Phone and internet customers reveal debt trouble with telco companies during pandemic


Phone and internet customers say they are being disconnected, harassed by debt collectors and generally treated harshly by their telco providers when they need help, negatively impacting mental health.

The Consumer Action Law Centre has released a report detailing stories of people struggling to pay their phone and internet bills, with some fearing homelessness due to losing their job during the pandemic.

Despite a federal moratorium on evictions and banks allowing mortgage repayments to be deferred during the pandemic, debt collectors have continued to contact telco customers demanding repayments.

James* was one of those customers.

The 23-year-old lives in Melbourne and identifies as Aboriginal. He’s studying for a Cert III and receives JobSeeker and the Mobility Allowance for his disability.

He was contacted by debt collectors for multiple debts, including for a buy-now-pay-later purchase, a payday loan, a consumer lease and a Telstra debt of nearly $3,000 from three years ago when James entered into a 24-month contract for a Samsung Galaxy S8.

The salesperson conducted a credit check and knew James was on Centrelink. The monthly cost was $80, which James believed was affordable.

Two months later, he lost the phone and his insurance claim was declined.

James was told he had to pay out the contract so he complained to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, but it was denied due to the SIM card still being active in another phone and the account remaining active with a usable number.

The $3,000 Telstra debt is now on James’s credit file as a default and he says he’s being harassed by debt collectors.

“It’s kind of scary because it is affecting my credit history and it is putting me back. I have received my credit file and there actually is a default on my credit file that makes me annoyed because I did have insurance with the phone and it should have been covered,” he said.

James said the debt collectors ramped up their calls to him during the pandemic.

“They just want payment. They said I could go on a payment plan but I don’t feel comfortable for something I had insurance for.”

He said there were some Telstra customer service representatives who wanted to help him.

It’s not the first time Telstra has been accused of treating customers poorly.(Greg Wood: AFP)

On Thursday, Telstra admitted to unconscionable conduct during its sales of mobile phone plans to indigenous consumers.

After an 18-month investigation by the ACCC, Telstra admitted it breached Australian consumer law and could face a penalty of up to $50 million.

In a statement, Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn apologised for the failings and the impact they had on people.

“I have spoken often about doing business responsibly, including about these failings since earlier this year. I am determined we have a leadership position and hold ourselves accountable in this regard,” he said.

Despite Mr Penn saying the “unconscionable conduct” occurred between 2016 and 2018, some Telstra customers say they are still being failed by the telco.

Katy* is an Aboriginal grandmother living in Echuca in Victoria who says she was pressured by Telstra representatives into putting her daughter-in-law’s mobile and internet bundle in her own name.

Her daughter-in-law had no formal ID and a poor credit history but wanted to buy the bundle for her daughter — Katy’s granddaughter.

Her daughter-in-law has since been incarcerated and Katy is having to pay for the monthly bill, which she cannot afford on top of looking after her grandchildren.

Speaking with Telstra’s hardship team proved futile, she said, after she was told there were no suitable hardship options available to her.

Katy has since complained to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and is talking with lawyers from the Consumer Action Law Centre.

Fearing homelessness because of unaffordable phone bill

A woman uses a tablet device at her kitchen table
The pandemic made internet and phone services essential for the majority of Australians, especially Victorians.(Pexels: RF_Studio)

Ulka* is a pregnant woman from Melbourne who says she’s been hung up on multiple times by a telco company.

She has been experiencing poor mental health and is living on youth allowance and the JobSeeker supplement.

Last year, she signed a 36-month contract with a major telco provider for a mobile phone plan costing about $115 per month.

When she signed up to the plan, Ulka was working full time.

When the pandemic hit and Ulka couldn’t make her monthly payments, her provider restricted her service and blocked her from making outbound calls.

When she told customer service representatives that she was out of work, pregnant, and needed to be able to call her doctor, she was told she would need to pay almost $1,000 in debt in full to remove the restrictions on her phone.

A line stretches back as far as the eye can see outside Centrelink.
Ulka had to claim the JobSeeker supplement to stay afloat during the pandemic.(ABC News: Chris Taylor)

Ulka asked if she could go on a fortnightly payment plan, but that was rejected.

She told her story to different customer service representatives but she says they all hung up on her.

Eventually, Ulka tried cancelling the service completely but was told if she did, she would have to pay out the phone and her debt in full.

The provider referred her to the National Debt Helpline but said her service would soon be cancelled.

Unable to pay the debt on top of her rent, Ulka feared she would end up homeless.

The National Debt Helpline referred her to a lawyer from the Consumer Action Law Centre who spoke to her provider and mentioned that she would be getting legal advice.

‘People left with unaffordable debt’

Consumer Action Law Centre chief executive Gerard Brody said the pandemic showed how reliant people are on telecommunication services.

“The COVID-19 crisis has confirmed, without a doubt, that telecommunications services are essential. Yet the telco industry continues to fail community expectations of essential services providers and is still not regulated as an essential service,” he said.

Mr Body said without directly enforceable rules by the independent regulator, people were “being left with unaffordable debt, poor or no financial hardship responses, the stress of unprofessional dispute resolution and disconnections”.

