Incremental Amazon

While Amazon does not have the presence in South Africa that it has overseas, personally, I have felt Amazon’s presence beginning to expand in my day to day. This got me thinking of the incremental nature in which Amazon seem able to build its business. Slowly chipping away at the whole, adding to my monthly spend bit by bit.

Audible

I listen to Audible almost every day. Twice a day during the workweek to and from work and then on the weekend if I find myself driving somewhere on my own. Recently I have also started listening in between other things, like when getting ready for work, or when washing dishes and so forth. I am on the Gold monthly subscription which is $14.95 per month. I have been listening prolifically of late and have upped the speed of my listening to 1.25x. This has led me to start thinking about upgrading my subscription. We will see.

Regarding 1.25x speed – I find this speed does not distort the reading much and after a few minutes sounds just right. Switching back to 1x speed I hardly notice the difference.

IMDB

I love the IMDB app! It is on the home screen of my iPhone (as is Audible) and it sees a lot of usage. Despite this, there does not seem to be a pull into further Amazon activity like purchasing films. This is likely a barrier of delivery in that Amazon is not willing to sell via the App Store due to Apple’s 30% cut and cannot link directly into their own store. And now, due to Amazon Prime Video being bundled with Prime, I suppose the push would only result in a one time purchase regardless.

While on the topic, I have recently been dying to see links, similar to the “Cast and Crew” links for both:

  • The network that runs the show such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu etc to get a list of all the available shows.
  • The production houses behind the films to get a list of the string of films they produce.
  • Links to where to watch as I have recently struggled to find certain titles.

Goodreads

I recently started recording my reading activity in Goodreads. I really enjoying taking a look through my Audible history and seeing what I have listened to in the past. I wanted a similar experience for my reading. Now, Goodreads does not seem able to provide the same stats that Audible does, but it at least keeps a measure of progress. I imagine there will be a much tighter coupling in Goodreads between what I browse and what I might purchase in future.

  • I do wish I could log a start and end time of my reading session.
  • I do not yet see a space with stats? It would be great to see stats on daily pages, average speeds etc.

Amazon Prime Video

I am not a Prime subscriber, so to date, I have not watched any Amazon Prime Video content nor have I subscribed. However, I have installed the Apple TV app, and have browsed through it a few times. Recently, I have checked Amazon Prime Video on four separate occasions to see whether there was content available that I could not find on Netflix and iTunes. Had the films in question been available there, it is likely I would have signed up. As such, it is just a matter of time.

For the record, the three films I was looking for were:

  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • Escape from New York

Amazon

Up until a few weeks ago I had never bought anything on Amazon. However, as a result of some resolutions I made, I was looking to buy some programming books. I had made an attempt at reading them online, but while I read a lot online, long form content is not something I do well with on my phone. It almost all exclusively RSS feeds, blog posts and articles. Since these books were not available in Exclusive Books or on Takealot, I figured I should try Amazon. The waiting period has been about 2-3 weeks due to international shipping, but if you plan your purchasing ahead, it works out really well. So far I have bought 3x programming books, 3x cookbooks, a non-fiction book as well as a book for my father. The ease of this process and the way the Amazon app keeps you right up to date with the detailed progress of your order has made it a really good experience. One that I am already planning on repeating soon. Now, it is only a matter of time until that Amazon Prime subscription raises its head.

To date: 1 delivery was late by about 2-3 days. The other was a week early!

Amazon Web Services

Lastly, and maybe not least, is Amazon Web Services. To date, I have never used Amazon Web Services in a development capacity. However, since using Azure at work, I have become a keen learner on the topic of cloud services for development and I imagine that, once again, it is only a matter of time until I dip my toe in the AWS waters to try it out.

Conclusion

Amazon, despite not having much of a direct presence in my life (until recently) is slowly, but surely carving out niches in my day-to-day usage as well as my month-to-month spend. No doubt this effect has been a lot more drastic for many years in markets such as the USA, UK and Europe, but it does bear thinking about. That the long, slow game, with the right products and strategy can shave off more and more of the share of wallet.

Audible Sidenote:

I love Audible, however the more I think about it, the Gold/Platinum structure of the membership levels seem positively outdated. Paying $14.95 a month for a single credit seems almost archaic in comparison to today’s Netflix-style all you can eat subscriptions. I subscribe to the Netflix Dual Screen subscription as well as the Apple Music Family Plan and both of these offer unlimited use on multiple devices. It seems to strange to have a relatively “expensive” subscription which allows you only 1 credit and (what amounts to) 1 device.

