Start up: Google’s Pixel leak, Porat profiled, Skittles photo row deepens, hacking Teslas, and more

How would you rate it? How much did you pay? Photo by William Christiansen on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Would you eat a handful? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Non-blurry photos of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL leak • Android Police

Ryan Whitwam:


Today is apparently Pixel leak day. After getting some new details on pricing and spotting the phone in a Nest ad, some actual photos of the phones have emerged. The image above (and another below) show both phones side-by-side. This marks the first time we’ve actually seen the phones in the flesh—er, metal. Whatever.

The images show both phones in the aluminum finish, which does look very light above. I think that’s down to the harsh lighting. The top of the rear panel is clearly lighter and smoother (it’s glass). The fingerprint sensor is up there as well. There are some IDs and markings obscured for obvious reasons.

The front has that same sensor layout we’ve seen before, and the bezels are a little big. Feel free to complain about that in the comments. 


Er.. is it just me, or do those really look like iPhones?
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Donald Trump Jr tweet: ‘I’m a refugee’ says Skittles photographer • BBC News

Patrick Evans:


Donald Trump Jr’s tweet comparing Skittles to refugees has caused a furore on social media. In a new development, the man who took the photo of the Skittles has revealed himself to be a former refugee.

David Kittos, 48, from Guildford, UK, woke up to find an image he had posted to Flickr in January 2010 had become embroiled in a political controversy.

“This was not done with my permission, I don’t support his politics and I would never take his money to use it,” Mr Kittos told the BBC.


Astonishing. The tweet used the photo, with the caption: “If I had a bowl of skittles [sic] and I told you just three would kill you. [sic] Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”

Within hours it had been demonstrated that the “handful” would actually be 10 billion containing three solitary poisonous ones.

And the photo clearly says “All rights reserved”. That’s utterly egregious on the part of Trump. I hope he gets sued, or that he pays compensation which is then given – for annoyance – to Clinton’s campaign.
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Worldwide smartwatch market will see modest growth in 2016 before swelling to 50m units in 2020 • IDC


Apple’s WatchOS will stay atop the smartwatch platform list throughout the forecast. The Series 2 Watch addresses some of the shortcomings of its Series 1 predecessor, but the lower price on the Series 1 (starting at $269 USD) may end up driving more volume in the upcoming holiday season. Still, these will be enough to keep watchOS the overall market leader, and future iterations of the Watch with new body styles, materials, and cellular connectivity will help cement the company’s spot later in the forecast.

Android and Android Wear will see the fastest growth of any platform on the list, and by 2020 will challenge watchOS for the top position in the worldwide smartwatch market. Support from OEMs both inside and outside of the IT industry will adopt Android Wear as the cornerstone of their smartwatch strategy, and in the process will address gaps in the product portfolio to lure new users.


Related: Is Android Wear going to make Google create the next Zune? Shameless self-promotion, on the point at which Android Wear has just passed 5m activations after 30 months on the market – and Apple has passed 16m sold.
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Hackers hijack Tesla Model S from afar, while the cars are moving • The Register

Darren Pauli:


Chinese hackers have attacked Tesla electric cars from afar, using exploits that can activate brakes, unlock doors, and fold mirrors from up to 20 kilometres (12 miles) away while the cars are in motion.

Keen Security Lab senior researchers Sen Nie, Ling Liu, and Wen Lu, along with director Samuel Lv, demonstrated the hacks against a Tesla Model S P85 and 75D and say their efforts will work on multiple Tesla models.

The Shanghai, China-based hacking firm has withheld details of the world-first zero day attacks and privately disclosed the flaws to Tesla.

The firm worked on the attack for several months, eventually gaining access to the motor that moves the driver’s seat, turning on indicators, opening the car’s sunroof and activating window wipers.

Keen Security Lab’s attacks also appear to compromise the touch screen that controls many of a Tesla’s functions.


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Who cares about the new iPhone camera? The real change is Apple Pay • WIRED

Cade Metz:


Apple’s not talking about it. Tim Cook and company are too busy trumpeting a new iPhone that’s pretty much like the old iPhone (except there’s — gasp — no headphone jack!). But if Apple’s not talking about it, that probably means it’s far more interesting — and far more important. And indeed it is.

