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.
Buffalo shooter invited others to his private Discord ‘diary’ 30 minutes before attack – TechCrunch
Discord has provided more insight into how the shooter who opened fire in a Buffalo, New York supermarket over the weekend used its service prior to the tragic act of violence.
The shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, is charged with first degree murder in the mass shooting, which left 10 people dead and three injured. In the month leading up to the attack on the Buffalo Tops grocery store, which he researched and selected in an effort to harm as many Black people as possible, he used Discord to document his plans in extreme detail.
According to Discord, the suspected shooter created a private, invite-only server that he used as a “personal diary chat log.” The server had no other members until 30 minutes before the attack began, when a “small group of people” received an invite and joined.
“Before that, our records indicate no other people saw the diary chat log in this private server,” a Discord spokesperson told TechCrunch. TechCrunch reached out to the company for more details about the server’s activity and insight into how it handles moderation for private servers and messages.
Discord, a text and voice chat app, is best known for its large, public messaging rooms but it also allows users to create private, invite-only servers. In updates to the Discord server, which shares a username with the Twitch channel he used to livestream the shooting, the suspect documented his violent, racist views in depth. He also detailed the logistics of how he would carry out the mass shooting, including the gear he would use, his shopping trips leading up to the shooting and his day-of plans.
While it’s unknown what other Discord servers Gendron was active in, he references his activity on the app in the chat logs. “I didn’t even think until now that the people in my discord groups are probably going to get no knock raided by ATF and FBI agents,” he wrote. While Discord served as a kind of digital journal for the atrocities he would later carry out, he also compiled a nearly 200-page screed about his beliefs, weapons and plan to commit violence in Google Docs.
In early May, he expressed concerns that Google might discover his plan for violence in messages sent on the private Discord server. “Ok I’m a bit stressed that a google worker is going to see my manifesto fuck,” he wrote. “WHY did I write it on google docs I should have had some other solution.” Unfortunately, those concerns were unfounded. After the shooting, Google did remove the document for violating its terms of service.
The suspect, who livestreamed the shooting over Twitch, also spent time on 4chan’s /pol/, an infamous submessage board rife with racism, misogyny and extremism. Unlike mainstream social networks like Discord, 4chan does not do any proactive content moderation and only removes illegal content when required to do so. In Discord chat logs reviewed by TechCrunch the shooter notes that he “only really turned racist” after encountering white supremacist ideas on 4chan.
Five years ago, Discord was implicated in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, an open gathering of white supremacists and other far-right extremists that ended with one counter-protester dead. The rally’s participants and organizers came together in private Discord servers to plan the day’s events and discuss the logistics of what would take place in Charlottesville. The company responded by cracking down on a number of servers hosting extremism, though maintained that it did not read messages on private servers.
Like Reddit, most of Discord’s hands-on moderation comes from community moderators within its chat rooms. And like most social media companies, Discord relies on a blend of automated content scanning and human moderators. Last year, the company acquired Sentropy, an AI software company that detects and removes online hate and harassment, to bolster those efforts.
In the years following the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Discord successfully sought to distance itself from its association with the far-right extremists and white supremacists who once called the social network home. More recently, Discord has also put some distance between its current brand and its origins as a popular chat app for gamers, reframing itself as an inviting hub for a huge spectrum of thriving online communities.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families,” a Discord spokesperson said of the tragedy in Buffalo, adding that it is assisting law enforcement in the ongoing investigation. “Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to combating violence and extremism.”
Twitter rolls out the ability for creators to host Super Follows-only Spaces – TechCrunch
Twitter has announced that it’s rolling out Super Follows-only Spaces. Creators who offer Super Follows subscriptions can now host Spaces exclusively for their subscribers. The social media giant says this new option will give creators a way to “offer an extra layer of conversation to their biggest supporters.”
Subscribers globally on iOS and Android will be able to join and request to speak in Super Follows-only Spaces, whereas subscribers on Twitter’s web platform can join and listen, but won’t have the option to request to speak. Creators can start a Super Follows-only Space by selecting the “Only Super Followers can join” button when starting a new Space. Users who aren’t Super Following a creator will still see the Space, but won’t be able to access it unless they subscribe.
It’s worth noting that the new Super Follow-only option for Spaces isn’t the only way for creators to hold exclusive Spaces. For example, Twitter launched its Ticketed Spaces feature last year to allow creators to set a price for users to listen in on a Space. Creators can set their ticket price anywhere between $1 and $999 and can also limit how many tickets are sold.
Super Follows, which was first revealed in February 2021, allows users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content. Super Follows is currently in testing with select creators in the United States on iOS. Eligible accounts can set the price for Super Follow subscriptions, with the option of charging $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 per month.
