A new article published last night by The Wall Street Journal takes a look into how accessibility-focused technology has the “potential to fundamentally change the mobility, employment and lifestyle of the blind and vision-impaired.” The piece looks at advancements made by Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and other companies, including hardware and software like Amazon’s Echo, Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, and Apple’s Siri.
One blind individual, Mike May, discussed using dedicated accessibility technology like Aira, which provides users with special glasses that connect them to a human representative in real time who proceeds to describe the user’s surroundings to them as they move around. Aira ranges from $89 for 100 minutes per month to $329 for unlimited access per month.
While important for blind users to have technology focused entirely on their daily needs, advocate Mark Riccobono pointed out that introducing accessibility into existing devices, like Apple does, “may be an even bigger need.”
He points to the iPhone, which had accessibility built into it from the beginning.
“I can go down to the Apple store and pay the same price and triple-click the home button and I have VoiceOver,” says Mr. Riccobono, referring to a feature where the phone will describe aloud what is happening on the screen. “That’s built in, it’s great, it doesn’t cost a penny extra.”
Apple’s devices have numerous features aimed at visually impaired users, including VoiceOver, display accommodations, the magnifier and zoom, resizable text options, and more. These features are available across the Apple ecosystem on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. One user, Erik Weihenmayer, mentioned using Siri to send texts to family members, which is also a functionality of HomePod.
Of course, many of the voice-activated devices that have become powerful aids for the blind, such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home, weren’t specifically designed for them, or with philanthropy in mind.
Mr. Weihenmayer, for example, uses Comcast ’s voice remote to find TV shows, Apple’s Siri to send texts and Amazon’s Alexa to cue up his favorite music.
The article ends with a focus on the next potential “life-changing” technology for the blind: the driverless car. Apple’s own progress in this field is now reportedly focused entirely on an autonomous driving system that would be integrated into an existing manufacturer’s vehicle.
As Apple works on an autonomous system to launch on a wide scale in the future, it has already ramped up self-driving initiatives around its corporate campuses, recently signing a deal with Volkswagen to use Volkswagen vans as self-driving shuttles to transport employees in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Transportation can be a very large barrier in the lives of blind people,” impeding everything from employment to education, says Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind. “Having the ability to have one of these vehicles come and take you where you want to go, when you want to go, and not be constrained by the paratransit system or the fixed-route system,” promises a greater level of independence and freedom, he says.
Other companies have beaten Apple to market in this field, most notably including Alphabet’s Waymo, which is planning an autonomous car service for a wide launch in 2018. For its part, Waymo says it will put audio tools and Braille labels in its self-driving cars so that blind riders can perform tasks like requesting the car to pull over or calling a Waymo operator.
For Apple, the company on May 17 highlighted a wide range of its accessibility features on its website in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The updated Apple.com accessibility page includes a short commercial from 2016 about real people with disabilities who use Apple products in everyday life, narrated by Sady Paulson, who uses Switch Control on a Mac.
Otherwise there are dedicated sections on the webpage for different types of disabilities, including Vision, Hearing, Physical and Motor Skills, and Learning and Literacy. At the top of the page Apple explains, “Technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone.”
Tags: The Wall Street Journal, accessibility
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Apple’s fleet of self-driving vehicles roaming the streets of California is now at 62 vehicles and 87 drivers, up from 55 vehicles and 83 drivers just two weeks ago. The numbers come from ongoing coverage provided by macReports, citing information obtained from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Apple has been expanding its autonomous vehicle test since it was granted a permit from the California DMV in April 2017, enabling it to test the advanced technology on public roads in the state. Beginning in early 2018, multiple sources reported on the number of vehicles in Apple’s fleet, with 27 autonomous vehicles counted in January and 45 in March.
Each of Apple’s cars is equipped with the company’s in-development autonomous driving software, along with advanced LIDAR equipment and an array of cameras to detect the vehicle’s surroundings. The actual cars are Lexus RX450h sports utility vehicles and must have safety drivers inside of them, since Apple’s permit does not include driverless testing.
Apple’s growing collection of self-driving vehicles is reportedly gathering data for the company’s long-rumored autonomous vehicle software. Apple initially pivoted to self-driving car software when plans for its own electric vehicle fell through.
