ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Alternatives to Big Tech, and a t-shirt | Creative Good – I’d argue that you could use Apple’s default iCloud account and MacOS apps. Mark Hurst recommends Safari or FireFox but ignores Mail.app, Calendar.app and Contacts.app

Nice little Nesta egg: Former lottery quango took £7m from Google • The Registerdetails of Google’s influence in European academic life are detailed in a report by the Campaign for Accountability (CfA), an initiative part-funded by Google’s competitors. Google turned out to be the only corporate sponsor of think tank Readie, the Research Alliance for a Digital Europe, hosted at Nesta.

Is Joplin a Serious Open Source Evernote Alternative? Hackernoon – this could be very interesting

The US is getting Facebook Lite, a service designed for developing countries — Quartz – think about this before banging on about: cloud, IoT and 5G

LVMH’s Private Equity Firm is Banking on the Power of Korean Culture — The Fashion Law – its ironic given how few brands sell in Korea (which has in turn fuelled demand for fakes) that LVMH is putting so much weight on the country

Understanding China’s Rise Under Xi Jinping — By The Honourable Kevin Rudd – probably one fo the best essays that I have read on China from a macro perspective

VW Just Gave Tesla a $25 Billion Battery Shock – probably the best argument that I’ve read for super capacitor and hydrogen fuel cell technology due to the shortage of cobalt. Lithium prices have also inflated massively over the past few years

Nike, McDonald’s jump on China mobile gaming craze to entice young consumers | South China Morning Post

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Happy St Patricks Day, here’s the crock of gold from around the web for you.

Amazon: The Making of a Giant | WSJ – Today, the AI assistant has more than 30,000 skills available on its store and can be used to control more than 4,000 smart-home devices from 1,200 different brands. (paywall)

The battle for digital supremacy – America v China – tactical rather than the required strategic response

China’s ‘Fun Headlines’ App Considers IPO at $3 Billion Value – Bloomberg – huge risk is China’s changing media regulation landscape

Qualcomm, National Security, and Patents – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

The Seven-Year Itch: How Apple’s Marriage to Siri Turned Sour — The Information – great read (paywall)

Chinese smartphone eco-system for beginners

Ok this isn’t the most technical video in terms of its review of the Chinese  smartphone eco-system and it doesn’t touch on the WeChat eco-system, but its a good introductory video for westerners by Winston Sterzel, a YouTuber living in Shenzhen. It focuses on only the top domestic Chinese smartphone brands.

If I was looking to explain Chinese smartphone dynamics to a western client, this video is as good an introduction as any to the hardware side of the business.

Here are the key points I’d highlight and additional comments that I would add to the film.

Mobility in the working population drove Chinese smartphone adoption

The transitory nature of the Chinese workforce following China’s opening up has mean’t that many people are migrants and many only return home once a year (for lunar new year) if they are lucky. Staying in touch is critical to keep families together. Secondly being migrants, having a ‘computer’ that you can carry makes more sense than a traditional PC. Finally, the price point of smartphones puts the internet in the hands of pretty much anyone who wants one. These three factors explain why smartphones took off so dramatically in China. This started in the urban areas, but then migrants brought them home to relatives and gave them away as Chinese new year gifts.

China Mobile had a government mandate to build out connectivity into even the most rural areas in China. Data packages and the applications that run on it like WeChat made telecommunications even cheaper and easier.

The smartphone is where the majority of Chinese online shopping takes place, how families keep in touch and are starting to be a tool for the delivery of government services.

The price-value balance of smartphones

The development of the iPhone had an unintended on the Chinese smartphone contract manufacturers. If we go back to the early Samsung Galaxy models from the S to the S4; the industrial design of these phones owed a lot to Nokia. They had replaceable storage with micro SD cards and a replaceable battery with a battery hatch in plastic. If you dropped the phone the hatch may pop off. This was by design as it got rid of the some of the energy from the fall and the frame had a degree of flex to protect the innards. This is one of the reasons why Nokia 3310 feature phones ran and ran. The face and back might pop off your phone if you dropped it; but they could easily be snapped back on.

Manufacturing phones of that nature also helps with scaling up manufacturing based on mouldings.

