LG’s “hybrid” smartwatch

Engadget’s headline: LG’s first hybrid smartwatch is mix of ambition and compromise

Ok, that smartwatch represents neither ambition nor compromise, that’s called shitty design. It looks like something a freshman year product design student would turn in for their first assignment.

You’re not convinced yet? Check out this tweet from Avi Greengart showing the flapping watch hands in action. That’s straight up hilarious.

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Reply Hazy, Try Again Later

Over at Slate, Will Oremus lets us know Alexa is losing her edge:

As recently as a year ago, Amazon single-handedly controlled the global smart speaker industry, with a market share upward of 75 percent, according to estimates from two of the leading market watchers, Strategy Analytics and Canalys, based in Singapore. Amazon itself boasted in a February earnings report that it had sold “tens of millions” of Echo devices in 2017. That figure included not only its flagship Echo smart speaker but the Echo Dot, Echo Show, and other Echos, the company clarified to me (though not other Alexa-powered gizmos, such as the Tap or Fire TV). It makes sense that Amazon was crushing the competition, because there wasn’t much competition yet: Google had just launched the Home in late 2016, and Apple’s HomePod was not yet on the market. The Echo has been available since 2014.

Would-be rivals faced an uphill struggle. Amazon’s head start in smart speakers resembled the daunting leads that Apple famously built in portable MP3 players, smartphones, and tablets. But Apple’s high prices at least gave competitors an opening to build cheaper alternatives for the mass market. Not so with Amazon. Because it viewed Echo partly as a path to Amazon purchases, the company sold its smart speakers at affordable prices, opting to maximize sales rather than profit margins. How could latecomers compete?

First off, Oremus is being selective with his MP3 player timeline.

Apple entered an already crowded MP3 player market when it launched the original iPod in 2001. The classic and often quoted ‘BrownFury’ on SlashDot said what all short-sighted nerds at the time were thinking, No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

Table stakes, erroneously determined by the dorks, had been set. Apple was a day late and a dollar short. Except they weren’t.

Amazon was first to market with the Echo, but not best to market. The smart speaker product segment is still a young one and it’s unclear which one(s) will be the winner(s). A few weeks ago I questioned the value of a speaker you can order things from (will this blog entry look cute and naive in a decade?).

As I see it, Google seems to have the biggest lead in AI assistants and voice recognition/dictation, but Apple will be releasing iOS 12 in a month which includes Siri Shortcuts, something I’m very excited about.

Maybe Apple ends up dominating the premium end of the smart speaker category, mirroring what they have been doing with the iPhone for 10 years, while Google and Amazon fight for the rest. Maybe Google winds up the winner.

We don’t know. Won’t know for a while.

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Logitech Buys Blue

Back on July 30 it was announced Logitech is acquiring Blue Microphones for $117 million in cash:

Logitech is making a big purchase to secure a foothold in high-end audio recording. Tonight, the company announced that it’s acquiring Blue Microphones for $117 million. The all-cash transaction will result in Blue, known for USB condenser microphones including the Snowball and Yeti, joining Logitech’s existing portfolio of brands. Aside from Logitech and Logitech G, the company also owns Astro Gaming, Jaybird, and Ultimate Ears. Yeah, it’s putting together quite the roster.

This seems like a good move.

I’ve been using a Yeti mic by Blue for a few years now to record Weekly Exhaust and I’ve always been a fan of Logitech peripherals, particularly their M705 wireless mouse.(h/t The Wirecutter)

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Business, Product

thermal bug

Jim Dalrymple has the scoop on the firmware fix for the overheating MacBook Pros (via Daring Fireball):

“Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we’ve identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro,” An Apple representative told me. “A bug fix is included in today’s macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended. We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70% faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2X faster, as shown in the performance results on our website.”

That was quick.

Microsoft Surface is the billionaire cockroach that won’t die.

From Wired: Surface Go Is Microsoft’s Big Bet on a Tiny-Computer Future:

Panos Panay is the betting type. You can see the evidence in Microsoft’s Building 37, where two $1 bills stick out from beneath a Surface tablet sitting on a shelf.

When I ask Panay about the dollars during a recent visit to Microsoft, he says it was a wager he made a few years back on a specific product. I ask if it was a bet on Surface RT, the very first Surface product Microsoft made, and he seems genuinely surprised. “I would have lost that bet, and I’m going to win this one,” he says. “It’s about a product that’s in market right now.” And that’s all he’ll volunteer.

Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, isn’t there to talk about the ghosts of Surface’s past, or even the present. Panay wants to talk about his next big bet in the Surface product lineup: the brand-new Surface Go. But to call it “big” would be a misnomer, because the Surface Go was designed to disappear.

I have to hand it to the people at Microsoft. They won’t give up on Surface. You cannot give up in the hardware game when you have billions of dollars in your pockets already.

I’ve thought Panos Panay is particularly adorable ever since he introduced the Surface Book back in 2015. Look at him, the little-big engine that could. You get excited at your show-and-tell day at school! Yeah!

Panos is clearly the right guy for the job, but the real question is whether Surface is the right hardware for the job. I can’t find Microsoft having any meaningful representation on tablet marketshare stats for 2018 (or 2017 or 2016).

But hey, what do I know? If Apple starts screwing up iPads like they’re currently screwing up their MacBook Pros, maybe Microsoft has a shot at getting in the race (just kidding, they don’t).

“Twitter is shit when it comes to meme”

Young people still love Twitter — as screenshots on Instagram:

“You’d think, ‘I have a viral account on Instagram. Almost 50,000 people pay attention to me. Surely they care about what I’m tweeting?’” says Hartwig. “But people absolutely do not give a single shit about what you’re tweeting,” she says. “When I post on Instagram, I can expect about 2,000 likes a post. With Twitter, I expect about two retweets and 20 to 30 likes.” She says Twitter rewards trends and current social relevancy, while Instagram offers more topical flexibility.

In theory, Twitter should make sharing content easy; retweets are a vital part of its model, and you can share anything with one click. Going viral on Twitter is also a double-edged sword: even if you pop off a good joke, its success is unlikely to reward you with substantial new followers, and most meme creators are looking to build a fan base, not just go viral for 15 minutes. Having viral tweets can often make the platform virtually unusable, not only because of spam, but due to the personal harassment and dogpiling that often accompanies it.

This sounds very similar to my experiences with Twitter and Instagram. I’ve had my @combustion Twitter account since 2007 and for the last 4-5 years I’ve been hovering around 330 followers, whereas on my Instagram @combustionchamber, I’ve gone from ~500 followers in 2017 to ~1100 followers this year. Admittedly, I put more effort into maintaining my Instagram account, but my effort and focus is rewarded with more followers who appreciate my obsession for snapping shots of the old cars I find on the streets.

There’s a simplicity to both viewing and creating content on Instgram that I think makes it much more approachable than Twitter, regardless of age. In light of the news last week that Twitter is replacing their head of product (again) it should be no surprise their platform seems like a shitshow with no clear focus or objectives.

Let’s also not forget they dropped support for their Mac desktop client earlier this year. Luckily Tweetbot still exists.

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Community, Product

Design Anorexia

iFixIt’s Kyle Wiens wrote a scathing and eye-opening piece on the Macbook Pro Keyboard fiasco:

Thin may be in, but it has tradeoffs. Ask any Touch Bar owner if they would trade a tenth of a millimeter for a more reliable keyboard. No one who has followed this Apple support document instructing them to shake their laptop at a 75 degree angle and spray their keyboard with air in a precise zig-zag pattern will quibble over a slightly thicker design.

This is design anorexia: making a product slimmer and slimmer at the cost of usefulness, functionality, serviceability, and the environment.

A repairable pro laptop is not an unreasonable ask. Apple has a history of great keyboards—they know how to make them. There are very successful laptop manufacturers who consistently earn 10/10 on our repairability scale. Apple fans are already making noise about the dearth of new Macs, especially upgradable options for professionals. Fortunately, Apple seems to be listening with their new warranty program.

I’ve been aware of the keyboard problem in the latest version of the Macbooks since last year, so I’ve known to steer clear of them and stick with my Mid-2015 Macbook Pro.

Aside from the dust problem, I know from riding the Apple Shuttle for an entire year in 2017 that these keyboards are also annoyingly loud. When a coworker told me she couldn’t stand it when her husband was working on his Macbook in the same room as her, I thought she was clearly being dramatic. It couldn’t be that bad.

I was wrong, it could be that bad.

It makes me sad to see certain Apple products as something to avoid (opposed to my iPhone X which is amazing). What’s naive to do, though, is jump on the This-would-have-never-happened-when-Steve-Jobs-was-alive bandwagon. Antennagate happened under Steve, as did MobileMe.

