Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Finally, an iPhone.

Finally, an iPhone - a review by a first-time user.

After a 14 year love affair with Nokia, only briefly interjected twice by Samsung and HTC, I have finally moved on to the domain of Steve Jobs. The great, grand Steve Jobs. My new Apple iPhone 3GS has taken me - for the time being - to a different plane altogether now.

Apple Inc logo image for Bright Sparks blog of Sandeep Manudhane sir
A bite, anyone?
Having observed the consistent failure of Nokia to provide a really good smartphone that could stir my fancy, I clung to my 3 year old E90 (Nokia Communicator) with all the loyalty I could muster. But it just did not measure up to what the world was now becoming.

Media played its role too. Apple turning into a tech company with the world's highest market capitalisation, and laudatory reviews appearing persistently in global media played their own part. The clincher perhaps was a full page article in last week's The Economist which talked at length about the travails of Nokia. Somehow, I thought, let me try this new stuff.

So here I am with my new iPhone 3GS - 16 GB. Do excuse me, as I write with some enthusiasm! I am using this stuff for the first time, and as someone who can appreciate the beauty of original thinking, I think I am in love with a lot of what it has to offer.

But first, the precautions:

  1. As a Nokia enthusiast, it will take some time to get adjusted to an iPhone. The first 48 hours are most painful. The thought of switching back to Nokia crossed my mind several times, but I persisted, and tried to learn all the features. And it worked!
  2. The interface is everything. Apple wants you to enjoy the iPhone. One cannot really use it - one has to begin to enjoy it. Then you start becoming a part of Steve Jobs' vision of technology serving man, and not the other way round.
  3. The iPhone is symptomatic of the new world of smartphones that will be the lingua franca of the mobile industry in years to come. Even at the entry level, chances are, iPhone like features will be industry standard. But iPhone is not built for India! It's too smooth, too shiny and too soft for it. That's a huge minus, and hence one needs to be physically very cautious while using it.
  4. Learning the on-screen typing will take some time. It is not easy. Nokia enthusiasts accustomed to the tough qwerty keypads may find it frustrating to actually focus their minds on individual alphabets as they pop up in big sizes (beautiful!) as you type from the onscreen keyboard. It takes some time before you realise the wonderful magnifying glass waiting to be at your beck and call!
Now, the adolescent moments of joy!
  1. The touch experience is breathtakingly beautiful. It just rolls! And rolls! And if you learn it fast enough, and move your fingers 'across', it rolls even faster. This is pure joy. Seamless, non-jerky, non-discrete. Silicon Valley has scored a big plus over Scandinavia, in touch.
  2. The way Apple has ensured simple tasks remain simple, in a touchscreen environment, is praiseworthy. To delete an sms/email, just wipe your finger across and the red coloured delete button appears for you! It sure gives you a sense of control.
  3. iPhone image for Bright Sparks blog of Sandeep Manudhane SM sir
  4. The icons are outstandingly beautiful. Steve Jobs' love for calligraphy, simplicity and beauty is all too visible in the way each icon is designed and placed.
  5. SMS experience is totally different. Instead of being stored as discrete pieces of communication (like in most other handsets), various SMSs exchanged between any two people are shown in a series of communication bubbles. That changes everything! You can view your entire conversation with someone over time, not just pieces of it (though there is a major minus in it, which I will mention later).
  6. Typing, copy-pasting, deleting is all very intelligently designed. A new user must spend some focussed time learning these tricks of the iPhone trade, to fully release its raw power and energy.
  7. Setting up the phone is a lovely experience. Smooth as silk, everything settles down quickly, and the unique packaging (in which it arrives) makes you scared at first (Oh my god!, this is so different.. I hope I can handle it) and delighted soon thereafter!
  8. Managing pictures and videos is really very cool. In fact, the entire phone - oops, device - is all about its "cool" factor. It is very visible that Steve Jobs and his team have done everything possible to retain the "cool" factors even while the device goes about handling the most mundane of tasks. Making calls, for example. The way the list of calls made (recd/missed) is displayed, and gels with creating new contacts is superb. It is extremely user-friendly once you master it. It takes some time for that, though.
  9. The device's homepage icon management is classic. You can do anything you want to - this is one freedom very few companies offer. You can create multiple home pages, with any possible arrangement of icons. That is the extreme to which you can push customisation. And it really helps generate a sense of ownership in the owner's mind (it did, for me!). The way a folder gets created is classic - just drop an icon "into" another icon, and presto! the folder is ready - it uses commonsense.
  10. Steve Jobs pic for Bright Sparks blog of Sandeep Manudhane SM sir
    Steve Jobs and his digital world
