iPhone 8 Rumor Roundup

We are lucky to live in the era of the smartphone. These tiny, personal devices have become such a large part of our lives that it is hard to imagine a time without them. And we have one phone to thank the smartphone craze for: the iPhone. And every year, since its initial release in 2007, we are graced with another iteration that is, in someway, bigger and better than last year’s. This year is no exception. And with this year’s iPhone launch celebrating its 10th anniversary, Apple fanboys are foaming at the mouth for what the geniuses at Cupertino have in store.

As with every iPhone release, there are what seems to be hundreds of rumors floating around the Internet about what to expect from Apple’s latest handheld, and this year is ripe with news. So, here are some of the most interesting features that this year’s iPhone is rumored to sport.

The Name
What’s in a name? Well apparently a lot. When the initial round of rumors on the newest iPhone surfaced, it was almost unanimously agreed upon that the name for the new phone would be the iPhone 8, skipping the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus naming tradition that Apple has been using since the 3GS. However, recent reports indicate that this will not be the case. According to the latest information, Apple is taking a page out of its Apple Watch naming system and applying it to the iPhone, naming the newest phone the iPhone Edition. They will also offer an iPhone 7S and 7S Plus, sticking to the aforementioned tradition after all. While the 7S and 7S Plus variants will include under the hood improvements, the iPhone Edition will include a complete redesign. But it will also be the most expensive iPhone ever.

No Curved Edges…
It would appear as though the curved edge fad made popular by Samsung’s Galaxy S series of phones has not impressed Apple. Although initial reports did claim that the iPhone 8 would indeed ship with a curved screen, the latest batch of claims now believes it will stick with the tried and true flat screen, which could disappoint several fans.

…But Still Pretty To Look At
Although it may not be curved, the iPhone 8’s screen will still be hard to look away from. According to reports from GSMArena, Apple has struck a $4 billion deal with Samsung for roughly 60 million OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) panels. It is widely believed that Apple will finally be implementing those panels into the flagship iPhone this year, giving its handheld crisper colors and deeper, richer blacks—a much desired feature.

No Bezels, No Home Button, No Problem
Many lamented the iPhone 7’s lack of any radical design changes from its predecessors, and Apple has listened. Probably the second largest rumor—behind the OLED screen—regarding the iPhone 8 has to be its lack of a bezel and home button. Basically the phone will feature an edge to edge OLED screen, and will not include the home button that we have all come to know and love. Instead, reports from Business Insider claim that the iPhone 8 will use optical sensors that can read fingerprints through the thicker OLED panel, allowing the phone to remove a physical home button.

I’ve Got No Strings On Me
The latest round of advertisements for Beats By Dre feature the company’s wireless line of headphones, with celebrities dancing to the popular song from Pinocchio, “I’ve Got No Strings.” Apparently Apple, who own Beats By Dre, are now using that same philosophy for the iPhone with wireless charging. This is another highly sought after feature from iPhone fanboys for years, considering that most of Apple’s competition has had this technology for quite some time. The ability to charge your phone without having to plug it in is an incredibly enticing feature.

While there are still 6 months until we will find out for sure whether oar not these features will make their way into the newest iPhone, we can still dream and speculate. Hopefully Apple not only delivers on these expectations, but exceeds them with some unexpected secrets. We’ll just have to wait and see.

5G: More Than Just Speed

It all started with 2G, which allowed for mobile devices to connect to the Internet. Then came 3G, which allowed for faster data transfer and opened up the floodgates for many things we take for granted today, such as video streaming and video calling. And, expectedly, 4G increased data speeds, allowing for HD video streaming and game downloading, with some people even using it over their current Wi-Fi connection. And now, the mobile connection market is ready for a new and exciting generation. That’s where 5G comes in. But, it is more than just speed. Obviously, as has happened with all generational updates in mobile network connectivity, 5G will bring dramatically faster speeds, however, it will open up many more possibilities.

According to an article from Cnet, 5G was the talk of the town at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which ran from February 27th to March 2nd. People couldn’t get enough of it, and there’s quite a bit of hype around it. And for good reason. It has the potential to do far more than just make your YouTube video load faster. The technology can be utilized in everything from drone technology to self-driving cars, which is amazing timing considering these are also tech topics that are incredibly hot right now.

In one of the most astounding demonstrations of 5G’s possibilities, Ericcson, NeuroDigital Technologies and medical doctors from King’s College London teamed up to perform a remote surgery on a test dummy using 5G data connections. The doctors used a robotic arm, haptic feedback gloves and a VR headset in order to simulate an actual surgery. The surgery was possible through 5G’s lack of latency. Without any kind of delay, future medical professionals could provide life saving surgeries from across the globe in real time!

