Don’t Be Sad About Coverage On Your Mobile Network. Get OpenSignal & Be Smart

It will be nine weeks tomorrow that my wife, son and I have been in southern California. There are so many great things about where we are (Irvine) but one of them, surprisingly, is not the mobile networks! Thank God I just found something that I wanted to share with you since it might help you make your own decisions on what to do next if you’re thinking of changing mobile providers.

I suppose we’re spoiled since our mobile coverage in Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area was almost always 4 bars and often 5 bars of service. Since I had Verizon on my iPad and AT&T on my iPhone in Minnesota, I could often compare the two and almost always they were pretty close in service strength and download speeds, regardless of where I was in Minneapolis, St. Paul, or their suburbs.

Then we got to southern California and almost everywhere that we found ourselves seemingly had crappy mobile network service. 1-2 bars was the norm. It seemed that every time we were somewhere with native Californians and I’d ask them what provider they had — mainly since they almost always had at least 2 bars of service when we had zero — they’d respond “Verizon!”

Thinking that maybe it was time to switch our family plan to Verizon, today I stopped in a Verizon store to get an idea of what their plans cost since their network saturation appears to be better than the one we’ve get with AT&T. The pricing wasn’t better, we have DirectTV NOW for $15 per month with AT&T, and we’d have to pay off a couple of devices. More homework was needed and, thankfully, I discovered something incredibly helpful. Read More

Why Apple’s Lightning Connector is Perfect


When Apple first released the lightning connector to go along with the introduction of the iPhone 5 last year, many people were very upset they would have to replace all of their 30-pin connecting cables and devices with this new “Apple standard” connector.

Since I was just compelled to buy new lightning accessories when I received my new iPhone 5S last week, I hadn’t given this much thought until now. But then I read this today and thought, “Seriously Europe?“: 

Apple may be forced to drop Lightning connector for MicroUSB
European law makers may force Apple to drop the
Lightning connector for charging the iPad and iPhone in Europe 

A microUSB connector. You can see it's smaller on one side and larger on the other making it more challenging to plugin correctly.

A microUSB connector. You can see it’s smaller on one side and larger on the other making it more challenging to plugin correctly.

MicroUSB sucks. Apple did the right thing and the connector is amazing and here’s why:

  • Inserting a MicroUSB isn’t easy. It can only go in one way and all the microUSB devices I have usually take at least a couple of attempts to plug it in. The lightning connector can go in either way and I can plug and unplug it in my sleep in the dark (which I never could do with a microUSB device)
  • It’s too simple to choose the wrong power supply. If I had a dollar for every time a family member or friend plugged in the wrong power supply to charge a device just because it was USB or microUSB—choosing one with the wrong amperage or wattage which would have fried their device—I’d have at least 50 bucks  😉
  • There are dozens and dozens of third-party microUSB power supplies. Some are cheap, many are rock-solid, but it’s a crap-shoot on what you get when buying. As we’ve seen with Apple being compelled to mitigate the risks with these sorts of devices (see Apple Takes Charge of 3rd-Party Charger Problem With Special Offer) and so many people I know completely clueless about what to buy, Apple is clearly ensuring that these incredibly sensitive devices (i.e., iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) aren’t inadvertently destroyed by plugging them in to God-knows-what.

My $.02 for today.

The Yin and Yang of Prius


My wife and I decided to give our son the 2009 Prius (for him to use both for college and for work) or otherwise we’d be driving him everywhere. That meant I needed a new car and pronto since college has already begun. 

After much deliberation—looking at Prius, Chevy Volt, and several other hybrid types—I decided on another Prius. For me, the car perfectly hits the sweet-spot of mileage, technology, cost and pretty decent performance. On my 2009 I would routinely get 48-50mpg in nice weather (around 42mpg in winter) but this new one people are achieving 52mpg on average in nice weather (don’t have numbers for winter).

