Feedback Loup: Switching From Android to iOS

Written by Alex Schwappach

The grass is always greener. I’m an intern at Loup Ventures and I just got my first iPhone, an iPhone 8 Plus. It’s still early, but three weeks into my ownership I’m undecided about my next phone purchase in 1-2 years, and could see myself going back to Android. I’m not sold on the iPhone yet, but my next phone decision will likely be based on which phone has the best AR and VR experience. I guess it’s stories like mine that keep Tim Cook up at night, which pushes the competitive bar higher and benefits us all with better phones.

Background.  It’s been 9 years, 6 months, and 5 days since I received my first flip-phone on my 15th birthday, and up until 2 weeks ago my family and I have been solely Team Android for our mobile devices. As a kid I remember it being a big deal to have a phone, but as I got older the conversation centered more on “which” phone you had. Being an iPhone user became increasingly cool and the phrase I have been hearing for years, that “everyone has an iPhone,” seemed to feel more real because everyone appeared to be moving into the Apple ecosystem. Apple is second in global market share for smartphones at roughly 15%, versus first-place Samsung at around 23%. In the U.S, Samsung outweighs iPhone share at 54% vs. 43%, but the U.S. gap is shrinking given a year ago Android’s market share in the U.S. was 60%. Outside of the U.S., Apple continues to grow it’s presence in Europe while companies like Huawei, OPPO, or Xiaomi gain traction in Asia.  Separately, Apple has a leading share in devices per household in the U.S. According to a CNBC All-America Economic Survey earlier this year, 64% of Americans own an Apple device and the average Apple device per household has risen from 1.6 in 2012 to 2.6 in 2017. So, while not everyone in the U.S. has an Apple smartphone, two-thirds do own an Apple device (iPhone, iPad and Mac).

My new phone. Three weeks in and I am very satisfied with my iPhone 8 Plus. I am surprised at how much I like iMessage and the seemingly simpler layout of the phone. I tried to be fair in my comparison because my last phone, the Samsung Galaxy S6, is 2 years older and things like screen size and battery life have come a long way.

  • Things I like
    • iMessage (Being viewed in blue has been a huge hit with other iPhone owners)
    • Circular Home Button
    • Bare necessity Apple apps as a base (My Android devices came pre-loaded with an unnecessary number of apps with similar capabilities)
    • 3D touch, especially for keyboard
    • App icon in messaging, can slide through other app icons
    • FaceTime
    • Ring/Silent Button
    • Seamless integration with other Apple devices
  • Things I miss
    • Saying I don’t have an iPhone
    • The back button, multi-menu buttons (native iPhone users will never appreciate the luxury of having a back button instead of needing to press the tiny back arrow icon in the upper left-hand part of the iPhone screen)
    • “Close All” app capability (I hear I don’t need to shut my iOS apps down but I still have the urge)
    • Ability to add apps to folders inside of the folder (“+” sign at the bottom of folders to add several apps at once made it easier to customize)
    • Quick connect features for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (there needs to be a 3D Touch way to switch network connections)
    • Swipe text as the default keyboard setting (you need to download an app to switch your iPhone keyboard)

Waiting for killer AR and VR. Give iPhone credit, I still access my camera, use apps, and make calls in a similar way, but I appreciate how intuitive iOS is and Apple’s focus to protect user data. That said I can see myself going back to Android. I switched because I was curious and wanted to experience an iPhone even though my Samsung phone was working fine. I’m not loyal to the Apple brand and will continue to be curious, so I’ll consider buying the next great phone that comes out. But defining a great phone for the future is difficult because there are unknowns that will play a bigger role in my next phone decision, notably which phones have the best AR and VR experiences. These markets will grow rapidly over the coming years, and companies will be forced to optimize around AR and VR features to stay competitive. iPhone, if you win in AR and VR, you win my loyalty.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

MVP for Dummies: Robotic Enhanced Training Here to Stay

Visit to the toy department. We visited the robotics toy department in the form of a high school football field to test the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) Drive, an $8,000 robotic tackling dummy that has been adopted this year by 15 NFL, 33 college, and 50 high school football teams. Today, the goal of Drive is to reduce practice injuries and improve or modify drills. In the future, MVP will enter new markets, including law enforcement and military training (think dynamic target practice).

