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22
May

Starbucks’ In-Store Mobile Payments Estimated to Be More Popular Than Apple Pay in U.S.


By the end of 2018, an estimated 23.4 million users in the United States will be paying for their coffees and bakery items at Starbucks using the company’s own in-store mobile payment system. The estimate comes from research firm eMarketer (via Recode), which also predicts that Apple Pay will hit 22 million users by the end of the year.

Starbucks itself says that its mobile order-and-pay system accounted for 12 percent of all U.S. transactions in the quarter that ended April 1, and eMarketer predicts the company will hit 29.8 million in-store mobile payment users by 2022. According to the data, Starbucks rises above Apple Pay (predicted at 27.5 million in 2022), Google Pay (14.9 million), and Samsung Pay (13.2 million).

This could be due to the Starbucks app’s cross-platform availability on iOS [Direct Link] and Android, whereas Apple Pay is locked to iPhones for mobile payments and Google Pay and Samsung Pay are found on Android. Still, it’s an impressive feat for a single-restaurant payment app to gather enough users to compete with mobile wallets that are aiming for more universal, multi-location appeal, if eMarketer’s estimates are correct.

eMarketer also points out that Starbucks launched in-store mobile payments before Apple, Google, and Samsung debuted their dedicated mobile wallets, so early adoption could be helping its success. The app also includes a rewards program that earns customers free food and drinks every time they pay using the Starbucks app.

Other points in the report state that Apple Pay is accepted at more than half of U.S. merchants, while Samsung is the most widely accepted at around 80 percent of merchants, while still being the least popular on a user basis. In total, a quarter of U.S. smartphone users over the age of 14, around 55 million owners, will use their devices to make an in-store purchase by the end of 2018.

Image via eMarketer and Recode
Apple doesn’t divulge its Apple Pay usage, leaving researchers and analysts to estimate how many users might be paying for items in store using the NFC system. Earlier this year, Loup Ventures did just that, estimating that 127 million people were using Apple Pay globally at the end of 2017, 38 million of which were in the U.S. — a much higher estimate in comparison to eMarketer’s report.

About one year ago, The Wall Street Journal highlighted Apple’s launch troubles with Apple Pay. In an interview around the same time, senior vice president Eddy Cue said that Apple Pay was growing faster than other mobile wallets and believed it could go so far as to replace cash, debit and credit cards as a primary payment system. “Does it matter if we get there in two years, three years [or] five years?” Cue asked. “Ultimately, no.”

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
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22
May

Legrand Launches Wall-Mounted, Qi-Certified Wireless Charger Compatible With Latest iPhones


Legrand today introduced a new Radiant wall plate with a Qi-certified wireless charger, compatible with the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

The wall plate includes a double receptacle on the left side with a built-in USB-A port, and a wireless charging pad with a holder for smartphones on the right side, with an overall 3.1 amps of power for charging capabilities.

A small LED light at the base of the charger indicates the smartphone’s charging status, showing red while charging and green when charging is complete, but this feature isn’t compatible with iPhones.

Legrand describes the wall plate as the first product of its kind to be released, providing homeowners with a convenient way to charge their iPhone or other Qi-certified device in the kitchen, bedroom, or wherever it is installed.

For installation, the wall plate is designed to replace any standard, single-gang box using existing electrical wiring in a home.


The wall plate is available in White, Ivory, Light Almond, and Black at select retailers across the United States, including Lowe’s and Fry’s Electronics, for around $65 to $70, but prices vary. It’s also available in Canada.

Related Roundups: iPhone 8, iPhone XTags: wireless charging, QiBuyer’s Guide: iPhone 8 (Caution), iPhone X (Neutral)
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22
May

Instagram Announces Mute Feature So You Can Hide Posts Without Unfollowing People


Instagram today announced the ability for you to mute accounts in your feed, so that you can hide posts from people or brands you may not want to see anymore without needing to unfollow them completely. Instagram says that the change is another update to make your feed “even more personalized to what matters to you.”

Account muting will be in the ellipsis menu at the top right of each post, and you can choose to “Mute Posts” or “Mute Posts and Story,” to also prevent that account’s stories from appearing at the top of the Instagram app. You can also mute accounts by pressing and holding on a story in the story tray, or from a user’s profile.

