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2
May

Facebook will conduct civil rights audit following bias allegations


Facebook has come under fire lately for accusations of racial and political bias, and it’s determined to address both of those claims head-on. The social media giant has committed to independent investigations that will scrutinize both its civil rights record and its alleged anti-conservative political bias. Civil liberties leader Laura Murphy will lead a civil rights audit with input from groups like the Leadership Conference. Meanwhile, former Republican Senator Jon Kyl will run a conservative bias advisory partnership that will also see Facebook executives meeting with the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation.

It’s no secret why Facebook has agreed to the investigations: it’s facing mounting pressure in both cases. The company is facing a lawsuit over discriminatory housing ads, and Republicans have routinely accused Facebook of intentionally downplaying conservative content. Whether or not Facebook actually needs to change its practices, the scrutiny might head off further legal and political action in addition to quieting some of its critics.

There are still some unanswered questions: how extensive will these inspections be? And if there is evidence of bias, how will Facebook address it beyond existing measures like publishing its community standards? There’s a good chance this won’t satisfy everyone, for that matter. All the same, this shows that Facebook is at least taking allegations seriously.

Source: Axios, Leadership Conference

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2
May

Nintendo’s Next President Sets Mobile Gaming Priority, Plans ‘Game-Changing Hit’ to Surge Business


Nintendo’s next president, Shuntaro Furukawa, will make smartphone gaming a priority when he takes the helm of the company this June. In a new interview with Nikkei, Furukawa said that he envisions a future where Nintendo’s smartphone gaming arm can become a 100 billion yen ($910 million) business. In fiscal 2017, the segment including mobile games grossed 39.3 billion yen.

To do this, Furukawa plans to increase the output of smartphone gaming apps for iOS and Android devices, as well as launch a singular app that surges in popularity. Outgoing Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima referenced Pokémon Go as an inspiration for this plan. Pokémon Go was a collaboration between developer Niantic and The Pokémon Company, which Nintendo has a joint investment in.

“From what I can see, smartphone games are the ones I want to expand the most,” said Shuntaro Furukawa.

“The idea that something will emerge that transforms into something big, in the same manner as game consoles, is the defining motive of the Nintendo business,” he said.

When asked if any of the upcoming apps would adopt Pokémon Go’s augmented reality gameplay, Furukawa said that he “can’t say that there are any that are like that.” It’s also unclear if the plans for the singular, so-called “game-changing hit” would include existing Nintendo characters or be entirely original.

Nintendo has already begun adding on new developer partners besides DeNA to work on games with new characters, while DeNA continues outputting those with Nintendo IPs like the upcoming Mario Kart Tour. According to Furukawa, Nintendo is also gearing up to “expand cooperative ties” with its developer business partners down the road, further hinting at an increased output for gaming apps.

Smartphone games that have been confirmed by Nintendo include Mario Kart Tour and Dragalia Lost, both with vague late 2018 launch dates. These will follow Nintendo’s previous titles Miitomo, Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. In terms of unconfirmed mobile spin-offs, The Legend of Zelda could be the next big Nintendo IP to launch on iOS.

Tag: Nintendo
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2
May

Apple Says AirPods Are ‘Incredibly Popular’ as Availability Remains Limited


Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday said AirPods continue to be “incredibly popular” and a “runaway hit” for the company.

“AirPods are incredibly popular and we’re seeing them in more and more places—in the gym, in coffee shops, wherever people are enjoying music on their Apple devices,” said Cook, following Apple’s earnings report. “This product is a runaway hit, and we’re working hard to meet the incredible demand.”

Apple does not disclose AirPod sales, and instead groups the wireless earphones into its broad “Other Products” category in earnings results, but there’s at least a few reasons to believe they’re very popular indeed.

For starters, Apple reported $3.9 billion revenue from its “Other Products” category in the March quarter, an impressive 38 percent increase over the year-ago quarter. Apple said its wearable and home products like the AirPods, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod accounted for over 90 percent of that growth.

Second, Apple said unit sales of both AirPods and the Apple Watch reached a new all-time high for the March quarter, without revealing specifics.

Third, since launching in December 2016, AirPods have rarely been in stock on Apple’s online store. Orders placed today still face a one-week delivery estimate, suggesting Apple can’t keep up with strong demand, may be experiencing mass production challenges, or some combination of those two factors.

