Friday, September 30, 2016

New Xiaomi Smartphone

Xiaomi Corp. took the wraps off its strongest contender yet to the iPhone, a 2,599 yuan ($390) plus-sized device with dual cameras and a pressure-sensitive screen that’s less than half the price of Apple Inc.’s top-of-the-line model.

With the 5.7-inch Mi 5S Plus, Xiaomi, once known as a purveyor of inexpensive but innovative phones, is taking aim at fans of premium devices. It’s the Chinese startup’s most powerful device, sporting one of Qualcomm Inc.’s speediest processors as well as 6 gigabytes of memory. With a screen that detects varying degrees of pressure -- much like Apple’s 3D Touch -- and 13-megapixel cameras, it stacks up well against the iPhone in the specifications department.

Xiaomi needs a hit. It’s slipped behind Huawei Technologies Co. and Oppo in a home market it once dominated, while efforts to make headway in Latin America and India have stalled. Samsung Electronics Co.’s global recall of the Note 7 opens a window of opportunity not just for Apple, but also for Xiaomi to try and wrest market share away from the global leader.

“We were aiming to challenge Samsung and Apple in camera capability. With the Mi 5S, I believe we beat both of them," co-founder and chief executive Lei Jun said at a launch event in Beijing at which it also introduced a 65-inch, 4K smart television.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mozilla Stops Firefox OS Development

Mozilla ended development of Firefox OS phones in 2015, but there was still hope for the operating system. Mozilla wanted Firefox OS to power smart TVs, tablets, routers, all-in-one PCs, and all kinds of other devices. But that’s no longer in the cards. Mozilla just announced it’s now ending all commercial development of Firefox OS.

Firefox OS powered smart TVs, and had bigger plans

If all you saw was the big news about Mozilla giving up on Firefox OS for phones, you might be surprised to hear that the commercial project was still active. But it was. In fact, Panasonic released a line of smart TVs that ran Mozilla’s operating system.
Little was heard about Mozilla’s ongoing efforts with Firefox OS, but this week’s announcement sheds some light on what’s been going on.
At the end of 2015, Mozilla decided to cease work on Firefox OS for smartphones and “pivot to connected devices.” On January 31, 2016, Mozilla transitioned the Firefox OS project to a lower-priority “Tier 3” project. For a time, only Mozilla’s Connected Devices team worked on it.
Mozilla still had plans for Firefox OS. “We had ideas for other opportunities for Firefox OS, perhaps as a platform for explorations in the world of connected devices, and perhaps for continued evolution of Firefox OS TV,” reads Mozilla’s announcement. That’s why Mozilla continued developing Firefox OS 2.6. A “transition project” was even created to clean up the open source code and hand it over to the community, allowing other people to continue working on the phone operating system if they so liked. But Mozilla wasn’t going to do the work itself.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Android and Chrome

Andromeda may be the future, but Android and Chrome OS are already merging. Google just made Android apps available on the stable version of Chrome OS for the first time, and organizations can now centrally manage Android apps on their Chromebooks.

Stable Chromebooks get Android apps

Yes, certain Chromebooks got Android apps and the Google Play Store a little while back. But that was only in the unstable developer versions of Chrome OS. As of Chrome OS version 53.0.2785.129, the Google Play Store and Android apps are now available on the stable version of Chrome OS.
However, they’re only available on the Acer Chromebook R11 and Asus Chromebook Flip. They should hopefully be available on the stable version of the Chromebook Pixel (2015) soon, too, but aren’t yet. Google hasn’t given a reason for the delay, so hopefully support isn’t too far off.
On these devices, you’ll now find an Enable Google Play Store option in the Settings application without switching over to developer builds. The Google Play Store itself is still considered beta, but it works on a stable version of Chrome OS.
This is just a first step to rolling out Android apps, which will arrive on many other Chromebooks later in 2016 and 2017. With Google’s developers stabilizing the feature, they can begin bringing it to new hardware.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

4K Ultra HD

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) is bullish about 4K Ultra HD and emerging new video technologies.  