Apple didn’t bother with external batteries, which at the time sparked a huge controversy. Their battery life was awful and most working stiffs kept their phone charging from their office PC during the day. By comparison I had a desktop charger with previous Ericsson and Nokia phones, along with a few spare batteries and felt comfortable going on holiday for a few days with a spare charged battery in a zip loc bag and no phone charger. Up until the 6 plus, Apple’s battery has been a real pain. 

So Apple differentiated by done what seemed like an insane idea of using a CNC (computer numeric controlled) machine to make the phone chassis. This is like a robot version of the machine tools that you would have used in shop class individually making each phone chassis.

Apple tried this out with the stainless steel ‘belly band’ of the 4 series phone and then perfected it with the 5 series. I suspect the reason why they moved from stainless steel to aluminium alloy for manufacturing was to balance durability with optimising manufacturing time.

Over time these machines move from the Apple production lines onto another product. Soon you can’t be the smartphone chassis manufacturing business unless you have this capability. Apple’s machines may have been sold on, but there was probably an increase in the CNC machine makers manufacturing capacity as well.

So all of the smartphones shown, whether it cost £80 or £800; none of them felt cheap or had a ‘China penalty’ in terms of case design.  This has affected the market in the Chinese smartphone eco-system. They are more durable, but there is less incentive to go premium when a cheap or medium priced phone looks and feels this good.

The durability of modern Chinese smartphones might be one fo the reasons why sales in smartphones have declined year-on-year. I’d argue a second reason is WeChat; so long as you can use WeChat your smartphone is fine. WeChat has had a similar effect on Chinese smartphones to what the web had on western PC sales over the past two decades – computers had become about as useful as they were going to be and performance became less of an issue.

Chinese smartphone market consolidation

Winston kind of alluded to it in his video but Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus are all related to BBK Electronics; a longtime Chinese phone and consumer electronics manufacturer. When I first went to visit China I bought a BBK ‘keitai’ style clamshell feature phone. At that time BBK competed with international players like Nokia or Samsung and domestic brands like Ningbo Bird. (Ningbo Bird was the largest manufacturer in China from 2003 – 2005).

Now they make everything from cheap TVs and speakers under the Memorex brand, to smartphones and high end Blu-Ray players as Oppo.

In the smartphone sector, they operate under three main brands. OnePlus is aimed at international users and kind of similar to Xiaomi in terms of the balance that it strikes between technology, features and price. Oppo is more of a Samsung or Huawei analogue. Vivo was launched to have a lower price youthful brand.

Between BBK, Xiaomi and Huawei you now have most of the Chinese smartphone eco-system, by value and sales volume. Just a few years ago there would have been far more players that would have merited a review including the following the companies and their sub-brands:

  • ZTE
  • Lenovo
  • Meizu
  • Coolpad
  • TCL

These are still big businesses, and I am not denigrating these brands. The analyst reports show that the Chinese smartphone eco-system is undergoing rapid consolidation; in the same way as Sony and HTC have been dwarfed by Samsung and Huawei.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

What Siri creator Norman Winarsky thinks of Apple’s Siri now — Quartz – not terribly surprising

What are creative strategy craft skills? – David J Carr – Medium – well worth a lunchtime read

But Where Will the Mall Walkers Go? – Racked – interesting how malls public private space role isn’t discussed that much in the retail apocalypse

Best smartphone cameras: iPhone X, iPhone 8, Samsung Galaxy S8 – Business Insider – this must be a blow to the likes of Huawei, I’d consider using this in attack ads depending on market dynamics

Geneva Auto Show – Own goals | Radio Free Mobile – I’d also argue that the exclusive focus on Li-ion batteries rather than hydrogen fuel cells is also an issue

BlackBerry suing Facebook for patent infringement | CNBC – “Blackberry’s suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business. Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, Blackberry is now looking to tax the innovation of others. We intend to fight,” Facebook general counsel Paul Grewal said – you see Facebook has sucked the blood out of other businesses for too long. I have little sympathy with them in this suit. It will be interesting to see how robust BlackBerry’s patents are and whether it would be cheaper for Facebook to pay them off or buy the business outright. The question is who is next after Facebook in Blackberry’s legal sights?

