Intel accuses Qualcomm of abusing its mobile chip monopoly

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.

Via: CNET

Source: Intel (PDF)

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Apple CarPlay now supports Google Play Music

If for some reason you’re an iOS and CarPlay user that also manages your tunes with Google Play Music, you’re in luck. Google’s music service is now compatible with Apple’s in-car system, which means you can control things from the safety of your car’s display rather than fiddle with your iPhone while on the road.

CarPlay already works with Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify, so it makes sense that Google would want to get its own service into rotation here. According to 9to5Google, Google Play Music for CarPlay has four main sections. You can view your recommendations on the Home screen, recently played tunes on Recents, your saved music catalog on Music Library and find genres and other collections on Stations. To get this fine feature, you only have to update your Google Play Music app on your iPhone and you’ll be good to go. You can also move the Play Music icon to your main CarPlay screen in the CarPlay Settings on your iPhone to make it even easier to access.

Source: 9to5Google

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Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’: lousy TV, good for developers

Ashley D’Arcy always dreamed of being on a reality TV show. But her job as a creative director for an app doesn’t frequently put her in front of a camera. D’Arcy’s dream was realized, however, when she and dozens of other app makers were thrown into the spotlight on Apple’s first original TV series, Planet of the Apps (POTA). It’s been widely (and accurately) described as a cross between Shark Tank and The Voice, and it’s a tepid take on the high-stakes world of… app funding.

You may have heard how boring the show is, especially to my fellow tech reporters, who receive dozens of similar pitches every day. POTA is disappointing to those who expect more from the company that’s basically responsible for today’s thriving app ecosystem. You would think that Apple would be able to create a show that’s unique, informative and entertaining, given its expertise on the subject matter and history of innovating (even if its latest projects have been bland).

But the most interesting part of the show barely gets enough screen time. It’s a clever spin on the elevator pitch — a physical escalator that takes hopeful participants on a 60-second ride from the developer lounge while they describe their app. At the bottom, they face the celebrity judges: Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Garry Vaynberg and will.i.am. (I guess Jony Ive was too busy designing the next iPhone.) The judges swipe yes or no (green or red) on their iPads after the escalator pitch, and if at least one of them says yes, the developers get to explain their product in more detail. At the end of that, all four judges get to decide if they want to help out the app, and the participants pick the mentor they prefer. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the basic format for The Voice.

After the escalator pitch, the rest of the show follows typical reality TV tropes. Over the course of about 50 minutes, you’ll watch the developers work with their mentors to refocus their apps and come up with a killer pitch that will convince Lightspeed Venture Partners to give them money. Basically, after snagging a mentor on The Voice for apps, they’ll be working to get funding from Shark Tank for apps. Yup. Way to repurpose existing formats, Apple.

For a show about developers, there is shockingly little coding or app design on-screen. What you do get is a pop-up label every time a barely jargony phrase is dropped, explaining what the term means. It’s strangely condescending and seems somewhat misguided. The show targets a mainstream audience that might not get terms like API, SDK or UX, and for these folks those labels make sense. The thing is, because of its subject matter, Planet is theoretically more likely to appeal to those in the tech industry who already know the majority of those words.

But POTA is not completely without merit. At the least, it helps the participating companies. On last week’s episode, I watched as three apps that I would normally have written off — Poncho, Cheddar and Stop, Breathe & Think (SBT) — refocused and gained serious potential and funding.

Participants agreed that pitching a venture capital fund in real life isn’t much different from the way it plays out in POTA, barring the cameras and production schedules. “The only difference is, the VCs made their decision within probably 10 to 15 minutes, versus the real world where they probably take weeks, months before they can commit,” Poncho’s founder Kuan Huang told Engadget. “I’m pretty sure Lightspeed did lots of homework before they even talked to us.” Otherwise, Huang noted that the back and forth over details like metrics and financials very much resembled a venture capital pitch meeting outside the show, except Lightspeed was better prepared.

Although there wasn’t a significant difference between being on the show and fund-raising in real life, the companies involved still benefited to varying degrees. Of the trio from last week’s episode, Poncho gained the most. It’s a messaging bot in the form of a Brooklyn cat that tells you the weather in a personable way. I was already aware of Poncho’s app and chatbots before the episode, and while I found the character’s friendly persona interesting, I wasn’t as convinced by the promise of yet another AI assistant.

