Ukraine asks Musk for Starlink terminals as Russian invasion disrupts broadband

A Starlink satellite dish mounted on a roof.
Enlarge / The new version of Dishy McFlatface.


SpaceX is sending Starlink user terminals to Ukraine after a request from a government official. Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, used Twitter to make a direct plea to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Saturday, writing:

@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars—Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space—Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.

About 10 hours later, Musk responded, “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.” A bit later, Fedorov sent a tweet thanking Musk and another tweet thanking Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, “for swift decisions related to authorization and certification that allowed us to activate the Starlink in Ukraine.”

We asked SpaceX for details on how many Starlink user terminals are being sent to Ukraine and how they’re being distributed and will update this article if we get any information. Starlink was recently used to provide broadband in parts of Tonga that were cut off from Internet access by the tsunami.

Starlink was previously “slated to hit Ukraine in 2023,” according to a Fortune report. Fortune wrote that “the relay towers that Starlink uses to provide Ukraine with Internet coverage are likely stationed in neighboring countries, where Russian troops can’t target them.” The closest Starlink ground terminal is reportedly in Wola Krobowska in Poland.

It’s not clear how quickly service will be deployed or how widely it will be available, as the ongoing war will obviously make the project challenging. CNBC reporter Lora Kolodny today shared a Facebook post from a person in Ukraine who said they got the “green light” to use Starlink, but it’s not clear if it was already set up.

Ukraine’s Internet access disrupted

Meanwhile, Viasat said its satellite broadband service was suffering a partial outage in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe. Viasat said its “investigation into the outage continues, but so far we believe it was caused by a cyber event,” according to a Sky News report today. Sky News quoted one “insider” as saying the outage appears to have been caused by a distributed denial of service attack.

Non-satellite Internet access has also been disrupted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Reuters. Internet problems have been most severe “in the southern and eastern parts of the country where fighting has been heaviest,” Reuters wrote, adding:

Connectivity to GigaTrans, Ukraine’s main Internet provider, dropped to below 20 percent of normal levels before returning to higher levels in the early hours of Friday morning, according to Internet monitoring organization NetBlocks.

“We currently observe national connectivity at 87 percent of ordinary levels, a figure that reflects service disruptions as well as population flight and the shuttering of homes and businesses since the morning of the 24th,” Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks, told Reuters.

“While there is no nation-scale blackout, little is being heard from the worst affected regions, and for others there’s an ever-present fear that connectivity could worsen at any moment, cutting off friends and family,” Toker said.

More information is available from NetBlocks here.

Apple maintains second-place spot in Europe smartphone market in 2021

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Apple is maintaining its iPhone market share in Europe as the current top brand, Samsung, declined and newcomer Realme broke into the top five for the first time.

The Cupertino tech giant held a 23% share of the European market throughout 2021, according to new data from Strategy Analytics. Apple’s iPhone saw 11% year-over-year growth, allowing its market share to remain relatively steady from the year prior.

Samsung, currently the market leader in Europe, maintained its top spot with 29% of the market. However, Samsung declined 1% year-over-year in 2021 — the only smartphone brand in the top five to see growth decelerate.

Xiaomi came in third place with a 20% market share and 33% year-over-year growth. Oppo was fourth with 5% of the market share and 77%. India-based manufacturer Realme broke into the top five for the first time with incredible 548% growth, though it only held a 3% share of the market by the end of 2021.

The entire smartphone market in Europe grew 3% year-over-year in 2021, Strategy Analytics found.

Apple no longer reports individual product shipments, so reports like these are based on estimates. However, Apple reported record-breaking December quarter revenue of $71.6 billion for its iPhone, largely driven by the success of iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro models.

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OtterBox’s Disney Anniversary iPhone case review: Fun, but lacks MagSafe

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OtterBox’s collection of Disney World iPhone cases pair the popular Symmetry case with nostalgic and retro imagery, though they lack support for Apple’s MagSafe.

This new lineup was released at the tail end of 2021 to celebrate Disney World’s 50th anniversary. It’s a limited edition run and only available until they sell out.

The cases are available in three unique styles.

Our favorite of the new collection

Our favorite of the Disney collection

One variant has the iconic Cinderella castle on a dark blue background. Mickey and the gang are in the foreground, while fireworks are in the background alongside a weathered Disney stamp.

