With a few small changes, Project Fi could become unstoppable.
When Google launched Project Fi in April 2015, I signed up for the service as fast as I possibly could. I ordered the starter kit for my Nexus 6 and loved the added benefits, but ultimately went back to my previous service provider after the first month.
Project Fi gets a lot of things right. Its mobile app is wonderfully designed and easy to use, the billing process is dead simple, roaming in other countries is second to none, and support from three different networks (Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular) provides coverage unlike any other competitor out there.
However, as great as these features are, there are still aspects of Project Fi that hold me back from canceling my T-Mobile subscription. I really, really want to embrace Project Fi with open arms, but there are a few things that need to change before I can commit.
A cheaper plan
One of my biggest complaints about Project Fi is its pricing — specifically the rate of $10 per GB that you use. I understand that one of the big draws to Fi is that it helps you seamlessly connect to Wi-Fi networks whenever they’re available, but there are still times where you just need to use a lot of data.
Project Fi recently made a big upgrade to the way data is handled by only charging you that $10/GB rate for the first 6GB, with the rest of your data after that offered for free — effectively turning it into an $80/month setup for unlimited everything.
This is a big step in the right direction, but it can still be rather costly.
I’d ideally like to see data dropped to around $5 per GB, or alternatively, Google change its handling of the Fi Basics of unlimited calls/texts at $20/month by either including it for free or cutting it down to $15 or $10.
Better support for multiple lines
Project Fi’s pricing in its current state isn’t terrible for people on their own, but once you start adding more and more lines, that’s where things start to really add up.
Project Fi just doesn’t make sense if you have multiple lines that use a lot of data.
Additional lines beyond your first one cost $15/month for the Fi Basics instead of the regular $20, and while that small discount is greatly appreciated, is still nowhere near as competitive as what other carriers offer.
As a quick example, I pay $155/month for five lines on T-Mobile. On Project Fi with the same data usage for each line with my last bill, it would have come out to $275 plus any additional taxes and fees.
T-Mobile offers considerably steeper discounts as you add more and more lines to your account and often runs promotions that include lines for free when signing up for the first time.
This is something that Project Fi needs to get better at. It’s taken steps in the right direction to get there, but we’re still a ways off before Fi is a viable option for more than one or two people.
Over the last couple years, we’ve seen U.S. carriers go beyond good service and affordable prices to entice new customers and retain existing ones. T-Mobile gives its subscribers free goodies each week with T-Mobile Tuesdays and includes Netflix with all plans, Verizon Up rewards customers with regular perks and partner discounts, Sprint plans come with a free Hulu subscription, etc.
At this time, Project Fi doesn’t offer anything along these lines.
Google has the potential to make Fi really exciting by giving its customers free YouTube Premium plans, discounts on YouTube TV, and other incentives.
People love getting stuff for free, and Google’s got enough services and tools under its belt to do something like this.
If Google can make those three changes to Project Fi, it’s got potential to quickly become a fierce competitor in the phone service game.
What Project Fi currently offers works really, really well. If Google can figure out how to make the experience a bit more affordable, more accessible to families, and give people a reason to stay with small incentives/perks, joining will be a no-brainer for anyone that’s got a supported Project Fi phone.
What do you think? What things would you like to see changed to Project Fi or is it already a good deal as is?
What is Project Fi, how does it work, and why do I want it?
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If you thought Facebook was finally escaping the limelight following its big Cambridge Analytica scandal, think again. A new report from The New York Times recently emerged, claiming that Facebook has been sharing its users’ data with at least 60 smartphone OEMs over the past 10 years.
According to The New York Times —
Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books.
Although Facebook reportedly began to end these partnerships this past April, most of them are still alive to this very day. Facebook views these partnerships as “extensions of Facebook” and says “they knew of no cases where the information had been misused.”
According to Facebook Vice President Ime Archibong, “these partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform” and aren’t similar to the way certain apps/games can gain access to your account information.
However, upon seeing what these “partnerships” are really capable of, The New York Times connected one of their reporter’s Facebook accounts to a 2013 BlackBerry phone via the Hub app. Upon doing so —
Immediately after the reporter connected the device to his Facebook account, it requested some of his profile data, including user ID, name, picture, “about” information, location, email and cellphone number. The device then retrieved the reporter’s private messages and the responses to them, along with the name and user ID of each person with whom he was communicating.
