Start Up No.1,048: the cancer test 23andme misses, the 48-year iPad lockout, Galaxy Fold has problems, YouTube’s troubled queen, and more


Guess who the big winner is in the 5G modem fight? CC-licensed photo by Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Indefatigably. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Don’t count on 23andMe to detect most breast cancer risks, study warns • The New York Times

Heather Murphy:

»

In 2010, Dr. Pamela Munster mailed her saliva to 23andMe, a relatively new DNA testing company, and later opted in for a BRCA test. As an oncologist, she knew a mutation of this gene would put her at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She was relieved by the negative result.

Two years later, after she learned she had breast cancer, she took a more complete genetic test from a different lab. This time it was positive.

A study of 100,000 people released earlier this month suggested that this experience could be widespread. Nearly 90% of participants who carried a BRCA mutation would have been missed by 23andMe’s test, geneticists found.

23andMe’s testing formula for this risk is built around just three genetic variants, most prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews. The new study demonstrated that most people carry other mutations of the gene, something many doctors have long suspected.

“It’s as if you offered a pregnancy test, but only the Jewish women would turn positive,” said Dr. Munster, who is the co-leader of the Center for BRCA Research at the University of California, San Francisco. She was not involved in the new study, which was conducted by Invitae, a diagnostic company.

23andMe said response to the study by its potential competitor had been overblown because the site makes it clear that it is testing only for three of the mutations.

«

The explanation of this demonstrates how complex gene testing is: mutations multiply, and it’s hard to be sure you’re covering everything.
unique link to this extract


Cracking the code: a toddler, an iPad, and a tweet • The New Yorker

Evan Osnos:

»

I’d left the iPad in its usual home––an overflowing basket, on a low table, of mail, stamps, power cords, and partially broken earphones. The low table, it turns out, was a mistake. Our son Ollie, age three, gets to use the iPad on airplanes, but rarely at home, a rule he regards as unspeakably cruel. Now and then, when he finds it in his grasp, he’ll enter random numbers into the passcode screen, until a parent lifts the device up and out of his tiny hands, at which point he rendeth his garments and lieth on the earth.

The iPad was not in the basket. Ollie, it turns out, had got hold of it and gone to town on the passcode, trying one idea after another, with the fury and focus of Alan Turing trying to beat the Nazis. It’s not clear how many codes Ollie tried, but, by the time he gave up, the screen said “iPad is disabled, try again in 25,536,442 minutes.” That works out to about 48 years. I took a picture of it with my phone, wrote a tweet asking if anyone knew how to fix it, and went downstairs to dinner.

«

What happens is rather lovely, though also an indication of what modern media life is like.
unique link to this extract


Apple puts need for 5G ahead of legal fight in Qualcomm deal • Bloomberg

Ian King and Mark Gurman:

»

Apple needs chips that will connect the iPhone to the new, fifth-generation wireless networks being introduced now or risk falling behind its rivals. The company had bet on Intel Corp., but recently decided its would-be 5G supplier wasn’t up to the task.

That led Apple back to Qualcomm – and spurred a sudden end to a long-running court fight over patents, component costs and royalties for one of the most critical parts of an iPhone. Modems, or baseband processors, are what connects all iPhones and some iPads and Apple Watches to cellular networks and the internet on the go.

Throughout the fight, which centered on Apple’s accusations that Qualcomm overcharges for patents on its technology, the iPhone maker played down the importance of the modem and Qualcomm’s inventions. Just before the settlement was announced on Tuesday, Apple’s lawyers were in a San Diego courtroom saying the component was just another method of connecting to the internet. In reality, Qualcomm’s modems are leading a potential revolution in mobile internet — and Apple could have been forced to play catchup without them.

Intel, which dominates the market in personal computer chips, has struggled for decades in mobile. The company pledged that its 5G part was coming in phones next year. But within hours of Apple’s deal with Qualcomm, and with it the loss of its prime mobile customer, Intel announced it would end its effort to produce a 5G modem for smartphones.

«

The deal was dated April 1 – so Apple had realised Intel’s 5G efforts wouldn’t bear fruit some time ago, and had probably been negotiating since February. Its only leverage was the possibility that the court case would go in its favour, but that wouldn’t get the 5G part, and the clock was ticking. Apple needs the part this year for its design and testing work. So it hit a fairly hard deadline.
unique link to this extract


Qualcomm just beat Apple into submission • Semiaccurate

Charlie Demerjian:

»

Apple was trying to cut Qualcomm down to size and marginalize them to another supplier of commodity parts. They did this by trying to build up Intel modems and even allegedly handing Intel Qualcomm’s trade secrets when the Santa Clara company could not figure out how to make a working product. For the billions Apple dumped into this enterprise, they failed because Intel, the best of the non-Qualcomm modem makers, quite literally never made a single device that met their promised specs. No we are not joking, Intel’s modem business was a mess.