“It is clear that this lack of connectedness just won’t do — it denies people access to family, medical care, education, work and government services.”

*Names have been changed.



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Cocaine use, phone tap, sex workers, mafia, Napoli


One night in January 1991, Diego Maradona — the world’s most famous football star, then playing for Napoli in Italy’s Serie A — was trying to quietly order two sex workers from an associate of the Neapolitan mafia.

When Maradona made that call, he was an isolated figure, worn down from the constant attention of his fame, unable to go anywhere in Naples, hounded by the media, playing for a club that he wanted to escape and hopelessly addicted to cocaine.

But midway through this discreet, 3:40am order, the woman at the other end of the line insisted Maradona say hello to her son — an adoring Napoli fan.

“That moment is like a tragic comedy,” says Asif Kapadia, director 2019 documentary Diego Maradona which charts the player’s tumultuous seven years in southern Italy, from 1984-1991.

The Argentine football legend died aged 60 of a heart attack on Wednesday, having undergone brain surgery earlier this month

“Here’s a man who’s trying to escape the fame and lose himself in his addictions of sex, drugs, alcohol, but in the middle of it, you’ve got a kid who jumps on the call to ask him about the last match. If you’d put that in an episode of The Sopranos, you’d think it was funny, but you’d think, ‘that would never happen’. But it did. That’s how Diego’s life was.”

Unbeknown to Maradona, the phone call was tapped by authorities, and later used as evidence to bring charges against the midfield dynamo for cocaine possession and distribution (the latter because he offered some powder to the sex workers).

In April of the same year, a drug test found traces of cocaine in his blood, and he was given an unprecedented 15-month ban from playing football.

He then fled Italy for his native Argentina and was promptly arrested for cocaine possession, with police leading a distraught Maradona away in tears.

“When he arrived in Naples, he’s bright eyed, and had a big smile,” says Kapadia, who used hundreds of hours of private, previously unseen footage in this deep dive, as well as fresh interviews with Maradona himself.

“But when he left, he was broken from damage that was partially self-inflicted.”

It was a shocking downfall of the most gifted player of his generation; the equal of modern-day greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo or fellow Argentine Lionel Messi.

But unlike them, Maradona was also a player who had a romantic, rags-to-riches backstory that was as alluring as his on-field talents.

MARADONA’S DIRT POOR UPBRINGING

One of eight children, he was born in 1960 to a dirt-poor family living in the slums of Buenos Aires.

Maradona’s ability with a football began to show at an early age. As rumours of his prodigious talent grew, a film crew famously captured footage of the boy doing tricks, and explaining his ambition was to win the World Cup for Argentina.

As a 15-year-old, Maradona signed for the local Argentina Juniors team, and immediately became financially responsible for his entire family.

He rapidly rose through the ranks before signing to a rival team, Boca Juniors, in 1981 before FC Barcelona swept him up the next year.

But his arrival in Europe was marred by injury and controversy over his hard-partying lifestyle and temperament.

In his final game for Barcelona — 1984’s Copa Del Rey final against Atletico Bilbao — Maradona was involved in a full-scale brawl that included him thrusting a knee into an opponent’s face, knocking him out cold on the field.

To make matters worse, the affair played out in front of the attending Spanish royal family, while the entire country watched on live TV.

After that shameful episode, only Napoli seemed willing to take a risk in buying him. The move to a struggling club was most definitely a downgrade for Maradona, but 80,000 rabid fans showed up to Napoli’s home stadium in July 1984 (before the season had begun) for his official unveiling.

“Naples was one of the poorest, most violent places in Europe at the time,” says Kapadia. “They needed a hero.”

Small, quick, strong, hard to knock off the ball and blessed with unsurpassed technique and intelligence, no one could play like Maradona at his peak. He quickly carried the club (and the much-derided city) on his back as it went from a lost cause to serious contender in Maradona’s first two seasons.

It was a similar scenario for the distinctly average Argentina national team, which Maradona captained at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

At the age of 26, he led from the middle, producing sensational solo performances, not least in the quarterfinal, in which they defeated England 2-1.

Maradona scored both goals; the first being the infamous “hand of god” incident, in which he deceitfully punched the ball into the net.

The second, a stunning individual run, started from his own half. He dribbled past five England players for one of the greatest goals in World Cup history.

Argentina was still smarting from its defeat by the British during the Falklands War of 1982, and so Maradona (and almost all of Argentina) regarded it as “revenge.”

He was also pivotal in the final, playing the killer pass for the winning goal in a 3-2 defeat of West Germany. Already adored in Argentina, he became a national hero.

The success continued back at Napoli, as Maradona led them to their first ever title in 1987, scoring 10 goals on the way. It made him an instant Neapolitan deity.

“If you speak badly about Maradona, you are speaking badly about God,” states one fan in the film, with a deadly seriousness.

Maradona’s personal trainer, Fernando Signorini, recalls the player having a blood test, only for a nurse to steal a vial and place it in a local church.

“He was like a demigod — it disturbed him psychologically,” he says.

With his ability to move around the city virtually non-existent, the Camorra — a notorious mafia crew — offered Maradona protection, and indulged his taste for partying, hard drugs and easy women.

