Five companies, other than Shazam, that Apple should acquire
It’s no secret Apple purchases small companies with promising technology. With nearly 100 acquisitions thus far, Apple uses these companies to create better user experiences for both iOS and Mac. With Apple’s recent purchase of Shazam, there’s lot of speculation about the next company in Apple’s sights. Here are the top five companies we believe could drastically improve user experience on Apple devices.
Apple Maps has been the butt of many jokes since its release. When it first replaced Google Maps way back in 2012, it wasn’t uncommon to see Apple Maps recommending a quick detour through a lake or off the side of a cliff to get to your destination. Even though the app has improved dramatically since iOS 6, it’s still no match for Google Maps.
So what could Apple do to give Apple Maps more value? Acquiring Transit would be a great start. Transit provides real-time updates for public transit systems across the country. While you may be saying “Apple Maps does the same thing” (depending on where you live), the truth is that Transit does it a lot better.
Let’s use the MTA, New York City’s public transit system, as an example. Since it’s one of the only transit systems in the world that runs 24 hours a day, maintenance is often performed on nights and weekends. Each week, the MTA publishes a report called “The Weekender” to alert users of station closures and detours. Even though your train may not be running, Apple still recommends an out of service train and simply adds an alert that the train is not running. Transit, on the other hand, uses crowd sourcing (and a guy named Leo) to update its app to reflect the closures and offer detours.
While Apple Maps looks nice, that’s where the appeal ends. We would love to see Apple integrate data from Transit into future releases of iOS and OS X to create a more robust mapping app that competes with Google Maps.
At first glance, Dish seems like an odd target for Apple. Known primarily for providing satellite television for millions of Americans, Dish would be a huge acquisition for the world’s largest tech company. Valued at over $30 billion dollars, it would also be the largest acquisition ever for Apple. However, Dish would give Apple an advantage on two fronts.
It’s no secret that Apple has attempted to launch live television service for the last several years. In 2015, The Wall Street Journal announced that Apple would launch a live TV service, offering a “slimmed down bundle of TV networks.” Licensing issues appear to have all but stopped the process.
Using Sling TV, Dish Network’s live streaming TV service, to catapult its own Apple branded product would not only allow the company to quickly get the service up and running, but would position it as one of the top players in the market. With a current subscriber base of more than 13 million, Dish would allow Apple to start its service with a consistent revenue stream that would allow it to further develop its lineup for multiple devices and platforms. Users would be able to easily update their channels in the App Store using Face ID or Touch ID and be able to transfer their services easily using Apple TV.
While Dish would be an attractive acquisition target for its live TV service alone, it has another trick up its sleeve. Over the past decade, Dish has aggressively purchased wireless spectrum from the FCC. A significant portion of this spectrum could be used to create an IoT network, something Dish is exploring. Apple could leverage this spectrum to make it a leader in connected home technology, offering a secure, private network that works with HomePod and other devices.
Hear us out on this one. Pinterest would be an excellent acquisition target for Apple, not just for its social media platform, but for its fledgling AI technology.
It’s long been rumored that Apple is interested in creating a social media network. Earlier this year, Apple Insider reported that Apple may be building an ad-free premium social network. Acquiring Pinterest’s platform of more than 150 million, largely active millennial users, would allow the company to kick its plans into high gear at a relatively low entry cost (last year Motley Fool estimated Pinterest was worth approximately $11 billion dollars).
Apple already uses artificial intelligence and machine learning throughout iOS, but Google made a significant leap in computer vision and object recognition this year when it introduced Google Lens. Google Lens combines the power of AI with your smartphone camera to identify objects and provide contextual recommendations and actions based upon the object.
Right now, Apple has no comparable feature. Pinterest Lens could allow Apple to quickly create a similar experience for iPhone users, while pairing it with a social media platform. Pinterest Lens works much like Google Lens but provides more personalized recommendations based on your own pins and likes. Apple could easily bake this technology into future versions of iOS and OS X, not only creating a Google Lens-like feature, but also integrating it into Photos and other apps to allow easy cataloging and sharing on its social media platform.
Yelp seems like a somewhat obvious acquisition target for Apple. Its reviews are featured in Apple Maps and it’s already integrated into the iMessage app drawer. Developing and refining these features into future version of iOS and OS X, however, could allow users to use this information in a variety of different ways across multiple apps.
Yelp can be a little annoying. On mobile, you need to download the app and create a login to get the most out of it. For the casual user, it seems like a lot of trouble. If Apple purchased Yelp, the features could be baked into iOS and OS X and allow users to link reviews to their iCloud accounts. The service could also be further built into iMessage and Calendar to to provide location-based suggestions when texting or scheduling appointments. Users could also pin reviewed locations and corresponding photos to the Apple Maps app.