How bad was it? By the end they were showing multiple versions of the same fake chip photoshopped to ‘be’ a 5G modem. Really, you can’t make this stuff up. Intel claimed release dates, specs, and all sorts of numbers but never showed actual 5G silicon, functional or not. Worse yet they never got LTE modems even close to what they promised Apple. This is Intel’s problem not Apple’s, right?

Actually it was Apple’s problem more than Intel’s. Sure Intel was ‘selling’ Apple modems with a $10 bill wrapped around each one as SemiAccurate exclusively told you last year, but finances only go so far. Remember the iPhones with 600Mbps LTE modems? You know the ones where if you put that same Qualcomm part in any other device it was a 1Gb LTE modem? Then again if you put the same Intel modem in any other device it was a 600Mbps modem, not that there were any other customers dumb enough to use that device despite the contra-revenue pricing. Apple literally crippled their Qualcomm modem to match Intel’s so the finance set would put pressure on Qualcomm.

Although both devices were the same spec on paper, the Qualcomm iPhone had 30% more throughput at than the Intel one under the same conditions. What they didn’t say and that SemiAccurate has tested in the lab is that the Intel modems used about 30% more energy to be 30% slower, something that was pretty similar to previous generations.

«

So the implication seems to be that this year’s iPhones (and mobile-capable iPads?) will also use Intel modems, but after that it’s going to be Qualcomm parts. Sounds like that’s good for everyone apart from Intel.
unique link to this extract


Global 5G smartphone shipments will reach 5m units in 2019 • Strategy Analytics

»

According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1% of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”

Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, Senior Analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”

«

Obviously, it will ramp up next year, but Apple dumping Intel for Qualcomm may mean it’s not really losing out. It wasn’t first with 4G either, but that was at a time when growth was guaranteed. Also worth reading: Ron Amadeo’s article on why you shouldn’t buy a 5G smartphone (at least this year).
unique link to this extract


Revealed: Brexit group covered up its targeting of right-wing extremists • Channel 4 News

Channel 4 Investigations Team:

»

Leave.EU paid for Facebook adverts targeted at supporters of the National Front, the BNP [British National Party], Britain First and the EDL [English Defence League]. [All are extreme right-wing groups.]

But when the BBC asked for a response to a story they planned to run, Mr Banks sent a barrage of emails in an attempt to get the story dropped. Leaked emails, seen by Channel 4 News, show Mr Banks insisted the BBC’s accusation were “wholly wrong” – despite his own staff telling him the story was true.

One Leave.EU employee told him: “Those are our ads, we have targeted those groups since the beginning of the campaign as they gain most traction.” Another Leave.EU staffer proposed telling the BBC: “We pay for target ads for all political parties, not just right wing.”

But Mr Banks replied: “Not the right answer.” Instead, Mr Banks told the BBC: “It’s wholly wrong to say we have targeted extreme right parties… your report needs to reflect this or it will be biased and if we have to we will take whatever legal action we need.”

Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s Head of Communications, even appealed to the head of BBC Westminster, Robbie Gibb, in a further attempt to prevent the story from being run.

Mr Gibb is now Theresa May’s head of communications.

«

Gibb’s role in this isn’t necessarily about his attitude to Brexit; the BBC has become incredibly worried about libel and lawsuits after a number of high-profile errors. Wigmore’s response to Channel 4 was to accuse it of using “stolen and hacked emails”, which isn’t in any way a denial. Wigmore seemed upset when I pointed this out on Twitter.
unique link to this extract


Samsung Galaxy Fold screen breaking and flickering for some reviewers • CNBC

Todd Haselton:

»

Samsung’s $1,980 Galaxy Fold phone is breaking for some users after a day or two of use. A review unit given to CNBC by Samsung is also completely unusable after just two days of use.

The phone has only been given to gadget reviewers, but some of the screens appear to be disconnecting and permanently flashing on or off.

The Verge’s Dieter Bohn posted earlier on Wednesday that his phone appears to have a defective hinge with a “small bulge” that he can feel that’s causing the screen to “slightly distort.” Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says his “review unit is completely broken just two days in,” but noted he accidentally removed a protective film on the screen.

YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee also removed the film and experienced a broken display. A Samsung spokesperson had warned on Wednesday not to remove the protective layer.

However, CNBC didn’t remove that layer, and our screen is now also failing to work properly.

«

It seems to have a really high failure rate among reviewers. A $2,000 phone that doesn’t last a week? This is going to be a Note 7 fiasco if this is repeated among buyers.
unique link to this extract


Why is everybody getting into wireless earbuds? • Tech.pinions

Carolina Milanesi:

»

There is no question about Apple’s success with AirPods. Apple managed to get AirPods across gender, age, and even income level despite their price point not putting them in the “most affordable” category. The experience is described by many as magical. In a study, we, at Creative Strategies, conducted with Experian when AirPods first came out, customer satisfaction was the highest for a new product from Apple. 98% of AirPods owners said they were very satisfied or satisfied. Remarkably, 82% said they were very satisfied. By comparison, when the iPhone came out in 2007, it held a 92% customer satisfaction level, iPad in 2010 had 92%, and Apple Watch in 2015 had 97%.

