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


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

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

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

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

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

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


How Apple makes the Watch » Atomic Delights

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Jay Famigliette:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Samsung seals big SSD chip deal with Apple » Korea Times

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

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

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

Still best of frenemies.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Start up: squinting at Lollipop, phone cameras ranked by pros, how Crossy Road triumphed, and more


“Your first day at Google?” “Mm-hm. Thought I’d get the eye surgery done first.” Photo by peretzp on Flickr.

A selection of 7 links for you. Contains 50% less sugar. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The Wolfram Data Drop Is Live! » Stephen Wolfram Blog

Our goal is to make it incredibly straightforward to get data into the Wolfram Data Drop from anywhere. You can use things like a web API, email, Twitter, web form, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc. And we’re going to be progressively adding more and more ways to connect to other hardware and software data collection systems. But wherever the data comes from, the idea is that the Wolfram Data Drop stores it in a standardized way, in a “databin”, with a definite ID.
Here’s an example of how this works. On my desk right now I have this little device:

Every 30 seconds it gets data from the tiny sensors on the far right, and sends the data via wifi and a web API to a Wolfram Data Drop databin, whose unique ID happens to be “3pw3N73Q”. Like all databins, this databin has a homepage on the web: http://wolfr.am/3pw3N73Q.

The homepage is an administrative point of presence that lets you do things like download raw data. But what’s much more interesting is that the databin is fundamentally integrated right into the Wolfram Language. A core concept of the Wolfram Language is that it’s knowledge based—and has lots of knowledge about computation and about the world built in.

Neat idea, aimed at the Internet Of Far Too Many Damn Things.


OneShot, a one week design case study — iOS App Development » Medium

Daniel Zarick:

On January 14th, my friend Ian Ownbey sent me a direct message on Twitter about a freelance design project. It turns out he was working on a small iOS app with his friend Jason Goldman and they were looking for a designer to help them wrap it up. At the time, I was in the middle of a substantial iPad design project for another client, but I really wanted to work on something with Ian and Jason. Luckily, since their project was small, I was able to squeeze a week of time for them in the middle of my other project.

Things I particularly noted (not particularly being an app developer, but interested in process): (1) they used Slack (2) they didn’t go with an iOS 8 Extension, and the only people who’ve queried that are techies. Pretty much nobody else cares. File that thought away.

A a side note, I find myself reading more and more stuff on Medium, and finding good quality.


WatchApps » WatchAware

Neat: shows you Apple Watch apps as they’re added to the store and also shows how they will look when used. I haven’t seen a killer app for me there yet.. but there are only a few.


Do all Google employees have perfect eyesight? » Terence Eden’s blog

Eden is unhappy with Lollipop, and particularly its design choices:

I can only assume that on their first day at Google, new employees are given their Android phone, a ChromeBook, a self-driving car, and complementary Laser Eye Surgery. That’s my theory on some of the problems besetting Android’s Lollipop release.

I’ve ranted about Lollipop before, and now I’d like to point out two particular problems.

All of these tests were performed on a Nexus 4 running Android 5.0.1, and the most recent versions of the apps.

In short: poor text wrapping in Google’s default web browser; and, more annoyingly, poor contrast between background and text in Google apps such as YouTube, Play and the General Settings menu. Remember, this is a Nexus, not some skin. Eden’s conclusion:

Lollipop is, for a large section of the population, really unpleasant to use.

I know I’m not the only person who has spent a lifetime working at a screen and appreciates legible text.


They wanted to make a phenomenon. They made $10m » Polygon

Dave Tach:

Unlike many of its contemporaries, nothing about Crossy Road makes a player feel the need to pay to progress or win. Its design subdues its monetization, and that has cost its developers revenue. Crossy Road rarely — if ever — squeezes onto the top of the iOS App Store’s list of highest grossing games, where titles like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga are entrenched. Yet yesterday, Crossy Road was the 12th most popular free iPhone app without even appearing in the App Store’s list of top 100 grossing iPhone apps.

