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Should I buy an Apple HomePod?

If you want to read a lot of words about the Apple HomePod, you can do so here and here. Obviously, I’d recommend you do so before plunking down $350 of your hard earned cash on a first generation product, but the long and short of it is actually pretty straight forward. Apple made a very nice speaker — arguably the best on the market in its class. But there are caveats. As is often the case, Apple’s made a device that plays to its base — as such, there are a few big asterisks contained herein that are important to note before considering a purchase. Here’s a handy flow chart designed to clear things up. Chart design by Bryce Durbin

Apple’s Shazam takeover triggers competition review in Europe

The European Commission has announced a review of Apple’s acquisition of music discovery service Shazam — agreeing to a request made by several countries to weigh competition concerns. Apple officially announced it was buying UK tech veteran Shazam back in December. It did not disclose the price-tag for the deal but sources suggest it’s paying in the region of $400 million. At the time it described its Apple Music streaming service and Shazam’s music discovery offering — aka an algorithmic music recognition engine that can ID whole tracks just by listening to a few seconds — as “a natural fit”, adding: “We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement.” In a press release today the Commission said it had accepted a request by seven European countries to assess the proposed acquisition — which it says “may threaten to adversely affect competition in the EEA” (European Economic Area). A provision in EU law allows Member States to submit a request to the executive body to examine a merger that does not have an EU dimension — on account of it not meeting the turnover thresholds set by the EU Merger Regulation — but which nonetheless affects trade within the EU Single Market and threatens to significantly affect competition within the territory of the countries making the request. The EC said EU Member State Austria submitted the initial request, with Iceland, Italy, France, Norway, Spain and Sweden joining subsequently. “On the basis of the elements submitted by Austria and the countries joining the referral request, and without prejudice to the outcome of its full investigation, the Commission considers that the transaction may have a significant adverse effect on competition in the European Economic Area,” it writes. “The Commission has also concluded that it is the best placed authority to deal with the potential cross-border effects of the transaction.” The Commission added that it will now ask Apple to notify the transaction. We’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will update this post with any response. Featured Image: TechCrunch

Apple Watch shipments jumped in 2017, according to analysts

The Apple Watch continues to be a bright spot in amongst the middling world of wearables, according to new numbers from Canalys. The analyst group’s figures put the smartwatch at 18 million shipments for 2017, representing a 54-percent jump over the device’s 2016 numbers. Apple’s wearable popped for a couple of reasons, LTE functionality being chief among them. For one thing, cellular connectivity was the top new feature for the Series 3. It also meant that the device got wider distribution, as more carrier partners started carrying the product in their retail stores. The watch got its warmest reception in US, Japan and Australia, struggling a bit more in the UK, France and Germany, where carrier partnerships are a bit more spotty for the product. That said, the cellular version of the watch, not surprisingly, still only makes up a fraction of total sales, at around 13-percent by the firm’s count. That’s far fewer than the 35-percent of non-LTE Series 3 watches and a quarter of the combined Series 1 and 2 shipments last year, as Apple continues to make older models available at a discount. While the company’s iPhone sales were said to be below Wall Street expectations for Q4, the watch saw impressive growth during the holiday season, up to eight million. That represents a 32-percent jump over Q4 2016, according to Canalys’ figures, and lines up with what the company reported during its last earnings call. “It was our best quarter ever for the Apple Watch,” Tim Cook said during earnings, “with over 50-percent growth in revenue and units for the fourth quarter in a row and strong double-digit growth in every geographic segment.” It also, unsurprisingly, represents the best sales of any LTE smartwatch. Apple’s far from the first company to offer cellular connectivity on a wrist worn device — Samsung, mostly notably, beat the company to the punch. I had some trouble finding a particularly compelling use case for bringing LTE to my own wrist, but apparently others haven’t had such a tough time.

