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Apple Maps to Be Rebuilt ‘From the Ground Up’ With In-House Data Over the Next Year

Apple today announced that it will be rebuilding its Maps app “from the ground up” with street-level data collected from its fleet of Apple Maps vehicles, high resolution satellite imagery, and anonymized, random segments of navigation sessions from iPhone users, which Apple refers to as “probe data.”

Image: TechCrunch
TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino has published an in-depth overview of the changes coming to Apple Maps, which will be available in the San Francisco area starting with the next iOS 12 beta next week, cover all of Northern California by this fall, and roll out across the rest of the United States over the next year.

In short, Panzarino says Apple Maps will be switching to its own base map, rather than relying on third-party providers like TomTom, which will yield significant improvements as it relates to traffic, real-time road conditions, road systems, new construction, changes in pedestrian walkways, and more.

In a follow-up question-and-answer piece, Panzarino noted Apple Maps will more accurately display foliage like grass and trees, pools, parking lots, exact building shapes, sports areas like baseball diamonds, tennis and basketball courts, and pedestrian pathways that are commonly walked but previously unmapped.

His questionnaire also confirms that the overall design of Apple Maps will remain similar for now, beyond the additional detail.

Image: TechCrunch
Panzarino spoke in detail about the changes with Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue, who oversees Apple Maps:

“Since we introduced this six years ago — we won’t rehash all the issues we’ve had when we introduced it — we’ve done a huge investment in getting the map up to par,” said Cue. “When we launched, a lot of it was all about directions and getting to a certain place. Finding the place and getting directions to that place. We’ve done a huge investment of making millions of changes, adding millions of locations, updating the map and changing the map more frequently. All of those things over the past six years.”

Cue noted further improvements will take Apple Maps to “the next level”:

“We wanted to take this to the next level,” says Cue. “We have been working on trying to create what we hope is going to be the best map app in the world, taking it to the next step. That is building all of our own map data from the ground up.”

More from Cue:

“We don’t think there’s anybody doing this level of work that we’re doing,” adds Cue. “We haven’t announced this. We haven’t told anybody about this. It’s one of those things that we’ve been able to keep pretty much a secret. Nobody really knows about it. We’re excited to get it out there. Over the next year, we’ll be rolling it out, section by section in the US.”

Cue’s notion that nobody really knew about these plans is debatable, as its Apple Maps vehicles have been a telltale sign since 2015, the same year Mark Gurman reported that Apple would switch to its own base map by 2018.

Apple’s in-house base map will continue to improve thanks to probe data. When an iPhone user is navigating with Apple Maps, Apple may collect anonymized data from middle segments of the trip, but never the beginning or end point. Apple says no personal information is ever attached to the data it receives.

The secret sauce here is what Apple calls probe data. Essentially little slices of vector data that represent direction and speed transmitted back to Apple completely anonymized with no way to tie it to a specific user or even any given trip. It’s reaching in and sipping a tiny amount of data from millions of users instead, giving it a holistic, real-time picture without compromising user privacy.

Despite the privacy push, iPhone users can still disable the collection of probe data from their device, if they so desire, by opening the Settings app and tapping Privacy > Location Services > Maps > Never.

Image: TechCrunch
Apple did not confirm when the improvements could reach other countries, but Cue noted that the Apple Maps team is global, and Apple Maps vehicles have already surveyed parts of at least ten other countries, including Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

More details to follow…

Tag: Apple Maps
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Deals: eBay Debuts 15% Off Sitewide Coupon and Last Call for Anker’s June Discount Codes

eBay’s latest sitewide coupon launched today, offering shoppers the chance to save 15 percent off nearly everything on eBay with coupon code PERFECTDAY. As usual, exclusions to “everything” include warranties and protection plans, coins and paper money, gift cards and coupons, and real estate.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Otherwise, eBay’s sitewide coupons are always a great opportunity to get the best prices on a variety of tech items for a few hours, like a Nest Cam Outdoor 2-Pack ($254.99, down from $299.99), Philips Hue White 4-Bulb Starter Kit ($68.83, down from $80.99), Apple Pencil for $76.49 (down from $89.99), and more. Of course, since this is a sitewide coupon you could also use it on Macs, Apple Watches, video games, clothes, appliances, and any other non-excluded category.

