T-Mobile and the iPhone Test Drive Program

T-Mobile's new iPhone 5S test-drive initiative (Source: T-Mobile.com)

T-Mobile's new iPhone 5S test-drive initiative (Source: T-Mobile.com)

T-Mobile is the happening cellular network in the US. It is the bold underdog taking on self-dupolized giants, Verizon & AT&T. T-Mobile under its unorthodox leadership of John Legere has stirred up the carrier network area quite well with its uncannier plan, where it allows customers to deal with the handset and the cellular payments separately and hence avoiding the confusion of contracts and the early upgrade non-sense that AT&T and Verizon famously pioneered. The latest in T-Mobile's bold initiatives, was iPhone test drive program that it had partnered with Apple, where potential new customers or existing customers without an iPhone were allowed to borrow an iPhone for seven days to try it out on T-Mobile's network. Later they can choose to either return it and walk out without shelling out a penny (unless the iPhone is returned damaged) or hop in on the bandwagon, that is T-Mobile. This seemed to have potential benefits for both T-Mobile and Apple and rightly so is proving successful, at least for T-Mobile, according to this post on Re/Code

Although executives insist they don’t have much insight into what Cupertino has in store, they believe it will be a tremendous opportunity to snatch customers from bigger rivals. That’s because T-Mobile has the fewest iPhone customers of any of the big carriers and customers often consider switching when they get their next phone, executives said.
— Re/Code

Since the iPhone debuted on AT&T and years later was available on Verizon and only very recently was available on T-Mobile, most of the iPhone users are still with AT&T and Verizon. I had iPhones on AT&T for almost four years until I switched to T-Mobile earlier this year. Though I complained a lot about AT&T and did not want to switch to Verizon as you cannot talk and use data at the same time on its network, I never considered moving to T-Mobile, until very recently. Like the article quotes above, I think this is the best time for T-Mobile to snatch customers from other big networks as iPhone 6 might be launched as early as next month. My switch to T-Mobile has been very satisfactory and except the coverage issues that plague any small network, everything else about T-Mobile is better than AT&T, speed is comparable (though seems faster, due to less congestion?), very affordable, no gimmicks and straight forward. From its recent quarterly results and more offers for take over, I think T-Mobile is on the right track. One just hopes that T-Mobile does not let success go to its head to soon... 

T-Mobile US, Inc. TMUS +0.27% today reported second quarter 2014 earnings which demonstrated continued customer momentum and strong financial results. The Company surpassed the 50 million customer milestone in the quarter and again led the industry in branded postpaid phone net customer additions. T-Mobile continued to expand and extend the Un-carrier strategy in the quarter, launching both Un-carrier 5.0: Test Drive and Un-carrier 6.0: Music Freedom to address additional consumer pain points and deliver new value to customers.
— MarketWatch on T-Mobile's recent quarterly results

Another App Store lesson

After the somber story I referred to last week on an Indie App Store developer, here is a kind of success story. In an excellent series of blog posts, Stuart Hall has posted details of his "App Store Experiment", quite in detail. Thanks to a friend who shared this with me after reading my previous post on this topic. This is a definite read for anyone interested in developing for the App store. 

The Apple iOS App Store is a land of opportunities for the smart ones (Source: Apple.com)

The Apple iOS App Store is a land of opportunities for the smart ones (Source: Apple.com)

Can I develop an iOS App? - More lessons

For me the take away points from this were significant; any platform/ecosystem comes with its share of advantages and disadvantages. But as a developer in any of the platforms we need to be smart and try to make use of the advantages the ecosystem offers while dodging the disadvantages. For example in the iOS App Store, unfortunately, there has been a race to bottom on the App pricing that has changed the mindset of the people who are so very skeptical in paying even 99 cents for an App (or is it that we as people were always like and the App Store just made us realize the fact?). This is a definite disadvantage for developers whose Apps genuinely deserve something more than 'Free' from its customers. Apple's introduction of the in-App purchase was a definite boost to the developers, but again as in any democratic market place (yeah, Amazon I am talking about you!) there will be elements who take advantage of this and hence the reputation of in-App purchase is general is pretty bad in the App Store. 