After you mute someone you can still navigate to their profile page to look at their posts, and if you’re tagged by them the app will still send you a push notification. Instagram says that people will not be made aware that you muted them, and you can unmute people whenever you like. Facebook has a similar muting feature, allowing users to unfollow other people without directly unfriending them.

Instagram is routinely working on new additions for its photo-sharing social network, with new digital health features like “Time Spent” usage and “You’re All Caught Up” notifications said to be coming soon. In March, the company updated its feed algorithm to focus on newer posts, although many users frequently request an option to return to the simple, reverse chronological feed.

Instagram says that the mute feature will be rolling out to its users “over the coming weeks.”

Tag: Instagram
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22
May

Belkin Launching Lightning to 3.5mm Audio Cable for iPhones


Belkin today introduced a certified Lightning to 3.5mm audio cable, and announced that pre-orders will begin on its website today.

The cable has a male Lightning connector on one end and a 3.5mm output on the other, allowing iPhone models that lack a headphone jack to be connected to a car stereo via the AUX port without the need for any adapters.

The cable can also be used to connect an iPhone to other products with 3.5mm inputs, ranging from home speaker systems to over-ear headphones. This is possible because the cable has a built-in digital-to-analog converter.


Lightning to 3.5mm audio cables have been available for several years, but Belkin’s edition is certified by Apple under its MFi Program, which was recently expanded to include specifications for this type of cable.

Belkin’s cable will be available in a three-foot length for $29.99 or in a six-foot length for $34.99 in the United States, with prices varying elsewhere. In addition to pre-orders on Belkin.com, the cables will available in the coming weeks at Apple Stores, Best Buy, Target, and select other retailers worldwide.

For a pricing comparison, Master & Dynamic recently released an Apple-certified Lightning to 3.5mm audio cable with an in-line microphone for $69.

Tags: Belkin, Lightning
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22
May

Apple Sends Media Invites for WWDC Keynote on June 4


Apple today sent press invites to a variety of news and media sites for the upcoming 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference, confirming the company’s plans to hold a keynote event on Monday, June 4 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. MacRumors will be in attendance at the keynote.

It is tradition for Apple to hold a keynote event on the first day of the Worldwide Developers Conference to introduce new software and hardware products. This year, we expect to see new versions of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS at the conference, and it’s possible Apple will also use the event to unveil new iPad Pro models and new Macs.

Apple is rumored to be working on an updated iPad Pro that features an iPhone X-style edge-to-edge display with no Home button and support for Face ID. It’s not clear, however, if this device will be ready to debut at WWDC as rumors have said that it may not come until later in the year. Apple often introduces refreshed Macs, and the iMac, MacBook Pro, and MacBook are all awaiting 2018 refreshes.

It’s also possible Apple will use the WWDC event to launch the long-awaited AirPower, a charging mat that’s designed to charge iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus models at the same time as the AirPods (with a new charging case) and the Apple Watch Series 3.

Apple in March announced that this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference will once again be held at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. This is the second year that Apple has hosted the event in San Jose, a location that’s closer to its two Cupertino campuses and the myriad other office buildings the company occupies in the South Bay. Past conferences were held at Moscone West in San Francisco.

WWDC tickets, which were priced at $1,599, were distributed to developers by random selection back in March. Apple also provided 350 scholarships to students and STEM organization members, which include a free ticket to WWDC as well as free lodging at San Jose State University.

Approximately 5,000 developers attend the Worldwide Developers Conference to interface with hundreds of Apple engineers who are available to answer questions and host development sessions. Developers who are not able to attend the event will be able to watch the sessions through Apple’s WWDC 2018 website or the WWDC app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

For Apple’s June 4 keynote event, MacRumors will provide live coverage, both here on MacRumors.com and on our MacRumorsLive Twitter account. We’ll also have detailed coverage of the new software Apple debuts as well as anything else Apple announces during the week.

Related Roundup: WWDC 2018
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22
May

A 4V camera for shooting holograph-like content is coming from RED, Lucid


Which came first, the file format, or the camera capable of shooting it? For the RED Hydrogen One’s holographic-like display, the answer is the file format — but a camera to shoot the HV4 files isn’t far behind. On Tuesday, May 22, Lucid announced a partnership with RED to build an 8K prosumer camera capable of capturing 3D content and the H4V format introduced as part of the upcoming smartphone’s unique display.

