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Apple’s new, lower priced iPhone draws tepid response in Asia

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HANGZHOU, China/SEOUL (Reuters) – Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) new, lower priced iPhone that comes with a faster processor but lacks 5G technology disappointed Asia, where cheaper and feature-packed handsets from rivals are already available.

FILE PHOTO: CEO Tim Cook presents the new iPhone 11 at an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

The iPhone 11, launched on Tuesday for $50 less than last year’s base XR model, was met with a limp response from social media users in Asian markets that are dominated by Huawei Technologies and Samsung Electronics (005930.KS).

Lowering the entry price point, a rare move from Apple, was likely an effort to attract buyers in China, where Apple has ceded ground to Huawei due to a surge in support from patriotic Chinese consumers after the Chinese brand was caught in the U.S.-China trade standoff, said analysts.

Despite the reduction, the iPhone 11, and even the higher-end models with more camera lenses, are set to come up short in Asia.

“Apple’s new phones were no surprise at all. Only tangible change is having an additional camera on their premium model,” said Park Sung-soon, an analyst at Seoul-based Cape Investment & Securities.

“However, it is noticeable that Apple has made a price cut for the newest iPhone for about $50, which is a very rare move for the company. The move might be aiming to manage and reduce potential risks drawn by the U.S.-China trade war.”

The iPhone 11 will have two back cameras and is priced starting at $699, down from $749 for the XR last year. On Tuesday, Apple also dropped the price of the XR by $150.

The more expensive iPhone 11 Pro will have three cameras on the back and starts at $999. The bigger screen iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at $1,099.

(Graphic: Apple unveils new iPhones – here)

“Since we still have to wait a year for 5G, why not just buy Huawei on Monday,” said one user on China’s Twitter-like service Weibo. Huawei and smaller rival Vivo have already released 5G models in China, and Samsung in South Korea.

A meme doing the rounds on Chinese social media featured Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook bragging about the new features and Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, shutting him down by pointing out that Huawei has had those features for years.

“(Apple) just added one more camera lens and called it a new feature, meanwhile it is still too pricey,” said a user on South Korea’s Naver.com web portal.

One of the main draws of the new launch for U.S. buyers – a $5 per month Netflix-like streaming service – will not be available in China.

FEATURES VS PRICE

Counterpoint analyst Neil Shah said the entry price, while lowered by Apple, remains high compared to local rivals. Combined with the lack of 5G, that made the new iPhones “less attractive and future-proof” for Chinese consumers, Shah said, forecasting that Apple will sell 30-35 million iPhones in China this year, down from 63 million phones in 2015.

Apple’s share of the China market in the June quarter fell to 5.8% from 6.4% in the year earlier period, according to research firm Canalys. It has also lost ground in South Korea, with market share dropping to 11.2% from 12.5%, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

In India, a market that Apple has said is key for growth, reaction to the new phones was muted as well.

“I don’t believe customers will buy more iPhones now because the new models sport more cameras, it will not move the needle much for them,” said Navkendar Singh, research director at IDC India.

Customers in India who care more about owning Apple-branded phones over the latest model are now likely to buy the discounted XR instead, Singh said.

FILE PHOTO: Kaiann Drance presents the new iPhone 11 at an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

Still, some analysts said that Apple’s decision to lower the entry price for the new iPhone, one of the most discussed topics on Weibo on Wednesday, was a positive sign.

“We think the lower iPhone 11 price point and trade-in program will help promote upgrades, specifically in China, while the Apple Arcade and TV+ offerings will help accelerate services growth,” CFRA analyst Angelo Zino said in a research note.

The new phones will be available to order on Friday and start shipping Sept. 20.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz in Hangzhou, Heekyong Yang in Seoul, Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Sankalp Phartiyal in Mumbai; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Jane Wardell and Muralikumar Anantharaman



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Few U.S. lawmakers hit ‘like’ button after Facebook CEO visits Capitol Hill

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up three days of discussions with Washington movers and shakers on Friday, with few if any indications he had won new “friends” to help the top social media company deal with multiple probes by Congress, state attorneys general and federal regulators.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, won some praise for agreeing to lengthy talks behind closed doors with officials ranging from President Donald Trump to a long list of lawmakers.

