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Instapaper makes its premium features available for free

Instapaper has announced its biggest update yet since Pinterest acquired it in August: the read-it-later app is making its premium features available for free. The service used to offer a set of special features for $3 a month or $30 a year, but it’s now opening up the tier to everyone.

Starting today, you’ll have access to all the goodies only paying subscribers were able to enjoy even if you’ve never spent a cent on the app. Those include full-text search for all articles, unlimited notes, unlimited speed reading, text-to-speech playlists, “send to Kindle” via bookmarklet and mobile apps, as well as Kindle Digests of up to 50 articles. You’ll also be able to browse Instapaper’s website with absolutely no ads.

When Pinterest snapped up both the service and the team behind it, the company said it wouldn’t kill the standalone Instapaper app. Hopefully, this means the application will live on. In case you’re a Premium user, though, don’t worry — you’re not getting gypped. The team says they’re sending out prorated refunds to customers in the coming weeks.

Source: Instapaper


Hello’s ‘Sense’ sleep sensor gets voice controls

Hello Inc. has launched a new version of its sleep sensor called “Sense with Voice,” with the highlight being (wait for it) voice commands. As a reminder, it consists of a sphere-shaped monitor and pill-shaped sensor that attaches to your pillow and detects your movements. Rather than just controlling it with a smartphone as before, you can now say “Okay Sense” to set the alarm, gauge your sleep quality or check environmental factors like the humidity and temperature.

Thanks to a digital microphone array and echo cancellation, the device can hear from anywhere in your bedroom, even if the alarm is sounding. The pill has also been redesigned so that it’s easier to attach to your pillow, has longer battery life and is “almost completely indestructible,” Hello says. On top of the temperature, light, air quality, humidity and noise detectors, it now measures UV light, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compound, light temperature and barometric pressure, in case you think any of those things actually affect your sleep.

Another new addition is smart home control. The Sense with Voice works with Philips Hue lights and the Nest thermometer, letting you “set your ideal room temperature for when you awake and be gently awoken by your lighting,” the company says. It’ll integrate with other smart home devices in the future, and Hello says you can control everything via voice commands.

The company launched the original Sense with a successful $2.4 million Kickstarter campaign, backed up by $10.5 million in investor cash. However, some critics found that the core feature of the device — sleep tracking — doesn’t really work that well, making it a nice, but expensive alarm clock. If the sleeping part is key, you may want to consider a wearable like the Fitbit Blaze or the Withings Aura, which uses a mattress pad to measure your sleep quality.

Whether the updated monitor and new pillow sensor will track your sleep better remains to be seen, but with the new features, the company can nearly justify the $149 price tag. You can now buy the Sense with Voice at the company’s website, Amazon, Target and Best Buy stores across the US.


Samsung spends $1 billion to strengthen US chip production

Making the chips that sit inside our smartphones, tablets and cars is a big business, and one that’s only getting bigger. Samsung is looking to take advantage of that by spending a further $1 billion on its Texas-based semiconductor facility. That cash is intended to increase Samsung’s ability to produce integrated systems on a chip like its Exynos-branded SoCs that reside inside mobile devices.

The Austin American Statesman quotes Catherine Morse, Samsung’s local general counsel, saying that the move will create more jobs. The executive believes that the firm will seek to employ a further 250 – 500 people in the expanded factory when its upgrades are finalized. That should be completed by mid-2017 and serves as a rare boost for Austin’s now-shrinking chip-making economy.

It’s also a sign that Samsung is looking to go it alone when taking on its global rivals in the chip manufacture wars. Its closest rivals are arguably TSMC, which produces the bulk of the chips for the iPhone, and Qualcomm, which recently announced that it would purchase NXP Semiconductor for $47 billion.

Source: Samsung


Introducing Engadget’s 2016 holiday gift guide!

Here in the US, holiday shopping season officially kicks off on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, but at Engadget we’re getting started early. Three weeks early, to be precise. Today we’re launching our 2016 holiday gift guide — our biggest and most ambitious yet. This year you’ll find 120 picks across 10 categories, up from 84 last year. You’ll also find 100 percent more video, with a quick few-minute stop-motion vid and highlight reel accompanying all of our recommendations.

As ever, we built our guide around shopping for specific people. You won’t find a “media streamer” section here, for instance, but rather, carefully selected sets of presents for the various types in your life — everyone from gamers to workaholics to wanna-be Martha Stewarts. (Lots of cooking gadgets for them.) And, with many of our picks coming in under $50, you won’t have to break your gift budget either. Have a look at our full guide here, and stay tuned over the coming weeks as we put the spotlight on our favorite picks in each category.

