You Can Have A Gold iPhone If I Can Have A Clear iPhone

If we’re gonna go ’80s, let’s really go ’80s.

Clear 1990s Phone

AOL Hanging In There With 2.6 Million Dialup Subscribers

In what has become a bit of a pastime here at SplatF, let’s take a look at AOL’s latest dialup subscription stats, revealed in today’s Q2 earnings report:

  • 2.58 million subscribers, down 15% from last year and down 3% from last quarter.
  • Average monthly revenue per subscriber: $20.03, up 12% from last year.
  • Churn rate — the percent of subscribers who leave the service each month — of 1.4%, a nice improvement from 1.7% last year.

In short: Fewer people are leaving than before, as AOL dialup becomes a service you still pay for either because it’s actually your best option, or because you forgot you had it many years ago.

Btw, it’s entirely possible that AOL still has more paying subscribers in the U.S. than Spotify. Last December, Spotify announced it had 1 million subs in the States. Has that number tripled this year?

Don’t miss: AOL vs. Netflix, The Entire Internet In One Simple Chart

How Great Is The MacBook Air?

My sticky trackpad just fixed itself after an increasingly worrying week of soft, shallow clicks. This miracle means I can hold off on the impulse-replacement-purchase that I’d started to consider. Now’s just not the best time for that, so I’m grateful.

This is the first computer I’ve ever owned that still feels fast and new more than two years after I bought it. (“Late 2010″ model.) Thanks, flash-based drive. And, years in, it still feels light enough that I barely notice it in my bag.

Perhaps one small reason that Apple isn’t selling as many Macs as before: They age better and last longer.

Introducing The iPhone 5 SF

iPhone 5 SF

Pairs well with City Notes San Francisco.

“Hatching Twitter: A true story of money, power, friendship, and betrayal.”

— I’m looking forward to reading Nick Bilton’s Twitter book this fall.

Data Roaming Report: Virgin Mobile Canada

I’ve traveled extensively over the past 1.5 years with unlocked iPhones — first an Apple-unlocked 4S, and now a Verizon Wireless iPhone 5 — buying local prepaid SIM cards along the way. I’ve meant to start reporting my data roaming successes and failures, which I’ll do from now on. Here’s the first in this series.

Carrier: Virgin Mobile Canada, which operates on its owner Bell’s network. Purchased in Montreal at its 1221 Sainte-Catherine store. Helpful, friendly, English-speaking staff. Everything took less than 15 minutes in the store, and about an hour for service for activate.

Price: $25 for 500 MB of data. Free SIM card. I bought another $5 in credit for random calls/texts. Another ~$4.50 in taxes. Credit cards accepted.

Performance: Bell’s LTE network apparently uses a band that my Verizon iPhone 5 doesn’t support, so I could only access its 3G network. But that’s all I needed, and data service was reliable and fast throughout Montreal. (In future reports, I’ll include specific speeds.) Tethering was supposedly included in my plan, but I didn’t try it. (I was ostensibly on vacation.)

Value: At $5 per 100 MB, this was 80% cheaper than Verizon’s current international data roaming package. Considering how easy it was to buy and use the SIM card, I’d highly recommend Virgin Mobile for data roaming in Canada.

This information is current as of July 17, 2013. Evaluate your needs, consult carrier websites, and explore other options before purchasing.

The App Store Era’s Biggest Winners And Losers

Five years in, here’s who has done the best and who’s lost the most.

Macworld App Wall


Apple. Obviously. Apple’s iPhone App Store wasn’t the first way to load apps on your smartphone, but it was the best and quickly became the most popular. “There’s an app for that” became a universal (and quickly annoying) catchphrase. The App Store has helped Apple generate billions of dollars in profit selling millions of iPhones, iPads, and Macs — plus its 30% cut of App Store sales. It has become the go-to model for distributing software, since replicated by every platform- and OS-maker.

