Архив метки: Europe

Apple hit with another European class action over throttled iPhones

A third class action lawsuit has been filed in Europe against Apple seeking compensation — for what Italy’s Altroconsumo consumer protection agency dubs “planned obsolescence” of a number of iPhone 6 models.
The action relates to performance throttling Apple applied several years ago to affected iPhones when the health of the device’s battery had deteriorated — doing so without clearly informing users. It later apologized.

Apple apologizes for not telling customers iPhones with older batteries would slow over time

The class action suit in Italy is seeking €60 million in compensation — based on at least €60 in average compensation per iPhone owner. Affected devices named in the suit are the iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus and 6s Plus, per a press release put out by the umbrella consumer organization Euroconsumers, which counts Altroconsumo as a member.
The suit is the third to be filed in the region over the issue — following suits filed in Belgium and Spain last month.
A fourth — in Portugal — is slated to be filed shortly.
The tech giant settled similar charges in the U.S. last year — where it was accused of intentionally slowing down the performance of older iPhones to encourage customers to buy newer models or fresh batteries — shelling out $500 million, or around $25 per phone, to settle that case (while denying any wrongdoing).
“When consumers buy Apple iPhones, they expect sustainable quality products. Unfortunately, that is not what happened with the iPhone 6 series. Not only were consumers defrauded, and did they have to face frustration and financial harm, from an environmental point of view it is also utterly irresponsible,” said Els Bruggeman, Euroconsumers’ head of policy and enforcement, in a statement.
“This new lawsuit is the latest front in our fight against planned obsolescence in Europe. Our ask is simple: American consumers received compensation, European consumers want to be treated with the same fairness and respect.”
Euroconsumers has produced a video (embedded below) to drum up wider support for the class actions in which it satirizes Apple’s “genius” in coming up with clever ways to accelerate its products’ end of life…

Apple has been contacted for comment on the European class actions.
Almost a year ago the company was fined €25 million by France’s competition watchdog over an iOS update that capped performance of aging devices. It was also made to display a statement regarding the action on its website for a month.

Apple fined $27 million in France for throttling old iPhones without telling users

Apple hit with another European class action over throttled iPhones

Revolut lets you track your subscriptions, adds savings bonus in the US

Fintech startup Revolut has rolled out a handful of additional features over the past few days. The financial app lets you track all your subscriptions that you pay with your Revolut account or your card. In the U.S., Revolut is adding a savings bonus based on your purchasing habits. Finally, business customers can now order metal cards.
Let’s start with subscription tracking. For customers in Europe, Revolut is trying to make it easier to stay on top of your various subscriptions. Direct debit or card transactions are automatically marked as recurring. You can also manually mark transactions as subscriptions in case they aren’t automatically marked.
After that, you can see all your recurring payments from the app and check how much you’re spending with each merchant. If you spot a subscription that you completely forgot, you can block it — future payments will be declined.

And if you don’t have a lot of money on your account, you receive a notification warning you that a subscription payment is coming up. Subscriptions can be accessed from the Payments tab under Scheduled.
If you have multiple bank accounts, some users might switch their payment information to their Revolut card just to keep all their subscriptions in Revolut. It could boost usage.
4.5% bonus on savings accounts in the U.S.
In some markets, Revolut offers savings vaults. As the name suggests, those sub-accounts let you put some money aside and earn interest. You can round up card transactions and save spare change in a vault, you can set up weekly or monthly transactions or you can transfer money manually whenever you want.
In the U.S., customers earn 0.25% annualized percentage yield (APY) with their savings vaults. If you pay for a premium subscription, you get 0.5% APY with a Revolut Premium or Revolut Metal plan.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you get a generous bonus on top of your normal interest rate: Revolut calculates how much you spent with your Revolut debit card the previous month; that amount is eligible for a 4.5% APY bonus.
For instance, if you spent $400 with your card last month and you have $500 in your savings vault, you’ll receive the 4.5% bonus on $400. You’ll also earn 0.25% to 0.5% on the entire savings vault.
If your savings vault balance is lower than how much you spent with your card last month, your entire vault is eligible for the bonus. Interest is calculated daily using an annualized rate and paid out the first business day of the following month.
Once again, the new feature should boost engagement in the U.S. for both card transactions and savings vaults. Revolut has 13 million customers in total, including 150,000 in the U.S.

