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Showing posts with label Tech News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tech News. Show all posts

Friday, June 27, 2014

How Google Now puts Siri to shame


If you have Siri set to speak in English, she will not understand the word "gracias." But Google on Thursday updated its Google Now voice search and assistant app so it can quickly switch between multiple languages on the fly, CNET reports.

Rather than select a single language setting from Google's list of about 50, Google Now can now recognize and understand the speaker's language and allow users to switch up to seven different ones on the fly. According to Google, you'll have to pre-select your secondary languages, but after that the feature will work automatically.

In an interview with CNET, Google said "seemingly simple language-recognition tasks are much harder than they appear," and that it's still working on making Google Now a true linguist by understanding complex accents and minimizing ambient noise.

Simultaneous multi-language support will roll out to Google Now users within "the coming days," Google said.

Apple working on smart home devices: Report



Apple is reportedly working on new connected home products for consumers, according to 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman.
Although Apple unveiled its HomeKit platform for developers at this year's WWDC, the company is now working on actual hardware products for everyday users. 

Gurman's sources haven't specified exactly what types of devices Apple is working on, but they did reportedly say that the connected home space will be an important market for Apple moving forward. 

These smart home devices would integrate deeply with Apple's existing products, such as its line of iPhones and iPads. 

Apple's smart home product probably won't compete with the Nest Learning Thermostat or the newly announced Honeywell Lyric. Rather, it will focus on something a little more mainstream that will get more widespread usage. 

This could mean Apple is working on a smart speaker system or some type of controller for the devices in your home, Gurman's sources reportedly said. There's also no specific timeline for the product(s), so there's no telling when or if we'll see such devices hit the market. 

9to5Mac's report comes just after The Information reported similar news on Wednesday regarding Apple's plan to develop devices for the smart home. 

This also isn't the first time we've heard that Apple is interested in creating a gadget that can act as a universal controller for your home. Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White predicted last year that Apple's long-rumored iWatch could be used as a multi-media controller for your home. 

It's not entirely surprising that Apple could be creating hardware geared toward the connected home. Now that Apple has baked support for smart home functionality into iOS 8, we would naturally expect some new products to go along with it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Android L: 8 New Features in the Next Major Android Release

Android has grown from a tiny upstart to the world's dominant mobile computing platform with over a billion active users. Google isn't sitting still, though, and has just unveiled what it calls the most ambitious Android release yet. Currently known only as Android L, there's no dessert-themed codename or even formal version number yet. Android L will release later this year, though an exact date isn't known.
We hope to see new smartphones launch around the same time which take advantage of all the new features, and also updates to existing smartphones. HTC is amongst the companies committed to bringing it to its existing HTC One family, while others should announce support soon.
Here are some of the most exciting new features of Android L



   Material design
Android will receive a complete visual overhaul aimed at promoting a consistent experience across Android device sizes and types. The new "Material Design" identity is bolder, more colourful, and more animated. Every transition between screens and every user interaction has been refined, down to the system-wide Roboto typeface and the Android navigation buttons.
Screen elements will be able to simulate depth, with automatic shadows and scaling, but will also inherit elements of classic magazine typography and layout. There's more emphasis on simple shapes and consistent actions that lead you from one app into another. Google's new design page offers hints of what is to come.
The change could also be aimed at discouraging third-party vendors from developing custom Android overlays which greatly deviate from Google's vision. A strong enough core UI experience could lead users to reject anything seen as inferior to it.
The Material Design identity integrates elements of responsive Web design and will extend to other Google properties including Gmail, which will be redesigned for the Web as well as mobile apps. Material Design takes into account the fact that touch, voice, mouse and keyboard are all equally important input methods, clearly illustrating goals above and beyond smartphone usage scenarios.



Improved notifications
You will be able to interact with notifications more easily in Android L. For starters, you can choose which ones show up on the lock screen and what amount of detail they'll show. You can decide whether snippets of actual messages are displayed when your phone is potentially visible to others, or whether more details will only be revealed when you unlock it. They also aren't necessarily displayed in chronological order anymore - the OS can learn which ones you're more likely to respond to urgently and prioritise those.
There's also a new type of notification altogether - Google calls these heads ups. These appear on top of whatever you're doing and allow you to take action or dismiss them immediately. These are meant to be less intrusive, and can be used for things that can't wait, such as incoming calls.
Trusted environments
Speaking of the lock screen, you'll soon be able to have your phone detect when it's in a trusted environment, which will dispense with the lock code. This could be triggered by the presence of a Bluetooth device such a smartwatch that you wear all the time, a specific Wi-Fi access point, or other factors. When the environment is deemed safe, you won't have to bother with unlocking your phone.



