The next iPhone?

We live in a world where smartphones are no longer a privilege but rather a necessity to get things done. Its not only convenient but apps like Uber exist only on a smartphone and as a student living in a country that heavily relies on personal cars for transportation I can say that living without a smartphone can be very difficult. There are undoubtedly only two players in the smartphone market right now. Google, with their Android Operating system taking a major share in the world market, and Apple with their iPhone that started it all. So the question is what could Apple have in store for the next iPhone this year? I will try and make a few guesses based on what makes sense and we will find out in a few months if I am right.

What will it look like?

The biggest excitement around any iPhone has to be arguably the fact that Apple will redesign it and it will look like something out of this world. Apple has had 5 different designs in the last 10 iPhones and each one has definitely taken everyone by surprise on its design. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple chooses to stick with the current iPhone7 design for yet another year. Although if Apple is ready with their final designs and also if they think they can meet the demand (unlike iPhone7 which had serious supply issues in the beginning) then I think we are in for a major redesign of the iPhone. My first iPhone was the iPhone4 back when it had launched, that design was probably the best designed phone in the market. The antennae around the phone smartly disguised as aluminum rim with full front and back glass was something of an eye catcher. It definitely looked like something from the future.

Apple will switch to glass front and back I believe again this year. And there is a good reason for that. Glass has come a long way since the iPhone4 for smartphones. They are now tougher and cheaper. A glass back can show a lot less scratches than an aluminum iPhone back. The only problem with this is that Apple has 5 color options today with their iPhones and customers are now used to how these colors look on an aluminum finish. Switching to glass could make them glossy instead of matte and Apple would have to manage that change very carefully. But maybe the Jet black was a secret experiment from Apple to see if people would like a switch to glossy back iPhones. And we all know the result of that experiment!

The Display!

Lets face it, the bezels on the iPhone are getting kind of old tech now. Apple has a rounded design from the iPhone6 onwards unlike the four iPhones before it. A rounded bezel-less iPhone may not play well with cases and depending on how you hold the phone, Apple would have to add some sort of software feature like the iPad Mini where the multitouch ignores the touch on the sides while holding the device. But instead what I think is that it would be easier and would make more sense to take a flat screen design than a curved one. Cheaper to manufacture as well. With a flat display and very less bezels, you can expect a bigger display in the same form factor. This way you are still going to feel the same size in the hand but also have more area to work with.

There is a very high possibility that the new iPhone will have an OLED display. This is not only pending but also the OLED displays have matured enough to be just as good if not better than current IPS displays used in the iPhones. The only thing holding back would be the cost of the displays for the quality required and also the supply of these displays. The iPhone displays have been nothing but spectacular and the next iPhones will definitely have great ones as well. I have been hearing rumors about three different display sizes for the next iPhone but I believe that Apple will stick with the current form factor. They will already have bigger display area if they cut on bezels and with the iPhone SE likely to stick around in cheaper markets and the US market as well, we already have three display sizes. However they could include a third category of ‘Pro’ like they did with the iPad.

Apple is not known to drastically make changes in its lineup but make subtle ones every year to add up to big changes over the years. I only expect Apple to make such changes in its current range and maybe add a category and then let everyone blend into it over time like with the iPad Pro.

The magical moment?

There is also a rumor that Apple will embed the fingerprint sensor into the screen. First of all that sounds like an engineering stunt that only someone like Apple can perform. It would take some real effort to get it done and when you hold the bezel less glass front and back glossy phone with a beautiful OLED display with an embedded Touch ID I can assure you, it will feel magical. Apple has not lost its magic when making products. But I don’t know what people are expecting from Apple each year. The iPhone7 was not a major redesign and on some levels (like the headphone jack), it was even a deal breaker for some. But it had an absolutely stunning best in class camera that took social media to a new level, which consumers absolutely missed to point out.

A few other changes

I am completely betting on the fact that Apple will stick with lightning connector on the iPhone. There is absolutely no way anyone can convince Apple to switch to USB-C. Devices are expected to get thinner and lighter and moving to USB-C is exactly opposite in the first place. Secondly, the lightning connecter was introduced 5 years ago and I am pretty sure Apple had thought it through to stick with it for 10 years. Cables will however move to USB-C to lightning. Faster charging and faster data rates are expected with the new cables. Backing up even a 128Gb iPhone7 on a USB2.0 cable took ages for me and I don’t even want to think about a 256GB iPhone being backed up when full using a USB2.0 cable.

