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Biz Break: Tesla Motors expands in China, hits new stock high

Posted: 08/29/2014 02:10:02 PM PDT


Updated: 08/29/2014 02:47:24 PM PDT


Today: Tesla Motors signs a deal to build more than 400 new charging stations in China, and the company's stock makes another record-breaking drive. Also: Apple hits more new records despite reports that wearable offering won't appear until 2015.


The Lead: Tesla plans charging expansion in China


Tesla Motors announced a deal Friday with a wireless carrier that will nearly triple its number of charging stations in China, the world's largest auto market, and investors responded by again sending the Palo Alto electric-car maker's stock to record highs.



Tesla will install 400 charging stations across 120 cities as well as 20 of its supercharger stations, all at China Unicom retail outlets, Tesla spokeswoman Lis Jarvis-Shean confirmed in an email Friday.


'We have been working with China Unicom already -- China Unicom is our in-car 3G connectivity service provider of Tesla -- so we are deepening our cooperation with them,' Jarvis-Shean noted.


Tesla already has more than 200 charging stations in China, along with 13 superchargers, as it seeks to establish infrastructure in a critical market. China led the world with sales of 22 million automobiles in 2013, more than a quarter of the global market of 82.8 million, and the country has been seeking to encourage electric vehicles.


A Chinese state agency said Friday that the country will stop charging sales tax on sales of electric cars, adding to savings already provided by rebates from the government, which hopes electric and hybrid automobiles can help cut down on stultifying pollution in the country. An official with a Chinese electric-car manufacturer told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that the country is also considering a gasoline tax to fund more charging stations.


'While the government can't force consumers to buy electric vehicles, it can mandate the construction of charging stations,' BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu said.


Tesla has been building out its charging network in the U.S. and Europe quickly in the past two years. proclaiming it to be the fastest-growing charging network in the world. In China, CEO Elon Musk has said the company plans to spend several hundred million dollars on infrastructure to boost its chances of big sales in the country.


'My instructions to the team are to spend money as fast as they can spend it without wasting it,' Musk said in April while personally delivering the first eight Model S units to be sold in China.


Musk has predicted sales of about 5,000 Model S units in China this year, but admitted that was just a rough estimate. The company has not released any official sales numbers for the country thus far, but has spoken optimistically about its performance.


'Model S is off to a very encouraging start in China, especially considering that we are delivering cars only in the areas around Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and recently Hangzhou, where we can assure customers of service coverage,' Musk and Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja wrote to shareholders in a July letter detailing earnings.


Tesla was one of the fastest growing public companies in Silicon Valley last year, and its spiking share prices rose even faster: While sales grew 387 percent to more than $2 billion in 2013, Tesla's market cap jumped 492 percent. Gains have continued this year, with Tesla hitting a record share price of $272 before closing with a 2.2 percent gain at $269.70; the stock is now up more than 79 percent in 2014.


SV150 market report: Apple gains to yet another record high


Tesla isn't the only high-profile Silicon valley companies that seems to hit a record stock high daily: Apple increased to new all-time highs as well Friday, as Wall Street indexes closed out a strong month with gains.


Apple followed up Thursday's invitation to a mystery event in Cupertino and all-time stock highs with yet another increase, gaining 0.2 percent to $102.50. Expectations for a wearable debut soon after the Sept. 9 event took a hit, however, as Recode and the Financial Times reported that Apple will not offer its new gadget for sale until 2015. The device, which many expect to be a wristwatch-like device, would then not be available for the holiday shopping season, cutting into Apple's revenues in that important period. Seeking to cut into the revenues of a competitor, Apple made yet another attempt to ban Samsung products from being imported to the U.S., appealing a decision made earlier this week.


Oracle's appeal of a verdict in its big courtroom battle against competitor SAP didn't go its way, as the court decided it would not reinstitute a record $1.3 billion verdict in the Redwood City company's favor; the software giant's stock still gained 0.6 percent to $41.53. The biggest gain of the day in the SV150 belonged to Splunk, with the San Francisco big-data software company leaping 19.1 percent to $53.93 after revealing quarterly earnings that a host of analysts praised Friday. Omnivision, an Apple supplier that is being targeted for an acquisition, did not do as well after its earnings report, falling 0.2 percent to $27.11. Google gained 0.4 percent to $582.36 after revealing a secretive drone project late Thursday afternoon, but the Mountain View search giant may lose an important executive to the White House.


