mobile phones

Twelve South’s HiRise Wireless is a super versatile wireless smartphone charger

Posted by | AirPods, Apple, computers, Gadgets, inductive charging, iOS, iPhone, mobile phones, PIXEL, pixel 3, Reviews, smartphones, TC, technology, usb, wireless charger, wireless chargers, Wireless Charging | No Comments

Wireless charging has been a wonderful addition to mainstream flagship smartphones including the iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy lineup and Google’s Pixel phones. But there hasn’t been a really great option for bringing the benefits of wireless charging with you on the road, while keeping your desktop setup tidy until now, with TwelveSouth’s recently released HiRise Wireless.

The HiRise Wireless builds on the good reputation of the existing HiRise line from TwelveSouth, which includes the Duet, a great combo charger for both iPhone and Apple Watch. The Wireless version, as implied by the name, includes wireless charging of up to 10W, which means you get the fastest cable-free charging rate available for devices that support Qi charging, including the iPhone X, XR and XS, as well as the Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy S10.

The HiRise is unique in that it provides a charging puck that can both mount in the frame (which has a nice weighted base to stay rock solid on your desk) and pop out to either provide a lie-flat wireless charger (which will work with the new wireless AirPods charging case, for instance) or pack away in a bag.

The upright angle the wireless charger provides when mounted in the frame is perfect for registering Face ID unlocks when used with an iPhone X or later, and positioned on your desk. That’s a great way to give yourself access to phone notifications without distracting too much from your desktop work. And the puck itself is a lot smaller than most wireless chargers, which isn’t idea for typical at-home charging, but which is terrific for stowing it in a gadget pouch.

The puck also has a rubberized ring bordering the charging pad to prevent your device from slipping around, and it works with a detachable USB-C to USB-A cable that comes in the box which adds to the portability, and means you can easily use it with whatever USB-C charging cables you already have on-hand for your Mac or other devices.

If you’re in the market for a wireless charger and travel a decent amount, it’s hard to beat the value of the HiRise Wireless. It’s $79.99, which is more than you’ll pay for a lot of quality wireless chargers, but Twelve South’s unique design is worth the premium in this case for people looking for its unique flexibility.

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Apple’s iOS 13 update will make FaceTime eye contact way easier

Posted by | Apple, apple inc, Apps, FaceTime, Gadgets, iOS, iOS 12, iPhone, iPhone XS, mobile phones, operating systems, TC | No Comments

Apple has added a feature called “FaceTime Attention Correction” to the latest iOS 13 Developer beta, and it looks like it could make a big difference when it comes to actually making FaceTime calls feel even more like talking to someone in person. The feature, spotted in the third beta of the new software update that went out this week, apparently does a terrific job of making it look like you’re looking directly into the camera even when you’re looking at the screen during a FaceTime call.

That’s actually a huge improvement, because when people FaceTime, most of the time they’re looking at the screen rather than the camera, since the whole point is to see the person or people you’re talking to, rather than the small black lens at the top of your device.

Guys – “FaceTime Attention Correction” in iOS 13 beta 3 is wild.

Here are some comparison photos featuring @flyosity: https://t.co/HxHhVONsi1 pic.twitter.com/jKK41L5ucI

— Will Sigmon (@WSig) July 2, 2019

The catch so far seems to be that this FaceTime feature is only available on iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, which could mean it only works with the latest camera tech available on Apple hardware. That could be because of the new image signal processor that Apple included in the A12 processor that powers the iPhone XS and XS Max, which also provide improvements over previous generation phones in terms of HDR and portrait lighting effects.

It’s also possible with any updates or features that arrive in iOS beta releases that they could expand to other devices and/or vanish prior to the actual public launch of iOS 13, which is set for this fall. But here’s hoping this one remains in place, because it really seems to make a huge difference in terms of providing a sense of “presence” for FaceTime calls, which is one of the core values of the Apple chat feature overall.

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Huawei can buy from US suppliers again — but things will never be the same

Posted by | america, Android, Asia, China, Companies, donald trump, g20, Google, huawei, mobile phones, operating system, president, Ren Zhengfei, smartphones, supply chain, telecommunications, Trump administration, United States | No Comments

U.S. President Donald Trump has handed Huawei a lifeline after he said that U.S. companies are permitted to sell goods to the embattled Chinese tech firm following more than a month of uncertainty.

