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Best travel VPN 2021

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Of all the situations you might find yourself in when using a VPN, perhaps the one where your VPN is at its most mission critical is when you’re traveling. When you’re away from home, you’re dependent on whatever communication infrastructure exists where you are. That might be a solid, secure infrastructure, or it might be one that’s insecure, or even one designed by the host government where you’re located to siphon up every last bit of information about you that it can.

Also: Air-gapping the planet: How to travel safely in digitally scary places

VPNs create secure tunnels that should allow you to get back to your home network resources, whether that’s a public cloud in your home country or your corporate server. They protect your ability to conduct whatever financial transactions you need to make while traveling. They may even protect your identity from stalkers or local organized crime that might be looking for an executive to kidnap and ransom. 

Keep in mind that VPNs are illegal in some countries, precisely because the host government wants to snoop on all traffic. Make sure you check into local laws before you do something that may be frownNed upon, possibly with quite serious consequences.

Also: Take home along: How a VPN can help travelers connect wherever they go

Sure, VPNs can also let you stream your movies from your home services while away, but they serve a much more serious purpose when on the road. Choose carefully.

Servers in 94 countries

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  • Locations: 160
  • Simultaneous Connections: 5 or unlimited with the router app
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: A whole lot (see the full list here)
  • Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs
  • Trial/MBG: 30 days

With 160 server locations in 94 countries, ExpressVPN has a considerable VPN network across the internet. In CNET’s review of the service, staff writer Rae Hodge reported that ExpressVPN lost less than 2% of performance with the VPN enabled and using the OpenVPN protocol vs. a direct connection.

When it comes to travel, a key advantage of ExpressVPN is the private DNS it runs on every VPN server. That means that when you’re trying to access Gmail, for example, ExpressVPN’s DNS will give you an actual IP address for Gmail. If you’re relying on your local host network’s DNS, you have no idea what actual IP address you’re being sent to. It looks like Gmail, but is it really? Or did you just give a hostile government or organized crime your Gmail credentials? Make use of ExpressVPN’s private DNS.

Must read:

ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPN providers out there, offering a wide range of platforms and protocols. Platforms include Windows, Mac, Linux, routers, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Kindle Fire, and even the Nook device. There are also browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Plus, ExpressVPN works with PlayStation, Apple TV, Xbox, Amazon Fire TV, and the Nintendo Switch. There’s even a manual setup option for Chromecast, Roku, and Nvidia Switch. While you’re unlikely to use all these platforms while traveling, it’s nice to know ExpressVPN will be useful when you’re back home as well.

While the company does not log browsing history or traffic destinations, it does log dates connected to the VPN service, amount transferred, and VPN server location. We do want to give ExpressVPN kudos for making this information very clear and easily accessible.

Exclusive offer: Get 3 extra months free.

Servers in 65 countries

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  • Servers: 3,200+
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Firefox, Chrome
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

At two bucks a month for a two-year plan (billed in one chunk), Surfshark offers a good price for a solid offering. In CNET’s testing, no leaks were found (and given that much bigger names leaked connection information, that’s a big win). The leak protection can be a big deal when traveling, especially if you want to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN from either the local Internet service provider or the host government.

The company seems to have a very strong security focus, offering AES-256-GCM, RSA-2048, and Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption. To prevent WebRTC leaks, Surfshark offers a special purpose browser plugin designed specifically to combat those leaks.

Surfshark also offers a private DNS capabilities, as well as what they call NoBorders mode. This feature is designed to enable you to access sites regardless of restrictive border connections. Be careful, though. Countries restricting access tend to frown on your bypassing those restrictions.

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Surfshark’s performance was higher than NordVPN and Norton Secure VPN, but lower than ExpressVPN and IPVanish. That said, Surfshark also offers a multihop option that allows you to route connections through two VPN servers across the Surfshark private network. We also like that the company offers some inexpensive add-on features, including ad-blocking, anti-tracking, access to a non-logging search engine, and a tool that tracks your email address against data breach lists.

