Latest From AT&T on iPhone 6 Delivery

After creating a new Twitter account specially to communicate with @ATTCustomerCare (since they were ignoring/blocking my regular account), I finally found somebody who reached out and called me.

He too hit the problem that the order cannot be canceled, and he tweeted the error message to me:

Error Message

That is a little cryptic, but WMS apparently means “Warehouse Management System” and he also added the comment “It’s suppose to go out on 9/19” followed by “Remember it’s a system that is calculating that but since you ordered day one I don’t forsee a problem.” That is certainly what the original date showed on the order, and I live in hope that the earlier comments I received yesterday were wrong and in fact it is the estimated delivery window in the status message that is inaccurate.

Meanwhile, I am going to compare the cost of T-Mobile for our five lines and see how that would work out.

AT&T Bait & Switch Update

After getting no reply from @ATTCustomerCare, but seeing them tell several people it is possible to cancel a pre-order, I thought I would call the regular customer service. After sitting on hold for almost an hour (being repeatedly told how much they value me as a customer), I spoke to somebody who tried to cancel the order several different ways. No dice.

She then transferred me to Premier support, which left me on hold for a bit longer. At the end of that, I was told that the order could not be canceled once it has been submitted (I would have thought it would be harder to cancel one that had not been submitted, but not in the world of AT&T). Almost 90 minutes on the phone & still no progress whatsoever.

Pending Shipment

This is what my order status currently shows:

Order Status

Apparently, they will be preparing it for shipment for the next month or so. And in that time there is nothing I can do.

Refuse Delivery

The helpful advice I got was that I could simply refuse delivery of the phone when it arrives. Really? The best solution to canceling an order that won’t ship for several weeks is to have it ship to me, and then tell the delivery firm to return it?

I also learned that this glitch (the word he used) is something they know about and they are trying to fix.

Meanwhile, my line is not eligible for upgrade, so there is nothing I can do to source a phone elsewhere.

Twitter Support

The lack of responses on Twitter is puzzling too. So I created a new Twitter account and sent a question about my upgrade from that account. Sure enough, I got a response within a few minutes. Is it possible that despite “following” me (and being followed by me), they have somehow decided to block my regular Twitter account? If so, what does that tell me about how they feel about my business. Perhaps I should just cancel the service and move to T-Mobile.

Mac OS X (Mavericks) Wi-Fi Disconnecting

For a while now one of the Mac Books on our home network has been very quick to disconnect from the Wi-Fi network when the link is idle (and, by quick, I mean just a few seconds with no traffic is enough to make it drop the connection).

To make it even more annoying, the Wi-Fi network comes from a relatively new (1 generation ago) Apple Airport Extreme router, so there really should not be any compatibility issues between the laptop and the router. But, it almost never happens anywhere else.

In the console app, I see this line every time it happens:

kernel[0]: AirPort: Link Down on en1. Reason 4 (Disassociated due to inactivity).

This morning it dropped the Wi-Fi within a few seconds of me hanging up on a Google hangouts video call.

The difference I see between the working laptop and the one that is dropping, is that the working one has the security for the network as “WPA2 Personal” (which is correct), but the one that drops had the security set to “WPA/WPA2 Personal” – the more relaxed mode that supports the older WPA encryption as well.

So, I deleted the entry from the Mac’s list of networks and added it back, but selected the “WPA2 Personal” option and it seems to have fixed the issue (I did need to turn the Wi-Fi off and back on to make this stick which shouldn’t really have been necessary).

If you have been seeing this, try it. If your router is set to allow both versions of WPA as well, you might want to change that to be just WPA2 as well (not sure whether that is needed, or if just changing the Mac setting would work – my home router was already set to be just WPA2).

AT&T iPhone 6 Pre-Order “Bait & Switch”

Wavered on whether to pre-order a new iPhone 6, or just wait, but in the end I thought I would pre-order. When I got to the AT&T site, they were still reporting delivery dates of “on or around” September 19 for the iPhone 6, though only for the 128GB model. I went ahead and ordered one and thought everything was set.

Then, early this morning (around 3am PDT), I saw a tweet telling me how to check my order status, so I did. Much to my surprise, rather than the September 19 estimated delivery date I had seen when I clicked the order button, the AT&T site was saying October 13 – October 31. That’s almost a whole month later than they promised. Had they said that on their site when I ordered it, I would have ordered it from Apple (who even today are saying the first week of October), and I would probably have stuck with the 64GB which was my first choice.