It’s been a pretty dismal past month for Huawei since the American government added it and 70 of its affiliates to an “entity list” which forbids U.S. companies from doing business with it. The ramifications of the move were huge across Huawei’s networking and consumer devices businesses. A range of chip companies reportedly forced to sever ties while Google, which provides Android for Huawei devices, also froze its relationship. Speaking this month.

All told, Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei said recently that the ban would cost the Chinese tech firm — the world’s third-larger seller of smartphones — some $30 billion in lost revenue of the next two years.

Now, however, the Trump administration has provided a reprieve, at least based on the President’s comments following a meeting with Chinese premier Xi Jinping at the G20 summit this weekend.

“US companies can sell their equipment to Huawei. We’re talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it,” the U.S. President said.

Those comments perhaps contradict some in the US administration who saw the Huawei blacklisting as a way to strangle the company and its global ambitions, which are deemed by some analysts to be a threat to America.

President Trump has appeared to soften his tone on Chinese communications giant Huawei, suggesting that he would allow the company to once again purchase US technology https://t.co/4YNJCyKLTg pic.twitter.com/jr45f40ghP

— CNN International (@cnni) June 29, 2019

Despite the good news, any mutual trust has been broken and things are unlikely to be the same again.

America’s almost casual move to blacklist Huawei — the latest in a series of strategies in its ongoing trade battle with China — exemplifies just how dependent the company has become on the U.S. to simply function.

Huawei has taken steps to hedge its reliance on America, including the development of its own operating system to replace Android and its own backup chips, and you can expect that these projects will go into overdrive to ensure that Huawei doesn’t find itself in a similar position again in the future.

Of course, decoupling its supply chain from US partners is no easy task both in terms of software and components. It remains to be seen if Huawei could maintain its current business level — which included 59 million smartphones in the last quarter and total revenue of $107.4 billion in 2018 — with non-US components and software but this episode is a reminder that it must have a solid contingency policy in case it becomes a political chess piece again in the future.

Beyond aiding Huawei, Trump’s move will boost Google and other Huawei partners who invested significant time and resources into developing a relationship with Huawei to boost their own businesses through its business.

Indeed, speaking to press Trump, Trump admitted that US companies sell “a tremendous amount” of products to Huawei. Some “were not exactly happy that they couldn’t sell” to Huawei and it looks like that may have helped tipped this decision. But, then again, never say never — you’d imagine that the Huawei-Trump saga is far from over despite this latest twist.

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LTE flaws let hackers ‘easily’ spoof presidential alerts

Posted by | amber alert, Emergency Alert System, Government, hawaii, LTE, Mobile, mobile phones, president, Security, technology, telecommunications, text messaging, United States | No Comments

Security vulnerabilities in LTE can allow hackers to “easily” spoof presidential alerts sent to mobile phones in the event of a national emergency.

Using off-the-shelf equipment and open-source software, a working exploit made it possible to send a simulated alert to every phone in a 50,000-seat football stadium with little effort, with the potential of causing “cascades of panic,” said researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder in a paper out this week.

Their attack worked in nine out of 10 tests, they said.

Last year the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent out the first “presidential alert” test using the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. It was part of an effort to test the new state-of-the-art system to allow any president to send out a message to the bulk of the U.S. population in the event of a disaster or civil emergency.

But the system — which also sends out weather warnings and AMBER alerts — isn’t perfect. Last year amid tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, an erroneous alert warned residents of Hawaii of an inbound ballistic missile threat. The message mistakenly said the alert was “not a drill.”

Although no system is completely secure, many of the issues over the years have been as a result of human error. But the researchers said the LTE network used to transmit the broadcast message is the biggest weak spot.

Because the system uses LTE to send the message and not a traditional text message, each cell tower blasts out an alert on a specific channel to all devices in range. A false alert can be sent to every device in range if that channel is identified.

Making matters worse, there’s no way for devices to verify the authenticity of received alerts.

The researchers said fixing the vulnerabilities would “require a large collaborative effort between carriers, government stakeholders and cell phone manufacturers.” They added that adding digital signatures to each broadcast alert is not a “magic solution,” but would make it far more difficult to send spoofed messages.

A similar vulnerability in LTE was discovered last year, allowing researchers to not only send emergency alerts but also eavesdrop on a victim’s text messages and track their location.