Servers in 59 countries

nord-travel.png
  • Servers: 5,517
  • Simultaneous Connections: 6
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

Also: How does NordVPN work? Plus how to set it up and use it

NordVPN is one of the most popular consumer VPNs out there. We found that NordVPN performance was generally consistent across a wide range of test situations. This means that if you’re traveling, you’re likely to be able to count on NordVPN performing about as well, no matter where you’re connecting from and to.

Also: My in-depth review of NordVPN

In our review, we liked that it offered capabilities beyond basic VPN, including support of P2P sharing, a service it calls Double VPN that does a second layer of encryption, Onion over VPN which allows for TOR capabilities over its VPN, and even a dedicated IP if you’re trying to run a VPN that also doubles as a server. It supports all the usual platforms and a bunch of home network platforms as well. The company also offers NordVPN Teams, which provides centralized management and billing for a mobile workforce.

Also: My interview with NordVPN management on how they run their service

Performance testing was adequate, although ping speeds were slow enough that I wouldn’t want to play a twitch video game over the VPN. To be fair, most VPNs have pretty terrible ping speeds, so this isn’t a weakness unique to Nord. Overall, a solid choice, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee, worth a try.

Servers in 52 countries

ipvanish-travel.png
  • Servers: 1,900 
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome, plus routers, Fire Stick, and Kodi
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

IPVanish is a deep and highly configurable product that presents itself as a click-and-go solution. I think the company is selling itself short doing this. A quick visit to its website shows a relatively generic VPN service, but that’s not the whole truth.

Also: My in-depth review of IPVanish

Its UI provides a wide range of server selection options, including some great performance graphics. It also has a wide variety of protocols, so no matter what you’re connecting to, you can know what to expect. The company also provides an excellent server list with good current status information. This list can prove hugely helpful when on the road, because it will give you the option to tune which service and server you choose based on your current location.

There’s also a raft of configuration options for the app itself. In terms of performance, connection speed was crazy fast. Overall transfer performance was good. However, from a security perspective, it wasn’t able to hide that I was connecting via a VPN — although the data transferred was secure. Inability to hide being on a VPN could be problematic for traveling, which is why this is the last choice in our list of recommendations.

 Overall, a solid product with a good user experience that’s fine for home connections as long as you’re not trying to hide the fact that you’re on a VPN. The company also has a partnership with SugarSync and provides 250GB of encrypted cloud storage with each plan.

How can I find out what the VPN rules are for the countries I’m visiting?

There are a number of sources. First, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your VPN vendor. They often have a good feel for the countries their services operate in. If you’re an American citizen, contact the US State Department. Foggy Bottom often lists travel advisories for US citizens, and they have foreign service officials who can provide general guidance. Check the travel advisories web page. If you’re outside the US, your nation’s foreign ministry may have a similar service.

Is a VPN all I need to be protected while traveling?

No. No way. VPNs can, generally, protect your data while it’s in motion. But if your computer or phone is seized (whether or not its encrypted), it’s possible governments can access your data. Some governments might simply hold your devices for whatever reason they deem useful. Online services you access in-country might have less protections than the very same services in your host country. And, of course, there’s all the normal travel security issues, like being careful what you spend, how you handle cash, who you trust, and so on that could cause risk while traveling.

If my hotel has a wired connection, do I still need to use a VPN?

Yes. Don’t assume any network endpoint is safe when traveling. Always make sure your connections are encrypted when communicating from any network connection.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/best-travel-vpn/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Why Facebook is the AOL of 2021

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Once upon a time, roughly thirty years ago, there was a computer network called America Online. 

AOL, as it was typically referred to, sent out little diskettes in the mail, and sometimes slipped them into the middle of popular magazines. The diskettes were a way for people to go online. There was already an Internet, but most people didn’t know how to use it or even that it existed. 