Although married to longtime sweetheart Claudia Villafane at the time, he also had a short affair with Cristiana Sinagra — a friend of one of Maradona’s sisters.

Sinagra gave birth to Diego Jr. in early 1987, appearing on Italian TV with the days-old child to proclaim Maradona as the father. Maradona knew the truth, but publicly denied the child.

“I didn’t care,” he admits in the film.

“The issue of not recognising his son comes at a pivotal point in his life,” says Kapadia.

“At the height of his achievement, Maradona felt as though he could never make a mistake or show weakness, so he starts to lie. That’s what leads him down a path when he loses himself.”

He only acknowledged his son in 2016, and has since acknowledged being the father of six children from various affairs, on top of the two daughters he had with his now ex-wife.

At the time, his success on the field continued. Napoli won the UEFA Cup in 1989, and the Serie A title again in 1990. But mentally, Maradona had checked out. He longed for somewhere quieter to play football, and his ever-worsening vices were his main escape.

“Even Napoli fans I’ve spoken to now wish the club had let him go earlier, because maybe then, he wouldn’t have been in such a bad way,” says Kapadia.

Even more upsetting was the 1990 World Cup, held in Italy. During the semi-final (held, as fate would have it, in Naples), Argentina beat Italy during a penalty shootout, with Maradona scoring a key spot kick.

Having been a hero in his adopted country for so long, Maradona became persona non grata in Italy almost overnight.

The drug charges and wiretaps came just months afterwards, and no one from S.S.C. Napoli was even present at the sentencing that decreed his 15-month ban from football.

The battle for redemption was ongoing for Maradona. He briefly returned to Argentina’s 1994 World Cup squad, but failed another drug test — this time for the performance-enhancer ephedrine.

After gradually winding down his career during the 1990s, he struggled with off-and-on cocaine use, obesity and alcoholism.

Last year he was appointed coach of the struggling Gimnasia de La Plata team in Buenos Aires. Despite his fall from grace, Argentines could never find it in themselves to turn their backs on Diego.

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission



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Russian Phone Pranksters Dupe Trudeau as ‘Greta Thunberg’


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become the latest victim of a pair of notorious Russian pranksters who called him while posing as Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

In the phone call published on the Vovan and Lexus comic duo’s YouTube page this week, the fake Greta grills Trudeau about NATO, other world leaders and her fears of a “growing international crisis and anticipation of the third world war.”

When Trudeau praises Thunberg’s 2019 visit to Montreal, saying it “helped define” the results of Canada’s federal election that year, the fake Greta says: “But leave NATO. Drop your weapons. Pick flowers. Smile at nature.”

“I also dream of a world in which soldiers are not necessary, but we don’t live in that world yet, unfortunately,” Trudeau can be heard responding. 

The 10-minute conversation ends after the fake Greta asks if Trudeau can introduce her to Terrance and Phillip, a fictional Canadian comedy duo from “South Park” who speak with an exaggerated accent and sophomoric toilet humor.

“Wait, were they not in South Park?” Trudeau responds after initially promising to connect her with them through his team. “I believe they are South Park parodies of Canadians.” 

Trudeau’s office told Canada’s CTV broadcaster that the call dates back to January, when world leaders reached out to offer condolences over the deaths of Canadian citizens onboard a Ukrainian passenger plane shot down by Iran.

“The Prime Minister determined the call was fake and promptly ended it,” the office was quoted as saying Tuesday.

Vovan and Lexus, the moniker used by Vladimir Kuznetso and Alexei Stolyarov, are known in Russia for targeting Kremlin opponents with prank calls. In recent months, they have targeted foreign political and royal figures like French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prince Harry.



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The best Black Friday phone deals: The best early deals on iPhones, flip phones (yes, flip phones), and more



These Black Friday phone savings are just a click away. (Nathana Rebouças via Unsplash/)

Communication and connection are key to survival right now, more than ever. So there’s really no better time for a brand new phone! The best Black Friday phone deals are in, and they landed weeks before November 27 this year. Major retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Amazon are running deals on a variety of phones, from Apple to Android, to flip phones and Jitterbugs for the simpler communicators on your gift list. We’re keeping a running list of them here.

If you don’t find your perfect gift below, bookmark this page and check back with us. We’re doing regular updates on the best Black Friday phone deals until all the sales are over.

The Best Buy Black Friday deals on electronics, appliances, and more

Shop Target’s Black Friday sale for gear, gadgets, and gifts

The best Black Friday Walmart deals

Shop Amazon holiday deals for great savings anytime

Great Black Friday deal we love

The Best Black Friday phone and accessory deals 2020

Tada! We’ve got the best Black Friday phone and accessories deals available right now. Don’t wait—some of these are going to sell out fast.

