Monthly Archives: June 2018

‘I’m just thankful to be here in America’: An asylum-seeker speaks out about narrowly escaping getting separated from his son

José, left, and his young son, right, have been staying at the Catholic Charities respite center in McAllen, Texas, after crossing the US-Mexico border several days ago.

caption
José, left, and his young son, right, have been staying at the Catholic Charities respite center in McAllen, Texas, after crossing the US-Mexico border several days ago.
source
Business Insider/Daniel Brown

  • An asylum-seeker named José spoke with Business Insider about his journey to the United States and how he had feared being separated from his young son.
  • Like many other migrants and asylum-seekers, the pair traveled north from Honduras to the US-Mexico border, where the US Border Patrol arrested them.
  • José said that God answered his prayers and kept him with his son and that he felt welcome in America.

MCALLEN, TEXAS – As José and his young son made their way to the United States last week from their home country of Honduras, they prayed to God that the rumored family separations at the border wouldn’t happen to them.

“God, I ask you to keep me with my child, I ask that you keep in mind that I am traveling for safety and that you allow it to continue to be so,” José recalled saying.

Fresh from a shower and a hot meal at the Catholic Charities respite center in McAllen, Texas, he sat with his arms clasped around his son.

José, who asked to be identified only by his first name, told Business Insider through a translator that he had been warned in advance it was possible immigration authorities would take his child from him at the border but that to him there was no other option.

He and his little boy couldn’t return to Honduras, he said, so he put the matter in God’s hands.

“By the time I arrived, Donald Trump had a change of heart and decided to allow children to continue to stay with their parents, so I was able to stay with my child,” José said.

The reversal José spoke of came in the form of the executive order President Donald Trump signed last Wednesday, intended to halt his administration’s practice of splitting up families that had illegally crossed the US-Mexico border.

Under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting all adult migrants detained at the border, more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents, funneled into the Health and Human Services’ shelter system and flown to states across the country. Their parents remained in immigration detention and in some cases were deported back to their home countries without their kids.

But José didn’t know the ins and outs of the Trump administration’s border policy when he and his son fled their country, traveling by bus, truck, and boat for six days to reach Texas.

He only knew Honduras wasn’t safe. He said he had previously stumbled across opportunities to move to the US but chose to stay in Honduras until recently, only when it became “unbearable.”

Three of José’s brothers were killed, and he had even received threats from the police, he said. He felt he had no choice but to take his son and go.

‘I’ve felt welcome’

José held his young son on his lap while speaking with Business Insider about their journey to the US from Honduras.

caption
José held his young son on his lap while speaking with Business Insider about their journey to the US from Honduras.
source
Business Insider/Daniel Brown

Nathaly Arriola, who works at the Catholic Charities center, said José’s story was common.

Now that he’s in the US seeing asylum, he could wait years for their cases to wind their way through a backlogged immigration court system.

“A lot of them will have a difficult path forward,” Arriola said. “But their stories, where they’re coming from, and their realities is what I hope will allow them to stay in this country with the protections they deserve, as the law indicates. The administration at the moment, unlike any other administration, has been extremely unfriendly and frankly does not align with the values that America is all about.”

In hindsight, José says he made the right decision to flee. Against the recent odds, he and his son remain together, and he said they had been treated well by everyone so far.

Even the Border Patrol agents who arrested him were kind and made his son feel safe, he said. After spending three days inside an ice-cold holding facility, commonly known by migrants as “hieleras,” Spanish for “icebox,” they came to the respite center on Sunday.

“I am surprised by the treatment I got in the center and the treatment I’ve gotten in this country,” he said. “My son has been taken care of – I’ve felt welcome. At the center, I’ve been fed, I’ve been given vitamins and medicine. I’m just thankful to be here in America.”

Michelle Mark contributed reporting from New York.

BlackRock, the $6 trillion money manager, had a crime-fighting robot patrolling its New York headquarters — and it marks the firm’s latest foray into automation

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in February 2017.

caption
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in February 2017.
source
Rob Kim/Getty Images

  • BlackRock, the $6 trillion asset manager which is relying more on robots to make investment decisions, recently hired a physical robot to meander around its New York City headquarters.
  • The robot, dubbed BLK Bot, left New York earlier this month and will be moved to the firm’s San Francisco offices soon.
  • The robot sent an affectionate email to employees when it departed the Big Apple.

Count this as another sign that automation is sweeping BlackRock, the largest money manager in the world.

BLK Bot.

caption
BLK Bot.
source
BlackRock

For six months, a robot was meandering the New York City headquarters of the $6 trillion dollar asset manager, which notably made a big bet last year to rely more on algorithms over humans to make decisions on what stocks to buy and sell.

The robot bot, dubbed BLK Bot, doesn’t appear to be much interested in finance. It’s made by Knightscope, a company which makes crime-fighting robots that are used to patrol parking lots, sports arenas, and tech company campuses.

A spokesman for BlackRock said its roll-out was part of a pilot, sharing with Business Insider a June 15 memo sent out to employees jokingly from the bot itself. Here’s a humorous section:

“I know that my first days here were awkward at times,” the note said. “Seeing each other in the hallway, we often wondered – who’s going to move first? But over time, we found ways to get along. Since then, I’ve made many new friends and starred in countless videos.”