Project Volta, battery improvements
Android L will be able to manage battery life much better, but Google's moves go beyond that to the app development stage, for which new tools have been developed that let developers track battery drain and optimise apps before they ever reach end users. The battery saver mode is similar to those implemented by third parties so far - non-essential services can be turned off or made to run only at intervals in order to save power. Android L will also be able to lower the screen refresh rate, reduce the frequency of data exchanges, or force apps to change their behaviour to match the prevailing battery state.
Google Fit
Everyone's getting into health and activity tracking, and Google is no exception. The new Google Fit framework will take Apple's Healthkit head on, tying into sensors on phones themselves as well as connected accessories to collect data which will be ready for apps to use. Major partners including Nike, Adidas, Runkeeper, HTC, Asus, LG and Motorola are already on board. Google Fit could monitor physical activity and food intake as well as health indicators such as heart rate and breathing.
Greater Web integration
There's also a change to the way individual tabs and documents in apps are handled by Android L. They'll now show up as individual entries in the Recents menu, allowing users to jump directly between them. This pulls the focus away from apps and puts it onto all the things you do with them. For example, Web apps open in Chrome tabs would appear much like native apps running on your device, and you'd be able to jump in and out of them more quickly.



Links on the Web can now also be used to launch apps instead of websites (presumably falling back to the website in case the app is not installed). For example, Google demonstrated looking up a restaurant in Chrome and then tapping a link to not only launch the OpenTable app, but also have it know that it should bring up that restaurant's booking page. Google search results can also now be links that trigger an app, rather than links to websites.
ART Runtime and Android Extension Pack
Google is ditching the Dalvik runtime which has served well for years, in favour of a new one called ART. It can make apps load and run quite a bit faster while using less RAM. ART is 64-bit compatible, and is also engineered to allow apps to work across hardware architectures such as ARM and X86. This also means that Android devices will be able to address more RAM than the 32-bit limit allowed.
With greater diversity in Android hardware obviously envisioned for the near future, the move is a welcome change. Google has worked with major hardware vendors to enable more fluid graphics, potentially paving the way for new Android-based game consoles and set-top boxes. Desktop-class graphics including tessellation, geometry shaders and texture compression will potentially be possible on Android devices.




Knox
Google also made a few announcements that indicate interesting things on the horizon for enterprise users. The company announced that Samsung's Knox feature for work and personal separation will become a part of Android itself. Knox allows corporate IT administrators to control work-related data and policies on employees' smartphones while letting the employees themselves continue to store personal data and use unrelated apps. This alleviates many of the problems with accessing secure information from mobile devices and could make Android far more attractive to businesses.

iPhone 6 Leaks Tip Lower Price, Optical Image Stabilisation and More


New details surrounding Apple's next-generation iPhone devices, which leaks have thus far tipped to come in two display size variants, have surfaced online, and if they are to be believed the alleged 4.7-inch iPhone 6 might be priced lower than the current iPhone 5s.
A report emerging from China claims that the alleged iPhone 6 will be launched on September 19, very much in-line with an earlier report that cited a German carrier. Further, the report has also purportedly revealed prices for the alleged 4.7-inch model of the iPhone 6.
According to the GforGames citing the Chinese report, the rumoured 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will be priced at CNY 5,300 (roughly Rs. 51,150) for the 32GB version, while the 64GB model is said to be priced at CNY 6,300 (roughly Rs. 60,800). As the report notes, this seems to be a drop in price, as the current iPhone 5s 16GB model costs CNY 5,300 in China.
Unfortunately, there is no word on the price of the alleged iPhone 6 16GB model, possibly kicking off a new debate on whether Apple might dump a 16GB version with this generation. There is also no price mentioned of the alleged iPhone 6 5.5-inch version.



Apple's next generation iPhone has been making a number of online appearances and the latest in the series shows an alleged dummy of the handset sized-up against the LG G3 and OnePlus One.
Earlier leaks have shown the unannounced iPhone 6 compared with other handsets like the iPhone 5,Samsung Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3.
A video posted by macmixing shows the alleged iPhone 6 5.5-inch variant dummy compared alongside OnePlus One and LG G3.
The alleged iPhone 6 with a 5.5-inch display seems to be slightly bigger than both the LG G3 and OnePlus One in the side-by-side comparison, which means its bezels aren't very thin, as both those smartphones feature 5.5-inch displays as well. The alleged iPhone 6 in the comparison video also appears to be thinner than both the handsets (LG G3 and OnePlus One).
In addition, a report citing a research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that the alleged 5.5-inch iPhone 6 will sport OIS (optical image stabilisation) for the rear camera. The report further claims that the alleged 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will not come with OIS.
The report notes that one of the prominent reasons of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 model not including the OIS is supply constraints. The rumoured 4.7-inch iPhone, expected to launch this year, might feature "middle-mount open-loop voice coil motor" instead.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Google to Unveil New Android TV Set-Top Box on Wednesday: Reports



