Start up: Google buys more AI, iTunes’s overload, how SoftRAM fooled the world, Google Maps v Uber, and more


What makes a good chatbot? Photo by reynermedia on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Not for resale in Kansas. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Prices of low-end smartphone panels hit new historical highs in september as demand outpaces supply • TrendForce

Julian Lee is an analyst at research company Trendforce:

»

strong demand is pushing up prices of LCD panels for smartphone displays of the lower resolution specs. With demand for high-end device models falling short of expectations, smartphone brands are now relying on low-end devices with bargain-priced panels to boost their product shipments. However, limited supply and increasing demand have caused prices of 4-inch WVGA and 4.5-inch FWVGA panels to reach new highs in September, with monthly increases at over 50%, respectively. Looking ahead, prices of lower-end smartphone panels are expected to keep rising in the fourth quarter.

WitsView’s latest analysis indicates that this year’s high-end smartphone models have not been well-received by consumers due to various reasons, such as the lack of innovations, unclear product positioning and even serious product quality issues. Adjusting to the market conditions, smartphone brands are now stepping up shipments of mid-range and low-end devices to achieve their annual shipment targets. Though lower-end smartphone panels are not actively promoted by suppliers due their weak product margins, their demand has soared recently as smartphone brands need them to sustain their overall device shipments.

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That bit about “annual shipment targets” – and the miss on the high end (and the “various reasons”) – is notable.
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Common bot misconceptions • Medium

Amir Shevat, head of developer relations at Slack:

»

With every new technology and paradigm, there are a lot of misconceptions, but I’ll try to set the record straight about the most common ones concerning bots.

1. “Bots are AI”

Wrong, most bots do not currently use AI, a lot of them will never need to use AI.

Some bots use Natural Language Processing/Understanding to map what the user is saying to the bot to an actual intent. For example, there are many ways to say you want to book a ticket to a movie — “I wanna book a ticket for later this evening”, “I want to go to the movies tonight”, “book me a ticket to a movie after 8pm”- all of these mean more or less the same, but for a developer it is quite hard to map these into an intent to book a ticket this evening. That is the most common use of AI today in bots, this is not what most people think about when they say artificial intelligence.

In addition, AI is not limited to bots – bots are by far not the only use case for AI. There are great AI solutions, for example image recognition or finding the right song you want to hear right now — solutions that uses AI but does not require bots.

«

And there’s more.
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Google acquires natural language understanding startup Api.ai • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»

Google today said that it’s acquired API.ai, a startup with tools for speech recognition and natural language understanding. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

In addition to its developers tools, Api.ai offers a conversational assistant app with more than 20 million users.

Google did not disclose its plans for integrating the startup’s technology. That will be important, as Google already has tools for natural language understanding and speech recognition, and it has unveiled a Google Assistant that will be available through text messaging interface and the Google Home smart speaker.

“API.AI has a proven track record for helping developers design, build and continuously improve their conversational interfaces,” Google vice president of engineering Scott Huffman wrote in a blog post. “Over 60,000 developers are using Api.ai to build conversational experiences, for environments such as Slack, Facebook Messenger and Kik, to name just a few. Api.ai offers one of the leading conversational user interface platforms and they’ll help Google empower developers to continue building great natural language interfaces.”

«

Just a guess, but might they use it for conversational AI?
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iTunes will never work well • Medium

Firas Durri:

»

At this point, whatever the causes of the product problems with iTunes and related iOS apps — feature scope, management, team structure, etc. —we can be pretty sure that the only ‘solution’ will appear when this software achieves end-of-life, the same way that the mystery of how to set recording time on VCRs was finally solved by their obsolescence.

«

iTunes used to be really simple, because it didn’t have a great deal to do: play music stored on your computer, through your computer. Then it had to sync with an iPod. Then it had to sync with an iPhone and its apps. Then with video content which might be rented. Then with an iPad and its apps. Then with a cloud library. Then with a music streaming service. No wonder its UI looks exhausted; its functions have been split into separate apps on iOS (Podcasts, App Store, iTunes Store, Music).

And yet it’s still widely used.
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Snake oil software – or how SoftRAM hoodwinked the world • Digital Trends

Brad Jones:

»

When Windows 95 launched in August 1995, there was only one piece of software available that was specifically written for the brand new operating system. SoftRAM 95 was a utility intended to double a system’s memory without the need for a hardware upgrade, and it was in stock at retail locations around the country as consumers ventured out to make the jump from Windows 3.1.

There was only one problem. SoftRAM 95 didn’t work.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t common knowledge. No one knew until after the software had become a best-seller across the globe. Back in the 1990s, SoftRAM hoodwinked hundreds of thousands of people. But that was before the age of widespread internet connectivity. Today, we’re more informed and harder to fool — right?

“The reason that it got as much attention and publicity as it got was that on the day that Windows 95 launched — August 24, 1995 — it was the only Windows 95-specific software available,” recalled Larry Seltzer, then a technical director for PC Magazine.

“Someone told me that they had been testing this, and that their claims are full of crap,” Seltzer continued. “I had already been involved in test labs for a long time, and the people involved with those labs talked with each other, so there was a lot of behind-the-scenes chatter about it.”

Despite these rumors of wrong-doing, SoftRAM was a hit with the general public.

«

It took a while to tear down (much longer, oddly, than the real problem with Intel’s flawed multiplication a year before) and prove false. But as Jones points out, “placebo” is still around today – you just don’t pay for it with money.
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Samsung unloads tech shares as it braces for Galaxy Note 7 recall costs • WSJ

Kwanwoo Jun:

»

Over the past decade, Samsung has used its massive manufacturing scale to expand into smartphones, televisions and components such as displays and semiconductors. But top executives believe that those markets are no longer able to generate the huge growth returns Samsung has seen in the past. In the smartphone market, Samsung is currently facing Chinese and Indian upstarts that are offering high-spec phones at cheaper prices. Meanwhile, Apple Inc. on Friday launched its newest iPhone, matching Samsung’s waterproof and advanced camera phones.

In a statement Sunday, the South Korea-based tech giant said it sold off its entire 4.2% stake in Seagate Technology and its whole 4.5% stake in Rambus, both based in California. Samsung also confirmed the previously reported sales of half of its 2.9% stake in ASML Holding and its full 0.7% stake in Sharp.

A person familiar with the stake sale told The Wall Street Journal last week Samsung was selling about half of its stake in ASML for €606m ($676m). Samsung’s stakes in Rambus, Seagate and Sharp were valued at more than $500m combined, based on Friday’s closing prices.

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The Note 7 recall costs will be an exceptional item, so won’t affect operating profits (except they couldn’t sell any more), but will affect the bottom (net) line. This sale near quarter end thus looks like an effort to keep the dividend up by having cash on hand.
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Exclusive: Google may face over $400m Indonesia tax bill for 2015 – government official • Reuters

Gayatri Suroyo and Eveline Danubrata:

»

Most of the revenue generated in the country is booked at Google’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore. Google Asia Pacific declined to be audited in June, prompting the tax office to escalate the case into a criminal one, [Indonesian tax affairs chief Muhammad] Hanif said.

“Google’s argument is that they just did tax planning,” Hanif said. “Tax planning is legal, but aggressive tax planning – to the extent that the country where the revenue is made does not get anything – is not legal.”

The tax office will summon directors from Google Indonesia who also hold positions at Google Asia Pacific, Hanif said, adding that it is working with the Indonesian police.

Globally, it is rare for a state investigation of corporate tax structures to be escalated into a criminal case.

«

link to this extract


Hailing more ride service options in Google Maps • Google Maps blog

»

Back in March, we introduced a new way for people to find and compare the fastest ways to get around town by adding a new ride services tab when searching for directions in Google Maps. Today, we’re adding two more partners in the U.S., Lyft and Gett. Now Google Maps will display options from 9 ride-sharing partners in over 60 countries, allowing you to compare the fastest, most affordable ride near you, without having to download and open multiple apps.

Say you’re looking to get from the High Line to Times Square in Manhattan. When typing these locations into the Google Maps app, you’ll see a ride services tab appear alongside driving, transit and walking directions. Just tap the icon and you’ll find fare estimates and pick up times from multiple ride service partners, depending on driver availability. We’ll also show various types of services offered by each partner— for instance Lyft may also show options for a Lyft Line ride.

«

Ben Thompson pointed out this blogpost in his daily Stratechery update, suggesting that it creates a threat for Uber because it will now be priced directly against other services.

My first thought though was: this is Google trying to get people out of non-Google apps, and back onto its own ones. If you order your Uber in Google Maps, it can (potentially) show you an ad.

The question now is: does Uber mind this use of its API? If it does, can it afford to block it, or would the lost business be too great? (I suspect “no” and “perhaps”.) So far, then, a win for Google.
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Microsoft lays off hundreds of employees this week, largely in Redmond, London • ZDNet

Mary Jo Foley:

»

The Financial Times reported on September 16 that Microsoft is planning to shut down Skype’s London offices. A Microsoft spokesperson with whom I spoke today characterized the London cuts as a consolidation of some engineering positions that affected both Skype and Yammer. The spokesperson said about 220 jobs would be eliminated as a result.

Microsoft cut about 300 additional people globally this past week, the company spokesperson confirmed, with the majority of those cuts affecting those working in the Puget Sound, Wash., area. I saw a few people cut from various teams in Redmond earlier this week post about the cuts on Facebook.

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link to this extract


Sony Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact won’t have fingerprint scanners in the US • Phone Arena

Florin T:

»

Sony’s brand new Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact are coming soon to the US. In case you’re planning to buy any of them, you should first know this: unlike their European counterparts, the US-bound Xperia XZ and X Compact do not feature fingerprint scanners. This is confirmed by Sony Mobile’s US website, where full specs for both phones are available (see the source links below), and there’s no mention of fingerprint scanners whatsoever.

The non-US Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact have fingerprint scanners embedded in their power buttons, but Sony decided to remove them from the devices that will be shipped in the States. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Sony did the same with the Xperia X Performance, Xperia Z5, and Xperia Z5 Compact. As for why this is happening, there is no official explanation.

«

Perhaps I can help? HP has a patent in the US on fingerprint scanners in power buttons. Filed in 2009, published in 2012, and I’d guess that HP wants some good money for it – which Sony’s money-losing mobile division really can’t afford given the tiny volumes in the US.

The patent is also published (hence valid?) through WIPO, Europe and China – but maybe Sony thinks it’s worth paying there. Though one would think it would move to a different design, to avoid the patent.
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Has the UK got Tech Talent? • BBC News

Rory Cellan-Jones:

»

Across BBC News outlets this week, under the banner Tech Talent, we are asking whether the UK can compete in the global technology industry – and why we haven’t produced a tech giant on the scale of Google or Apple. Here are my thoughts on those questions.

In the last ten days I’ve met the founder of a British games company which is still independent after a quarter of a century, and about to launch one of Sony’s first virtual reality titles.

I’ve attended a celebration to mark the extraordinary success of the Raspberry Pi, a tiny computer created in Cambridge to teach children to code, which has now achieved global sales of ten million.

And I’ve had a demo of the latest products from a fledgling company called Chirp, created by a University College London scientist to transmit data via an audio signal.

All of these are examples of a thriving British technology landscape. So why, over nearly 20 years of covering the tech scene, do I keep getting asked the same thing – where is the UK’s Google?

«

What isn’t mentioned in the piece, but seems relevant, is that Google, Apple, Facebook and so on can count on scale: the US is largely homogenous and can be largely covered using a single language (add Spanish and you’re pretty much at 100%). The UK is part of Europe (presently) but crucially you can’t reach all its users with a single language, plus there are cross-border differences in business practice.

That said, the UK has produced lots of top-flight tech companies. We just tend to overlook them until they get bought.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: yesterday we linked to Ars Technica’s piece about the 2003 Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, which didn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Guess what? Every model after that did have a headphone jack. (Bet the iPhone 7’s successors won’t.)

Start up: Note 7’s slow recall, HP v refills, here come the ad police!, AirPods pro and anti, and more


Removing the headphone jack didn’t hurt sales in 2003. Photo by yuankuei on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. Please enable your ad blocker, or something. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Fewer than 15% of the 1m US Galaxy Note 7 phones have been returned • Recode

Ina Fried:

»

Despite the risk of fire or explosion, the vast majority of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 owners in the US have been holding on to their devices.

Only about 130,000 units have so far been returned as part of an exchange program that Samsung kicked off nearly two weeks ago. On Thursday the company formally recalled the device in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency charged with overseeing safety-related product issues.

«

Probably because they simply haven’t heard about it. Most people (one forgets) aren’t that interested in tech news.
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Remember that time Nintendo got rid of the headphone jack? • Ars Technica

Kyle Orland:

»

A leading technology company announces the next in its successful and long-standing line of handheld hardware. The new update sports plenty of long-awaited features, including an improved screen and a better battery. But it also includes one major omission: the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which had been included on all of its portable products until this point, has been replaced by a proprietary standard. Many in the press are livid, and consumers largely react with confusion, but many shrug it off and decide to buy the product anyway.

«

But that was 2003. How do you expect anyone to remember that far back? (Ars does a nice job finding examples of “outrage” from the time.)
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HP allegedly time bombs unofficial ink cartridges from working in its printers • Hot Hardware

Brandon Jill:

»

HP… is allegedly using a rather destructive method to prevent customers from using remanufactured ink cartridges. The company reportedly preprogrammed a date into its printers to display a message informing customers that their non-genuine ink cartridges were damaged. Specifically, the message reads:

Cartridge Problem. The following ink cartridges appears to be missing or damaged. Replace the ink cartridges to resume printing.

If the objective is to get people to abandon the use of non-genuine/remanufactured ink cartridges, HP could have a used a subtler approach. Instead of using a randomly generated date to “fake” a failure, HP choose preprogrammed September 13th into the most recent firmware updates for its printers. So on that date, scores of HP customers at the same time began complaining about the same problem. Nice.

Because of this sudden influx of complaints, it didn’t take long to trace the “failures” to a HP firmware update that was released during the spring. HP’s support forums are flooded with complaints from customers that have received the warning and at least one reseller of remanufactured cartridges was also inundated with its own customer complaints.

«

The forum link supports it, but this story seems to have happened repeatedly over the years. (It feels like a rewrite, too.)
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Google and 16 other companies have formed a coalition that wants to police ads on the web • Business Insider

Lara O’Reilly:

»

“The Coalition for Better Ads” was announced on Thursday at digital advertising trade show Dmexco in Cologne, Germany.

The Coalition was formed as a direct response to the rise of ad blocking, and will act as a kind of regulator for internet ads.

The group has been put together to create global standards for online advertising, which will be deployed using technology created by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau)’s Tech Lab. The technology will essentially score ads based on a number of criteria — such as page load time, the number of tracking pixels, and the type of creative — with only ads that meet a certain threshold making it through to the web page of participating companies.

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Won’t make any difference, because people aren’t driven to block ads by the lovely fast-loading ads they encounter – it’s the other 90% of ads. And those won’t want to be controlled by these companies.
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Asenqua Ventures: the venture capital firm that wasn’t there • Fortune

Dan Primack does some great digging:

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After [Albert] Hu’s trial [in which he was convicted of fraud], Asenqua Ventures seemed to disappear. Its website went offline, and its various business entities dissipated, per records at the California Secretary of State’s office.

But then, in the summer of 2015, http://www.asenquavc.com reemerged, claiming to represent two entities:

• Asenqua Ventures, a “private equity merchant banking firm focused on early stage and middle market opportunities.”
• Asenqua Financial Advisors Inc, which “can support a diverse array of financial engagements, including mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, restructurings, recapitalizations and capital formation.”