The Weather app is one that doesn’t get a lot of attention. The design hasn’t changed much over the years, and it gathers information from The Weather Channel. While it gets the job done, it’s pretty basic and can sometimes be not very accurate.
Dark Sky is one of the most popular weather apps in the App Store. While no one at Dark Sky is a meteorologist, they manage to provide extremely accurate, up-to-the-minute forecasts. How do they do it? Well, the company uses machine learning and neural nets to discern good data from NOAA and other weather services from noise.
Both elegant and informative, Dark Sky seems like the perfect target for Apple. The app could easily be rebranded for iOS 12. It could also provide added value to other Mac and iOS services. For example, Apple Maps could automatically recommend routes with less walking and fewer transfers for commuters during inclement weather.
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Explosive claims of illegal spying and hacking rock the Uber vs. Waymo trial
The newest twist in the Uber vs. Waymo trial over allegedly stolen self-driving technology sounds like something out of a Tom Clancy novel. A letter from a former Uber employee has been made public for the first time, claiming that some of the practices that Uber engaged in included covert hacking, illegal surveillance, and bribery of foreign officials.
Known as the “Jacobs letter,” it was written by former Uber security team member Richard Jacobs and sent to Uber executives last May. The trial was delayed in November when this new document came to light, after it was forwarded to Judge William Alsup by a US attorney also investigating Uber for a different matter. The judge blasted Uber’s lawyers in court, and questioned whether they had something to hide.
Although several of these allegations have been previously raised in the trial, the full document was released last week. Many details are redacted, but you can read the full 37-page document here.
“While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in this letter — and, importantly, any related to Waymo — our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology,” said an Uber spokesman in a statement, according to Buzzfeed.
The letter claims that Uber “fraudulently impersonates riders and drivers on competitor platforms, hacks into competitor networks, and conducts unlawful wiretapping.” They used these tactics to evaluate vulnerabilities in their competitors’ security, using anonymous servers to “make millions of data calls against competitor and government servers without causing a signature that would alert competitors to the theft.”
The letter goes on to implicate former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and details some of the procedures used to illegally wiretap meeting of their competitors’ executives. “In at least one instance, the LAT operatives deployed against these targets were able to record and observe private conversations among the executives including their real time reactions to a press story that Uber would receive $3.4 billion dollars in funding from the Saudi government. Importantly, these collection tactics were tasked directly by Sullivan on behalf of Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick. Upon information and belief, these two Uber executives, along with other members of Uber’s executive team, received live intelligence updates (including photographs and video) from Gicinto while they were present in the ‘War Room.’”
For its part, Uber says that Jacobs was attempting to extort money from the company with his letter, according to CNET. He received at least $4.5 million from Uber in a settlement reached in August. “From where I sat, my team acted ethically, with integrity and in the best interests of our drivers and riders,” former chief security officer Joe Sullivan told CNET.
If the court finds that Uber stole the files, as alleged in the lawsuit, it may be forced to pay $2 billion to Waymo and halt its autonomous-vehicle program.
- Inside the hack Uber didn’t want 57 million users to know about
- Uber’s $10 billion investment offer from SoftBank gets the green light
- Uber could be out of London soon after losing its license there
- Horseless carriages are now driverless, thanks to Waymo’s taxi service
- Uber charts a new course in Asia: Working with taxis and governments
Norway becomes first country to end support for FM radio in national broadcasts
Norway has officially become the first country to cease the use of FM radio for its national broadcasts, The Guardian reports. The switch, when began in January, was done in order to provide better sound quality and reduce the costs associated with radio broadcasts. Officials have said that the DAB (digital audio broadcasting) system costs about an eigth as much as traditional FM broadcasts.
Norway introduced its first digital radio station in 1995, and has 31 national radio stations on the DAB. The technology, as a whole, is popular in Europe, with at least 40 other countries (such as the U.K.) making use of the technology to some extent.
Despite the benefits of moving to DAB, the switch has been met with some criticism due to technical problems and complaints that there isn’t enough DAB coverage across the country. Consumers have also raised concerns about the cost of buying new receivers, which usually run between $120 and $235. Digitalradio Norge, a part of Norway’s public and commercial radio, noted that only 49 percent of commuters are able to listen to DAB in their cars.
An oft-cited study also noted that the number of Norwegians who listen to the radio on a daily basis has declined by about 10 percent within a year. The national public broadcaster NRK has seen an even steeper decline, with its audiences falling by about 21 percent.
