Aug 29, 2019 Fitbit snags a trick from Apple: Premium Subscription Read More Manning vs. Brady. Jordan vs. Kobe... Fitbit vs. Apple. Fitbit's only product competes with the iPhone maker's 4th most important product (Apple Watch). But the fitness tracker pioneer just announced Fitbit Premium — the new subscription concept hopes to more money every month off users who already paid for a Fitbit. It's a trick out of Apple's book.
Put me in, coach... For $10/month, your fitness tracker will crunch some artificial intelligence and tell you what to do — it analyzes your activity, diagnoses your "problems," then guilts you into changing with "solutions." And it's got a menu of 9 health programs to choose from, like "Healthy Habits" or "Get More Zzz's." Think of it like this:
Your old Fitbit wearable: It just showed that you only did 683 steps today. That's it. It counted.
The new Fitbit Premium service: Nudges you to go for an 18-minute walk at 2pm since you haven't moved in hours. Then it "encourages" you to join a 30-minute mindfulness course to clear your head before dinner.The Takeaway:Are we at #SubscriptionSaturation?... Add "digital AI health assistant" to the list of things you're coughing up $10 monthly for. On top of your Netflix, Spotify, and Blue Apron subscriptions, Fitbit's adding to the subscription-obsessed tech-meets-wellness trend we're seeing elsewhere:
Fitness: Peloton's about to IPO, charging $39/month just for videos of spin classes. And OG gyms do the same thing (physical gyms matter, too).
Wellness: Calm and Headspace charge $60 and $96 per year for meditation audio. Like podcasts, but for your deep brain. Aug 20, 2019 Apple's Goldman Sachs credit card is now available for all (iPhone-owning) Americans Read More "Hover"... That's the non-swipe verb Apple envisions you motioning with your new Apple Card, the digital-native payment method it announced in May last year. Welp, it's finally available to all (in the US), and you apply through the Wallet app on the iPhone. If you're approved, you get:
Hoverability: Apple Card's natural habitat is Apple Pay, the contactless payment method built into the Apple Wallet app.
Privacy: The card doesn't even have a number. It's witness protection program approved, and totally encrypted, generating a new digital number with every transaction.
Rando coolness: When you first get your card, it exists on your phone in a blank-slate white hue. Then it changes color based on what you buy (restaurants = orange).
3 is for me... People ❤️ points. So Apple's giving you 3% cash back when you make Apple purchases or pay for an Uber. If you pay through Apple Pay on your iPhone, you get 2% cash back. But there's also a physical brag-worthy titanium card — Apple only gives 1% cash back when you pay non-digitally. It's subtly incentivizing iPhone-dependency via points.The Takeaway:Apple Card is access to iPhone Nation... CEO Tim Cook wants Apple Card to become a status symbol. He knows that, and is offering up membership to what we're calling "the 3% Club": merchants that will offer Apple Carders 3% cash back. Here's why we expect more companies to ask Apple to join the deal and exclusively accept Apple Card:
What merchants pay: That cash back you get comes from somewhere — the store pays it.
What merchants get: The loyalty from iPhone Nation — if you get 3% off every Uber ride, are you really gonna take Lyft?
Aug 14, 2019 New US tariffs on China get delayed... because of holiday shopping Read More iTariffs... President Trump announced them just 2 weeks ago. With everything else already tariff'd, the US planned to tax the remaining $300B worth of consumer products made in China starting September 1st — including the iPhone. Yesterday, he said nevermind: waiting until December 15th for most new tariffs so American shoppers can have a Merry Christmas.
Teachers hate procrastination... Markets don't. The tariffs were essentially a 10% tax that would hurt profits for companies manufacturing in China, while raising prices by 10% for everybody. Here's who wins with Tuesday's sudden flip:
Apple: Shares popped 4% because iPhones and MacBooks won't get 10% more expensive until after most holiday shopping is done. Made in China AirPods, the Watch, and HomePod still get hit on September 1st, though.
Mattel & Best Buy: The stocks rose 5% and 6% as Made in China action figures and speakers will remain tariff-free through the holidays.
Nike: Sneakers were also on the exemption list, so the swoosh jumped up 2%.The Takeaway:This sends a message to China... If the trade war has political or stock market costs, America might cave. Credibility is important in negotiations, and Trump's credibility takes a hit with this one.
Political cost: Since American buyers pay US tariffs, not Chinese exporters, this latest round would have grinched Christmas for American households.
Stock market cost: If tariffs caused poor holiday sales, stock markets likely would've suffered. Aug 1, 2019 Spotify hits 232M users globally — but podcasts were the star Read More Turn it up... Shares of Swedish music streamer Spotify dipped on word it added fewer paying subscribers last quarter than expected. Here's what Spotify's 232M-strong moshpit of "monthly active users" looks like:
The freebies: 129M (up 27%) tolerate an ad every few songs so they don't need to pay any cash money.
The premiums: 108M (up 31%) pay monthly for ultimate listening control.
Average revenue per user: $5.42. That's a combo of ads and monthly subscription, and it's been declining as Spotify entices broke college students to sign up.