As Apple continues to grow the fleet, it’s still unclear exactly what the company will do with the software when it’s finished the testing phase. One likely possibility will be a partnership between Apple and an existing car manufacturer to place the self-driving software inside a vehicle not built by Apple, which could be implemented through a future version of CarPlay.
Rumors that date back to 2016 suggest the software could include augmented reality aspects, like a heads-up display that provides a collection of useful driving details from various apps. Since those rumors, AR has become a huge field of interest for Apple with the launch of the iPhone X and ARKit, so it’s easy to see Apple’s interest in potentially expanding such technology into driving.
More recently, in June 2017 Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed Apple’s work on autonomous software: “We’re focusing on autonomous systems. It’s a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects… it’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects to actually work on.”
Tag: Apple Car
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Apple today released iOS 11.4, the fourteenth update to the iOS 11 operating system that was first introduced last September. iOS 11.4 comes a month after the release of iOS 11.3.1, an update that introduced a bug fix for a display repair issue.
iOS 11.4 is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the update, go to Settings –> General –> Software Update. Eligible devices include the iPhone 5s and later, the iPad mini 2 and later, the iPad Air and later, and the 6th-generation iPod touch.
iOS 11.4 is an audio-focused update, introducing support for multi-room audio through a new protocol that supports multi-room audio on all AirPlay 2 enabled devices.
Right now, AirPlay 2-compatible devices include the Apple TV and the HomePod, but in the future, AirPlay 2 will be available on third-party speakers from manufacturers like Bang & Olufsen, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Marshall, Naim, Pioneer and Sonos.
With AirPlay 2, you can play the same song on multiple speakers throughout the house, move music from one room to another, or play music in any room from any room using an iOS device, HomePod, Apple TV, or Siri voice commands. AirPlay 2 devices are now displayed in the Apple Home app as AirPlay 2 is integrated with HomeKit.
Using AirPlay 2, you can control where music is playing through the Control Center or within apps on an iOS device or ask Siri to play music in any room (or multiple rooms) with an AirPlay 2-enabled device.
HomePod is also gaining support for stereo pairing, which is designed to let two HomePods work in unison.
The iOS 11.4 update also introduces Messages in iCloud, a feature that has been in the works for several months and was first promised as an iOS 11 feature in June of 2017. Messages in iCloud is designed to store your iMessages in iCloud rather than on each individual device, allowing for improved syncing capabilities.
At the current time, incoming iMessages are sent to all of the devices where you’re signed in to your Apple ID, but there is no true cross-device syncing. Messages in iCloud will let you download all of your iMessages on new devices, and a message deleted on one device will remove it from all devices, which is not the case right now.
Older messages and attachments are also stored in iCloud rather than on device, saving valuable storage space across all of your Macs, iPhones, and iPads.
For the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, there is a new (PRODUCT)RED wallpaper available, which is not available on iPhone X, and in betas, the iOS 11.4 update included USB Restricted Mode, which may have made it into release.
USB Restricted Mode introduces a week-long expiration date on access to the Lightning port on iOS devices if your phone has not been unlocked, a feature that limits law enforcement access to the iPhone and the iPad using tools like the GrayKey box.
In addition to these features, iOS 11.4 also includes several bug fixes, as outlined in Apple’s release notes. Full release notes are below:
iOS 11.4 includes AirPlay 2 multi-room audio, support for HomePod stereo pairs, and Messages in iCloud. This update also includes bug fixes and improvements.
