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.

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Mobility, Product

Teens prefer iPhones.

Business Insider reports on something we already know: Teenagers prefer iPhone to Android:

American teenagers continue to deeply prefer Apple’s iPhone to phones running Android.

82% of teens of teens currently own an iPhone, according to Piper Jaffray’s “Teens Survey,” which questions thousands of kids across 40 states with an average age of 16.

That’s up from 78% in last fall, and it’s the highest percentage of teen iPhone ownership Piper’s seen in its survey.

I’m suspicious of any teen carrying an Android phone. They’re not to be trusted.

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Consumer, Product

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Huawei’s Innovative CrotchCam

When companies copy Apple’s software and hardware, what I find the most interesting isn’t what they copied, but where they deviated and implemented their own ideas. These deviations reveal the true design taste and intelligence these ripoff artists are capable of when left to use their own brains.

The latest example from Asia is Huawei’s new MacBook Pro imitation, the MateBook X Pro. The Verge’s Sam Byford has a first look video of it on YouTube. First off they’ve got a solid, derivative name.

The MateBook X Pro looks almost identical to Apple’s MacBook Pro. It’s super thin, and it has the same unibody aluminum frame first introduced by Apple in the MacBook Air in 2008. Shit, they even use the same name for the dark grey color as Apple, “Space Grey”.

The primary design deviation on the MateBook is the black bezel around the screen. It’s significantly smaller than the MacBook Pro’s bezel. Of course every design decision comes with a tradeoff. In this case, reducing the bezel around the screen to be almost nonexistent required Huawei to find a new home for the webcam, which is normally positioned inside the bezel at the top and center above the screen.

Their solution? Hide that littler bugger inside a key on the keyboard:

I think this is hilarious, but not because of where they put it. It’s hilarious because from what I can tell on The Verge’s video, it’s practically pointed at your crotch. Byford has to hunch down to get his face in view.

Do they test and troubleshoot products at Huawei? It seems to me realizing the webcam isn’t pointed at your face is not only pretty easy to catch, but also to fix. Just angle it up a few millimeters, right?

UPDATE: It looks like Dell doesn’t approve of eye level cams either.

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Product, Technology

Apple continues to eat the watch industry’s lunch.

Apple sold more watches than Rolex, Swatch, and the rest of the Swiss watch industry combined:

Apple is one of the biggest watchmakers in the world.

How big? Based on newly available statistics, it now seems certain that Apple outsold the entire Swiss watch industry combined last quarter.

Yep. The company best known for making iPhones outsold Rolex, Omega, and even Swatch last quarter — combined.

That’s according to Apple Watch sales estimates from industry researcher Canalys and IDC, and publicly released shipment statistics from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Canalys estimates that Apple sold 8 million Apple Watches in the last quarter of 2017.

Another industry who’s lunch Apple is eating.

Keep the success of Apple Watch in mind when you read stories about apps ditching it.

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Apple Watch doesn’t need more apps.

Slack is the latest app to ditch the Apple Watch:

Like Twitter, Amazon, and Google Maps before it, Slack is ditching its Apple Watch app. The team chat and collaboration platform for businesses quietly announced the news via an update to its iOS app. But, that doesn’t mean Slack will disappear entirely from your wrist.

You’ll still be able to respond to incoming messages on your Apple Watch courtesy of rich notifications — all that’s absent is the ability to view unread mentions. So, you may not be missing much after all, which sums up the essential problem with dedicated Apple Watch apps.

This move makes sense. The Apple Watch isn’t the iPhone.

For me Apple Watch is a glanceable, health-tracking, message notifier that unlocks my MacBook when I wake it up (my favorite feature).

I have no need for the apps on my Apple Watch to mirror the ones on my iPhone.

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Interface, Mobility, Product

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In-display fingerprint sensors. Great idea, but we’ve moved on.

Over at The Verge, Vlad Savov tried the first phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor on phones made by Chinese company Vivo.

It seems to work great, and I always appreciate the refinement of old tech (even in the face of newer, better alternatives), but now that I’ve gotten used to FaceID, TouchID feels antiquated.

It’s great when I pick up my iPhone X and generic notifications expand to reveal their full transcripts when my face has been authenticated. I don’t have to touch anything.

My guess is companies like Vivo will tout in-display fingerprint sensors as a differentiator to the iPhone, but it will be interesting to see if people bite.

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Product, Technology

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Apple Offers iPhone Battery Replacements

Apple apologizes for iPhone slowdown drama, will offer $29 battery replacements for a year:

Apple just published a letter to customers apologizing for the “misunderstanding” around older iPhones being slowed down, following its recent admission that it was, in fact, slowing down older phones in order to compensate for degrading batteries. “We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down,” says the company. “We apologize.”

