Yoni Heisler

  • Apple R&D spending reached record levels last quarter

    To say that Apple had a stellar holiday quarter would be an understatement. For the quarter gone by, Apple recorded just over $18 billion in profits, enough to make it the most profitable quarter in corporate history. But lest anyone think Apple is easing up on the throttle, the company remains as committed to innovative endeavors as ever. Case in point: the company during its most recent quarter spent more on research and development (R&D) than ever before. In their quarterly earnings report, Apple relayed that it spent $1.895 billion on R&D, up from $1.3 billion during the same quarter a year-ago. Apple's previous high for R&D expenses clocked in at $1.6 billion during the company's June quarter. Of the uptick in R&D spending this past quarter, Apple writes: The growth in R&D expense during the first quarter of 2015 compared to the first quarter of 2014 was driven primarily by an increase in headcount and related expenses, including share-based compensation costs, and machinery and equipment to support expanded R&D activities. The Company continues to believe that focused investments in R&D are critical to its future growth and competitive position in the marketplace and are directly related to timely development of new and enhanced products that are central to the Company's core business strategy. As such, the Company expects to make further investments in R&D to remain competitive. As we detailed earlier this week, just because Apple doesn't hold flashy press conferences to detail the crazy new prototypes they're working with, it doesn't mean they're not innovating or that they're "boring." via AppleInsider

  • YouTube begins transition to HTML5 for default playback

    YouTube announced yesterday that videos on the desktop website will now default to HTML5 when loaded. In other words, HTML5 is kicking Flash to the curb. So much for all the pundits and analysts who a) thought Apple abandoning mobile Flash was a strategic mistake or b) believed Apple would eventually cave in and support Flash on the iPhone. Four years ago, we wrote about YouTube's early support for the HTML5 <video> tag and how it performed compared to Flash. At the time, there were limitations that held it back from becoming our preferred platform for video delivery. Most critically, HTML5 lacked support for Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) that lets us show you more videos with less buffering. Over the last four years, we've worked with browser vendors and the broader community to close those gaps, and now, YouTube uses HTML5 <video> by default in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8 and in beta versions of Firefox.

  • Apple destroys earnings estimates: Revenue of $74.6 billion on the back of 74.5 million in iPhone sales

    Apple a short while ago posted its earnings results from its 2014 holiday quarter, and per expectations, the company handily destroyed analyst estimates across the board, delivering a quarterly profit of $18.0 billion and revenue of $74.6 billion On Wall St., analysts were anticipating revenue to come in at $66.5 billion on the high end. Per usual, the bulk of Apple's revenue came from incredibly strong iPhone sales, boosted by immense demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. During the last three months of 2014, Apple sold an incredible 74.5 million iPhones, an incredible 46% increase from the same quarter a year-ago when the company sold 51 million iPhones. Apple's other big revenue generating products - the iPad and the Mac - also did respectable numbers. For the quarter gone by, Apple sold 21.4 million iPads and 5.5 million Macs. Apple's press release reads in part: "We'd like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "Our revenue grew 30 percent over last year to $74.6 billion, and the execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal." Earnings per share checked in at an impressive $3.06, a marked increase from $2.07 in the same quarter a year-ago. Apple's earnings, in addition to being boosted by outstanding Mac and iPhone sales, were also buoyed by Apple's ongoing stock buyback program.

  • How Touch ID thwarted Motorola's plans to incorporate fingerprint technology on the Nexus 6

    Apple's 2012 acquisition of the fingerprint technology firm AuthenTec reportedly thwarted Motorola's plans to incorporate fingerprint recognition into the Nexus 6. The news comes straight from former Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside who explained as much during a recent interview with The Telegraph. Indeed, the 6-inch Nexus 6, he can now admit, was stymied by just one of those big players. A dimple on the back that helps users hold the device should, in fact, have been rather more sophisticated. "The secret behind that is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier. So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren't there yet," says Woodside. Nonetheless, he adds, the addition of fingerprint recognition, "wouldn't have made that big a difference. Interestingly enough, if one goes back and looks at the inside story behind Apple's acquisition of AuthenTec, one finds that that the US$356 million purchase was quite the frenzied affair. Negotiations between Apple and the Australian-based AuthenTec began in earnest in February 2012 with Apple making it clear that it wanted to seal the deal as quickly as possible. In somewhat classic Apple negotiating fashion, the folks in Cupertino indicated that they were dead serious about the deal and had no interest in getting into a protracted bidding war. As a result, Apple said that if AuthenTec wanted to start soliciting bids from other major tech players, it would rescind its offer. Apple and AuthenTec ultimately inked a deal in July of 2012. A little more than a year later, Touch ID was introduced with the iPhone 5s. Since then, no company has yet been able to implement a fingerprint authorization scheme that can match the reliability and ease of use of Touch ID.

