Joe Wilcox

Will you buy Apple Watch -- yours from $349 to $10K-plus?

Apple Watch

The long-hyped smartwatch from the maker of iPhone is now official. Apple takes preorders from April 10, and sales start 14 days later. For all the hype, the price is what really distinguishes the device, which will be available in aluminum, stainless steel, and solid gold—with the latter selling for minimum $10,000.

Apple Watch Sport is the lower-cost option in 38mm and 42mm cases, starting at $349 and $399, respectively. Apple Watch ranges from $549 to $1,049. Apple Watch Edition is the pricey one starting at $10K. At launch, the wristwear will be available in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States. Today's big question: Will you buy one? And which?

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Google responds to Apple Watch

Android Wear Ad

The newest Android "be together. not the same." commercial posted to YouTube today ahead of Apple's big smartwatch launch. The video series focuses on individuality and choice, which packs a little more punch for a wearable where one size likely won't fit all.

I like the background music, "On the Regular" by SHAMIR, in an advert by every measure focused on Apple Watch's presumed young and hipster crowd. You can be square, round, or whatever you want with Android Wear.

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Mom's Nokia Lumia Icon is gone -- she has a vintage Moto X now

Moto X

I can attest firsthand to the rising health-care costs everyone talks about. My mom went to hospital on January 30th for outpatient surgery. Still woozy from anesthesia, she left her Nokia Lumia Icon Windows Phone in the bed's blankets. The hospital ships the linens to Canada for cleaning, and, well—cue the violins—that handset is gone to cellphone heaven or into someone's greedy, grubby hands. Wouldn't you know, Medicare won't cover the cost of replacing the phone.

Neither will Asurion pay up. The nerve. When reporting the phone lost, Verizon suggested adding insurance to the phone line and later filing a claim. The Lumia could be replaced for $99 deductible. I must admit to a little apprehension, but, hey, cost was just 10 bucks. Damn, three attempts to file a claim all failed, with Asurion insisting that the phone was lost before insurance was applied. Either these insurers are smartypants, or this is a popular scam. Whichever, mom's hospital visit was an unexpected, health-care cost.

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Of course, Chromebooks matter

Dell-Chromebook-in-School

Yesterday, commentary "Do Chromebooks matter anymore?" popped up in my social network feeds. Preston Gralla rightly wonders, when looking at how the laptops have fallen off Amazon's top-seller lists, IDC shipment forecasts, and what happened with netbooks. While being a Chromebook fan, I must admit to similar misgivings.

So today, I emailed Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis: "Are Chromebooks just the next netbook wave? Low-cost, lean configurations, and education adoption all look similar to me. Do you see any parallels to suggest Chromebook is little more than the next netbook and it's headed for the same destination: Short-term appeal that vanishes? Or is there longevity here, based on sales numbers?" His answer is reason for this post.

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There's something HTC should learn from the M9 launch

HTC One M9_Silver_Left

Some advice for HTC and other mobile device makers: You need to adapt your PR strategy to the modern web. Seeding devices to so-called professional reviewers is a lose-lose strategy. There you should take cues from Motorola, which marketing strategy, while by no means perfect, depends more on the many rather than the few.

Today, as expected, the HTC One M9 launched on Mobile World Congress Day 0. I am struck by two early reviews, which couldn't be more different in their assessment—and one surely is quite damaging to perceptions about the smartphone: "HTC One M9 hands-on: Improved craftsmanship, camera, and HTC Sense are compelling" by Matthew Miller for ZDNet and "HTC’s One M9 is the world’s most beautiful disappointment" by Vlad Savov for The Verge. Miller had the device for a day and Savov for a week. Neither narrative is ideal for HTC, although ZDNet's is closer to identifying benefits that matter, as opposed to The Verge highlighting features that aren't.

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2015 is year of the Chromebook

Chromebook Pixel keyboard

Last year, I disputed ridiculous assertions, based on widely misquoted NPD data, that 2014 would be "year of the Chromebook". It wasn't. But that designation does belong to 2015—at least in the United States. Measures: Number of new models; adoption by K-12 schools; and overall sales, which are surprisingly strong. Read carefully the next paragraph.