As with all eBay browsing, shoppers should remember to remain aware of an item’s condition and its seller’s rating and review history, and get their orders in before the code’s expiration date tonight at 9:00 p.m. PT. Terms and conditions require each purchase to be a minimum of $25, and the discount will be capped at a maximum value of $100. The discount price is applied to the purchase price and excludes shipping, handling, and taxes, and can be used by eBay shoppers in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

In other deals, this weekend many of Anker’s ongoing June sales are set to expire Saturday, June 30. Check out the discounts and promo codes below, then head over to Amazon before they expire to make your purchase:

  • Powerline+ Lightning Cable (10ft, all colors) – $12.59 with code ANKER823, down from $17.99 (exp. 6/30)

  • USB C to USB 3.0 Adapter (Gray and Silver) – $7.49 with code ANKER875, down from $9.99 (exp. 6/30)

  • Powerline+ Lightning Cable 6ft Without Pouch (Gray, Red) – $9.79 with code ANKER985, down from $13.99 (exp. 6/30)

  • Powerline+ Lightning Cable 3ft Without Pouch (Gray, Red) – $8.39 with code ANKER985, down from $11.99 (exp. 6/30)

  • ZOLO Halo Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Smart Speaker – $29.99 with code ZOLOHALO, down from $49.99 (exp. 6/30)

Another deal ending soon is Best Buy’s one-day sale on the Ultimate Ears ROLL 2 Bluetooth Speaker, available for $45.99, down from $99.99 for today only. There’s also the first ever discount on popular endless runner Alto’s Odyssey [Direct Link], priced at $1.99, down from $4.99 for a limited time. For more details about new sales happening this summer, be sure to check out our full Deals Roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple DealsTag: eBay
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2018 iPhones Said to Feature Both Embedded Apple SIM and Traditional SIM Card Tray

At least one of Apple’s widely rumored trio of new iPhones expected to be unveiled this September will feature dual-SIM, dual-standby, according to Chinese news publication 21st Century Business Herald via LoveiOS.

A translated version of the article claims the functionality will be enabled by an embedded Apple SIM in the iPhones, in addition to a traditional SIM card placed into the usual tray. In China, where Apple SIM is not available, the report claims Apple will offer an iPhone with two physical SIM card trays.

Apple introduced its Apple SIM in 2014 to provide cellular iPad users with a convenient way to switch between carriers and use short-term data plans as needed, useful for those who travel between countries frequently. It works with select carriers in more than 180 countries and regions around the world.

Initially, the Apple SIM was only available as a physical card that needed to be inserted into the tray when needed, but it is now embedded inside the latest iPad Pro models. Apple still sells physical Apple SIMs at its retail stores in many countries for use with the lower-cost 9.7-inch iPad and other models.

The report doesn’t specify which of the 2018 iPhones will have an embedded Apple SIM, but Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has previously said the 6.1-inch “budget iPhone X” and 6.5-inch “iPhone X Plus,” but oddly not the second-generation 5.8-inch iPhone X, will support dual-SIM, dual-standby.

Kuo has also said Apple may release two 6.1-inch iPhone models, and in light of today’s report, this could be referring to a nearly-worldwide variant with an embedded Apple SIM and a Chinese variant with dual SIM card trays.

All in all, it should be easier to switch between carriers and data plans on future iPhones, providing users with more flexibility.

Related Roundup: 2018 iPhonesTag: Apple SIM
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Samsung may bend the rules with its folding phone

Future Samsung phones with folding screens may not simply fold in one place, resulting in a clamshell-like phone some will remember from the past, as has been speculated. There’s no rule that says a bendable phone must only bend once either. Samsung’s new foldable OLED screens, which are about to start a test production run, may fold in a way that leaves part of the screen visible, enabling you to see notifications and alerts, and even bend again to close fully.

