How the new Apple Watch surprised the world and made Google fans even more jealous.

Admittedly, the ECG function, however unlikely-we-actually-all-need-it, does sound so cool. Like heart rate tracking when it first came out, it is cool, and another order of magnitude higher in difficulty. Lovely. Hope more companies get onto it, and it gets cheaper to make. (However please don’t make all gadgets yet more expensive, ugh. Wallet cries.)

Google fans will lament how the Apple Watch system grows better each iteration, and how Android/Google watches stagnate and grow irrelevant across the years. It’s totally true. I wouldn’t actively recommend Android Wear watches now. Buyers need to make their own choice and live with it, don’t blame me!

It’s a narrow view to see the whole consumer wearable and electronics industry as just these two companies, there’s also the Samsung behemoth, Fitbit, and many others that make lots of phones, watches, wearables, trackers, monitors, etc. Although none are as huge as these two in presence. And many people do purchase Samsung phones (which have some great ones like Note 9), FitBit trackers which have great battery life, etc. Good worthy options.

So let’s assume for a moment the rest dont exist. If our lives depended on Apple vs Google. If the only hope of catching Apple was for Google to buck up, what would the situation be?

Apple
phone hardware – great and growing. cpu chips good, display good. innovation on things like screen poor. visual unlock good but lame. security good.
phone OS – so far acceptable. security good. little innovation right now.
watch hardware – pretty good
watch OS – improving steadily in the right direction
tablet hardware – good. steady enhancements.
tablet OS – same as above
voice assistant – poor, and maintaining
maps, backup, search and other accessory software services – poor and maintaining. no big changes to be seen. some investment.

Google (incl Android in general)
phone hardware (assume pixel) – not bad, some improvements. industry standard cpu. not much innovation other than camera which is sufficiently solved for everyone
phone OS – stable, but not much improvement visible. actually lots of underlying work but not sure it’s appreciated. security still needs help.
watch hardware – poor. slow outdated hardware components
watch OS – poor. slow and little support or integration.
tablet hardware – poor and maintaining
tablet OS – same
voice assistant – leader and growing steadily in multiple directions. languages, dual language, functionality, integrations all growing quickly.
maps, backup, search and other accessory software services – leader and maintaining. not much revolutionary innovation lately but small enhancements maintain.

Frankly the two are still, and have always been such different companies. One is hardware based, one is software/data based. If iphones, watches are 80% of Apple, Android and accessories is probably like 20% or less of Google. As a consumer, we see Android and Search etc as the face of Google. Within Google, Search (+ ads) and Cloud are probably the two biggies. I mean, Google Cloud has grown tremendously in terms of revenue, share, focus, manpower. Tremendously. And it has great potential in bottom line, unlike Android which has poor revenue stream other than indirectly through Ads, and which the legislators in EU are giving so much undeserved flak over. If you dont like Android, fine, go and stay within Apple and have no choice and pay through the nose, daft. G as a company does not, would not, and should not, have the focus on expanding/improving Android phones and tablets and watches. It doesn’t bring in sufficient licensing (near 0), nor hardware revenue right now, and foreseeably slow unless the ecosystem business model changes dramatically. Would be an earthquake if it does. Would not be easy or clear path to victory. Might even backfire and cause more problems. Why risk that when they have lots of better revenue on Ads and Cloud side.

If you look at the focus from inside, Google prioritises projects that 1. change humankind (self driving cars, flying cars, quantum computing, AI, etc), 2. are technically challenging and cool (better network, write new OS, containers, cool code), 3. have to do with billion-count audience, free, contains lots of data, analytics, search, India, etc (Mapping, languages). Never forget their core mission of organizing the worlds data and making it accessible – they really repeat it alot and really live it. Do fancy watches and tablets come in here? In a limited way but the important thing is – it’s not the focus.

Companies that don’t focus on something from top to bottom, usually don’t succeed at it. That’s why Google prunes old projects mercilessly. Killing all our favorite apps because it didn’t grow big enough, didn’t fit their plans, or nobody wants to babysit it anymore. Sads.