The companies aim to create the first dual camera with 8K video and stills that can be converted into 4V in real time. That capability will allow the camera to shoot content that works on the smartphone’s 4-View display, and will allow the smartphone to work as the camera’s electronic viewfinder to preview what the shot will look like in the new format. The real-time capability will also allow for live-streaming, Lucid says.

Along with the smartphone’s essential role in the camera, the new camera will also take on a similar look as RED’s cinema cameras, the company says. Unlike the cinema cameras, the 4V camera will use two synced 4K cameras and a beam splitter, hardware essential to creating the 3D or 4V files. 

Lucid’s role is to integrate the real-time 3D Fusion Technology, already part of the LucidCam VR180 3D camera. The software, Lucid says, turns the intensive process of handling those separate sources and converting them into the 3D or 4V format into something more on a point-and-shoot skill level. The idea, the company says, is to create a prosumer camera for capturing the new format.

Files captured on the new camera can be shared through RED’s content hub as well as on YouTube and Facebook, the companies said.

One of the most unique features about the smartphone that’s expected out this summer is the 4V display. The screen allows for viewing 3D, VR, and AR without glasses or a headset. The partnership is bringing a camera that capitalizes on that new display.

While the two companies have announced the camera’s biggest features, the 4V camera doesn’t yet have a name, price, or full spec sheet. The camera is expected out during the fourth quarter of this year, and will be sold by RED and authorized RED resellers.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Facebook and cinema firm Red team up to build a more realistic VR camera
  • We tried some of the RED Hydrogen One’s crazy tech: Here’s what you need to know
  • DT Daily: RED’s holographic smartphone coming this summer
  • The $277 gadget that turns old film cameras into digital shooters is back
  • QooCam twists to swap between 4K 360 and 3D 180 with Lytro-like refocusing


22
May

OnePlus 6 vs. LG G7 ThinQ: Can the flagship killer sink LG’s latest?


If you want a flagship phone nowadays you can easily drop $1,000, but you don’t have to. The OnePlus 6 offers up-to-date design trends wrapped around cutting edge hardware and it could save you a few hundred dollars over the top phones from Apple and Samsung. But you might also consider stretching that budget just a bit more and picking up LG’s latest — the feature-packed, LG G7 ThinQ. If you are weighing up the pros and cons of these two devices, then you’re in the right place because we’re about to compare them across various categories to pick a winner.

Specs

OnePlus 6
LG G7 ThinQ

Size
155.7 x 75.4 x 7.8 mm (6.13 x 2.97 x 0.31 inches)
153.2 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm (6.03 x 2.83 x 0.31 inches)

Weight
177 grams (6.24 ounces)
162 grams (5.71 ounces)

Screen size
6.28-inch AMOLED display
6.1-inch IPS LCD display

Screen resolution
2,280 x 1,080 pixels (402 pixels per inch)
3,120 x 1,440 pixels (564 pixels per inch)

Operating system
Android 8.1 Oreo
Android 8.0 Oreo

Storage space
64GB (with 6GB of RAM), 128GB, 256GB (both with 8GB of RAM)

64GB (with 4GB of RAM), 128GB (with 6GB of RAM)

MicroSD card slot
No
Yes, up to 400GB

Tap-to-pay services
Google Pay
Google Pay

Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

RAM
6GB, 8GB
4GB, 6GB

Camera
Dual 16MP and 20MP rear, 16MP front
Dual 16MP and 16MP rear, 8MP front

Video
2,160p at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 30/60/120, 720p at 480 fps super slow motion, HDR
2,160p at 30 frames per second, 1,080p at 60 fps

Bluetooth version
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 5.0

Ports
3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C

Fingerprint sensor
Yes (back)
Yes (back)

Water resistance
No
IP68

Battery
3,300mAh

DashCharge

3,000mAh

Fast charging (QC 3.0)

Qi wireless charging

 

App marketplace
Google Play Store
Google Play Store

Network support
AT&T and T-Mobile
T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint

Colors
Midnight Black, Mirror Black, Silk White
Platinum Gray, Aurora Black, Moroccan Blue, Raspberry Rose

Price
$530
$750

Buy from
OnePlus

Review score
4.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

These phones are very fast performers and there isn’t a discernible difference between them, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering they both have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor inside. Comparing benchmark scores, the OnePlus 6 does slightly better, but we know that the manufacturer has tuned specifically for benchmark scores in the past, so we’d take those results with a pinch of salt. In the real world we’ve found that both phones are plenty fast enough to handle everything we’ve thrown at them.

