BlackBerry Priv is the best BlackBerry in a decade


Hello, old friend. I can’t say I’ve missed you, but it’s still a pleasant surprise to run my digits over your surface. The bumps and ridges feel, after so much time, odd, yet strangely familiar. I honestly can’t believe it’s been almost five years since I gave up my last BlackBerry and touched my last BlackBerry keyboard.

My last BlackBerry, a Bold 9650, was a small, yet fairly traditional BlackBerry. It had a pretty small screen and the full classic QWERTY keyboard right below it. Before that I had the large-screen (for the time) Torch with a slide-out keyboard. Aside from its lackluster performance, I kind of loved that phone.

However I, like many others, left the BlackBerry behind and then watched in disbelief as the company stumbled through the next half decade with a parade of bad product and strategy decisions.

BlackBerry Priv Closed

BlackBerry’s new Priv phone looks, at first glance, like a lot of other 5.4-inch Android handsets.

As I hold the BlackBerry Priv and run my fingers over its physical keyboard, I realize it could signal the official end to the bad choices. It’s also the very first BlackBerry device to run — drumroll, please — Android (version 5.1.1).

And here’s the really good news: It’s a good marriage.

Instead of seeming like an unwanted tenant, Android is right at home with BlackBerry. And why shouldn’t it be? The Priv is, in many ways, just like the dozen or more phablets on the market. It has a big 5.4-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 OLED screen that even curves at the edges like a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+. But it is, in one way, nothing like most Android devices.

BlackBerry Priv Opened

The Blackberry Priv screen slides up to reveal a classic BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard.

Hidden behind the screen is the physical BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard I’ve been caressing. To access it, you slide up a custom aluminum sliding mechanism that extends the length of the phone by a little more than an inch. The construction on this feels quite good, like it could hold up to thousands of slides.

Overall, the keyboard looks a little bit vertically squished compared to other BlackBerry keyboards I’ve used (at least what I remember), but otherwise looks, feels and, mostly, works the same. The backlit keys, for instance, have a unique design that helps your fingers quickly find the separation between keys without looking at them (it’s been so popular over the years, that others have tried to imitate it and have been sued for it). It also puts numbers and punctuation behind the Alt key, just like all the other BlackBerry Keyboards.

BlackBerry Priv Keyboard

Yes, the Priv’s keyboard will feel like coming home — at least for all you old BlackBerry users out there.

Put simply, if you have ever used a BlackBerry keyboard, you will be right at home with this one. If you have not, you may still like it.

You can, obviously, completely ignore the keyboard — but then why would you buy this phone? — and instead rely on the onscreen keyboard. It’s good, except for its tendency to crowd the keyboard interface with too many text alternative and completion overlays. It’ll even put a whole word replacement on top of the space bar. If that’s the word you originally intended to type, great. If not, you could accidentally replace a word just by typing a space.

More than a keyboard

One reason non-BlackBerry aficionados could appreciate the Priv is that the keyboard also functions as a capacitive touchpad, and this is easily one of my favorite hardware features of the device. You can run your fingers lightly over the keys to scroll or move a cursor on the screen.

I admit, I’m so unaccustomed to using a physical keyboard that I often had to remind myself to slide it out and start typing. I also found that I’ve become much better at using a virtual keyboard. My speed on the hardware one was almost slower than on the virtual one. It looks like my keyboard muscle-memory is all but gone. Perhaps if I used it more consistently.

BlackBerry Priv Edge

Even with the hidden keyboard, the Priv is relatively thin and elegant.

Despite the inclusion of a keyboard, the Priv is still a pleasingly thin phablet, measuring just 0.37 of an inch deep and weighing 6.8 ounces. That’s the same weight as the iPhone 6S Plus, which has a slightly larger screen and is more than 0.079 inch thinner than the Priv. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, by contrast, weighs 5.6 ounces. Overall, the Priv is a pleasure to hold, in part because of grippy, slightly rubberized coating on the woven glass back.

Like many modern smartphones, the high-resolution, 18-megapixel camera bulges out slightly from the back. It sits next to a pair of LED flashes (one white, one amber) and below that is the familiar BlackBerry logo. The top has a pinhole microphone hole, as well as the SIM and microSD card slots. The phone starts with 32GB of storage, but you can add up to a terabyte (when those cards become available) via the microSD slot. On the base, you’ll find your standard 3mm minijack and a micro USB charging and data port.

