“HTC Is Dying And Running Out Of Options”

Yours truly, over at Business Insider – HTC Is Dying And Running Out Of Options:

HTC, the one-time king of the Android phone makers, is on a downward course with few options left to correct itself.

Last November, Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson wrote that HTC was the biggest tech business disaster in 2012. Things have only gotten worse for the company since then.

Are Silicon Valley companies only making products for people in Silicon Valley?

I have some issues with this piece by Nick Bilton for The New York Times:

Belshe and Bill Lee were continually running late for meetings and texting each other: “I’ll be there in 5 mins!” So they created Twist, a 10-person start-up in the city’s South of Market neighborhood. The company’s first product is a smartphone app that helps you tell someone you’re late by showing your location on a map. Investors liked the idea enough to give Twist $6 million in venture financing last year.

“We thought there had to be something better than sending a text message,” Mr. Belshe said in a phone interview. “We were trying to tackle that problem of meeting up and making it easier.”

Is Twist a great idea, or are Mr. Belshe and Mr. Lee falling into a local propensity for creating a product for technophile friends rather than the public?

Bilton’s point is that this seems like it would only benefit techie types. But who wouldn’t benefit from an app that can tell that you’re running late and messages those you have an appointment with? Seems like the kind of thing that could curb texting and driving.

That’s not to say there aren’t still people thinking about big markets. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, which sells electric cars that can cost more than $100,000, said last week at the D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., that he hoped to offer a $30,000 version of the car in the next five years.

No, that’s not what Musk is proposing. He’s not going to bring the Model S to market for 33-50% of the current price. Tesla’s going to introduce a new model in 2015 that will compete with the likes of BMW’s 3-Series, which is a totally different market and price category.

But besides these minor gripes, my main issue with the article is that as a society, the general trend is everyone becoming more technologically savvy over time. Someone has to lead that push, and it might as well be the people making the technology.

Imagine if Nick’s argument had been applied to smartphones: “People don’t need apps and mobile Internet and video cameras in their phones. They just want to make phone calls.” Where would we be if Silicon Valley thought like that?

Blackberry customer service is the worst

What If Blackberry Customer Service Ran Other Things?:

BLACKBERRY CUSTOMER SERVICE: We send the update to your phone automatically. You just have to be prepared for it. It’s that time of year, so you should know that and make sure your phone doesn’t die.

ME: It didn’t really die. It stalled. It couldn’t process backing up the ‘Social Feeds’ app and then it shut down.

BLACKBERRY CUSTOMER SERVICE: Oh, you should’ve uninstalled that app.

ME: It came with the phone.

BLACKBERRY CUSTOMER SERVICE: I know, it’s bundled with Blackberry Bold but it’s buggy and I’d uninstall it if I were you. Didn’t you have your information backed up?

It’s your fault for not uninstalling that buggy app that we shipped with our phone. Duh.

Samsung announces Megazord

Engadget: Samsung Galaxy Mega is official and comes in 6.3- and 5.8-inch sizes.

Neither of those is very big for a Megazord. What the hell Samsung, I thought you were leading the push for bigger electronics?

Oh, this isn’t a Megazord. It’s a phone with a name that would have been cool in the 90s.

Damn.

Anyways, Ubergizmo got a look at the phone. Here’s how they addressed where the Galaxy Mega fits in to Samsung’s lineup: 

The Galaxy Mega is not meant as being the new high-end specs performer. Instead, it is a smartphone that was designed to maximize the utilization comfort and the productivity of key visual apps that can run very well on a dual-core processor (like email, web pages, reading, typing, photos).

 You get worse performance in exchange for a bigger screen. Don’t think I could make that trade-off.

It’s illegal to check a map on your phone while driving in California

California Court Rules It Illegal To Check Maps On Your Phone While Driving | Techdirt:

Anyway, all of that is preamble to a new court ruling in California, found by Orin Kerr, saying that using a mobile phone to check a mapping/GPS program violates the state’s law against distracted driving. The driver had argued that the laws are about talking on a phone and/or texting/surfing the internet, but that clearly using a mapping program should be allowed. The court disagreed, even as it acknowledged some of the oddities of what that meant, and said it’s really the job of the state lawmakers to figure out what they want to do.

