Category Archives: Essay

The iPhone’s Shrinking Niche

Diagonal Image Sizes: HTC One Max (5.9), HTC One (4.8), iPhone 5s (4.0)

Diagonal Image Sizes: HTC One Max (5.9), HTC One (4.8), iPhone 5s (4.0) The iPhone 6 is rumored to have a 4.7 inch screen, bringing it into line with Android’s standard size.

Yesterday I went down to the Sprint store to pick up a replacement for my Android HTC One smartphone and came away with a sense that Apple’s iPhone has become a niche product.

My HTC One had developed an annoying inability to focus across it’s entire field of view so they replaced it. The new one works fine, thanks.

While they were loading my contacts in my phone, which was unnecessary since they’re backed up to my Google account, I browsed the displays and see if I could generate some techno-lust for a new phone. While there were Android phones in a wide range of sizes, from minis like Samsung’s Galaxy  S4 mini (4.3” Super AMOLED display (960x 540)) to “Phablets,” like the LG Flex with its brilliant curved 6.0″ HD OLED  Screen, I decided I was still happy with my current phone.

But I was dismayed by the iPhone offerings. Granted, there’s only one company putting out the iPhone, so they only need one display rather than the side by side displays for largely equivalent products from HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and Sprint, but instead of the range of phones available within each of those brands, Apple’s idea of variety gives you options in color, metal or plastic, and some performance specs.

All with a screen size that hasn’t changed much since it was an iPod. Granted that its resolution has been jumped up from the original 320×480 to 640 x 1136, but still only managing a 4 inch diagonal on the iPhone 5. Of course, Apple’s nobody’s fool, and it looks very much like their next phone,  the iPhone 6, will have a 4.7 inch display, much more in line with the majority of Android devices.

But even so, Apple is playing catch-up.

The problem with cosying up to early adopting hipsters is that you build a barrier between yourself and the great unwashed, which may not be up for paying premium prices for the first ever gizmo, but make up for it by buying a lot more when the product becomes commoditized.

While I was entering the store, a sales rep was explaining to the guy in in front of me in the intake queue how he could free up memory on his phone, explaining some of the Android features at the same time, with the caveat, “Unless you switch over to an iPhone.”

To which he burst out with, “Hell no.” More of a wry disclaimer than a rant, but pretty much the last word on the subject.

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When Did the Smartphone Get So Smart?


Walter Pidgeon tries on the Krell Brain Booster in the 1956 Sci-Fi classic “Forbidden Planet.” Though it increased his already considerable intelligence to astounding levels, it also unleashed the dark side in his subconscious. Let’s hope smartphones use their power for good, rather than evil.(photo: MGM)

IBM brought a touchscreen phone named Simon with more than phone functions to the market in 1994. Nokia produced the Nokia 9000, a clam-shell phone/PDA with a keyboard in 1996, which was, at the time, their best selling phone. But it wasn’t until the 1997 that Nokia called the GS 88 “Penelope,” the successor to the 9000 a “smartphone,” coining the term that would describe all phones with computing capabilities built in from then on.  That’s the official story, and it’s factual, but I think it’s off the mark.

The Way of The Dinosaurs

The GS 88 was smart, certainly, and a phone, arguably, but its clamshell with a keyboard format showed its mini-computer heritage, coming out of “palmtop” computers like the HP100 LX and the Psion MXs, which were trying hard to be laptop computers you could fit in a pocket, though it had to be a big pocket. They were an attempt to get around the size and weight of early laptops in a time when the concept of something like an ultra-book was still in the realm of science fiction. While palmtop computers were a good idea, they never really caught on, and represent a branch of computer evolution that went the way of the dinosaurs. Like many techie folks, I’m fond of dinosaurs, and I was very fond of my palmtop computer, and sorry to see it die off. But it did, and we (mostly) moved on.
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April Book Browse: Coffee, Magazines, New Books, and Zeitgiest

It’s the beginning of the month, so I was looking forward to my First Saturday Book Browse at the Potomac Yards Barnes and Noble. But first I finished Chasing the Moon, mostly at the gym, but I polished off the last few pages in the parking lot outside the bookstore. Like all Lee Martinez stories, it was a good romp through much weirdness that give the main character a chance to find themselves. In this case, it’s a girl named Diana, who moves into an apartment full of eldritch horrors that glom onto her, though it winds up a pretty good deal out of it for everyone, except maybe the moon, which is as the title promises, being chased. Sort of like a grownup version of Pixar’s Monsters Inc., without the Inc. Continue reading

Overheard In Bar: “Your Problem Is That You Don’t Understand Micro-Economics”

by Ernest Lilley

Alex Pournelle and I were hanging out in a Manhattan Bar down by 17th st having a beer. We didn’t really need a beer, what we needed was sleep because we were in town to do a network installation for a trade show, which means the following morning we’d signed up for a non-stop sixteen hour day full of debugging switches, dragging cable, tracking down unauthorized wifi access points and soothing frayed nerves. It just seemed like a good idea to get a beer. At the time. But I digress. Continue reading