Start up: China’s coming smartphone crash, Boston Globe v readers, Google Glass is back!, and more

A bucket with ice water: much cheaper, though it doesn’t have Bluetooth. Photo by mediadeo on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. They are what they are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Dark patterns by the Boston Globe » The Rationalist Conspiracy

Alyssa Vance:

»After years of falling revenue, some newspapers have resorted to deception to boost their subscription numbers. These dishonest tactics are sometimes called “dark patterns” – user interfaces designed to trick people.

For example, this is a Boston Globe story on Bernie Sanders:

Before you can read the article, there is a pop-up ad asking you to subscribe. By itself, this is annoying, but not deceptive. The real dark pattern is hidden at the top – the ‘Close’ button (circled in red) uses a very low contrast font, making it hard to see. It’s also in the left corner, not the standard right corner. This makes it likely that users won’t see it, causing them to subscribe when they didn’t have to.

One the ‘Close’ link is clicked, deception continues:

At the bottom, there’s a non-removable, high-contrast banner ad asking for a paid subscription. Again, this is annoying, but honest. However, the circled text “for only 99 cents per week” is not honest. It’s simply a lie, as later pages will show.

«

Turns out that 99c is actually $6.93 per week, and you can only unsubscribe by phone. So wicked.
link to this extract

 


The blockchain menu » net.wars

Wendy Grossman:

»The Internet of Things is such an established concept that I’m startled to note that week’s (Lego) prototype was my first. Three cars want to park…somewhere. Their owners have preset the maximum they will pay. The system locates the nearest parking space, and they bid. The winner is directed to the space, and the fee is automatically deducted from the car’s balance. A display showed the auction in real time. All very nice until I injected reality by grabbing a car and plunking it in the space before bidding ended.

“Usurped” the contested space was now tagged. “You’ll be fined,” Consult Hyperion’s demonstrator said. Who will that stop in Manhattan, where friends have missed two successive movie showings because no parking space? This may be an entertaining solution wishing for a problem.

In that, it was not alone at this week’s Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum, Dave Birch’s quirky annual event where ideas about the future of money are smashed together like particles to see what happens.

«

I love the idea of app developers thinking people would be well-behaved and wait for their app to tell them where to park, while Noo Yawkers just PARK THE DAMN CAR THERE IN THE STOOPID SPACE.

But the article is actually about blockchains, which in a similar way are mostly a solution in search of a problem.
link to this extract

 


China’s crowded smartphone market heads for an epic shakeout » Bloomberg

David Ramli:

»The startup Dakele looked pretty smart when it released a phone in China four years ago. The market was doubling annually, and the company put brand-name components inside a device that cost a fraction of the iPhone.

That $160 gadget went on sale just four months after Dakele opened its doors, and soon the company, which translates as “Big Cola,” made inroads against Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. Buzz was building for the Dakele 3 model last year, with online reviews calling it the best Apple Inc. clone.

Then the sizzle started to fizzle. Huawei spent $300 million on marketing, Xiaomi cut prices and clones of the clone appeared. Troubles with a supplier and raising money prompted Dakele to shut down last month—and it likely won’t be alone. China’s herd of 300 phone makers may be halved in 12 months by competition, a sales plateau and economic growth that’s the slowest in a quarter-century, according to executives and analysts.

“The mobile-phone industry changed more quickly and brutally than expected,” Dakele Chief Executive Officer Ding Xiuhong said on his Weibo messaging account. “As a startup, we couldn’t find more strategies and methods to break through.”

«

I can’t decide whether the smartphone market is telescoping a decade of the PC market into two years, or just going through the same as happened in 1985-9 in about the same length of time.
link to this extract

 


Kickstarter’s biggest shitshow somehow got even messier » Motherboard

Jaason Koebler:

»A decidedly not chill development for 36,000 Kickstarter backers of the “Coolest Cooler”: Coolest is now considering asking people who haven’t yet received their coolers to pay an additional $97 for “expedited delivery” of the long-past-due all-in-one disaster, a prospect that has allegedly led some backers to threaten Coolest employees.

If you’re not familiar, at the time it launched, the Coolest Cooler was the most popular Kickstarter of all time, raising $13 million. The 55-quart cooler has a built-in blender, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a USB charger, and a bottle opener. You can buy one on Amazon, right now, and have it by the weekend if you pay $399.99.

