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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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!

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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.

Coinbase Says Screw It, We’ll Let You Buy Doge

Illustration for article titled Coinbase Says Screw It, We'll Let You Buy Doge

Illustration: Richard Drew (AP)

The cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase has caved. After a long silence to the hoards imploring the company to let them trade Dogecoin, they’ve decided to list the meme, adding a sheen of legitimacy to a cryptocurrency with limitless supply, which whales could squash with a whale-sized dump at any moment. On a call with investors on Thursday, CEO Brian Armstrong said that Coinbase aims to list it in six to eight weeks.

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The Doge fans have been wondering why Coinbase has been leaving money on the table. Doge now commands a heart-stopping trading volume and an equally terror-inducing current market cap of $72 billion—higher than 77 percent of companies listed on the S&P 500. Fees vary with flat rates for lower purchases, but Coinbase typically charges users a 1.49% fee on transactions made through your bank account. So if, say, Coinbase users bought $1 billion of Dogecoin and all HODLed, Coinbase would pocket $14.9 million. (This is if they don’t pay with a debit card or PayPal, in which case Coinbase gets 3.99% in a conversion fee.)

Armstrong didn’t stop at announcing Doge’s arrival on the platform. He added this wild forecast:

I think it’s going to be something, kind of, like apps in the App Store or on the iPhone where there’s eventually millions of these assets created over time and so we’re putting a lot of work and thought into how do we accelerate our pace of asset addition, and one of those is Doge, as you mentioned, which has been getting a lot of attention recently.

Getting-a-lot-of-attention-recently: sort of like CDs, Smash Mouth tickets, the Gap, TRIMSPA, and people running “executive success programs.”

The idea that cryptocurrency will have long-term value mostly hinges, at least for some analysts, on the idea of scarcity, that Bitcoin will be useful outside of the currency exchange trade, and once all the Bitcoin has been mined, you want to be holding the Bitcoin when everybody who missed out needs Bitcoin. Doge is the equivalent of endlessly printing money, with a current tangible value resting on Elon Musk’s ability to keep upping the ante, which could escalate to a Doge-funded space station at the rate he’s going. WallStreetBets doesn’t even want people talking about it because the market is “small accounts and pump & dumps.”

Let’s get a second opinion. Adam Zadikoff, COO of the crypto wallet BRD, told CNBC the following:

My guess is that [the rally] won’t last, especially for something like dogecoin which was never meant to be a payment system or a store of value. Yes, you can make a quick buck if you time it right, but timing the market is a terrible thing to try to do. It does not work.

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Consider investing in Pokemon cards.

Amazon’s New Echo Buds Are Annoyingly Good for the Price

Illustration for article titled Amazon's New Echo Buds Are Annoyingly Good for the Price

Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

Amazon is trying its hand at earbuds again after stumbling out of the gate with its first pair of Echo Buds in 2019. The improvements, I’m mildly irritated to say, are good.

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Amazon’s hardware is all over the place: Its Kindle lineup is excellent but still sports microUSB ports, its smart displays are very good but also mildly creepy, its first fitness tracker was horrifyingly invasive, and its first-gen Bluetooth earbuds were outdated from the jump (see, again, microUSB) and didn’t sound great. I wasn’t sure what to expect when the Alexa-forward second-gen Echo Buds arrived on my doorstep, but I have to admit, when evaluating the latest buds against the rest of the increasingly competitive pack of other Bluetooth earbuds, the new ones are priced so well that the little issues I have aren’t dealbreakers. They also sound pretty good.

And then there’s Alexa. More on that in a minute.

Boring Design Is Perfectly Fine

The Echo Buds look almost completely free of personality or branding until you peer closely at each earbud and notice the Amazon smile logo. Virtually no one wants to wear Amazon’s logo in their ear, but the black logo on black earbud is so faint as to be nearly invisible. The charging case is also branded, but the smile is on the bottom of the device so no one can see it. (I didn’t get a chance to see the white version in person, though the Amazon logo on those appears to be a little more obvious in photos.)

