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This is my periodic reminder that while it's a great way to get Axios' tech coverage, Login isn't the only way. We have stories throughout the day in our technology stream.

Google's Pixel 2 packs power into an unassuming design

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Photo: Google

From the leaked images and rumored specifications, I fully expected Google's Pixel 2 to underwhelm. And, to be sure, it doesn't have the sexy curves or edge-to-edge screen of the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG V30 or Apple's iPhone X.

But in using the phone, I found it to be one of the most comfortable, powerful and no-hassle Android phones I've used.

The bottom line: The small size of the Pixel 2 means it fits comfortably in the hand (phablet lovers don't need to worry, there is an XL model too.) It's got a great camera and, as a Google-made smartphone, will be the first in line to get Android updates. Starting at $649, it's not the most affordable smartphone, but it won't break the bank either.

Aimed at switchers: As a regular iPhone user, I appreciated the effort Google took in order to easily bring over not just my contacts, but iMessage data and apps too.

You can read my full review here.

Trump hates fake news but loves big media

Illustration: Sam Jayne / Axios

President Trump continues to publicly belittle big media organizations as "fake news," but in Washington, his administration's moves are a boon to big media companies. Telecom and technology companies are being deregulated while smaller media companies worry about their ability to survive, Axios' Sara Fischer and David McCabe report.

Why it matters: On the campaign trail, populist candidate Trump vowed to "break up the new media conglomerate oligopolies" and to shut down the biggest media deal of the year. But Trump's administration has actually encouraged consolidation as part of its deregulatory blitz.

Consider:

  • The number of announced media deals rose under the new administration, per PwC, with both the first and second quarter eclipsing the final year of the Obama administration in deal volume — as well as much of 2015.
  • While analysts say changes in viewing habits are driving consolidation in the media industry, they also say that's being helped along by the administration's deregulatory stance.
  • Google and Facebook are growing bigger than ever: Trump told Axios earlier this year that Facebook's dominance didn't concern him, because the platform enables him to communicate directly with the American people.
  • From regulators to Republican lawmakers, there's been little appetite to take on the companies beyond mandating more transparency for political ads — something that's grounded in national security concerns, not antitrust doctrine.

Sara and David have more here.

The show we can't stop watching

Netflix

Netflix blew past user growth expectations, reporting Monday that it added 5.3 million new subscribers last quarter, upwards of 1 million more than expected.

  • In total, it added 850,000 new U.S. subscribers and 4.45 million new international subscribers.
  • Netflix predicted it will add 6.3 million new subscribers in the current quarter, which would bring its total to more than 111 million paid subscribers globally.
  • The company also continued to beat expectations on revenue, although profit came in slightly lower than anticipated.

And, by continuing to invest billions of dollars in original content, the company hopes to continue what it sees as a "virtuous cycle" that makes its service ever more compelling (though critics would say ever more expensive too.)

The numbers: Netflix already accounts for 46% of streaming video usage by U.S. adults, per Nielsen, compared to 15% for YouTube, 8% for Hulu, 4% for Amazon, and 11% for all other video services. (The remaining content was securely delivered in ways that made its origin hard to discern).

Sara Fischer has more on Netflix in her weekly Axios Media Trends newsletter (sign up here).

Microsoft aims to woo more gov't customers to its cloud

Aiming to build on the more than 7,000 government customers already using Azure and other cloud products, Microsoft is adding new products tailored specifically for the security needs of that segment.

Why it matters: Microsoft's recent growth has been driven by its cloud platform and the government sector is a key area for growth.

The details: The company is announcing several new products aimed at the government clients using its Azure cloud services, David McCabe reports.

  • A new blockchain tool will let government cloud users handle tracking, said Gail Thomas, the company's vice president of U.S. public sector, using the example of contracts issued as part of a natural disaster recovery effort.
  • The company will debut a version of its Azure cloud data center for projects with information classified as secret. Those projects "require a special level of secure data storage because they consider secret classified data — so now we'll be able to work on that with those entities," said Thomas. It's also adding more tools for managing an organization's security in the cloud.

Take note

On tap: Microsoft is releasing its "creators update" to Windows 10, adding support for VR headsets, among other features...The Wall Street Journal's WSJDLive tech conference takes place in Orange County, Calif...IBM reports earnings.

Trading places: Microsoft nominated former Commerce secretary Penny Pritzker and Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson to join its board of directors...Jyoti Bansal, whose last company AppDynamics was recently sold to Cisco for $3.7 billion, is working on a new startup called Harness.io, CNBC reported.

