How is the iPhone 4 Doing?

PC World called the iPhone 4’s launch as “sloppy as it was successful.”  What’s so sloppy about selling an incredible 1.7 million units in the first three days of sale?  The usually cautious and careful Apple made a number of missteps, and there is no doubt the eagerly awaited iPhone had some glitches to be worked through.

Even before the launch of the 4G iPhone, Apple, which normally keeps their trade secrets and prototypes with fortress-level security, let slip a few demo models of their phones, most notably was when engineer Gray Powell left his prototype behind in a bar.  Immediately before the launch, Apple’s ordering system crashed under the weight of unprecedented pre-orders, and long lines were expected to be the norm on the actual launch date, June 24.

Perhaps the most surprising of the glitches, however, do not have to do with circumstances surrounding the iPhone, but issues with the phone itself.  Among those noted by PC World:

  • Apple made much of the improved external antenna system, which was supposed to provide much better signal and help reduce those infamous lost calls.  This sophisticated technology was foiled when users block the lower left hand corner when holding the phone.  Apple responded to these complaints that they should not hold the phone that way.  That is like telling your mom your foot hurts when you walk, expecting a solution or at least a kiss for your booboo, and having her tell you not to walk.  Many were understandably put off by this response.
  • Some users experienced discolored spots or yellow patches on their shiny, new $200 to $700 screens.
  • Up is down and down is up.  Some users noted that the volume buttons were reversed.  Not a big problem, but certainly irritating.
  • The new FaceTime video chat program is prone to crashes, and some of these may not be fixed by rebooting.
  • The highly touted multitasking capabilities are bringing complaints of their own for sucking away too much battery life.  It is also thought that the phone doesn’t provide enough juice to power its own programs and iOS4 is more prone to closing unexpectedly.  You may want to stick to monotasking for a while.

There are ample Apple fans, however, that are thrilled with their new iPhones, and the whopping first week sales attest to that.  While maybe not technically the best smartphone out there, the iPhone 4G certainly has hype and reputation on its side.

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Apps for Elections? Politicians Turning to the iPhone

Have you ever wished that you could just whip out your iPhone, check on your favorite candidate’s campaign and make a donation?  For the politically inclined, checking up-to-the-minute news on campaigns is like checking in for sports scores during the playoffs.  The use of social media and smartphones in politics is growing, as Barack Obama showed during his 2008 campaign; will it have a drastic impact on the political landscape?

It can in that it helps reach younger, more tech-savvy voters.  Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minnesota House Speaker and gubernatorial candidate, for instance, offers an app giving potential voters the chance to look at her schedule of events, read news releases, check out her bio, and, of course, make donations to her campaign.  Kelliher’s spokesman, Matt Swenson, says, “It shows that our campaign is a modern campaign.  We’re connecting with people where they are right now through the phones in the palm of their hands.”

Facebook and Twitter have become standard fare, and many politicians, including Dan Rutherford, Illinois state senator and candidate for state treasurer, who says, “This is another medium for our supporters to track us.”  Shaking hands and kissing babies isn’t the key to winning anymore.  Getting out there is still essential, but “getting out there” entails having a visible online profile with Facebook and Twitter accounts, blogs, websites, and if you have $5000 to $10,000 in your campaign fund, an iPhone app.

If you love a good conspiracy theory, check this out:  Apple can reject any app, and it seems to do so arbitrarily at times, which has been a complaint among developers for some time.  According to Switched:

“Some worry (and perhaps rightly so) that Apple’s strict control over the App Store could allow it to exert influence over the political process. The company has already had one well publicized dust up with Ari David, who was seeking the Republican nomination for congress, when it rejected David’s app for allegedly defaming his potential opponent Henry Waxman.

This is clearly a plot by Apple to take over the country.  Peter Scheer, executive director of the California-based First Amendment Coalition says, “Their whole smorgasbord of apps is the equivalent of a magazine’s selection of the articles it wants to print and, therefore, it’s entitled to be as biased as it wants to be frankly.”

But Scheer doesn’t think Apple is going to sway voters by rejecting apps for certain candidates (though Ari David might vehemently disagree).  Steve Jobs admitted Apple needs to tweak its policies regarding political apps, and this will become increasingly necessary as the 2010 elections approach.

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The Importance of Music Licensing

Recently, it was announced that in the year since Michael Jackson’s death, which took place right before he was set to launch a 50 concert tour, his estate has earned an astonishing $1 billion.  While he’s not around to enjoy the resurgence in his popularity, his beneficiaries will feel the effect.  He was one of 2009’s best selling artists, and licensing rights have helped his estate battle the chronic debt that he struggled with when he was alive.