Granted, I still believe Audible is fair. Even listening as much as I do, one credit a month more or less works out perfectly. I do not find myself without credits, and more often than not, I find myself playing catch-up. The thing is, a lot of thought goes into that credit. I actually look forward to browsing, evaluating, planning and choosing my purchase this way. I tend to be calculated and measured in my selections.  Though I hate to say it, listening time definitely has a big impact on my choices. I seldom select a book under 15 hours of listening time. The reality is that, while there may be thousands of really good short books out there that I want to listen to, but with only 1 credit a month, it a waste to spend it on a short book. I think this is where, I wish Amazon had a little more play in their Audible offering since the only options are 12 or 24 titles on subscription. In the same breath, it is great that a book that is 80 hours can be had for the same amount as a book of 6 hours. But still, going short feels like missing out, and as a result, there are many quality titles that I likely will not listen to as a result. I get the feeling that had Amazon not had such a firm grip on the audiobook market, this “restrictive” approach to subscriptions may have proven to be a potential weak spot to be used as an attack mechanism. Alas, this does not seem to be the case. I have started to look around at alternatives to Audbile however, the search is early and my decisions are slow to build when it comes to purchasing.

That being said, two of those alternatives, not surprisingly are from Amazon itself. Bundled Audible as a benefit of Amazon Prime as well as the Kindle Unlimited deal which bundles Kindle books along with their Audible companions with Whispersync. Both fall short (by design I am sure) since the selections in both are so limited. Having experienced, what I find to be, quite uninspired selections in the Audible 2 for 1 sales, I have no intention of limiting my choices to either 50 rotating titles from Audible or to the large, but still limited set of audio titles available on Kindle Unlimited. (On that note, I have never used a Kindle and when I have read books on my iPhone, that has been via iBooks)

Uber and UberEats:

I have had a similar feeling when it comes to Uber. For quite some time, Uber had been slowly increasing in usage in my own life. Then when UberEats launched, my girlfriend and I started using it now and then to order in. This also got me to thinking about how companies, by satisfying jobs to be done, slowly start shaving off pocket share in other markets and from competitors. Personally, I think it is a hugely effective approach for companies with the kind of scale that makes the approach viable.

Pre-HomePod

It seems that the anticipation surrounding the soon to be released HomePod is more centred around a desire to tear it down and declare Amazon Echo or Google Home to be the winner in the expanding voice assistant category than it is for the actual anticipation of the product. Once the reviews drop, we can expect plenty of:

  • It is too expensive.
  • Siri is worse than Alexa/Assistant/Cortana.
  • I cannot do X, Y or Z on HomePod.
  • The sound isn’t as good as X, Y, Z.
  • Apple is doomed.

In the meantime, I will be looking forward to reading about (and eventually hearing) how good of speaker it is.

2 years ago I bought a JBL Charge 3 for my girlfriend. It is one of the best purchases I have ever made. It sounds good, it’s portable, the battery lasts a good while and it is even waterproof. One thing it is not, is smart or have a voice. While the JBL Charge 3 is great, I am looking for something a little more permanent to pair with the Apple TV in the lounge while the JBL Charge 3 can go in the bedroom or go with us on holiday. As far as I am concerned, any smart/voice features are all upside. The jobs to be done in my case are:

  • Music
  • Audio for video
  • Podcasts

I would not underestimate the value of a good speaker. The real test will be to see how HomePod compares to higher end speakers and audio systems. It is interesting to consider HomePod not as an over-priced, under-featured voice assistant, but rather as a low-end entrant to the high-end audio market.

 

About Those iPhone X Supply Chain Rumours

Mike Wuerthele wrote an article at AppleInsider about a KGI Securities research note regarding the iPhone X titled:

“If iPhone X demand is less than expected, analyst expects it to be ‘end of life’ when replacements ship”

The “internet” then decided that this meant the iPhone X would be cancelled due to weak sales.

My advice is to read Wuerthele’s article from bottom to top for a better understanding of what KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo is actually saying.

Here is my summary:

  • Analyst expects trio of iPhone models in 2018 with possible launch of iPhone X Plus.
  • Current iPhone X is unlikely to be retained in line-up once replaced.
  • Notch may be affecting impact in China.
  • Shipments of 18 million iPhone Xs expected in Q1.
  • No comment on holiday sales.
  • Analyst expects 10% iPhone growth in 2018.
  • Firm remains positive on the Apple and the iPhone supply chain.

Don’t believe the clickbait.

Apple 2018

In the spirit of some speculative fun, here are my guesses at what Apple may or may not do in 2018:

iPhone

It is going to be fascinating to see what Apple does with the iPhone line in 2018. 2017 introduced 3 models: iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. What happens with the traditional ‘S’ cycle upgrade since being upturned by the latest release cycle?

Generally Apple does not introduce new form factors in the ‘S’ cycle (last year being the exception) and this cycle is traditionally focused on software-based introductions and improvements. Does this mean we will see:

  • iPhone XS.
  • iPhone 8S.
  • iPhone 8S Plus.
  • iPhone SE (with iPhone 7 internals).
  • New battery case (Has anyone noticed Marty Bird’s continual use of the battery case in Ozark?)

