Monday, July 31, 2017

KICKSTARTER: Sequent Supercharger Self Charging Smart Watch

We thought we would kickstart the week, (no pun intended…or was it?) with a look at the Sequent Supercharger, the first self-winding, self-charging, cable-free smartwatch.
It’s a Kickstarter funded smart watch designed by Swiss designer Adrian Buchmann that has even traditional watch purists sitting up and paying attention for it does for the smart watch what Seiko did for the analog watch many years ago. It runs on kinetic energy and is therefore completely cable free. The more you move around, the faster it charges. The watch is made by Swiss watchmakers, designers and engineers who have teamed up with the best partners in each manufacturing sector.
The 42mm watch is being funded energetically too. With 9 days still to go, the Sequent Supercharger has been pledged CHF617,168 from an CHF 80,000 goal.
Because you generate the energy for the watch yourself, it is 100% clean energy, and the watch includes the latest generation Heart Rate sensor, GPS tracking and notification system, which can connect by Bluetooth to a proprietary Biofeedback health & sport app.
The rotor of an automatic movement worn all day rotates about 4000 times. In the Sequent Supercharger, these rotations are fed to a patented spring barrel system, which instantaneously releases the wound-up tension to a micro generator which charges the battery. And because the watch movement is based on a traditional Swiss automatic movement, no additional charging is necessary.
The dials features an hours and minutes hand in the center, with a handy power reserve on the left (in red) and a biofeedback indicator on the right (in blue). There is also a small LED light in customizable color at 6 o’clock.
The Sequent Supercharger connects to your phone via an app which shows you where you’ve been (GPS) and your daily activity (Biofeedback, heartrate, step counter). You can also set the alarm with your watch to give you wake up calls and other alerts.
With several strap choices including American Horween leather, cordura and rubber, the price for the black or white edition currently starts at just $149.  The blue or green 316L stainless steel edition starts at $199. There’s also a transparent edition (not shown) for $299. After the Kickstarter campaign the price will start at $638.
Visit the Sequent Kickstarter page

Will Fitbit Inc (FIT) Stock Get a Boost From Its Smartwatch Debut?

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The CEO of Fitbit Inc (NYSE:FIT) recently went on record to assure those waiting for the new Fitbit smartwatch that it will include third-party app support at launch. With FIT stock down almost 29% for 2017 — extending near 90% declines since this time in 2017 — that product launch is gaining in urgency.
James Park is trying to quell rumors that the wearable maker is struggling with its first smartwatch. However, with slumping Fitbit sales and a smartwatch market that’s failing to catch fire, while remaining dominated by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), a question remains:
Will that Fitbit smartwatch be too little, too late?
Fitbit’s Struggle to Launch a Smartwatch
We’ve known that FIT is working on a smartwatch for some time. When the company bought the assets from smartwatch pioneer Pebble last December, the cat was out of the bag. Yahoo Finance leaked images and details about the Fitbit smartwatch in May. That news resulted in a temporary bump for FIT stock. But the leak also contained claims that Fitbit was struggling with manufacturing issues and perhaps worse, that a Pebble-like app store would not be available at launch.
Then a day after the Fitbit smartwatch leak, tech management consultancy Strategy Analytics released its Q1 numbers for wearables sales, indicating that the Apple Watch had overtaken Fitbit sales to dethrone FIT as the world’s top-selling wearables maker.
Fitbit disputed Strategy Analytics’ numbers, but that report — combined with the Yahoo leak — quickly took the wind out of FIT stock and it’s been downhill again since then.
For what it’s worth, IDC released its version of Q1 global wearables sales in June. It used sales numbers supplied by Fitbit (something Strategy Analytics had not done), but still put FIT in third place, with Apple and Xiaomi tied for top spot. While Apple Watch sales are always an estimate (part of FIT’s dispute over the Strategy Analytics numbers), IDC had Apple at 3.6 million units sold, a 64.1% gain year-over-year, compared to FIT’s 3 million, a 37.7% decline.
So, even if the actual numbers are off slightly, the trend seems pretty clear.
Third-Party Apps?
CEO Park spoke to The Verge last week, to publicly dispel rumors that the Fitbit smartwatch would not support third-party apps at launch. He told the publication the smartwatch will have an app platform, and an app gallery — third-party apps available through Fitbit’s mobile app.
Leveraging Pebble’s software, FIT will be releasing a software development kit that “will make it easy for developers to build apps, ones that will be compatible with both iOS and Android devices.”
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What Fitbit needs to do to make a great smartwatch in 2017

