Android Wear activations might hit 5 million by October… if things go well

It seems buyers aren’t either. Photo by jonmasters on Flickr.

It was early November when I last looked at how Android Wear was faring. According to my methodology, at that time there had been 2.74m Android Wear devices activated. (That post also explains my methodology, so I won’t repeat it.)

I’d expected that the Christmas period would see a dramatic rise in that figure; traditionally it’s the time for gifts, even (or especially) for the geek in your life, so I thought that there would be a rapid uptick in the number of Android Wear downloads, each new one of which indicates an activated device.

And yet. The download figure for Android Wear remains stubbornly stuck in the “1m – 5m” band, which it crossed into in mid-February 2015.


Twelve months on, and what has happened in the meantime? Apple launched the Apple Watch, which various estimates reckon shipped 4m units in its first quarter (April-June 2015) alone, and then topped it off with slightly better quarters each time.

And Android Wear? My latest calculation puts the number activated at between 3.35m and 3.45m – see the graph below. (The variation arises from whether you assume that comments proceed strictly in line with downloads, or that people are less likely to comment as time goes on.)

Is that bad? Well, since the start of the year, it has been adding activations at around 40,500 per week. In the four weeks before the New Year, it was 46,000 per week, with one particularly notably peak in a mid-November week of nearly 79,000.

You’d expect that: big rush before Christmas, slowdown afterwards. But at that rate, it’s going to take a long time for the ticker to go past 5 million on Google Play. In my November post, I thought we’d already be there now.

How reasonable is my estimate? We can definitely say that it has taken more than a year to rack up fewer than 4m activations – which makes sense, because to add 4m takes a consistent run rate of nearly 77,000 activations per week. Android Wear appears to be nowhere near that.

According to my calculations, at the present activation rate, it will take until October before total Android Wear activations pass the 5m mark.

Android Wear activations are well short of 5 million

Android Wear estimated activations: presently just short of 3.5m, and with a long road ahead

So what’s wrong with Android Wear?

There’s no shortage of Android Wear devices. They were ahead of Apple in introducing the concept of the “smart watch”. They were ahead of Apple in arriving: LG, Motorola, Huawei, pretty much every big Android OEM except Samsung and HTC got in there. Samsung isn’t there because it prefers its own Tizen OS – because that allows the flexibility to do what it wants. HTC backed off the idea, which was smart given the financial problems it has. Google has introduced an app to make them work with iOS. Hasn’t changed things.

If people aren’t buying these devices, there’s a problem in the story around them. “Why would I want a smartwatch? For that price? And look at how BIG it is!” (The latter is a pretty consistent reaction to the giant wheels people are expected to strap on their wrist. Actually, maybe that’s our answer.)

Given the gigantic addressable market for Android Wear – pretty much every Android user, which is a lot of people – it seems like we’re seeing both the “premium effect” (iPhone users tend to spend more) and the “huh? Why?” effect.

Quite possibly smartwatches are going to remain a niche – a sort of technological diversion, a bit like games consoles, which have a devoted and upgrading audience, but aren’t actually that pervasive when you look closely at the numbers (particularly when you note how many buyers of one console then add another).

One thing’s for sure, though – the makers of Android Wear devices need a good selling line, and soon.

Start up: VR porn!, privacy and the FBI, Baidu’s data grab, why Trump?, and more

A Nissan Leaf charging. But you’d know that if you were to plug its VIN into a public API. Photo by Janitors on Flickr.

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

Controlling vehicle features of Nissan LEAFs across the globe via vulnerable APIs » Troy Hunt

Someone in one of Hunt’s classes discovered how to find out the battery status of Nissan’s popular electric car – and also turn its air conditioning on or off. For any LEAF. Without authorisation. Via API. From anywhere. And Nissan didn’t listen, and four different groups have discovered it independently:

»Nissan need to fix this. It’s a different class of vulnerability to the Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek Jeep hacking shenanigans of last year, but in both good and bad ways. Good in that it doesn’t impact the driving controls of the vehicle, yet bad in that the ease of gaining access to vehicle controls in this fashion doesn’t get much easier – it’s profoundly trivial. As car manufacturers rush towards joining in on the “internet of things” craze, security cannot be an afterthought nor something we’re told they take seriously after realising that they didn’t take it seriously enough in the first place. Imagine getting it as wrong as Nissan has for something like Volvo’s “digital key” initiative where you unlock your car with your phone.

By pure coincidence, this week Nissan unveiled a revised LEAF at the GSMA Mobile World Congress. Clearly, like many car makers, their future involves a strong push for greater connectivity in their vehicles:


In a fully connected, fully mobile world, in-vehicle connectivity is an absolute must for today’s drivers.



Perhaps not an “absolute must”, actually.
link to this extract


I got hacked mid-air while writing an Apple-FBI story » USAToday

Steven Petrow works for USA Today, and was writing and sending emails via Gogo Wi-Fi on a flight to Raleigh, Virginia. On touchdown, the guy in the seat behind him explained that he had hacked him, and “most people on the flight”:

»“That’s how I know you’re interested in the Apple story,” he continued. “Imagine if you had been doing a financial transaction. What if you were making a date to see a whore?” My mind raced: What about my health records? My legal documents? My Facebook messages?

And then the kicker:

“That’s why this story is so important to everyone,” he told me. “It’s about everyone’s privacy.”

Then he headed down the escalator and I headed out the front door. I may have been wearing my jacket, but I felt as exposed as if I’d been stark naked…

…[He then called Alex Abdo, a civil rights lawyer]: who is in actual danger here? The answer, apparently, is pretty much all of us. “Anyone who relies on the security of their devices,” Abdo told me.

It should be up to each of us to decide what to make public, and what to keep private, he continued. For me, I felt as though the stranger on the plane had robbed me of my privacy — as was explicitly his intent. He took the decision of what to share out of my hands. He went in through the back door of the GoGo connection.


link to this extract


Microsoft has acquired Xamarin » Petri

Brad Sams:

»Xamarin is one of the leading platforms for mobile app development and provides a robust platform that helps developers build mobile apps using C# and deliver fully native mobile app experiences to all major devices, including iOS, Android, and Windows. Seeing as Microsoft is a productivity focused company whose Visual Studio product is used by millions around the globe, this acquisition will fit nicely into their portfolio of products.

With more than 15,000 customers in 120 countries, of which 100 are Fortune 500 firms, Xamarin has become a leader in this space. Companies like Alaska Airlines, Coca-Cola Bottling, Thermo Fisher, Honeywell and JetBlue all use the software to develop their apps.


Apparently MSDN devs want to know if they’ll get it for free.
link to this extract


Solid support for Apple in iPhone encryption fight: poll » Reuters

Jim Finkle:

»Nearly half of Americans support Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) decision to oppose a federal court order demanding that it unlock a smartphone used by San Bernardino shooter Rizwan Farook, according to a national online Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Forty-six percent of respondents said they agreed with Apple’s position, 35 percent said they disagreed and 20 percent said they did not know, according to poll results released on Wednesday.

Other questions in the poll showed that a majority of Americans do not want the government to have access to their phone and Internet communications, even if it is done in the name of stopping terror attacks.


Wait, I thought half supported the FBI? Oh god I’m so confused. As are the people being asked subtly different questions about the same topic.
link to this extract


Apple-FBI fight asks: is code protected as free speech? » Bloomberg Business

Adam Satriano:

»There’s some precedent for arguing that code is protected legal speech. In the 1990s, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley wrote an encryption program for his own research that he wanted to make public. Under federal regulations, a coder must get a license to publish cryptography tools, and the government denied the student’s license. In 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled for the first time that source code was protected as speech, and the student, Dan Bernstein, who is now an instructor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was allowed to share the code freely.

The case, Bernstein v. U.S. Department of Justice, has been highlighted by those who favor less regulation of the Internet. But judges have also ruled that free speech protections don’t apply to code. Courts have been especially skeptical in cases involving piracy of music and movies.
The law “is murky in this area,” said Michael Froomkin, a law professor at the University of Miami — and that’s why Apple’s case could break new ground.


link to this extract


I tried VR porn, and I liked it » Ars Technica UK

Sebastian Anthony:

»You will probably be unsurprised to hear that VR porn is awesome. It’s like porn, but better. The porn I was sampling—made by Naughty America—was essentially a standard first-person-perspective film, but with the ability to look around. Unlike some VR experiences that are just two-dimensional 360-degree panoramas, Naughty America’s porn is stereoscopic; stuff actually sticks out, or comes flying at you. You really do want to reach out and touch things.

I watched three different scenes as I sat there in the cafe. In all three of them, “I” (a male actor) was reclining on some kind of sofa, looking down at my muscular physique and giant appendage. In some scenes, other people did things to me—in other scenes, I was much more proactive.

To be honest, it was a bit weird, looking down and seeing someone else’s body. But, after a few minutes of watching, I began to feel a sense of agency; I began to feel that yes, those rippling muscles were mine; I began to feel that it was me being tended to by two other beautiful people.

