Will the Touch Bar save the MacBook Pro?

The new MacBook Pro is (again) what we expected after months of rumors: lighter, smaller, faster. And more expensive, of course. The main argument here is the shiny new Touch Bar, a customizable touch OLED display that supposedly allow users to access certain application functions faster and easier than through traditional keyboard shortcuts or mouse control.

I tend to consider the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro as an analogy to the 3D Touch support on the iPhone: something that looks nice on a demo, but that won’t be as revolutionary as it seems in real life.

3D Touch hasn’t been mentioned much by Apple in the latest months, and the problem with the Touch Bar is similar: developers have to enable that support specifically for MacBook Pro owners, who will be just a small part of the Mac user base. I wonder if that would be interesting enough for them given the effort that that kind of support could put to the task.

I found much more compelling the fact that the new MacBook Pro is lighter, faster and better connected. I miss the MagSafe, sure, but charging through USB-C isn’t a bad choice either.

The arrival of the butterfly mechanism to the keyboard is intriguing —although the result in the MacBook has been painful for some users— but the giant Force Touch trackpad is indeed interesting.

Oh, and we still have 3.5mm connectors on the MacBook Pros. Thank god.

Smartwatches and the dream of the next big thing

We expected a lot from a smartwatch. Maybe (probably) much more than what they could do by design. The first wave of devices have fallen short of their expectations, and the industry is apparently paying that mistake:

The market intelligence firm IDC reported on Monday that smartwatch shipments are down 51.6 percent year-over-year for the third quarter of 2016. This is bad news for all smartwatch vendors (except maybe Garmin), but it’s especially bad for Apple, which saw shipments drop 71.6 percent, according to the IDC report

The numbers are tough, but this has been a year with much less announcements in the smartwatch arena. Things should improve (a little bit) in the first half of 2017, with several makers working on Android Wear 2.0 solutions.

idc

That won’t be enough, I’m affraid. Like virtual reality, smartwatches need a killer app. Becoming super-fitness bands won’t work, according to these numbers: Apple has done so with its Apple Watch 2 without much success.

The smartwatch wasn’t that smart, it seems. We’ll have to wait a little more and give those products a second chance.

Source: No One Is Buying Smartwatches Anymore

Hello Mac. Oh, and good riddance, USB and 3.5mm connector 

Apple is expected to launch the next generation of Mac computers at the Oct. 27 event that lots of users were waiting. The PostPC era has clearly eroded the relevance of these machines, but users still need a PC or a laptop to perform their work on a daily basis.

It was about time, of course: users and critics were claiming for the renewal of several Mac computers, so the new models are expected to attract lots of interested buyers in the holiday season.

Apple will probably take advantage of new Intel’s Kaby Lake processors, and besides some gimmicks —we’ll see if that OLED row everyone is talking about in the new MacBook Pro is really worth it— there’s one thing that could stand out on these new machines: the lack of traditional USB ports.

Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C ports will reportedly be part of the new machines, which won’t have “normal” USB ports. There are rumors that seem to confirm too that the traditional 3.5mm jack will also dissapear on these designs, something that makes even more sense on those laptops after watching how the iPhone 7/Plus chaos wasn’t that chaotic at all for the ones that have bought those devices.

That will be an event to watch, for sure. Stay tuned.

Galaxy Note 7: two chances are too much

When we first learned about the Galaxy Note 7 issues with batteries we thought Samsung had acted the right way: they acknowledge the problem and initiated a massive recall.

The problem seemed to be clear, so the solution was pretty easy: replace the battery, that’s it. Or is it?

Recent events have proven that this was not the case. Several replacement units are defective too and in some cases new explosive/incendiary Galaxy Note 7 smartphones have been reported. This second time carriers all over the world don’t seem confident about Samsung fixing the problem once and for all:

With wireless carriers pulling the plug on sales of replacement units, questions now turn to what’s next for Samsung.

Some analysts are suggesting that Samsung “should scrap the Note 7 altogether and move on“, and it seems certainly the right way to manage this from the outside. From the inside, though, how do you cope with millions of expensive devices ready to sell? How do you fix that disaster and try to recover yourself?

Oscar Wilde once said “to lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness“. That’s what could be applied to this case, and although many people gave Samsung a second chance on the Note 7, I don’t think anybody will give a third one to this device. I suspect Samsung is thinking about halting production for good and focusing on the Galaxy S8.

That would be the right move for us as users, but I don’t know if losing that much money would be acceptable for a company like this. They’ve invested a lot in this device: they need to have to get something else (besides scorched phones) in exchange.

Update (10/13/16): Samsung has stopped sales of the Galaxy Note 7 and issued a second recall of the devices. This seems the end for this device.

Why Google Pixel is not the smartphone I wanted

Vlad Savov speaks on The Verge about the new Google Pixel / XL smartphones, and he gives reasonable arguments on behalf of this Google effort:

Google’s invasion of that space is exciting, and the Pixel itself — when stripped of our constantly speeding expectations and preconceptions — is a highly advanced device with which Google can begin to disrupt the status quo.

The thing is, Google is competing with his own partners in an unfair way -Google Assistant seems exclusive to the Pixel family- and is trying to get more money on the hardware business when the new Pixel should be produced with only one thing in mid:

To show others the path. To show what Android is capable of.

Google is certainly doing that with the Pixel, but with a boastful attitude. “We can do something other companies can’t“, they seem to be saying. That discourse should change to “We can do something now you should be doing too“. The enemy here is not Samsung, LG or even HTC, the not-so-secret maker of these devices. The enemy is Apple, of course, and competing with Apple in its own terms (we control the hardware, we control the software) is quite impossible when you need the industry to keep Android where it is now.

Besides that, “really blue”? Really, Google? Really really blue?

VR has too much to prove

Lucas Matney on TechCrunch:

At a company event today in San Francisco, Samsung President & Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn detailed that the company is actively pursuing both smartphone-focused VR headsets and standalone solutions. The decision to market and ship a dedicated all-in-one device would rely largely on where the VR market goes in the upcoming months and years, he says, and whether the clunky headsets can gain wider adoption.

That seems a smart decision. VR was going to change the world and at the moment both Oculus and HTC have not convinced much people of the revolution that this technology was bringing us.

I see Sony and its PlayStation VR as a much more compelling offer for most users. They’ll have to spend some serious money besides the PS4/Pro itself (the PlayStation VR bundle costs $500 and comes with the headset, PlayStation Camera and two PlayStation Move controllers), but the offer is quite good for a solution that is not that far from what Oculus and HTC give -and I’ve tested all of them-.

Virtual Reality got us excited, but it hasn’t brought that revolution it promised… yet. We’ll see if future titles really show us what this tech is capable of, but as of now, it’s too expensive to exit its niche market.