So how much will it cost? I’m guessing the same as it costed last year. Though I wont be surprised if Apple raised the price by 49$ on the each model. That’s because if Apple does really come up with everything rumored, it would mean that the manufacturing cost would slightly go up. Also since the iPhone has costed more or less the same for so many years, Apple could decide to raise the price if they think that they could still sell the same number of iPhones and more as last year due to the major design change. All in all you should be preparing to expect flagship phones to go up slightly this year or maybe next. Thats because other competitors can only increase their prices once Apple does since everyone is simply competing with the iPhone when it comes to flagship whether you like it or not.

Closing

I am hoping Apple will surprise us this year with a new design. A new design paired with some new ideas usually attracts switchers from other platforms. The thing is Google is always experimenting when it comes to products. The Pixel is a great phone and its next version will even be better but Apple just has too much control with the carriers and customer base in the markets that can afford flagships. So if Apple were to come up with the same design for another year, they will still sell just as good as the previous model in these markets.

A redesign is imminent. But the question is how will Apple surprise us this year? Only time will tell.

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With Cloud it’s all about the ecosystem.

Cloud computing. Hardly a new concept. Then why is it so important? Everyone is racing towards providing cloud solutions. So here is why I think the cloud matters so much.

Previously the cloud in the consumer section was introduced to offload storage. It started with first providing a more reliable and easy to access solution for storage in the cloud and then for simply more storage than the mobile devices could manage offline. A combination of offline and cloud storage meant that devices now could have access to gigabytes of videos and photos and other data on the go and also not worry about drives corrupting or failing. And the prices have dropped for cloud solutions due to some serious competition.

The trend today has evolved. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon are now developing their product ecosystem around the cloud. And while this was previously predicted to happen sometime in the future, the future is today and its going to become common from now. Every product is now a part of this ecosystem that communicates over the cloud and keeps everything in perfect synchronization. All your data is not only available across all your devices but also your devices are now designed to do this transparently with deeper integration than ever.

At first companies like Google and Apple started with applications that were connected to the cloud. So when you open this application on another cloud connected device it would have a synchronized database and you could pick up right where you left off. But now its the whole operating system that is cloud connected. Setting up Android and iOS devices means entering your credentials. Once you do that your entire device gets fine tuned to your personal preferences and you don’t even have to do anything out of the way. Your device now is constantly connected to the cloud and that unlocks a lot more potential for the manufacturers. They even went as far as adding low power CPU cores to facilitate this.

In the future, with IoT devices only growing, you will be forced to give into the ecosystem. For now its just your Phone and your tablet and Laptop but soon, and even today to some extent, you will realize that if you wanted to make a new purchase, you would want to buy something that plays well with the ecosystem you are currently invested in. Microwaves, ovens, refrigerators, cars, watches, glasses, televisions, DVRs, streaming devices, VR headsets, you want everything that can be connected via the cloud to your ecosystem of devices.

A company like Apple does the best job at this and Google is now trying to get you to do the same. The Mac the iPhone and the iPad along with the Apple Watch and AppleTV play very well with each other. On the other hand if you have Android wear and Chromecast with an iPhone and a PC you are only going to be fidgeting with the settings to get something done. Google has so far tried to make sure that it offers its services on all platforms. But take a look at GoogleWiFi. It simply forces you to use it with a google account. Its no longer just a router. Its cloud connected and as a result a part of the Google ecosystem. Now if you had to pair it with an Android phone, Android wear and Chromecast it would all make sense and a breeze to work with.

You would argue that you are ok with playing with a few settings but these settings will soon become less relevant with the cloud connected nature of devices. It would simply make sense to give into the ecosystem instead. And thats where the money is. When you are invested in the ecosystem, whenever a manufacturer comes up with a new category of product, it makes a lot more sense to make a purchase if you are in that ecosystem. A simple strategy driven by the cloud.

Cloud is usually cheaper, easier to develop apps around, easier to deploy and offer a much better experience and performance to the consumer. And while cloud is not a new concept, the applications and devices that will be made around them will be something very different from what we have seen in the past and it only gets better from here.

Shopping, Payments, Revised!

Future of shopping and payments.

Everyone hates standing in long queues at the checkout counter. Everyone wants to quickly scan and pay and just leave the store and not waste unnecessary time at the store where the human billing at the checkout counter needs to be double checked for any errors. We do it every day. We pick what we want, then we queue at the checkout counter, get the items scanned and then the whole process of using your card with chip and pin routine takes another few trial and errors.

