Nope. Not yet. I will not buy a smartwatch. Not smart enough. Sure, if you like wearing a watch anyway, there are plenty choices that also measure things. It’s not that I am waiting for more sensors. Even with what is available today on a $30 smart band we should be getting more useful information.
My phone knows how much ground I am covering when walking my kids to school. The watch knows my heart rate. So why isn’t it telling me if I am getting more or less fit? My phone knows how much screen time I am getting late at night. My watch knows how well I slept. So why isn’t it telling me exactly what to change in my schedule? Hey Google, should I watch a movie or mess about on Facebook right now?
These examples are simply scratching the surface. As I fire up Google Docs and start writing, it could even give me ideas like “go drink something, you are struggling to get a decent sentence” or “I see you can’t find a catchy title. Maybe tomorrow you go for a walk first, statistically, you come up with titles much faster on days that you walked in the morning before.”
The only rational reason a company like Google isn’t doing this is so that we don’t freak out. It is far from inconceivable that the company knows when we go to the toilet and how long we spend there. Without demanding any user input (that’s how I like it best) we could be getting very very useful advice on diet and lifestyle that really make a massive difference. Our phone knows which doctors we visit and when anyway. Our Google searches, the apps we use, the speed with which we click or even how often we idly play with our phone’s screen unlock, all these data points, when connected, surely give a powerful insight into our health, mood and potential at any point in time. Over time and with millions of people on this platform, it is safe to assume major new roads of inquiry would open in terms of global health.
The more you think about it like that, it is ludicrous that doctors aren’t demanding this data in order to make better decisions.
We all have blind spots. In technology, we get excited about them too very often. Opinionated. Most times it doesn’t matter. People buy what they want to buy and find ways to convince themselves it was a good choice.
Especially if it costs more than a thousand bucks.
My partner was an iPhone user. Not one of those that just uses it as a phone and for posting selfies on Instagram. Due to her demanding work, she really puts it through its paces, uses many apps for many parts of her life. And then she met me. With a 250 dollar “flagship killing” Chinese Android smartphone that kicked the iPhone’s ass on every front.
First it was the wifi. “Alex, how come your phone is already connected and mine is struggling?” Don’t know hon, maybe because Apple has always been a walled garden technologically? “OK, let’s say they do it for some internal political or security reason. But why does your phone see eight wifi networks and mine struggles to see three from the exact same location?”
Then it was the signal. I mean the actual “I need to use the phone” connection. On the same provider, from the same location. I am loud and clear, whizzing at 4G speeds on my browser and not even the ghost of Steve Jobs holding the iPhone “correctly” could save this poor device.
Even I, the great iPhone hater, the person that has ranted against Apple since 1981 more or less without a toilet break, thought it must be the device. Maybe it is faulty. Try a hard format. Try changing the device. Nope. Nada. Even if you uninstall dozens of apps and have it running as “clean” and lite as possible, the iPhone is no match.
Do you care? Well, unless you are next to me, you won’t notice. My PocoF1, an old phone by now, only scores 91 on DXOmark for its camera, the iPhone should be blasting me with its fantastic camera, shouldn’t it? Well it doesn’t. Because I have flexibility. And sure, theoretically, a well informed iPhone user has options in software and add-ons to make feature films and masterpieces. But the Apple mentality is “keep it simple stupid” and that is what the users end up being. Stupid. I could go through hundreds (literally) things like that. Plug an Android phone into your computer, drag and drop mp3s, documents or movies to your memory card. Watch them cringe with envy as you say “damn, that 256GB cost me almost 30 bucks!” Anything an iPhone does, an Android does better, faster, cheaper or for free and with more options. Even if you are rich, even if you have zero time to think about your smartphone, some of these are important to your life. Important to real things that make a real difference. Sure you can work around them. You can ignore them. You can be, well, stupid.
No pressure from me, my partner switched to Android. Now we marvel how much better the GPS is, how I can guess where she is on the plane as our Location Sharing becomes amazingly useful rather than the vague blob it was before. She has a 4000mAh battery and doesn’t have to carry cables, adaptors and worry about running out of juice all the time. Working seamlessly with Google Calendar, Keep, Gmail, Photos, Docs and all the other truly amazing free services from Google improves life instantly and effortlessly. And what she is starting to understand as the phone learns around her Google account is just how well Android adapts to your life and interests.
