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We’re working, learning, in touch and entertained through the screen. But the companies that make those devices are not easy. And that makes our virtual lives more creepy and less complete than they can be.
For years, for many companies, it has been difficult to make money selling smartphones, personal computers, television sets, and online TV boxes like Roku and video game consoles. It takes a lot of expert knowledge and cash to efficiently manufacture complex electronics and it’s a constant battle to beat the price competition and get people’s attention. shopping.
Dynamism creates two paths for the consumer electronics devices that many of us rely on. One is for big companies to take over and overwhelm others. The other way is for companies to become money-eating monsters. Either way, it’s not good for us.
That’s hardly a bright spot for most of us, but last week, South Korean electronics giant LG said it could stop making smartphones. LG has for a long time been one of the top vendors of phones in the world. Not now. LG made many mistakes and competitors like Apple, Samsung and Huawei overcame it.
But it is also true that there is no room for relative microbes in many types of consumer electronics. Not long ago, there were still a lot of companies that made smartphones, PCs, and some other type of device like fitness wearables. HTC gave up smartphones. Sony has largely abandoned the PC. Remember Jawbone? Dead. Fitbit is currently owned by Google. These utility categories and more are just for whales.
Consolidation is natural when any product goes from hot new stuff to popular ones. I promise you that I’m not nostalgic about old smartphone brands. (Well, maybe I’m still blind to Palm.) But I know we’re going to lose something when companies with new ideas in devices have little chance and don’t even try.
And my bigger worry is that the difficulty of making it in hardware is driving the people who sell the device to do us good luck.
Famous TV brands keep track of what we’re watching and report it to companies that want to sell us new cars or credit cards. (Yes, that’s rude.) One reason they do is selling personal information is pure profit, while selling you TV is definitely not. Roku also makes real money not from selling our TV-connected gizmos to streaming apps, but from gigs that include a range of information about what we view that it uses to sell advertising.
You can think of these consumer electronics companies that Facebook basically sells screens to us as well. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel less affectionate about the “Cobra Kai” marathon.
A few days ago, Microsoft announced – and then quickly got thwarted – a sharp price increase on Xbox video game subscriptions. The price hike is a valid move, but it also reflects a harsh reality: Selling Xbox consoles delivers relatively thin margins for Microsoft. Add-ons like online registration are more beneficial.
Business & Economy
I don’t want to overstate what’s going on. In some areas of consumer electronics, many new ideas are still emerging. Don’t cry over Apple and its cash pile. But mostly, the hardware is hard. And that also makes things more difficult for us, at a time when we need our devices more than ever.
TOP TIP OF THE WEEK
Three must-have apps for every smartphone
Brian X. ChenThe New York Times personal technology columnist tells us the apps needed for download now.
The most downloaded apps today include TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Netflix. Leaving aside the most popular list are a few essentials that every smartphone needs. Here are my top three:
1. Password manager. The general rule of thumb is that each password you use should be unique and complex. But it is impossible to do that and remember all of them.
Password managers like 1Password and LastPass solve this problem. They allow you to store all your passwords in a digital vault that can be unlocked with one master password. In other words, you only need to remember one password. The app also includes tools to automatically generate complex passwords for you.
2. An ad blocker. Many online ads are loaded with snippets that collect your personal information and drain your phone battery; some even contain links to malware. Until the advertising industry finds a better way, our best way is to use an ad blocking app like 1Blocker to prevent ads from loading in a web browser.
Some people consider ad blockers to be problematic because they can drain the revenue from websites. But many apps allow people to choose their favorite websites and unblock those ads. (For Android users: Google doesn’t allow ad blockers to be downloaded through its app store. To install apps, you’ll need to use a method called streaming.)
3. An encrypted messaging app. Our online chats are no one else’s business. That makes encrypted messaging important.
Here’s how it works: When you send a message, it gets scrambled so that it can’t be decoded by anyone except the intended recipient.
If anyone else, including a government agency, wants to see your messages, no one – not even the application provider itself – can access the unsigned messages. For many years my favorite encrypted messaging app was Signal because of its excellent privacy protections.
Before we go …
Biggest consolidation effort at Amazon: Workers at a corporate warehouse in Alabama are expected to vote next month on whether or not to merge. My colleagues Michael Corkery and Karen Weise detail what both Amazon and some of their employees want, and how this union campaign connects with poultry processing factory workers.
Attract more kids online faster: New York officials have said it will “not” be possible to quickly install Wi-Fi in homeless shelters for students to participate in online classes. Several shelter operators have proven them wrong with imperfect but fully functional internet equipment, writes Andy Newman of The Times.
Black, deaf and extremely online: On TikTok and other apps, young people are drawing attention to the Black American Sign Language, a variant of ASL that scholars argue has long been ignored, co-workers of I’m Allyson Waller wrote.
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