Microsoft officially ends support for Windows Phone

It’s official: for all intents and purposes, the Windows Phone era is over. Microsoft has ended support for Windows Phone 8.1 just over 3 years after its April 2014 debut. From now on, your WP8.1-toting device won’t get software updates or technical help. This doesn’t mark the end of Microsoft’s mobile ambitions (Windows 10 Mobile is still hanging around), but it does finish a long, sad story in the company’s history that reflects the tech giant’s shifting priorities.

Windows Phone 7 was launched in 2010 as Microsoft’s formal response to the iPhone and Android. This was the release that was going to prove Microsoft could make a truly consumer-focused mobile platform instead of catering primarily to the business crowd. The tile-based home screen and other interface elements were breaths of fresh air, but the so-so device lineup (HTC Surround anyone?) and lack of feature parity (it launched without copy-and-paste text) set the tone. It was always a bit lackluster compared to what Apple and Google were doing, even if there were occasional bright spots.

Case in point: Windows Phone 8. It was a huge upgrade, but no Windows Phone 7 device could run it. Millions of users were faced with the prospect of having to upgrade their handset early to stay current, erasing a lot of Microsoft’s hard-earned good will. Windows Phone 8.1 finally provided a truly complete answer to Android and iOS, but it was still a little bit behind and never got the sustained big-name app support that Microsoft had tried so hard to cultivate. And we can’t forget the ill-fated partnership between Microsoft and Nokia, including the eventual purchase of Nokia’s hardware business. It was supposed to be a match made in heaven (Microsoft got a huge, reliable partner while Nokia got a modern OS), but it mostly led to a lopsided Windows Phone market where third parties always played second fiddle to the latest Lumia.

That Microsoft ditched Windows Phone entirely in favor of Windows 10 Mobile says a lot. Just as Microsoft shifted from a dependence on Windows sales to a focus on apps and services, the pocket-sized Windows is no longer intended as an iPhone-beater — it’s more an extension of the desktop PC experience. Even then, it’s fading away as Microsoft cuts its former Nokia staff and has been winding down its mobile plans. Windows Phone produced many fond memories, particularly stand-out devices like the Lumia 1020, but it largely represents a missed opportunity to adapt to an industry where phones, not PCs, are the center of the computing universe.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft

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An iOS app can help you create an ambient music masterpiece

Getting into electronic music is a breeze these days with all the great iOS apps out there. Ripplemaker, for example, is a fantastic modular synth app that even newbies can use, while veteran synthesizer manufacturers like Korg, Electro-Harmonics and Moog regularly update their apps with the best in modern and retro sounds. If you’re looking for more, you might want to give SynthScaper a look. It promises to turn your iOS device into an ambient music creation studio, with a library of presets that you can customize (or create yourself) to lay down those mellow soundscapes on the go.

Unlike some music apps, you won’t be trying to imitate real instruments with SynthScaper. The developer wants to encourage you to experiment with sounds, musical and otherwise, including weird noises and odd samples to create textured soundscapes. The app has a ton of independent oscillators, layer voices, envelope generators, and arpeggiators to create your aural masterpiece. If playing on the touchscreen isn’t your thing, you can connect up to two MIDI keyboards to your iPad or iPhone. The launch price is right, too: $ 10 for all of this functionality is half the usual price for similarly-equipped music apps.

You’ll need a 64-bit capable iOS device for SynthScaper, thanks to all the processing going on, especially when all the voices and oscillators are going at once. While you can start the app on iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 or 3 with an A7 chip, the developer recommends using at least an iPhone 6, iPad Mini 4, or iPad Air 2 and higher for the best experience.

Via: Fact Mag

Source: App Store

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Qualcomm wants to ban iPhone imports with new Apple complaint

Qualcomm’s latest move in its rapidly escalating legal battle against Apple is bold. It filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), saying that the import and sales of some models of iPhones is “unlawful” and is requesting that the commission “bar importation of those iPhones and other products.” According to Qualcomm, those devices “infringe one or more claims of six Qualcomm patents covering key technologies that enable important features and functions,” and constitute “unlawful and unfair use of Qualcomm’s technology.”