Revolut partners with Flagstone to offer savings vaults in the UK

Metal cards for business customers
People care about metal cards. That’s why many fintech startups now offer expensive monthly plans with metal cards — N26, Bunq, Curve and Revolut.
But Revolut Business customers have been limited to plastic cards (or virtual cards). If you use Revolut Business for your company, you can now order metal cards depending on your plan.
Revolut Business customers with a free account or a freelancer account can’t order metal cards. Customers on the Grow, Scale or Enterprise plans receive one, two or five metal cards respectively.
And if you want to order more metal cards, it costs £49 per card. You can choose a card among five different colors — black, gold, rose gold, space grey and silver.
Other than a new look, metal cards don’t differ from standard cards. It’s a small perk that you get with a paid plan. Revolut has managed to attract 500,000 customers for its Revolut Business product.

Revolut extends Series D round to $580 million with $80 million in new funding

Revolut lets you track your subscriptions, adds savings bonus in the US

Newzoo forecasts 2020 global games industry will reach $159 billion

Games and esports analytics firm Newzoo released its highly cited annual report on the size and state of the video gaming industry yesterday. The firm is predicting 2020 global game industry revenue from consumers of $159.3 billion, a 9.3% increase year-over-year. Newzoo predicts the market will surpass $200 billion by the end of 2023.
Importantly, the data excludes in-game advertising revenue (which surged +59% during COVID-19 lockdowns, according to Unity) and the market of gaming digital assets traded between consumers. Advertising within games is a meaningful source of revenue for many mobile gaming companies. In-game ads in just the U.S. drove roughly $3 billion in industry revenue last year, according to eMarketer.
To compare with gaming, the global markets for other media and entertainment formats are:
Pay TV: $226 billion in 2019 (excludes streaming services)
Publishing: $261 billion in 2017, of which books accounted for $121 billion
Film: $101 billion in 2019 ($42.5 billion from box office)
Music: $62 billion in 2017 ($30 billion recorded music, $6 billion music publishing, $26 billion live music)
Board games and playing cards: $12 billion in 2018
Podcasting: $863 million 2020 advertising revenue (there is no good data on subscription and live events revenue in podcasting, but it is fair to estimate it at a fraction of the total ad revenue figure)
Counting gamers
Of 7.8 billion people on the planet, 4.2 billion (53.6%) of whom have internet connectivity, 2.69 billion will play video games this year, and Newzoo predicts that number to reach three billion in 2023. It broke down the current geographic distribution of gamers as:
1,447 million (54%) in Asia-Pacific
386 million (14%) in Europe
377 million (14%) in Middle East & Africa
266 million (10%) in Latin America
210 million (8%) in North America

Newzoo forecasts 2020 global games industry will reach $159 billion

As more high-end smartphone makers explore budget devices, Motorola takes a shot at premium

As smartphone sales began to plateau and slow over the past couple of years, many device makers arrived at the same conclusion: people want cheaper phones. It’s clear why companies like Apple and Samsung took the message to heart, as the smartphone market downturn appeared to coincide with the standardization of $1,000 premium devices.
While Motorola is undoubtedly best known for its budget devices these days, the company is using the opportunity to take things in an entirely different direction. The Edge+ finds the company entering true premium territory with the arrival of its first $1,000 device. It’s an even more dramatic move than OnePlus’s recent release of the $899 8 Pro.
A mainstay in the budget and mid-tier, the Motorola name doesn’t exactly conjure images of premium products. The Lenovo-owned smartphone maker’s ventures in pricier models have tended more toward the gimmicky — or, at very least niche — with the warmly received modular Moto Z and the largely panned foldable Razr reboot.

The Edge+ is a more earnest approach to premium. The selling points are the camera, display and 5G — pretty standard fare these days in the world of premium handsets. For the first time in recent memory, Motorola is positioning itself to go head-to-head with the Samsungs and Apples of the world. 
Okay, so specs. There’s a 6.7-inch display with a 21:9 aspect ratio and 90Hz refresh rate. It’s curved on the sides — similar to what Samsung has been offering for a while now. And like Samsung, the company is using that extra narrow real estate to offer up things like notifications, call alerts, alarms and battery status. Basically stuff to offer a quick view without having to pick up the phones.
There’s a flagship-level Snapdragon 865 inside, coupled with a healthy 12GB of memory. Oh, and there’s 5G here, too, with access to both mmWave and sub-6GHz  bands. The company is also touting the quality of its speakers — one of the most overlooked aspects of smartphone hardware. I haven’t actually tried them out — or seen the phone in person yet. Social distancing and all that.

