Gadgets – TechCrunch John Biggs

Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Virginia are now able to create “tiny, thin-film electronic circuits peelable from a surface,” the first step in creating an unobtrusive Internet-of-Things solution. The peelable stickers can sit flush to an object’s surface and be used as sensors or wireless communications systems.

The biggest difference between these stickers and traditional solutions is the removal of the silicon wafer that manufacturers use. Because the entire circuit is transferred right on the sticker there is no need for bulky packages and you can pull off and restick the circuits as needed.

“We could customize a sensor, stick it onto a drone, and send the drone to dangerous areas to detect gas leaks, for example,” said Chi Hwan Lee, Purdue assistant professor. From the release:

A ductile metal layer, such as nickel, inserted between the electronic film and the silicon wafer, makes the peeling possible in water. These thin-film electronics can then be trimmed and pasted onto any surface, granting that object electronic features.

Putting one of the stickers on a flower pot, for example, made that flower pot capable of sensing temperature changes that could affect the plant’s growth.

The system “prints” circuits by etching the circuit on a wafer and then placing the film over the traces. Then, with the help of a little water, the researchers can peel up the film and use it as a sticker. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Matt Burns

Don’t look now, but the PC might not be dead. According to Gartner, collector of marketshare and industry metrics, worldwide shipments of personal computers just experienced the first year-over-year growth since 2012. Shipments totaled 62.1 million units, which is a 1.4 percent increase from the same time period in 2017. The report states “experienced some growth compared with a year ago” but goes on to caution declaring the PC industry as in recovery just yet.

The top five PC vendors all experienced growth with Lenovo seeing the largest gains of 10.5% — though that could be from Lenovo completing a joint venture with Fujitsu. HP grew 6.1%, Dell 9.5%, Apple 3% and Acer 3.1%. All good signs for an industry long thought stagnate. This report excludes Chromebooks from its data. PC vendors experienced growth without the help of Chromebooks, which are the latest challenger to the notebook computer.

Gartner points to the business market as the source of the increased demand. The consumer market, it states, is still decreasing as consumers increasing use mobile devices. Yet growth in the business sector will not last, it says.

“In the business segment, PC momentum will weaken in two years when the replacement peak for Windows 10 passes.” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner said in the report. “PC vendors should look for ways to maintain growth in the business market as the Windows 10 upgrade cycle tails off.”

Consumers will likely continue, for the most part, to keep a computer around but since the web is the new desktop, the upgrade cycle for a causal user will keep getting longer. As long as a home has a computer that can run Chrome, that’s likely good enough for most people.

Gadgets – TechCrunch John Biggs

Newer Sonos devices and “rooms” now appear as AirPlay 2-compatible devices, allowing you to stream audio to them via Apple devices. The solution is a long time coming for Sonos which promised AirPlay 2 support in October.

You can stream to Sonos One, Sonos Beam, Playbase, and Play:5 speakers and ask Siri to play music on various speakers (“Hey Siri, play some hip-hop in the kitchen.”) The feature should roll out to current speakers today.

I tried a beta version and it worked as advertised. A set of speakers including a Beam and a Sub in my family room showed up as a single speaker and a Sonos One in the kitchen showed up as another. I was able to stream music and podcasts to either one.

Given the ease with which you can now stream to nearly every device from every device it’s clear that whole-home audio is progressing rapidly. As we noted before Sonos is facing tough competition but little tricks like this one help it stay in the race.

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Gadgets – TechCrunch John Biggs

In a truly fascinating exploration into two smart speakers – the Sonos One and the Amazon Echo – BoltVC’s Ben Einstein has found some interesting differences in the way a traditional speaker company and an infrastructure juggernaut look at their flagship devices.

The post is well worth a a full read but the gist is this: Sonos, a very traditional speaker company, has produced a good speaker and modified its current hardware to support smart home features like Alexa and Google Assistant. The Sonos One, notes Einstein, is a speaker first and smart hardware second.

“Digging a bit deeper, we see traditional design and manufacturing processes for pretty much everything. As an example, the speaker grill is a flat sheet of steel that’s stamped, rolled into a rounded square, welded, seams ground smooth, and then powder coated black. While the part does look nice, there’s no innovation going on here,” he writes.

The Amazon Echo, on the other hand, looks like what would happen if an engineer was given an unlimited budget and told to build something that people could talk to. The design decisions are odd and intriguing and it is ultimately less a speaker than a home conversation machine. Plus it is very expensive to make.