And of course, just as I was starting to get into it, the demo ended and I found myself back in the real world, being grinned at by a couple of guys from Naughty America. “Pretty cool, eh?”

All I can do is nod. Why did the demo have to end so soon?

Right now Naughty America’s films only allow have a 180-degree field of view, primarily because a standard porn scene doesn’t require anything greater, but also because it’s technologically quite challenging as well. Different varieties of porn—orgies and the like—would require a 360-degree field of view, but it doesn’t seem that Naughty America is working on that just yet.

When I asked Ian Paul, the company’s CIO, about how they actually film the VR scenes, he refused to tell me anything. “I can’t give away anything right now.” Basically, according to Paul, it’s quite hard to shoot a 3D VR film from an actor’s perspective, and lots of porn studios are currently trying to find the optimal setup.


You think kids playing video games is a problem now? Wait until this stuff becomes easily available.
link to this extract


Trump shatters the Republican Party » Politico

Shane Goldmacher:

»While Cruz has tried to tap into frustrated voters via ideology, Rubio has been far more reticent to amplify the angriest voices, saying repeatedly, “It is not enough to simply nominate someone who is angry.”

In South Carolina last week, when a voter shouted out that Hillary Clinton was a “traitor,” Rubio interjected gently, “I wouldn’t go that far, sir.” And last month, in Iowa, when another voter worried about Islamic sharia law coming to America, Rubio rebutted, “Guys, that’s not going to happen.”

While Rubio dances around the electorate’s resentments, Trump revels in them. On primary night in South Carolina, he tapped into their nationalism as he whacked at Mexico and China. “They’ve taken out jobs, they’ve taken our money, they’ve taken our everything,” he declared.

The crowd cheered wildly. “I showed anger and the people of our country are very angry!” Trump later tweeted about his South Carolina victory.

Perkins, the evangelical leader, described the Trump phenomenon’s lack of ideology this way: “You can’t be fearful and thoughtful at the same time.”


I remain fascinated by Trump’s rise (from the relatively safe distance of a few thousand miles of ocean). What I don’t know, and nobody seems to be saying much, is: how does Trump play with the broader electorate? If it’s Trump v Clinton (as seems likely), how does that play out?
link to this extract


Huawei Watch: Android Wear burn-in prevention 4K lapse [N5X] » YouTube


Quick 4K time lapse of Android Wear burn in prevention on the Huawei Watch. Captured with Framelapse Pro using a Nexus 5X.


That moves around quite a bit. Which prompts the thought – how long will always-on screens survive before they’re burnt out? Something to consider with wearables.
link to this extract


Announcing Spotify Infrastructure’s Googley future » News

Nicholas Harteau:

»in a business growing quickly in users, markets and features, keeping pace with scaling demands requires ever increasing amounts of focus and effort. Like good, lazy engineers, we occasionally asked ourselves: do we really need to do all this stuff?

For a long time the answer was “yes.” Operating our own data-centers may be a pain, but the core cloud services were not at a level of quality, performance and cost that would make cloud a significantly better option for Spotify in the long run. As they say: better the devil you know…

Recently that balance has shifted. The storage, compute and network services available from cloud providers are as high quality, high performance and low cost as what the traditional approach provides. This makes the move to the cloud a no-brainer for us. Google, in our experience, has an edge here, but it’s a competitive space and we expect the big players to be battling it out for the foreseeable future.


Lots of people are interpreting this as the first step to Spotify’s entirely Googley (ie Google-owned) future, and it’s hard not to see this that way.
link to this extract


Thousands of apps running Baidu code collect, leak personal data: research » Reuters

Jeremy Wagstaff and Paul Carsten:

»Thousands of apps running code built by Chinese Internet giant Baidu have collected and transmitted users’ personal information to the company, much of it easily intercepted, researchers say.

The apps have been downloaded hundreds of millions of times.

The researchers at Canada-based Citizen Lab said they found the problems in an Android software development kit developed by Baidu. These affected Baidu’s mobile browser and apps developed by Baidu and other firms using the same kit. Baidu’s Windows browser was also affected, they said.

The same researchers last year highlighted similar problems with unsecured personal data in Alibaba’s UC Browser, another mobile browser widely used in the world’s biggest Internet market.

Alibaba fixed those vulnerabilities, and Baidu told Reuters it would be fixing the encryption holes in its kits, but would still collect data for commercial use, some of which it said it shares with third parties. Baidu said it “only provides what data is lawfully requested by duly constituted law enforcement agencies.”…

…”It’s either shoddy design or it’s surveillance by design,” said Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert.


Tricky choice.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: yesterday’s web page headline briefly said that it was Acer’s routers, not Asus’s, which had been found to be full of holes by the FTC. This was wrong.

Android Wear downloads: a more nuanced (and slightly higher) estimate

Android Wear doesn’t seem to have set consumers’ hearts racing. Photo by pestoverde on Flickr.

In my estimate last week of the number of Android Wear downloads, and hence actual “sell-through” (as it’s called), I used the number of reviews left on the Android Wear app page and drew a straight-line extrapolation from that, and from various known waypoints, to get my estimate for the number in use – which was about 1.9m, up from 0.7m in February 2015.

Among the provisos, though, was this one:

My previous estimate worked on the basis that the number of comments was proportional to the number of downloads. I don’t see any reason to change that assumption.

Oh, behave

Having said that, I’ve thought a bit more about likely consumer behaviour, as well as what the data actually shows us.

We know that as more people get to use something, the number who actually comment on/review it falls – it’s just human nature that early adopters are the most likely to be vociferous, whereas those who follow are less troubled about it. After all, who wants to be the 1,900th commenter below an article?

So I took a look at the number of comments* per download, for the waypoints where we know the number of downloads for sure. We know those waypoints because the Google Play figure abruptly goes from saying, for example, “number of downloads: between 10,000 and 50,000” to “between 50,000 and 100,000”. Obviously the 50,000 download point has been crossed between those two points. (* “comments” not “reviews” because they’re not necessarily reviews; you can make them without having downloaded the app.)

So I marked those points, and the number of comments at those points, and tried to find the best fit curve. I get this:

Android Wear: downloads per comment (est)

The data seem to suggest that the number of downloads required to generate a new comment grows over time; currently we’re at the black mark.

(That’s an R-squared of 0.89, using a logarithmic fit; it’s the best value of R-squared I could get out of trying a linear, logarithmic, polynomial, power and exponential fit.)

What this is telling us is that to begin with, you get lots of reviews/comments for every download. Right at the start, there was a comment for more than one in every seven downloads. By 100,000 downloads there are 4,032 comments, which means by then, on average, every 24.8 downloads someone had left a comment.

But by the time you get to 500,000 downloads, there are 14,981 comments – so on average it has taken 33 downloads to get each comment. By the time you get to a million downloads, the average has fallen to 44 downloads per comment.

A certain ratio

This is the sort of behaviour we’d expect: early on, lots of people are mad keen to give feedback on their experience; and then it tails off, until we’re dealing with a gradually falling ratio as the numbers of downloads head into the multiple millions.

Fitting this to that curve (which is the only data we’ve got, absent sales figures or numbers from Google) tells us that we’re currently at about 57.5 downloads per comment overall – that is, over the whole time Android Wear has been going, on average you get a comment every 57.5 downloads.

And how many comments are there? Currently, 47,620 (with the average review score just dipping under 4.0). How many downloads is that, and hence how many sell-throughs? Pretty simple:

47,620 comments * 57.5 downloads per comment = 2.74m Android Wear downloads.

This is quite a bit bigger – 44% more – than my previous estimate of 1.9m Android Wear users. There are (as always) potentially confounding factors, which would tend to reduce the actual number:

1) some people may have left more than one comment/review.
2) you can leave a comment/review without having actually downloaded the app
3) the number of comments added per week is quite variable – as below:

Rate of addition of comments varies, a lot

Sometimes you get a lot of comments on Android Wear – and sometimes you don’t. Does that match downloads? Hard to say.

This is possibly prompted by the release of new versions: a number of people commented on 9/10 November about the new version and its removal of battery stats. That’s going to bump up the apparent number of “downloads” while the actual number in use is no different.

On the whole, I feel comfortable suggesting that the correct number probably lies somewhere between these two – the straight-line extrapolation and the “reducing comment” number. In other words, somewhere between 1.9m and 2.74m. (The midpoint is 2.32m.)

Quite probably the only way to be sure will be to watch the Android Wear page and spot when it crosses the 5m download mark. Is it going to be before the end of this year, though?

Only maybe, at least if we go by IDC’s forecast for how many Android Wear devices will be shipped this year. In a press release in September, IDC reckoned that there would be 4.1m shipments of Android Wear devices in 2015. That would take the total activations by the end of 2015 to 4.7m, as at the start of the year it was around 0.6m (it passed 1m activated in late February, by my data). As long, that is, as those shipments are actually bought by people, rather than sitting on shelves.