The second one opts for light blue background and highlights several highlights from Disney World, including the Epcot ball and the aforementioned castle. Finally, the last case appears to be a stylized compass rose.

Disney has woven plenty of little details into the case’s artwork, giving it a vintage vibe. Eagle-eyed users can spot multiple iconic Disney World attractions such as the castle and the Epcot globe.

Your phone is well-protected

This collection is based on the OtterBox Symmetry collection. Symmetry cases are popular because they offer a great balance between protection and bulk.

Inside of the Disney cases

Inside of the Disney cases

The inside of the case is bare-bones with just a topographical map pattern and a Disney logo. Despite the stark interior, these cases offer plenty of drop protection, with OtterBox claiming they can withstand tumbles three times the mil-spec rating.

MIL-STD-810G 516.6 says a phone can withstand repetitive drops from 48 inches onto concrete, which means the Symmetry case should protect your phone during a 12-foot drop.

Ample protection with the Symmetry case

Ample protection with the Symmetry case

All parts of your phone are protected, including the bottom ports and the display. Since the case wraps around the edge of the phone, your screen is safe if you ever place it face down.

The buttons can be stiff

The buttons can be stiff to press

The buttons can be a little stiff, which is a common note about the Symmetry cases. They’re easy to find, but the rubber-like material doesn’t provide as much feedback when pressed.

Should you buy the 50th anniversary Disney collection from Otterbox?

It’s hard to argue with the style of these cases. They’re undoubtedly fun and will be loved by any Disney fan.

The OtterBox Disney collection

The OtterBox Disney collection

Our only issue is the lack of MagSafe. Our frustration is compounded because OtterBox already makes other MagSafe-enabled cases, including versions of the Symmetry series.

Without MagSafe, we can’t use any MagSafe chargers, any MagSafe stands, any MagSafe wallets, or any other accessories that rely on Apple’s magnetic system. We already have a collection of these accessories, and it would be a dealbreaker for a case not to support it.

If you haven’t bought into MagSafe yet, there’s no reason not to check out these cases. But if you have, you may need to wait for the next Disney anniversary collection.

  • Uses popular Symmetry case design
  • Nostalgic and lovable images for Disney World’s 50th anniversary
  • Plenty of protection for daily use
  • Lack any support for MagSafe, despite support on other OtterBox cases
  • Buttons can be hard to press

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Grab yours, while you can

Is Russia using Premise mobile app to compile human intelligence in Ukraine?

The Russian military is allegedly using Premise, a micro-tasking mobile application platform to direct and calibrate fire during its invasion of Ukraine.  

The mobile app is there on Android and iOS and offers a task marketplace that lets one earn money for basic tasks such as taking surveys, exploring your city to earn top rewards, and sharing local information like the location of construction zones or price of milk at a local store. 

The application’s tasks feature local questions as well as surveys pertaining to the city of residence of its users. 
Main activities for making money using the application are: 

  • Share insights that reflect one’s reality, thoughts, about the community. 
  • Capture what’s happening in the community 
  • Share information pertaining to one’s city, for instance, local events, traffic jams or supermarket sales etc. 

The app’s users earn money by sharing photos they click to achieve tasks listed in the application. Users get paid between $0.25 to $3.25 (Rs 18- Rs 243) for a task.

Also Read: Internet disrupted in Ukraine as Russian troops move forward

Meanwhile, it has now come to light that the Russian military forces were allegedly using Premise app to source information on possible targets across Ukraine. 

Exemplar tasks comprise tracing bridges, ports, medical facilities, and other key installations. The issue was brought to the notice of social users by a Twitter handle by the name of @alexrewrew. 

What is Ukraine’s security establishment saying? 

Confirming the same, General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement, “The Ukrainian security service has conducted counterintelligence measures throughout Ukraine, detected rogues, Russian intelligence agents and enemy allies. The security service is also carrying out activities to protect cyber and the information space, to refute fake news.”  

“Today in Kyiv, the forces detained a citizen who represented himself as a foreign journalist. At the same time, he could not provide any confirmation for this, and while searching on his phone, photos of the placement of the positions of Ukrainian troops were found. In the Kharkiv region, the staff of the security forces arrested four in correction with the Russian military,” the statement added.  

