Ken Segall on iPhone naming conventions


Ken Segall, former creative lead at TBWA/Chiat Day and author of Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success, expressed his dismay at Apple’s iPhone naming conventions in a recent blog post. Specifically, he dislikes the “S” nomenclature that Apple introduced with the iPhone 3GS:

“Tacking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message. It says that this is our “off-year” product, with only modest improvements. If holding off on the big number change achieved some great result, I might think otherwise. But look what happened with iPhone 5.”

The knee-jerk reaction is to agree. On some base consumer level, the “S” seems to signify a minor update to its predecessor. If  you own the full number update, there’s no need to buy the S follow-up. It’s only marginally improved. But sales tell a different story, as this chart from MacStories indicates:


While some customers might poo-poo the S models, I see them as the perfected version of the full-number upgrades. The iPhone 3G was a nice device; the 3GS a lot nicer. Likewise, the iPhone 4S is a more appealing phone than the iPhone 4.

At one point in his article, Segall writes:

“I think it’s safe to say that if you’re looking for a new car, you’re looking for a 2013 model – not a 2012S. What’s important is that you get the latest and greatest.”

No, I’d much rather have the 2012S with improved braking system, perfected suspension and tweaked gas mileage. It’s the superior version of the 2012 model.

But that’s not the only reason to “go S.” The S updates often mean a speed bump, which prompts developers to release richer games and denser apps. Plus, pre-existing apps that push the full number version hard run a little easier on the beefed up S release.

Another good reason comes down to cases. Those who buy a full number model as well as a pricey environment case like the LifeProof case (which I love)  or a battery supplement like the Mophie Juice Pack (I love this, too) can upgrade without having to sacrifice their case, should they choose to buy the S.

I’ve been buying S-only since the 3GS. I have a 4S now and I’ll buy the iPhone 5’s successor. I suspect that the S has more of a negative effect on the “trendy” buyers who use name alone to decide if an iPhone is cutting-edge new or simply a rehash.

Even with all of that said, there’s no guarantee the iPhone 5’s successor will be called “iPhone 5S.” I’ve heard that the “S” in “3GS” stood for “speed,” and in the iPhone 4S it meant “Siri.” So unless the next iPhone has a marquee feature that starts with the letter S, it might not bear that moniker at all.

Certain iOS dictation commands stopped working

There’s a thread at Apple’s Discussion Boards pointing out that certain iOS dictation commands are behaving differently than they did a few months ago. Specifically, users note that saying “Caps on” and “All caps” used to toggle caps lock on and off. Now, the iPhone and iPad (3) simply type out the words “caps on” and “all caps.” Several users state that turning Siri on and off fixed the problem when it occurred before, but not anymore.

Another user reports that saying “numeral three” used to result in “3.” Now, his iPhone types out the words “numeral three.”

The earliest post in this thread is dated June 14. Have you had the same or similar experiences? Let me know. Comments are open.

CNET gets it wrong about Siri

CNET has erroneously suggested that Apple “rigged Siri to name iPhone best phone” in response to last week’s non-story in which Siri accurately reported data it received from Wolfram Alpha:

“As of yesterday, the voice assistant is firmly back in Apple’s camp. When asked the same question, Siri now responds: ‘The one you’re holding,’ or ‘You’re kidding, right?'”

“Yesterday” being May 14, 2012. Wrong, CNET. You are wrong. Here’s a post from the Mac Observer Forums in which a user describes Siri providing a humors answer to a now infamous question:

“Depending on how I asked ‘What is the best smartphone?’- I got either ‘You’re kidding, right?’ or ‘You’re holding it.'”

That post is date stamped October 17, 2011. Here’s another one, posted to YouTube on November, 2011, just one month after the iPhone 4S’s release. Perhaps CNET defines “yesterday” as “seven months ago.”

Meanwhile, Nokia spokesperson Tracy Postill told the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Apple position Siri as the intelligent system that’s there to help, but clearly if they don’t like the answer, they override the software.”

Right, Tracy. It would be a brillant move for Apple to censor Wolfram Alpha data to meet its own marketing goals.

