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Golden Carrots (medium.com/mpesce)
139 points by oliyoung on May 30, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments



> It’s getting hard to remember, but a decade ago — before iPhone — all our mobiles were dumbphones. We’d use them to call or text and perhaps play the occasional game of snake. But that’s it. That’s all we could do.

Tell that to my HTC Wizard / Cingular 8125 [0], released almost two years before the iPhone. The term "smartphone" was already in use before the iPhone also [1]. I don't mean to downplay the arrival of the iPhone; it did a lot to advance the state of the art. But to say that these things just flat out didn't exist before the iPhone is grossly wrong.

For those who want to know, this is how history is rewritten.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTC_Wizard

[1] https://www.engadget.com/2006/02/21/review-cingular-8125/


They weren't great phones, and the iPhone definitely did a lot to push UI/UX forward, but the iPhone was most definitely not the first smart phone.

I'd argue that the Blackberry was the first practical smartphone, released in: 2003. I remember being blown away by the Wizard before the iPhone was a rumor.

Edit: Changed year from 1999 to 2003, 1999 was the 2-way pager, 2003 was the first device that resembled a smartphone.


> 2003 was the first device that resembled a smartphone.

I had a Handspring Visor when they were first released (around 2000), and while it was just a PDA on its own, there was a phone module that slid into the back, making it a smartphone. After that, I had almost all of the Treo's starting around 2002, which (what I think) were the first all-in-one smartphones.


And then there was the Nokia Communicator from 1996.


I was going to bring up the iPaq line of Windows PDAs and phones beginning in '99, but you already preceded me by 3 years with that Nokia play.


That's just lazy on behalf of the author, it's not like anyone is pushing any narrative. Even Jobs in the original iPhone keynote gave a rundown of the current state of smartphones which definitely did exist then.


I think you're misinterpreting that sentence. He's not saying all mobiles were dumbphones right before iPhone. Rather, "a decade ago — before <a well known event that happened _after_ smartphones existed> — all our mobiles were dumbphones."


Had a wizard and a Tytn, terminology aside, they were completely products than the iPhone. 'Smart phones' prior to the iPhone were really just mobile MS exchange connectors, the web browser was unusable and there were few if any lifestyle apps. The iPhone really was the first of it's bread.


I had planty of Symbian apps on my Noka 6600. There was a booming J2ME game business as well.


I could play chess, surf the web, or take pictures on my flip phone 12 ish years ago. IMO, it was good enough to think something great was (coming soon TM), but it was still a long way from a smartphone.


I bought an 8125 back in the day, so I could go into small comm closets and work on equipment with out having to drag in a laptop. I powered it up a little over a year ago to pull some stuff off it, then after I was done with doing that, the USB port broke...


> Kenya began a slow transition to a cashless society — and they did this without banks

This is a bit odd. Safaricom is the bank here, inasmuch they track cash transfers and perform deposits and withdrawals. If you don't trust them, surely you wouldn't trust this system?

It's certainly an interesting state of affairs, because a one-layer payment system is quite different from e.g. American infrastructure where a consumer bank, payment method, and business bank are three different entities. But I wouldn't call it bank-free in the sense that, say, cryptocurrency advocates mean.


Well if you want to be pedantic about the definitions:

"and they did this without banks" = "and they did this without legacy incumbent banks (/financial institutions) that previously dominated traditional banking"

The reason it worked so well in Kenya was because everything didn't have to go through these legacy organizations. These legacy organizations dominate the market in each western country and face little competition from upstarts like Safaricom/Kopo Kopo due to high barriers of entry via regulations (regulations designed with the mega-banks with teams of lawyers in mind).

I mean why else was a poor country full of dumbphones able to implement a cashless society in a very short time frame while a rich country full of powerful smartphones can't even get chip-based debit cards implemented in a timely fashion?

