Start up: iMessage v Android, Waze in Costa Rica, Google knows your face!, and more


A bit like Costa Rica’s maps. But here comes Waze! Photo by Ted’s photos on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Back to Android » AVC

Rather like those rich people who split their time between whichever hemisphere is sunny, venture capitalist Fred Wilson spends six months a year on an iPhone, and six on an Android phone:

After a few days on iOS I wrote a post about what I liked and did not like about iOS. Reading it now after six months on iOS, it is still pretty accurate. But now that I am back on Android, the two things I really miss about he iPhone are TouchID and iMessage. If Android had both of those two things, I wouldn’t miss anything. I don’t totally understand why Apple doesn’t make an iMessage client for Android. They have the most popular messenger in the US (maybe the world) and they aren’t taking advantage of it. They are doing the same thing with iMessage that Blackberry did with BBM.

Is this man really trusted with other peoples’ money? BlackBerry didn’t fail because it didn’t open BBM; the opposite is true – people stayed on the platform despite its worsening lack of apps because of BBM. (But eventually the lack was too much.) Similarly, iMessage is a USP (unique selling point) for iOS and OSX; making an Android version would add no value to Apple at all. (And in all the fulminating comments, nobody points this out.)


Why Google’s struggles with the EC – and FTC – matter » The Overspill

ICYMI, I read the (half) FTC report so you don’t have to. And:

“Google doesn’t have any friends,” I was told by someone who has watched the search engine’s tussle with the US Federal Trade Commission and latterly with the European Commission. “It makes enemies all over the place. Look how nobody is standing up for it in this fight. It’s on its own.”


Karen, an app that knows you all too well » NYTimes.com

Frank Rose on London-based Blast Theory’s forthcoming (April 16) app:

Unlike most real life-coaching apps, this one displays video rather than text — a tactic that makes it easy to forget the distinction between what’s digital and what’s human. When you open the app, Karen (played by Claire Cage, an actress who has appeared on the British TV series “Coronation Street” and “Being Human”) starts speaking to you directly, asking a series of questions.

She seems winsome and friendly — a little too friendly, perhaps. “She’s only recently out of a long-term relationship,” explained Matt Adams, one of the three members of Blast Theory, “and she has a hunger for a new social alternative.”

The dynamic that unfolds is somewhat reminiscent of “Her,” the 2013 Spike Jonze film in which Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with an operating system. With Karen, however, it’s not the user but the app that starts exhibiting inappropriate behavior. “She develops a kind of friend crush,” Mr. Adams said. “And over the next 10 days or so, she feeds back to you things she’s learning about you — including some things you’re not quite sure how she knows or why.”


Why Waze is so incredibly popular in Costa Rica » The Washington Post

Matt McFarland:

“It’s a nightmare.” That’s how Eduardo Carvajal describes the Costa Rican way to give an address.

“If I want to give the address of my office I say ‘Okay, go to the ice cream cone shop in Curridabat then drive 100 meters south and 50 meters east,” Carvajal said.

He’s part of the team of volunteers who mapped Costa Rica in Waze, a crowdsourced traffic and navigation app. Carvajal, whose day job is running a software company, has made hundreds of thousands of edits to Waze’s map of Costa Rica.

Fellow volunteer Felipe Hidalgo spent 50 hours a week for almost two years helping to map the country. Hidalgo has made 378,000 edits to maps in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cameroon, St. Helena Island, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. He described the work as addicting. Since the mapping of Costa Rica was completed, he scaled back to 10-15 hours a week.

Pity that it wasn’t OpenStreetMap; then everyone could have benefited, including Waze. But as the article shows, Waze “addresses” have become part of the culture there – so much so that the government partnered with it on road closures.


Google: our new system for recognizing faces is the best one ever » Fortune

Derrick Harris:

Last week, a trio of Google researchers published a paper on a new artificial intelligence system dubbed FaceNet that it claims represents the most-accurate approach yet to recognizing human faces. FaceNet achieved nearly 100% accuracy on a popular facial-recognition dataset called Labeled Faces in the Wild, which includes more than 13,000 pictures of faces from across the web. Trained on a massive 260-million-image dataset, FaceNet performed with better than 86% accuracy.

Researchers benchmarking their facial-recognition systems against Labeled Faces in the Wild are testing for what they call “verification.” Essentially, they’re measuring how good the algorithms are at determining whether two images are of the same person…

…However, the approach Google’s researchers took goes beyond simply verifying whether two faces are the same. Its system can also put a name to a face—classic facial recognition—and even present collections of faces that look the most similar or the most distinct.


Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge review » Android Central

Andrew Martonik:

Bottom Line: The Galaxy S6 finally offers the hardware that we’ve long desired, and it’s included a wonderful camera. But not everything is perfect — the software experience and battery life just aren’t up to speed.

Harsh? But Jessica Dolcourt at Cnet seems to be unhappy too, saying battery life is less than the S5. (Hers is a review worth reading too.)


Samsung earnings point to smartphones pick-up » FT.com

Simon Mundy:

Samsung executives had stoked anticipation for the first-quarter results with bullish public statements. “We’re done with recovery,” Kim Hyun-seok, head of Samsung’s television business, told local reporters last week.

Nevertheless, revenue was lower than expected, in part a reflection of weaker household electronics revenue in Europe and some emerging markets, whose currencies have fallen significantly in recent months.

And while the earnings figure was up from Won5.3tn in the prior quarter, it reflected significant margin shrinkage following strong profits in the first half of last year — a level of profitability Samsung will not regain in the near future, said CW Chung, an analyst at Nomura, pointing to the ever-fiercer competition in the smartphone market.

“Last year’s smartphone profit in the first half was about Won11tn, but this year it will be maximum Won6tn,” he said…

…Samsung’s first-quarter results were boosted by early shipments of 3m Galaxy S6 phones, said Daniel Kim at Macquarie, citing guidance from the company.

Telling final detail there: Samsung likes to shove handsets into the channel for early revenues. Here’s the graph of Samsung’s revenue and operating profit growth. Really interested to see how the S6/Edge fare.

Samsung revenue and operating profit change

Year-on-year change in operating profit (green) and revenues (blue) at Samsung Electronics


Interview with Matt MacInnis, CEO of Inkling » Pi.co

A long interview by Om Malik with MacInnis, who seems to want – yet also not to want – to “reinvent” the book. This point struck me as particularly relevant:

I look at content through another axis, which is its longevity. If you look at the scale of how long something lasts, a Tweet can have a shelf life of minutes. There are exceptions, but in general a blog post might have a shelf life of a few weeks, sometimes months. If you look at news articles, they tend to have a shelf life of a day. Nobody wants to pick up the New York Times from a week ago and read it for the news. Monthly magazines with long-form feature pieces are interesting on the span of months. And then you get into things like nonfiction and textbooks, which have shelf lives of years. Travel guides have the shelf life of about a year.

You’re talking about taking content that has a long shelf life, things like facts that don’t change, data about the history of something that informs the present, and using it to inform the news article that has a shelf life of a few days. You watch the Tour De France and you want to know who won yesterday. That information that was reported about who got where in the interim period is useless to you once somebody wins the Tour De France.


Angela Ahrendts says a ‘significant change in mindset’ to launching Apple Watch online » Business Insider

Jim Edwards:

For observers, shortages of Apple products have appeared to be a PR advantage. When Apple ran out of the gold iPhone 5S shortly after launch, it generated yet more publicity for the product. Some people have even thought these shortages are part of Apple’s marketing strategy — to make them seem more desired and scarce than they actually are.

The Ahrendts memo, however, is an indicator that Apple does not like being unable to meet demand or leave customers frustrated. Channelling customers online partly solves that problem. Customers will still have to wait if there isn’t enough product, but at least they know the product is on its way — and they’re not wasting their time showing up at Apple’s stores.

For the Apple Watch launch in the UK, the only way to get an Apple Watch will be to order online and then have it shipped to your home, even if you’re in the store.

So much for “observers”.


Google denies YouTube Kids app unfairly targets children » The Guardian

Sam Thielman:

[US] TV rules, for example, mandate “bumpers” between programs and commercials – the five-second segments that announce that the show will be right back – while YouTube Kids goes on in an uninterrupted stream.

More seriously, the complaint alleges YouTube violates its own advertising guidelines: “Products related to consumable food and drinks are prohibited, regardless of nutritional content,” says the company’s Advertising on YouTube Kids page, and yet the stream of watchable videos (not the ads, the actual programs) includes a McDonald’s channel, complete with a video starring Mythbusters’ Grant Imahara called “Our Food. Your Questions: What Are McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets Made Of?”

A small tag in the corner reads “promotional consideration provided by McDonald’s.” The complaint alleges that this counts as deceptive marketing by YouTube of the Kids app, not to kids, but to parents.

The complaint also questions “unboxing” videos – user0generated videos of new products, ranging from iPhones and new toys and sneakers, being opened for the first time. Last year Google said it had received 20m searches for “unboxing.”

Google, the complaint notes, “urges advertisers to ‘[c]onsider how unboxing videos might help your brand connect with consumers.’”

Google, YouTube and advertising. I’m reminded of the fable of the fox, the river and the scorpion.


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