Apple several years back introduced something great for the iPad called the “Apple SIM,” which lets you pick a wireless provider from a menu in the Settings app of the iPad, without ever having to call the phone company or visit a store for activation.
That means it’s a real breeze to set up a new iPad. But when it goes bad, like when you reformat an iPad, the dream becomes a nightmare.
Last week, I re-formatted a recently purchased Apple iPad Pro, the 11-inch model, to free up space on the device. (Memo to self: I always end up needing more storage than is in the base configuration, no matter how much I store things in the cloud.)
I thought I would be back up and running in no time with my existing cellular plan, a “Sprint Mobile Broadband Pass” that I picked out on the iPad. When you reset the iPad, by choosing, “Erase All Content and Settings,” a little menu pops up asking if you’d like to preserve the cellular plan you’ve bought, which is what I chose.
Once the iPad was erased and came to life again, the Sprint connection was, indeed, still there, listed in the Cellular Data portion of Settings. Then I got a queasy feeling in my stomach: There was no service. The data connection wouldn’t connect to anything. A message would pop up in Safari telling me I was not subscribed to any data plans, despite the Sprint plan being listed as “active” in the Cellular Data section.
Also: WWDC 2019: What I want Apple to add to iOS 13 and the iPad Pro
I tried the usual methods: shutting off the iPad and turning it back on; installing a “carrier firmware update” that suddenly appeared; toggling off and on the airplane mode switch; and also something in Settings that lets you “reprovision account.” None of that did anything.
Having dealt with telephone companies for many years, I chose the coward’s option and went first to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York. The store rep again erased the iPad, while preserving the cellular subscription. No good, no change. My Sprint subscription still stared at me from the Cellular Data section, still doing nothing. The rep informed me this “often happens with Sprint,” meaning that Sprint seems to “lock” the SIM, and it has to be unlocked. At that point, they advised me to call Sprint.
Amidst the pounding beats of an Apple Store packed with people on Memorial Day at 10 pm, I tried to make my case to a rep on the main Sprint customer support line, a number which the Apple Store rep had given me. The Sprint rep finally decided I should call a different number and speak with Virgin Mobile, a Sprint division that tends to sell budget phone plans. But people at Virgin Mobile told me my problem was a Sprint pre-paid problem, and passed me off to Sprint’s pre-paid department. That process repeated itself, as my call was cut off and I had to start again.
After a twenty-minute conversation with Sprint pre-paid, in which they couldn’t find out anything in their system about my device, they booked an appointment for me the next morning at a Sprint retail store to get technical support.
At the Sprint store, reps were baffled. They had never heard of anything called “Sprint Mobile Broadband Pass.” They professed to be unaware one could simply order up cellular service from the iPad’s Settings menu. (I felt like the late Steve Jobs, showing them something magical on the device.)
Also: Last iPad unveiled by Steve Jobs now consigned to Apple’s ‘obsolete’ list
They asked me for a user account number, but there’s no account number with Sprint Mobile Broadband Pass. While chatting with the reps, trying to find a way to help them do their jobs, I looked back at the invoice I had been sent from Sprint in email. It showed there was a specific phone number for support for Sprint Mobile Broadband Pass. At this point, I thought to myself, What a dummy! I should have started here.
I called the number and proceeded to spend almost an hour on the phone with someone. They seemed to finally know what I was talking about — they at least did not ask me what Sprint Mobile Broadband Pass was. But they were having a hard time figuring out just what the problem was.
At some point, after several periods of being asked to wait on hold, I looked down at the iPad and saw the Sprint plan listed in Settings had changed from “active” to “expired” before my very eyes. Some switch had been thrown, back in the network, and changed things. The rep was prepared to initiate a new Sprint Mobile Broadband Pass on the device, but I instead asked for my money back. The rep informed me that I would be getting a refund of the unused portion of the Broadband Pass in seven to 14 business days. When I asked for a confirmation, the rep, sounding a little shaky, I thought, muttered something about how I would receive an email informing me of my refund. I’ve seen no such email.
I reached out to Sprint, explaining the situation, and aside from an initial, customary reply, I’ve heard nothing back. I also reached out to Apple’s media relations, and aside from an initial, customary reply, I’ve heard nothing back.
So what are the lessons here? One lesson is that Sprint, like many telecom operators, is selling too many products and no one at the company really knows what’s going on. It shouldn’t be the case that store reps have never, ever heard of Sprint Mobile Broadband Pass, or that I should have to explain that one can activate cellular plans straight from an iPad. The same goes for people on the telephone support lines at Sprint. I won’t be using Sprint anymore on the iPad.
