Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Apple Pay pays off for Google Wallet, but is Visa suffering?

Ben Lovejoy, 9to5mac:

Google is faring rather better than another rival mobile payment service, CurrentC. An exclusivity clause in the MCX consortium contract led to first CVS and then Rite Aid switching off support for NFC payments, preventing the use of Apple Pay. MCX responded to the controversy with some rather unconvincing assurances (not helped by an admission that it had already been hacked) followed by some rapid back-tracking in the face of growing consumer resentment and at least one rebel merchant – yesterday stating that the exclusivity clause will expire ‘within months.’

So far everyone is benefitting from Apple Pay except MCX. Turns out “As long as Visa suffers,” may not be a viable business strategy after all.

If you’re unfamiliar with MCX and its flagship product, CurrentC, read this. You’ll be appalled at how clunky and un-consumer friendly it is.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Pay at the World Series

Maury Brown, Forbes:

Just in time for the World Series on Tuesday, MLB Advanced Media, the digital media company of Major League Baseball announced on Monday that MasterCard is bringing contactless acceptance to ballpark food and beverage concessions, enabling fans to make payments using a variety of NFC-enabled devices and services, including the newly introduced Apple Pay. These two ballparks (Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and AT&T Park in San Francisco) will be the first professional sports facilities to accept Apple Pay, when it debuts for fans attending Game One of the World Series in Kansas City tomorrow.

Apple Pay is rolling out big. Google has had their tap-to-pay tech in select grocery stores and coffee shops near me for what seems like a few years now, but nobody’s ever much talked about it. But the tech media is abuzz right now with Apple Pay stories. Typical Apple to wait a year or two to adopt a new technology like this and then whip the faithful and media both into a frenzy when they finally launch.

I’m far from the first to say it, but Apple Pay and Apple SIM have so far proved the two most interesting items from Apple’s Fall launch season.

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Microsoft Lumia

The Verge’s Tom Warren:

Microsoft started dropping hints about its plans to kill off the Nokia and Windows Phone brands last month, and now the company is ready to make it official. Microsoft Lumia is the new brand name that takes the place of Nokia for the software maker.

Pour one out for karma.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Apple Financial Results

John Gruber at Daring Fireball:

This is the first time I can recall, ever, that Apple’s press release for its quarterly results doesn’t include unit sales by product line — the total number of iPhones, iPads, Macs, and iPods sold. Will be interesting to see on the analyst conference call whether this is information they’re now treating as confidential, or if it just isn’t in the press release.

Man, it’d be fascinating to be a fly on the wall when Apple talks internally about Wall Street.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Death to iPad mini! Long Live iPhone Plus!

Apple rolled out their new iPads today, and while much of the focus was on the thinner/faster/lighter/better-er iPad Air 2, I found the underwhelming iPad mini update interesting. Why? The new iPad mini 3 adds Touch ID and a new color option (Gold) to the old mini 2. And that’s it. Same old processor, same old display, same old form factor, same old everything – the new mini is the old mini with a fingerprint sensor and optional paint job.

Why give the new Air a processor Apple claims to be 40% faster than its predecessor, along with improved cameras and new body work, but leave the mini out? And why continue selling both the original iPad mini and iPad mini 2 at significant discounts alongside of the old/new mini 3? Because Apple doesn’t want you buying an iPad mini. They want you buying an iPhone 6 Plus. Embrace the phablet, ditch the mini tablet. If you buy a 6 Plus and still crave an iPad, the new Air 2 is big enough to to really feel different than your phablet. And, oh, it’s been upgraded for the new year – bonus!

That’s my take, anyway. An entry-level 6 plus costs $749, while iPad mini 3 starts at $399. Kinda stands to reason Apple’s margins are a little better on the 6 plus, no?

That said, the discounted iPad mini 2 is a steal. $349 for the 32GB version looks to be the sweet spot for a device many a pundit have called the perfect iPad.

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Apple WatchKit Ships Next Month

Can’t wait to see what devs learn – and teach the rest of us – about what Apple Watch will and won’t be able to do.