The screen may be fitted to the first Samsung folding phone expected to launch early next year, which is being rumored as the Galaxy X, according to South Korean news source ETNews. It’s stated the display will measure 7-inches, which is larger than screens fitted to its Galaxy Note line. Any fold would make such a large phone more convenient to carry around, yet not sacrifice screen size when the time comes to use the device.

What’s not clear from the report is whether the screen will only fold in one way, where two-thirds of the screen is covered and leaves one section still visible, or if it will also fold in half too. A bendable screen will not only have a single point where they can bend, but hardware limitations elsewhere may make a phone with two folding points technically very difficult at the moment. A double-folding phone may be possible in the future though.

How close to reality is one of these incredible sounding phones? Samsung Display will apparently start its first test production run of folding OLED display panels over the summer, and once any issues have been solved, a second larger run will take place in September. Provided the operation goes smoothly, Samsung wants capacity to reach 100,000 screens by the end of the year. In 2019, when full-scale production is expected, Samsung will produce a million folding screens.

Samsung Display is the leading supplier of OLED screens in the world, and its screens don’t only find their way onto Samsung devices. Samsung isn’t the only smartphone manufacturer talking about folding, or bendable, devices for 2019 and later either. Huawei has been rumored to show a folding phone in late 2018, although it’s not certain the phone will be ready for sale then, and Motorola has also filed patents related to a folding phone. News that Samsung is striding ahead with folding screen production will likely push other manufacturers to examine the concept, and we expect to hear more from others over the coming year.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Here’s everything we know about the Samsung Galaxy S10
  • Samsung Galaxy X: Everything we know so far
  • See why no one would have bought Samsung’s Project Valley foldable phone
  • DT Daily: Samsung Galaxy X foldable phone could debut at MWC 2019


Here are some common Huawei P20 Pro problems and how to fix them

If you’re able to get your hands on one, the Huawei P20 Pro is sure to impress. It has an eye-catching design, a long-lasting battery, and one of the best cameras we’ve ever encountered, featuring an unprecedented three lenses. As impressive as it is, this phone is not perfect and we’re not just talking about the fact that it isn’t on sale in the U.S.

More on the Huawei P20 Pro

Huawei P20 Pro Review

The best Huawei P20 Pro cases

Huawei P20 Pro tips and tricks

How to get more from the P20 Pro camera

We’ve gathered together some of the most commonly reported Huawei P20 Pro problems for you here and we’re offering up workarounds and potential fixes to help you get your issues sorted out.

Problem: Random reboots

There are a couple of threads at the XDA Developers forum that mention unprompted reboots. For one person it was happening repeatedly in the Gallery app, but for others it seems to be a bit more random when it occurs. The P20 Pro will suddenly shut down and restart itself with no apparent cause. This is an issue we’ve seen from time to time on a lot of different phones.

Possible fixes:

  • Try wiping the cache partition to begin with. Turn your Huawei P20 Pro off by holding down the Power key and then tapping Power off. Once it has shut down, hold down the Power and Volume up keys together until you see the Huawei logo, release the Power key, but keep holding the Volume up key until you see EMUI on screen. You can use Volume down to highlight Wipe cache partition and the Power key to select it. When it’s done use Volume up to highlight Reboot system now and the Power key to select it.
  • If the rebooting problem persists after this, we’d guess that an app or setting is to blame. Either way, the easiest way to test this hypothesis is to factory reset the phone. Back up everything first, then go to Settings > System > Reset > Factory data reset > Reset phone > reset phone. When it’s done, try setting your phone up as new instead of restoring the backup and test to see if the rebooting problem returns. If it doesn’t then you can start reinstalling apps selectively, watching out for a recurrence of the reboot problem.
  • If you do a factory reset and set the Huawei P20 Pro up as new and it still reboots unexpectedly, then it’s time to contact Huawei, your carrier, or your retailer.