An occasional Google user, through Gmail and even Chrome if you use it instead of Safari, really isn’t experiencing Google magic. My phone usually knows what I want to do or learn within two or three moves of my finger. That is why I gladly give Google whatever it needs to know about me, my life is infinitely better, more productive and hassle-free. Tim Cook was wrong to start using privacy as a differentiating factor. Not only is Apple as guilty as everyone else in this respect, but it risks making Apple AI and Apple devices even more stupid than they are right now compared to Google.
So adopt an iPhone user. If you love somebody, set them free from Apple blindspots and show them how the rest of the world, even in poor parts of the world, even with sub 200 dollar smartphones, the world is coming together to celebrate the marvels of information-done-right AI productivity.
I never cease to amaze how wrong tech writers get some things. For years now I read about how Google has failed with Pixel phones, “never quite got it right”, “hasn’t got market share” and other such comparisons with companies that are nothing like Google.
Pixel phones were never meant to sell a lot. That would be suicidal. Google is not a hardware company. (Yet) And if it becomes one, it will not be from selling phones that the profits will come. Google sells ads. Everything else is an enticing freebie. To get you to buy ads.
Case in point, Android. The dominant superpower of smartphones globally. Unless you live in a bubble in the West Coast, New York ….or the magazines and tech blogger world. They write about a company with less than 1/10th of the market share globally, as if it is an equally powerful opponent. It is a rerun of the PCs vs Mac “wars” of the past. Again, a completely insignificant market share of Macs was held up so antitrust authorities and whoever doesn’t like monopolies could pretend Microsoft had an opponent.
But Google needed to find a way to control the ecosystem. They tried Nexus, they tried Google One (Google Go, whatever) and they tried Google Pixel. They don’t want to sell million of phones. They want to sell just enough to goad the rest of the market in the right direction. Everyone now talks about a “clean Android” experience as a major selling point. Bloatware on Samsung and other market leaders has gone down dramatically. You are either with Google or …well, with Google but they let you add a twist here and there in case you come up with something innovative.
Enter the Pixel3a. Now that is something different and mysterious. So far they artificially kept Pixel prices high so as not to antagonize other Android manufacturers. Here we have a different story. This is revenge. The product launched just as Tim Cook had decided to make privacy a major selling point on iOS. And with the launch of one device, Google kicked him back in the groin. Just as millions of iPhone users are wondering if it is worth spending 1000 bucks on a new device, the Pixel3a offers premium everything at 400.
Google will not pursue it further. You can be sure that there will be problems with availability and all the other excuses they have used in the past years to purposely stop Pixel and Nexus devices from eating up market share from Google’s Android partners. Tim Cook seems to be backing down on his privacy-based effort to differentiate Apple products. If he doesn’t, Google can easily wipe more value off his company by launching a Pixel 4a or shelling out Amazon Prime day offers for the 3a at 300 bucks or whatever it takes to demolish all that magic dust Apple took years to rub onto their overpriced devices. Google doesn’t even need to make another mid-priced phone. They have just officialized the category. Xiaomi and other manufacturers can now capitalize on it.
It is a great example of how a company loses focus and fails. Apple is too big to fail of course, more an international currency than the dollar. But some of us, in times like this, get a glimpse at just how well a behemoth such as Google can play the monopoly game with style.
Oh, and grab a Pixel 3a, it really is a stunning device for that sort of money.
I am pretty sure that word gets all politically correct bells ringing so let me explain: it took Apple users almost a decade to figure out how useful wireless Bluetooth is. They are permanently retarded in their adoption of technology, always waiting for Apple to tell them what to do, like well schooled, but ignorant, infants.
I remember thinking this about a decade ago when I was excited about my Gear4 Bluetooth headphones. They had A2DP and I know this nerdy acronym because back then I had to mention it and insist at stores while I explained that A2DP meant stereo Bluetooth basically. Ten years ago.
Yesterday I listened to the New York Times popcast about AirPods. I pitied them. These are highly intelligent people, writing for the peak of global media, influencing millions around the world. And their list of excuses was pathetic. “Sure the sound quality is not good but I don’t listen to much music really” or “it is ok for calls and music is just for drowning background noise for me”.
It got even worse while discussing the planned obsolescence. “Yeah, they will probably die one day after their warranty” or “it is cheaper to buy new ones than repair them”. These people are resigned to Apple like some sort of tax. One poor woman bought a pair that didn’t work and then bought another pair which also didn’t work with her phone! Is that the definition of a hopeless loser or what? Almost everyone agreed that the AirPods look horrible, geeky or just plain stupid, one hides them under her hair.