This week, with the arrival of the new iPhone operating system, Apple Pay now works inside web browsers. Yes, that’s more interesting than no headphone jack. And its importance will only grow in the next few weeks as Apple Pay, the company’s digital payments service, reaches the web on Macs as well as iPhones.


He has a point.
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Global handset revenues on a steady decline • Strategy Analytics


Apple and Samsung together captured 57% of the Global Handset Revenues in Q2 2016, per our latest report from the Handset Country Share Tracker (HCST) Service.  Global Handset industry revenues declined by -5% annually in Q2 2016.

Apple led in four of the six regions but has been on a steady decline globally. Samsung though led by volumes retained the second position by revenues. Apart from Huawei, Oppo, vivo, ZTE and Meizu most of the other vendors tracked witnessed an annual revenue decline.


That would put total revenues at $81.9bn, of which about $75bn (92%) was contributed by the top 10 OEMs.
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The Wall Street veteran who’s helping Google get disciplined • Fortune

Leena Rao with a long profile of former Wall Street banker Ruth Porat, aged 58, who is now chief financial officer at Google:


One source close to the company says it’s now difficult for Other Bets [the non-Google companies inside Alphabet] to get new hires approved. The Bets are also being told to be self-sufficient administratively: They can rely on Alphabet for functions like legal counsel, human resources, and public relations, but only if they pay Alphabet for the services. (One Other Bets subsidiary was billed $500,000 for a year’s worth of PR help.) If these units were independent companies, of course, they’d be shouldering these costs on their own. But within Alphabet, they represent unfamiliar constraints, and for some, a signal that the culture Google was built on— focusing on innovation over profits—is dissipating.

Google executives reject that assertion. Schmidt, the chairman, acknowledges that the focus is new but says it allows Alphabet to invest more efficiently in its winners. Alphabet has been aggressively hiring engineers for cloud-computing and artificial-intelligence projects, for example. “The cost cutting is real, and it’s the right thing to be done, and it’s driven by [Porat],” Schmidt says. “Before she was there, we had lost discipline.”

But is discipline really the problem? In the most recent quarter, Other Bets lost an ugly $859m on $185m in revenue. Still, when you consider that Alphabet generated $7bn in free cash that quarter, the losses seem like something the company could easily absorb. Cost cutting, says Rob Enderle, the analyst, “is like taking painkillers when you are sick. At some point you are going to have to address what is making you sick.” The real issue at Alphabet, he adds, is that “what they are spending money on isn’t successful.”


It astonishes me to say it, but Enderle has a point.
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What matters for Apple: line length or average selling price? • BTIG Research

Walter Piecyk:


Despite the lack of lines [outside stores when the new iPhones were released], we expect Apple to grow iPhone units in the December quarter to 77.5m units (3.6% y/y growth). This is the primary driver in our expectation of a return to revenue and EPS growth for Apple in fiscal 2017. We assume an iPhone ASP decline of 6% in the December quarter. If there is a mix shift to iPhone 7+ purchases, Apple could deliver upside to our revenue estimate, which is already above consensus. The increase in the memory of entry level phones to 32GB from 16GB is compelling, however 128GB could also attract some upward migration to the mid-level phones which could help also ASP.


Includes lots of photos of no people queueing. Still, there’s a first for your predictions on iPhone sales in the next quarter. Seems an ambitious target.
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Google Trips is a killer travel app for the modern tourist • The Verge

Casey Newton:


Google today announced Trips, a new app that serves as a trip planner and travel guide for anyone who is exploring a new place. The free app, which is available on Android and iOS, will organize your plane tickets and hotel reservations, offer editorial guides to more than 200 cities, and make personalized recommendations based on your Google history. Best of all, it works offline: you can download everything to your phone before you leave, including maps and walking directions — sparing you from having to use an expensive international data plan.