But many developers have shown that clever people always find ways amidst all sorts of challenges to be successful (but not deceitful). Marco Arment's Overcast has (if you ask me) an excellent pay if want model. Overcast, a very much usable podcast App is free to purchase for anyone and if you want additional features (like cellular downloads for example), you pay extra. Even then his is a one time one, in-App purchase price is $4.99 for unlocking everything in the App, similar to the "Pro" version in Stuart Hall's App Store Experiment. And these two are extreme opposites of Apps seems to me to be equally successful (relative to the effort that was put in). Marco Arment has been working his App for more than a year at least and he has some unique feature-set to his Podcast App and is know for 'extreme' programing including meddling  with Server side programing and building his own Audio engine. Stuart Hall's 7 Minute Workout App on the other hand is pretty much a few hours of work, according to his post. But (if you ask me) both of their success (revenue normalized by the effort they put in) factors are pretty high and can easily be termed a success. So again the key is to know your battle ground before committing to a battle! 

Start small, particularly if you are an Indie developer, who is just getting into the iOS eco system. iOS App Store is a totally different beast compared to traditional software stores, like the Mac App Store. Don't underestimate the importance of a 'Free' App. In-App purchase is not all that bad, though its general reputation is bad and if you ask an average App buyer, he would say that he hates in-App purchases. But if you read the many developer stories on the App store, only Apps with clever but not tricky (as in trying to steal the customer's money) in-App purchase schemes make it successful in the App Store. Last but not the least, don't go in with only a mind set to make money in the App Store, rather start with an effort to create trust in the customers and money will eventually flow in. These are the lessons I have learnt even before entering the App Store as a wannabe developer. I will keep a watch out for any more pointers that I come across and will update my blog with them. 

Why is AAPL at its all time highest now?

Apple (AAPL) shares are almost at their all time highest at around $98 as of today, while its highest ever value was in Sept 2012, at around $100. It was only a few months back, around January this year that it fell to around $70 (from $80) after yet another 'diasappointing' quarter, where the iPhone sales were a little lower than the analysts' estimates. That quarter was just the latest at that time in a series of quarters before that, where the stock would nosedive right after the the earnings call. However all that stopped in the next quarter's earnings call in April 2014, when more stock buybacks were announced and more importantly, a 7 to 1 split in the stock to get it lesser than $100 (per stock) was announced. But the sales figures themselves while were not a disappointment, were 'nothing great to boast about', as usual. The latest quarterly results were announced in the earnings call last week and though the iPad sales 'disappointed', apparently due to the strong iPhone sales (and though Mac sales were significantly better, I don't think the Wall street cares about Macs' as much as it does about the iPhones' sales), the Apple stock for the first time, did not take a nose dive after the earnings results. I mean this is the first time in like years that this has happened and I am not exaggerating here.

Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock may be the talk of Wall Street as well as Madison Avenue today. Shares are showing strength this morning after being boosted ahead of next week’s earnings announcement. The tech icon is expected to unveil both an iPhone 6 and smartwatch in the fall, and today an equity analyst praises Tim Cook’s recent stewardship.
— Minyanville

Also if you see the figure below, you can see that the stock from its all time high in September 2012, started falling steadily till July 2013 or so and then began its slow climb from there, the biggest of the jumps from there happened after the announcement of the 7 to 1 split (after the announcement in April 2014 and not after the actual split in June 2014). On top of this the financial analysts have been all over the stock upgrading it with all sorts of 'buy' rating in the last few months, specifically. See this one example article on the APPL stock coverage (Miniyanville), it says that Apple stock is showing strength and analysts are praising Tim Cook's stewarding capability... wait, what? Yeah after asking Tim Cook to step down multiple times ever since he took over Apple after Steve Job's passing, analysts are apparently praising Tim Cook's way of running Apple. The biggest question is why? You will be surprised with the answer in the next paragraph!

