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printed December 17, 2017
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Google to Kill Off Project Tango in Favor of ARCore

Friday, 3:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has decided to wind down Project Tango, its ambitious augmented reality platform that used on-device cameras and sensors to blend reality with computer-generated content. "As we focus on bringing augmented reality to the entire Android ecosystem with ARCore, we’re turning down support of Tango," said Google. The company will officially cease to support Project Tango on March 1, 2018. The company worked with several hardware partners to create Project Tango handsets, which were laden with special equipment to make the platform work. The most recent such device was the Asus ZenFone AR, sold by Verizon Wireless. Moving forward, Google will push its ARCore platform as a means for generating and consuming augmented reality content on Android handsets. To that end, Google today released ARCore Developer Preview 2, an update to its augmented reality toolset for app writers. "We've taken everything we learned from [Project Tango] to build ARCore. Whereas Tango required special hardware, ARCore is a fast, performant, Android-scale SDK that enables high-quality augmented reality across millions of qualified mobile devices." The updated ARCore Developer Preview includes a new C API for use with the Android NDK. Google says this dovetails nicely with its existing Java, Unity, and Unreal SDKs. Another addition is the ability for AR apps to pause and resume without losing their spot in order to allow people to perform actions such as answering calls. Last, the new developer preview improves accuracy and runtime efficiency. Developers interested in the new ARCore Developer Preview can find it through Google's developer web site. Google says it expects ARCore-based apps will reach the Play Store before too long.


Google Maps Will Now Tell You When to Get Off Your Bus or Train

Friday, 2:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated Maps for Android with a new feature meant to ensure people don't miss their stop when using public transportation, such as buses or trains. Google says the new tool supplies not only departure times and ETAs, but it can also alert people when it is time to get off a bus or train in order to make a transfer or arrive at their destination. The new transit functionality lets people track their progress in real time, just as when driving or walking. Google says in order to use the feature people will need to set destinations and navigate via the public transportation tab in Maps. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Facebook to Let You Snooze Annoying Friends and Pages

Friday, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today rolled out a new feature for its News Feed that will allow people to temporarily silence friends, pages, and other content they don't want to see. Selecting the new Snooze tool, which appears in the drop-down menu on individual posts, lets people unfollow any person or page for 30 days. The move is not permanent, and your account will automatically re-follow the Snoozed person or page after a month. Facebook says it will not notify those who've been Snoozed, but it will notify people when the Snooze period for pages is about to expire. Snoozed pages can be re-followed manually at any time. The tool is rolling out over the next several weeks.


Wireless Users May Eventually Receive Government 'Blue Alerts'

Friday, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has added a new type of alert to the Emergency Alert System that is specifically meant for law enforcement officers and other first responders. Joining the Amber Alert and Silver Alert, the new Blue Alert can be used by state and local authorities to notify the public of threats to law enforcement and request help in apprehending suspects. "Blue Alerts warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer," said the FCC. "A Blue Alert could quickly warn you if a violent suspect may be in your community, along with providing instructions on what to do if you spot the suspect and how to stay safe." Local authorities may send Blue Alerts through broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline video providers, as well as via the Wireless Emergency Alert system directly to consumers' cellular phones. The FCC said it expects it to take up to 12 months to implement Blue Alerts for the Emergency Alert System and 18 months to implement Blue Alerts for the Wireless Emergency Alert System.


BlackBerry to Cease Monthly Updates for the Priv, Launch Trade-Up Program

Friday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry said this week that it will no longer provide monthly system and security updates to its BlackBerry Priv smartphone. The company originally committed to providing updates for a period of two years. "Having now stepped outside the original two-year window, we will no longer be delivering monthly updates for the Priv moving forward," said the company. That doesn't mean all support for the phone will stop. The company said it will still honor any warranty obligations it has for hardware repairs. Moreover, BlackBerry claims that its handsets are inherently more secure than most other Android devices thanks to the hardened core and monthly updates up until this point. BlackBerry said if a critical vulnerability is exposed in the Priv, it will work to correct the problem as needed. Last, BlackBerry said it has partnered with BlackBerry Mobile to help legacy BlackBerry owners upgrade to newer hardware. Customers still using the Priv or other BB10 or BBOS devices will soon be able to upgrade to a BlackBerry KEYone or BlackBerry Motion smartphone. Specific details regarding the trade-in program are still in the works.


