Category Archives: Everything Mobile

News, Analysis and Reviews of Mobile Phones and Tablets including smart watches

Say What: Samsung’s Bixby Adds Voice Capabilities

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It’s heeeere! Samsung this week launched voice capabilities for Bixby in the US.

Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners can now navigate mobile apps, services, and settings via a combination of voice and touch.

Introduced in March, the new intelligent interface promises “a deeper experience” than other voice agents or assistants on the market.

A dedicated Bixby button on the side of new Samsung devices eliminates hassle and lets users complete simple tasks with just a few words: turn on the flashlight, take a screenshot, snap a selfie, set reminders.

The digital assistant can even gather all pictures taken last week into a photo album titled “Vacation,” and share it with friends and family.

“There are over 10,000 functions on our smartphones, but each day, people may use less than five percent of them,” according to Injong Rhee, executive vice president and head of R&D for Samsung Electronics’ software and services of mobile communications business.

“The features on your phone are only useful if you know how to find them,” he continued. “Our goal with Bixby is to make it easier to use our phones, creating the best possible user experience for our customers.”

The AI platform boasts proficiency in three Cs: completeness, context awareness, and cognitive tolerance.

That is, once Bixby-enabled, an application can support almost any traditional touch task using voice commands; seamlessly switch between tapping and speaking without losing your work.

At launch, voice capabilities are limited to “several core Samsung apps,” as well as a set of third-party programs, including Google Maps, Google Play Music, YouTube, and Facebook.

Folks carrying a Galaxy S8 or S8+ on the AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, or US Cellular network can press the Bixby button to update the phone’s software. Then, activate the service anytime by holding the side button or simply saying, “Hi, Bixby.”

Samsung’s virtual assistant will gradually expand to include additional languages and features, for use across more apps and devices.

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Renders show the Galaxy Note 8 is all about that Infinity Display

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BGR / Ghostek

We’re getting another look at the upcoming Galaxy Note 8 thanks to some mockup renders created by a case maker based on leaked details. BGR got ahold of them and said they’re probably our best look at the new model yet.

From these images, we see that the phone has an Infinity Display with almost no bezel and a slew of sensors above, including a front-facing camera, iris scanner, LED and a light sensor. The design is a little boxier than the Galaxy S8. On the back, the Note 8 has its new dual-camera system, an LED flash/heart rate monitor and a fingerprint sensor, which while still being awkwardly close to the camera, appears to be separated from the other components by a lip.

These images add to what we already knew about the Note 8. It will come with 6GB of RAM, have a 6.3-inch Infinity Display and pack a 3,300 mAh battery. The Galaxy Note 8 is expected to launch in September and will be officially announced at Samsung’s Unpacked event on August 23rd.

 

 

The best smartphones and mobile gear for students

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Some of us here at Engadget can remember a time when cellphones on college campuses were strictly “for emergencies” (read: calls home to Mom and Dad). By now, of course, things have changed: Our handsets come with us everywhere, and most of us don’t have to worry about pissing off our parents by exceeding our minutes allotment. We imagine many of today’s college freshmen already have phones, but for those of you who’ve earned an upgrade, we crammed five into our back-to-school guide, including some budget options. Not in the market yet for a new phone? You might still want an external battery pack, a fast microSDXC card or, heaven forbid, a “selfie case,” which is definitely a thing.

Gallery: Back to School 2017: Mobile | 14 Photos

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SDCC Announcement: Stargate Returns on MGM Streaming Service

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Those of you who were lucky enough to be in attendance at the San Diego Comic-Con 20th anniversary panel for Stargate SG-1 were treated to quite the surprise; a teaser for an all new Stargate series. That’s right, after the shortly lived Stargate Universe ended in 2011 we’re finally getting more Stargate.

Stargate hit the scene back in 1994 with the Roland Emmerich film. From there we got Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis and finally Stargate Universe until now. Unlike the previous incarnations this new series, Stargate Origins, will be a prequel to the original film. This series will be following a younger version of Catherine Langford and how she became the Stargate expert we see in the film. It’s currently unclear whether or not we will see earlier versions of other characters that appear in the film or any of the original actors and actresses will be making cameos. It’d be hard to imagine not seeing at least one or two other familiar faces pop up over the course of the ten episodes already planned out.

