While Defy 2 is the first phone to have Bullitt Satellite Messenger, mind you it also announced Defy Satellite Link which is nothing but a $99 (Rs 8,200) device that adds satellite connectivity to Android and iOS devices. So other phones via Bluetooth can also get satellite connectivity (through Bullitt Satellite Messenger) offered by Bullitt.
As for its specs sheet, the smartphone features a 6.6-inch water-drop notch display with an FHD+ resolution of 120Hz. Although it’s a rugged device there’s no word on the display protection. However, it has MIL-STD810H certification and also features IP68/IP69K certification.
The device has a triple camera array on the back with a 50MP main lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, and a 2MP macro sensor. On the front, it has an 8MP selfie camera.
At the helm, it is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 930 octa-core chipset paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. It packs a 5,000mAh battery with support for 15W wired fast charging. It also supports Qi-wireless charging.
The device boots on old Android 12 OS but is promised to receive two years of OS updates and five years of security updates.
The Motorola Defy 2 is priced at $599 (Rs 49,600) and comes with 12 months of SOS Assist feature. The device will be available from Q2 of this year from select operators in regions like North America, Latin America, and Canada.
TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew reacts during a session for him to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing entitled “TikTok: How Congress can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms,” as lawmakers scrutinize the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2023.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
“Welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress,” boomed Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., speaking to the TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, a couple hours into a marathon hearing about the potential threat to U.S. consumers from the massively popular short-form video app.
“We may not always agree on how to get there, but we care about our national security, we care about our economy and we sure as heck care about our children,” Carter said.
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Chew found little reprieve during the questioning from either side of the aisle on Thursday. Lawmakers grilled him on the app’s potential to harm kids through its addictive features and potentially dangerous posts, as well as whether data from U.S. users could end up in the hands of the Chinese government through its China-based owner, ByteDance.
After more than five hours of questioning, it’s clear that lawmakers on the committee are not satisfied with TikTok’s current ownership structure, even if not all of them are calling for a full ban. But Chew’s testimony did not quell many concerns that lawmakers had about its ties to China or the adequacy of its risk-mitigation plan, Project Texas. In some cases, it may even provide fodder for those who believe the risk from TikTok is unacceptable.
“I’ve not been reassured by anything you’ve said so far and I think quite frankly your testimony has raised more questions for me than answers,” Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., said at one point in the hearing.
It’s not clear how Thursday’s hearing will translate into action. But several members seemed focused on passing a comprehensive digital privacy bill, like the one the panel approved last Congress but didn’t get to the floor for a full chamber vote. That sort of legislation would help resolve data privacy concerns that exist across all tech companies, including U.S. businesses like Meta, Google, Twitter and Snap.
Read more about tech and crypto from CNBC Pro
Congress has been mulling such a bill for years with no results. Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., noted this was the 32nd hearing Congress has held on privacy and Big Tech.
A ban or forced sale of the app, which some members think is the only way to solve the immediate risks, is another matter. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) is reviewing ByteDance’s acquisition of TikTok’s predecessor app, Musical.ly. It could recommend that the president force divestment if members can’t agree on an acceptable alternative to mitigate national security risks.
Or, the government could find other ways to try to ban the app. For example, the bipartisan RESTRICT Act introduced in the Senate would give the Commerce secretary the ability to review technology from foreign adversary countries and recommend the president ban the technology if the risks can’t be appropriately mitigated.
In one particularly dramatic moment on Thursday, Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., played a video she found on TikTok showing what appeared to be an animated gun continuously reloading with the caption “Me asf at the, House Energy and Commerce Committee on 3/23/23.” TikTok removed the video at some point during the hearing.
TikTok played down the importance of Thursday’s hearing in a statement.
“Shou came prepared to answer questions from Congress, but, unfortunately, the day was dominated by political grandstanding that failed to acknowledge the real solutions already underway through Project Texas or productively address industry-wide issues of youth safety,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said. “Also not mentioned today by members of the Committee: the livelihoods of the 5 million businesses on TikTok or the First Amendment implications of banning a platform loved by 150 million Americans.”
Clarity on China connections
Chew began his opening remarks by sharing details of his background and the countries to which he’s been connected. Chew said that he’s lived in Singapore, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Like him, his parents were born in Singapore and his wife was born in Virginia.
Notably, China wasn’t on the list.
