Runkeeper will stop supporting Wear OS ‘in a few weeks’

Runkeeper this week announced that it will discontinue its Wear OS app in the next few weeks, as reported by Android Central. The update was emailed to users this week, where the company told users that it decided to end support because “the integration didn’t work well / work consistently for most users.”

In a response to users, Runkeeper elaborated that only a small percentage of Runkeeper users were actually using the Wear OS app. “It was a very buggy experience and difficult for us to maintain and fix,” a representative said in an email. “Because we’re a small team with limited resources, and having done our research, we ultimately concluded that trying to maintain a partnership that wasn’t working well would not be good practice for us.”

Today’s news comes after Google decided to shut down its own Nest app on Wear OS, also citing that not enough people were using it to make the resources worthwhile. (It also shut down its Nest Apple Watch app.) Google rebranded its smartwatch platform from Android Wear to Wear OS in March 2018 in an attempt to make the system more open to both Android and iPhone users. But if recent news indicates a trend, it seems that even with a rebrand, the platform is struggling to attract and retain a community.

Score this Amazon-renewed Apple iPhone XS at a $350 discount

iPhone XS review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Apple iPhones are pretty expensive pieces of technology, but if you don’t mind buying a renewed model, you can save quite a bit of money. Amazon is currently offering renewed, fully unlocked versions of the Apple iPhone XS (256GB) at a whopping $350 discount. Stocks are quickly running out both for the gray and silver variants, so you better order what you want before it’s gone.

With this deal, you’ll only be paying $950 instead of the usual $1,300. Renewed iPhones have been inspected and tested by Amazon-qualified suppliers to work and look like new. The purchase is also backed by a 90-day guarantee for your further peace of mind. Please note that the box and accessories may be generic, and no headphones are included.

BUY NOW

It may be overshadowed by the massive iPhone XS Max and the fresh design of the iPhone XR, but in many ways, the iPhone XS is still our favorite. It’s elegant in a minimalist kind of way, crafted with high-quality materials, and feels perfect on the palm. The screen is also gorgeous and flaunts a size that’s big enough for videos and movies, but not so big that it’s difficult to use in one hand. And of course, the display is gorgeous. With a 2,436 x 1,235 resolution and support for Dolby Vision and HDR10, you can expect rich colors, natural saturation, and sharp details no matter the content.

This iPhone packs Apple’s A12 Bionic processor which is claimed to deliver stronger performance. Whether you’re playing an augmented reality (AR) or a graphically intensive game, swapping between a variety or apps, or multitasking, the operation is buttery smooth. It runs Apple’s iOS 12, with small touches like grouped notifications systems, Memojis, and Siri suggestions, making the iPhone XS experience fun and convenient. The camera system also has almost zero lag, as usual, with both front and rear cameras able to snap stunning photos no matter the lighting condition. We won’t dive further into the technical details, but we want you to know that it really is the most powerful smartphone in the world right now.

Enjoy a remarkable smartphone experience with the iPhone XS. You can get the renewed, factory unlocked version with 256GB of internal storage for only $950 when you order on Amazon. An additional $50 discount awaits if you apply for an Amazon Rewards Visa card. Hurry while supplies last.

Browse through our curated deals page and find more deals on iPads, MacBooks, Apple Watches, and other Apple products.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Recommendations

Beto O’Rourke seeks new limits on Section 230 as part of gun violence proposal

On Friday, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke announced a sweeping policy plan to counter hate speech and gun violence in America that specifically proposes changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, one of the tech industry’s most pivotal legal protections.

Outside of proposing a nationwide gun licensing system / registry and requiring universal background checks, O’Rourke laid out a plan aimed at making social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube more responsible for hateful content on their platforms. In the proposal, O’Rourke says that he supports amending Section 230 to “remove legal immunity from lawsuits for large social media platforms” that refuse to be proactive in removing hate speech and terrorist content.

“We must connect the dots between internet communities providing a platform for online radicalization and white supremacy,” his website reads.