The launch of Super Follows-only Spaces adds another layer of exclusivity to Super Follows subscriptions. Twitter says it plans to launch more Super Follows features to allow creators to grow their audiences and get closer to their most engaged followers.
Twitter says its research shows that hosting consistent Spaces leads to more follower growth and also gives creators more ways to engage with their followers. The company found that consistently hosting Spaces, around two times per week, leads to a 17% follower growth over a quarter. In addition, the company says creators who host consistent Spaces for a month see a 6-7% growth in followers, and creators who do so for two months see a 10% growth in followers.
TikTok launches its first creator crediting tool to help video creators cite their inspiration – TechCrunch
After years of stolen memes and uncredited dance trends, TikTok today is introducing a new feature that it says will be the first iteration of its creator crediting tools that allow creators to directly tag and credit others using a new button during the publishing process. This button lets creators credit all sorts of inspiration for their content, including dances, jokes, viral sounds, and more — and will help TikTok viewers discover the original creators behind the latest trend by tapping on the credit from the video’s caption.
Larger creators lifting ideas from smaller ones is an issue that’s not limited to TikTok. But as one of the largest social apps on the market, particularly among a younger Gen Z to Millennial demographic, how it approaches the issue of creator recognition matters.
To that end, TikTok says it’s now rolling out a new feature that will allow users to add a credit as part of the publishing process on the app.
To access the feature, users will tap on a new “video” icon on the posting page after creating or editing their own video. Once on the video page, users will be able to select a video they have liked, favorited, posted, or that had used the same sound.
After this video is selected, the video tag will be added as a mention in the caption.
Those whose videos were tagged by another creator will then be alerted to this via an alert in their TikTok app Inbox.
The feature’s launch follows years of controversy over creator credits and attribution on TikTok.
In particular, TikTok had struggled with some of its top stars sourcing new choreography to perform in their dance videos from creators on other, smaller platforms — like the rival short-form video app Dubsmash, later acquired by Reddit. Many of these unknown creators had helped kick off TikTok’s biggest dance trends in years past, like the Renegade, Backpack Kid, or Shiggy. And many were creators of color, who saw their dances go viral after more famous TikTokers would perform their moves without tagging them as the inspiration. This issue came to a head when The New York Times in 2020 reported on the original creator of the Renegade, then a 14-year-old Atlanta teen, Jalaiah Harmon, who hadn’t received credit for her work after TikTok’s largest creator, Charli D’Amelio, performed her dance for her millions of fans, helping her to further grow her already outsized celebrity status.
The following year, a similar controversy made headlines after TikTok star Addison Rae went on “The Tonight Show” where she taught host Jimmy Fallon a number of popular TikTok dances. Meanwhile, the dances’ original creators, many of whom are Black, remained uncredited in the segment. Later, a number of Black creators went on strike as part of a viral campaign to call attention to the issue of creator credits by refusing to choreograph a dance to Megan Thee Stallion’s latest single.
D’Amelio and some other creators have since begun to handwrite dance credits in their video descriptions, often using the shorthand “dc” for dance credit followed by a tag pointing to the username of the creator. A famous Hollywood choreographer, JaQuel Knight, who made history as the first to copyright his work, has also begun helping other dancers on TikTok get credit for their work too, Vice reported in December.
But dances aren’t the only things being stolen on TikTok. Creators have fielded accusations of stealing everything from cheerleading routines to comedy bits to challenge ideas to music or sounds and much more.
A TikTok spokesperson acknowledged the problem with credits on the platform, noting that the culture of credit was “critical” for the community and for TikTok’s future. “Equitable creator amplification is important for creators, especially the BIPOC creator community,” they added.
In an announcement, Director of the Creator Community at TikTok, Kudzi Chikumbu introduced the feature and highlighted other efforts the company has made to help better highlight original creator work on its platform.
Chikumbu pointed to TikTok’s Originators series, launched last October, which showcases trend originators through the app’s Discover List feature. TikTok also recently debuted a TikTok Originators monthly social series highlighting Originators on the platform. In addition, the TikTok Creator Portal includes a “Crediting Creators” section that highlights the importance of attributing trend originators for their work. Here, the company lays out best practices for crediting originators and explains how to find the originators if you aren’t sure who had started a trend.
The use of the new crediting tag could help make it easier for creators to cite their inspiration. However, it still relies on user adoption to work. If a creator wants to lift ideas without credit, they could simply not use the feature.
“It’s important to see a culture of credit take shape across the digital landscape and to support underrepresented creators in being properly credited and celebrated for their work,” said Chikumbu. “We’re eager to see how these new creator crediting tools inspire more creativity and encourage trend attribution across the global TikTok community.”
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