Us. Thanks to the App Store, we have access to millions of software tools that didn’t exist before, at astonishingly low prices, with an incredibly easy way to find, purchase, and update them. I remember once buying a Palm Treo e-mail app for $40, awkwardly side-loading it, and probably never updating it, bugs and all. Now you can download an amazing variety of apps for little or no money and easily keep them up-to-date for new features or bug fixes. (Apple’s even making it easier in iOS 7 this year with automatic updates.)

Developers. Not all of them. But most of today’s App Store success stories would never have been able to do what they did in a world without it. The App Store has made many millionaires, and has provided the distribution mechanics for someone like Instagram founder Kevin Systrom to generate a billion dollars of value in short time. Even big, public companies like Pandora and Facebook owe much of their growth to the App Store. Also: Loren Brichter!

Google. The Android app story and Google Play store still aren’t as good as Apple’s, but they’re improving. And while mobile advertising is still in the figuring-out stages, Google is the clear leader there so far. (Thanks in part to its acquisition of AdMob, still the big App Store advertising winner.) One long-term unknown: How will App Store and in-app searches disintermediate Google’s bread-winner search engine?

Rounded rectangles. For obvious reasons. Also, the color blue.


Mobile operators. It wasn’t long ago that mobile app distribution was their territory, and the “carrier deck” ruled — a walled garden of mobile websites, services, and apps, with relatively anti-developer revenue-sharing terms and exclusive agreements. Now, carriers rarely see any direct revenue from mobile app sales, and developers have pinched operators with free or cheaper ways to make phone calls, send text messages, share photos, and make video calls. This isn’t to say that operators have done poorly over the years — they’ve picked up hundreds of millions of new smartphone customers, who pay more for service than before. (You might even argue that the “dumb pipe” route is the better one for most operators.) But losing control over content and software distribution certainly wasn’t the plan.

Microsoft. It’s hard to argue that the rise of mobile computing, powered in part by the App Store, hasn’t hurt Microsoft. It’s still the world’s biggest software company, and is still very profitable. But the PC market is fading and Microsoft still doesn’t have a credible mobile story.

Big Gaming. The shift to free or cheap mobile gaming — from $50 console gaming — hasn’t been great for the Electronic Artses of the world. Mobile is a growth area for the company, but the App Store era has been better to smaller, more nimble gaming upstarts. Over the past five years, as mobile gaming has exploded in popularity, EA’s revenue has only grown 23%, to $3.8 billion in fiscal 2013 from $3.1 billion in fiscal 2007. (SplatF reader Chris Biggs notes that Activision, on the other hand, did significantly better during that time.)

Big Media. As reader Andrew Stillman notes, Apple’s 30% bounty on magazine and newspaper subscriptions isn’t great for publishers. Moreover, free news distribution tools like Twitter and Flipboard have increasingly come between readers and publishers. On the other hand, Apple’s growth — and the App Store’s — has provided great article fodder for business and tech publications!

Electronics retail. When the software store is on the Internet, who needs software stores? The only real winner here has been the Apple Store.

Dishonorable mention: AIM. I can’t think of a single app that I used more on the desktop — well, really, Adium, the great Mac AIM client — but less on mobile. AIM isn’t really central to AOL’s plans, nor is it their biggest problem, but what a sad story.

More: Microsoft’s Mobile Comeback Isn’t Happening

Citi Bike Is My New iPhone

Citi Bike has already changed my life. How will it change New York?

Citi Bike

(Cross-posted from City Notes.) New York’s new bike-sharing system, now a month old, is still working out the kinks. It’s sometimes impossible to find a bike, and sometimes impossible to return one. Kiosks, after an embarrassingly unreliable start, seem to be generally stable. There are so many complexities that a perfectly smooth system seems improbable.

But even a month in, Citi Bike is easily one of the best things that has happened to New York in the last decade. In a place where things are routinely overhyped, Citi Bike seems to have blown past everyone’s expectations, with more than a million miles traveled so far, over 500,000 trips, and some 50,000 annual members.

