Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Hidden Reason Behind Google's Pixel Phones

About 3 years ago, I wrote a post about Apple's iPhone 5C and its potentially hidden business proposition for the company. At the time the debut of the iPhone 5C was perplexing given that it was essentially an all-around inferior product to Apple's newest flagship, the iPhone 5S, and even lesser compared to the previous iPhone 5. Pundits and critics everywhere reasoned that Apple may have overplayed its hand in being so explicit in its targeting of the emerging markets - in particular China, as supposedly the "c" represented that country.

Fast forward 3 years and it looks like these critics were right: Apple has never again released a product like the iPhone 5c. It looks like a failure that the company is eager to move on from and forget. But as I conjectured back in 2013, the iPhone 5c likely had a hidden value proposition of making its superior cousin more attractive in the eyes of the consumer. In other words, Apple may not have cared about how many units of the iPhone 5c it sold or even if the product made a profit at all. Because its main purpose was create a perception that the iPhone 5S was of better value and convince potential customers to buy it instead. In behavioral economic theory, this is known as "relativity" - the human tendency to compare products against one another. Unlike Android or even Windows Phone, there are no other companies other than Apple making iPhones; therefore Apple has to take it upon themselves to create this sense of relativity, that the iPhone 5S is a truly amazing device.

So how does this all relate to the title of this blog post? Without rehashing what all the tech blogs and news outlets have reported, Google earlier today announced 2 new phones under the names of the Pixel and Pixel XL. This marks Google's first official foray into the lucrative smartphone business - since they never marketed a phone under the name "Google" while owning Motorola. On paper, both smartphones are very capable devices with some unique distinctive advantages compared to the competition. They have fast processors, good screens, and brilliant software. But akin to the reception of the iPhone 5c, it seems like everyone is criticizing Google for its pricing structure of starting at $649 for the lowest model. Essentially, the criticism is that Google is taking a page out of Apple's iPhone playbook by creating a direct competitor. And that it'll inevitably fail because no one can play Apple's game besides Apple itself.

But once again, my hypothesis is that Google's true intention isn't to sell the Pixel phones for profit or even break even point. I don't think they even care for how many units it sells ultimately. The real business reason is, rather, to reinvigorate the Android market and challenge the other manufacturers to stay on top of the game. The comparative example is arguably Microsoft's Surface business. Microsoft essentially created a new market by themselves in the 2-in-1 segment of tablets, to the extent that it's now a staple in every PC manufacturer's marketing brochure and even copied by Apple into their iPad Pro product. Likewise the Google Pixel phones are meant to motivate and inspire the Android manufacturers, especially towards the upper end of the market in pricing and features. We'll see if this is a true or false hypothesis.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Phases of Life - My Phase 3

Oh man I really haven't posted since February of this year?? Now I'm super duper bummed out.....not. It's not that I don't value you few readers out there, but it seems like this year has been flying by at breakneck speed. Without further adieu though, I'll grace you with my newest entry below.

I've been traveling a lot this year. And when I mean "a lot", I do really mean it's been a lot lot of traveling. Think of somewhere internationally at least once every 2 months. Strictly for fun and no work. So during my last trip to the Southern Hemisphere, I had a new thought about the modern life and how it can be divided into distinct phases. Thus the title of this blog post.

The so-called "Phases of Life" are inherently subjective and unique to each individual. Yet at the same time, it's a useful tool to categorize individuals since there's no phenotype-defining or mathematically-formulaic features like hair color, race, and age. For example, I could be in the same phase of life as someone much older, of a completely different ethnicity, background or even gender. It's probably easier to understand if I first define what these phases could look like.

Phase 1 - Post-College, First Job, Master's degree
Rather than start all the way from childhood, I'll define my Phase 1 as my post-college self. Coincidentally it was that person who started this blog. This version of me was quite unsure of himself, but excited at being finally independent and having moved to a new city. I remember these years as thrilling yet uncertain - thrilling because of all the potential to be and do, but uncertain due to inexperience and fear of failure.

Phase 2 - Career Progression, Homeownership, Wanderlust
In my mind, there was a clear delineation between the first and second phases due to my job change. But it was much more than a job change. Over a span of 3 months, not only did I change jobs and make more money, but I also became a homeowner. I thought about back then how that would change my mindset....and it did happen. This was followed by a totally unplanned period of wanderlust, of prolific traveling across the world. It was addicting, enthralling, but also introduced a sense of nomadic living and unable to live a "normal/typical" city life. Therefore my goal is to make this the last year of this.