Apple is sending some developers ad spend and install details for other people’s apps

An issue at Apple appears to be resulting in app developers getting emails of ad spend and install summaries for apps belonging to other developers. The issue — which appears specific right now to developers using Search Ads Basic, pay-per-install ads that appear as promoted apps when people search on the App Store — was raised on Twitter by a number of those affected, including prominent developer Steve Troughton-Smith, who posted a screenshot of an email that summarized January’s ad spend and install data another developer’s two apps. Several others replied noting the same issue, listing more developers and random apps. We have contacted a few of them and two, Louis D’hauwe and Rafael Costa, confirmed that the mis-sent email appears to be the only issue right now. And it appears there are no other issues with Apple’s developer tools. We have also contacted Apple and will update this post as and when Apple responds. That obviously avoids a very major data leak, but even still the erroneously sent emails are releasing confidential information about apps, such as how much money they are spending on apps and how that’s translating into downloads, that developers might prefer not to share, and might get shared inadvertently with direct competitors. “I checked my account and everything is OK,” Troughton-Smith told us in a message, “but it’s still a worrying confidential customer data leak nonethelessas per the other developers in your article, but it’s still a worrying confidential customer data leak nonetheless Search Ads Basic is an ad format that Apple only launched in December as a pay-per-install ad format that sits alongside its other, older search ad product, which is now called Search Ads Advanced. The newer Basic format is aimed at smaller developers and those just getting started with app store advertising. Developers using the Advanced option pay per tap on their ads and have a wider range of options when targeting their ads; those opting for Basic only pay per install and have a more limited set of parameters. Installs from both help formats apps move up the app store rankings as Apple considers them “high quality” downloads. It isn’t clear just how many are being affected by the email glitch — or why — but the incidents are numerous enough for the problem to be visible on Twitter. By extension of that, the issue could expose the private data belonging to a sizable number of businesses and developers whose use Apple’s App Store ad products. Um Apple you might want to check why Search Ads is emailing me some other developer's ad spend details pic.twitter.com/hfBcsqpCiy — Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) February 6, 2018 I just received this email from Apple regarding SOMEONE ELSE’S search ads 🤨 pic.twitter.com/cr76DBol0u — Louis D'hauwe (@LouisDhauwe) February 6, 2018 This isn’t the first developer privacy snafu in recent times. Back in 2015, a number of developers logging into Apple’s iTunes Connect portal found themselves presented with accounts and data belonging to other users. The company has also stumbled with user accounts in recent iCloud migration in China. But again, in this latest instance, developers who received the rogue emails tell TechCrunch that both Apple’s iTunes Connect and Developer Portal services functioned as usual. In other words, despite being emailed someone else’s information, they were not able to log into a third party’s account. We’ve contacted Apple to get an idea of what is going on here, and how many developers/accounts have been affected. We’ll update this post as and when we know more.

The unbeatable advantage of Apple and Amazon

Anshu Sharma Contributor Anshu Sharma is a serial entrepreneur and a former venture partner at Storm Ventures. More posts by this contributor: An engineer’s guide to picking a startup The Davos delusion There are a handful of companies that have an unbeatable advantage — the fiduciary moat. In finance world, when you hire an advisor who is a fiduciary — he’s legally bound to put your financial interests ahead of his. There are many paths to business success and financial models that go with it. You can make money directly from the end user or you can find an interested third party who’s interests you serve — advertisers, financiers, CIOs, employers are often the real customers while the end user is reduced to a metric. We are seeing this play out as ad driven businesses compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon. In B2B, companies that sell primarily to the CIO and procurement are competing with the new age of SaaS players that are often selling direct to the line of business or even the individual user. What makes companies like Apple and Amazon unique? Apple’s business model relies almost entirely on revenue earned directly from the consumer. Even when you are buying 3rd party apps, you are buying them from Apple — and Apple ensures that they are safe, secure and work as advertised. Amazon and Jeff Bezos are single mindedly focused on delivering value to the consumer — they too make their revenue and profits by selling directly to you. Recently, they have added other revenue sources like advertising but that is far from the dominant source of income. Meanwhile, any company that earns its living primarily by charging some other third party — advertisers, brokers, etc. — is not a fiduciary. They may be incented to do the right thing for the consumer but at the end of the day they can often cut corners. The Unbeatable Edge As Apple enters markets like health and finance, they come in with the benefit of consumer’s trust. It shows in their business model and it shows in their product — even technology architecture. For example, the credit card you store in your Apple Wallet is never visible to Apple. They are applying a similar approach to your health data in the newly announced health records on your iPhone. They don’t need to make money from the pharma companies or the hospitals. They serve your needs directly. Since they make so much of their money from you by charging you for phones and additional apps and services, they don’t need to sell or even use your data for businesses that are not aligned with the end users. Trillion Dollar SaaS Market The massive shift to SaaS can be viewed from the technology lens of multitenancy and serverless but at the core of the move to SaaS is the ability for the end user or line of business to directly buy the apps it needs. The legacy on premise vendors built products focused more on the needs of the CIO and the needs of the business were often poorly served. Companies like Salesforce and Workday sold directly to the line of business changing the game forever. Netflix and TV When viewed through the fiduciary lens, you realize why Netflix is so powerful — every person in the company is focused on delivering entertainment to you the subscriber. There are no advertisers and no cable company middlemen dictating what they think is good for the consumer. An ad free business is not just great TV, it aligns incentives in unique ways that create a moat that’s hard to beat. The Next Generation of Fiduciary Companies As we look to the next generation of startups, here are some companies whose business model is well aligned with the end users. AirbBnB: makes money when both renter and host are happy over the long term. Unlike Expedia and Priceline, that serve some very large customers and have a somewhat transactional relationship with the consumer. Lyft and Uber: In the long run, the winners in this category will have to serve the consumers and drivers well. The rise of Lyft was enabled by Uber’s missteps on this alignment and how it treated its drivers. Wealthfront: With a transparent fee structure, and no under the cover fees, Wealthfront is to the younger generation what Vanguard was the last — one of the few financial services company that is truly honest and aligned with the users. Challenges No business model is isolated from misuse and abuse. Even with the fiduciary model, companies are often putting someone else’s interest ahead of yours — their own. One could easily argue that the closed content ecosystem of Apple and Amazon Alexa are examples of the companies maximizing their own self-interest. What should a founder do? When you are starting a company and want to build something for the long term, take the time to think through who your actual customer is vs the user. The more aligned the person writing the check is with the needs of your end user the better. And even when your business relies on advertising or a CIO or a procurement officer — build a culture of doing the right thing by the true end user. Companies that work as a fiduciary build lifetime moats that are hard to beat. The best startups I have invested in or advised like ProsperWorks, Workato and Algolia are doing just that. Featured Image: Matt Gibson/Shutterstock