Pulling off the sleek speaker grille, there’s a shocking secret here: this is an extruded plastic tube with a secondary rotational drilling operation. In my many years of tearing apart consumer electronics products, I’ve never seen a high-volume plastic part with this kind of process. After some quick math on the production timelines, my guess is there’s a multi-headed drill and a rotational axis to create all those holes. CNC drilling each hole individually would take an extremely long time. If anyone has more insight into how a part like this is made, I’d love to see it! Bottom line: this is another surprisingly expensive part.

Sonos, which has been making a form of smart speaker for fifteen years, is a CE company with cachet. Amazon, on the other hand, sees its devices as a way into living rooms and a delivery system for sales and is fine with licensing its tech before making its own. Therefore to compare the two is a bit disingenuous. Einstein’s thesis that Sonos’ trajectory is troubled by the fact that it depends on linear and closed manufacturing techniques while Amazon spares no expense to make its products is true. But Sonos makes speakers that work together amazingly well. They’ve done this for a decade and a half. If you compare their products – and I have – with competing smart speakers an non-audiophile “dumb” speakers you will find their UI, UX, and sound quality surpass most comers.

Amazon makes things to communicate with Amazon. This is a big difference.

Where Einstein is correct, however, is in his belief that Sonos is at a definite disadvantage. Sonos chases smart technology while Amazon and Google (and Apple, if their HomePod is any indication) lead. That said, there is some value to having a fully-connected set of speakers with add-on smart features vs. having to build an entire ecosystem of speaker products that can take on every aspect of the home theatre.

On the flip side Amazon, Apple, and Google are chasing audio quality while Sonos leads. While we can say that in the future we’ll all be fine with tinny round speakers bleating out Spotify in various corners of our room, there is something to be said for a good set of woofers. Whether this nostalgic love of good sound survives this generation’s tendency to watch and listen to low resolution media is anyone’s bet, but that’s Amazon’s bet to lose.

Ultimately Sonos is strong and fascinating company. An upstart that survived the great CE destruction wrought by Kickstarter and Amazon, it produces some of the best mid-range speakers I’ve used. Amazon makes a nice – almost alien – product, but given that it can be easily copied and stuffed into a hockey puck that probably costs less than the entire bill of materials for the Amazon Echo it’s clear that Amazon’s goal isn’t to make speakers.

Whether the coming Sonos IPO will be successful depends partially on Amazon and Google playing ball with the speaker maker. The rest depends on the quality of product and the dedication of Sonos users. This good will isn’t as valuable as a signed contract with major infrastructure players but Sonos’ good will is far more than Amazon and Google have with their popular but potentially intrusive product lines. Sonos lives in the home while Google and Amazon want to invade it. That is where Sonos wins.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Matt Burns

According to a supply chain report, Apple is preparing to release three iPhone lines this fall. One, a 5.8-inch iPhone X with improved specs and lower price. Two, a new 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus with an OLED screen. And three, a 6.1-inch iPhone with Face ID, which is said to come in a variety of colors including grey, white, blue, red and orange.

Ming-Chi Kuo reports, via 9to5mac, that the 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus is said to take the $1000 price point from the iPhone X. This will cause the next iPhone X to be less expensive than its current incarnation. The colorful 6.1-inch iPhone will be the least expensive model with a price tag around $700. Information about storage was not included in the report.

The least-expensive iPhone is said to resemble the iPhone X and include FaceID though Apple might concede the dual-camera option to the higher price models. The analyst expects this $700 option to account for 55% of new iPhone sales and increase through 2019.

If the part about the colors is correct, Apple is set introduce a slash of color to the monochrome phone market. Currently, phones are mostly available in greys and blacks with most vendors offering a couple of color options through special editions. That’s boring. Apple tried this in the past with its budget-minded iPhone 5c. Making its best-selling model available in colors is a distinct shift in strategy. It’s highly likely other firms such as Samsung and LG will follow the trend and push the smartphone world into a rainbow of colors.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Matt Burns

Right now, the cable that comes with a new iPhone does not plug into a new MacBook Pro without a dongle. #donglelife is for real. If this leak is correct, though, that wrong might soon be righted.

Photos have surfaced showing what is an engineering prototype of an Apple 18 W USB-C charger, which is supposedly to be bundled with the next iPhone. If correct, this will let owners take advantage of the iPhone’s fast charging capabilities without purchasing anything else. Plus, it will let users connect the iPhone to a MacBook Pro out of the box.

This rumor surfaced last year, too, though no photos ever surfaced to back up the claim.