Up: Splunk, Workday, GoPro, Tesla, EA, Salesforce, Pandora, Applied Materials, Facebook, LinkedIn


Down: Ruckus Wireless, SanDisk, Intuit


The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 9.42, or 0.58 percent, to 1,628.83


The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 22.58, or 0.5 percent, to 4,580.27


The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 18.88, or 0.11 percent, to 17,098.45


And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 6.63, or 0.33 percent, to 2,003.37


Sign up for the 60-Second Business Break newsletter at http://ift.tt/zff6tj. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at http://ift.tt/1drGiGq.


Facebook tries to quell Messenger rumors

Facebook is going on the offensive, trying to do damage control for its Messenger app.


The social network is responding to a firestorm of user anger that erupted when it appeared that Facebook was forcing people to load its Messenger app in a veiled attempt to usurp their privacy.


Now Facebook is trying to set the record straight.


'You might have heard the rumors going around about the Messenger app,' Facebook said in a message to users that popped up on the network's mobile app. 'Some have claimed that the app is always using your phone's camera and microphone to see and hear what you're doing. These reports aren't true, and many have been corrected. Still, we want to address some concerns you might have.'


The message is one way Facebook is trying to spread the word about Messenger.


'We're testing ways of explaining Messenger to people, and as part of that, a percentage of people will receive this notice,' a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email to Computerworld. 'We felt it was important to offer more information, particularly in light of false reports that have spread over the last couple of weeks.'


The trouble started earlier this month when users first complained that Facebook was making them use a separate app to send messages, photos and videos to their friends via their mobile devices.


Matters heated up when reports surfaced alleging that Facebook could use the app to surreptitiously take over users' smartphones to take photos or even make phone calls.


Much of the confusion stemmed from reviews of the app in the Google Play store and Apple's App Store.


On Google Play, a user identified as Ty Owen wrote, 'Look very closely at the permissions before downloading. The permissions state they can make calls and send texts without you even knowing. By doing this it will cost you money and god noes [sic] what other info they are getting.'


The problem snowballed and the rumors spread, leading some users to either not download Messenger or to uninstall it.


According to Facebook, those comments do not reflect reality.


'If you want to send a selfie to a friend, the app needs permission to turn on your phone's camera and capture that photo,' the company said in its message to users. 'We don't turn on your camera or microphone when you aren't using the app.'


Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said Facebook is smart to try to get in front of the rumors and shut them down.


'I think the Facebook Messenger app is pretty innocent. At worst, it's not any more intrusive than any other communication application,' Olds said. 'What this hubbub really shows is how easy it is to stir up the villagers into a torch-lit mob with a single poorly-thought-out piece.'


Olds added that he hopes Facebook can quell the rumors and calm its users.


Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he believes Facebook's efforts will work.


'I think people will start using Messenger,' he noted. 'The fact is that for most Facebook users, the Facebook directory is the most complete one of all the apps they use, so Facebook Messenger is the easiest way to stay in touch with your community.'



Sapphire's Durability Put to the Test Head

Repair experts at uBreakiFix have examined the impact resistance, scratch resistance and strength of sapphire glass in a series of tests that were published today. The tests were designed to determine whether sapphire is suitable for use as a smartphone display.



The repair technicians conducted three different tests -- a scratch resistance comparison using a tungsten carbide drill bit, a drop test with the sapphire display of the newly released Kyocera Brigadier, and a a four-point bend test to compare the failure stress and strain of sapphire glass with that of Gorilla Glass.


The results of uBreakiFix's tests show that sapphire is significantly more scratch resistant and 25 percent stronger than Gorilla Glass, but it is much more susceptible to impacts due to its brittleness. The glass is so brittle that it shattered the first time it was dropped face down from a height of only three feet. The technicians conclude that sapphire does not necessarily offer any advantage over Gorilla Glass, as the material's superior scratch resistance and strength is offset by its low impact resistance. Phone manufacturers that include a sapphire display may choose to employ other protective measures such as a raised bezel to help protect the phone during impact with other surfaces.

Apple is partnering with GT Advanced Technologies to produce sapphire for use in future products. The exact details on how Apple will use the material is not known, but the company is rumored to be using sapphire as a display cover in future iPhone models and possibly its iWatch wearable product.