So we really would not expect Google to give us the next fancy perfect watch or tablet, or phone even. That should and could come from a different company. If we just want an Apple Watch-esque device, Fitbit etc could do the same. It doesn’t need to run 1000 apps with an appstore, just proprietary apps with cool functions would do. My Fitbit charge 2 works great, paired with Android too. (tldr we should give up on Android Wear?) I guess the reason we still root for Google to do this is because 1. we trust Google’s engineering which is usually reputable in software and security, 2. good warranty followthrough, 3. not many companies have the deep pockets to go up against Apple, 4. integrated data would be cool (though so many ppl are anti google monopoly sigh).

So, would the Pixel 3 have anything new? Kind of unlikely to have anything earth shattering. Most software enhancements like Google Lens, AR just don’t have that real-world impact yet. Most new enhancements are sweet but people just don’t market or remember it enough. I love how Pixel 2 has great call filtering (actually all Google dialer), great remote support in app, great Google Assistant integration, great Android P features like smart battery saving etc. But many new Google features are always ported to other phones.

So, we’ll all be watching (ooh pun), but don’t expect any great announcements. But I still strongly recommend the Pixel phones over iPhones. =p

 

p.s. remember the most stunning part of Google IO 2018? The super smart Google Assistant conversation making remote calls to make restaurant bookings. That, is your indication of where Google is focusing on. Google’s AI vs Apple’s hardware. Each their own unique strengths and obsessions. Dang I want that AI on my phone.

How the new Apple Watch surprised the world and made Google fans even more jealous.

Words, and more words

Movie: Destination Wedding (2018)

A rapid fire machine gunned dialogue of insults traded between Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves. We found it pretty entertaining and quite hilarious at parts. Not a particularly complicated movie but it had some nice images and it’s nice to have some dialogue for a change. S likened it to Before Sunset, but different. (Damn, Before Sunset (2004) is old.)

We agreed it’s somehow pleasant and comforting to be able to hear, process, speak, think, talk at a good speed, cadence, complexity, accuracy and eloquence. One of the unappreciated quirks of a relationship, or rather, what should be there for a relationship to succeed but oft left out of typical checklists and criteria. Or, things you didn’t realize till after. But true.

Also ties into how S found a young teenager to be so intriguingly comfortable to talk to, compared to some old(er) adults. A surprising young person with an obsession with the Russian language, poetry, uncommon movie tastes and that je-ne-sais-quoi I guess. Reminded of me indeed. I don’t know why, we just are (ha-ha-ha-ha. punny).

It didn’t seem abnormal to me, well not that abnormal, although I think I gathered it wasn’t as normal as many other things and people. But it was truly delightfully enjoyable, and it was difficult to just like normal things, nor did I really try. It was an environment which said: it’s ok, go ahead. It actually probably directly encouraged you to be different, or to go into every which oddball direction. Not weird if everybody’s weird, or if everybody’s weirder. Exactly.

Looking back, would I ever really pin down the why or how or when, but it definitely was.

Another word-thing, found this article today “https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/amp48031/the-falling-man-tom-junod/ The Falling Man – An Unforgettable Story”. An impressively longform and well written and heart wrenching story of a very well-known and iconic photo from the 9/11 incident in USA. How the sights and photos of people who fell/jumped from the towers triggered such reactions yet at the same time mystery of the identities. It’s beautifully written, really gives justice to the emotions that ran in the country at that point of time, and the after. As an outsider, we probably could not have felt as intensely as the citizens of US, but what an incident to live through in my lifetime. “When I was young” story. Incidentally I also seem to be living through the “Trump” and “Facebook” period of US history, would be quite the scandal to talk about 10 years from now.