Unlike any other the previous incarnations of Stargate, these episodes will only be ten minutes in length. Additionally, you’ll have to catch them on a new digital service set up by MGM Studios called Stargate Command. The idea is that the site would be your all access pass to all things Stargate. Currently, Hulu is the home the home to all the Stargate TV series. It is unknown exactly when the changeover will happen. In the meantime go check out Hulu so you can be all caught up in time for Stargate Origins!
MGM’s decision to make the latest installment of Stargate a digital only experience follows in the footsteps of the Star Trek franchise with Star Trek: Discovery through CBS All Access as well as DC Entertainment’s upcoming digital service. The success of all of these services are yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure; it’s never been a better time to be a Stargate fan!

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MovieBob Reviews: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

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Is Valerian good?

Yes. It’s messy, it’s awkward, it’s bizarrely constructed and at points verges over into weirdly “problematic;” but also ingenious, ambitious and occasionally brilliant. There are more ideas in a single chase sequence in this movie than in the entirety of most other films I’ve seen this Summer.

What’s it about?

Based on a long-running series of French-language graphic novels, Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevigne are Valerian and Laureline, a sort-of romantically partnered pair of special agents who discover that a magic MacGuffin they were tasked with fetching at the story’s beginning is at the center of shadowy dark-dealings surrounding a supposed “evil force” growing in the depths of the massive space-city Alpha – where hundreds of thousands of diverse species from across the galaxy exist in a chaotic but sustained relative peace that threatens to be ripped apart unless they can uncover exactly what’s going on – up to and including which “side” they’re actually supposed to be on.

Is the plot confusing?

Not really. The film is practically tripping over its own feet in a rush to reveal what’s actually going on, possibly because someone got worried that too many unanswered questions would distract from the main point. Instead, they opted for showing off all the different aliens, technology, “neighborhoods” and big cosmic ideas the film is clearly more interested in than the fairly standard-issue space-police story.  And even if you do get “lost” just remember that this is 21st Century sci-fi so whoever looks like an analog for a present-day Western military power is probably bad. And whoever looks like a (somewhat condescending) analog for indigenous victims of Colonialism is probably good, and you’ll be right back on track.

Who’s behind it?

French auteur and producer/mogul Luc Besson, a longtime fan of the original Valerian & Laureline comics for whom the film is a quasi-follow-up to his similar late-90s sci-fi cult-classic The Fifth Element. The film is one of the most expensive features in the history of France’s homegrown film industry, and was independently financed by a global team of investors to grant Besson full creative autonomy.

What’s the best reason to see it?

Honestly? The opening scene. The first five minutes or so are some of the most beautiful visual storytelling anyone has put to film in decades and one of the most forward-looking and optimistic streams of sound and imagery the medium has been used to depict – ever. Essentially an expository montage demonstrating how, over the course of centuries, the present-day Space Program might (through cooperation and mutual respect) grow beyond the borders of a nation. Species might ultimately form an idealized intergalactic melting-pot megalopolis of the title. It’s an all but wordless vision somewhere in tone between The Martian’s onward-and-upward futurism and Guardians of The Galaxy’s heartfelt humanism that seamlessly bridges the hopes of the Space Age with the dreams of pulp-era science fiction to a degree not even the best of Star Trek ever has ever quite managed. It’s the most visually beautiful and thematically awe-inspiring piece of pure cinema that Luc Besson has produced in the entirety of his career: His masterpiece. The single stretch of film he deserves to be remembered for.

Wow! And the rest of it?

Not as good. Not even close, really – but then nothing was going to be.

What’s the biggest problem?

“Valerian” himself, unfortunately: Dehaan doesn’t quite work in the lead. Granted, Besson has never been an actor’s director, and this feels very much like a movie where the instruction was “hit your mark, read your dialogue, affect a persona mostly via attitude” and – surprise! – Delevigne (a professional model) pulls it off where her co-star seems to struggle. Going with ultra young-looking leads for Valerian and Laureline also feels “off” at times. It seems designed to make the outdated pulp-hero tough-guy “aggressive flirting” play less dodgy than it might have with grown-ups in 2017 (Dehaan trying to do “roguish scoundrel” mostly looks like a ten-year-old doing his impression of Star Lord) but once the plot calls for him to play the jaded seen-it-all tough guy it doesn’t quite land. The seeds of a movie star are there with this kid, but he’s not there yet.

How is Rihanna?

Good, but underutilized. Her character (a shape-shifting jellyfish-like alien working as an exotic dancer) is a scene-stealer, but she’s only around for a few minutes in an unnecessary subplot that mostly feels added to include her character. Her backstory is also weirdly dark, and ends up feeling cruel and off-putting when paired with her role ultimately being a plot-device.

But you recommend it?

