Want to create more engagement with your audience? Consider using Pinterest. The online pinning board is becoming a major sales tool for marketers.
According to the following infographic by Ripen Ecommerce, "38% of users made a purchase because they saw it on Pinterest. That was 21% in 2010."
To grab Pinterest users' attention, businesses should keep in mind the traits of the most popular and repinned pins.
For example, "a call-to-action pin description leads to an 80% increase in engagement," states Ripen Ecommerce. Also, tall images are shared 67% more than short images. And lighter images are repinned 20 times more than darker images.
Moreover, marketers should include prices in their pins. Pins with a price have a 46% higher chance of being liked.
For more information about using Pinterest for e-commerce, check out the infographic:
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Courtesy of an article dated August 16, 2014 appearing in MarketingProfs
The Elio is technically a motorcycle, but is a whole lot easier and safer to drive.
Most Americans--about 93%--drive to work alone. So why use a car that’s big enough for four? A new vehicle that’s half-motorcycle and half-car is designed to replace sedans and SUVs on morning commutes and help save money and emissions in the process: The Elio costs $6,800 and gets 84 miles to the gallon. It’s possible to drive 672 miles on a single tank of gas. That's the distance from New York City to Detroit.
Paul Elio, the founder and CEO of Elio Motors and inventor of the Elio three-wheeled car. (Click Image To Enlarge)
“The premise behind the concept is that most households have at least one vehicle that’s single occupant. Even if you have kids, you probably have an SUV or minivan, and then a small sedan with dust on the backseat. We can be that car.”
The Elio actually has two seats, set front to back for ideal aerodynamics, in case the driver needs to give someone a ride. Inside, it looks and acts pretty much like a car; it’s fully enclosed and has car seats and seatbelts, air bags, and options for manual orautomatic transmission. It's more like a car than this somewhat similar vehicle from Lit Motors. But because it has three wheels, it’s classified under law as a motorcycle.
The motorcycle classification leads to some strange consequences--in a few states, under current law, you’d have to wear a helmet even though the vehicle is enclosed. But it also has benefits. Elio says.
“As a motorcycle, you can go in the HOV lane by yourself.”
It also meant the vehicle can come to market more quickly, since there’s less red tape involved in manufacturing a motorcycle.
The Elio three-wheeled car (rear view) (Click Image To Enlarge)
Even though regulations don’t require it, the company plans to comply with all standards for cars that apply. Elio says.
“We’re engineering to achieve a 5-star crash rating in all directions. We’re going way beyond the minimum.”
Still, there are a few idiosyncrasies--the headlights, for example, can’t comply with car standards because motorcycle lights are required to be brighter by law.
Because the vehicle is so lightweight--about half the weight of a typical small car--the company can save on materials costs. Elio has also tried to optimize other steps in manufacturing to keep costs down. He says.
“We get all 34 of our suppliers together once every four to six weeks and we work on the vehicle as a group. That’s never been done before. All of these things add up to a lower price.”
When the vehicle comes to market next year, the Elio plans to have innovative financing to make the vehicle even easier to buy. Elio says.
“It’s actually cheaper to drive a brand new Elio than a clunker.”
The company will offer the option to buy the car with nothing but a special credit card for gas; every time someone buys gas, they’ll pay extra to make acar payment.
“If you buy $10 of gas, it will show up as a $30 charge on your statement--that $20 extra is your vehicle payment. As long as you drove into the dealership with something that gets 27 miles per gallon or less--and we know there are 100 million of those cars out there--you’ll be paying less, and you’ll have a brand new vehicle under warranty.”
You'll also be helping reduce pollution. Elio says.
"If you drive it 20,000 miles per year, an Elio produces less emissions than one cow’s flatulence during the same time. We’re cleaner than a cow. After 10 years of sales, we expect to save 8 billion gallons of gas."
COMMENTARY: Because it has three wheels — two in front and one in the rear — the Elio is actually classified as a motorcycle by the U.S. government. But Elio Motors founder Paul Elio says the vehicle has all the safety features of a car, like anti-lock brakes, front and side air bags and a steel cage that surrounds the occupants. According to Paul Elio, the company hopes to ultimately achieve a five-star safety rating. Drivers won’t be required to wear helmets or have motorcycle licenses.
The Elio’s two seats sit front and back instead of side by side, so the driver is positioned in the center with the passenger directly behind. That arrangement, plus the low seating position — the Elio is just 54 inches tall — and the lack of power steering take a little getting used to.
But after a couple of spins around the block in this Detroit suburb, it felt like any other small car. That’s partly because its two front wheels stick out by a foot on both sides, aiding balance and preventing the vehicle from tipping. The Elio has a three-cylinder, 0.9-liter engine and a top speed of more than 100 miles per hour. It gets an estimated 84 mpg on the highway and 49 mpg in city driving.
Keeping Costs Low
Elio keeps the costs down in several ways. The car only has one door, on the left side, which shaves a few hundred dollars off the manufacturing costs. Having three wheels also makes it cheaper. It will be offered in just two configurations — with a manual or automatic transmission — and it has standard air conditioning, power windows and door locks and an AM/FM radio. More features, such as navigation or blind-spot detection, can be ordered through Elio’s long list of suppliers.
Germany’s Daimler also promised to revolutionize American commutes with the Smart car, but that hasn’t panned out, says Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. Smart sold just 9,264 cars in the U.S. last year.
The Smart has a starting price of $13,270 for a gas-powered car and gets 38 mpg on the highway — not enough savings or fuel economy to justify sacrificing comfort in the tiny car. But, Brauer said, the equation might work in the Elio.
“If it really gets 84 mpg and doesn’t drive terribly, it would justify the compromises you’re making in size and comfort.”
Elio will also save money by selling the cars directly through its own stores and not through franchised dealers, similar to electric car maker Tesla Motors. Elio plans stores in 60 major metropolitan areas. They’ll be serviced by car repair chain Pep Boys.
The Entrepreneur Behind The Elio
Paul Elio, a one-time stockbroker and New York City cab driver, dreamed as a kid that he would one day own a car company called Elio Motors.
Elio told The Associated Press.
“As I matured I decided that was as likely as playing in the NFL.”
But he did earn an engineering degree at General Motors Institute — now Kettering University — and started his own company engineering products like children’s car seats.
In 2008, tired of high gas prices and the country’s dependence on foreign oil, he started working on a fuel-efficient car. Equally important to him was creating U.S. manufacturing jobs and making the car inexpensive enough to appeal to buyers who might otherwise be stuck in old, unreliable clunkers.
“Whatever matters to you, this can move the needle on it.”
The recession killed his engineering company, but it also provided the opportunity to buy the Shreveport plant when GM filed for bankruptcy protection. Elio Motors plans to employ 1,500 people at the plant.
The company has also applied for a $185 million advanced vehicle development loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Paul Elio said so far, reservation holders are older, more affluent buyers who will use the Elio as a second or third car for commuting.
“It’s an ‘and’ purchase for a lot of folks. So keep your SUV or your minivan or your large sedan, and when you’re driving back and forth to work all by yourself, take the Elio. At this price point and this mileage, that works financially for folks.”
Eventually, though, he believes the car will appeal to high school and college students as well as used-car drivers who want something newer and more reliable. He also hopes to eventually export it to other countries.
Elio Motors Makes Progress in Helmet Exemption Legislation
Louisiana is the most recent state to declare helmet exemptionexemption for the Elio, which is federally classified as an enclosed motorcycle. House Bill 218 was unanimously approved in Louisiana, where the Elio will be manufactured, in late June. New York also has an exemption on the books, allowing the Elio to be driven around the progressive state without a helmet.
Another legislative success is quickly emerging. Michigan Senate Bill 390 was recently passed, and is expected to pass through the House unanimously, following Louisiana’s lead. This is good news for the company, which will base their corporate headquarters out of the state. Louisiana, New York, and Michigan join 42 other states which allow the Elio to be driven sans helmet.
There are only 4 or 5 states left that technically require a helmet with this vehicle, since its licensed as a motorcycle. They've managed to get exemptions in numerous states already. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Among the 5 states that technically require helmets to be worn while driving the Elio, are Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Nebraska.
Elio Motors’ Vice President of Government Affairs, Joel Sheltrown says,
“We are actively working with the five helmet states’ legislators to work through any issues they may have. Given our success in the other 45 states, we are optimistic about solving any issues we may face.”
Sheltrown adds that Missouri, a helmet-state, has already identified bill sponsors and drafted legislation to exempt the Elio from their helmet laws.
Big Plans To Expand
Phoenix-based Elio plans to start making the cars next fall at a former General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. Already, more than 27,000 people have reserved one. Elio hopes to make 250,000 cars a year by 2016. That’s close to the number Mazda sells in the U.S.