The buds come with four silicone eartips, which are mercifully color-coded so you know which to grab, and two sizes of wings, which are damn near impossible to get on and off the earbud and can also easily cover the charging magnets that snap the earbud to its spot in the charging case. I found that out the hard way and accidentally drained my left Echo Bud from 100% to 11% thanks to an errant wing fit, which I promptly ditched. (The wing part doesn’t help with fit all that much anyway.) But even without the wings, I got a solid fit and a nice seal, and the vented design prevents discomfort even when wearing them for a couple of hours at a time.

Each bud is touch-sensitive so you can control music playback with a tap or two (or three), and you can customize one gesture, a long hold, to control volume on either the left and right buds. Customizing that gesture means removing the ability to control Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and pass-through using a long hold, so I sacrificed that functionality.

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The Echo Buds sport an understated design—some might say boring—and fit well.

The Echo Buds sport an understated design—some might say boring—and fit well.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

Surprisingly Good Audio

The biggest change Amazon made to the second-gen Echo Buds is the addition of active noise cancellation instead of the first-gen version’s noise reduction. And it works.

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I went for a 3-mile run outdoors in the heart of Hollywood to test the Echo Buds’ ability to drown out ambient street noise or filter in the outside world when I needed to for safety, and the ANC was effective. You can control the noise cancellation using a long press of either earbud, or ask Alexa to turn it on or off. Pass-through is fine, though I didn’t hear as much of the outside world as I hear with other ANC earbuds. (I should note that the Echo Buds are only rated IPx4 and are therefore not sweat-proof, so if you need earbuds that can withstand workouts, look elsewhere.)

One pass-through feature is specifically for phone calls, a setting called Sidetone you can activate in the Alexa app, which lets you more clearly hear yourself when you’re talking on the phone. This was buggy—I could hear myself marginally better than without it turned on at first, but then it quit working. The change wasn’t big enough to be super noticeable on my end, but when I was talking to my mom with Sidetone activated, she asked what I was making—the sound of my hair brushing against the earbud was so intense that it sounded like I was chopping iceberg lettuce, she said. Without Sidetone on, my hair wasn’t an issue.

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The new Echo Buds have 5.7mm drivers and three mics: two external beamforming ones and one internal. Music definitely sounds good, but I will say that the Echo Buds audio doesn’t quite as full or immersive as it does with pricier earbuds (like Apple’s AirPods Pro and the Jabra Elite 85t), but I only noticed that listening to the same song on all devices back to back. I tested this with a few different genres, from EDM to classic rock and, of course, Fiona Apple. But overall the Echo Buds are well-balanced, and the ability to adjust the EQ in the Alexa app means I can bump up the bass as much as I want.

Battery Life Could Be Better

The second-gen Echo Buds come in two versions: the $120 model, which charges via USB-C, and a pricier $140 version, which has both USB-C and supports wireless charging with any Qi charger. Apple’s second-gen AirPods with wireless charging case will cost you $199 and they don’t even offer ANC, so this seems like a steal by comparison.

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The charging isn’t particularly fast either way—the case charges about 30% in 30 minutes via USB-C or wireless charger—but 15 minutes in the case gives the earbuds themselves about two additional hours of juice, which is useful (see above, when I inadvertently drained my left earbud and had to quickly resuscitate it). Amazon promises four hours of call time on a charge and eight additional hours in the charging case with ANC and Alexa enabled, which tracked in my testing—I got a few days of battery life between listening to tunes and podcasts, going for a run, and making phone calls.

USB-C port (left) and Bluetooth pairing button (right). Quick and easy.

USB-C port (left) and Bluetooth pairing button (right). Quick and easy.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

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Battery life improves if you turn ANC and Alexa off—6.5 hours in the buds and 19.5 hours total with the charging case. That’s on par with what you get from AirPods Pro, which are $120 more expensive than the base-model Echo Buds, but the Jabra Elite 85t remain my fave for the 25 total hours you get with ANC turned on. (The 85t are also $230, but I love them.)