Robotic enhanced training is the future. While there’s no substitution for replicating game contact and real life situations, there are many uses where robotics can improve readiness. After spending an hour with the product, we left as believers that robotic enhanced training is here to stay.

MVP for dummies. If you’re new to the robotic enhanced training field, like we are, this note will get you up to speed. First, the facts about the MVP-Drive (Football) and MVP-Tactical (Military and Law Enforcement) products:

  • Height: 5’8″
  • Weight: 190lbs
  • Speed: 20mph
  • Battery Life: 6hrs
  • Charging Time: 6hrs
  • Price: ~$8,000

Safety. Traditional football and military training dummies are stationary or require physical direction by a human to move. The MVP-Drive dummy is the first mobile, remote-controlled, self-righting (when it falls down it gets back up) training dummy. Anyone can operate the dummy using an RC remote control. As you know, for the past 10 years there has been ongoing research on concussions and the impact of conditions such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) on former NFL players. Concussions are typically associated with huge, one-off hits; however, concussions more often occur from repeated impacts such as the continuous head-to-head contact that occurs during practice. According to MVP, more than 50% of both injuries and concussions occur during practice at the high school and collegiate level. MVP Training dummies eliminate the need for player-on-player contact, while still allowing players to practice proper fundamentals with full-speed reps.

Improve or modify drills. Drive gives coaches an added element to drills to create different scenarios. For example, Drive could act as pass rushers, moving tackling dummies, or even help players practice pursuit angles.

Passed Loup Ventures ease of use test. Drive’s speed and ease of control surprised us. Below, Loup Ventures put Drive to the test. With Alex Schwappach at the controls, Mark Grangaard attempted his best Jadeveon Clowney impression using MVP-Drive.

Top: Jadeveon Clowney, Bottom: Mark Grangaard

What coaches say. As mentioned, MVP-Drive is used today by 15 NFL teams, 33 NCAA programs, and 50 high schools. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the first NFL team to use the MVP-Drive in practice, and Head Coach Mike Tomlin said Drive has had a material impact on player safety and performance. At the NCAA, level Rich Rodriguez of Arizona and Chip Kelly (recently) of UCLA have also made comments about safety and performance improvements from using Drive. We believe as long as coaches see a direct correlation between dummy usage in practice and regular season games won, adoption will increase.

Additional markets of law enforcement and military. Similar to the MVP-Drive, the MVP-Tactical dummy allows military and law enforcement units to practice real-life scenarios with a mobile target. The current military training options are either fixed or reactive and only allow static, two-dimensional short-range training. Current options are predictable, do not provide instant feedback, and most of all fail to replicate the stress of a true operating environment. Mobile solutions do exist, however almost all of them have restricted motion and are inviable for training in close-quarters combat, a critical function of military and law enforcement. The MVP-Tactical dummy has 3 armored layers and is designed to withstand a .50 caliber bullet, yet will still protect against shrapnel and ricochet. It’s a great improvement from existing options.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Feedback Loup: Apple Watch Streaming Music Passes Battery Test With Flying Colors

Yesterday, Apple released the much anticipated update to Apple Watch that enables music streaming over Apple Watches with LTE. We tested the impact of streaming music on Apple Watch’s battery and were surprised to find after 6 hours of music streaming (and two sets of AirPods), the battery charge on on our 42mm Apple Watch LTE went from 100% to 68%.  We had expected 6 hours of music streaming to bring our Apple Watch charge down to 20%.  To put the battery charge decline into perspective, we measured the battery for our Apple Watch with LTE without streaming music over the same 6 hour period, and found it went from 100% to 82%.  Kudos to Apple for a rare positive battery life surprise.