  • Apple is as "boring" as it's always been

    Microsoft last week surprised the tech masses when the company unveiled a futuristic holographic headset called a HoloLens. The device is a prototype for the time being, but nonetheless got many folks in the tech world excited. Microsoft's own website boldly declares, "The era of holographic computing is here." In the wake of Microsoft's uncharacteristically exciting HoloLens introduction, Engadget was compelled to ask why Apple isn't delivering in the excitement department the way they used to. Cutting to the chase, the Engadget editorial bluntly asks, "When did Apple become the boring one?" Has Apple, in fact, become boring? Is Apple on its way towards becoming a modern day IBM, a trustworthy behemoth far removed from the epicenter of consumer innovation and excitement? Not quite. I submit that Apple today is as "boring" as it's ever been. If anything, Apple's position as a "boring" company is the result of adhering to a business philosophy rarely prized in Silicon Valley, a philosophy which values finished products that ship by the millions over unfinished futuristic prototypes which are more likely to take up space in tech blog headlines than on store shelves. This, I contend, is a reflection of Apple's strength, not an indication that the Apple ship has veered off course. In the fast-changing world of technology, there are no shortage of companies who dream big in their attempts to bring futuristic technologies to the masses. Google, for example, is always interested in making bold bets on eye-catching and snazzy new technologies. Amazon last year invited us to envision a world filled with messenger drones capable of autonomously delivering goods within 30 minutes of purchase. And just a few months ago, Elon Musk said that SpaceX is working on developing advanced micro-satellites that can operate in large formations and perhaps deliver low cost Internet access to the masses. So where is Apple in all of this? Where is Apple's vision of the future? Are people really pining for a modern-day version of Knowledge Navigator? Engadget writes: Apple is the mid-2000s Microsoft. Its revenues are as healthy as ever, but it's become a company that seems to make things just because it has to, that doesn't take risks, that plays catch-up. The closest it's come to a really exciting announcement in recent years was the launch of a niche pro desktop PC. Microsoft just showed the world some crazy exciting stuff. Holographic computing might not be all it's chalked up to be. HoloLens might never take off. Maybe people don't want to talk to their computers. We'll see. But Microsoft is trying to excite, or, to borrow an Apple buzzword, "delight" us all. If you're a huge tech company, you should be trying to do that every day. Apple might be trying, but it's not succeeding. So let me get this straight: Apple should be trying to delight us with products that, from the get-go, may not be all they're cracked up to be? Truth be told, the "Apple is boring" trope is nothing new. More often than not, such arguments tend to aggrandize vaporware and snazzy looking prototypes with limited mass appeal over technologies and products that are fully baked. Products that sell. By the tens of millions. Apple has never been a company to open up the doors to its R&D facilities, invite the press in, and boldly declare, "Look at all the cool stuff we're working on!" Apple spends billions of dollars on R&D every single year, undoubtedly working on crazy new and futuristic technologies. Hardly a secret, we're often privy to such endeavors via Apple's numerous patent filings; 3D hologram display? Check. iPhone with a flexible, wraparound display? They've worked on it. They've even patented laptop/tablet hybrids, wearable sensor strips, and all sorts of other "out of left field" ideas. The point here is simple: Apple doesn't dangle potentially cool technologies or products in order to tease us. It's not interested in exciting the tech elite with bold promises of a future that may never come to fruition. It's focused on one thing and one thing only: exciting consumers with products that they can buy, use, and love today. That's been Apple's business philosophy ever since Steve Jobs returned to the company in the late 90s. It's not an objectively "better" way to do business, but it's worked exceedingly well for Apple for 18 years now. Besides, keeping a product under wraps until it's close to shipping is a valuable strategy in and of itself. Shrouding upcoming products in secrecy adds an intangible element of excitement and interest when finally introduced. What's more, revealing a product too early is an easy way for expectations to spiral out of control, setting consumers up for nothing more than utter disappointment. In stark contrast to Apple, we have a company like Google. I think it's awesome that the company is obsessed with pushing the technological envelope. Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page is admirably hell bent on moonshots. That's great, and as a result, exciting Google headlines are never in short supply. Just about a year ago, Google announced its smart contact lens initiative, a project designed to help diabetics measure their glucose levels via a miniaturized glucose sensors embedded in a contact lens. How's that for a sexy headline? It all sounds amazing until you actually dig a little bit deeper. In the wake of Google's announcement, Gigaom's Om Malik expressed his frustration with the search giant's noble project. But after the initial excitement was over, cold reality set in. It also prompted me to ask the question: why is it that a company with such good intentions fails to ask itself very basic of questions, something a normal human being would ponder before embarking on a scientific quest? For example, why would they ignore the fact that as a diabetes patient, it is generally recommended that I not wear contact lenses. Yes, I understand that there are many different opinions about this, but it is generally thought of as smart to not wear contact lenses, as they always carry the risk of increased complications for diabetics. And on top of that if you have say, astigmatism (like I do), then contacts are less of an option. And here's the kicker: Apple itself has worked on ways for diabetics to monitor their glucose via non-invasive means. I have it on good authority that Apple a few years back hired some super smart engineers and scientists to explore the possibility of developing a technology capable of measuring user glucose levels via the skin. If realized, such a technology would have been a medical breakthrough of the highest order as diabetics today primarily gauge their glucose levels via drawing blood. If Apple had announced its research in this area to the public, perhaps with a press release a'la Google, the headlines would have been overwhelmingly exciting. But again, it's simply not in Apple's DNA to let everyone know what they're working on. The point here is that Apple could easily appear more "exciting' in a heartbeat if it wanted to. The perception that Apple is "boring", I think, is merely an expressed dissatisfaction with Apple's longstanding business philosophy. And as for the glucose initiative, it was eventually scrapped after Apple realized just how technically and medically challenging it was. Google Glass is another example of how a futuristic device can easily make for better headlines than a worthwhile product. Google Glass, as a product, quite frankly sucked. The device was unquestionably comprised of cool technologies and it was certainly impressive that Google was able to cram everything into a small form factor. But as a product people would actually want to use and derive some enjoyment from, there was nothing to suggest it could actually thrive outside of nerd circles, if even that. Don't get me wrong, I love that there are companies out there like Google who aim for the fences and have no qualms about releasing untested prototypes into the wild. This certainly makes them an exciting company to follow, but it hardly means that Apple, in contrast, is nothing more than a boring old company slogging along while getting technologically lapped by competitors. Funny enough, many Apple products now deemed "revolutionary" were scoffed at upon their release, the iPod being the most notable example. Following the iconic music player's introduction in October of 2001, many were quick to dismiss Apple's foray into music altogether. A MacRumors thread from that era has since taken on a life of its own, with gems such as: I still can't believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! Who cares about an MP3 player? I want something new! I want them to think differently! Why oh why would they do this?! It's so wrong! It's so stupid! Even today, exciting new advancements in iPhone functionality are either a) glossed over or b) quickly forgotten a few months down the line. Today, in 2015, millions of people, literally, unlock their smartphone by using their fingerprint. The introduction of Touch ID happened just 16 months ago! Today, untold numbers of consumers can purchase items simply by holding up their iPhone to a payment pad. Apple Pay didn't go live until this past September! I contend that many of the technological advancements Apple has helped usher into the mainstream, from high quality mobile displays to fingerprint authentication, work so seamlessly that we often forget they're there in the first place. Is this boring? I don't think so, but it certainly seems dull if you compare it to Microsoft's vision of the future as depicted in this 2011 video. At the time, John Gruber wrote of Microsoft's exciting new vision for the future: This video encapsulates everything wrong with Microsoft. Their coolest products are imaginary futuristic bullshit. Guess what, we've all seen Minority Report already. Imagine if they instead spent the effort that went into this movie on making something, you know, real, that you could actually go out and buy and use today. Apple isn't a better company because it keeps its R&D initiatives hush hush. It's merely the reflection of a different business philosophy. Again, it's great that companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have a propensity to dream big and are open about sharing their visions of the future. It's undoubtedly exciting. But, once again, I disagree that Apple's own philosophy makes them boring as a result. It's also worth pointing out that Apple, as the top dog in the consumer electronics industry, doesn't have the luxury to release a few duds and keep on truckin'. Google Glass can be (read: is) a flop and it's no sweat off their back because they're primarily a search and advertising company. Microsoft's HoloLens can crash and burn and no one will bat an eye because, well, Microsoft's revenue comes from Windows and Word. Now imagine if Apple were to come out with some type of funky prototype and declare: "This is the future!" Almost instantly, the company would be trashed in the headlines. Reflexively, pundits would scream and shout that Apple had lost its focus. Talking heads would opine that the company was prioritizing unfinished and untested technologies over products that actually generated revenue. Then, a series of predictable headlines would read just the opposite of Engadget's: "Is Apple too focused on being exciting?"; "When did Apple lose its edge?"; "When did Apple turn into an ordinary company?"; "Is Apple's betting on the future because they can't compete in the present?" And if further down the line, Apple's ballyhooed prototype or grandiose vision for the future failed to take shape in a timely manner, the headlines would be even more ominous. Apple simply isn't going to go down that route. Apple picks its shots strategically. Accordingly, the company is not prone to fads, a fact clearly evidenced by the company's aversion to the netbook craze from a few years back. Over and above that, Apple has historically concerned itself with making products better as opposed to inventing the future, so to speak. As Rene Ritchie of iMore wrote last week: Apple wasn't first to music players, or phones, or tablets, or watches. The company won't be first to VR, or AR, or HUD, or TVs, or self-driving cars, or whatever else their competition is publicly workshopping at the moment. Apple will pick and choose carefully and, like the company always says, only enter the categories in which they think they can make a real difference. In other words, Apple is going to keep on being the same old "boring" company it's always been. Apple products today are comprised of truly incredible technologies. They were released with no public prototyping, no "look at us" press conferences held in 2011 to talk about what Apple was thinking of doing a few years down the line. So while it's great that Amazon has its drones and Microsoft is apparently moving forward with futuristic headsets, the fact that Apple isn't prone to releasing futuristic prototypes is a reflection of the company's strength, not an indication of its weakness or penchant to be "boring."

