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The Engadget Podcast Ep 10: Survivor

Transcript of this episode:


Terrence:
Hello, nerds, and welcome to the Engadget podcast. I am your host, Terrence O'Brien. I am also extraordinarily tired, but that is OK. Good morning, people.


Dana:
Good morning!


Terrence:
To my right, managing editor Dana Wollman.


Dana:
Hi, Terrence.


Terrence:
Hi.


Dana:
Hey.


Terrence:
Are you as awake as I am?


Dana:
I am the wakest.


Terrence:
You're the wakest?


Chris:
Wakest of the wake. [crosstalk 00:00:28] Well, I don't know what that means. I was clearly asleep when you said that.


Terrence:
Yeah.


Chris:
Terrence, I think I figured out what your problem is, by the way.


Terrence:
What's that?


Chris:
Your cup is full of water and not coffee.


Terrence:
Yeah.


Chris:
Water bad!


Terrence:
Water is bad. I went over to get coffee, and the things were empty, the machine was broken, and I just went "ugh."


Chris:
I did just fine, by the way.


Dana:
Thanks, Obama.


Chris:
It's literally over there.


Terrence:
By the way, that voice you hear is Chris Velasco, senior editor.


Chris:
Hey, guys. It's been a while since I've done this. I missed you!


Terrence:
You have not been on in a while. We missed you!


Dana:
You've been off in California playing with Google devices that haven't come out yet.


Chris:
Oh, yes! Oh, and I want them, but I can't have them yet, which is just a source of tremendous frustration with me. Terrence, you want one too, as a matter of fact. Let's lay our cards out on the table.


Terrence:
I pre-ordered my Pixel XL. It should-


Chris:
You're an XL man.


Terrence:
Yes, I am. Clearly.


Chris:
You're giving me a serious bit of- Not even side-eye; it's full-on stink-eye.


Dana:
I'm not stinking anything. There were no thoughts up here.


Chris:
Basically, what we're trying to say-


Dana:
Resting bitchface is what I gave you.


Chris:
OK.


Terrence:
All 3 of our brains are basically completely shut down, is what you're saying, right? There's just nothing going on up here.


Dana:
Well, we can't be low-energy.


Terrence:
No. Very high-energy. I'm going to be moving around and talking really excitedly; just listen to me. I am amped, I am into this, but there's no brain activity.


Chris:
A lot of sound, very little fury going on in there.


Terrence:
Yeah, pretty much.


Chris:
OK. Well, that's rare, but let's see how this goes.


Terrence:
Yeah. Let's start as we do every week; with Flame Wars. You guys know how this works. We're going to debate the biggest stories of the week; you guys get 20 seconds to make your opening arguments, I'll allow a brief rebuttal, and then I'm going to pick a winner. I will preface this as I have been recently; by reminding everyone that this is purely an intellectual exercise. It is not necessarily reflective of our opinions, and also, we are coming up soon on CES, and we'll be doing something onstage for the winner and loser of Flame Wars. I haven't figured out quite what yet.


Dana:
Oh, first I'm hearing.


Terrence:
Oh, yeah-


Chris:
Oh, really?


Terrence:
We're going to do a thing.


Chris:
I think the reason I've avoided being on this show for so long is that my Flame Wars win/lose ratio is very good, and if I don't ever do the show, I can't lose.


Terrence:
That's fair.


Chris:
It's just fear.


Terrence:
Yeah. I actually don't have the standings in front of me, but I think at this point, we're seeing some clear runaway winner and losers on either end.


Dana:
Welcome to Hell, Fiasco.


Chris:
Thanks! Glad to be here!


Dana:
Yeah.


Chris:
Glad I wore my grandpa sweater.


Dana:
Your shawl.


Chris:
My shawl; yeah. I'm dressed for comfort today.


Terrence:
I actually kind of dig that sweater; I'm not going to lie.


Chris:
It actually also holds a lot of phones. [crosstalk 00:03:23]


Dana:
Rolex watches?


Chris:
Yeah. That's on the inside; I don't talk about that. That's not legal! That's not OK.


Dana:
Yeah.


Terrence:
Different thing.


Dana:
You'll sell me one later.


Chris:
We'll talk.


Dana:
Flame Wars.


Terrence:
Yeah. Let's do the show, guys; the podcast, why we're here. Let's start with a little gadget love. Amazon released its Echo. It's one of these things that, it's a Bluetooth speaker and it's got a virtual assistant thing called Alexa inside of it, and now there's this little guy; the Echo Dot, which is a less big speaker.


Dana:
It's a second-generation Echo Dot, but now the price is pretty low. It's 50 bucks.


Terrence:
Yeah. My question to you, Dana, is: Should I buy the Dot or should I spring for the full-sized Echo?


Dana:
Most people should really just get the Dot. I think this is an example of early adopters getting screwed over by paying the price of a first-generation product. Now, you have the same technology that you'd find in the Echo, and it's the same concept, but it's in a smaller, cheaper form factor.


Terrence:
Mr. Velasco?


