A brief history of the iPhone

Steve Jobs called the first iPhone “magic.” It was a customary bit of showmanship from Apple’s late-founder, but a decade after that announcement, it’s difficult to overstate the profound impact the smartphone has had on the mobile industry.

The first iPhone was met with cautious excitement by many in the press — after all, where did the company get off thinking it could replace a physical keyboard with a touchscreen? But all these years later, the device still serves at the template for a majority of modern smartphones. In the intervening decade, the company has redefined the category time and again, starting the following year, when Apple revolutionized mobile software with the introduction of the App Store.

Here’s a quick look back at the ups and downs of a decade of iPhone, starting with a little bit of pre-history. 

Will Record Fine Cramp Google’s Style in Europe?

The European Commission on Tuesday walloped Google unit with a record 2.4 billion euros fine — about US$2.7 billion — for giving its own shopping comparison site preference above smaller competitors, and thus abusing its dominant position as a search engine.

Google must end the conduct within 90 days or face penalties of 5 percent of its average daily global revenue, the EC said.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of regulating competition, praised Google for its overall innovation, but said that Google’s actions were not limited to reasonable efforts to put out a better comparison shopping product than its rivals.

“Instead, Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results and demoting those of competitors,” she said. “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate.”

Consumers in the region were denied a genuine choice of services, Vestager added.

Froogle Flop

Google first entered its comparison shopping product in Europe in 2004 under the name “Froogle.” The Froogle service performed poorly, and Google changed its strategy in 2008, according to the EC, when it was renamed “Google Product Search.” It became “Google Shopping” in 2013.

When consumers searched for products starting in 2008, Google gave preference to its own comparison shopping tool in 13 European Economic Area countries, starting in Germany and the UK, according to the EC. Google demoted rival services based on certain algorithms, with even the leading rivals not appearing until page four of a Google search.

As a result, Google’s traffic surged in several countries — more than 45-fold in the UK and 35-fold in Germany.

Google expressed disagreement with the EC’s findings, and said it will consider a possible challenge to the ruling.

“When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily and advertisers want to promote those same products.” said Google General Counsel Kent Walker.

“That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both,” he added.

“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today,” said Walker. “We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case.”

Rivals Rejoice

Although the decision is welcome, the end of Google’s anticompetitive search practices will be far more important than the fine levied against the company, remarked Shivaun Raff, CEO of Foundem, a UK-based vertical search company that led the complaint against Google.

“For well over a decade, Google’s search engine has played a decisive role in determining what most of us read, use and purchase online,” he said. “Left unchecked there are few limits to this gatekeeper power.”

Google in 2013 settled a separate case with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, after it accused the company of biasing search results in tablet, smartphone and gaming devices.

The EC ruling is significant, because it could impact the way Google conducts business not just within the EU but in other regions of the world, noted Michael Jude, a research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

However, this decision isn’t likely to change the competitive landscape very much, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Google will continue to dominate and raise prices for all players in the region, Jude said. “Think of this as a new tax.”

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

Facebook introduces new ad metrics and promises that more are coming

Facebook says it’s introducing a number of new measurements for businesses that buy ads and own Facebook Pages.

Last year, the company admitted that it had been misreporting some metrics — individually, none of the mistakes seemed particularly serious, but cumulatively, they created the impression that the company needs to work harder on transparency for advertisers. (It’s also opened up for an audit from the Media Rating Council.)

Similarly, none of the new metrics that Facebook is announcing today may make that big a difference individually, but the company says they’re part of a broader initiative.

“We’ve heard feedback from businesses that they want more transparency and understanding around their Facebook performance,” Facebook said in a blog post. “As part of our commitment to measurement, about every month or so we’ll release new metrics so that businesses have better ways to measure outcomes, all in one place.”

The most interesting new metric is called “landing page views,” which tells advertisers how many users actually made it to their mobile landing page after clicking on an ad.

