Cash May Be King in India, but Google Is Prince of Mobile Payments

2019 09 19Google Pay

That’s the headline on my latest story, out today.

It begins:

NEW DELHI–The leading player in the battle for mobile payments in India isn’t either of China’s pioneers, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. or Tencent Holdings Ltd. It isn’t Apple Inc., Visa Inc. or even PayPal Holdings Inc. It’s Google.

The Alphabet Inc. unit has for years tried to diversify its revenues beyond advertising by pushing into new fields like cloud computing and hardware. While its profits remain healthy, it needs new ways to make money as the specter of regulation looms at home and around the globe. Its booming new business in the world’s largest untapped digital market could be the engine of expansion that it has been looking for.

In India today, the company has one of its fastest-growing hits ever with Google Pay, a two-year-old app that millions of consumers are using to spend and transfer tens of billions of dollars.

Resembling a chat app and available in local languages, Google Pay was the most downloaded financial technology app world-wide last year, according to SensorTower, a research and marketing firm for the app industry.

Click through to read the rest.

NN191: Apple vs. Netflix; What’s Up With WeWork?; Ascendant Analog; Motocross Dogs

2019 09 17apples
Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🆕 1) News from Apple’s event on Tuesday: Apple Undercuts Rivals With Streaming Price [The Wall Street Journal]

My colleague Tripp Mickle has the big picture:

“Apple Inc. revealed a trio of upgraded iPhones, including a lower-priced model, and detailed its plans to enter the increasingly competitive video-streaming market with an offering that is cheaper than rivals.”

To wit:

“Apple set monthly prices for its TV+ video-streaming service and Arcade videogame-streaming service at $4.99, largely undercutting rivals. TV+ comes free for a year with the purchase of a new iPhone, iPad or Mac, a perk that could get more people to buy a new device or upgrade.”

That’s cheaper than Netflix’s $12.99 standard offering and lower than the $6.99 Disney’s new service will cost.

Meanwhile Wilson Rothman breaks down the new iPhones and other offerings:

“The company delivered upgrades to last year’s three iPhone models, plus some minor tweaks to the Apple Watch and iPad lines and an update on its coming subscription services.”

🔨 2) California Bill Makes App-Based Companies Treat Workers as Employees [New York Times]

“California legislators approved a landmark bill on Tuesday that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, a move that could reshape the gig economy and that adds fuel to a yearslong debate over whether the nature of work has become too insecure.”

⚖️ 3) Google under antitrust investigation by 50 attorneys general [The Verge]

“On Monday, 50 attorneys general from US states and territories signed onto an antitrust investigation into Google, placing even more pressure on the major tech firm that is already facing intense scrutiny over its market dominance from the government. ”

💰 4) Runaway Story or Meltdown in Motion? The Unraveling of the WeWork IPO [Musings on Markets/Aswath Damodaran]

“In a year full of high-profile IPOs, WeWork takes center stage as it moves towards its offering date, offering a fascinating insight into corporate narratives, how and why they acquire credibility (and value) and how quickly they can lose them, if markets lose faith. ”

📸 5) I Was Caroline Calloway [New York/The Cut]

“Seven years after I met the infamous Instagram star, I’m ready to tell my side of the story.”

🎵 6) Shot: Vinyl set to outsell CDs for first time since 1986 [NME]

“With vinyl revenue growing by 12% in the second half of 2018 and first half of this year, and CD rates barely changing at all, it could see vinyl revenue overtake that of CDs by the end of the year. If it does happen, it’ll be the first time that vinyl has generated more revenue than CDs since 1986.”

📚 7) Chaser: Why book reading is looking good [Irish Times]

“In the US, 2011 was the first year in which more ebooks were sold than hardbacks; by 2016, though, hardbacks were outstripping ebooks once again.”

🔪 8) 50 States of True Crime [New York Times]

“Every state has an infamous crime – and a book about it.”

🦝 9) Wildlife photographer of the year – highly commended images [The Guardian]

“The Natural History Museum has released a selection of highly commended photographs from a range of categories.”

Come for the hippos, stay for the raccoon.

🏍️ 10) Stunt pooch 🐶💫🔥 [Twitter: @SpicyWengz]

📖 Book I’m Currently Reading

Yesterday I finished “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Patricia Highsmith’s famed psychological thriller from 1955. I loved it. Fast-paced and beautifully written. And just a couple weeks back I read “Googled: The End of the World as We Know It,” a book on the search titan by The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta. Highly recommended for understanding the company’s history.

