Apple’s ‘Smart Home’ Initiative Focused on ‘Made for iPhone’ Certification, Not Deep Integration
Earlier this week, a report suggested Apple has plans to unveil a new smart home initiative at WWDC. This platform would allow the iPhone to directly control lights, security systems, and other household gadgets, with Apple giving third-party device makers official approval for integrated devices.
Gigaom has some new information on how the smart home program will work, confirming that it is a fairly simple program that will certify both connected devices already on the market and upcoming devices under the existing “Made for iPhone” certification process currently used for iOS accessories like iPhone cables and gaming controllers.
The program will not include an Apple-made software interface that overrides the existing apps tied to current iOS-compatible home accessories like the Philips Hue lighting system or the Nest thermometer, and will instead focus on connecting devices via WiFi. There’s also the possibility for voice control using Bluetooth.
The MFi certification will essentially be used to notify consumers about which products will integrate well both with the iPhone and with other home automation accessories, suggesting the program introduced next week will feature several home automation product manufacturers that have agreed to work with the MFi standards for quality and compatibility.
Instead of worrying about hubs and what might work with other devices, consumers can look for the MFi label and be assured that they can pull their smart home setup together — and control it from their iOS device.
It’s technically possible that the user could control some device functions from a handset or tablet without opening the app, or that the app would open automatically based on a voice command or eventually through presence detection.
Apple is expected to unveil more information on its smart home initiative on Monday, when WWDC kicks off with an opening keynote.
Google’s cutesy cars are a ‘serious threat’ to the auto industry, says GM
There’s no doubt about it: for a company that makes most of its money from web ads, Google knows how to make an adorable self-driving car. The search giant’s automotive prowess isn’t going unnoticed by the industry’s more established players, either. Mark Reuss, GM’s executive VP of global product development, told recently told Bloomberg that he could see Google becoming a “serious competitive threat” in the motoring realm.
Yes, that seems like a “well, duh” confession to us too, especially now that Google will roll out at least 100 of those cutesy, two-seater prototype cars for some real world testing later this year. It certainly doesn’t hurt that California’s Department of Motor Vehicles just gave a thumbs up to self-driving car tests on public roads, a decision that’ll take effect in September. Of course, Google can only become a competitive threat if it wants to be, and it’s still unclear just how it plans to bring these motors to market. A separate Google Motors division? A slew of partnerships with existing manufacturers? Our crystal ball is on the fritz, and car crafters aren’t quaking in their boots just yet. Reuss noted that “anybody can do anything with enough time and money” – Google’s definitely got plenty of the latter, but major auto makers haven’t just been sitting on their laurels. GM and Nissan both have self-driving car projects underway in China and Japan, respectively, while Volvo has been testing its own on the open roads of Sweden.
Facebook is the latest coup victim in Thailand, where the selfie reigns supreme
Foreign governments have been blocking Twitter and Facebook off and on for years, and now Thailand’s responsible for some social service downtime. The country’s Information Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry disabled access at the military’s request, taking the site offline for about 30 minutes yesterday afternoon. According to a Reuters report, Surachai Srisaracam, an ICT official, said the action was intended to “thwart the spread of online criticism of the military” following the recent coup. The official added that the government planned to meet with other social sites, such as Instagram and Twitter, “to ask for cooperation from them.” Meanwhile, many Thai citizens are using sharing sites for more innocuous purposes, such as posting selfies with soldiers, which they are once again free to do.
[Image credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]
Filed under: Internet, Facebook
US officials reportedly duped into friending Iranian spies on social networks
A fair few government officials will be poring over their personal LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts today, following a warning about an elaborate hacking campaign that appears to stem from Iran. According to iSIGHT Partners, Iranian hackers have spent the last three years creating a fake news outlet — Newsonair.org — and then posing as journalists to give the website an air of credibility (even though all its content was simply plagiarized from elsewhere on the web). Over time, these impostors are alleged to have linked, friended and followed US military, diplomatic and congressional personnel who were attracted to Newsonair‘s stories. Once a basic connection had been established via a social network, the cyber-spy would then share another interesting-looking story with their target, but this time the shared link would be a so-called spear-phishing site designed to steal login credentials.