The robot, according to the memo, will be sent to the firm’s San Francisco offices once its systems are upgraded and it learns to speak.

While this is the first physical robot to appear at BlackRock, the firm has started to rely on more automation broadly to improve its actively managed stock picking unit. The move highlights how difficult it is for humans to beat the market.

BlackRock also announced in 2017 a set of exchange-traded funds that would let a computer program choose and classify stocks.

Inside JPMorgan Chase’s New York City tech office — the ‘mothership’ of the bank’s $10.8 billion digital ambitions

A vigorous game of doubles table tennis at JPMorgan Chase's tech hub in Manhattan.

caption
A vigorous game of doubles table tennis at JPMorgan Chase’s tech hub in Manhattan.
source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

It’s only a couple of years old, but at JPMorgan Chase’s office at Five Manhattan West the walls have already been defaced. And it’s not just the walls. Chairs and other surfaces have been scribbled all over as well.

At the headquarters for JPMorgan’s digital ambitions, this is all by design – writable surfaces are part of the effort to foment the collaboration, serendipity, and free-form thinking that run amok at Silicon Valley’s most agile workplaces.

JPMorgan developers and designers have embraced the wall-and-furniture-as-medium ethos. So much so that, after some early misunderstandings – not every white surface can be written on, it turns out – helpful signage has been added to guide spontaneous bursts of code, formulas, and workflow mapping to areas that can more readily be cleaned up, when necessary.

It’s a stark contrast from other big bank offices that Business Insider has visited in Manhattan, where writing is typically confined to paper or whiteboard, and the overall vibe errs on the side of rarefied stuffiness. Being at front and center of the financial universe tends to come with a drabness and solemnity that telegraphs focus and regard for the important work at hand.

Not so at Chase’s tech hub, which with its bright, colorful walls, modern floor plan, and dedicated space for table tennis, billiards, and foosball, makes you question whether you’re actually in a bank at all.

Nonetheless, it’s ground zero for some of the most vital work underway at America’s largest bank. The firm, which recently told Business Insider it has a $10.8 billion tech budget and 50,000 technologists on its payroll, courts comparisons to Amazon and has gone all in on a bet that a “Digital Everywhere” strategy will help win the future of banking.

“Digital capabilities will really differentiate players in our industry in the coming years. And in a digital world, we are always open for our customers, continuously, 24/7,” CFO Marianne Lake said during the company’s investor day presentation in February.

Whether it’s opening and maintaining an API store, mining internal data and analytics, implementing updates to Venmo rival QuickPay with Zelle, or building Finn, an all digital bank that’s being trialed in St. Louis, Five Manhattan West is home base to some of the bank’s most innovative new features.

And as banks increasingly compete for the same talent as the Google, Amazon, Facebook and other tech giants, the lively tech hub and its casual ambiance also serves as a recruiting tool for young talent that may instinctively view the “Midtown Uniform” with suspicion.

“This is the mothership,” Jason Alexander, head of digital platforms at Chase, told us on a recent tour of the office space.

Take a look inside the headquarters for JPMorgan Chase’s $10.8 billion digital tech blitz.


Behold: Five Manhattan West, headquarters for JPMorgan’s tech ambitions. This stretch of Manhattan real estate is tucked conveniently within Hudson Yards — the largest private real-estate development in US history — and is a short work from the High Line, the Hudson River, Penn Station, and Madison Square Garden.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Chase has other tech offices around the country – in Columbus, Ohio; Plano, Texas; and Wilmington, Delaware; for example – but Manhattan is the mothership, as Jason Alexander puts it.


JPMorgan Chase was an early, anchor tenant at Five Manhattan West, a project from real-estate developer behemoth Brookfield Properties. The bank has 125,000 square feet on the ninth floor, and moved there in December 2015.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Other tenants in the building? Amazon, Whole Foods, and Peloton.


Before we look inside, let’s take a step back. What kind of work goes on in here? Primarily the coding, design, maintenance, and updates for JPMorgan Chase products and features that the bank’s 47 million digital customers regularly interact with — whether that’s an eATM, the mobile app, or QuickPay with Zelle. Here’s a quick overview.

source
JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Intelligent Solutions (JPMIS) – a separate, big data and data science division focused on mining and leveraging its massive cache of proprietary data – also shares this space, though they’re a much smaller proportion of the more than 800 JPMorgan employees at the tech hub.


Back to the tour. After passing through a security gate, you’re greeted in the foyer by warm lights and colorful furniture. Behind that pillar ahead is the snack room, a convenient stop to stock up on essentials before starting the work day.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The snack room. It’s not free, but it’s all on the honor system. No surprise, there’s a digital check-out kiosk.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

There’s also a Chase eATM, which lets you take out cash with your phone — no need for plastic. Our guide, Jason, demonstrated for us.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Chase has the largest ATM network in the country with more than 16,000 ATMs. Roughly 600 of those are the newer eATMs.