Through U.S. commercial channels and retail, Chromebooks accounted for 14 percent of laptop sales last year, according to NPD, which released data at my request. That's up from 8 percent in 2013. Commercial channels, largely to educational institutions, accounted for about two-thirds of 2014 Chromebook sold. Year over year, sales soared by 85 percent, and the trajectory continues to climb.

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Choosing a streaming stick -- Chromecast, Roku, or Fire TV? [Review]

Streaming Sticks

My household cut the cord in July 2014; the cable box is gone. In the process, I have been testing various streaming set-tops and sticks, and the latter is today's topic. Google opened up the category with $35 Chromecast in July 2013, and the device gets better with age. Roku Streaming Stick, at $49.99, is priciest choice, while Amazon Fire TV Stick is the $39 in-betweener.

Briefly, before deep diving, Chromecast is easiest to use and offers more commercial programming support. Roku delivers broadest streaming channel selection. Fire TV fits tightly into the broader Amazon Prime ecosystem, while offering satisfying, but incomplete, content options compared to either of the other devices.

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I was wrong about the smartwatch being a dumb idea

Moto 360

Over the holiday weekend, I started using the Moto 360, which user experience is way better than anticipated. For all the nutcases calling Apple Watch innovative and revolutionary—without there even being a device for them to test—Android Wear is, ah, timely. Google gives great utility that will be difficult for the fruit-logo company to match. Reasons are simple: Context, search, sync, UI design, and Google Now.

I resisted the smartwatch concept for having been there before. Few of the gadget geeks gushing about wearables are old enough to remember Microsoft SPOT. Mid-last decade, the company partnered with real watchmakers (Fossil, Suunto, and Swatch); the devices were as much jewelry as functional timepieces; FM radio delivered appointments, news, weather, and other alerts independent of cell phones; and battery life lasted three days or more (which wasn't enough). By these measures, SPOT watches were so much more and still failed. Hence, these are reasons why in past analyses I called the decade-later attempt dumb. But I was wrong.

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Amazing! Apple wins the smartwatch wars without ever shipping a device!

apple-watch-thee-models-900x506_contentfullwidth

That is the only takeaway from today's brutal bias assault against Android Wear. Canalys reports half-year 2014 shipments of 720,000, and the Apple-loving free press categorizes the number as a failure. Meanwhile, the analyst firm boasts that "All eyes are now on Apple, which will reveal further details about the Apple Watch prior to its release in April". Not mine. Are yours?

Over at Wall Street Journal, Rolfe Winkler begins his hatchet piece with: "It's been a slow start for Google’s smartwatches". The search and information giant doesn't sell any of the devices, developing the underlying platform. Nitpicking aside, he ridiculously writes: "Apple sold roughly 114 million iPhones over the same period. That means Apple sold almost as many iPhones each day as makers of Android smartwaches sold over the six months". Oh yeah?

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Android platform partners should think differently, or fail

kid smart lightbulb brain

Outside Apple Store, people excitedly line up to buy iPhone 6. The crowd is remarkably eclectic. Tattoos here. Mohawk there. Someone wearing a prim business suit chats with a burly biker wearing sleeveless T-Shirt. Everyone's clothes beam bright, vibrant colors. Loud laughter and uproarious chatter is everywhere. This is one happy group of buyers.

The store's doors exit onto a green pasture of sheep. Each wears a chain around its neck, with iPhone 6 attached. Cow bells appear on the screens, and clanging sounds against the chirping of birds. One animal looks up: "Baaaaaaa!" Then another, and another. An announcer asks: "Do you really want to be an iSheep?" Then the Android logo and robot flash across the screen.