There was no more mention of Albert Hu, but the website’s “team” page was full of people with impressive-looking resumes. For example, managing director Peter Arnold “spent 23 years as an Investment Banker/Venture Capitalist, where he was instrumental in the development of over 200 businesses with early-stage funding in excess of $2 billion dollars.” Fellow managing director Bob Lin had been “responsible for the financial management of over 6,000 IBM ibm software developers and responsible for over $500 million in annual company revenues.”

Moreover, Arnold had a LinkedIn profile claiming that he had spent nearly six years as a managing director with New York-based investment giant BlackRock BLK .

None of this, however, holds up.

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link to this extract


OverhypedPods • Medium

Nati Shochat isn’t impressed by the AirPods. Sure, he says, they have:

»

• Pairing — an easy way to pair the headphones (which also uses the cloud to propagate the pairing to other related devices).
• Connectivity — improved connectivity over regular Bluetooth.
• Ease of use when switching between devices.
• Battery life — Longer battery life than regular Bluetooth headsets of that size.

These capabilities are not to be dismissed as nothing else but true engineering innovations. But also they are not making the AirPods a platform, or the next computing devices. Yet.

Further more, Bluetooth headsets have been around for more than a decade, so they are nothing new about the notion of using a wireless headset to make calls, or even listen to music. Also tapping into Siri with wireless headsets has been available for a few years now, with a (long) press of a button. So the fact that with the AirPods a user can double tap the headphone and trigger Siri is not a new feature. Perhaps a new UI.

Yes, you can grab almost any Bluetooth headsets connect them to an iPhone or an iPad and long press the main button, to trigger Siri. Perhaps the sound quality will be different (for better or worse), perhaps the comfort levels will not be similar (again for better or for worse), but AirPods don’t bring any new capabilities to the world. They only enhance and improve the current ones.

«

Compare and contrast with the following.
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Why Silicon Valley is all wrong about Apple’s AirPods • Medium

Chris Messina:

»

Apple began the journey of promoting user acceptance of technology apparatuses as fashion accessories with the introduction of the iPod in 2001, fifteen years ago.

You can hear it when Jobs explains why he decided to pursue music in the first place: he knew it was universal and represented a huge addressable market in which there was no market leader. He also knew that everyone loved music, and that their personal, emotional relationships with music would give him the opening he needed to send in the  ᴛʀᴏᴊᴀɴ ʜᴏʀsᴇ to permeate their lives for a generation.

And now, by exploiting that same relationship, Apple is doing it again: offering a sexy fashion statement, an expensive luxury item, an entertainment accessory, which will usher in the era of voice-controlled intimate computing. Apple won’t sell the AirPods by enumerating their tech specs but by evoking an emotional, aspirational response — which is an approach vividly different from nearly anything else that comes out Silicon Valley’s burgeoning nerdtopia.

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In my experience – so far – people outside tech are interested in AirPods in a way that they absolutely aren’t about Bluetooth headphones.
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Half of US smartphone users download zero apps per month • Recode

Dan Frommer:

»

Specifically, some 49% of U.S. smartphone users download zero apps in a typical month, according to comScore, reflecting a three-month average period ending this past June.

Of the 51% of smartphone owners who do download apps during the course of a month, “the average number downloaded per person is 3.5,” comScore’s report says. “However, the total number of app downloads is highly concentrated at the top, with 13% of smartphone owners accounting for more than half of all download activity in a given month.”

Do these concepts sound familiar? That’s because comScore has been banging this drum for a while. Two years ago, a similar study found that almost two-thirds of US smartphone owners downloaded zero apps in a typical month. So this year’s 49% suggests an improvement.

What’s the deal? ComScore’s Andrew Lipsman says it’s more a reflection that his company has improved its methodology since then — rather than any drastic changes in the app economy — so it’s not fair to compare the two surveys apples-to-apples.

«

One point: if you download an app in one month, then you have the app. You don’t need to re-download it the next month. (That’s rather different from, say, Google searches on mobile: it needs a constant flow of those.)

What would be more useful would be the percentage of users who download 1, 2, 3, 4 apps over the course of a year or two years – because that’s probably the life of the device. That’s probably pretty high.
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iOS 10 is a major shift for iOS • The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks:

»

Let’s take a normal scenario to see how iOS changes things. My wife and I have been looking at houses on Zillow. Typically, for me, that means [in iOS 9] a lot of copy and pasting, or other hijinks to get a satellite view from Apple Maps (I can do it in the app, but I like to see images hopefully taken at different times — I’m odd like that, but I have reasons). It’s even worse when I wanted to drive by these places because I would constantly be switching apps and pasting in addresses.

With iOS 10 this changes a lot, now Maps knows what house and address I have been looking at, and it prompts me to use that address in Maps. Now the workflow is: look at house in Zillow, move to Maps, and tap the address suggested. No copying and pasting, it just is there, and there without Zillow being updated for iOS 10.

It was also crazy that the fastest way to get directions to the next event on your calendar, was by tapping the location field in Calendar, not from within Maps — completely counter intuitive. Under iOS 10, this again changes, now Maps knows that the location is on the calendar, is your next event, and puts the address one tap away inside of Maps — where it should have been the entire time.

There’s a lot of little things like this, because for once iOS knows what the other hand is doing and it’s about time. This is one of the biggest reasons why I say that iOS 10 is going to be a tipping point — because now iOS has tangible usability benefits over macOS. Limited still, yes, but significantly better in many ways also.

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I hadn’t noticed that (yet) in iOS 10, and of course the next Mac OSX update (to become MacOS) brings some more cross-platform integration (such as the clipboard, and Apple Watch unlock). But iOS is definitely getting things Mac OS isn’t.
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Raw Data becomes first VR title to hit $1M in a month • Gamasutra

Chris Kerr:

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Vive-exclusive sci-fi shooter Raw Data has become the first virtual reality game to hit $1m in sales in the space of a month.

Developer Survios made the claim in an interview with Fast Company, and said at least 20% of HTC Vive owners have purchased the action title. 

Earlier this year, Raw Data also became the first VR release to top the overall Steam charts, although its stay at the summit was brief. 

The game currently retails for $39.99 on Steam – though it was launched at a discounted $31.99 –  and Survios believes the game’s success is rooted in the VR market’s “need” for a true triple-A experience. 

«

Daniel Ahmad reckons this means the HTC Vive install base is under 150,000 units.

($1m/$32 = 31,250; $1m/40 = 25,000; if the larger number represents 20% of HTC Vive units, there are 156,250 Vive units in all. If it’s a larger percentage, there are fewer Vive units – down to 25,000 at the minimum.

However we had a figure of “approaching 100,000” back in July, so this feels consistent. If it’s gone from 100,000 to 150,000 in three months, that seems like solid growth.
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Facebook Video leaves a small window for advertisers • The Information

Tom Dota:

»

Most video ads on Facebook are seen for only a second or two, according to a new study, well below the average for video ads on YouTube and other websites. It suggests few people on Facebook are clicking on video ads as they scroll past them in their News Feed.

The data provides further evidence to advertisers who want to use Facebook that they have to come up with specially designed ads that can capture people’s attention quicker than the standard TV spot. As Facebook makes a hard push for more TV ad dollars, it also could be used by advertisers as a cudgel in pricing negotiations.  

The study found that little more than 30% of video ads on Facebook met the industry standard of a “viewable” ad, one that is played for two seconds or more with at least half the video in view, said a person familiar with the study. On YouTube, more than 70% of ads are deemed viewable…

…A spokesman for Facebook said the [Media Ratings Council] standards for viewability are designed for desktops and don’t accurately assess the the News Feed format. “Within a mobile feed, research shows that value can be created within the first second, much sooner than the MRC mobile guidelines suggest,” the spokesman said in an email. He pointed to data that shows an ad can have impact with as little as one-quarter of a second.

«

That bar for viewability is set so low it should be in the finals of the world limbo championships. How sustainable are video ads on Facebook going to be with that sort of criterion?
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Setting up a new iPhone — it just does not work • Medium

Ouriel Ohayon:

»

Restoring all your apps take a good one hour at minimum because they need to be re-downloaded. In my case (have a lot of apps) it will take a few hours.

Some of those apps (eg Spotify, Downcast for podcasts, Audible…) have content to be downloaded for offline consumption. iTunes and iCloud backup don’t include those (it would cost me a lot of icloud $) and iTunes back up does not include those. So there you go, you need to download again each app the content. One by One.

Then if you have an Apple watch, you need to unpair it from the old phone, then reset the watch, and pair again the Watch (a good 30 min). Even John Gruber (ZE Apple expert) screwed up in this.

Then you need to reset Apple pay and all your cards, on your iPhone and your watch.

Then you have for certain apps to go through the 2 key authentication process again (payment apps, bank apps).

Reset 2 key authentication for all services you are already using (a real pain in the b…). Certain apps just need sign in again like Google Apps and of course Authenticator. Reset of 1password (if sync with Dropbox). Then for Communication apps (Viber..) you need to reset your account to your new Phone (even with the same line).

«

(Odd he doesn’t mention doing a restore from iTunes – though I understand some people detest iTunes. But you could, you know, just use it for setting up your phone. It won’t reach out and kill you.)

Setting up a new iPhone from an iCloud backup (if you’re not going down the iTunes route) is like Churchill’s description of democracy – the worst, except for all the others. Has Ohayon ever tried setting up a new Android phone? The experience is nowhere near that on iOS. There is an Android Backup service, but as Google’s help notes, “not all apps use [it]. Some apps may not back up and restore all data.”

As for the complaints about two-factor authentication – the idea of 2FA is that it’s hard to configure a new device. Ditto for credit cards in Wallet.

Sometimes it feels as though people complain without considering what they’re complaining about. If this stuff were easy to do, imagine the real havoc that a hacked iCloud password would cause to the actual owner – and how much someone like Ohayon would complain if they were the victim: I’m sure we’d hear that Apple had made it too easy for people to set up new phones from a UID/password combination.
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Software application risks on the OSX continuum • Cyber ITL

»

We always look across all of the binaries to identify the very best and very worst applications in any run, to see if anything of interest pops out.  We were dismayed to see that Microsoft AutoUpdate (the update software that ships with their office suite) had one of the worst 10 scores out of all 38k+ binaries we evaluated.  It’s a 32 bit application with no ASLR, an executable heap, unfortified source, and no stack guards.  In the office suite scores from the prior histogram, we did not include this update software. If we change the score of the office suite to include all the software it comes with, this pulls the score down significantly. It should be pointed out that this updater is related to Microsoft’s DRM (digital rights management – anti software piracy) component that is listening on the network on your OS X system if you have MS Office installed. 

In contrast, the native OSX Auto Update software does quite well, scoring slightly better than Google Chrome did.  Given what a target auto updaters are for attackers, this is more along the lines of what we would like to see for this sort of software.

«

They’ve also looked at OSX v Linux v Windows 10 in terms of “security” against attack. Windows 10 is miles ahead – which just goes to show what more than a decade of “Trustworthy Computing” initiatives can do.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

The 2Q 2016 smartphone scorecard: players searching for an exit


Exit. Who’s next? Photo by Today is a good day on Flickr.

There comes a time in every former top-ranking sports player’s career when they have to accept reality: they’re not up to it any more. They keep getting beaten by people whom they once would have trampled; what should have been easy wins are now struggles, or upsets. Eventually, they accept the reality everyone else has already seen: it’s time to exit.

And now we’re seeing that happen in the smartphone market. This isn’t really about sales of iPhones being down year-on-year – though they are, for the second quarter in a row, and though in the previous quarter Apple managed to keep its handset ASP (average selling price – calculated by total handset revenue divided by the number of handsets) up, in this quarter it was substantially down, below $600 for the first time since 2Q 2014.

But more generally, this is the quarter where China really began to muscle into the top ranks of Android OEMs – and all the players who used to be the big names there are inching towards the exit. The problem for the big-name Android OEMs is that, because it’s Android, they’re replaceable. Android on one handset is quite a lot like Android on another. But an Apple device, and its integrated software, is sui generis.

Numbers for all

So here are the numbers showing how that replacement is going. The list below is all in diminishing size of handset shipment volume. Other data sometimes has to be estimated, and in the case of Huawei, OPPO and vivo you’d have to be in one of the big analyst camps to know what their ASPs and hence revenues are, and you might have to be at the companies to know whether they’re profitable.

Standout elements from the quarter: Sony made a profit! (Even as it dwindled.) Lenovo kept shrinking; Apple’s ASP fell; Samsung trundled on; LG made more losses (the G5 flagship essentially sank); Microsoft barely turned up.

Q2 2016: the smartphone scorecard

* denotes estimate: explanations below

Company Handsets
(million)
Revenues Handset
ASP
Operating
profit/loss
Per-handset
profit/loss
% profit/loss
Samsung 77.0 $22.61bn $275.64* $3.75bn $48.66* 16.59%
Apple 40.4 $24.05bn $595.26 $6.71bn* $166.09* 27.9%*
Huawei 32.1 $7.06bn* $220 positive? positive? positive?
OPPO 22.6 $4bn?? $177* positive? positive? positive?
vivo 16.4 $3.7bn?? $225.60* positive? positive? positive?
ZTE 14.7 $2.5bn?? $170* ?? ?? ??
Xiaomi 14.5 $2.28bn* $150 negative? negative? negative?
LG 13.9 $2.88bn $207.52 –$177m –$12.73 –6.15%
Lenovo/
Motorola
11.3 $1.71bn $150.97 –$163m –$14.42 -9.53%
Sony 3.1 (not a misprint) $3.64bn $582.26 $4.03m $1.30 0.11%
HTC 2.3* $0.5bn* $217.39* –$128.50m –$55.87* -25.7%
Microsoft
Mobile
1.2 (not a misprint either) $0.23bn* $190.80* –$45m* –$38* –19.56%
Everyone else 135.4m

Assumptions:
Samsung: 6m tablets sold for $175 ASP at zero profit; 11.4m featurephones sold for $15 ASP at zero profit. (For every $1 fall in featurephone price, smartphone ASPs rise by $0.14 – so with zero featurephones and 6m $175 tablets, smartphone ASP would be $277.84. For tablets, every $5 rise in ASP lowers smartphone ASPs by $0.38 – so if tablets were free and there were no featurephones, smartphone ASPs would be $291.37. It isn’t a huge difference; tablets and featurephones are together generate about $880m, or less than 5% of overall mobile revenues.)

Apple: operating profit calculated at the historic figure of 27.9% (derived from multiple financial analysts). Might have been lower or higher – the 6S range maybe costs more to make than the 6 range, but there’s the SE range which might be cheaper because less retooling needed.

Huawei, OPPO, vivo, ZTE, Xiaomi: ASP figures all estimated, based on their perceived market power

How do I calculate the revenue figures (and hence ASPs) for OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi? According to According to Strategy Analytics,

Global Smartphone Industry revenues declined by -5% YoY in Q2 2016, due to softening of volumes. Apple was followed by Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and vivo from a revenue perspective. The report also captures the Wholesale Average Selling ASP’s for all major vendors across six regions. ASP’s in the quarter declined by -6% globally.

So if Oppo and vivo were bigger than Sony, they must have done more than 3.64bn. (Xiaomi must have been less than them too.) I’m guessing they weren’t that much bigger. For Huawei, which like those two doesn’t release revenue figures, I’ve estimated an ASP (up from the previous quarter) and generated the revenue figure from that.

LG: assume tablet sales were minimal, and had zero profit.

HTC: given that it now sells the Vive headset too, though not in large numbers (certainly not millions), it only takes a small adjustment from the overall revenue.

