European Commission fines Google €4.34 billion for illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices

The European Commission released a statement on fining Google €4.34 billion for illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google’s search engine.

The European Commission has fined Google €4.34 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules. Since 2011, Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search.

1. Illegal tying of Google’s search and browser apps

First, the tying of the Google Search app. As a result, Google has ensured that its Google Search app is pre-installed on practically all Android devices sold in the EEA. Search apps represent an important entry point for search queries on mobile devices. The Commission has found this tying conduct to be illegal as of 2011, which is the date Google became dominant in the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system.

Second, the tying of the Google Chrome browser. As a result, Google has ensured that its mobile browser is pre-installed on practically all Android devices sold in the EEA. Browsers also represent an important entry point for search queries on mobile devices and Google Search is the default search engine on Google Chrome. The Commission found this tying conduct to be illegal as of 2012, which is the date from which Google has included the Chrome browser in its app bundle.

Google granted significant financial incentives to some of the largest device manufacturers as well as mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed Google Search across their entire portfolio of Android devices. This harmed competition by significantly reducing their incentives to pre-install competing search apps.

3. Illegal obstruction of development and distribution of competing Android operating systems

Google has prevented device manufacturers from using any alternative version of Android that was not approved by Google (Android forks). In order to be able to pre-install on their devices Google’s proprietary apps, including the Play Store and Google Search, manufacturers had to commit not to develop or sell even a single device running on an Android fork. The Commission found that this conduct was abusive as of 2011, which is the date Google became dominant in the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system.

Would this reverse the damage done given how users are now conditioned to these settings and mobile manufacturers don’t have any decent OS alternatives to turn to?

Popular Science: ‘Do You Really Need to Properly Eject a USB Drive Before Yanking It Out?’

John Gruber wrote about the misleading Popular Science article: ‘Do You Really Need to Properly Eject a USB Drive Before Yanking It Out?’.

This is terrible advice. It’s akin to saying you probably don’t need to wear a seat belt because it’s unlikely anything bad will happen. Imagine a few dozen people saying they drive without a seat belt every day and nothing’s ever gone wrong, so it must be OK. (The breakdown in this analogy is that with seat belts, you know instantly when you need to be wearing one. With USB drives, you might not discover for months or years that you’ve got a corrupt file that was only partially written to disk when you yanked the drive.)

This is a great analogy.

I have another analogy that might reflect the undiscovered effect of yanking out USB drives: smoking cigarettes. People will tell you they have friends or parents that smoke and go on to live long without ever suffering as a results of their smoking habit. So they believe that it is perfectly safe to smoke. You might not discover for months or years that you are suffering from the harmful effects of smoking such as “corrupted” lungs.

Always safely eject your media drives before removing it. I speak from experience having lost files through disconnections when I had a loose USB cable, USB plug not fully inserted and then it fell out, and when the dog yanked the cable out accidentally. I was not actively reading from or writing to the drives but files were still corrupted. Imagine the data loss if the drives were in use.

Again, it is sad to see how people would cling on to false articles to strengthen their mistaken beliefs.

China’s mobile payment platforms are transforming online marketing

Masha Borak wrote on TechNode about China’s mobile payment platforms transforming online marketing.

“The most basic type of interaction is to invite customers to follow the brand’s official WeChat account to get notifications for their order,” Graziani told TechNode.

Another is to automatically enroll customers in a group purchase, he added. Users share their purchase with friends on social media and get a discount in return. For brands, this can be a way to create some additional viral engagement.

Many vendors get the consumers to do the marketing to drive sales via gift cards or coupons. Another way is to offer a discount coupon if the consumer follow the brand’s official WeChat account. This allows the brand to send notifications about promotions or give consumers more discount coupons to lure them back to make purchases. These aren’t new marketing tactics, but the use of WeChat to make it as seamless and minimise friction increases the appeal to the consumers.

It’s become a habit for me to check for Meituan or Koubei promotions when ordering at restaurants and during payment.

