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France poised to drop plan to tax tech giants amid signs of US deal
Posted on Tuesday January 21, 2020

Talks in Davos raise hope of agreement to find multilateral solution to taxing digital firms

France is poised to announce on Wednesday that it is dropping its go-it-alone plan to tax big US tech companies in exchange for Washington’s agreement to press ahead with attempts to find a multilateral solution.

Hopes of an agreement were rising in Davos after several days of intense talks involving the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, the US treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, and Ángel Gurria, the head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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16in MacBook Pro review: bigger battery, new keyboard, new Apple
Posted on Tuesday January 21, 2020

Apple shows it’s listening to pro users by producing a thicker, heavier and better machine

Apple’s new 16in MacBook Pro is bigger and heavier, but that’s a very good thing, with the largest battery you can have in a laptop and a new keyboard that looks to kick the troubles of the past few years to the kerb.

It’s a bit of a U-turn from Apple and demonstrates that the Californian tech firm is finally listening to its hardcore audience: the professionals.

Screen: 16in LCD 3072x1920 (226 ppi)

Processor: 9th gen 6-core Intel Core i7 or 8-core Intel Core i9

RAM: 16, 32 or 64GB

Storage: 512GB, 1, 2, 4 or 8TB

Graphics: Intel UHD 630 + AMD Radeon Pro 5300M or Radeon Pro 5500M

Operating system: macOS Catalina

Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera

Connectivity: wifi ac, Bluetooth 5, 4x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, headphone

Dimensions: 245.9 x 357.9 x 16.2mm

Weight: 2kg

This is a big, heavy machine, which means while you can lug it about everywhere, it’s likely to be used mostly at a desk

You can only record three fingerprints on the Touch ID sensor

You can run the machine with the lid closed perfectly fine, which makes it suitable for slotting into docking stations

Pros: good keyboard compromise, escape key, t-shape arrow keys, 100Wh battery, gorgeous screen, brilliant trackpad, powerful and customisable (at point of purchase), USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, Touch ID

Cons: fairly heavy for some, no card slot or legacy ports, no user-serviceable RAM or storage, no Face ID

Apple 13in MacBook Pro (2017) review: battery life to get through a working day

Apple MacBook Air review: the new default Mac

Microsoft Surface Book 2 review: a powerful yet pricey laptop-tablet combo

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The Guardian view on Davos: capitalists know they must do better | Editorial
Posted on Monday January 20, 2020

The climate crisis and social unrest could finally force corporate leaders to think beyond the profit motive

When Klaus Schwab founded the World Economic Forum in an Alpine ski resort in 1971, he wasn’t to know that the 30-year postwar boom was on its last legs. The original idea of Davos was to promote the German economist’s big idea of “multi-stakeholding” – the notion that companies had broader social responsibilities than the mere pursuit of profit for shareholders. But the subsequent oil crisis, stagflation and recession put paid to any progressive thinking in the boardrooms of the west. As corporate revenues plunged, a different economist laid the theoretical foundations of a new era. By the 1980s, Milton Friedman’s claim that “there is one and only one social responsibility of business ... to engage in activities designed to increase its profits” was the new common sense in business, particularly in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and Ronald Reagan’s America.

Since then, financial deregulation and digitalisation have created the conditions for footloose capital to call the shots in a global economy. The figure of “Davos man” – and only 24% of this year’s attendees are women – has become synonymous with a certain kind of deracinated corporate executive, whose only loyalties and obligations are to the balance sheet. But on the WEF’s 50th anniversary, Mr Schwab, now 81, has gamely tried to go back to where he began, making “stakeholder capitalism” the theme of this week’s gathering, and updating the notion of stakeholders to include those concerned to protect the interests of the warming planet.

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Google owner Alphabet becomes trillion-dollar company
Posted on Friday January 17, 2020

Tech giant is the fourth US firm to achieve the valuation – after Microsoft, Apple and Amazon

Google’s owner Alphabet has become a trillion-dollar company for the first time, making it only the fourth US firm to reach the bumper valuation.

Alphabet’s value, based on the price of its Wall Street-listed shares, passed $1tn (£776bn) in the final minutes of trading on Thursday night, with shares closing at a record high of $1,450.16 each.

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Mobile gaming collects biggest revenue share of app stores spending
Posted on Wednesday January 15, 2020

Last year, sector was larger than entire gaming industry combined, report finds

The vast majority of money spent on mobile app stores went to games, according to a report, as did the majority of time spent on phones, and the majority of advertising revenue.

In 2019, more than $86bn (£66bn) was spent on mobile gaming, making the sector larger than the rest of the games industry combined. That revenue represented 72% of all App Store spend, according to data from the analytics firm AppAnnie, in its State of Mobile 2020 report.