Assuming Microsoft and Amazon are just after the revenue that a good set of wireless earbuds could generate is a little shortsighted.

Ambient computing and voice-first are certainly big drivers for both Microsoft and Amazon. As computing power is spread out across devices and digital assistants are helping to bridge our experience across them, voice has grown in importance as an interface. Many consumers are, however, less comfortable shouting commands across a room or speaking to technology outside the “safety” of their own home. As voice moves into the office, the need and desire to be able to speak quietly to an assistant and hear it back is even more evident.

Wireless earbuds that can be worn comfortably throughout the day allow us to build a better relationship with our assistants and, even more so, build our reliance. Interestingly, I would argue, this is where AirPods have not been as successful as Apple might have hoped for but certainly, through no fault of their own but more due to some limitations Siri has.

For both Alexa and Cortana, who do not have a smartphone they can call their own home, wireless earbuds are a great way to be with a user in a more direct and personal way rather than being relegated into an app. As I often say, this is not about consumers having only one assistant but making the assistant they use more often more intelligent and therefore creating a vicious circle: the more I use it, the more it gets better, the more I want to use it.

«

On Wednesday I saw a street sweeper wearing a paid of AirPods. They’re the new Coca-Cola of headphones: same for everyone, just about priced for all, uniquely recognisable.
unique link to this extract


The most measured person in tech is running the most chaotic place on the internet • New York Times

Daisuke Wakabayashi:

»

On April 2, Bloomberg News published an article that painted a damning portrait of [YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki] and other YouTube brass — so focused on maximizing usage statistics that they looked the other way when employees raised concerns about the company’s recommendation system. Ms. Wojcicki seemed taken aback. In an April 7 interview, she said YouTube has not ignored its problem with hosting extreme and conspiracy-minded content. She said it was a large and complex issue and the company was starting to make a dent. She wasn’t defensive, but defiant and — most surprising for someone usually so measured — a little angry.

“It’s not like there is one lever we can pull and say, ‘Hey, let’s make all these changes,’ and everything would be solved,” Ms. Wojcicki said. “That’s not how it works.”

At one policy review meeting I observed in San Bruno, her methodical approach was on full display. In a narrow conference room lined with whiteboards and TV screens, she sat quietly with a dozen YouTube employees, watching a video called “Condom Challenge,” in which water-filled prophylactics fell onto people’s heads in extreme slow motion. Rather than bursting, the condoms inverted and engulfed their faces like a fishbowl. Ms. Wojcicki pondered whether the clip, which has nearly 15 million views, was merely juvenile or crossed the line to life-threatening. Like so much on YouTube, such “challenges” — when creators perform stunts and call out a friend to do the same — often begin as harmless memes, but morph into something more problematic.

Ms. Wojcicki and her staff considered their thicket of policies. A “dangerous” (risk of bodily harm) activity could stay on YouTube as long as no minors were involved. But “ultrahazardous” (risk of death) challenges would be removed. One staffer ventured that the condom challenge seemed to belong in the former category. Ms. Wojcicki disagreed.

«

To me, that’s classic missing-forest-for-trees oversight. The problem isn’t a few videos; it’s the whole recommendation system plus autoplay, as many have pointed out. But Wojcicki is trying to tweak at the edges, instead of considering it holistically.
unique link to this extract


Online pornography age checks to be mandatory in UK from 15 July • The Guardian

Alex Hern:

»

From that date, commercial providers of online pornography will be required to carry out “robust” age verification checks on users, in order to keep children from accessing adult content.

Websites that refuse to implement the checks face being blocked by UK internet service providers or having their access to payment services withdrawn.

The digital minister, Margot James, welcomed the introduction of the rules, saying: “Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online. The introduction of mandatory age verification is a world first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.”

Will Gardner, the chief executive of Childnet, said: “We hope that the introduction of this age verification will help in protecting children, making it harder for young people to accidentally come across online pornography, as well as bringing in the same protections that we use offline to protect children from age-restricted goods or services.”

Some campaigners have criticised the laws’ potential effectiveness. The government was forced to exempt large social media sites from the ban owing to fears that a strict implementation would result in sites including Twitter, Reddit, Imgur and Tumblr being blocked for adult content.

Additionally, concerns have been raised that the laws could result in the creation of a database of the UK’s porn viewers, which would pose a privacy problem if it were to ever leak.

«

Well this is going to cause a LOT of fun when, for all sorts of reasons, it goes wrong. Though you won’t hear from adults complaining they were blocked wrongly; only about kids wrongly allowed to access. (You can figure out why.)
unique link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.