Barclays analysts recently forecasted that AirPods shipments may approach 30 million units in 2018, while former KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo estimated 26-28 million shipments on the year.

Looking ahead, Apple plans to release a wireless charging case for AirPods to be used with its AirPower charging mat, slated for release in 2018. Beyond that, Mark Gurman reported that Apple may release new AirPods with “Hey Siri” functionality as early as this year, and a water-resistant pair as early as next year.

AirPods are available for $159 on Apple’s online store. Limited supplies are also available at select Apple retail stores.

Related Roundup: AirPodsBuyer’s Guide: AirPods (Caution)
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2
May

Apple Releases Safari Technology Preview 55 With Bug Fixes and Feature Improvements


Apple today released a new update for Safari Technology Preview, the experimental browser Apple first introduced over two years ago in March of 2016. Apple designed the Safari Technology Preview to test features that may be introduced into future release versions of Safari.

Safari Technology Preview release 55 includes bug fixes and feature improvements for CSS, Web API, Rendering, Accessibility, JavaScript, Web Driver, Web Inspector, Media, WebRTC, and Security.

The Safari Technology Preview update is available through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store to anyone who has downloaded the browser. Full release notes for the update are available on the Safari Technology Preview website.

Apple’s aim with Safari Technology Preview is to gather feedback from developers and users on its browser development process. Safari Technology Preview can run side-by-side with the existing Safari browser and while designed for developers, it does not require a developer account to download.

Tag: Safari Technology Preview
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2
May

LG G7 ThinQ hands-on: Amplified


The latest in the G series tries to bring the relationship between LG and Google even closer, while once again upgrading its main feature, the camera experience. The LG G7 ThinQ brings an AI-enabled camera, a Google Assistant button, and more, but is that enough to bring LG back to the forefront of the flagship game? Let’s find out in our LG G7 hands-on.

LG G7 review

First things first — the ThinQ name on the end of the official title for this phone is a connection to LG’s IoT platform. However, we were told during our time with the phone in Korea we can just call it simply the LG G7.

The LG G7 looks a lot like a mix between the V30 and the G6.

Though LG has moved to a slower release cycle for its mobile devices, the influence of the past is still very strong in this handset. The design of the device is much like the LG V30, which had the shape of the LG G6. The design’s tall screen now sports a notch, with a glossy back that comes in four different colors. It might not be the most unique-looking device, but it is still a looker. What is interesting in the G7 is how LG is ever so slightly moving away from certain aspects that helped differentiate their devices from the rest of the field.

LG G7 review

A big example of this is the fingerprint reader, which is still in the same place as before, but no longer doubles as the power button. Instead, the power button is located more conventionally on the side, which might feel a little odd to LG veterans. Apparently, this was changed to make waking the device easier. Some users found the back power button a little annoying to reach, especially in situations like driving (or when your phone is lying face up on a table). The power button on the side also affords the phone a new way of quickly launching the camera with just a double tap.

LG G7 ThinQ

A new AI button is now found on the other side of the phone. LG has partnered up with Google very closely again to provide G7-specific functionality. Google Assistant is the G7’s AI assistant of choice, and this button allows for full control over its triggering. Press the button and it will launch Google Assistant in the same way that holding the home button does. Double press the button and it will launch Google Lens. Press and hold the button and Google Assistant will listen for as long as the button is pressed down for the voice search string, making the start and end of your query easier to identify.

The AI key is a unique and potentially invaluable way of interacting with Google Assistant

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That last function might seem simple — like talking to Google through a walkie-talkie — but it might be the most significant change to the way Assistant works. Only Google Pixel Buds support that kind of long-press interaction, where the touch-sensitive earbuds can be held down to take a search string for the duration of the hold. Think of all the times you failed to get a proper search done with Google Assistant because it failed to recognize when you’d stopped speaking. For that reason alone, this implementation will make Google Assistant a bit easier to manage and use. It is certainly a different take on what we have seen in the form of squeezing on other devices.

LG G7 ThinQ second screen

The notch is becoming a very common addition in new phones this year, and every manufacturer is trying to bring their own spin on it, LG included. First off, the phone speaker and the better front-facing camera are centered at the top, where the notch just covers up that portion of the screen.

