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Huawei overtakes Samsung as world’s biggest smartphone vendor, says report

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For the first time ever, Huawei has shipped more smartphones worldwide over a quarter than any other company, according to a new report from analyst firm Canalys. Huawei has long harbored ambitions to overtake Samsung as the world’s biggest smartphone seller, and going by the numbers from Canalys, that’s just what happened during the April-June period this year.

That doesn’t mean Huawei will hold onto the top spot for long, as the results were clearly influenced by the ongoing pandemic. Canalys’ figure of 55.8 million Huawei smartphones shipped is actually down 5 percent year-on-year, while Samsung slid 30 percent to 53.7 million. More than 70 percent of Huawei’s devices are now sold in China, which hasn’t been hit as hard by COVID-19 as many of Samsung’s major markets. Samsung, meanwhile, is a tiny player in China.

“Our business has demonstrated exceptional resilience in these difficult times,” Huawei said in a statement to The Verge. “Amidst a period of unprecedented global economic slowdown and challenges, we’ve continued to grow and further our leadership position by providing innovative products and experience to consumers.”

“This is a remarkable result that few people would have predicted a year ago,” says Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton. “If it wasn’t for COVID-19, it wouldn’t have happened. Huawei has taken full advantage of the Chinese economic recovery to reignite its smartphone business.”

Despite impressive hardware, Huawei phones are now a hard sell to most consumers outside China because they are blocked from using Google services. It’s difficult to see the company staying at the number 1 spot once global smartphone demand recovers; Samsung just said it expects better sales next quarter due to new flagship phone launches. But Huawei’s continued strength in China shows that external pressures aren’t yet posing an existential threat to its consumer businesses — at least not at home.

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Google confirms new Nest smart speaker with official photo and video

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Google has responded to the inadvertent reveal of a new Nest smart speaker through regulatory filings by, well, confirming its existence. The company just sent The Verge an official photo of the device, referring to it only as “what the Nest team is working on from home.”

The speaker looks somewhere between the pillowy Nest Mini and the larger Google Home Max, with a similar ability to stand vertically. The picture shows it wrapped in a blue fabric, while the photos from the filing depicted a more neutral grey design.

Google also shared a brief teaser video that shows the speaker being used in the background, including a pink-ish color variant.

Google’s hardware products are notorious for leaking early, so as with the Pixel 4, it’s helpful to see the company get ahead of that reality. No word on when this new Nest speaker will be revealed in full or released, though.

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Google discontinues the Pixel 3A and 3A XL

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Google has discontinued its mid-range Pixel 3A and 3A XL smartphones, the company announced today (via Android Police). “Google Store has sold through its inventory and completed sales of Pixel 3A,” Google said in a statement to The Verge. “For people who are still interested in buying Pixel 3A, the product is available from some partners while supplies last.”

That might be disappointing to hear for people who were on the market for a more affordable Google-made phone. In his review last year, my colleague Dieter Bohn found the 3A had an excellent camera, especially for its low price.

The 3A is, in fact, listed as out of stock on the Google Store. However, as of this writing, there’s stock available on Amazon of both the 3A and 3A XL, if you still want to pick one up.

With the discontinuation of the Pixel 3A, the only phone Google sells on its own store is its flagship Pixel 4, which was released last October. But a mid-range successor to the Pixel 4, supposedly called the Pixel 4A, could be coming soon, and we may already know a lot about it after months of rumors and leaks.

The rumored Pixel 4A apparently has a 5.81-inch display with a 2340 x 1080 resolution, a Snapdragon 730 processor, a 12.2-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, a fingerprint reader on the back of the phone, and a headphone jack. And we possible know what it looks like thanks to a hands-on posted on YouTube in March and photos of what appear to be a retail Pixel 4A box that hit the web in April.

But the Pixel 4A isn’t actually for sale yet. So for now, if you want the latest mid-range Google phone, you’ll have to snag one of the last Pixel 3As, if you can find one.

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Arizona sues Google over claims it illegally tracked location of Android users

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Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has filed a lawsuit against Google over allegations the company illegally tracked Android users’ location without their consent and even when the location tracking features had been manually disabled, according to a report from The Washington Post.

The suit argues Google kept location tracking running in the background for certain features, like weather and for web searches using its search engine and Chrome browser, even after the user disabled app-specific location tracking. Only when a user dug further into the Android system settings and turned off broader system-level tracking did Google stop surreptitiously siphoning location data, the complaint argues.

Google has found itself in similar controversies in the past over location tracking of Android users. The company has responded to privacy concerns over the years with various stopgap measures like making it easier to auto-delete your location data, and cracking down on offending third-party apps that do so without consent. But its efforts to improve privacy protections and the various settings you need to monitor to ensure you’re not being overly tracked remain complex and confusing to average users, and it can often seem impossible to keep tabs on just how much Google knows about you and what sources of data it maintains.

Brnovich is asking a court force Google to pay back profits it may have earned from monetizing this data through ads served to Arizona residents. The Post says Arizona’s anti-fraud laws also might subject Google to $10,000 per fine violations. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“At some point, people or companies that have a lot of money think they can do whatever the hell they want to do, and feel like they are above the law,” Brnovich told The Post in an interview. “I wanted Google to get the message that Arizona has a state consumer fraud act. They may be the most innovative company in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re above the law.”

Google and its YouTube subsidiary, as well as the other major tech companies, are facing a number of regulatory and legal quagmires right now, following antitrust and privacy enforcement in the European Union that resulted in multi-billion fines against Google over the last decade.

Now, US politicians and regulators are following suit and have begun engaging in a broad and coordinated effort across the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and state legislators to reign in Big Tech and enforce antitrust, privacy, and other laws. These are rules Silicon Valley has largely flouted over the last couple of decades as lawmakers failed to keep up with the pace of technological change and the scale of Big Tech’s ability to exploit loopholes and skirt regulation for monetary gain and market consolidation.

YouTube settled with the FTC last year for violations of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), while Google is currently under investigation by all 50 state attorneys general and the subject of a broader antitrust probe led by the Justice Department.

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