AOL’s Patch Is Quietly One Of The Biggest Digital Media Bombs

When listing high-profile media failures — Portƒolio, The Daily, Mobile ESPN, Joost — don’t forget about Patch, AOL’s unsuccessful attempt to reproduce the magic of the local newspaper. Having only read a Patch a few times, it’s easy to neglect. But Patch has quietly been burning through an obscene amount of money, actually: “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to Nicholas Carlson’s lengthy profile for Business Insider.

This is so much money that it’s impressive. I appreciate the concept of making big bets when you can afford them. But can you imagine any venture capitalist seeing what Patch was able to achieve with its first $10 million — never mind its first $100 million! — and then giving it hundreds of millions more? It sounds insane.

The allure of trying to take over where failing local newspapers leave off is understandable. At their best, community papers have massive local market share and lucrative local advertising capabilities.

Our first plan at Business Insider — back when it was “Silicon Alley Insider” — was actually to build a set of local tech news sites, starting in New York. But that barely lasted a week: We soon realized that most of our readers were coming from outside of New York, and that our best and most popular stories were about companies like Apple and Google. The local stuff rarely performed well, and we went “national” almost immediately. The site has thrived since then.

Still, I realize that local tech news and “real” local news — politics, infrastructure, crime — are completely different things. And it’s easy to see how a national “local” platform like Patch might be the solution: HQ can handle things like technology, distribution, and marketing, while local staffers could write articles and sell ads. It’s a take on a model that can work: See Curbed and Thrillist, for example.

But for Patch, on AOL’s ambitious scale, it obviously hasn’t worked out, for a mix of problems: Not enough people read Patch, probably due to a mix of mediocre, non-essential articles and more-entrenched-than-anticipated incumbents. And as Carlson’s article alleges, the business model — trying to sell web ads to local businesses on locally produced articles — has fundamentally stunk so far. It just doesn’t look like Patch is the answer.

The Best Part Of Twitter’s New Design Is That It’s Experimenting In Public

Love or hate Twitter’s new design features — I like the in-line photo and video previews, but the reply/fav/retweet icons under every tweet feel a little too noisy — they say one great thing about Twitter: That it’s not afraid to experiment boldly in public. 

This is, I believe, a trait that all great digital/web companies must have, and one of the reasons that Apple’s web/cloud/services reputation is its worst, especially relative to companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., which iterate in public all the time. (Apple’s strategy works great for things that need to be near-perfect and shouldn’t be updated frequently, such as hardware devices and operating systems. It doesn’t work so well for things that should get updated weekly, monthly, or daily, like most popular web services.)

Sure, consistency is important, and it’s probably not a good idea to make drastic changes all the time — that suggests you don’t know what you’re looking for. Indeed, the current Twitter timeline is a big departure from 140 characters of plain text. But it’s also very obviously where things have been heading. (Twitter even conducted a public A/B test of this new UI earlier this fall, which I randomly participated in, tweeted about, and no one seemed to care.) Also, consistency is also not the only thing that matters.

Remember: Twitter’s goal is to maintain its independence, and soon become a large, profitable, public media company. If Twitter can try new things — in public — that make its service easier to understand, easier to use, easier to monetize, and easier to grow, that’s a big victory for the company and its users.

(Another example of this: Twitter’s #Music app, which, while nice-enough looking, reportedly isn’t doing so hot lately. Still, worth trying! Might even be worth a 2.0. If it became a huge, lasting hit, it might have been the beginning of many new Twitter vertical apps, from Shopping and Travel to News and Finance. It still might be worth trying some of those other ones. Anyway.)

Oldie-But-Goodie: Understanding Twitter

The Great Apple Lull

Is excitement around Apple winding down? Or winding up?

Apple revenue growth

An infant could not have drawn it better: This is Apple’s last decade in one line. (No, it’s not the snake from The Little Prince eating a genetically modified elephant.)

Technically, it’s a smoothed graph of Apple’s year-over-year revenue growth from September, 2003, through September, 2013. But the reason I left out all identifying symbols and values is that this is supposed to represent something less tangible — excitement about Apple. This feeling, while rising and falling as the iPod, Mac, iPhone, and iPad generated a lot of interest — not to mention sales and profits — seems to have lately settled into a slump.

It’s not that Apple isn’t making great products anymore: You’d be a fool to argue that the iPhone 5S, retina iPad mini, iPad Air, and various Macs aren’t the best computers that any company — not just Apple — has ever made. Step back more than a couple of product generations, and the newest models are amazing improvements.