LG tries to make the notch easier on the eyes through customization. It can be “turned off” by making the entire notification area black. Those same areas can also be made different colors and gradients. Admittedly we are a little miffed that what is called the “New Second Screen” doesn’t really add any new functionality, like the old second screens of the LG V10 and V20 once did.

LG G7 ThinQ notch

The screen is still a powerful Quad HD+ IPS LCD panel. An OLED screen might have appealed to more people, but LG chose to stick with LCD for one particular reason: brightness. When set to Super Bright Display mode, the screen can get to 1000 nits if the user so chooses and can stay that bright for a maximum of three minutes.

The screen has also been tuned to retain the fidelity of colors and sharpness of text. This is more than just changing the screen settings in broad daylight situations. When directly underneath the sun, the screen will brighten automatically, but prioritize textual elements in places like the phone or messaging apps. It is only when the user triggers the Boosted Mode that the screen will be a very bright, but still effective, display experience.

LG G7 ThinQ boosted mode
LG G7 ThinQ boosted mode

Everything looks crisp and proportionate on this display. LG’s software has been accused in the past of feeling bloated, without a fully coherent design language. Yearly updates have been good to this now Oreo-enabled version of its interface.

There isn’t much wasted space in the new menus. The home screens can be changed to include not only an app drawer button, but also a swiping motion similar to the Pixel Launcher or Samsung UI, and LG’s own companion home screen experience seems simple enough.

LG’s ploy for AI capabilities shows in not only the included SmartThinQ application, but also its Smart Bulletin, which tries to give users contextual information based on location and time. The page will display all of that in cards. It isn’t too hard on the eyes yet, though we will need to spend more time with it to see if LG’s algorithms are up to par with the likes of Google Feed and Bixby.

LG G7 ThinQ smart bulletin

The specs you’d expect from a 2018 high-end device power this phone. It’s got a Snapdragon 845 with either 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, or 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The larger version will be available later, though we are not sure which markets will get it (we were told the U.S. will only get the 4GB/64GB version). A 3,000mAh battery might not sound huge, but we will reserve judgment until our real-world usage and tests. All the other bits and pieces you would want in the phone are here, including the headphone jack.

LG continues to be one of the few companies that pays this much attention to the audio experience.

A single bottom-firing speaker might sound like a pretty conventional setup, but LG has taken it a step further by creating Boombox Sound. This is a unique take on the speaker experience, as it makes the entire back portion of the phone into a sound chamber.

Don’t miss: LG G7 ThinQ specs: Fantastic audio and a super bright screen

In simple terms, the space between the back cover and everything it protects is now a place for sound to literally emanate from. When playing audio at loud volumes, the entire back of the phone will vibrate — just enough so you can feel it, but not so much that it becomes annoying. This vibration makes the sound resonate through anything the phone might lay on. Any box or hollow container will thus create great sound.

The vibrations make materials like thin wood and cardboard boxes literally amplify the sound, making for a richer experience far better than any other device — even if you do that trick of putting phones in glass cups. There’s a striking difference between the LG G7 and any other phone we’ve tested; practical or not, this is an interesting way of thinking — or listening — outside the box by LG.

LG G7 ThinQ audio

The headphone jack returns, bringing with it the Quad DAC once again, this time with tuning made for the DTS-X 3D standard. That standard is basically an add-on for changing the soundstage of whatever you are listening to and can either narrow or widen the audio experience.

The Quad DAC is still one of the big trump cards for LG’s phones. Anyone disillusioned by the USB Type-C adapters of the world can rest assured everything out of this phone sounds really great, no matter what headphones you use. Also, the Quad DAC plus active noise cancelling is one hell of a combination.

LG G7 ThinQ speaker

The camera has been LG’s most unique and most polarizing phone feature the last few years. Let’s start off with some great news: the front-facing camera is finally good — and not just because of the bump up to 8MP from 5MP. Just from a cursory glance, the sharpness has been greatly improved and details are no longer smudged by shoddy processing and over-softening of features.

The front-facing camera also now has a portrait mode, which is software based but still welcome for the artistic bokeh background effects it brings. The improvements to the front-facing camera alone make the G7 a viable upgrade for anyone unhappy with selfies on their previous LG phones.

LG G7 ThinQ front-facing camera

Finally — an LG flagship with a good front facing camera!

