When Google announced that Project Fi was becoming Google Fi, along with the addition of official iPhone support, I was intrigued.
I had used Project Fi in the past, pausing and resuming service when I needed a second line. The flexibility of Google’s service was something I appreciated and took full advantage of.
Getting the Google Fi SIM card
When the news broke, I ordered a SIM card, in anticipation of using it in an iPhone XR. The next day, I received a tracking number that showed the SIM was due for delivery a couple of days later.
Then, the tracking number quit updating, and after another day or two, it became apparent FedEx lost the package. I used Google Fi’s chat support feature to see what my options were. After being told I would have a SIM card overnighted to me, I was then told I would have to pay $16 for expedited shipping. The lost delivery wasn’t Google’s fault, nor mine, but I wasn’t going to pay for expedited shipping; it wasn’t even my idea to have it shipped overnight.
Also: Apple’s iPhone XR isn’t selling? I went to Best Buy to find out
The customer service representative eventually told me I would have to open a support ticket in order to have the company attempt to track down the package with FedEx. I agreed to have the ticket opened, and I waited to hear back from Google. A few days later, on a Saturday, I heard back from support. The package was lost and couldn’t be recovered, and I would need to order another SIM card.
I asked if the offer to have a card overnighted for free was still available. The representative offered to apply a credit for the shipping fee to my Google Fi account after I activate service, which is a fair trade off, so I ordered the card and it showed up on Tuesday, nearly three weeks after I placed the original order.
Setting up Google Fi
I installed the Google Fi iOS app, signed into my Google account, and followed the prompts. Setting up Google Fi on the iPhone takes a little bit of work, because you have to enter the APN settings for Google Fi service. That process took only a couple of minutes, partly because I’m comfortable with such a task, and because Google’s instructions are easy to follow.
After restarting the iPhone XR, I received two text messages from Google Fi, providing me with my Google Fi phone number and welcoming me to the service.
A few minutes later, I attempted to send myself a picture and a text message. The text message appeared within a few seconds on my main phone number, but the picture message never arrived. I restarted the iPhone again and attempted to send another picture message. This time, my iPhone received a message, but it wasn’t the picture message. Instead, it was a block of text that reads:
“One or more of the message components have been deleted by MMS Adaptation. Either the message was too large or the components were unsuitable for your handset.”
Troubleshooting Google Fi
What? I still don’t fully understand what that message is saying, and subsequent searches have resulted in more confusion, including suggestions that include completely resetting my personal phone and setting it up as brand new, which I’m not going to do, because it’s not an issue related to the phone I’m actually using to receive the message.
I sent a picture message to my Google Fi phone, and that worked as expected. A text message went through without issue as well. Adding to the confusion, I can send a picture message to a Pixel 3 XL, and it works, but only about half the time.
Also: Goodbye iPhone XR: Signal strength and size bring me back
Google Fi support — or lack thereof
I decided to chat with Google Fi support and see if perhaps something is amiss on the backend and to verify the APN settings I had entered during the setup process. I opened the Google Fi app, selected the support tab, and tapped on Chat. I entered a brief description of my issue and tapped submit.
There were 247 people in the queue ahead of me, and it took over an hour before I received a message from my support agent. After messaging back and forth, I was told to make sure my Google Fi phone wasn’t connected to Wi-Fi when I want to send a picture message and to delete the Google Fi app, restart the phone, reinstall the app, and then go through the setup process again.
After doing all of that, I still can’t send picture messages to my personal iPhone. My wife’s iPhone displays the same message.
A while later, I received an email from the chat support representative, letting me know there is a messaging outage, which could be the reason I’m having issues, and that everything should be back to normal soon. As of this writing, my picture messaging isn’t working as it should, and I don’t know when it will.
Google Fi’s biggest weakness
Look, I get that there are often hiccups and issues when activating new service. I’ve sold many phones and dealt with numerous activation issues in my career. It happens!
But my experience thus far shows the biggest weakness of any wireless carrier that attempts to forgo retail locations and uses a direct-to-consumer approach instead: Customer service.
It took almost three weeks for me to get a SIM card due to a lost shipment. If I was waiting on, say, an AT&T SIM card, a 10-minute drive is all I would have needed to make.
When trying to troubleshoot my messaging woes, the chat process was cumbersome, with long pauses between me providing information and getting a reply from the representative. It was a two-and-a-half hour process from the time I first submitted my support chat request until I disconnected and deleted the app.
Google will, hopefully, get the messaging outage sorted and everything working as it should. But I don’t need this phone number. I signed up for service in order to test and share my experience, and right now, I can’t help but wonder how much patience someone (who is trying to save some money) would need to switch to Google Fi.
Previous and related coverage:
Google’s Project Fi 4G is now available on most Android devices and iPhone
Google is also changing its 4G data and telephony service name from Project Fi to Google Fi.
Google’s Project Fi adds three new phones to its lineup
The new phones span the low-end and high-end.
