Google finally adds consumer customer support with Google One

You may recall my tale of woe from last year when I recounted how I was locked out of my Google account for a month. It was a tough time, made all the more frustrating because there wasn’t any customer support to contact. That is changing for Google One users though, and it’s about time.

I received an email this week from Google informing me that my paid Google storage had been upgraded to Google One, Google’s freshly designed storage options announced last May. It comes with twice the storage, giving me two terabytes for the same $9.99 per month I was paying for one. It allows me to share my generous storage allotment with my family members, but the thing that really caught my eye was actual customer support.

With Google One, which is available for as little as $1.99 per month for 100 gigs of storage, everyone has access to actual customer support where they can talk to someone, who can (presumably) help them with issues like password recovery.

Brandon Badger, who is Google One product manager, says this is a critical component of the new storage package. “Support is important to us, we want people using our products to have a great experience and get questions or issues addressed in a timely manner,” Badger told TechCrunch. He added that users with paid storage plans often use many other Google products and services and this provides a way for customers to get answers to problems they have across the Google cloud ecosystem.

Photo: Google

Obviously, this is long overdue and something that G Suite customers, the business side of Google’s tools, have had for some time. This ability to contact a customer service organization shows a maturation of consumer cloud products that had been missing previously.

As a journalist, when I got locked out I was forced to use my contacts at Google PR to give me that help. After many attempts I was able to get my account credentials back, but since I wrote that article I have received dozens of emails from other unfortunate souls who faced the same predicament, but lacked the connections I had. Unfortunately, as much as I could empathize with their plight (how could I not?), there wasn’t much I could do other than refer them to Google. I wrote about my level of frustration in my post:

Once you have gone through the recovery protocol, what is a person supposed to do to get Google’s attention? They don’t have customer service, yet I’m paying for storage. They don’t have a reasonable system for navigating this kind of problem and they don’t have a sensible appeals process.

While I hope I never get locked out of my Google account again, I’m happy to know that if I do, I and so many others like me at least have someone to contact about it. That’s no guarantee our problems will be resolved, of course, but it’s at least a path to getting something done that hadn’t previously existed.

Tesla subpoenaed by SEC over Model 3 production forecasts

Tesla said Friday in a regulatory filing that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice are investigating projections made last year about Model 3 production rates. The SEC has issued subpoenas for information related to Model 3 production estimates. The DOJ, which is running a separate investigation over Model 3 production targets, has stopped short of taking that action.

The information contained in Tesla’s 10Q filing backs up an October 26 article by The Wall Street Journal that reported the FBI was investigating whether the company misstated information about Model 3 production and misled investors. The FBI is the investigating arm of the DOJ.

Tesla issued a statement at the time of the article, acknowledging that it had received a voluntary request for documents from the Department of Justice about its public guidance for the Model 3 ramp. “We were cooperative in responding to it,” the statement issued last week said. “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process, and there have been no additional document requests about this from the Department of Justice for months.”

This latest filing provides further confirmation and clarifies the extent of the investigations. It’s also the first time Tesla has said that the SEC has issued subpoenas to the company for information about the Model 3 production.

Here’s the whole nugget in the SEC filing:

We receive requests for information from regulators and governmental authorities, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the SEC, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and various state agencies. We routinely cooperate with such regulatory and governmental requests.

In particular, the SEC has issued subpoenas to Tesla in connection with (a) Mr. Musk’s prior statement that he was considering taking Tesla private and (b) certain projections that we made for Model 3 production rates during 2017 and other public statements relating to Model 3 production. The DOJ has also asked us to voluntarily provide it with information about each of these matters and is investigating. Aside from the settlement with the SEC relating to Mr. Musk’s statement that he was considering taking Tesla private, there have not been any developments in these matters that we deem to be material, and to our knowledge no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred. As is our normal practice, we have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with government authorities. We cannot predict the outcome or impact of any ongoing matters. Should the government decide to pursue an enforcement action, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our business, results of operation, prospects, cash flows, and financial position.