But it was never going to be appealing for any carrier to put a lot of effort into supporting Apple SIM. The Apple SIM removes some of the control carriers can have over the customer, and so carriers are naturally dis-incentivized to support it. It’s really up to Apple to corral all these carriers and make sure they support the product. It makes one wonder if Apple spends any time at all talking to the phone companies to coordinate any of this, aside from the basic technical work of making sure the programming interfaces connect.
The lesson for the rest of us is that some degree of frustration is highly likely over the course of using cellular on the iPad. I’ve seen similar problems with used iPads that once had cellular plan, where the plan has lapsed. Trying to resuscitate a lapsed plan on an iPad can be impossible, and trying to add a new plan with a different carrier may lead to having to go to the carrier store, thus defeating the whole point of Apple SIM.
So, plan on having to deal with headaches if you hold onto an iPad for some amount of time and if you try erasing it or eventually switching carriers. As far as carriers, I’ve found the plans are all fairly expensive — $80 for twelve gigabytes is a good example — and each of the carriers here in the states, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile US, and two smaller resellers, AlwaysOnline and Gigsky, can all be good or bad, it just seems to depend on the luck of the draw in any given month, or week.
Most of all, take a deep breath, walk around the block, and try not to let your blood pressure get too high when you’re dumped into a telecom nightmare.
Facebook knows Instagram harms teens. Now, its plan to open the app to kids looks worse than ever – TechCrunch
Facebook is in the hot seat again.
The Wall Street Journal published a powerful multi-part series on the company this week, drawing from internal documents on everything from the company’s secretive practice of whitelisting celebrities to its knowledge that Instagram is taking a serious toll on the mental health of teen girls.
The flurry of investigative pieces makes it clear that what Facebook says in public doesn’t always reflect the company’s knowledge on known issues behind the scenes. The revelations still managed to shock even though Facebook has been playing dumb about the various social ills it has sown for years. (Remember when Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the notion that Facebook influenced the 2016 election as “crazy?”) Facebook’s longstanding PR playbook is to hide its dangers, denying knowledge of its darker impacts on society publicly, even as research spells them out internally.
That’s all well and good until someone gets ahold of the internal research.
One of the biggest revelations from the WSJ’s report: The company knows that Instagram poses serious dangers to mental health in teenage girls. An internal research slide from 2019 acknowledged that “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls” — a shocking admission for a company charging ahead with plans to expand to even younger and more vulnerable age groups.
As recently as May, Instagram’s Adam Mosseri dismissed concerns around the app’s negative impact on teens as “quite small.”
But internally, the picture told a different story. According to the WSJ, from 2019 to 2021, the company conducted a thorough deep dive into teen mental health, including online surveys, diary studies, focus groups and large-scale questionnaires.
According to one internal slide, the findings showed that 32% of teenage girls reported that Instagram made them have a worse body image. Of research participants who experienced suicidal thoughts, 13% of British teens and 6% of American teens directly linked their interest in killing themselves to Instagram.
“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” another internal slide stated. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
Following the WSJ report, Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) announced a probe into Facebook’s lack of transparency around internal research showing that Instagram poses serious and even lethal danger to teens. The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security will launch the investigation.
“We are in touch with a Facebook whistleblower and will use every resource at our disposal to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew it – including seeking further documents and pursuing witness testimony,” Senators Blackburn and Blumenthal wrote. “The Wall Street Journal’s blockbuster reporting may only be the tip of the iceberg.”
Blackburn and Blumenthal weren’t the only U.S. lawmakers alarmed by the new report. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Lori Trahan (D-MA) sent Facebook their own letter demanding that the company walk away from its plan to launch Instagram for kids. “Children and teens are uniquely vulnerable populations online, and these findings paint a clear and devastating picture of Instagram as an app that poses significant threats to young people’s wellbeing,” the lawmakers wrote.
In May, a group of 44 state attorneys general wrote to Instagram to encourage the company to abandon its plans to bring Instagram to kids under the age of 13. “It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the group of attorneys general wrote. They warned that an Instagram for kids would be “harmful for myriad reasons.”
In April, a collection of the same Democratic lawmakers expressed “serious concerns” about Instagram’s potential impact on the well-being of young users. That same month, a coalition of consumer advocacy organizations also demanded that the company reconsider launching a version of Instagram for kids.
According to the documents obtained by the WSJ, all of those concerns look extremely valid. In spite of extensive internal research and their deeply troubling findings, Facebook has downplayed its knowledge publicly, even as regulators regularly pressed the company for what it really knows.
