iOS v/s Android

There is nothing more obvious than the fact that iOS and Android are competitors and are pretty much the only ones in the smartphone market as it stands today. Though iOS had a few years of head start to Android, Android soon caught up to iOS and eventually beat it in the market share by a huge margin, globally. Most recent data (via BusinessInsider) suggests that the trend that has been valid in terms of market share when it comes to smartphones has not changed much in the last couple of years. That is Android has close to 75 to 80% while iOS has close to 18 to 20% of the global smartphone market. 

iOS v/s Android smartphone market share as of Feb 2015 (source: BusinessInsider)

iOS v/s Android smartphone market share as of Feb 2015 (source: BusinessInsider)

Everyone in the Apple blogosphere (including me) has always argued that the market share alone is not the complete story and it is only wise to compare the profit share as well in the smartphone market as Apple doesn't typically play in all the smartphone markets that Google does. In terms of profit share, Apple has trounced Google (by a bigger margin than Google has trounced Apple in marketshare) for quite a while now. The recent data (via AppleInsider) on the profit share of iOS v/s Android in the smartphone market suggests the same trend holds true. Apple makes almost 9 times more money that Google from its mobile devices. 

iOS v/s Android smartphone profit share as of Feb 2015 (via AppleInsider)

iOS v/s Android smartphone profit share as of Feb 2015 (via AppleInsider)

But just like how, concluding that Google is winning the smartphone race based on the market share data, is absurd, it is equally absurd to conclude that Apple is winning this race based on the profit share data. The missing parameter in this context is the objective of each of the two companies for their mobile operating systems. Apple's is a product company and its objective is to make the best products (according to it) and the boat load of profits it makes is just a by product or a confirmation that its doing its job. Google's objective with Android is to be omnipresent or be installed in the most number of devices as possible across the globe, to increase is install base for its ads and other related businesses. So based on these, shouldn't we conclude that both companies have succeeded in their respective missions? I think so and this statement is true at least as of today. But the biggest loser in this race is and has always been Microsoft. It doesn't even feature in some of the tables and plots above with a non-zero value! 

But just like how, concluding that Google is winning the smartphone race based on the market share data, is absurd, it is equally absurd to conclude that Apple is winning this race based on the profit share data.

Note: It might be wise to look at micro markets for a more apt comparison of these two mobile strategies. Like how Apple is gaining and maintaining a strong foothold with its iOS devices in the Enterprise market (via VentrueBeat) or how Google is paving itself a nice niche over taking Apple in the educational market (via BusinessInsider) with its Chrome books (I still think Chrome OS is the future of Android by the way).

Apple still rules the mobile enterprise space and is extending its lead. iOS gained another 4 percentage points, growing to 73 percent of global device activations in Q4 2014. Android device activations, meanwhile, dropped the same amount to 25 percent of total activations last quarter.
— via VentureBeat

Apple's March 9th event

Apple just sent out a bunch of invites to the press for a March 9th event in San Francisco (via WSJ) with the phrase "Spring Forward" in it. There is absolutely no doubt that the Apple Watch is going to be announced with more details about its models, pricing and features. There is some speculation that other products like the 12" Macbook Air Retina might also be announced in this event. Either way it is going to be a hardware event for Apple and they are going to be live streaming it this time as well (via Apple.com). 

Apple's March 9th (2015) special event invite (Source: WSJ)

Apple's March 9th (2015) special event invite (Source: WSJ)

Apple, the new Goldmember in town

Remember that WSJ article that threw around a few numbers for the Apple Watch production a few days back? It said that Apple plans to eventually produce one million Apple Watch Edition models every month eventually from the second quarter. A lot of people have debated the validity of this number of the Apple Watch's most premium model, that might supposedly run to even un to $20,000, according to some. But WSJ's track record from the past on such insider articles about Apple, makes it is hard not to believe these numbers however insane they are. So lets assume for the sake of argument that WSJ was right and Apple indeed is planning to make a million Edition Apple Watches per month. What does this mean for the amount of gold Apple needs to make these? This intersecting article has some fun math for you. 

