el producto #104 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Apple’s downgraded forecast, Google’s flight-booking AI, Instagram’s design principles, e-ink credit cards, Probabilistic forecasting, Monzo US launch & more.

Welcome to the first el producto of 2019!

I hope you all had a great start of the new year. Here’s what happened in the world while we celebrated:

🎰 The week in figures

$7.9B - raised by UK startups during 2018, down from $8.1B in 2017; compares with Germany which raised $4.6B in 2018, up from $3.2B in 2017, and France which raised $4.4B, up from 2.2B the year before.

6.67B - miles recorded by Strava users in 2018 in 195 countries and 32 sport types. In activity titles around the world, runners mention beer as their beverage of choice, while cyclists go for coffee.

$322M - App store customers spent on New Year’s Day, setting a new single-day record. Customers spent $1.22B between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, marking a new holiday record for the company; Apple saw record quarterly revenue in its services category, which includes the App Store, Apple Music, and Apple Pay.

245k — Tesla vehicles delivered in 2018, up from 103k in 2017; Q4 global deliveries more than tripled from a year prior.

90.000 minutes of original content produced by Netflix in 2018.

44 of the top 100 apps in India are Chinese; includes video sharing platform TikTok and selfie app BeautyPlus; social video app LIKE claims 64% of its users are in India.

36% - amount of US adults who have used ride-share services; grew from 15% in 2015; over the same period, US adults who had never heard of ride-hailing dropped from 33% to 3%.

10% - estimated iPhone production decrease in Q1. Apple is expected to produce 45M iPhones in Q1, a 5M decrease from previous forecasts. The company reduced its Q1 revenue projection from $89B-$93B to $84B; also reduced its expected gross margin from 38–38.5% to 38%. Apple is dealing with two distinct problems simultaneously:

  • U.S. iPhone users aren’t upgrading their iPhones like they used to.
  • The Chinese market isn’t generating the revenue Apple expected.

📰 What’s going on

Google researchers train flight-booking AI; the system used reinforcement learning to teach a neural network to complete booking forms and other tasks with numerous variables.

Google rolls out spam protection for its Messages app; the tech is now available for some Android users; it can be turned on and off.

Google’s ATAP unit awarded approval by the FCC to test a radar-based motion sensing system; known as Project Soli, the tech promises to let users control devices without touching them.

Google acqui-hires and buys some assets from Q&A mobile app company Superpod; price below $60M; Superpod announced an immediate shutdown as part of a transition into a larger project.

Amazon’s published its post-Christmas press release. The note does not include exact figures, but points out best-selling products Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones, Samsung Flat 65" 4K UHD 8 Series Smart LED TV, and Apple iPad; also Amazon items like Amazon Echo Dot or Fire TV Stick 4K.

Amazon publicly tests Showroom: a virtual environment for visualizing furniture and decor; the user can adjust the colors of the wall and floor in a virtual living room scene, then place various items (furniture, wall art, etc) in the space to see how they look together.

Netflix ends in-app subscription payments for iOS; customers must now use the Netflix website to pay for subscriptions; the move allows the company to pocket all subscription proceeds rather than sharing a cut with Apple.

Didi Chuxing launches a range of insurance and financial services for drivers and riders; Didi says its products will make it easier for drivers to join the platform; comes as China introduces new rules requiring drivers have both a commercial driving license and a local residency permit.

Privacy International (PI) says Android apps from Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, MyFitnessPal, and others may be violating GDPR laws by transmitting data to Facebook without users’ permission; PI says at least 20 apps automatically transmit data to Facebook before consent is requested; Facebook says developers can disable automatic data collection.

Mozilla to rewrite and redesign the Thunderbird email client in 2019; among the planned technical changes: improved support for modern processors and various Gmail features; the company expects to expand the Thunderbird team from 8 to 14 staff this year.

AT&T plans 2-in-1 Apple Watch and iPhone charging device; the tech features a Qi charger with a 10W max output, a micro USB port, and a 3k mAh battery.

Samsung is developing an entry-level Bixby speaker.

Marriott announces that a multi-year hacking on its Starwood customer database affected 383M guests (initially estimated 500M); hackers obtained more than 5M passport numbers; the data was unencrypted.

Volkswagen announces plans for mobile EV charging stations; the company says the rapid-charge stations will support wired connections to power sources, but will also be available in locations without power.

Zero-commission stock trading app Robinhood is hiring to launch a new London office ahead of a UK app launch; open positions reportedly include recruitment, marketing, compliance, product design, and customer support.

UK-based digital-only bank Monzo is planning a US launch; the company will initially partner with an established US bank and is set to offer checking accounts, ATM withdrawals, etc. Here’s an article I wrote on them in 2017.

PNC Bank partners with Visa to test a new method for reducing credit card fraud; new dynamic cards can display an e-ink changing CVV generated by a Visa algorithm; expected launch in 2019.

Quirk (iOS) is a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) app that lets users record their automatic thoughts and immediately challenge them; users can review earlier entries.

Volvo’s first fully-electric vehicle, the Polestar 2, will also be the first car to run the native version of Google’s Android Auto (no smartphone required); the car will offer a 300-mile range; begins production this year and will be priced to compete with Tesla’s Model 3.

China launches Beidou satellite navigation system; initially scheduled to roll out in 2020; it features global coverage, with 5M accuracy in the Asia-Pacific region and 10M accuracy elsewhere around the world.

CES is fast approaching — here are the trends to look for.


📚 Something to think about

Does AI make strong tech companies stronger? Ben Evans reflects on the uses and potential boundaries of ML.

The cardinal sin of product management, solving a problem nobody has. Inside the failure of a startup.

10 universal design principles used by Instagram. They may not be new, but they still work charms!

User Story Mapping and probabilistic forecasting. Willem-Jan Ageling shares a method for delivery planning based on team historical data.

UX and Design conferences 2019. See also the Product conferences calendar shared here in November.


📻 Something to listen to

Tim Ferriss talks to Patrick Collison — CEO of Stripe. “If people around you don’t think what you’re doing is a bit strange, maybe it’s not strange enough.” — Patrick Collison


🤖 Something to be amazed by

China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon. The lunar rover landed this week in the 186 km-wide Von Kármán crater, marking the second significant space advance in 2019 after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back pictures of Ultima Thule, some 6.5 billion kms from the Sun.


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