Google Inc is expected to unveil at least one small set-top box that resembles products like the Roku, Amazon's Fire TV, and Apple Inc's Apple TV, the Wall Street Journal reported citing sources who have seen the device.
Google will show off the set-top box on Wednesday during its developer conference, the Journal said.
The set-top box will be powered by Google's new Android TV software designed to play movies, games and other content on television. However, the device will carry another company's brand name, the newspaper said.
Representatives from Google were not immediately available for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.
Tech companies from Microsoft Corp to Apple are vying for space on the TV - the traditional family entertainment center and where people used to spend most of their leisure time before the advent of the smartphone and tablet.
Amazon unveiled a $99 video streaming device "Fire TV" video and game streaming device in April, with hopes of boosting its main online retail business over the longer term.
In December 2012, Google sold its set-top TV box maker Motorola Home to Arris Group Inc for $2.35 billion.

BlackBerry Z3 With 5-Inch qHD Display Launched at Rs. 15,990



Canadian smartphone manufacturer has launched its recently unveiled large-screen smartphone in India, the BlackBerry Z3, priced at Rs. 15,990. The BB10 OS-based smartphone will be available to pre-order from Flipkart, The Mobile Store, and BlackBerry stores from Wednesday, and go on sale from July 2.

The BlackBerry Z3 is the first phone to be launched by BlackBerry since new CEO John Chen took the helm late last year. A special pre-order price of Rs. 14,990 is being offered by Flipkart and The Mobile Store.

The Z3 runs BlackBerry 10 OS (version 10.2.1) and features a 5-inch qHD (540x960 pixels) display offering an aspect ratio of 16:9. It is powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (MSM8230) processor with 1.5GB of RAM.

BlackBerry's Z3 sports a 5-megapixel autofocus rear camera and also houses a 1.1-megapixel fixed-focus front-facing camera. The smartphone includes 8GB of inbuilt storage, which can be expanded up to 32GB via microSD card. 

The smartphone packs a 2500mAh battery, which is rated to deliver up to 15.5 hours talk time and up to 384 hours of standby time. Connectivity options on the BlackBerry Z3 include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, GPS, NFC and Micro-USB.

The BlackBerry Z3 smartphone also comes preloaded with some BlackBerry services such as BlackBerry Hub, BBM, Time Shift, Story Maker camera features, and BB10 browser.

The Z3 was initially announced in Indonesia and is one of the first devices being made with FIH Mobile Ltd, a unit of the Taiwanese Foxconn Technology Group best known for building devices such as the Apple iPad and iPhone. 

The smartphone was made available for the Indonesian market starting in mid-May, and was priced less than $200 (roughly Rs. 12,000).

Google to unveil new Android version, wearable at I/O 2014


SAN FRANCISCO: An Android update, wearable gadgets and so-called smart home devices are just some of the innovations Google is likely to show off at its two-day developer conference, which begins Wednesday in San Francisco.
In recent years, the conference has focused on smartphones and tablets, but this year Google's Android operating system is expected to stretch into cars, homes and smartwatches.
Pacific Crest analyst Evan Wilson believes Google will unveil a new version of its Android operating system - possibly called Lollipop - with a "heavy focus" on extensions for smartwatches and smart home devices.
"We think Google will directly counter Apple's recent announcements of health products (Apple HealthKit) and home automation (Apple HomeKit)," Wilson wrote in a note to investors.
Google's I/O event comes at a time of transition for the company, which makes most of its money from advertising thanks to its status as the world's leader in online search. The company is trying to adjust to an ongoing shift to smartphones and tablet computers from desktop and laptop PCs. Though mobile advertising is growing rapidly, advertising aimed at PC users still generates more money.
At the same time, Google is angling to stay at the forefront of innovation by taking gambles on new, sometimes unproven technologies that take years to pay off, if at all. Driverless cars, Google Glass, smartwatches and thinking thermostats are just some of its more far-off bets.
On the home front, Google's Nest Labs, which makes network-connected thermostats and smoke detectors - announced earlier this week that it has created a program that allows outside developers, from tiny startups to large companies such as Whirlpool and Mercedes-Benz, to fashion software and "new experiences" for its products.
Integration with Mercedes-Benz, for example, might mean that a car can notify a Nest thermostat when it's getting close to home, so the device can have the home's temperature adjusted to the driver's liking before he or she arrives.
Nest's founder, Tony Fadell, is an Apple veteran who helped design the iPod and the iPhone. Google bought the company earlier this year for $3.2 billion.
Opening the Nest platform to outside developers will allow Google to move into the emerging market for connected, smart home devices. Experts expect that this so-called "Internet of Things" phenomenon will change the way people use technology in much the same way that smartphones have changed life since the introduction of Apple's iPhone seven years ago.
Google is also likely to unveil some advances in wearable technology. In March, Google released "Android Wear," a version of its operating system tailored to computerized wristwatches and other wearable devices. Although there are already several smartwatches on the market, the devices are more popular with gadget geeks and fitness fanatics than regular consumers. But Google could help change that with Android Wear. Android, after all, is already the world's most popular smartphone operating system.
Google may also have news about Glass, including when the company might launch a new and perhaps less expensive version of the $1,500 Internet-connected eyewear. Google will likely have to lower the price if it wants Glass to reach a broader audience. But that's just one hurdle. Convincing people that the gadget is useful, rather than creepy, is another one.

