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Apple e-book price fixing case won’t reach the Supreme Court

Apple’s last shot at avoiding a $450 million e-book price fixing settlement just went out the window. The US Supreme Court has declined to hear Apple’s challenge of an appeals court decision that left the company on the hook for allegedly conspiring with publishers to raise digital book prices. The decision won’t have much of an impact on Apple’s day-to-day business (the court-approved antitrust monitor is no longer watching it like a hawk). Still, it’s a symbolic loss for a tech giant that maintains it did nothing wrong.

The ruling isn’t shocking. Apple argued that upholding the settlement would “chill innovation and risk-taking” but that’s not strictly true — the point is to prevent potentially unfair pricing agreements, not to set prices or limit e-book features. If nothing else, the company can take solace knowing that there’s pressure on the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for its own practices, such as selling below cost to squeeze out competitors.

Source: Reuters


Sony’s HX80 point-and-shoot fits a 30x zoom in a small body

If Sony’s new A6300 mirrorless camera is more than you need, you might be interested in the company’s latest point-and-shoot. Today, Sony revealed the HX80, a compact shooter with a 30x optical zoom lens and a built-in, retractable OLED electronic viewfinder. Featuring similar looks as its RX100 relative, it also comes with a 18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, 5-axis image stabilization, 1080p video recording and a 3-inch (921,000-dot) LCD screen. There’s WiFi and NFC too, for transferring media to iOS and Android devices via the PlayMemories app.

The HX80 will be available next month for $350, which isn’t a bad price considering the overall package it offers.


Dodocase’s SmartVR is a pocket-sized Cardboard alternative

When Google first introduced its Cardboard VR concept on June 25th 2014, there were only a few ways you could try it out yourself. You could either get one for free if you were an I/O attendee, or you could make it yourself based on Google’s open source designs, or you could just buy one. Indeed, a few hours after the I/O keynote ended, Dodocase, a San Francisco-based maker of phone and tablet cases, became the first-ever company to make and sell Cardboard headsets. It sold 15,000 units in the first three weeks and has since become one of Dodocase’s more popular products (the company also made a second gen of it last year). Now two years after it made that decision, Dodocase is ready to step up its VR efforts with a new device it’s debuting on Indiegogo. It’s called SmartVR, and no, it’s not made from cardboard anymore.

Made primarily out of glass-filled nylon and synthetic polymers, SmartVR is essentially an ultraportable version of Google’s Cardboard headset. The entire thing is designed to be durable; the hinges are metal, there’s a faux leather lens cover lined with microsuede, and it’s even held in place with a magnet. As for the lenses, they’re 34mm biconvex acrylic. Folded up, SmartVR is quite svelte at 65.5mm by 120.5mm by 16.5mm, fits into most any pocket and is super lightweight at only 3.2 ounces. Flip it open and you’ll find two slots where you can put any phone that’s between 6 mm and 12.5 mm thick (that’s pretty much most phones on the market).

With the phone loaded, the cover acts as a way to block ambient light. I tried this out for a little bit with a Jaunt VR app and a concert scene, and did find that it helped create a more immersive environment. Using it without the cover was still pretty good, but it didn’t feel quite as captivating. If you’re in an area with low light or you just don’t want to use the cover, you can also remove it entirely by sliding it out. This, according to Dodocase CEO and co-founder Craig Dalton, would also be a good opportunity for brands and advertisers to insert their own custom-branded covers. SmartVR was made with Google’s blessings and complies 100 percent with the Made for Cardboard specifications.

So why do this? Why not just stick to Cardboard? “We started seeing what’s coming in terms of content,” said Dalton. “Consumers are starting to want something that’s more durable than just cardboard. Something that’s more portable, with them all the time.”

But what’s more intriguing is that Dalton believes smartphone VR is the future. Instead of acting as just a gateway drug into higher fidelity systems like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, he believes smartphone VR is a destination in and of itself. In fact, he thinks that smartphone VR is going to surpass in revenue, importance and adoption all the other platforms combined. “We all have smartphones in our pocket,” he said, adding that with the low cost of the SmartVR — it’s $39.95 — it’ll be that much easier for everyday folks to get into and share VR content. “Even if I have a Vive in my house, that doesn’t solve the problem of sharing the content with the world. You can’t come to my house every time I want to show you something cool.”

That said, SmartVR is by no means the only Cardboard maker to go premium. For example, Figment VR is an iPhone case that’s also a VR viewer, while we’ve seen several others attempt to add headstraps, like the EightOnes VR kit. It would’ve been really easy for Dodocase to make a phone case that’s also a VR headset — they make phone cases after all — but Dalton said he doesn’t believe in making his phone a VR device 24/7. “We decided very specificially we wanted to be phone agnostic. VR is there for when we want it, and it’s not for when we don’t.”

