step 1 or 2.  Preferably both.  The next step will erase everything you have, and you'll need these backups to get it back!
  4. On your device, open Settings > General > Reset.  Tap Erase All Content & Settings.  Confirm when your device asks if you are crazy.
  5. Wait.  Your device will reboot.  Don't fill in your Apple ID or setup iCloud.  Skip as much of the setup wizard as you can.
  6. Connect to a WiFi network.
  7. Open General > Settings > Software Update and install iOS 6.
  8. Wait.  Your device will reboot.  Don't fill in your Apple ID or setup iCloud.  Skip as much of the setup wizard as you can.
  9. On your device, open Settings > General > Reset.  Tap Erase All Content & Settings.  Confirm when your device asks if you are crazy.  I know this sounds familiar, but trust me.
  10. Now, when your device reboots you can either run through the setup assistant and restore from your iCloud backup (easy but slow) or connect your device to iTunes and restore from that backup (faster, but not quite as easy).
  11. Your device is now running iOS 6 with all your apps and data intact.

Some of my fellow nerds will argue that steps 8 and 9 could be bypassed, but I wanted to make sure these instructions were as easy and clean as possible.

Owning the experience

Back when Apple was just starting to find its footing after a brush with death, management realized that it had no real control over how potential customers experienced its products.  The Mac still had a lot going for it despite years of mismanagement.  Those advantages were lost amid really poor retail executions.  Mac displays were always poorly assembled, and the sales people in computer stores didn't really like Macs.  Customers were consistently steered away from the Mac section toward something the salesperson was more comfortable with.

I can remember going to Sears with my dad to pick up a computer when I was in high school.  This was a few years before Steve Jobs returned to Apple, and the company was in rough shape.  I started programming in grade school, and designed networks in middle school.  This made me different from a typical computer shopper, and in many ways I was a computer salesperson's worst nightmare: a know-it-all teenager.

True to form, our salesman was determined to point us away from the Macs.  I took this as an obvious opportunity to convert him to the Apple Cause™.  The poor guy!  All he wanted was a commission on a sale and I wouldn't leave him alone.  I told him about the differences in the memory model of a Mac vs DOS/Windows.  I told him about plug and play, and the lack of a shell underneath the GUI.  I preached the most powerful computer sermon of my life.

We bought a Mac.  A Performa 6115 CD.  You graybeards know what I'm talking about.  It was a rebranded Power Mac 6100/66 that included a display and some software.  I talked my dad into a 486-based DOS card so we could run Windows too.  I over clocked the CPU and loaded the thing up with RAM.  I learned more from that single machine than any thing before it or since.

It would have never happened if Dad went alone.  The salesman would have talked him into a PC.

This experience should have told me Apple wasn't crazy to open its own stores.  They'd worked on the store-within-a-store concept, and it helped enough to stop the bleeding. More still had to be done.  Most people didn't even consider Apple products when buying computers.

The whole world thought Apple was insane to open stores.  I had my doubts as well.  They were just getting on solid ground financially.  Other computer companies' retail efforts were dismal failures.  Remember Gateway Country?

But it worked.  Apple Stores propelled the company to new heights, and they remain a critical factor in keeping momentum.  Apple makes great products, sure.  But Apple Stores give millions of people the opportunity to experience those products at their best.  That matters more than ever now.

Apple's utter dominance of multiple industries has created an environment where their partners fear them.  Apple executes on such a consistent basis that it is a threat.  How much leverage to record labels have in negotiating?  What about cell phone carriers?

AT&T and Verizon logos

It should come as no surprise that AT&T and Verizon are both steering customers away from the iPhone.  The iPhone represents an incredible portion of the smartphone sales for both those carriers.  They don't like it.  They chafe under the influence Apple has over them.  The carriers hate to see the share of their revenue that goes back to Apple as a phone subsidy. Apple wants to own the customer relationship. They want to own support. They also won't let the carrier dictate the features, branding or ad model of the handset. Every bit of marketshare Apple gains represents a loss of control for the carrier.  That's great for customers, but terrifying for a business.

Imagine what would happen if Apple didn't have stores.  What defense would they have?

Apple does have stores.  Those stores sell a lot of iPhones.  The people buying those iPhones tell their friends how much they love them and now the carriers have to contend with millions of users who come in and say "I want an iPhone."

Like a know-it-all teenager.