AOL, and a couple of competitors, Compuserve and Prodigy, offered people online things they could do, such as chat with other people. Mostly, the services helped people to get around the difficult aspects of what are known as Internet protocols. Internet computers need to communicate via connections that require a dedicated communications line, and a so-called IP address, which in turn requires a software program called TCP/IP. Most people’s computers didn’t have any of that. 

Instead, the little diskette in the magazine let a person plug their computer into their telephone modem — once they’d bought a modem at the local computer store — and dial up a server computer that would admit them to the world of AOL or, alternatively, to the world of Compuserve or Prodigy. Some people grumbled at how many diskettes were stuck inside magazines, but the diskettes were an effective way to attract new people to sign up and use the service.

Many people spent days and days at a time on AOL and the other services. The services had only one drawback, which was that they were limited. People couldn’t do just whatever they wanted, they could only pick from a small menu of functions, such as chat, that the services provided. And the services didn’t grow or change much, they stayed pretty much the same for years because it wasn’t in their interest to change when the diskettes kept bringing people in. 

facebook-floppy-crop-layout-for-twitter-version-2.jpg

Back in the early ’90s, AOL mailed out little diskettes and stuck them in magazines to get people to come online. Facebook didn’t have to resort to such cheesy tactics, but it similiarly has offered a curated set of free activities that have trapped people inside a walled garden, just like AOL.

Tiernan Ray for ZDNet

Most people didn’t mind that the services were limited and didn’t change. People were just excited to be in a place called Cyberspace. Suddenly, they could send a message to someone in a different town, even a different country, even people that they had never met. People could also adopt a secret identity, such as “picklefinger0237,” and the anonymity made interacting even more exciting.

Right about the same time as AOL, a smart person named Tim Berners-Lee, who worked at a prestigious research organization, published some software people could use to connect from their computer to any computer that also had the software. It was the World Wide Web. The software quickly caught the attention of many people and it blew their minds. With a real Internet connection, a person could reach any computer in the world. People saw that they didn’t have to accept the small menu of functions that AOL offered them. 

Moreover, the excitement that people felt when they were sending a message to a person in another town now swelled until it became a fervor to see the world. People had a sense the small little place in Cyberspace where they had dwelt was nothing compared to a vast universe just over the garden wall. The excitement pushed even ordinary people to find out how to sign up with a thing called an “Internet Service Provider.” It required people to understand something called “point to point protocol,” which was almost like learning science, but still less annoying than all the diskettes.

As it grew and grew, the World Wide Web became an amazing place in contrast to AOL. People found they could visit articles and whole magazines written by people they’d never met, even from around the world. And there was a constant stream of innovation, with lots of software appearing all the time that made “surfing” the Web amazing. 

People even discovered more of the Internet, such as things like “file transfer protocol,” where they could get lots of stuff no one had ever seen in the form of files. Programs such as “finger” let a person see who had been online, which, again, blew people’s minds. 

People were so excited by the World Wide Web, they never wanted to go back to AOL or Compuserve or Prodigy. The three services withered. Mostly, people who were older held onto their AOL accounts because they still had an email address linked to AOL and it was a little confusing to try to get a new email address. But over time, with help from the younger generation, even those people were able to shift to using new email services and enjoy the Web. 

Soon after people became excited about the Web, business people started to say it was sad that AOL and Compuserve and Prodigy had withered away because they had been a great way to make money for a time. 

The business people decided that there should be a way to make something like AOL, even though everyone thought Web sites were amazing and didn’t want to go back. A content company called CNET (a sister site of ZDNet)  invented a service called Snap Online. They put out T-shirts telling people it was like having AOL but so much better. They wrote the word Snap with an exclamation point — Snap! — so that it was even more exciting. 

The service, though, didn’t make a lot of money, in fact, it cost CNET a lot of money, $101 million dollars through 1999, before CNET sold it to another company called NBC Internet. NBC eventually merged with a cable company called Comcast, and Snap was forgotten.  

