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Higher Priced Smartphones Mean Lower Purchases

This year and last, Samsung, Apple, and, recently, Google set the bar higher for smartphones pushing their price bar higher than ever before. It was somewhat necessary to recoup the costs of R&D, production, marketing, and the like. It also helped inflate the smartphones’ status as premium products to die for. It appears that they may be digging their own graves in the long run.

High-end components, of course, are more expensive than more common ones, but the rate of price increase doesn’t seem proportional to the build costs. The gap seems to grow even more for each new generation of smartphones.

Business considerations aside, this rise in prices has a double-edged effect on consumers. On the one hand, they paint the picture of a product that only a few can afford, which has the ironic effect of making it even more desirable. Apple has been doing it for years.

On the other hand, it is actually and factually something very few people can afford. That ultimately meant that fewer people actually bought the new phones, which may have contributed to last month’s decline in smartphone shipments last quarter, when the most expensive non-luxury phones shipped for the first time. 

The lower sales numbers become an even bigger problem in the context of the current practice of releasing flagship smartphones every year. Some, like Samsung, even release twice a year. Others release multiple ones at the same time or spread them over the months. Long story short, there are dozens of new phones every year.

The smartphone market is changing and so is user habits. Smartphone vendors aren’t, although some, like LG and HTC, may have noticed, even though they already had lower prices. Samsung may have seen clues, but it isn’t one to change directions so quickly. Apple is one that’s unlikely to change at all. High-end smartphones are becoming luxury items that very few can afford. And whatever few can afford, very few will buy. And that may spell trouble for the companies that rely on them to survive.


Former Google Engineer Says Bro-Culture Led To Repeated Sexual Harassment



 A  software engineer who worked at Google for seven years and fired in February 2016, is suing Google for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. The engineer says in her lawsuit that the company’s “bro-culture” led to continuous harassment and that Google did nothing to intervene. 

Throughout her time at Google, she was routinely sexually harassed, according to her lawsuit. She stated male coworkers spiked her drinks with alcohol and shot nerf guns at her regularly, and she says one male co-worker messaged her to ask for a “horizontal hug.” At a holiday party, Lee’s lawsuit says, a male co-worker slapped her across the face while he was intoxicated.

In one particularly disturbing incident detailed in the lawsuit,  a male coworker hiding under her desk when she returned after a short break. He refused to say what he was doing, the lawsuit says. “The incident with the co-worker under her desk really shocked her and had her nervous. The Plaintiff had never spoken to that co-worker before. She was frightened by his comment and believed he may have installed some type of camera or similar device under her desk,” the lawsuit says. Google’s human resources department pressured Lee during a series of meetings to make a formal complaint about the incident. However, her claims were found to be “unsubstantiated,” emboldening her coworkers to continue the harassment after she complained whereby, co-workers retaliated making it difficult for her to perform. She was subsequently terminated. 

This lawsuit is reminiscent of those raised last year by the engineer who blew the whistle about systemic sexual harassment at Uber. 

The treatment of women has put Google on the hot seat in recent months. It’s being sued by women who allege Google pays them less than men and investigated by the Labor Department into what it says is “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” Google says its own analysis of employee compensation shows no gender pay gap. 

At the same time, Google has encountered resistance from within its own ranks to diversity efforts to hire more women and people of color. 

Google Plans To expan It’s Workforce In Chicago


Google plans to expand its workforce in Chicago, as part of the company’s plan to add thousands of U.S. employees this year.

But it’s unclear exactly how many of those new jobs will be in Chicago. The company plans to invest in new or expanded offices in nine states, including Illinois. There will be jobs for thousands of people in a variety of roles — engineering, operations, sales and more. Mountain View, Calif.-based Google currently has more than 800 workers, mostly in sales, at its Midwest headquarters in Chicago’s Fulton Market district. The office is in 1KFulton, a 10-story former cold storage building at 1000 W. Fulton Market that Chicago developer Sterling Bay redeveloped into loft offices. 