The proposal calls on tech companies to more aggressively enforce policies against hate speech — with the potential withdrawal of 230 protections if they don’t — which may raise legal issues if implemented. Historically, bills requiring companies to moderate against legal speech have faced significant constitutional challenges under the First Amendment.

Under O’Rourke’s proposal, companies like Facebook could be sued for not adopting terms of service requirements banning users from posting hateful content that “incite[s] or engage[s] in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation” against others based on demographics like race, religion, immigration status, and gender identity.

“When any one community is targeted, the very idea of America is under attack,” O’Rourke said in a tweet. “That’s why we need to all come together to not only connect the dots between the proliferation of hatred across our country and the acceleration of mass shootings, but actually do something about it.”

O’Rourke put out his “Combating Hate and Violence in America” plan only a day after relaunching his presidential bid in the wake of a white supremacist attack in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. The El Paso tragedy is the latest attack where the suspected shooter posted an essay on 8chan espousing white supremacist and nationalist beliefs before opening fire. The first, in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left over 50 people dead, inspired the El Paso shooting.

Following the El Paso attack, internet security and infrastructure company Cloudflare deplatformed 8chan, opening the site up to DDoS attacks and forcing it to go offline for a few hours. When a separate equipment provider called Voxility also discontinued service, the site was taken down, and it has remained down in the weeks since. Its owner, Jim Watkins, has said that this downtime is voluntary, and the site will be back up after the owners speak with lawmakers who have voiced concerns about its role in proliferating hate.

Earlier this week, the House Homeland Security Committee subpoenaed Watkins to testify at a hearing in September. He has yet to respond publicly.

O’Rourke’s proposed changes to Section 230 are the first to come from a presidential campaign this election cycle. Over the past few months, Republicans like Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) have all popularized changes to the law, but not because of gun violence or hate speech.

For the past year, Republicans have accused platforms like Facebook of being biased against conservatives and taking down their content more frequently than that of Democrats. This is, so far, an unproven theory, but it has led to bills like Gosar’s “Stop the Censorship Act” and Hawley’s “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act” being introduced in Congress to counter this perceived censorship by making changes to 230.

Those proposals are controversial within the industry, and many tech advocates warn that changes to 230 would make it harder for companies to moderate fairly.

“Removing or weakening certain liability exemptions in Section 230 actually would impair internet companies’ ability to decide what they host and promote,” Free Press senior policy counsel Carmen Scurato said in a statement responding to O’Rourke’s proposal. “Removing this liability exemption could have the opposite effect of O’Rourke’s apparent goals.”

Showcase your startup in Startup Alley at Disrupt SF 2019

What’s the lifeblood of any early-stage startup? Money and media coverage. Opportunities to acquire both abound at Disrupt San Francisco 2019, our flagship tech conference that takes place on October 2-4. It’s all about networking and making the right connections to make your startup dreams come true, and there’s no better networking mecca than Startup Alley.

Buy a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package and plant your early-stage startup in the path of more than 10,000 attendees, including leading technologists, investors, 400 accredited media outlets and other leading influencers. The package includes one full exhibit day and three Founder passes.

You’ll have access to three days of Disrupt programming across the Main Stage, the Extra Crunch Stage, the Showcase Stage and the Q&A Stage. You can watch Startup Battlefield, our epic pitch competition, to see who takes home the $100,000 prize. You’ll also receive invitations to VIP events, like a reception with top-tier investors and global media outlets.

You’ll have CrunchMatch at your side to make networking as easy as possible. This free, business match-making platform helps you find and connect with the people who can move your business forward. It matches people based on their mutual business interests, suggests meetings and sends out invitations (which recipients can easily accept or decline). CrunchMatch even lets you reserve dedicated meeting spaces where you can network in comfort.

And how’s this for opportunity? Every early-stage startup that exhibits in Startup Alley is eligible for a chance to win a Wild Card entry to the Startup Battlefield pitch competition. TechCrunch editors will select two standout startups as Wild Card teams to compete for $100,000 in Startup Battlefield.

