September 21, 2021

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Today's newsletter is 1,190 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big phone: New iPad mini is this close to replacing your iPhone

Photo: Apple

The new iPad Mini that Apple announced last week has all the hardware needed to be a cheaper alternative to the iPhone, with a larger screen to boot.

  • There's just one thing disqualifying it from the role: Apple makes it hard for you to take traditional calls or dial out.

Why it matters: A lot of users want to get into Apple's world without paying the high entry cost of a new iPhone.

The big picture: The idea of using a tablet instead of a phone seemed preposterous at one time. But phones got bigger, tablets got smaller, and the ubiquity of wireless headphones meant you didn't have to try to hold a tablet to your head.

Driving the news: While unveiling the new iPhone 13 line, Apple also debuted the new iPad with support for some flavors of 5G along with a faster processor and improved camera.

  • That immediately had some techies talking about whether the 8.3-inch screen tablet could be a suitable iPhone replacement.

Starting at $649 with cellular capability, the iPad mini costs less than the cheapest new iPhone, and significantly less than any of Apple's larger-screen phone models.

  • The new mini packs the A15 Bionic processor — the latest version of Apple's chip and also the one found in the new iPhones. The iPad's rear camera doesn't stack up to the multi-lens arrays found in all of the latest iPhones, but it's capable for a tablet.

Yes, but: Apple has made software choices that will stop most people from adopting the small tablet as a phone. Most notably, the device doesn't include the dialer app or support for accessing cellular voice networks.

  • It will work with a range of voice-over-internet apps, including the built-in FaceTime app and services like Skype and Facebook Messenger that make audio and video calls — as well as Google Voice, which is probably as close as one can get to iPad phone service.

The big picture: Even without the software limits, most people would probably opt for a phone that fits in pockets. However, the fact that it can even be considered shows just how much the notion of a smartphone has shifted in recent years.

2. Senate eyes tech firms' data troves

Lawmakers mulling how to tighten antitrust laws' reins over online platforms will grill Google and Facebook Tuesday about a key asset in the digital age: data, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

Why it matters: The intersection of data collection and competition policy is a particularly vulnerable point for the tech giants, whose power comes from amassing troves of information about users.

Driving the news: The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee's Tuesday hearing will focus on whether data collection by tech companies and data brokers hurts competition.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who leads the subcommittee, already introduced broad antitrust reform legislation earlier this year and told Axios she's also working on targeted, tech-specific measures, such as a bill outlawing discriminatory conduct.
  • Concerns about data collection have focused more on privacy, but Klobuchar said it's also important to look at data in the competitive realm.
  • "Think of the barrier to entry when these dominant platforms are able to basically target ads in a way that no one else does because they have all the data," Klobuchar told Axios.

What they're saying: Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy director for Public Knowledge, will tell lawmakers the vast amount of data tech companies have acquired helps them freeze out new competitors.

The other side: Expect Google to tout its data privacy protections and user control options and argue that data alone does not guarantee a successful product.

  • "Rather, it is the investment, innovation and method that matters, not just the amount of data a company may have," Markham Erickson, Google vice president of government affairs and public policy, writes in his opening statement.

3. Scoop: More boycotts coming for Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are discussing whether to organize another campaign against Facebook in light of an explosive investigative series from the Wall Street Journal, Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer tells Axios' Sara Fischer.

The intrigue: Sources tell Axios that another group, separate from the Stop Hate For Profit organization, is expected to launch its own ad boycott campaign this week.

Why it matters: Facebook is experiencing lots of pressure to address some of its platform's ills in response to the Journal's five-part series.

Catch up quick: The Stop Hate For Profit advertising boycott campaign against Facebook launched last summer after Facebook refused to censor a post from then-President Trump that many argued incited violence.

Details: "We are considering the idea of a major consumer effort and if we did, it would be similar to what we did last time with Stop Hate For Profit. It would have the same kind of elements," Steyer said.

What to watch: Stop Hate For Profit last year focused on Facebook advertisers. This time, Steyer says, they've been discussing actions that might target consumers, as well as Facebook employees and board members.

The big picture: The Stop Hate For Profit boycott was a major public relations headache for Facebook, but did not end up denting the company's bottom line.

4. Google-backed report hits Microsoft dominance

Microsoft's 85% share of the productivity business within the U.S. government market is part of a harmful "monoculture" that stifles innovation, according to a new report commissioned by Google and the Computer & Communications Industry Association.

Between the lines: The report is the latest example of Google and Microsoft going after one another since the companies scrapped a pact to avoid direct attacks.

The big picture: Microsoft's huge share of the office productivity suite market isn't new. What's new is that it has a well-heeled and sizable competitor in Google.

Yes, but: The report, from market research firm Omdia, notes that Microsoft's dominance extends beyond Office, with the company using that stronghold to gain ground with emerging products, including its Azure cloud and Microsoft Teams communications software.

  • "This has the effect of stymieing diversity in ancillary markets reinforcing 'monoculture' decisions across government," the report said.

Of note: Google is defending several antitrust lawsuits by the Justice Department and states. Microsoft has largely avoided regulatory action after surviving its own legal showdown over monopoly charges nearly two decades ago.

5. Take note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Jean Liu, the co-founder of Chinese ride-sharing firm Didi, has told associates she plans to step down amid increased government scrutiny of the business, sources told Reuters.


6. After you Login

Even if your toddler is too young for a real phone, they can still prepare for their future career as a vlogger with this wood toy.