Chris:
Those are fair points. I grant you those points. Couple things to remember. First off, it has a speaker, speaker [inaudible 00:04:40] I'm also hearing that the speaker- Alexa sort of has trouble hearing over the audio if you're using the Dot, just because there's less space between the microphone and the speaker, so that can be tricky. It is helpful if- Wow! Is that how fast these things go?


Terrence:
Yeah; 20 seconds.


Chris:
Wow, I have really not prepared for this thing well at all. OK.


Terrence:
Dana, do you have any rebuttal?


Dana:
Well, I didn't say that the Dot was the best pick for everyone. There might be some people who need the Echo's microphone capabilities, but I think for a whole lot of people out there, the Dot is going to do just fine.


Chris:
If I might add, I think the bigger point to be made here is that no one should buy any of these things yet until we know if Google Home sucks or not. It's going to be a couple more weeks. Echo Dot starts shipping on October 20th; the Google Home, which is surprisingly impressive, like Assistant, I think we've played with, and Aloe a few times is actually pretty good. It does look like a Glade home air freshener, which I just infinitely appreciate, so everyone should wait.


Dana:
Part of what I'd say about Google Home is that it is- What we do know is that it seems a little less capable in terms of all the Internet of things type standards and products that it's compatible with.


Chris:
For now; if only because Alexa and the Echo has had such a huge head start, but I think if you've used an Echo and have just needed to know things, Alexa is generally a little less good at that. You'll ask her a question, and she'll be like, "Well, I couldn't find the answer for you; I'm just going to stop talking to you now." That's going to be, at least in my limited experience with the Google Assistant and Google Home, that will be less of an issue.


Terrence:
You're moving the goalpost a little bit, though.


Chris:
I've got to win somehow.


Terrence:
Not buy the Echo, but just don't buy the Dot.


Chris:
Just wait! Just wait, guys, that's all I'm saying.


Dana:
Says the guy who buys all the things.


Chris:
Yes, but I'm terrible and you're not. All of you are genuinely good people; you listeners. Don't be me, just wait. I've made so many bad decisions.


Terrence:
This is true. We can vouch for this. I'm going to go with Dana on this one, just because-


Chris:
Damn. Damn.


Terrence:
At the end of the day, I've got to say, I don't respect moving the goalpost, buddy. It's a weak move.


Chris:
You know what? When you're-


Dana:
It's your unlucky shawl-sweater.


Chris:
I guess I should take it off?


Terrence:
No.


Dana:
It looks cozy. And it's [inaudible 00:07:12]


Chris:
Fine. I'll be comfortable as I fail at this next one.


Terrence:
I think this one will be a little bit easier of an argument for you to make.


Chris:
We'll see.


Terrence:
Let's actually- We'll start with you this time. I don't think it's much of a secret to anybody who pays attention to tech news at this point that Twitter is in a bit of an identity crisis, and a little bit of trouble in terms of finances and everything else, and there's this real sort of war at this point over what Twitter is internally that's starting to kind of froth to the surface, and Jack Dorsey recently took issue with the idea of Twitter being a social network, and described it instead as "the people's news network." Chris, your thoughts?


Chris:
I don't think there's a way to separate that. If you're looking at it purely binarily, news flies on Twitter, but people are definitely having normal conversations in the background, and I think if Jack Dorsey's position is that this is a purely news service, look at Facebook and Reddit. Pew recently did a study that says more people get their news from both of those services than they do from Twitter, and that accounts for a larger swath of the U.S. population.


Terrence:
In just under the buzzer. Geez, I can't talk. That's how exhausted I am. This is great, guys. Having a real good time. This is only going to get better as we go along. Dana?


Dana:
Right. 1 thing I agree with V on is that Twitter really is both a news source and a social network. I think, for a lot of people that don't have nearly as many followers as we do, a lot of them are just those eggheads with only a few followers, and for them, the main value of Twitter is going to be following news accounts and getting their news there. They're not going to be sending as many personal updates there as on Facebook.


Terrence:
That's pretty good. I appreciate that. Do you have any brief rebuttals, Chris?


Chris:
I think, for the average Twitter user, who it's fair to say is none of us, sure, they'll be using it as a source for things; for news. Twitter sort of encourages that in the onboarding process, so obviously the focus inside the company is pretty clear, but I also think it's fair to say that people are having conversations. Not always good ones. You'll see a lot of debate and discord, and a lot of weird stuff go on Twitter that simply isn't news.


Terrence:
Yeah. It seems like a large part-


Dana:
It's not news; it's a reaction to the news. Twitter is basically a NewsWire plus the comments section all in one.


Chris:
I think it depends on what your definition of "news" is. Sure, if we publish a story, or the New York Times publishes a story, sure, that has clear news value, but I think, by virtue of where we are sort of as a culture, the line between personal updates and things that are going on in your life, and actual news; that barrier is murkier than it's ever been.


Dana:
Is it?


Chris:
I think so, which is kind of frightening to me. I don't know, if a celebrity Tweets a thing, that makes headlines. Obviously, that isn't going to be the case for everybody, but-


Dana:
I think it's precisely sort of famous or quasi-famous people in our case, who can get away with those personal updates. I posted something about my marathon the other day, and that was a personal update, but I only did it knowing that there's a bunch of people out there crazy enough to follow me. I wouldn't do that if I were an egghead with 4 followers.