Elio Motors executives placed a temporary sign outside the former General Motors plant in Shreveport, La. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Caddo Parrish's Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust is responsible for selling and cleaning up former General Motors properties and has agreed to sell the shuttered General Motors plant near Shreveport, La., to Elio Motors. The start-up carmaker plans to hire 1,500 new workers.
Elio Motors will rent approximately 1.5 million square feet of the 4.1 million square foot building from Industrial Realty Group, who leases the GM plant.
The deal was heralded by Louisiana politicians as an economic victory for a community devastated by GM's contraction. The state was expected to provide incentives for the project, but details were not immediately available.
I remain skeptical that Elio Motors can raise sufficient startup capital to modernize and equip their plant in Shreveport, Lousiana in time to begin production of the Elio car by fall 2015. According to Paul Elio, Elio Motors CEO, the company is trying to raise $165 million.
By comparison, Tesla Motors had to raise over $500 million, which included a $465 million direct loan from the Department of Energy, just to have sufficient capital to hire plant workers, modernize and equip their plant in Fremont, California in order to build the Roadster, their first all-electric car.
Tesla Motors required much more startup capital because the Roadster, a four-wheeled and all-electric sports car was a far more complex automobile to build, requiring parts from hundreds of vendors. The Roadster is a two-seater sportscar that weighed over 2,700 lbs, could travel about 245 miles on an electrical charge, has a top speed of 187 mph and could do 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The price tag: $109,000.
By comparison, the Elio is a three-wheeled car/motorcycle that uses a three-cylinder motor and weighs only 1,600 lbs, with a top speed over just over 100 mph, and a range of 672 miles (highway) on a tank of gas. The price tag: $6,800. According to Paul Elio, Elio Motors CEO, the majority of key parts and components are sourced from about 30 vendors.
If Elio Motors can raise the startup capital they need (see above), they could conceivably begin limited production in late 2015, but I doubt they can deliver 27,000 vehicles (their current pre-orders, but I wonder how many of those pre-orders are solid) in 2015. It takes time to hire plant workers, especially skilled factory workers when the U.S. auto industry doing so well, and workers will be reluctant to leave a well established, well-financed employer for a startup like Elio Motors.
Social media is (and for the foreseeable future, will be) an integral part of marketing. Common sense says it’s a no brainer—investing in expanding your business’s ecosystem through social just makes sense because your customers, your prospective customers, and your competitors are on social media.
What do marketers need to measure in order to measure the effectiveness of their social media marketing? Some say measure conversions. Others say measure net promoter score, and there are those that say followers are the main metric to optimize. Others are just on the bandwagon, investing time and money in social media because they know it’s important but can’t say how effective it is. A 2014 study by Social Media Examiner reported that 87% of marketers surveyed don’t know how to measure their return on investment from social media.
What’s clear is that there is not a silver bullet solution to calculate return on investment from social media. This can cause skepticism. In such a data-driven era of marketing, managers, and CEOs want clarity and quantitative proof of the ROI of social media in order to make decisions.
Enter Experience Optimization
Experience optimization means proactively bringing data to the core of your business to create high performing user experiences that increase conversions, engagement, and revenue. Experimentation and testing are at the core of experience optimization. The goal is to apply these practices to social media strategy to quantify the value of social media and uncover helpful answers about where you should spend more or less time and resource.
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By asking specific questions about individual channels, you can reach conclusions about larger questions like:
How much does social media impact my business?
How does social media impact consumer spending and decision making?
What are key drivers of success on social media?
How much money and time should I be investing in social media?
1. Test Location of Share Buttons
The physical location of a button is a factor in a visitor’s decision to share. Think about placement on the page as well as which pages have options to share.
These type of tests can help you determine where on the page people are most likely to click, as well as the places on your site that stir emotion—a main motivating factor in sharing. On article pages, test placing share buttons at the end of the article vs. the beginning vs. both places.
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Track which variations increase engagement on share buttons.
2. Experiment with the time you publish to different channels
Traffic generation is part of the value social media adds to your business. Test when you post to your various social channels to find peak times of the day and days of the week for click throughs.
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Measure which posts generate the most traffic.
3. Try different offers incentivizing people to share
A study found that recommendations—especially shared online—are more influential on a person’s buying decision than brand or price. Test the way you incentivize people to share or review your product or service.
When thinking of incentives, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you ask people to share or write a recommendation ask, “What’s in it for me?”
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Track which offers generate the most shares. You can offer different referral codes for incentives and measure which codes are used most.
4. Experiment with personalized calls to action on landing pages
Traffic coming from different channels to your website may not all be responsive to the same call to action. Test the ask you make of people based on which social channel they came from. This can help you learn about the actions that visitors from different social channels are most likely to take.
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Maybe traffic from LinkedIn is more likely to sign up for a service, traffic from Twitter might be more prone to share an article, and visitors from Facebook are inclined to like a page?
Test showing different call to actions on traffic from different referral sources.
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Track which call to action converts best for each segment of social traffic
5. Test calls to action in social updates
Language and length are two factors that go into crafting a call to action in a social post. Testing how you position an action is a way to gauge what your audience is interested in.
Direct appeals in social media updates may not lead to conversions. Your audience might engage more with informational posts.
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Run a controlled campaign for a few weeks on each of your main channels and track how usage of direct CTAs vs. absence of CTAs impacts engagement.
6. Test the design of your share buttons
Share buttons come in all shapes and sizes these days. Button designs that used to be omogenous across the web are becoming highly customized. Simply testing what your buttons look like can lead to a significant increase in shares.
Test a single share buttons versus multi-site share buttons.
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There are many questions to test on a share button:
Do you include a share counter?
Do you include who shared it?
Depending on what type of share it is, knowing who else shared it could be a very compelling reason to buy or share. For e-commerce sites, seeing who bought an item could be more compelling than a star rating.
Which button design generates the most clicks. Also keep track of which channel is most popular. If you see shares to one channel outshine the rest then you can focus more time and effort there.
7. Test one-click sign up with social media buttons
Reducing the steps and time necessary to login or signup to your service can increase engage-ment and usage. Any way to reduce friction can be positive for your company. Social login is one way do this. Try using social login on your website to see if it increases sign up rate or product usage.
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Apply insights from other tests to determine which social network your customers or users spend most time on and test offering that as a login method.
If you already have social login, test the size and position of the button relative to the form. Try assuring people that you won’t post to their feed if they sign up.
Track sign up conversions or logins with and without the social login.
8. Experiment with the types of images you share
Using images in social posts has the power to significantly increase engagement. Twitter states that they see 2x engagement on posts with images. Test whether a specific type of image create more engagement over another.
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Instead of specific images, test out the impact of different image types, like images with people versus no people. Models versus just product. Test the impact different images have on different social networks. What drives shares and likes on Facebook may not perform as well on LinkedIn.
Come up with a way to categorize the types of images you post and track how the different image categories impact your key metrics.
9. Test how you position recommended content
Giving readers recommended articles to read next is a proven way to increase pageviews on your content. The exact design and positioning of the articles is something you can test.
Test adding social share numbers next to recommended articles. If the articles with the highest number of shares are the most clicked in the recommended content module, then you have proof on the return value of social media. Upworthy tested the design of the module they use to recommend content and found a variation that increased social shares by 27%.
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Track clicks on recommended articles with social proof support.
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Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, says.
“In the earliest days of Upworthy, our goal was to find people on social media and grab their attention and then get them to share back out to social media as well. We wanted to optimize that loop.”
As Upworthy’s audience grew, the team realized that the desired loop was not so tight. Engagement was growing and people were spending more time on the site–but it was difficult to find additional content after landing on a particular video or graphic. “Our users wanted to dig deeper, but there was no obvious way to get to a second piece of content,” says Peter. Peter’s goal was to increase sitewide engagement, while maintaining the share-optimized user experience.
Peter believed that adding a recommended content module would decrease the number of social shares for each article on average. “We had already done a lot of testing and found that when we added distractions, user sharing went down,” Peter said. It’s the classic paradox of choice concept. The team decided to run a series of A/B tests to find a variation of a recommended content module that would maximize sharing and clicks on new content.
1st Round of Test Variations
The original article page had no recommended content links, so they started from scratch in terms of wireframes and design.
First, the team experimented with placement of the recommended content box on the page. Continue to the next page to see the variations they tested.
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2nd Round of Test Variations
Then they honed in on design trying a number of different aesthetics and wording for the recommended content. Was it “Watch these next”, “Some of our best”, or “Best of Upworthy” that attracted more clicks and shares?
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10. Experiment with targeting for paid social promotions
Paid updates can be a very effective way to reach new audiences, but which audiences perform best for your brand and what kind of promotion you do is something to experiment with. Test promoting updates to different audience segments.
When testing paid social placements the first step is deciding on your goal. Is your goal likes/follows on your company page or shares on a high value piece of content? Your goal will help you determine the type of advertising campaign to run. Then, it’s all about picking your audience.
