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: tracking Android, the 1998 software warning, Google’s revenge porn move, VUT Swift?, and more


Another micropayment from Amazon! Photo by Amanda Emilio on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Android Tracker » Fiksu

In contrast to the iOS industry statistics, the Android landscape is much more fragmented, with dozens of manufacturers and thousands of devices on the market. We’ve put together four charts to help illuminate the situation:

• Android Tablet vs. Phone Usage
• Android Version Monitor
• Top Android Manufacturers
• Top Android Phones
• Top Android Tablets

The one for phone manufacturers is eye-opening, to say the least. Worth bookmarking. (Via Daniel Tello.)


BlackBerry’s Classic moment, or not » WSJ

Spencer Jakab:

Two things could leave the market pleasantly surprised on Tuesday. One would be an announcement that BlackBerry is distancing itself from handsets, devoting more resources to software. The other would be if that latter business shows signs of meeting some ambitious revenue targets laid out by chief executive John Chen.

A hopeful sign on software sales would affect the share price far more than if BlackBerry’s loss for the period through May was better than the 5 cents a share projected by analysts. They see BlackBerry reporting software and support revenue of $83m for the quarter, up from $56m a year earlier. The company wants to more than double the annual figure in fiscal 2016 to $500m and to produce operating profits on a sustained basis. That would come as services revenue continues to shrivel, falling by about half this fiscal year.

I’ll post my own forecast for BlackBerry’s results an hour or two after this post goes live. (These days people write about BlackBerry almost as a curio; it’s the Crimea of the smartphone wars.)


Launch of the new Companies House public beta service » GOV.UK

In line with the government’s commitment to free data, Companies House is pleased to announce that all public digital data held on the UK register of companies is now accessible free of charge, on its new public beta search service.

This provides access to over 170 million digital records on companies and directors including financial accounts, company filings and details on directors and secretaries throughout the life of the company.

Free access to the data is available both through a web service and an application program interface (API), enabling both consumers and technology providers to access real time updates on companies.

Fabulous. Back in 2006, the pricing was opaque and redacted.


These hackers warned the Internet would become a security disaster. Nobody listened. » The Washington Post

Craig Timberg:

Your computers, they told the panel of senators in May 1998, are not safe — not the software, not the hardware, not the networks that link them together. The companies that build these things don’t care, the hackers continued, and they have no reason to care because failure costs them nothing. And the federal government has neither the skill nor the will to do anything about it.

“If you’re looking for computer security, then the Internet is not the place to be,” said Mudge, then 27 and looking like a biblical prophet with long brown hair flowing past his shoulders. The Internet itself, he added, could be taken down “by any of the seven individuals seated before you” with 30 minutes of well-choreographed keystrokes.

The senators — a bipartisan group including John Glenn, Joseph I. Lieberman and Fred D. Thompson — nodded gravely, making clear that they understood the gravity of the situation. “We’re going to have to do something about it,” Thompson said.

What happened instead was a tragedy of missed opportunity, and 17 years later the world is still paying the price in rampant insecurity.


“Revenge porn” and search » Google Public Policy Blog

Amit Singhal, Google Search SVP:

We’ve heard many troubling stories of “revenge porn”: an ex-partner seeking to publicly humiliate a person by posting private images of them, or hackers stealing and distributing images from victims’ accounts. Some images even end up on “sextortion” sites that force people to pay to have their images removed.

Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web. But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims—predominantly women. So going forward, we’ll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results. This is a narrow and limited policy, similar to how we treat removal requests for other highly sensitive personal information, such as bank account numbers and signatures, that may surface in our search results.

In the coming weeks we’ll put up a web form people can use to submit these requests to us, and we’ll update this blog post with the link.

You could almost call it a “right to be forgotten” or “right to be delinked”. Let’s see – person requests that information about them which is irrelevant asks to have those pages removed from search. Which are we talking about, Europe or revenge porn?


Amazon’s new plan to pay authors every time someone turns a page » The Atlantic

Peter Wayner:

Soon, the maker of the Kindle is going to flip the formula used for reimbursing some of the authors who depend on it for sales. Instead of paying these authors by the book, Amazon will soon start paying authors based on how many pages are read—not how many pages are downloaded, but how many pages are displayed on the screen long enough to be parsed. So much for the old publishing-industry cliche that it doesn’t matter how many people read your book, only how many buy it.

For the many authors who publish directly through Amazon, the new model could warp the priorities of writing: A system with per-page payouts is a system that rewards cliffhangers and mysteries across all genres. It rewards anything that keeps people hooked, even if that means putting less of an emphasis on nuance and complexity.

So, basically, book streaming? Is Taylor Swift going to come to their aid? Or is it just an encouragement to write books at a length that people want to read? I think every author would like to know where people gave up on their books, if they didn’t finish them. Though that might not be the point at which they stopped being interested.


An Open Letter To Apple » German Association of Independent Music Companies

From 18 June, ie two days before Taylor Swift’s similar open letter:

Your plan not to compensate independent labels during the three-month trial period leads to the assumption that you don´t respect the music of independent artists or the work their partners do. It is obvious that this will reduce the overall income for independent artists and labels significantly at a time when many depend on every cent for survival.

Clearly what VUT needed was to rename itself “Taylor Swifte” or something. Or perhaps this was just another outgrowth of the ire felt among independent musicians. Apple Music (or more accurately the move to streaming and away from downloads) is going to cause yet another earthquake in the industry, rather like when CDs stopped being big.


Samsung’s mobile OS dilemma » Monday Note

Jean-Louis Gassée:

When we look at what it would take for Samsung to come up with its own mobile OS, the first thing to note is that “operating system” is a misnomer. Surely, iOS and Android are operating systems in the old-school “kernel” sense: They manage drivers, memory, input and output streams, user tasks, and the like. But today, an “operating system” is much more than just a kernel, it includes rich frameworks that support a wide range of applications, games, maps, social networking, productivity, drawing… Building these frameworks is a much harder task than adapting a Linux kernel.

And the OS is just the beginning. What Samsung really wants is its own ecosystem, a set of services that will ensure its autonomy, growth, and lasting importance. It wants its own app store, maps, music/video, cloud storage…

How long would it take for Samsung to build all of this? Three years, four years? Add to this the difficulty of “skating to where the puck will be”, to divine where the industry will land four years from now.

Samsung hasn’t been much good at building an ecosystem, either: look at all the content companies it has bought and then dumped, or services (ChatOn) it has started and stopped.


Start up: Swift v Apple, Beats gets heft, Aibos’ mortality, why Upworthy pivoted, and more


A number will get you into many peoples’ emails. Photo by Kohei314 on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. I mean, do you even? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

To Apple, love Taylor » Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift (yup, her):

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.

This looks like an obvious one, but it isn’t. Lots of streaming services (all of them?) offer a free month initially, and the evidence suggests they don’t pay artists for those streams. (I’ve yet to confirm that absolutely.) Apple’s three-month deal seems to have come at the cost of higher royalty rates for those who sign up.

So Taylor Swift may be completely right – but that new artist or band might just want the exposure. It would certainly be good if Apple did pay in those three months. But that might then fall foul of antitrust.

Update: oh, internet, you do move fast. At 4.29am Eddy Cue tweeted that Apple would after all pay. More detail by Peter Kafka.


How It’s Made series: Beats By Dre » Medium

Avery Louie:

One of the great things about the [Beats] solo headphones is how substantial they feel. A little bit of weight makes the product feel solid, durable, and valuable. One way to do this cheaply is to make some components out of metal in order to add weight. In these headphones, 30% of the weight comes from four tiny metal parts that are there for the sole purpose of adding weight.

The two larger parts are cast zinc. Cast parts are similar to injection molded parts in that there is a tooling cost and a per-part cost. Compared to injection molding, the tool is marginally more expensive, but the per-part costs are higher, and the tools do not last as long.

The brilliant thing here is that the two large metal parts are not mirror images of each other- they are actually the same part!

The parts give them heft. And do nothing else at all.


How to hack into an email account, with just your victim’s mobile number » Graham Cluley

A bad guy – let’s call him Malcolm – is keen to break into Alice’s account, but doesn’t know her password. However, he does know Alice’s email address and phone number.

So, he visits the Gmail login page and enters Alice’s email address. But Malcolm cannot correctly enter Alice’s password of course (because he doesn’t know it).

So instead he clicks on the “Need help?” link, normally used by legitimate users who have forgotten their passwords.

Rather than choosing one of the other options, Malcolm selects “Get a verification code on my phone: [mobile phone number]” to have an SMS message containing six digit security code sent to Alice’s mobile phone.

This where things get sneaky.

Because at this point, Malcolm sends Alice a text pretending to be Google.

This is very sneaky, and would probably work against lots of people. Beware.


A robotic dog’s mortality » The New York Times

Jonathan Soble on the death of the Aibo – which is running out of juice:

They didn’t shed, chew the sofa or bite the postman, but for thousands of people Sony’s Aibo robotic dog was the closest thing to a real canine companion. So when the Japanese company stopped servicing the robots last year, eight years after it ended production, owners faced a wrenching prospect: that their aging “pets” would break down for good.