According to Facebook, this measurement should “help businesses realize the importance of optimizing for a better mobile web experience.” This has been a recurring theme at Facebook, which has been trying to circumvent slow web experiences by bringing more of that content into Facebook itself through formats like Instant Articles (for news publishers) and Canvas (for advertisers).

Other new metrics include a breakdown of whether or not people who click on an ad had previously interacted with the advertiser’s website or app.

And there are new measurements for Facebook Pages — the growth or decline of followers, the number of people who encounter Page information (without clicking on the Page itself) through previews and the number of times a Page has been included as part of someone’s recommendations.

Check out the first photos of Waymo’s self-driving big rig

Waymo‘s self-driving work is shifting gears to bring big rigs into the fold — and now, we know what the autonomous trucks will probably look like when they eventually hit the highways.      

The first look at the Waymo big rig comes via Jalopnik, which published a set of images featuring a truck that looks to be equipped with the company’s self-driving sensors parked in a lot. The images came to the site via an anonymous source, so we can’t say for certain where or when they were taken.   

The pics show off what appears to be a slick blue Peterbilt rig sporting the Waymo logo, along with a sensor package that looks very similar to the setup we’ve seen in the company’s fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacificas

Another photo shows the front of the truck, pointing out the placement of the system’s radar, LiDAR setup, and other sensors. Those details, along with the obvious Waymo branding, leave little doubt that the rig is the real deal — but until the company confirms the images, we can’t be 100 percent certain.  

Waymo confirmed it was testing its autonomous platform in Peterbilt trucks earlier this month following speculative reports based on a picture obtained by BuzzFeed, but the image that sparked the admission never surfaced. 

The company told us then that it’s testing the trucks outfitted with its autonomous platform on a private track in California, and collecting valuable street data on public roads with a driver behind the wheel, per California law. The program is projected for expansion to Arizona later this year, where Waymo has another pilot program giving the public free autonomous rides in its Pacifica fleet.

We reached out to Waymo’s reps for comment about the images and any new details regarding the company’s semi truck testing program, but haven’t heard back. We’ll update the story upon receiving a response. 

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U.S. holds off on expanding laptop flight ban, increases other security measures

Why it matters to you

If you’re flying to the U.S. you’re likely to face more security checks, though the good news is the unpopular laptop ban hasn’t been expanded.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced plans for stricter security checks for passengers flying into the U.S.

Recent news reports suggested the DHS would expand an existing ban preventing passengers on certain Middle Eastern and African airlines from taking laptops and other electronic devices into the cabin, but for the time being at least, this won’t happen.

Instead, new security measures affecting 325,000 airline passengers coming to the U.S. daily from 280 international airports will be put in place in July.

Announced by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Wednesday, June 28, the “seen and unseen” procedures will include “enhanced screening of electronic devices, more thorough passenger vetting, and new measures designed to mitigate the potential threat of insider attacks.”

Kelly said officials will also work to encourage carriers and airports around the world “to adopt more sophisticated screening approaches,” including more effective use of explosive detection dogs and advanced checkpoint screening technology.

Finally, the DHS also plans to set up more so-called “preclearance locations” where U.S. officials work at overseas airports carrying out passenger checks for U.S.-bound flights, a system that Kelly said enhances security while also increasing efficiency by allowing international travelers to go through customs and border security screening before stepping on the plane.

“We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat,” Kelly said. “Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed.”

The DHS’s decision not to expand the ban on taking large electronic items into the cabin will come as a relief not only to passengers, but also to airlines, many of which feared serious disruption to boarding procedures. While the new rules could still result in longer-than-usual screening time of passengers’ belongings, the procedures should nevertheless be more amenable to both travelers and airlines.

The enhanced checks come as “terrorist groups continue to target passenger aircraft,” the DHS said in a release. “We have seen a ‘spider web’ of threats to commercial aviation as terrorists pursue new attack methods. Based on these concerns, the DHS is working to raise the baseline of global aviation security to keep the traveling public safe, in coordination with our international partners.”

