Clubhouse Announces That Its App Will Be Available on Android Worldwide by Friday

Illustration for article titled Clubhouse Announces That Its App Will Be Available on Android Worldwide by Friday

Photo: Mark Schiefelbein (AP)

Faced with plummeting app downloads on iOS in recent months, Clubhouse has one thing to say: Hello, Android.


The audio-based social network announced on Sunday in a town hall it would be rolling out to Android users worldwide by Friday afternoon, May 21. In a Twitter post, Clubhouse said that it would start its expansion with Japan, Brazil, and Russia on Tuesday. The company said it would add availability in other countries throughout the week, specifying that it would launch in Nigeria and India on Friday morning.

Clubhouse told Gizmodo on Sunday that it had begun its first wave of the Android beta rollout in the U.S. last week. In the end, the company also ended up launching its app in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the UK. Clubhouse said the app is still invitation-only, but that people can download the app on the Play Store, and friends on the app may invite them in.

Besides announcing its worldwide expansion on Android, Clubhouse said it was working on feature parity in Android and iOS. TechCrunch points out that Clubhouse’s Android app still lacks several features offered on iOS. During last week’s Android launch, the outlet stated, users couldn’t follow a topic, create or manage a club, link their social profiles, make payments, or change their profile name.

While Clubhouse’s expansion on Android was expected, and some might say overdue, the app might be hoping that rolling out to more devices will allow it to recover its lost steam. Since its iOS launch last year, the app has seen explosive growth, attracting tech billionaires like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The shininess around Clubhouse recently began to taper off, though. According to the analytics firm SensorTower, Clubhouse had 2 million downloads in January and then jumped to more than 9.5 million in February. Downloads dipped in March to 2.7 million and then again in April, when they dropped to below a million.

The reasons for Clubhouse’s rollercoaster of growth over these past few months are still up in the air. Some say that the app became a success because it launched at the beginning of the pandemic, a time when so many of us were stuck inside and starved for human connection. Today, the world is different. Things are opening back up again. Vaccinated people are taking off their masks and going outside, so the idea of chatting on an audio-only platform may just not hold the same appeal.


The social app landscape is different as well because users have more options. Big Tech’s social apps are all copying Clubhouse’s format. Instagram, for instance, has given users the option to turn off their audio or video when using Instagram Live. Twitter has launched Spaces, which allows users to join virtual rooms and have real-time audio conversations with others. Facebook is also working on its own version of Clubhouse, as are LinkedIn, Spotify, and Slack, just to name a few.

It’s unclear whether Clubhouse’s global rollout to Android will save it from becoming a passing fad, but we’ll find out soon.


Looks Like Twitter May Be Working on a Subscription Service Called Twitter Blue for $2.99 per Month

Illustration for article titled Looks Like Twitter May Be Working on a Subscription Service Called Twitter Blue for $2.99 per Month

Photo: Denis Charlet (Getty Images)

Twitter hasn’t released many details about the paid subscription model it’s cooking up, but thanks to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong we may have some clues about what it will cost and be called. On Saturday, Wong tweeted that the subscription service Twitter Blue will cost $2.99 per month and allow users to undo their tweets and create bookmark collections, among other features.


Twitter also appears to be working on a tiered subscription model, she added. She speculated that higher-priced tiers may unlock additional paid features and give users a more clutter-free, premium experience, similar to what you might find on a news aggregation service.

Wong has made a name for herself reverse engineering popular apps to discover what features Big Tech may be experimenting with or planning to add next. Rumors about Twitter incorporating more ways for users to monetize their content are not new. Earlier this month, Twitter soft-launched a “Tip Jar” feature that, as its name implies, lets users send and receive money from strangers on the internet using their choice of third-party services. However, while Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey confirmed to Insider in July 2020 that it’s in the “very, very early phases” of exploring a subscription model, the company has remained quiet about its plans since.

But it’s becoming increasingly clearer that there’s plenty of work going on behind the scenes. Last week, Twitter acquired Scroll, a paid subscription service that gets rid of ads on participating websites. Between the acquisition and Twitter’s announcement that it’s winding down Nuzzel, a news aggregator acquired by Scroll in 2019 that became popular for sending users a daily newsletter of the top stories in their Twitter feed, it certainly seems that Twitter is prepping to roll out its own subscription service. When we asked about Wong’s tweets on Saturday, a Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.