Growth is strong, young Skywalker... CEO Daniel Ek believes his company's 31% user growth is double Apple Music's growth rate. And the percentage of users who canceled their subscription — aka the "churn rate" — hit a record low 4.6%. It's still making a loss though as it focuses on the race against Apple for eardrums.The Takeaway:It's not music. It's "listen"... Spotify prioritized podcasts for key reasons. First, it's easier to work with pod creators than 4 powerful record labels representing most music artists. Second, Spotify's pod listeners stay in the app longer (and we assume are better looking). So Spotify acquired Gimlet's collection of pods in February, along with 2 other pod-cquisitions. Add in some in-app nudging and Spotify has doubled its number of pod listeners since the start of 2019.
PS: You can "festify" the stuff you listen to into a music fest-style lineup poster (don't know how Les Mis soundtrack got in there). Jul 31, 2019 Apple is no longer an iPhone company — and the stock jumped 4% Read More 'Siri, what am I?'... Not an iPhone company. After years of dominating Apple's financial statements, a milestone was just hit: The iPhone now makes up less than 50% of Apple's sales for the first time since 2012. Big moment. Let it sink in. And the next iPhone coming this fall probably won't have the futuristic 5G internet-of-everything network (it's not coming until 2020 for Apple).
Apple is now a 2-part company... iPhones vs. everything else.
iPhone sales fell 12%: ⬇️That number is way down because the price has surged to "should-I-just-get-a-laptop" levels, and people don't feel the need to iUpgrade as often.
Everything else (especially accessories) jumped 17%: ⬆️ Mac, iPad, wearables, and services (Apple Music, Apple News+) are helping drive recurring revenues.
Fun fact: That wearables biz? It includes AirPods and Apple Watch. And the whole wearables division is now the size of a Fortune 200 company.
The Takeaway:Apple has 1 innovative new thing right now... (and we already kinda knew about it). The joint credit card with Goldman Sachs. We now know the titanium-clad (there's also a digital version) humble-brag collaboration will arrive in August. In Apple's world of slowing iPhones and growing services, it's creatively focused on privacy:
There's no card number — it updates with a new one every transaction so even Goldman can't track your shopping.
And it doesn't sell that data to anyone else.
Plus, it's all 2-factor authenticated — aka finger or facial recognition. Jul 23, 2019 Apple is reportedly buying Intel's chip business for $1B Read More "I hate that chip store... I wish there were another in town." That's the thinking behind Apple's reported interest in acquiring the smartphone chip division at Intel. Intel is/was really good at making computer chips, but not so good at mobile chips for smartphones. Here's Intel's rocky relationship with Apple for the iPhone:
2007 — 2016: Qualcomm was Apple's go-to modem provider.
2016 — April 2019: Apple put its arm around Intel, hoping it could offer the same chips as Qualcomm for a lower price.
April 16, 2019: Apple begrudgingly settled lawsuits with Qualcomm, and agreed to use its chips again for at least 6 years.
Also April 16, 2019: Since Apple broke up with it, Intel announced it was done with smartphone modems.
We're talking about the "bottleneck"... iPhones start as raw materials and end fitting nicely on your palm. In between there's a value chain, including workers, factories, stores... and modems. Qualcomm is the only chip company able to offer the modems for 5G phones, so Apple has no choice but to work with them.The Takeaway:This is about busting Qualcomm's bottleneck... Qualcomm's stock fell 3% after the WSJ's report — if Apple's able to resurrect Intel's patents, research, and engineers into a functioning 5G chip assembly line, Qualcomm will lose the power it has over the iPhone. If not, Qualcomm will keep naming its chip price. Jul 17, 2019 Apple may be deep-diving into podcasts — because Spotify caught up (fast) Read More Pause... Apple is actually getting serious about podcasting after years of complacency. Bloomberg reported that the original home of the podcast is switching its strategy from reactive to proactive — it's contacting podcast producers, asking them to go exclusive with Apple: Shows only for Apple Music subscribers.
50%-70%... That's the share of podcast listens that happens in Apple's podcast app. The rest are divvied up between platforms (Stitcher, Google Music), so Apple got complacent. It didn't give creators much data about their listeners, and it didn't give listeners a great interface for audio enjoyment. Then Spotify started to catch up. Fast. Here's how:
Big goals: CEO/Founder Daniel Ek announced he wanted 20% of listening on the streaming platform to be non-music content.
Big acquisitions: So Spotify bought podcast producer Gimlet and its 29 original podcasts in February, followed by 2 other pod-cquisitions. It's committed $500M to the initiative.
Big results: Spotify is now 2nd to Apple, jumping from near nothing to 10%-20% of listens.
Spotify shares fell 2% Tuesday on word of Apple's moves.The Takeaway:Apple used to create, now it follows... With iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Siri, Apple built entirely new product categories. Now it's playing catch-up. Here are its recent 2nd-mover moves:
Music streaming ➡️ Copied Spotify
Apple TV+ streaming ➡️ Copied Netflix
Beats & HomePod speaker ➡️ Copied Bose twice
Original podcasts ➡️ It might just be copying Spotify again Jun 28, 2019 The designer of the iPhone, Jony Ive, just left Apple Read More Chief Design Officer... Apologies — Make that Sir Chief Design Officer. British-born, fully-knighted Jony Ive is leaving Apple after 27 years to start his own design company (it'll be called "LoveFrom," inspired by this Steve Jobs quote). Apple assured us in its press release that Jony will keep working with Apple — Shares only dipped 1% after the news because it'll be one of his first clients.
