Start Up: join The Circle!, Macbook Pro woes, smartglasses for cyclists, tablet time squeeze, and more


Pebble has called time on its smartwatch business as it is sold to Fitbit. Photo by John Biehler on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Luscious. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The gadget apocalypse is upon us • The New York Times

Farhad Manjoo:

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Just before I went on a trip to Hawaii last year, I thought it would be fun to get a GoPro camera to record some pool stunts. But when I searched Amazon.com, I noticed a ton of generic “action cameras” that carried many of the same specs as the GoPros, at a steep discount on price. I ended up buying an SJCAM for $75, about half the price of the cheapest GoPro I could find. And you know what? It worked pretty well.

This is the mixed blessing of cheaper manufacturing. “In some ways it’s much easier to be a hardware start-up than it ever was before, because the Shenzhen ecosystem gives you all the components you need,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research, referring to the manufacturing hub Shenzhen, in southern China. “But that same ecosystem is available to everybody else, too, so setting yourself apart is really tough.”

You might point out that the SJCAM I purchased lacked some of the finer qualities of a GoPro. Its software wasn’t great, and it didn’t offer customer support. If I were an extreme sports enthusiast, I might have cared about those deficiencies.

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But like most of us, he didn’t.
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The Circle • Wearethecircle

Notable for its click-through licence agreement, and the stuff that happens afterwards. Don’t worry, nothing bad is going to happen. We’re watching you. And you can always click that big “Cancel” button – see?
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Google Wifi and your privacy • Google Wifi Help

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The information your Wifi points and the Google Wifi app collect helps us deliver the best Wi-Fi experience possible. Importantly, the Google Wifi app and your Wifi points do not track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network. However, your Wifi points does collect data such as Wi-Fi channel, signal strength, and device types that are relevant to optimize your Wi-Fi performance. Google policies and terms of services apply as normal to any Google services you use (like Gmail or Google search), whether you’re using them on an Google Wifi network or not.

With simple controls in the Google Wifi app’s ‘Privacy’ settings, you can manage three types of data collected – Cloud services, Wifi point stats, and App stats. Examples of the kinds of data managed by these controls are given below.

Please note that some features may not function with certain privacy settings turned off, and some information (such as the association of your Google Account to your Google Wifi network) is stored by Google even if all privacy controls are turned off…

…Data is shared according to the Google Privacy Policy. For example, we may share anonymized data (e.g. diagnostics crash reports, aggregate metrics) to improve your Wifi point and the Google Wifi app. We do not share your personal information from your Wifi point or the Google Wifi app for the purposes of advertising without your consent.

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Pebble’s next step • Pebble blog

Chief executive Eric Micigovsky:

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Dear Pebblers,

Thank you all for being such loyal supporters and champions of the Pebble community and brand. You helped start something fantastic when you backed our first Kickstarter project (and shout-out to the first inPulse users). Since then, we’ve shipped over 2 million Pebbles around the world!

However—due to various factors—Pebble is no longer able to operate as an independent entity. We have made the tough decision to shut down the company and no longer manufacture Pebble devices. This news has several major implications, and we hope to answer as many questions as possible here, in Kickstarter Update #17, and on our support site.

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Two million isn’t bad. But the first act of wearables is over.
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New MacBook Pros plagued by complaints about battery life and graphics glitches • Macworld

Caitlin McGarry and Roman Loyola:

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Macworld has a new 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro, and we haven’t been successful in replicating the graphics problems being reported. We tried using Photoshop to edit images, watched videos in QuickTime, iTunes, and on YouTube, and also ran Unigine’s Heaven benchmark to stress the GPU. We’ve set the laptop to use automatic graphics switching, as well as to “always use high-performance graphics” (this setting is in System Preferences > Energy Saver > Automatic graphics switching). The only issue we’ve seen occurs while using Safari: sometimes the cursor disappears for what seems like a prolonged period when performing a task, like using the 1Password plug-in to load user names and passwords, or when loading a webpage heavy with elements. This could possibly be an issue with Safari, and not a graphics issue.