Microsoft Mobile: Microsoft gave figures for featurephone sales, of 9m; assuming an ASP of $15 for those and gross margin of $5 each (as before) gives the featurephone revenue. Assume the same manufacture cost as before, and you get zero gross margin; even with zero sales/marketing and R+D, you get a negative margin.

Rampant deflation

Everyone’s seeing price declines, which is what you’d expect in a growing market where you also have Moore’s Law and scale coming into play. But this is barely a growth market. Smartphone shipments were up just 0.26% year-on-year. When you look at the trend over the past nine years, we’ve really hit a wall here:

Smartphone growth year-on-year.png

The red line shows the four-quarter moving average, and that’s clearly down. What that suggestion of slowdown doesn’t quite tell is how the market is diverging. The premium end was long ago saturated: people who could buy expensive phones did so, but now there’s no new market to sell into in the developed countries – and consequently the US, China and western Europe are expected to see slowdowns, and even reductions in volume, this year (per IDC). The action, such as it is, will be in emerging markets such as the Middle East, Africa and Latin America – though even they will only see growth of about 5.6%.

In such a world, the companies which initially made Android a Huge Thing are beginning to head for the exit. HTC built the first Android phone. Sony had to go Android (as Sony Ericsson) because it was losing money hand over fist. LG had to figure out how to make smartphones quickly, because its featurephone business was being destroyed.

Now though they’re seeing those be destroyed all over again. You can see the numbers above. And here’s a graph of how pretty much everyone is seeing sales growth compared to the smartphone market turn negative (so if the market grows 10% and they grow 5%, they’re falling behind):

Smartphone OEMs: growth against the overall market

Year-on-year shipment growth measured against the overall market

But I’ve been collecting the revenue and profit/loss numbers too (and publishing them) going back to Q4 2014. That’s seven quarters. What if you add that up?

Seven quarters of hurt

Here’s the lineup when you calculate it over seven quarters:

Seven-quarter smartphone scorecard covering Q4 2014 to Q2 2016 inclusive

(all estimate elements as above)

Company Handsets
(million)
Revenues Handset
ASP
Total operating
profit/loss
Per-handset
profit/loss
% profit/loss
Samsung 555.4 $158.70bn $285.74 $17.95bn $32.32 11.31%
Apple 401.07 $263.59bn $657.22 $73.62bn* $183.56* 27.92%
Xiaomi 116.92 $18.62bn* $159.25 ? ? ?
LG 102.75 $21.58bn $210.02 –$428.39m –$4.17 –1.98%
Lenovo/
Motorola
121 $17.44bn $144.13 –$1,114m –$9.26 –6.39%
Sony 47.8 $17.13bn $358.37 –$908.33m –19.00 –5.30%
HTC 26.1 $6.45bn* $247.13 –$717.51m –$27.49 –11.12%
Microsoft
Mobile
41.3 $5.76bn $139.47 –$2,621m –$63.46 –45.50%
(Huawei, OPPO, vivo and ZTE aren’t included because I don’t have figures for them over the period; and there aren’t any financials for any of them.)

This bears out a truth that is borne out again and again by analyst reports into best-selling handsets, brand loyalty, and customer satisfaction: these days it’s a two-horse race, Apple and Samsung.

Xiaomi is an unknown, financially. But all the rest are losing money hand over fist, and as Vlad Savov wrote in a terrific piece entitled “Android OEM death watch: Sony, HTC and LG edition“, you do wonder why they soldier on:

The Android ecosystem has never been more diverse than it is today, but I suspect that what we’re witnessing now is a peak from which the basic economics of a maturing smartphone market will rapidly drag us down. Niche players like Nextbit, Vertu, and BlackBerry might survive thanks to their low volume of sales and correspondingly limited costs. But the big names we’ve known for so long, the Sonys and HTCs of this world, seem fated to fade from view.

I think this is absolutely right. Look at those numbers: why is LG putting up with a division that has lost money, and shows no sign of stopping? Although Sony made money this quarter, it’s fading from view. Lenovo’s ASP is so woefully low that it’s an obvious target for every up-and-coming Chinese OEM. (I was recently contacted by Meizu, which is launching into the Asian market: yet another rival for the uncommitted phone buyer.)

It isn’t even as if these struggling companies have scale: Sony has only sold 12% as many phones as Apple over the period (and 8.6% as many as Samsung, which might be the better comparison); LG has managed a more respectable 18.5% of Samsung’s number, but it’s losing money on them, over seven quarters.

Sure these companies have a lot invested in this business; you can’t just shut down a smartphone business like closing a corner shop. There are contracts, staff, distribution deals. But you can edge out, which is what Sony seems to be doing as its range and distribution shrinks. Will LG follow, or is its rivalry with Samsung in Korea just too strong to let it ever let go?

I’m honestly puzzled by companies which tot up millions in red ink and decide it’s fine to carry on. Microsoft is clearly getting out (who wouldn’t, looking at those margins) but how can Sony or Lenovo look at their returns and feel they’re OK? That’s the puzzle here.

Sure, there’s lots else going on: Apple’s falling ASPs and falling sales point to the saturation of the markets. Equally, the cheap hardware is getting really good – the Shenzhen effect, as volume of production means that the only distinguishing thing is software and, to a lesser extent, chip design ability. (Apple, Samsung and Huawei stand alone here.) I’m certainly impressed by Huawei, which offered a dual-lens camera on the new P9 which has a neat refocus/re-aperture effect, well ahead of Apple.

(Huawei’s problem is it doesn’t have a coherent strategy: it offered “3D Touch” before Apple too – as did ZTE – but hasn’t followed through; only the latest P9 still has it. Will the dual lens offering spread to the rest of its offerings, or fall by the wayside as happened with HTC’s dual system on the M8 in 2014?)

In search of the lost profits

What then happened to all the profits that HTC, Lenovo, and Sony used to earn? Simple: eaten by Samsung, Apple, and Chinese rivals. The growth of companies like OnePlus, Meizu, and of course Huawei, vivo and OPPO and (less so) Xiaomi means the potential for scale falls away from those already in the market.

However it can take a while for these effects to become visible. HTC’s sales peaked in 2011; LG’s, Sony’s and Microsoft’s in the second half of 2014. From around that time, all the Chinese OEMs began growing rapidly, first in their home market, and then India; and in Huawei’s case, Africa, Europe and the US.

Late exit

Apple looks to have peaked in 2015 – but it has a solid ecosystem and so many users that any erosion would take a long, long time. That’s in stark contrast to every Android OEM, which (as even Xiaomi is finding out) is disposable and replaceable.

But it can take a long time. BlackBerry’s handset sales peaked in 2010, and yet it’s still going. (Though will John Chen finally announce the company is getting out of hardware at the quarterly results on September 28? One to watch.) HTC has been ebbing for a while, for example. Sony has begun withdrawing to Asia. LG is being pushed aside in Europe by Huawei.

The only question is when some of the executives at these companies will finally ask why they’re still trying to play a losing hand. There comes a time for the players to leave the game. When is it?

Start up: Pandora subs up, can links break copyright?, Note 7 recall!, PC/smartphone death watch, and more


Looks harmless, but one of these bit Apple hard in the butt this week. Photo by Lisa Brewster on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Freshly fried. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Pandora signs its Warner Music deal, which means it can finally launch its $5 subscription service – Recode

»Sometimes a launch isn’t actually a launch. Until it’s actually a launch.

For instance: This morning, at 8 am ET, Pandora announced that it “launched Pandora Plus,” its new $5-a-month subscription service.

But Pandora didn’t actually launch Pandora Plus, because it couldn’t launch the service legally: It had yet to sign a licensing deal with Warner Music Group.

Now Pandora has signed its Warner deal, so it can go ahead and start letting some of its users try out Pandora Plus — a souped-up, ad-free version of its ad-supported free web radio service.

Pandora Plus’s temporary limbo status wasn’t relevant to normal people, and it went mostly unnoticed in the music business.

Pandora has already said that only 1% of its user base would see the new service today anyway, so it was nearly impossible for anyone to figure out if it was live or not.

«

But Warners used Pandora’s desperation to screw better terms out of it. A bit like Universal screwing Microsoft in 2006 when the latter was desperate to launch the Zune.

Still, brings Pandora into the streaming game in the US.
link to this extract


iOS 10 is surfacing hardcore porn GIFs in iMessage • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

»Apple is having trouble removing porn from iMessage’s new GIF search feature. Overnight, Deadspin noticed a highly sexual My Little Pony GIF appearing in searches for the word “butt,” but the problem goes well beyond that.

A woman who emailed The Verge this afternoon says her eight-year-old daughter, while trying to send a message to her dad, was presented with “a very explicit image” of “a woman giving oral sex to a well endowed male.” Her daughter hadn’t searched for anything explicit, just the word “huge.”

“I see the image come up like, holy shit, whoa whoa whoa, that’s a hardcore porn image,” Tassie Bethany, whose daughter discovered the image, tells The Verge by phone. “I grabbed the phone from her immediately. She typed in the word ‘huge,’ which isn’t sexual in any nature. It’s just a word, not like butt or anything else.”

«

Haven’t tried this. Apple blocked the MLP thing, but it seems like the flaw lies in Microsoft’s Bing (which supplies the search results on GIFs) not having figured out that GIFs might sometimes not be child-friendly.

Plus the wild overconfidence of thinking you could just let a search engine have a direct feed into your platform. There’s Giphy, which does the same sort of job, but without the porn.
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Links can infringe copyright in EU, European Court of Justice rules • Fortune

David Meyer:

»Thursday’s ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will be music to the ears of rights holders who are frustrated at the existence of sites that provides lists of links to pirated music and films but that do not host such material themselves.

It could also have major implications for search engines such as Google GOOG 1.26% if they link to copyright-infringing services despite having been asked not to do so.

This particular case involved a website called GeenStijl (“No Style”) that repeatedly posted links to Playboy pictures of a Dutch TV presenter called Britt Dekker, even after Playboy’s Dutch publisher at the time told it to stop.

The ruling marks a rare occasion on which the court went against the advice of its advocate general, the court’s top advisor. (Another example would be the infamous Google Spain ruling that extended the so-called “right to be forgotten” to search engines.)

Advocate-general Melchior Wathelet recommended back in April that it should be irrelevant whether or not a site posting links to copyright-infringing material is doing so deliberately.

«

Really perplexing. Here’s the ruling, and the press release.
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iPhone 7: for the first time, the Plus model is the most pre-ordered – Slice Intelligence

»Data from Slice Intelligence just revealed the first online sales figures for the iPhone 7, and early shoppers prefer the Plus. Among those preordering the iPhone 7, in the first 48 hours of availability, 55% ordered the Plus model. By comparison, over half of the iPhone orders of the 6 and 6s were for the regular model during the first two days of availability.

As is typical, those who re-ordered the iPhone 7 tend to be Apple loyalists. 55% of iPhone 7 buyers purchased an iPhone online in the past two years. We also observed that the iPhone upgrade cycle is ticking up: only 34% of iPhone 7 buyers hadn’t purchased a phone online since 2014, versus 40% of 6s buyers.

«

Pinch of salt, but if correct will bump up the average selling price of iPhones.
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U.S. Consumer Safety Agency plans recall of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 • WSJ

John McKinnon:

»Samsung already has been pursuing a global recall effort of its own, after reports surfaced of overheating and exploding batteries in its new top-of-the-line phone.

But the company’s recall effort has been plagued by problems, including conflicting consumer information and communications troubles with regulators.

The formal recall in the U.S. is likely to specify ways of remedying the overheating and explosion problems that have surfaced in the phone.

«

Bang goes a ton of brand equity.
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[1609.04327] The bumpy road towards iPhone 5c NAND mirroring • ArXiv

Sergei Skorobogatov

»This paper is a short summary of a real world mirroring attack on the Apple iPhone 5c passcode retry counter under iOS 9. This was achieved by desoldering the NAND Flash chip of a sample phone in order to physically access its connection to the SoC and partially reverse engineering its proprietary bus protocol. The process does not require any expensive and sophisticated equipment. All needed parts are low cost and were obtained from local electronics distributors. By using the described and successful hardware mirroring process it was possible to bypass the limit on passcode retry attempts. This is the first public demonstration of the working prototype and the real hardware mirroring process for iPhone 5c.

«

Skorobogatov works at the Cambridge University computer science lab. This isn’t trivial.
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PC leaders must overhaul their businesses or leave the market by 2020 • Gartner

»Business leaders of PC vendors face a stark choice and must decide between overhauling their businesses or leaving the PC market by 2020, according to [research company] Gartner. If they decide to stay, they need to rapidly determine what changes to make or what alternatives to adapt in today’s over-penetrated PC market.

“The PC business model as we have traditionally known it is broken. The top five mobile PC vendors have gained 11% market share over the past five years — from 65% in 2011 to 76% in the first half of 2016; but this has come at the expense of profitable revenue,” said Tracy Tsai, research vice president at Gartner. “While this does not mean that the PC market is finished, the installed base of PCs will continue to decline over the next five years, with a continuing erosion of PC vendors’ revenue and profit.

“The traditional way of gaining shipment market share by competing on price to stimulate demand simply won’t work for the PC market over the next five years,” said Ms. Tsai. “Today’s PC vendors need to adjust to the new realities that are shaping consumption, including the fact that PC users are extending PC lifetimes until end of life, business PC applications and storage are moving into the cloud, and are less reliant on PC performance and, crucially, that price and specification are not enough for a user to upgrade a PC — a new and better customer experience is the only true differentiation.”

«

Intel and Microsoft are looking elsewhere, Gartner says, but the PC companies don’t seem to have caught the hint. Moreover, it says the installed base of PCs is shrinking: from 1.48bn in 2015 to 1.44 this year, and 1.33bn in 2019. Fewer PCs means fewer replacements means fewer sales means less profit.

That 2020 timescale is pretty short.
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Android OEM death watch: Sony, HTC, and LG edition • The Verge

Vlad Savov:

»If Android OEMs were just that, original equipment manufacturers, their jobs would be much simpler and easier. But in the modern smartphone world, it’s not enough to just design and build new gadgets to a high spec; you have to power them with your own tailored software, you have to support them with updates and security patches, and you have to price them enticingly, too. Not everyone has been doing a particularly good job of this, and as the ranks of Android OEMs continue to swell, escalating competition might push some familiar names out of the game altogether.

«

This is a great piece; I’ve been compiling my Q2 2016 smartphone scorecard – who’s making money, who’s not – and Savov hits the mark. These companies are in trouble.
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The free-time paradox in America • The Atlantic

Derek Thompson:

»60 years later, it seems more true to say that it is not leisure that defines the lives of so many rich Americans. It is work.

Elite men in the US are the world’s chief workaholics. They work longer hours than poorer men in the US and rich men in other advanced countries. In the last generation, they have reduced their leisure time by more than any other demographic. As the economist Robert Frank wrote, “building wealth to them is a creative process, and the closest thing they have to fun.”

Here is the conundrum: Writers and economists from half a century ago and longer anticipated that the future would buy more leisure time for wealthy workers in America. Instead, it just bought them more work. Meanwhile, overall leisure has increased, but it’s the less-skilled poor who are soaking up all the free time, even though they would have the most to gain from working. Why?

«

He then offers three alternatives: less available work for poor men; “social forces” cultivate “industriousness”; leisure is “leaking” into work, and vice-versa.

I like the third one best.
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Shoot iPhone DNG RAW photos today in the new Lightroom Mobile • Petapixel

DL Cade:

»Adobe made a huge announcement today that will change the iPhone photography game entirely: the newest version of Lightroom Mobile for iOS now lets you capture RAW DNG photos right inside the app.