Worse still, the only positive they could think of about the specific devices was the “seamless experience”. This refers to the fact that Apple, as usual, didn’t follow Bluetooth properly but tweaked it. Bluetooth has been around since 1994 and the A2DP profile mandated the use of the SBC audio codec as a minimum, rather than enforcing the direct transfer of other audio standards like mp3, mwa, and aac. Even though these are supported, the teams making protocols try to get everyone aboard so consumers don’t need to worry about incompatibilities. Unless those consumers are retards of course.
While I was enjoying my wireless headphone Bluetooth freedom these past years, iPhone users waited for Apple to “reinvent” the accessory. Apple has a tiny percentage of the smartphone market, yet in their little bubbles, the users think they are advanced. The entire planet moves along without them. Retarded. Sorry, no better word to describe the pathetic bunch of people that slavishly follow the Apple path to a walled garden dead end.
The tech world also has cliches. And if you have been around long enough they stand out. Apple as an opponent is a big one. When Microsoft ruled the world, they made it look as if a company with less than 7% market share was the opponent. That way they could pretend not to be a monopoly.
Google is copying that strategy. Inundating us with ads comparing the new, affordable Pixel to an iPhone. Yeah, right, sure, anything you say. Android is running billions of phones all over the world while iPhones are relevant only in a few countries or even cities. Or maybe just the posh neighborhoods within those cities. Google owns the AI, the data and the tech. Apple is buying up 2 companies a month trying to catch up as always. Google does not even want to sell many Pixel phones, they never did. Pixel phones are just a way of kicking the rest of the Android ecosystem in the butt. The cheap Pixel is also a shot across the bow at Tim Cook for him talking crap about privacy.
There is of course absolutely no justification for what Donald Trump did to Huawei. Not that the Chinese are not terrible at stealing intellectual property and ripping off stuff. They are also likely to be trying to spy on us through their tech. But hitting Huawei is no solution. Why not Xiaomi too? Or any number of other Chinese manufacturers for that matter. And why just tech? They copy, steal and might be up to nasty spying with all sorts of other things they produce. Maybe even toys. Apple and Google met with Trump. He made them both promise to spend gazillions on new offices so that he could talk about new jobs in America. That is how it works.
Donald Trump does not understand what the late great master of propaganda Steve Jobs and his teacher Bill Gates knew well. His heavy-handed approach and erratic moves to please either his corporate friends or Russian blackmailers are ruining the facade so carefully built over many years.
Running a monopoly is not the hard part. Pretending it is not a monopoly is the real game.
Sometimes as I tidy the house or while looking for something else, I find something the kids have made. These days it is mainly my ever creative daughter. It is often touching. So I might stand there with a little “i love u dad” note in my hand crying. It isn’t the joy of parenthood I think, it is the surprise reminder of how strong emotions run within us, a pent up bottle of fizzy information we keep forgetting.
Like many other NBA fans, this year I stopped watching. Somewhere between the Warriors’ dominance and LeBron not making the play offs I lost motivation to spend any more of my precious time following the NBA. Bear in mind that this is the business I have help up as a shining example to follow. The best storytellers in the world, what marketers should emulate, God’s gift to all of us. I have written articles, analysis and done podcasts telling everyone to follow the NBA and analyse its every move. I honestly believe it is not only the best sport to follow but also the best organization and media savvy institution to analyze and learn from.
But I have had enough. I need to move on. So I want to cut out the NBA in order to learn something else. If I am watching live matches when I wake up at 4am (Greek time), I am not reading a new book. And this is when I realised how much power these new tools give me.
I just tuned the NBA out of my life.
First of all I went to google settings and removed it from my interests. That pretty much solved a lot of the ways scores popped up on my phone. Same with news, I just removed the topic from the (excellent) Google News app. “Not interested”. It didn’t even feel like a major ceremony, two taps and it was gone. YouTube needed a little more help and guidance. I had to tell it I wasn’t interested in 7-8 videos and then click to remove the channels. Sorted.
