It was a week of hodge-podgery for the tech industry. AT&T rolled out its almost-5G service, Amazon finally revealed its Prime membership figures and Facebook continued its multi-year streak as “Company Least Encumbered by Any Discernible Form of Human Ethics”. Numbers, because you can’t convince me Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t cut his own hair.
100 locations: AT&T is setting the stage for its new 5G network, which is slated to roll out to a dozen American cities by the end of the year. Ahead of that switch flippage, the company announced this week that it will be debuting a 5G-ish fixed-in-place network as well as a faster version of LTE in parts of Boston, Sacramento and McAllen, Texas.
70 percent: That’s the share of Puerto Rican households who once again have power after the island’s latest blackout. And to think, after the US has stood by and done nothing.
1.5 billion users: That whole thing where Mark Zuckerberg went before congress and said he supported enacting GDPR protections for Facebook users outside of Europe? Guess what? He was only kidding!
20 million installs: Apparently a whole lot of people on the internet are suckers. Google just killed five top-rated ad-blocking apps after AdGuard published a report about how they’re laden with extra code that harvests data from websites that you frequent. Great job everyone.
100 million members: So, that’s how many people in the US subscribe to Amazon Prime. Not sure why the company treated that figure like such a huge secret for so many years, given that a third of the US was in on the game.
100 3D printed parts: We’re living in the future here, people. Instead of relying on an armada of seamstresses like they did back in the Apollo Era, today’s NASA uses 3D printing. In fact, more than 100 pieces of the Orion crew capsule will be additively constructed.
24/7: Oh yes, this will do wonders for the accident rates in its factories.
It’s one thing to read about melting glaciers. It’s another to sit and stare at one, as large chunks slowly slide off, crashing thunderously into the water below. In that moment, watching the destruction of a natural wonder, it’s hard not to feel like we’re failing to protect the Earth. That’s the experience I had while watching This is Climate Change, a virtual reality series from Danfung Dennis and Eric Strauss from the VR studio Condition One. It goes a step beyond Planet Earth, giving you a direct look at how humans are affecting our planet in 360-degree video.
After premiering their first episode at Sundance, which is focused on melting glaciers in Greenland, Dennis and Strauss are bringing the rest of the series to the Tribeca Film Festival. They each center on a different issue: One gives you a birds-eye view of the Amazon rainforest, which makes the rampant deforestation to make room for the cattle industry there even more devastating. In another, we see members of California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection taking on some of last year’s tumultuous wildfires. And finally, we see how climate change directly affects the most vulnerable: in Somalia and nearby African countries, it led to widespread famine that’s put millions of children’s lives at risk.
“I think ‘seeing’ is sort of what you get from a traditional documentary. What’s different about VR is that you’re experiencing it,” Dennis said during our interview for Build Series (above). “The screen melts away, and you’re in these worlds, you’re in these environments. And you feel it in a very different way. Your body reacts to it as if you’re actually there. And so it can leave a really indelible mark on your memory and psyche of… ‘I remember being there,’ instead of just, ‘I watched a film.’”
I’ve seen plenty of 360-degree VR films over the past few years, but This is Climate Change stands out with its polished production. Every shot looked pristine, even though I was watching it in a first-gen Gear VR headset. And the 3D stereoscopic imagery gave everything just the right amount of depth. While they relied on drones for some shots, Dennis also went the extra to place their VR cameras in potentially dangerous locations, like a tiny iceberg that might not have supported his weight.
The first two episodes of This is Climate Change will be available on Within’s VR app tomorrow, and the remaining two will be available in the coming months.
Happy Earth Day!
This oft-ignored holiday deserves better than to be relegated to documentary films and the occasional tree-planting! This is the only life-sustaining planet we’ve got (for now), and it’s our job to love and protect our home planet. There are plenty of charities that you can donate to, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the aptly-named Earth Day Network, and you should consider using Amazon Smile so that every time you buy a new case, cable, or some leftover Cadbury eggs, a portion of your sale is donated to charity! Even if you’re not quite up to putting your money where your mouth is, at least put a reminder to be kind to the planet on your home screen, where these wallpapers can inspire you to do more and remind us the beauty that surrounds us on this little blue ball.