Trump posted a photo with Zuckerberg on Twitter and called their Oval Office session on Thursday a “nice meeting.” Facebook called Zuckerberg’s discussion with Trump “a good, constructive meeting” but neither side disclosed specifics.

The company faces a barrage of criticism from members of both parties and the public over issues ranging from political bias to privacy lapses, election-related activity and its dominance in online advertising.

An advertising powerhouse, Facebook also faces antitrust investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and a number of state attorneys general, as well as numerous legislative proposals that seek to restrict how it operates. Facebook may also face an antitrust probe by the U.S. Justice Department.

Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who arranged a dinner for Zuckerberg with other senators Wednesday night, told Fox Business Network, “Facebook leadership realizes that failure to have federal legislation (on internet issues) is actually going to hurt them and the whole platform industry in the long run.”

After the dinner, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he had brought up Facebook’s “repeated failures” in election security and consumer privacy. “We had (a) serious, substantive conversation even when we may have differed,” he said in a statement.

Another critic was Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican who has accused Facebook of suppressing conservative speech. After meeting with the Facebook founder Thursday, Hawley said discussions had been “frank,” often a euphemism for contentious.

Hawley urged Zuckerberg to sell Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp units, which would limit how much information it could compile about an individual.

“Safe to say he was not receptive to those suggestions,” Hawley said dryly.

Zuckerberg was in no mood to talk to reporters between meetings, refusing over and over again to offer even the barest assessment of the discussions.

Also on Friday, Facebook said it had suspended tens of thousands of apps on the social networking platform, its first major update on an ongoing app developer audit it began in March 2018 to prevent a repeat of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Rep. David Cicilline, chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said Friday that Zuckerberg pledged cooperation with the panel’s probe into online markets.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened an investigation into competition in digital markets in June, one of a series of investigations facing big tech companies like Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

Last week, the panel demanded emails, detailed financial information and other company records from the four companies’ top executives. They have until Oct. 14 to produce the documents.

While lawmakers like Hawley and Blumenthal seemed unsatisfied with Zuckerberg’s responses, Senator Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, took a milder tack.

“I encouraged him to come to the table, help us out — and this is not an adversarial role from my perspective,” Collins said, noting they did not discuss whether Facebook will comply with the document requests. “I think with their involvement you are going to see a lot more participation.”

Writing by Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio



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Alyssa Thomas Is One of a Kind of a Big Deal in the W.N.B.A.

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. — In theory, it should be possible to slow down or even stop Alyssa Thomas, the hybrid 6-foot-2 forward for the Connecticut Sun.

Plagued by significant injuries to both her shoulders, Thomas is unable to raise her arms above her head right now. Yet the often-overlooked Thomas is the player no one on the star-studded Los Angeles Sparks frontcourt can stop as the semifinal series shifts to Game 3 on Sunday — and the player who has posted a pair of double-doubles over the past week to lead the Sun to within one win of the W.N.B.A. finals.

Thomas draws comparisons to many of the best in the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. alike, yet she possesses a game entirely her own.

“I’ve had to change my game,” Thomas said, sitting at her locker after posting 12 points and 13 rebounds in Thursday night’s Game 2 win. “At Maryland, I was all about mid-range jumpers, doing all of that. And I know how people are going to play me. But I do have a full game, and I do attack really hard. So despite how people are playing me, I still can find my way to the rim.”

People struggle for easy analogues to Thomas. She finds open teammates, an additional playmaker on a starting five with a more traditional point guard in Jasmine Thomas and a combo guard, Courtney Williams, who reached a career-best assist percentage this year.

Miller, after Game 1, compared her to Candace Parker, another forward capable of running her team’s offense. But Parker’s array of shots, her length and her rim protection are of a fundamentally different shape than Thomas’s overall contributions.

