Wednesday, August 23, 2017

No More United - Extracting Myself from The UA Ecosystem

Despite previously having frequently held status on United Airlines, over the past couple of years, I've completely quit flying the airline. United was an acceptable airline in the old days when you had status and they'd automatically put you in Economy Plus. However, once they stopped doing that and started putting me in the seats with less space in the back of the plane -- let's just say that I don't consider their standard economy seats to be a minimum viable product.

Unfortunately, I'm still somewhat rooted the United Airlines ecosystem. I have a couple hundred thousand Mileage Plus miles. I still haven't ever used miles to book a flight. What's more, I've been carrying a Chase United Explorer card for several years, but it's become increasingly useless for any of the ancillary benefits -- really, the "no international transaction fees" is the only practical thing it does for me.

Then recently while searching Hipmunk for flights for a family trip, I noticed the results that were showing up from United Airlines included this rollover caveat: "Basic Coach: No Overhead Carry-ons Allowed; Seats Assigned at Check-in; Last to Board; No Elite Qualifying Miles; No Changes or Refunds." I'd read something about United Airlines adding this "Basic Coach" ticket, but this was really the first time that I'd seen mention of it appearing in my flight searches. And when I saw it, it spoke to me like a vision that said, "You will never fly on United again."

In that moment, I realized that I needed to extract myself from the United Airlines ecosystem.
So the first problem is, what do I do with about 200K of United Miles that I have no interest in using to fly on the airline. I always used to spend miles for flight upgrades, but somewhere along the way, that became a pain in the ass, particularly once I quit flying United. So, what do I do? Do I subject friends or family to an experience on an airline that I don't believe meets a minimum threshold? Do I save the miles to use on some international code-share flight? Do I just burn the miles on some overpriced merchandise I don't need from the miles-for-products catalog? The reality is, if there was a simple answer, I would have probably cleared the bank out some time ago.

Next there is the Chase United Explorer card. While I haven't received those passes for the United Lounge for two or three years now (what's up with that?), if I do happen to use my United miles on a United flight, I think that the Chase card may provide some ancillary benefits. In that way, it's probably best not to cancel it until I resolve the mileage bank. And yet, every day that I hold that card instead of another card that could provide me with a more useful return is another wasted day in the United Airlines ecosystem.

And while all of this may seem crazy, it's weighing on my mind enough that last night I had a dream about trying to resolve the whole situation. I was at an airport trying to get help from the United customer service counter and they just kept ignoring me, talking among themselves. They reminded me of Salesforce employees at Dreamforce. I gotta get out of this crazy United ecosystem!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Another Apple Design Faux Pas - Magic Mouse 2

I came across this tidbit about Apple design yesterday in a story with leaked details about the iPhone8. While providing comments about the potential new iPhone design, the article mentioned other recent poor Apple designs and referenced the Magic Mouse 2. Specifically, it noted that when Apple redesigned the Magic Mouse 2 to include a rechargeable battery, they put the charging port on the bottom of the mouse. In other words, when the mouse needs to be recharged, you can't use it while it's charging.

This is the part of the story that really caught my attention. Sure, Magic Mouse 2 is old news, but the fact that this product was actually released by Apple seems telling. This is another example of where form outweighed function, where the needs of actual users came second.

If you've ever had the battery die when you were using a wireless mouse, I'm sure you're familiar with the panic of running around, trying to find a battery to replace it and restart whatever you were in the middle of when the mouse died. Now imagine having to stop what you're doing, put your mouse aside, and wait for the mouse to charge.

Sure, with a quick charge, there might not be much of a wait. But the obvious solution -- following a 30+ year long legacy of mouse designs -- would be to put the connector on the top of the mouse so that you could keep working while charging. That would have been a design that considered functionality. The bottom of the mouse? That's more "let's just sweep the ugly parts underneath the rug" design.

Now admittedly, to date, I've bought one magic mouse (v.1) and returned it shortly after I bought it. It wasn't even for my day-to-day system. In short, this aspect of the Magic Mouse 2 design probably would never have come to my attention had I not seen mention of it in the article. Still, I find it yet another indication that Apple's design group has lost touch with the usage requirements of their customer base. Go fashion, f--- function.