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Samsung serving advertising on $2400 Galaxy Flip

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip is the best foldable phone so far. It flips and folds like phones did 20 years ago. The difference between then and now is that today both halves are part of a full colour touch screen.

My hands-on session with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip was positive, but I ended by mentioning a potential problem with the phone.

Overseas reports say Samsung put advertising on the phone. That’s on the nose when you pay NZ$2400 for the hardware.

According to Android Police the ads are intrusive and annoying. I decided to check this out.

Ads embedded into key apps

Vodafone ad on browser home page

We’re not talking about the kind of ads you see if you head to a web page on the phone, we are talking about ads in basic phone apps, like the one used to dial calls or get a weather report.

Take the Samsung phone call app. When it loads, a bunch of Yelp ads for cafes and restaurants show up. The choice is weird, many are a long way across town from where I live. The nearest is 19.5km. At a guess, these are the companies who paid someone, possibly Yelp, for the placement.

More worrying in some ways is that the Samsung Galaxy Store shows a gambling advertisement for a Poker app that offers 100,000 chips and 300 coins to get you started. That’s going to be a problem for some people.

The stock web browser opens on a page showing an ad for Vodafone broadband. On the notification page there are advertisements for Spotify.

Advertising everywhere

There are ads everywhere. It’s a reminder of when grasping PC makers loaded up Windows computer with unavoidable crapware that you need to remove before you can work.

Spotify ad on Galaxy Z Flip phone

Except that it doesn’t seem possible to remove, mute or otherwise bypass the ads on the Galaxy Z Flip.

You might expect to see advertising if you use free software like Gmail or the Chrome browser. That’s part of the deal. But this is among the most expensive phones on the market.

It’s another to make me rethink the last thought on my hands-on look at the phone where I said I’d like one. Make that, I’d like one if I could get rid of the ads.

Afterthought: Assuming Samsung makes a decent margin selling phones at NZ$2400, it is probably doing its overall business more harm than good when it sells ads. If normal prices apply, the Samsung phone ads can only be worth a few dozen dollars per phone per year, but once word gets out Samsung will lose hardware sales worth hundreds of dollars.

400 advertisers boycott Facebook over hate speech

From yesterday 400 high profile brands including Coca-Cola and Starbucks pulled advertising from Facebook.

The month-long Stop hate for profit campaign wants Facebook to do a better job of dealing with hate speech, bigotry, racism, anti-semitism and calls for violence.

Some of the advertisers are also worried about Facebook’s promotion of wild conspiracy theories.

Facebook pushback

Other social media sites have faced similar advertiser pushback. But the focus a the moment is very much on Facebook which seems unwilling to tackle hate speech and far right extremism.

Stop hate for profit is a response to calls from civil right groups. Campaigners and members of the public have contacted brands when their advertising appears next to extremist material asking if they endorse the content.

Things moved up a gear following the George Floyd killing, the subsequent protests and the fast growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Among others things the advertisers want Facebook to give refunds to companies whose ads show up next to hate speech and other offensive comment.

Responsibility

They also want Facebook to take responsibility when people experience severe harassment online. This includes letting them speak to a Facebook employee. At the moment Facebook makes it hard for victims to contact the company.

According to media reports there were last minute talks between Facebook and large advertisers taking part in the campaign.

It turns our Facebook refused to budge, all the company would do was point at its recent press statements.

Now the boycott is underway there are calls for a new meeting. Apparently the advertisers have asked for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to face up to the meeting. It is clear that he calls the shots on these matters.

Facebook says Zuckerberg will attend a meeting next week.

It may not be conciliatory.

In a leaked address to Facebook staff Zuckerberg says: “We’re not going to change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue, or to any percent of our revenue.”

He went on to say: “…my guess is all of these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough”.

Policy

Facebook has made some recent changes in policy. It says it plans to label content in the same way that Twitter has started doing. But it hasn’t said when it will do this.