  • iPhone may have accounted for 50% of U.S. smartphone activations last quarter

    Next week Apple will release its earnings from the 2014 holiday quarter and, per usual, the key figure analysts will be honing in on will be iPhone sales. By all accounts, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus release has been a sweeping success. On Wall Street, most analysts are anticipating iPhone sales to check in somewhere between 65 million and 71 million units. By way of comparison, during Apple's 2013 holiday quarter, the company sold 51 million iPhones. In other words, Apple next week may very well announce earth shattering and record breaking iPhone sales. Highlighting the strength of Apple's two new iPhone models, CIRP research today issued a report indicating that the iPhone accounted for 50% of all smartphone activations during the December quarter. CIRP's report reads in part: The strength of the September 2014 launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus fueled Apple's dominance in US mobile phone sales this quarter," said Josh Lowitz, Partner and CoFounder of CIRP. "Apple had virtually double the sales of Samsung, and five times that of LG. No other brand accounted for as much as 5% of US sales. The Amazon Fire and Blackberry smartphones registered slight share, which we attribute to random sample fluctuation as much as actual sales." Previous reports from other research firms have also pointed to exceptionally strong iPhone sales for the quarter. We'll know the full landscape of Apple's most recent financial quarter next Tuesday when the earnings report will be released. Make sure to stick around TUAW as we'll also be providing a liveblog of the accompanying earnings conference call.

  • 31 years ago, Apple's iconic "1984" ad was broadcast nationally

    31 years ago today, Apple's legendary "1984" commercial was broadcast nationally during Super Bowl XVIII. The advertisement, directed by the famed Ridley Scott, is to this day still considered one of the top commercials of all time. Over the years, the commercial won innumerable awards, including a 2003 Hall of Fame award from the World Federation of Advertisers. In celebration of the commercial's 30-year anniversary, former Chiat/Day ad executive Steve Hayden sat down with Forbes last year and relayed a few interesting tidbits surrounding the creation of the advert. For example, Hayden noted that a memo from Steve Jobs regarding the tone of the commercial simply stated, "Stop the world in its tracks." As an additional point of Apple trivia, the commercial, contrary to popular belief, did not only air once. Rather, the commercial in its entirety aired once nationally but actually debuted on December 31, 1983 on a TV station in Twin Falls, Idaho. The timing here was no accident. December 31 was chosen so that the advert could be eligible for that year's advertising awards. The location was also no accident as the nighttime viewing audience in Twin Falls, Idaho wasn't exactly large.