Issue: Battery draining too quickly

We were particularly impressed by the battery life of the Huawei P20 Pro, which boasts a 4,000mAh battery. It should easily last you a day and beyond and two full days between charges is not out of the question. Yet we’ve seen threads at the XDA Developers forum and Android Central forum about disappointing battery performance. The battery is big enough that you shouldn’t really have to bother with workarounds, but we have a few suggestions anyway. We also have an idea about a possible fix.


  • You can always go to Settings > Battery and turn Power saving mode or Ultra power saving mode on, but they do cut some background operations and slow performance.
  • You can save some battery life by going to Settings > Security > Screen Lock & Passwords and toggling Always display information
  • You might also consider going to Settings > Battery to toggle on Darken interface colors.
  • Take a look in Settings > Battery > App launch and consider tweaking some settings to save power.
  • Go to Settings > Display and change Screen resolution from FHD+ to HD+ or set it to Smart.
  • Set the Sleep setting in Settings > Display as low as you can tolerate.

Potential fixes:

  • Back up everything first, then go to Settings > System > Reset > Factory data reset > Reset phone > reset phone. If you restore a backup after the reset and the problem returns then try factory resetting again and set the phone up as new, it’s possible that a setting or app in your backup is causing the problem.

Glitch: Touchscreen latency or lag

We’ve seen a couple of posts, most notably at XDA Developers forum about touchscreen delays or lag when people are scrolling or trying to do small, precise movements on the screen.

Potential fixes:

  • Some users have suggested going to Settings > Smart assistance > Motion control to turn things like Smart screenshot It’s possible these gestures are tweaking how the touchscreen responds. You should also make sure that Gloves mode is toggled off in Settings > Smart assistance.
  • A few people say that a software update has fixed the issue for them. Check in Settings System update > Check for updates and see if there’s a software update available.


  • Try going to Settings > Display and change Screen resolution from FHD+ to HD+ to see if that makes any difference.

Problem: Slow charging

Huawei’s SuperCharge system can take the battery from zero to full in about 90 minutes, but some people have been having trouble getting fast charging speeds. There are a couple of threads at XDA Developers forum about this.

Potential fixes:

  • Make sure that you are using the cable and charger that came with your Huawei P20 Pro and plugged into a working wall outlet.
  • If your Huawei P20 Pro got wet, then it might be limiting charging speed as a safety feature. Give it some time to dry out or place it in a bowl of uncooked rice to draw any moisture out, then test again.
  • If the problem persists contact Huawei, your carrier, or your retailer.

Issue: Microphone not working properly

We have seen a few people complaining about the microphone not working so they can’t be heard by the other person during calls or sometimes when recording audio or video messages. There are threads at the XDA Developers forum on this topic.


  • Hold down the Power button and tap Restart. This seems to work at least temporarily for most people. It’s possible that the problem is being caused by using Private Space, using the USB-C headphone adapter, or by using Bluetooth for audio, so you may want to restart after any of those activities.
  • If you have any apps that use the microphone, then consider removing microphone permission or uninstalling them and test to see if that resolves the issue. You can check via Settings > Apps & notifications > Permissions.

Possible fix:

  • Hopefully, this is just a software bug and will be fixed. Check in Settings System update > Check for updates and see if there is a software update available. You may also want to open Play Store, tap the hamburger icon (three horizontal lines) at the top left and tap My apps & games > Update all.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Huawei P20 Pro vs. Huawei P10 Plus: A year is a long time in tech
  • Common OnePlus 6 problems, and how to fix them
  • Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS review
  • Common Galaxy Note 8 problems, and how to fix them
  • 8 tricky Samsung Galaxy S8 problems, and what to do about them


BlackBerry KEY2 vs. Samsung Galaxy S9 camera comparison: Close on price, not quality


When you go up against one of the best cameras available today, it’s a tough fight.

