Apple releases kernel source code tuned for mobile chips

Ever since the first version of OS X, Apple has regularly released the kernel source code for Macs. In theory, you could learn from it or even build your own projects from it. For iOS, though? Not so simple. Even if you had source code, it wouldn’t matter much unless it was optimized for the ARM-based chips that you see in most phones and mobile tablets. However, Apple is shaking things up a bit. The company has quietly posted ARM-friendly source code for the XNU kernels used in iOS and macOS. That’s particularly relevant if you’re interested in iOS, since you now have code that would theoretically run on an iPhone or iPad. However, it’s not quite the breakthrough move it seems at first blush.

To start: this is just the kernel, the low-level code that governs the most critical functions. It doesn’t cover the interface, developer frameworks or apps… that is, the parts that truly define iOS or macOS. Those elements are still closed off, so you would have to build most of the platform from scratch. You won’t see iOS on a Galaxy S8 any time soon. Apple also offers a relatively limited source code license that isn’t as flexible as, say, the GPL license used for Linux.

Moreover, while the presence of ARM-based Mac code is bound to raise eyebrows, this doesn’t mean that you’re about to see a MacBook with an A11 Bionic chip inside. Apple has a long history of writing code for other architectures “just in case” (the PowerPC-to-Intel transition happened quickly because Apple already had code waiting in the wings), so it might never make the switch. You certainly aren’t about to install macOS on your ARM-based Chromebook. And besides, there are rumors of Apple developing ARM-based companion chips for Macs. It may need ARM code even if it has no intention of ditching Intel for CPUs.

All the same, it’s a welcome move. This gives app and OS developers a better sense of how Apple tackles basic system tasks, particularly on iOS. And yes, anyone ambitious enough to write a full operating system could use XNU as a starting point. It’s just not going to change the status quo for Apple.

Via: Reddit

Source: GitHub, Apple Open Source

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Shopify goes after Square with a new mobile credit card reader

Shopify just released its new card reader that makes it easy for merchants to complete credit or debit card-based sales on the go. The reader accepts chip dips or swipes and works with Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. It connects wirelessly to Android and Apple phones via Bluetooth and at full charge can carry out 400 chip dips and 700 swipe transactions.

Shopify’s reader is an alternative to the popular version sold by Square, which just introduced a prepaid debit card that lets users tap into their Square Cash while shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. PayPal and Intuit also have mobile card readers, while Amazon’s short-lived version is no more. Shopify unveiled its new reader in April and began taking select pre-orders last month. Today, the reader is available to all Shopify merchants.

To use Shopify’s card reader, you’ll have to have nothing older than an iPhone 5 or iPad Gen 3 running iOS 9 or higher or an Android device running version 4.4 at minimum. It’s only available in the US and is being offered to new Shopify point-of-sale merchants for free. Everyone else can snag one for $ 29.

Source: Shopify

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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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An iPhone is your only option on Virgin Mobile

It’s no secret that American carriers sell a lot of iPhones. Virgin Mobile, however, is taking that to a logical extreme. The Sprint sub-brand has announced that it’s the US’ first iPhone-only carrier as of June 27th — if you don’t like iOS, you’ll have to head elsewhere. In return for the exclusivity, you’ll get a fairly good rate as well as some potentially juicy promos.

You’ll normally pay $ 50 per month for unlimited talk, texting and data, with the potential for “deprioritized” data (read: it may slow down) if you use more than 23GB per month. There are no commitment. However, you’ll get 6 months of service for $ 1 if you buy an iPhone and sign up — and those who enlist before July 31st will get a full year of service for the same buck. Also, Virgin is selling the iPhone SE at a starting price of $ 279 ($ 379 for 128GB), well under Apple’s usual $ 399. Combine those with perks with Virgin brands (such as a round-trip companion ticket to the UK on Virgin Atlantic) and sales of used devices and it may be tempting to switch over, at least if you’re looking for a new iPhone.

We’ve asked Apple about the extent of its involvement and whether or not more is planned down the line, and we’ll let you know if there’s anything it can add. Regardless, it’s an audacious move. Apple may be playing it safe by partnering with a relatively small carrier like Virgin (Sprint can still count on its own brand and Boost Mobile), but you don’t really see providers limiting themselves to one manufacturer — even fledgling networks like Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile have some diversity. Apple and Virgin are clearly betting that many Americans are more interested in a sweet deal on iPhone service than a wide choice of devices.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Virgin Mobile

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Google hires designer behind Apple’s mobile chips

Google wasn’t shy about targeting its Pixel phones at iPhone users (it even helped them migrate), and now that similarity could extend to the processors under the hood. Variety has discovered that Google recently hired Manu Gulati, a key chip designer at Apple, to become its lead system-on-chip architect. While Gulati’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t say much about what he’s doing, sources claim that Google hired him with the goal of designing its own CPUs for Pixel phones. It’s looking for more chip experts, too, and has posted job listings or a “mobile SoC CPU architect” and similar roles.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will let you know if it can elaborate on the hire.