  • It's time to slow down the Apple Watch hype train

    Over the past few months, we've seen a number of analysts predict how well the Apple Watch will sell, with some of the more optimistic takes claiming that Apple may sell upwards of 40 million units during the first 12 months of availability. Many analysts and pundits contend that the Apple Watch will sell in high volume because, well, it's an Apple product. While Apple has certainly engendered an unparalleled level of brand cachet thanks to the success and ubiquity of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, the Apple Watch is an entirely different type of product altogether. Which is to say, it's far too early for anyone to confidently predict that the Apple Watch will be a rousing success, let alone a game-changing product. The Apple Watch is undoubtedly the most unique product Apple has ever come up with. Touted as the most technologically advanced product ever designed at 1 Infinite Loop, there's no question that early adopters will flock to the device, but whether or not it can become a mainstream hit remains open to debate. Sure, it might be nice to receive texts and other types of notifications via the wrist, and maybe the ability to send your heartbeat to friends will take the world by storm, but a sharply defined use case for the Apple Watch that can justify lofty expectations remains elusive for the time being. A dizzying array of unanswered questions Despite an abundance of creative names to describe what the Apple Watch is, it remains, at the most basic level, a fashion accessory Apple hopes consumers will wear on their wrists every single day (after taking it off every single night to charge). This is a huge bet that can only pay off if Apple can successfully maneuver through a market in which it has little to no experience -- personal fashion. What's more, the sheer number of unanswered questions which continue to surround the device renders optimistic sales estimates exceedingly premature. Most glaringly, we still have no idea what the pricing matrix across the various models will look like, aside from the $349 pricepoint for the entry level Sport models. Taking an optimistic look at the impending Apple Watch release, the insightful Neil Cybart over at Above Avalon writes: Why people will buy an Apple Watch: 1. It's a cool watch. The Apple Watch is a watch with a customizable digital face and a selection of interchangeable bands. 2. It looks nice. The Apple Watch has a clean, fresh, design that strikes a balance between luxury and technology. 3. It's made by Apple. The Apple Watch is designed in California by the same company that is responsible for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Over the past few months, I've learned to change the way I explain Apple Watch to friends and family. Instead of starting out with a list of reasons why they may enjoy an Apple Watch, I now begin with a pretty simply explanation: Apple is making a watch with customizable faces and bands. I then let that person respond, and depending on their answer, I mention how Apple Watch can serve as a communication device, a health and fitness tracker, or a mobile payment facilitator. As a result, I now get a much more open response from people that want to see and learn more about Apple Watch. That is how Apple will sell Apple Watch. I disagree. This may be how Apple might attempt to sell the Apple Watch, but I believe Apple will have a challenging time convincing users to shell out a few hundred dollars for a companion device that can perform a few nimble functions. What's the key selling point? Bueller? Customizable faces and bands are certainly cool, but are they cool to the tune of, say, a theoretical selling price of $550? Remember, the Apple Watch will not be a subsidized luxury item a'la the iPhone.​ And as opposed to a smartphone -- a device one arguably needs (or where the desire is so great as to effectively becomes a necessity) -- we haven't yet seen a killer use-case for the Apple Watch. Moreover, many of the marketed features of the Apple Watch aren't exactly new. Smartwatches from a number of companies over the past few years have had the the ability to control music, measure a user's heart rate, track fitness metrics, and receive and respond to notifications. Now Apple does have a few tricks up its sleeve with Apple Pay integration, Apple Watch sketches, what seems to be an intuitive UI, and perhaps more importantly, an impending watch-based App Store. But will this be enough for Apple to strike gold yet again? I think it's a tossup. Who's to say if iPhone users are pining for wrist-based notifications or if third party developers will come up with novel apps that will really dial up the appeal of the device. Only time will tell, which is precisely why the Apple Watch rollout will be incredibly interesting to watch. Not since the release of the original iPhone have we seen an Apple product launch with such a bevy of unknown variables. That said, there are no shortage of folks hyping up the appeal and potential impact of the Apple Watch. To wit, an recent TechCrunch article detailing the history of the watch industry writes of the Apple Watch release: Wrist real estate is precious and when a teenager of relative means looks at a $500 smart watch that allows him or her to send secret love letters to their sweetheart versus a $500 dumb watch in Burberry plaid, the decision will be quick and painful. This of course presupposes that teenagers, or adults for that matter, will be willing to shell out $500 in the first place for a device that essentially moves some iPhone-related functionality to the wrist. Again, an overarching and marketable selling point for the device hasn't yet emerged, which is why many of the more optimistic views on the Apple Watch focus on otherwise mundane features such as sending voice memos, checking the weather, and using Passbook. At best, we're presented with mildly interesting features such as the ability to control music on your phone, viewing mapping directions, or using the Apple Watch to control the iPhone camera. Don't get me wrong; taken together, the laundry list of Apple Watch features makes for an intriguing product, but I still fail to see a key use-case that leads me to believe the Apple Watch will be a homerun right out of the gate. Driving home the point that Apple still hasn't come up with a winning use-case with which to sell and market the device, it seems that Apple engineers themselves are still discovering novel ways the device can be used. Take a look at this quote from Jony Ive realyed during a talk held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art this past November. And because it's a new product, he said there's "a childlike awe and curiosity" about what the Apple Watch might do. As an example, he spoke about its alarm-clock function. "Just yesterday, somebody was saying, 'Wow, do you know what I just did? I set the alarm in the morning, and it woke just me by tapping my wrist. It didn't wake my wife or my baby,'" he recounted. "Isn't that fantastic?" Is Apple, as recently of November, still curiously trying to figure out what the device might do? And as for the subtle alarm, sure, that sounds cool, but aren't users supposed to be charging the device every night as opposed to wearing it? Even the Apple Watch website is somewhat convoluted, perhaps itself the result of a lack of focus as to just why people should by the device. Now compare that to one of Apple's early iPhone pages from 2007. The iPhone is positioned as a forward-thinking device that does a few important things extremely well. On the other side of the coin, the Apple Watch is apparently being positioned as a device than can accomplish a myriad of non-important tasks. The value proposition of the iPhone -- a widescreen iPod, the real Internet in your pocket! -- was so overwhelming that consumers were more than happy to overlook its shortcomings; 2G connectivity, no copy and paste, a mediocre camera, etc... The value proposition of the Apple Watch is less clear and it remains to be seen if consumers will be as willing to overlook its shortcomings; battery life, price, etc... The iPhone page above is simple, yet extremely informative. With just a glance consumers were able to recognize that the iPhone is a) a phone b) a widescreen iPod c) a web browsing device d) a place to take and store photos e) check the weather and stocks and much more. Are people open to wearing watches again? Price and functionality aside, Apple faces the arduous task of convincing potential consumers to adorn themselves with what effectively amounts to a piece of jewelry. It's a much easier sell than Google Glass, but a challenge nonetheless. The popularity of watches amongst mainstream consumers has waned in recent years. It's not an overstatement to say that phones, going all the way back to early days of the flip phone, have all but made wristwatches nothing more than timepieces worn more for appearances and style than for function. In order for the Apple Watch to succeed, the Apple Watch will need to be compelling enough to convince users en masse to start wearing a watch. Recent products from fitness-oriented brands like Jawbone or Fitbit demonstrate that owning the wrist, so to speak, can be accomplished. Still, purchasing a $99 Fitbit versus a theoretical $550 Apple Watch are completely two different things. Does the added functionality and aesthetic design of the Apple Watch justify a bump up in price of a few hundred dollars? Style may ultimately be the key selling point of the Apple Watch Now one thing Apple deserves an A+ for is that the watches themselves, as Cybart notes, look damn nice. And for all we know, the fact that Apple actually took the time to create elegant and alluring timepieces may be all the value proposition needed for Apple to have a huge hit on its hands. As opposed to other smartwatch makers out there, Apple understands that wearing a watch is a personal fashion statement. A watch is effectively a piece of jewelry and there is no such thing as a one style fits all. To Apple's credit, Jony Ive and his team of designers put together an impressive selection of watches than span a multitude of styles. Even traditional watch aficionados have heaped praise upon the design aesthetic of the Apple Watch lineup. Writing for Hodinkee, a popular wristwatch enthusiast website, Benjamin Clymer said the following in a widely circulated and comprehensive overview of the Apple Watch. And that leads me to my next point. Apple absolutely, positively, indisputably NAILED its straps and bracelets. In addition to offering a bevy of options from leather to fluoroelastomer to link bracelets to Milanese, it is here that you really see how much attention Apple was paying to the way people wear watches, and the how bad existing options were. The Apple Watch can take an integrated strap or bracelet, or one with wire lugs. It totally changes the look of the watch, and swapping them couldn't be any easier. Changing straps is one thing, but the attention to detail on the straps and bracelets themselves is downright incredible, and when I mentioned above that nothing comes close in this price range, it is very visible when talking about straps. So at the very least, Apple Watch buyers will know they're getting a finely made timepiece. Apple likely has realistic expectations itself I believe that Apple appreciates the inherent challenges associated with launching a product like the Apple Watch. Further, I think Apple is well aware that Apple Watch sales may not take off like a rocketship at launch. After all, the Apple Watch can only function as a companion device to the iPhone. That right there, despite the tens of millions of iPhone toting users around the globe, immediately shrinks the potential pool of customers down considerably. I don't believe Apple has any illusions about the first-generation Apple Watch representing a huge percentage of its quarterly revenue. Tellingly, Apple has no plans to break out Apple Watch unit sales as a separate item on its balance sheet. Rather, sales will be lumped together in an "other" category comprised of accessories like Beats headphones, iPods, and Apple TV units. The upside (there is one!) While I think initial Apple Watch sales may not be as high as some, one of the things I'm excited about is that the Apple Watch itself is a platform that will continue to grow and evolve. If Apple's iPhone lineup is any indication, there will be subsequent iterations and the Apple Watch will only get better as time goes on, i.e better battery life, GPS, more health-based wizardry. Another point in Apple's favor is its lineup of retail stores. In the U.S today, there are 262 stores across 46 states (sorry Montana, Wyoming, West Virginia, Vermont, and the Dakotas). On average, there are approximately 21,900 visitors per store each and every week. Together, these stores will provide a familiar, comfortable, and inviting space for consumers to go and check out the Apple Watch. It's hard to overstate how much of an advantage this provides Apple. At the same time, it also raises a few questions. Just how exactly will Apple let users see what the Apple Watch experience will be like? Again, the Apple Watch needs to be paired to an iPhone and a dedicated Apple Watch app which makes in-store demos somewhat tricky. Will the Apple Watch simply showcase a preroll demo? That seems weak. Somehow, someway, Apple will have to position the Apple Watch in such a way that users can fully appreciate and understand its full array of features. But how might this be accomplished when the full impact of the device requires a paired iPhone? This is a product launch that will really require Apple to pull out all of the stops, both monetarily and creatively. On top of this, Apple with the Apple Watch will need to deviate from its traditional consumer electronics marketing angle. Indeed, Apple will need to tweak its marketing with a fashion bent as well. Realizing that the world of fashion was outside of its wheelhouse, Apple over the past 18 months has hired a who's who of executives from the world of luxury fashion, most notably former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve and former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts. Perhaps with their expertise, Apple can successfully bridge the gap between fashion and technology and come up with creative ways for users to appreciate these traditionally diametrically opposed facets the Apple Watch. Apple Watch: more like the iPod than the iPad Having said all that, I don't necessarily think the Apple Watch will be a dud. I just don't think we know enough yet to confidently assert it's going to do gangbusters. Again, this is precisely why I think the Apple Watch launch is going to be so exciting to keep tabs on. As opposed to a new iPhone or a new Macbook Air, we don't know yet how quickly people will take to the device. Will there be lines? Will supply outstrip demand? At least with the iPhone we can make informed guesses. The Apple Watch launch is a complete mystery. One thing's for sure -- if any company can pull this off and get the masses excited about and interested in wearing watches, it's Apple. They have a passionate user base, a retail imprint unrivaled in the tech industry and, of course, a penchant for brilliantly fusing world class hardware with intuitive software. Still, if we take a step back from the hype train, I think it's more realistic to expect the Apple Watch sales trajectory to more closely mirror the iPod (which started out slow and steady) than that of the iPhone or iPad.

