Trying on the Apple Watch and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

So, I did try on the Apple Watch. Contrary to cities like San Francisco where appointment times were fully booked, Miami’s Apple Stores had some slots available. Courtesy of my sister’s overnight babysitting, I made it to the crowded Apple store at 9:30 PM on launch day, April 10.

I have to hand it to Apple for making Apple Watch would-be buyers feel special. The watches were available to touch and to play with around the store but trying them on was limited in a cordoned-off area within the store. I can only guess that the Gold Edition was to be tried on somewhere else.

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Unfortunately, the functionality of the watch was not really apparent. The watch that you try on is in a pre-installed loop of Apple apps. You can dial the crown and tap on the demo watches but it was hard to tell just how well the watch will perform in real life. There was quite a bit of a lag which could either be software-related or a result of an overburdened wireless network. Siri responded to my query of giving me directions to the nearest Shake Shack – with some lag but again it could have been due to connectivity. Some of the watches I tried on were also a little hot to the touch but I’m not sure if that will be a problem with real-life use. Not much to report on its functionality then.

But. It is a beautiful watch. Let me rephrase that – the Apple Watch selection of bands are beautiful. The Sport Edition is so-so and makes the watch look cheap but everything else is beautifully designed. The Milanese Loop felt really good to wear and surprisingly light. Apple’s idea of using magnetic closures make the watches very convenient to put on.

So, my verdict? If Apple set out to make a watch that will appeal to the fashion crowd and overcome the nerdy factor of buying a wearable, then they have succeeded. Because functionalities aside, people will buy it for the looks. The bands alone made me want to switch back to iOS, that’s how beautiful it was and I’m not alone. The watch was sold out in 6 hours, pushing the delivery date to June. Reportedly, 1M units have been sold but Apple hasn’t released the official sales figures yet.

Here are the most relevant news in tech and retail this week:

In tech:

  1. The European Union formally accuses Google of antitrust violations, fines could reach $6.4B; Google releases a blog post in response to allegations; great summary of the case here
  2. IBM and partners (including Apple) launches Watson Health Cloud, will provide a cloud platform and analytics for Apple’s HealthKit and ResearchKit
  3. Space: NASA’s Curiosity rover has found salty, liquid water on Mars; SpaceX’s sixth official mission to resupply space station a success but drone ship landing was “too hard for survival”
  4. Nokia confirms buy of rival Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 billion; acquisition to complete in first half of 2016
  5. Chinese social networking company Renren led a $70M investment in San Francisco-based peer-to-peer mortgage startup LendingHome

In retail:

  1. U.S. retail sales rebound, post largest gain in a year at 0.9%
  2. Online handcrafts marketplace Etsy IPO’s at Nasdaq, shares double on debut, valuing company at $3.88B
  3. LVMH reports jump in Q1 sales, boosted by weak euro
  4. China e-commerce company JD.com opens cross-border online shopping platform JD Worldwide in challenge to Alibaba
  5. Mobile shopping app Spring raises $25M at valuation of $90M
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Apple Watch is on pre-order today and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

Most of the snark and fanboy/girl-ism is here as Apple Watch goes on pre-order and appointments can be had to try it on. As someone who has predicted that despite the snark, people will still buy it (and they have, at least in China where the Gold Edition is sold out), I have an interest in how it performs. So despite my being a Google fangirl, I made an appointment to try on the Apple Watch Sport tonight. On that same note, when my husband read my post here about the iPhone 6 still having the best camera on a smartphone, he became convinced that I should put up my Nexus 6 for sale on eBay and get myself an iPhone instead. For a few minutes, I let myself imagine being back in iOS and then I snapped back to reality and said – no, absolutely not. I share, post, take notes across several apps (photo editing, social, productivity, messaging) and Android lets me do that with no problems. In fact, I was able to upload the Android screenshot below to this post in WordPress within the photo app while I had to open the Gmail app and attach the iOS screenshot to send to myself so I can upload to this post. I mention it because I’m pretty sure that once we’re there trying the Apple Watch, I will salivate over the iPhone camera. This is sort of a reminder to myself of how painful so many other things are on iOS. Btw, you might want to hold off on that iOS 8.3 update (new emojis!) for now – the update breaks Touch ID purchasing for some users.

