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Here’s a preview of the Sonos Roam — features, specs, and release date

McKenzie Elyse

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The Sonos Roam: it’s sleek, small, and the most portable Sonos speaker yet. The successor of the Sonos Move in the company’s Bluetooth speaker lineup, Roam offers upgraded specs in a (literally) half-pint-sized package.

The Sonos Move was the first battery-powered Sonos model available. It has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant capabilities, along with the sought-after Auto Trueplay that syncs the sound of each Sonos speaker in the system and acoustically optimizes it on a room-to-room basis. Few portable speakers can stand up to the array of features boasted by the Move since its September 2019 release, and it maintains a full five-star rating on Amazon as of this writing.

Speculated to be released in April 2021, the Sonos Roam has the same features as the Move, plus a few more to sweeten the deal. For starters, Roam’s price point falls far below the Sonos Move; they retail for $169 and $399 respectively. While the smaller device naturally cannot match the decibels of its larger sibling, it still packs the same punch in the hifi sound department as any other speaker in the Sonos lineup.

The Roam will also have dual WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity capabilities, a new feature in Sonos portable devices. This means that a device connected to both Bluetooth and WiFi can stream music across any speaker in the Sonos multi-room system. Sound Swap, another multi-room system feature, can send music from the Roam to the nearest Sonos speaker at the push of a button, allowing users to transfer their listening experience from the small portable to the robust plugged-in version in an instant.

Aligned with typical industry expectations of most high-quality portable speakers and devices, the Sonos Roam is also rated IP67 for dust- and water-proofing.

I'm a copywriter, journalist, and web content creator with a strong passion for my work. Crafting narratives of the world around me brings me an incredible sense of joy — there's nothing I would rather be doing. Besides writing, I enjoy cooking, mixology, music, and my weird cat named Marceline.

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Apple, Google face continuous accusations of anticompetitive behavior

McKenzie Elyse

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A scathing Senate hearing on Wednesday once again put Apple and Google in the hot seat for alleged antitrust law violations. Apple’s App Store practices and policies took center-stage for the majority of the hearing, with app-makers like Spotify, Tile, and Match claiming that both Apple and Google “hold data hostage” and charge high commissions from competitors, stifling their ability to stay afloat.

The hearing followed the release of Apple’s new item-tracker product AirTag, a direct competitor with the 9-year-old company Tile, by just one day. Tile made the case that Apple gives the AirTag an unfair advantage by not allowing Tile devices to use the same advanced, ultra-wideband frequencies to communicate with iPhones that AirTag uses.

Others, like Jared Sine of Match Group, said that Apple’s crippling 30 percent App Store commissions now accounted for the company’s largest single expense at more than $500 million per year. Apple defended its fees by saying that the costs covered security for both users and app-makers in an ever-expanding online marketplace. Apple chief compliance officer Kyle Andeer also cited that 84 percent of the App Store’s 1.7 million app-makers do not pay any commission fees.

Numerous companies have also complained about Apple’s stranglehold on their payment systems. Though not present at the Wednesday hearing, Tim Sweeney of Epic Games recently shined a light on Apple’s strict App Store payment system policies when he offered Fortnight players a 20 percent discount when they purchased in-game credits directly through Epic. Fortnight was swiftly removed from both the App Store and Google Play store for policy violation; Epic is in private talks with Google to resolve the issue, however they are facing Apple in court in May. Read more about the Epic trial here.

Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s chief legal officer, also weighed in on Apple’s restrictive payment policies.

“We couldn’t even email our users to tell them about a way to upgrade that didn’t involve paying through Apple,” Gutierrez said.

Jared Sine argued that Apple and Google “have essentially taken the internet and moved it into the app stores… They’ve set up their gateways, they’ve set up their toll booths; you’ve got to pay the toll if you’re a digital good and service.”

“They give everybody else access onto the freeway, and what we’re saying is, why isn’t the freeway the same for everyone?”

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Google NestHub’s New Sleep Sensor Prompts Privacy Concerns Amongst Consumers and Privacy Advocates.

Ben Smith

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The primary new feature on the new Google Nest Hub, which came out on Tuesday, is a feature called ‘Sleep Sensing’ which tracks a person’s sleeping patterns by measuring motion and noise at their bedside.