But I did appreciate the fact that the case has three color-coded LED lights—one for the case itself and one for each earbud—that let you know how much battery life is left in each. You can also ask Alexa for a quick battery status update, which brings us to the Echo Buds’ marquee feature.

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Alexa’s Pros, Cons, and Privacy Concerns

Look: If you’re thinking of buying a pair of Amazon earbuds, you’re probably comfortable with Amazon as a company. Perhaps your home already has a handful of Alexa devices, despite the fact that Alexa has historically been a privacy minefield for reasons we’ve covered before—a reputation Amazon has never quite been able to shake, for good reason. While I am personally not all-in with Alexa, Amazon has made it possible to use these earbuds with no Alexa at all, or with minimal Alexa when you want it.

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Though you have to set up the Echo Buds with the Alexa app to access features like adjustable EQ and customizing the tap controls, you can also just pair the Echo Buds to your phone using the standard Bluetooth settings, no app required. There are also a handful of ways to activate Alexa but mute the assistant when you want to so that the earbuds’ microphones aren’t always capturing your audio and sending it to the cloud. First, the Alexa app has to be open and running in the background on your phone for Alexa to function. And an earbud has to actually be in your ear to activate Alexa; it won’t be listening if placed in the case or on a table, for instance. If you want to use the earbuds but mute Alexa, you can do so in the app or by customizing a physical gesture (long-pressing the earbud). You will hear a tone when Alexa recognizes the wake word, but there are no physical indicators.

You don’t actually have to set up Alexa at all, but if you do, you unlock a whole bunch of features.

You don’t actually have to set up Alexa at all, but if you do, you unlock a whole bunch of features.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

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All of that said, if Alexa knows literally all of your business and you have no qualms about that, then having the assistant directly in your ear can be useful.

Amazon’s Echo system is not my go-to jam, so I am always taken aback when I remember just how fast Alexa picks up its wake word and responds. Even better, Alexa listens to me and responds even if I’m listening to something on the Echo Buds. For instance, while cooking dinner and listening to a podcast, I asked Alexa to set a timer for me, and while the pod volume lowered a bit as I spoke, Alexa didn’t interrupt to respond—the timer was set, the timer went off, and I went about my business. (Here’s where I could complain about Siri’s, but that sad, sad horse has long since stumbled off into the sunset.)

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You can set up all the standard Alexa skills in the app to request that the assistant play music, audiobooks from Audible, add reminders to your to-do list, make phone calls—the works. That all happens quickly and easily, though I find Alexa to be most useful while bumming around at home or out on a walk (though if you’re out in public wearing a mask and no one can see you mumbling to yourself, by all means). And an Alexa Transit feature available in major cities like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago will help you plan your public transit route and give you status updates on the train or bus you’re waiting for. This hasn’t yet been flipped on where I live, in Los Angeles, but using your earbuds to plan your commute is kind of neat.

I appreciated using Alexa to do dumb little things like set timers, ask for the weather forecast, and play DJ for me—things you might have purchased an Echo smart speaker to handle, but could instead be accomplished with a pair of earbuds that can be used in your home or on the go. If your smart home is rigged with Alexa-compatible gadgets from tip to toe, you’ll likely find the Echo Buds even more useful.

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What I Don’t Like

The Echo Buds are very good for the price, but they aren’t perfect. There are a few advanced features that don’t work as well as they should, and one big thing is missing.

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Following so closely on the heels of Apple’s AirTag launch, I was surprised to find a Find My feature for the new Echo Buds in the Alexa app. It may not surprise you to learn that the Alexa Find My feature for Echo Buds is not quite as advanced as the one Apple uses for AirTags. I never lose just one earbud, but I regularly misplace the case with both earbuds tucked inside. Unless the Echo Buds charging case is open, however, it won’t play a sound (that’s because the earbuds themselves independently play sounds, and not the case itself). This is not helpful, to say the least. I have never lost an earbud charging case while it was wide open.

I don’t usually lose my earbud case like this.

I don’t usually lose my earbud case like this.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo

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Then there are the quibbles I have with Sidetone and battery life that I mentioned earlier.