Phase 3 - Marriage, Houseownership, Dogownership, Entrepreneurial Success
This is the phase on the horizon and what a massive phase it is. I'm not sure how long it'll span (3-4 years) but certainly a lot of things packed in here. In contrast to the previous phases of singlehood, this one is punctuated by becoming married in addition to buying an actual house. I've always wanted to have a dog so why not lump it into this phase too? And last but not least, this is likely the last phase I'll have to really strive to be an entrepreneur so it's time to make it or break it.

Phase 4 - Fatherhood, Financial Independence, ???
The post-future phase if you will, since it's the one after the next one. I can only imagine what it'll look like, though assuming it'll be punctuated by another major life event: becoming a father. That'll certainly profoundly change my life. Hopefully I'll be financially independent by the time that happens?

So as you can see above, these are my interpretations of my own life and where I am currently - also where I'm headed. What about yours?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Prime Years

For a few years now, I've been contemplative of the term "prime years" that generally refer to the "best years" of one's life. My encounters with this term has oftentimes been in the arena of professional sports, such as sports announcers or commentators talking about an athlete's prime. Prime, in the case of professional sports, refers to the the physical prime. 

But to me "prime years" is a reference that encompasses the psychological aspect as much as the physical - in short, it represents the point at which the sense of possibility is highest, the maximum potential. You can become whatever you wish to become. This isn't to say that life thereafter will all be downhill, only that one aspect or another will be diminished. If this seems a grandiose thought, then it could be be reduced to helping to view the world and one's life in a fresh perspective.

More recently, I came across this term "prime years" in the show Master of None on Netflix. The occasion was the climax of the show's first season, where the girl angrily stormed out of the boy's apartment after having lived together for 1-2 years. She accused him of wasting her prime years which, at first sounds weird, but upon reflection is very much true. The female character was in her very late twenties and probably crossed the 30-year age mark during the time she was with him. 

Not to ignite a debate about gender inequality, I do think we can all agree that for better or for worse, men have a slightly longer horizon than women when it comes to their "prime years". For example, a woman's optimal childbearing age is believed to be from her early to late twenties while a man's may extend into the early thirties. Our social norms reflect this as it is much more common to see a older man with a younger woman than the reverse. 

So how do I relate to all this? This year I'll be turning 28 and technically can no longer refer to myself as in my mid-twenties but rather in the "late twenties". It's not a huge difference on the surface, but it does mean that I'll be edging closer and closer to 30. And the number 30 conjures up this excellent TED talk I watched a while back: Meg Jay on why 30 is not the new 20. In short, I agree as much with Meg the speaker now as I did back then...if not more so. I'm a huge proponent that every age bring about something unique and the twenties is the defining decade where many decisions and habits are made and built that will reverberate across the rest of one's life. Borrowing a few of Meg's examples, most of life's major decisions such as choosing a career, a spouse, and a home are made in the decade of the twenties. The average human life expectancy may still be rising, but that we make our major life decisions in between the 20th and 30th years of our lives does not.

And boy do I have major plans for this year. Dating woes and wife-hunting uncertainties aside, I intend to start at least one business with a deeper sense of conviction that my first attempt back in 2012. I see it as an opportunity to potentially retire at the age of 40 if the business becomes successful and I'm able to grow it properly. The other side of this coin will be what to do with regards to my current employment - I'll likely be leaving to the private sector and hopefully working with a major tech company since, well, I am admittedly a huge nerd and sucker for new gadgetry. Along with both these things will come the decision on whether I'd like to move elsewhere or stay here in the DC area. I'm forever inspired by a good friend's past decision to challenger herself by moving to DC temporarily, as otherwise life back in California would been too "comfortable" and "easy".

I'd also like to build some good habits such as getting into optimal shape and having good sleep patterns. Funny-mixed-with-alarm, I have been feeling more tired as of late - at least not recovering as quickly from exhaustion or physical strain as in the past. This also aligns with a more pronounced commitment to giving back to society, not just becoming a consumer of its infinite offerings.