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Apple could launch a Netflix competitor early next year, although success is no guarantee

The numbers mentioned in a CNET story reveal why Apple can do very well with a new focus on services revenue. With more than 1.3 billion iPhone units active around the world, the owners of these handsets are all possible subscribers to whatever services Apple offers. At the end of its fiscal fourth quarter in September, Apple had 330 million subscribers shelling out cash, up 50% year-over-year. These paying subscribers generated revenue of $37.2 billion during Apple’s 2018 fiscal year.
To build up more momentum in the category, there is speculation that Apple will launch a streaming video service early next year. This could be a competitor to several of the big video streamers out there now including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. But just placing the Apple name on such a service is no guarantee of success. After all, late next year the Disney+ video streaming service is expected to be launched. And the House of Mouse not only has a brand that rivals Apple, it also has a large inventory of films and cartoons that are appropriate for children and adults. However, if the rumors are right, Apple will launch its service in the beginning of 2019, allowing it to come to market before Disney.

Apple has reportedly spent $1 billion to have content developed by high profile Hollywood types including Steven Spielberg, the master of the last-second twist M. Night Shyamalan, and Oprah Winfrey. The company also signed up two top executives from Sony Pictures Television to help create new shows for the service.

Report blames Apple’s high pricing for brand’s lack of success in India

Multiple reports claim that Apple’s iPhone sales are already on a decline but today a new report by The Wall Street Journal specifically targets Apple’s lack of success in the Indian market.

In 2018 alone, almost 40 million people in India are understood to have purchased a smartphone for the very first time – a huge growth opportunity for companies – but around 95% of those devices cost less than $500. This leaves Apple battling against the likes of OnePlus and Samsung over an extremely small number of customers and losing.

Throughout the years, Apple’s strategy of releasing just a handful of high-end products has worked pretty well in most countries but when it comes to developing markets it seems the company’s refusal to modify this strategy continues to hurt it. 

The Cupertino giant as a whole still wants to market its brand as an experience and, in order to do so, physical locations are a requirement. However, over in India, the company has been unsuccessful in creating its own stores due to government restrictions – at least 30% of manufacturing materials must come from India. And, while it does remain optimistic, such locations are unlikely to appear anytime soon. Essentially, this means that to Indian consumers there is no real reason to pay the premium Apple commands for its devices when a perfectly good Android smartphone can be acquired for significantly less. 
For the current fiscal year, it’s claimed that Apple has generated around $1.8 billion in revenue, half of its reported goal. Nevertheless, the company does have a five-year plan that centers around its physical locations. If everything goes as expected, revenue should eventually reach $5 billion annually. But if the past is anything to go by, it’s unlikely to be plain sailing for Apple in India.

Snapchat’s “Year End Story” feature goes live, here is how to use it

As we’re nearing the end of the year, many on-going services offer their customers the chance to see a short recap of their most important moment happening throughout the year. Snapchat is no exception to this unspoken rule and now offers its users the option to take advantage of a new “year in review” feature.

Although Snapchat is calling this feature “Year End Story,” it’s basically the same thing, Fast Company reports. The new feature is available on both the Android and iOS platforms starting today, and it’s been designed “to celebrate the variety of emotions, events, and content captured on Snap and save to the Memories feature throughout the year.”

In theory, the new feature is available to all Snapchat users, but not unless they saved enough content in the app’s Memories archive throughout the year so that Snapchat can summarize it for you.

If you think you have enough content saved in your Snapchat, simply open the app and tap on the Memories icon. You should see the new “Year End Story” feature pop up under the Snaps tab at the top of the window.

You can even share the “My 2018 in Snaps” story with your friends or save it. According to Snapchat, the new feature is rolling out to all users globally this week, so expect to see it on your phone very soon.

Fossil smartwatches are up to 40% off until December 22

Fossil is running a last-minute sale on its website with savings of up to 40% on watches, touchscreen smartwatches, and hybrid smartwatches. The deals are available in the U.S. and Canada between December 18 and December 22. Also, Fossil claims that you can order by December 24 at 12 pm to get your order in time for Christmas, but only if you opt for same day in-store pickup.

