The Productivity Booster You Have in Your Pocket, But Probably Don’t Use

HBR Staff

The world’s 230 million knowledge workers are frazzled. Modern life is an interminable cacophony of emails, notifications, messages, alerts, feeds, data and information. 70% of us look at our phones within 30 minutes of waking up. All this causes stress. With multiple notifications on multiple apps on multiple pages of our devices, where do we start? Who will help us?

Fortunately, almost all of us already have a personal assistant. It’s a piece of software on a device you own: the intelligent assistant (IA). We carry IAs around on our laptops (Microsoft’s Cortana), phones (Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s Bixby) and smart speakers (Amazon’s Alexa, Baidu’s Little Fish). You probably have more than one. There are an estimated one billion IA-enabled devices in the world today. With smartphone penetration in the UK and US approaching 70%, it’s easy to believe that there will be as many intelligent assistants as

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Hyper Social Not Anti Social

This seems right to me:
“In post-industrial environments where foods are abundant and readily available, our cravings for fat and sugar sculpted by distant evolutionary pressures can easily go into insatiable overdrive and lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (…) the pro-social needs and rewards [of smartphone use as a means to connect] can similarly be hijacked to produce a manic theatre of hyper-social monitoring,”

AirPod Android Music Volume Issue

I use Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones when I’m on my desktop and laptop but I prefer the Apple AirPods when I am on my phone. They are small, light, and fit well in my ear.

But I’ve had this nagging issue with the volume on my AirPods when I stream music on my phone (SoundCloud, AppleMusic, YouTube, etc).

The volume from all of those apps is super low when you use AirPods on Android.

I wasn’t walking much in LA, mostly driving with my phone bluetooth’d to my car, and this issue didn’t affect me much.

But since I’ve been back in NYC and walking a lot again, it came back with a vengeance.

So I finally figured out how to fix it, by simply googling and finding this Reddit post.

Here is how you fix it:

1/ Go to the settings app on your Android phone, scroll down to

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Having Your Smartphone Nearby Takes a Toll on Your Thinking

Oliver Hibert/Getty Images

“Put your phone away” has become a commonplace phrase that is just as often dismissed. Despite wanting to be in the moment, we often do everything within our power to the contrary. We take out our phones to take pictures in the middle of festive family meals, and send text messages or update our social media profiles in the middle of a date or while watching a movie. At the same time, we are often interrupted passively by notifications of emails or phone calls. Clearly, interacting with our smartphones affects our experiences. But can our smartphones affect us even when we aren’t interacting with them — when they are simply nearby?

In recent research, we investigated whether merely having one’s own smartphone nearby could influence cognitive abilities. In two lab experiments, nearly 800 people completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity. In one task, participants

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Pixel Buds vs AirPods

When I got my new Pixel 2XL recently, the Google Play Store offered me to add the Pixel Buds to my cart and get them for half price. Normally they are $159 (same price as AirPods).

So I took up Google on the offer and after I set up my Pixel 2XL, I paired my Pixel Buds to my phone and used them as my headphones.

That experiment lasted less than a week and last Wednesday when I was in SF for the day, I stopped by the Apple Store in Union Square and bought a pair of AirPods.

The Pixel Buds are not great and the AirPods are excellent.

Here are five reasons I feel that way:

1/ The AirPods fit in my ear (and from what I heard most ears) without any issue. The Pixel Buds fit weirdly and require the user to use this rope thing to

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a16z Podcast: When Is VR’s iPhone Moment?

There was a lot of hype about VR ad then it seemed to go pretty quiet. So where are we right now? Bigscreen founder Darshan Shankar and a16z general partner Chris Dixon take the pulse on VR, AR, and mixed …

Setting Up A New Phone

I finally got around to buying the Pixel 2, a phone that several of my USV colleagues have said is the best phone they have owned.

It’s too early in my relationship with this phone to comment on whether I like it or not, but I did have the easiest new phone setup experience of my smartphone tenure last night.

First and foremost, Google has made moving from one Android phone to another way better. You simply connect the two phones with a USB-C cable and about ten to fifteen minutes later, you have everything on your new phone. Then the apps start downloading and about 30mins later (depending on how many apps you have), everything you had on your old phone is on your new phone.