Ride-sharing apps, where the UK has the most concentrated market among those analysed, with Uber taking the vast majority of business. The possibility of the company losing its license to operate in London, however, combined with the recent entry of incumbents such as Kapten and Bolt, could change that, Barnes suggested.

Monzo, which had the highest year-over-year growth in downloads of any finance app in the UK. In most countries, the “breakout” finance apps provided single-service feature sets, from payments to security, but Monzo, as a fully featured bank, points to Britain’s mature fintech ecosystem. Two other banks, Starling and Revolut, were also in the top five UK fintech apps by growth.

TikTok’s growth shows no sign of stopping, with global time spent in the app growing three-fold over the course of 2019. But it was a little-known anonymous Q&A app called Yolo that had the highest growth in both the UK and US over the past year, pushing TikTok into second place.

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The FBI and Apple are facing off over an iPhone again. What's going on?
Posted on Wednesday January 15, 2020

US attorney general is calling on privacy-minded tech company to unlock iPhones related to a recent shooting at a Florida naval base

Three years after the high-stakes battle between Apple and the US federal government over unlocking a suspected terrorist’s iPhone, a new standoff is shaping up between the privacy-minded tech company and the Trump administration.

On Monday, the US attorney general, William Barr, called on Apple to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) unlock two iPhones related to the fatal shooting of three Americans at a Florida naval base in December. The shooting, by a Saudi air force cadet who was training with US forces, is now considered an act of terrorism, Barr said.

Related: Inside the FBI's encryption battle with Apple

We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

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Google parent company Alphabet expected to reach $1tn value soon
Posted on Monday January 13, 2020

Alphabet may join Apple, Microsoft and Amazon when it reports latest earnings, another sign of the unstoppable rise of tech

Another tech behemoth is poised to join the club of Silicon Valley giants valued at more than $1tn. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reached a value of $993bn on Monday, with analysts expecting it to cross the $1tn mark soon.

Alphabet would join a select club of tech companies to pass $1tn in value. Apple became the first tech company to pass the benchmark in August 2018 and has since risen to be valued at $1.37tn.

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France's digital minister says tax on big tech is just the start
Posted on Sunday January 12, 2020

Cédric O says French will not back down on levy despite US threats of trade war

France will go ahead with its controversial new tax on the profits of large technology firms such as Google and Facebook despite US threats to retaliate, as the government vows that it is just the start of a crucial rethink of the regulation of tech monopolies.

Cédric O, the French junior minister for digital affairs, told the Guardian that Emmanuel Macron’s drive to make companies including Amazon and Apple pay more and fairer tax would go ahead, despite US warnings that it could open up a new front in the international trade war.

Washington has threatened to retaliate with tariffs of up to 100% on imports of French products such as champagne, cheese, handbags, lipstick and cookware worth $2.4bn (£1.8bn) after a US government investigation found that France’s new digital services tax would harm US technology companies.

Related: Too big to fail? Tech's decade of scale and impunity

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Musical notes: Justin Bieber's TikTok-friendly Yummy is too eager to go viral
Posted on Wednesday January 08, 2020

The Guardian’s new monthly column gathers all the ideas, trends and other musical flotsam that slips through the cultural net. Share your own thoughts on the month in music, and we’ll feature some next month

Pop and rock music, in its multifarious forms, seems to shift faster than ever. In 2020, we’re bombarded not just with music – more of which is readily available to everyone than at any point in history – but an unrelenting barrage of the stuff that goes along with music: visuals, scenes, theories, arguments, counter-arguments and controversies both real and manufactured. It can feel overwhelming, impossible for even the most plugged-in, social media-literate listener to keep up with. No matter how much of the waterfront you try to cover, it’s hard to rid yourself of the nagging sensation that you might have missed out on something.

That’s as true of us in the music media as it is of any other listener. The idea behind the Guardian’s new monthly Musical Notes column is to collect a miscellany of smaller ideas, thoughts, experiences and trends about music: stuff that’s interesting, striking or telling, but doesn’t necessarily fit within the Guardian’s standard feature, review or news formats. I’ll be contributing each month along with music editors Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes – but we also want to include you, too. Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences about any genre of music each month in the comments section – be it a song or gig you’ve loved, a trend you’ve spotted, or indeed anything musical that piqued your interest – and we’ll publish a selection of them in the following month’s column. For now, here’s Ben and Laura to kick off the series with what they’ve been reflecting on in the first week of 2020. Alexis Petridis

Related: 'Do something weird that works on TikTok': how to write a pop smash in 2020

Related: From Macs to iPods and apps: how Apple revolutionised technology

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The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism
Posted on Friday January 03, 2020

