What we’re willing to pay for cell phones & service

Looking at the plan prices for the iPhone 3G tonight, I am amazed at the costs we’re spending these days for the privilege of using a cell phone. Take the next-to-smallest voice plan (900 min for $59.99), add on the $30 iPhone data plan, and $5 for 200 text messages, and you’re up to $95 for your phone, plus tax.

This doesn’t count the cost of the phone, which, for smart phones, can cost $200 to $500. Even basic phones are usually at least $50 for a medium-caliber phone.

I remember my first cell plan, at 400 minutes for $19.99, eight years ago. That was before anyone in the U.S. knew how to text message. It took a while, but now the carriers have sold us the joy of texting and we have several serious addicts and text-based services like Twitter and Jott. We’ve also built up a healthy interest in wireless media downloads, ringtones, and mobile surfing.

Folks used to spend $25 a month for a home phone line, plus a few bucks for long distance. Today, we’re looking at family cell-data-and-messaging bundles for as much as $200. Some of us also still have home phones as well.

I overheard a woman outside at a concert the other day who simply declared “I don’t have a cell phone. It’s just another bill.” 

Another bill, indeed.


Cell phone culture shifting with headset laws

In California last week, I noticed little differences in the cell phone habits of people on the streets. Now that Washington and California require hands-free kits for cell phones while driving, more people seem to wearing their ear-sets around on the street, too. 

We’ve had the Bluetooth zombies for a while, who appear to be shouting to themselves like bag ladies until you see the blinking bling hooked over one ear, but these corded ones can be spotted from across the street.

Nearly everyone I see now who walks on a city sidewalk seems to be talking, texting, or just looking at his or her cell phone. But in California now, many of the business-types are walking around talking into their factory-issue iPhone-buds or Blackberry-headsets.

I wonder how long until Oregon and the other states follow suit. Lots of laws pioneered in California (like seat belt laws) eventually become U.S. standards.

Apple TV interface is a disappointment


Apple TV connected to a standard wide-screen TV

Apple TV connected to a standard wide-screen TV

About six weeks ago, I took the plunge and bought the new-and-improved 40 GB Apple TV. For those of you who don’t know, Apple TV isn’t a TV tuner system. It’s a sort of video-music-media queueing box for watching your family videos, playing your iTunes music through your TV, and viewing your iPhoto pictures on your TV. It doesn’t replace your DVD player, your computer, your TiVo or your cable tuner. It’s an addition to those.


After trying several ways to use it, I have settled that it’s a great way to share photo slideshows and quick home movies with dinner guests. For everything else, it’s a bit of a pain. Here’s why:

The interface: Apple has made its name by making its products a joy to use. Because the Apple TV connects to the Internet, you can shop and download music and movies (rent + buy) through a special Apple TV version of the iTunes store. The idea of buying and renting movies using a remote from your couch is great. But to find these (among Apple’s slim movie selection) requires you to search by pecking out the name one letter at a time with a joystick, kind of like pecking out your initials for a high score on an old Pac-Man machine. The 4-way button on the Apple Remote that comes with the TV is a clumsy tool for choosing letters.

The syncing: Apple TV forces you to choose a primary computer in your house for syncing movies, music and other media. This is done with a simple number passkey issued on one device and typed by the user into the other. Pairing is quick and easy, but then all other computers must be added as secondary “shared library” with limited syncing options.

The confusion: Navigating among the different types of media on your Apple TV is a lot like digging through the sorted-stack menus on a click-wheel iPod. But even though the Apple TV itself is connected wirelessly to the Internet AND your Mac, its interface makes it feel less like a computer and more it like a big, dumb iPod hooked to your TV.

The default settings lead the Apple TV to sync automatically with your primary Mac, giving preference to the newest, latest, and unplayed media. This encouraged me (and I would bet others as well) to manage all the Apple TV media solely on the Mac. I started using Apple TV only to play back media I had put onto the Mac and set up to sync. So when I decided one night to rent a movie on iTunes, I did it from my Mac, thinking I could download it and then sync it to the Apple TV and watch it on the couch. So I was surprised to find that my $2.99 movie was not allowed to be synced to my Apple TV. Apparently, in order to watch the movie on my Apple TV, I’d have to rent it again ON the Apple TV – using the Pac-Man joystick pecking method.

Overall – it works. Most of the time. But the number of hiccups in using it make it a less-than-average quality Mac interface experience. For somebody who appreciates good interface, it’s a disappointment from Cupertino. And at $229 for the 40GB model and $329 for the 160 GB model, I can’t say it delivers value equal with its cost.

Our PDX shows yet another side of Portland cultureIfound

I found yet another site through the omnipresent Rick Turoczy, called OurPDX. Seems to be a quirky all-over-the-map blog (like this one0, written by a dozen or so clever people, including the always-charming Jeremy Towsey-French from the original Wave Rock clan.

The great thing about this site is it gets closer to ALL the things that make Portland what it is — not just the burgeoning tech/startup/creative scene. There’s also the bikes, the beer, the art, the food, the water. Etc. Good for OurPDX. Need to keep an eye on these guys.