State Attorneys Respond to FCC Net Neutrality Vote with Lawsuits

Friday, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A number of lawmakers and public officials at the state level have promised to fight the FCC's Dec. 14 vote to overturn net neutrality rules. The Republican-led FCC voted along party lines to eliminate the existing rules, suggesting they limited investment in broadband services. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was among the first to promise to sue the agency. "We will be filing a claim to preserve protections for New Yorkers and all Americans. And we’ll be working aggressively to stop the FCC’s leadership from doing any further damage to the internet and to our economy," said Schneiderman in a statement. Schneiderman has led efforts to uncover suspected foul play in the FCC's commenting system, where he found more than two million fraudulent comments. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stymied Schneiderman's attempt to investigate the issue in depth. Schneiderman was supported by 18 attorneys general from around the country. On Thursday, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his own plans to sue the FCC, and Ferguson will also support the actions of New York State. "Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet. Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses," said Ferguson. A number of senators and representatives from states around the country announced similar plans following the FCC's vote.


Apple's Indoor Maps Land in 30 New Airports Around the Globe

Friday, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple recently improved the selection of indoor airport maps in Apple Maps with an expansion to 30 new structures. Apple worked with each individual airport and the associated airlines in order to provide the most accurate data possible, including directions to gates, details about food courts and other amenities, and the ability to jump between floors/levels. A button tagged "look inside" clues users it to the availability of indoor maps at the supported airports. According to TechCrunch, Apple relies on WiFi inside each airport to help triangulate the user's iPhone and accuracy is to within a few meters. The new indoor maps are available at major airports including Amsterdam Schiphol, Baltimore/Washington International, Berlin Tegel, Chicago O’Hare and Midway, Denver, Detroit, Geneva, Hong Kong, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas McCarran, London Heathrow and Gatwick, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Nashville, New York JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, and Vancouver. Apple plans to add more airports over time.


FCC Votes to Scrap Net Neutrality Protections

Thursday, 1:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today voted on party lines to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The vote was led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was supported by his fellow Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Reilly. Pai insists the standing rules were overly burdensome to businesses and reduced investment in internet services. Pai believes the industry should regulate itself and suggests the Federal Trade Commission has the wherewithal to protect consumers from corporate abuses. Many disagree. Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel offered scathing dissents. "This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public," said Rosenworcel in a rebuke to Pai. "History will not be kind to this vote to destroy Internet openness. But this is not over. I'm not stopping here or now — and neither should you. Let's keep up the fight. Let's keep raising a ruckus. The future depends on it," concluded Rosenworcel. Millions of Americans submitted comments to the FCC in favor of keeping net neutrality. Those comments were largely ignored by Pai. Broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast applauded the change. Consumer-focused organizations such as the ACLU and FreePress have vowed to fight today's vote through legal action. It's not clear how quickly the FCC will be able to put its proposed changes into effect.


Google Just Made It Easier to Save Money on Flights and Hotels

Thursday, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated several of its travel tools in ways that should help people find the best, least-expensive options when traveling. Google Flights, for example, now includes tips under search results, such as when prices are abnormally low or high. Google Flights can also let you know that prices are unlikely to change, so it is safe to book most any time. These tools are powered by machine learning, and can alert people who opt to track flight prices via email. Google added similar tools to its hotel search function, which will tell people when room rates are higher than usual, or if the area is busier than normal due to some local event. The hotel price tracking feature also gains the ability to send email alerts when prices change. The Google Trips app adds a handful of new functions. For example, Trips' new Discounts feature tells people when it is best to book tickets for attractions and other activities, such as visiting Alcatraz during a trip to San Francisco. This is specifically meant to help save money. Moreover, a "trending destinations" tool lets people know where other people want to go on vacation for specific time periods and/or holiday weekends. This may help people avoid over-crowded destinations. Google Flights and Google Trips are free to download from the Google Play Store.


Instagram Gains More Silly Stuff for the Holidays

Thursday, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out another wave of creative tools for social media aficionados. First, the Superzoom tool offers more zoom options and sound effects for overly-dramatic videos. Next, the app marks the debut of three new holiday-themed face filters, which include balloons bursting with confetti, winter makeup, hearts, and more. Last, the app is boosting its collection of stickers with additions for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Instagram says users can search for stickers using keywords (English only). These new creative options are available as part of Instagram 26 for Android and iOS. The updated mobile apps will roll out to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store over the next few weeks.