This is huge news made possible by the release of Apple’s newest operating system, iOS 10. Lightroom Mobile could already edit RAW files before this, but never before has an iOS app been able to capture DNG RAW photos natively. The quality and latitude of your iPhone photos is about to get a whole lot better.

«

However: only for the iPhone 6S/Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7/Plus.. and iPad Pro 9.7 (mini Pro). RAW is big for photographers; it’s been supported in Android since Lollipop (beginning of 2015), so is now available to 50% of active devices.
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Tested: this all-AMD $650 PC proves VR-ready rigs don’t have to be expensive • PCWorld

Brad Chacos:

»Experiencing virtual reality will blow your mind, but it’ll also demolish your wallet. Or at least that’s what people think, and that perception was exacerbated when Oculus’s CEO said that building a Rift setup from scratch will set you back a cool $1,500. Since the Oculus Rift itself costs $600, that implies you’ll need a $900 PC to run it. I often hear people say you’ll need to spend about $1,000 on a PC for VR.

Nothing could be further from the truth—and it’s all thanks to AMD.

«

$650 or so and it’s yours. Now you just need to find some content for it.
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Steve Kondik: There won’t be “much if any” involvement from Cyanogen Inc. on CyanogenMod 14 • Android Police

David Ruddock:

»If a comment on a CyanogenMod commit thread by founder Steve Kondik is any indicator, rumors that Cyanogen Inc. is basically getting out of the OS development business seem to be coming to fruition. While the context of the comment is a rather specific commit thread, Kondik’s frustration seems to have led to him to say a bit more about Cyanogen Inc.’s future plans than the company may have liked:

There isn’t really going to be much if any involvement from the Inc this time around and I’m taking on a lot of stuff on my own to try and keep us moving forward.

This would appear to be at odds in some ways with the assurances Kondik gave to CyanogenMod community members about the for-profit Cyanogen Inc’s involvement back in July.

Cyanogen Inc (including myself) will still be sponsoring the project [CyanogenMod] and will continue to have an active role in it’s [sic] development.

I’m not sure how “an active role” in CyanogenMod’s development and “much if any involvement” in that development gel.

«

It cost BlackBerry, HP and Microsoft about a billion dollars each to write a new mobile OS – BB10, webOS, Windows Phone (well, HP bought theirs), with no guarantee of success. If the costs for development even of an Android offshoot are anywhere close, no wonder Cyanogen is getting out of it.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: what colour is the web?, Samsung’s problem deepens, driverless in Pittsburgh, and more


Look like lights out for the Microsoft Band. Photo by Chun’s Pictures on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Liable to move to Channel 4 if you like them too much. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

A case of misplaced trust: how a third-party app store abuses Apple’s developer enterprise program to serve adware • TrendLabs Security Intelligence Blog

»For bogus applications to be profitable, they should be able to entice users into installing them. Scammers do so by riding on the popularity of existing applications, embedding them with unwanted content—even malicious payloads—and masquerading them as legitimate. These repackaged apps are peddled to unsuspecting users, mostly through third-party app stores.

Haima exactly does that, and more. We discovered this China-based third-party iOS app store aggressively promoting their repackaged apps in social network channels—YouTube, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter—banking on the popularity of games and apps such as Minecraft, Terraria, and Instagram to lure users into downloading them.

Third-party app stores such as Haima rely on the trust misplaced not only by the users but also by distribution platforms such as Apple’s, whose Developer Enterprise Program is abused to deploy these repackaged apps. These marketplaces also appeal to the malefactors because they are typically less policed. Haima capitalizes on the monetization of ads that it unscrupulously pushes to its repackaged apps…

…By pretending to be an enterprise, this third-party app marketplace can distribute apps without having to be vetted through Apple’s lengthy certification process.

«

Ah. “Third-party app store”. Stop there. The “enterprise certificate” route is still a problem for Apple; it’s the simplest route for malware. But look at how often Haima has to change to keep ahead of Apple: five certificates in 15 days.
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Samsung S7 Edge explodes in teacher’s hands in middle of busy cafe • The Sun

Nick Pisa and Daniel Jones:

»A Samsung Galaxy S7 owner fears she could have been killed as it overheated in her hand and exploded.

Supply teacher Sarah Crockett, 30, told how the phone blew up in a busy cafe even though it was not being charged.

«

(There’s CCTV footage.) This is of course just a single case out of millions of S7s sold. But: not being charged. Samsung has a problem, and part of the problem is that it’s impossible to say how big (or small) the problem is. The suspicion is that implementing fast-charging systems has made these batteries more difficult to fabricate safely.

And if you scroll down the page, you find an S7 Edge owner who claims their phone exploded in his trouser pocket, badly burning him.
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‘Created’ in China: Shenzhen is making hardware like Silicon Valley makes apps • Fusion

An Xiao Mina:

»Lei Gao is part of this new generation that uses the internet’s agility to augment what the city has to offer. Within days, he had what he needed to experiment with his idea. It took just 10 yuan—about 1.50 USD—and an account on Taobao, an eBay-like e-commerce site run by Chinese tech giant Alibaba, to purchase an exercise gripper shipped from Fujian, a province about a nine hour drive up the coast. Alibaba’s efficient payment and shipping system saved him a trip, and he already had the other parts and pieces he needed from previous projects. After the gripper arrived, he and his team tinkered with code and a Bluetooth trigger, and they created a prototype: a “smart gripper” to interact with your phone. It was perfect for games like Flappy Bird.

Gao and his team make up Imlab, one startup amongst over a million small and medium-sized companies in Shenzhen. Hardware startups across the city can readily pull together a working prototype in a day, test it, and quickly figure out where to go next. Gao’s company is based at Emielab, a coworking space and hardware incubator modeled after successful ones in San Francisco.

«

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Google, Apple are about to face India’s security demands • Bloomberg

Saritha Rai:

»India could force companies to use technology cooked up in a government-funded lab.

The initiative is part of a national biometric identity program called Aadhaar (Hindi for foundation). Millions of Indians use fingerprint and iris-scan authentication to access a range of public and private services that now includes banking. Failure to join the effort could limit the tech industry’s access to a vast and growing market, but companies like Apple and Google are expected to resist opening up their phones and operating systems to the Indian registration, encryption and security technology.

“There will be lots of pushing and shoving by the technology companies,” says Neeraj Aggarwal, managing director of the Boston Consulting Group in India. “It will be a battle of ecosystems, and companies will do their best to hold on to their own.”

A few weeks ago, government officials invited executives from Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to a meeting to discuss embedding Aadhaar encryption into their technology. None of the companies will comment on what transpired at the gathering – and Apple didn’t show up at all.

«

This isn’t going to fly with the tech companies. They won’t allow a potentially insecure encryption system onto their devices. Which creates a delicate problem: how do you refuse to cooperate with a government which insists you do? Or can they find an interface between their system and the government’s which keeps everyone happy?
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When you change the world and no one notices • Collaborative Fund

Morgan Housel:

»Do you know what’s happening in this picture? Literally one of the most important events in human history.

But here’s the most amazing part of the story: Hardly anyone paid attention at the time.

Wilbur and Orville Wright conquered [powered] flight on December 17th, 1903. Few inventions were as transformational over the next century. It took four days to travel from New York to Los Angeles in 1900, by train. By the 1930s it could be done in 17 hours, by air. By 1950, six hours.

Unlike, say, mapping the genome, a lay person could instantly grasp the marvel of human flight. A guy sat in a box and turned into a bird.

But days, months, even years after the Wright’s first flight, hardly anyone noticed.

«

As Housel points out with numerous examples in this fascinating piece (your must-read for today), world-changing inventions can take years to make the slightest impact, and they’re usually dismissed at first as pointless or toys by “smart” people.

Which does make one wonder how many world-changing inventions have been missed for that reason. Or is all progress inevitable, and it’s just a question of who puts their name to it?
link to this extract


The most popular colour on the internet is… • WIRED

Margaret Rhodes:

»It’s blue. The web is very blue. Not metaphorically, either. The Internet’s most heavily trafficked websites are literally coloured with nearly twice as many shades of blue as shades of yellow and red, and three times as much green.

Its dominance is so total, in fact, that, in a recent analysis of the colours used by the ten most popular websites, designer Paul Hebert had to make an entirely separate category for turquoise.

Hebert wanted to see what he could learn from the colour palettes of the web’s most popular websites. “I often struggle to create colour schemes, and was curious about what other companies are doing.” So he wrote a script that would scrape the 10 most popular sites on the internet as ranked by Alexa, including the likes of Google (#1), Facebook (#3), and Amazon (#7). It produced complete lists of the colours found on those sites’ home pages, which Hebert then turned into a series of visualizations.

«

Why yes, I have anglicised the spelling of “colour”.
link to this extract


Android Wear hopefuls call timeout on smartwatches • CNET

Roger Cheng:

»LG, Huawei and Lenovo’s Motorola unit will not release a smartwatch in the waning months of the year, the companies confirmed to CNET. While LG launched a watch in the first half, it’ll have been more than a year since Huawei and Motorola offered an update on their wearables.

That marks a reversal from last year, when all three companies launched Android Wear smartwatches at the early September IFA trade show in Berlin in what was supposed to be a resurgence of the platform. At this year’s show, Chinese maker Asus was the only major tech company to return with a new Android Wear watch.

The poor showing underscores the general lack of enthusiasm for smartwatches, which the industry has touted as the next hot trend in tech. Consumers, however, continue to question the usefulness of these gadgets. Even Apple, which leads the market for smartwatches, saw its shipments fall 55% from a year ago in the second quarter, according to IDC.

“Smartwatches still have yet to make a significant impression on consumers as a must-have device,” said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC.

«

Android Wear this week passed 5 million downloads (ie activations) on Google Play. That’s after it was released in March 2014: 30 months for 5m users isn’t great, considering that Apple’s Watch is past 15m in 18 months.

A side note: Cheng’s reporting is consistently, solidly excellent – finding stuff out, asking people questions, not just waiting for corporate blogposts.
link to this extract


New Project Titan details, the Project Titan “reboot,” Project Titan is a platform • Above Avalon

Neil Cybart (in his paid-for newsletter) shows what happens when you have someone smart analysing public facts – in this case, where Apple’s leased Dodge Caravans which are collecting data “which will be used to improve Apple Maps” actually go:

»I have been noticing something weird with these Dodge Caravans and the locations that they frequent. Apple discloses on its website where the vans will be driven in two week increments. The vans have never been to Connecticut. However, the vans very frequently visit much more rural areas such as Kansas, Idaho, South Dakota, and Wyoming. In addition, there are states where these vans are found all the time – such as Louisiana and Nevada (and we are talking pretty extensive coverage in those states). If the goal is to capture business fronts and other items on busy roads for a version of Street View, spending a lot of time in Wyoming and skipping Connecticut is odd. In addition, focusing on a few states, while ignoring other states is weird. It got me thinking.

If you look at the states that have enacted autonomous vehicle legislation, I see some overlap with the areas where these Dodge Caravans most frequently visit. Nevada and Louisiana allow autonomous vehicles, two states where these vans are routinely found. I suspect the Dodge Caravans are being used to collect data for autonomous driving.

«

Did anyone else notice the lack of Connecticut visits? No – yet the data has been sitting there in plain view.
link to this extract


Apple Watch Series 2: Living the Fit Life • WSJ

Joanna Stern with a video review:

»Apple’s new watch is faster and more focused around your workouts, with GPS and a water-resistant body. WSJ’s Joanna Stern takes you through a full, exhausting day with Series 2.

«

I generally don’t think much of video reviews, but Stern (and/or her producer) has the grammar perfect: no “hey guys”, no showboating. But there is running and swimming. Stern may already be the person who has racked up the most time underwater testing phones and watches.
link to this extract


Uber driverless car in Pittsburgh: review, photos • Business Insider

Danielle Muoio was given the VIP treatment; self-driving means there’s a driver and engineer in the front just in case:

»Once you’re actually riding in the self-driving car, it feels surprisingly … normal. My driver had his hands on the wheels most of the time just in case he had to take over, so we had to double check a few times that the car was, in fact, self-driving.

But that speaks to just how good these cars are at handling city roads. Pittsburgh terrain isn’t easy to tackle, with steep hills and several bridges, but the cars rolled through just fine.

That being said, the cars are nowhere near perfect. There were at least four occasions in our roughly five-mile route where a “ding” went off indicating the driver needed to take control. It happened once on a bridge, but also on a perfectly straight back road without any perceptible obstacles.

We’ve talked about why Uber’s self-driving cars struggle with bridges.

«

Bridges are hard because they don’t have surrounding buildings, in general. Uber is definitely stealing a march here. Meanwhile, Bloomberg says “Google’s self-driving car project is losing out to rivals“, which has these interesting paragraphs:

»

“Google still has an imperfect system and no clear path to go to market,” said Ajay Juneja, chief executive officer of Speak With Me Inc., which offers voice recognition and related technology for cars, watches and other connected devices. “How exactly would they have shipped something by now?”

This is part of a broader challenge Google parent Alphabet Inc. faces turning research projects into profitable businesses. The company is more cautious about rolling out new technology early, after its Glass internet-connected eyewear flopped, according to one of the people. There’s also a higher bar now for projects as Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat has said she requires clearer paths to profitability before approving more funding or expansion.

«

Porat is starting to look like an inconvenient pragmatist. But it’s early days still.
link to this extract


Don’t expect a new Microsoft Band device this year (or maybe ever) • ZDNet

Mary Jo Foley:

»Contacts told me recently that Microsoft has no plans to release a new Band fitness device this calendar year. I also heard that Microsoft disbanded the group of individuals who were trying to get the Band to run Windows 10 a number of weeks ago. But they weren’t certain whether Microsoft might simply release a Band 3 running firmware at some point in the future. The first- and second-generation Band devices run custom firmware, not Windows.

Microsoft has been plagued by quality issues with its Band 2 devices, as the skins on more than a few users’ devices have been splitting. (Microsoft may have started fortifying the skins of Band 2 devices to try to address that issue, as noted by Windows Supersite’s Rod Trent.)

Microsoft currently is selling the Band 2 for $175, a price cut designed to last until Oct. 16. Microsoft initially unveiled the first-generation Band fitness device on Oct. 29, 2014. It was released in the US the following day for $200. Microsoft launched the second-generation Band 2 device on Oct. 6, 2015. It went on sale in the US starting on Oct. 30 for $250.

The Band 2 included a barometer sensor and other updated ones, including its onboard GPS. Band 2, like Band 1, provided heart-rate monitoring, tracking for running, biking, golfing, cycling, etc., and the ability to work with Windows Phone (though not so well with Windows 10 Mobile, I’ve heard), Android, and iPhone devices.

«

Nice functions in the Band, but it always suffered from being clunky and having limited marketing support. Now it’s going the way of the Zune.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: sex toy + IoT = lawsuit, the CGI girl, Samsung’s Note charge fix, iOS 10 in depth, and more


Turns out you really shouldn’t make phone calls using your left hand. There’s science and everything. Photo by Viewminder on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Sex toys and the Internet of Things collide—what could go wrong? • Ars Technica

David Kravets:

»

It was only a matter of time before the Internet of Things caught up with sex toys and led to products like apps that remotely control vibrators from an Apple or Android device via a Bluetooth connection.

And now, one of those apps is accused of being a little too connected to its users.