The reason is none of us entrepreneurs, or the typical SV investors, are in a rush to do the same here is because of the huge risk involved. The risk being spending a huge amount of time/resources getting regulatory approval while simultaneously trying to build a customer base and keep the bills paid.

Even Google/Apple have only put a token investment in getting their payment systems adopted, they built the client platform and assumed other companies would jump up to push adoption to the platform ...if only there was some type of company that had relationships with both SME businesses doing consumer billing/retail AND had access to client bank accounts and credit cards...hmm they'd be ideal to do this. Maybe if the banking industry had competition they'd put this type of effort into their industry and we could have gotten rid of our wallets full of plastic cards years ago.


The Kenya system is very centralized - there's one big player. It's not hard to make that work. The question is whether the central operator does a good job. Remember PayPal's customer service problem.

The Kenya system is expensive to use. Wikipedia says that fees take up 27% of the funds transferred. That's huge. Almost as high as the Apple Store. Most transactions are tiny, and the fees add up. This is far more expensive than credit cards.

The author discusses a W3C scheme where money transfer services become "dumb money pipes", with the browser in charge. The money transfer services lose the relationship with the customer; all they do is transfer the money in the background. This is a good idea which will be hated by money transfer services.


> If an Australian company writes an app that allows a purchase to be made — and paid for, via the app — it’s more likely than not that Apple or Google will appear, asking for a big slice of that sale.

> …

> All of this is fine if you’re buying an album from iTunes, but what if you’re buying a sofa from IKEA?

Except Apple (and I have to assume Google) very explicitly says that purchasing real-world goods is not required to go through their IAP and therefore Apple does not take a cut. This is why you can buy things using the Amazon app, or call a car using Lyft. Apple only demands a cut for digital goods.


One area I've noticed the digital-world restriction is in reading sample chapter(s) in a Kindle book. If you decide to purchase the e-book at after finishing the sample chapter(s) the Kindle App does not offer a one-click `buy this book and keep reading` button. Presumably because of Apple's TOS and restrictions on in-app purchases. Instead the flow is to leave the kindle app, and find the book on Amazon's website in the browser and then purchase it there. Then return to the Kindle app refresh it and then switch to the new book.


Yep. That's Amazon's end-run around Apple's IAP requirements.


> Let’s say a restaurant booking app wanted to get your a taxi to take you door to door — right now that would all happen behind the scenes, because that booking app can’t order and pay for that taxi. There’s no API allowing these apps to perform transactions.

Do I want that? Do I trust Rstrntr to get me a cab? Which one of my ride-share/taxi app will it use? Is part of my install process now telling every app I install which of the other apps on my phone I prefer to use for what?

Maybe that's just a bad example; maybe being able to print a photo from Flickr by sending it, along with a small payment, to Shutterfly would be cool. But I also don't want it constantly badgering me for permission, the way some apps tend to.


That sounds like a perfect use for Intents.


Yep, this is the main use case for this feature of Android.


which Google crap over all the time.

install another gps app, such as Here. now use any Google app, such as calendar, search app, etc and click any address. it will open gmaps. always.

this is specially evil for search and voice integration.


I just checked, and pressing a location from Google Calendar shows a list of my map apps. You can also pick your "assistant" app (which, for example, decides what should happen when you long-press your home button) in the settings.


> Do I want that? Do I trust Rstrntr to get me a cab? Which one of my ride-share/taxi app will it use? Is part of my install process now telling every app I install which of the other apps on my phone I prefer to use for what?

Google Maps has simple ride share integration, it shows you the available options and estimated prices.


It could easily do it via IAP (i.e. the IAP purchase causes the backend to perform the transaction).


Sure, if you want to give 30% of it away to Google or Apple for no reason.


Theoretically they should not be allowed to have a monopoly of a payment provider. Imagine if $YOUR_BANK_HERE offers an in-phone API for payments. Just like you can click a button on an online shop that will load paypal.com, you should be able to press a "Pay" button in an app to load a payment provider app that you trust with your CC info. Then you can confirm this payment through that app, or set-up rules like "If it's Lyft and the charge is less than $20 and the daily total so far is less than $50, automatically allow.".