Snapchat's Lens Studio Lets Anyone Create Lenses

Thursday, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today debuted Lens Studio, a desktop application that makes it easy for anyone to design and create Lenses for the Snapchat community. Snapchat says Lens Studio is free to Mac and Windows, and guides creative types through the process of animating their ideas for mobile devices. Artists can then use a special Snapcode to share their creations with others who can unlock the Lens. Snapchat hopes developers and other creators will put Lens Studio to use in making more personal and more diverse Lenses available to all Snapchat users.


Pandora Spins a New Tune with Video Ads to Unlock Premium Sessions

Thursday, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pandora today rolled out a new way to enjoy streaming music on mobile devices. Moving forward, people who use Pandora's free, ad-supported service will be able to listen to a specific song, album, or playlist after viewing a 15-second video ad. Before today, searching for a specific song only created a radio station based on that search. The video ad unlocks Pandora Premium for a limited time, meaning people can search for and listen to other songs directly after viewing the ad. Pandora says the idea is to offer premium on-demand features even to users who don't pay for its monthly listening plans. Beyond on-demand listening to specific songs or artists, ad-supported listeners can take advantage of personalized, automated playlists, and background music playback when multitasking. Pandora offers two paid tiers. Customers who pay $5 per month gain an ad-free experience with higher-quality playback, unlimited skips, and up to four offline stations. People who subscribe to Pandora Premium for $10 per month enjoy the ability to search for and play any song, album or artist, create personal playlists, and download customized playlists for offline listening. The new video ad experience will be available within the Android and iOS apps over the next few days.


Blu Life One X3 Adopts Metal-and-Glass Design and Packs 5,000mAh Battery

Thursday, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 11:34 PM

Blu Products today announced the Life One X3, a mid-range handset from the unlocked phone maker. The One X3 has a curved-edge glass screen and an aluminum frame painted in matte black. The display measures 5.5 inches and offers full HD resolution. Blu gave the One X3 an octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor at 1.3 GHz with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. An impressively large 5,000mAh battery lurks within in the chassis to provide more than a day of battery life. The One X3 sports two 13-megapixel cameras, one on front and one on back. Both cameras have their own flash and can capture full HD video. Other specs include Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 28) for moderate compatibility with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone ships with Android 7 Nougat. Blu says the One X3 is available from Amazon.com starting today. The standard retail price is $250, but the Life One X3 will be available for a limited time at $150.


Verizon to Offer iPhone 8, Galaxy S8 BOGO

Wednesday, 4:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless plans to let holiday shoppers score a smartphone for free with an upcoming buy-one, get-one deal. Beginning Friday, December 15, customers who buy an Apple iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can get a second device for free. Both devices will need to be purchased on a payment plan and at least one must be a new line of service. The second phone must be from the same manufacturer and be of equal or lesser value. The cost of the second device will be reimbursed monthly over a 24-month period. Verizon says the offer is valid for existing customer upgrades, as well as those who switch to Verizon. The buy-one, get-one deal will be available for a limited time.


iOS 11.2.1 Arrives to Stomp Out Bugs

Wednesday, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11.2.1 available to the iPhone and iPad in order to resolve performance issues. Specifically, the update tackles a problem that could disable remote access to shared users of the Home application. The update is rather lightweight at about 69 MB and it can be downloaded and installed over the air.


Google Making Assistant Available to Older Android Phones

Wednesday, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said older Android smartphones and tablets are gaining access to the Google Assistant. Until today, Assistant was only available to phones running Android 6 Marshmallow and up. Now, handsets that have Android 5.0 Lollipop support Assistant. Google says Assistant has started to roll out to all devices running Lollipop in English in the U.S., U.K., India, Australia, Canada, and Singapore, as well as in Spanish in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain. Further, for the first time Google Assistant is being made available to Android tablets. Android slates in the U.S. running Android 6 Marshmallow and Android 7 Nougat will be able to download Assistant over the coming weeks. Google Assistant is Google's voice-powered personal helper. It can be used to perform searches as well as initiate actions on mobile devices.