Apple’s first iPhone commercial was subtle, but incredibly effective

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How’s this for a #TBT?

Once upon a time, the iPhone wasn’t the thing attached to everyone’s hip. It was, in fact, just a new idea that nobody had even thought about, as the ad that debuted in February 2007, months ahead of the device’s release, suggested.

But the simple ad still stands up today and was prophetic in showing the way the device would come to be engrained as part of our every day lives.

The ad featured clips from TV shows and movies of various actors, including Lucille Ball, Ben Stiller, and Sarah Jessica Parker, simply saying, “hello.” It was like Apple knew it needed to make us feel comfortable with its new device, while only teasing the features that would reshape the way we thought about our phones and how we used them to communicate.

And, by having its (at the time) newest product stand along side the titans of pop culture, Apple elegantly — though not subtly — inserted the iPhone into our cultural fabric.

Ten years later and it might be safe to say Apple called its shot. 

‘Overwatch’ genius rigs up a literal baguette (yes, bread) as a controller

Playing Overwatch with a motion-sensing gun sounds pretty fun. But what if that gun was a baguette? 

Très bon.

Rudeism, an Overwatch player famous for rigging up hilarious, homemade controllers to play Overwatch with, is back at it again.This time he wired up a baguette to truly sink into the mindset of Overwatch‘s French sniper, Widowmaker.

The controller took a little time to get used to but by the end of his play session Rudeism was landing headshots left and right.

Rudeism put together a little highlight reel of some great moments from his stream this morning, including a moment where he paused to take a bite out of the weapon. Deadly and delicious.

In the past, Rudeism has played as Winston with electronically equipped bananas, D.Va with flight sticks, and Hanzo with a plastic toy bow. Maybe next he’ll play as Reinhardt with a real hammer.

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Google’s new experiment, Triangle, lets you block individual apps from using mobile data

Google recently began testing a new tool for helping people better manage the mobile data used by their smartphones. The new Android app, called Triangle, is currently being tested in the Philippines, and lets you do things like view your data balance, see which apps are accounting for the most data usage and even block individual applications from using your mobile data, among other things.

The problem of limited data is not one that’s as common here in the U.S., where unlimited data plans are the norm, and bandwidth is more readily available. However, in a number of emerging markets, mobile data usage is often a concern. With Triangle, Google is experimenting with a different way to cut down on mobile data by giving users more granular control over how that data is being used.

This isn’t Google’s first attempt at offering better data usage controls for mobile consumers. The company, years ago, added a “Data Saver” mode to its mobile Chrome browser, for example, and it has introduced built-in data-saver controls in select devices, like the Data Saver feature in its Pixel phones.

Triangle, by comparison, offers more fine-grained control over your applications compared to what’s provided within Pixel.

At the individual application level, Triangle users can customize how their apps are allowed to use data by choosing between options like 10 minutes at a time, 30 minutes or “Always.”

Users are also able to see their prepaid mobile data balance on carriers like Globe and Smart, as well as get an overview of their data-hogging apps. The carriers are offering data rewards through Triangle, as well, which lets users download and try new apps without impacting data, and encourages the use of existing apps in exchange for extra data added to their accounts.

Google did not make a formal announcement about Triangle’s launch, but the app was being discussed in online forums just last month. We understand, however, that Google began experimenting with Triangle in April.

The company declined to speak about its future plans for the app, including if or when it expected to release Triangle to other emerging markets, or even developed ones like the U.S. for those who aren’t on unlimited data plans. Though experimental, Triangle is an official Google product — not one from its internal incubator, Area 120.

When asked, a company rep only offered the following statement: “We’re currently doing tests in the Philippines on ways to help users better manage their mobile data. We have nothing further to announce at this time.”

Triangle is currently a free download on the Google Play Store in the Philippines.