At first thought, you may not consider the BlackBerry KEY2 and Samsung Galaxy S9 direct competitors, and of course, the glaring difference of one having a physical keyboard and a bit lower-end components would follow that logic. But keep this in mind: the KEY2, with its price jump from the KEYone, is now $649, while the Galaxy S9 is available unlocked for just $50 more. With the price similarity, it’s reasonable to expect the KEY2 to offer a camera experience to match.

With some testing and experience, we can now tell you where the KEY2’s dual camera setup stands, and whether its photography prowess is up to speed with its price and the competition.

Daylight photos

BlackBerry KEY2 (left) / Galaxy S9 (right) — click to view larger, use keyboard to navigate.

Just as Daniel found in our complete KEY2 review, the phone is capable of taking some solid photos, particularly in daylight situations. Leaning heavily on HDR, its colors are punchy — and the fine details are pretty good even in close-up shots. But when you set its photos next to a camera as fantastically capable as the Galaxy S9’s, you can tell it’s a step below the flagship level.

The KEY2’s photos are colorful, but lack the dynamic range and detail of the GS9.

You’ll notice that the KEY2’s photos are often just as colorful as the Galaxy S9’s, if not more so, but that it’s generally the result of over-saturation that at the same time kills off the depth and wide dynamic range that makes a photo feel more lifelike. You get the rich colors, but it comes at the cost of depth and actual dynamic range — all of the colors are boosted, which isn’t accurate. When you start to zoom in on photos to see the details, the Galaxy S9 is way ahead in terms of fine lines and textures. For the most part, this just comes across in the KEY2’s photos as being a bit over-processed and just a little soft.

HDR is basically a requirement on the KEY2 — keep it turned on for the most eye-pleasing results.

In tricky shots where there’s a mix of lighting or a wide dynamic range is needed, the KEY2 doesn’t get the job done unless HDR automatically comes on — if it doesn’t, the photo just looks washed out and lacking color. You can tap to meter, which usually gets things right for the subject, but leaves the rest of the scene bland. The Galaxy S9, on the other hand, can usually get a good shot with pleasing colors regardless of whether HDR triggers. For the most part, the KEY2 is best off just being left in HDR mode in order to get the best possible photo.

Finally, a quick mention of the 2X zoom capabilities of these cameras. The similarly priced Galaxy S9 doesn’t have a secondary camera, but the more expensive GS9+ does and it’s configured in the same fashion as the KEY2 to provide 2X zoom. The KEY2’s secondary camera heavily over-processes images, which is a shame, and it really doesn’t compete well against the Galaxy S9+’s secondary camera. 2X images are often a soft and blotchy mess, even in good lighting — so it’s just about as usable as 2X digital zoom on the standard Galaxy S9. The KEY2 does have the upper hand of offering dual-camera portrait mode, which is similar in quality to the other offerings out there today.

Low light photos

BlackBerry KEY2 (left) / Galaxy S9 (right) — click to view larger, use keyboard to navigate.

On paper, the Galaxy S9 has a huge advantage in low light. It has a larger sensor, brighter lens, optical image stabilization and a more advanced image processor. All of those benefits play out in the resulting images, with the Galaxy S9 handily beating the KEY2 in every situation with dim lighting.

BlackBerry has a long way to go to catch up to where Samsung’s cameras are today.

Just take a look at the sample images above and you’ll see what I mean. The KEY2 generally hits the mark in terms of color and white balance, but that’s about it — everything else is some combination of soft, grainy, blotchy and over-processed. Now and then when you have a scene with mixed lighting you can get a crisp shot, but there’s little rhyme or reason as to why and it definitely isn’t reproducible. This is the kind of low-light performance we saw from mid-range phones a couple years back, and it’s quite puzzling as to why it’s this bad when the same camera takes daylight photos are actually pretty good.

Yes putting the KEY2 up against one of the best low-light smartphone cameras available is over-emphasizing its shortcomings, but as stated at the beginning the Galaxy S9 is merely $50 more unlocked — and with that tiny increase in price, you can go from low-light photos that are a grainy mess to those that rival standalone digital cameras.

