Start Up No.1990: why Apple dominates US smartphone use, the Twitter Blue fiasco, Europe’s big wind plans, the unphone?, and more

A number of people in San Francisco claim contactless payments have been taken from cards they weren’t presenting. Do we believe them? CC-licensed photo by Marco Verch on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Tap and go away. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. On Mastodon: Observations and links welcome.

More customers say ‘tap-to-pay’ charged their credit card through bags, pockets at restaurants, store, even a doctor’s office • ABC7 Los Angeles

Renee Koury and Michael Finney:


Many viewers have responded to a report by San Francisco’s KGO-TV about a woman whose credit card was charged without her knowing it. Turns out the “tap-to-pay” terminal at Safeway had reached inside her purse and charged her credit card by mistake.

Several viewers said the same thing happened to them, in other places. “Tap-to-pay” card readers sent radio waves into a purse or pocket, and charged viewers’ credit cards by mistake.

Tap-to-pay systems are everywhere now, and millions of us are walking around with radio frequency chips in our pockets ready to be read. Several viewers told KGO that tap-enabled systems captured their credit card information at a variety of places — a restaurant, a store, even a doctor’s office.

“What else can be grabbed out of my wallet, you know?” said Edgar Mathews of San Francisco. Mathews was trying to use his debit card to pay for groceries at Safeway – but that never happened. “I hadn’t tapped it, I hadn’t inserted it, I hadn’t swiped it… and then all of a sudden, out comes a receipt. And I said, ‘How did this get paid for?'” said Mathews.

The cashier couldn’t explain it. “She stood there just literally sort of blank and I said somebody paid for this on a credit card somewhere… and I really thought the guy in front of me, that he had been charged,” said Mathews.

Mathews checked his bank accounts. The “tap-to-pay” card reader at Safeway had ignored the debit card in his hand. Instead, it reached into Mathews’s back pocket, through his wallet and charged his Bank of America credit card tucked inside.

“So that’s a pretty big reach. I mean, around me or through me to my wallet. Why didn’t it grab the card that was near it? How did it decide what to grab? I have no idea, they’re not any better cards,” said Mathews.

“I was shocked. I was like, well it can’t be, I haven’t taken them out of my purse yet,” said Mill Valley resident Sonya Cesari.


I am extremely doubtful about this story. Sure, there are plenty of people making the claim. But the “reached into my back pocket” one? It just isn’t a possibility. RFID doesn’t reach that far. Millions of contactless transactions take place in the UK every day; they aren’t wrong. I suspect this is people quite eager to be on TV – rather like, more excessively, people will call the police and confess to crimes they haven’t committed.
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The unexpected reason Apple is dominating the US smartphone market • WSJ

Christopher Mims:


In the past few years, the market for smartphones has become a lot more like the one for used cars. 

Whereas many of us once upgraded our phones every two or three years, and treated old ones almost as if they were disposable, more than ever these phones are sticking around, and having a long afterlife. That could affect everything from who wins the smartphone wars (hint: Apple) to how the dominant players in this industry make most of their profits (spoiler: not from selling hardware).

I’m an example of this in a couple of different ways. First, when it recently came time to get my teens their first phones, I opted for refurbished, prior-generation iPhone SEs that cost less than $200 apiece—and have proved perfectly suitable for their needs. And second, when I wanted to give my youngest a device to occasionally play games on, I handed him my old iPhone 8—which is still generating revenue for Apple, through a $5-a-month Apple Arcade subscription.

Ever-rising prices for high-end models like the iPhone 14 Pro, above, have helped Apple increase the average price across all its iPhone sales to more than $900. Photo: John G Mabanglo/Shutterstock
My own experience typifies the way now, more than ever, Americans are using hand-me-down, used and refurbished devices, industry data shows. 

What’s enabled this new channel for not-so-new smartphones is that iPhones in particular are lasting longer, and new models often are nearly indistinguishable from previous ones. Phones are, in other words, rather like vehicles: expensive and durable—and for most people, older models are more than good enough.

The iPhone’s staying power is linked in no small part to Apple supporting software upgrades for devices that came out as early as 2017. As a result, these phones have a considerable afterlife, cycling through second and even third owners before being cast aside.

…The impact of this is huge, and making a big winner out of Apple. It now seems likely that the overwhelming majority of smartphones in use in the US will eventually be iPhones—the result of a steady climb in its share of the US market.