A subscription service would be the latest in a slew of new features Twitter has been testing in recent weeks, including an improved image cropping algorithm and an updated warning system for potentially offensive tweets. It remains unclear when Twitter’s paid version would launch or who would be eligible, but if all these rumors and clues making the rounds are any indication, we may have an announcement on that front sooner rather than later.

Ex-Apple Employee Claims Company Knew About His ‘Misogynistic’ Writings and Hired Him Anyway

Illustration for article titled Ex-Apple Employee Claims Company Knew About His 'Misogynistic' Writings and Hired Him Anyway

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Former Apple employee Antonio García Martínez has refuted the company’s portrayal of his high-profile ouster this week and claims Apple knew about his past writings demeaning women and people of color, which came under fire from employees this week, before it made a job offer.


“Apple was well aware of my writing before hiring me. My references were questioned extensively about my bestselling book and my real professional persona (rather than literary one),” he wrote in a Twitter thread Friday. “I did not ‘part ways’ with Apple. I was fired by Apple in a snap decision,”

“Apple has issued a statement that clearly implies there was some negative behavior by me during my time at Apple. That is defamatory and categorically false,” Martínez continued. He argued that Apple “actively recruited” him for the role on its ads team, even roping in one of his former colleagues to “convince” him to take the job.

On Wednesday, the Verge reported that Apple employees circulated a petition objecting to his hiring and asking for an investigation. At issue is Martínez’s autobiography Chaos Monkeys, which chronicles his journey from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. The petition, which you can read in full here, cites several “overtly racist and sexist remarks” from his writing, such as when he refers to Bay Area women as “soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit.”

In another damning passage, the former Facebook product manager writes: “There were few women one would call conventionally attractive at Facebook. The few there were rarely if ever dressed for work with their femininity on display in the form of dresses and heels.”

Apple employees argued that Martínez’s “misogynistic statements” didn’t align with Apple’s stated values concerning diversity and inclusion. They also called for Apple to explain how its recruitment team either missed or ignored his published views before offering him the position.

Hours after the Verge’s report, Apple told Bloomberg that it cut ties with Martínez.


“At Apple, we have always strived to create an inclusive, welcoming workplace where everyone is respected and accepted,” an Apple spokesperson told the outlet. “Behavior that demeans or discriminates against people for who they are has no place here.”

Apple declined to comment on details of his departure and has not confirmed what job title Martínez held, but sources say he was hired as a product engineer on Apple’s advertising platform team, according to Bloomberg. Apple did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll update this blog once they do.


The iPhone maker and other tech giants have repeatedly come under scrutiny for their lack of workplace diversity. Apple’s latest diversity statistics show that 66% of its employees are male and 47% are white despite notable increases in its number of women, Hispanic, Latino, and Black workers in recent years.

Here’s What to Expect From Google I/O

Illustration for article titled Here's What to Expect From Google I/O

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Google canceled last year’s annual Google I/O developers conference due to the pandemic, but this year, it’s back—virtually.


The event kicks off Tuesday, May 18 at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT with a keynote speech from Google CEO Sundar Pichai. And while we don’t know exactly what Google has in store this year, we’re hoping to hear more about Android 12, Google Assistant, and Google’s vision for the smart home.

Android 12’s New Look

Android 12's new colorization features are pretty to look at, even in theory.

Android 12’s new colorization features are pretty to look at, even in theory.
Screenshot: XDA Developers

It’s been a while since we’ve had a major shakeup of Android’s UI, but three developer previews and a plethora of leaks suggest that Android 12 is getting a big overhaul. Leaked screenshots show a new colorized interface, matching widgets, and menu schematics based on the dominant coloring of your chosen wallpaper. There’s also a reprised Quick Settings panel, with larger buttons and more contextual information. Even the Assistant shows off a little color once summoned.

XDA Developers has been uncovering some of the more significant interface changes we might see finalized in Android 12. Expect the always-on display and lock screen to be a part of the revamp, along with other subtle UI effects like screen transitions and typography.

Other improvements in Android 12 will likely center around audio and video playback and under-the-hood privacy and security changes. Reports point to specific features, like Android automatically shelving unused apps and offering better support for scrolling screenshots, as well as updated notification permissions.