Other people tried to make another AOL, including a group of the smartest venture capitalists in the world, who spent nearly $50 million to create a site that would be more like meeting real people, called Friendster. It had some success at the beginning because people really wanted to meet not just new people but people they knew. Then people cooled on Friendster, and it got sold — for a lot less money than it had taken to build it — to a Malaysian online payments firm. People mostly forgot about Friendster.

None of those failures deterred business people, and they created new services, including a service called MySpace, where people could put up information about their rock bands. 

Also: Why is your identity trapped inside a social network?

Finally, some smart people hit on a formula and they created some brand-new places for people to meet.

One of them was called Facebook. People got excited about Facebook because it was a place where they could find real people they knew, just like MySpace, but also because it had some features like AOL, like the game Farmville. 

Business people were even more excited because Facebook started to generate a lot of advertising revenue. Advertisers liked Facebook because it not only knew who was talking to whom, it also knew a little bit about the hobbies and interests of people. Advertisers liked that because they could use the information to “target” their ads like never before.

Smart people said that Facebook had what are known as “network effects.” It became more powerful the more people joined it. A scientist deduced the possible reason. It was because Facebook had what’s called a “scale free” network that solved the problem of how to meet up. Most people didn’t know that many people, but everyone knew one or two people who knew a whole lot of people. Those one or two people were the hubs in a social “graph” that allowed even lonely people to meet lots more people, in the same way everyone in Hollywood knew someone who had worked with the famous actor Kevin Bacon on a movie.

As more lonely people met new people — and old friends — via Facebook, Facebook grew and grew. Its revenue swelled from $153 million dollars a year to $2 billion to $18 billion until one day it was making almost $120 billion dollars a year selling advertisements as people did stuff together. Facebook became one of the most powerful entities in the world, worth over a trillion dollars, because it had so many people doing stuff, almost two billion people.

There were just a couple problems with Facebook. Facebook was a lot like AOL. It limited people by telling them with whom they could communicate. And unlike AOL and Compuserve and Prodigy, people couldn’t just be any fun identity they wanted, like picklefinger0237. They had to present themselves as themselves because advertisers liked to know who was talking to whom.

Many people didn’t really mind that they were limited in whom they could talk to. They liked to “build their brand,” they said, by showing off pictures of themselves and talking a lot about themselves. Also, people felt it was fine because just like with AOL, they had a couple other options, including Pinterest and Twitter and LinkedIn and Instagram, and even a new thing called Snap, without the exclamation point. Those were like having Compuserve and Prodigy back in the day.

But a few people got concerned. They noticed that not only did Facebook and services like it limit who could talk, and to whom those people could talk. The concerned people noticed that the services manipulated how people talked to one another, with computer algorithms called “data voodoo dolls.” Even business people became alarmed. They said Facebook had “zucked” people by betraying people’s trust. 

Also: Physics explains why there is no information on social media

One of the bad things was that people no longer had control. They had given so much information about themselves to Facebook and its competitors that it was like those companies owned people when they were in Cyberspace. 

The services didn’t seem to do a great job of handling people’s information, either. Even though they wouldn’t let people talk to just anyone they wanted, Facebook and the other services went and sold people’s information to people they didn’t know in far-away countries. And everywhere a person would go on the Internet, Facebook and its competitors would let advertisers keep following them, keeping track of them, which people had never counted on when they joined up.

Concerned thinkers said the new online services were watching everyone’s behavior and shaping it and invading their privacy. The consequences became worse and worse. People had thought they were relating to one another, but they were really screaming at one another like in a school lunchroom food fight. 

The reason they were screaming was because the data voodoo dolls and the other algorithmic tools weren’t really bringing people together, they were encouraging repetitive patterns of behavior, like getting people mad by constantly displaying the most inflammatory things people said about anything and everything. It was all for the purpose of sorting people’s behavior into convenient buckets as a way to communicate a clear buying signal to help advertisers

Even the people who were excited about building their brands had some misgivings. They suspected at times that their identities were not real. They were now simply a figment of an advertising database that constructed an identity for them in order to keep people coming to Facebook and other services. It was almost as if people didn’t exist anymore when they were in Cyberspace. 

