Impressions of Verizon’s FIOS Internet and TV

I’ve had Verizon FIOS providing me with internet and TV for about a month now. The good: The UI is great. The bad: The internet tends to feel slow. The ugly: The set top box for HD content has some weird issues.

The Good: The bundles are stronger than comcast, so you get more channels for less money. The set top box UI is great but the menus sometimes require you to hit “left” and sometimes “OK”. Hitting “options” doesn’t always bring up what you’re expecting, but hitting OK on a program lets you select options. This is all covered in the manual, and the video help, so while it can be goofy it’s at least well documented goofy. The signal quality is fantastic. Even my TV upstairs (SD set) looks good. The menus are snappy and responsive, which is more than I can say comcast ever gave me. The 802b/g/n router is OK, but more on this in a bit. The point here is that they give you a free router, which is a darn sight better than comcast which wants to lease you their router and refuses to support anything else. The widgets channel is just damned cool and you can post what you’re watching to facebook, play sodoku, get news, traffic, weather, anything really. Watching youtube videos is pretty easy. The remote control app for android expands this further and lets you share pictures and other phone media right on your TV. If I had the DVR option, I could also control it through the website or the phone. (With on-Demand, I don’t feel like I need the DVR).

The Bad: Their router has really, really high latency for a connection. I’m not sure why. I think it’s related to DNS but I’ve been wrong before. Also the bandwidth throttling is done at the router which makes for occasionally interesting problems when there’s bandwidth contention. (Tip – need more speed? Go into the ON DEMAND menu of your set top box and leave it there). Finally the router is just sinful with how bad the setup is. They want you to use their disk on each computer to set it up, but the reality is if you want more than WPA encryption over your wifi you need to set it up manually. In addition to an inconsistent UI, it displays the WPA2 password once you set that up on the options screen. This isn’t as bad as those unusable walmart cisco waste of money appliances, but it’s pretty bad.

The Ugly: Their website is just about unusable. There’s a friggin commercial video in the left hand pane when you’re trying to log in. Even when you log in, you’re just logged into the presentation side and the content doesn’t really change. Also single sign on is weirdly absent and their site requires you to log in again to see billing. Their routers implementation of WPA2 is weird, and devices which are too strict (my wifes laptop) or wonky themselves (the wii) won’t sign in the first time. The set top box (not the DVR) for HD has some weird issue where sending an HDMI reset request results in losing the audio. Physically unplugging it from the TV or cycling the power fixes it. This is a known issue with verizon and they’re “working on it”. The workaround is to use RCA cables for audio but that’s a whole separate mess because your TV doesn’t know which HDMI is supposed to get the line-in.

Now for all I’ve complained, it actually doesn’t suck. I really like the service. I like the signal quality. The internet leaves a bit to be desired with the connection latency but it’s nothing you’re going to notice for 90% of your surfing. Also once you actually make the connection it’s plenty fast. The only real pain is the HDMI audio problem and they’re fixing it, but if you’ve spent any money on speakers anyway (and you probably have given the terrible audio quality of flat screens today) you’ll have line out/in anyway. Even with these small complaints, it’s still a step up from comcast. And heck, you can even bundle DirectTV in there if you don’t want Verizon’s lineup.

Steve Jobs on Android

truly then has the android come into it’s own when Apple takes a note. Much in the same way Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with free press, Jobs really did the wrong thing by bringing attention to it.

Two points – The UI. I’m not worried about the UI. Microsoft phones have had a different UI for each release and it hasn’t stopped them. Blackberry too, for the most part, has had a new UI release for each phone, although they at least try to keep a standard look and feel for where things are even if the icons are different. Why then is the UI important? Its what people expect to see for making a phone stand out. You go into a cellphone store and they have running demo phones just so that you can mess with the UI. More on the point, the Google App Store doesn’t hurt anyone over the UI experience because the user will buy something they’re comfortable with UI wise while getting access to the app store. Apps which won’t run on your device (IE: 2.2 apps) don’t get presented. But this is an argument against Apple – who’s UI is absolutely the same for each device. It’s all their eggs in one basket – either you really like the UI and you’ll purchase a phone with that look and feel, or you hate the UI and you’ll shop elsewhere. My take on this argument is that it was a straw man from the beginning. Apple doesn’t let other companies do integration, so then when Jobs says “The user has to do the integration on android” – he’s being dishonest. The user can shop around for an android which fits their UI expectations – but if the user buys an apple phone and wants to change the UI, s/he really does have to do the UI integration. Incidentally the app “homeswitcher” in the market will let you do all that pesky UI integration with one click. This seems to be a popular talking point, enough that I felt a need to discuss it earlier.

The store(s) – I think the rant here was because Apple is afraid that developers will go for greener pastures, and while it was only Apple and Google competing, Apple only needed to sweeten the deal to keep developers in the apple store. There’s nothing to keep the existing developers on one platform or another. The Angry Birds guy is a good example of this – he’s well entrenched in the apple store and he’s probably made all the sales he’s ever going to make from that application. He’s got every reason to move despite less favorable terms elsewhere because he’s already hit market saturation unless there’s new users on the device. However with the apple ipad failing to offer up any new experience aside of being a “larger iphone” (and not that large at that), it’ll simply fail to entice people to purchase software again. There’s really no new users (unless people are somehow swayed by Jobs’s speech). What Apple is worried about is that new developers will see the competition from the other stores and the terms which are basically bidding wars and maybe they’ll get the next Killer App out on the android before it comes to the IOS platform. Not every indy developer is going to get titles like gameloft, who arguably don’t need the app store because they’re getting promotional tie-ins. However the new developers are going to look at the google store, the apple store, the samsung store, the verizon store and the at&t store and they’ll probably write off apple immediately. Why? Because they can code for one platform (android 2.1, android 2.2, etc) and pick which store is giving them the best terms at the moment. Is the verizon store likely to be open to t-mobile customers? Maybe. The Samsung store absolutely is open across carriers. If Verizon is serious about running a music/video/games store, they’ll make the verizon store app available in the marketplace.

Apple, at this point, is now going through the gentrification process. If I were Jobs, I would be looking for a new look and feel for IOS to inject some fresh life into the platform.