– Control your home audio system and AirPlay 2-enabled speakers throughout your house
– Play music at the same time on multiple AirPlay 2-enabled speakers in your house, all in sync
– Control AirPlay 2-enabled speakers from Control Center, the Lock screen, or AirPlay controls within apps on your iPhone or iPad
– Use your voice to control AirPlay 2-enabled speakers with Siri from your iPhone or iPad, HomePod, or Apple TV
– Take a call or play a game on your iPhone or iPad without interrupting playback on your AirPlay 2-enabled speakers
HomePod stereo pair
– This update supports setting up your HomePod stereo pair using your iPhone or iPad
– HomePod pair automatically senses its location in the room and balances the sound based on the speakers’ locations
– Advanced beamforming provides wider soundstage than traditional stereo pair
– HomePod will automatically update to support stereo pairs, unless auto updates are disabled in the Home app
Messages in iCloud
– Store your messages, photos, and other attachments in iCloud and free up space on your devices
– All your messages appear when you sign into a new device with the same iMessage account
– When you delete messages and conversations they are instantly removed from all your devices
– To turn on Messages in iCloud, enable Messages in iCloud settings (Settings > [your name] > iCloud)
– Your conversations continue to be end-to-end encrypted
Other improvements and fixes
– Enables teachers to assign their students reading activities in iBooks using the Schoolwork app
– Fixes an issue where certain character sequences could cause Messages to crash
– Addresses a Messages issue that could cause some messages to appear out of order
– Addresses an issue that could prevent logging in or accessing files on Google Drive, Google Docs and Gmail in Safari
– Fixes an issue that could prevent data syncing in Health
– Fixes an issue that could prevent users from changing what apps can access Health data
– Resolves an issue that could cause an app to appear in an incorrect location on the Home screen
– Fixes an issue where CarPlay audio could become distorted
– Fixes an issue where selecting music from your iPhone could fail when playing music over Bluetooth or when connected to USB on some vehicles
iOS 11.4 may be one of the final updates to the iOS 11 operating system, which will be followed by iOS 12. Apple will unveil iOS 12 at the Worldwide Developers Conference next week.
Related Roundup: iOS 11
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Apple today released tvOS 11.4, the fourth major update to the tvOS operating system designed for the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models. tvOS 11.4 comes more than a month after the release of tvOS 11.3, an update that focused on bug fixes and small feature improvements.
tvOS 11.4 can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the Apple TV by going to System –> Software Update. Apple TV owners who have automatic software updates turned on will be upgraded to tvOS 11.4 automatically.
The tvOS 11.4 update, paired with iOS 11.4, introduces support for AirPlay 2 functionality. AirPlay 2 is designed to bring multi-room audio to the Apple ecosystem, allowing the same music to be played on multiple devices throughout the home.
tvOS 11.4 turns the Apple TV into an AirPlay 2-compatible device that’s listed in the Home app for HomeKit devices. AirPlay 2 playback can be controlled through the Apple TV, through an iOS device, or using Apple’s personal assistant, Siri, to play content using voice commands.
AirPlay 2 is limited to the Apple TV and the HomePod at the current time, but it will expand to additional audio devices in the future.
tvOS 11.4 also introduces performance improvements, security enhancements, and bug fixes for issues that have been discovered since the release of tvOS 11.3.
Related Roundup: Apple TVBuyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
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Apple today released watchOS 4.3.1, a small update to the watchOS 4 operating system that runs on the Apple Watch. watchOS 4.3.1 comes more than a month after the release of watchOS 4.3, a major update that introduced Portrait Nightstand Mode and re-added iPhone music controls.
watchOS 4.3.1 can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update. To install the new software, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it needs to be placed on a charger, and it needs to be in range of the iPhone.
As a 4.x.x update, watchOS 4.3.1 is minor in scale, focusing primarily on bug fixes and other under-the-hood performance improvements, with no major feature changes discovered during the beta testing period.
Prior to the release of watchOS 4.3.1, Apple stopped letting developers update Apple Watch apps built on the original watchOS 1 SDK. Starting with watchOS 4.3.1, you’ll see an alert when launching a watchOS 1 app warning you that the app may not be compatible with future versions of watchOS.
This warning suggests Apple will perhaps drop support for watchOS 1 apps entirely in the future, perhaps in the upcoming watchOS 5 update that Apple will unveil at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Imagine for a moment that you lived in a technological utopia. Not one with flying cars and holograms, but one that could exist using only the tech you already own right now.
Imagine if the phone you check social media on when you wake was seamlessly integrated into the laptop you use at home, as well as the desktop PC you use at the office. Imagine if they all ran the same apps, shared the same files, and held the same data. You could answer a phone call, or text, on whichever you wanted, and could control them all remotely with the press of a button. Even the voice assistant you call to while cooking dinner could be plugged into the same system.
