Comment: The app economy has been crucial to surviving COVID-19 and social distancing

It feels like every email I receive mentions COVID–19. Every podcast I listen to mentions COVID–19. On Twitter or LinkedIn, you can’t avoid mentions of COVID–19. Our current pandemic is everywhere, and that is probably as it should be. It’s dominating our lives. As I was headed to the grocery store to pick up an online order, I realized how essential the app economy is right now and how much worse off we’d be if this pandemic would have happened even a decade ago. Here are a few ways that the ‘‘app economy’’ that Apple helped pioneer has allowed us to adjust to a ‘‘new normal’’ while we are all stuck at home.

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Poll: Are you experiencing iPad Pro battery life issues with the Magic Keyboard?

A few days ago, we highlighted that some iPad Pro users are experiencing excessive battery drain when paired with the new Magic Keyboard. While the jury is still out on whether this is a software or hardware flaw, are you noticing anything with your iPad Pro + Magic Keyboard?

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Huawei could soon launch a new 5G variant of its P40 Lite (Update: Launched!)

WinFuture
Source: WinFuture

Update, May 18 2020 (2AM ET): We heard about the Huawei P40 Lite 5G last week, apparently being a rebranded version of the Nova 7 SE. Now, the Chinese manufacturer has officially launched the device in Europe (h/t: Pocket Now).

True to WinFuture‘s reporting (seen below), the phone has a Kirin 820 processor, Balong 5G modem, and an upgraded main camera (from 48MP to 64MP). A 4,000mAh battery with 40W charging will keep you going as well.

Source: Huawei

Huawei

The biggest downside to the device is the lack of Google Play Services, which means the Google Play Store and a ton of other Google apps aren’t available (or don’t work properly).

The Huawei P40 Lite 5G will cost €399.90 (~$433) when it launches in Europe on May 29. There’s no word on availability for other countries, but we’ll keep you updated.

Original article, May 12 2020 (3:53AM ET): Huawei launched the P40 Lite back in February as its cheapest phone in the P40 lineup. The device didn’t carry the flagship Kirin 990 chipset and instead, featured the mid-range Kirin 810 SoC. It did, however, come with a very reasonable sub-€300 (~$324) price tag and a pretty decent quad camera setup.

Now, Huawei is reportedly preparing to launch a 5G version of the phone called the P40 Lite 5G. According to WinFuture, the new Huawei P40 Lite is a rebranded version of the Huawei Nova 7 SE which is currently available in China.

Huawei P40 Lite 5G: Specs

Huawei’s new phone reportedly features the Kirin 820 chipset, a mid-range processor launched by Huawei back in March. The chip also powers the Honor 30S series in China and promises a 27% CPU performance boost as well as 40% GPU performance upgrade over the Kirin 810. For 5G connectivity, it integrates the same Balong 5G modem as the premium Kirin 990 SoC.

Elsewhere, the Huawei P40 Lite 5G is said to feature an HDR10 capable 6.5-inch LCD display with an FHD+ resolution. The display size is almost the same as the existing P40 Lite 4G variant.

The camera setup gets an upgrade though. The new P40 Lite 5G is said to house a 64MP main sensor in contrast to the 48MP camera on the existing model. Other camera sensors include an 8MP ultra-wide camera and two 2MP sensors for macro and depth shots. Unlike the current P40 Lite, the rear camera array on the new phone is stacked vertically instead of in a square enclosure. There’s also a 16MP selfie camera placed inside a punch hole on the top left corner of the screen.

A 4,000mAh battery powers the entire package and the phone is also equipped with 40W fast charging. It even gets wireless and reverse wireless charging capabilities.

For software, the P40 Lite 5G is expected to feature EMUI 10 based on Android 10. There won’t be any Google apps and services though owing to the ongoing US ban against the company.

Huawei P40 Lite 5G: Price and availability

According to WinFuture, the upgraded P40 Lite will probably be priced under €400. Although, the publication says it doesn’t have reliable pricing info yet.

In terms of availability, the phone will reportedly launch in Northern Europe, France, and Germany, among other European countries. Its colorways include Crush Green, Space Silver, and Midnight Black.

We’ll update this article with official information when the Huawei P40 Lite 5G goes official.

More posts about Huawei

Jack Ma to resign from SoftBank Group’s board of directors

SoftBank Group said today that Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, will step down from its board after serving as a director for 13 years. Ma’s resignation will be effective on June 25, the date of SoftBank Group’s annual shareholder meeting.

The company did not give a reason for the resignation, but over the past year, Ma has been pulling back from business roles to focus on philanthropy. Last September, he resigned as Alibaba’s chairman, and is also expected to step down from its board at its annual general shareholder’s meeting this year.

Ma has a long business relationship with Softbank Group chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. SoftBank was one of Alibaba’s first major backers, investing a reported $20 million in 2000, one year after the e-commerce company was founded. As of a February 2020 SEC filing, it owned about 25.1% of Alibaba shares. Its stake in Alibaba is currently worth more than $100 billion, making it SoftBank Group’s most valuable investment.