BlackBerry Priv Top Edge and back

The BlackBerry Priv features a woven glass back and a slightly protruding 18 MP camera.

Aside from that hidden keyboard, the device has four ever-visible polished metal buttons: Power and sleep/lock on the left and volume up, down and a tiny mute button between them on the right side. I didn’t like these metal buttons much at first — they might be too subtle, at least to the touch — but eventually I got used to them.

The entire bottom edge, right below where you push to slide up the screen and reveal the keyboard, is devoted to a pretty powerful speaker. I especially like that it’s pointed at you and not off to the left or right or down into your hand or a tabletop.

What is a Priv?

Before we get ahead of ourselves and call this device the second coming of BlackBerry, let’s talk a bit about BlackBerry’s intentions.

Priv, if you haven’t heard, is short for “Privilege or Privacy,” take your pick. It is not a fantastic name, but it’s intended to convey a much more serious approach to privacy control and security. BlackBerry told me that the device has security baked in during the manufacturing process; cryptographic keys are put in during production, and it has a secure boot sequence as well as a hardened Linux kernel.


The BlackBerry Priv screen is reassuringly familiar in its Androidness (left). It even has the ame sort of pull-down controls (middle). But underneath it’s a privacy- and security-aware hybrid, as noted by this ever-watchful DTEK screen (right).

That all sounds great, though the only way most users might recognize all this added security is through a piece of software called DTEK, which is constantly measuring the overall security of the Priv and letting you know in real time what all the apps on the phone are doing. For example, you can see how often apps are accessing your location, contacts and the camera.

However, for a device so concerned with privacy and security, BlackBerry Priv is completely devoid of cutting-edge login options like a fingerprint sensor, facial recognition or iris scanning. On the bright side, the phone does include NFC, which supports Android Pay mobile payments, and contactless charging via Qi. Too bad the phone doesn’t ship with a contactless charging base.

Great screen and OS

The BlackBerry Priv is ostensibly a stock Android 5.0 (Lollipop) phone (Marshmallow should arrive within 12 months), but in reality, there are many BlackBerry touches throughout, including the trademark red splat that appears on icons when there’s an update, and the BlackBerry Hub communication center.

Priv even mixes in a little bit of ideas from other Android brands. Remember that curved screen I mentioned? You can drag in a “Productivity Tab” from the right edge of the Priv screen that includes Tasks, Calendar, Contacts and Mail. Since Android and Priv are already pretty generous with Notifications that pop up on my screen and that I can drag down from the top of edge of the phone’s screen, I rarely found the need for the Productivity Tab.

Performance and battery life

Inside the Priv is a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor running at 1.4GHz. Geekbench gave it solid single and multi-core numbers (1,132 and 3,460, respectively), though they did not come close to those of the iPhone 6S Plus (2,534 and 4,405) or the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, at least for multi-core scores (1,500 and 5,037).


The BlackBerry Priv’s Hexa-core CPU is a decent performer (right), but it’s outscored by the Apple iPhone 6s Plus (left) and the Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge Plus (center).

Still, in practice, the BlackBerry Priv is a fast and responsive phone that handles everything from gaming to web browsing and video playback with speed and ease. You can, though, feel the Priv at work; the right back edge gets almost uncomfortably hot during certain tasks.

Where Priv excels is in battery life. Remember how I told you that the Priv isn’t really much thicker and heavier than your average Android device and that it has a real keyboard as well as an aluminum sliding mechanism to reveal it? In spite of all that hardware, it’s rated at 22 hours and in my tests I easily got two solid days of mixed use on one charge. It’s one of the rare times I’ve looked at a mobile device and wondered where they put all the batteries.


The BlackBerry Priv boasts an optically stabilized 18-megapixel camera, which is certified by German optics manufacturer Schneider Kreuznach. Sadly, that German imprimatur doesn’t add up to stellar image quality. The photos I took looked good but couldn’t match the image quality I find when shooting with the lower-resolution iPhone 6S Plus iSight camera. Well-lit images looked good, but low light was a bit of a struggle for the Priv, as images could get pretty grainy.

Blackberry Priv Camera

Blackberry Priv’s 18 MP Camera got a stamp of approval from German optics company Schneider Kreuznach.

