Hi, Aaron in for Adam for the last time this week. The essay will be back in Mr. Lashinsky’s capable hands on Monday.
Do you wear a wearable? By that I mean anything from the cute, plastic Fitbit Flex wristband you picked up a few years ago for $50 to a ceramic-cased Apple Watch Series 2 you got for Christmas that cost the giver $1,300. Maybe you’re a real watch fiend and you’ve gone even more upscale, say, for the almost $9,000 titanium Exospace B55 Connected from Breitling? No, not your style?
While I bet a solid proportion of Data Sheet readers do have a smart device strapped on, in the wider world, the wearable movement seems to have reached a plateau—or maybe even a dead end. The market trackers at Strategy Analytics say 21.1 million smartwatches shipped last year, barely more than 2015’s total of 20.8 million. Wednesday, we heard about slipping sales from Fitbit and Garmin. And we learned yesterday that, so far this year, the market has resembled a barbell. Growing sales of cheap bands from Xiaomi in Asia and higher-end watches from Apple offset massively lower tracker sales from Fitbit, Garmin, and others stuck in the middle. Net-net, the market grew a mediocre 8%.
The key question for the future, of course, is one of utility. How truly useful is a smartwatch or tracker? And does it retain that usefulness after the novelty wears off?
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I used to wear a standard watch every day and for the past few years I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch (though also with experimental periods of various Fitbits and a Samsung Gear). I appreciate some of the little bits of info I receive with just a flick of the wrist, as well as the tracking and prompts for my exercising. And the app called Round—it reminds me which medication to take when—is, almost literally, a lifesaver. And, yes, I like the way it looks with my daily choice of strap options. But I know not everyone wants more interruptions, and the battery life remains pathetic.
Apple and its competitors are hard at work on making better, thinner, more capable watches and so maybe the market does keep growing. But as I was reading last week about the Wisconsin company that was seeking employee volunteers for an embedded smart chip, I thought maybe the future won’t be on the wrist. Some combination of smart chips, contact lenses or glasses, projections of augmented reality, and smart devices scattered around the home could make smartwatches—and maybe even smartphones—seem like quaint relics. But I’ll still miss my rainbow striped nylon watch band.
More with less. On Wall Street, it was a day for some of the smaller players to report quarterly results. Yelp said revenue grew 20% to $209 million, better than analysts expected, but also announced it was getting out of the online ordering business and sold its Eat24 unit to competitor Grubhub for almost $300 million. Yelp shares soared 20% in premarket trading on Friday. Also soaring, both literally and figuratively, is GoPro. With its initially troubled Karma drone now the second-best selling flyer on the market, sales jumped 34% to $297 million, again better than analysts expected. And its shares jumped 16% premarket.
No surrender. Is Tesla’s lead in the race to electric cars insurmountable? At least in Europe, the verdict is definitely “nein.” A consortium of 17 companies said they would build a battery factory in Germany to rival Tesla’s Gigafactory and help European carmakers produce lots of electric cars of their own.
Sometimes, surrender. One of the leading digital currency exchanges, Coinbase, decided it would allow transactions in the Bitcoin split-off called Bitcoin Cash after all. It wasn’t just out of the goodness of their heats, though. By one measure, customers had withdrawn almost half the bitcoins they stored at Coinbase in recent weeks.
Don’t be evil. Uber got caught in yet another bit of apparently shady dealing. The Wall Street Journal reports that the ride service rented more than 1,000 defective Honda SUVs in Singapore and one caught fire. Uber said it took “swift action” to fix the defects.
Don’t be evil, Part II. White hat or black? Everyone thought 22-year-old security researcher Marcus Hutchins was the good kind of hacker, a white hat, after he helped stop the global malware outbreak known as WannaCry. But on Thursday, Hutchins was arrested for allegedly playing a part in an earlier credit card stealing malware scheme called Kronos. There’s been vigorous debate about the charges. Cybersecurity law expert Orin Kerr has the best review of the case against Hutchins so far.
Don’t be evil, Part III. Trying to avoid those hackers with strong passwords and a password manager app is getting more expensive. Popular app LastPass doubled the price of its premium service to $24 a year while stripping features from its free service. The changes follow moves by competitor 1Password to get more users to pay for its cloud-based subscription plan, too. The thing is, given the bad guys out there, it’s still probably worth it.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner Won an Acting Job ‘Because I Had More Followers’ by John Patrick Pullen
AI Techniques Now Power All Facebook Translations by David Meyer
NFL Referees Use Microsoft Surface at Hall of Fame Game by Barb Darrow
Elon Musk Confirms SpaceX Is On Track to Send Humans Into Space by Kirsten Korosec
Amazon’s ‘Jobs Day’ Was a Bust by Chris Morris
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Millennials don’t listen to the radio much, especially not the kind of AM talk radio stations that fueled the conservative movement a few decades back. But it seems there’s plenty of conservative talk on Google’s YouTube site. John Herrman checks out the phenomenon in this week’s New York Times Magazine.
Sure, there are video posters from all across the political spectrum, but the right is well ahead. Herrman writes:
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few interesting longer reads I came across this week, suitable for perusing over the weekend.
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
The correlations between depression and smartphone use are strong enough to suggest that more parents should be telling their kids to put down their phone. As the technology writer Nick Bilton has reported, it’s a policy some Silicon Valley executives follow. Even Steve Jobs limited his kids’ use of the devices he brought into the world.
The Model 3 Is Further Proof of Tesla’s Asymmetric War Against the Auto Industry
There is only one way to “defeat” Tesla: accept that there is no defeating an idea destined to overtake the first-world countries’ car markets. Tesla has redefined the business of war in the automotive sector, and anyone who wants to survive must wage it as Tesla does. This requires more than duplicating the weapons of war; it requires mastering the full spectrum of warfare required to wield those weapons-all of them-effectively.
Inside Patreon, the Economic Engine of Internet Culture
While Kickstarter revolutionized how people raise money for games, gadgets, and other products, Patreon is aiming for something far more ambitious: “We want to fund the creative class,” CEO and co-founder Jack Conte tells me. “Ten years from now, we want kids growing up and graduating college and high school to know that being a professional creator is possible. We’re shooting for this cultural sea change.”
Who Was She? A DNA Test Only Opened New Mysteries.
About half of Plebuch’s DNA results presented the mixed British Isles bloodline she expected. The other half picked up an unexpected combination of European Jewish, Middle Eastern and Eastern European. Surely someone in the lab had messed up. It was the early days of direct-to-consumer DNA testing, and Ancestry.com’s test was new. She wrote the company a nasty letter informing them they’d made a mistake.
BEFORE YOU GO
It’s the height of summer produce season and amid the fresh corn and pole beans, we’ve got far too many tomatoes. How much home made tomato sauce can one man jar for the long winter ahead? So I appreciated this recipe for the Tuscan dish pappa al pomodoro. Something to try over the weekend. Enjoy!