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5
Sep

Don’t even try to repair the Essential Phone


The Essential PH-1 (aka Essential Phone) is designed to withstand dents and scratches, but what happens if something breaks on the inside? You can forget about fixing it yourself, apparently. The DIY repair crew at iFixit has torn down Essential’s handset, and it’s obvious that you’re not meant to poke around inside. For one thing, iFixit had to freeze the phone (and break the LCD) just to get inside — and even then, it still had to get past a mid-frame shield. The USB-C port is soldered on to motherboard, and the abundance of adhesives makes it likely that you’ll break something if you somehow didn’t wreck the screen going in.

The verdict on the phone’s repairability doesn’t come as a total shock. Essential clearly intended it to be a minimalist, densely-packed design that doesn’t waste space. However, this serves as a reminder that extremely efficient designs carry a steep price: if something goes wrong, you have little choice but to send your hardware in for an expensive repair.

Source: iFixit

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5
Sep

Google Voice command may take frustration out of text messages


Google Voice is great for a number of things, in particular differentiating between the contacts worthy of your regular number and those you aren’t quite there with yet. But as has become apparent recently, it’s not great at sending text messages, especially from Android Auto, Android Wear and Assistant. Fortunately, help could soon be on the way in the form of a new voice command.

Multiple users have complained that Google Voice forgoes defaults to send text messages through their standard SMS app — and subsequently, from their carrier number. For example, set your Google Voice number as the default SMS number in Hangouts, then set Hangouts as your default SMS app, and when you say “OK Google, send a text”, it ignores everything and sends it as a regular message. This makes it difficult to keep track of where your messages actually are, plus it reveals your regular number to people who you might not want to have it, or to people who don’t have it and wonder who the message is from. Confusing.

‘OK Google, send a Google Voice message’ coming soon to GV, this will help

— Jan Jedrzejowicz (@JanJedrzejowicz) September 5, 2017

But after one irked user reached out to Google Voice product manager Jan Jedrzejowicz on Twitter, it seems help is on the horizon. In reply, Jedrzejowicz tweeted: “‘OK Google, send a Google Voice message’ coming soon to GV, this will help”. It’s not clear yet exactly how or when it will help (we’ve contacted Google for more information and will update this article accordingly), but users will be relieved to know the issue is on Google’s radar.

Via: Android Police

Source: Twitter

5
Sep

Three finally takes Ofcom to court over 5G spectrum auction


Three has followed through on its threat to take Ofcom to court. The mobile network operator, owned by Hutchison Whampoa, is unhappy with the planned rules for the next spectrum auction. It believes they’re too gentle and will allow BT, EE and Vodafone to increase their dominance of UK airwaves, stifling competition in the process. “We confirm that we have filed a judicial review before the UK courts in relation to the competition measures that will apply in the upcoming spectrum auction,” a Three spokesperson told Engadget. “It is absolutely vital that the regulator gets this auction right for the long-term benefit of all consumers.”

At present, BT and EE own 42 percent of mobile spectrum. Vodafone is close behind with 29 percent, while Three and O2 have 15 and 14 percent, respectively. Ofcom has 190 MHz of spectrum to auction; 40 MHz in a 2.3 GHz band, which could be used by networks immediately to improve 4G services, and 150 MHz of spectrum in a 3.4 GHz band, which will be pivotal for 5G connectivity in the future. The regulator has proposed a 255 MHz cap on all “immediately useable” spectrum, which would disqualify BT and EE from the 2.3 GHz band auction. So far, so good for Three.

The second proposal is a 340 MHz cap across all mobile spectrum, which includes the 3.4 GHz band and a future 7000MHz band auction. That would limit any one operator from holding more than 37 percent of the UK’s total spectrum. Three believes that’s too high. Responding to Ofcom’s announcement, Dave Dyson said: “By making decisions that increase the dominance of the largest operators, Ofcom is damaging competition, restricting choice and pushing prices up for the very consumers that it’s mean to protect.” He called Ofcom’s proposals “a kick in the teeth” and suggested the mobile market was “imbalanced and failing customers.”

Last month, Three hand-delivered a letter to Ofcom signalling its intent to mount a legal challenge. We don’t know if Ofcom responded or not, but regardless Three wasn’t content. So now it’s following through with a court case that threatens to delay an already long overdue spectrum auction. Three says it should be a short legal process, however, with a decision by early 2018. The impact should be minimal, the company argues, because the case is concerned with the 3.4 GHz band specifically, which won’t trickly down into consumer-facing 5G services for some time.

