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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Robocalls Are (Finally) Being Shaken Up

Hey, have you heard that your car’s extended warranty is about to expire? That’s what the disembodied robot voice on the other end of the phone wants you to think, anyway. Fortunately, these incessant spam calls may soon be getting less frequent.

This week, the US Federal Communications Commission closed a loophole in a policy that requires voice service carriers to adhere to a standard that would help block robocalls. All carriers in the US are now required to utilize a tech known as Stir/Shaken (an acronym for a very long and unwieldy title of federal standards for calls). It’s a way to identify legitimate carriers and allow them to connect calls, while blocking out those who are trying to spam you.

The big carriers had already been using the standard when the FCC announced this policy last year. But there was an exception for landlines and companies with fewer than 100,000 customers. Turns out, a surprising number of spam calls are filtered through those smaller companies, and this week the FCC said it is requiring everyone to adhere to the Stir/Shaken standard regardless of size.

As Ars Technica points out, it’s not a perfect plan, and it won’t eliminate spam calls entirely. The Stir/Shaken standard doesn’t work on landlines, so old-school scammers could still make house calls. Also, the standard applies only in the US, so anyone spoofing numbers overseas could find a way around it. And you’re still liable to get some real weird scams via text. In the meantime, our best advice is, when in doubt, don’t engage—even if your car’s warranty really is about to expire.

Here’s some more gadgety news.


If you’re an iPhone user who at one point decided you were totally done with Instagram, it was probably a bit of a challenge to actually delete your account. You couldn’t do it in the app itself; instead you had to log in via a web browser. Now it’s possible to delete your Instagram account on iOS right there in the app.

The move comes in response to a new policy Apple implemented in its App Store on Thursday, which requires any app that asks users to create an account to also give them a way to end it. It’s still not a clean break, at least not right away. The app tries to steer you to “deactivate” the account rather than delete it, which would just put it in a suspended state. And if you actually, really delete it, there’s still a 30-day grace period before the account is wiped entirely, and if you log back in it will automatically restore the account. Sounds a lot like … deleting Facebook.

Speaking of, did you know you can delete your Facebook account too?

Like Every Other App, TikTok’s All About Shopping Now

Get ready to buy more stuff in TikTok. Last year, TikTok partnered with Shopify to let creators sell merch on the platform. Now it's testing a feature to display those shop features more prominently in the app.

TechCrunch unearthed screenshots of the Shop option, which looks like it allows people to surf product categories and add items to a shopping cart right within the app. The Shop tab is displayed prominently, up at the top with TikTok’s main Following and For You tabs.

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It’s possible that this experimental feature will remain an experiment. TikTok is testing the Shop tab only in Indonesia now, and the store function in general is available only in a few countries. But seeing as TikTok shows no signs of slowing its roll—and that its competitor Instagram has fully leaned in to shopping—maybe expect to see the shop open up between your super-addictive feed of lip-synching cottagecore videos soon.

No Longer Tethered to iPhone

On Wednesday, Google rolled out some updates to its official Switch to Android app on iOS. Previously available only on Pixel phones, the service now works on all Android phones running Android 12.

To switch, iPhone users can connect their iPhone to their Android via a cable or wirelessly within the app. This lets them transfer their contacts, media, calendar, and WhatsApp messages more easily than restoring the phone from a cloud backup or setting up a new phone entirely. Users switching from Android to Apple have been able to do this for years with the Move to iOS app, and now Google is finally catching up.

Into the Metaverse

The metaverse: It’s a place that’s not a place. A digital realm that’s not quite there and that no one can really seem to decide exactly what should go in it. It’s a buzzword that’s been thrown around a lot lately, but the core concept is still elusive and hard to explain. Which is why on this week’s Gadget Lab podcast featured Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist and author of the new book The Metaverse and How It Will Change Everything.

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