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.
Facebook’s stock shrugs off bad-news deluge – TechCrunch
After social media company Snap reported earnings last week, the value of its cohort of public companies fell sharply.
Snap shed more than 20% of its value after telling investors that it expects a far smaller fourth quarter than the street anticipates. Privacy changes to technology platforms and weak advertiser demand thanks to supply-chain issues are likely to weigh on Snap’s Q4 top-line expectations.
Facebook stock fell around 5% on the Snap news on Friday.
And then Facebook had a difficult weekend of coverage, a period that flowed into a Monday-morning news dump concerning the company as dozens of media organizations began reporting on a trove of documents released by a whistleblower. Facebook is in the midst of what is perhaps its most damning reporting cycle to date, a bit of a high-water mark given the social company’s history of scandal.
This morning, however, shares of Facebook are essentially flat, trading up or down 0.2% to 0.3%. Investors are shrugging off the reporting, it appears.
It would be easy to make a somewhat cynical comment that public-market investors were more concerned about potentially lackluster business results than they are about, say, the company’s inability to handle misinformation and political manipulation in India. But a good chunk of today’s reporting deals with things that do matter in business terms, like Facebook’s slowly declining grip on younger users. So, what’s going on?
It may be that today’s reporting was priced into Facebook’s stock already; the company, worth just under $326 per share this morning, is far from its all-time high of $384.33 that it set earlier this year, indicating that it has already given up quite a lot of value.
But it may be most fair to say that Facebook investors are simply reacting to new disclosures — like Snap’s bad news — more than historical documents outlining longer-term issues. That would explain why Facebook fell Friday and is flattish today.
Regardless of why Facebook’s shares are holding steady this morning, any gains in the wake of an ocean of negative reporting based on the company’s own descriptions of its problems — leaked documents are powerful for that very reason — must feel like a win inside of Facebook’s halls.
Facebook reports earnings today after the bell.
Cameo buys fan merch platform Represent – TechCrunch
Celeb video site Cameo is making its first acquisition. The company will buy Represent, a marketing and merch company that helps celebrities and brands set up individualized online storefronts. It’s a natural fit for Cameo, which invites fans to pay celebrities of all stripes for short customized videos.
Represent counts Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and Kendall Jenner among the members of its pool of partnered talent, so Cameo will be bringing those relationships into the fold through the acquisition.
The company is also bringing Represent’s leadership on board and the acquisition will double the size of Cameo’s team in Europe. Cameo did not disclose the terms of the deal.
Cameo says that its users won’t see changes right away, but in the future they might be able to purchase “gift bundles” that would pair a traditional Cameo video with related merch. The company also hopes that weaving merch into its revenue streams will boost the fundraising efforts that many on-platform celebrities do to raise money for nonprofits.
Most of Cameo’s users visit the celeb video site to procure gifts for friends and loved ones to celebrate birthdays and other occasions. The company said it facilitated more than 1.3 million videos last year, with the company’s top 150 figures earning north of $100,000.
The company has also added a few new products, including Cameo Calls — short one-on-one video calls with celebrities — and Fan Clubs, sort of a VIP section of the site that helps dedicated fans stay in the loop on the talent they follow.
Cameo has raised money from a number of traditional sources like Google Ventures and SoftBank, but also from celebrity investors like Snoop Dogg and Tony Hawk. In March, Cameo raised $100 million Series C, bringing the company’s valuation to upward of $1 billion.
Internal Facebook documents highlight its moderation and misinformation issues – TechCrunch
The Facebook Papers, a vast trove of documents supplied by whistleblower Frances Haugen to a consortium of news organizations has been released. The reporting, by Reuters, Bloomberg, The Washington Post and others, paints a picture of a company that repeatedly sought to prioritize dominance and profit over user safety. This was, however, despite a large number of employees warning that the company’s focus on engagement put users at risk of real-world violence.
The Washington Post, for instance, claims that while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg played down reports that the site amplified hate speech in testimony to Congress, he was aware that the problem was far broader than publicly declared. Internal documents seen by the Post claim that the social network had removed less than five percent of hate speech, and that executives — including Zuckerberg — were well aware that Facebook was polarizing people. The claims have already been rebutted by Facebook, which says that the documents have been misrepresented.
Zuckerberg is also accused of squashing a plan to run a Spanish-language voter-registration drive in the US before the 2020 elections. He said that the plan may have appeared “partisan,” with WhatsApp staffers subsequently offering a watered-down version partnering with outside agencies. The CEO was also reportedly behind the decision not to clamp down on COVID-19 misinformation in the early stages of the pandemic as there may be a “material tradeoff with MSI [Meaningful Social Interaction — an internal Facebook metric] impact.” Facebook has refuted the claim, saying that the documents have been mischaracterized.
Reuters reported that Facebook has serially neglected a number of developing nations, allowing hate speech and extremism to flourish. That includes not hiring enough staffers who can speak the local language, appreciate the cultural context and otherwise effectively moderate. The result is that the company has unjustified faith in its automatic moderation systems which are ineffective in non-English speaking countries. Again, Facebook has refuted the accusation that it is neglecting its users in those territories.
One specific region that is singled out for concern is Myanmar, where Facebook has been held responsible for amplifying local tensions. A 2020 document suggests that the company’s automatic moderation system could not flag problematic terms in (local language) Burmese. (It should be noted that, two years previously, Facebook’s failure to properly act to prevent civil unrest in Myanmar was highlighted in a report from Business for Social Responsibility.)
Similarly, Facebook reportedly did not have the tools in place to detect hate speech in the Ethiopian languages of Oromo or Amharic. Facebook has said that it is working to expand its content moderation team and, in the last two years, has recruited Oromo, Amharic and Burmese speakers (as well as a number of other languages).
The New York Times, reports that Facebook’s internal research was well-aware that the Like and Share functions — core elements of how the platform work — had accelerated the spread of hate speech. A document, titled What Is Collateral Damage, says that Facebook’s failure to remedy these issues will see the company “actively (if not necessarily consciously) promoting these types of activities.” Facebook says that, again, these statements are based on incorrect premises, and that it would be illogical for the company to try and actively harm its users.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, has focused on the supposed collapse in Facebook’s engagement metrics. Young people, a key target market for advertisers, are spending less time on Facebook’s platform, with fewer teens opting to sign up. At the same time, the number of users may be artificially inflated in these age groups, with users choosing to create multiple accounts — “Finstas” — to separate their online personas to cater to different groups. Haugen alleges that Facebook “has misrepresented core metrics to investors and advertisers,” and that duplicate accounts are leading to “extensive fraud” against advertisers. Facebook says that it already notifies advertisers of the risk that purchases will reach duplicate accounts in its Help Center, and lists the issue in its SEC filings.
Over the weekend, Axios reported that Facebook’s Sir Nick Clegg warned that the site should expect “more bad headlines” in the coming weeks. Between the material available in the Facebook Papers, another round of Frances Haugen’s testimony in the UK later today and rumors of more whistleblowers coming forward, it’s likely that Facebook will remain in the headlines for some time.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.
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