Start up: Snapchat discovers media, Google v privacy, that Jony Ive interview, Russia’s phone market and more


OK, not all mobile phones in Russia are smartphones. Photo by thejamo on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Do not use as sunscreen. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Snapchat Discover could be the biggest thing in news since Twitter » Fusion

Kevin Roose:

A few weeks ago, Snapchat updated its app. The new version had a little purple dot in the upper-right corner of the app’s Stories screen. If you’re a normal, casual Snapchat user who uses the app to send goofy selfies to your friends, you might not have noticed the dot at all. Or you might have tapped it, seen an unfamiliar menu with a panoply of weird logos on it, and gone back to your selfie-taking.

But if you’re a media executive, that little purple dot — the gateway to Snapchat’s new Discover platform — might represent a big shift in your thinking.

There’s a ton of chatter in the media world about Snapchat’s foray into news. And the media is right to gossip: Snapchat Discover is huge. I’m not privy to Fusion’s Snapchat metrics (and even if I were, they wouldn’t be representative of the platform as a whole, since we’re only on the non-US, non-UK versions of Discover) and Snapchat isn’t giving out any specifics. But from speaking to people at several other news organizations, I can tell you secondhand that the numbers, at least for the initial launch period, were enormous. We’re talking millions of views per day, per publisher.

Social starts to make an impact on mobile.


China Internet a really big grid with 649m users, majority on mobile » Mobile Marketing Watch

J Barton:

Recent data from The China Internet Network Information Center, the number of Internet users grew 5% in 2014 to about 649m. That means nearly half of China’s population (47.9%) is now firmly on the grid.

“More Chinese now access the Internet on their mobile phones than PC desktops,” notes a blog post by financial publisher Barron’s. “The mobile penetration rate is now at 85.8%, up from 81% a year ago, to 557m users. Meanwhile, the desktop PC penetration is only 70.8%.”

Well, it means that most people who are online have both PC and mobile access, but some don’t.


Google’s lip service to privacy cannot conceal that its profits rely on your data » The Conversation

Eerke Bolten, who is senior lecturer of computing and director of the Interdisciplinary Cyber Security Centre at the University of Kent:

The [ECJ] court ruling demonstrated the law catching up with privacy ethics: an ethical approach would be to implement it according to the spirit rather than the letter of the law. But in many places in this report [from Google’s handpicked advisory council on how to implement the ruling], privacy ethics wins out only where it has the law on its side – where it doesn’t, Google’s business interests (bolstered by appeals to freedom of expression) prevail. In doing so Google invents bizarre new “freedoms”, such as the right to use different national versions of Google search…

…What if the politicians get wind of another form of cyberbullying, namely “doxing” – the publishing online of someone’s personal information (and specifically their address) in order to harass and annoy?

Any attempt to legislate against that would run into a certain large internet company through whose website such information is inevitably found. Interesting times ahead, that is certain.

Bolten points out that the report never examines how Google actually goes about delisting, even though it was recommended to by people on and off the council. Something feels odd about this report. But that final situation might be the collision point for Google and governments.


Jonathan Ive and the future of Apple » The New Yorker

A terrific (long) piece by Ian Parker, who was given access to Apple’s holy of holies, its design studio:

Each table serves a single product, or product part, or product concept; some of these objects are scheduled for manufacture; others might come to market in three or five years, or never. “A table can get crowded with a lot of different ideas, maybe problem-solving for one particular feature,” Hönig, the former Lamborghini designer, later told me. Then, one day, all the clutter is gone. He laughed: “It’s just the winner, basically. What we collectively decided is the best.” The designers spend much of their time handling models and materials, sometimes alongside visiting Apple engineers. Jobs used to come by almost every day. Had I somehow intruded an hour earlier, I would have seen an exhibition of the likely future. Now all but a few tables were covered in sheets of gray silk, and I knew only that that future would be no taller than an electric kettle.