Comparing that to my estimates for the number activated so far this year – a low of 1.3m (1.9m – 0.6m), and high of 2.1m (2.74 – 0.6m) – we’re left with somewhere between 2.8m (4.7m – 1.9m) and 1.96m (4.7m – 2.74m) to be shipped, sold and activated in the next couple of months around Christmas if IDC’s target is to be met (and if my estimates are correct). So, the week following Boxing Day could be fun.

Low, high, in between

There are some other numbers: Strategy Analytics says that in the second quarter, Android Wear shipments were just 0.6m units; for the third quarter, it says that Samsung shipped 0.6m and “Others” (including Pebble) 1.0m. We don’t know how many of the Samsung ones were running Tizen, and how many Android Wear; nor how many Pebbles were shipped. If we ignore that, we get 1.6m Android Wear shipped in the third quarter; 2.2m since March (when the 1m download point was passed). If they’re all in use, there might be 3.2m running.

Even with the high estimate, it begins to look like maybe this is going to be one of those spaces where Apple shows how the category should look, and grabs the majority of sales and profit – as it did with the iPod and iPad. Because Strategy Analytics reckons that in the third quarter alone, Apple shipped 4.5m units – more than Android Wear has all year.

If you think the Apple Watch is a ‘flop’, try this estimate for Android Wear device sales

Got an LG Watch Urbane? Congratulations – you’re part of a pretty exclusive club. Photo by Janitors on Flickr.

Back in February I tried to estimate how many Android Wear devices were activated in 2014, following Canalys saying that 720,000 had shipped that year.

The figure I got, based on the page on Google Play, where one can track not just downloads but also comments and average rating for the Android Wear app (which you need to control your shiny new Android Wear device), was 700,000.

Android Wear: all the numbers

Put it together, and we have about 560,000 Android Wear activations by the end of 2014, and 700,000 to mid-February.

Progress, or the lack of it

OK. So what about progress since then? I’ve kept noting the progress of the number of downloads, and the number of comments, on the Google Play page, helped from time to time by the Internet Archive (it’s wonderful. Donate).

My previous estimate worked on the basis that the number of comments was proportional to the number of downloads. I don’t see any reason to change that assumption.

So how does it look now? The number of comments keeps going up:

Android Wear: number of reviews

Steady growth suggests steady download, and hence sales, figures

(One point to note: the average review score has been trending down steadily. You would expect this for a new technology: the keen people who forgive anything are first in, and are followed by those who got it as a gift, or an experiment, or whatever. Notably, some of the recent low ratings come from people complaining about updates; that would suggest that the installs/comments ratio is actually falling.)

Whichever, the precise value of the average review has fallen from a comfortable 4.83 (out of 5) to dip to 3.98 at the end of October, recovering to 4.00 last week.

And now we try to fit the number of installs – using the points that we have, which isn’t a lot – to that graph, assuming downloads are directly proportional to comments.

According to Google’s stats, Android Wear is now past the 1m download point, but not the 5m download point.

So I’ve tried to fit the graph as best I can. And this is what I get:

Android Wear sales estimate: 1.9m in November

Fitting known waypoints to the number of comments suggests that 1.9m Android Wear devices have been sold

That’s the figure I get: 1.9m downloads in total, suggesting that since February there have been a total of 1.2m more installations of Android Wear.

So again we ask: is that bad or good? There are now 1.4bn Android devices in use, according to Sundar Pichai. Only those running Android 4.3 upwards can use Android Wear, which means we’re potentially talking about 67.8% of devices according to the very latest figures from the Android Dashboard. (That’s up substantially from 47.6% back in February.)

The penetrant question

Back in February, I guessed at 1.2bn Android devices in use (which seems close enough – 1bn announced at Google I/O in 2014, 1.4bn this time). So back then the potential market was
1.2bn * 0.476 = 571.2m devices, of which 700,000 had Android Wear: that was a penetration of 0.12%.

Now we have a potential addressable market for Android Wear of
1.4bn * 0.678 = 949.2m devices. Of which it seems 1.9m, or 0.2%, have bought. (This doesn’t allow for people owning multiple devices, but the incidence will be very low compared to the 949m devices available.)

Conclusions and thoughts

• The absolute number of Android Wear devices in use is still really low.
• A total of 1.2m have been sold since February
• It’s tiny compared to any estimate of the number of Apple Watches sold since the launch in April, which varies by analyst; Canalys estimates that it has shipped 7m in two quarters, which compares to 1.2m Android Wear sold
• These may be the lull before the storm of purchases on Black Friday/Christmas, but abandonment could be a problem
• Android Wear, despite being first to market, suffers from a lack of brand visibility, and visibility overall. Kantar ComTech released a survey in October based on a study from August which found that in the US,

Among panelists who knew what a smartwatch or smartband was, 92% connected Apple to the category, far more than any other brand. This was followed by Fitbit in second place with 47%, with Google (34%) edging out Samsung (33%) for third place.

That doesn’t leave a lot of room for others, at least in the US buyer’s mind.

I’ll keep tabs on Android Wear, absent Google releasing any figures. But for now, this is starting to look like an interesting question: can a device category succeed if it doesn’t have a successful Android version?

This is the worst Apple Watch ever. (Think about it.)

Watches could get smaller yet. Photo by JonChanLon on Flickr.

Late in September 2001, Apple invited some American journalists to a little event on its campus. The invite said “Hint: it’s not a Mac.”

The original iPod invite in 2001

Not a Mac? Maybe a printer?

The product turned out to be the iPod – a music player that, as Slashdot’s editor Cmdr Taco famously remarked of its specifications that it had “No wireless. Less space than a [Creative Labs] Nomad” and hence was “Lame”.

We all know how the story turned out; the iPod trampled all the rivals in the space, capturing interest in music players at the time when phones weren’t quite capable of doing all the things one might want from a music player on the move. At the very least, an iPod was easier and faster to load up and navigate than even the phones that were around then.

But look at what the original iPod looked like. If you come across one now, it seems a giant hulking thing. 5GB of storage on a spinning hard drive! It weighed 184g, and had a volume of 124.9 cubic centimetres. It didn’t sell that well either.

Talking ’bout a second generation

Then in July 2002 the second-generation iPod came out: this had a touch-sensitive wheel, double the storage capacity (for an extra 3g in weight) in a package with a volume of 118.7 cubic centimetres – very slightly less volume, you’ll notice.

Fast forward four years from the original, to September 2005, and you had the iPod nano – 4GB of storage, 42.5g (that’s a quarter of the weight), in a volume of 24.9 cubic centimetres (that’s one-fifth of the original’s volume).

iPod evolution visualised

It started big and got smaller (and bigger)

It’s pretty obvious what happens: Apple optimises along certain hardware improvement axes. Screens got larger and added colour while the body got smaller and the controls remained largely the same (even the screenless iPod shuffle has similar controls to its parent, though without the moving scroll wheel).

So the first generation is just the beginning. The hardware will improve in various ways. The question is, which?

Experience: a perfect teacher, if you’re willing to learn

And so we come to the Apple Watch. I’ve been testing one loaned to me by Apple for about four months now. It’s a classic case where a hurried verdict won’t work. Reviewers who tried to decide on its usefulness in a weekend of testing missed the point, I think. There are two things to bear in mind about the Apple Watch (and arguably any smartwatch):
• the products you see now are version one. Everything about them is going to get better
• these are products which have to find a place in your life: every person only understands them in the context that they fit into their own life

The first point is the one that’s easiest to overlook. I’ll lay out the easy criticisms first, because it’s staringly obvious if you look at the iPod data above that lots of these are just hardware issues that will vanish as time goes by.

So here are easy criticisms of the Apple Watch:
• the display doesn’t always detect when you’ve rotated your wrist to view it, so doesn’t always light. This is definitely my biggest bugbear; so sometimes I have to tap the display. Is this a software/gyroscope thing? Definitely. Can it be improved by an update? I’d bet on it.
• the display isn’t lit all the time, so you can’t always see the time. Is this a technology thing? Yup – Android Wear watches have solved this already, so this is not out of reach. (Implementing this would also solve the first problem.)
• the battery doesn’t last for 50 years. In fact, the question people have asked me most often about it is “does the battery last all day?” to which I honestly can answer “Yup”. I often find I can get up to two days or so. If I’m wearing a watch, I don’t like taking it off at night; I like to be able to see the time. So I tend to put the Watch on “power reserve” overnight, which uses about 1% of battery during my typical sleeps, and then charge it first thing in the morning. You can pretty easily get two days of use if you don’t do a lot of exercise. Ben Wood of CCS Insight makes the excellent point about wearables in general: every time you have to take them off to charge them increases the chance you won’t put them back on, perhaps ever.
• third-party apps are slow to load. Uh, yeah. They’re running off the phone, which is talking back and forth with them via Bluetooth. This is going to be solved to a large extent by Watch OS2, due for release imminently. In fact Watch OS2 might fix a number of these things, at least to some extent.

All these things – battery life, display technology, processor speed – are works-in-progress. They haven’t reached an endpoint. You can bet that they will get better, and possibly quite quickly. Think about that in the context of those annoyances listed above.