Terrence:
I guess that's fair. I still have this weird sense in my head of Twitter being more about the social interaction thing and less about the news consumption part, but I also think the circles that I travel in tend to be slightly older, and still use Twitter very much in that way. I follow a lot of people, and a lot of my friends are the kind of people who literally, all they do is trade memes and jokes on Twitter.


Dana:
Yeah, and again, this is an intellectual exercise. One thing we actually all agree on is for Jack Dorsey to describe his own product in such binary terms- It's not that helpful. It's not that constructive or accurate either.


Terrence:
You've got to figure; basically, this was taken from an all-hands company memo that he sort of put out after all of the news-


Dana:
That wasn't meant for us to see.


Terrence:
Was not meant for the public to see. It also came out after all of the word of people expressing interest in buying Twitter, and that interest cooling off pretty dramatically and pretty quickly. It was just a "Hey guys, we can do this!" Kind of memo, and I think that's actually how the memo ended, like "Good job! We can do it! Keep it up!" [crosstalk 00:12:02] Here's something to hang your hat on; let's go to work!


Dana:
Arguing against myself now, but when he says "people's news network, that does sound like the kind of thing he said to himself and was like, "Oh, I like that. This one's good! I'm going to tell the team that!"


Chris:
"Guys, I'm really smart!"


Terrence:
Smart guy. Dana, I'm going to give this one to you, I think, again.


Chris:
Damn.


Dana:
Me? I just argued against myself.


Terrence:
I know you did, but you made a very convincing argument to begin with, and I think there is validity to this idea that Twitter is now more of a news consumption tool in many ways, at least for most people, or at least that's what they want it to be, even if they're not succeeding, and from one social network in the midst of an identity crisis to another, let's move on to Facebook for our last debate of the week.


Dana:
Yeah, this is a tough one. No easy answers.


Terrence:
There are no easy answers here. A few- Not even a few months back. Was it a few months back? Yeah, it was a few months back. Facebook was accused of bias in the way it was promoting trending stories and favoring liberal media sources over conservative ones. We will put a link in the description for this, so people can go back and read up on that if they hadn't. There is some validity to that claim, to be fair. Facebook's reaction to this, however, was not to try and address these shortcomings in their curation process and figure out how to tweak that approach, because it was primarily humans picking these stories, and went with a purely algorithmic approach. Now, the Facebook trending stories is kind of awash in bullshit and fake news stories, and so the question for you guys is, should Facebook bring back the human curators even if it means they're going to have to face accusations of bias, or is the surfacing of fake news stories just a bitter pill they're going to have to swallow in order to avoid facing those accusations?


Dana:
I think another question that we can ask is, let's say a fake news story is trending on Facebook. Is that Facebook's problem?


Terrence:
Yeah, I think that gets to the heart of it, so Dana, why don't you start?


Dana:
It was not easy for me to pick a side on this issue. I'm going to argue just for the sake of argument that Facebook does need human curators, if only because Facebook, in the past, has positioned itself as a media company, and it indeed has relationships with news outlets just like Engadget, among many others, so if that's the role it's chosen to play, then Facebook needs to exercise more responsibility.


Terrence:
Sorry, I know that seemed a little short.


Dana:
No, I got a slow start.


Terrence:
You got a little bit of a slow start. Chris, your rebuttal?


Chris:
I think Facebook is undeniably a media company. I think one of the questions that they should consider is whether it should continue to look at itself as such. This is a very strange viewpoint that I've taken for myself, but I kind of believe in Facebook as the mirror that we all need to see how flawed and toxic we can be.


Terrence:
You ended that at just the right moment.


Chris:
Yeah.


Terrence:
Dana, do you have a rebuttal there? Or additional thoughts? This is- Argue- Very difficult to get all of that out in 20 seconds.


Dana:
I don't know if I understand all these arguments.


Chris:
Basically, what I'm trying to say is, I think if Facebook continues to look at itself as a media organization, yes, obviously it needs a human touch. The reason we don't let algorithms write our stories is because they will always lack the context necessary. Maybe they will get better at it, but for now, the human level of discretion is what's needed, I think, to present both sides of a story accurately and fairly. What I think is going on algorithmically is, yes, it does take into account mostly what is popular, and a lot of that is wrong, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's value in that wrongness, too. You can look at those things and say, "Well, OK, is that true?" It is not, most of the time, but it sort of forces you to understand what other people are thinking about.


Dana:
You feel superior when you realize that much of Facebook is talking about Mean Girls 12 years after it came out.


Chris:
Is that true? Is that a thing?


Dana:
There's a Mean Girls day every- There's a certain day every October when it's Mean Girls day. That's why-


Chris:
I think it's just important to get a reflection of the world at large because- I'm certainly guilty of this; I'm sure you guys probably are too. We run in our circles, and we get the news that we get, and we make our determinations based off that. It's easy to lose sight of the world at large, and for better or worse, I think, algorithmically, just based off of movement and traffic and action, it's kind of important to see what other people care about, even if it is wrong.