But really, the biggest issue is the lack of a feature I really, really need from Bluetooth earbuds: the ability to connect to multiple devices. The Echo Buds can only be paired to one device at a time, which means you can’t seamlessly switch audio from your phone to your laptop, which is crucial for me. If this is also an important feature for you, what with the pandemic era’s endless phone calls and video conferences, I would recommend splurging on a pricier pair of ANC earbuds that can connect to multiple devices at once. My go-to is the Jabra Elite 85t (or the also good Elite Active 75t, which has software-based ANC that’s actually very capable). Apple’s AirPods Pro are great for iPhone users with MacBooks, though the fit is not my favorite.

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Who Should Buy Echo Buds?

As I started testing the Echo Buds, I wasn’t quite sure if they’d be any good for those of us who are either skeptical of Alexa or who avoid the assistant altogether. But they are good, especially considering the price. For $120, you get a solid-sounding pair of earbuds with capable ANC and comfortable fit, and for an extra $20 you get a wireless charging case. There are a few drawbacks—the battery life could be better, and not being able to switch devices sucks—but I’m surprised by how much I liked using these things. I don’t like them enough to fully embrace Alexa, but the good news is: You really don’t need to.

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Too Bad, Zuck: Just 4% of U.S. iPhone Users Let Apps Track Them After iOS Update

Illustration for article titled Too Bad, Zuck: Just 4% of U.S. iPhone Users Let Apps Track Them After iOS Update

Photo: Saul Loeb (Getty Images)

Apple recently rolled out its highly anticipated App Tracking Transparency feature with iOS 14.5, which lets users decide whether apps track their activity for targeted advertising. Overwhelmingly, users seem happy to leave app tracking disabled. Just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have agreed to app tracking after updating their device, according to the latest data from Verizon-owned analytics firm Flurry.

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Worldwide, that figure jumps to 12%, a healthy increase but one that still doesn’t spell great news for companies like Facebook that sell targeting to advertisers by hoovering up user data. With iOS 14.5, if a user has app tracking requests enabled, then whenever they download or update an app, it has to ask permission before it can track their activity. And it’s clear most users are saying: “Nah.”

Users who want to turn off tracking altogether without rejecting permissions for each app individually can toggle “Allow Apps to Request Track” in the iPhone’s privacy settings. Since the update launched on April 26, Flurry’s data shows that, on average, about 3% of U.S. iOS users and 5% of international iOS users have restricted app tracking.

Flurry based its findings on a sample size of 2.5 million daily mobile active users with iOS 14.5 in the U.S. and a sample size of 5.3 million such users worldwide. According to the company, its analytics tool is installed in more than 1 million mobile applications and it aggregates data from about 2 billion devices per month.

As a vocal opponent of Apple’s new feature, Facebook has launched a sweeping fearmongering campaign to convince users that these privacy measures are, in fact, a bad thing. Facebook took out multiple full-page ads arguing that Apple’s feature will devastate small businesses that rely on its ad targeting services and warning that many free sites may have to start charging users money for subscriptions or in-app purchases. Other tech giants like Snapchat, Google, and Twitter have also said that, if the majority of users decide to forego app tracking, it will likely affect their bottom line.

Granted, this data is just our first glimpse at the response from users. iOS 14.5 has only been out for a little less than two weeks, and, given more time, we’ll likely gain a better understanding of the average number of users opting-in or opting-out of app tracking. But one thing’s crystal clear: People value their privacy. And if that means missing out on a few personalized ads, well, plenty of folks seem happy to make that sacrifice.

FTC Report Calls Out Manufacturers on Their Anti-Competitive Repair Policies

Illustration for article titled FTC Report Calls Out Manufacturers on Their Anti-Repair Bullshit

Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

After nearly two long years of waiting, the Federal Trade Commission released its “Nixing the Fix” report on restrictions employed by manufacturers on product repairs. Folks, it does not mince words, saying there is “scant evidence” justifying the obstacles companies put in place to limit consumers’ options when it comes to repairs.