There’s also a rumored gaming dashboard coming, though it’s not clear if it’d be exclusive to Pixel devices. The gaming mode would effectively add proper controls and helpful information like a frames-per-second counter. It could be akin to the gaming launcher that OnePlus bundles with its smartphones, which blocks out notifications and other interruptions so you can focus on the game.


Finally, Some Traction for Wear OS

Wear OS takes a lot of (well-deserved) heat for falling behind other smartwatch platforms, but we may finally see some updates. There are two sessions on the I/O schedule to go over what’s new and how to develop Tiles for Wear OS. Google’s even sending out surveys, asking for guidance on what to do next.


And just when you thought that the Pixel Watch rumor was dead in the water, it resurfaces with a vengeance. YouTuber Jon Prosser recently showed off a convincing render of a circular watch that looks exactly like what we’ve all envisioned a Pixel Watch would look like.

This is also the first big event since Google’s acquisition of Fitbit was a done deal. We likely won’t see anything new on the Fitbit front (after all, they just announced the Fitbit Luxe last month), but maybe we’ll see closer integration between your Fitbit and Google accounts.


The last bit of Wear OS rumbling is from Korean news outlet MT, which points to a supposed Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 running Wear OS instead of Samsung’s Tizen OS. Speaking as a person wearing a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active because there was no comfortable Wear OS equivalent, having this come true could be all Wear OS needs to emerge from its current rut.

Don’t Bet on the Pixel 6

With the event being virtual and the lack of live audience to “ooh” and “ahh” over the announcements, it’s unlikely Google will show even an outlined render of the Pixel 6 during the developer keynote—though it’s teased smartphones this way at past developer conferences. There’s still so much we need to learn about Whitechapel, Google’s turn at making a mobile processor. And it would be such a major play against Apple’s silicon parade that it would warrant a separate event along with the official launch of a new flagship device.


Pixel-Perfect Buds

Illustration for article titled Here's What to Expect From Google I/O

Screenshot: Twitter / Google


It’s no guarantee that they’ll be introduced during the Google I/O keynote, but the Pixel Buds A were already inadvertently leaked on Twitter. They’re a cheaper alternative to the regular Pixel Buds, which cost $180. According to the leak, they promise to deliver quality sound and one-tap pairing with Google Fast Pair.

Don’t count too hard on Google revealing the budget-inclined Pixel 5a, either. With the global chip shortage and delays in nearly every nook and cranny of tech manufacturing, there’s only a slim chance the Pixel 5a is ready to launch this soon. At least we know it’s coming, as Google refuted reports it’d canceled the model, confirming instead it would be available later this year in the U.S. and Japan.


The Google Assistant in Your House

Second-gen Nest Hubs are already available with new Assistant features. But maybe we’ll hear of a few more at the keynote.

Second-gen Nest Hubs are already available with new Assistant features. But maybe we’ll hear of a few more at the keynote.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski / Gizmodo


Google’s vision for the smart home will undoubtedly see some air time during the opening keynote. There’s even a session devoted to what’s new in Google Assistant the following day. According to the description, we can expect to hear a state of the union of sorts for the Assistant, plus new product announcements, feature updates, and tooling changes. We might even potentially hear about BERT and how Google uses it to make the Assistant understand us when we’re mouthing off gibberish, though that’s the kind of tech demo that plays during the opening keynote.

There’s a session later on that same day about what’s new in the smart home, with a mention of new product announcements and a showcase of Assistant experiences built by the developer community. Anything new introduced during these two sessions will likely be software updates or abilities made available to the Assistant since there’s already a new batch of Nest Hub smart speakers and displays.


There is also some expectation that Google will announce new products for its home security system, including better security cameras and a second-gen security system. Last year, Google discontinued the Nest Secure DIY security kit, then revealed to 9to5Google that it was planning a “new lineup for security cameras for 2021.” It’s also plausible it will partner up with security veterans ADT, considering the company’s CEO told CNBC it would be rolling out “Google products in the third quarter of 2021.”

Android in Your TV

The Chromecast with Google TV will certainly get a mention, but we’re not expecting too much new stuff about Google’s TV platform.

The Chromecast with Google TV will certainly get a mention, but we’re not expecting too much new stuff about Google’s TV platform.
Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo


The Chromecast with Google TV came storming in last holiday season to set the standard for Google TV devices going forward. There are no specific Google TV sessions on the calendar. However, there is already a developer preview available for Android 12 for TVs, and Google I/O is precisely the venue to walk developers through that sort of thing. Any major Google TV news will likely be more subtle through code reveals and other features announced for Android 12.