And, without hyperbole, Citi Bike has already changed my life. I’ve now lived here for almost 8 years, and after riding zero blocks on bikes the entire time I’d been here, I’ve now traveled 53 miles on Citi Bikes over the past month, spending more than 8 hours in the saddle.

I’m sure there’s an element of novelty involved, which will fade as summer heat becomes unbearable. But it turns out that biking is a great way to get around the city. It’s not as scary as it had previously seemed, and it can be just as fast as taking the subway. I’m already getting in better shape, losing some weight, and feeling healthier. And because I pay for each subway trip I take — I don’t have an unlimited pass — Citi Bike is actually saving me money. At about 25 cents per day for my yearly membership, every subway ride I don’t take pays for 10 days of Citi Bike membership.

One of the things I’ve wondered, waiting for traffic lights: How will Citi Bike change the city?

Even just riding around for a month, it’s clear that New York streets aren’t designed for tens of thousands of new bikers. Some bike lanes and paths exist, and a few are really nice. But others are in disrepair. And traffic police seem to have little impact on cars and trucks parking and stopping in marked bike paths. I haven’t had any scary moments yet, but it’s easy to see how some streets and intersections are hairy, even when biking responsibly. Drivers, seeing flashing Citi Bikes everywhere they go now, should be getting a wakeup call.

Something is going to have to be done about the Brooklyn Bridge in particular: There simply isn’t enough room on the current platform — shared by pedestrians and cyclists —for increasing numbers of tourists and bikers. It will probably involve moving bikes down to a new path in what’s historically been a car lane. That’s not going to make any drivers happy, so it will be hard to force. But if New York is serious about getting more people on bikes — and for many reasons, from health to air pollution, it should be — it’s just going to need to happen. So let’s do it.

Citi Bike’s limited phase-one buildout has also already slightly influenced which neighborhoods and businesses I visit. It’s now much faster and easier than it was before to travel to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from my apartment near DUMBO. Meanwhile, traveling to South Brooklyn neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, and Red Hook seems more annoying now, because there are no docks nearby. There are enough people in New York — and further expansion seems inevitable, though not imminent — that I don’t think this will dramatically alter any neighborhoods. But if Citi Bike continues to be a great service, I would definitely think twice about moving to an apartment that’s not on the grid.

I’m also curious to see how the New York gadget-nerd community responds to Citi Bike. This seems like the perfect opportunity to Kickstarter some neat Citi Bike-specific accessories. For example: A clip of some sort, designed to hold the ubiquitous $1 Poland Spring water bottle to the bike’s basket, accessible while biking? Maybe a pet carrier for cute, small dogs? A solar-powered iPhone charger? A boombox speaker? This also seems to be a great opportunity for some creative apps. For example, could one use my iPhone’s speaker to tell me which bike stations have empty docks as I approach my destination? Or perhaps an ambient Citi Bike social network, which will alert me when friends are nearby?

Since I moved here in 2005, I’ve experienced a few flashbulb moments of unity with other New Yorkers, where it really feels like we’re all in this together. The first was the idiotic subway strike the first Christmas I lived here. Another was “Linsanity” last year, when the Knicks — the hated Knicks to me, a lifelong Chicago Bulls fan — were suddenly exciting. The hurricanes, two years running, also fall into this category. And the Citi Bike program is the latest. There are already some clever, insider handshakes, like turning the seat backwards when a bike isn’t working. (Also a jerky way to “reserve” your favorite bike while supplies are low.)

I can’t remember something that’s made so many people so happy here in such a short time since the iPhone launched. It’s going to be really interesting to see how the Citi Bike program changes New York.

Subscribe to City Notes for more like this. Our New York City guide has 20 great places to go — amazing coffee, our favorite pizza, and more — many within the Citi Bike network. $1.99 for the iPhone for a limited time.

Photo: Omar Rawlings (cc) via Flickr.