This was not a good week for the major corporations of the world. Volkswagen’s diesel scandal has curbstomped its bottom line, Uber paid buku bucks to settle a pair of class-action lawsuits, Apple threw a bunch of money at a patent troll to make it go away (but only for three years) and, I swear, the FBI might as well use the money it spent opening the San Bernardino iPhone to start dumpster fires, they’re burning through cash so fast. Here’s who paid what and why, by the numbers.
The crew at Tidal just scored another exclusive album… and this time, its creator might not have second thoughts about the deal. Beyoncé has released the visual album Lemonade solely on Tidal, and sources speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Mashable and The Verge understand that the superstar’s latest will be locked to that one streaming service “indefinitely.” It might even be a permanent exclusive, according to the insiders. You’ll have the option of buying the album from download services in the weeks ahead, but you’ll likely be out of luck if you prefer on-demand rivals like Apple Music or Spotify.
We’ve reached out to Tidal to see if it can confirm the terms of the arrangement. It won’t be completely surprising if this really is a permanent exclusive, especially since Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z is a Tidal co-owner. Even so, it comes less than 3 years after Beyoncé surprised just about everyone with an iTunes-only album. If you needed proof of how much the digital music landscape has changed between then and now, you just got it.
Whether nor not this gamble works is another matter. The launch triggered a surge in demand for Tidal’s app as people rushed to sign up, but there’s no guarantee that the curiosity will persist, or that listeners will stick around once their trial period is over. Remember, Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo shot to the top of the charts the moment it was available on services besides Tidal — the exclusive was clearly holding it back. Bey is arguably more of a household name in the music business and isn’t under much pressure to widen access (she doesn’t have to recoup investments like Kanye does). Still, there’s the chance that she’ll reconsider if Tidal doesn’t bring the exposure or sales that she’s hoping for.
Source: Tidal, EW, Mashable, The Verge
It’s been a year since Apple released the Watch. Big whoop! Does anyone really care?
That’s what we asked a few of our Apple Watch-owning CNET editors — and they didn’t hold back. Below is a short list of the most common answers for why they do and don’t like their Apple Watches, but make sure to watch the video for the full responses. Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments section.
It doesn’t do enough
Apple Byte host, Brian Tong, said his Apple Watch didn’t enhance his life in any way, shape or form, and many of our editors feel the same way. It just doesn’t have a lot purposeful functionality. Most of the things it can do, your iPhone can do better.
Limited strap options
Wrist strap options are still rather limited in selection, especially if you’re a fashion-inclined individual. If you’re looking for something specific, or anything similar to what you’d find at a department store, don’t hold your breath. CNET’s resident DC and Marvel expert, Caitlin Petrakovitz, said that the boring selection prevents her from wearing her Apple Watch everyday.
Faster to pull phone out of pocket
For some people, pulling out a phone from their pocket to read a notification or check the time is just as fast as checking a watch. People with smaller pockets and purses, however, might disagree.
The Apple Watch doesn’t have a very user-friendly interface. There’s a bit of a learning to curve, even for our super tech-savvy editors.
There isn’t an abundance of apps available for the Apple Watch, and those available are barebones versions of the same apps available on the iPhone. Additionally, they can be a bit slow to load at times.
Not for me
Not everyone needs to be plugged-in all of the time. That’s who the Apple Watch is great for — people who always want to have their messages at their fingertips, even when their phone is in their pocket. And Apple fanboys, of course.
No killer feature
The Apple Watch has no killer feature. Nothing about it makes it a must-buy. That’s why some of our editors either sold or are planning to sell theirs.
We’re knee deep in another series of reviews. The Huawei P9 is coming up next. A really good, expensive phone. Maybe not the best for right now, but a solid effort and a huge step in the right direction in terms of software. I’ve got the Xiaomi Mi 5 on the way, too. (But be sure to read Harish’s review first!)
So since it’s (another) working weekend, some quick hits to get a few things off my chest …
- Just go ahead and bookmark the Android Security 2015 Year in Review (pdf) for reference every time a ZOMGSECURITY story comes up.
- That doesn’t mean don’t be smart. That doesn’t mean don’t stay vigilant. That doesn’t mean the system is perfect and won’t require future updates. That just means keep things in context.
- This is what happens when new charging technology meets not-final connector specs. My take? Being technically outside of an (unfinished) spec does not immediately mean “unsafe.” I’m not an EE, nor should I have to be. I have to be able trust the mechanisms in place.