Waymo vs Uber Revolves Around Allegations of Deceit, Betrayal, espionage & A High-Tech Heist


Waymo sued Uber, accusing it of ripping off key pieces of its self-driving car  technology in 2016. Uber paid $680 million for a startup run by Anthony Levandowski, one of the top engineers in a robotic vehicle project that Google began in 2009 and later became in Waymo.

Google was also an early investor in Uber, the relationship eventually soured. Its parent company Alphabet also owns Waymo.

Waymo has drawn a sordid picture, contending that Levandowski stole thousands of documents containing Google trade secrets before defecting to Uber. Waymo says Levandowski conspired with former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to use the pilfered technology in Uber’s own fleet of self-driving cars.

Uber has boldly denied the allegations in the civil case, which has also triggered a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s not clear whether that probe is focused on Uber or Levandowski, who has consistently exercised his right against self-incrimination and is expected to do so again if called to testify during the trial.

Levandowski’s refusal to relinquish his Fifth Amendment rights eventually led Uber to fire him last May, even though he had developed a close relationship with Kalanick.

The stakes in the trial are humongous. Waymo is demanding damages estimated at nearly $2 billion. It also wants a court order that would prevent Uber from using any of the technology that it says was stolen, a move that could hobble the ride-hailing service’s push to design self-driving cars.

The courtroom drama will feature an intriguing cast of characters. The list of expected witnesses includes both the combative Kalanick and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Gurley, an early Uber backer who later helped engineer Kalanick’s departure as Uber’s CEO. (Kalanick resigned under pressure last June.)

Two of the world’s richest people, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, may also be called to testify about the importance of Waymo’s self-driving project and Levandowski’s role in it.

Both Waymo and Uber each will have only have a total of 16 hours to make their case. That time restraint could prove more daunting for Waymo. It will have to educate a 10-person jury about the intricacies of the eight trade secrets that Uber is accused of stealing, then prove the ride-hailing service used the technology in its vehicles or improperly shared it with others.

The lawsuit has already established internal documents and sworn testimony that exposed spying programs and other shady tactics deployed by Uber to expand its business.

Furthermore, Uber has acknowledged allowing rampant sexual harassment to occur within its ranks, a yearlong cover-up of a major computer break-in and a $100,000 ransom paid to the hackers, and the use of duplicitous software to thwart government regulators.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup has emphasized that Waymo faces the difficult challenge of proving that the ride-hailing service used stolen technology in its self-driving cars.


Google Wants To Sell Zagat

Google has reportedly held “informal talks” with interested parties for a deal that would encompass the Zagat brand name and website. Mum’s the word on how much Google is after for the service, with Google keeping quite on the matter.

Google’s Smart jacket


You can grab the jacket at Levi’s website for $350, and of course, it’s not restricted to Android devices. It plays well with iOS (I tested it, just to make sure), and the music streaming and “What’s Playing” functionality works with all the top streaming services. You can download the app for the jacket over at the Play Store or the App Store.

Google Adding Resturant Wait Times


 Google will now include a pop-up box that appears when you click on a time frame in the popular times’ chart. The box will provide a live or historical data labeled as “busy,” “usually busy,” “usually not busy,” etc., along with the wait time.

Below the popular time’s chart, there’s also a section that helps users plan their visit by offering info on the peak wait times and duration. (e.g. “People typically spend 45 mins to 2 hr here.”)

The new wait time feature will be supported on nearly a million sit-down restaurant listings worldwide, initially in Google Search.

Google is at least partly challenging existing apps like NoWait, which is handy for seeing restaurant wait times.  NoWait also lets you put your name on the list for those restaurants that don’t take reservations Google’s app doesn’t.

You can view the times in the restaurant listings on both mobile and desktop. It will then come to Google Maps to Android, at which point it will expand to include grocery stores, the company says.

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