But shopping has changed so much in the last few years. While most electronics have arguably gone from shopping in stores to ordering online completely, the trend towards online shopping is ever increasing. Going out to buy a USB cable? Well I haven’t heard that in a while. Stores are only good for emergency purchases when it comes to electronics. Like if you lost your charging cable or you are running out of hard drive space and really need one in the next few hours. But with same day delivery even that won’t be necessary anymore.

But shopping is about take a serious turn I believe in next 2-3 years. And Amazon’s latest attempt is nothing but an excellent example of that. With Amazon Go you just walk into a store and pickup items you want. No payments, No long queues, No mistakes. Just walk out and Amazon will bill you later. Sounds too good to be true? Not really. Payments are made easier online than in store. They are safer, faster and a lot more error-free than something done in a store. And it’s better to shop in a store than search online. You can see what you are buying and sometimes you buy something you see than something you try to remember. Amazon has made shopping extremely easy and its only going to get easier with drone deliveries and what not.

Food, clothes and even calling cabs (Uber) are a tap away. And then there comes payment. Payments are at the center of everything. And with countries like India and China trying to become fully digital in payments, payments become more important than ever. Digital payments are a simple concept. You have a bank account linked to a card issued by someone like Visa or MasterCard and several others. It can be a credit card but it is still issued to a credit account. Via a few steps between merchant accounts, your bank accounts, and acquirer (Visa, MasterCard etc.) the money gets transferred from your account to the merchant account. But this involves few steps like entering your 16 digit card numbers and a few other card details. Sometimes even a six digit authorization code sent to your registered mobile number.

Too much hassle? This will become a lot simpler. With companies like Apple, Google introducing Apple Pay and Android Pay, this will get a lot simpler and more secure. Apple pay will first make you enter your card details and authorize your device for payments. Then when you have to pay, you simply use your fingerprint if its online or use your fingerprint and a tap (not really, just bring it close enough to the reader) if its in-store. Google has a similar method of paying but its not as popular as Apple Pay. Apple Pay is extremely quick and easy to use. I believe that the security features offered by Apple Pay and Android Pay have an edge over any other payment system online. Everyone has a smartphone, be it Android or Apple. Everyone will soon, even in countries like India and China, use their cards for payments in-stores and elsewhere. And people will soon realize the ease with which they can make their payments. And the best part is that it costs nothing more to the customer.

Now the downside is that Apple takes a small cut in using their payment system from the banks offering Apple Pay, roughly 0.15%. This may not sound much and but it becomes easier to accept given the added layer of security especially from someone like Apple and Google which would take lot of effort and time build on their own. But some merchants like Amazon offer their own payment system. This means that they get this cut instead of Apple or Google. This leads to fragmentation in payment options and customer confusion.

With growing smartphone market and growing chances of making an e-payment in-stores, merchants will soon realize the potential of these services and eventually cave. I already use Apple Pay in U.S almost everywhere online, inside apps and it becomes easier to trust Apple or Google to make my payment than enter my card number online. While it’s a hit and miss to use Apple Pay in-stores and at food joints, it does make it a lot quicker and safer to pay. That old magnetic stripe will be missed now that almost every card is coming with a chip and pin. But soon cards themselves will disappear.

In-flight entertainment needs some serious upgrades.

Let’s face it, long flights are boring without decent in-flight entertainment. I have been in flights 16 hours long and must have gone through at least couple of movies through the flight. Most of the airlines try to keep the content as fresh as possible but not always. You can’t really expect what content the airline is currently offering. While most airlines try to have as diverse content as possible, they usually prefer to offer local content more since most flyers are from the country of airline origin. From what I have seen airlines usually offer local content in addition to some good Hollywood content with local subtitles.

But from current technology point of view I think the current in-flight entertainment is ancient. The displays have horrible touchscreens and the interface is painfully slow to respond and feels like its running a modern operating system on a computer from the 90s. I think the airlines can do better today. Not only is the current technology much better but I think it’s power efficient to save on some precious on-board battery.

Recently I took a trip on an airline that probably is trying to solve this problem. The airline had a heavily modified Android OS running on a tablet that was fixed on the seat. It was not possible to figure out it was Android until I accidently tried some gesture on the screen that put it into multitasking interface where I could see multiple apps running in an Android-like interface. The system was a lot faster and smoother than the legacy in-flight entertainment you can see on usual flights. The display had a pretty good resolution and the interface was snappy. I have noticed many times that displays and the entertainment system gets unusually warm after hours of playback or browsing through catalogs for a long time. I noticed no such issue with this one. Also, fast forwarding and rewinding through the movies was very quick with no noticeable lag. Something I haven’t experienced in an in-flight system yet.

