Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What the iPhone Updates Mean for You, And What Apple Should Do Next

If you’re looking for an in-depth post about pixels and processing chips, look somewhere else. I’m here to tell you about what this stuff actually means for you, and what I think Apple should be doing next. And also, I don’t know much about pixels, so I would have been doing a lot of Googling and citing other experts. Here are the biggest takeaways you should care about from the iPhone 5s, and a bit on the iPhone 5c.

TouchID. Tim Cook may be cursing Steve Jobs for the name iPod Touch that caused every consumer to nickname it the iTouch, because that would’ve been an appropriate name here. This is what everyone was hoping for – consumers, retailers, financial organizations and banking apps – I can’t think of anyone who didn’t want this. TouchID is a biometric finger scanning app to unlock your iPhone and process transactions for iTunes and the App Store. Bye-bye passcode, which only five people I know use (looking at you, Lisa Astor). Hello TouchID, which everyone should use. The best part is that it’s on the all-new Home button. So you don’t have to take an extra step to open your phone’s native screen. Supposedly it’s fast, and it actually gets faster as it recognizes you better.

The potential goes beyond accessing the native screen of your device. Right now, it’s not open to developers to integrate it into their apps. It can be used in iTunes and the App Store. In later versions, however, we’ll see Apple integrate this into Passbook and hopefully, eventually into third-party apps. Integrating it into Passbook would be a savvy business move for Apple. It will convince more developers to join the Passbook community, and as more apps are using advanced biometric scanning, more consumers will want that ease of use and switch to the iPhone – if they haven’t already. As Apple expands the use of TouchID (hopefully), mobile banking apps have the potential to enable a fingerprint scan every time you launch an app instead of typing in a code. It’s much more secure, since no one else has your fingerprint, and it’s a much more seamless experience for consumers.

Are there potential pitfalls? Yes, if Apple hasn’t 100% perfected this feature then there could be a lot of angry consumers locked out of their iPhones because the scan isn’t working properly. For example, what if I’m using my iPhone while running (doubtful because I don’t run), and I have sweat running down my fingertips? Or maybe some nervous guy has clammy hands? Does that moisture affect the scan if I want to change the song on my locked device while running? Or will the clammy hands guy not be able to get that girl’s number because he can’t unlock his device? Ideally, no. But the tech is new; it’s probably not perfect yet.

M7. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, “M7 motion coprocessor gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7 for improved power efficiency.” It accesses CoreMotion APIs for better fitness and health apps by capturing motion data. This is a good step forward in contextual awareness. If you don’t’ know what contextual awareness is, think Google Now. It gives you the information you want, before you even ask for it. Right now, M7 will be most prevalent in health and fitness apps, and Nike Plus has already been working with Apple to update their app to incorporate the M7 technology.

This helps improve GPS signals, but the potential of contextual awareness is far greater than that. In the future, we’ll have contextually aware apps and devices that read all kinds of signals from our current environment to proactively alert of us of things we want or need to know. Think of a world where it’s winter and it’s snowing. If it snows, you need more time to get ready, but if you didn’t know it snowed – you didn’t set your alarm any earlier. You phone already has the information you need – it’s snowing (weather app), so you need to get up earlier. A contextually aware alarm clock can incorporate weather and set off your alarm a half hour earlier than usual so you have time to shovel snow and get to work on time. Is M7 there yet? No, it mostly measures motion and integrates with GPS. But Apple’s headed in the right direction. And for this perpetually late gal, I could use a contextually aware device. As one of the CNET live bloggers noted, Apple didn’t announce a smart watch – the iPhone 5s is its version of the smart watch.

Camera. This thing is fast, and it’s clear. It takes 10 pictures per second and saves the best one. But it saves those other nine in an accessible place in case you want to double check for yourself. Apple says that it’s not about just adding more pixels, they’ve added bigger pixels. I don’t know much about cameras, but it sounds like that makes sense to me. It also performs better in low light and they’ve improved the front-facing camera. As someone who enjoys FaceTiming my best childhood friend who’s in another country, I appreciate that improvement greatly. Like I said, I’m not a camera expert, so if you want all the technical details, Andrew Nusca of ZDNet recaps the features nicely, and what they mean for better pictures. Check out his article if you’re interested.

64-Bit Processor. Today, Apple’s Phil Schiller told us, “The PC world made the transition from 32 bit to 64 bit and it took years. Today you're going to see that Apple is going to do it on one day." So, the iPhone 5s will supposedly have desktop-level processing. While this may not mean much to consumers (except gamers), it’s this type of processing that is letting Apple enable TouchID and the advanced camera. In your other apps, you won’t see the transition to 64 bits for a long time, and honestly, you may not notice it at all.