Communications director Jeff Joseph dropped some statistics on a small gathering of press members at this month’s CEDIA 2016 in Dallas, and the signs of a full-blown 4K era have finally arrived.

New display technologies provide a more immersive and realistic experience, Joseph said.
“I believe that 4K is our destiny – standing as the exciting next development in the consumer home entertainment experience. Seeing is believing – 8 million-plus pixels – four times the resolution of FullHD, powerful up-scaling, lifelike colors, more detail and more. The time is right.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

Wireless Charging

Energous Corp. has seen its share price more than double this year, largely on the promise of a smartphone future without electrical outlets or charging mats.
San Jose, California-based Energous is one of a handful of companies racing to introduce technologies that may allow our phones, tablets and smartwatches to be powered from across a room -- all at the same time and completely wirelessly. And 2017 may be the year they finally find their way into consumers’ homes.

In the second half of next year, Energous’s technology will be used in a transmitter that can charge devices from three to five feet away using radio waves, according to Chief Executive Officer Steve Rizzone. In 2018, the company hopes to introduce a similar transmitter that can be integrated into devices like flat-screen TVs to juice up gadgets from 15 feet away, Rizzone said in an interview. The company declined to provide details on how much power an Energous device will be able to beam at what distance, or share efficiency data.

Though early wireless charging technologies have been slow to catch on, successful application of so-called Wireless Charging 2.0 would help tech giants and entrepreneurs alike solve the problem of mobility -- devices need long battery life to be useful. It would also disrupt a market dominated by Qi technology, which is built into devices including Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and requires placement of a device on a physical charging pad. According to Grand View Research, the wireless-charging market is expected to grow to $22.5 billion by 2022, up from $1.87 billion in 2014.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Google Assistant

Google unleashed its digital assistant for the first time, arriving late to the intensifying race among the largest technology companies to create a more personal and lucrative way for computers to interact with humans.
The Google Assistant uses artificial intelligence tools, such as voice recognition and natural-language processing, to answer questions and satisfy other requests delivered verbally and in formats such as text messages. The first incarnation is as a digital buddy inside Google’s new Allo messaging app, which the Alphabet Inc. unit unveiled Wednesday. The assistant will also appear inside Google’s Home internet-connected speaker -- expected next month -- in new Android smartphones and in devices such as cars and watches made by other companies, Google executive Nick Fox said.

"It is a significant effort across Google and it brings together many teams," Fox said in an interview in San Francisco. "It’s a layer across Google -- the glue that links our existing services and technology together."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Samsung Replacing Galaxy Note 7s

The burning Galaxy Note 7 is singeing Samsung with consumers. Badly.
The Korean electronics giant said late Tuesday that 500,000 replacements for the phablet-sized phones,recalled last week because of problems with igniting batteries, had arrived in the U.S. and would be available for exchange Wednesday. So far it's exchanged 25% of Note 7 devices owned by U.S. consumers. A Samsung spokeswoman said a "vast majority" have opted for another Galaxy smartphone.
But a recent survey suggests many of the original buyers, the fans who rushed to get the critically acclaimed phone in the first weeks, may avoid the Note 7 on the second go-around.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New Google Phone?

Google has just blasted the press with invites for an event on October 4. The company sounds ready to unveil its 2016 smartphones. The Google teaser page offers to "Keep me updated about devices from Google" and features a new video on Google's YouTube channel. Both the video and the page have a Google search bar that slowly transforms into an outline of a phone, indicating that this event is all about the launch of Google's new phones.
This isn't the first time we've heard of the October 4 date. A report from Android Police claimed October 4 would see the launch of the two Pixel phones, along with Google Home, the company's answer to the Amazon Echo; Daydream VR, the company's answer to the Samsung Gear VR; anda Chromecast capable of 4K playback. The date of the report was definitely accurate, but so far the only thing Google has teased for the event is the phone.
We expect two Pixel phones: a 5-inch version only referred to in rumors as "Pixel" and a 5.5-inch version called the "Pixel XL." With the advent of Google's dedicated hardware division, the "Nexus" line of phones is dead. The "Pixel" line is expected to be more premium and include Google-exclusive features. The latest leaks and rumors include a significantly higher price tag of $650 for the 5-inch phone and leaked photos of the devices that look just like the renders that have been floating around forever.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Messaging Everywhere

