Tuesday, February 3, 2015

YotaPhone 2, a Samsung killer , from Russia with Love

YotaPhone 2 is an amazing smartphone, a smartphone designed and made by a Russian company.

A Flagship device that represents the very cutting edge of Russian Consumer Electronics. 
Launched in a unique style, by Putin gifting a YotaPhone 2 phone to the president of China at the APEC conference , before the phone was really available on the market. What a way to be catapulted into the limelight :) 

Check out these YotaPhone website and promo videos. Stylish, these videos remind me of Apple ads for some reason.

This smartphone is the first phone that is notably different in a while !
I just picked one up, so check out the unboxing below.

Some info first. Yotaphone is a Russian smartphone manufacturer and mobile operator :
Yotaphone 2, is unique because it is a phone with 2 screens. 
One screen is a 5 inch color LCD. 
Second one is an e-ink screen.

This is an amazing concept. First i am a fan of the idea of having screens on both sides of a smartphone. See my predictions about the future of smartphone screens.

Making the second screen e ink allows for all sorts of interesting features . 
You can get wayyy longer battery life if you use the e-ink display instead of the color screen.

Also the screen stays always on. The CEO of YotaPhone positions the "Always on" screen in the following terms. Smartphone owners have to unlock their device up to 150 times per day. 
Instead why not have the "Always on" notification just be visible on the outside of the phone at all times. This would save people pointless unlocking of the device. Would keep people grounded in the real world, vs staring into their phones out of nervous habit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Musings on Future of (Mobile) Ad-Tech

What will mobile ads of the future look like ?  Will they look like minority report ads seen above ?

This is a HUUGE growth opportunity for mobile ad tech, that can figure out how to appeal to brand marketers. Someone just needs to figure out how to get brand advertisers to start spending more on digital and mobile. 

Here is a wild and crazy idea at how to crack this:
Brand marketers care about depth of engagement because they care about connecting with people emotionally. So to do that mobile ad units need to prove to advertisers that they are much more engaging than a fraction of a second glance at a tiny banner on a pocket sized screen. To prove this to brand marketers will requires new engagement metrics, that will allow us to price ad units in a new way.

Snapchat has shown interesting innovation in this direction. Snapchat's mobile advertising requires the user to maintain contact with an iPhone or Android screen with one of their fingers for the video ad to play, if contact is broken the "snapchat"/ video stops playing. This is in essence a metric of engagement between the user and the ad. Something that up until now we didnt really have (except for the explicit click). Currently Snapchat is selling ad packages against this novel ad unit with a $750,000 minimum trial fee

This could point to an interesting direction for how next generation mobile ad networks should approach tapping into brand marketing dollars. The trick is to price ads by not only impression account but by TRUE engagement metrics.

What if ?

 What if mobile ad SDK's could track , really track, how engaged users were. By using the "selfie camera" on smartphones,  face detection / gaze detection AD-SDK's could tell for how long and how strongly a user was engaged with each ad. They could also target ads to male/ female by dynamically determining the sex of the user. 

This would fix one of the key issues with CPM pricing of mobile ads today:
Pricing is not as performance oriented as it seems. Today we price an impression of an auto play video ad, that had the sound off and the user was facing away from their screen the same amount as a video ad play where the user's eyes were locked on the video for 30 seconds and audio was playing. Realistically they represent entirely different levels of engagement and thus should be priced entirely different. 

Today we don't have metrics / ad tech in place inside the ad SDK's to be able to differentiate wasted ad units vs truly engaging ad units. It can be done, by adding in camera, face detection/gaze detection library into an existing mobile ad sdk's . But should it be done ? Say we did, and the added transparency appealed to brand marketers who could now pay big premiums for highly targeted and highly engaging ad units to reach their customers . Would the trade off on user privacy be worth it ? Or would people categorically reject it ? 

With patents about gaze detection being awarded to apple ... maybe this is not as far fetched as it seems ? Maybe minority report style ads are just around the corner ?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Easter Egg : Game inside "unable to connect to internet" Chrome tab

Check out this awesome Easter Egg inside Chrome for Mac.  

When your browser cant reach the internet you get an error message in your tab.
Awhile ago Chrome started using a pixel art dinosaur icon as part of that error message.

Now, if you hit [SPACE BAR] while in a "can not connect to internet" tab inside Chrome on OS X the dinosaur will jump and start running. 

There is an old school style game inside the chrome tab !!! Its like flappy bird. There is one button for jump, and the whole goal is to keep the dinosaur running by jumping over the cactus obstacles.

Enjoy :) 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Android 5.0 Lollipop on my Nexus . Finally.

I carry an iPhone 6 and Nexus 5 with me everywhere , everyday. 
It is no contest between a 6th generation apple device, and a 5th generation Nexus /  Android OS.
The 6th Gen device is by far more refined, polished, zippier , all around better.

But all of this changes today for me.  I just (or ed) installed Android Lollipop onto my Nexus 5

And all of my data did not get blown away :) Thanks to the instructions on this blog: 

Android Lollipop with its Material Design creates an entirely different feel. A much better and consistent design language brings the whole OS together into something much more cohesive than Kit Kat.