What Apple Watch Means to the Apple Story. We believe Apple Watch will provide fractional (~1%) upside to the Street numbers in FY18. We’re modeling for 59% Apple Watch unit growth in FY18 compared to the Street at ~25%. In total, we’re expecting 26m Apple Watches next year.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Feedback Loup: Early iPhone AR Apps

Since the launch of iOS 11, we’ve been testing popular AR apps available on the App Store. We’ve had fun, and found some useful new tools, but it doesn’t seem like we’ve unlocked the true utility of AR – yet.

After testing out a a few of the more popular AR apps, we have four takeaways:

  1. AR apps offer a new, semi-immersive experience. What began with Pokemon Go has expanded to an entire category of apps; AR enables an entirely new app experience, particularly as it relates to gaming. These apps have consumers using iPhones and iPads in an entirely new way, as a window into a mixed reality.
  2. AR apps demonstrate the novelty of AR but don’t provide true utility – yet. Outside of measuring distances and placing furniture, there is little utility value available in these early AR apps. iPhones and iPads can only provide a window into an augmented reality, not a fully augmented reality. Until some form of wearable technology comes along, we won’t have a seamless AR experience.
  3. AR apps are meaningfully better on the iPhone 8 and (soon) iPhone X. Right now, AR apps leveraging iOS 11 work on iPhone 6S and newer models. But while these apps can run on older phones, the experience isn’t the same. Older iPhones have a harder time picking up surfaces and objects.
  4. Don’t Forget About Audio AR. iOS 11 and ARKit have spawned a new category of AR apps layering digital objects on horizontal planes, but we view audio (not just visuals) as a huge opportunity for our devices, like AirPods, to augment our realities. Imagine a co-worker speaking to you in Mandarin, but hearing English in real-time translation.

Here are some of the AR applications that we reviewed:

Follow Me Dragon – The VR Company. Follow Me Dragon gives users their own imaginary dragon that follows them around. At one point, Magic Johnson even tweeted about Follow Me Dragon’s success.

My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR – StoryToys Entertainment Limited. I’ve been playing My Very Hungry Caterpillar with my 4 and 7 year-olds and they’re enthralled. More than a few times, they’ve looked around my iPhone to see the AR caterpillar directly, only to find that it’s not really there.

TapMeasure AR Utility – Occipital, Inc. One of the higher utility apps that we used, TapMeasure, allows users to measure distances with their iPhones. We used TapMeasure to help confirm that we were illegally parked – but just barely. Ultimately, though, distance measurement will be just one ingredient that developers will use to create killer AR apps.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Faceoff: Amazon Echo Show vs Google Home Part II

As a part of our continuing efforts to understand the ways and speed at which artificial intelligence enters our everyday lives, we reexamined two home assistants based on a study we performed in February.  The two most popular assistants, Google Home and Amazon Echo were put to the test, this time substituting the Echo with the Echo Show, which includes a 7″ touchscreen.

Methodology. For this experiment, we asked the same 800 queries of both the Echo Show and Google Home, similar to our first study. We graded the queries on two metrics:  First, did the device understand what we asked correctly? Second, did the device answer the query correctly? In our study, Amazon’s Echo Show understood 95.88% of the queries we asked and answered 53.57% of all queries correctly. Google Home understood 94.63% of the queries we asked, but was able to answer 65.25% correctly. Below, you can see the improvements that each home assistant made since our last set of queries.

One advantage the Amazon Echo Show has when it comes to understanding queries is that we have the ability to confirm the data using Amazon’s companion app.  This app gives the user a live feed of what Amazon Echo Show heard.  Google Home does not offer a transcript of what it’s home assistant device picked up.  Because of this, it was difficult to tell if Google Home understood the queries but couldn’t answer them, or if it truly had a harder time understanding queries. Since we were unable to see exactly how well Google Home understood our queries, we assumed that if Google Home responded that it was unable to perform a certain function, then it had understood the query correctly.  For example, if we asked, “Hey Google, send a text to John” and received a response “Sorry, I can’t send texts yet,” then the query would be marked as understood correctly, but answered incorrectly.