- The front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the morning after Prince’s death. One of the better ones I saw, actually. It’s so easy to overthink those things.
- The “High-Res Audio Earphones” from HTC may be the best in-box accessory I’ve seen in years. Shame they won’t be included in the United States.
- Definitely digging the new Deftones record.
- We’re waiting to see what sort of back-end analytics Google provides for podcasts in Google Play Music (and if they’re anything like what you get in the Android developer console, they should be pretty good). After that, we’ll write up some thoughts on that whole thing.
- The short version? A good, basic start. Which is odd, since Google’s so far behind on that front. It’ll be interesting to see how many features it gets.
- And be sure to subscribe to the Android Central Podcast on Google Play Music. And the iMore Show, too.
- This week’s book: “United,” from Sen. Cory Booker.
- Time for Golovkin to actually fight someone. That wasn’t all that entertaining last night.
- Got behind the wheel of a Model S last week. Hell of car. Parts of the interior aren’t as nice as I expected. Display was surprisingly laggy. But I’m definitely excited for the Model 3 now.
- Even if that particular car doesn’t happen for me, I’m 100 percent convinced electric is the way to go.
- By the way, TeslaCentral is officially official now!
And that’s it for this week. Back to writing.
The Solar Impulse airplane is on a mission to circle the globe using only the power of the sun, and this week it continued its journey by crossing the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, Tesla showed just how fast the Model S is by challenging a Boeing 747 to a drag race. An Italian company is turning vintage moped parts into some of the coolest electric bikes we’ve ever seen, and a Swedish cyclist created an all-weather bike that looks just like a car. And we’ve seen buses and vans turned into some pretty incredible things — but Lee Broom’s palatial gallery on wheels takes the cake.
In energy news, San Francisco just scored a big victory for solar power with a new bill that will require photovoltaic panels to be installed on all new buildings. Meanwhile, Tokyo approved plans for a massive solar skyscraper with hanging gardens, and Disneyland flipped the switch on a giant photovoltaic farm shaped like Mickey Mouse. Researchers also discovered a way to make cheap, sustainable batteries from urine, and a new report shows how the world can completely phase out fossil fuels in just 10 years.
The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a public health emergency, so two creative agencies developed a billboard to raise awareness while trapping mosquitos by imitating human breath and sweat. In other design and technology news, researchers have developed clear glass bricks that are stronger than concrete, and a new 3D printing breakthrough could change the way that we consume clothing. Apple has been shoring up its environmental initiatives lately, and for Earth Day the company donated all proceeds from sales of 27 apps to conservation efforts. And on the interior design front, we spotted a table made from old Apple laptop keys and a brilliant chair that hooks up to a radiator to keep you warm in the winter.
After years of losses and lackluster phone releases, HTC finally seems to have gotten its mojo back. OK, it might be too soon to say if its new flagship, the 10, is enough to help the company reverse its fortunes, but if nothing else it’s a fantastic device. We love the 10 for its excellent build quality, fast performance, robust audio setup and out-of-the-box Airplay support. Compared to other high-end phones, though, the battery life is merely average and camera performance doesn’t quite measure up to Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 line. For that reason, the HTC 10 received a slightly lower score — 88, versus 90 on the GS7 — but it’s still among the best smartphones you can buy right now. Depending on your priorities, it might even be a better choice than the GS7.
Apple’s global iPhone shipments will fall short of analysts’ consensus estimates of 210 to 230 million units in the 2016 fiscal year, according to a new research note issued by respected KGI Securities market analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a worst case scenario, iPhone shipments in 2016 are expected to reach just 190 million units, which is an 18% reduction in shipment growth and 3 million fewer iPhones than Apple sold in 2014.
Even in a best case scenario, says Kuo, Apple is expected to sell 205 million units, 5 million short of the lower end of analysts’ estimate range and amounting to a 11.6% reduction in growth. Regardless of the best or worst case scenario, Kuo predicts Apple will underperform the industry and become the only global top-five smartphone brand to see shipments decline in 2016.
Mockup of iPhone 7 case.
The analyst describes slowing market demand for large-screen handset replacements and limited iPhone 7 selling points as key factors behind the decline, noting that the contribution of revised-up iPhone SE shipments in the 2016 fiscal year will remain “insignificant”.
