Xiaomi copies Apple’s design but warns users not to buy copies

BGR reported about Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun warning people not to buy Xiaomi products.

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has been on a tear lately, although when you look at some of its devices, you quickly notice that they bear a striking resemblance to devices released by Apple. This is why we find it amusing that Xiaomi’s CEO is now warning its fans to watch out for knockoff Xiaomi products being sold at phone retail outlets in Chinese cities.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Twitter’s plans autoplay video ads

Advertising Age reported on Twitter’s plans to add autoplaying video ads.

Twitter is mulling the possibility of making promoted videos automatically play 6-second previews when they pop up in people’s feeds, according to people briefed on the company’s plans. If the autoplay previews were to catch someone’s eye, that person could click to watch the full video.

No. I instinctively close websites that have autoplay video ads, and tend to close YouTube videos that force me to watch the full ad. This is will be one more reason for me not to use Twitter.

Is Uber’s rider database a sitting duck for hackers?

Craig Timberg wrote for The Washington Post about Uber’s vulnerable database.

Imagine further that there existed a database that collected daily travel information on such people with GPS-quality precision– where they went, when they went there and who else went to those same places at the same times.

Now add that all this location data was not held by a battle-hardened company with tons of lawyers and security experts, such as Google. Instead, this data was held by a start-up that was growing with viral exuberance – and with so few privacy protections that it created a “God View” to display the movements of riders in real-time and at least once projected such information on a screen for entertainment at a company party.

And let’s not forget that individual employees could access historical data on the movements of particular people without their permission, as an Uber executive in New York City reportedly did when he pulled the travel records of a Buzzfeed reporter who was working on a story about the company.

You might think that it won’t be that easy to hack Uber, but look at what happened to Sony.

Jury finds Apple not liable of harming consumers in iTunes DRM case

The Verge reported on Apple being cleared in the iTunes DRM case.

Delivering a unanimous verdict today, the group said Apple’s iTunes 7.0, released in the fall of 2006, was a “genuine product improvement,” meaning that new features (though importantly increased security) were good for consumers. Plaintiffs in the case unsuccessfully argued that those features not only thwarted competition, but also made Apple’s products less useful since customers could not as easily use purchased music or jukebox software from other companies with the iPod.

There wasn’t much of a case after it was discovered that the plaintiffs did not even own the affected iPod models.

China buys more iPhones than the US for first time in record-setting sales quarter

Tech in Asia reported on Apple selling more iPhones in China than the US.

While holiday sales in the US certainly contributed to that number, UBS says China accounts for up to 35 percent of shipments, outstripping Americans for the first time. During the same period last year, China made up 22 percent of all iPhone sales.

The US share of sales rose from 24 percent to 29 percent year on year.

We can see why Apple has been making more effort to expand their China market.

Two scenarios for the smartwatch market

Creative Strategies wrote about two possible scenarios for the smartwatch market.

Scenario #1 – like MP3 players where Apple dominates market share

Apple will easily strongly influence the smart watch category in 2015 and 2016. It is hard to argue against Apple’s vertical advantage and tight control of their entire ecosystem. This advantage undoubtedly will give them a dominance in the early stages of a category. If a number of things play out, we can see them command the category for the long term.

Apple had a near monopoly on the iPod/MP3 market. We can see a similar scenario playing out where Apple effectively “iPods” the smart watch category, maintaining dominant share over the next five to seven years. While the early success of the iPod was driven by Apple releasing iTunes for Windows, we don’t see the need for Apple to support other platforms in order to hold sway over the smart watch category. Apple’s existing iPhone customer base is large enough to keep it the foremost smart watch vendor and their smart watch platform as the reigning one in the smart watch category.

Scenario #2 – like smartphones where Apple dominates profit share

Another possible scenario is the smart watch category shapes up very much like the smart phone category. Apple succeeds at their goal to acquire the top 20% of the market and rake in the majority of the profits. While Android Wear, or another third party licensable smart watch OS, provides the software platform to the vast majority of hardware companies making smart watches.

In this scenario, the vast majority of Chinese and Hong Kong produced smart watches adopt Android Wear (or something else) and flood the market with very low cost smart watches. Also in this scenario, Swiss watch makers competing in the sub $1000 watch market start making smart watches because Apple Watch cannibalized nearly all the sales of Swiss-made watches in that price range.

In both scenarios, Apple earns a lot of money.

Less than 0.1% of Android devices run Lollipop

Business Insider reported on the breakdown of Android version adoption.

Google in November launched Android Lollipop, which it called its largest, most ambitious OS update ever — but no one is using it.

Less than 0.1% of Android devices currently run Lollipop, according to the company’s most recent numbers.

The problem is, very few phones are capable of upgrading to Lollipop yet. It’s up to the carriers and phone manufacturers to decide when the update rolls out to various phone models.

This compared to 63% of devices on iOS 8 and 33% on iOS 7 as of December.

The real story behind Jeff Bezo’s Fire Phone debacle

Fast Company on the real story behind Jeff Bezo’s Fire Phone debacle.

Introduced with grand ambitions last summer, the Fire Phone is widely seen as a fiasco. Originally priced at $199 (with contract) and intended as an iPhone competitor, it now sells for 99 cents, and Amazon has taken a $170 million write-down largely attributable to unsold Fire Phone inventory. Yet Bezos finally answers the question with the kind of reasoning that investors, customers, and pundits have come to expect from him: Amazon is going to pour more resources into its phone. Defending the Fire Phone as a “bold bet,” Bezos argues that it’s “going to take many iterations” and “some number of years” to get it right.