According to a MacRumors report, an email sent in response to a user regarding the graphics problem by Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi says that the upcoming macOS Sierra 12.2.2 update includes a fix for the problem.

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Perhaps not “plagued”. “Troubled”? “Some report…”?
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iOS share driven higher by iPhone 7/7 Plus sales • Kantar Worldpanel

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“The lack of the headphone jack has proved to be a non-issue for US iPhone consumers, as iPhone 7 was the top selling device in the three months ending October 2016, achieving 10.6% of smartphone sales, despite not being available for the full three month period. iPhone 7 Plus was the 4th best-selling device at 5.3%, behind the iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S7,” said Lauren Guenveur, Consumer Insight Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “Google achieved 0.5% of smartphone sales, a strong showing given that the Pixel was only widely available from October 20th. In that short time, Google has reached market parity with more established brands like Huawei and Microsoft, who are also at 0.5%.”

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In urban China, Apple outsold Xiaomi. Frustratingly as ever, Kantar doesn’t give market size figures – so we can’t tell if this is growth in volume or not.

Of Android’s 75% sales share, Guenveur says: “the apparent lopsided market share figures are not a reason for doubting the strength or future of the position held by Apple’s iOS. While Android dominates in terms of the raw number of devices it powers, Apple remains the most desirable smartphone brand in the world.”

In other words, there’s little point talking about loss or gain in share. It’s not going to change the relative positions of the two ecosystems substantially.
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Raptor AR smartglasses give cyclists essential stats while on the road • UploadVR

Jamie Feltham:

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While VR is letting cyclists explore the world from the comfort of their homes, this new set of AR glasses could provide huge benefits for those that still venture outside.

Israel-based Everysight today announced Raptor, a new set of glasses designed specifically for cyclists. It reminds us a little of Google’s Glass project, or the upcoming CastAR. While out on a ride, users will have stats like turn-by-turn navigation, time, distance, speed, heart rate, cadence and power displayed in front of them. These are all stats that you could get with a smartphone app, but Raptor allows riders to keep their eyes on the road at all times.

The display, which appears a little like the information on a car dashboard, can be controlled either by a device mounted to a bike’s handlebar, through voice commands, or using an on-board touchpad. Footage of rides is also captured with a camera that can be watched back and shared with others. It wouldn’t be a fitness wearable without a companion app to upload stats to, and Everyglass will release one of these for iOS and Android.

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Neat – cyclists (and motorcyclists) are probably the civilians who have the most use for head-up displays, since distraction can be so costly.
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The squeezing of tablet time • Strategy Analytics

Prabhat Agarwal:

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With AppOptix we possess the data on the digital mobile consumer.

Aside from capturing smartphone user data, we also obtain data on tablet users – which is the topic of this blog.

Tablets have long since been a mainstay product in the mobile device family, capable of operating an array and abundance of applications (from gaming and productivity tools to health and fitness apps) with users integrating them into their daily workflow for accomplishing goals and/or tracking activities, or if they’re like me, for watching TV shows/movies. However, the insertion of “plus” size smartphones have taken a toll on tablet usage, with average daily usage steadily declined from 2014 compared to growth in smartphone minutes.

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Dear Mr. Trump, about those US-made iPhones • Bloomberg Gadfly

Tim Culpan channels the spirit of Foxconn’s Terry Gou, who (as he points out) is considerably richer than Donald Trump:

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I am a doer, Mr. Trump. I get things done. When Apple told me to start making iPhones in Brazil to get around import tariffs, I made it happen. It didn’t create much employment, mind you, because I just exported pre-fabricated iPhones for the locals to slot together – kind of like Lego – but it got the job done. And by job, I mean kept Apple’s and Brazil’s leaders happy. And who do you think paid for it? Not me.

