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Newley's Notes

Newley’s Notes 185: Facebook Branding; Alexa and Siri Concerns; Hungry Service Dogs

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

🔌 Last week I shared my most recent story, about the rising popularity of inexpensive “smart feature phones” in big emerging markets like India. The headline: The Hottest Phones for the Next Billion Users Aren’t Smartphones.

📱 I’m happy to say the story struck a chord. In addition to being teased with a graphic on the WSJ front page the day it ran, it was the most popular article on WSJ.com for some time.

The story was also picked up by popular tech news sites Slashdot (here) and Hacker News (here). And it’s been mentioned in two of my favorite tech newsletters, Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View (here) and in Benedict Evans’s weekly email (here).

Onward!

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

™️ 1) Facebook Shows Who’s Boss by Adding Its Name to Instagram, WhatsApp [WSJ]

“The branding change is the latest move by Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to stitch together Facebook’s family of apps, even as regulators scrutinize whether the company has acquired startups including Instagram and WhatsApp to stymie competitive threats, the Journal reported this week.”

🗣️ 2) The Man Who Built The Retweet: “We Handed A Loaded Weapon To 4-Year-Olds” [Buzzfeed News]

“’Only two or three times did someone ask a broader and more interesting social question, which was, ”What is getting shared?” Wetherell said. ‘That almost never came up.’"

🍎 Shot: 3) Apple halts practice of contractors listening in to users on Siri [The Guardian]

“Apple has suspended its practice of having human contractors listen to users’ Siri recordings to ‘grade’ them, following a Guardian report revealing the practice.”

🔉 Chaser: 4) Amazon Gives Option to Disable Human Review of Alexa Recordings [Bloomberg]

“Amazon.com Inc. will let Alexa users opt out of human review of their voice recordings, a move that follows criticism that the program violated customers’ privacy.”

🤳 5) Where Everyone’s an Influencer [The Atlantic]

“In recent years, more people have appended ‘influencer’ to their credentials, she said: model/DJs are now model/DJ/influencers. ‘[Social-media following is] sort of a default method of currency that at this point has been ingrained in our societal structures,’ she added.”

🤑 6) Economics-related story of the week: Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class [WSJ]

“The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle. Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.”

🎚️ 7) Inside Tokyo’s audiophile venues [Resident Advisor]

“With a rich network of sound-obsessed cafés, bars and small clubs, Aaron Coultate explains why Tokyo might be the best place in the world to listen to music.”

🆒 8) Every Noise at Once [EveryNoise.com]

“Every Noise at Once is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 3,295 genres by Spotify…”

⚾ 9) Fan Who Hit 96 on Stadium Radar Gun Signs MLB Contract [Sports Illustrated]

“A 23-year-old who hasn’t played competitive baseball since high school just landed a contract with the A’s, thanks mostly to the internet.”

🐶 10) Service dog needs Service [Reddit]

💡 Quote of the week:

“The perilous time for the most highly gifted is not youth…The perilous season is middle age, when a false wisdom tempts them to doubt the divine origin of the dreams of their youth…” – Elizabeth Peabody

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Categories
India Newley's Notes

Newley’s Notes 184: Smart-Enough Phones; Millionaire Gamers; Wearable ACs; Eager Pooches

2019 07 31abstract

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

🔌 My latest story, out last Tuesday and teased on the WSJ front page Wednesday: The Hottest Phones for the Next Billion Users Aren’t Smartphones. It begins:

NEW DELHI–The hottest phones for the world’s next billion users aren’t made by smartphone leaders Samsung Electronics Co. or Apple Inc. In fact, they aren’t even smartphones.

Millions of first-time internet consumers from the Ivory Coast to India and Indonesia are connecting to the web on a new breed of device that only costs about $25. The gadgets look like the inexpensive Nokia Corp. phones that were big about two decades ago. But these hybrid phones, fueled by inexpensive mobile data, provide some basic apps and internet access in addition to calling and texting.

As I mention in the story, as part of our reporting we spoke with a fruit vendor here in New Delhi who makes about $80 per month. He couldn’t afford even the cheapest smartphones, but is now online – streaming Bollywood music and watching movies with his family night – thanks to a “smart feature phone” that cost only about $20.

📱 Click through to read the rest.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🍎 1) Apple contractors ‘regularly hear confidential details’ on Siri recordings [The Guardian]

“Although Apple does not explicitly disclose it in its consumer-facing privacy documentation, a small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working for the company around the world.”

😳 2) The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge [New York/The Cut]

“A Harvard Law professor who teaches a class on judgment wouldn’t seem like an obvious mark, would he?

🤖 3) Tech-related longread of the week: The Hidden Costs of Automated Thinking [The New Yorker]

“In the past, intellectual debt has been confined to a few areas amenable to trial-and-error discovery, such as medicine. But that may be changing, as new techniques in artificial intelligence – specifically, machine learning – increase our collective intellectual credit line.”

