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Facebook launches a Messenger hub to inform users about coronavirus

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Today, following the launch of a Facebook program that’s matching developers with organizations to build solutions that inform people about COVID-19, Facebook revealed the steps it’s taking to help Messenger users stay connected. Via a new hub — the Messenger Coronavirus Community Hub — the network is providing tips and resources to help users stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues, and community while preventing the spread of misinformation.

“Messenger helps you feel together with the people you care about, even when you can’t be together,” wrote Stan Chudnovsky in a blog post. “Around the world, we’ve seen significant increases in people using Messenger for group calls to stay in touch with their loved ones. Globally, 70% more people are participating in group video calls and time spent on group video calls has doubled. Whether it’s a one-on-one conversation with a friend or a video call with your extended family, Messenger can help keep you connected to your support system and help get us through these challenging times.”

Facebook says the hub will recommend activities like scheduling a virtual play date, connecting with kids’ teachers or other parents for school updates, and organizing group video chats or text groups. Additionally, it will highlight ways to identify false or misleading information about COVID-19, and it will suggest how to avoid online scams related to COVID-19 treatments or fundraising.

Separately, to limit the spread of misinformation about COVID-19, Facebook is exploring options like testing stricter limits for how many chats Messenger users can forward a message to at one time. The company has also banned ads for hand sanitizer, medical masks, and COVID-19 test kits in recent weeks.

“As this global public health crisis evolves, our mission to connect people around the world could not be more important,” said Chudnovsky. “We hope the hub can serve as a resource for people to help maintain their communities and social connections even when they can’t be together in-person.”

VB TRansform 2020: The AI event for business leaders. San Francisco July 15 - 16

The Messenger hub complements the coronavirus information center Facebook rolled out earlier this month, which collates sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and sits at the top of the news feed. It includes curated posts from politicians, journalists, and celebrities intended to spread useful health information.

Elsewhere, Facebook launched a WhatsApp information hub in partnership with the WHO, UNICEF, and UNDP to offer actionable guidance, advice, and resources to inform users about COVID-19. WhatsApp said that it’s working with the WHO and UNICEF to provide messaging hotlines for people to use directly.

Beyond its educational efforts, Facebook recently said it would roll out a $100 million grant program to assist 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries. It also teamed up with the WHO, Facebook, Microsoft, TikTok, and other health experts and tech companies to launch #BuildforCOVID19, a global hackathon that aims to find software solutions for challenges related to the novel coronavirus, and it donated $1 million to support the International Fact-Checking Network, a unit of the Poynter Institute dedicated to bringing together fact-checkers worldwide.



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T-Mobile Closes Merger With Sprint, and a Wireless Giant Is Born

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A new wireless giant has entered the scene.

T-Mobile and Sprint announced the closing of their $30 billion merger on Wednesday, the result of a long-in-the-works effort by both companies to speed the progress of wireless technology and put up a fight against AT&T and Verizon, the two companies that have long dominated the industry.

As part of finishing the deal, John Legere, the boisterous, magenta-clad chief executive who led T-Mobile for nearly a decade, handed over leadership reins to his longtime second-in-command, the more buttoned-up Mike Sievert.

The new business, called T-Mobile, will have about 100 million customers. To keep them and add to their ranks, the company plans to quickly develop the fifth-generation wireless technology that will bring broadband-style service through the air and is seen as a critical component of the nation’s infrastructure. T-Mobile has said that deploying 5G would have taken much longer and cost much more without the addition of Sprint.

Upgrading the networks also makes T-Mobile a formidable challenger to AT&T and Verizon, Mr. Sievert said in an interview. “It used to be that customers were forced to choose: Do you want a better network? Or a better value? Now you don’t have to choose,” he said.

The suit was brought in June after regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission approved the merger plan. The states argued that the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint would reduce competition, lead to higher cellphone bills and place a financial burden on lower-income customers.

Letitia James, the New York attorney general, a key plaintiff in the case, had argued that the merger would cost subscribers at least $4.5 billion annually. She called the February ruling in favor of the deal “a loss for every American who relies on their cellphone for work, to care for a family member and to communicate with friends.”

With the completion of the merger, the number of major carriers in the United States stands at three — for now. To obtain regulatory approval, T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to sell off certain assets, including Sprint’s prepaid wireless business, to the satellite TV service Dish. The pay-TV operator hopes to become a new fourth carrier, in place of Sprint.

The fight for customers among the major carriers has driven subscription prices downward. The average monthly wireless bill has fallen by over 25 percent in the past decade, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wireless carriers still enjoy fat profits, but they have flattened or declined in recent years.

The T-Mobile deal technically faces one more hurdle. The California Public Utilities Commission, which governs telecommunications services in the state, has yet to sign off on the merger.