As far as the prices go, almost all smartwatches cost either $199 or $115, but there are decent discounts on straps that go with these wearable devices as well. Here are some of the smartwatch and hybrid smartwatch deals that you’ll find on Fossil’s website by the end of the week:

  • Fossil Sport Smartwatch – $199 (usually $255)
  • Fossil Gen 4 Smartwatch Explorist HR – $199 (usually $275)
  • Fossil Gen 4 Smartwatch Venture HR – $199 (usually $275)

  • Hybrid Smartwatch Jacqueline – $105 (usually $175)
  • Hybrid Smartwatch Commuter – $105 (usually $175)
  • Hybrid Smartwatch Goodwin – $115 (usually $175)
  • Hybrid Smartwatch Harper – $105 (usually $175)
  • Hybrid Smartwatch Neely Bone – $93 (usually $155)
  • Hybrid Smartwatch Nate Dark – $93 (usually $155)
  • Hybrid Smartwatch Grant Navy – $115 (usually $155)

Of course, there are plenty more Fossil smartwatches on sale on the company’s website and free overnight shipping is also available on orders over $125. Also, keep in mind that many of the smartwatches listed above are available in different variations based on the strap model, so expect the price to be different as well in some case.

Motorola’s Moto Style Shells (for any Moto Z phone) now cost just $4.99

If you own any Motorola Moto Z phone and have $5 to spare, you can currently buy a pretty nice Moto Style Shell for it. In case you don’t know, Moto Style Shells are swappable rear covers that change the look of your Moto Z handset while providing some basic extra protection (mind you, for serious protection you’d better buy a proper case, as Style Shells do not cover the sides of your phone).

At this very moment, only two Moto Style Shells models are in stock at Motorola: Crimson Ballistic Nylon and Herringbone Nylon – pictured above on the left and right, respectively. These cost $4.99 apiece, down from the regular price of $19.99. Shipping anywhere in the US is $5, unless you purchase products worth over $75, in which case shipping is free.

As implied at the beginning of this article, Motorola’s Style Shells are compatible with literally all Moto Z smartphones released until now, including the new models of 2018: Moto Z3 and Moto Z3 Play. It’s unclear for how long these Moto Style Shells will be priced at just $4.99, so you may want to hurry if you need one (or more) on the cheap.

Google Express offers first time customers 20% off on orders up to $100

Google is juggling a lot of balls right now, and many consumers might be unfamiliar with Google Express. This is an online shopping and delivery service that allows users to shop online from various stores like Costco, Target, Walmart, the Google Store, Best Buy, Fry’s and more. Orders can be placed on the iOS or Android app, or through the Google Express website.

Right now through the end of the year, when you place your very first order through Google Express, you can save 20% on your order up to $20. In other words, you will receive 20% off all orders valued at up to $100. To take advantage of this deal, enter the coupon code HOLIDAY18 when you are checking out and paying for your purchase on Google Express. There are some caveats. The coupon cannot be used for purchases from the Google Store or Moosejaw. It cannot be used to buy Gift cards, stamps, or a Costco membership card.

Keep in mind that Google Express is not a same-day shopping and delivery service like Shipt or Instacart. Items purchased through Google Express take one to three days to arrive.

Spoon & Tamago’s Most Popular Posts of 2018

As we wind down our 11th (!) year of blogging, we embark on the annual exercise of ranking our most popular posts based on viewership. It’s always fun and interesting to see what captivated readers the most and looking at the top 10, at times it almost feels like a review of Japan’s news in general. News tends to be sad and depressing, especially these days, but we hope that we’ve been able add a little bit of beauty into your daily lives by delivering stories about Japan through an art & design lens.

