An update on my level of contentedness with iPhone (4 month review).

Earlier this year I was forced onto the iPhone from several years with Android. At the end of January, I gave my thoughts at the nearly 2-week mark. I’m now past 4 months and able to give a more complete review.

Verdict: I’d really like my Android back but I can live with this until the next pure Android flagship comes along.

What’s the Same between Android and iPhone?

One- Apps. All apps basically function the same between Android and iPhone. Inside of any given app I can barely tell the difference in which OS I’m in. This made the switch process surprisingly pain free and simple.

Two- Unlocking. iOS fingerprint security vs. Android fingerprint security is virtually identical at this point. Really easy to securely get into your device.

Three- Cameras. This may cause debate but I’m not big into photography and the iPhone camera seems just as good as my most recent Android cameras. I don’t use this a lot so I may be missing something but it’s all the same to me.

Four- Messaging. iMessage seems to be really good but is it really all that different from any other SMS app (other than in making bubbles blue or green to differentiate between your friends)? I don’t seem enough difference here to call it a benefit or deficiency. I don’t use FaceTime so that doesn’t even matter.

Five- Design/Hardware. This may cause debate as well but I like the designs of the Nexus 6p or Pixel as much as the iPhone. I also can’t tell a significant operational difference between them in terms of performance. I’m sure there is a difference, I just can’t perceive it at this point.

What’s Better About iPhone?

One- Home Button. I got addicted to using this really early in the process. It’s really convenient to press or double-press this and go somewhere else. It basically combines the Android home and window buttons together to simplify things. Is it absolutely necessary for the real estate it takes up? No. But it’s easy and convenient.

Two- Corporate Email. My company has pretty stringent policies on email integration with mobile devices. It took more than a few steps to get things working on my previous Android device. On iOS everything was a snap and works through the default mail app.

Three- System Updates. Apple is much better at making their updates available because of the control they have over their hardware and software environments.

Four-iOS + OSX Integration. I don’t have a Mac but my wife does. It seems like magic to watch her get notifications on her computer and have the two devices work together fairly seamlessly. That’s something I would like to have.

Five- Encryption. Apple encrypting the hard drive by default is standout. This is a great move for users that most won’t really detect. I really appreciate Apple doing this and it goes hand-in-hand with their system update process. It’s possible to do this on Android but it’s opt-in instead of default.

What’s Worse About iPhone?

One- Charging Time/Apple Accessories. Apple accessories suck. Their out-of-the-box wall charger is horrific. It feels cheap and it works much more poorly than accessories you can get from Amazon. But I don’t want to have to purchase accessories just to reach a good operational level for my phone.

Two- Notifications. Seriously, Android has had a highly functional, very good notification bar system for a long time now. Just copy it. There’s nothing worse that non-intelligent notifications that you have to go into the app to use. Sure, maybe force touch can do something with it but that’s not the most intuitive system.

Three- Search. Most of what I do on my phone is search for things. Apple’s search functionality is the worst. It doesn’t search the web by default. WHY?

Four- No app drawer. If I have 100 apps, on iOS I have to remember exactly where I stashed it away to get to it (or search for it through Apple’s stupid search feature). In Android, you can do either of those plus have an app drawer listing them all in alphabetical order. My memory is not good enough to find where I stashed that app I use once every three months.

Five- Siri. Siri is not even in the same ballpark as Google Now. It’s not even close. They aren’t comparable. You can’t even pretend that Siri is anywhere near Google Now in capability. Google Now’s integration with Gmail makes quite a bit of magic happen that Apple cannot replicate at all.

Six- Back Button. Apple doesn’t have a back button other than it will let you go one step back at the top left of any given app if you got there from another app. This is because they only have the one home button at the bottom of the device whereas Android uses the three software buttons. That Android back button is pure gold and I miss it.

Seven- No Microphone Jack. This one is just silly. Basically, you can’t charge your phone plus listen to music on headphones at the same time without purchasing a surprisingly expensive dongle accessory. But none of the dongles look or function similarly so be careful which you get. Then you have to keep track of the headphone adapter because the Apple headphones are utter crap and why would you buy headphones that only work on your one phone and none of your other devices? It just makes no sense whatsoever.

Eight- Calendar/Default Apps. iOS is solid but it’s really frustrating that you don’t have many options for email and calendar outside of what they make available. Those options that do exist in these areas don’t have the ability to fully integrate into the OS the way they can with Android. This just makes each option subpar even when they have superior capability.

Nine- Keyboard. Apple’s keyboard is the absolute worst. This isn’t even debateable. No swipe capability. Common keys (comma) is hidden on the second level. Poor predictive capabilities. Even when you install a strong keyboard app like Gboard, iOS doesn’t let it work everywhere within the OS environment. It’s really frustrating to type on when you are used to a keyboard that actually works.