Pinterest tests online events with dedicated ‘class communities’ – TechCrunch
Pinterest is getting into online events. The company has been spotted testing a new feature that allows users to sign up for Zoom classes through Pinterest, while creators use Pinterest’s class boards to organize class materials, notes and other resources, or even connect with attendees through a group chat option. The company confirmed the test of online classes is an experiment now in development, but wouldn’t offer further details about its plans.
The feature itself was discovered on Tuesday by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who found details about the online classes by looking into the app’s code.
Currently, you can visit some of these “demo” profiles directly — like “@pinsmeditation” or “@pinzoom123,” for example — and view their listed Class Communities. However, these communities are empty when you click through. That’s because the feature is still unreleased, Wong says.
When and if the feature is later launched to the public, the communities would include dedicated sections where creators will be able to organize their class materials — like lists of what to bring to class, notes, photos and more. They could also use these communities to offer a class overview and description, connect users to a related shop, group chat feature and more.
Creators are also able to use the communities — which are basically enhanced Pinterest boards — to respond to questions from attendees, share photos from the class and otherwise interact with the participants.
When a user wants to join a class, they can click a “book” button to sign up, and are then emailed a confirmation with the meeting details. Other buttons direct attendees to download Zoom or copy the link to join the class.
It’s not surprising that Pinterest would expand into the online events space, given its platform has become a popular tool for organizing remote learning resources during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers have turned to Pinterest to keep track of lesson plans, get inspiration, share educational activities and more. In the early days of the pandemic, Pinterest reported record usage when the company saw more searches and saves globally in a single March weekend than ever before in its history, as a result of its usefulness as a online organizational tool.
This growth has continued throughout the year. In October, Pinterest’s stock jumped on strong earnings after the company beat on revenue and user growth metrics. The company brought in $443 million in revenue, versus $383.5 million expected, and grew its monthly active users to 442 million, versus the 436.4 million expected. Outside of the coronavirus impacts, much of this growth was due to strong international adoption, increased ad spend from advertisers boycotting Facebook and a surge of interest from users looking for iOS 14 home screen personalization ideas.
Given that the U.S. has failed to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, many classes, events and other activities will remain virtual even as we head into 2021. The online events market may continue to grow in the years that follow, too, thanks to the kickstart the pandemic provided the industry as a whole.
“We are experimenting with ways to help creators interact more closely with their audience,” a Pinterest spokesperson said, when asked for more information.
Pinterest wouldn’t confirm additional details about its plans for online events, but did say the feature was in development and the test would help to inform the product’s direction.
Pinterest often tries out new features before launching them to a wider audience. Earlier this summer, TechCrunch reported on a Story Pins feature the company had in the works. Pinterest then launched the feature in September. If the same time frame holds up for online events, we could potentially see the feature become more widely available sometime early next year.
Twitter will bring back verification – TechCrunch
Twitter prepares to hand out more blue checkmarks, YouTube suspends OANN and Discord is raising a big funding round. This is your Daily Crunch for November 24, 2020.
The big story: Twitter will bring back verification
Twitter paused its blue checkmark verification system in 2017 as it faced controversy over who gets verified — specifically over the decision to verify the organizer of the infamous and deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
Since then, Twitter has done occasional verifications for medical experts tweeting about COVID-19 and candidates running for public office, but it hasn’t brought back the program in a systematic way.
Now Twitter says it will relaunch verification in 2021, and that it’s currently soliciting feedback on the policy. Initially, verification will focus on six types of accounts: government officials, companies/brands/nonprofits, news, entertainment, sports and activists/organizers/other influential individuals.
The tech giants
YouTube suspends and demonetizes One America News Network over COVID-19 video — YouTube said, “After careful review, we removed a video from OANN and issued a strike on the channel for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policy.”
Instagram businesses and creators may be getting a Messenger-like ‘FAQ’ feature — This new feature will allow people to start conversations with businesses or creators’ accounts by tapping on a commonly asked question within a chat.
Fortnite adds a $12 monthly subscription bundle — The $11.99 monthly Fortnite Crew fee entitles players to a full season battle pass, 1,000 monthly bucks and a Crew Pack featuring an exclusive outfit bundle.
Startups, funding and venture capital
Discord is close to closing a round that would value the company at up to $7B — The new funding comes just months after a $100 million investment that gave the company a $3.5 billion valuation.
Dija, a new delivery startup from former Deliveroo employees, is closing in on a $20M round led by Blossom — Few details are public about Dija, except that it will offer convenience and fresh food delivery using a “dark” convenience store mode.
Marie Ekeland launches 2050, a new fund with radically ambitious, long-term goals — Ekeland used to be an investor at French VC firm Elaia, where she backed adtech firm Criteo.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
As edtech grows cash rich, some lessons for early stage — The valuation bumps for both Duolingo and Udemy underscore just how much investor confidence there is in edtech’s remote learning boom.