UNLOCKED MOTOROLA EDGE—SAVE $300. This 2020 Motorola Edge features a vibrant wraparound 6.7 inch OLED display, ideal for streaming or editing the pictures you take with the 64MP triple camera system. 6GB RAM and 256GB storage means you’re set for all the texts, memes and videos to come. At this price, there’s no way it’s sticking around for long.

iPhone 12—SAVE UP TO $800 with trade in. Chances are, you may have heard about the new iPhone 12. It boasts 5G speed, a full screen OLED display, and Night mode on every camera, including wide angle, so you can avoid using flash when you’re out. If you prefer your screens on the diminutive side, pick up the iPhone 12 Mini instead. At 5.4 inches, it’s snug enough to fit comfortably in your palm, no thumb stretches required.

OTTERBOX HEAVY DUTY PHONE CASE—SAVE $25. Are you as clumsy as we are? Get you an Otterbox, stat. The raised edges protect your iPhone screen even if it falls face first, and port covers keep dust from wriggling into your phone and clogging up the power jack. Matte rubber feels comfortable and won’t slip, even as you’re carrying a million things at once (but again, if it falls, you’re covered).

LIVELY FLIP PHONE FOR SENIORS—SAVE $50. Maybe your mom doesn’t need FaceTime, Instagram, Twitter or Tinder (although who’s to say?). If that’s the case, this GreatCall Lively Flip Phone, in cherry red or classic grey, might just be the buy for her. An easy-to-read interface shows the date and time at a glance, and it even connects to Amazon Alexa to get the weather. In case of emergency, the phone features a dedicated “Urgent Response” button. Some packages allow your loved one to call a caretaker or medical professional with no appointment or co-pay necessary.

SAMSUNG FAST CHARGE WIRELESS CHARGING STAND—SAVE $20. Never get caught at 10% battery with no hope of getting home before your phone goes kaputt with this Samsung wireless charging stand. Compatible with a range of Samsung Galaxy phones and even select iPhone models, it features a built-in fan to speed up charging time and keep your battery running cool. Having this on hand will show who’s the most responsible in the friend group, once and for all.

JITTERBUG PREPAID—SAVE $75. Maybe your dad wants to ditch the flip phone, but avoid the extras that come with an iPhone. This prepaid smartphone from Jitterbug comes equipped with an easy-to-read interface that is, frankly, massive, and features a front-facing speaker so your father or grandparents won’t ask you to repeat yourself 17 times on any given phone call. This one also comes equipped with an Urgent Response button with select packages.

UNLOCKED MOTO G POWER PHONE—SAVE $70. Have you ever wondered what would happen if (God forbid) you were stranded without a phone charger for three days? Well, if you had the Moto G Power on hand, you really wouldn’t have to worry. A 5,000 mAH battery means this baby can last a full three days on a single charge—and the rest of the specs aren’t too shabby, either. Dual stereo speakers and a 16 MP triple camera system are both features to boast about.

SPECK PHONE HOLDER—50 PERCENT OFF. Keep your phone from slipping out of your grasp again with the Speck Phone Holder, available in a far-out galaxy print or a cutesy floral. This is also a great gift for kids with new phones, if you want to keep those screens from face-planting.



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Wayne Bennett phone, Cameron Munster, Queensland Maroons


Queensland coach Wayne Bennett reportedly hung up on Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster after he requested more time to celebrate the NRL Grand Final victory.

Munster played a pivotal role in the Melbourne Storm’s 26-20 win over the Penrith Panthers at ANZ Stadium in late October.

The 26-year-old understandably took part in celebrations with the powerhouse club before joining the Queensland camp ahead of the highly-anticipated State of Origin series.

But according to Fox Sports reporter James Hooper, Munster dialled up Bennett to request an additional 24 hours to celebrate.

Bennett inevitably hung up the phone, but the pair have regardless struck up a great rapport in the weeks since, according to Hooper.

“He just backs me with what I do and gives me that licence to play what I see,” Munster said of Bennett.

“That is what you want from a coach – I’m only six foot two but it feels like I am seven foot out there at times getting coached by him.”

READ MORE: NRL champ’s shock Wallabies call-up

After winning Origin I in Adelaide last week, the Maroons can clinch their first Origin title since 2017 at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday evening.

On Sunday, Munster slammed “disrespectful” reporting in the media that Queensland had the worst Maroons side in history.

“I don’t really read too much in the media, but I guess that’s not a great accolade to have … it’s a bit of disrespect from them,” Munster told reporters on Sunday.

“We’re in the same position we were in last year, where we won the first game and lost the last two.

“All we can do now is make our performance talk – they can talk as much as they want in the media, but for us to get a bit more back is to play well on Wednesday night.

“We’ve got no pressure on us, everyone is really doubting us and we’re the underdogs.”

Origin II kicks off at 8:10pm AEDT on Wednesday evening, and the New South Wales Blues need a victory to keep the three-match series alive.



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Phone Under 8000: The Best Mobile Phones You Can Buy Under Rs. 8,000 In India [November 2020 Edition]


Smartphones priced under Rs. 8,000 don’t usually have any particularly exciting features, but this is an important segment nonetheless. These smartphones are typically entry points into the world of Android for feature-phone users who finally want to make that transition, but are reluctant to spend a lot. While there hasn’t been a lot of change in this segment over the past few months, you should be able to find big batteries and displays in the current crop of smartphones. Cameras and processing power are still quite basic, but then again, these phones aren’t designed to be exceptional performers.

