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.
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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.)
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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.
Twitter bans James O’Keefe of Project Veritas over fake account policy – TechCrunch
Twitter has banned right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe, creator of political gotcha video producer Project Veritas, for violating its “platform manipulation and spam policy,” suggesting he was operating multiple accounts in an unsanctioned way. O’Keefe has already announced that he will sue the company for defamation.
The ban, or “permanent suspension” as Twitter calls it, occurred Thursday afternoon. A Twitter representative said the action followed the violation of rules prohibiting “operating fake accounts” and attempting to “artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts,” as noted here.
This suggests O’Keefe was banned for operating multiple accounts, outside the laissez-faire policy that lets people have a professional and a personal account, and that sort of thing.
But sharp-eyed users noticed that O’Keefe’s last tweet unironically accused reporter Jesse Hicks of impersonation, including an image showing an unredacted phone number supposedly belonging to Hicks. This too may have run afoul of Twitter’s rules about posting personal information, but Twitter declined to comment on this when I asked.
Supporters of O’Keefe say that the company removed his account as retribution for his most recent “exposé” involving surreptitious recordings of a CNN employee admitting the news organization has a political bias. (The person he was talking to had, impersonating a nurse, matched with him on Tinder.)
For his part O’Keefe said he would be suing Twitter for defamation over the allegation that he operated fake accounts. I’ve contacted Project Veritas for more information.
Consumer groups and child development experts petition Facebook to drop ‘Instagram for kids’ plan – TechCrunch
A coalition of 35 consumer advocacy groups along with 64 experts in child development have co-signed a letter to Facebook asking the company to reconsider its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, which Facebook has confirmed to be in development. In the letter, the groups and experts argue that social media is linked with several risk factors for younger children and adolescents, related to both their physical health and overall well-being.
The letter was written by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group that often leads campaigns against big tech and its targeting of children.
The group stresses how influential social media is on young people’s development, and the dangers such an app could bring:
“A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to adolescents. Instagram, in particular, exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers,” it states. “The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing. Younger children are even less developmentally equipped to deal with these challenges, as they are learning to navigate social interactions, friendships, and their inner sense of strengths and challenges during this crucial window of development,” the letter reads.
Citing public health research and other studies, the letter notes that excessive screen time and social media use can contribute to a variety of risks for kids including obesity, lower psychological well-being, decreased quality of sleep, increased risk of depression and suicide ideation, and other issues. Adolescent girls report feeling pressured to post sexualized selfies for attention from their peers, the letter said, and 59% of U.S. teens have reported being bullied in social media, as well.
Another concern the groups have is the use of the Instagram algorithm which could suggest what kids would see and click on next, noting that children are “highly persuadable.”
They also point out that Facebook knows there are already children under 13 who have lied about their age using the Instagram platform, and these users will be unlikely to migrate to what they’ll view as a more “babyish” version of the app than the one they’re already using. That means Facebook is really targeting an even younger age group who don’t yet have an Instagram account with this “kids version.”
Despite the concerns being raised, Instagram’s plans to compete for younger users will not likely be impacted by the outcry. Already, Instagram’s top competitor in social media today — TikTok — has developed an experience for kids under 13. In fact, it was forced to age-gate its app as a result of its settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which had investigated Musical.ly (the app that became TikTok) for violations of the U.S. children’s privacy law COPPA.
Facebook, too, could be in a similar situation where it has to age-gate Instagram in order to properly direct its existing underage users to a COPPA-compliant experience. At the very least, Facebook has grounds to argue that it shouldn’t have to boot the under-13 crowd off its app, since TikTok did not. And the FTC’s fines, even when historic, barely make a dent in tech giants’ revenues.
The advocacy groups’ letter follows a push from Democratic lawmakers, who also this month penned a letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to express concerns over Facebook’s ability to protect kids’ privacy and their well-being. Their letter had specifically cited Messenger Kids, which was once found to have a design flaw that let kids chat with unauthorized users. The lawmakers gave Facebook until April 26 to respond to their questions.
Zuckerberg confirmed Facebook’s plans for an Instagram for kids at a Congressional hearing back in March, saying that the company was “early in our thinking” about how the app would work, but noted it would involve some sort of parental oversight and involvement. That’s similar to what Facebook offers today via Messenger Kids and TikTok does via its Family Pairing parental controls.
The market, in other words, is shifting towards acknowledging that kids are already on social media — with or without parents’ permission. As a result, companies are building features and age gates to accommodate that reality. The downside to this plan, of course, is once you legitimize the creation of social apps for the under-13 demographic, companies are given the legal right to hook kids even younger on what are, arguably, risky experiences from a public health standpoint.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood also today launched a petition which others can sign to push Facebook to cancel its plans for an Instagram for kids.
Instagram Letter by TechCrunch on Scribd
Facebook to test new business discovery features in U.S. News Feed – TechCrunch
Facebook announced this morning it will begin testing a new experience for discovering businesses in its News Feed in the U.S. When live, users to tap on topics they’re interested in underneath posts and ads in their News Feed in order to explore related content from businesses. The change comes at a time when Facebook has been arguing how Apple’s App Tracking Transparency update will impact its small business customers — a claim many have dismissed as misleading, but nevertheless led some mom and pop shops to express concern about the impacts to their ad targeting capabilities, as a result. This new test is an example of how easily Facebook can tweak its News Feed to build out more data on its users, if needed.
The company suggests users may see the change under posts and ads from businesses selling beauty products, fitness or clothing, among other things.
The idea here is that Facebook would direct users to related businesses through a News Feed feature, when they take a specific action to discover related content. This, in turn, could help Facebook create a new set of data on its users, in terms of which users clicked to see more, and what sort of businesses they engaged with, among other things. Over time, it could turn this feature into an ad unit, if desired, where businesses could pay for higher placement.
“People already discover businesses while scrolling through News Feed, and this will make it easier to discover and consider new businesses they might not have found on their own,” the company noted in a brief announcement.
Facebook didn’t detail its further plans with the test, but said as it learned from how users interacted with the feature, it will expand the experience to more people and businesses.
Along with news of the test, Facebook said it will roll out more tools for business owners this month, including the ability to create, publish and schedule Stories to both Facebook and Instagram; make changes and edits to Scheduled Posts; and soon, create and manage Facebook Photos and Albums from Facebook’s Business Suite. It will also soon add the ability to create and save Facebook and Instagram posts as drafts from the Business Suite mobile app.
Related to the businesses updates, Facebook updated features across ad products focused on connecting businesses with customer leads, including Lead Ads, Call Ads, and Click to Messenger Lead Generations.
Facebook earlier this year announced a new Facebook Page experience that gave businesses the ability to engage on the social network with their business profile for things like posting, commenting and liking, and access to their own, dedicated News Feed. And it had removed the Like button in favor of focusing on Followers.
It is not a coincidence that Facebook is touting its tools for small businesses at a time when there’s concern — much of it loudly shouted by Facebook itself — that its platform could be less useful to small business owners in the near future, when ad targeting capabilities becomes less precise as users vote ‘no’ when Facebook’s iOS app asks if it can track them.
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