Chromebooks in All Forms

There’s no way we can forget Chromebooks, especially not after the platform’s phenomenal growth through the pandemic. Google offers a session on what’s new in Chrome OS the day after the keynote. The session will cover updates to Chrome OS’s Linux environment and new APIs. Hopefully, we’ll also learn how many people have adopted Android apps on Chromebook laptops since they debuted nearly three years ago.


Whatever Google plans to reveal, join us for our coverage of the virtual I/O 2021 developers conference beginning May 18 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET.

A Toaster Company Is Releasing an Android Phone

Balmuda is known for its modern take on kitchen gadgets overseas. Now it’s trying its hand at Android phones.

Balmuda is known for its modern take on kitchen gadgets overseas. Now it’s trying its hand at Android phones.
Image: Balmuda

If a company can figure out how to perfectly toast a slice of bread, it can surely bring something to the table with regards to Android smartphone design. And anyway, some people think Android phones are nothing but chunks of carbs, so there’s clearly a market out there!


Balmuda is a Japanese company that developed a humidifying toaster oven about six years ago. It became infamous for its toasters that produce fluffy yet perfectly browned slices of bread. I can taste the Nutella now, melting through the cracks of warm, soft brioche. I shouldn’t have written this article before lunch. My stomach actually growled as I typed this sentence.

Balmuda only recently brought its bread-toasting magic gadget to the U.S. But after becoming known in Japan for its modernized take on kitchen gadgets, it started producing other appliances, like fans, lanterns, a vacuum cleaner, and even a speaker.

Balmuda’s next foray will be designing a smartphone. It’s enlisted the help of industry-veterans, Kyocera, to manufacture the 5G device. The smartphone will be designed for use specifically on Softbank’s network in Japan, and there will be a SIM-free version available to purchase. The company’s CEO, Gen Terao, told the Next Web the phone would not merely be another appliance and would offer proprietary apps to make it a “great everyday-use” smartphone.

There are no details about where or when the Balmuda smartphone will appear. Android devices such as these don’t typically get a ton of traction because they’re niche and localized. Balmuda is likely testing the waters to see how it would do, lending its name to devices that could sell at scale. Apple’s iPhone currently dominates Japan, with 66% of users on iOS. The Balmuda phone will have to compete with the rest of the Android manufacturers vying for a slice of that remaining market share.

DarkSide, We Hardly Knew Ya: Ransomware Gang Behind Pipeline Hack ‘Quits’ the Business

Illustration for article titled DarkSide, We Hardly Knew Ya: Ransomware Gang Behind Pipeline Hack 'Quits' the Business

Photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP (Getty Images)

Less than 24 hours after President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would seek to disrupt the operations of those responsible for the Colonial Pipeline attack, the gang in question seems to be ducking for cover—and claims it will shut down its criminal operation, at least for now.


In posts made online Thursday, the ransomware gang DarkSide said that large parts of its IT infrastructure had been targeted by an “unknown law enforcement agency” and that some amount of its cryptocurrency had been seized, a new report from security firm Intel471 shows. Security researchers spotted the announcements on an underground forum, where the gang claimed that its “name-and-shame blog, ransom collection website, and breach data content delivery network (CDN) were all allegedly seized, while funds from their cryptocurrency wallets allegedly were exfiltrated.”

The gang further announced that it would be shutting down operations and issuing decryptors to all of its affiliates “for the targets they attacked.” An excerpt of the note, shared by Intel471, reads as follows:

A couple of hours ago, we lost access to the public part of our infrastructure, in particular to the


payment server

CDN servers

At the moment, these servers cannot be accessed via SSH, and the hosting panels have been blocked.

The hosting support service doesn’t provide any information except “at the request of law enforcement authorities.” In addition, a couple of hours after the seizure, funds from the payment server (belonging to us and our clients) were withdrawn to an unknown account.

After detailing its plans to shut down operations, the group then explicitly mentioned the U.S. as having added “pressure” to their situation:

In view of the above and due to the pressure from the US, the affiliate program is closed. Stay safe and good luck. The landing page, servers, and other resources will be taken down within 48 hours.