After a short absence, Messaging Everywhere is back, and—just as Microsoft promised—it’s built into the Skype Preview for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile.
Microsoft doesn’t call Skype's new feature “Messaging Everywhere” of course, but it’s essentially the same thing: the ability to use an app on your Windows 10 PC to send and view text messages via your Windows 10 Mobile device. The feature's called SMS relay, and it includes the ability to send and view SMS and MMS messages.
The updated version of the Skype Universal App preview that contains SMS relay is now available for Windows Insiders. Microsoft says the feature will hit mainstream Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile users in the “next few months.”

Monday, September 19, 2016


Don’t believe everything you read in the press. Despite OpenOffice developers recentlydebating a shutdown of the open source productivity suite, the Apache Software Foundation is not ready to retire the project yet.

OpenOffice is not a ‘healthy project’

The Apache OpenOffice project isn’t done yet. On the mailing list, contributors are actively discussing what could be done to improve the project.
Even in the original discussion about what retiring the project would look like, there were outspoken dissenters. “I think even broaching this topic is a mistake. ‘Self-fulfilling prophecy?’,” wrote Phillip Rhodes on the project’s mailing list. Many contributors argue that the news posts being written about retirement are “FUD”—fear, uncertainty, and doubt—intended to hurt the project.
The project’s download page now includes a call for volunteers. Apache president Jim Jagielski tweeted on the subject: “Due to (incorrect) reports of its death, Apache #OpenOffice has rec’d an outpouring of support and development volunteers. Thx!”
Does this mean OpenOffice is healthy? No. LibreOffice still boasts more developersthan Apache OpenOffice and is progressing much more quickly. Indeed, Linux distributions have by and large dumped OpenOffice for LibreOffice.

Friday, September 16, 2016

T-Mobile Warning

It's only been a few days since Apple released iOS 10 to the public, but the new operating system has already run into some big problems. First, there were reports of phones rendered temporarily useless when users attempted to update to iOS 10 via Wi-Fi, instead of via iTunes. Now, T-Mobile (via its CEO on Twitter) is recommending all iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 5 SE users wait to upgrade their devices.
According to the Verge, several T-Mobile customers have reported losing all connection to the network once updating their phones. If you're a T-Mobile customer experiencing these issues, the company is recommending you try the oldest trick in the tech book: turning it off and turning it back on.
Unfortunately, that's just a temporary fix. (And one that sounds like it would get old in a hurry.) Sorry, T-Mobile friends, guess you'll have to wait a little longer to experience the utter bedlam that is iMessage on iOS 10.

Samsung Galaxy Note Recall

The explosion of some Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Note 7 phones in recent weeks has led to consumer confusion and anger, as the phone maker and the U.S. product-safety watchdog work toward an official recall.
Two weeks ago, Samsung announced a voluntary global recall of the Galaxy Note 7 in the 10 countries where the smartphone was available, citing reports of fires involving lithium-ion batteries in some of the devices. On Friday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said users of Note 7 smartphones should turn them off and not use them.
Airlines have been asking travelers to turn off Note 7s before boarding planes, after the Federal Aviation Administration last week started urging passengers to avoid using the devices on board and not stow them in checked bags. On Tuesday, NJ Transit instructed passengers to turn off their Note 7s.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

iOS Update Problems

Apple Inc. faced an embarrassing technical glitch after some customers reported difficulties updating their iPhone operating system to the latest software, which became available Tuesday.
After downloading the iOS 10 update, the smartphones or iPads shut down to install the software. Then, rather than the device automatically turning back on with iOS 10 installed, a screen appeared prompting users to plug their handsets into a computer, rendering the phone useless until they did so.

