Why the Apple Watch Can Afford to Cost Thousands of Dollars

Great article by Sam Byford, with some surprising insights from Vertu creative director Ignacio Germade. Comparing the Apple Watch Edition to luxury travel starts to paint the product in a light which makes more sense.

People fly first-class because of the luxury experience of how it feels to be in first-class. People will buy the Apple Watch Edition for these same reasons.

How Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Transportation System Might Actually Work

If it’s going to get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes, it’s going to be fast, that’s for sure.

If it wasn’t Elon Musk pitching this idea, I’d call foul — but when you look at Musk’s previous endeavours, Hyperloop starts to look less like a question of “Really?” and more like a question of “How much?” and “When?”.

The Verge’s Review of the Ouya Gaming Console

For once, a Verge review has the balls to give a product a 3.5/10 score. The video review is (as usual) the best part of this one.

Looks like my initial impressions of the Ouya were spot on: a pretty “cool” device, but only really relevant for developers and nerds. Looks very half-baked. Not for me.

Give me a cheap Steam Box over this any day.

Opinions and Writing Good Reviews

Harry Marks has some… things to say about The Verge’s review of the Surface Pro:

[G]iving a below-average product an above-average grade forces readers to question the credibility of every review prior and since this one. This isn't an "It's not for me" situation. This is just a bad device. Why is it so difficult for The Verge to just come out and say it? Why are there so many "but ifs" instead of one definitive opinion?

I give the Surface Pro a 4/10. I give The Verge's reviews a 2/10.

I think a lot of large news organisations find it incredibly difficult to say negative things when given a product to review. That’s bad practice. If someone asked me to review something and I thought it sucked, I’d say so.1

Publishing a review containing many negatives coupled with a lot of “but ifs” with an overall positive score gives me, the reader, an impression that the reviewer is unable to have a bold opinion.

Covering up flaws in products or dampening your own view isn’t healthy, isn’t interesting writing and isn’t as helpful to your readers as having a honest and critical attitude.

Go on, take a stand. Have an opinion.

1: I’d probably initially tell the person in question, rather than writing several hundred public words trashing the product. (Unless it’s a really fun several hundred words.)

Who is the Microsoft Surface Pro For?

From The Verge’s video review of the Surface Pro:

It's the best surface by a long shot… But I’m less and less convinced that you want a surface in the first place.

Ouch. From the written review:

But if you’re going to buy a $900 tablet, get the decked-out iPad with LTE and 128GB of storage, and if you're going to buy a Windows laptop, check out the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga or the Dell XPS 12. Which leads me back to the same question Josh asked about the Surface RT: who is this for?

So, who’s the Surface Pro for?

My guess? Microsoft. Just like the Surface RT. Here’s what I said in January:

In short, tablets are where the growth is happening in larger-than-phone computing — and Microsoft has little presence there. In traditional PC sales, Microsoft receives around $50 for a license of Windows, and $67 for a license of Office.

The Surface RT, with its Apple-esque 30%+ margins, is a way for Microsoft to keep revenue and profit high, without manufacturers like Asus and Dell paying $50 a pop for a Windows license… Manufacturers who could easily switch to making hardware for Android — which lacks this hefty fee. Sometimes, Google will even pay manufacturers to use Android.

Leaked BlackBerry 10 Screenshots Reveal Some Ugly Design Elements

Now, by linking this, I’m not implying anyone actually cares about BlackBerry — I think it’s interesting to point out just how similar certain aspects of BB10’s design are to iOS and Android. And, interestingly enough, the aspects which aren’t similar all appear pretty ugly to my eyes. Just look at that Siri rip-off.

(How did they manage to make something which so closely resembles both an Apple and a Samsung feature so much uglier? We’ll never know.)

Still, just 16 days until we see the real deal. I can’t wait.

New Asus PCs will Ship with Leap Motion Gesture Control Technology

This is certainly a win for the Leap Motion folks — but it remains to be seen how the technology will be used in Asus PCs. Will it just be another unwanted and bundled feature?

Leap Motion seems like a really cool idea, but there needs to be at least one “killer use-case” in order for it to really take off. Right now there isn’t one.

I’m still waiting for consumer units to ship, so friends of mine who’ve pre-ordered can report back and let me know how they’re using theirs. I’d hate for the Leap Motion to just be a gimmicky albeit cool demo. In order for it to be more than just an impressive trick, there needs to be awesome software.

In order to help awesome software get developed, the Leap Motion folks are shipping developer units in big numbers. There are certainly some cool demos on the Leap YouTube channel — but nothing which screams “I want this!”

I hope that changes soon.

Subsidies, Carriers and Devices

Chris Zeigler of The Verge writes about nonsensical smartphone pricing, specifically touching on carriers as being the cause of these problems. I’d take it a step further: the problems are subsidies:

Seven months is not a reasonable life cycle for any durable product. You wouldn't buy a new TV, game console, Blu-ray player, refrigerator, or car every seven months. In fact, if a manufacturer discontinued and replaced your TV after seven months, you'd be pissed. But it's like an addiction: carriers and OEMs need the high they get from the fleeting sales bump after the release of an incrementally new model, a bump that quickly flatlines. Hilarious price adjustments ensue; a $199.99 phone falls to $149.99, $99.99, $49.99, and eventually free over the course of a single year.

Treating mobile devices like portable computers rather than “phones” cancels out a lot of the complexity surrounding their pricing. Computers are rarely subsidised — and we’re still happy to spend thousands up front for a new machine every few years.

The entire premise of my piece “The Cheapest Way To Buy An iPhone In The UK” is that buying a mobile phone outright — and unlocked — is more cost effective than taking a subsidised price from a carrier and paying through the nose monthly for the data plan:

If you do the maths, over 12 months I pay £620 for my phone and data plan, whereas a similar 12 month contract on Vodafone would cost £771.

This is still true today, but I think more people are realising it.

If a customer approached HTC directly and asked which phone they should buy, it’d likely be the most current flagship model. The same would go for Apple or Samsung — even if cheaper or older devices like the iPhone 4 are available. Current flagship models will have a longer lifespan and more features than older or cheaper devices.

Carriers are where the problems start: subsidising devices differently skews the value proposition. Carriers offer the same service to customers whether they buy a cheap device or an expensive device. Phone manufacturers will generally receive the same revenue whether the devices are bought directly or through a carrier.

I still feel that treating carriers like “dumb pipes” is the easiest way to visualise where money goes when you buy a new phone. Carriers will get their cash on a recurring monthly schedule, whereas hardware manufacturers will get their revenue in a single upfront purchase.

Skewing these business models will generally only increase complexity. I’d advise against it where possible: carrier lock-in, locked devices or extremely high monthly tariffs are more hassle than they’re worth.

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Although I was optimistic back in November, it appears the Samsung Galaxy Camera is a disappointment due to poor image quality and high price. Point and shoot cameras costing less than half the Galaxy Camera match it in quality, according to The Verge’s Aaron Souppouris.

I had too much faith in Samsung’s product design team. Samsung took a smartphone and glued big camera to it. Perhaps the Galaxy Camera is a sound concept: the idea of taking quality pictures then being able to edit, refine and share them from the device itself appeals to me. The design process if this were the goal, though, would be to start with a great camera and work backwards towards the software. Samsung started in the wrong place, which may explain why they created such a poor product.

I feel it’s now too late for this type of “smart-camera”. The smartphone has won. The quality of iPhone cameras has increased far faster than point-and-shoot cameras have over similar periods of time. The apps available for the iPhone are almost limitless. I see a future where cameras are either built into our smartphones/mobile communicators or are dedicated, extremely high quality devices akin to DSLRs.