Then one day, someone smart built a new technology that didn’t require people to sign away their information. Now, people could meet anyone they wanted and talk about whatever they wanted, not just what Facebook or its competitors said was okay. People felt more relaxed, too, because even though there were ads, people could meet up in Cyberspace without every single action they took being used to fuel an advertising machine. 

People got excited again, like the first time they found the Web and gave up on AOL.

But there our story ends, because that chapter has not yet been written.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/facebook-is-the-aol-of-2021/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Motorola thinks it can take business from Apple (with this?)

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Exuding security?

Screenshot by ZDNet

Recently, I’ve developed an unhealthy fascination with Motorola.

Ever since the company declared itself and its wares to be “agents of change,” I’ve been desperate to witness the change I can believe in.

The company’s first attempt to think different sadly resembled something you’ve seen (far too) many times before.

Still, my eyes became oddly widened when I saw this headline: “Forget the new iPhone 13 — Motorola thinks it just made your next work phone.”

This gave me a shuddery feeling for more than one reason. This is an aggressive alternative to the iPhone 13? This is from Motorola?

And wait, what is a work phone anyway?

Given that the pincer movement between tech and corporate America has forced us to be always on (edge), thanks to mobile technology, how can a work phone really be separate from your usual phone?

It’s cumbersome to carry two phones around — though I know some do — just to listen out for one tune or another to alert you about “work.” Rather than say, “match,” “lover”, or “burgers.”

So I hastily devoured details of what this new Motorola work phone is. It’s called the Motorola Edge 20 Lite Business Edition.

There’s a potentially uncomfortable juxtaposition between “lite” and “business,” so could it be that this phone will alleviate work encumbrances?

I rushed to Motorola’s site, desperate to be moved.

I found these words from our sponsor: “The motorola edge 20 and edge 20 lite Business Edition devices are designed specifically to meet the needs of today’s enterprises. Stay safer and up to date with two Android OS updates and three years of monthly security patches.”

Yes, it really did have Motorola with a small m, which was remarkably modest. And I’m sure monthly security patches are welcome. But it’s just a shame they have to occur every month.

The next sentence was intriguing but may not please all grammarians: “motorola edge 20 and edge 20 lite Business Edition devices are secured by ThinkShield for mobile, a comprehensive set of hardware and software security features, and is Android Enterprise Recommended.”

In essence, then, what makes a business phone a business phone is, according to Motorola, security.

I always worry when any tech company promises security. It seems painfully clear that this is a promise best left as a mobile goal, rather than a nirvana attained.

These Business Edition phones are designed to be sold to businesses in bulk. It’s wise, then, to emphasize the security at their heart.

It does, though, incite another question or two. Why aren’t all phones equally secure? Would it really necessitate a price premium just to give you what you might actually expect as a norm? And talking of price, is the price the other main selling point of the Business Edition against the iPhone 13?

The Edge 20 lite Business Edition may, indeed, be a fine phone. Motorola is, indeed, gaining market share. And many will want it to become more of a competitor in what often seems a very limited race to dominance.

But if you’re going to be a change agent, change something radically. Offer a business phone that won’t work after 7 p.m., for example.

What do you mean no corporation would ever buy that? Aren’t they all about empathy these days?

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/motorola-thinks-it-can-take-business-from-apple-with-this/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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AT&T says it has big problems. A T-Mobile salesman showed me how big

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at-t.png

A big brand problem? They could start with that logo.

AT&T

I’ve missed going to phone stores.

This may not be a sentence you’ve heard from too many people lately, but I’ve often found talking to those actually selling the phones to be an enlightening experience.

So last week, mask in hand and anticipation in head and heart, I went to an AT&T store. My main goal was to see Samsung’s Galaxy Flip 3 and Galaxy Fold 3.

I’ve been an AT&T customer for almost 20 years. Those phones seem especially riveting to me, though I’ve never held one.