The companies closed the deal Wednesday after Sprint made a clever technical maneuver. The company withdrew its application to the California agency after changing how it delivered voice calls. Last week, the carrier switched to an internet-based system for phone calls, meaning Sprint no longer makes use of landlines. That effectively nullified the commission’s authority over the deal, according to the company.



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OnePlus 7T vs. 7T Pro vs. McLaren edition: Confused? These are the main differences

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oneplus-7t-pro-mclaren-comparison

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Given the similar naming conventions of the OnePlus 7TOnePlus 7T Pro and OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition, it’s easy to be confused about OnePlus’ line of 7T phones. Released in the latter half of last year, the OnePlus 7T is the phone-maker’s current flagship phone. OnePlus then followed it up with a handful of other variants.

The reality is that these variants are similar, but there are some important differences to note in their specs, design, availability and, of course, price. I’ve broken down the main points below and you’ll also find a full spec comparison table at the end. 

OnePlus 7T series design differences

The 7T and 7T Pro are unmistakably cut from the OnePlus cloth with their soft blue colours and frosted glass backs. The major difference you’ll see is the cameras on the back — the 7T’s cameras are encased in a circular unit while the 7T Pro’s cameras are arranged in a vertical strip. All three phones have fingerprint scanners built into their displays.

The 7T Pro McLaren’s design veers off even further. It’s physically identical to the standard 7T Pro in terms of camera layout, but the blue colour has been replaced with a glossy black finish, with a subtle Damascus Steel effect that shimmers just under the surface. There are McLaren Papaya Orange effects dotted all over, including a metal strip around the cameras, an orange function slider on the side and an orange stripe around the bottom half of the phone. 

oneplus-mclaren-7t-pro-11

The McLaren edition flaunts a black and orange design.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Screen sizes?

The 7T has a 6.55-inch display with a 2,400×1,080-pixel resolution. Both Pro models have larger 6.67-inch displays with 3,120×1,440-pixel resolutions. That gives the Pros a pixel density of 516ppi, which is sharper than the 7T’s 402ppi. You may not really notice the marginal 0.12-inch size increase in day-to-day use, but the extra resolution bump should help make those high-res photos and videos pop a bit more. 

Keep in mind that the 7T has a teardrop-shaped notch that cuts into the top of the display to house the front-facing camera. The Pro models don’t have this as their selfie cameras mechanically slide out from the top edge of the phone when needed. As a result, their displays stretch from edge to edge and remain entirely unbroken by notches.

oneplus-7t-pro-11

The 7T Pro phones do not have a teardrop notch. Instead, their front cameras are embedded inside the top edge of the phones.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

What about processor power?

All three phones pack Qualcomm’s latest octa-core Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, clocked at 2.9GHz. The 7T and 7T Pro both pair that with 8GB of RAM, while the McLaren version comes with a meaty 12GB. It’s odd then that on benchmark tests, it’s the standard 7T that delivered the best scores.

On the Geekbench 5 processor test, the 7T scored 2,911 (multi-core), beating out the 7T Pro McLaren’s 2,854 and the standard 7T Pro’s 2,883. Similarly, on the 3DMark Sling Shot Unlimited graphics test, the 7T achieved an overall score of 8,782, beating the 7T Pro’s 8,720 and the McLaren’s 8,725. Admittedly, these differences are razor thin and barely qualify as differences at all. It is a little surprising though that the McLaren edition, with its RAM boost, didn’t produce better scores than its siblings. 

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition

Note:

Longer bars equals better performance

3DMark: Slingshot Unlimited

OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition

Note:

Longer bars equals better performance

These phones are more than capable of handling any of your everyday tasks, including video streaming and photo editing. Gaming was a breeze too, even with the graphically demanding game Asphalt 9: Legends, which played smoothly and had no discernible drop in frame rates. 

They all run Android 10 software, but the McLaren’s software has had some visual tweaks. It’s mostly just a darker colour scheme, with lots of orange thrown around to match the look of the outside of the phone. 

Is the storage the same?

This is where you get more for that “Pro” name. The standard OnePlus 7T comes with 128GB of storage, while both Pro models double that with 256GB. That’s worth keeping in mind, given that none of the phones have expandable storage. If you shoot a lot of video and store a lot of files locally, opting for a higher-capacity model is a smart investment. 

oneplus-7t-pro-2

The rear cameras on the OnePlus 7T Pro.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Are the cameras the same?

They all have a triple-camera setup on the back, consisting of a 48-megapixel main camera, a 16-megapixel super wide angle camera and a telephoto camera. The 7T, however, has a 12-megapixel telephoto camera, while both Pros have 8-megapixel telephoto cameras. It may seem odd that the telephoto resolution on the Pro models is lower, but they do offer 3x zoom, instead of only 2x.