From the ‘KonMari method’ to Apple’s barely-there design philosophy, we are forever being urged to declutter and simplify our lives. But does minimalism really make us any happier? By Kyle Chayka

Sonrisa Andersen’s childhood home was a mess. Her parents split when she was eight years old and she moved to Colorado Springs with her mother. Then she realised she was living with a hoarder. It might have been grief over the lost marriage that caused it, or maybe it was a habit that had grown worse as her mother’s dependence on drugs and alcohol intensified. On the kitchen table there were piles of clothes stacked all the way to the ceiling, things they would get for free from churches or charities. Furniture that Andersen’s well-meaning grandmother found on the street accumulated. An avalanche of pots and pans spilled all over the kitchen counters and floor. Anything her mother could get for free or cheap, she would bring into the house and leave there.

As a child, Andersen kept her own space under control, but, beyond her bedroom door, the mess persisted. At 17, she left home, joined the air force and moved to New Mexico. Over time, her career took her to Alaska and then to Ohio, where she now lives with her husband, Shane, and works as an aerospace physiology technician. But the anxiety over her oppressive surroundings at home never left. Clutter was creeping back in, she realised, even though this time she thought she was fully in control.

Related: The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism – podcast

Related: How our home delivery habit reshaped the world

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The tech giants dominated the decade. But there’s still time to rein them in | Jay Owens
Posted on Wednesday December 25, 2019

Google, Amazon and Facebook moved at a scale and speed governments couldn’t match. Now regulators are trying to catch up

The 2010s will be remembered for a new era in the development of capitalism, one of mind-boggling scale. Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are closing the decade as the world’s first trillion-dollar companies. Last year, Apple’s revenue was larger than Vietnam’s GDP, while Amazon’s research and development spending alone is almost as much as Iceland’s GDP. Facebook boasts 2.4 billion users, a population larger than that of every continent except Asia.

Related: The dark side of tech: why the Guardian asks tough questions about Silicon Valley

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Last minute tech Christmas gift ideas for every budget
Posted on Friday December 20, 2019

Left it a bit late? Here’s a quick list of good tech things for people of all ages

Lego Hidden Side£25

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Best smartphone 2019: iPhone, OnePlus, Samsung and Huawei compared and ranked
Posted on Tuesday December 17, 2019

Our updated list of the top iOS and Android mobile phones – at the best prices right now

Need a new smartphone but don’t know which one is the very best? Here’s a guide comparing the current top-end smartphones from Apple, Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus and others to help you pick the best handset for you.

There has never been a better time to buy a new flagship smartphone with many quality handsets available at a wider range of prices than ever before. Whether your priority is two-day battery life, fantastic camera performance or a spectacular screen, there’s plenty to choose from.

Welcome to one of the Guardian’s new buyer’s guides. This article represents hundreds of hours of testing by the author to bring together a succinct list of recommended products or services so you can pick from the best and ignore the rest without having to do hours of your own research.

Full review: OnePlus 7T Pro review: the best kind of deja vu

Full review: iPhone 11 Pro review: the best small phone available

Full review: Samsung Galaxy S10 review: the sweet spot

Full review: Huawei P30 Pro review: game-changing camera, stellar battery life

Full review: OnePlus 7T review: the new cut-price flagship king

Size

Full review: iPhone 11 review: an iPhone XR with a better camera

Full review: iPhone 11 Pro Max review: salvaged by epic battery life

Full review: Samsung Galaxy S10+ review: a simply stunning screen

Full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: bigger and now with a magic wand

Full review: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G review: bigger, faster and lasts longer

Full review: Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: cutting-edge brilliance

Full review: Google Pixel 4 XL review: not quite ready for primetime

Full review: Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 review: novel slider finally hits the UK

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods, Samsung, Jabra and Anker compared and ranked

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The ups and downs of Jamie Oliver – podcast
Posted on Tuesday December 17, 2019

Fifteen Cornwall, one of Jamie Oliver’s last UK restaurants, shut last week with 100 job losses. Anna Berrill and Sarah Butler look at what went wrong for the celebrity chef. Also: Annie Kelly on a landmark legal case in the US against the world’s largest tech companies

Jamie Oliver shot to fame in 1999 with the debut of his television series The Naked Chef. He built on his success with further TV shows, books, restaurants and campaigns. This year his net worth was estimated to be about £240m. However, by May all but three of his 25 UK restaurants had closed, with the loss of 1,000 jobs, after the business called in administrators.

Anna Berrill of the Guardian’s Feast magazine and the Guardian’s business reporter Sarah Butler look at what drove Oliver’s success and why it has gone so badly wrong for him this year.