Three’s gripes are somewhat justified — it wants to be competitive with EE and BT, but was blocked from merging with O2, which would have created a combined spectrum allocation on par with Vodafone. The company bought UK Broadband, which owns Relish and a smidge of 3.4 GHz spectrum, but that won’t be enough to change its fourth-place position. Its only option is to outbid its opponents in the next auction — an outcome that seems unlikely, based on how feverishly it’s launched this court case.

Via: The Register

5
Sep

Scotland plans to make petrol and diesel cars obsolete by 2032


It’s become pretty clear that the petrol and diesel cars are enjoying their final days in the sun, what with both the English and French governments vowing to phase them out by 2040. Their future goal gives them more than two decades to support the major carmakers as they transition to greener fuel sources, while implementing the necessary infrastructure to support them. Not to be outdone, the Scottish government today announced that it plans to implement its own green project a lot, vowing to phase out all petrol and diesel car sales eight years before their neighbours.

In the latest “Programme for Government,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined ways to “seize the opportunities of the low carbon revolution” by promoting the use of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) and reducing the need for vehicles powered by fossil fuels. In order to achieve its target, the government will tackle the lack of electric charging points in rural, urban and domestic areas by investing in rapid charging units that mean drivers can travel further and spend less time off the road.

Scotland is also set to get its own “electric highway.” The country’s longest road, the A9, will be littered with electric charging points, “demonstrating that electric vehicles offer important advantages to motorists in rural, as well as urban, Scotland.”

The government’s other commitments are similar to those south of the border. The promotion of EVs to the public and private sectors is key, with the First Minister’s specific making specific references to transforming car and van fleets by the mid 2020s and bus fleets by the early 2030s. Money will be put aside to finance large scale pilots across the city that extol the virtues of investing in greener transport.

While its plans stand alone from its neighbour’s, Scotland’s greener future is directly linked to the successes and failures of the UK government. “We recognise that many of the key fiscal levers still rest with the UK Government and we note their 2040 commitment,” the SNP leader said. “We will ask them to play their part in meeting our ambitions by making full use of their reserved powers to help shape the market, including through vehicle standards and taxation.”

Come 2032, not all cars will be ultra-low emission, but Scotland hopes that the majority will either be powered purely by electricity or have a hybrid option. By investing in the country’s EV infrastructure, the government believes consumers will be confident enough to make their next car an electric model, allowing it to phase out petrol vehicles without having to specifically outlaw them.

Via: The Independent

Source: Scottish Government

5
Sep

YouTube improves stream performance and simplifies live chats


YouTube announced a handful of new features available now for its livestream function. The changes, including reduced latency and simpler chat moderation, are aimed at making YouTube Live a more functional and efficient feature for users.

First up, streamers now have the option to enable ultra-low latency, which will bring down streaming video latency to just a couple of seconds. That will make functions like answering questions during a livestream easier and more timely. YouTube has also made moderating chats easier and more efficient. You can now pause a chat feed by pressing “alt/option” and then hover over messages to take them out or approve them. Streamers can also opt in to a feature that will hold possibly inappropriate messages for review. The system, which can learn users’ preferences with greater use, will keep identified messages from posting before users can decide whether to approve them, hide them or report them.

YouTube is also introducing hidden users lists that can be shared between moderators and across both comments and live chat as well as the ability to stream directly to the main YouTube app with your iPhone or iPad from any app that supports Apple’s ReplayKit. All of the new features are launching today.

5
Sep

Uber has a new London rival in Taxify


In the US, Uber has an arch rival in Lyft. In the UK, however, Uber doesn’t have such an obvious competitor. Sure, there’s Mytaxi (formerly Hailo), Gett and Taxiapp for hailing black cabs, or Kabbee for booking minicabs, but no service that quite matches Uber blow for blow. That changes today with the London launch of Taxify — an Uber clone that already operates in numerous cities around the world, including many in Europe. But how exactly does Taxify hope to compete with Uber, which has over 40,000 drivers roaming the capital? By giving drivers a bigger cut of the fare, and passengers a cheaper ride.

During September, all Taxify trips are half price and surge pricing is suspended, but in the longer-term — when this introductory, promotional period ends — the ride-hailing service says it’ll be 10 percent cheaper than Uber. Drivers will apparently be better off with Taxify, though, since it only takes a 15 percent cut of fares, compared with Uber’s 25 percent.

That sounds all well and good, but having wheels on the ground to pick up passengers is the important part. Taxify says it had signed up 3,000 drivers in London before today’s launch, and any Uber driver can of course become a double-agent since they’re technically self-employed as far as the law is concerned (at least for now). But if Taxify were to grow in the same way Uber did, and London was to have more drivers than ever working across different platforms, it could increase the chances that there simply isn’t enough work to go around.