Range Rover’s $295K SV Coupe Has 2 Doors, Makes Some Sense | WIRED – I’d personally prefer an old Range Rover CSK, but it makes sense

Toyota set to end production of diesel cars | RTE – hydrogen fuel cells make more sense than lithium ion batteries

Japanese “mommy” team gives wake-up calls to adults so they won’t be late for work【Video】 – inspired idea by Japanese mobile network Au

This Chinese billionaire felt lost in US without WeChat, mobile payments | South China Morning Post – The chairman of Legend Holdings, the controlling shareholder of Lenovo, said China was now comparable to Japan and ahead of the US in terms of mobile internet technology, digital content and innovative business models.“If you haven’t stayed abroad for a long time, you might not understand [the difference],” said Liu, citing his recent experience in the US.
His insights give credence to how Chinese technology companies have cultivated a hi-tech universe so large that it exists almost exclusively on its own – sustained by the country’s 1.4 billion people – but cut off from the rest of the world by Beijing’s Great Firewall, which blocks content not approved by the government. – the problem is that Chinese systems are ‘Galapagos’ technologies

Time for news to fight back | The AustralianMark Ritson arguing that that agencies may be pushing clients into digital media because it can result in greater commissions for the agencies — in some cases almost 3 times greater than for traditional media (paywall)

Trinity P3 and Mark Ritson analysis: Digital commissions more profitable for media agencies – Campaign Brief Australia – commission-based fees, incentives, free ad space and bonuses media agencies can earn as a percentage of an advertiser’s ad spend range from about 7 per cent to 10 per cent with Google and Facebook on average, whereas television, radio, newspapers and outdoor media pay about 3 per cent.

That’s the key finding from an analysis of regional and global agency deals by global marketing management consultancy Trinity P3 and Mark Ritson

Balenciaga is Putting its Money Where its Logo-Covered Hoodie Is for F/W 2018 | The Fashion Law – garments on the brand’s runway bore a phone number, +33156528799, which turns out to be Balenciaga’s “new hotline.” Call the number and you can answer a 20-question survey, inquiring about your age, primary language, height, and shoe size, as well as your favorite form of transportation, type of music, season, taste (your options are: Bitter, Salty, Sour, Sweet, or Umami), and so on.

A way for Balenciaga to better understand its customers? Maybe. Considering that the message is ends with the following note: “Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. All data will be erased now,” I, for one, am guessing this is more interactive experience than fact gathering mission. If we have learned anything over the past several years, it is that “experiences” are everything to the modern-day consumer – I can imagine a choir of marketers howling in a symphony of pain about this

Alibaba rival JD.com posts first annual profit as a public company | TechCrunch – The company’s fiscal profit was helped by a surprise $35 million profit in Q1 and a lucrative Q3 quarter in which it posted a RMB 1 billion ($151 million) profit thanks to its own efforts on Single’s Day, China’s online shopping bonanza. The company posted a RMB 909.2 million (US$139.7 million) loss for Q4, but that marked a 28 percent decrease year-on-year.

While Alibaba has a higher profile — with enormously profitable quarters — JD.com has quietly built out its e-commerce by expanding into financial services, offline retail and more

Silicon Valley Is Over, Says Silicon Valley – The New York Times – In recent months, a growing number of tech leaders have been flirting with the idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite the exorbitant cost of living in San Francisco and its suburbs, where even a million-dollar salary can feel middle class. Others complain about local criticism of the tech industry and a left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views. And yet others feel that better innovation is happening elsewhere – like Shenzhen? I think a lot of the problem with Silicon Valley is that it doesn’t build hardware any more. Bright people are mobile for the right pay, what you can’t easily do is the kind of commercialisation and manufacturing speed as a feedback loop like you see in Southern China

Smartphone users are spending more money each time they visit a website – Recode – The amount of money people spent per visit to online retailers has increased 27 percent since the beginning of 2015, according to new data from Adobe Analytics. Meanwhile, the length of smartphone website visits has actually declined 10 percent

World Consumer Rights Day is Back. Prep Your PR Team | Jing Daily – it will be interesting to see who the government wants to lash out at this year, there is expectations that it will be luxury brands

Meet the billionaire millennial pouring money into British fashion… and she’s only 27 | Telegraph Online‘My generation has completely different shopping habits,’ says Yu. ‘People born in the 1960s and ’70s buy into established brands such as Dior and Chanel. For them, it’s about showing status and where they fit into society. But my generation isn’t into logos – it’s not cool, it’s too obvious. [And] we prefer to shop online. We’ve become very interested and hungry for young, emerging designers.’