Opinions run the gamut on the Prius from joy (like I have) to ones like this from the Minneapolis StarTribune gossip columnist C.J. to whom I’m connected:

Sorry CJ…I could care less what anyone else thinks about what car I drive. In fact, at least 25% of the time I’m at the Costco gas pumps I’ll have people ask me what kind of mileage I get, especially if they’re driving something like a Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Tahoe, or some other large SUV.

Here is the type of encounter I have often at the Costco pumps:  Read More

Only a Few Thousand Cell Phones…

In this old Motorola commercial they mention that, “…today there are only a few thousand cellular phones…”. Watch it and then quit whining about *any* limitations you think you have with today’s smartphone!

Meeker’s 2012 Internet Trends Update

Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, has just published her latest internet trends report entitled, “2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update.”

Meeker delivered her report to a group of Students at Stanford University and, to me, the biggest revelation within it is a huge section of her report that shows how device and connectivity trends are leading to the complete re-imagination of everything from encyclopedias to money. Think about how we are shifting from “stuff” to “online” and you’ll begin to sense the trends leading away from accumulation of material things to engagement with all things digital.

Always On, Always Connected

Back in early 2006 I was contracted to write a white paper for Palm smartphone higher education reps to use when calling on decision-makers at colleges and universities. The premise of my pitch within this paper was that students — already in 2006 — were beginning to be “always on, always connected” and the implied message was that these decision-makers better embrace Palm smartphones immediately!

I’m hearing those four words over-and-over again in podcasts, speeches and talks. Especially since the world is accelerating toward one where mobile devices are ubiquitous and people have them in their pockets or purses (or next to their bed at night) all the time.

I haven’t touted this white paper previously because of contractual obligations which long ago expired (especially since Palm was acquired by HP in 2010) but I was at a breakfast event this morning where a guy sitting next to me said again, “Borsch. You were telling me this stuff YEARS ago” and it made me think about this paper. So I’m posting it since, frankly, I’d forgotten about the paper until this morning and re-reading it was fun. 

The Palm Connected Campus – a White Paper

Boingo Bombed

My family and I just got back from a 10 day adventure across Germany, Austria and Poland. Since each of us had our iPhones, my wife and I are iPads, and my daughter her Macbook Air 11″ (the latter needed for homework as college started during the trip), I researched and we signed up for multiple Boingo accounts in order to access Wifi on the trip.

Boingo is a hotspot “aggregator” who apparently partners with providers all over the world. Marketed as a magic “launch app and get connected” service, it does nothing of the sort. Boingo bombed for us and was incredibly frustrating. My wife, daughter and son continually complained that, “Boingo is a total waste!

The Boingo app itself is flawed: you first have to access a Wifi hotspot (or what Europeans refer to as a “WLAN” hotspot) before you launch the Boingo app! The Boingo app cannot seek out and connect with various hotspot providers. The only place it worked were places where we either already had access (e.g., Marriott hotels; Starbucks) or had already logged in with credentials at the hotspot (e.g., our Sheraton hotel in Krakow, Poland). 

But this is what is really bizarre: in order to find other hotspots you had to be connected! It had no internal directory; didn’t have one to download to our iPhones (so we could, for example, download Munich, Berlin, Salzburg and the other places we were visiting); and the app couldn’t be placed in to “seek” mode like others I’ve used on my iPhone to find Wifi hotspots (e.g., JWire) so it was useless for locating places where Boingo could connect. Sheesh.

So what’s the point of having the Boingo service? It’s useful in the USA since we could get on at the airport for no charge. Since my wife is a Delta club member we had free wifi regardless.

The only way this service could be made worthwhile overseas is if:

1) You launched the app (or left it running in the background) and it would notify you of an “approved” Boingo hotspot

2) Performed ALL of the handshaking, credential input and negotiations so launching the Boingo app enabled one to get on instantly.

Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money.

While I appreciate the challenges a Boingo has with all of the protectionism in Europe (and that countries like Germany, France and Poland ensuring their own, respective mobile and WLAN providers can protect their service revenues) the way Boingo is positioned, marketed and delivered means people like us—ones who’d be lifelong customers if the service worked as advertised—are instead cancelling the service today.