In my testing, images from all three phones are sharp, with decent exposure and accurate colours. They all have a dedicated macro mode too, which lets you focus on objects close to the lens. It’s great if you want to take up-close shots of, say, insects and flowers, when you’re out and about. The overall camera quality is good, but it’s not quite up there with top models like the Pixel 4, iPhone 11 Pro or Galaxy S10 Plus. If photography is of the utmost importance to you, it’s worth considering spending more cash.

Do they use the same batteries?

The OnePlus 7T has a 3,800-mAh battery, which survived an impressive 16 hours on our battery drain test. The Pro models have slightly larger 4,085-mAh batteries, which isn’t a huge step up. I don’t expect much difference in battery life, particularly when you need to take into account the slightly larger displays that suck up more battery.

Anecdotally, I was able to get a day of mixed-use from the phones before they needed a top up. Like all smartphones, I’d want to give them a full recharge overnight. All phones support OnePlus’ ultra fast charging, which can take the phone from 0% to over 60% charged in 30 minutes. This is great if you forgot to give your phone a boost before heading on a night out. 

oneplus-7t-pro-10

All OnePlus 7T phones run the latest Android 10.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Do they have 5G?

Currently, these three phones do not have a 5G version. If you want to use a OnePlus phone on a fast 5G network, you’ll need to go for the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G — which is available in the UK and the US carrier Sprint.

Price and availability

Unsurprisingly, given its fancy branding and extra RAM, the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren edition is the most expensive of the three phones, coming in at £799. It’s only available in the UK and Europe for now, but for reference that price converts to about $1,010 or AU$1,515.

The regular 7T Pro is also unavailable in the US or Australia, but its UK price of £699 converts to about $895 or AU$1,330. The standard OnePlus 7T is available in the US and will set you back $599 or £549. It isn’t officially sold in Australia but that price converts to about AU$1,045.

What about OnePlus’ other 2019 phones?

The 7T series isn’t the only phone range the company launched last year. Back in May, 2019, it launched the OnePlus 7, 7 Pro and 7 Pro 5G.

The OnePlus 7 has a smaller 6.44-inch display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 (but not the faster Plus version), and either 6 or 8GB of RAM, depending on where you buy it. It also has a screen notch to house the front-facing camera and a dual camera on the back with a standard and telephoto lens.

The OnePlus 7 Pro meanwhile has a 6.67-inch display, the same Snapdragon 855 chip, a triple rear-camera setup on the back (normal, telephoto and superwide) and it has the pop-up selfie camera found on the 7T Pros. 

Finally, we have the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, which, as mentioned before is simply a 5G-enabled version of the 7 Pro.

OnePlus 7T series specs comparison

OnePlus 7T OnePlus 7T Pro OnePlus 7T McLaren edition
Display size, resolution 6.55-inch AMOLED; 2,400×1,080-pixels 6.67-inch AMOLED; 3,120×1,440-pixels 6.55-inch AMOLED; 2,400×1,080-pixels
Pixel density 402ppi 516ppi 402ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.34×2.93×0.32 inches 6.40×2.99×0.35 inches 6.40×2.99×0.35 inches
Dimensions (Millimeters) 160.94×74.44×8.13 mm 162.6×75.9×8.8 mm 162.6×75.9×8.8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.70 oz; 190g 7.27 oz; 206g 7.27 oz; 206g
Mobile software Android 10 with OxygenOS Android 10 with OxygenOS Android 10 with OxygenOS
Camera 48-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (telephoto), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle) 48-megapixel (standard), 8-megapixel (telephoto), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle) 48-megapixel (standard), 8-megapixel (telephoto), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle)
Front-facing camera 16-megapixel 16-megapixel 16-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2.96GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ 2.96GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ 2.96GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
Storage 128GB 256GB 256GB
RAM 8GB 8GB 12GB
Expandable storage None None None
Battery 3,800-mAh 4,085-mAh 4,085-mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No No
Special features 90Hz display, dual-SIM, Warp Charge 30T 90Hz display, dual-SIM, Warp Charge 30T 90Hz display, dual-SIM, Warp Charge 30T
Price off-contract (USD) $599 Converted: $900 Converted: $1,010
Price (GBP) £549 £699 £799
Price (AUD) Converted: AU$890 Converted: AU$1,330 Converted: AU$1,520

This article was originally published in November and has been updated.