That’s $170 million gone but more to be pumped into the Fire Phone pipeline.

But lately it’s not an answer that Wall Street has liked. In October, Amazon shocked shareholders when it reported a $437 million net loss for the quarter, its biggest in 14 years. Quarterly revenue hit $20.58 billion, but the company’s growth rate, once a bright spot for those leery of Amazon’s lackluster profits, is slowing. And prospects for the fourth quarter, which closed after this story went to press, were not much better: Over the past five years, Amazon’s fourth-quarter growth rate has steadily declined, from 42% in 2009 to 20% in 2013—and the company was projecting between 7% to 18% for 2014. “For years, the story has been that Amazon isn’t profitable because it is growing so fast,” wrote hedge-fund manager David Einhorn, in a letter to his Greenlight Capital investors. “Now growth is slowing, but rather than unleashing higher profits, the slower growth is leading to even greater losses. One of the principal bullish assumptions supporting many bubble stocks is, ‘The company is growing too fast to be very profitable.’ We think Amazon is just one of many stocks for which this narrative will ultimately prove false.”

Is Amazon choosing the wrong battle to fight?

What makes the Fire Phone a particularly troubling adventure, however, is that Amazon’s CEO seemingly lost track of the essential driver of his company’s brand. It’s understandable that Bezos would want to give Amazon a premium shine, but to focus on a high-end product, instead of the kind of service that has always distinguished the company, proved misguided. “We can’t compete head to head with Apple,” says a high-level source at Lab126. “There is a branding issue: Apple is premium, while our customers want a great product at a great price.”

TAG Heuer and the future of the luxury watch industry

Matt Richman wrote about the TAG Heuer smartwatch.

TAG Heuer’s smartwatch won’t sell. There’s no market for it.

Apple Watch requires pairing with an iPhone, and TAG’s smartwatch will need to pair with a smartphone to even have a chance of being as feature-rich as Apple Watch.

Apple isn’t going to re-engineer iOS for TAG’s benefit, so TAG’s smartwatch won’t pair with an iPhone the way Apple Watch does.

In order to have even a chance of being as feature-rich as Apple Watch, then, TAG’s smartwatch will have to pair with an Android phone. However, TAG wearers aren’t Android users. Rich people buy TAG watches, but rich people don’t buy Android phones.

This is TAG’s dilemma. Its smartwatch will need to pair with an Android phone to be anywhere near as feature-rich as Apple Watch, but TAG wearers don’t buy Android phones.

Maybe they will pair it with a Vertu.

Thoughts on iPad sales

Jim Dalrymple wrote on The Loop about iPad sales.

Why iPhone and iPad sales are not the same:

I’ve maintained in all of my conversations about iPad sales that consumers treat the iPad more like a computer and less like the commodity device that sees iPhone sales continue to rise.

I’ve seen many people that were not eligible for an iPhone upgrade spend the full price of an upgrade, just to get the newest version. iPhone has a level of excitement surrounding it that very few other products have. It’s a combination of hardware and a new iOS that piques the interest of millions of users.

So far, with the exception of its initial release, the iPad hasn’t had the same excitement surrounding new versions.

In some situations, the iPad is enough of a computer for many users. Younger kids and seniors are two groups that come to mind right away. These groups would probably not have purchased a traditional computer, but have taken to the iPad for some computer-related tasks, such as Web surfing and email. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part, that seems to hold true.

The other group of people that purchased the iPad are those that use them to complement their computers and phones, especially when it’s more convenient than using a computer. You can see people in coffee shops, parks, airports, and thousands of other places, using an iPad, everyday.

The great thing for consumers is that the iPad is built so well, people don’t feel the need to upgrade them as often. Apple also ensures the new iOS is compatible with a couple of generations of iPads and developers often do the same with their apps.

When you consider the iPad is either a first device for one segment of the market that isn’t doing high-end computing, or a complement to other devices for another segment, the need to upgrade quickly is low.

People treat their iPad purchases like they treat their computer purchases. They expect these devices to last longer and do more than an iPhone. In a lot of ways, it’s a bizarre thought because of the similarities of the devices, but I believe this is what’s happening.

Simply put, the buying cycle for an iPad is a lot longer than it is for an iPhone.

Personally, I have owned the iPad 2 and iPad 3. The only factor that pushed me to upgrade was for the Retina display. Since then, I haven’t found an incentive to push me to upgrading from the iPad 3. It is good enough and runs the latest iOS and apps. The new form factor of the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 is tempting, but it is not a major factor for me.

For some, the smaller size of the iPad Mini is a compelling reason to make the switch. My girlfriend prefers to use the iPad Mini when she’s out simply because it is more portable and lighter. But when we are at home, she still picks up the iPad because of the larger screen.

Instead of comparing the iPad with the iPhone, we should compare it with tablet competitors:

What would concern me is if consumers were buying a competitor’s product instead of the iPad. That doesn’t appear to be happening. Samsung hasn’t been doing great lately and Amazon doesn’t release any numbers, so we don’t know for sure how they’re doing (although all indications are not as well as Apple).

In fact, when you look at surveys about consumer’s intent to purchase, the iPad leads over the competitors. There seems to be no direct reason, i.e. a trouble with the product, that would tell me there is a problem with the iPad.