Now here are the things where it seems to me the Watch is a huge advance on just having an iPhone:
• maps and directions. On the very first day I started using the Watch, I had to walk to another venue. I put the destination in on my phone, started the directions, put the phone in my pocket, and the watch took over – with the Taptic Engine tapping my wrist to indicate it was time to turn left or right (two for left, three for right). Walking along and looking occasionally at your watch is a lot more comfortable than gazing into your phone, or taking out your phone anxiously to see what you should do. (This is the first use that I cite to anyone who asks what it’s useful for; and when I tell them, they get an “ooh, useful” look.)

The same applies when driving – getting direct tactile feedback when a turn is coming up is a hell of a lot more useful than having to glance back and forth from the road to a screen. (The husband of a friend apparently likes the direction system so much he attaches his to his steering wheel. I don’t recommend this.)

• The Taptic Engine is a hell of a useful thing: together with the sounds, it lets you distinguish between an incoming message, a phone call, a calendar event coming due, a notification from another app (I find Dark Sky’s rain warnings helpful), and so on. Again, it’s something you just don’t get elsewhere.

• not having to be tethered to my phone. Of course, your phone still has to be in range (though once Watch OS 2 comes out, only on a Wi-Fi network that both your Watch and phone recognise). I’ve had the experience of being one floor up doing some DIY and having a phone call coming in to my phone a floor below. I took the call on the watch.

• quick responses to (or ignoring) messages. When a message comes in, you can see what it is and ignore it, use a pre-filled response, or dictate a reply. Siri is darned good on the dictation.

• the exercise measurement. I know that this is like Skinner boxes (pretty much the first thing I did was to turn off the “stand at 10 minutes before the hour” notification), but having something passively measuring how much activity you’re doing makes you consider it. Jim Dalrymple’s post on the huge effect that small but cumulative actions can have is inspiring; to that extent, I don’t care if the heart monitor is 100% accurate, as long as it’s consistent. And it seems to have a pretty clear idea of how much physical activity I’ve done in a day. Again, you don’t get that psychological benefit by testing for a weekend.

• it’s personal. Everyone sets their Watch up differently. I like having the “multiple” face, on which I have sunset/sunrise (this matters to me, for domestic reasons); exercise rings; time; day and night temperature highs and lows (this also matters, for domestic reasons; and the charge. There are tons of other things I like – being able to advance songs on the phone, or to like/hate songs on Apple Music, and so on.

The hardest part of using an Apple Watch is definitely getting the notifications under control. It would be easy to have everything on it; but you don’t need email, or tweets, or Instagram, or a ton of other things. The value is in having only the things that are very important to you; in that sense the Watch becomes a sort of proxy assistant (though one you have to set up yourself) which filters most of the crap out. You decide what of the crap you want to have.

Do you believe in the future?

I thought the reaction of the fashion industry to the Watch might be indicative. Apple courted it intensely ahead of and after its launch. There’s not much sign of how much penetration it has achieved there.

But those who would like to call the Watch a flop are, as usual, premature. If you’d seen the first six quarters’ sales of the iPod, you’d have concluded that that was a flop too. Here’s how they looked:

iPod sales - first six quarters

The pattern for iPod sales at the start isn’t encouraging.

Pretty terrible, right? The sixth quarter is below the very first quarter, for a product that was only on sale for part its first quarter. And yet the iPod went on to define an industry.

What happened after those six quarters? Here’s the view over 13 quarters, with the sudden growth coming after the introduction of the iPod mini – which, let’s note, had a capacity of 4GB (less than the original, or the “classic” iPods then available, which started at 15GB) but a weight of only 104g (compared to 158g for the larger “classic” version) and a volume of 58.7 cubic centimetres, compared to 99.6 cubic centimetres for the “classic” version then on sale.

iPod sales over first 13 quarters

That looks healthier.

Clearly, people like lighter and smaller – a trend that Apple has been happy to fulfil with its phones. I can’t see it not doing exactly the same with its Watches as time progresses. Will they be as useful?

Put it this way: do you really think that the smartphone is the endpoint of communications development? Do you think that communication cannot get any more personal? Smartwatches are already showing us that actually, you can do more, and do it even more personally. (Samsung’s out in the lead by adding 3G capability to its models; again, do you think smartwatches will never want that?)

U say UX, I say choices

What about the fact that the Apple Watch is sort of squarish, while Motorola and most recently Samsung have gone for a round face? (Samsung has a particularly nifty UI involving turning the top of the face to scroll through options.)

Obviously this is a choice. A round face is ideally optimised for showing the sweep of hands, and also for turning things. It’s not so good, though, for displaying text. You either have to squash it in, or justify like mad, or reduce the text font size. None is optimal for text display.

Round v oblong for showing text

Your round watch face isn’t so good at showing text.

I find the Watch’s text size is just big enough to read without the glasses I need to read my phone. There’s probably a font legibility element in there too – San Francisco, the font on the Watch, is slightly different from that on the iPhone.

Flop, fly, forecast

It’s easy to declare that peoples’ inability to grok what a smartwatch really is about means that the category is a flop, and won’t be useful. I think we’re instead going to see a parallel development: the technology will improve, and people will see situations where the phone just doesn’t quite do enough – but a smartwatch would. Apple’s adverts on this latter point are a slow burn; but it’s coming.

The fairest evaluation of the first-generation Apple Watch? It does much more than you might ever expect (and damn, it’s a million times more useful than my Pebble ever was), even at the cost of a couple of annoyances that mark it out as a first-generation product. Technology improves. Our need to communicate remains consistent. The intersection of usefulness and demand will come, and we’ll probably take it for granted when it does.

Start up: Android Wear on iOS, will Slack kill Dropbox?, India v Google, after the adblockers, and more

One other piece of technology – besides the lifejackets and boat – probably kept them alive. Photo by Irish Defence Forces on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Blimey, it’s September (here at least). I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Android Wear now works with iPhones » Official Google Blog

David Singleton, director of engineering for Android Wear:

When you wear something every day, you want to be sure it really works for you. That’s why Android Wear offers countless design choices, so you can find the watch that fits your style. Want a round watch with a more classic look? Feel like a new watch band? How about changing things up every day with watch faces from artists and designers? With Android Wear you can do all of that. And now, Android Wear watches work with iPhones.

Android Wear for iOS is rolling out today. Just pair your iPhone (iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, or 6 Plus running iOS 8.2+) with an Android Wear watch to bring simple and helpful information right to your wrist.

Key problem – and I think it will be a problem – is that it won’t be able to show reply to iMessages on the Wear watch. And iMessage is a huge part of using an iPhone (demonstrated by the volume sent each day), and, in my experience, the Apple Watch. The picture in the blogpost shows Google Hangouts; if you’re that dedicated to Hangouts, you’ll be on Android. Also: no third-party (Android Wear, nor, obviously, iOS) apps. Harry McCracken has a useful rundown – mostly of what it doesn’t do on iOS – at Fast Company.

So this might goose Android Wear watch sales a little, but I don’t see it lasting.
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Dropbox: the first dead decacorn » Thoughts from Alex Danco

Slack (the workplace collaboration tool) is going to kill it, Danco reckons:

The problem for Dropbox is that our work habits are evolving to make better use of what’s available; specifically, the awesome power of the internet. And on the internet, the concept of a ‘file’ is a little weird if you stop and think about it. Files seem woefully old-fashioned when you consider organization tools like Evernote, task management tools like Trello, and communication channels like Slack. Files are discrete objects that exist in a physical place; the internet is … pretty much the opposite of that. And while it made sense that the birth and early growth of information and the internet would contain familiar, old-school ideas and organizing systems, and some point the other shoe was bound to drop. To me, Slack feels like the first truly internet and mobile-native productivity platform – especially as it expands beyond messaging and into workflow automation, helper bots, and who knows what else. Dropbox might be the pinnacle of file management, but Slack is the beginning of what comes next.
I don’t think files are going to completely disappear; not anytime soon, anyway. They’ll certainly still exist as data structures, deep inside our servers and our phones, for a very long time – and yet most people will be indifferent to their existence. I’m pretty sure Dropbox’s multi-billion dollar valuation isn’t an anticipation of this new reality – it’s simply a projection of our current world, played in fast-forward. This is gravely shortsighted. Dropbox may not be the first Unicorn to slide slowly and then quickly towards irrelevance and death – but it’ll happen.

Having used Slack, I can believe a lot of that. If you haven’t used Slack, you’ll be harrumphing at this. (People who still put music and video files onto SD cards to slot into their phones will be incredulous.) It’s just a matter of time.
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India’s competition authority charges Google with rigging search results; Flipkart, Facebook corroborate complaints » The Economic Times

Deepali Gupta:

Flipkart, Facebook, Nokia’s maps division, and several other companies have corroborated complaints that US Internet giant Google abused its dominant market position, in their response to queries raised by the Competition Commission of India.

Based on the responses from 30 businesses spanning search, social networks, ecommerce, travel and content sites, the CCI director-general last week filed a report that accuses Google of abusing its dominant position to rig search outcomes, both the actual search result as well as sponsored links. This marks the first case globally where an antitrust body is formally raising such charges against Google.