If you want iPhones to be made in America, I can make that happen, too. Heck, I can set up a production line in Trump Towers if you like, but the costs will be yuuuge. I have to cover my expenses, which include factories, labor and transport. You see, I don’t manufacture in China just because it’s cheaper, but because thousands of suppliers are there, within spitting distance of my factories and the one million people I employ during peak season.

I can deploy more robots in the U.S., sure, but it can take months to train them whereas humans can be taught in a few hours. Besides, more robots means fewer jobs.

Bumping up your import tariffs won’t change the equation much, but give me tax breaks, subsidies to hire workers, cheap electricity and free land, and I’m sure we can come to some arrangement. Let me know what numbers you want to Tweet, and I’ve got your back.

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One minor point: Culpan imagines Gou saying “I’m the man who makes your iPhone”. Trump uses a Samsung; it’s his staff who tweet from iPhones on his behalf. Whether or not Trump makes use of the headphone port is unknown at this time.
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Progressive think tank: Trump’s $1trn infrastructure plan ‘shovels money at wealthy investors’ • The Washington Post

Ashley Halsey:

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The challenge is a simple one: investors want a return on their money, and very few transportation projects provide one. Tolls can be imposed on selected roads and bridges, but the vast majority of them offer no opportunity to recoup investment.

“That would be a very rude shock to a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump if they suddenly found that the rural roads in Nebraska or Indiana — the interstate highway, which they paid for and they’re still paying gas taxes — now they have to pay a toll on top of that?” said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee. “They probably wouldn’t be happy.”

The Congressional Budget Office said last year that just 26 private-investment projects were completed or underway nationwide.

The Trump plan would give private investors an 82% tax credit to put money into projects. Trump said his plan would lead to up to $1 trillion worth of new projects, but simply lowering the cost of money with tax credits to investors is unlikely to unleash a new round of big-ticket projects, because states already have access to the municipal bond market.

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The Center for American Progress is – by my reading – a left-leaning thinktank which basically advocates Keynesian ideas. The US, meanwhile, has a huge infrastructure deficit.
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Apple Music hits 20 million subscribers, execs want “more, faster — we’re hungry!” • Hollywood Reporter

Shirley Halperin:

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Apple has released the latest numbers for the music subscription service Apple Music. In the 18 months since the service was launched, the tech giant reveals that it has just crossed the 20m paid subscribers mark. It last reported 17m subscribers in September, marking a 15% jump in three months.

In addition, the company announces that 60% of customers using Apple Music have not bought content from the iTunes Music Store in the last 12 months — a portion of which are dormant users but “the vast majority are new customers,” Apple’s senior vp of internet software and products Eddy Cue tells Billboard. Now available in more than 100 countries, over 50% of Apple Music subscribers live outside of the U.S. — in such markets as Canada, China, South Africa, Japan, Russia, Brazil and India — states the company.

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Spotify is on 40m paid users (and will probably report a number in the next couple of days; it is anxious not to let Apple appear to catch up). Numbers need to rise significantly to make up for the lost paid downloads, though.
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Apple says iPhone 6 battery fires in China likely caused by external factors • Reuters

Cate Cadell:

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Apple said external factors were the likely cause of iPhone 6 battery fires detailed in a Chinese consumer protection report that featured widely in state media earlier this week and created a buzz on social media.

The Shanghai Consumer Council released a report on Friday detailing battery fires in eight iPhone 6 handsets. It also detailed iPhone 6 handsets powering down before their batteries are depleted – handsets outside of a global iPhone 6 recall range that Apple announced on Nov. 20 to address the issue.

“The units we’ve analyzed so far have clearly shown that external physical damage happened to them which led to the thermal event,” an Apple spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters late on Tuesday. She also said Apple was widening its investigation into the power-down issue.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

2 thoughts on “Start Up: join The Circle!, Macbook Pro woes, smartglasses for cyclists, tablet time squeeze, and more

    • Are you saying you don’t like it? Do you have a problem with sharing what you’re listening to and watching with everyone else? Is there something you’re hiding? Because sharing is caring, you know.

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