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Keep track of which audience segments turn into conversions.
So Where do I Start?
Start with the 10 experiments that can help you increase value from social media as noted above.
If one of them hasn’t jumped out at you to run immediately already, then start by defining a goal you are trying to achieve with social media. How do you define goals? If nothing is jumping out at you, then ask, why do we have [Insert popular social media site]? What will happen if we stop posting there? Work backwards from there.
Do flex your creativity muscles. Continue to brainstorm brilliant, never-before-seen ways to stand out through the cacophony of an average person’s social feed. And definitely do make it a priority to measure the impact of your work on metrics that really matter for your business so you can prove the value to your boss or boss’s boss.
Ever since the original Moto RAZR V3 came out 10 years ago, the smartphone industry has had a strange obsession with skinny phones. Not because shaving a millimeter or two off a device will give it more functionality, but because it's an effective marketing tactic. In emerging markets in particular, slimmer phones at slimmer prices enjoy a distinct advantage. Gionee, a handset maker based in China, isn't very well known, but it's looking to make a name for itself with devices like the $375 Elife S5.5. At 5.55mm thick, this svelte beauty currently claims the title for the thinnest smartphone on the market. To put that in perspective, that's a full two millimeters skinnier than the iPhone 5s. I spent a few days with the device to see if thinner really is better.
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Mobile Geeks videotaped a hands-on review of the Gionee Elife S5.5:
Sporting a chamfered magnesium frame with Gorilla Glass 3 panels on both front and back, the Elife is a beautiful phone with much better build quality than I expected. It features flat sides with angular edges, which -- along with its sleek form factor -- makes for a stylish design that's fun to look at. It's comfortable, but the slim size doesn't play a role in making it any more so than fatter devices. Durability is typically a concern for extremely slim devices, but being thinner doesn't seem to make a difference here: I'm convinced this handset can hold up as well as any other smartphone comprised of similar materials. (That said, you'll still need to be careful with the glass, since it's scratch-resistant, but not shatterproof.) At 4.69 ounces (133g), the Elife also has enough heft to give it a premium feel without being too heavy or too light.
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The Elife's camera is a tad thicker than the rest of the device, but Gionee smartly designed the bump to complement the phone's minimal design rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. The 13-megapixel module and LED flash are nestled on the top-left corner of the back, with chamfered and angled edges that drop down to meet up with the glass. Of course, this makes it so the back isn't completely flat when you lay it down, but on a positive note, this prevents sound coming out of the rear speaker from getting muffled.
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Along with a thinner frame -- and a lower price point -- comes less room to go all-out on specs. It only comes with 16GB of internal storage space and no microSD slot; it features HSPA+ (either 850/1900/2100 or 900/1900/2100, depending on market), but no LTE connectivity, which likely won't be a problem in most emerging markets for now. There's also no NFC; and the non-replaceable battery is fairly small, at 2,300mAh.
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The 5-inch, 1080p Super AMOLED display comes with a pixel density of 441 ppi and features excellent viewing angles. All told, the panel is similar to what's used on the Samsung Galaxy S4, which means you're going to get saturated colors and deep blacks. It's not nearly as bright as most flagships I've played with recently, but it's easily viewable in direct sunlight (provided the brightness is above 85 percent).
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Under the hood, the Elife uses an octa-core MediaTek chipset, which, despite its eight cores, is more mid-range than high-end component. And its performance reflects this: Animations and transitions are a bit choppy; the screen sometimes has problems responding to finger input; and gaming is hit-or-miss thanks to some frame skips. Otherwise, though, the performance is smooth enough. Its biggest issue, which is amplified by the phone's slim build, is that the processor runs so hot that the glass surface is almost impossible to hold while playing games. (You'll also want to refrain from holding it up to your face for a few minutes until it cools down a bit.) The 2,300mAh battery is not very impressive, either; on most days, I struggled to make it through a full day on a single charge.
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On the software front, the Elife runs Android 4.4 KitKat with a custom user interface called Amigo OS. It's very similar to other Chinese Android options in that it doesn't have an app tray, so all of my apps were scattered on the home panels, à la iOS. You can access Google Play Services as well, ensuring that you'll be able to sync your Google accounts if you want. However, after a few days with the new OS, I was ready to switch over from Amigo to the Google Now Launcher, which is now available for most Android devices and is much closer to a pure Android experience on the front, but features Gionee customizations everywhere else (such as the lock screen and notification tray).
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The Elife is only available in a handful of countries including India and China, but the manufacturer has partnered with other brands to create carbon-copied versions of the device. You can get the Blu Vivo IV in the US, for instance, the Allview X2 Soul in Europe and the Bara 1 in Taiwan, all of which have essentially the same chassis and spec sheet. (Pricing varies, but the Vivo IV is $300.)
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Thin phones have their fair share of trade-offs. On one hand, the Elife is a sleek, elegant device. On the other, its slim design comes at the expense of battery life, heat dissipation, storage space and other specs. It's also just as comfortable and usable as most flagship smartphones that have two to three millimeters of extra padding (although it can be tougher to pick up when it's lying on a table or desk). Even so, additional thinness doesn't make a difference to the in-hand experience. And yet, there are strong indications that Gionee will soon come out with an even thinner device soon; if it does, the company will keep its claim to the thinnest phone on the market. But at what cost?
COMMENTARY: The nice folks at NDTV Gadgets were able to get their hands on a Gionee Elife S5.5 smartphone and prepared this review:
Look and Feel
The Gionee Elife S5.5 could give professional supermodels a run for their money. At 5.6mm, this phone is the slimmest one we've ever seen. On top of that, it is lightweight at 135g. Despite the anorexic physical attributes, the S5.5 is a sturdily built device and can handle a few falls thanks to the magnesium alloy material used for the construction. Exuding premium quality, this Gionee phone definitely beats the pants off much of the competition in its price range, and even looks better than a few flagships we've seen (we're looking at you, Samsung).
On the right edge of the Elife S5.5 is the micro-SIM card tray, and on the left edge are the power button and volume rocker. The slightly raised physical buttons feel soft when pressed, which is good. The bottom edge has a 3.5mm audio jack while the top edge features a Micro-USB port for charging. Right above the screen is the front camera and an invisible array of sensors. The unibody design means that the phone has a non-removable battery.
The rear of the device is almost as reflective as a mirror. Slightly raised to accommodate the optics, the rear camera and flash are devoid of any protection. As a result, they are susceptible to scratches. One more problem with the glossy exterior is that attracts smudges very easily.
Features and Specifications
The Elife S5.5 is beautiful and powerful too, at least on paper. Under the hood is a Mediatek MT6589 octa-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz, with integrated Mali 450MP4 graphics. There's 2GB of RAM supporting it. Only around 9GB of the 16GB of internal storage is available to users, which isn't much at all considering there is no support for memory cards.
There is a single slot for a micro-SIM card, which of course can connect to 3G networks. Unlike a lot of other phones with the same specifications in this price range, the Elife S5.5 has incorporated Bluetooth 4.0, which is good. The 13-megapixel rear camera can also shoot videos at a resolution of 1980x1080. Just like the HTC Desire 816 we recently reviewed, the S5.5 also has a 5-megapixel front camera.
This is probably one of the very few smartphones with a full-HD resolution screen at this price level, and we think it looks fantastic. At 5 inches with a density of 467ppi, pixellation is not a problem at all. Blacks are deep and colours pop a bit too much - fans of over-saturated images won't be disappointed at all, but regular reds looked like bright orange during our testing, which to us is a bit of overkill.
Potent hardware is of no use if the software doesn't keep up, which is why it is important that manufacturers trying to fork Android ensure that both hardware and software work together to deliver a good user experience. This is unfortunately where Gionee falters.
Gionee's custom "Color OS" UI runs on top of the now-dated Android 4.2.2 (Jellybean). We've discussed the various problems of this software at length in our review of the Elife E7. The same problems persist in this phone as well - wasted space, a single-screen view of all apps, a cluttered settings panel in the notification slider, options that can't be found without multiple taps, and much more.
Even if we can look past all the problems plaguing the software, the theme itself is a bit of an eyesore. The fact that themes can be changed is not much help either, since all the three options that are available are just as bad as each other. The quality and value of the default apps, including six games, are also debatable. Fortunately, we could delete some of them. The only saving grace in this mess was the intuitive keyboard.
We appreciate Gionee's attempt at differentiation, but Color OS needs more work for it to be user-friendly. Until then, we are heading to the Play Store to find a replacement launcher.
Since the quality of photographs captured by the Gionee Elife E7 impressed us we had high hopes for the Gionee Elife S5.5's camera as well. Our expectations might have therefore been a bit too high, and it turned out that the performance of the 13-megapixel rear camera was only slightly above average.