That $399.99 price point is important—when Coolest Cooler was launched on Kickstarter, it cost between $165 and $225, a price its creator Ryan Grepper said in an update to backers was far too low…

…Coolest Cooler doesn’t have money to produce the remaining coolers, which is why it’s selling existing stock on Amazon but not sending them to backers who haven’t yet received the product (the company has delivered about 20,000 coolers to backers, but 36,000 more people are waiting). Reviews of the cooler are mixed — most say that it is indeed cool, but that it is very heavy and isn’t worth $400.

«

I’m trying to imagine a cooler that would be worth $400, even with those add-ons. The article’s comparison with the Welsh drone screwup Zano isn’t right, though; Zano had absurdly inflated claims. This is just poor pricing.
link to this extract

 


CDC: two of every five U.S. households have only wireless phones » Pew Research Center

»More Americans than ever have cut the (telephone) cord, but the growth rate of wireless-only households slowed last year.

About two-in-five (41%) of U.S. households had only wireless phones in the second half of 2013, according to a report released today by the National Center for Health Statistics. The center, the statistical arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that 39.1% of adults and 47.1% of children lived in wireless-only households.

«

When I noted yesterday that “call mom” had overtaken “call home” as a Google search (hence almost certainly a voice activation), I thought it was because “mom” was likely to be at home. But as was pointed out, there might not be a “home” to call.

(Next up: can we calculate the divorce rate based on the rise of “call mom” v “call dad”?)
link to this extract

 


Google Glass startup Augmedix raises $17m from healthcare orgs » Re/code

Mark Bergen:

»The next time you spot a Google Glass in the wild, it might not be on the face of a fervid techie. It might be on your doctor.

Augmedix, one of several startups that formed around the computerized headgear — and kept spinning after the search giant ditched its first attempt — is raising a fresh round of capital to get Google Glass into more health care facilities. The four-year-old startup is part of a wave of Silicon Valley companies trying to tap the massive medical market. It primarily builds software for wearable devices that display electronic health records so that doctors can access them hands-free.

“They’re engaging with patients in front of them,” said CEO Ian Shakil. “In the background, we’re doing all the burdensome work.”

He’s not raising cash from Sand Hill Road. Instead, the $17m strategic investment comes from a quintet of medical institutions.

«

I always thought that Glass’s best use would be inside businesses, not among consumers.
link to this extract

 


Apple’s Watch outpaced the iPhone in first year » WSJ

Daisuke Wakabayashi:

»Apple doesn’t disclose sales, but analysts estimate about 12m Watches were sold in year one. At an estimated average price of $500, that is a $6bn business—three times the annual revenue of activity tracker Fitbit Inc.

By comparison, Apple sold roughly 6m iPhones in its first year. As a new entrant, the Watch accounted for about 61% of global smartwatch sales last year, according to researcher IDC.

And yet, there are detractors such as Fred Wilson, co-founder of venture-capital firm Union Square Ventures, in December declared the Watch a “flop.” Mr. Wilson, who owns shares of Fitbit through a fund, had earlier predicted the Watch wouldn’t be a “home run” like the iPad, iPhone and iPod, saying many people wouldn’t want to wear a computer on their wrist.

The Watch has shortcomings. It is slow, with an underpowered processor that is throttled at times to extend the device’s battery life. It lacks mobile and Global Positioning System connections, meaning it must be accompanied by an iPhone, limiting its usefulness as an independent device. The battery needs to be charged every day.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the Watch’s lack of a defining purpose. It does certain things well, such as activity tracking, mobile payments and notifications. But there is no task the Apple Watch handles that can’t be done by an iPhone or a less-expensive activity tracker.

«

The comparison with the first-year iPhone is meaningless – the Watch was released in more places, with more fanfare. Fred Wilson’s criticism, well, would the better metric be what proportion of devices are still in use? How would the Watch do against the Fitbit?

As to “defining purpose” – its purpose so far is to be an adjunct. It does that pretty well; satisfaction is high, according to survey firm Wristly.
link to this extract

 


Exclusive: Bangladesh Bank hackers compromised SWIFT software, warning to be issued » Reuters

Jim Finkle:

»The attackers who stole $81m from the Bangladesh central bank probably hacked into software from the SWIFT financial platform that is at the heart of the global financial system, said security researchers at British defense contractor BAE Systems.

SWIFT, a cooperative owned by 3,000 financial institutions, confirmed to Reuters that it was aware of malware targeting its client software. Its spokeswoman Natasha Deteran said SWIFT would release on Monday a software update to thwart the malware, along with a special warning for financial institutions to scrutinize their security procedures.

The new developments now coming to light in the unprecedented cyber-heist suggest that an essential lynchpin of the global financial system could be more vulnerable than previously understood to hacking attacks, due to the vulnerabilities that enabled attackers to modify SWIFT’s client software.