I do, yes. It’s a genuinely visionary work of art that falls short mainly by shooting higher than any one film could reasonably manage. It’s beautiful, imaginative, creative, ingenious and takes aesthetic risks that are worth applauding all on their own. Even when they contribute to some parts of the film being draggy and messy. Valerian is a pure-energy delight that feels like it should have been more but still brings more to the table than most other blockbusters you’re likely to see this year.

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Cricket Wireless Launches Hot Summer Deals: 2 Lines With Unlimited High-Speed Data for $80 and Cool New Smartphones

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� With summer heat comes red hot deals from Cricket Wireless a new rate plan, new smartphones, a 2 for 1 offer, and both FREE and discounted phones.� � � �

New Promotional Multiline Unlimited Plan Because everything is better in pairs, starting today for a limited time, new and existing customers can get 2 lines of unlimited high-speed data access for just $80 /month1.

New Smartphones at a Great Price

Plus, get 2 of the exclusive SNAPBAK covers for the price of 12! For a truly unique experience – Snap. Mix. Match. The LG X charge™:  Stay connected all day without low-battery anxiety with its massive 4,500 mAh battery.  You get up to 2 full days of battery power4.  It also has fast charging with Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 2.0.5  With a large 5.5″ HD display, signature LG convenience features like Knock On, Knock Code, Capture+ and Quick Memo +, and expandable memory of up to 2TB, this smartphone is ideal for value seekers looking for premium features without compromise. 

The LG X charge will be available at Cricket Wireless for $129.99 , with activation of a smartphone plan, for new and existing customers starting tomorrow.  Bringing your number to Cricket? You can snag 1 (or 2), for just $99.99 1 each.

Free and Discounted Deals on the Hottest Smartphones

Phone Price2   ZTE Sonata 3 FREE for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($29.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)   LG Fortune FREE for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($39.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)   Samsung Galaxy Amp 2 FREE for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($49.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)   Alcatel PULSEMIX $29.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($79.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)   LG Harmony $49.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($99.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)   LG X charge $99.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($129.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)   ZTE Blade X Max $99.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($129.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)   LG Stylo 3 $129.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($149.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)  

Phone

Price2

 

ZTE Sonata 3

FREE for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($29.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)

 

LG Fortune

FREE for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($39.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)

 

Samsung Galaxy Amp 2

FREE for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($49.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)

 

Alcatel PULSEMIX

$29.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($79.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)

 

LG Harmony

$49.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($99.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)

 

LG X charge

$99.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($129.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)

 

ZTE Blade X Max

$99.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($129.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)

 

LG Stylo 3

$129.99 for customers bringing their number to Cricket. ($149.99 for upgraders and new lines of service.)

 

For more on Cricket’s monthly rate plans, special pricing and product lineup, go to CricketWireless.com or visit a Cricket-branded store near you.

About Cricket Wireless Cricket is bringing consumers more value with a simple, friendly, and reliable nationwide wireless experience with no annual contract. The power of Cricket is our nationwide 4G LTE network that covers more than 319 million people;* easy and affordable plans prices that include monthly taxes; and a great selection of phones customers love. Cricket, Something to Smile About. To check out the new Cricket or find a store near you, visit cricketwireless.com. Learn more on the Cricket newsroom and blog. And connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Cricket is a subsidiary of AT&T Inc. Coverage not available everywhere. © 2017 Cricket Wireless LLC. All rights reserved. Cricket and the Cricket logo are trademarks under license to Cricket Wireless LLC. 

* Based on overall coverage in U.S.  Download speeds max of 8Mbps (LTE)/4Mbps (4G).  Compatible device required. 4G LTE coverage is not equivalent to overall network coverage

1 Req’s 2 Cricket Unlimited 2 lines. Data speed limited to max 3Mbps; video streaming max of 1.5 Mbps.  After 22GB of data usage, Cricket may slow speeds. 2Req’s port-in & new svc activ.  (activation fee up to $25 ) on qualifying monthly plan (min. $30 ) w/ first plan payment & tax due at sale; other fees & restr’s also apply.  Excludes AT&T ports, basic phones & upgrades. Credit is forfeited if acct cancelled. $9.99 SIM Card Kit & unlocked, compatible smartphone req’d if bringing your device. Other restr’s also apply. 3 Ends 11/2/17, while supplies last.  Taxes apply. 4All battery usage claims are approximated and based on a standard mixed-use profile that includes both usage and standby time and is based on LG devices connected to a nationwide 4G LTE network. Actual battery performance will vary and depend on many factors including, but not limited to app usage patterns, signal strength, and device settings. 5Charging time comparison based on a conventional 1.2 amp charger. Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 technology requires compatible charger.

