Category Archives: iPhone

Make Calling as Easy as Email

My office is wherever I setup my laptop, and many times I skip the laptop and depend solely on my mobile phone. This video shows how Avaya mobility solutions make it easy to keep your mobile workforce engaged.

Make Calling As Easy as Email from Steve Forcum on Vimeo.

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The Burdens of Legacy

Historically, Apple products have led the way in retiring widely adopted, yet increasingly obsolescent, technology. When Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, the computer did not come equipped with a 3.5” floppy disk drive. At the time, Apple argued (correctly) that the utility of the floppy disk had effectively been replaced by CD-ROM due to expanding file sizes. The move was met with skepticism, as written by Walt Mossberg for the Wall Street Journal (click here for the full article).

THAT ONE GLARING design mistake in the iMac is that Apple decided to build it without a floppy-disk drive — indeed without any removable storage medium at all. That makes it very hard to transfer files between the iMac and any other computer.

Apple argues that the floppy disk is a dying product, too small at 1.44 megabytes to hold many of today’s bulky data files. The company says it expects most iMac buyers to add higher-capacity drives, such as Iomega’s 100MB Zip drive, or to transfer files via e-mail. But I strongly disagree. Many families today still rely on plain old floppies to back up or share small word-processing and graphics files with co-workers or schoolmates.

As we now know Apple was correct, and consumers let go of a legacy technology which they were using less and less. That gentle nudge to let go of legacy technologies has become part of Apple’s ethos, evidenced through the elimination of the CD-ROM drive, the wired ethernet port, and even their own 30 pin connector.

Courage

In the lead up to the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus launch, one of the most controversial design rumors was the removal of the 3.5MM headphone port.

While Apple has traditionally led the way in ushering users from legacy technology, this felt different. While I love the wireless Bluetooth headphones I use from Plantronics, I still regularly used 3.5MM headphones when the headset battery runs low, when I exercise*, Ito listen to music in my wife’s car, and for a whole host of other reasons. When reading the comments section on most blog posts, it seems I was hardly alone in his

During the product unveiling, Phil Schiller described Apple’s decision to eliminate the headphone port from the iPhone 7.

“Now, some people have asked why we would remove the analog headphone jack from the iPhone, the reason to move on really comes down to one word: courage. The courage to move on and do something new that betters all of us.”

After making this questionable statement, Apple then announced wireless headphones for sale. For those who still prefer wired headphones, a pair of Apple branded “EarPods” with a lightning plug are included with every iPhone. To aid users in this transition, Apple also generously includes a Lightning to 3.5MM headphone adapter with every iPhone. While a welcome addition to mitigate this impact, this does however mean users cannot plug in headphones while charging their iPhones.

Confused Courage

Approximately one month after releasing the iPhone 7, Apple unveiled updates to the MacBook Pro. In addition to adding a new butterfly keyboard, giant touchpad and the all new Touchbar, Apple’s courageously removed all USB, MagSafe, HDMI, and SD card ports from the new MacBook. In their place are either two or four Thunderbolt 3 ports. While there are tremendous benefits to these new ports, Apple’s decision means users must carry a bag full of dongles to connect to use external displays, USB-A devices such as a presentation remote, or even to charge devices such as your iPhone.

Wait, what?

A Gentle Nudge or a Hard Shove?

In the past, Apple targeted legacy technology because it had reached the end usefulness. In the late 90s, the 3.5” floppy disk was becoming less and less useful. File sizes continued to grow, and CD-ROMs enabled users to more efficiently store and move these larger files. Apple’s decision to nudge users to give up this legacy technology reflected that reality, and paired it with benefits such as additional functionality in its place.

Apple’s latest decision to remove ports from their mobile and computer products resembles less of a nudge and more of a shove. While the iPhone and iPad continues to leverage Apple’s proprietary, and ubiquitous Lightning port for charging and data transfer, the MacBook uses an entirely different standard.

This means I cannot plug my iPhone into my MacBook to charge on the go. I can plug my Lightning “EarPods” into my iPhone, but they are not compatible with my new MacBook Pro**. The average usage of the USB-A port was not waning, and devices such as a presentation remote control do not gain benefits from this new standard.

The entire courageous migration feels forced and premature. The benefits gained with the forced conversion Thunderbolt 3 on my MacBook Pro is debatable. Audio delivered via the analog 3.5MM headphone port or the digital Lightning port on my iPhone is nearly identical***. The lack of cohesion between Apple’s mobile and computer products is haphazard and shows a lack of true strategy for the future of peripherals.

