Autumn is well and truly upon us now that we’ve switched back the clocks, and with fresh coronavirus restrictions enforced across the UK and, dare I say, the festive season right around the corner, it’s been a busy month on the tech news front. Here’s our roundup of what you might have missed in the tech world.
The UK finally launched its COVID-19 track and trace app and, of course, it wouldn’t be an app launch without a few hiccups. After receiving more than 10 million downloads, users were reporting “possible COVID-19 exposure” notifications which would disappear once tapped on, looking quite concerning and confusing. After the app’s Twitter account confirmed the specific notification needed to self-isolate, the app was eventually updated and the glitch finally fixed. Phew!
Misinformation seemed to once again be a big topic in the media this month with Bill Gates speaking out, and many content-sharing platforms announcing more measures to curb misleading information. YouTube announced that videos promoting misinformation around Covid vaccines would be banned and removed tens of thousands of videos relating to the QAnon conspiracy theory group. Facebook also took action against QAnon by announcing that will be removing all QAnon pages from its platform ahead of the US election. And speaking of the US election, guess which candidate had his tweet removed for violating misinformation rules?
Meanwhile, Apple’s latest iPhone was unveiled in a virtual event this month. Launching in range of sizes and specs, the iPhone 12 will be the first iPhone to support 5G and will cost upwards of £699 and as much as £949 depending on which model and the amount of storage it comes with. The company also announced a new, smaller HomePod smart speaker to compete with Google and Amazon.
Elsewhere, EU regulators are preparing to draw up a “hit list” of up to 20 large internet companies that will face tougher rules around transparency and data sharing in a bid to curb their market power. It’s not yet known which companies will be on the list, but Facebook and Apple are the likely contenders along with other Silicon Valley giants.
And finally, after 11 years, Facebook has pulled the plug on one of its once most popular games, FarmVille. The game, which had more than 80 million players at its peak, required players to tend to crops and raise animals with the help of their Facebook friends but unfortunately, from December, Facebook will no longer support Flash-based games making FarmVille unplayable.
As temperatures soared across Europe, we look back at the hottest stories from August – so if you were too busy dodging the heat to soak up the news, here’s our take on what happened this month.
One of the biggest – and still-evolving – stories has been the TikTok saga. Earlier in August, POTUS essentially banned TikTok from America unless it’s sold to an American company by September. This would put a significant dent in TikTok’s audience numbers, and Microsoft emerged as one of the potential buyers, although in Firefly’s opinion, it’s tough to see how it’d fit into Nadella’s laserfocus on ‘productivity’ – quite the opposite in fact. Twitter is also in the running, although this has only just materialised– and as for the ethics of forcing a company to sell itself to continue to do business in a country; well, we’ll leave that to you to think about.
It’s good and bad news for Google Pixel fans – a new Pixel is coming! The 4a will be available to pre-order from September 10th at a mere £359 – although remember that the ‘a’ is the budget side of the Pixel range. Supplies may also be limited due to Covid, but if Google’s track record is anything to go by, the 4a will be worth looking into.
Amidst being nice to the environment comes poor treatment of workers, as authorities in California investigate potential mistreatment of workers by Amazon – and despite the company claiming it would shut down if drivers were classed as employees, they have now been designated as such. For more on this story, take a look at the Guardian. Finally, Revolut has seen a massive $80m in funding, accelerating its rollout and development across Europe – for more details, see City AM.
The beginning of the new decade welcomed the positive news from the National Grid that, for the first time ever, more of the UK’s electricity came from clean sources than fossil fuels, making 2019 the cleanest year on record. For the full story, check out The Independent. Following this, Microsoft announced that they aim to become ‘carbon negative’ by 2030 while aiming to use entirely renewable energy by 2025. More on this in The Daily Mail.
With the BBC claiming driverless cars have become a staple of CES, Russian firm Yandex presented its reworked autonomous Toyota Prius and allowed a few journalists to give it a test ride. Check out the BBC News review of the technology. Earlier this month, Sony joined the race to develop its own vision sensors for self-driving cars. Head to the Financial Times for the details.
A new contender entered the already tense streaming wars this month. New Netflix rival, Quibi, has raised $1 million in funding and aims to change how we stream, limiting all shows to a maximum of 10 minutes. The Telegraph has the full overview. This month also saw Netflix trialling a mobile-only subscription set at less than half the current price. For the full story, head to the Metro.
It seems 2020 is going to be the year of streaming services with British music fans spending more than £1 billion on streaming services, double the amount that was spent on downloads or physical products. More on this in The Telegraph. Additionally, Spotify released its playlists that are tailored for pets. Songs are chosen to match both the characteristics of the animals and the tastes of their owners. Head to the Independent for the details.
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