Let’s assume that each Apple Watch Edition contains 2 troy ounces of gold... If Apple makes 1 million Apple Watch Edition units every month, that equals 24 million troy ounces of gold used per year, or roughly 746 metric tons... but just how much is it? About 2,500 metric tons of gold are mined per year. If Apple uses 746 metric tons every year, we’re talking about 30 percent of the world’s annual gold production.
— TidBITS

Wow, this is crazy, there should be something wrong with the math here, right? Nope. Its just what it is. Now even if WSJ has this  number of Edition models wrong by a factor 10 or 5, its still a significant amount of gold, at around 3 to 6% of the entire gold mined globally. I guess this makes it the right time to invest in gold, huh! With more demand, its prices are sure to shoot up, if this piece of news is even remotely accurate. 

The Apple Watch Edition a watch case crafted from 18-karat gold (Source: Apple.com)

The Apple Watch Edition a watch case crafted from 18-karat gold (Source: Apple.com)

An Interview experience at Apple

The interviews (at Apple) seemed based on indirect questioning, this leaves too much room for bad judgements and assumptions in my opinion.
— Luis Abreu

A nice article on an unusual topic, this one. With thousands of Apple employees and even more job openings, we hardly get to hear the experience of going through an Apple interview. I personally haven't tried getting a job at Apple and haven't been contacted by them for one. But I have heard a lot of stories through friends of mine about the recruiting process at not just Apple, but also at other Bay Area companies like Facebook and Google. One thing that stood out to me about the Apple recruiting process was that its interviews were not traditional, in the sense, there generally is not too many direct questions like, "do you know the answer to a particular issue?", "how do you solve a particular problem?", etc., but more indirect like this article mentions. I agree with the author on how this sort of questioning might leave too much room for bad judgements, but I think this is what makes Apple different. The other companies, I have heard are more traditional in their questions, as to look at academic achievements, knowledge about particular niche topics, ability to solve certain mathematical problems, etc., but not Apple (though things are starting to change elsewhere as well in this regard). Interviews at Apple (again as an outsider on this topic) seem to be aimed at analyzing the candidate's ability to think and act differently. Very apt I would say! 

The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.
— Laszlo Bock, Sr. VP at Google via CNET

The abysmal Smartwatch market

Independent research company Smartwatch Group provided new data to AppleInsider on Wednesday estimating that just 6.8 million smartwatches were sold last year. Those devices had an average price of $189, which is down 16 percent from the selling price of $225 seen in 2013... Total market volume in 2014 was $1.29 million, up from $711 million in 2013. Overall unit sales, however, increased 82 percent year over year.
— AppleInsider

Though these are early days for the Smartwatch market, Smartwatches (as we know them today) have been around for at least a couple of years as of now. So it is a reasonable time in their history to analyze their market a little. Looking at this article from AppleInsider, it is easy to conclude that there is no way Apple is going to compete in this market. The ASP is so low at $189  and that too already racing to the bottom from last year with a 16% decline. Though the overall unit sales almost doubled in 2014, there were only half a million of them sold every month last year (for perspective Apple sold almost the same number of Macs, 5.5million of them, in just last quarter at an ASP of $1258). Though the article doesn't have any profit margin info, how much profits can you make from a category that has an ASP of less than a couple of hundred bucks? Hence there is no way Apple is competing in this abysmal category, correct? Wrong!

Apple will start selling its Apple Watch in approximately a month from now and its starting price will be almost twice this average ASP of the market at $349. Its highest price is rumored to be 100x this average ASP at around $20,000. So the argument that "this market (without taking Apple into account or before Apple's entrance) is not making enough money", will and has never stopped Apple from entering it! Just like it might not stop the rumored Apple Car, many other arguments might, but defintiely not this one!  

The missing file picker in iOS

Neither then, nor now, am I asking for a user-accessibile files system on iOS. Traditional file systems are overly complicated and Apple has rightly hidden them away on the iPhone and iPad so normal human beings don’t have to deal with them... What I am asking for is a repository, just like Photos.app for the ImagePicker. Something that collects files all in one place so they’re easy to find. Just like Passbook for passes and Health for medical and fitness data.
— Rene Ritchie, iMore.com

I completely agree with Rene on this topic and its better late than never that we get a file picker for iOS. And I think the timing is also right as iOS has matured enough and its users are comfortable enough with it, for a file picker. I have for long wanted to replace my Dropbox folder with Apple's iCloud Drive. But unfortunately the biggest use case for me for Dropbox is an online storage drive that replaces the traditional flash drive that I have to carry around. With iCloud drive I was finally hopeful of using an Apple's service instead of a third party one (as if I have to trust one company with my sensitive files/information, it would always be Apple for me) in this regard, but as it stands now, iCloud Drive cannot replace Dropbox for me. So I am hoping for this feature on iOS as soon as possible with fingers crossed!

