Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for October, 2012

The Brief

The Brief is a selection of the day’s technology news, curated by Richard Dunlop-Walters, the same guy who runs Instapaper’s The Feature.

I’ve noticed something of an increase in these kinds of websites and mailing lists recently, such as Evening Edition, The Round Down, and, yes, The Brief. It seems to me that these are being born from a desire to cut down on the inevitable noise created by the constant rush of so many sources of news.

Art.sy Is Mapping the World of Art on the Web

Melena Ryzik reports for the New York Times:

Any music fan knows that there are myriad ways to find new songs online: a scroll through digital playlists and streaming radio services like Pandora, which serve as musical recommendation engines. Likewise, Netflix subscribers are regularly showered with suggestions for, say, romantic comedies and horror films, based on previously viewed movies.

But until now, there was no automated guidance for art lovers seeking discoveries online — no “If you like Jackson Pollock’s ‘No. 1,’ you may also enjoy Mark Rothko’s ‘No. 18.’”

Art.sy looks super interesting. They’re invite-only at the moment, but based on their tour, I’m quite interested in where this is going.

Why We No Longer Accept PayPal

Adam Pedley writes on the Blinkd blog:

Soon after I received a notification saying my account was limited pending further information. I had to provide documentation on my business to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing laws. As you know Binkd is really just a front for a large money laundering operation (this is sarcasm just to make that clear). During this time we could receive payments but couldn’t withdraw any funds. I sent off the information and was told to wait 72 hours. There were also some issues with providing the information and once they sorted them out I had another 48-72 hr wait.

Good riddance. I’ve used this quote from Elliot Jay Stocks before to allow clients to better understand PayPal’s role, and I think it’s worth repeating:

PayPal have all the power of a bank and yet none of the responsibility.

HTC Posts Record Profit Drop

Tim Culpan, writing for Bloomberg:

HTC Corp., Asia’s second-largest smartphone maker, posted a record 79 percent drop in quarterly profit as competition from Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc. drove down sales of the Taiwanese company’s devices.

Disappointing, as the only Android phones I think can compete with Apple and Nokia in terms of design are made by HTC.

Not the Main Story

A Nexus 7 with 32 GB of onboard storage was apparently delivered to a customer in Japan. Neat. Here’s what interests me:

Interestingly enough, the surprise delivery comes at a time when Google is rumored to launch a new, more spacious 32GB model as soon as October 24th — though only time will tell if that’s actually going to be the case.

Why does that date sound familiar? Oh yeah:

I think [a smaller iPad is] scheduled to be announced at an event on October 17, with preorders starting on October 19, and shipping starting on October 26. “Why those dates?”, you ask. Apple’s quarterly financial call is scheduled for October 25, and they often like to follow those calls with product launches.

Opinions, They Are A-Changin’

Farhad Manjoo, on September 12:

This incredibly annoying new dock connector isn’t going to hurt sales of the iPhone 5. But it’s still bogus, and it’s revelatory of Apple’s belief that the people who buy its gadgets are cash registers. So no, this isn’t the best iPhone ever. If it was, it wouldn’t have screwed over Apple’s most loyal customers.

He was quite annoyed by that “bogus”, “screw[ing] over” Lightning connector, which was enough for him to dismiss the entire phone as not being the best one ever.

Oh, how the winds of change have hit Manjoo’s office:

I’ve had the iPhone 5 for about a week and a half, and I’m still annoyed about the dock connector thing. But it’s a small problem, and in retrospect I was wrong to allow myself to become overwhelmed by dock-based frustration.

You don’t say.

That’s because, in all other ways, the iPhone 5 is the best phone ever to grace the earth. It beats every single rival on just about every metric you can think of, including speed, battery life, and especially beauty and workmanship.


Waiting for the Magic

John Moltz:

So, they say, because Apple hasn’t introduced a new product line in the last 12 months that is destined to remake an entire market, innovation in Cupertino must have died with Steve Jobs.

This kind of commentary reflects a startling lack of knowledge of Apple history and an infantile level of patience.

Contrary to conventional belief, Apple has never churned out ground-breaking products on a yearly basis. When Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he remarked on how it was the third time Apple was reinventing an existing product category, having previously reinvented the personal computer with the Mac in 1984 and the digital music player with the iPod in 2001.

More Small iPad Spitballing

As long as I’m writing speculative posts, there are a few things I forgot to address in the previous spitballing article concerning the launch event.

A demonstration of a smaller iPad is a really hard proposition. To strike a balance between the new and the familiar is nearly impossible for an easily-bored tech press. Therefore, I don’t see a full event being dedicated to the one product, and I also don’t see Apple booking out Yerba Buena for it (even though it’s available for October 17).

I think we’ll see the launch of updated iMacs, and perhaps a 13-inch retina MacBook Pro (but that’s a long shot) at the same event.

Something has been bugging me regarding the currently-available iPads. I don’t think it’s likely that Apple would update a device launched just six months ago, but I also think it’s obvious that a new iOS device will be launching with the Lightning connector. A new iPad has also showed up in a developer’s logs with an A6 chip. This is, I believe, the next generation of 10-inch iPad, but its “3,6” designator suggests that it’s a relatively minor update. Like I said, I doubt they’d update the 10-inch at the same event with an A6 chip and Lightning connector, but it’s possible.

I should stop digging now, shouldn’t I? We’ll know more this week if press invitations get sent out.

LG’s Nexus Phone Rumored for Mid-November

It will also have a sealed, non-removable battery and, initially at least, either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage with no microSD expansion.

