Start up: making the Apple Watch, Tinder with an AI, web v apps again, what’s the real mobile search?, and more


Uvas reservoir, California, in February 2014. Photo by ian_photos on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Can be hung on string to deter tigers. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Tinder users at SXSW are falling for this woman, but she’s not what she appears » Adweek

Tinder users at the SXSW festival on Saturday were encountering an attractive 25-year-old woman named Ava on the dating app. A friend of ours made a match with her, and soon they were have a conversation over text message.

But when he opened up Ava’s Instagram, it became clear something was amiss. There was one photo and one video, both promoting Ex Machina, a sci-fi film that just happened to be premiering Saturday night here in Austin. The link in her bio went to the film’s website. And it turns out the woman in the photos is Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who plays an artificial intelligence in the movie.

The conversation is rather clever, in the context of the film. I liked this as a promotional idea. (Other people didn’t. I’d say, abandon hope all ye who go on Tinder, and you won’t be disappointed.)


How Apple makes the Watch » Atomic Delights

This link has been shared all over the place, but you might have chosen to avoid it. That’s a mistake; you can discover so much just about manufacturing from reading it. Here’s just a tiny piece of Greg Koenig’s writeup, based solely on the Apple Watch manufacturing video:

Apple chooses to not show what is likely the most unique and important step in the production of the Watch; cold forging. In production forging, a blank of metal is placed between two extraordinarily hard steel dies that have the bottom and top halves formed into open faced molds. The hammer – a piece of capital equipment roughly the size of a house laid on it’s end – slams the dies closed with force measured in tens of thousands of tonnes. Under such pressure, the metal reaches a state called “plastic deformation” and literally bends, compresses and flows into the shaped cavities of the die. For complex, or high-precision forging, multiple dies with successively deeper cavities are used to gradually tease the material into the desired shape.

Forging produces what’s called a “net shape” part; the process is unable to create precision holes, pockets, threads and other features that will require a trip to the CNC mills. What forging does do is create parts of exceptional strength.

A hammer the size of a house. Consider that for a moment. Koenig merits your attention.


Can the mobile Web win back developers from iOS, Android? » CNET

Stephen Shankland speaks to Dominique Hazaël-Massieux of the W3C:

Web allies are working to make up for lost time. The Application Foundations effort, announced in October 2014, adds new heft to existing work to improve standards. It emphasizes a collection of priorities like video chat, cryptography, typography, responsiveness and streaming media.

“There are challenges around performance, around making apps work offline and outside the browser,” Hazaël-Massieux said. One big part of the fixes is a standard called Service Workers that dramatically remakes Web apps’ deeper workings. Service Workers are programs that run in the background, letting Web apps work even if there’s no network connection and enabling things like push notifications. With Service Workers, those notifications could come through even if a person is using another app.

“A component provided by the browser registers itself with the operating system. When the OS receives a notification, it knows it should wake up the browser, and the browser wakes up the Web application,” Hazaël-Massieux said. “Service Workers are about getting the Web to live also outside the browser. That opens up interesting opportunities.”

Another feature he’s excited about is payments provided with an interface that would take Apple and Google out of the loop, letting the programmer choose what payment mechanisms to offer.

In general, the answer has to be “no”, though. Simply because (as Matt Gemmell has pointed out) a web app is “an app running on an app running on the system”, where an app is “an app running on the system”. It’s a bit like interpreted v compiled code.


I’ve seen the new face of Search, and it ain’t Google » Alex Iskold

The “ten blue links” aren’t optimum on mobile (Google already knows this, of course);

imagine, that instead of Google text field or browser bar, you get a familiar Text Messaging interface and you can ask questions. Here is what happens next:

1. You will ask questions in the natural form, like you do in real life.

2. Your questions will be naturally compact, because you are used to compact form of text messaging, but they won’t be one word or one phrase like we type into Google. You still can have typos, and missing punctuation.

3. This format naturally lends itself onto the conversation. That is, you don’t expect 10 links, you expect a human response. And you expect to respond in response to this response, and so on – that is, you expect a conversation.

4. ‘The answer’ will be things / objects / places, and links will become secondary. The answer will be 1 or 2 or 3 things but not 10 things. The choice will be naturally added via a conversation and iteration, not by pushing 10 links on the user upfront.