The smartphones we are recommending have gone through our tests, and only the ones which have scored better than average have made it to this list. Here are some of the best smartphones you should consider under Rs. 8,000.


Best phones under 8,000

Phones under Rs. 8,000Gadgets 360 rating (out of 10)Price in India (as recommended)
Poco C37Rs. 7,499
Realme C117Rs. 7,499
Redmi 8A Dual7Rs. 6,999

Poco C3

The Poco C3 is a recent entry in this segment, and while it didn’t fare too well in most of our tests, it did excel at battery life. The 5,000mAh battery in the Poco C3 managed to last around two days on average in everyday use, which is very good. It does take a long time to charge, but given the great battery life, you’ll probably need to do this every alternate day at best. The Poco C3 is also fairly slim and is built well. The display is large, even though it can be a little difficult to use under direct sunlight.

The Poco C3 offers decent performance, and the good news is that the base variant, priced at Rs. 7,499, comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. There’s a 4GB variant too, with double the storage (64GB) priced at Rs. 8,999, but it’s not the best value in our opinion.

The MIUI 12 software doesn’t show ads on the Poco C3 (for now) which is great news, and performance is quite acceptable given the phone’s pricing. You also get three rear cameras, which do acceptable jobs provided you give the sensors ample light. Overall, the Poco C3 is not a bad pick for someone buying their first smartphone.

 

Realme C11

The Realme C11 is a good alternative to the Poco C3 as it shares many of its features. The highlight of this phone is once again a large display and long battery life. The Realme C11 is built well and looks good for a smartphone in this segment. The 5,000mAh battery delivers excellent battery life, which should let you go multiple days before needing to charge it.

The Realme C11 is only available with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The low amount of RAM makes Realme’s custom skin feel sluggish. The cameras aren’t all that great either, especially if you’re shooting in low light. Just like the Poco C3, the Realme C11 lacks a fingerprint sensor, but you do get face recognition. Despite the fairly average performance, it’s still a decent buy at this price.

 

Redmi 8A Dual

Xiaomi appears to have phased out the Redmi 8A, leaving the Redmi 8A Dual in its place at a starting price of Rs. 6,999. It’s identical to the Redmi 8A which we reviewed, except for a second depth sensor at the back. It’s a slightly older model but is still relevant thanks to features such as wireless FM radio and 18W fast charging through a USB Type-C port — two features that are rare in this price segment. The phone also has a 5,000mAh battery, which ensures a solid two-day battery life.

Xiaomi also sells an updated model called the Redmi 9A at a starting price of Rs. 6,799 with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. We haven’t reviewed this model so it’s hard to say how much better it would be compared to the Redmi 8A Dual, but it does seem decent, going by the specifications. Keep in mind though, it lacks the USB Type-C port and fast charging, which could make some people prefer the older model.

 


Are iPhone 12 mini, HomePod mini the Perfect Apple Devices for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.



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Matthew Hemsley guilty of murdering Julie Cooper after she offered to help charge phone


A self-confessed small-time criminal has been found guilty of murdering a Perth woman and dumping her body in a gully, just hours after he met her when she offered to help him recharge his flat mobile phone.

The body of 55-year-old Julie Anne Cooper was not found until about a month after she was last seen on August 17, 2018, at the Saint Hotel in Innaloo.

That was where she had encountered 33-year-old Mathew Mark Hemsley, who a Supreme Court today took two-and-a-half hours to convict of her murder.

Hemsley had been on trial for the past two-and-a-half weeks, accused of choking Ms Cooper before dumping her body in a deep gully in Ashendon, east of Perth.

He denied the allegations, instead claiming she had effectively choked herself while they were having sex after putting a dog collar around her neck in an act of autoerotic asphyxiation.

Hemsley’s lawyer Tony Elliott said while his client had given a number of inconsistent versions of what happened, his claim of “death by sexual misadventure” was the truthful one.

He told the court while his client was a drug-using “opportunistic small-time criminal”, he was not a killer.

Killer told inconsistent stories

Hemsley was first interviewed by police about three weeks after Ms Cooper disappeared.

He told detectives he and Ms Cooper had been in a casual sexual relationship for a couple of weeks, and he had been staying at her home.

Hemsley’s lawyer described him as a drug-using “opportunistic small-time criminal”.(Facebook: Matthew Helmsley)

He claimed, however, that she told him to move out because she was getting back with her ex-partner and moving to Sydney, and he did not know where she now was.

But he gave different accounts to other witnesses, including telling a fellow prison inmate, he had choked Ms Cooper with the cord of a sleeping bag after getting angry, and then strung her up in a tree before throwing her body in a hole.

Hemsley’s “sexual misadventure” version of events was given to police in his third police interview after he was confronted with images from CCTV footage of him at a petrol station in Armadale with Ms Cooper’s car.

Neighbours saw Hemsley at unit

Before his arrest, Hemsley was seen repeatedly at Ms Cooper’s unit complex by her neighbours, one of whom testified at the trial.

When he asked where Julie was, Hemsley told the neighbour she had got back with her ex.

