Start up: Spotify passes 39m, a ceramic phone?, the 2007 AirPods, another Facebook photo row, and more

Looks innocent, but it could kill your computer. Photo by on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Minimal risk of explosion. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Spotify conversions accelerate as it passes 39m subscribers • Musically

Stuart Dredge:

»Spotify’s last official figure for its subscribers total was 30m in March 2016.

Now we have a new figure – 39m Spotify subscribers – courtesy of the company’s new global head of creator services Troy Carter. He let the figure slip in an interview with Billboard yesterday.

It’s a significant statistic, because it shows that Spotify has accelerated its subscription growth. It took the company just over nine months to move from 20m to 30m subscribers, adding roughly 1.1m a month.

Now it has added another 9m subscribers in just five months since March, at a rate of 1.8m a month.


“Let slip”, hmm, sure. Compare to Apple’s just-announced 17m: together they’re carving up the space (they’ve together added 36m users since June 2015, which is more than Spotify had then), but there’s now an expectation that Amazon and Pandora (in the US) will try to offer cheaper subscriptions to capture users.
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Editorial: Apple’s AirPods, iPhone 7, Series 2 Watch out… journalists • Apple Insider

Daniel Eran Dilger is quite annoyed with The Meeja in general, but this stuff about Motorola and Samsung had passed me by:

»Apple introduced a new product—a pair of wireless headphones in a charging case—that stoked “outrage” in that the product is small enough to misplace or lose. This was an entirely new epiphany the tech media—and meme authors at Reddit—collectively appreciated in common.

Never before had small electronic devices posed such an obvious loss threat to affluent consumers. Certainly not this summer when Motorola introduced its more expensive and even smaller (but poorly reviewed) VerveOnes+; nor when Samsung unveiled its similarly more expensive Gear IconX buds, which aren’t standard Bluetooth buds and won’t work with iOS devices.

Did you even notice that Apple’s AirPod pricing was about 20% less than similar offerings from Motorola and Samsung? No journalists seemed to. Apple’s also appear to work better, and they can function as standard Bluetooth devices with Android and Windows, albeit lacking the special sauce magic that enhances the experience on Apple Watch, iOS and Macs.

Apple’s Bluetooth headset for the 2007 iPhone. Familiar, huh?

This LossGate issue also wasn’t a thing way back in 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s similarly sized Bluetooth headset for the original iPhone. Suddenly, however, almost ten years later we have devolved into a society of buffoons who can’t manage to hold onto anything, at least if its something that’s sold by Apple.


He’s right: the Motorola VerveOnes+ cost at least $182, and Samsung’s Gear IconX are priced at over £200 in the UK. Compare the AirPods, which are $159/£159 (*grinds teeth*).
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This new USB stick that anyone can buy destroys almost anything it is plugged into •

Joseph Steinberg:

»When the USB Killer is inserted into a USB port of a laptop, television, printer, or any other USB-enabled piece of electronics, it rapidly charges small capacitors within it from the USB power source to which it is connected. When the capacitors are fully charged (which can take less than a second), the device quickly discharges the power over its data lines – thereby sending an unexpected surge of power into the device to which it is connected. The USB Killer repeats this cycle as long as it is plugged in – but even the first discharge is likely to damage many electronic devices. (Note: The USB Killer website seems to be going down periodically – perhaps someone is trying to prevent the device from being sold.)

Security experts have long been cautioning about the danger to electronic devices posed by leaving USB ports uncapped. In the past we have focused primarily on the risk of someone sticking into a computer some USB device infected with malware — and the resulting risk to information security – but, now, the physical risk once considered small other than in the case of highly sensitive systems targeted by advanced attackers, may become widespread.

The makers of the USB Killer claim that their device can kill 95% of devices with USB ports – but Apple laptops are not included in the 95%. Apple, they say, has already implemented technology to protect its products – a security move that is certainly commendable.


Or courageous. Buy one now. Or just get a USB-C cable. That’ll fry something for sure.
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Facebook fails to halt legal bid over nude teenager photo • BBC News

»Facebook has failed in a bid to halt legal action over a naked photograph of a 14-year-old Northern Ireland girl being posted on the site.

Lawyers for the child claim the picture was blackmailed from her and repeatedly published online as a form of revenge.

The girl is taking legal action against Facebook and the man who posted the photo in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the world.

A judge in Belfast refused Facebook’s bid to end proceedings.

The case will now advance to full trial at a later date.


You can see how this would make an algorithm fizz to complete meltdown. “Naked nine-year-old girl OK? Naked 14-year-old girl bad? WHYYYYY??”
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What will the iPhone 8 be made of? • Quora

Brian Roemmele’s reckons it will be a zirconia-alumina ceramic, and goes through lots of reasons why (such as: its new top-end Watch is made of that):

»One can see Apple is using a Zirconia powder with Alumina. This is for color but also for heat transference. As mentioned above this coincides with what I mentioned above about increasing thermal conductivity of Zirconia ceramics.