SoftBank Group’s announcements were made a few hours before it is scheduled to release a dour first quarter earnings report. The company said last month it expects its $100 billion Vision Fund to lose about $16.5 billion, due largely to the near collapse of WeWork, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on other portfolio companies, including Uber and Oyo. It is also expected to post an annual operating loss of $12.5 billion.

To lower debt and increase its cash reserves, SoftBank Group said in March that it is selling or monetizing $41 billion of its assets and buying back $4.7 billion of its shares.

Ma is the only person out of SoftBank Group’s current 11 directors who is leaving. The company also said it nominated three new board directors for election at the shareholders meeting: SoftBank Group chief financial officer Yoshimitsu Goto; Cadence Design Systems chief executive Lip-Bu Tan; and Waseda Business School professor Yuko Kawamoto.

China’s Oppo partners with Vodafone for bigger European push

Huawei is facing an uphill challenge in the overseas market as its upcoming devices lack the full set of Google apps and services. That leaves ample room for its Chinese rivals to chase after foreign consumers.

That includes Oppo, the sister brand of Vivo under Dongguan-based electronics holding company BBK. In an announcement on Monday, the Chinese firm announced a partnership with Vodafone to bring its smartphones to the mobile carrier’s European markets. The deal kicks off in May and will sell Oppo’s portfolio of advanced 5G handsets as well as value-for-money models into the U.K, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Romania and Turkey.

While Vodafone pulled Huawei phones from its U.K. 5G network last year following the U.S. export ban that stripped Huawei models of certain Android services, the British operator can now tap Oppo’s wide range of mobile products in a heated race to sign up 5G customers. The partners will jointly explore online sales channels as many parts of Europe’s physical premises remain closed due to the COVID-19.

Oppo, currently the second-largest smartphone vendor in its home country after Huawei, has seen a spike in sales across Europe since entering the market in mid-2018. The company was one of the first to launch commercially available 5G phones in Europe last year and now ranks fifth on the continent with a 2% share, according to a survey from research firm Canalys.

“Oppo has a product range that can hit many of the same segments as Huawei, enabling it to gain market share at the expense of Huawei,” Peter Richardson, research director at Counterpoint Research, explained to TechCrunch. “Oppo has always used quite a European flavour in its product design. This extends to things like colour choice, packaging, and advertising materials. This makes it acceptable to European consumers.”

Interestingly, Richardson pointed out that Oppo, which has a less “Chinese sounding” name than its domestic rivals Xiaomi and Huawei, will help it circumvent some of the “negative media surrounding China just now – first Huawei’s difficulties around security threats and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The article was updated on May 18, 2020 to reflect an updated statement from Oppo that Italy is not on the list of markets it targets under the Vodafone distribution partnership.

[Update: Reopenings announced for 7 US states, 12 stores in Canada] COVID-19: Which Apple Stores have reopened?

On March 13, Apple closed all of its retail stores outside of Greater China in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As some regions around the world begin to ease shelter in place orders, Apple is beginning to reopen its stores with additional safety procedures and a new social distancing protocol. In the US, each state has a slightly different timeline for reopening businesses, which may leave you wondering: is my Apple Store open?

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How to change the language on Facebook

Wondering how to change languages on Facebook? Here’s how to change language on Facebook in less time than it takes to restart your phone. It’s easy and fast, and Facebook has just about any language you could want, from English variants to Spanish, German, French, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, eight Indian languages, and more.

Sometimes you’ll want to fix an accidental language change, or just make a change to try learning a language, or help someone else switch to their native tongue. Whatever your reasons, it can be done in seven or fewer clicks.

Here’s everything you need to do to change your language on Facebook, and while this is in English, you can follow the same instructions and icons to switch to another language, or to English if you need.

How to change language on Facebook mobile app (Android or iOS):

  1. Open the app, and hit the menu button at the top right. (It should look like three short horizontal lines stacked together, and is known as the hamburger menu.)
  2. Scroll down to Settings & Privacy ().
  3. You’ll see a list including Settings, Your Time on Facebook, and Language (). Hit Language ()
  4. Choose your language. If you’ve given Facebook location access, it’ll prompt you with common languages in your area, rather than a list of languages in alphabetical order.
  5. There’s no ‘save’ button: one tap on a language, and you’ll change your language.
  6. Importantly, Facebook will then reload automatically. Done!

Optional: To change back, you’ll need to step through the options again.

How to change language on Facebook desktop or browser at facebook.com:

  1. Open Facebook, and hit the small dropdown arrow button at the far top-right ()
  2. Hit Settings & Privacy ().
  3. You’ll see a list including Settings, Privacy Checkup, and Language (). Hit Language () .
  4. Choose your language. Languages are in alphabetical order.
  5. Hit save. Facebook will reload and you’ll be taken back to your Facebook homepage.
  6. To change back, you’ll need to step through the options again.

That’s it! You’ve now changed your Facebook language.


Finally, Facebook still has at least one fun language option you can still change to that’s unexpected: upside-down English (English (uʍop ǝpᴉsd∩)). All this just you want to know a good language trick!