Ten- No Widgets. Android is focused on surfacing information quickly and cleanly with as few button pushes as possible. Apple seems more focused on getting you to go into apps as often as possible. That’s how I would summarize the operational concept difference between the two OS’s and also the best explanation I can think of for Apple not allowing widgets to be used. In Android, my calendar widget was probably my most used screen.

In Summary

In summary, if you started out using iOS you probably disagree with me on a lot of these as you have either built your processes around Apple’s way of doing things or found easier solutions than I’ve encountered over these past 5 months.

I simply find Apple’s approach to be overbearing and “father knows best.” They want you to do things their way which makes it easier to get started and establish a working rhythm but difficult to improve upon. Android is open to lots of ways of accomplishing the same things which makes getting started more difficult but makes you more productive and efficient in the long run.

That’s my 2 cents.

I’m actually a fan of CRE Technology regardless of what it sounds like.

I’ve written a number of posts over the years discussing the state of CRE technology and, in hindsight, they may seem largely negative. I’ve talked about CRE Tech being stuck in the early 2000’s. About how there is no such thing as CRE Big Data. How it may not be possible to do CRE Technology right.

None of this means I’m not a big fan of technology’s impact on our industry. I’m a huge user of real estate systems such as LeaseHarbor and several proprietary systems. But more than that, general technology has a huge impact on everything that we do. Tools such as Skype, IFTTT, Wunderlist, Google Docs and many others are daily productivity enhancers. I also see huge potential for Slack and Github for a lot of what we do in our industry.

Our biggest weakness in CRE historically is our desire to silo communications and protect our data and networks. Most of the top tools in the industry still focus on the individual and controlling communications. Systems like Slack and the new Microsoft Teams will continue to urge us to break down our artificial communications barriers. Shared information makes people significantly more productive and makes our solutions significantly more robust.

It’s unfortunate that the way most money in our industry flow is through landlord paid commissions. That one single fact is what sets so much of everything else back. The ultimate disruptive tool will be the one that fixes the money flow.

Sometimes the technology you purchased doesn’t have a good ROI because you don’t have the ability to accurately measure the change.

ROI is a great measure for trying to gauge whether an investment is worth what you will be putting into it. A large, positive ROI implies that you’ll quickly and easily make your money back. Getting more out than you put in is the name of the game.

However, some investments are very difficult to measure return on investment. Putting in an enterprise grade finance system is more about avoiding costs associated with getting it wrong than on saving money tomorrow. Similarly, moving from a spreadsheet environment to an automated environment also is difficult to measure unless you can say for certain that there would be people cuts associated with the purchase.

New technology is often hard to calculate an ROI for because many of the benefits are expected to be productivity increases where people can spend less time on reports, checking numbers, inputting data, sharing spreadsheets, and explaining the process. Decreasing time spent on these non-value added functions give your team more time to focus on the part of the business that contributes increased value. The benefits are a step removed from the investment.

You’ll often see software companies touting the fact that their software pays for itself in 4 months or 12 months or 18 months. When you press them they will almost invariably fall back on the “productivity savings” theory and talk about how much less time people have to spend on data and process. It’s a false equivalency though because just as the benefits are a step removed, there often new support processes needed. New technology means better data and reports but that also means more time needed for delivering the reports and creating and socializing the new metrics. In the same way, getting a team to use new tools can take quite a bit of time investment as well.

Measurements require fixed starting and ending points to be accurate. Just as you can’t measure the length of the wind, you often can’t measure the ROI on a technology investment. Having a set of corporate guiding principles for when and why to invest can be a better method.

Are Dashboards technology or are they support for technology?

A good part of my career has been spent building, implementing, using, training others on and generally dealing with business intelligence and dashboards. I’m one of the biggest advocates you will find for having formal business intelligence practices in place for all areas of a corporation. The biggest reason for this is that dashboards and BI generally can fill the gap where other technology/data systems are not integrated – including the robust use of spreadsheets.

Recently I’ve encountered the argument that dashboards are not actually technology. The argument goes that BI and dashboards are more closely related to spreadsheets than to formalized technology systems. Essentially dashboards are a different class of tool and can be treated less formally than other systems.

On the surface, I’m surprisingly open to this argument because one of the main purposes of dashboards is to bring data from other places and into the open. The argument that greater flexibility and less formality around dashboards holds merit.

However, I ultimately have to come down against this theory for a simple reason: when dashboards are done correctly they quickly become the official source people go to for data. Anything that is seen as an official source of data (even if the data comes from somewhere else) must be treated with a degree of formality and consistency. No one would ever implement SAP with the idea that a 2% error rate in the reporting was appropriate – it needs to be to the penny. The same theory holds for a dashboard reporting SAP financial data – it must be just as accurate and consistent.