The Priv’s front-facing camera is just 2MP, but the software takes it up a notch by adding a gimmicky panoramic selfie mode. To use it, you point it at your face and then follow the on-creen guidance to capture the image areas to the right and left of you. Samsung added something very similar a couple of years ago.

BB Priv Skylinecomparison

BlackBerry Priv does a decent job when it has enough available light. But as you can see here is these untouched and full-size image crops, Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus iSight camera returns sharper images with better color verity.

You can also shoot video, which defaults to 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps). Yes, it can capture 4K, but to do so, you have to go into advanced settings. You’ll also find video image stabilization there, which can be useful for action shots.

As for the quality of the BlackBerry Priv’s 4K video, the best I can say of it is, at least Blackberry accomplished its task of checking off the box on 4K. 1080p video is much better, though still not as good as the iPhone 6S Plus.

BB Priv Stilllifecomparison

In low light, the BlackBerry Priv really struggles with grain and overall muddiness.

Time for a BlackBerry?

Without question, the BlackBerry Priv is one of the best devices BlackBerry has ever built. It’s a responsive, above-average Android phone with BlackBerry DNA and great battery life. It feels good in your hand and, unlike virtually every other Android device on the market, has an excellent physical keyboard. Even though I don’t need that keyboard, despite my affection for it, I’m certain it’ll be a godsend for those who can’t live without one.

However, before you drop your LG G4, HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4, S5 or S6 in favor of this, you should probably know one disheartening fact: BlackBerry isn’t necessarily building this handset for you. At $699 and, for now, only on AT&T in the U.S. (Carephone Warehouse in the UK and Rogers in Canada), this phone is aimed squarely at BlackBerry’s core enterprise customers, who must live on BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) and that demand leading-edge security and privacy options.

The price, especially for a 32GB device, is kind of disappointing. If this phone retailed for $299, I think it might sell like hotcakes and then BlackBerry would truly be back.

BlackBerry Priv

The Good

Sharp design Great physical QWERTY keyboard Stellar battery life Extensive privacy controls

The Bad

Price Camera not as good as competitors The back gets hot

The Bottom Line

BlackBerry’s first Android phone is a glimpse of what the once-dominant Canadian hardware giant is capable of.

Written By – Lance Ulanoff

Former Apple designers say the company has lost ‘the fundamental principles of good design’

Bruce Tognazzini was Apple’s first interface designer

Two early Apple designers have written a piece on Co.Design chastising Apple’s new design direction, which they claim puts elegance and visual simplicity over understandability and ease of use. Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini, who was Apple’s 66th employee and the writer of its first human interface guidelines, and Don Norman, Apple’s user experience architect from 1993 to 1996, aren’t holding back in the least.

“Apple is destroying design,” the duo wrote, calling out their former employer for trading in the fundamental design principles the company once held for a new minimalistic approach. That new approach has manifested in a new font called San Fransisco, which many, including Norman and Tog consider to be too small:

No more. Now, although the products are indeed even more beautiful than before, that beauty has come at a great price. Gone are the fundamental principles of good design: discoverability, feedback, recovery, and so on. Instead, Apple has, in striving for beauty, created fonts that are so small or thin, coupled with low contrast, that they are difficult or impossible for many people with normal vision to read. We have obscure gestures that are beyond even the developer’s ability to remember. We have great features that most people don’t realize exist.

They also criticized Apple for things like not including a universal undo or back button, which is present on Android, having too many “hidden” gesture-based menus, and for pushing visual simplicity over usability testing in its new human interface guidelines for developers.

Good design should be attractive, pleasurable, and wonderful to use. But the wonderfulness of use requires that the device be understandable and forgiving. It must follow the basic psychological principles that give rise to a feeling of understanding, of control, of pleasure. These include discoverability, feedback, proper mapping, appropriate use of constraints, and, of course, the power to undo one’s operations. These are all principles we teach elementary students of interaction design. If Apple were taking the class, it would fail.

Norman and Tog state that Apple’s design transgressions go far beyond the font on your phone, given Apple’s vast influence over design culture, stating that Apple’s choices could have reverberations in different industries like infrastructure and health care. “Apple is reinforcing the old, discredited idea that the designer’s sole job is to make things beautiful, even at the expense of providing the right functions, aiding understandability, and ensuring ease of use,” they wrote.