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SoftBank is abandoning its $3 billion WeWork tender offer

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  • SoftBank is abandoning its plan to buy $3 billion worth of WeWork shares from other investors and employees, including some $970 million worth from company cofounder Adam Neumann.
  • The move likely means WeWork itself won’t be able to tap into a $1.1 billion credit line from SoftBank.
  • The share purchase effort and credit line were part of the WeWork rescue package SoftBank announced last fall. WeWork still has access to most of the financing SoftBank promised under that plan.
  • A special committee of WeWork’s board, representing Benchmark and other non-SoftBank investors, has threatened to take legal action against SoftBank. Benchmark planned to sell $340 million worth of shares to SoftBank in the deal, a source told Business Insider.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

SoftBank has decided to back out of a big part of its WeWork bailout package. 

The company will not go through with a planned purchase of $3 billion worth of shares from other investors and employees, including former CEO Adam Neumann, a source with knowledge of the matter told Business Insider. The decision also likely means that WeWork itself won’t be able to tap into a $1.1 billion credit line from the Japanese conglomerate; that debt financing was conditioned on SoftBank completing its share purchase plan.

The special committee of WeWork’s board of directors — Bruce Dunlevie, who is a partner at venture capital firm Benchmark, and Lew Frankfort, the CEO of Coach — confirmed SoftBank’s decision to abandon the share purchase in an emailed statement to Business Insider.

“The Special Committee is surprised and disappointed at this development,” Dunlevie and Frankfort said in the statement. “The Special Committee,” it continued, “will evaluate all of its legal options, including litigation.”

Dunlevie and Frankfort had previously threatened legal action if SoftBank backed out of the deal.

WeWork spokeswoman Valerie Sarnataro declined to comment, as did SoftBank spokeswoman Sarah Lubman.

Bloomberg previously reported SoftBank’s decision to abandon the share purchase.

SoftBank announced its $3 billion tender offer last fall as part of its plan to rescue WeWork after the real-estate giant’s failed initial public offering. Some $970 million of the offer was due to go toward buying shares from Neumann, WeWork’s cofounder, who was ousted from his roles as CEO and chairman after the failed IPO. The tender offer was due to expire at midnight New York time Wednesday.

SoftBank could be in for a fight from other WeWork investors

The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that SoftBank was considering walking away from its share purchase plan. The conglomerate reportedly warned WeWork investors earlier this month the real-estate giant wasn’t in compliance with the terms of the tender offer because it’s under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department, among other governmental bodies.

The decision to abandon the offer will likely increase tensions between SoftBank and WeWork’s other investors. Benchmark planned to sell $340 million worth of WeWork shares to SoftBank as part of the tender offer, which would have made it the biggest individual seller in the deal other than Neumann, a source familiar with terms of the tender offer told Business Insider. SoftBank was expected to buy another $1.5 billion worth of WeWork shares from other investors.

According to SoftBank, less than 10% of the $3.3 billion would have gone to current employees. But if former employees are included with current ones, that portion goes up to about 15% or around $450 million, according to the source, who asked not to be named. Some 1,000 to 2,000 current and former employees would have been able to sell their shares to SoftBank, said the source, who criticized the Japanese company for trying to play down the benefit of the offer to those employees.

“It is a large sum of money to people who need it in time like this,” said the source.

SoftBank’s withdrawal puts Marcelo Claure, WeWork chairman and SoftBank chief operating officer, in an especially tough spot as he balances leading a company navigating the coronavirus crisis as its biggest investor backs out of a major promise. In an October all-staff meeting leaked to Business Insider, he reassured employees who were nervous about the value of their options.

“Nobody should have a worthless option,” Claure said in October. 

As part of its rescue package, SoftBank sped up a previously planned $1.5 billion equity investment in WeWork, underwrote a $1.75 billion credit line from Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions, and offered a $3.3 billion credit line of its own to the company. WeWork only stands to lose out on $1.1 billion of the $3.3 billion SoftBank credit line as a result of the abandoned credit facility.

WeWork was once the crown jewel of SoftBank’s $100 billion original Vision Fund, with a valuation of some $47 billion. But public investors frowned on the company’s massive losses, high costs, and questionable executive transactions, forcing WeWork to abandon its IPO effort even after offering to cut its valuation by nearly 75%.

After the failed IPO, WeWork was mere weeks away from running out of money before SoftBank stepped in with its rescue package. That package helped stabilize the company for the short-term, but it’s still burning through copious amounts of cash — more than $1 billion in the fourth quarter alone.

The company went through $1.4 billion in the last quarter of 2019, per an investor letter released last week. WeWork ended the year with $4.4 billion in cash and cash commitments. 

Got a tip about WeWork or SoftBank? Contact Troy Wolverton via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. Contact Meghan Morris via Signal at 646.768.1627 using a non-work phone, email at mmorris@businessinsider.com, or Twitter DM at @MeghanEMorris. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.





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