The New York Times discovered that the BlackBerry phone “was also able to retrieve identifying information for nearly 295,000 Facebook users” and that “Facebook empowers BlackBerry devices to access more than 50 types of information about users and their friends.”
While encouraging to know that these partnerships are in the process of being laid to rest, it is troubling to know that something like this even existed in the first place. What’s your hot take on this?
How to check if your Facebook info was accessed by Cambridge Analytica
YouTube is taking the reins for Google’s music strategy — and Early Access is available now.
Google’s music strategy has been fractured and confusing and falling behind for years, with Google Play Music being treated like an orange-haired stepchild, YouTube Music being ignored by some users and unheard of by the rest, and YouTube being a place where people of all kinds come to listen to music — both legitimately uploaded and not-so-much.
Google’s been amassing a new team to take on the music industry, from streaming competitors like Spotify to the record labels that control what music can appear on what platforms and how.
We’ve been waiting months for the shoe to drop and Google to reveal its new strategy, and now we know what that new direction looks like. YouTube Red is dead, and it’s being replaced by YouTube Music and YouTube Premium.
May 23, 2018 — Your locally owned songs from Google Play Music will transfer over to YouTube Music
Google wants all of its Play Music subscribers to migrate over to YouTube Music at some point in 2019, and to help make that process as seamless as possible, the company’s confirmed that some of Play Music’s best features will be coming to the new YouTube Music — the biggest of which is a music locker for storing copies of song you locally own.
This news was recently confirmed by Google to The Verge, with the Head of YouTube Music saying on Twitter that “Your collection, playlists and preferences from Google Play Music will be preserved at migrated to YouTube music for a soft landing.”
In addition to having a place to store music you already own, YouTube Music will eventually allow you to buy new songs that you can add to your collection.
May 22, 2018 — The new YouTube Music is officially here!
Just like we expected, YouTube Music’s new app and desktop site officially started rolling out on May 22. Google says the new look is currently in “early access” and is gradually becoming available for folks in the U.S., Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea.
To access YouTube Music, you can download the app from the Play Store or hit up the desktop site at music.youtube.com. If you’re not seeing the changes quite yet, be sure to check back frequently to know when you’ve been graced with Google’s good wishes.
The service starts at $9.99/month
Similar to every other streaming service, the new YouTube Music will offer a paid subscription of $9.99/month. For that price, you’ll get an ad-free experience when listening to your tunes, can have music videos play in the background, and download songs for offline listening.
The big difference with Google’s new plan, however, is that all of the non-music features included with YouTube Red will now cost extra.
For $11.99/month, you can subscribe to YouTube Premium and get all of the above features in addition to ad-free videos, the ability to play videos in the background and download them for offline viewing, and access to the growing collection of YouTube Original programming.
Existing YouTube Red subscribers are grandfathered into the old plan
Having to pay more for the same features is never an exciting proposition, but Google’s made sure to cater to those that are already subscribed to YouTube Red/Google Play Music.
If you’ve been a paying member for some time or sign up for the current service before the new YouTube Music + YouTube Premium changes take hold, you’ll be able to get all of the YouTube Premium perks for just $9.99/month instead of $11.99.
All-new apps are coming to mobile and desktop
If you’re already using YouTube Music, you’ll notice some big changes coming to the user interface. A “reimagined mobile app” is in the works, as is a brand-new desktop site. According to The Verge, both of these have been “designed specifically for music.”
Similar to what’s already offered in Play Music, Google will use AI to recommend songs and playlists based on where you’re at and what you’re doing. If YouTube Music detects you’re at the gym, it’ll suggest music to listen to that’ll help keep you moving. If it’s late at night and you’re home, you might be offered calm songs for unwinding.
There will be a bigger focus on YouTube Originals
YouTube Originals have paled in comparison to programming made by the likes of Hulu and Netflix, but this is another area Google’s hoping to improve.
It’s promised that YouTube Originals will offer “bigger original series and movies” spanning the genres of action adventure, drama, comedy, and reality shows. Along with the U.S., YouTube Originals will also feature content from the UK, Mexico, France, Germany, and others.