Anyhow, so I was likening poetry, to drinking wine – having the time, space, mood to sit down, savour the words slowly like sipping wine, letting the smell the taste the notes the body to arrive on your tongue, flow down your throat, seep into your tastebuds, waft into your nasal cavities, linger in your mouth, and watch it swirl. It’s the luxury of life that often we do not have time for, space for, mood for. When young, free, new, it was beautiful to appreciate the newfound books of old poets who wrote such differently from normal people, of new poets too for sure, of many different things. You tend to lose it as you grow up and start working. But then maybe it never really left us as we continue to write, talk, communicate in a certain medium others find impossible to converse to. Then there was this whole spoken word revolution, which was a hit of fresh air scented with Spring.

Anyway.

Words, and more words

web ethics

Following from the previous post, there’s been so much change in the web, and how content is controlled and hosted and moderated and filtered by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat etc etc etc. And the web is so global, but also so focused on American companies like the first three above.

Currently it so happens that Silicon Valley is quite progressive, their values quite align to us (Singapore), and me (modern hippie whatever). But what if it diverged? Should these tech giants still impose their values on the rest of the world? And why should we let them? Should they just be a dumb pipe like an Internet Service Provider / telco? Should they let countries and governments do their own controls, which is afterall how the world works? Should we have to create our own search engine, our own maps (most countries do), our own social networks, our own instant messenger etc? It’s tough for a small country with 6 million people to have the scale and clout to run all that, but the geographies, the virtual internet online geographies are so very different from real-world boundaries. Are nation outlines any more relevant?

The tech giants are so woke right only because they realise their platform has enabled someone like Donald Trump to get into presidency, etc etc. But if not for that, would they care so much about other countries? Or by virtue of the fact that they are American and USA has a habit of interference in other countries, they would still care? But don’t forget they are still basically imposing their own will etc.

I don’t necessarily agree with their meddling. I don’t necessarily agree with Google’s actions always either.

web ethics

web?

But what was it like growing up with the Internet/web/thing?

I’m not that old to have started with the very first computers, but old enough to have seen and used DOS, the first Windows, OS/2, Win3.1, the first graphical interfaces, the keyboard games, the Win95 era, the UNIX before Linux era, and then the controversies with Win 2000, Win ME, Win 98, etc. Before Google. When the internet was quite something new and fresh and slow and limited and manual dialup.

Especially that the internet was open and free and anyone at home was loading up sites, in manual html, on primitive blogs, pages, etc. You made your own corner on the web, you made your own page, and people went to your page. That was the open and interconnected world wide intranet.

And it slowly became into hosted pages on the big players. Maybe it became easier to post content, but you lost some control in the hosting, the permanence etc.

And then it became the mobile, and the app walls, and all that.

What is it now? Another TV stream of content curated by algorithms and censors and ad-linked to your supposed preferences? Another media stream unlike personal content? The medium, the purpose, the culture has warped so much that it’s almost taking on an entire new meaning.

Now companies still host their own sites, services, posts, but it could even be gone in the future. If it’s no longer possible or feasible to keep up with the big players in maintaining infrastructure, capability, security, functionality, then it will be offloaded and ceded away. A way of homogenizing of course. Just like how Facebook pages are the current trend for small solo operations or politicians. How weird it is.

Pretty soon it will be less of a interconnect model rather than a simple distribution model from the big four datacenter operators who also coincidentally own the big four services.

Maybe the globe is still open enough, free enough, big enough that it won’t be the case. That the world inside China is a big and deep unknown to us English speakers, that the world inside India will splinter into it’s own unique type of mess. Sometimes the planet feels small, but can also be bigger than you think.

If browsers change, security change, URL change, what could the new web look like? And would cybersecurity still be the same relevance inside a less open web. And would all the fiber and bandwidth mean nothing in the future? It’s like how home internet is a utility fee we dont wince at paying, but in the past, having a Singtel Magix ADSL at home was a luxury and extraordinary thing. Is it like having a subscription starbucks coffee vs making your own drink at home?

What do the young see of the internet? It could be quite different, and also varies across countries.

hm.

web?