Another concerned neighbour said when she had gone to check on Ms Cooper, there was a note on the door saying “Dear visitors, I’ve gone away for two weeks with my wonderful new partner”.

A police car parked in bushland behind a cordoned off area.
Ms Cooper’s body was found by police in bushland in Ashendon, east of Perth.(ABC News: David Weber)

The neighbour said when she went inside the unit there were “things everywhere, all over the floor … drawers were out … [and there was] raw steak in the kitchen sink.”

The same neighbour became emotional when describing Ms Cooper’s kind nature, saying if she was lent $20, she would pay back $50.

Ms Cooper’s family and friends testified she was a kind and friendly person, describing her as accepting of everybody and always willing to help out people she had met randomly.

It was that willingness to help that prosecutor Bernard Standish said ultimately led to her death, because when she saw Hemsley “carrying on” in the hotel car park about his flat phone, she offered to help him charge it.

“She made a fateful decision to offer him an act of kindness,” Mr Standish said.

Victim helped ‘the wrong person’, son says

Hemsley, who has been in custody since his arrest, will face a sentencing hearing in January.

Members of Ms Cooper’s family who sat through the trial welcomed the verdict and thanked the jury, police and prosecutors.

Her son, Jake Day, said it had been disturbing to be in court to hear some of the claims Hemsley made about his mother.

But he said she was a “beautiful person” who unfortunately had helped “the wrong person”.

“It’s pretty sad. But as a family we’re pleased with the result,” he said.



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Google Says It’s Normal if Your Pixel 5 Display Separates From the Phone – Review Geek


Google

Google’s latest budget-friendly flagship phone, the Pixel 5, is slowly making its way to users. We’ve already seen worrying reports that the device’s display seems to be lifting away from the device. Worse yet, our review unit exhibits the same issue. But don’t worry, Google says that’s normal. Wait, what?

Depending on the device in question, the separation issue can be a little or a lot. We have two units on hand, and one Pixel 5 has a small fingernail’s worth of gap in one section of the phone. But another shows the issue around the entire display.

A closeup of a Pixel 5 with a small gap in the screen connection to the phone.
The gap on one our units is pretty small. On the other, it’s much more pronounced. Michael Crider

Naturally, that leaves people worrying the problem may get worse or that it compromises the Pixel 5’s water resistance. But as spotted by Android Police, Google says the gap is a “normal part of the design of your Pixel.”

The statement comes from a Google representative posting in the company’s product forums. It says in full:

Hi Pixel Community,
We’ve had a chance to investigate units from customers and, combined with our quality control data from the factory, we can confirm that the variation in the clearance between the body and the display is a normal part of the design of your Pixel 5. There is no effect on the water and dust resistance or functionality of your phone. We will work with customers on an individual basis to address any concerns they may have.

So the good news is, according to Google, dust and water resistance aren’t something you’ll lose. The company seems to think it has tolerances tight enough to keep the gap from affecting the unit. It just affects your eyes as they look for a seamless phone.

If that bothers you, there’s an easy answer—-put a case on the phone. A protective case for your smartphone is usually a good idea, regardless of unsightly gaps.

Source: Google via Android Police





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Feeling Panicked Without Phone Tied to Worse OCD, Poor Sleep Quality



A new study finds a link between feelings of panic when a person is away from their smartphone and increased anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behavior. A related study found that these feelings are rampant among college students and lead to poor sleep quality.

In the first study, researchers at Ohio State University noted this panic is connected to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.

“It is that fear, that panicky feeling, of ‘oh, no, I left my phone at home,’” said Dr. Ana-Paula Correia, an associate professor in the department of educational studies at OSU, director of Ohio State’s Center on Education and Training for Employment, and one of the authors of the study.

There is a difference between normal smartphone use that benefits a person’s life — such as video chatting with friends when you can’t be together in person or using it for work — and smartphone use that interferes with a person’s life, she continued. If smartphone use is interfering with a person’s life, that is behavior that is more likely to cause anxiety when we are away from our phones, she explained.

Published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior Reports, the study was based on Correia’s previous work, which created a questionnaire to evaluate people’s reliance on their smartphones. The study also explored the term “nomophobia,” defined as the fear of being away from your smartphone. Researchers are quick to note that nomophobia is not recognized as a diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association.

For the study, researchers gave the nomophobia questionnaire to 495 adults between the ages of 18 to 24 in Portugal. The study participants reported using their phones for between four and seven hours a day, primarily for social networking applications.

The researchers also gave the participants another questionnaire that evaluated psychopathological symptoms, such as anxiety, obsession-compulsion, and feelings of inadequacy

The researchers discovered that the more participants used their smartphone each day, the more stress they reported feeling without their phone.

The researchers also found that the higher participants scored on obsession-compulsion, the more they feared being without their phone. Obsession-compulsion was measured by asking participants to rate how much they felt they had to “check and double-check what you do” and similar questions, the researchers explained.

The researchers also discovered that gender doesn’t affect feelings of nomophobia. They reported that a little more than half of the study participants were female.

According to the researchers, the study’s results suggest that people experiencing tension might see their phones as a stress-management tool.

