In theory, the first Apple-made SIM card should break the lock carriers hold on new iPad users, freeing them to easily move from one cellular network to another. Too bad America's biggest mobile operators are gumming up the works.
SIM cards typically identify mobile devices to a particular network. Apple's new cards, however, are programmable, making it possible to switch carriers with a software update. That will not stand at AT&T, which will lock down Apple SIMs to its network, or at Verizon, which won’t support them at all. (Big Red will instead supply its own dedicated SIMs.)
The complications mount from there, depending on whether you buy your new iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3 from a carrier or directly from Apple. Frankly, it's a confusing mess.
Fortunately, outspoken T-Mobile CEO John Legere has volunteered to clarify things. Legere produced an epic "tweetstorm" over the weekend, firing off no fewer than 21 messages in rapid succession in his own (obviously self-interested) attempt to explain the chaos:
Apple has remained above the fray so far, which is noteworthy because it used to take a hard line whenever carriers interfered with its plans. Maybe it just doesn't want to play the heavy.
But it's also possible that the U.S. was never the real target for its universal SIM anyway. Maybe Apple was never after anyone but business travelers and international users in the first place.
iPad image courtesy of Apple
Facebook hasn't peaked yet, but that point may not be far off.
While 1.35 billion people use Facebook each month, its growth continues to slow, as it reported in its third quarter earnings report on Tuesday. Facebook's monthly active user count rose 13.5% year over year in the third quarter, compared to 14% in the second, 15% in the first quarter, and 16.3% in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Its continued slow growth points to a problem, albeit an enviable one. So many people already use Facebook that it's having increasinging difficulty attracting more of them, thanks largely to a lack of reliable Internet service in the developing world.
So what's a company to do if it relies on the Internet to fuel growth? Bring the Internet to the people.With Great Size Comes Great Ambition
During the earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the company's ten-year plan. It's nothing if not ambitous: It includes expanding Internet access throughout the world via Facebook's Internet.org initiative, as well as artificial intelligence technology and hardware like recently acquired Oculus Rift.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg added that the company has plenty of room to grow in parts of the world Facebook doesn't yet reach. She cited efforts like Facebook's partnership with Airtel in Zambia that provides people with access to free Internet services (including, naturally, Facebook).
Another hurdle facing the company is the Great Firewall of China, which has blocked Facebook from that country's 1.4 billion people since 2009. (Only a relative handful of Chinese users can access Facebook via proxy services that bypass government censors.) While Zuckerberg did his best during the call to play up the company's opportunities there, a top Chinese Internet official said in September that Facebook "cannot" offer its service freely any time soon.
WhatsApp and Instagram are available in China, although the government blocked Instagram after photos and video from protests in Hong Kong appeared on the service.
"We’re going to be here for decades and we want to create good relationships with these countries and businesses around the world," Zuckerberg said.
Despite slowing growth, Facebook's not having any trouble making money. Facebook pulled in $3.2 billion in revenue this quarter, much of that stemming from the company's mobile efforts. Mobile advertising now accounts for a full two-thirds of Facebook's overall ad revenue.What's Up With WhatsApp?
Facebook also released financial information regarding its WhatsApp messaging-app unit, which it acquired earlier this year. Of the $17 billion purchase price, Facebook considered $15 billion "goodwill," which is basically accounting-speak for the difference between what you pay for something and its actual fair market value.
WhatsApp isn't much of an actual business at this point—it posted a net loss of $138 million on just $10 million in revenue in all of 2013. Unlike Facebook, WhatsApp makes its money off a $1 per year subscription fee (though users get their first year for free), and for now it remains ad-free.
Lead image by Mark Zuckerberg
The latest crop of horror flicks are full of nothing but a bunch of recycled clichés. These oft-repeated tropes deserve to meet a bloody end. Do we really need Michael Bay bringing another Hasbro product to life with Ouija? And who asked for that new wannabe Blair Witch Project movie Exists? Angry Nerd explains why the only frightening thing this Halloween is the surplus of crappy horror flicks.
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Could science have an answer for why some people seem to feel the weather in their bones?