While I have never travelled via Business class or First class, it’s unlikely this is just something of an issue with Economy. A passenger once told me they do it on purpose so that you would want to upgrade but using ancient technology onboard will want you to switch airlines, not upgrade to Business class on the same Airline. Also, it makes more sense to offer better technology since its 2017 and airlines even have free Wi-Fi (if it works or doesn’t work is a different issue) on board.

What I see in the future with in-flight entertainment is that these systems will get a lot smarter than what is currently offered. Most of the travelers, if not every one of them, taking these long flights carry a smartphone. People with smartphones usually have some sort of content or streaming service active on it. Netflix even offers downloading for offline viewing. I did download a few episodes on my device but watching it on a small display for hours was tiring since the display was not only small to watch on for so many hours but also I couldn’t find a comfortable position for viewing for hours. The mounted display does a perfect job at that. I believe future systems will have some sort of overlay like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Not only would it charge your device but also will become easy to play your own content from your own device.

I think people would prefer using their own devices on-board. Watching movies is not the only thing people enjoy onboard but also they enjoy playing games on their devices and listening to music. Plugging your own device and using the onboard display for this might make this process very easy. Not to mention the fact that it would save the Airlines from a lot of trouble of keeping its content fresh since it must cost them to rent that content.

This is something of a long shot though. Mostly because the airlines must make sure that Apple and Google will play nice with them. What I see more of a possibility is that the airlines will make some sort of custom versions of Android (like the airline I recently experienced) and get streaming content from content providers like Netflix and Spotify. Of course, they will not stream live content off the internet (although in the future if satellite internet is speedy enough that could be possible) but more like maintain a database onboard like they do currently and stream from that. It would become easier and profitable for both the content provider as well as the airline. The content would be something that the locals as well as internationals are familiar with since Netflix is becoming a global phenomenon. The devices running Android will also help the airlines to make sure they are up to date with the technology and running Android will be a lot cheaper and easier than running some custom operating system over some custom hardware.

The only problem would be security. These devices onboard usually have access to things like lights inside the cabin, air conditioning fans and many other controls. The Android device I recently saw on the airline offered these settings through the interface. I thought it was a little scary since it had a USB connection where you could connect an iPhone or iPod to play music off it. Someone could have easily used this port to connect something other than an iPhone. This is where I think Apple and Google could help with their overlay systems to make sure they release regular security updates to the systems. Security is something that needs to be very important on these onboard systems for obvious reasons.

I think in-flight entertainment will soon take a new turn simply to stay updated with current technology. Airlines have massive orders for new flights and want to add more flights to their existing routes as well as new routes. These new flights will soon need some new goodies to get customers attracted and something like this along with Wi-Fi will become a normal feature very soon. But until then you will have to do with sluggish touchscreens and poor content.

Smartphones. 10 years later.

Deciding to buy a phone is a hassle these days. Either they are all good in your budget category or they are all lacking something you want. Deciding on a phone plan is even worse. So many carriers with so many different plans and they all just as bad as each other. Then you pay for different streaming services and choosing one of them is ever so confusing. Services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Gaana and many locals have been there for a while. Paying for all of them at once is not affordable and picking one of them brings you back to square one.

The smartphones (arguably) started becoming popular 10 years ago with the introduction of the iPhone. Ever since then, searching for a phone has become a daunting task since each budget category offers a set of features and there are hundreds of smartphone sellers trying to compete in that category. Same is the case with carriers these days. There are those top 4 carriers in America (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint) and although they are trying to create simpler phone plans, they have different options at different times for each device offered. Not to mention the fact that you end up paying ridiculous costs for phones each month.

We had never imagined 10 years ago, that we would be able to order a cab wherever we are standing within a couple of minutes by simply tapping on your phone. The same device can also do things like stream TV, music, order pizza, navigate, record health activities, and what not. So what will the future of these devices look like? The idea is to realize what these devices will change rather than what they might be capable of doing.