«

Got in via a poorly secured $10 router, got away with $81m, hacked the software the world’s banks rely on. This could be worse, right?
link to this extract

 


The secret rules of the internet » The Verge

Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly, with a (quite astoundingly) long piece about the history of content moderation on social networks – if by “history” you mean “starting in 2004”:

»When Dave Willner arrived at Facebook in 2008, the team there was working on its own “one-pager” of cursory, gut-check guidelines. “Child abuse, animal abuse, Hitler,” Willner recalls. “We were told to take down anything that makes you feel bad, that makes you feel bad in your stomach.” Willner had just moved to Silicon Valley to join his girlfriend, then Charlotte Carnevale, now Charlotte Willner, who had become head of Facebook’s International Support Team. Over the next six years, as Facebook grew from less than 100 million users to well over a billion, the two worked side by side, developing and implementing the company’s first formal moderation guidelines.

“We were called The Ninjas,” he said, “mapping the rabbit hole.” Like Mora-Blanco, Willner described how he, Charlotte, and their colleagues sometimes laughed about their work, so that they wouldn’t cry. “To outsiders, that sounds demented,” he said.

Just like at YouTube, the subjectivity of Facebook’s moderation policy was glaring. “Yes, deleting Hitler feels awesome,” Willner recalls thinking. “But, why do we delete Hitler? If Facebook is here to make the world more open,” he asked himself, “why would you delete anything?” The job, he says, was “to figure out Facebook’s central why.”

For people like Dave and Charlotte Willner, the questions are as complex now as they were a decade ago. How do we understand the context of a picture? How do we assign language meaning? Breaking the code for context — nailing down the ineffable question of why one piece of content is acceptable but a slight variation breaks policy — remains the holy grail of moderation.

«

One could pick out any part of this piece. It’s interesting all through. The trouble is it’s so long (around 2,500 words) that you may struggle to find its thread, because there isn’t an actual, progressing, story.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: the forcePhone, analysts cut Samsung Q2 forecasts, bogus Beats?, the jailbreak economy, and more


Like this (from a MacBook), but in a phone. Photo by LoKan Sardari on Flickr.

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

Apple suppliers start making iPhones with Force Touch » Bloomberg Business

Tim Culpan:

Apple has started early production of new iPhone models with a feature called Force Touch, which senses how hard users are pressing down on a screen, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Its newest iPhones, in the same 4.7in and 5.5in versions as the current iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices, will have a similar exterior design, the people said. Volume manufacturing is scheduled to ramp up as soon as next month, they said.

Apple is bringing Force Touch, first unveiled for the Apple Watch and the newest MacBook model, to the iPhone at least two years after it started working with suppliers to perfect the pressure-sensitive displays.

Totally makes sense; why do you think Apple has been making so much noise about this feature on its PCs?


China adds 20 million 4G users in May » Chinadaily.com.cn

Xinhua (the official Chinese news agency):

The number of 4G users in China continued to grow in May, with 20 million added during the period, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said on Thursday.

There are now 200 million 4G clients in China, as the country steps up investment in the telecom industry to expand broadband coverage. In total, there were 657 million mobile broadband users, including 3G and 4G users, at the end of May.

Even if it’s a some way off, China is still the biggest 4G provider in the world.


Taylor Swift may have triumphed, but Apple will still call the tune » The Guardian

I wrote about the whole Apple/Swift/streaming shenanigans:

Martin Goldschmidt, the founder and chief executive of independent record label Cooking Vinyl, whose artists include Marilyn Manson, Amanda Palmer, Billy Bragg and Groove Armada, says that Swift’s decision could certainly not have been because the video service pays better.

“YouTube has a revenue-sharing scheme from adverts, not per-stream, but compared to Apple or Spotify it pays one-tenth to one-twentieth as much per play,” he says. “People see music on YouTube as promotion – wrongly – and Spotify as the destination, the endgame. The reality is that YouTube is the biggest place for music consumption on the planet.

“The reason is that YouTube has colossal reach. We’re in the strange situation where 10m plays on Spotify is viewed as lost sales, while 10m plays on YouTube is a marketing success.”

It’s often overlooked that YouTube’s ad-supported streaming makes Spotify’s look like chicken feed.


Of Ma and malware: inside China’s iPhone jailbreaking industrial complex » Forbes

Great piece by Thomas Fox-Brewster:

Any hacker who can provide the full code for an untethered jailbreak, where the hack continues to work after the phone reboots, can expect a big pay check for their efforts. “Many experts agree the price for an untethered jailbreak is around $1 million,” says Nikias Bassen, aka Pimskeks, a lanky 33-year-old iOS hacker who is part of the evad3rs hacker collective. More often, sellers of iOS zero-day vulnerabilities – the previously-unknown and unpatched flaws required for jailbreaks – make thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chinese firms, private buyers or governments, in particular three-letter agencies from the US.