It might sound like a longshot (and it is), but RecordGram earned a Wild Card spot and went on to become the Startup Battlefield champ at Disrupt NY 2017. Because dreams do come true.

Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place on October 2-4. Buy a demo table, exhibit in Startup Alley and network your way to greatness. Come on and show the world what you’ve got.

Is your company interested in sponsoring at Disrupt SF 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Critical Bluetooth security bug discovered. Protect yourself with a quick update

Researchers have discovered a major new security flaw in Bluetooth, which could leave millions of devices at risk of a malicious hack.

The security vulnerability, which was recently discovered by a team at the Center for IT-Security, Privacy, and Accountability (CISPA), essentially allows an attacker to interfere when two devices try to connect, allowing a hacker to “break” Bluetooth security without anyone knowing.

That could allow a hacker to funnel data from any connected devices — from the music you hear through your headphones to the words you type on a Bluetooth keyboard — as long as they are within range.

Researchers have named the exploit KNOB — Key Negotiation of Bluetooth — since it can occur when two devices are “negotiating” a secure connection.

“The KNOB attack is a serious threat to the security and privacy of all Bluetooth users,” the researchers wrote in a paper released Tuesday. “We were surprised to discover such fundamental issues in a widely used and 20 years old standard.”

The issue is so serious that Bluetooth SIG,  the international body in charge of standards for Bluetooth connections, issued a security warning and has already released a fix — though it’s up to manufacturers to implement it.

“We evaluate our implementation on more than 14 Bluetooth chips from popular manufacturers such as Intel, Broadcom, Apple, and Qualcomm,” the researchers wrote. “Our results demonstrate that all tested devices are vulnerable to the KNOB attack.”

While there’s no sign that anyone has used this exploit to hack someone’s devices, it leaves nearly every Bluetooth device vulnerable. If you have a Bluetooth device, you should make sure that you update it to the latest drivers as soon as possible.

How to protect yourself from the KNOB attack

Luckily, most of the affected chip manufacturers, like Intel and Apple, have already implemented a fix and pushed out a new security update. Here are the potentially affected companies and how you can update your hardware:

Regardless of whether there’s been a newly discovered exploit, it’s always a good idea to keep your software and firmware up-to-date. Having the latest security updates can protect you from any potential hacks and keep your data — and devices — safe.

Amazon sellers advertise freebies on Facebook—just don’t forget to leave a review

Disclosure

Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

Amazon sellers are paying Facebook to advertise incentivized schemes that trade free products for reviews on the ecommerce giant's website.
Amazon sellers are paying Facebook to advertise incentivized schemes that trade free products for reviews on the ecommerce giant’s website.

Image: Getty Images / Mashable Composite

Facebook users are being inundated with ads offering free electronics on Amazon. The catch? They need to put down money upfront and leave a review.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed an uptick in the frequency of targeted Facebook ads offering free electronics, including smartphone batteries, wireless security cameras, and microphones, as well as beauty supplies. 

To receive the item, all the user has to do is leave a fake or incentivized review of the product on Amazon. It sounds like a scam. But, I signed up for some freebies as a test. I received them. It works.

So, what’s the big deal? A study from marketing agency BrightLocal found that more than 80 percent of consumers trust product reviews as much as they would a friend’s recommendation. Incentivized reviews take advantage of that trust. Fake reviews are a big problem on Amazon, which now makes up approximately 50 percent of the entire ecommerce market.

According to Amazon’s own guidelines for “promotional content” from sellers, the practice of giving away free products or offering refunds or rebates in exchange for positive reviews is prohibited.

I contacted a dozen Facebook Pages behind these ads via Facebook Messenger. In each case, a live individual or an automated chatbot replied with information on how to receive the item free of charge.

The Facebook ads often frame the free Amazon product giveaway as a “trial” or “beta tester” program in search of “feedback.” However, some ads do ask outright for a review in exchange for the item.

The majority of sellers required that the user receive the product and leave a review before receiving a full rebate. Some offered up a partial rebate at the time of purchase. Other sellers provided the full rebate after purchase and simply encouraged, but didn’t require, leaving a review.