It’s not completely shocking that Google would go this route: there were rumblings in 2016 about Pixel phones eventually adopting custom processors. The big concern is whether or not it’s practical. Apple, Huawei and Samsung can all justify in-house CPUs because they sell many millions of devices every quarter. Google hasn’t divulged Pixel sales, but it’s safe to say they’re nowhere near as large as more established rivals with wider availability and bigger marketing budgets. If Variety is accurate, Google is betting either on the Pixel line’s continued growth or is willing to take the likely financial hit that comes with making chips in smaller batches.

The custom chip strategy could also make Google’s Android partners nervous. They’ve had to accept Google as a hardware competitor for years, to varying degrees, but they’ve also known that Nexus and Pixel phones were using off-the-shelf chips that reduced their ability to stand out. If Google can give itself a performance advantage through custom processors, that would change the game. The Pixel line would have an edge over the sea of Snapdragon-based phones on the market, and it might fare better against Huawei and Samsung phones. Apple wouldn’t have as much to worry about (it’s the only choice for iOS, after all), but it might sweat a bit if Google can brag about its hardware brawn.

Source: Variety, LinkedIn

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Adobe Lightroom mobile now captures RAW images in HDR mode

If you enjoy capturing high dynamic range (HDR) images with your phone, Adobe just added a new feature to Lightroom mobile that might come in handy. Starting today on both Android and iOS versions of the app, you can capture those HDR scenes as RAW files. The software automatically scans your subject to determine the ideal exposure range before snapping three photos in Adobe’s DNG RAW format. Lightroom mobile will then employ algorithms to do all the aligning, merging, tone mapping and more to build the final 32-bit RAW image.

Adobe says the tech at work in Lightroom mobile is the same quality as what you’d encounter when using Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom on the desktop. HDR photography has certainly come along way from the days of manually editing together a few photos taken at different exposures to produced the desired effect. The company isn’t the first to offer an HDR tool on a mobile device, but it does offer the convenience of being able to sync those RAW snapshots across devices if you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber.

Unfortunately, there are some device restrictions on the new RAW HDR capture tool. On iOS, you’ll need to have an iPhone 7/7 Plus, iPhone 6s/6S Plus, iPhone SE or iPad Pro 9.7. Those are the Apple mobile devices capable of capturing DNG photos. For Android users, the update only supports Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, Google Pixel and Pixel XL. Adobe says the reason for this is that it needed to ensure stability and high quality output from those algorithms. Galaxy S7/S7 Edge and Pixel handsets have the processing power under the hood to make that happen. The company is working on adding more devices to the fold “as soon as possible.”

In terms of other updates to Lightroom mobile, iOS users can now export original files imported through Lightroom mobile and Lightroom on the web. Yes, that includes those DNG RAW images. You can also now use swipe gestures to rate and review photos and there’s a new Notification Center widget that offers quick access to in-app camera. On Android, Lightroom mobile’s linear and radial selection tools that debuted on the iOS version last year are now available.

Source: Adobe

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Kohl’s is the latest retailer to roll out its own mobile payments

If you like to shop at Kohl’s and need an alternative to Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay, you’re in luck. The retailer announced today that its own mobile payments platform, Kohl’s Pay, is now available to all customers nationwide. The company revealed last month that its take on payments would complement its existing mobile wallet app that gave customers a way to store payment info, organize rewards and collect promotions in the same spot.

Unlike retail mobile payment platforms from Walmart and CVS, Kohl’s Pay doesn’t allow customers to add their credit and debit cards to the app for use in stores. Instead, you’ll have to sign up for one of the company’s own Kohl’s Charge cards. While that might seem like an odd choice, TechCrunch reports that the retailer has 25 million customers actively using its credit cards with 60 percent of in-store purchases being paid for with Kohl’s Charge. That’s a substantial number of people you could bring to the mobile platform even if they can’t add any payment method they want.

The payments system is available inside the store’s existing mobile apps for Android and iOS. The Kohl’s app also doesn’t support NFC or tap-to-pay like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. Instead, it displays a QR code that’s scanned by the cashier at checkout. That code is used to not only handle payment, but to apply any savings a customer has stored in the app, too. When you combine the ability to pay to for items, organize discounts/promotions and track returns, exchanges and regular purchases, Kohl’s is giving its customers a handy shopping companion. And that’s on top of using the app to browse items, save gift cards to the mobile wallet and scan barcodes will looking around in stores.

