Slick new gadgets are usually the stars of Apple’s splashy events. But on Monday, the company will put the spotlight on subscriptions and services.
A star-studded new TV service is expected to headline Apple’s event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California. Apple will likely unveil a news subscription service built into a reimagined Apple News, as well as one bundle to rule them all, tying all the services together with Apple Music. Plus it’s always possible for the show to wrap up with “one more thing.”
In other words, Apple is taking on a new field of rivals — just as two of Apple’s existing competitors are crying foul.
In the last two weeks, Spotify and Kaspersky Lab have filed complaints with regulators alleging Apple stifles services that directly compete with its own. The two companies, a streaming music giant and a cybersecurity mainstay, made similar allegations of Apple abusing the marketplace power of its App Store to strangle rivals’ features, promotions or pricing.
(Apple rejected Spotify’s claims and hasn’t commented on Kaspersky’s. Apple declined to comment for this article.)
These kinds of disputes over antitrust concerns seem wonky and far-removed, but they could affect apps and services you use every day. They could trigger changes to how easily you can buy services from Apple rivals and how much you pay for them. And with Apple about to widen the kinds of services already offered by companies on its platforms, more of your favorite apps could be sucked in.
Top 5 things we want from Apple’s TV service
Apple’s dominance hasn’t gone unnoticed. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential nominee, has called for the breakup of tech titans including Google, Facebook and, yes, Apple.
“What we’re really facing here is an existential crisis of … a new economy,” said Rivka Gewirtz Little, a payment strategies analyst for IDC. “We are living in a marketplace economy where innovation is unending, but we still haven’t answered the questions of monetizing it with fairness.”
Another powerful regulator has shown she’s also listening to gripes against Apple.
Margrethe Vestager is the EU’s competition commissioner. You may know her from the billions of euros in fines the EU has slapped on Google. A day after Spotify filed its complaint against Apple to her office, Vestager tweeted about the “strong message” Spotify’s chief was sending.
Even though these complaints are being filed in Europe or Russia, action against Apple could affect customers around the world.
Would Apple “want to have two different systems in different jurisdictions? That’s just not how the internet economy is being set up,” said Barbara Sicalides, an antitrust lawyer at the firm Pepper Hamilton.
Team of rivals
Apple and Spotify are the world’s two most dominant forces in streaming music. With 96 million paying customers, Spotify is the world’s biggest. Apple Music, with more than 50 million subscribers, is next.
But Apple’s expected services Monday could bring it into more direct competition with a flock of other services you use.
Netflix, Hulu and other subscription video services will be in Apple’s competitive crosshairs as it releases its $1 billion-plus slate of original shows from the likes of J.J. Abrams, Brie Larson, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon. Offering add-on video subscriptions would bring Apple head-to-head with Amazon Prime Video and its Channels model — even bumping against traditional partners like wireless company AT&T, which offers a VRV bundle of niche genre streaming services.
And Apple’s news service, which is expected to offer a single subscription that unlocks access to a range of magazines and newspapers, would mean Apple vies for membership dollars against any subscription-based publisher that doesn’t participate in Apple’s bundle.
Don’t expect to read the New York Times there, for one: The newspaper’s CEO said he was “leery” of the concept.
One of his misgivings — not wanting to give up part of the Times’ $15-a-month digital subscription — feeds into one of Spotify’s main accusations of how Apple stacks the deck against competitors: the App Store’s 30 percent fee.
It’s something lots of services gripe about. For any digital good or service sold in an iOS app, Apple takes a 30 percent cut. That means anytime Spotify signs up a new $10-a-month Premium member inside its iPhone app, Apple takes $3. That fee drops to 15 percent once a subscription lasts longer than a year.
Spotify says that because Apple Music doesn’t face the same tax, Apple has an unfair pricing advantage: Spotify has to choose between charging iPhone customers $3 more or live with earning 30 percent less than its biggest competitor for every iOS member.
Google’s Android mobile system has a powerful marketplace too, Google Play, and it also extracts similar fees. But services can release apps for Android outside Google’s marketplace — known as sideloading — more readily than for Apple. Epic Games does that with Fortnite, which is why the insanely popular game is available in the App Store but not Google Play. Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic, has called Apple’s charges a “parasitic loss.”
Politics aside, the solution is to open up iOS to secure software installation from the web and other sources.