AAPL from September 2012 to July 2014 (Source: Yahoo finance)

AAPL from September 2012 to July 2014 (Source: Yahoo finance)

The analysts calling for Tim Cook's replacement for Apple's CEO position and predicting Apple's doom in late 2012 to 2013, had only a few reasons (actually more like a couple of reasons) to support their arguments; Apple is being overtake by Android (mainly by the super cheap, so called Android Smartphones) and that Apple cannot 'innovate' after the iPhone, under Tim Cook, as he is no Steve Jobs. Thats it, these were the major reasons for these analysts' perdition of Apple's ultimate demise and the reason for the stock not doing well. So in more than a year now, what has changed for them to start praising Tim Cook, taking a complete U-turn on their views about him and the company in less than a few months? Think about it... wait for it... NOTHING! Yes that is absolutely right, nothing has changed since then till now. Apple has not released any 'cheap' Android competitor, nor has it released any new products (though Tim Cook has promised a few 'new' product categories soon). The iPhone 5C that was thought off as the cheap iPhone was an apparent disappointment (as it was not cheap enough, at just $100 lesser than the iPhone 5S) till Apple's recent quarterly sales announcement, that categorically stated otherwise. Apple has not released any new product categories till July of 2014 that too in a year where Tim Cook, very much unlike Apple, announced that there were going to be new product categories announced by its company before the year ends. So again I ask what has changed? If at all the iPad seems to be stalling in its growth, thanks to its stellar hardware and software capabilities, that it doesn't seem to get obsolete to force people to upgrade it more frequently [Wassup with the iPad?]. 

The only reasons I can think of for this change in financial world's attitude towards Apple is that analysts have finally realized that they know nothing (absolute nada) about Apple and they cannot follow Apple, like they follow, for example oil companies or big conglomerates. Even though tech companies have been around for a while, for example Microsoft, they operated pretty much like Oil companies or big retailers, i.e., set up a market for yourself, drive out the competition by doing whatever you can, monopolize, make only very small incremental upgrades to your below par product and since there is no other choice for the consumers, they will choose you and you can grow your company at a healthy rate. This has been Microsoft's philosophy for years, more so under Steve Balmer. However at Apple, things never were motivated by money, at least not in the Apple that was reinvented by Steve Jobs. Money might be a great by product but never was/is an objective. Apple doesn't do what others have done historically to increase marketshare by low balling quality, doesn't license software to increase software profit margins, doesn't prevent its innovative new products to be launched, because they would canibalize its older products and most importantly does not care about launching new products just because some lame analyst who doesn't even know his own numbers, says so. Apple works like Apple and there is no reference to compare it with anything that already exists and hence the financial analysts ability to predict Apple's performance it similar to my ability to invent a Time Machine (heck, I might have better odds than them for all you know)! So all they have been doing for more than a decade now it adjust their target estimates after the stock has already gained the upward momentum and in now way is that prediction performance, its more like accepting the reality... All this in no way means that Apple will not commit mistakes or flounder in the future, but if and when it does, it will do it in its own unique way and analysts who could not predict Apple's success so far will not be able to predict its failure as well, then.

The financial analysts ability to predict Apple’s performance it similar to my ability to invent a Time Machine (heck, I might have better odds than them for all you know)!

IDC and Gartner numbers: an apparent total hodge-podge

We often refer to the so called research firms IDC and Gartner while talking about market share, shipments for a quarter, etc. These numbers though most of the time make sense (like Apple and Android devices dominate the market in Smartphones and they are almost head to head in market share in the US, etc.) have been proven to be off the actual sales figures the companies report (sometimes the disparity in these firms' figures and the actual numbers have been in tens of millions of devices). While these firms have been enjoying the benefit of the doubt from the industry analysts and watchers so far, there has always been skepticism on their methodologies and actual figures. 

So, the mantra became, preserve the growth rates; to hell with the actual numbers. Even the growth rates are fiction... The industry itself was aware of these issues, but agreed to maintain the fiction because it was convenient.
— A former IDC researcher via Fortune

Fortune posted an article, pretty much confirming most of our doubts, that these firms have been making up their numbers and some sleazy tech companies have been playing along all this time as these firms sucked up to them in terms of reporting favorable numbers. This is such a shame and not a big surprise unfortunately. The latest mishap that brought this issue to light more was after the Apple financial call, where Apple announced that they sold more than 4.4 million Macs in the last quarter and this represented a growth in two digits (greater than 10%) compared to the quarter of the previous year. Ok so a very good quarter for Apple Macs, but unfortunately for IDC and Gartner, this contradicted almost entirely, the sales figures they published, where they had Apple having a 1.2 to 1.5% decline in sales this quarter compared to the last year. This was just not a small discrepancy in statistics and number crunching but a big goof up and now we know why: they are not real sales numbers, but are someone's fictitious figures! I don't know about other sites, these two firms are blacklisted from mine from now on... 