Standard Innovation—the maker of the We-Vibe vibrator and accompanying app—is the subject of a federal privacy lawsuit. The suit, which seeks class-action status, claims the We-Vibe vibrator app chronicles how often and how long consumers use the sex toy and sends that data to the company’s Canadian servers. The suit says that the app also monitors “the selected vibration settings,” the vibrator’s battery life, and the vibrator’s “temperature” with consumer consent. The data, along with the person’s e-mail address, is stored on the vibrator-maker’s Canadian servers, according to the lawsuit. (PDF)

«

What. The. Actual.
link to this extract


This girl isn’t real, and it’s proof that CGI isn’t creepy anymore

Juan Buis:

»

Japanese artists Teruyuki Ishikawa & Yuka Ishikawa — otherwise known as Telyuka — started a project in 2015 to create an extremely realistic computer-generated schoolgirl. Her name is Saya, and she has been improved on since then.

This is the 2016 version:

And now 2015:

«

It is quite weird. Only static photos – but very convincing ones.

link to this extract


The cost of scaling… • OUseful.Info, the blog…

Tony Hirst picked up on a former Google Reader product manager’s Twitter musings on how he had failed to get it to “Google scale” – that is, 100 million users:

»

As a service, Google Reader allowed users to curate their own long form content stream by subscribing to web feeds (RSS, Atom). When it shut down, I moved my subscriptions over to feedly.com, where I still read them every day.

If, as the [Twitter] thread above suggests, Google isn’t interested in “free”, “public” services with less than 100m – 100 million – active users, it means that “useful for some”, even if that “some” counts in the tens of millions, just won’t cut it.

Such are the economics of scale, I guess…

«

link to this extract


Adblock Plus finds the end-game of its business model: selling ads • Ars Technica

Joe Mullin:

»

Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes the popular Adblock Plus software, will today start selling the very thing many of its users hate—advertisements. Today, the company is launching a self-service platform to sell “pre-whitelisted” ads that meet its “acceptable ads” criteria. The new system will let online publishers drag and drop advertisements that meet Eyeo’s expectations for size and labeling.

“The Acceptable Ads Platform helps publishers who want to show an alternative, nonintrusive ad experience to users with ad blockers by providing them with a tool that lets them implement Acceptable Ads themselves,” said Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus.

Publishers who place the ads will do so knowing that they won’t be blocked by most of the 100 million Adblock Plus users. The software extension’s default setting allows for “acceptable ads” to be shown, and more than 90% of its users don’t change that default setting.

«

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
link to this extract


Someone is learning how to take down the internet • Schneier on Security

Bruce Schneier:

»

Recently, some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the Internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them. Moreover, they have seen a certain profile of attacks. These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they’re used to seeing. They last longer. They’re more sophisticated. And they look like probing. One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure.

The attacks are also configured in such a way as to see what the company’s total defenses are. There are many different ways to launch a DDoS attacks. The more attack vectors you employ simultaneously, the more different defenses the defender has to counter with. These companies are seeing more attacks using three or four different vectors. This means that the companies have to use everything they’ve got to defend themselves. They can’t hold anything back. They’re forced to demonstrate their defense capabilities for the attacker.

I am unable to give details, because these companies spoke with me under condition of anonymity.

«

If Bruce is concerned, we all should be concerned.
link to this extract


British AI start-up Weave becomes Silicon Valley target • FT.com

Madhumita Murgia:

»

Silicon Valley is once again raiding British expertise in artificial intelligence, with early stage start-up Weave.ai the latest target of takeover talks for US tech groups.

Founded last year in London, Weave.ai has only eight employees and has raised just $200,000 to date, from seed investors including start-up accelerator Techstars. Its team includes four AI engineers, whose goal is to build a system that makes smartphone assistants like Siri or Google Assistant more human-like.

British AI talent has been particularly attractive to the world’s biggest companies, including Google, Microsoft and Apple. In 2014, Google paid $400m for DeepMind, a London start-up that did not have a product for sale at the time, but is now arguably a world leader in AI, with a team of more than 250 academic experts. Last year, Apple acquired UK-based speech technology start-up VocalIQ.

Microsoft paid $250m in February this year for Swiftkey, the London-based maker of a predictive keyboard. In June, Twitter paid $150m to acquire London-based Magic Pony, a 14-person start-up that had only raised seed funding.

Weave.ai is in discussions with “multiple parties” on the US west coast to close a deal imminently, according to sources close to the talks.

Last year, Weave, which is still in undercover “stealth” mode, demonstrated a beta service that could analyse messages on a smartphone and provide contextual assistance. For instance, a tweet about the Age of Ultron film brought up links to buy tickets at a cinema chain and information about the film — very similar to Google’s Now on Tap feature.

«

link to this extract


Why Apple needed 10 days to respond to the Pegasus hack • Fortune

Jeff John Roberts:

»

Apple has a terrific reputation when it comes to security. That’s why it was such a shock to learn last month that hackers found a way to break in to the company’s famous iPhones, and even take over the camera and microphone features without a user even knowing it.

Apple released a software patch on Aug. 25 that users could download to protect their iPhones from the sinister spyware known as “Pegasus.” The patch process, however, took the company a full 10 days to finish after security researchers tipped off the company about the problem. Given the gravity of the situation, did Apple drag its feet?

«

Whaaaaat?? Only someone with no knowledge of programming, security or quality assurance could honestly write a sentence like that. To find, fix, verify and roll out a patch for a system vulnerability in that time strikes me as impressive – but then again, that’s just my impression. It can take me a day to debug a few lines of code.

But guess what? The piece doesn’t ask how quickly other phone platforms have reacted to similar infiltrations, never even whether those have been spotted. How has Android fared with Stagefright? Have there been vulnerabilities for Windows Phone or BB10? You’ll never find out from pieces like this.
link to this extract


Samsung’s quick fix for Galaxy Note 7 is no full recharge • Associated Press

Youkyung Lee:

»

Samsung plans to issue a software update for its recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones that will prevent them from overheating by limiting battery recharges to 60%.

The front page of the Seoul Shinmun, a South Korean newspaper, carried a Samsung advertisement on Tuesday announcing the software update for any users of the Note 7 who may be disregarding its recall notice and continuing to use the smartphone.

“It is a measure to put consumer safety first but we apologize for causing inconvenience,” the advertisement by Samsung Electronics said. The update for South Korean users will start Sept. 20, it said.

«

And Bloomberg has the cause of the problem:

»

The Korean company outlined the preliminary findings in a report to the country’s technology standards agency that hasn’t previously been released. Initial conclusions indicate an error in production that placed pressure on plates contained within battery cells. That in turn brought negative and positive poles into contact, triggering excessive heat. Samsung however stressed that it needed to carry out a more thorough analysis to determine “the exact cause” of battery damage.

«

link to this extract


A Galaxy Note 7 didn’t explode in a child’s hands after all • AndroidAuthority

Jimmy Westenberg on the story from the weekend about an injury caused by an exploding phone:

»

As it turns out, that exploding smartphone wasn’t a Galaxy Note 7 after all – it was a Samsung Galaxy Core Prime. In an interview with NBC New York, John Lewis, the six-year-old boy’s grandfather, said the entire family has Samsung phones and initially told reporters the exploding phone was, in fact, a Galaxy Note 7. The boy’s mother later clarified that the exploding phone was a Galaxy Core Prime, not the recalled Note 7.

This certainly isn’t good news for Samsung, nor does it take away what happened to the Lewis family. Still, this is an important detail. The Galaxy Core Prime has a removable battery and basically no history of battery problems. And while all the details are still trickling in, it’s important to note that there seems to be no relation between the exploding Galaxy Core Prime and the Note 7.

«

What’s not clear is whether this is good or bad news for Samsung. It’s still a Samsung phone that burnt someone. But was it a Samsung battery?

Even if it wasn’t, the Note 7 has (it turns out) had more than 70 “overheating” incidents in the US alone. This is more than a trivial recall.

Edgy element to all this is that Apple has used Samsung’s SDI subsidiary for some batteries. And SDI made the Note 7 batteries. If.. well, let’s just wait and see.
link to this extract


iOS 10: the Pixel Envy review • Pixel Envy

Nick Heer:

»

Let’s get something out of the way upfront: iOS 10 is a big release. It’s not big in an iOS 7 way, with a full-system redesign, nor does it introduce quite so many new APIs and features for developers as iOS 8 did. But it’s a terrific combination of those two sides of the spectrum, with a bunch of bug fixes tossed in for some zest.

«

This is a very, very thorough review. One to read while your device downloads and updates, perhaps.
link to this extract


Poking at Apple’s updated Photos app • WriteKay

Kay Yin:

»

Photos app recognises and distinguishes the following 7 facial expressions. Expressions are distinguished after forming a “faceprint”. These distinction are used for searching. They are also rated and indexed for generation Memories and montages.

»

Greedy, Disgust, Neutral, Scream, Smiling, Surprise, Suspicious

«

Photos app will generate Memories that falls within the following 33 categories. Default name of the memory will be automatically generated using metadata from the photos and tags from analysis of photos.

»

Memories from areas of interest, Best of past memories, Memories that break out of routine, Celebration in history, Contextual memories, Crowd, Day in history, Holiday in history, Location of interest, Nearby, New contextual memories, New memories, Person’s Birthdays, Person’s memories, Recent events (calendar, crowd, holiday, people, person, social, trip, weekend), Region of interest, Social group memories, Sometime memories, Special memories, Favourited, Trips, Week in history, Weekend, Year summary, Last week, Last Weekend

«

Photos app supports detecting 4,432 different scenes and objects. These scenes or objects can be searched for in all languages.

«

Put like that, not bad.
link to this extract


Your smartphone performs better in one hand than the other • Quartz

Akshat Rathi:

»

If you’ve got an iPhone, you’re likely to get better reception if you hold it in your right hand (and right ear) during a call. That’s the conclusion of a report (pdf), commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers, that analyzed how effectively different smartphones caught and sent radio signals.

To many of us, our black slabs are nothing but magical devices. They catch and send invisible signals, let us browse the internet and keep in touch with our friends and family. The radio signals that enable these devices to work wirelessly are caught and sent by antennas which, in the modern incarnation of smartphones, have been hidden inside the body.

However, hiding them inside comes with a usability cost. The users of these smartphones have no idea where the antenna is and thus they cannot knowingly keep it clear of obstructions. Phone companies won’t always reveal where they are and taking one apart doesn’t help, because each manufacturer puts the antenna in a different place. The result is that holding your phone in a certain hand can have a large impact on how effectively your phone’s antenna works.

«

The report makes interesting reading, and also looks at how good various phones and tablets are for data downloads. Overall the message seems to be: use headphones to make your phone call. Now, wired or wireless headphones..?
link to this extract


Turn off location services? Go ahead, says Google, we’ll still track you • The Register

Kieren McCarthy:

»

Google, it seems, is very, very interested in knowing where you are at all times.

Users have been reporting battery life issues with the latest Android build, with many pointing the finger at Google Play – Google’s app store – and its persistent, almost obsessive need to check where you are.

It’s not clear why Google would insist on its app store having constant access to your location, but the company is very determined about it. Following reports earlier this year that the Google Play app was interfering with other apps’ ability to use GPS, Google has updated the software and now makes it impossible to turn off location tracking.

The same is true of Google Maps. Although it makes far more sense for Maps to have access to your location, the latest build doesn’t give you the option of turning it off. To do that, you have to turn off GPS on your phone altogether.

In effect, if you use either of Google’s two most popular apps – which come pre-loaded with Google’s flavor of Android – the company has permanent access to your location.

«

link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

The iOS 10 changes that actually matter: ad tracking, camera changes, “press to unlock” and more

It’s that time of year! Photo by fldspierings on Flickr.

It’s iOS 10 release day, and everyone and their best friend is doing “10 [geddit??] things you need to know about iOS 10”. Most of them aren’t worth knowing, because

• you’ll discover them immediately when you update
• they’ve already been announced.
(Though I do love “how to update to iOS 10” stories. TL;DR: do an iCloud backup, or an iTunes backup, and then press the “software update” button in Settings → General → Software Update. Then wait while the internet falls to its knees.)

Let’s instead go a little deeper into the new OS, and point out the elements which you might not spot at first but which could potentially make a significant difference to your experience. I’ve been using iOS 10 through the betas on an iPad Pro and an iPhone SE, so that’s both the phone and the tablet experience.

Ad tracking

Remember how Apple introduced “Content Blockers” in Safari in iOS 9, and in parallel introduced “Safari Web View” for all apps – which meant simultaneously that you could install a mobile adblocker, and that that adblocker could be used in any app which opened web pages (such as Tweetbot, my weapon of choice for Twitter)?

The ad business had a collective fit over iOS adblocking, and it’s ready to have a second one now. Dean Murphy, who profited handsomely (and rightly so) from his Crystal adblocker, points out that with iOS 10, Apple is taking your ability to block targeted advertising one step further, even if you don’t want to install an adblocker.

On his blog, Murphy explains that “Apple is changing the way that the ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ setting works in Settings → Privacy → Advertising, and it seems to be causing a mini storm in a teacup among the adtech world.”

As he points out, while Apple got rid of the “UDID” (Unique Device IDentifier) for iPhones some time ago, in iOS 6 it provided the IDFA – ID For Advertisers. If you turned on “Limit Ad Tracking”, you’d be given a random new IDFA, plus a flag would be set telling advertisers you didn’t want to be tracked. But guess what! Advertisers don’t seem interested in saluting when that’s run up the flagpole.

So, says Murphy:

In iOS 10, when you enable “Limit Ad Tracking”, it now returns a string of zeroes. So for the estimated 15-20% of people who enable this feature, they will all have the same IDFA instead of unique ones. This makes the IDFA pretty much useless when “Limit Ad Tracking” is on, which is a bonus, as this is what users will expect when they enable the feature. These users will still be served ads, but its more likely they will not be targeted to them based on their behaviour.

This didn’t stop one guy over at Ad Exchanger wailing that Apple is “giving consumers a way to opt out of advertising altogether” (it’s not) and that people shouldn’t have the right to opt out of advertising. Which is quite a stretch. Murphy has some more figures on how much the adtech people aren’t losing by this move. But it’s still a good one by Apple, which fits well with its privacy story.

Open the camera, Hal

So you lift up your iPhone to wake it – did every other article mention it now has “lift to wake”? Yes they did (it’s triggered by the orientation sensors) – and now you have a screen with three little dots at the bottom. You’re in the middle; swipe right (that is, pull from left to right) and you get a ton of widgets.

But swipe left (pull right to left) from the home screen, and you now get the camera. This is such an obvious and timesaving move that it’s amazing it has taken four iterations of the “swipe” motif introduced with iOS 7 (7, 8, 9, 10 – that’s four) to get it right.

Cameralock
The Lock Screen in iOS 10 now shows you that the camera is off to the right (ie, swipe left). My arrows and text, obviously.

Having the camera a swipe left from the lock screen is quick, easy and a hell of a lot more convenient than having to swipe up, as has been the case since Apple introduced that route to the lockscreen camera in iOS 5.1 in March 2012.

You can understand why iOS 7 didn’t change that. People had had less than 18 months to get used to “swipe up” when iOS 7 was released in September 2013. Apple doesn’t do UI changes all at once. It taught people how to swipe, then a year later it introduced bigger screens where they’d need to swipe. So we’ve now had “swipe up for the camera” for just over four years. But it’s logical, and faster, to swipe left: it’s a shorter distance, it’s more natural for your thumb (I always found “swipe up” a struggle if I had the phone in one hand), and that screen on the right is unused virtual space.

So all hail the new way of getting to the camera. Though in iOS 10’s first few weeks you’re going to hear lots of people saying “how do you get the camera?” and probably swiping up to Control Centre – though the camera is there. But be the helpful one, and show them the side swipe.

Not quite better: Control Centre/r access

I don’t know about you, but if I’m typing something in Messages and need to bring up the Control Centre, it’s akin to an Olympic event to raise it first time. More often I hit a few random keys first, and have to retry.