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Sharing a photo on Android (with even more apps below screen)

 

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Sharing a photo on iOS

Here are the most relevant news in tech and retail this week:

In tech:

  1. Professional social network LinkedIn to buy online training platform Lynda.com for $1.5B; 52% cash payout and 48% stock
  2. Apple acquisitions that recently came to light: startup Ottocat that organizes apps on the app store and now powers the “explore” tab; and startup Dryft that develops keyboard apps
  3. Ride-hailing service Uber launches cash-only rickshaw service in Indian capital, New Delhi
  4. Facebook is facing a privacy class action lawsuit in Europe, with 25,000 claimants
  5. HBO Now launches on iOS, Apple TV and online ahead of Game of Thrones new season; no need for cable

In retail:

  1. Apple Watch news: Purchases are online-only at launch; you can make appointments here; the Gold Edition is sold out in China; in less than 6 hours of pre-orders, shipping times slip to June for all models (original shipping time was on April 24)
  2. Amazon is now officially allowed by the FAA to test delivery drones in the US; company also acquired startup Shoefitr to improve how it sells shoes online
  3. Chinese e-commerce site JD.com stock rises after announcing warehousing and delivery agreement with Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo; Uniqlo now has flagship store in JD.com
  4. India’s biggest e-commerce company Flipkart partners with Mumbai’s lunchbox delivery men, “dabbawalas”, for last mile deliveries
  5. After Chanel’s announcement of a future e-commerce launch, the company tests e-commerce in partnership with luxury e-commerce site Net-a-Porter

Apple Watch and the continuing cult of Mac/iOS

News and commentaries, Technology

A few years ago in early 2013, I had a discussion with one of my MBA professors at Hult. We were both agreeing on the fact that Apple’s innovation pipeline is drying up – especially after the death of its visionary leader, Steve Jobs. I don’t know exactly what he meant but for my part, I was referring to Apple’s innovation pipeline in terms of its iOS and that users will eventually get tired of it. I was an Apple fangirl – having converted to Mac OS in 2005 when the cult of Mac was reaching the masses. I had a MacBook Pro (still do), an iPad and the iPhone 4S. I’ve been holding on to my iPhone 4s and was looking forward to the launch of the iPhone 5.

The launch came in September 2012 and it was such a disappointment in so many ways – both in hardware and in software. The screen, which was supposed to be bigger in the face of rising competition from Samsung’s bigger devices, was bigger but far from satisfying. The iOS was faster but there was just nothing more remarkable about it. I switched to Google’s Nexus right after that, betting on the Android platform. It was frustrating at first, the interface was not as intuitive and it did crash on me a few times. But once I got over that, I was able to do a lot more on my phone – I was no longer constrained by Apple’s walled garden.

However, I underestimated a few things: the ongoing marketing genius of Apple, the loyalty of Apple fans, and the devices’ easy, intuitive interface.

Marketing genius
This is probably most apparent in the launch of the Apple Watch. As I watched Apple’s live event on Monday, despite knowing what I know, I was almost swayed by the blitz. The phrase – “in a way that has never been done before” – almost got to me. Every. Single. Time. In some instances, it was true (eg. being able to call and receive calls via the watch) but in a lot of cases, it was just not true. The most egregious is by implying that the Apple Watch is the first of its kind. I can imagine the Pebble Watch and the Android Wear teams groaning and hurling epithets on their screens.

Early reviews are mixedNegative reviews in general point to a lack of a compelling use case for the watch. Furthermore, there does seem something douche-baggy about the Apple Watch Gold Edition, which starts at $10,000. It also says, “mug me.” But, in the end, do these negative reviews really matter? It’s not like conspicuous consumption is so out of fashion as to render the Ferraris and Hermés of this world out of business. It’s just another in a long line of status symbols.

As for a use case*, I have argued here that people will still buy the watch. Marketers call it the “halo effect”. In this case, potential buyers who already own an iPhone and who happen to like the experience, will most likely buy the Apple Watch. Furthermore, the Apple Watch can even be a gateway product – if you want to buy one, you will need to get the iPhone 6/Plus as well. It’s actually great – if you’re interested in wearables, you get the Apple Watch + iPhone 6 and if you have the iPhone 6, you’re going to be very curious about that Apple Watch.

The loyalty of Apple fans
It is so hard to believe now, but seeing an Apple product was like seeing a unicorn. Apple’s market share in consumer electronics was so marginal that one had to search wide to find someone owning an Apple computer. In the Philippines, they were practically non-existent in the 80s, 90s and even early 2000s. My first introduction was a desktop Macintosh – the interface of which was so foreign to me but the owner’s enthusiasm stayed with me. It was this encounter that guided my decision to buy my first MacBook.

It is such Apple owners’ enthusiasm that is perhaps the most compelling. Apple may have the marketing genius but it is the company’s ability to recognize customers as marketing  evangelists that continues to fuel Apple products adoption. A 2014 survey among 2,000 iPhone users found 60% of respondents to having “blind loyalty” to Apple.  Call them iSheep if you will but that loyalty has translated to healthy profits for the company and a rise in smartphone market share.