Dana:
I will say, I care less about the trending box, because it's not that prominent and I think a lot of people understand precisely what you're saying; that it is junk food of news. I think a lot of people do get that. I don't want to underestimate people on that. Where I will take Facebook to task is, it recently changed its algorithm so that fewer news stories show up in people's feeds, which hurts publications like Engagdet, but also many of our competitors, so you'll see fewer Engadget stories in your feeds. If Facebook is going to exercise that kind of power, at least favor stuff that is reputable or correct, you know?


Terrence:
What you're saying is that, if they're going to get into the business of servicing these stories in the first place in what is arguably not a purely organic way, they're basically accepting some responsibility to curate it?


Dana:
I see Facebook sort of trying to play both sides; it's exercising this power that has a huge effect on the bottom line for media companies. It really does have far-reaching effects both for our bottom line and for what people see, but then Facebook wants to step back and say, "Oh, but this just reflects what the people want; the will of the people. The people want to read about John Candy's ghost." I don't know where I got that.


Chris:
Wow, that just got really dark.


Terrence:
Yeah, it's weird.


Dana:
It does seem like Facebook is willing to step back and make it a reflection of what the people want when it's convenient for them, but also exercise power over what people are seeing when it's convenient for them.


Terrence:
I think that is a super compelling argument, and actually one that I had not thought of at all, and man, Facebook can be kind of shitty, huh?


Dana:
Yeah.


Terrence:
I'm going to give this one to Chris.


Dana:
Aww, that's so sweet.


Chris:
Thanks, buddy.


Terrence:
It's not a pity one, though. Just so you know. [crosstalk 00:19:16]


Chris:
I thought that's what that was.


Terrence:
I couldn't reach. The table was very far. It was a lot further than I thought it was. I went to go give you a little pat.


Chris:
I choose to believe it's because you believe in my argument and not just because you wanted to touch this sweet, sweet sweater.


Terrence:
It is pretty sweet. Yeah, that's good.


Chris:
Yeah, it's nice.


Terrence:
It is because I believe in your argument. I think- this is betraying my own personal biases, but I do believe 100% in this idea that we've built ourselves these little bubbles that we travel in, and kind of surround ourselves with people who agree with us, and forcefully breaking out of that and seeing the other side, even if it is this surfacing and trending of-


Chris:
Disgusting, toxic shit.


Terrence:
Not even just necessarily disgusting, toxic shit, but blatantly fake stiff is important, because it's the sort of thing that makes you go, "OK, so there's a whole portion of the population that is reading this and believes it to be true, and that's problematic," but understanding that that's problematic and understanding that that is something that people are reading is important for your perception and understanding of the world.


Chris:
This might be- To sort of piggyback after your point, this might be another weird Velasco-ism, but I personally believe that if you're not- If you don't take in things in the world each day; if you're not at least a little bit scared by what's going on every day, you're just not paying enough attention.


Terrence:
I agree with that. Now that we've gone in a weird side direction-


Chris:
Dana took things Dark with John Candy's ghost, I'm just laying in the grave on top of the coffin right now.


Terrence:
Shoveling dirt on top of it.


Dana:
This is what happens when you take people who haven't had enough sleep.

Terrence:
Let's move on to our 2 big stories of the week in group chat. We're going to do a double dose of group chat this week because there's a story that, at least personally, I really wanted to talk about and I'm the host so I get to decide these things. I'm using my executive power. There was also a story that we simply could not avoid talking about, and that is the Galaxy Note 7. Chris.


Chris:
Hey.


Terrence:
Would you like to give us a quick rundown of, a too long, didn't read version of the-


Dana:
Chris reviewed the phone for us, by the way, for people out there.


Chris:
I did review the phone. I gave it one of the highest review scores we've ever given anything which, in fairness, is kind of a bad look on me now.


Dana:
No, but most publications did review it very well, at first.


Chris:
Yes, and I don't think there's any way for us to have known that this was going to happen, because like, holy shit. What is happening guys?


Terrence:
Did anybody's review units burst into flames on them?


Chris:
No. The timing was very convenient. Basically, to give you guys a sense of what happened, if you have not been paying attention, the Galaxy Note came out, I believe in mid-August and to very positive reviews. A couple weeks later we start seeing reports on social media that these things are sort of bursting into flames. They're not exploding. They're not going off like bombs, but they're definitely smoldering and cracking and catching fire, and that was cause enough for concern that Samsung weighed for a long time, maybe not a long time, but what felt long a long time in the context, of stopping production and issuing a recall. This is around IFA time which is late August, September.


They finally get enough reports saying, "Okay, well we have to do this." They issue the recall notice, they take a little more time than I think was prudent to work with US regulatory bodies on getting Americans to get their phones back. That's fine. They took what seemed like decisive action at the time and went for it. The problem is, I think the execution was a little hit or miss. They issued a couple software updates meant to cap the limit of power that you could charge these phones to, but one of the them didn't make it to America. Maybe the other one didn't make it either.


Dana:
Without any real proof or convincing proof that that would address the core problem.


