November 14, 2019

Snippet: NY Regulators Investigating Apple Card After Viral Complaint of Sexism ☍

Kate Cox for Ars Technica:

Software developer and entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson took to Twitter late last week to complain about his wife Jamie Heinemeier Hansson’s experience with AppleCard. […]

Speaking with Apple customer service did no good, he added, with representatives repeatedly deflecting blame to the black box that makes the determinations. Customer service representatives were, “very nice, courteous people representing an utterly broken and reprehensible system,” Hansson said. “The first person was like ‘I don’t know why, but I swear we’re not discriminating, IT’S JUST THE ALGORITHM.’ I shit you not. ‘IT’S JUST THE ALGORITHM!'”

Several other men on Twitter chimed in with replies outlining similar experiences. They said their wives, who on paper look like the better credit risks, received significantly less favorable terms on their Apple Cards than they did. One of the responses came from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who tweeted that, although he and his wife have only joint bank accounts and assets, his Apple Card was given a limit 10 times higher than his wife’s.

Having done some research on credits even before the Apple Card launched, there’s more factors than just a credit score when getting approved and without people sharing all the data points, these rants tend to stir up controversy without any analytical truth. Considering the amount of people that I know with Apple Card’s who have shared some data points, the limits seemed to be very dependent on stated income once you were in the door. In a relationship where one person may not be working or have investment income, and don’t list “household income,” they would appear to be limited on resources. Some lenders look at total assets and weigh that heavily, but it seems Goldman Sachs doesn’t.

If it turns out that there really is a sexist algorithm, that’s concerning and needs to be addressed, but if it’s a lack of understanding of how the underwriting process works and that a married couple is still considered individual people by many financial institutions, then that demonstrates how we need to do better with financial literacy.

Snippet: Motorola’s New $1500 Folding Razr ☍

Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge:

Motorola is bringing the Razr back in the form of a foldable Android phone, but that doesn’t mean that the company is leaving the classic design of the original behind. As a neat tribute to the OG RAZR, Motorola has included a secret “Retro Razr” mode that turns the $1,499 modern smartphone into the spitting image of its 2004-era predecessor.

The mode is basically a glorified skinned Android launcher that faithfully re-creates the original RAZR UI through software, right down to the classic boot animation. But Motorola has put in some serious work here: the skin is fully functional. Click the button for messaging, and it’ll launch the Android messaging app. Click right to open settings, and the settings app will launch. The best part is dialing a phone number, which features the same pop-up UI as the original, including the sounds.

While both this phone and the company making it are not anything like the RAZR and Motorola of the early-aughts, it’s both an interesting take on the folding phone and enough design cues to get me a bit nostalgic. Unlike the original RAZR, it’s going to be exclusive to Verizon at launch and not take SIM cards, and be quite pricey for midrange specs (I don’t think even taking into account inflation would make the two close). Due to those shortcomings, it doesn’t look like I’ll be picking one up and setting the default ringtone to Waves like the old days.

Snippet: The 16-inch MacBook Pro ☍

Although just about anyone who is worth anything in the Apple universe has a post about the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, Marco Arment has been rather outspoken about the outgoing models and its flaws, so I was eager to see what his early thoughts included:

I’m on cloud nine. Look at this glorious keyboard! An Esc key! Inverted-T arrow keys! A millimeter of key travel! Enough spacing between the keys for our fingers to accurately orient themselves! And keystrokes will probably work, 100% of the time, for years!

Five years ago, nobody would’ve considered any of these noteworthy, and readers would’ve suspected you weren’t of sound mind if you included them in a review.

Five years ago, laptop keyboards were fine. Everyone was pretty much satisfied with the ones they had, they worked, and we never had to talk or think about them.

While I know that changes take time to redesign a product line, I still feel like Apple should have done this a few years ago instead of arguing how many times they’ve improved the butterfly keyboards. Still, it’s nice to see that this machine may be a first step in having portable Macs that we can get excited about.

November 7, 2019

Snippet: AT&T Price-Hikes Existing Customers for a “Bonus” ☍

Sean Hollister for The Verge:

AT&T has a gift for wireless subscribers on many of its old Mobile Share Value data plans: it’s giving them an extra 15GB of “bonus” data — and it’s making them pay an extra $10 a month for that “bonus.”

It’s almost like the company is forcing people to move to a more expensive plan, only AT&T figured out a way to make that not technically true. Instead, it’s worded in a way that suggests the company is providing you with a SURPRISE BENEFIT that costs you money! It is quite literally an offer you can’t refuse.

AT&T has done nonsense like this a few times in the past and it’s just slimy. They want to reduce their massive debt and are nickel and diming their way out of it. It also seems that it’s a way to pressure people into their unlimited plans, which have various caveats and limitations.

While voting with your wallet is always a great option, AT&T does have a very good network. If you are on one of the affected plans, but want to stick with AT&T, downgrade to a cheaper plan (since many have had increases in price and data allotments) or call 611, say you want to cancel, and see what the retentions department can offer.

November 1, 2019

Snippet: Google Buys Fitbit for $2.1 Billion ☍

Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge:

Google has just announced that it’s buying wearable company Fitbit for $2.1 billion. In a blog post announcing the news, Google SVP of devices and services Rick Osterloh said that the Fitbit purchase is “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market.” […]

Under the deal, Fitbit will be joining Google itself. (It’s similar to the current situation with Nest, which is wholly under Google now, compared to when Alphabet had originally acquired the smart home company but left it as a separate division under the corporate structure.)

According to a separate press release issued by Fitbit, the company will still take privacy for heath and fitness data seriously, noting that “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”

While the combination makes a lot of sense, I still don’t feel great about it. As Google, Facebook, and Amazon purchase smaller companies to integrate with their products, it’s harder to find things that don’t have a creepy feel to them. Fitbit health and wellness data may not be used for Google ads, but what kinds of data analysis could they still be used for?

I try to look at the industry as a whole, recognize my own bias, but increasingly it’s feeling like many options are Apple or giving up some level of privacy and I’m not sure how I feel about such limited choice.