After Poncho was picked by Paltrow, Huang and D’Arcy talked to Giphy founder Alex Chung during a six-week incubation period and refocused their objective with Chung’s perspective and input. They went to Lightspeed with a compelling pitch — Poncho would be a content platform that served up intelligent alerts, schedules, news and even buying suggestions to your phone’s lock screen. Because of the work by D’Arcy and her team, Poncho is humorous, charming and adorable, which Lightspeed believed would resonate with the vast market of millennials today.

As they went over the details of the pitch, Lightspeed also pointed out that Poncho’s user base had a significant portion of younger women, whom they said were tastemakers. In fact, they said, Snapchat had similar demographics before it blew up. Lightspeed would know too: It was one of the first investors in the ephemeral messaging app.

In just one episode (that took six months to produce), Poncho went from a simple chat service looking to monetize its product to a content platform that aspires to be as big as Snapchat. I sure am paying attention now.

Stop, Breathe & Think saw more-quantifiable improvements. CEO Julie Campistron told Engadget that since being featured in the app store after the show, downloads of the company’s app have doubled. Being on POTA also sped up the process of creating a child-friendly version of Stop, Breathe and Think’s meditation program, Campistron said. That made-for-kids app has seen a 60 percent increase in downloads since the episode aired. Thanks to the show, she was also able to conduct focus groups (set up by the production company) to learn how children respond to her app.

For Cheddar’s CEO Jon Steinberg, having to repeatedly describe his business in a short time made him better at it. “The challenge of pitching on the escalator made me have to refine the idea in a very specific and simple way,” he said. “It forced me to have to explain the company in 60 seconds.” Steinberg ended up securing $ 2.5 million from Lightspeed to revamp his app (it’s worth noting Lightspeed had already invested in Cheddar prior to the show). Plus, he got to spend time with his mentor will.i.am, who Steinberg said was his first choice even before filming started, and they remain in touch.

Ultimately, POTA is a barely entertaining program that really only benefits its participants. The thing is, Apple had almost nothing to do with the improvements each company in the most recent episode saw, aside from download gains from being featured in the app store. It would have been nice to see the iPhone maker’s own developers weigh in on what makes an app successful or go full geek on the benefits of one programming language over another. If presented differently, maybe POTA would have a chance with app nerds and the TechCrunch crowd. But as it is, the show lacks punch and flavor — essential ingredients for drawing in a mainstream audience. If this is an indicator of what to expect from Apple’s upcoming lineup of original content, we may be in for more disappointment yet.

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Just add an iPhone to experience AR with Mira’s $99 headset

While mobile VR is a vibrant market these days, thanks to the Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View, the same can’t be said for AR. If you want to dabble in augmented reality, you’d better be prepared to shell out at least $ 950 on hardware like the Meta 2, and even more for a beefy PC to run it. Microsoft’s HoloLens, which helped to popularize the dream of AR, still costs a whopping $ 3,000. But Mira, a young LA-based startup, is hoping to make things simpler Prism, its $ 99 mobile headset. Just drop in an iPhone 7, and you too can view AR atop the real world.

Prism looks like a slimmed down version of the Meta 2, with a similar set of transparent, oversized lenses for displaying AR imagery. Similar to the Gear VR and Daydream, there’s a slot for for your phone (it only works with the iPhone 7 for now). Instead of pointing the screen right at your eyes, though, you position it away from you. A set of mirrors reflects what’s on the screen and repositions it on the front lenses. It might sound like a bit of a hack, but the result is a surprisingly clear set of holographic images in a relatively inexpensive device (not including the cost of the iPhone, of course).

I had no trouble putting on the Prism; even though looks a bit bulky, it’s significantly lighter and easier to wear than either the Meta 2 (which needs to be tethered to a PC) or HoloLens. Mostly, that’s due to the healthy layer of cushioning that rests on your forehead. The front lenses snap on magnetically, allowing you to easily remove them when you need to travel with the Prism.