In our daylight testing, photos looked a bit dim. This dullness led to certain details being hidden. In HDR mode, the camera goes a bit overboard in trying to enhance the dynamic range, and ends up producing overexposed shots. Colours are also slightly off the mark in captured photos.
In low light, focusing is a major issue and we more often than not ended up with blurred images. Photos were also devoid of detail and had a yellow tinge to them. Focussing is jerky even when shooting video, but the captured 1080p video looks really good. The 5-megapixel front camera couldn't capture as much detail as the one on the HTC Desire 816, but the extremely wide-angled lens helps when we want to incorporate more people in the image. Anyone who wants to try aping Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar selfie should take note.
The camera app is minimalistic with transparent icons lined up along the edges of the screen. Oddly, the settings page opens up vertically instead of horizontally when you tap its button.
The S5.5 returned scores of 27,952 and 16,658 in AnTuTu and Quadrant respectively. While respectable, the scores are not a true reflection of the potential performance of this phone's hardware. In daily use, we found that the Elife S5.5 stutters and lags a lot in spite of its powerful specifications. We attribute this disparity in scores and real-life performance to the clunky software.
Graphics performance is not that great, either. We played Shadowgun and noticed that it lagged in sections which were filled with hordes of villains. The GFXbench test returned a score of 10.5fps which corroborates our experience with gaming.
One area where the Elife S5.5 shines throughout is video playback. Though it was no surprise that the phone managed to play all the videos we threw at it, we were glad that it did so without skipping frames. The gorgeous screen makes watching videos totally enjoyable.
On the other hand, this phone heats up quite a bit. This could be due to the way all the internal components are crammed within this slim, all-metal body. Battery life isn't great - the S5.5 lasted only six hours and 28 minutes before dying in our continuous video loop test. Call quality is decent with both the caller and the receiver hearing each other without issues.
Quite surprisingly, we managed to spot the Elife S5.5 in the wild inside a local train and noticed that the person using it was engrossed in a movie. After striking up a conversation, we discovered that he had purchased the phone because of the 1080p screen and phone's looks. Perhaps this is a sign that users can indeed warm up to the idea of a Chinese brand making premium smartphones.
Our new friend had easily identified the two major reasons your should consider the Gionee Elife S5.5 at its current price of Rs. 22,999. However, you also now know that the camera isn't all that great, and the heating issue could potentially be harmful for the phone in the long run.
If that puts you off, at least this price segment is littered with options now. Our favourites are the big-screened HTC Desire 816 with its capable camera, the Moto X (review) with its unique voice commands, and the Elife S5.5's elder sibling, the Elife E7, which is a flagship on a budget.
Below is NDTV Gadget's overall review summary of the Gionee Elife S5.5 smartphone:
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Here are the complete specifications for the Gionee Elife S5.5 smartphone:
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Courtesy of an article dated August 8, 2012 appearing in Engadget, an article dated March 30, 2014 appearing in TechieOasis, and an article dated June 2, 2014 appearing in NDTV Gadgets
NASA is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or NASA has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.
Roger Shawyer (left), receiving a DTI SMART Award for his EmDrive concept in August 2001. (Click Image To Enlarge)
British scientist Roger Shawyer has been trying to interest people in his EmDrivefor some years through his company Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd (SPR Ltd). Shawyer claims the EmDrive converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. He has built a number of demonstration systems, but critics reject his relativity-based theory and insist that, according to the law of conservation of momentum, it cannot work.
The EmDrive itself is simply a microwave resonating cavity in the form of a closed, truncated cone (See below). You fire up a big electrically-powered microwave generator and start beaming microwaves inside this thing, and the microwaves bounce around all over the place, exerting radiation pressure on the inside of the cavity.
According to Shawyer, the EmDrive is able to extert a small amount of thrust that propels it towards the large side of the cone. Shawyer says this happens because inside the resonating cavity, the velocity of the microwaves changes significantly as the cavity diameter varies. The velocity changes enough, in fact, to exert a larger force on the larger end of the cavity, and a smaller force on the smaller end of the cavity, resulting in net thrust.
Prototype of the EmDrive microwave thruster engine developed by scientists at NASA. (Click Image To Enlarge)
SPR's EmDrive Demonstrator Engine (Side View)
SPR's EmDrive Demonstrator Engine (Front View) mounted on a test rig
A video clip of the initial part of an acceleration test run by SPR can be seen on YouTube:
You can also download the folowing .AVI files from the SPR website:
The field strengths within the thruster equate to a power level of 17MW. Signal leakage causes EMC effects within the fixed video camera. This leads to the apparent vertical movements.
The engine only starts to accelerate when the magnetron frequency locks to the resonant frequency of the thruster, following an initial warm up period. This test operation eliminates possible spurious forces.
The rotary air bearing supports a total load of 100kg, with a friction torque resulting in a calibrated resistance force of 8.2 gm at the engine centre of thrust.
For this test a thrust of 96 mN was recorded for an input power of 334 W.
Research to confirm the results of the EmDrive microwave thruster engine developed by Roger Shawyer came from a team of Chinese researchers headed by Yang Juan, Professor of Propulsion Theory and Engineering of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi'an and the findings published in a research paper titled "Net thrust measurement of propellantless microwave thruster." The research paper was originally written on June 9, 2011 and finally published in 2012 in the academic journal Acta Physica Sinica, now translated into English.
Yang Juan, Professor of Propulsion Theory and Engineering of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi'an. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Chinese team led by Professor Yang Juan built its own EmDrive and confirmed that it produced 720 mN (about 72 grams) of thrust, enough for a practical satellite thruster. Such a thruster could be powered by solar electricity, eliminating the need for the supply of propellant that occupies up to half the launch mass of many satellites. The Chinese work attracted little attention; it seems that nobody in the West believed in it.
Chinese EmDrive Microwave Engine Thruster developed by Professor Yang Juan. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Schematic of the Chinese EmDrive Microwave Engine Thruster developed by Professor Yang Juan. (Click Image To Enlarge)
However, a US scientist, Guido Fetta, has built his own propellant-less microwave thruster, and managed to persuade NASA to test it out. The test results were presented on July 30 at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Astonishingly enough, they are positive.
NASA tested a different version of the EmDrive called the Cannae Drive designed by Guido Fetta. (Click Image To Enlarge)
According to Guido Fetta, the "Cannae Drive," was named after the Battle of Cannae in which Hannibal decisively defeated a much stronger Roman army: you're at your best when you are in a tight corner. However, it's hard not to suspect that Star Trek's Engineer Scott -- "I cannae change the laws of physics" -- might also be an influence. (It was formerly known as the Q-Drive.)
The five NASA research team spent six days setting up test equipment followed by two days of experiments with various configurations. These tests included using a "null drive" similar to the live version but modified so it would not work, and using a device which would produce the same load on the apparatus to establish whether the effect might be produced by some effect unrelated to the actual drive. They also turned the drive around the other way to check whether that had any effect.
In January 2014, the NASA research team also tested Shawyer's EmDrive design. The test results for this were also positive, and in fact their tapered-cavity drive, derived from the Chinese drive which is in turn based on Shawyer's EmDrive, produced 91 micronewtons of thrust for 17 watts of power, compared to the 40 micronewtons of thrust from 28 watts for the Cannae drive.
In her research paper, professor Yang Juan describes China's iteration of Shawyer's EmDrive that's able to generate 72 grams of thrust with 2,500 watts of electricity. It doesn't sound like a huge amount, but if you compare it to the hands-down most efficient spacecraft engine we've got right now (where efficiency is at an absolute premium), an ion thruster, the Chinese EmDrive gets you four times as much thrust from half as much power without sucking down any fuel at all. Yeah, you need electricity, but electricity is cheap in space and cheaper on the ground. Anyway, you can read the paperhere, and if you can make conclusive heads or tails of it, please do us all a favor and explain it in the comments. Below is an infographic comparing the Chinese EmDrive with the European Space Agency's SMART-1 ion engine:
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Back in the 90s, NASA tested what was claimed to be an antigravity device based on spinning superconducting discs. That was reported to give good test results, until researchers realised that interference from the device was affecting their measuring instruments. They have probably learned a lot since then.
The torsion balance they used to test the thrust was sensitive enough to detect a thrust of less than ten micronewtons, but the drive actually produced 30 to 50 micronewtons -- less than a thousandth of the Chinese results, but emphatically a positive result, in spite of the law of conservation of momentum:
"Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma."
This last line implies that the drive may work by pushing against the ghostly cloud of particles and anti-particles that are constantly popping into being and disappearing again in empty space. But the NASA team has avoided trying to explain its results in favour of simply reporting what it found:
"This paper will not address the physics of the quantum vacuum plasma thruster, but instead will describe the test integration, test operations, and the results obtained from the test campaign."
Shawyer himself, who sent test examples of the EmDrive to the US in 2009, sees the similarity between the two.
