Losing my virginity, with FaceTime

Although the iPhone 4 is not yet officially available in the Netherlands, we bootlegged it via the UK. It turns out that you can actually make a phone call with it, so that’s good news. Apart from making a phone call, there’s one other nifty feature on the device, called FaceTime. According to Apple:

People have been dreaming about video calling for decades. iPhone 4 makes it a reality. With the tap of a button, you can wave hello to your kids, share a smile from across the globe, or watch your best friend laugh at your stories — iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 over Wi-Fi. No other phone makes staying in touch this much fun.

But wait, there’s more:

FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using FaceTime is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your best friend. Just find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins. It’s all perfectly seamless. And it works in both portrait and landscape modes.

That sure sounds appealing to me. Frequent traveling and having a family at home makes me the perfect FaceTime user. There’s only one caveat: you need somebody else to FaceTime with. And that other person must be on the iPhone 4. Not the 3GS, the 4. Luckey I was smart enough to call a few friends, asking whether they wanted to participate in this little experiment and order an iPhone 4 as well. One of them was Kurt. It took a while, but now Kurt has his iPhone 4 too, and since today he’s operational (OK, to be honest, Kurt did not only wanted the iPhone for FaceTime. There’s more he liked).

So Thursday evening my iPhone rang, with a funny sound. It said: Kurt wants to connect via FaceTime with you. So I picked up the phone, and there we went…

Pretty impressive. Now if only the Samsung Wave would adopt the open source FaceTime technology as well (Apple and Samsung seem to borrow things from each other anyways, lately), Kurt can actually use it with his wife Una, too…

How valuable will this become, once available through 3G networks? Will it change the way we communicate or is it just a ‘nice to have’ and ‘Apple gimmick’. Let us know and drop us a line in the comments below.

Proud to present our new series ‘simpL’

Some things are so complex, they need simplicity to explain. Truth is, many things are basically not so complex, as long as you have the ability to leave out the details and drill down to the essence. A great example is the website How Stuff Works. Want to know what a black hole is? No problem. For a while we have been working on our concept ‘simpL‘. Inspired by the series ‘in Plain English’ we started our own endeavour and created the first series for one of our customers.

Today we are proud to release our latest product in this series, used in a campaign to introduce a platform for veterinarians to improve communication with their customers. This platform is called ‘Chameleon’ and forms the basis for communication improvement for veterinarians. We used our ‘simpL’ series to explain the essence of the service. The videos were part of a larger digital ecosystem and an offline promotional campaign which we -together with a great team- helped building as well. An interesting cross-media campaign with the title ‘Enrich Your Practice’, hinting to the way veterinarians can improve their practice, get loyal customers and gain a competitive advantage by paying more attention to communication.

The assignment was to create three ‘teasing’ videos which would explain the need for the veterinarian (in this case: professional communication) and the solution provided to meet that need. In the first series we focussed on the online service to create reminder cards, the second series dealt with online video. We created the artwork in Illustrator, the animations took place in Apple’s Motion and the final cut was done in ..eehh.. Final Cut.

Website 'Enrich Your Practice'

Website 'Enrich Your Practice'

The offline campaign consisted of three ads in various veterinary-related magazines. These ads pointed to the website where visitors were drawn to the videos to learn more about the platform. The Call to Action on the website is to get people to subscribe to the service. The Call to Action is enhanced by giving away 100 reminder cards and the chance to win an iPad. Each video ends with a cliffhanger to motivate people to return.

Ad 'Enrich Your Practice' in magazine

The official platform will launch in September, for which we will use some innovative techniques to deliver the message. Unfortunately I can’t say anything about visitors, retention, views etcetera, since all this information is confidential. I can, however, show you the videos. Video’s we are pretty proud of.

What do you think? Will our simpL videos communicate the message better? What’s your overall view on the campaign?

Stay tuned for more news on our latest campaigns. We are prepping a business case of on of our largest projects. Soon more…

The iPhone 4… can you make a phonecall or not?

A few weeks ago we blogged about the launch of the iPhone 4 in the UK. Though impressed by the little device we were not able to take one back, the lines were just too crazy long. And one of the things why an iPhone from the UK is so interesting is because they sell it unlocked (I guess one of the reasons the lines were so long). Fortunately one of our Fellows and good friend lives in the UK, so a phone call later and €738 lighter my iPhone 4 was ordered (thanks Jolanda).