But during the hearing, lawmakers drilled down into TikTok’s ties to China through its parent company.
While TikTok recently found a few allies on Capitol Hill, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee did not display a similar level of sympathy. On Wednesday, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., likened the focus on TikTok to a “red scare” over China, but many of his Democratic colleagues on Thursday seemed deeply concerned about security risks stemming from TikTok’s Chinese ownership.
Throughout the hearing, the lawmakers interrogated Chew about the ability of China-based ByteDance employees to access U.S. data, its failure to remove some dangerous or harmful posts and whether the company has interacted or aligned itself with the Chinese Communist Party.
Chew denied that TikTok shares data with the Chinese Communist Party. He said the company doesn’t have a policy to ask individual employees about their party affiliations in China, but pointed out that ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo is not a member of the party.
A key question for members of the committee seemed to be whether TikTok could uphold American values while being a subsidiary of a Chinese company. Lawmakers and intelligence officials fear that Chinese government officials could access U.S. user data from ByteDance through a Chinese law that allows officials to obtain company information for purported national security reasons.
“We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values — values for freedom, human rights, and innovation,” said Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R.-Wash., who supports a TikTok ban, in prepared remarks.
“TikTok needs to be an American company with American values and end its ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” Rep. Darren Soto, R-Fla., later echoed.
But several members said they think the project is still inadequate to protect American data.
“I don’t find what you suggested with Project Texas and this firewall that’s being suggested to whoever will be acceptable to me,” ranking member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said. “I still believe that the Beijing communist government will still control and have the ability to influence what you do.”
It didn’t help that The Wall Street Journal reported that China said it would oppose a forced sale of TikTok, saying that it would involve an export of technology.
“Despite your assertions to the contrary, China certainly thinks it is in control of TikTok and its software,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, pointing to the news article.
Burgess and others also asked Chew about his preparation and whether ByteDance employees were involved in getting him ready for the hearing. Chew said TikTok’s team in D.C. helped him prep.
Later, Chew told Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., that TikTok shares legal counsel with ByteDance. Griffith said under that arrangement, “there is no firewall, legally,” since those lawyers could share information with each other.
When Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., asked if Beijing has persecuted the Uyghur minority group in the country, Chew sought to redirect the discussion back to TikTok.
“While it’s deeply concerning to hear about all accounts of human rights abuse, my role here is to explain what our platform does,” Chew said.
Later, when Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, asked if TikTok supports genocide, Chew again sought to bring the conversation back to app. Asked a second time, Chew answered that no, it does not.
Toward the end of the hearing, Chew expressed that his testimony was attempting to do something almost impossible. Referencing a report that members brought up from the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab, Chew said, “Citizen Lab is saying that they cannot prove a negative, which is what I have been trying to do for the last four hours.”
Crypto companies are frustrated at the U.S. government for its lack of clear rules for the industry and the Securities and Exchange Commission for its aggressive actions against digital currency firms, according to multiple executives who spoke to CNBC.
Unlike other countries, the U.S. has yet to come up with a comprehensive framework or set of regulations that allows cryptocurrency and blockchain firms to operate without fear of being targeted by regulators.
Meanwhile, since the collapse of crypto exchange FTX last year, the U.S. SEC has stepped up enforcement action against companies.
On Wednesday, the SEC sent exchange Coinbase a Wells notice, warning the company that it had identified potential violations of U.S. securities law. The SEC also unveiled fraud and unregistered securities charges against crypto founder Justin Sun and celebrities that endorsed the digital coins he was pushing.
“It feels uncollaborative,” a senior crypto executive at the Paris Blockchain Week event told CNBC, wishing to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the matter. “It’s very frustrating for players that have been doing right the whole time.”
Joe Lubin, CEO of ConsenSys and co-founder of Ethereum, told CNBC Thursday that he thought the ecosystem was “generally frustrated.”
“I think we’re sort of continuing to watch the SEC play this game of punishing the people that are still surviving. And it’s a little bit, you know, sort of a frustrating thing to observe,” Nicolas Cary, president of Blockchain.com, told CNBC on Thursday.
Read more about tech and crypto from CNBC Pro
Much of what the SEC has done involves applying existing regulations to the crypto industry, which were formed several decades after the Howey Test — one of the key tests to determine whether something is a security or not.
Many in the crypto industry feel this is not the right path to take.