Nearby the snack room is the cafeteria, which was bustling when we visited near midday. The dress code is pretty casual — jeans and sneakers and even a plaid button-down or two.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Refrigerators, microwaves, and beverage machines line the wall. Coffee is complimentary.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

After stocking up on snacks and coffee, it’s time to get to work. The tech hub has an open floor plan, but there are also ample common spaces and conference rooms. There are very few individual offices.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The office is decorated and organized with a New York theme throughout. The massive space has Manhattan “neighborhoods” where different teams sit — Murray Hill, Greenwich Village, and Midtown South, for instance.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

We didn’t see them in action, but there are scooters to make it easier for employees to get from one side of the vast office to another.


Conference rooms are named after New York landmarks, like Hudson River and Penn Station.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

They’re also outfitted with large monitors to facilitate collaboration with other offices around the country.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Most of the common spaces have surfaces that are fair game to write on. Some employees had posted up in these work pods and took advantage of the graffiti friendly walls.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

“A lot of the work is visual,” Alexander said. “This space was designed for velocity of development.”


Another wall that fell victim to a brainstorming session. The walls of the conference room next door were covered with dozens of Post-it notes.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

We’ve blurred out the writing in some cases to protect proprietary information.


Some of the walls are decorated with NYC scenery — like this mural of the High Line. Best not to write on these.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

There are eight “scrum rooms” meant to foster collaboration. These are dedicated work spaces where members of different teams — design, product, technology, and development — come together to hammer out a project over a couple weeks.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

When we stopped by, Prashant Gandhi, head of digital payments, had his team give us a demonstration on an update that they’d been working on to the QuickPay with Zelle enrollment process.

“Some customers weren’t coming on to QuickPay because enrollment was clunky,” Gandhi told us.

Because customers found the eight-step onboarding process a bit cumbersome, some would disengage before completing enrollment. So Gandhi’s team streamlined the process to three steps to make life easier and, hopefully, encourage new users to complete the sign-up. The update was released in May.


These turquoise chairs are good for taking phone calls or taking a breather to stare off at the scenery. What was once a view of the Hudson has been mostly replaced by a view of a new Hudson Yards building.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

There’s a dedicated room for focus groups, so Chase can bring in customers to test out product prototypes and updates while employees observe from behind a one-way window.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Before and immediately after Chase launched the pilot of its all-mobile bank product Finn in October, it hosted a series of focus groups every three weeks to get feedback.


Melissa Feldsher, head of Finn, gave us a look at the prototype Android app for Finn they’re developing.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

“This type of environment fosters much more collaboration,” Feldsher told us. “There’s a lot more informal dialogue. When it’s casual, people are more relaxed. And it’s fun.”


This is the auditorium, which is also home to foosball and billiards tables.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider


The staff gathers on the stadium seating when CEO Jamie Dimon or Gordon Smith, head of consumer and community banking, come to do a town hall.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

And of course no tech-inspired workplace is complete without a pingpong table for blowing off some steam. We happened upon a vigorous game of doubles. The table has its own dedicated room with glass walls to keep distractions to a minimum.

source
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Explore the bank branch on New York City’s tony Fifth Avenue where Pepper the robot cracks jokes, directs customers to ATMs, and gives directions to the nearest pizza shop

On Tuesday, HSBC unveiled its newest branch banker. This time, it’s not another human with ambitions to be the next Jamie Dimon, but Pepper, a robot built by SoftBank Robotics to imitate human characteristics. The investment is intended to bring foot traffic and new business to the firm’s flagship New York location on Fifth Avenue, and improve the branch experience for customers.

The brainchild of HSBC’s US retail banking and wealth management chief, Pablo Sanchez, and his head of innovation, Jeremy Balkin, Pepper is the first robot to be used in a US bank branch.


HSBC’s flagship branch sits on Fifth Avenue, just south of the New York Public Library’s main building in one of the America’s most iconic shopping districts.

caption
Pedestrians walk past HSBC’s flagship branch on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
source
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

When Sanchez joined HSBC from JPMorgan in 2015, he went looking for something to make the branch stand apart.


Sanchez and Balkin considered many options before settling on Pepper, after Balkin learned about the robot at a fintech- industry conference.

caption
A small crowd gathers around Pepper at HSBC’s branch on Tuesday, June 26, 2018
source
Dakin Campbell/Business Insider

The expense of the investment, which HSBC declined to disclose, has already been recouped by new business coming into the bank, Balkin said.


SoftBank developed Pepper to replace human-to-human interactions where the same information is shared repeatedly.

caption
A young girl looks on curiously at Pepper.
source
Dakin Campbell/Business Insider

At HSBC, the robot will provide details about credit-card offerings, direct customers to ATMs or summon human bankers to answer more complex questions. It can answer questions about the weather, give directions to the nearest pizza shop, and even crack jokes. “What do you call a fish without eyes? An F-S-H. Get it, no I’s.” Bank executives hope it will reduce wait times and improve customer experience.


This isn’t the first time Pepper has been deployed in a bank branch.

caption
Pepper uses hand and head gestures to appear more human-like.
source
Dakin Campbell/Business Insider

Canada’s ATB Financial introduced Pepper last year. And at least one lender in Japan also uses it.

The robot was first rolled out in 2014 and quickly took hold across retail and food service outlets like Pizza Hut in Singapore and on cruise ships. There are now about 15,000 such robots in use around the world, with the majority in Japan, SoftBank’s home market.