Flipkart’s complaint – that its position in organic results varied on how much it spent on ads with Google – is an eye-opener; often whispered, never made part of a complaint.

The list is comprehensive; if anything, Google faces more fires here than in Europe. What’s not clear is how determined, and meticulous, the CCI is. Anyone know? Google has to respond by September 10.
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Adobe aims to bring Photoshop to mobile masses with upcoming app » CNET

Stephen Shankland:

“Project Rigel is designed and built in a way that serves the needs of professionals familiar with retouching tools on the desktop, but more so for people not familiar with Photoshop tools like content-aware fill or spot healing,” Manu Anand, Adobe’s senior product manager for digital imaging, said in an interview at Adobe’s offices here. “It democratizes them and makes them easier to use.”

The app itself has a touchscreen interface, with a menu of editing options across the bottom, pop-out tool adjustments on the left side and a strong zoom ability to offer precision when selecting areas of an image with fat fingertips. It’s even got face recognition technology that Photoshop for PC lacks, a feature that identifies facial features then lets people enlarge or tilt eyes or raise the corners of a subject’s mouth to emphasize a smile.

Bringing Photoshop to the mobile masses is crucial for Adobe as it tries to adapt its business to modern computing trends. The company has no desire to suffer Microsoft’s fate, being largely left behind by the meteoric rise of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the software that powers nearly all smartphones and tablets.

Not sure Adobe gets a choice there. It has clung on to the desktop with Flash, and it’s hard to see how Photoshop is really that relevant for mobile; it feels like overkill. (Adobe has a large, unseen-by-consumers business in web measurement too.)
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A 21st-century migrant’s essentials: food, shelter, smartphone » The New York Times

Matthew Brunwasser:

The tens of thousands of migrants who have flooded into the Balkans in recent weeks need food, water and shelter, just like the millions displaced by war the world over. But there is also one other thing they swear they cannot live without: a smartphone charging station.

“Every time I go to a new country, I buy a SIM card and activate the Internet and download the map to locate myself,” Osama Aljasem, a 32-year-old music teacher from Deir al-Zour, Syria, explained as he sat on a broken park bench in Belgrade, staring at his smartphone and plotting his next move into northern Europe.

“I would never have been able to arrive at my destination without my smartphone,” he added. “I get stressed out when the battery even starts to get low.”

Not a thing one would have been likely to forecast even five years ago. GPS and WhatsApp are now essential.
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Apple iPhone 6 Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 5 » Business Insider

Lisa Eadicicco:

After spending a week switching between the two, here’s what I came away with. 

• Both phones are gorgeous, but with the Note 5 you get a slightly larger screen packed into a phone that’s the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus.
• The Note 5’s screen displays colors more vibrantly than the iPhone, but it’s not any sharper than the iPhone’s screen even though it’s a higher spec.
• The iPhone is still much more simple to use than Samsung’s phone.
• The Note 5’s S Pen feels natural and the multiwindow feature is useful, but Samsung’s version of Android is still too cluttered for me.
• Both phones take excellent photos. It’s a win-win here, but, as is the case with the Note 5’s display, its camera also sometimes exaggerates color. 

She also liked the Note’s split screen, and found the pen useful too.
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The mobile video ad lie » Medium

Rob Leathern found a page apparently with no video ads on the NY Post was loading 10MB. But how?

The large JPG files I referenced earlier make up the majority of the payload of this page — and are coming from the domain. Here again are those example1 and example2 of the image files.

Remember, I didn’t see any video content nor any video ads at all. If there is not willful fraud here, loading ads in the background that are impossible to see, then at the very least it is ‘user-hating’ irresponsible behavior to have a 10+mb payload with hundreds of http calls in a mobile browser.

Many publishers simply must have a sense that something nasty is going on — when their users complain about slow page loads on mobile web — but they either don’t have the tech savvy and/or more likely, they won’t ask questions about how their site could possibly be monetizing as well as it is when simple math indicates that their users aren’t watching that many video streams. Many simply turn a blind eye.

Ad industry insiders talk about “improving viewability” — but make no mistake, these are likely not mistakes made by inexperienced workers — just as mobile ads that pop up iTunes Store pages for mobile app installs are not casual errors — this is an industry that persists by helping already-fraught businesses like newspapers and online publishers survive at the expense of the advertisers who supposedly help us users have free content.

Is it any wonder desktop ad blocking has been on the rise, and many iOS users are excited at the prospect of using content blocking in iOS9 to get rid of mobile ads? The industry has only itself to blame.

I find these stories – which are growing in volume – fascinating. This is a boil that the internet community is looking to lance with vigour.
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Life after content blocking » Monday Note

Jean-Louis Gassee:

What are the smaller publishers to do?

Displaying their outrage by posting “Access Denied” when reached by an “offending” browser won’t work.

Some very specialized sites, such as Ben Thompson’s Stratechery and Ben Bajarin’s TechPinions, are able to generate membership revenue because the quality of their content — sober analysis versus mere reporting — makes it worth the price of subscription.

But these are exceptions. Too many sites are just echo chambers, they rewrite news releases, add strong adjectives and adverbs, and a bit of spin. Competition for attention, pageviews, and advertising dollars drives them to shout from the rooftops. If they don’t want to disappear or be rolled up into a larger entity to “optimize expenses”, they’ll have to get us to pay for their content.

This is much easier said than done. It’s difficult to conjure up a picture in which we’ll have subscriptions to most of the sites we graze today in their ad-supported form.

An alternative to subscriptions for content we may or may not actually “consume” is pay-as-you-go. In principle, this isn’t very different from what we do when we buy an episode of Breaking Bad. We gladly pay $2.99 to watch what we want, when we want, and without ads.

This works well for TV shows, but it doesn’t easily translate to websites.

I do foresee a number of those middling sites selling up to others which reckon they can make a go of it.
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We have no interest in competing with Apple: John Sculley of Obi Worldphone » Business Today

Interviewed by Manu Kaushik:

[Inflexionpoint chief executive] Neeraj [Chauhan] and I sat down. I asked him why he thought there’s an opportunity for us to go into this industry. He said that we have skills of distribution and supply chains, we know how to negotiate with various vendors, and we can run on a different business model.

At the same time, we were looking at the opportunity of buying BlackBerry. We were approached by the Canadian government. We have big operations in Toronto with another one of our companies. They said that we would like to keep BlackBerry a Canadian company and would you consider acquiring it. We studied BlackBerry’s business practices. We realised that they had 7,000 people in their handsets division at that time. That was incredible number of people. There’s no way you can make money with that. Eventually, BlackBerry pulled the auction [down]. They brought a talented CEO to run the company John Chen. They should have brought him in three years earlier.

But it opened our eyes. I asked Neeraj how many people you would need to run BlackBerry’s handset business. He said that he could do it with hundreds of people.

Via Charles Knight, who adds: “You have to wonder who else in Canada they approached.” It’s probably a long list.
link to this extract

Start up, May 28: LG Urbane reviewed, crashing iOS, who really bought Re/Code?, Meeker’s 2015, and more

Strong feelings, and not about the video game. Photo by gato gato gato on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends for 2015

Have to admit I haven’t read it (found it late) but it’s always essential reading. Download and peruse.

Apple’s ‘Proactive’ to take on Google Now with deep iOS 9 search, Augmented Reality Maps, Siri API » 9to5Mac

It’s that Mark Gurman guy again:

Apple began to lay the groundwork for Proactive with its acquisition of a personal assistant app called Cue in 2013, seeking to relevantly broaden iOS’s Spotlight and Safari search results. iOS 8’s ability to display Wikipedia Search results within Spotlight was the first taste of the Proactive initiative, and was partially designed to reduce iOS’s search reliance on Google. Sources say that Apple’s internal iOS usage metrics indicate that Google clicks have indeed fallen since iOS 8’s release last fall. Now Apple wants to take Proactive to the next level, and it may do so with iOS 9’s introduction at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8. While Apple has positioned Siri as an “intelligent personal assistant” since the fall 2011 launch of the iPhone 4S, Proactive will go much further to integrate with your data. To begin with, Proactive will become a new layer within the iOS operating system, replacing the pulldown Spotlight menu currently found on the iOS Home screen.

But he says there’s also disagreement about whether to launch this in iOS 9, which was sorta going to be the “Slow down, Snow Leopard” release. (Also, “augmented reality” always sounds cool and then disappoints. I’ve tried it. It ain’t all that.) I’d love to see the metrics around Gurman’s stories compared to those for Re/Code. I think he might be ahead in pure readership. But of course he doesn’t have a giant conference attached.

Bug in iOS Unicode handling crashes iPhones with a simple text » AppleInsider

AppleInsider reader Kaitlyn on Tuesday discovered that receiving the Unicode characters seen in the screenshot above through Apple’s iOS Messages app triggers iPhone restarts, lockouts from Messages, Springboard crashes and more. A thread on Reddit narrowed down the system crash and reboot errors to iOS Unicode handling. More specifically, the Unicode string in question is part of a much longer block of text that cannot be fully rendered in Notifications.

