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Apple Card promotes iPhone, steers users from Android

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The back doesn’t have any personal information.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple’s highest-profile launch this year hasn’t been a new phone or tablet — it’s been a credit card. Investors and analysts have placed a lot of hope in the card as a high-profile new product in Apple’s online services business that management has highlighted as a growth engine for the company.

But the Apple Card could end up being a smashing success even if it doesn’t contribute a meaningful amount to the company’s services revenue or end up being Apple’s beachhead in the financial industry.

Rather, the Apple Card is all about keeping users glued to Apple’s most important product: the iPhone.

The Apple Card can only be signed up for on an iPhone. Sure, there’s a metal card, but the primary interface for the credit card is on your iPhone — and that includes for paying bills.

If you lose your iPhone, you have to pay your bill from another iOS device, or you can call an Apple support phone number, which will connect you to Goldman Sachs to pay your bill, according to Buzzfeed. There’s no web portal on Apple’s website.

All this means is that if you have an Apple Card, it’s going to be hard to switch to Android, at least before you pay off your balance. The credit card makes the phone much stickier.

And people with iPhones are much more likely to buy AirPods, Apple Watches and apps for their devices, all of which essentially require an iPhone to work properly, and all of which feed back into the cycle — when the person with all those Apple products wants a new phone, they’ll buy an iPhone, because it works with all of their Apple products.

Tracking switchers

Apple’s leadership used to make a big deal about “switchers. ” From time to time, Apple CEO Tim Cook would drop nuggets of information in earnings calls or interviews that suggested that Apple was having a lot of success getting people to move from an Android phone to Apple’s ecosystem.

Switchers are important to Apple because 81% of Americans own smartphones, according to a Pew study, with similar rates of penetration in other rich markets. Many people in the market for a new smartphone either had an iPhone or Android phone before.

Getting Android users to switch is a big enough priority for Apple that some Apple advertisements last year focused on it. Apple has also released software to help people easily transfer data from an Android phone to a new iPhone.

The other side of that coin is that people who have iPhones might want to buy an Android phone when it’s time to upgrade. The latest generation of Android phones are thin, light and powerful, and some are significantly less expensive than the $999 starting price for an iPhone XS.

That’s where the card comes in: as a way to reduce iPhone churn.

Lots of financial details about the relationship between Goldman Sachs and Apple aren’t public, like if Apple is getting a bounty for sign-ups or whether it gets a cut of transactions. But even if those sums aren’t material to Apple, the number of iPhone users who stick in the Apple ecosystem because of their shiny titanium credit card will be.

Goldman Sachs is even approving customers with low credit scores, CNBC previously reported. Even someone with a low FICO score needs to buy a new smartphone eventually.

Apple not a financial company

For what it’s worth, Apple’s leadership pointed to the card last month as a part of its services business, a catch-all line item including App Store fees, search engine fees from Google, AppleCare warranties, and subscriptions to iCloud and Apple Music.

But although the card is a financial product, Apple’s not really transforming into a regulated financial company. Goldman Sachs is providing backend API services to Apple, whose Apple Pay team is in charge of the user interface and product, CNBC previously reported. When you sign up for the card, fine print makes it very clear that the lending and payment aspects are being handled by Goldman Sachs.

This means that Apple can focus on the user experience, which is where its strengths lie. The Apple Card has a lot of nice user interface features. It tracks your spending, charts it, and you can even visualize where you bought things on a map. Apple frames the software as a way to improve your personal finances and as a secure way to pay for things in person and online.

It’s not the most groundbreaking stuff, but if you’re comfortable with Apple software and hardware, it’s nice to have. And in exchange, it will make Apple hardware and software something current iPhone users need to have.

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Bollywood’s Deepika Padukone’s battle with mental illness, depression

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Bollywood star Deepika Padukone has spoken out about her battle with depression, calling for greater public discussion to help tackle the mental health crisis.

Padukone, who is one of India’s highest-paid actresses, said her experience during a seeming “professional high” revealed the illness’ indiscriminatory nature and inspired her to campaign for other sufferers.

“Mental illness crept up on me when I least expected it,” Padukone said last week.

“The perception and the general understanding was that I was at a professional high,” she said last Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “But what I was also experiencing was this hollow, empty, pittish feeling … I would just cry out of nowhere.”

Padukone was diagnosed with depression in 2014.

The 34-year-old celebrity, who has over 30 movies to her name, said she considered herself lucky that her mother had spotted her symptoms and urged her to seek medical help.

Indian actress Deepika Padukone delivers her acceptance speech during the “Crystal Award” ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 20, 2020.

Fabrice Coffrini

However, she noted that stigma and lack of awareness surrounding mental illness can make it difficult for sufferers to reach out. In India alone, an estimated 7.5% of the population suffers from some kind of mental illness, according to the World Health Organization, yet provisions remain scarce.

That inspired Padukone to set up the Live, Love, Laugh Foundation in 2015 to support other sufferers. The charity aims to spread awareness of mental health issues, having launched India’s first national campaign, as well as working to help people reach diagnoses.

Learning to understand what she was experiencing was the first step to recovery, Padukone said. She encouraged potential sufferers and the people around them to look out for telltale signs of depression, such as prolonged feelings of sadness, sleeping and eating irregularities, as well as suicidal thoughts.