Chris:
Correct. They've taken some small steps to sort of mitigate and help people out in the process. FedEx and UPS for a little while would not even touch these phones. They would not allow these devices into their transport networks to get them anywhere because they were concerned. Now, Samsung is basically just cutoff around the world. All sales and exchanges and production of this phone, it's functionally dead right now which is frankly, insane considering this was the device they were counting on for the later half of 2016 to help them kill it. The S7 and S7 Edge were really great starts early on in the year, but this was going to be the device that just brought it all home in the holidays and it's gone.


Terrence:
This really hurts them, right? I mean this is ... It not only hurts their bottom line in that this is now one of their big flagship devices that's just not going to be sold anymore. It's done.


Dana:
It's a waste in every sense of the word. It's environmentally wasteful, it's a waste for Samsung's profits.


Terrence:
Yeah, I was going to say this is a very expensive fuck up at this point, right?


Dana:
Yeah.


Chris:
Right.


Terrence:
And there's no other way to describe it.


Chris:
Exactly. Early estimates put the cost of the recall at about a billion dollars. That has since ballooned to close to 2, maybe even a little over 2 billion. That's 2 billion US dollars, not even factoring this supposedly 17 billion in lost sales that Samsung is now staring at dead in the face because of all of this.


Terrence:
Yeah. I'm just pulling up our coverage here and it says that it looks like they're going to lose out on 2.34 billion. That's what they're saying in their-


Chris:
Just purely as of the recall itself.


Terrence:
Yeah, something like that. This is from their earnings report.


Chris:
Their earnings report, by the way, strangely okay.


Terrence:
Yeah, well there's a lot ... Here's the thing is the earnings report is largely pre-Note 7 debacle.


Chris:
Right.


Terrence:
What they're saying is expect a loss of 2.34 billion in the next 3 month period. This could get a lot worse.


Chris:
Yeah.


Terrence:
Let's talk about the recycling thing a little bit, this environmental stuff. Do you want to touch on that a bit, Dana?


Dana:
Yeah, so credit where it's due. Motherboard was really on top of this story. They spoke to some experts and the bottom line is that electronic recycling is still a fairly nascent field and there are certain components of the phone that can't be recycling. Rare earth materials, no less. It's all a waste, it's all shame. Yeah.


Terrence:
It's this sort of thing, we've seen photos and heard about these digital graveyards and stuff where all of America's unused and tossed out electronics end up and there's probably going to need to be like a dedicated dumping ground for all of the Galaxy Note 7s at this point. It's going to be like the ET of cell phones.


Chris:
Except I don't think in 25 years, people are going to dig these things up and take them home and turn them on.


Terrence:
No because in 25 years, wherever they've buried them, it probably will have burst into flames. Just the entire place, it's just going to be giant fire.


Chris:
Whoa. Wow, that's grim. This has been a really dark show.


Terrence:
You're all familiar with Centralia-


Chris:
Pennsylvania.


Terrence:
Yeah.


Chris:
Yeah. Is that coal fire underground still burning?


Terrence:
Yeah. That is still a thing. There's going to be a town built on top of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 graveyard one day and it's all just going to all catch fire and people are going to go there and take photos and there's going to be a weird, morbid tourist attraction. It's going to be great.


Chris:
What I really want to ask you guys is, like yes, this has hurt Samsung financially, but it also has damaged their reputation, right?


Dana:
Oh yeah. It's not done for them.


Chris:
The level of trust that Samsung has worked, I think, really hard over the past few years to build. There is a level of quality in their devices that they've aspired to and delivered on, and people have responded very well to that. Now there's a huge black mark on that record. How do you think they bounce back from that?


Dana:
Like Terrance was saying that this is holiday season that we're coming up on and people could, if they wanted a phone, buy the Galaxy S7. It's not explosive. We gave that a great review.


Terrence:
To be fair and to be clear, we have not heard any reports of that exploding on people. There has been no reports of that just bursting into flames.


Dana:
But why should they buy that?


Terrence:
That's-


Dana:
It's going to be an enduring question.


Terrence:
Right, yeah.


Chris:
Even beyond that, why would you buy a Galaxy S8? How could you ever be sure. The impression that I'm getting right now, and the thing that is really most shocking to me is that Samsung, on some level, doesn't seem to really know what's wrong. They issued replacement units and those blew up too, so whatever the thought the underlying issue was, was not it.


Terrence:
Well there was a report that came out yesterday, I want to say, basically that just said Samsung's engineers can't recreate this problem. They haven't been able to figure it out at all.


Chris:
Yeah. This is so mind bogglingly ... It's so mind boggling I can't even say the word. The fact that this is happening is just so out of the blue and so unexpected for me that I'm having, honestly, kind of a hard time wrapping my head around it. Batteries are, I think, the most important component of a phone, and Samsung has made batteries for years that work fine. There must have been a changeover at some point. These aren't runaway chemical reactions that they've never seen before, right? Is that possible?


Terrence:
I don't know. I mean, that's the thing. We are still kind of learning about this too. This is an ongoing story. This is far from done. We're going to be doing plenty more reporting on it. I don't think any of us think that this is anywhere near over.


Chris:
Oh man. It's a real shame too because I still, I love the ... I love that phone.


Dana:
You did. You gave it a great score.


Chris:
It's perhaps my favorite Android phone of all time.


Terrence:
That seems crazy to me.