That way, the App Store can reflect Apple’s values on the merit of content, without forcing the outright censorship of content they disagree with.— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) August 10, 2018
But Apple’s response to Spotify’s complaint underscores an uneasy point if you’re a fan of these rival services. “Spotify wouldn’t be the business they are today without the App Store ecosystem,” Apple said. Spotify wants to “avoid contributing to maintaining that ecosystem for the next generation of app entrepreneurs.”
One part of that is indisputable: Spotify wouldn’t be a giant without the App Store’s gateway to 900 million active iPhones. Spotify’s recourse against Apple has been to simply stop selling in-app subscriptions. But for services still aspiring to the scale of Spotify, opting out of the App Store may not be an option.
The second of Spotify’s complaints last week, echoed by Kaspersky’s claim Wednesday, may also unsettle fans of Apple’s soon-to-be competitors. Both say Apple withholds their app updates as a way of dulling the rival’s competitive edge — using its App Store policies to crimp features or prevent you from knowing about bargains.
Spotify alleges that starting in 2016, as a way to kneecap a rival while Apple Music was ramping up, Apple began rejecting Spotify’s app updates. Last year, for example, Apple rejected the app because the word “free” was in Spotify’s app screenshots on the App Store, it said.
And according to Kaspersky, after iOS rolled out its own parental controls, Apple prohibited a type of coding that let competitors’ apps offer similar features. Kaspersky Safe Kids was hosted in the App Store without incident for nearly three years, the company said, until last year’s iOS 12 update meant Apple itself became a rival.
Apple has dismissed Spotify’s claim. “The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows,” it said. Apple hasn’t responded to Kaspersky’s allegation.
“There’s a level of closed-off protectiveness and lockout that Apple has long functioned on,” Little said. “You can’t get other apps on the damn thing.”
That could mean challenges ahead for video and news apps on your iPhone. And maybe others, depending on what Apple has in store with “one more thing.”
2021 Mazda6 review: G’bye, gorgeous – Roadshow
After all this time, the Mazda6 still looks great. Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow The venerable sedan used to be the default choice for most new car buyers. Every company made some, and they were just about guaranteed to outsell anything other than pickup trucks. Times have certainly changed, however, and compact and midsize sedans are dropping like…
After all this time, the Mazda6 still looks great.
The venerable sedan used to be the default choice for most new car buyers. Every company made some, and they were just about guaranteed to outsell anything other than pickup trucks. Times have certainly changed, however, and compact and midsize sedans are dropping like flies as automakers shift their focus to crossovers and SUVs. Mazda just confirmed the fashionable Mazda6 won’t live to see 2022, and following a drive in the 2021 Carbon Edition, I can tell you this sedan’s demise hurts more than most.
LikeGreat turbo engineExcellent ride qualityLuxurious interiorGorgeous exterior
Don’t LikeAntiquated techMediocre fuel economy
Arguably the best thing about the Mazda6 is how it drives. It’s currently available with two engines: a 2.5-liter I4 with 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and the uplevel 2.5-liter turbo I4 found in my test car, with a healthy 250 hp and a borderline-silly 320 lb-ft. Both engines are paired with a somewhat archaic six-speed automatic transmission, driving the front wheels exclusively.On the road, the six-speed auto is largely ignorable — and I mean that as a compliment. The transmission shifts smoothly and imperceptibly, though with only six forward gears, fuel economy isn’t exactly outstanding. The EPA rates the 2021 Mazda6 2.5T at 23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined, but at least I’m able to match those estimates without issue.
As is the case with most Mazdas, the 6’s goodness isn’t about its power, it’s how it feels on the road. The Mazda6 is fun to drive on a curvy road but also very comfortable and compliant even on terribly maintained Los Angeles streets. The steering is quick and perfectly weighted, and there’s a sense of lightness to the chassis. If I have one criticism, it’s that the engine’s healthy torque often overwhelms the stock all-season tires, making unintentional chirps a fairly regular occurrence.When the Mazda6 was refreshed for the 2018 model year, one key focus was to make the interior look and feel more luxurious and upscale. This was largely successful, as the 2021 Mazda6 uses some excellent materials and the overall cabin design is clean and modern. This sedan has arguably one of the most elegant and understated interiors to come out of Japan in a while. The high-quality leather and solid-feeling plastics go a long way toward accomplishing Mazda’s goal. The tall gear lever and mostly analog instrument panel feel a little old compared with what’s in more modern competitors, but they’re perfectly functional and easy to use.