Such big sums are on offer due to the explosion of the third-party app store industry in China. There are at least 362 million monthly active mobile app users in China, according to data provided by iResearch. Whilst smartphone owners in Western nations are content within the walled gardens of Apple and Google app stores for their games, media and work tools, the Chinese are fanatical about apps and want the broadest possible choice from non-Apple app stores. Jailbreaks, which do away with Apple’s chains and allow other markets on the device, are thus vital to meeting that demand.

Super-detailed piece, which also points to Alibaba’s involvement in this shady practice.


Google helps British criminals polish their image – but what about the innocent » The Register

Andrew Orlowski:

Just to make sure of Google knew its obligations, the Judges pointed out that information had to be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” for an applicant to succeed. This would seem to rule out figures in public life wanting details related to their professional lives from succeeding in scrubbing them away … or serious criminals: under UK law, a conviction resulting in a sentence of more than four years is never “spent” under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. In serious criminal cases the public interest is unambiguous.

However, someone who has committed no major crime – or merely done something embarrassing – should usually be allowed to have it forgotten at some point rather than having the incident follow them around on the internet forever.

How do ordinary people who have done ordinary things, for whom the law was designed, fare? It’s difficult to say. No deletion requests have been sent to the ICO for the Courts to decide – Google has acted as judge and jury, voluntarily. Google says it has removed 39,000 links and declined to remove 66,000 in the UK. In many cases, academic Julia Powles explained to us, it’s an incidental character such as a witness who actually lodged lodged the request rather than the subject of the story. Requesters are understandably reluctant to attract publicity. Until an academic conducts a credible study.

Yet from the Telegraph and BBC lists, it’s clear that people convicted of serious crimes are getting their reputations cleaned – even if they didn’t request the original deletion. Surely that’s the opposite of what the law intended: Google is rewarding the guilty.


Uh-oh: Beats teardown apparently used Beats knockoffs » Core77

Rain Noe:

The prototype engineer who did the breakdown, Avery Louie, never mentions what model of Beats he tore down. But he refers to the price as $199, which is consistent with Beats’ Solo 2 headphones. However, the color scheme in Louie’s photos doesn’t match the Solo 2 offerings, indicating he used Beats’ discontinued Solo HD, which also retailed for $199. And here’s where it starts to unravel.

Louie found just two drivers, one per ear, in his teardown. But the Solo HD contains four drivers, two per ear. So it appears Louie’s been given a bogus pair.

Entirely possible – wander around Shenzhen and there are “Beats” headphones absolutely everywhere.


Between Kickstarter’s frauds and phenoms live long-delayed projects » Ars Technica

Casey Johnston:

Ethan Mollick, a professor in management at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, does some of the most quoted research on the business of crowdfunding. In a 2013 study, he found that 316 of the 471 successfully funded projects analyzed—all with estimated delivery dates of July 2012 or earlier—promised to deliver a physical product. Only three of those 471 projects had declared failure and offered refunds, while another 11 dropped off the map and stopped responding to their backers. Actual shameless fraud appeared rare.

“The concerns about the ability of projects to deliver, however, are supported,” Mollick wrote. Only 24.9% of the projects analyzed delivered on time, and 33% “had yet to deliver” at the time of analysis. The average delay measured 2.4 months. Projects that raise ten times their goal are half as likely to deliver on time.

Mollick also found a correlation between how much money a project raised and delays: projects that raised under $50,000 had a near-perfect delivery rate after eight months’ delay, while projects that raised more than $50,000 hovered around a 75 percent delivery rate eight months later. According to the New York Times Magazine, Mollick reported that since his 2012 evaluation, another 14 percent of projects had delivered either nothing or a subpar product.

Mollick takes the opposite stance. “I’m impressed so many things get delivered at all,” he told Ars.

Good to have some statistics on this.


The Samsung Galaxy S6 is the world’s fastest smartphone » Tom’s Guide

Sam Rutherford and Alex Cranz:

A fast phone shouldn’t just score well in benchmarks. It should deliver swift, everyday performance, too, whether it’s opening a large file, gaming without lag or firing up its camera faster than you can say “cheese.” We pitted six of the latest smartphones against each other in nine rounds of competition, and the Galaxy S6 blew away the field, finishing first in 6 out of 9 real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks.