The US has repeatedly complained of high-level hacking from both Iran and China, but this particular espionage ring looks to be unusually broad, also targeting journalists (real ones, that is), defense contractors, outspoken supporters of Israel, and also people in the UK, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In total, around 2,000 individuals have been affected to some degree, according to iSIGHT Partners, although that doesn’t necessarily mean all those people have been hacked: They may simply have become “connected to false personas.” Meanwhile, Newsonair is still very much alive, pirating content from AFP, Reuters and other sources and spuriously asking you to submit your email address in order to subscribe to its RSS feed. (In other words, if you choose to visit it, be careful.)
Filed under: Internet
Via: Washington Post
Source: iSIGHT Partners
Netflix has a new original series for kids, courtesy of DreamWorks
The relationship between Netflix and DreamWorks is one that just keeps on giving. Accordingly, the video-streaming giant has announced that it is partnering with the studio yet again, this time to bring DreamWorks Dragons to the platform as an original series for kids. Dragons, based on the popular How to Train Your Dragon franchise, will debut next year on Netflix and is said to “bridge the gap” between the first feature film and the sequel that’s slated to premiere this summer.
Netflix says that the idea to work with DreamWorks Animations on securing the exclusivity of Dragons was a no-brainer, as it believes that these are a “beloved set of characters” and kids “will be enjoying them for years to come.” When it arrives in 2015, DreamWorks Dragons is going to be available worldwide, including places across the globe where Netflix is due to launch later this year.
Filed under: Home Entertainment, Internet, HD
Dish will soon let you pay your bill with bitcoins
While some companies are steering clear of Bitcoin, others, like Dish, are now getting ready to welcome the digital currency into the fold. Today, the satellite provider revealed that it plans to start accepting Bitcoin later this year, allowing customers to easily pay their bill online using virtual money. Dish is teaming up with Coinbase to handle the processing of these payments, which are expected to begin taking place during the third quarter of 2014. “We always want to deliver choice and convenience for our customers and that includes the method they use to pay their bills,” Bernie Han, Dish executive VP and COO, stated in a company release. “Bitcoin is becoming a preferred way for some people to transact and we want to accommodate those individuals.
Along the same lines, Coinbase recently announced a new featured called Payment Pages, which, as the name suggests, will let you use its platform to receive payments or donations with Bitcoin. To kick this off, hip-hop artist Nas already has his very own hub — one that he’ll be using to take bitcoins and donate them to Watsi.org, an organization that provides medical care for people in need. With that, we’d say the past couple of days have been good for the social acceptance of the renowned digital currency.
[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]
Google Maps v8.1 Rolling Out, Brings Back Terrain Mode and Other Minor UI Tweaks [APK Download]
A day late, but not a buck short. Another Google app has updated, this time it is Google Maps. Maps is now at version 8.1 and brings back something that hiker, bikers and outdoor enthusiasts probably missed most, Terrain Mode. Terrain Mode is an alternative map view to satellite that offers a topographical look at the mountains, hills and valleys in a given area.
Terrain Mode is the most significant aspect of the update. The rest of the update seems to be at some UI changes in various sections. Each navigation card offers up the navigation type via an icon, car, bike, person ect. They moved the time and mileage to the right and made it a little smaller too. In the transit view times and travel time have been made a big bolder so they stand out a bit more. Lastly, biking and Walking views look the same.
They also managed to shrink the file size a little bit from the previous maps version too. In typical Google fashion the update is rolling out in stages. If patience is NOT one of your virtues, hit the link below to go download the APK.
Download: Google Maps v8.1 APK
Apple Removes Sidebar Link to iPod Classic in Several Refurbished Stores [Mac Blog]
Apple today removed the link to the iPod classic from the sidebar of its U.S. and Canadian refurbished stores, perhaps offering an indication that the ancient hard drive-based MP3 player is finally on its last legs. Though the link is gone, the actual page for the refurbished iPod classic remains on Apple’s website.
The sidebar link is still present in Apple’s international refurbished stores for the time being, but it is greyed out, indicating that no units are available to purchase. It is not entirely clear when Apple’s refurbished store last had iPod classic models in stock, but it seems to have been quite some time ago and today’s removal of the sidebar link suggests that Apple has no plans to bring them back to the store.
