Philosophical approaches in ethical decisions

The first course I took in my MBA was Business Ethics. One of the biggest lessons that I took from the course is that there are essentially three philosophies in ethical decisions

  1. Focus on Consequences (Consequentialist Theories): With this approach, decision makers focus more on the possible consequences. In other words, the ends matter more than the means
  2. Focus on Principles, Duties (Deontological Theories): with this approach, principles and abstract values matter the most in decision making. The question of “what is the right thing to do here?” is a major consideration
  3. Focus on Integrity (Virtue ethics): this approach focuses on the person trying to be a good person more than the act

Recently, there have been an increasing number of disputes between China and American businesses. American companies have to cave to pressure from the Chinese government when it comes to sensitive issues related to their sovereignty and politics. For instance, Apple hides the Taiwanese flag when users are in Hong Kong or Macau, and pulls the app that supports the protest in Hong Kong from App Store, even though it originally approved the app.

China is a huge market for Apple and houses the majority of its supply chain. In the beginning, they tried to do the right thing. Eventually, Tim Cook and the management team prioritized the consequences of his decision, thinking about the impact on the company’s financials, shareholders and to some extent his own bonus, I think.

I don’t think it’s clear cut to say an approach is right or wrong. It varies from one person to another, from one system of values to another. Personally, I would prefer seeing Apple keep the app on the App Store, but I understand the decision as well as I understand the decisions taken by other companies under China’s pressure.

Disclaimer: I own Apple’s stocks in my portfolio

Apple Card raised the bar for easy and smooth credit card application & activation

I got my Apple Card this weekend. While I don’t have intention to use the physical card itself due to its low cash back (1% compared to the standard 2%), I am happy with the how easy the application and activation of the card is.

To apply for the card, you only need to have an eligible phone (iPhone 6 and later I believe), open the wallet application, fill in some basic information, take a photo of a valid ID such as State ID or Driver License and be done with it. The application is processed within seconds. When I applied for other credit cards, the process was a bit more tedious. Online forms and sending physical proof of identity are usually required. With Apple Card, everything is done via the Wallet app, right on the phone.

To activate an Apple Card is even easier. The screenshot below shows all you have to do to activate it

Connect your phone to Wifi, hold it close to the package Apple sends and that’s it. Your card will be activated.

With Apple’s appeal, marketing prowess and a sleek design, I think there will be a lot of activations. Yet, I doubt the physical card will be used much. The benefits are inferior to what the market offers. I won’t be surprised if Apple and Goldman Sachs work together to give users a reason to use the physical card more often. Nonetheless, I am pretty pleased with how I came to receive the card.

Disclaimer: I own Apple stocks in my portfolio

Quick review of iPhone 11

After years of delaying a phone upgrade, I finally gave in when my old iPhone 5S’s battery dropped from 50% to less than 5% after one phone call. I bought a new iPhone 11 last Friday at an Apple Store and wanted to share a few thoughts after using it for almost a week since I doubt that I will have major other use cases later on. It’s worth noting that while I was standing in line to get the new phone (and it’s a long line), I was pretty much one a few people who stood there to get the 11. Most customers were there to get the Midnight Green color which is only available on 11 Pro and Pro Max. I won’t be surprised to see that the color is the best selling iPhone this year. Apparently, Walt Mossberg, a famed tech journalist, had pretty much the same observation

Camera

The camera on iPhone 11 is fantastic. It can take photos with dim lights and photos have remarkable quality. I am not a photographer and I suck at making adjustments for photos, but these are some that I have taken so far

The setting has way less lighting than it looks and I didn’t adjust anything
Some food in Chicago close up

FaceID

FaceID works when my face isn’t directly in front of the camera, when I lie on my bed at night with only the reading lamp on and when I have sunglasses on. You can choose to set up FaceID so that it will work even when your eyes are closed, even though for security reasons it is not recommended. The feature facilitates log-ins and payment seamlessly, something that a person who upgraded from iPhone 5S very appreciates

No notification while driving

The phone’s default setup prevents notifications from app while you are driving. If you are on a train or bus, you can manually turn it off easily. If you just go about your day and drive without giving it much thought, don’t be surprised that you won’t receive alerts from your friends.

Blocking unknown callers

There is a feature that blocks calls from numbers that are not in your phone book. This option; however, may be annoying if, for instance, you are waiting for a call from Google to verify a log-in like I sometimes do, due to the two-step authentication security feature.

Battery

I am not a heavy phone user in a sense that I don’t listen to music much on the new phone yet and I don’t play games. So even though my battery lasts more than a day with all chat messages, Twitter, Facebook and maps, it may not be a practical true yardstick of the battery life. Nonetheless, if your use cases are similar to mine, the phone’s new battery is pretty awesome.

Because iPhone is one of the most covered products and Apple one of the most scrutinized companies, I am sure there are others that have reviews in depth. For the simple use cases and features that fit my life, the phone has been great. So far.

Disclaimer: I own Apple stocks in my personal portfolio.