On top of that, Qualcomm is seeking a Cease and Desist Order to bar further sales of “infringing Apple products that have already been imported and to halt the marketing, advertising, demonstration, warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of those imported products in the United States.”

In other words, Qualcomm wants to make it impossible for Apple to sell any iPhones that it believes have used its technology without permission. It’s also seeking “damages and injunctive relief” via a complaint filed in the District Court for the Southern District of California.

According to Qualcomm, the six patents in question “enable high performance in a smartphone while extending battery life.” The company even made an infographic to show you how iPhones use these patented technologies.

It’s not yet clear which generations of the iPhone will be affected, or how the US ITC and the respective courts will rule. Just as Qualcomm countersued Apple earlier this year, it’s certain the iPhone maker will respond soon.

Via: CNBC

Source: Qualcomm

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Europe wants iFixit-style product repairability ratings

The European Parliament has approved recommendations for companies to make devices easier to repair and even add labels showing an iFixit-like “score.” They also want batteries, LEDs and other critical parts to be removable and not glued in, “so that we do not have to throw away a phone when the battery breaks down,” wrote Green MP and author Pascal Durand. This is exactly what groups like Greenpeace and iFixit have been demanding for years, but at this point, it’s just a series of recommendations and not law yet.

Some of the specific rules it’s advocating are:

  • “Robust, easily repairable products”
  • Automatic warranty extensions if the repair takes longer than a month
  • Member-state incentives to produce long lasting and easily repairable products
  • Giving consumers the option to go to an independent repairer
  • Cheaper prices for critical spare parts
  • Removable, not glued, batteries, LEDs and other essential parts

The report also recommends that tests and a definition of “planned obsolescence” be developed, along with dissuasive measures for disposable products. It also urges firms to issue software patches for longer periods of time, so that consumers won’t chuck them into landfills when they become obsolete. Finally, it’s calling for a “voluntary European label” that notes a product’s durability, eco features, and upgradeability — something like iFixit’s “repairability score.”

The LG V20 is one of the few high-end smartphones with a removable battery (AOL)

Besides discouraging waste and aiding consumers, the EU does have some selfish reasons for suggesting the measures. Most electronics goods are made outside of Europe, often in Asia or the US, and have little benefit to the EU economy. Making devices easier to fix by consumers and local repair shops, on the other hand, would create jobs in second-hand sales and repairs.

Some of the recommendations would be tough to implement — Apple, for instance, has never made an iPhone with a removable battery and never will. Its reason, which also applies to many other companies and devices, is that gluing the battery into place allows it to make a thinner phone with a longer battery life.

Also, it might be hard to convince consumer-product companies to lower the prices of parts, which are a reliable profit generator. On top of that, without incentives, many tech companies might balk at providing software updates to ten-year-old products.

On the other hand, it’s not impossible to make decent devices with removable batteries, as LG has shown recently. And having replaceable batteries certainly would have made Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 recall easier to pull off.

Nevertheless, it’s a start. Citing a 2014 Eurobarometer survey, the report notes that “77 percent of EU consumers would rather repair their goods than buy new ones … but they are discouraged by the cost of the repairs and the level of service provided.” As mentioned, the legislation is not yet the law. However, the EU Parliament has now sent a strong signal that it would likely pass such legislation into law if the European Commission were to put it up for a vote. If that happened, the recommendations would become obligations, and companies would have to change their ways.

Via: FrAndroid

Source: European Parliament

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The Morning After: July 4th, 2017

Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Happy Independence Day! After everyone else sets off fireworks today, Elon Musk and the crew at SpaceX will turn attention to their next rocket launch on the 5th or 6th. But, of course, the big news is Tesla’s Model 3, and we even have a new iPhone rumor.