And it’s not that Apple has stopped innovating. One particularly impressive feat — which will never get the appreciation it deserves — is that in half a decade, Apple has scaled from a company that can reliably design, produce, sell, and support 75 million gadgets in a year to one that can move that many in three months. (The first time Apple sold 9 million iPhones in a quarter was three years ago — September, 2010. This year, it shipped 9 million iPhones in a single weekend.) This despite increasing competence and competition from Google, Samsung, Amazon, and Microsoft.

But where Apple has disappointed recently is in novelty, or surprise. Perhaps this is unfair, but it’s real. Apple became the company that delivered “new”.  People got used to hearing about new stuff all the time — iPod nanos, iPhones, MacBook Airs, iPads — and now it seems like it’s been a while. The more people got, the more they wanted. And then you have to work even faster.

What really happened? Steve Jobs spoiled us with two mind-altering substances in quick succession — the iPhone and iPad. Meanwhile, the majority of people who have ever owned Apple products likely bought their first (and second…) during this period. So all of a sudden, a bunch of people who didn’t really pay attention to Apple before — people who never had to boot up a Performa with Extensions off, or upgrade RAM in a Power Mac 8500 — are now expecting some crazy new toy to appear every few years, whether it’s realistic or not.

And here we are, the end of 2013, and it’s been a while since Apple really surprised. You may reasonably wonder: Why is that Apple television taking so long? Where’s my iWatch? Is Tim Cook asleep at the wheel? Has Apple lost its magic? What’s going on here? This is how you start to get even Apple’s biggest supporters wondering about ho-hum product presentations feeling “off”.

So that’s the big question right now. Is all of this a windup to a new galaxy-changing Apple device or two over the next few years? Will that boom-boom succession ever happen again? Will two new Apple devices in a row ever sell so many units so quickly? Or was that an unrealistic coincidence? Is Apple’s ability to invent slowing with its sales growth?

Once again, on tonight’s earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked up the company’s interest in new product categories — “specifically if you look at the skills that Apple has from hardware, software and services and at incredible app ecosystems”. Cook, of course, offered no timeline, and Apple tends to play the long game. An optimist might say that Apple’s most recent move — launching the retina iPad mini so close to the holidays, instead of waiting until next year — suggests the company is speeding up its overall product-release cadence. A pessimist might say that Apple has fallen behind, and that it should have launched this Friday.

I’d say give it another year. Tim Cook has now been chumming the water for a while, and if Apple was just going to keep rolling out iterative updates to the iPhone and iPad until we all fell asleep, it’d be a waste to keep bringing up the whole “new categories” line. It’s not like he just showed up when Steve Jobs retired. Tim has been around this whole time, and doesn’t seem like the bullshit-artist type.

If it becomes mid-2015, and Apple hasn’t shipped anything new, then it might be time to wonder what’s up. But for now, enjoy your new iPad, relax, and get excited. I risk sounding like a naïve Cubs fan here, but: If it’s “new” you’re after, my guess is that next year will be more interesting.

Also at TechCrunch: Apple’s Rebound Quarter In Charts

5 New Tools I Love

It’s been a slow gadget year for me. For the first time in ages, I’ll end up spending less than $1,000 on Apple gear in 2013. Probably a retina iPad mini, and that’s it.

Everything else still works great. But I’ve added some new hardware and software habits to my routine this year, and I’d like to tell you about them. (Alert! Affiliate links ahead.)

Dan Frommer

1) Rdio + Sonos.

It took me a few tries, but I’ve finally accepted subscription music as the way things should be. I tried Rhapsody three or four years ago and Spotify more recently, but didn’t stick with either. Rhapsody’s iPhone app, at that time, was pretty lousy, and Spotify has always felt a little too Windows and not enough Mac. I also had some weird desire to “own” the music I wanted to listen to more than a few times.

But I’ve been using Rdio since the Spring, and I’m happy with it. The audio quality seems good enough, even with my snob earbuds, and now that my iPhone syncs with iCloud and not my desktop Mac, it’s actually a little easier to get music onto my phone via Rdio than it is via iTunes. Rdio’s iPhone app is still more complicated than it needs to be, and I haven’t really gotten into the “social” aspects of music streaming, but it generally works. And it’s been great for trying new music, which iTunes isn’t as good for.