Instagram’s Mosseri may have made matters worse Thursday when he made a less than flattering analogy between social media platforms and vehicles. “We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large, cars create way more value in the world than they destroy,” Mosseri told Peter Kafka on Recode’s media podcast. “And I think social media is similar.”
Mosseri dismissed any comparison between social media and drugs or cigarettes in spite of social media’s well-researched addictive effects, likening social platforms to the auto industry instead. Naturally, the company’s many critics jumped on the car comparison, pointing to their widespread lethality and the fact that the auto industry is heavily regulated — unlike social media.
Twitter Super Follows has generated only around $6K+ in its first two weeks – TechCrunch
Twitter’s creator platform Super Follows is off to an inauspicious start, having contributed to somewhere around $6,000 in U.S. iOS revenue in the first two weeks the feature has been live, according to app intelligence data provided by Sensor Tower. And it’s made only around $600 or so in Canada. A small portion of that revenue may be attributed to Ticketed Spaces, Twitter’s other in-app purchase offered in the U.S. — but there’s no way for this portion to be calculated by an outside firm.
Twitter first announced its plans to launch Super Follows during its Analyst Day event in February, where the company detailed many of its upcoming initiatives to generate new revenue streams.
Today, Twitter’s business is highly dependent on advertising, and Super Follows is one of the few ways it’s aiming to diversify. The company is also now offering a way for creators to charge for access to their live events with Ticketed Spaces and, outside the U.S., Twitter has begun testing a premium product for power users, called Twitter Blue.
But Super Follows, which targets creators, is the effort with the most potential appeal to mainstream users.
It’s also one that is working to capitalize on the growing creator economy, where content creators build a following, then generate revenue directly through subscriptions — decreasing their own dependence on ads or brand deals, as a result. The platforms they use for this business skim a little off the top to help them fund the development of the creator tools. (In Twitter’s case, it’s taking only a 3% cut.)
The feature would seem to make sense for Twitter, a platform that already allows high-profile figures and regular folks to hobnob in the same timeline and have conversations. Super Follows ups that access by letting fans get even closer to their favorite creators — whether those are musicians, artists, comedians, influencers, writers, gamers or other experts, for example. These creators can set a monthly subscription price of $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 to provide fans with access to bonus, “behind-the-scenes” content of their choosing. These generally come in the form of extra tweets, Q&As and other interactions with subscribers.
At launch, Twitter opened up Super Follows to a handful of creators, including the beauty and skincare-focused account @MakeupforWOC; astrology account @TarotByBronx; sports-focused @KingJosiah54; writer @myeshachou; internet personality and podcaster @MichaelaOkla; spiritual healer @kemimarie; music charts tweeter @chartdata; Twitch streamers @FaZeMew, @VelvetIsCake, @MackWood1, @GabeJRuiz and @Saulsrevenge; YouTubers @DoubleH_YT, @LxckTV and @PowerGotNow; and crypto traders @itsALLrisky and @moon_shine15; among others. Twitter says there are fewer than 100 creators in total who have access to Super Follows.
While access on the creation side is limited, the ability to subscribe to creators is not. Any Twitter iOS user in the U.S. or Canada can “Super Follow” any number of the supported creator accounts. In the U.S., Twitter has 169 million average monetizable daily active users as of Q2 2021. Of course, only some subset of those will be iOS users.
Still, Twitter could easily count millions upon millions of “potential” customers for its Super Follow platform at launch. Its current revenue indicates that, possibly, only thousands of consumers have done so, given many of the top in-app purchases are for creators offering content at lower price points.
Sensor Tower notes the $6,000 in U.S. consumer spending on iOS was calculated during the first two weeks of September (September 1-14). Before this period, U.S. iOS users spent only $100 from August 25 through 31 — a figure that would indicate user spending on Ticketed Spaces during that time. In other words, the contribution of Tickets Spaces revenue to this total of $6,000 in iOS consumer spending is likely quite small.
In Canada, the other market where Super Follow is now available to subscribers, Twitter’s iOS in-app purchase revenue from September 1 through September 14, was a negligible $600. (This would also include Twitter Blue subscription revenue, which is being tested in Canada and Australia.)
Worldwide, Twitter users on iOS spent $9,000 during that same time, which would include other Ticketed Spaces revenues and tests of its premium service, Twitter Blue. (Twitter’s Tip Jar, a way to pay creators directly, does not work through in-app purchases).
Unlike other Twitter products that developed by watching what users were already doing anyway — like using hashtags or retweeting content — many of Twitter’s newer features are attempts at redefining the use cases for its platform. In a massive rush of product pushes, Twitter has recently launched tools not just for creators, but also for e-commerce, organizing reading materials, subscribing to newsletters, socializing in communities, chatting through audio, fact-checking content, keeping up with trends, conversing more privately and more.