Perhaps an AT&T salesperson could inspire me to finally toss my iPhone to the winds.

This Number Is Not Available.

I walked into a reasonably sized AT&T store. There were two customers inside. Very quickly, I was greeted by a saleswoman clutching an iPad.

“What name should I put down?” she asked.

“Chris,” I said.

“Right now, the wait time is thirty minutes,” she replied, very matter-of-factly.

That seemed like an infernally long time, given the sparsely populated store on this weekday afternoon. She didn’t even ask why I was there and simply walked away.

Still, she agreed I could look around. I found the Fold and the Flip, opened them and closed them, and discovered the that the crease on the Fold 3 was markedly visible, while the Flip 3 looked exactly as I’d imagined — utterly charming.

But was I going to spend another 28 minutes in the store? Was I really minded to go back?

I left, with the latest words of AT&T CEO John Stankey swishing around my brain: “Frankly, I’m not satisfied with where the AT&T brand stands right now.”

He worries the company isn’t well positioned for the next 10 years. I worry it’s not well positioned to offer basic customer service right now.

You Want Service? What Sort Of Service?

I wandered away and wondered whether I could get any service at the nearest T-Mobile store. Phone stores can be a little like car dealers, zoned into particular areas.

So I replanted the mask on my face, walked in, stood for perhaps 30 seconds and was approached by a salesperson. This despite the fact that there were four customers in a store that’s smaller than AT&T’s.

“Hi. If I asked you an honest question, would you give me an honest answer?,” I began.

“Sure,” he said.

“Is the T-Mobile coverage better in my area than it used to be?”

“Let’s find out,” he replied.

He then walked me over to the counter and showed me his iPad. He let me type in my address and showed me precisely where the nearest tower is and the strength of the signal.

My house is right on the border between good and not-so-good in signal terms. He was honest enough to not only show it, but not to offer some twisted reasoning for why it was actually guaranteed to be good.

He said that, over the next few years, the signal would improve a lot. And when I made a joke about 5G — there really are so many — he revealed he was a toggler.

“I manually switch from 4G to 5G to see where I can get a better signal,” he said. Which doesn’t sound like the sort of thing most people would be bothered doing.

Still, this was already a very pleasant chat. So I dared to ask about Samsung’s folding phones, the reason I’d gone to the AT&T store.

He took me through a comprehensive explanation of his views on the phones. The Fold 3, he said, still had issues because app designers hadn’t got around to adjusting to the Fold 3’s dimensions. He felt that YouTube just didn’t look great on the phone.

The Flip 3, though, was far more ready for everyday use, he said. The more I stared at it and fiddled with it, the more I liked it. 

I could even sink to admitting I wanted it.

Customer Service After My Own Heart.

“The problem is I’m iPhone,” I said. “I just don’t know if I can live with Android.”

“Same,” he replied. “Most of my friends and family have iPhones. If you have just one Android person on a group text, it throws everything.”

The feeling I got as a customer was that, regardless of how many people were in the store, he’d have continued the conversation.

I’d experienced this sort of service attitude at a T-Mobile store before, but I’d imagined it was perhaps a one-off, a single enthusiast. But to maintain this standard of service during and emerging from a pandemic was remarkable.

We chatted a little more. I was (pleasantly) startled to finally find another human being who refuses to put a case on his phone. He proudly showed his shiny silver iPhone 12, perfectly well cared for, while I displayed my slightly more careworn blue iPhone 12.

It’s a rare feat of customer experience when you find yourself unable to buy the product, but desperately wanting to buy something from this person.

Yet, given that working from home has long been my lot in life, I need a decent phone signal at all times and T-Mobile can’t yet guarantee that.

So, Mr. Sankey of AT&T, I know that your phone stores are likely a sad pimple on the chin of your brand perception. I know that you want to take AT&T to “a new place.” One, I imagine, that’s blissfully virtual.

But you might want to learn a thing or two about customer service from T-Mobile. Just as T-Mobile might want to learn a thing or two about security from, well, just about anyone who knows a thing or two about security.