I’ve also been listening to more music at home, and Sonos — which can access my Rdio subscription — has been great for that. My wife and I have both been working out of our apartment this year, so it’s nice to have a little background music during the day so it’s not just two dueling keyboards and a funny puppy. I received a Sonos unit to test a while back, and I’m pretty much ready to buy one and start building out a set. The software could use some more attention, but in general, it’s a great experience, and doesn’t tax my old Mac CPUs. And the nice thing about pairing it with a music subscription like Rdio or Spotify is that you can listen to a bunch of stuff you’d be less likely to own — the Kitsuné mix tapes, for example — one or two times, and then move on.

2) Rancilio Silvia and Rocky.

I have a daily habit of two iced lattes, and I’m pretty picky about what I like. For a while, I used an inexpensive Aeropress to make “espresso” at home, but I missed the richness that a real espresso machine creates. So after saving up Amazon gift cards for months, I splurged on the Rancilio Silvia espresso machine and Rocky grinder.

Yes, spending $1,000 on coffee gear sounds a little nuts. But for machinery that’s designed to last many years, it actually isn’t crazy when you stop spending $5-10 a day at cafes. There’s definitely a learning curve for this machine, and I wasted a lot of good coffee along the way. But I’ve loved learning a new craft this year, and am now at a point where I’m consistently pleased with the espresso I’m pulling. As far as beans go, I try to mix it up, but I’ve been really happy with Stumptown, Sightglass, Blue Bottle, Heart, Counter Culture, Belleville, Irving Farm, and De La Paz. I’ve found that I tend to prefer beans from Central and South America, whatever that says about my coffee palette (maybe nothing).

3) Sketch.

I’ve been designing websites for 18 years now, and have never been truly satisfied with my design tools. Photoshop, while a great photo-retouching app, has never been ideal for web design, especially the way it handles shapes and type. For a while, I used Macromedia Fireworks, but it peaked on OS 9. More recently, I started using Apple’s Keynote app — which seemed crazy at first — after reading about people using it for app and web prototypes on Daring Fireball.

But a couple of months ago, Khoi Vinh told me about Sketch, which has been an excellent addition to my Mac. Like Fireworks, it combines vector- and pixel-based design in one tool, so you can draw shapes that scale nicely and use photos. Like Keynote, it’s easy to move things around using grid coordinates, instead of by hand. It also handles text nicely, and has built-in support for automatically exporting 2x-sized “retina” images. (No more zooming 200% in Keynote, taking screenshots, slicing them, etc.) It’s a steal for $49 and also has a 15-day trial.

4) Topo Designs Travel Bag + Trip Pack.

That’s me holding the little Trip Pack above, next to the beach in Rio. Aren’t those payphone hoods awesome?

For most of the last decade, I’ve traveled with a Mountainsmith travel backpack as luggage. It never looked particularly great, but it was a functional, durable bag that got me through five continents and dozens of trips. Last year in Tokyo, I was on a quest for my first rolling suitcase, and wound up buying a mid-sized piece from Muji, on sale. It’s been solid, if a bit inefficient — the hard plastic shell often seems unnecessary. And I’ve always loved using backpacks as luggage. So this year, I invested in a new olive-green set from Colorado-based Topo Designs, whose daypack has become my favorite everyday city bag.

The Travel Bag is big enough for 4-10 days worth of gear — my clothes are generally size L or XL, and my shoes pretty bulky, so if you’re smaller, it’s even better — and I’ve been able to carry it on every flight, international or domestic, without hassle. Only downside: There’s no flap to hide the backpack straps in, unlike some travel backpacks, so try to avoid checking it as luggage. It’s basically a big, simple rectangular backpack, which is what you want — fussy compartments don’t make any sense for something like this. And it looks great, in a Wes Anderson-goes-camping way.

I also got the matching Trip Pack, which is probably too small to be your day-to-day city bag, but is great for travel, and small enough that I’ve never been hassled for carrying it on a plane as my second “personal item”. It fits a 13-inch MacBook Air snugly, and also a few magazines, books, an iPad mini, small camera, sunglasses, charging cords, passport, etc. It also conveniently attaches to the Travel Bag if you want to only carry “one” bag on your back. But for short distances, I tend to carry the Travel Bag on my back and the Trip Pack in one of my hands.

So far, I’ve taken these on two longish trips and two shorter trips, and everything has been perfect. (Again, I am a light packer, so keep that in mind.) The fabric is high-end Cordura, the zippers are big and easy, the construction seems solid, and I’m looking forward to using these for years. Also, I’ve met the super-nice founders of Topo Designs — which does all of its production in the U.S. — and I’m happy to support what seems like a really great company.

