Snap makes a comeback after the release of its rebuilt Android app

Snap is heading in the right direction again. The company revealed in its earnings release today that its daily user base has grown by 4 million people globally. It now has 190 million daily active users, up from the 186 million people who had consistently been using the platform for the last two quarters. This updated number is still 1 million people short of Snapchat’s peak user base since it went public in 2017, but this is still good news for Snap.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said in prepared remarks that the platform reaches more 13- to 34-year-olds in the US than Instagram, but didn’t elaborate on why or how its user base suddenly grew. He says Snapchat reaches 75 percent of 13- to 34-year-olds and 90 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds.

Snap had a big quarter that involved not only major product updates, but also the awaited release of its rebuilt Snapchat Android app. The Android app doesn’t have any UI or navigation changes, but it is designed to be faster and less buggy. It’s been in the works for years and talked about on most prior earnings calls. Spiegel says within the first week of upgrading the app, there was a 6 percent increase in the number of people sending Snaps. This clearly was an essential release and might make the app more enticing to people around the world, especially considering that there are billions of Android devices in use.

Last month, Snap also held its first partner summit in Los Angeles where it showed advertisers, reporters, and creators all the things they could do with the platform. It showed that Snapchat stories would come to Tinder and Houseparty; Snap ads will appear in other developers’ apps; it’s building a video game platform and a roster of original programs; and that it developed new AR filters that make the Eiffel Tower puke rainbows.

Today and at the summit, Spiegel said these changes could keep users on the platform for longer and keep them more engaged. With these big platform changes and a continued focus on ad products, Snap might have a resurgence.

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Apple claims it isn’t scanning customers’ faces, after teen sues for $1 billion

Apple is being accused of using facial recognition software in its Apple Stores to arrest the wrong person for theft — a New York student who’s now suing Apple for $1 billion. And while Apple tells The Verge it doesn’t use facial recognition technology in its stores, the case is weird enough, and there’s enough wiggle room, that it’s not clear if that’s the whole truth.

Ousmane Bah, 18, claims in a lawsuit that he was incorrectly identified as the robber in several Apple Store thefts across multiple states, but denies that he’s the person in the photo that accompanied the warrant for his arrest. Backed by surveillance footage and the testimony of a detective, district attorneys in New York and Boston have already dropped the charges against Bah, the lawsuit states. (He is still being accused of larceny in New Jersey in a pending case, according to the document.)

According to the lawsuit, NYPD detective John Reinhold first noticed that Bah “looked nothing like” the suspect in the surveillance video of a Manhattan Apple Store that was robbed. According to the lawsuit, the detective then explained that Apple’s security technology identifies suspects of theft using facial recognition technology.

When we reached Reinhold on the phone for comment, he agreed that Apple doesn’t technically have facial recognition in its stores, but also that his statements as described in the lawsuit were correct. He declined to answer further questions, but it’s worth noting that the second defendant on the lawsuit, Security Industry Specialists, might explain the contradiction — it could have been that company which used facial recognition to analyze security footage after the fact, and possibly outside of Apple’s facilities.

SIS Security doesn’t explicitly mention Apple as a client on its public website, but the third-party firm seems to have a long working relationship with Apple, and a 2016 employee handbook hosted at its website specifies Apple as a client.

The lawsuit states that Bah was presented with a police report which claimed a SIS loss prevention employee caught him stealing Apple Pencils on security video from a Boston Apple Store. Allegedly, Apple initially claimed it didn’t have surveillance video, but eventually produced the footage, according to the lawsuit.

Bah claims that he couldn’t have attempted the Boston theft because he’d been attending his senior prom in Manhattan at the time, but speculates the real thief could have stolen his information from a learner’s permit he’d previously lost — one which didn’t have a photo.

The lawsuit tries to justify the $1 billion claim by alleging that Apple and SIS caused harm to Bah by their wrongful actions, including causing him to be arrested by the NYPD at his home in four in the morning, forcing him to miss school and a midterm exam, which then hurt his grades. The suit claims Apple was negligent, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and defamed and slandered Bah, among other charges.

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Starting in July, any Kohl’s store will handle your Amazon returns

Amazon and Kohl’s are expanding their partnership that allows customers of the former to return their items to the latter’s retail stores. Beginning in July, Kohl’s will take back items you’ve ordered from Amazon and want to return for a refund. You don’t need to pack them up in a box, either; the retailer will handle all aspects of shipping and get the items back to one of Amazon’s return centers on your behalf. And everything is completely free. Kohl’s has been offering this convenience since 2017 at around 100 of its stores, but in July, it’ll be available at every location.

Kohl’s says it will take all “eligible” Amazon purchases. I’ve asked the company what items would be considered ineligible under the program, but I’d guess it’s mainly oversized items or other illogical things to push onto a store. Also, you’ll likely be out of luck if your item came from a third-party Amazon marketplace seller.

“I think the returns initiative is one where we can really leverage each other’s strengths. I think one of the benefits of being in brick and mortar and having an online business is to accommodate easy returns,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass told CNBC in an interview, noting that “80 percent of America lives within 10 miles of a Kohl’s.”