First of all I believe that the carrier race will become a lot simpler and it will happen sooner than later. With Wi-Fi and LTE becoming available very easily, I think carriers will simply drop the calling and texting and move to VoLTE. VoLTE stands for Voice over LTE (or think of it as 4G-calling). VoLTE uses data to transmit voice signals and then at the backbone it’s simply a matter of exchanging data. Think of it as something like WhatsApp calling, just that it happens over the cellular network. VoLTE along with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) will make the backbone circuit-switched networks obsolete for good. And since data will become a lot cheaper over the years, calling and texting will essentially cost nothing. That will be the only way the carriers can convince you to get a network. Today, a simple unlimited calling and texting-only plan from the top 4 carriers’ costs 30$. ‘You could get a smartphone in that, which can do VoIP for free over Wi-Fi’. Data will become cheap and a lot more easily available 10 years down the road to make that last sentence sound perfectly fine. Unlike today where high-speed data is not always easily available to successfully make a call over the internet or even more importantly, receive a call whenever needed. The networks will cover a lot more land and give better connections indoors and will also become more reliable with newer technologies. Simply put, in order to stay in the race and not become redundant, the networks will have to become better and cheaper. And this is good for consumers.

Now on the smartphone side, I don’t think anything radical will change in the next 10 years. Not because smartphone innovation is slowing down, but because smartphone innovation I believe has been purposely slowed down for more sales and profits. Take the iPhone7 and the Galaxy S7 for example. 7 major generations later, both the phones are more or less the same thing, just better. The original iPhone interface is unchanged and iOS has gone through necessary changes in APIs and multitasking and other under the hood changes, which can be seen as something that were necessary to adapt to the changing tech-world rather than change the tech-world. The first smartphones did exactly that. They brought in something radical never-before seen concept to phones that changed everything. The truth about phones today is that this is not really necessary. The iPod changed how we listen to music. Today, the iPod concept is still the same in the iPhone and it need not be changed. Simply put the big players in the smartphone world don’t want to fix something that isn’t broke.

And this will go on until there is a downward trend in sales rather than a slowdown. There are 7billion people on the planet. Although they all cannot afford smartphones yet, the potential for market is huge. I have been hearing about smartphone saturation for a while. But if you consider a country like the U.S, it’s easy to understand how it can have a saturated market with customers unwilling to upgrade assuming something compelling is not offered every year. This will not be the case though. A person cannot simply stick to an iPhone6 after Apple releases the iPhone8 or 8s or whatever Apple decides to call their next 2 phones. Same is the case with Android phones. By that time his phone will have become obsolete and he will be forced to upgrade simply due to the fact that newer phones perform better and are capable of doing more. But considering countries like India and China accounting to almost 30% of the total world population, it is not something that is saturated by high end phones. And that leaves a big market potential for the big players. The only challenge is to convince the customers to buy these devices at a reasonable price. The customers simply want to buy a cheap device. Although a small market will remain untapped by these big players the next 10 years will be about capturing each other’s markets rather than capturing the untapped market. For example the Pixel is about capturing the market from Apple and Samsung rather than capturing the untapped market.

And this will be where the carriers come in. The carriers today are simply not relevant as much as they were when the first smartphones had launched. You can get an unlocked phone on an installment plan and then use any carrier and plan you find suitable. In the next 10 years the big smartphone players will do something about this. Today people don’t want to be tied to a carrier. Soon I believe customers won’t be tied to their phone either. I think carriers coupled with the phone sellers, especially Apple, will come up with a different strategy. They will bundle a service along with the phone itself for an installment where the customer need not worry about the plan and usages. Each year (or whenever a new phone is out) a person will simply turn in his old phone and take home a new one with nothing changed in his monthly bill. No need to worry about data, upgrade fees, device cost, locking or unlocking. While today a similar approach is being tried, and tested by the carriers I think this is leading to more confusion. The smartphone sellers must take control of this again as they had done when the phones had first launched.

Imagine this example, you pay 79$ a month and every year get a new phone for nothing more with unlimited data, calling and unlimited data with unlimited streaming of Apple Music and TV. If you think this is a lot, drop the streaming and pay just 69$ per month. Today, the carriers offer a similar plan. But bundling of services and then selecting what you want and don’t want becomes a hassle. And why wouldn’t you simply swap for a new phone each year for paying nothing extra? It’s not only a lot simpler for the device owner but also for both the carrier and the seller. And this will happen eventually. The total each month comes out to be the same but it takes out the confusion from everything. And, guarantees the customer upgrades each year and sticks to the device manufacturer.

For example, at 79$ per month in a year you end up paying 948$ in a year. On an installment plan you are paying 27$ for the phone each month (for a 649$ phone) plus another 40$ for unlimited data on the big 4 (not exactly but for 4 lines that comes out to 40$ if you are lucky), another 20$ line access charge and another at least 10$ for a streaming service. And then there are 4 carriers with different sets of devices and different offers. It becomes a lot more confusing and the costs only add up. With a manufacturer taking the burden of this, the only question of sticking to a carrier would be the quality of their network or something unique each carrier can offer (like network speeds or coverage in a particular area).

