Tetherless Watch, AT&T’s $100M Smackdown and Goes Blackberry Android

Breaking the Tether

 Apple Watch is only a few months old, and already we’re talking about its next incarnation, supposedly to be released in 2016 (which means someone in my life is getting a hand-me-down 1st gen for their birthday). A rumored video camera will be included so users can make and receive FaceTime calls. The range of models will supposedly increase, with more than just Sport, Watch, and Edition to choose from. But the most exciting rumored feature is iPhone independence. By improving the WiFi chip, Apple will make the watch more than just an activity-tracking brick when you’re not in range of your iPhone (to be fair, you can also use Apple Pay when the phone is out of range, but little else). This is a huge feature, since the lack of functionality out of phone range is the most irritating thing about the watch. We want, and it looks like we’ll get, a watch that can text, check weather, and answer FaceTime calls on its own.

But this could be the route to something more. Think about the Google Chromebook. It’s just a piece of glass, but as soon as you login, it is completely yours, and that information and that personalization carries across any Chromebook you log in to. Imagine the same functionality on an iPad. A couple could share an iPad, and it could have one person’s apps, emails, and music when they used it, and another person’s stuff when they did. The Apple Watch is a computer strapped to your wrist. With its own connection, it makes all identity problems disappear. It knows who you are because it’s on our body. With this sort of seamless functionality, choosing the device to work with would be a matter simply of deciding what features you needed at that moment. Putting less of the critical pieces on each device, and removing the friction of logging in or moving one to another would be a huge win for Apple, and for consumers.

Tom Wheeler delivers this month’s smackdown

We make no secret that we’re huge fans of FCC chair Tom Wheeler. This week he impressed us (again) by fining perpetual ne’er-do-wells AT&T $100 million for misleading their customers. While AT&T advertised many of its mobile data plans as “unlimited”, in fact they often imposed a data cap and throttling users who made it close to that cap. In the Notice of Apparent Liability, it is alleged that AT&T’s data throttling practices “inhibited customers’ ability to make informed choices about mobile broadband data services.” In some cases, AT&T cut speeds down to as low as 512 Kbps, too slow for…well, anything really.

AT&T, of course, has said that they will fight these fines tooth and nail, but they’ve huffed and puffed about Net Neutrality and pretty much everything Tom Wheeler’s done and the FCC’s house still hasn’t blown down a bit. Keep puffin’ AT&T. Our money’s on Wheeler.

Blackberry gets new life with Android

Blackberry, the once must-have device, has watched its users flock to iPhones and Android devices, going from industry top dog with 20% market share to .04% today. With deeply disappointing revenue, it’s clear that the revamped line of devices has failed to resonate with consumers and win them back. So Blackberry is rumored to be making a very smart move – to Android. Sources say an Android-based Blackberry is in the works now, but is it too little too late for Blackberry? For years, the company has been flailing and this may be just one more spasm. If they are to survive they need to focus on on their remaining strength: enterprise services and realize they are out of the phone game.

Windows Phone is hemorrhaging both users and developers. I’ve said before Windows phone will go the same route and adopt Android on their phones. Eventually they’ll probably exit the phone market entirely, realizing Microsoft isn’t a device company but a services company.  And when Windows Phone does fold, we really will have a two-platform mobile world where both Apple and Google have won. 

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