Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sony Corrects Action Cam Mistakes...sort of

Last year Sony released the HDR-AS15/B Action Cam as a competitor to the GoPro.  Sony's camera came with a waterproof housing which included a tripod mount.  The camera itself had no mount, but did have a mic input on the bottom.  The problem is that the mic input is inaccessible while inside the waterproof housing.  However, the Action Cam has an oval shape, and without the housing, it just rolls over onto its side.

A new post on Engadget has announced new software enhancements, and new housings.  One of the new housings is the Skeleton Frame above.  As you can see, there is a hole cut out of the bottom, allowing access to the mic input.  One can assume that Sony has solved the camera design problem with a housing redesign...sort of.  Still, I find it amusing that Sony let such poor design aesthetics out the door.  Why offer the mic input if you can't access them?  The most important software enhancement is the availability of 1080p recording at 60fps.

A new Sony Action cam was around $270 and is now $240.  However, when you add $30 for the new Skeleton Frame, you are back up to $270.  Sony's Action Camera is somewhat more affordable, offers an external mic, and has some image stabilization capabilities.

I think Sony's Action Cam is a pretty good value, but a horrible design.  The new Skeleton Frame makes the camera more useful.  I am strongly considering picking one of them up in the near future.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The 5 Door Fiesta ST...Who will drive it first?

The Ford Fiesta ST made a media debut in Europe in March of 2013.  The reviews of the vehicle from the US and international media were extremely positive.  The vehicle reviewed by the media was a 3 door European version of the Fiesta ST.

In the United States we will receive a 5 door Fiesta ST.  For the 2013 Ford Fiesta Movement, a number of agents will have the opportunity to drive the 2014 Fiesta ST for 8 months.  It is entirely possible that the Ford Fiesta Movement agents will truly be the first people in the world outside of Ford to drive the 5 door US Fiesta ST.  So, it is entirely possible that if you want first impressions of the US Fiesta ST, you will have to go to the Fiesta agents rather than the automotive media.  It is also possible that Fiesta Agents may have the vehicle MONTHS before the automotive press.

The selection of 100 Ford Fiesta agents will be taking place in early May.  If you are nuts about the Fiesta ST, I suggest going to www.Fiestamovement.com, and following the ST agents.  I expect them to provide a more enthusiast perspective of the vehicle.

Update!: Bryan @BRGT350 and Brandon @racetech0722 Redeker have been selected as Ford Fiesta Movement agents.  They will most likely receive the Fiesta ST, once the Movement officially begins.  Follow them on Twitter to get the first Fiesta ST impressions and reviews.  Congratulations to them!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Buick Verano and Acura ILX Should Not Exist

I have come across a number of car reviews and articles about the Buick Verano and Acura ILX.  My simple statement is that both vehicles should not exist.  These two vehicles pollute and dilute the goals of their respective brands.  The Verano and ILX are supposed to be entry level luxury vehicles.  However, under their skins are a Chevy Cruze and a Honda Civic.  Both companies didn't do a very good job of disguising the origins.

What is an entry level luxury vehicle?  The BMW 1, the Audi A3, the Lexus ES?  The Buick Verano and Acura ILX are pretenders.  In fact, in the automotive world, no other automaker has more identity issues than Acura.  Acura is supposed to be a premium brand, but they really do not offer a vehicle that competes with the rear wheel drive competitors.  It's almost a Japanese Lincoln.  Determining brand identity can be difficult, but adding substandard products to a premium brand is a big move in the wrong direction.  Think about the Jaguar X-Type.  The X-Type was an entry level Jaguar based on the Ford Mondeo.  The X-Type was a flop, and I think customers could tell it was a phony; just like the Verano and ILX.

On the other hand, I think that Mercedes-Benz is going to be offering an ideal entry level premium sedan, the CLA.  The new CLA has a substantial amount of power, and unlike previous US market Mercedes-Benz models, is front wheel drive.  Audi has offered the A3 wagon for a number of years, which was essentially a fancy VW Golf.  This new Mercedes will be one to watch, and somewhat of an experiment for the US division.  I would consider the BMW 1 Series a failure due to it's unflattering looks, and extremely high price.  At least with the CLA you have a distinct vehicle from the MB C-Class, and people will be able to drive them and determine what experience they would like for themselves.