Those numbers may not tell the whole story, though. Digitalradio Norge reports that Norwegians have bought about 620,000 DAB radios since mid-September. The organization also notes that, upon the switch to DAB, most stations did, in fact, see a decline in their audience numbers. However, those numbers tended to see a rebound as more people switched to DAB-compatible devices.
“It’s a big change and we have to give listeners time to adapt to digital radio,” Digitalradio Norge’s Ole Jørgen Torvmark said. “After each shutdown in a region, we noticed that the audience first dropped but then rose again.”
The switch to DAB only applies to national radio stations. Most of Norway’s local media outlets still broadcast using FM for the time being.
Norway may have been the first country to make this switch, but it won’t be the last. Several European countries, including the U.K., Denmark, and Switzerland are expected to transition to DAB within the next few years. Support for digital radio has also been on the rise in the U.S. since 2005, though FM radio remains popular in many parts of the country.
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Relax and enjoy your weekend comments thread
The place to chat about stuff with friendly folks.
The weekend comments are back!
I’ve been out of commission on and off for the past few weeks getting some work done on my back, and have neglected the comments thread posts. Funny, saying “getting work done” on a body part makes it sound like an oil change. I could probably use one of those, too. It’s no fun getting old. But I digress.
The year is coming to a close, and as usual, it was filled with ups and downs. Next year will be, too. Feelings of excitement and disappointment are part of what makes us human, and it’s good to experience both on a regular basis to stay grounded. As long as there is enough of the good to offset the bad you can live a perfectly normal and satisfying life even when it seems like everything around you is going to hell in a handbasket. Having everything go your way all the time wouldn’t be any fun!
I’m looking forward to the holidays with my family, and I promise I won’t be thinking about any of the things that bring me down while I’m doing it. I wish the same for all of you! And yes, these are the things a person thinks about when they lay around in bed for a week taking pain medication. Part of those ups and downs.
Chat it up, guys and gals. Chill for the weekend with me.
Netflix may run Watergate series developed by George Clooney
Netflix’s ability to reel in big-name stars may have just secured a very topical political drama. Sources for Hollywood Reporter and Variety have learned that George Clooney and Bridge of Spies writer Matt Charman are working on Watergate, an eight-episode miniseries for Netflix about the presidential scandal. It’s unclear whether or not Clooney would star in the show (he’s known to be an executive producer), but Variety hears he might direct some episodes provided Netflix goes forward. Netflix itself has declined to comment.
To be clear, Clooney is hedging his bets. He’s producing another miniseries, an adaptation of Catch-22, that’s being produced by Paramount Television (i.e. Viacom) and Anonymous Content. However, it’s notable that he’s making a series for Netflix. It’s not just that the internet video giant now has enough power to attract A-list talent — it’s that people like Clooney now see streaming services as viable (and potentially ideal) places for shows that previously had to be shoehorned into conventional TV schedules to get a lot of exposure.
Source: Hollywood Reporter, Variety
Firefox faces backlash for auto-installing ‘Mr. Robot’ add-on
A curious add-on called “Looking Glass” started popping up on Firefox for a number of users this past week — even if they didn’t give the browser permission to install it. Due to its nebulous nature and creepy description that only said “MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT FROM YOURS,” people took to social networks to ask other users and air their concerns. Turns out Looking Glass isn’t spamware, malware or any of the sort: it’s a promotional campaign for Mr. Robot, a TV series about the life of a cybersecurity-engineer-slash-hacker.
A screenshot of Looking Glass version 1.0.3 captured by TechCrunch shows that the extension’s profile barely had anything in it. Version 1.0.4, which one of Engadget’s editors found in his browser, was more forthcoming and admitted that it’s a collaboration between Mr. Robot and Mozilla.
Based on the details unearthed by affected users, the add-on was developed by Mozilla’s Shield Studies program, a platform available on all Firefox channels that gives you a way to test features before they’re released. Some Shield studies ask for your permission to opt in, others automatically make their way to your browser and require you to actively opt out. Problem is, some weren’t even aware that they’re part of the Shield program, so they had no idea where the extension could’ve come from.
Mozilla is now facing backlash for installing the add-on without people’s consent, especially since it always stresses how important users’ privacy is to the organization. In fact, in the page explaining what Looking Glass is, Mozilla wrote:
“The Mr. Robot series centers around the theme of online privacy and security. One of the 10 guiding principles of Mozilla’s mission is that individuals’ security and privacy on the internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional. The more people know about what information they are sharing online, the more they can protect their privacy.”
Despite the troubling way the extension was installed, Mozilla said it doesn’t do anything to your system until you opt into the Alternate Reality Game. That’s the immersive experience the organization designed to take fans into the Mr. Robot universe. Those who couldn’t care less about the show can kill the extension by typing about:addons in their address bar and removing Looking Glass.
Google kills augmented reality project Tango to focus on ARCore
Google has chosen to end support for its Tango augmented reality (AR) project Tango, deciding to focus on the development of ARCore instead. Support for Tango will come to an end on March 31, 2018.
We’re turning down support for Tango on March 1, 2018. Thank you to our incredible community of developers who made such progress with Tango over the last three years. We look forward to continuing the journey with you on ARCore. https://t.co/aYiSUkgyie
— Tango (@projecttango) December 15, 2017
The move comes mere months after Google increased support for ARCore, its AR development platform that’s allowed for cool AR stickers on the Pixel 2 camera, among other fun apps for Android phones. It’s still in its infancy, but Google clearly sees ARCore as a more viable platform than Tango.
Speculation is rife that Google’s hand was forced by the emergence of Apple’s ARKit, which brought augmented reality to iOS11 apps. Despite launching way back in 2014, Tango never really got off the ground, thanks to restrictions that forced developers into very high-end equipment. Perhaps because of those restraints, Tango AR has only ever really been seen on two devices: the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the more recent Asus ZenFone AR.
What made Project Tango so special? Much like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Tango used a smartphone’s camera to map out a 3D approximation of an area to create a game world based around your real confines. Conventional AR, such as that seen in Pokemon Go, simply transposes images over the phone camera.
Tango was always an ambitious project, with big plans for the medical world or as an interactive tour guide in museums. Recently, HoloLens and Tango were used to create a life-like tank experience for guests of the World of Tanks TankFest 2017 event.
Unfortunately for those few who did adopt Tango, it seems the extreme high-end nature of the platform was its stumbling block. Hopefully Google will look to import much of what made Tango great into ARCore.
“Our goal with Tango was really to prove out the core technology and show the world that it’s possible,” Google AR/VR boss Clay Bavor told TechCrunch. “Obviously others have started to invest in smartphone AR; our goal with Tango has always been to drive that capability into as many devices as possible.”
While it’s an unfortunate move for anyone who bought the Asus ZenFone AR, hopefully Tango’s retirement will mean extra movement on ARCore development — and an increase in AR content as a whole. But support ending doesn’t mean you need to stop having fun with your Tango-enabled device, should you have one. Have fun with some of the our favorite Tango AR apps.
- Google wants to bring augmented reality to your smartphone with ARCore
- Google taking ARCore to next level with AR Stickers, more on Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL
- Apple AR glasses: News and rumors about ‘Project Mirrorshades’
- Windows Mixed Reality news: Here’s everything you need to know
- Google agrees to buy HTC’s smartphone team for $1.1B
Apple Maps is now helping you navigate the confusing terminals of an airport
If there’s anything harder than navigating a foreign city, it’s navigating a new airport. Seemingly bigger than many small towns, the interior of one of these bustling structures often seems to be something of a city within itself. And while Apple Maps has long been in the business of helping us navigate unknown streets and avenues, it hasn’t always been the most helpful when it comes to helping us navigate terminals and gates. But that’s all beginning to change.
You can now check out the layouts of 30 airports around the world thanks to Maps. As it stands, most of the covered airports are in the United States, with the majority of major city hubs included in the new rollout. That said, a number of busy international airports have also been mapped, like Hong Kong International, as well as airports in Amsterdam, Geneva, two in London and Berlin, as well as a number of Canadian structures.
Completing an interior map is no small task — after all, you can’t just drive a vehicle an airport and take photos. Instead, both airlines and airports have to cooperate and collaborate with Apple Maps, and a number of in-person surveys were also conducted in order to provide accurate information. In fact, much of the data was collected by individuals roaming the terminals (a much safer alternative to cars).
In order to check out an airport, you’ll have to look for the “Look Inside” option within Maps. If that feature is available, tapping on it will give you an overview of a terminal’s layout. Everything is done in bird’s eye view — after all, most airports look pretty similar, so having the equivalent to Street View wouldn’t be all that helpful.
That said, you can see each gate highlighted in yellow, as well as key areas like check-in kiosks, baggage claims, and airport lounges. You can also look into restaurants (Maps also provides its location, floor number, phone number, hours, and reviews), as well as the location of the all-important bathrooms.
In order to accurately locate where its users are, thereby providing the most accurate information about their surroundings, Apple uses Wi-Fi points, which can triangulate your positioning. Apparently, this is accurate regardless of whether or not you’re actually connected to the airport Wi-Fi, which is pretty nifty.