 

View original content with multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cricket-wireless-launches-hot-summer-deals-2-lines-with-unlimited-high-speed-data-for-80-and-cool-new-smartphones-300491926.html

SOURCE Cricket Wireless

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Yes, the iPhone 8 is delayed. So what?

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Rumors that inevitably swirl ahead of each new iPhone launch. Among them, there are always rumblings of supply shortages at launch, and some reports inevitably state that the new iPhone’s release may even be delayed due to manufacturing difficulties. Such is the case with the upcoming new “iPhone 8,” which will be Apple’s first completely redesigned iPhone since it released the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus back in 2014. The company has been reusing the same phone design each year since then, but that comes to an end in 2017 with a ground-up redesign for the iPhone 8, and new glass housings for the “iPhone 7s” and “iPhone 7s Plus.”

This line of rumors ahead of the iPhone 8 launch is shaping up to be a bit different from years past, however, because in the case of this new iPhone, the rumors are likely true. Based on everything we’ve read and everything we’ve heard from our own sources, the iPhone 8 will be delayed. That “delay” may end up being a severe supply shortage at launch as production ramps up, or Apple might go as far as to push the phone’s release back to October.

There’s an above-average amount of doomsday prepping surrounding reports of the iPhone 8 delay, but try to keep in mind while you read it that it’s all just nonsense. As the late Chester Bennington belted so famously, in the end it doesn’t even matter.

For a period of time two decades ago, every year was Apple’s last year in business. Now, every year is Apple’s last year at the top. Keeping up with all the naysayers predicting the Applepocalypse is a fool’s errand indeed… but it’s still fun to point and laugh.

The crisis du jour right now is potential iPhone 8 launch delays, which appear more and more likely with each passing day. Apple’s new iPhone 8 stuffed to the gills with cutting-edge tech, and as a result it’s difficult to mass produce. Apple bears and even a few silly bloggers have determined that this means the end is nigh for Apple. That, obviously, is ridiculous.

Here’s an excerpt from a levelheaded note sent to clients earlier this week by Guggenheim analyst Robert Cihra:

We believe Apple has some valid long-term issues that ultimately matter for the stock (e.g., size, elongating smartphone replacement cycles, China, Services) but do NOT think any short-lived delay launching its new high-end iPhone 8 SKU qualifies as one of them.

Rather, we believe its UNIQUE iOS means loyal users will WAIT, so any units pushed out of CY17 would just be pushed into CY18. Given the stock trades on forward numbers, that could even end up a boost, similar to how we see limited supply of OLED screens turning this iPhone into a 2-3 year upgrade cycle; helping push macro hurdles out to 2019-20E.

Apple reports Jun-qtr earnings on Aug 1 and we remain 3c ahead of consensus. We cut our Sep-qtr/FY17E EPS by 18c for a further delayed launch of iPhone 8 but just push that into FY18E, which pushes our EPS to >$11, now 50c ahead of consensus.

This is by far the most sensible take on the situation. Apple definitely has some serious hurdles to overcome in the future, but an iPhone 8 delay is not one of them. Apple has the most loyal customers in the world among consumer electronics companies. Perhaps among all companies. iPhone sales may indeed dip in the September quarter, but those sales aren’t disappearing, they’re shifting into the first and even second quarters of fiscal 2018.

If you’re an investor, potential iPhone 8 supply shortages or a release delay obviously matter because the market will react in the short term. The market reacts to everything. But if you think Apple will ultimately lose any meaningful portion of sales, you’re crazy. iPhone supply is always short at launch, and we’ve yet to see a mass exodus as a result. With Apple’s first completely redesigned iPhone since 2014 about to launch, don’t expect to see a mass exodus in 2017 either.

Amazon’s 15 top daily deals: New Alexa gadget for free, Sony Bluetooth speaker, Oculus, PSVR, more

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We’re finishing off the week on a very, very high note. Highlights from today’s roundup of Amazon’s best daily deals include a free latest-generation Dash Wand, Amazon’s newest Alexa gadget, for all Amazon Prime subscribers. Other top deals include $45 off the Samsung Chromebook Plus, a 4TB WD external portable hard drive for just $109, $25 off the PlayStation VR, $100 off the Oculus Rift VR system, one of Sony’s most popular Bluetooth speakers for $38, a Roku Streaming Stick refurb for $35, a 4K GoPro rival for $64, and plenty more. Check out all of Friday’s best bargains below.

Follow @BGRDeals on Twitter to keep up with the latest and greatest deals we find around the web.

BGR Deals content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and BGR may receive a commission on purchases made through our posts.