If you want a ridiculous amount of natural photos in large resolution and ridiculously good quality, reddit has got you covered with the subreddit called /r/EarthPorn. From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans, if you need a wallpaper to let you marvel at Earth and her natural beauty, EarthPorn has got you! For instance, this jaw-dropping beauty of a trident coming out of a geyser in Iceland makes me want to go on a vacation to witness the majestic beauty, and it makes we want to curl up in bed and re-watch The Little Mermaid. Light, dark, vivid, muted, there is a wallpaper in EarthPorn for everyone.
Google Wallpapers is a fantastic Google app devoted to one thing, and one thing only: getting you a cool, new wallpaper. To this end, Google Wallpapers has a wide array of wallpapers for you to enjoy, and over half of these collections are devoted to Earth, from Google Earth satellite shots to Landscapes to Cityscapes to macro wallpapers of Life. Each collection has a daily wallpaper option, so you can get a new breathtaking view of Earth on your phone each and every day.
Backdrops is a wallpaper app with an unparalleled collection of wallpapers from a great and growing number of artists, and so it should come as no surprise that the app is chock full of nature wallpapers. Backdrops has a collection of Earth satellite shots from Google Earth similar to Google’s, but the shots contained here are a little more fantastical purples and golds mixed in with the traditional greens, blues, and browns. Just scrolling the main page in Backdrops will give you a wide variety of wallpapers with an Earth Day flare, from majestic mountains to lush trees and fantastic flowers. There are some paid wallpapers and collections in Backdrops, but most of the wallpapers you’ll want for Earth Day are free.
Backdrops (in-app purchases)
Summer may be here before we know it, but gosh darn it, it’s still spring and spring means wildflowers! And this patch blooming on a side of a mountain, with yet another mountain looming in the background, just makes me want to jump up and go for a nice long walk… and sprain my ankle walking along those bright rocks on the right side of the shot.
Mountain Wildflowers by TyeDueTwins
While it may not have a fire-breathing dragon hoarding gold inside, you can’t help but wonder what mysteries these mountains are hiding in their mist. It’s a truly breathtaking sight, and you have to wonder just what kind of stones the people who decided to climb this had.
Misty Mountains by McKay Savage
You’ve probably seen Trey Ratcliff’s work before, especially if you have a Chromecast in your house, as his work is quite often featured on Backdrop. He’s a prolific photographer that organizes photowalks and other photography events around the world, and he posts full-resolution photos on Google+ because they’re one of the few networks that mean it when they say unlimited photo sizes. Take a peek at his posts, you will not be disappointed.
Pig and Pigeon Islands
The sun, the sea, the spray… Summer is just around the corner; why are we not at the ocean right now? Well, until we can go feel the salty sea air, the wind blowing in our face, at least we can have a bit of the ocean on our phones (y’know, without shorting it out). Whether you’re dreaming of catch the perfect wave or maybe catching sight of a lovely mermaid on the other side of one, keep your dreams and your sights set on the sea!
Updated Earth Day 2018: This post has been expanded to include collections from Google, Backdrops, and Reddit.
Time for some yard work.
Amazon’s Gold Box deals of the day feature a variety of Greenworks power tools just in time for the snows to melt and lawns to need mowing. All of these tools are down to either their lowest prices ever or one of the lowest we’ve seen.
Remember with these power tools, you can use one battery to power all of them. Some sets come with a battery and charger like the $236.25 Greenworks 20-inch cordless lawn mower.
If you choose one of the products without a battery, like the $39.21 13-inch cordless string trimmer, you can buy a battery by itself. It’s on sale for $115.66 from a street price of $154.
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Motorola’s position in Latin America is dramatically different from the U.S. and Europe.
I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a few days in São Paulo, Brazil this week to attend a Motorola launch event for the Moto G6 and Moto E5. Not only is it a lovely city filled with great people and tasty food, but being there was the best way to understand just how differently Motorola is perceived and embraced in Latin America compared to the U.S. and Western Europe.
The simplest way to put it is that Motorola is a massive player in Latin America, and being there myself immediately refreshed my opinion of the company’s standing in the smartphone world. It started the minute I landed at Guarulhos airport in São Paulo — Motorola phones were everywhere. Travelers were coming and going, glued to their Moto the same way people in the U.S. are inseparable from their iPhone. My driver from the airport navigated to the hotel using Waze on his Moto G5. Walking down the street and sitting at restaurants, I paid attention to the phones in use (as I do everywhere else I travel) — Motorolas stood out as a significant portion, mostly Moto Gs.