This is not an accident. Crossy Road was an experiment in doing free-to-play differently, and that experiment has been wildly effective.

Today, at a Game Developers Conference 2015 session, Hall and Sum told the story of Crossy Road’s creation and lifted the veil on its real success during the game’s first three months. They revealed that, 90 days after its release, Crossy Road’s combination of solid gameplay, unobtrusive in-app purchases, and optional in-app ads powered by the Unity engine, has earned $10m from 50m downloads.

A real lesson in the power of mobile’s reach. An average of 20 cents per install – and that’s probably skewed towards the high end, meaning 45m downloads probably paid nothing, or next to it.


And the best phone camera is… pro photogs rank Note 4, iPhone 6, Z3, Lumia 1020 and more » Phonearena

Taking a bunch of seasonal smartphones, like the iPhone 6, HTC One M8, LG G3, Nokia Lumia 1020, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and Sony Xperia Z3, photo aficionados from Poland have snapped a bunch of samples in sunny Morocco, and then given them to professional photographers for ranking purposes.

The experiment has been a blind one, meaning that the shutterbugs didn’t know which picture came from which phone, just like we often do in our comparisons. The list of experts includes prominent lecturers and even editors of photography magazines, so it is as representative as it could be when it comes to accurately judging the true quality of the snaps. 

Usually these things are a bit pointless, but the variety of devices and the variation in what does best in which conditions is surprising – the Note 4 does extremely well, the Lumia doesn’t, despite the latter’s huge pixel count.


BlackBerry courts career builders with all-touch Leap smartphone » The Globe and Mail

Shane Dingman for Reuters:

The Leap is a buttonless touchscreen smartphone that looks like a lot of other mobile slabs on the market. Expected to be priced at around $275 (U.S.) without a subsidy, with an industry-standard five-inch display, a 2800 mAh battery promising 25 hours of use and a processor that first shipped in 2012, it’s a budget device designed for the mid-market.

But if it’s targeting a “volume opportunity,” Ryan Reith, research director for mobile devices at IDC, said BlackBerry’s Leap will find tough competition in Motorola or Huawei hardware with similar specifications.

“That’s directly where they are aiming, but they are still priced outside of that spectrum,” warns Mr. Reith, who said middle-market devices are selling for under $200. The Z3, unveiled at last year’s MWC, was also pegged as an emerging-market touchscreen device, but failed to gain traction. “In terms of moving commoditized handsets, this is a dying part of [BlackBerry’s] business.”

CEO John Chen has said that if BlackBerry can’t sell 10 million phones a year, it shouldn’t be in the hardware business. Mr. Reith said IDC projects BlackBerry will sell seven million or eight million devices in 2015.

Hard choices lie in BlackBerry’s near future. Chen is clearly trying to shift the BlackBerry software over to other platforms so that he can extricate the company from the loss-making hardware business while keeping customers in valuable software and service contracts.


Start up: Samsung’s future?, Lollipop drops mandatory crypto, the DDOS lightbulb, Microsoft and keyboards, and more


Samsung, in a few years? Photo by French Tart on Flickr.

A selection of 13 links for you. (Too many? Too much news.) I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Google’s great encryption backtrack » Motherboard

Jason Koebler:

​In late October, Google announ​ced that Lollipop, its newest version of Android, would have “encryption by default.” Monday, it was a curious reporter, not Google, reporting that would no longer be the case.

Instead of requiring every file on an Android system to be encrypted by default, the choice will be left up to manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, and Motorola as to whether to turn that feature on out of the box, Ars Tec​hnica discovered.

“Google has made statements that are no longer true, and it’s Google’s obligation to publicly correct that statement,” Amie Stepanovich, US policy manager for the digital rights group Access, told me.

Google won’t say why it’s backtracking, but it’s pretty evident the reason is device performance – encryption slows them down. User security takes second place to performance – the story that has killed BlackBerry down the years.