Twitter’s position on the slower start to Super Follows is that it’s still too early to make any determinations. While that’s fair, it’s also worth tracking adoption to see if the new product had seen any rapid, out-of-the-gate traction.
“This is just the start for Super Follows,” a Twitter spokesperson said, reached for comment about Sensor Tower’s figures. “Our main goal is focused on ensuring creators are set up for success and so we’re working closely with a small group of creators in this first iteration to ensure they have the best experience using Super Follows before we roll out more widely.”
The spokesperson also noted Twitter Super Follows had been set up to help creators make more money as it scales.
“With Super Follows, people are eligible to earn up to 97% of revenue after in-app purchase fees until they make $50,000 in lifetime earnings. After $50,000 in lifetime earnings, they can earn up to 80% of revenue after in-app purchase fees,” they said.
Facebook revamps its business tool lineup following threats to its ad targeting business – TechCrunch
Facebook today is announcing the launch of new products and features for business owners, following the threat to its ad targeting business driven by Apple’s new privacy features, which now allow mobile users to opt out of being tracked across their iOS apps. The social networking giant has repeatedly argued that Apple’s changes would impact small businesses that relied on Facebook ads to reach their customers. But it was not successful in getting any of Apple’s changes halted. Instead, the market is shifting to a new era focused more on user privacy, where personalization and targeting are more of an opt-in experience. That’s required Facebook to address its business advertiser base in new ways.
As the ability to track consumers declines — very few consumers are opting into tracking, studies find — Facebook is rolling out new features that will allow businesses to better position themselves in front of relevant audiences. This includes updates that will let them reach customers, advertise to customers, chat with customers across Facebook apps, generate leads, acquire customers and more.
The company earlier this year began testing a way for customers to explore businesses from underneath News Feed posts by tapping on topics they were interested in — like beauty, fitness, and clothing, and explore content from other related businesses. The feature allows people to come across new businesses that may also like, and would allow Facebook to create its own data set of users who like certain types of content. Over time, it could possibly even turn the feature into an ad unit, where businesses could pay for higher placement.
But for the time being, Facebook will expand this feature to more users across the U.S., and launch it in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.K.
Facebook is also making it easier for businesses to chat with customers. They’re already able to buy ads that encourage people to message them on Facebook’s various chat platforms — Messenger, Instagram Direct, or WhatsApp. Now, they’ll be able to choose all the messaging platforms where they’re available, and Facebook will default the chat app showcased in the ad based on where the conversation is most likely to happen.
The company will tie WhatsApp to Instagram, as well, as part of this effort. Facebook explains that many businesses market themselves or run shops across Instagram, but rely on WhatsApp to communicate with customers and answer questions. So, Facebook will now allow businesses to add a WhatsApp click-to-chat button to their Instagram profiles.
This change, in particular, represents another move that ties Facebook’s separate apps more closely together, at a time when regulators are considering breaking up Facebook over antitrust concerns. Already, Facebook interconnected Facebook’s Messenger and Instagram messaging services, which would make such a disassembly more complicated. And more recently, it’s begun integrating Messenger directly into Facebook’s platform itself.
In a related change, soon businesses will be able to create ads that send users directly to WhatsApp from the Instagram app. (Facebook also already offers ads like this.)
Separately from this news, Facebook announced the launch of a new business directory on WhatsApp, allowing consumers to find shops and services on the chat platform, as well.
Another set of changes being introduced involve an update to Facebook Business Suite. Businesses will be able to manage emails through Inbox and sending remarketing emails; use a new File Manager for creating, managing, and posting content; and access a feature that will allow businesses to test different versions of a post to see which one is most effective.
Other new products include tests of paid and organic lead generation tools on Instagram; quote requests on Messenger, where customers answer a few questions prior to their conversations; and a way for small businesses to access a bundle of tools to get started with Facebook ads, which includes a Facebook ad coupon along with free access to QuickBooks for 3 months or free access to Canva Pro for 3 months.
Facebook will also begin testing something called “Work Accounts,” which will allow business owners to access their business products, like Business Manager, separately from their personal Facebook account. They’ll be able to manage these accounts on behalf of employees and use single-sign-on integrations.
Work Accounts will be tested through the remainder of the year with a small group of businesses, and Facebook says it expects to expand availability in 2022.
Other efforts it has in store include plans to incorporate more content from creators and local businesses and new features that let users control the content they see, but these changes were not detailed at this time.
Most of the products being announced are either rolling out today or will begin to show up soon.
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