Trips is the culmination of more than two years of work on improving Google’s travel products, said Richard Holden, a vice president of product management at the company, in an interview. In recent months Google introduced Destinations, a travel-planning feature inside mobile search, and revamped its hotel and flight search features.

Now the company is introducing an app that it hopes will become the default way for travelers to organize trip information ahead of their travels and get around town once they have arrived. “We’re doing a great job on the planning stages, but we really need to help consumers when they’re actually at their destination,” Holden said.


More aggregation by Google (see ridesharing yesterday – which as Sameer Singh pointed out, labels the ridesharing services as Ads, which means it’s both getting people to use its apps *and* getting paid). It is very noticeable how focussed it has become on leveraging its strengths (search, aggregation, brand) to get people using its apps on mobile in the past few months.
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Statement from Sunlight Foundation’s board chairman • Sunlight Foundation Blog

Mike Klein:


We are aware that the robust maturation of technology over the past decade has — happily but substantially — reduced the urgency of Sunlight’s early role as a leading transparency innovator. In addition, the board had to recognize that Sunlight’s initiating objective— to build support for better legislation against and regulation of the power of money in politics— has been significantly limited by the US Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision.

Those factors required a rethinking of what, if anything, can most effectively be done with the resources available to continue the technology/transparency cause and Sunlight’s role in it. We’ve done that work, and here is what we have determined.

The board has not found a candidate for executive director who persuaded us of both a compelling new strategic vision and of their capacity to lead Sunlight to its achievement. Accordingly, we have determined to explore alliances with other organizations similarly motivated, perhaps merging with one of them, in an arrangement that advances and preserves Sunlight’s mission and identity with increased efficiency and effectiveness.

During this time period, we will deliver on all existing obligations to funders and partners, making certain that we continue the great work we’re doing in the What Work Cities initiative, for instance. We are making necessary adjustments to staff in accordance with this direction.

We will discontinue our tool building and database maintenance activities, and encourage others to continue our most promising projects. The decision to retire OpenCongress is an example.


Wait, so – you’re shutting down your services and closing up shop? Why not say so in the headline?
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Analysis of 7m Amazon reviews: customers who receive free or discounted item much more likely to write positive review • Review Meta


If you’ve read reviews on Amazon within the last few years, you’ve surely noticed a disclaimer at the bottom of many that look like this:

“I received this product for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest, unbiased review”
At ReviewMeta, we call these “Incentivized Reviews”.

Consumers have growing distrust and even disdain for incentivized reviews, especially when it seems every single one is a glowing 5-star review.  We wanted to confirm or deny this seemingly anecdotal opinion, so we analyzed 7 million reviews.  

After looking at over 7 million reviews, here’s what we see
We found that reviews containing language that would indicate the reviewer received the item for free or at a discount in exchange for a review (incentivized reviews) on average rate the product .38 stars higher than reviews that did not contain this disclosure (non-incentivized reviews).


It’s not a huge difference, but it’s consistent, and it means you’re being misled by reviews. And that’s before one considers all the glowing reviews put there by people paid via Amazon Turk by the product makers.
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Amazon says it puts customers first. But its pricing algorithm doesn’t • Pro Publica

Julia Angwin wanted to buy something:


In an instant, Amazon’s software sifted through dozens of combinations of price and shipping, some of which were cheaper than what one might find at a local store., an online retailer from Farmers Branch, Texas, with a 95% customer satisfaction rating, was selling Loctite for $6.75 with free shipping. Fat Boy Tools of Massillon, Ohio, a competitor with a similar customer rating was nearly as cheap: $7.27 with free shipping.

The computer program brushed aside those offers, instead selecting the vial of glue sold by Amazon itself for slightly more, $7.80. This seemed like a plausible choice until another click of the mouse revealed shipping costs of $6.51. That brought the total cost, before taxes, to $14.31, or nearly double the price Amazon had listed on the initial page.

What kind of sophisticated shopping algorithm steers customers to a product that costs so much more than seemingly comparable alternatives?

One that substantially favors Amazon and sellers it charges for services, an examination by ProPublica found.


I know, you’re shocked. The deeper question is: how does one discover that this is going on?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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