October 18, 2018

Link: Getting a Pixel 3 for Not-Verizon is a Pain (Unless You Order) ☍

Chris Welch for The Verge:

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones being sold by Verizon will not support SIM cards from other carriers unless they are first activated on Verizon’s network. A Verizon spokesperson confirmed this to The Verge, pointing to a new policy that the carrier implemented earlier this year to dissuade thieves from targeting its own retail stores and those of authorized resellers.

Once a Pixel 3 (or any of Verizon’s other current phones) is activated, the carrier will automatically unlock the device “overnight” that same day, according to the company. So there’s not much of a wait to get around this, but there is a wait all the same. Remember that Verizon is the exclusive carrier partner in the United States. So your only alternative — and the one folks on other carriers should definitely take — is buying direct from Google. Google seems to have a good handle on stock (with most storage and color options available within a week), but shipping isn’t immediate.

This policy presents a hurdle for anyone who was hoping to walk into say, a Best Buy, and try to buy a Pixel 3 outright at full price to use on their own carrier. (Most Best Buy stores probably wouldn’t even allow this, for the record.) But it’s also something to be aware of if you buy a new-in-box, unactivated Verizon Pixel 3 from someone online.

While I get Verizon has developed a reputation for having out-of-the-box unlocked phones (meaning they can be used on any carrier) and that has led to thieves targeting them, this seems like a mess. The notion of a “carrier exclusive” phone feels very 2006 and that means that you can only order a Pixel 3 if you wanted to use it on another carrier. While getting an unlocked iPhone at a retail store that isn’t Apple’s can be a bit just as messy, there are Apple stores in many reasonably populated areas.

It’s a shame since the Pixel 3, like its predecessors, is probably the best representation of Google’s view of Android. Even if Google’s sales targets are nowhere near what Samsung or LG are doing, I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot with the way the Pixel is being distributed. As they don’t have their own retail footprint like Apple, partner with Best Buy, Target, or even Walmart and sell it unlocked.

October 16, 2018

Article: Contactless-less

Over the past four years, it’s been fun and exciting to see Apple Pay go from a niche, geeky service to something…just a bit less niche and geeky. However, there’s a few retailers that don’t support Apple Pay, or any contactless form of payment, despite either having the hardware or the resources to make it happen. It’s mostly political, either as an attempt to circumvent credit cards or pushing their own service, but still worth examining…

October 8, 2018

Link: Facebook Launches Portal ☍

Jacob Kastrenakes for The Verge:

As Facebook works to contain the fallout from its biggest-ever data breach, the company is introducing a product that will bring a camera and microphone into your living room. Facebook Portal, and the larger Portal Plus, are smart displays that are laser-focused on video chatting.

The first hardware products marketed under the Facebook brand, the Portals can be used to call other Portal users, or anyone who has Facebook or Facebook Messenger. The Portals can play music through Spotify and Pandora, or stream video from Facebook Watch, but these are intentionally limited devices. For better and for worse, you can’t even browse Facebook. […]

The Portal is designed to simplify video chatting by having a wide-angle camera capable of identifying your body, then tracking you as you move around the room. It makes for more comfortable chatting than holding a phone up to your face for extended periods of time. Facebook says the Portal is designed to create the sense that you’re sharing one big room with the people you’re talking to, and considers the chats you have on the device an augmented reality experience.

For a device designed to literally read the room (among other things), the timing of the launch shows that Facebook can’t do the same. No thanks.

October 5, 2018

Link: Bloomberg’s ‘The Big Hack’ ☍

John Gruber:

I see no way around it: either Bloomberg’s report is significantly wrong, at least as pertains to Amazon and Apple, or Apple and Amazon have issued blatantly false denials. You can, perhaps, chalk up Apple’s denial to it being written by Apple PR. I don’t think this would happen, but hypothetically this issue could be deemed so sensitive — either within the company or as a national security issue — that the people at Apple with knowledge of the situation lied to Apple PR. But in my experience, Apple PR does not lie. Do they spin the truth in ways that favor the company? Of course. That’s their job. But they don’t lie, because they understand that one of Apple’s key assets is its credibility. They’d say nothing before they’d lie.

I did a lot of thinking after reading the aforementioned report, and it strikes me as a very different tone that Apple (and Amazon) would issue a statement. There have been some other events that have been PR problems for Apple and more often than not, the company is quiet on the issue. In the case of hardware design flaws, the norm seems to be to keep quiet and then offer some sort of repair extension or fix for affected users.

As this would be a different scenario, the closest thing I could think of was the 2014 leak of celebrity photos. While it didn’t appear to be a flaw with Apple’s systems, their statement was very short and had a only-address-what-needed-to-be feel. In comparison, to state that the reporting is incorrect is a very different reaction, and while an individual can deny an accusation, a public company doing that could be opening themselves up to a nightmare by misleading investors.

“Maybe a little less pyrotechnics, and a little more horology would be a good start.”