It was an interesting three weeks waiting, especially since Apple held it’s press conference about the ‘Antennagate’ during this period. It’s absolutely amazing how many people told me they heard the iPhone 4 was a flop, a design error and that you can’t make a descent call with it. They asked me for advice…

Well, first of all I’m an Apple fanboy. It took a while to admit, but there’s little the company can do wrong in my undoubtedly narrow view of this part of the world. My view, therefore is biased. However, I do know how large commercial organizations work and I also know the power of digital media. And with that, I explained my view on the case.

First off, I think Steve Jobs is a visionary, a genius in what he is doing and in what he has achieved. Having seen him IRL on stage an absolute rock stars for geeks like me. He is honest and authentic. But he’s also a commercial guy. One thing though he should not do anymore, is start communicating in his direct and authentic way during the rise of a small crisis. Stating ‘Just hold it differently’ in a response to a complaining customer about the lost signal may be authentic, it’s not wise. I’m also not saying that Apple should put an army of silk-smooth PR people on it, but there’s no doubt a way in between. As far as my opinion goes, this is about the only thing they did do wrong. Let’s have a look at the other accusations:

It took Apple too long to respond.
Well, looking at the above example of Steve Jobs they responded rather quickly. Too quickly perhaps. Truth is, they wrote a statement that they were going to update the software, and soon after that they organized this press conference. I’ve worked for a multinational, and I’ve launched pharmaproducts on a global scale. One thing I can assure you, launching products like this is no doubt one of the most complex business processes you will ever find. So many disciplines are involved, and so much internal communication takes place. The company has worked it’s *ss off to develop the product, to make it market ready and to design the marketing campaign, ramping up the production and organizing distribution. Once Day 1 has arrived it’s a matter of keeping your fingers crossed, in a sense. If you then receive a complaint that reception drops you take note of it, but you are not yet restructuring your entire production process yet. Millions and millions of iPhones are being sold in a very short period of time. Of course you have people complaining. You will always have people complaining because some people like that so much.

Then more complaints drip in and with all these digital communication ways it’s difficult to distinct a true complaint (the source), or the many, many stories being written about that complaint (writing about the source). You check the numbers and they don’t seem to resonate with the things you are hearing on the internet. But things get worse and just to be sure you start an investigation. If companies respond internally faster than 2 weeks after the first rumours arise, I think they do an excellent job. I believe Apple did. It took them 22 days to investigate the situation, organized a press conference and came up with a solution (well, sort of).

Apple only organized this press conference because Consumer Reports were burning down the reputation of the iPhone 4 by not recommending it
We will never know for sure, but that could be the case. Of course you will defend your crown jewels if an influential organization such as Consumer Reports blames your product. And let’s face it, not recommending a product reads for many people: ‘don’t buy’. Although not the same (Consumer Reports does have a category ‘don’t buy this’ for crappy exploding stuff) this is what John Doe believes. Also true, Consumer Reports has put itself on the world map. The PR it got from this article is worth millions and millions of dollars. Smart.

I see my bars dropping when I hold my iPhone in a certain way
True, I can see that for myself too. But guess what, I see that on my 3GS as well. To be honest, pre-Antennagate I hardly looked at the bars and I believe most of us didn’t. Post-Antennagate we all seem to have become some sort of antenna-experts, scrutinizing the slightest drop in the number of bars in the teenieweenie small upper left corner of our iPhone (which, by the way, looks stunning on a Retina Display). I really don’t care about ‘bars dropping when I hold it like this or that’. Get over it. It seems that most mobile phones are experiencing this, so what’s the deal anyway? What I am interested in, though, is dropped calls.

The iPhone 4 has much more dropped calls
Frankly, I don’t know yet. What I do know is that if I hold my new iPhone 4 in a certain way (the ‘Death Grip’) I see the number of bars going down, basically the same as with the 3GS. They never go under 1 bar however, so I still have a signal and thus a conversation. With my 3GS I had dropped calls too. Occasionally, when I was commuting to work going through a rural Dutch area, I lost a phone conversation. Just dialed back, blamed the provider and life went on.

According to Steve there are indeed more dropped calls with the iPhone 4 as compared to the iPhone 3GS: less than one per 100 calls. Less than one in business terms usually means 0.9 or so. And if the average drop call rate is, say 2 or 3 per 100, that is still a significant increase. Steve’s own pet theory stating that more people use a case with the 3GS (80%) compared to the 4 (only 20%) might be correct. But put it in another daylight. How many phone calls do you make on a day? 10? 20? 30? Let’s say you make 30 phone calls a day. In about 3 to 4 days you had 2 dropped calls using your iPhone 3GS. Now you have 3 dropped calls. Will your life be over? Can’t you run your business anymore?