Portrait mode tends to take advantage of a dual lens setup, most commonly through a regular and telephoto lens. LG did not want to mess with a good thing, however, and kept the wide angle lens. It now has a 107-degree field-of-view, which helps correct the distortion on the sides of the frame without sacrificing too much of the wide angle. That wide angle lens is still one of the best parts of this phone — the style and drama it affords still makes for one of the most unique photo-taking experiences around.

LG G7 ThinQ camera

Because the rear camera lacks a telephoto lens with tighter zoom capabilities, LG’s portrait mode keeps the field-of-view the same as the main lens to remain effective. This means users don’t have to step back because the camera is trying to reach farther into the frame. Some might prefer the look of the tighter frame, but others may like not having to move in order to make the portrait work. Though our devices were very pre-production, the portrait mode shots needed a little bit more work. It messed up the cutouts around elements like hair or my glasses in certain shots.

LG decided on a pixel binning solution for low light photography. Essentially the 16MP of either rear camera shifts into larger pixel groups of four so each group can more effectively flood in light in a darker scene (the same thing Huawei has done with the P20 and HTC did with UltraPixels). The result is a 4MP image that hopefully exposes better than the alternative. We didn’t get to test this much but we’re looking forward to trying it further when we get our review unit.

LG G7 ThinQ camera app

Video is still a big deal with the LG G7. It retains the manual movie mode and the high-quality audio capture capabilities of the LG V30. The wide-angle lens is still very viable, too, though I noticed I could not change between the two lenses while recording.

The camera AI is mostly consistent at identifying the subject, but the tag cloud might make some users think otherwise.

LG G7 ThinQ AI Cam

LG already introduced AI in its updated LG V30S ThinQ. The tag cloud from that release has made its way to the G7. This cloud is a flurry of words that shows the camera is trying to recognize what object or subject it is pointed at when AI is on. Once it decides what is in the frame, settings change to enhance the photo. Take a second on a plate of Korean BBQ and the camera will change to the food settings, which mainly bumps up the saturation. Take a picture of a tree and the AI mode will make the green colors pop.

AI modes in cameras are a little bit new and their effectiveness is down to the optimization of the software. I found some odd words in the cloud during a selfie session, but it never ended up deciding I was a cauliflower. The camera seems to find its subject well enough by the end of its search. Thousands of objects have been inserted into the AI memory of the camera and it is always searching. We will see how the AI Cam fares when we test it further in our final production review unit.

LG G7 ThinQ

There you have it: the LG G7 ThinQ. LG proves each year it really prioritizes key aspects others might take for granted (like a high-quality headphone jack, for instance). While some of its decisions this year seem more trend-following (like the notch), the features where LG tries to be different are what people will really appreciate. The wide-angle camera is great but we will have to wait and see if Boombox Sound ends up on the list, as well.

We are excited to get our hands on an LG G7 review unit to see how the handset fares under more rigorous testing. Until then, let us know how you feel about the LG G7 below!

2
May

Apple reveals healthy iPhone sales as Cook hints at more handset variations


Apple reported its “best March quarter ever” on Tuesday, with CEO Tim Cook declaring that customers chose the iPhone X “more than any other iPhone each week” across the three months.

The iPhone X launched in November 2017 and — starting at $1,000 and topping out at $1,150 — it’s Apple’s most expensive handset ever. Recent news reports suggested there had been weak demand for the pricey handset, but the company said this was the first cycle that its top-of-the-line had also been its most popular, outselling the iPhone 8, 7, 6S, and SE.

In a conference call with investors, Cook made no direct comment about recent rumors regarding variations on the iPhone X, but did say that Apple is “going to continue to provide different iPhones for folks to meet their needs,” which some may take as a hint that new designs are on the way.

Announcing sales figures for the three-month period ending March 31, Apple said it sold 52.2 million handsets, up from 50.7 million a year ago, though down from 77.3 million during the previous quarter, which includes the busy holiday period. It also sold more iPads year on year — 9.1 million compared to 8.9 million during the same period in 2017. But again, this was down from 13.1 million on the previous quarter.

At 4.1 million units, sales of its Mac computers were down slightly, from 4.2 million units on a year ago, and down from 5.1 million units compared to the last quarter.

