Chris Welch: 

Verizon has officially announced XLTE. Rather than a new wireless technology, XLTE is basically just a consumer-friendly buzz term for speed and capacity improvements that Verizon has made to its network with the help of AWS spectrum.

After I announced my intention to ditch Verizon’s shitty network for AT&T’s slightly-less-shitty one, a bunch of folks suggested I should wait and pointed to XLTE as the future.

Yeah, there was zero chance I was going to change my mind over marketing bullshit. ”XLTE” is essentially the Verizon version of what AT&T did with “4G” in the past. “4G” was really just a slightly pumped up “3G”.

Roberto Baldwin on the just-sold Intel television service:

Pricing would be on par with what satellite and cable offered; after all, the networks weren’t going to give the up-and-comer any sort of deal. But what Intel Media was counting on was an experience. Like TiVo, it was a quality play, a service that was better than what was already out there. TiVo customers usually pay a premium to use its box instead of the no-name DVR or satellite box offered by pay-TV providers. On Cue was going to take that even further: It was going to out-Tivo Tivo. And the box was ready to go.

Tivo, we’re-shutting-down-our-hardware-business-Tivo? Yes, that one.1

Newsflash: this is not an easy business to be in. The only thing that matters are the content deals. Without them, your service is going to be DOA. Did Intel actually have those? The article could not make that any less clear. My guess is “no”.

So yes, Intel’s box could have been Tivo. Which is to say, ultimately, a failure.2

  1. Which is odd, since the same person was the author of both articles on the same day

  2. And I loved Tivo. 

Verizon Has A Funny Definition Of “Global”

Yesterday, as I landed in a foreign country, I did my normal routine: switched off airplane mode on my phone, waited for signal to kick in, repeat, repeat, repeat.1 Once I connected, in poured the push notifications, the first of which is usually a text from the foreign carrier I just connected to warning me that I’m roaming and threatening to take my first child for every MB of data used. Yesterday, the message was a little different.

It was actually a text message from my U.S. carrier, Verizon, notifying me to turn data services off or use WiFi to avoid data charges. I thought nothing of this since I had the global data plan already enabled on my phone. Next, in came the foreign carrier text telling me the current take-your-first-child rates: $20.48 per MB of data used. Not even one minute later (I checked the time stamps), a third message came in, this time from Verizon again, alerting me that I’ve “exceeded $50 in global data charges.”

Again, I didn’t think too much of this because I knew my global data plan was enabled. That plan allows you to pay $25 for each 100MB of data usage when traveling abroad — still a rip-off, yes, but a relative steal compared to the aforementioned take-your-first-child rates normally associated with international data roaming. Because I had been in another country a few weeks prior, I thought such a message might just be a residual warning from data usage on that trip.


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Jean-Louis Gassée on the topic of the AT&T CEO bitching about carrier subsidies:

I don’t know if Stephenson is speaking out of cultural deafness or cynicism, but he’s obscuring the point: There is no subsidy. Carriers extend a loan that users pay back as part of the monthly service payment. Like any loan shark, the carrier likes its subscriber to stay indefinitely in debt, to always come back for more, for a new phone and its ever-revolving payments stream.

I was told as much by Verizon. In preparation for this Monday Note, I went to the Palo Alto Verizon store and asked if I could negotiate a lower monthly payment since Verizon doesn’t subsidize my iPhone (for which I had paid full price). Brian, the pit boss, gave me a definite, if not terribly friendly, answer: “No, you should have bought it from us, you would have paid much less (about $400 less) with a 2-year agreement.” My mistake. Verizon wants to be my loan shark.

Marvin Ammori:

It looks like we’ll end up where AT&T initially began: a false compromise.

The implications of such a decision would be profound. Web and mobile companies will live or die not on the merits of their technology and design, but on the deals they can strike with AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others. This means large phone and cable companies will be able to “shakedown” startups and established companies in every sector, requiring payment for reliable service. In fact, during the oral argument in the current case, Verizon’s lawyer said, “I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these [FCC] rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.”

Wait, it gets even worse. Pricing isn’t even a necessary forcing factor. Once the court voids the nondiscrimination rule, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason. Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all.

Shady new world. Let’s just pray this doesn’t come to pass.

Shalini Ramachandran and Thomas Gryta:

AT&T and Verizon are now the fifth and sixth biggest pay-TV providers in the U.S. after Comcast and Time Warner Cable and the two satellite-TV companies, DirecTV and Dish Network Corp.

And rising — fast.

Fascinating that it will be the shady wireless guys pushing slimy cable guys. But hey, any competition (which the cable industry has lacked, and has left them ill-prepared) is good, right?

Peter Kafka:

Huggers eventually hired a team of 300 workers, built the box and created branding for the service, which was supposed to be called “OnCue.” Thousands of Intel employees have been testing the service in their homes this year. But Intel was never able to secure the programming deals from TV networks it would need for a commercial launch.

This just in: trying to work with Hollywood to secure content is a bitch. It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup or a multi-billion dollar corporation.