Sony introduced the Aibo in 1999, at a price of 250,000 yen (about $2,000 at current exchange rates). The beaglelike robots could move around, bark and perform simple tricks. Sony sold 150,000 units through 2006; the fifth and final generation was said to be able to express 60 emotional states.


Platform Patched – The Awl

John Herrman with a great analysis of why Upworthy has been forced to pivot: because Facebook turned its unique selling point into a feature of the platform:

Upworthy was succeeding according to metrics favored by Facebook, but not necessarily by doing the things Facebook believed those metrics would cultivate. A reader might spend five minutes watching a video on Upworthy and leave satisfied, but the site neither created the video nor hosts it—it would have been created by yet another party and hosted on YouTube, a site owned by Google. For Facebook, this is fine but not optimal: Why not just embed the YouTube video directly into News Feed with the same headline and description? Better yet, why not just host the video directly on Facebook?

Facebook-native video took off with the Ice Bucket Challenge, the success of which Facebook summarized in August and later used in explaining its vision for video. Seeing opportunity, publishers started publishing more videos, and more professional videos, as soon as they could.

And here’s The Awl’s graphic of Upworthy traffic:
Upworthy's falling traffic


1Password inter-process communication: a discussion » Agile blog

Jeff Goldberg, in a long blogpost about the “malicious OSX apps could grab inter-app comms by registering to receive them first” vulnerability:

Neither we nor Luyi Xing and his team have been able to figure out a completely reliable way to solve this problem. We thank them for their help and suggestions during these discussions. But, although there is no perfect solution, there are things that can be done to make such attacks more difficult.

The blogpost goes into a lot more detail; this is a really tricky problem. Though “keep process running all the time in the background” turns out to be a good solution.


Analyzing 10 yrs (and 5TB) of OpenStreetMap » Mapsense

Many fun insights to be found, but this one will ring true for any crowdsourced effort:

Insight #3- Very few people contribute the vast majority of features

We know the OSM community is growing, but we wanted to know what the impact of that growth is on the map that we all use.  

We segmented users into the top 5% of committers and the bottom 95%.  Here’s how their edits compare:

Open Street Map contributors

The number of commits in the bottom 95% is growing nicely over time, but even at its peak, their commits are orders of magnitude fewer than the commits of the top 5%. These power users are incredibly prolific, often importing large swathes of data such as building outlines or roads.

These users are making a huge impact on OSM- how can we encourage more of this to accelerate OSM’s quality?


Apple vs. Samsung: Samsung asks court to reconsider appeal » San Jose Mercury News

Howard Mintz:

Samsung urged the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case with its full 12-judge roster, arguing that a three-judge panel erred earlier this year when it left intact a jury’s verdict that the South Korean tech giant’s smartphones and tablets infringed on Apple’s design patents.

That part of the verdict – which has been pared from an original judgment of $1bn – accounts for about $400m of the $548m in damages Samsung still must pay Apple from their first trial.

Samsung’s continued interventions make this now officially the most boring court case in history. (Thanks John Molloy for the link.)


UK private copyright exception ‘unlawful’, rules High Court » Out-law

Prior to introducing the private copying exception, the UK government argued that it did not believe the private copying exception would result in lost sales for rights holders. However, the new regime was challenged by music industry bodies. The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), the Musicians’ Union (MU) and UK Music claimed that the government should have to compensate them and other rights holders for the harm caused to them by the new exception.

Mr Justice Green said that that the UK government was entitled to “implement a private usage exception” and to define the scope of that right. He said, though, that the government was obliged to introduce a “compensation mechanism” for rights holders if the harm caused to them by the introduction of the private copying exception was above a “de minimis level”.

Here’s the judgement. Not sure how this is going to be implemented – a surcharge on systems that can rip CDs? It’s the very definition of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, moved to another town, brought up foals, and died peacefully in its sleep.


Sizing up the suitors for Here, Nokia’s map business » TechCrunch

Ingrid Lunden:

One former longtime senior employee of Here estimates there are around 300 different location attributes, with corresponding historical databases, that can be tracked using Here’s technology. They include more obvious mapping and location-based applications such as driving directions and street maps, but also spatial data technology used in video and gaming applications.

“It’s incredibly difficult to get the type of mapping data that Here has. Base geometry and 20-40 road attributes are relatively easy to collect. However, to collect the 250+ attributes needed for the best navigation experience requires a combination of field teams and user-generated content,” notes entrepreneur Kurt Uhlir.

“Here has proprietary collection hardware and software that is unmatched, even by Google. Plus, they have the most extensive patent portfolio covering collecting and creating spatial content for current generation of maps and dynamic data. Here also has the foundational patents covering usage of spatial data for creating video games, movie content and the upcoming ADAS vehicle applications.”

Unmatched even by Google? Protected by patents? Such talk is heresy.


Start up: Oculus here!, when cashless fails, what Twitter needs now, EC’s ebook probe, and more


Musical toast? Photo by revedavion.com on Flickr.

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

April 2015: Twitter needs new leadership » Stratechery

Ben Thompson nailed it months ago:

I believe it’s time for Twitter’s leadership, in particular CEO Dick Costolo, to make way for new leadership that has improved credibility with Wall Street, with developers, and within Twitter itself…

…Twitter would be better off retooling their API and developer agreements to ensure they are learning from every application they interact with, and in return sharing their graph along with advertising in the form of their MoPub or Namo Media-derived offerings. The advantage of this approach is that the imagination and ingenuity of a massive developer ecosystem will always be far faster and more innovative than anything any one company can do on its own — just ask Apple.

Worth reading (or re-reading). The accompanying podcast nails it too.


Apple Music » Lefsetz Letter

Bob Lefsetz has a typically nuanced take on Apple’s new offering:

It’s toast.

Its success was based upon eliminating free. But that positively non-techie entity known as the government put the kibosh on that. Now the labels and Apple are too scared to enact their plan of eliminating freemium. So while the techies leap ahead, creating solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had, those in the music business stay mired in the past, believing backroom dealings and brawn will get them what they want.

But it won’t in the new world.

What I find puzzling is that nobody at the record labels has heard of the Laffer curve.


Oculus teams up with Microsoft on Rift VR headset » FT.com

Tim Bradshaw:

Oculus faces mounting competition from Sony PlayStation’s Project Morpheus and games software maker Valve’s Vive headset, made by HTC. Google is also investing heavily in VR, after unveiling updates to its low-cost Cardboard headset last month, including its Jump 360-degree video system.

Oculus emphasised its headset’s ease of use and a familiar video-gaming content for its launch.

“It rests comfortably right on your brow,” Mr Iribe said of the Rift. “You’re going to put it on like a baseball cap. It’s going to be simple and easy . . . The goal is you put it on and it goes away, it disappears.”


Download Festival-goers left hungry as cashless system goes to Borksville » The Inquirer

Chris Merriman:

Festivalgoers are ready to throw a Five Finger Death Punch at organisers after a cashless society model involving digital currency failed.

The Download Festival at Castle Donington is completely cashless this year, and visitors are being issued with a dog-tag At the Gates.

However, the system for topping up the dog-tags with currency has failed, and there’s no back up, leaving many people complaining of being unable to eat or drink.

This is a huge embarrassment for cashless as the future of money in the week that Apple Pay was announced for the UK market.

Download proudly hailed itself as the first major festival to use RFID technology to replace cash, but the Utopian dream seems to have turned into a nightmare as festival goers are not only unable to eat, but face the prospect of seeing Slipknot sober.

Test, and then test. Then test it again. Then pull out something essential. Test.


Who’s afraid of DNS? Nominet’s ‘turing’ tool visualises hidden security threats » Techworld

John Dunn:

UK domain registry Nominet has shown off a striking new visualisation tool called ‘turing’ that large organisations can use to peer into their DNS traffic to trace latency issues and spot previously invisible botnets and malware.

In development for four years, and used internally by Nominet for the last two, at core turing is about representing DNS traffic in visual form, allowing administrators to ‘see’ patterns in real time that would normally be impossible to detect let alone understand.


EU opens investigation into Amazon’s e-book selling » Reuters

Julia Fioretti:

The investigation adds to the pressure on the online retailer in Europe, where it is already being investigated for the low tax rates it pays in Luxembourg.

The Commission said it would look in particular into certain clauses included in Amazon’s contracts with publishers.

These clauses, it said, required publishers to inform Amazon about more favorable or alternative terms offered to Amazon’s competitors, a means to ensure Amazon is offered terms at least as good as those of its competitors…

…”Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“Our investigation does not call that into question. However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers are not harmful to consumers, by preventing other e-book distributors from innovating and competing effectively with Amazon.”

Similar in that sense to Apple’s bad action in the “most favoured nation” clause for ebooks it sought from publishers.