Apple Watch Edition Series 2 has replaced the solid gold original Watch Edition that sold for $17,000. Apple Watch Edition Series 2 sells for about $1,200 and is now the premium level for the device. Apple is suggesting luxury with the use of this material at this point.

One could argue that the premium price could signal that the iPhone made of Zirconia ceramic would be more costly based on this example. However in my analysis the production cost of high yield Zirconia ceramic in sufficient quantities to produce a unibody in the form factor of the current iPhone 7 would actually be less costly than the current manufacturing, milling and CNC machining of the unibody in Aluminum for the iPhone 7, in high production.

Thus we have the basis for the next generation of the iPhone, but perhaps all Apple devices including the iPad, MacBook Pro and other others. The reasoning is very simple: the benefits of Zirconia ceramic are especially useful for any modern computer device.


Strong but, crucially, transparent to radio of all flavours, good for heat dissipation, scratch resistant. Not sure about ease of manufacture, though. A good one for the rumour mill, and so soon after the latest release..
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This is why Apple got rid of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 • New Scientist

Frank Swain:

»Ditching the headphone jack allows the iPhone 7 to shrink even slimmer, and losing a hole makes the phone more water resistant. But this is also the latest case of Apple using its flagship product to bring a tech trend to the masses – get ready for “hearables” doing battle for the ownership of your ears.

I’ve been using similar technology since 2014, when Apple paired with Starkey Hearing Technologies to produce the world’s first set of smartphone-connected hearing aids, the Starkey Halo. The software means I can take calls and listen to music directly via my hearing aids. The codec that Apple developed for these devices, which allowed audio streaming over low-energy Bluetooth for the first time, now appears in the AirPods.

A handful of start-ups have released devices that aim to take hearables even further. New York firm Doppler Labs offers the Here One, a pair of outsized earplugs that auto-tune your environment to play you a more aesthetically pleasing version. And German company Bragi has the Dash, a wireless “smart earphone” that incorporates a music player, pedometer, pulse rate monitor, and much more.


“Hearables” has a sort of ring to it. Neat that this was in accessibility systems first, then made more widely available.
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Arizona fell hard for Theranos’ bluff •

Tim Steller was there as it happened, because he was shadowing the Arizona House Speaker, David Gowan, for the day:

»She arrived in a huge black SUV accompanied by several bodyguards and the requisite local lobbyists. It was an impressive show.

By that time, the outline of her story was well-known. Holmes, now 32, had dropped out of Stanford at 19 to pursue an idea: Medical information for the masses without the need of a doctor’s order. Her key technology was a device called Edison that allowed complete blood testing taken from a finger stick and a few drops rather than the multiple vials patients normally must give.

In the conference room next to Gowan’s office last March, Holmes reeled off the names of some members of her politically illustrious board — former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger among them. She told the dozen or so legislators and aides present that her goal was to “create free-market competition to drive prices down and increase transparency.”

At that, Gowan perked up and said, “You’re talking to free-market-minded people here, so you’re talking in the right tone.”

She also reeled out a personal story that she must have told thousands of times. Her uncle, whom she grew up adoring, had gotten skin cancer, which quickly turned to brain cancer, and then he died. Even then it struck me that the catch in her voice as she told the story might have been deliberate, though I dismissed my doubts as too cynical.

“We want to build operations here that can serve as a national model,” she said.

The bill she was supporting, HB 2645, sponsored by Rep. Heather Carter, opened up the laboratory testing business, so that individuals could get tests without a doctor’s order. The idea is, abstractly speaking, a noble one: People might get a diagnosis earlier if they can access labs themselves, before symptoms show. Already, though, the state health department allowed patients to get a limited number of tests on their own.


As Steller points out, there was one crucial question that the legislators omitted to ask in their zeal for free-market-mindedness. And have they learnt from that omission? Have they hell.
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HP is buying Samsung’s printer business for $1.05bn • TechCrunch

Jon Russell:

»HP is buying Samsung’s printer business for $1.05 billion in a move aimed at “disrupting” the dusty and stale printing industry.

The deal will see Samsung’s Printing Business Unit spun out independently, with HP picking up full 100% ownership in the business. The companies estimate it will take one year to close, pending the usual regulatory scrutiny, and, upon doing so, Samsung will make a reciprocal investment of between $100 million and $300 million into HP’s business.

Samsung’s printer divisions employs around 6,000 people — around 1,300 of whom are in R&D — with 50 sales offices across the world and a production base that is located in China. In addition to that business, which recorded nearly $1.8 billion in revenue last year, HP will also get its hands on a “compelling” portfolio of around 6,500 printing patents.