Monday, June 23, 2014

4 Things Shoppers Want in an Online Retailer's Return Policy


Imagine a customer is shopping online for a new pair of sneakers and stumbles upon what seems to be the perfect pair. After skimming the reviews, he notices comments that the shoes tend to run a little small. That’s when he checks the store’s return policy, which he finds complicated and ambiguous. It could have been written in a different language.
Would he still click that 'purchase' button? Probably not.
And he would not be the only one to abandon the shopping cart because of a cumbersome returns process. My company, Endicia, recently surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and found that the majority of folks who have never purchased an item online cite “returns” as the reason for cold feet. 
It’s critical to identify what a good return policy offers. Here are the top four things online shoppers want when it comes to returns: 
1. Clarity. A positive returns experience starts with clear communication. It’s the only way customers will know what to expect. 
Online retailers should make their return policies simple to understand and easy to find on their websites. A good policy outlines what can be returned, whether customers will be granted a full refund or store credit, how long they have to make a return and if return shipping is free. Taking the time to clearly spell out these details will show customers that the business is one they can trust.
2. Convenience. There’s a reason why people gravitate toward online shopping: It’s convenient. They don’t have to deal with crowded malls or long lines. In fact, they can get anything their hearts desire without ever leaving home. The same concept should apply to a returns process. 
If it makes sense for the business model, consider simplifying things for customers by including a return label with the purchase. If it would work out better for customers to contact the company for a return, be sure to include the appropriate phone number and instructions on the packing slip. Ensure that there's a way to send shoppers a PDF of the return label, so they can quickly and simply print the label at home...

Know Why This Company Pays Its Employees $25,000 To Quit?


Riot Games, the maker of the hugely popular PC game "League of Legends," pays unhappy employees up to $25,000 to quit their jobs - even if they just joined the company. The company does this because it doesn't want to keep staffers who are struggling, or who aren't a good fit with the company culture.

"Rather than allow mismatches to fester, we want to resolve them quickly. This is good for the company, and good for the professional. ... we'll learn from this and make better hiring decisions as a result,"the company said in a blog post announcing the program.
The payment essentially solves that long, dragged-out process that frequently occurs when managers suspect a new hire isn't going to work out but it feels "too soon" to actually pull the trigger...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Surface Pro 3 launch updates fix charging issue, add OneNote functionality



Forget doodling with the N-Trig pen, and you can think twice creating those OneNote books: if you're among the first to pick up a Surface Pro 3, the first thing you'll want to do is download the latest firmware update.
Released just in time for the device's launch in the US and Canada, it fixes a problem first reported by reviewers that prevents the device from charging (and resuming from sleep) despite the power adapter being connected.
A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to ZDnet's Mary Jo Foley that the update both addresses the power issue and improves the Surface Pro 3's performance.
Additionally, you'll want to grab a separate update that activates a double-click screenshot function, which allows you to take a wireless screen grab using the Surface Pen's button that's automatically pulled into OneNote.

How to update

To download the new firmware and other updates from the Windows Store:
1) Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Settings
2) Tap or click Change PC Settings, tap or click Update and Recovery, and then tap or click Windows Update
3) Tap or click Check Now
4) If there are updates available, tap or click View Details
5) Tap or click to select the updates you want to install, then tap or click Install
6) Restart the Surface after the updates have installed

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Microsoft Reveals Office 365 Public Roadmap

Microsoft Office execs have said for months that the company wants to forge a more open relationship with customers. To build on that goal, Microsoft launched the Office 365 for business public road map on Wednesday. The website shows the status of upcoming Office 365 features. Microsoft also announced an opt-in program called First Release that gives customers early access to new features.
This year, Office GM Julia White told Information Week that, because Office 365 is a cloud-based platform, Microsoft can not only introduce new features more quickly, but also offer earlier previews to the public. In a blog post announcing First Release and the new road map, Office 365 group product manager Jake Korzybski reiterated this theme.
"Just as we transformed our development process, we need to transform our communication processes regarding changes and future updates to the service," he wrote.
Both the road map and First Release are targeted at business and institutional customers, not consumers. Consequently, versions such as Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home are not included...