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An Unusual Blunder

User manual pages showing unannounced products – iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 – appeared yesterday in Apple’s iTunes Store. Apple is widely expected to launch new iPads as part of a media event to be held later today.

Chris Welch, reporting on the “leak” for The Verge:

Notably, the iTunes mixup comes on the very same day that Google announced its own brand new tablet, the Nexus 9.

Interesting timing, for sure. Wonder what the story is here.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

“The Future of the Culture Wars is Here and it’s Gamergate”

This article really, really, really needs editing – it’s tl;dr and then some. But it’s a great read. All the more so if you’ve heard tell of this #Gamergate thing but don’t actually know what it is.

Spoiler alert: Anybody associating themselves with #Gamergate should, 1. Stop it, and 2. Be ashamed of yourself. Same goes for the lazy journalists depicted in the article.

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Nexus 9 is First Android Tablet With 64-Bit ARM CPU

Worth noting from today’s Android announcements, via the Nexus 9 product page:

With the 64-bit processor, easily move between tabs to check email, watch videos, and tweak docs — all at once.

Specifically, that’s the 64-bit version of Nvidia’s Tegra K1 processor, aka “Denver.” A handful of devices have shipped with the original, 32-bit K1, but Nexus 9 will be the first tablet (or phone) to use the 64-bit version of the SoC. See more on Denver on Nvidia’s blog.

Also, as Pcper notes (via the headline link):

Tegra K1 using 64-bit Denver cores are unique in that it marks the first time NVIDIA has not used off-the-shelf cores from ARM in it’s SoC designs. We also know, based on Tim’s news post on PC Perspective in August, that the architecture is using a 7-way superscalar design and actually runs a custom instruction set that gets translated to ARMv8 in real-time.

Will be interesting to see how the new architecture performs in real-world situations, and how much of the performance boost is specific to gaming. Nvidia’s bread and butter is the gaming market.

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Android Has to Own the Hardware Stack, Too

Today’s Android Lollipop announcement – the bit I highlighted about the intersection of hardware and software, in particular – reminded me of a Moto 360 review I saw earlier today. Here’s Mike Wehner of TUAW on his week with the Android Wear watch:

It starts with the software. Syncing the Moto 360 to Android Wear on my smartphone was needlessly complicated. At one point I was told via pop-up notification to uninstall Android Wear, update Google Search, then reinstall Android Wear, in order to get it to work properly. My phone was telling me I had to delete software that was built specifically for it, in order to get it to function as intended. I have to admit that I laughed…

The fact that Apple makes the phone, the watch, and the software for both gives it a huge advantage here, whereas the Moto 360, Android Wear, and my HTC One try to do their best to play nice, but don’t always get along as intended.

Yes, I know Mike writes for an Apple-focused outlet. Take his review with a grain of salt, a ream of bias, or whatever you want. I think his point is a good one, and from it I extrapolate this:

If Google is serious about Android Wear and wearables in general, I think they need to do a “Nexus Wear” device. Perhaps they can launch the watch with Android Wear 2.0 at I/O next Spring. Apple’s big advantage in consumer electronics is their vertical integration. Android’s big problem in the same space is fragmentation that comes from their being a platform company reliant on dozens of hardware OEMs with their own needs to differentiate in a cut-throat marketplace. “Differentiation” in the OEM’s eyes is “fragmentation” in the end user’s hands when it comes to things like getting your watch and phone to play nice with one another. One way to insure a smooth user experience is to just build the phone and the watch (and the tablet, etc) yourself.

Again, the aforementioned quote from Sundar Pichai:

Advances in computing are driven at the intersection of hardware and software. That’s why we’ve always introduced Nexus devices alongside our platform releases.

There was no Nexus device alongside the first Android Wear release. I guess because Google didn’t consider Android Wear a “platform” back then. If Mike Wehner’s experience with his Moto 360 is any indication, it’s high time Google reconsidered.

Speaking of considerations, there’s that whole bit about market share versus revenue and profit in the mobile space to think about. Another, longer post might be in order soon.

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