5) A.P.C. jeans.

It took a lot — of time, of coaxing, of trying on — for me to consider spending more than $100 on a pair of jeans.

I had been a very happy Uniqlo jeans buyer for the past 6 years, never spending more than $50. But Uniqlo, which is expanding like crazy, has never made it easy. The first few years, the product was great but the selection was terrible. My size was always sold out, and I basically made a running joke of going into Uniqlo’s only U.S. store, betting myself that the jeans I wanted wouldn’t be available. My goal was to lose enough weight to someday fit into Uniqlo’s higher-end “Japan denim”. And now, five waist inches smaller, I probably could. But just as the Japanese denim look was becoming more popular in America — and as Uniqlo has expanded to many U.S. stores, with much more inventory predictability — Uniqlo discontinued the line.

Then there was a pair of nice Gap jeans I really liked, but they only kept them for a single season, and then made them junky again. More recently, my favorite Uniqlo cut, the “slim” (vs. “skinny” and now “leggings jeans”) have become 25% polyester “powder soft” pants, which just don’t feel like jeans anymore.

So this summer, I set out to find a new pair of favorite jeans.

My wife, who writes about the fashion industry for a living, has been trying to get me to switch over to A.P.C. for years. I’ve always loved A.P.C.’s minimalist branding — no squiggly stitching on your butt, no obnoxious logos — and the founder, Jean Touitou, is hilarious. So after trying on a few this summer, I finally found a pair I like: The “Petit New Standard”, which have a higher rise and more tapered leg, so I can wear them with either a t-shirt and sneakers or a tucked-in dress shirt and boots.

The thing you need to know about A.P.C. jeans is that they are hard to wear. You might say the onboarding process is more like waterboarding. (You’re also warned never to wash them.) The raw denim is thick and stiff, and months later, it still feels like I am wearing a cast. The first time I tried riding a bike in them, I almost slid off of the seat. But day by day, they are getting more comfortable. And they look exactly how they should: Like jeans. The only thing I’m still not crazy about is the button fly: Wtf? (The only nice thing about a button fly is that you can never leave the house and discover three hours later that your fly is unzipped. Other than that, it’s annoying.)

But overall, they’re great. I look forward to having a truly comfortable pair of jeans in a decade, which is how long I hope they’ll last. And when I need to ride a bike, I still have my trusty old Uniqlos.

Also: Amazon’s $35 External DVD Drive Will Make You Feel Young Again

Is T-Mobile’s ‘Free’ International Data Roaming Worth Switching For?

It’s a great headline and a nice bonus. But as always, look at the fine print.

Since T-Mobile’s U.S. exit plan was spoiled by the government, new CEO John Legere has promised loudly to anyone who will listen that he is going to try to shake up the wireless industry. His latest move: “Free” international data roaming, a service that remains significantly overpriced at rival carriers, despite recent price cuts.

When I first heard about this, I was very excited — finally, I could consider switching back to T-Mobile, a carrier I used (and loved) twice in the pre-smartphone era. I travel internationally several times per year, and while I actually enjoy shopping for foreign SIM cards, it would be nice to not have to worry about them. And for frequent overseas business travelers, it’s not a crazy concept to spend more each year on international data roaming than normal, home-country mobile service.

But, as always, there are tradeoffs here that make this less appealing than it sounds.

The biggest roadblock, for me, is data speed. T-Mobile’s free international roaming is only for 2G data service, which you probably haven’t used day-to-day since the first iPhone. After getting used to LTE speeds at home, it will seem unusably — or at least uncomfortably — slow.

T-Mobile’s site warns “Standard speeds approx. 128 Kbps.” That’s kilobits per second, which you need to divide by 8 to get kilobytes per second. Translation: That 128 Kbps tops out at 16 KB/sec — faster than dial-up, but slower than DSL, and way slower than LTE or even decent 3G.

This suggests that at “standard” speeds, it could take an entire minute to download a 1 MB photo, map, web page, whatever. When you are standing, staring at your phone, waiting for something to load, a minute is a long time! Especially when it’s something important that you either need for business or to help you make a transit/travel decision.

As a quick test, I just reset my iPhone’s data counter and, using the new per-app data consumption tool in iOS 7, looked to see how much my favorite apps used up in what I’d consider one session of solid use:

  • Twitter: 2.3 MB (~2.5 minutes at 16 KB/sec)
  • Facebook: 3.1 MB (~3 minutes)
  • Instagram: 10.2 MB (~10 minutes (!))