  11. The online iTunes store's width and depth surely must be huge, but I have not started using that fully so far. I guess it must be one of the most populated online stores, and options on applications must be varied and rich. My son's first horrified reaction "Dad, nothing is for free here!!!" proved wrong when we spotted the "Free" tab, and discovered a whole host of free goodies available. Now for an Indian user, that's really important :-)
  12. The arrival of 3G networks in India will multiply the pleasure of using an iPhone. It is truly designed for that infrastructure only. The tardy speeds at present kill the joy of seeing a webpage load in all its glory, with easy navigation and delete options.
  13. Using the phone in hands-free mode (without a headset) is very convenient as the on-screen icons are very large and clearly visible.
  14. Spending time on online-social-networking (OSN) on this handset is very interesting. From feeling that you are on a miniature PC to enjoying the adjustable-screen-display-tilt feature, it glides fairly smoothly. Webpages are a breeze.
  15. Emails are very smooth to manage. And the push-mail feature makes it very Blackberry like (though almost all brands offer this feature now). But I must admit - Blackberry is totally business-like in appearance and behaviour. So perhaps the iPhone is for evolved business-persons! Ha ha. And thank God they do not restrict the number of email accounts one can install.
But the product is far from being "perfect". Limitations are:
  1. SMS communication thread makes it very difficult to identify the last received sms from any user (as it gets inside some communication somewhere!). It is only upon the first prompt that you can see the fresh sms clearly, and then it is lost inside the whole list of communication threads stored. You may change this through the settings feature, I guess, but the thread utility will be lost then.
  2. Why, oh why, do you have to create a separate tool for a thing as mundane as a SIM card slot! It is a foolish idea. The pin just cannot be preserved safely for long. And since billions of other handsets in the world are easily working with a manually (and easily) openable sim card slots, why do we need a pin in the iPhone to accomplish that task?
  3. It is clear that Steve Jobs did not have India in his mind while designing the iPhone. My small advice - please wake up to the subcontinent's realities, if you really want to crack the market here. The dust, grime, sweat, jerks, tumbles and drops here are unlike anyplace else. The iPhone is too sophisticated to become a mass product in India (which ultimately Apple will try to become). It catches dust easily, gets scratched very quickly, and the real danger of the windshield ruined to pieces is all too scary!! I have issued clear instructions to both my kids that the first one to smash my screen will have his/her PC confiscated.
  4. The handling of the device needs extra care. Apple should put a good grip on either sides of it, that's leathery and rough, so we can hold it properly. Smooth metal is hardly the best idea!
  5. Of course, it is costly!
  6. The best way to silence an incoming call is to have an on-screen icon like most other handsets have, by default. The lack of this feature in the iPhone 3GS surprises me - is there some higher purpose here?  (you can silence it by tapping the volume-control switch provided on the left side)
  7. I am still not able to see the "automatic into drafts folder" option for sms that you suddenly lose while typing (Nokia has this very useful feature). It is very irritating to lose a large w-i-p sms after typing out most of it!
  8. Nokia phone image for Bright Sparks blog of Sandeep Manudhane sir
    Nokia's great vision
  9. It is frustrating for a business user to notice the lack of a flash while taking pictures. It ruins many images totally. Nokia rocks in this feature! Apple iPhone 4 removes this anomaly, but it's fairly costly for that.
  10. We all know that Apple is a closed universe - their own hardware, their own software, their own policies, and their own showrooms (mostly). So it will take some time before adjusting to this reality. This is in stark contrast to a very open Nokia system, that grows on you like addiction in no time. (the Ovi service never could catch on as much as Nokia would love it to)
  11. The microphone quality is a bit inferior though, and one needs to speak loudly at times, when using the speakerphone mode.
  12. The auto screen-tilt feature is not foolproof in the iPhone. It works best when the phone is held perpendicular to the ground, not when it is at an angle.
  13. A big irritant is the absence of a "delete all" feature for sms and emails. How do you delete multiple sms / emails? One by one? Come on!
  14. Big letdown - Battery gets drained very fast, not a suprise given the size of the display screen. So while one could get away with a 2 days non-charging period with the Nokia E90, here it's a tight situation, even with a low 'screen brightness' setting.
  15. An advice to Apple and Steve Jobs - send a team of designers to India, and let them study the sturdy, tough, unbreakable (almost) handsets of other manufacturers that operate for the Indian market. In the long run, that learning will work wonders for Apple, as it goes about grabbing a meaningfully large share of the Indian market.
My verdict : If you are totally happy with your present handset (which most likely will be a Nokia!), no need to shift. You are in sturdy, solid hands. But if you have had enough, and want a complete change, iPhone it is.

