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Apple SIM hell: How Sprint Mobile sent my iPad into a customer service nightmare

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What Apple’s latest acquisitions mean for the company
TechRepublic’s Karen Roby asks ZDNet’s David Gewirtz for his thoughts on the companies Apple has acquired in the past year and the future implications these additions bring to the table. Read more: https://zd.net/2WvDYul

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.

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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.

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Despite having a connection, the iPad told me I had no cellular connection. 

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.

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Despite having most of a pricey data plan still remaining, I had no service.

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. 

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The choice to keep my cellular plan should have saved me but it didn’t.

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. 

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After buying Bungie, Sony goes all in on live service games – TechCrunch

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After buying Bungie earlier this year, Sony is moving fast to integrate the company’s expertise into its broader vision.

In an investor presentation Thursday, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan outlined a near future for the company that focuses heavily on continually updated online games inspired by Destiny, Bungie’s long-running hit.

Sony expects to spend 49% of its PlayStation Studios development budget on live service games by the end of the year. By 2025, Sony plans to bump that to 55%, up from just 12% in 2019. By the end of 2025, Sony projects that it will have 12 different live service games of its own, up from just one now.

The company declined to answer questions from TechCrunch about which of its franchises might get the live service treatment, but the presentation cited God of War, Horizon Forbidden West, Spider-Man, The Last of Us and Uncharted in a list of its noteworthy single-player first-party titles. Sony-owned studio Naughty Dog has been hiring for a standalone multiplayer game, so a new game could indeed emerge out of The Last of Us or Uncharted’s virtual worlds.

Bungie is best known for creating the Halo franchise, though most recently the studio has become synonymous with Destiny, a fresh sci-fi series the company developed after leaving Halo with Microsoft. Like Halo, Destiny is a futuristic first-person shooter with precise, satisfying mechanics. But Destiny’s real appeal is Bungie’s impressively seamless online multiplayer experience that brings players into central hubs where they can explore and run missions together, making it more akin to World of Warcraft than a traditional FPS like Call of Duty.

Three years after splitting with Microsoft, Bungie signed onto a 10-year partnership with Activision. The company eventually split with Activision, too, paving the way for Sony to snap it up earlier this year for $3.6 billion. Bungie will remain a standalone game studio on the other side of the deal, à la Naughty Dog.

Just after the Bungie acquisition was made public, Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki confirmed the company’s plan to weave Bungie’s live game service know-how into its broader gaming offerings.

“The strategic significance of this acquisition lies not only in obtaining the highly successful Destiny franchise, as well as major new IP Bungie is currently developing, but also incorporating into the Sony group the expertise and technologies Bungie has developed in the live game services space,” Totoki said.

In bringing Bungie under its wing, Sony is buying a lot of knowledge about how to build online multiplayer games that expand over time, keeping players coming back for more. This kind of experience, usually called a “live service game,” explains how Fortnite is still one of the world’s most popular games years after it first made headlines for luring casual gamers and hardcore streamers alike into its colorful, chaotic world.

It’s also an extremely lucrative business model. Live service games generally have an in-game storefront that invites dedicated players to buy digital goods like character skins and clothing. Those assets cycle in and out, creating scarcity and nudging players to spend real cash to collect them. In a given content season, players in games like Destiny 2 and Fortnite can pay to earn a special set of these cosmetic virtual goods with a “battle pass.”

Some live service games, like Final Fantasy XIV, require players to pay for a monthly subscription to access the most recent content, while others are free to play. Happily, these days, most free-to-play games no longer require a paid subscription through Microsoft or Sony’s own premium subscription services.

Live service games add expansion content over time, and players often pay to access the new stuff, even while the core game remains mostly the same. For game makers, the real allure is maintaining a game that can live and grow over time, raking in revenue for years rather than burning bright and fizzling out a few months postlaunch.

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Twitter investors sue Elon Musk over acquisition shenanigans – TechCrunch

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The world’s richest man isn’t above trying to get a discount, apparently.

In a new lawsuit, Twitter shareholders are suing Elon Musk, alleging that he manipulated the price of the company’s stock for his own benefit in the course of agreeing to buy the company. The lawsuit represents a group of Twitter investors but would allow any shareholders to receive financial compensation.

The suit was filed Wednesday in federal district court for Northern California and argues that Musk intentionally drove down the company’s stock to secure a better deal. “The fair market value of Twitter securities has been adversely affected by Musk’s false statements and wrongful conduct,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit cites Musk’s decision to waive due diligence as a condition of the acquisition and his subsequent suspiciously timed claim that Twitter had misrepresented the number of bots on its platform.

“At the time, Musk was well aware that Twitter had a certain amount of ‘fake accounts’ and accounts controlled by ‘bots’ and had in fact settled a lawsuit based on the fake accounts for millions of dollars,” the complaint states. “Musk had tweeted about that issue at Twitter several times in the past, prior to making his offer to acquire Twitter with full knowledge of the bots.”

The suit alleges, as many people observed at the time, that Musk was likely trying to secure a discount by casting doubt on his commitment and disparaging the company. Since Musk’s initial commitment to purchase the company was announced, tech stocks — including Tesla, which accounts for the vast majority of Musk’s wealth — took a dive.

Following Musk’s comments, Twitter shares also dipped significantly, a phenomenon that the suit alleges is “highly unusual” given the company’s agreed-upon buyout price.

While Musk claimed the deal was on hold, there was no formal mechanism in place that would back up that claim. Even within Twitter, company leaders encouraged employees to proceed as though nothing had changed, noting that there was “no such thing” as casually pausing a binding agreement to buy the company.

The suit also alleges that Musk deliberately delayed filing a disclosure form when his stake in the company exceeded 5%, allowing him to continue to buy shares at a discount. After the form was filed and Musk’s purchases became public knowledge, Twitter stock soared by nearly a third.

“Musk’s disregard for securities laws demonstrates how one can flaunt the law and the tax code to build their wealth at the expense of the other Americans,” the complaint states.

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Instagram is currently down for some users – TechCrunch

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If you’re having problems accessing Instagram today, you’re not alone. The social media giant is currently experiencing some problems, according to reports on third-party web monitoring service Downdetector. The website indicates that issues began at around 12:30 p.m. EDT. NetBlocks, which tracks global internet usage and disruptions, has also noted that Instagram is facing intermittent international service outages.

Reports indicate that users are experiencing various issues with the service, including not being able to log back in after being logged out. Some users also reporting seeing a “Welcome to Instagram” message when logging on as though they have a new account. Others are unable see past a few posts or only seeing posts that were uploaded weeks ago. Some users are also reporting that they’re unable to refresh their home screen and are seeing a “we’re sorry, but something went wrong” notice.

Instagram and its parent company Meta have yet to acknowledge the issues. TechCrunch has reached out to Meta to learn more about the issues and will update this article once we get a response.

This story is developing…

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