Coinbase promises refunds after repeatedly charging crypto fees

A number of Coinbase customers found themselves hit with duplicate charges for a single card-based purchase over the past few days. Some even reported losing tens of thousands after being charged 17, even 50, times. In a blog post updating customers…
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Amazon is refunding Prime Exclusive phone ad removal fees

Amazon announced last week that it was removing the lock screen ads from its Prime Exclusive phones, but it was less keen to tell everyone it was also raising the price by $ 20. Amazon is at least getting one part of this transition right. It’s notifying those who paid to remove those ads they’ll get a refund.

Prime Exclusive phones used to come with a significant discount in exchange for showing the user ads on the lock screen.

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Amazon is refunding Prime Exclusive phone ad removal fees was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

Music licensing fees paid by streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music to increase

The Copyright Royalty Board of the U.S. Library of Congress—which determines the licensing fees paid by streaming services to artists (and their publishers)—has reportedly increased the royalty rate from 10.5% to 15.1% of total revenues for the five-year period from 2018 to 2022. Streaming services rely on the compulsory license established under U.S. law rather than negotiate directly with publishers. For comparison, Netflix and Amazon must negotiate with studios for the use of programs, which is why their catalogs are not “all-inclusive” in the way that music streaming services are.

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Music licensing fees paid by streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music to increase was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

Bitcoin has officially abandoned its claims for fast transactions at low fees… for now

One of the things that got people excited about Bitcoin in the first place was its promise to deliver fast peer-to-peer transactions at a fraction of standard fees. But following its foray into the mainstream, the cryptocurrency has consistently struggled with slow transfers and excessive transaction costs. Indeed, crypto-obsessed Redditors have long been vocal about the compendium of technical difficulties the hype around Bitcoin has caused to the network – and what it once set out to offer to its users. So much so that its developer community has decided to update the copy on its website to better reflect…

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Unjustifiable carrier fees will stifle LTE smartwatch adoption

Wearables have become an established category over the past few years, but the subcategory of LTE wearables is still tiny and fragile. Unfortunately, cellular providers are treating LTE wearables like tablets, as if they’re similarly capable of gobbling data at phone-like rates. To encourage adoption, carriers should treat wearables as what they are — trivial additions to their networks — and stop charging unnecessarily high fees for data services.

In 2013, wearables were projected to hit $ 19 billion in annual sales by 2018, a milestone they crossed a year early. The category grows in popularity each year. Only a small fraction of these sales, however, are wearables with cellular capabilities — specifically, smartwatches that can make calls and use LTE data services on their own.

There are so few LTE wearables because the technology isn’t ready for prime time: The LTE Apple Watch only has enough power for one hour of cellular calls, while the larger Samsung Gear S3 promises only three hours. Small, low-resolution screens and simple input interfaces guarantee that even top smartwatches won’t demand heavy loads of LTE data anytime soon, and they can’t serve as hotspots for larger devices, either. So at best, LTE watches remain highly limited sidekicks to cell phones; no one buys one without a smartphone to use for most purposes.

All things considered, the various carrier service fees are simply hard to justify.

What do LTE wearables currently cost per month?

U.S. carriers currently charge at least $ 10 per month to add an LTE wearable onto your existing cellular plan, or $ 120 per year. As first noted by MacRumors, however, Verizon adds additional “regulatory” surcharges that bring their charges up to $ 15 per month, or $ 180 per year. AT&T’s surcharges are lower than that, but higher than T-Mobile’s flat, no-extra-fees $ 10 rate.

That’s not all you have to pay for LTE access. AT&T and Verizon both charge a $ 25 activation fee for wearables; Sprint’s fee is $ 30. You get charged the first time you start using your wearable on the network, then have to pay a reactivation fee if you decide to stop monthly service and restart it later. Users who think they can bring their LTE watches on and off the cellular network will wind up with an expensive surprise.

What should LTE wearables cost per month?

The short answer? $ 5 or less. A monthly tablet plan with 1GB of data costs around $ 10, and the perceived monthly value of a wearable is lower.

It goes without saying that cellular service plans for devices have certain “reasonable” price points: hit them and people will sign up, miss them and people will hold off. Different types of devices have different reasonable service prices — the higher the perceived value, the higher the price could be.

Recognizing the potential of smartphones to one day dominate the cellular business, Apple required AT&T to offer customers a reasonably priced unlimited data plan for the original iPhone: Just like Danger’s Sidekicks, the iPhone’s data plans added $ 20 per month to any voice calling plan. Once both iPhones and faster data service became ubiquitous, carriers increased their data prices.

