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RHA TrueConnect earbuds review: High quality, stylish wireless earbuds for your commute or workout

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Image: RHA

After testing out the Jabra Elite Active 65t in June 2018, my AirPods have been sitting idle. RHA’s new TrueConnect earbuds compete directly with products like this Jabra headset with long battery life, water resistance, and better fit than the generic AirPods.

The AirPods let me down with no water/dust resistant rating, one-size-fits all fit (or unfit as it may be), and limited support for Android smartphones. Thankfully, there are options today and the RHA TrueConnect is a great option for iOS and Android phone and tablet users. The sound quality is great, the earbuds are sweat/splash/weather resistant, digital assistants on iOS and Android are supported, and a wide variety of tips to fit your ears are provided.

Also RHA MA390 Wireless earbuds hands-on: 8 hour battery, assistant button, and reasonable price

I’ve been commuting, running, and traveling with these earbuds for the last few weeks and am very impressed with their performance. There is one aspect I would like to see improved, but overall the RHA TrueConnect is a headset to consider.

Specifications

  • Driver: 6mm dynamic
  • Frequency range: 20-20,000 Hz
  • Water resistance: IPX5 rating
  • Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Battery life: Up to 5 hours of play with charging case providing another 20 hours. 15 minutes of charging in the case give you 50 percent charge on the earbuds.
  • Earbud weight: 13 grams total
  • Warranty: Industry-leading three year manufacturer’s warranty

Hardware

The retail package includes the two wireless earbuds, a charging case with integrated battery, a USB-C cable, and an array of earbud tips. It is awesome to finally see accessory providers using USB-C to charge up devices since most phones use this cable and it is getting harder and harder to find older microUSB cables.

RHA is known for providing a massive selection of earbud tips and with the TrueConnect package you will find two sets of silicone tips for your ears in sizes small, medium, and large. You will also find one set of small, medium, and large Comply foam tips that are more effective for sound isolation if you want to block the outside world and enjoy your media content.

The RHA TrueConnect has a different form factor than we have seen from Jabra, Samsung, and others. It is similar to an AirPod with a stem that extends downwards, but not as long as the AirPods. The extension fits in nicely with the groove in your ear to help lock it securely into place.

The earbuds have a matte black finish with a soft touch covering. They are easy to grasp and stay securely in your ears.

The buttons on the earbuds do not offer much tactile feedback and is the one aspect of the TrueConnect that keep me from calling them perfect. It is hard for me to tell when I double or triple tap the earbud and I often end up pushing the earbud further into my ear canal as a result. A more pronounced button or a touch interface might be a better approach here.

Also Jabra Elite Active 65t review: Better than the AirPods and designed for active users

There are buttons on both the right and left side. A single press activates play/pause on both sides with a 1.5 second press and hold activating the voice assistant from either side. A double press on the left side skips ahead while a triple press on the left side skips back. A double press on the right side increases volume while a triple press on the right side lowers volume.

Both sides have the same functionality for calls with answer, reject, volume up, and volume down options through single, double, and triple presses.

A high quality metal and soft touch material charging/carrying case is provided. There is a small red dot to indicate the right earbud on the earbud and on the case next to the compartment the earbud is inserted into. The metal spine of the carrying case is held in an upwards position and then you flip out the soft touch compartment. It opens like a roll out drawer and then you grab each earbud to insert it into your ear. It can be a bit tough to get the earbuds out of the charging case too.

There are four white LED indicator lights on the lower left front of the charging case that gives you the charging status of the case, it gives you 20 hours of capacity (four full charges), and charging status of the earbuds when they are inserted into the case for charging.

It is great to see USB-C as the standard charging port and a USB-A to USB-C cable is provided in the retail package.

Price and competition

There is quite a bit of competition in the fully wireless earbud market today, but not all of them are designed for active exercise routines. The Apple AirPods are priced at $159, but do not have tips for the best fit of your ear and there is no level of dust/water resistance.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t earbuds have a MSRP of $189.99, the Samsung Gear Icon X is priced at $129.99 ($50 off MSRP), the Jaybird Run is $179.99, and the Bose SoundSport Free is $169.95.

