Breaking: Snapchat Database Leaked, usernames & phone numbers compromised

I’m only going to link to the discussion on Hacker News because the people who leaked the database are making it available for download and I don’t want to give them the traffic. But this is a poor job by Snapchat after essentially ignoring the issue for months and then releasing a half-hearted statement a few days ago saying how it wasn’t much of a big deal. Guess it was a bigger deal than they thought.

Samsung Got A Bigger Tablet Boost For X-mas Than Apple, Says OnSwipe (@TechCrunch)

Specifically, the company looked at visitors to Onswipe-optimized sites for the period of Dec. 26-29 in comparison to Dec. 19-22, as a way to measure the growth that different tablet platforms saw over Christmas. The results? Samsung’s Galaxy tablets grew 50.4 percent, Nexus 6 tablets grew 33.8 percent, iPads grew 20.4 percent, and Kindle Fires grew 19.5 percent.

Of course Samsung tablets, as the article points out, were starting from a much smaller baseline than the iPad.

Apple Says It Is Unaware of NSA’s iPhone Backdoor (@allthingsd)

Here’s Apple’s statement:

Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone. Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. We care deeply about our customers’ privacy and security. Our team is continuously working to make our products even more secure, and we make it easy for customers to keep their software up to date with the latest advancements. Whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple’s industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers. We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.

The Future of Medicine: Ingestible Sensors

Yesterday, I made the prediction that Glass and wearable computing in general would evolve over a 10 year lifecycle to reach mass market. Double that time for initiatives like this. Especially when you factor in regulatory considerations and how long it would take the FDA (and their international equivalents) to give it the green light. And of course the privacy concerns will always give a certain segment of the population pause because now you’re dealing with very sensitive data outputs that have traditionally been protected by the patient-doctor relationship. But it may be worth it if this proves to be true:

One of the biggest health advantages of these devices is using the machines to help treat chronic illnesses, said Arna Ionescu, director of product development and user experience at Proteus Biomedical, which is working to make digital medicines. “The thing about chronic illness it’s not something that can be solved at one appointment, it’s something that you have to manage and deal with every single day of your life,” Ionescu said. “So we are creating tools that can go in peoples’ hands and help them deal with those chronic illness.”

An Influx of One-Star Ratings thanks to new Android widget (@AndroidPolice)

Earlier this month an update to the Play Store began rolling out with a brand new ratings widget appearing on the main landing page and within landing pages for each major section (Apps, Movies, Books, etc.) The simple card encouraged users to give a score of 1 to 5 stars on a previously downloaded (or claimed) item in exchange for some suggestions about similar items they might be interested in. While this seemed like a relatively innocuous addition, obviously intended to drive additional downloads, it seems to have had a unexpected negative effect: Several developers are reporting a drastic rise in 1-star ratings on otherwise successful apps.

I read these stories and find it hard to believe that app store algorithms take such reflexive (and in this case, possibly mistaken) actions by users so seriously when determining which apps rank highest. Very flawed.

The Decentralization of the PC (@benbajarin)

The center is now mobile. The mobile market is bigger than the PC market. The mobile Internet is bigger than the desktop Internet. The mobile Internet is the first class citizen and the desktop Internet is secondary to it. The world is already mobile. The PC will still live on and sell hundreds of millions of units annually while mobile devices will grow and sell billions of devices annually. Each plays a role as a part of a computing solution. The cloud will keep all our devices in sync, allowing us to choose any number of screen size and form factor combinations as a part of any individual computing solution.

Is the App Market maturing? (@FlurryMobile)

Maturation of the app market means that changes are in store for app developers. The gold rush days of huge jumps in the overall size of the connected device installed base on Christmas, followed by a dizzying rush of app downloads are fading.

The high water mark for X-mas day app sales was actually 2011, according to Flurry’s numbers. It was down slightly in 2012 and took a more precipitous drop this year.

Update: Business Insider has taken it upon themselves to extrapolate from this that we’ve reached “peak mobile,” which I think is a wild over-dramatization for page views. To take a single data point on a given day to posit that app growth isn’t just beginning to taper off but that’s actually going to begin declining across the board is completely silly.

Smart Watches and Computers On Your Face (@marcoarment)

I find myself in agreement with a lot of what Marco has to say usually. But this:

But why do we need “smart” watches or face-mounted computers like Google Glass? They have radically different hardware and software needs than smartphones, yet they don’t offer much more utility.

And this:

We already have extremely powerful devices that we’re barely using the potential of — we don’t need to divide our attention and resources further to add new device categories to our lives that aren’t massively better in normal use than what we already have.

I disagree with.

There are two premises being made here:

1. Wearables are (already) a lost cause because the first generation of devices have already been defined by their lack of fashionability and utility

2. They serve as a distraction for consumers, developers and the still-growing mobile ecosystem at large.

I wrote in a previous post of not being overly concerned re: lack of fashionability of wearables. When you look back through history, plenty of nascent technologies looked unbecoming at first. The giant cell phones of the 80’s and the Bluetooth headsets of the early 2000s were geeky too, with plenty of naysayers questioning their utility, particularly at the time they first arrived. That is until Moore’s Law kicked in and over time, they became less obtrusive, leading to more people using them, leading to them eventually becoming more ubiquitous in society.

