Wearables, Payments, Chickens & Eggs (@stratechery)

Another great take on Apple’s entry into mobile payments from Ben Thompson, who believes the wearable device will be the centerpiece in making this happen:

That’s where Apple’s ability to move units simply because they are Apple becomes something that is an incredible weapon: suppose 10% of iPhone customers are willing to buy a wearable with some cool fitness functionality mainly because it’s built by Apple. Boom – suddenly there are 80 million wearables with payment functionality out in the wild. Moreover, the customers sporting said wearable are likely to be both vocal about their desire to use said payments, and high spenders to boot. That’s a very good way to spur merchants to install what will likely be a free payment device, available at your local Apple Store. 

He also argues that having this functionality baked into a watch or other wearable makes payments a very different proposition than having it done through the phone:

Moreover, I’d bet the difference between using a wearable for payment and using your phone will be greater than most people expect. I have no particular evidence for this outside of my own experience with keyless ignition systems in cars; the first time we got it, I thought it was a tremendous waste of money (it was part of a package); since then, I can not imagine buying a car without it. Saving a bit of hassle and a few seconds on a daily basis really adds up; it’s the type of subtle experience improvement that is Apple’s biggest differentiation.

A mobile scan via a watch that’s always at-the-ready and alleviates the friction associated with pulling out of a phone, opening the proper app etc.? Sign me up.

h/t MediaREDEF

Apple courts fashionistas as smartwatch expectations mount (@Reuters)

Apple Inc has invited top fashion editors and bloggers in unprecedented numbers to its Tuesday launch gala, further evidence that the iPhone maker is preparing to take the wraps off a smartwatch. Apple is forging closer ties to the fashion world as it plots its foray into the fertile field of wearable technology, trying to win over a critical crowd that may prove crucial to the success of consumer gadgets worn around the body.

Re:Code’s John Paczkowski: Apple Wearable Won’t Ship Until Next Year (@recode)

So that new wearable device Apple is introducing on September 9? It’s going to be a while before anyone is actually wearing it. Sources in position to know tell me it won’t arrive at market for a few months. “It’s not shipping anytime soon,” said one. So when does Apple plan to ship its eagerly anticipated wearable? That’s not clear, but my understanding is that we’re unlikely to see it at retail until after the holiday season — think early 2015. 

Even still, this is going to be one of the more eagerly anticipated Apple events in quite some time.

A16Z’s Chris Dixon and Ringly’s Christina Mercando on Wearables (@a16z)

This was actually recorded in late July but I happened to stumble on it while reading Benedict Evans’ (great) weekly newsletter. Have a listen if you have an interest in wearables: the state of the present market as well as what’s to come.

Sensors And Sensitivity (@techcrunch)

While this tech sounds very smart indeed, what’s even more interesting — from a tech trends perspective — is the growing potential of this anti-wearables approach of invisibly embedding sensors into objects with which humans interact.

So instead of having our bodies cluttered with electronic bangles that continuously quantify our existence, there’s an opportunity for more targeted applications of sensor technology, based on locating it in proximity to us — within objects we use, handle and interact with for specific purposes.

The key though, as with wearables, is the ability to have these sensors talk to one another in order to gather relevant data sets. Whether these devices end up on our bodies or the objects we interact with, isn’t really the point; although for those building this kind of hardware, working with companies to build these sensors directly into products their selling rather than selling directly to the consumer might be the way forward for mass adoption.

Xiaomi announces its first wearable device, a $13 fitness band (@TNW)

Popular Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has joined the wearables fray as it unveiled today its very first wearable device, a fitness band for only CNY79 ($13). The Mi Band features sensors for tracking various health metrics and can even act as an alarm clock.

Another nifty feature is that the Mi Band can even unlock a Xiaomi smartphone, eliminating the inconvenience of having to key in your password multiple times a day.

That’s actually damn useful.

I have no idea if, at that price point, they can produce a quality device. But if they can, that might facilitate a pretty substantial price drop among similar devices worldwide.

Minuum Demos Text Entry On An Android Wear Watch (@techcrunch)

The Android Wear devices currently available let you respond to texts as well as read them – but they employ either voice-based input or canned responses to do so, and neither is entirely ideal.

I have enough trouble typing (still!) on an iPhone screen. This may make it a little easier but the constrictions of a watch interface are still going to make this difficult. That’s precisely why I think Google has pushed voice commands so hard for these devices; no it’s not entirely ideal but the dorkiness of talking into your watch outweighs the inflexibility of a form factor that makes it damn near imposible to type unless you have small fingers. Even with assistance from something like Minuum. Look for this to be a continuing issue with smartwatches and wearables in general.

Google Glass lead Babak Parviz leaves Google, joins Amazon (@venturebeat)

Babak Parviz, one of the leaders behind the Google X project and Google Glass, confirmed his move to Amazon on his Google Plus profile over the weekend.

The only time I ever hear of anyone using Google Plus, btw: its own employees. 😛

There is little detail on what Parviz may be doing over at Amazon, but people who have been paying attention to Amazon’s new product announcements may be able to guess. On June 18, Amazon announced that it will be releasing the Amazon Fire, its first smartphone. Optics designers like Parviz can could help propel these type of devices.