Source: Engadget’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide


‘Lifelogging’ startup Narrative isn’t dead yet

Narrative, the company behind the lifelogging camera of the same name, was all set to die, but death is no longer on the agenda. Instead, six of the moribund wearable firm’s employees, including its co-founders, have mounted a rescue out of their own pockets. In an interview with TechCrunch, CTO Björn Wesén revealed that he and his friends have purchased Narrative’s assets in the hope of launching a new company that can carry on the name and legacy of the Narrative Clip.

The first stage of the turnaround plan is to preserve the user’s data on the company’s servers, which should only mean people lose a day or two’s worth of service. Next, the team will attempt to return the Narrative Clip 2 back to production in the hope of servicing those fans who wanted a model before money woes struck. Finally, if the team can turn a profit from user subscriptions and hardware sales, it’ll look into developing the Narrative Clip 3.

Of course, there’s still the question of how Narrative plans to generate sales in a world where lifelogging seems almost antiquated. Wesén told our sister site that Narrative managed to sell 40,000 units of the first two devices, but only managed to ship the 2 to pre-order customers before the money ran out. As such, he’s feeling confident that there’s potentially a large market that might still want to document their daily lives. It’s a bet that he, and his colleagues, believe so strongly that they’re prepared to put their own livelihoods on the line.

Source: TechCrunch, (2)


The UK’s first pro drone race will be hosted in London next June

With backing from big broadcasters like ESPN and Sky Sports, drone racing is already making its mark on TV. The Drone Racing League’s (DRL) inaugural five race season is now two races deep, having visited Miami and Los Angeles, but the company is already thinking ahead to next year’s championship. After revealing that the UK would host its first professional drone race in 2017 back in September, the DRL today confirmed that the winner-takes-all season finale will be hosted at London’s iconic Alexandra Palace on June 13th.

Professional drone racing, if you’re not aware, sees pilots compete in four “level” events that they hope will earn them enough points to qualify for the World Championship. Each racer is given a selection of custom-designed drones, which are crafted by DRL to ensure races focus on skill and not construction smarts, which beam back a first-person live feed to a VR-style headset. Courses are designed in three dimensions, requiring pilots to navigate tight turns, steep climbs and avoid large obstacles at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour.

When the series reaches London next year, eight pilots will battle to become the “World’s Greatest Drone Pilot” at the winner-takes-all event. If you can’t make it, Sky has confirmed it will continue to broadcast the remainder of the 2016 series and will also show the crowning of a new champion at the London race on its new Sky Sports Mix channel.


Master and Dynamic adds the on-ear MW50 to its wireless lineup

Almost exactly a year ago, Master & Dynamic debuted its first wireless headphones with the over-ear MW60. Today, the company is adding to that product line with the on-ear MW50. This new model carries a similar look to last year’s arrival with plenty of silver aluminum and your choice of black or brown leather. The MW50’s ear cups are a bit rounder than the MW60, but that’s really the only difference in design other than how you wear them.

The company says the MW50 is one-third lighter than last year’s MW60, weighing in at 240 grams or about half a pound. Inside, 40mm beryllium drivers deliver M&D’s signature sound to lambskin-wrapped memory foam ear pads. The MW50’s connect to your device of choice via Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX and the company is promising 16 hours of battery life before you’ll either have to recharge or employ a 3.5mm cable to continue listening. If you need to take a call, dual microphones are on board to assist when they’re not being used to block out noise.

Like the MW60, you’ll have to make a significant investment to nab a pair of these stylish headphones. The new MW50s are priced at $449 and are available now from the Master & Dynamic website. For reference, that’s $100 more than Bose’s QuietComfort 35. Of course, you’ll need to be willing to ditch the premium materials for something that looks much more generic.

Source: Master & Dynamic


Google’s Daydream View VR reaches stores November 10th

You won’t have to wait much longer to see whether or not Google’s Daydream View headset is a viable contender to the likes of Gear VR. Google has announced that its virtual reality wearable will reach both the Google Store and retail in five countries (the US, Canada, UK, Germany and Australia) on November 10th. In the US, it’ll be available for $79 through Best Buy and Verizon. British buyers can track it down for £69 at Carphone Warehouse or EE, and Canadians can pick it up for $99 at Best Buy, Bell, Rogers or Telus.

You’ll need a compatible phone (such as Google’s own Pixel or Pixel XL) to use the Daydream View, but it promises to open up the world of mobile VR. Right now, your choices in that realm are largely limited to either basic viewers like Google Cardboard or Samsung’s proprietary Gear VR — you could soon see interactive VR on a wide range of Android devices. It’s also important to note that Google doesn’t have a monopoly on Daydream headsets, either. The aim is to create a whole ecosystem, not to corner the market.