Let's see how this battle evolves in the months to come. It can move in any direction, as writing Nokia off may be foolhardy. They simply can bounce back with a disruptive product that again takes people like me to their fold (what a waste of money it will have been then!). For the time being, let me partake of life's little pleasures including wiggling icons, the silver-smooth Apple logo, and rapturous communication threads!

Thanks for reading, and have a good day!

A comprehensive, topic-wise and useful collection of my various posts and answers can be found here. Enjoy.


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Monday, August 9, 2010

Wisdom Speaks - Chief Justice (rtd) Shri R S Garg on his life and times

"As an MBA, whether you choose to be a Dream Merchant, or a Nightmares Supplier is entirely your personal choice."

It's not often that one gets to hear distilled wisdom of several decades neatly encapsulated in the form of wisdom nuggets, delivered articulately, in packets of digestible sizes. Today was one such event, when we heard one of the best speakers who has visited our campus.

As part of the Annual Positive Contribution Award series, PROTON was proud to honour Chief Justice (Retd) Shri R S Garg who recently completed a marathon innings spanning four decades, and retired as the CJ of the Guwahati High Court. Justice Garg then spoke eloquently about his life and times.

He connected the dots spanning a very wide spectrum of topics, including character, tactfulness, diplomacy, law, justice, adjudication, reasoning, communication skills, anger, hatred & love, right & wrong and career choices. It was remarkable to observe a senior Justice of his calibre and standing present the ideas in a language that 20-year-olds could understand clearly. That was surely the mark of a true master!

On preparation: The stage of life that young people are at, is akin to passing through a furnace. Just like cast iron, wrought iron, and steel are increasingly pure versions of iron ore, similarly a student has to pass through fire repeatedly to evolve from cast to wrought to steel. In other words, if you are scared of the fire, be prepared to live the rest of your life as a piece of cast iron. Similarly, a piece of stone can only be sculpted into a desirable statue by repeated chiselling with a pointed tool.

On self-direction: If you are an aggressive (but upright and reasonable) person, people around you will find your edges uneven, irregular and causing lacerations. Over a period of time, you can change the perception to someone whose edges are evened out and are incisive rather than bruising!

On persistence: A small piece of cork that keeps hitting a 1 ton steel plate repeatedly in a pendulum like fashion, may ultimately make the plate move. That is the power of persistence and tenacity. One has to persist; nothing happens overnight.

On arguing: Many people may relish winning arguments on the spot. But they may not be able to win the vanquished's heart(s). It is more important to handle a situation properly, than to win an argument. In other words, there is no point in winning the battle but losing the war!

On truth and perception: There is no absolute truth in this world. There are differing perceptions of reality as people have perceived them separately. So, the glass is half-full for some, and half-empty for some, but in all the cases, the glass remains much bigger and more profound than the contents! You are the master of any situation if you have access to the total truth, which is never possible. Real truth is always larger than the bits presented to us.

On communication skills: Having a good command over the language(s) and being able to speak them well is perhaps the most important skill one can possess. It is important to know that "good" is better than "better" as the former is absolute whereas the latter is relative. To tell someone that "I am like your father" may not go down well, but "In you I see my son", or "You are younger than my son" will have a totally different impact.

On the art of asking questions: It is an art to ask the right question : So should you ask a priest "Can I smoke while praying?" or "Can I pray while smoking?". The answers, obviously, will be totally different in these two cases!

On the art of apologising and letting go: Winning arguments is not necessarily the best option, as discussed. A great tool can be reflected in the approach - "If I am wrong, I am sorry. If you are wrong, let's forget it."

On lessons of life: While relishing a paan in Lucknow, a drop of kaththa fell on the shirt. The paanwala reminded the customer that "Janaab, this is Lucknow. You should bend forward, as even the paan here demands adab!"

Similarly, when someone gets totally fed up with a career, the juiciest fruits present themselves.

On diplomacy and wit: A young lawyer was aghast to hear a judgement that went against his client, despite excellent chances of success. Upon seeing frustration on his face, the judge reminded him of legal propriety suggesting a possibility of contempt of court otherwise. A senior had to gently submit to the judge that "My Lord, this lawyer is new and should be excused. In just a few days, no judgement in your court will shock him!!"

On education and motivation: One needs to be educated when one does not know how to do it. One needs to be motivated when one does not wish to do it. Knowing this crucial difference is the hallmark of a great teacher.