Valentina Palladino reader comments 60 Share this story
It's no secret that Fitbit is making a smartwatch. The company signaled its serious plans with the purchase of Pebble at 2016's end and the purchase of the lesser-known Vector shortly after. Fitbit was supposed to release a smartwatch this spring, but product issues delayed those plans. Rumors suggest we won't have to wait much longer, though, as the company may release an entirely new product this fall: a smartwatch that many want to rival the Apple Watch as well as Android Wear devices.
Fitbit has plenty of reasons why it would want to confront Apple in the wearable space: Apple overtook the company as the top wearable shipper, owning 14.6 percent of the wearable market (tied with Xiaomi) in Q1 2017. But Fitbit shouldn't make an Apple Watch clone—and one could argue that it can't do so anyway. There's hope for Fitbit's smartwatch if the company takes a different approach, focusing on its roots as a fitness company while also adopting the most useful aspects of the smartwatches we have today. Here's what we know about the device so far—and what we don't know—as well as some things Fitbit should consider including in the new device.
What we know
Back in May, leaked images of the rumored Fitbit smartwatch popped up online and painted an all-too-familiar picture of what the new product could look like. The design of the wristband mimics the company's Blaze tracker (as well as the old-school Surge) with a square face accompanied by a couple buttons on the edges. It's not the sleekest-looking device, but neither the Blaze nor the Apple Watch were perceived as stylish when they first debuted. Since then, sales for both of those devices have proved users have either warmed up to the square-watch design or simply don't care enough to be deterred by it.
Further Reading Fitbit Blaze reviewed: A totally unnecessary tracker with a few cool features
As far as hardware features go, reports state the forthcoming watch will have a heart-rate monitor, onboard GPS, and NFC for payments. Including both a heart-rate monitor and GPS places the forthcoming smartwatch as more of a upgraded Surge band, and that means it'll probably cost more than $200. Reports suggest Fitbit will price the smartwatch at around $300 or less.
NFC payments is an important feature to include in the new smartwatch if it hopes to be an Apple Watch competitor. Apple Watch users can hold their device up to an NFC reader in a store to pay with a credit card they've saved to Apply Pay, so they can make purchases without an iPhone or wallet present. Fitbit is right to incorporate this into its new device, particularly if the watch is meant to be used for a morning run around the neighborhood without a wallet, with a possible drink at a coffee shop on the way home.
We know Fitbit has the technology to include NFC payments in the watch as well: in 2016, the company acquired assets from Coin, a startup that created a single card to replace your entire wallet. Fitbit had no plans to include Coin technology in its 2016 device lineup, but we're well past that threshold and will likely see it in the full-featured smartwatch.
Fitbit's new smartwatch will likely have onboard music storage as well. The company is supposedly working with Pandora to let users store music locally on the watch. The company originally planned to work with Spotify on the same project, but reports say the partnership "floundered" and Fitbit promptly turned to Pandora. Spotify made sense as Fitbit's first choice since it is the largest paid music streaming service in the world,
Another part of Fitbit's plans we know is that it's building a standalone app store that will hold third-party applications for the smartwatch. Late last week, a report from The Verge stated that the app store would be ready in time for the device's launch. An SDK, along with a few select apps, will be available when the device comes out, but we don't know which third-party apps will be the ones ready to go out the gate. (We'll discuss further uncertainties of Fitbit apps in the next section.)
Fitbit CEO James Park also stated that the apps will be available in an "app gallery" (so not really a "store") in the Fitbit mobile app. This sounds similar to the separate page in the Watch app on iOS where users can download Apple Watch apps and their mobile app companions.
Fitbit Blaze review. Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. Further Reading Fitbit acquires “wearable payment assets” from startup Coin
One thing we likely won't see in the new Fitbit device is cellular service. CEO James Park has stated publicly that he doesn't see the use case for independent LTE connectivity on wearables yet. This is a wise choice because the hardware necessary for LTE connectivity adds bulk to any device; this makes sense considering the leaked images of Fitbit's watch already look clunky.
Many wearable enthusiasts have compared the rumored smartwatch to the Fitbit Blaze, but based on what we know, the device sounds more like a beefed-up Surge. Released nearly three years ago, the Surge was (and remains) the most advanced device in Fitbit's family, with a heart-rate monitor, onboard GPS, music controls, multi-sport tracking, and up to seven days of battery life. The leaked smartwatch images even present a device much more similar to the Surge than the Blaze, but the Blaze is fresh for comparison in everyone's minds since it is newer than the Surge and more flashy.
Where the Blaze prevails over the Surge is in modernity: it has a color touchscreen, on-screen workouts through FitStar integration (Fitbit owns FitStar), estimated VO2 max scores that Fitbit calls "cardio fitness levels," and guided breathing exercises. In light of the new devices Fitbit has come out with in recent years, the Surge has kind of been left on the back burner—and if everything we know comes to fruition, Fitbit could make a smartwatch that replaces the Surge entirely.
What we don’t know
The biggest question-mark of Fitbit's smartwatch is the app gallery. We now have confirmation from Park that the app gallery will be ready at the device's launch. Otherwise, we don't know much else. Fitbit leaned heavily on intelligence and technology it acquired from Pebble to make the app gallery, and we know the SDK will be Javascript-based. Fitbit is hoping Javascript will make it easier and more enticing for developers to make apps for the platform.
A possible (yet unreliable) detail about forthcoming apps is in the leaked image of the purported smartwatch (obtained by Yahoo Finance). A smiling icon of a sun marks the display, suggesting a weather app may be on the device at launch. There could also be a Pandora app featured on the watch if that's how Fitbit chooses to integrate onboard music.
Before we knew the state of the app gallery, one argument was that the new device would be DOA if Fitbit didn't have a full app store ready at launch. Apple has an app store for the Apple Watch and Google has a bunch of Android Wear-ready apps available in the Play Store, so Fitbit should be ready to step up to bat. The rollout of Android Wear 2.0 even put the Play Store on Android Wear devices, letting users download apps directly to the watch without using their smartphones at all.
The App Store revolutionized the iPhone in a plethora of immediate and long-term ways, but I'm unconvinced that app stores will do the same for wearables. This is mostly because these app stores aren't proving to be the best part of the smartwatch experience. There's a lot of skepticism on how useful onboard smartwatch apps are, and because of this developers either aren't creating apps for wearables, or they are discontinuing support for the apps they've already created. Google, Amazon, and eBay are some of the big companies that quietly pulled their Apple Watch apps from the device's app store back in May—no one really knows why, but it's believed that those apps simply weren't used enough to warrant continuous attention from developers.
  • Fitbit's $200 Blaze fitness watch. Valentina Palladino
  • Module pops out of case. Valentina Palladino
  • Fitbit's $200 (originally $250 when it was first released) Surge. Fitbit
  • Fitbit Blaze, for design comparison. Fitbit
  • The app menu, which you can customize within the Pebble app. Valentina Palladino
  • Solanum is a Pebble app that monitors work and break times. Valentina Palladino
  • Apple Watch Series 2. Valentina Palladino
  • Series 2 (black band) next to Apple Watch Series 1 (blue band). Valentina Palladino
  • Further Reading Pebble confirms Fitbit sale: Hardware is dead, software in maintenance mode
    So yes, we will get a Fitbit "app gallery," but I also expect to see smart app integration on the watch. Let's take eBay on Apple Watch for example: eBay's Apple Watch app let users track bid statuses, but is it necessary to have a dedicated app just for that feature? Browsing eBay, Amazon, or other online stores on your watch is awkward and inconvenient, so having a watch app mimic the mobile app isn't the best translation of features. A good watch app would have to supplement the mobile experience in ways that make sense for the device—currently, that seems to mean glanceable information that's easy to interact with from your wrist.
    The eBay app for Apple Watch no longer exists, but the eBay experience on Apple Watch is still quite useful. With just the mobile app installed on your iPhone, you'll get any eBay alerts to your wrist that you normally would get on your smartphone. That includes alerts when auctions you're watching are almost over, if you won or lost an auction, and more.
