Not Fooled

Guys, this is really lame.

And I just got this 30 minutes ago — it’s still Match 31st in California, idiots.

Can we retire April Fools’ Day? Please?

They call it a dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.*

Over at The Verge, Dan Seifert has a interesting look into Samsung and their goals behind the new S8:

“We have a dream to overcome Apple.”

With that simple, obvious statement, the air was sucked out of the large conference room in Samsung’s Suwon, South Korea, headquarters before the company even had a chance to show me the device I flew halfway across the world to see. It’s not often that you hear someone at Samsung actually verbalize the unsaid motivation for many of the company’s products — most executives won’t even mention Apple by name. Yet here was the company’s vice president of product strategy just blurting it out to a small group of journalists.

It seems marketshare isn’t always enough and doesn’t always make you feel like the best. It was only in Q4 2016 that Apple regained the #1 spot in market share. Before this past Q4 Samsung had been the reigning champ.

One of the S8’s flagship features is their new AI ‘bright sidekick’, Bixby:

It’s a smart play: Samsung knows it can’t compete with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others when it comes to raw machine learning power and putting vast amounts of information at your fingertips, so it’s using Bixby to solve a simpler task, one that those companies have largely ignored. Bixby isn’t going to try to be the everything-assistant. Instead, it will be that “bright sidekick” that complements those other services. It’s a new user interface, not a new way to ask how tall the Eiffel Tower is.

Wow, less capable than Siri and ‘Ok, Google’. Sounds like a must-have feature!

Seifert had a nagging thought that quelled his optimism for the S8:

As I watched brand-new S8 phones get bolted together on Samsung’s new production line in the Gumi factory, it was obvious that the company has a plan for designing great hardware in the wake of the Note 7 fiasco. But as much as I knew that the devices coming off that factory line would have amazing hardware and eye-catching design, I couldn’t escape a nagging thought.

I realized that there’s a thing that many pro users do when they get their hands on a new Samsung smartphone: they immediately disable as many of Samsung’s own apps and services as possible and replace them with Google’s versions. The appreciation for Samsung’s design and hardware rarely extends to its software efforts.

Samsung makes Android phones, so the only way (outside of hardware) they can distinguish themselves from all the other Android phone makers is to make a unique software experience and people are disabling their software features.

Ouch.

Good luck with that dream, Samsung.

*the title of this piece was borrowed from George Carlin

The Mature Smartphone Market

The end of smartphone innovation:

This autumn Apple will release a new iPhone design, and the fact that it postponed a new design and kept the 6 design for three years instead of two suggests it has something that will attract attention. However, it will really still ‘just’ be another iPhone. Meanwhile, we have some indications that Apple is working on AR glasses (of which more later) and certainly was working on a car project – but neither of these is likely to see a mass-market consumer release for a year or two at the least (cars perhaps longer). So, expect a lot more ‘innovation dead at Apple!’ stories.

This is paralleled at Android, I think: the new developer release of version ‘O’ has lots of good work and solid worthy stuff, but nothing world changing. Again, the cry will go up, “innovation is dead!”

Evans is skeptical on voice being the next hot tech. He’s more bullish on augmented reality (AR).

It seems like only yesterday the iPhone was released, but in reality it debuted 10 years ago this past January. The smartphone market is mature, so everyone is anxious about what comes next.

Like every other tech company, Apple’s goal now is not to predict the post-iPhone future, but to invent it.

Spark

Blanchard Joins Readdle to Work on Popular Email Client ‘Spark’:

Readdle has hired former Apple Mail engineering manager Terry Blanchard in a position that will focus on creating the “future of email” for Readdle’s popular email client “Spark,” working with an entirely new team of his choosing in Silicon Valley. Blanchard’s new role, per his LinkedIn page, is vice president of engineering for Readdle.

I decided to start testing Spark as my main email client on iPhone and desktop a few months ago and so far I love it.

The solution to the problem lies within the problem itself

The GOP Just Killed Consumer Broadband Privacy Protections:

As most had expected, the House of Representatives today voted 215 to 205 to kill privacy rules protecting US broadband subscribers. If you’re interested in a little thing called public accountability, you can find a breakdown of which Representatives voted for the measure here. The rules, approved by the FCC last fall, were slated to take effect this month.

But thanks to relentless lobbying by the broadband and marketing industries, the GOP quickly rushed to dismantle the rules at ISP request. The effort involved using the Congressional Review Act, which only lets Congress kill recently passed regulations, but prevents the regulator in question from implementing the same regulations down the road.

The rules would have required that ISPs transparently disclose private data collection and sales, while requiring ISPs have consumers opt in to the collection of more private financial or browsing history data.

Today’s vote came after the Senate voted 50-48 last week to kille the rules. The vote to dismantle the rules is seen as one of the more brazen examples of pay-to-play politics in recent memory. It’s a massive win for giant ISPs; especially those like AT&T and Verizon that are pushing hard into the Millennial advertising business.

Alright, this is really bad, but I try to be an optimist. One of my design professors used to say, “The solution to the problem lies within the problem itself.”

So privacy rules are going away. Fine. This means we have to be vigilant and take matters into our own hands.