Worse, other companies have followed in Apple’s path, equating design with appearance while forgetting the fundamental principles of good design. As a result, programmers rush to code without understanding the people who will use the products. Designers focus entirely on making it all look pretty. And executives get rid of user experience teams who want to help design the products properly and ensure the products are made usable during the design phase, not after manufacturing, coding, and release, when it is too late. These uninformed company executives assume all this up-front design research, prototyping, and testing clearly must slow down the development process. Nope. When done properly, it speeds things up by catching problems early, before coding even begins.

It should be noted that Norman and Tog didn’t limit their design criticism to Apple. They also denounced Google Maps and Android for similar flaws. But when you’re the biggest company in the world selling the most popular smartphone on the planet, the brunt of the blame lands at your feet.

While they do admit that Apple has succeeded at making its devices visually appealing, in their eyes that appeal has damped some potential complaints from users. “The product is beautiful! And fun. As a result, when people have difficulties, they blame themselves. Good for Apple. Bad for the customer.”

Written By – Micah Singleton

Audi faces German emissions probe

 BERLIN (Bloomberg) — German prosecutors opened another criminal investigation into the Volkswagen diesel-emissions scandal, this time looking at the company’s upscale Audi unit.
Prosecutors in Ingolstadt opened the probe after reviewing several criminal complaints, including one filed by Audi, said Juergen Staudt, a spokesman for the investigators.The case is targeting people at the automaker who were responsible for the emissions results, but no individual suspects have been determined, he said.

Volkswagen is reeling from revelations in September that a line of diesel engines was equipped with software designed to fool emissions testers, affecting about 11 million vehicles worldwide.

Audi, which is based in Ingolstadt, is among the group’s passenger-vehicle brands that, along with the VW commercial-van nameplate, is faced with the recalls.

Prosecutors in the city of Brunswick are already investigating VW over the emissions. Their Ingolstadt counterparts have asked them to also take over their case, which they only did in part. So Ingolstadt started its own probe, Staudt said.

He said Brunswick prosecutors will investigate “those parts that are clearly located at Volkswagen” while Ingolstadt has kept the elements limited to Audi.

“But there are still negotiations pending whether to merge the probes eventually,” Staudt said.

About 2.4 million of the 11 million vehicles affected by the diesel scandal are Audi models. A further 5.6 are VW brand cars, 1.2 million are Skodas, 700,000 are Seat cars and 800,000 are light commercial vehicles, VW said in its third-quarter report on Oct. 28.



Windows 10 November Update: 5 Things to Check Out

Windows 10 Generic

Starting with Windows 10, Microsoft will release incremental updates to its operating system rather than rolling out a major update every few years.

Windows 10 Bug ArtWell, the first significant update is here, alternatively known as November update or its codename, Threshold 2. A lot of what’s in the update comes under the category of fixes and performance improvements, but there are quite a few palpable feature updates. Below, we explain the biggest changes rolling out today, but for a deeper dive, read our full review of Windows 10.

1. More tiles and other interface niceties
You can now increase the Start menu’s tile sections to four, medium-square tiles across. Window title bars, meanwhile, are also now in color along the top when they have the focus rather than the flat white appearance in the original Windows 10 release. The resizing icons have also been updated to show you how they’ll look in context of other tiles.

Start Menu More Tiles

2. A better Edge Web Browser
Many of the Fall Update features come inside Edge, Windows 10’s new Web browser. Among new capabilities are syncing for Favorites and Reading List items, a nifty tab preview, more standards support, and the ability to wirelessly cast media to a display, set-top box, or HDTV that supports Miracast. For example, you can send a network Web broadcast to a Roku box to see it on the big screen.

Tab Preview

3. Cortana Improvements
Windows PC users who don’t want to sign into a Microsoft account can now enjoy Cortana’s helpful and sometimes sassy answers. She can also now make Uber reservations, and recognize dates, times, and addresses from penned input. Finally, you can invoke the personal digital assistant from within a PDF page in the Edge Web browser.


4. New Skype Apps
Not only are there three new apps that take advantage of Skype’s communication prowess—Messaging, Phone, and Skype video—but Skype is better integrated with the operating system, too. For example, you can now answer a call or reply to a Skype message directly from an Action Center notification. It may seem odd to include a Phone app in a desktop OS, but since Skype can call regular phones and mobile, it makes some sense.


5. Easier Activation
With this update, activating an existing Windows license gets easier. With the original launch of Windows 10, you could only go through the update process on a PC with a valid Windows 10 license, but now you can simply enter a Windows 7 or 8.x license key to do a clean installation if you’d rather not upgrade. If you don’t have your license key, you can still simply upgrade a valid machine.

