The Week in Mobile – December 12, 2015

Here’s my quick take on this week’s stories about smartphones, tablets, and supporting technologies that I found interesting.

Apple Battery Case

Apple introduced a new battery case for the iPhone 6/6s priced at $99.

I had a few thoughts about this:

  • Apple is (finally!) acknowledging that battery life on the iPhone 6 and 6s is not good enough.
  • The battery case market must be sufficiently big enough that Apple wants a share.
  • I wonder if the next iPhone will have a port on the back for extended batteries so that the lightning port can remain open?

Apple is getting a lot of criticism about the case for design, usability, performance, and price. Tim Cook himself even had to defend the product.

I suppose it is a bit goofy looking with the big hump in the back, but none of these things look that great. I can’t defend the charging light being inside the case where you can’t see it. Who thought that was a good idea? It also doesn’t hold as much charge as the competition, yet costs more. That is unfortunate but probably won’t hurt sales too much (especially if they stop carrying competing products in the Apple store).

The one thing I really do like about it compared to similar products is that it uses a lightning connector whereas most others use microUSB. For Apple fans who have invested in a lot of lightning cables this is a big plus.

Links: Apple, BGR

Dropbox kills Mailbox

In 2013 Dropbox bought beloved email app Mailbox for a mind blowing $100M with promises building better collaboration tools. In the two years since its purchase Dropbox has done little with Mailbox and is now formally shutting it down.

I used to use Mailbox on my iPhone and liked it a lot. Mailbox brought several innovations to email apps that are now commonplace such scheduling messages and swiping to perform quick actions. Now that Microsoft and Google are giving away email apps with similar capabilities, I would imagine it would be hard to compete in this space without re-inventing email, such as Slack did. And how does this help Dropbox’s business?

While it is sad to see a good app die, I hope that this is a sign that Dropbox is focusing on its core business. At $100M, it does seem like an expensive lesson though.

Links: Mailbox, The Verge

There’s Life in Microsoft’s Surface Business

A report was published this week by 1010data claiming that in October revenue from online sales of Microsoft’s Surface tablets was higher than that from Apple’s iPad. While this does not say that Microsoft is selling more Surfaces than Apple is selling iPads, it does indicate that Microsoft is drawing substantial revenue from its Surface business. This also means that there is significant demand for hybrid PC tablets.

Links: Business Insider

Apple Event coming in March

Although Apple did not announce it, news started spreading this weeek that there will be an Apple event in March to introduce the Apple Watch 2 and a new iPhone with a four inch screen.

A new Apple Watch would explain the big drop in price of Apple Watches at retailers this month. Best Buy is discounting the Apple Watch Sport by $100. Moving out the old inventory for the new?

There has been speculation about a iPhone 6 class phone with a 4″ screen to take the low end of the product line for a long time but I have not seen any leaks of parts from the supply chain that usually precede a new product release so I’m not too sure about this one.

Links: 9to5Mac

Firefox OS is Shut Down

Mozilla has shut down development of the Firefox OS for smartphones. The first version of the OS was released in 2013 to generally poor reviews. It was intended to run in low end phones for emerging markets but cheap Android phones seem to have eliminated the need for this product. Another case of too little too late.

Links: TechCrunch

Microsoft brings Cortana to iOS and Android

Microsoft released iOS and Android apps for its digital assistant, Cortana, this week. Cortana, which is built into Windows 10 devices, is similar to Apple’s Siri and Google Now in that it performs tasks for you and proactively gathers information it thinks you will need. The apps do not have the tight integration with the iOS and Android like it does in Windows, although future versions of Android branch Cyanogen will have Cortana support in the OS.

The release of these apps is another example of Microsoft’s shift to being a service provider from a platform vendor. Satya Nadella’s Microsoft wants you using its services regardless of the platform you choose.

Link: Microsoft, Engadget

Google’s Pixel C Tablet

Google started shipping its high end “Pixel C” Android tablet. Like the Microsoft Surface an optional keyboard is available which turns the tablet into a laptop. Unlike the Surface, the keyboard supports the tablet so you can actually use it on your lap.

Reviews of the hardware have been generally quite positive lauding build quality and performance, although attaching the tablet to the keyboard seems somewhat awkward. The cost is also high ($499 for the tablet and $149 for the keyboard) for an Android tablet.

The big criticism is with the software as Android doesn’t seem ready for a laptop. Android does not support displaying multiple apps at the same time as Windows and iOS9 can. I’m sure that will be coming in a future version of Android, but it isn’t here today and is expected for a device of this cost. Also, Android’s tablet ecosystem is still not rich enough. Microsoft Office is on Android but there are not a lot of other tablet specific apps. The Engadget review says “Android just isn’t cut out for productivity as much as Chrome OS or Windows yet.” I’m surprised that Google isn’t working with more software publishers to produce more Android productivity tablet apps.

Links: Google, The Verge, Ars Technica

That’s it for now! See you next week.



About Lee J.

Mobile Guy!
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