Zen and the Art of Smartphone Maintenance

By Ganpy

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I am not talking to Chris. There is no Chris in this story. And this is not a story based on actual occurrences. Although it is possible that I am talking to a eleven year old like Chris. Or a Twelve year old. Perhaps even to a twenty five year old. As a matter of fact, I could be talking to anyone with a smartphone. So, once again, to be clear, I am NOT talking to Chris.

That brings me to the story.

“New model of iPhone releases tomorrow”, I yell.
“I have seen lots of those. I mean, lots of such new smartphone model releases..”, you say.

“Oh”, I nod and start thinking to myself. We now have a generation of 9-10 year olds who have grown up with smartphones and know nothing different. They don’t get impressed with new models getting released every other month. I reckon one has to be old to appreciate such “events”. Or should have at least lived during the dark age, aka the pre-smartphone age to be excited about such events.

“But this one is a new iPhone release. The mother of all such events. They don’t happen every year. Ok. I’ll correct myself. They do happen once a year..Or twice a year. But still a rare occurrence given it is from Apple”, I say in a fading voice. I know I am losing my battle to engage you and by now, I have given any hope I may have had to trigger a drop of excitement about the big event scheduled to happen on Sep 7.

A grown up adult like me does things with an iPhone, in a way that is completely different from any teenager or for the story’s sake let us say,  from a eleven year old. There is no novelty factor anymore, but there is a pride of ownership. I have seen this device – this iPhone 6 that I am holding in my hand, the one I am staring at every 2 seconds, as I anxiously wait for my friends’ reaction to a wisecrack that I just spluttered out in a college WhatsApp group..yes, I have seen this device evolve from a flip phone, when such devices used to weigh a couple of pounds at the minimum. But the eleven year old doesn’t know that because the eleven year old has never held a flip phone in his/her hands and has never experienced the joy of carrying a fanny pack sort of a belt clip to hold that heavy phone as he/she walked around. That’s when it dawns on me. It’s sort of like Television for my generation.

It’s Sep 6, 2016. The day before. I don’t have any Pre-Apple event rituals that I follow. None that I recollect anyways. But I wonder if I should indulge in some. Start a tradition perhaps. But why? To what end?

We all are just communicating. What primarily used to be voice based communication that these phones used to enable, has now transformed into text based communication. Voice based communication is almost secondary now.

“Apparently it’s going to have better cameras”, I holler as the noise of a passing vehicle drowns my voice.
“What?”, you look at me puzzled.
“Well of course, You have seen that before…Nothing new I suppose”.

I invite you to join me on my side of the table. The burly man in white, who I sense by his impatient body language, has been waiting for a seat for a while. Or he has a severe case of growling stomach. Either way, he quickly pulls the chair you were sitting on, away from the table to move towards another table. I notice an iPhone 6 plus peeking out of his sweaty palm. He rests himself on the chair with some physical challenge, the act only exacerbated by his continuous indulgence on the smartphone . I don’t think he took his eye off even for a second.

Where was I?

“They say iPhone 7 may not be a huge jump from iPhone 6. But who knows? I am going to get one no matter what. They are also speculating that Apple will drop a new Apple Watch along a new MacBookPro..”
“Oh..”.

The burly man is still busy staring at his phone. The waiter has to tap on his shoulders to get his attention. I think I caught a glimpse of the yelp page of the restaurant open on his phone.

“I think he is looking at the reviews..”
“What..? What did you say?”, you, completely unaware of what is going on around.

That’s when I notice that you have been staring into your smartphone as well, all this while. And I hear you whisper something.

“What did you say?”, I ask gently.
“Oh..Nothing. Apple has been playing the catch up game for a while now..”.
“You mean, they don’t lead smartphone innovation anymore?”.
“Of course not. Which world do you live in?”.
“I guess the same as you. Ha ha..By the way, I have never used any other kind of smartphones. Been an iPhone user all my smartphone life..”.

You lift your face and look at me. May be for the first time during this entire conversation, I see you making eye contact with me. I see you smile but with a bit of an annoyance.

“I can never understand you Apple fanatics..”, you say with a bit of disdain.
“Hey, I am no fan of anything. I just like iPhone..”.

Through the corner of my eyes, I could see the man at the next table still staring at his phone as he quite skillfully cleans up a bowl of soup. Broccoli Cheddar with bacon bits. The restaurant is known for this soup. Yelp seems to have played a role in his decision making.

“So what is your favorite smartphone?”, I decide to become more open about others’ smartphone choices.
“I really don’t have any..”.
“But..but..you are very judgmental about iPhone users..”.
“That means nothing. I mean I find this whole excitement silly..”.
“Hmm, I don’t know. You are right. It’s a bit silly. But I can probably explain..”
“I am sure you can. Do you see any other smartphone releases preceded by so much press, media coverage and fan frenzy?.”.
“Exactly my point. You don’t and that’s why I was trying to get you excited..You seem to have an absolute equanimity as far as smartphones go…”.

I see you break a smile. And you once again make an eye contact with me. This time a bit deeper. A bit stronger connection. As if you have made a point.

