Winners and losers of the week: Google rises and Zoom falls

Winners and losers of the week: Google rises and Zoom falls

This week was marked by two historic moments: Google presented its new Tensor SoC and Xiaomi managed for the first time to take the top spot in the ranking of smartphone sellers in the world. If on one hand Google and Xiaomi have a lot to celebrate, Zoom started the week having to pay an $85 million fine for violating user privacy.

As usual, before we dwell on the Winners and Losers, let's browse over the top tech industry news over the past seven days.

Xiaomi: Onwards and upwards

Mobile phones are on the rise and the company that has been reveling in that popularity is Xiaomi. After taking the 2nd place among mobile phone manufacturers by overtaking Apple in the second quarter of the year, Xiaomi was the company that sold the most smartphones in the month of June, surpassing Samsung.

The report signed by Counterpoint's market research teamrevealed that by June 2021, Xiaomi became the No. 1 global monthly smartphone sales volume. Which is quite an achievement for a company that has only 10 years in the market.

To achieve this feat, Xiaomi was helped by the financial recovery of markets like China, Europe and India, as well as Samsung's supply problems directly related to the latest waves of COVID-19 in Vietnam.

Google announces old Android versions to be blocked

The Android development team announced this week that it will [finally] block the use of older versions of Android, such as Gingerbread, for example. Thus, Google will prevent logging into these old versions of the system starting September 27.

AndroidPIT ANDROID Easter egg Gingerbread
Goodbye, Gingerbread! / © NextPit

The changes affect versions prior to 2.3.7, and in addition to the login, people will no longer be able to restart their devices after resetting the device to factory settings.

The aim of this measure is to improve the security of the Android ecosystem. According to Statista data, in April this year, only 0.04% of devices running Android worldwide were still using a version older than 4.0.3. To better understand the issue, visit: Older versions of Google will prevent logins on very old devices starting this September.

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Oppo hides front camera under the screen

Launch a smartphone without the famous notch (hole) for the front camera on the screen is nothing new, however, when a manufacturer hides the lens of the selfie camera under the screen, there is another story. Oppo this week introduced the latest version of this under-screen camera technology.

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The camera sensor is under the panel / © Oppo

The company ensures that it is not possible to see the camera sensor when we look at the screen and, in addition, the novelty does not affect the image quality of selfies.

Besides Oppo, ZTE has also unveiled its second generation of the technology. Unfortunately, we still don't know when the new feature will arrive on a phone from the brand. Hopefully, very soon!

Controversy on WhatsApp

Besides Zoom, another company that found itself in a PR crisis this week was Facebook. The reason: the claim that it would be looking for developers to analyze encrypted messages on WhatsApp via Artificial Intelligence (AI) for advertising purposes. The name of this is homomorphic cryptography, a growing field in the industry.

However, WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart has jumped the gun and denied the allegations using his own Twitter account. Anyway, I indicate here a list with the best alternatives to WhatsApp, in case you are already sick or tired of this kind of scare!

Streaming services get Lite plans?

And for those who want access to more features on Spotify and YouTube, but think it is not worth investing in a full monthly subscription, we had interesting news in the area of streamings. That's because both Spotify and YouTube decided to test a Lite plan.

In Spotify's case, the service offers a product [in test] called Spotify Plus, which costs $1 a month and, despite offering ads, opens up exclusive features.

Spotify Plus
Spotify for $1 in gringa! / © The Verge / Spotify

Already YouTube is testing a subscription model of 7 euros (about US$8.25), called Premium Lite. Thus, who uses the service on the European continent, would be free of advertising in the Premium Lite plan at the moment. However, some features of the Premium version are not available, such as access to YouTube Music, background playback or downloads to watch videos while offline.

Apple in the fight against child abuse

Near the end of the week, Apple announced new features against the spread of child abuse images for its operating systems. In a very straightforward way, child abuse material will be identified in iCloud Photos and the Messages app will alert on sexually explicit content.