Hundreds of social media users complained about the issue to Apple’s Twitter account. They said the bug left them unable to use their phones if the software update was completed by downloading it directly onto the phone, rather than through iTunes, Apple’s music playback and management platform.

“We experienced a brief issue with the software update process, affecting a small number of users during the first hour of availability,” Apple said in a statement. “The problem was quickly resolved and we apologize to those customers.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rovi Becomes Tivo

Rovi, the giant of on-screen program guide technology and search and recommendation tools, completed its $1.1 billion cash and stock acquisition of digital video recorder (DVR) pioneer TiVo, Thursday, and in an unusual turnabout, the buyer said it has changed its name to that of its new asset.
Shortly after the acquisition announcement, the company announced a new on-screen “user experience” called TiVo UX, which will bring together programming options from diverse platforms and sources in a viewer-friendly seamless search and recommendation experience.
“The new TiVo is uniquely positioned to provide ground-breaking offerings that address the rapidly changing media landscape,” stated CEO Tom Carson. “Our broader product portfolio, more innovative patented technologies, increased resources and a stronger financial profile position us strongly for success and to continue providing the ultimate entertainment experiences to consumers across the globe.”
Rovi said its shares will now be traded on Nasdaq under the TIVO ticker symbol. Daniel Moloney and Jeffrey Hinson, who were former directors of the old TiVo, will join the board of the new expanded company.
The new company expects big things from the acquisition to materialize quickly. Rovi said it expected at least $100 million in annual cost synergies to result, and 65 percent of that is forecasted over the first 12 months.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Raspberry Pi News

The Raspberry Pi Foundation on Thursday announced a new milestone for its microcomputer. The organization has sold a total of 10 million Raspberry Pi computers over the past four and a half years. The Raspberry Pi is an affordable ($35, £24, AU$49) computer that was originally designed to help teach kids about programing, however hobbyist have also used it for a variety of creative do-it-yourself projects.
"We thought our lifetime volumes might amount to ten thousand units - if we were lucky," Eben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, explained in a blog post. "There was was no expectation that adults would use Raspberry Pi, no expectation of commercial success, and certainly no expectation that four years later we would be manufacturing tens of thousands of units a day in the UK, and exporting Raspberry Pi all over the world.
To celebrate the milestone, the company is offering a special bundle with everything you would need to get started. The Raspberry Pi Starter Kit includes an 8GB SD card, a case, a 2.5A power supply, a 1m HDMI cable, and an optical mouse and keyboard, along with a copy of Adventures in Raspberry Pi Foundation Edition.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Blackberry Returns to Korea

BlackBerry will launch its first Android smartphone, BlackBerry Priv, in South Korea at a launch event on September 20.
It will be its first phone launched in Korea since pulling out of the local market three years ago. A BlackBerry spokesman said it was not setting up regional offices there like it did before, however.
The company, previously called Research In Motion, entered the Korean market for the first time in 2009. It has a strong fan base in Korea, but lost out in smartphones behind Samsung, LG, and Apple.
In 2012, rivals Nokia, HTC, and Motorola also pulled out due to the dominance of local competitors, in particular Samsung which has stronger ties to local distributors, especially telcos.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon is rolling out new features to its streaming boxes — the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick — via an “over-the-air software update,” the company announced today, introducing expanded voice search across a number of Fire TV apps, new Alexa features, and recommended shows and movies from Netflix and HBO on the Fire TV’s home screen.
Amazon boasts that the Fire TV “is the #1 selling streaming media player in the US across all retailers,” but we don’t actually know how well it’s selling.
Like Apple and the Apple TV, Amazon never discloses sales for its often discounted Fire TV (currently $85) and Stick ($35). While Amazon may in fact be in first place (and Apple in fourth — after breaking records), we can’t tell how far ahead Amazon is, and we don’t know how much of those sales were discounted or when they occurred. Amazon likes leaving hardware sales in the dark.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