Now  with regard to utility, I absolutely agree with Marco that the current incarnation of wearables isn’t there yet. Glass in its current form will have to get much better even to get to market in this first incarnation in order to justify what will still be a hefty price tag at launch. And we all saw how the Galaxy Gear was widely panned. But I’m also willing to give it time. Surely if we’re giving smartphones the benefit of the doubt and speak of how they haven’t reached their potential as a category (I agree), why can’t we say the same for wearables instead of writing them off as unnecessary? We’re not even in the first inning in this game yet and some already want to pull the plug. I think it’s short sighted.

Moreover, why is it suddenly a zero-sum game between wearables and smartphones? Glass, for example, already runs Android and the GDK will leverage Android APIs. To what level of scale would companies be dividing resources and become distracted building apps for Glass?

We’re in the very early stages of what I believe to be a 10 year curve for wearables. The first wave of these devices: smart watches like the Gear or face computers like Glass, will function as more or less a smartphone companion. As data around usage patterns informs the construction of new and better devices, I think you’ll see them become more and more independent and have much more prominent use cases, both in consumer settings (pictures, navigation) and in industry. Additionally, because of their proximity, we should finally get to the point where we can rely on voice recognition to complete tasks in a way that we’ve never been able to do at the desktop level or even with services like Siri and Google Now on our smartphones.

Now despite being bullish on these devices as a whole, I’m probably more bearish on the timeline for early majority adoption than some others. As an example, BI thinks 2016 will be the year Glass becomes mainstream. I actually think it’ll be longer than that. But I don’t think it’s anywhere near time to write off wearables as a potential new category in hardware, nor do I see any reason why consumers and technologists can’t focus on exploring the benefits of both in tandem.

Google partnering with Audi on in-car, Android-based system

And so the new battleground for Apple & Google has been set. I think it’s great, frankly. Getting smartphones to work correctly in cars is always a hit or miss proposition and the proprietary dashboards/apps produced by car manufacturers are usually awful. Hopefully, these partnerships empower consumers with more seamless experiences. The only thing that worries me is the potential for these to become closed systems to whomever happens to have one or the other device. For example, if the Audi partnership allows Android users more options to control functionality from their phone, that’s great….so long as they don’t disregard iOS users completely.

From @scobleizer: Meta Augmented Reality Glasses (@metaglasses)

Long interview, very thorough from Scoble. Covers a lot of ground having to do not just with Meta but the entire augmented/wearable market at the moment. Having experimented with Glass over the last month, I can tell you that Meron is dead-on about its screen size restricting a great deal of what I thought would be some of the core functionality that would make wearable eye computing worth having. Browsing any kind of content on Glass, for example, aside from the normal cards you get from Gmail & Twitter is a very frustrating experience right now.

So contrast what appears to be Google’s methodology with how he describes the Meta team’s philosophy at 14:00: rather than “making (the device) sexy before it’s useful,” start out by building it with much larger screen real estate in the hopes that Moore’s Law will eventually wittle down the size of sensors to the point where the form factor gets smaller but quality can remain more or less the same. And if you look at the prototypes they’ve done, it’s got a long way to come down to be even the size of Glass, let alone the form that most of the punditry feels will allow eye computing to attain critical mass. But I think their reasoning is solid and hopefully they’ll be able to glean enough data over time to build a device that does enough to warrant its own category.

WeChat Isn’t a Messaging App (@frankjwu)

The messaging features serve as a replacement for email, texting, and IM. Like WhatsApp, a lot of people are opting to replace their traditional SMS plans with more data and using WeChat to fill in the gap. Throw in the network effect, and even those that don’t choose to forego SMS find themselves on WeChat more and more as well in order to interact with their friends.

Snapchat Downplays Phone Number Matching Hack (@techcrunch)

Snapchat hadn’t provided a public statement until now, and what it’s offered isn’t very satisfying. “Theoretically, if someone were able upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a database of the results and match usernames to phone numbers that way. Over the past year we’ve implemented various safeguards to make it more difficult to do.”

 

Christmas Gifts and the Meaning of Design (@stratechery)

Nice read for founders and anyone building anything, really:

The most fundamental part of design is truly understanding your customers at a deeper level than they even understand themselves. Moreover, to truly be design-centric is harder than being market centric. Things like surveys and focus groups persist because, while the products that result may not inspire love, they don’t inspire hate – or worse, apathy – either.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if this isn’t a reason contributing to the lack of ingenuity sometimes seen on display in the case of mobile apps, where you have a multitude of copycat apps all fighting to build essentially the same piece of software, with the same core functionality. We all know that true innovation is hard enough as it is. But when the rules set by the app stores make it exceedingly difficult for an app that isn’t flawlessly intuitive out of the box to recover and gain ground, you start to wonder if it isn’t working to stifle innovation; if developers are just saying ‘screw it, I’ll build what I know will make money rather than gamble on something that may be groundbreaking but hard for people accustomed to doing the same things to conceptualize.’