Might the same pattern play out in other countries? Apple’s share is pretty high in the UK and some European countries too.
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Apple’s AR/VR headset plans: iPad apps, fitness+, sports viewing, gaming, music • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman:


we’re about to see something similar [to the Apple Watch launch, where Apple sprayed out a ton of possible uses and then narrowed its focus to those people actually used] play out with the Apple headset, which — based on trademark filings — is likely to be dubbed the Reality Pro or Reality One. The device is packed with new technologies and a wide range of capabilities.

They include:
• The ability to run most of Apple’s existing iPad apps in mixed reality, which blends AR and VR. That includes Books, Camera, Contacts, FaceTime, Files, Freeform, Home, Mail, Maps, Messages, Music, Notes, Photos, Reminders, Safari, Stocks, TV and Weather
• A new Wellness app with a focus on meditation, featuring immersive graphics, calming sounds and voice-overs
• Being able to run the hundreds of thousands of existing third-party iPad apps from the App Store with either no extra work or minimal modifications
• A new portal for watching sports in virtual reality as part of Apple’s push into streaming live games and news
• A large gaming focus, including top-tier titles from existing third-party developers for Apple’s other devices
• A feature to use the headset as an external monitor for a connected Mac
• Advanced videoconferencing and virtual meeting rooms with realistic avatars, ideally making users feel like they’re interacting in the same place
•  New collaboration tools via the Freeform app that let users work on virtual whiteboards and go over material together
• A new VR-focused Fitness+ experience for working out while wearing the headset (though this feature likely won’t arrive until later)
• A way to watch video while immersed in a virtual environment, such as a desert scene or in the sky
• Users will also be able to operate the headset in several different ways, including by hand and eye control and Siri. It also will work with a connected keyboard or controls from another Apple device.


To quote Claire Dunphy in Modern Family: “I’ll tell you how this happened. Because nobody was willing to say what needs to be said. No. No. No. And hell no.”

(Well except maybe the sports and games.)
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Elon Musk’s Twitter Blue checkmark fiasco is a masterclass in business failure • Slate

Alex Kirshner:


It’s an astonishing business story. Famous people from every walk of life you could think of have, in the span of a few days, grabbed their megaphones to tell the world they did not pay for a specific product. Imagine if they felt the need to tell you the same thing every time they passed a restaurant they didn’t want to eat at. Most people seem to agree with the celebrities. Available data indicate Twitter has made very little money from Blue in its opening months. Blue has a constituency—Musk fans and some Twitter power users who don’t mind being branded as dorks—but not, it appears, a big one. Both the eye test and one software developer’s query of Twitter’s application programming interface suggest that almost literally nobody who had an unpaid checkmark before decided to pay for one under threat of losing it this past week.

Some people have decided to pay for Blue and its checkmark, which used to signify some cursory level of trustworthiness or authenticity on Twitter and now confirms that the user has $8 and a cell phone. Many current Blue subscribers have been bewildered or angry that the former bluecheck brigade, whom they saw as an entitled elite, no longer want the checkmark. For instance, there is this guy, who believes that weed costs $50 a day and Starbucks writes a customer’s name on a coffee cup not so that they’d know the cup belonged to them, but … because having your name on a paper cup makes you feel special?

…How did the Twitter checkmark become toxic? It took multiple strokes of business failure: First by Musk making Twitter worse, second by charging more for Twitter Blue at the same time he was making the site worse, and third by making himself an unappealing person for people to associate themselves with in public. The masses are not balking at paying for Twitter Blue because they’re trying to shelter themselves within a crumbling elitist internet order, but because they think Musk is offering an unworthy product and is also a dickhead.


Amazingly, over the weekend Musk’s Twitter began automatically verifying accounts with more than a million followers over the weekend, prompting multiple protestations of “I didn’t buy that!” And meanwhile the $8 “verification” still doesn’t actually verify anything except that you paid.
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Legacy Verified Twitter Users • About

Andrew Baron:


Description: A site to determine if a twitter username was verified by twitter prior to private purchase in October, 2022. Site created by Andrew Baron

• Dataset compiled by Travis Brown.