Apple says in its letter that batteries are “consumable components,” and is offering anyone with an iPhone 6 or later a battery replacement for $29 starting in late January through December 2018 — a discount of $50 from the usual replacement cost. Apple’s also promising to add features to iOS that provide more information about the battery health in early 2018, so that users are aware of when their batteries are no longer capable of supporting maximum phone performance.

It’s bullshit Apple had to be called out this, but they’ve apologized and offered a reasonably priced solution.

I just upgraded from an iPhone 6 Plus to an iPhone X, but I think it’s still worth it to replace the battery on my 6 Plus.

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Product, Technology

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Butt-hurt Nerds

Why did Apple let a few YouTubers scoop the first iPhone X reviews?:

Apple’s iPhone X — its most anticipated new phone in a very long time — goes on sale this Friday, Nov. 3.

So sometime this week, as usual, you’ll be able to read and watch a bunch of serious-sounding reviews, as Professional Gadget Reviewers critique everything from bezels to battery life.

But Apple did something different this year. It invited a handful of YouTubers you probably haven’t heard of to its fancy penthouse in New York, gave them some early hands-on time with the iPhone X, and let them publish their videos a day or more in advance of the official reviews. (It also let Wired/Backchannel’s Steven Levy write a “first first impression of the iPhone X” post because Steven Levy. It also gave one to Axios co-founder Mike Allen, who had his nephew play with it. And Mindy Kaling for Glamour. And The Ellen Show.)

These videos, published by channels including Booredatwork.com, UrAvgConsumer, Soldier Knows Best, and sneaker/streetwear blog HighSnobiety, are a little braggy, mostly positive (“man, it’s pretty good!”) and don’t feel like gadget reviews at all. For many of us, they won’t replace the utility of more sophisticated reviews, which are supposed to tell us whether the iPhone X is worth our $1,000. They’re not great videos, frankly.

I love that the nerds are butt-hurt that Apple gave the scoop to some “YouTubers” instead of the established tech sites.

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber laid the sarcasm on thick when he posted links this morning to all the YouTuber reviews (here, here, and here).

Admittedly, the YouTuber reviews are shitty, but I like seeing peeps in tech community throw their temper tantrums.

Relax, nerds. The legit reviews will be out soon enough.

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Product, Technology

Microsoft zigs, while Apple zags

Microsoft Has Stopped Manufacturing The Kinect:

Manufacturing of the Kinect has shut down. Originally created for the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s watershed depth camera and voice recognition microphone sold ~35 million units since its debut in 2010, but Microsoft will no longer produce it when retailers sell off their existing stock. The company will continue to support Kinect for customers on Xbox, but ongoing developer tools remain unclear. Microsoft shared the news with Co.Design in exclusive interviews with Alex Kipman, creator of the Kinect, and Matthew Lapsen, GM of Xbox Devices Marketing.

I find it a funny coincidence that Microsoft shuts down Kinect right when Apple is releasing an iPhone which has what is essentially a minaturized Kinect in it for 3D facial recognition.

Microsoft has a tendency to zig in the wrong direction while Apple zags in the right direction.

The other big zig-zag example that comes to mind is multitouch. When Apple got it’s hands on multitouch, it made the iPhone and iPad. When Microsoft got their hands on multitouch, they made the Surface.

No, not the tablet we know today, I’m talking about the big-ass table.

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Product, Technology

An Essential Price Cut

Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile operating system, launched his own, new phone called the Essential Phone back in May and earlier today Dieter Bohn reported the Essential Phone dropped $200 in price (always a sign of a smash hit):

Essential is slashing the price of its eponymous phone, down to $499 at its website. That’s a $200 price cut from the original $699 price, less than two months after it began shipping to customers. There is really no other way to read the move except as a signal that it wasn’t selling well at $699 — especially given that the only US carrier stores it’s available in have “Sprint” above the door. It certainly doesn’t help that it now has to face the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL head-to-head.

I’m not sure what Andy Rubin expected. The market is extremely crowded, even if you take out the iPhone. Competing with just Samsung for Android market share is plenty of competition.

Let’s not forget the Essential Phone didn’t ship on time back in July.

Rubin’s first Essential blog post, Why I started Essential, kinda sorta sheds some light on things, but I’m still left confused:

For all the good Android has done to help bring technology to nearly everyone it has also helped create this weird new world where people are forced to fight with the very technology that was supposed to simplify their lives. Was this what we had intended? Was this the best we could do?

I left that night reflecting deeply on what was great and what was frustrating with the current state of technology today. After another long talk with my friend we decided that I needed to start a new kind of company using 21st century methods to build products for the way people want to live in the 21st century.

I don’t use Android devices, but are people “fighting” with their Android phones? I’m also not convinced the Essential Phone distinguishes itself from other Android phones like the Pixel 2 and the Galaxy 8.

Nerds are getting great at building products, but they have to get better at marketing them. I recommend they read every book by Seth Godin for starters.

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Product, Technology