Google’s Android One may go down as an interesting idea that bombed » ETtech

Gulveen Aulakh:

Google’s first set of phone-making partners Micromax, Karbonn and Spice have no development roadmap for the platform’s next batch of devices. Some are clearing available stock at discounts, executives told ET. Intex, Lava and Xolo, which were to join the above three, no longer seem to be keen, leading some to question whether the search giant is planning to drop the Android One project altogether.

Google insisted it’s still committed to the product. “We’re not backing away from the programme,” Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management at Google, told ET. “We’ve learnt a lot from the initial round with our partners and they have learnt in terms of device availability, in channel and others. Over time, as we work with our partners, we will keep working on making sure that we do things much better.” But with the products not doing too well, executives at the three partners said they weren’t working on the next lot of Android One devices.

The problem with Android One being that it tried to force a uniform experience – which left the OEMs no way to differentiate. Who benefits? Only Google.


jansoucek/iOS-Mail.app-inject-kit » GitHub

Jan Soucek:

Back in January 2015 I stumbled upon a bug in iOS’s mail client, resulting in HTML tag in e-mail messages not being ignored. This bug allows remote HTML content to be loaded, replacing the content of the original e-mail message. JavaScript is disabled in this UIWebView, but it is still possible to build a functional password “collector” using simple HTML and CSS.

It was filed under Radar #19479280 back in January 2015, but the fix was not delivered in any of the iOS updates following 8.1.2. Therefore I decided to publish the proof of concept code here.

Here’s the Youtube video:

It uses a targeted email to capture the person’s iCloud password (if their iCloud email is the same email). The prime weakness is the way iOS 8 keeps popping up dialogs asking you to sign into the App Store. Secondary weakness may be loading images in Mail; I don’t know whether turning off “load images” guards against this.

Bad that it has taken Apple six months not to do anything for a potential targeted phishing attack.


The mobile to machine learning era: privacy in the new age. » Praxtime

Nathan Taylor on Apple, privacy and machine learning:

there’s a risk that inside the company Apple could cripple their machine learning efforts by overcommitting to their own marketing and privacy ideology. I noticed Apple’s Phil Schiller was on message last night about privacy on John Gruber’s The Talk Show. It’s hard to be certain of Apple’s motivation here. It’s likely some mix of being out of touch with recent trends so being overly creeped out by machine learning, spinning their backwardness in cloud and machine learning in the best light, having some real and serious moral concerns about privacy, plus some very cynical distancing from Google. The latter since they know Google will be the one to bear the brunt of the lawsuits and tech regulations around privacy as machine learning explodes. And then Apple can follow serenely behind in their wake…

…What I noticed and liked about the Apple keynote at WWDC this week is Craig Federighi clearly loved all the new cool features based on machine learning and searching with natural language. He has an infectious enthusiasm. It’s great to see. Apple clearly takes machine learning very seriously. They just want to do it their own quirky and backhanded way.

The point about lawsuits and regulation is one I hadn’t seen raised before. But once it’s said, it feels inevitable.


Start up: over-smart stuff, is Apple squeezing free music?, distaff Tinder, Tidal disputes payouts, and more


Soup: currently outside the “strategic horizon” of smart devices. Photo by Joi on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Go on, count them – don’t let a machine kill that job. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Dumb ‘smart’ gadgets: the bubble is set to burst » WSJ

Christopher Mims:

I believe I have identified the one thing in tech that is incontrovertibly in a bubble. To know whether a product or startup is in this category—which I’m confident will see a shakeout leaving few standing—just look for this phrase in their marketing materials: “The world’s first smart…”

The world’s first smart socks. The world’s first smart toothbrush. The world’s first smart plate, cup, fork, cutting board, stove knob, jump rope, shoes, shirt, aquarium, frying pan. The world’s first smart detector of the gas that we pass. [Yes, it’s real, though still a Kickstarter.]…

…Anthony Ortiz, the man behind the world’s first smart plate, insists that plates are just the beginning. What about fans of soup? I asked him. “If you’re going to make soup, that’s not what we do,” says Mr. Ortiz. “That would be something that goes in a bowl…. The bowl is something that could be on the strategic horizon for us.”

I bet you never knew crockery could have a strategic horizon.


Hacker implants NFC chip in his hand to bypass security scans and exploit Android phones » Forbes

Thomas Fox-Brewster:

For those who can bear the pain, biohacking, where computing devices are injected under the skin, provides a novel way to acquire real stealth to sneak through both physical and digital scans. That’s why US navy petty officer Seth Wahle, now an engineer at APA Wireless, implanted a chip in his hand, in between the thumb and the finger – the purlicue apparently – of his left hand. It has an NFC (Near Field Communications) antenna that pings Android phones, asking them to open a link. Once the user agrees to open that link and install a malicious file, their phone connects to a remote computer, the owner of which can carry out further exploits on that mobile device.

Filed for “when you need a character in a heist film who can somehow get past security scans”. Not filed under “things to worry about in the real world.”


Circa: what went wrong » Monday Note

Frederic Filloux fillets the news-aggregating failure that Twitter is reckoned to be picking up:

#3. Editorial uniqueness remains a key success factor. And Circa didn’t have it. Great packaging is one thing, but it can’t support itself without the help of original, specific, identifiable editorial. Since its inception, the web has been plagued by the commoditization of information. As social vastly amplifies that trend, being able to develop its own editorial identity remains critical for any media.

Well, Flipboard doesn’t have a “voice” (choice of stories with a consistent viewpoint) except the one you choose because it hoists on your Twitter/Facebook/etc feed). But lack of editorial “voice” is a common problem with the aggregation apps I see. I pick sites by voice. (It’s probably why you’re here.) No voice = no reason to come back.


The Dickonomics of Tinder » Medium

Alana Massey:

Some will read my gleeful rejections on the many faces I encounter on Tinder as evidence of a disturbing uptick in malevolent, anti-male sentiments among single straight women. It is not. It is evidence of us arriving nearer to gender equilibrium where men can no longer happily judge the clear and abundant photos and carefully crafted profiles of women but become incensed when they take the opportunity to do the same.

It was not always thus.

When I joined OKCupid six years ago, I dutifully created a well-rounded profile complete with accurate photos and thoughtful responses to the site’s profile prompts; though I was 23, I generously set my age limit for prospects at 40. For my efforts, I was immediately rewarded with an inbox full of messages that were mostly variations on “hey ☺” and “What up” from an army of blurry and sometimes headless mirror selfies who had either not read my profile or actively sought women with whom they’d share only mutual disdain.

Oh, this is such a wonderful piece. (Side note: published on Matter. Wasn’t that sorta a science reporting thing? No matter.) Should be obligatory reading for pretty much all males under 35.


Why energy storage is about to get big – and cheap » Ramez Naam

tl;dr: Storage of electricity in large quantities is reaching an inflection point, poised to give a big boost to renewables, to disrupt business models across the electrical industry, and to tap into a market that will eventually top many of tens of billions of dollars per year, and trillions of dollars cumulatively over the coming decades.

He things the Tesla Powerwall “is a big step towards disruption“.


Apple pushing music labels to kill free Spotify streaming ahead of Beats relaunch » The Verge

Micah Singleton:

Apple has been using its considerable power in the music industry to stop the music labels from renewing Spotify’s license to stream music through its free tier. Spotify currently has 60 million listeners, but only 15 million of them are paid users. Getting the music labels to kill the freemium tiers from Spotify and others could put Apple in prime position to grab a large swath of new users when it launches its own streaming service, which is widely expected to feature a considerable amount of exclusive content. “All the way up to Tim Cook, these guys are cutthroat,” one music industry source said.

Sources also indicated that Apple offered to pay YouTube’s music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label stopped allowing its songs on YouTube. Apple is seemingly trying to clear a path before its streaming service launches, which is expected to debut at WWDC in June. If Apple convinces the labels to stop licensing freemium services from Spotify and YouTube, it could take out a significant portion of business from its two largest music competitors.

As was pointed out, if someone in the music business calls you “cutthroat”, then wow. But would the labels really be able to keep free music off YouTube? They might like to, but it’s the elephant in the room in any music streaming question.


Tidal calls leaked royalty statement a fake » Digital Trends

Keith Nelson jr:

The leaked document suggests Tidal pays a weighted average of .0012 cents per stream and 70% of revenue to rights holder. That revenue share has since changed since Jay Z acquired parent company Aspiro as he proclaimed the service pays 75% to rights holders less than a week earlier.

The statement reads: “for the same period (March 2015) as this purported ‘leaked’ statement, Tidal paid an average royalty per stream of $0.024-0.028.” This would place its royalty payments at approximately four times higher than that of Spotify’s, which pays rights holders between $0.006 and $0.0084. DigitalMusicNews responded to Tidal’s statement clarifying the statement was “issued by a digital distributor servicing the independent label” but does not refute the authenticity of the statement.

Seems highly unlikely that the document would be fake to me. The only way really for Tidal to get this straight would be to publish more statements – probably not what it wants.