It’s hard to justify either the activation or recurring fees for wearables. Previously, “activation” required giving a customer a SIM card, paying a customer service agent to assist with the SIM installation/setup process, and manually provisioning a cellular account. But the latest LTE watches have built-in eSIMs and can be added to an existing phone plan in seconds by the customer, straight from the phone or watch screen. What is a $ 25-$ 30 watch activation fee really buying?

Recurring charges for LTE accessories should be commensurate with the value they provide. Carriers offer $ 10 LTE tablet data add-ons for devices that strain cellular networks more than watches — and do a lot more. Paying an extra $ 10 per month to receive the occasional phone call or text message on a smartwatch just doesn’t feel reasonable, given that wearables register such minor ticks on the cellular data meter.

That said, the cellular price you already pay monthly will dictate the perceived extra value of sharing your phone’s existing services with a watch. Do you already pay for tethering? Have you added a tablet to your mobile plan? You might reasonably feel like adding a modestly useful wearable to your existing services should be free. Others might be OK with a recurring $ 5 monthly charge, or a one-time charge in the $ 50 range. Polling the minuscule base of existing LTE wearable customers — uber-vanguard early adopters willing to purchase the craziest of products — won’t yield an accurate number for what everyone else would find appealing or reasonable.

A smarter solution for LTE smartwatches

Smartphones were supposed to save us from the inscrutability of dumb phones. They succeeded — arguably too much for society’s own good. Then Bluetooth and Wi-Fi smartwatches were pitched to free us from the addictiveness of smartphones. So far, that hasn’t happened. Today’s wearables provide just enough voice and data access to let you interrupt smartphone sessions… so long as your phone is somewhere nearby.

LTE smartwatches are meant to really let people walk away from their phones. Used by themselves, current LTE watches could theoretically store a map of your 100-mile bike route, track your progress during the ride with GPS, and let you call someone for an emergency rescue along the way. But due to battery limitations, you probably won’t have enough juice to make a call from the hospital that night, unless you carry a charger or spare battery around. At that point, you would have been better off just carrying your phone, defeating the watch’s purpose.

Until wearables begin to demand phone- or tablet-level data, cellular companies should treat smartwatches as what they are — minor accessories — and cut their monthly fees to $ 5, perhaps discounted to $ 50 annually if prepaid. This will encourage adoption of LTE wearable technology, which otherwise could struggle to become as ubiquitous as smartphones are today. With the right pricing and performance, LTE wearables could actually surpass phones by becoming necessities for huge numbers of young kids and seniors. That day’s not near, but proper pricing will bring it a lot closer to reality.

Apple – VentureBeat

People Are Taking Ubers to Avoid Ambulance Fees

Health Fare

Using an ambulance to travel to the hospital in an emergency can cost upwards of $ 1,000 USD. Now research demonstrates that a significant number of people are instead choosing Uber to perform the same service.

The paper – currently being peer reviewed – examines the effect on ambulance usage as Uber was introduced to 766 cities across 43 states. According its findings, even the most conservative estimate shows a seven percent reduction in people traveling via ambulance where the service is available.

“I think it’s, in general, a good thing,” said co-author David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, speaking to Futurism over the phone. “Certainly, we can think of cases where it’s a worrying trend, but in general, it’s a good thing.” Slusky went on to acknowledge the importance of “bending the cost curve” for healthcare in the U.S., given that residents spend more per capita on healthcare than anywhere else in the world.

Of course, it’s crucial that people are only using Uber drivers as an impromptu ambulance when it’s safe to do so. While in some cases it makes sense to save money using this strategy, there are certain situations when it would be ineffective or even downright dangerous to do so.

For example, you may end up in the wrong hospital, said Marc Eckstein, the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s medical director, speaking with CBS.

Not all hospitals offer the same services, so if you get a ride to the nearest one which is not equipped to treat your problem, that hospital will then call 911 and move you to the right facility. “That difference of 30 minutes or more could mean the difference between life and death,” Eckstein said.

Ambulance App

The fact that the cost of taking an ambulance to the hospital is inaccessible for a lot of people in the U.S. is a big problem, and the use of ride-sharing services is a workaround at best. However, there are certain advantages to the idea of people taking an Uber when an ambulance isn’t necessary.

“If ambulances aren’t used when they’re less needed, that improves response time when they are needed,” explained Slusky. Again, it’s troubling to think that people might have to weigh the financial repercussions of getting to the hospital in an emergency, but there could be a benefit to giving people a less expensive alternative in non-emergency situations.

Slusky argues that educating the public about what sort of conditions need immediate treatment, as well as an effective method of remote triage before the patient ever reaches the hospital, could help modernize our emergency healthcare. Some kind of sanctioned ride-sharing service could play a role, with ambulances serving as one component of a broader fleet of vehicles with various levels of specialization.

