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What real people think about the iPhone XS



The stars are out.

Five of them, according to my colleague Jason Cipriani.

In reviewing the iPhone XS Max, he describes it as “the future of the iPhone.”

What, though, do real people on the street think about this and its smaller sibling, the iPhone XS?

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks asking people on both coasts.

Also: iPhone XS Max first impressions: It’s big, but not too big

Now, when I say people, I mean real people: The 99 percenters who are taken advantage of every day.

They’re bartenders, baristas, and store employees. They’re those who can’t throw their money around on just anything.

Frankly, just about any human being I encountered was subject to a (polite, naturally) question about their thoughts on the new phone.

Not everyone’s love object?

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Where’s the Hologram?

I began near my home in the Bay Area, shortly after the XS and XS Max launched. Some of the replies left me a touch quiet.

“I’m not going to care until they make a hologram phone,” Sherine, a Starbucks barista, told me with some venom. “Anything else, forget it.”

Her fellow barista Danny was supportive: “She’s right. I’ve got a 7 and I’m not going to upgrade unless my plan gives me a new phone or I break mine. But the hologram would be great.”

That day, I went to a physical therapist. She didn’t even know there was a new iPhone. She was sure, though, that she didn’t need one.

“What’s so different about this one?” she asked.

Also: iPhone XS and XS Max reveals some battery surprises

I tried to explain.

“You know how I make my phone look different?” said the physical therapist, not entirely interested in my explanation. “I buy lots of cases. They’re 20 bucks, and I’ve got six of them.”

“But don’t you want your phone to do more? To take better pictures, for example?”

“I just don’t need a new phone. My phone’s fine. I’ve got a 7. Wait, I think it’s a 7.”

It seems that there’s no stopping the arc of phones becoming important, but utilitarian objects.

It works, so why should I change it? And as the price of the newest phones has kept rising, many people don’t see the value in seeking them out.

Also: iPhone XS, XS Max, XR specs: Battery size, RAM details revealed in new filings

“Fifty bucks a month for a phone?” a (refurbished) iPhone 8-owning bartender told me. “That’s my gym membership. I’d rather pay for that.”

Bartenders need exercise in order to perform at their peak.

Does New York love it?

Still, perhaps New Yorkers would think differently. They can be a little more showy than Northern Californians. So, I jumped on a plane to find out.

“Yeah, maybe I’d think about getting a new iPhone,” said Kristen, a Manhattan restaurant server. “But they’re not all out yet, are they?”

This was something suggested by famed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who believes that four-times as many Max phones as XS phones have been sold because people are waiting for the iPhone XR.

“You mean you’re waiting for the XR?” I asked Kristen.

“Is that what it’s called?” she replied. “The cheaper one with the colors.”

I fancy Kuo might be right. It isn’t just that the XR is a cheaper phone and a very good phone for the money, relatively speaking. It is, I fear, that Apple’s insistence on releasing its most expensive phones in muted shades has muted some people’s enthusiasm.

The minute they saw that there could be bright blues and yellows, some people thought they’d wait.

Also: iPhone XS smartphone beauty really is only skin deep

That might seem shallow to some. But specs never were and never will be the main reason people buy phones. This is hard for hardened tech types to swallow.

However, Kristen was one of the rare people I talked to who knew there was still one more phone to go. Most had no idea.

“I’ve already got an iPhone X,” a server in a sushi restaurant told me.

“How come?”

“It came with my plan,” she explained. “All my tech friends laugh at me because it’s not Android.”

“Do you know anyone who’s got the XS?”

“One of my friends got it, but that’s because his girlfriend paid for it. He’s a kept man and he loves it.”

“The phone?”

“No, being a kept man.”

Come on people, get giddy.

Still, I was looking for excitement. I was looking for people to tell me how cool the new iPhones were, how excited they were to try the new camera.

Despite badgering 50 to 60 people, I failed to find those enthusiasts. Except for a few who loved the fact that they now had an enormous iPhone in the XS Max.

“I was so happy to get a big one,” an employee of a fancy-ish clothing store told me. “It’s like an iPad, but it isn’t.”

I nodded furiously.

Also: iPhone XR outshines XS value for upgraders

An Android-loving New York hotel receptionist laughed when I asked what he thought of the new iPhones.

“They’re like the old iPhones, just a little less scratched up,” he said.