IDC and Gartner (not shown here) had sales figures for Apple Macs for Q2, 2014 that were off by a huge margin from the actual sales numbers Apple announced (Source: via Fortune)

IDC and Gartner (not shown here) had sales figures for Apple Macs for Q2, 2014 that were off by a huge margin from the actual sales numbers Apple announced (Source: via Fortune)

The App store and an Indie developer's chances of making it big in it

Can I develop an iOS App? - Introduction

As some of you might already know, I am a Hardware Engineer by profession and I love my job. Though my job has its fair share of coding, mainly for data analysis and equipment interfacing, I miss 'regular' coding. I did a two year course in C, C++ and Java during my undergraduate years on the side (my main degree was in Electrical), just so as to have some coding expertise. As a result I am theoretically well versed in these languages, though my coding experience is limited to my coursework. When I got in to the Apple ecosystem (before the iPhone was released), I started falling in love with the whole experience right away, mainly due to the simplicity of Mac OS X and how it would let me do my work on it without having to have to troubleshoot the laptop for most of the time, as Windows would force me to. But still I was not that keen on developing my own Apps for the Mac. When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, and more importantly when the App store was introduced a year later and when Apple opened up its APIs for the developers, I was right in the middle of it, hearing stories on how easy it is to develop for Apps for the iPhone and how great the Apps for the iPhone work and have almost an infinite potential. I have been smitten with the idea of being an iOS developer ever since, not full time, but like a fancy hobby on the side!

Stanford's free course offered on iOS 7 programming through iTunes U (Source: iTunes U)

Stanford's free course offered on iOS 7 programming through iTunes U (Source: iTunes U)

With my Ph. D. and finding a job later, it has taken me almost seven years for me since the original iPhone was introduced to even just get started on this dream. Though I have been saving up the Stanford course on developing Apps for iOS on my iTunes U app for more than a year now, I only recently (just a couple of weeks back) started listening to the lectures. I started off with this course offered by Stanford for free on iTunes U as I had heard favorable reviews of this course. Also the course itself, had only some basic pre-requiremtns listed for anyone interested in taking it up. The pre-reqs were mostly basic programming skills and knowledge of Object Oriented Programming (OOP) principles. With my two year experience (albeit almost 10 years back), I thought I should be able to handle this course. I listened to the first couple of lectures and soon found out that though I vaguely remembered all the concepts of OOP, the terms took a while to come back and decided that I should do a refresher of my basic skills and asked a friend of mine who is a Software Engineer to give me a couple of hours worth of brush up of the OOP concepts. He is good at what he does and it really helped me.

Code School's free, simple and fun Objective C starter course (Source: CodeSchool.com)

Code School's free, simple and fun Objective C starter course (Source: CodeSchool.com)

But still when I resumed my lectures, I felt that there were too many things I could not relate to in the lecture, even though I understood the concepts of OOP now very well. It was the darn syntax! Objective C is so much more complex than C or C++, mainly from what I remember. It uses some C concepts by themselves (with no modifications) and some modified Objective C specific concepts. This really screws up a lecture when you are trying to follow it and particularly when you are a newbie. So I decided that I should take a basic course in Objective C before I resume the Stanford's iOS 7 lectures. I remember when I wanted to learn the basics of R, I used Code School and their free webinars and was really impressed with the site and its learning programs. I tried to see if they have a similar course for Objective C and they did. I just started taking this Objective C basics on Code School a few days back and I am half way through and now I can relate to most of the things explained in the Stanford's lecture on iOS 7. 