Cybercriminals phish iCloud credentials from victims of iPhone, iPad theft » Symantec Connect Community

Cybercriminals have recently created multiple phishing sites in order to trick iOS device owners into providing login credentials for their iCloud accounts. The attackers appear to be focusing on users whose iPads and iPhones have been lost or stolen. It’s possible that the attackers are running this phishing operation as part of a service for iOS device thieves on underground forums.

In one particular case, a victim of iPad theft received an unsolicited message, informing him that his tablet had been found. The message then instructed him to click on a link to discover the location of his iPad.

Surprise! It’s a phishing site to get the iCloud credentials and unlock the stolen phone for resale.


This guy’s light bulb DDoSed his entire smart house — Fusion

Kashmir Hill on Raul Rojas, a computer science professor who made his whole house into a smart home (apart from the locks – he worried about the locks):

About two years ago, Rojas’s house froze up, and stopped responding to his commands. “Nothing worked. I couldn’t turn the lights on or off. It got stuck,” he says. It was like when the beach ball of death begins spinning on your computer—except it was his entire home.

…when he investigated, it turned out that the culprit was a single, connected light bulb.

“I connected my laptop to the network and looked at the traffic and saw that one unit was sending packets continuously,” said Rojas. He realized that his light fixture had burned out, and was trying to tell the hub that it needed attention. To do so, it was sending continuous requests that had overloaded the network and caused it to freeze. “It was a classic denial of service attack,” says Rojas. The light was performing a DDoS attack on the smart home to say, ‘Change me.’”

Take a look at his home hub. That’s not some little router.


BlackBerry CEO: I’m open to creating a tablet again » CNET

Roger Cheng:

BlackBerry may take another run at the tablet market.

That’s if CEO John Chen thinks the opportunity is right. “It’s not in the works, but it’s on my mind,” Chen said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress conference here.

A BlackBerry tablet could satisfy the needs of a small but fiercely loyal group of productivity-focused customers who have stuck with the struggling smartphone maker and its operating system, potentially giving it a new revenue stream. But there aren’t enough BlackBerry faithful to sustain such a business, especially given the tablet category saw its first year-over-year decline in shipments in the fourth quarter.

“History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce,” to quote Marx (not Groucho).


Does anybody understand these baffling MWC slogans? » Pocket-lint

Rik Henderson:

One of the things we always notice when trudging trade show floors is that companies feel the need to explain what they do, or what they are showing in a three or four word slogan. However, most of them are claptrap of the highest order.

Wonderful (and classically British) insistence on taking words at their face value, and asking the important questions that other sites (and certainly not the boring American ones) will, such as: “what actually does ‘unleash the future’ mean, Mozilla?”


Google reportedly preparing Android Wear for iPhone and iPad » Mac Rumors

Joe Rossignol:

Google is reportedly preparing to release an Android Wear app on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, according to French technology website 01net [Google Translate] (via iPhon.fr).

The report claims Android Wear with extended iOS support could be announced at Google’s I/O developer conference in late May, although Google may push the agenda depending on sales of the Apple Watch.

Google may be interested in capitalizing on iPhone and iPad users that are not planning to purchase an Apple Watch when the wrist-worn device is released in April, the report adds.

Essentially unsourced, but it would make sense: Google wants its services used as widely as possible, and not having Android Wear on iOS leaves tens of millions of potential customers unserved.

However, are there many iPhone users who would opt for Android Wear over an Apple Watch, except over the question of price? At the bottom end, the price delta is pretty low – and if that really matters, you’d get a Pebble, since it has been iOS-compatible from day one. So I believe this report, but don’t think Android Wear will benefit from it as much as Google (and AW makers) might want.


Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster on Android, Samsung, and more » Business Insider

Lisa Eadicicco, with a smart interview with McMaster, who says:

On the global platform, we see Xiaomi becoming the No. 3 OEM. Micromax is now No. 10. These guys are basically creating really cheap handsets that have really awesome performance. This is made possible because of Qualcomm’s turnkey solution as well as Mediatek’s.

One of the things Cyanogen does really well is optimizations at the low level, at the kernel level. Which means we can get performance out of these chipsets coming out of turnkey that make the device for all intents and purposes feel like a $600 iPhone.