Source: Google


Hulu’s live TV options will include Fox and Disney, of course

Hulu will roll out its live TV lineup in early 2017, complete with shows from the Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox, two of Hulu’s founding partners, the company announced today. The agreement brings more than 35 networks to Hulu’s live service, including ABC, FOX, Fox Sports channels, ESPN channels, Disney Channel and XD, Freeform, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild.

These networks join Time Warner Inc.’s Turner channels on Hulu’s live service. The Turner deal brings TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, among other affiliated channels, to Hulu’s live service. This deal follows Time Warner’s purchase of 10 percent of Hulu for $583 million. Viacom is also on board for live Hulu programming, but it’s unclear which of its networks in particular will be available.

Hulu doesn’t detail how much its live TV service will cost, but describes it as “a complement to the company’s current ad-supported and ad-free subscription video on demand products.” The Wall Street Journal reported in May that it would cost $40. That’s more than Sling’s $20 basic package, for example, and it’s not yet known if the reported $40 price tag includes Hulu’s traditional streaming options.

Source: Hulu


Xiaomi aims to be more than king of the budget smartphones

The day after the Mi Note 2 and Mi MIX launch last week, the flagship Mi Home store next to Xiaomi’s headquarters was packed with visitors. Nope, they weren’t there to spend their yuan, but to simply wait for their turn to play with the new phones. But the real star was clearly the Mi MIX “concept phone.” People were drawn to its near-bezel-less display and fancy ceramic body. Despite this being Xiaomi’s most expensive smartphone ever, I heard many visitors ask if they could buy one immediately, only to be let down when told they have to wait until November 4th. Xiaomi must be doing something right

The Mi MIX didn’t just happen over night, of course; it was a two-year project with contributions from French designer, Philippe Starck. This man is no stranger to the tech world, he’s helped design headphones, hard drives, a smart radiator valve, electric bicycles and, even, the late Steve Jobs’ yacht. Barra described Starck’s role in the Mi MIX project as setting high-level priorities, especially when it came to convincing the Xiaomi team to keep things clean and simple.

Xiaomi’s aim with the Mi MIX is to showcase some of the breakthrough mobile technologies that will eventually trickle down to its mainstream devices. In this case, we have Sharp’s near-bezel-less display which we knew was arriving sooner or later. Hidden underneath that is Elliptic Labs’ ultrasound-based proximity sensor, which replaces the ugly infrared dot and turns the screen off when the phone is placed next to your ear. Last but not least, the full ceramic body is a nice alternative to the aluminum we’re accustomed to. The company hopes these experiments will lead consumers to see Xiaomi as home to serious innovation, rather than a budget brand.

Some would argue that it should be giants like Apple and Google bringing out devices like the Mi MIX. While Barra declined to comment on the iPhone 7, he was happy to praise his previous company’s efforts with the Pixel and even went as far as saying the series “sets a bar for the whole world.” He described Google’s latest phones as being “all-around optimized,” “very responsive” with “great battery life” plus an “awesome camera,” though he did say that they don’t necessarily have the best industrial design — especially with their “very tall chins.”

Could Google have done a phone like the Mi MIX? Barra defended his former colleagues by saying it would have been difficult for them to justify the risk of delivering a phone like this, as it wouldn’t sell in large quantities. The Pixel, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem. “I think they’re gonna sell a lot of Pixels. Every Android enthusiast is going to try what they can to get their hands on one.” Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Barra is still working for Google.

Save for the Mi Home’s strong resemblance to any Apple store, the Mi MIX could have almost peeled the copycat label off Xiaomi for good. Alas, people were quick to compare the Mi Note 2’s 3D curved body to Samsung’s S7 Edge and its discontinued Note 7. Barra was keen to point out that Xiaomi was actually the first company to release a smartphone with a 3D curved glass back — the original Mi Note. The same industrial design was applied to the smaller but more powerful Mi 5.

“I’m not worried about what people are going to say.”

Samsung then combined the 3D curved screen and the 3D curved glass back for the S7 Edge, to which Barra said, “Well, no one is going to give us credit for a curved back, right? They just care about the front.” It wasn’t until the Mi Note 2 when Xiaomi followed Samsung’s suit, courtesy of the flexible OLED display allegedly supplied by LG.

“In how many ways do you think you can design a curved display? Exactly one way,” Barra argued. “I don’t think that anyone can outright claim ownership of that as an invention because it’s kind of like a logical thing. They can claim that they were the first ones to do it, but certainly not the ones responsible for the most incredible idea in the world because it’s just a very straightforward engineering thing: As soon as you can come up with a flexible OLED display, you can design a screen like this.

“I’m not worried about what people are going to say, because we’re pretty confident in our design capability. I think [the Mi MIX unveiling] was a pretty clear demonstration of that.”

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