If you want to maximise your profitability, make small apps that do a few things well. The amount of effort you put into an app has very little to do with how much of the market will buy it. This means that making big apps exposes you to substantially more risk, which is not fairly counterbalanced by significantly higher earnings potential.
— Benjamin Mayo

I don't expect this to be a quick process in anyway and I am here for the long haul. I am going to update my progress on, first the my experience in learning to develop for iOS and then hopefully in developing an App of my own, on this blog with the tag "Can I develop an iOS App?". This is my first post on this topic. When I decided to write this today, I came across with this very useful post (by Benjamin Mayo) on an Indie developer's chances in the iOS App store and lessons learnt from the past Indie developers' experience (like this not such a great experience of the Unread developer, Jared Sinclair). The key take away point(s) from Mayo's post for me was to start small, particularly when you are a small time developer. If you don't invest too much, you might not make too much, but at the same you will also not be at a risk of losing too much. As an Indie developer, our risk taking capacities are pretty low and we need to have that in mind, clearly. I could not have come across these posts at a better time. Though developing my own Apps are too far in the future for me, these developer's sharing their experience has clearly given me the outlook on the scope of what I can expect as an aspiring amateur Indie developer on the iOS App store. 

New MacBook Pros with Retina display to be announced tomorrow?

UPDATE: Apple just released the refreshed MacBook Pros with Retina display, with minor clock sped bumps and increased RAM offerings exactly as per this rumor. Also, both lowest end 13" MacBook Pro with DVD drive and the highest end pre-configured 15" MacBook Pro is  Retina display see a price cut of $100. 

As I had posted a few days back, this is a bad time to buy a MacBook Pro as they seem to be nearing their time for an impending refresh. At that time no one seemed to be sure of what that refresh might be or when it might be. The delay however seemed to be due to Intel's delay in releasing the next generation 'Broadwell' processors, which Intel later announced, will be ready by end of this year. Another rumor that has been floating around for a while now is the 12" MacBook (Pro or Air) with Retina display. But a new posting over the weekend on a French site MacG (via AppleInsider), suggests that similar to the spec bumps that Apple's iMacs and the MacBook Airs have seen this year, the MacBook Pros with Retina display will also see a spec bump, and as early as tomorrow (July 29th). These spec bumps are in line with the recent updates that Intel released for their current generation processors, Haswell (via 9to5mac). So Apple instead of waiting for the Broadwell processors that might not be ready for the holiday season in the US, seems to have decided to offer an intermediate refresh to the MacBook Pros.

Leaked screenshot of alleged impending MacBook Pro refresh (Source: MacG via AppleInsider)

Leaked screenshot of alleged impending MacBook Pro refresh (Source: MacG via AppleInsider)

More information on the alleged refresh of the MacBook Pros suggest that, other that the spec bump in the clock speeds of the processors, the RAM offered in the 15" base model that retails for $1999, will be bumped up to 16GB from the current 8GB, but the price of different models will remain the same. Though most likely, the highest RAM that can be added in these MacBook Pros will still remain the same, i.e., 16GB, this bump in the amount of RAM in the base model will be a significant cost upgrade to many buyers, as right now it will cost you $200 to upgrade the RAM in the base model from 8GB to 16GB. 

More importantly, this suggests that there are no major refreshes expected in the MacBook Pro line even next year, other than the shift to the Broadwell processors. Apple might introduce a new category of notebooks with the 12" MacBook (Pro or Air) with Retina display and then eventually expand that design aesthetic to all its notebooks, up to the 15" ones, like they did with Retina display models. Apple introduced Retina display with a thinner unibody design only in the 15" high model first, before spreading the same design aesthetic to the 13" ones as well. So with this new 12" MacBook they might go the other way. Either way if Apple refreshes its current MacBook Pro line tomorrow, like this rumor suggests, I think it is a good time to buy a MacBook Pro, at least for those who are looking for a desktop replacement, like me and not a portable laptop. 

Apple Rumors - Not exciting anymore

There were days when all you did as an avid Apple enthusiast was follow rumors that would trickle in about an impending product launch or an impending software update or the best, an impending new category launch, like the iPhone. Remember back in 2007, everyone knew that Apple was working on a phone but no one knew what it was all about? Those were really exciting days, weren't they? Why is not fun anymore, reading Apple rumors, like this one showing some flex cable for sleep/wake buttons for the iPhone 6 [AppleInsider], for example. I will tell you exactly why!