Chris:
I still actually have my original Note 7 review unit. They've asked me to send it back. I've just, I've been travelling and I haven't been able to find the parts so I haven't given it back to them.


Dana:
Sure, sure.


Terrence:
You still have an apartment, right?


Chris:
Yeah. I plugged it in, by the way, recently just to see, just to get a sense of how lucky or not am I.


Terrence:
You are a crazy person.


Dana:
We do not endorse that.


Terrence:
If you still have a Galaxy Note 7, don't plug it in. Don't do that.


Chris:
Yeah. This is, I think, maybe the running theme of this show. People, don't do what I do.


Terrence:
No.


Chris:
It's all bad.


Terrence:
You're a terrible role model.


Chris:
That said, I did plug it in, tried to charge it for a while and it refused to take a charge, so I'm wondering if this isn't going to go south real quick if I try that again.


Terrence:
Did you leave that at home today?


Chris:
Yeah, I did. I did. Cannot stress this enough, people. I am a bad person. You should not do what I do.


Terrence:
The other thing is, though, this leaves a giant hole in the market. This doesn't just hurt Samsung, it shakes up the whole Android ecosystem because, I mean, they were ... Samsung is the biggest maker of Android phones, right?


Chris:
Yeah, by volume, I believe. I believe that's still true.


Terrence:
Yeah.


Dana:
Not many other Note-type phones out there.


Terrence:
Yeah.


Chris:
No, I mean Samsung built the Note niche, like this weird gimmick into-


Dana:
LG copied it briefly and doesn't [crosstalk 00:09:27]


Terrence:
I mean, everybody at this point has kind of copied it to an extent. Even Apple.


Chris:
Sure, but I think what was really sort of special about the Note wasn't even really the Note stuff, which as you've pointed out, other people have tried with varying levels of success. It's fine, it's cool. What really sort of grabbed me about the Note 7 and I think this is the case for a lot of other reviewers and critics and even just consumers too, is that it might be the first time Samsung has really built what feels like a seamless, cohesive device and that's ...


They're reaching, I would argue, sort of like Apple level of design and quality, and that just ... I mean, that's huge for Android and for Samsung, and there are a lot of great smartphones out there. The HTC 10 is lovely and a lot of people still really like the LG V20 which is coming out and actually really cool in its own way, but do they even have the sort of star power that the Note 7 did? Not really, I would argue.


Terrence:
My one last question before we move on is, does this come at an opportune time for Google, though, with the Pixel and Pixel XL hitting the market?


Chris:
I mean, they're going to take every advantage of this as they can. They're not going to be negative about it, obviously, because Samsung has been and remains an important Android partner but, I mean, it's so easy now to say, "Hey, that was a great, big smartphone that you can't get anymore. Check out this sweet Pixel XL."


Dana:
I think Google is at an advantage, not just because critics have already said that its phones seem promising, but because Google is a brand that a lot of people know and respect. I would say that there's still an opportunity for underdog HTC if it can figure out how it can promote its already really good phones. Then you have companies like OnePlus and Huawei that are lesser known but doing good work and I would say increasingly good work. They're not going to sit still and they're not going to not take advantage of this opportunity.


Terrence:
No, I expect everybody is probably going to and also we should be fair that what is good for the Pixel and Pixel XL is good for HTC as well.


Dana:
The Pixel right now in the US is also a Verizon exclusive unless you buy it unlocked. There's room for other players to get in there also.


Terrence:
Although to be, it's not hard to buy it unlocked and you can finance it and all that stuff with-


Chris:
You can also buy it unlocked and use it with Verizon just fine so maybe do that. That's the one piece of advice I'll dole out there that people should probably follow.


Terrence:
Yeah. I pre-ordered mine through Verizon. I contemplated cancelling my pre-order. I'm choosing, at this point, to take Verizon at their word when they say they're going to push out updates at the same time they go to the unlocked ones, that the handset will come unlocked anyway, and that it's not going to have any unremovable bloatware. Let's find out if our corporate overlords break their promise.


Chris:
Can't unlock that boot loader though. Can't throw out some sweet, sweet ROMs, my dude.


Terrence:
That's okay. I don't do that anymore. I haven't installed a custom ROM on a phone since, I want to say maybe the Galaxy Nexus but probably before that.


Chris:
Really?


Terrence:
I may have done it.


Chris:
I'm generally in the same camp and I think that's just a testament to how good manufacturer software has gotten. It's obviously not perfect and I will still always prefer stock, but man, it's so much less obtrusive and annoying and suicide inducing.


Terrence:
I think the Nexus, actually the Galaxy Nexus was the last one I did a custom ROM on, if only because it was when they stopped supporting it.


Chris:
Did you have a Verizon Galaxy Nexus?


Terrence:
Yes.


Chris:
Me too.


Terrence:
I went and cracked the boot loader so I could install the most recent version of vanilla Android.


Chris:
Do you remember how late they got that thing, too? Galaxy Nexus was announced in Hong Kong like September or something and the Galaxy Nexus didn't hit Verizon until December.


Terrence:
Yep.


Dana:
I could do, like Wikipedia.