I can see Amazon having interest in tapping into the wearables market, whichever direction that ends up going. Amazon has shown a propensity for exploring the same kind of potential moonshots as Google has (albeit to a much smaller degree) with delivery drones, on-demand delivery etc.

Nike fires majority of FuelBand team, will stop making wearable hardware (@cnet)

Nike is gearing up to shutter its wearable-hardware efforts, and the sportswear company this week fired the majority of the team responsible for the development of its FuelBand fitness tracker, a person familiar with the matter told CNET.

“As a fast-paced, global business we continually align resources with business priorities,” Nike spokesman Brian Strong said in an email. “As our Digital Sport priorities evolve, we expect to make changes within the team, and there will be a small number of layoffs. We do not comment on individual employment matters.”

At Google, Bid to Put Its Glasses to Work (@nytimes)

“I’m sure Google would love this to be a consumer technology, from a scale perspective, but I’m just not sure it is,” said Chris Curran, chief technologist for the United States advisory practice of PwC, a business consulting firm. “It’s a technology that’s searching for problems to solve, and it’s really a matter of where do the problems emerge?” he added.

I don’t agree. I think the problem of smartphone/device distractibility is an acute problem that becomes more pressing with every day that passes as we become more and more reliant on pulling out the phones in our pocket. Wearable technology in general (smartwatches, bands etc.) is an attempt at solving that so that we can make use of the technology at our fingertips in a more perfunctory way. So is Glass.

Unfortunately, Glass doesn’t solve that problem well enough (and at low enough cost) for it to make sense for 90% of consumers. At least not yet.

Cards, code and wearables (@benedictevans)

This question of where the code lives also of course applies to TVs and to cars as much as to wearables. With AppleTV and Chromecast and Carplay, Apple and Google are saying that though everything is becoming a computer, actually the ‘smart’ part should be concentrated in the smartphone or tablet – something that’s easy to update, that’s replaced every couple of years, and that has a rich touch interface, and everything else should be a dumb sensor or dumb glass or both. And so the apps should only be in one place, and whether it should be an ‘app’ in a strictly technical sense is also up for debate.

The Google Glass of Helmets Wins at SXSW (@dothingscon)

From the Designers of Things blog:

It’s interesting to see a heads-up display specific for driving in light of the backlash Google Glass has received when used in the car, but this isn’t the first wearable HUD for people on the move. Vancouver’s Recon Instruments has already seen success with its HUD for snowboarders and skiers, the Recon Snow. And Recon’s upcoming wearable for bicyclists, the Recon Jet, is a much anticipated device for later this year.

Video below:

Amid a spike in investment, wearable technology is still a trend in search of a purpose (@PandoDaily)

Either way, the next hurdle for wearable technology to clear now the money is flowing the right way is create something past an activity tracker that proves itself indispensable, that makes sense in a deeply organic way and can show off wearables to be more than very clever technology that no one actually needs.

Jawbone Said to Be Raising $300 Million at $3 Billion Valuation

Via Bloomberg:

Jawbone, the maker of wearable Web-connected devices, is raising $300 million at a valuation of about $3 billion, two people with knowledge of the deal said. Rizvi Traverse Management LLC, one of the biggest investors in Twitter Inc. (TWTR), will probably lead the financing, which is oversubscribed, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the round hasn’t closed.

Sensor Platforms: Providing Context to Smartphones (@scobleizer)

Good interview w/Scoble with a company on the hardware side working on sensors that can read into context: where your phone is at a given moment, who’s using it etc. This is what the app layer will be tapping into in the years ahead. I liked Kevin’s answer to the privacy question.

Building a Better Battery (@nytimes)

Nick Bilton & Brian Chen profile the innovation taking place in battery life from Apple, Google & independent startups alike, why the innovation cycle has lagged behind chips and what the implications mean for the future of wearables:

Although computer chips have doubled in speed every few years, and digital displays have become significantly brighter and sharper, battery technology is largely stuck in the 20th century. Device makers have relied on incremental improvements to battery power, now usually supplied by a decades-old lithium-ion concoction, in combination with more energy-efficient chips and screens.

h/t VentureBeat

Doing Something First Versus Doing Something Right (@parislemon)

I’m still shocked each time I see Apple’s competitors clearly rush something out the door, almost like the real world version of the classic “FIRST!” blog comment. And I’m more shocked that they’re shocked each time they fail.

This is overly simplistic. It’s not as if Apple’s competitors are pushing inferior products out the door on purpose. Not to mention there have been attempts at smartwatches long before Pebble, Samsung, Qualcomm got involved that go back 30+ years. So while they may be “first” if you define first (in modern day tech parlance) to mean “before Apple enters the market,” these competitors feel they’re using today’s technologies to iterate on what’s failed previously. To say they’re all rushing their attempts out the door is way too broad a statement to make.

Through a Face Scanner Darkly (@NewYorker)

Harrowing privacy concerns have been a staple of Glass since it came into being. There are going to be people who avoid it simply because of matters like this. Hard to blame them. It doesn’t help that the founders of the app aim to make this opt-in by default. Conversely, something like this really would be helpful for networking in the context of big events. For years, startups have been trying to find something that would kill the business card. This could potentially do it. But do the shady use cases outweigh the useful?