Remember this iPod-iPhone that Steve Jobs joked about during the 2007 iPhone launch? Turns out that they were actually thinking about making this the iPhone, once! (Source: iDownloadBlog)

Remember this iPod-iPhone that Steve Jobs joked about during the 2007 iPhone launch? Turns out that they were actually thinking about making this the iPhone, once! (Source: iDownloadBlog)

Firstly at this time of the year, when there have been steady rumors about the iPhone 6 from last year or so, it is a no brainer to guess that Apple is going to release a new iPhone and from past record this is the 'even' year in which you can expect a design overhaul rather than feature enrichment, like the 'S" series boast. Also from all the hoopla about the bigger Android smartphones and though Apple's iPhone 5S, the smallest of the popular smartphones, is the most popular in the world, everyone (including Apple themselves) knows that Apple needs a bigger iPhone (they did this moving front the iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4, anyway). So a new iPhone model this year, mostly around Fall, with a bigger screen is all but certain. 

The first ever rumors of the chassis of the purported new iPhone 6 were interesting, heck even I posted an "investigative" blog post on calculating the actual screen size from a badly contorted, bad quality image. That was fun! However now everyday some crap spills out of as another leaked iPhone 6 part and somehow it is not alluring anymore. Why? The reason is that we like to be surprised, like Apple always believes. We might not accept it, but we do, as consumers and Apple enthusiasts, we like that fact that Apple can awe us with some great new device, that none of us thought can be put together to work the way Apple does. But at the same time we don't want to be in total darkness either, we want to know some tidbits here and there, some sneak peaks, teasers. So ideally these rumors should be in a way that they reveal very tiny details that trigger our curiosity but should not play a spoilsport, by revealing too much. 

So ideally these rumors should be in a way that they reveal very tiny details that trigger our curiosity but should not play a spoilsport, by revealing too much.

Well all this started with the infamous iPhone 4, bar fiasco. I remember distinctly how bad I felt for both Apple and myself. I wanted Steve Jobs to be on stage and take out the iPhone 4 from his pocket and astonish me with its all new unibody, Aluminum design. But instead it was a darn Gizmodo blog post with pics that were no where close to Apple's quality or finish that I had to endure that revealed the iPhone 4! I understand why Gizmodo did it, as bloggers and blog readers, we all are too well aware of how important page views are. But it was literally like you spoiling the surprise party that your spouse was planning for your birthday, by tapping into her phone calls and worse revealing it to her that you know what she has planned and that its not a surprise anymore. That warrants for a divorce definitely, and a divorce did happen, Gizmodo is still blacklisted from all Apple events. 

When the iPhone was being researched, in 2006/2007, it was inside a tightly shut research lab with extreme security (read Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs book for more details on this) and no one other than a select few knew what it was about. Then the iPhone became popular, from selling a few million devices in the first year to almost 200 million devices in 2013. When this many people buy iPhones, you need to manufacture this many iPhones and you cannot do it in the US (let us not get into that debate, as to why this is so) and hence it has to outsourced to Asia. Cupertino labs are easier to control for Apple to keep a tight lid on impending new product secrets, but located almost 30,000 miles away, the Asian supply chain in out of Apple's control. So it should be of no surprise that the recent iPhone rumors are more like pre Apple launch, third party "spoilsport" pseudo launches rather than rumors revealing tiny bits of interesting information about future Apple products. And the worse part is that I don't think Apple can do anything about it, at least not until, it buys Foxconn or something. 

In contrast take this WWDC, 2014 for example, think about how many things we had heard very little about or nothing at all were unleashed. Of course 9to5mac revealed things like HealthKit, HomeKit, etc., but even those did not come to light until the very last minute. By the way I don't believe even for a second that Apple changed the name of its platform from HealthBook to HealthKit and more importantly the interface, just because 9to5mac outed it. It is as ridiculous as it sounds and though 9to5mac would want believe this fairy tale, Apple has not been known to change App design for trivial reasons like this, but rather because it felt that it was the best design for its customers.  Also remember Swift, the new programming language for Apple devices, no one saw that coming. Ok but one can still argue that these were software features and since all the software is developed in house at Apple in Cupertino, it is easy for the company to maintain secrecy. But how about the rumored iWatch (or iTime is it, please no)? Yes we have been hearing rumors about this mysterious product for a while now, but we still don't have even a basic idea of what it is supposed be. Of course others have jumped the gun and started copying Apple even before it has announced its version of the smartwatch, this time, but lets just hope Apple's iWatch is nothing like what have been announced by other companies, as others don't even stack up as dumb watches so far! The story is the same for the rumored iPad Pro or the Apple TV (2.0) or the 12" MacBook (Air or Pro). We have heard rumors about these and some interesting tidbits even, but nothing solid as the iPhone rumors. 

