There’s a ton of tech news to get to! Maybe you didn’t get to it all, because who’s got time for that? Well, that’d be us — here are a handful of stories from the week that was that might affect you!
The spring/summer fashion show of the smartphone world is upon us. All next week in Barcelona, Spain is Mobile World Congress, the year’s biggest tradeshow specifically for mobile electronics. Samsung is due to show off the Galaxy S9, and there should be other new Android phones from the likes of ZTE, Alcatel, and a bunch of other brands. LG might have a little something, too, although they seem to be rethinking their yearly approach to releasing smartphones at the moment. The show will also see its fair share of new tablets and laptops, but the most interesting part might be more news about 5G networks, which are already being tested and could be up and running between one and two years from now. We’ll be watching from afar this year, but we’ll be doling out news as we get it all this week.
For better or worse, Elon Musk and his companies just can’t stay out of the news. This time, it’s for worse — a former Tesla employee named Adam Williams is alleging that some Tesla cars that were produced with defects were repaired, then sold as used without disclosure of the repairs made. In the lawsuit, Williams claims that he brought the issue up the chain of command, and was subsequently demoted, move around, and ultimately fired last September. For their part, Tesla claims that the lawsuit’s claims are a misrepresentation of how Tesla does business. You can take a gander at the seven-page lawsuit here, then stick around to see if this a something that’s going to haunt Tesla for the next year.
We’ve reviewed our fair share of true wireless earbuds — buds that don’t need cables connecting them to a phone or each other — and the main problem with them has uniformly been battery life. Squeezing four to five hours out of them is still impressive given that the buds both have to have their own batteries and need to use power to connect to both the phone and each other wirelessly, but that still means that they can’t be used as reliable, all-day devices. They all come with charging cases, and some of those charging cases are pretty quick, but it can be enough of an interruption to send you reaching for something with a cable.
Earlier this week, Qualcomm introduced a new and very small chipset with a Bluetooth board, and it’s been made just for those true wireless earbuds. Qualcomm says it uses 65 percent less power for both music and calls, which should have a big impact on battery life. Qualcomm is also talking up a TrueWireless Stereo Plus feature that would connect both buds to a phone over Bluetooth — most buds (Apple AirPods excluded) only connect one bud to the phone, then connect that master bud to the other bud, a process that can result in syncing issues on some of the cheaper buds out there.
Unless there’s a dramatic course reversal, we’re about to find out what happens when internet service providers can choose to favor some websites over others. In December, the FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, voted 3-2 to repeal rules put in place by the Obama administration that barred internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from allowing faster access to certain websites. They’ll now be able to make deals with individual sites and services (say, Netflix) to ensure faster access to those sites. However, critics say the costs of those deals could get passed on to the consumer, and that small online businesses will be hurt by slower access speeds should they be unable to secure favorable deals with internet service providers.
The rule changes are now official. That opens them up to a 60-day period in which they can be challenged — and challenges are already forming, with Senate democrats pushing legislation to block the rule changes and consumer advocacy groups preparing lawsuits. If neither of those efforts succeed, the rules could go into effect as soon as April, although an exact date has not yet been set.