Sunday, 16 December 2012

Apple vs. Google Maps in one Search

Apple Maps or Google Maps? One search gives me the answer:

While Google Maps finds Bali in Indonesia as expected, Apple Maps sends me to ... India!!!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

iPhone 5 is now available in 26 countries: HK is still the cheapest

Apple released the new iPhone 5 in more countries on September 28. The comparator of iPhone prices around the world now includes them.

The US still don't have an unlocked iPhone, hence the visible price is not comparable (it goes with a contract).
Canada is the cheapest then, but that's before Sales Tax that are added while ordering, depending on the shipping address in Canada.
Hong Kong has no Sales Tax or equivalent, therefore the visible price is the one accessible to customer, and the cheapest in the world!

The comparator now includes a currency selector for everyone to be able to choose the currency they are confortable with to do the comparison!

Logistics always amazes me: Fedex holds on delivery for 44 hours to be on time!

Having ordered a product from the US, shipped on Thursday, September 13th, it was delivered to me 5 business days later, on Wednesday, September 19th, in Singapore.
That's exactly what was expected and paid for with Fedex International Economy (US$ 36.88 in this case).

The interesting part is that the package was actually in Singapore 2 days before delivery, Fedex keeping it on hold for 1 day and a half.


I believe that it is because I did not pay the additional US$3.90 of the Fedex International Priority service, which guarantees a 3-day delivery.

For 44 hours, my package remained in the warehouse, not to be delivered earlier than expected.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

What is the iPhone 5 price difference between countries? up to 23%!

Since Friday, September 21th, the new iPhone 5 is available in 8 countries. I was curious to know the price differences from one country to another, so I published a comparator of iPhone 5 prices around the world:

The cheapest iPhone 5 is in the US, but the unlocked version it is not yet available.
Seven other countries have the unlocked version of the iPhone 5 with the following price in the Apple Store:
iPhone 5 prices, converted to SGD for comparison
Canada is the cheapest country to get an unlocked iPhone 5 at C$ 699.
An iPhone 5 in Hong Kong will just cost a few more dollars.
The iPhone 5 in Singapore is 8% more expensive.
Australia and the United Kingdom are following.
France and Germany are the two most expensive countries currently, 23% more expensive than Canada: (that's SGD 200 - EUR 125 more).

However, even if you wish to buy it, there is a 3-4 weeks waiting period currently. Hong Kong does not even allow online orders today (I'm sure some resellers around Wan Chai have some to sell though).

The iPhone 5 is unfortunately not yet available in Malaysia, which is the country with the lowest price usually for Apple product (iPhone 4S, MacBook Air...)

The full comparator is available here.

Impact of the Sales Tax

Going further in the analysis, by adjusting for the Sales Tax (or equivalent tax), Australia is the country where Apple gets the most money for the iPhone 5... 6% more than what it gets in the UK or Canada. It also appears that it is due to their high Sales Tax rate that France and Germany have the highest selling price.

iPhone 5 prices with Sales Tax adjustments

There is also a MacBook Air price comparator showing that Hong Kong, the US and Malaysia are the 3 cheapest countries to buy this computer, 51% cheaper than in the most expensive country: Brazil.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

How to use a Domino's "Sorry we're late" (FRP) voucher?

Sunday is the day I often order pizzas to eat at home (feel free to blame me). Partly because they are good, partly because they deliver fast and partly because there are not some many pizza delivery services, Domino's Pizza is the provider I choose for the order. Additionally, they have an online ordering system, which is convenient. As I have an account with them, they already know my address making it even more convenient.

However the ordering process is not without flaws... To use a coupon for example, is far from a straightforward experience:

I have a "Sorry we're late" coupon, because the last time I ordered with them, they delivered in more than 30 minute. Which is cool, I get a free pizza now. Except that it's not so easy to use.

The process to use a "Sorry, we're late" Domino's Pizza coupon

The website has a "redeem your coupon" page, which invites me to type the coupon code: A simple input field, as well as a (very small) picture to explain how to find the coupon code.

Unfortunately, my coupon does not look like the one on the website, and it takes me several attempts to find what I should type in:
On my coupon there are 2 different codes:

It is the first one, "FRP" (it is case insensitive, so "frp" also works), that should be typed in on this page, then a popup appears to ask for the second code:

On this screen, the coupon code is case sensitive as I discovered while typing my code:

It took me a while to even see the error message as the font is small and appears in the middle of the popup. Then I typed the same code with upper case and it was recognised:

As you can see, despite being recognised, I was still not successful due to an unexpected error: Domino's Pizza thought that I had redeemed my coupon already!
As this point, I called the hotline and ordered through the phone. That's a failure of the online ordering process I guess...

One a side note, the delivery took more than 30 minutes again, so I got one more "Sorry, we're late" coupon... I'm wondering if it's actually a loyalty strategy: Each time they give me such a coupon, I will order one more time, and still pay for one more pizza...

