“such a tool is barely in its trial stages”

Gizmodo: Google Scrambles to Make the White House Seem Competent:

Google has announced that it’s partnering with the White House to create a national coronavirus website, which is totally related to whatever the hell the administration was talking about at Friday’s press conference. There, President Donald Trump vastly oversold and misattributed an upcoming, supposedly Google-run project to build a “nationwide” coronavirus screening site to direct people to nearby “drive through” testing depending on their symptoms.

In reality—as Google clarified in a frantic tweet just hours later—such a tool is barely in its trial stages at Verily, Google’s sister-company under the Alphabet umbrella, and it will only be useful for people in the San Francisco Bay Area for the foreseeable future. It purportedly wasn’t even intended to be publically available until White House staff dropped the ball.

A person familiar with the matter told the New York Times that Verily’s pilot program (not a website—that’s still yet to be announced) is planned to launch Monday and can direct Bay Area residents exhibiting flagged symptoms to a total of three testing locations. While still absolutely commendable, don’t get me wrong, that’s still significantly different and scaled-down from what Trump and co. were selling.

Anyone who works on websites and apps knows no one, not even Google, can launch a nationwide website in few days, or a few weeks. There’s many moving parts: design, development, databases, security, redundancy, HIPAA Compliance, and testing/QA to name just a few.

Categories:

Health, Product, Web Design

Solid State Watch

Currently on Kickstarter:

Solid State Watch is a Casio F-91W movement permanently cast into a transparent resin case. It’s in there forever. No buttons, no functions, no light, fully waterproof and no changing that 10 year battery.
It just tells time.

Solid State Watch

I love the idea, but as my friend Jory pointed out, the $160 price tag is hefty as shit considering you can buy a Casio F-91W for $11.

At the time of this posting, they have 308 backers who have contributed over $50,000 towards their $8,000 goal, so clearly there’s a market for this watch.

I can’t help but wonder when the project creators are going to grow tired of resin-coating and vacuum-sealing 300+ watches by hand? I think I’d grow annoyed after making ten.

Categories:

Crowdfunding, Product

I haven’t seen a compelling argument for why a mobile computer with a folding screen is better than one without a folding screen.

Android pocket computer manufacturers can’t hold back their excitement over folding screens. Samsung was so excited, it aired a Galaxy Z Flip commercial during the Super Bowl before it even announced the phone.

Motorola has taken the nostalgic angle with folding screens and reintroduced the RAZR. I remember when the original RAZR debuted in 2004. There was a ton of buzz surrounding it and its ~$350 pricetag (a hefty price for a folding phone at the time).

I know fashion moves in cycles, and old things become new again, but I’m not convinced the kids today are both nostolgic for a folding phone and really want a touchscreen that folds.

As far as other 40-somethings like me, I don’t see anyone rushing out to get either of these devices. After watching MKBHD’s unboxing and review video for the new RAZR, it’s clear Motorola put nostallgia and form ahead of function, doing everything they could to keep the same shape as the original RAZR in order to create a subpar device compared to other Android mobile computers.

I like seeing gadget experiments, but I haven’t seen a compelling argument for why a mobile computer with a folding screen is better than one without a folding screen. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.

Not the Descendants of Cellular Phones

Geoffrey Fowler, in an article written for the Washington Post, considers the $1,000 to $1,400 price range of Samsung’s new Galaxy phones as, “hard to justify as much more than a luxury.”

John Gruber responds:

This is the same nonsense we hear about Apple’s phones, post-iPhone X. Yes, phones that cost $1,000 or more are expensive. Yes, that’s outside the budget for most people. But why in the world would anyone argue this is ”hard to justify”? Phones are, for most people, the most-used computing device in their lives. They are also their primary — usually only — camera. A good camera alone used to cost $500-600.

Gruber is correct, but there’s another problem I haven’t seen anyone address that’s been bothering me for quite some time, and that is: these are not phones, they’re pocket computers (feel free to come up with a better name).

If you look at a Galaxy S20 or an iPhone 11 Pro as the descendants of cellular phones, then, yes these are very expensive phones.

Now, on the other hand if you look at these as what they are: the evolution of computers, miniaturized, with the ability to shoot video, watch video, shoot photos, edit photos, map your trips via GPS, browse the Internet, send & receive email, send & receive text messages, read books, listen to music & podcasts, and maybe occasionally make & receive phone calls (to name just a few), then their price tags don’t seem that outlandish (whether or not most people take advantage of all these capabilities is another story).