As you can see, the $169.95 RHA TrueConnect is priced about the same as most of these other water resistant truly wireless earbuds. When you compare all of these, the TrueConnect stands our with a long warranty, excellent battery life, and great quality phone calls.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

Headphone jacks are no longer the default on smartphones so most of us are making the move to wireless headsets. While Apple may have been one of the first to offer a compelling truly wireless experience, others quickly surpassed them with better options for those who are active and for those looking for more than a very basic experience.

RHA has always impressed me with its committment to quality, demonstrated by its long three-year warranty period. The RHA TrueConnect has worked very well for me over the past few weeks, with only the limited tactile feel of its buttons my only concern.

The TrueConnect earbuds also do not support the aptX profile and at this price I would think it would support this common stack. I did notice a bit of broken audio from time-to-time when I had my phone in my pocket, but most of the time playback was flawless.

The stem design helps bring the mic down closer to your mouth and may be a major reason that callers confirmed the call quality with the headset was excellent. Many of these truly wireless headsets are good for music, but don’t perform as well for phone calls.

RHA headsets have impressed me in the past and I had high expectations for its first truly wireless headset. The design is impressive, the battery life is above average, you can control playback and volume right from the headset, and they fit well even when running in the rain. I’m not a fan of the buttons and the lack of aptX is an oversight.

The RHA TrueConnect earbuds are very comfortable for long time wear, making them perfect for commuters, people who like to workout with music, and those looking for something better than the AirPods.

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YouTube announces a $100M fund to reward top YouTube Shorts creators over 2021-2022 – TechCrunch

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YouTube is giving its TikTok competitor, YouTube Shorts, an injection of cash to help it better compete with rivals. The company today introduced the YouTube Shorts Fund, a $100 million fund that will pay YouTube Shorts creators for their most viewed and most engaging content over the course of 2021 and 2022. Creators can’t apply for the fund to help with content production, however. Instead, YouTube will reach out to creators each month whose videos exceeded certain milestones to reward them for their contributions.

The company expects to dole out money to “thousands” of creators every month, it says. And these creators don’t need to be in the YouTube Partner Program to qualify — anyone is eligible to receive rewards by creating original content for YouTube Shorts.

YouTube declined to share more specific details about the fund’s operations at this time, including how creators will be vetted or what specific thresholds for receiving payments YouTube has in mind. It also wouldn’t offer details as to whether YouTube creators could receive multiple payments in the same pay period if they had several videos that would qualify, or any other details.

And while the company stressed that only “original” content would gain rewards, it didn’t clarify how it will go about checking to ensure the content isn’t already uploaded on another platform, like Reels, Snapchat, or TikTok.

Image Credits: YouTube

Instead, YouTube said that more details about the payments and qualifications would be available closer to the fund’s launch, which is expected sometime in the next few months. It pointed out also that it has paid out over $30 billion to creators, artists and media companies over the last three years, and it expects the new fund will help it to build a long-term monetization model for Shorts on YouTube going forward.

YouTube isn’t the only platform to take on the threat of TikTok by throwing cash at the problem.

Snapchat has been paying $1 million per day to creators for their top-performing videos on Spotlight, its own TikTok clone, minting several millionaires in the process. Facebook-owned Instagram, meanwhile, made lucrative offers to top TikTok stars to use its new service, Reels, The WSJ reported last year.

Despite the size of these efforts, TikTok’s own Creator Fund remains a competitive force. It announced its fund would grow to over $1 billion in the U.S. in the next three years and would be more than double that on a global basis. This March, it also added another requirement to receiving the fund’s payments, including having at least 100K authentic views in the last 30 days — a signal that it’s setting the bar even higher, given its current success.

Alongside the debut of YouTube’s Shorts Fund, the company also noted it’s expanding its Shorts player feature across more place on YouTube to help viewers discover this short-form video content, will begin testing ads for Shorts, and will be rolling out the new “remix audio” feature to all Shorts creators.

Image Credits: YouTube

This somewhat controversial feature allows Shorts creators to sample sounds from other YouTube videos for use in their Shorts, instead of only using song clips or original audio. Some YouTube creators were surprised to find the feature was opt-out by default — meaning their content could be used on YouTube Shorts unless they took the time to turn this setting off or removed their video from YouTube.