Now, yes, this is not a scientific survey. It’s possible that some apps are optimized when they sense that they’re on slower data networks — that would be cool. And text-only services like iMessage and e-mail, especially loading in the background, won’t be as annoying to use. But as I just experienced while roaming on Orange in France, where my download speeds were often below 350 Kbps, slow mobile access means using a lot less of it, consciously and subconsciously. No fun. Don’t expect to be doing much with your phone, or making Skype calls, while you’re 2G roaming.

Now, T-Mobile will let you pay more to upgrade to faster speeds. As Engadget notes, there are three “speed boost” roaming packages available:

  • One day and 100 MB for $15
  • One week and 200 MB for $25
  • Two weeks and 500 MB for $50

When I travel, and the data network is good, I use about 50-100 MB per day, including email, maps, photos, Twitter, etc. So the 500 MB for $50 sounds about right for my usual 6-to-10-day trips. That same 500 MB would cost $125 from Verizon Wireless, so T-Mobile would be saving me about $75, or more than half. (AT&T also offers a plan with 300 MB for $60, including some international wi-fi access.) A local SIM card, meanwhile, could be as little as $10-$2o for 500 MB, but there are costs in obtaining it, not having your main phone number active to receive calls without forwarding it, etc.

Assuming 3-4 trips a year, that’s still potentially hundreds in savings per person. More if you travel more. Not bad, but not as life-changing as the headline promise of “free” copious international broadband.

Then there are some other little things. No tethering, for example. Bummer; last I checked, Verizon lets me tether wherever I want, and many foreign prepaid SIMs include tethering. And if you want to use T-Mobile’s wi-fi calling feature, available on some phones, that still costs 20 cents/minute. Fine, ok.

The bottom line: If switching to T-Mobile already makes sense — you’ve priced out the packages, T-Mobile service is good enough where you live, and you’re already going to save a bunch of money — the new international data plan is a good bonus. When my Verizon contract is coming up for renewal, I’ll definitely consider T-Mobile as a viable service option for the first time in a decade. Well done, Mr. Legere.

But unless you’re already spending a ton on international roaming and you don’t mind really, really slow mobile Internet access, it’s probably not worth the switch by itself, especially if you’d have to pay a contract termination fee. Especially if T-Mobile’s actions get Verizon and AT&T to reduce their international roaming fees — even a fraction.

Data Roaming Report: 3 UK

SIM Card Vending Machine at London Heathrow Airport LHR

Carrier: 3, which is the UK’s fourth-largest mobile operator.

Price: £20 (~$32) at an airport vending machine for a nano-SIM and 3′s current £15 all-in-one add-on, which includes a month of unlimited data, plus 300 voice minutes and 3000 texts.

This was super-convenient, but had I waited until getting into London and gone into a 3 store, I probably could have saved some money. SIM cards seem to be free, and the £10 all-in-one sounds sufficient for my short stay: 500 MB data, plus 100 voice minutes and 3000 texts. That would have saved me half.

Performance: 3′s 3G network was solid throughout London, with good coverage indoors and outdoors and download speeds around 1.4 megabits per second during my few speed tests. My iPhone battery life seemed pretty good; much better than on Orange in Paris.

Value: Convenience counts for a lot, and this was by far the easiest SIM card purchase I’ve ever made. Quick credit card transaction after airport customs, no language barrier, no filling out forms, no activation delay, and no waiting in line. Every airport should have these. I used about 500 MB of data during the five days I was in London, which would have cost me $125 from Verizon. So I saved about 75%. A great experience.

This information is current as of October 7, 2013. Evaluate your needs, consult carrier websites, and explore other options before purchasing.

Data Roaming Report: Orange France

Carrier: Orange, which is France’s largest carrier.

I originally purchased my SIM card this past February at Orange’s République store in Paris, which was easy enough — the combination of my French and their English got me set up quickly, and I could pay for everything with a U.S. credit card. My SIM and number were still valid when I visited France this past week — most prepaid plans seem to keep your account valid for six months — so I only needed to top up, which is possible via Orange stores, many tabacs, some ATMs, and online (if you have a French bank card).

Price: €10 (~$13.50) for 500 MB of data. My “Mobicarte” nano-SIM cost €9.90 when I bought it earlier this year. You can also buy various combination packages of voice minutes, SMS, and data. For example, €20 gets you a month of unlimited calls, SMS/ MMS, and 150 MB of data. (In France, megabytes are abbreviated “Mo.”)