Google says AI will help run datacenters in the near future

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The engineer in charge of keeping Google available 24/7 says the enormous datacenters that underpin online services worldwide will soon be run with the help of AI.

Ben Treynor Sloss, Google’s VP of engineering, is basing this prediction on the profound savings identified by a machine-learning system charged with helping run a Google datacenter in 2016.

The Google DeepMind system significantly improved the power efficiency of the Google datacenter, via tweaks to how servers were run and the operation of power and cooling equipment. Following the system’s advice allowed Google to reduce the energy needed to cool servers by about 40 percent. If that reduction were replicated across Google’s datacenters worldwide, it could add up to a saving of tens of millions of dollars each year.

“What we developed was so compelling that our challenge has been much more one of engineering ‘How quickly can we get it rolled out everywhere?’,” says Sloss.

“If you can save that amount of power, what you want is to grab that gain, and we’ll continue to train the model, and continue to probably put more systems under its care because the initial results were just so profound.”

SEE: Google DeepMind: The smart person’s guide

Sloss says that it won’t just be Google that is clamouring to put its datacenters under the stewardship of AI, the results achieved by self-learning systems are such an unambiguous improvement over manual decision-making that using machine-learning systems will rapidly become essential when running large datacenters.

More about Innovation

“That will simply be the way that process is done not too many years from now. It’s so much better than the current state of the art,” he said.

“Training a network to do essentially analog process controls, my guess is that will become pervasive.”

Perhaps more surprising is that the DeepMind system achieved these results by turning conventional logic on its head. While the traditional approach to minimizing power consumption was to run as few cooling systems as possible, the AI instead recommended running all the systems at lower power levels.

Google first revealed its attempts to apply AI to running its datacenters back in 2014, when it said it had used a neural network to pick out patterns of power usage and identify opportunities to cut consumption.

Speaking last year, DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis, said Google had stepped up its use of AI since then, using a DeepMind AI that modelled the running of a datacenter and adjusted 120 variables related to its operation to achieve the highest level of energy efficiency. When the recommendations from that model were applied, the datacenter increased by 15 percent its Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), a measure that reflects how much of the electricity used by a facility ends up powering the servers, rather than driving associated infrastructure handling cooling and power distribution.

Andy Lawrence, VP of research for datacenters and critical infrastructure at 451 Research, agrees that Google’s experiment with using AI to help run datacenters will eventually become mainstream.

“Google’s use of DeepMind to reduce the PUE of its datacenter is an interesting application of AI/machine learning, and clearly points to what will eventually be achievable,” he says.

“The long term trend is towards automatic or autonomic management of datacenters using software tools.”

However, he says that Google datacenters are already so efficient that the gains represented only “a datacenter power efficiency improvement from around 86% to 88%”.

“Even so, at Google global scale, that would represent an very significant saving: Google uses over 5m MWh of electricity a year,” he said, adding the approach could make sense for the largest tech firms, but would require large-scale investment.

“One of the challenges, even for Google, is that a lot of sensors are required, and these can be expensive to install at scale.”

Services are already springing up to support AI-driven management of datacenters, with US company Vigilent applying a learning-based algorithmic approach to optimize cooling for customers in several continents, and in the longer term Lawrence expects to see “AI-based efficiency services to be delivered as a service to datacenters”.

‘I’m agog at what we’ve been able to do’

Perhaps the most famous demonstration of the efficacy of DeepMind’s machine-learning systems was the recent triumph of the DeepMind AlphaGo AI over a human grandmaster in Go, an ancient Chinese game whose complexity stumped computers for decades. Go has about 200 moves per turn, compared to about 20 in Chess. Over the course of a game of Go there are so many possible moves that searching through each of them in advance to identify the best play is too costly from a computational point of view. Instead, AlphaGo was trained how to play the game by taking moves played by human experts in 30 million Go games and feeding them into deep learning neural networks.

Training these deep learning networks can take a very long time, requiring vast amounts of data to be ingested and iterated over as the system gradually refines its model in order to achieve the best outcome.

To streamline that training process Google built it own specialized chips, known as Tensor Processing Units (TPUs), which accelerate the rate at which useful machine-learning models can be built using Google’s TensorFlow software library. These chips are not just used to train up models for DeepMind and Google Brain, but also the models that underpin Google Translate and the image recognition in Google Photo, as well as services that allow the public to build machine learning models using Google’s TensorFlow Research Cloud. The second generation of these chips was unveiled at Google’s I/O conference in May this year, with an array of these new TPUs able to train a Google machine-learning model used for translation in half the time it would take an array of the top-end graphics processing units (GPUs).