Although it was a very different situation, this reminds me of a lawsuit that occurred in the pre-iPhone 2006-07 period, banning the use of plugin technologies, like Flash, on the Internet. Eolas had brought forth the lawsuit against Microsoft and their Explorer web browser in relation to one of their patents. It sounded really bad for those of us who designed websites for a living but didn’t understand much about the technologies of the Web.

Then a developer I worked with named Geoff Stearns figured out a clever workaround to deploy Flash objects with Javascript. He wasn’t the only developer to figure this out. Like the light bulb, multiple people had figured out very similar solutions all around the same time. It actually made Flash sites more usable since it allowed for the HTML-only version of a page to display if the user didn’t have Flash. This meant that even after the lawsuit was dropped/settled, the web development community continued to use the Javascript workaround to build Flash sites.

I bring this story up to only to wonder if out of all the developers and software engineers responsible for helping create the Internet and keep it running, there are at least a few of them who have ideas on countering this privacy legislation.

Trivially Easy

Android Wear has made it trivially easy for fashion companies to ‘make’ tech products:

March has been a particularly fecund time for new Android Wear watch announcements, though unlike previous years, the brands behind these devices are almost all from the fashion and luxury spheres of business. Tag Heuer, Montblanc, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, and Movado are just some of the well known names announcing Wear 2.0 smartwatches. This wave of new products is symptomatic of a broader trend in the tech industry: one where a high degree of component and software integration has made it almost trivial to launch a new tech product, whether or not you’re actually a tech company.

I wonder if this ‘trivial’ aspect of wearable tech is going to help move the needle for Android Wear sales. At the end of last year Apple was still leading in the contracting smartwatch market.

The crux of the problem with these internally identical Android Wear watches is that tech consumers demand substantive differences between cheap and expensive gadgets. How does Montblanc justify charging three times as much as LG for a watch that is functionally the same as LG’s? When Tag Heuer or any other famed watchmaker puts four-figure prices on its mechanical watches, there’s an implied promise that they’ll have an unmatched quality of workmanship and precision. But when those same companies outsource the brains to Google and the brawn to Qualcomm, what’s left for them to differentiate themselves with?

This doesn’t make any sense. The Apple Watch Series 2 is functionally identical across all price points (the Series 1 isn’t water resistance and doesn’t have GPS).

The real question is: can Google make a smartwatch interface that feels just as premium as the shell and straps around it?

It took years for Android for phones/tablets to be in the same league as iOS in terms of a seamless software experience that didn’t jitter and adhered to a set interface guidelines. I wonder if it will be the same for Android Wear.

“the law of noncontradiction does not apply in his universe”

Trump’s Method, Our Madness:

Freud distinguished between neurosis and psychosis by arguing that while the former is psychically localized, the latter is relatively global. In neurosis, individuals break with a portion of reality that they find intolerable. As a result, their overall relation to reality remains more or less intact, but becomes impaired in one aspect of their personality.

In contrast, because psychotic individuals tend to find reality as a whole too painful to bear, they break with it globally, and construct an alternative, delusional, “magical” reality of their own. This alternate relation to reality, manifesting itself in the initial meetings with the patient, is at the root of the clinician’s confusion.

Now many of us throughout American society at large, after an interminable electoral campaign and transitional phase into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, have experienced a form of disorientation and anxiety that bears a striking resemblance to the clinical situation I have described. And recent events indicate that this feeling is not going to abate any time soon.

I’m tired of talking about Trump, but it’s important we stay focused, not get normalized to his crazy behavior, and continue to call him out on his bullshit.

What Swatch Should Do

John Gruber on the Swatch Group deciding to make their own watch OS:

  1. Developing your own OS is hard. Most such efforts never really get off the ground (e.g. Samsung’s Tizen). Some get off the ground but never get anywhere (e.g. Windows Phone). It’s especially hard for a company that doesn’t already have experience developing software platforms.

  2. A third-party watch OS is never going to have tight integration with phones running iOS or Android.

  3. “Around the end of 2018” is a long ways off. I expect Apple to ship major updates to Apple Watch in September 2017 and again in 2018. So whatever Swatch is planning isn’t going to debut competing against WatchOS 3 and second-generation Apple Watch hardware — it’ll be competing against WatchOS 5 and fourth-generation Apple Watch hardware. Good luck with that.

Gruber is totally right. This is not going to work.

What would be super cool is if Swatch sold custom watch faces and bands for Apple Watch. Kids are all about retro fashion and the 90s is back, but Swatch could also offer more sharp, modern designs. There’s tons of possibilities. I’d love some funky Swiss faces and bands for my Apple Watch. It could roll out much the same way the Hermes partnership did.

Is this likely? No.

I would guess convincing Swatch to “collaborate with” Apple would be asking them to go against their watch philosophy. It’s very much like Nintendo. What makes Nintendo what they are is just as much about their fun hardware as it is their fun games.

Remember, it took 8 years for us to get just one Nintendo game on iOS.