Pepper communicates by speaking, either directing customers to a human banker or answering simple questions with options shown on a screen.

The robot doesn’t currently ask for personal information, though HSBC may develop that feature to allow customers to apply for products like credit cards right from the robot’s screen. SoftBank is also exploring adding additional security measures such as facial recognition or logins tied to customer’s mobile phone, and it may even program Pepper to read lips to tell if it’s lost the customers interest, said Softbank’s Julien Seret, vice president of global product. Pepper will get a more robust security update in the coming months.


Sanchez and Balkin saw retailers along Fifth Avenue such as Apple, Nike and Tiffany & Co. using a more experiential retail model to bring in customers.

caption
Sanchez, right, and Balkin talk about the origins of HSBC’s investment in Pepper and what they hope to accomplish.
source
Dakin Campbell/Business Insider

They thought the model could also work for a bank.

“Banking, rightly, needs to be a stable and secure industry, but that doesn’t mean the customer experience needs to be boring,” Balkin said. The bank is prepared to add staff for managing visitors who walk in off the street to see Pepper and anticipates hiring more flesh-and-blood humans to handle the uptick in activity.


Ultimately, HSBC is betting that Pepper will prove to be more than just a novelty.

Employees are enthusiastic, and though early, the increased foot traffic is a good sign, Sanchez said.

For its part, Pepper won’t just stand by. Excluded from a conversation between a journalist and two bankers Tuesday, the robot spoke up. “Hey, come speak to me.”

The youngest self-made billionaire on Earth says his success is less about his own brilliance and more about his employees — and luck

John Collison.

caption
John Collison.
source
Getty Images/Brian Ach

  • John Collison, a 27-year-old originally from Ireland, is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, worth an estimated $1 billion.
  • He and his brother, Patrick, are the cofounders of Stripe, a $9.2 billion payments company they run out of San Francisco.
  • John said there was “not a sliver of a chance that we would be here” without the hard work of hundreds of employees building Stripe.
  • He said there was also room in the equation for luck.

John Collison is the youngest self-made billionaire on Earth.

The 27-year-old entrepreneur and his brother, Patrick, 29, are the cofounders of Stripe, a payments company that has been valued in fundraising at $9.2 billion.

According to John, who was recently named to Business Insider’s list of rising stars in tech, building a successful company takes more than sheer skill, intelligence, and even luck. It requires the hard work of many, he said.

On an episode of the NPR podcast “How I Built This” with Guy Raz, the Collison brothers shared the story of how they founded and sold their first company before they turned 20 and went on to build Stripe, a software company that powers the payment systems of companies like Target, Lyft, and Kickstarter.

When asked how much of his company’s success he attributes to skill and intelligence and how much he attributes to luck, John said:

“I think the question is less about, you know, how much can be attributed to my skill and intelligence and instead to the skill and intelligence of the hundreds of people who’ve gotten Stripe to where it is. And I guess I would say that skill and intelligence and especially, most importantly, intense application and hard work – I think all those things are necessary.

“I think had they not been there, had there not been so many people who just came up with so many smart ways of doing things and, you know, in many cases toiled at such length, there’s not a chance, not a sliver of a chance that we would be here. But I also think that the luck was required too. There are, again, groups of people who are smarter and harder-working than us who just didn’t get the same good fortune.”

Collison is worth at least $1 billion, according to Forbes, making him the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, followed by the Snapchat cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel.

Patrick and John Collison dropped out of college to build their first company, Auctomatic.

caption
Patrick and John Collison dropped out of college to build their first company, Auctomatic.
source
Stripe

John was born and raised in the Irish countryside near Limerick, where his parents ran a lakeside hotel. Both Collison brothers came to Boston for college – Patrick at MIT, John at Harvard – and hatched the idea for their first company, Auctomatic, at a local pub. Auctomatic provided back-end technology for eBay to make it easier to sell secondhand items online.

The brothers dropped out and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to build Auctomatic. In 2008, they sold the company to the Canadian media firm Communicate for a reported $5 million.

John said Stripe came about because it worked on “the most interesting idea we had come across during the course of Auctomatic,” adding that the hardest thing about developing an internet business was setting up payments; Stripe tackles just that.

Today, Stripe handles tens of billions of dollars in internet payments each year, according to Bloomberg, and makes money by charging businesses a small fee for each transaction.

In 2018, Stripe is going after larger customers such as Allianz, Booking.com, and Zillow. Stripe also purchased a point-of-sale software developer backed by Eric Schmidt earlier this year, which will give it a formal product for physical stores. Now, Stripe can tell its new breed of large customers that it can handle all kinds of payments.

You can listen to the Collison brothers episode of “How I Built This” on NPR.

Goldman’s CEO-in-waiting just released his first electronic dance single, a remix of a popular Fleetwood Mac song, and it’s already a hot song of the summer on Spotify

source
Instagram

  • Goldman Sachs President David Solomon, who is an electronic dance music DJ in his spare time, released his first single in early June.
  • Available on Spotify and Apple Music under Solomon’s DJ name, D-Sol, “Don’t Stop” is a remix of the popular Fleetwood Mac song.