Apple’s multi-sided game

There were quite some surprises unveiled at Apple Event today:

  • Apple Arcade: $4.99/month for a whole family
  • Apple TV+: $4.99/month for a whole family and free if you buy a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or Mac
  • Price cuts for devices such as iPhone and Apple Watch Series 3

For a company notorious for ripping off consumers, a notoriety that they earn to a large extent, undercutting competitors and lowering prices for their high-end products are unusual. However, it may make sense in the game that Apple is playing.

Formerly relying on hardware, especially iPhones, for their revenue, Apple has been transitioning to be more of a service company. They have been pushing hard on the service part, including but not limited to Apple Pay, iCloud, Apple Card, Apple News+, Apple Arcade, Apple Care. However, to sell these services, they first need to find a way to put hardware into humans’ hands.

In return, hardware would be just boring pieces of metal without great user experience that comes from the operating system and ecosystem, including apps and services. There is no shortage of alternatives to expensive products that Apple offers. To really convince a consumer to dole out a significant amount, they need to present compelling reasons. Hence, the gradual updates to operating systems and a slew of services.

But Apple can’t do everything alone. They need partners. They need content partners such as publishers, game companies and producers as well as strategic partners like Goldman Sachs. These partners, I guess, are interested in the reach that Apple has through its installed base. By working with Apple, they hope to leverage the media coverage that Apple enjoys and get to many customers as quickly as possible.

By lowering entry prices for Arcade and offering TV+ on a very attractive term, I suspect that Apple wants to expand the subscriber base quickly from the existing user pool. The bigger the subscriber base, the more leverage Apple will have with content and strategic partners, whose future creations in turn will increase the appeal of Apple’s services.

By lowering hardware’s prices, there may as well be other reasons and I am so speculating here, Apple wants to lure non-Apple users and expand its user pool. It’s a two-pronged approach to grow the ecosystem.

It’s truly remarkable to me how a company this size can keep adapting to the changing landscape of the business environments to be competitive in a highly competitive industry. Some folks say Apple isn’t taking risks. But any strategic mistake by omission or commission may result in at least two years behind competitors and billions in market valuation. Others complain that the Cupertino-based company is no longer innovating. It’s tricky to tell if it’s completely true or false. But it’s worth remembering that Wearables & Accessories, including Watch and Airpods, generated $5.5 billion in revenue in 90 days last quarter while the main products still remain sticky to consumers.

As a student of business, I admire the company. No company is flawless, but it’s amazing what Apple has been able to do to navigate through competition and constantly changing business environments.

Disclaimer: I do own Apple stocks in my humbly small portfolio.

Weekly readings – 24th August 2019

Spotifyโ€™s pitch to podcasters: valuable listener data

Netherlands’ Building Ages. How cool is this? It must have taken quite some time and effort to build this map.

OuiWork? The quick case for WeWork as an actually disruptive business

Apple Targets Apple TV+ Launch in November, Weighs $9.99 Price After Free Trial

Where Top US Banks Are Betting On Fintech

Manufacturers Want to Quit China for Vietnam. Theyโ€™re Finding It Impossible

Appleโ€™s New TV Strategy Might Just Work

MoviePass database exposes 161 million records. Much as I am grateful to MoviePass, perhaps it’s time for the company to be shut down

Starbucks, monetary superpower. Let me give you a notable quote to get an idea of what this article is about

Starbucks has around $1.6 billion in stored value card liabilities outstanding. This represents the sum of all physical gift cards held in customer’s wallets as well as the digital value of electronic balances held in the Starbucks Mobile App.* It amounts to ~6% of all of the company’s liabilities. 

This is a pretty incredible number. Stored value card liabilities are the money that you, oh loyal Starbucks customer, use to buy coffee. What you might not realize is that these balances  simultaneously function as a loan to Starbucks. Starbucks doesn’t pay any interest on balances held in the Starbucks app or gift cards. You, the loyal customer, are providing the company with free debt. 

Now bigger than eBay, Shopify sets its sights on Amazon

Inside Indiaโ€™s Messy Electric Vehicle Revolution

Weekly readings – 17th August 2019

The Amazon Publishing Juggernaut. I saw someone mention on Twitter that America’s exceptionalism is about the endless potential. To be honest, I have been quite surprised by the reactions to Amazon’s branching out to other areas in addition to their long-known expertise. They are taking advantage of capitalism and exceptionalism for which America is known for. If you don’t do a job well enough to secure your market share and please your customers, you’re ripe for the taking. Amazon is just so darn good at doing the taking

The dawn of the age of geoengineering. A super interesting blog post on the potential Earth-saving projects.

Amazon offered vendors โ€˜Amazonโ€™s Choiceโ€™ labels in return for ad spending and lower prices. Not a good look for Amazon.

Apple brings contactless student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch to more universities. I love the way it is going. Apple makes it more sticky for students to own an iPhone

Is Elon Wrong About LiDAR? A very interesting post on Lidar, a popular technology in the world of autonomous vehicles