Self-driving cars can also benefit from 5G’s speed and lack of latency. The article mentions how, without a signal delay getting in the way, self-driving cars can speak to other cars on the roads in order to provide the safest possible driving experience. 5G can also allow for more precise control of drones while providing higher definition video feedback, and virtual reality can allow for VR users to speak in real time to each other. 5G’s speed transfer is so impressive that it could even totally replace home Wi-Fi connectivity.

As our world becomes increasingly more connected, we will need a data network that can handle and provide faster, more responsive connectivity. And it appears as if 5G will be that network. That is, of course, until 6G comes along.

Goodbye, Note7. We Hardly Knew Ya.

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 fiasco has seemingly come to a head, with the Korean electronics company temporarily ceasing production of the phone. Since it’s release in August, there have been numerous reported incidents of the mobile device catching fire. It’s literally an explosive issue.

Black mobile phone

Courtesy of Gadget 360

The Note7 problem came hard and fast. In September, millions of devices were recalled after Samsung announced they had identified the issue causing the potentially dangerous battery fires. Customers were encouraged to trade in their old phones for a new, safer version. But with this latest announcement— coming just a few weeks later— customers were urged to power down their devices immediately… and not turn them back on.

Luckily, Samsung has announced some good news for customers who bought their ill-fated phone. Customers who now turn in the phone will receive a $100 credit to put towards a new device. As CNET points out, the gesture “softens the blow”, encourages customers who haven’t given up the phone to do so immediately, and attempts to keep loyal customers using a Samsung device.

A product disaster like this couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Note7 is Samsung’s premier phone. It’s meant to compete with the ever-present iPhone, and the fact that Apple’s latest mobile product launched a little more than a month ago means that it’s a pretty attractive alternative. And then there’s the holiday question. How will Samsung perform during gift giving season? While Apple has long held smartphone sales titles, their lead has begun to shrink in part due to feisty competitors like Samsung. But with their most valuable phone out of the question, and their reputation shot (some estimates have the firm losing $10 billion in revenue), we have yet to see how it will all shake out.

If you have a Note7, just turn it in. You don’t want your carelessness to be the cause of a grounded flight.

Facebook’s Oculus Is Making Virtual Reality More Social

Before Oculus released virtual reality goggles, there was a lot of buzz about virtual reality  in the tech world. Everyone wanted to the know how virtual reality would revolutionize the industry. Unfortunately, Oculus’ virtual reality Rift goggles did not go over quite as well as they’d hoped.

Sure, virtual reality was talked about and people thought it was “cool”, but it just never broke through into the mainstream market. After Oculus released the Rift goggles, it had to deal with competition from Sony Corp and HTC corp, in addition to a string of gaffes that took away from their business. More recently, founder Palmer Luckey received negative backlash due to his political views from the developers that Oculus depends on.

Oculus is trying to come back strong, recently announcing that it is producing a new lower-end headset. This headset would not need to be tethered to a personal computer or a mobile phone. Oculus also unveiled Touch hand controllers for grabbing and moving virtual objects. These controllers will sell for $199.doug-macfaddin-03_Oculus-Full-Lockup-Horizontal-Black

But the change to virtual reality that truly has the potential to change the landscape of virtual reality is an initiative by Facebook to make virtual reality social. At an annual developer conference called Oculus Connect, Facebook demoed complex avatars that users can customize to look like themselves. These avatars are able to express emotions such as anger and shock, in addition to smiling and laughing.

Zuckerberg has been emphasizing for while now his desire to change his social network to a place where people can feel they are conversing face to face. A few months ago, he further elaborated upon this dream at F8, so we are not surprised to see that he has come up with something new and exciting to change the Facebook.

In addition to being able to create custom avatars and choose emotions, you can choose the background to a life location. The demo showed Zuckerberg’s avatar entering his home, where he could check on his dog.

The platform also allows users to get creative, by letting people draw and play with their creations. Through the Oculus Avatar feature, people are allowed to interact with people all throughout the world using their avatars.

It seems that maybe virtual reality will finally appeal to the mainstream user given these new changes. It’s anyone’s guess whether Oculus will experience the surge in success they’ve been hoping for.

The Rise of the Infrastructure Age

1242300255271879827

 

We have reached a plateau in consumer technology as far as information devices are concerned. Smartwatches suck, tablets haven’t changed profoundly since their conception, portable music players and digital cameras (at least for the amateur) have become obsolete thanks to the consolidation of media into our phones, and new generations of smartphones and computers no longer offer groundbreaking features but mostly upgrades on existing features (better cameras, faster processors, more storage, higher resolution screens, etc.) We’re left wondering what, if anything, will be the next big thing, but there just aren’t any huge gaps left to fill with these gadgets. A major shift is taking place in tech, and the future isn’t in information devices. The future is in infrastructure.