An upscale interior is a highlight of the Mazda6.
Mazda has always lagged behind rivals like Honda and Toyota when it comes to infotainment technology, and that’s evident in the 6. The 8-inch touchscreen atop the dash is bright and easy to read. The standard Mazda Connect software is pretty antiquated, and Mazda’s insistence on locking out the touchscreen while you’re moving is super annoying, especially if you need to do something that can’t be controlled with voice commands. Thankfully, the 6 has wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto integration, so maybe just rely on your smartphone’s tech for infotainment duties.
When it comes to safety tech, the Mazda6 offers a suite of driver assistance systems on par with the rest of the class. Things like automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability are all standard on my loaded Carbon Edition tester. Are any of these features class-leading? No. But they’re all things I’d expect to see at this price.Where the Mazda6 continues to lead the midsize sedan class is in exterior design. Sleek and sophisticated, this is an incredibly pretty car, even when stacked up against fresh competition like the Hyundai Sonata and the Kia K5. But once you dig a little deeper, the Mazda6’s old bones just can’t keep it relevant against hot newcomers, even with its powerful turbo engine. The Honda Accord 2.0T is better than it’s ever been, and the Hyundai Sonata N Line is freaking brilliant.One of the good ones, right here.
The 2021 Mazda6 Carbon Edition comes with all the bells and whistles, with no options apart from $500 parking sensors and $400 embedded navigation. My tester retails for $34,845, including Mazda’s $995 destination fee, which isn’t unreasonable but is still slightly more than the sporty Sonata N Line, which has a better drivetrain, newer tech and a more comprehensive warranty — though the Mazda’s looks are likely less polarizing.Of course, even the less expensive trims have plenty of appeal. The base Mazda6 Sport trim with its nonturbocharged engine retails for just $25,470, including destination. The turbo engine becomes available on the Grand Touring model, which starts at $31,170. The top-tier Signature, with its wood and ultrasuede interior trim, will set you back $36,895. Basically, there’s a Mazda6 for most budgets and the inherently great chassis is standard on all of them.All told, the 6 continues to show off the things Mazda does best: great handling, nice interiors and stellar looks. The Mazda6 might not present as strong a case as it once did, but it’s still a favorite among enthusiasts. I’ll be very sad to see this driver-oriented sedan go.
Toshiba Amazon Fire TV C350 series review: Alexa, what’s on? – CNET
The C350 series from Toshiba gives big-screen, physical form to Amazon’s Fire TV streaming system. From the fonts to the colors, if you’ve interacted with any Fire TV stick or other Amazon TV device, you’ll be fully familiar with this television. As you’d expect, it leans hard into Alexa and has full Amazon Prime Video integration, but…
The C350 series from Toshiba gives big-screen, physical form to Amazon’s Fire TV streaming system. From the fonts to the colors, if you’ve interacted with any Fire TV stick or other Amazon TV device, you’ll be fully familiar with this television. As you’d expect, it leans hard into Alexa and has full Amazon Prime Video integration, but it also has other streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max and more.
LikeAlexa powers superior voice featuresVoice remote included
Don’t LikeSmart TV menus lag behind RokuOvert focus on Amazon services
Picture quality on the C350 was fine for a budget TV, if a little worse than the competition. In my side-by-side comparisons its color and contrast couldn’t quite match the TCL 4-Series and Vizio V-Series, but at this price the image quality differences probably don’t matter that much. Arguably more important is the smart TV, and while Alexa beats Roku and Vizio for voice control, we like Roku’s simpler, more agnostic smart TV approach better. It’s also annoying that some non-Amazon services, like Vudu, get short shrift, while others, namely Peacock, aren’t available at all.Right now the C350 also costs more than either of those competitors from TCL and Vizio, but with Prime Day fast approaching, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a big price drop. Until that happens, however, we can only truly recommend it for someone who fully embraces the Bezos bonanza and wants their TV to be a part of that.
Read more: Early Prime Day TV deals: Save on models from Insignia, LG, TCL, Toshiba and VizioThe Toshiba C350 series is available in 43-, 50- and 55-inch versions, with larger 65- and 75-inch sizes coming soon. I reviewed the 50-inch model.