Next up, at long last: “The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age,” by my pal James Crabtree (whose newsletter you should subscribe to here).

Reminder: I keep track of all the books I’m reading on my website here.

💡 Quote of the week:

“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Newley’s Notes 190: Facebook Dating; New iPhones; Vaping Risks; Puppy Pool Party

2019 09 09cargo

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

➡️ 1) MIT Media Lab Director Resigns Over Epstein Donations [WSJ]

“The director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned following the publication of a news report detailing his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and Mr. Epstein’s donations to the highly esteemed institution.”

➕ Related, recently released New Yorker longread by Ronan Farrow: How an Élite University Research Center Concealed Its Relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.

💘 2) Facebook’s dating service finally hooks up with Instagram [Axios]

“Instagram’s role in Facebook’s dating service will be limited for now to a ‘secret crush’ feature and letting users link select photos from the app to their dating profiles (a feature rivals like Tinder and Bumble already offer).”

🎹 3) Apple Music launches a public beta on the web [Tech Crunch]

“The web version is now one of several ways Apple is making its music service more accessible across platforms.”

📱 4) Shot: Everything to expect from Apple’s iPhone event [The Verge]

“Apple is expected to announce three new iPhone models at its event on Tuesday: the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and the iPhone 11, replacing the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, respectively. ”

📵 5) Chaser: A Radical Guide to Spending Less Time on Your Phone [Medium]

“It’s there: in your pocket. On the desk. In the cup holder of the car. You want to use it…”

🚬 6) People Urged to Stop Vaping Following More Deaths, Hundreds of Illnesses [WSJ]

“Health authorities are urging people to stop using electronic cigarettes and other vaping products while they investigate three more deaths from a mysterious illness that federal officials say may have affected over 450 users of the devices around the U.S.”

🏠 7) Why Can’t California Solve Its Housing Crisis? [Rolling Stone]

“It’s the epicenter of the tech industry and the wealthiest, most progressive state in the union, but homelessness is surging – and no one can agree on how to fix it”

💯 8) We’re Not In Whoville Anymore: Welcome to Goose Creek Tower [YouTube]

“When he’s not working as one of Alaska’s top trial attorneys, this DIY architect is building his ’poem to the sky.’​”

📻 9) Radio Garden [Radio Garden]

“Explore live radio by rotating the globe.”

🐕 10) Lots of doggos frolicking in a pool [Reddit]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry S. Truman

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Newley’s Notes 189: Our Amazon-Gojek Scoop; Spying via LinkedIn; Mr. Bubz Anniversary

2019 09 02clouds

The latest edition of my email newsletter has gone out to subscribers. It’s pasted in below. To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief – and few people unsubscribe!

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

🔌 🍨 My latest scoop, with my colleagues Julie Steinberg and Jon Emont, is about Amazon and Gojek in Indonesia. The story, out Wednesday, begins:

Amazon.com Inc. Indonesian ride-hailing startup Gojek Group have held preliminary talks on a partnership, according to people familiar with the matter, which could expand the online retail giant’s services into a populous new market.

The companies have discussed an arrangement by which Amazon would make a sizable investment in Gojek and tap into the Jakarta-based company’s delivery infrastructure in Indonesia, one of the people said.

Click thorough to read the rest. Bloomberg and Reuters, among others, followed with pieces of their own.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🇨🇳 1) How China Uses LinkedIn to Recruit Spies Abroad [New York Times]

“‘Instead of dispatching spies to the U.S. to recruit a single target, it’s more efficient to sit behind a computer in China and send out friend requests to thousands of targets using fake profiles.’”

🚓 2) You can now find out if Amazon’s Ring has partnered with your local police [CNET]

“Ring has released an official map detailing every police department that’s partnered with it, showing how widely and rapidly it’s been cozying up to law enforcement. ”

📱 3) Google unearths 2-year iPhone spyware attack [Financial Times]

“Apple’s prized reputation for protecting its customers’ security and privacy has taken another hit, with the discovery that iPhone owners were susceptible to more than a dozen software vulnerabilities for at least two years.”

🌯 4) Kiwibots win fans at UC Berkeley as they deliver fast food at slow speeds [SF Chronicle]

“The Kiwibots do not figure out their own routes. Instead, people in Colombia, the home country of Chavez and his two co-founders, plot ‘waypoints’ for the bots to follow, sending them instructions every five to 10 seconds on where to go.”

