ChiaTown

Technology and Business the way it should be

ChiaTown header image 1

Is Apple Preparing For a Mobile Payment System?

June 12th, 2012 · No Comments · Business, business ideas, entrepreneurs, Mobile technology, Technology

A few friends and I happened to take notice of Apple’s admission that they have 400 million iTunes accounts set up. I found not only the number interesting, but I found it interesting (and perhaps odd? Out of place?) that Apple announced that at WWDC yesterday. Below is a quick email I shot to my friends on this.

=-=-=-= begin email =-=-=-=

I’m still trying to figure out why Apple released those numbers yesterday. Given all the announcements for hardware and software, the “oh, by the way, we have 400 million credit cards on file” seemed a bit out of place.

I’ve been using LevelUp a good bit around town here. It’s made by the SCVNGR people (foursquare competitor) and is fairly easy to use. Sign up, link a card to it, and then it generates a QR code on your phone when it’s time to pay. If you feel the card/app has been compromised you can kill that QR code and generate a new one. At the venue they just scan your phone with another mobile phone and you’re done. I remember when there were literally only a few places in town that took it but now it’s pretty widespread.
Next up on the menu is Sprint working on their own NFC mobile payment system (which many are viewing as a knock on Google Wallet as Sprint is also in support of that). The thing that I find interesting about Sprint’s play is that it’s in direct competition with the other mobile carriers (AT&T, T-mobile and Verizon) who are the main backers behind yet another mobile payment system, Isis. An ambitious effort on Sprint’s part to take on the big boys…or could it be their competitive advantage to not have so many stakeholders? They also claim it will be a different approach than Isis.

So…Apple…what’cha gonna do? And when?

el Chia, he who probably should have blogged this

=-=-=-= end email =-=-=-=

Other items to keep in mind are how Foursquare and American Express linked up a couple years ago, PayPal and their mobile solution, and loosely connected would be Square and their competitors.

LevelUp users are spending about $2 million each month. Not bad for a product not widely launched and definitely not bad for something that’s not even considered a real contender.

Perhaps I should find a way to get into the mobile payment industry.

→ No CommentsTags: ········

Teammates Are Not “Resources”, They Are People

May 3rd, 2012 · No Comments · Business, Business Practices

How many times have you heard “We need more resources for this project”? The “resources” here of course refer to people that are needed to work on this project. It’s been a bit of a pet peeve of mine hearing that and it took a new twist yesterday at work.

It bothers me when people in business think that simply throwing numbers (number of people, numbers of dollars spent, etc) at a project will make it succeed. It MAY succeed but you’re not getting the best product created. It’s simply solving a task and moving on. However, if a true team is built, these team members work together, communicate together, laugh and get disgruntled together and work as a team to solve problems much more efficiently than they would if it was the same amount of people not working at a team.

What would you rather have? A team or a handful of resources?

Think about last year’s Super Bowl winners, the New York Giants. They didn’t have the best quarterback in the league, nor the best running back, tight end, wide receiver, linebacker, etc. What did they have? A great TEAM. The New York Giants (for the record, I’m not a Giants fan) were more than simply a number of football resources. I’ve also seen it time and time again when a football team figures that adding a stud resource will make the team better…yet usually this is not the case. If this new resource doesn’t fit in as part of the team, it can actually be a detriment to the team.

These same rules apply to business. Create a team and you can do anything. Simply throw a bunch of resources at something and you may just get the job done.

FYI – The incident that brought this up was actually the opposite…taking a “resource” off my team. She was a team member to me, a great Business Analyst, but simply viewed as a resource that could be allocated to another project.

→ No CommentsTags: ····

Merging Technologies and Industries

March 30th, 2012 · No Comments · Business, Business Practices, emerging markets, entrepreneurs, Hardware, Technology

It’s interesting (ie, challenging) being a tech geek and businessman in today’s environment because one can see opportunities EVERYWHERE. However, simply seeing an opportunity does not mean it’s an easy task to hop on and solve a problem. I’m being reminded of this constantly in my somewhat new full-time gig where I must bridge my knowlege across industries.