The (very) big fight for the small screen » Fortune

Erin Griffith:

The secret to BuzzFeed’s success—the thing that Frank, Gaulthier, CEO Jonah Peretti, and his staff of more than 900 believe makes BuzzFeed different from other media companies—is its data-driven approach. The company employs 12 data scientists and 11 researchers to crunch the numbers on the approximately 500 posts it publishes each day. Every list, listicle, article, essay, photo, video, upvote, comment, Thumbs Up, Tweet, Like, Heart, Pin, Share, Reblog, Retweet, LOL, WTF, OMG, and Ew represents a data point to be scrutinized. From there, BuzzFeed tests hypotheses to determine what made the content successful, in hopes that each successive piece of content will be even more perfectly engineered for irresistibility. “You can’t just do what [you think people] want, because people like to be surprised and exposed to new things,” says Peretti.

Unlike a Hollywood studio, which might produce five films a year, BuzzFeed is churning out an average of 50 videos a week, and taking advantage of the opportunities to test everything from characters and actors to theories about human behavior.

I’m tempted to say “The secret to Buzzfeed’s success so far“. This is the internet, and things can change quite fast.


The truth about Android apps that secretly connect to user tracking and ad sites » MIT Technology Review

Luigi Vigneri and pals from Eurecom in France have …come up with an automated way to check the apps in Google Play and monitor the sites they connect to. And their results reveal the extraordinary scale of secret connections that many apps make without their owners being any the wiser.

Vigneri and co began by downloading over 2,000 free apps from all 25 categories on the Google Play store. They then launched each app on a Samsung Galaxy SIII running Android version 4.1.2 that was set up to channel all traffic through the team’s server. This recorded all the urls that each app attempted to contact.  

Next they compared the urls against a list of known ad-related sites from a database called EasyList and a database of user tracking sites called EasyPrivacy, both compiled for the open source AdBlock Plus project. Finally, they counted the number of matches on each list for every app

The results make for interesting reading. In total, the apps connect to a mind-boggling 250,000 different urls across almost 2,000 top level domains. And while most attempt to connect to just a handful of ad and tracking sites, some are much more prolific.

Vigneri and co give as an example “Music Volume Eq,” an app designed to control volume, a task that does not require a connection to any external urls. And yet the app makes many connections. “We find the app Music Volume EQ connects to almost 2,000 distinct URLs,” they say.

Their research is on ArXiv. We’ve seen this before, but not studied on this scale. (The original piece is headlined “smartphone apps”, but it’s clear this is only looking at Android, not iOS.)


Start up: Nintendo’s mobile money, Nest misses summer, the non-voice phone, why Tidal will fail, and more


Carphone Warehouse: not the place to look for an Apple Watch. Photo by morebyless on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. None is a leftover April Fool’s. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

DeNA, in Nintendo pact, aims for games bringing in over $25m/month » Reuters

Japanese online game maker DeNA Co Ltd on Wednesday said it wants its new partnership with gaming giant Nintendo Co Ltd to yield titles that bring in over 3bn yen ($25.02m) a month.

The alliance, announced on March 17, will bring Nintendo characters such as Super Mario and Donkey Kong to smartphones, and see their jointly developed games available through phones and tablets as well as Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS consoles.

DeNA Chief Executive Isao Moriyasu said the partners would release their first game later this year, but was coy on which character from Nintendo’s trove of intellectual property (IP) would be featured.

“We want to create games that will be played by hundreds of millions of people,” Moriyasu told Reuters in an interview. “We want to create multiple hit games rather than aiming to succeed with just one powerful IP element.”

Ambitious, but should be feasible. Nintendo takes in roughly 25bn yen per month in software sales at present.


With the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, Samsung tries to regain its footing » NYTimes.com

Farhad Manjoo:

In the international market for phones, Samsung’s Galaxys are relatively expensive. They sell for about the same price as Apple’s latest devices, $199 and up with a two-year contract, or more than $650 without a contract. But powerful phones made by low-priced Chinese sellers, like the OnePlus One, often sell for less than half the price of high-end Samsung and Apple devices.

If you pay the premium price to Apple, you get a phone with a well-designed operating system, no overlapping preloaded apps, and a host of services that often work very well, like iMessage, Apple Pay and expanding compatibilities with Apple’s personal computers and devices like the Apple TV and, soon, the Apple Watch. You can criticize Apple’s sticky ecosystem as a form of consumer lock-in, but Apple sure has built a luxurious prison, and customers are willing to pay extra for it.

If you pay that premium to Samsung, you don’t get a whole lot more than you can get on, say, a phone made by Xiaomi, OnePlus or any of a dozen smaller players.

That, indeed, is the problem.


Voice out of vogue for UK mobile phone users » eMarketer

In December 2014 polling from multichannel solutions provider Oxygen8 Group, voice didn’t even make the top 10 list of mobile services used by mobile phone users. Communication needs are more likely being met by other data-led services. For example, according to the survey, the most popular service was messaging, cited by 90.0% of respondents. Email and social media, with respective response rates of 83.0% and 77.6%, also fared well.


Energy companies around the world infected by newly discovered malware » Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:

The United Arab Emirates was the country most targeted by the attackers, followed by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Kuwait.

Computers are initially infected with Laziok through spam e-mails coming from the moneytrans[.]eu domain. The e-mails contain a malicious attachment that exploits a Microsoft Windows vulnerability that was patched in 2012. The same vulnerability has been exploited in other attack espionage campaigns, including one that used the Red October malware platform to infect diplomatic, governmental, and scientific organizations in at least 39 countries. The Laziok exploit typically came in the form of an Excel file.

Patched in 2012, but not patched. The state of security today.


Tidal and the future of music » stratechery

Ben Thompson:

even if Jay-Z and company were truly independent, they would be heavily incentivized to avoid exclusivity as well: remember that music has high fixed costs but (especially on the Internet) zero marginal costs. That means the best way to make money is to sell as many units as possible in order to spread out those fixed costs. That, by extension, means the optimal strategy for whoever owns the music is making it available in as many places as possible – the exact opposite of an exclusive.

This ultimately is why Tidal will fail: it’s nice that Jay-Z and company would prefer to garner Spotify’s (minuscule) share of streaming revenue, but there is zero reason to expect Tidal to win in the market. Tidal doesn’t have Spotify’s head-start or free tier, it doesn’t have Apple’s distribution might and bank account, and it doesn’t have any meaningful exclusives3 — and to be successful, you need a lot of exclusives; it’s too easy and guilt-free to pirate (or simply skip) one or two songs.

And now stay tuned…


Apple’s music strategy looks increasingly risky » Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

Apple’s strategy with music streaming continues to be a work in progress, but from what we know, curation and discovery will be two main tenets of a service that uses music exclusives as a carrot to entice users. In what could be a major negative, Jimmy Iovine reportedly was unable to get the cost for this music streaming service down to $5/month, with record labels demanding Apple remain steady at the “me-too” $9.99/month price. The primary problem with this chain of events is that music executives are hardly in a position to be dictating pricing and business strategy in an industry that may be fundamentally broken, yet again, by technology.

Music streaming is split into free and paid and there is risk that without a free offering, Apple may not reach enough scale to force consolidation among streaming services. A $5/monthly price was thought to alleviate some of this risk, but with Apple possibly needing to ship at $9.99/month, one has to wonder if management is pleased with how the product is shaping up.

One theme that permeates this discussion is Apple’s forced hand. With iTunes Radio, a seemingly “me-too” product compared to Pandora, Apple has seen moderate levels of success, but nothing that would jump out to an observer as ground-breaking. Apple risks a very similar fate with a paid music streaming service: garnering enough success to warrant respect with the endeavor (mostly because the bar is set so low), yet unable to capture the music industry like it was 2005 again. In essence, Apple would be stuck in catch-up mode.

Without a $5-per-month tier, the music industry is never going to break YouTube’s grip – which is essentially ad-supported streaming where the labels don’t get the same cut as they would from a paid service.


Nest confused by BST » Nest Community

Britain switched to “summer time” (equivalent to US’s Daylight Savings) at the weekend, going an hour ahead of GMT. Seems that Nest didn’t get the message:

The switch to BST seems to have confused my Nest! I have a manual schedule setup, auto schedule is disabled and the Nest didn’t come on at the new time this morning!

Only UK affected, said Nest. (Well, duh.) Puny humans and their clock-changing. (Apple was caught out for years by DST changes, which its alarms didn’t keep up with.)


IEEE waves through controversial FRAND patent policy » EE Times

John Walko, in February:

IEEE’s new standard on patents that lowers royalty fees is making some members angry.

The IEEE’s decision to approve a bitterly contested change to its patent policy, has, perhaps unsurprisingly, caused bitter divisions among its members. The revised rules would see the royalty fees large vendors have to pay reduced significantly, particularly in the wireless sector.

Compensation for a company’s IPR would now be based on a percentage of component price rather than the whole device, as is generally the norm.

Another consequence of the revised approach to royalties is a more realistic definition of what represents Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) when it comes to valuing a company’s standards-essential patents (SEP) such that the inventors get a fair return on sometimes huge investments into developing innovations, while at the same time not building barriers to entry for new products and new suppliers.