Via: The Telegraph

Source: Taxify

5
Sep

Nike can make a pair of custom shoes in under an hour


If you’ve been itching for a custom pair of kicks, then you’ll want to take note of Nike’s latest announcement. This month, the athletic company will open Nike Makers’ Experience at the Nike By You Studio in New York. Part of that experience is the ability to create your own custom Nike shoes. And you don’t even have to wait for them: From start to finish, the process takes less than 90 minutes.

While you can seemingly customize almost every aspect of the shoe, the silhouette is one area where you’re pretty locked in. The final product will be based on the Nike Presto X, which was specifically designed for Nike Makers. You can either choose the regular version of the shoe or a slip-on.

After that comes the real customization options: color, patterns, text and more. For example, if you’re celebrating a special occasion, you can input text about it (Happy Birthday! or something similar) and the Nike Makers’ Experience will create a custom pattern for you. While the breadth and depth of the customization options aren’t clear, the possibilities seem to be endless.

Once you have chosen your final design, it will take less than an hour for your Nike Makers’ Experience kicks to be ready: not too shabby at all for a custom shoe. Before you go running off to the studio, though, you should know that (at least for now) this is an invite-only gig for Nike friends and family as well as a few Nike+ members. Let’s hope they open it up to a wider audience soon.

Source: Nike

5
Sep

Truly wireless earbuds are coming for your headphones


One of the dominant trends of IFA 2017 was the sheer volume of companies, both known and not-so known, that launched Bluetooth earbuds. The “truly wireless” revolution that was kickstarted by Bragi and embraced by Samsung and Apple is now a bandwagon that everyone is jumping on.

A recent Wirecutter roundup listed more than 20 companies making truly wireless earbuds, and we can expect that number to increase exponentially soon. At the show we took a closer look at offerings from mid-lower-end players like Philips and higher-end ones like B&O Play.

Speaking with representatives at the show, it’s clear that the advent of the Bragi, back in 2014, sparked a flurry of internal discussions at many audio companies. But many didn’t begin working on their own product until the launch of AirPods and the iPhone 7, which did away with the headphone port.

The slow (and contentious) demise of the smartphone’s headphone jack is prompting a wave of interest in wireless audio. And that, as consumers are gently encouraged to ditch the wire connecting them to their phones, they might as well abandon the ones that you’ll find in traditional Bluetooth headphones.

The numbers back it up, too, analysts NPD believe that around 900,000 pairs of wireless earbuds have been sold in the US since the start of the year. Of that figure, however, it’s thought that 85 percent of them were sold by Apple, with the rest fighting for the remaining 15 percent.

One of the smartest things that Bragi did was to embrace what could have been the fatal flaws in its design. These earbuds are super small, with limited battery space and it’s far, far too easy to lose them — all points that would dissuade plenty of wary customers from purchasing them. But by offering a charging case, supplied alongside the earbuds, Bragi solved both problems by forcing users to develop a habit of only ever moving their earbuds from their skulls to the dock.

SONY DSC

The case is just as important as the earbuds, which is why B&O made a big deal of making theirs look like a scaled-down sunglass case. You could easily plonk it down on the table in a restaurant and no-one would bat an eyelid.

There’s also the issue of sound quality, which requires some elegant audio engineering to get around how cramped these devices are. By and large, most of them that we tried at the show didn’t sound too bad, although it’s clear that — for now — they’ll never be as expressive as a pair of larger cans.

But being good enough, especially if users are only listening to low-resolution Spotify streams while they navigate a crowded subway station or office, will probably suffice. And the convenience of wire-free listening is probably enough to allay concerns from all but the snootiest audio snob.

What’s likely, however, is that as more companies build their own entrants to the market, that we’ll see prices crater. And since there still seems to be some room for innovation, expect to see plenty of nuanced takes on the form — and yeah, a million and one copycats as well.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

5
Sep

Google’s new Street View cameras help AI map the real world


Google’s Street View cameras haven’t changed significantly in 8 years, and that’s a problem when the technology world most certainly has. How is the company supposed to fulfill its AI ambitions with 2009-era hardware? Thankfully, it won’t have to. Google has revealed to Wired that it’s implementing a brand new camera design that should not only produce higher quality Street View imagery, but will prove crucial to Google’s use of AI to index real-world locations.

The new setup is actually simpler (there are just two cameras instead of the array from before), but takes sharper “HD” photos that make it easier for Google’s image recognition algorithms to single out individual buildings and street signs. This should let Street View not only give you a more accurate result when you plug in an address, but could help answer complex or less-than-specific questions. Want to know what’s in the red building next to the convenience store on the corner? Google might soon answer that without needing exact addresses or names. It might even glean store hours from signs.

The upgraded cameras first entered service in August, but it’ll likely take a long while before most of the Street View imagery you see comes from those cameras. However, it’s reasonable to say that Google would like to see improved data sooner than later. It’ll improve results in Maps, of course, but it could also help with VR (even if just through sharper imagery) and Waymo’s self-driving car platform. You could give your car vague directions and still expect to reach the right destination, for instance. However Google uses the Street View upgrade, you’ll see the effects for years to come.

Via: The Verge

Source: Wired

5
Sep

Sports brands are giving wearables another shot at success


Wearables are only as good as the apps they’re compatible with. And companies making health-focused products, like smartwatches, fitness bands and even hybrids of these two, are starting to realize that. But in order to have applications that lure people to your platform, whether you’re Apple, Samsung or Fitbit, often it’s better if you have a hand in developing them. That’s why, especially at IFA 2017, many tech firms are teaming up with brands from different industries to add a new element of usefulness to their wearables. In some cases, that often includes special-edition products created between two companies.

Just days before the tradeshow here in Berlin began, Fitbit introduced its highly anticipated Ionic smartwatch, featuring a 1.42-inch LCD touchscreen, a new wearable operating system called FitbitOS and the ability to make contactless payments. While those specs are enough to get Fitbit fans excited, the start of a partnership with sportswear giant Adidas was what stood out most. The multi-year deal will see Adidas make an athlete-focused version of the Fitbit Ionic in 2018, which is expected to launch with exclusive content including personal training programs.

This fresh partnership is interesting for many reasons, the first being that up until a couple of years ago, Adidas was making its own fitness wearables designed to compete with Fitbit’s own. With the Fit Smart, launched in 2015, Adidas created a wrist-worn wearable that could measure calories burned, heart rate, running distance covered, pace and count your steps. Adidas also bought Runtastic in 2015 and, earlier this year, said it would be shutting down its aging fitness platform MiCoach and consolidate it with its new acquisition.

Runtastic’s suite of apps, which range from running to nutrition, have been compatible with Fitbit’s products for years, and it’ll be interesting to see if Adidas turns any of those into something exclusive for Ionic users.

At SXSW 2017, Adidas’ Head of Digital Sports Stacey Burr told Engadet that her team was working with third-parties on “personalized” experiences. “It’s not just about, ‘Can we develop a new piece of hardware that is a standalone Adidas ecosystem,’” Burr said back then. “You’ll be seeing that we’ll be opening up a bunch of our content and know-how to other third party devices, and [making] it more of an open platform scenario so that we can extend onto other people’s devices as well.”

As it turns out, we now know one of those was Fitbit. The move shouldn’t come as a surprise though, since its biggest rival, Nike, has been on a similar route with Apple since the early days of the iPod. Most recently, Apple released a Nike+ edition of its Watch Series 2, which comes with exclusive bands and two special watch faces. Adidas declined to comment on this story. A company spokesperson said that it was too early to discuss its Fitbit device, since it won’t be out until next year.

samsungledeifa.jpeg

Meanwhile, Samsung took to IFA 2017 to reveal a partnership with Speedo. The collaboration between the South Korean tech titan and the swimwear maker consists of an app for the new Gear Fit Pro 2 and and Gear Sport. With the Speedo application, which will be available exclusively for these new devices, users can track their swimming laps and monitor the time each takes to complete. In addition to that, the app measures your burned calories and distance traveled. Naturally, it will communicate with Samsung’s native S Health app, allowing you to easily view your overall fitness data there as well.

Of course, the idea is that swimmers who own a Fit Pro 2 or Sport will want to rely heavily on the Speedo app to keep track of their stats. Not only that, but Samsung obviously hopes that those who love the Speedo brand will feel enticed by its new products. Then there’s the deal Samsung inked with Spotify, which will see the music-streaming service launch its first wearable app on the Gear Fit Pro 2 and Gear Fit. That’s a major accomplishment for Samsung, considering Spotify still hasn’t officially arrived on the Apple Watch, arguably the most popular smartwatch on the market right now.

These kind of partnerships aren’t just happening in the wearable space. The smartphone world has gadgets like Huawei’s P10, created in tandem with Leica. For Huawei, this means having a camera powered by an iconic brand such as Leica on one of its phones, while Leica itself benefits from getting more exposure and exploring an unfamiliar market. The same goes for Fitbit and Adidas, Samsung and Speedo or Nike and Apple. If they can win over and share each other’s consumers, they all come out on top. That’s magnified further when these companies work on pacts that may be exclusive, even if they happen to be temporary.

Ultimately, as saturated as the wearables market is, anything you can do to make your products stand out from the rest of the pack can only be seen as a positive. And if you’re a struggling brand like Fitbit, making a special edition of your flagship product with one of the world’s most famous brands is, at the very least, a safe bet.

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