There are three rear-facing cameras, including a massive 108-megapixel main, which lets in a lot of light, an eight-megapixel telephoto and 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle. There’s no devoted macro camera, unlike other recent Motorola models, but the 16-megapixel should be able to do some close-up shots.
The Edge+ arrives May 14 as a Verizon exclusive (something Motorola has, unfortunately, done many times before) in the States and on a bunch more carriers in Canada. It will arrive in Europe in May, and other markets, including India and Latin America, at a latter date.
A lower-tiered Edge will be available with a downgraded processor and camera array, but the same display. That’s coming to Europe, Latin America and the Asia Pacific region, with U.S. availability arriving later. 

As more high-end smartphone makers explore budget devices, Motorola takes a shot at premium

Europe’s PEPP-PT COVID-19 contacts tracing standard push could be squaring up for a fight with Apple and Google

A coalition of EU scientists and technologists that’s developing what’s billed as a “privacy-preserving” standard for Bluetooth-based proximity tracking, as a proxy for COVID-19 infection risk, wants Apple and Google to make changes to an API they’re developing for the same overarching purpose.
The Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) uncloaked on April 1, calling for developers of contact tracing apps to get behind a standardized approach to processing smartphone users’ data to coordinate digital interventions across borders and shrink the risk of overly intrusive location-tracking tools gaining momentum as a result of the pandemic.
PEPP-PT said today it has seven governments signed up to apply its approach to national apps, with a claimed pipeline of a further 40 in discussions about joining.
“We now have a lot of governments interacting,” said PEPP-PT’s Hans-Christian Boos, speaking during a webinar for journalists. “Some governments are publicly declaring that their local applications will be built on top of the principles of PEPP-PT and also the various protocols supplied inside this initiative.
“We know of seven countries that have already committed to do this — and we’re currently in conversation with 40 countries that are in various states of onboarding.”
Boos said a list of the governments would be shared with journalists, though at the time of writing we haven’t seen it. But we’ve asked PEPP-PT’s PR firm for the info and will update this report when we get it.
“The pan-European approach has worked,” he added. “Governments have decided at a speed previously unknown. But with 40 more countries in the queue of onboarding we definitely have outgrown just the European focus — and to us this shows that privacy as a model and as a discussion point… is a statement and it is something that we can export because we’re credible on it.”
Paolo de Rosa, the CTO at the Ministry of Innovation Technology and Digital Transformation for the Italian government, was also on the webinar — and confirmed its national app will be built on top of PEPP-PT.
“We will have an app soon and obviously it will be based on this model,” he said, offering no further details.
PEPP-PT’s core “privacy-preserving” claim rests on the use of system architectures that do not require location data to be collected. Rather devices that come near each other would share pseudonymized IDs — which could later be used to send notifications to an individual if the system calculates an infection risk has occurred. An infected individual’s contacts would be uploaded at the point of diagnosis — allowing notifications to be sent to other devices with which had come into contact.
Boos, a spokesman for and coordinator of PEPP-PT, told TechCrunch earlier this month the project will support both centralized and decentralized approaches. The former meaning IDs are uploaded to a trusted server, such as one controlled by a health authority; the latter meaning IDs are held locally on devices, where the infection risk is also calculated — a backend server is only in the loop to relay info to devices.
It’s just such a decentralized contacts tracing system that Apple and Google are collaborating on supporting — fast-following PEPP-PT last week by announcing a plan for cross-platform COVID-19 contacts tracing via a forthcoming API and then a system-wide (opt-in) for Bluetooth-based proximity tracking.