For someone deeply immersed in everything NBA for the past 2 years it was surprisingly easy. I feel like one of those people who quit smoking and then say “oh, it was just a decision”. Only it is even easier. The NBA simply doesn’t exist around me anymore. Unless I walk into a sports bar and it is playing on the TVs, or some friend posts about it, I simply don’t see it anywhere. The equivalent for my savana dwelling ancestors would be to tap twice on a baobab tree and make all baobab trees instantly disappear from their line of sight.
We read enough complaints about our digital world, how we are inundated with information, much of it useless or confusing. Here is my – very real – objection. Never in the history of homo sapiens have we been able to control our informational environment as much as now. What many consider a disadvantage , the fact that I check my phone a million times a day, the fact that Google owns me, all this is simply fantastic when you are ever so slightly disciplined enough to tell it what you want to see around you.
It is also very exciting. Can’t wait to learn something new. And as my kids grow up and stop surprising me with notes around the house, I am pretty sure the rest of this vibrant digital planet will do something similar for me.
As I watched the champions get annihilated by the Raptors this morning over breakfast I had yesterday’s Senate hearings in mind. Steph Curry only got 3 out of 12 but didn’t look worried. Much like Sundar Pichai yesterday.
Here’s what happened NBA-side in summary: The Warriors gathered not one, not two but five All Stars. These people are basically statistical outliers, freaks that make a difference when it matters. There have been maybe a hundred such homo sapiens since basketball started and the Warriors have five. So they dominate. They dominated so badly last year that a lot of us were put off the game. So what did the NBA do about it? For starters they tweaked the schedule to help the Lakers just to keep up the LeBron narrative. A bit like the stock market pumps up Apple every so often even though Apple has hardly no technological advantage. Just so it looks like Google has a competitor. Then they tweaked the rules to help teams that play in the paint. Then they gave refs instructions on how to execute the rules so as to give the Warriors a harder time. Not to get too technical, but the NBA did everything it could to make this years championship more fun. They even asked the Warriors to tone it down.
It is pretty similar to the Google situation. The company has created not just 5 but an almost infinite number of All Star technologies. Worse still, they have tools that ensure they stay ahead of the pack. They just need to choose when they will uncover what. Not to look too good, that will increase calls for regulation and intervention. The Golden State Warriors are following this example. All year they bench key players with phony excuses to rest them, or simply play as if it is practice. They don’t even use their best game plays all year unless they need them. Maybe one or twice here and there, like…well, like a Google experiment.
Is this bad? I have written about the Google monopoly since Google started and my position is the same. It is the kindest dictator we could ask for. I would much rather Google decides on major issues than Donald Trump or most other politicians. Is it fair? Business was never fair. Should we change it? I don’t see how and to be honest I don’t see why. Much like the NBA, maybe tweak the rules a bit so that it is more fun to watch at least…
“So, seriously Alex, do you think Apple has a problem?”
Financial analysts call me up some times for “insights”. It is usually when their job is on the line and/or they have to handle a really really big investor. The guy was worried and wanted me to give him something new to say in the big meeting, something none of the others in the office had thought about. And he came to the right place. I hate Apple, I have hated Apple since 1981 when I realized how little the company cares about technology. So the analyst got some dirt and we chatted away.
“OK, so I will tell them to buy Apple then” he concluded. I didn’t disagree. Because this is not about technology. Apple had the smallest research and development budget for many years. Apple has fallen way behind in artificial intelligence and the smart home. Apple’s new computers are a joke that took years coming and isn’t even funny if you are a professional that relies on them. No, this is not about technology. It is about the stock market. Apple is to stock what the dollar is to global currency markets. And all it needs to do every so often is produce a fairy tale.
Take the recent iPad launch. This is a a truly insignificant dying sector. About 4% of devices sold globally are tablets. Apple has a third of a market nobody wants. Apple is losing ground in education, medical and pretty much any vertical you want to pick. But what are the analysts saying? Every so often someone flashes that graph about revenue being too dependent on the iPhone but then they forget it like the Apple fan boys and girls they rely on in the media for information.
So don’t call me about Apple anymore. You don’t need my decades of experience in tech to guess what Apple will do next and how successful it will be. Tim Cook could present a half eaten moldy apple and sell it for a thousand dollars tomorrow. Nobody would care if he only sold five of them at a loss. Nobody cares about it working or actually helping somebody in the real world work. Antennagates, Batterygates and even Bill Gates knew what he was doing when he saved Apple. It was never about tech.
(That’s not an apple in the photo by the way. But who cares?)