Focusing on the U.S. and Europe, it’s easy to think of Motorola as a second-tier player, making good unlocked phones but not really holding a large stake of the market — recent numbers show it under 5% in the U.S. But when you look at the numbers for Latin America, it’s a dramatically different story: Motorola is a huge player. It has over 20% market share in Brazil, which is good for second place, though Samsung is in a solid first place at roughly 40%. And Motorola’s on the uptick even in Brazil — it was under 15% market share just a couple years ago.
Motorola has secured a #2 position in several countries — you can’t ignore that success.
Motorola could be happy enough with its strong positioning in Brazil considering the huge size of the country (over 200 million people, by the way), but its strengths are more widespread than that. Motorola has a second-place position in several Latin American countries, even in the “premium” segment of $400-600 where the Moto Z line sits. It saw growth of 20 to 100% from 2016-17 in countries like Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina. Hardly a bit part player when you see it that way.
We also have to remember how different the overall smartphone market is in Latin America. Recent figures from Brazil list Android at 93% of the market, with a much lower average selling price than the U.S. Everywhere I went in São Paulo, a massive metropolitan city, I saw smartphones — but that isn’t representative of the whole country, where smartphone penetration is still under 50%. These are perfect market conditions for Motorola to grow: it sells great phones at affordable prices, and has a reputation for being a quality brand in these markets.
It’s going to take a lot of work to see that sort of growth and market position in the rest of the world, but Motorola has shown it can do it on a pretty considerable scale. And it just goes to show that the world’s a whole lot bigger than the few countries we focus on the most every week.
So with all of those numbers out of the way, a few other thoughts on the week:
- The Moto G6 series marks a significant move up-market with a modern design and flair you don’t always see at this price. They’re just solid, capable phones without the usual shortfalls and caveats of an inexpensive device. This is Motorola’s wheelhouse.
- On the lower end, the Moto E5 series may not be as exciting but they’re just as important. These are the phones that are an entry point to Moto for lots of people. The E5 and E5 Plus look like the G6 (and X4), but at a fraction of the price — and even though they compromise in more areas, they still have big screens, huge batteries and above-average performance.
- Motorola’s CEO says that the company wants to focus on bringing fewer models out around the world … but this G6 and E5 release still has plenty of confusion and ridiculous differentiations in specs between SKUs. Gotta tighten that up.
- Not only was this trip my first time in Brazil, it was my first time in South America. It was a fantastic experience, and I’d recommend anyone take a trip.
- São Paulo is an absolutely massive city (12 million population), with a diverse set of people and neighborhoods. It’s a lot to take in, and isn’t necessarily tourist-friendly like the coastal cities, but if you’re feeling adventurous you should consider it.
- Google I/O is just over two weeks away. Can’t wait to see what Google has in store for us this year.
- Speaking of, this whole “Chat” thing in Android Messages is a bit of a chore to try and explain — let’s just hope Google can get it rolled out and working to let people learn by experiencing it first-hand.
Have a wonderful week, everyone!
One of the best prices we’ve seen.
We’ve seen deals on the Essential Phone in the past, but since the launch of the new colors we haven’t seen it drop this low. Right now you can get the phone in Black Moon for just $349.99. It dropped to $350 briefly last week but sold out, so grab it while you can. Halo Gray and Pure White have jumped back up to $500.
It comes with 128GB of internal storage, a dual camera system on the back, and it’s powered by the Snapdragon 835 processor. You can also add the exclusive Essential 360 camera.
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Do you remember the original Doom movie from 2005? You’d be forgiven if you didn’t — while it had recognizable stars (most notably Dwayne Johnson), it was a critical and commercial flop that only really found life after it left the big screen. However, that isn’t stopping Hollywood from giving it another shot. After years of rumors, NBCUniversal has confirmed to Variety that a new Doom movie is in the works, no doubt meant to capitalize on the game series’ revival. Actress Nina Bergman has already revealed that she’ll play a role in the movie, which reportedly has a “super cool director.”
There are no plot details at this point, although you can presume it will involve the forces of Hell, Mars and a lot of firepower.
Just don’t expect to see this movie in a theater. Universal 1440 Entertainment, which handles non-theatrical titles, is responsible for producing the flick — that means it’s headed straight to digital, disc and cable. While it’s not certain the movie will land on subscription streaming services, it’s a distinct possibility given how Netflix has been snapping up movies that would have struggled at the box office.
