Monthly Archives: January 2015

Are Android phones “training wheels” for iPhones?

Apple’s results from last quarter are mind boggling, and a testament to incredible business execution across all phases of the game (to use a football metaphor in Super Bowl week). Some of my highlights, both from Apple itself, and from the bloggers/analysts who’ve been digesting the numbers since:

  • Android switcher rate is going up. There are several explanations for this, including Android users, captured at the entry level, moving “up”; to there being a weaker Android ecosystem/UX lock-in. Another reason, perhaps less intuitive, is one proposed by Ben Thompson: that smartphone adoption has moved through the Geoffrey Moore groups — Early Adopters to Visionaries to Pragmatists to Conservatives — and this giant group, the conservatives, are finding the simplicity of the iPhone more to their liking. A brilliant line from Ben’s blog post: “Delight is a real thing, as is annoyance; not feeling stupid is worth so much more than theoretical capability.”
  • The success of Apple Pay is real, but it’s slow. Yes, they are capturing 2 of every 3 dollars, and there’s been a 400% increase in usage. But it’s still a tiny proportion of off device purchases, and I think that it’s still a year or two away from hitting a tipping point. I often ask retailers about the usage of Apple Pay, and it’s still pretty sparse. It will get there, but I just don’t think there’s enough currently understood value differentiation versus, say, swiping a credit card (which we’re obviously very good at).
  • Some people are doing new math based on the blowout iPhone numbers, it looks like the iPhone base could be as high as 625MM worldwide. In my Apple Watch integration piece from last October I was trying to be conservative about the installed base that the watch could be “attached” to.  But it might be twice as large as I was thinking.
  • AppleTV: the installed base is 25MM, and the tenor of the comments about this was not overly positive. If there is a blockbuster TV announce on the near horizon, they were doing nothing to chum the water (it’s probably more of a holiday announce thing anyway, but still).
  • It’s probably unlikely that we are ever going to get a real design/form factor surprise regarding iPhone again. We all know the supply chain has been leaky, but the reality of delivering enough units to fulfill a 70MM+ quarter is such that it means, probably, spending the majority of a year manufacturing the components.


The Fed’s student loan exposure: not much of a revolution

Long article in the NYT about legislative changes to how students and families can pay back loans. Essentially it amounts to indexing repayment caps to post-college earnings:

The 2007 law modified that idea and called it IBR (for Income-Based Repayment). Under the new program, the repayment terms were made more generous. Monthly payments were capped at 15 percent of income, rather than 20 percent, and the living expense deduction was raised significantly. The loan forgiveness threshold stayed at 25 years, with an important exception: Loan balances would be wiped clean after only 10 years for people who worked in public service jobs, broadly defined as anywhere in the government or nonprofit sectors.

I think incentives to help attract the best and brightest into public service are great. But I wish we’d see more strategies that target the colleges and universities which have been taking advantage of easily available student debt to ramp of their fees far faster than the general cost of living. In a nutshell, schools’ lack of restraint is being paid for by the feds, and the students/families who don’t feel they have a choice but to go into massive debt in order to have a chance.

Hate to see another 500 page bill fought over for years, but perhaps government sponsored loans should be made less available to colleges who haven’t but growth caps on their fees.


Apple Watch Bits 1.24.2015

Watch battery life and likely usage

Since well before Apple introduced its version, watch and device geeks (Moi) have been wondering whether there really are enough use cases for smartwatches that go far enough beyond what an always present smartphone can do. The thinking goes that if a bigger screen is available, convenient and safe, people will use that. At my desk I’ll use my big screen. In the bus I’ll use my phone. Etc.

I think it follows that the time slices of the day in which smartwatch screens are be the most appropriate are necessarily limited.

A new article this week by Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac speculated on the upcoming watch’s battery life. The initial Apple targets last year were for 3 to 4 hours of active usage, 19 hours of intermittent usage, and 3 to 4 days of stand by time. They’ve been very upfront that they expect people to take their watches off at night and charge them (which many people do with their phones. Mine serves as my Alarm Clock, plugged in across the room to make me get up and walk.)

Mark has a great excellent sources, so he’s probably pretty close. His latest has them falling short of their targets for battery life:

Apple has also been stress-testing the Apple Watch’s battery life with pre-bundled and third-party applications. Our sources say that Apple is targeting 2.5 hours of “heavy” application use, such as processor-intensive gameplay, or 3.5 hours of standard app use. Interestingly, Apple expects to see better battery life when using the Watch’s fitness tracking software, which is targeted for nearly 4 hours of straight exercise tracking on a single charge.