If true, this adapter will mark the first major change in the iPhone’s wall charger. Apple has long bundled a 5W charger with the iPhone. It works fine, but does not supply the phone with the necessary power to charge at its fastest possible speed. Even if the photos here show something other than an official Apple product, chances are Apple is readying something similar. Previous leaks show something similar.

Apple included fast charging in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X but didn’t include the necessary charger to take advantage of the technology. Owners have to buy a third-party charger of the $50 30W charger from Apple.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Matt Burns

Gather around, campers, and hear a tale as old as time.

Remember the HTC Dream? The Evo 4G? The Google Nexus One? What about the Touch Diamond? All amazing devices. The HTC of 2018 is not the HTC that made these industry-leading devices. That company is gone.

It seems HTC is getting ready to lay off nearly a quarter of its workforce by cutting 1,500 jobs in its manufacturing unit in Taiwan. After the cuts, HTC’s employee count will be less than 5,000 people worldwide. Five years ago, in 2013, HTC employed 19,000 people.

HTC started as a white label device maker giving carriers an option to sell devices branded with their name. The company also had a line of HTC-branded connected PDAs that competed in the nascent smartphone market. BlackBerry, or Research in Motion as it was called until 2013, ruled this phone segment, but starting around 2007 HTC began making inroads thanks to innovated touch devices that ran Windows Mobile 6.0.

In 2008 HTC introduced the Touch line with the Touch Diamond, Touch Pro, Touch 3G and Touch HD. These were stunning devices for the time. They were fast, loaded with big, user swappable batteries and microSD card slots. The Touch Pro even had a front-facing camera for video calls.

HTC overlayed a custom skin onto Windows Mobile making it a bit more palatable for the general user. At that time, Windows Mobile was competing with BlackBerry’s operating system and Nokia’s Symbian. None was fantastic, but Windows Mobile was by far the most daunting for new users. HTC did the best thing it could do and developed a smart skin that gave the phone a lot of features that would still be considered modern.

In 2008 HTC released the first Android device with Google. Called the HTC Dream or G1, the device was far from perfect. But the same could be said about the iPhone. This first Android phone set the stage for future wins from HTC, too. The company quickly followed up with the Hero, Droid Incredible, Evo 4G and, in 2010, the amazing Google Nexus One.

After the G1, HTC started skinning Android in the same fashion as it did Windows Mobile. It cannot be overstated how important this was for the adoption of Android. HTC’s user interface made Android usable and attractive. HTC helped make Android a serious competitor to Apple’s iOS.

In 2010 and 2011, Google turned to Samsung to make the second and third flagship Nexus phones. It was around this time Samsung started cranking out Android phones, and HTC couldn’t keep up. That’s not to say HTC didn’t make a go for it. The company kept releasing top-tier phones: the One X in 2012, the One Max in 2013 and the One (M8) in 2014. But it didn’t matter. Samsung had taken up the Android standard and was charging forward, leaving HTC, Sony and LG to pick from the scraps.

At the end of 2010, HTC was the leading smartphone vendor in the United States. In 2014 it trailed Apple, Samsung and LG with around a 6 percent market share in the U.S. In 2017 HTC captured 2.3 percent of smartphone subscribers and now in 2018, some reports peg HTC with less than a half percent of the smartphone market.

Google purchased a large chunk of HTC’s smartphone design talent in 2017 for $1.1 billion. The deal transferred more than 2,000 employees under Google’s tutelage. They will likely be charged with working on Google’s line of Pixel devices. It’s a smart move. This HTC team was responsible for releasing amazing devices that no one bought. But that’s not entirely their fault. Outside forces are to blame. HTC never stopped making top-tier devices.

The HTC of today is primarily focused on the Vive product line. And that’s a smart play. The HTC Vive is one of the best virtual reality platforms available. But HTC has been here before. Hopefully, it learned something from its mistakes in smartphones.

D3bris Online Magazine Deb

Have A Look At What The Future Has in Store From The Google I/O 2018 keynote (in 14 minutes)

The Google I/O 2018 keynote had a bunch of major announcements about Android P, Google Assistant, and more. Here’s the most important news to know…

 

Smart Compose in Gmail

This is a nifty new feature in Gmail that uses machine learning to not just predict words users plan to type, but entire phrases. And we’re not just talking about simple predictions like addresses, but entire phrases that are suggested based on context and user history. The feature will roll out to users in the next month.