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'Mind your own business, Alexa!' How to keep secrets from your voice assistant
Posted on Monday December 16, 2019

Call centre workers who check how helpful our voice assistants are say they hear private conversations and couples having sex. Here’s how to avoid sharing your private life

Walls have ears; you never know who might be listening. Except, increasingly, you do. Call-centre workers for companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google are hired to check recordings made by voice assistants including Alexa and Siri for accuracy and helpfulness.

The disembodied computer that lives in a cylinder in the corner of your kitchen is actually piping a random sample of your requests to humans in Cork, Berlin, Barcelona and elsewhere around the world. But if you’re shocked, spare a thought for the poor workers themselves.

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Apple and Google named in US lawsuit over Congolese child cobalt mining deaths
Posted on Monday December 16, 2019

Dell, Microsoft and Tesla also among tech firms named in case brought by families of children killed or injured while mining in DRC

A landmark legal case has been launched against the world’s largest tech companies by Congolese families who say their children were killed or maimed while mining for cobalt used to power smartphones, laptops and electric cars, the Guardian can reveal.

Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Washington DC by human rights firm International Rights Advocates on behalf of 14 parents and children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The lawsuit, which is the result of field research conducted by anti-slavery economist Siddharth Kara, accuses the companies of aiding and abetting in the death and serious injury of children who they claim were working in cobalt mines in their supply chain.

Related: I saw the unbearable grief inflicted on families by cobalt mining. I pray for change

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Twenty tech trends for 2020
Posted on Saturday December 14, 2019

From new gaming consoles to activism at Apple, we predict the things you will – or won’t – see in tech this year

This is an easy prediction to make, because even Tesla isn’t claiming that its eye-catching angular steel beast will be available for sale in 2020. The company’s own pitch is that production won’t even begin until 2021, with owners receiving their first shipments in 2022. But the gap is relevant to Tesla’s future: where the company was once genuinely ahead of the curve, in making beautiful electric cars that people wanted to buy, it has increasingly relied on beating its competitors to announcements, rather than actually shipping. The list of Elon Musk’s as-yet-unfulfilled promises grows every year – but the electric fleets of BMW, Ford, General Motors and others grow faster.

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How Apple News editors quietly influence UK's election reading
Posted on Wednesday December 11, 2019

Service has around 11m users a month in UK but faces much less scrutiny that other outlets

On Monday night, millions of iPhones in Britain buzzed with a push notification encouraging their users to watch three video clips that were said to “sum up a difficult start to election week for the Tories”.

Anyone who clicked through would have been offered an “awkward exchange” as the prime minister grabbed an ITV reporter’s phone, Labour activists heckling the health secretary, Matt Hancock, at a hospital in Leeds, and Boris Johnson trying to rebut claims that Priti Patel had made up crime figures.

Related: Uncovered: reality of how smartphones turned election news into chaos

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AirPods Pro review: a touch of Apple magic
Posted on Monday December 09, 2019

Good sound, solid battery life and effective noise cancelling wrapped up in a tiny, potent package

Apple’s true wireless earbuds have gone “pro” and in doing so deliver on the promise of the 2017 originals. The new AirPods Pro are worth the wait.

Apple managed two pieces of magic in 2017 with the original £159 AirPods. They just worked without the skips, blips or audio delay, and came in a tiny battery case that kept them charged and safe – a combination that competitors still find hard to match.

The fit test just tells you if you have a good seal, which you might get with two sizes of earbuds so best to start with the smallest

You can activate the squeeze controls with gloves on

The AirPods Pro are sweat resistant to IPX4 standards, which means they’re fine for running or working out with

Turning off noise cancelling frees up the bass a little at the low end

A USB-C to Lightning cable is included in the box, but no charger

They support AAC but not the higher-quality aptX or similar Bluetooth codecs often available on Android or Windows devices

Pros: secure fit, comfortable, rock-solid connectivity, good sound, great noise cancelling, sweat resistant, seamless connection between multiple Apple devices, works with Android and Windows, excellent case, wireless charging, good call quality

Cons: expensive, no on-earbud volume control, no settings on Android/Windows, not repairable, stalks, only available in white

Best true wireless earbuds 2019: AirPods, Samsung, Jabra and Anker compared and ranked

Beats PowerBeats Pro review: Apple’s fitness AirPods rock

Libratone Track Air+ review: the noise-cancelling AirPods Apple won’t give you

Sony WF-1000XM3 review: updated noise-cancelling earbuds sound great

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The 20 best gadgets of 2019
Posted on Sunday December 08, 2019

From a brilliant e-bike to a robot unicorn and a table lamp that doubles as a wireless speaker… the year’s top devices

There’s more than meets the eye to these generic-seeming glasses. The Bose Frames contain a small pair of hidden speakers and sensors on their arms. In addition to music listening, you can use them to receive calls and interact with Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant.

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