T-Mobile to Buy Layer3 TV and Launch TV Service Next Year

Wednesday, 10:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has set its sights on the cable TV industry and hopes to disrupt that market beginning next year. The company today announced plans to acquire Layer3 TV, which already delivers internet-based television service in five markets around the country. T-Mobile will use Layer3 TV's technology to create and launch a new TV service that will be delivered over T-Mobile's LTE network. "People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it — the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That’s where we come in. We're gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. Legere insisted T-Mobile's TV service will be "disruptive" and will take full advantage of the latest technology and best content from today's top creators. In addition to T-Mobile's network, the as-yet-unnamed TV service will be supported by T-Mobile's retail stores, and sales and service organizations. Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, added, "No market needs Un-carrier-ing more than pay TV, so we’re completely stoked to join T-Mobile in disrupting the status quo!" T-Mobile did not say how much it will pay for Layer3 TV, nor when this television service might launch, not what it expects to charge per month. The company already allows people to stream as much video via LTE as they wish, and offers some customers Netflix for free. T-Mobile competitors AT&T and Verizon each have their own television services, both mobile and in-home. T-Mobile needs to enter the TV space in some capacity in order to offer customers a similar set of services.


Apple Awards Face ID Laser Company Finisar with $390 Million

Wednesday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it plans to invest $390 million in Finisar, the Texas-based supplier of its VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers) wafers. Apple uses the VCSEL technology in the iPhone X to power Face ID, Animoji, and portrait photography in the TrueDepth camera. VCSELs are also found in the AirPods headphones for sensing proximity. The investment will allow Finisar to re-open a plant and employ 500 new engineers and technicians. Apple says 100% of the VCSELs it plans to purchase will be made in Texas. The plant, expected to be producing by mid-2018, will be powered entirely be renewable sources. The investment comes from a $1 billion fund Apple set aside to foster innovation and high-skilled jobs in the U.S. Earlier this year, Apple agreed to invest $200 million in Corning, the company behind Gorilla Glass.


AT&T Adds to International Roaming Options

Tuesday, 1:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 1:42 PM

AT&T today added to its selection of international roaming packages. To start, its $10-per-day option is still available. This legacy option gives people access to their own calling, messaging, and data plan for $10 per day when overseas. The new options are meant for people who would rather buy access in bulk. The first option costs $60 for a 30-day period and includes unlimited messaging and WiFi access, 1 GB of data, and $0.35/minute voice calls. This plan automatically expires or renews after 30 days, depending on the subscribers' needs. Those who require more data can opt for the 3 GB roaming plan, which costs $120 per 30 days and includes the same messaging, WiFi, and calling features. These plans are not available to cruise ship passengers, who are encouraged to use AT&T's dedicated cruise packages. AT&T's new international options are available starting today.


Twitter Unravels Thread Feature

Tuesday, 1:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today made it easier to publish tweet storms, or threads. The use of threads, a way to string together a series of tweets to tell a longer story, has risen in popularity over the last few years. In order to simplify the process of composing these threads, Twitter has a new "plus" button in the tweet composer that allows users to connect tweets and publish an entire thread all at once. Even after a thread is published, the author can add to it thanks to a new "add another tweet" button. Further, threads will be easier to discover thanks to new labels that point to complete tweet strings. Twitter says the new threading tool is rolling out to everyone on Android, iOS, and Twitter.com in the coming weeks.


YouTube TV Reaches 34 New Markets

Tuesday, 1:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube TV has expanded once again to 34 new markets around the country. The additional cities, some of which include Flint, Green Bay, New Orleans, Rochester, San Antonio, San Diego, Savannah, Shreveport, Tulsa, and Tucson, make for a total of 83 markets. YouTube TV originally launched in just five markets in April. YouTube TV costs $35 per month and includes up to six personal accounts all with unlimited DVR recordings and access. The number of channels is still limited to about 50. YouTube TV is available on Android and iOS mobile devices, as well as via the Chrome browser on desktop PCs. A YouTube TV app is expected to reach the Apple TV shortly.


Instagram Users Can Now Follow Hashtags

Tuesday, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out a new tool that allows people to follow hashtags in addition to individual accounts. The idea is to make it easier to discover photos, videos, and people. Hashtags are generally tied to subjects, events, locations, and other interests. The tool lets users search for hashtags and then follow the tag thanks to a new button that appears on the hashtag's main page. Instagram says posts that include the hashtag will then start to filter into users' main photo feed. People can unfollow hashtags whenever they wish. The tool is being added to the Android and iOS mobile apps over the days ahead.