To test if the process actually worked, I signed up for two items, a camera light and microphone rig, both of which did not require leaving a review before receiving a full or partial rebate. After purchasing the products through Amazon, each seller promptly refunded me through PayPal. Both items were delivered by the ecommerce giant and arrived just as any other product purchased by Amazon would.

This isn’t just happening through ads. Earlier this month, a UK-based consumer advocacy group, Which?, released a report about the growing problem of Amazon sellers using Facebook Groups to offer free products in exchange for reviews.

In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated its policies to include bloggers and internet marketers. Earlier this year, in the first case of its kind, it fined one Amazon seller millions of dollars for paying for multiple fake reviews.

Using Facebook’s Page Transparency feature, I found that all but one of the Pages analyzed for this piece had multiple Page managers based in China. Other managers were located in the United States, Canada, India, Israel, and the Philippines. None agreed to talk for this story. 

There are many possible reasons Amazon sellers are turning to Facebook ads to find reviews. Advertisers can laser target Facebook users based on the interests they list on their profile, the apps they use, the Pages they like, and more. Using a Facebook pixel, advertisers can retarget users if they ever visit their website. 

As opposed to Groups, Facebook ads are especially helpful to sellers looking for reviews because you can recruit honest consumers who were not actively looking to take part in incentivized review schemes. A few of these Facebook ads specifically asked to see examples of a user’s previous Amazon reviews in order to deem if it would appear legitimate and trustworthy.

Mashable reached out to both Amazon and Facebook for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

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Why startups ads are taking over the subway

But is transit still the best place to launch a direct-to-consumer brand?

If you’re a New Yorker, one of the easiest ways to keep up-to-date on the latest consumer products — furniture, beauty products, mobile apps, you name it — is to hop on the subway.

Even before you board, you may find yourself walking through a station filled with colorful startup ads. And once you’re actually on the train, you may find yourself surrounded by even more of those of ads.

It felt very different when I first moved to New York in 2013, back when the only companies that seemed to buy subway ads were local colleges, law firms and sketchy-sounding surgeons. Over the next few years, I noticed that the companies I wrote about in TechCrunch were starting to show up on the subway walls.

These ads are managed by Outfront Media, which has an exclusive contract with the MTA and says it’s worked with more than 150 startups and direct-to-consumer brands since 2018.

“Startups and DTC brands, now more than ever before, are looking for ways to raise awareness and gain market share among a heavy competitor set,” said Outfront’s chief product experience officer Jason Kuperman via email. “For these brands, it is all about testing and learning, and leveraging out-of-home (OOH) [advertising] and advertising on the subway allows them to do just that.”

Kuperman added that when they launch their subway campaigns, many of these startups are unknown, so they “find value in a permanent place to advertise that people pass through every day.”

From out-of-home to in transit

John Laramie, CEO of out-of-home advertising agency Project X, agreed that there’s been a big shift over the past few years.

He and I first spoke in 2011 about startups buying billboard ads alongside Silicon Valley’s main highway, Route 101. More recently, he told me, “Fast forward to the last four years, and who cares about the 101? It’s all about the New York City subway.”

SmileDirectClub files to go public amidst concerns from dental associations

SmileDirectClub, the at-home teeth-straightening service, is on its way to becoming a public company. SmileDirectClub is seeking to raise up to $100 million in its IPO, according to its S-1 filed today. The number of shares and price range for the offering have yet to be determined.

Prior to this, SmileDirectClub reached a $3.2 billion valuation following a $380 million funding round last October. Investors from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice led the round, which featured participation from Kleiner Perkins and Spark Capital. This funding came on top of Invisalign maker Align Technology’s $46.7 million investment in SmileDirectClub in 2016, and another $12.8 million investment in 2017 to own a total of 19% of the company.

In 2018, SmileDirectClub’s revenues came in at $432.2 million, a significant uptick from just $147 million the year prior.