New iPhone Might Have a Built-In Barometer



Apple has already stepped into the health and fitness tracking market with its Health app for iOS. Now, the company could be upping the ante with its upcoming iPhone
New code spotted by developers who spoke with 9 to 5 Mac indicates the iPhone 6 could have a barometer built in.
See also: 10 Better Alternatives to Your iPhone's Native Apps
An integrated barometer would track altitude and air pressure and could infer temperature readings, too.
Existing apps already perform many of these tasks, but they use the iPhone's GPS and motion chips to do so. A piece of dedicated measurement hardware is likely to provide better performance. 

Intel's Pocket Avatars chat app packs 3D avatars that mimic your face and mood


Intel wants to inject passion and excitement into mobile chat through a new app that relies on face-tracking technology to assess facial expressions and mood.
With Pocket Avatars, users can chat with friends using animated three-dimensional avatars, but there’s a twist. A camera on a mobile device tracks a user’s face and expressions, and those emotions are reflected on the avatar during a chat.
The avatar serves as an alter-ego for those who don’t to put their real face on screen, said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel.
“It’s just a fun thing on top of standard messaging,” Bell said.
Emoticons have been a standard tool for expressions in text messaging. An animated chat that reflects a real person’s mood is more engaging, Bell said, adding that if a user is angry or happy, the avatar will show it, Bell said.
The camera captures moving faces, lighting conditions and a range of emotions such as smiles, blinking eyes or kisses. The recordings are processed through an algorithm and then mapped on the avatar in real time. The Pocket Avatars app then deletes the information.
“We are not storing databases with people’s faces,” Bell said. “We’re not selling ads or information. This is about social messaging, using an animated avatar. It’s not mining [data].”
intel 3d chat app avatar
One wouldn’t expect chat software from Intel, which specializes in making chips. But Intel’s research division has a diverse group of scientists and social scientists researching technology and other areas such as health and human behavior. Pocket Avatars was being kicked around the labs for a little while, and it represents the fun side of Intel’s research team, Bell said.
Chat and messaging software companies are also being valued highly so there is momentum in that area, Bell said. About 20 trillion over-the-top messages—messages sent through chat software—will be sent this year, and Intel wants a piece of that market, Bell said.
“Some of the evaluations of those companies... it’s not a joke,” Bell said. Facebook said earlier this year it would acquire WhatsApp in a stunning deal worth $19 billion.
Bell’s New Devices Group is also charged with exploring opportunities in the wearables market. Pocket Avatars represents Intel’s willingness to experiment and dabble in new areas, Bell said.
But some experiments for Intel haven’t panned out. Intel dropped plans to launch a TV service after failing to reach license agreements with content providers, and also shut down its own app store for PCs called AppUp.
Pocket Avatars is free for download and comes with forty avatars. Some avatars are free while others cost $0.99 for unlimited use. The avatars available include famous people, Lego characters and also YouTube star Annoying Orange.
Intel plans to add more avatars and capabilities as the app evolves, Bell said.

BlackBerry confirms Passport phone for September launch



BlackBerry has confirmed the recently-leaked handset code named 'Winder mere' will officially be announced under the name Passport. It will debut at an event in London this September.
Following its quarterly earnings report, during which it announced a return to profit of sorts, BlackBerry CEO John Chen confirmed that the short and wide-set device currently doing the rounds is the real deal.
Naturally, as Crack Berry reports, the device will be named after its passport-like dimensions. According to the presentation, the Blackberry Passport will feature a 4.5-inch 1440 x 1440 display that's as square as an Instagram photo.
The Passport will be a wide 3.18-inches, which is even wider than the pocket-busting 3.12-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3. An accompanying photo shows the handset will have BlackBerry's stoutest keyboard yet featuring only three rows of physical buttons. The Passport also appeared along two other handsets named the Z3 and Classic.
Internally, the Passport is said to be packing a quad-core Snapdragon MSM8974 processor backed by an Adreno 330 GPU and 3GB of RAM. The phone will also supposedly be powered by a 3,450mAh battery.

Some juice left in the 'Berry?