Here’s how the earnings break down:

  • $383 million in album sales for both solo recordings and Jackson 5 albums.
  • $34 million in digital downloads.
  • $5 million in ringtones.
  • $2 million in subscription services and digital performance royalties.
  • $4.5 million from global digital performances.
  • $392 million from TV and film sales.  This allowed concert promoters to recoup their losses – and the Jackson estate kept the rest.
  • $3.5 million for memorabilia exhibit in Japan.  China is set to host such an exhibit as well.
  • $31 million from deal with Sony Music.  For one year.  With a projected timeline of 7 years. Nice change for the Jackson estate.

If you’ve been following the math, you’ll see that these figures don’t add up to $1 billion.  Billboard, which compiled the earnings numbers, projected a few hundred million dollars in monies from various sources, including would-be concert goers who kept their tickets as souvenirs, potential revenue from Jackson’s upcoming video game, and future revenue from Sony’s megadeal.

The success that Michael Jackson’s estate is now enjoying underscores the importance of music licensing.  Proper licensing and copyright practices ensure that the money goes to the artist, or in this case, his estate.  It also underscores the fact that posthumous artists enjoyed great success in 2009, with Jackson and The Beatles reaching the top of the money charts.  Billboard’s article, entitled “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife,” gives more detail on Jackson’s earnings.

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Dropped Calls a Thing of the Past for Apple?

While the iPhone is tremendously popular, as evidenced by the record-breaking demand for the 4G, it does have its share of detractors.  Among them are many users in San Francisco, New York, and other cities where reception is patchy.  Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers even parodied the phone, saying:  “It was reported this week that Google would soon launch its own cell phone as a challenge to the iPhone.  Also a challenge to the iPhone?  Making phone calls.”  Apple hopes that improvements with the new iPhone will make these jokes outdated.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new iPhone 4 improves its antenna design.  The previous version had it placed under the phone’s shell, which could have limited its ability to pick up reception.  The new stainless steel antenna of the 4G wraps around the sides of the shell.  The 4G will, says the FCC, put out more radio frequency radiation than its predecessor but no more than Palm or RIM smartphones.  Roger Entner, a Nielsen telecommunications researcher says, “A large antenna has a massive impact on how the device interfaces with the network.”  He calls the updated antenna, “a massive improvement.”

Other experts worry that the new antenna will have little effect on the clogged AT&T network.  But while Steve Jobs may blame AT&T for this, and Verizon may gloat, some analysts think that no carrier would be able to handle the iPhone’s demands flawlessly at this point.  Piper Jaffray analyst Chris Larsen says, “For Verizon…we still wonder if the network has the capacity and backhaul to support a device with an adoption curve of the iPhone.”  With the advent of the iPhone, AT&T’s network traffic increased an astonishing 5000 percent.  Under such strain, the improvement of the antenna may not have a tremendous effect.

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Michael Jackson Game on Way?

Those who say the music industry is dead would seem to have been validated by last year’s sales information: the biggest selling artist of 2009 was the late Michael Jackson, and he was also the star of biggest concert film in history.  Now it seems that the King of Pop is enjoying even more posthumous accolades:  Ubisoft is reportedly creating a music game based around the controversial but always entertaining megastar.

The next question is if the music game industry is dead.  Green Day’s Rock Band was recently released by Harmonix, and in 2009, the Beatles iteration was released to less than stellar sales.  Other music games have fared about the same, the thinking is that once you have a music-based game, why would you buy another?  After the huge initial success, it appears that the genre is stagnating.  Ubisoft hopes to change this by offering fans the chance to dance like Jackson, earn points, and listen to his most popular tunes.

Ubisoft marketing executive Tony Key says, “I don’t have any doubt that a dance game based on Michael Jackson’s music will reinvigorate the music category.  The great part about the dance category is that the barrier to entry is much lower.  You don’t need a guitar.  You don’t need anything.  You buy the game and you play it.”  Mr. Key adds that while all of the songs to make it on the games are as yet unknown, they will likely include “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.”

Other details, like the price, exact release date, title, and number of songs remains unknown, but it seems that the game will be out in time for 2010’s holiday season.  The game will be able to use motion sensors to “watch” players dance and score their movements.  But Key is quick to point out that you aren’t recreating the video here, and in fact, there will be no full-length videos on the game.  Jackson’s estate is limiting the licensing rights, excluding his likeness and “learning” the songs.

It’s been over 20 years since Jackson starred in his own video game.  In 1988, Moonwalker hit Sega and Jackson moonwalked through enemies to rescue children.  According to the LA Times, even Jackson’s pet chimp, Bubbles, was included in the game as “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Smooth Criminal,” and other tracks played.

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A Look at the 4G

The love affair with Apple continues: luckily, the mammoth tech company was able to impress with the new 4G even after the incredibly pervasive hype and unprecedented leaks.  To those who thought that the 3G would remain the superior smartphone, PC World says that “The Apple iPhone 4 is everything that a new piece of technology should be: It’s innovative, attractive, and ahead of its competition. In comparison, previous iPhone upgrades seem inconsequential–that’s how much iPhone 4 brings to the table.”  So what does it bring?