The OnePlus 6 comes with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, or 8GB of RAM with either 128GB or 256GB of storage. There’s no room for a MicroSD card slot. You can get the LG G7 ThinQ with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, or 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but it does have a MicroSD card slot for expansion.

With a bigger 3,300mAh battery, you might expect the OnePlus 6 to last a little longer than the LG G7 ThinQ, which makes do with a 3,000mAh battery, but in practice we’ve found both phones can easily last the day and beyond. They also both offer fast charging, but only the LG G7 ThinQ offers support for wireless charging. This is tight, but we’re going to give it to the G7 ThinQ because of the MicroSD card slot and the wireless charging.

Winner: LG G7 ThinQ

Design and durability

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

We’re disappointed to see so many Android manufacturers embrace the notch and it means that the OnePlus 6 and LG G7 ThinQ actually look very similar from the front. Apart from the sizable notch at the top, they also both have bottom bezels. Flip over to the back and you’ll find both sport a central dual lens camera module with a fingerprint sensor below it, though OnePlus has adopted a stadium or lozenge shape, while LG’s is round. Both phones are made of glass front and back sandwiching a narrow aluminum frame. We slightly prefer the larger, heavier OnePlus 6 which manages to pack in a tiny bit more screen proportionately, but there’s really not much here that sets them apart.

The LG G7 ThinQ is the clear winner in terms of durability because of the IP68 rating, which means it won’t die if it tumbles into a bath or toilet. The OnePlus 6 lacks any IP rating, but it is still water resistant so you won’t have to worry about rain. Both are going to need a good case to avoid drop damage.

Winner: OnePlus 6

Display

This is perhaps the first category where we find a clear contrast between these phones. The OnePlus 6 has a 6.28-inch AMOLED with a resolution of 2,280 x 1,440 pixels. The LG G7 ThinQ sports a 6.1-inch screen with a 3,120 x 1,440-pixel resolution. The LG is sharper at 564 pixels per inch compared to 402 for the OnePlus 6, but the OnePlus phone squeezes more screen in and manages a screen-to-body ratio of 83.8 percent compared to 82.6 percent for the G7 ThinQ.

More importantly than the numbers, both screens look great. The G7 ThinQ also has a handy Super Bright Display mode that cranks up the brightness to make it readable outdoors. But we believe that OLED technology is fundamentally superior to LCD and the extra screen real estate is always welcome, especially when it doesn’t significantly increase the size of the phone, so OnePlus wins this category.

Winner: OnePlus 6

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Although both phones sport a dual lens camera, LG has taken a slightly different approach pairing a standard 16-megapixel camera, with a f/1.6 aperture and optical image stabilization, with a 16-megapixel, f/1.9 aperture, wide-angle camera. LG has also included AI Cam, which is supposed to automatically recognize scene types and fine tune your camera settings for best results, and Super Bright Camera mode, which makes the most of low-light situations. The G7 ThinQ also has an 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a decent portrait mode that works with both cameras.

OnePlus has combined a 16-megapixel lens with a 20-megapixel lens and both feature an f/1.7 aperture. There’s also a 16-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture, selfie camera. You won’t find any A.I. smarts in the OnePlus 6 camera, but it does have a portrait mode that works quite well.

The LG G7 ThinQ has a very versatile camera that gets great results most of the time. We haven’t had time to test the OnePlus 6 camera as extensively yet, but it also appears to be a good performer, though we think both fall short of top camera phones like the Huawei P20 Pro or Pixel 2.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The LG G7 ThinQ runs Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box with LG’s user interface on top. LG just opened a new software update center, promising quick updates to new Android versions, security updates, and updates to add new features to the phone.

The OnePlus 6 runs Android 8.1 Oreo with OxygenOS on top and OnePlus is generally good with software updates. You can also try out the Android P beta on the OnePlus 6 right now.