Prime features and connectionsLike other TVs at this price the C530 is a basic 4K HDR model — no fancy extras like next-gen gaming perks, local dimming, wide color gamut or tons of light here. Its Fire TV functionality is the major feature here and the menus have what Amazon calls a content-forward design: lots of thumbnails for TV shows and movies as opposed to tiles like Roku. Many focus on Amazon’s Prime Video library, but you can download apps for other major streaming services, which unpack rows of their thumbnails.
I liked the Toshiba’s remote better than the TCL’s because it features Alexa voice as well as Bluetooth, so you don’t have to aim it at the TV. The button layout is simple and clean, if not quite as sparse as Roku, and includes prominent white shortcut keys to various services. The C350 basically ties the Roku in most user-friendly setup screens. It has the added bonus that if you’re an Amazon Prime member (and I assume you are if you’re considering this TV), once you go through the initial setup you’ve already logged in and are ready to watch shows and movies.Fire TV’s setup menus are simple and straightforward.
One frustrating design decision is that the picture settings menu covers one-third of the screen, and shadows about half. This menu doesn’t disappear or shrink when you make adjustments either. Now, you would think this would only be a problem if you’re a TV reviewer like me using test patterns (don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is), but it also makes it harder if you’re trying to eyeball the correct setting at home. That’s because the majority of the screen is not what the screen will look like once you exit the menus. Probably not a huge deal for most buyers, to be fair, but it’s a bummer if you like to get a TV looking as good as possible.Read more: Stop watching bad TV picture settings: 9 ways to optimize your big screenThose picture big adjustment menus can mess with your tweaks.
Energy Star rating for the 50-inch model is $21 a year, which is mid-pack for this range of TVs.Some TVs in this price range have three HDMI inputs, and it certainly isn’t a bad thing that the C350 has four. It even has analog video and audio inputs. So if you have an old gaming console or any retro A/V gear, you’re in luck. If you decide you want to go your own streaming route and eschew Fire TV, you won’t be able to power most streaming sticks from the TV’s USB connections. Not a huge deal: It just means you’ll need to run power separately to the stick.HDMI inputs: fourComposite analog inputUSB ports: two (0.5A power)Internet: Wi-Fi, WiredAntenna inputAnalog audio output (3.5mm)Optical digital audio outputSpeakers: two downward-firing
Alexa, what’s Vudu?The voice search works well. It directs you to Amazon in most cases, but it does give you some alternate options. For example, if you say “Thor Ragnarok” it will bring up a screen with that and some related content, and if you select the movie out of those choices you have the option to buy or rent on Amazon — or watch it on Disney Plus. Another click brings up additional places to watch. However, it doesn’t show all options like Roku or Vizio would. It doesn’t show you Vudu, for example. It’s actually worth focusing on Vudu as an example of the limitations forced on this Toshiba, presumably by Amazon. There is, technically, a Vudu app. So at first glance in a store or on a checklist, it seems to have more options to buy or rent content than just Amazon. The truth, however, is that it’s an ancient version of the Vudu app that has an archaic interface and only allows you to watch SD content. You read that correctly: not even HD, and forget about 4K. And that’s for content you already own. You can’t buy anything in the Vudu app. You have to go to Vudu’s website to buy it. With TCL/Roku, Vizio and Samsung, you can buy directly in the app. So you should absolutely consider this TV not just “primarily” an Amazon device, but an Amazon device that might lock you out of non-Amazon stuff.