As an experiment, I decided to ask Google to remove all my contributions to the Google Maps Local Guides scheme. For those of you not aware, Google Maps uses volunteers to improve maps. And we do a lot. They have gamified the process, which makes me a Level 9 guide (of 10 levels) thanks to thousands of reviews, ratings and photos seen by millions of users that I have uploaded. So what happens if I want to leave?
Joke No1. Google itself, clearly says that you can delete your profile but your contributions will remain! End of story, judge makes verdict, 4% of your global revenue please.
Joke No2. It is not easy to even find what to do if you are not OK with the above Joke No1. Suppose you look hard, you will find somewhere under legal a procedure. So you fill in a form. Already we are way out of GDPR, this is not easy or intuitive.
Joke No3. Google doesn’t even have a human to respond. Their first email is generic:
“Thanks for reaching out to us!
We have received your legal request. We receive many such complaints each day; your message is in our queue, and we’ll get to it as quickly as our workload permits.
Due to the large volume of requests that we experience, please note that we will only be able to provide you with a response if we determine your request may be a valid and actionable legal complaint, and we may respond with questions or requests for clarification. For more information on Google‘s Terms of Service, please visit http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS
Regards, The Google Team”
Whoops! Under GDPR, referring to fine print just doesn’t cut it. Even if the judge hadn’t slammed the hammer and demanded gazillions before, now he can.
Joke No4. Luckily for them, I too think GDPR is crap, so I respond honestly and fully. Oh no, bot response again:
If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form. If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.
If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form.
If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.
Regards, The Google Team”
This is pretty bad. The bot didn’t even get it right. So I send “This request does NOT concern blocking information. The form you are sending me to is irrelevant. Please get a homo sapiens to respond.” And the bot insists: “After reviewing your submission, we weren’t able to fully understand your request. If you send us more details to clarify your concerns, we will investigate further.”
Luckily for Google, I am on their side, so I explain with plenty links.
“I am a Google maps local guide. Level 9 in fact. This means I have made thousands of contributions. However if I want to remove these contributions, there is no automatic way of doing it.Under GDPR this should be possible more easily. Manually deleting tens of thousands of comments, reviews and photos is not practical or even feasible.
If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form.
If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.”
Now, if you follow that last link, it is as unGDPR as humanly possible. And it is off topic, it won’t even work if I request it like that.
I really need no further proof than the above emails to sue Google under GDPR. Will it work? Hell yeah! Class action? Easily! Google has been pushing users on to Local Guides for ages, millions of Android users are on it already. Will I do it? Of course not. GDPR is ridiculous, useless and bureaucratic for no reason. Google Maps is useful and Local Guides wonderful.
This is a complicated world but useful trumps EuroBureaucracy every time. Even well meaning European initiatives are counter productive when they are implemented like this. A horse designed by a Euro Committee isn’t even a camel, it is a monster that can’t walk. GDPR is not enforceable in any practical sense, it is simply the threat of a vindictive consumer.
As the world watches him flip flop over major topics like migrant families and trade war threats, I have to grant Donald Trump a point. Take all the nasty stuff he said about China on the campaign trail (before he started sucking up to Asian dictators) and apply it to the European Union. Obviously GDPR has not yet played on Fox news and he hasn’t figured out what the European Commission just pulled off. It unilaterally forced a ridiculous and extremely vague legal requirement on the entire planet!
“A Data protection officer (DPO)—a person with expert knowledge of data protection law and practices, must be appointed to assist the controller or processor to monitor internal compliance with this regulation.” Wait a minute. Just because a European citizen might click on my website, I have to hire some expert? And worse still, I am not allowed to ban Europeans from visiting my website or to show them a different version? Protectors of the internet should not be cheering GDPR, we should all be fighting it! This is a coup, or #thisisacoup if you want to make it a trending hashtag. You should want to if you care about the internet.
We have done our best to keep the internet free. We fight for net neutrality. And we are going to let some Euro-bureaucrats force vague and already technologically irrelevant regulation on the entire planet? GDPR is not about tech, your IT people can’t make you compatible. Neither is it a marketing issue. GDPR isn’t even a legal issue. How many lawyers do you know that understand databases or UI? GDPR is 100% political. Our national governments weren’t even asked, it is regulation instead of a directive. European citizens didn’t even get the chance to see it ratified in national assemblies. And – sorry to see this in writing – I am rather hoping Donald Trump notices some report on Fox news and helps us out this time around.