ICYMI: Google quickly pulled the plug on a half-baked feature that offered Google Maps users information on how many calories they would burn if they walked, rather than drove to a nearby destination. The feature was quickly panned as being overly intrusive and potentially triggering for those with eating disorders, BuzzFeed says...SoftBank has already reshaped the world of tech venture capital with its $100 billion Vision Fund, but Recode reports the Japanese investment giant is in talks on a second, perhaps larger effort...CNBC reported that Apple held acquisition talks, since ended, with medical service provider Crossover Health...The Department of Homeland Security issued new guidelines mandating federal departments use Web and email security standards ...Meanwhile, Russia fined secure messaging service Telegram for refusing to turn over its encryption keys, per Forbes.

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Axios Review: Google's unassuming Pixel 2 impresses

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Photo: Google

From the leaked images and rumored specifications, I fully expected Google's Pixel 2 to underwhelm. To be sure, it doesn't have the sexy curves or edge-to-edge screen of the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG V30 or Apple's iPhone X.

But in using the phone, I found it to be one of the most comfortable, powerful and no-hassle Android phones I've used.

Our Take: Google's second Pixel improves on the strengths of the first model by replacing a great camera with an even better one, making the device waterproof and adding several improvements on the software side. It offers a comfortable, if not dazzling design at a price that won't break the bank.

Aimed at switchers: Google has also made it an incredibly easy move for iPhone switchers. An included dongle lets one easily move a range of data from the iPhone, including iMessages. Plus, Google will automatically match as many of your apps as it can and install those.

The camera: Google puts a ton of emphasis on the camera and it shows. The camera on the original Pixel performed well and the new one scored best-ever ratings on a leading industry benchmark. What's more, Google manages to get a pleasant portrait effect with just a single rear camera. (see below for a comparison with Apple's iPhone 8 Plus)

The software: Some of the Pixel 2's key advances aren't visible until you turn it on, including the Google Lens smart camera software and the ability to squeeze the phone's exterior to summon the Google Assistant. The Pixel 2 will also support Pixel Buds, a $159 pair of wireless headphones that can do real-time language translation. As with other Pixel devices, it also guarantees prompt access to the latest Android updates.

Who it's good for: Most people looking for a solid, powerful Android phone.

Who it's not: If you are on a budget or want the flashiest hardware, the Pixel may not be for you.

The practicalities: The Pixel 2 starts at $649, while the XL version starts at $849. Verizon is the only carrier selling it directly, but it is available unlocked from Google and works with all the major carriers.

Since the camera is a key selling point, here is a comparison image of the portrait mode on the Pixel 2 and Apple's iPhone 8 Plus.

Pixel 2:

Ina Fried / Axios

iPhone 8 Plus:

Ina Fried / Axios

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NBA augmented reality app lets you shoot baskets anywhere

The NBA AR app lets you turn any place into a virtual hoops court. Photo: NBA

The release of ARKit has developers large and small experimenting with different ways to incorporate a dash of augmented reality into their mobile apps. While Major League Baseball is exploring ways of using AR to improve the experience for fans at the ballpark, the NBA has a new free app designed to let fans play virtual hoops in any open space.

Why it matters: Sports leagues are all about capturing a chunk of people's entertainment time and budget. If people are going to be spending time in AR or VR, it's important for the leagues to find the right opportunities to interact.

"We've always said that basketball can be played virtually anywhere – and today that takes on an expanded meaning," Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the league's senior VP of digital media, said in a statement.

How it works: A hoop, with the logo of your favorite team, can be placed just about anywhere and overlays on top of the real world, as seen through the smartphone camera. Shots can be taken with a flick of the wrist and the virtual court can go basically anywhere. It's designed for outside use, but works fine in indoor spaces too.

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Gates Foundation is giving away mobile wallets software

Gates Foundation deputy director Kosta Peric focuses on bringing financial services to the world's poor. Photo: Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is offering the software needed to power mobile wallets free of charge as part of an effort to bring more financial services to the developing world.

Why it matters: Mobile wallets have proved a huge hit in a few places, such as Kenya, but there are many places without access to phone-based banking, and the lack of interoperable software has kept a cross-border system from taking hold and left even successful efforts isolated.

The software, dubbed Mojaloop (playing off Moja, the Swahili word for "one"), was paid for by the Gates Foundation and developed through a number of technology partners. The goal is for it to be used by governments, central banks and private financial institutions, though the foundation isn't initially announcing any committed customers.

"Today there are still two billion people on the planet not connected in any way, shape, or form to the financial system," said Kosta Peric, the foundation deputy director in charge of its financial services efforts. And even where mobile money has taken hold, Peric says that it often requires the people sending the money and receiving it to be in the same country, using the same financial services firm

"It wouldn't be very useful if you had a mobile phone and you could only call people on the same provider as you," Peric told Axios.