A. This dataset accounts for information obtained up until April 5, 2023.
B. According to Brown, there are approximately 407,520 legacy verified accounts, compiled from the 419,119 accounts that were followed by the twitter @verified account, and 406,915 accounts marked by the twitter API as having legacy verification.
C. Though the dataset may exclude some number of legacy verified accounts in the hundreds or low thousands, it appears to be essentially complete.
D. Chrome extension for displaying a legacy-check when viewing [check back later today or tomorrow].
E. If you think this was awesome, be sure and check out one of my other tools,


I suppose if you were trying to rebuild Twitter from its ashes then this would be useful. It’s also a sort of legacy, as he says.
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The North Seas can be the world’s biggest power plant • POLITICO

The prime ministers/leaders of, hmm, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, the UK and Denmark:


We need offshore wind turbines— and we need a lot of them.

We need them to reach our climate goals, and to rid ourselves of Russian gas, ensuring a more secure and independent Europe.

Held for the first time last year, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands came together for the inaugural North Sea Summit in the Danish harbor town of Esbjerg, setting historic goals for offshore wind with the Esbjerg Declaration. It paved the way for making the North Seas a green power plant for Europe, as well as a major contributor to climate neutrality and strengthening energy security.

This Monday, nine countries will meet for the next North Sea Summit — this time in the Belgian town of Ostend — where France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway and the United Kingdom will also put their political weight behind developing green energy in the North Seas, including the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish and Celtic Seas. Together, we will combine and coordinate our ambitions for deploying offshore wind and developing an offshore electricity grid, putting Europe on the path toward a green economy fueled by offshore green power plants.

Collectively, our target for offshore wind in the North Seas is now 120 gigawatts by 2030, and a minimum of 300 gigawatts by 2050 — larger than any of the co-signatories’ existing generation capacity at a national level. And to deliver on this ambition, we are committing to building an entire electricity system in the North Seas based on renewable energy by developing cooperation projects.


Currently about 30GW of offshore wind installed, according to industry group WindEurope. So this would be a hell of an acceleration.
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A cancer survivor wanted me to tell her story. She was AI-generated • Business Insider

Julia Pugachevsky:


“Seeing my scarred chest in the mirror was a constant reminder of what I had lost,” Kimberly Shaw, 30, told me in an emotional email.

She had contacted me through Help a Reporter Out [HARO] a service used by journalists to find sources. I cover skincare and had been using the site to find people for a story about concealing acne scars with tattoos.

Then I read Shaw’s response about her breast-cancer diagnosis: how she knew a mastectomy was the only viable route to recovery, how emotionally painful it was, how she worked carefully with a tattoo artist to find the right design, how it helped her heal.

“I felt like I was reclaiming my body, taking back control of something that cancer had taken from me,” she told me. 

Shaw’s experience may not have been relevant to my acne story, but it tapped into the same feelings of empowerment and control I wanted to explore. Thinking she could inspire a powerful new piece, I emailed her back.

…The only things she omitted were the images I’d asked for and her age. But she did make a request: In exchange for participating, she hoped I would mention her role as the founder of a few websites — a couple of knockoffs and an online-gaming page. Ideally, I could link to them, too.

The request wasn’t that unusual. A lot of HARO sources are entrepreneurs hoping for a business plug in exchange for an interview — often with a link to their personal website, LinkedIn profile, or social handles. I typically decline to include links that aren’t relevant to the story, but her asking wasn’t odd to me.

What was odd was that I couldn’t find her elsewhere online. Her company, which she’d said was named SC, was too vague for me to find. Her email didn’t come up in Google search results and was a Proton account (meaning encrypted). Her phone number had an 898 area code, which didn’t exist, as far as I could tell.


Nice bit of detective work: suspicions like these are important to journalists. You may be able to guess the reason for the deception.
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How AI could change computing, culture and the course of history • The Economist


the lack of any “Minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic [drawing] their plans against us”, to quote H.G. Wells [in War Of The Worlds], does not mean that the scale of the changes that AI may bring with it can be ignored or should be minimised. There is much more to life than the avoidance of extinction. A technology need not be world-ending to be world-changing.

The transition into a world filled with computer programs capable of human levels of conversation and language comprehension and superhuman powers of data assimilation and pattern recognition has just begun. The coming of ubiquitous pseudocognition along these lines could be a turning point in history even if the current pace of AI progress slackens (which it might) or fundamental developments have been tapped out (which feels unlikely). It can be expected to have implications not just for how people earn their livings and organise their lives, but also for how they think about their humanity.

For a sense of what may be on the way, consider three possible analogues, or precursors: the browser, the printing press and practice of psychoanalysis. One changed computers and the economy, one changed how people gained access and related to knowledge, and one changed how people understood themselves.