Which camera is best?


Let’s be honest, we didn’t expect this to be all that close from the get-go. Whereas the Galaxy S9 builds on years of Samsung’s excellence in mobile photography, the KEY2 is coming from something of a less storied history of TCL-tuned BlackBerry cameras.

Overall, the KEY2’s camera is above average — but that’s well behind what the GS9 is capable of.

In daylight scenes, the KEY2 actually does a good job — it can take colorful photos with good exposure and decent detail. They’re above average and easily good enough for BlackBerry’s target market. But when you see what the Galaxy S9 can capture in the same scenes, you can tell that the dynamic range and fine details just aren’t there to compete with today’s top-end phones. Given the KEY2’s smaller camera sensor and lack of OIS, it isn’t surprising that it’s also outperformed by a wide margin in low light conditions. Phones like the Galaxy S9 (and so many others) have large sensors, OIS and much more advanced processing to handle low-light scenes with better colors, less noise and generally better overall clarity.

If the KEY2’s low light photography were as close to the Galaxy S9 as its daylight capabilities are, you could argue that it was at least in the ballpark of being good enough for the money. But the very poor low light capabilities, when added on top of its starting position of not being as good in the daytime, show that the KEY2 is a full step below top-end cameras available today. If the camera is a point of emphasis in your smartphone buying choice, it is absolutely worth spending the extra $50 on a Galaxy S9 (or any other ~$700 phone available) — you’ll get a notably better photography experience in every situation. But if all you need as “above average” from your smartphone’s camera, and find the rest of the KEY2’s features appealing, this phone will get the job done — just don’t expect to wow anyone with your photos.

BlackBerry KEY2

  • BlackBerry KEY2 review
  • BlackBerry KEY2: Everything you need to know!
  • BlackBerry KEY2 specs
  • BlackBerry KEYone review: Coming home
  • Join our BlackBerry KEY2 forums!


Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Galaxy S9 review: A great phone for the masses
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S8: Should you upgrade?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums



The Samsung Galaxy S9 is the perfect size for a phone

Not too big and not too small — depending on who you ask.

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is a great phone that gets a lot of stuff right. Its display is stunning, performance is as fast as can be, and the cameras regularly capture gorgeous photos/video. Despite all of that, one aspect that’s really stuck out to a lot of our forum users is the phone’s design.


Even though the Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch screen, the 18:9 aspect ratio and curved glass create for a phone that’s extremely comfortable and easy to use for most everyone.

06-28-2018 03:53 AM

Yes, I like the size of the S9 as well. Just a little bigger than an iPhone with a lot bigger screen, exactly what I was looking for. What disturbs me more is that with all the glass, it seems a little more fragile than I’d like. It’s a very attractive phone, but you got to have it in a case with all that glass, so it’s hard to enjoy the appearance. Wireless charging is nice, though.



06-28-2018 07:32 AM

I prefer it to the S9+. It’s a very narrow phone, so I like it shorter.


06-28-2018 02:21 AM

I don’t mind the size, and love the glass look (sure, I have to be super careful now haha but love it). I had issues with the curves with the first phone that came out, but they’ve gotten better and now my fat hands don’t cause accidental presses. No issues putting it in my pocket (and I have the plus), BUT one-handed operation is nearly impossible for MY hands unless I use one-handed mode…


Then again, the S9’s size still isn’t for everyone:

06-28-2018 01:36 AM

Let me know your thoughts on the size of the S9.

Is it too big? For me it’s a bit huge and it’s NOT the Plus, it’s just the S9. Its big…I have hard time pulling my phone out of my pocket at times.

However, one handed operations is not really an issue and I HATE the all glass looking bezel.

Will Samsung ever going to release a mini version of the S9 in the close future?



With all that said, we’d now love to hear from you — Are you a fan of the Galaxy S9’s size? Is it too big or too small?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Galaxy S9 review: A great phone for the masses
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S8: Should you upgrade?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums



Verizon’s Go90 streaming service will be shut down on July 31

The team behind Go90 will be shifting over to Oath.

