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Vivo TWS Earphone Neo to reportedly launch alongside X50 Series on July 16

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Vivo is set to enter India’s vibrant true wireless earbuds market in India. The Chinese smartphone maker is set to launch the Vivo X50 Series in India this week. Alongside Vivo X50 and Vivo X50 Pro, the company will also launch the Vivo TWS Earphone Neo. Yesterday, Vivo confirmed that it will introduce the X50 series in India on July 16. However, there were no signs of Vivo TWS earbuds and this could be the one more thing from the company this week.

Expected Price and Features

Vivo launched the TWS Earphone Neo in China early last month. It is priced at RMB 499 (around Rs 5,400). If Vivo is planning to be competitive, we could see these launch in the Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 price segment. At that price, it will compete against Oppo Enco W31, Realme Buds Air and Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2. Like others, Vivo will also make an ecosystem play with these truly wireless earbuds in the country.

The details of Vivo bringing it’s TWS earbuds to India was first reported by 91mobiles. To recall, the truly wireless earbuds from Vivo made its debut last month. It has a design inspired by that of Apple Airpods. They have a long stem and the charging case is in the shape of a puck. Vivo claims a total of 27 hours of battery life from the true wireless earbuds. There is also a dedicated low-latency mode for gaming and supports Bluetooth 5.2.

Vivo TWS Neo with 14.2mm drivers and Bluetooth 5.2 announced: Price and Features

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Vivo TWS Neo with 14.2mm drivers and Bluetooth 5.2 announced: Price and Features

In terms of features, Vivo TWS Earphones Neo include a 14.2mm driver and support Qualcomm AptX codec for improved sound quality. They also rely on two-channel transmission for superior battery life. The IP54 rated TWS earbuds feature touch controls for music playback and use two microphone arrays for noise isolation. It is likely to be available in Interstellar Blue and Moon White color options in India. It will be interesting to see whether Vivo takes an aggressive approach to pricing with its TWS earbuds.

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Tim Cook is now a billionaire, but not the Jeff Bezos kind

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A new analysis by Bloomberg finds that the net worth of Apple CEO Tim Cook has passed the $1 billion mark, officially making him a billionaire. It’s certainly an impressive number, but assuming it’s just over $1 billion, he’s got a long way to go before he catches up to the other CEOs on the Bloomberg Billionaires list. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, tops the list at $187 billion, followed by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates at $121 billion, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook at $102 billion. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is only No. 10 on the list, but even he is well ahead of Cook at $68.7 billion.

Yes, these are obscene amounts of money, and it’s difficult to comprehend how wealthy Bezos is (especially during a pandemic with a 10 percent unemployment rate and evaporating economic relief). Who cares? It’s a bunch of rich guys getting richer, right? Well, these are the guys — and the list is overwhelmingly men; the first woman on the list is Alice Walton at No. 16, with $57.1 billion — who run the world’s most valuable companies and influence our lives in myriad ways. As reporter Kashmir Hill has documented, it’s nearly impossible to completely extricate oneself from the economy that Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple have built.

Cook is a bit of an unusual case among the three comma club, though, because he didn’t found Apple, and it’s rare for any non-founder CEO to become a billionaire. But Cook arguably built Apple into the most valuable publicly traded company in the world, beating out Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company just this July. Cook worked his way up through the company and rebuilt its supply chain using “just-in-time” manufacturing principles, like reducing inventory, after Steve Jobs hired him away from Compaq to be Apple’s COO. By most accounts, Cook has taken a more measured, cautious approach than his predecessor, but Apple’s revenue and profit have both more than doubled since he became CEO.

How that legacy of Apple-building will hold up over time isn’t clear; at the moment, Apple and other companies with big manufacturing operations and customer bases in China are trying to determine how President Trump’s ban on some Chinese companies will affect them. But Apple is rolling right along for the time being; its recent third quarter earnings showed it’s thriving amid the pandemic that has gutted many other companies. In its third quarter, Apple had $59.7 billion in revenue, an 11 percent bump from a year ago. And it’s approaching a market cap of $2 trillion.

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Uber and Lyft ordered by California judge to classify drivers as employees

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A California judge ruled that Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees in a stunning preliminary injunction issued Monday afternoon. The injunction is stayed for 10 days, however, giving Uber and Lyft an opportunity to appeal the decision. Uber said it planned to file an immediate emergency appeal to block the ruling from going into effect.