Synaptics Says A 'Top Five' Phone Company to Use Its Under-the-Glass Fingerprint Reader

Tuesday, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Synaptics today said of the five largest phone manufacturers in the world has agreed to use its Clear ID FS9500 optical, in-display fingerprint sensor. The FS9500 can scan fingerprints through the full thickness of smartphone cover glass, which means device makers can create sleek, button-free designs and still include a fingerprint reader on the front. Synaptics says the FS9500 was designed with "bezel-free infinity displays" in mind. This latest generation of Synpatics' technology can read fingerprints on wet, dry, or cold fingers, and the reader is always protected by the glass, making it durable and waterproof. Synaptics claims its sensor is twice as fast as 3D facial recognition tools, and comes and goes only when needed to authenticate the user. Synaptics didn't name the phone maker, nor did it suggest when a device with the Clear ID FS9500 might come to market. According to IDC, the top five phone makers in the third quarter of 2017 were Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi.


Apple to Let People Pre-Order Apps

Tuesday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has made it possible for people to pre-order applications. Technically, the power is being given to developers, who can publish product pages and accept orders ahead of the app's release. Once the app is ready for download, customers will be notified and it will automatically download to their device. Developers can further advertise their apps by using the pre-order badges in their marketing materials. In another change, developers can now offer new customers discounted introductory pricing for auto-renewable subscriptions that are managed on the App Store. For example, digital magazines can offer the first three months of a 12-month subscription for a lower price. Developers can do this thanks to a new API in iOS 11.2 that allows them to configure introductory pricing. The new tools are available to developers today, and will reach end users soon.


Google Seeds Experimental Camera Apps for Android and iOS

Dec 11, 2017, 4:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released three photography "appsperiments" that are meant to be fun ways to use your smartphone's camera. The new apps "rely on object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms, efficient image encoding and decoding technologies" to create interesting and unique experiences. Storyboard, available only for Android, takes videos and turns them into single-page comic layouts. The app will automatically scan videos to select what it considers to be interesting video frames and then lay them out in one of six styles. The comics are easy to save or replace by filming new video. Selfissimo (pictured), available to Android and iOS devices, is a budding model's dream. The app is an automated selfie photographer that snaps shots as you move around and make poses. The app encourages you to pose as you go and will create a contact sheet with all the results. People can save individual images or the entire shoot. Last, Scrubbies, available only to iOS devices, lets people adjust video playback speed and direction quickly and easily with their fingers. It works sort of like a deejay turntable to create video loops that highlight action. Google says the appsperiments are in a trial phase and it welcomes feedback from early adopters.


BlackBerry KEYone $100 Off from Amazon and Best Buy

Dec 11, 2017, 12:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Both Amazon and Best Buy are rolling back the price of the BlackBerry KEYone starting today. The GSM and CDMA variants of the keyboard-equipped smartphone are on sale for $449, a savings of $100 off the normal retail price of $549. The KEYone has a 4.5-inch screen, 12-megapixel camera, Snapdragon 625 processor, Android 7.1 Nougat, and advanced security software. BlackBerry Mobile said the promotion will run though December 24, or as long as supplies last.


OnePlus 5T Scores OxygenOS 4.7.4 with Performance Tweaks

Dec 11, 2017, 12:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today made OxygenOS 4.7.4 available to its OnePlus 5T flagship smartphone. The update delivers optimizations to the camera and overall system. For example, 4.7.4 cleans up the camera app's user interface and also improves photo quality. After installing the update, people who own the 5T should experience better audio quality from the built-in speakers and from headphones. The face unlock and fingerprint tools should be more stable, and the wifi radio's battery performance and the vibrate alert's behavior should be improved as well. The update also makes further unspecified performance optimizations and bug fixes. It does not repair the DRM-based HD streaming deficiency reported earlier today. OxygenOS 4.7.4 is free to download over the air.


Apple Has Acquired Shazam

Dec 11, 2017, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that it has acquired Shazam, the song-identifying service, for an undisclosed sum. The deal was first revealed last week in a report from TechCrunch. The Shazam mobile application is available to iOS and Android devices. "Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users," said an Apple spokesperson to Reuters. "We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement." Apple didn't say if the purchase would impact Shazam's availability on Android. Shazam has a worldwide user base of hundreds of millions of people. The deal will need to clear regulatory hurdles before it can be finalized.