🇭🇰 4) In Hong Kong Protests, Faces Become Weapons [New York Times]

“Hong Kong is at the bleeding edge of a significant change in the authorities’ ability to track dangerous criminals and legitimate political protesters alike – and in their targets’ ability to fight back.”

🏆 5) U.S. teen wins $3 million at video game tournament Fortnite World Cup [Reuters]

“Geirsdorf, 16, from Pennsylvania, was one of at least 100 players competing for $30 million in total prize money, as the booming popularity of video and online games has drawn top-dollar investments and fueled the emerging professional sport. ”

🌡️ 6) Sony’s Wearable Air Conditioner Should Be Ready for Next Year’s Heat Wave [Gizmodo]

“…Sony is crowdfunding a portable wearable air conditioner/heater so you can flip the bird to mother nature and live your best, climate-controlled life.”

💰 7) How Legal Marijuana Is Helping the Black Market [Politico]

“Expensive regulation and high demand across the country have made the illicit trade more profitable than going legit.”

⚒️ 8) Notre Dame Fire Revives Demand For Skilled Stone Carvers In France [NPR]

“In the workshops of the Hector Guimard high school, less than three miles from the cathedral, young stone carvers are training for that task.”

🍴 9) A Global Feast in an Unlikely Spot: Lancaster, Pa. [New York Times]

“This small city, best-known for its Amish and Mennonite communities, is a welcoming home for immigrants, refugees and their cooking.”

(Thanks, Jess!)

🎾 10) Hi! Can i interest you in a ball?!?! [Reddit]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day." – Charlie Munger

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👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

Categories
India Journalism Tech

The Hottest Phones for the Next Billion Users Aren’t Smartphones

smart feature phones

That’s the headline on my most recent story, which came out Tuesday.

It begins:

NEW DELHI—The hottest phones for the world’s next billion users aren’t made by smartphone leaders Samsung Electronics Co. or Apple Inc. In fact, they aren’t even smartphones.

Millions of first-time internet consumers from the Ivory Coast to India and Indonesia are connecting to the web on a new breed of device that only costs about $25. The gadgets look like the inexpensive Nokia Corp. phones that were big about two decades ago. But these hybrid phones, fueled by inexpensive mobile data, provide some basic apps and internet access in addition to calling and texting.

Smart feature phones, as they are known, are one of the mobile-phone industry’s fastest-growing and least-known segments, providing a simple way for some of the world’s poorest people to enter the internet economy.

While global smartphone sales began sliding last year as markets became saturated, smart feature phone shipments tripled to around 75 million from 2017, according to research firm Counterpoint. Some 84 million are likely to be shipped this year.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

The Internet Is Filling Up Because Indians Are Sending Millions of ‘Good Morning!’ Texts

Goodmorning 2018 01 23

That’s the headline of my newest story, an A-hed out yesterday.

It begins:

Google researchers in Silicon Valley were trying to figure out why so many smartphones were freezing up half a world away. One in three smartphone users in India run out of space on their phones daily.

The answer? Two words. “Good Morning!”

The glitch, Google discovered, was an overabundance of sun-dappled flowers, adorable toddlers, birds and sunsets sent along with a cheery message.

Millions of Indians are getting online for the first time—and they are filling up the internet. Many like nothing better than to begin the day by sending greetings from their phones. Starting before sunrise and reaching a crescendo before 8 a.m., internet newbies post millions of good-morning images to friends, family and strangers.

All that good cheer is driving a 10-fold increase in the number of Google searches for “Good Morning images” over the past five years. Pinterest, the San Francisco visual-search platform, added a new section to display images with quotes. It saw a ninefold increase over the past year in the number of people in India downloading such pictures.

Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging service—which has 200 million monthly active users in India, making the country its biggest market—added a status message last year so users could say good morning to all of their contacts at once.

The story, which is on the front page of Tuesdays print WSJ, seems to have touched a nerve. It’s been widely shared online, and has been among the most popular stories on WSJ.com since it was published.

Categories
Tech

U.S. Security Firm Identifies Android, iOS Spyware Targeting Hong Kong Protesters

That’s the subject of a story I wrote Friday:

A U.S. mobile security firm says it has uncovered smartphone spyware aimed at pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong that comes disguised as an app created by a community of socially minded programmers.

When activated, the Android app reveals the smartphone user’s geographical location, text messages, address book, emails and more, San Francisco-based Lacoon Mobile Security said this week.

Lacoon notes that a link to download the spyware began spreading via chats on the WhatsApp messaging app in recent weeks. Messages, which arrived from an unknown account, said “Check out this Android app designed by Code4HK for the coordination of Occupy Central!”

Clicking on an accompanying link infects users’ phones.

Click through to read the rest.