My challenges? Working in a fairly fast moving industry (telematics) working on a lightning fast product (mobile) for a slower-than-molassas industry client (automotive). To wit…a car company thinks they are moving along at great speed when they’re operating on a three year cycle. True…for them. However in internet and mobile time, that timeframe is an eternity and you will see technologies be born, mature, and die all in that time. Building for this is…interesting.

This is just one example of how bridging industries can drive one nuts. It also presents a great opportunity to that person or organization that is able to come in and solve that problem. It’s not easy…but if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. Perhaps this is what separates the true talent from the masses and affords great opportunity for those willing to take on the challenge.

→ No CommentsTags: ·····

12 Days With The iPhone 4S (from an Android user)

October 28th, 2011 · No Comments · Android, iPhone, mobile phones, Reviews, Samsung, smartphones, Technology

Alas, my time as an Android owner has ended. I want to get this post out while my brain is still fresh with Android usage and learning the ways of the iPhone.

Well…there’s not much to learn…in true Apple fashion everything is pretty damn simple. Here’s what I see.

  1. Email Setup – Holy crap that was easy! Seriously…I’ve got numerous email accounts, some GMail, a .mac, a Mindspring (yeah, I keep it old school) and some other accounts from my hosting company. When I got my Samsung Moment, it was loads of configuring to set up every account, configure, blah blah blah. Then switching to the HTC Evo this summer and I had to do the same damn thing. Got my iPhone and was getting ready to set up all my email accounts and was completely surprised (in a good way) that they were already set up as they were matched up to all my accounts on my MacBook Air at home. This goes way beyond a score of an A+.
  2. Apps – Two years ago when I got my first Android phone (Samsung Moment) I was a bit discouraged as there were so many apps for the iPhone that weren’t available for my Android. However I learned to live with it and by the time I got to the point I’m downloading apps for my iPhone I found everything I wanted except for three or four apps. (if anyone knows of a good PicSay, PDANet, or Hide It Pro substitute let me know)
  3.  Camera – Wow. Just wow. Yeah, I love the fact it’s a great camera, but the speed to fire that thing up is amazing. It’s what makes me want to take pictures while I’m out and about. I can’t tell you how many pics I’ve missed because it took forever for my Evo to get the camera up. By the time it was ready, my picture opportunity was gone. On the iPhone 4S you’re up and ready to shoot in no time. A favorite “feature” of mine.
  4. Hardware Speed – With the dual-core A5 chip you can imagine it’s pretty damn fast. And it is. Not much else to say there except it’s fast.
  5. Siri – Another favorite of mine. I haven’t fully explored all its features but sending a text message while my hands are full is awesome. Sending an email or a Twitter update with my voice is handy too. I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can do with it…especially as more apps start taking advantage of it.
  6. Openness – I’m still on the fence about this one. I enjoyed some of the openness of my Evo, specifically the ability to tether to my laptop and use it as a modem when there was no wifi as well as installing some apps by bypassing the Android Market. However, I didn’t have the need to do either of those too often I doubt I’ll miss it too much. Time will tell.
  7. Interface – Sweet mother it’s intuitive, easy, and beautiful. Yes, I’m a fan of that.
  8. Data Speeds – I’m not sure who to blame for my slow-as-molasses data speeds. It’s a well-documented issue already (http://technolog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/10/26/8493848-sprint-trying-to-fix-iphone-4s-speed-issue) that it’s terribly slow. Since I don’t have my Evo anymore I can’t see if it’s just the phone or if Sprint’s network is being crushed by all the new iPhone users.
  9. Form Factor – It’s smaller than my Evo. The screen is much smaller than my Evo. As I stood in the Sprint store comparing my soon-to-be iPhone with my Evo I thought “damn, that screen is tiny! Will I be able to see on it?” The answer? A resounding yes. The retina display makes everything quite easy to see (as well as a great interface). So now that the small screen “issue” is done, I can say I love the fact this smaller phone doesn’t fill my entire pocket with this giant mass of plastic and glass.
  10. Accessories – I haven’t bought many yet but I know from experience by looking for accessories for my Moment and Evo that there are much more accessories available for the iPhone than there are for the various Android phones. That was something that always annoyed me about owning an Android and I’m looking forward to seeing what iPhone accessories I’ll end up snagging.
  11. OS – As an ex-Android user I can quite easily say I was quite frustrated with the massive OS fragmentation amongst devices. “Great, Android 2.2 is out and I’m still running 1.6″ was something I was saying for a while. Not only that, there’s no guarantee that the next Android OS will actually be good for your phone. When the Moment was upgraded from 1.6 to 2.1 it in reality made my phone useless, slow, and horrifically frustrating (hence the urge to buy a used Evo on craigslist while waiting for my contract to run out so I could get a new phone).
  12. Miscellaneous – I hated the fact carriers always installed their own apps on Android phones (with a few exceptions) that I really didn’t want and was not able to uninstall. I found myself unable to keep all the pics I wanted or download all the apps I wanted because I couldn’t get rid of NASCAR and a bunch of pre-installed uninstallable game demos. Thanks for keeping my phone clean Apple.
  13. (bonus…wanted to leave this at 12 for my 12 days) Battery Life - I don’t have the actual numbers but I can say that the battery life is damn long. I tried to kill my battery last night after a day of use and nothing. Left wifi on all night, it still had power this morning. Fired up streaming radio and listened to that all morning while getting ready for work and then used GPS navigation on the way to work. It FINALLY died later in the morning. Gotta give it to Apple as they know how to optimize their hardware and software.