Google Home Max Now Available for $399; Verizon Discounts LG V30

Dec 11, 2017, 10:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today began selling the Google Home Max in-home assistant and speaker. The Max relies on the same Google Assistant that powers the Google Home and Google Home Mini devices, but packages the voice-based tool in a larger, music-focused box. The Max has twin 4.5-inch woofers and can analyze the room to automatically adjust its tuning for the best possible sound. It supports streaming services such as Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, and Spotify, and can interact with Chromecasts and other cast-enabled devices. The Google Home Max is available online from Verizon and Best Buy. Verizon Wireless also rolled out a promotion for the LG V30. Customers can snag a $300 discount on the phone when purchased on a 24-month payment plan. The $300 discount is applied monthly until the phone is paid off. The LG V30 deal is only available online.


Essential's Andy Rubin Back to Work After Short Leave

Dec 11, 2017, 9:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Andy Rubin has returned to his duties as CEO of Essential Products after a very short leave of absence, reports Recode. Rubin took leave from Essential in late November after a relationship he had with a coworker during his time at Google became public. Rubin insists the relationship was consensual, though it involved an employee on his Android team at Google. Rubin was moved to a different division at Google and later left to found Playground Global, a venture capital firm, and Essential Products. Earlier this year, Essential debuted its first handset, the PH-1. The PH-1 is an all-screen Android device made from high-end materials and top specs.


OnePlus 5T Can't Stream HD Content from Netflix, Google, Amazon

Dec 11, 2017, 8:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The latest flagship smartphone from OnePlus cannot stream video content from certain providers in high-definition, according to The Verge. The services impacted include Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, and Netflix. The OnePlus 5T has a full HD+ display and a powerful Snapdragon 835 processor with 8 GB of RAM, meaning the hardware is certainly capable of delivering HD content. OnePlus confirmed the issue to The Verge and said a future update will resolve the deficiency. The issue pertains to the 5T's lack of support for Widevine Level 1 DRM, something content services often require for HD streaming. OnePlus did not say when the software fix might be made available.


Google Highlights Which Android Watches Will Get Oreo

Dec 11, 2017, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently provided a list of Android-based wearables that have or will receive the Android 8 Oreo update. According to Google, Oreo is already available to the Fossil Q Venture, LG Watch Sport, Louis Vuitton Tambour, Michael Kors Sofie, and the Montblanc Summit. Watches that are testing Oreo include selections from Casio, Diesel, Emporio, Fossil, Guess, Huawei, Hugo Boss, LG, Michael Kors, Movado, Polar, Tag Heuer, Tommy Hilfiger, and ZTE. As always, the exact timing of the update is up to each individual manufacturer. Android 8 Oreo for Android Wear is a minor update that tweaks some notification behaviors and vibration settings, and adds new languages and notification channels for improved battery life.


Verizon to Make NFL Content More Widely Available on Phones

Dec 11, 2017, 8:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon and the NFL today said they've agreed to a new multi-year deal that will see NFL content reach more people on mobile devices. Verizon says it will stream national and local football games across several of its media properties to fans on any mobile network. Via the Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, go90, and NFL mobile apps, people will be able to watch pre-season, regular season, playoff games, and the Super Bowl from their smartphone. The partnership kicks off in January with this season's playoffs. Beyond weekly games, Verizon will give fans access to NFL highlight reels, news, and other content throughout the year, such as the NFL Draft. Last, Verizon said it intends to work with NFL teams to deploy smart stadium technology in their stadiums for better on-site mobile experiences. The new live mobile NFL experience will first be available from the Yahoo Sports app for iOS and Android in January. The partnership is valued at more than $1.5 billion.


Apple Design Guru Jony Ive Returns to Hardware

Dec 8, 2017, 5:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jony Ive, Apple's chief designer, will once again have direct oversight of the company's hardware and software design. Ive handed those responsibilities off to other managers in 2015 in order to concentrate on larger projects, such as Apple's new headquarters building and retail stores. With those projects complete or well under way, Ive will tackle Apple's consumer products once more. "Apple's design leaders and teams are again reporting directly to Jony Ive, who remains focused purely on design," Apple spokeswoman Amy Bessette told Reuters.


Qualcomm Hopes USB-C DAC Dongle Will Alleviate Headphone Woes

Dec 7, 2017, 5:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today showed off the AQT1000, a tool that will help bridge the audio gap in devices that have a USB-C port but no 3.5mm headphone jack. The AQT1000 is an Aqstic Hi-Fi digital to analog converter (DAC). One end plugs into a phone's USB-C port and the other supports wired headphones. The onboard Aqstic DAC, pulled from the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform, delivers high-quality 384 kHz audio streams at 32 bits with a dynamic range of 123 dB. In addition to Qualcomm's aptX HD codec, the AQT1000 also includes native Direct Stream Digital (DSD) support, which is a high-quality codec known for creating warm tones. Qualcomm itself will not use the AQT1000 to make headphone; instead, it is offering the DAC to headphone and phone makers as an alternative to Bluetooth for mobile listening. Qualcomm expects OEMs will bring the DAC to market in devices early next year.


