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Black Friday and Thanksgiving shopping 2020: What we know so far

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Black Friday 2020 is shaping up to be a very different kind of shopping experience than any holiday shopping weekend in recent memory. With ongoing inventory issues due to the extended global pandemic — not to mention the need for retailers to maintain a safe environment for customers and employees — it’s likely that there will be no throngs of expectant customers lining up for hours ahead of massive doorbuster sales. But as we head toward fall, it’s possible to piece together a picture of what to expect on Black Friday this year. Here is what we know so far:

Retailers that are closed on Thanksgiving

A number of stores will be closed on Thanksgiving this year, often ending a long-standing tradition of kicking off Black Friday sales on Thursday, before the turkey has had a chance to cool. These retailers have not yet announced plans for Friday, Nov. 27, but we’ll update this article as we learn more about their holiday hours. 

In addition, all of the retailers listed below require customers to wear face coverings. Unless their policies change between now and Thankskgiving, it’s reasonable to assume that face coverings will be required for Black Friday sales as well. 

Prime Day will be closer to Black Friday than ever 

Amazon has postponed this year’s Prime Day, which is usually held in July, because of the pandemic. But until recently, there was no word on when it might be. Amazon has now revealed that Prime Day will occur sometime in the fourth quarter. On paper, that means “between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.” October would make the most sense, and there’s still no more specific word on exactly when the event will take place beyond that three-month window. But compared to its usual July slot, Prime Day 2020 is clearly going to happen fairly close to Black Friday, with no more than 56 days between the two sales. 

Read more: Prime Day 2020: Here’s what we know about Amazon’s big sale


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Microsoft-TikTok acquisition inches closer to reality

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A possible Microsoft TikTok acquisition is causing plenty of drama, we review Google’s new budget Pixel and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon returns to Earth. Here’s your Daily Crunch for August 3, 2020.

Microsoft-TikTok acquisition inches closer to reality

This weekend, Microsoft confirmed reports that it’s in talks to acquire TikTok, the popular mobile video app currently owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It sounds like the outcome of those talks may ultimately have less to do with Microsoft and more with President Donald Trump.

“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the company said in a statement. “Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”

And indeed, Trump said today that he’s not opposed to an acquisition, but that “a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States.” Meanwhile, Chinese internet users are calling ByteDance’s CEO a traitor.

The tech giants

Google’s budget Pixel 4a addresses its premium predecessor’s biggest problem — Brian Heater reviews the new $349 handset.

Facebook launches commerce and connectivity-focused accelerator programs — Facebook’s Commerce Accelerator will select 60 startups from the EMEA and LATAM regions, while Connectivity will feature 30 startups from LATAM and North America.

Adobe’s plans for an online content attribution standard could have big implications for misinformation — The project was first announced last November, and now the team has a whitepaper going into the nuts and bolts about how its system would work.

Startups, funding and venture capital

YC-backed Artifact looks to make podcasts more personal — Using professionally contracted interviewers, Artifact conducts short interviews with a person’s closest friends or family and turns them into a personal podcast.

Founded by a lifelong house-flipper, Inspectify is a marketplace for home inspections and repairs — Through the platform, buyers can instantly book inspections and receive repair estimates.

Mobile banking startup Varo is becoming a real bank — The company announced that it has been granted a national bank charter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and secured regulatory approvals from the FDIC and Federal Reserve to open Varo Bank, N.A.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

The essential revenue software stack — Tim Porter and Elise La Cava of Madrona Ventures outline the set of services used by sales, marketing and growth teams across their portfolio to identify and manage their prospects and revenue.

Is the 2020 SPAC boom an echo of the 2017 ICO craze? — Alex Wilhelm looks at two new pieces of SPAC news.

After Shopify’s huge quarter, BigCommerce raises its IPO price range — BigCommerce now intends to price its IPO between $21 and $23 per share.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

SpaceX and NASA successfully return Crew Dragon spacecraft to Earth with astronauts on board — SpaceX’s Crew Dragon appears to have performed exactly as intended throughout the mission, handling the launch, ISS docking, undocking, de-orbit and splashdown in a fully automated process that kept the astronauts safe and secure throughout.