So, Buick and Acura, I think these vehicles will go down in history as X-Types.  Vehicles that did no favors for the brand, brought in no young customers, and sat on dealer lots.  If you had $30K to spend, would you spend it on a FWD Acura, Buick, or Mercedes CLA?  The looks, badge, and engine of the CLA look like a winner to me.

The Big News about the 2013 Fiesta Movement: The Fiesta ST

The video above is my Fiesta Movement Application video.  I was an agent in the Fiesta Movement in 2009.  Ford has brought back the social media project for the updated 2014 Ford Fiesta.  The three biggest changes in the Fiesta for 2013 is the availability of the 3 cylinder Ecoboost engine, the 197 HP turbocharged ST, and the MyFordTouch module.

The 3 cylinder Ecoboost will not be available for the Fiesta Movement, say my sources, but there should be a small number of Fiesta ST cars available.  If you watch my video above and if this were some sort of gambling game, you could say I put everything on ST.

The Fiesta ST should be an amazing vehicle, and has the potential to go down in automotive history as legendary.  It is the car that every auto enthusiast has asked for; a truly powerful subcompact hot hatch.  The ST has nearly as much horsepower and more torque than the current generation VW Golf GTI, which is a class larger.  The Fiesta outguns the Juke, the Fiat 500 Abarth, Mini Cooper S, and Honda Civic Si.  The car's only competition is the Focus ST, which is a few thousand dollars more.

Still, what is the Fiesta Movement really about?  The Fiesta Movement sounds fun, but marketing is about sales.  It's about moving that metal.  It is up to these 100 agents to reach a diverse audience, and lend their personality to the Fiesta brand.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Ford Fiestamovement is Back!

The Ford Fiestamovement is back.  What does that mean?

In 2009 Ford Motor Company developed a social media marketing experiment to launch their upcoming small car, the Ford Fiesta.  Ford recruited 100 Fiesta "agents" around the country to drive the car, go on missions, and provide social media content.  Agents would drive European versions of the Fiesta, because US version was a year away from production.  According to Ford, the Fiestamovement was a success, and was more cost effective than traditional marketing avenues.  Thousands of people applied, and I was one of the lucky 100 to be selected.  Throughout the summer and fall of 2009,  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr were always alive with agents posting thousands of images and videos about the Ford Fiesta.

As for myself, I was excited about the car before the Fiestamovement concept.  Agents were required to post one video a month for 6 months.  I produced multiple videos a month, because I had so much enthusiasm for the vehicle.

An email went out today to Fiestamovement alumni suggesting we apply for the new edition of the movement.  Ford will apparently be selecting a some "celebrities", Fiestamovement alumni, and a brand new crop of agents.  There are indications that this edition of the Fiestamovement will have a focus on crowd-sourcing content from the agents to be used in marketing.  This time Fiesta Agents will have the vehicle for 8 months rather than 6.  There may also be the possibility that agents will have the option of driving new 1.0 liter 3 cylinder Fiesta, and having cars equipped with MyFordTouch; which is new on the Fiesta for 2014.

What gets me excited is the vehicle above.  The 2014 Turbocharged Fiesta ST may actually be one of the available Fiestamovement Agent vehicles.  The Fiesta ST is up there on the list of possibilities of "my next new car".  The Fiesta ST is lightweight, and has nearly 200 horsepower.  In my opinion, the looks and size of the vehicle are better than it's Focus ST brother.  The new Fiesta ST has available Recaro seats, and MyFordTouch system.  In addition, the manual transmission has 6 gears, something you can't get on a Subaru WRX.

If you are interested in being a part of the Fiestamovement, go to www.fiestamovement.com.  You will need to fill out an application and submit a video entry.  Good luck.

Monday, February 11, 2013

U2's Next Album: Songs Matter

The image above is the album cover of the band U2's last album called No Line on the Horizon.  Do you recognize this album cover?  Is a poster of it on your wall? No, it isn't.

The reason folks don't know about this album is because there were no songs from it that were popular.  There are no songs that resonate with people.