That’s not the world we live in today, but Google, Apple, and Microsoft are doing their best to create it. The fragmented worlds of mobile and desktop operating systems must be unified, and when they are, it’ll be a watershed moment in computing. That moment’s not as distant as you may think.
A responsive, unified operating system
Today, forcing your phone and your laptop to be friends is like trying to force a conversation between people who speak different languages. That became a topic of discussion when we spoke to Trond Wuellner. He’s a project manager on Google’s Pixelbook, a 2-in-1 laptop that tries to bridge the gap between desktop and mobile.
“Our relationship with computing fundamentally changed when phones became the first go-to device.”
“In a large way, laptops and that form factor haven’t gone through a major evolution in 25 years,” said Wuellner. “They’re fundamentally the same kind of feel as they were then. The reality of how people are actually using computers is just very different today.”
Wuellner’s correct. Mobile operating systems and desktop operating systems are not cut from the same cloth. One was designed for touch, and one was designed for a mouse and keyboard.
“Our relationship with computing fundamentally changed when phones became the first go-to device everybody grabs in the morning,” says Wuellner. “As a result, what is happening is the relationship with the software and the experiences and the applications that people go to first have evolved as well. No longer is that desktop-installed application or “program” the first way you think about computers. It’s now the mobile apps.”
That may be true, but it’s not as easy as porting mobile apps to a laptop or strapping a keyboard onto a tablet. Products like the iPad Pro, Surface Pro, and Pixelbook have tried that, and none have held up as a truly unified device.
What we need is a complete reset — an operating system built from the ground up for multiple devices and form factors. It needs to be flexible and contextual in a way that the current devices aren’t. It’d need to function fluidly regardless of what kind of computer or input devices you use with it.
In fact, it might look something like Windows 8.
Failing toward the future
Apple and Google have been sidestepping the problem for years by focusing on their own segmented product lines, but in 2012, Microsoft tackled it head on. The ill-fated experiment may not have achieved much success, but it was a recognition of the problem and a clear swing at solving it.
The best web experiences were redesigned from the ground up to work well on mobile and desktop simultaneously.
“Windows 8 shatters perceptions of what a PC now really is,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at its launch in 2012. “We’ve truly reimagined Windows and kicked off a new era for Microsoft. It’ll deliver a no-compromise experience.”
Microsoft imagined a future where every device had touch capabilities, and one where no one would miss the traditional interfaces of Windows 7. Unfortunately, it was a bit ahead of its time. Desktop users didn’t see any benefit to relearning everything they’d ever known about Windows, and while it looked the same across mobile and desktop, it didn’t quite work like a single operating system.
Windows 8 didn’t go far enough. There is, however, another source of innovation that’s enjoyed far more success. The web.
Windows 8 was a complete refresh of the desktop interface, emphasizing large touch-friendly icons and hiding elements people were more familiar with.
Rewind a half-decade, and you’d find websites were mostly static. Pull up your favorite site on a 4-inch smartphone, and you were stuck zooming in and poking with frustration at unresponsive links. Pull that same website up on your 28-inch monitor, and you’d find yourself staring at gobs of blank space.
Since then, developers have found ways to translate the desktop web experience into something that makes sense for touch-based controls without sacrificing usefulness on large desktop displays. Websites are built to know what kind of device you’re using and adjust accordingly. The best web experiences were redesigned from the ground up to work well on mobile and desktop simultaneously. That’s the web of today, and it’s also a blueprint for the future of computers as a whole.
Microsoft and Apple have a trick up their sleeves
At Build 2018, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella spent a lot of time talking about the current reality of our need for a unified operating system, as well as what the company was doing to solve the problem.
“We need to up-level even our concept of what an operating system is.”
“In a single day, you’re using multiple devices, you’re at multiple locations working with multiple people, and interacting using multiple senses,” said Nadella in his opening keynote. “That’s the world we already live in. We need an operating system, we need a platform, that abstracts the hardware at that level — that creates an app model at that level. Single devices remain important, and will remain important. But this meta-orchestration is what we need to do. We need to up-level even our concept of what an operating system is.”