From: Statista.com

Easy and intuitive interface
My sister is not the most technologically savvy of electronics users. More than that, she has a healthy suspicion for expensive and fancy-schmancy devices. And yet, a few years ago, she finally got herself an iPhone and an iPad. She will likely upgrade to yet another iPhone/iPad soon. I mention this because the laggards in smartphone adoption – the holdouts and the older generation – simply find Apple’s mobile devices easier to navigate than Android’s. Even my 1 year old daughter has a much better time understanding Apple’s home button than my Nexus’ side home button. To be fair, that “home button” is patented so even if its utility has been proven, no other company can copy it even if they want to.

(Side note: One of the things that confused me about the Android OS when I first used it was: “Where are my apps?” On iOS, all the installed apps are at the “home” screen, even if that turns out to be several “pages” of “home.” On Android, there’s the home screen where (other than Google’s or the manufacturer’s default apps) you manually add your apps. Then there’s “all the other apps” that you can access by clicking sort of above the “home” button on the glass interface. I find that even hard to explain. Needless to say, the Android interface is definitely not for those who don’t want to spend time learning it.)

Furthermore, Apple devices simply have a much better camera than Android phones. This is actually not always a question of hardware. Most of the time, it’s just that Apple focused on relatively quick access, understanding that users just want something that will literally point and shoot. They focused on that first, sacrificing photo quality over speed. And then, they came up to speed with the hardware part. Now, the iPhone 6/Plus are on par with other phones in terms of image quality. I want to echo this article’s point and also fervently say:

I don’t want an iPhone, but dammit, I want the effortlessness of the iPhone’s camera

And with all the sharing happening on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Meerkat, etc., the quick and effortless composition of pictures and videos could be the driving force for a smartphone purchase.

Although, it is yet to be determined whether the Apple Watch and it’s newly-patented “crown” have the same ease of use as the iPhone/iPad, brand loyalty and marketing will definitely propel Apple Watch way ahead of the competition. Despite the initial protests, people who happen to be Apple users and who pride themselves on being early adopters, will buy the Apple Watch. They will become the watch’s evangelists and the cycle begins yet again for the profit machine that is Apple.

*By the way, there was not much use case for the first iPhone either. There weren’t that many apps, Internet browsing was so slow and for that price, who really needed it? Yet, look where we are now.

THE Apple Event* and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I wanted to preface this week’s news roundup with a commentary on the new Apple Watch but that commentary has ballooned into a full-blown post which I will most likely finish in the next few days. But that’s an Apple event for you, we can’t really stop at a few words to comment about it. At least for me anyway. But I also can’t let this week go by without saying anything about Apple’s newest products: the Apple Watch and the new MacBook.

First, the Apple Watch. Starting at $349 for the sport edition and starting at $10,000 for the Gold Edition (whaat?), reactions have ranged from excitement to contempt but the consensus seems to be that people will still most likely buy it.

But, enough about the watch for now though, I’ll save that for my full post. What about that Macbook? Only Apple could get away with sticking one port on a laptop with a $1299 price tag and then charge another $80 for each dongle for all other peripherals. Well, actually, we should probably be thankful. They could easily have gone with zero port, charge at least $200 for a wireless station for charging and make the laptop only work with Apple screens, Apple printers, Apple mouse, etc. But the most remarkable thing about this move? A new category of devices: a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop – tabtop?

Here are the most relevant news in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. Valuations/Investments: Snapchat is now worth $15B after Alibaba‘s $200M investment; Lyft valuation at $3B after raising a new $530M round led by Japanese e-commerce giant, Rakuten
  2. Earnings: Intel slashes almost $1B from Q1 revenue forecast as desktop demand weakens; Box first earnings report since IPO beats revenue expectations but earnings miss hit share price, down nearly 14.71% on Wednesday
  3. Acquisitions: Amazon acquires Internet of Things startup 2lemetry; Google in talks to buy Indian mobile advertising startup InMobi
  4. Genetic testing startup 23andMe Inc. will now use its repository of genetic data to develop drugs
  5. Alibaba and China’s largest car maker by sales, SAIC Motor set up a $160M fund to develop Internet-connected cars

In retail:

  1. Apple Watch Event: Apple goes defensive in advertising purchase with Twitter to prevent social media hijacking during Monday’s keynote; Apple stores remove Jawbone UP24, Nike Fuelband from their shelves to make way for Apple Watch’s arrival on April 24
  2. Senators bring back online sales tax bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act
  3. Earnings: Urban Outfitters reports 12% increase in Q4 sales led by Free People and Anthropologie; Italian fashion house Valentino reports 36% gain in revenues, 57% increase in earnings for 2014
  4. Europe’s largest online fashion retailer, Zalando, is selling 7.3% stake valued at €434M ($465M)
  5. US largest shopping mall operator Simon Property Group in a $22.4B hostile bid for rival Macerich; deal will combine two of US’ three largest shopping mall operators

*If you have been a reader of this blog, you would know that when it comes to Apple products, I do veer between admiration and incredulous disgust quite a bit so needless to say, this title has a hint of irony to it.