The tier one OEMs like Samsung are going to be the next generation Nokias in the next five years. They’re going to be slaughtered. We think long term Apple itself will have problems because they’re just not good at competing at the low end.

Q: So you think Samsung will be toast in five years?

It could get pretty bad pretty damn quick. This is often the case.


Swedish speed camera pays drivers to slow down » WIRED

Is it possible to make road-safety fun? Yes, it turns out. Kevin’s Richardson’s idea is both smart and simple. As well as ticketing you when you run through a speed-radar too fast, Kevin’s “Speed Camera Lottery” also notices you when you come in at or under the speed-limit. It then automatically enters you in a lottery. And here’s the really smart part: the prizes come from the fines paid by speeders.

This would probably never work in the U.S, where speeding fines and red-light cameras exist as revenue streams for the police rather than as deterrents to bad driving, but the Swedish National Society for Road Safety, which worked with Kevin, has found it to be a success.

Neat idea (there’s the video) but of course it relies on tying your speed to your licence plate, ad so your address, and so you. Sweden is open enough that that is accessible. But other countries?

Even so, the idea of changing behaviour through “fun” is a subtle – yet powerful – one.


3D-printing with living organisms “could transform the food industry” » Dezeen

No content. Just consider
• use of “could” in the headline. As Paul Haine points out, you can extend Betteridge’s Law (“any headline posed as a question can be fully answered and the story implications understood with ‘No'”) to headlines which use “could”
• “3D printing with living organisms” is also known as “growing, preparing and cooking stuff”. No 3D printer required.


Zuckerberg: carriers will connect the world, not sci-fi – CNET

It’s regular carriers and regular technology that will bring Internet access to the billions of people who lack it today, not sci-fi ideas like Google’s Project Loon balloons or Project Titan drones, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg thinks.

“People like talking about that stuff because it’s sexy,” Zuckerberg said of such departures from networks delivered by plain old cell phone towers and fiber-optic lines. “That’s at the fringe of the real work that’s going on. Ninety percent of the people in the world already live within range of the network.”

Well that’s putting a pin in the balloon so laboriously pumped up by various blogs of how Loon is going to totally, utterly, y’know, transform how everyone stays connected.


Microsoft’s keyboard obsession » TechCrunch

Ron Miller:

this morning at Mobile World Congress, Microsoft announced a new version of Office 365. I gotta be honest. It looked like it was trying to take full-blown Office and squeeze it into a 5 or 6 inch screen. Sure, they tuned it a bit to make it mobile friendly, but it was still Office in all its glory in a smaller footprint.

So what did Microsoft do? You got it. It developed a keyboard.

It’s a small bluetooth variety engineered by the Microsoft hardware group. It folds up into a fairly small footprint to fit neatly in brief case or purse, but it’s another part of their total keyboard obsession. Instead of making Office fit the phone touch screen, it invented a keyboard to make it work better on a phone.

Next it will probably build a small wireless mouse to complete its whole vision of mobile device as a PC in a small package.

This is such an elegantly short yet well-observed piece. And captures it all. The commenters are furious because obviously he typed it. I wonder how much real typing they do. Perhaps too much. Journalists typically type at least a thousand words a day; I wonder how much the average Office user types. Any data out there?


Mobile consumers have the answer » Kantar Worldpanel

Carolina Milanesi asked the Kantar panel of consumers for their views:

We know that tablet sales are stagnant and that 79% of American panelists without a tablet have said that the reason they are not planning to buy a tablet in the next 12 month is because their PC is “good enough” for them. When we asked consumers who own a PC if they are planning to replace that PC in 2015, 85% of the panelists interviewed said they are not. 11.3% said they indeed are planning to replace their current PC with another, and1.7% said they will replace that PC with a tablet. Finally, 1.9% plan to replace their PC with a convertible.