He believes the design accounts for the Cannae Drive's comparatively low thrust. He says.
"From what I understand of the NASA and Cannae work -- their RF thruster actually operates along similar lines to EmDrive, except that the asymmetric force derives from a reduced reflection coefficient at one end plate. Of course this degrades the Q and hence the specific thrust that can be obtained."
Fetta is working on a number of projects which he is not able to discuss at present, and NASA's PR team was not able to get any comments from the research team. However, it's fair to assume that the results will be picked over very closely indeed, like CERN's anomalous faster-than-light neutrinos. The neutrino issue was cleared up fairly quickly, but given that this appears to be at least the third independent propellant-less thruster to work in tests, the anomalous thrust may prove much harder to explain away.
The NASA paper projects a 'conservative' manned mission to Mars from Earth orbit, with a 90-ton spacecraft driven by the new technology. Using a 2-megawatt nuclear power source, it can develop 800 newtons (180 pounds) of thrust. The entire mission would take eight months, including a 70-day stay on Mars.
This compares with NASA's plans using conventional technology which takes six months just to get there, and requires several hundred tons to be put into Earth's orbit to start with. You also have to stay there for at least 18 months while you wait for the planets to align again for the journey back. The new drive provides enough thrust to overcome the gravitational attraction of the Sun at these distances, which makes manoeuvring much easier.
A less conservative projection has an advanced drive developing ten times as much thrust for the same power -- this cuts the transit time to Mars to 28 days, and can generally fly around the solar system at will, a true NASA dream machine.
COMMENTARY: The validation of the Roger Shawyer's electromagnetic drive or EmDrive appears to be a potential gamebreaker for the nation that can develop a fully-functional and scalable microwave-powered EmDrive that can prove its efficiency and reliability in outerspace.
A propellantless rocket thruster that will meet or exceed the requirements needed for future manned space missions to Mars or even neighboring star systems, will depend on fully exploiting this EmDrive technology to its fullest. In fact, the future of mankind could rest on just such a propellantless rocket thruster.
The World is rapidly running out of natural resources used in developing rocket propellants, and since anti-magnetic propulsion systems do not appear to be in our immediate future, ion-powered engine thrusters and EmDrive powered systems are two options that are open to exploitation.
I believe that our country to do everything possible to develop such a propellantless microwave-powered engine thruster for future space travel.
Rise and shine—and check your smartphone? That would have sounded foreign to most people 10 years ago, but it's now the natural course of action after shutting off your alarm.
Moreover, it's not just adults who can't start their day without first checking their phone. It's teenagers, too.
Of the 95% of teens in the United States who have Internet access, 78% have smartphones. Those smartphones are jam-packed with apps, including for Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Spotify.Even texting, the most basic use for a smartphone, is being replaced by messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Kik Messenger.
These days, for teenagers, using their smartphones in any and all situations is deemed acceptable. Whether they are sitting in class or hanging out at home in front of the TV, teens are constantly running apps.
Does any of that surprise you? If you have kids, the answer is probably no.
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Courtesy of an article dated August 9, 2014 appearing in MarketingProfs
Earlier this year serial entrepreneur and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk decided to allow anyone to, “in good faith,” make use of the automaker’s patent portfolio without fear of being named in a patent lawsuit.
The goal of this new strategy, he wrote in a blog entry on Tesla’s website, was to entice other automakers to enter the electric vehicle (“EV”) market by allowing them to leverage Tesla’s technology as a platform on which to build new EVs.
"Very shortly, we will be ready to share more information about the Tesla Giga factory. This will allow us to achieve a major reduction in the cost of our battery packs and accelerate the pace of battery innovation. Working in partnership with our suppliers, we plan to integrate precursor material, cell, module and pack production into one facility. With this facility, we feel highly confident of being able to create a compelling and affordable electric car in approximately three years. This will also allow us to address the solar power industry’s need for a massive volume of stationary battery packs."
Understanding that it was “impossible for Tesla to build cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” this patent policy shift was put forth in an effort to quicken the percentage growth of EVs in the 2 billion strong global automobile fleet, currently dominated by internal combustion engine (“ICE”) vehicles.
Despite the fact that the company is bucking the conventional wisdom that patents are to be held onto by manufacturers and leveraged for license fees and exclusivity, yesterday’s second quarter earnings call showed shareholders that the manufacturer’s future lies not in patents, but in its ability to build powerful partnerships and scale.
Tesla’s current progress is providing significant disruption in the sport-luxury space. As this Head 2 Head episode shows (starting at the 1:20 mark), the Model S is selling units in excess of European competition. But this week the mission to expand the role of EVs in the global marketplace took another important step.
Tesla announced it is cooperating with Japanese industrial giant Panasonic to develop a new, US-based battery production facility. Dubbed the Gigafactory, the facility will be able to produce batteries for as many as 500,000 EVs per year by the year 2020. The scale of the production is projected to be so large, in fact, that by 2020 the Gigafactory alone would produce as much battery capacity as the entire world produced in 2013.
To be sure, the impact of the Gigafactory will positively affect electric auto sales. The Gigafactory’s scale and capacity may be felt across the technology and energy sectors as well.
Panasonic has long been a partner of Tesla Motors, having supplied the automaker with the lithium-ion batteries that Tesla used in both its inaugural vehicle, the Roadster, as well as the current Model S sedan and the upcoming Model X crossover SUV. By eschewing the creation of their own proprietary battery technology and making use of existing infrastructure, Tesla was able to cut significant costs from the most expensive part of any high-performance electric vehicle: the battery. The planned Gigafactory is a key strategic step in carrying out Tesla’s long-term mission to deliver lower-cost EVs to consumers around the world.
The Blue Star project is Tesla’s long-proposed, low-cost automobile model (recently dubbed the Tesla Model III), and is set to debut alongside the Generation III batteries in 2017. The 200-mile range EV’s base configuration will retail for about $35,000 — nearly 40% less than the cost of the $57,000 base price of the current Tesla Model S.
While battery production and capacity has grown worldwide over the last decade, Tesla notes that nearly all of that growth has been in Asia. In contrast to that trend, the joint collaboration between Panasonic and Tesla will take place at a facility in the American West, likely near Reno, NV and less than four hours’ drive from the Fremont plant where Tesla’s autos are assembled. Without having to ship batteries from Asia, this close proximity will lead to additional cost savings through considerably lower Model S and Model X production times.
In keeping with Musk’s environmentally sustainable reputation, the facility, which will sit on 500 to 1,000 acres, will not only recycle older battery packs but will also be powered by “new local renewables,” namely wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. Musk is also the Chairman of Solar City, which is currently ranked second among the top 250 solar contractors of 2013. This relationship would presumably add to the cost savings on the acquisition, installation, and maintenance of the solar piece of the renewable energy system meant to service the Gigafactory.
Demand for the batteries will go beyond Tesla’s own customers. Jonathan Ward, founder of LA-based Icon, a specialty auto manufacturer and modification shop, has indicated interest in using not only Tesla’s patents but also the very platform of the Model S to build a vehicle he’s calling the Helios.
Despite selling an impressive 95,000+ units since 2010(in 35 countries and on four continents), Nissan, the world leader in EV sales, plans to significantly augment the look and range of the Leaf, its flagship EV in favor of a look more like Tesla’s Model S. While most automakers favor incremental changes to best-selling vehicles like the Leaf, Nissan has said that its next -generation Leaf will abandon its low-impact, hybrid-like styling in favor of something more sporty. In a move that signals direct competition with Tesla, Nissan is developing a vehicle related to the Leaf, but built under the Nissan’s upscale Infiniti marque, in order to market an EV with a performance/luxury message not unlike Tesla’s Model S and the upcoming Model III.
While there’s currently no indication that Nissan will seek to make use of Tesla’s technologies, with over 40 percent of the Leaf’s global sales in the US market, it’s almost certainly something the company will consider. Even though Nissan is working on new batteries that allow for nearly 200 miles of range, it could instead choose to install Tesla’s similarly ranged Generation III modules into the Leafs it produces inSmyrna, TN. Tesla’s economies of scale may be able to reduce the cost of the American-born Leaf.
Today’s power-hungry mobile and laptop devices use similar lithium-ion technology to what Tesla uses in its vehicles. The challenge Tesla faces in packing more range into its vehicles is essentially the same challenge device makers like HP, Microsoft, and others face in trying to get more hours of life out of their gadgets.
As the Gigafactory’s massive scale lowers the cost of of lithium-ion batteries, Tesla becomes more and more attractive as a battery supplier to any portable device manufacturer interested in cutting costs and growing profits. Tesla’s dedication to renewable energy supplies in the production of both its batteries and its vehicles also make it an attractive supplier to Apple, which stands staunchly behind its environmental record and which also seems to consistently stretch the resources of its component vendors with every new iPhone.