The company’s Other Products category saw notable year-on-year growth, with revenue reaching $3.9 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year. This segment includes the Apple Watch, AirPods, Apple TV, as well as the recently released HomePod smart speaker. However, compared to the last quarter, revenue for the category fell more than $1 billion, from $5.5 billion.

Apple doesn’t break down its Other Products category, so it’s hard to know how its new smart speaker is doing. Recent reports suggested sales have been slow, with the $349 price tag prohibitive for many. However, Cook was happy to point out that sales of wearable devices jumped nearly 50 percent on a year earlier, attributable at least in part to the launch of the first cellular Apple Watch toward the end of 2017.

The hardware sales, together with almost $10 billion worth of services, translated into revenue of $61.1 billion, and $13.8 billion profit, in line with Apple’s own revenue guidance. That’s up from $52.9 billion a year ago, though down from $88.3 billion on the last quarter. The latest figures were boosted by growth in all of its geographical segments, most notably in China and Japan, which saw growth of 20 percent.

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2
May

Urban dwellers will like the sound of these noise-canceling windows


One of the joys of living in the countryside must surely be pushing open the windows each morning to allow the soothing sounds of birdsong to float in and fill your home.

Living slap in the middle of a city, however, is an altogether different matter. There’s traffic noise, honking horns, roadworks, trains, aircraft, as well as people shouting at the top of their voices across the street, into their phones, or simply to themselves.

If only there was a way to rid your urban home of this head-splitting cacophony, giving you a chance to actually relax and enjoy your living space without having to slam the windows shut.

Well, there soon might be.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have developed a window-based device that uses technology similar to that found in noise-canceling headphones.

The initial design, which fits on a window grille, cuts noise levels by as much as 50 percent. This should encourage the occupant to keep the windows open on a hot day, allowing the flow of air and thereby reducing the chances of the occupant turning to power sources such as an air conditioner or electric fan. Indeed, the research is part of efforts by the university to develop solutions for sustainable living.

Nanyang Technological University

The technology behind the device detects incoming noise using small microphones. Once it processes the specific characteristics of that noise, it immediately emits an inverted sound — or “anti-noise” — that has the same waveform characteristics as the external noise.

“When both outside noise and anti-noise converge, they cancel each other out, resulting in a softer ambient sound entering living spaces,” the researchers said in a release.

“Our innovation not only computes the right amount and type of ‘anti-noise’ to emit, but also does it faster than the detected noise can reach inside the building,” said Professor Gan Woon Seng, who led the research.

Gan added that compared to noise-canceling headphones, his team has achieved something more technically challenging “as we needed to control the noise in a large open area, instead of just around the ear.”

The current setup comprises several of the noise-canceling units placed together to form a grid-like array on a window grille.

The team is continuing to work on improving the efficiency of the system, while at the same time reducing its size and cost. It hopes to commercialize the technology within three years.

Of course, keeping the windows open in an urban location is going to let in air pollution from outside, so our lungs rather than our ears may end up suffering. With that in mind, perhaps the researchers might like to look into adding some filters to its noise-canceling design to improve the quality of incoming air, too.

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2
May

Strava versus MapMyRun


Strava

When running apps were first introduced, the fact there existed only a few made the decision process of who to use much easier. Today, the entire fitness app industry has proliferated and there are now dozens of options, many of which have similar features — this makes picking one especially difficult. With so many to select from, how do you know which might provide the specific functionality you’re looking for?

Two of the biggest contenders are Strava and MapMyRun. Although each share many of the same capabilities, they also differ in a number of ways. To get a true sense of how they stack up against each other, we pitted the features and benefits (and drawbacks) of Strava versus MayMyRun.

Live recording

Both apps feature fairly straightforward and intuitive interfaces to begin tracking a workout. In Strava, simply hitting record, tapping the shoe icon at the bottom of the screen, and hitting the red Start button generates a session. In MapMyRun, you select your activity and hit the green Start Workout banner.

Though it seems simple enough for either app, MapMyRun does boast a rather big distinction over Strava: Quantity of trackable activities. While Strava is limited to just running or biking, MapMyRun offers the ability to track activities like road running, trail running, walking, cycling, mountain biking, interval training, and a slew of others. Some people might find this limiting although the tradeoff is that it makes the app easier to use.