Apple Watch, gold and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

With the release of Apple invitations to a March 9 event – most likely for the Apple Watch – smart watches have been in the forefront of news lately. I have said in the past that I would jump on buying the Moto360 watch from Google/Motorola. But I really do have tiny wrists such that they simply looked ridiculous on me when I tried them on. It brings to mind, who would really buy these newfangled devices anyway? Apple is betting that with its focus on fashion (taking out a 12-page ad in Vogue magazine for example) will change people’s negative perceptions on smartwatches. Never mind that the Apple Watch will be very expensive and with fewer features than first announced, it will lead the pack in the current wearables market. I’ve talked at length about it here and why I would still stick to Android wear (just waiting for the slimmer models). So, you might hem and haw for now and skeptics will abound but if you own an iPhone, chances are, you will end up buying it at some point. Which, apparently, is not good for the global supply of gold. According to some reports, Apple plans to sell 1 million units of the gold edition per month. If demand reaches that month, it will use up a third of the world’s supply of gold. Maybe, it’s time to invest in gold futures or gold-mining companies.

Here are this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approves net neutrality policy by 3-2 vote; ensuring: no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization of online content
  2. Ericson to sue Apple Inc. for patent infringement on tech used in iPhones and iPads after Apple refuses to renew licensing agreement with Ericson
  3. Google acquisitions/deals: acquires Facebook marketing startup Toro for undisclosed amount; acquires technology and patents from mobile-wallet service Softcard; strikes a deal with wireless carriers (AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless) for the Google Wallet app to come pre-installed on Android phones sold by the carriers; invests $300M into Elon Musk’s SolarCity to finance ~25,000 residential solar projects
  4. Other Google news: launches Android for Work to keep work-related accounts/apps separate from personal info; newly-acquired Deep Mind has trained an AI to play 49 different video games
  5. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, inspired by Elon Musk’s hyperloop idea, will build a 5-mile test track in central California

In retail:

  1. Gap Inc. warns that US West Coast port dispute will cut current year earnings by ~4 percentage points (Financial Times paywall/sign-in required)
  2. New Pebble smartwatch, Pebble Time, raises $1M on Kickstarter in record time
  3. Earnings: Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands poster full-year forecast that miss analysts’ estimatesPrada SpA reported full-year sales that missed estimates as Chinese spending slows
  4. Online retailer Nasty Gal closes $12.7M in funding
  5. Amazon greenlights 21 titles from Kindle Scout, a crowd-sourced publishing platform that allows readers to vote for unpublished authors to get published

Apple Watch, Peter Thiel does AMA and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

No need to remind you that this week’s biggest news is Apple and its new devices, most notably the Apple Watch, which I wrote about in this post: Apple Watch: Nothing new but will still drive the wearables market. To give you a break from all things Apple, how about this Reddit AMA with PayPal co-founder, early-stage Palantir Technologies investor Peter Thiel:

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Read on for this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail:

In Tech:

  1. Apple unveils Apple Watch, “bigger than bigger” iPhone 6, phablet iPhone 6 Plus; launches payments platform Apple Pay; iPhone 6 Plus pre-order sells out in less than a day
  2. US threatened Yahoo with $250,000/day fine in 2008 to force release of user data; new court documents show
  3. Microsoft is rumored to be close to buying indie game Minecraft‘s parent company, Mojang for $2B
  4. Google introduces Cloud Platform for startups, offers $100K in credit; acquires opinion poll service Polar
  5. Payments platform Square reportedly raising $100M round of funding at $6B valuation as mobile payments heat up

In Retail:

  1. Paris-based L’Oreal SA buys Brazilian hair-color maker Niely Cosmetics Group with undisclosed sum; acquisitions this year top $5BLululemon
  2. Twitter public testing of “Buy” button with select partners including Burberry
  3. Earnings reports: Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay Co. reports fiscal 2nd-quarter sales up 87%; yogawear retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc. reports higher than expected sales and profits for fiscal 2nd-quarter, revenues up by 13%
  4. 4moms, maker of high-tech baby gear, closed $41M in second round of funding
  5. Here’s a great article on the effects of booming e-commerce on UPS‘ bottom line