If you’re thinking this sounds retro, that’s because it is: same sorta bug (different string) did the same thing back in August 2013. Wonder how long the fix will take. Also: Apple Watch apparently not susceptible, which is super-puzzling.

A series of wholly unrelated observations about Vox Media’s acquisition of Recode » The Awl

Matt Buchanan points out that if you pull the threads of both companies for long enough, you end up – from both – at Comcast, where its venture arm is trying to sell a company to the main arm. Trebles all round, or something. Also, take a look at the tags on the story. (Via Charles Knight.)

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland seizes documents at FIFA » Swiss Attorney General

Now, I don’t usually care about football (soccer to you Americans), but the evident corruption in FIFA (the “world governing body for football”) has been evident for years. Now, finally, something is happening – but not on just one, but two fronts:

In connection with irregularities surrounding football tournaments, two separate proceedings must be distinguished: The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) is conducting a Swiss criminal investigation regarding the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. For inquiries regarding this Swiss criminal investigation, please contact the OAG. In separate proceedings, and independently of the Swiss criminal investigation of the OAG, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is conducting a criminal investigation into the allocation of media, marketing and sponsoring rights for football tournaments carried out in the United States and Latin America. The Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) supports this criminal investigation as part of international legal assistance.

International Olympic Committee next?

Charles Johnson: world’s worst troll removed from Twitter » Australia

Emma Reynolds:

Chuck is now raising money on his far-right website to have himself reinstated following this “censorship”. But his previous threats of legal action have never led to anything, with a website dedicated to the many times he has planned to sue for libel.

The list of things he has got egregiously wrong – on purpose? – is astonishing. But his whole schtick is about outrage and extremism. It’s more the attention paid to such people that’s the problem. When they’re just shouting to themselves, it means nothing.

Shipments of 2-in-1s to grow over 60% on year in 2015, says MIC » Digitimes

Notebook shipments, which are being impacted by tablets, are expected to drop 2.7% on year to reach 167m units in 2015, but 2-in-1 device shipments are expected to grow 62.5% on year to reach 13m units due to Microsoft’s aggressive promotions, according to figures from the Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC).

Compare to the estimated 7m Chromebooks: these are both still niche markets.

LG Watch Urbane review: why Android Wear trails Apple’s Watch » WSJ

Geoffrey Fowler:

The Urbane falls behind in its approach to the fundamental smartwatch problem: When technology is attached to our bodies, there’s a thin line between help and nuisance. Android Wear is the annoying little brother of operating systems. It really wants your attention, and to keep you swipe-swipe-swiping away on its little screen. A smartwatch’s purpose is to keep you plugged in so you don’t have to be glued to your phone. Since I started wearing an Apple Watch two months ago, I check my phone roughly 25% less, according to Moment, an app that monitors my habits. Ideally, a smartwatch should give you just enough information to keep your smartphone anxiety in check, but not so much that you’re tempted to keep looking at your wrist. The Urbane’s default settings do the opposite. When I just want to check the time, the Urbane often teases me with a notification “card” on the bottom of its screen. You’ve got four new emails! It’s 68 degrees today! You can quickly swipe it away, but after that one’s gone, there’s usually another card waiting.

Lots of room for improvement – but it’s still very early days. (Hadn’t heard of Moment before. “TRACK HOW MUCH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY USE YOUR PHONE”. Are you brave enough? Um, and it has a Watch version.)

Infomercial GIfs, because real life is hard. » Imgur

Zero tech in this collection of “how hard life is because we don’t have X tech that the informercial will sell you”. Lots of solutions looking for problems – happily, we don’t see the solutions, just guess at them (and, often, the problems). The most impressive, in my view, is the woman in the second GIF who juggles the bottle. That’s really hard to do badly well.

Start up (May 21): Cisco in Russia, more Google Maps malarkey, a Watch forecast cut, and more

Somehow this didn’t publish on May 21 as it should have. Bah.

Android Wear lets you do all sorts of watchfaces. Photo by leolambertini on Flickr.

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

After sanctions, Cisco altered sales records in Russia » BuzzFeed News

Aram Roston and Max Seddon, with a blockbuster piece:

After Western sanctions began shutting down sales of high-tech internet equipment to Russia’s military and security forces, employees at technology giant Cisco Systems Inc. altered sales records and booked deals under a false customer name, according to internal company documents. The intent, according to a confidential source with deep knowledge of Cisco’s Moscow operations, was to dodge the sanctions by masking the true customers behind more innocuous-sounding straw buyers.

Nonononononotatall we were just correcting some errors, says Cisco.
Remind me again about how Buzzfeed is just cat pictures and listicles?

Sex, monsters and outrage » Public Address

Joshua Drummond on the outrage (overhyped) about students in a sex education class being handed literature that, um, outraged some people:

By analogy, it’s a lot like students studying World War Two. Some knowledge of the Nazis’ peculiar, perverted ideology and the conditions in which it flourished is necessary to understand how the war got going. But no-one’s being taught that Nazis are rad, any more than they’re being taught that unmarried women are sluts in this particular case. The lesson was – and why not have some fun with paraphrasing – intended to point out the unfortunate truth that there are a lot of dicks in the world and some of them try to force their dickery on others. I’d have thought this was a pretty important lesson, especially when it comes to sexual health, and where better to experience it than in the (relatively) safe space of a health education class?

No! said Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins, who thundered mildly: “It’s fine for schools to be using stuff to provoke kids into thinking but there’s a fine line between provoking critical thought and something that’s offensive. That, I think, crosses the line.”

Well, I suppose that’s up for debate. Should students be privy to the extremist views of nutcases?

What’s most worrying is that, as always happens, the initial distortion gets far more broadly distributed than the correction.

Think about that: the wrong stuff always gets the broader distribution.

Facebook’s comes under fire for being a walled garden » Fortune

Mathew Ingram:

In effect, says the EFF, the structure of means that Facebook has set itself up as a gatekeeper when it comes to accessing the Internet, and this means that it has “issued an open invitation for governments and special interest groups to lobby, cajole or threaten them to withhold particular content from their service.” Until the social network truly opens up the project to anyone and everyone, will “not be living up to its promise or its name,” the foundation says.

Today’s solar panels are fine for tomorrow » Solar Love

Steve Hanley:

An interdisciplinary MIT study led by the MIT Energy Initiative has led to a 332-page report entitled The Future of Solar Energy. Among its key findings are that today’s solar panels are all that is needed to supply the world with many terawatts of clean solar power by 2050 (a terawatt is equivalent to 1,000,000 megawatts). The other main point the study makes is that it will take political will to finally wean the world off of fossil fuels.

I was pointed to this on Twitter by Leonardo DiCaprio. Yup, him. Not personally, you understand.

KGI lowers Apple Watch forecast to 15 million » WatchAware

Abdel Ibrahim, commenting on 9to5Mac reporting on KGI research lowering its estimat for the lead from 20-30m to “just” 15m:

As with any new product, it takes time for things to get going. New features, functions, and even new versions are what will be the most important test for Apple Watch in the coming years. Most V1 products are usually adopted by the comparatively small minority of Apple fans who are interested in the company’s latest gadgets.

15m feels astonishing. For a v1 product? And as Ibrahim points out, that’s a lot more than Android Wear seems to be doing (downloads passed 1m in late February, now around 1.2m).

Proper Google Maps app appears on Android Wear via latest phone app update » Android Central

Andrew Martonik:

The app can be launched from the app launcher or by voice with an “open Maps” command, and when opened you get a full screen top-down map experience. You can scroll around, pinch-to-zoom (barely) and even switch between true North and device direction views. Zoom in/out buttons appear on the top of the screen when you tap it, which is much better than pinching, and you also get a small pin button that lets you quickly scroll through nearby places and navigate to them — though when you fire up navigation from the Maps app on the watch it still corresponds with launching Maps on your phone.

There’s even a neat feature that gives you a simple black and white outline map when the watch doesn’t receive interaction for while, just like the ambient watch faces do.

Aside from the handful of reboots of our phone and watch that were necessary just to get it to run, the app still seems rather unstable. Several times in just a few minutes of playing with the app it has failed to respond or open up navigation properly — we have a feeling that this isn’t quite ready without a new version of Google Play Services or potentially a new version of Android Wear on the watch.

Options for resizing: pinch-to-zoom or prodding a plus/minus onscreen tab. Neither seems ideal. The black/white outline map is horrible. The “list of pins” looks smart.

How do I get rid of the “Try the New Drive” banner? » Google Product Forums

Q: It is super annoying and it won’t go away. I’ve tried going to the new drive and then coming back, but it’s still there. I like the old drive a lot better than the new one and I want to stay on it. This banner is basically trying to force me to use the new drive which I *don’t want to do*. Anyone know if there’s a way to get rid of it??

