Sep 11, 2017

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

I'm back in San Francisco. Which is good. It's going to be kind of a big week here.

T-Mobile COO talks strategy

The sign hanging in T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert's office tells you much about his philosophy and that of T-Mobile USA:

Orville Wright did not have a pilot's license.

Its moves: In the past five years, T-Mobile has helped change much about the U.S. mobile industry, from ending two-year contracts and spurring a return to unlimited data, to free streaming of music and video. It's also helped move T-Mobile from a distant No. 4 to a feisty No. 3 that is consistently stealing customers from larger rivals AT&T and Verizon.

"Our strategy is working," Sievert said in an interview at the company's headquarters in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue. "AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are all in service revenue decline and have been for a while we're growing significantly."

The chat came just after T-Mobile made its latest "uncarrier" move: offering free Netflix to customers with two or more lines. Sievert talked to Login about what promoted that move, as well as a broader range of subjects. Here were three things that stood out:

The Netflix promo was designed to come right before the iPhone

"Did you notice the timing," Sievert said, adding that any time there is an iconic phone launch, like the new iPhone, it is a chance for people to re-evaluate not just their phone, but also their wireless provider.

"They are great switching opportunities...We have seen in the past real share-taking opportunity during big iconic phone launches," Sievert said, just as CEO John Legere rolled into his office on a Segway scooter.

T-Mobile's goal is to expand coverage to more places and market segments

Sievert said the effort is basically about going from 2/3 to 3/3 of the market. Historically there were regions of the country and segments of the business that T-Mobile didn't really play in.

That, he said, is rapidly changing, noting the company is adding 3,000 stores this year and taking the company into new cities. It's also going after businesses and prime suburban families — hence the Netflix move.

Despite its apparent focus on smartphones, T-Mobile plans to go after connected devices

"That perception we are creating is deliberate," Sievert said. "Everything else in wireless today is dwarfed by smartphones. In order to position yourself for the future, first you win in smartphones."

But, he said, the company is quietly preparing its network to better handle a range of connected devices for both consumers and businesses. Expect more products and services under the SyncUp brand, which T-Mobile currently uses for its connected car product (one that Sievert notes now has hundreds of thousands of customers.)

Apple's latest leak...

A leaked version of iOS 11 over the weekend confirmed much of what was already known and suspected about the new iPhones and other Apple devices.

  • There will be three new iPhones. Two are incremental updates to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus while the third is the all-new design with the edge-to-edge screen and lack of a physical home button. The leak suggests the phones will bear the names iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.
  • As we have reported, the face recognition feature on the iPhone X will be a big, big deal.
  • The Apple Watch will come in a connected, LTE-equipped version.

More details: The leaks did share some incremental details, including: how Face ID will work, the possibility of a six-core processor inside the new iPhone, and how the LTE-connected Apple Watch may have the same phone number as the iPhone. And — like the HomePod firmware leak earlier this year (but unlike past leaks) — these leaks originated not from rumors or hearsay, but from code that appears to come directly from Apple.

What wasn't in the leaks: The timing of all these new devices. But, as Axios has been reporting, the incremental updates should be ready to go on sale well before the new high-end iPhone. The iPhone X could trail the iPhone 8 models by a month or more.

The other Apple product that will be on display Tuesday

In addition to whatever devices and software Apple shows off on Tuesday, there will be another product making its debut: Apple Park. The company's futuristic corporate campus in Cupertino, Calif., is sure to get lots of attention, if not quite as much as the new iPhone.

Although Steven Levy offered a detailed overview for Wired a couple months back, this will be the first chance most others will have to check out Apple's fancy new digs. And, of course, Axios will be there to share our thoughts as well.

Technologies that shined during the hurricanes

The recent hurricanes have shined a spotlight on the resiliency of various technologies in the face of a storm. Here are two big examples:

  • Walkie-talkie app Zello had 6 million new downloads in a week as it drew widespread use during Hurricane Harvey, BuzzFeed reported. The Houston Chronicle had a compelling first-person tale of how the app was used.
  • Tesla was able to remotely add extra battery capacity to some of its cars aiming to flee the hurricanes in Florida, according to Electrek. That's because some less expensive models of its electric cars have their battery capacity capped below the technical ability of the car. It does raise the question, though, of the kind of power Tesla and other carmakers will have in the future to add and take away features at will.

On a separate note, the Verge pointed out one big hurricane-related problem that tech has yet to solve: Our beaches are literally running out of sand.

Amazon may get a multi-billion-dollar tax break

Amazon stands to reap billions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives in what is shaping up as a feverish, sweepstakes-style contest among North American cities to host its second headquarters and get up to 50,000 new jobs, experts say. Judging by other recent such competitions, the bids could reach $10 billion or even higher.

Our thought bubble:

  • In the likelihood that the bidding does reach such rich sums, the contest could rapidly reduce the number of cities and states that could afford to compete.
  • A high price tag could hurt Amazon itself if it undercuts a locality's ability to fund good public schools, hospitals, and infrastructure, which are the building blocks of both a successful business environment and the high quality of life that attracts and keeps solid employees.
  • The announcement comes as Big Tech — Amazon along with Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft — are already under increasing scrutiny for how they exercise their outsized market power.

Yes, but: Amazon's Sept. 7 call for bids does explicitly encourage suitors to think in just such stark financial terms, specifically describing the type of incentives that might be offered ("land, site preparation, tax credits/exemptions, relocation grants, workforce grants, utility incentives/grants, permitting, and fee reduction"), and asking for specific dollar amounts that their bid is worth.

Read more: Axios' David McCabe dives deeper into the bidding process. Plus, last week we took a look at some of the cities in the best position to win.

Take note

On tap: Mobile World Congress Americas — the conference formerly known as CTIA — takes place in San Francisco this week. Axios' Kim Hart has an interview with CTIA chief Meredith Attwell Baker here...Apple has that little wireless event of its own on Tuesday in Cupertino (see above).

Trading places: Uber head of compliance Joseph Spiegler left the company in recent weeks, according to Bloomberg.

ICYMI: Axios' Sara Fischer writes about the efforts of tech companies to take a role in fighting terrorism in a post 9/11 world...Gadgets360 has a look at how Indian brand Micromax has been losing ground to Chinese rivals...Best Buy has pulled Kaspersky's software from its shelves over concerns the antivirus firm has ties to the Russian government, per StarTribune...Business Insider writes that Music video site Vevo is set to rake in $200 million in upfront ad revenue this year...1) Twitter is experimenting with a feature that helps compose tweetstorms. 2) No you can't use it yet. 3) I don't know when you will be able to.

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Ina Fried