But I'm guessing such an app would violate some Android or iPhone Terms and Conditions.


This essentially exists (not the daily limit part), but it's not called an In App Purchase.

https://developer.apple.com/library/content/ApplePay_Guide/ https://developers.google.com/android-pay/

IAPs are for digital goods (movies, gold coins in games, etc) and that's where you face the steep Apple/Google tax. For physical goods you can process your own payments or use the above APIs. This is why you can't buy a Kindle book other than through Mobile Safari on iOS (digital good, Apple would charge Amazon 30%).


A point that is missed by this essay is that in a lot of the west the types of activities he is describing are, for legal/regulatory reasons, only permissible by a bank. So while we can have Apple Pay, PayPal, etc., under the hood those products and companies are still built on top of inter-bank payments with banks actually holding the cash.


tldr; NPP a mobile payment API inside your smartphone will make it easy to move cash among apps across phones too.

it's like the 10th thing in mobile payment space so why NPP differs and will win is not answered in comparison.

you can skip mostly rhetorical, revisionist smartphone history and references to Kenya/Australia.


NPP isn't just a mobile payment solution, its a new platform for Australian banks to perform real-time clearing and settlements:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Payments_Platform

It's basically an Australian national initiative backed by their banking system to build a whole new set of financial infrastructure.

The RBC has a paper with an overview of these types of systems that could be worth a read if you're curious:

http://www.bankofcanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/sdp201...


Except I find I'm biased against an author when they make categorically false statements that are within the same realm as the primary topic.

> It’s getting hard to remember, but a decade ago — before iPhone — all our mobiles were dumbphones. We’d use them to call or text and perhaps play the occasional game of snake. But that’s it. That’s all we could do.

That's just simply unture.

Yes, on the one hand, it's a contextually small detail. Unfortunately, on the other hand, I can't help feel it calls into question the rest of the content since they couldn't be bothered inform them self on a basis point.

Edit: Blockquote fail


Yes, this article is terrible; it wastes the reader's time with pointless minutia, uses too much rhetoric, and doesn't get its facts in order.

> writes for El Reg


Yes, it is technically untrue, but it's close enough to true that it shouldn't be big point of contention. In 2006 64million smartphones were sold. vs ~1billion total cell phones. Given that dumbphones were not replaced nearly as often as smartphones, it's very easy to extrapolate that well under 5% of the phones in the world were smartphones.


Stripe.com has their Connect product that can do one-to-many payments, server side.

Not quite the same thing, but would likely suffice for many use cases.


> Why exactly Australians need a peer-to-peer payments system isn’t exactly clear...

Probably as the first steps towards removing cash. Cash must be such a pain for a government, I'm surprised it is still around.


Which is a shame, because of how incredibly authoritarian the tracking of credit cards is. Credit/debit cards are a proof of ID in Australia (40 points) and so with every purchase you are uniquely identifying yourself to the seller.

Unfortunately making cash digital is quite hard (you could argue that zcash and zcoin will solve this problem but I'm not so sure).


> Credit/debit cards are a proof of ID in Australia (40 points)

Can you elaborate on that? I'm curious what the points are.


In Australia we have a "points" system for proof-of-ID. In order to get certain things (open a bank account, get a passport, so on) you need to have a certain number of "points". Most things require 100 points of ID, and there are different classes of IDs (passports -- 70, credit card -- 40, water bill -- 35).

The purpose was to make it harder to commit fraud, though it also makes it kinda difficult to legitimately bootstrap your ID when you're a minor (or if you're an immigrant).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_point_check

http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/133...


> makes it kinda difficult to legitimately bootstrap your ID when you're a minor (or if you're an immigrant

Or a slacker: I somehow scraped up 100 points to get a passport, then didn't have photo ID to collect it from the post office. I had to point to the packet & say, I need to open the packet to be able to show you the photo ID you need to see before you can release the packet to me.