Working to understand C3.ai’s growth story — As its IPO looms, how quickly did C3.ai grow in its October quarter?
Decrypted: Apple and Facebook’s privacy feud, Twitter hires Mudge, mysterious zero-days — Zack Whittaker’s latest roundup of cybersecurity-related news.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. And until November 30, you can get 25% off an annual membership.)
Biden-Harris team finally get their transition .gov domain — This comes after the General Services Administration gave the green light for the Biden-Harris team to transition from political campaign to government administration.
India bans 43 more Chinese apps over cybersecurity concerns — India is not done banning Chinese apps.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
Twitter to relaunch account verifications in early 2021, asks for feedback on policy – TechCrunch
Twitter announced today it’s planning to relaunch its verification system in 2021, and will now begin the process of soliciting public feedback on the new policy ahead of its implementation. Under the policy, Twitter will initially verify six types of accounts, including those belonging to government officials; companies, brands and nonprofit organizations; news; entertainment; sports; and activists, organizers and other influential individuals. The number of categories could expand in time.
Twitter’s verification system, which provides a blue checkmark to designate accounts belonging to public figures, was paused in 2017 as the company tried to address confusion over what it meant to be verified.
The issue at the time was that Twitter had verified the account belonging to Jason Keller, the person who organized the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In response to the wave of criticism directed at Twitter as a result of this action, the company defended its decision by pointing to its policies around account verification, which explained its blue badges were awarded to accounts of “public interest.”
Critics argued that genuinely noteworthy figures were still struggling to get their own accounts verified, and that verifying a known white supremacist was not something that should ever be in the “public interest.” As a result, Twitter in November 2017 decided to pause all account verifications.
The following year, the company announced work on the verification system would be placed on a longer, more indefinite hold, so Twitter could direct its resources to focus on election integrity. That proved to be a significant undertaking, as it turned out.
Now, with the 2020 U.S. presidential election having wrapped, and with a transition underway, Twitter says work on its new verification system will finally resume.
The company today shared a draft of its new verification policy in order to gain public feedback. The policy details more specifically which accounts can be verified and introduces additional guidelines that could limit some accounts from receiving the blue badge.
For example, Twitter says the account must be “notable and active,” and the badge won’t be awarded to any accounts with incomplete profiles. Twitter will also deny or remove verification badges from otherwise qualified individuals if their accounts are found to be in repeated violation of the Twitter Rules.
The company additionally admitted it had verified accounts over the years which should not be, as based on these guidelines. To correct this, Twitter will begin to automatically remove badges from accounts that are inactive or have incomplete profiles, to help it streamline its work going forward.
The policy also lays out specifics about how it will determine whether an account in a supported category will qualify.
For example, news organizations will have to adhere to professional standards for journalism, and independent or freelance journalists will need to provide at least three bylines in qualifying organizations published in the last six months. Entertainers will need to be able to point to credits on their IMDb page or to references in verified news publications. Government officials will need to show a public reference on an official government website, party website or multiple references by news media. Sports figures will have to appear on team websites, rosters or in sports data services like Sportradar. There are a few other ways to be verified in these categories, too.
The guidelines for public figures are more detailed, as they must meet two different criteria for “notability” — one that quantifies their Twitter activity and another that highlights their off-Twitter notability, like a Wikipedia page, Google Trends profile, profile on an official advocacy site and more.
“We know we can’t solve verification with a new policy alone — and that this initial policy won’t cover every case for being verified — but it is a critical first step in helping us provide more transparency and fairer standards for verification on Twitter as we reprioritize this work,” a company announcement stated. “This version of the policy is a starting point, and we intend to expand the categories and criteria for verification significantly over the next year,” it noted.
Twitter users will be able to offer feedback on the new verification policy starting today, November 24, 2020, and continuing through December 8, 2020. The policy is being made available in English, Hindi, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese. Users can either respond to the survey Twitter has posted or they can choose to tweet their feedback publicly, using the hashtag #VerificationFeedback.
In addition, Twitter says it’s working with local non-governmental organizations and its Trust and Safety Council to gain a range of other perspectives.
After December 8, 2020, Twitter will train its team on the new policy and introduce the final version by Decemeber 17, 2020. The verification system itself, which will include a new public application process, will begin in early 2021.
Though Twitter is giving itself time to make policy changes based on public feedback, it had already begun to develop the underlying technology for the verification application process.
Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch this June it was in the process of building a new in-app system for requesting verification. The feature had been found buried in the app’s code by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who tweeted a screenshot of a new option, “Request Verification,” that appeared under Twitter’s account settings. At the time, Twitter wouldn’t confirm when the new system would go live.
Though not everyone will qualify for verification, Twitter says it’s working on other features that will help to better distinguish accounts on its platform. Also in 2021, the company will introduce new account types and labels that will help Twitter users identify themselves on their profiles. More details on these features will be announced in the weeks to come, Twitter says.
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