What’s happening to Play Music?
All of this is great, but what in the world is happening to Google Play Music? YouTube’s announcement says “if you use Google Play Music, nothing will change — you’ll still be able to access all of your purchased music, uploads and playlists in Google Play Music just like always.” However, I wouldn’t expect things to stay that way forever.
Google clearly wants YouTube Music to be the face that takes on Spotify and Apple Music, and having another service lying around that offers so many overlapping features will only create for continued confusion.
Play Music needs to be laid to rest in order for Google’s efforts with YouTube Music to truly pay off, and while that may not happen soon, I wouldn’t expect Play Music to still be kicking in a year’s time.
A mixtape full of promise
YouTube Music is built on a gold mine. YouTube is not only the most used video platform in the world, it might be the biggest catalog of professional, semi-professional, and amateur music available in the world. This isn’t the first time Google has tried to capitalize on this, but this time is different. They have gotten their act together and made us all a mixtape full of promises.
But can they follow through on them?
YouTube Music review: A mixtape full of promise
YouTube Music is an adjustment from traditional music services — especially because it is based around video rather than audio — but thanks to the Google’s search prowess and downright uncanny predictions and recommendations, getting used to Google’s newest music service should be as painless as possible. And since it’s built around years of your YouTube history, YouTube Music already knows you better than you think.
Getting started with YouTube Music
Networks fail. Your plane says it’s going to have Wi-Fi, but nope. You get stuck in the car with your parents in the middle of nowhere, and you’re outside cell range, and the radio stations are nothing but static and muffled AM country. Having music to listen to when you offline is important, and when the music service you’re using is based around video — which eats data like nobody’s business — how you save your music for offline playback is even more important.
How to download music for offline playback in YouTube Music
Making the most of things
YouTube Music is “Early Access” right now, which means the service is essentially a beta and it is definitely buggy. While time and updates will fix some of those bugs, there are some things you can do to make the most of its current state.
6 tips and tricks for using YouTube Music
Can it dethrone Spotify?
Spotify has spent the last decade building up a loyal user base, building algorithms that few companies can even begin to touch, and building up a reputation as the best brand in streaming music. YouTube, however, is one of the most used sites on the internet, period, a selection you can’t find anywhere else — a selection that will be absolutely unbeatable in the future — and Google is bringing its best algorithmic game with YouTube Music.
It’s still early days, but YouTube Music will be enough to dethrone Spotify soon?
YouTube Music vs Spotify
Don’t overpay for it
There’s no real sugar-coating it: using YouTube Music as a free user on Android is crap. There are ads every 3-6 songs and you can’t leave the now playing screen, so it hogs your screen and your battery. YouTube Music is worlds better when you unlock its paid features. YouTube Premium is absolutely worth paying for.
YouTube Music Premium, however, is not.
For the love of Duarte, don’t buy YouTube Music Premium
Updated June 2018: We have expanded this guide to include links to the YouTube Music guides and how-to content since Early Access launched.
The consumer group that took Samsung to court wants it to update phones for 4 years.
In the world of Android updates, Samsung’s one of the worst in regards to sending security patches and big system upgrades to its phones in a timely manner. Consumer group Consumentenbond recently took the OEM to court in the Netherlands asking that it update its Android phones for a minimum of 4 years after release, but the court ended up ruling in Samsung’s favor.
As it stands right now, Samsung promises its Netherlands consumers 2 years of software updates following the launch of a phone. This guarantee is readily available at the very top of Samsung’s Dutch website and Samsung says that it releases updates within a “reasonable” amount of time.
Although having 4 years of guaranteed software support would be a welcome change, this isn’t something Samsung will have to commit to. The court said that Consumentenbound’s demands were “inadmissible” as it’s impossible to determine what sort of bugs or software patches may pop up in the future.
Consumentenbound says that the ruling is “disappointing” but also notes that “during the legal procedure, Samsung has taken steps to provide consumers with better information.”
Companies like Google already offer 3 years of guaranteed updates for its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones, and while Samsung may not be committing to similar support quite yet, this could be a small stepping stone in that direction.