  • A developer's perspective on the benefits of incorporating Apple Pay within apps

    A few months in, we're starting to finally some some interesting metrics relating to Apple Pay. Just last week, for example, Bank of America disclosed that over 800,000 customers have already activated approximately 1.1 million credit cards via Apple Pay. Aside from the inherent security benefits of Apple Pay, the mobile payment platform is a boon to users because it provides an extremely quick and intuitive checkout process, not only in stores, but within applications as well. Because Apple Pay already knows a user's credit card and shipping information, paying for goods and services requires nothing more than a fingerprint. On this note, Merchbar last week highlighted some of the benefits they've seen with Apple Pay after incorporating it into their updated iPhone app. Merchbar notes that entering in shipping and payment details via Apple Pay is 7 times faster than using the mobile web and 5 times faster than using their desktop website. Our legacy (and still pretty fast) Merchbar App checkout process requires 103 seconds for customers to type in their full credit card and shipping information, whereas Apple Pay require just 17 seconds to provide us with the same information. Equally as important, Merchbar notes that conversion rates with Apple Pay are 6.3% higher than without it. One plausible theory is that Apple Pay is so quick and painless that there is less time for users to get discouraged, rethink their decision, or perhaps abandon a purchase due to laziness or a laborious checkout process. Merchbar also adds that because Apple Pay already houses user data, there is no likelihood of information being entered incorrectly. Less review, means faster decision making and ultimately likely enhances our ability to convert impulse buyers More than anything, most of the Apple Pay stories we've seen thus far have centered on the service from the perspective of banks and brick and mortar retailers. Merchbar's blogpost provides one of the first takes on Apple Pay as an in-app purchasing option and is well worth checking out in its entirety.

  • Developers behind Overcast and Monument Valley release iOS sales figures

    Since the inception of the App Store, Apple has doled out over $25 billion to developers. No wonder many folks make reference to the "App Store economy". While mere participation in the App Store is by no means a guarantor of success, it's always interesting to take a look at some App Store success stories. Developing a quality app often involves a whole lot of time and money, thus making it somewhat instructive and helpful to take a closer look at the amount of money certain apps are generating. First up, we have the podcast app Overcast from noted developer Marco Arment. Overcast debuted with a solid amount of press and an encouraging number of positive reviews this past July. Now, nearly 7 months later, Arment has opened up the books and allowed us a peek into Overcasts's financial history and health. Note, before you digest the figures below, that it took Arment 15 months of full-time work to develop Overcast. For calendar year 2014: 318,996 total downloads. Approximately 200,000 launched the app and got far enough to create an account. 46,940 in-app purchases (14.7%). $164,134 total revenue after Apple's 30% but before any taxes or expenses. $85,715 received in the first month alone. Arment's entire post is well worth reading in its entirety as he touches on a number of ancillary topics involved in getting an app up and running that aren't often discussed as part of the app development process. Also worth highlighting is a recent post/infographic from the developers behind the popular iOS game Monument Valley. Their sales figures are beyond astonishing. Also note the telling breakdown in revenue between iOS and Android.

  • Popularity of Swift is on the rise in a major way

    At WWDC 2014, Apple delivered a bombshell of an announcement when Craig Federighi unveiled Swift, a new high-level programming language positioned to be the future of iOS development. In a broad sense, the underlying goal of Swift is to make programming for iOS much more approachable than Objective-C, not a hard task given the latter's daunting syntex. Moreover, Swift aims to make it easier for developers to churn out incredible apps with less code, making for a more efficient development process all around. Objective-C, meanwhile, isn't going anywhere just yet. Naturally, it takes time for a new programming language to gain traction amongst developers. Moreover, there's never a guarantee that a newly introduced programming language will take off in the first place. Still, Apple has indicated that Swift -- which was in secret development for four years at Apple -- is the future of iOS development, so perhaps its time to check in and see how developers are taking to the programming language nearly 7 months after its debut. According to Redmonk, a research firm which tracks and ranks programming languages, developer interest in Swift is on a discernible, if not unprecedented rise. As was said during the Q3 rankings which marked its debut, "Swift is a language that is going to be a lot more popular, and very soon." Even so, the growth that Swift experienced is essentially unprecedented in the history of these rankings. When we see dramatic growth from a language it typically has jumped somewhere between 5 and 10 spots, and the closer the language gets to the Top 20 or within it, the more difficult growth is to come by. And yet Swift has gone from our 68th ranked language during Q3 to number 22 this quarter, a jump of 46 spots. From its position far down on the board, Swift now finds itself one spot behind Coffeescript and just ahead of Lua. As the plot suggests, Swift's growth is more obvious on StackOverflow than GitHub, where the most active Swift repositories are either educational or infrastructure in nature, but even so the growth has been remarkable. Given this dramatic ascension, it seems reasonable to expect that the Q3 rankings this year will see Swift as a Top 20 language. It's important to note, however, that these rankings do not necessarily correlate with developer adoption. As Wired points out, the rankings use "only two dimensions to rank developer interest: the number of lines of code in the popular code hosting and collaboration site GitHub, and the number of questions being asked about a particular language on the question and answers site StackOverflow." Given how young Swift is, it's hard to dispute that iOS development remains a primarily Objective-C endeavor. That said, the App Store remains the most lucrative mobile software storefront on the planet, and with Apple throwing its full weight and support behind Swift, it stands to reason that Swift will continue to make even more headway in the future. For anyone interested, Apple's Swift announcement from WWDC can be viewed below.