The company ships invisible aligners directly to customers, and licensed dental professionals (either orthodontists or general dentists) remotely monitor the progress of the patient. Before shipping the aligners, patients either take their dental impressions at home and send them to SmileDirectClub or visit one of the company’s “SmileShops” to be scanned in person. SmileDirectClub says it costs 60% less than other types of teeth-straightening treatments, with the length of treatments ranging from four to 14 months. The average treatment lasts six months.

Though, members of the American Association of Orthodontists have taken issue with SmileDirectClub, previously asserting that SmileDirectClub violates the law because its methods of allowing people to skip in-person visits and X-rays is “illegal and creates medical risks.” The organization has also filed complaints against SmileDirectClub in 36 states, alleging violations of statutes and regulations governing the practice of dentistry. Those complaints were filed with the regulatory boards that oversee dentistry practices and with the attorneys general of each state.

SmileDirectClub explicitly calls out those issues in its S-1 as potential risk factors. Here’s a key nugget:

A number of dental and orthodontic professionals believe that clear aligners are appropriate for only a limited percentage of their patients. National and state dental associations have issued statements discouraging use of orthodontics using a teledentistry platform. Increased market acceptance of our remote clear aligner treatment may depend, in part, upon the recommendations of dental and orthodontic professionals and associations, as well as other factors including effectiveness, safety, ease of use, reliability, aesthetics, and price compared to competing products.

Furthermore, our ability to conduct business in each state is dependent, in part, upon that particular state’s treatment of remote healthcare and that state dental board’s regulation of the practice of dentistry, each which are subject to changing political, regulatory, and other influences. There is a risk that state authorities may find that our contractual relationships with our doctors violate laws and regulations prohibiting the corporate practice of dentistry, which generally bar the practice of dentistry by entities. Two state dental boards have established new rules or interpreted existing rules in a manner that purports to limit or restrict our ability to conduct our business as currently conducted.

Additionally, as the S-1 notes, a national dental association recently filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claiming that SmileDirectClub’s manufacturing violates “prescription only” requirements. While no regulations or laws have been passed that would affect SmileDirectClub to date, it’s a possible scenario that would greatly impact the company’s core business.

YouTube is hiring managers to work with political creators

YouTube is hiring managers to work specifically with progressive political publishers and conservative political publishers as the company faces accusations of censoring right-wing political content amid a crackdown on supremacist content and conspiracy theories.

The new managers will focus on “advising partners on YouTube channel development strategies and representing the political publisher landscape within the organization,” according to the job postings. Managers will also work on “bringing issues to resolution” and “organiz[ing] programs and events to help political publishers best utilize YouTube.”

A spokesperson for YouTube said the roles were a new addition within its news division. “One of the ways we work with top creators is by connecting them with a YouTube Partner Manager,” Ivy Choi, a spokesperson for YouTube, told The Verge. “We have experts for many of our content categories and are growing the partnerships team that works specifically with news creators — for both conservative and progressive news outlets.”

YouTube employs several partner managers to work with creators on a number of different topics, including gaming and beauty. But this new appointment appears to have come in response to the increased criticism around YouTube’s handling of politics. Conservative creators have voiced their frustrations with the company, accusing YouTube of censorship and discrimination against those on the right. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called out the company after an incident with conservative pundit Steven Crowder, who lost his ad privileges after using homophobic language to talk about Vox reporter Carlos Maza. (Disclosure: Vox is a publication of Vox Media, which also owns The Verge.)

“YouTube is not the Star Chamber — stop playing God and silencing those voices you disagree with,” Cruz tweeted. “This will not end well.”

Conservative creators threatened to leave YouTube en masse in early 2018 because of a perceived “purge” of conservative political content. Pundits, gun advocates, conspiracy channels, and other right-wing voices on YouTube aired their frustrations after people in the community started to receive community strikes or were locked out of their channels.

When YouTube executive Robert Kyncl was pressed about the outcry from the conservative community in May 2018, he told The Hollywood Reporter that the company doesn’t “intend to be on one side or another.“

“Our message is that we absolutely are leaning in to freedom of information and freedom of expression, subject to our community guidelines,” Kyncl said.