Microsoft’s current answer is to focus on cloud services, which can be accessed and used regardless of what device you’re on. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the company is actively redesigning Windows to extend well beyond your PC.
Surface Note concept Ryan Smalley/Behance
We don’t know the details yet, but the company is said to be pursuing an idea it first explored with Microsoft Courier back in 2009. Today, it’s being referred to as the Surface Phone – though that’s an unofficial name given by fans. Whatever the final product might be called, patents show a notebook-like device that uses the stylus Surface products have become known for. Whether it’ll work as a phone, like its nickname suggests, isn’t clear; concepts show a wide variety of sizes, so Microsoft itself is still experimenting.
The Surface Phone is not just a hardware project, of course. It’s rumored to use an operating system called Windows Core OS, which is based on the Windows 10 shell. Again, Microsoft is picking up where it left off with Windows 8, dreaming of “One Windows” that works on platforms ranging from the Xbox to the Surface Phone. Microsoft isn’t going to be replacing Windows 10 soon, but it’s certainly planning to extend and modify it to work on other platforms.
Macbook Pro 2018 concept Daniel Brunsteiner/Behance
Microsoft isn’t the only company patenting a dual-screen device. Despite what it says to the media, Apple is also interested in developing a modernized laptop that ditches the keyboard. According to a handful of new patents from Apple, the company wants to expand the Touch Bar across the entire deck of the MacBook Pro. This will make touch controls readily available on its laptop, laying the foundation to intertwine the functionality of iOS and MacOS. Add in the framework for universal iOS apps, and you’ve got something that sounds an awful lot like merging its mobile and desktop operating systems.
When the likes of Microsoft and Apple are headed in the same direction, you know a true watershed moment is in the works.
Google’s Fuchsia leads the way
Google has been transforming Chromebooks into touch-friendly devices for over a year now, slowly bringing features from Android to support the mobile apps it now supports. It’s only a temporary solution. Google’s real solution has been in the works for years now; brand new operating system called Fuchsia.
Fuchsia is a brand-new operating system by Google that has been built to go beyond the boundaries of mobile (Android) and desktop (Chrome OS) platforms — or, perhaps, converge them together in a more meaningful way. Although it’s bare-bones, Fuchsia gives us a peek into one possible future.
Recently, a developer posted a browser-based demo for Fuchsia with Google’s publicly available code over on GitHub. There’s not much to do (or even much to see), but it’s our first real look at what Google has been working on behind the curtain.
To do it, Fuchsia doesn’t just add elements from each. It reimagines some of the basic structures of traditional computing like windows, multitasking, and opening apps. It’s built around fullscreen apps, like a mobile device, but gives you a clear view of what apps you have open, similar to MacOS’ multi-desktop view. At center of it all is that an amorphous Google search bar, which can do everything from open local apps and files to search the web.
This is the future of the computers, and it’s not as far off as it might seem.
A button in the top left corner of the screen allows you to move back and forth between a smaller smartphone screen, and a larger laptop screen. That essential elemental responds to different display sizes just like a responsive website would. As it stands, Fuchsia won’t convince anyone to leave iOS or Windows 10 behind, but it’s taking the need for a unified operating system seriously.
This is the future of the computers, and it’s not as far off as it might seem. All three companies see the problem at hand and are doing in their power to be the first to solve it.
But when it comes, it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. With the conveniences of a unified operating system come the added difficulty of escaping them. With only three companies in the race, the real walled gardens won’t be built around devices, but between the ecosystems of Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Leaving one for the other, or for a new competitor, is bound to be an arduous and painful experience. If you think moving from iOS to Android is difficult now, just imagine doing that when your entire digital life is tied into it.
For good or for bad, this watershed moment is coming — and it just might make us look back at the iPhone as the first drop in a much larger deluge.
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After months of rumors, Canadian ebook reader manufacturer Kobo has released its newest device, the Kobo Clara HD. The reader is the first budget model to be released by the company in nearly three years. And although it’s one of Kobo’s more affordable readers, it offers some pretty impressive features.
The Kobo Clara HD sports a 6-inch Cara E Ink screen with a 300ppi resolution. It features a whopping 8GB of storage which translates to about 6,000 ebooks. Unless you’re a heavy user, the battery should last for several weeks.