On July 31, 2018, Verizon is shutting down Go90. Go90 first debuted around three years ago as a new video streaming platform for Verizon, but unfortunately, it failed to ever build a substantial following.


This news comes by way of Variety, and according to a Verizon spokesperson, “Following the creation of Oath, Go90 will be discontinued.”

Oath is Verizon’s digital media subsidiary that was launched in June 2017 and the Go90 team will be transitioning to it following Go90’s demise. Per Variety’s report:

According to Verizon, the problem with Go90 was its inability to achieve scaled distribution. After pumping Go90 programming across Oath sites and apps over the last six months, the total audience for Go90 programming has exploded to an average of more than 17 million unique viewers per month.

Go90 could be accessed through Android and iOS apps as well as through your web browser and offered free, ad-supported content across a variety of genres. It was a good enough idea, but I don’t think anyone’s really all that surprised about this news.

Will you miss Go90?

Amazon Fire TV Cube review from


Republic Relay hands-on: A fantastic take on a kid-friendly ‘phone’

It’s still early days, but there’s a lot of potential to these fun little squares.


My 9-year-old came home from the first day of school this year and asked for a phone of his very own, and I laughed. His 13-year-old sister doesn’t even have her own phone yet, and I didn’t have one until I was much older that they are now. But as we talked, he explained many of the kids in his class had a phone, mostly for emergencies. At the end of the conversation I still wasn’t ready to give him something he could call his own, but for things like field trips out of state I did find myself wanting him to have something.

I found myself unsatisfied with most of the solutions available at the time. The cellular “kid watches” available through carriers felt more like unstylish ankle monitors, and while Google’s parental features in Gmail have improved dramatically this year, a full Android phone requires a ton of work to set up for someone like my son. Republic Wireless caught my attention not long ago when it announced Relay, a cellular device with most of the important smart and phone features without actually being a smartphone. After using a pair of them with my kids this week, I’m excited to see where this tech leads.

See at Republic Wireless

The anti-smartphone


Relay looks more like a portable Amazon Echo than it does a phone. There’s a speaker grille covering the whole top of the device, with a single button on top and two buttons on the side. It charges through a proprietary magnetic connector on the bottom, and the only “display” on this rounded square is a glowing ring around the central button. The combination of this light up ring, simple vibrations, and a system voice through the speaker comprise the entire interface. And it works, this system is both intuitive and incredibly easy to navigate once you learn all of the shortcuts.

Relay is a simple communication tool kids actually want to use, with just enough smarts baked in to help keep them safe when you aren’t around.

At its core, Relay works like a walkie-talkie. Press and hold the center button, and you can send a short message to the other Relay devices in your channel. The speaker is reasonably loud, but a headphone jack gives you another option if you’re in a noisy place. If I have the Relay app open on my phone, I can send and receive voice commands to the channel as well.

When the app is closed, however, I don’t get those messages. If one of the kids needs to get my attention, holding down the volume button for a couple of seconds gives me a notification telling me I need to check in on the Relay channel. But for the people holding the Relay speakers, it’s unlimited two-way communication over both cellular and wireless with no interface needed to choose a network or anything. These speakers are connected in some way all the time.

A big part of how that always-on system works has a lot to do with a combination of the service Republic Wireless offers and a partnership with iPass. Republic Wireless pioneered the cellular network that offloads to WiFi whenever possible, and iPass gives Relay access to over 64 million hotspots across the globe. The Relay user never needs to know or care about what kind of network it is on, so long as it is connected to something so it can send or receive messages. In that respect, Relay is a massive success in our testing.

Privacy and safety first


Relay units have no personal information on them, are identified with random markers in the app, and for the moment can only communicate with the apps and Relays in the channel you create at set up. The smartphone app helps distinguish the Relay units through color and clever nicknames, but never any concrete personal identifiers. I know at the beginning of the day my daughter has the teal Relay and my son has the white Relay, and so I can choose to interact with one or the other if needed. When a Relay user pings the Relay channel, the speaker identifies who is in the channel through these nicknames, and never actual names or account information.