That intervention, by the only two smartphone platforms that matter when the ambition is mainstream adoption, is a major development — putting momentum behind decentralized contacts tracing for responding digitally to the coronavirus crisis in the Western world, certainly at the platform level.
In a resolution passed today the European parliament also called for a decentralized approach to COVID-19 proximity tracking.
MEPs are pushing for the Commission and Member States to be “fully transparent on the functioning of contact tracing apps, so that people can verify both the underlying protocol for security and privacy and check the code itself to see whether the application functions as the authorities are claiming.” (The Commission has previously signaled a preference for decentralization too.)
However, backers of PEPP-PT, which include at least seven governments (and the claim of many more), aren’t giving up on the option of a “privacy-preserving” centralized option — which some in their camp are dubbing “pseudo-decentralized” — with Boos claiming today that discussions are ongoing with Apple and Google about making changes to their approach.
As it stands, contacts tracing apps that don’t use a decentralized infrastructure won’t be able to carry out Bluetooth tracking in the background on Android or iOS — as the platforms limit how general apps can access Bluetooth. This means users of such apps would have to have the app open and active all the time for proximity tracking to function, with associated (negative) impacts on battery life and device usability.
There are also (intentional) restrictions on how contacts tracing data could be centralized, as a result of the relay server model being deployed in the joint Apple-Google model.
“We very much appreciate that Google and Apple are stepping up to making the operating system layer available — or putting what should be the OS actually there, which is the Bluetooth measurement and the handling of crypto and the background running of such tasks which have to keep running resiliently all the time — if you look at their protocols and if you look at whom they are provided by, the two dominant players in the mobile ecosystem, then I think that from a government perspective especially, or from lots of government perspectives, there are many open points to discuss,” said Boos today.
“From a PEPP-PT perspective there are a few points to discuss because we want choice and implementing choice in terms of model — decentralized or centralized on top of their protocol creates actually the worst of both worlds — so there are many points to discuss. But contrary to the behavior that many of us who work with tech companies are used to Google and Apple are very open in these discussions and there’s no point in getting up in arms yet because these discussions are ongoing and it looks like agreement can be reached with them.”
It wasn’t clear what specific changes PEPP-PT wants from Apple and Google — we asked for more detail during the webinar but didn’t get a response. But the group and its government backers may be hoping to dilute the tech giants’ stance to make it easier to create centralized graphs of Bluetooth contacts to feed national coronavirus responses.
As it stands, Apple and Google’s API is designed to block contact matching on a server — though there might still be ways for governments (and others) to partially work around the restrictions and centralize some data.
We reached out to Apple and Google with questions about the claimed discussions with PEPP-PT. At the time of writing, neither had responded.
As well as Italy, the German and French governments are among those that have indicated they’re backing PEPP-PT for national apps — which suggests powerful EU Member States could be squaring up for a fight with the tech giants, along the lines of Apple versus the FBI, if pressure to tweak the API fails.
Another key strand to this story is that PEPP-PT continues to face strident criticism from privacy and security experts in its own backyard — including after it removed a reference to a decentralized protocol for COVID-19 contacts tracing that’s being developed by another European coalition, comprised of privacy and security experts, called DP-3T.
Coindesk reported on the silent edit to PEPP-PT’s website yesterday.
Backers of DP-3T have also repeatedly queried why PEPP-PT hasn’t published code or protocols for review to-date — and even gone so far as to dub the effort a “trojan horse.”