Pulling up Control Centre is tricky
Pulling up Control Centre is hit-and-miss if you have a keyboard running

This doesn’t seem any better in iOS 10; I think it needs some sort of border below the keyboard. It’s a difficulty that seems to have come in with iOS 7, so perhaps in a couple of years..

The other change in Control Centre (I’m going to use the British spelling dammit) is that it’s now split into two panes, which you swipe between as needed: non-audio stuff in the left, audio stuff (such as music playback and audio output direction) in the right.

Control centre
The new Control Centre in iOS 10 is split across two screens – swipe between them. It remembers which one you last accessed.


Update: I’m told by Ravi Hiranand that the Home app gets its own Control Centre screen, if you have it functioning. As I’ll explain below, I didn’t so I didn’t. (End update.)


This is another thing that will have lots of people saying “hunh?” as they try to get used to it; since iOS 7 (when it came in) it had been all in one place, but with the introduction of Night Shift on the iPhone 5S and above, it was all getting a bit crowded. One pleasing little touch: when you touch the volume slider to change it, the speaker buttons at either end light up. (Update: Marc Blank-Settle says this was already in iOS 9, and he’s right, it was. This is what makes software reviewing tough: you notice something for the first time just when it has always been there.)

Press to unlock

The most subtle change is that it’s no longer enough to rest your thumb (or other finger) on the TouchID button to unlock the phone/tablet. It certainly used to be the case that it was, but on the 6S range in particular this could mean that if you picked the device up to see what was on the notification lock screen, and particularly if you used a phone, chances were high you’d unlock the thing and miss what you actually wanted to see.

Now you have to actively press on the button to both identify yourself and to open the lockscreen. This also fits in with the new Taptic buttons on the iPhone 7 range, which don’t actually move, so that you have to tell them you’re there by actively pressing.

This seems like a trivial point, but in the first few weeks you’re going to hear lots of people whose muscle memory is built around resting their fingers on that button who don’t understand why doing that doesn’t unlock it. On such small things are perceptions of ease of use built.

However you can turn this off, at least on TouchID devices. You have to go to Settings ▶️ Accessibility ▶️ Home button, and there you’ll find “Rest Finger to Open” as an option. Lots of things are hidden down there in “Accessibility”.

Home button: accessibility options

You can revert to the old TouchID behaviour via Accessibility.

Deleting apps

Sure, you can delete the stock apps. Don’t bother. You’re not really saving any space. And that app you downloaded to replace it? Takes up more room and doesn’t get system-wide benefits.

Mail, now with filters

Speaking of stock apps, iOS’s Mail is creeping towards a vague parity with what OSX’s Mail could do in about 2000, when the latter was still in beta. Though it is way easier to triage email with swipes on a touchscreen than a keyboard and mouse.

In iOS 10, you can filter email, via a little “filter” icon at the bottom of the screen: tap it to change between filter criteria.

iOS 10's mailbox filter

You can filter mailboxes by Unread, Flagged and a few other criteria: tap the icon

We’re still stuck, though, with a very limited number of ongoing filter systems: you can’t set up a “smart mailbox” based on a phrase, for example, even though OSX has had that forever. Here are the options for filters:

Mailfilters

This “what does that do?” thing about the filter icon is something most people will probably come across by accident. It’s helpful, but Mail is still some way from being a powerful app. It’s still only useful.

Maps: you can get there from here

In iOS 9, Maps began getting public transport details, and that has quietly been enhanced over the past year. The key change is that it’s much more sensibly laid out: search is on the bottom, and location plus settings are in the top right.

Even better: search is coordinated among devices, so that if you do a search on your tablet, those searches will also be on your phone. (Finally.)

Ios9 10 maps
The Maps app is improved in iOS 10 (on right) over that on iOS 9 (left): it now puts search in a more accessible location at the bottom, remembers searches from other devices, and can offer ride-sharing app routes.

Notes, collaborate

Apple made something of collaborative editing coming to iWork at the iPhone introduction last week, but it’s offering exactly that in the new Notes: type up a note, and you can choose to share it with someone, who will see the changes that get made, and be able to edit it too.

Obvious use: shopping lists. As long as the person shopping (or suggesting shopping) doesn’t go out of range of data.

Under the hood: Siri and machine learning

The range of things that Siri can do hasn’t changed much in this update – at least, not visibly – but it is improving. And what’s really going to change is that it will be open to some developers, for a limited number of functions. I didn’t see any in the betas (you’ll have to see what developers do with it).

Photos are meant to get a tonne of machine learning. But it’s principally facial recognition, and the “Memories” function is – for me at least, having few photos with location tags – so-so. Yes, it’s nice to have photos collected together from particular days, but this isn’t Google Photos with its ability to find “photos of dogs” from an unlabelled corpus of pictures.


Update: Nick Heer points out that it does show you photos that match a keyword (singular is best). It hasn’t done this on the iPhone SE, but on checking my iPad and doing a search in the photos for “horse” I find that yes, he’s correct. iOS 10 calls them “categories”. You can discover what categories it has available by typing a single letter of the alphabet into the search box, and seeing what unravels. (Perhaps someone will make a list. What am I saying? For sure someone will make a list. And look – here it is.)

Photo search on iOS 10

Type a letter, get a list of categories


[end update]


Then again, the pictures sit on your phone, so possibly over time the capability will be there. (We simply don’t know how much processing power per photo is needed for Google Photos’ identification system, nor how many examples it has to see to hit its training targets.)

Finally: home screen widgets

Apple hasn’t gone as far as Google in Android, and nothing like as far Microsoft in Windows Phone, in terms of what widgets are able to do as a layer over the home screen. They don’t dynamically update while you’re not looking; they hurry to do it when you swipe across. Saves on background processing. But you can edit them, as before.

Home screen widgets on iOS 10

Yeah, that’s all

Sure, there’s a ton of other stuff. There’s:
• the update to Messages (annoy your iOS 10 friends by sending them “Happy Birthday” messages) which now means that it’s becoming something of a platform.
• Apple Pay on the web – possibly that should have been a feature above, but I never tried it out.
• Home. As an app. I couldn’t find any products that actually hooked into this, and I suspect it might be a while before I do. (Ravi Hiranand says Home found his Philips Hue light automatically, and “works better than the original app”.)
• Subtle thickening of fonts, so that text is easier to read. This is system-wide, and very noticeable in the re-thought Apple Music and in Maps.

Finally

So – should you upgrade to iOS 10? Don’t you love how this question is asked as if you might not? You’ve read a whole piece about it that you didn’t have to. You probably will. And yes, you should benefit. Some of the touches are clever, and some are overdue, and some are essential. But it’s all about getting the device out of the way.

The thing you’ll notice the most? Pressing the Home button. It’ll bug you gently for a couple of weeks. Then you’ll forget it. And after that, you’ll notice the Maps app’s improvements. And those you’ll probably forget; can you remember what it was like before? Hardly anyone can.

That’s the way with software: you change things wholesale, and within a few months nobody could draw what the old thing looked like. Believe me, though, if you came across a device running iOS 6 or earlier, you’d be amazed at how… primitive it looks. Pundits might have bitched about iOS 7, but it’s been a wholesale improvement in user interface.

One could wish for better, smarter AI, but that might have to wait a few years for more power on the device. Even so, the “Siripods” (aka AirPods) point towards Apple wanting us to have a closer verbal relationship with our devices.

Start up: Spotify passes 39m, a ceramic phone?, the 2007 AirPods, another Facebook photo row, and more


Looks innocent, but it could kill your computer. Photo by FotoDB.de on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Minimal risk of explosion. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Spotify conversions accelerate as it passes 39m subscribers • Musically

Stuart Dredge:

»Spotify’s last official figure for its subscribers total was 30m in March 2016.

Now we have a new figure – 39m Spotify subscribers – courtesy of the company’s new global head of creator services Troy Carter. He let the figure slip in an interview with Billboard yesterday.

It’s a significant statistic, because it shows that Spotify has accelerated its subscription growth. It took the company just over nine months to move from 20m to 30m subscribers, adding roughly 1.1m a month.

Now it has added another 9m subscribers in just five months since March, at a rate of 1.8m a month.

«

“Let slip”, hmm, sure. Compare to Apple’s just-announced 17m: together they’re carving up the space (they’ve together added 36m users since June 2015, which is more than Spotify had then), but there’s now an expectation that Amazon and Pandora (in the US) will try to offer cheaper subscriptions to capture users.
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Editorial: Apple’s AirPods, iPhone 7, Series 2 Watch out… journalists • Apple Insider

Daniel Eran Dilger is quite annoyed with The Meeja in general, but this stuff about Motorola and Samsung had passed me by:

»Apple introduced a new product—a pair of wireless headphones in a charging case—that stoked “outrage” in that the product is small enough to misplace or lose. This was an entirely new epiphany the tech media—and meme authors at Reddit—collectively appreciated in common.

Never before had small electronic devices posed such an obvious loss threat to affluent consumers. Certainly not this summer when Motorola introduced its more expensive and even smaller (but poorly reviewed) VerveOnes+; nor when Samsung unveiled its similarly more expensive Gear IconX buds, which aren’t standard Bluetooth buds and won’t work with iOS devices.

Did you even notice that Apple’s AirPod pricing was about 20% less than similar offerings from Motorola and Samsung? No journalists seemed to. Apple’s also appear to work better, and they can function as standard Bluetooth devices with Android and Windows, albeit lacking the special sauce magic that enhances the experience on Apple Watch, iOS and Macs.


Apple’s Bluetooth headset for the 2007 iPhone. Familiar, huh?

This LossGate issue also wasn’t a thing way back in 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s similarly sized Bluetooth headset for the original iPhone. Suddenly, however, almost ten years later we have devolved into a society of buffoons who can’t manage to hold onto anything, at least if its something that’s sold by Apple.

«

He’s right: the Motorola VerveOnes+ cost at least $182, and Samsung’s Gear IconX are priced at over £200 in the UK. Compare the AirPods, which are $159/£159 (*grinds teeth*).
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This new USB stick that anyone can buy destroys almost anything it is plugged into • Inc.com

Joseph Steinberg:

»When the USB Killer is inserted into a USB port of a laptop, television, printer, or any other USB-enabled piece of electronics, it rapidly charges small capacitors within it from the USB power source to which it is connected. When the capacitors are fully charged (which can take less than a second), the device quickly discharges the power over its data lines – thereby sending an unexpected surge of power into the device to which it is connected. The USB Killer repeats this cycle as long as it is plugged in – but even the first discharge is likely to damage many electronic devices. (Note: The USB Killer website seems to be going down periodically – perhaps someone is trying to prevent the device from being sold.)

Security experts have long been cautioning about the danger to electronic devices posed by leaving USB ports uncapped. In the past we have focused primarily on the risk of someone sticking into a computer some USB device infected with malware — and the resulting risk to information security – but, now, the physical risk once considered small other than in the case of highly sensitive systems targeted by advanced attackers, may become widespread.

The makers of the USB Killer claim that their device can kill 95% of devices with USB ports – but Apple laptops are not included in the 95%. Apple, they say, has already implemented technology to protect its products – a security move that is certainly commendable.

«

Or courageous. Buy one now. Or just get a USB-C cable. That’ll fry something for sure.
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Facebook fails to halt legal bid over nude teenager photo • BBC News

»Facebook has failed in a bid to halt legal action over a naked photograph of a 14-year-old Northern Ireland girl being posted on the site.

Lawyers for the child claim the picture was blackmailed from her and repeatedly published online as a form of revenge.

The girl is taking legal action against Facebook and the man who posted the photo in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the world.

A judge in Belfast refused Facebook’s bid to end proceedings.

The case will now advance to full trial at a later date.

«

You can see how this would make an algorithm fizz to complete meltdown. “Naked nine-year-old girl OK? Naked 14-year-old girl bad? WHYYYYY??”
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What will the iPhone 8 be made of? • Quora

Brian Roemmele’s reckons it will be a zirconia-alumina ceramic, and goes through lots of reasons why (such as: its new top-end Watch is made of that):

»One can see Apple is using a Zirconia powder with Alumina. This is for color but also for heat transference. As mentioned above this coincides with what I mentioned above about increasing thermal conductivity of Zirconia ceramics.

Apple Watch Edition Series 2 has replaced the solid gold original Watch Edition that sold for $17,000. Apple Watch Edition Series 2 sells for about $1,200 and is now the premium level for the device. Apple is suggesting luxury with the use of this material at this point.

One could argue that the premium price could signal that the iPhone made of Zirconia ceramic would be more costly based on this example. However in my analysis the production cost of high yield Zirconia ceramic in sufficient quantities to produce a unibody in the form factor of the current iPhone 7 would actually be less costly than the current manufacturing, milling and CNC machining of the unibody in Aluminum for the iPhone 7, in high production.

Thus we have the basis for the next generation of the iPhone, but perhaps all Apple devices including the iPad, MacBook Pro and other others. The reasoning is very simple: the benefits of Zirconia ceramic are especially useful for any modern computer device.

«

Strong but, crucially, transparent to radio of all flavours, good for heat dissipation, scratch resistant. Not sure about ease of manufacture, though. A good one for the rumour mill, and so soon after the latest release..
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This is why Apple got rid of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 • New Scientist

Frank Swain:

»Ditching the headphone jack allows the iPhone 7 to shrink even slimmer, and losing a hole makes the phone more water resistant. But this is also the latest case of Apple using its flagship product to bring a tech trend to the masses – get ready for “hearables” doing battle for the ownership of your ears.

I’ve been using similar technology since 2014, when Apple paired with Starkey Hearing Technologies to produce the world’s first set of smartphone-connected hearing aids, the Starkey Halo. The software means I can take calls and listen to music directly via my hearing aids. The codec that Apple developed for these devices, which allowed audio streaming over low-energy Bluetooth for the first time, now appears in the AirPods.

A handful of start-ups have released devices that aim to take hearables even further. New York firm Doppler Labs offers the Here One, a pair of outsized earplugs that auto-tune your environment to play you a more aesthetically pleasing version. And German company Bragi has the Dash, a wireless “smart earphone” that incorporates a music player, pedometer, pulse rate monitor, and much more.

«

“Hearables” has a sort of ring to it. Neat that this was in accessibility systems first, then made more widely available.
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Arizona fell hard for Theranos’ bluff • tucson.com

Tim Steller was there as it happened, because he was shadowing the Arizona House Speaker, David Gowan, for the day:

»She arrived in a huge black SUV accompanied by several bodyguards and the requisite local lobbyists. It was an impressive show.

By that time, the outline of her story was well-known. Holmes, now 32, had dropped out of Stanford at 19 to pursue an idea: Medical information for the masses without the need of a doctor’s order. Her key technology was a device called Edison that allowed complete blood testing taken from a finger stick and a few drops rather than the multiple vials patients normally must give.

In the conference room next to Gowan’s office last March, Holmes reeled off the names of some members of her politically illustrious board — former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger among them. She told the dozen or so legislators and aides present that her goal was to “create free-market competition to drive prices down and increase transparency.”

At that, Gowan perked up and said, “You’re talking to free-market-minded people here, so you’re talking in the right tone.”

She also reeled out a personal story that she must have told thousands of times. Her uncle, whom she grew up adoring, had gotten skin cancer, which quickly turned to brain cancer, and then he died. Even then it struck me that the catch in her voice as she told the story might have been deliberate, though I dismissed my doubts as too cynical.

“We want to build operations here that can serve as a national model,” she said.

The bill she was supporting, HB 2645, sponsored by Rep. Heather Carter, opened up the laboratory testing business, so that individuals could get tests without a doctor’s order. The idea is, abstractly speaking, a noble one: People might get a diagnosis earlier if they can access labs themselves, before symptoms show. Already, though, the state health department allowed patients to get a limited number of tests on their own.