You can check out all currently supported airports on Apple’s website.
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Video: Honor 7X review
A few years ago, small bezels and great build quality at an affordable price was just a fever dream, but Honor is setting the bar for budget phones once again with the new Honor 7X.
For just $200, the Honor 7X touts a reasonably powerful Kirin 659 chipset, with 4GB of RAM and a whopping 64GB of expandable storage. The new 18:9 display brings a modern look and feel to the phone, and its dual camera system takes some impressive photos for the price.
Check out Hayato’s review in the video above, and for even more thoughts on the phone, take a look at Alex’s written review or our guide to mastering the camera.
- Android Central on YouTube
- Honor 7X review
- Honor 7X video review
FIIL IICON wireless headphones review: Trading noise cancellation for sound quality
A fantastic pair of noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones that doesn’t push the bar forward.
With the proliferation of phones without headphone jacks, it’s no surprise that Bluetooth headphones have become incredibly popular lately.
But there was a category of headphones that, while perhaps more niche until recently, always extracted plenty of divisive opinions: noise-canceling. Thank Bose’s incredibly popular QC25s, which gave way to the wireless QC35s, and inspired a category of imitators trying to get in on the action.
Now, a few years later, practically every company you can think of makes a good pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones. A new entrant, FIIL (pronounced “fill”) entered the game a few years back, and while its flagship over-the-ear IICON has its problems, it’s a bass lover’s dream — and a great alternative to the popular options out there from Bose, Sony and others.
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FIIL IICON What you’ll love
The IICONs are all-plastic, and while that’s not an immediate reason to like them, they are both sturdy and flexible — literally. The fold up to be very compact for a set of full-sized cans and the fake leather ear pads are very comfortable, even after being compressed for several hours in a bag.
The sound signature here can be summed up in one word: big. These are massive-sounding headphones, with an EQ that resembles a “U”, with an over-pronounced low-end and treble that errs on the tight side without being fatiguing. At their default, they are tuned to my ideal sound profile for rock or hip-hop; these probably aren’t ideal for classical, jazz, or anything that requires subtlety.
The included Android app is quite good, too, allowing you to tweak the equalization (Bass/Original/Treble), enable and disable the equalization, and play with some artificial soundstage themes like “Living Room”, “Theater”, and “Hall”. These are useless, but having access to a battery check or a monitor (which uses the included microphone to hear what’s happening in the outside world) is super useful.
The battery is another aspect of then IICONs that I love: they last around 30 hours, and while they charge using Micro-USB, I so rarely have to do so that I don’t even mind.
The longevity is enhanced by the headphones’ comfort: so few full-sized headphones are fatigue-free, but the combination of over-sized ear pads and a thick, foamy headpiece makes it easy to wear the IICONs all day without issue.
FIIL IICON What you’ll dislike
Whereas I’d put the IICON’s sound quality on par with anything from Bose or Sony, its active noise cancellation is not nearly as good. There’s only one setting, on or of, and while it certainly does an adequate job cutting down on plane noise, FIIL lacks the experience (and the intellectual property) to give the big names a run for their money.
The ANC isn’t great and the touch controls are plain bad, but they don’t overshadow the rest of the experience.
On a plane, for instance, the ANC suppresses enough engine noise to make for a pleasant experience, but it’s quite easy to hear nearby conversations — unless, of course, the music or soundtrack is enough to drown them out.
The touch controls on the right side of the headphones, too, are a joke: they barely work, even with the exaggerated gestures required to skip tracks or raise and lower volume. So don’t expect much there.
In terms of complaints, though, that’s about it. My only remaining question pertains to price: the IICONs are $350, which puts it in range of every other great noise-canceling headphone on the planet right now, including the Bowers & Wilkins PX, Bose QC35 II and Sony WH1000M2, our three top picks in the category.
I liken the FIIL IICONs to, say, the LG V30: a large, well-made and, perhaps to some, attractive piece of technology that is better at some things — namely sound quality — but lacks the “star power” of its biggest rivals. Should you buy these headphones — will people buy these headphones — at $350? I love them and I don’t even know that I would.
FIIL IICON Should you buy them?
Like so many saturated product categories these days, I would heartily recommend the FIIL IICONs after having enjoyed them for many months, but I can’t say I recommend them over the Bose QC35 IIs or Sony’s latest wonderphones. While the sound may be bigger, and certainly more enjoyable than Bose’s boring, subdued soundstage, the noise cancellation isn’t great and, despite folding up, they’re quite bulky.
See at Amazon