So, after 12 days with my iPhone I’m very pleased. The slow network annoys the crap out of me right now but I don’t know if that’s Apple’s fault or not. I love the integration with my Mac. I love the fact I’ll continue to get OS updates (unlike Android where you usually get one update per phone) to keep my phone on the cutting edge. I was a happy Android user for all these years (with a few gripes like when my Moment became useless or the non-smoothness of integrating with the rest of my Mac stuff) but I’m already in love with my iPhone and am glad I got it.

One final note…I have no idea why people would stay with AT&T or Verizon and spend so much more money for their plans when Sprint is so much cheaper. I’m just sayin’…

Quick addition to my Sprint plan note…One thing to note when comparing plan prices between the three major carriers is that Sprint’s non-peak hours are longer (start at 7pm instead of 9pm) and mobile-to-mobile is actually mobile to ANY mobile and not just same-carrier mobile. Thus I have a mere 500 mins/month plan and still have a hard time burning through them all.

UPDATE 1: (Oct 28 evening) So here are my data speed numbers. I knew it seemed slow, but this is ridiculous. Funny that I posted such a glowing review of the iPhone, and I generally love Sprint, but sadly the combination of the two (hm, two positives make a negative) suck donkey nards. Tomorrow is day 14 of “you have 14 days to return the phone” so I’ll be heading back to the Sprint store to see what they say and may be heading back to my Evo. I’ll keep you updated!

They abysmal speed of the iPhone on Sprint

 

Update 2: (Oct 29 morning) Returned from the Sprint store about an hour ago. I had some great discussions with the Assistant Manager there about various issues (the main one being the sluggish speed I’m experiencing). I even had my receipt and box in hand if I needed to go back to my Evo (why? I don’t really utilize streaming THAT often). Apple is working on a software update to help Sprint’s iPhone utilize Sprint’s network more efficiently and quickly. Also, while I was there I was pointed out a discount I’m eligible for and also worked up a plan to save a friend $25/month. Now that’s customer service! Yet another reason I’ve never wanted to leave Sprint.

So…I’ve got my iPhone, will deal with slow data for a couple weeks and will still be supremely pleased with my new toy.

→ No CommentsTags: ·········

Oh You Crazy Smartphones

August 9th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Android, Business, iPhone, mobile phones, smartphones, start-ups, Technology

How I love my smartphone! I know I know I promised to post the funny story of going from the momentous POS (and that’s not Point-of-Sale) Samsung Moment to the HTC Evo but I’ve been a bit busy lately. So much going on out there in the world since my last post. The rise of Google+ (you can find me here), the drop of the stock market, Apple pretty much printing their own money…it’s a crazy world.

The reason I’ve been lax in my duties is because I’ve been working on an iPhone app with the cool cats at Ecmodeyo. Our app LocaJot has finally been released and in less than a week we’ve already seen downloads from nearly two dozen different countries. Now that’s what I call exciting stuff!