Businesses with Apple and Cisco products may now pay less for cybersecurity insurance

Apple and Cisco announced this morning a new deal with insurer Allianz that will allow businesses with their technology products to receive better terms on their cyber insurance coverage, including lower deductibles – or even no deductibles, in some cases. Allianz said it made the decision to offer these better terms after evaluating the technical foundation of Apple and Cisco’s products, like Cisco’s Ransomware Defense and Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Mac. Allianz found Apple and Cisco’s products offered businesses a “superior level of security,” Apple said in its own announcement about the new deal. In particular, Cisco’s Ransomware Defense includes advanced email security, endpoint protection, and malicious internet site blocking which can protect an organization against malware, ransomware and other cyber threats. Meanwhile, the integration of hardware, software and services on iOS devices helps to ensure that each component of the system is trusted, from booting up to installing third-party app, explained Apple. “Users benefit from always-on hardware encryption, as well as support for secure networking protocols like Transport Layer Security (TLS) and VPN out of the box,” the company also noted. The new cyber security insurance solution will involve Aon’s cyber security professionals assessing potential customers’ current cyber security situation and recommendations on how to improve their defenses. And participating organizations will have access to Cisco and Aon’s Incident Response teams in the event of a malware attack. “The choice of technology providers plays a critical role in any company’s defense against cyber attacks. That’s why, from the beginning, Apple has built products from the ground up with security in mind, and one of the many reasons why businesses around the world are choosing our products to power their enterprise,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a statement. “iPhone, iPad and Mac are the best tools for work, offering the world’s best user experience and the strongest security. We’re thrilled that insurance industry leaders recognize that Apple products provide superior cyber protection, and that we have the opportunity to help make enhanced cyber insurance more accessible to our customers,” he added. In an interview with Reuters, Aon’s chief exec Jason Hogg explained why this cyber security solution is different from others. Businesses today often address cyber security in a siloed fashion, he said, with technology staff, legal and other departments all playing separate roles. This solution is instead a more “holistic approach” to cybersecurity and coverage, Hogg told Reuters. Cybersecurity is no small issue for today’s businesses, given the large-scale hacks companies like Equifax and Target have faced. But addressing it properly could also come with high costs. According to Reuters, U.S. cybersecurity premiums were $1.35 billion in 2016, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. For Apple and Cisco, the new deal could help them attract more enterprise customers to their products, potentially helping them to beat competitors to scoring these larger clients. “At Cisco, security is foundational to everything we do. As the leading enterprise security company, we know that in a digital world security must come first, and our integrated security architecture reduces customers’ overall risk of exposure to ransomware and malware attacks,” said Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO, Cisco, in a statement. “Cisco Security technology is central to the new holistic risk management solution and we are excited to bring another important benefit to our customers with greater options for cyber insurance.” Featured Image: Bryce Durbin

Apple says some iPhone 7s show “No Service” when they shouldn’t, will repair them...

