Terrance Gaines is the founder and owner of BrothaTech.com, a blog dedicated to covering trends in consumer and enterprise gadgets and reviews of the latest mobile devices. BrothaTech.com, launched in 2008, also serves as the landing pad for Gaines’ gadget repair business. Got a cracked iPad or iPhone screen? Terrance has your back. His past years of working with A/V (audio/video) and other electronic equipment, coupled with his passionate understanding of technology consulting has earned him a great deal of success. In addition, he is heavily involved in freelance writing, having drafted articles and tutorials for publications and sites like App Scout(a PC Magazine blog), Uptown Magazine, Black Enterprise, Small Biz Go Mobile, and a host of others.
I (virtually) sat down with Terrance to get his take on the “State of the Tech World”, explored his philosophy on diversity in Silicon Valley, and why he considers himself “The Roland Martin of Tech”:
LoveAt1stByte: How did you get started as a blogger?
Terrance Gaines: I started my work experience in setting up home theaters. I also sold AV equipment in college so I had an understanding about hardware and its relation to consumers. I would also freelance, installing systems and equipment in homes around my town and naturally just started learning more about technology. My blog was originally supposed to be about how I got started in the industry, but later expanded into advertising for my smartphone/mobile device repair business and podcast. I wanted to immerse myself completely; so much so that I traded in my PS3 for cash to purchase a laptop so I could start blogging.
LAFB: Since you deal closely within the mobile space, what are your general thoughts about the cascade of devices coming to market with Android vs. iOS? Do you think it’s too many choices for people to handle? Do any other competitors stand a chance?
TG: From a personal business standpoint, more products mean more options for people to purchase, and will ultimately mean more devices that I will have to potentially fix! Outside of that, more choice doesn’t always equal more confusion. Software [like Android] is more simplified and hardware specs are tightening up to the point where the differences are becoming nominal. There are certainly many basic points where the features are virtually the same regardless of operating system. However, iOS is still in the lead. Apps tend to start on Apple then tend to release on Android second. Windows Phone and Blackberry, and even Nokia are still getting some recognition but it’s going to be a tough road for them as they’re all fighting for the #3 spot. Still, it’s interesting to see how Android and iOS are shifting in terms of demographic. Apple is on the “trendy” decline while devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 has tons of buzz behind it.
LAFB: What do you suggest Google do to keep Apple at bay?
TG: To further the goals of Android, Google can really help itself by leveraging Motorola. Why did they even buy them in the first place if they are not seriously going to move into the hardware space? Google may have to eventually evolve into a fully integrated operation; from software to hardware, front to back control. The control and direction of the user experience is paramount. Even to this day some people consider Android to be the Wild Wild West of operating systems. Google will need to reel in that perception further. User loyalty is of the utmost important. So it may be in Google’s best interest to take a page out of Apple’s playbook, going forward. The Chromebook is a good example where almost every aspect of the device is vertically integrated, and you get a pure experience.
LAFB: What do you think Apple needs to do more to pull away from its rivals?
TG: The biggest thing is that Apple has to realize that the name alone isn’t going to stave off competition anymore. The culture of iPhone used to be fairly exclusive. The problem with that though was that disposable income had to start matching with prices. So Apple has to switch gears to be more inclusive. It also feels like every week there are new Android devices inundating the market and massive attention gets drawn to those products. One suggestion is Apple shortening it’s product cycles and increasing entry points of new devices. The one year buildup to the next iPhone or iPad used to be extremely effective on its own but things are changing. For example, if Apple releases the iPhone 5S, or 6 with larger screens or NFC capabilities, they are responding to the market (which is precisely what businesses normally do). However responding purely to the market often makes innovation take a back seat, so they have to tread that line carefully.
LAFB: You mention innovation; what do you think about the impending (or rumored) Apple Television (not to be confused with the HD streaming box) and Apple Smartwatch? Did you believe Steve Jobs when he claimed to have “cracked the code” for TV of the future?