If you are expecting the next wave of smartphones will have features like virtual reality and what not, you are not wrong. Smartphone manufacturers are already trying different approaches to innovation in the industry but the problem is the larger bunch is not the one buying these. It’s more of a niche market for the ones selling these. Most buyers prefer to stick to the big players and this is where it gets interesting. Instead of innovating in the technology, the next 10 years will be about selling phones bundled with simpler, cheaper and better networks. Of course, I could be completely wrong here and the Apple could surprise us with an iPhone8 feature where it converts to a flying car and takes us to the moon.

To sum it up, until now, the smartphone manufacturers had to make a bold statement to convince a customer to buy their phone. Now the customers are already aware of what features they want and which manufacturer they want to stick to. What remains is the network and costs which can attract customers. And to change this, the manufacturers need to come up with a lot more convincing strategy if they want someone to switch to their phones.

What you need to know about your Wi-Fi.

Why WiFi?

So, you are on the go and you suffer through terrible cellular network speeds all day. Then you come back home and the feeling of superfast and more importantly free Wi-Fi is priceless. Let’s admit it, we need Wi-Fi daily and it has gone from being a commodity to being a necessity quickly. 4G capabilities, costs and coverage is gaining ground but Wi-Fi is going to become more important than ever with Internet of Things on the rise. And the fact that we need our devices to be constantly connected and use large amounts of data on a daily basis is going to be important for the growth of Wi-Fi. Even cellular networks offload to Wi-Fi indoors these days. So here are a few things you should know about your home network since Wi-Fi is so important and it should just magically work.

Your Home Network:

Your home network consists of basically 4 parts. A modem that is usually provided by your internet provider. This is basically a dumb device that converts external signals over cable or fiber to signals that a computer can understand. Then there is the router. A router is the most important networking equipment and will be the brains behind your network. Simply put, the better the router, the better your network will perform when you connect multiple devices to it. Slow, buggy routers will usually give you problems and you will do more of ‘reset the router’ to solve issues temporarily. Then there is the switch, which is basically something that allows you to connected multiple devices to a router. This will be built into your Wi-Fi router as well and you probably don’t have to worry about slow switches (unless you are connecting a lot of computers to a single switch). And then finally there is the Wi-Fi access point which is the end point of most of your connections at home. The Wi-Fi access point is kind of a big deal. Simply put cheap Wi-Fi routers have cheap access points and will definitely have connectivity and bandwidth issues. Also you should be better off with latest Wi-Fi standards. There are 2 frequencies: 2.4 GHz which can penetrate through walls easily and reach far, but have interference issues and limited speeds. And there is 5 GHz, which is much faster, has less interference but doesn’t reach very far. The good part is that the latest Wi-Fi access point standard will usually support everything.

For the most part you will have a modem connected to a Wi-Fi router. If you are using a single device provided by your internet provider you are likely using a Wi-Fi-modem-router and you shouldn’t be using this unless its provided for absolutely no cost by your provider and you really don’t care about your Wi-Fi because all you have is one or two devices connected and don’t worry about how fast or good your Wi-Fi is. But you should still consider changing this setup because these boxes are a serious security threat to your network.

The whole point of this post is that today, the most likely scenario is that you live in a large house, where each person has at least one or two (a laptop and a phone) personal devices connected to Wi-Fi along with other common devices connected (like TV and what not) and either the coverage of you Wi-Fi is poor or you are experiencing terrible Wi-Fi speeds although you have a decent internet connection. As time passes you will have more devices connected (like wearables and home appliances) to the Wi-Fi and it will only get worse if you don’t have suitable networking gear in place. And yes, it will almost always be your networking gear and not your internet provider causing trouble (unless its down).

Let me explain a simple scenario. Let’s say you have a 10mbps connection (which is actually not that bad and should be easily available in metros today).  At 100% usage, unless someone is downloading something and taking up all the bandwidth, 5 devices should be able to constantly work at 2mbps speeds. And if someone is idle or chatting or just reading, the number of active devices falls and the maximum speed of other devices increases. As you can see having a 10mbps connection is not all that bad given how dynamic the usage is. And everything is handled by the router. Smart routers will automatically detect this and will give each device the required bandwidth to make sure all the devices get what they want when they want. And if someone is being a spoilsport by taking up all the bandwidth the router will detect that too and will restrict it until someone else requires the connection. If your router is not good enough, it will either not be able to do this or will do this poorly, giving everyone trouble on the network.