It’s a moderate-length essay which makes a lot of points that don’t lend themselves to precis. So read it!
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AI translation jeopardizes Afghan asylum claims • Rest of World

Andrew Deck:


In 2020, Uma Mirkhail got a firsthand demonstration of how damaging a bad translation can be.

A crisis translator specializing in Afghan languages, Mirkhail was working with a Pashto-speaking refugee who had fled Afghanistan. A U.S. court had denied the refugee’s asylum bid because her written application didn’t match the story told in the initial interviews.

In the interviews, the refugee had first maintained that she’d made it through one particular event alone, but the written statement seemed to reference other people with her at the time — a discrepancy large enough for a judge to reject her asylum claim.

After Mirkhail went over the documents, she saw what had gone wrong: An automated translation tool had swapped the “I” pronouns in the woman’s statement to “we.”

Mirkhail works with Respond Crisis Translation, a coalition of over 2,500 translators that provides interpretation and translation services for migrants and asylum seekers around the world. She told Rest of World this kind of small mistake can be life-changing for a refugee. In the wake of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, there is an urgent demand for crisis translators working in languages such as Pashto and Dari. Working alongside refugees, these translators can help clients navigate complex immigration systems, including drafting immigration forms such as asylum applications. But a new generation of machine translation tools is changing the landscape of this field — and adding a new set of risks for refugees.


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Humane previews AI-powered wearable • Axios

Ina Fried:


Ex-Apple employee Imran Chaudhri gave TED attendees on Thursday an early glimpse of the AI-powered wearable that his startup, Humane, has been developing.

The screenless device, which does not require a nearby cellphone to work, uses a combination of voice and gestures for input and can display information by projecting it onto nearby objects.

In his TED talk, Chaudhri showed the wearable, which sat in his jacket pocket, translating his own voice into French.

He also answered a phone call from his wife with the call information appearing as a green image projected onto his hand.

“This is good AI in action,” he said, promising more details would be released in the coming months.


So it’s a phone without a screen. How do we play games on that then? Or view our photos? John Gruber’s takedown of this is pretty thorough. There’s a writeup here, but I’ve seen gesture-based launches come and thoroughly go plenty of times. Paper and pen survives because we like having a place to put thoughts. Screens on phones took off because we like doing the same even with evanescent content.
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• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Read Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

1 thought on “Start Up No.1990: why Apple dominates US smartphone use, the Twitter Blue fiasco, Europe’s big wind plans, the unphone?, and more

  1. This is an obvious take, but going through it, I was amazed at how well it fit. I know, I’ll keep my day job, maybe chatGPT can do better.

    “The Tweeches”, not by Dr. Seuss

    Now, the Blue-Checky Tweeches
    Would tweet with a mark.
    The No-Checky Tweeches
    Had none, were stark

    Those checks weren’t so big. They were really so small
    You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

    Then ONE day, it seems … while the No-Checky Tweeches
    Were moping and doping alone on the beaches,
    Just sitting there wishing their tweets had a check …
    A stranger zipped up with the strangest project!

    “My friends,” he announced in a voice like a felon,
    “My name is Sylvester McMusky McElon.
    And I’ve heard of your troubles. I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
    But I can fix that. I’m a Fix-The-Tech Chappie.
    I’ve come here to help you. I have what you need.
    And my prices are low. And I work at great speed.
    And all for less than the cost of your monthly weed!”

    Then, Sylvester McMusky McElon was keen
    To sell all a very peculiar machine.
    And he said, “You want checks like a Blue-Checky Tweech…?
    My friends, you can have them for eight dollars each!”

    Just pay me your money and hop right aboard!”
    So they clambered inside. Then the big machine roared
    And it klonked. And it bonked. And it jerked. And it berked
    And it bopped them about. But the thing really worked!
    When the No-Checky Tweeches popped out, they’d tweet with mark!
    They actually did. They had marks not starks!

    Then they yelled at the ones who had checks at the start.
    “We’re exactly like you! You can’t tell us apart.
    We’re all just the same, now, you snooty old smarties!
    And now we can go to your journalist parties.”

    “Good grief!” groaned the ones who had checks at the first.
    “We’re still the best Tweeches and they are the worst.
    “But, now, how in the world will we know,” they all frowned,
    “If which kind is what, or the other way round?”

    [Long enough, probably too long already]

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