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Here’s how Google Stadia performs depending on your internet connection

Posted by | chromecast, Gadgets, Gaming, Google, google stadia, Mobile, mobile phones, Phil Harrison, PIXEL, pixel 3, smartphones, stadia, TC, vp | No Comments

Google is introducing more about the launch of its Stadia streaming gaming service today, and VP Phil Harrison gave us performance specifics today so you can see exactly how the company thinks the service will perform based on what kind of internet connection you have. It tops out at an impressive 4K resolution, with HDR color, 60fps frame rate and 5.1 surround sound, but you’ll have to have at least a 35 Mbps connection to get that level of quality.

Meanwhile, at 20 Mbps you’ll get full HD 1080p output, while retaining HDR video, 60fps and 5.1 surround. And Google has optimized for smoothness of stream by retaining 60 fps all the way down to its recommended minimum bandwidth connection quality of 10 Mbps (and even potentially below that based on this chart). You’ll only get 720p streams at that level, however, and stereo instead of surround sound.

“With Stadia, our goal is to make gaming more accessible for everyone,” is how Harrison framed it, and that applies to its range of connection support as well as its device availability. At launch you’ll be able to play Stadia games on your TV (via Chromecast Ultra), desktop, laptop and tablet (via browsers) and on smartphones, though only Pixel phones to begin with starting with Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a (via dedicated Stadia app).

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Foxconn halts some production lines for Huawei phones, according to reports

Posted by | Android, Apple, Companies, donald trump, Foxconn, Google, huawei, mobile phones, operating system, president, shenzhen, smart phone, smartphone, smartphones, TC, telecommunications, United States, Xiaomi | No Comments

Huawei, the Chinese technology giant whose devices are at the center of a far-reaching trade dispute between the U.S. and Chinese governments, is reducing orders for new phones, according to a report in The South China Morning Post.

According to unnamed sources, the Taiwanese technology manufacturer Foxconn has halted production lines for several Huawei phones after the Shenzhen-based company reduced orders. Foxconn also makes devices for most of the major smart phone vendors including Apple and Xiaomi (in addition to Huawei).

In the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” to protect U.S. networks from foreign technologies, Huawei and several of its affiliates were barred from acquiring technologies from U.S. companies.

The blacklist has impacted multiple lines of Huawei’s business including it handset manufacturing capabilities given the company’s reliance on Google’s Android operating system for its smartphones.

In May, Google reportedly suspended business with Huawei, according to a Reuters report. Last year, Huawei shipped over 200 million handsets and the company had a stated goal to become the world’s largest vendor of smartphones by 2020.

These reports from The South China Morning Post are the clearest indication that the ramifications of the U.S. blacklisting are beginning to be felt across Huawei’s phone business outside of China.

Huawei was already under fire for security concerns, and will be forced to contend with more if it can no longer provide Android updates to global customers.

Contingency planning is already underway at Huawei. The company has built its own Android -based operating system, and can use the stripped down, open source version of Android that ships without Google Mobile Services. For now, its customers also still have access to Google’s app store. But if the company is forced to make developers sell their apps on a siloed Huawei-only store, it could face problems from users outside of China.

Huawei and the Chinese government are also retaliating against the U.S. efforts. The company has filed a legal motion to challenge the U.S. ban on its equipment, calling it “unconstitutional.”  And Huawei has sent home its American employees deployed at R&D functions at its Shenzhen headquarters.

It has also asked its Chinese employees to limit conversations with overseas visitors, and cease any technical meetings with their U.S. contacts.

Still, any reduction in orders would seem to indicate that the U.S. efforts to stymie Huawei’s expansion (at least in its smartphone business) are having an impact.

A spokesperson for Huawei U.S. did not respond to a request for comment.

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Two years after Essential’s launch, still no Home hub or second phone

Posted by | andy rubin, Apple, Essential Phone, Google, hardware, Honeywell, Mobile, mobile phones, Samsung, smartphone, smartphones, technology, The New York Times | No Comments

This morning’s Moto Z4 news was good cause to go back and reassess the state of the modular phone. Three years after the line launched, the concept hasn’t exactly ignited the market — in fact, there are really just a handful of scattered competitors to show for it. Essential is among the most prominent, with the PH-1’s clever two-pin connector.

By sheer coincidence, it turns out today is the two-year anniversary of the company’s debut. Founder Andy Rubin took to the stage at Code 2017 with big ideas and two products. One, the PH-1, has come and gone, launching a couple of months late in August 2017 before being discontinued late last year. The other, the Essential Home hub, never appeared at all.

The day the products were announced, then COO Niccolo de Masi (who appears to have since moved on to Honeywell spin-off Resideo), spoke of the company’s 10-year plan. It was an acknowledgement that it had a tough road ahead, as it planned to take on big names like Apple and Samsung. But the company certainly had the money. A $300 million raise helped the startup achieve unicorn status not long after taking the stage at the conference.