The "Card" paradigm has been made ubiquitous for the task manager and the app tray.
Notifications work like cards as well. The color scheme has shifted to a eggshell white/grey background color theme.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Taking a stroll through Yosemite the latest Mac OSX 10.10

I just got back from vacation, and am delighted to find the large number of new and shiny software from apple for me to play with now that i am back. 

I just installed OS X 10.10 Yosemite developer beta preview and will be test driving it on my MAcbook Pro 13 '' . Stay tuned for some thoughts and reactions on the redesigned OS.

So far i like the consistency between iOS and Yosemite. 

Still have to make the jump to iOS 8 developer preview.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Horizon MiniPak : Alternative Energy (fuel cell) for your smartphone

Im getting ready for a trip to the Phillipines for a couple of weeks. My gf and i are planning to go to some small islands between Palawan and Coron. No electricity type of area. But i still want power for my phone and camera. 
In other words an excellent chance to do some ForTechiesOnly gadget research ;) 

I took a trip to REI . After looking into several solar powered options. A Solio , a PowerMonkey , and a few other options i ended up with a Horizon MiniPak

Which is a handheld USB battery charged via a Hydrogen Fuel Cell reactor !!

Dont worry ive never heard of it either until i saw it. But consumer fuel cell tech is something i have been reading about for awhile (first came across in my grandfathers electro chemistry text books) , but until now have not come face to face with this tech.  Of course i couldn't pass up trying it out. So i got one. And at a great price. Full price these things cost $149.  and each additional hydrostick costs $29 (i got one for $5).

After some Googling i found out that Horizon Fuel Cell the company bills itself as the worlds largest provider of hydrogen fuel cells from large to small ones.

What i got for my trip to the Phillipines was a Horizon Minipak. Its a smallish handheld USB charger, powered from Hydrogen fuel cells. Each Hydrostick (a fat battery filled with hydrogen in a stable hydride (metal + hydrogen) can hold up to 2 charges of a smartphone. The buy product is heat and water vapor. 

The coolest part is that you can get a refill station to recharge the hydrostick batteries. If i like this experience for my trip i may consider making the investment, but to warrant the $299 investment i am going to be really impressed with this ... 

There is also another version for hikers that is marketed as more rugged, and comes with bigger cartridges.  Its called the Brunton Hydrogen REactor. Check out Brunton.com to see it.
Wired.com called it vaporware in this post right here, but now you can buy them in REI.

Not sure yet if these things will catch on , but definitely an interesting option to try out. stay tuned for reports on how my experience with the Horizon MiniPak turns out. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Marketing Opera Max, snapshot

I wanted to share / link what i have been doing at work (or more like the team has been doing) to solve a hard high technology marketing problem.  I think it is interesting to look at our approach for solving this, and since this is all out in the open anyway, pulling it together into a single post seemed like a good way to organize my thoughts on the effort.

Quick recap:
Opera Max is my latest product, its an android app that gives you mobile data savings. So it will stretch your data plan up to 2X. Its currently live in North America, EU, Russia/CIS. More countries coming soon.

Here is the official product page on Opera.com :

You can download it from Google Play here, enjoy :

The high technology marketing challenge :
The concept of mobile data savings, through advanced compression technology in the cloud is an idea that is not widely known in the mainstream. 
The idea that data can be compressed , especially in the mobile data sense, is not something most people have encountered on smartphones . 
Yes they may have heard of it on feature phones through Opera Mini, or they may remember zipping files to fit them on a floppy disk back in the 1990's. But on a smartphone that is not an idea people are familiar with. 

Below are the 3 marketing videos that we made for rolling out Opera Max beta to the first 40 countries and tell the story of the product.

The narrative/ story:
1.  Genesis: Why we made it , in an interview style (with yours truly)
2.  Advert with a hipster : Informational-yet-hip explanation of why people would use Opera Max
3.  100% Product shot video. Fly through the app, with a voice over

Some notes of a few other things we did:
1. We added subtitles into the videos
2. We localized / translated the Genesis interview video and the 

Here are the 2 Russian variants of the above videos :

These videos were done by a talented creative agency out of new york:


All in all it has been a very interesting, creative, and fun experience to work on these videos. From collaborating on scripts, to shooting the interview it has helped us refine the message and story of Opera Max. It has helped us translate the product, and come up with a localized version of the tagline.

The results to date:
So far all the videos together have exceeded 100,000 views on youtube.com .
In total all Youtube videos about Opera Max that i have seen , including videos we made and including video reviews from other blogs, have exceeded 200,000 views.

Not a bad start IMHO, considering that we are in beta and this is just the opening act. It is interesting to consider that HBO is currently airing a show called "Silicon Valley". The show is about a garage start up called Pied Piper, which has a data compression technology. They are building a compression cloud ... lots of overlap with what we are actually doing at Opera.

So maybe this will help prime mainstream audiences for the idea that they can get an app that will save them data / improve their experience by leveraging a compression cloud :)