Google announced earlier this week that it would purchase Fitbit, the ailing manufacturer of fitness-focused wearables and smartwatches, for $2.1 billion. As tech acquisitions go, this one was small: Google valued Fitbit at a price equivalent to that of budget TV manufacturer Vizio back in 2016, a company whose value exists largely in its retail distribution network.
As I alluded to in the opening line, Fitbit isn't doing well. Its stock peaked shortly after its IPO in 2015 around $45 per share, and even after the announcement of Google's acquisition, sits at just over $7 today. This is because Fitbit's newest products aren't, well, good: its most ambitious yet, the Versa 2, has been subject to criticism almost entirely for the software it runs, while the hardware does little to set it apart meaningfully from manufacturers like Samsung and Apple. Read More
Microsoft fans have been holding out for a 'Surface Phone' for years. Yesterday, it could have almost appeared — if you squinted hard enough — that Microsoft gave it to them. But the Surface Duo is barely a phone at all, and hardly what rendered fantasies have imagined a Microsoft smartphone could be. It's way weirder and way more daring than that. And, counter-intuitively, a strong reason to temper your excitement for Microsoft's big leap into the world of Android. Read More
Today, Microsoft announced a bunch of new Surface products — and they all look very, very good (and some of them look very weird). Perhaps the least sexy, but most utilitarian, of them was the new Surface Laptop 3. But in one fell swoop, Microsoft proved that it had both the platform and the vision to build a professional-grade laptop that Google could only dream to. And it was in that moment I knew, whatever the next Pixelbook will be (and we have a pretty good idea), it will be a disappointment.
I say this not for the sake of being harsh, but as someone who has lived with and loved Google's original Pixelbook from the day it was available. Read More
Google announced a new "unlimited" plan for its Fi cellular service this morning, and on paper, it's an improvement in most ways over the company's current pricing model for heavy duty users. Data caps have been increased to 22GB before throttling, while pricing for individuals has been lowered to $70 per month (previously, Fi maxed out at $80/mo for individual users). The catch is that it's $70 per month, full stop — Fi's dynamic data pricing doesn't apply to unlimited subscribers. For those who want to stick with Fi's old dynamic model, they'll still be limited to 15GB per month before throttling may occur, and enjoy the same per-gigabyte pricing they always have. Read More
Apple just announced its fifth-generation Apple Watch, and no surprise, it puts Google's Wear OS ecosystem to shame. Even with a headstart on wearables, Google has made such slow progress that Apple easily dominates the market. With the Series 5, Apple has adopted one of the last features that set Wear OS apart. We've waited years for Wear OS to click, and it's simply not happening. It's time for Google to rethink its approach to Wear OS before it slides completely into irrelevance. Read More
The tick-tock cycle of OnePlus phones is a little deceptive. While the almost identical names might make it seem like differences are few, these “T” refreshes do sometimes bring bigger changes in design, as with the OnePlus 5T, or entirely new features, as in the case of the OnePlus 6T last year. Specs for OnePlus’ next flagship phone — likely the “OnePlus 7T Pro” if history holds — will probably be familiar, but that doesn’t mean there aren't any improvements the company can deliver, and I have some wants. Read More
Samsung's phones always have a little something for everyone. If you need extra storage for niche workflows or huge offline music collections, you could always pick up a Galaxy S or Note phone with microSD support, and even enjoy the anachronism of a headphone jack. That's Samsung's M.O.: build phones with everything. But over the years, that approach slowly began to change, and with the Note10, I think it's fair to say the Samsung "kitchen sink" smartphone is now firmly a thing of the past. Read More
Today, Google fully detailed two of the as-yet-unannounced Pixel 4's features most likely to receive top billing when it debuts in October: 3D facial recognition and radar-powered gesture controls. While only the Soli radar stuff is truly novel in the smartphone industry, Google will also be launching first Android phone with truly secure face unlock rivaling that of Apple's in the iPhone X (other Android phones have used it, but Android as an OS couldn't fully take advantage of it yet).
Following on the tease of the phone and its design earlier in the summer, Google is providing an unprecedented level of insight into a product that is months away from release—the sort of move tech marketers and lawyers traditionally dread, in the event the product fails to deliver, or fails to attract sufficient hype. Read More
Over the last week, I've been revisiting the older OnePlus 6T in the wake of using the 7 Pro as my daily driver for some months. While there are still things about the older phone that I enjoy (and frankly prefer, like the smaller size), I just can't recommend the phone anymore at its current $550 price. OnePlus needs to bring that price down closer to or under $500. Read More
In a forum post on
his personal fan worship portal H4Vuser.net yesterday, RED founder and CEO Jim Jannard all but declared the company's first smartphone, the RED Hydrogen One, a failure. Well, it wasn't that RED failed (of course not!), it was that someone else failed RED. Specifically, its ODM (original design manufacturer).
Without getting too mucked up in smartphone business jargon, an ODM is basically a full-service design and firmware support company. While the specific services they provide depend on the client and product, in general, an ODM takes a conceptual product design, basic specifications, and a price point from a customer, and then creates a working smartphone which can then be mass-produced by an OEM (original equipment manufacturer). Read More