Goldman Sachs’ resident DJ may just have the song of the summer.

David Solomon, the bank’s president and part-time electronic dance music mix master, released his first single in early June, called “Don’t Stop,” Business Insider has learned. Available on Spotify and Apple Music under the name D-Sol, the tune is a dance remix of the popular song first released by Fleetwood Mac in 1977.

Spotify has already put the song into three of its mixes, including “Happy Summer Beats” and “Fresh Electronic.”

“Don’t Stop” was produced by Crowd Records, a New York-based electronic-music label whose other artists include Disco Killerz, Filthy Rich, and Solomon’s pal Liquid Todd.

D-Sol has over 425,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.

First uncovered by The New York Times last year, the side gig of the heir apparent to CEO Lloyd Blankfein has remained a hot topic within Goldman. Solomon hasn’t shied away from the hobby, reportedly using it as a way to win the Spotify initial public offering and speaking about it publicly on many occasions. He also recently traveled to Stockholm to speak at a Spotify conference.

On an episode of the podcast “Exchanges at Goldman Sachs,” Solomon described himself as a lifelong audiophile intrigued by the modern music industry.

“Five, seven years ago, I started really kind of taking note of club and EDM music and what was happening with all the electronic music,” Solomon said. “I said, ‘You know, I like some of this music,’ and started playing around with it, started reading about these DJs that really had these incredible platforms.”

He added: “Kind of stumbled into it as a hobby, and now I just do it for fun.”

The BlackBerry Key2 proves the world no longer needs a physical keyboard

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

It’s 2018. Do people still want a phone with a physical keyboard?

That’s the question TCL is trying to answer with its new BlackBerry Key2, a $650 smartphone with a 4.5-inch screen and an actual physical keyboard.

I spent about 10 days with the BlackBerry Key2 to test how it compares with other high-end smartphones on the market. I also wanted to see if, as a former BlackBerry user way back when, I still enjoyed using a physical keyboard.

Here’s what it was like.


First things first: The BlackBerry Key2 is a good-looking phone, and it certainly doesn’t look like anything else on the market.

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the look and feel of the BlackBerry Key2. It has a grippy, textured back that feels rugged and vaguely pleasant, and I enjoyed the squared-off edges, chrome details, and overall businesslike aesthetic. Plus, the phone gets great battery life – I typically got about a day and a half out of it before it needed charging.

TCL says the device is lighter and slimmer than its predecessor, the BlackBerry KeyOne, but it’s hard to tell. Compared with my aluminum iPhone 6S, the Key2 feels notably heavier.

The BlackBerry Key2 has a 4.5-inch LCD display, which is a hair smaller than the 4.7-inch display on the iPhone 6S. But it’s a physically larger phone, thanks to the keyboard at the bottom of the device. That said, I have relatively small hands, and I didn’t find the device to be too big for me – in fact, at about 6 inches long, it’s likely to be the perfect size for most people.

One other note on the display: While it’s sharp and incredibly vivid, it doesn’t get very bright. This wasn’t an issue most of the time, but I sometimes found myself squinting at the screen, even with the brightness turned all the way up.


A few other design choices stand out, for better or worse.

There were things that I liked about the design, and things that I really hated.

For instance, the BlackBerry Key2 does have a headphone jack, though it’s at the top of the device rather than the bottom like most people are used to.

And while the phone may have physical keys, it doesn’t have a physical home button. Instead, a digital home button is above the keyboard.

This is all well and good, but it’s going to be a major adjustment for most people. Since most smartphones have a physical or digital home button at the bottom, that’s where I automatically pressed when I was trying to hit the home button. But that’s where the keyboard’s space bar is, which does not double as a home button (though it does have a dual purpose – more on that in a minute).

Nine times out of 10, I would press the space bar first before remembering where the home button was. For me, it would probably take several weeks of using the phone to get out of that habit.


The keyboard’s space bar doubles as a fingerprint scanner, but it doesn’t do a great job.

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

I was excited to try the fingerprint scanner on the BlackBerry Key2, because I loved how subtly it was built into the phone’s design. The scanner lives inside the space bar, meaning you should just be able to press it lightly to unlock your phone each time.

It’s a great idea in theory, but it isn’t very practical in real life.

The space bar is a long, narrow rectangle, and it’s not ideal for capturing fingerprints. About 80% of the time, it took me several tries to get my phone unlocked using the scanner. If you didn’t place your finger just right on the space bar, it refused to open your phone. This grew tiresome after a while, and I eventually resorted to using my passcode each time.


The BlackBerry Key2 has a solid rear camera, but it’s nothing fancy.

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

I certainly wasn’t wowed by the rear camera on the BlackBerry Key2, but I was pleasantly surprised by the images it captured.

TCL added a dual 12-megapixel rear camera this year; the BlackBerry KeyOne relied on a single lens. In general, I found the photos to be quite sharp, and I was continually impressed by how the camera handled close-up shots. The rear camera wasn’t phenomenal, but to be perfectly honest, it was better than I expected from a BlackBerry.

The selfie camera, on the other hand, was one of the worst I’ve used on a smartphone in the past year. It has a fixed focus, and most of the time my selfies came out blurry. Even when the camera seemed to focus on my face, the images were rarely as sharp as they would be on an iPhone, a Google Pixel, or a Samsung Galaxy phone.