Great one-liners -

"Do not just learn to sing a song, learn the raag"

"Do not just win the game, win the race"

"The glass is always bigger than its contents"

"There is no absolute truth - Truth is what appears to be true : plausible, reasonable, probable"

"Handling a situation properly is more important than winning the argument"

"You may disagree with others, but do it in a style that looks like an agreement"

We agree sir. Totally!

Pictures of the event may be viewed here - http://picasaweb.google.com/sm.ptuniverse.blog/ChiefJusticeRShriRSGargExpertGuestLecture?feat=directlink

Monday, August 2, 2010

Make a beginning. Then build on it.

Despite a challenging global economic situation and an extremely difficult local jobs market, we steadily kept working at opportunities and happily placed hundreds of our students successfully across corporates and sectors. 

Here I reproduce something straight from the heart of one of our most lovable Protons - Nirbhay. Enjoy reading! And students - there is a whole lot of learnings to be had from this experience.

"Greetings for the day! I am Corporate Proton Nirbhay Mervana. I was placed with Infomedia 18 Ltd. 3 months back. I am missing Proton & Protons everyday and memories which we got from there will be forever in our heart and learning from there are effectively working here in our mind.

I had successfully passed my 3 months at my 1st job at Infomedia 18 ltd. Time was full of learning at every stage of my work & from every person I met, they can be my clients, my colleagues, boss & management. But learning which got from you all (Proton) is quite amazing.

Sir I am experiencing here the same face corporate world which you show us in last two years and for which we were trained. We did not need to take more time to fit here because we experienced it so early during our sessions, projects & team activities at Proton. Here the same thing we are doing like plan your day, make daily report of your day, than update yourself with all the changes, send email proposals to clients, analyze your day what was wrong.

We are having morning assembly everyday were we have to share our last day experiences & learning with everyone so it will beneficial for others and at last manager will come on stage for new updates & plan for day, this everyday recall us our chaupaal.

We have to punch I-card for daily attendance punching deadline is 9:00 and at 9:01 our half day will mark, we are not allowed to attend session after bell rang. When some of our clients came to know that we did our management than they come in to very good discussion at time all inputs come from there are very useful.

Sir these are some examples which I shared with you above but all the other things which we learned at Proton are really valuable like grooming our selves well than dressing and walking we have walk 13-14 km everyday with bag on shoulder with sales kit.

Sir we can proudly say that Proton is shining everywhere like at Infomedia 18 during the training only Protons have started with toped daily quizzes. Other things in each & every discussion point put by Proton’s always appreciable, and they also very impressed with style of presenting our selves. We all 4 Shankit, Amit, Ruchi and me had dominated all the discussions. Our company has recruited students from all over India also from other colleges from Indore but Proton has differentiate themselves and our trainer also only knows we 4 as from one institute.

Now, I am going share something about my work at here. My first month of work not good as I was not aware from area, market & style of work. I was not able to convert sales for so many days but I never loss my patient, I took it as challenge & work with more passion. I thought that I will not be able to perform in the company who super brand in this product than how can I sell something else. I never afraid from sales pressure because if we are not contributing for which they are paying they will pressurize you nothing wrong in that.

But as hard work & efforts always pays in just my 2 month I was the most consistent performer of company. I brought sales continue 21 days. I also rewarded by my Vice President, Assi. V.P. and G.M. Sales. And daily appreciation which I got in morning was also very good.

My V.P. knows me by my name & also called me for meet. My A.V.P. gives my example to new joiners in training sessions, my G.M. & managers gives example to my seniors of mine that when Nirbhay who is new to market, company, area can perform than why you all can’t. They also send new comers with me for field training. I also got chance to take photograph with our Vice President with whom all the people want to take one photo & for me he told that “ Nirbhay ab 1 photo tere sath ho jaye ”

My all colleagues, bosses & managers are too good. They are very helpful and give proper guidance for everything to me. Working with these kinds of people gives very good feeling. I learn a lot from their experience & their leadership inspires a lot to all of us.

Sir, at last I can feel that in sales we have to be self motivated by our self only because our work can only motivate us and we have to enjoy our work so that our work will be fun like I am enjoying it a lot. We just have to feel our product as best than we have to give this feeling to our clients. I am able adjust myself in their culture & having a very good relationship with all. I have a lot more to say but if I will share everything it will never be complete. So in short I really thank ful to Proton family for all the support & learning which I got from there because if can compare Nirbhay on 1st July ’08 and today, I can feel that change & transformation.
Nirbhay Mervana
BDE- Infomedia 18 Ltd."

Needless to say, you need to begin. You just need to begin. It does not matter where, or how, or at what level. Once you start, then there is no looking back at all. You can utilise your entire education to build with what you have started.