    In addition to third-party apps, I hope Fitbit incorporates notifications like this on its forthcoming smartwatch with thoughtful interactions to go along with them. I want to get alerts on my wrist when someone tweets at me, and I want to be able to quickly like the tweet or reply with a short, pre-fab response (the same interaction could apply to text messages, too). I'd like to get headlines from my favorite news app as well, maybe with a photo like The Guardian's Apple Watch notifications have, but I don't need or want to read a full article on a tiny watch screen. At the end of the day, the quality of the app notifications and usefulness of the wrist interactions will make or break the "smartwatch" experience of Fitbit's new device.
    On another note: one hardware issue we don't know about is if the smartwatch will be waterproof. Fitbit only just introduced its first fully waterproof device, the Flex 2, last year. But Apple set the standard for swim-ready smartwatches with the Apple Watch Series 2. For those who don't swim often, that feature might not seem pertinent. However, Fitbit will be one giant step behind Apple if it doesn't make its new device waterproof and able to track swimming.
    How Fitbit could separate its watch from the rest Guided workouts
    Assuming Fitbit makes a smartwatch that focuses on fitness, the company could do a few things to make a stellar product. Guided workouts are largely overlooked and underutilized, but they are incredibly valuable for a fitness device and for device retention in general—if you're constantly using, creating, and updating customizable workouts, you're more likely to regularly use the device that holds them.
    Further Reading Microsoft Band 2.0: Big steps forward mean you just might ditch your trainer
    Rest in peace, Microsoft Band—the wearable that handled guided workouts arguably the best out of them all. Not only did it give you your choice of over 130 workout sessions to download, but you could also create your own circuits using the Band's Web portal. Following along with the workout sessions on the band was easy, and even Fitbit mimicked this on the Blaze with the incorporation of a few (free) FitStar workouts. Making a personalized circuit may seem too complicated for the average user, but it's not that far off from streaming a workout video on YouTube created by a fitness personality. You follow along a few times, then take the individual exercises you've learned and apply them however and whenever you want.
    Guided workouts are positive in two ways. The pre-fab sessions provided by the device's manufacturer, or third-parties like FitStar or Gold's Gym, make it easier for users to work out. You have no excuse not to work out when exercise plans are sitting in the cloud waiting for you to download them and load them up on your wristband. Guided workouts also make it easier for already active users to switch up their routines. Whether that means pre-fab sessions or customizable circuits, completing different workouts will challenge your body and prevent muscle memory from sabotaging your progress.
    Battery life
    Ultimately, guided workouts will be more useful to some users than others, but a universally loved and necessary feature is a solid battery life. Most activity trackers have this down—you can get a super simple tracker with months of battery life, or a more advanced device will have up to a week of life. Smartwatches have not passed this hurdle yet. The Apple Watch Series 2 has come the closest of any true smartwatch, with up to two days of battery life (although it is highly dependent on how much you actually use the watch itself).
    Smartwatches must get to the point where they can go at least five days without more juice, putting them in competition with "traditional" activity bands. The less you have to remove a wearable, the more you'll actually wear it. But since smartwatches generally do much more than track activity, more hardware and software features are constantly draining battery life. Screen quality, the inclusion of an onboard GPS or heart-rate monitor, and standalone LTE service are just a few things that can quickly send a smartwatch's battery life from 100 percent to 0. Fitbit will be miles ahead of the pack if it can find the right balance of hardware inclusions and software features that can last more than two days on a single charge.
    Apple Watch Series 2 review. Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. Music streaming
    Clever music integration is also key for a wearable meant to be used independently from a smartphone, particularly a fitness device. Onboard music storage is a feature mostly isolated to niche athletic devices or expensive wearables made by companies like Garmin and TomTom. But it's a crucial feature for those who prefer to workout sans smartphone and want music at the same time.
    Fitbit has an opportunity to make the wearable onboard music experience better by taking a different approach to the music interface. Before you can listen to music through wireless earbuds from a smartwatch you have to get those tracks onto the wearable, and most interfaces for doing that are ugly and clunky. Sometimes they aren't even in the wearable's companion mobile app. Instead, they live in an obscure Web app that you may never use for anything else other than syncing music.
    Further Reading Review: The still optional but pleasantly refined Apple Watch Series 2
    Fitbit's mobile app is arguably the most user-friendly fitness wearable app available, and, if the company can intuitively integrate music organization into it, the new smartwatch will be unique among most competitors. The Apple Watch's music app (iTunes, really) has a pleasant interface on the watch that lets you control playback from music stored on your iPhone as well as music you've downloaded to the watch. Of course, the catch is that you can only play iTunes or Apple Music tracks. Limiting the music source isn't exclusive to Apple—and if rumors are true, Fitbit's device may only play music from Pandora.
    There's a similar opportunity to renovate music controls on the device itself: a lot of wearables can control music from your smartphone with pause, play, and skip buttons on their touchscreen. Most wearables with onboard music have similar controls, but Fitbit could make that on-device experience better by adding album art or track lists so you can pick and choose the songs you want to hear (and not rely only on shuffle).
    Diet tracking
    The final thing Fitbit could add to the smartwatch is an easier way to track daily food intake, and this is the wild card of the bunch. Fitbit doesn't emphasize its diet tracking features even though they've become robust over the past few years. You can track food and drink within the app and set weight and body-fat percentage goals, and the app will provide a calorie-based diet plan for you to reach that goal in a certain period of time. You can also connect third-party services like MyFitnessPal and Lose It!, making it easier to accurately log caloric intake and expenditure and see those values in one place in the Fitbit app.
    Lose It! has a feature on its Apple Watch app that lets users add a "snack" of a certain caloric value to the daily log without using your smartphone. Fitbit's device could benefit from a system like this for tracking food. It would be too cumbersome to track every food in every meal from a tiny wearable screen, but a list of your most-eaten foods easily accessible on your wrist would be convenient. Users could select a favorite food to add to the on-watch list from the mobile app, then choose that food on their device and adjust the amount consumed to instantly add it to their daily food log. Fitbit could partner with a third-party service for this, but since it has its own native food tracking system, I hope it would develop its own native feature.
    It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible
    I have many hopes for Fitbit's forthcoming smartwatch, but so much uncertainty surrounds it that I'm not getting my hopes up too much. Fitbit has an uphill battle entering the smartwatch market because we still don't know exactly what smartwatches should do for consumers. Apple and Google are both trying to figure this out.
    But if Fitbit makes a device that has the sole purpose of taking on the Apple Watch—the current king of smartwatches—it will likely fail. If that's the case, it will be blatantly obvious that Fitbit went for the "attack Apple" approach rather than the "do something original" approach. The public still has a malleable opinion about smartwatches because their use hasn't been completely defined yet, so there's room for many types of smartwatches right now. Fitbit needs to stay true to its roots and make a smartwatch that's the best fitness device for the widest pool of people interested in exercise.
    And we can't forget one big thing Fitbit has going for it: Fitbit devices work on both iOS and Android, so this smartwatch will likely also be available for both platforms without sacrificing any functionality. Neither Apple Watches nor Android Wear devices can boast that. If Fitbit's new device has the right balance of killer fitness features (even more killer than those on the Apple Watch), clever app integrations, an inoffensive design, and an affordable price, it will be able to compete in the messy and uncertain smartwatch world.