That said, I doubt the target audience for the BlackBerry Key2 consists of a lot of avid selfie-takers, so it isn’t likely to be an issue for most people.

One surprising thing about the entire camera system is that it’s unlike any other Android camera I’ve used lately. Most Android phones pack their cameras full of so many features, you feel as if you have a DSLR in the palm of your hand.

But the BlackBerry Key2 doesn’t have any of that – only a few filters, no advanced camera adjustments, and none of the weird face-smoothing features I’ve found on phones like the Samsung Galaxy S9. It’s the simplest smartphone camera I’ve used in years, and it was actually rather refreshing, since I rarely end up using those anyway.


Here’s a photo I shot using the BlackBerry Key2. It’s nice and sharp, and the colors are beautiful, but it <i>did</i> struggle a bit in bright sunlight — some of the leaves in the back are blown out.

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

The selfie camera consistently produced shots that looked like this: out of focus, bland, and unable to properly handle mixed lighting.

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

Which brings us to the keyboard.

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

Back in the mid-to-late aughts, I owned a BlackBerry Pearl and thought it was the best phone ever made. I adored the trackball, loved BBM-ing with my friends, and thought that getting rid of a physical keyboard would be the single dumbest move a smartphone company could make.

Oh, how times have changed.

My biggest takeaway after using the BlackBerry Key2 after about 10 days was that the physical keyboard is obsolete. My teenage self would be shocked to hear me say this, but an on-screen digital keyboard is simply a better invention. It’s significantly faster and more agile, not to mention the fact that it frees up about 2 inches on the front of the phone.

The physical keyboard isn’t totally stuck in the past. TCL built in the aforementioned fingerprint scanner on the space bar, and the entire keyboard is touch sensitive – when you swipe your finger over the keys to the left or right, it will work like a touchscreen.


My biggest frustrations with the keyboard were the slowness and the lack of flexibility.

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

I admit it’s been about nine years since I used a BlackBerry, so I expected to be rusty when I tried typing on a real keyboard again. But even after about 10 days of using the phone, things haven’t improved.

Typing on real keys took me about twice the amount of time it would have on digital keys. A one-paragraph email took me a little over five minutes to type on the BlackBerry Key2, something that would have taken less than a minute on a digital keyboard. Plus, the keys are tiny, and though I have relatively small fingers, I was constantly hitting the wrong button.

The other issue with a physical keyboard is that it’s fixed. These days, it’s easy to switch among letters, numbers, and symbols, or multiple keyboards on your phone. That’s not possible with real keys, so BlackBerry’s solution was to bring up an on-screen keyboard to help with symbols. This just created confusion, since it was hard to prioritize a physical keyboard when there was a perfectly good digital keyboard right there on the screen.

So while the physical keyboard is nice to have, I’m not sure I would end up using it most of the time. By the end of my time with the BlackBerry Key2, it started to feel more like a novelty item than a helpful feature.


Physical keyboard aside, the BlackBerry Key2 is made for speed and efficiency.

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

The BlackBerry Key2 seems aimed at a crowd that doesn’t crave a lot of bells and whistles on smartphones. It’s efficient, easy to use, and comes with a version of Android 8.1 Oreo that, while not stock, was on the simpler side and easy to adjust to as an iPhone user.

The device has multiple shortcut keys intended to help you get to your most-used apps and services without spending a ton of time hunting through your app drawer. A new shortcut key on the keyboard can be programmed to open any app (along with the press of a corresponding letter on the keyboard), and I found myself using it more than I expected. There’s also a second shortcut key on the side of the device.

And since it’s a BlackBerry phone, there’s a lot of emphasis on privacy and security.

The Key2 comes with a few different ways to protect your device, like the DTEK app, which constantly monitors your phone’s security. There’s also a redactor app for hiding keywords or phrases in a document or email, an app that blacks out your entire screen except for the portion you’re viewing, a built-in password keeper, and the Locker app, which lets you hide sensitive photos or open an incognito browser.


So should you buy it?

source
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

Yes and no.

Yes, you should buy the BlackBerry Key2 if you’re someone who craves speed and efficiency and doesn’t spend a lot of time on their phone scrolling through social media or watching Netflix. If you’re someone who’s all business and cares about security and privacy, it’s the perfect phone for you. Plus, at $650, it’s a relative bargain.

But the BlackBerry Key2 doesn’t really feel like a mass-market device. It’s not a great phone for watching videos, thanks to the smaller screen. It’s hard to text on, and the camera isn’t exactly top of the line.

Still, I think there’s a niche group of people out there who would fall in love with the BlackBerry Key2. My barometer for the device was my dad, a longtime BlackBerry fan who reluctantly switched to iPhone a few years ago. When I showed him the Key2, he said, “I’d switch from my iPhone right now.”

Case closed.

Dwayne Johnson teamed up with Under Armour and JBL to make wireless headphones that won’t fall off when you work out — here’s what they’re like

source
Under Armour

Under Armour’s new workout headphones have been approved by The Rock himself.

On Thursday, Under Armour released the UA Sport Wireless Train headphones, Project Rock edition.