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Apple's core is rotting

Apple store logo

I should read Harvard Business Review more often. There, Juan Pablo Vazquez Sampere offers insightful and fresh perspective in post: "We Shouldn’t Be Dazzled by Apple’s Earnings Report". Of course, I would agree, having written something similar in past BetaNews posts. Point is the same, just the context changed. I lack his prestige and venue, and that's okay. The observations we both make aren't rocket science, or shouldn't be.

Simply stated: Atop the pinnacle of success, Apple stands at the precipice of failure. The scrappy innovator is gone, replaced by the, ah, Establishment cofounder Steve Jobs and his renegades challenged with years of guerrilla tactics. Apple has in this decade achieved huge success. But managing success is challenging, if your business model is innovation. The two objectives often work cross-purposes.

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Is it cord-cutting, or just cheating?

watching tv

Anywhere from two to three times a week, Cox sends offers to join Flex Watch, which would add $19.99 to my $59.99 Internet service. The cable company guarantees the price for 12 months—no contract—and would provide HD set-top box with access to local networks and some premium, subscription channels. Last year's offer: HBO and Starz. Last month's adds Encore. This week, Cox sweetens by tempting with Cinemax and Flix for just $5 more.

The HD box and local channel access doesn't tempt the slightest. Cox would have to rewire our setup to enable access from the living room, but I'm a believer in the "If it ain't broke don't fix it" approach to networking. I've got 120Mbps Internet pumping down to the bedroom, where there is no TV, and don't want to risk mucking up what we've got. But I am tempted to pay $19.99, or $24.99, for the subscription channels and stream to the tellie content in their apps—which I find offer better benefits. But does that cross the line? Is it still cord-cutting?

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Apple is boring

Apple Store France

Perhaps you have seen such statement somewhere on the InterWebs sometime during the last couple of months and increasingly the past few weeks. It's a meme slowly growing -- and for good reasons. While others innovate, Apple iterates and succeeds unblushingly well. The company is mountains more successful today innovating less and taking fewer risks.

Apple is the new Microsoft, where maximizing margins matters more than innovation. Look how much more successful Apple is by being boring and following where innovators lead. Consider today's Strategy Analytics report that puts Apple and Samsung tied for calendar fourth-quarter smartphone shipments. Such scenario was all but unfathomable two quarters earlier. Yet the foundation laid long before Apple cofounder Steve Job's death, when logistics genius and now CEO Tim Cook managed day-to-day operations. Risk-to-innovation defined Jobs' management style. Cook is more tactical.

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How many iPhones did Apple REALLY sell?

scar-scaried-spook-afraid-cat-600x553

The official number for calendar Q4 2014 (fiscal Q1 2015), ending December 27, is 74.688 million. Got to admit, that sure looks like a rather large number of iPhones. But how big is it? Really? Apple sold in the one quarter more iPhones than during fiscal years 2007-10 (73.946 million) combined, or twice as many as sold (37.044 million) during the same three months in 2012.

On its own, iPhone generated more revenue, $51.182 billion, than all of Apple in any quarter in fiscal 2012 and, singly, three of the four quarters in each of FY 2013 and 2014. The amount also exceeds every fiscal year through 2009, which revenue was $42.905 billion.

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I sold my MacBook Pro and bought a Chromebook

Toshiba Chromebook-2 keyvoard

Yesterday afternoon, a San Diego State University student bought my MacBook Pro—13-inch Retina Display, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD—for $1,100. I purchased the laptop from local dealer DC Computers in late-August 2014 for a few hundred dollars more. The buyer's interest was my own: Mac, large SSD, and extended warranty (expires April 2017).

The proceeds go to buying Toshiba Chromebook 2 (two, another for my wife) and Android phone for her. She moves from iPad Air, which has been, since September 2014, her PC—and that experience should be another story (be patient). If time travel was possible, I would keep, rather than sell, my Chromebook Pixel early last summer. The Chromie lifestyle suits me best, and I am excited to be back to it. However, in December, when reviewing the tech products that changed my digital lifestyle last year, including the switch to Apple's platforms: "I can’t imagine using anything else". I lied to myself, and unintentionally to you.

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