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The lengthy report initially spawned out of a 2019 FTC workshop, which then prompted Congress to call on the agency to continue its investigation into the issue. While right-to-repair advocates have been banging the drum that manufacturers have unfairly rigged the game against independent repair shops and consumers, manufacturers have retorted that the market works fine as is. The bipartisan FTC report categorically disagrees. “Although manufacturers have offered numerous explanations for their repair restrictions,” the report concludes, “the majority are not supported by the record.”

The list of major issues highlighted by the FTC warranties is extensive. It includes:

  • Warranties being routinely voided in violation of the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act
  • Product designs that either complicate or prevent repairs
  • Parts and repair information being made unavailable
  • Designs intended to make an independent repair “less safe”
  • Policies designed to herd consumers toward manufacturer repair networks
  • Disparaging third-party repair parts
  • Software locks and firmware updates
  • End-user license agreements
  • Companies enforcing patent rights and trademarks as a means of shutting down independent repair

The report also notes that repair restrictions placed heavier burdens on lower-income communities and communities of color. “Many Black-owned small businesses are in the repair and maintenance industries, and difficulties facing small businesses can disproportionately affect small businesses owned by people of color,” the report reads. On top of harming small business owners in underserved communities, the FTC report says repair restrictions can also result in greater financial burdens for lower-income families, as they may lack broadband internet at home and therefore rely heavily on smartphones.

The FTC also highlighted that the pandemic only exacerbated these problems, as repair restrictions made it much harder for consumers to get their products fixed while working from home. Supply chain shortages mean that parts can be hard to come by, leaving customers to sometimes wait months for appliance repairs. Likewise, requiring customers to go through authorized repair facilities means that many have had to wait weeks for broken computers or other work-related gadgets—a situation that’s untenable during the work-from-home and remote learning era.

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As far as tech companies go, Apple had the dubious honor of being held up as a specific example of a company guilty of restrictive repair policies. If you’ve been following the news, this won’t come as a shock. Apple has historically been hostile to independent repair shops and prefers its customers go to a pre-approved list of authorized repair vendors. The Cupertino giant is also guilty of restricting access to repair manuals and famously had that debacle with iPhone throttling in a bid to preserve battery life.

As for what to do about the current situation, the report concludes with several suggestions ranging from new legislation, strengthening the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, self-regulation like the auto industry, transparent repairability scores for products, and taking some cues from the European Union, which last year decreed that manufacturers would have to make household appliances both longer-lasting and easier to repair. The FTC also urged consumers to report manufacturers who void warranties because of independent repairs in a release and on its Twitter.

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“This is a great step in the right direction,” iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens said in a statement. “The bipartisan report shows that [the] FTC knows that the market has not regulated itself, and is committing to real action.”

Clever Auto-Changing Wallpapers Match Your iPhone’s Battery to Remind You When It’s Time to Charge

Given how catastrophic and traumatizing a dead smartphone can be, Ben Vessey has created a better alternative to the tiny, easy-to-miss battery icon in the corner of the iPhone’s screen: a set of colorful wallpapers that dynamically change based on how much battery life the device has left.

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Those struggling with battery anxiety may have trained their brains to be extra attentive to when that tiny icon turns red, but for others, it’s easy to miss until it’s too late and their smartphone suddenly turns off unexpectedly—immediately inducing a state of FOMO. But when your phone’s background image is a constant and obvious reminder of its battery life, and a warning of when it’s time to seek power, a dead iPhone is no longer a concern.

Vessey currently sells two collections of the Dynamo wallpapers on their website which each include three different designs. The Apple pack features designs inspired by the company’s easily recognizable designs and color palettes, including the Mac’s Finder face, while the Faces pack features cartoony characters as well as a trio of wallpapers loosely based on Harvey Ross Ball’s iconic black and yellow smiley face.

How do they work? Each collection, which go for about $5.50 each, includes video and PDF instructions for setting up four separate automations using the iOS Shortcuts app that automatically changes your iPhone’s background based on how much charge is left. There’s no jailbreaking involved and the setup is promised to take about 10 minutes. iOS 14 is required, but the dynamically changing wallpapers should work on devices dating all the way back to the iPhone 6S.