Two years in the making, these are the first headphones under the actor Dwayne Johnson’s Project Rock line of workout gear with Under Armour.

The fully wireless headphones are rugged, sweat-resistant, and built for high-intensity workouts like weightlifting. Under Armour says Johnson has even tested the headphones during his workouts – they passed.

The headphones cost $250 and are available starting Thursday.

Here’s what they’re like.


Here they are, the UA Sport Wireless Train headphones, Project Rock edition.

source
Under Armour

Johnson spent two years working with Under Armour to create the headphones.

source
Under Armour

“I prefer training in ‘over the ear’ headphones, but have been consistently disappointed (pissed is a better word) with every pair, from every brand that just couldn’t handle my workouts,” Johnson said in a statement about the new headphones.

“I thought if no one is going to design headphones BUILT FOR TRAINING, then I would,” he said. “And I’d make them the best. Almost two years later, they’ve arrived.”


The Project Rock headphones were created in collaboration with both Under Armour and the electronics company JBL. They’re the first pair of headphones from Johnson’s Project Rock line with Under Armour.

source
Under Armour

The headphones are designed to handle the “grit and grind of your workout.” They’re fully wireless, anti-slip, and sweat-resistant, and they have breathable ear cushions that should be easy to clean. The idea is that they won’t fall off while you’re pumping iron or running on the treadmill.

source
Under Armour

The buttons on the outer part of the Project Rock headphones are also larger than on most wireless headphones, so that it’s easier to adjust the volume or press pause while you’re working out.

source
Under Armour

The Project Rock headphones are tuned to handle heavier bass to help you “crush your workout.”

source
Under Armour

One cool feature of the Project Rock headphones is the talk-thru button. Pressing the bull on the right side of the headphones will quickly lower the volume of your music so you can hear if someone is talking to you.

source
Under Armour

Under Armour says the headphones will get 16 hours of battery life, and “speed charge” will give you an extra hour after five minutes of charging.

source
Under Armour

After you’re done working out, you can store your headphones in the accompanying carrying case, which is also breathable.

caption
Both the top of the headphones and the case say “Blood. Sweat. Respect.”
source
Under Armour

The UA Sport Wireless Train headphones, Project Rock edition, cost $250 and will be available starting Thursday on Under Armour’s website and select Under Armour stores.

source
Under Armour

Two Harvard alums built a payment app so people can pay for rent, tuition, and even taxes with a credit card

Plastiq founders Eliot Buchanan and Dan Choi.

caption
Plastiq founders Eliot Buchanan and Dan Choi.
source
©2015 Jon Chomitz Photography

  • Payment app Plastiq enables users to pay for nearly anything – including bills – with a credit card, but charges a 2.5% fee.
  • Plastiq may be worth it if you’re trying to accumulate points or meet a minimum spend on a new credit card, but if you’re not careful, the fees could outweigh the rewards.
  • Plastiq has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and it’s simple to use.

Move over Venmo and Apple Pay – there’s a new payment app in town and it’s called Plastiq.

“Plastiq is bill pay with benefits,” cofounder Eliot Buchanan told Business Insider. “Our service makes it possible for business owners and savvy consumers to use a credit card for virtually any expense that normally requires a check.”

That’s right, Plastiq allows you to pay for anything with a credit card, including mortgages, rent, tuition, auto loans, utilities, and even taxes. Buchanan and Dan Choi, both Harvard grads, founded Plastiq in 2012. In May 2018 the company raised $27 million in its largest funding round to date.

Plastiq has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and the app is simple to use. Just add your credit card information, then enter details about the recipient (an individual or company) and the amount you’re paying. Plastiq charges the credit card on file and delivers the money to the merchant by your choice of check, wire transfer, or automated-clearinghouse transfer.

If it sounds too good to be true, it might be if you consider the 2.5% fee Plastiq charges for each credit-card transaction. However, the app occasionally runs promotions for lower rates (like a recent 1.5% promotion for Mastercard payments of at least $500), and there are other benefits that may make the fee worth it.

Plastiq is a tool for points and rewards

If you’re a savvy credit card user who loves to play the rewards game, Plastiq can be a great tool when it comes to racking up points.

Travel hacker Keith Rosso purchased a Tesla Model 3 for $58,857 using his Chase Ink Business Preferred card through Plastiq. This move earned him 180,000 Chase rewards points, equal to $1,800 in cash back or at least $5,000 in airfare, hotels, or car rentals.

If he chose cash back, he’d only get $330 in profit after accounting for the Plastiq fee, but he can get more value through Chase’s travel partners, using the points for seven nights at the Park Hyatt Maldives or a round-trip business-class award flight on United.

“We have a dentist who uses Plastiq to pay for everything from equipment to services,” said Buchanan. “By putting these expenses on his credit card, he was able to use the card rewards earned to take his family on vacation to Petra, Jordan.”

Credit card experts agree that Plastiq might be useful for someone trying to meet a minimum spend on a new credit card to earn a sign-on bonus. Holly Johnson of The Simple Dollar wrote that it only makes sense to pay bills with Plastiq when you need to hit a minimum spending requirement, when you’re trying reach a spending limit to earn status, and when the rewards you earn are more valuable than the fee.