«

As Steller points out, there was one crucial question that the legislators omitted to ask in their zeal for free-market-mindedness. And have they learnt from that omission? Have they hell.
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HP is buying Samsung’s printer business for $1.05bn • TechCrunch

Jon Russell:

»HP is buying Samsung’s printer business for $1.05 billion in a move aimed at “disrupting” the dusty and stale printing industry.

The deal will see Samsung’s Printing Business Unit spun out independently, with HP picking up full 100% ownership in the business. The companies estimate it will take one year to close, pending the usual regulatory scrutiny, and, upon doing so, Samsung will make a reciprocal investment of between $100 million and $300 million into HP’s business.

Samsung’s printer divisions employs around 6,000 people — around 1,300 of whom are in R&D — with 50 sales offices across the world and a production base that is located in China. In addition to that business, which recorded nearly $1.8 billion in revenue last year, HP will also get its hands on a “compelling” portfolio of around 6,500 printing patents.

«

Nice that HP still thinks the printer business isn’t being disrupted. Though at the A3 paper size level, perhaps it isn’t. (Samsung’s printer business is part of its Consumer Electronics division, not its IT and Mobile division.)
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Recalled Samsung phone explodes in little boy’s hands • New York Post

C.J. Sullivan, Shawn Cohen and Tom Wilson:

»A six-year-old Brooklyn boy suffered burns when one of Samsung’s recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones exploded in his hands — and his grandmother says he’s too scared to go near any other devices.

The boy was using the phone at home in East Flatbush Saturday night when it suddenly burst into flames, his grandmother said Sunday.

“The child was watching videos on the phone when the battery exploded,” Linda Lewis said of her grandson.

“It set off alarms in my house.”

«

Makes sense: video and games work the processor hard (all those pixels to shift, plus computation). But the fact these people didn’t know about it? This is becoming serious. Children are more likely to use the phones for this sort of thing.

Meanwhile, Samsung has lost $25bn in value since all this began.
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Spin this: we need to actually address the consumer need • Digital Content Next

Chris Pedigo:

»Apple recently announced a fairly big change [coming in iOS 10] in their “Limit Ad Tracking” setting. Going forward, when a consumer activates the setting, the Identifier For Advertising (IDFA) will be set to 0. Thus, advertisers and ad tech companies would no longer be able to track that device across apps or websites and over time. While Apple asked companies to honor the “Limit Ad Tracking” setting before, it was hard (maybe impossible) to know whether companies actually complied. Now the setting has some teeth.

In response, ad tech lobbyist Alan Chapell is accusing Apple of giving consumers a way to opt out of advertising altogether. Naturally, as someone who advocates on behalf of publishers on these kinds of privacy issues, I had some initial reactions.

First, it’s absolutely ludicrous to say this is an opt out of advertising. Certainly it’s an opt out of behaviorally targeted advertising. But, the ads aren’t being blocked – they can still be served. What’s more the advertiser can still know that the ad has been served, where it was served and how it performed – companies would have a number of other options to derive this data. But let’s be clear: Advertisements can and will continue to be served. Apple’s change simply allows consumers to stop third party companies (with which they have no relationship) from using their IDFA to track everything they do on their device.

«

Chapell’s piece is headlined “Do consumers have a right to opt out of advertising?” and begins “The arms race between consumers and advertisers goes back as far as I can remember.” You’d think he’d get the hint. He does address the question at the end: he thinks not.
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Microsoft looks set to “end sales” of Lumia phones this December, director mentions Surface Phone – WinBeta

Jack Wilkinson:

»According to an employee at the company, who wishes to remain anonymous, the company is preparing to “end sales” of the range this year, December 2016. It does, however, seem a little odd to actually end sales, instead, we believe that Microsoft will be ending production of its Lumia devices. This latest piece of information fits in line with recent actions from the company, where it has permanently cut the prices of many of its Lumia devices over the past few months. This seems to be an effort to sell off remaining stock and coincides with December being the final month since the price cuts have become larger as time has progressed…

…There’s also been the issue of how Microsoft has been offering its Lumia devices on its Microsoft Store website and in physical stores. Over the past few weeks, several people have stated that the physical Microsoft Stores have been moving their Windows phone collections into smaller areas and out of the way from customers. For its website, the company removed the link to its Lumia range from its homepage in the US, while subsequently changing it on its other regional sites from Lumia to Windows phones.

We reached out to Microsoft regarding these findings. The company declined to comment on the ending of its Lumia range, stating only that there’s “nothing to share” at the moment. They suggested keeping an eye on their Microsoft Store page for the latest Windows phones.

«

The dream goes on of a “Surface Phone”, but it would probably sell in smaller numbers even than the Surface laptablet. And that would be a money-loser. Satya Nadella doesn’t seem enamoured of the idea.
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Dell Technologies to cut at least 2,000 jobs after EMC deal • Bloomberg

Dina Bass:

»Dell Technologies plans to cut about 2,000 to 3,000 jobs after acquiring EMC Corp. in the largest technology acquisition ever, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.
The reductions are planned for later this year and will be mostly in the US and in areas such as supply chain and general and administrative positions, as well as some marketing jobs, said the people. They asked not to be named because the dismissals aren’t public yet.

Dell is looking for cost savings of about $1.7bn in the first 18 months after the transaction but is largely focused on using the deal to boost sales by several times that amount, the people added. The new company has 140,000 employees.

“As is common with deals of this size, there will be some overlaps we will need to manage and where some employee reduction will occur. We will do everything possible to minimize the impact on jobs,” Dave Farmer, spokesman for Dell, wrote in an email. “We expect revenue gains will outweigh any cost savings, and revenue growth drives employment growth.”

«

When I started out reporting on tech, on a trade paper, one quickly learnt that with any merger there would be (1) an uncomfortable merging of different admin systems, usually bringing incompatibility and screwups (2) job losses as the victors took the spoils. Plus ca change.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: Nougat on the Pixel C, Apple’s app cleanup, print’s perfected UI, DeepMind talks!, and more


What happens after you give up your Fitbit? Photo by Ian D on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 11 links for you. It takes courage. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

One year later: Can Android 7.0 Nougat save the Pixel C? • Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo, pointing out that the Pixel C team had essentially said “yeah, Nougat, that’ll make it good”:

»

In the year 2016, do Android tablet apps still suck? To answer this, I installed the top 200 apps on the Pixel C and gave them all a quick test drive. I looked at apps only—not games—using this “Top Apps only” Play Store list. The idea is that games scale just fine on tablets; it’s apps that are the challenge.

Of the top 200 apps:

• 19 [9.5%] were not compatible with the Pixel C
• 69 [34.5%] did not support landscape at all
• 84 [42%] were stretched-out phone apps
• 28 [14%] were, by my judgment, actual “tablet” apps

That there aren’t many tablet apps isn’t a surprise to most people. What was a shock was the lack of landscape support in so many apps. More than 33% of the top 200 were all landscape, all the time, and many more (even some Google apps) had interstitials and other single screens that didn’t support landscape.

Android apps are primarily used on phones, which are primarily used in portrait mode. The Pixel C primarily lives in landscape mode, though—the cameras, physical buttons, microphones, and speakers are oriented with the expectation of landscape, and the device must be in landscape in order to use the physical keyboard. When compared to the phone market, this is a very rare configuration that creates a problem in apps that most people won’t notice.

«

Of course the iPad only got split screen functionality a year ago – and some apps don’t work in it. But the number that do work in tablet form is a lot higher than 14%. Amadeo is pretty damning about the indifference of developers to Android tablet apps – and indeed Google: “Google keeps producing and marketing flagship tablets, though, and it keeps trying to get away with a blown-up phone UI”, he says at one point.
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Life after Fitbit: guilt or relief? • Futurity

Jennifer Langston-Washington:

»

Most people [who had abandoned Fitbit use] preferred social comparisons that made them look better than their peers, such as “you walked more than 70% of people,” over those that were framed negatively, such as “30% of people walked more than you”—even if the comparisons represented the same information.

The team also found that people who felt guilty about abandoning their Fitbit use were very receptive to recommendations that they return to tracking, while people who felt they had gotten what they had wanted out of self-tracking felt those same suggestions were judgmental and unhelpful.

The responses show that a one-size-fits-all design approach misses opportunities to support different types of users.

“Right now self-tracking apps tend to assume everyone will track forever, and that’s clearly not the case,” says coauthor James Fogarty, associate professor of computer science and engineering. “Given that some people feel relief when they give it up, there may be better ways to help them get better value out of the data after they’re done, or reconnect them to the app for weeklong check-ins or periodic tune-ups that don’t presume they’ll be doing this every day for the rest of their lives.”

«

See the full report.
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Apple threatens more than 750,000 apps • appFigures

Ariel Michaeli:

»

Apple seems to be moving very quickly with this cleanup. Thousands of apps have already been removed. We’ll be releasing a report in the next few days with details.

Yesterday Apple launched a slew of goodies to get excited about. Less known however, is that Apple also introduced new rules for developers that go into effect immediately and threaten new and existing apps alike.

The new rules state that apps can’t have names that are longer than 50 characters and that existing apps that are outdated will be removed immediately.

What’s the magnitude of these new requirements? We used Explorer to dig through all iOS apps and here’s what we found.

«

11% of apps with overlong names (over 50 char) – principally games, and about a quarter (more than 550,000) haven’t been updated in more than two years, and again it’s games which are in the crosshairs.

So seems like a ton of games are about to vanish. Also: 62% of the outdated apps are paid-for. (Makes sense – paid apps are soooo 2012.)

Wonder if Google would ever consider a cleanout like this. Certainly a strange thing for Apple to be able to “we’ve got fewer apps than before!”
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Overcast trying ads, dark theme now free • Marco.org

Marco Arment on his podcasting app’s business model change:

»

There’s still money in some software, especially if it helps people get their work done, but the market for most consumer apps is much more like music, video, news, opinion, and web services than traditional indie software: an overwhelming supply of free choices, many of which are great or good enough, making it hard for anyone with a paywall to succeed.

The content industries figured out the solution a long time ago. If 97% of my users can’t or would rather not pay, but they spend substantial time in the app every day, the solution is probably ads.

Ads are the great compromise: money needs to come from somewhere, and the vast majority of people choose free-with-ads over direct payment. Ads need not be a bad thing: when implemented respectfully, all parties can get what they want.

Most podcasts played in Overcast are funded by ads for this reason, and as a podcaster and (occasional) blogger myself, I already make most of my income from ads.

«

Reminder: about a year ago Arment offered one of the first iOS 9 adblockers, Peace (a paid-for app), which he then withdrew on the basis it made him uncomfortable to make money off blocking ads.
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Why print news still rules • POLITICO magazine

Jack Shafer:

»

The newspaper has refined its user interface for more than two centuries. Incorporated into your daily newspaper’s architecture are the findings from field research conducted in thousands of newspapers over hundreds of millions of editions. Newspaper designers have created a universal grammar of headline size, typeface, place, letter spacing, white space, sections, photography, and illustration that gives readers subtle clues on what and how to read to satisfy their news needs.

Web pages can’t convey this metadata because there’s not enough room on the screen to display it all. Even if you have two monitors on your desk, you still don’t have as much reading real estate that an open broadsheet newspaper offers. Computer fonts still lag behind their high-resolution newsprint cousins, and reading them drains mental energy. I’d argue that even the serendipity of reading in newsprint surpasses the serendipity of reading online, which was supposed to be one of the virtues of the digital world. Veteran tech journalist Ed Bott talks about newsprint’s ability to routinely surprise you with a gem of a story buried in the back pages, placed there not because it’s big news but because it’s interesting. “The print edition consistently leads me to unexpected stories I might have otherwise missed,” agrees Inc. Executive Editor Jon Fine. “I find digital editions and websites don’t have the same kind of serendipity—they’re set up to point you to more of the same thing.”

«

link to this extract


Amazon has a potent weapon in the tablet wars: low prices • The New York Times

Nick Wingfield :

»

five years after unveiling that first tablet, Amazon is coming out with a new model of the device that takes the company’s single-minded obsession with offering the lowest practical price to new extremes.

It is doing so at a time when the overall tablet market is no longer the growth juggernaut it once was, with weak sales from the likes of Apple and Samsung. One notable exception to the downward trend is Amazon, which is seeing sales rise because its devices are so inexpensive.

“They’re obviously doing something right because they continue to grow in a market that is overall declining,” said Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at IDC, the technology research company.

The latest Amazon tablet is the Fire HD 8, a new model of the company’s 8-inch touch-screen device.

«

Amazing that an IDC analyst couldn’t point out that the tablet market segments very simply: the high end, where the profit is and people use the tablets for many purposes, and the low end, where profit is usually negative (unless, say, you have a gigantic e-commerce and music/video store attached) and the principal use is watching video.
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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 users should stop using and charging them, CPSC says • WSJ

Josh Beckerman:

»

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Friday that Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone users should power them down and shouldn’t use or charge them, citing reports of fires involving lithium-ion batteries in some of the devices.

The move follows a Thursday warning from the Federal Aviation Administration saying the phones shouldn’t be used on planes “in light of recent incidents and concerns.”

The CPSC said it is “working cooperatively” with Samsung to formally announce an official recall as soon as possible. The agency said it “is working quickly to determine whether a replacement Galaxy Note 7 is an acceptable remedy for Samsung or their phone carriers to provide to consumers.”

Investors on Friday wiped more than $10 billion off Samsung’s market value following the FAA’s announcement as airlines issued warnings to their passengers about the phones.

«

This hurried product release – Samsung put it out in August to try to get ahead of Apple’s iPhone launch – has turned into an expensive fiasco. The recall isn’t that expensive, but the reputational hit is likely to linger.
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Internet of things struggles as use of smart home gadgets flatlines • Daily Telegraph

James Titcomb:

»

Deloitte’s research, due to be released next month in its annual Mobile Consumer Survey, also shows modest adoption of connected security cameras and smart home appliances, at 3% and 2% respectively.

A greater percentage of those surveyed said they intended to purchase a smart device in the next year, with 7% planning to upgrade to a smart thermostat and 6% to a surveillance camera. However, this showed little change from Deloitte’s survey of a year ago, when the intention to upgrade was 6% and 5% respectively.

Paul Lee, Deloitte’s head of technology, media and telecoms research, said that at present, connected gadgets are too expensive and do not do enough for the vast majority of people to justify buying them.

“Some of them aren’t resonating well because they offer too little,” he said. “The ability to micromanage the temperature in your house doesn’t appeal to the mainstream, and the savings aren’t significant enough to upgrade.”

«

Full survey comes out this month.
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WaveNet: a generative model for raw audio • DeepMind

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This post presents WaveNet, a deep generative model of raw audio waveforms. We show that WaveNets are able to generate speech which mimics any human voice and which sounds more natural than the best existing Text-to-Speech systems, reducing the gap with human performance by over 50%.

We also demonstrate that the same network can be used to synthesize other audio signals such as music, and present some striking samples of automatically generated piano pieces.

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I had been wondering how long it would be before DeepMind got to work on music. The stuff here is quite amazing. The DM-generated voice is really very impressive. And I’d like a playlist of the autogenerated music, please, for background music.
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Revealing Dropbox’s dirty little security hack • Apple Help Writer

Phil Stokes made a little discovery:

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If you have Dropbox installed [on a Mac], take a look at System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Accessibility tab (see screenshot above). Notice something? Ever wondered how it got in there? Do you think you might have put that in there yourself after Dropbox asked you for permission to control the computer?