  • Chipotle "very interested" in Apple Pay

    While some companies like McDonalds and Whole Foods have embraced Apple Pay with open arms, a few big-time companies have elected to take a "wait and see" approach with Apple's nascent mobile payments platform. One such company is Chipotle. This past October, Chipotle Chief Marketing Officer Mark Crumpacker remarked during an earnings conference call: Well, right now, we don't have imminent plans to roll out ApplePay support. It's something we're considering for 2015. There are considerable technological constraints to implementing it just based on the way payments are processed with our system. We are in the process of readying the launch of our new ordering app in November. And when we do a rev of that -- in the middle of next year is our anticipated time -- we might include ApplePay. It's just a little bit too early for us to tell just given that we haven't sorted out all of the back-end issues. Now with 2015 well under way, Chipotle recently attended the ICR XChange conference in Florida. Reporting from the festivities, Jonathan Maze of nations Restaurant News relayed that Chipotle remains "very interested" in Apple Pay. Chipotle: Only 1% of orders come through a smartphone. But company is "very interested" in Apple Pay and how that plays out. #ICRXChange - Jonathan Maze (@jonathanmaze) January 13, 2015 At this point it remains unclear if Chipotle's interest in Apple centers primarily on POS machines within stores or if it extends to the Chipotle app where users can pre-order food and pick it up. It's worth noting that Chipotle isn't on board with CurrentC, the destined-to-flop competitor to Apple Pay that will likely launch later this year. As anyone who's ever been to Chipotle can attest, the nationwide chain is prone to insanely long lines that sometimes stretch out the door and down the block. That being the case, the value proposition of Apple Pay, with it being an extremely quick payment option and all, would be an ideal fit for Chipotle, or any other type of high volume eatery for that matter.

  • Bank of America says 1.1 million credit cards have been activated via Apple Pay

    Earlier today, Bank of America disclosed that they've had nearly 800,000 customers activate upwards of 1.1 million credit cards via Apple Pay. Though a small drop in the bucket relative to Bank of America's 60 million customer base, it's a promising sign that Apple's mobile payment platform is growing slowly but surely. The number of mobile banking customers increased 15 percent from the year-ago quarter to 16.5 million users, and 12 percent of deposit transactions by customers were done through mobile, compared to 9 percent in the year-ago quarter. Since the introduction of Apple Pay in October, nearly 800,000 customers have enrolled in the service, adding approximately 1.1 million cards. While a more telling metric would detail what type of transaction volume Bank of America is seeing with Apple Pay, the 1.1 million figure is certainly a good start. While Apple Pay currently works with the top banks in the country, not to mention a slew of regional banks as well, Bank of America has been actively promoting the payment platform as part of a huge advertising push which includes national TV spots. Further, the splash screens on many Bank of America ATMs feature Apple Pay ads. Currently, official Apple Pay support remains a U.S.-only service, but as we've indicated previously, job listings from Apple point to the service expanding overseas sooner rather than later. Specifically, a job listing posted last month relays that Apple is looking to get an Apple Pay team up and running in London with the company ultimately aiming to expand the service into Europe, India, Africa, and the Middle East. Since Apple Pay went live last October, the service has reportedly been doing quite well. Recall that Apple Pay transactions at Whole Foods during the month of November accounted for nearly 1% of all purchases made.

  • Official BlackBerry Twitter account sends out tweet from an iPhone

    We've seen this play out numerous times before: a celebrity Samsung spokesperson (typically), supposedly a Samsung smartphone user, messes up and accidentally tweets something from his or her iPhone. What we haven't seen before is a company itself make the same type of hilarious faux pas. Well, now we have. The official BlackBerry Twitter account this week sent out a tweet from an iPhone of all devices. The tweet has since been deleted but The Verge managed to capture a screenshot. Again, this isn't the first time, and likely not the last, we've seen such a misstep. For instance, there was a time when Soccer star David Beckham was a Samsung global brand ambassador. And during that same period, he was also an avid iPhone user. And as another quick example, here's a shot of supermodel Kate Upton helping promote the launch of the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet back in August of 2012, complete with her trusty iPhone by her side.

  • Apple granted patent for GoPro style wearable camera

    Apple in 2014 filed over 2,000 patents which, together, encompass a dizzying array of technologies and futuristic ideas. And while many of the patents granted to Apple will never see the light of day and aren't worth much of a mention, some are certainly worth highlighting. Case in point: Apple was recently granted a patent for a wearable camera a'la GoPro. In fact, Apple, in its patent filing, references some weaknesses inherent in GoPro products. Not all that surprising, when news of the patent broke, shares of GoPro fell by nearly 9%. As for the patent itself, Apple's vision for a wearable camera includes the ability for it to be mounted on a variety of items, from surf boards and bikes to even dog harnesses. Patently Apple, which keeps a close eye on Apple patent filings, provides further details: In this particular granted patent report we cover a single invention that relates to a camera system. What's interesting here is that Apple's invention that was filed in 2012 appears to now incorporate intellectual property from Kodak that they acquired back in November 2013. In one implementation, Apple's invention could directly move into GoPro's territory as the patent specifically mentions the weaknesses of the GoPro devices. Specifically, the patent notes that the new camera system could be secured to various objects, such as a bike helmet or scuba mask, or mounted to the handlebars of a motorcycle or the front of a surfboard. The new camera system also notes that an iPhone (smartphone) could be used under water to take pictures and record sounds in a water environment. Waterproofing is a given. While the notion of Apple releasing a GoPro style camera may not make much sense at first, recall that the iPhone 5 in 2014 was the top camera on Flickr, which is to say that Apple is no stranger to the world of photography. Indeed, though the first iPhone sported a forgettable camera, Apple over the past few years has poured untold engineering resources into camera technology. The end result, today, is that each new iPhone model is typically best in class upon its release.