Technology is poised to revolutionize the healthcare industry as we know it, and the current experience of heading to the hospital could be unrecognizable in a few years time. When it comes to emergency services, the biggest problem is re-educating the public. People know the established process for emergency care, and ingraining a new approach will take time and effort.

The post People Are Taking Ubers to Avoid Ambulance Fees appeared first on Futurism.


Apple will waive developer fees for nonprofits and governments in 2018

As Sarah Perez at TechCrunch notes, Apple has quietly changed the wording on its App Store guidelines regarding “apps created from a commercialized template.” That’s a super boring way to refer to a problem that Apple has been trying to solve since at least June of this year: cookie-cutter apps. These are the sorts of apps that a small business or local event might have a service create and submit to the App Store for them — they’re often low quality, undifferentiated, and poorly maintained. And so back in June, Apple just straight up banned them.

But today, Apple is softening that stance a little. The new language adds a bunch of caveats after the word “rejected,” including rules that will allow templatized apps if they’re “submitted…

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Apple Watch Series 3 Owners Surprised with Extra LTE Fees

A little over three months has passed since Apple released its LTE capable Apple Watch Series 3. And while the company initially sought to swoon early adopters by partnering with America’s largest wireless providers to offer “three months of complimentary LTE service” with their purchase — a $ 30 value, based on the ubiquitous $ 10/month service fee — it turns out the actual cost of owning an LTE capable Apple Watch S3, in most cases, comes out to much more than that.

Now that the fee-free grace period is coming to an end for most early adopters who purchased their Apple Watch S3 through a wireless carrier, reports are trickling in that their first billing statements reflect amounts generally in excess of $ 10/month.

On carriers like Verizon and AT&T, for example, customers are noticing additional fees and surcharges ranging from $ 2 to as much as $ 5 per month, MacRumors reported, while the added surcharges appear to vary depending on the carrier and market served.

For example, on Verizon Wireless in California, there’s an additional $ 1.55 per month in surcharges, government taxes and fees — in addition to the $ 10/month service charge. Meanwhile, across the country on AT&T in North Carolina, customers are being gouged for an additional $ 4.39 in fees and surcharges.

Is There a Way to Avoid the Extra Fees?

Unfortunately, while these surcharges are bound to frustrate most customers, it should be noted that they’re merely government-imposed taxes and fees regulated by the FCC — which all post-paid wireless customers already pay, anyways. Even though the Apple Watch S3 with LTE is linked to its user’s mobile number to enable wireless communication, the wearable still requires its own line of service (and, as a result, the fees) in order to operate on Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint’s network.

You can always deactivate LTE service on your Apple Watch S3 — in the event your wireless statement reflects too high of a fee. However you should be warned in advance that deactivating, and then reactivating at a later time, if you so decide, will ultimately result in an activation fee being applied to your account, as Macworld’s Michael Simon noted.

For example, Verizon customers who decide to deactivate (and, at a later time, reactivate) an Apple Watch S3 will automatically incur a $ 25 activation fee. AT&T will also charge $ 25, while Sprint will charge $ 30 and, interestingly enough, T-Mobile will not charge a fee for deactivating and reactivating the device.

Attempting to suspend service in hopes of foregoing the fee is also futile, Simon added, as Verizon will charge a $ 10/month “suspension fee,” instead, regardless of whether you’re using the service.

What’s the Bottom Line?

By now, most Apple Watch S3 buyers should be able to make an informed decision over whether the $ 10/month fee is worth it.

Of course, while neither Apple nor America’s wireless carriers were particularly truthful about the actual cost of Apple Watch S3 ownership, ultimately, each customer will have to decide whether these excess fees tip the scale.

Have you received your first wireless statement reflecting Apple Watch S3 fees? Let us know how you fared in the comments!

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Trump administration withdraws rule forcing airlines to disclose baggage fees

US airlines are no longer required to disclose hidden baggage fees as soon as people start the ticket-buying process, the Department of Transportation announced this week. The news coincides with Delta Air Lines’ announcement that it’s going to start charging basic economy passengers baggage fees for flights after December 6th.

The DOT, in following with the Trump administration’s general disdain for Obama-era policies, is withdrawing the rule that requires airlines to disclose fees, saying that they have “limited public benefit,” as first reported by The Hill. The Obama administration proposed the rule would provide greater transparency for airline consumers. The move drew harsh criticism from Democratic members of Congress, some of…

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Patreon is shifting processing fees from creators to supporters

On December 18th, Patreon will be changing how it handles service fees. Currently, Patreon takes five percent of whatever creators make on the site but because of various processing fees that also apply, creators actually lose seven to 15 percent of…
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