No, I can assure you that your memory isn’t faulty. You don’t remember doing that because Dropbox never presented this dialog to you, as it should have:

That’s the only officially supported way that apps are allowed to appear in that list, but Dropbox never asked you for that permission. I’ll get to why that’s important in a moment, but if you have the time, try this fascinating experiment: try and remove it.

Ok, you say, no problem. We all know how to do that – open the padlock [on the Accessibility tab], un-click the checkbox. Click the ‘-‘ button to remove it from the list. Simple, right? Look there it goes, no more Dropbox in the the Preferences panel, right?

Wrong…like a bad penny it’ll be back again before you know it. Either log out and log back in again or quit Dropbox and restart it. Dropbox will surreptitiously insert itself back in to that list AND the checkbox will be checked. That’s the magic of Dropbox for you. If you don’t want to try it for yourself, watch me do it:

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Initially Stokes reckoned the only way to get rid of this – which, as he points out, leaves your machine wide open to a hack by Dropbox, or by someone who hacks into Dropbox (remember all those passwords from 2012 that got stolen?) – was to remove Dropbox. But he discovered a simpler way. So you can keep using Dropbox, but securely.

His followup post, on how Dropbox does it (it’s nefarious, all right) is worth reading too. Dropbox has since updated its explanation page for why it wants the password.. but doesn’t explain all the hacking that goes on.

Question for Windows users: does the same apply?
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If you want to switch carriers, buy Verizon’s iPhone 7 • PC News

Sasche Segan points out that there are two models of iPhone 7, and one doesn’t work on CDMA networks (as used by Verizon and Sprint):

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the secret may lie in this Bloomberg story saying that Apple moved to Intel modems for some number of iPhones, which would be the AT&T and T-Mobile models. We reported this rumor as far back as 2015, and it was widely echoed in the financial and trade press in mid-2016.

That would mean that while the Sprint, Verizon, Japanese, and Chinese units are probably running Qualcomm’s X12 modem, which is the same one used in the Samsung Galaxy S7 and other top smartphones right now, the AT&T and T-Mobile models probably use Intel’s XMM7360. Intel’s modems don’t support CDMA.

Please understand that this is all (informed) speculation. I’m getting radio silence from Apple right now, and Qualcomm, Intel, and all of the carriers have just pointed me back to Apple for comment.

If Apple has gone with Intel, that’s Apple getting back to its roots. The first iPhones used modems from Infineon, which was purchased by Intel and became Intel’s modem division. But I’m a bit concerned because while the X12 is the current gold standard for modems, we’ve never seen the XMM7360 in any US phone, although it’s been on the market since late 2015. So we don’t know anything about the real-world performance of the XMM7360 versus the X12. That’s relevant because a phone’s modem, which controls its connection to the Internet, is a very, very important part.

Intel’s XMM7360 does not support the newest network features like 256 QAM and 4×4 MIMO, which are part of T-Mobile’s latest network upgrades. But those features are optional on the X12, so Apple’s X12 may not support them either. We don’t know.

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This is the sort of thing, though, that would be horrendous to discover after the fact as a phone buyer. But Apple’s probably not going to go with an “Intel Inside” sticker.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: iPhone analyses!, LG stays modular, Google’s extra Android time, algorithmic bosses, and more


Even without seeing all of your face, you can be recognised by automated systems. Photo by simcsea on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Aren’t they all? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Dear Mark. I am writing this to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove this picture. • Aftenposten

Espen Egil Hansen is – well, let him explain:

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Dear Mark Zuckerberg.

I follow you on Facebook, but you don’t know me. I am editor-in-chief of the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten. I am writing this letter to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove a documentary photography from the Vietnam war made by Nick Ut.

Not today, and not in the future.

The demand that we remove the picture came in an e-mail from Facebook’s office in Hamburg this Wednesday morning. Less than 24 hours after the e-mail was sent, and before I had time to give my response, you intervened yourselves and deleted the article as well as the image from Aftenposten’s Facebook page.

To be honest, I have no illusions that you will read this letter. The reason why I will still make this attempt, is that I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.

First some background. A few weeks ago the Norwegian author Tom Egeland posted an entry on Facebook about, and including, seven photographs that changed the history of warfare. You in turn removed the picture of a naked Kim Phuc, fleeing from the napalm bombs – one of the world’s most famous war photographs.

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Fake news? Fine! Real news? Uh-uh.
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Apple will not give first-weekend sales of iPhone 7 • Reuters

Julia Love:

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Apple will not release first-weekend sales of its new iPhone 7, the company said on Thursday, making it harder for analysts to get a read on the product’s prospects amid questions over whether its popularity has peaked.

The company decided to stop the practice because the number of phones sold during the period has become more a reflection of Apple’s supply than demand, a company spokeswoman said, when asked whether Apple will be releasing the figure.

“As we have expanded our distribution through carriers and resellers to hundreds of thousands of locations around the world, we are now at a point where we know before taking the first customer pre-order that we will sell out of iPhone 7,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. “These initial sales will be governed by supply, not demand, and we have decided that it is no longer a representative metric for our investors and customers.”

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Pretty surely indicates a peak.
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LG’s G series will keep toying around with the modular concept • CNET

Roger Cheng:

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When LG introduces a concept, it will stubbornly stick with it.

The company did so with the rear power button, as well as the curved display. Its latest experiment came in the G5, which featured modular attachments that can be swapped in and out, providing a camera grip and better audio capabilities.

While the G5 fared poorly with consumers, LG is sticking with the modular concept in the subsequent generation, according to LG spokesman Ken Hong.

The news comes as LG introduces the V20, a phone that is more conventional than its more experimental sibling. The V20 is supposed to have a souped-up phone, a removable metal back and sharp display. But nowhere is there an option to plug in different attachments.

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Stubbornly stick with losing money on a flawed concept. But you go ahead, LG.
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Beyond the iPhone • Stratechery

Ben Thompson:

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The truly wireless future that [Jony] Ive hinted at doesn’t just entail cutting the cord between your phone and your headphones, but eventually a future where phones may not even be necessary. Given that Apple’s user experience advantages are still the greatest when it comes to physically interacting with your device, and the weakest when it comes to service dependent interactions like Siri, that is a frightening prospect.

And that is why I ultimately forgive Schiller for his “courage” hubris. To Apple’s credit they are, with the creation of AirPods, laying the foundation for a world beyond the iPhone. It is a world where, thanks to their being a product — not services — company, Apple is at a disadvantage; however, it is also a world that Apple, thanks to said product expertise, especially when it comes to chips, is uniquely equipped to create. That the company is running towards it is both wise — the sooner they get there, the longer they have to iterate and improve and hold off competitors — and also, yes, courageous. The easy thing would be to fight to keep us in a world where phones are all that matters, even if, in the long run, that would only prolong the end of Apple’s dominance.

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‘Faceless recognition system’ can identify you even when you hide your face • Motherboard

Joshua Kopstein:

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In a new paper uploaded to the ArXiv pre-print server, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Saarbrücken, Germany demonstrate a method of identifying individuals even when most of their photos are un-tagged or obscured. The researchers’ system, which they call the “Faceless Recognition System,” trains a neural network on a set of photos containing both obscured and visible faces, then uses that knowledge to predict the identity of obscured faces by looking for similarities in the area around a person’s head and body.

The accuracy of the system varies depending on how many visible faces are available in the photo set. Even when there are only 1.25 instances of the individual’s fully-visible face, the system can identify an obscured faced with 69.6% accuracy; if there are 10 instances of an individual’s visible face, it increases to as high as 91.5 percent.

In other words, even if you made sure to obscure your face in most of your Instagram photos, the system would have a decent chance identifying you as long as there are one or two where your face is fully visible.

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You knew there would be a neural net in there somewhere.
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How Google Analytics ruined marketing • TechCrunch

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Marketers in the high-tech world who use phrases such as “social media marketing,” “Facebook marketing” and “content marketing” do not understand the basic difference between marketing strategies, marketing channels and marketing content. And Google Analytics is to blame.

In the just over 10 years since the release of the platform in November 2005, too many tech marketers now ignore the difference between strategies and channels, favor digital channels that often deliver lower returns than traditional channels and think that direct responses are the only useful ROI metric.

And all of that is wrong.

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It’s a long piece – save it for when you have some time – but Scott works in marketing and communications.
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Why the iPhone 7 Plus’s dual cameras are a big deal • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

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San Francisco street photographer Ken Walton spent some time with the [Huawei] P9 earlier this year, and he liked the dual cameras. “It’s really, really making all the difference,” he told me in an interview. “I finally feel like I could do real work — like, a serious photograph.”

Developers of third-party photo applications will also be impacted. “When you use the AVCaptureDevice class for video or photo capture, you can choose to use the dual camera device to gain these features, or to specifically use only the wide-angle or telephoto camera for more manual control,” Apple says in its developer documentation.

On top of all that, the iPhone 7 Plus is the first iOS device to get a dual-lens camera. Until now, the feature has been limited to Android devices. Inevitably iPhone and iPad devotees will be curious — many will want to try it and find out if the excitement is justified.

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What’s really missing from the new iPhone: cutting-edge design • The New York Times

Farhad Manjoo with a thoughtful piece:

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Two years ago, the designer Khoi Vinh, a former design director for The New York Times who now works at Adobe, summed up Apple’s design prowess this way: “If there’s a single thread that runs through nearly every piece of Apple hardware, it’s conviction, the sense that its designers believed with every fiber of their being that the form factor they delivered was the result of countless correct choices that, in totality, add up to the best and only choice for giving shape to that particular product.”

But in assessing the iPhone 6, then new, Mr. Vinh felt Apple had gone astray. Whereas the iPhone 5 had sharp, sophisticated lines that set it apart from everything else, “the iPhone 6’s form seems uninspired, harkening back to the dated-looking forms of the original iPhone, and barely managing to distinguish itself from the countless other phones that have since aped that look,” he wrote.

That was in 2014. Now, two years later, we still have the same basic iPhone design. For years, Apple has released a redesigned iPhone every other year, but now we’re going to go three years without a new iPhone look.

And while Apple has slowed its design cadence, its rivals have sped up. Last year Samsung remade its lineup of Galaxy smartphones in a new glass-and-metal design that looked practically identical to the iPhone. Then it went further. Over the course of a few months, Samsung put out several design refinements, culminating in the Note 7, a big phone that has been universally praised by critics. With its curved sides and edge-to-edge display, the Note 7 pulls off a neat trick: though it is physically smaller than Apple’s big phone, it actually has a larger screen.

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There’s a subtle tension here. Critical observers – and to some extent the public – want new versions of these things to look different, so that we can see the progress. But the evolution of the smartphone form factor has been so intense over the past nine years that the only change remaining has to be incremental – evolutionary, not revolutionary – because, hell, how much can you change a button and some rectangular glass? If you put out the iPhone 5 now, it would look ugly and harsh. The Note 7 is a great design, but if you’d seen it in 2007 you’d have recognised its parent.

Another facet of Manjoo’s argument is the mouse that recharges in its belly, and the pencil you charge by sticking into the iPad like a rectal thermometer, and the battery pack that makes the iPhone look pregnant. Notice how all three are about charging; wireless charging would remove those embarrassments. And then notice how the new AirPods and the Apple Watch don’t have charging ports. Trends…
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When your boss is an algorithm • Financial Times

Sarah O’Connor:

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This protest outside the UberEats office in south London on August 26 is one of the first industrial disputes to hit the city’s so-called gig economy. It is a strange clash. These are workers without a workplace, striking against a company that does not employ them. They are managed not by people but by an algorithm that communicates with them via their smartphones. And what they are rebelling against is an app update.

UberEats launched in London in June, promising “the food you want, from the London restaurants you love, delivered at Uber speed”. In a bid to recruit self-employed couriers to ferry food from restaurants to customers, UberEats initially offered to pay £20 an hour. But as customer demand increased, the company began to reduce pay. By August, the couriers were on a piece rate with a fiddly formula: £3.30 a delivery plus £1 a mile, minus a 25% “Uber service fee”, plus a £5 “trip reward”. Then, one day, the couriers woke up to find the app had been updated again. The “trip reward” had been cut to £4 for weekday lunch and weekend dinner times, and to £3 for weekday dinner and weekend lunch times. Outside those periods, it had been cut altogether.

“They tricked us,” roars a man called Manou over the din, hunching over the handlebars of his motorbike. Like many experienced couriers, he left his job with a different delivery company because Uber was offering better pay. Not any more. “They make us feel like they can just use us and destroy us and create new tools,” he says. Imran Siddiqui, one of the leaders of the protest, says he feels bad because he had encouraged other couriers to sign up for UberEats before they changed the pay. “If they don’t resolve this strike it’s going to spread like a fire.”

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But was it really an algorithm, or a human tweaking an algorithm? I shade towards the latter.
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Google given more time to reply to EU antitrust charge on Android • Reuters

Foo Yun Chee:

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Alphabet’s Google has been given two more weeks to counter EU antitrust charges that it uses its dominant Android mobile operating system to block competitors, the European Commission said on Thursday.

The EU competition enforcer in April accused the U.S. technology giant of harming consumers because of its demand that mobile phone makers pre-install Google Search and the Google Chrome browser on their smartphones to access other Google apps.

Google was initially given until July 27 to respond to the charges but asked for an extension to Sept. 7.

“On Android, the last deadline set by the Commission for Google’s reply, after an extension request by Google, is Sept. 20,” a European Commission spokesman said in an email.

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Fine. And what’s happening with the search antitrust charges? The EC is making glaciers look like headlong madcap sprinters. Everything seems to have been decided; so what are we waiting for, exactly?
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Australian airlines ban use of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones after battery fires • Reuters

Tom Westbrook:

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Three Australian airlines have banned passengers from using or charging Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Note 7 smartphones during flights due to concerns over the phone’s fire-prone batteries.

Qantas, its budget unit Jetstar and Virgin Australia said they had not been directed to ban the use of the phone by aviation authorities, but did so as a precaution following Samsung’s recall of the phones in 10 markets.

Although customers will still be able to bring the phones on flights, the ban extends to the phones being plugged in to flight entertainment systems where USB ports are available.

The recall follows reports of the 988,900 won ($885) phone igniting while charging – an embarrassing blow to Samsung, which prides itself on its manufacturing prowess and had been banking on the devices to add momentum to a recovery in its mobile business.

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This is just going to roll on and on for the Note 7. And try this one:

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A Florida man says that his Note 7 ignited while charging in the center console of his Jeep Grand Cherokee, and that the vehicle was thoroughly destroyed in the ensuing fire.

Nathan Dornacher had only had his new smartphone for four days. He says he was unaware of the recall.«

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Apple’s headphone changes signal problem for airlines, IFE • Runway Girl

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As Apple kills off the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7, a significant issue for airlines looms: a sizable proportion of their passenger base will no longer by default have a set of 3.5mm headphones to carry with them for use in the in-seat IFE system.

Apple will include a set of wired headphones, but with its own proprietary Lightning connector replacing the 3.5mm jack. The company, alongside many other retailers, will sell Bluetooth headphones as well.

The #PaxEx problem is this: while 3.5mm headphones were the standard, passengers with Apple smartphones could reasonably be expected to pop their headphones into their carryon and use them with the latest airline IFE systems. For iPhone 7 users and beyond, that will no longer be the case.

For the airlines that do not provide headphones, and for passengers who prefer to use their own to the airlines’ often cheap versions, this is a big issue.

It would seem that there are three general sets of options for airlines.

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Hand out headphones; add Lightning jacks to seats; add Bluetooth to seats. Pretty sure I know which of those is cheapest. (And what’s with “a sizable proportion will no longer have 3.5mm headphones”? Unless the expectation is that Android OEMs will follow suit, which is possible but is going to take years.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.