  • Sacrificing logic and profits at the altar of smartphone marketshare

    Evan Williams, who helped co-found both Twitter and Medium, recently wrote an excellent piece articulating the futility and shortsightedness of using one-dimensional metrics to ascribe success or failure to Internet companies. Williams elegantly lays out why cherry-picking one particular piece of data and wholly ignoring other important factors paints an inaccurate picture of the degree to which companies are thriving. As a quick illustration, Williams uses his own site -- Medium -- as an example. Medium had its biggest week ever last week - or so we might claim. By number of unique visitors to medium.com, we blew it out of the park. The main driver was a highly viral post that blew up (mostly on Facebook). However, the vast majority of those visitors stayed a fraction of what our average visitor stays, and they read hardly anything. That's why, internally, our top-line metric is "TTR," which stands for total time reading. It's an imperfect measure of time people spend on story pages. We think this is a better estimate of whether people are actually getting value out of Medium. By TTR, last week was still big, but we had 50% more TTR during a week in early October when we had 60% as many unique visitors (i.e., there was way more actual reading per visit). The point here is simple: Medium could have easily magnified the importance of unique visitors to create a false impression of their success. All the while, more telling stats, like the amount of time visitors actually spend reading articles, would have been conveniently pushed aside and ignored. Now how, you might be wondering, does this all relate to Apple? Well, the tech sphere that Apple operates under is embarrassingly prone to the type of one-dimensional and misguided thinking Williams warns about. Apple is curiously examined under a microscope where important metrics are ignored while others are given far too much weight. No where is this more apparent than when analysts and pundits exalt smartphone marketshare as the supreme yardstick of Apple's health. To be blunt, exclusively relying on marketshare data to gauge the state of Apple's iPhone business, and Apple overall, is inexcusably and fundamentally lazy. As a representative example, check out this 2013 piece from Jay Yarrow of BusinessInsider, a widely-read website bizarrely obsessed with evaluating the complex world of the smartphone market primarily via marketshare statistics. The article's title alone doubles as a tutorial on how to craft a sensationalized and linkbaity headline. It reads: Alarm Bells Should Be Ringing At Apple: It's Getting Absolutely Creamed By Android, Which Now Controls ~80% Of The Smartphone Market. The article, as one would expect, starts from the position that marketshare alone reigns supreme and that Apple should adjust its business model (via the rollout of a low cost iPhone, of course) in order to make marketshare gains. Now this isn't to say that marketshare isn't important. It is. But it's just one of many factors to consider when evaluating the health of Apple and the vibrancy of iPhone sales. And sadly, Business Insider isn't the only offender. For whatever reason, tech pundits and even mainstream news outlets lazily and primarily rely on marketshare data when assessing the strength of Apple's business. The simple reality is that marketshare numbers alone are anything but instructive and, in Apple's case, inexplicably overshadow more telling statistics such as profitshare and overall profits. Apple's profitshare in the smartphone market is exceedingly high, with some analysts noting that the iPhone accounts for a whopping 86% of all industry profits. That is insanely high, not to mention incredibly impressive given the iPhone's low marketshare. And yet, alarm bells should be ringing because of allegedly worrisome marketshare reports from the guesstimators at research companies like IDC? It's downright strange and unabashedly lazy. Isn't the point of a business to make money? And so, there is never a shortage of enterprising tech pundits and headline-hungry analysts eager to predict Apple's fall from grace by conveniently ignoring data points that are equally important as marketshare. While Apple's ability to skillfully and consistently generate tens of billions of dollars in profit every year is arguably more important than marketshare, there are also important facets of marketshare data that are rarely considered by those so eager to ring the alarm bells in Cupertino. Brand Stickiness For instance, there's something to be said for the degree to which consumers remain beholden to a brand. Whether you call it brand loyalty or the "stickiness" of a brand, the fact remains that iPhone users are more likely to remain under the Apple umbrella than Android users are likely to stay within the Android ecosystem. Shouldn't this data help color an otherwise one-dimensional metric? Doesn't this suggest, strongly, that Apple's marketshare on a unit by unit basis is inherently more valuable? Indeed, Apple argued this very point during its 2012 courtroom battle with Samsung. There, Apple pointed out that because an iPhone owner is likely to purchase other iPhone devices in the future, losing a potential customer to a Samsung iPhone ripoff had long term ramifications on Apple's bottom line that extended far beyond a lone missed sale. As for cold hard data, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) in August of 2013 collected a year's worth of smartphone loyalty data and discovered that 81% of iPhone users were likely to stick with the iPhone when purchasing a new phone, compared to 68% of Android users. All Things D reported at the time: During the period CIRP surveyed, nearly three times as many Android handset users switched to iPhone as iPhone users switched to Android. Between July 2012 and June 2013, iPhone poached 20 percent of its users from Android, while Android captured just seven percent of its users from iPhone. Not all users are the same Another consideration is that not all users are created equal, which is to say that some consumers are more coveted than others. This notion underscores the existence of consumer demographics exist in the first place. It's why advertisers are willing to pay much more to reach an NFL-watching 25 year old male in New York City than a 55 year old woman who watches the local news in Springfield, Illinois. In the smartphone market, similarly, the type of consumers a company attracts can be just as important as overall marketshare. Tim Cook himself, in articulating why marketshare figures don't perturb him, said as much in a 2013 interview: I think it's important that we grow, but I don't measure our success in unit market share. So if there are a lot of $69 tablets sold that you're just pounding on to get something to work and get some responsiveness, and it's thick and fat and just a terrible experience, I don't really weigh that unit of share like I do a different unit of share. I don't weigh them to be equivalent. iPhone users, on average, tend to have more disposable income and tend to spend more money on mobile apps. This is why developers, even today, often focus first on iOS and on Android later. To date, Apple has doled out over $25 billion to developers. The strength of the iPhone ecosystem vs. Android is an important variable, yet again, curiously ignored at the altar of marketshare. As analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Co. explained about a year ago: Observers, seduced by the simplicity of the metric, have elevated market share as the sole driver of financial performance to a position that far exceeds reality. Indeed, there appears to be no correlation between market share and the viability of a platform. In surveying the variables that determine the viability of a platform, we would argue that the breadth and depth of the platform's application library and ecosystem play a far more important role than does market share. As another quick illustration pointing to the strength of Apple's ecosystem, iOS users on Black Friday in 2013 accounted for 21% of all mobile-based e-commerce sales, with an average order of $121.61. Android, meanwhile, accounted for just 4.6% of sales. Moreover, Nanigans, a large purchaser of Facebook ads, found that the overall clickthrough rate and return on investment on ads served through iOS is much higher than on ads served through Android. Usage Stats and the marketshare equation Another factor to consider: usage stats. What good is marketshare if consumers aren't using your product? A number of research reports have found that iPhone users engage with their device more frequently than Android users. A 2013 study from Experian, for example, found that iPhone users on average spend 26 more minutes per day on their device than Android users. Over the course of a year, that's approximately 158 more hours that iPhone users remain glued to their screens compared to Android users. The benefits of this dynamic are overwhelming. On this note, Brian Hall writes for ReadWriteWeb: For carriers, the iPhone's advantage in engagement makes it more valuable: more usage = more bandwidth = higher revenues. That will help Apple continue to hold carriers hostage to its hefty subsidy demands. For users, any additional costs of an iPhone over an Android device is more easily justified by in the additional value gleaned from the extra usage. For app developers, the additional usage makes the iPhone a more appealing platform for their products. These numbers should help cement iOS' pace remain the go-to platform for smartphone app developers.... Smartphone marketshare often measures different products Blanket marketshare statistics often lump all smartphone models together into a neat, tidy pile. While this makes analysis easier, it's not necessarily the most strategic approach. The iPhone 6, for example, is a premium device and is an altogether different class of device than a free, low-end, and off the shelf Android. Shouldn't an instructive marketshare analysis take this into consideration? It's akin to evaluating the health of Porsche by comparing its sales to Toyota's sales. In 2013, Toyota sold 1.22 million cars. Porsche, meanwhile, sold 162,145 cars. And yet, who out there is declaring that Porsche needs to play the marketshare game? Are alarm bells ringing in Germany? Keeping things in perspective Marketshare is an interesting metric, and when used properly, it can certainly be informative. But relying on it exclusively is akin to judging NBA prospects solely based on their height. Proper and insightful analysis always requires an appropriate context and an intake of multiple variables. Unfortunately, such factors rarely make an appearance in ostensibly in-depth Apple analyses. What makes the marketshare discussion even more bizarre is that Apple has never been a company to blindly go after marketshare simply for the sake of marketshare. Which is to say, it's not as if Apple is failing to accomplish one of its core objectives. On this note, Williams writes: If you look at the other best tech company there is - Apple - it's also clear they are not optimizing for number of people using their products. While network effects (and revenue) mean that they clearly care about that, they've built the most valuable company on the planet by focusing on building the best product possible - in fact, one of their strategies is building an integrated set of products and selling as many of them as possible to the same user (at a healthy margin). And besides, marketshare statistics are easy to manipulate, either via evaluating shipments to stores (and ignoring actual sales) or via short-term marketing efforts such as RIM's old strategy of introducing "Buy 1 get 1 free!" BlackBerry promotions circa 2008/2009 in an effort to artificially inflate its own marketshare figures. Consider this: Name one smartphone manufacturer that wouldn't want to immediately trade positions with Apple. In what bizzaro Seinfeld world would a manufacturer gladly hold onto meaningless marketshare at the expense of an explosion in profits?