It may well be that all phone brands will soon shut their stores and force customers to shop entirely online.

It may well be that they’ll leave the likes of Best Buy to provide actual physical experience and advice. But customer service remains something that matters to, you know, real humans.

This particular salesman got nothing out of our conversation. I asked him to please hurry the signal improvement near my house. (He said he’d get right on it.)

But, as I walked out of the store, I felt so good about the interaction that it genuinely lifted my day.

Then I looked at my phone and thought: “Hey, it’s still five minutes before anyone at the AT&T store will talk to me.”

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/at-t-says-it-has-big-problems-a-t-mobile-salesman-showed-me-how-big/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Ninja Van snags $578M in Series E, pulling in Alibaba as new investor

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Ninja Van has snagged $578 million in Series E funding, pulling in existing and new investors that include Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. The latest round comes over a year after it secured $279 million in Series D and amidst talks it is targeting a US public listing. 

Singapore-based logistics services operator Ninja Van said Sunday its latest funding round pulled in existing investors Geopost/DPDgroup, B Capital Group, Monk’s Hill Ventures, and Zamrud. Alibaba also participated in this round as a new investor, said Ninja Van. 

The funds injection would go towards beefing up its infrastructure and technology systems to support “a sustainable long-term cost structure”, Ninja Van said. It added that the investment also would support the “quality and consistency” of its operations, as well as its micro-supply chain service offerings aimed at helping businesses in Southeast Asia tap e-commerce opportunities.

Launched in 2014, Ninja Van currently has operations across six Southeast Asian markets including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The last-mile logistics operator delivers some 2 million parcels daily and works with more than 1.5 million active shippers across the region, including Alibaba’s subsidiary Lazada, Tokopedia, Zalora, and Shopee. 

This figure includes unique active shippers that have placed an order with Ninja Van in the past 12 months, Ninja Van said, adding that it delivers to almost 100 million recipients. The company employs more than 61,000 staff and delivery personnel in the region.

Ninja Van Group’s co-founder and CEO Lai Chang Wen said in the statement: “The quality of investors joining us in this round of investment is a clear signal that the market recognises the emerging opportunities for e-commerce logistics in Southeast Asia and how as an entrenched player in the region, Ninja Van is positioned to take a central role in meeting the shifting demands of both businesses and consumers. We remain committed to the success of all our business partners as we move towards the next stages of sustainable growth and continued innovation.”

Lai in July told Financial Times it was “a year away” from a public listing, likely in the US, with discussions with advisors rumoured to have started. 

Ninja Van in May 2020 pulled $279 million in its Series D funding round, which it then said would be tapped to drive its presence in the business-to-business (B2B) segment as well as expand its services for small businesses and business-to-consumer (B2C) brands. The round attracted several new and existing investors including, Grab, Golden Gate Ventures Growth Fund, Monk’s Hill Ventures, and B Capital, which is helmed by Facebook’s co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

That same month, Ninja Van said it expected to see another triple-digital volume growth this year in Thailand, where it recorded a 300% climb in shipments in 2020. The company would increase its parcel processing capacity in the country when its new automated sorting facility was scheduled to open later this year. The new site would be able to handle 800,000 parcels a day, supporting next-day delivery across the country including Bangkok and the eastern regions, Ninja Van said, adding that it was hiring another 1,000 employees in Thailand to support another 100 new regional and local distribution centres.

Southeast Asia is projected to be home to 350 million online shoppers by end-2021, up from 310 million last year, according to the latest annual study conducted by Bain & Company and commissioned by Facebook. Online spending also is expected to grow 60% per person this year, pushing total e-commerce sales to expand two-fold to $254 billion in gross merchandise value by 2026. The average consumer in the region was estimated to spend $381 online this year, compared to $238 last year, before hitting a projected $671 in 2026. 

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/ninja-van-snags-578m-in-series-e-pulling-in-alibaba-as-new-investor/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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