P&G’s Marc Pritchard calls for ‘fewer project managers’ at agencies as he vows to destroy ‘maze of complexity’  – “For media, data and analytics is enabling us to bring more media planning in-house, replacing multiple layers,” said Pritchard. “When it comes to buying, our purchasing people can negotiate with the best of them, so we’re doing more private marketplace deals in-house. And if entrepreneurs can buy digital media, why can’t the brand team on Tide, Dawn and Crest be entrepreneurs and do the same? They can, and they will.”

He explained that P&G wants and needs brilliant creatives, and will invest in such talent. But “creatives represent less than half of agency resources, because they’re surrounded by excess management, buildings and overhead.”

Where Millennials end and post-Millennials begin | Pew Research Center – defining gen-y and gen-z

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

The great big Spotify scam: Did a Bulgarian playlister swindle their way to a fortune on streaming service? – Music Business Worldwide – this also shows how topsy turvy the economics of Spotify are

China is quickly becoming the dominant force in startups | Quartz – makes you wonder about Silicon Valley

Opinion | The Tyranny of Convenience – The New York Times – Americans say they prize competition, a proliferation of choices, the little guy. Yet our taste for convenience begets more convenience, through a combination of the economics of scale and the power of habit. The easier it is to use Amazon, the more powerful Amazon becomes — and thus the easier it becomes to use Amazon. Convenience and monopoly seem to be natural bedfellows. – great article by Tim Wu

WPP Vows to Do Better After Weak Results, Nervous Outlook Send Shares Plunging – The New York Times – WPP plans to accelerate a programme to simplify the business by aligning digital systems, platforms and capabilities to provide bespoke teams for its clients as opposed to the different agencies that currently compete with each other to win contracts.

Smart homes and vegetable peelers — Benedict Evans – interesting starting point, but I think that there should be a second layer. Can the intelligence be local (like lighting sensors based on movement and presence in office buildings) or does it need cloud computing? Why can’t smart lightbulbs be at the edge rather than in the cloud. Why does a Nest thermostat need to be in the cloud?

WeChat New Year Data Report 2018 – China Channel

WSJ City | Five signals sent by China’s Anbang takeover – Reining in big spenders (spending capital abroad in an untargeted manner), reduction of systemic financial risk, concern over complex short-term high-yielding wealth products

Wealthy Chinese Women Are Unique in APAC: Agility Research | Jing Daily – interesting dissonance between Hong Kong and Chinese high net worth consumers

Levi’s Invented A Laser-Wielding Robot That Makes Ethical Jeans | Fast Company – the laser and chemical free treatment remind me a lot of the work that Frontline Clothing in Hong Kong have been doing for years in association with their Chinese supply chain partners

Struggling Esprit to close more than 40 shops in Europe | South China Morning Post – it plans to close more than 40 “heavy loss-making” shops in “core” European countries, or make around a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in its controlled space in these countries

Amazon Has Officially Invaded The Advertising Industry | Forrester Research – the bit this misses is that consumers already use Amazon’s search page as a first port of call for things

Huawei distances itself from executive’s comments that rivals using politics to keep it out of US | South China Morning Post  – Huawei did not authorise Yu to make comments about the US on behalf of the company, and does not agree with his views, Chen said. Yu did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment – Richard Yu is known for going off-piste with media

LittleThings online publisher shuts down, blames Facebook’s algorithm – Business Insider – not terribly surprising, one only had to look at the games companies that built their businesses on Facebook and got eviscerated

Burson Cohn & Wolfe – SixtySecondView – like any other business merger the focus will keep the eye off the ball at a time when the PR industry is seeing exceptionally low growth rates. I have friends and former colleagues on both sides of this in both Asia and Europe; so I hope it works out well.

Samsung says it’s going to stop pumping out features and start making devices good instead – BGR – “We developed mobile phones earlier than China, and we were obsessed with being the world’s first and industry’s first rather than thinking about how this innovation would be meaningful to consumers,” Koh said. “Being the first turns out to be meaningless today, and our strategy is to launch something that consumers believe meaningful and valuable at a right time.” – this reads like a slap in the face to Huawei’s approach on innovation and features

Tea Turns Up Temperature in Fight Against Coffee – WSJ – what tea misses is ritual

Daring Fireball: Berkshire Hathaway’s 2017 Annual Report (PDF) – they know how to play to small town audiences well