Something you're touching today... was probably touched by Ive and his Bauhaus-inspired commitment to "less is more." When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company was just clicks away from bankruptcy. That's when Jony became Apple's spirit animal by designing these masterpiece devices:
iMac desktop (1998): The OG-Starburst colored ones that took over your school's computer lab. He also did more recent MacBook Airs.
iPod (2001): The circular scrolling was a game-changer. He also did the (adorable) iPod Mini.
iPhone (2007): Apple's greatest commercial success. He also led the teams on the iPad and AirPods.
A smooth voice: He's known for divine British narration.
Apple's "neo-futurist" campus (2017): Ive stepped away from product innovations to design the spaceship-ish new Apple HQ building.
The Takeaway:Apple needs to schedule a Genius Bar appointment for itself... 2019's been rough and shares are only up 8% over the last year. Slowing iPhone sales and the trade war with key manufacturing partner China have been a problem. The departure of its Apple Store retail chief and now its Chief Designer don't help. Jun 3, 2019 Everything you need to know about Apple's big annual event Read More Cue the PowerPoints... Apple's multi-day here's-what-we've-been-working-on Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off in San Jose. Apple's operating system got some big updates (spoiler alert: "dark mode" is coming to your iPhone), but these are our 4 highlights.
A SciFi-ish show: The 1st original show for Apple TV+ (its paid video subscription) will be For All Mankind — An alt-history where Russia lands on the moon first (here's the trailer).
End awkward earwax: Share the music you're listening to by holding your phone next to your buddy's (like AirDrop) instead of sharing/trading headphones.
Hello, Siri: She's getting a more "natural" sounding voice and will work better with AirPods.
Goodbye, iTunes: Since '01, iTunes has delivered you everything media-ish. Now it'll be split into 3 separate apps — Music, Podcasts, TV (like it already is on the iPhone).
But 1 update is (subtly) the biggest... “Sign In With Apple.” Bought a succulent online lately? You probably experienced "1-click sign-in with Google or Facebook" options (looks like this). Using your FB or Google creds logs you in faster, but you feel like you're giving up privacy/security. Apple thinks it's better than its tech rivals — Face ID tech can log you into anything more safely.The Takeaway:The next tech battle is privacy... and Apple is positioning itself as the savior. It hasn't suffered Facebook-style privacy leaks, CEO Tim Cook proactively calls for more regulation, and Apple keeps your data locked down on your device with encryption (it doesn't need personal data to sell ads). This conference shows it's wrapping its brand all around privacy. May 7, 2019 Apple bought over 20 companies in the last 6 months Read More nbd... In a weekend CNBC interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook casually dropped this: "So we acquire a company on average, every two to three weeks." He went ahead and connected the mathematical dots for us — Apple has bought 20-25 companies since November by Cook's estimation. And only about 6 of them have been reported on.
With great cheddar comes great responsibility ... Apple is only required to announce acquisitions that have a material impact on its business. None of these smaller ones apparently have. But investors aren't worried about the price, since Apple boasts $225B in cash as of last quarter's finish — There's pressure to spend it on things that will grow the business, or return it to investors as dividends.The Takeaway:Apple's using acquisitions to play catch up... Its iPod and iTunes changed music, but Apple fell behind in streaming — So it bought Beats in 2014 ($3B) and Shazam in 2018 ($400M) to catch up. The latest buying spree of tiny companies looks like subtle moves to beef up Siri (she trails Alexa and Google Home in some digital assistant rankings). These 3 specific recent acquisitions sound like Siri-enhancers:
Laserlike: Machine learning — Teach Siri to understand humans better
Silk Labs: AI software — Improve Siri's brain
PullString Voice applications — Improve Siri's hearing Mar 22, 2019 Apple's wireless charging AirPods cap its product-palooza Read More The jewelry of Silicon Valley... are the new $159 AirPods you wish were all up in your ears. Apple just unveiled them. And unlike your ancient 2017 AirPods, they do this:
Speak with Siri by voice straight through them, so she's in your ears all day, e'ry day.
Wirelessly charge if you upgrade to the new, magical wireless-charging case for a smooth $40 more.
Connect via Bluetooth way faster, so no more annoying waiting when you're just trying to get Spotify going before your run.
Do less, Apple... These new AirPods were its 3rd product unveil this week. First, they hit us with new iPads and then Apple updated iMacs for the first time in two years. By the way, you busy Monday? Apple's got a bigger launch event planned, expected to be its "Netflix Killer."
The Takeaway:The art of the pivot... Apple's making it. Sales in its wearables biz (including AirPods) jumped 35% last year — But they still only make up 6% of all revenues. The iPhone? It's 66%. But since iPhone sales, the pride-of-Cupertino, are slowing, Apple's trying to make services and anything else happen (like "fetch").