Motorola Mobility Keeps Burning Google’s Money

Ben Popper, The Verge:

Over the last eight months, losses at Google’s Motorola Mobility have accelerated despite three rounds of layoffs that slashed around 6,000 workers. The division is now on pace to bleed $1 billion a year out of the search giant’s bank account.

Last month Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside announced the company was shipping 100,000 Moto X smartphones every week. Apple also announced it sold nine million iPhones—iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c combined—in three days. An apples to apples comparison would be units per day and for just one model of iPhone. And let’s make the math easy by assuming the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c sold equally well:

  • Moto x: 14.3K
  • iPhone 5s or 5c: 1500K

Yes, the iPhone 5s and 5c sales numbers will probably have dropped after the first three days and will continue to be on a downward trajectory with spikes along the way as the iPhones become available in new markets, but I present this single datum to make a simple point: The iPhone, per model, sells roughly 100x per day than the Moto X. Apple makes lots of money; Motorola doesn’t seem to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for Motorola. I want the smartphone market to have intense competition. Remember the RAZR V3? Motorola did an amazing job with the RAZR. I still have mine. Once in a while I open it up and press those laser-cut buttons, because it feels really good. It’s almost addicting. The Moto X is only the first fruit of a closer Google / Motorola Mobility collaboration. Let’s be honest: 100K per week in shipments is nothing to brag about, but it’s a start. It takes time to get everything right and I look forward to what the two can come up with in the not-so-distant future.

Panasonic GM1

PetaPixel: The Panasonic GM1 is the smallest Micro Four Thirds camera, and is even smaller than the Sony RX100. I’m assuming that’s just the GM1 body without a lens, but that’s still quite impressive considering the RX100 is pocketable.

I used to get excited about mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras getting smaller and more capable—I own a NEX-5—but I think the future in portable cameras isn’t a camera at all. The future of small, portable cameras is the smartphone, like the iPhone 5s.

Everyone living and working in the modern world will eventually need a smartphone and for most the smartphone camera will be more than good enough, with features we want to and can actually use like 10fps and slo-mo.

Review of The iPhone 5S 120FPS Super Slow Motion

Philip Bloom:

Will it replace my FS700 and F55? I think you know the answer! But how often do I go out and about with either of those cameras in my man bag? I would need a man suit case, not a man bag!! As they say they, “the best camera high frame rate/ super slow motion camera is the one you have on you” and now I have a 120fps camera on me!

I still have one year left on my contract, but the iPhone 5s is so tempting.

Amazon Smartphone

The Verge: Rumor has it HTC will build Amazon’s smartphone. Everyone’s getting into the smartphone business, but Amazon has a very good reason to. From reading articles online and books offline I understand Amazon to have three main goals: broadest availability of products customers want, the lowest prices, and fastest deliveries.

Millions of Amazon customers already use computers to purchase all sorts of products, for almost always the lowest prices, and if they are Prime subscribers get them delivered in two days. Amazon also launched Local Express Delivery in 11 cities. For example, if you live in New York City and order something by 8:30 am you can expect same day delivery up until 8 pm. That’s fast. With a Kindle tablet you can do the same thing without being in front of the computer. Buy movies, music, or Kindle ebooks and you get instant gratification. Sure you can do the same thing with an iPad or an Android tablet, but Amazon made it easiest to buy and consume on its Kindle tablets.

Not everyone needs a tablet, and even if you own a tablet you don’t always have it with you. But almost everyone needs a mobile phone and almost everyone has their mobile phones with them or nearby at all times.

Imagine it’s Friday. You’re on the train going into Lower Manhattan looking over the East River. You’re daydreaming about the mountains and suddenly you remember you forgot to buy heavy duty wool socks for your camping trip over the weekend. You pull out your Amazon smartphone. It’s 8:15 am; you still have 15 minutes. You type into the search bar right on the front screen, tap the Prime Eligible button, the four stars and up average customers reviews, find the one you want and tap 1-Click. You’re done with a couple of minutes to spare. When you get home that evening those socks will be waiting for you. Combine this shopping experience with a user interface specifically designed to help you purchase what you want—movies, TV shows, music, ebooks, etc.—, consume what you’ve purchased anytime anywhere, and that’s the power of an Amazon smartphone.

You can do the same thing on an iPhone or an Android smartphone, but my guess is you’ll be able to do it much easier and faster on an Amazon smartphone. A couple more things: One, I think Amazon’s smartphone unlocked will sport a full price of US$199. Two, the unlimited talk, text, and data plans will be the most affordable. This makes sense to me since according to Jeff Bezos, Amazon doesn’t make money when you buy its devices but when you use them.