The Ukrainian Armed Forces’ statement further stated that it has been found that Russia uses a mobile application called “Premise” on smartphones to enable the country to detect vital information. 

“Such incidents have been confirmed in Stryi and other cities. Therefore, in the case of anyone in public using such applications, please check their mobile phones and report it to the law enforcement agencies,” the statement noted. 
This has not only raised the question of ethicality amidst the Kremlin’s excesses invading Ukraine, but also heightened fire alarms amongst the citizens of Ukraine, and has made them wary of any more data related privacy as well as security leaks in other apps. 

Also Read: Russia-Ukraine war: Did Western nations misjudge Vladimir Putin?
Premise refutes the claims 
Responding to the allegations of influence in Ukraine, Maury Blackman, CEO of Premise, said, “Earlier today, Premise was identified in social media posts as being a tool used by Russian forces to locate Ukrainian targets. This is unequivocally false. Premise does not work for or support the Russian military or government.” 
“Our primary concern is that of the safety and welfare of the Ukrainian people. Premise strongly supports Ukraine and the Ukrainian people defending themselves against this illegal and outrageous invasion of their sovereignty by the Russian government and Mr Putin,” he added. 
Blackman further stated that Premise has suspended all operations in Ukraine and is closely monitoring the situation. “Our company and our team worldwide strongly support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people defending themselves against this illegal act of aggression by Russia,” he said. 

Refuting allegations of targeted marking of Ukrainian building or infrastructure, Blackman stated, “We have also been accused on social media of asking contributors to choose to use phosphorus or any other method to target Ukrainian buildings or infrastructure. That allegation is totally false.” 
Soon after Blackman’s statement, Premise suspended all its operations in Ukraine. The Kyiv City administration has also issued warnings in this regard to its citizens about painted markings on building roofs. 
The administration has asked citizens to check for and conceal any signs on the roofs of their buildings. It is believed that some markings have been painted to guide Russian bombers. 

Also Read: Here’s where Ukraine stands against Russia in terms of military strength
Past does not back support Premise’s claims of being ‘innocent’ 
A Wall Street Journal had also accused the app of using unaware users to gather intelligence for the US military in the past. The source to this is a 2019 proposal by Premise to the US forces in Afghanistan which talks about proxy activities conducted by the app for compiling intelligence. 
The company stated that it could evaluate the effectiveness of US information operations, scan, and outline key social structures like banks, mosques, and internet cafes, and secretly monitor Wi-Fi and cell-tower signals in a 100-square-kilometre area.  
The proposal said that the company could design tasks to ‘safeguard true intent’, concealing the intelligence-gathering nature of the operations from contributors.  
Another Premise document elucidates that ‘proxy activities’ such as electricity lines, bus stops, or ATMs could be used to get contributors to move around as the application compiles background data on wireless networks or other mobile phones. 
Another proposal submitted by premise to the UK government in 2020 stated that the application can capture over 100 types of metadata from users’ cellphones, comprising location, battery level and other installed apps. Back then too, Premise refuted these accusations by releasing a full statement. 

“The implication that Premise is a tool of surveillance is completely inaccurate and unfounded. Premise Contributors do not enter private spaces and never collect information on an individual, nor do they violate the privacy of any individual or business. Premise is used to collect publicly available information and is never used to surveil a person or location,” the company said in its statement.

(With inputs from Saikiran Kannan.)

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Hyper Media USB-C Hub review: Ports and physical playback controls arrive on iPad

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Hyper makes a wide array of USB-C hubs for Mac and iPad, but this one of the first we’ve tried that has physical media controls built-in alongside a plethora of ports.

Aptly named the Hyper Media USB-C Hub, this aluminum device is similar to many iPad hubs out there. It snaps into the side of your iPad mini, iPad Air, or iPad Pro and connects via USB-C.

Even though it has this expanded functionality, it carries the same price tag as Hyper’s standard 6-in-1 USB-C hub. So those who want these physical controls can get it for no extra cash.

Our Hyper media hub on our iPad Pro

Our Hyper media hub on our iPad Pro

The do-it-all hub

There are six ports outfitted on the Media USB-C Hub. The ports include:

  • 1x HDMI 4K 60Hz port
  • 1x USB-C 5Gbps 60W Power Delivery port
  • 1x MicroSD card reader
  • 1x SD card reader
  • 1x USB-A 5Gbps port
  • 1x 3.5mm audio jack
Five of the ports on Hyper media hub

Five of the ports on Hyper media hub

This is a solid array of ports and can handle most tasks users throw at it. Our primary gripe is the lack of additional USB-C, as the only one included can’t be used to connect accessories if it’s used for charging.