“TPUs offer a huge performance advantage over currently available technology,” says Sloss.

“Everybody who’s working hard on ML [machine learning] at this point is chasing after performance. It gives you a large competitive advantage, because you can get to the point where you have modelled something useful in a fraction of the time that it would otherwise take.”

While not making a firm commitment in regards to future rollouts of TPUs within Google’s datacenters he says “I suspect that we will continue to make TPUs more widely available”.

Even as an insider at Google, Sloss admits to being surprised at the rate at which machine-learning capabilities are advancing on the back of processors capable of manipulating huge amounts of data in parallel and the availability of enormous training datasets.

“I’m still fairly agog at what we’ve been able to do collectively with machine learning over the last few years,” he said.

“I’m an expert chess player and if you had told me three years ago that the Go champion of the world in 2017 would be a computer, I would have chuckled politely, and yet here we are.

“I’m very interested to see what ML is able to do for the world over the next five years.”

Read more on Google and AI

Intel accuses Qualcomm of abusing its mobile chip monopoly

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iFixit

Qualcomm’s dispute with Apple over patents on its chip tech recently took a nasty turn when it asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban iPhone sales in the US. In response to a request from the ITC, Intel has now made its own statement, accusing Qualcomm of abusing its monopoly position and not licensing “standard-essential” patents at a fair rate as required by law. Of course, if anyone knows how to spot abuse of a chip monopoly, it’s Intel.

The dispute started when Apple sued Qualcomm for “abusing its clout” in the mobile chip industry. It got more combative when Apple began withholding patent royalties via suppliers like Foxconn. It argued that Qualcomm hasn’t licensed its tech under “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms, claiming that it’s charging five times more than all of its other licensors combined. (The US Federal Trade Commission filed a separate lawsuit against Qualcomm, and both South Korea and China slapped hefty fines on Qualcomm over its trade practices.)

Qualcomm, for its part, said Apple “unilaterally declared the contract terms unacceptable; the same terms that have applied to iPhones and cellular-enabled iPads for a decade.” It then turned around and sued Apple’s suppliers that use Qualcomm patents to claw back the royalties.

Intel got involved in the dispute because its LTE modems, used in some of Apple’s latest iPhones, allegedly infringe on Qualcomm patents. Qualcomm has demanded that Apple replace those parts with chips that use its own baseband modems. (Intel’s LTE modem is reportedly used on GSM-radio iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models from T-Mobile, AT&T and the rest of the world, while Qualcomm radios are used on CDMA models by Sprint and Verizon in the US).


Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (AOL)

Intel accused Qualcomm of further anti-competitive practices — namely, offering Apple lower licensing fees for using its chips exclusively. “These arrangements foreclosed rivals like Intel from competing for Apple’s vital business,” it said.

Intel believes that Qualcomm has a more sinister aim with its Apple patent dispute: Crushing Intel in the mobile chip market. “Qualcomm did not initiate this investigation to stop the alleged infringement of its patent rights; rather, its complaint is a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm’s only remaining rival,” it states. “These arrangements foreclosed rivals like Intel from competing for Apple’s vital business,” it said.

Overall, Intel believes that the ITC needs to consider Qualcomm’s pattern of what it calls “abusive” legal practices. “This twisted use of the Commission’s process is just the latest in a long line of anticompetitive strategies that Qualcomm has used to quash incipient and potential competitors and avoid competition on the merits.”

There’s a lot of irony in this, of course. In the ITC claim, Intel is depicting itself as the poor victim of a mobile chip monopolist, even though it was fined $1.4 billion by the EU for abusing its own PC chip monopoly with AMD. Nevertheless, its claim to be an underdog is effectively correct: Next to Qualcomm, Intel has a pitiful share of the mobile chip market. The ITC is set to study the complaint in August, and a trial is expected sometime next year.

 

 

Samsung and Google are finally on the same side as Apple in a new battle

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It remains to be seen how Apple’s legal battle with Qualcomm is going to play out, but from what we can tell so far, it seems as if the entire tech industry has already taken sides with Apple. If you recall, Apple earlier this year filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm, alleging that the company employed anticompetitive business tactics as a means to extract incredibly high royalty payments from Apple for the LTE chips that go into the iPhone.

From Apple’s vantage point, the royalty rates Qualcomm charges Apple aren’t based on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, but is rather computed as a function of the iPhone’s overall selling price. This approach, Tim Cook explained a few months back, is akin to a sofa manufacturer constantly changing the price of each sofa it sells based “on the price of the house it goes into.”