King of PCs, Lenovo Sets Smartphone Ambitions (@nytimes)

I could see this working out reasonably for them. They already have significant brand equity in the budget PC space and while their Android tablets have gotten mixed reviews, you would think they could take what they learned to build quality phones at entry level prices. A pretty massive turnaround from 2008:

In 2008, its chief executive at the time, William J. Amelio, sold the company’s fledgling mobile business to an investor group for about $100 million. He was seeking to focus the company’s efforts on PCs as it wrestled with the effects of the global financial crisis. The decision proved to be shortsighted. A year earlier, Apple had introduced the iPhone, setting the stage for the mobile Internet revolution. In 2009, Lenovo corrected the error by ousting Mr. Amelio. The new chief executive, Yang Yuanqing, bought back the mobile unit — at twice the price — and went to work regaining ground.

Ouch.

3 Lessons from 3 Years on the App Store (@robjama)

Some practical tips on app development from someone who’s been there. Good stuff here, particularly when you think about how many iterations you have to go through to get something fine-tuned enough to warrant publishing to the App Store and avoid a bunch of 1-star ratings that’ll put you in the hole before you’ve even gotten to the starting line. And this attitude is refreshing, particularly in light of all of the “me too” apps being built around the same use cases:

Making an alarm for iOS isn’t as easy as it seems, especially if your goal is to make the best (side note — this should always be your goal when making an app; if it can’t be the best in it’s category then why pursue it?).

You can read more recommendations from the TinyHearts team here.

WSJ: Do We Want an Erasable Internet? (@fmanjoo)

I don’t know why this debate (usually triggered by Snapchat since it’s the most recognizable form of ephemeral media) so often delves into an absolutist argument for one or  the other. The truth is that both Internets can and should co-exist. Data can and should have a shelf life. And that shelf life can and should be 10 minutes, 5 weeks or forever depending on what the originator of that data thinks it should be. Thankfully, Farhad reaches the same conclusion at the end of this piece:

Big Snapchat-like growth could mean that we’ll have a Forever Internet and an Erasable Internet living side by side. Some users mainly will choose apps and services that save our data by default, while others will choose instant deletion.

It may end up that the Erasable Internet lives exclusively on mobile and that ephemerality becomes convention on smartphones whereas anything that interacts with the traditional, browser-based, desktop experience remains accessible forever, subject to the laws and rules of Big Data. Plus, so many social networks being built on mobile are closed systems anyway, when you think of all of the mobile messaging apps that are walled gardens and only allow data to be shared between existing users of the app.

 

LG mum on smartwatch rumors, confirms wearable device is coming (@engadget)

The journal’s insider sources pegged the devices as companions for the alleged LG G2 successor and said they’d arrive alongside it at Barcelona in February for MWC 2014.

Similar to the Galaxy Gear, if it only functions as a companion product to whatever new smartphone LG is coming out with, I can’t see it having much use, especially if there are only a handful of apps available at launch. I’m assuming it will run Android although LG has its own app store for its TV products and maintains the LG SmartWorld app store for its line of smartphones, including those that run Android. Maybe their thought process is that releasing them both simultaneously and marketing them as a conjunctive experience will ultimately push sales of both. I think it’ll still be a tough sell unless they can prove the watch has its own demonstrated value-add that can actually enhance your day-to-day life and do tasks better and more efficiently than the phone would. But that’s indicative of the problem facing the entire wearable market, not just LG.

The Black Car Company That People Love to Hate (@nextcityorg)

Nice long-form read on Uber that steers (mostly) clear of dogma on both sides of the equation when bringing up some of the hot-button issues around push-button-cab rides (e.g. regulation, surge pricing.) and also the “sharing economy” at large.

A big part of the fight in Washington is that regulators are hungry for exactly that data. “Tell Mayor Gray,” Kalanick emailed customers and fans back in May, while the D.C. Taxicab Commission was wrapping up its rulemaking process, “there will be no snooping on Uber’s trip data!” Waters, the commission spokesperson, says that without Uber’s data, “we don’t have any way of monitoring or verifying” the notion that Uber is serving parts of D.C. where it’d been difficult to get a ride in the past.

Obviously, they don’t have to. But so long as its an isolated data-set that isn’t used for any other purpose, it may be beneficial for Uber to give them a peek under the hood, if only to verify the legitimacy of the data.

In 2014, mobile advertising will grow up (@pandodaily)

The predominant format for mobile ads through 2013 has been highly ignorable, small mini-banner ads at the top or bottom of a screen within an app. Mobile advertising 1.0 companies like AdMob, Quattro, Millennial, and Greystripe popularized these formats.

Short-format, punchy video ads that last five to 10 seconds will become the preferred ad units over 150×20 text placements. They’ll benefit from larger screens, too.