1. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Are Paid Cash by NSA For Your Private Communications
The NSA (National Security Agency) pays AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint hundreds of millions of dollars per year for access to 81% of all international calls in the US, according to a leaked inspector general’s report. The secret report states that “NSA maintains relationships with over 100 U.S. companies”, emphasizing that the United States has the “home-field advantage as the primary hub for worldwide communications.”
According to the report, AT&T charges $325 for each activation fee and then a $10 a day additional fee to monitor the account. Verizon charges $775 for the first month and then $500 for the months that follow after. Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google refuse to say how much they charge the government to tap into their emails and information. The Washington Post states that in a separate report, the NSA has been said to pay the telephone companies roughly $300 million annually in order to access communication information.
2. Ailing BlackBerry Agrees To $4.7 Billion Buyout
Blackberry has agreed to a probable $4.7 billion buyout from Ontario-based Fairfax Financial Holdings. Fairfax, which is headed by billionaire Prem Wasta, is already BlackBerry’s largest shareholder with approximately 50% of BlackBerry’s shares. They plan on taking the smartphone maker private. Wasta says that the sale of BlackBerry “will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees… We can deliver immediate value to shareholders while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company.”
Under the proposed deal, $9 would be offered for each outstanding share, and Fairfax would contribute its own shares in this transaction. BlackBerry’s board supports this plan. A firm and solid deal is expected by November 4th.
3. Apple Polishes Forecast After Selling 9 Million New iPhones
Apple has sold 9 million new iPhones during their first three days in stores. This record breaking sale period has prompted the company to issue a new and, much rosier, financial forecast. Shares in the company closed up 5% at $490.65 on Monday after the company said that revenue during the fiscal fourth quarter would most likely be between $34 and $37 billion. Apple rarely adjusts its outlook mid-quarter, so this change in numbers comes as a surprise.
“The critics have told you Apple lost its magic,” said Daniel Ernst, a Hudson Square Research analyst. “Customers are telling you something very different. Clearly, people like the product. That sentiment is almost more important than the number.” Sales of the iPhone 5S and 5C nearly doubled that of the iPhone 5’s 5 million numbers during the first weekend. The 9 million sale surpassed the rough number of 6 million that analysts projected.
4. Google Says Widespread Gmail Outages and Delays Should Be Resolved Soon
If you’re a user of Gmail, you may have noticed Gmail failing to load and having a very rocky performance. Google says that the delays should be resolved soon. Gmail has been dealing with disruption and outages for users over the past day, with slow load times and delayed receiving of emails as a result. More than 50% of users have been seeing performance issues. Google hopes to resolve the problem soon – until then, simply wait out the problem while they fix the email service.
5. Is the Race for Smartphone Camera Megapixels Over?
Smartphones like to brag about the number of megapixels their phone offers. However, things might be changing, as smartphone makes shift their focus on not the number of megapixels, but the size of each pixel. Apple and HTC both launched new smartphones this year with larger pixels, as opposed to more pixels. HTC actually halved its pixel count, saying that having fewer pixels allowed the now larger pixels to capture more light. CK Lu, a principal research analyst for Gartner, says that “It is not a race of the megapixels anymore… Some phone makers are deciding to make bigger pixels instead, which is a tradeoff, but results in better quality pictures in low light.”
However, analysts say that this isn’t the end of the megapixel competition. Dale Gai, an anlalyst for Barclays says that many companies will continue focusing on just megapixels. However, more established companies with higher-end smartphones will continue focusing on megapixel size, as they look for ways to differentiate their camera from the camera of other smartphones.
6. Tough Times Ahead For LG and Sony
Apple’s announcement of selling a record breaking 9 million iPhones during its debut weekend for the 5s and 5s is a nightmare for Asian vendors who are rolling out huge numbers of Android models. This is particularly harsh for the two vendors trying to stage comebacks in 2013 – namely, LG and Sony. The rapid sell-outs of the gold iPhone 5S might mean smaller early production volumes, as many industry sources are currently anticipating. Also, since Apple’s consumer demand is above Wall Street and industry projections, it can be assumed that Apple’s unaccounted for consumer base is one stolen from possible customers for LG and Sony.
Samsung is currently preparing an aggressive marketing campaign for the Galaxy Note, while smaller brands LG, Sony, and HTC are targeting the $600+ smartphone bracket. It will be likely that some of these brands, or all of these brands, will reconsider their marketing and product plan before the year ends.
7. Flipboard Raises $50 Million in New Funding
Flipboard, the app startup that lets users read digital copies of magazines, has raised $50 million new funding, putting them at a valuation of $800 million. This marks the company’s third funding round. Flipboard says that their user base has grown 60% to 80 million users, compared to six months ago. Also, there are now 3.5 million magazines on Flipboard. “It’s definitely early days for us still but the traction this quarter will be 2x or 3x what last quarter was,” said Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard. “The combination between the traction we’ve seen on the revenue side with these brand advertisements and brand magazines combined with what we did with 2.0 where anyone can build their own magazine—that really got us moving towards doing another round of fundraising.”
McCue says that most of the late financing will go towards hiring engineers and designers. He sees the staff, currently at a size of 90, growing to a size of 200.