As for the lack of headstraps, he says that Google actually forbids it in the Works with Cardboard program. “We’re specifically grounded in a certain type of experience that’s called ‘snackable.’ It’s not meant for half an hour. You’re meant to use it when it’s convenient for you.” So the idea is you’d use it quickly, and then hand it off to someone next to you to share.

That said, Dalton says that Dodocase’s biggest competition isn’t other headset makers, but consumer lack of awareness. But even that’s rapidly changing.

“We see VR as a significant part of the business,” says Dalton. “2016 is going to be a breakthrough year for VR.”

Source: Dodocase


Instagram beta arrives for Windows 10 mobile devices

Instagram first arrived on Windows mobile devices in beta form back in 2013. Today, the photographic social app is available for Windows 10 handsets, but it retains the beta designation. As with any early software release, the app arrives with a fair share of bugs. Those known issues include crashing while taking and editing a photo, using Facebook to log in and the “Share to” tool. However, all signs point to this being a full version of the app as previous beta release for Windows left out features like video support and the in-app camera. If you’re looking to give it a go, you snag the app from the Windows Store. Oh yeah, you can send feedback to the folks at Instagram by physically shaking your phone.

Via: Windows Central

Source: Windows Store


Toyota’s wearable for the blind sees the world through cameras

Scientists are slowly making headway in the treatment of visual impairments, but in the meantime, technology promises to help the blind and partially sighted gain greater independence. Joining the ranks of Microsoft and many others, Toyota has revealed that it, too, is working on a device to give blind folks a better understanding of the world around them. As part of Toyota’s “Project BLAID,” the company has developed a shoulder-worn wearable with cameras that can detect stairs, doors, restroom signs and other common features of indoor spaces.

The device can be controlled by voice commands, and relays information back to the wearer via audio and haptic cues. In addition to helping blind and partially sighted people find their way around buildings more easily (and without the need for strategically placed beacons), Toyota plans to expand the feature set with “mapping, objection identification and facial recognition technologies” in due course. Project BLAID is still in the early stages at this point, but the company promises the first devices will start beta testing in the near future.

Source: Toyota (1), (2)


WordPress blogs will soon support Facebook’s Instant Articles

If you turn to Facebook for your daily news update, you may have come across Instant Articles. A small number of publishers are able to serve up news articles quickly for mobile devices right now, but from April 12th, the technology will be open to anyone — including bloggers. In a bid to get communities on board, Facebook has teamed up with Automattic, the company behind the popular publishing software WordPress, to make it easy for writers all over the world to serve pages up to 10 times faster than they could before.

The two companies have published a new plugin that comes with a number of built-in tools to prepare blogs ahead of the launch. It comes packed with tools that let bloggers choose to auto-play video or use tap-to-zoom photo galleries to make their posts more interactive.

It’s a significant move for Facebook, given that WordPress’ open-source software now powers more than a quarter of sites on the web. The company says that all standard templates will support the plugin out of the box, but warns that if site owners have customized their templates, they may need to play with the plugin to get optimal results. Given that it’s open-source, there’s likely to be plenty of support, which will give Facebook’s tech the chance to shine over other mobile-optimized platforms like Google’s AMP.

Source: Facebook, WordPress


Lyft wants you to hail rides through Facebook Messenger

You can already request an Uber car through Facebook Messenger, but what if you prefer to get around in Lyft cars? Don’t worry, you’re covered. The mustachioed ridesharing outfit has released a public programming toolkit that lets developers integrate Lyft features into virtually any app, with Facebook Messenger being the lead partner. If you happen to live in one of 11 launch cities (including Austin, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC), you can now use Messenger to ask for a ride in between chats with your friends. The feature will be available to all Messenger users in the US next week.

The company hasn’t unveiled other app partners as we write this, but it’s still a big move for Lyft. Uber has had a public app toolkit for a while — this lets Lyft entice developers of its own and get a presence where you would otherwise wouldn’t see it. Even if the support doesn’t venture much further than Facebook Messenger, it’ll be good to have more choices when you’re looking for transportation.

Source: Lyft


Apple’s Proposed Dual Camera Interface Brought to Life in Video Demo

Amid rumors a dual-lens camera will be introduced in the iPhone 7, Apple recently submitted a patent application published in January which gives us rare insight into what Apple thinks a dual-lens camera interface could look like on future iOS devices.

The patent outlines a dual-camera system that consists of one standard wide-angle lens similar to what’s in the iPhone today and a second telephoto lens capable of capturing zoomed-in video and photos.

Both lenses can be used simultaneously to take separate photos or videos, with Apple’s software able to merge the images together in unique ways. As described by Apple, images from both lenses can be displayed on the same screen in the Camera app through a split-screen view that shows a standard wide-angle image on one side and the zoomed image on the other side.