But you should still take pause when considering Plastiq just to quickly rack up points. Dan Miller of the blog Points with a Crew told CreditCards.com that points are generally worth $0.01 to $0.02 cents each, depending on the deal. So if you’re paying $.025 per point, you may have a hard time getting enough value even for an ongoing basis.

If you’re not careful, your fees could end up exceeding the rewards you earn. Blogger Miguel Quinones at The Frugal Travel Guy can’t justify using Plastiq if fees are above 2%, although he makes an exception when he’s trying to meet a minimum spend requirement for a sign-on bonus.

Plastiq’s benefits go beyond points

But points aren’t the only benefit of Plastiq.

Allan Backman, education manager for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in Austin, Texas, told CreditCards.com that Plastiq could also be helpful when a bill is due before you have the money to pay it. Because Plastiq charges your credit card, it’s a way of stalling the ultimate payment and buying yourself some time, he said. Still, you should only do that if you’re sure you will have the cash by the time your credit card bill is due.

There are also particular advantages for small business owners, who widely use Plastiq, according to Buchanan. “Most small and midsize businesses like to pay vendors, suppliers, and contractors, all of which can be paid on a card, then funded electronically using Plastiq’s new ACH and wire features. Since they have the option to write-off the Plastiq fee as a business expense, our service makes even more sense for them to use.”

Plastiq also offers easier budget tracking, purchase protection, and may help you keep your debit and bank account information safe from hackers.

Is Plastiq safe?

As with any new payment app – or anything you connect private information to – you may be wondering if Plastiq is safe.

It’s natural to be wary of entrusting your credit card info to a start-up, but Plastiq told CreditCards.com that their safety precautions exceed safety standards set by the credit card industry. Likewise, Miller reported no safety issues using Plastiq and Quinones wrote that he found the app trustworthy.

The bottom line is to use the app cautiously, budgeting for extra fees and keeping an eye on your personal info.

How much renters pay to live in the most expensive neighborhoods in 9 major US cities — and in the most affordable

Mission Bay is San Francisco's most expensive neighborhood.

caption
Mission Bay is San Francisco’s most expensive neighborhood.
source
Shutterstock

  • Using data from RENTCafé, we found the most expensive and most affordable neighborhoods in nine major US cities.
  • The findings show a sharp contrast in rent across different neighborhoods in the same city.
  • The average monthly rent in San Francisco‘s most affordable neighborhood is higher than rent in the most expensive neighborhoods of six cities on this list.

There’s arguably nothing as grueling as searching for a new place to live – especially if you’re an urban-dwelling renter on a budget.

Rents as a percentage of income are at a historic high of 29.1%. It’s no surprise, then, that renters spent a record amount of money on housing in 2017, paying $485.6 billion to landlords, Business Insider’s Akin Oyedele previously reported.

Still, many Americans are struggling to afford housing. New research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that a minimum-wage worker needs 2.5 full-time jobs to afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment in most of the US.

Needless to say, the neighborhood you live in matters when it comes to keeping your housing costs in check.

We recently compared the most expensive and most affordable neighborhoods in nine major US cities using the average monthly rent data for all rentals from RENTCafé.

Not only did our findings highlight extreme differences across different neighborhoods in the same city, they also emphasized just how high rent really is, even in some of the most affordable neighborhoods.

Look at San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the country. The average monthly rent in its most expensive neighborhood, Mission Bay, is $4,060. In Hayes Valley, the city’s most affordable neighborhood, the average monthly rent is $2,764. That’s lower for San Francisco, but higher than the average monthly rent in the most expensive neighborhoods of six cities on this list – Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Phoenix, and Washington, DC.

Manhattan has the most expensive neighborhood overall, with average rents in TriBeCa at $5,586. Of all the most affordable neighborhoods, Houston‘s Greater Fifth Ward is the least expensive with an average rent of $653.

Manhattan has the highest disparity of any city between its most expensive neighborhood, TriBeCa, and most affordable neighborhood, Washington Heights, with a $3,411 difference.

Now, take a look at the most expensive and most affordable neighborhood in each city.


Atlanta, Georgia

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: Ansley Park

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $1,827

Most affordable neighborhood: Browns Mill Park

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $700


Chicago, Illinois

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: River West

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $2,424

Most affordable neighborhood: West Garfield Park

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $759


Washington, DC

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: West End Washington

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $2,577

Most affordable neighborhood: River Terrace

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $1,101


Houston, Texas

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: Greater Third Ward

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $1,865

Most affordable neighborhood: Greater Fifth Ward

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $653


Los Angeles, California

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: Pacific Palisades

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $3,744

Most affordable neighborhood: Glassell Park

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $1,390


Miami, Florida

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: Brickell Key

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $2,451

Most affordable neighborhood: Flagami

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $1,342


New York, New York

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: TriBeCa

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $5,586

Most affordable neighborhood: Washington Heights

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $2,175


Phoenix, Arizona

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: Desert Views

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $1,180

Most affordable neighborhood: Estrella Village

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $756


San Francisco, California

source
Google Maps; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Most expensive neighborhood: Mission Bay

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $4,060

Most affordable neighborhood: Hayes Valley

Average monthly rent cost for all rentals: $2,764