It’s happening.Tesla will deliver the first 30 Model 3s on July 28th

Over the years, Tesla hasn’t always delivered vehicles on time. Recently, problems with building its 100kWh battery packs hampered Tesla’s deliveries, but those issues appear to be resolved, and CEO Elon Musk says the Model 3 is almost here. In fact, there will be a “handover party” for the first 30 sedans on July 28th, and Musk is promising 20,000 cars per month by December.


A long time coming.The (re)making of ‘Crash Bandicoot’

Three years ago, Sony promised gamers another trip to N.Sanity Beach, and last week it delivered. We took a peek behind the scenes with developer Vicarious Visions as team members explained their love for the game, and how they tried to stay true to Naughty Dog’s original vision throughout the myriad changes. Bonus: Check out exclusive footage from an early version of the iconic first level from 2015.


One of these makes sense.Two video-game-turned-TV shows debut this week

Netflix is getting ready to release season one of its animated Castlevania series, but the other game coming to TV is more of a surprise: Candy Crush. The Mario Lopez-hosted game show will premiere on CBS Sunday night.


Goodbye, TouchID?The next iPhone reportedly scans your face instead of your finger

The latest iPhone 8 rumors suggest that Apple is having trouble slipping a fingerprint scanner underneath the new phone’s OLED screen. As a result, it may rely on 3D facial recognition instead of TouchID for password-less unlocking


Running late.Windows 10’s ‘Timeline’ feature won’t arrive this fall

We were expecting to see Microsoft’s new Timeline feature in the next big Windows 10 update, but a tweet from VP Joe Belfiore reveals that is not to be. It’s not cancelled, but users can expect to see it first via Insider beta builds after the Fall Creators Update drops.

But wait, there’s more…

  • What we’re using in July: Google WiFi
  • ‘Baby Driver’ is an ode to iPod nostalgia
  • SpaceX’s capsule ‘re-flight’ is a space travel milestone

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.

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The next iPhone reportedly scans your face instead of your finger

Rumormongers have long claimed that Apple might include face recogition in the next iPhone, but it’s apparently much more than a nice-to-have feature… to the point where it might overshadow the Touch ID fingerprint reader. Bloomberg sources understand that the new smartphone will include a depth sensor that can scan your face with uncanny levels of accuracy and speed. It reportedly unlocks your device inside of “a few hundred milliseconds,” even if it’s laying on flat of a table. Unlike the iris scanner in the Galaxy S8, you wouldn’t need to hold the phone close to your face. The 3D is said to improve security, too, by collecting more biometric data than Touch ID and reducing the chances that the scanner would be fooled by a photo.

Does that sound good to you? You’re not alone. The leakers claim that Apple ultimately wants you to use face recognition instead of Touch ID. It’s not clear whether this will replace Touch ID, though. While the tipsters say that Apple has run into “challenges” putting a fingerprint reader under the screen, they don’t rule it out entirely. There are conflicting reports: historically reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is skeptical that under-screen Touch ID will make the cut, while a representative at chip maker TSMC supposedly claimed that it’s present. Your face may be the preferred biometric sign-in approach rather than the only one.

The Bloomberg scoop largely recaps existing rumors, including an all-screen design (with just a tiny cut-out at the top for a camera, sensors and speaker), a speedier 10-nanometer processor and a dedicated chip for AI-related tasks. However, it adds one more treat: if accurate, the new iPhone will get an OLED version of the fast-refreshing ProMotion display technology you see in the current-generation iPad Pro. So long as the leaks are accurate, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the next iPhone represents a massive hardware upgrade, even if the software is relatively conservative.

Source: Bloomberg

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Sony’s latest Xperia is a terrific slow-mo shooter, with caveats

At long last, Sony has made a seriously compelling flagship. Not only is the Xperia XZ Premium the best-looking handset the company has made in years, but it also boasts a high-end camera capable of extreme slow-mo video recording. It’s also one of the first phones to use the Snapdragon 835 chipset, which supports Gigabit LTE speeds where available. Plus, it has a sumptuous 5.5-inch 4K display that is HDR-ready. That’s a whole lot of reasons to check out the phone, but is it worth splurging $ 800 on? Well, that depends on your needs.