Easier Activation
Written By – Michael Muchmore

G Funk Era: Hyundai Teases New Genesis G90

Genesis G90

Fare thee well, Horsey O’Luxewagon, for your replacement is nigh. Hyundai’s LS-baiting Equus shall shortly gallop off into the sunset, to be supplanted by the Genesis-branded G90, part of Hyundai’s new effort to take on Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW.

Hyundai—excuse us—Genesis, refers to the design language as “Athletic Elegance.” The company goes on to describe the G90 as featuring “graceful and profound elegance,” courtesy of a “grand radiator grille” and “sophisticated headlamps.” The rear lamp cluster is described as “agile.” That’s a whole lotta hifalutin’ jibber-jabber, but the car isn’t lacking for presence. The side profile seems to crib from Audi, Rolls-Royce, and Jaguar, while the nose riffs on that of the current Hyundai Genesis sedan.

We’ll see the car in the metal next month, the first of six new models Genesis will launch within the next five years. Unlike the raft of luxury players that arrived from Japan a quarter-century or so ago, Hyundai won’t be establishing its own dealers for the G90 and its siblings. They’ll be sold at stores within existing Hyundai stores, which will keep launch costs significantly lower, even as it may soften the invisible touch of exclusivity.

Genesis G90

Car and Driver
Written By – Davey G. Johnson

Your Car, Sir: How Ultra-High-End Car Buying Is Different

Bentley Rancho Mirage-RA

Visit an ultra-luxury brand’s showroom, and you’ll find the espresso machine is always on, the sales representative likely knows your social media profile, and a complementary bouquet—with blooms to match your new car’s paintwork—is going home with you at delivery time.

Yes, mass-market brands emphasize customer service, but retailers of the world’s most prestigious marques practice refinements that mainstream dealerships can’t manage. High-end retailers anticipate your perceptions of the ultra-luxury car-buying experience, and they’re prepared to go extra lengths.

“We have to meet that expectation immediately,” says Stuart McIntosh, general manager of Aston Martin sales at O’Gara Coach Company, in Beverly Hills. McIntosh and his staff offer tea, coffee, or a soft drink to one and all. “We make sure everybody is treated equally, whether they’re taking pictures for their Facebook page or intend to buy a couple of cars.”

McIntosh describes a subsequent process of relationship building that requires tact and forbearance. “The main factor that goes into being a salesman for one of these brands,” he says, “is patience.” While the occasional customer wants a new car immediately, there are also those “who want to look at half of the color and trim combinations available.” And at Aston Martin, there are over 3 million color and trim combinations available, according to spokesman Matthew Clarke.

Given this required level of discretion, it’s safe to assume the sales representative probably wasn’t discounting mattresses last week before moving up to the more profitable arena of car sales. In fact, McIntosh’s team members have passed an aptitude test that he says indicates not only patience but also honesty and trustworthiness. It’s likewise safe to assume that the rep is used to dealing with wealthy people. And that he or she really digs the cars.

“Most of them are car lovers,” says Richard Koppelman, president of Miller Motorcars, a multi-line luxury-car dealership in Greenwich, Connecticut. “They probably didn’t come and say, ‘I can make $10 more selling Ferraris or Aston Martins.’ Sometimes we get people who had been in the luxury-goods area. The people we hire have to have a passion.”

And that passion may include being at home on the track, where some brands invite the favored few for test-drives. McIntosh’s dealership has a membership at the Thermal Club, a private circuit near Palm Springs. In the fall, the dealership invites 20 to 30 prospects “who we feel are in position to purchase by the end of the year.” They stay at the Ritz-Carlton, dine at Mastro’s Steakhouse, sample Aston Martin models on the track, and go for hot laps in a Vantage GT4 with a pro driver.

Track driving is a tactic used by Lamborghini, too, as part of what Alessandro Farmeschi, chief operating officer of Automobili Lamborghini America, calls “a highly customized one-to-one relationship that starts as soon as they get in touch with us.” The racetrack experience, Farmeschi says, is “part of the beauty of selling this product.”

By whatever avenues (or straightaways) the purchase decision is made, eventually it’s time to sit down and negotiate. Here’s where every dealer has something in common: floorplanning charges—the amount paid to the manufacturer for subsidizing inventory—make him eager to move the metal (or carbon fiber).

Having eight Rolls-Royces in a showroom, as we counted at Desert European Motors, a multi-line ultra-luxury and exotics dealership in Rancho Mirage, California, could be a costly proposition. But floorplanning affects even a small dealer. Greg Albers, co-owner and general manager of Bentley Zionsville, which is near Indianapolis, suggests the well-qualified buyer usually has some leverage.

“Generally, if you have a product that’s brand-new and it’s hot, for a period, you can get sticker price,” says Albers, who notes that special-ordering a bespoke car leaves less room to dicker. Otherwise, though, “you’re dealing with businessmen who’ve been successful, and they’ve been successful by being good negotiators. Everybody wants to get the best deal they can. People are not foolish with their money. For the most part they’d like to know they’re getting a good deal.”

At least half of Albers’ buyers pay cash, with a substantial percentage of others leasing through their businesses. And where Indianapolis and Beverly Hills have something else in common is in offering an extended warranty. “Some want that, some don’t. We offer it to them,” Albers says.

Finally, it’s time for delivery. And indeed, McIntosh’s Aston Martin buyers really do receive a bouquet, or golf bag, that matches the car.

As for handover, there’s another split in buyers’ preferences. “Some people do just want you to give them the key, and they’ll read the book,” Albers says. On the other hand, dealers are quite willing to demonstrate all aspects of the car. “It makes their experience better, saves them calling two days later and asking, ‘How do I open the gas door?’ ”

So what’s the best example of special accommodations in the familiarization process? When Miller Motorcars recently delivered a car to a customer’s home, the buyer sent his helicopter to fetch a dealership employee for the walk-through.

Car and Driver
Written By – Ronald Ahrens

Disappearing Donuts

One-Third of New Cars Don’t Come With a Spare Tire

AAA - Tire Inflator Evaluation 3

What’s worse than a flat tire? The sinking realization that you have no way to fix it. That’s the situation more American motorists may find themselves in as 36 percent of 2015 models are sold without a spare tire, according to new research from AAA. That’s a steep rise from 2006 when just five percent of nameplates omitted a spare. As fuel-economy standards rise to 54.5 mpg for 2025, automakers are desperate to reduce weight and the spare tire is arguably the lowest-hanging fruit. Replacing a spare tire with a four-pound inflator kit can cut as much as 30 pounds from a vehicle’s curb weight, and the donut can be removed without the extensive engineering or major investment other weight-saving technologies require.

AAA identified 136 models that don’t include a spare tire as standard equipment, although some of those vehicles do offer one as an option. Every major automaker, from Acura to Volvo, sells at least one car without a fifth wheel and tire. The list is heavy with sports cars, coupes, and hybrids, where space is at a premium, and German luxury cars and crossovers, which often use run-flat tires.

By AAA’s estimate, more than 29 million cars sold in the United States in the last 10 model years don’t have a spare tire. Drivers who aren’t aware their car has no spare are likely to make that realization at the worst possible time: when they’re stranded on the side of the road with a deflated tire. In most cases, car manufacturers substitute an inflator kit for the spare tire. However, inflator kits are extremely limited in what kind of damage they can repair. They’re only effective on clean punctures through the center of the tread, such as picking up a nail, and the object must still be embedded in the tire to act as a plug. Inflators can’t be used on damage from a blowout, curb strike, or pothole. The sealant also renders the tire-pressure monitoring sensor on that wheel inoperable, and replacements can cost up to $200 apiece.

There is one consolation to counter the trend of disappearing donuts. Modern tire technology means flats are fairly uncommon these days. Tire manufacturer Michelin estimates that drivers average more than 70,000 miles between flat tires.

Car and Driver
Written By – Eric Tingwall

VW fined $13 million for emissions fraud in Brazil

SAO PAULO (Reuters) — Brazil’s environmental agency Ibama said on Thursday it would fine Germany’s Volkswagen AG 50 million reais ($13 million) for defrauding local emissions testing requirements.

The company said in October that it plans to recall 17,057 Amarok pickup trucks sold in Brazil to correct software allowing the vehicles to skirt diesel emissions tests, as Volkswagen admitted to doing in the United States.


VW sets Nov. 30 deadline for whistleblowers to come forward

BERLIN (Reuters) — Volkswagen AG set a Nov. 30 deadline for workers to come forward and disclose information about the company’s two emissions scandals in a move to speed up investigations.