    First look: the Fitbit Charge 2 is a wearable fitness band with a great smartphone app

    Fitbit Charge 2Image: Fitbit
    The bad news is that my Microsoft Band 2 has died a painful death: despite being only 18 months old, the band has split and the battery won't recharge. The good news is that I've just replaced it with a Fitbit Charge 2, picked up on Amazon Prime Day for around half the price: £88.39 (£64.49 plus £12.90 VAT) compared with the £169.99 I paid for my Band 2. I'm hoping this one will last longer.....
    The bad news is that the Fitbit Charge 2's small monochrome screen is no match for the Microsoft Band 2's delightful AMOLED color display, or for the user interface that made it such a pleasure to use. The good news is that the Charge 2 provides better sleep and weight tracking - two of my main uses - and has a vastly superior smartphone app. (In both cases, I only used the apps on Android and Windows 10.)
    For example, Fitbit's app shows how your actual sleep patterns match your target hours, and adds a trend-line for weight tracking.
    There's nothing to choose in terms of comfort: I had no problems wearing both bands all the time. However, the Charge 2's standard strap is fiddly to remove, and I will probably try one of the alternatives. This is possible because the Fitbit is a self-contained unit like, say, an Apple Watch. The Band 2's strap is integrated and unremovable, because of the design decision to put the charger connection at the end of the band, instead of integrating it into the core unit.
    The Charge 2 wins on battery life, which reflects its smaller, simpler, monochrome display. The Band 2 needed charging every other day. The Charge 2 goes five whole days - or slightly more - on a single charge.
    Fitbit dashboard on the Android app
    Fitbit dashboard on the Android app
    The dashboard on Fitbit's Android app provides easy access to well-presented data displays.
    Image: Fitbit
    The Band 2 wins hugely on notifications. The Charge 2 can vibrate briefly when you get a call, text or calendar event notification. After that, you have a minute to check it before it disappears, and it only shows the first 40 characters. It's also somewhat tedious to set up notifications, and I suspect many users won't bother.
    Both the Band 2 and the Charge 2 include heart-rate monitors. I can't say which of them is more accurate, only that the Charge 2 says my resting heart rate is higher than the Band 2 - typically 69 rather than 62. (Around 53 is typical for my age.)
    The Charge 2 is slightly less useful as a wristwatch. Both bands are supposed to turn on the display when you twist your wrist to check the time. The Band 2 always worked and the Charge 2 doesn't. (Mind you, it worked every time I tested it while writing this paragraph. Maybe it has an emergent AI... )
    And as mentioned, the Charge 2 is much better for sleep tracking: it seems more accurate, and the app offers many more useful data displays.
    The Charge 2 doesn't provide the Band 2's option to manually turn sleep tracking on and off, but the automatic detection seems to work perfectly. Unlike the Band 2, it hasn't once registered a TV session as "sleep". But perhaps it goes a little too far in the other direction.
    The Band 2 is far too quick to register that you're asleep, typically within three or four minutes. It also claimed I didn't wake up in the night, even when I remember being awake enough to check the time. By contrast, the Charge 2 claims I keep waking up, even if I'm sure I was fast asleep.
    On one night, for example, the Charge 2 reckons I woke up a dozen times and spent 27 minutes awake. Despite Fitbit's disclaimer, I think I'd have noticed. Either way, I appear to be performing fairly well. Fitbit gives a benchmark range of 15-31 per cent awake time for men my age and I'm averaging 9 per cent.
    The Charge 2 also reported 2 hours 25 minutes of REM sleep, 3 hours 13 minutes of Light sleep, and 1 hour 5 minutes of Deep sleep that night. Whether this means anything is open to argument, but at least the benchmarks assure me I'm getting more sleep - and slightly more deep sleep - than average.
    The numbers you get from fitness bands may be of little practical use, but the benchmark comparisons are somewhat reassuring. If my numbers were radically different from other men of my age, I'd probably consult my doctor...
    As I said in my Microsoft Band 2 review, fitness bands are gamification devices, not medical grade monitoring products. They're a way of changing your behavior by setting goals and trying to beat them.
    From this point of view, both bands have been a modest success. I'm getting more sleep, and I've lost a couple of kilos. The one area where I've failed is in doing a healthy amount of walking. In fact, I reduced my Charge 2 target from 5,000 steps a day to 3.500 just so I could see more wins than losses. Still, if taking a pointless walk around the block will earn me a star then I'll do it, so even failing is better than nothing.
    All round, the Fitbit Charge 2 seems like a good product at a reasonable price. I'll miss the Surface Band 2, but I no longer think I'd buy a Band 3 if Microsoft changed its mind about making one. The device might be better, but it would have to improve the app dramatically to win me back.