Since its launch, YouTube has also rolled out other features to Shorts, including support for captions, the ability to record up to 60 seconds with the Shorts camera, the ability to add clips from your phone’s gallery to your recordings made with the Shorts camera, and the ability use basic filters to color correct videos. YouTube says more effects will arrive in the future.

But even as YouTube tries to catch up with TikTok on feature sets, TikTok has been expanding its own effects lineup and becoming more YouTube-like by supporting longer videos. Some TikTok creators, for example, have recently been given the ability to record videos 3 minutes in lengths, instead of just 60 seconds.

YouTube says the new fund will roll out in the coming months and it will listen to the feedback from the creator community to develop a long-term program designed for YouTube Shorts.

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Facebook ordered not to apply controversial WhatsApp T&Cs in Germany – TechCrunch

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The Hamburg data protection agency has banned Facebook from processing the additional WhatsApp user data that the tech giant is granting itself access to under a mandatory update to WhatsApp’s terms of service.

The controversial WhatsApp privacy policy update has caused widespread confusion around the world since being announced — and already been delayed by Facebook for several months after a major user backlash saw rivals messaging apps benefitting from an influx of angry users.

The Indian government has also sought to block the changes to WhatApp’s T&Cs in court — and the country’s antitrust authority is investigating.

Globally, WhatsApp users have until May 15 to accept the new terms (after which the requirement to accept the T&Cs update will become persistent, per a WhatsApp FAQ).

The majority of users who have had the terms pushed on them have already accepted them, according to Facebook, although it hasn’t disclosed what proportion of users that is.

But the intervention by Hamburg’s DPA could further delay Facebook’s rollout of the T&Cs — at least in Germany — as the agency has used an urgency procedure, allowed for under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to order the tech giant not to share the data for three months.

A WhatsApp spokesperson disputed the legal validity of Hamburg’s order — calling it “a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and effect of WhatsApp’s update” and arguing that it “therefore has no legitimate basis”.

“Our recent update explains the options people have to message a business on WhatsApp and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data. As the Hamburg DPA’s claims are wrong, the order will not impact the continued roll-out of the update. We remain fully committed to delivering secure and private communications for everyone,” the spokesperson added, suggesting that Facebook-owned WhatsApp may be intending to ignore the order.

We understand that Facebook is considering its options to appeal Hamburg’s procedure.

The emergency powers Hamburg is using can’t extend beyond three months but the agency is also applying pressure to the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) to step in and make what it calls “a binding decision” for the 27 Member State bloc.

We’ve reached out to the EDPB to ask what action, if any, it could take in response to the Hamburg DPA’s call.

The body is not usually involved in making binding GDPR decisions related to specific complaints — unless EU DPAs cannot agree over a draft GDPR decision brought to them for review by a lead supervisory authority under the one-stop-shop mechanism for handling cross-border cases.

In such a scenario the EDPB can cast a deciding vote — but it’s not clear that an urgency procedure would qualify.

In taking the emergency action, the German DPA is not only attacking Facebook for continuing to thumb its nose at EU data protection rules, but throwing shade at its lead data supervisor in the region, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) — accusing the latter of failing to investigate the very widespread concerns attached to the incoming WhatsApp T&Cs.

(“Our request to the lead supervisory authority for an investigation into the actual practice of data sharing was not honoured so far,” is the polite framing of this shade in Hamburg’s press release).

We’ve reached out to the DPC for a response and will update this report if we get one.

Ireland’s data watchdog is no stranger to criticism that it indulges in creative regulatory inaction when it comes to enforcing the GDPR — with critics charging commissioner Helen Dixon and her team of failing to investigate scores of complaints and, in the instances when it has opened probes, taking years to investigate — and opting for weak enforcements at the last.

The only GDPR decision the DPC has issued to date against a tech giant (against Twitter, in relation to a data breach) was disputed by other EU DPAs — which wanted a far tougher penalty than the $550k fine eventually handed down by Ireland.

GDPR investigations into Facebook and WhatsApp remain on the DPC’s desk. Although a draft decision in one WhatsApp data-sharing transparency case was sent to other EU DPAs in January for review — but a resolution has still yet to see the light of day almost three years after the regulation begun being applied.

In short, frustrations about the lack of GDPR enforcement against the biggest tech giants are riding high among other EU DPAs — some of whom are now resorting to creative regulatory actions to try to sidestep the bottleneck created by the one-stop-shop (OSS) mechanism which funnels so many complaints through Ireland.