The wallpapers automatically switch out to a design warning low battery life when the iPhone’s charge level hits 20%, and each collection also includes a version that clearly indicates when the device is charging, to avoid those times when you think you’ve plugged in a power cable correctly, or have positioned it properly on a wireless charger, when in fact you haven’t and you return a half-hour later to find your device completely dead.

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Too Many of You Still Believe in 5G Conspiracy Theories

A woman walks past posters debunking the 5G conspiracy theory causes covid-19

Photo: William West/ AFP (Getty Images)

5G conspiracies are nothing new. They’ve been tirelessly debunked several times and yet a 2021 survey found that roughly 24% of people believe that at least one 5G conspiracy is true. C’mon, really?

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The data comes via a new research survey by InMyArea.com (IMA), a website that specializes in ISP comparison shopping based on zip code. According to the findings, roughly two-thirds of respondents first heard a 5G conspiracy theory in the past year. Unsurprisingly, online communities were where most people first heard a 5G conspiracy theory, followed by a family member or friend sharing an article.

The theory that 5G causes cancer was most widely known at 50% of respondents. Other common theories included 5G spreading covid-19 (36%), China or Bill Gates using 5G to spy on or brainwash Americans (35% and 32%, respectively), and lockdowns being used as a diversion to install 5G towers (30%). In encouraging news, however, most people didn’t believe them. For example, only 10% of those familiar with the 5G cancer theory actually believed it. On the flip side, fringe theories had a higher percentage of believers. While only 20% had heard 5G damages trees and plants, nearly a quarter of those people believed it to be true. Depressingly, 15% believed the U.N. is using 5G to depopulate the planet, 19% believed 5G can kill birds, and 13% believed China uses 5G to spy on Americans.

Illustration for article titled Too Many of You Still Believe in 5G Conspiracy Theories

Image: InMyArea.com

It bears repeating that none of these conspiracies are true and have been repeatedly debunked. Most can also be traced back to other popular conspiracy theories like government coverups, military mind control experiments, and radiophobia, the fear that high-frequency waves will make you sick. (Fun fact: the first mentions of radiophobia date all the way back to the early 1900s.)

To be fair, this is only one survey of roughly 1,000 people who were familiar with 5G. Plus, self-reported data always comes with caveats (i.e., faulty memories, exaggeration, etc.). However, we do know that many Americans are utterly baffled by 5G. A Decluttr survey of 2,000 U.S. smartphone owners found that one in three Americans believe they have 5G phones and that 62% of them claimed to have seen faster speeds. This includes iPhone owners on every major carrier, despite the fact this survey was conducted before Apple even launched a 5G iPhone. It’s hard to find concrete numbers on how many Americans actually have 5G compatible phones and data plans, but Statista estimates that in August 2020 5G phones had a mere 13.5% market share in America. Of InMyArea.com’s survey respondents, 70% said they hadn’t switched over to 5G yet. This is a lot of ways to say most Americans know diddly squat about 5G.

But perhaps the most baffling result in IMA’s survey was that 35.9% of 5G conspiracy believers also say that they currently use 5G. So, apparently, not even wackadoodle 5G conspiracy theories can stop conspiracy theorists from being addicted to their phones.

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Don’t Expect More Software Updates for the Samsung Galaxy S8

The Galaxy S8, an impressive device when it was released in 2017, will no longer receive security updates from Samsung.

The Galaxy S8, an impressive device when it was released in 2017, will no longer receive security updates from Samsung.
Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

It’s always a sad day in Androidland when a popular smartphone officially reaches its end of life. Samsung will no longer push software updates to its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ smartphones.

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Samsung warned users of the eventual end when it switched the Galaxy S8 and S8+ to quarterly security updates last year. The Galaxy S8 Active will still receive quarterly updates, along with the S8 Lite, which is now on a biannual update schedule. Both of those models launched later in the S8 lifecycle and thus have a bit more runway. If you’re a Galaxy user, be sure to bookmark the company’s mobile updates page for reference.