So in conclusion, we can't expect Apple to hold a tight lid on a new version of a product like the iPhone, which is probably the post popular electronic device in the world, not when it is selling like hot cakes. But other relatively "niche" or newer products should be no problem for Apple to keep a secret. We can only just hope that our beloved rumor sites, don't encourage cheap page view and publicity mongers (whose sources are mostly through stolen parts front the supply chain in Asia) so as to not spoil the surprise and awe we all long for from Apple's products and product launches. 

The fate of the iPad?

UPDATE: I just found this piece on the same topic by Jan Dawson to have a few more points that I might have missed in my post below. 

Right from the time the iPad was launched, it was criticized as just being a bigger iPhone. Part of the reasoning for this (other than the fact that iPad looking like a bigger iPhone in its design and layout), was the fact that both iPad and the iPhone ran the same iOS. Bear in mid that though the OS is called the same for both the iPad and the iPhone, they are internally different and though you can run iPhone Apps as scaled up versions on the iPad, there are tons of Apps that are designed for the iPad taking advantage of its bigger screen. One might even argue that its the Apps that differentiate the iPad from the iPhone and not the OS itself. 

This week, Apple announced its quarter results and though it was a blockbuster quarter for Apple, the iPad sales dropped by a good 9% (compared to the same quarter previous year). Of course Apple nay sayers, cited this as a sign for iPad's and eventually Apple's demise. But this post is not about those dimwits, but for logical and sane individuals.

iPad in Business (Source: Apple.com)

iPad in Business (Source: Apple.com)

It is obvious that iPhones and MacBooks have different refresh cycle in customer's eyes, though some MacBooks (Airs) can cost as low as the unsubsidized iPhones. So the iPhone sales growth has been steady for almost 7 years and now and it actually seems to be growing at an increased pace even after so many millions of them have been sold already. However Macs have a more steady and average growth (unless something drastic happens, like recession or halo effect of iPhones being sold in China, recently). So what about the iPads then? If you consider the subsided cost of the iPhones (in US), around $200, the iPads at around $500 and the MacBooks at around $1000 , then the frequency at which customers upgrade these devices should be inversely proportional. Then the the iPad refresh cycle should be fall somewhere between the iPhone and the MacBook? I know it is not fair to compare the subsidized cost of the iPhone with the iPad and the MacBook but that is how customers seem to perceive it. If you don't have to pay for a something right away (rather pay only part of it at the time of the purchase and the remaining in installments over a period of two years), then the installments are not considered as a cost towards the product, at least not subconsciously! Surprising but makes sense, doesn't it?

So based on this theory, the explosive growth of the iPad in the initial few years since its introduction, is what should surprise Industry watchers and not its current sales saturation. Apple however seems to have realized this and are making some obvious public moves (like the recent IBM partnership) and hopefully some initiatives that are yet to be made public (like the bigger/ more powerful 12" iPad Pro). The IBM partnership, I think, will help iPads more than the iPhones as iPhones seem to be doing good on their own and though Apple touts that 98% of the fortune 500 companies embrace iPads, (the number of) iPads penetration in the office space seems to be very low compared to the iPhones, like 20% [9to5mac]. So there is definite room for improvement for Apple with so much more market share to tap into in the business world. 

The IBM partnership, I think, will help iPads more than the iPhones as iPhones seem to be doing good on their own and though Apple touts that 98% of the fortune 500 companies embrace iPads, (the number of) iPads penetration in the office space seems to be very low compared to the iPhones, like 20% or something.