Samsung Galaxy S9 second opinion review: A battery short of perfection
It’s time to get some pearly whites.
As part of its Gold Box deals of the day, Amazon has the Oral-B Genius Pro 8000 rechargeable toothbrush on sale for just $94.99, which is the lowest it’s ever sold for. Lately, it sells for around $150, but in the past, it’s sold for over $200, and at Black Friday it only dropped to $115. So, what does a nearly $100 toothbrush do for you that the $5 grocery store one won’t?
Well, it connects to your smartphone to enable Position Detection. This uses facial recognition to help you know where you’ve brushed and where you haven’t, ensuring you never miss an area of your mouth. It also has a customizable SmartRing which provides real-time visual coaching on brush time and more, along with pressure sensor technology to help you avoid going a bit too hard on your gums. There are 6 different cleaning modes, including Daily Clean, Gum Care, Sensitive, Whitening, Tongue Cleaning and Pro-Clean Mode.
It comes with a Smart Travel Case that allows you to not only keep your toothbrush charged, but also your phone. If you’d like to take better care of your teeth, this is one of the best ways to do it without going broke. Be sure to also pick up some extra brush heads.
The shortcut’s also available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Updated June 4, 2018: First spotted by François Beaufort on Google+, this emoji shortcut is now available in the regular version of Google Chrome (non-Canary) within the Developer Channel. To enable it, enter the same “chrome://flags/#enable-emoji-context-menu” command.
If you own a Chromebook, chances are you’ve been infuriated at one point or another when trying to add an emoji to Twitter, Hangouts, an email, etc. You can technically do so by opening up the on-screen keyboard, but the process is cumbersome and not a great solution by any stretch of the imagination.
However, in the latest version of Chrome Canary, you’ll find a new shortcut that allows you to add emojis to your conversations with just a couple clicks.
Spotted by 9to5Google, this new feature is referred to as the Emoji Context Menu and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux in addition to Chrome OS.
Assuming you’ve already got Chrome Canary, you’ll need to turn on the feature by going to chrome://flags, search for “emoji”, and then enable chrome://flags/#enable-emoji-context-menu.
Once this is done, you can add emojis by right-clicking inside a text-entry field and selecting the new “Emojis” option.
It’ll probably be a few weeks before this feature makes its way to the stable version of Chrome, but even so, it’s plenty exciting to know that something like this is in the works.
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Well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has returned today with his first Apple-related research note for his new firm TF International Securities. According to Kuo, Apple’s pricing strategy will be “more aggressive” for the three iPhones rumored for September 2018, an effort to boost shipments of the models this year.
Renders of the 2018 iPhones
One of the main reasons Kuo says is behind the aggressive pricing strategy is Apple’s “concern over the negative impact of a higher price” for its 2018 iPhones. Last year, the company received some blowback on the top-tier pricing of its iPhone X, which began at $999 in the United States for 64GB.
Now, Kuo states that the 6.5-inch OLED “iPhone X Plus” will be $900-$1,000, the second generation OLED iPhone X will be $800-$900, and the new 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will be $600-$700. Kuo reiterates that all 2018 iPhones will have a full-screen design and Face ID. The analyst also outlined more reasons behind Apple’s new pricing strategy:
We forecast that Apple will adopt a more aggressive price policy for the following reasons: (1) concern over the negative impact of a higher price in a mature smartphone market on selling momentum, (2) improved cost structure, which is mainly attributed to assembly yield improvements of end product & 3D sensing and cost reduction of components, and (3) increasing users of Face ID benefiting the promotion of the Apple service and ecosystem.
Secondly, Kuo believes that Apple will announce all three new iPhone models at an event in September. Furthermore, all three iPhones will launch in September, including the LCD model which some reports have previously pegged for a November debut.
This is Kuo’s first research note since departing KGI Securities in April. At the time, it was believed he would lessen his focus on Apple to look at other emerging industries, but it seems we can still expect reports on Apple and its supply chain from Kuo.
Related Roundup: 2018 iPhonesTag: Ming-Chi Kuo
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Apple’s WWDC keynote will be kicking off at 10:00 am Pacific Time today, and as is tradition, some MacRumors readers who can’t follow the event live are interested in avoiding all of the announcements and waiting until Apple posts the recorded video of the event so as to experience it without already knowing the outcome.