Google Photos AI features

Google Photos is getting a ton of new features based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. For example, Google Photos can take an old restored black and white photo and not just convert it to color, but convert it to realistic color and touch it up in the process.

Google Assistant voices

The original Google Assistant voice was named Holly, and it was based on actual recordings. Moving forward, Google Assistant will get six new voices… including John Legend! Google is using WaveNet to make voices more realistic, and it hopes to ultimately perfect all accents and languages around the world. Google Assistant will support 30 different languages by the end of 2018.

Natural conversation

Google is making a ton of upgrades to Google Assistant revolving around natural conversation. For one, conversations can continue following an initial wake command (“Hey Google”). The new feature is called continued conversation and it’ll be available in the coming weeks.

Multiple Actions support is coming to Google Assistant as well, allowing Google Assistant to handle multiple commands at one time.

Another new feature called “Pretty Please” will help young children learn politeness by responding with positive reinforcement when children say please. The feature will roll out later this year.

New visual canvas for Google Assistant

The first Smart Displays will be released in July, powered by Google Assistant. In order to power the experiences provided by Smart Displays, Google had to whip up a new visual interface for Assistant.

Also of note, Google Assistant’s visual UI is getting an overhaul on mobile devices as well in 2018.

Swiping up in the Google app will show a snapshot of the user’s entire day courtesy of Google Assistant. The new UI is coming to Android this summer and to iOS later this year.

Google Duplex

Using text to speech, deep learning, AI, and more, Google Assistant can be a real assistant. In a demo at I/O 2018, Google Assistant made a real call to a hair salon and had a back and forth conversation with an employee, ultimately booking an actual woman’s haircut appointment in the time span requested by the user.

This is not a feature that will roll out anytime soon, but it’s something Google is working hard to develop for both business and consumers. An initial version of the service that will call businesses to get store hours will roll out in the coming weeks, and the data collected will allow Google to update open and close hours under company profiles online.

Here’s a demo video:

TOP NEWS IN TEXT

Google News

[ARTICLE BELOW CITED FROM BGR.COM ]Google News is getting an overhaul that focuses on highlighting quality journalism. The revamp will make it easier for users to keep up with the news by showing a briefing at the top with five important stories. Local news will be highlighted as well, and the Google News app will constantly evolve and learn a user’s preferences as he or she uses the app.

Videos from YouTube and elsewhere will be showcased more prominently, and a new feature called Newscasts are like Instagram stories, but for news.

The refreshed Google News will also take steps to help users understand the full scope of a story, showcasing a variety of sources and formats. The new feature, which is called “Full Coverage,” will also help by providing related stories, background, timelines of key related events, and more.

Finally, a new Newsstand section lets users follow specific publications, and they can even subscribe to paid news services right inside the app. Paid subscriptions will make content available not just in the Google News app, but on the publisher’s website and elsewhere as well.

The updated Google News app is rolling out on the web, iOS, and Android beginning today, and it will be completely rolled out by the end of next week.

Android P

Google had already released the first build of Android P for developers, but on Tuesday the company discussed a number of new Android P features that fall into three core categories.

Intelligence

Google partnered with DeepMind to create a feature called Adaptive Battery. It uses machine learning to determine which apps you use frequently and which ones you use only sporadically, and it restricts background processes for seldom used apps in order to save battery live.

Another new feature called Adaptive Brightness learns a user’s brightness preferences in different ambient lighting scenarios to improve auto-brightness settings.

App Actions is a new feature in Android P that predicts actions based on a user’s usage patterns. It helps users get to their next task more quickly. For example, if you search for a movie in Google, you might get an App Action that offers to open Fandango so you can buy tickets.

Slices is another new feature that allows developers to take a small piece of their apps — or “slice” — that can be rendered in different places. For example, a Google search for hotels might open a slice from Booking.com that lets users begin the booking process without leaving the search screen. Think of it as a widget, but inside another app instead of on the home screen.

Simplicity

Google wants to help technology fade to the background so that it gets out of the user’s way.

First, Android P’s navigation has been overhauled. Swipe up on a small home button at the bottom and a new app switcher will open. Swipe up again and the app drawer will open. The new app switcher is now horizontal, and it looks a lot like the iPhone app switcher in iOS 11.

Also appreciated is a new rotation button that lets users choose which apps can auto-rotate and which ones cannot.

Digital wellbeing

Android P brings some important changes to Android that focus on wellbeing.

There’s a new dashboard that shows users exactly how their spent their day on their phone. It’ll show you which apps you use and for how long, and it provides other important info as well. Controls will be available to help users limit the amount of time they spend in certain apps.