When capturing a video or a photo, users are able to transition between both lenses seamlessly, tapping on a spot in the photo to zoom in with a second lens. Apple’s system would work similarly to digital zoom does today, but because it’s using a lens with a longer focal length instead of zooming in through software, there’s no loss of detail and the zoomed in image is much more crisp and clear.

Using the information obtained from the patent as a guideline, MacRumors videographer Matt Gonzalez created this video depicting how Apple might utilize multiple cameras to add impressive new features to the iPhone’s picture taking capabilities.

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As a specific example in the patent, Apple outlines a photo-taking opportunity at a child’s birthday party. A parent could capture a video of the moments before the candles on the cake are blown out using the standard wide-angle iPhone camera, and then tap on the screen to open a split-screen view and activate the telephoto lens for a close-up portrait shot of the exact moment the candles are blown out.

According to the patent, both cameras are able to be used separately, with each one capturing video (even slo-mo video) or one capturing video and another taking photographs. The resulting files can be saved independently or artfully merged together using Apple’s software.

We can’t be sure that the patent is representative of an actual dual-camera implementation we might see in a future iPhone, but it’s certainly a possibility and it gives us a solid look at some of the ideas Apple is working on. We’re still several months away from the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, but multiple rumors suggest a dual-lens camera will be a feature for the larger-screened device.

Related Roundups: iPhone 6s, iPhone 7
Tag: dual camera
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone (Neutral)
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Apple Seeds Sixth Beta of iOS 9.3 to Developers and Public Beta Testers

Apple today seeded the sixth beta of an upcoming iOS 9.3 update to developers and public beta testers for testing purposes, less than a week after seeding the fifth iOS 9.3 beta and three months after the public release of iOS 9.2, the last major update to iOS 9. iOS 9.3 has been in testing since January 11.

The sixth iOS 9.3 beta, build 13E5231a, is available as an over-the-air update and through the iOS section of the Apple Developer Center.

As a major update to the iOS 9 operating system, iOS 9.3 introduces several new features. There’s a Night Shift mode to reduce the amount of blue light iOS users are exposed to in the evening by shifting the iPad or iPhone display to a warmer (yellower) color spectrum, and there are several features designed to improve the iPad for Education program, such as multi-user login. Multi-user login, while an appealing feature, is limited to MDM customers and is not available to the general public.

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Multiple apps and features are also seeing updates in iOS 9.3. Apple News includes more personalized recommendations, faster updates, a landscape view on the iPhone, and support for in-line video, while Health includes an Apple Watch-style “Activity” view, Notes has an option to password protect individual entries, and third-party apps can add songs to Apple Music.

Apple Music for CarPlay offers “New” and “For You” sections for better music discovery in iOS 9.3, and a Nearby Feature in CarPlay Maps offers more information about points of interest that are close by. Paired with watchOS 2.2, an iPhone running iOS 9.3 is able to support multiple Apple Watches, and for iPhone 6s users, there are new Quick Actions for Weather, Settings, Compass, Health, App Store, and iTunes Store.

This is likely to be one of the last betas of iOS 9.3 we’ll see before it is released to the public. Apple is planning to launch iOS 9.3 in the spring, perhaps following an event that is scheduled to take place on March 21.

Related Roundup: iOS 9
Tag: iOS 9.3
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Apple Seeds Sixth Beta of WatchOS 2.2 to Developers

Apple today seeded the sixth beta of an upcoming watchOS 2.2 update to developers, less than a week after seeding the fifth watchOS 2.2 beta and three months after releasing watchOS 2.1, the first major update to the watchOS 2 operating system that runs on the Apple Watch. watchOS 2.2 has been in testing since January 11.

The latest watchOS 2.2 beta can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on an iPhone running the iOS 9.3 beta by going to General –> Software update. To install the update, the Apple Watch must have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the Apple Watch charger, and it must be in range of the iPhone.

watchOS 2.2, along with iOS 9.3, introduces support for pairing multiple Apple Watches with a single iPhone. Both updates are required, with each watch running watchOS 2.2 and each iPhone running iOS 9.3. watchOS 2.2 also includes a revamped look for the built-in Maps app on the Apple Watch with access to the Nearby feature first introduced with iOS 9 and new buttons for quickly accessing directions to home and work.

There were no other obvious outward-facing changes introduced in the first five watchOS 2.2 betas aside from the changes to the Maps app, but the update undoubtedly includes under-the-hood performance updates and bug fixes to address issues that have been discovered since the release of watchOS 2.1. WatchOS 2.2 is expected to debut in the spring, perhaps at Apple’s rumored March 21 event.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Tag: watchOS 2.2
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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