Zone’s Rianna Mitchell handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. EE network blocks music piracy sites
Mobile network EE will become the first of its kind to block music piracy sites and apps in the UK. In 2012, the British Phonographic Institute (BPI) petitioned the courts to block torrent site The Pirate Bay. The High Court then commanded home-broadband providers, including EE, to forbid 70 more sites that allow access to pirated music content, which EE plan to extend to its mobile network.
As faster network speeds, such as 5G, and the decrease in content files for music has triggered a rise in piracy, an EE spokesperson said: “EE believe in supporting content creators by combatting piracy across both our mobile and fixed networks.” According to BPI, online piracy costs the record industry £200m a year. Chris Elkins, Co-founder and CEO of tech firm Muso, believes that to properly combat piracy there needs to be combination of legal effort and site blocking.
2. New smartphone lights up the market
UK-based tech start-up Nothing has launched its debut smartphone, Phone 1, in the hope to “make tech fun again”, according to its founder, Carl Pei. Manufactured in China and India, the iPhone-resembling handset features a slim body, curved corners, and a translucent back with hundreds of LED lights that correspond to the phone’s functions, such as notifications.
The company raised over £122m in funding to create the handset and has so far received more than 200,000 pre-order requests for the £399 phone — approximately half the cost of an average iPhone. But with the highly competitive smartphone market dominated by big players Apple and Samsung, Nothing will have to give more of its blood, sweat and tears if it seeks to compete at scale.
3. BMW launches heated seat subscription in UK
BMW has gated a suite of its cars’ features behind a paywall. The luxury vehicle manufacturer is offering an online subscription to use heated front seats in its cars in the UK for £15 per month — with longer subscriptions discounted at £150 for a year, £250 for three years or £350 for keeps.
Although most modern vehicles offer this service as a standard feature, a BMW spokesperson told Sky News that the company’s ConnectedDrive Store “offers customers the opportunity to add selected features, which they did not order when the vehicle was built, at a later date.” BMW sometimes gives customers the choice to get all hardware features for a one-off payment or with a subscription plan, allowing them to trial a feature before coming to a purchase.
4. BNPL boosts sales for UK retailers
Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) scheme drives sales for two-thirds of UK retailers. A new report by RFI Global revealed that 69% of British retailers report growth in at least one area of their business sales and performance metrics from offering BNPL. The research showed BNPL predominantly pushing sales conversions, with 61% of retailers improving their access to new-to-business customers, resulting in revenue growth for 52% of retailers.
Despite the benefits of BNPL for retailers, 63% are indifferent to providing it to their customers due to a lack of relevance, concerns regarding consumer debt, and exposing their business to credit risk. The UK government had announced that BNPL providers will need to conduct credit checks on interested users and register with the Financial Conduct Authority, though this may not come into play until 2024.
5. Passing of Online Safety Bill postponed
The Online Safety Bill has been postponed until a new prime minister is in place this Autumn. The bill aims to lay down internet safety laws about how platforms manage harmful material, such as hate crimes, racist abuse, and terrorist content. Ofcom would have the authority to regulate online platforms and fine companies up to 10% of their annual global turnover upon failing to comply with online advertising regulations.
In its final stages, MPs were supposed to discuss the bill in Parliament next week before forwarding it to the House of Lords. B&CE director of policy, Phil Brown, expressed that the government should ensure the Online Safety Bill has minimum delay to protect people from financial harms. However, some MPs have criticised the bill as a potential infringement of freedom of speech.