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Looking back at 2018: Why I changed my mind about the Apple Watch’s data plan

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In early 2018, I did some math and came to the conclusion that I was paying AT&T too much for monthly service on my Apple Watch Series 3. The peace of mind, at that time, just wasn’t worth the $13 or so I was paying each month on top of my wireless plan.

Also: I canceled my Apple Watch Series 3 data plan and here’s why

I canceled my Apple Watch’s data plan and enjoyed the additional battery life that I gained from turning off the cellular functionality on the watch.

The feedback I received from that article was mostly positive, with fellow users echoing the sentiment that paying $10 a month for the minor amount of data a smartwatch uses is too expensive.

I kept the data plan disabled until the Apple Watch Series 4 was announced — when I once again ordered the cellular model. After it arrived, I reactivated my plan, and I’ve been paying for cellular connectivity on my watch.

My original thinking was that I would test out the watch and watchOS 5 (which improved the Music experience and added the Podcast app), with the added benefit of a cellular connection, and then, ultimately, I’d cancel the data plan again.

Admittedly, I haven’t used standalone connectivity on the Series 4 any more than I did when I had it the Series 3. In fact, I’ve probably used it less, if that’s even possible. But I don’t anticipate canceling my watch’s cellular plan this time around.

So, why the change of heart? It’s a combination of a few things.

Freedom from my phone


(Image: Jason Cipriani/CNET)

It still fascinates me that a set of Apple’s AirPods and a watch on my wrist is all I need to leave my phone behind and remain reachable.

I mean, think about that: A watch and a pair of Bluetooth headphones — it doesn’t even have to be Apple’s AirPods, but they’re my choice — and you have what amounts to a smartphone with you at all times.

Text messages, emails, phone calls, even FaceTime audio calls, Facebook Messenger, music, calendar… it’s all there, on my wrist. But at the same time, the interaction dynamic between the watch and myself is different from the iPhone.

Also: Apple Watch’s Walkie-Talkie is practically useless

With the phone, I can pick it up at any time and get lost in Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or my inbox. The phone is always there, ready to waste my time.

With the watch, the experience is limited enough that the idea of managing my inbox or finding a third-party app to browse social networks on the small screen isn’t appealing at all. Instead, interactions with the watch are simply to react to notifications, which I have pared down significantly.

In the end, the watch eliminates my habitual routine of bouncing between apps just because my phone is there.


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I need to get into the habit of leaving my phone at home and being comfortable with communicating from the watch. I think my biggest hangup about doing that right now is having to talk to the watch like I’m Dick Tracy while out in public. Granted, I could use Scribble to reply to messages, but longer messages make Scribble feel laborious.

Fall detection

With the launch of the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple added a new fall detection feature. Basically, if your movement mimics the motion of a person falling, then the watch will ask if you’re injured. After about a minute of no movement or interaction with the watch, it will automatically call emergency services and send a message to your emergency contacts with your current location.

Also: Apple Watch Series 4: How to enable fall detection CNET

I’m not accident prone by any means. Heck, I can’t remember the last time I slipped and fell, but knowing that if something did happen — especially while on a business trip, when I’m typically by myself — I would have the means to get help and let my wife know what’s going on. It’s reassuring.

Always connected peace of mind

Another reassuring aspect I’ve enjoyed about wearing an always-connected watch is knowing that, if my iPhone were to get damaged or the battery dies, I’m still connected.

Also: Does your iPhone need a new battery? Get it done now

It seems small, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out and about, realized my phone’s battery is draining without a charger nearby, only to find comfort in knowing that even if it does die, I can just use the watch to stay in touch.

Cost is still an issue

Don’t get me wrong, I still think the $10 a month for a watch that uses very little data is too expensive. I still want to see the monthly cost absorbed by what I already pay AT&T for my phone’s data plan.

Also: AT&T to launch 5G across 19 cities

Data plans are going to have to change, after all, with the launch of 5G networks.

The irony of carriers talking up the ability to download gigabytes of data at gigabit speeds on a 5G connection while charging $10 a month (before taxes) for something that sips on megabytes is not lost on me.

Here’s hoping 2019 ushers in a new way of thinking about connected smartwatches.

Previous and related coverage:

Apple Watch Series 4 review: Best for iPhone owners, but not the best smartwatch

Apple’s latest wearable improves exactly where customers wanted to see improvements; larger viewable area, longer battery life, and enhanced health and fitness functionality. It’s a marvel of technology, but Samsung does it better for less.

Apple Watch Series 3 review: Always connected, just without the guilt

Apple’s newest smartwatch is smarter in that it’s always connected, but is it worth the cost?

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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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