#DP3T entered as a candidate to so-called PEPP-PT in good faith, but it is now clear that powerful actors pushing centralised databases of Bluetooth contact tracing do not, and will not, act in good faith.
PEPP-PT is a Trojan horse.
— Michael Veale (@mikarv) April 16, 2020

ETH Zürich’s Dr. Kenneth Paterson, who is both a part of the PEPP-PT effort and a designer of DP-3T, couldn’t shed any light on the exact changes the coalition is hoping to extract from “Gapple” when we asked.
“They’ve still not said exactly how their system would work, so I can’t say what they would need [in terms of changes to Apple and Google’s system],” he told us in an email exchange.
Today Boos couched the removal of the reference to DP-3T on PEPP-PT’s website as a mistake — which he blamed on “bad communication.” He also claimed the coalition is still interested in including the former’s decentralized protocol within its bundle of standardized technologies. So the already sometimes fuzzy lines between the camps continue to be redrawn. (It’s also interesting to note that press emails to Boos are now being triaged by Hering Schuppener, a communications firm that sells publicity services, including crisis PR.)
“We’re really sorry for that,” Boos said of the DP-3T excision. “Actually we just wanted to put the various options on the same level that are out there. There are still all these options and we very much appreciate the work that colleagues and others are doing.
“You know there is a hot discussion in the crypto community about this and we actually encourage this discussion because it’s always good to improve on protocols. What we must not lose sight of is… that we’re not talking about crypto here, we’re talking about pandemic management and as long as an underlying transport layer can ensure privacy that’s good enough because governments can choose whatever they want.”
Boos also said PEPP-PT would finally be publishing some technical documents this afternoon — opting to release information some three weeks after its public unveiling and on a Friday evening (a seven-page ‘high level overview’ has since been put on their GitHub here [this link has since been deleted – Ed.] — but still a far cry from code for review) — while making a simultaneous plea for journalists to focus on the “bigger picture” of fighting the coronavirus rather than keep obsessing over technical details. 
During today’s webinar some of the scientists backing PEPP-PT talked about how they’re testing the efficacy of Bluetooth as a proxy for tracking infection risk.
“The algorithm that we’ve been working on looks at the cumulative amount of time that individuals spend in proximity with each other,” said Christophe Fraser, professor at the Nuffield Department of Medicine and Senior Group Leader in Pathogen Dynamics at the Big Data Institute, University of Oxford, offering a general primer on using Bluetooth proximity data for tracking viral transmission.
“The aim is to predict the probability of transmission from the phone proximity data. So the ideal system reduces the requested quarantine to those who are the most at risk of being infected and doesn’t give the notification — even though some proximity event was recorded — to those people who’re not at risk of being infected.”
“Obviously that’s going to be an imperfect process,” he went on. “But the key point is that in this innovative approach that we should be able to audit the extent to which that information and those notifications are correct — so we need to actually be seeing, of the people who have been sent the notification how many of them actually were infected. And of those people who were identified as contacts, how many weren’t.
“Auditing can be done in many different ways for each system but that step is crucial.”
Evaluating the effectiveness of the digital interventions will be vital, per Fraser — whose presentation could have been interpreted as making a case for public health authorities to have fuller access to contacts graphs. But it’s important to note that DP-3T’s decentralized protocol makes clear provision for app users to opt-in to voluntarily share data with epidemiologists and research groups to enable them to reconstruct the interaction graph among infected and at risk users (aka to get access to a proximity graph).
“It’s really important that if you’re going to do an intervention that is going to affect millions of people — in terms of these requests to [quarantine] — that that information be the best possible science or the best possible representation of the evidence at the point at which you give the notification,” added Fraser. “And therefore as we progress forwards that evidence — our understanding of the transmission of the virus — is going to improve. And in fact auditing of the app can allow that to improve, and therefore it seems essential that that information be fed back.”
None of the PEPP-PT-aligned apps that are currently being used for testing or reference are interfacing with national health authority systems, per Boos — though he cited a test in Italy that’s been plugged into a company’s health system to run tests.
“We have supplied the application builders with the backend, we have supplied them with sample code, we have supplied them with protocols, we have supplied them with the science of measurement, and so on and so forth. We have a working application that simply has no integration into a country’s health system — on Android and on iOS,” he noted.
On its website PEPP-PT lists a number of corporate “members” as backing the effort — including the likes of Vodafone — alongside several research institutions including Germany’s Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute for telecoms (HHI) which has been reported as leading the effort.
The HHI’s executive director, Thomas Wiegand, was also on today’s call. Notably, his name initially appeared on the authorship list for the DP-3T’s white paper. However, on April 10 he was removed from the README and authorship list, per its GitHub document history. No explanation for the change was given.
During today’s press conference Wiegand made an intervention that seems unlikely to endear him to the wider crypto and digital rights community — describing the debate around which cryptography system to use for COVID-19 contacts tracing as a ‘side show’ and expressing concern that what he called Europe’s “open public discussion” might “destroy our ability to get ourselves as Europeans out of this.”
“I just wanted to make everyone aware of the difficulty of this problem,” he also said. “Cryptography is only one of 12 building blocks in the system. So I really would like to have everybody go back and reconsider what problem we are in here. We have to win against this virus… or we have another lockdown or we have a lot of big problems. I would like to have everybody to consider that and to think about it because we have a chance if we get our act together and really win against the virus.”
The press conference had an even more inauspicious start after the Zoom call was disrupted by racist spam in the chat field. Right before that Boos had kicked off the call saying he had heard from “some more technically savvy people that we should not be using Zoom because it’s insecure — and for an initiative that wants security and privacy it’s the wrong tool.”
“Unfortunately we found out that many of our international colleagues only had this on their corporate PCs so over time either Zoom has to improve — or we need to get better installations out there. It’s certainly not our intention to leak the data on this Zoom,” he added.

Europe’s PEPP-PT COVID-19 contacts tracing standard push could be squaring up for a fight with Apple and Google