“This concept is about more than just the phone,” Correia said. “People use it for other tasks, including social media, connecting, knowing what’s going on with their social media influencers. So being away from the phone or the phone having a low battery can sort of sever that connection and leave some people with feelings of agitation.”

Nomophobia Can Lead to Poor Sleep

In a similar study, researchers found that nomophobia is extremely common among college students and is associated with poor sleep health.

Preliminary results of this study found that 89 percent of college students surveyed had moderate or severe nomophobia. And greater nomophobia was “significantly” related to greater daytime sleepiness and more behaviors associated with poor sleep quality, according to researchers at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas.

This study was published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and was presented as a poster during Virtual SLEEP 2020, an annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

“We found that college students who experience more nomophobia were also more likely to experience sleepiness and poorer sleep hygiene, such as long naps and inconsistent bed and wake times,” said lead author Jennifer Peszka, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Hendrix College.

While Peszka said she anticipated that nomophobia would be common among the students participating in the study, she was surprised by its high prevalence.

“Because our study suggests a connection between nomophobia and poorer sleep, it is interesting to consider what the implications will be if nomophobia severity continues to increase,” she said.

The study involved 327 university students with a mean age of 20 years. Participants completed several questionnaires, including the Nomophobia Questionnaire, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and the Sleep Hygiene Index.

And while a common recommendation for improving sleep habits is to limit phone use before and during bedtime, Peszka said that doesn’t work for people with nomophobia. Following this  recommendation could exacerbate bedtime anxiety and disrupt sleep, rather than improve it, she said.

“The recommendation to curtail bedtime phone use, which is meant to improve sleep and seems rather straightforward, might need adjustment or consideration for these individuals,” she said.

Source: The Ohio State University, American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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Galaxy S20 FE: This stellar phone is the best Samsung buy in 2020



Angela Lang/CNET

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra might be packed to the hilt with the latest, greatest tech, but they also come with sky-high prices to match. That makes them a tricky sell at a time when purse strings are tightening and rivals like Google and OnePlus are making great phones at more affordable prices. But the Galaxy S20 FE, which stands for “fan edition,” packs many of the great features of its flagship siblings, including a solid triple camera, a powerful processor, IP68 waterproofing and 5G connectivity, all for a much more affordable price.

Like

  • Great performance
  • 5G-enabled
  • Realistic price

Don’t Like

  • Camera white balance can be hit and miss

At $700 in the US, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the Note 20 Ultra, which retails for $1,300 (£1,179, AU$1,849). In the UK and Australia, a 4G version of the S20 FE is available for £599 or AU$999, with the 5G version going for £699 or AU$1,149. Even better, the street price for an unlocked model in the US is currently hovering around $600 at major retailers like Amazon and Best Buy — no activation required, no strings attached. Trade-ins and other activation options available at Samsung and elsewhere might get that price down to an even lower level.

Read more: The best phone to buy for 2020

Even if you’re paying $700, that’s the same US price as the recently announced Google Pixel 5 (which is a little cheaper in the UK and Australia). But the S20 FE does offer benefits over the Pixel in the form of an additional telephoto lens, expandable storage and a more potent processor. We’ll have to wait to get the Pixel in our hands to work out exactly how these two stack up. 


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The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the midrange phone to beat



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But overall, the Galaxy S20 FE is not a revolution in mobile technology, but it’s not designed to be. What it is is a solid all-round phone at a more affordable price. While it’s still more expensive than phones like the iPhone SE and the OnePlus Nord, its better spec list makes it the phone to go for if you’ve got your heart set on a flagship, but just can’t quite stomach emptying your entire bank account to get one.

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Angela Lang/CNET

A great screen and powerful processor

There’s a 6.5-inch, 2,400×1,080-pixel super AMOLED display which is bright, vibrant and pin-sharp. Is it as high definition as the Note 20 Ultra? No. Will you notice the difference? I certainly couldn’t. It has a 120Hz refresh rate too that just makes swiping around the Android interface feel that bit smoother. It stretches all the way to the edges, with only a small punch hole for the front-facing camera.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra performance chart

Legend:

Geekbench 5 (Single core)

Geekbench 5 (Multicore)

3D Mark Slingshot

Note:

Longer bars equals better performance

Inside is a lightning-fast Snapdragon 865 processor (for the 5G models, an Exynos 990 chip in the 4G models — the same one found in the Note 20 Ultra and S20 Ultra), which performed very well on our benchmark tests (check out the comparison chart above). Photo editing in Snapseed was a breeze and demanding racing games Asphalt 9 and Grid Autosport played perfectly well.

A potent triple camera

The camera is one of the main areas that’s seen some compromises to keep the cost down. The rear camera setup includes a 12-megapixel standard zoom camera, a 12-megapixel 3x optical zoom and an 8-megapixel ultrawide-angle camera. Those are lower resolutions than you’ll find on more premium Galaxy phones. The FE also lacks features such as the 100x “Space zoom” and 8K video recording that you’ll get from the S20 Ultra. 

While I certainly don’t think you’ll miss 8K video or the 100x zoom (the quality at that zoom level is so poor you’d never want to do anything with those images) I really enjoyed using the 5x and 10x zoom options on the S20 Ultra, and loved the creative shooting options it provided. Would I spend hundreds more to have it though? Absolutely not. 

