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Alibaba to invest $3.3B to bump its stake in logistics unit Cainiao – TechCrunch

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Alibaba is doubling down on its logistics affiliate Cainiao, two years after acquiring a majority stake in the firm. The Chinese giant said today it would invest an additional 23.3 billion yuan (about $3.33 billion) to raise its equity in Cainiao to 63% from 51%.

Cainiao was co-founded by Alibaba in 2013 to bring organization in Chinese logistics, particularly around e-commerce deliveries. And it has delivered: Today Cainiao powers a significant volume of Alibaba’s logistics needs in the nation.

The affiliate, which reported $680 million revenue in the quarter that ended in September, matches riders, deliveries and warehouses, underpinning the logistics side of e-commerce platforms Taobao and Tmall in the same way Alibaba underpins the payments side, analysts say.

Department store owner Intime Group, conglomerate Fosun Group, and a number of other logistics firms also own stakes in Cainiao.

In 2017, Alibaba bumped its stake in Cainiao to 51% from 47%, and at the time committed to spend more than 100 billion yuan ($14.3 billion) to expand the logistics business over five years.

The Chinese technology group has tightened its grip on the logistics sector in the nation in recent years. Earlier this year, the company purchased nearly 15% stake of STO Express. As of earlier this year, Alibaba also owned about 10% of ZTO, 11% of YTO, and 27.9% of Best Logistics.

Express delivery and logistics companies are crucial for e-commerce firms, Alibaba said last year. According to the firm, more than 50.7 billion parcels were distributed by e-commerce companies in the nation last year.

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Apple Back to School 2021 promo adds free AirPods to select iPad and Mac

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Apple has launched its new Back to School deals, and if you’ve been considering a new iPad or Mac for the classroom – either remote or in-person – you could get a treat for your ears, too. The Cupertino company is adding to its usual education discount with an AirPods promo, and a discount for Apple Care+.

There are actually seven new deals, all of which include a free set of AirPods. If you’re looking for a Mac, you can take your pick from Apple’s latest M1-powered models both portable and desktop.

The MacBook Air is priced from $899 under Apple’s education pricing, for example, or $73.91 per month for 12 months. The MacBook Pro 13-inch, meanwhile, starts at $1,199 for students, or $99.91 per month for 12 months.

As usual, there are bundles of software with educational pricing as well. The Pro Apps Bundle for Education – which includes Final Cut Pro, among other things – is $199.99, for instance.

If it’s your dorm room desktop that needs an upgrade, meanwhile, Apple has two options there. The new 24-inch iMac – using Apple Silicon – gets new education pricing, starting at $1,249, or $104.08 per month for 12 months. Again, you get a set of free AirPods. The Mac mini is included too, for $649, or $54.08 per month for 12 months.

Those who have a bigger budget – or bigger requirements – can also get education pricing on the Mac Pro. That starts at $5,599, or $466.58 per month for 12 months.

Over on the tablet side, there are two education deals arriving just in time to get going on iPadOS 15. If you want an iPad Air, that starts at $549 for students, or $45.75 per month for 12 months. The Apple Pencil 2nd generation is $119, while the Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Air is $159.

The new iPad Pro, meanwhile, will start at $749 for students, or $62.41 per month for 12 months. The iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard is from $279.

As for Apple Care+, education pricing knocks 20-percent off the cost of Apple’s extended warranty.

To quality for education pricing, you’ll need to be either a current or newly accepted college student, or the parent of such a student. Faculty, staff, and homeschool teachers of all grade levels also qualify, and there are discounts for other models in Apple’s range, albeit without the free AirPods deal.

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Leica Leitz Phone 1 wraps a hefty 20MP 1-inch camera in familiar design

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Leica has revealed a new smartphone, with the Leitz Phone 1 promising a hefty sensor for photography along with 5G capabilities. Although the camera company has co-branded smartphone cameras before now, the Leica Leitz Phone 1 takes a fairly atypical approach.

Where it’s common to find three or four sensors on most recent smartphones, regardless of price point, Leica’s handset takes a more focused approach. It has a single rear sensor, in fact, packing 20-megapixels.

What makes the difference is the sensor’s physical size: a full 1 inch, which is far larger than the primary camera on just about every other device out there. It has an f/1.9 ultra-wide, 19mm-equivalent lens, too. If you’ve been keeping track of recent photo-focused smartphone launches, that might sound familiar.

Indeed, Sharp announced its Aquos R6 back in May, and the 1-inch Summicron camera and lens system tallies with this Leica-branded phone. The big sensor is primarily being positioned as a foolproof way to get more light, of course, just as you’d expect from a regular camera. However there’ll also be what Leica is calling “Leitz Looks,” which are basically things like monochrome modes to edit images.

Unsurprisingly then, there’s a 12.6-megapixel selfie camera on the front of the Leitz Phone 1 as well. There’s also a 6.6-inch IGZO OLED screen with a 240Hz variable refresh rate, to trim motion blur, running at 2,730 x 1,260 resolution. An ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is under the display.

Also inside is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 5G chipset running Android 11, paired with 12GB of memory and 256GB of storage. There’s a microSD slot compatible with up to 1TB cards as well. In addition to 5G there’s WiFi 802.11ax and Bluetooth 5.2; a 5,000 mAh battery rounds out the key specs, and the whole thing is finished in an IP68 glass and metal shell.

What distinguishes the two phones – Sharp-branded and Leica-branded – really is the aesthetic. That’s an important factor in the photography world, where Leica’s cameras are known for their distinctive red dot. For the Leitz Phone 1, there’ll even be a special branded soft-case, and a Leica lens-cap to protect the sensor.

Softbank will be offering the Leica Leitz Phone 1 as an exclusive in Japan, priced at 187,920 yen ($1,714), and right now there’s no apparent plan to launch it outside of the country.

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Amazon’s fake reviews policy catches a popular charger brand

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Most who shop on Amazon check the reviews for a particular product to ensure it’s worth their hard-earned money. However, many who frequently shop on Amazon may not realize how rampant fake reviews are on the website. There are many brands who pay people who purchase their products for reviews, sometimes handing out gift cards to entice buyers to leave five-star reviews.

Naturally, Amazon has a policy against fake reviews. Some very popular makers of electronics and electronics accessories have recently been booted from Amazon for allegedly violating that policy. The most recent brand to fall afoul of Amazon’s fake review policy is called RavPower, a popular maker of phone batteries and chargers.

Amazon has confirmed that all RavPower products have been removed from its virtual store shelves. There has been no official word from Amazon on why it removed RavPower products. Over the weekend, a journalist from the Wall Street Journal named Nicole Nguyen posted to Twitter that a RavPower charger she purchased had a card inside promising a $35 gift card in exchange for a review.

While Amazon hasn’t confirmed that tweet is the reason the RavPower products were removed from its marketplace, the proximity to the tweet and the products removal seems clear. RavPower isn’t the first popular brand on Amazon to be removed from the store. Previously Aukey and Mpow were also removed from the Amazon storefront. While no specific reasons for the removal have been offered, it appears the fake review policy resulted in those products being eliminated.

While, as of writing, you can still find some Aukey products listed on Amazon. However, it appears that everything RavPower branded has been eliminated. It’s worth noting that fake reviews aren’t limited to electronics on Amazon. I purchased a pump spray bottle for oil to use for seasoning cast iron pans earlier this year based entirely on many five-star reviews. When the product came in, inside was a card offering a $10 gift card if I showed them I left a five-star review for a product that cost me about the same amount. Ordering a product based on lots of good reviews only to find the reviewers are being paid to leave those reviews is quite disturbing.

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