iPhone 7

As expected, Apple has taken the wraps off of its next-generation iPhones attoday's September product event. Apple confirmed the devices on Twitter with a post about the water-resistant nature of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The post came down quickly as today's event rolled on, but it is screenshotted below.
The company later revealed the new devices would come in 32GB, 128 GB, and 256GB sizes. Prices start at $649/£599 for the iPhone 7 and $769/£719 for the iPhone 7 Plus. Pre-orders begin on Friday, September 9, and devices will ship on Friday, September 16. iOS 10 will arrive on September 13 to support the new releases.
Perhaps as headline-grabbing, Apple also unveiled a new accessory to account for the disappearance of an analogue audio jack from its new devices. The new phones will come with Lightning-connecting earbuds and an adapter for 3.5mm headphones, but Apple will be pushing wireless headphones through a product called AirPods (sold separately from the iPhones for $159/£159; they arrive in October).
In addition to the waterproof nature of the devices, Apple tweeted about the new camera setup before again removing the posts. The iPhone 7 Plus will feature a dual-camera setup providing "high optical res zoom at 2x." The iPhone 7 will not include the dual-setup, rather it will feature a 12MP camera that is "low-light-loving, optical-image-stabilizing, [and] wide color," according to the post.

New LG Phone

LG today is unveiling its V20 smartphone, which follows up on the V10 that LG introduced last year. The new version of this large 5.7-inch handset has a newer chip, more sophisticated dual rear cameras, more battery capacity, and a more elegant feel. Oh — and it’s the first phone to ship with Android Nougat, the newest version of Android.
The V20 is also the first phone to get In Apps, a new homescreen shortcut in Android that makes it easy to search through content on all installed apps. When you boot up the V20 for the first time, it’s one of the first things you see. Unfortunately the feature wasn’t working on the V20 that I had a chance to try out at a press briefing in San Francisco last week. But an LG representative assured me that it will work when it ships.
The V20 comes with several unconventional features that were part of the V10, including the customizable “second screen” at the top, the combination fingerprint scanner and power button on the back, and a case you can snap off to replace the battery. But the rugged silicone back has been replaced with a smooth aluminum alloy, and on the front, there’s just one 5-megapixel wide-angle camera, instead of two cameras. The “second screen” is twice as bright as the one on the V10 and uses a larger font size for text.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Google Axes Phone

Google has dropped plans for a modular smartphone with interchangeable parts as it realigns its investments in the area of hardware.
While the company will not be releasing the Project Ara phone that was to have been easily customizable, it may bring the phone to market through licensing deals with partners, Reuters reported late Thursday.
Google confirmed the report was “true and accurate” but said it had no official comment.
The Lego blocks model for smartphone design was first mooted by Google in 2013 through Motorola Mobility, a company the Internet giant acquired but then sold to Lenovo in 2014. It was positioned as a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. Google said it was aiming to build a hardware ecosystem of module makers and other partners on the scale of the software app ecosystem.
The company had planned to start testing the project in Puerto Rico last year, but those plans were scrapped while the company reevaluated its plans for the smartphone.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lenovo To Ditch the Keyboard?

It wasn't long ago that power users would scoff at the thought of banging out an email on an iPhone, preferring the tactile precision of physical keys.
Fast-forward to today, and touchscreen typing is the norm. A BlackBerry, or really any phone with a physical keyboard, is the gimmick now.
Could the same kind of evolution happen with laptops and larger devices? Like the BlackBerry user of yore, you may dismiss the idea that the physical keyboard could go extinct. After all, if you've got some heavy-duty writing to do, you're going to be on your computer.
But at least one company is trying to blaze a new trail. Lenovo on Wednesday introduced the Yoga Book, a unique tablet/hybrid PC with two touchscreen displays that fold in on each other. A normal display makes up the top half, while the bottom half is a touchscreen featuring a digital "smart keyboard."
Lenovo's investment in such a product underscores the shifting patterns in how consumers -- particularly younger people -- interact with devices. The company's research found that people under 30 took to the digital keyboard immediately, while those older than 30 approached it with skepticism. If the Yoga Book takes off, it could mark the starting point for when the physical keyboard loses its spot as the go-to tool for composing a note.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Tablet Rollercoaster