    Samsung’s new modem could make the Galaxy S9 the fastest smartphone yet

    Samsung’s next smartphones could get even faster. The company announced that the next version of its LTE modem for its Exynos chipsets now supports up to six carrier aggregation (6CA), allowing it to hypothetically reach download speeds of up to 1.2Gbps.
    For a brief recap, carrier aggregation is a method where LTE speeds are increased by using multiple LTE bands across the spectrum at the same time, resulting in increased bandwidth speeds. The more bands supported — in Samsung’s case, that’s up from the modem built into the S8’s Exynos 9 processor, which offers 5CA — the higher the theoretical data rate. In other words: while the Galaxy S8 might have been the first gigabit smartphone, its successor could offer up to 20 percent faster data speeds due to the new tech.
    Of course, supporting 6CA on Samsung’s side of things is only half of the solution — carriers will need to switch on support for 6CA on their end, too. As of earlier this year, carriers like Sprint had just added support for three-carrier aggregation, so there’s still a long way to go before Samsung’s new modem has its potential fully realized. Samsung is planning on producing processors with the new modem by the end of this year, making it a pretty likely bet that we’ll be seeing this tech appear on next year’s Galaxy S9 phones.

    Kim Kardashian's company hit with $100 MILLION lawsuit after 'ripping off patented illuminated smartphone case'

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    A Kardashian company's bright idea may have a dark history.
    Her company's illuminated smartphone case LuMee is alleged to be a rip off of another product according to TMZ.
    Kim's company - Kimsaprincess, Inc. - got slapped with a $100 million suit by Hooshmand Harooni on Monday.
    Stolen looks? Kim Kardashian's company's illuminated smartphone case LuMee is alleged to be a rip off of another product according to TMZ
    According to Harooni, he patented an 'integrated lighting accessory and case for a mobile phone device' back in 2013.
    Kim has been very vocal with her promotion of the product even using it to take pictures with Hillary Clinton.
    Kim's rep told TMX that 'the patent lawsuit filed by Snap Light has no merit and is just another attempted shakedown. Kim has done absolutely nothing wrong.' 
    Harooni revealed he licensed his version to a company called Snaplight, which has failed to make the sales that LuMee enjoys.
    Selfie-promotion: Kim has been very vocal with her promotion of the product even using it to take pictures with Hillary Clinton
    Slapped: Kim's company - Kimsaprincess, Inc. - was hit with a $100 million suit by Hooshmand Harooni on Monday
    Snaplight and Harooni say the company stole their patent and then teamed up with the world-class social influencer Kim Kardashian.
    According to court documents, Snaplight alleges that Kim gets a cut of Lumee's earnings and they would like some as well to the tune of $100 Million, which it claims would cover lost profits. 
    Dangerous game: Snaplight and Harooni say the company stole their patent and then teamed up with the world-class social influencer Kim Kardashian

    Huawei Mobile Teases An AI-Related Announcement At IFA 2017

    Huawei Mobile recently teased an announcement related to its artificial intelligence (AI) efforts that will reportedly be made at this year’s iteration of IFA Berlin that’s scheduled to start on September 1. The Chinese original equipment manufacturer (OEM) took to Twitter last week to share an image that can be seen above, trying to prompt a general discussion on AI and encouraging users to share their own views and experiences related to this emerging technology by asking them to explain what AI means to them. The image itself states that AI is “more than just a voice assistant,” indicating that the company’s possible IFA Berlin announcement may not be related to digital companions and the tech giant won’t introduce a competitor to the likes of the Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.
    Another possibility is that Huawei is, in fact, working on an AI service but intends to market it as more than just a limited assistant capable of scheduling appointments, setting alarms, and accomplishing other mundane tasks. If the firm is working on such a solution, it may announce it alongside a new device and detail plans to distribute it to its previously released offerings in the coming months. While the Shenzhen, China-based consumer electronics manufacturer is currently preparing for the launch of the high-end Mate 10 that it already started teasing in recent weeks, it’s unlikely that the flagship will be revealed at the latest iteration of IFA seeing how its predecessor was only officially announced last November.
    The tech giant published its consolidated financial results for the first half of the year last week, indicating that its business is still growing, largely thanks to its consumer electronics unit. Many industry analysts expect the company to maintain its promising performance in the coming years, though it’s still unclear how AI will fit into Huawei’s overall business strategy. This particular market segment is currently dominated by Google in the mobile space and Amazon in the overall Internet of Things (IoT) sector and as it still isn’t experiencing surging adoption rates, it remains to be seen whether there’s enough room in the industry for another major actor.
    What does AI mean to you?
    — Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) July 28, 2017

    Huawei: We’ll Destroy the iPhone 8

    Huawei is aiming for the stars with its new smartphones and judging from how fast it became the world’s third biggest phone manufacturer, Samsung and Apple have every reason to always keep an eye on what their Chinese rivals are doing.
    Cupertino, in particular, has recently been put in Huawei’s cross-hair, as the company wants its future Mate 10 to absolutely destroy the iPhone 8, despite all the huge upgrades that Apple is said to be planning on its flagship device.
    Speaking with Bloomberg, Huawei's CEO Richard Yu explained that his company is currently finalizing the new Mate 10 and the features it’ll bring will make everyone forget about the iPhone 8.
    “We will have an even more powerful product. The Mate 10, which has much longer battery life with a full-screen display, quicker changing speed, better-photographing capability and many other features that will help us compete with Apple,” he said.
    Growth slowing down
    Though it’s still in the rumor stage, the Huawei Mate 10 is expected to come with a 6-inch display and be powered by the company’s Kyrin 970 chip. The device could also feature a dual-camera system, as well as bezel-less approach similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and presumably to iPhone 8.
    Dominating the mobile phone business and surpassing Apple and Samsung is a target that Huawei announced in 2016 and which appears to be the priority for the Chinese firm. The company expects to ship between 140 million and 150 million units this year, up from 139 million units last year.
    While the company’s growth more or less slowed down this year, Huawei expects the upcoming Mate 10 to boost sales to a level that it would allow the firm to overtake Apple. In the first half of the year, Huawei posted a 15 percent growth in revenue to $42 billion, down from 30 percent growth in 2016.
    The Huawei Mate 10 should arrive in the fall as well, with the company’s CEO pointing out that it could land at about the same time as the iPhone 8.

