Hi everybody. I'm back to writing this newsletter after some time off and somehow, magically, still somewhat refreshed by my week off in the woods of northern California. If you're a new subscriber, welcome! This is a newsletter about computers and consumer tech.
I'm not going to try to catch you up on everything that happened last week, but the antitrust hearings were the main thing. We have a full story stream of the biggest news here, I suggest you check some of it out.
The week kicked off with reviews of the Pixel 4A from Google — here's mine. The phone is very good and at $350, very inexpensive. The fact that a budget phone can literally take photos of comets and the Milky Way is really something. Using the Pixel 4A made me fall in love with the Pixel's camera all over again.
And yet, no matter how good the Pixel 4A is, it won't be a smash hit. Part of that will come down to the pandemic, but a lot of it will come down to marketing. US carriers only want to push 5G phones and the 4A is not 5G. Google's answer to that conundrum was to just up and say that, well, there are 5G phones coming later this fall.
The conventional wisdom around the Pixel is that it's in trouble. We're at or just beyond the self-imposed deadline Google put on itself to see tangible success in the phone hardware business and it's fair to say it hasn't happened — at least not at the scale you'd expect from a company as big as Google.
I think it's probably too much to ask of the Pixel 5 to solve that problem — especially since signs currently point to it not being a take-on-the-best flagship. That doesn't mean we should ignore it nor that it won't be good: we should pay attention to what Google thinks an Android phone should be, and often it gets a lot of things right when it does.
Here's where I see it these days: the Pixel is the Nexus by another name. Google's old Nexus program made different phones with different manufacturers from year to year, but Nexus phones were never expected to sell in huge numbers. Instead, the Nexus was a showcase for new technologies for Android and a north star for what Google hoped would be trends for the hardware that ran it.
Until and unless Google can show quite a bit more ambition than it has to date, I think that's the right way to think about the Pixel line. They're Nexus phones that happened to be made by Google. Expecting them to be anything more is a recipe for disappointment.
That said, if you want an Android phone that costs less than four or five hundred dollars, I think the choice comes down to the OnePlus Nord and the Pixel 4A — and since the Nord doesn't support the right LTE bands in the US, the decision is even easier.
Eventually, however, Google says its Nest devices will become the "cornerstone" of ADT's smart home offering. The search giant says that its technology will mean fewer false alarms, better event detection, and more helpful notifications for ADT's customers. Google says that ADT customers will also get access to Nest Aware, its subscription service that offers intelligent alerts and 30 days of event history recording.
Amazon is selling the second-generation AirPods that include a wireless charging case for $140, the lowest price we've seen yet. Previously, getting $30 off was reason enough to tell you about, but $60 off turns it into one of those "so good that we don't know how long it will last" kind of deals.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy. Prices displayed are based on the MSRP at time of posting.
Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President's concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.
Here are some scary questions. Do we want the government this involved in a business deal? Do we want tech titans — in whom we have invested a lot of trust whether we like it or not because they run everything — pandering to specific administrations in this way? Do we want the already fraught relations between the US and China made even more complicated by these shenanigans? Do we want TikTok to continue to operate in such a way that our data could be used by the Chinese government and/or opaque algorithms could be limiting or changing speech? Is there even a mechanism for banning TikTok in the US that follows the rule of law — aka a method that's, you know, legal?
My sincere hope is that things settle down and most of those questions end up being rhetorical. That would mean that Microsoft will either buy parts of TikTok cleanly or the parts outside China will get spun out in some other fashion. Either way you're probably wondering why Microsoft would want TikTok in the first place. Tom Warren runs down all the potential benefits.
For now, it sounds like there won't be a feed of videos set to music, and there won't be a way to see other videos featuring the same song — two features key to TikTok. A Snap spokesperson emphasized that it's designed for sharing music with your "real friends." That said, Snap knows that TikTok is the target here. In an email detailing the new feature, Snap said that, "based on publicly available data," its app "reaches more people in the U.S. than Twitter and TikTok combined."
┏ Microsoft reveals redesigned, much faster Xbox store. One thing nobody ever seems to learn from Amazon: any millisecond slow-down in the buying process can and will result in lost sales. Microsoft doesn't deserve praise for making its store "more than twice as fast as before," it needs to ask itself why it let the old store be so slow in the first place.
You are reading Processor, a newsletter about computers by Dieter Bohn. Dieter writes about consumer tech, software, and the most important news of the day from The Verge. This newsletter delivers about four times a week, at least a couple of which include longer essays.