And wouldn’t you know, there’s a Googler ready with an answer. However…

Apple Watch and Continuous Computing » Stratechery

Ben Thompson has a fantastic examination of the Watch’s potentials, and limits, as well as Apple’s advantages and strategic disadvantage:

it’s clear that what the mouse was to the Mac and multi-touch was to the iPhone, Siri is to the Watch. The concern for Apple is that, unlike the others, the success or failure of Siri doesn’t come down to hardware or low-level software optimizations, which Apple excels at, and which ensures that Apple products have the best user interfaces. Rather, it depends on the cloud, and as much as Apple has improved, an examination of their core competencies and incentives argues that the company will never be as good as Google. That was acceptable on the phone, but is a much more problematic issue when the cloud is so central to the most important means of interacting with the Watch.

A key advantage: lots of people who will buy it and use it, creating a virtuous circle for developers who write for it. (Yes, a calculator for the Watch.)

Breaking News: Howard University shows up as ‘N***er University’ on Google Maps » Seely Security

Bryan Seely:

A few hours ago, Bomani X @AceBoonCoon  updated his twitter feed with yet another one of his shocking discoveries on Google Maps.  Yesterday the world took notice when he posted an image of his Google Maps results where he found that when he searched for the keyword ‘nigga’ or ‘nigger’ , the White House would come up. Unfortunately, President Obama and his family are not the only targets of this deplorable prank. When you run a Google Maps search for ‘nigger university’ you get search results for ‘Howard University,’ a private university in Washington, D.C.

Beginning to look like we’re discovering the limits of useful crowdsourcing. (Though of course the Google search for “miserable failure” of a few years ago was already showing the dangers.)

Driverless cars may cut US auto sales by 40%, Barclays says » Bloomberg Business

Keith Naughton:

US auto sales may drop about 40% in the next 25 years because of shared driverless cars, forcing mass-market producers such as General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. to slash output, a Barclays Plc analyst said.

Vehicle ownership rates may fall by almost half as families move to having just one car, according to a report published Tuesday by the analyst, Brian Johnson. Driverless cars will travel twice as many miles as current autos because they will transport each family member during the day, he wrote.

Large-volume automakers “would need to shrink dramatically to survive,” Johnson wrote. “GM and Ford would need to reduce North American production by up to 68% and 58%, respectively.”…

…When most vehicles are driverless, annual U.S. auto sales will fall about 40% to 9.5%, while the number of cars on American roads declines by 60% to fewer than 100m, he estimated.

“While extreme, a historical precedent exists,” Johnson wrote. “Horses once filled the many roles that cars fill today, but as the automobile came along, the population of horses dropped sharply.”

Hard to argue against that one.

Start up: Apple Watch’s big security hole, iPhone rumours!, fight for your right to be forgotten, and more

Forgetful sign. Photo by mikecogh on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Go on, click them. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Watch OS 1.0 lacks the necessary security features to dissuade thieves » iDownloadblog

Jeff Benjamin:

The Apple Watch contains security measures to prevent thieves from accessing your data, but it doesn’t include the necessary features to dissuade thieves from trying to steal your device to begin with.

The problem stems from the lack of an Activation Lock-like feature on Watch OS 1.0.

Unlike the iPhone, if someone steals your Apple Watch, they can easily reset the device (bypass the passcode), and pair it with a new iPhone logged in to a different iCloud account. In other words, it’s totally feasible to steal an Apple Watch and set it up on a different device as if you just purchased it from an Apple Store.

What a colossal security oversight. Bad, bad, bad.

Maybe Samsung is starting to think wearables through more carefully » ReadWrite

Brian Rubin:

Samsung’s new software development kit for its homegrown mobile OS Tizen offers a few hints about its upcoming Gear A smartwatch (codenamed Orbis)—namely, that it will probably sport a round display and a rotating bezel for taking a spin through the interface.

More important, though, the SDK also suggests that Samsung is taking a more measured approach to its new wearable—one that bodes well for its future efforts in the area.

Rotating bezel sounds a clever idea… until you try to think what you’d control with it. OK, it was a great idea on the iPod for scrolling through a long list. But on a watchface, you’d be obscuring part of the list at least once every revolution.

Introducing Windows 10 Editions » Microsoft

There’s Home, Pro, Enterprise, Education, and…

Windows 10 Mobile is designed to deliver the best user experience on smaller, mobile, touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets. It boasts the same, new universal Windows apps that are included in Windows 10 Home, as well as the new touch-optimized version of Office. Windows 10 Mobile offers great productivity, security and management capabilities for customers who use their personal devices at work. In addition, Windows 10 Mobile will enable some new devices to take advantage of Continuum for phone, so people can use their phone like a PC when connected to a larger screen.

Windows 10, a break from the past of confusing SKUs. Also: Windows Mobile. We have always been at war with Eurasia. (There’s a Mobile Enterprise version too.)

Next A9-based iPhone predicted to have 12MP camera, 2GB RAM, rose gold and more, mass production in August » Mac Rumors

As it’s never too early for “next iPhone” rumours, Joe Rossignol channels KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo (who has done OK on this stuff before):

The main selling point of the so-called “iPhone 6s” and “iPhone 6s Plus” will be Force Touch, the pressure-sensitive display technology built into Apple Watch and new MacBook trackpads. Other predicted features for Apple’s next iPhone, many of which have already been rumored, include an A9 processor with 2GB of RAM, improved 12-megapixel camera, a new Rose Gold colour option, possible sapphire cover lenses and more.

2GM of RAM is overdue. Unsure about the Force Touch thing: would that make the phone thicker? Would it work all over the screen? It might get rid of a moving part that’s probably prone to break (the home button) which could still have a sapphire lens for the fingerprint unlock. Might.

The most surprising forecast is that there won’t be a refashioned 4in model. Will the 5S remain on sale, but ageing? Or are the larger screens the only future?

Fitbit IPO rides on persuading you to dust off your wristband » Bloomberg Business

Caroline Chen:

Some Fitbit users have found they can use smartphone apps to count steps instead of having to wear a wristband. For others, the novelty just wore out. Catherine Toth Fox bought her Fitbit Charge, which sells for $129.95, in January and was done with it after a month.
“I stopped using it when I figured out how much activity it took me to hit 10,000 steps,” the Honolulu freelance writer, 40, said in an e-mail. “I realized very quickly that I was already reaching that goal just by my normal daily activities, so there was no need to have a device to tell me that anymore.” She gave the Fitbit to her mother, who uses it daily. Her husband, on the other hand, has never taken his out of the box.
Keeping users engaged will matter even more as Fitbit increases its offerings to employers. The device maker’s corporate wellness program lets companies buy Fitbits for their workers and monitor their health via a dashboard. For companies that are self-insured, encouraging employees to exercise more can help reduce the firm’s health bill.

That “I figured out how much was enough” point is an important one: it sets a ceiling even on active users.

How Google’s top minds decide what to forget » WSJ

Lisa Fleisher and Sam Schechner:

Google has only been removing results from European domains such as or—but not, even when accessed in Europe. That can make it simple to find results that have been removed, leading regulators to issue an opinion saying Google’s position didn’t go far enough.

Regulators say their position holds and that Google should comply or face legally binding orders to do so.

“Their position will have to change,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of the CNIL, France’s data-protection regulator, as well as chairwoman of a pan-European advisory body that includes all EU privacy regulators.

Another confrontation looms. (Clever headline, too.)

Google wins privacy case, allowed not to forget in Finland » Ars Technica UK

The (original) headline here is misleading. Let’s see why in this Glyn Moody article:

As the news site reports, the case concerned a Finnish man’s business “blunders,” which he claimed were harming him because they continued to turn up in Google’s search results. After Google refused a request to remove them, the man appealed to Finland’s Data Protection Ombudsman. The latter pointed out that “Finland’s business register lists the man as still being involved in business operations, including debt collection.” That presumably meant the links to stories about his past would still be relevant to people who were seeking information about the person in question now. As such, there was no reason for Google to be forced to delete those hits from its search results page.

Ah, so this is an appeal. Which means the “RTBF” (or RTBdelinked) does apply in Finland. As the article continues by explaining:

Finland’s Data Protection Ombudsman is currently dealing with around 30 other complaints about Google’s refusal to delete results. According to the article, “In Finland there have been close to 3,700 requests [to Google] to remove information from roughly 12,000 search results. Google has conformed to about 45%.” This is close to its average compliance rate of 40% across the EU, where Google has received 250,000 requests to remove information from more than 900,000 search engine results.

So in fact the RTBF is enacted *more* strongly in Finland than elsewhere in Europe, on average. After I pointed this out to Moody, he tweaked the headline to “Google wins privacy case, allowed this time not to forget in Finland”.

People get worked up over the RTBF, even though it rests on the same principle as that preventing US companies from grabbing data from Europeans and abusing it. They like the latter, but not the former; except they’re indivisible because of their origin.

Apple Watch vs Android Wear: Why most smartwatches still suck for women » iMore

Serenity Caldwell:

When I first heard about Android Wear last year, I thought the folks behind the OS were doing a lot of things right. And I still do: the approach to notifications is smart, custom watch faces are neat, and Google Now — while creepy — works exceptionally well at providing smart information for your day.