You can check out LocaJot either by going to the website at LocaJot.com or heading directly to iTunes and seeing it there. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/locajot/id453391031

Working on LocaJot was a great experience and I’m looking forward to creating more apps. Some people may grumble “but there are already so many apps in the App Store now, you missed your chance” I say “oh no…not at all!” Reports show that smartphone penetration is still only 38% or so of mobile users. That leaves plenty of room for growth…plenty of room! I’m going to make sure I’m poised and ready to go with this growth, that’s for sure.

Sprint…you really need to get that iPhone…and soon. Reports say it’ll happen in September, so we shall see.

Google…you have a ways to go still cleaning up that giant mess of Android fragmentation. It would also be nice if each carrier and each handset manufacturer didn’t add so much of their own crap on the phone (which of course leads to delays when there’s an OS update out there as the carrier and manufacturer each go through and add/change their crap again).

Signing off for now. More posts to come! Go check out LocaJot and enjoy a small (1.2 MB…nice!) easy-to-use app that helps keep life organized as you create location-based notes. The map is pretty killer too.

→ 1 CommentTags: ·······

Sprint, WiMAX, and LTE

June 29th, 2011 · No Comments · Business, Deals, Wireless

Sprint raced out of the 4G gate a while back with it’s WiMAX offering as it partnered with Clearwire. A good move if you’re looking at the joy of having a few “firsts” such as the first 4G phone that Sprint was so proud to talk about. I now have an HTC Evo (that is quite a story in its own right…soon enough) and even though the phone has been out for over a year, it’s a pretty darn good phone. Not bad for a first! However, while Clearwire (aka Sprint) was expanding their 4G WiMAX network, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile were working on their LTE offerings. Not first to market for 4G by any means, but having multiple carriers running the same technology certainly helps as it will help drive down prices for parts and equipment. This is probably why Sprint has decided to do a deal with LightSquared and get their own LTE 4G network going. Imagine Sprint trying to negotiate with various handset manufacturers…”please build us a CDMA phone (not too bad of a stretch since that’s what Verizon runs on) with WiMAX chips in there too”. I can see Spring losing a lot of interest from manufacturers with that pitch.

So now we’ve got Sprint supposedly in a big deal with LightSquared. Who did the due-diligence here? LightSquared has been under the microscope for a while now for having a network that has been screwing with GPS receivers. LightSquared’s spectrum is right there next to the GPS spectrum. Sooooo…Sprint is prepping a deal with a company that may not even be able to build out this LTE network? I’m still baffled as to why Sprint went along with that one. However, Sprint isn’t the only company to do so as NetTalk just joined the fray too and has signed on with LightSquared. Do they all know something we don’t?

I was curious as to what Sprint would do with their WiMAX network should they go to LTE. That’s a lot of build-out to just toss aside and move on. I think it was a smart move by Sprint to officially outline their enterprise targeted initiative for a WiMAX WAN solution. It’s an area that doesn’t have too much competition just yet (will it ever?) and the network is already in place. It’s been tested and now Sprint can offer it to enterprise customers. Good job! A WiMAX WAN for enterprise and LTE efficiencies for the cellular (mostly consumer-side) customers. Now to see if it really works as planned or now. What do you have LightSquared?

→ No CommentsTags: ········

Root Down – Pondering If I Root My Samsung Moment

March 23rd, 2011 · 3 Comments · Android, Rant, Samsung, smartphones, Wireless

The following is an email I sent to some friends tonight. Needless to say, I’m still fairly frustrated to still have close to a year left on my contract while my phone (Samsung Moment) has already been discontinued (about a year after being introduced) and no longer supported. WTF?

====begin email===
So are we gonna kick it?
Gonna kick it root down.

So yeaaahhhh…I did a hard reset on my phone a couple days ago. Sadly, it seems to be working a bit better. Why do I say “sadly”? Because I’m irked that I bought a smartphone and can’t really use it like a smartphone. “It’s fine if you don’t have any apps on it!”

I’ve installed two apps on it. I’m going one at a time. First Google Voice, then Foursquare today.

I thought “well hell, if I already blasted it, I might as well root it and install Android 2.2″. Simple enough. I looked at enough tutorials. I watched enough vids. Looks easy enough. Download this, flash that, install this, do that…voila.