The industry will most likely follow Apple, but that doesn’t make this right. As a longtime Apple user, I respected the company for refusing to be burdened by the legacy of technology—however these changes took popular and well used standards and seemingly replaced them for little to no benefit to anyone other than Apple’s bottom line.

Have a new MacBook, and a bag full of dongles to go with it? Share your experience in the comment section below.


*Watch for my MacBook Pro review to be posted on the Utility Belt shortly.

** I can, however, use my good ‘ol 3.5MM headphones with my MacBook Pro since the port is still included with the laptop. #Courage

***At best, the audio is no different between the ports, however the Boy Genius Report blog has reported that in some testing, the lightning port under-performed it’s analog counterpart. (Click Here for the story)

Equinox…Assemble!

In the movie Iron Man, Tony Stark struggled against his former friend and business partner, Obadiah Stain, as the Iron Monger, to save the world from a hostile force equipped with his armor. At the end of the film, Nick Fury visited Tony and informed him of “the Avengers Initiative.” Over the course of multiple films, Nick Fury’s organization, S.H.I.E.L.D, began assembling a collection of super heroes with specific talents.

Individually these super heroes could fight their own battles, against enemies who their skill set aligned with*. Iron Man defeated Iron Monger, who tried to replicate his armor for evil purposes. Captain America fought the Red Skull, who like Steve Rogers was enhanced with the Super Soldier serum. Thor learned humility from Earth, and was rewarded with renewed access to Mjolnir to defeat Asgardian technology. Bruce Banner, as the Hulk, was able to defeat the Abomination, who also was given super strength from Gamma radiation.

Each hero defeated an enemy whose power matched their own. Nick Fury envisioned a time when an enemy would be too strong, or incompatible for one superhero’s powers. To solve this challenge, the strengths of multiple heroes would be required. In the movie the Avengers, we learned how a team of superheroes with specific skills could come together and blend those powers to beat an undefeatable enemy from the far reaches of the universe.

In the Avaya universe, we’ve had a string of superhero stories. Let me introduce you to them.

Scopia Desktop, a superhero video conferencing application whose superpower is the ability to instantly teleport teammates, suppliers and customers to a face to face meeting. Scopia Desktop defeated its hated rival, Budget Buster who’s evil powers made expense budgets explode.

Avaya Aura Conferencing, with it’s super strength to support hundreds of people talking and collaborating on documents with a single bridge was legendary. With that kind of power, it’s no wonder the nefarious TimeWaster couldn’t keep slowing down productivity and decision making.

When Captain Complexity and the Inbox Attachment Assassins, whose evil led to different apps and inboxes stuffed to the gills with shared files. The dynamic duo of Avaya Communicator, whose simple and consistent user interface made communicating easy, and its trusty sidekick Avaya MutliMedia Messaging, who’s Workstream collaboration capability fought off this threat to make team communications easy while reducing the amount of confusing emails sent among team members.

The newest superhero on the team, Esna Communicator had the most amazing superpower of all…invisibility. Hiding in plain sight in the web browser, Esna Communicator was able to stop its fierce rival Doctor Client Configurator, by embedding communications that work automatically into the Internet Browser.

Equinox…Assemble!

While these superhero applications fought specific challenges to getting work done, the time has come for our heroes to assemble. More than just a new name for our team of superhero apps, Avaya Equinox represents the merger of our apps where each strength is blended to produce a seamless user experience that solves the challenges your business faces.

In today’s post, I’ll touch on three areas where Equinox is different than anything you’ve seen from Avaya.

A Focus on the User

At it’s core, Avaya Equinox is an application which provides simplicity and consistency. It doesn’t matter whether you use an iPad, a Samsung GS7, a new MacBook Pro, or the new Avaya Vantage desktop device**, Equinox looks, feels and functions the same, which means less user training and faster adoption. This means lower travel and global roaming expenses, increased speed in decision making, and a more successful workforce.

A New Way to Work

In today’s smartphone equipped world, most conversations start silently. Messaging has overtaken voice as the starting point for almost all communications. Avaya Equinox was built to support this change.

Equinox Messaging delivers simple Instant Messaging and Presence (IM&P) between users. Chats can be promoted to a voice or video call with a single click. This means if you are driving, and text messaging isn’t appropriate, one click allows you to continue the conversation. There isn’t much magic there, most IM&P solutions can do this. Equinox Messaging really stands out for team based messaging.

Create a new chat room for your team to discuss a project. Invite additional members as necessary. Instead of clogging up everyone’s inbox with endless emails and attachments, upload files associated with the project to the chat room. This means if you need to reference these files again, they’re right at your fingertips in the project chat room, synchronized to all of your devices. If one member of the team can’t chat, one click builds a voice and video conference for all team members.