I missed this at the time; but it’s pretty dramatic. Lots of lawsuits have previously involved demands for royalties on finished products, which – if you think about it – is daft: if an essential patent only affects some tiny part of the operation of a device (eg Wi-Fi on the Xbox 360, as an example) why should Microsoft have to pay a proportion of the finished price?

This doesn’t have “non-practising entities”, aka patent trolls, pleased. Here’s Bill Merritt of Interdigital (an NPE) fulminating about it – and saying it won’t play ball.

Seems minimal, but this could have big long-term effects.


Sony Mobile aims to ship 38 million smartphones in FY2015, say sources » Digitimes

Daniel Shen and Steve Shen:

Sony Mobile Communications aims to ship 38m smartphones in fiscal 2015 (April 2015-March 2016), down slightly from 39.2m units shipped in the previous fiscal year, according to sources at Taiwan’s handset supply chain.

The lower shipment target comes as the Japan-based vendor is still overhauling its handset business and has also shifted its focus to the mid-range to high-end segment, said the sources.

Despite the absence of new orders from Sony Mobile since the fourth quarter of 2014, Taiwan’s ODMs have begun shipping some new models to the Japan-based vendor recently, including the Xperia E4 from Arima Communications, Xperia E4g from Compal Electronics and Xperia M4 Aqua from Foxconn/FIH Mobile.

Sony seems to be keeping focus on waterproofing, removable batteries and SD cards – unlike Samsung. How’s this going to play out?


Carphone Warehouse cut off from Apple Watch launch » Telegraph

Chris Williams:

Carphone’s UK chief executive, Graham Stapleton, said that the 800-strong high street chain will not be part of the launch next month.

He added: “We would love to be able to stock the Apple Watch. I’ve got to be careful what I say but I think they are just going another way with it. We have not been given the opportunity.”
Instead of selling its smartwatch thorough the same channels as the iPhone, Apple will court high-end fashion shoppers in more exclusive locations, as it charges prices as high as £13,500 for the top-of-the-range model. Window displays at Selfridges’ flagship Oxford Street store, for instance, were concealed behind Apple-branded hoardings on Tuesday in preparation for the launch.

Colour me totally unsurprised that Apple isn’t selling the Watch through CPW – which, for American readers, is like Best Buy for phones.


Start up: Samsung’s S6, why clickbait works, the music industry’s pain, Lenovo’s clean pledge, and more


What happens when you don’t have enough people in these? The music business hurts. Photo by eldeeem on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Adjust for daylight savings. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Samsung Galaxy S 6 and Galaxy S 6 edge » Business Insider

The Galaxy S 6 is made entirely of metal and glass and will come in two variations: The “regular” Galaxy S 6 and the Galaxy S 6 edge, which has a curved screen.

Samsung started designing the Galaxy S 6 from the ground up about a year ago under a program it called Project Zero. Whereas the last few Galaxy models were designed with the previous model in mind, the Galaxy S 6 is entirely new. Samsung even abandoned some of its earlier principles in order to highlight the design of the Galaxy S 6. It’s not waterproof. You can’t swap out the battery. And there’s no slot to insert extra memory.

Both models do all the same stuff, except the Galaxy S 6 edge has a few extras. It lets you swipe over from the curved portion of the screen to view a list of your favorite contacts and get alerts when you have a missed call or text from one of them. Other than that, Samsung says the curved screen doesn’t serve any function other than to look good. (It’ll also be more expensive, but Samsung hasn’t said how much either phone will cost yet.)

Besides the physical design, Samsung has cleaned up its software too. The phone isn’t bogged down with a bunch of unnecessary features and extras. The new version of Samsung’s TouchWiz skin for Android is cleaner and easier to navigate. All the basic apps like email, calendar, and music have a new look. Plus, the phone will ship with some of Microsoft’s Android apps like OneNote, OneDrive, and Skype.

As expected (and using its own Exynos processor), though Samsung appears to have used the iPhone 6 as its design template – from some angles you wouldn’t know which was which. I linked to Business Insider because it was the only site I could find easily which had a concise and balanced overview of what’s there in the phone and what’s not.

The list of features it has dumped from previous Galaxy flagships is now longer than those still there. Stuff that’s been dumped yet was previously “essential”: waterproofing, battery swapping, SD card slot, and of course things weird software “features” such as Air View, Air Gesture, Smart Stay and so on.

I have a feeling that this will actually be a bigger success for Microsoft than Samsung. “A curved screen that just looks good”?


Lenovo’s promise for a cleaner, safer PC » Lenovo Newsroom

After that Superfish shenanigans:

by the time we launch our Windows 10 products, our standard image will only include the operating system and related software, software required to make hardware work well (for example, when we include unique hardware in our devices, like a 3D camera), security software and Lenovo applications.  This should eliminate what our industry calls “adware” and “bloatware.”  For some countries, certain applications customarily expected by users will also be included. 

Lenovo is the biggest PC maker in the industry. Rival companies including Acer preinstall third-party apps. Will this force them to stop those installations, with the consequent impact on their margins? If so, that’s going to make it harder for them to thrive against Lenovo – which will get bigger, until Acer (and Asus?) are forced into a niche in the industry.


Why the Music Aficionado was to blame for declining music sales in 2014 » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

Music Aficionados are consumers that spend above average time and money with music. They represent just 17% of all consumers but a whopping 61% of all recorded music spending. These consumers shape the fortunes of the music business. In the past this did not matter so much because:

• So many passive majority music fans were spending strongly
• Aficionados were behaving predictably

Now that has all changed. Passives are sating their appetites on YouTube while Aficionados are making major changes to their buying habits. Last year 14% of Aficionados said they were stopping buying CDs while 23% said they were buying fewer albums of any kind and 23% also said they were buying fewer downloads. The 2014 revenue numbers show us just what impact these changes had.

If we extrapolate those percentages to Aficionados’ share of spending in those markets in 2014 we see:

• Aficionados spent $192m less on CDs, which was 67% of the total $326m lost CD spend in 2014
• Aficionados spent $250m less on downloads, which was 86% of the total $290m lost CD spend in 2014

Amazing how concentrated it is – rather like the games app industry which relies on “whales”.


Yes to the Dress? » Medium

Paul Ford, in a masterful piece about media organisations’ reactions to That Story About The Dress (about which in two years’ time we’ll all say, “oh, yeah, wasn’t that stupid?”), and how Buzzfeed got 25 million page views in a day for it:

What I saw, as I looked through the voluminous BuzzFeed coverage of the dress, is an organization at the peak of a craft they’ve been honing since 2006. They are masters of the form they pioneered. If you think that’s bullshit, that’s fine—I think most things are bullshit too. But they didn’t just serendipitously figure out that blue dress. They created an organization that could identify that blue dress, document it, and capture the traffic. And the way they got those 25 million impressions, as far as I can tell from years of listening to their people, reading their website, writing about them, and not working or writing for them, was something like: Build a happy-enough workplace where people could screw around and experiment with what works and doesn’t, and pay everyone some money.

Great!

This is not said as an endorsement of BuzzFeed.

Oh. But it is an endorsement of building organisations that work. Trouble is, most media organisations experiment, but they don’t do it scientifically. That’s the real, fundamental fault.


Microsoft to cut 9,000 Nokia jobs in China » MarketWatch

Microsoft plans to shut two mobile-handset manufacturing plants in China formerly run by Nokia Corp., cutting about 9,000 jobs in total, various reports said Thursday. Microsoft, which bought Nokia’s handset business last April, scheduled the closure of the plants – located in Beijing and the southeastern city of Dongguan – earlier this month and plans to ship some of the manufacturing equipment there to Vietnam, according to a report in the government-run Beijing Youth Daily.

It quoted an unidentified Microsoft China executive as saying the closures and transfer of production capacity to Vietnam would likely be completed by the end of March. The layoffs are part of an estimated 18,000 job cuts which Microsoft announced in the wake of its purchase of the Nokia unit for $7.2bn.

At one time, according to Tomi Ahonen, it was the largest and most modern handset manufacturing facility in the world. Not sure when that time was, though. Think there are probably lots more factories making handsets now.


Why is the internet overrun with clickbait? » The Makegood

Tom Hespos:

I have an undergrad degree in journalism, I’ve been a business journalist for over 15 years, and I’ve worked at newspapers and even started my own. So I like to think I’m a decent headline writer. I wrote the original headlines for a handful of content pieces and watched the numbers roll in.

Some pieces bombed. Others did well. On the suggestion of our sales rep, we decided to test multiple headlines for each content piece. So we wrote 10-12 new headlines for each piece and tested them in isolation. Some of those headlines were typical of what a newspaper editor might write after reading the content. Others were deliberately controversial or, in some cases, playing to fear or uncertainty. You might even say they were starting to skirt the “clickbait” line.

So everything else was kept the same – the visual, the content, the media environments and everything else.  We just ran different headlines. Sure enough, the provocative headlines outperformed campaign averages. Big time. As in 15x lift.

We like to make fun of done-to-death lines like “You’ll never guess what happens next…” or “You’ve been doing [X] wrong your whole life…” We might even wonder out loud how many people actually click on such things. Perhaps we shouldn’t make fun.