The Wi-Fi (access point) part of your home networking gear (most likely inside a Wi-Fi router) works in the same way. It works on limited airtime (the time each device will have when connected to Wi-Fi during which it can transfer data) and each device only gets some portion of it. If one device is using too much, other devices get dropped packets or poor connection and this will cause issues like poor Wi-Fi because someone has used up all the time available. Now let’s say you have 20-30 devices connected sometime in the future (My home has 10-12 today and its just phones and laptops and a couple of TVs). Each device is constantly transferring data over the internet. You may have a 100mbps or faster internet connection but due to poor networking gear you might still experience issues (like dropped packets).

What can you do to solve bad Wi-Fi?

So here is what you can do today to solve this problem. Firstly, I will again mention that you must get a separate modem and a router in case you are using a single device for both. Now depending on how big your place is, here are a few options I can suggest:

In case your house is something close to 1000 sq. ft. you should be good with a single access point or a single Wi-Fi router. But a cheap Wi-Fi router will not do the trick. A cheap Wi-Fi router will not have enough antenna power to penetrate through brick walls. You will need a good strong router if you want a strong connection and placed in a central position at a considerable height above the floor. There are plenty of ~200$ that perform well in this category. Their latest firmware is also stable enough to not have any connection drop issues and because these have powerful ‘router’ part in them you won’t have to worry about multiple devices connecting to them and slowing down the internet.

Now for something like a 1500 sq. ft. or bigger house with maybe even multiple floors, Wi-Fi gets tricky. In this case the first thing you should consider is getting the place wired. I will strongly recommend getting access points connected by a semi-professional to a single good router. You might need more than two access points but some access points like the ones sold by Ubiquiti are really cheap (75$ or so) and once you get everything wired and connect to these access points, the extra money spent will be totally worth it. These single access points are designed to support up to 200 devices at once and you are highly unlikely to notice wireless connectivity issues after getting these. One of these can easily cover 1000 sq. ft. of space even with brick walls. I personally use a single Ubiquiti UAP-AC-Lite connected to an ER-X 5-port router and the whole setup is less than 150$. It can cover a 1500 Sq. Ft. brick-walled house easily even on 5GHz and I get 100mbps connection in every corner. The only problem is complicated setup process but once installed it shouldn’t require any troubleshooting.

The third option is the easiest one and hot in the market today. Mesh router. But again, before you settle on this option you should consider getting a wired connection and multiple access points connected to a single router.

Mesh Networks:

I’ll explain mesh networks quickly. A mesh network is basically a network where each individual mesh device is in itself a Wi-Fi router. And this router has two Wi-Fi radios inside it. One talks to the devices connected to it and the other talks to other mesh routers in the network. This way the inter-router communication doesn’t slow down the network. The mesh routers are not only fast but work smart. They shape the traffic smartly due to some really good software (and it will only get better over time) and really speedy router hardware. Their access points are good enough to support a lot of devices at once and adding these to your home will probably solve your Wi-Fi issues easily. But they are not cheap. These are usually appropriate in packs of three and cost around 300$ to 500$. Think of this simple relation. A connects to B. B connects to C. So A connects to C. This is the same logic behind these devices to not only get you more coverage but also better speeds due to two different radios. If you don’t have wired connectivity at home and simply cant afford to run Ethernet cables through existing wall connections you should definitely consider this.

There are plenty of routers in the market. You probably have one already and wondering ‘why do I need to change since everything is going great’. But that will soon change. Your home network will be put under a lot more pressure very soon as you buy more connected devices and your ISP technician will suggest you to buy a faster router because ‘everything is working fine on their end’. Before you run off to the market for a new networking equipment you should spend some time considering how you want to go about it. Wiring your home with cat6 cables will be a permanent solution (existing cables will soon support 2.5Gbps instead of 1Gbps) and in the future you will only have to upgrade your access points in case you need more than 1Gbps speeds. Getting something like Google WiFi or Eero is great but it will be costly though it will save you from changing cabling in your home.

Consider this. The Wi-Fi in Offices and Universities never slows down. It doesn’t need to be reset regularly because its performing poorly. The Wi-Fi never goes down because too many devices are connected. The problem is not with the technology, it’s with your equipment.

Apple Packaging (Changed!).