Given the fact that shipments fell YoY for the first time in 1Q16, we don’t think large-screen replacement demand will contribute much to growth. To sustain growth, the iPhone needs to come up with more innovative features to revitalize the user experience, for example in form factor design, software and hardware specs. We don’t see many attractive selling points for iPhone 7 in 2H16 and are conservative on 2H16F shipments. While we revise up 2016F iPhone SE shipments from 12mn to 18mn units, this won’t offset overall iPhone shipments decline.
Kuo’s note predicts that out of Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo, only Apple will see shipments fall year-on-year, which suggests to KGI Securities that the decline in iPhone sales can’t be solely blamed on industry structure.
“While we believe the high-end smartphone market still has room for growth, the development of a newer, more innovative user experience is a prerequisite for growth,” asserted Kuo. “We believe only iPhone will see shipments fall YoY in 2016, for three reasons: (1) intensification of market competition; (2) time needed for commercialization of new user experience technologies; and (3) iPhone needs a makeover (e.g. form factor design) to keep attracting consumers.”
As far as a handset makeover is concerned, rumors indicate the iPhone 7 will share a design similar to the iPhone 6s, but may be slightly thinner, perhaps through the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack and the implementation of a thinner Lightning port. Antenna bands across the back of the device may be removed, but are expected to remain at the top, bottom, and sides of the iPhone, while the rear camera may be flush with the case.
Other rumors suggest Apple may be planning to introduce two versions of the iPhone 7 Plus – one with a single lens and a second with a dual-lens camera system that offers DSLR-like image quality with 2-3x optical zoom and improved performance in low light conditions. Whatever form the iPhone 7 takes, Apple will be hopeful of exciting consumers in ways that perhaps the iPhone SE could not, as the company strives to overcome what some commentators have called “peak iPhone”.
Apple’s earnings announcement for the second fiscal quarter (first calendar quarter) of 2016 takes place on Tuesday, April 26, and will provide a look at sales of the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and SE following Apple’s record first quarter, which saw the company announce 74.8 million iPhone sales and $18.4 billion profit on $75.9 billion in revenue.
Apple has warned that iPhone sales will decline in the March quarter and has provided Q2 2016 guidance of $50 to $53 billion in revenue and gross margin between 39 and 39.5 percent. Should Apple only take in $50 to $53 billion, the company will see its first year-over-year revenue drop in 13 years.
Related Roundup: iPhone 7
Tags: KGI Securities, Ming-Chi Kuo
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PS4 owners aren’t the only ones getting a treat in the Ark: Survival Evolved universe. Studio Wildcard is starting up an Official Mods Program that will fold user-made add-ons into the main game on PCs and the Xbox One. The move will not only give mods better recognition, but bring them to console gamers that don’t always see this kind of content. It’ll start off with The Center, a fantasy-themed map arriving in May, followed by the Primitive Plus mod (which forces you to rely on wood and stone) in the summer.
Wildcard doesn’t say whether or not modders will get compensation for their efforts (we’ve reached out for details). However, this could still be a welcome move in a game that’s defined by its community. After all, mod developers rarely get more official acknowledgment from game studios than the creation of a toolkit — this exposes their work to a much wider audience.
Source: Ark Community Forums
Just because Uber has settled two big disputes with drivers doesn’t mean that its rank-and-file is happy. Uber drivers in California have partnered with the Teamsters Union to create a new group, the App-Based Drivers Association, to represent ridesharing workers in the state. Much like the (currently embattled) union in Seattle, this organization will push for better benefits and conditions among drivers that normally don’t get much say.
The Teamsters effort won’t affect the earlier settlements; Uber drivers are still considered contractors, not employees. Even so, it could put added pressure on the company to improve pay and perks — workers could be more likely to walk off the job in droves when they’re frustrated with conditions.
NASA is big on solar electric propulsion (the Dawn spacecraft uses it, for instance) for a good reason: while the engines aren’t powerful, they supply thrust for a very long time before giving up the ghost. And it now looks like the agency is ready to double down on that super-efficient tech. It just awarded a $67 million, 3-year contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne in hopes of developing an advanced solar electric propulsion system. The new technology could deliver twice as much thrust, and would be up to 10 times more efficient than chemical engines — both big deals for deep space missions.
So long as the project pans out, it could be crucial to some of NASA’s most important missions. It’ll power the robotic side of the Asteroid Redirect Mission, and should also help in the quest to put people on Mars. Whatever money NASA invests now might pay dividends if it gets ships out to far-flung locations relatively cheaply and quickly.