If this is all true, it’s a swift turnaround for DarkSide—which rocketed to notoriety last week when it successfully crippled the network of Colonial Pipeline, thus managing to extort America’s largest oil and gas conduit for a reported $5 million. Until now, the gang has run a prolific ransomware-as-a-service business, wherein it loaned out its malware to criminal “affiliates,” who then conducted cyberattacks on its behalf. In the RaaS model, affiliates get paid some amount of the cut from every successful ransom secured.

According to the Intel471 report, the incident appears to have set off a shudder throughout the ransomware community, with other cybercrime forums and groups alleging similar “takedowns” and announcing new restrictions on operations. However, whether this is actually the result of some sort of law enforcement crackdown is unclear.


By the same token, not everyone agrees that DarkSide is actually telling the truth about its plans.

Kimberly Goody, senior manager of Financial Crime Analysis at FireEye’s Mandiant, said in a statement shared with Gizmodo that her company has not yet been able to verify the claims. Instead, she said, there is some online speculation that it could be a scam:

Mandiant has observed multiple actors cite a May 13 announcement that appeared to be shared with DARKSIDE RaaS affiliates by the operators of the service. This announcement stated that they lost access to their infrastructure, including their blog, payment, and CDN servers and would be closing their service…We have not independently validated these claims and there is some speculation by other actors that this could be an exit scam.


At any rate, if the gang is indeed retreating into the digital underworld, it’s likely that it will eventually regroup and resume operations at some point in the future, experts say. “A number of the operators will most likely operate in their own [close-knit groups, resurfacing under new names and updated ransomware variants,” Intel471 says.

Framework’s Dream of a Modular Laptop Is Real and Ready to Preorder

Framework is a modular laptop featuring Intel’s 11th-gen CPU.

Framework is a modular laptop featuring Intel’s 11th-gen CPU.
Image: Framework

Imagine sprucing up your laptop the same way you would swap out the components inside a desktop PC case. That’s part of the premise behind the Framework laptop, made by a startup that wants to make it easier to diagnose and repair your stuff. Preorders are now open for Framework’s first batch of modular laptops, with four different models available in a surprisingly affordable price range.


Each of the Framework laptops is priced based on the processor, memory, and storage option you choose. All laptops are powered by Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors. The $1,000 base model comes with a Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD for storage. The $1,400 Performance model gets a spec bump with a Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The $2,000 Professional model completes the lineup with a speedier Core i7-1185G7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The base and Performance models come with a serial for Windows 10 Home, while the Performance model runs Windows 10 Pro. There’s also a do-it-yourself configuration starting at $750. You can customize the components and then assemble them yourself, and even choose between Windows and Linux.

The Framework laptops are relatively standard across the board. They all feature 13-inch displays and a 55Wh battery, as well as a 1080p, 60fps webcam with a physical privacy switch—that goes beyond most consumer laptops, even the business-focused ones. Not all parts of the Framework laptop are swappable to help maintain consistent function and design across models. But the hardware you’d need (or want) to upgrade first is, including the processor, wifi chip, RAM, and storage.

As Gizmodo reported at Framework’s initial launch, the laptops have four swappable port bays, helping eliminate the necessity for a separate port dock. Framework calls this the Expansion Card System.

There’s the default USB-C card, which supports USB4, 20V/5A charging, and DisplayPort Alt Mode for connecting a monitor; a USB-A card that supports USB 3.2 Gen 2; an HMDI card that supports HDMI 2.0; a DisplayPort card for DisplayPort 1.4 support; a MicroSD port; a card for an extra 250GB or 1TB of storage, which kind of functions like an external drive; and Framework has more expansion cards in development for headphones, microcontrollers, and others.

You can choose the ports you want and what side you’d like them on. The battery, screen, and keyboard are also replaceable, and you can swap out the keyboard if you rely on different languages and layouts—or you’re prone to nasty keys due to eating food around your laptop. (It happens to the best of us.) There’s also a customizable magnetic bezel.

Modular mobile computing is hardly a new concept. But with the creeping onset of climate change and a desperate need to cut down on e-waste, the fact that Framework is giving it a serious try offers a little hope for the industry. The challenge is getting folks to adopt the idea at scale, particularly the tech-adverse.


Perhaps if the Framework laptop can find some success, other mobile modular projects will get off the ground again. I can’t help but think about Android’s fabled Project Ara smartphone, which offered the promise of modularity in a smaller device that we tend to upgrade more often than our laptops.