Mira has also developed a small motion-sensing controller, which is curved and fits into your hand like the Daydream View’s. Most importantly, it also includes a trigger for your index finger like the Gear VR’s remote. That’s particularly useful for interacting with virtual objects. The remote also sports a touchpad on top, as well as menu and home buttons.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Even though I only had a few minutes with the Prism, I was impressed with what I saw. I’m used to trying on headsets that are too expensive for most people to buy, so it was a bit of a shock that it worked at all. Beyond the initial setup experience, I played a holographic game that involved maneuvering a character through a maze, which relied on the controller’s motion controls. Another game had me spinning around in my chair to destroy asteroids hovering all around me. I was particularly surprised how well Prism tracked virtual objects in AR, even though it doesn’t have any spatial mapping technology like HoloLens and Meta.

Mira says developers will be able to build both single and multiplayer experiences with its SDK. Your friends will also be able to see your AR adventures on their iOS devices using Spectator Mode. They can also take photos and videos of you interacting with virtual objects, which makes the Prism experience a bit more communal than VR headsets.

Of course, Prism will only be as useful as the software available for it. Mira says the initial release of the headset is targeted at developers, and it’s partnering with a few studios to build more AR experiences. (You can expect to hear more about those in the coming weeks.) The company plans to ship Prism to developers this fall, and it should reach consumers by this holiday season. Clearly, Mira has a long and difficult road ahead, but Prism’s low price and relative convenience could help it play an important role in the nascent world of AR.

Source: Mira

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Take a peek at the new iOS emoji arriving later this year

If you’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for the 56 emoji approved by the Unicode Consortium last month to hit your iPhone . . . well, you have to wait a bit longer. But for World Emoji Day, Apple has hit us with a preview of what these emoji will look like when they finally arrive.

The emoji include new smiley faces, more diversity options and new animals. There’s the addition of a sandwich emoji (FINALLY) as well as mythical creatures, such as a zombie, and a tiny-armed T-Rex. You can also find emoji for a woman with a headscarf, a bearded man and a woman breastfeeding.

You’ll likely have to wait until the release of iOS 11 to enjoy these emoji on your device. With the release of the Android emoji preview, however, it’s nice that Apple followed suit.

Source: Apple

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Sprint hopes smartphone leases will woo new subscribers

Sprint has revealed yet another two new programs in an effort to lure subscribers away from other carriers. Back in June, it introduced a promo offering other carriers’ customers a year of free data. Now, it has launched Sprint Flex and Sprint Deals, which it describes as the “simplest and most flexible device financing program.” Flex is for customers who want to lease phones before they commit to purchasing them — they can choose to turn in their devices and upgrade to a new one in either 12 or 18 months.

Those who choose to upgrade in 12 months can avail themselves of iPhone Forever or Galaxy Forever at no additional monthly charge, giving them the chance to switch to the newest Apple or Samsung flagship every year. But those who wait until 18 months to decide can also opt to keep paying for six more months to officially own the phone or to pay for the whole amount in one go.

Sprint Deals, the carrier’s other new program, gives new customers the chance to get a line even without a credit check. Those who do get a credit check can lease a low-end to mid-range phone for $ 5 to $ 10 a month. On the other hand, those who don’t can get a subscription under Sprint Forward’s pay-in-advance plans. They need to pay for their phones in advance, as well, but they’ll at least get 25 to 50 percent off the devices’ retail price.

Sprint has likely been cooking up more and more promotions, since it hasn’t been growing as much as it would like these past few years. T-Mobile even eclipsed its customer number under John Legere’s leadership. According to reports that surfaced in May, the two carriers are talking about a merger again, except this time, Sprint might have to be the one to surrender the wheel.

Via: 9to5mac

Source: Sprint

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Sweetgreen’s iOS app logs calories directly to Apple Health

To this day, Apple Health still lacks a food database, leaving health-conscious iPhone owners with few options. Most people just end up relying on an Apple Health-integrated app, like MyFitnessPal, to tally all their meals. But, let’s face it, that can be a pain, especially when it comes to searching for stuff you eat on the fly. However, Sweetgreen has come up with a nifty idea to make life easier for calorie-counters. In what seems to be a first, the restaurant chain’s iPhone app lets you send your order’s dietary data to Apple Health from your cart.