If you have a phone that dropped calls several times a day, that’s of course not acceptable. But 1 dropped call every 3-4 days more? Wouldn’t seem to be such an issue for me, especially when you compare it to the new features on the iPhone 4 (Retina Display, speed, battery life, HD video, 5MP camera, front facing camera, FaceTime, thinner form factor, design)

Apple wanted to become rich selling $30 plastic bumpers which have no doubt a cost price of a few bucks
True. But when did you ever blame a commercial company of making money? Don’t like it, don’t buy it. Vote with your wallet. Wait a few more weeks and you have a plethora of bumper, cases and what have you to choose from. No issue anyway, because you get a free bumper now.

Apple is losing it’s grip on the mobile market. Android will win.
We’ll see. And to quote Steve Jobs when asked about the relationship with Microsoft: “I think we have to let go of the notion that if Apple wants to win, Microsoft has to lose”.

I will test the iPhone 4 extensively the next few weeks (that is, I will just use it the same way as my iPhone 3GS) and report back if I see any disturbing shortcomings. For now all seems fine. I’m eager to learn your take on this. Do you share my fanboy-ish thoughts? Do you have experience with the iPhone 4? Good or bad? Let me know and drop me a line in the comments. Or find me on FacetTime 😉

iPhone4: an amazing videoproduction kit…in your pocket

In our previous post we spoke about the next development in video-production: 4K with the RED camera as an example. Now, that’s high-end film making. But let’s take a look at the other end. Let’s look at mobile phone video-production. And that’s not only filming, in HD, but do the editing as well.

Indeed, we talk about the iPhone 4. Despite all the hassle about antenna problems this phone is no doubt moving the boundaries of film making. Not only for the amateur-family-shooter, but also for the (semi-)professional video producer. Check out the video below, which was entirely shot and edited on the iPhone 4.

And if you liked that, check out the making of this video.

See the extremes with the earlier mentioned RED and 4K? No matter the unprecedented quality you can produce with this camera, try to fit it in your pocket. Now there’s no reason to miss any moment that should be captured and published anywhere at anytime. No doubt this will initiate another wave in citizen jounalism, as also mentioned by Vincent Laforet.

Another example, a corporate video from Ducati. Yes, shot on the iPhone4.

OK, Apple, now make this thing available in The Netherlands, we can’t take this torture for much longer…

YouTube goes 4K

‘Stand still means going back’, is a famous Dutch saying. That’s what they also thought at YouTube when introducing the ability to upload videos with a resolution of 4K.

4K? What does that mean?

Back in the old days, pre-internet, the number of horizontal lines TV could handle was 576 (PAL in Europe) or 480 (US). Then HD came along. Because in the early beginning the technique to actually decode and thus view HD content was pretty expensive a king of ‘pre-HD’ was introduced. They called in HR-ready and it had 720 lines (there’s also a difference in ‘p’ from progressive and ‘i’ for interlace but that’s a bit too technical for this post). Then can ‘full-HD’ with a resolution of 1920×1908 (thus 1080 horizontal lines). Most TV’s in store right now can handle that resolution pretty well, and prices for these TVs have dropped significantly the last few years.

Today’s trend is all about 3D. We have 3D in cinemas and TV manufacturers are fighting a gladiator game to win the battle of bringing 3D into the living room. But there’s another interesting development, and that’s called 4K. What we mean with 4K is that it has 4 times the resolution of 1K (4×1=4 duh!), 1080 lines, indicating a resolution of 4096 x 3072. These are the babies that are used in IMAX theatres. Projectors however do not exist in commercially interesting prices, so in IMAX theatres the 4K is being projected using 2 2K projectors. Filming in native 4K requires some interesting gear. The RED camera is a good example. It all starts with the $17,500 RED ONE base system. From there you can add your choice of the $1,250 Basic or $2,750 Premium production packs. But don’t stop now, go ahead and throw down for a $1,650 RED ONE Power Pack featuring 2x RED BRICK 140Wh batteries and charger, a $1,950 RED Electronic Viewfinder, and the $1,700 5.6-inch LCD. Optics accessories include a $3,500 B4 lens adapter and both Canon and Nikkon 35mm photo mounts costing $500 each. There are also several RED branded media accessories for CF, SATA disk, and something called the “RED RAM 64GB” for $4,500.

As you can see, things add up pretty quickly. But still, compared to the quality you’re getting it still is a bargain. And no doubt these prices will drop pretty fast, too, putting it in the hands of many more independent filmmakers.

YouTube wants to provide their platform to showcase these footage. We were already able to upload and view up to 1080p (full-HD) and now there adding 4K as well. Their are not a lot of videos yet, but hopefully this will grow fast. Check out their 4K channel and their interesting blogpost on 4K.

Interesting developments. 4K in 3D, when?

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