🍎 5) Apple Opens Door to iPhone Repairs by More Outside Vendors [WSJ]

“Apple Inc. is launching a new product-repair program in the U.S. in which independent businesses can repair Apple products using the same parts and tools as the company’s authorized service providers.”

🆕 And: “Separately, Apple said Thursday it plans to host a Sept. 10 event at the Steve Jobs Theater on its corporate campus, where it is widely expected to unveil products including three new iPhone models.

🌐 6) Startups’ new frontier: Optimizing your friendships [Axios]

“Now ‘personal CRM,’ which applies the same techniques to personal relationships, has become one of the hottest app categories in Silicon Valley…”

🧬 7) Search For ‘Gay Genes’ Comes Up Short In Large New Study [NPR]

“A huge new study finds a faint hint of genetic variation that may be linked to same-sex behavior. The study broadly reinforces the observation that both biology and a person’s environment influence sexuality, but the results reveal very little about that biology.”

🎼 8) The Ultimate List of Work and Study Music [LifeHacker]

“Here are some of my greatest sources of background music for work, studying, and creativity.”

🌌 9) The Complete Galactic Plane: Up and Down [Astronomy Picture of the Day]

“Is it possible to capture the entire plane of our galaxy in a single image? Yes, but not in one exposure – and it took some planning to do it in two.”

🐺 10) 1 year later and Mr Bubz is still the greatest video to ever hit the internet [Twitter: @elvishpresley]

💡 Quote of the week:

“I don’t care what anybody says about me as long as it isn’t true.” – Truman Capote

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Amazon Holds Talks With Indonesian Ride-Hailing Startup Gojek

2019 08 29amazon gojek

That’s the headline on my newest story, out yesterday, a scoop with my colleagues Julie Steinberg and Jon Emont.

It begins:

Amazon.com Inc. and Indonesian ride-hailing startup Gojek Group have held preliminary talks on a partnership, according to people familiar with the matter, which could expand the online retail giant’s services into a populous new market.

The companies have discussed an arrangement by which Amazon would make a sizable investment in Gojek and tap into the Jakarta-based company’s delivery infrastructure in Indonesia, one of the people said.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on “rumors and speculation.” A spokesman for Gojek didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

There is no guarantee a deal will result.

Click through to read the rest.

The story was followed by Bloomberg and Reuters.

Newley’s Notes 188: Troubling Goods on Amazon; Call-Out Culture; Best Productivity Books; Dogs Playing with Piglets

2019 08 26 night canyon

The latest edition of my email newsletter has gone out to subscribers. It’s pasted in below. To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief – and few people unsubscribe!

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

👉 1) An important story by my colleagues Alexandra Berzon, Shane Shifflett and Justin Scheck: Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site. The Result: Thousands of Banned, Unsafe or Mislabeled Products [WSJ]

“A Wall Street Journal investigation found 4,152 items for sale on Amazon.com Inc.’s site that have been declared unsafe by federal agencies, are deceptively labeled or are banned by federal regulators – items that big-box retailers’ policies would bar from their shelves.”

🔮 2) Misinformation Has Created a New World Disorder [Scientific American]

“…designers of the social platforms fervently believed that connection would drive tolerance and counteract hate. They failed to see how technology would not change who we are fundamentally – it could only map onto existing human characteristics.”

💬 3) I’m a Black Feminist. I Think Call-Out Culture Is Toxic [New York Times]

“Recently, someone lied about me on social media and I decided not to reply. “Never wrestle with a pig,” as George Bernard Shaw said. “You both get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.””

🌎 4) Yes, I’m Feeling Bad About Climate Change. Let’s Discuss. [MIT Sloan Management Review]

“What does science tell us? The answer is frankly terrifying – as in, it’s unclear how much of the world we inhabit will be recognizable and livable.”

🧭 5) The American Missionary and the Uncontacted Tribe [GQ]

“John Chau’s mission had ambitions for a great awakening, but what awaited instead was tragedy.”

⚙️ 6) The best books on Productivity [David Allen interview at Five Books]

“…the strange paradox is that the people most attracted to getting things done are the people who need it the least. ”

🧘 7) Silicon Valley’s Crisis of Conscience [New Yorker]

“There are two kinds of people: those who know nothing about Esalen and those who purport to know everything about it.”"