Also the only reason I still have my iPad is that it is much easier to get things done on it compared to the iPhone (thanks to its bigger screen and better Apps) and the only reason I still have my iPhone is that it can fit into my pocket. So both have their unique advantages and caveats. But with the impending release of larger iPhones, the biggest limitation of the iPhone, might no longer exist, hence making the case of the iPad a bit more difficult. Though Apple doesn't mind cannibalizing the sales of its products with its own, I don't think Apple wants the iPads to dwindle away like the iPods are doing now (Tim Cook seems to be bullish on the iPads). So Apple needs to be able to differentiate between the iPad and the iPhone in a more meaningful way to convince customers to buy the iPad even if they already own an iPhone (or some other smartphone). However it also needs to be careful not to make the iPad too compelling that it might encroach in to the MacBook territory, not that, making a tablet work like a laptop is anything easy, look at the fate of Microsoft's Surface. This differentiation can be achieved with the help of software or hardware or most likely a combination of both. Anyway where Apple had two computing platforms to worry about, the iPhone and the MacBook, now it has a third middleman, the iPad to consider and things are a little more complicated now to differentiate.

So Apple needs to be able to differentiate between the iPad and the iPhone in a more meaningful way to convince customers to buy the iPad even if they already own an iPhone (or some other smartphone). However it also needs to be careful not to make the iPad too compelling that it might encroach in to the MacBook territory.

Another point is that smartphones and computers are almost basic necessities in the modern world now. But tablets are still something good to have, more like luxury, in the developing countries mainly. 

Hence while it is not fair to expect the iPads to do as well as iPhones, but it is reasonable to conclude that there is a substantial lot of things that Apple can do to enable more iPad sales. 

iPhone 6 to be launched in Mid-September?

With all the rumors pouring in for the last few months and almost all details (except for the iPhone's screen size) of the new iPhone 6 already outed thanks to Apple's supply chain mostly, it should come as no surprise that Apple is planning to release a new iPhone model, the iPhone 6 this Fall. This event generally happens around September every year and this year seems to be no different as 9to5mac points out that this event is supposed to be scheduled for the second or third week of September. Supply chain and manufacturing delays are quoted to be the reasons for this time frame to still be only 'tentative' and not confirmed. 

Common sense suggests that iOS 8 should be ready by then and Apple will release this new iPhone with iOS 8. Also following rumors that have been around for more than a year now (more steam generated by this latest Apple patent on iTime!) on an Apple 'smart watch' (for a lack of a better word), another event is expected to be scheduled later this year, in October for this new product category and Mac OS X and new models of iPad (but only minor refreshes like the Touch ID) may be combined with the smart watch in this event. Either way a very tightly packed few months for Apple indeed! 

Samsung's actual rival - Xiaomi

UPDATE: This post on Cult of Android summarizes everything, crystal clear. 

Everyone now is aware that Xiaomi is the actual rival as fas as samsung is concerned, not just in terms of sales in China but in terms of who can copy Apple the best. Xiaomi is actually beating Samsung right and left in the copying Apple, be it the Mi Pad or the Mi Phone or the Advertising and Marketing materials for their products or even worse the CEO wore a turtle neck and blue jeans ons stage at the company's latest unveiling. Oh come on you can't get that obvious. And that is not the end of it, the CEO even copied Steve Job's legendary "One more thing" at the end of the presentation. Even Apple after Steve Jobs doesn'tt use that phrase after he passed away. 

Xiaomi's Mi Pad - a shameless iPad rip off even in its Marketing efforts (via 9to5mac)

Xiaomi's Mi Pad - a shameless iPad rip off even in its Marketing efforts (via 9to5mac)

Taking it one step further than any of the Apple copiers so far, Xiaomis CEO is seen stealing Steve Job's famous "One more thing" phrase as well (via 9to5mac)

Taking it one step further than any of the Apple copiers so far, Xiaomis CEO is seen stealing Steve Job's famous "One more thing" phrase as well (via 9to5mac)

All this is at least is ok and can be explained by desperation and total lack of morals of any sort by Xiaomi to sell its products, or in other words Xiaomi is acting just any other company, and being an Asian company it makes more sense (I am asian and I can empathize the lack of morals or the lack of respect for IPs of any sort in asian countries like China and India). But ex-Googler, Hugo Barra who works for Xiaomi when asked about these allegations shamelessly defended his company with some total bull crap. He said "if you have two similarly skilled designers, it makes sense that they would reach the same conclusion". Really Mr. Barra? Just read your own statement a couple of more times and if you still don't see what's wrong with you or your statement(s), then no one can help you or the companies you work for! 

If you have two similarly skilled designers, it makes sense that they would reach the same conclusion
— Xiaomi's Hugo Barra vis 9to5mac