It also says it uses artificial intelligence to remove hate speech. The implication in this language is that the AI is already working. Yet there seems little has changed in practice.

Zuckerberg’s confidence that Facebook can ride out the boycott isn’t just chest thumping. Social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are now the preferred route for big advertisers to reach mass markets. It has replaced TV advertising.

Dependency

Some of the biggest advertisers use Facebook to build their brand. Little long-term harm is done if branding stops for a month. Others sell direct. If they don’t advertise, their revenue dries up. A month of low revenue during a global pandemic that is already depressing sales would be hard to stomach.

What about Zuckerberg’s claim the boycott only affects a small percent of revenue?

Last year Facebook took $70 billion in advertising. About 20 percent of that comes from the top 100 advertisers. This group doesn’t necessarily align with the boycotters.

It turns out that only three of Facebooks biggest advertisers have joined the boycott. The company says if all the top 100 advertisers joined, revenue would only drop 6 percent. There are around 400 boycotters, so a ballpark estimate says revenue will be down around 10 percent for one month. That’s likely to be around one percent of annual revenue.

On that basis Zuckerberg’s claim is probably right.

And yet there’s more to this than a small one-off revenue drop.

Turning point?

Some in the advertising sector see the campaign as a turning point. It hits Facebook where it hurts most. There could be more to come.

In the past Facebook has dealt with criticism of its failure to deal with extreme content in two ways. First, it issues press releases outlining the action it is taking. As we can see, this approach no longer cuts it with many critics. There’s been a lot of talk but little evidence of real change.

The other tactic has been to zero in on the most visible and offensive recent outrage and mop it out. That gets headlines and creates the impression the company is doing something.

This week it banned 220 members of the Boogaloo movement who advocate violence. The group overlaps with neo-nazis and white supremacists, but some members are gun lobbyists.

With anything involving business, it helps to follow the money trail. It turns out Facebook’s investors are relaxed about the boycott. On Friday the company’s share price dropped eight percent when the news first broke.

Earlier today the price had recovered. It was down about one percent on Thursday. Given the price fluctuates anyway, that indicates no one at Facebook anticipates much change.

Less fone, more tech as Vodafone gets brand make-over

Vodafone has a new version of its speech-mark logo and a new slogan: ‘The Future is Exciting. Ready?’

The bright red colour stays. Although there will be less of it. From today the white on red will become red on white.

The changes are all part of a global brand make-over. According to the company the new look shows that Vodafone is confident digital technologies and services are “going to make our lives better”.

New Vodafone logo
New Vodafone logo
Old Vodafone logo
Old Vodafone logo

Change of brand, change of emphasis

There’s a clear change of emphasis. Vodafone has positioned itself away from being a mobile phone network with add-ons, to being a more general technology service provider. In New Zealand this includes television.

This move was first noticeable earlier this year at the Vodafone NZ Gigabit Summit. The company held an Auckland event in August where there was little talk of phone networks and far more about how we’re going to live in the future.

At the Summit product director Sally Fuller outlined a world where drones make deliveries, we work from home and make occasional forays in driverless vehicles. There were smart devices and artificial intelligence, but barely any discussion of networks. All that becomes background.

Vodafone New Zealand Consumer Director Matt Williams says “We think the future of technology is very exciting. Our focus now is to ensure our customers are ready to make the most of it.”

Phone, network MIA at Vodafone

Actually Williams said a lot more words in the official press statement. Yet, once again, the words phone and network are conspicuous by their absence.

Vodafone’s brand strategy is global. Vodafone says it heralds the biggest advertising campaign in the company’s history. New Zealanders will be able to see this in a new TV commercial which will show from today. Australia doesn’t get the new advertising until later this month.

As part of the marketing activity Vodafone asked people in 14 countries about their views on the future. It says New Zealanders are more optimistic than Australians or the British, but all three come in behind India.

Talking VPNs on Radio NZ Nine-to-Noon

Technology journalist Bill Bennett discusses Russia’s move to crack down on virtual private networks. Also, two conflicting takes on the power of online advertising; and the day the music died: the Pandora music service closes in New Zealand and Australia.