Tesla and Panasonic are betting big that the demand for EVs will go up as battery prices come down and as so-called range anxiety is quelled by ever more powerful cells. Meanwhile, others are excitedly studying Tesla’s emerging energy storage capacityin a somewhat more stationary light. As intermittent energy sources (e.g. photovoltaics and wind turbines) become popular energy solutions in the US and abroad, both commercial and home users are looking for ways to store the energy generated by the sun (or wind) for cloudy (or not so breezy) days.
In conventional energy generation (fuel oil, coal, gas, or other hydrocarbons), power utilities often scale their energy resources to the demands of their consumers. This can often mean brownouts as demand spikes and utilities rush to burn more hydrocarbons to create power. When demand is lower than expected, utilities burn more hydrocarbons than are needed, and that energy goes to waste.
Bolstered by strong earnings, significant profits, and growing demand for its products, Tesla’s vision for the future of EVs has the potential to continue to transform auto while also delivering technology to help mobile and portable devices profitably scale and to help the country make significant gains in energy storage. The vision (as is the case with every vision tied to Musk) is bold. We look forward to covering the implementation.
COMMENTARY: The Tesla CEO envisions “a plant that is heavily powered by renewables, wind and solar, and that has built into it the recycling capability for old battery packs.”
Musk said in a previous earnings call.
“It is going to be a really giant facility, like say we are doing that something that’s comparable to all lithium-ion production in the world in one factory,”
Investment bank Barclays writes,
“For the time being, our model does not reflect the additional cost of building out a gigafactory, or the significant potential revenue that Tesla could generate from non-automotive sources such as grid storage. Optionality could provide upside for the stock, as investors consider the potential upside to revenue from non-automotive sources.”
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a January research note, adding,
“We believe the days when Tesla was known as purely an auto company are numbered. We are witnessing the most disruptive intersection of manufacturing, innovation and capital experienced by the auto industry in more than a century.”
Jonas also claimed.
“Tesla may be in position to disrupt industries well beyond the realm of traditional auto manufacturing. It’s not just cars.”
Competition for Gigafactory Plant Sites
Tesla Motors has stirred up some competition among four Southwestern states that want the automaker to place its new Gigafactory within their respective borders. According to USA Today, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are all crossing their fingers that Tesla will bring its Gigafactory for lithium-ion batteries to their state. Tesla recently announced the four states as finalists for the factory's location.
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Tesla's Gigafactory aims to create electric vehicle batteries on a mass scale, which will bring battery costs down and help the automaker deliver an affordable EV. Right now, the company offers its high-end, all-electric Model S sedan that has a starting price of $69,900 in the U.S. Tesla said the giant factory would create 6,500 jobs, which is an attractive offer to these states.
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Tesla will invest around $2 billion in the plant through 2020 while investors will pay another $2-3 billion for a total $4-5 billion investment. All four states are good candidates because they have the climate and terrain necessary to power the plant, which will run on solar and wind. Nevada would be the closest option for Tesla, since its EV manufacturing plant is in Fremont, California. New Mexico would likely be favorable to Tesla as well, since the automaker previously planned to manufacture its EVs in the state before settling on the California factory.
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Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry, said New Mexico would be an “ideal” location for the $2 billion factory according to reports in the Albuquerque Journal. He told the Journal that he believes Tesla will announce plans to build the facility in New Mexico in the next “six to eight months.” According to the Journal,
“The analyst said the factory would be capable of generating 30 gigawatts of production capacity a year, which would make it the largest such facility in the world. It may also manufacture a hybrid battery pack that could increase the driving range on Model S cars by 10 percent to 15 percent.”
Jon Barela, secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, in a statement said.
"Gov. Susana Martinez, state and local leaders greatly admire Tesla. We are believers in the company's vision and philosophy. This is an incredible company that is changing the world for the better. We are ecstatic that New Mexico is a finalist for this phenomenal project."
While Arizona has the sunshine Tesla needs in abundance, the state's fiscal conservatives might not be onboard with so many incentives funded by taxpayers. Texas is another good choice, because it already provides space for other auto plants and is close to auto manufacturing infrastructure in Mexico. But Tesla has had issues with Texas in the past that could ruin future business together.
Last April, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed support for House Bill 3351, which would allow distributors and manufacturers of electric vehicles (EVs) only to sell directly to customers without the use of dealerships in Texas. The state fought Tesla in an attempt to protect the position of auto dealers, which can lobby a lot harder than Tesla.
However, Tesla could strike a deal with Texas where the automaker demands the anti-dealership sales model in exchange for bringing the Gigafactory to the Lone Star state.
The giant Gigafactory will span 500 to 1,000 acres of land and have a space requirement of 10 million square feet. It aims to produce 35 GWh of cells and 50 GWh of battery packs a year.
Tesla added that it's getting ready to produce 500,000 EVs a year in 2020, and the Gigafactory will supply those battery packs. What's more is that Tesla expects the per-kWh cost of a Tesla battery pack to be lowered by more than 30 percent once the factory is up and running for the first year.
Construction will continue through 2015, and in 2016, equipment installation is set to begin. The year 2017 will finally see production launch, and will gun for the half million EVs produced in 2020.
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An energy investor contact emphasized that the battery pack is the strategic component to Tesla’s vehicle, and just as Apple often does for critical technology, Tesla is vertically integrating — or possibly taking an Apple/Foxconn funded manufacturing partnership approach.
“Musk has the ability to mark up the price of his high-end finished vehicle — whereas most battery manufacturers/developers are stuck in an incredibly competitive market, requiring massive scale, with little pricing power and visibility to end consumers.”
Courtesy of an article dated August 1, 2014 appearing in VentureBeat, an article dated March 3, 2014 appearing in DailyTech, an article dated February 27, 2014 appearing in Green Tech Media, an article dated February 26, 2014 appearing in Mashable
Oculus Rift is the first headset to provide a true real-time virtual reality experience. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Samsung is giving Oculus access to high-resolution OLED screens (that will make video displays feel more indistinguishable from reality). Oculus is giving Samsung its software technology--a way to build games and entertainment experiences for 3-D headgear. And together, they’re going to develop a new interface to control this display that covers one’s face. (The two companies are each still building headsets of their own--Samsung's will hook to a phone, and Oculus hasn't canceled plans to make a video-game-related rig for PCs.)
Google Glass are augmented reality glasses that display real-time information in a smartphone-like hands-free format. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Sony's Project Morpheus is a prototype headset for the PlayStation 4 that would allow players to fully immerse themselves in 360 degree virtual worlds. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Now, it appears that two companies--very big, powerful, companies--have joined forces for mutual benefit. Together, they’re building standards to the experience that could echo across the industry at large. There could be one common platform on which to design virtual reality experience. And for Facebook/Oculus especially, this is a good deal. If they can own the software-end of the experience--sort of like Google owns Android--and they can license several hardware manufacturers to build hardware for it.
Microsoft's Xbox One, a.k.a. Project NEO, is the company's foray into the world of virtual reality. (Click Image To Enlarge)
As for what that hardware experience will look like, we’re not so sure. Engadget describes a scenario that Samsung is testing now, in which you wear a Samsung headset that plugs into a phone. The headset is the monitor, and the phone is the computer. You can watch movies or play games this way, but the phone’s camera can be used to feed environmental video to the headset and actually show the wearer where they’re walking.
Could be trippy. Literally.
COMMENTARY: You get the feeling that Mark Zuckerberg has always believed that the next evolution of Facebook had to provide the user with a completely new user experience, and that it had to be in real-time. The new user experience had to be more than just the small, incremental changes we've become accustomed to (e.g. Timeline), but truly out-of-this-world, spellbinding, visual and monumental. It had to be a huge leap in the user experience.
Bringing the social experience into the world of virtual reality met that requirement, but Zuck's team lacked sufficient knowledge and experience with virtual reality technology so they acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion in March 2014. Oculus VR was the only company that truly understood virtual reality, and had developed the headset, albeit somewhat crude, and VR software, that gave users a real-time VR experience that was so realistic, that they often got motion sickness.
Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR allows Facebook to leverage that knowledge and experience in both VR games (the intended goal of the Oculus team) and bringing the social media experience into the VR world The partnership with Samsung allows Facebook to leverage Samsung's experience with mobile phones and wearable devices like Samsung's experimental VR headset and smart watch. Samsung gets to use Oculus VR software to improve the performance of its VR headset, and Facebook gets to merge social media into the world of virtual reality. It potentially means a licensing deal with Samsung, and with nearly 650 million Galaxy smartphones already on the market, the payback could be huge for both companies. Facebook has over 800 million monthly active mobile users, so you have to wonder how many of them will opt for a VR social experience and be willing to pay for it. It's a win-win for both companies if they can pull it off.