One of the most exciting features to make its way to the Kobo Clara HD is ComfortLight Pro. Instead of using the traditional technology to illuminate most E Ink screens, ComfortLight Pro uses orange and red LEDs for illumination, minimizing your exposure to blue light. While the Clara HD is not the first Kobo ebook reader to feature the technology, it is the least expensive one on the market.
There are a few things missing on the Kobo Clara HD that you’ll find on some of the company’s more expensive ebook readers, however. First off, the Clara HD is not waterproof, so it’s not a great fit for summer beach reading. It also doesn’t include Overdrive integration, one of our favorite features on the Kobo Aura One that allows you to seamlessly borrow books from your local library.
While Kobo may not have the same household recognition as Amazon’s Kindle line of ebook readers, it’s a worthy competitor nonetheless. The company released its first device in 2010 and has become a cult favorite among heavy readers. In addition to its own ebook store with more than 5 million titles, Kobo supports many more formats than you’ll find on Kindle. In addition to supporting most of the major ebook formats, the Kobo Clara HD allows you to view documents, photos, and even comic books.
It’s also easy to customize and annotate texts. With the Kobo Clara HD you can select from nearly a dozen different texts and forty different size options to get the perfect read. You can also highlight passages, bookmark pages, and even make notes within the text.
The Kobo Clara HD is available now. You can pick up the Kobo Clara HD for $130 on the Kobo website, and through various retailers including Amazon and Walmart.
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Never underestimate the power of a good deal.
As the saying often goes, OnePlus phones are great — for the price. The OnePlus 6 is the company’s latest flagship that gets far more right than wrong and offers 90% of the experience you’ll find with competing flagships for a few hundred dollars less.
However, what if the OnePlus 6 didn’t have that great value going for it? What if it cost the same as phones like the Pixel 2, Galaxy S9, and others?
One of our Android Central forum members recently asked this very question, and this is how the community responded.
05-27-2018 11:25 AM
Hell no. The OP6 compared to the flagships, a group of which it is not a member, without the price difference has no appeal at all.
05-27-2018 01:47 PM
my pixel is collecting dust as I have been using my o6. OnePlus for the win
05-28-2018 01:03 AM
Given that a P2 XL is now £629 from Carphone Warehouse unlocked (UK) I think that it is still better than the OnePlus 6, due to its camera. I did the photo comparison test via a YouTube video and I much preferred the Pixel 2 camera shots to the OnePlus 6’s shots. To me the colours were all wrong and a lot of detail was missing in comparison to the shots taken by the Pixel 2 XL. I definitely would…
05-28-2018 08:12 AM
I think when you look at the objective specs the 1+6 is better than most (processing, battery, size). Others are not as good (face id, screen resolution). If the phone were priced like the others, I would expect to be able to walk in a store hold it, play with it, and buy it with a finance option. Putting the phone in the store is a big part of the price difference. The real question is: does…
What about you? How do you think the OnePlus 6 holds up to other flagships?
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The App Store made $0.34 more revenue per download in Q1 2018.
It’s rather commendable just how much better the Google Play Store is compared to the Android Market we had a few years back, and while Google’s now on a more even playing field with Apple than ever before, there’s still one area where the App Store reigns supreme — revenue.
According to Morgan Stanley Research, the Apple Store Store makes around four times more in net revenue from apps and games compared to the Play Store. Switch things over to money made on a per-device basis, and the App Store dominates Google even more with ten times as much revenue.
In Q1 2018, the App Store saw $0.44 in revenue per download while the Play Store made only $0.10. Alternatively, $5.08 was generated per device with the App Store during Q1 compared to only $0.47 with the Play Store.
Apple’s seen a growth of over 119% in revenue earned from the App Store over the last four years, and while the Play Store’s made progress as well, its revenue’s only climbed by around 14% during that same time.
Apple has a big advantage here thanks to its closed-source nature, and while these numbers don’t really affect you and me, it is fascinating to see how much of a discrepancy there really is between the two software marketplaces.
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Acer has been making Chromebooks for a long time. The company is really good at it. But 2018 is proving to be when Acer turns a corner and aims to be the name you look to when you want anything that runs Google’s Chrome OS.