The Italian DPA also issued a warning over the WhatsApp T&Cs change, back in January — saying it had contacted the EDPB to raise concerns about a lack of clear information over what’s changing.

At that point the EDPB emphasized that its role is to promote cooperation between supervisory authorities. It added that it will continue to facilitate exchanges between DPAs “in order to ensure a consistent application of data protection law across the EU in accordance with its mandate”. But the always fragile consensus between EU DPAs is becoming increasingly fraught over enforcement bottlenecks and the perception that the regulation is failing to be upheld because of OSS forum shopping.

That will increase pressure on the EDPB to find some way to resolve the impasse and avoid a wider break down of the regulation — i.e. if more and more Member State agencies resort to unilateral ’emergency’ action.

The Hamburg DPA writes that the update to WhatsApp’s terms grant the messaging platform “far-reaching powers to share data with Facebook” for the company’s own purposes (including for advertising and marketing) — such as by passing WhatApp users’ location data to Facebook and allowing for the communication data of WhatsApp users to be transferred to third-parties if businesses make use of Facebook’s hosting services.

Its assessment is that Facebook cannot rely on legitimate interests as a legal base for the expanded data sharing under EU law.

And if the tech giant is intending to rely on user consent it’s not meeting the bar either because the changes are not clearly explained nor are users offered a free choice to consent or not (which is the required standard under GDPR).

“The investigation of the new provisions has shown that they aim to further expand the close connection between the two companies in order for Facebook to be able to use the data of WhatsApp users for their own purposes at any time,” Hamburg goes on. “For the areas of product improvement and advertising, WhatsApp reserves the right to pass on data to Facebook companies without requiring any further consent from data subjects. In other areas, use for the company’s own purposes in accordance to the privacy policy can already be assumed at present.

“The privacy policy submitted by WhatsApp and the FAQ describe, for example, that WhatsApp users’ data, such as phone numbers and device identifiers, are already being exchanged between the companies for joint purposes such as network security and to prevent spam from being sent.”

DPAs like Hamburg may be feeling buoyed to take matters into their own hands on GDPR enforcement by a recent opinion by an advisor to the EU’s top court, as we suggested in our coverage at the time. Advocate General Bobek took the view that EU law allows agencies to bring their own proceedings in certain situations, including in order to adopt “urgent measures” or to intervene “following the lead data protection authority having decided not to handle a case.”

The CJEU ruling on that case is still pending — but the court tends to align with the position of its advisors.

 

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Facebook is testing pop-up messages telling people to read a link before they share it – TechCrunch

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Years after popping open a pandora’s box of bad behavior, social media companies are trying to figure out subtle ways to reshape how people use their platforms.

Following Twitter’s lead, Facebook is trying out a new feature designed to encourage users to read a link before sharing it. The test will reach 6 percent of Facebook’s Android users globally in a gradual rollout that aims to encourage “informed sharing” of news stories on the platform.

Users can still easily click through to share a given story, but the idea is that by adding friction to the experience, people might rethink their original impulses to share the kind of inflammatory content that currently dominates on the platform.

Twitter introduced prompts urging users to read a link before retweeting it last June and the company quickly found the test feature to be successful, expanding it to more users.

Facebook began trying out more prompts like this last year. Last June, the company rolled out pop-up messages to warn users before they share any content that’s more than 90 days old in an an effort to cut down on misleading stories taken out of their original context.

At the time, Facebook said it was looking at other pop-up prompts to cut down on some kinds of misinformation. A few months later, Facebook rolled out similar pop-up messages that noted the date and the source of any links they share related to COVID-19.

The strategy demonstrates Facebook’s preference for a passive strategy of nudging people away from misinformation and toward its own verified resources on hot button issues like COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

While the jury is still out on how much of an impact this kind of gentle behavioral shaping can make on the misinformation epidemic, both Twitter and Facebook have also explored prompts that discourage users from posting abusive comments.

Pop-up messages that give users a sense that their bad behavior is being observed might be where more automated moderation is headed on social platforms. While users would probably be far better served by social media companies scrapping their misinformation and abuse-ridden existing platforms and rebuilding them more thoughtfully from the ground up, small behavioral nudges will have to do.

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