Suggestions for Domino's Pizza:

- Include details about the code to enter in the first screen (example of code to type in, like "FRP" will help)
- Manage lower and upper cases in both screens to be more convenient.
- Increase the visibility of the error messages: red font is widely used to highlight that there is a problem, and some white spaces within the popup will help readability.
- Update the "I do not have the coupon" button... I still don't get what it does: is it to allow usage of a coupon without having it in your hand, or to go back to the previous page?

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Is McDonalds into human trafficking?

Here is what I saw this morning while using the McDo Delivery ordering process on , under the section Happy Meals:

After the selection of the burger, side and drink, comes the time to choose the toy... with the choice being not an actual toy, but either a "boy" or a "girl"... Maybe McDo is actually into human trafficking?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Google Drive available... storage prices double!

During the night from Tuesday to Wednesday (Singapore time), Google finally released Drive, allowing sync between devices and Google Docs (renamed Drive).

In the operation, Google storage prices unfortunately went up (for instance 20GB from US$5/y to 29.88/y (2.49/m, for 25GB... Google changed the sizes to avoid easy comparisons ;-) ).

Google Drive remains the cheapest when compared to Dropbox and iCloud:

Online Storage price comparisons
Among the other online storage services, Singapore-based insync costs also increase, as the service itself is free, but the underlying storage cost is the one paid to Google.

Screenshot of the prices of the different services:
Google storage prices before Google Drive

Google storage prices post-Google Drive
Google storage price for large quantity


Apple iCloud

Sunday, 8 April 2012

6 suggestions to improve the activation process of Standard Chartered business online banking

Each time I go on a bank website, I know I will get frustrated. As tweeted a few days ago, in comparison to an User Experience available on an online banking service, any other service look good.

Recently opening a business bank account with Standard Chartered in Singapore, I am sharing the experience and the main pain point encountered on the process. If someone from Standard Chartered reads it and is interested in improving the process, I will be delighted to discuss it further.

#1. Send me less letters!

I did not keep track of all the mails received during the account opening and activation but it's definitively more than 5.
I understand everything can not be sent in 1 mail (like passwords which are to be sent separately), it is frustrating not to know what will come next, not to know where I am in the process. I would love a simple webpage allowing me to view the activation process, so I know what I should expect.

#2. Don't ask me to send you a letter!

"Kindly acknowledge receipt by signing and returning the duplicate copy of this letter."

One the mail received includes 2 versions of a letter, with a sentence asking me to return it. But it does not tell me why I would do it, what will happen if I don't. (As a hint, 2 weeks after receiving it and not returning it, I see no effect).

Sending a letter is a big hassle (need an enveloppe, stamp, and to find a post office or another place to actually post the letter), please don't ask me to do that!

#3. Make it easy to know where I log in!

Have you been on the website? Try it. Go now on or just look at this screenshot:, March 2012

Yes, there are 4 online services I can log on... How am I expected to know which one to use? Should I have nothing else to do than read this website for hours to find out? How can a bank even have several service to propose? Gmail does not ask me if I want to receive or to send an email before I log in!

If a distinction is really needed, and as is standard practise with many banks, just propose me Personal and Business as the two online banking entry points.

Another lack of clarity on the site: the blue menu in the middle of the page does not give a clear indication of which category (first line) is currently selected. A better tab layout would be welcome.

#4. Explain the token activation better!

Let's have a look at the activation process:
At one point, the process brings me to the page as showed above. First thing I read is about this encrypted string and shared secret... for which I had no idea of what it could be! Seeing the red stars I, for a second, hoped that it would be a help tooltip telling me how I can find them and how they look like. Unfortunately they are just stars to tell me the 2 fields are mandatory (at least it's my best guess as these stars were not to be seen in previous steps and no text explained what they mean).

Once I finally found what to type in the fields, I was left to choosing a button... 'Submit', 'Unlock' or 'Vasco OTP'? I had no clue of what Vasco or OTP means, and the color coding did not help me choose any. (hint 'Submit' was the good one).

#5. Can we avoid physical tokens?

To be fair with Standard Chartered, they are not the only bank to use one. Unfortunately. As I have different bank account, this is what it looks like:

And the one from Standard Chartered:

You can see that the Standard Chartered token is winning the game of the biggest token against HSBC. They also got the good idea not to include the small hole which means I can not tie it with the others.

Google use a mobile app for the same result. Save plastic, save place, more convenient and I believe much cheaper. Banks, please go for a mobile app-based token!

#6. Show me all my transactions!

Ok, I'm sure it's only me who's having difficulty activation my Standard Chartered online banking (oh wait, no I'm not the only one, someone just asked me some help as they are stuck too). The important is that it works, right?

And it does, I can now log in, and see my account balance.

What about my transactions? That will be for another day! It appears that the bank decided transactions prior to the activation of the online banking are not included in the online banking.
I wonder how a balance can exists without transactions leading to it, and what can be the reason not to show these transactions.