“Where I think you have less successful regulatory regimes is when you try to analyze crypto through the lens of traditional finance. You say, ‘well, is it a bit like a security? Is it a commodity?’ … No, it’s kind of none of those things. It’s crypto,” Oliver Linch, CEO of Bittrex Global, told CNBC Wednesday.
The SEC was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
CNBC spoke to numerous executives on the ground at Paris Blockchain Week, one of the most prominent crypto conferences in Europe, and one request executives made to U.S. regulators was the need for clarity.
“We’d love to have a little bit more clarity in regulation,” Silvio Micali, founder of blockchain company Algorand, told CNBC on Wednesday.
Bitcoin has had a strong start to the year with the cryptocurrency seeing a huge rally.
Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Some have expressed some sympathy with the SEC, however, suggesting that the watchdog is just operating within existing rules and that it is up to the U.S. government to change them.
“What are they supposed to do? If all you’re given is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail,” Bittrex Global’s Linch said.
Blockchain.com’s Cary said the SEC is “trying to do their job to protect consumers.”
“I find the talking point that there’s a lack of clarity in the securities laws unpersuasive,” Gensler said. “Some crypto companies might message that the laws are unclear rather than admitting that their platforms don’t have sufficient investor protection.”
He laid out instances where crypto firms come under existing securities laws, such as when a company offers lending products.
Gensler also said “crypto intermediaries aren’t exactly lining up to register with the SEC and comply with the laws enacted by Congress.”
The SEC chair said enforcement actions are “another tool” in the regulator’s toolbox to root out “noncompliance.”
U.S. risks falling behind Europe
Executives have warned that the lack of clear regulation in the U.S. could see it fall behind other countries and jurisdictions.
“It’s incumbent, I think, on Congress to actually create a legal regulatory framework that regulates crypto properly, because … crypto is here to stay,” Linch said.
Governments across the globe are weighing up how to regulate crypto. Places like Switzerland and Dubai have marketed themselves as crypto-friendly destinations with favorable regulation.
Meanwhile, the European Union is slated this year to introduce the Markets in Crypto-Assets, or MiCA, regulation, designed to bring some rules in and around digital currency companies.
When asked by CNBC if the U.S. is at risk of falling behind other jurisdictions in the crypto economy, Monica Long, president of Ripple, said: “We think so.”
“Europe is really emerging as a leader in terms of setting really clear regulations and rules that allow crypto companies and also traditional finance to embrace crypto,” Long said.
The Ripple president referenced MiCA, a law that required the agreement of all 27 nations that make up the EU, calling it “remarkable when the U.S. has one government and they can’t get their act together.”
Google and Facebook parent Meta are some of the companies that have laid off workers in recent months.
Beata Zawrzel | Nurphoto | Getty Images
From the U.S. to Europe and Asia, global tech giants from Microsoft and Google, to Amazon, SAP and more have laid off thousands of employees since the start of the year.
That’s despite most of these companies being profitable.
“Headcount reduction is a result of over hiring during the pandemic and a slower growth outlook than originally forecasted,” according to a report by financial services company Jefferies.
With interest rates and inflation remaining elevated, consumers are pulling back spending amid uncertainty in the global economy.
As a result, companies “need to reduce headcount in order to regain operating efficiency with a headcount that matches current demand trends,” the analysts at Jefferies said.
With interest rates rising, capital has become more expensive and companies started reining in their headcount costs.
“Particularly for startups, the surge in employment was partly fueled by cheap capital,” wrote a Bank of America Global Research report.
Here are some of the more prominent global tech firms that have axed staff despite earning big money.
Microsoft posted a net profit of $16.4 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31, down 8% from a year ago. Its cloud business drove results, with Microsoft Cloud revenue at $27.1 billion, up 22% year-over-year.
The firm also delivered “record results” in fiscal year 2022 ended Jun. 30despite a “dynamic environment,” CEO Satya Nadella said in the tech giant’s annual report.
“We reported $198 billion in revenue and $83 billion in operating income. And the Microsoft Cloud surpassed $100 billion in annualized revenue for the first time,” he said in the fiscal year 2022 report.
“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today,” said CEO Sundar Pichai, in a memo to staff.
Germany’s SAP said it met guidance across the board for full year 2022, with cloud revenue increasing 24% from a year ago. The enterprise software company also returned to positive operating profit growth of 2%.
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