I wonder what would happen if newspapers were to do the same with their headlines. You can see it being done by organisations like Taboola, where you can see an evolutionary progression going on with the headlines trying to get people to click through to stories.

Then again, businesses that rely simply on clicks are going to create clickbait. It’s as logical as night following day.


Futures of text » Whoops

Jonathan Libov:

I’m skeptical of a future where we communicate with computers primarily by voice. The visions in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Her portray voice as the most effortless interaction, but voice actually requires a lot more cognitive and physical effort than pointing with a mouse, typing on a keyboard, or tapping on app icon and then navigating the UI. Consider all those times you’ve exchanged a million texts with someone while making plans when voice would have resolved it much more quickly. Text is often more comfortable even if it’s less convenient.

I believe comfort, not convenience, is the most important thing in software, and text is an incredibly comfortable medium.

Great piece looking at developments in messaging.


Cybergeddon: why the Internet could be the next “failed state” » Ars Technica

Sean Gallagher:

“If we think our kids and grandkids are going to have as awesome and free an Internet as the one we have, we really have to look at why we think that,” Jason Healey, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council of the United States, told Ars.

The alternative futures for the Internet are not pretty. In presentations at multiple security conferences, Healey has suggested that the Internet could “start to look like Somalia”—a failed state where security is impossible, going about daily life is hazardous, and armed camps openly wage war over the network.

Healey’s analysis has been reinforced by events over the past two years: record data breaches, zero-day vulnerabilities released that affected a preponderance of Internet services, and visibility into the vast state surveillance of the Internet. The Internet has been “weaponized,” not just by the NSA and its foreign counterparts but by other states and Internet crime organizations. A thriving market for vulnerabilities attracts the bright and ambitious to work on discovering “zero days” for profit.

Sometimes you need an “e-” prefix, sometimes you need “cyber-“. Odd how “cyber-” wins for bad news – cyberwarfare, cyberhacking, and “e-” wins for the nice stuff. Apart from email, obviously.


Google just bought the entire .app web domain for $25m » Cult of Android

Killian Bell:

Fancy a .app web address? You’re going to be buying it from Google. The search giant has splashed out just over $25m on the entire .app web domain, which is around $19m more than any other company has paid for a top-level domain so far.

The actual figure Google paid to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAAN) is $25,001,000. The second-most expensive domain is .tech, which sold for $6.76m, and the third-most expensive is .reality, which sold for $5,588,888.

Google applied for the top-level domain (TLD) back in 2012, Business Insider reports, four years after ICAAN decided to expand the overall number of TLDs. The company also applied for .docs, .android, .free, .fyi, .foo, and others around the same time.

Makes sense, though now it has all the fun of being a registrar. Will all Google Play apps automatically get a .app address to make them visible in search?

Also, most expensive? Has nobody bought .sex?


Samsung’s rise and fall » Business Insider

Terrific, detailed piece by Steve Kovach:

The success of Samsung’s Mobile in the US began a rift with the Korean headquarters. Sources say the more successful Samsung was in the US, the more complicated the relationship with headquarters got. Instead of getting credit, the US team felt they were being chastised for doing their jobs well. (Samsung declined to comment on this story.)

It got so bad, a source told us, that Samsung flew a plane full of executives to the mobile division’s office in Dallas for an unannounced audit that lasted three weeks in 2012. The Dallas-based employees had to go through all materials they used to sell and market Samsung’s mobile products. They were accused of falsifying sales, bribing the media, and a bunch of other damaging actions that hurt morale in the office. The same US-based office that helped turn Samsung into a brand as recognizable as Apple was suddenly being punished for its work…

…during one meeting with the global teams at Samsung’s headquarters in Korea, executives made the US team stand up in front of several hundred of their peers in an auditorium. The executives told the employees to clap for the US team as encouragement since they were the only group failing the company, even though it was clear to everyone the opposite was true.

Jawdropping.


Start up: Pono Pogued, Jawbone money hassles?, car hacking, Apple Watch ahoy!, and more


Apple Watch v the rest. Photo by Martin uit Utrecht on Flickr.

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

Neil Young’s PonoPlayer: The emperor has no clothes » Yahoo News

David Pogue idly kicks a hornet’s nest:

The Pono Player, once just a Kickstarter prototype, is now a product that anyone can buy, for $400. To hear the magic, you’re supposed to buy all new music—high-resolution audio files—from Pono’s new music store (ponomusic.force.com), and load them onto your Pono using a new Mac or PC loading-dock program (Pono World). Albums cost about $25 each.

You’ve got to admit it: The argument for the Pono Player sure is appealing — that we don’t know what we’ve been missing in our music.

Unfortunately, it isn’t true.

I’m 51 and a former professional musician. I know how to listen. But when I bought Pono’s expensive remastered songs and compared them with the identical songs on my phone, I couldn’t hear any difference whatsoever.

He carried out an A/B test , but – DOOM! – used a Radioshack switch to do it. This has people saying that the switch is the reason why people couldn’t tell the difference. Uh, no. It’s electricity, not witchcraft.


BMW fixes security flaw in its in-car software » Reuters

Edward Taylor:

BMW said officials at German motorist association ADAC had identified the problem, which affected cars equipped with the company’s ConnectedDrive software using on-board SIM cards – the chips used to identify authorised users of mobile devices.

BMW drivers can use the software and SIM cards to activate door locking mechanisms, as well as a range of other services including real-time traffic information, online entertainment and air conditioning.…

…cybersecurity experts have criticized the automotive industry for failing to do more to secure internal communications of vehicles with network-connected features.

The danger, they say, is that once external security is breached, hackers can have free rein to access onboard vehicle computer systems which manage everything from engines and brakes to air conditioning.

They fear it is only a matter of time before hackers might break into wireless networks on cars to exploit software glitches and other vulnerabilities to try to harm drivers.

Charlie Miller, ex-NSA, is very interested in hacking cars – just to see what can be done. He was the person who showed publicly how to hack the iPhone back in 2009. So what he’s thinking, the NSA – and many others – probably are too.


Waze and the politics of public spaces » NYMag

Benjamin Wallace-Wells:

To let Waze pick your route is to feel a kind of surrender. The presence of all those other users in the system (50 million worldwide, dutifully flagging accidents and vehicles stopped on the side of the road and police cars up ahead) means that you never know whether you are being directed by the machine algorithm or the human ghost within it. You could imagine that my Dobbs Ferry detour was a kind of hiccup in the Waze mapping algorithm, or the consequence of someone driving up the Saw Mill ahead of me and mistakenly flagging an accident when they were trying to text. Or, if you are open to more devious possibilities, you might imagine an unscrupulous coffee-shop owner in downtown Dobbs Ferry continuously reporting phantom accidents on the Saw Mill, hoping to divert customers off the road and past his counter…

…The promise of Waze is that it occupies public spaces while subverting the public’s control of that space — the cops, whose speed traps are flagged by passing Wazers, and the arterial systems by which we funnel traffic away from residential neighborhoods. I think this explains that strange little feeling you get, both a bit anxious and a bit excited, when Waze starts sending your car on some manic sprint away from traffic

An odd feeling, and that’s just from traffic routing. Wait until it’s deciding what you do with your day all the time.


Let’s ignore each other together » Medium

Leigh Alexander:

Recently I was out to dinner with a big group of colleagues, chatting while we waited to be seated in a restaurant. I didn’t notice the sudden lull that had come over the group until someone commented, “So we’re all doing this, huh?”

Most of us were looking at our phones. And resigned in the act, too — no pretense of apology, no genuine sense that it was inappropriate or impolite. Once acknowledged, more people took phones out, and we all began concentrating on them in earnest rather than guiltily, enjoying the permission to indulge in the few minutes of relief we all knew we all wanted.

Despite the finger-wagging modern etiquette pieces, the obligation to provide your full attention to any one person or thing for a sustained period of time is becoming more difficult to meet.

Er.. is this a generational thing? If I’m out for dinner with people, then sure I’ll have put my phone away. It’s pretty easy really. But sure, you have to want to talk to people who are there.

The whole piece is an interesting take on Ringly, a ring that does notifications which I think is a novel approach to the topic.


One word sums up Google’s problem: Facebook » Seeking Alpha

Dana Blankenhorn (who owns Google stock) enunciating a view that is becoming increasingly widely held among industry analysts:

While Google Plus is a failure, Facebook is super-sticky, and acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp are designed to make it even stickier. While a 40-something Google user might be in-and-out in seconds, a 20-something Facebook user may spend hours on that site. Over the last year, Facebook is up 40% while Google stock is down 10%.

This doesn’t mean Google is dead. Google has an enormous global infrastructure, it has lots of smart people and it has enormous resources with which to address its problems. But YouTube isn’t Amazon.com or Netflix, as a studio it’s nowhere.

Google has always described its business as search, but what happens to customers when they find? This is something the company’s products have never answered. They’re the conduit, not the destination.