New technology – Bill Bennett

From my speaker notes:

Virtual Private Networks

Virtual Private Networks allow people to surf the next anonymously. They also help keep data safe from online criminals.

A VPN is a safe tunnel, usually from your computer, phone or tablet to an end-point elsewhere on the internet. They are a form of encryption.

You can use a VPN to make it look as if you are connecting from elsewhere in the world. So, if you want to see content that can only be accessed from, say, the UK, choose an endpoint in the UK.

Earlier this week Russia followed China cracking down on VPNs.

Putin pushed a law banning VPNs through the Duma. China has been cracking down on VPNs since January. I had personal experience of issues with a VPN when I was in China last year.

Apple pulls VPNs from Chinese app store

Also this week, Apple pulled VPNs from its App Store in China.

Critics say Apple should have stood up to China and refused, even though that would mean losing sales maybe even pulling out of the Chinese market. On the other hand, it is complying with the law. Chinese law says VPNs need to be licensed.

The consequences of pulling out of China are huge. It is Apple’s second largest market. What’s more, China is where most of the company’s products and the components in its products are made. Bloomberg’s Gadfly has an interesting take on this.

Meanwhile… perhaps New Zealanders ought to be more familiar with virtual private networks

Symantec, which sells a VPN service, says New Zealanders take risks with public wi-fi – something that a VPN can protect against. About two thirds of NZers think they are safe with public wi-fi and the same number take no precautions when using it. Hardly any NZers know whether they are transmitting data safely or not. I wrote about this earlier today.

Online advertising failures and successes

Two conflicting takes on the power of online advertising:

Procter and Gamble cut US$100 million from its online advertising spend in the last quarter and noticed no discernible impact on its business. This is taken as evidence online advertising doesn’t work. Part of this is a lot of ads turn up at dubious sites and are only seen by fake traffic or bots.

Sounds like a lot of money, but P&G spent a total of US$2.5 billion on ads in the quarter.

Also says niche advertising on Facebook didn’t work either.

Motorola is a much smaller company, but it reports the money it spent on Facebook ads did nothing to help its campaign to relaunch its phone brands. It too spent on highly targeted Facebook campaigns that didn’t work.

…And yet: The New Scientist reports that ad campaigns that used artificial intelligence to target voters on Facebook were enough to swing both the US Presidential election and the Brexit referendum.

So why does one type of advertising work and the other fail?

My take is that you don’t need to shift wavering individual voters by much to swing their vote. That’s part of it. The other part is that you don’t need to influence that many voters in a tight ballot. Clinton actually won the US popular vote by around two percent, but a tight focus on key states meant moving only a tiny fraction of voters was enough to win it for Trump.

One set of researchers also pointed out that it can be more important to persuade some people to vote or not vote, than to change their choice.

The day the music died…

Pandora music service closes in New Zealand and Australia. Meanwhile Apple has dropped almost all its non-iOS iPod models. The two stories are closely related. First, the streaming music market is consolidating. That was always going to happen. Global scale is important here. It also seems users don’t like the advertising supported model much.

Meanwhile Apple’s iPhone, which, arguably is a brand extension of the iPod has eclipsed its granddad and rendering it almost obsolete. Cue squeals from people, like me, who still love their old-school iPads.

HTC faces backlash over keyboard pop-up ads

The phone maker says the pop-ups have been seen because of an “error” to the annoyance of users.

Source: Backlash over pop-up ads on keyboard – BBC News

HTC has responded to the fuss over the pop-up ads on its Android keyboard. The company says the move was “an error”.

Yeah right.

From the outside it looks as if some bright spark thought selling pop-up ads could claw back revenue for the phone maker. HTC was already on the ropes. This error could be the last straw that finally kills the brand.

There’s a big picture here too. Many technology consumers have had enough of flaky business models where they are the product. HTC’s keyboard ads is a mere extension of a trend that was already well underway.