We are also subject to various other legal proceedings and claims that arise from the normal course of business activities. If an unfavorable ruling or development were to occur, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations, prospects, cash flows, financial position and brand.

This didn’t stop CEO Elon Musk from blasting the WSJ for the report during a lengthy podcast interview released Friday with Recode’s Kara Swisher.

“The amount of untruthful stuff that is written is unbelievable. Take that Wall Street Journal front-page article about, like, ‘The FBI is closing in.’ That is utterly false. That’s absurd. To print such a falsehood on the front page of a major newspaper is outrageous. Like, why are they even journalists? They’re terrible. Terrible people.”

Tesla recently reached a settlement with the SEC, which began with a now infamous “funding secured” tweet by Musk about taking the electric automaker private. A federal judge approved October 16 Musk’s settlement with the SEC over securities fraud allegations. The SEC alleged in a complaint filed in September that Musk lied when he tweeted on August 7 that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share.

Tencent is launching its own version of Snap Spectacles

Some were surprised to see Snap release a second version of its “face-camera” Spectacles gadget, since the original version failed to convert hype into sales.

But those lackluster sales — which dropped to as low as 42,000 per quarter — didn’t only fail to dissuade the U.S. social firm from making more specs, because now Tencent, the Chinese internet giant and Snap investor, has launched its own take on the genre.

Tencent this week unveiled its answer to the video-recording sunglasses, which, you’ll notice, bear a striking resemblance to Snap’s Spectacles.

Called the Weishi smartglasses, Tencent’s wearable camera sports a lens in the front corner that allows users to film from a first-person perspective. Thankfully, the Chinese gaming and social giant has not made the mistake of Snap’s first-generation Spectacles, which highlighted the camera with a conspicuous yellow ring.

Tencent, which is best known for operating China’s massively popular WeChat messenger, has been an investor in Snap for some time after backing it long before it went public. But, when others have criticized the company and its share price struggled, Tencent doubled down. It snapped up an additional 12 percent stake one year ago and it is said to have offered counsel to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel on product strategy. We don’t know, however, if the two sides’ discussions have ever covered Spectacles and thus inspired this new Tencent take on then.

The purpose behind Tencent’s new gadget is implicit in its name. Weishi, which means “micro videos” in Chinese, is also the name of the short-video sharing app that Tencent has been aggressively promoting in recent months to catch up with market dominators TikTok and Kuaishou .

TikTok, known as Douyin in China, is part of the entertainment ecosystem that Beijing-based ByteDance is building. ByteDance also runs the popular Chinese news aggregator Toutiao and is poised to overtake Uber as the world’s most-valued tech startup when it closes its mega $3 billion funding round.

Weishi’s other potential rival Kuaishou is, interestingly, backed by Tencent. Kuaishou launched its own video-taking sunglasses in July.

Alongside the smart sunglasses, Tencent has also rolled out a GoPro-like action camera that links to the Weishi app. Time will tell whether the gadgets will catch on and get more people to post on Weishi.

Snap Spectacles V1 (top) and V2

The spectacles will go on sale November 11, a date that coincides with Singles Day, the annual shopping spree run by Tencent’s close rival Alibaba. Tencent does not make the gadget itself and instead has teamed up with Shenzhen-based Tonot, a manufacturer that claims to make “trendy” video-taking glasses. Tonot has also worked with Japan’s Line chat app on camera glasses.

“There isn’t really a demand for video-recording glasses,” says Mi Zou, a Beijing-based entrepreneur working on an AI selfie app. That’s because smartglasses are “not offering that much more to consumers than smartphones do,” she argues. Plus, a lot of people on apps like Douyin and Kuaishou love to take selfies, a need that smartglasses fail to fulfill.

“Tencent will have to work on its marketing. It could perhaps learn a few things from the Apple Watch, which successfully touts a geeky product as a fashionable accessory,” suggests Mi, who points out Snap Spectacles’ so-far dim reception.

Weishi had not responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment at the time of writing, but we’ll update this story with an additional information should the company provide it.