We won’t know for sure who handles this better until the updates roll out. Based on past performance, we’d probably give it to OnePlus, but, since LG is taking steps to improve, we’ll call it a tie for now.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

LG takes audio seriously, so you’ll find a Quad DAC and headphone jack in the LG G7 ThinQ, as well as a “Boombox” speaker, which uses the phone’s body as a resonance chamber in order to crank up the volume and quality of the audio it puts out. There’s also a special A.I. key on the G7 ThinQ which activates Google Assistant. You can press it once to launch voice recognition or hold it down to talk continuously.

The OnePlus 6 has a handy alert slider, like the iPhone, which allows you to quickly silence notifications. There’s also support for some gesture controls, but we prefer the traditional Android buttons for getting around.

Winner: LG G7 ThinQ

Price

The OnePlus 6 is on sale now and costs $530 for the 64GB model, $580 for the 128GB model, and $630 for the 256GB model. You can buy it unlocked direct from OnePlus, but it won’t work on Verizon or Sprint.

Pre-orders for the LG G7 ThinQ are open in some places, but it won’t be shipping until May 31. It’s going to cost you $750, which is less than some other flagships, but still significantly more than the OnePlus 6. It will work on all the major U.S. carriers and you’ll be able to buy it from Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular.

Overall winner: OnePlus 6

This is a tricky one to call. The LG G7 ThinQ wins points for superior audio, wireless charging support, and that MicroSD card slot, but we slightly prefer the design and display of the OnePlus 6. They’re both fast, capable Android phones with a lot to offer, but we think the OnePlus 6 is better value for money and so it wins overall.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • LG G7 ThinQ vs. Google Pixel 2 XL: A brains-versus-brawn comparison
  • LG G7 ThinQ vs. iPhone X: Which phone comes out on top?
  • LG G7 ThinQ vs. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: Clash for the heavyweight title
  • LG G7 ThinQ vs. LG G6: Out with the old, in with the new
  • LG G7 ThinQ vs. LG V30: Which LG flagship phone is best for you?


22
May

New Spectre-like bug could mean more performance-degrading patches


A new CPU bug that shares a number of similarities with the Spectre and Meltdown exploits which came to light earlier this year, has been discovered. Termed the Speculative Store Bypass, it already has fixes and firmware updates that have been shipped out to OEMs to distribute, but there is some concern that the patches will impact processor performance when applied.

Speculative Store Bypass is much closer in design to Spectre, in that it exploits the speculative aspect of modern CPUs which helps speed up certain calculations. As Microsoft and Google each discovered in their research though, that speculation is vulnerable to exterior attack and can be exploited to steal data and personal information from a system’s user. With that in mind, new fixes are being developed that will shut down that functionality in affected processors, but as a result, some calculations will take longer to complete — and in some cases, that impact can be significant.

Although the firmware updates are seen as somewhat unnecessary, as earlier improvements to CPU security to prevent against Spectre should provide adequate protection against the new exploit, Intel has provided a full mitigation firmware update as well. The update is currently being distributed by OEM partners, but the patch will not be enabled by default and it will be up to software providers to decide whether they want to use it or not.

“If enabled, we have observed a performance impact of approximately 2-8 percent based on overall scores for benchmarks like SYSmark 2014 SE and SPEC integer rate on client 1 and server 2 test systems,” Intel’s general manager of product assurance and security, Leslie Culberston said.

Considering that this newly announced flaw is harder to exploit than previous variations of the Spectre bug, it may be that most software providers do not choose to leverage the additional protections, as per The Verge. As with Spectre and Meltdown though, permanent fixes for the problem will only be possible through changes to the way the chips are designed and that will involve hardware alterations. Intel has promised that its next-generation CPUs will not be susceptible to these sorts of exploits.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • AMD says the patches for its recent Ryzen flaws are almost ready
  • Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 patch will address Spectre Variant 2 CPU flaw
  • Intel decides not to patch Spectre vulnerability for older processors
  • AMD has a fix for Spectre variant II, but will motherboard makers support it?
  • Intel’s 9th-generation ‘Ice Lake’ CPUs will have fixes for Meltdown, Spectre


22
May

Augmented reality’s latest trick? Simplifying directions on Google Maps


Google Maps keeps growing up. Already one of the most popular tools on anyone’s smartphone, the navigation app has successfully mapped 220 countries, and helped 1 billion users find their way around. Recently, Google has begun automatically adding new businesses, addresses, and places of interest, and is now giving users information about whether or not their favorite local haunts are open, and how long the wait time might be. But at Google I/O, the company gave us a sneak peek at what is to come from Google Maps, and no matter how nonexistent your sense of direction might be, Google can help.