What Tesla is doing with home battery is far more important than what Apple is doing with watches. Tesla is changing the way we think of owning and providing power in our homes, a utility once run entirely on a grid owned by the county. It’s not that these small iterations and upgrades to our devices are bad or unnecessary, but we’ve gotten to a point where all we need as a consumer is a better version of what we already have. The next real revolution of gadgets isn’t going to to be about your phone, it’s going to be about the world around us and how we live within it.

Technology is constantly transforming and permeating into every part of our lives. It no longer exists in just our phones and computers. It has moved into our homes, our transportation, and our public spaces. You can control and interact with your air conditioner, refrigerator, or security system right from your phone, no matter where you are. Large IT companies like IBM and Cisco are developing new technology to manage and improve public safety, city planning, and government agency administration. NASA is using satellites to measure soil moisture to study weather and climate cycles. Technology is now responsible for connecting us to and informing us more deeply about our physical world.

Google has shown a huge interest in this new age of infrastructure that we are entering. They’ve expanded broadly beyond their internet search and advertising origins, getting involved in self-driving cars, Internet glasses, smart thermostats, and even research on the biology of aging to find ways to extend our lifespans.

Google is now looking to get involved in the smart city space alongside the aforementioned IBM and Cisco, and they’re doing it in the form of their latest start-up: Sidewalk Labs. Sidewalk Labs will be headed by Daniel L. Doctoroff, former deputy mayor of New York City for economic development and former chief executive of Bloomberg L.P. It will be based in New York with a team at Google, of course, and led by its chief executive, Larry Page.

Sidewalk Labs claims that their mission “is to improve life in cities for everyone through the application of technology to solve urban problems.” Some of the problems they aim to tackle include cutting pollution, curbing energy use, streamlining transportation, and reducing the cost of city living. Doctoroff says Sidewalk Labs plans to work in “the huge space between civic hackers and traditional big technology companies.” Bike-sharing programs, like New York City’s Citi Bike, is an early example of the kind of technology-assisted innovation they want to pursue.

Large companies aren’t the only one’s interested in innovating our cities technology. Academia has also had it’s eye on this prize. New York University established the Center for the Urban Science and Progress in 2013 to research and unite The Digital Revolution with Global Urbanization. They’ve recently been analyzing large sets of data around the city including using the city’s 311 data, wireless sensors, noise meters on traffic lights and street corners, and more in order to inform policy choices. By looking at things like noise limits for vehicles and muffler costs, they can create computer simulations that could predict the effectiveness of enforcement steps, charges, or incentives to buy properly working mufflers. Their goal above all is to make urban living less severe.

As the physical and virtual world meld ever more intricately, we’ve seen a new threat arise that becomes increasingly dangerous: hacking. As new devices emerge that hold more data and more power, the risks of hacking rise exponentially. We’ve already seen huge breaches in security with our own government at the hands hackers. Security is going to become increasingly important as more complex developments are made.

The internet has brought us together, but infrastructure is what’s going to make this ever growing connectedness feasible, bearable, and efficient. The globalized world needs innovation if human beings are going to survive. Populations are multiplying, urbanization is on the rise, and the world needs proper infrastructure that is going to support the aggressively growing demands of a physically and virtually connected world. To me, that is far more exciting than anything Apple is going to come out with for your next iPhone release.

Apple Will Make Money with Beats

Apple Said To Be In Talks To Purchase Beats Headphones CompanyThe tech giant, Apple recently required Beats Electronics for $3 billion and many questioned the move. It wasn’t an interesting choice and it didn’t seem like buying up a headphone company would provide any creative outlets for the future of Apple in developing new products. However, there is more to the acquisition than meets the eye. They may actually turn a huge profit with bringing headphones under their wing.

Remember that with Beats, Apple now has control of a subscription music service as well. They also gain information for 800 million credit cards that they can now leverage. Apple lost a lot of business in iTunes after companies like Spotify popped up. It is much more desirable to pay $9.99 a month for Spotify rather than buying all your music a la carte on iTunes. Now that Apple is in the music subscription service they may be able to win back some of the customers that left them. They also will immediately get the revenue of the 800 million people that already stream music and that’s before they even win new customers back to Apple and iTunes with their new streaming service. KatyHuberty of Morgan Stanley already wrote about how Apple can quickly get back their $3 billion investment, “Spotify, which is generally viewed as the leader in streaming music, has 10M paying subscribers or about 25% of its over 40M active user base. If Apple charges $10 per month, same a Spotify, ever 1% penetration of Apple’s 800M user base, equates to $960M revenue annually, adding 8 point of growth to online services and half a point to total company growth.” Apple has a good chance at winning over customers because they still have the most frequently purchased and used iOS home screen in the mobile market today. They just have to include the beat app on the home screen and the power of suggestion will bring customers to them.

