Sunday, October 5, 2014

Boot up: HTC's smartwatch pause, Facebook's video munch, Apple payments

Shenzhen market Shenzhen electronics market. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Stuart Miles:

HTC has abandoned plans to make a smartwatch Pocket-lint has learnt.

Sources familiar with the matter have told us that although the company was planning to launch a smartwatch for customers, it has now abandoned the idea for the time being.

Our source has no official confirmation as to why the project has been ditched, but believes rising costs and a lack of wow factor have played a huge part in the decision.

The watch, which was rumoured to be a reworking of the Qualcomm Toq, clearly hasn't met that expectation.

If this is correct - and Miles has a good track record on HTC stories - then it seems like a wise move. HTC's revenues are still not recovering, so sinking money into a new area that already has a lot of competition (LG, Motorola, Samsung) wouldn't look smart.

We've seen many complaints from people who have been stung with data bills after exceeding their monthly allowance and who believe it to be because of Facebook autoplaying videos (see our Cheap Mobile Broadband and wifi guide for cheap 3G and 4G access).

So we're urging those who use Facebook on their mobiles or tablets to change their settings now to either turn off the auto-play feature, or to set it so videos only auto-play on wifi, to avoid being hit with unexpected data charges. We explain how to do this below.

Warned you of this in December.

David Pierce:

But that's exactly the point: the Moto 360 isn't meant to be used all the time. It's meant to be a delightful and occasional source of useful information, reminding you at the perfect moment of the thing you forgot. You're not supposed to ask Android Wear what's next on your calendar; you're supposed to trust that it'll tell you when you need to know. And that it'll direct you there when it's time to go. All you have to do is say "Okay Google, call a car."

That's why smartwatch hardware is so important. Most of the time you won't be using the Moto 360, yet it's always visible. When it's just hanging on your wrist, it better look and feel good. That's what Motorola is getting at: the Moto 360 isn't something completely new, something you'll use for hours at a time like a phone or tablet. It's a watch. You flick your wrist, check it, and go back to your life. This watch just happens to do more than tell time.

Until, that is, it doesn't do anything at all. That happens about 12 hours after I take the watch off its charger, a cool black wireless dock that the 360 slots into sideways. Motorola says the 360's battery lasts a day, but I haven't seen it last that long yet. I don't expect a smartwatch to last weeks or years, but it ought to be able to last a day and a night no matter how much I use it. My watch now dies before my phone does, and that's unacceptable.

Joanna Stern:

As I wrote earlier this summer, the best thing about Android Wear is Google GOOGL Now — Google's timely and relevant alerts, which are pieced together based on information from my Gmail, calendar, Web searches and other Google interactions. Over the past week, my watch told me to leave for my dinner reservation early because of traffic, informed me my important package had shipped and reminded me about the Yankees-Red Sox game.

As crazy as it seems, I've also gotten quite used to speaking to my watch. It's now second nature for me to say into my wrist "Is it going to rain today?" or "Remind me to move the car in the morning."

But while those short spurts of information are useful, the constant vibrating notifications about new emails, tweets or Facebook friend requests aren't. If I wanted to see every notification on my phone, I'd just hold my phone in my hand all day. Google's director of Android engineering, David Singleton, says his team is working on improvements that will allow for more control over notifications. Bonus: fewer notifications would mean better battery life.

Current battery life: 12 hours. So with doubled battery life, you'd only be charging it once a day.

Tom Noyes is a venture capitalist with a lot of contacts in payment networks and a lot of experience at Citigroup, Wachovia, Nasa, and others:

My predictions

• Apple will have a certified EMV contactless capability from V, MA and Amex in the iPhone 6.
• Apple's contactless is a proprietary architecture, based upon both tokens, and 3 card emulation applications (4 perhaps with Paypal)
• Each Network will act as a Token Service Provider (TSP), with one token in each card emulation application. The TSP specs give this away, per the Spec, the TSP must be approved by issuer and have ability to translate token to Card. Apple may want to be the TSP… but Banks will say no. This solves a BIG problem with card provisioning, with V/MA/Amex already having the "proxy" card/token provisioned in the iPhone, and each bank working with respective network to turn on their card.  This is the Google model, with the networks running the TSP as opposed to Google/TXVIA.
• Apple will not work in iBeacon model at launch, but rather EMV Contactless. You notice I'm not saying NFC.. from a merchants perspective this will look like NFC, and use the NFC protocol, but certainly not from a GSMA NFC perspective. There are no other vendors in this solution beyond Apple and their hardware suppliers (?Broadcom?)

For predictions made in April, these increasingly look amazingly accurate.

Amazon has perhaps 1% of the US retail market by value. Should it stop entering new categories and markets and instead take profit, and by extension leave those segments and markets for other companies? Or should it keep investing to sweep them into the platform? Jeff Bezos's view is pretty clear: keep investing, because to take profit out of the business would be to waste the opportunity. He seems very happy to keep seizing new opportunities, creating new businesses, and using every last penny to do it.

Still, investors put their money into companies, Amazon and any other, with the expectation that at some point they will get cash out.  With Amazon, Bezos is deferring that profit-producing, investor-rewarding day almost indefinitely into the future. This prompts the suggestion that Amazon is the world's biggest 'lifestyle business' - Bezos is running it for fun, not to deliver economic returns to shareholders, at least not any time soon.  

Ed Bott:

Microsoft's hoping its focus on photography will divert attention from the dreaded app gap. There are some genuinely innovative features in the Lumia Denim firmware update available today in the new phones and coming later this year for its current flagship devices. But will selfie-obsessed consumers be drawn to Microsoft's new Lumias?

I asked [Microsft VP sales of mobile Chris] Weber if there's a market-share target that Windows Phone needs to hit before it can be considered a success. "Generally speaking," he replied, "getting to double-digit share in key markets is something we look at." Weber pointed to the fact that Windows Phone has already hit that target in 14 countries, including the UK, but other key markets, notably the US, still lag far behind.

Via @hedgecreep, a blind test conducted over the internet of 24-bit and 16-bit audio on audiophiles. Result: detection not statistically distinguishable from chance.

A great blog to add to your reading if you're interested in in-depth examination of audio.

What was more impressive to me even than the technology were the people that bunnie introduced us to, such as the factory boss, John, and the project managers and engineers. They were clearly hard-working, very experienced, trustworthy and excited about working with bunnie and our friends. They were willing and able to design and try all kinds of new processes to produce things that have never been manufactured before. Their work ethic and their energy reminded me very much of what I imagined many of the founding entrepreneurs and engineers in Japan must have been like who built the Japanese manufacturing industry after the war.

In all of the small factories that we visited, including AQS, the factory workers lived in dorms surrounding the factory and ate together and lived together. All of their living expenses were supported by the factory and their salaries went entirely to savings or disposable income. Also, all of the managers and even the boss lived together with the workers. I'm sure we were picking good factories to visit, but everyone seemed happy, open and very close.

From small factories to big, it's all there.

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