Pixel throws hat into smartphone ring

The Google Pixel explodes onto the phone circuit, customer dissatisfaction with the iPhone explodes into a lawsuit and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 just continues to explode. All this, Twitter trouble, ownership, robot children and industry sexism grace our tech lineup this week.

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It’s been a crazy week in phones. Google launched the Pixel, its first real competitor to the iPhone, built by the search giant rather than hardware partners. It includes a revamped assistant designed to be more personal, a virtual reality platform — and a headphone jack.

While Google basks in the media coverage, Apple is facing a class action lawsuit from unhappy Canadian customers over the iPhone 6 who called it a “horrible piece of crap” and a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 device issued after the initial self-immolating batch exploded on a plane. It’s a veritable phone-ocalypse.

All that Twitters is not gold

It’s a year since Jack Dorsey retook the helm at Twitter, and the company’s share prices are plummeting after news reports that potential buyers are backing away. In better news, it recently removed attachments and quoted tweets from its 140-character limit. That’s nice, but Dorsey doesn’t need that much space to write what must surely be on his mind: ‘Why has our user acquisition rate slowed down so much and what can we do to match other social networks’ growth?’

Who can run the Internet? ICAAN

The U.S. officially gave away the Internet, but in the same way that a parent gives their daughter away at a wedding — it was more symbolic than anything else. It relinquished complete control of the Internet’s domain naming system to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICAAN has actually managed the process since 1998, but the U.S. has now given up its rarely used veto powers. All of which means the U.S. government no longer runs the Internet, right? Right, because now Zuck and Google do.

Automation gets creepy

It was inevitable that banks would start using virtual chatbots to serve their customers. Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest in the U.K. will soon be rolling out software-based agents to answer easier queries, which promises to make banking even less personal than it is now, but also means they won’t try to sell you investment services or ‘upgrade’ your account at the same time.

What’s even less personal than a robotic customer service agent? How about a robotic child minder? The iPal promises to amuse your children for hours without needing any input from you at all. Lovely.

Creepier still, just do away with children altogether and get electronic ones. In Japan, a small robot has been developed, designed to “evoke an emotional connection” and emulate a baby, replacing children in Japan, a country with falling birth rates. You can get hold of a Kirobo Mini for about US$390, and what remains of your soul.

Dingbat of the week

This week’s dingbat is a collective award for professional misogyny. First, venture capitalist John Greathouse writes a WSJ column suggesting that women in tech hide their gender to avoid discrimination. Why not tackle sexism head-on rather than accommodating it, responded female tech pros? Clearly, there’s still lots of work to be done in the Valley when it comes to gender equality. At least Melinda Gates is fighting the good fight. What will you do to make the tech sector a more promising place for women?

Photo: iStock

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