Europe’s largest automaker has been making slow progress in finding out who had knowledge of the rigging of diesel emissions tests two months after the violations became public in the United States, and last week also admitted to cheating on carbon dioxide emissions certifications.

Under the whistleblower program, approved by VW’s top management, workers who get in touch with internal investigators no later than Nov. 30 will be exempt from dismissals and damage claims, according to a letter from VW brand chief Herbert Diess to staff seen by Reuters on Thursday.

“We are counting on your cooperation and knowledge as our company’s employees to get to the bottom of the diesel and CO2 issue,” Diess was quoted as saying in the document. “In this process, every single day counts.”

His comments confirmed an earlier report by Sueddeutsche Zeitung jointly with German broadcasters NDR and WDR.

VW has said it hired advisory firm Deloitte and U.S. law firm Jones Day to investigate under what circumstances the company installed software into diesel cars that changed engine settings to reduce emissions whenever the vehicle was put through tests.

A source at VW said the executive and supervisory boards initially sought to have the whistleblower program run through the end of the year but, encouraged by recent positive feedback, decided to set the more ambitious November deadline.

Whistleblower programs were successfully employed years ago by German engineering group Siemens and VW’s truck-making subsidiary, MAN, to help unveil corruption amid ongoing bribery probes.


Physical meets digital

The digital revolution isn’t just about devices – there’s an explosion of innovation for brick-and-mortar operations.

The fragile nature of the UK retail market, coupled with the ever-increasing pace of technology evolution, means that in-store digital innovation is more important than ever for those retailers seeking to gain and maintain competitive advantage.

The customer expectation to be ‘wowed’ has never been higher in the ‘smart’ world we all live in. The challenge for the retailer is in knowing where to focus, given the bewildering array of possibilities that technology brings.

The sweet spot for retailers is how to combine that ‘wow factor’ with useful innovation for the customer that makes their lives easier, driving sales and footfall.

The increasing convergence of bricks and clicks has led to a number of innovations around the ‘click and collect’ space, in some cases involving collaboration between retailers – such as the DPD Pickup Parcel Shop network, which allows consumers to purchase goods from one retailer online and pick them up at another’s physical store.

Or in Cambridge, where Caffè Nero customers can browse and purchase House of Fraser goods on tablets, and then pop upstairs to the House of Fraser branded first floor to collect their purchases and even try them on in fitting rooms. These strategies allow retailers to extend their geographical reach and range in new, more flexible ways.

Delivering strong content, however, remains central. We have seen examples in the world of fashion where catwalk shows have been broadcast live – such as when TopShop dispensed free beauty gifts to customers watching the show at their flagship Oxford Circus store via an in-store vending machine.

Virtual and augmented reality also continue to show value, with innovative apps to help customers in their decision making processes – particularly with respect to health and beauty, where technology offerings from Clinique and L’Oreal show customers how products can look when applied.

Proximity and locational marketing is still a hot topic, and it remains to been seen whether beacons, NFC or image recognition will prevail. Each brings its own challenges and technical limitations.

With so many different possibilities, how does a retailer choose which of these technologies to focus on? As with anything in business life, the key is alignment to business goals and strategy – where does the retailer see itself and what problems is it trying to solve above others? If these are poorly defined then the likely approach to innovation will be scattergun and ineffective.

The real benefit of digital innovation is that budgets hitherto classified as ‘marketing’ can be used to drive revenues through great content and a strong call-to-action, coupled with back-end efficiencies around payments, collections and returns.

Retailers also need to be embed a culture of innovation into their businesses, recognising that there are likely to be many dead ends. Fast tracking innovation by the use of ‘labs’ – a practice employed by the likes of Tesco – can help retailers be agile, but also help them to recognise quickly what is likely not to work without expending vast sums. The ‘lab’ culture can help the larger, more established retailer adopt the mindset of an SME.

The good news is that innovation is easier than ever, thanks to the plethora of technologies and providers. Thanks to the internet, research has never been more straightforward, choice has never been greater and speed to market has never been quicker. Adopting the right problem solving and entrepreneurial mindset, including a healthy approach to failure, is key.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing
Written By – Adrian Hope (Technology Director, St Ives Marketing Activation)

Adrian Hope is the technology director at St Ives Marketing Activation, a field sales and field marketing organisation.