Just be aware that buying top-ups of straight Euros isn’t the same thing as buying these various packages. I accidentally bought a €15 top-up at a Monoprix store and discovered later that I couldn’t do anything useful with it.

Performance: Orange’s 3G network was the fastest that my Verizon iPhone 5 could access, and it was again a disappointment. Coverage in Paris was surprisingly flaky, especially indoors. Speeds were usually very slow, and I couldn’t sustain a VoIP call any time I tried. My battery life was terrible while roaming in France, and I suspect part of it has to do with Orange’s weak signal. I’m open to trying other French carriers in the future, but Orange still seems to be the easiest for prepaid data.

Value: At ~$2.70 per 100 MB, this was 90% cheaper than Verizon’s current international data roaming package. Unfortunately, my connection was so slow and unreliable that I was only able to use about 200 MB during the five days I was in Paris. Had I correctly topped up, I would have only spent €10 the whole time, and that would have been a great deal.

This information is current as of October 7, 2013. Evaluate your needs, consult carrier websites, and explore other options before purchasing.

Android Curious

This summer, for the first time, I thought seriously about switching to a Google phone. But — for now, at least — I’m sticking with Apple.

HTC One

It’s iPhone day. For six years — mostly while I was writing tech news for a living — it was easily one of the most exciting days of the year. A few years ago, I even waited six hours in sweltering heat to claim an iPhone 4 — probably the peak of my gadget stupidity.

This year, though, iPhone day just feels like another Friday. This is the first iPhone since the 3GS that I have no plans to buy. (Actually, I’ve spent $0 on Apple hardware this year, and unless something crazy happens, it’ll be my lowest year of Apple spending since 2006.) And for a while this summer, I even considered the unimaginable: Switching to Android.

Why? Because iOS 7 — while daring and beautiful — seemed half-baked.

It felt like Apple was pushing its software design so far into needlessly trendy territory that another major facelift would be required next year, and every year. It reminded me of the neon storybooks I read in kindergarten, and American Apparel ads from a few years ago. It felt like app makers would have so much work to do to fit in that they might just not do any of it, and stick with their increasingly custom interface designs. And it felt like I was finally weaning myself enough off Apple services — to things like Rdio for music, Google Maps for navigation, Dropbox for document storage, etc. — that a switch to Android would even be logistically possible.

Meanwhile, the iPhone rumors leading up to this month’s event seemed pretty lame. I totally understand Apple’s two-year design cycles, and don’t expect the company to fast-follow trends — it’s never worked that way, and in my 20-plus years as a Mac nerd, I’ve felt that Apple has almost always made the right decisions. But the iPad mini has changed what I want in a phone: Even the 4-inch screen on my otherwise-fine iPhone 5 feels too small. I’d happily consider a 5-inch or larger iPhone, with the possibility of merging my phone and tablet into one larger device. When I hear a Samsung Galaxy Note owner rave about having a bigger screen with them all the time, I start to wonder. And to a certain degree, I just craved something really new. A few afternoons, I was ready to pop into the Verizon store and check out an HTC One or Moto X.

Then a few things happened that straightened me out, at least for now.

First, I tried to boot up a Nexus 7 tablet that we have sitting around, to get a feeling for today’s Android experience. And it just didn’t work. It wouldn’t charge or start, even after several days of trying different techniques. Piece of junk! And this seemed like a warning of what could have been my life as an Android switcher: Fighting with crappy technology when I really needed to receive a phone call, or send an email, or load a map. So far, my iPhone 5 has been mostly reliable, even running beta software this summer.

Meanwhile, iOS 7 has already been getting better and smoother. This week was big: A bunch of app makers did update their apps, and for the most part, they’re nicer. There are still some quirks, but it does feel fresh. And now as a mobile developer, Apple’s impressively high upgrade rate seems like a major advantage. Google’s ecosystem still seems too screwed up for me to want to mess around with. And while I won’t be buying an iPhone 5S, Apple still seems to be thinking the right way about what to add and what not to.

Then there’s the “moat” around my entire technology fleet. Am I really going to switch all of our tablets, video streaming gadgets, etc. to Google from Apple? My future watch or TV set? Probably not. It’s still better to keep those consistent. (A better iCloud could make Apple’s hold even stronger here — it’s a bit surprising how slowly Apple is moving there.)

This is still the company I want designing my technology, even after a bit of a competitive survey. So I’m sticking around.

Also: 300 Days With The iPad Mini — Still The ‘Real iPad’