Everyone loves to unbox brand new products. Especially if it’s a brand-new iPhone. And Apple for so many years, very carefully and smartly, has done it with their iPhones and iPads. They ship their products in incredibly packed and shrink wrapped boxes and Apple has managed to change how products are packaged forever.

I remember older phones used to come in these big boxes with plastic bags holding accessories and thick booklets of documentation that only added bulk because it barely had any useful information. Although a few rivals have managed to adapt to the new packaging standards, there are still a few companies that ship with such bulky packaging. Apple has truly excelled in every aspect of its most selling products, the iPhone and the iPad, over the years.

But lately, I noticed a small change in the packaging of Apple products. And although you might think it’s not a deal breaker, when something little changes in a business worth $600 billion, that small change can make a huge difference.

The goal of the brilliant iPhone was to make sure that every minor detail be perfected. And over the time Apple has done just that. But basic idea behind the iPhone packaging is that it should feel premium right from holding the box itself. The box is tightly packed in a shrink wrap that has been done so well, that it almost feels like the whole plastic is one sheet without any sealing edges. No company would invest so much in something that will be taken apart in seconds after it’s sold to a customer. But such minor details are important. Something like the shrink wrap would mean that the iPhone boxes stack up perfectly and maybe that’s important in transporting and storing the iPhones. Also, these boxes when kept in glass cabinets in stores will look premium due to the light reflecting off the glaze and it’s all about capturing the attention of the customers to maximize its sales and customer satisfaction.

Apple managed to fit the cable, charger and the headphones along with the very basic documentation in a box that hasn’t changed in the last 10 years.

But that changed with the iPhone 7. With Apple products, the first thing you see when you open the box is the product you paid for. That shiny phone with the plastic tab is what you see first and you pull the tab and you hold the phone in your hand as soon as your box is open. Apple has been the best at such small and important things and it all starts with your first interaction with the phone. When someone bought an iPhone for the first time, during the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 era (and also iPhone 6), the first thing they saw was the iPhone itself in all its glory. As everyone has been talking for so many years Apple wants to give that ‘magical’ feeling right from the first moment. And Apple’s packaging does just that. It’s like opening a Pandora’s box and you are truly surprised at what you see.

What happens when you open an iPhone 7 box? Dull white packaging that says ‘Designed in California’. You use your fingers to struggle and open this white documentation case and then you see the iPhone. Where is that ‘magical’ feeling when you open the box? Underneath the dull apparently. I was surprised to see Apple change this.

Believe it or not this is significant. Apple wants to give its customers the experience of an iPhone and it doesn’t just end with the phone. It all depends on every minor detail. It is a company that spends nights and weeks designing every detail of its products. The iPhone is their most important product and it is likely going to keep that title for the next 10 years. I have seen customers experience opening their iPhones in Apple stores for the first time and I’m sure they don’t want to see a white documentation page when they do that. They don’t want a bit of experience taken away from them. Unboxing a product does leave an impression about it.

But there is probably a totally logical explanation to this. People have simply dropped their phones in excitement when they opened it for the first time. This happened with the iPhone 6 when a customer opened it after standing in line outside and Apple store for hours only to drop and break the screen. Apple may have given him a brand-new iPhone later but this is probably the only reason I can think of why Apple changed the packaging after 9 successful iPhones.

If you don’t open the box on a flat surface, you are likely to drop the iPhone. And this is probably true only for iPhone 6 and 6s due to the curved edges. The iPhone 4 and 5 fit perfectly in the tray meant to hold it and did not slide out of the box even at an angle. This probably means Apple did not notice this or simply thought it would not matter much. However, since Apple seem to have changed this, it did matter. Apple probably decided to stick with the same packaging with the 6s because changing the packaging does change costs of manufacturing. Think of it this way, when every iPhone costs 10 cents more due to a small change in its manufacturing, it costs Apple $10 million over the 100 million iPhones it sells over the course of 2-3 years of that iPhone.

Apple should have better solved the issue of ‘product-first’ during unboxing. In today’s market, every customer is important. For someone like Apple keeping the customer satisfaction close to 100% is extremely important no matter how small the issue is. That’s the only way it can guarantee a returning customer. Customers simply have too many options. And you wouldn’t care about the packaging of a some other premium phone you would buy today. The bar is simply not set that high for anyone else. Apple has made itself stand out due to its minor eye for details and it not only has to follow it but should make its statement even bolder if it must stand out in the fierce competition in the smartphone market.

Products like the iPhone 7 have fierce competition today, but Apple’s job is to make sure it gets every detail right, every time.