🚀 8) Nasa said to be investigating first allegation of a crime in space [BBC]

“Nasa is reported to be investigating a claim that an astronaut accessed the bank account of her estranged spouse from the International Space Station, in what may be the first allegation of a crime committed in space.”

💨 9) Trails of Wind [TrailsOfWind]

“The architecture of airport runways.

🐕 🐷10) Watch this 135-pound dog fall in love with a tiny piglet [The Dodo]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Everything you can imagine is real.” – Pablo Picasso

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Newley’s Notes 187: AI Startup Questions; WeWork to IPO; Crazy Deepfakes; Grinning Corgis

2019 08 19space

The latest edition of my email newsletter has gone out to subscribers. It’s pasted in below. To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief – and few people unsubscribe!

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

🔌 My most recent story: a piece with my colleague Parmy Olson that went online Wednesday and was in Thursday’s print WSJ.

The headline: AI Startup Boom Raises Questions of Exaggerated Tech Savvy. And the lede:

Startup Engineer.ai says it uses artificial-intelligence technology to largely automate the development of mobile apps, but several current and former employees say the company exaggerates its AI capabilities to attract customers and investors.

The story was picked up by tech news sites such as The Information, The Verge, Slashdot and more.

Click through to give it a read.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💰 1) WeWork files for long-awaited IPO [Axios]

“WeWork will be the most polarizing IPO of 2019, and that’s saying something in a year that already saw Uber and Lyft.”

Bonus link: Shira Ovide, writing for Bloomberg: “Let’s be clear, though: This company is profoundly shocking, and odd. It is at once perhaps the most controversial member of the last decade’s ‘unicorn’ era of richly valued startups, and the one that perfectly encapsulates this moment in financial history. WeWork is so unicorn, it hurts.”

🎧 2) Facebook Paid Contractors to Transcribe Users’ Audio Chats [Bloomberg]

“The company said the users who were affected chose the option in Facebook’s Messenger app to have their voice chats transcribed. The contractors were checking whether Facebook’s artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages, which were anonymized.”

🧐 3) Bill Hader channels Tom Cruise – Deepfake [Ctrl Shift Face on Youtube]

Bonus link, the NYT’s Kevin Roose, writing last year: “Deepfakes are one of the newest forms of digital media manipulation, and one of the most obviously mischief-prone.”

🥵 4) Shot: Scientists confirm July set new global heat record [AP]

“July was the hottest month measured on Earth since records began in 1880, the latest in a long line of peaks that scientists say backs up predictions for man-made climate change.”

🏗️ 5) Chaser: The dawn of the age of geoengineering [Eli Dourado]

“Let’s be honest. The world’s governments might not coordinate to stop climate change…Here are four of my favorite large-scale projects to improve Earth’s environment.”

🕹️ 6) The US Navy says no to touchscreens – maybe automakers should, too [ArsTechnica]

“Starting next summer the Navy will refit its DDG–51 destroyer fleet with a physical throttle and helm control system. The effort is a response to feedback the Navy solicited in the wake of a pair of fatal crashes involving that class of ship during 2017.”

🧹 7) Clean City Law: Secrets of São Paulo Uncovered by Outdoor Advertising Ban [99% Invisible]

“As it turned out, advertisements were quite literally covering up problems with the city that needed to be addressed. Removing billboards revealed, for instance, the presence of certain smaller shanty towns (known as favelas) that few knew existed, hidden as they were behind a vertical landscape of giant signs.”

😂 8) Critically Acclaimed Horror Film of the 2010s or Your Ph.D. Program? [McSweeney’s]

“A powerful elder, known to you as The Director, explains that you and your friends must take part in a time-honored rite to appease the Ancient Ones.”

📚 9) A Novel Concept: Silent Book Clubs Offer Introverts A Space To Socialize [NPR]

“The concept is simple yet revolutionary: Members meet up at a bar, a library, a bookstore or any venue that will host them. Once the bell rings, silent reading time commences. After an hour, the bell rings again. Other than that, there are no rules.”

🐶 10) Carry me hooman [Reddit]

💡 Quote of the week:

“The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.” – Vladimir Nabokov

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

AI Startup Boom Raises Questions of Exaggerated Tech Savvy

engineerai

That’s the headline on my most recent story, which I wrote with my colleague Parmy Olson. It went online yesterday and is in today’s print WSJ.