The new option (spotted by AppleInsider) essentially cuts out the middleman. It also lets you rest easy in the knowledge that you’re logging the exact calorie count taken from the source. These things matter when you’re on a strict regimen. Frankly, it’s surprising more restaurant and food delivery apps don’t offer the feature. Then again, do you really want UberEats to track the calories in that late-night kebab?

Via: AppleInsider

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WhatsApp lets you share any file you want

In its latest update, Whatsapp has upgraded a few of its capabilities. For starters, while its initial roll out of document attachments last year was limited to PDFs, users can now share any file type. Shared files are limited to 100MB according to WhatsApp’s website, but there are reports that iPhone users can send slightly larger files.

Additionally, you’ll be able to see all of your pictures and videos in the in-app camera by swiping up and if you’re sending lots of photos at once, they’ll now be grouped into a gallery that only displays five images with the last thumbnail displaying how many additional photos have been sent. WhatsApp will also stop compressing photos, allowing your original quality to remain intact. And to easily bold, italicize or strikethrough your text, you’ll just have to tap and hold the text to select it.

These changes are the latest tweaks to the app. Last year, WhatsApp launched video calling and earlier this year, two-step verification was rolled out to all of its users. Those were followed by Snapchat-style status updates, Siri integration and photo filters.

The new update is rolling out for Android and iOS now.

Source: WhatsApp

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Google Play Music’s New Release Radio is available for all users

Google has officially announced New Release Radio, a station on Google Play Music that provides users with a daily selection of new songs they may like based on their listening history. The feature has actually been out in the wild for almost a month now, but originally it was positioned as an exclusive for Samsung users (though neither Google nor Samsung made an official announcement).

Now, Google is saying that it was “gathering feedback” from Samsung users before officially rolling it out to everyone — but the screenshots we saw from users on Reddit last month clearly called it a “Samsung exclusive” feature. Oddly enough, Reddit also quickly discovered a workaround for people who didn’t have Samsung phones to try the station — I got it working on my iPhone with no fuss.

It’s still not clear whether or not this was always the plan or if Google and Samsung changed course after the confusing rollout of New Release Radio in June — we’ve reached out to Google and will update this post with anything we learn.

Regardless of the back-and-forth here, we’re glad to see New Release Radio available for all Google Play Music users. It’s a smart addition to the service that matches up with some new music discovery features Spotify and Apple Music have offered for a while — and it would have been a shame if only Samsung owners could use it. The jury is still out on whether New Release Radio is as good as Discovery Weekly, but pretty much anyone using Google Play Music should enjoy giving this new station a spin.

Source: Google

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Microsoft app helps blind people ‘see’ the world with AI

Microsoft has launched an iPhone app designed to help blind and partially-sighted people better navigate the world. The app, Seeing AI, uses ‘computer vision’ to narrate the user’s surroundings, read text, describe scenes and even identify friends’ facial cues.

The project has been in the works since September 2016; in March this year, Microsoft demonstrated a prototype of the app for the first time. It uses neural networks, similar to the technology found in self-driving cars, to identify its environment and speak its observations out loud.

Point your phone camera at a friend and it’ll tell you who they are. Aim it toward a short piece of text such as a name badge or room number and it’ll speak it instantly — a marked step up from the optical character recognition (OCR) technology of yore. Plus, it guides the user into capturing the object in question correctly, telling them to move the camera left or right to get the target in shot.

The app also recognizes currency, identifies products via their barcodes and, through an experimental feature, can describe entire scenes, such as a man walking a dog or food cooking on a stove. Basic tasks can be carried out directly within the app, without the need for an internet connection. It’s currently available to download for free in the US on iOS, but there’s no indication when it’ll come to other platforms or countries.

In a blog post by Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s AI and research group, the company explains that Seeing AI is “just the beginning” for this kind of AI application. Machine learning, perception and natural language processing have evolved over time into separate fields of research, it says, but “we believe AI will be even more helpful when we can create tools that combine those functions.”

Source: Microsoft

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