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Apple preps iPhone 11, but potential upgrade cycle remains a mystery



About a third of Apple’s 900 million active iPhones are likely to be upgraded in the next 12 to 18 months, according to Wedbush Securities. The big question is whether Apple customers buy the iPhone 11 or wait for a 5G device in 2020. 

And that question is a big one as Apple holds its iPhone launch event and innovation showcase. At the event, it is widely expected that Apple will unveil three new iPhones including a Pro version that will have triple cameras. What is likely missing is a 5G iPhone.

In other words, expectations for Apple’s new iPhones are pretty low. It’s a gap year for smartphones and 5G is a big reason why. Whether it’s Samsung, Apple or any other smartphone maker, tech buyers are likely to hold out for compatibility with the latest network. In addition, high prices for premium devices are stretching out the upgrade cycle.

Meanwhile, it’s telling that there are as many leaks about the 2020 iPhone as the devices that will be unveiled Sept. 10.

So is anyone going to buy the new iPhones? Sure. The actual numbers, however, remain a mystery. Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a research note:

With roughly 1/3 of the company’s 900 million active iPhones globally currently in a “window of an upgrade opportunity” over the next 12 to 18 months Cook & Co. recognize this will be a crucial product cycle on the horizon that we believe could translate into roughly 180 million iPhone units sold in FY20. Based on our recent Asia checks, we believe Apple’s supply chain is planning on 75 million units for the initial iPhone 11 launch period, which is a slight uptick vs. its prior iPhone cycle last fall. We note there is capacity in the supply chain to bring this launch period unit range production up to 80 million iPhones depending on the level of pent up demand/ pre-order activity starting in mid September.

Ives added that there may be 60 million to 70 million Chinese consumers due for an upgrade. The catch here is that China consumers may opt for Huawei devices or switch away from Apple.

Prices range from $749 to $999 to $1,099 for the base iPhone to iPhone 11 Pro to iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Whether CEO Tim Cook gets the upgrade cycle he wants will depend on a few variables. These moving parts include:

  • How long consumers can hold out. Smartphones are being stretched out for about 30 months before being upgraded. In fact, if your device isn’t broken chances are you’re going to keep it. Higher price points also encourage consumers to wait a bit longer. There’s always a better phone coming and the logic behind waiting is stronger now than ever.
  • Smartphone fatigue. I’ve been testing the Samsung Note 10 and other midrange devices. The common thread is that I get bored. There’s just not a lot of new there.
  • Camera improvements aren’t the upgrade excuse they used to be. Apple will get on the triple camera lines bandwagon for its iPhone Pro 11 and editing featured are rumored to be strong. The issue: Camera upgrades have reached the point of diminishing returns.
  • It’s quite possible that the iPhones are upstaged by Apple’s other products such as Air Pods and Apple Watch.

In the end, any consternation about Apple’s latest iPhone upgrade cycle is likely to be misplaced. As long as Apple holds its installed base and sells services, the company will be fine assuming customers stay on the platform.

We’ll leave you with Cook’s comments on Apple’s July earnings conference call for a bit of installed base perspective.

Installed base is a function of upgrades and the time between those. It’s a function of the number of switchers coming into the iOS, macOS and so forth. It’s a function of the robustness of the secondary market, which we think overwhelmingly hits incremental customer. And it’s a function still in the emerging markets and somewhat developed markets, to a lesser degree, of people new that — they’re buying their first smartphone. There are still quite a few people in the world in that category.

And the reason that the installed base doesn’t correlate to the 90-day clock is that what’s happening underneath the numbers is switchers are still a very key piece of what’s going on. The secondary market is very key, and we’re doing programs, et cetera, to try to increase that because we think we’d wind up hitting a customer that we don’t hit in another way. And the upgrades, where people are holding on to their device a bit longer than they were, they’re staying in the ecosystem. And then you have the people in the new category as well. And so that’s sort of the equation.

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TikTok calls in outside help with content moderation in Europe – TechCrunch



TikTok is bringing in external experts in Europe in fields such as child safety, young people’s mental health and extremism to form a Safety Advisory Council to help it with content moderation in the region.

The move, announced today, follows an emergency intervention by Italy’s data protection authority in January — which ordered TikTok to block users it cannot age verify after the death of a girl who was reported by local media to have died of asphyxiation as a result of participating in a black out challenge on the video sharing platform.

The social media platform has also been targeted by a series of coordinated complaints by EU consumer protection agencies, which put out two reports last month detailing a number of alleged breaches of the bloc’s consumer protection and privacy rules — including child safety-specific concerns.

“We are always reviewing our existing features and policies, and innovating to take bold new measures to prioritise safety,” TikTok writes today, putting a positive spin on needing to improve safety on its platform in the region.

“The Council will bring together leaders from academia and civil society from all around Europe. Each member brings a different, fresh perspective on the challenges we face and members will provide subject matter expertise as they advise on our content moderation policies and practices. Not only will they support us in developing forward-looking policies that address the challenges we face today, they will also help us to identify emerging issues that affect TikTok and our community in the future.”

It’s not the first such advisory body TikTok has launched. A year ago it announced a US Safety Advisory Council, after coming under scrutiny from US lawmakers concerned about the spread of election disinformation and wider data security issues, including accusations the Chinese-owned app was engaging in censorship at the behest of the Chinese government.

