Four years ago, I wrote a blog post introducing a new feature from me, the Friday Tech Fix – and then I promptly stopped writing blog posts for 4 years.
Now I’m back, and with me comes this week’s edition of the Friday Tech Fix. My purpose here is simple: to share with you what I think are the most important tech stories of the week, and why you should care about them. At some point I may turn this into a podcast (or video), but now I’m taking small steps.
Contract Tracing is Coming to a Phone Near You. Easily the biggest tech story of the week was the news that Apple and Google have teamed up to build a coronavirus tracking system into iOS and Android. It will use Bluetooth connections, not location data, to track those who have been diagnosed as well as those who come into contact with infected people. The purpose of the new technology is contact tracing, which means just how it sounds: if a person is infected, his or her contacts will be tracked down and notified, until everyone who’s exposed is out of circulation. Bluetooth is apparently a less-intrusive way of tracking contacts, but it’s only one way that countries are choosing to ramp up surveillance activities in combating the virus. Part of the new technology will be automatically pushed to your phone; you’ll probably have to opt-in to using the rest. Here’s how it might work for you. There are a lot yet to learn, but here are twelve things we do know. Bottom line: most commentators say Apple and Google have the right idea about privacy, but the tech may be vulnerable to trolls and false notifications. More to come.
New Phones for You! There were two exciting phone announcements this week, from different ends of the phone spectrum. First, Android indy favorite OnePlus announced the new OnePlus 8 ($699) and OnePlus 8 Pro ($899). While the 8 seems to be a pretty good, okay phone, the 8 Pro looks like it can compete with the links of Samsung’s Galaxy S20 line. The Verge called it Big League in its review (Spoiler alert: I’ve already ordered one). Not to be outdone, the folks in Cupertino rolled out the new iPhone SE, which according to tech experts is “the guts of the iPhone 11 stuffed into the body of an iPhone 8.” Best of all is the price: the $399 starting price should make this one of the best selling phones of the year.
This new video service is nothing to Quibi about. At a time when most of us are binge-watching everything we can on Netflix and Hulu, a new video service that dares to go in the other direction definitely deserves some attention. Quibi actually debuted last week, but already 1.7 million have downloaded the app. Short for “quick bites,” Quibi offers dramas, comedies, game shows, news, documentaries, with big-name stars – all in quick bites of 5-10 minutes. Founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg (Dreamworks SKG) and Meg Whitman (formerly of eBay and political races), the company has $1.8 billion behind it, and it shows; the app is really beautiful and fun to use. It uses a new technology Quibi calls Turnstyle, which allows you to watch the video in Portrait or landscape modes, with the ability to see different angles or shots depending on the orientation. But therein lies one of Quibi’s biggest problems: it’s only available for your phone. You can’t watch it on an iPad or TV, which may affect adoption down the road. Reviews have been decent, but not overwhelming – the good news is that Quibi is free to use for 90 days, so give it a try. It’s just one more source of entertainment for sheltering in place.
That’s it for this week – let me know what you think!