No.
Not really.
Sure, the steps are easy. But what freaking files do you use?!?!? Being an underground movement, you’ve got dozens of different kernels, ROMs, themes, etc. Which ones are good? Which ones are stable? Aaaargh!

Alas, I’m sticking with my discontinued Samsung Moment running Android 2.1 and slowly adding apps until I find the demon apps.

====end email====

And such are the thoughts of someone semi-proficient with making computers and phones do fun things. Feeling like a complete noob here.

→ 3 CommentsTags: ···

Knee-Jerk Reaction On Sprint’s Future After AT&T and T-Mobile Announcement

March 21st, 2011 · No Comments · Business, Deals, Legislation, market share, Mergers/Acquisitions, mobile phones, Wireless

In case you haven’t heard, AT&T has announced they will buy T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion. This deal would make AT&T the largest wireless carrier in the United States.

Reaction to the news has been nuts already. Sprint’s stock (ticker symbol: S) is getting hammered in the stock market with a 13% drop (as of this writing) amidst very heavy volume. Speculations galore as to what will happen next to Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, the state of wireless in the U.S., and so forth. Even though I SHOULD be working on some other projects right now, I couldn’t sit by idly as everyone prophecizes Sprint’s demise. Here are a few knee-jerk thoughts to this news.

  • Will the buyout happen? – First, and most importantly, we have to question if this buyout will be allowed to move forward with regulators. That’s a mighty big merger there and getting fairly close to anti-competitive in the market place.
  • When will it happen? – Even if this buyout is allowed, we’re talking probably a year or so of regulators scrutinizing the living hell out of this deal, its effect on the market place, how it affects consumers, and so forth. It may have been announced, but it certainly isn’t going to be completed by Father’s Day.
  • Will Verizon Buy Sprint Next? – If the AT&T deal is allowed, I still highly doubt a duopoly would be allowed with Verizon buying Sprint. It would be interesting with both GSM (AT& T and T-Mobile) and CDMA (Verizon and Sprint) merging to having just one player in each technology but I really don’t see regulators going for this.
  • Competition for Sprint – This one is a toughie. On one hand, it would leave Sprint as the number three carrier behind AT&T and Verizon. On the other hand, it means one less competitor for Sprint to have to deal with. It’s easier to focus your energy on battling two giants than it is two giants and a small player.
  • Sprint’s Recent Business – Sprint has turned itself around since bringing on Dan Hesse. Customer defections are down, subscriptions are up, money is flowing in the right direction, customer service has turned around completely. Sprint will continue this trend.
  • Sprint Has More Than Cell Phones - Sprint is more than just a company that sells cell phones to customers. They have put loads of energy into growing their M2M (machine to machine) business that brings in revenue without having to deal with customers coming and going on the whim of a new shiny cell phone. Most M2M is used for LBS (location based services) which in itself is a rapidly growing industry. Sprint was smart to prepare for this M2M growth and capitalize on it.

The web is abuzz with this news. I personally think it’s great for Sprint as it lets them focus on less competition and to continue their path that has already been digging them out of the trenches. The knee-jerk market reaction of killing the stock has not gone un-noticed by me (disclaimer: I snagged a few shares today on the news) and I find it quite comical.

CTIA starts tomorrow and there have already been leaks of some awesome new phones that Sprint will have (HTC Evo 3D and Nexus S 4G to name a couple). Let the marketplace go into a frenzy on this news and let them focus on a deal that may or may not happen and watch Sprint carry on with their turn-around plan and bank on everyone’s perception that Sprint will wither on the vine.

I apologize in advance for the brevity and hastiness but that’s what you get with a knee-jerk reaction. Live it…love it.

→ No CommentsTags: ············

Do One Thing And Do It Well

March 10th, 2011 · No Comments · Business, business ideas, Business Practices, entrepreneurs, start-ups

If there’s one thing to remember while coming up with a new business, a new app, a new service, whatever it may be…remember this one thing. Do one thing and do it well.

It’s easy to think of all the things you want to have in an app or all the services you may want to offer. “Why just cut hair? I want to add coloring, styling, sparkles, music…”

Ok, that was just a SLIGHT exaggeration but you get my point. You may absolutely ROCK at cutting hair and can build a huge clientele by doing so. You think “well if I add just a couple more services, I’ll be able to get even more people and make more money!” Yes…and no.