The LG G4 is our runner-up, turning in the fastest camera-open time and storage benchmark score. The iPhone 6 finished third, tying for first in our real-world gaming test and second in our PDF load-time score. The biggest letdown was the Nexus 6, which finished fifth overall and dead last in opening our PDF, camera-open and gaming tests.

Turns out there’s barely any difference – could you tell the difference between a camera load time of 52.5 milliseconds v 61.5ms? OK, the Nexus 6 load time of 128ms is a lot more. But many of these are the sorts of “differences that don’t make much difference”.


Estimates of Samsung Electronics’ Q2 profits adjusted downward » BusinessKorea

Cho Jin-young:

Korea Investment & Securities adjusted its forecast downward from 7.717trn won (US$6.957bn) to 7.046trn won (US$6.352bn) on June 24, adding that the profits of every business unit but semiconductors are predicted to fall short of expectations.

[Other analysts cut their forecasts too.] According to financial information provider WISEfn, the average estimate fell from 7.4565trn won (US$6.7222bn) to 7.3488trn won (US$6.6244bn) between late March and early this month, and then to 7.2518trn won (US$6.5376bn) on June 24. As recently as a month ago, Hyundai Securities, IBK Investment & Securities, and HMC Investment & Securities used to expect that it profits would exceed 8trn won.

The drop in estimates can be attributed to sluggish smartphone sales. “It seems that the sales volume of the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge have been less than expected, due to a supply shortage and consumer preference for the iPhone 6,” Mirae Asset Securities explained. Nomura Securities recently lowered its Galaxy S6 shipment estimates for the second quarter by three million to 18m units.

18 million is still a lot.


Start up: Kickstarter disappointment, the Apple leaks source?, Google is listening, and more


Wikipedia: missing pieces on mobile. Photo by @bastique on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. They join things together. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

After raising $1 million, the super-thin CST-01 watch won’t make it to Kickstarter backers » The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

The project has run into quite a few issues, but the broadest one is that the watches just aren’t easy to make. Little more than half of them are fully working after assembly, according to the two engineers behind CST-01, which means that the costs to make them are effectively doubled unless they can resolve the underlying issues. At this point, they can’t. As they explained in an earlier update, their project is basically out of money. One of their engineers supposedly went as far as sleeping in a van outside of the production factory so that he didn’t have to pay for a hotel.

Hardware is difficult.


Thoughts on Mark Gurman’s 9to5Mac article about Apple Watch rumors » Mobile Forward

Hristo Daniel Ushev, who worked at Motorola for eight years, on Gurman’s likely source, who he reckons is probably not an Apple employee:

It’s probably someone helping Apple with consumer research. I’m saying that because the leaked information concerns:

• “Considerations” (as far from a shipping product as a PowerPoint slide)
• Visible features, but no granular attributes (spec-level knowledge or software features)
• Price point variants
• Granular information from consumer research

Let’s combine these: a likely-external person, discussing feature “considerations”, without spec or software detail, about price point variants, and quoting granular information from consumer research. Based on that, I think it’s probably a low level employee (or attention-seeker) from a research firm that Apple trusted. The “considerations” may be features that appeared in a research aid.

Rings true. Takes nothing away from Gurman’s work in developing sources, of course.


Can Wikipedia survive? » The New York Times

Andrew Lih:

One of the biggest threats it faces is the rise of smartphones as the dominant personal computing device. A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years.

This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code. Even before smartphones were widespread, studies consistently showed that these are daunting tasks for newcomers. “Not even our youngest and most computer-savvy participants accomplished these tasks with ease,” a 2009 user test concluded. The difficulty of bringing on new volunteers has resulted in seven straight years of declining editor participation.

In 2005, during Wikipedia’s peak years, there were months when more than 60 editors were made administrator — a position with special privileges in editing the English-language edition. For the past year, it has sometimes struggled to promote even one per month.


Google Chrome listening in to your room shows the importance of privacy defence in depth » Privacy Online News

Pirate Party chief Rick Falkvinge:

it should be noted that this was Chromium, the open-source version of Chrome. If somebody downloads the Google product Google Chrome, as in the prepackaged binary, you don’t even get a theoretical choice. You’re already downloading a black box from a vendor. In Google Chrome, this is all included from the start.

This episode highlights the need for hard, not soft, switches to all devices – webcams, microphones – that can be used for surveillance. A software on/off switch for a webcam is no longer enough, a hard shield in front of the lens is required. A software on/off switch for a microphone is no longer enough, a physical switch that breaks its electrical connection is required. That’s how you defend against this in depth.