Preorders for all Framework models are available in the U.S., with Canada coming soon. Framework plans to take orders for Europe and Asia before the end of the year. Framework requires a refundable $100 deposit for all preorders.


Google Docs Update May ‘Unilaterally Kill’ Some Chrome Extensions, Researcher Warns

Illustration for article titled Google Docs Update May 'Unilaterally Kill' Some Chrome Extensions, Researcher Warns

Photo: Robyn Beck (Getty Images)

For a company that’s staring down three separate antitrust cases from several dozen states and the Department of Justice, Google sure seems pretty comfortable issuing update after update that is nothing less than despotic. The latest example comes courtesy of a Google Docs tweak that on one hand makes the program speedier and smoother, but comes at the cost of an accessible, open internet.


Midas Nouwens, a Denmark-based professor who specializes in finding flaws in data protection laws like Europe’s GDPR, first flagged the Docs update in a Twitter thread Thursday morning. As he pointed out, the actual update looks, well, pretty boring: Over the next few months, Google said it plans to swap out the static HTML backbone currently supporting its Docs product for one that’s built using a code called canvas.

Google says the move is meant to “improve consistency in how content appears across different platforms,” and by all accounts, it should. Compared to its clunky static HTML counterpart, canvas-based Google Docs will be able to render complicated shapes and squiggles with more speed and precision. The update should also make these renders more consistent, meaning those squiggles will look the same for any person on any device.

Of course, these buffs come with a pretty big catch that Google—to its credit—actually alludes to in its blog post. “We don’t expect this change to impact the functionality of the features in Docs,” the company wrote. “However, this may impact some Chrome extensions, where they may no longer work as intended.”

Google’s blog didn’t clarify exactly what “impact” or “some” or “work” mean in this context, but Nouwens’s thread did.

If you’ve ever used an extension like Grammarly or Beeline Reader, then you know how smoothly a Google Chrome extension can interact with a given Doc. The way these programs function is by manipulating what’s known as a Document Object Model, or DOM, which essentially forms a structured skeleton of a given webpage. By tweaking different parts of that skeleton, these extensions are able to change what you’re seeing in your document, all in real-time.

And as Nouwens pointed out, the DOM not only easy for extensions to access, but really anyone. It literally takes two or three clicks. The fact that these bones are such a breeze to access doesn’t only mean that developers can easily whip up countless extensions to poke at them, but it also gives non-coders the freedom to devise elaborate pranks, bypass paywalls, and do… whatever this is.


Swapping out this system for a canvas version means leaving these Doc-tweaking extensions without the roadmap they’ve been relying on to actually do that Doc-tweaking. This could have dire consequences for Chrome extensions because, unlike the DOM, canvas makes the code tweaks inaccessible. “It will unilaterally kill many extensions people use today,” Nouwens wrote.


As a replacement, Google’s blog suggested that affected developers download a series of Google-owned tools that accomplish (most) of the same functions. In other words, Google’s offering developers a sleeker, faster system, but at the price of the little control they have left. (We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will update when we hear back.)

“In the context of the larger power struggle around who gets to determine our everyday digital experiences — hashtag interoperability, digital competition, platform power — this is a concrete example of technical enclosure,” Nouwens wrote. Rather than an open system, he went on, “you now have to use a Google maintained one to negotiate the design of the software. Interoperability and inspectability replaced with centralisation and obfuscation.” In other words, Google just being Google.


The Extremely Korean Reason Why Samsung Might Ditch Tizen for Wear OS

Illustration for article titled The Extremely Korean Reason Why Samsung Might Ditch Tizen for Wear OS

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

When I first heard the rumors that Samsung might ditch its proprietary Tizen OS for wearables in favor of Google’s Wear OS, I was flummoxed. Tizen is snappy and free of the many problems plaguing Google’s wearables softeware. In fact, I’d say Tizen has played a large role in making Samsung’s smartwatches the best option for Android users—even if it isn’t perfect. The most logical explanation was that Wear OS offered a better third-party app ecosystem. However, even that didn’t make complete sense given how neglected the platform is and that Tizen OS has been in Samsung watches for seven years now. But now, a report from the Korean news outlet Money Today makes things crystal clear: KakaoTalk refuses to make a dedicated Tizen app.