Unicorn Acquisitions

230461728_454833a9e7_oApple made a big splash in the news when people started talking about the possibility of the computer giant acquiring Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion. The reason for the big stink is that it would have been the largest acquisition ever for Apple in their 38 years. The other, closest acquisition is the $429 million the company paid out for NeXT in 1996. The larger picture indicates that the real reason the Apple acquisition was such a big deal is that it comes in a string of, almost $1 billion “unicorn” acquisitions by major companies over the last year, more specifically in tech. The most notable of these acquisitions include WhatsApp and Oculus being acquired by Facebook, Waze and Nest Labs being bought up by Google, Microsoft absorbing Nokia, and Yahoo buying Tumblr. The real reason this surge of transactions is so significant is that prior to this year the last eight billion-dollar acquisitions of tech companies occurred over the span of ten years. The media flocked to these unicorn acquisitions covering the amount of money being exchanged, how the financing was going to work, the strategic ideal behind the deals, and the chance for success, the real story is how companies and investors need to adapt to enter and exit the market with this radical shift in who is buying and owning companies.

Enterprise acquisitions traditionally have made up most of the transactions over the past ten years. These, more traditional companies, include EMC, Oracle, IBM, and Cisco and they regularly make these multi-billion dollar transactions. For a more specific example consider that Cisco has made seven of these unicorn acquisitions for $25.2 billion and Oracle has gone through 10 unicorn acquisitions for $42.9 billion. Although these enterprise transactions occur frequently, the density of transaction in the tech/start-up industries in the past year have been unprecedented and it will be interesting to keep an eye out to see where things go from here.

Microsoft: The Tech Market’s Comeback Story

shutterstock_140495338-msftMicrosoft, up until the past few years, was always considered the pinnacle of technological innovation in the realm of consumer products. The name itself would strike fear in the hearts of technology executives of all backgrounds; a wolf amongst sheep. However, Microsoft’s name has become a punchline amongst today’s technorati, a joke about the diminishing marginal returns on putting all your eggs in one basket as far as innovation goes, a formerly dominant company becoming a plodding kludge. Recent history of Microsoft has been rife with missed release deadlines, delayed products, and cancelled features, to the point of disheartening consumer and enterprise users the world over.

The rest of the tech market has moved vastly quicker than Microsoft has. Between 2006-2008 Apple introduced the iPhone, Amazon introduced AWS, Google brought about Andriod, and Facebook debuted its News Feed. Those innovations alone encompass a great deal of innovation in their wake, making those four companies the “quadrumvirate of tech” making some comment that Microsoft simply no longer belongs on the list of top tech companies.

However, Microsoft has always had the critical ingredients for success. Consumers want always-portable, always-available, always-usable data across all our devices and applications, allowing us to constantly be in touch, productive, or entertained depending on our mood. From Office to XBox, Microsoft has all of the individual tools and products it needs to fulfill all of our wildest tech fantasies. Yet, by the same token, Microsoft has seemed plagued with constant inefficiency and political strife which inhibited the company from permanently establishing itself as the key brand in the tech market; a position that has been usurped completely by a dominant split between Google and Apple.

However, as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a changin’. Sampling from some recent news out of Microsoft’s camp in the past few weeks, it seems Microsoft is making a push to become relevant again. Recently Microsoft announced that it launched Office across all devices, including on iPad and Android to some decent acclaim. Additionally, Microsoft is building a very disruptive startup lab headed by a well known executive from DARPA to take on the likes of GoogleX. Bing is now responsible for nearly 19% of all search queries in the United States, slowly pushing against Google’s dominant search engine market share. It’s even making Skype group calls free as of just days ago.

Most importantly however, Microsoft seems ready to embrace the cloud. Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, published a letter a month ago outlining a renewed focus on positioning Microsoft at the center of this new cloud based world by creating a “cloud for everyone, on every device.” Almost over night it seemed that Microsoft was finally ready to make the next big push by harnessing its full energy, it’s $20 billion in revenue and $5.66 billion in Q1 net earnings that it had announced only days ago. A Microsoft with a strategy, a vision, is a deadly force in the race for tech supremacy, a race that’s comparable to the US/USSR cold war arms race at this point. All four of the quadrumvirate are highly vulnerable at the moment due to the market convergence created by similar products that depend on devices and the cloud. Continuous engagement is at the heart of these companies’ strategies, and consumers are salivating over a new entrant into the market. 