No problem, I thought, since it is 4-6 weeks out I can just cancel the order and either try my luck at a store on Friday or order from Apple. So I called the number on the web page, waited 25 minutes to speak to somebody, only to be told she couldn’t cancel the order. I asked for a supervisor, and waited another 5-10 minutes. When he came on the line, he said it was impossible to cancel the order because it was at the warehouse being packed. Really? What do they do to these people to make them believe it takes 4-6 weeks to pack a phone in a box? Of course it is not at the warehouse being packed. It is still an electronic order awaiting devices to arrive to be fulfilled. And they don’t expect those for several weeks. So canceling the order is not impossible at all.

Twitter Support

The normally responsive Twitter support team also seem to be totally ignoring me this morning. I have tweeted to them and even sent them direct messages, but still not a peep back. Amusingly, Verizon responded faster than AT&T!

Perhaps it is time to just take my business to a carrier that does care. It seems clear that AT&T don’t care, and neither can they operate an online business. Bad enough that they advertise one delivery date, and then shift it by a month after the order is placed, but to not have a way to easily cancel a pre-order is ridiculous. Perhaps I should call American Express and dispute the charge for the taxes on the phone – I suspect they’d be able to cancel the order then.

Canceled Orders

Then I started seeing replies to other people on Twitter with iPhone 6 order issues, and to be honest it looks like AT&T were totally unprepared for people to order this phone. Was it really a surprise to them that lots of people would be pre-ordering it? Haven’t they done this before?

Some Examples From Twitter

(At least they received a reply from AT&T – I have had no response at all. Apparently I am on some kind of no response list.)

Free With Ads or Ad Free

Every so often an app comes along that breaks the sacred rule of ads: they include some form of advertising in a paid app. The most recent was Angry Birds, a hugely successful $0.99 app, by including a house ad on their pause screen. That’s pretty innocuous – most players will rarely, if ever see that screen, and the ad was for other Angry Birds products. But where did this rule come from?

Free With Ads
Most people seem to have accepted that a free app with some ads is an acceptable compromise, allowing the developer to collect some revenue to (help) pay for the development & maintenance of the app. This model appeared on the web too, where many sites carry ads to pay for their content being free.

Unfortunately, it rarely brings in enough money to truly pay for the development of the app, or the creation of the content. As the news industry is discovering, ad supported web sites alone just don’t pay the bills. The solutions for the web are well known:

  1. Less content, which is a vicious circle, since less content means less ads;
  2. Lower quality content, also a vicious circle since you less readers;
  3. Subscriptions for accessing some or all of the content;

In the app world, especially in an app world where updates are expected to be free for life & the initial purchase price as near to $1 as possible, the choices are more limited. The Angry Birds idea of adding discrete ads later in the life of the paid app seems like it might become more the norm as developers loom for ways to at least subsidize ongoing maintenance of very low cost apps that are in the long tail of their sales volume.

Old Media
The odd thing about the fuss over ads being included in a paid app is that most of those complaining are probably happily paying for newspapers, magazines and television content, and at rates often much higher than $0.99 for life, yet all of those include ads as well.

My Comcast cable bill makes my app purchases look insignificant, and yet almost all the channels on there show ads. Even the premium HBO channels show house ads between programming; essentially the equivalent of the Angry Birds pause screen ad.

Watched a movie at a theatre recently? Over $10 to enter, and they spend 15+ minutes before the movie plays showing ads for all kinds of things.

Why is it acceptable to pay for these types of content and still see ads, but it breaks an inviolable law for a paid app, charging a fraction of the price, to include even discrete house ads? Seems like there is a double standard there somewhere.

Free Updates
There’s no such thing as a free update, at least not for a developer. Every update, no matter how small, involved time and effort. It also requires an annual subscription to the developer program(s) for the platform(s) the app is being supported on, and continuous outlay for expensive hardware to make sure the app works on the latest devices as well as a selection of older ones.

I don’t want this piece to become a whine about how developers are not getting paid enough for their apps though. If you’re not getting paid enough to keep your business working, you need to look for a (creative) solution to that, or change business!

With enterprise software, the cost of updates is covered by, often very expensive, annual maintenance contracts. For shrink wrapped or downloadable desktop consumer software, the initial purchase price includes some maintenance, and major updates normally have to be paid for (if you’re lucky, at a discount rate). But for mobile apps, free updates for lifetime have become the rule. A developer who tries to charge for an update by making the next version of their app a different app that must be bought again is likely to called greedy & given lots of bad publicity online.

In some segments of the market that is less of a problem – games, as an example, have a short life before they are replaced by the next great idea. Apps that are expected to have a longer useful lifetime find it harder to maintain a revenue stream that can pay for new features, or even maintenance of existing ones.

Options
What options are available in the current app world to a developer wanting to keep improving their app?