Treating dashboards as something other than formalized technology presents the increasing opportunity to casually handle the formal data reporting processes. For this reason, dashboards should always be treated like every other technology system. If it isn’t going to be right and consistent, why is it being implemented?

What will be the state of CRE Technology in five year?

I typically try to avoid doing these prognostication type posts because I believe that (generally speaking) tomorrow is going to be much like today. Sometimes an iPhone comes along and changes the world but even then the change was still relatively gradual for all intents.

I had a demonstration from a technology company that made me think differently about my opinion on CRE Technology. Their actual tool was not that different from everything else on the market and their pitch was the same I had heard too many times to care for. But as I was looking at the actual technology powering their system I realized that if you decoupled a couple of features they actually filled a niche that was open at the moment. It wasn’t something that they had intentionally tried to do but it was a side effect of the technology they were building in.

Essentially the underlying technology had advanced to a point where it made some of their ideas more powerful than would have been expected. If the right person steps in and looks at what they have and listens to some feedback they might have something amazing.

But the broader point is that the world of software (especially mobile and online tools) have evolved so far at this point that the tools themselves are beginning to provide as much or more value as the idea that it is being applied to. The flexibility and capabilities of the tools themselves are blending with these CRE ideas in surprising ways and it is now just a matter of time before someone accidentally invents something that shakes up the industry.

I don’t know where this surprise will come from (probably from where we least expect it like around demand modeling) but it is coming like a freight train. The underlying technology is reaching a degree of power that it can’t help but find the right application.

Something to think about.

iPhone log, Day 12. Things are bleak but looking up.

Recently I changed my mobile service provider from T-Mobile to Verizon. It was a choice made with the intent of getting better service in my house (where service in the downstairs is spotty to be generous). Having been an Android user since the HTC G1 and a Nexus user since the Nexus 5 (it’s not really Android if it isn’t pure), the only Verizon option for phones was the Pixel. Naturally you can probably guess what happened next, all Pixels were on a 5+ week back order.

This led to a dilemma. Do I go Samsung and their version of “Android” or head to iPhone to give it a real try since I seem to be forced into that choice? I went iPhone. It pained me to do it. I hated myself for the first two days. I wanted to take it back immediately but I swore to myself to try it. Surely if seemingly half the world can use it, I can as well.

Setting it up wasn’t too bad. I was able to quickly and easily setup all of my accounts, find all of my apps, transfer over my data/files and get things generally running. By the first night I had things firmly in hand.

The first week was rough. Nothing worked the way I expected it to and it seemed as if everything was intentionally created to be the exact opposite of Android. The function of the home button was silly, the notifications menu was featureless, NO GOOGLE NOW!!!, no widgets or app tray, the phone seemed to act on its own with no regard for my desires. Even the way phone calls are handled was different and unappealing.

By week two things were looking up. I had enough iPhone friends to have support and guidance through my trying times. They taught me that left swipes worked different than right swipes. They helped me with settings and how to figure out little “glitches”. They kept me from simply calling it quits. I’ve also begun to notice that for all of it’s design quirks there are deeper integrations for some apps than exist on Android. Even Google seems to function better in some ways on the iPhone.

Ultimately I think I’m going to gut it out for awhile because I need to be able to know the iPhone. If you are in technology you should be willing and able to deal with workflows outside of your own. You need to be willing to try things that work for others. I still currently believe that the iPhone is inferior to a pure Android phone however it’s worth better understanding it and what it does.

Pray for me because I may not make it through this but I have hope. I think I can do this but it will be a struggle for awhile.

Want to save yourself time and stress? Remember to setup or update your IFTTT rules.

I’ve been using it for awhile as a sort of behind the scenes application but I was talking to some friends that shockingly had never heard of it. If you have heard of the app If This, Then That go check it out in your app store of choice or at ifttt.com.

Essentially what the app does is enable you to connect the various apps that you use to one another. For example, if you use a fitness tracker and you are trying to understand your sleep patterns better you can set up an IFTTT rule to have Fitbit (or another brand) load the data automatically every day into a Google Spreadsheet so that you can actually see the trend live.

It’s extremely easy to setup and use. The best part about it is that it is invisible to you after setting it up. You can setup a rule to mute your phone’s volume when you get to work and it will automatically happen every time you get to the office. You can setup a rule to save your new photos to Dropbox every time you take a picture. You can setup a rule to receive NY Times articles by email from a certain category. You can setup a rule to track your trips in Evernote.

The list of things you can do with it is impressively long. And best of all, it’s free.

Go take the time to try a couple out. Six months later you’ll forget there’s a program behind the scenes doing things for you but you’ll appreciate the enhanced productivity none-the-less.