“The toughest part in the journey for me was not understanding what I was feeling,” said Padukone. “Just having the diagnoses in itself felt like a massive relief.”

Padukone was speaking at the WEF meeting — a gathering of global business leaders and policymakers — where she was honored with the 2020 Crystal Award for her contributions to mental health awareness.

In 2018, she was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year.

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More US service members diagnosed with brain injury after Iran missile attack

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A picture taken on January 13, 2020 during a press tour organised by the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows a view of the damage at Ain al-Asad military airbase housing US and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar.

Ayman Henna | AFP | Getty Images

A total of 50 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injury from this month’s Iranian missile attack on Iraqi bases hosting American troops, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Of those TBI cases, which can include concussions, 31 were treated in Iraq and have returned to duty, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in a statement.

Last week, the Pentagon said there were 34 service members diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

Of the 16 new diagnosed cases, 15 service members have returned to duty in Iraq, Campbell said.

Iran launched ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing American troops on Jan. 8 local time. The strike was in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was commander of its elite Quds Force, in a drone attack outside Baghdad’s airport less than a week before.

No one was killed in Iran’s strikes, and a day after targeting U.S. forces, President Donald Trump said that no one was hurt or killed.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman has said that a lot of TBI symptoms are late developing and manifest themselves over a period of time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website that some symptoms of concussions and other traumatic brain injury can appear right away, but other symptoms may not be noticed for days or months after the injury.

One of those new cases involved a service member transported to Germany for further evaluation and treatment, bringing the total taken there to 18. That person had been taken to Germany “for other health reasons and has since been diagnosed with a TBI,” Campbell said.

Last week, another Pentagon spokesman said that eight U.S. service members who were sent to Germany were then taken to the United States.

Campbell’s statement Tuesday said that there was no information as to whether anyone else has returned to the U.S.

A service member that had been taken to Kuwait for treatment has since returned to duty, Campbell said.

Hours after Iran launched missiles against U.S. forces, Iran’s armed forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane that departed from Tehran’s airport, in an incident that Iranian officials blamed on “human error” and which Iran’s president has called an “unforgivable mistake.”

All 176 people aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 were killed, including many Iranians and Canadians.

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Global dissatisfaction with democracy at a record high, research says

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Pro-democracy protesters at a Thanksgiving Day rally on November 28, 2019 in Hong Kong.

Chris McGrath | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The world is unhappier with democracy than ever, new research has claimed.

In a report published Wednesday, researchers from Cambridge University analyzed the political sentiment of more than 4 million people, using data from survey projects that covered 154 countries between 1995 and 2020.

The proportion of people who said they were dissatisfied with democracy over the last year hit 57.5%, according to the report, with researchers saying 2019 marked “the highest level of democratic discontent” on record.

Authors noted that over the last 25 years, the number of individuals dissatisfied with democratic politics around the world rose from a third to more than half.

Shifts in satisfaction levels were often a response to “objective circumstances and events” such as economic shocks and corruption scandals, the report said.

Following the financial crisis in 2008, for example, global dissatisfaction with the functioning of democracy jumped by around 6.5%.

Many large democracies, including the U.S., Australia, U.K. and Brazil, were now at their highest-ever level of dissatisfaction with democracy.

According to the report, the U.S. in particular had seen a “dramatic and unexpected” decline in satisfaction with democracy.

When the surveys began in 1995, more than 75% of U.S. citizens were satisfied with American democracy. The first big knock came with the financial crisis, the report showed, and satisfaction has continued to deteriorate year-on-year ever since.

Fewer than 50% of Americans are now content with democracy in their country, marking the first time on record that a majority of U.S. citizens were dissatisfied with their system of government.

“Such levels of democratic dissatisfaction would not be unusual elsewhere,” the report said. “But for the United States, it marks an ‘end of exceptionalism’ — a profound shift in America’s view of itself, and therefore, of its place in the world.”

However, researchers noted that they had found an “island of contentment” in Europe, where satisfaction with democracy had reached all-time highs. Denmark, Switzerland and Norway were among the countries that fell into that category.

Southeast Asia was also described as a regional “bright spot.”

Latin American precedent

Speaking to CNBC in a phone call on Monday, Roberto Foa, lead author of the report, said there were a number of different factors behind the declining approval of democracy.

“In developed democracies, it’s partly about political polarization — this has been gradual in the U.S. but has spiked in the last couple of years in the U.K.,” he said. “Malaise with democracy in the West is often down to longer term economic stagnation and loss of geopolitical influence.”

He noted there was a reasonable amount of research suggesting a rise in unhappiness with democracy tended to provoke changes in political behavior. For example, people would become more likely to vote for populist parties or politicians promising to “shake up the system.”

“We expect a great deal more of this,” Foa told CNBC. “The region that proves this is Latin America — the levels of dissatisfaction have always been very high and we’re seeing (a rise in populist support) there.”

He added that the rest of history could “look more like the south of the Americas than the north” if global satisfaction levels continued to decline.

Cambridge University’s study follows a report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit last week, which found that the U.S. had a “flawed democracy” and the strength of global democracy was at its lowest since 2006.

Meanwhile, research from Edelman last week found that 70% of people around the world believed democracy was “losing its effectiveness as a form of government.”

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