Winner: MapMyRun

Route building

If you want to follow a pre-loaded map, each offers plenty to choose from while also supplying tools which let you create your own. MapMyRun offers a blank starter map, allowing you to leapfrog from location to location to design a fully customized route. You can also surf through other user-generated maps or even redo previous runs you’ve recorded live.

Note: You can only create a custom route in MapMyRun via a laptop before then sending it to a smartphone.

For Strava, it offers a similar experience through what it calls the Route Builder. Not unlike MapMyRun’s route creation tool, it also uses a waypoint system to allow you to hop from one location to the next, linking each one along the way to create your path. The key difference is that Strava features a toggle called “Use Popularity” which integrates routes others have created, allowing you to source ideas from other athletes and see which areas in your neighborhood are most popular — this alone gives it a slight edge in this category.

Winner: Strava

Audio feedback

For audio feedback, Strava has two options: Audio Announcements and Live Segment Performance. The former is free and essentially announces your time and pace every mile or half mile — depending on which you prefer. Though you can listen to the updates while you run, it does let you to turn the feature off entirely via the settings menu. Live Segment Performance allows you to select certain segments along your route to receive voice alerts — or on-screen motivation — and metrics including current time, personal records, course records, and others. This feature is available in both the free and paid versions, though Premium members get access to additional screens with comparison metrics.

MapMyRun offers similar audio features but both require a paid subscription (called MVP). The first is Voice Feedback which delivers audio statistics like time, distance and pace during a run. The other is Audio Coaching which enables you to set custom workout goals and receive coaching alerts as you get close to your targets. In both cases, the premium service offers coaching and motivation. Considering the similarities, MayMyRun wins here largely due to price.

Winner: MapMyRun

Visual data

Once your workout is complete, MapMyRun generates a chart which tracks your pace and speed changes throughout the run, broken down into custom splits, and highlights where the hills and inclines were located. You can also view detailed graphs of your heart rate and see how much time you spent across the various cardio zones.

Strava also allows you to view run data in charts with similar metrics. One unique feature, however, is something Strava calls its Suffer Score. This is essentially a calculation the app makes about how tough your workout was based on amassed data like time, distance and effort exerted. Being able to monitor your Suffer Score helps paint a picture of your overall effort and progress, which should be one of the pillars of any fitness app.

Winner: Strava

Social features

When it comes to social features, this is where Strava truly shines. On top of basic features like snapping a photo after a run and sharing it on Facebook, the app has a built-in community that encourages friendly competition with both friends and strangers alike.

For instance, every time you complete a run, Strava crunches your numbers and compares them with a database of other people’s stats, giving you a ranking based on your performance. It then generates KOMs and QOMs — aka Kings and Queens of the Mountain. You can compare your times to the KOMs and QOMs, look at the population as a whole, or filter the leaderboards to only show you people of your same gender or age demographics.

MapMyRun also offers social features, though they aren’t nearly as focused on community competition. Like Strava, you can sync it with Facebook and Twitter to share workout stats and it also has something called Challenges which lets you compete against friends. However, it doesn’t have the broad community Strava offers with comparison leaderboards and segments. Some people may see this as a weakness of MapMyRun although it does mean your privacy is more secure. In fact, Strava’s even had issues in the past with privacy breaches.

Winner: Strava

Overall winner: Strava

To be fair, we wanted to end this versus in a tie. Each app does a fantastic job of tracking metrics and offering data visualization, and do so in a way by emphasizing different aspects of the overall experience — thus giving both apps their own unique strengths. However, Strava’s strong social community and focus on competition narrowly allows it to edge MapMyRun, whose own concentration on personal records and motivation is still very valuable.

If you’re someone who wants a space to connect with other runners, share your metrics, and compare your scores, Strava’s the better fit. If you prefer a more individualized system with better privacy and comprehensive, time-tested routes, MapMyRun is the way to go. Either way, you’re going to get a solid app experience with detailed maps and routes, intricate performance metrics, and effective goal-setting strategies.

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2
May

Under new leader, Nintendo sets mobile-game revenue target near $1 billion


Nintendo entered the mobile gaming space a few years ago with the social app Miitomo, followed by more traditional gaming experiences like Super Mario Run and the smash hit Fire Emblem Heroes. The company is counting on continued success with mobile exclusives, and under new president Shuntaro Furukawa, it plans to turn them into a nearly $1 billion business.