The trend is especially popular among restaurants, which are CJI’s main customers. Some restaurants are giving up entirely on the concept of the classical paper menu. To place an order, guests scan a QR code that leads them to an online menu where they pick their favorite dishes and pay with the mobile payment app of their choice.

This is becoming increasingly common. All of the restaurants I’ve been to in the past two months have QR code stickers on each table for ordering and payment. Instead of trying to get the attention of a busy wait staff during peak periods, we order with our smartphones. Likewise when it comes to paying the bill. Cheaper and faster. Attractive incentives for the consumers.

The False Tale of Amazon’s Industry-Conquering Juggernaut

Felix Salmon wrote for WIRED about the false tale of Amazon’s industry-conquering juggernaut.

Still, as Bezos will readily admit, most of his investment ideas fail. Just because Amazon spends a huge amount of money on, say, trying to create a new social network, doesn’t mean it’s going to have any visible success doing so. After Amazon spent $545 million to acquire Diapers.com, for instance, it ended up shuttering the business, claiming it couldn’t make it profitable.

Ultimately, Amazon is not a disruptive force so much as it’s just a big, rich company which spends a lot of resources trying a lot of things. That’s smart, for Amazon, but it certainly doesn’t mean that industry after industry is going to get disrupted the minute the Seattle giant lays eyes on it. Even Amazon’s core business of retailing hasn’t changed all that much: e-commerce still accounts for less than 10 percent of total sales, and Amazon is a minority of that 10 percent.

Amazon goes into many industries but it isn’t a big player in the field. It just has a presence that helps to spread the Amazon brand and influence. Is Amazon the biggest player or a disruptive force in advertising, cloud computing, TV shows, book publishing, voice assistant manufacturer? How about e-Commerce? Amazon relies on a lot of third-party sellers to drive the platform.

Google launches its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue

TechCrunch reported on Google launching its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue.

WeChat has become the key distribution channel in China and that’s why Google is embracing it with its first mini program — 猜画小歌, a game that roughly translates to ‘Guess My Sketch.’ There’s no English announcement but the details can be found in this post on Google’s Chinese blog, which includes the QR code to scan to get the game.

The app is a take on games like Zynga’s Draw Something, which puts players into teams to guess what the other is drawing. Google, however, is adding a twist. Each player teams up with an AI and then battles against their friends and their AIs. You can find an English version of the game online here.

Interesting move. The advantage is that the mini programs are platform agnostic. Both iOS and Android users will be able to use the mini program within WeChat.

Mini programs are a huge convenience if you happen to be part of the WeChat ecosystem. I enjoy using them for lightweight functions because I can launch them within WeChat without having to download a separate app that needs to be updated or configured. Mini programs simply ask for permission to access your WeChat profile instead making you go through a registration process. If the app requires a payment service, it’ll ask for access to your WeChat Pay wallet.

I use the Shenzhen Metro mini program in my daily commute. Instead of having to download an app for a single function, mini programs allow you to access such single functions with ease from within WeChat.

New Samsung ad ignores performance benchmarks

AppleInsider reported that the new Samsung ad attacks iPhone X download speed, ignores performance benchmarks.

Regardless, the ad clearly doesn’t step into other, arguably more crucial, areas of phone performance where our tests had iPhone X in a clear lead. Looking at the Geekbench results, iPhone X completely destroys the S9+, especially in single core performance. The iPhone came in with single- and multi-core scores of 4,243 and 10,433, respectively, while the S9+ managed scores of 2,007 and 8,307.

Graphics-wise, iPhone X still outpaced the S9+. The S9+ scored 14,308, very close to, but not topping, iPhone’s 15,177. In all our testing, there were a couple tests where the S9+ won out, but by-and-large the iPhone X was the more powerful device.

Next year, Samsung is expected to release the Galaxy S10 and S10+, which will most likely attempt to more evenly compete with Face ID. Currently, the S9 and S9+ use a 2D scanner when validating a face and is much less accurate than Apple’s 3D infrared TrueDepth camera system.

Samsung is shooting itself in the foot by going with an ad that draws comparison to the iPhone X.