I’ll be honest: there’s no way I’d be able to get around Los Angeles without using the GPS function on my phone.

Dan Frommer thinks there’s a market for a Facebook phone

Who’s Going To Buy The Facebook Phone?:

But that’s hardly the entire phone market. It’s actually only a fraction of it.

What about those millions of people who have bought Android phones — and some iPhones, probably — who don’t really care that they’re Android phones, or even smartphones? The types of people who, every couple of years, go into the Verizon or AT&T shop and walk out with whatever newish thing the store rep says they should buy? (All those people who buy Android phones but don’t really show up in usage logs.) Or even first-time smartphone buyers? My guess is that many — most? — of these people are Facebook users, and could easily see some utility in having Facebook features highlighted on their phones. And — bonus — Facebook’s software looks good. Much better than the junk that ships with typical low-end Android devices.

Boom. Done. Easy, defensible purchase, assuming the price is right.

Some people just don’t give a shit about the things that nerds do. Plenty of people my age use their phones for only Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Will the HTC First do well? Probably not, but I don’t think Facebook should stop trying.

Unheard of: analyst claims Apple should act like traditional business

From (hahahaha) The Wall Street Journal:

“The panacea is to transform the industry with a revolutionary design,” Mr. Mawston said. Until then “you have to do the traditional business school implementations like manage costs and move quicker than rivals.”

I’ve never heard of an analyst saying that Apple should act more like a traditional company. I bet Mr. Mawston is right: if Apple would just act like everyone else, it would have no problem maintaining its current position of making more money than everyone else combined. Nope, no problem with that logic.

But hey, maybe we should look at how Apple manages cost. My favorite example is flash memory: Apple has so much leverage with NAND suppliers that for every $392 they spent on flash memory in 2011, they made over $2,000 in profit:

apple margins flash memory

As far as acting faster than its competitors, Apple doesn’t really seem to have a timing problem at all. There were about 11 months between the release of the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5, and 11 months between the release of the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Galaxy S4 (and people complain about Apple’s numbering system?). The only difference is that Samsung releases their flagship in the middle of the iPhone’s life cycle, so that they can say they have the newest phone just as excitement for the iPhone begins to wane.  Last year the S III  beat the iPhone 4S in sales before the iPhone 5 came out – I bet the same thing happens again this year. What analysts want is for Apple to release two rounds of flagships per year, and thus not act like everyone else.

(Everyone else who is doing well, at least. Right now that only really means Samsung.)

HTC and Samsung flagships to start at $50 more than iPhone

Today Engadget noted that the HTC One is going to start at $250 at AT&T.

Last week we found out that the Samsung Galaxy S 4 will start at the same price on the same network.

I figure that there are three potential reasons for HTC and Samsung to release their flagships at a higher price than Apple’s iPhone 5, which starts at a subsidized price of $199  on most carriers and $99 on T-Mobile:

  1. The carriers won’t give them the same subsidies as they give Apple. Apple has significant leverage with carriers when it comes to subsidies – remember Sprint’s $20 billion deal with Apple to get the iPhone 5? Yeah, that was basically a giant preorder guaranteeing Apple a $500 subsidy per phone.
  2. HTC and Samsung are hoping that by offering bigger screens, more (gimmicky) features, and the general performance enhancements that come with being newer, they can charge more than Apple does and thus make higher margins.
  3. Expecting a bigger and more expensive iPhone later this year, they’re betting that they can raise the price of their flagship devices and still undercut Apple.

Edit: Well, fuck me. Turns out HTC is launching the One for $199.

Blackberry posts a profit in Q4 2012

BlackBerry Posts Promising Q4 Results After BB10 Launch: EPS Of $0.22, Revenue Of $2.7B, ~1M Z10s Shipped | TechCrunch:

BlackBerry needs to figure out how to bring BlackBerry 10 to the masses in a big way, lest it yield its hard-fought position to a sea of cheap Android phones.

Quick, get in the Delorean! Chris Velazco is stuck in 2008!

I jest, I jest. So how did Blackberry pull this off? Is the Z10 selling like gangbusters or something?  Businessweek’s Felix Gillette gives us the reason:

Heins has since eliminated 5,000 workers and shuttered several manufacturing sites. Along the way, he has managed to achieve a profitable quarter even as overall revenue dropped 36 percent from the previous year.