Consumers in the 25 to 34 year bracket are the most favorable to tablets, with 2.9% planning to purchase one as a replacement for their PC. Consumers 16 to 24, are the most open to convertibles (3.5%) most likely because they’re still in their school years,

Also asked about virtual reality, to sniffy answers. But you could have asked people if they wanted to surf the web and get email on the move in 2006 and got similar uninterested answers. Asking consumers about future technologies isn’t always meaningful without clear use cases.


Galaxy S6 sales to outperform its predecessors, says Samsung Taiwan executive » Digitimes

Samsung Electronics will begin to market its newly released flagship smartphone the Galaxy S6 starting April 10 and expects sales to outperform the Galaxy S4, the vendor’s best-selling model so far, according to Andy Tu, general manager of Samsung’s mobile communication business in Taiwan.

Samsung has responded to criticism of the Galaxy S5 with great changes in terms of design and materials, expecting the new design to bring in significant replacement demand for the Galaxy family products, Tu said on the sidelines of a pre-MWC 2015 event.

Samsung will focus on promoting two flagship models, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 4, plus mid-range A- and E-series Galaxy models from the second quarter of 2015, Tu revealed.

In all the oceans of electrons splurged over the Samsung S6+Edge, I didn’t see a single one where a Samsung executive was asked whether it expected these to sell more, the same or fewer.

If Digitimes is doing better journalism than the people at MWC..


Start up: make like Apple?, Samsung sells off fibre optic, authors v Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s PR push and more


Spring-making machine: photo by Mitch Altman, taken in Shenzhen, China, November 2014

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

No, you can’t manufacture that like Apple does >> Medium

What happened when Apple wanted to CNC machine a million MacBook bodies a year? They bought 10k CNC machines to do it. How about when they wanted to laser drill holes in MacBook Pros for the sleep light but only one company made a machine that could drill those 20 µm holes in aluminum? It bought the company that made the machines and took all the inventory. And that time when they needed batteries to fit into a tiny machined housing but no manufacturer was willing to make batteries so thin? Apple made their own battery cells. From scratch.

Pretty much no company, big or small, can afford to do these things. Yes, Apple has done a great job building many of these products and yes, consumers have come to love many of these difficult-to-manufacture features. But you are not Apple. So long as you’re providing value to your customers, taking the fit and finish of your product down a notch is okay. Especially for your first few production runs.

So what should you avoid? Here’s a few things that Apple often does that can cause problems for a startup.

The “white plastic” one in the list that follows is so obvious when you think about it, but non-obvious until it’s pointed out (or seen).


Samsung Electronics exits fibre optics amid sharper focus on reviving smartphones >> Reuters

Samsung Electronics agreed to sell its fibre optics operations to US specialty glass maker Corning Inc, exiting another non-core business to focus on shoring up underperforming key areas like smartphones.

Terms of the sale, including plants in China and South Korea, weren’t disclosed. Announced by both parties on Tuesday, the South Korean firm’s second exit from a business line this quarter comes as it braces for its lowest annual profit in three years, squeezed by stiff competition…

…The firm also said in October it will halt its light emitting diode lighting business outside of its home country, which was also considered a non-core business.


Best >> stratechery

Ben Thompson on disruption, and what Clayton Christensen’s theory lacks because it doesn’t include user experience as a factor:

That’s the thing though: the quality of a user experience has no ceiling. As nearly every other consumer industry has shown, as long as there is a clear delineation between the top-of-the-line and everything else, some segment of the user base will pay a premium for the best. That’s the key to Apple’s future: they don’t need completely new products every other year (or half-decade); they just need to keep creating the best stuff in their categories. Easy, right?

He’s totally right that Apple should have bought Dropbox; but Steve Jobs couldn’t see the inherent, coming value of the cloud – even though it was Jobs, in 1997, who told developers about the importance of network computing and not having to worry about locally stored data.


Android 5.0 Lollipop delay for HTC One and One M8 Google Play Editions >> TechRadar

The reason for the first delay was pretty vague, with Google simply stating that it would “need to re-spin SW”. If we were to Google Translate that confusing statement into plain English, we’d guess that it meant Google needed time to tweak and update the Android 5.0 Lollipop software.