The XZ Premium certainly looks and feels every bit as expensive as it is. It sports the same somewhat boxy silhouette that the Xperia line is known for, but the gently curving sides, Gorilla Glass-covered front and back and super shiny finish make it attractive and comfortable to hold. In fact, it’s so shiny that the phone’s rear can double up as a mirror.

Because the XZ Premium is a relatively large phone and also due to its slippery, glossy finish, though, I often came close to dropping it. The good news is, if you drop it into a puddle, the XZ Premium should survive, thanks to its water-resistance.

Although it has a strikingly pretty frame, the XZ Premium’s real highlight is its camera. It has a 19-megapixel sensor that uses Sony’s new 3-layer technology to snap more rapid-fire pictures than before. It also shoots 4K video that’s nice and steady thanks to digital 5-axis stabilization. I liked how pictures and videos turned out — they were colorful, crisp and vibrant. In fact, I was most impressed when the series of pictures I snapped from a fast-moving cab all turned out sharp and distortion-free.

What truly stands out about the XZ Premium is its ability to shoot slow-mo videos at up to 960 fps. That’s four times the framerate of the iPhone 7 Plus, which shoots 240fps at the same 720p resolution. The resulting clips are mesmerizing and smooth. Most importantly, all my subjects looked impressively clear even at snail’s pace.

Recording slow-mo comes with a few caveats, though. For one, you’ll only capture good-quality footage under optimal lighting conditions, like outside on a bright day. Any time I tried to shoot in the evening or even indoors, the image got noisy.

There also aren’t many reasons to use extreme slo-mo. A lot of the action I tried to record wasn’t fast enough for it to really look interesting. From waving hands to jumping friends, most regular activities barely show up as movement.

When it comes to faster action though, the XZ Premium really shines. I caught a bird mid-flight, butterfly flitting by, drops of water shooting out of a fountain, and the resulting slow-mo footage was stunning. But even then, the way the feature is applied in the camera app makes it challenging to get the results you want. First, you need to enable slow-mo mode, hit record, then press the onscreen trigger button (not to be confused with the dedicated physical camera button on the phone’s right edge).

The device saves about 3 seconds of slow-mo each time you push the button, and you can use it repeatedly as you’re recording, but you can only slow down short segments at a time, so you’ll really need to know what to expect when you’re shooting.

I understand Sony did this by design to prevent slow-mo enthusiasts from quickly eating up storage with these clips. But, unlike the iPhone, you can’t edit the footage after the fact to pick precisely when the slow-mo kicks in. You also don’t get any say over how long you can shoot in 960fps. Offering these options would make the feature much more useful.

Overall, though, the XZ Premium’s camera is a speedy shooter that delivers excellent quality. Its 13-megapixel front camera takes sharp, vibrant selfies even in low light. The pictures looked particularly vivid when viewed on the XZ Premium’s lovely 4K display. Sony used the same technology in its Bravia TVs in this handset’s panel, and it pays off. Everything from Instagram pictures to YouTube videos were rich and sharp.

The XZ Premium is also the first smartphone to support HDR, which appears particularly saturated and colorful on this screen. There’s not much HDR media floating around at the moment, though, so it’s not something you’ll notice a lot during typical use. Still, it’s a nice touch.

Frankly, I don’t have many complaints about the XZ Premium. It held up under intense multi-tasking thanks to the powerful Snapdragon 835 chipset, and the battery generally lasts a full day. Plus, recharging is surprisingly fast — I usually get about 50% of juice within 30 minutes of plugging in.

Like other high-end phones this year, the XZ Premium also runs Android Nougat, and Sony’s overlaid skin here is lighter than on previous Xperias. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test gigabit LTE, since it hasn’t been deployed in the US yet.