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ launched in 2017 to great fanfare and great drama. It was Samsung’s first flagship model following the battery-exploding fiasco of the Galaxy Note 7. It was also one of the leading smartphones in terms of design at the time, helping usher in the new era of unibody, bezel-less Android phones. Samsung went on to sell 20 million units of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in its first year.

It’s not clear how many current users of the Galaxy S8 the end-of-life news will affect, though recent stats show people tend to hold on to their smartphones for up to three years. Samsung promised up to four years of software support to its legacy devices, and Google and Qualcomm have pledged four years of updates for Pixel devices going forward.

Meanwhile, Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 14, supports devices dating back to the iPhone 6S, which debuted in 2015, and those users get incremental iOS updates that fix security issues. Consistent software updates have always been the Achilles heel of being an Android user, even with the numerous attempts to unify the vast and fragmented mobile platform. Using an Android device without the appropriate security patches is like riding a motorcycle without a helmet. You might be OK getting from one point to another, but when disaster strikes, there’s nothing there to cushion the blow—unless you’re one of the many tinkerers who decide to take Android updates into your own hands.

Regardless, the idea of expected and consistent software updates is always good to hear as an Android user. It’s also an opportunity for a manufacturer like Samsung to push its users towards upgrading models. So much has changed since the Galaxy S8 launched, and with the transition to 5G becoming a core focus, it’s not a bad idea to get a device that’s future-proofed.

It does beg the question of whether we’ll ever slow down the rat race of smartphone upgrades. After all, even a pandemic didn’t stop Samsung from launching a barrage of new smartphones this year. And there are more coming.

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Update to iOS 14.5.1 Right Now or Your iPhone Is a Sitting Duck for Hackers

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro on sale in London in October 2020.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro on sale in London in October 2020.
Photo: Ming Yeung (Getty Images)

Apple has rushed out fixes to two major vulnerabilities in iOS and iPadOS 14.5, last month’s update that implemented its App Tracking Transparency feature. Both bugs could have allowed malicious parties to remotely execute code, possibly leading to the takeover of an affected device. That means you need to update your devices as soon as possible.

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According to Ars Technica, the 14.5.1 update on Monday mends two zero-day vulnerabilities (possibly already exploited in the wild) in Webkit, a rendering software that controls how web content is rendered in apps like Safari, the App Store, and others. Apple tagged the bugs as CVE-2021-30663 and CVE-2021-30665 in update notes; as Ars Technica explains, both issues were also noticed and patched in MacOS 11.3.1, released on Monday.

Both have an identical impact listed and note that Apple is aware that they had possibly been used in cyberattacks:

Processing maliciously crafted web content may lead to arbitrary code execution. Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.

Apple addressed one of the two vulnerabilities, a “memory corruption issue,” “with improved state management,” after being flagged by researchers with Chinese firm Qihoo 360. In the other vulnerability, reported to Apple by an anonymous engineer, “An integer overflow was addressed with improved input validation.”

According to ThreatPost, Apple also fixed another issue (CVE-2021-30666) in the iOS 12.5.3 update for older devices that could have similarly led to “arbitrary code execution.” Google’s Project Zero, which keeps a running tally of major zero-day vulnerabilities, is up to 21 so far this year, seven of which affected Apple products—all but one of them having to do with Webkit. Microsoft also stands at eight zero-day vulnerabilities, while Google is up to five, and Adobe had one.

A separate element in 14.5.1 fixed a bug with the previously released App Tracking Transparency feature, which gives users greater control over which apps have access to which data and is the subject of an ongoing spat with Facebook. According to Ars Technica, a separate bug where the toggle button for the feature remains improperly greyed out in the Settings menu doesn’t appear to have been fixed yet.

“This update fixes an issue with App Tracking Transparency where some users who previously disabled Allow Apps to Request to Track in Settings may not receive prompts from apps after re-enabling it,” Apple wrote. “This update also provides important security updates and is recommended for all users.”

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