For those individuals, we’ve posted this news story, which will be updated with a direct link to the presentation once it becomes available from Apple. No other news stories or announcements will be displayed alongside this story.
Apple has become quicker about making event videos available for replay over the past several years, and videos are now frequently available within an hour of an event’s conclusion.
Users waiting for the video to be posted are welcome to gather in the thread associated with this news story, and we ask that those who follow the events refrain from making any posts about Apple’s announcements in this thread.
Related Roundup: WWDC 2018
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New Report Claims Facebook Gave Apple, Samsung, and Other Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends
Facebook forged an agreement with at least 60 device makers including Apple and Samsung to provide access to large swathes of user data without explicit consent, in a move that may have violated a 2011 Federal Trade Commission consent decree.
According to a lengthy report in The New York Times, the social network made the deals so that device makers could use APIs to include Facebook messaging functions, “Like” buttons, address books, and other features without requiring users to install a separate app. The deals were reportedly made over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones.
Most of the partnerships remain in effect, though Facebook began winding them down in April. However, in a recent test conducted by NYT on a 2013 Blackberry device, using a reporter’s Facebook account, an app called “The Hub” was still able to harvest details on 558 of his friends, including their political and religious views. Not only that, the app was also able to access “identifying information” on 294,258 friends of his friends.
Facebook has hit back against the claims in the report. In a blog post titled “Why We Disagree with The New York Times”, the company said it created the APIs for device makers so that they could provide Facebook features on operating systems before apps or app stores where available.
Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go. These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences. Partners could not integrate the user’s Facebook features with their devices without the user’s permission. And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built. Contrary to claims by the New York Times, friends’ information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends. We are not aware of any abuse by these companies.
Facebook came under major scrutiny in March following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the data of 50 million users was misused in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since testified in front of congress in an attempt to answer questions about Facebook’s handling of user data.
The social networking giant is already facing an ongoing investigation by the FTC, which is looking into whether Facebook violated an agreement reached with the agency in 2011. The FTC investigation was launched when it found that Facebook had told users that third-party apps on the social media site wouldn’t be allowed to access their data, when in fact they were able to obtain almost all personal information about a user.
Tags: Facebook, privacy
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Drone videographers Duncan Sinfield and Matthew Roberts each uploaded new videos to their YouTube channels over the past day, covering the latest views of Apple Park from the sky. The videos come a few hours ahead of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which is happening about 8 miles to the east of Apple Park at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose.
Image via Matthew Roberts/Maverick Imagery
In Cupertino, the company’s ringed campus “continues to evolve,” according to Sinfield. For June 2018, this means that around 9,000 trees have now been permanently planted around the campus, employees are continuing to relocate onto the site “every week,” and cleaning crews are working twenty-four hours a day to maintain the central spaceship building and the structures surrounding it, “including washing the window shades at least once per week.”
At around the two minute mark in his video, Sinfield spots a few Apple Park workers doing just that.
Roberts also catches a few workers cleaning the window shades in the central courtyard of the spaceship building, pointing out that he has seen “notable changes” in the “amount of detail paid to keeping the spaceship clean” and in the expansion of greenery around the campus. Otherwise, Roberts catches nice glimpses into Apple Park’s main atrium, the employees’ outdoor activity area with basketball courts, and the stairs that lead down into the underground portion of the Steve Jobs Theater.
Drone video updates from videographers like Sinfield and Roberts have become slightly less frequent as Apple Park finally ends construction after beginning just over four years ago in December 2013. Additionally, in April 2018 Sinfield said that it has become increasingly difficult to fly his drones over the campus due to increased security, believing it’s “only a matter of time until the campus becomes shut-off to drones completely.”
In the summer of 2017, multiple reports emerged about Apple Park security’s first efforts at stopping drone pilots from accessing the airspace above the campus. Despite those attempts, drone update videos kept being uploaded to YouTube by multiple videographers, mainly including Sinfield and Roberts. Apple’s renewed anti-drone efforts in the spring of 2018 appear to have been a bit more strict, however, and followed a leaked memo from the company that warned employees against leaking details about future devices to the media.
Tag: Apple Park
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