David Rockwell--an architect best known for theaters, grand restaurant interiors, and posh hotels--is getting into the prefab game. (Click Image To Enlarge)
ROCKWELL GROUP IS TEAMING UP WITH C3 DESIGN TO BUILD MODULAR HOMES FOR LUXURY BUYERS.
David Rockwell--an architect best known for theaters, grand restaurant interiors, and posh hotels--is getting into the prefab game.
David Rockwell, CEO and Founder of the Rockwell Group. (Click Image To Enlarge)
He has partnered with Fred Carl* of the appliance company Viking Rangeto build the first luxury prefabricated homes for Carl's new modular housing venture, C3 Design, Inc.
He has partnered with Fred Carl of the appliance company Viking Range to build the first luxury prefabricated homes for Carl's new modular housing venture, C3 Design, Inc. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Rockwell says that the modular homes will offer "a luxury design at a less than luxury price." He unveiled the Pinwheel series, a luxury line of prefabricated homes for luxury buyers at the Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles in July 2014.
Scale model of a modular home called the Pinwheel series designed by C3 Design and the Rockwell Group that debuted at Dwell on Design 2014 in Los Angels in July 2014. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Prefab architecture is typically associated withaffordable housing, not luxury design. Because prefab buildings are constructed offsite, then shipped for assembly, they are less resource-intensive than traditional buildings. Rockwell and his team hope that with some architectural finesse, they can create stylish digs with minimal environmental impact.
Rockwell says that the modular homes will offer "a luxury design at a less than luxury price." (Click Image To Enlarge)
He said in a phone interview.
"Prefab didn’t need to mean compromise in any way."
Ultimately, the architect plans to work with C3 to design interior additions like prefab wine cellars.
Rockwell unveiled the design for a house called "Pinwheel'"at the Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles held in July 2014. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Creating a home that doesn't necessarily look like a cookie-cutter container became one of the key challenges. Rockwell says.
"When you have a building block like a rectangle, you don’t want to have a railroad situation. That limitation became the key contributing factor to the design."
Prefab architecture is typically associated with affordable housing like this model, not luxury design. (Click Image To Enlarge)
His 2,400-square-foot house consists of four rectangular rooms arranged around a 500-square-foot interior courtyard. Rockwell was inspired by his childhood in Mexico, where "outdoor space was part of the lifestyle." The house features two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, with a study that can be converted into an additional bedroom. The kitchen comes complete with a 10-foot-long marble island and professional grade appliances. Rockwell says.
"I love the fact that you have this little private retreat where you can entertain outdoors and it’s connected directly to the kitchen."
Because prefab buildings are constructed offsite, then shipped for assembly, they are less resource-intensive and eco-friendly than traditional buildings. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Since a prefab house can be shipped anywhere, Rockwell wanted to find a way to ensure the houses could fit into the local landscape, even if that landscape looked radically different from one buyer to the next. The exterior of the house will have a variety of aesthetics so that it can blend in just as well in Phoenix as it does in Honolulu. A hanging screen on the outside of the house--available in everything from steel to reclaimed wood to green landscaping--offers another way to give the house a more tailored aesthetic. Rockwell says.
"In a modular landscape, what we try to do is come up with a design that is very flexible."
His 2,400-square foott house consists of four rectangular rooms arranged around a 500-square foot interior courtyard. Rockwell was inspired by his childhood in Mexico, where "outdoor space was part of the lifestyle." (Click Image To Enlarge)
The more customizable a house is, the less it looks like it came straight off a conveyor belt.
For some, that means an eco-friendly way to build a swank vacation home. For others, it may make a carefully designed home a slightlymore budget-friendly option (prices haven't been released yet). Rockwell homes for the masses! Ish.
COMMENTARY: For Rockwell, a majority of the inspiration behind Pinwheel’s design came from his upbringing in Mexico. The architect describes his childhood as one that was heavily vested in outdoor space. His connection with the outdoors motivated him to include a courtyard in Pinwheel’s plans. With this project, Rockwell and Carl really wanted to out do the notion of what prefabricated architecture could mean. They aimed to challenge the norms and prove that just because resources are limited, prefabricated doesn’t have to mean cookie-cutter looks and cul-de-sac dreams. Together they want to tackle the notion that affordability and luxury are not mutually exclusive. Yeah, we’re listening, too…
The U.S. Prefabricated Housing Marketing
Prefabricated housing shipments for the U.S. are forecast to rise 13.6 percent annually through 2017 to 140,000 units, a vast improvement from the declines of the 2007-2012 period. Prefabricated housing will benefit from a rebound in housing starts. Both types of prefabricated housing declined steadily from 2002 on, and were hit hard by the housing market collapse that began in 2007. As the housing market and general economy recover, demand for prefabricated housing is expected to rise along with total single-family housing starts. Despite the promise of some reduction in construction costs, these products have had limited market penetration, in part because of consumers' familiarity with traditional construction practices, or in the case of manufactured housing, some stigma attached to the product itself. These and other trends are presented in Prefabricated Housing, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.
Overall, shipments of manufactured housing will reach 90,000 units in 2017.Demand for manufactured housing is concentrated in rural areas and in certain segments of the population -- particularly lower income groups such as young, first time home buyers and those over 55, such as retirees on a fixed income. Expected growth in these populations will boost manufactured housing demand. However, manufactured housing's market share is projected to drop from that of 2012 as the economy continues to expand and conventional mortgages become easier to obtain, and as new regulations make chattel loans (commonly used for manufactured housing) more difficult to secure.
For other prefabricated housing, demand is more evenly spread throughout geographical areas and the segments of the population. As such, demand is less affected by trends in certain areas or populations, and will more closely track demand for overall single-family housing. Therefore, market shares for other prefabricated housing types will be little changed, and demand increases will be similar to those for single-family housing overall.
The Global Prefabricated Housing Marketing
According to reports by Global Industry Analysts (GIA), the world pre-fabricated housing market will reach 827,000 units by 2017. Growth in the world pre-fabricated housing market will be driven by the following key factors:
Continuous technological developments
Positive governmental regulations
Growing promotional activities of manufacturers
Ongoing recovery in world economies
Growing Demand in Developing countries of Asia and Latin America Key growth drivers in the World Market
DRM Prefab researched the global pre-fabricated housing market and produced the following detailed analysis:
Crowdfunding has quickly moved from trendy buzzword to a mainstream fundraising model. In less than five years, Kickstarter has attracted more than five million contributors pledging close to $1 billion, funding more than 55,000 individual projects. Rival fundraising platform Indiegogo can boast of a campaign that single-handedly generated $12 million in pledges. Numbers like these make crowdfunding an attractive option for first-time entrepreneurs and established businesses alike. But what, exactly, does it take to successfully fund a project?
To find out, I’ve asked creators of some of the most highly successful crowdfunding technology projects – each raised more than $300,000 - to discuss their experiences using Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and share the secrets of their success. Whether you’re looking to raise a few thousand, or a few hundred thousand dollars to bring your product to market, here’s some hard-earned wisdom to consider well before launching your own crowdfunding campaign.
1. Solve a real problem
As with any sales venture, the first key to success is creating a product that people want to buy. Advises Adam Sager, whose home security device, Canary, raised more than $1.9 million on Indiegogo.
“Your responsibility is to produce a solution to a problem. You need to be able to tell people right away how the product is going to solve a real problem that they have.”
If you can’t communicate the essence of your product and what it does in a sentence or two, you’re not going to attract significant interest from backers.
Many entrepreneurs have looked to their own personal experiences in identifying a problem to solve. Peter Dering, an avid traveler and photography buff, came up with the idea for his original Capture Camera Clip – an updated version garnered more than $800,000 on Kickstarter - because he got tired of having his DSLR hang precariously from his neck, swinging into things while backpacking through Asia. He says.
“I thought this was a problem enough people had, and that my idea for a product could solve it. Identifying a problem, and designing a solution that is solid, equals success.”
It’s great if your product can ride the wave of an emerging trend, but make sure you’re not too far ahead of the curve. John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen, whose second version of the Hidden Radio, a wireless portable speaker, has raised more than $500,000 on Kickstartersays.
“If your idea is too far ahead of its time, you’ll have to spend resources telling people why they need it. When we came up with the idea for Hidden Radio back in 2008, we didn’t invent the category. There were Bluetooth speakers already on the market, but they weren’t attractive and didn’t sound good. We felt we could make a beautiful design that had better sound.”
2. Do your homework
The success of any crowdfunding effort is inextricably linked to the amount of hard work you put into testing and refining your idea long before launching the campaign. Phil Bosua, who raised $1.3 million on Kickstarter to launch the Lifx LED smart bulb says.
“Every hour of planning you do before the campaign saves you 100 hours of work after it.”
Van Den Nieuwenhuizen’s vision for a portable Bluetooth speaker began with sketches a full five years before his crowdfunding campaign. He says.