As of now though Apple's iCloud Drive allows users a file picker option on Mac OS, it is a nonexistent feature on its iOS (Source: Apple.com)

As of now though Apple's iCloud Drive allows users a file picker option on Mac OS, it is a nonexistent feature on its iOS (Source: Apple.com)

The worst argument against the Apple Car

When I wrote my column on the rumored Apple Car a few days back, I made one point for the bull case scenario or it was more a point against a bear case scenario for the Apple Car. 

Though there are a bunch of car manufacturers out there who do not make much profit compared to what Apple makes from its iPhones and iPads, things will change with an Apple car. Remember Apple competes only in “luxury” range of any product. So comparing Ford’s profits to an Apple car and deeming it to be too low for Apple to even mull about it a little short sighted. If Apple makes a car, it will place it such that the car stands out amongst its competitors well enough for Apple to justify a higher than usual profit margin, just like everyone one of it existing products.

This article on Vox talks about the same point I had made but in a bit more detail. Comparing the profits Apple makes on its smartphones and computers to rest of its competitors is like comparing Apples to oranges, no I mean it is literally like comparing night and day. 

If Apple weren’t already earning tens of billions of dollars in smartphone profits, people might look at this landscape and say it would be pointless for Apple to get into the market. How are you going to compete with zero-margin handsets and a free operating system?
— via Vox

An early peek into some third party Apple Watch Apps

Wareable has some nice tidbits on how some third party Apple Watch apps might look like and I must admit that some of them make much more sense than what I thought a few months back when Apple Watch was unveiled for the first time. And I am getting more excited about the use cases for the Apple Watch with every passing day. Some apps like Clear and some fitness apps looks like a very nice fit for an Apple Watch indeed!

And now Clear (the iOS and Mac App) will bring your to-dos and reminders to Apple Watch, synced via iCloud... Designed as a quick-recall and easy-to-check-off list, Clear shows all the lists you’ve created, and allows you to complete any task — wherever you are.
— via Wareable
Clear App on the Apple Watch (Source: Wareable.com)

Clear App on the Apple Watch (Source: Wareable.com)

iOS Public beta?

Apple has grown tremendously in the last decade and the main credit for this goes to iOS and the iPhone in particular, that has given Apple the power of almost a billion iOS users. But as usual, with great power comes great responsibility and more importantly, with great power comes an even greater number of issues for the company to solve. Apple in the last year or so has been criticized severely for the increasing number of bugs and crashes and the criticisms are highly justified. But Apple as we know has never been one to sit on their back sides and let the tide retreat on its own and this time is no different. Apple though has not acknowledged these issues publicly, so far, appears to be taking the first few (baby?) steps in the right direction. 

It just works, was never completely true, but I don’t think the list of qualifiers and asterisks has ever been longer. We now need to treat Apple’s OS and application releases with the same extreme skepticism and trepidation that conservative Windows IT departments employ.
— Marco Arment
Apple's most recent iOS, iOS 8 has been plagued with bugs, that Apple has been struggling to squash (Source: Apple.com)

Apple's most recent iOS, iOS 8 has been plagued with bugs, that Apple has been struggling to squash (Source: Apple.com)

With more features and added complexity to the operating system, iOS nowadays hasn't been falling short in features compared to Android, but has been struggling with quality control issues. Bugs are a real trouble as they do not show up in the majority of the use cases majority of the times and thats what makes then really difficult to catch and solve. The one proven way to handle these bugs is to increase the number of people testing the beta releases and with only tens of thousands of employees (compared to a billion iOS end users), Apple was lacking test subjects for debugging its iOS so far. So not for the first time (Apple did the same with its Mac OS recently), Apple is supposedly going to expand its beta testers by opening its iOS releases to the public before a mass deployment to the end users, according to 9to5mac

In an effort to eliminate bugs from upcoming iOS versions ahead of their general releases, Apple plans to launch the first-ever public beta program for the iOS operating system, according to multiple people briefed on the plans. Following the successful launch of the OS X Public Beta program with OS X Yosemite last year, Apple intends to release the upcoming iOS 8.3 as a public beta via the company’s existing AppleSeed program in mid-March, according to the sources.
— 9to5mac

This is indeed a very good first step from Apple to make its iOS a less buggier OS, but as always as end users, be careful not to install these beta softwares on your primary devices and have in mind, the fact that these beta releases are supposed to be extremely buggy in most cases.