It begins:

Startup Engineer.ai says it uses artificial-intelligence technology to largely automate the development of mobile apps, but several current and former employees say the company exaggerates its AI capabilities to attract customers and investors.

The competing claims reflect a growing challenge in the tech world of assessing a company’s proficiency in artificial intelligence, which refers to technologies that can allow computers to learn or perform tasks typically requiring human decision makers—in many cases helping companies save money or better target consumers.

Because AI technology is complex and loosely defined, nonexperts can find it hard to discern when it is being deployed. Still, money is flowing into the sector, and many startups can say they use AI as a way to lure investments or corporate clients even when such claims are difficult to vet.

Click through to read the rest.

The story was picked up by popular tech news outlets The Information, The Verge, and The Next Web, and on news forums such as Slashdot and Hacker News

Parmy and I were also on the WSJ Tech News podcast, in which we discussed the story with host
Kim Gittleson. You can listen online here, or in your favorite podcast app.

Newley’s Notes 186: RIP Toni M. and David B.; Skype Snooping; Vegetarian Butchers; Adorable Bomb Dogs

2019-08-13landscape

The latest edition of my email newsletter has gone out to subscribers. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief – and few people unsubscribe!

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

😢 1) Two remarkable artists passed away this week. The first: Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison Dies at 88 [WSJ]

“Toni Morrison, a literary lion whose narrative voice soared from deep tenderness to searing power in ‘Beloved,’ ‘Song of Solomon’ and other novels, died Monday night in New York, her publisher Alfred A. Knopf said. She was 88 years old.”

✒️ Bonus link: An Appreciation: Toni Morrison and the Need for Tomorrows [WSJ]

“Toni Morrison liked to note, when importunate interviewers wondered when she was going to write about something other than the African-American experience, that Tolstoy didn’t intend his books to be read by black girls from Ohio. Her point was that notion of universalism is fraudulent. To be a writer of any worth one must be a regionalist.”

😔 2) And the second: David Berman, Silver Jews Leader and Indie-Rock Poet, Dies at 52 [New York Times]

“With wry songs full of black humor, his band became an underground favorite in the 1990s, and a new group, Purple Mountains, was set to tour.”

🎵 Bonus link: “By sharing his stories of characters at the margins who laugh into the void,” The WSJ’s Mark Richardson wrote in a review of Berman’s newest album, released just last month, “he makes life’s absurdities seem less menacing, and existential loneliness becomes a setup for a punchline.”

🖥️ 3) The Techlash Has Come to Stanford [Slate]

“Even in the famed computer science program, students are no longer sure they’d go to work for Facebook or Google (and definitely not Palantir).”

👂 4) Revealed: Microsoft Contractors Are Listening to Some Skype Calls [Vice/Motherboard]

“Contractors working for Microsoft are listening to personal conversations of Skype users conducted through the app’s translation service, according to a cache of internal documents, screenshots, and audio recordings obtained by Motherboard. ”

⌨️ 5) The Lonely Work of Moderating Hacker News [New Yorker]

“Can a human touch make Silicon Valley’s biggest discussion forum a more thoughtful place?”

🏠 6) This startup wants to put a free tiny house in your backyard [Fast Company]

“Rent the Backyard will get a tiny house into your backyard in a matter of weeks – and hopes it can add some cheaper apartments in cities to help alleviate the housing crisis. ”

🥩 7) The Vegetarians Who Turned Into Butchers [New York Times]

“Referring to themselves as ethical butchers, they have opened shops that offer meat from animals bred on grassland and pasture, with animal well-being, environmental conservation and less wasteful whole-animal butchery as their primary goals.”"

🎉 8) Dazzling Color Photos of the Legendary Romanov Costume Ball of 1903 [The Vintage News]

“Outside the Winter Palace, the social pressures that would hurl the country into revolution were intensifying, but 14 years before the forced abdication of Czar Nicolas II, the society of St. Petersburg put on quite a show, dubbed by many Europe’s ‘last great royal ball’.”

🛎️ 9) You Can Actually Stay In These Giant Animal-Themed Hotels [The Dodo]

“While many animal lovers will try to find activities that are centered around animals, there’s actually a way to take your obsession to the next level…”

🐶 10) “Oh this is precious.. bomb squad dog got a break from work for a min.” [Twitter: @TheSolutionBaba]

💡 Quote of the week:

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” – Toni Morrison.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley