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HTC has already cut the disappointing U Ultra’s price

HTC isn’t having the greatest time between its financial struggles, departing leaders and scaled-back plans, and that’s manifesting in its phone prices. The company is running a week-long sale on the U Ultra that cuts the handset’s unlocked price by 20 percent, from $749 to $599. That’s a good deal if you like HTC’s take on a secondary display (we had a decidedly mixed opinion), but it’s also a steep drop for a phone that has only been around for a few weeks.

The cut isn’t entirely surprising. HTC is facing the usual spring crop of flagship phone rivals, like the LG G6 and Galaxy S8, and it doesn’t yet have a direct equivalent. The U Ultra is its best offering for now, and its sales were already limited by the lack of US carrier deals — that’s only getting worse with even flashier alternatives on the market. Again, this is a solid discount if you like what the U Ultra offers. Just know that the move likely stems from a sense of urgency, not just the usual bids to clear stock.

Via: HTC USA (Twitter)

Source: HTC


Instagram goes after Pinterest with saved post collections

Now that Instagram has overtaken Snapchat by emulating its features, the service is taking aim at another social networking heavyweight: Pinterest. Instagram is rolling out an update to its Android and iOS apps that introduces saved post collections. If you want ideas for your next vacation, you don’t have to sift through your entire save history to find memorable travel shots. The feature lets you both add posts directly to new collections and organize those you’ve already preserved.

The addition isn’t going to sway hardcore Pinterest fans, since that service is clearly focused around collecting — it’s really an incidental bonus with Instagram. However, it might scoop up casual users who only visit Pinterest for the occasional inspiration. Why bother if you can get enough ideas from your Instagram feed? And of course, this could be crucial to Instagram’s plans for ads and shopping. If you can create your ideal outfit by saving posts into collections, you might be more likely to buy that outfit.

Source: Instagram Blog, App Store, Google Play


Verizon’s Android Wear 2.0 watch goes on sale May 11th

Verizon’s Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch broke from cover back in February with an scheduled launch for March. Well, that didn’t happen. Today, the wireless carrier announced that its Wear24 device would go on sale both in stores and online May 11th. If you’ll recall, the wearable is priced at $300 with a 2-year activation plus $5 month to tack one on to your data plan. Don’t want to be locked in for 24 months? You can pay an extra $50 to buy a Wear24 without the extra paperwork.

The Wear24 features 4G LTE connectivity so you can do a number of things like take calls, send texts and stream music without having your phone by your side. With the latest version of Android Wear, Google Assistant is on your wrist to help with a range of tasks. The Wear24 packs in a 1.39-inch AMOLED display with 290 PPI resolution. It also has a 450mAh battery that allows for wireless charging and the device is IP67-rated for water resistance. That designation means you can dunk the smartwatch in up to 3.3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes before you’ll need to worry about doing major damage.

Google has had its hands full with Android Wear 2.0. After delaying the release from last fall to early 2017, a bug pushed the update back even further for older watches. While a number of existing models have received the update, there are a lot of wearables that have yet to receive all the new features. Unfortunately, that makes splurging for a new device that already runs the software a lot more attractive.

Source: Verizon


Russia’s main search engine defeats Google in antitrust complaint (update)

A little over two years ago, Russia’s largest search provider, Yandex, filed a complaint against Google for what it believed were anti-competitive practices. Now, Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service has given credence to Yandex’s claims and “issued a prescription to Google in order to require the company to remove anti-competitive restrictions from its agreements with manufacturers,” according to a press release.

That means Google won’t be able to pre-install apps on phones, control the default search engine or place its own apps on device home screens in the region.

Furthermore: “Google will be committed to securing the rights of the third parties to include their search engines in the choice window.” In a “few months,” Google will have a home-screen search widget that will offer up any manner of search providers (yep, including Yandex) assuming they sign a commercial agreement for their inclusion in the query box.

For its part, the FAS says that this is a good move to ensure everyone is on the same footing in terms of competition for app placement and web searches.

“The settlement will have a positive effect on the market as a whole,” FAS head Igor Artemiev said.

Yandex, as you might expect, is pretty pleased about the outcome as well. Its CEO Arkady Volozh (pictured above) penned a blog post explaining what the move means for his company. Short version: he believes this will make the Android platform truly open, which will in turn foster innovation and be better for everyone. “With choice, the possibilities are endless,” he said.

With a potential market of over 140 million, and at least a few other antitrust cases in the balance, Google will likely want to contest the decision. We’ve reached out to the search giant for comment on the ruling, and will update this article should more information arrive.

Update: A Google spokesperson reached out with the following response:

“We are happy to have reached a commercial agreement with Yandex and a settlement with Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), resolving the competition case over the distribution of Google apps on Android.”

Source: Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation, Yandex


Tesla cuts the price on its entry-level Model S by $7,500

Just because Tesla is ditching the Model S 60 and 60D doesn’t mean that you’ll be paying dramatically more to own the luxury electric sedan. Tesla has cut the price on its current entry-level models, the 75 and 75D, by $7,500. It’s still $1,500 more expensive than the outgoing model at $69,500, but not so much so that you might balk if you were seriously considering the 60 before. It’s certainly a better value if you were already looking at a 75 for the extra range. On top of that, Tesla is sweetening the pot by making key features standard.

All Model S variants now come with the glass roof (previously a $1,500 option) and an automatic rear power liftgate. The 90D has also received a price cut to $87,500, we’d add. And if you bought an upgradeable 60 or 70 car, the bump to a 75kWh battery capacity is cheaper. Unlocking the full battery on the Model S 60 now costs ‘just’ $2,000 versus the previously steep $9,000, while Model S 70 owners just have to spend $500 instead of $3,500.

There are some gotchas in the lineup, however. The price of the 100D and P100D is going up by a few thousand dollars on April 24th to $97,500 and $140,000 respectively (Model X owners are seeing similar price hikes to $99,500 and $145,000). Also, certain upgrades are now off-limits on some models. You can’t get smart air suspension on the 75 and 75D, for example, while you have to go with a 100 or 100D to get the high amperage charger.

Why all the tweaks? Tesla is likely harmonizing its EV range so that there are clear incentives for people to step up to the Model S instead of ‘settling’ for the Model 3, whose battery capacity will stop at the 75kWh where the Model S starts. The 100 and 100D price hikes are merely a way of balancing things out — Tesla gets to maintain its average selling prices by asking for more from those customers that can most likely afford to pay a bit more. We wouldn’t count on these prices lasting forever, but it’s easy to see them sticking around through the Model 3 launch later this year.

Via: Electrek, TechCrunch

Source: Tesla


NYC taxi commission wants Uber to add in-app tipping

Uber has long had a complicated relationship with tips. As the company said last year, tipping is not “expected or required” when you take an Uber, and the app still does not provide an option to do so. That might change in New York City before long, though. Today, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) announced it was supporting a petition from the Independent Driver’s Guild that would require ride-hailing apps like Uber to include a tipping feature.

That petition received more than 11,000 signatures; the Independent Driver’s Guild estimated that including a tipping button would lead to a total of $300 million addition income per year for drivers. The TLC already requires that taxi cab payment screens, but it hasn’t made the same requirement for ride-hailing apps just yet. And while the support of the TLC is important, this is far from a done deal — but it’s hard to see the downside for anyone aside from Uber, which has long claimed that its pricing takes gratuities into account.

While Uber hasn’t yet added a tipping button to its app, Lyft has had one for a while now; it would already be in compliance with the proposed rule should it pass. Uber has a history of pulling out of locations when rules change that aren’t in its favor, but it’s hard to imagine the company leaving NYC.


Raise the horns for Anthrax and Killswitch Engage in VR tonight

There really isn’t anything like being on the floor during a heavy metal show. The smell of sweat, spilled beer and, ahem, greener substances combine to form one of the more unique aromas in live music. But as enticing as that may be, sometimes you just can’t make it to a concert for one reason or another. If you’re a fan of thrash, Live Nation and NextVR have something right up your alley planned for 9pm Eastern tonight: an interactive broadcast of Anthrax and Killswitch Engage’s show from the House of Blues in Texas.

“The concert will be broadcast from multiple vantage points including the front row and on-stage to provide unprecedented access for fans,” NextVR said in a statement. Finally, you’ll be able to see the George Hamilton of metal (Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna) and guitarist Scott Ian’s lengthy beard up-close-and-personal. All that and you won’t have to get kicked in the head by a passing crowdsurfer or spend an evening pressed up against the rail separating fans from the stage.

Better yet? Beer from your fridge will be cheaper than the venue’s and you won’t have to worry about getting bounced for smoking. The free broadcast is even sweeter when you can pull your Daydream View or Gear VR headset off after Anthrax leaves the stage and not feel obligated to stick around for Killswitch because you dropped cash on a ticket. If there’s a downside, however, it’s that regardless of how cool VR is, you won’t be able to get caught in a mosh tonight.

Via: Blabbermouth

Source: NextVR


Instagram Introduces New Organizational Tool for Saved Posts Called ‘Collections’

Four months after giving its users the ability to save posts to view them later, Instagram today announced a new update that will allow for more organization within saved posts. Called “Collections,” users on iOS and Android can now place any Instagram post they’ve saved into specific categories, so it’s even easier to revisit them later.

Now when users save a post using the bookmark icon, they can choose to add it to one of their own previously made collections, or create a new one. To get to saved posts and collections, visit your own profile tab and then tap the bookmark icon. Saved posts and collections are private, and can only be viewed by the person who has saved them.

According to Instagram, 46 percent of its users have saved at least one post since December. The company said that the best ideas for creating saved posts and collections include: planning a vacation, keeping a visual memory of your favorite Instagrammer’s artwork, or having a funny animal video always at the ready.

Instagram is available on the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Instagram
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iPhone 8 Without Touch ID Doubtfully Called One ‘Likely Option’ if Apple Can’t Place It Under Display

Apple may be forced to eliminate Touch ID from the tentatively named “iPhone 8” altogether if it cannot resolve issues with integrating the fingerprint sensor underneath the smartphone’s display within the next month or so, according to Andy Hargreaves, equity research analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.

“iPhone X” concept by designer Gabor Balogh
Hargreaves isn’t the first analyst to think Apple could do away with Touch ID, but the move seems unlikely even as a last-ditch scenario. Touch ID is at the core of Apple Pay, and it appears much more likely that 3D facial or iris recognition would complement rather than replace fingerprint sensing.

A more likely option fielded by Hargreaves is that Apple could delay “iPhone 8” production until its under-display fingerprint sensor solution is ready.

An excerpt from his research note obtained by MacRumors:

Likely options for Apple include a delay of production or elimination of fingerprint sensing on the OLED iPhone. We believe Apple continues to work on solving its optical fingerprint issues. If it’s able to solve the problems in the next month or so, it would likely place volume orders at that point. This would likely lead to a delay of the OLED iPhone launch, but we would not expect it to meaningfully affect volume for the cycle. If it’s not able to fix the problems in that time frame, Apple may be forced to eliminate fingerprint sensing from the OLED iPhone altogether.

At this point, Hargreaves does not believe Apple’s optical fingerprint module provider has received firm orders for production, which to him suggests that Apple does not have functionality of the optical fingerprint sensor ready. Additionally, he said Apple has evaluated and passed on Synaptics’ optical fingerprint solution.

Last week, Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri said Apple is facing yield issues with its AuthenTec-based under-display fingerprint sensor solution. He too speculated that Apple could remove Touch ID, but he believes it’s more likely that Apple will put Touch ID on the back of the iPhone or delay production.

If Touch ID were to be removed, Hargreaves said that would place significant pressure on unproven 3D sensing to replace the verification functionality that fingerprints currently provide. However, he said Apple’s 3D sensing production appears on track, and could be a viable alternative to fingerprints.

Suppliers suggest that the solution is both fast and highly reliable, even in low-light scenarios or from odd angles. If this proves accurate, reliance solely on 3D sensing for biometric login and verification could be a viable and innovative replacement for the highly popular fingerprint sensor.

In February, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the “iPhone 8” will feature a “revolutionary” front-facing camera system with infrared for fully-featured 3D sensing capabilities. The advancements will enable the camera to determine the location and depth of objects placed in front of it.

Pacific Crest Securities maintains a $150 price target for AAPL with an overweight rating.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)
Tag: Touch ID
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Apple Seeds Third Beta of tvOS 10.2.1 to Developers

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming tvOS 10.2.1 update to developers for testing purposes, one week after seeding the second 10.2.1 beta and three weeks after releasing tvOS 10.2, an update that included improve scrolling and iPad support for the Apple TV Remote app.

The tvOS 10.2.1 beta is designed for the fourth-generation Apple TV. It can be downloaded by connecting the Apple TV to a computer with a USB-C cable and installing the beta software from a registered developer account using iTunes.

Because of the installation requirements, tvOS betas are limited to developers. tvOS 10.2.1 will not be available to the public until the final version of the software launches.

Apple does not typically provide detailed beta release notes, so we don’t yet know what’s included in tvOS 10.2.1. It’s likely to focus primarily on bug fixes, security enhancements, and performance improvements, so we may not know what’s new until the software sees an official release.

No notable changes were found in the first two tvOS 10.2.1 betas, but should anything new popup in the third beta, we’ll update this post.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Don’t Buy)
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