David Carr spoke with law professor Susan Crawford about her new book about the telecom industry:

In a recent conversation, she explained that wired and wireless connections, building blocks of modern life, are now essentially controlled by four companies. Comcast and Time Warner have a complete lock on broadband in the markets they control, covering some 50 million American homes, while Verizon and AT&T own 64 percent of cellphone service. Don’t get her started on the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger unless you have some time on your hands.

“They have acted in parallel to exclude competitors and used every lever they had to gain control over their markets. My whole book is essentially an argument to buy stock in cable companies,” she said with a laugh.

Her main argument is not that these giant companies are evil, but rather that they’ve perfected the art of dominating their industries, with the government doing little to stop it — which is ultimately going to hurt us all.

Bianca Bosker of The Huffington Post dives deep into the history of Siri:

“The way that Steve described it, speech recognition — and how to use it to create a speech interface for something like the iPhone — was an area of interest to him and Scott Forstall [then head of Apple’s mobile software] for some time,” recalls Kittlaus. “The story that I’m told is that he thought we’d cracked that paradigm with our simple, conversational interface.”

Verizon thought so, too. In the fall of 2009, several months before Apple approached Siri, Verizon had signed a deal with the startup to make Siri a default app on all Android phones set to launch in the new year. When Apple swooped in to buy Siri, it insisted on making the assistant exclusive to Apple devices, and nixed the Verizon deal. In the process, it narrowly avoided seeing Siri become a selling point for smartphones powered by its biggest rival, Google. (Somewhere in the vaults of the wireless giant, there are unreleased commercials touting Siri as an Android add-on.)

Never knew that.

Steve Kovach for Business Insider:

That means (if we’re being conservative) at least 80% of all smartphones sold through AT&T, the second largest carrier in the U.S., were iPhones. The rest were Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, or whatever else is out there.

Now let’s look at Verizon’s earnings last earnings report for the same quarter. Verizon, the largest carrier in the U.S., sold 6.2 million iPhones out of a total of 9.8 million smartphones. That means the iPhone made up 63% of Verizon’s smartphone sales.

This is not some survey of a few thousand people. This is not data extrapolated from ad impressions across a vague number of devices. This is sales data. It does not lie. On the two largest carriers in the U.S., the iPhone dominated last quarter.

You can argue about whether that’s important or not. But clearly, when Apple launches a new iPhone in the U.S., it sells a lot of new iPhones — even more than the plethora of Android options combined. (A trend which has continued for a few years now.) Which suggests one of two things:

1) People buy an insane amount of iPhones in the U.S. because of the subsidy model. Verizon and AT&T (and now Sprint, and it looks like T-Mobile soon as well) allow you to get one for $299, $199, $99, or free. Those price points matter a lot, and they would matter in other countries as well.

2) The U.S. market is just different. For some reason, consumers in the U.S. want iPhones even when those in other countries do not as much.

If the first point is indeed the case, it’s a hell of argument for a lower priced phone without subsidy. It’s suggests that it’s not that people don’t want iPhones, it’s that they want new iPhones at good prices.

The data is also a pretty good argument as to why Apple may want to speed up the release cycle of new iPhones. (Though such a move would undoubtedly dampen the yearly “bulge” in sales.)

Chris Velazco for TechCrunch:

Since the only device that fits the description is the iPhone 5, that breaks down to about 651,000 iPhone 5s sold and activated since the device’s launch in September. That may seem a bit on the low side considering the near-religious fervor that iPhone launches tend to inspire, but it’s worth remembering that Apple’s newest smartphone hit the streets just prior to the fiscal quarter’s close.

Right, we’re already seeing a lot of confusion on this, but it’s really not complicated. While Verizon announced their quarterly earnings today, the actual quarter ended around September 30. In other words, the iPhone 5 was on sale for just nine days before the quarter ended. And it was supply-constrained the whole time.

I have no doubt we’re going to see the same level of confusion when Apple announces their earnings next week. The iPhone numbers will be lower than some are expecting because again, it will only include a couple weeks of supply-constrained iPhone 5 sales. Q1 is the real quarter to look at.

Jeff Benjamin:

I can confirm that the Verizon iPhone 5 is indeed GSM unlocked. Even though I bought an iPhone 5 from Verizon under contract, I was able to cut down my AT&T Micro SIM, and use it in my Verizon iPhone 5 to pick up an AT&T signal. By doing so, I was able to hop onto AT&T’s HPSA+ network, or “4G” as they so ridiculously name it.

Interesting — I assume this is related to the international roaming all iPhone 5s support (few countries use CDMA for 3G, so roaming would be on GSM).

Dieter Bohn last week on Google’s “New Motorola”:

But the simple fact remains: neither Google’s flagship Galaxy Nexus nor the new devices from its subsidiary Motorola are running Google’s latest software on Verizon’s network, and they won’t until Verizon says they can.

There’s nothing “new” about that.

If it weren’t for Verizon, I’d bet that basically no one would have bought any Motorola phones the past few years. And the company would have been even more of a money pit. And Google still probably would have paid over $10 billion for that money pit.