Perhaps the most useful new feature Google announced at its conference is something the company is calling VPS, or visual positioning system. Rather than asking users to rely on that little blue dot on their screen to help orient themselves, Google is instead leveraging your smartphone camera to help you determine exactly where you are. In the not-so-distant future, once you’re in Google Maps, you should be able to point your camera at a street or at a building, and not only be told exactly what you’re looking at, but which way to turn in order to reach your final destination. That means your days of walking half a block in one direction before turning around and walking the other way could soon be behind you.

This new feature combines computer vision with street view, and may also incorporate some fun augmented reality — for example, Google is toying with the idea of adding a friendly animal guide to lead you to your point of interest.

And it’s not just navigation that Maps is improving. Rather, the app is becoming an increasingly social experience. You will soon find a new tab in Google Maps called “For You” that is designed to tell you what you need to know about the places you care about. When a new business opens in your area, you’ll be notified, and also receive a recommendation as to whether or not you might enjoy the experience. Google is not only offering a list of trending destinations in a community but is also debuting a new feature called Match Score. This, the company says, helps you differentiate among all those four-star rated restaurants and pick the one you are most likely to enjoy.

“We use machine learning to generate this number, based on a few factors: What we know about a business, the food and drink preferences you’ve selected in Google Maps, places you’ve been to, and whether you’ve rated a restaurant or added it to a list,” Google explains in a blog post. “Your matches change as your own tastes and preferences evolve over time — it’s like your own expert sidekick, helping you quickly assess your options and confidently make a decision.” Simply tap on a destination within Maps to see its score.

You can also better plan group activities within maps with the new Shortlist function. Just long-press on a place you’re interested in visiting with your friends in order to add it to a shareable shortlist. When you’re ready to send it off to your friends and family members, recipients can either vote on their favorites or add more choices to the mix. And of course, once a decision has been made, you can use Google Maps to secure a reservation and book a ride.

The latest update to Google Maps isn’t quite as high tech, but it’s still quite nifty. If you’re running the app on your iPhone, you now have the option of replacing that boring old blue arrow with the icon of a car. “Depending on your mood, you can swap out the classic blue navigation arrow for a new icon—a stylish sedan, a timeless pickup truck, or a speedy SUV,” Google noted in a blog post. “Get started by tapping on the arrow while in driving navigation mode to select your vehicle of choice, and hit the road with a brand-new car, so you can have that new car feeling without the down payment.”

The rest of the aforementioned features should begin rolling out globally on both Android and iOS in the coming months.

Updated on May 22: Google Maps now lets you navigate using a car icon instead of an arrow. 

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Google adds wheelchair-accessible routes to Google Maps
  • Google News receives a major overhaul, replaces Google Play Newsstand
  • Updates to Google Assistant could make it the most natural digital helper yet
  • Google Maps for iPhone now shows you restaurant wait times
  • Which way is which? Here’s how to quickly calibrate the Google Maps compass


22
May

FLI Charge’s conductive wireless charging could revolutionize classroom tech


Bretford

A new product called Juice Mobile Power has just received FCC and ETL certification to roll out into classrooms and offices across the country. Developed by power delivery experts FLI Charge and educational tech manufacturers Bretford, Juice Mobile Power is designed to deliver safe, efficient power to environments with a shortage of outlets.

“At FLI Charge we’re really focused on bringing power closer to people,” CEO Cliff Weinstein explained to Digital Trends. “Schools are looking for a convenient way to move power around in a code-compliant fashion, and this offers significant savings over retrofitting power outlets.”

Retrofitting a new power outlet in a school or an office building can be very expensive, especially if you want it in the middle of a room. You may have to drill through concrete, old buildings could present structural or asbestos concerns, and the cost can easily run into the thousands of dollars.