Asidea new, albeit slightly odd smartphone, there was more good news for BlackBerry fans after seemingly years of gloom-laden financial reports.
BlackBerry surprised the bean counters on Wall Street by posting a small quarterly profit.
Waterloo managed to earn a net income $23 million (about £13.5m, AU24.5m) in the three months ending May 31, although after adjustments the loss was $60 million (about £35.2m, AU$63.9m).
The turnaround in fortunes, which resulted in a 10% share rise on Thursday, comes as BlackBerry continues to cut costs and moves awaythe business of selling hardware to consumers and towards a services-centric operation.
Fifty-four percent of its $966 million ( about £566m, AU$1.02bn) revenue in the quarter camesuch services, while only 39% camethe sales of 2.6 million BlackBerry phones, down steeply 3.4 million this time last year....

Apple's smartwatch to go in mass production in July



Taiwan's Quanta Computer Inc will start mass production of Apple Inc's first smart watch in July, a source familiar with the matter said, as the US tech giant tries to prove it can still innovate against rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The watch, which remains unnamed but which company followers have dubbed the iWatch, will be Apple's first foray into a niche product category that many remain skeptical about, especially as to whether it can drive profits amid cooling growth in tech gadgets.

The production will be a boost to Quanta, given that its work for Apple till now has focused on laptops and iPods, product lines that are in decline. Quanta's role though is likely to raise questions about what involvement Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, one of Apple's biggest suppliers, will play in production.

While the watch is widely expected, the start date of its mass production and the extent of Quanta's involvement were not known until now. Mass production will start in July and the commercial launch will come as early as October, according to the source and another person familiar with the matter.
 
Apple will introduce a smart watch with a display that likely measures 2.5 inches diagonally and is slightly rectangular, one of the sources said. The source added that the watch face will protrude slightlythe band, creating an arched shape, and will feature a touch interface and wingless capabilities.

The source said Apple expects to ship 50 million units within the first year of the product's release, although these types of initial estimates can be subject to change. The watch is currently in trial production at Quanta, which will be the main manufacturer, accounting for at least 70% of final assembly, the source said.

Like many other smart watches, Apple's watch will be able to perform some functions independently, but tasks messaging and voice chat will require a paired smartphone, according to the source. The device will only be compatible with gadgets running Apple's iOS,its flagship iPhone, one of the sources said.

Most mainstream smart watches collect data about the user's heart rate and other health-related metrics, in addition to facilitating tasks checking e-mail and making phone calls.

A third source said LG Display Co Ltd is the exclusive supplier of the screen for the gadget's initial batch of production. It also contains a sensor that monitors the user's pulse. Singapore-based imaging and sensor maker Heptagon is on the supplier list for the feature, two other sources said.

Apple declined to comment. Quanta, LG Display and Heptagon also declined to comment.

Game-changer?
Apple's move will follow on the heels of releases of similar devices by Samsung, Sony Corp, Motorola and LG Electronics Inc — gadgets that tech watchers say haven't been appealing or user-friendly enough to ignite a wave of mass adoption.

But the market is growing fast, with data firm IDC saying that worldwide shipments of wearable computing devices — a category that includes smart watches —will triple in size this year over 2013.

Apple has already dropped hints of its plans in this arena, hiring the former chief executive of French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent, a unit of Kering SA, and proclaiming that it will introduce "new product categories" this year.

Many are hoping that Apple's entry into the field of so-called smart wearable will be a game-changer that transforms the industry the company's iPhone did in 2007.

Some are foreseeing that smartphone sales, the current cash cow of the consumer tech world, will lose momentum in the years ahead as the market reaches saturation.
 
IDC predicts that worldwide smartphone sales will increase 23% this year, a slowdown the 39% growth of last year, and that growth will average only 12% annually 2013 to 2018.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Amazon Fire phone review roundup





The Amazon Fire phone has finally been announced after years of speculation, and it's certainly bringing some different ideas to the table.
First up it sports five cameras on the front - one is the traditional front-facing snapper, and the other four are part of the Fire's Dynamic Perspective feature.
Dynamic Perspective tracks your head, and works out the distance it isthe screen, to produce 3D-like graphics on-screen.
Firefly is a supercharged barcode scanner which you can use to scan, well, anything. A pub sign, a car, a magazine, a bottle of beer. You name it, Firefly will scan it, and then probably try and make you buy something.
Mayday - Amazon's 24-7-365 interactive customer service - also makes the leapthe Kindle Fire HDX tablet to the Fire phone.
Thatsounds lovely, but is it any good? We've taken a look at the early hands on Amazon Fire phone reviewsaround the web to gauge the interest.