The article uses "SME" out of nowhere like I know what it means.


I'd never seen that either. Given the context I am guessing it is the Aussy equivalent to the American "SMB" which would mean it is "Small to Medium Enterprise"


It's not specific to Australia, 'SME' is a fairly common business term in India too.


It means "Subject Matter Expert"


"Shaking My Ear"


Not sure if the author is being intentionally misleading, or if he really doesn't understand the state of mobile payments today. My guess would be the first based on the rest of the article.

Take this: "If an Australian company writes an app that allows a purchase to be made — and paid for, via the app — it’s more likely than not that Apple or Google will appear, asking for a big slice of that sale." ... "All of this is fine if you’re buying an album from iTunes, but what if you’re buying a sofa from IKEA?"

The above clearly implies that Apple / Google are going to charge merchants their 30% app sale cut on a couch, but that's ridiculous. Ikea can implement Apple Pay directly in their app and pay a 0% cut to Apple today, without requiring users to enter their CC details. Heck, you can even build that in to a website, you don't even need an app. I assume Google's mobile payment stuff has similar features, if not they'll catch up.


Also, what is the value in a world of (nearly) ubiquitous bank accounts, debit cards, and credit cards? While unbanked people exist, to use your example, I'm guessing 99.99999% penetration of banks amongst the people that buy ikea couches.


   > The above clearly implies that Apple / Google are
   > going to charge merchants their 30% app sale cut 
   > on a couch, but that's ridiculous. 
I'm fairly sure that if either Apple or Google thought they could get away with a 30% cut on a couch bought at IKEA they would absolutely implement that "feature."

Both companies continue to make moves to avoid being disintermediated from cash streams. Nobody wants to be the wire, everyone wants to be the service.


well that's exactly what the kenyan phone agent takes: 27%

this article is a ridiculous eulogy to late stage capitalism. No banks because privacy laws make it too expensive? just start a bank but call it a mobile company and you can operate your bank without any regards for affordable fees and transaction privacy!


This is the first I've heard of the new australian "New Payments Platform" (NPP). Is anyone here working in the space?


People have been talking about it for a while, though there hasn't been much take up from big 4 banks with use cases from what I can see. End of day batch processing isn't "that" bad so it will be interesting to see if it gets the kind of legs some people are suggesting.


> It’s my hope that at least one person in the room today gets the opportunity that’s opening up here

Is this a transcript of a speech?


I was hoping it was about some GMO super nutritional carrots. Like Golden Rice.


Since Golden Rice gets its color from beta-carotene, carrots are already pretty golden in that sense.


> You have seven months until the NPP is released, and all of the documentation you need to use to write services that make these APIs available to apps has already been released.

Anyone know where to find the API Docs?


I wonder whether P2P transactions would ever take off in North America.. my feeling is the entrenched system and the regulations that support it would make it very difficult, if not criminal.


What do you mean exactly by "P2P transactions"? Because what I initially read that as is the digital equivalent of handing someone cash, which would pretty much be considered a hard fail by everybody from top to bottom if that becomes illegal.

Believe me, the government would love to know every time cash changes hands. It is not about to illegalize digital transactions of that sort... it is far more likely to mandate them than forbid them.


I use venmo a few times a month; I guess this isn't really 'taking off' but it doesn't seem like the regulations are really the dampening factor; just that we have better alternatives.


I use square cash very often. I like it more than venmo, mostly because it started out using email, which is so universal and doesn't rely on a mobile app or anything else.


> Of course, someone will have to setup a micropayments processor

... and that someone will soon be bankrupt due to fraud.


Feedback to the author. I found the writing style of the opening extremely choppy and without flow. Every paragraph was one or two sentences except for one which had 4 sentences (and only accomplished that by being super short, choppy sentences). Stopped reading :(




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