It will be fascinating to see what Apple does in 2019 to the “old” iPhone form factor. Depending on how the iPhone 8/X sales go, might we see the “old” form factor kept as the low-cost option, or will it fall away completely? On that note, I suspect 2019 will see the release of:

  • iPhone X (What will it be called? iPhone X2?).
  • Will we see a dual-camera iPhone X?
  • iPhone X Plus.
  • Apple Pencil integration for iPhone X Plus.
  • What will happen to the notch?
    • The race to a fully-full-screen phone is on and there are big questions around how to solve for the front-facing camera and sensors in order to achieve this.

AirPods

  • New AirPods.
  • New colours.
  • Pricing of new vs old AirPods.
  • Another interesting AirPods question is when will we see “low-end” AirPods in the box with new iPhones? (Could this be on the cards as the product line matures and the components move down the cost curve making EarPods-level AirPods ‘Lite’ possible?)
  • I suspect the AirPods serve as a successful up-sell, so providing AirPods in the box might cannibalise “high-end” AirPods so we may see the form factor remain constant for a while. Maybe there is space to incorporate the AirPods price into the iPhone as iPhone price pushes upwards?
  • Do AirPods remain a single form-factor product line? Does Apple widen the product offering to include on or over-ear headphones that compete with Beats?
  • When we will see cellular connectivity in the AirPods?

iPad

  • After the raft of iPad updates in 2017, will Apple continue this story in 2018?
  • iPad with iPhone X-like bezel-less design.
  • iPad with FaceID.
  • New (smaller) Apple Pencil.
  • Improved iPad keyboards/cases.
  • What of these MacOS/iOS combination rumours?

Apple Watch

  • Always-on time (‘Finally’ becoming a ‘real’ watch.)
  • I suspect there will be one more year of the current form-factor before a thinner Apple Watch in 2019.
  • Or do we see a new form-factor this year and always-on remains a hanging fruit? (Apple must be itching to get a thinner Watch out there! Would likely be a good push on the upgrade cycle. Especially considering all those health-insurance subsidised watches out there.)
  • When (if ever) does Apple breakout Apple Watch numbers?

HomePod

  • Release within Q1?
  • And what of Siri integration?

Siri

  • Looking forward to many improvements as Siri is now under Craig Federighi (along with iOS, MacOS, TvOS and WatchOS)
  • Multi-lingual support is an area Apple can claw back on the “Amazon Echo” lead. The presence of smart speakers in non-English markets is still in the very early to non-existent stages it seems.

Mac Pro

  • Will the Mac Pro see the light of day in 2018 as announced?
  • And what about those external monitors?
  • Big questions around form factor? (To avoid thermal corners)

MacBook and MacBook Pros

  • Will we see regular spec bumps in order to avoid the very long upgrade cycles and ever-rising (but currently relatively dormant) Mac criticisms?
  • What happens to the TouchBar? (Does Apple keep it (surely?) and continue to maintain two lines of MacBook Pro?)
  • What more will we find out about the MacOS/iOS combination? ARM-based Macs? LTE Macs?
  • Increased usage of T-series processors (and other Apple silicon) across the Mac range.

The HomePod, Mac Pro and MacBook/Pro release and upgrade cycles will come under scrutiny. Apple has made announcements and commitments to these and already the HomePod is slipping. Will be keeping an eye here to see if the others slip too.

Mac App Store

  • Phil Schiller’s leadership of the App Store has resulted in great improvements to the iOS App Store. When will we see the fruits of his leadership come to the Mac App Store?

Apple TV

  • Dolby Atmos.
  • Improved remote (Likely only in 2019 with new Apple TV hardware).
  • Game controller? (Likely only paired with new hardware. If ever.)
  • Anyone other than Gene MApple TV TV.

Apple Video and Music

  • Launch of first batch of Apple streaming video series.
  • Improvement of Apple Music interface and recommendations.
  • Shazam integration.

iCloud

  • Improved iCloud free and paid tiers.
  • Streamlining of iCloud features – the iCloud authentication and password flows still seem horribly touchy and strange to me.

Project Titan

  • What happens with CarPlay?
  • More rumours… leaks? (Likely that those leaks will only start in earnest once the supply chain comes into play.)

Other areas of interest will be:

Now that the majority of the work on Apple Campus and the Apple Stores seems to be done, where will Jony Ive be exerting his focus?What will be revealed about Apples US plans in terms of campuses, hiring, cash and tax repatriation?What effect will moving to the new campus have on the employees and their work?Will Apple be able to batten down the hatches in terms of public and somewhat embarrassing bugs?Come what may, it is going to be an exciting year!

Update 23/01/2018

Apple have announced that HomePod will be available in Apple Stores in US, UK and Australia on 9 Feb. Multi-room audio, stereo pair and AirPlay2 will however only be added in future software updates.