10. Eerie photos of an evacuated Tokyo

Japan had a rough year after being pummeled by torrential rains, a large earth quake in Hokkaido and numerous hurricanes. In fact, 2018’s kanji of the year was chosen to be 災 (wazawai) meaning disaster. So it’s only fitting that a photographer who happened to find himself in the middle of one of these disasters, kicks off our list.

As the powerful Typhoon Trami moved through Tokyo in early October, transportation operators were forced to shut down services and residents were advised to stay home. Unaware that trains were being shut down, a Tokyo-based photographer headed out to his shift at work when he encountered some of Tokyo’s most crowded spots, empty.

9. In Japan, an Anti-Decluttering House

Marie Kondo (or Konmari, if you prefer) and her decluttering empire has taken the West by storm. And it’s given Japan an image of ultra-minimalism where people live a simple lifestyle, free of all the material possessions that have plagued Western homes.

But if you’ve ever lived in Japan you’ll know that this really isn’t how the majority of Japanese live, which is why we were so happy to be able to offer an alternative mantra: it’s not hoarding if your shit is awesome.

8. Intimate Portraits of Life in Japan

“Truth is stranger than fiction,” Mark Twain famously wrote. And Tokyo-based street photographer Shin Noguchi is on our list for his particular knack for capturing extraordinary moments of excitement, beauty and humanism that play out on the streets of Japan.

7. The Great Fish Market Migration of 2018

One of the big events in 2018 was the closure of Tsukiji Fish Market and the subsequent move to the Toyosu Fish Market. During the wee hours of night on October7th, workers pulled off a relocation that included driving 2600 motorized carts and forklifts to the new location and arriving just as the sun rose. The great migration was captured in a series of beautiful and sentimental photographs.

6. Wakuneco’s Realistic 3D Felt Cat Portraits

Pets are like family. And for anyone who has lived with an animal, we know that losing one can be incredibly painful. But a Japanese artist who goes by the name Wakuneco helps cat-owners cope with that loss by creating realistic, three-dimensional felt portraits of their adorable kitty.

5. Kei-Tora Mini Truck Gardens

The Kei Truck, or kei-tora for short, is a tiny but practical vehicle that originated in Japan and is often used to access narrow back-streets of residential neighborhoods. But it has another use: it also serves as a canvas for a gardening contest.

4. The Art of Japanese Funeral Floral Arrangements

The great Japanese actress Kirin Kiki passed away in September. We took the opportunity to remember her by looking at her beautiful wave-like decorations of funeral flowers, as well as the genre of Japanese funeral flower arrangements as a whole.

3. Japanese Back-Alley Bookends

If you’ve ever wandered around Tokyo on foot you’ll know that it can sometimes be like a spider web of side streets and back alleys. It’s one of the elements that makes Tokyo so unique and therein lies the allure of exploring the massive city. One designer brought that magic to bookshelves by designing back alley bookends.

2. The Omoshiroi Block

This stationery item took our site, and the world, by storm this year. The Omoshiroi Block (loosely translated as ‘interesting’ block) utilizes laser-cutting technology to create what is, at first, just a seemingly normal square memo pad. But as the sheets get used, a hidden object is excavated.

1.Kodokushi Miniatures

Our most-read article of 2018 is a dark topic, but one that is important in Japan, and around the world.

Twenty six-year old Miyu Kojima works for a company that cleans up after kodokushi (孤独死) or lonely deaths, a phenomenon thought to be a product of increased social isolation, coupled with a greying population. Part art therapy and part public service campaign, Kojima spends a large portion of her free time recreating detailed miniature replicas of the rooms she has cleaned, in order to bring awareness to the tragedy and immense weight of kodokushi. She also has a deeply personal reason for why she dedicates so much of her life to this.

And that concludes our list of most-popular posts from 2018. Thank you to all the artists and designers who allow us to tell your stories! And thank you to everyone for reading. May 2019 be filled with even more beauty.

(P.S. If you’re interested in diving into our archives of annual “bests” those can be found right here.)

Ex-NASA Engineer Gets Back At Package Thieves With HomePod-Turned-Glitter Bomb

Mark Rober is getting back at parcel thieves with a glittery vengeance.