Of course, people were quick to downplay the alarm. “It only listens when you say ‘Ok, Google’.” (Ok, so how does it know to start listening just before I’m about to say ‘Ok, Google?’) “It’s no big deal.” (A company stealth installs an audio listener that listens to every room in the world it can, and transmits audio data to the mothership when it encounters an unknown, possibly individually tailored, list of keywords – and it’s no big deal!?) “You can opt out. It’s in the Terms of Service.” (No. Just no. This is not something that is the slightest amount of permissible just because it’s hidden in legalese.) “It’s opt-in. It won’t really listen unless you check that box.” (Perhaps. We don’t know, Google just downloaded a black box onto my computer. And it may not be the same black box as was downloaded onto yours. )

Early last decade, privacy activists practically yelled and screamed that the NSA’s taps of various points of the Internet and telecom networks had the technical potential for enormous abuse against privacy. Everybody else dismissed those points as basically tinfoilhattery – until the Snowden files came out, and it was revealed that precisely everybody involved had abused their technical capability for invasion of privacy as far as was possible.

When Google is making Falkvinge look reasonable, it’s made a bad mistake.


April 2010: Nokia exec: phones to make system cameras obsolete » Reuters

Tarmo Virki:

(From April 2010:) Fast developing cameraphone technology will shortly make SLR system cameras and even professional cameras obsolete, the sales chief of the world’s top cellphone maker Nokia said on Tuesday. “They will in the very near future revolutionise the market for system cameras,” Anssi Vanjoki said in a speech in Helsinki.

“There will be no need to carry around those heavy lenses,” Vanjoki said, pointing to a professional photographer taking pictures of him.

The proliferation of smartphones with picture quality comparable to most pocket cameras has boosted photography around the world, but they have so far not challenged real system cameras due to phones’ smaller size and weaker technology.

Vanjoki said high-definition (HD) quality video recording was also coming to cellphones within the next 12 months.

Wasn’t wrong. Yet the other elements of the smartphone business were more important.


The Asia report: leading the shift from… » Flurry Insights Blog

Flurry’s Chris Klotzbach:

Although we continue to see growth and user engagement in traditional app categories like Messaging & Social and Gaming, users in Asia demonstrated that in 2015, they are utilizing their smartphones and apps for more functional and practical purposes. This is indicated in the growth in the Shopping & Lifestyle and Utilities & Productivity app categories. Asia is the home of the phablet, and we see users have embraced this form factor- not only in terms of installed base but actual app usage. Just as the rest of the world is beginning to catch on to the phablet, only time will tell if we’ll catch up to Asia’s propensity to be productive and shop!


Impact of iOS 9’s space requirement » David Smith

Smith is an iOS developer:

using the dataset I have from my Audiobooks app I took at look at how many of my customers have enough space for the upgrade.

The result was pretty promising.

66% of my customers on eligible devices have at least 1.3GB of free space. This compares to just 37% of users who would have immediately had sufficient space at the old iOS 8 requirement.

The distribution of eligible devices breaks out roughly as you’d expect for the various capacities Apple sells:

Apple iphone upgrade potential

The rate for the 16GB devices (54%) is higher than I would have initially feared. The 16GB capacity accounts for 58% of devices, so it is vitally important that its users have the ability to upgrade.

This reduction in the space requirement (and other things Apple is doing on this front) make me think iOS 9 adoption to be even faster than iOS 8’s.


Google launches free streaming service ahead of Apple Music debut » Reuters

Yasmeen Abutaleb:

Google Inc launched a free version of its music streaming service on Tuesday, as it sought to upstage the debut of Apple Inc’s rival service next week.

Google Play Music has offered a $9.99 per month subscription service for two years but Tuesday’s launch is the first free version of the streaming service. It is available online and will be available on Android and iOS by the end of the week, Elias Roman, Google product manager, said.

Apple said earlier this month it would launch a music streaming service on June 30 for $9.99 per month along with a $14.99 per month family plan, with a free three-month trial.

As with other streaming services, such as Spotify and Rhapsody, Google Play Music curates playlists. Users can tailor playlists based on genre, artist or even activity, such as hosting a pool party or “having fun at work.”

“We believe this is a play that will expose a lot of people to the service,” Roman said in an interview.

Unlike Google’s subscription music service, the free service will carry ads, be unavailable offline and exclude certain songs.

Here’s the official announcement. What I find really weird is that Google, the high priests of “let machines do it”, is highlighting the human-curated nature of these playlists.