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Say I Do’ offers a wedding-focused twist on the ‘Queer Eye’ formula — I’m not someone who cares about weddings, but this show made me cry. Multiple times!

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Microsoft confirms plan to buy TikTok as Trump weighs options

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The president had also been weighing options over the past few days to force Beijing-based parent company ByteDance to divest in TikTok in the United States because of national security concerns, according to people familiar with the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss them publicly.

Microsoft confirmed it will “move quickly” on discussions with ByteDance and said it has given the U.S. government notice of a possible acquisition of the U.S. assets of TikTok.

This is the first time Microsoft has confirmed that the company is in talks for Microsoft to purchase TikTok operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections,” the tech giant said in its post.

TikTok and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

If it goes through, the acquisition could dramatically shift the Big Tech landscape, adding a legacy giant into the scramble for social media users’ attention. Microsoft, currently valued at $1.55 trillion, is one of the most valuable companies in the world and is one of the only ones positioned to take on such a purchase. Microsoft was conspicuously absent from a landmark antitrust hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, when Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon chief executives testified on their companies’ power.

Buying TikTok would put Microsoft in a powerful position to compete with Facebook and Google’s YouTube, which operate dominant social media sites. Microsoft has focused mainly on enterprise software for the past decade, though it does own professional networking site LinkedIn.

Its absence from the social media market could also make it more likely regulators will approve Microsoft buying TikTok.

If Microsoft buys TikTok, it would also solve an ongoing issue for Republicans and Trump, who has attacked TikTok as a prominent target in his crackdown against China amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The continuing discussions, which Microsoft said it expected to conclude by Sept. 15, hinged largely on buy-in from the Trump administration.

Trump told reporters Friday night that he planned to ban the app in the United States, and had earlier indicated he would do so in retaliation for what he saw as China’s role in spreading the coronavirus.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday.

But Saturday morning, TikTok officials were still waging a public campaign to garner favor with officials and fans, and assured users in a TikTok video that the platform was “here for the long run.” Passionate TikTok users took to the app all weekend to express their dismay and encourage their followers to find them on other social media sites.

Late last week, Trump was considering two main options to change the ownership of TikTok. One was through a process led by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which began investigating an acquisition by ByteDance of Musical.ly in 2017. The president considered signing an order to divest the company on Friday, according to the people familiar with the talks.

Trump also considered using a 2019 executive order to designate TikTok a national security threat and bar American companies and workers from doing business with it, the people said Friday.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have previously been critical of TikTok’s Chinese ownership, saying it’s a threat to national security and threatening to ban it. That prompted ByteDance to start to explore a sale, although the company would prefer to retain TikTok if possible, another person familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, previously told The Washington Post.

Microsoft said it informed the CFIUS of its TikTok talks. The company also said it might bring in other American investors to take a minority stake in TikTok as part of the deal.

Microsoft said in its blog that it would “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.” Ensuring American data privacy has been a main crux of lawmaker’s arguments against Chinese ownership of TikTok.

TikTok has continually insisted that it already keeps U.S. user data stored in the country and that it does not hand over data to the Chinese government.

TikTok, which has been downloaded more than 2 billion times according to research firm Sensor Tower, lets users make short videos that show them dancing, cooking, pulling pranks or taking political stances. It is especially popular with teenage users, who have used the platform to take aim at Trump.

That included earlier this summer, when teens encouraged each other to reserve tickets to Trump’s June rally in Tulsa, hoping to inflate the expected number of attendees even though they never planned to show up. The Trump campaign said that it had no impact on the event.

Correction: Microsoft is one of the most valuable companies in the world. This article previously said it was the third most valuable company in the world.

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AirPods vs. AirPods Pro: Should you spend the extra $100?

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Apple currently makes two true wireless earbud models: the second-gen AirPods (which list for $159, but are generally sold for closer to $139 in the US) come with optional wireless charging, and the $249 AirPods Pro, which feature active noise cancellation. I personally prefer the AirPods Pro and rated them higher than the standard AirPods in my review. But they cost around $110 more than the base AirPods without wireless charging and not everyone likes their noise-isolating design, which leaves you with a silicone ear tip pushed slightly into your ear canal. The looser fit of the AirPods has its advantages if you don’t want to spend $250 on earphones, especially ones that are easy to lose. 