Snap’s Valuation

How a Money-Losing Snap Could Be Worth So Much:

By the end of 2016, Snapchat had 158 million daily active users. By comparison, Instagram, probably the closest comparison and a formidable competitor to Snapchat, had about 30 million users when Facebook bought it in 2012 for what was then considered an eye-popping price of $1 billion.

(Facebook had earlier tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion, which its founders rejected — wisely, it now appears.)

And $1 billion now looks like a bargain compared to what investors are paying for Snap. At $34 billion, each of Snap’s daily active users is worth $215, six and a half times per user what Facebook paid for Instagram.

As of January, Instagram reported 300 million daily active users. At $215 each, the Instagram app alone would be valued today at $64.5 billion.

These are static numbers, and what Snap is selling investors is growth. According to Snap’s prospectus, Snapchat user growth was 48 percent in 2016, about the same as the year before. If it can pull that off again next year, it would reach an impressive 234 million users, though still short of Instagram.

The Snapchat story “is all about growth,” Mr. Nathanson said. “It’s not about economics.”

I installed Snapchat maybe 2 years ago and tried using it. It didn’t work out and that’s ok. I’m not in the target demographic. I’m almost 40 and few of my friends use it.

Instagram grew because of the simplicity and broad of appeal of photography. I know people 10-20 years older than me on Instagram and I know people 10-20 years younger than me on Instagram. I post photos on it every day.

Can Snap grow? Who knows.

Citroën Origins

I’ve never been a Citroën guy, but this Citroën Origins site is great.

You can explore 360 degree views of the inside and outside of various models from 1919 to 2016. They also include vehicle specs and facts about all the models.

I wish every car maker had a site like this.

New Norwegian Currency Design

Back in 2014, Norway announced they would be putting newly designed bills into circulation in 2017.

It’s 2017 and they’re here.

Below is the front and back of the 500 kroner note:

The bills were designed by two different Norwegian design studios. The front (top image) by The Metric System and the back (bottom image) by Snøhetta.

The decision to use two different design styles on either side was a mistake. Without a unified design style the bills lack cohesion. In isolation each bill is gorgeous, but when viewed together it just doesn’t work.

So close. Sigh.

To end on a slightly positive note, these bills are still light-years better than what we have in the States (although that’s not a very high bar).

via kottke

Down with DVRs

For the first time, more people subscribe to Netflix than have DVR:

Netflix reached another milestone that will worry traditional cable companies even further. According to a study by Leichtman Research Group, Inc., more people in the US report subscribing to Netflix than having a DVR in their households. Netflix narrowly eclipses the service offered by most cable providers, with 54 percent of US adults reporting they have Netflix in their households compared to the 53 percent of US adults that have DVR. This is the first time this shift has happened—Leichtman notes that back in 2011, 44 percent of US adults had a DVR while just 28 percent had Netflix.

Not surprising. The only people I know who record stuff on a DVR are my mother-in-law (she records The Ellen Show), and my father (he records Judge Judy and Judge Milian).

Everything I watch is on either iTunes, Netflix, or YouTube, and I get my news online or from Twitter. I rarely watch TV news.

You can please some people some of the time…

Writing for Quartz, Anne Quito on Scott Dadich’s new Netflix docu-series on design, Abstract:

Design is the animating force behind brands, buildings and interfaces, and so an engrossing series that explains to a general audience what actually goes on behind the scenes was long overdue. Many designers hoped that Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design (released Feb. 10) would do for design what Chef’s Table did for food: Through a series of beautifully shot (if at times overly dramatized) profiles, Chef’s Table gave viewers a global sampler of the most creative minds working in the culinary industry.

But after a fortnight of trudging through the first season’s eight 40-minute episodes, I found Abstract puzzling and on the whole, tedious. It’s unfortunate because Abstract’s stellar cast of superstar designers—including graphic design legend Paula Scher, Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, and architecture’s “wacky wunderkind” Bjarke Ingels—are some of the most winsome and articulate ambassadors for their specialization.

Needless to say, Quito is not a fan of a series. She’s critical of everything from it’s production value (it’s over-produced) to the designers they chose to feature (“the usual roster of design stars”).

I think Quito is way off-base. I’ve enjoyed all 6 episodes I’ve watched so far. I find the series beautifully shot and I can’t remember seeing such attention to detail in a docu-series before. If Dadich had chosen a more “raw” style of shooting, people would be complaining it was under-produced.

As for the people featured in Abstract, I’m familiar with many of the design stars within my field of graphic design, but I don’t know many in other industries. The second episode with Tinker Hatfield is a great example. I had no idea he was the guy who brought us the Air Jordan line and collaborated with Michael Jordan for over 20 years.

Then there’s the “hero worship” Quito thinks is dangerous. The reality is, when you’re dealing with people with extreme talent, ego, and vision they’re elevated by the people to a lofty place where we can admire them whether they like it or not. These aren’t production designers working in Photoshop or 40-year-old architecture interns building cardboard models. These are people at the top of their game, and when you get to that level, clients see you out, not the other way around. This puts designers in a similar circle as artists.

There’s clearly room for a series focusing on the undiscovered and under-appreciated people in design. Perhaps a designers’ version of A People’s History of the United States, but that’s another series for someone else to make.