Gizmodo

Gizmodo doesn't hold back, declaring the Fire phone to be "Great for Amazon, less for you."
From the various hands-on reviews it's clear that the Amazon Fire isn't convincing people it's worth ordering just yet.
"The biggest impression one's left with is that Amazon poured the bulk of its resources into the part of the Fire phone - that's Firefly - that makes it easiest for you to buy thingsAmazon."
"Our advice for now, though: Hold off on pre-ordering. Amazon's Fire HDX tablet is fantastic. The Fire Phone? We're less sure."

Wired UK

The face and head tracking cameras are certainly impressive tech, but as Wired notes it's still not perfect.
"We had a representative at our side throughout the demo, and any time he had control of a head-tilting moment and aimed the phone my way, the control or sense would become wonky.
"This noticeably occurred at least six times in our half-hour of testing. "It's seeing both of our faces," he'd say apologetically each time. That's a huge hurdle to overcome, especially if Amazon expects to virally advertise this phone by having enthusiasts show it off."

Cnet

Cnet reckons Amazon is taking a bit of a gamble with the Fire phone. "Amazon is taking huge risks in going against the big guysSamsung and Apple. It's done it before, but in a tablet space that isn't as entrenched - or as vital - as smartphones."
Plus it's not the likes of Firefly and Mayday which will attract customers to the phone either.
"More likely, customers will come for the free year of Amazon Prime, especially if they rely heavily on Amazon's online services,shopping and music and video streaming, or own a Kindle or Amazon Fire TV."

Engadget

The folks over at Engadget appear relatively non-plussed about the Amazon Fire phone.
"Spec-wise, it isn't the most impressive phone, despite commanding a $199 price tag on-contract ($650 off-contract). But it's not horrible either - it's simply what you'd expectan average phone."
"Users with motion sickness will notthe Dynamic Perspective option. It reminds me of the parallax motion on iOS 7, a feature that frustrated a fair number of iPhone and iPad users. Fortunately, Amazon will let you turn this feature off.

The Verge

The Verge highlights that one of the core reasons Amazon has produced the Fire phone is to drive sales.
"There simply has never been a better device to help you indulge in impulse purchases - a prospect that has us both intrigued and terrified in equal parts."
As with the others, the Verge doesn't see it as a bad device, but the Fire appears to be struggling to win people over. "The Fire phone makes a neat first impression, but it has a mid-range ethos to it that makes the total asking price feel a little steep."

Android Central

Over at Android Central the feeling is that the retail giant has done the right thing. "Amazon created a mobile device that speaks to its customer base perfectly, and the end result is the Fire Phone."
"How much appeal it actually draws will ultimately be limited by its price and carrier restrictions, but as a first start for Amazon in the phone marketplace, we're excited about the Fire Phone."


$50 million Google coding initiative targets girls

Google News


Teamare Gaston, 17, thinks she'd like to be a business journalist. But Google has other designs on her brain.
On Thursday, Gaston and 150 other New York-area high school girls will attend the kickoff event for Made with Code, a $50 million Google initiative with the simple and singular focus of bringing more girls into the coding fold.

"Our industry has lots of stereotypes, including the notion that coding means sitting at a computer alone," says Google Vice President Megan Smith. "We hope to show girls that coding is fun. But there's also the simple fact that supply and demand is not working. There are millions of jobs out there going begging."


Google's event, held at a hip Manhattan loft called Skylight Modern, features host Mindy Kaling (of TV's The Mindy Project), speakers such as Chelsea Clinton and a range of tech-savvy women bent on inspiring the teens in attendance.

Made with Code's mission is anchored by a websitegirls can use basic coding technique to make bracelets and other items; Google also will dole out grants to host girl-coding parties at Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs around the country, as well as fund a range of marketing and other awareness campaigns.

The idea is to de-couple coding with dry tech chores, and instead show how the skill is vital to everythingmovie-making to helping cure malaria.

Although the tech field has seen the ascent of late of stars such as Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, there is a glaring lack of female equivalents to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, says Clinton, who works for both the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.

"It's hard to imagine being something you can't see," says Clinton, noting that the number of women graduating with computer-science degrees has droppednearly 40% in the '80s to 14% today. "The issue of role models is a big one, and (Made with Code) represents a new, comprehensive effort to provide just that."

Though Clinton says time is of the essence with this pressing national jobs issue, there are precedents that provide a hopeful picture: "Medicine used to be entirely male dominated, but slowly that was turned around, and the same can happen here."

Ruthe Farmer, of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, says the shift can't happen soon enough.

"It's been a five-alarm fire for some time now, ever since Bill Gates told Congress decades ago that if we didn't fix education he wouldn't be able to hire their kids," says Farmer, who is speaking at the Google event. "We need a wider swath of kids to come into this field. But why not focus on the majority of college graduates: women?"