U2 is one of my favorite bands, and it was a shame to see them come from two hit albums, All that you Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb to the weaker No Line on the Horizon.  The simple truth is that songs matter.

The popular band Radiohead made an unpopular album called Kid A after the successful album OK Computer.  Why was Kid A unpopular?  There were few good pop songs.  Songs matter.  It was almost as if Radiohead had collectively acknowledged they were masters at creating great pop songs, and had decided to pursue a decidedly uncommercial route.

There is something magical about a really good song.  There is something complicated about creating a really good song.  If there is one thing U2 needs for their next album in 2013, it is really good songs.

For U2 to remain relevant, they must generate an amazing album.  No Line on the Horizon just feels weak, like an athlete not doing their best.

To emphasize the problem, Bono and The Edge spent a lot of time writing songs for Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.  Do you own any of those songs?  Can you remember any of them?  Can you hum the tune?  I listened to all of the Spiderman song samples on iTunes, and couldn't find a decent tune.  Musicals are supposed to be catchy.  Great pop/rock songs are supposed to be catchy.  Great songs are supposed to remind you of certain times in your life.  Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark reminds me of all the actors that got injured in the musical.  That's all.

What can U2 do for their next album?  What have they done in the past?  U2 can push the sonic envelope.  They can push and pull rock music in directions it has not been to before.  U2 can reinvent themselves.  They have done it before.  The Edge can reinvent the way the guitar is supposed to sound.

When you look at modern rock ove the past 30 years, you can see U2's influence.  Therefore, it is not a lofty request to ask them to reinvent or rejuvenate themselves again.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Nexus 4...Now it's everywhere!

Two weeks ago I wrote a little piece about how hard it was to find the Google Nexus 4 phone, and that folks were charging a ton for them on Ebay.  A couple days after my piece, the Nexus 4 appeared on the Google Play store, and hasn't disappeared.  It looks like LG and Google were able to solve their supply problem.  Some tech sites have estimated that LG produced over 500,000 of the devices in January.

Is the device still desirable 3 months after it's debut?  The price is still low, it's the only way to get a pure Android experience on a new smart phone, and the device is unlocked.  I'd say it's still a great buy.

As a quick comparison, I'd like to remind you that an unlocked 16 GB iPhone 5 from Walmart is $649.

An unlocked 16 GB Nexus 4 is $349.  A $300 difference.  You could almost buy two Nexus 4's for the price of one iPhone 5.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

0-2: What's with Speck Cases?

In the summer of 2010, Apple Computer went through what was called "Antennagate".  When the iPhone 4 was released, people found that when they held onto their phones to speak, the cell reception of the phone decreased.  An iPhone user wrote Steve Jobs about the issue, and he famously replied, "You're holding it wrong."

In a great public relations move, Apple offered a free case to anyone who had purchased an iPhone 4 within a certain period of time.  I qualified to receive a free case, and ordered one from Speck.

When the case arrived, I was very impressed with the packaging.  I kept it for a while to show people, because the copy was quite humorous in places.  It showed the company had some spirit.  The case however was another story.  The case was quite stiff, and hard to take on and off.  On the top of the iPhone there is a button to shut off the screen.  Pressing this button through the Speck case was really tough to do.  I'm not being a wuss, I'm just saying that you have to press so hard the button leaves an impression on your thumb for a minute.  I ended up buying an Owle Bubo and using the case that came with it as my iPhone case.  That case is great, and has lasted me for over 2 years.

In the Spring of 2012, I purchased an iPad 3, and ordered a Speck case to protect the back of the iPad.  I have had the case for less than a year, and it is cracked to hell.  The case is a hard plastic with a nice almost rubberized grippy texture on the outside.  I really don't think I put very much wear and tear on the product.  I rarely take the iPad outside my house.  You can see a number of cracks around the silver oval magnet in the photo above.

I am seriously considering picking up the $50 Apple iPad case/cover combo.

I may be totally off-base with this idea, but I think that the flaws in both products are a result of being rushed to market.  Let me explain...

When Apple releases a device, there is a mad rush among the major case manufacturers to have a product available at or near the release date of the Apple device.  It is so important to be first, that I think there is a lack of time to thoroughly test the designs.  I don't blame the case makers.  I think they rarely know exactly what the specifications are until the last minute.  Since I acquired my Speck cases soon after the release of the Apple product, that may be the issue.