But the initial appointees to TikTok’s European content moderation advisory body suggest its regional focus is more firmly on child safety/young people’s mental health and extremism and hate speech, reflecting some of the main areas where it’s come under the most scrutiny from European lawmakers, regulators and civil society so far.

TikTok has appointed nine individuals to its European Council (listed here) — initially bringing in external expertise in anti-bullying, youth mental health and digital parenting; online child sexual exploitation/abuse; extremism and deradicalization; anti-bias/discrimination and hate crimes — a cohort it says it will expand as it adds more members to the body (“from more countries and different areas of expertise to support us in the future”).

TikTok is also likely to have an eye on new pan-EU regulation that’s coming down the pipe for platforms operating in the region.

EU lawmakers recently put forward a legislative proposal that aims to dial up accountability for digital service providers over the content they push and monetize. The Digital Services Act, which is currently in draft, going through the bloc’s co-legislative process, will regulate how a wide range of platforms must act to remove explicitly illegal content (such as hate speech and child sexual exploitation).

The Commission’s DSA proposal avoided setting specific rules for platforms to tackle a broader array of harms — such as issues like youth mental health — which, by contrast, the UK is proposing to address in its plan to regulate social media (aka the Online Safety bill). However the planned legislation is intended to drive accountability around digital services in a variety of ways.

For example, it contains provisions that would require larger platforms — a category TikTok would most likely fall into — to provide data to external researchers so they can study the societal impacts of services. It’s not hard to imagine that provision leading to some head-turning (independent) research into the mental health impacts of attention-grabbing services. So the prospect is platforms’ own data could end up translating into negative PR for their services — i.e. if they’re shown to be failing to create a safe environment for users.

Ahead of that oversight regime coming in, platforms have increased incentive to up their outreach to civil society in Europe so they’re in a better position to skate to where the puck is headed.


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Facebook will pay $650 million to settle class action suit centered on Illinois privacy law – TechCrunch



Facebook was ordered to pay $650 million Friday for running afoul of an Illinois law designed to protect the state’s residents from invasive privacy practices.

That law, the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), is a powerful state measure that’s tripped up tech companies in recent years. The suit against Facebook was first filed in 2015, alleging that Facebook’s practice of tagging people in photos using facial recognition without their consent violated state law.

Indeed, 1.6 million Illinois residents will receive at least $345 under the final settlement ruling in California federal court. The final number is $100 million higher than the $550 million Facebook proposed in 2020, which a judge deemed inadequate. Facebook disabled the automatic facial recognition tagging features in 2019, making it opt-in instead and addressing some of the privacy criticisms echoed by the Illinois class action suit.

A cluster of lawsuits accused Microsoft, Google and Amazon of breaking the same law last year after Illinois residents’ faces were used to train their facial recognition systems without explicit consent.

The Illinois privacy law has tangled up some of tech’s giants, but BIPA has even more potential to impact smaller companies with questionable privacy practices. The controversial facial recognition software company Clearview AI now faces its own BIPA-based class action lawsuit in the state after the company failed to dodge the suit by pushing it out of state courts.

A $650 million settlement would be enough to crush any normal company, though Facebook can brush it off much like it did with the FTC’s record-setting $5 billion penalty in 2019. But the Illinois law isn’t without teeth. For Clearview, it was enough to make the company pull out of business in the state altogether.

The law can’t punish a behemoth like Facebook in the same way, but it is one piece in a regulatory puzzle that poses an increasing threat to the way tech’s data brokers have done business for years. With regulators at the federal, state and legislative level proposing aggressive measures to rein in tech, the landmark Illinois law provides a compelling framework that other states could copy and paste. And if big tech thinks navigating federal oversight will be a nightmare, a patchwork of aggressive state laws governing how tech companies do business on a state-by-state basis is an alternate regulatory future that could prove even less palatable.


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Twitter rolls out vaccine misinformation warning labels and a strike-based system for violations – TechCrunch



Twitter announced Monday that it would begin injecting new labels into users’ timelines to push back against misinformation that could disrupt the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. The labels, which will also appear as pop-up messages in the retweet window, are the company’s latest product experiment designed to shape behavior on the platform for the better.

The company will attach notices to tweeted misinformation warning users that the content “may be misleading” and linking out to vetted public health information. These initial vaccine misinformation sweeps, which begin today, will be conducted by human moderators at Twitter and not automated moderation systems.

Twitter says the goal is to use these initial determinations to train its AI systems so that down the road a blend of human and automated efforts will scan the site for vaccine misinformation. The latest misinformation measure will target tweets in English before expanding.

Twitter also introduced a new strike system for violations of its pandemic-related rules. The new system is modeled after a set of consequences it implemented for voter suppression and voting-related misinformation. Within that framework, a user with two or three “strikes” faces a 12-hour account lockout. With four violations, they lose account access for one week, with permanent suspension looming after five strikes.

Twitter introduced its first pandemic-specific policies a year ago, banning tweets promoting false treatment or prevention claims along with any content that could put people at higher risk of spreading COVID-19. In December, Twitter added new rules focused on popular vaccine conspiracy theories and announced that warning labels were on the way.

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