They’re funny in New York. Or, at least, they think they are.

I finally thought I’d found a sure target, a young man I met at a business reception. He worked in real estate.

Surely he’d have strong opinions about the XS. Surely he’d already have one, probably the Max.

Real estate types tend to lease BMWs and Mercs and wear Apple Watches to show how affluent people should think they are.

This young man had a highly structured suit and strong opinions about the XS.

“Not for me,” he said.

As I made the overly perplexed face I use for strangers, he reached into his pocket and declaimed: “Ta-Da! This is what’s called an iPhone SE!”

“Why have you got that?” I asked.

“Hands like the president,” he replied.

Previous and related coverage:

Apple vs Samsung phones: We compare the Galaxy S series and the iPhone XS

Should you buy the latest Apple or Samsung device? And which size? This guide breaks down the factors that matter most to business buyers and consumers alike.

Six months with Apple Watch 3: I’m sold

I hadn’t worn a watch for 20 years when I bought an Apple Watch Series 3 six months ago. Now I wear it every day. Here’s why — and what I don’t like.

iPhone XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 9: We compare the big phones

Apple and Samsung recently released large flagship smartphones priced at $1,000+. They are close to the same size and have the latest specs, but there are also some significant differences that will lead you to one over the other for your business needs.

Will there be an October Apple event? Signs point to yes

Once again, David Gewirtz puts on his mystical prognostication hat (okay, fine, he launches Excel) to delve into Apple announcement history. Will we see new Macs, iPads, and whatnot in October? There’s a pretty good chance, and we’ll even tell you what dates to write in your calendar.

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New privacy bill would put major limits on targeted advertising – TechCrunch



A new bill seeks to dramatically reshape the online advertising landscape to the detriment of companies like Facebook, Google and data brokers that leverage deep stores of personal information to make money from targeted ads.

The bill, the Banning Surveillance Advertising Act, introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in the House and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate, would dramatically limit the ways that tech companies serve ads to their users, banning the use of personal data altogether.

Any targeting based on “protected class information, such as race, gender, and religion, and personal data purchased from data brokers” would be off-limits were the bill to pass. Platforms could still target ads based on general location data at the city or state level and “contextual advertising” based on the content a user is interacting with would still be allowed.

The bill would empower the FTC and state attorneys general to enforce violations, with fines of up to $5,000 per incident for knowing violations.

“The ‘surveillance advertising’ business model is premised on the unseemly collection and hoarding of personal data to enable ad targeting,” Rep. Eshoo said. “This pernicious practice allows online platforms to chase user engagement at great cost to our society, and it fuels disinformation, discrimination, voter suppression, privacy abuses, and so many other harms.”

Sen. Booker called the targeted advertising model “predatory and invasive,” stressing how the practice exacerbates misinformation and extremism on social media platforms.

Privacy-minded companies including search engine maker DuckDuckGo and Proton, creator of ProtonMail, backed the legislation along with organizations including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Anti-Defamation League, Accountable Tech and Common Sense Media.

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Snapchat says it’s getting better at finding illicit drug dealers before users do – TechCrunch



Snapchat has faced increasing criticism in recent years as the opioid crisis plays out on social media, often with tragic results.

In October, an NBC investigation reported the stories of a number of young people aged 13 to 23 who died after purchasing fentanyl-laced pills on Snapchat. Snapchat parent company Snap responded by committing to improve its ability to detect and remove this kind of content and ushering users who search for drug-related content to an educational harm reduction portal.

Snapchat provided a glimpse at its progress against illicit drug sales on the platform, noting that 88 percent of the drug-related content it finds is now identified proactively by automated systems, with community reporting accounting for the other 12 percent. Snap says this number is up by a third since its October update, indicating that more of this content is being detected up front before being identified by users.

“Since this fall, we have also seen another important indicator of progress: a decline in community-reported content related to drug sales,” Snap wrote in a blog post. “In September, over 23% of drug-related reports from Snapchatters contained content specifically related to sales, and as a result of proactive detection work, we have driven that down to 16% as of this month. This marks a decline of 31% in drug-related reports. We will keep working to get this number as low as possible.”

The company says that it also recently introduced a new safeguard that prevents 13 to 17 year-old users from showing up in its Quick Add user search results unless they have friends in common with the person searching. That precaution is meant to discourage minors from connecting with users they don’t know, in this case to deter online drug transactions.