I wrote this piece because I discovered another crack on my iPad case that may eventually have a chunk of it just falling off.  I don't know what improvements have been made to these cases.  If you look at the Speck website, their products are not inexpensive.  I think I expected a better product from them for these devices.  They may have made modifications to make their ease of use better.  However, I think the consumer will suffer for years to come, as people purchase devices and want to protect them on day 1.  When manufacturers want to keep their products secret, they are less likely to provide them to case designers before the official launch.

Perhaps case manufacturers have learned from their mistakes over the past few years, and will provide customers with better launch day solutions.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Advertising Creativity: So God Made a Farmer

An emotional Dodge Ram ad ran during the 2013 Super Bowl with the voice of Paul Harvey over dramatic stills of farmers and farm life.  Since Paul Harvey passed away in 2009, this reading seems to be from much earlier in his carrer.  The ad was very simple, and I don't think it had any video in it, just a series of stills.  It had a very "Americana" feeling to it, like a Hal Riney ad.

The ad seems to have received a lot of positive attention, and most likely struck a chord with folks with Middle America values.

After the Super Bowl, I went to the Internet to research this ad.  To my surprise, a video for Farms.com appeared from June 2011, and was almost identical to the Dodge Ram ad.  In fact, the Farms.com video had an annotation asking your to check out the Dodge Ram video.

One's gut reaction is that Dodge "stole" the idea from Farms.com, and just added a ton of polish to it.  However, the annotation suggesting the viewer check out the Dodge Ram version leads one tho think there may have been some cooperation between the two organizations.  We will see if this connection is discussed in the advertising press in the near future, because I find it curious.

Oh, and there is a similar video from The Utah Department of Agriculture dated January 2011.

At the worst, I can imagine being the producer of the low budget Farms.com video, and seeing a big corporation rip-off my idea for a truck commercial.

No matter what the story is, it's a bit disappointing to find that the Dodge Ram spot lacked originality.  The same thoughts occurred to me last year when Volkswagon evoked Star Wars in a number of commercials.  Would the Volkswagon ad been as good if it were not piggybacking the huge cultural appeal of Star Wars?  Just askin'.  The "original" Farmer video is below.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Mazda 2: So Much Potential

The Mazda 2 was released in 2010.  It was built on the same platform as the new Ford Fiesta, but had less power, fewer gears in the transmission, a lower rent interior, fewer tech goodies, and a bland body.

The car was giving good marks for it's light weight, and the way it drove.  That was about it.

Now Mazda has a few more compelling products like the CX-5 and the new Mazda 6.  Both of these new vehicles are styled nicely, and have some great new engine technology.  I think Mazda has the opportunity to leap-frog the Fiesta in it's next redesign.  Give it the same great Mazda 6 look, and a powerful Skyactive engine.

The potential for a great small car is right there, and Mazda needs to quickly capitalize on it.  I would expect things to at Mazda to be a bit chaotic after the divorce from Ford, but enough time has passed to make the Mazda 2 the world class compact it was meant to be.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Where are all the Nexus 4's? On Ebay.

The coveted Google Nexus 4.  The device has been sold out on Google's Play Store since November.  How can you get one now?  Rather than pay $349 from Google, just pay $500 or more from a reseller. Currently Ebay has over 65 Nexus 4 devices on sale around the $500 price point.

What were the amazing selling point of the Nexus 4 again?

  • Low price
  • No 2 year contract
  • Pure Android experience
  • Great build quality
  • Freedom to take the device to the carriers you want
  • Did I mention low price?
There are so many people that are off of their 2 year cell phone contracts, that the affordable unlocked Nexus 4 was irresistible.  Reviews for the device were mainly positive.  However there were a number of opportunistic individuals who had no intention of using the Nexus 4, rather they would sell them on Ebay.  The Nexus hopeful are still looking to Google and LG to have their production match demand.  Years ago when the Nintendo Wii was released, they were nearly impossible to find for almost a year.  The smart phone technology market moves much faster than the video game console market.  If Google and LG are not fast enough, their customers may quickly move on to other Android alternatives.