“Stickiness” matters; if people spend time on a service, that matters. Though you could ask “what about people looking at Facebook on Android phones?” But the ability to monetise mobile is where Facebook clearly shines – and outshines Google.


How ‘precarious’ are Jawbone’s finances? » Fortune

A lawsuit suggested the wearables company was a long way behind paying some debts, Adam Lashinsky explains:

One reason why Jawbone, a company with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, is having trouble paying its debts is that it isn’t profitable. What’s more, it has had trouble raising additional funding, despite having collected more than $400m in debt and equity over the course of its 16-year existence. As previously reported, Jawbone agreed with financial firm Rizvi Traverse early last year to an investment round of $250m. Yet over the course of 2014 not all the investment materialized. According to the Flextronics suit, in late June Jawbone agreed to a five-month payment plan with Flextronics. “Jawbone advised Flextronics that it would be receiving additional funding that would assure Jawbone’s ability to make the payments,” the suit says.

According to the suit, Jawbone again failed to make a payment deadline, prompting the suit, which was promptly settled. Jawbone, surprised the lawsuit documents were publicly available, issued the following statement: “The fact that the lawsuit was so quickly dismissed after it was filed shows that this business dispute was really more of a miscommunication between two partners.” According to multiple sources, Jawbone repeatedly has been late on payments to various vendors over the course of its corporate history.

Jawbone seems to pervasive to fail, and yet it’s the sort of thing that can happen. Who would buy it if it hits the rocks?


I spotted an Apple Watch on the train this morning, and now I’m a believer » VentureBeat

Mark Sullivan:

As the train stopped in a tunnel, the man apparently received a reminder on his wrist, and when he raised his wrist I got a clear view. No, it wasn’t one of the knockoffs they were selling at CES. This thing looked like a luxury item, and it had the now familiar “bubbles” Watch user interface.

I saw a text reminder on the screen, and then, briefly, a map. It appeared that the guy had been using the Watch for some time and was pretty used to it. The product is supposed to go on sale in April, but Apple gave Watches to a number of its employees to gather feedback and fix bugs.

On this guy, at least, the Watch looked proportionate to his wrist. The polished metal watch band looked very traditional, and, it seemed to me, made the Watch itself seem less out of the ordinary. It’s very much within the wristwatch paradigm, and doesn’t scream for attention.

One thing that disturbed me slightly about the device?

Like other blockbuster Apple products, when you see it, something somewhere in the corner of your mind clicks on, and then you realize:

You want one.

The commenters are enthralled. Well, that might be the wrong word. Obviously, they’ve all seen one and… no, hang on.


Cyanogen spurns Google acquisition interest, seeks $1bn valuation » The Information

Amir Efrati, in October 2014:

Billions of new customers will buy phones powered by Android before the end of the decade. Already there are hundreds of millions of Android phones that don’t run Google’s version of the software, but that group is highly fragmented. Cyanogen investors believe the company can consolidate a chunk of the non-Google-controlled Android market and build its own “ecosystem” of hardware and app partners.

As Google requires Android phone manufacturers to pre-install more Google-owned apps, much to the chagrin of Google’s rivals and some of those manufacturers, Cyanogen sees an opportunity to create an “open” platform that rewards the best services and applications based on what device owners choose. That’s closer to the original vision of Android co-founder Andy Rubin, who sold his startup to Google and developed the Android operating system there, before stepping aside for Mr. Pichai last year.

A Google spokesman did not have a comment. Kirt McMaster, Cyanogen’s CEO, acknowledged the startup is “talking to many potential partners including software makers and hardware manufacturers.” Existing investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Redpoint Ventures, Benchmark Capital and Chinese Web-services giant Tencent.

If Microsoft is investing, things become more interesting – and Cyanogen could be the route out of China for lots of software and services companies that otherwise can’t get onto Android handsets.


Why solar costs will fall another 40% in just two years » Renew Economy

Deutsche Bank notes that total module costs of leading Chinese solar companies have decreased from around $1.31 a watt in 2011 to around $0.50/W in 2014. It says this was primarily due to the reduction in processing costs, the fall in polysilicon costs and improvement in conversion efficiencies.

That represents a fall of around 60% in just three years. Deutsche Bank says total costs could fall another 30-40% over the next several years, with the greatest cost reductions are likely to come from the residential segments as scale and operating efficiencies improve.

It sees a precedent for this in the oldest major solar market in the world – Germany. “Costs today are well below costs in the United States and other less mature markets, and total installed costs have declined around 40% over the past three years in the country. The exact drivers behind cost declines may vary between countries, but we believe the German example continues to prove that overall system costs have yet to reach a bottom even in comparatively mature markets.”

Make a note: even with the plunging oil price, solar is going to be a sensible power source in the longer term.


Start up: web design for 2015, Nexus 6’s long slipway, hacking journalism under threat?, Zoë Keating v YouTube redux, and more


In 2012 the Nexus 6 designers were expecting to deal with these to unlock the phone. Photo by kevin dooley on Flickr.

A selection of 7 links for you. Refrigerate before use. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The challenge for web designers in 2015 (or how to cheat at the future) » Memespring

Richard Pope:

The 7 years of the Apple App Store and the android equivalents have, in effect, been mass, micro funded experiments in UI design for small, touch sensitive devices with lots of sensors and outputs. They have generated winning patterns like:

Checkboxes replaced by switches
Check-ins
Edit without save button
Everything can be contextual, any bit of UI can disappear between pages
Everything has it’s own settings page
Floating buttons
Keeping primary navigation off canvas (hidden behind the page)
Minimal or zero page header (the context an old school page header / nav gives seems less important when you are holding the app in your hand.)
Multiple, focused apps for the same service
Offline by default
Overscroll to refresh
Reserving dropdown menus for actions on the current context
Search scoped to their current context (the app)
These are patterns that people use day in day out on facebook, Gmail and WhatsApp. These are the new normal, what people expect.

But with a few notable exceptions – eg the mobile versions of Wikipedia and Forecast – these are not patterns that are making their way on to the web.

So, here is the challenge for anyone designing and building for the web in 2015.

He also points out what you can do with HTML5 browsers now too. Worth considering.


Dennis Woodside on Motorola, Google and the future of Dropbox » Telegraph

Matt Warman spoke to Woodside, formerly chief executive at Motorola, and now chief operating officer at Dropbox:

the 6-inch Nexus 6, he can now admit, was stymied by just one of those big players [which he previously criticised for keeping prices high]. A dimple on the back that helps users hold the device should, in fact, have been rather more sophisticated. “The secret behind that is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier. So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren’t there yet,” says Woodside. Nonetheless, he adds, the addition of fingerprint recognition, “wouldn’t have made that big a difference.”

Here’s what’s interesting about this. Apple bought Authentec in mid-2012 (for $356m). The Nexus 6 was released in September 2014. Motorola’s development of that smartphone was so far in train that it didn’t have time to change the design of the back fascia from dimpled to flat.

Smartphones take two or more years to design and implement. Consider that: what comes out now was being worked on in early 2013.

Kudos to Woodside for admitting fingerprint recognition wouldn’t have made much difference. As it wasn’t being tied into a payment system, it would have been a gimmick – and those don’t add lasting value.


We should all step back from security journalism » Medium

Quinn Norton:

Part of Barrett Brown’s 63 month sentence, issued yesterday, is a 12 month sentence for a count of Accessory After the Fact, of the crime of hacking Stratfor. This sentence was enhanced by Brown’s posting a link in chat and possessing credit card data. This, and a broad pattern of misunderstanding and criminalizing normal behavior online, has lead me to feel that the situation for journalists and security researchers is murky and dangerous.

I am stepping back from reporting on hacking/databreach stories, and restricting my assistance to other journalists to advice. (But please, journalists, absolutely feel free to ask me for advice!) I can’t look at the specific data another journalist has, and I can’t pass it along to a security expert, without feeling like there’s risk to the journalists I work with, the security experts, and myself.

Brown’s sentence wasn’t quite as simple as “linking to stolen stuff”, but Norton’s concern is understandable – especially given the tendency of US law enforcement to go like a runaway train after hackers, and those defined as hackers, of all stripes.


Zoe Keating’s experience shows us why YouTube’s attitudes to its creators must change » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan weighs in on the Zoë Keating row linked here on Monday:

it is the Content ID clause that is most nefarious. Content UD is not an added value service YouTube provides to content owners, it is the obligation of a responsible partner designed to help content creators protect their intellectual property. YouTube implemented Content ID in response to rights owners, labels in particular, who were unhappy about their content being uploaded by users without their permission. YouTube’s willingness to use Content ID as a contractual lever betrays a blatant disregard for copyright.

Ben Thompson is much more straightforward: on Stratechery.com he analyses Keating’s position, and suggests – for her particular situation, as a niche player seeking the most eager fans – that she should tell YouTube to take a hike. Especially when you look at her income breakdown: 60,000 tracks (roughly) sold on iTunes generated $38,195, while 1.9m YouTube views (mostly of her music on other peoples’ videos) earned $1,248.