If you were a trillion-dollar company

and you need to spend all that cash building your moat, what could you do?

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-30/google-and-mastercard-cut-a-secret-ad-deal-to-track-retail-sales

It’s a half secret that VISA, Mastercard, other payment cards, credit cards, banks, and all those financial intermediaries collect information on how you use your cards, your money, purchases, your shops etc. And profit off it. Credit cards don’t come free, and they certainly are not sustained using annual fees. The late fees, merchant charges and more, are all the profit margins.

Ad data flows around, and here’s another example of how it linked up Google’s web ads and payment merchants. Carefully.

On one hand, people complain that hey I already bought the thing and you’re still showing me the same dumb ads, on the other hand, you don’t want them to track what you have searched or bought. It’s like wanting something to understand you perfectly without telling them a single iota of info. How to balance this? Creepy vs smart is too fine a line.

Firefox introducing new measures to block web tracking. Safari does it too. Was Chrome such a visionary project that protected so much of Google’s moat. But hey, Chrome worked so well in a landscape littered with halfbaked browsers. Firefox was terrible at a point. Safari barely works only on Apple products. IE nope. Edge tries but not successfully. Chrome still leading alot of the pack. Nobody wants to bother to challenge a bottomless free product against a company with some of the best technical staff and deepest pockets. Only Microsoft or Apple could, but neither seems to think it worth the effort. So chrome it is.

The Google Pixel phone, still building that reserve Google phone in case Samsung or other manufacturers go haywire. The last defense. It might be the Chrome of this age. or not. Same as Chrome OS.

Projects that are fairly sustainable in their own right, but much more useful and important when seen as a chesspiece in the Google ecosystem.

Enterprise Google Cloud? Maybe just more gravy on the tech train. If there’s so much to earn, and they already have all the technical knowledge, why not? A nice new revenue area.

I wish they would monetize Maps better. Let it earn more resources and importance. It’s still too much of a free product. So is Photos. Fantastic product, a potentially superb superb lock-in. Who really wants to download, move, and re-organize hundreds of gigs and ten years of photos? That’s many hundred dollars worth of switching resistance there. If Apple could monetize it so well, it should be more clearly communicated to Google users, and charge for additional services. Many pro users would probably pay for more pro level features rather than the basic backup and searching. So many companies tried, but all failed because they can’t afford to give away so much free storage, and dedicate so much design and engineering resources. The writeups of the design optimizations are astounding. The stuff they do to make it run well, so not appreciated, all given free.

And frankly at their revenue rate, Google, Microsoft, and Apple should all reach that trillion dollar value mark. All profitable and increasing. I guess Amazon too.

If you were a trillion-dollar company

you’ll think

that voice assistants would just be about supporting more and more variety of questions, and connecting to more devices. But it’s been a steady slog towards expanding the number of languages to cater to the global population, stringing multiple commands in one smooth flow (without sounding like a robot which means detecting and parsing many many variants), and even identifying changing languages in communication. Things that happen in regular conversation just are more complicated than we would like them to be on paper.

that self driving cars would just be able to steering, recognising traffic lights and not hitting other cars. But it’s been more news of collaboration, visual cues for passengers, support contracts for maintenance, downtime, ensuring availability of the fleet, etc. Physical objects break down and need repair. Roads are not standard, and we basically just connect them every which way we can.

you’ll think

Movie – Gifted

Finally got round to watching a movie that I’ve been holding off on for awhile. Gifted – a simple heartwarming movie about a smart young girl, and how she is brought up and cared for.

Giftedness is something that is often brought up in the media, in the education system, and I guess it is something that I am irrevocably tied up with. None of that is wrong per se, just like how using the phrase “per se” is probably precocious in daily life outside of the law fraternity, and entitleds.

Some parts of the movie are hilarious, and I identify with. Not everything of course. Not such a crazy 8 year old mathematical genius. It’s too extreme. Not to say there are probably people like that, and how they end up leading way abnormal lives.