Kohl’s still supports Apple Pay, including the ability to earn loyalty points when using that payment method on an iPhone or Apple Watch. It was the first retailer to do so and it was also the first store to allow customers to use its own credit cards with Apple’s payment platform.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Kohl’s

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Homido’s V2 headset shows mobile VR doesn’t have to be basic

Virtual Reality’s main players might be household names (or owned by them), but scratch under the surface, and there’s a bustling bevy of lesser-known names jostling for your attention. Usually these fall into two camps, those with quirky features, or deluxe versions of Google Cardboard. Homido’s first headset was more the latter, with the distinction of having its own app hub for VR movies and games, and IPD (Inter Pupil Distance) controls, something even Gear VR doesn’t have. The French company’s back with a new version (called V2) that’s sleeker and compatible with more phones. What makes it interesting is the “family” of accessories that will complement it, including a Kinect-like motion sensor — making Homido’s little slice of virtual reality more than just a bourgeois take on bare-bones VR.

The good news is, the improved V2 costs the same as the original Homido VR headset. The less good news, if you’re on a budget at least, is that the original cost $ 80. Not the most expensive mobile VR headset, but still a jump if you were looking to get an upgraded cardboard viewer. The new design promises to be more comfortable, with better ventilation and a more premium feel along with an all-important capacitive button (no more pressing play, then quickly shoving the phone in the viewer). It’ll also support large phones including the iPhone 6s Plus.

Homido doesn’t want to just be known as a fancy phone holder, though. It’s Homido Center app might not be quite the same as Samsung’s Gear VR in terms of razzle-dazzle software stores, but it’s a start. Despite not having the influence of the Korean giant, CEO Mathieu Parmentier tells me his goal is to offer the best mobile VR experience possible. “We’re the only company to focus this hard on mobile VR and nothing else, and that’s how we’ll stay. We’re specialists.”

Parmentier also argues that making a headset that works well with many phones is actually more of an accomplishment. “It seems simple, no electronics etc., but actually the challenge is much harder than making a Gear [VR] for three Samsung smartphones, without adjustable IPD.”

The reveal of new accessories for the V2 is proof Parmentier wants to make Homido more of an ecosystem. The new additions include a 360-degree camera ($ 200), Bluetooth game controllers (Android/iOS costing $ 40/$ 60 respectively) and an as-yet-to-be-announced motion sensor. The controllers aren’t all that remarkable, but the addition of a 1080p/30fps VR camera plus app for converting videos into a Facebook or YouTube-friendly format (handy in its own right) would make Homido an easy entry introduction to VR video and photos.

As for the motion sensor, less is known. This would be something of a first for a headset at this price, though. Earlier this year, the company demoed it at MWC, allowing users to interact with games physically — like boxing with your fists. Rumours suggested the sensor might debut alongside the V2, but it looks like this might have been delayed. Once it does arrive, though, this would make Homido an unusually complete, if unconventional little VR ecosystem. That said, only the V2 is available now, everything else will follow “soon.”

Source: Best Buy

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MasterCard is lending its mobile payment tech to banks

MasterCard is hoping to make in-store mobile payments — the ability to wave your phone at a terminal to buy something — more accessible. The company is teaming up with several banks, including Citi and Bank of America, to let customers pay for stuff using bank apps on their phones. Meaning, you won’t have to download a dedicated app.

This will be enabled through MasterCard’s Masterpass service, which is already available for in-app and online purchases, but now can be used in-stores. Consumers will be able to use it at over 5 million in-store locations in 77 countries. However, the feature will only be on Android phones that have built-in NFC chips. iPhone users will be left out because Apple doesn’t permit other companies to use its chip, which already powers a similar service in Apple Pay.

Tech giants like Google helped introduce the concept of mobile payments to the US a few years ago, and last year they accounted for $ 8.7 billion in sales. This will more than triple in 2016, according to leading media and commerce researcher eMarketer.

Mastercard believes that the ability to provide more information, like balances and rental car coverage, will give Masterpass a slight advantage over more established services like Android Pay. The company has also introduced a new logo to kickstart its shift towards mobile payments.

The rollout will start this month in the US, followed by Europe, Africa, and the Middle East later this year, and other areas in 2017.

Source: MasterCard

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Android Pay Day offers UK discounts for mobile payments

Now that Android Pay is available in the UK, Google wants to make sure people are actually using it. The company has come up with a promotion called Android Pay Day, which offers discounts every month on the Tuesday before your next pay slip. The scheme kicks off today with two deals; firstly, in Starbucks, you can get two-for-one on Frappucinos; the second is a £5 voucher (ANDROIDPAY5 for new users, ANDROIDPAY2.5 for existing customers) that you can redeem inside the Deliveroo app, provided you select Android Pay as your payment method at checkout.

These discounts are designed, no doubt, to educate people about the different ways they can spend with Android Pay. Most Brits will know they can use their phone to pay at physical stores — they’ll have seen iPhone users doing the same with Apple Pay. But it’s possible, or rather likely, that users are less familiar with Android Pay’s second role as a digital wallet. Android Pay Day could, therefore, be an important tool for raising awareness among the Android-wielding public. Success will ultimately hinge, however, on Google promoting the monthly rewards effectively — if no-one knows they exist, they won’t have an impact on adoption.

A good start would be a promotions page like the one it’s set up for US customers.

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