In that light, there’s very little risk for Universal. However good the new Doom may be, it won’t live or die based on a short theatrical run. It can get wide distribution (and potentially significant viewership) for relatively little effort. That option simply wouldn’t have been available 13 years ago.
Wow I’m doing the next “Doom” movie w Universal Pictures! I just signed all the paperwork💃🏼I get to go back to Bulgaria again and work with some of my favorite people💕This movie w a super cool Director AND my new record coming out, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world🍀 pic.twitter.com/q8t4iI0bgO
— Nina Bergman (@ninabergman) April 17, 2018
Source: Nina Bergman (Twitter)
It’s tough to compete in the battle royale world, especially with Fortnite in the room. How do you convince players to try your game if they aren’t immediately enraptured? Scavengers Studio knows how: give it away. The company has turned E3 darling The Darwin Project into a free-to-play title, with a new customization progression system coming on April 24th. Scavengers isn’t shy about the reasoning, noting that a lack of players on some servers led to longer queues and trouble finding matches for the survival-themed brawler.
If you already bought the Early Access title, you’ll get a Founder’s Pack with a slew of cosmetic items. Should you want a refund, you can ask for one in the coming days as long as you’re in line with Steam’s policies. And before you ask: much like Fortnite, nothing you buy in-game will give you an edge over rival players.
There’s no certainty the gratis gameplay will help, but it underscores how cutthroat the battle royale landscape has become. Outside of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, it’s hard for paid games to break through no matter how innovative their concepts may be. This at least gets Darwin Project’s foot in the door, and might keep existing fans from drifting away.
Source: Steam, Scavengers Studio
On May 13th, the last Apple Watch-exclusive store will close its doors. The shop, which is located inside Shinjuku, Tokyo’s posh Isetan department store, is one of the three pop-ups the tech titan built when it launched the wearable back in 2015. Twitter user Shotaro Akiba has shared a photo on Twitter showing the department store’s announcement. Apple shut down the other two pop-ups in London and Paris way back early last year, so the news isn’t exactly surprising. Besides, the one in Shinjuku has been on borrowed time ever since the iPhonemaker opened a full-fledged store right across Isetan earlier this month.
やっぱり伊勢丹のApple Watch Storeは閉店か… pic.twitter.com/moYjXCfYRp
— Shotaro Akiba (@ShotaroAkiba) April 21, 2018
You may want to drop by the pop-up if you’re in Japan to see if they still have good deals on offer. According to 9to5mac, the shop held a fire sale on Isetan’s website just recently, selling its remaining Apple Watch Edition inventory for as little as $700. Those 18-karat gold watches sold for at least $10,000 and as much as $17,000 when they first became available. It also might be your last chance to see an Apple Store that doesn’t quite look like the company’s usual spaces. If you’re not in Japan and would still like a glimpse of the shop, though, check out the video below:
Source: Shotaro Akiba (Twitter)
The teenager who founded the hacking group that broke into ex-CIA chief John Brennan’s email has been sentenced to serve two years at a youth detention center. Kane Gamble went by the alias “Cracka” when he and his group “Crackas With Attitude” targeted top US officials, including FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and their families and colleagues, a few years ago. Authorities arrested the UK native in early 2016, and he pleaded guilty to 10 hacking charges in October 2017. In addition to sentencing the now-18-year-old to two years in prison, the judge also ordered his computers to be seized.
CWA’s MO is called “social engineering” — they’d impersonate their victims and call internet and phone providers’ customer support hotlines in order to get confidential info and to reset their targets’ passwords. The group stole 40 attachments from Brennan’s email, some of which were published by Wikileaks. They also broke into Clapper’s and his wife’s emails, home phone and internet connection. While in control of Clapper’s FIOS connection, they said they redirected all calls to his number to the Free the Palestine movement. The group stole and leaked the contact info of 20,000 FBI personnel, as well.
After Gamble and another 15-year-old CWA member were arrested in 2016, the remaining members told Motherboard that they will only stop their activities if the US cuts ties with Israel. Gamble’s lawyer said he never meant traumatize people on an individual basis: “In a naive, immature and childish way,” the lawyer said in court, “he thought he could do something about it, he could make a nuisance of himself by targeting people in America and that would somehow get them to change US policy as a result of what he was doing from his bedroom.” The judge, however, disagreed, calling CWA a “cyber gang” that ran “an extremely nasty campaign of politically-motivated cyber terrorism.”