The saving grace is that if you use the Magic Keyboard, that provides a dedicated USB-C charging port, leaving the 5Gbps USB port available for data purposes.

Otherwise, the HDMI is useful for working with an external display and the card readers are perfect for pulling data off of your camera of choice.

Controlling music playback with the Hyper hub

Controlling music playback with the Hyper hub

What sets this apart from other hubs that offer similar ports is the array of media controls. There is a combo play/pause button, a skip button, and a back button embedded on the front of the hub.

The idea is you can manage your music, movie, or podcast using the controls without interrupting your workflow. It is undeniably easier and faster to press a well-placed physical button than trying to access Control Center or surface the on-screen controls.

The buttons are large and easy to press and have a solid click behind them. While the buttons weren’t always necessary, they proved useful quite frequently.

If a song came up in our shuffle that we wanted to skip, we’d usually swipe down from Control Center, tap next, then swipe it away. Three distinct actions versus the single press of a button seemed tedious.

Easy connectivity

On iPad, the hub plugs directly into the side of your tablet. It has an integrated clip that keeps it secure. Sometimes — such as when your tablet is in a case — the clip may not be sufficient as won’t fit around the added bulk.

Connecting accessories to the Hyper hub

Connecting accessories to the Hyper hub

For that, Hyper bundles a separate mini cable to replace the clip. The clip pulls free and the jumper cable slides into place, but it does have a specific orientation so you need to be aware when you put these on.

To help orientate the clips, you need to look out for the two different-sized dimples that recess into the aluminum body.

Connecting the Hyper hub with extension cable to a MacBook

Connecting the Hyper hub with extension cable to a MacBook

This also allows you to use the hub on your Mac, as well as the iPad.

If Hyper charged a premium for adding the media controls, we’d say to pass. It’s only a minor differentiator that would strongly appeal to a niche user base.

But as the version with controls will run you the same amount as the version without, it’s a free upgrade. You get all the benefits of the hub with the added convenience of the media controls.

The Hyper Media USB-C 6-in-1 hub

The Hyper Media USB-C 6-in-1 hub

The hub is reliable, works well, and is interchangeable between your Mac and iPad. It’s a perfectly portable option that is well-suited for those who consume plenty of media.

  • Easily connects to iPad without a cable
  • Six added ports for common tasks
  • Swappable mini-cable allows it to work with cases or Macs
  • Nice all-metal construction
  • Physical media buttons make it easy to control playback

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

Could Passwords Give Way to Biometrics?

More than one-third of consumers are willing to use biometric methods for authentication purposes, perhaps spelling the beginning of the end for passwords.

Diving deeper into the numbers, almost half of the consumers PYMNTS surveyed said they’re willing to use fingerprint scans in private and public settings and OK with passwords being put into the past.

Forty-nine percent of consumers say they are “slightly” or “not at all” reluctant to use fingerprint scans in private settings, while 47% say the same about using them in public, according to the February 2022 edition of The Future Of Authentication In Financial Services, a PYMNTS and Entersekt collaboration.

A significant share of the consumers we heard from are comfortable using facial scans and voice scans, with a slight preference to use them in private settings. Forty-four percent of consumers are “slightly” or “not at all” reluctant to use facial scans in private and 41% report feeling the same about using them in public.

Nearly half (43%) of consumers are “slightly” or “not at all” reluctant to use voice scans in private settings, while 37% say the same about using them in public.

In the February 2022 edition of our The Future of Authentication In Financial Services series, dubbed Using Authentication To Build Trust, we examine consumers’ preferences for different authentication methods when accessing financial services providers based on a survey of 2,719 consumers from Sept. 10 through Sept. 27, 2021.

Our research shows that login IDs and passwords “are increasingly giving way to other forms of authentication across all common digital banking platform access points, including desktop- and mobile-based browsers and mobile apps.”

The majority of consumers are comfortable logging into their accounts with alternative methods, including biometric ones such as fingerprints, facial scans and voice scans, according to our data, with consumers who use multiple environments to access their accounts most likely to be willing to use biometric authentication.

