Monthly Archives July 2018

Should we enable cell service on flights? Americans say NO!

A study done by market research institute Nielsen has revealed that an overwhelming amount of Americans who travel by air – 89 percent in fact – would prefer to keep their flights disconnected from cell service.

“A total of 8,150 individuals, aged 18 years and older who have flown with an airline company in the last two years were surveyed in an online poll. Respondents from China, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, the UAE, the UK and the US participated in the survey from February 16-26, 2018.”

The American participants of the survey mainly cited “nuisance, disturbance” as the most important reason to keep flights cellphone free. This belief represents a trend that has been on the incline since 2015, according to eTurboNews.

However, Americans were not in the majority on this matter. Although Nielsen found the global average to be 51 percent, “the rate of passengers in favor of allowing mobile phone usage in flight is significantly higher in India (73%), China (70%), and the UAE (63%).”

Source: eturbonews.com – 89 percent of American flyers don’t want cell phone service in-flight
Published: July 25, 2018

Soon you’ll be able to pick up a BMW for your wrist

Previously, when someone said they own a BMW, your first thought might be of a luxury sports car. Now when someone mentions their BMW, they might just be talking about the one on their wrist.

BMW has partnered with Fossil Group to “collaborate on development of a new range of watches and smartwatches sporting the former’s brand,” according to TechRadar. The end products will be distributed by both BMW and Fossil.

So far there is no release date and both BMW and Fossil are being secretive about the design. But, what we do know is that Fossil designs smartwatches for brands like Diesel, Emporio Armani, Kate Spade, and Michael Kors – perhaps looking at those watches will give us better insight into what we can expect from BMW?

Chairman and CEO of Fossil Group, Kosta Kartsotis, said in their announcement July 30th that “BMW is one of the most iconic brands in the world. We look forward to bringing our watch design expertise and smartwatch capabilities to BMW enthusiasts around the world.”

The two companies signed a deal to collaborate until 2023.

With the rise of self-driving and IoT connected cars, is BMW looking to break further into the tech game? Will these smartwatches be somehow compatible with BMW vehicles? Time will tell!

Source: You’ll be able to buy an official BMW smartwatch in 2019 – techradar.com
Published:
July 30, 2018

How has electronic payment processing changed tipping?

Every country, and many professions, have different standards regarding tipping. Of course, your waitress may be more than happy to break your bill to make some change for you, but what about the increasing amount of people who don’t carry cash? How has that trend in North America, and elsewhere, changed tipping?

For one thing, payment processing machines often suggest a tip amount that can be anywhere between fifteen and 30 percent. This seems normal at certain business establishments, but some are wondering if the option to include the suggested tip amount is prompting some businesses to ask for tips where previously leaving one was not expected. Take for instance, over-the-counter coffee shops.

Torontonian and etiquette expert Lisa Orr told Calgary’s Chronicle Herald that she’s seeing suggested tip amounts “everywhere now” partly because “it’s so easily built into our payment gateways.” Despite the rise in this technology, Orr believes, tipping etiquette does not require leaving a tip of “fifteen percent or more” at to-go restaurants.

“The use of digital payment terminals encourages consumers to be more generous than they would be if they were using cash,” Orr suggested.

A lot of this can be traced back to payment processing companies like Square Inc., a San Francisco based entity founded in 2008. Square Inc. allows retailers to process payment on smartphones, tablet, etcetera. It’s the kind of service you might use if you needed to process payments at a food truck, or some other smaller-scale operation. Square Inc. also allows its retailers to choose whether or not they prompt for tips.

The Chronicle Herald explains that “Nearly 90 percent of retailers that enable tipping rely on the company’s ‘smart tip amounts’ feature… When consumers spend less than $10, they can choose between no tip, $1, $2, or $3. When they spend more than that, they can choose between no tip, 15 per cent, 20 per cent or 25 per cent.”

Square Inc. spokesperson Leslie Jackson told the Chronicle Herald in an email that retailers can also choose to input custom amounts, and that the highest amount chosen in Canada was a 30 percent tip option.

Company data suggests that so far in 2018, “Canadians tipped an average of 13.4 per cent using Square at food and drink sellers…. That includes an average 13.7 at coffee and tea shops, 13.1 at food trucks, 12.9 at bakeries and 11.9 at quick service restaurants.”

Orr believes that tip prompts make customers feel guilty about if they choose not to tip at to-go restaurants. Do you think that electronic payment processing has changed the way we tip?