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Bringing the internet back to Puerto Rico

NetHope's Frank Schott leads the company's global disaster recovery efforts. Photo illustration: Rebecca Zisser

Few people have heard of NetHope, but lots of people have benefited from its work. The group acts as the tech arm for a consortium of 53 major global charities, working with tech giants to restore communications in the wake of natural disasters. These days, of course, NetHope is focused on Puerto Rico and other places devastated by recent hurricanes.

"You can't really get food, water, shelter where it needs to go if you can't communicate, certainly not at scale," NetHope global programs head Frank Schott told Axios. The group has dozens of people on the ground, including volunteers from some of the biggest companies in tech.

The bottom line: The extensive devastation of the electric grid is making things especially challenging, though the U.S. government and big companies are pitching in on efforts to restore cell service and internet connectivity.

Axios spoke to Schott about NetHope and the unique challenges facing Puerto Rico. Here are the highlights:

Just how bad are things?

"They are probably much worse than what we are seeing in the press," Schott said, noting that much of the island has been without power for nearly three weeks. "The absence of electricity makes it hard to maintain perishable foods so there is a food problem. There is a lack of clean water...The longer that goes on the more trouble that will be."

Garbage is piling up and the rainy season isn't over yet, which could lead to problems like water-borne diseases. "It's a problem that has the potential to get a lot worse."

What makes the situation in Puerto Rico different from past disasters?

"What's unique about Puerto Rico is that the electric grid was basically wiped out," Schott said. "Most emergencies [involve] repairing any power outages and standing back up electricity and power in a few places. In this case power is a challenge everywhere."

The other is that, since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, NetHope finds itself working alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

What do you make of Google offering to bring its internet-serving Loon balloons?

"It's massively interesting and we encourage that kind of activity," Schott said. "Even if it doesn't make a big difference for this emergency, it does position us well for follow-on emergencies."

You have workers from Facebook, Google, Cisco not only working together but living side-by-side in rented houses. How's that going?

"They get along great," Schott said. "The magnitude of the challenge to rebuild Puerto Rico is not anything any single company would be able to do on their own. It's almost collaboration out of necessity."

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Qualcomm aims to ban iPhone sale and manufacture in China

Apple

Qualcomm is asking a Chinese court to ban Apple from selling or manufacturing iPhones in China that infringe on its patents, in a major escalation of the legal battle between the two tech giants, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The two companies were already at war, legally, but had kept the battle from stopping the two companies from doing business. Despite the fight, Apple remains one of Qualcomm's biggest customers and Apple relies on Qualcomm for a key modem chip, although it gets some modem chips from Intel.

In July, Qualcomm asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to block the import of some iPhones, but only those that use an Intel, rather than Qualcomm, modem. The new lawsuit represents a much broader challenge to Apple's iPhone business.

Qualcomm declined to comment beyond the Bloomberg report. But an Apple representative said: "Apple believes deeply in the value of innovation, and we have always been willing to pay fair and reasonable rates for patents we use. In our many years of ongoing negotiations with Qualcomm, these patents have never been discussed and in fact were only granted in the last few months."


Regulators around the world have found Qualcomm guilty of abusing their position for years. This claim is meritless and, like their other courtroom maneuvers, we believe this latest legal effort will fail."
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A deal between T-Mobile and Sprint could face DoJ staff opposition

AP

A potential deal between Sprint and T-Mobile may face opposition from the career staff of the Department of Justice, Reuters has reported. The key question, though, is whether the agency's leadership, appointed by President Trump, would seek to squelch a deal.

Why it matters: Opposition from regulators under Obama squashed an earlier effort to merge the country's No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers. A new deal is expected to be announced as early as this month, Reuters said.

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Google announces $1 billion job training and education program

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announcing the Grow with Google program. Photo: Google

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was in Pittsburgh Wednesday to announce a new five-year, $1 billion program to help close the global education gap. Part of the program was a new "Grow with Google" program to work with U.S. cities as well as a $10 million grant to Goodwill that will see Google employees working with the nonprofit to train people in digital skills.

Why it matters: Google, along with Apple, Microsoft and other big tech companies, have all launched significant efforts in recent months to demonstrate their commitment to education and U.S. jobs.

Here are the key components of Google's effort:

  • The U.S. Grow with Google initiative will allow communities to access trainings and other resources from Google. A multi-city tour to kick off the effort will start Nov. 10 in Indianapolis.
  • The partnership with Goodwill aims to have 1,000 Google employees training 1.2 million people in digital skills and job opportunities over the next three years.
  • The global effort will provide $1 billion in grants to nonprofits around the world. Google is pledging 1 million employee volunteer hours as well.

Other companies: Microsoft last week announced its TechSpark effort to work with a variety of rural communities and smaller cities to expand their tech job potential. Apple has been touting the number of U.S. jobs it has created and also launched a $1 billion fund designed to spur more advanced manufacturing here.