Snapchat is also adding information from the CDC on the dangers of fentanyl into its “Heads Up” harm reduction portal and partnering with the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), a global nonprofit working to “prevent substance misuse through collaborative community efforts.”

The company works with experts to identify new search terms that sellers use to get around its rules against selling illicit substances. Snapchat calls the work to keep its lexicon of drug sales jargon up to date “a constant, ongoing effort.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration published a warning last month about the dangers of pills purchased online that contain fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is deadlier in much smaller doses than heroin. Because fentanyl increasingly shows up in illicitly purchased drugs, including those purchased online, it can prove fatal to users who believed they were ingesting other substances.

In December, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram called Snapchat and other social media apps “haven[s] for drug traffickers” in a December interview with CBS. “Because drug traffickers are harnessing social media because it is accessible, they’re able to access millions of Americans and it is anonymous and they’re able to sell these fake pills that are not what they say they are,” Milgram said.

While social media platforms dragged their feet about investing in proactive, aggressive content moderation, online drug sales took root. Companies have sealed up some of the more obvious ways to find illicit drugs online (a few years ago it was as simple as searching #painpills on Instagram, for instance) but savvy sellers adapt their practices to get around new rules as they’re made.

The rise of fentanyl is a significant factor exacerbating the American opioid epidemic and the substance’s prevalence in online sales presents unique challenges. In an October hearing on children’s online safety, Snap called the issue the company’s “top priority,” but many lawmakers and families affected by online drug sales remain skeptical that social media companies are taking their role in the opioid crisis seriously.


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Twitter expands misinformation reporting feature to more international markets – TechCrunch



Last August, Twitter introduced a new feature in select markets, including the U.S., that invited users to report misinformation they encountered on its platform — including things like election-related or Covid-19 misinformation, for example. Now the company is rolling out the feature to more markets as its test expands. In addition to the U.S., Australia, and South Korea, where the feature had already gone live, Twitter is rolling out the reporting option to users in Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines.

The company also offered an update on the feature’s traction, noting that the company has received more than 3.7 million user-submitted reports since its debut. For context, Twitter has around 211 million monetizable active daily users, as of its most recent earnings, 37 million of which are U.S.-based and 174 million based in international markets.

According to Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, the “vast majority” of content the company takes action on for misinformation is identified proactively through automation (which accounts for 50%+ of enforcements) or proactive monitoring. User-submitted reports via the new feature, however, Twitter to identify patterns of misinformation — an area where Twitter has seen the most success so far from the feature, Roth says. This is particularly true in areas like non-text-baed misinformation like media and URLs that link to content hosted off Twitter’s platform.

But he also noted that when Twitter reviewed a subset of individual reported tweets, only around 10% were considered “actionable” compared with 20-30% in other policy areas, as many tweets analyzed didn’t contain misinformation at all.

In markets where the feature is available, users can report misinformation by clicking the three-dot menu in the upper-right of a tweet, then choosing the “report tweet” option. From there, they’ll be able to click the option “it’s misleading.”

While Twitter already offered a way to report violating content on its platform before the addition of the new flagging option, its existing reporting flow didn’t offer a clear way to report tweets containing misinformation. Instead, users would have to pick from options like “it’s suspicious or spam” or “it’s abusive or harmful,” among others, before further narrowing down how the specific tweet was in violation of Twitter’s rules.

The ability to flag tweets as misinformation allows users to more quickly and directly flag content that may not fit into existing rules, as well. But the reports themselves are tied into Twitter’s existing enforcement flow, where a combination of human review and moderation is used to determine if a punitive action should take place. Twitter had also said the reported tweets would be sorted for review based on priority — meaning tweets from accounts with a large following or those showing higher levels of engagement would be reviewed first.

The feature is rolling out at a time when social networks are being pressured to clean up the misinformation they’ve allowed to spread across their platforms, or risk regulation that will enforce such cleanups and perhaps even enact penalties for not doing so.

The flagging option is not the only way Twitter is working to fight misinformation. The company also runs an experiment called Birdwatch, which aims to crowdsource fact-checking by allowing Twitter users to annotate misleading tweets with factual information. This service is still in pilot testing and being updated based on user feedback.

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