Source: thechronicleherald.ca – Cashless consumers face tipping quandary for over-the-counter service
Published: July 26, 2018

More cities will be revealing 5G service from AT&T

Wondering when 5G service will be coming to your city? On July 19th, AT&T announced three more cities where the company plans to launch a 5G network by the end of 2018. According to CNBC, these are Oklahoma City, Charlotte, NC, and Raleigh, NC. Previously, AT&T had promised the same to Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco, Texas.

AT&T Chief Technology Officer Andre Feutsch said Oklahoma City, Charlotte, and Raleigh were chosen “based on where the company already held spectrum, or airwaves that carry data, and were open to AT&T installing the necessary infrastructure.”

“We worked with the cities that embraced the technology,” Fuetsch has stated in an interview.

AT&T has also said it will be introducing six more cities to this program. Although the promise AT&T has made is to deliver 5G to the original six cities, and perhaps six more, by the end of the year, the company has declined to disclose a more specific date or month.

In order to help consumers adjust to 5G networks in late 2018 and early 2019 – when 5G-enabled smartphones aren’t likely to be available until 2019 – AT&T plans on introducing “a puck-shaped device to allow users to access the 5G network with their current phones.”

Source: AT&T reveals three more cities for 5G launch by end of year
Published: July 20, 2018

Hey Canadians – the government wants your telecom complaints!

Schooley Mitchell complaintsEarlier this year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission declined an advocacy group’s request that it investigate what some were calling “unfair sales tactics” in the telecom sector. Despite the CRTC’s resistance, the Governor in Council demanded it “conduct an inquiry in the name of consumer protection and affordability,” explains The Calgary Herald. Consumer protection and affordability became hard to ignore after media reports arose concerning sales associates who said they “felt pressured to sell services that consumers didn’t want or need.”

As part of its investigation, the CRTC is asking consumers to “share their personal experiences online or by mail by Aug. 30.” More importantly, it is encouraging former telecom employees to express their concerns and share their anecdotes, which can even be done confidentially. CRTC chairman Ian Scott said it also increasingly important to hear from “vulnerable groups such as seniors, people with disabilities and those whose first language is neither English or French.”

“To provide a meaningful report to the government, it is important that we hear from Canadians across the country,” CRTC chairman Ian Scott said in a statement.

The CRTC will also be holding a public hearing about telecom sales practices on October 22nd.

The CRTC isn’t just asking consumers for help – they’re also asking telecom companies to respond to the issue at hand by answering “a series of questions about their sales practices, including how they ensure third-party and in-house sales reps provide consumers with suitable products.” They’re being asked to detail how they handle complaints, train employees, and provide copies of sales materials, including “sales scripts or pitches, company policies and sales incentives.”

The following companies are required to respond to the CRTC’s questions by August 23rd: BCE Inc., Bragg Communications Inc. (operating as Eastlink), Cogeco Connexion Inc., Northwestel Inc., Rogers Communications Inc., Saskatchewan Telecommunications Holding Corp., Shaw Communications Inc., TBayTel, TekSavvy Solutions Inc., Telus Corp., Videotron Ltd. and Xplornet Communications Inc.

If you are looking to share your experience online, you can visit crtc.gc.ca and follow the link on the homepage to participate in the process.

Source: CRTC calls for complaints on misleading, aggressive telecom sales practices
Published: July 16, 2018

Stylish extension banned by major browsers

Have you used or heard of ‘Stylish?’ According to Ars Technica, its an extension with over two million downloads worldwide, which “allowed users to customize the look and feel of websites in a variety of ways” such as “remov[ing] clutter [on] Facebook or Twitter news feeds, chang[ing] normal pictures to black-and-white manga images,” and so on. As the numbers would suggest, Stylish was very popular – but now it has been removed from Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera platforms.

These browsers removed Stylish as an extension because it was “caught tracking every website its users visited—and sending the data to a remote server” says Ars Technica. This was discovered by software engineer Robert Heaton, who explained that “the extension started sending users’ complete browsing activity back to its servers by default, along with a unique identifier that in many cases could be used to correlate email addresses or other Internet attributes belonging to those users.”

Heaton was able to make this discovery using a security-testing software called Burp Suite. He tested his own experience using Stylish, and found that Stylish was tracking data including  “every URL he visited” and “the actual Google search results from his browser window.”

Stylish has allegedly been collecting this information from Chrome since January of 2017, and from Firefox users since March of 2017.

This story shows the risk we take when utilizing these helpful, free extensions. However, safe alternatives to risk add-ons do exist. For example, Heaton recommends Stylus as a safer alternative to Stylish.

Source: arstechnica.com – “Stylish” extension with 2M downloads banned for tracking ever site visit
Published: July 6, 2018

Students from select countries can get discounts on OnePlus devices

Students know better than anyone how valuable discounts can be. Post-secondary students are accustomed to discounts on some of the internet’s most popular services, such as Amazon Prime and Spotify Premium. If you’re looking for a new phone, students from certain countries are eligible to receive a discount from OnePlus products as well.