Does your iPhone 7 say “No Service” when you’re oh-so-certain the signal is fine? Good news! You might be totally right. Reports and rumors of a “No Service” bug impacting iPhone 7s have been floating around for well over a year now — and as of this afternoon, Apple is acknowledging the issue. The company says it’s determined that “a small percentage” of iPhone 7s will claim no service even when service is available. The bad news: it’s not an easy fix. A software update won’t help this time. Apple says this issue stems from a faulty logic board, which means they’ll have to physically repair your device. The less-bad news: Apple will repair it for free, and if you’ve paid for such a repair already at the Genius Bar, they’ll reimburse you. You can find details on that here. (One catch: if your device’s screen is busted, you’ll need to pay to have that fixed before they can get inside.) Apple says devices made between September 2016 and February 2018 (basically the entire lifespan of the iPhone 7) might be impacted, particularly those sold in the US, China, Japan, Hong Kong, or Macao.

A traveling frog exposes the fake app problem in Apple’s Chinese App Store

An app about a frog that likes to travel has exposed worrying signs that Apple isn’t doing enough to prevent fake apps from entering its App Store in China, the world’s largest smartphone market and Apple’s single largest country for app revenue. The story centers around ‘Tabi Kaeru’ — or ‘Travel Frog’ — a Japanese app that has become an… Read More

iPhone sales numbers dipped slightly, but revenue is up courtesy of the iPhone X

As far as sales figures go, this last quarter wasn’t entirely rosy for Apple. During today’s earnings report, the company posted sales of 77.3 million iPhones, down just under a million from this time last year. Of course, that 78.2 million figure from 2017 represented a new record for the company. But Wall Street still expected another increase, up to 80.2 million phones for the quarter, as the company added a 10th anniversary flagship to the line. In spite of that disappointment, Apple actually saw a 13-percent bump in revenue for Q1 2018, thanks in no small part to the fact that the iPhone X represents a significant price premium over the iPhone 8 and past models. The average price per iPhone is ~$40 higher then it was this time last year. The price premium hasn’t stopped the iPhone X from topping Apple’s own sales charts, either. An analysis of the industry recently singled out the high-end handset as the top selling phone for the holidays, in spite of failing to hit some industry goals. Today Apple added that the X has been the best selling iPhone model since launch. “We’re thrilled to report the biggest quarter in Apple’s history, with broad-based growth that included the highest revenue ever from a new iPhone lineup,” Tim Cook says in a press release tied to this evening’s news. “iPhone X surpassed our expectations and has been our top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November.” Cook also notes that the company’s overall active installed device base just hit 1.3 billion. Likely the company is still viewing all of this disappointment, but still a net positive. After all, revenue is really the bottom line here, even if the optics of a sales dip aren’t as cheery. Apple’s shifted to a new sales model, and even if the iPhone X wasn’t a wild success by every metric, the company’s demonstrated that people are willing to pay $999+ for a premium smartphone experience.

Apple saw $5.5 billion in revenue from AirPods, Watches, TVs and other products last...

Other than its iPhones and computers, Apple sells a bunch of other products, like the AirPods, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Beats products, iPod Touch and most recently, the HomePod. In Q1 2018, Apple saw $5.5 billion in revenue for these other products, an increase of 36 percent year over year. That increase suggests Apple’s Watch Series 3, which it launched this past September, and its AirPods are selling well. In Q4 2017, Apple sold just $3.2 billion worth of other products. To be clear, these revenues do not include pre-sales for the HomePod, which starts shipping February 9 for $349. Apple’s revenue in Q1 2018 was $88.3 billion, so sales from other products make up a small portion of the company’s overall revenue. Still, $5.5 billion in not a small amount of money. Apple’s biggest revenue-driver this quarter was, unsurprisingly, the iPhone followed by services, which includes AppleCare, Apple Music and other services. In Q1 2018, Apple sold $61.6 billion worth of iPhones and $8.5 billion worth of services.