Facebook ad pranking, Samsung’s design wars, Wirelurker arrests, web: alive or dead?, and more


1952 Illustrated Food Ad. This is not targeted to you at all. Honest.

A selection of 11 links for you. Do not spray on pets. I’m on Twitter as @charlesarthur. Do ping me links, opinions, etc.

Pranking my roommate with eerily targeted Facebook ads >> My Social Sherpa

Brian Swichkow:

I don’t do anything half-assed and he knew that. So about two months later I was experimenting with different ways to use Facebook’s Custom Audience targeting and having quite a bit of success. I was using a list of about 10,000 people and getting some of the highest click-throughs I had seen in a long time. Being a fan of the Mythbusters where they believe that anything worth doing is worth overdoing – I asked myself how I could take this to the next level. I realized that stepping things up a notch was actually stepping them down a notch in this case and I asked how targeted I could make my audience. I said to myself, “What if I only had like five people in an audience? What if I only had one person in an audience? … I should test this … I should test this on my roommate.”

The amazing thing here is the cost of doing it. You’ll have to read the article. Try guessing how much first though.


Pearl: the Compact Mirror Battery Project that started on Kickstarter but ended with Indiegogo >> Daniel Chin

Pearl™: Compact Mirror + USB Rechargeable Battery Pack was originally a Kickstarter project that was supposed to run from November 10 to December 3, 2014. In less than 48 hours since the project launched, it raised over $41,000, surpassing its $30,000 funding goal.

Then all of a sudden, we were informed by Kickstarter that our project was suspended due to a DMCA copyright infringement claim. It is a ridiculous, unfounded and fraudulent claim which Kickstarter did not bother to verify with us.

The allegations in the blog post are serious. One wonders how much of this goes on and simply never surfaces. Kickstarter doesn’t come out of it looking much good.


Alleged creators of WireLurker malware arrested in China >> SecurityWeek.Com

Three individuals suspected of being involved in the creation and distribution of a recently uncovered piece of malware referred to as “WireLurker” have been arrested and charged, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security said on Friday.

The suspects, identified by their surnames as Wang, Lee and Chen, were taken into custody on Thursday based on information provided to law enforcement authorities by the China-based security company Qihoo 360 Technology.

WireLurker, a threat designed to target devices running Mac OS X, iOS and Windows, was recently uncovered by Palo Alto Networks. The network security firm’s researchers identified a total of 467 malicious OS X apps which by mid-October had been downloaded by Chinese users over 350,000 times from an app store called Maiyadi. Cybercriminals distributed the threat by packaging it with popular games and applications.


Ditto creator says Samsung phones are “crammed with complexity and redundant features” >> PhoneArena

Parallel to the launch process of Ditto, the simplest notifications wearable device there is, its product designer Bob Olodort opened up about his small-time gig as a consulting designer at Samsung. He told VentureBeat that he’d pay the Korean chaebol a visit four times a year and show them “elegant, innovative phone designs” – each one “optimized to provide an ideal set of features for a […] target customer” and an example of “simplicity and elegance”. So why are our faithful Samsung phones the exact feature-stuffed opposite of this fine concept? 

Olodort has the blunt answer: “They would louse it up by putting in everything — that’s their style at Samsung. A few young Samsung engineering managers would each add their own pet features. Later, the carriers Samsung sold to would insist on another set of features. Pretty soon the phones would be crammed with complexity and redundant features.” Unsurprisingly, the simplicity-obsessed Oledorf left to do his own thing.

This is hardly news to anyone who’s tried a Samsung smartphone. It sounds much like LG’s approach to Smart TV – every manager is desperate to get their own pet project in.


What happens when pirates play a game development simulator and then go bankrupt because of piracy? >> Greenheart Games

Old (well, from April 2013) but good. Greenheart Games intentionally uploaded a cracked version of their game to torrent sites:

The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail… Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn’t want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message:

“Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.”

Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt.

The online responses are predictably hilarious as pirating players complain without irony that piracy is hurting the profitability of the pirated game they’re playing.

Apposite today with PCalc developer James Thomson noting that around 70% of the copies of his app in use on iOS are pirated. (The suggestions for how to fix that – read the tweet replies – are quite fun.)


How Apple creates leverage, and the future of Apple Pay >> stratechery by Ben Thompson

I hadn’t come across BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement – before, which Thompson uses earlier in this piece to explain how Apple uses what it has to succeed in negotiations, and then in new spaces such as Apple Pay:

Presuming this works out as well for Apple as I expect it to, there are two key lessons to be drawn. First, all of Apple’s leverage ultimately – either directly or indirectly – stems from consumer loyalty, which itself is based on Apple’s focus on the user experience. Second, the reason why Tim Cook so confidently called out Apple Pay as a new category is that he knew it was an area where Apple could bring that leverage to bear, just as they did in music and telephony. This is in marked contrast to the Apple TV, which is still a hobby: TV remains a much stronger business that is far more resistant to disruption than most people in tech appreciate, and until Apple has a means of obtaining leverage it will only ever remain so.