The cloth covering the table nearest the door was curiously flat. “This is actually complicated,” Ive said, feeling through the material. “This will make sense later. I’m not messing with you at all, I promise.”

By my analysis of the piece Parker had four fairly short meetings with Ive, and one with Tim Cook. What’s not obvious (but I can see, with my journalist’s hat on) is that he must have done dozens of other interviews, of unknown length, with other people inside and outside Apple, some of which result in just a single throwaway line in the piece. That’s thoroughness. He also has a deliciously ironic touch – see his comment about how Tim Cook is alerted to the progress of a meeting.

(Of course it’s been published just as everyone is thinking APPLE IS MAKING CARS OMG. No hint of that in the design studio, it seems.)


Russia smartphone sales to stall on iPhone slowdown, IDC says » Bloomberg Business

Ilya Khrennikov:

Apple doubled iPhone shipments to Russia to 3.25m last year, garnering $2.14bn in sales, according to the researcher’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker.

While Samsung Electronics Co. remained the market leader, shipping more than 6m smartphones last year, its revenue share was overtaken by Cupertino, California-based Apple.
In the fourth quarter, when Russians rushed to spend their tumbling rubles on big-ticket items including premium handsets, iPhone sales reached $827m, or a record 46% share in the Russian smartphone market, versus Samsung’s 18% slice, according to IDC.

There’s a table of data, with shipments and revenues for the top seven companies (Samsung, Apple, LG, Lenovo, HTC, Sony, Nokia). The fascinating details: Samsung and HTC sales fell; Apple, LG, Lenovo (x4!) and Nokia grew. But of all of them, only LG grew its ASP (average selling price) from 2013 to 2014, though even that (at US$224) was below the ASP of US$230. (I calculated the ASPs; they aren’t on the sheet.)


HTC and other vendors to launch non-Android Wear smart devices » Digitimes

Although Sony Mobile Communications, LG Electronics, Motorola Mobility and Asustek Computer have launched Android Wear-based smartwatches, Samsung Electronics, HTC and some China-based makers are likely to release comparable models running on their own platforms initially, according to industry sources.

A lack of efficient ecosystem and supporting environment for Chinese such as a Chinese-language interface, are the main reasons HTC and China’s handset makers are developing wearable devices based on in-house platforms, said the sources.

Surprising omission if Android Wear doesn’t have Chinese character support.


Why is my smart home so fucking dumb? » Gizmodo

Adam Clark Estes:

I unlocked my phone. I found the right home screen. I opened the Wink app. I navigated to the Lights section. I toggled over to the sets of light bulbs that I’d painstakingly grouped and labeled. I tapped “Living Room”—this was it—and the icon went from bright to dark. (Okay, so that was like six taps.)

Nothing happened.

I tapped “Living Room.” The icon—not the lights—went from dark to bright. I tapped “Living Room,” and the icon went from bright to dark. The lights seemed brighter than ever.

“How many gadget bloggers does it take to turn off a light?” said the friend, smirking. “I thought this was supposed to be a smart home.”

This is where voice control (Siri, Google, Cortana) would be ideal. Always assuming it dims the lights in the correct room. This experience also points to why “smart control” isn’t necessarily what you want; smart feedback (what lights etc are on) could be more useful. Still requires installing stuff, though.


Why science is so hard to believe » The Washington Post

Joel Achenbach:

In the United States, climate change has become a litmus test that identifies you as belonging to one or the other of these two antagonistic tribes. When we argue about it, Kahan says, we’re actually arguing about who we are, what our crowd is. We’re thinking: People like us believe this. People like that do not believe this.

Science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining tight with our peers. “We’re all in high school. We’ve never left high school,” says Marcia McNutt. “People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science.”

That’s the key point: you can be an idiot, and it doesn’t have any effect. Well, apart from vaccination, and if you’re in charge of the country. (With luck, most of the commenters on the article will never be in a position where they can make any difference to anything.)


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