“You need to do your homework. Once my partner and I had a design we liked, we submitted it to some design blogs. The response was very positive, with people asking how they could buy it, and all we had at that point was a rendering. We made our first prototype with a trip to the hardware store. It took us a year of looking in the U.S. and Asia to find the right manufacturer. But by the time we launched on Kickstarter, we were literally ready to begin production if we got the funds.”
The challenges you’ll face after the funding campaign are daunting and must be addressed early on. Dering cautions.
“You’ve got to have an e-commerce site up and running, a supply chain and distribution network, and way to handle fulfillment and warehousing. Miss any one of these, and you’re dead. You need to be prepared to make your backers happy, and getting as many ducks in a row as you can before starting the campaign, allows you to ship your product to them quickly.”
Seeking advice from those who have more experience is always a wise move. Gabriel Bestard-Ribas, whose Goji smart lock raised more than $300,000 on Indiegogo, did just that. He recalls.
“I got advice from people who had run successful campaigns, asking for feedback on my idea. But I also talked to people who had failed at crowdfunding. I learned what things to avoid, which is important.”
One thing to avoid is waiting for your campaign to start before doing any marketing. “Build your customer database well before going on Kickstarter,” suggests Van Den Nieuwenhuizen. “Even if you don’t have a prototype yet, you can release drawings or renderings on Facebook and Twitter. You get validation of your idea while building an audience and momentum for your crowdfunding launch.”
3. Bring money to the table
“Kickstarter shouldn’t be your first source of money.”
Indeed, every entrepreneur I spoke with for this story had already acquired some capital before launching their crowdfunding campaign.
"Kickstarter shouldn’t be your first source of money.”
But before that, he and his team had already poured in tens of thousands of dollars into the project. He says.
“We invested our own money, using loans and pension savings as well as profit from some of our earlier companies, to buy food and pay our bills. Another company I co-founded invested $10,000 for a 5% stake in AIRTAME. That paid for office space and some of the hardware we needed in an early stage of development.”
Your funding sources don’t have to be complicated. Bosua and his small team started Lifx with, He recalls.
“$35,000 that came from maxing out our credit cards.”
“We spent about $80,000 to get to the Kickstarter stage, with prototypes, samples, and additional engineering support to help solve our problems.”
For those looking at mass market production, Barros advises,
“You should think about needing $500,000 to get from the idea stage to shipping a final product. Whether you raise that from your backers, investors, or supply partners, that’s about how much you need (with some wiggle room) to make and ship. You’ll encounter mistakes along the way and a little bit of extra cash makes sure you can deliver.”
4. Set a smart funding goal
When setting your funding goal, don’t confuse how much money you’d like to raise with how much you need to fund your project. Dering says of his first campaign.
“I made a distinction between ‘expectation’ and ‘hope’ when setting my funding goal. I expected to raise $10,000 but my hope was to be the top-funded project in Kickstarter’s history.”
The browse pages of both Kickstarter and Indiegogo highlight not just a dollar amount, but your funding’s percentage relative to your initial goal. People love to back a winner, so blowing past your funding goal by 300% in the early days of your campaign can actually help attract additional backers. Of course, you need to set an amount high enough to cover the costs of actually manufacturing and delivering your product, but your goal should be one that you’re confident you can reach.
5. Make an effective pitch
“Why do people support crowdfunding? Because they are drawn to a vision. One they want to engage with. Many people think of their campaign as just selling a product. But you’re really launching your company to the world.”
Your presentation will have a huge impact on the success of your campaign. The financial cost of producing it is virtually zero. You can shoot the video pitch on your phone if you need to. But the amount of time and thought you put into this presentation must be significant.
“We crafted a very focused message, and presented the product to show how it could impact people’s lives in a direct way. We didn’t start by talking about features. Instead we led with how we were solving a problem. It’s also important to make your team visible. Be very transparent and let potential backers know who you are. Trust is a big part of crowdfunding.”
Of course, when it is time to talk about features you need to emphasize what makes your product stand out from the crowd. Bestard-Ribas stresses that there are benefits to having competitors. He says.
“There were three competing products that debuted before us. They generated a buzz around the idea of a smart lock, so people understood our product already. What we had to do was propose why we were better. The competing models ranged from plain-looking to ugly. We had a beautiful, sleek design plus the ability to take and send photos of anyone activating the lock and entering your home. So those are the two features we emphasized.”
Rewards/perks are huge calls to action for potential backers. Get creative. Gavin Fish, VP of Sales and Marketing for Light Harmonic, whose campaign for the Geek Pulse, a portable DAC, has raised more than $1.17 million on Indiegogo, has taken full advantage of services unique to that platform. “One of the reasons we switched to Indiegogo for our second campaign was that backers could choose multiple perks.” Fish also made use of Indiegogo’s tracking tools to offer even non-contributors a chance to earn free products by referring friends who did become backers.
6. It’s not (always) about the money
Crowdfunding has several benefits beyond access to capital. Fish says.
“We were already well-funded as a company. And we knew the high-end audio customer well. With the Geek line, we were looking to deliver a mainstream, affordable product, but we didn’t know what the mainstream consumer would buy. For us, the feedback from backers was much more significant than the money we raised. Near the end of our Geek Out campaign, for example, many backers began asking for a larger unit with more features. That feedback led directly to our second product in the lineup, the Geek Pulse.”
Bestard-Ribas also emphasizes the importance of the contributor community. He says with conviction.
“The feedback we get is 10-fold more valuable than the money we raised. Normally, you’re working in the dark until you bring a product to market. With crowdfunding we get customer feedback before the product is finalized.”
And it wasn’t only customers that he was able to build relationships with. “The press coverage that our campaign received opened doors to partnerships,” he continues. “We had retailers and distributors reach out to work with us before the product was finished, which helped us to better fit their needs. Our partnership with Staples is an example. They got in contact with us during the campaign and now our product is part of their [app] ecosystem.”
7. Make the campaign your top priority
Managing an active crowdfunding campaign is an intense process. Gyalokay says.
“It’s not only full-time for one person, it’s full-time for everyone in the company.”
Sager agrees and he says in response.
“When we ran our campaign, the entire team was 100% focused on crowdfunding. We sent out multiple surveys to our backers. I personally answered 3,000 emails in the first week.”
Although it can be a nearly overwhelming experience, the campaign offers a valuable opportunity to engage with your backers. Fish says.
“We believe that if we can have a dialogue with the market, we can be successful. We decided to host a separate forum for our backers, to continue the conversation beyond the crowdfunding campaigns.”
“Feedback can drive product design.”
He recalls having to decide between two competing features in a new camera strap that was still in development. He recalls.
“We sent out a Kickstarter survey with a choice of A or B, and our backers overwhelmingly picked a winner.”
The challenge with feedback, of course, is knowing when to say no. Sager cautions about being everything to everybody.
“You’re going to have to decide which requests make sense to implement with this version of your product and which ones are better to save for version 2. We made the simplicity of our product the priority and stuck to solving a specific problem instead of trying to meet everyone’s feature request.”
Social media and email can be very effective in spreading the word about your campaign. Gylokay says.
“We prepared 100 personal emails each to send out when we launched the campaign. We made sure each one was personal and had a good dose of humility, while stating how important this project was to us and our lives. And of course we ended with a strong call to action.”
“You need to make your campaign as easy to share as possible. That means all someone has to do is click one button. Don’t make it any more complicated than that.”
Heed the advice of these crowdfunding veterans and perhaps your idea will be the next crowdfunding success story.
COMMENTARY: Kickstarter, the crowdsourced funding platform, is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either your project reaches its funding goal, and you get to work developing your product, or it doesn't and you go home with nothing. So what's the best way to ensure your passion project makes it past the finish line? Pay attention to your pitch.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technologyculled the 20,391 most common phrases that appeared in the text of 45,000 Kickstarters to try to decipher what makes the difference between the wild success of a project like the Pebble smart watch, and an abject, nameless failure. Their results"indicate a fundamental force which drives the 'crowd' to fund crowd-projects: language."In other words, the words you use to describe your project matter, even in very subtle ways.
Some takeaways: Phrases that indicated that backers would receive something in return for their donation had a tendency to get funded. This should be pretty obvious. Gifts: We like them! So phrases like "pledged will," "also receive two" and "mention your"--all indicators of some kind of reward--tended to show up in projects that were funded. A surprisingly good predictor of funding success? The phrase "good karma and." Words like "encouragement,""given the chance" and "as people" worked, but offering to dress up as something as a reward (example: "a skype date with us dressed up as celebrities") did not. Nor did overusing phrases that hint at desperation, like "need one" or "provide us."
The researchers believe that these type of findings could be built into the design of a crowdfunding site. They suggest a help center that could guide new users.
Courtesy of an article dated January 24, 2014 appearing in Forbes and an article dated January 16, 2014 appearing in Fast Company Design