  • Ads, even in an app that was initially paid for;
  • Subscription for content and/or a service;
  • Charging for new features via in-app purchases, or by creating new apps on major releases;

If your app does not lend itself to a service you can charge for (or Apple’s ever changing rules on subscriptions outside of the app store payment mechanism concern you), then your options are charging for new features or running ads.

In the near future, in expect we will start to see more paid apps including some form of advertising. I hope it is better than the generic & poorly targeted banner ads we see today from networks like AdMob and iAds.

Torpedo Alley

At the end of last week, ourLivez LLC, my fledgling mobile app development company, launched its first game for iOS devices (iPhones, iPod touches and iPads): Torpedo Alley.

The game is pretty simple in concept, but surprisingly addictive. Fire your torpedo at just the right time to hit the mothership on one of its two weak spots, destroying it. You have at most 5 torpedoes to achieve this goal. As you progress through the game though, defending mini-subs appear to block your torpedoes.

On the iPad, the extra screen space allows us to support two player mode so you can play with a friend for added fun (not to mention the extra element of strategy from allowing your friend to take out the defending mini-subs allowing you a clear shot at the mothership!).

Want to see a preview of the game in action? Check out our YouTube video:

All of that fun is just US$0.99 (or equivalent in other currencies). Buy now from the App Store.

The app is on Facebook as well, and we’d love it if you could ‘like’ our page:

Newspapers Are Killing Themselves

Yesterday saw the removal of all of my iNewz apps from the Apple app store. Not something I really wanted to do, but something that was forced on me by the very people who stood to benefit the most from the apps: the news organizations who publish the news.

Yesterday was also the day that another RSS based news app, Pulse, was removed from the store despite being praised & shown on stage at WWDC by Steve Jobs. Why? Because the New York Times complained that the app contained the URL for their RSS feed. Quoting from the letter Apple received from the Times:

I note that the app is delivered with the NYTimes.com RSS feed preloaded, which is prominently featured in the screen shots used to sell the app on iTunes.

The same argument was made by Apple to me for the recent rejection of an update to iNewz (and a few more news feeds were cited as problematic too).

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App Store Roulette


This week I have been presented with something of a dilemma regarding what to do with my iNewz applications for the iPhone, iPod touch and most recently the iPad. As is often the case with apps for these platforms, the cause of the problem is nothing technical; it began with Apple’s review process, or more specifically the inconsistent way in which it is applied.

The Rejection
Like most app developers, I’ve had rejection emails from Apple before (actually called “feedback”), and they have normally been for things that are simple to address, even if not always things I agree with the need for.

This one was different though. Here’s the key paragraph of the email:

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Multitasking & Battery Life

One thing that has annoyed me for the longest time now is this myth that multitasking somehow reduces battery life. The iPhone multitasks today, it just doesn’t allow multiple third party apps to run concurrently.

I’ve written a lot of software, both application and system level (right down to the lowest levels of an RTOS), and believe me, if it is written properly a background app does little or no harm to battery life.

Many of the applications that people would like to see running in the background would spend almost all of that time waiting for a system event. That waiting state doesn’t harm your battery life; only when the application is actually processing something does it really consume power. The push mechanism on the iPhone today might actually be worse since it has to load the app each time, a far more expensive operation (in CPU, and therefore battery) than just switching to one that is already “running.”

Consider the IM app example that is so often used to support the claim that background apps kill battery life. Sure, if you run the IM app (background or foreground) and stream messages at it continually, then it will reduce the battery life. If you just have it sitting there in case somebody tries to start a session though it isn’t doing anything most of the time (occasional presence messages perhaps). I ran an IM app all the time on my Nokia N95, connected over AT&T’s network 24/7. My battery life was unaffected, as expected.

Another example of a well behaved background app is the daemon that we wrote for the jailbroken version of Devicescape’s app (before the SDK and app store existed). It made no difference to battery life because it spent almost all the time blocked waiting for a system event. One that only happened when a new Wi-Fi connection was made. We run in the background on Nokia, Windows Mobile and Android (not to mention Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X) today without impacting battery life.

So what will affect battery life? Well, an app that continues to do something in the background, rather than waiting for an event, one that polls for an event rather than blocking until the OS tells it about the event, or one that requires a power-hungry piece of the hardware to be on all the time (e.g. GPS). But even those apps have their place. Imagine a background image uploader: it will do something in the background while it is needed, and then exit or wait for a new photo to be taken. Or an app that checks your location every 5 minutes. It is my choice to use the battery that way, so why restrict it? Just make sure it is reasonable for the application, explained to the user, and under my control (can be checked as part of the review process).

These types of apps don’t take any more power than they would if I left them running in the foreground, but letting me push them to the background allows me to choose if I want to watch them work, or read my email etc.

Above all, please stop spreading this myth that multitasking or background processes will harm battery life. Only badly written apps would do that.