The iPod classic is the successor to the original iPod introduced in 2001 and is the only remaining MP3 player in Apple’s lineup that uses a hard disk drive for music storage. As highlighted in our Buyer’s Guide, Apple hasn’t updated the iPod classic since 2009, and no further updates are expected given the device’s age and the fact that hard drive manufacturers are no longer producing the 1.8-inch hard drives used in the iPod classic. Seemingly every year, a new crop of rumors claims Apple is discontinuing the device, but the venerable iPod classic has hung on year after year as an option for those looking to carry larger music libraries on the go. Speculation has suggested that once the iPod touch becomes available in a 128 GB option, Apple may finally choose to retire the iPod classic, but the company has elected not to increase the maximum capacity of the iPod touch since 2009 when the third-generation model became the first to offer up to 64 GB of storage.
Sales of Apple’s iPod lineup have been declining as customers turn to the iPhone to meet their music needs. In its latest quarterly earnings for Q2 2014, iPod net sales contributed only 1 percent to Apple’s overall revenue, while the iPhone accounted for 57 percent. The iPhone may have crippled iPod sales, but the iWatch may be the death knell. According to analyst Christopher Caso of Susquehanna Financial Group, sales of the iPod will continue to decline precipitously as consumers choose the wrist-watch device instead of a stand-alone player.
While we don’t expect AAPL to discontinue iPod for some time, we also don’t expect an iPod refresh this year, and believe iPod could post Y/Y unit declines as a result as consumers purchasing iWatch as a substitute.
Besides the iPod classic, Apple also recently removed the 17-inch MacBook Pro from its refurbished store after discontinuing the notebook in 2012.
Virgin Media’s ‘quad-play’ phone, TV and net bundles now available to all
Virgin Media launched the UK’s first ‘quad-play’ packages earlier this month, which wrap all of its mobile, landline, broadband and TV services up into neat, pay-monthly bundles. These were only available for existing customers to upgrade to initially, but right on schedule, new customers can now get in on the action, too. Furthermore, there are two additional “Big Bundles,” as they’re called, that complement the £35 per month Big Bang and £50 per month Big Kahuna packages (excluding line rental) Virgin announced previously. The new entry-level Big Easy bundle starts at £25 per month, and for those that need the absolute fastest, biggest and best of everything, the Big Daddy package can be had for £100 per month (again, both prices exclude line rental). You can also create your own custom bundle by bolting “Big Extras” onto the standard ones, if getting everything from the same provider and on one bill is just that little bit too simple for your taste.
Filed under: Cellphones, Home Entertainment, Wireless, Internet
Source: Virgin Media
HTC One’s plastic cousin officially shown off with M7 design, M8 guts
It’s no secret that HTC’s prepping a plastic variant of its flagship One (M8) phone, but we’ve never taken a proper look at it until now, courtesy of the company’s China website. And no, this isn’t a leak. Ahead of the device’s June 3rd launch, HTC’s limited edition giveaway campaign unveiled almost everything about the M8 Ace, aka “Vogue Edition,” of the One. The clear product renders — shown in black, white, blue and red options — indicate that this upcoming phone carries a similar design language as the metallic, award-winning M7 from last year; but the new plastic-only construction means you get a cleaner look on both the back and the profile sides.
The page also confirms some main specs that are identical to that of the flagship M8: a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 SoC (the M8 for Asia is clocked at 2.5GHz instead of 2.3GHz, by the way), a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, BoomSound front-facing stereo speakers, Motion Launch gestures and extreme power-saving mode. As we already know, the M8′s funky Duo Camera is replaced by a single 13-megapixel camera here, and it appears that the TV remote feature is also absent on the power button. On the flip side, we can just about make out China Mobile’s 4G LTE logo on the back of the phone, which is good news for the locals. There’s no mention on the screen size, but we’ve previously heard from our sources that it’ll be the same 5-inch 1080p panel as found on the M8. The leaked dummy in the above picture, courtesy of Sina Weibo user ASAMKI, suggests the same.
The ultimate question is: How much will HTC be charging us for this so-called Galaxy S5 competitor? Its “mid-range flagship” Desire 816 costs ¥1,899 (about $300) in China, whereas both the M8 and the Galaxy S5 cost ¥5,299 ($850), making for a midway point of ¥3,599 ($580). HTC will really need to stick to the lower half of the price segment to threaten not only Samsung, but also other local brands like Smartisan, Oppo, Vivo, Huawei (all mainly in the ¥3,000 sector), plus the notoriously aggressive duo: Xiaomi and OnePlus (from just below ¥2,000). Will HTC be able to surprise us? Tune in next week to find out.
Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, HTC
Source: HTC, Sina Weibo