And after seeing the company’s latest, I think they may very well succeed.
The Chromebook 13 Spin is the Chromebook most Pixelbook buyers should purchase.
In particular, I’m talking about the Chromebook 13 Spin in case the title didn’t give it away. It’s not what you think of when you hear Chromebook. The 13 Spin takes design cues from Samsung’s Chromebook Plus and Google’s Pixelbook yet keeps Acer’s traditional industrial look and feel, and includes the hardware that makes the Chromebook 13 Spin the perfect alternative to the Pixelbook for many of us. The $1,000 price tag is not included and that makes the Chromebook 13 Spin the power-user model most of us should be buying.
Not your average Chromebook
You don’t need to include the latest and greatest components inside a Chromebook. ARM processors, traditionally found in mobile devices like phones and tablets, are a staple and perform admirably. Likewise with large amounts of RAM — you’ll find most Chromebooks ship with 2 GB or 4GB and that’s all they really need. The list goes on and high-resolution 3:2 displays or large desktop-class amounts of storage just aren’t the norm. Chromebooks are usually an inexpensive alternative to a Windows PC because of the price.
This is because of how Chrome OS works. It’s an operating system written from the ground up to be lightweight, have excellent resource management, yet still provide a complete application platform. Software engineers have learned a lot in the past 20 years, and Chrome as a platform is very well optimized — the full Chrome browser runs better on a Chromebook with low-end specs that it will on a powerful gaming PC. That’s because the operating system stays out of the way.
But when those high-end parts are included, as they are on the Chromebook 13 Spin, a Chromebook becomes a completely different beast.
The Chromebook 13 Spin mixes Acer’s beautiful premium laptop design with current generation components — this is not your normal Chromebook.
The 13 Spin’s base hardware is impressive by Chromebook standards. Starting with its 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 IPS display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, the Spin is built for performance. Pair a display at that quality with an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i3 processor, up to 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and 128GB of eMMC storage and you have a laptop that is as powerful as most Windows or Apple laptops and just as capable.
The Spin also has a 2-in-1 design that allows you to flip the keyboard back and use it like a tablet. This follows Google’s lead that turns a Chromebook into the best Android tablet you can buy and brings a whole new way to be productive or have some fun. There is even support for a Wacom stylus you can use with hundreds of applications to take notes, annotate pictures or create digital artwork. The Chromebook 13 Spin truly is the complete package for almost any Chrome power user.
Prepared for the future!
Acer has built a Chromebook like this in preparation for what comes next. Google announced support for Linux applications to run securely and seamlessly inside Chrome at Google I/O 2019, and that brings potential support for thousands of intensive, professional-grade applications. This includes outstanding titles for industrial, engineering, medical, and graphic arts use as well as thousands upon thousands of more mainstream applications. Support starts in beta form for the Pixelbook, but Google says that other 64-bit Intel powered Chromebooks with specs able to keep up is planned shortly afterwards.
What makes the Chromebook 13 Spin exceptional is not the specs — it’s the retail price.
What really makes the Chromebook 13 Spin stand out though, is the price tag. With hardware that rivals Google’s Pixelbook and Acer’s sleek premium laptop design, you would expect to see similar pricing. The Pixelbook starts at a cool $999 and the pen is an additional $99. We don’t know the final pricing for the Chromebook 13 Spin just yet and do expect it to be higher than most other Chromebooks, but nowhere near Google’s $1,100 total pricing for the Pixelbook and pen. It’s reasonable, and expected, that you’ll save hundreds with the Chromebook 13 Spin compared to the Pixelbook.
It could be the Chromebook we’ve been asking for
We’re not going to question the idea of a company like Acer building a Chromebook with these specs. That’s something our entire Chromebook team here at AC has been asking for since the unveiling of the original Chromebook Pixel. We’ve seen other models come close — Samsung’s Chromebook Pro and ASUS’ Flip C302 come to mind — and hope we see those refreshed with current-generation components, too. We do know there is room for such an animal in the Chrome landscape, and we can’t wait to get our hands on a Chromebook 13 Spin to verify that this is the one.
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