Related: Best Facebook apps

Fitbit’s Chinese rival Amazfit mulls a transparent, self-disinfecting mask

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of Chinese companies with manufacturing operations to produce virus-fighting equipment: Shenzhen-based electric vehicle giant BYD quickly moved to launch what it claims to be the world’s largest mask plant; Hangzhou-based voice intelligence startup Rokid is making thermal imaging glasses targeted at the US market; and many more.

The latest of such efforts comes from Huami, the NASDAQ-listed wearables startup that makes Xiaomi’s Mi Bands and sells its own fitness tracking watches under the Amazfit brand in more than 70 countries. In a phone interview with TechCrunch, the firm said it is developing a see-through plastic mask with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect filters within 10 minutes when connected to a power supply through a USB port. The caveat is that the lights only sanitize the inside of the mask and users still have to clean the outer surface themselves.

The Aeri concept comes with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect filters within 10 minutes when connected to a power supply through a USB port.

Called Aeri, the mask uses removable filters that are on par with N95 filtration capacity. If the concept materializes, each filter could last up to a month and a half, significantly longer than the average life of surgical masks and N95 respirators. The modular design allows for customized accessories such as a fan for breathable comfort, hence the mask’s name Aeri, a homophone of “airy”.

Aeri started from the premise that wearing masks could thwart the increasingly common adoption of facial recognition. That said, imaging companies have been working on biometric upgrades to allow analyses of other facial features such as irises or the tip of noses.

Aeri might still have a market appeal though, argued Pengtao Yu, vice president of industrial design at Huami. “Whether people need to unlock their phones or not, they want to see each other’s faces at social occasions,” said Yu, the California-based Chinese designer who had served clients including Nest Labs, Roku, GoPro and Huawei prior to joining Huami.

Huami’s U.S. operation, which focuses on research and development, opened in 2014 and now counts a dozen of employees.

Many companies turning to pandemic-fighting manufacturing have taken a hit from their core business, but Huami has managed to stay afloat. Its Q1 revenue was up 36% year-over-year to hit $154 million, although net income decreased to $2.7 million from $10.6 million. Its stocks have been declining, however, sliding from a high point of $16 in January to around $10 in mid-May.

Huami is in the process of prototyping the Aeri masks. In Shenzhen, which houses the wearables company’s headquarters, the development cycle for hardware products — from ideation to market rollout — takes as short as 6-12 months thanks to the city’s rich supply chain resources, said Yu.

Huami hasn’t priced Aeri at this early stage, but Yu admitted that the masks are targeting the “mass consumer market” around the world, not only for protection against viruses but also everyday air pollution, rather than appealing to medical workers. Given Huami’s history of making wearables at thin margins, it won’t be surprising that Aeri will be competitively priced.

The Aeri project is part of Huami’s pivot to enter the general health sector beyond pure fitness monitoring. The company has recently teamed up with a laboratory led by Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the public face of China’s fight against COVID-19, to track respiratory diseases using wearables. It’s also in talks with the German public health authority to collaborate on a smartwatch-powered virus monitoring app, the company told TechCrunch.

Apple begins reopening some stores with temperature checks and other safeguards in place

In mid-March, Apple closed all of its stores outside of China “until further notice.” It was a sweeping — but necessary — move for a world facing down a growing pandemic. In a statement issued today until the title, “To our Customers,” Retail SVP Deirdre O’Brien offered insight into the company’s plans to reopen locations.

Nearly 100 stores have already resumed services, according to O’Brien — though the famously open retail spaces are taking on a new look in the face of the highly contagious novel coronavirus. “In every store, we’re focused on limiting occupancy and giving everybody lots of room, and renewing our focus on one‑on‑one, personalized service at the Genius Bar and throughout the store,” she writes.

A spokesperson for the company adds, “Next week we’ll continue our very gradual and thoughtful reopening of US stores, adding more than 25 locations in seven states. While we know many customers are eager for their local store to reopen, our commitment is to reopen our stores when we are confident the environment is safe. We miss our customers and look forward to seeing them again soon.”

As seen in the above image, face covers will be required for both employees and customers alike — already a legal requirement in many locales. More unusual for many retail establishments is the addition of temperature checks now conducted at the store’s entrance, coupled with posted health questions. Apple has also instituted deeper cleaning on all surfaces, including display products.

That last point is an important one, given how much of the company’s store layout revolves around hands-on products. Curb-side pick and drop off have been added, as well, for those who understandably would like to avoid the in-person experience.

As for when each location reopens, Apple says it’s monitoring health trends and local/national guidance to determine the timeframe. You can check your local store’s status here. And as the conversation of secondary waves begin to become a reality in many areas, O’Brien says the company will close stores down again, if necessary. “These are not decisions we rush into,” she writes, “and a store opening in no way means that we won’t take the preventative step of closing it again should local conditions warrant.”

Apple details its approach to safety in retail stores, plans to reopen more than 25 US locations next week

Apple’s SVP of Retail + People Deirdre O’Brien published a letter today detailing the company’s approach to reopening its 510 retail stores in a safe and careful way. All Apple Stores outside of Greater China closed on March 13 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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