The heightened moderation has partly come in response to concerns about YouTube being a gateway for spreading harmful conspiracy theories about major events, including a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in March 2018. A video that called student David Hogg a crisis actor appeared on YouTube’s Trending page, which collects videos and puts an emphasis on them for site users. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones accused YouTube of censorship against conservatives and political bias when his channel was close to being deleted (before it actually was).

While it may appear to be censorship to some, there’s often little validity to these accusations. In Jones’ case, the two community guideline strikes he received were because he violated YouTube’s guidelines on cyberbullying and harassment, not because of his political views.

Outcries over perceived censorship have seemingly only gotten worse in today’s political climate. YouTube’s decision to hire managers to act as direct liaisons to conservative and progressive creators who have complained that they feel unheard, despite being able to talk to executives like CEO Susan Wojcicki, feels like an obvious next step.

T-Mobile Merger Delay Keeps Sprint and Dish on Edge

The T-Mobile-Sprint merger looked like it was pretty much a done deal a couple of weeks ago, when the Department of Justice gave its approval. However, it now looks like there won’t be a final answer until 2020. This will go down in history as one of the longest corporate merger attempts.

The delay will be hardest on Sprint and Dish Network. Even though T-Mobile looks stronger, it needs the deal too, as it transitions into 5G.

The good news for T-Mobile is that a recent earnings report shows continuing growth — but that also means regulators may not see this merger as necessary. However, as strong as the company is today, it simply does not have what it needs to succeed in a 5G world. T-Mobile desperately needs more wireless spectrum — something it can get through a merger with Sprint.

Sprint’s latest earnings show a company that is weaker than ever. It needs the merger with T-Mobile for survival. So the delay has cast a dire shadow over its future prospects. Sprint has plenty of spectrum, but it lacks the marketing magic to be successful in wireless.

Time Running Out

Sprint needs to be rescued, and quickly. If T-Mobile can’t do it, perhaps a cable television company — Comcast, Charter or Altice — could acquire Sprint and then be able to offer wireless services on a network it owned.

Dish Network needs to enter wireless as quickly as possible. In fact, it needed to enter wireless years ago. Perhaps Charlie Ergen was waiting for the right opportunity. This T-Mobile-Sprint merger could be that opportunity… if it ever gets done.

One way or another, Dish Network needs to move into wireless. One, offering wireless service could help slow its pay-TV customer losses. It might use the service the way Comcast uses Xfinity Mobile or Charter uses Spectrum Mobile. Two, if it doesn’t act, it risks losing the mobile spectrum it acquired years ago. Then Dish would be in even bigger trouble.

Dish Network’s Wireless Options

I have many questions with regard to Dish Network and wireless. One is whether it will enter wireless as a real competitor or just create a more valuable asset to sell.

Another is, if it moves into wireless, will it be an offensive or a defensive competitor? Will it be aggressive like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint, or passive like Xfinity Mobile, Spectrum Mobile and Altice Mobile?

Perhaps Dish has something else in mind. Maybe it will create a wireless provider for the cable television industry to use. That could make sense if Sprint’s assets are up to the task.

Then again, Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile already resell Verizon Wireless, a much larger and stronger competitor. Why would they consider a lesser provider? Altice Mobile will resell Sprint. So, as unlikely as this sounds, it remains a possibility.

New Questions About the Deal

There are many new questions surrounding this merger now that Dish is in the mix. That may be one of the reasons it is dragging on without an answer.

This merger may be on again, off again because the forces pushing back are not giving up. While I still like the idea, the water is getting muddy again. Now we have to wait until next year for the conclusion of this merger attempt, one way or the other.

Who knows whether this deal will finally be approved? While I hope so — for the sake of T-Mobile, Sprint and Dish Network — it simply is not a sure thing. What roles will Comcast Xfinity Mobile, Charter Spectrum Mobile and Altice Mobile play? Who knows at this stage? Stay tuned.


Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent analyst, consultant and speaker. Email Jeff.