The updated versions of iOS, iPadOS, macOS and watchOS expected later this year should already have this tool to combat the dissemination of this type of content. To know more about the topic, access the following link: iPhones will soon be able to detect child abuse images.

Okay, it's time to understand our picks of the week for the Winner and Loser posts!

Winner of the Week: Google and its Tensor SoC

In an unprecedented move, Google this week unveiled the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL, expected to launch this spring (in the Southern Hemisphere). My colleague Benjamin Lucks gave a full rundown of the devices, which have been elevated to the premium phone category in 2021. However, it wasn't exactly the new Pixels that put Google at the top of our editorial this week, but what's inside them.

In addition to software development, Google is now responsible for the processor that makes up the Pixel line. The "Tensor" is Google's first System-on-a-Chip (SoC) for mobile phones, and it puts the search giant on par with Apple, which is responsible for iOS development and engineering the processors in iPhones. I believe you're already getting my point, right?

Pixel 6 3
This is the look of the new Pixel 6 models! / © Google / The Verge

While we don't have enough data on Tensor yet, Google's decision to use its own processor allows it to offer a higher level of security to Pixel smartphones, better image quality in photos and videos, and an extra layer to exploit the Artificial Intelligence services present in Android.

In short, Google should now compete directly with Apple in smartphone manufacturing and, for the first time, will be able to expose the full potential of Android on the level that Apple does with iOS. Well, this is the expectation of many, and I include myself in this.

Loser of the week: Zoomboming

On the counterpoint to the expectation generated by our winner of the week, is the frustration caused by "Zoomboming." That's because Zoom decided to settle for the proposed settlement in a U.S. privacy violation lawsuit. If approved by the US legal body, the company will pay the equivalent of US$85 million to end the privacy class action lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, the company was accused of sharing users' personal data and of failing to provide basic security settings. According to the lawsuit, Zoom shared such data with companies like Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, thus violating the privacy of millions of people.

Zoom is one of the video conferencing platforms that received great popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, and while the company's unpreparedness in ensuring customer privacy borders on the absurd, acknowledging such mistakes and dealing with the consequences is commendable. However, it doesn't stop the company from being among the losers in our column this week.

So, do you agree with our choices for winners and losers of the week? Feel free to disagree and criticize in the comments below. See you next week!

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  • Paul Schmied 1 month ago Link to comment

    I agree with the goal but I'm uneasy about Apple analyzing every photo stored on an Apple device. It says the content will be identified on iCloud and Messages, but then says the tool is in the devices OS. Why the devices OS? Is Apple acting as an independent police force or a tool of one?

    Don't get me wrong, I detest pornographers, but most child abuse is by parents, not for titillation of themselves of others but because of unconstrained violence by people with other problems unrelated to photography.

    Apple "solution" at best can only intercept evidence by the few people who photograph their work and recipients of some pornography.

    I see no way for a devices OS to do this without analyzing content before encryption. That means it can potentially scan every file and violates user privacy. Second, how can it tell the difference between innocent private baby pictures shared between parents and extended family and porn? Third, what will it do if a device reports porn? Have stranger look at it?

    If this is being done by AI, then Apple must have an enormous collection of pornography, with people devoted to examining it, tagging it and training the AI though feedback. Imagine that. Apple has people employed to to look at porn, to identify subtleties of age and violence. Who is setting the standards, and how? I wonder if their shareholders are aware of that?

    To me this sounds a lot like the War on Drugs. That has been a miserable failure because it concentrated most of its resources on interception and consumers while the producers continue to produce.

    If Apple is serious about stopping its devices from creating porn with Apple devices, it could do so. Eliminate cameras on Apple devices, block images as insertions, attachments in email and uploads to iCloud.

    Then pornographers would have either to use non-Apple technology like digital cameras with Linux, Windows, Android and ChomdOS, encrypt uploads and/or give them non-graphic file extensions.

    They'd never think of doing that on their own, would they?