Terrence:
I remember that it was December. I bought it for myself for my birthday. I was like, happy birthday to me.


Dana:
Where are all these facts stored?


Chris:
I was like a Verizon ... I have a lot of memories tied into that phone because I got that phone in December as a Christmas gift from me and another person involved in a failed relationship, so this was like, "Yeah! We're going to get a family plan, we're going to get some sweet Galaxy Nexi, we're going to throw on some really sweet widgets and stuff and enjoy an ice cream sandwich. Just like that relationship fell apart, so did that phone, in Verizon's eyes anyway. Hey, yeah.


Terrence:
That's as good a place as-


Dana:
That is more of an answer than I was expecting.


Terrence:
I think that's as good a place to end that conversation as any. Thank you.


Chris:
Unlike this microphone, there is no filter in my head.


Terrence:
Let's more on to our last topic of the week and our second dose of group chat. This one is going to be a bit of a downer because I always like ending the show on a downer, guys. It's my personal thing.


Chris:
Well this whole show has been kind of a downer.


Terrence:
It's true. It's been kind of a-


Chris:
Which I appreciate because I luxuriate in suffering.


Terrence:
If you're looking for a tech podcast where you can come to feel bad about yourself and your life, this is it.


Chris:
And the world.


Terrence:
And the world. The Engadget Podcast is the tech podcast for you. Really doing a great job of selling this. Let's go back to Friday night last week.


Chris:
The good old days.


Terrence:
The good old days and let's just mention that there was a certain tape of a certain presidential candidate bragging about certain things. Those certain things being sexually assaulting women. This kind of sparked a whole movement on Twitter that started with Kelly Oxford who is an author who asked women to tweet at her about their first assaults. She said, "Women, tweet me your first assaults. They are not just stats. I'll go first. An old man on a city bus grabs my pussy, smiles at me. I'm 12."


Now, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of responses to this that are worth reading and then eventually a hashtag rose out of this, #notokay. We're going to address that in specific in a minute, but kind of wanted to address this bigger idea of hashtag activism in general, and especially because this past weekend and early this week was sort of a wash in these sorts of things. It wasn't just Kelly Oxford and sexual assaults in the not okay hashtag, there was also World Mental Health day, which was a hashtag going around in which people were sharing their experiences with therapy and dealing with mental illness. There was National Coming Out Day in which the LGBT community was sharing their stories about how they came out and coming together.


There's everyday sexism, this is 2016 which is a little bit more of an obtuse one but was started by Michael Luo who is from the New York Times, which was asking Asian Americans to share their stories of encountering racism in their lives. I just kind of wanted to go back. I think this hashtag activism thing really came to the fore, I want to say, during ... My mind is blanking. I'm having a really good day guys.


Dana:
The Arab Spring.


Terrence:
Yes, that is-


Dana:
Yeah.


Terrence:
Thank you. Thank you, Dana, for being my backup there. That's when it really kind of came about, right? That's when it started getting first attention.


Dana:
I think it's hard to say exactly when, but that does feel like one of the earliest instances of us tech reporters talking about Twitter being used as a tool for social movements.


Terrence:
There were other ones around the Arab Spring that I can't quite remember off the top of my head as you can tell. I'm clearly very prepared for this podcast. I think one of the things that struck me as interesting is you had all these sorts of movements, you had the Arab Spring and you had a sort of flood of them in the aftermath of that. Very quickly people kind of turned on the idea of hashtag activism as being not super effective.


Chris:
I mean, I sort of see where that criticism comes from. I don't know, the issues that often get brought up in these sorts of events, I think there's a very profound validity in just being able to talk about it. Sure, you might not always get the answers you're looking for, but it's sort of nice to have a space where, hopefully, you feel free and sort of independent and comfortable enough to just sort of air your grievances, to share your experiences. I don't know. There's something very powerful about that to me and that is sort of what keeps me coming back to these platforms, even though I think in general, a lot of the people on them can be kind of terrible.


Terrence:
Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of the early criticism of it was based around the fact that we would say that tweeting a hashtag isn't doing anything. You should be going out into your community and organizing and doing these other things and be an active participant and be part of the solution and not just like a passive observer. I think, perhaps for certain movements, that's a fair criticism. I think it's starting to find its home now, it seems like. Passing around hashtags to stop an oil pipeline probably isn't going to be super effective. Go call your representative, send a letter to your congressperson, whoever. That's going to be more effective than just a hashtag.


What's different about these other ones that we were just talking about, the not okay and the this is 2016 is it's less about, I think, actively trying to stop something and more about just creating a level of comfort and encouraging people to come forward and just spread awareness about things.


Dana:
Right. I think there were 2 big things going on this weekend, even, in the wake of the Trump tapes. I think, and you can sort of see this in some of the original headlines about the Trump tapes. They were a little reined in in terms of the language they used. They said they focused on the fact that Trump was being, quote unquote, lewd or vulgar, and I think it took women, with the help of men. Men were really in solidarity here, but it took women, I think, emphasizing their experiences just to say no, this wasn't just that he was being inappropriate or unpresidential, he was bragging about assault.