Results. Both home assistants showed increased performance across the board.  This time the Google Home outperformed the Echo in total number of correct answers by nearly 12 percentage points, up from a 5 point performance gap in our February results.  While each digital assistant has its strengths and weaknesses, Google Home outperformed its rival in 3 of the 5 query categories by a surprising margin.  This is significant because it shows not only rapid improvement, but outperformance of Amazon who has both a 2-year head start and a near 70% market share vs. Google’s 24% share of the home assistant market, according to eMarketer.

Both Home Assistants Notably Improved in Navigation. The most dramatic increase for both assistants was in navigation. In February, over 90% of navigation questions were answered with: “I can’t help you with that.” Today, navigation is the best category for both the Google Home and the Echo Show, with the Google Home answering 92% of queries correctly, and the Echo Show answering 63% of queries correctly.

Echo Show: Screen adds to experience, but software upgrades drive improvement. The Echo Show’s camera and touchscreen allow it to make video calls, monitor your security cameras, visually display some forms of information, and introduces new use cases with Alexa Skills that incorporate a screen. For instance, you can say, “Alexa, show me the trailer for the new Spiderman movie,” or scroll through recommendations for local pizzerias. While this adds to the user experience, the addition of the screen itself isn’t driving all of the improvement that we are seeing with Alexa. Instead, numerous software updates have increased the way Alexa can contribute to our daily lives. The Echo Show had a near 20% improvement in its ability to answer both local questions (“Where can I find good barbecue?”), and respond to commands (“Cancel my 2:00 p.m. meeting tomorrow”). Both of these changes are driven by software improvements, not the addition of the screen.

Google Home: Quickly adding features to pass Alexa. Google Home improved its local and commerce results by 46 percentage points and 24 percentage points, respectively. This represents a broadening of its skills along with high navigation, information, and local scores. Google Home also supports up to 6 different user accounts, meaning your whole family can get personalized responses when you say, “Okay Google, what’s on my calendar today?” Google Home will recognize your voice and read your upcoming events. Separately, commerce is an area that was previously dominated by Amazon, but Google is now at parity, mainly due to its superior ability to understand more diverse natural language. While Alexa still has a larger database of add-on skills, Google Home outperformed in our set of queries.

Future home assistant competition looks intense. While Amazon and Google are the current frontrunners in the home assistant race, they are facing competition from several notable future entrants:

  • Apple HomePod (expected December 2017)
  • Alibaba Tmall Genie (released August 8th, 2017)
  • Microsoft Invoke (expected Fall 2017)
  • Lenovo Smart Assistant (utilizing Alexa, expected Fall 2017)
  • HP Cortana Speaker
  • Samsung Vega

Persisting Problems of Home Assistants. While home assistants continue to make noticeable improvements, we still believe that they are in the early innings of a platform that will become an important part of computing in the future. That being said, there are small, technologically reasonable improvements that we would like to see from these products. Our main complaint is the lack of integration with devices to make use of information or take further action. In most cases, the fastest way to get information to a user is on a screen – it’s hardly convenient to have a list of 10 restaurant recommendations read to you one at a time. Instead, you should be able to call up information verbally and have it sent to your smartphone, computer screen, or television. The Echo is able to interact with your phone via the Alexa app. Google Home can control a Chromecast. Both are able to control certain smart home devices. There is clear progress being made on this front, but it remains a key obstacle to the devices’ effectiveness. Another shortcoming that persists is unsatisfactory natural language processing, an added barrier to widespread use. Both assistants were selective in the way you had to phrase a question in order for it to be answered correctly. For example, Google Home will understand, “What is a gigawatt?” but cannot process, “Google gigawatt.” or, “Tell me what a gigawatt is.” In order for digital assistants to reach widespread adoption, users need to interact with them seamlessly.

Overall, we were impressed by the improvement that took place in a few short months and remain optimistic that the technology will continue to advance at this pace going forward.  As new players enter the space and homes become more connected, the technology in these devices will be increasingly important in our everyday lives.  Later this year we will track the further progress made by the Echo and the Home, and compare them to some of the new entrants set to arrive by the end of 2017.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.