Conferencing Made Easy

Equinox Conferencing dramatically reduces travel costs with it’s easy to use audio & video conferencing. With Equinox Conferencing, your users can build a conference call on demand, or send a meeting invitation to participants. With a single click, participants can join using their Equinox enabled mobile phones, tablets, computers, or Avaya Vantage desktop device. If some users gather in a video enabled conference room, they simply dial the extension number for the Equinox Conference. External users can join using just their web browser with the Equinox Portal, powered by WebRTC.

Once the team is together, members can share documents, applications or a full computer desktop. This instant access to relevant information is the key towards faster decision making, improved performance, and increased customer service scores.

One Last Thing

Avaya Equinox is a product that has the power to rapidly and dramatically lower travel & global roaming expenses. Equinox brings teams together with the content that matters, improving decision making speed. Equinox also dramatically lowers the amount of email employees must deal with on a daily basis, improving employee engagement. All of these benefits can be potentially realized without additional software licensing costs.

Avaya Equinox is included with your Avaya Aura core & power user license bundles! Simply setup Equinox applications in your data center, on virtual or physical servers, and reap the benefits of this powerful solution.

Want to learn more? Contact your Avaya Representative or leave me a comment below.

Equinox…Assemble!


* There’s an interesting debate in the comic world that Marvel’s Achilles Heel is the lack of a strong and diverse set of villains. The villain each super hero fights against generally has super powers that mirrors the hero’s power. In DC terms, Batman is as popular as he is due in no small part to his diverse set of villains. 

** It’s really hard to describe the Vantage endpoint. Is it a phone, because it makes great phone calls with it’s DECT wireless handset? Is it a tablet, because it’s got a billboard sized screen, runs on Android, and has Equinox embedded into it? Is it a video conferencing unit, since you can jump into a video call with a single click? The answer is D, all of the above.  If you haven’t seen one yet, be sure to check them out here.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

My wife likes to say I change mobile phones as often as I change my clothes. I then remind her that she knew what she was buying into when we got married, and the return policy has elapsed.

While my geek eyes have wandered in the past*, my main crush has been the iPhone. Starting with the iPhone 3G, I’ve owned one of every model of iPhone. With the launch of the iPhone7 family, it was time to upgrade. In the end, I chose to upgrade my iPhone 6S to the iPhone 7 Plus. I’ll share my thoughts with you below.

The Most Boring iPhone Ever

Historically Apple released a new design, packed with new functionality, and then updated the internal hardware the following year while keeping the external design the same in their “s” release.

With the iPhone 7 and 7 plus, Apple changed their design strategy. The iPhone 7 made very small refinements to the design of the iPhone 6/6s family, such as adjusted antenna designs. As a result, the iPhone7 and 7Plus have been called the most boring iPhone ever released.

When I visited the Apple Store to see the new phone first hand, I was struck by the fact that I couldn’t visually identify the new phone from the old one. I had to pick the phone up and look at the back, for the new camera bumps, or the bottom to look for the missing headphone port.

Far be it for me to question one of the most successful companies in the world, but this strategy seems questionable. My college aged son, who has been even more faithful to Apple than I, recently asked me about potentially trading his iPhone 7Plus in for a Google Pixel. That should set off warning bells for Tim Cook and crew, while at the same time send shudders down the spine of Apple stockholders.

What’s New

The short answer? Not much.

In addition to the upgraded internals**, the iPhone7 and the iPhone7Plus are now waterproof devices. While I still wouldn’t recommend using your new iPhone for underwater selfies, this does mean one less accident you could have with your device.

In addition to waterproofing, both models have received upgrades to their cameras. The camera on the iPhone 7 is identical in resolution to the iPhone 6 (12 Megapixels), however it has an improved aperture, four LED flash (up from 2), and most importantly Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). These improvements are all geared towards improving performance in low light shooting situations.

The camera upgrade on the larger iPhone 7 Plus is even more interesting and dramatic. The single lens, 12 Megapixel rear camera with OIS has been upgraded to a dual lens camera which creates some very interesting capabilities. The iPhone 7 Plus sports the traditional wide angle lens, as well as a second, 2x telephoto lens, both with 12 Megapixel resolution. The improved flash of the iPhone 7 is also present with the 7 Plus.

The value to the dual lens system, beyond the ability to finally zoom in on a subject optically***, is the ability to add a blurry background to a portrait photo. These types of photos make the subject of the photo stand out, and traditionally are hard to create on a phone. Here’s an example of a photo I took of my niece, with no retouching.

img_0073
Thanks to an abundance of outdoor light, Natalie is in razor sharp focus. When paired with a blurred out background, it makes the subject of the portrait pop off the page. All done with point and click simplicity.

