#tech

Farhad Manjoo:

Samsung’s problems, meanwhile, will be more difficult to address, as you can tell by spending some time with the S5. One of its major new features is a fingerprint-sensor meant to let you unlock your phone without typing a passcode, a feature Apple introduced on the iPhone 5S last year. I don’t fault Samsung for copying Apple’s fingerprint idea, just as I won’t fault Apple for copying Samsung when it makes a bigger phone. Fingerprint unlocking is a good idea, and more phones should have it.

But I do fault Samsung for the slipshod manner in which it introduced fingerprint scanning. I’ve been using the iPhone’s fingerprint sensor for the last six months, and it has worked about nine times out of 10 for me. The Galaxy S5’s finger sensor is unusable. It has failed to recognize my finger just about every time I have tried it. It has been so terrible that the sensor feels more like a marketing gimmick than a legitimate feature. 

I’ll just reiterate: I understand why Samsung felt like they needed to include this feature in their new phone. But why on Earth would they let such an inferior product actually ship? In what way does it benefit them to have something so broken on the market? in fact, it must hurt them. Right?

Nick Statt:

Nike is gearing up to shutter its wearable-hardware efforts, and the sportswear company this week fired the majority of the team responsible for the development of its FuelBand fitness tracker, a person familiar with the matter told CNET.

Yikes. Though the reality is that this seemed inevitable as something Apple this way comes:

As Apple enters the fray, Nike has a potential partner. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who was seen wearing a FuelBand at the company’s launch of the iPad mini in October of 2012, sits on Nike’s board, and has for the last nine years. That relationship has been fruitful over the years, helping Nike enter the wearable market as early as 2006, with the Nike+iPod shoe sensor package, with a strong brand partner.

I’ve been saying this for a while: Tim Cook remaining on Nike’s board while Apple readies its own health/fitness-focused device was awkward at best. Unless Nike decided to exit that business and instead partner with Apple on such a device…

(As an aside, Secret strikes first again on this news.)

Update: Nike has issued a fairly standard non-denial, denial. They’re admitting to the layoffs, but dismissing the notion that the FuelBand is being killed off. To which I say, as always with these types of statements: yet.

(Of course they’re not going to admit to killing the FuelBand right now, there is still product on the shelves — not to mention new color variations, long in the pipeline, about to launch. They could either kill the product and sell none of those or postpone that announcement and sell at least some of those. No-brainer.)

Loom, Dropbox, And Space Travel

Loom CEO Jan Senderek, on the news that Dropbox has acquired his company:

We know this is a big deal. This decision was made with great care. We have worked hard on our product and feel that our vision aligns perfectly with Dropbox’s vision for Carousel. Dropbox has invested the past seven years focusing on building a secure home for your files. And now with Carousel comes a home for your photos and videos as well. We share the common goal of crafting a high quality product, always putting users’ needs first. After spending some serious time investigating if this was the right move for us, we realized that Dropbox has solved many problems around scaling infrastructure and at Dropbox the Loom team will be able to focus entirely on building great features with a fantastic user experience. We are enthusiastic about being able to contribute our ground level perspective to help craft a beautiful experience for our users. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters most to us.

It always reads like bullshit when an investor says that a deal is a great fit. But I’m gonna say it anyway. From their shared Y Combinator DNA to a shared product vision with the just-launched Carousel, Dropbox and Loom seem perfectly aligned. It’s always a bit bittersweet to see a startup sell before fulfilling the original vision they pitched, but in this case, Dropbox really will help them achieve that vision so much faster. 

Read More

Ernesto:

The latest episode of Game of Thrones has broken the record for the most people sharing a file simultaneously via BitTorrent. More than 193,000 people shared a single copy yesterday evening, and roughly 1.5 million people downloaded the episode during the first day.

These are unprecedented numbers – never before have 193,418 people shared a single file simultaneously. The previous record was set last year, when the season finale of Game of Thrones had 171,572 people sharing on a single tracker.

Just keep leaving that money on the table, HBO.

John Gruber, ripping apart this piece by Joe Nocera:

The iPad was “just a big iPhone” when it was unveiled in 2010; today it’s hailed as Apple’s last great new product. My guess is we’ll see the same reaction to whatever Apple releases this year. It takes years for even the most amazing of new products — the iPhone, for example — to prove themselves on the market. It’s a long game.

Even then — come, say, 2017, when Apple is reaping billions in profits from some product first introduced this year — the doomed-without-Jobs crowd could (and I bet will) just argue that the product succeeded only because it had been conceived while Steve Jobs was alive. It’ll never stop.

A fun exercise would be to write Apple critiques years in advance and see just how close they are when the stories hit in the future. I bet they’d be pretty close. It’s like paint-by-numbers for the tech press.

Jason Snell:

In other words, in four years the wearables market might grow to be one-tenth the size of today’s smartphone market—in units shipped. Presumably the average selling price of wearable items will be a fraction of that of smartphones, meaning the dollar value of the wearables market is even more minuscule compared to the smartphone market.

All of which means that wearables, while dramatic and exciting and with huge potential to change people’s lives, are never going to rival smartphones in terms of market size. Same goes for smart TV boxes. These are interesting, fun areas of technological change. But the smartphone—that boring old Internet-connected 64-bit supercomputer in your pocket that just keeps improving year after year—is going to be the big dog in the tech world for years to come. Apple’s future success or failure will be dependent on the iPhone, and to a lesser extent the iPad, not on a smartwatch.

That’s exactly right. I’ve been saying this for a while: there is no industry, save maybe the oil business, that could yield the type of profits Apple is used to with the iPhone. And that points to a lot of disappointment in the eyes of Wall Street no matter what comes — unless Apple buys Exxon.

Zach Epstein apparently has some details (and images) of the forthcoming Amazon smartphone:

The device houses an additional four front-facing cameras that work with other sensors to facilitate the software’s 3D effects. One source tells us these four cameras, which are situated in each of the four corners on the face of the phone, are low-power infrared cameras.

The device’s extra cameras are used to track the position of the user’s face and eyes in relation to the phone’s display. This allows Amazon’s software to make constant adjustments to the positioning of on-screen elements, altering the perspective of visuals on the screen.

The result is a 3D experience without the need for 3D glasses or a parallax barrier in front the LCD panel like the solutions used by the Nintendo 3DS portable video game console and HTC’s EVO 3D smartphone from 2011.

While I’m hesitant to say so definitely before seeing it, this reeks of pure novelty. Just as it was with every other “3D” phone before it

The question you have to ask is: at the end of the day, does such a feature make for a truly better user experience? Or is it just a novelty trying to mask itself as a differentiating feature? Or worse, does it actually make the device harder to use?

Yes, the iPhone has a “parallax” effect with iOS 7. But Apple doesn’t shy away from it being purely ornamental. And, by the way, a lot of people hate that feature.

The Amazon Phone need only be an Amazon Prime Phone, not some weird, novelty-laden thing.