That delay pushed back the expected Lollipop update to December 1. However that date came and went with no sign of the update.
 
It soon emerged that the Lollipop Update has been delayed once again, with Mo Versi, HTC’s VP of Product Management, reporting that the delay this time is due to Google being too busy at the moment, but that we should expect the update soon.

Just to be clear – that’s for the stock Android versions of the HTC One and M8, not those with HTC’s Sense skin. “Too busy” is a great reason.


Author discontent grows as Kindle Unlimited enters its fifth month >> The Digital Reader

Nate Hoffelder:

When Kindle Unlimited launched in the US 4 months ago there were many questioning whether it was good or bad for authors, and if the chorus of complaints over the past few days are any indication then the answer will be no.

HM Ward kicked off the discussion on Friday when she revealed that she was pulling out of KDP Select, the program Amazon uses to funnel indie ebooks into Kindle Unlimited.

Ward withdrew her books not because the average payment had dropped to only $1.33, but because her total revenues had fallen by 75%

Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s ebook subscription service. All the news from authors seems not to be positive.


Apple had a rough morning >> Bloomberg View

Matt Levine with a terrific explanation of the “flash crash” of Apple stock, which seems to have mostly been driven by computer-based high-frequency trading. Because no human reacts that fast:

You’ve lost several thousand dollars on your Apple trades. Maybe you should cut your losses and get out? Again, you are not, like, pondering this in your heart of hearts: You are an algorithm, and you are programmed with some loss limits, so you cut your losses and start selling. So instead of dampening volatility, you actually start increasing it.


Chesterton’s Fence >> The Epicurean Dealmaker

GK Chesterton argued:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This is clearly why Chesterton never got venture funding in Silicon Valley.


The real reason Amazon is telling us about its robots >> Huffington Post

Timothy Stenovec applies a suitably sceptical eye to the news, recalling how coincidentally a year ago Amazon told 60 Minutes about its drone plans:

This year, Amazon appears to be trying the same thing again – only this time, it’s with robots. The company recently invited a select group of journalists – I was not one of them – to tour one of its California warehouses and watch robots move 750-pound shelves of products. Amazon says it uses 15,000 such robots in its facilities, and that the machines, a result of Amazon’s $750m purchase of robot-maker Kiva Systems in 2012, will cut costs, save you money and help get products to you faster.

There was no news of Amazon’s robot fleet until just after midnight on Monday, when suddenly a flood of stories appeared – suggesting that the news was “embargoed,” a term for the common media practice of agreeing not to publish certain information until a certain time.

The robots are interesting, and every journalist knows about having something to please the editor for a Monday morning. Perhaps brick-and-mortar stores could start PR schemes where they show how they’re paying tax?


This “smart” ring is another reason to never trust Kickstarter videos >> Gizmodo

With $880,998 in funding, well exceeding its $250,000 asking price, Ring was a smart device that was meant to Bluetooth control everything in your life — except that it doesn’t. Not by a long shot.

We debunked the thing outright as soon as it showed up on Kickstarter in March, but that didn’t stop thousands of backers from signing up for the product and who are now probably regretting that $269 monetary decision. YouTube user Snazzy Labs breaks down every facet of the ring, and why it’s such a terrible, terrible waste of money.

“Comically unusable” is among the more generous phrases used by Snazzy Labs (cool name bro) in the video, which is worth watching just to see how wearables should not be done, ever.


Santa or the Grinch: Android tablet analysis for the 2014 holiday season >> Bluebox Security

Bluebox Labs purchased over a dozen of these Black Friday “bargain” Android tablets from big name retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Kmart, Kohl’s and Staples, and reviewed each of them for security. What we found was shocking: most of the devices ship with vulnerabilities and security misconfigurations; a few even include security backdoors. What seemed like great bargains turned out to be big security concerns. Unfortunately, unsuspecting consumers who purchase and use these devices will be putting their mobile data & passwords at risk.

(Via John Moltz.)