I think that got through to a lot of people who maybe wouldn't have perceived it that way, especially given the pretty tame headlines that first ran when the story broke. Then you had men ... This was, I think, an example of hashtag activism too, pushing back and talking about what locker room talk means to them. That, at times, felt like a funny meme because I think there was some humor in there, in the ways men countered that but I saw that as men in solidarity saying, no, what Trump did and said wasn't okay and yes, that was assault.


Terrence:
Yeah.


Dana:
Yeah


Terrence:
Let's take it back to that specific instance then for a little bit and the not okay hashtag and Kelly Oxford's request for people to tweet at here their assaults. If you really want to ruin your day, and I do suggest that everybody ruin their day and do this, to be clear. You should go read the responses to this, because it's horrifying. I like to think I'm a fairly enlightened guy, as a general rule. I thought that I understood, but I clearly didn't. I didn't get it. I definitely spent hours pouring through these things, including seeing the responses from people who I consider friends, who I'm close with, and seeing people describe being groped, molested, and assaulted and often at a very young age is ... Yo, I don't think sort of thing that most men realize happens as often as it does. Even for me, again, a guy who likes to think he's fairly enlightened. It was very eye opening.


Chris:
I mean, I don't know. There's a lot to take in, especially around the Trump tapes. I don't know, it's very difficult for me because these are your friends, your colleagues, the people in your life and to sort of see, to get a sense of their life, to get a sense of what has shaped them in such a visceral way, like that ... I think is speaks to my willingness and desire to be a little scared by things everyday, because there are so many issues sort of at play in invisible ways that seem more acceptable to talk about in the context of hashtag activism than they were before. You're not going to sit down with your friend most likely, and just have them pour their heart out. If they're feeling a sense of anonymity or a comfort because they're speaking to people sort of at a remove, you get insight into really important things without even really looking for it.


Terrence:
Yeah. I mean, I think that it sounds sort of trite to say, but it speaks to the power of these meetings. It speaks to the power of Twitter as a form of raising awareness for things and of kind of opening people's eyes to stuff. I don't know how much more there is to say about this, if I'm honest. I mean, everybody should go read Nicole Lee's piece. There will obviously be a link to it in the description of this. It's short, sweet, but very good and she shares some stories of her own which are fairly harrowing and thank you for doing that, Nicole. Any final thoughts on this, Dana?


Dana:
I have a thoughts, and this may open a Pandora's Box and I don't even know how tech related it is specifically.


Terrence:
That's fine. We are-


Dana:
I think one of the unique things about this situation was, so I think and preface, not all men, but some men when they hear stories like this, I think are very quick to distance themselves and say, "Well it's not me. I don't do this." We know that. We know that, but in this case, this was a rare case or a fairly uncommon case where it wasn't a woman or women maligning Trump. It was Trump making other men look bad in this tape that went viral. I think the fact that it was Trump maligning his fellow men changed the conversation a bit and allowed men to not get so defensive, but join in solidarity in a way that I found really refreshing and helpful.


Terrence:
Chris?


Chris:
Really quickly, I just want to dig into something you mentioned earlier. There is a tendency for some people to look at, sort of piling it on hashtags as sort of ineffectual and almost cowardly because you don't have the guts to sort of put yourself out there in a more physical way. I think that's really kind of an unfair way to look at it, because maybe that's not for you, but the signal boost that you provide to the people you care about, maybe this provides them with a context necessary to make a decision that they wouldn't have otherwise made.


There's no real ... Like you really can't discount the people around you and sort of the effect that your opinion has on them and vice versa. I don't know. I don't think that jumping in and sharing these things is cowardly or lazy in any way. It takes a specific kind of courage and maybe it's not as deep rooted as the one that gets you out the door and holding up a sign at a rally, but it's still important and it's still helpful.


Terrence:
Yeah. Well I mean, I kind of hope that this puts that argument to rest because I've heard the same thing too that hashtag activism is for lazy and cowardly people. Go ahead and tell Kelly Oxford that she's cowardly for telling the world about when she was groped when she was 12. Fuck you.


Dana:
Yeah.


Terrence:
Let's leave it on that happy note.


Chris:
Yeah!


Terrence:
Yeah guys! Good show. Good show. Dana, where can the fine people find you on the internet?


Dana:
You can find me @DanaWollman at Twitter.com. That's my full name, no space. I promise I won't be tweeting about John Candy's ghost.


Terrence:
Okay, thank you.


Dana:
Yeah.


Terrence:
Chris?


Chris:
You can follow me on Twitter @ChrisVelazco, C-H-R-I-S, V as in Victor, E-L-A-Z as Zebra, C-O. I promise I just probably won't tweet at all.


Terrence:
That's a pretty fair promise. I like that. You can find me @TerrenceOBrien. Lots of Es, no As. This last segment of the show is probably a preview of what you can expect from my Twitter. It's going to be real dark, guys. As always, thank you for tuning in, thanks for watching, thanks for listening, and please send us your feedback, your comments, your concerns. You can find us on Twitter @Engadget or you can email us at Podcast@Engadget.com. Please subscribe to us in iTunes or your podcast app of choice. Rate us on there. Rating us helps other people find us and we want more people to listen to us for obvious reasons.


 

Posted 10.14.16

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