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Schmidt thinks it's a waste of time for companies to build the same foundations again and again, which is why he founded Meteor, which builds an open source web programming framework that anyone can use to build complex, desktop-style applications in the browser. "The idea of Meteor is that everyone should have that stuff," he says. "It shouldn't take a couple years to get to the market."
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Dan Scudder runs a tie-of-the-month business called Root Bizzle. He and two buddies launched the startup last year. The basic idea is simple: People sign up for the subscription service, and each month, the company sends them a tie that suits their particular tastes. But actually pulling this off was rather complicated. After launching the […]
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This camera-bedecked jacket, made by a pair of artists from South Korea, questions how we'll behave in a world that's recorded more and more each day.
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Tom Ryan wanted to build something that could identify criminal behavior inside massive mobile networks, stock trading services, ecommerce sites, and other online operations. So he turned to a pair of familiar names for help: Facebook and the NSA. He didn’t exactly knock on Facebook’s front door—let alone the NSA’s. But he did adopt a […]
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One of the few true pleasures of walking around Midtown Manhattan is its predictability. Let’s just say you were dropped off at the corner of 32nd street and 5th avenue—no phone, no map, no friendly direction-giving strangers to be found—and had to make your way to Central Park. You could do it with little trouble, […]
There’s a singular truth about the state of mobile today: All the cellular carriers limit bandwidth for heavy data users. But the devil is in the details. And that's where AT&T is now locking horns with the Federal Trade Commission, which is suing the wireless operator over what it contends is a good old-fashioned bait-and-switch over the company's grandfathered unlimited data plans.
AT&T’s pants aren’t entirely on fire—merely charred and smoking. Technically, subscribers with unlimited data plans can still use as much data as they want. But if they use too much—as determined by AT&T—the carrier will throttle down their data speeds to Stone Age levels.
According to the FTC's filing, the carrier isn't doing enough to make that clear to people.AT&T Throttling Goes Back Years
In 2010, following three years of steadily rising data traffic due to the iPhone, AT&T introduced tiered data plans that capped data usage at levels ranging from 200MB to 2GB. At the same time, it tried to end its unlimited plans, sparking outrage among existing subscribers. The carrier ultimately let those with unlimited-data plans keep them. Only new customers would be forced into tiered plans.
The problem is, AT&T is still calling those plans “unlimited,” even though it clamps down on data speeds for heavy users. This is the heart of the lawsuit. “‘Unlimited' means unlimited," tweeted FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. And yet, AT&T takes aim at those subscribers in particular with its “network management process.”
AT&T's policy states that unlimited users who exceed 3GB (for 3G devices) or 5GB (for 4G/LTE devices) in a month will experience slower speeds. The purported idea is to offset the heavy data loads that congest AT&T's network, as its webpage explains:
As a result of the AT&T network management process, customers on a 3G or 4G smartphone with an unlimited data plan who have exceeded 3 gigabytes of data in a billing period may experience reduced speeds when using data services at times and in areas that are experiencing network congestion. Customers on a 4G LTE smartphone will experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle exceeds 5 gigabytes of data. All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle.
It all sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? It should: Throttling is a common practice among carriers. AT&T’s policy is very similar to the same unpopular approach Verizon proposed, but ultimately abandoned in the face of pressure from the FCC.
The FTC singles out AT&T’s practice as “deceptive” because the service provider doesn't make its tactics clear to subscribers. Worse, the commission alleges that AT&T doesn’t just slightly reduce individual speeds to collectively preserve the network. It claims the carrier clamps down so hard that common activities such as streaming video or music wind up being "difficult or nearly impossible.”
So far, the FTC estimates 3.5 million customers have suffered this experience more than 25 million times.
AT&T, predictably, issued a press statement calling the accusation “baseless”:
The FTC’s allegations are baseless and have nothing to do with the substance of our network management program. It’s baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts. We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning. We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented. In addition, this program has affected only about 3% of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message.
AT&T's claim that it reaches out to the users it throttles seems legit. But that doesn't mean the FTC will back down. From the looks of it, AT&T may not either.
Then again, it may have to if it’s using "everyone else is doing it too” as one of its main arguments. That never seems to work when carriers fling that at federal regulators.
Just ask Verizon.
Photo by Rob Wilson for Shutterstock
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