I’m on board with the idea that the mobile ecosystem is, as of now, in a state of flux. Ben Evans posited the same idea last week. However, some of this I disagree with:
The persistent belief among analysts that as much as 90% of the current mobile phone market (nearly 5 billion users) will transition to smartphones is a religious ideal, nothing more. Repeat after me: There is no total addressable market (TAM) for smartphones. The very concept is a fiction. Indeed, we may already be within months of Peak iPhone, a year or two from Peak Smartphone.
Peak iPhone is one thing. Peak smartphone is not nearly as likely to happen, at least not for the next several years. When an Android handset can be sold off contract for as much as the prototypical dumb phone, there doesn’t leave much incentive to remain with the latter. Will there still be clamshell phones here and there? Sure. And the laggards that do end up trading in their dumb phones for a basic smart phone model probably aren’t going to do anything with it in terms of apps. Indeed, they’ll probably just look at it as getting a new phone. But I can’t see a scenario where the vast majority of the dumb phone market isn’t going to disappear globally.
Then there’s this:
I carry my smartphone with me all the time and use it for far more than I can list here. For the majority of that time, however, I don’t actually need a “smartphone”. What I really need is something like a credit card-sized piece of glass that supports rare but necessary voice calling, possibly video calling, can display a virtual keyboard for texting, and includes a mag-stripe (and/or chip) for payments. Create this and the smartphone market is gone, reduced to the equivalent of the dusty home desktop PC. Given the rapidity of innovation in this market, I should reasonably expect to have my (truly) smart card by no later than mid 2016. No iPhone necessary — in barely two years.
Essentially, an enhanced Coin that can do more than just facilitate payments. I could see that as a new device category, perhaps. But not one that would replace smartphones for the vast majority of people.
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.
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.
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.
PrimeSense became widely known in the sensor technology space for its early work with Microsoft’s Kinect gaming product, which uses cameras and depth sensors to capture players’ motions and incorporate them into Xbox gameplay.
In subsequent years, PrimeSense has expanded its product line to include more hardware than the original large, stationary sensor seen in the Kinect, creating new, smaller sensors targeted at more compact devices. The company’s Capri model, for example, seems particularly well suited for the mobile market.
“The convenience aspect of using a watch for interaction while leaving the larger-screen phone or tablet in the bag or pocket is something that users can relate to and probably recognize its value,” concludes Zimmermann. “However, there are still several significant barriers to mainstream adoption, including low interest and awareness among consumers, poor design and price.”
A smartphone companion-only until 2017? I don’t know. Plenty of innovation can be crammed into 3-4 years. Bigger question is whether or not we’ll see any innovation in battery life to account for more computing power packed into smaller and smaller packages.
Ben’s on point in the vast majority of his insights and this case is no different. The China thing is especially fascinating since it’s such a black box. For developers, how do you reach these people, assuming they really are just using these cheap tablets simply as an additional TV? Are there simple, in-market apps that might entice the owner to take the plunge? Or is the aversion just too strong? It’s kind of wild to comprehend using a tablet as just a dumb screen since we’ve been so accustomed to fleshing out our tablet experience with apps.
Lots of neat innovation in writing instruments of late. FiftyThree just came out with another: a stylus that allows for a finer, richer experience on Paper, the popular drawing app for iOS. You can draw, erase and otherwise use the stylus in as natural a fashion as you would pen & paper.
The only drawback of course is that it’s not an open standard. Indeed, all of the current stylus-to-tablet options appear to be closed ecosystems, only compatible with their app of choice. Hopefully, this changes in the long run. But if you’re a heavy Paper user, this is bound to serve you really well.
Price points & more information are on FiftyThree’s web site.
Edit: Bill Morein, Product lead at FiftyThree posted this on HackerNews in response to the top comment on the story:
Pencil isn’t designed to only work with Paper. Anyone who is interested in an SDK for Pencil should let us know what they are thinking about.
business AT fiftythree DOT com