Would the iTunes sales have happened without the YouTube views? Quite possibly not – but using ContentID as a lever, as Mulligan says, is to aggressively deny her copyright.


Digital music sales on iTunes and beyond are now fading as fast as CDs. – The Atlantic

Derek Thompson has some shudder-making figures:

how about the hits? The top 1% of bands and solo artists now earn about 80% of all revenue from recorded music, as I wrote in “The Shazam Effect.”

But the market for streamed music is not so concentrated. The ten most-popular songs accounted for just shy of 2% of all streams in 2013 and 2014. That sounds crazy low. But there are 35m songs on Spotify and many more remixes and covers on SoundCloud and YouTube, and one in every 50 or 60 online plays is going to a top-ten song. With the entire universe of music available on virtual jukeboxes, the typical 3.5-hour listening session still includes at least one song selected from a top-ten playlist that accounts for .00003% of that universe. The long tail of digital music is the longest of tails. Still, there is a fat head at the front.


China buying more iPhones than US » FT.com

Analysts at UBS estimate that China accounted for 36% of iPhone shipments in the most recent quarter, compared with 24% for the US. During the same period last year, 29% of units were sold in the US and 22% were in China, UBS said.

Predictable enough, given the size of China, and the fact that the US is essentially saturated. The fact that two markets probably account for 60% of all iPhone shipments – around 36m phones in the quarter – is perhaps a concern for Apple. It’s much the same for Samsung: losing its lead in China has hurt it and left the US as its key market.

However, this rather gives the lie to those stories from September which said that Apple was washed up in China when smugglers had to cut prices of the iPhone 6 – ignoring the fact that the devices were going to go on sale officially in a few weeks. Nope, then the problem was that

Four years ago, the iPhone 4 was a status symbol, with the black market booming before the product was officially introduced. Today, the iPhone is simply one option among many, as local companies like Xiaomi and Meizu Technology rival Apple in terms of coolness while charging less than half the price.


Demographics of key social networking platforms » Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

Tons of demographic data (including age, ethnicity, gender, education, income and location) about the online over-18s in the US:
• 71% use Facebook (more women than men, strong in 18-29);
• 23% use Twitter (men strongly growing, skews towards degree-qualified);
• 26% use Instagram (53% of 18-29s; also strong among Hispanics and African-Americans);
• 28% use Pinterest (up from 21% in August 2013; 3:1 women:men, strongly skewed to white)
• 28% use LinkedIn, strongly up among women since 2013, but now equal across sexes; skews strongly to university education

The whole study is fascinating: Facebook growth is slowing down, but it’s still “home base”, and used most daily.


Start up: digging into Samsung’s numbers, Pono launches, a billion tablets!, a CES wearables binge, and more


These, but multiplied by a big number. Photo of tablets by Martin Voltri on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Contains small parts. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

I tried on 56 wearables today. Here’s a photo of every single one of them » VentureBeat

Harrison Weber:

I just tried on every single wearable I could find at CES 2015, and yes, I’m freaking exhausted.

The total count (so far) totals to 56 wearables across every category you can think of, from clip-on trackers to full-fledged Android and Linux-powered wrist computers. Heck, I even wore a smart sweatband.

Really worth scrolling through this lot.


Tablet users to surpass 1 billion worldwide in 2015 » eMarketer

More than 1 billion people worldwide will use a tablet in 2015, according to new figures from eMarketer, representing nearly 15% of the global population and more than double the number three years ago. By 2018, the number of tablet users in the world will reach 1.43 billion.

This is the first time eMarketer has made projections for the number of tablet users worldwide. The key takeaway is that growth in the global tablet-using population will slow dramatically in 2015 and continue to taper off.

That’s almost as many tablets as PCs; and that 2018 figure surely is. The slowing growth in sales of tablets doesn’t mean people are giving up on tablets – just that they’ve sold in amazing numbers already.


The truth about 4K and curved TVs » Business Insider

Let Henry Blodget walk the floor of CES and tell you it like it is:

true: 4K TVs do look sharper than regular high-definition TVs. But they do not offer anywhere near the same leap in sharpness and enjoyment as the jump from regular def to high-def did. So don’t prepare to be astounded.

As I was getting my first look at 4K TVs, I asked myself how much the 4K feature would be worth to me.

I concluded that if both TVs were the same price, I’d take the 4K. Why not? It’s sharper.

I concluded that if the 4K were maybe 10% or 20% more than the HD, I might even shell out that much extra for the 4K.

But there is no way I would pay two times the premium that 4K TVs are commanding.

Wait until you hear what he thinks of curved screens, too.


Samsung’s mobile moment of Truth – The Information

Jessica Lessin:

The world’s largest consumer electronics company showed off a giant television, a slew of “Internet of Things” connected devices and an oven that cooks two dishes at once. (Don’t all ovens do that?)

But the spectacle was all a sideshow for what really matters for the hardware company. That is how it plans to remain relevant in the area of technology that will end up controlling these futuristic connected devices: smartphones…

…Most at risk is Samsung’s mobile chief J.K. Shin. While he survived a management shakeup at the end of last year, people who work at the company say he may only have one more chance to prove he can stabilize the business. He will fire that shot in the spring with the launch of the latest version of Samsung’s Galaxy phones, the hotly anticipated S6…

…Unfortunately for Mr. Shin, according to those people [in his mobile group] there’s little about the device that could help restore Samsung’s momentum. While company executives have been internally praising its slick design, reported images leaked online show a device that is little different from the most recent Galaxy phone.

(Subscription required)


Samsung earnings hint at recovery » WSJ

Jonathan Cheng, on the pre-announcement announcement from Samsung Electronics that Q4 2014 revenues will be down about 12%, and operating profit down about 37% (to a margin of 10%):

In the third quarter of 2014, Samsung’s mobile profit margins dropped to just 7.1% from nearly 20% at the beginning of the year.

In the fourth quarter, the mobile division likely suffered a drop in handset shipments compared with the third quarter, even as the company rolled out its new Galaxy Note 4 smartphone-tablet hybrid, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The company is already beginning to look beyond smartphones for growth. Earlier this week, Samsung co-chief executive B.K. Yoon said in a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that by 2020, “every single piece of Samsung hardware will be an IoT device, whether it is an air purifier or an oven.”

I’ve tried modelling how many handsets Samsung shipped, based on this small amount of data; the “drop in handset shipments” suggests fewer than 78.5m.

The only way I could get that is (1) mobile revenues are about 45% of total revenues and (2) average selling price (ASP) is $300-$325, substantially ahead of the $230 ASP of Q3. That would give a range of 72-78m. A lower ASP or higher proportion of revenues could easily push it to 80m. We’ll see.


Yahoo’s US share on Firefox quadruples after deal » Computerworld

Gregg Keizer, with more fine-grained detail that I wondered about yesterday:

As of Jan. 6, Yahoo’s search usage share on Firefox 34 was 32.2%, or more than four times the 7.5% that Yahoo had on Firefox 33 on the same day.

The Yahoo increase in Firefox 34 came at the expense of Google, which had a 60.8% share in that version, significantly lower than the 86.1% in Firefox 33. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, at 5.5% in Firefox 34, was only slightly up from the 5.4% in Firefox 33.

On Jan. 6, StatCounter’s search provider usage shares for all browsers in the US were 75.3% for Google, 12.4% for Bing and 10.5% for Yahoo. In other words, Firefox 34 users were more than three times likelier to reach a destination page from a Yahoo search than the US average because of the new default.

Now wondering how much value that yields to Yahoo, and whether it will have to detail the financial arrangement in its next quarterly filing.. this month.


Palm makes a comeback! China’s TCL to ‘recreate’ the brand » Facebook

Lynn Hill Fox, a PR, noted the CNet story about this and wondered what Ed Colligan – who ran Palm – thought of it. Colligan popped up to comment:

I think it’s amazing these companies think they can buy a brand and stick some crappy products under it, and somehow they will get the benefit of the brand. The reason the brand was strong is we built compelling products that delighted our customers over 15 years. The word Palm is still a great name for mobile products, but they’ll have to actually build great products and be a great company to instill brand value in it again. Good luck to them.

I think that last sentence actually means the opposite of what he said.


PonoMusic store launches with album prices up to $27.49 » Musically

Stuart Dredge:

The store’s launch provides an answer to one of the key questions about PonoMusic: how much it would charge for its high-definition albums. More than regular downloads, yes, but how much more? Judging by the music available at launch, individual tracks are going for between $1.99 and $2.99, while albums can range from $17.99 up to $27.49 – although admittedly the latter is for the deluxe version of Led Zeppelin IV.

The obvious comparison is with vinyl rather than iTunes. However, there may be some concerns over fragmentation on the PonoMusic store, not just in terms of price but in terms of audio quality.

Pono has a “music quality spectrum” infographic showing that music will be available in four separate tiers of quality: from 16-bit 44.1KHz up to 24-bit 192Khz, with an “audio resolution” bar showing which each album falls into. It is difficult to imagine, say, Apple following a similar path rather than standardising a quality level for its suppliers.

This will sink straight off the slipway.