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Has Apple lost its Mojo? Or why Apple’s latest Next Big Thing doesn’t “Make me s*** in my pants”…

By Thorsten Gorny
I am an Apple fan right from my earliest days back in the 1980s. That was the time when the world was introduced to the first Mac, and I as a 9 year old boy, was just stunned when I read about it in a computer magazine. Of course, my parents couldn’t afford to buy me the ‘real thing’ but one year later I could proudly lay my hands on an Atari ST  – the “Jackintosh” – which I still love…
As soon as I could afford it, about 10 years later, I bought my first Apple. It was an Apple Performa 6200 and, in spite of the problems you had when you were using a Non-Windows computer back then, I was in heaven! It was my first “real” Apple. That was one year before “Steve” came back to Apple and one year before he started again to change the whole industry.
Apple revolutionized the way we look at technology 
Since then much has happened. Apple revolutionized the way we buy and listen to Music, we buy and rent Movies, it has turned our mobile phones into our most loved and most personal devices, it makes tablets that people actually use – and of course still makes ordinary computers which are just plain beautiful. In short, it combined awesome great technology with awesome design embedded in an awesome ecosystem. All that together makes us now bonding with technology on an emotional level.
The best product line in history!?
This of course raises expectations on Apple in each of their events, of course purposely fueled by Apple with its “Apple speak”-like announcements like “The greatest product line in history of Apple”. But what was finally presented in Apple’s last event left me not only scratching my head but also wondering if Apple has just become another of these faceless and boring companies…
Before I share my personal views on that let me say I am not a professional tech blogger nor can I speak with, or read the mind of dead people (Steve Jobs) as many of these ‘Pros’ make you believe with their ‘Steve Jobs would do this or that’ – like articles. I am just an ordinary guy who loves technology when combined with great design and who has the luck to work in the Mobile App field – and of course, who admires Apple for its incredible ‘mojo’…so far.
iPhone 6 // Keeping up with the Joneses!
So coming back to yesterday`s event I will start with some words on the iPhone upgrade. It’s hard to make something great even better and hence except for a couple of nice improvements here and there I think nobody was really surprised with Apple’s upgrade of the iPhone. But is the iPhone really still so great??? What actually made me think (and I will get back to that a little later) is, I somehow feel the roles in the smartphone field have changed and I look at the new iPhone upgrade as nothing more than Apple’s intent to ‘keeping up with the Joneses’! All of the sudden we find Apple in a follower than in a leader position.
The decision to offer the iPhone in two sizes now, both considerably bigger and clearly following the trend that Samsung set, certainly is more a “Management decision” than a “Visionary” one and probably makes sense from that standpoint. But it really makes Apple look like coming a bit late to a party where most people are already leaving. What happened to sapphire glass, wireless charging (taken to the next level), 10x battery life etc.? There I would have expected Apple to add some of their ‘mojo’ to the mix. Instead none of this is there, hopefully it’s something for an iPhone 6s before Apple is completely left behind…
Apple Pay // Payments taken to the next level…
Apple Pay is definitely a big thing and here Apple definitely again played its well understood business development card to get something to the market with great partnerships on a broad front to quickly gain critical traction. No doubt, I definitely look at this as the ‘Big Thing’ here and I am convinced this will change the way we pay for stuff. And this is the reason why I am not worrying about Apple’s bottom line for the next couple of years. But really, is that something that “amazes” us – in the best meaning of the word – like the iPod or the iPhone did?
Apple Watch // A joke…I hope!
But now let’s come to the Apple Watch! The timepiece which is supposed to shake up or bring Switzerland in trouble, as Jony Ive is reported to have said in an even much bolder term.
Having this in mind I really still can’t believe what I saw unveiled. This product was the most and long awaited product from Apple for about two years now since Pebble’s breath taking Kickstarter campaign created a hype for that kind of a product. Soon after we saw “the Androids” bringing their “Smart watches” to the market with Samsung’s Gear (one year ago!) followed by LG, Asus etc. – and of course Motorola’s Moto 360. And everybody expected Apple to beat all, not necessarily in functionality (aka nerd department) but surely in design and aesthetics. And this is where I had major expectations as well. And this is where I feel Apple has FAILED big big time!
I have expected Apple again taking up all the concepts and half-cooked products out there on the market, shaking it, adding some of the Apple magic (Jony Ive) and taking the whole thing to a next level. But instead of that what did we see?
Apple Watch is essentially a prototype, not even a market ready product, just a prototype running a demo. Even though it is only a prototype, where you really can let your ideas fly, it is adding absolute ZERO – neither in functionality nor in design – to already existing products on the market. Design wise I feel it is actually more a B or C category product, essentially looking like my four year old iPod nano on a wristband. I have never thought I would see Samsung, ASUS or Motorola being able to come up with better design in that category than Apple – but I have been proven wrong!
And I am not focusing here on the fact that they were essentially showing a prototype. That was the same when Steve Jobs presented the  first iPhone. The difference is, back then, they shook up the whole industry and market and revolutionized everything that was there before. This time they hardly get close to something that is ALREADY on the market – and this (again) with a PROTOTYPE!!!
Where is Apple’s ‘mojo’ here? Where is the love for innovation and the urge to reinvent? Where is the passion to take all this to a next level? And Apple, you really needed ONE YEAR longer than Samsung to come up with just a prototype for something that already exists with more or less same functionality but better design?
A great example to think a bit ‘out of the box’ with combining “wearables technology” with awesome design (without making the watch look like a toy for nerds) is actually Withings Activité. Something along these lines I would have expected from Apple…
I am 100% sure, Apple Watch neither frightens Switzerland at all nor does it ‘make me s*** in my pants’! We will see with what Apple is finally really coming up in ‘early 2015’. I still hope all this was a big prank played on us and Apple will ‘make me s*** in my pants’ in Spring next year. Then with a device that ‘deserves’ the Apple on it. If not, I think Apple’s time as the most innovative company is really up. Please Apple, prove me wrong…
[The “doesn’t make me s*** in my pants” phrase is a reference to Steve Job’s comment when the inventor of the Segway unveiled his invention in a meeting with Silicon Valley tech giants. As we all know, Karma is a bitch!]