Speaking to Nikkei, Furukawa — who will replace retiring president Tatsumi Kimishima — said that he expects mobile games to “expand the most” when compared to the company’s other divisions, and that Nintendo believes it can bring in around $910 million. It’s an enormous figure, but it isn’t unreasonable when looking at the data. Fire Emblem Heroes, which is free to play but features fairly extensive microtransaction options, made nearly $300 million in its first year. This is compared to the roughly $60 million of profit Nintendo saw with Super Mario Run, which used a one-time fee model to give players the full list of stages.

“The idea that something will emerge that transforms into something big, in the same manner as game consoles, is the defining motive of the Nintendo business,” Furukawa said in the interview, though he stressed that the company didn’t expect any of its games to become a hit on the scale of Pokémon Go.

Nintendo fans shouldn’t worry about this move signifying a shift away from traditional console games, however. The Switch managed to pass lifetime sales of the Wii U in less than a year on the market, and the October release Super Mario Odyssey has already managed to sell more than 10 million copies — substantially more than Mario Kart 8, the best-selling game on the Wii U.

Thus far, the year has been a little bit quiet for Nintendo, which has yet to release a Switch game on the same scale as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey. The old-school role-playing game Octopath Traveler releases in July and looks quite impressive, but eyes are set to later in 2018, when Nintendo plans to release the next Super Smash Bros. game. More information will be given at the company’s E3 presentation in June.

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2
May

A Steph Curry 3-pointer unlocks Under Armour’s new trivia game app


Under Armour

Steph Curry’s debut in the 2018 NBA Playoffs following a medial collateral ligament injury may be a nightmare for NBA teams, but it could be a dream for a select few NBA fans. The Golden State Warriors star has launched Steph IQ, a real-time mobile trivia game, in collaboration with Under Armour, that is triggered by his 3-point prowess in the playoffs.

Steph IQ will activate a trivia game within three minutes of Curry making his first 3-pointer in each playoff game he plays. Once the 3-point king splashes his first triple, the app will begin presenting users with a series of eight multiple choice questions. Each Warriors game will have one trivia game activation, and users have 10 seconds to answer each question, with one wrong answer eliminating each person from contention for prizes. Make sure your thinking cap is on, and Wikipedia is open, because the questions get harder as the games progress. You may have to figure out how many points Curry scored as a rookie in one question, and then dig a bit deeper into NBA history and figure out who invented the jump shot.

Steph IQ will give each player one Free Pass, which allows users to skip one question that isn’t the final question. Free Passes can be acquired when people sign up to Steph IQ via a user’s referral. At the end of each round of questions, everyone who has answered all the questions correctly will be entered into a sweepstakes drawing for some coveted Curry prizes. Among those prizes are the latest colorways for Under Armour’s Curry 5 sneakers, as well as $10,000 in Under Armour store credit in the form of an e-gift card, to be shared among winners.

The first chance at some Curry goods will be on May 4 at 5 PM PT, during game 3 of the Warriors series against the New Orleans Pelicans. Under Armour will be giving away 10 pairs of Curry’s recently released Curry 5 “Pi Day” sneakers.

Curry has been adding range to his digital game as well as his jump shot. In addition to the new mobile trivia game, the three-point master recently relaunched his YouTube channel, Officialstephcurry30, after not releasing any content on the channel in more than four years. The first series to be released under the relaunch will be 5 Minutes From Home, where the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player will ride with guests to grab a quick bite to eat at a food truck near his home after a home game with the Warriors. Rapper Nipsey Hussle, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, social media stars Rudy Mancuso and Jesse Wellens, along with three players from Oakland’s McClymonds High School, will be guests on the five-episode series.

Sometime in the summer, presumably after the Warriors finish their playoff run, Curry is slated to film another series focused on giving his opinion on many facets of Silicon Valley. YouTubers are clamoring for more Curry. The Officialstephcurry30 channel has already gained more than 13,000 new subscribers since the news of its relaunch was announced on April 25.

The StephIQ app is available now to download in the U.S. for iOS and Android devices. The app will only be available until June 30, 2018, and the number of trivia games offered depends on how many games Curry and the Warriors play in the playoffs. So, you’ll need to keep your eyes glued to the 2018 NBA Playoffs if you want to chance at some fresh Curry kicks.

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