Music finally goes wireless?

About 2 years ago I purchased, after much research, a set of Jabra Revo Wireless Bluetooth headphones. Fed up with wired headphones it seemed like a good idea after all it was almost 2015 and the sound quality over WiFi was superb I didn’t stop to think that bluetooth would be any less.

How wrong was I? The Jabra’s are very good headphones, comfortable and great sound – if you have them plugged in using the phono jack. Switch to bluetooth and the sound is noticeably poorer, worse even than FM radio.

lightningheadphonejack-250x260This isn’t so much a failing on the manufacturers part as a failing on the part of bluetooth technology. I’ve not researched it (tell me if I’m wrong) but it’s likely to be caused by BT’s low bit rate. I’ve got a modern car with BT built in but I always plug my phone into it’s USB socket for music. Same reason as the headphones. The sound sucks over BT.

I rarely listen to music with headphones as it’s just too much hassle with the wires.

Now Apple brings out a new iPhone without a headphone jack. Announces new AirPod ear phones and a custom W1 chip. Finally, someone’s making an attempt at a solution.

Yet the media frenzy over Apple dropping the headphone jack and the hate pouring out at them for their “arrogance”, has just floored me.

The hate coming from the same idiots who’ve been sneering that Apple can’t innovate any more.

I can’t be alone in wanting a wireless solution. Why then all this counter propaganda telling me I don’t?

airpodsI’ve been very disappointed in the progress with the Bluetooth standards and in particular with regards to sound over air. As someone who worked in the network industry and participated in the IETF I know that standards bodies can step up to the mark when there’s a demand. Without the IETF we wouldn’t have the internet. It would never have scaled up. Why the feet dragging with BT then? (EDIT. Bluetooth V5 is coming next year. Increasing data bandwidth and range)

Why are we being told we don’t want wireless headphones. I don’t know if Apple’s W1 is any good and if they’ve got a product that does it for me but at least they’ve tried to move in the direction I’ve been waiting for, for too long.

I’m not a proponent of proprietary, closed, systems. My issue is with the lack of “innovation” with the industry standard and technology for that particular area. When complacency sets in (e.g. the incandescent light bulb) then I’m all for someone striking out on their own to move things along. Shouting them down and keeping the status quo isn’t being innovative. Even if they get it horribly wrong, they’ve tried and we’ve all learned something. Better that than remain ignorant of new territory, right?

Let’s look at what else Apple’s (controversially) dropped in the past.

  • CD/DVD Drive. Who now thinks they MUST have a CD/DVD drive in their computer?
  • Flash. Who misses having flash software support on their smart phone? This one caused such a stink that the late Steve Jobs had to write an open letter to calm the crowd.
  • Keyboard on a phone. If the iPhone changed anything it broke RIM’s blackberry dominance with their keyboard endowed phones. Yet another rant I heard too much of was, “I prefer a REAL keyboard on my phone“, from Blackberry users. Yeah? Just like the headphone jack maybe?


Smart Watches. Irrational necessities?

I was trying to explain to a client this week the benefit of an App over a Website and I found myself summarizing it as:

An App, on a mobile device, is more personal than a website which is more public“.

I’ve not been convinced of the worth or necessity, if there will ever be one, of the Apple Watch.
However in the context of what is “more personal” I think it may be the next step in the evolution of personal technology.

Technological evolution, when it comes to human interaction, has proven to be anything but logical in evolution or progression.
What we all thought would be successes, and next big thing, have instead been flops. And vice versa.

The “video phone” being a good example.

Anyone remember Amstrad’s video phone or the promise of video phone calls with ISDN in the 90’s?
Even today, with smart phones offering video chat in HD, we still make phone calls instead.

Another example is “text messaging”, which a summer student at Nokia added for fun, not because anyone thought they’d prefer it over a voice call. Even more remarkable was that it took off on mobile devices with no real keyboard, the world of instant messaging was born with a crutch yet it got up and ran.
It ended up more popular than voice calls which the technology was created for.

When it comes to personal communications the order of priority is the reverse of what anyone would have logically expected:

  1. Text messaging
  2. Voice call
  3. Video call

How wrong are all the Sci-Fi’s set in a future where voice calls are no more and video calls are the norm. Did any Sci-Fi writer predict an instant messaging future? Watch Blade Runner (again) to see an example of a future full of video calling.

The human need for intimacy & personal communication using technology isn’t obvious, or logical. It is irrational. We need to remember that we are dealing with  irrational consumerism in this space. I keep reading articles pointing out the logical pro’s and con’s of the Apple Watch but I can’t help thinking that it’s all irrelevant. That watch may very well succeed for reasons most of us would never have guessed at.

With the evolutionary milestones of technology over the last 3 or 4 decades there’s always been a Killer App that has made the platform a must have.

With the PC it was the spreadsheet and word processor. These are still primary in desktop computing.

With the internet it was the Web Browser. The internet existed long before the web browser. Web Browsers took the internet from the world of the Unix command line to a visual context level accessible by all, not just the tech savvy.

Smart phone’s were the successful convergence point of mobile phones, MP3 players, compact cameras with a revolutionary user interface that finally gave us a usable mobile internet platform.

Apple Pay has taken off at a pace that has Apple’s rivals in a panic. This should not have been a surprise. According to the theories of Experiential Marketing¹² one of the key goals in building memorable, positive, experiences into you services is by eliminating negative cues¹. That’s exactly what Apple has achieved with the checkout stage of the shopping experience for consumers.

That negative cue is refined even more to the point of becoming a positive with an Apple Watch. You don’t need to take out your phone, which is now your digital wallet. You just tap your watch screen.

Another goal of Experiential Marketing is self authenticating acts²That watch will be a fashion statement and a status symbol. To be seen paying with one feeds the consumers need for self authentication.

Apple Pay and intimate messaging may well be the spreadsheet and word processor of the smart watch era.

I’m not buying an Apple Watch for now but I will be keeping a very open mind about it and it’s future.

1.Pine, Joseph B. II. & Gilmore, James H., (1998), “Welcome to the experience economy”, Harvard Business Review Vol.76 Issue 4 (July/August): p97-105.
2.Poulsson, Susanne H. G. & Kale, Sudhir H., (2004) “The Experience Economy and Commercial Experiences.”, Marketing Review, Fall, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p267-277