By the year 2020, there will be 1.4 million programming-related jobs but only about a quarter of qualified candidates available to fill those roles, according to Code.org, which lobbies for the discipline to be taught more widely in schools.

Those who are qualified tend to be men, as evidenced by a far-from-surprising Google report last month noting its workforce was 70% male. LinkedIn recently revealed its rosters were 61% male, and more than half are white.

Kaling, who is of Indian decent, jokes that "as a very nerdy, indoor kid, I would have been a candidate for coding, but instead I sat around a wrote plays." She says that making coding accessible and fun can help overturn the stereotype that coding isabout boys and video game-making.

"I always felt tech stuff was for boys, but clearly that's not the case," she says. "This is a cultural thing, and we've got to overcome it."

Brittany Wegner, 19, will be a freshman at Duke University next fall, focusing on the intersection of computer science and biology. Although she was the only girl in her Florida middle school's coding course, her teacher was an inspirational woman — a gift she hopes to repay by speaking to the assembled high school students.

"I think many girls just think of coding and gaming, but I'm using it to work on breast cancer diagnostics," says the Sarasota, Fla., native. "It's important for girls to feel empowered and passionate about this skill. It's not just about math, there's a lot of creative thinking involved in coding."

Wegner recalls attending a United Nations session awhile backHillary Rodham Clinton spoke about the need for women to increase their presence in traditionally male-dominated professions.

"It's exciting to live in a day and age when we're finally realizing that the skills and viewpoints of women in computer science will only enhance the field as a whole," she says. "We need to be involved."

Aspiring journalist Gaston may already have the coding bug. The Central Park East student has already taught herself the basics.

"I thought it would be difficult, but it really wasn't," she says with a laugh. "A lot of my girlfriends seem to be curious. I guess that's a good thing." 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hands-On With The Amazon Phone — Here Are All The Major Features


Amazon's new smartphone, the Fire Phone, hits stores July 25. Preorders started June 18.
At the phone's launch event, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that the company tried to build a phone that was extremely innovative and different.
There are some major features that set it apart right off the bat, including its "dynamic perspective" effects, which make images feel 3-D, its motion-sensing capabilities, and Firefly, its visual search engine. 
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
  • Amazon shows off its dynamic perspective feature right from the lock screen. When you tilt the phone, you see the balloons from slightly different angles so they feel 3-D.



  • Although you can use any picture you want as a lock screen, the Fire ships with more than a dozen custom images that will take advantage of dynamic perspective.

  • The Fire also shows off dynamic perspective working together with its motion sensors in games. To play a game, you can use a combination of phone and head tilts to control the action.

  • Generally, tilting the phone to the right or left displays more information. For example, if you're listening to a song, tilting left will bring up its lyrics.

  • The idea is to make one-handed use easier. You can bring up different menus by tilting the phone in the other direction.


  • You can also see this functionality in the map app. For example, let's say you search for nearby Thai restaurants. At first, you'll just see where they are in relation to you.

  • But tilting the phone slightly will bring up their names and Yelp info. Tilt back and that information disappears and you're back to an uncluttered view.


  • Firefly is one of the most innovative features on the Fire Phone. Press and hold the camera button on the side of the phone to launch Firefly, which can recognize over 100 million items.


  • Once an item is recognized, Amazon will pull up information about it. If it's a product, you can be directed to Amazon to buy it. Third-party apps can also build Firefly functionality, like MyFitnessPal, which pulls in calorie information if you scan a food.


  • Firefly also recognizes emails, phone numbers, and URLs from posters or pictures. If Firefly picks up on a website, you can easily navigate to it. Ditto with phone numbers: Firefly will prompt you to make a phone call.


  • The phone will save a list of all the things you've captured in your Firefly history, so you can refer back later.

  • Firefly can also recognize audio and ID songs. You'll be directed to buy a song on Amazon, but other apps like iHeartRadio and StubHub can give you other options, too, like making a playlist or buying concert tickets.


  • Firefly can also recognize TV shows and movies, and hook you up with info about specific clips that you're watching.




  • The Firefly button (which is also the camera if you press it without holding down) is on the side of the device.


  • Another big feature is the Fire's free, 24-7 video support. Simply press the "Mayday" button to summon a customer service rep, who can draw on your screen to help you through any questions that you have.

  • You can find Mayday, your notifications, and other basic functions with another gesture control that Amazon calls "the swivel".

  • All new phone owners get one year of Amazon Prime membership for free.

  • The Fire Phone also has a crisp, 13-megapixel rear-facing camera.

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