As George Carlin said:

Because we do think in language. And so the quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language.

They’re pocket computers, not phones.

Categories:

Product, Technology

Essential Shuts Down

From The Verge:

Essential is shutting down less than three years after the startup unveiled its first smartphone. The company’s only complete product, the Essential Phone, sold poorly and received mixed reviews. A follow-up phone was canceled, and a number of other promised devices — like a smart home assistant and operating system — never materialized.

I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.

Categories:

Product, Technology

To have a business you need to have more than a business?

The Verge has a profile on electric skateboard startup Boosted:

Born out of a Stanford startup incubator in 2012, Boosted pretty much single-handedly popularized the idea of electric skateboards — or, more specifically, remote-controlled longboards powered by electric motors. The company launched an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter that same year and started shipping in 2014. Co-founder and former CEO Sanjay Dastoor often talked about wanting to grow Boosted beyond skateboards into a company that made “last-mile” vehicles in other form factors. But it wasn’t until he stepped down and was replaced by fellow Stanford mechanical engineering grad Jeff Russakow in 2017 that Boosted tried to make that happen.

It seems that in today’s day and age it’s not sufficient to have a great idea and turn that idea into a business. There’s this urge to weaponize your company into something that can take on anything and everything. “No! We’re not an electric skateboard company! In a year we’ll be making autonomous cars and Mars rovers!”

Granted their entrance into the electric scooter market is a natural extension of their skateboard business, but shouldn’t you have success with your core product before expanding and diversifying?

It’s always about raising money, never making money.

Categories:

Business, Product

The iPad has fallen short.

Gruber feelings on the iPad:

The iPad at 10 is, to me, a grave disappointment. Not because it’s “bad”, because it’s not bad — it’s great even — but because great though it is in so many ways, overall it has fallen so far short of the grand potential it showed on day one. To reach that potential, Apple needs to recognize they have made profound conceptual mistakes in the iPad user interface, mistakes that need to be scrapped and replaced, not polished and refined. I worry that iPadOS 13 suggests the opposite — that Apple is steering the iPad full speed ahead down a blind alley.

I agree with Gruber that the iPad has not lived up to its original mission, but don’t think the future is as dire as he paints it. Apple can still course correct things. The question is, though, whether they will.

Categories:

Interface, Product, Software

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Samsung. Fixing what’s not broken.®

Engadget – Samsung Galaxy S11 renders show an even more complicated camera array (my emphasis):

Reputed leaker @onleaks has unveiled new renders of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S11 that show the selfie camera shifted from the right side to the center. The images, created by 91 Mobile, also show a new rear camera array, a screen that’s more curved than the Galaxy S10, new button positions and more. The renders are based on a “very reliable and first level industry source,” according to @onleaks.

If everything is accurate (and that’s a big “if,” given that Galaxy S11 isn’t due to be released until next year), then the new camera position will likely be welcomed by buyers. As it stands now, taking selfies with the S10 can be a bit tricky due to the offset camera position.

Fragile, half-baked folding phones that don’t fit in your pocket, front-facing cameras that don’t point at your face.

What the fuck you doin’ over there in South Korea, Samsung?

Categories:

Product

Samsung won’t fold on the Fold.

The Galaxy Fold is still extremely fragile, and Samsung knows it:

The updated Samsung Galaxy Fold is finally making its way into the world after a months-long delay by Samsung to shore up its hardware when it became apparent from review units (including The Verge’s) that the foldable phone was too fragile. Unfortunately, it seems that the “fixed” version of the Fold is still extremely fragile. And based on a new video Samsung released begging owners to treat their new phones with a “special level of care,” Samsung knows it. A new durability test from popular YouTube channel JerryRigEverything proves it.

You just won’t let it go, will you, Samsung?

Admit it, you have derailed.

We’re not and have never been powerless victims to our devices.

Over at The Verge, Michael Zelenko writes about the Light Phone 2 and the high hopes of the low-tech phone:

The survey, sent out to Light backers, was focused on a straightforward question: What features would you like to see on the Light Phone 2? What they were really asking, though, was thornier: How minimalist should a minimalist phone be?