AirPods vs. AirPods Pro Comparison

AirPods AirPods Pro
List price $159 $249
Active noise cancellation No Yes
Noise-isolating design No Yes
Battery life (between in-case charges) 4.5 hours 5 hours
Wireless charging In $199 model Yes

That, in a nutshell, is why some people aren’t sure about which AirPods to buy. And while there are plenty of excellent non-Apple true wireless earbuds out there — just peruse my list of the best true wireless earbuds of 2020 — you’re presumably here because you’re on the fence about the AirPods or AirPods Pro. Let’s see if we can help you make a decision.

Read more: Best cheap true-wireless earbuds of 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Simply put, the main reason to buy the standard AirPods is to save money. The model with the regular charging case currently sells for $139 while the model with the wireless charging case sells for $169 ($199 if you buy at the Apple Store). Occasionally, the prices dip to $130 and you can find “renewed” options for as low as $120. I personally think wireless charging is a bit overrated (when it comes to headphones, anyway), so I wouldn’t pay the extra money for it. If I was buying the standard AirPods, my goal would be to pay as little as possible for them.

As I said, some people don’t like having silicone buds stuck in their ears. That’s the reason why so many people like the original AirPods. They just sort of nestle in your ear — and when they fit right, they’re really comfortable. And a few folks at CNET have told me that even though the AirPods Pro sounded better, they still preferred the fit of the regular AirPods.

I’m among those who can’t get the standard AirPods to stay in my ears securely without using third-party stabilizing wings (and you have to take off the wings to get the AirPods back in their charging case, which is a nuisance). That’s the main reason I prefer the AirPods Pro. 

The biggest drawback of the standard AirPods’ “open” design is that it allows ambient sound to leak in. They sound decent in quieter environments — and their performance as a headset for making calls is almost as good as the AirPods Pro — but the listening experience deteriorates in noisy environments.

Read our Apple AirPods 2019 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The standard AirPods fit some people’s ears perfectly (some people have no trouble running with them), but plenty of people can’t get a secure fit. If you’re in the latter group, I highly recommend you spend the extra money on the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro design simply fits more ears than the original AirPods. I hesitate to call it a universal fit because there are always exceptions, but they’re close.

As noted, the only issue is that some people simply don’t like having silicone buds stuck in their ears, even if they’re as soft and pliant as these tips are. Also, some people are sensitive to the pressure sensation, albeit it slight, that’s a byproduct of active noise canceling.

The first thing you notice about the AirPods Pro is that they simply sound better than the standard AirPods because they have more bass. The reason they have more bass is largely due to their new noise-isolating design and new drivers that are tuned for that design. The standard AirPods sound decent enough in quiet places but due to their open design, they just don’t do well when confronted with external noise — the bass frequencies get drowned out. The AirPods’ noise cancellation, which is effective, also helps with external noise, and the combination of the seal of the tips and the ANC means they sound much better in noisier environments such as city streets.

The standard AirPods are quite good for making calls. With the release of the second-gen model last year — the ones discussed above — Apple improved their noise-reduction capabilities, particularly wind noise. The AirPods Pro have three microphones on each bud, one of which is a beamforming mic that’s designed to pick up your voice. They also have similar noise-reduction capabilities, plus a vent system that’s not only supposed to relieve some of the pressure that can build up in your ear from a noise-isolating design coupled with noise-canceling features, but can help cut down on wind noise a tad, an Apple rep told me. More importantly, you can simply hear callers better because of the Pros’ noise-isolating design.

The AirPods Pro will soon have another advantage. In June, Apple announced at its Worldwide Developers Conference that the AirPods Pro will get a big upgrade this fall with the release of iOS 14: a “spatial audio” feature that simulates surround sound. 

Both the AirPods and AirPods Pro will get automatic switching between Apple devices, another new feature in iOS 14, but only the AirPods Pro will get the virtual surround feature.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.

Read more: Apple’s new spatial audio feature should have Bose and Sony worried

More AirPods coverage


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