Shots from the S20 FE are punchy with a good exposure balance between bright skies and dark foregrounds, helped by the auto HDR mode. It’s by no means the best camera around — I find the white balance can be a bit hit and miss at times — but for drool-worthy shots of coffee and cake to make your Instagram followers jealous, it’ll suit just fine. 

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With the standard zoom lens, the phone has done a good job balancing the very bright sky with the more shadowy ground below. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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Using the 3x optical zoom, I’ve been able to get closer up on the buildings, achieving a more interesting composition. Again, exposure is great, with nice vibrant colors, too.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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Activating the super-wide lens let me capture a huge amount of the scene in front of me. The exposure is good, but the colors are a touch drab. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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The colors are anything but drab in this super-wide shot of one of Edinburgh’s art galleries. It’s vibrant, punchy and would look great on Instagram.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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I like how close up I’ve been able to focus on this flower, but the white balance is slightly shifted to the magenta side, giving it a cooler, purplish tint overall that I don’t love. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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The 3x zoom has come in handy again to let me focus more on this beautiful clock tower. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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You can digitally zoom all the way up to 30x, but as you can see here, the quality takes a serious hit. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The front camera has a 32-megapixel resolution which produces crisp shots that are more than good enough for Instagram — depending on the face you pull, that is. 

Classy design

Samsung offers the S20 FE in a wide range of vibrant hues, but I think the deep navy blue of my review model is much more “classy” than it is “cool” — it’s a nice sport coat instead of a neon parka; a steak and glass of chianti instead of a burger from a van; an HBO drama instead of WWE highlights. It’s much more attractive than the sinfully dull gray of the S20 Ultra, but then just about anything is. 

Its rear panel is made from plastic, but its frosted finish makes it look and feel more like glass to me (Samsung even calls it “glasstic”). There’s toughened Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and aluminum on its edges. It feels sturdy and comfortable to hold and the matte texture of the back means fingerprints aren’t much of a problem.

There’s no headphone jack, so hopefully you’ve invested in some bluetooth headphones by now (you won’t get any headphones in the box) but the phone does have IP68 waterproofing, which will keep it safe from spilled drinks or heavy rain. 

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Angela Lang/CNET

A beefy battery

Samsung has stuffed a 4,500-mAh battery inside the S20 FE, which is 500 mAh more than the battery it put in the regular S20. It’s no surprise that it has a lot of power to offer. I haven’t yet been able to do our full suite of battery-drain tests on the phone, but after an hour of YouTube streaming at full brightness, the phone had only dropped by 7%, which is very good. 

Anecdotally, I found that it had well over half its battery left after a day of photographing, playing videos and doing bits of gaming. I have no doubt that it’ll comfortably get you through a full day of mixed use and probably well into the next. It also supports wireless charging as well as 25-watt fast charging to give it a quick juice up if you’re about to head out. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE specs comparison chart

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra OnePlus 8 Pro Apple iPhone SE (2020)
Display size, resolution 6.5-inch super AMOLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.78-inch AMOLED; 1,440×3,168 pixels 4.7-inch Retina HD; 1,334×750 pixels
Pixel density 405ppi 511ppi 513ppi 326ppi
Dimensions (inches) TBA 2.99 by 6.57 by 0.35 in. 6.51 by 2.93 by 0.35 in. 5.45 by 2.65 by 0.29 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 159.8 by 75.5 by 8.4mm 76.0 by 166.9 by 8.8mm 165 by 74.4 by 8.5mm 138.4 by 67.3 by 7.3 mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 190g 7.76 oz.; 220g 199g 5.22 oz.; 148g
Mobile software Android 10 Android 10 Android 10 iOS 13
Camera 12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 8-megapixel (3x telephoto) 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight camera 48-megapixel main, 8-megapixel telephoto, 48-megapixel ultrawide, 5-megapixel “color filter” 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 32-megapixel 40-megapixel 16-megapixel 7-megapixel
Video capture 4K 8K 4K 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (5G) Samsung Exynos 990 (4G) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5GHz + 2GHz) Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Apple A13 Bionic
Storage 128GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 256B 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM 6GB 12GB, 16GB 8GB, 12GB Not disclosed
Expandable storage 1TB Up to 1TB None No
Battery 4,500 mAh 5,000 mAh 4,300 mAh Not disclosed, but Apple claims it has the same battery life as iPhone 8
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen Home button
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C Lightning
Headphone jack No No No No
Special features 120Hz screen refresh rate, support for 30W fast charging and 15W fast wireless charging 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100X zoom; water resistant (IP68) 5G enabled, Fast-charging, fast wireless charging, 120Hz display Water resistant (IP67); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging
Price off-contract (USD) $699 $1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB) $899 $399 (64GB), $449 (128GB), $549 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £599 (4G), £699 (5G) £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB) £799 £419 (64GB), £469 (128GB), £569 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$999 (4G), AU$1,149 (5G) AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB) AU$1,435 converted AU$749 (64GB), AU$829 (128GB), AU$999 (256GB)

First published Oct. 4



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