There are some things to be aware of however. The telephoto lens has a wider aperture and does not have OIS, which means that lens will not perform as well in low light shots as it’s wide angle sister. This limitation will dramatically affect Portrait mode in anything less than well lit scenarios. Here’s an example of a photo shot using Portrait mode indoors with what I thought was decent light.

img_0957
See the graininess, and overall lack of focus?

All in all, the camera on the iPhone 7 Plus is a huge step forward, but it does have limitations. While I quickly fell in love with Portrait mode, the excitement has waned. I’ve learned to only use it in perfect conditions. When it works, it’s outstanding…but when it doesn’t, you’re left with broken dreams and missed opportunities. 

Courage

As you’re most likely aware, Apple made the decision to remove the traditional headphone port on the iPhone 7 family of phones. This means you will have three choices for listening to music on your new phone:

  1. Use a pair of Bluetooth wireless headphones
  2. Use your standard headphones with an adapter (included in the box)
  3. Use the Earpods included with the iPhone which now feature a lightning plug

Apple historically leads the industry in disregarding old technology which has seen it’s better days. In the past the decision to retire technology, such as the CD ROM drive, was driven by a desired benefit, such as reducing the thickness of a laptop. The functionality delivered by the retired technology had been replaced by something better, such as cloud storage, which made the trade off appealing to the consumer.

The removal of the headphone port does not accomplish this. While Bluetooth headphones have become more commonplace****, they are still not as ubiquitous and affordable as standard headphones, and are another device to require battery maintenance. The sound quality from Bluetooth headphones is no better than the sound quality in wired headphones, and in some cases it’s worse. Finally, this “courageous” change means you cannot charge your phone while listening to music on wired earbuds, since there is only one lightning port on the phone.

This is a troubling trend, exacerbated on the new line of Macbook laptops, but I’ll expand on that another time. Just know, I miss my headphone port.

The verdict

So would I recommend you upgrade to the iPhone 7 family of phones? The answer is, it depends. If, like me, you are enrolled in an early upgrade program, where the upgrade comes with little to no cost, then go for it. I’ll also assume you are in a courageous mood, and will move to wireless Bluetooth headphones.

If you’re currently using an iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus, and are considering an upgrade to the smaller iPhone 7, I’d advise against it. While the waterproofing and camera improvements are nice, I don’t believe it’s enough to warrant an upgrade. I would wait for the iPhone 7S next year, which is rumored to have a radical new design and a bevy of new functionality (wireless charging perhaps?).

If you are considering an upgrade to the iPhone 7 Plus however, I would recommend it. The dual camera setup can empower even the most casual photographer to create amazing, art like photos with the simplicity of point and click. The waterproofing and stronger internals are benefits, but the upgrade is essentially driven by the camera in my opinion.

Have you upgraded to the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

* Aside from a short dalliance with Motorola, my mistress has always been from Samsung. I’ve found they make the best Android phones on the market, especially in the camera department. That is, until they started blowing up.

** I’m downplaying the internal upgrades, partially because Apple downplays them, and partially because no one really cares about them. That said, Apple did upgrade the amount of RAM in the iPhone 7 Plus to 3GB, which should help the phone perform even better than previous generations.

*** “Just because you can zoom in to a photo digitally, doesn’t mean you should do it.” – “Uncle Ben” Parker, Spiderman. It’s paraphrased, but you get the point. Digital zooms are evil, and leave you with photos that resemble a 1980’s Nintendo game. Don’t use them. Period.

**** The folks at Plantronics are too kind to me. I’m currently using either the Backbeat Pro (over the ear) or the Backbeat Fit (earbud) wireless headsets. They’re great headsets, and will eventually get their own “The Utility Belt” treatment.