Google Pushes Android 8 Oreo to Smartwatch Makers

Dec 7, 2017, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Android Wear platform to Android 8 Oreo. The number of new features is limited. For example, Oreo for Android Wear makes it possible to control the notification vibration strength and set a touch lock option for wet conditions. The platform now supports seven new languages and countries, and adds to the list of notification channels in order to help save battery life on Android-based wearables. Google made the refreshed operating system available to its smartwatch manufacturer partners. It will be up to each individual hardware maker to work the code into their own devices. With respect to when end users might see their Android watch updated to Oreo, Google said plainly that "timing is determined by each watch’s manufacturer."


Instagram Direct Puts Private Messages in Standalone App

Dec 7, 2017, 9:51 AM   by Rich Brome

Instagram is testing a new standalone app for direct private messages. Called Direct, it's available today, but only in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. Much as parent company Facebook did with its Messenger app a while ago, the move simply takes Instagram's existing direct-message function and puts it in a separate app. A new shortcut gesture lets you quickly swipe between the Direct and Instagram apps. For now, users can continue using one app if they wish; installing Direct disables the direct-message function in the Instagram app. Direct closely resembles Snapchat in appearance and functionality, putting an emphasis on the camera. The app mostly mirrors messaging functions that already exist in Instagram, but does add a few new filters, including a random censorship filter.


Republic Wireless Relay Is a Google-Powered, Walkie-Talkie Phone for Kids

Dec 7, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless today announced the Relay, a simple, screenless device meant to help young children communicate with their parents and other family members. The Relay is small, puck-like speakerphone with a single large button. Pressing the button lets kids automatically speak and send a short voice message to their parents. Parents receive the message in SMS form and can respond via SMS. The Relay will play the parent's response message over the speaker. Using two Relays, kids can converse directly with a trusted adult or one another using walkie-talkie style communication. The associated app lets parents check in to see the child's GPS whereabouts, and advanced geofencing supports alerts and other notifications or controls with respect to location. The Relay can be put into assistant mode where it can interact with the Google Assistant. Using Google Assistant, kids can speak standard queries or even play their favorite playlists trough the Relay's speaker. The Relay is water-resistant and semi-rugged for protection against the outdoor activities typically enjoyed by children. The Relay will be available in early 2018 and will not require a Republic Wireless account. A single Relay costs $99, but parents can buy two for $149, or three for $199. Service costs $6.99 per month.

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Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 Relies On Semi-Custom Cores

Dec 6, 2017, 4:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today revealed that the Kryo 385 CPU in the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform does not use off-the-shelf cores and instead relies on semi-custom cores. Processor designers often use cores such as those created by ARM. The Kryo 385 CPU has an octa-core design, with four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. These cores are based on the Cortex A75 and A55 designs from ARM, but they have been heavily customized by Qualcomm in order to provide better performance across the larger Snapdragon 845 mobile platform. Each core has its own L2 cache, but all eight can then be managed by a new 2MB shared L3 cache. Qualcomm says the benefit of the design here is to improve the speed with which the cores talk to the larger system, as well as lower thermals and draw less power. This will improve performance for augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.


Qualcomm's Bluetooth 5.0 Broadcast Requires Special APIs

Dec 6, 2017, 4:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said its Snapdragon 845 processor can broadcast music to two devices, such as speakers, without requiring an in-between piece of hardware. According to Peter Carson, senior director of product marketing at Qualcomm, this feature relies on proprietary technology on both the software and the hardware side. Typically, music streamed to wireless speakers via Bluetooth is sent in a single signal to one speaker, which then rebroadcasts it to the second speaker. This is often managed through an application that consumers control on their phone. With Qualcomm's technology, a single phone can send the individual music streams directly to each speaker or bud, eliminating the in-between piece of hardware or need to re-broadcast the signal between them. The benefit is reduced power drain for the target Bluetooth speakers or buds. Qualcomm is streaming music through the aptX HD codec for high-quality playback. Qualcomm says companies will need to use the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform and its proprietary APIs to enable this feature in phones, headphones, and speakers.


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