In a 2017 Wired story about the futility of minimalist devices, David Pierce identified it as the “this one thing” problem. Every customer has just “one thing” they absolutely need to have their minimalist phone do in order for it to replace their current device. But everyone’s “one thing” is different. In my 2018 review of the Light Phone 1, my “one thing” was texting. If only it texted, I said, the Light Phone would be an ideal minimalist device for me.

Some Light Phone 2 survey respondents indicated that their “one things” were basic tools like directions, maps, or a notes app. But others had maximalist requests: emojis, podcasts, encrypted messaging, additional micro SD slots, even WhatsApp and a Facebook app. The Light team had to tread a fine line.

The idea of the Light Phone is great. I love ideas, but ideas are the ‘caterpillars’ to the device ‘butterflies’ they can become and how an idea manifests itself in the real world might not work as perfectly as it did inside your brain.

In my own life I’ve tackled pocket computer addictions, distractions, and temptations from the other direction. For at least 5 years I’ve disabled notifications on all but a few of what I consider ‘essential’ apps on my iPhone: Mail and Messages. No other apps on my iPhone require notification badges, pop-ups or lock screen alerts. Not even my most used apps like Overcast, YouTube, Instagram, Slack, Safari, or Spotify. I also mute group text threads with my long-time, ball-busting friends from high school. I deleted the Facebook app years ago, and recently deleted the Twitter app. My iPhone is a fairly quiet device throughout the day.

This erroneous idea that we’re powerless victims to our devices is bullshit.

Pocket computer upgrade cycles

Americans are waiting three years to replace their phones, study finds:

A new study released by Strategy Analytics reflects the current state of the smartphone industry. Apparently, consumers in the US — Baby Boomers, in particular — are increasingly delaying their smartphone purchase for three or more years. In addition, the average iPhone now remains active for 18 months, while the average Samsung phone remains active for 16.5. The era of yearly phone upgrades is over. Smartphone shipments have been dropping around the world over the past year, and some analysts even believe the industry is bound to suffer its worst decline ever in the coming months.

I buy a new pocket computer about every 2 years. I’m currently using an iPhone X I bought in 2017. It still has solid battery life and is snappy as ever. I’m a geek and I like gadgets and I might get a new iPhone this fall, but I could easily wait until next year to upgrade.

Jony Ive

Always with the raw & fresh perspective on Apple, John Gruber gives his take on Jony Ive leaving Apple:

I think Tim Cook is a great CEO and Jeff Williams is a great COO. But who’s in charge of product design now? There is no new chief design officer, which, really, is what Steve Jobs always was. From a product standpoint, the post-Jobs era at Apple has been the Jony Ive era, not the Tim Cook era. That’s not a knock on Tim Cook. To his credit, Tim Cook has never pretended to be a product guy, which is exactly the hubris that John Sculley succumbed to back in the early ’90s, leading to the Newton being launched far before it was ready and the Macintosh platform languishing.

My gut sense for years has been that Ive without Jobs has been like McCartney without Lennon. Or Lennon without McCartney — take whichever analogical pairing you prefer. My point here is only that the fruit of their collaborations were, seemingly magically, far greater than the sums of the duos’ talents and tastes.

It’s too soon to know anything. As Gruber mentions, Apple’s product roadmap stretches at least 5 years into the future, and in that time Apple will figure out a replacement that makes sense. Or they won’t. Who knows. I don’t.

…and then I read John Siracusa’s tweet and I can’t un-see it:

Folks who wanted someone to be fired over the butterfly keyboard: happy now?

He’s 100% right. OK, at least 50% right.

Up until 2016 did you ever have reason to doubt the integrity of your MacBook’s keyboard? I’ve been buying Macs since 2000 and I never had a reason to doubt them. My current laptop is a 2015 MacBook Pro, the one with the flawless keyboard.

Steve Jobs had an ego the size of California and he could be a salty motherfucker, but he would admit to a fuck-up if he had to. He did it (begrudgingly) in 2010 in response to the antenna issues in the iPhone 4, otherwise known as “Antennagate”.

As Gruber mentions, Ive no longer has a Lennon to his McCartney, so we never got an apology.

It is interesting that the ‘solution’ to the iPhnoe 4 antenna issue was a plastic bumper to cover the edges of the device and the ‘solution’ to the MacBook Pro butterfly keyboard was a silicon membrane covering the individual key mechanisms. Covering up the problems versus fixing them.

Categories:

Product

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