A couple years ago my friends were comparing step counts when they asked about mine.
“Oh no, I care about my privacy,” I told them, acting all high and mighty. “I don’t need those money-grubbers in the Valley tracking my whereabouts or knowing anything about my health. I never set that up.”
My friends laughed at me. “Your iPhone does it automatically, dummy,” one said, opening my phone’s health app—which I had conveniently shoved aside into a grouping of unused default apps, along with Tips, Books, Watch, and whatever else—to show me.
I, the dummy, was floored. I wish I could claim I stuck to my guns. But no. I instantly became hooked. That’s how little I’ve been walking? Yikes, better step it up.
For months before the pandemic struck, I was commuting to work by foot. I would hike each morning through Brooklyn, over that borough’s iconic bridge, to Fortune’s offices in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. Along the way, I would listen to podcasts, music, or set my thoughts adrift. (I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old…)
I’ve kept up the habit. While I no longer live in the city—ah suburban life, we meet again—I still go for an hourlong stroll most mornings. I’ve given up podcasts in favor of tree-spotting and audiobooks; for those curious, I’m partial to the river birch, and I’m listening to the late David Graeber’s financial opus, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. (Thank you to my colleague David Morris for shaming me into the selection.)
Now on the eve of my 30th birthday, which arrives later this month, I’m finally planning to treat myself to an Apple Watch. Why? Because I want the ability to leave my iPhone, and all its distractions, at home during my neighborhood jaunts. But I also want to retain that addictive step counter and the ability to binge audiobooks. (I’m generally satisfied by Apple’s privacy controls too.)
Yesterday’s Apple event solidified my interest. The debut of two new Apple Watches took center stage. With no iPhone to soak up all the attention this year, the two new models—the premium Apple Watch Series 6 and the lesser Apple SE—shone. The bells and whistles of the former—a blood-oxygen level sensor, an elevation-reading altimeter, and an always-on face display—add to the base price tag: $400 versus $280.
The pandemic has only strengthened the case for such personal health-tech. I suspect I’m one of many prospective customers considering a similar purchase this season. But I’m as yet undecided about which one I should buy.
Help me choose?
Going Apple picking. Springing off the column above, Apple Watches were the main event at yesterday’s Apple product expo. There’s a blood-oxygen level-sensing Apple Watch Series 6 (starting at $400) and a lower-end, entry model Apple SE ($280). Two iPad models got upgrades: an eighth generation iPad ($330) and a more powerful iPad Air ($600). Also, Apple is leaning hard into subscription services with a new Fitness+ virtual workout app and a software bundle, called Apple One, that includes iCloud storage, Apple Music, and more.
Where’s the beef? Apple did not release a new iPhone at yesterday’s event, having earlier said the upcoming iPhone 12 would be delayed by several weeks. (Everyone assumes the pandemic is to blame.) Despite the iPhone’s absence, Apple caught many people by surprise by saying its new iOS 14 software would be available starting today. Meanwhile, Apple is asking asking a court to dismiss Fortnite-maker Epic Games’s bid to get readded to the App Store, calling the company “a saboteur, not a martyr” in picking a legal fight.
(Virtual) reality check. If you haven’t had your fill of gadgetry, tune into today’s virtual reality event, Facebook Connect, starting at 1 p.m. ET, here. This is the first year Facebook is dropping “Oculus” from the event’s title. Even so, the company is expected to debut a new VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2, news of which accidentally already leaked.
Who you gonna call? Trust busters. The Federal Trade Commission is preparing to file a possible antitrust lawsuit against Facebook before year’s end, the Wall Street Journal reports. Regulators are still determining whether formally to accuse the media giant of stifling market competition. Meanwhile, lawmakers at a Senate hearing leveled criticisms at a Google executive for his employer’s dominance of the online advertising industry. Expect similar arguments to arise if the government pursues an antitrust case, as it is deliberating.
Oracular spectacular. A deal between IT giant Oracle and Gen Z phenom TikTok is all but clinched. The expected agreement—more partnership than sale—includes no transfer of intellectual property, source code, or Chinese data; that means it should not require Chinese regulatory approval under Beijing’s new “export controls” law. For Oracle, it seems that having friends in high places, like the White House, helps.
Yup, the troops are going to need a LOT of support.
Sophie Zhang, an ex-Facebook data scientist, refused to go quietly. She was fired from her job tracking abusive and fraudulent political influence campaigns as part of the media giant's "site integrity" team. Instead of signing a non-disparagement agreement tied to a $64,000 payout, she penned an incendiary, 6,600-word memo about her experiences at the company.
BuzzFeed published excerpts that will make any citizen's hair stand on end.
I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions. I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I’ve lost count.
...I know that I have blood on my hands by now.
Microsoft hails success of its undersea data center experiment—and says it could have implications on dry land, too by David Meyer
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Watch out, Bezos. Walmart+ could take millions of customers from Amazon Prime by Lance Lambert
When it comes to A.I., worry about ‘job churn’ instead of ‘job loss’ by Jonathan Vanian
Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and Leonardo DiCaprio plan one-day Instagram boycott. Here’s why by Danielle Abril
Snowflake’s buzzy IPO just got a little more buzzy by Crystal Tse
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ONE MORE THING
Consider the "love bug" caper closed; the mysterious computer virus infected 45 million computers worldwide around the turn of the millenium and caused billions of dollars in damage.
Author Geoff White's new book, Crime Dot Com, excerpted in Wired, contains a confession from the person behind the romantically inspired "trojan." (No, not that kind of trojan!) Onel de Guzman, now 43, was widely believed to have committed the misdeed as a computer-science student in Manila 20 years ago. Now he has fessed up.