Aug 28, 2018

Axios Login

Situational awareness: President Trump took to Twitter again this morning, claiming that Big Tech, and Google in particular, is suppressing conservative voices.

1 big thing: The most important mobile app you've never heard of

Photo: AnchorFree

You probably haven't heard of AnchorFree. But its product, HotspotShield, has had a major impact around the globe as a way for people to keep their internet use a private matter.

HotspotShield is a consumer version of what's known as a virtual private network (VPN). Using such a product has several benefits, from letting people secure their browsing while using public Wi-Fi to keeping their service provider or government from knowing what websites they are visiting.

Why it matters: As users around the world grow more conscious of how much their online activity is monitored — by governments, platforms, service providers and advertisers — VPNs are booming in popularity.

  • Yes, but: They're not all the same. Facebook's Onavo, for instance, gathers all kinds of information for the social network's use, even as it's keeping things from other eyes. AnchorFree says it neither collects nor stores any user information.

By the numbers: AnchorFree, which is based in Redwood City, Calif., has 600 million users and is almost perennially in the top 50 productivity apps on Apple's App Store. Only a single-digit percentage of those are paying customers, but that's plenty to make the business profitable.

Protecting democracy: The company didn't really envision itself as a defender of internet freedom when it launched in 2007 and it didn't really market it that way. It wasn't until the Arab Spring in 2011 that it realized just how powerful its service could be for those facing a government crackdown.

  • The team left the office one day at 7pm with essentially no users in Egypt and came back the following morning with a million.
  • "We thought it was some kind of bug or something went wrong with our servers," CEO David Gorodyansky recalls. "But no, it was the Arab Spring."
  • More recently, they saw a spike from Iraq three weeks ago amid major protests and a government crackdown on social media. Some two million people downloaded the service with its availability spreading through word of mouth, including the street art above.

Strange bedfellows: AnchorFree also offers its service to other businesses that want to incorporate it into their products. Some of the company's customers include telecom firms that themselves are monitoring what customers are doing on their cellular networks, but nonetheless want to help protect Wi-Fi usage.

  • Verizon and Telefonica are among AnchorFree's partners on that front.

What's next: The company is moving into offering its service for business, having quietly launched a product last month that lets companies buy up to 20 licenses at a time and have their data run through a specific server.

2. Apple and Google ready fall launch of hardware

It's that time of year. The kids are heading back to school, the days are getting a little cooler and the fall hardware rumors are starting to take shape. Some of what we're hearing...

The iPhone lineup rumors have been remarkably stable. Apple is expected to introduce 3 new models, including one similar to the current iPhone X, a larger-screen model as well as a cheaper one that includes a large display but is more affordable (thanks to using a cheaper LCD screen technology).

  • Bloomberg had more details on the rest of the mobile lineup Monday, saying to expect a slightly bigger screen on the Apple Watch that can fit into the same bands and a new high-end iPad Pro with Face ID. But, no new entry-level iPad or iPad mini.

Google is reportedly planning an October event in New York, also per Bloomberg, to announce the latest Pixel phone, likely alongside a new Android-based smartwatch, an update to the Pixelbook, and other hardware.

The bottom line: It's sounding like an eventful, but perhaps not earth-shattering fall, as some of the top products get more of a refresh than a radical update.

3. Moore's law is getting tougher to follow

A GlobalFoundries factory in Dresden, Germany. Photo: Matthias Rietschel/Getty Images

For decades now, semiconductors have been made using ever-finer wiring, enabling the famous Moore's law, which predicts a doubling of performance every 2 years or so. But, as transistors have gotten smaller, some chipmakers are struggling to keep up.

Driving the news: The latest shift to 7-nanometer wiring is proving to be the toughest yet. Intel has already admitted challenges and now one of the other industry giants, GlobalFoundries, said Monday it's going to focus on other types of advances rather than moving to 7 nanometers amid the high costs of the new generation.

Analysts say it's not that GlobalFoundries and others can't get to 7 nanometers eventually — it's more whether it would be worth their while.

"The problems are only partially technical — given enough talent and time, foundries can make 7nm and 5nm, and beyond. The problem is the economics — hiring the talented researchers, paying for the research, buying the equipment, and building the fabs. All that is getting exponentially more expensive. GlobalFoundries owners decided the push to 7nm was no longer going to be economically worth the investment."
— Kevin Krewell, principal analyst, TIRIAS Research
"This is also proof positive that only a handful of chip companies can afford leading-edge manufacturing as they are the ones who have to pay for the capability."
— Patrick Moorhead, president, Moor Insights & Strategy

The bottom line: The challenges give the upper hand to those moving forward with 7 nanometers — namely, TSMC and Samsung. It also leaves those who contract out for manufacturing with just two options.

4. Teens worry about their phone time

Teens and their phones. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

More than half (54%) of teens say they're worried that they're spending too much time with their devices, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

Why it matters: Americans, and young people in particular, are becoming more aware of the health, safety and productivity risks of being constantly connected. That's significant because more work, economy and lifestyle opportunities are moving online, notes Axios' Sara Fischer.

Addiction, by the numbers:

  • A majority (72%) of teens say they often or sometimes check for messages or notifications as soon as they wake up, according to the survey. Roughly 40% of them feel anxious when they don't have their cellphone with them.
  • In total, 56% of teens associate the absence of their cellphone with at least one of these three emotions: loneliness, being upset or feeling anxious.

Read more: Awareness around cellphone addiction is prompting a new push to detach kids from their devices.

5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Facebook PR exec Rachel Whetstone is heading to take on the top comms job at Netflix. Caryn Marooney, who ran comms before at Facebook and had been focused on the product side, will once again run all communications. Facebook is still looking to hire someone to run the combined policy and communications operation, replacing Elliot Schrage, who announced plans to step down earlier this year.


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You owe it to yourself to watch this border collie watching herself win a dog show.