Welcome to the “Million Smartphone Club” of India >> Counterpoint Technology

Looking at India’s burgeoning smartphone market in Q3 2014:

The growing need for consumers flocking to the internet using mobile phones coupled with rapidly declining average selling price (ASP) of smartphones has been the key drivers of uptake of smartphones in India. The declining smartphone ASPs is as a result of proliferation of firstly not only local brands entering a price-war but also the highly price-competitive Chinese brands such as Xiaomi or Lenovo entering the Indian market. These brands are employing cost-effective distribution strategies such as online e-commerce channels to keep the costs fairly low in order to gain price competitiveness which is a boon to consumers

India smartphone market still has a room for vendors to grow exponentially as it expands deeper beyond urban India. However going forward only the vendors need to find faster and innovative ways to reach out to the end consumer. We estimate that going forward three out of four smartphones in the country will be 3G smartphones.

The idea that American icon Motorola would effectively be saved by selling into India would have seemed weird even a couple of years ago. Now it’s a major player there.


The web is dying; apps are killing it >> Wall Street Journal

Christopher Mims:

even the Web of documents and news items could go away. Facebook has announced plans to host publishers’ work within Facebook itself, leaving the Web nothing but a curiosity, a relic haunted by hobbyists.

I think the Web was a historical accident, an anomalous instance of a powerful new technology going almost directly from a publicly funded research lab to the public. It caught existing juggernauts like Microsoft flat-footed, and it led to the kind of disruption today’s most powerful tech companies would prefer to avoid.

It isn’t that today’s kings of the app world want to quash innovation, per se. It is that in the transition to a world in which services are delivered through apps, rather than the Web, we are graduating to a system that makes innovation, serendipity and experimentation that much harder for those who build things that rely on the Internet. And today, that is pretty much everyone.

Mims’s article has come in for a lot of rejoinders and rebuttals – such as this one on Quartz. But just because an app has a web view, does that mean you’re using “the web”? The navigation idea is all different. And in the end, you almost always end up still inside the app.


Twist: A ultra-portable universal adapter for your MacBook by Oneadaptr >> Kickstarter

What is Twist?

Twist is a universal adapter with four optional USB ports designed to work with the MacBook adapter. It offers much more functions than the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit and makes charging your mobile devices much easier. 

Note that this Kickstarter isn’t live yet; I was sent the link over the weekend (but tried at once to order some). I like the idea of it. I’m hoping to get some to test, but I’d have already put my money in if that hadn’t happened. I particularly like the idea of not having to scoop up multiple plugs and cables when leaving a hotel room; and the bright yellow model would be hard to miss as you check you’ve got everything.


10 cities visualized by how cleanly their streets are laid out >> Co.Exist

Artist Steve Von Worley plots cities according to their orderliness.

One can guess, without seeing them, that younger cities (such as those in the US) will score highly because they are so new, so that they existed when horse-drawn traffic already did. London and especially Tokyo look like a mess, but you also have to consider geography – particularly height and rivers.

That said, what would a city developed now look like in these terms?


Samsung hunts next hit with internet push as phones fade >> Yahoo Finance

To demonstrate the Internet of things, the company is using its Samsung Innovation Museum, a glass-walled building across from its headquarters, about 30 miles south of Seoul. The five-story, 11,000 square-meter structure looks a bit like New York’s Guggenheim museum, painted almost entirely in white with words carved into the walls: ‘smart living’ and ‘inspiring others.’

In an open space on the second floor, booths stand side by side. Each is decorated with different interiors to show off connected life in hotels, planes, shopping malls or living rooms.

In the hotel booth, you can check in by pressing a key-patterned button on an Android smartphone without having to wait in line. Upon entering the room, the window blinds automatically roll up and the television turns on.

In the booth for home technology, lights, appliances and a robot vacuum cleaner are all connected online to mobile phone app. The idea is you can flick on the lights, warm the oven or even clean your living room from your phone before you come home. Samsung has started offering a rudimentary version of the service in Korea and will expand it globally.

This might be me being stupid, but why would you want to turn the lights on before you get home? Isn’t that what we have switches for? As to turning on the TV when you go into the room, what if you don’t want the TV on and the blinds rolled up? So many assumptions and so much effort that is more easily solved through simple human action.