Comparing download speeds makes a lot of sense since it is something the devices have full control over, not the internet service providers. Not to mention the signal strengths and other factors that might affect download speeds. Because download speed is the key criteria most people look at when choosing which phone to buy.

Sarcasm. In case anyone didn’t notice that.

Apple Music has surpassed Spotify’s US subscriber count

Digital Music News reported that Apple Music has surpassed Spotify’s US subscriber count.

Both Apple Music and Spotify have more than 20 million subscribers in America, with Apple now a hair ahead.  The source requested that we withhold exact subscriber numbers beyond mentioning ’20 million plus,’ to protect confidentiality.

The data for 2018 also shows that Apple is experiencing a far stronger rate-of-growth in the United States, suggesting a wider lead over the coming months.  Trial users were not part of the comparison.

The results aren’t entirely surprising.  Back in February, the Wall Street Journal noted that Apple’s US-based subscriber growth rate was 5% in the U.S., compared to Spotify’s 2%.  Using that data, the Journal predicted that Apple Music was ‘on the verge’ of surpassing Spotify.

Better user engagement on Apple Music.

A bug in Samsung’s default texting app is sending random pics to other people

Gizmodo reported that a bug in Samsung’s default texting app is sending random pics to other people.

According to user reports, the problem stems from Samsung Messages, the default texting app on Galaxy devices, which (for reasons that haven’t been determined), is erroneously sending pictures stored on the devices to random contacts via SMS. One user on Reddit even claims that instead of sending one pic, Samsung Messages sent out their entire photo gallery to a contact in the middle of the night.

Scary.

The scariest part about this bug is that when Samsung Messages bugs out sends pics to other people, it reportedly doesn’t leave any evidence of it doing so, which means people may not know their photos have been released into the wild until it’s too late.

Are you using a Samsung Galaxy device now? What if your phone has been sending this out and you didn’t know because the people receiving your photos aren’t saying anything?

Mobike does away with deposits in China

Christopher Udemans reported for TechNode that Mobike has removed deposits for all users in China.

Deposit-free rides will now be standard across the country. Existing users can apply to have their deposits refunded. According to a Mobike representative, if a warning appears in the app when you try to use the platform after being refunded, you will need to update the app. If it is up to date, the server is giving an old message, and it will work nonetheless.

Great news. This would definitely help drive adoption. Users who have paid deposits for other services are less likely to pay deposit for another service.

Mobike has also announced bike rental integration into the Meituan platform, a new fleet of e-bikes to extend transportation range for its users, and a program to recycle components from retired bicycles.

An alliance to compete against Didi and ofo.

Apple Maps privacy

TechCrunch reported that Apple is rebuilding Maps from the ground up.

“We specifically don’t collect data, even from point A to point B,” notes Cue. “We collect data — when we do it — in an anonymous fashion, in subsections of the whole, so we couldn’t even say that there is a person that went from point A to point B. We’re collecting the segments of it. As you can imagine, that’s always been a key part of doing this. Honestly, we don’t think it buys us anything [to collect more]. We’re not losing any features or capabilities by doing this.”

The segments that he is referring to are sliced out of any given person’s navigation session. Neither the beginning or the end of any trip is ever transmitted to Apple. Rotating identifiers, not personal information, are assigned to any data or requests sent to Apple and it augments the “ground truth” data provided by its own mapping vehicles with this “probe data” sent back from iPhones.

Because only random segments of any person’s drive is ever sent and that data is completely anonymized, there is never a way to tell if any trip was ever a single individual. The local system signs the IDs and only it knows to whom that ID refers. Apple is working very hard here to not know anything about its users. This kind of privacy can’t be added on at the end, it has to be woven in at the ground level.

Because Apple’s business model does not rely on it serving to you, say, an ad for a Chevron on your route, it doesn’t need to even tie advertising identifiers to users.

Apple uses the data to improve the service. It doesn’t sell you ads or sell your data. This is why they don’t need to identify users or even build a profile of each user.