    TSMC in full production mode on chipsets slated for iPhone 8, Huawei Mate 10

    The fall is not too fall away and the parts have to start coming together if there’s any chance for those flagship smartphones to ship in time. For Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, it means cranking out designs from Apple and Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon.
    A report this week from Taiwan-based TechNews claims that an earlier problem that had limited production yields for 10nm fabrications — highly expected to feature in the Kirin 970 on the Huawei Mate 10 and the Apple A11 on the iPhone 7s, iPhone 7s Plus as well as the fancier iPhone 8 — is all cleared up. While TSMC’s foundries have been putting out product for the past several months, it’s about this time that the company will push its machines to full power. The new iPad Pro models did feature a 10nm-based A10X chipset, but those were just a test for the system.
    Malaysian trading firm CIMB is forecasting peak production rates this quarter anywhere from 165,000 to 180,000 wafers for this quarter. Barron‘s reports that TSMC may also take over Apple A9 chip production from Samsung as the iPhone 6s remains a stronger option in the more affordable device range for developing markets.

    How to Get Started with AdWords for Your Online Store

    Today we are back talking about advertising and your online store. Whatever the size of your shop, it’s inevitable that you will be doing some level of advertising. And one of the most popular ways online is to use Google AdWords. Now this isn’t a topic that you can just jump into and get it over with. But we wanted to give anyone who hasn’t explored this option a chance to learn more about how you can use AdWords and eCommerce effectively.
    To help us, I brought on Hayk Saakian, an AdWords specialist. Trust me, he knows his stuff. He not only explains  what it takes to get started with AdWords but also gives some real-world examples that clarify some of the questions you might have. From initially making the decision to use them to how to get your ads to show up, we covered it all. So sit back and enjoy my chat with Hyak.
    We chatted about:
  • What AdWords really are
  • How to approach the decision to use AdWords for your online store
  • How to track your conversion rates for your advertising
  • Setting up your eCommerce campaigns using AdWords
  • What’s the best way to make sure your shop shows up in the Google Product Listing Ads
  • Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: Bluehost Transcript
    You can also download a pdf of the full transcript here: WordPress eCommerce Show Episode 95 July 31 2017
    Bob Dunn: Hello. Welcome to the WP eCommerce Show. Bob Dunn here, also known as BobWP on the web. Today we talk with Hyak Saakian, founder of Logic Inbound and an expert in digital marketing, and,  particularly,  search engine marketing.
    Well, Hayk, welcome to the show today.
    Hayk Saakian: Hi there, good to be on.
    Bob: Yeah, I know that I gave a little bit of an introduction to you but why don’t you tell our listeners a bit more about what you do and what you’re involved with.
    Meet Hayk Saakian, founder of Logic Inbound
    Hayk: Yeah, I can give you some background. The agency I co-founded is called Logic Inbound. We do all kinds of digital marketing for clients and our specialty is in search engines. Two of the founders are highly technical, that’s me and Tyler. My specialty is more on the ad words side, on the page search side, and his specialty is more on organic and natural search. Since we started the company, I’ve been directing the efforts on operations and fulfillment and anything that has to do with paid search.
    Bob: Great. Now we’re talking ad words and I think some people get what ad words are, but they don’t fully understand it. Can you give me your best definition of ad words?
    What’s your best definition of ad words?
    Hayk: The way I like to show people is with a sample search. For example, when you go to Google and you search something like “light-up shoes,” what you’ll see is a lot of different things and some of the information on that screen is going to be ads. Some of the information is going to be organic search results provided by Google’s algorithm, the organic algorithm. The distinction is that anything that’s on this page, which is an ad, is coming through ad words, which is a platform. It generates about two-thirds of Google’s revenue, and it’s the way that businesses and individuals can advertise to people in search engines without having to rank through the algorithm.
    Bob: So there are several different levels or ways you can use AdWords.
    Hayk: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
    Bob: Okay. An online store owner, when first making the decision, maybe a coach or somebody has told them, “You need to start advertising.” So they start looking at AdWords. What would be your advice to them when they’re making that initial decision on whether AdWords will work for them or not? I know there are a lot of variables, but what do you usually talk to them about or advise them about?
    What advice do you have for online store owners wondering if AdWords will work for them?
    Hayk: The main thing I look at with AdWords is return on investment, on estimating that before you start running any of the campaigns. The cool thing with AdWords is since anybody can see the ads that you see on Google, a lot of that is public information. The ads that you’re thinking about running?  There are other people who have already run ads on those keywords and so you can do the research and see what are they spending based on their sales price. If you’re in the same industry as them, you might have the same margins. What could their return on investment be? Based on that, I advise clients to look for a potential for return on investment. Can you rough it out for weeks or months before you have a successful campaign like your competitors do?
    I could walk through an example if that would make more sense.
    Bob: Sure.
    Hayk: Okay, to get more specific, the things that I look at are conversion rate, cost per acquisition, and return on investment. When I say conversion rate, I’m talking about out of 100 people who go to your website from an ad, how many of them will actually buy something? That’s the conversion rate. Conversion rates for other sites might be could be maybe you’re offering a free e-book that you’re collecting emails for or maybe you have a newsletter, but e-commerce conversion rate is what we’re talking about here. What you want to do is take 100 and divide it by your conversion rate.
    For example, if your conversion rate is 5% which is pretty good, I would say a poor conversion rate or below average conversion rate is around 1% and anything worse than 1% really needs a lot of attention. A good conversion rate would be around 10 to 20%. I think Amazon is maybe like 30%, some of the highest in the industry.
    They know that if you look at a product on Amazon, there’s a one in four chance that you will actually buy that product or buy something else during that same session.
    Bob: Wow.