An enhanced Do Not Disturb mode will stop visual notifications as well as audio notifications and vibrations. There’s also a new “shush” feature that automatically enables Do Not Disturb when a phone is turned face down on a table. Important contacts will still be able to call even when the new Do Not Disturb mode is enabled.

There’s also a new wind-down mode that fades the display to grayscale when someone uses his or her phone late at night before bed.

Google announced a new Android P Beta program just like Apple’s public iOS beta program. It allows end users to try Android P on their phones beginning today.

Google Maps

A new “For You” tab in Google Maps shows you new businesses in your area as well as restaurants that are trending around you. Google also added a new “Your Match” score to display the likelihood of you liking a new restaurant based on your historical ratings.

Have trouble choosing a restaurant when you go out in a group? A long-press on any restaurant will add it to a new short list, and you can then share that list with friends. They can add other options, and the group can then choose a restaurant from the group list.

These new features will roll out to Maps this summer.

Computer Vision

A bit further down the road, Google is working on a fascinating new feature that combines computer vision courtesy of the camera with Google Maps Street View to create an AR experience in Google Maps.

Google Lens is also coming to additional devices in the coming weeks, and there are new features coming as well.

Lens can now understand words, and you can copy and paste words on a sign or a piece of paper to the phone’s clipboard. You can also get context — for example, Google Lens can see a dish on a menu and tell you the ingredients.

A new shopping features let you point your camera at an item to get prices and reviews. And finally, Google Lens now works in real time to constant scan items in the camera frame to give information and, soon, to overlay live results on items in your camera’s view.

BONUS: Waymo self-driving taxi service

Waymo is the only company that currently has a fleet of fully self-driving cars with no driver needed in the driver’s seat. On Tuesday, Waymo announced a new self-driving taxi service that will soon launch in Phoenix, Arizona. Customers will be able to hail autonomous cars with no one in the driver’s seat, and use those self-driving cars to travel to any local destination. The service will launch before the end of 2018.

The post Have A Look At What The Future Has in Store From The Google I/O 2018 keynote (in 14 minutes) appeared first on D3bris Online Magazine.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Matt Burns

Generations ago, the internet spoke of an old saying that involved a man exhibiting excitement about hearing of a person’s love of an object, so he did favor, and put that something inside of something else. That’s what Netgear did here. Netgear heard people like the internet so much that the company put an internet modem inside a wifi router.

The Orbi WiFi System with Built-in Cable Modem is just that. It’s an Orbi wifi router with a DOCSIS® 3.0 cable modem built in. In theory this setup would make for easier setup and troubleshooting of internet issues while providing the home with great wifi.

I have an Orbi system in my house and it’s wonderful. The system does a far better job at covering my home with wifi than my previous single router setup. Including the cable modem in the setup, though, just makes sense and other networking companies would be smart to follow Netgear’s lead. Naturally, there’s a danger in including a cable modem in a router as one piece could become obsolete before the other but I would argue that most consumers upgrade their equipment every few years anyway.

This convinence comes at a cost. The router with built-in Orbi networking costs $299 and a system with an Orbi extender costs $399.

Gadgets – TechCrunch Matt Burns

The headphone jack could still have a future in an iPhone. These leaked pics show an iPhone SE 2 with a glass back and headphone jack. Like the current iPhone SE, the design seems to be a take on the classic iPhone 5. I dig it.

The leak also states the upcoming device sports wireless charging, which puts it inline with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.

Rumors have long stated that Apple was working on an updated iPhone SE. The original was released in March 16 and updated a year later with improved specs. With a 4-inch screen, the iPhone SE is the smallest iPhone Apple offers and also the cheapest.

WWDC in early June is the next major Apple event and could play host for the launch of this phone. Last month, around the iPhone SE’s birthday, Apple held a special event in a Chicago school to launch an education-focused iPad. It’s logical that Apple pushed the launch of this new iPhone SE to WWDC to give the iPad event breathing room.

While Apple cut the headphone jack from its flagship devices, the SE looks to retain the connection. It makes sense. The low-cost iPhone is key for Apple in growing markets across the world where the last two models helped grow iOS’s market penetration. This is Apple’s low-cost offering and thus suggests Apple doesn’t expect buyers to also spring for its wireless earbuds.

If released at WWDC or later in the year, the iPhone SE looks to serve consumers who enjoy smaller phones with headphone jacks. That’s me.