While the Nest Hub is not the first sleep tracker to hit the market, a few privacy experts have expressed concerns about Google’s questionable track record when it comes to user privacy. Google has been collecting user data on a persons waking life for years: what they search for online, what websites they visit, what videos they watch on YouTube and even where they travel through location data gathered by either the Android system or Google Maps. Google uses the bulk of the data for their advertising departments, to be able to better market products directly to users, and to improve usability. Concerns have been mounting, however, in regards to the amount of personal data that Google is constantly collecting on its users. You can see for yourself just exactly what Google knows about you by logging into your Google account and checking through your ‘data and personalization’ tab.

In January of this year, Google finalized their buyout of FitBit for $2 billion. Google sought the wearable fitness tracker in order to bolster their wearable hardware capabilities. The buyout, when announced in November of 2019, prompted strong criticism and skepticism amongst privacy advocates and consumer groups who were worried of the potential for Google to exploit user health and location datasets, along with the widening of the companies already dominant position in digital markets, such as online advertising. Advocacy groups warned of the buyout, by stating that the buying of FitBit could allow Google to strongarm their way into new industries and buy the health data of potentially tens of millions of people.

This is not the first time Google is offering sleep tracking. In fact, the FitBit which was acquired by Google earlier this year has allowed you to track your sleeping pattern through the Google Fit App available on Android phones and tablets. Google has publicly stated that in regards to both the FitBit and to the Google Nest Hub, that the company does not plan to use any of the data collected for marketing in the future.

Critics and privacy advocates, however, are not so convinced by Google’s promises. Activists have claimed that Google is not always a reliable narrator when it comes to privacy. While Google disputes the claims made, it’s nearly impossible to tell if Google is accurate in their assertion that no data is actually being monitored or collected. In recent years, Google has faced new scrutiny and even class action lawsuits related to their collection of biometric data, and privacy advocates worry that the sleep sensor on the Nest Hub is simply allowing the company a step too far.

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YouTube and Tiktok Work to Remove Content From Myanmar’s Militia a Month After Coup

McKenzie Elyse

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The world watched in horror as Myanmar’s military forces, also known as the Tatmadaw, seized control of the democratic nation on February 1st. Since then, they have incited violence, conducted mass arrests, and inhibited citizens’ access to online communication. As the situation in Myanmar continues to escalate, social media platforms have banded together to disrupt the Tatmadaw’s lines of communication with the public. 

Facebook was the first to restrict the Myanmar militia’s accounts due to their spread of misinformation, letting the world know that it is treating the situation in the South Asian nation as an emergency.

“We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” said Rafael Frankel, Facebook’s director of policy for APAC Emerging Countries. 

Youtube is another platform that has recently removed content from the militia. The online streaming platform, owned by the same company that owns Google, took down five accounts associated with the junta from its television service. The blocked channels include the Myanmar Radio and Television and the military-owned Myawaddy Media, both of which broadcast military propaganda and martial anthems.

“We have terminated a number of channels and removed several videos from YouTube in accordance with our community guidelines and applicable laws,” said a spokesperson for YouTube. 

The American company did not specify which guidelines the channels had breached, though amid rising global pressure for sanctions against the Myanmar junta, it is unlikely that any regulatory body will challenge the decision.

Citizens of Myanmar have held many peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the coup, pleading for the return of their coveted democratic government. Myanmar, formerly Burma, has been rife with struggles against military dictatorships for nearly half a century. It held its first democratic election in 2008, and appointed its first elected president in 2010. Barely a decade later, the Tatmadaw have regained control, and outbreaks of violence have ensued in response to the citizens’ protests.

The situation in Myanmar continues to escalate, with an estimated 54 people killed by the militia so far; though, many speculate that this number, officially released by the United Nations, falls short of the true number of lives lost in the struggle. 

TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance (not affiliated with Byte News), has also announced its efforts to terminate Myanmar’s digital foothold. Countless videos containing menacing threats from the junta have been removed so far, but TikTok is struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of the malicious content.

One of such videos reviewed by Reuters in late February depicted a man in army getup, addressing protesters with an assault rifle aimed at the camera: “I will shoot in your f*cking faces… and I’m using real bullets.” TikTok has since removed the video from its platform.

TikTok said in a statement: “We have clear Community Guidelines that state we do not allow content that incites violence or misinformation that causes harm… As it relates to Myanmar, we have been and continue to promptly remove all content that incites violence or spreads misinformation, and are aggressively monitoring to remove any such content that violates our guidelines.”

As the cries for sanctions against the Tatmadaw all over the world have grown louder, it seems as if global online platforms have begun to issue sanctions of their own.

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