    Hayk: Let’s start with that, so if your conversion rate was 5%, 100 divided by 5 is 20. The reason that’s important is because it means that out of every 20 people that go to your website, one of them will actually buy something, so now you know how many clicks it would take to generate a purchase. The next step there is to figure out how much does it actually cost to get somebody to click on your ad. Just for some quick context, the way AdWords works on Google compared to traditional advertising, is there’s are many differences. One is that the inventory is sold in real time with quotes meaning that people are actively competing against each other to show up for a search. The second difference is that it’s based on an auction system where if you go to a radio station or TV station and you want a specific spot, they just have a price for it and you pay them and it shows up.
    With Google, if you want to show up higher than someone else or if you want to show up instead of someone else, you have to pay more. Those are the key differences, so the cool thing with that is, there’s a lot of tools out there. One free tool is called Google Keyword Planner. One that I personally use is called Spy Foo that will tell you for a particular keyword, what it will cost for someone to click on your ad and what will you pay Google for that.
    Let’s say on this example it was $1.50.  Yoou know that it takes 20 people before you get one purchase so you need 20 clicks. Therefore, 20 times $1.50 is $30, so that tells us on average, you will spend $30 to sell a pair of shoes. Now you need to go back and see, okay, well what is your price point, are you profitable? If you sell your shoes for let’s say $50 and it costs you $30 in advertising to sell a pair, maybe your cost out the door is $10, so you’re making a great profit.
    On the other hand, if your profit margins are 10 or 11% and that’s all the room you’ve got for marketing, then it doesn’t make sense. The interesting thing I’ve seen with AdWords is that the unit economics of the business are a significant factor in whether you’re going to be successful with it or not. You might have competitors that are selling the same product as you or spending more and making more money even though you have the same product and it’s because of their back-end fulfillment and how much money they can generate per sale.
    Another thing that’s hard for a new e-commerce store to think about is what is the lifetime value of a customer? For instance, a common strategy with e-commerce nowadays is to essentially lose money on your first customer, your first sale, in order to sell them more products down the line. Example could be maybe you’re selling baby food and you’ll spend $100 to make a $10 sale because you know that the typical person might spend $200-300 a week on baby food. After you get their email address and you have all their personal information, you can resell them down the road, so this is the kind of math I talk about when looking at whether AdWords is worth it.
    Find out your conversion rate. You can estimate if you don’t have a conversion rate yet, based on how good your website is, how good you think it looks. Anywhere between 1 and 5%, that’s kind of a good ballpark, and then cost per click is public data that you can find through a tool called Google Keyword Planner or a paid tool called Spy Fu and you’d multiply those numbers and decide if is this an acceptable margin. The key there is that it will take you probably a month or two to actually achieve that. In the beginning you’ll be losing money on your ads. That’s pretty standard. The main reason for that is just how their ad system works and whether there are built-in discounts on auctions.
    For instance, maybe I was advertising on this keyword for a year for a $1.50 and you’re a new person. You decide to advertise to compete with me.  Google will give me a discount to show up for the same keyword and will mark you up for premium in their algorithm. Even though we’re both bidding $1.50, I’m going to be paying $1.30 and you’re going to be paying $1.70 and we’re going to be competing for the same spot.
    Bob: Now you mentioned conversion rates and you may have already answered this but how does one easily track conversion rates or is there some method or tool that you should use? Some people even say, “Okay, conversion rates, where am I seeing these? Are they inside of AdWords?” Any thoughts on that?
    Is there any easy way to track conversion rates?
    Hayk: Yeah. There are two layers to this question. One is, how do you get any kind of data to figure out what channel is producing revenue—AdWords, or any other channel? Then the second layer of data, which is much more complicated is, if you’re doing multiple different campaigns on different channels, which one ultimately convinced someone to purchase. I’m going to address the first challenge because that one is the most useful to most people.
    Bob: Okay.
    Hayk: We have some clients who are doing millions a year and they’re spending a lot on different channels, so it gets really complicated.
    You know, if you have an e-commerce website, generally let’s say for WooCommerce, there is a plug-in that will send your transaction data whenever someone makes the transaction on your website into a free tool called Google Analytics. Google Analytics tracks how people get to your website and what they do on your website. By feeding your sales data into that system, you can connect the dots and say, if someone came from AdWords or if they came from Facebook or if they came from somewhere else and they made a purchase, you can make statistics on that. The plug-in I use for WooCommerce, it’s called WooCommerce Google Analytics Pro. It’s the official one made by WooCommerce. It’s a paid plug-in at $29. I know there are free plug-ins that will do what’s called the enhanced e-commerce integration as well, but I haven’t tested them so I can’t personally vouch.
    It gives you a lot of useful information. For instance, it will tell you your conversion rates. You don’t have to calculate it. It will look at your per session value. Out of 100 people, how much is each person going to your website worth? It will break it down based on different channels, so for instance you can see that Google paid might be a 5% conversion rate and Google organic might be 10%, so you can see the differences.
    I think anybody who’s running an e-commerce store today should set this up. In most cases it’s free or a one-time fee, and the information is incredibly valuable.
    Bob: Okay. This is overwhelming for a lot of people and that’s why there are businesses like yours and why you do what you do, but when they’re first starting to set up their eCommerce campaigns with AdWords, any tips you might share with actually setting up those campaigns, the first few steps they might want to take or some words of wisdom on your part?
    Any tips or advice for setting up an AdWords campaign?
    Hayk: There were two areas that were challenging to me with AdWords for e-commerce. One is just getting it set up and then after you got it set up, actually improving your ads and getting profitable with them. I can speak to just how do you even get it set up first because that was a really big challenge for me and I think it might be useful to know for a lot of people. Should I start with that?
    Bob: Perfect.
