A new Life of Tech


Apple to fix ‘touch disease’ flaw for iPhone 6 Plus

Apple said some devices may ‘exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device’.
Apple said some devices may ‘exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device’. Photograph: Alamy


Apple has acknowledged a significant flaw that causes touchscreens to fail in some iPhone 6 Plus smartphones, claiming the problem can be triggered when devices are dropped multiple times.

Announcing the “Multi-Touch Repair Program for iPhone 6 Plus” on Thursday, Apple said some devices may “exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device”.

The company’s statement said that users could pay $149 to fix the issue, if their phones still work and don’t have a broken or cracked screen. Those who have already paid to have their phones repaired should contact Apple directly.

Yet the problem, dubbed “touch disease”, has been followed closely by the consumer site since August, which claims the problem of unresponsive touchscreens is not limited to devices that have been dropped.

It claims the problem is actually caused by structural design flaws – the same ones flagged by “bendgate”, in which iPhones were found to bend when carried in tight pockets – and that Apple should admit the problem and extend consumers’ warranties under which the device would be repaired for free.

A class action lawsuit brought in October also claims that tens of thousands of iPhone 6 Plus users have been affected. The suit targets “Apple’s concealment of a material manufacturing defect that ultimately causes iPhone touchscreens to become unresponsive and fail for their essential purpose as smartphones”.

It describes in detail how the problem manifested for a variety of iPhone 6 Plus users, including Pennsylvania resident Thomas Davidson, whose phone became unusable less than two years after purchase.

“The touchscreen on Mr Davidson’s iPhone 6 became unresponsive. Mr Davidson went to the Apple Care website on or about August 24, 2016,” the complaint states.

“Mr Davidson discovered that he would be charged $320 for a replacement iPhone 6 if he sent his iPhone 6 in for service. He declined to do so and has discontinued use of the iPhone as the result of the touchscreen defect.


Google dismisses European commission Shopping charges as ‘wrong’

europe versus google
Google dismisses the renewed antitrust charges over Shopping service filed by the European Commission. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/REUTERS

Google has responded to the European commission’s (EC) renewed statement of objections, declaring its case against Google Shopping to be “wrong on the facts, the law, and the economics” and dismissing it as just “the interests of a small number of websites”.

The seven-year case revolves around the charge that the market dominance of Google within search is being used to leverage its price comparison service to the detriment of third-party sites.

Within its second 100-page response to the EC, Google said that its Shopping service, which appears as a tab within search results and within adverts at the top of the page, was simply the result of its push to present users with useful information and direct answers to questions.

It also said that the exclusion of retailers such as Amazon and eBay from the case was wrong, as they compete with price comparison sites also, despite paying for referral traffic.

Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, said: “Consumers don’t just look for products on a search engine, then click on a price comparison site, and then click again to visit merchant sites. They reach merchant websites in many different ways: via general search engines, specialist search services, merchant platforms, social-media sites, and online ads served by various companies.

“And of course merchants are reaching consumers directly like never before. On the mobile web – and more than half of Europe’s Internet traffic is mobile these days – dedicated apps are the most common way for consumers to shop.”

Adjoining the EC’s updated charges, European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said the commission’s preliminary investigation into Google Shopping revealed that Google had “unduly favoured its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages”, meaning that “consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries”.

A Google spokesperson said: “We remain confident that these claims lack evidence and are wrong on the facts, the law, and the economics. The surest signs of dynamic competition in any market are low prices, abundant choices, and constant innovation — and that’s a great description of shopping on the internet today.”

Google also responded to the charges made against its advertising services, Adsense for Search, which places contextual, text-based ads near and around search results.

A Google spokesperson said: “Our text ads help websites generate income and have always faced strong competition from other ad formats, so we disagree with the Commission’s assessment. Nevertheless, even before the Statement of Objections was filed, we changed practices the Commission takes issue with, so we hope to resolve this case quickly.”

The EC originally filed charges in April 2015, receiving a response from Google later that year. New, reinforcing charges in the Google Shopping case were then filed by the EC in July this year, which also included charges against Adsense.

Google is also facing antitrust charges against its Android mobile operating system, which runs on the majority of smartphones globally. It has until 11 November to respond in the Android case, but faces fines of up to 10% of its global turnover.


Facebook’s profits soar as it continues to swallow online advertising market

The US election is partly responsible for Facebook’s gains, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors he is ‘proud of the role’ Facebook has played.
The US election is partly responsible for Facebook’s gains, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors he is ‘proud of the role’ Facebook has played. Photograph: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook almost tripled its profits in the third quarter of 2016 as the social media giant took an even larger slice of the online advertising market. The company reported a 59% year-over-year increase in advertising revenue on Wednesday. Net income for the three months ending 30 September rose to $2.38bn from $896m a year earlier.

The jump in profits and revenues comes as traditional publishers are hemorrhaging advertising dollars and announcing cutbacks. News groups including the Daily Mail, the Guardian, New York Times and Wall Street Journal have all announced layoffs in recent weeks.

The US election was partly responsible for Facebook’s gains. “Facebook is the new town hall and we are proud of the role that we’ve played in increasing civic engagement,” chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg told investors during the company’s evening conference call.

The company also increased its dominance in mobile advertising. Mobile phones delivered 84% of the ads, up from 78% last year, or revenue of $5.7bn over 90 days. The entire digital ad market for 2016 is estimated at $67.1bn by analytics firm eMarketer. The company’s user base has climbed to 1.79bn monthly active users and 1.18bn who log in at least once a day.

The good news came despite some mishaps for the company over the quarter. Facebook has been criticized for the way it handles political discussion, first for obscuring the way human editors managed its Trending module, and then for the way its subsequent algorithm-only curation has promoted fake stories.

In September it was revealed that the company had been overestimating video views by between 60% and 80%, a story first published by the Wall Street Journal.

More recently, Facebook has come under fire from members of the US Congressional Black Caucus over racial discrimination in Facebook’s housing ads. The lawmakers, including officers GK Butterfield and Yvette Clarke, say racialized ad targeting using Facebook’s “ethnic identities” feature to exclude people from seeing ads by race violates anti-redlining laws including the Fair Housing Act of 1968.