Thomas’s college coach, Brenda Frese, compared her to LeBron James, with his ability to physically overwhelm opponents. Frese knew she had found someone special when she first saw Thomas play in high school, and skipped a U.S.A. Basketball event to go see Thomas instead at the Battle of Baltimore, a local tournament.

Image
CreditEthan Miller/Getty Images

“I had chills,” Frese said. “I instantly knew, just watching her in the layup line warming up. I couldn’t wait for the game to start. … What separates Alyssa is her speed, power and competitiveness. You cannot stop her in the open court in transition.”

Thomas’s success is also a fortuitous meeting of player skill and a larger basketball moment. She played well as a rookie for the Sun in 2014 under then-coach Anne Donovan, but Donovan plugged her into a more traditional power forward role. Only after Miller took the helm in 2016 did an offense tailored to Thomas’s facilitating skill set begin to take shape.

There’s just one outcome to expect — success — when Thomas collects the ball, as she often does, off the defensive glass, and smoothly rumbles up the court as a facilitator. But good things can also happen out of an array of outlet passes, most remarkably, the 70-foot bounce pass she has used since her high school days. No one taught her to throw those. No coach would, Frese said.

“She definitely had that mastered before coming to Maryland,” Frese said. “When I see a player that is that powerful you definitely want them to have the green light to play to their strengths. I am fortunate that I have been able to coach only a few players that do possess those talents, but it’s not something I would teach as it takes a special gift to be able to do so.”

Those gifts came in part from an upbringing by two collegiate basketball-playing parents, Tina Klotzbeecher-Thomas and Bobby Thomas, both of whom played at Division II Millersville. But Thomas said she was undersized for much of her childhood, and so her parents pushed her to acquire guard skills, just in case the expected growth spurt for the progeny of a 6-foot-4 father and 5-foot-10 mother never came to pass.

Fortunately for Maryland, and now the Sun, she grew. And the net result is a rebounder who managed to grab 13 boards on a Thursday night the Sparks totaled just 24, and 15 fast break points for a team that operates in transition more, per Synergy, than any W.N.B.A. team other than the Las Vegas Aces.

Her bravado may not be as pronounced as her teammate Williams’s, her skills as easily recognized as the 6-foot-6 center Jones. But the inevitability of Thomas’s success has never been clearer.

“I don’t care who’s in front of me, how tall you are, I will find a way,” Thomas said. “And if you block my shot, I’m coming right back at you.”



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Get advice on the latest growth tactics from Demand Curve at Disrupt SF – TechCrunch

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We’re going to try something new at Disrupt this year, based on the great response we’ve been getting to our startup how-to coverage. We’re going to put service provider experts on our Q&A stage, where you can talk to them directly in-person about key topics like growth, fundraising and recruiting.

To help kick off this experiment, we’ve asked growth marketing expert Asher King Abramson to lead a session where he’ll tear down your landing pages and Facebook/Instagram ads in front of a live audience. He’ll deconstruct how effective they are at (1) conveying what you do (2) and doing so enticingly — so that people click.

If you’re attending Disrupt and want to participate, you can submit your assets to ec_editors@techcrunch.com for him to consider.

Get your Disrupt tickets here (you’ll also get a very large discount on an Extra Crunch subscription).

If you’re not familiar, Abramson is the cofounder of Bell Curve, a growth marketing agency widely used by Y Combinator companies and others around Silicon Valley and the world, the cofounder of Demand Curve (YC s19), and a frequent industry speaker on growth (you can see some of his webinars here). We recently named Bell Curve to Verified Experts, our growing list of service providers who startups love to work with, based on founder recommendations. You may also be familiar with his cofounder, Julian Shapiro, a columnist here at TechCrunch who has covered topics for us including trends in paid channel ad prices, how well different sectors monetize and now a regular column featuring tips from across top growth marketers.

This focus on growth is part of our larger orientation towards building great companies via coverage in our new Extra Crunch subscription product.



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