    Hayk: Okay, so to actually get your products shown on Google ads, the keywords you’re looking at, if you’re doing research online, they’re called Google product listing ads or Google merchant center ads and they go through Google ad words, so if you’re doing your online research, that’s what you want to type in. The key for those is how do you actually just set it up and how does it work all together. The first key is called Google Merchant Center. Basically this is a database of your products on Google. The purpose of this is for Google to know what are all of the products that you sell. It’s organized in a structured format so that, like your website is html and they have a hard time understanding it sometimes, so they invented this thing called Google Merchant Center where you can just upload a spreadsheet— or some plug-ins will do it for you—of all your products.
    It includes things like your prices, your colors, your shipping information. From there, they read all of your product information and they integrate it with AdWords. This was a big stumbling block for me just getting it set up, because, with a normal AdWords campaign for a service business or local business, you don’t have to do any of this stuff because you’re not selling products online. Just getting that set up. There’s a plug-in that will do it, Google Commerce. There’s a $79 plug-in called WooCommerce Product Feed, again, that’s the official plug-in. I’ve seen free plug-ins that can do the same thing, but I know the official one definitely works, so that’s the first step:  getting your products into Google’s databases.
    Once you’ve done that, they have an approval process so they’re going to make sure that, a tip for you would be to make sure that you have your phone number and your business address clearly visible on your about or contact page. Using a PO box is fine. You just need to have it clearly listed because they’re going to have a manual reviewer approve you. Then the other things that tripped me up were that they wanted to see a refund policy, my terms of service, and a privacy policy clearly linked somewhere on your website. You can put these in the footer to avoid cluttering your website, but they do want to see all of those things.
    Once you’ve gotten all of that taken care of, it’s very similar to running a normal Google AdWords campaign. There’s a few differences but it’s still the same auction system. You’re still bidding on keywords, and once you’re set up with all that, you’re set. If you make updates to your products and you have a plug-in like the WooCommerce one I mentioned, it should automatically update everything in Google It might take a few days but once you’ve got all that set up, you’re done with the technical setup.
    From there, it’s more creating and optimizing your actual ads.
    Bob: Okay. You brought up Google product listing ads and it sounds like there is a method to the madness of actually getting your shop to show up in this, so for with that all said and done, any other words of wisdom?
    Any other words of wisdom?
    Hayk: That Merchant Center thing I was just talking about? That’s really the biggest challenge. One thing that tripped me up personally when I set up these campaigns has to do with shipping. A lot of companies have shipping that makes sense for their customers but you’re going to have a really hard time to set up a complicated shipping system n Google. What they’re looking for is a specific price on shipping your product to specific countries. Let’s say you’re selling a pair of shoes. They want to know that to the United States, it’s going to cost $10 or it’s going to be free for a specific number of units ordered.
    If you’re doing variable shipping based on their location or it’s different every time, you’re going to have a lot of problems just getting your products in there. That’s the biggest thing that tripped me up.
    Bob: Now I said that was the last question and I lied because I just thought of something else. Let’s say you have a business and people come to you to do this or to basically manage it or help it get started or whatever. Is it a matter of how many products you have whether a do-it-yourselfer says, “Okay, I’m going to tackle this myself and give it a try,” and you know maybe there will be frustration or things aren’t working out and they feel like they need somebody, but is there really some point and I don’t know if it’s in inventory, if it’s your product or what the variables are, that a person might say, “Okay, I need Google ads, AdWords, and I’ve realized that, because of this, or that, I shouldn’t tackle this myself.”
    How do we decide if we should tackle an AdWords campaign ourselves or get some help?
    Hayk: I would look at  two main things: how many different products you own and sell and how much advertising you’re looking to do (or are prepared to do). Let’s say if you are doing it yourself, you’re bootstrapping a lot like, we started our agency with bootstrapping, then you want to focus on one or two key products, you want to do it yourself just to get it off the ground. Because there is a lot of low-hanging fruit that you can achieve, you can grasp without having an expert really involved.
    The place where we shine with clients is when it sort of gets out of hand. Maybe they have hundreds of products, all with different keywords (because remember, it’s an auction system based on keywords). We know, with thousands of different keywords, when it can get out of hand and you’re thinking about, “Do I want to get an intern or do I need to hire somebody?” That’s when it seems to make the most sense to consider getting help.
    Bob: There are a lot of things having to do with e-commerce where the do-it-yourselfer starts needing some help,  taxes, shipping, all that stuff, it’s  when you start getting into a lot of products and a lot of variables. This has been good stuff for people to ponder as they’re getting into this. Because I know that a lot of online stores, to get out there in the marketplace, sometimes word of mouth is just not going to quite do it and you don’t build it and wait for everybody to show up, so the advertising is huge.
    Where can people find you on the web?
    Where can we find Hayk on the web?
    Hayk: The best place to find me to contact me directly is my email address, which is [email protected] If you want to stay tuned to what I’m putting out there, my main channels right now, our company blog, so at, I’m writing content every few weeks and one cool thing that I started doing recently is live streams every Sunday at noon teaching people how to optimize their websites for search engines. If you’ve ever seen somebody stream video games online or if you watched a concert or how-to series, it’s a really cool interactive format. To see that, you want to go to and click on the bell to get the notification when I go live.
    Bob: Excellent. Well, those are some good resources. I appreciate you taking the time to join us today and hope to have you back again, maybe even dive into it even deeper.
    Hayk: I’d be happy to do that. Thanks, Bob.
    Thank you to our podcast sponsor, Bluehost
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    Google AdWords Tests New Sitelinks Design

    Google is testing new sitelinks designs and layouts for their ad formats. Ginny Marvin covered them yesterday based on tips from Erik Hamilton and Frederik Hyldig.
    This is what a normal AdWords sitelinks looks like:
    Here are the new tests:
    Google just began rolling out a new design for organic sitelinks in a carousel box format.
    Forum discussion at Twitter.

    Datorama Releases Do-it-Yourself Data Source Service for Marketing

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