The answer up until now has been overloaded power strips and extension cords, which can be dangerous, or charging carts, which don’t deliver power where it’s needed at the desktop. But that could be about to change.

Juice Mobile Power can deliver up to 300W, enough to power up to 20 devices from a single outlet, and a starter kit costs less than $1,500.

Digital Trends got a demo of the new technology in action, and the potential is exciting.

A brick-sized power supply is plugged into a wall outlet, and it converts power from AC to DC, sending it to thin, 6-foot-long extension tracks that can be placed anywhere on the floor. When someone wants power, they drop a pod on top of the track with a cord that attaches to the plugs you want — for example, a series of USB plugs that can sit on the desktop powering tablets and laptops.

Bretford

The pod lights up when it’s ready to deliver power and, since everything in the modular system attaches magnetically, there’s no tripping hazard. Pods can be dropped anywhere on the track, then the onboard circuitry goes through a handshake procedure with the power management module (PMM) and pulls in the precise amount of power needed to charge up attached devices.

Juice Mobile Power can simultaneously charge up multiple devices with different power demands.

There’s also foreign-object detection that instantly powers down the surface, which Weinstein demonstrated for us by placing his palm on the extension track. The pod light went out immediately and then powered up again a few seconds after he removed his hand.

It’s easy to see the potential for Juice Mobile Power beyond the classroom, such as in conference rooms, office buildings, or anywhere there’s a power requirement and not enough outlets to go around.

FLI Charge showed us the technology embedded into a desk and powering a laptop, but it could also be used to power a monitor or another modified device — anything with FLI Charge’s circuitry inside.

“Surface is a static thing, and we make that surface functional,” says Weinstein. “There are just two limitations: We have to create contact because it is conductive … and the other limitation is power supply.”

We first came across FLI Charge when the company ran a successful Indiegogo campaign with charging pads and phone cases that worked a lot like Qi wireless charging, but much faster and more efficiently.

While most of us are sold on the convenience of wireless charging and power over distance, there are concerns about its safety, inefficiency, and slow speed.

“We are not a wireless charging company,” Weinstein told us. “I believe wireless charging and power over distance will exist, just not the way people think it will due to the power restrictions and safety and efficiency issues, but we’re all under the same umbrella — we’re all trying to bring power closer.”

Early Qi chargers were around 60 percent efficient, and though they’ve climbed up to 75 percent in some cases, there’s still a lot of power being lost. Even the best Qi wireless chargers are also still a lot slower than wired charging.

All the power-over-distance technology we’ve seen so far is extremely inefficient, in terms of putting out a huge amount of power to get a small amount to the device — 20 to 30 percent within five feet would be a good return.

Safety is also a concern. Energous has won FCC approval, but is currently delivering very small amounts of power over very short distances — a few hundred milliwatts over three feet.

“Moving power over distance is not a challenge, but to do so efficiently and safely is a near impossibility,” Weinstein suggests.

Conductive wireless charging, by contrast, can juice up mobile devices at the same speed and efficiency as the wall outlet, but it requires contact between the device and the charging surface.

Weinstein’s ambitions for FLI Charge go well beyond the classroom. The Indiegogo campaign was a proof of concept and competence that enabled FLI Charge to win the confidence of potential partners and sign some licensing deals.

“Our business model has always been: B2B will drive B2C, and we think power and charging has applicability in every sector,” says Weinstein.

We’ve already seen the technology used to power in-room iPads for a New York hotel, and it’s about to roll into classrooms and offices, but FLI Charge has a lot more in the pipeline.

Sadly, the need for a conductive surface and the success of Qi probably rules out smartphones for the foreseeable future, but you can expect to see the technology integrated into laptops, power tools, drones, and other devices, with power delivery built in to furniture and other new form factors.

“2018 is the year for commercialization and getting it out there,” Weinstein says. “Long term, we see it replacing the plug altogether and our surfaces replace the outlet.”

For now, Juice Mobile Power solves a tangible problem in a clever way and it gives FLI Charge a chance to showcase the advantages of conductive wireless charging. Only time will tell if it will take off in the way Weinstein envisions, but having seen Juice Mobile Power in action, we wouldn’t bet against it.

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