There’s only one problem: There’s not a single Android Wear device designed to fit a small-wristed person.

If wearable technology is the next big thing for our tech-connected society, why is Apple the only company paying attention to the smaller-wristed set? Lady or dude, there are quite a few people on this earth whose arms don’t resemble the trunk of a Sequoia tree — many of whom would be excited to use a smartwatch. I was thrilled when Apple announced multiple sizes for the Apple Watch, and moreover that both were reasonably-sized for the wrist; sadly, I have yet to find an Android Wear device that will fit on my wrist without making it look like the technology equivalent of an iron shackle.

Start up: Apple Watch v Android Wear, the old smartphone buyers, Google halts Mapmaker (finally), and more

Seems to be free of intentional errors so far. Photo by scarlettfawth on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Slather them over your body like peppercorn sauce. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome. got 555 comments on an article about changes to comments » Poynter

Kirsten Hare: You’re making an effort to keep comments in a time when many sites have scrapped them. Why is that?

Erica Palan: There are definitely folks in our newsrooms — and in the industry overall — who would be happy to see comments go away. But our digital leadership team is committing to keeping comments. Commenters are some of our most dedicated readers. They come back again and again to our stories. Also, the Internet is a big, chatty place. If we don’t give our readers the opportunity to talk about the news, they’ll go elsewhere.

KH: There were 545 comments with this piece! Is that normal?

EP: Ha, not at all! Some of our stories will generate a ton of comments, but 545 is a lot no matter what barometer we’re using. I was really nervous it’d be crickets for awhile, because it was a few hours before it took off! (How embarrassing to write an article about comments and then receive no comments?) To me, it showed that our commenters really do care about being a part of

KH: I noticed you moderated them. Any advice for other journalists or news outlets?

EP: At we’ve been really inspired by the work being done by the Engaging News Project. They put out a study that showed that having writers moderate and comment on their own stories improved the tenor of comments overall. A handful of reporters for the Inquirer and Daily News have started to do this and anecdotally, we feel it’s been pretty successful.

I reckon different dynamics apply: that the people with the most useful insights reserve those for places where they’ll be most valuable, which isn’t necessarily comment sections. “Commenters are some of our most dedicated readers” is true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones who attract other readers. (Also, having writers moderate comments on their own stories probably isn’t smart – nor a great use of their time. I didn’t moderate comments at The Guardian; no writer did.)

US smartphone sales among consumers earning less than $30,000 grow more than 50% » NPD Group

As US mobile phones sales transition to predominately smartphones, buyers have become significantly older and less affluent. For the third consecutive three-month period ending February 2015, sales among consumers earning less than $30K per year grew by more than 50%. This demographic is now the largest segment of the smartphones market, accounting for 28% of all sales. In contrast, sales among consumers earning more than $100K a year increased by just 24%. For the three months ending February 2015, buyers aged 55+ also represented 28% of all sales, up 24% from a year ago, and were the fastest growing age segment of the population.

Over the three month period ending in February, overall sales of mobile phones rose 28% compared to last year, while smartphone sales increased 35%. During the same three-month period, the share of sales for non-smartphones declined to just 14%…

…Apple and Samsung accounted for two out of every three smartphones sold over the three month period, although Apple sales increased by 45% and Samsung’s just 10%.

And here’s a brand breakdown:

NPD seems to think it’s the oldies buying the new models. So, old geezers are going to rule the mobile biz?

What to Wear? » Rusty Rants

Russell Ivanovic, of Shifty Jelly, in a comparison that I’ve been wanting to read since the Apple Watch came out:

One of the benefits of being curious about technology and running a company where we get to buy it to test on, is that I get to play with a lot of cool gadgets. When it comes to watches alone I have the Apple Watch, LG G, LG Watch R, Moto 360, Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Sony Smartwatch 3. I thought it might be interesting to compare Android Wear and Apple Watch as they are today.

The must-read for today, if only to keep up with how the two platforms are evolving. I think he’s spot-on with each prediction, too.

Baidu leads in artificial intelligence benchmark » WSJ Digits blog

Robert McMillan:

The company’s Minwa supercomputer scanned ImageNet, a database of just over one million pictures, and taught itself how to sort them into a predefined set of roughly 1,000 different categories. This meant learning the difference between a French loaf and a meatloaf, but also trickier challenges such as distinguishing a Lakeland terrier from a wire-haired fox terrier.

Five years ago, the possibility that computers would surpass humans at this work appeared remote. But computers run by Microsoft, Google, and now Baidu have all done better than the best human results in the past few months.

With practice, humans correctly identify all but about 5% of the ImageNet photos. Microsoft’s software had a 4.94% error rate; Google achieved 4.8%. Baidu said that it had reduced the error rate further to 4.58%.

The so-called deep learning algorithms that Baidu and others are using to ace these tests have only recently made the leap from academia to Silicon Valley. But they’re starting to have an impact in daily life.

Unfortunately the broader “impact in daily life” isn’t specified. Google used it for voice recognition in Android, but that’s not quite “daily life”.

Also notable: Chinese companies starting to challenge western ones in this field.

After several public Google Maps hacks, Google forced to suspend Map Maker to prevent more fake edits » SearchEngineLand

Barry Schwartz:

Google has temporarily suspended Google Map Maker, a service to allow the community to make edits to Google Maps similar to how Wikipedia edits work. The reason the service was suspended was because of the recent public edits made to show how easy it is to make fraudulent edits to businesses.

We covered the loopholes that showed how Edward Snowden was at the White House and how Android relieved itself on Apple. But these hacks and fraudulent edits have been going on for a long long time.

Indeed – recall locksmiths and the US Secret Service and the restaurant a rival said was closed at weekends. The problem with the “peeing Android” edit was that it was multi-stage, by a “trusted” editor. This isn’t going to be solved easily.

High profile tech start-up Ninja Blocks goes bust » The Age

Rose Powell:

Ninja Blocks built and sold home automation systems that allowed users to control electrical devices through their smart phone. It managed both the software and also manufactured a range of sleek hardware products.

The company was launched three years ago and sustained its growth through sales and a series of successful crowdfunding campaigns: $103,000 in 2012 and $703,000 in 2013. Both brought in double or triple their original goal. It also raised $2.4m in three funding rounds, which included leading Australian tech investors Square Peg Capital, Blackbird Ventures, Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar as well as Sing Tel’s Innov8.

Crowdfunding campaigns require significant, ongoing public communication. The company went quiet in April as their latest product, the Ninja Sphere, ran over time and over-budget.

In a blog post, the team wrote the fact it was receiving “far below what they would expect to get somewhere else” their burn rate could not be sustained.

Unclear if the dollar amounts are Australian or US, but shows that hardware remains a tough business in which to succeed. (Side note: Powell’s byline describes her as “journalist”. Helpful.)

Hard numbers for public posting activity on Google Plus » Stone Temple Consulting

Eric Enge dives very deep into numbers that many have tried to dive deep into many times before:

Our extrapolated total suggests that about 23.4 million people have put public posts on Google+ within a given 30 day period. There is a hyperactive group of 358K+ people who do 50 or more public posts per month. After adjustments, we see these two numbers drop to 16M and 106K respectively.

These numbers should give you a good sense of what’s really going on in the G+ stream at this point.

Note that we also found that a small percentage (0.16%) of the total profiles examined currently return 404 errors (which means that the page does not exist), suggesting that the accounts have been abandoned or shut down.

The invalid profiles may include profiles that were robotically created in attempts to artificially game Google+. Those of you who are active on G+ are familiar with your follower count dropping at those times when Google clears a bunch of these out.

Isn’t going away, though, for reasons Enge then goes on to explain.

Four reasons why the Apple Watch will be a success » GlobalWebIndex

Jason Mander:

while the smart(est) money will probably wait for v2 of the Apple Watch to become available – the one where all of the initial annoyances and shortcomings have been addressed – there can be no doubt that, Apple’s first foray into this sector will finally push it into the mainstream. Quite simply, it’s inevitable that this watch will be a success – and here are four reasons why.

GWI provides wide-scale demographic information about web users worldwide. Of particular interest: it finds that those who have already bought a wearable are the most interested in using an Apple device, as here:

(Makes a change from all the “why Apple’s Watch will flop” pieces, anyhow.)

Regulator probes pitfalls of ‘sharing economy’ »

Barney Jopson and Tim Bradshaw on the US FTC’s plan to look into a number of companies:

In the US, the past actions of the FTC — which enforces federal antitrust and consumer protection laws — indicate that it sees ride-hailing apps such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar as a positive force for competition
It has written to state and city legislators urging them not to pass laws that would put them at a disadvantage to traditional taxis.
But the agency wants to probe two practices that are central to peer-to-peer platforms — the accumulation of personal data and the use of rating systems — as well as questions over legal liability for injuries.
“We want to see to what extent sharing economy platforms should be able to monitor participants by collecting, let’s say, location data,” said Ms Lao. “And if they do monitor, how can they do so while adequately protecting the privacy of the participants?”