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.

The innovator’s dilemma didn’t forgive BlackBerry either

Ina Fried on ReCode:

BlackBerry said Wednesda-y that it will stop internal development of smartphones, relying on partners for any future hardware efforts.

Everybody saw this coming, but that doesn’t make it less painful. Chen has made the right decisions most of the time, and when they weren’t right, they were inevitable.

It’s difficult to fight in the mobile segment, but that is almost impossible when you arrive really late to the party and don’t offer nothing specially differential. The innovator’s dilemma is cruel and merciless and that’s a tragedy on cases like this.

I’ve never had a BlackBerry, but I’m sure I’ll miss the platform… and the fact that we’re all losing something. For starters, competitiveness.

Too sad.

Firefox, Chrome and the perception of value

It doesn’t happen that much in technology, but some articles become more real and truthful as time goes by. It’s certainly the case in ‘Choose Firefox Now, Or Later You Won’t Get A Choice‘, where the author urges the user to use Mozilla’s browser:

So if you want an Internet — which means, in many ways, a world — that isn’t controlled by Google, you must stop using Chrome now and encourage others to do the same. If you don’t, and Google wins, then in years to come you’ll wish you had a choice and have only yourself to blame for spurning it now.

The article is being discussed at Hacker News, where several readers make good points about what are the reasons Chrome and Firefox are currently where they are. One of them made an interesting question: “What did cause you to switch?

When Chrome was launched Firefox was easily the best browser around. That ended with Chrome, which was faster, leaner and had features such as sandboxing that for example allowed the browser to keep running even if one of the tabs stopped working. The extension catalog was not that great at the beginning, but that changed quickly too. 

Years after that, the situation is quite different. Chrome and Firefox are indeed great browsers, and I wouldn’t say one is far better than the other. When I started using Chrome -I’m writing this post on this browser- I did it for the advantages it had, and I didn’t consider sacrificing my privacy as a big danger back in the day. 

That consideration is no longer true, but the problem is, even considering the respect to privacy that Firefox provides to the user, that’s not a perceived value.

It’s nothing you actually feel when you’re browsing. 

That’s the problem, I’d say. Firefox could be interesting for many people if there was some feature specially beneficial to them. Opera has been trying to walk this path with its adblocking capabilities, the power efficiency enhancements and the addition of a VPN proxy. Even with those interesting features, the market share hasn’t changed that much. And if it doesn’t for Opera, I wonder how Firefox can improve its market share with a discourse that again (most) people don’t usually get. 

That’s sad, and the worst part of it: I’m not helping to solve the situation either. I know I should use Firefox. It simply doesn’t feel like the best browser for me anymore. 

Goodbye, Nexus?

google

Google today tweeted out an indication that it will unveil new devices on October 4. People have been expecting Google to at least show new mobile devices on that date, and the smartphone-shaped outline in the tweet confirms it.

A lot of rumors have been published on different media about the upcoming new smartphones from Google. Nothing too fancy or relevant, it seems, except for one detail: their name.

For some reason, Google could decide to change their phone names and say goodbye to the Nexus family. The new phones reportedly will be part of the new Pixel family, which will be announced on Oct. 4th, 2016.

By the way, do you remember that one thing that made the Nexus 4 so desirable? It was the first phone that was actually cheap for what it gave to their users. That trend was picked by other makers, but Google decided their following phones will be more and more expensive each time.

That could be another feature of the new Pixel phones: it seems the smaller Pixel phone will start at $649. Welcome to the new Google.

The ‘killer app’ for the Apple Watch? Fitness.

The Verge has a good review of the Apple Watch Series 2, but everything seems to be left over when you read the first line of that text:

Let’s call it what it is: a fitness tracker.

That’s almost exactly what the Apple Watch is. I would say it’s what it wants to be first, although it can be a lot more. What it matters is that Apple seems to have found what it needed to convince people to buy this device.

You should buy it because it can help you to be in better shape. That’s it. Other makers use that reasoning to sell their fitness trackers, but Apple can at last compete in similar terms with those products while adding all the other neat options the Apple watch gives their users. Joanna Stern, by the way, has also expressed the idea in a fair way:

Still not a ‘need’, finally a ‘want’.

Not much to add after those two little sentences.

The iPhone 7 is a great smartphone you probably shouldn’t buy

That’s what most of the reviewers seem to think about the new iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, which has good features but nothing that could really justify leaving a perfectly fine iPhone 6s/Plus for these.

The differences are clearly there for iPhone 6/Plus users, but everyone seems to be not that convinced to recommend the new iPhones even though their scores are 9 out of 10 points on average. 

That doesn’t matter. Not because almost everyone misses too much the headphone connector (Ars Technica, The Verge, Mashable), but because this is the perfect transitional device

Every review seems too anxious not about the iPhone 7, but what will come with the iPhone 8

The iPhone 7 is competing with a phone that even doesn’t exist. The problem is, it will lose against our imagination everytime