And likely be uglier than an endoscope of a monkey’s anus. Remember: Nexus is the flagship Google-approved Android line.

Google’s Motorola Ad Faked an Address to Beat Apple Maps

Benjamin Brooks, regarding this bit of advertising fakery from Google/Motorola:

Honest question: why did they need to fake an address to “beat” Apple? Why not just show Street View versus Flyover? Seems like that is more honest and more telling of the feature dis-parity between the two.

Good question. A motivation I considered when I heard about this was that Google Maps will find the address even if it’s typed imperfectly, or isn’t technically an address (it’ll drop the pin where the address would be). But this seems like a convoluted way to say that Google Maps has better search functionality (which it does).

Google has an obviously superior maps client right now, and it strikes me as bizarre why they would need to fake an address to show that.

Spitballing a Smaller iPad

This post is stupid. It’s a bad idea to try to predict things before Apple announces them, and it’s even dumber when you don’t have the connections that Gruber or The Beard have. This is a terrible, terrible idea, which is made slightly more sensible by posting this late at night while struggling to stay upright.

Here’s what we know so far, where by “know”, I mean “can assert with a reasonable degree of plausibility”:

  • The $399 iPad 2 introduced in April carries a die-shrunk A5 chip.
  • The oft-rumoured 7.85-inch diagonal display has a pixel density of 163 pixels per inch at a 1,024 x 768 pixel resolution. This is the same number of pixels per inch as the iPhone 3GS panel.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that production has begun on a smaller iPad, citing “people with knowledge”.
  • Parts have leaked which are either absurdly detailed fakes, or legitimate parts from a smaller iPad1.

That’s not a lot to go on, but it’s enough to extrapolate a few things.

First, it’s likely that Apple will be targeting the small Android tablet market currently occupied by the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire models. Both of these tablets retail for $199, and that’s a hard price for a small iPad to match. The obvious advantages that Apple has with the iPad are a known brand effectively synonymous with the modern tablet, and wide international availability of their content (Amazon and Google are much more US-centric). Ideally, they would be able to get the price down to $249, because a $50 difference on a $200 gadget is small enough in the minds of many consumers as to effectively not count. For contrast, a price of $299 means a $100 difference, which is much more noticeable. I don’t think it would make a smaller iPad a failure, but I think it would be a harder sell.

To get the price down to $249, it’s likely that they’ll be using an IPS version of the iPhone 3GS panel cut to a 7.85-inch size. It’s worth noting that a future double-resolution version of a smaller iPad would simply require cutting the current iPhone panel to 7.85 inches diagonally, because it’s the same pixel-per-inch doubling that occurred with that product line. As a side benefit, that would also include the snazzy in-cell touch sensors in the iPhone 5, making for a thinner product.

Note that the previous paragraph is speculating about a future version of an unannounced product. In for a penny…

As I noted above, the cheaper iPad 2 that Apple added to the lineup earlier this year includes a 32nm die-shrunk A5 processor. I think that this is the exact part which will be used on the smaller iPad.

You’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve side-stepped calling this new product an iPad Mini. While that name has been thrown about and seems plausible, I think it’s a little clunky. I think it’s just as likely that it will simply be added to the lineup, as with the two sizes of MacBook (Pro or Air) that one can buy. There’s no suffix needed for notating which is which because it’s plainly obvious, and I suspect the same theory plays here as well.

This all sounds very tempting. At a $249 price point, this product would put a much more mature tablet in a market dominated by weak hardware and lacklustre ecosystems. Apple needs to get this out in time for the holiday season, which makes it very likely to be shipping by the end of the month. I think it’s scheduled to be announced at an event on October 17, with preorders starting on October 19, and shipping starting on October 26. “Why those dates?”, you ask. Apple’s quarterly financial call is scheduled for October 25, and they often like to follow those calls with product launches.

On October 26, I think you’ll be able to walk into an Apple Store to buy a black or white 8-inch iPad with 16 GB of storage for $249, with LTE and larger capacities offered at the usual price brackets. Actually, you probably won’t be able to walk into an Apple Store for one, because they’ll be sold out for, like, a month.

  1. They could also be parts from Samsung’s new tablet. ↩︎

Adele’s Skyfall

Solid throwback to the glorious Bond themes of Goldfinger and Thunderball. This is shaping up to be a fine film, and certainly a better “tribute” film than Die Another Day. A lot better. You can grab the theme song on iTunes.

Zynga’s Financial Troubles Worsen

Cyrus Farivar confirms in his story for Ars Technica what anyone would have predicted in March:

[Zynga] said late Thursday it will earn around $300 million this year in Q3 2012, down from $332 million last quarter. Most notably, the company took a write-down of $85 million to $95 million on the value of OMGPOP, makers of Draw Something—more than half of what the company paid for it earlier this year. That means Zynga drastically overpaid for the smaller gaming company.

In that deal, Zynga essentially valued the Draw Something game at $200 million.

RadioShack Tries an Intriguing New Business Strategy

Fox Van Allen for Tecca:

Marcia Jones of DeKalb County, Ga., bought what she believed to be two new iPhone devices at her local RadioShack. It turns out she was buying a refurbished phone instead — one, she alleges, that was filled was X-rated images graphic enough to send her daughter into counseling.

Lockitron: $500k of Reservations in One Day

Looks like nobody likes keys and would like an easier way to enter their home. This is going to be huge.

As an aside, I think the modern smartphone is one of the biggest business opportunities in history. It’s the thing we take everywhere, so everything—from payments to door locks and even cars—is being redesigned to work with this rectangle in your pocket.