As activation of the online banking was the first thing I asked when I opened the account, I am wondering how it can be decided that the online banking is not activated from day0.

#7. Bonus: How do I log in from the iPhone App?

After multiple attempts, I'm still out of luck to access the Straight2Bank iPhone app. It requests my Group ID and User ID, which is similar to the online login form. Then it asks for a password that I am unable to find, and I do not know how to get a new password. Even trying the code given by the token is not successful.
After enquiries, it seems to be because the iPhone App is for personal banking only, not businesses. Why not write it visibly on the App Store and in the App to avoid the doubt and frustration?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Apple decides that a $100bn cash balance is a minimum

Apple's grand plan to use its huge cash balance: Not to touch it!

Currently, Apple has $98bn cash; that's around $105 per share (941.6m diluted shares at Q1).

During its call on March 19th, Apple announced that around $45bn will be spent over the next 3 years (Apple Press Release and call transcript).

However, as the company generates so much cash (like $16bn in the quarter from Sept to Dec alone), the balance will actually continue to grow; probably to around $200bn (considering 50bn cash flow a year... which is actually very conservative) by the end of the program.

In details of the plan, there will be

  • a $2.65 quarterly dividend, from Q4 2012, ie. the quarter from July to September, that's $2.5bn per quarter, and a 1.8% yield on current $600 stock price.
  • a 3-year $10bn shares repurchase program, to start in fiscal year 2013, ie. from October 1, 2012. The main goal of this program is to neutralise dilution from employee. At today's stock price of $600, that's around 16.6m shares, 1.7% of the company's shares.

A reason mentioned for not distributing more is that $64bn of the cash is outside of the US (and significant part of the future generated cash will be outside of the US too), hence significant tax impact should it be brought back for distribution.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Talking about the impact of visualisation and the future of online travel

Hundreds of representatives of airlines and hotel chains were in Singapore last month for the Travel Distribution World conference ... and I was there too!!

That's because I was invited to speak about what we do at You can find the slides below.

The main points were about the misfit between current online travel agencies and leisure travellers and how the travel planning process can be made much better for such travellers. One of the reason of the current offer in online travel planning is due to historical reason. As Ric at GottaGetaway puts it, the travel industry spent the past 2 decades putting the travel inventories online, allowing to search and book flights and travel related stuffs.

Now is time to bring personalisation and fun into the process.

It also includes screenshots from HipMunk which is also doing an awesome job at visualisation flights (on a timeline for time sensitive travellers) and hotels (to avoid getting an hotel kilometers away from where you want to go).

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Facebook and its impact on government

I like Marc Zuckerberg's letter included in the Facebook IPO registration document : after a 1 page description of the Hacker Way, he has a full paragraph on his current and expected impact on governments!
(bolding of text is mine, not Marc's)
We hope to change how people relate to their governments and social institutions. 
We believe building tools to help people share can bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time. 
By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored. Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few. 
Through this process, we believe that leaders will emerge across all countries who are pro-internet and fight for the rights of their people, including the right to share what they want and the right to access all information that people want to share with them. 
Finally, as more of the economy moves towards higher-quality products that are personalized, we also expect to see the emergence of new services that are social by design to address the large worldwide problems we face in job creation, education and health care. We look forward to doing what we can to help this progress.

Hackers make it into a SEC filing: Facebook IPO document

I had never seen so many references to the word "hacker" in a SEC filing: 12 times in the Facebook registration document.

Marc Zuckerberg's letter includes one full page on what he calls the "Hacker Way", on which I bolded my favorite sentences below:
The Hacker Way 

As part of building a strong company, we work hard at making Facebook the best place for great people to have a big impact on the world and learn from other great people. We have cultivated a unique culture and management approach that we call the Hacker Way. 

The word “hacker” has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers. In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done. Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I’ve met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world. 

The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo. 

Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once. To support this, we have built a testing framework that at any given time can try out thousands of versions of Facebook. We have the words “Done is better than perfect” painted on our walls to remind ourselves to always keep shipping. 

Hacking is also an inherently hands-on and active discipline. Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works. There’s a hacker mantra that you’ll hear a lot around Facebook offices: “Code wins arguments.” 

Hacker culture is also extremely open and meritocratic. Hackers believe that the best idea and implementation should always win — not the person who is best at lobbying for an idea or the person who manages the most people. 

To encourage this approach, every few months we have a hackathon, where everyone builds prototypes for new ideas they have. At the end, the whole team gets together and looks at everything that has been built. Many of our most successful products came out of hackathons, including Timeline, chat, video, our mobile development framework and some of our most important infrastructure like the HipHop compiler. 

To make sure all our engineers share this approach, we require all new engineers — even managers whose primary job will not be to write code — to go through a program called Bootcamp where they learn our codebase, our tools and our approach. There are a lot of folks in the industry who manage engineers and don’t want to code themselves, but the type of hands-on people we’re looking for are willing and able to go through Bootcamp.