Postill’s quote illustrates another error. Both CNET and Nokia are seemingly unaware of where Siri’s answers come from. In short, Siri pulls from several sources, including Apple’s servers, Wolfram Alpha and Yelp. When it responded to The Next Web’s query with “Nokia’s Lumia 900,” it returned results from Wolfram Alpha. The “joke” answers (and yes, they are jokes) like “The one your holding,” come from Apple’s servers. Here’s a video of Siri providing humorous answers to 96 questions (recorded in 2011). Finally, if you ask Siri for the best Italian restaurant in town, its answer will come from Yelp.

Apple has given Siri a sense of humor because it humanizes the service and helps users feel like less of a tool while conversing with an inanimate object. It was a very clever move. Apple did not, in any way, “rig” Siri to name iPhone the best phone. If CNET or Nokia believe that Apple is afraid of losing iPhone sales to loose-lipped Siri, I have a bridge in New York that’s for sale.

Confessions of a spring training photographer

Brad Mangin, veteran photographer who has shot Major League Baseball’s spring training for over 20 years:

“My favorite piece of new technology that I’ve brought down here this year is my new iPhone 4S. I finally joined the rest of the world with a cool smartphone and it has become one of my favorite cameras. Using Instagram, I’ve had a blast taking pictures and sharing them with friends each day as I head out to a different ballpark. Looking back at how things were in 1991 when I shot film and spent 30 minutes transmitting one color image, it is amazing that now I can take a picture with my phone and have the image published all over the world in a matter of seconds.”


New iPhone 4S ads

Here’s a great new iPhone 4S ad that features Siri. A young couple embarks on a cross-country adventure in a gorgeous Vovlo 240 wagon with Siri as their guide. As usual, it’s heartwarming and endearing.

In the second ad, a young guy experiences the thrill of his first garage band. It reminds me of the time I spent doing the same thing in high school.

Apple’s not selling iPhones here, it’s selling that feeling you get when you hear the last request in each spot. Well done.

[Via Macstories]

On not using Siri

Siri is a marquee feature of the iPhone 4S and the very thing that attracted me to it. When Apple purchased Siri in 2010, I guessed it might be for navigation or possibly an enhancement to Voice Control. Today it’s much more than that, even as a beta.

After I bought an iPhone in December, I started playing with Siri right away. A month later, I barely use it. Not because I dislike it, but because it’s often easier not to. Here’s what I mean.

Siri is handy in the kitchen. I often use it to set timers. I also have Siri turn my alarms on and off before bed. In those instances, a verbal request is faster than swiping and tapping. Unfortunately, I don’t use it for anything else. Many people say it’s a great way to read and respond to text messages. In my experience, Siri reads incoming texts well but often fails when transcribing my words. The same goes for dictating tweets. Siri often gets a word wrong. [1. It kills me that the guy in Apple’s promo video is jogging, breathing heavy, yet Siri gets every syllable.]

The problem is that there’s a one-error threshold between being faster and not. A text message dictated and sent using voice only is much faster than the same message typed. However, if Siri makes a transcription error, correcting that error manually and then sending the message takes much more time than typing from the start.

Other tasks, like web searches, I still do the “old fashioned way,” but that’s out of habit.

It’s disappointing, as I expected to be talking to my iPhone 24/7.

iPhone 4S to launch in China, 21 other countries on January 13

Apple has announced that the iPhone 4S will launch in 22 countries on January 13, 2012. Those countries are: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Cameroon, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, China, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guam, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and Uganda.

As of the 13th, assuming that each launch is successful, the iPhone 4S will be available in over 90 countries.

What a disappointment.

Six months without an iPhone: Shotgun

Last week I bought an iPhone 4S, ending six months without a smartphone of any kind. I didn’t choose to go without an iPhone for that long. Instead, fate made that decision for me. Now that I’m back among the connected, I’ve revised my opinion of the thing and, more importantly, the sense of dependence I had built around it.

Last week I described how I lost the iPhone, and this week I’ll discuss the lessons I learned while living without it.

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