The second factor in the “easiest new phone setup experience” is Dashlane on Android. I realize Dashlane doesn’t have the same access to

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a16z Podcast: All about Bike Sharing

There’s a new wave of bike-sharing in town. And this wave looks a little different than previous waves — from docked rows of government-funded bikes to dockless fleets of bicycles where users can find and unlock bikes through GPS from …

What Happened In 2017

As has become my practice, I celebrate the end of a year and the start of a new one here at AVC with back to back posts focusing on what happened and then thinking about what might happen.

Today, we focus on what happened in 2017.


I went back and looked at my predictions for 2017 and I completely whiffed on the breakout year for crypto. I did not even mention it in my post on New Year’s Day 2017.

Maybe I got tired of predicting a breakout year for crypto as I had mentioned it in my 2015 and 2016 predictions, but whatever the cause, I completely missed the biggest story of the year in tech.

If you look at the Carlota Perez technology surge cycle chart, which is a framework I like to use when thinking about new technologies, you will see that a frenzy develops when

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The Digital Advertising Duopoly

This chart from eMarketer really brings it home.

We have a digital advertising duopoly.

The difference between second and third place is massive.

I don’t want nor do I expect any governmental response to this market failure.

I want to see the technology industry adopt new approaches to monetization, ideally not attention based models, to combat this.

I don’t think subscriptions are the only answer here, as many do.

We need models that support free consumption of media for many reasons.

I think the crypto sector has some answers for us but I am also looking elsewhere.

We need new approaches and we need them now.

Feature Friday: Quote Retweet

One of my favorite features on Twitter is the ability to retweet something with added context.

Like this:

I do this a lot:

You get my point.

There are a lot things Twitter can do to make Twitter better but getting rid of the Quote Retweet is not one of them.


Albert Wenger — December 21, 2017
Uber’s Greatest Trick Caught

Albert Wenger — December 20, 2017
Uncertainty Wednesday: Suppressed Volatility (Cont'd)

Bethany Marz Crystal — December

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a16z Podcast: The $200 PC in the Enterprise

What capabilities do enterprise companies really want from their computers? Twenty years ago, those capabilities might’ve been bundled into a mainframe. Ten years ago, it might’ve been the PC. Today, as more and more businesses rely on devices that need …

10 Year Futures (Vs. What’s Happening Now)

The personal computer S-curve gave us 1.5 billion PCs and 3 billion people online, and now the smartphone S-curve is giving a computer to everyone on earth. So today, we have two innovation conversations: First, what can we build on …

Hackers Are Targeting Your Mobile Phone. Here Are 15 Ways to Slow Them Down

Multi-bits/Getty Images

Mobile phones have become the new prey of choice for hackers and other nefarious individuals. Once compromised, our phones offer easy access to our personal and financial information, giving hackers the ability to sell that information on the dark web and to ransom our information.

But despite the growing threats to our smartphones, most people — even most corporate executives — still don’t take basic security precautions. According to a 2016 report on mobile security by Intertrust, the cost of mobile app hacks and breaches will reach $1.5 billion by 2021. Yet mobile device security often gets less attention than security for network systems or even our laptop computers. The same report says $34 million is spent annually on mobile app development while only $2 million is spent on app security. This reinforces the old adage that the money spent on security is never enough, until there

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Companies Need More Than Two-Factor Authentication to Keep Users Safe

nov17-22-860363466-calvin dexter
calvindexter/Getty Images

We all know the basics of cybercrime, such as phishing emails with malicious links or attachments, or phone calls from fake help desks seeking to take over your computer.

But schemes in the cyber world continue to get more sophisticated. One of the latest scams has hackers stealing phone numbers to drain cryptocurrency accounts such as Bitcoin. How? Hackers have identified a weakness in the way we use our phones to authenticate our identities to mobile service providers, as well as to online accounts. They’re exploiting this weakness to steal whatever they can get their hands on. And it all goes back to two-factor authentication, or 2FA.

If you’ve enabled 2FA on Twitter, Facebook, or Google, you’ve probably received a one-time password, through SMS text message, for logging in or making changes to the account. Many online cryptocurrency wallets and services also use SMS text messages as a

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