Sony A7

Sony Alpha Rumors: The Sony A7 and A7r are full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. I’m scratching my head wondering why Sony is using the Alpha brand instead of the NEX brand. Isn’t NEX Sony’s brand for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras?

Dan Seifert, The Verge:

Like the RX1, the a7s aren’t without their faults, namely a poor autofocus system, poor battery life, still fairly high price tag, and very limited lens options. But they are just the start, the first of a breed of camera that is sure to be the nail in the DSLR’s reflex mirror. Many photographers might hesitate to jump ship right away — the a7s aren’t ideal for sports photography and other specific disciplines — but once Sony builds out the lens options and improves the autofocus, it’ll be all but over.

Things to wait for: faster autofocus system, longer battery life, a lower price, with more lens options. But what I’m really waiting for is an interchangeable lens smartphone.

Update 2014.01.12

Back in October of last year when Sony announced its A7 and A7r full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras I wondered why Sony used the Alpha brand instead of the more appropriate NEX brand. Now we know: Sony is nixing the NEX brand and consolidating its mirrorless camera brand with Alpha. During CES 2014 Sony introduced the A5000, the latest E-mount mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, which Sony claims is the lightest with WiFi.

I Taught Steve Jobs to Put Design First

Hartmut Esslinger:

I explained that to make design a core element of Apple’s corporate strategy, it would have to be seen as a leadership issue; world-class design can’t work its way up from the bottom, watered down by the motivations and egos of every layer of management it passes through. I also offered a number of examples of corporate designers—especially in the United States—who were being compromised by the need to report to lower levels. Steve looked a bit irritated when I told him that my initial observations of Apple’s design process revealed exactly the same pattern of structurally determined mediocrity.

At a company like Apple where financial and human resources are almost unlimited, designers should design the impossible and let engineers do their magic.

HTC One Max

The Verge: The HTC One Max sports an excellent 5.9-inch 1920×1080 Super LCD. On the other hand, the four Ultrapixel camera lacks the One’s optical image stabilization. And forget about using the fingerprint scanner.

LG G Flex

The LG G Flex sports a 6-inch flexible OLED display, probably the flexible OLED display LG Display announced not many days ago using a plastic substrate and film-type encapsulation technology. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Round, the LG G Flex—if the sexy render above is accurate—is curved the right way. The curvature would fit a person’s face better with the speaker near the ear and the mic near the mouth. It would also fit in back pockets since most human beings have curved buttocks. And if you happen to sit on it, with the G Flex in your back pocket, it wouldn’t matter since the flexible OLED display is unbreakable according to LG Display. Though I wonder if the rest of the G Flex will be as tough.

Update 2013.10.28: The LG G Flex is official. According to LG the flexed 6-inch 720p display is brighter and more precise thanks to its “Real RGB” sub-pixel format.

Update 2013.11.04: Sam Byford, The Verge:

While LG says the curvature of the screen makes viewing movies more “immersive,” the size is likely to play a far stronger role in achieving that goal. In general use, we didn’t find that the curve made much of a positive or negative impact either way.

Raymond Soneira concluded the curvature of the Samsung Galaxy Round significantly reduces reflection interferences and improves the overall visual experience. If the display curvature is the reason, we can expect similar improvements on the LG G Flex. But it’s interesting Byford wasn’t able to detect any positive impact. We’ll just have to wait until Soneira tests a G Flex to know for sure.

Update 2013.11.19: Scott Stein and Lynn La took the LG G Flex for a spin, c|net:

The curve’s not immense: it’s more like a continuous, gentle bend. It actually seemed to make the otherwise immense 6-inch OLED display a little easier to manage: the thin, curving form served to minimize the extra-wide flatness that normally would follow a phone this size. It hugs the face nicely […]

From the photos c|net posted up the 6-inch OLED display seems to be flexed just a tiny bit, which looks a lot less than the glamour shot showing at the top of this post.

The curve also worked particularly well for videos: the HD display has a 1,280×720-pixel resolution and seemed particularly clear and glare-free, which matches what CNET TV editor David Katzmaier says holds true for larger curved-display OLED televisions.

I don’t think this type of curve would work very well on smaller smartphones, but with the 6-inch 16:9 OLED display the curve seems to have enhanced the experience of viewing videos by making it more immersive. Glare or more accurately refocusing on the object that is being reflected can take you out of an immersive experience. Any smartphone brand targeting users who watch a lot of videos will need to take note of this: glare-free.

Update 2014.01.06

PR Newswire: At CES 2014 LG announced the LG G Flex will be available in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2014 from AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.