Immediately after being slapped with the suit, Qualcomm, predictably, denied all wrongdoing and vowed to vigorously defend itself. A few months later, Qualcomm fired back with a legal suit of its own and asked the International Trade Commission (ITC) to issue a ban on all imports of iPhone and iPad models that use Qualcomm chips.

With that as a backdrop, a lobbying group called the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) — a group whose members include tech heavyweights such as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Samsung, Google, Intel and others — filed a third-party brief yesterday asking the ITC to reject Qualcomm’s proposed ITC ban. Incidentally, Apple is not a member of the CCIA.

A press release accompanying the legal filing reads in part:

CCIA told the ITC that Qualcomm’s request would harm consumers by enabling Qualcomm’s anti-competitive behavior.

CCIA has advocated on open competition issues for more than 40 years. Apple is not a member of this international tech trade association. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Qualcomm is already using its dominant position to pressure competitors and tax competing products. If the ITC were to grant this exclusion order, it would help Qualcomm use its monopoly power for further leverage against Apple, and allow them to drive up prices on consumer devices.

Incidentally, Qualcomm just a few days ago was hit with a countersuit from four of Apple’s major iPhone manufacturers, a group that includes Hon Hai Precision Industry, Compal Electronics, Wistron Corp and Pegatron Corp.

While Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf recently said that the ongoing legal spat with Apple will likely be settled out of court, the growing number of companies joining forces against Qualcomm perhaps suggests that any forthcoming settlement — should one happen — will be heavily skewed in Apple’s favor. In the interim, shares of Qualcomm are down nearly 20% since Apple first filed suit about seven months ago.

Atari Beta Testing the Speakerhat, a Hat With Speakers

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If Atari’s goal was to confuse the hell out of everyone, then they are doing a brilliant job. The company recently unveiled the Ataribox without disclosing what the machine can actually do. Now, it has announced a beta test for the Speakerhat… a hat that has speakers in it. I assure you that this is not fake news.

Like the Ataribox, we don’t know much about this Speakerhat. The Verge says the hat has built-in speakers, a microphone, and pairs over Bluetooth for playing music and receiving phone calls. The hat will eventually allow users to sync up with each other and listen to the same audio stream. It’s also rechargeable. That’s good to know because you certainly don’t want your hat running out of power. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d ever have to write, but I digress.

Atari claims this is a hat for the future. I don’t know about that. In all honestly, this seems completely unnecessary. If you want to listen to music, you can always use a pair of headphones. You can even do so while not wearing a hat emblazoned with ATARI on it. Also, wouldn’t people be able to hear your conversations if you took a call with this thing? But I guess we have to give Atari points for trying something new.

You can’t actually buy the Speakerhat at the moment. However, you can register for a chance to become a beta tester. Only ten people will have the honor of winning. Those who win will get the Speakerhat along with an Atari t-shirt and the Atari Flashback collection on PS4 or Xbox One. Registration closes on August 5. If you’re interested, make sure to register now before the deadline. If you manage to become one of the lucky winners, please hit me up on Twitter and let me know what this thing is like.

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Best Buy’s Black Friday in July is back

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Amazon’s third annual Prime Day deal event is long gone, but that doesn’t mean that the Black Friday in July deals phenomenon has to stop. In fact, Best Buy’s own summer sale is live right now — and Black Friday in July is exactly what it’s called.

There are plenty of hot tech deals from Best Buy, but you’ll have to hurry, as the promo ends Saturday.

Here are some of Best Buy’s best deals:

  • $12.99/month 32GB iPhone 6 with a monthly installment plan (save $238)
  • $149.99 32GB iPhone SE with Simple Mobile prepaid plan (save $10)
  • Save up to $200 on iPhone 7 activation with AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint
  • Save up to $290 on Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL
  • Save $150 to $400 on Galaxy S8/S8+ with qualified activation — this offer extends past the two-day Black Friday in July event
  • Save $150 on unlocked Galaxy S8/S8+
  • Save $200 on select iPad Pro models
  • Save $125 on select iPad mini models
  • Save $350 on Select MacBook Air models
  • $849.99 Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with Black Type Cover (save $150)
  • Save $300 on select laptops
  • Save $70 on all Apple Watch Series 2 models
  • $2,499.99 75-inch Sony LED Smart 4K Ultra HD TV (save $1,000)
  • $1,099.99 70-inch Vizio LED Smart 4K Ultra HD TV (save $200)
  • $1,499.99 65-inch Sony LED Smart 4K Ultra HD TV (save $500)
  • $699.99 58-inch Samsung LED Smart 4K Ultra HD TV (save $200)
  • $549.99 55-inch LG LED Smart 4K Ultra HD TV (save $250)
  • $379.99 50-inch Insignia LED Smart 4K Ultra HD TV (save $70)
  • $399.99 40-inch Samsung LED Smart 4K Ultra HD TV (save $150)
  • Up to 30% off select Samsung LED Smart 4K Ultra HD TV
  • Save $25 on all Nintendo 3DS XL consoles
  • Free Extra Controller with Xbox One S console purchase
  • Save $100 on Google Home and Philips Hue combined purchase

These are just some of the hot Best Buy deals that are available right now — check out the full Black Friday in July listing at this link.