I think Apple is suffering from the hubris a $900 billion company exudes that continues to be the most imitated in the tech industry, so it’s taking more cold water in their faces to course correct when a product is broken. But the sky is not falling and Apple is not doomed. As Kyle notes, Apple knows how to make great keyboards.

The only thing we can do now is wait and see what comes next.

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Product, Technology

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Vivo Nex

What’s the dumbest phone of 2018 (so far)?

The Vivo Nex with it’s ‘pop-out selfie camera’ because your stupid face is so important:

Having a bezel-less pocket computer is so important to Android OEMs that they’re willing jump through ridiculous hoops to achieve it.

Congrats, Vivo. Mission accomplished.

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Product

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Essentially Cancelled

From The Verge, The Essential Phone 2 has reportedly been canceled:

Essential has canceled plans to develop a second phone and is exploring selling off the entire company, according to Bloomberg. Much of the details remain up in the air. Talks of a sale sound like they aren’t very far along, and the report says that Essential still has plans for future products.

One thing that does sound certain is that Essential’s second phone — at least as it was originally planned — isn’t going to happen. Bloomberg says the development was canceled and that engineers are now working on a smart home product, which is supposed to be released next year. That may be the Echo competitor that Essential announced a year ago, but which we haven’t heard a word about since.

The Essential Phone shipped months and months after they said it would be available last May, and then when it did launch, they cut the price $200.

Andy Rubin created the Android operating system, and he came to market with a decent phone, but the Android market is very crowded and Rubin clearly was not able to convince people to buy his phone over a Google or Samsung phone.

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Business, Product

The minimalist smartphones aren’t the problem, you are.

From The Verge, There’s no perfect minimalist phone — yet:

The Jelly’s other big drawback is battery life: there is none. The phone lost almost 20 percent of its juice within 15 minutes as I downloaded four apps. At an 83 percent charge, the phone told me that I has just over four hours of life left, and even that turned out to be overly-optimistic. Eventually, I learned to carry around an external battery pack with me just to make it through the day. I’d never felt less minimalist.

None of these minimalist phones are the problem. Michael Zelenko’s mindset is the problem. He’s downloading multiple apps to his baby phone. You haven’t quit your drug, Zelenko. The point is not to use apps. I believe there is market for phones like these but this isn’t the review they deserve.

Then he gives the Nokia 3310 a try:

Open these up and you’ll be banished to the mid-2000s, moving a clunky mouse cursor up and down with an old school direction pad. It took me 10 minutes to pull up Twitter and complete my two-factor authentication, only to accidentally leave the web client and be faced with embarking on the process all over again. I gave up. The apps are so hard to use they may as well be nonexistent, which suited my purposes just fine.

Hey guess what? They have these things called smartphones with big, super-high resolution screens and predictive QWERTY keyboards, and apps, and bigger batteries. Stop trying to put a Toyota Corolla on the racetrack.

I deleted my Facebook account back in March. What I didn’t do after deleting my account was go out and look for a Facebook replacement. I deleted it because it was creating unnecessary noise in my life. I immediately felt lighter without my Facebook account.

I will agree with Zelenko that all these phones have usability issues, but those issues are fixable.

If you’re debating whether to ditch your iPhone or Android phone, I’d first recommend what I’ve done as a first step and see how much it helps. I’ve turned off the majority of notifications on my iPhone. Email and Messages are the only apps that have the badge app icon enabled for unread message counts. My calendar app (I use Timepage) is the only app allowed to use pop-up banners for upcoming events. I’ve muted Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Waze, and every other app on my phone bothering me.

I’ve taught my smartphone baby not to interrupt daddy when he’s in the middle of doing shit and it’s been working out great for the last 3-4 years.

Blloc

Blloc is a plain and minimalistic smartphone combining a power saving operating system with efficient hardware and an easy to use messaging platform, it’s built to be the perfect communication and productivity tool that you can rely on every day.

Blloc is one of those products that seems like an awesome idea in the brainstorming room, but once executed finds very few actual customers who are willing to drop cash on it. The last phone I said this about was Google’s Project Ara back in 2014. Two years later Project Ara was scrapped.

I might be wrong. Blloc might find a niche, but the platform war is over. Google and Apple won and I see no way Microsoft can get back in the game.

Oh yeah, one more thing: no demonstration video? Suspect.

Categories:

Mobility, Product