Facebook/WhatsApp Buyout Considerations

facebook_whatsapp_coverFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum have joined with an impressive $19 billion deal. The two met in February about the deal and Zuckerberg added the incentive of adding Koum to Facebook’s board. The advantage for Facebook is that WhatsApp is used internationally in areas where Facebook isn’t. This will give Facebook a more varied user population with a varied demographic. The deal will give Facebook access to WhatsApp’s 450 million global users. It is not quite clear how this will continue Zuckerberg’s quest to connect the whole planet, but he clearly has a plan.

This acquisition makes Facebook Silicon Valley’s top Dealmaker. They have made large deals before, but the large sum they forked over for WhatsApp makes Facebook the largest dealmaker over the search engine giant, Google.

It will take many steps for Facebook to connect the whole world. WhatsApp is one important step. They have many users in emerging countries like India, Mexico, and Brazil. Next, Zuckerberg may look to chat apps like WeChat, Kakao Talk, and Viper, which are primarily used in China, South Korea, and the Middle East respectively.

Facebook has just spent billions of dollars acquiring Instagram and now WhatsApp. It is unlikely the company will now continue to pursue the ephemeral photo app, Snapchat. Although Zuckerberg has made acquisition offers and campaigned hard for the company before, he is unlikely to continue his pursuit. Beyond Zuckerberg, the co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton has issued some pretty harsh remarks against Snapchat and what the company offers so it is very unlikely a deal will occur.

Investors initially seemed wary of the Facebook/WhatsApp buyout, but after Zuckerberg and Koum spoke the shares went back up. Now only time will tell how the market will respond to this new acquisition.

A Bill to Fight the Patent Troll

“Stop patent trolls, join the fight.”

Patent trolls secure patents and use them aggressively to leverage monetary settlements from unsuspecting businesses while never creating or selling anything themselves.  That is, their patent-troll4contribution to the nation’s GDP is zero.  The patent troll throws a wide net making broad claims of infringement based on sketchy or limited substance.  They are single-handedly killing innovation in the United States and cost small and medium-sized $25 to $30 billion annually.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and he and his bi-partisan coalition crafted the Innovation Act which is bill (HR 3309) to thwart the legal playbook of the patent troll.  A troll’s greatest leverage is the cost of litigation as a threat to demand and extract a quick settlement from the defendant.  Usually they start with their smaller targets and settle for pennies on the dollar.  There is a two-fold strategy with this method: 1) begin the validation process with a settlement, and 2) use the settlement to fund on-going litigation expenses.

The bill is designed to curtail patent troll lawsuits by making a number of changes to how patents are litigated. Below are the key components of the Innovation Act from Rep. Goodlatte’s press release dated November 20, 2013:  

Key Components of the Innovation Act: (Text from Rep. Goodlatte’s press release).

• Target Abusive Patent Litigation: The bill targets abusive patent litigation behavior and not specific entities with the goal of preventing individuals from taking advantage of gaps in the system to engage in litigation extortion.  It does not attempt to eliminate valid patent litigation.

• Protects the Patent System: The patent system is integral to U.S. competitiveness.  This legislation does not diminish or devalue patent rights in any way.

• Increases Transparency: This legislation includes heightened pleading standards and transparency provisions. Requiring parties to do a bit of due diligence up front before filing an infringement suit is just plain common sense. It not only reduces litigation expenses, but saves the court’s time and resources. Greater transparency and information is a good thing and it makes our patent system stronger.

• Modernizes Fee Shifting: The legislation includes a modernized version of Section 285 fee shifting that is fair, clear and will ensure consistent judicial determinations.

• Provides Greater Clarity: The legislation provides for more clarity surrounding initial discovery, case management, joinder and the common law doctrine of customer stays.  The bill works hand-in-hand with the procedures and practices of the Judicial Conference and the courts.

• Small Business Education: The bill provides for small business education and outreach by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

HR 3309 has the normal legislative “trip.”  It first needs to make its way out of Committee to the House floor for a vote.  Assuming the House supports the bill, it still needs to be introduced by Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) and voted on by the Senate before it gets to the President’s desk.  This all seems a bit daunting given the recent ineptness of our politicians to do their jobs.

I do believe patent trolls are in the apolitical “bucket” so maybe this proposed legislation can bring parties together to upgrade the legal environment when it comes to this extortionist behavior.