Why AT&T costs more than T-Mobile

I figured out a couple things today in talking to the folks at T-Mobile today.

AT&T charges $39.99 for 450 minutes a month. $4.99 more gets you 200 SMS messages.

T-Mobile charges $39.99 for 600 minutes a month. $4.99 more gets you 400 messages.

However, your minutes roll over at AT&T and you can call any other AT&T customer for free all the time.

At T-Mobile, you have to add M2M service for $6.99 a month in order to call other T customers for “free.” And there’s no rollover. 

T-Mobile is a better deal, dollar-for-dollar. The question (and real value) if you’re using AT&T is getting all you can out of rollover minutes, and calling your other AT&T peeps for free. With more customers than any other carrier in the U.S., AT&T probably has more of your friends on their network than any other carrier.

Gary Vaynerchuk rocks Portland’s new media scene

Yesterday afternoon, I caught wind of a talk going on at Weiden + Kennedy by Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of tv.winelibrary.com and new media guru. He was in town to promote his new book, andLegion of Talk persuaded him to give this free  talk as well. About 150 technorati and entrepreneurials turned out to hear him in the 90-minute session, co-sponsored by Weiden + Kennedy and Strands. Legion of Tech’s goal is to bring the speakers of the TED conference to the masses whenever and wherever possible. Portland’s a great place to do it.

Here are some of the best points from last night. For background on GaryVee, see twitter.com/garyvee or check out http://tv.winelibrary.com.

If you are not 100% fulfilled and energized at work, you are making a huge mistake in where you spend your time. This is the age to do what you love.

If you really, really, really do what you love, you will have the energy to put in the 18-20 hours a day that success requires.

Email is over. No one under 25 uses email anymore. Messaging has fractalized to Twitter, Facebook, texting, IM, Pownce, LinkedIn.

Social media is brand new to the masses. Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn are just getting going. When Oprah gets on Twitter, then you will know it’s hit bigtime. Until then, it’s in growth stage and we are early adopters.

Want advertisers for your podcast or other content? Google a search on your topic’s keywords, look in the right sidebar, and those are the advertisers you can approach for sponsorship. They’re already buying ads for your audience. It’s an easy sell.

Word of mouth is out of control in today’s market. It used to be that a well-connected professional could perhaps tell 50 qualified people about your product or service. The Web, Twitter, etc can multiply and target word-of-mouth referrals by 100. 

Be Authentic. If you come out in the biggest, most authentic, way you possibly can, you can’t lose. Always be honest about who you are and what you do.

Don’t be afraid of who’s better. Don’t be afraid of who’s bigger. Don’t be afraid of who else is in your space. MySpace was already there. Facebook didn’t care. Yahoo! was already doing search. Google didn’t care.

Don’t chase the business models or money trail when finding your space. Chase yourself. Find what you really love. Only then will you have the passion to put in the 18 hours a day it will take to own your space. (Basecamp was built after hours on raw energy and passion).

Be the Media. Stop consuming content. Start producing it. If you’re sitting home watching “Lost” on DVR, you need to shut it off and figure out your game plan, or you are wasting your time. (Don’t read. Write.)

Be a RAT — Real. Authentic. Transparent.

The Secret Sauce:  Caring about people. The most important question in business is “how can I help?” Focus on providing a truly valuable service to your customer and you will win. Period. 

GaryVee’s 80/20 blend: Inject 80% of the energy into every relationship you have. The 20% you get in return will be sweeter than wine. Why is Zappos beating the rest of the market right now? Because they actually give a shit, and it shows.

Today’s Gold Rush is about the personal brand. You need to own your area of expertise and make sure everyone knows about it. No longer are the brands the companies. Now the corporate brands exist by following the personal brands around. Scoble. Oprah. Kobe. Godin. Calacanis. Kawasaki. Vaynerchuk.   

Thanks GaryVee. And thanks to Twitter, @billder and @turoczy for the hookup.

Does voicemail cripple our social agility?

Think about how many people you email during a day. How many people do you telephone?

In the average workplace, especially the mobile-enabled workplace, your phone is likely to display the caller’s ID, name or telephone number. This lets you know whether your boss, wife, husband, daughter, or a salesperson is calling, and it lets you decide whether to answer it or not.

Think about what it was like before voicemail and caller ID. Think of old movies. A person would walk to the ringing telephone on the wall, and fix a dreamy smile into space as they answered “hello?”. There was no pre-cognition. The call could be the postal service, or news of a loved ones’ death, or a simple friendly chat from Aunt Bea. They had to be prepared for anything and deal with it to their best ability.

Today, we’re able to look at the caller ID, and get excited, or nervous, or angry, and decide how we’re going to conduct the conversation before we even pick it up.

We enter the conversation pre-disposed by our conception of what the caller might want or need. Not necessarily as a blank page, greeting the caller optimistically and without bias. 

Before, if you were in the middle of writing a letter, and someone called to chat, you would have to either talk with the person or use all your best social graces to guide the conversation toward a pleasant close.

Now, you don’t need to keep those graces sharp, because caller ID lets you pre-filter who you’re ready and willing to talk to, every time.

Try turning off caller ID, and see how more alert you have to become.