If you’re a post-secondary student living in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., or the United States, you’re eligible to receive a discount of “five percent off any OnePlus device, including all variations of the OnePlus 6,” says Android Authority.  This deal is valid on one device, once a year, but also includes ten percent off any OnePlus accessories, with no limit.

The discount comes from a magical site called Student Beans, which “acts as a hub for all the types of discounts people now enrolled in some sort of education institute can get.” If you live in one of the above countries, all you have to do to qualify is provide an “edu” email address.

If you want to take advantage of this deal, search for OnePlus at StudentBeans.com. Then, Android Authority says to “Navigate to the OnePlus discount page, and click the big ‘Get Discount’ button. That will generate a code for you to enter during checkout at OnePlus.com.” The code is valid for two months once generated.

Source: androidauthority.com – Student discount codes can get you 5% off a OnePlus 6 Red or 10% off Bullets Wireless
Published: July 11, 2018

New Sprint unlimited plan axes high resolution video streaming

As reported by Engadget, Sprint is extending the amount of variety in its unlimited plans, to appeal to users who might be a bit more selective.

Right now, Sprint’s most lucrative plan is Unlimited Plus, which “comes with unlimited data, talk and text, as well as a Hulu and Tidal Premium subscription.” This is great for someone who uses their smartphone for everything.  It streams videos up to 1080p and music up to 1.5Mbps. It only throttles hotspot connection speed back to 3G after 15GB of use. This costs about $42 USD per month per line.

Not everyone needs all these features though – unlimited data is great, but do you need Tidal and HD streaming? If not, Engadget says: “Sprint’s new and cheaper Unlimited Basic offering might be the better choice. For $32 per month per line, you still get Hulu, but its hotspot speeds will get throttled after only 500MB. Also, you can only stream videos up to 480p and music up to 500kbps. Both Plus and Basic plans are available to existing customers.”

On the new plan offering, Sprint Chief Commercial Dow Draper stated, “Customers told us that they wanted more from their wireless — more choice, more features and more value.”

Source: engadget.com – Sprint adds an Unlimited plan without high-resolution video
Published: July 12, 2018

Congress unrelenting on internet privacy questions

Who doesn’t remember Mark Zuckerberg testifying before U.S Congress and Senate, answering the government’s need-to-know questions about privacy following the Cambridge Analytica scandal? Well, Mark Zuckerberg might be out of the spotlight for now, but Congress isn’t done asking questions.

On Monday, July 9th, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce revealed letters it had sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page. The subject of these letters, according to CNET, was an inquiry into “how the companies protect users’ privacy.”

A lot of the questions in the letters were surrounding mobile privacy. Apple makes iPhones, and Alphabet subsidiary Google makes Android software, so both these companies have some of the largest stakes in the world regarding mobile privacy. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce wants to know about devices tracking users’ whereabouts, and specifically the “possibility of offline data collection through location services, cellular towers, Wi-Fi hotspots and Bluetooth connection.”

“Considering that many consumers likely believe that a phone that lacks a SIM card, or one for which they have affirmatively disabled location services, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth — such as through turning on ‘Airplane Mode’ — is not actively tracking them, this alleged behavior is troubling,” the letters to both Apple and Alphabet assert. You can read those letters here.

Apple and Alphabet have been asked to reply to Congress by July 23rd.

Source: Congress presses Apple, Alphabet on privacy issues
Published:
July 9, 2018

Rogers breaks up with Spotify and the NHL

If you’ve signed with Rogers Communications in the past, you might have benefited from six free months of Spotify premium and a subscription to NHL Live. This sales incentive has been helping to promote Rogers’ Share Everything Plan since 2015. But, if you are looking to gain these perks in 2018, you’re running out of time.

Starting July 30th, Rogers is dumping its Spotify perk and its NHL Live offer. So, if you’re looking to get in on them, you have until July 29th.

If you’re in one of the early months of your Spotify plan, which doesn’t expire before July 30th, don’t fret – your plan won’t expire any earlier than it originally would have. This only effects future Rogers customers. As for the NHL side of things, the most recent hockey season ended on June 7th, so the subscription simply won’t renew for next season.

Rogers subsidiary Fido also recently cut ties with Spotify. It will be interesting to see if Spotify finds a new Canadian partner, or if consumers looking for this particular perk are out of luck.

Source: mobilesyrup.com – Rogers is unbundling Spotify and NHL Live from its mobile plans
Published: July 5, 2018