Ultimately, there are many reasons to like the XZ Premium, but at $ 800, it costs as much as flagships from Samsung and Apple. The thing is, even though its standout slow-mo feature will only appeal to a very select group of people, the XZ Premium is a flagship that can finally contend with the Galaxies and iPhones of the world. Sony (and its fans) should be very proud.

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Recommended Reading: Netflix has another winner with ‘GLOW’


Feeling the ‘GLOW’
Mairead Small Staid,
The Ringer

Despite recent news of Netflix cancelling a few of its high-profile originals, the streaming service hasn’t missed a beat. One of its most recent, GLOW, debuted last week and critics seem to agree that it’s worth your time. Heck, we even recommended it in our monthly roundup. The Ringer offers a look at the series and the actual women’s wresting promotion from which the show gets its name.

How HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ Built ‘Not Hotdog’ with Mobile TensorFlow, Keras and React Native
Tim Anglade, Hackernoon

If you’ve been wondering how that ridiculous Not Hotdog app from Silicon Valley came to be, well, wonder no more.

The iPhone Was Inevitable
Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic

The idea of putting a handheld computer in your pocket came about long before 2007.

How ‘Game of Thrones’ Has Changed TV For the Better
Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone

HBO’s pride and joy broke the mold for a TV show in so many different ways it will be hard for other series not to take note.

This Engineer Is Using Old Cell Phones to Stop Illegal Logging
Jeremy Deaton, Popular Science

The story of a trip to Indonesia and one engineer’s idea to re-purpose old tech to stop illegal logging.

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Alpine’s latest receiver brings wireless CarPlay to all

Apple CarPlay has finally gone wireless. After debuting the technology at CES this year, Alpine is now shipping the iLX-107, the first CarPlay receiver with support for wireless connectivity. And considering the tech world’s general disdain for wires and cables, it’s a surprise it’s taken this long to reach the aftermarket.

The receiver (compatible with the iPhone 5 and later) lets CarPlay be accessed through the touchscreen and Siri voice control. You’ll get the full CarPlay experience: make calls, read texts, choose music and get real-time traffic updates. Plus, depending on your car you’ll get customized vehicle information too, such as park assist. There’s no longer any need for the proverbial Lightning cable: simply connect your phone via WiFi or Bluetooth.

While CarPlay receivers have been kicking around for a while, this is the first to support wireless connectivity — a function that began development in 2015 but didn’t find an infotainment home until late 2016 when it was added to the 2017 BMW 5 Series Sedan.

Despite growing demand for such systems, very few manufacturers have the tech built into their cars, so it’s still very much a novelty. Perhaps this is the argument for the iLX-107’s eye-watering $ 900 price tag.

Source: Cision

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I don’t regret being an iPhone early adopter

Do you remember where you were when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone, more than 10 years ago? It’s a pretty nerdy thing to admit, but I do. I spent the day glued to my computer, at my desk — theoretically hard at work. But I was actually devouring Engadget’s liveblog, after which I watched and rewatched video of the event so I could see the mythical device in action. And then I spent the next 12 months waiting for my Verizon contract to expire, hating my Moto RAZR the entire freaking time. (No, I wasn’t a day-one adopter, but I definitely stopped in an AT&T store to play with their demo phones.)

The first iPhone wasn’t a world-beater in terms of sales, and many have pointed out that it was the classic “first-gen” Apple product. It lacked important features like 3G connectivity and any third-party apps, you had to hook it up to iTunes to activate it, and it was wildly expensive — $ 500 for a paltry 4GB of storage (or $ 600 for 8GB), and that was with a two-year contract.

None of that mattered to me, and that’s in large part due to Jobs’ presentation, one that’s widely considered the best he ever gave. I’d agree with that assessment, because he so clearly outlined the benefits of the iPhone over the phones that most consumers (including me) were using. Some of my colleagues fondly remember the Windows Mobile devices they used before the iPhone and noted how they waited a few years for Apple to fix those first-gen issues before getting on board.