Strap in for a rollercoaster ride in tablet sales.
In a surprise to no one, the tablet market will shrink for the rest of 2016, market researcher IDC forecasts. The predicted 11.5 percent year-over-year decline is a bit of a shocker, though. Worldwide, 183.4 million tablets will have shipped by the end of 2016.
What is a surprise is IDC's forecast that sales will hit positive territory in 2018. Demand will continue to rise through 2020, with shipments reaching 194.2 million tablets that year. Credit business customers for that resurgence, especially as detachable tablets elbow computers out of the workplace.
"Windows and iOS already have solid detachable offerings and with the latest version of Android, Google will also have a horse in the race as they finally offer better multitasking support and added security features," IDC said in its quarterly forecast.
While tablets with detachable keyboards will drive demand, large-screen slate tablets will still account for the bulk of all sales. One reason for that: Smaller tablets, with screen of 9 inches or less, will be discounted so heavily they will become "a pure volume or platform play like for Amazon for instance," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director at IDC.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Brexit Makes Sense

Apple hit with record EU tax ruling

The European Commission stunned the tech community and U.S. lawmakers with a landmark tax ruling against Apple Inc. The EU ruled that the tech company and Ireland engaged in an illegal tax deal, and ordered Ireland to collect about $14.5 billion in back taxes from Apple.

The ruling outraged Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, who denied any wrongdoing and called the decision politically motivated and "maddening." He promised to appeal the EU's decision, expressing confidence that it would be overturned. Cook also suggested that Apple could begin repatriating some of its $215 billion in overseas assets back to the United States as early as next year.

After several days of back-and-forth deliberations, the Irish cabinet announced its intent to appeal the ruling. Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan had immediately recommended  an appeal, but it took several days of deliberations for the minority government to convince its parliamentary partners that turning down the tax was in Ireland's best economic interest.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Free Software

Paragon Software Group releases Paragon Backup & Recovery 16, rated by Germany's top IT media CHIP as “very good”
This “set-it-and-forget-it” technology incorporates a completely new approach for defining basic parameters, such as backup type, interval/event, retention, and scenario-based jobs limited to simply selecting “what” and “where.” The new pivotal action panels display user backups and backup states at a single glance. To promote data backup awareness the complete, ad-free commercial Paragon Backup & Recovery 16 software will be available absolutely free of charge (39,95$ value), if downloaded before November 1, 2016.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Galaxy Note 7 Recall

Samsung issued an official statement on Friday regarding the Galaxy Note 7. The company says it has halted sales of the phablet worldwide, and that previously sold devices will be replaced "in the coming weeks." The company says that a battery cell issue resulted in 35 reported problems worldwide with the Galaxy Note 7. Samsung's statement does not explain what those issues were--see the original story below for more details. Here is the official statement in full:
Samsung is committed to producing the highest quality products and we take every incident report from our valued customers very seriously. In response to recently reported cases of the new Galaxy Note 7, we conducted a thorough investigation and found a battery cell issue.
To date (as of September 1) there have been 35 cases that have been reported globally and we are currently conducting a thorough inspection with our suppliers to identify possible affected batteries in the market. However, because our customers’ safety is an absolute priority at Samsung, we have stopped sales of the Galaxy Note 7.
For customers who already have Galaxy Note 7 devices, we will voluntarily replace their current device with a new one over the coming weeks.
We acknowledge the inconvenience this may cause in the market but this is to ensure that Samsung continues to deliver the highest quality products to our customers. We are working closely with our partners to ensure the replacement experience is as convenient and efficient as possible.