Nice that HP still thinks the printer business isn’t being disrupted. Though at the A3 paper size level, perhaps it isn’t. (Samsung’s printer business is part of its Consumer Electronics division, not its IT and Mobile division.)
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Recalled Samsung phone explodes in little boy’s hands • New York Post

C.J. Sullivan, Shawn Cohen and Tom Wilson:

»A six-year-old Brooklyn boy suffered burns when one of Samsung’s recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones exploded in his hands — and his grandmother says he’s too scared to go near any other devices.

The boy was using the phone at home in East Flatbush Saturday night when it suddenly burst into flames, his grandmother said Sunday.

“The child was watching videos on the phone when the battery exploded,” Linda Lewis said of her grandson.

“It set off alarms in my house.”


Makes sense: video and games work the processor hard (all those pixels to shift, plus computation). But the fact these people didn’t know about it? This is becoming serious. Children are more likely to use the phones for this sort of thing.

Meanwhile, Samsung has lost $25bn in value since all this began.
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Spin this: we need to actually address the consumer need • Digital Content Next

Chris Pedigo:

»Apple recently announced a fairly big change [coming in iOS 10] in their “Limit Ad Tracking” setting. Going forward, when a consumer activates the setting, the Identifier For Advertising (IDFA) will be set to 0. Thus, advertisers and ad tech companies would no longer be able to track that device across apps or websites and over time. While Apple asked companies to honor the “Limit Ad Tracking” setting before, it was hard (maybe impossible) to know whether companies actually complied. Now the setting has some teeth.

In response, ad tech lobbyist Alan Chapell is accusing Apple of giving consumers a way to opt out of advertising altogether. Naturally, as someone who advocates on behalf of publishers on these kinds of privacy issues, I had some initial reactions.

First, it’s absolutely ludicrous to say this is an opt out of advertising. Certainly it’s an opt out of behaviorally targeted advertising. But, the ads aren’t being blocked – they can still be served. What’s more the advertiser can still know that the ad has been served, where it was served and how it performed – companies would have a number of other options to derive this data. But let’s be clear: Advertisements can and will continue to be served. Apple’s change simply allows consumers to stop third party companies (with which they have no relationship) from using their IDFA to track everything they do on their device.


Chapell’s piece is headlined “Do consumers have a right to opt out of advertising?” and begins “The arms race between consumers and advertisers goes back as far as I can remember.” You’d think he’d get the hint. He does address the question at the end: he thinks not.
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Microsoft looks set to “end sales” of Lumia phones this December, director mentions Surface Phone – WinBeta

Jack Wilkinson:

»According to an employee at the company, who wishes to remain anonymous, the company is preparing to “end sales” of the range this year, December 2016. It does, however, seem a little odd to actually end sales, instead, we believe that Microsoft will be ending production of its Lumia devices. This latest piece of information fits in line with recent actions from the company, where it has permanently cut the prices of many of its Lumia devices over the past few months. This seems to be an effort to sell off remaining stock and coincides with December being the final month since the price cuts have become larger as time has progressed…

…There’s also been the issue of how Microsoft has been offering its Lumia devices on its Microsoft Store website and in physical stores. Over the past few weeks, several people have stated that the physical Microsoft Stores have been moving their Windows phone collections into smaller areas and out of the way from customers. For its website, the company removed the link to its Lumia range from its homepage in the US, while subsequently changing it on its other regional sites from Lumia to Windows phones.

We reached out to Microsoft regarding these findings. The company declined to comment on the ending of its Lumia range, stating only that there’s “nothing to share” at the moment. They suggested keeping an eye on their Microsoft Store page for the latest Windows phones.


The dream goes on of a “Surface Phone”, but it would probably sell in smaller numbers even than the Surface laptablet. And that would be a money-loser. Satya Nadella doesn’t seem enamoured of the idea.
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Dell Technologies to cut at least 2,000 jobs after EMC deal • Bloomberg

Dina Bass:

»Dell Technologies plans to cut about 2,000 to 3,000 jobs after acquiring EMC Corp. in the largest technology acquisition ever, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.
The reductions are planned for later this year and will be mostly in the US and in areas such as supply chain and general and administrative positions, as well as some marketing jobs, said the people. They asked not to be named because the dismissals aren’t public yet.

Dell is looking for cost savings of about $1.7bn in the first 18 months after the transaction but is largely focused on using the deal to boost sales by several times that amount, the people added. The new company has 140,000 employees.

“As is common with deals of this size, there will be some overlaps we will need to manage and where some employee reduction will occur. We will do everything possible to minimize the impact on jobs,” Dave Farmer, spokesman for Dell, wrote in an email. “We expect revenue gains will outweigh any cost savings, and revenue growth drives employment growth.”


When I started out reporting on tech, on a trade paper, one quickly learnt that with any merger there would be (1) an uncomfortable merging of different admin systems, usually bringing incompatibility and screwups (2) job losses as the victors took the spoils. Plus ca change.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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