TG: The Apple Watch must differentiate from all others through device experience and software integration. Much like how iOS became king of the “user experience”, the Apple Watch must appropriately follow suit. As far as Apple TV their mantra for everything they do: “we control the hardware and the relationship between the consumer”, will need to be applied. People want a united experience. All of your content needs to ‘live’ together and other iOS devices should be complementary. The media should sync between each device as well.
My major concern, however, is that Apple is really going to have to jump through hoops to truly make this work. When they became a dominant force in music, the industry was already on its knees. TV networks and movie houses, while in the beginning stages of true disruption, is still the old guard. Apple will undoubtedly go after their margins and that is going to be a big problem for them. Either way, I still hope Apple proceeds because I would definitely consider buying and Apple TV or watch if it matches my current experience with iOS. To be honest iOS is my #1 choice–I outfitted my car with Bluetooth and integrate it with Siri and it’s just a great experience.
LAFB: TV and movies are highly pirated items, how do you think Apple will contend with that?
TG: The only reason why pirate sites exist is that these major content creation houses make it hard for people to get what they want. Most cable packages don’t give you the choice of real a la carte programming. You’re usually stuck with these sets where it contains 20 channels you don’t watch. The networks and providers alike are guilty of giving so much bloat programming to people that don’t want it. And if you do want the extra features, you have to pony up more money (i.e. a basic cable package with an HBO add-on). If Apple can effectively challenge this business model they will go far.
LAFB: Let’s switch gears for a bit: What are your thoughts of race and tech? Specifically, people of color in the world of tech.
TG: To paraphrase, “race matters”. When you have prominent folks in the industry saying Silicon Valley is a full fledged meritocracy and that race does not play a factor, they are missing the truth. In fact, there’s too many instances of one person thinking they have the authority to speak for the whole, when in fact they have no idea how it feels to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Non-African American people don’t know what it’s like to not see other Blacks in tech. It really says something when featured VC’s, startups, and investors don’t essentially look like “us”, yet we have to learn to work with everyone and work that much harder.
While unadulterated racism may be highly eschewed in the tech world, there still is pattern matching–just like with any other business, social structure, or group. It’s the pattern matching that makes people feel more comfortable with those that look or behave similarly. When communities of people of the same race form, the benefit of the doubt is that they’re not doing to it exclude others. It’s just a natural, human response to want to be with those that are most familiar and most like you, since its the most comfortable. However, all of us have to break out of these patterns at some point. Tech is so focused on stats and specs that the social thinking is lost. The industry needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with visibility of non-White (and even women) voices. I get tired of the narrative that this isn’t an issue that tech deals with. It’s just not true. None of this is a simple discussion, so it requires attention from all sides.
LAFB: Since you feel this way, how do you take responsibility to make the industry more inclusive?
TG: I do my best to support African Americans as much as possible. I try to highlight those that are making great strides in tech; like Wayne Sutton and Angela Benton. I want people to educate themselves and increase minority participation in their programs and projects. Like my iOS devices, I enjoy the integrated experience, and want everyone to have a chance at seeing themselves excel if they’re willing to put in the work.
LAFB: What advice do you give to African Americans who are interested in forming a startup, or coding, or even blogging?
TG: Think global but start local. Exhaust all local resources. Understand that ideas on their own are worthless unless they are followed by plans and actions. Really be on your A-game and go hard for what you want. In the case of a startup, your strategy needs to be a lot more concrete than abstract. You need to have your framework together and a real understanding of what you’re trying to do with that project. You are going up against thousands of other people and you do not have the luxury of half-stepping because you have a “good idea”. It is not helpful to come with some thoughts, but have nothing else to show for it. Take ownership and responsibility for your goals, learn all aspects of the business and polish yourself.
You can find Terrance Gaines b.k.a. “Brotha Tech” on his newly designed website, brothatech.com.