It’s hilarious how the grandmother derides “people who will watch sit-coms, bring her to Olive Garden”, haha. Oh well I only recently learnt of Olive Garden restaurants! =D

And also how she asks Frank about God, Jesus, and how nicely he answers her, as he would as a very smart man answer a very smart kid – in a more respectful and measured manner than more normal people would. Also in a more understanding, truthful, manner. After all, you can’t just outright lie or give evasive excuses to a smart kid.

 

Movie – Gifted

purpose

The usual pursuits of career, car, house, life, marriage, travel, computers, phones, I don’t know what else.

And the seemingly unsatisfactory-ness of it still.

Just what is it that I am searching for in this life.

purpose

how do you rate a pixel phone

Every year, people will compare the Nexus / Pixel hardware specs leaks and put it against other recent / flagship phones from Samsung and rest.
So let’s look back at the Google Pixel 2 / XL and see what was even special about it that was touted by Google at the actual launch
– Processor – standard top end. not special but ok.
– Screen – OLED and LCD. top end but apparently could be better as LG panels weren’t that good yet
– RAM – so so, not the highest, just under.
– Camera – touted. hardware supposedly better to work better with less cameras required. But software was heavily touted with enhanced portrait mode, enhanced HDR, motion pics.
– Squeezable Edge – rather gimmicky. not a clear diffentiator – Samsung-esque lame
– ARCore – AR stickers
– Google Lens – early release
– Free photo storage – 2 years free Google Photos
– auto song recognition

So do any of that make it worth it?? Hardware wise – I don’t think it was super better than any other top phone. But then, that’s it isn’t it, it depends on what China can produce for everyone.

Software wise – ARCore was ok but not life changing, it was fun to play with and show off but did’t go viral, Google Lens was fun but not viral either, Free photo storage is super appreciated but apparently not enough to sway the Samsungnites and Apples, processor and screen meh, camera quality great but not enough to sway too? song recognition is super fun.

So what else would still make the Pixel different from other phones?
– more better software like the camera and AR stuff? is it worth $100 more each?
– more free photo storage? – is this worth the maybe USD200 (estimate 1 TB used x 2 years)
– more early google apps and services? – for early adopters and nerds

Intangibles that people don’t realise
– super fast updates
– additional security chip – not heavily advertised
– Pixel Visual Core – underwhelming
– higher grade warranty promise, esp in US
– quite smooth performance, consistent over time
– no bloat, just because.
– Google Assistant super integrated. You like it or you hate it and can’t get rid of it.

Cons
– still no headphone jack
– poorer warranty support and repair in non-US country
– fewer purchase avenues
– fewer accessories like cases
– not cheap

I wouldn’t necessarily say that Pixel is the ultimate phone if you’re not into pure google services. But the hardware is just table stakes and the software/apps and support is the icing that is the differentiator.

So it’s to be expected that the Pixel 3 XL leaks seem meh.

How do I still like my Pixel 2 XL?
– still too big, if only they sold the Pixel 2 in Singapore with warranty I would have chosen that
– performance – super good
– headphone jack – still super annoying
– physical state – still super good
– the small gimmicky stuff – usually all v fun to me. not really tangibles but worth the fun.
Worth it compared to other phones?
– about $100-$200 too expensive otherwise a confirm recommend to anyone.
What other normal ppl need
– something cheaper, yet secure, yet reliable
– less frills, more dependency, security and reliability.
What the instagrammers need
– nothing, they can go buy iphones just because they can’t be seen without one

Should they sell a Pixel Watch – no
Pixel Book – no, too ex
Pixel Speaker – the Google Home, yes

What they need to push in services
– much better music streaming service with cheaper price, global availability
– a serious Google One service with proper perks, support, branding, marketing and benefits
– monetize the storage pricing and provide more services and branding to this
– put Google Photos front and center and integrate more
– same for Maps
– forget about RCS messaging
– exclusive integrations for only Pixels, otherwise all phones are getting the same Google apps what’s the point

how do you rate a pixel phone