Dec 21, 2017

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

When you finish Login you will be five minutes closer to the holidays. How you spend the rest of the day is up to you, but if you need some more newsletters to keep you busy, we have a full suite here.

Battery controversy has iPhone owners charged up

Apple's move to deal with old batteries has thrown gasoline onto a long-simmering debate over why iPhones seem to slow down significantly as they get older.

What's happening: The company said Wednesday that, under specific circumstances, it does reduce performance on devices, but said the move is necessary to avoid total device shutdowns. The acknowledgment came after a Reddit discussion was followed up with a benchmarking firm confirming something amiss in its testing.

We'll get into the details in a second, but here's why this is such a big deal. People have long suspected that Apple does something to slow their older devices. Now, critics feel they have proof.

Yes, but: This probably isn't the widespread issue many have been claiming to experience over the years. While Apple does scale back performance, it only does so under specific circumstances, when a degraded battery encounters more demand than it can reliably satisfy.

  • This can happen because a battery is near the end of its useful life, is cold, or is nearly depleted.
  • The alternatives would be to either shut down the phone or risk damaging its components, Apple says.

My thought bubble: Apple could have avoided some of the grief it got by being more upfront sooner about what it was doing. The company generally does what it thinks is the right thing, rather than leaving it up to customers. There are a lot of benefits to that approach, but sometimes Apple wrongly assumes people don't want to know what their device is up to.

Other takes:

  • WSJ's Joanna Stern: Apple's software does the right thing but the company should be more transparent — and make it easier to replace the battery.
  • CNBC's Todd Haselton: Apple should replace old batteries instead of slowing down aging phones.
Warner isn't done with Silicon Valley​'s Russia issue

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) indicated at an Axios event Thursday that he's not letting up in his campaign to push the nation's largest web companies to do more to combat foreign election interference.

"I believe there's more work to be done," he said of Facebook. "They have moved dramatically and I think you're going to see more movement shortly."

Why it matters: Warner's investigation into Russian election meddling online has been one of several events this year to spark a reckoning about the power of Silicon Valley companies. And it's just one storyline in a Russia investigation that's being rocked by attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

What else Warner said:

  • Outside academics should analyze the Russian social media content.
  • People should be worried about the "tone and tenor" of Trumpworld comments about Mueller.
  • Tech companies are starting to copy Russia's playbook for "corporate warfare."
What the new tax bill means for tech

With the tax bill now headed to President Trump for a signature, Axios took a look at what the final legislation means for various sectors of the economy. Here is the take on how it will impact tech.

Short term:

  • Big tech companies, Apple chief among them, may take advantage of a lower rate to bring back cash and other assets they're currently holding overseas. They're already under pressure to invest that money in the United States.

Long term:

  • The switch to a so-called "territorial" tax system — where income is only taxed by the country where it is earned — will be a boon for large tech firms with significant operations outside the United States.
  • Tech firms will be able to take advantage of a permanent tax credit for research and development.
  • If the Affordable Care Act collapses with the repeal of the individual mandate, it could have an effect on the ability of startup founders to strike out on their own and maintain health coverage.

More: Read the rest of the article here.

Meanwhile: AT&T and Comcast grabbed some headlines Wednesday by saying they would use the passage of the tax bill to give employees a $1,000 bonus.

Wearable sales still seen growing, but slower

The use of wearable technology devices — like watches, glasses and fitness tracking bracelets — will grow 11.9% next year, eMarketer predicts. That's a slower growth rate than seen in prior years and pretty paltry considering that the number of people who use wearable technology will still be below 20% of the population. Smartwatches will drive the bulk of wearables growth, the firm says.

Why it matters: The problem, experts agree, is that wearables still cost a lot and leave many customers wanting more value than they deliver. And with growth slowing, a number of companies have recently given up, including Adidas and Under Armour.

My thought bubble: A compelling health care use could shift wearables, especially smart watches, from a nicety to a must-wear item. Keep an eye out for companies that are going through the slow, but all-important, FDA regulatory approval so that devices can be used for medical purposes, rather than just generic wellness like step and sleep tracking.

Axios' Sara Fischer has more here.

Keep an eye on your cable bill

And, speaking of Sara, in this video our Media Trends expert explains why the changes in the TV industry could affect your cable and internet bills.

Take Note

On Tap:

  • Today is the longest day of the year, in part because it is the Winter Solstice and in part because it is so close to the holidays, but still considered a work day.

Trading Places:

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Ina Fried