It’s also worth repeating that Fire TV, and by extension this TV, is the only major streaming platform to lack an app for Peacock. Subscribers can try side-loading if they’re adventurous, but our advice is to get a different TV if Peacock is important to you.Picture quality comparisonsThe TCL 4-Series and Vizio V-series are direct competitors of the Toshiba C530, with similar features and prices, so they make ideal comparison models. I connected them via a Monoprice 1×4 distribution amplifier and viewed them side-by-side-by-side watching a mix of HD, 4K and 4K HDR content.The Vizio and the TCL look very similar. The Toshiba is in one way better and most other ways slightly worse. It’s significantly brighter than either, nearing the much more-expensive Samsung Q60A with non-HDR content (although with HDR content the Samsung is far brighter). None of these TVs are dim, of course, but if you have an extremely bright room and need all the light you can get from your TV, the Toshiba has an advantage.That said, with test patterns it was readily apparent that the C350 only achieved its peak brightness for a few seconds, then immediately dimmed. With actual content, this wasn’t readily noticeable. It did this regardless of settings, so it’s possible it was still doing it with actual content, just not as much or as noticeably as with test patterns. In other aspects of picture quality, the C350 isn’t as good as the other two. Not significantly, but when viewing them all at the same time, enough that you could see it. The color is a little less accurate, a little less lifelike. The contrast is a little less punchy. It wasn’t bad, but when I’d slide across the couch to view either the TCL or Vizio (all have mediocre off-axis picture quality), those two just looked a little better.Prime real estate?Anyone looking for a budget TV has some excellent options all for very little money. The TCL 4-Series is probably the best choice for most people, especially those who don’t know their contrast from their composite. It’s easy to use thanks to its Roku interface, and has access to all the major streaming services. The Vizio V-Series is nearly as good, with more picture setting options and a more lively interface. Which leaves the C350. If you buy everything through Amazon, including renting movies and buying TV shows, then it’s probably fine. But the limitations imposed by Fire TV might be frustrating in the long run. A more budget-agnostic TV, like the TCL/Roku or the Vizio, allow you to get content any way you want (mostly), without funneling or limiting you to Amazon’s ecosystem. It’s sort of like a car that only drives on certain roads. If you only drive on those roads, that’s fine. But if you want to take a new shortcut to work, you’re out of luck. If someone’s not very tech-savvy and has gotten used to Fire TV specifically, or Alexa generally, then this might be a good choice because it’s very much an Amazon product, despite the name on the bottom. For everyone else, however, I’d recommend the TCL or Vizio first.
Huawei Chairman Urges US to Reconsider ‘Attack’ on Global Supply Chain
Chinese telecom giant Huawei said on Wednesday its supply chain was under attack from the United States and called on Washington to reconsider its trade restrictions which were hurting suppliers globally.The world’s biggest maker of mobile telecommunications equipment and smartphones is under pressure from US trade curbs designed to choke Huawei’s access to commercially available…
Chinese telecom giant Huawei said on Wednesday its supply chain was under attack from the United States and called on Washington to reconsider its trade restrictions which were hurting suppliers globally.The world’s biggest maker of mobile telecommunications equipment and smartphones is under pressure from US trade curbs designed to choke Huawei’s access to commercially available chips.”The US has modified their sanctions for the third time and that has indeed brought great challenges to our production and operations,” Huawei Chairman Guo Ping told reporters in Shanghai.Washington says Huawei is a vehicle for Chinese state espionage and from September 15 imposed new curbs barring US companies from supplying or servicing the company. Huawei has repeatedly denied being a national security risk.Guo said that although Huawei had sufficient chips for its business-to-business operations, including its 5G network enterprise, it was feeling the pinch of the US restrictions on its smartphone chip stocks.It understood that suppliers such as Qualcomm were applying for US licences which would allow them to continue serving Huawei, he added.Intel has already received licences to supply certain products to Huawei, while China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing, which uses US-origin machinery to produce chips for Huawei, has applied for a licence, Reuters has previously reported.Huawei was willing to use Qualcomm chips in its smartphones should Qualcomm get a licence to sidestep the restrictions, Guo added. Qualcomm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”We hope the US government can reconsider its policy and if the US government allows it we are still willing to buy products from US companies,” Guo said on the sidelines of its annual Huawei Connect conference.Huawei has said that from September 15 it would stop manufacturing its most advanced chips under its Kirin line which power its high-end phones. Analysts expect its existing supply of Kirin chips will run out next year.Consumers have rushed to buy Huawei phones amid concerns its mobile division is about to fold. Vendors say that prices have spiked by as much as CNY 500 (roughly Rs. 5,400) for some devices.Washington has shown little sign that it is willing to back down from its fight with Huawei, which comes at a time when relations between the United States and China are at their worst in decades.The United States said last month it would expand a programme it called “Clean Network” to prevent various Chinese apps and telecoms companies from accessing sensitive information on American citizens and businesses.David Wang, a Huawei executive director, said the company hoped that countries would introduce “rational standards” for 5G. Huawei had yet to see any adverse impact on its global 5G business from the US programme, he added.© Thomson Reuters 2020Are Apple Watch SE, iPad 8th Gen the Perfect ‘Affordable’ Products for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.