If you’ve spent a significant time in Korea or are familiar with the Korean or Korean-American community, you know how big KakaoTalk is. Here in the west, the most accurate comparison would probably be WhatsApp, but if WhatsApp was also a pseudo-social network that absolutely everyone in your life used. I mean your grandma, your parents, your significant other, your friends, your coworkers, the CEO of your company, your third-grade teacher—absolutely everyone. According to Statista, the app has more than 50 million monthly active users, of which 46 million are located in South Korea. For context, the population of South Korea in 2020 was about 51 million. And like WeChat in China, KakaoTalk has expanded beyond just being a free chat and voice calling app. It hosts mobile games, an online bank, online shopping, a taxi service, and gift exchanges. And while it’s not officially designed to be, KakaoTalk has also morphed into a pseudo dating app. It’s so ubiquitous, “Ka-talk”, an abbreviated name for the app, has become part of the language. Listen, even my 72-year-old, technology-hating mother who has no idea how to use her smartphone will say things like, “I’ll Ka-talk you later.”

According to the MT report, KakaoTalk refuses to develop a Tizen app for Samsung’s Galaxy Watch because “there is no reason to,” as the market is small and “development is rather difficult.” The best KakaoTalk integration you can get on a Samsung watch is a notification when you receive a KakaoTalk message and the ability to reply with a smart response from the notification screen. The Apple Watch already has a KakaoTalk app where you can view all your chats, send special KakaoTalk-specific emojis, send voice messages, and also reply using smart responses. There’s also already an Android version of the app, so extending that to Wear OS would be less of a headache.

But is this really a compelling reason for Samsung to throw Tizen under the bus? Yes. I don’t know how to accurately convey the power of the extreme national pride Koreans have for home-grown tech, brands, and talent. The best I can say is from the moment you land in Seoul’s Incheon Airport, everything is Samsung. My relatives in Korea are Samsung phone evangelists, and many of them are perplexed why some of us in the American branch of our family use iPhones at all. Do we have no pride? I’m not joking when I say it’s a legitimate point of contention that’s made for awkward moments at family reunions. When Gangnam Style and K-pop landed in America, it was worn as a badge of honor that even the Americans finally recognized Korea’s cultural capital. Most of my conversations with my mom start with a factoid about some Korean accomplishment, such as, “Do you know that Incheon Airport is rated the best airport in the world?” Do not even get me started on when Parasite won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Samsung looms large within the Korean consciousness and so does KakaoTalk. Even though the majority of smartwatch users in Korea use a Samsung, lacking a dedicated KakaoTalk app is a colossal omission for Korea’s most powerful company in its home market.

Broadly speaking, Samsung likely wants more apps to work with its smartwatches and hasn’t made much headway. It’s the one thing that’s stopping it from being the best smartwatch for all Android users outright. Right now its main victory on the third-party app front is that Spotify’s Tizen app is way better than its Wear OS app. Switching back to Wear OS is most definitely a long-term strategic move that may have always been inevitable. But if KakaoTalk was willing to make a dedicated Tizen app, I’m not sure Samsung would throw in the towel just yet.

Apple Take Note: You Can Park Lenovo’s New Cordless Mouse on a Wireless Charging Pad

Illustration for article titled Apple Take Note: You Can Park Lenovo's New Cordless Mouse on a Wireless Charging Pad

Image: Lenovo

It’s been over five years and the second-generation Apple Magic Mouse still needs to be awkwardly flipped on its back like a turtle to be recharged with a lightning cable—rendering it unusable in the process. A better approach is what Lenovo has done with its new Go mouse, letting it rest atop a wireless charging pad when its battery is low.


The mouse is one of two products introduced as part of the new Lenovo Go accessories line. The other is a new Lenovo Go-branded USB-C power bank with 20,000 mAh capacity and 65-watt power output so that it can be used to charge a laptop as well as two other battery hungry devices at the same time. Both are available next month with the power bank going for $90, but it’s the $60 Lenovo Go Wireless Multi-Device Mouse that’s definitely the more interesting of the two.


Image: Lenovo

That’s not to say that Lenovo has reinvented the mouse here, with just two navigation buttons and a scroll wheel it’s a fairly mundane design. But it can connect to three different devices at the same time, allowing users to choose which one it’s controlling—a laptop, desktop, tablet, etc.—using a dedicated button on top. It’s also cordless, charging through a USB-C port on the front that means it can still be used as a mouse while it’s powering up, or it can be parked atop a Qi-compatible charging pad for a few hours when it’s not needed. Apple, are you taking notes?