Plantronics Voyager 5200

As someone who spends a lot of time on video conference calls1, I will tell you I’ve heard it all. The keyboard clicking away from someone who forgot to mute their line. The elevator music broadcast into a bridge when a participant absentmindedly places their call on hold. The dogs barking in the background when the mailman makes their delivery2. But none of these annoyances can hold a candle to the person joining a video conference with a pair of Apple earbuds hanging on their face3.Poor audio quality is a death sentence for a productive video conference.
I’m not one of those guys who wears a headset all the time, whether on a call or not. As a result, Bluetooth headsets have always been a challenge for me. I’d regularly look like a contortionist answering a call on my iPhone, only to have the headset in my pocket pick up, then fumbling through pockets while yelling to hold on. Bluetooth headsets were notoriously uncomfortable to wear, too quiet to hear, and had horrible microphones. Yuck, Yuck, Yuck.
Fast forward a few years and I was introduced to the Plantronics Voyager UC4. The headset used a proximity sensor to know when it was on my ear, and when it wasn’t. No more contortionist act when answering phone calls. The earpiece fit comfortably in my ear. But most importantly…it delivered outstanding performance for sound quality. It instantly became my go-to headset, so much so that I wore it out.
My Plantronics representative was kind enough to replace my unit with the new Voyager 52004. The 5200 delivers everything the original Voyager gave me and then some. The biggest advantage is the new WindSmart technology which helps reduce background noise when I take a call in a noisy location such as a Boston street or crowded coffee shop. Additionally, the case provided with the headset doubles as a charger and a stand for the headset when it’s not in use.
If you’re looking for a high quality headset that delivers outstanding results, I can’t recommend the Plantronics Voyager 5200 highly enough.


1 Since I began using Avaya Equinox, my video calling has gone through the roof. The ability to make a business video call from my mobile phone has been a game changer.
2 Yeah…that was me.
3 Hopefully with Apple’s *ahem* courageous decision to remove the headphone port from their iPhones, this will become less prevalent. At least until they add a lightning port to their laptops.
4 I was provided with an evaluation unit, which this article is based on.

Follow the clues to find more sales

I’m a nerd. There I said it. And I absolutely love my Apple products. I’m typing this post on my 13″ iPad Pro, glancing at my AppleWatch for notifications, all while my iPhone sits loyally by my side. With this admission, it should be no surprise that I was very interested in the new iPhone. And luckily, my cell phone provider, T-Mobile, allows me to upgrade three times a year¹! It’s a match made in geek heaven— new devices, great cell phone service, and I save a ton of money!

This week, I saw a tweet from T-Mobile CEO John Ledger² announcing a sweet deal on the new iPhone. “Upgrade to the iPhone7, and you receive a free storage upgrade.” So I click on the link in his tweet, which leads to the iPhone7 page on their website. Since I’m logged in, the promotional pricing is displayed. But I’m not sure if I want the smaller, easier to handle iPhone7, or the larger iPhone 7 Plus with the amazing camera, so I visit the iPhone 7 Plus page to learn more. After comparing the two devices, I’ve decided to upgrade. While I could possibly upgrade through the website, I’m concerned about making a mistake. Instead, I call to call into customer service.

Let’s pause for a second, and think about all of the bread crumbs I’ve left:

  1. I follow their CEO on Twitter
  2. I responded to an advertisement by clicking on a custom link.
  3. When I landed at the T-Mobile website, my account was logged in.
  4. I looked at sales information for two new devices which do not match any in use on my account.
  5. After browsing their online store for 10 minutes, I called into customer service.

Unfortunately, most contact centers can’t see the clues. They simply receive a call and offer a self-service option, which I cannot bypass fast enough by dialing zero. Then I wait, and I wait, and I wait. I wait while I repeatedly hear how important my call is³, all the while wondering if my old iPhone is good enough. I mean the new one looks just like the old one, right? I begin worry that I’ll miss my headphone port. And if I wait until the iPhone 8, which I hear will be awesome, my phone will be paid off. So I talk myself out of the latest and greatest and hang up.4

Imagine the impact be to your business if your Customer Engagement software could follow the clues and react to them? Based on the bits of info above, it is likely that I am going to make a purchase decision. Wouldn’t it make sense to prioritize this type of call over others, to minimize the change for second thoughts? How about routing my call to a specialist who also loves Apple products? I believe each suggestion could help close the deal faster, create more customer loyalty, and make me more likely to share the experience with my social networks.

If you’re tired of missing the clues, it’s time for an upgrade. Avaya Oceana can identify your customer, deduce the reason for their interaction with your brand, and provide you with the tools to measure the customer experience.

Want to learn more? Visit avaya.com/oceana or leave me a comment.


1 Seriously, the Jump on Demand deal is the greatest thing going for a nerd like me. I lease my phone, I can upgrade three times a year, all while I save tons of cash on my monthly plan. If you haven’t checked out T-Mobile, do it. You’ll thank me later.

2 For a masters class on using Social Media to create brand awareness and increase sales, do yourself a favor and follow John Ledger on Twitter.

3 The greatest disservice customer service groups do is mis-use the apology / your call is important to us announcement. When you tell me after 15 seconds how important my call is, and then continue to repeat that same recording every 15 seconds, I think you’re lying to me.

4 Work with me here. You all know that I’d walk over hot coals, jump out of an airplane and climb up a mountain to get the newest gadget. And for those curious, I have an iPhone 7 Plus, and the camera is outstanding.