But the 2007 smartphone market was wildly different, particularly in the US. BlackBerry and Palm Treo devices dominated, but they were business-focused and didn’t resonate with the people buying iPods. Jobs’ presentation was the complete opposite. The first feature he announced and demoed was iPod functionality — before even bothering with the phone part. Nearly everything he showed off was focused on consumers, from photos and movies to looking up restaurants on Google Maps.

Of course, Jobs tied it all together at the end, showing a sequence where he listened to music, took a call, sent a photo over email and looked up a movie while still talking on the phone. He then hung up the call and the music automatically resumed. Right now, it seems laughably simple, but in the days of flip phones this seemed like magic.

Even the six-month gap between the iPhone’s announcement and its on-sale date worked in Apple’s favor. The company didn’t typically announce products that far in advance, but in this case it gave them crucial time to polish the device and make improvements (like adding YouTube support and using glass instead of plastic for the front screen cover). It also helped build up some serious hype and anticipation among the Apple faithful. Jobs’ presentation paid dividends over those months; it was something fans could rewatch and use to stoke their interest in the iPhone while they waited.

Jobs had made presentations like this before, and Apple has continued to do so long after he died, in 2011. The format has changed slightly, but Apple still focuses on selling you on the entire vision of its connected universe of products — all of its devices and services work better the more you use them together. When Apple makes a presentation like the one at this year’s WWDC, I often come away with the notion that my digital life would work better if I went “all in” on its software and hardware. It’s not just Apple, though — after Google I/O, I always consider whether things would be easier if I used Android for everything, and Microsoft has been doing a good job of selling me on the benefits of Windows everywhere lately as well.

The iPhone presentation was a bit different, because it was focused purely on one device — Apple hadn’t tied the phone so closely to the Mac just yet. But Apple did tie the iPhone to the Mac — before the cloud, it was home base for your phone and let you sync photos, movies, contacts, calendars and music, making it a mini-extension of your personal computer. And even though some aspects of the first iPhone did feel a bit beta (remember how you couldn’t send pictures via text message?), it also did exactly what Apple promised.

The relatively large screen and unique UI couldn’t have been more different from the garbage Verizon forced onto the Moto RAZR. There weren’t any third-party apps, but between Safari, YouTube, Mail and Maps, I could get to the most essential info on the internet while on the go … even if it took forever. I learned to accept that and use the phone’s more data-heavy features when on WiFi, which was fairly easy to find in 2008.

I still carried my iPod around for a while, but it wasn’t long before I started working around the iPhone’s limited storage space and leaving my iPod at home. Sure, the Windows Phone and BlackBerry crowd may have been doing many of these things for years, but for me (and millions of other iPhone owners), this was a huge step forward, even if there were caveats.

Looking back, the iPhone’s influence on the consumer electronics market is obvious. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reflecting on. It’s also worth considering Jobs’ performance to see how it influenced Apple’s competitors. Jobs made many similar presentations over the years, but after the iPhone became a success, Microsoft, Samsung and Google (among others) really started emulating Apple’s events. It’s common now to see companies sell you on their entire vision, not just a series of products or software features.

Ultimately, Jobs’ presentation is as much a part of the iPhone’s history as the product itself. The introduction was nearly a complete disaster, with shoddy prototype phones barely able to connect to the internet, running out of memory and crashing if they weren’t used very carefully. But that craziness only adds to the legend of the iPhone’s introduction.

Fortunately, the experience of actually using the iPhone was pretty seamless when it launched six months later. The first iPhone didn’t age very well (I had mine for only 18 months before grabbing a 3GS when it launched), but it made a good enough impression that I’ve been a repeat customer for nearly a decade. If Jobs’ introduction had gone as badly as it could have, things would have worked out very, very differently for both the iPhone and Apple as a whole. Yes, the first iPhone was basically a working beta — but it worked well enough to change an entire industry.

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