Some people have been outraged by these numbers, and the push back ranges from the silly “My Timex lasts for years w/o a battery charge,” to the presumptuous “…with only 3 hours of active use, the utility of the watch will suck. I’ll pass.” I think it’s safe to say that the Version 1.0 watch is not going to work for people who can’t stand charging a device every night, or who want sleep motion analysis, and that’s fine.

I think the better question is whether “only” 3 hours of active usage is enough, especially given the other devices that we have with us, and the “jobs” that they do well. (Since the Watch discussion is necessarily about wants not needs, let’s just assume we’re talking about people who get all of the devices (watch/phone/tablet/pc)). My guesstimates in a world when I have a smartwatch:

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 3.23.02 PM


As you can see, I’d have to work really hard in the above analysis to come out to much more usage of a smartwatch than Apple is currently seeing per day. The above is a total SWAG of course, and I’m sure Apple’s done much more granular and valid. But I think people will be surprised at how little actual, active usage they have (and yet how much they’ll value it).

Apple Watch Bits 1.21.2015

You’d think the head of Tag-Heuer would have better press training…

“This watch has no sex appeal. It’s too feminine and looks too much like the smartwatches already on the market,” Biver told Die Welt. “To be totally honest, it looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester,” he said. Ouch. The crow had flown.

But, as Tag Heuer and Swatch Group stocks have plummeted about 20 percent already in 2015, Biver, at least, seems to have changed his tune.

“It’s a fantastic product, an incredible achievement,” he said in a Bloomberg interview published yesterday. “I’m not just living in the tradition and culture and the past, I also want to be connected to the future. The Apple Watch connects me to the future. My watch connects me to history, to eternity.”

Smart Watches are certainly going to put a dent in the Swiss watch industries ability to talk about “innovation” quite so loosely.  Incremental improvements to 200 year or technology will not really cut it as innovative going forward.

Apple Watch Bits 1.15.2015

The design and developer community is beginning to really dig in as we get closer to Apple Watch market release, and cool concepts are being floated. A lot of people were skeptical about the watch around its launch, not really understanding its utility differentiation from the phone and tablet form factors.  But I think Apple was right to trust the development community to come up with far more creative ideas than Apple could itself.  I’ll try to highlight some cool things as I see them:

A calendar watch concept by Alex Deruette. In line with whole theme of information glance-ability, this design does one thing very well…it is optimized for the use case of needing to quickly figure out when you have a schedule gap.  Simple, useful.



His idea is to provide meeting detail in the swipe screens.

A NYT broadside on Youth Sports culture

The NYT has a piece today that asks hard questions about youth sports insanity in the US. There have been plenty of articles about the myth of college scholarships; large increases in concussions and ACL injuries; the massive expense involved for many families that can’t afford it; and the psychologically harmful participation for many. But I haven’t seen an article that questions the very qualifications of coaches so powerfully, or the fact that parents don’t hold them to the same bar as the other adults that they entrust their kids to.

“The biggest challenge of youth sports in this country is so many of the adults who propagate the culture have no background in child development or physical education,” he said. “Their background is they played high school sports somewhere and they watch ESPN. Those are the two worst qualifications, ever.”

More qualified coaches would seem to be the answer. But despite all the money and time parents spend on sports, coaches in many communities are held to a lower standard than educators.

“Coaches are allowed to be emotionally illiterate,” Mr. Amaechi said. “I’ve watched as a coach stood screaming inches from the face of a girl and the parents were in the stands and instead of being incensed they continued screaming at her when she came to them.

“All you need to do to see what sport gets wrong is flip that scenario indoors and make that coach a French teacher,” he continued. “Your French teacher is inches away from your child’s face and screaming because she can’t conjugate a verb? Parents would stand by and allow that? No, they’d be incensed.”

Having spent a fair amount of time in this sphere, both as a parent and in the sports technology business, I do wonder whether this frenzy is close to peaking. There is a whole industry — from athletic directors, to coaches, to personal trainers, to video production and recruiting specialists, to physical therapists, to equipment manufacturers — who are highly incentivized to make sure people don’t question whether it’s in fact good for the majority of kids and families.

My sentiments exactly: if you don’t like freedom, feel free to leave

The Moroccan-born mayor of Rotterdam keeps it pretty simple:

“It is incomprehensible that you can turn against freedom,” Mayor Aboutaleb told Dutch current affairs program Nieuwsuur (Newshour). “But if you don’t like freedom, for heaven’s sake pack your bags and leave. If you do not like it here because some humorists you don’t like are making a newspaper, may I then say you can fuck off…This is stupid, this so incomprehensible…Vanish from the Netherlands if you cannot find your place here. All those well-meaning Muslims here will now be stared at.”

Very refreshing.