Of this group, 36% use fingerprint scans, 28% use facial scans and 18% use voice scans at least monthly, according to the research.

Meanwhile, 60% of consumers say that having information about how their transactions are secured has a “very” or “extremely” big impact on their trust in financial services providers and 44% of consumers say that the ability to log in without passwords is “very” or “extremely” impactful on their trust and 32% report that this has a “moderate” impact.

In an era where hacks are becoming ever more prevalent, consumers are looking for ways to ensure their information is protected to the greatest degree possible. We found that 61% percent of consumers are willing to log in to their accounts with alternative authentication methods, and 60% of those who use mobile apps and mobile- and desktop-based browsers say they would be “very” comfortable logging in using methods other than login IDs and passwords.

Nearly half of these users told PYMNTS that they believe passwords will eventually be phased out as an authentication method.



About: Forty-two percent of U.S. consumers are more likely to open accounts with FIs that make it easy to auto-share their banking details during sign-up. The PYMNTS study Account Opening And Loan Servicing In The Digital Environment, surveyed 2,300 consumers to examine how FIs can leverage open banking to engage customers and create a better account opening experience.

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GameSir X2 review: a fantastic controller designed with the mobile gamer in mind

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Take your mobile gaming to the next level with the new GameSir X2, a plug-and-play controller designed to work with Apple Arcade, Xbox Game Pass, Stadia, and more.

Mobile gaming is a rapidly growing industry, and now thanks to game services such as Apple Arcade and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, the iPhone is gaining traction as a gaming device.

However, when used on its own, the iPhone’s glassy touch-screen doesn’t do it for us. We’d rather have something more familiar, like a controller.

That’s where the GameSir X2 controller comes in. It’s a plug-and-play controller designed to emulate other, more familiar handheld gaming setups.


Like many smartphone controllers, the GameSir X2 can be expanded to fit different-sized iPhones. It extends from 100 millimeters to 173 millimeters, which can accommodate any current iPhone model. In addition, the movable Lightning connector allows you to insert and remove your iPhone without fear of damaging your Lightning port.

We tried it with an iPhone 11 and found that it worked great. The X2 also features a nice rubberized backing where your iPhone will sit, making it feel very secure.

The GameSir X2 stretches to accommodate all current iPhone models

We will note that we did need to remove our iPhone case for it to sit comfortably within the controller. Yet, thanks to our relatively soft case from Casetify, changing out our case for gaming sessions is hardly a problem.

It feels pretty similar to other handheld gaming consoles and controllers. It features two joysticks, a directional pad, four buttons in an X-Y-A-B configuration, four bumper buttons, and four additional buttons at the top and bottom “inner corners.” It feels very much like a Switch — especially with the red and blue accents under the joysticks.

The Lightning charging port

The Lightning charging port

One feature we really appreciate is that you can charge your iPhone while you’re using the controller. You simply have to plug your iPhone cable into the charging port on the bottom left side of the controller, and voila — uninterrupted gaming to your heart’s content.


Hands down, the best feature of the X2 is that it’s plug-and-play. You just unlock your iPhone, insert it into the controller, and you’re good to go. No fuss, no muss.

As far as the responsiveness goes, it’s top-notch. The buttons are wonderfully tactile, there’s no noticeable lag like sometimes can be with Bluetooth, and it feels good in your hand. Additionally, it’s rated for a minimum of three million clicks on each button — roughly the same as the Xbox One’s controllers and one million more than the Playstation 5’s.

The included carrying case is a great way to keep your GameSir X2 handy and damage-free

The included carrying case is a great way to keep your GameSir X2 handy and damage-free

We found that it is a wonderful controller for our favorite Apple Arcade titles, and it will work just as well for anyone who subscribes to a cloud gaming service.


If you’re already invested in an all-you-can-play game service like Apple Arcade or Xbox Game Pass, it’s a no-brainer. The GameSir X2 is a thoughtfully designed product that makes your iPhone feel like a first-rate handheld console.

  • Rated to last as long or longer than current-generation console controllers
  • Wired connection makes the controller truly plug-and-play
  • Comfortable design
  • Lightning charging port, allowing you to charge your iPhone while playing
  • Users may need to remove an iPhone case before use

Where to buy