That’s what I’ve got for the iPhone 5S folks. I say go get it, if you’re due for an upgrade. For those looking into the less expensive version – the iPhone 5c – my two cents is that this is the child’s version of the iPhone 5. In terms of capabilities, there aren’t many upgrades from the 5. The big thing is that these versions are available in colors. They are coated in hard, durable plastic – probably break less easy when you drop it. But Apple is also marketing colorful cases with it and this makes the iPhone look exactly like a child’s toy. Don’t do this, people – do not buy their cases to go with it. It looks like anyone carrying this should also have a Hello Kitty backpack with them. If you do get the 5c, buy a different case than the ones Apple is selling.

As for iOS 7 – that’s a game changer for Apple’s software. It’s very significant and I will certainly be upgrading to it on my iPhone 5. Trust me – there is a new sleek design, better user interfaces, and more intuitive feature and functions. As soon as iOS 7 is available, don’t waste any more time on iOS 6. That reminds me, don’t forget to download iWork, iPhoto and iMovie for free – Apple’s no longer charging for those apps.

Recommendation: If you have an upgrade, get the iPhone 5s. If you want a cheaper version, don’t waste money on the iPhone 5c – just get the iPhone 5. They are not that different in terms of features and functions, and you will feel like an adult while you’re carrying it. If you have the iPhone 5 - upgrade to iOS 7 when it's available. You'll notice the difference. My last recommendation regarding the iPhone 5s is simple - someone please buy me one. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Press Tour Tips

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a major in-person media tour with one of my clients. I learned a lot, and I was beyond stoked to see the super-modern New York offices of places like Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. Here are my tips, based on that two-day experience. So, obviously I’m the expert here…

Have the necessities, and then some:
Anything that can go wrong probably will, so be prepared. Here’s my recommended list:

Logistical PR Items
  • Copies of the press release and anything related (such as FAQs)
  • Business cards
  • Extra pens
  • Notebook
  • Smartphone to look up last-minute details
  • Back-up tablet or laptop for demos

“Life Happens” Items:
  • Mints/gum
  • Tide-To-Go
  • Hand/face wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Ibuprofen
  • Tums
  • Hair/make-up accessories if your executive is female
  • Sewing kit
  • Phone charger
  • Cash
  • Band-aids

For the record, the only things I actually used off this “Life Happens” list were the mints and phone charger. But I guarantee that if I forgot one of them, I would’ve needed it. Murphy’s Law, right?

Call the Publication’s Offices Ahead of Time

The wise Lisa Astor reminded me to not only get the addresses, but call each place first and ask the receptionist about cross streets, parking, building security, etc. Your client is looking for you to lead the way – tell the cab driver where to go, and know the little nuances of various offices like you’ve been there a hundred times. Be the expert, not just in PR, but in travel time and locations. I guarantee I never would’ve found the IDG office that was above a spy store if I didn’t heed that advice from Lisa. Seriously, it was above a spy store. Yes, we checked out the spy store on our way, obviously.

Never Give Up On That Last Meeting

I really wanted to land a meeting with Bloomberg. I really, really did. We had great meetings booked in New York, including All Things D. But, I wanted Bloomberg, too. Call it a personal challenge. I called reporters, I followed-up, I talked to various editors. I boarded the train in Boston with an “I don’t have time,” from the reporter. A last-ditch phone call at Penn Station turned that into, “I can make time this afternoon.” Just because the briefing materials are printed and you’re already traveling doesn’t mean you’re out of time. 

Prep, Prep and don’t forget to prep.

So, you had a prep call and drafted briefing materials? Great, but that doesn’t mean that breakfast before your meeting with the Wall Street Journal should be spent chatting about the weather and Patriots. Okay, maybe a little about the Patriots. But take that extra time to go over the briefing materials, remind your client about the focus for each reporter and the best way to approach the demo. They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll know that you did all you could to prepare them for the meeting. 

With enough preparation, press tours can lead to valuable introductions, long-lasting relationships with journalists and incredible coverage for product launches. 

Let me know in the comments what other tips you have for press tours. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Facebook Phone? No thanks.

A colleague and I chatted this morning about the rumors that Facebook will announce its own Android-powered smartphone this week - "HTC First." My question is, why? This is not what Facebook should be focused on – I don’t know how many reporters, analysts or bloggers need to tell them before they understand. Facebook needs to fix or figure out mobile advertising. Then Facebook can work on other (unnecessary) projects. 

It would make a lot more sense for Facebook to partner with Apple, Android, Samsung, etc. to work for better Facebook integration on those devices, instead of creating their own phone that's going to have tough competition in the market from people who are already loyal to their devices - and not because of its social networking capabilities. Honestly, do you need more Facebook integration on your smartphone? The only thing I could think of is that when you upload iOS pics to Facebook, you can’t tag people. Other than that, I don’t really need more integration - and that's coming from someone who dedicates a significant amount of time to social media. 

As my colleague Jess Payne pointed out, this smartphone leak "could simply be a red herring for what they really plan to roll out on Thursday. Could it be their advertising platform? Personally, I can’t think of a reason to switch from my current phone, and I certainly wouldn’t do it solely for social networking."

Maybe this is something that makes sense for Facebook to focus on down the line, but they have bigger fish to fry for right now. That's my PR thought for the day.Would you switch to a Facebook phone?