But the intervening two years have been plagued with bad news. In spite of positive reviews, the company reportedly only shipped 88,000 phones in 2017. The PH-1 got a massive price drop and its first modular accessory, a 360 camera, was discounted to $19, down from $250.

Last May, rumors surfaced that the company had gone up for sale and its follow-up phone had been canceled. And in October, it laid off nearly a third of its staff. Founder Andy Rubin has been laying low in the meantime. That same month, The New York Times published an explosive story about a $90 million Google payoff in the wake of sexual misconduct claims, causing him to take leave from Essential.

All the while, however, the company has firmly denied claims that it’s going away. I spoke to a rep at the company recently who said things are in the works, without revealing any specifics. There have been a ton of patent filings that appear to point to some future handset. It announced a new mod for the PH-1 in June and even acquired a company in December. Hell, earlier this month, it issued a new security patch, holding to its promise of monthly updates — a hell of a lot more than many more successful smartphone makers have offered.

That’s part of what makes the Essential story so frustrating. The PH-1 was a novel device, among the first to go with a camera notch display. Its $699 price (later reduced to $499) also predated Samsung/Apple/Google’s move into budget flagships. But even with a unicorn valuation, hardware is hard. And Essential may have entered the market at the worst possible time, as smartphone sales were beginning to flag for the first time ever.

Two years after launch, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Essential’s time may have come and gone. For now, however, the company appears to simply be biding its time before announcing what comes next.

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Adobe brings its Premiere Rush video editing app to Android

Posted by | Adobe, Adobe Creative Cloud, Android, Apps, mobile phones, OnePlus, PIXEL, samsung galaxy, samsung galaxy s9, smartphones, TC | No Comments

Adobe launched Premiere Rush, its newest all-in-one video editing tool that is essentially a pared-down version of its flagship Premiere Pro and Audition tools for professional video editors, in late 2018. At the time, it was only available on iOS, macOS and Windows. Now, however, it is also finally bringing it to Android.

There is a caveat here, though: it’ll only run on relatively new phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S10 series, Google’s Pixel 2 and 3 phones and the OnePlus 6T.

The idea behind Premiere Rush is to give enthusiasts — and the occasional YouTuber who needs to quickly get a video out — all of the necessary tools to create a video without having to know the ins and outs of a complex tool like Premiere Pro. It’s based on the same technologies as its professional counterpart, but it’s significantly easier to use. What you lose in flexibility, you gain in efficiency.

Premiere Rush is available for free for those who want to give it a try, though this “Starter Plan” only lets you export up to three projects. For full access, you either need to subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud or buy a $9.99/month plan to access Rush, with team and enterprise plans costing $19.99/month and $29.99/month respectively.

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The Meizu 16s offers flagship features at a mid-range price

Posted by | Android, Gadgets, hardware, Meizu, mobile phones, Qualcomm, smartphone, smartphones, snapdragon 855, TC, United States | No Comments

Smartphones have gotten more expensive over the last few years even though there have only been a handful of recent innovations that really changed the way you interact with the phone. It’s maybe no surprise then that there is suddenly a lot more interest in mid-range, sub-$500 phones again. In the U.S., Google’s new Pixel 3a, with its superb camera, is bringing a lot of credibility to this segment. Outside the U.S., though, you can often get a flagship phone for less than $500 that makes none of the trade-offs typically associated with a mid-range phone. So when Meizu asked me to take a look at its new 16s flagship, which features (almost) everything you’d expect from a high-end Android phone, I couldn’t resist.

Meizu, of course, is essentially a total unknown in the U.S., even though it has a sizable global presence elsewhere. After a week with its latest flagship, which features Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 chip and under-screen fingerprint scanner, I’ve come away impressed by what the company delivers, especially given the price point. In the U.S. market, the $399 Pixel 3a may seem like a good deal, but that’s because a lot of brands like Meizu, Xiaomi, Huawei and others have been shut out.

It’s odd that this is now a differentiating feature, but the first thing you’ll notice when you get started is the notchless screen. The dual-sim 16s must have one of the smallest selfie cameras currently on the market, and the actual bezels, especially when compared to something like the Pixel 3a, are minimal. That trade-off works for me. I’ll take a tiny bezel over a notch any day. The 6.2-inch AMOLED screen, which is protected by Gorilla Glass, is crisp and bright, though maybe a bit more saturated than necessary.