What does Kohl’s get out of being the middleman between you and Amazon? The possibility that you’ll buy something from them when making the trip, of course. “If we go forward, it really does need to be a win-win for both of us,” Gass said when discussing the earlier pilot with Amazon. Apparently, it has proven to be exactly that.

To return something from Amazon with Kohl’s, you actually start the process on Amazon’s website and then choose Kohl’s drop-off as your preferred return method. Amazon makes online shopping returns plenty easy, whether you want a prepaid shipping label to mail it back yourself or you prefer to just drop something off at an Amazon Locker location. But this option might prove popular with people who prefer just getting it done in person — assuming you can put up with waiting in the customer service line at your local Kohl’s. At least parking should be easier: the retailer installed dedicated parking spaces for customers who are making Amazon returns at some of its stores during the pilot phase.

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SteelSeries may have just launched the best Xbox wireless gaming headset

I am about to do something we rarely do at The Verge — get excited for an audio product I’ve never actually touched, let alone listened to. But that’s because when it comes to wireless gaming headsets for an Xbox One, the bar is so very, very low that I can’t help thinking SteelSeries’ new dual-wireless Arctis 9X, announced today, will be a better option than what’s out there right now.

What do I mean about a low bar? Well, very few manufacturers even bother to sell Xbox-compatible wireless headsets, and those that have tried to implement Microsoft’s official Xbox Wireless to communicate directly with an Xbox (instead of requiring a dongle) have pretty much bombed for me. Each of them — the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 and 700, the Razer Thresher for Xbox, and the LucidSound LS35x — have had some trouble staying connected to my Xbox One, sometimes blasting my ears with noisy pops and clicks. Only the LucidSound had audio quality I’d consider describing as “good,” anyhow.

But SteelSeries, which produces two of the best wireless gaming headsets on the market (ask me how I know) says it’s “created the highest quality implementation of the Xbox Wireless connection seen on an Xbox headset to date” with the Arctis 9X — which could still be shorthand for “it’s better, but it still sucks,” I suppose.

The Arctis 9X also claims to have 20 hours of battery life — low battery life was a sticking point for other Xbox Wireless headsets — lets you balance game and chat volume natively, and perhaps best of all, has integrated Bluetooth so you can use it with another device (probably your phone) simultaneously, or pull double duty as a set of headphones on the go.

I’m not passing judgement just yet, but it’s piqued my curiosity enough that I’ll be trying it out for myself. If you can’t wait for our impressions, it’s available now for $199.99.

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How long will it take to phase in driverless cars?

Aurora CEO Chris Urmson stopped by The Vergecast to discuss the future of self-driving cars with Nilay Patel and Andrew Hawkins. They explore how the industry has evolved over the years and how long it will take before self-driving cars are commonly used on the road.

You can listen to the discussion in its entirety on The Vergecast right now. Below is a lightly edited excerpt from this interview regarding some of Urmson’s ideas about how he expects driverless cars to be rolled out in the coming years.

Nilay Patel: So you want to be one of many, many suppliers in the emerging driverless car / automotive industry?

Chris Urmson: Well, we don’t think there’ll be many, many people who can do this. We think actually building the driver is really hard. We imagine what’s now around 100 companies working in this space will probably consolidate down to a handful, and we expect to be one of those companies.

Why? Is there a technology reason you think it’s going to consolidate? Is it a capital reason?

Yes, it’s all of them. It’s really hard. It’s a very complicated problem and one of the more complicated engineering problems, if not the most complicated engineering problem we’re trying to solve right now. The number of people who have deep experience in this is relatively small.

Ultimately, the technology, once we start to get it really deployed and served… people talk about there being self-driving cars today, but there aren’t. They’re not really out there yet. Once we start to see commercial scale happening, there will be evidence that the system works well and serving people well, and that will start to build a bit of a flywheel.

The question I ask every person who comes on our show to discuss self-driving cars is: is this going to happen. Is this real?

Yes, it can happen. I think you’re going to see small-scale deployments in the next five years, and then it’s going to phase in over the next 30 to 50 years.

Do you think it will be rolled out in stages, like after adaption tools get better, or are you taking the steering wheel out right away?

So we’re not taking the steering wheel out necessarily right away. But no, I don’t think it’s a continuum. I think that this Level 2 driver assistance capability is great. That’s making people’s lives a little bit better. But it’s very different than self-driving capability and driverless vehicles. That’s what we’re focused on because we look at all the big players in the automotive space, and they know how to do driver assistance, and it’s really a problem of “is the product compelling enough that the consumer wants to buy it for the price they can sell it at?”

When we think about driverless vehicles that are self-driving vehicles as, you know, the Levels 4 and 5, that’s where we see a transformation. That’s where you can sleep in the car. That’s where the vehicle can be deployed as part of a transportation service, and give you a ride and give me a ride, and we can share the benefit of that together. I think that’s where the economics swing, and that’s where we see the biggest social good for the for cities like New York and San Francisco.

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