Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why the Project Ara will never take off?

Google's Motorola Mobility division and 3D Systems, a maker of 3D printing technology, on Friday said they had entered into a multiyear deal to create a platform for designing and distributing components for Motorola's Project Ara. Project Ara represents Motorola Mobility's attempt to bring the relative openness and extensibility of Android software to hardware. It aspires to be "a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones."
Project Ara aims for Lego-style durable mobile phone

There are however some principal problems with this idea.

  1. First of all, the level of customization will be limited by the common design of the phone. While users of traditional phones will have wide choice of phones e.g. in different design and sizes, users of project Ara phone will have just “onesquare shape size that fits all”. This is in direct contrast to the original idea of customizability.
  2. Second, the level of customizability will be limited by the number of parts available on the market (and number vendors that sign to this idea). Users of traditional phones will have the option to select e.g. phones with extremely high-resolution cameras (like those from Nokia), while most definitely not all these components will not available in the form of Ara phone components (for example, Nokia will very unlikely support the platform endorsed by its direct competitor).
  3. And third, also the durability of such a phone is in question. If the market with Ara components will not take off, users will be very likely forced to abandon their Ara phone puzzle in exchange for newer and more advanced technology.
And last but not least. These components are supposed to be designed and produced by phone manufacturers. But these companies have indeed no reason at all to support a product which, if successful, will decrease their market by two thirds.
Custom printed circuits will not change a bit on these reasons, not to say that the biggest problem is not to print customized circuits, but to design them.
In summary, Ara phone is an interesting idea which will however never take off.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What is wrong with Samsung smartwatch? How to make smartwatches really fly?

Written for Start2Cloud.com.

Samsung says it has sold 800,000 of its widely panned Galaxy Gear smartwatches. At least, that’s the word from Reuters. What is Samsung doing wrong? And why this segment didn’t took off yet?

Smartwatches won’t sell until someone figures out what they’re for. The title of today’s article in Wired speaks for itself. So, what are smartwatches actually good for?

Principially, there are two main use cases in which smartwatches have definitely its place on the market - and in our lives:
  1. First, the display of smartwatches can be put into our view much easier than display of any other consumer device, and this is true even in situations when our hands are busy doing other things. Smartwatches are unique in this aspect, comparable only to smart glasses, which however don’t really exist on the market yet.
  2. Second, the act of glancing at our watch is a commonly accepted social custom, while the act of removing our smartphone from the pocket and looking on it during conversation is (still) perceived as rude. Here again smartwatches take the lead over smartphones, tablets and other devices.
On the other hand, we must calculate also with their limitations. Because of their small display size, smart watches are not suitable for displaying a full fledged “information cockpit”-style screen we know so well from our smartphones, and they are also not good for any interaction. They are ideal to display just one piece of information at the time, and because there is no space for more, this piece must be indeed selected very carefully. It should be information that is relevant to our actual situation - the most important piece of information we need at this particular moment. This information can be current time, time to our next meeting, short message that just arrived - and that’s just it. Smartwatches are not suitable for displaying too big text, and are also inherently inconvenient for any interaction. This functionality should thus be solved via other devices, which will be work together with smartwatches; for example, if I remove my smartphone from the pocket, my phone should display the same message as my smartwatch does, but with additional options to display more text, more details like pictures, and indeed with ability to conveniently reply.

In other words, smartwatches definitely have place in our world, but only if they are designed with respect to these limitations.

Those manufacturers who will keep in mind the rules above are on the right way to succeed - and will sell billions of devices instead of just hundreds of thousands.