The in-display fingerprint reader works just fine, though it’s a bit more finicky that the dedicated readers I’ve used in the past.

With its 855 chip and 6GB of RAM, it’s no surprise the phone feels snappy. To be honest, that’s true for every phone, though, even in the mid-range. Unless you are a gamer, it’s really hard to push any modern phone to its limits. The real test is how this speed holds up over time, and that’s not something we can judge right now.

The overall build quality is excellent, yet while the plastic back is very pretty, it’s also a) weird to see a plastic back to begin with and b) slippery enough to just glide over your desk and drop on the floor if it’s at even a slight angle.

Meizu’s Flyme skin does the job, and adds some useful features like a built-in screen recorder. I’m partial to Google’s Pixel launcher, and a Flyme feels a bit limited in comparison to that and other third-party launchers. There is no app drawer, for example, so all of your apps have to live on the home screen. Personally, I went to the Microsoft Launcher pretty quickly, since that’s closer to the ecosystem I live in anyway. Being able to do that is one of the advantages of Android, after all.

Meizu also offers a number of proprietary gesture controls that replace the standard Android buttons. These may or may not work for you, depending on how you feel about gesture-based interfaces.

I haven’t done any formal battery tests, but the battery easily lasted me through a day of regular usage.

These days, though, phones are really about the cameras. Meizu opted for Sony’s latest 48-megapixel sensor here for its main camera and a 20-megapixel sensor for its telephoto lens that provides up to 3x optical zoom. The camera features optical image stabilization, which, when combined with the software stabilization, makes it easier to take low-light pictures and record shake-free video (though 4K video does not feature Meizu’s anti-shake system).

While you can set the camera to actually produce a 48-megapixel image, the standard setting combines four pixels’ worth of light into a single pixel. That makes for a better image, though you do have the option to go for the full 48 megapixels if you really want to. The camera’s daytime performance is very good, though maybe not quite up to par with some other flagship phones. It really shines when the light dims, though. At night, the camera is highly competitive and Meizu knows that, so the company even added two distinct night modes: one for handheld shooting and one for when you set the phone down or use a tripod. There is also a pro mode with manual controls.

Otherwise, the camera app provides all the usual portrait mode features you’d expect today. The 2x zoom works great, but at 3x, everything starts feeling a bit artificial and slightly washed out. It’ll do in a pinch, but you’re better off getting closer to your subject.

In looking at these features, it’s worth remembering the phone’s price. You’re not making a lot of trade-offs at less than $500, and it’d be nice to see more phones of this caliber on sale in the U.S. Right now, it looks like the OnePlus 7 Pro at $669 is your best bet if you are in the U.S. and looking for a flagship phone without the flagship price.

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Reality Check: The marvel of computer vision technology in today’s camera-based AR systems

Posted by | animation, AR, ar/vr, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, Column, Computer Vision, computing, Developer, digital media, Gaming, gif, Global Positioning System, gps, mobile phones, neural network, starbucks, TC, Virtual reality, VR | No Comments
Alex Chuang
Contributor

Alex Chuang is the Managing Partner of Shape Immersive, a boutique studio that helps enterprise and brands transform their businesses by incorporating VR/AR solutions into their strategies.

British science fiction writer, Sir Arther C. Clark, once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Augmented reality has the potential to instill awe and wonder in us just as magic would. For the very first time in the history of computing, we now have the ability to blur the line between the physical world and the virtual world. AR promises to bring forth the dawn of a new creative economy, where digital media can be brought to life and given the ability to interact with the real world.

AR experiences can seem magical but what exactly is happening behind the curtain? To answer this, we must look at the three basic foundations of a camera-based AR system like our smartphone.

  1. How do computers know where it is in the world? (Localization + Mapping)
  2. How do computers understand what the world looks like? (Geometry)
  3. How do computers understand the world as we do? (Semantics)

Part 1: How do computers know where it is in the world? (Localization)

Mars Rover Curiosity taking a selfie on Mars. Source: https://www.nasa.gov/jpl/msl/pia19808/looking-up-at-mars-rover-curiosity-in-buckskin-selfie/

When NASA scientists put the rover onto Mars, they needed a way for the robot to navigate itself on a different planet without the use of a global positioning system (GPS). They came up with a technique called Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to track the rover’s movement over time without GPS. This is the same technique that our smartphones use to track their spatial position and orientation.

A VIO system is made out of two parts.

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