Is Facebook making a modular smartphone?

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Modular smartphones sound great on paper. They’re devices that would significantly outlive traditional handsets, as the user would be able to upgrade the hardware by simply swapping the old parts with newer one. They’re also devices that would let the user customize a phone to meet his or her preferences. You could add extra batteries or sensors and better camera.

In practice, nobody was able to pull off this smartphone miracle. Google’s Project Ara is one of the most prominent failures, although there are a few other modular smartphone projects that failed to get any meaningful traction.

Can Facebook change any of that? 


The giant social network isn’t ready to announce anything just yet, but Business Insider discovered a new Facebook patent that describes modular devices.

They’re “modular electromechanical devices,” therefore not smartphones. But they’re devices that could incorporate a variety of parts including speakers, microphones, touch display, GPS, and even function as a phone. However, an image from the patent shows a device that looks nothing like a smartphone:

Image Source: Facebook via USPTO

The patent may just as easily describe technology to build a modular smart speaker for the home that would compete against Amazon’s Echo or Google Home.

Business Insider notes that the authors of the patent come from Facebook’s Building 8 lab that’s working on futuristic projects. Former Apple, Google, and Motorola employees work at Building 8, including former Project Ara team members.

These unnamed Facebook devices could be connected to a server and loaded with different software based on the type of components they contain.

The last time Facebook tried to make a phone it was a regular device, but it wasn’t a Facebook creation. The social network partnered up with HTC for that handset, but the project turned out to be a complete failure.

The Morning After: Friday, July 21st 2017

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Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Is it Friday already? We have big news from Comic-Con featuring Will Smith and Stargate. Also, a deep dive into the cautionary tale of LeEco and a date for the Galaxy Note 8 is revealed.


The next Note.Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 unveiling happens August 23rd

Last year, Samsung released the excellent Galaxy Note 7, which had just one tiny problem: a tendency to overheat and melt down. Now, after investigations and even a Fan Edition re-release, we’re close to seeing the company’s next attempt at a large-screened cellphone. It just sent out invites for a launch event August 23rd, where we’re expecting to find out everything about the Galaxy Note 8.


It may not last much longer.Inside LeEco’s spectacular fall from grace

LeEco’s fall from grace has been astonishing. Once hailed as the “Netflix of China,” the daring startup and its then-outspoken founder were bold enough to challenge Tesla and criticize Apple as “outdated.” But in recent months, the company has faced a series of setbacks and may be reaching its breaking point. Former employees told Engadget that LeEco shuffles funds between its subsidiaries to mask losses.


Worth a trip.Google Street View takes you aboard the ISS

Since there’s no gravity, the astronauts make use of surfaces in every direction, so the Street View in space truly spans 360 degrees. But that’s not all: Google included info nodes for the curious to learn more about the station’s technical machinery and points of interest.


Is Richard Dean Anderson busy?‘Stargate Origins’ will launch a new MGM streaming service

MGM is asking CBS All Access and Star Trek Discovery to hold its beer, announcing plans to launch an all-Stargate subscription streaming platform. Stargate Command will be the “official” destination not only for older content but also a brand new Stargate Origins show launching later this year.


But who?Elon Musk’s Hyperloop plan is verbally approved by someone somewhere

Elon Musk tweeted that he has “verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop.” The only problem is that, apparently, no one has told the governments of those cities about it. There’s some indication he may be talking about the White House, but for now, we’re waiting for a more “formal” approval.


‘Bad Boys’ meets ‘D&D.’Netflix drops the full trailer for David Ayer’s ‘Bright’

This movie may have cost Netflix as much as $100 million, so hopefully it’s worth it. Bright stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton are a pair of cops, but the twist here is that one of them is an orc. In this world, elves and magic are just part of the deal, which may entice viewers to check it out when the movie launches December 22nd.


A hat with speakers.Atari introduces the Speakerhat

And ‘Multiplayer mode.’

But wait, there’s more…

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