Uber and Lyft are under increasing pressure to fundamentally alter their business models in California, the state where both companies were founded and ultimately prospered. At issue is the classification of ride-hailing drivers as independent contractors. Uber and Lyft say drivers prefer the flexibility of working as freelancers, while labor unions and elected officials contend this deprives them of traditional benefits like health insurance and workers’ compensation.

In May, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, sued the companies, arguing that their drivers were misclassified as independent contractors when they should be employees under the state’s AB5 law that went into effect on January 1st. Becerra later filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that could compel the ride-hailing companies to classify drivers as employees immediately. AB5, which was signed into law last September, enshrines the so-called “ABC test” to determine if someone is a contractor or an employee.

“It’s this simple,” California Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman wrote in his ruling, “Defendants’ drivers do not perform work that is ‘outside the usual course’ of their business. Defendants’ insistence that their businesses are ‘multi-sided platforms’ rather than transportation companies is flatly inconsistent with the statutory provisions that govern their businesses as transportation network companies, which are defined as companies that ‘engage in the transportation of persons by motor vehicle for compensation.’”

He added, “It also flies in the face of economic reality and common sense.”

Drivers’ groups hailed the ruling as forward progress in their fight to upend Uber and Lyft.

“Today’s ruling affirms what California drivers have long known to be true: workers like me have rights and Uber and Lyft must respect those rights,” Mike Robinson, a Lyft driver and member of the Mobile Workers Alliance, a group of Southern California drivers, said in a statement.

But Uber maintains this ruling will result in fewer jobs during a global pandemic that is putting strain on the state’s economic conditions.

“The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law,” an Uber spokesperson said. “When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression.”

A Lyft spokesperson agreed. “Drivers do not want to be employees, full stop,” the spokesperson said. “We’ll immediately appeal this ruling and continue to fight for their independence. Ultimately, we believe this issue will be decided by California voters and that they will side with drivers.”

Developing…

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Gogo is trying to sell its commercial in-flight internet business

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In-flight internet provider Gogo is trying to sell its commercial airline business as it continues to lose money during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced on Monday. CEO Oakleigh Thorne said on a conference call that the company has had “extensive discussions with multiple parties” and that he “feel[s] optimistic that a deal may happen.”

A sale would be a huge change of course for Gogo, which pioneered in-flight connectivity. But the attempted sale comes as Gogo, like many other businesses in the air travel industry, is struggling. The company, which provides in-flight connectivity to major airlines like Delta, United, and Alaska, lost $86 million on $96 million in revenue during the second quarter of 2020. Its sessions per day in the North American market dropped 91 percent, from 125,000 before the pandemic to just 11,000 in April, though the company says those crept back up to about 40,000 so far in August.

Making matters worse, Thorne said Monday that Gogo was also hurt by airlines retiring dozens of planes that are already equipped with its in-flight connectivity tech. (Gogo is not alone; Global Eagle, which handles in-flight Wi-Fi for Southwest Airlines, filed for bankruptcy last month.)

To cut costs, the company furloughed some 600 workers in April, slashed executive pay, and laid off another 143 in July — the majority of which were in the company’s commercial aviation division. Gogo applied for but did not receive around $230 million in funding from the government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The layoffs and other cost-cutting measures (like working with suppliers to renegotiate contracts) have helped generate “savings [that] should be adequate to tide us through the sunnier days,” Thorne said Monday on the call. But, he said, Gogo’s executives believe their job is to “realize the value” of both its commercial and business aviation businesses “for our shareholders.” Since the business aviation division has seen a faster rebound than the commercial division — and since Gogo has less competition there — Thorne said he believes the company’s commercial business would be better off if it was combined with a competitor.

“Gogo commercial aviation brings an attractive and unique set of assets” to any buyer, Thorne said. “We are really proud of the commercial aviation team and the tremendous capabilities they’ve built, and think it will have a bright future as part of a larger, more fully integrated entity.”

Gogo has spent the last few years developing satellite-based technology to both lighten the load on its strained air-to-ground network and to help keep pace with more vertically integrated competitors like ViaSat, which both makes satellites and sells connectivity to airlines. The company is also working on a 5G network that Thorne said is still slated to launch in 2021. Thorne didn’t lay out exactly what a sale would look like, and he declined to take questions about the talks that Gogo has already had.

“Everyone agrees that [in-flight connectivity] and commercial aviation is an attractive growth industry. Airlines are moving to free service, which will drive adoption, and OEMs and airlines are poised to drive more operational applications as the quality of in-flight broadband grows in the future,” Thorne said. “But for [in-flight connectivity] players to capture this attractive growth potential and drive innovation, the industry would benefit from fundamental changes through either horizontal or vertical business combinations.”

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