  • After 11 years, iTunes "Single Of The Week" is no more

    BusinessInsider is reporting that Apple is ending its longstanding "Single Of The Week" promotion after 11 years. As the name implies, Apple, for 11 years on end, promoted a new song every week that iTunes users could download for free. No free songs have appeared on iTunes in 2015, making people wonder whether Apple has killed off the promotion for good. "Bob Foss" writing on the official Apple support forum, says an Apple employee confirmed to him that the promotion has been discontinued. The discussion post in question reads, "I contacted iTunes Support and they told me the decision was made to drop the free Single of the Week. Seems they don't want people browsing the Store anymore. I told them that the free single each week got me to the Store and I usually bought a few songs. Now, there's less reason to go. They've stopped the free single in other countries too."

  • Apple patent holdings in 2014 increased by nearly 13%

    When Creative Technology sued Apple over the iPod's UI design in 2006, Steve Jobs was incensed. Ultimately, the lawsuit prompted Apple to start taking patents much more seriously. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the design process of the iPhone. As recounted in a 2012 New York Times article: Privately, Mr. Jobs gathered his senior managers. While Apple had long been adept at filing patents, when it came to the new iPhone, "we're going to patent it all," he declared, according to a former executive who, like other former employees, requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. "His attitude was that if someone at Apple can dream it up, then we should apply for a patent, because even if we never build it, it's a defensive tool," said Nancy R. Heinen, Apple's general counsel until 2006. And so, Apple's patent portfolio began to rapidly increase in size. Flash forward to 2015 and Apple is a patent filing machine. Though still not the nation's top patent filing company, Apple in 2014 increased its patent count by over 12 percent. The IFI Claims Patent Service reports: A total of 19 U.S.-based companies appear on the 2014 IFI CLAIMS Top 50, up from 18 in 2013 and 17 in 2011 and 2012. Google enters the Top 10 for the first time at position #8-up a remarkable 38.6 percent-trailing #7 Qualcomm by just 21 patents and only 263 patents shy of #5 Microsoft. Apple, at #11, makes impressive gains as it continues its push toward the Top 10 increasing its patent counts by 12.8 percent, just ahead of #12 General Electric and 92 patents short of #10 Panasonic. All told, IBM in 2014 was granted more patents than any other company on the planet, 7534 to be exact, and significantly ahead of Samsung which occupied the number two spot with 4952 patents. Apple, checking in at #11 on the list, was granted 2003 patents. The full list of patent-crazed companies can be viewed in its entirety over here.

  • Spotify userbase grows to 60 million active users and 15 million subscribers

    As the world awaits the impending (we hope) integration of Beats Music and iOS, Spotify continues to march along an upward trajectory. Earlier today, Spotify announced that its popular on-demand music service now has 15 million subscribers and 60 million active users. The last time Spotify publicly released subscriber information, it boasted of 12.5 million subscribers and 50 million active users. What's more, and underscoring the impetus behind Apple's Beats acquisition, recall that revenue from Spotify in some markets is outpacing revenue from iTunes downloads. This past November, for instance, we highlighted how revenue generated from Spotify in Europe was 14% higher than revenue generated by iTunes Music sales in Europe. As for when we might see Beats finally land on iOS, the Financial Times (which initially scooped Apple's Beats acquisition) relayed that Apple has plans to bundle Beats into iOS in early 2015, perhaps as soon as March. On that note, one can only hope that Apple implements Beats as a standalone app on the iOS homescreen as opposed to burying it within the iOS "Music" app a'la iTunes Radio

  • Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging Apple knowingly released MacBook Pros with faulty logic boards

    With class action suits against Apple seemingly initiated every few weeks, it's easy to keep track of what's happening where. That said, you might recall a suit recently levied against Apple alleging that the company purposefully sold MacBook Pros circa 2010/2011 that it knew contained faulty logic boards. Now Reuters is reporting that U.S. District Judge William Alsup recently dismissed the case, noting that the plaintiffs did not meet their duty of showing that Apple's advertising materials -- wherein they called the MacBook Pro "state of the art" -- misrepresented the quality of the notebooks. "Plaintiffs have failed to allege that Apple's logic boards were unfit for their ordinary purposes or lacked a minimal level of quality," Alsup wrote. "Both plaintiffs were able to adequately use their computers for approximately 18 months and two years, respectively." Note that this case is different from a 2011 class action filed against Apple alleging that 2011-era MacBook Pros came with faulty GPUs which required out of pocket repair costs of upwards of US$600.