Initially, you may get some more people in the door. Great! Now think of the consequences of your actions. If you’re not prepared, a couple things could happen.

  1. You’re great at cutting hair but suck at coloring. Word gets out that you suck. No good!
  2. You spend time on things you’re not so great at, taking away from what you ARE good at. Your quality rating goes down.

This holds true for services, for apps, for pretty much anything you’re setting your mind out to do. “I’m so good at multi-tasking blah blah blah”. Great…I’m proud of you. You can do six things at a 60% satisfaction level rather than excelling at one thing.

Slow down, take a breath. Think about making ONE thing great and do it well.

(this post dedicated to a biz partner with whom some killer mobile apps will be made with)

 

ps – shameless plug…please donate to my AIDS/Lifecycle ride…you can see the link/logo up and to the left.

→ No CommentsTags: ·····

Android – It’s Good In Theory

February 28th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Android, Business, iPhone, mobile phones, Samsung, smartphones, Technology, Wireless

Android phones, such a good idea but the implementation is abysmal. I like the thought of having competition for the iPhone and other mobile OSes out there…we have to keep innovation up and keep from having a monopoly.

The Android OS itself isn’t bad. Not as clean and refined as iOS (the OS on the iPhone) but that’s fine. It also gives me a bit more freedom to do what I like.

I’ve had my Samsung Moment with Sprint for a while now. I’ve taunted all my iPhone wielding friends as I was spending much less on my plan and getting to do so much more. Sure, I liked the design of the iPhone itself and the OS but not enough to spend so much more money and to have to deal with AT&T’s crappy network.

But alas, as each day goes by, I want to fling my Moment at a brick wall. It’s slow at times. Oh how I’d love to be able to upgrade to one of the newer Android OSes but I can’t. (Technically I can if I root the phone and update the OS that way). Rumor has it there will be no OS updated for the Samsung Moment on Sprint. Great…just great. Glad I spent all that money on a phone that is obsolete in a year and can’t be updated.

That…my fellow readers, is where Android is going to lose the battle. As smart phones become more prevalent and the novelty wears off, people will search for the practical phones to spend their money on.

What are our options?

Android

  • All major carriers – A big plus for people who are loyal to a carrier (or perhaps have a corporate account with)
  • A variety of phones – Another plus – People like variety. Some prefer physical keyboards, others don’t, some prefer particular manufacturers, etc.
  • Android OS itself - Massive negative. With all the different phones, there is massive fragmentation on getting each OS tweaked for each phone. Worse yet, many manufactures and carriers stop development of OS work on existing phones as they plan for the next one. This also has repercussions for app developers as they have to make sure their app works on all the different OS forks.

iPhone

  • Two carriers – Neutral – It was a big negative when they were exclusive to AT&T but now there’s a choice at least.
  • One phone – Plus – Technically it’s two phones, one running on a CDMA network and one on a GSM network and each has its pros and cons of each. But it’s a phone produced by Apple and you know what you’re getting.
  • iOS – Plus – One OS to rule them all. Again, technically it’s two OSes (CDMA and GSM) but we’ve got one company making one OS for their phone. You don’t have to worry about your AT&T iPhone going obsolete while I’m able to update my AT&T iPhone.

Windows Mobile

  • I think it’s too early in the game to to judge. Many of these will be similar to the Android with multiple phones, multiple carriers, etc.

For well over a year I’ve loved my Android phone. I was annoyed at the lack of apps but I didn’t miss out on anything TOO big. I was able to overcome some syncing headaches with my MacBook Pro…but still manageable. I was amazingly annoyed at the fact I could only run Android 1.6 while there were already phones out there running Android 2.1. Luckily I got the upgrade (another major pain as your phone is wiped clean and you have to start from scratch after the update) but that’s the last update I could get. Here I sit…with a phone that will only get worse and worse as iPhones users get to update their phones with each new iOS update.

I’ve been a fan of you Android, but having this un-updateable brick may be the last straw. You’re great in theory, providing an alternative and competition, but the practicality of HAVING to buy a new phone every year just to get an OS update is ridiculous.

→ 2 CommentsTags: ············