Sep 18, 2018

Axios Login

Happy National IT Professionals Day to all the IT professionals reading Login. Go have a cheeseburger. (It's also National Cheeseburger Day.)

1 big thing: iPhone Xs reviews are in — and tepid

The iPhone Xs and Xs Max are more water-resistant than prior models. Photo: Apple

The first iPhone Xs and Xs Max reviews are in —and while there's a consensus that the Max's big is truly beautiful, there's also a raft of critics saying you might want to wait for the more humanly priced iPhone Xr next month.

Why it matters: The iPhone is Apple's most important product and the iPhone X has been its best seller. The new phones are modest updates, with the big-screen Max option being the most visible difference, along with a faster processor and new camera tricks.

What they're saying:

  • The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern: "The Max just feels like a blown-up iPhone, when it could be a new sort of computer" and "One-handed use is a struggle at times with smaller hands, especially typing."
  • The Verge's Nilay Patel: "[The Max has] a gigantic, beautiful screen, and I have enjoyed looking at it a lot," but "the Pixel 2 still has a better camera than the iPhone Xs."
  • Wired's Lauren Goode: "This year’s phones don’t spark strong feelings — except maybe chagrin that they cost so much."
  • The New York Times' Brian X. Chen: "By eliminating the bezels, which are the screen’s borders, Apple did a terrific job of increasing screen size without adding bulk or compromising the usability of the Xs Max. I still think the smaller XS is a better fit for most people."
  • BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski: "Apple has certainly improved the iPhone with the Xs and the Xs Max... But, crucially, it hasn't improved my experience of the iPhone."

Go deeper: Here's our hands-on first look at the iPhone Xs and Xs Max. We'll have our full review in the coming days.

Early sales: Loup Ventures' Gene Munster measured the earliest pre-order data and found significantly shorter lead times for the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max than for last year's iPhone X. However, given that the iPhone X was a big leap forward, that's not terribly surprising.

2. Twitter is bringing back a chronological feed

Twitter confirmed Monday that it will offer users a choice between the current algorithmic feed and old-style Twitter, where you are presented with the most recent tweets from the people you follow, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

The details: As seen in the tweet above, the platform plans to allow users to switch between possible timelines, and will be testing this in coming weeks.

How it works: As of Monday, according to the company, users who turn off the "Show the best Tweets first" setting will only see tweets from accounts they follow, in reverse chronological order (newest first). The new feature Twitter says it's working on will make it easier to toggle back and forth between the filtered and unfiltered mode.

Why it matters: Longtime users, especially those who visit the site frequently, complain they often see tweets that are hours or days old.

Yes, but: That's just one of the big complaints against the service, as is pointed out by this tweet from CNN's Heather Kelly:

"Twitter’s going to be usable again! Well, except for the bots and harassment and racism."
3. EU crackdown misses its Big Tech target

European laws and proposals meant to rein in the tech giants are inadvertently empowering them, Axios' Sara Fischer and David McCabe report.

Why it matters: The laws — governing everything from from privacy to copyright to content filtering — stem from concerns about the behavior of big platforms, like YouTube and Facebook. But big companies have more resources to comply with complicated regulations than small firms.

Driving the news: The European Parliament last week passed a directive that would overhaul its copyright law and would force platforms to impose strict filters for copyright violations or face fines.

  • Regulatory analysts argue that the law seems manageable for Google and Facebook, while some activists say it would crush smaller firms.
  • Paul Gallant, regulatory analyst at Cowen and Company, argues in a note to clients that the biggest feature of the new law wouldn't break Big Tech's back. In the case of one of the law's key provisions, he said, "damages are the actual lost revenues to the content owner ... not multi-billion dollar-style antitrust fines."
  • Evan Engstrom, executive director of startup advocacy group Engine, says that the proposal is "an existential threat" for a lot of smaller companies. "Not only does it cement the power of big platforms, but it's also really problematic from a creativity perspective," he said.

Go deeper: Sara and David have more here.

4. What startups should know about politics

"The Fixer" book cover art. Image: Tusk Strategies

"At the end of the day, politics comes for you."

Quoted: That's a hard reality that startups must face and embrace, according to Bradley Tusk, an ex-Mike Bloomberg campaign manager turned tech investor.

Why it matters: Tusk has parlayed his career’s lessons into a new book, “The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics,” which he hopes can help startups operating in highly regulated industries like transportation, sports betting, and cannabis.

Top lesson: “You've got to take government and politics seriously because it can make or break your business,” Tusk tells Axios. After years in politics, he decided to open a consultancy to help businesses launch political-style campaigns on public issues.

  • In 2011, he was introduced to Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick, who needed some help dealing with New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission.
  • Uber was also the first client he took on in exchange for startup equity (in part). “I had no idea what it was!” exclaims Tusk when asked if he knew his Uber equity would one day be so valuable. “To his credit, the deal was very fair — I would have signed anything.”

The big picture: Tusk’s book includes guides to help startups deal with a number of political dilemmas, but he also argues for the value of applying a “basic conscience” in those situations.

  • Tusk worked for then-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and briefly for Lehman Brothers before the bank declared bankruptcy, which reinforced that "very obvious message," he says.

Go deeper:

5. Wireless alert test pushed back to Oct. 3

Remember that cellphone emergency alert test we wrote about in yesterday's Login? Well, it's now been pushed back to Oct. 3.

No word on whether protesters now plan to shut off their phones on that day.

6. Take note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Barnard College has hired Rutgers University professor Rebecca Wright to help the school launch its computer science program.


7. After you Login

Today I learned something new about Duck Hunt for the original Nintendo — information that junior-high-school me would have greatly appreciated.