Among the most discussed changes are the sleek, slimmer design, crisp display, much improved camera, computer-like functioning, and the option for iBooks.  The phone is said to be a great upgrade even for those with the 3GS.  Let’s look at some of the features:

  • The aesthetic appeal of the new iPhone is undeniable.  It is shiny and chic, with a more slim, incredibly sleek design.  The contours are more rounded, and little touches, like the finger-print and scratch-resistant glass face and back plates, and the individual volume buttons, up the luxury quotient.  Cosmetic upgrades may seem minor but there tends to be a social cache attached to Apple products, and looks do mean a lot to users.
  • The display is crisp 960 x 640 pixel IPS and 326 pixels per inch, for incredibly clear images.  This is the best resolution on a phone to date.
  • With the great display, iBooks is even more of a great feature.  You can transfer your books between different devices, and create notes, bookmarks, and highlights.  iBooks also supports PDF files, so you can import them from Safari or email.  You can also synch these PDFs with other Apple devices.
  • The iPads A4 CPU also powers the new iPhone and allows for features like multitasking.  It is a faster and more seamless experience for users.

While the reaction has been typically positive, DVICE, did have this to say about the new iPhone:


That giant yawn you hear is geek reaction to the new fourth-generation Apple iPhone. Why the nerd nonchalance? Because for the first time since the iPhone blew our brains out in June 2007, there’s already is a more advanced (and cheaper) phone available — the $200 HTC Sprint EVO 4G.


Is the iPhone too late?  It is supposedly coming next month, so we’ll see.

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Green Day is Hoping to Rock Rock Band

“It’s like a glorified karaoke machine.  Or ‘Mortal Kombat’ with guitars.”  Billie Joe Armstrong had this to say after Green Day became one of only two to have a dedicated Rock Band game, joining the legendary Beatles.  He adds that he “sucks” at the game of which he is one of the stars.

Green Day has been around – and around and around but achieved “mainstream” success in 1994 with the release of their “Dookie” album.  The multiplatinum, Grammy-winning band is also enjoying the success of a Broadway show built around American Idiot. So what does the game offer to players?

You can play from the band’s extensive playlist, and as you progress, you can unlock additional treats, like collectible images and unreleased performances, interviews, outtakes, and a tour of their transportation that totals some 40 minutes of never-before-seen entertainment.  In this regard, the game is similar to The Beatles version in that it intersperses gameplay with real footage of the band.  Armstrong says, “You see old footage of us from  the Bookmobile, and weird old performances and stuff no one’s looked at in almost twenty years.”

You can play the painstakingly crafted band members as they perform in a punk rock club, the Fox Theater, and the Milton Keynes Stadium, which was where the group at their first stadium show.

Sales of Harmonix’s Beatles Rock Band were somewhat weak, and many wonder if they once hugely popular music-based game (like Rock Band and Guitar Hero) is passing out of favor with gamers.  As Northern University Marketing researchers wrote, “Once people own a music game, there is less reason to purchase another one.”  Is Green Day going to give music fans and gamers reasons enough to buy the newest iteration of Rock Band?

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More 4G iPhone Leaks?

The aura of mystery that Apple usually carefully creates surrounding new products is largely a joke at this point when it comes to the 4G iPhone.  It made headlines when an Apple engineer supposedly lost his prototype in a bar and tech blog Gizmodo was able to get a hold of it.  On Tuesday, an iPhone blog from Portugal published pictures of what it claims are parts of the new smartphone, and it is making news yet again.  The ability Apple has to make news headlines from spare parts is nothing short of amazing.

The Portuguese tech blog had a video display of the phone parts, which contained no screen, camera, or buttons, and a disclaimer stating that the parts “were purchased in China by one of our readers (weren’t stolen or found) then delivered to us. We will not reveal the price.”  The blog goes on to say, “Are those parts genuine? We can not know but we can tell for sure those parts are perfect, have no defects, not faulty at all, there is not even one single difference between the 2 copies we have.

The metallic parts are convincing, but it is not certain whether these are authentic or not.  What is certain is that Apple fans are starving for any news of this product – and how can the 4G possibly live up to the hype and expectations.  Chinese manufacturers are claiming to have authentic 4G iPhone cases for sale, though it seems more likely that they built the cases after images were leaked.

Apparently, speculation has a few more months to build up, and no doubt Apple hopes to reach fever pitch right in time for the holiday shopping season.  Various sources report that a pre-Christmas release for the updated phone seems likely.  If people want to get their hands on a 4G, HTC is releasing their 4G EVO on June 4.

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