The former NASA engineer, who worked at NASA JPL for nine years—seven of which were spent on the Curiosity Rover—turned an Apple HomePod box into a spectacular glitter bomb to teach package pilferers a lesson.

Rober reveals that the idea came about after one of his deliveries was stolen from his doorstep. Even though the robber was captured on camera, the police wouldn’t do anything about it, as it wasn’t worth the resources to track the culprit.

Determined to bring justice to undelivered packets, Rober spent the next six months “engineering some vigilante justice.”

Rober selected glitter since it’s harmless, save for the fact that it gets everywhere and is essentially a pain in the behind to clean off.

The cheeky engineer used a spinning funnel to form the glitter cloud, added a ‘fart spray’ for extra kicks, and installed four LTE cameras so he—and you—could watch the device in action, before packing all this into a HomePod box with transparent packaging.

As a finishing touch, Rober credited the sender on the packaging label to iconic mischievous Home Alone character ‘Kevin McCallister’.

Have a look at what went down when it was picked up by the package thief below. Rober has also uploaded a video documenting its build here.

[via Mark Rober, main image via video screenshot]

These two iPhone and Android-compatible Aukey wireless chargers are insanely cheap right now

Choosing the perfect wireless charging accessory for your Qi-compatible Android handset or iPhone can be quite the hassle any day of the year, but with so many last-minute Christmas deals coming left and right, it may seem outright impossible to make the best-informed decision.

Then again, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell a $6.99 5W wireless charger and its $12.99 10W sibling are simply too cheap to turn down. Especially when dealing with such insanely affordable accessories made by a reliable company and sold by a 100 percent positively rated vendor on Amazon with orders fulfilled by none other than the e-commerce giant.

The “ultra slim” Aukey LC-C6 wireless charger and the Aukey Graphite Lite Q wireless fast charger (model number LC-C6 10W) are technically priced at $12.99 and $16.99 respectively, but applying special coupon codes will mark that down to $6.99 and $12.99, representing around 46 and 24 percent savings respectively.

Unfortunately, that only means 7.5W speeds for the aforementioned iPhones as far as the fast-charging model is concerned, which can deliver full 10W wireless power to “compatible” Samsung Galaxy devices.

Elegant and lightweight, the two wireless chargers on sale today come with a slew of safety features, including temperature control, foreign object detection, and power input monitoring, as well as extended 24-month product replacement warranties and 45-day money back promises.

Considering all that, you really can’t go any cheaper than 7 or 13 bucks, but you’ll have to remember to use the XMASAK06 coupon code before checking out for the 5W variant and XMASAK04 if you want the 10-watt model. You also get free shipping with no minimum purchase amount and deliveries before Christmas.

Verizon LG V30 gets Portrait mode for the front camera and more with new update

Verizon’s website reveals that the LG V30 is currently receiving an update that adds several new features to the phone. Software version VS99620g brings Portrait mode to the front-facing camera. To activate, tap the portrait button in the Front camera Auto mode preview. A slider will appear which can be used to adjust the amount of blur in the background.
Another new feature allows LG V30 users to create GIFs. Tap on the Mode icon and select Flash Jump-Cut. A picture will be taken every three seconds as the LED flash blinks every second to countdown each photo. An icon in the top right corner can be tapped to change the number of shots that will be taken to create the GIF. The maximum amount of pictures that can be snapped with this method is 20.
With the update, LG V30 owners will be able to use the Always-On Display designs found on the LG G7 ThinQ. Analog clock, Dual clock and calendar AOD options are available. To set the Always-On Display, go to Settings > Always-On Display. And the software update also comes with the November 1st Android security patch.

The update is being sent out OTA, which means it is a staggered release. In other words, users might not receive it for a few days. To try and manually coax out the update, LG V30 owners should go to Settings > About Phone > Software updates > Check for Update > Download Now. Before starting the updating process, users should be connected to a Wi-Fi signal and have their battery fully charged.

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