At the same time, the Relay app offers location data for parents to keep an eye on where their kids are. Location data can be observed historically or in real time, so you can see if someone has wandered off where they maybe shouldn’t have. The Relay app doesn’t currently offer a geofence with an alert system for when a Relay drifts outside of what you consider to be a safe area, a common feature among kid-tracking hardware these days, but the Republic team is responding well to feedback and adding features quickly.

The mission statement for Republic here couldn’t be more clear: this system is being built from the kid’s perspective instead of the parent. When you build from the parent’s eye, you get cellular watches that look like ankle monitors and aren’t any fun to use. Relay, on the other hand, has had the opposite effect on my kids. They love having these gadgets nearby, enjoy being able to communicate quickly with me and one another, and the safety features don’t feel like they impose on the user in any significant way.

Fun, but way more useful in the future


There is a LOT to like about what Republic Wireless is offering right now. Relay is a simple communication tool kids actually want to use with just enough smarts baked in to help keep them safe when you aren’t around. And there’s a fun component as well, the “Echo” channel built in to Relay takes anything you say into it and repeats it back to you with a random voice filter. I didn’t think much of it when I first used it, but when my 9-year old discovered the feature he played with it for hours and laughed the entire time. A perfect example of something built for kids instead of parents.

For my kids, especially the younger ones, Relay is an impressive effort to keep us connected without involving a full-featured phone.

In my opinion, the price is right, too. For $150, you get a pair of Relays in whatever color you choose, and for $7/month per unit you have unlimited access to the network. There are other bundles available if you have more people in your group, or you can add on as you see fit for $99/Relay. Because it is available in five colors, there’s a lot of flexibility in choosing which you’d prefer. And if multiple people choose the same color, Relay comes with a sticker pack so you can better identify one as your own.

But the most interesting part about Relay, at least for me, is that it’s not fully baked yet. Republic Wireless has been sourcing feedback from early testers and current customers for future features, and the list of things it hopes to implement is impressive. These speakers are already great at what they do, but if Republic is able to add promised features like Google Assistant and streaming music, the age group these things will appeal to goes up considerably.

While I certainly don’t need one more gadget to carry around every day, I could certainly see myself preferring to grab a Relay off the charger instead of my distraction-heavy phone for a day at the beach or a trip to an amusement park with the family. For my kids, especially the younger ones, Relay is an impressive effort to keep us connected without involving a full-featured phone I have to lock down myself.

See at Republic Wireless

More: The best smartwatches for kids


DC Universe is a new subscription service for movies, TV shows, and comics

It’s initially launching as a beta in August.

DC fans, get ready for something special. While the MCU might be dominating the theaters right now, a new subscription service called “DC Universe” is launching later this year with all of the superhero content you could ask for.

For an unknown recurring fee, DC Universe subscribers will get access to original programming, classic DC movies, an assortment of digital comics, and access to exclusive merchandise.

On the movie and TV show side of things, some of the exclusives you’ll find on DC Universe include the live-action Titans series, Doom Patrol, Swap Thing, and the animated Young Justice: Outsiders and Harley Quinn. Although newer DC movies such as Justice League and Wonder Woman are nowhere to be found, older titles such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the four Christopher Reeve Superman movies, and Lois and Clark TV show are all here.


Where DC Universe goes above regular video platforms, however, is by giving subscribers access to “a rotating, curated selection of digital comics.” It’s unclear how long titles will stick around for and how often new ones will be added, but it’s a welcome touch nonetheless.

If you still need more DC in your life, DC Universe will also have exclusive merchandise up for sale and a forum community where you can talk with other DC fans.

You’ll be able to access DC Universe on Android, iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and the web when it launches later this year. You can sign up for the beta that’s launching in August, and as more details trickle in, we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

See at DC Universe

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