5. You won’t be able to tell the difference between a person or machine replying to you. This is where all the amazing AI stuff (looking at you, Amy) is going to come handy and will really shine.

6. You won’t think of this as search anymore, but as your command and control for all things you need – tasks, purchases and of course good old search. It will be like Siri, except it will be based on text, and have a lot more capabilities. And it will actually work great. (No offense Siri, but you have ways to go).

Sounds a bit like the (failed) Jelly, but he suggests Magic, Sensay and Cloe as possible implementations. This feels like it’s heading in the right direction. Search shouldn’t really be might-be-right links on mobile.


California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now? » LA Times

Jay Famigliette:

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis.

I wonder what this means for all the technology companies in that region.


Connected audio products to grow at a CAGR of 88% from 2010-2018, says IHS » Digitimes

Annual shipments of connected audio products, including wireless speakers, wireless soundbars, and connected AV receivers, are expected to grow at a CAGR of 88%, from 1.5m units in 2010 to nearly 66m units in 2018, according to IHS.

The popularity of mobile devices and changing consumer habits in media consumption are not only increasing demand for wirelessly connected audio devices, but also rapidly altering the home audio landscape.

Within this composite group of products, connected soundbars and wireless speakers are expected to provide noteworthy growth, not just within home audio, but also within the overall consumer electronics market. Combined shipments are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 94% over the same period.

That’s some pretty dramatic growth, driven by people listening to audio at home from their mobile.


Samsung seals big SSD chip deal with Apple » Korea Times

The latest agreement is calling for Samsung Electronics to sell its latest solid state drive (SSD) storage devices using its V-NAND technology to Apple’s new range of ultra-slim and high-end notebook models, two people directly involved with the deal told The Korea Times, Friday.

“Samsung Electronics recently agreed with Apple to provide SSDs using its latest three-dimensional (3D) V-NAND tech. The deal is estimated to be worth a “few billion dollars,” said one of the people.

Samsung’s chip factory in Xian, China, will handle the production.

Still best of frenemies.


What Is Android 5.1’s anti-theft “Device Protection” feature and how do I use it? » Android Police

David Ruddock wrestles with this feature, which is basically the same as Apple’s iCloud lock (introduced in 2013) and Samsung’s similar feature:

With Android 5.1, Google revealed that it was releasing a new feature for handsets called Device Protection. This anti-theft feature makes it basically impossible for a thief to use your phone in the event it is stolen and wiped. First things first, though: how do you get this feature?

Right now (as in, at the time of this article), there is a single device with the feature currently enabled: the Nexus 6. The Nexus 9 will get device protection as well, but its Android 5.1 update has not yet rolled out. Nexus 4, 5, 7 (2012 and 2013), and 10 will not receive the factory reset Device Protection feature. Allegedly, no phone or tablet that did not ship with Android 5.1 or higher out of the box will receive the factory reset protection feature (again, except Nexus 6 and Nexus 9), at least according to Google at this time.

However, Google’s support site says the info applies to devices that have 5.0 or higher preinstalled (as in shipped with), though, so it’s not clear if devices that shipped with 5.0 and then later upgrade to 5.1 (or higher) will then get it. Google didn’t provide a satisfactory response to this question, unfortunately.

I get the faint feeling with Lollipop that Google is struggling to keep everything from falling off the table. First the rollback on encryption, now this. (Some commenters claim to see it on their Nexus 5, but Ruddock says it’s “simply a leftover that Google forgot to remove from the ROMs of unsupported 5.1 devices.”)


MWC: not all 4G LTE modems are created equal according to tests with Qualcomm and Samsung » Moor Insights & Strategy

Even though many modems and networks may currently only be capable of Category 4 LTE speeds (150 Mbps downlink), there are still some differences in how much those modems perform given the exact same conditions. In some cases, our testing at 20 MHz band width showed that the performance differences between Qualcomm’s and Samsung’s modems can be as big as 20%, meaning that one user can get their files 20% faster than someone else with a competitor’s phone and they are also saving power by getting that file faster and shutting down the data connection quicker.

Also finds differences in power consumption – Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 is 5-10% better there too. But Samsung benefits by buying its own modems, of course.


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