US Open Tennis: 7 Technologies Power Game, Set, Match


The US Open upgrades its tech for 2014 with new data sets, improved analytics, and immersive mobile apps backed by IBM predictive cloud infrastructure.


Mobile, social, analytics, and cloud technologies have been part of the United States Tennis Association's game for some time, but, working with tech partner IBM, it's upping the ante for the 2014 US Open tennis tournament.



New mobile and social apps, big data sets, improved analytics, and predictive cloud infrastructure are among the capabilities USTA and IBM are bringing to this year's end-of-summer tourney. IBM also sponsors and provides the technology behind the three other big tournaments that make up the professional tennis Grand Slam: The Australian Open, The French Open, and Wimbledon. But each tournament has its own host organization, character, and tech-support needs.


As an example, IBM worked with USTA to develop a Trendcast social app that's unique to the US Open. The Web and mobile app aggregates and filters social media comments about the tournament, identifies key trends, tries to engage fans in the conversation, and provides a sponsorship opportunity for the USTA.


'Sponsorships are critical for the US Open, but they are less important at Wimbledon, where it's more about enjoying tennis in an English garden,' said John Kent, program manager of IBM Worldwide Sponsorship Marketing. USTA is a nonprofit organization that relies on the US Open as its primary funding source for tennis promotion and youth tennis programs in the US, whereas Wimbledon is run by the charitable arm of The All England Lawn Tennis Club.


IBM's SlamTracker match statistical-analysis app is used by all four Grand Slam tournaments, but this year's US Open version features an autopilot mode that pushes a steady stream of point-by-point insights during the course of a match.


'What's nice about the design of the new SlamTracker app is that it speaks to the more casual fan as well as avid fans who know exactly what stats they're looking for,' said Nicole Jeter West, USTA's senior director of ticketing and digital strategy.


New data sets, including ball and player position data, have added SlamTracker data visualizations for 2014, so in addition to stats such as forced and unforced errors, first services, and successful returns, fans can now see a serve-depth chart and corresponding percentages on winning and losing points.


Other nuances of the US Open 2014 tournament include IBM Watson Foundation technologies operating behind the scenes, predicting and constantly reforecasting site traffic loads so the tournament site never goes down even as Web and mobile visits fuel traffic spikes during the height of the tournament. Read on to see the new apps, new data visualizations, and fresh capabilities behind US Open 2014.


Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio


What New Sony Product Could Be just 6.4mm Thin?


In early 2011 I attended a secret meeting with Sony Ericsson. They were revealing their new Xperia Android handsets and I was able to play with them learn about their new features. At the time, HTC and Samsung were preparing their '11 flagships and we knew they'd have dual core processors. None of the Sony Ericsson handsets could match the HTC or Samsung specification, but when I handled the Xperia Arc you'd think the representative had just given me a box of kittens: I was smitten. The Arc was thin, had an interesting design, an amazing camera, beautiful screen and clean interface. It was the first Android 'phone that I would hold in my hand and admire.


In late 2011, Sony bought out the Ericsson share of Sony Ericsson and began to reimagine themselves as just Sony. 2012 saw the first of the Sony-branded products emerge using NXT design language, the Xperia S, but Sony had the excuse that it was made together with Sony Ericsson. I couldn't argue with the Xperia S on paper but it didn't feel as nice to handle as my cherished Xperia Arc. Sony and James Bond released the Xperia T six months later, which had design elements borrowed from the Arc plus it was one of the first handsets with a high speed 3G DC-HSPA radio. Unfortunately, it didn't have the same character. I bought one and my Uncle inherited it. He loves it!


Things started to turn around with the Xperia Z, released in early 2013. Here was a thin, flat slab of water-resistant smartphone with fine internals. The Xperia Z Tablet appeared, a beautifully made thin glass slate. We also saw one of my favourite 2013 devices, the Sony Z Ultra. Six months later the Xperia Z1 appeared with a similar design but boosted internals, followed by the Z1 Compact and Z1 Tablet. And six months later, the Xperia Z2 smartphone and Xperia Z2 Tablet appeared. Sony are on a roll with their aggressive six month flagship refresh policy.


IFA is right around the corner. Sony are announcing new products and are teasing the media too. Odds on are that we'll see a new Xperia Z3, perhaps a Z3 Compact and a Z3 Tablet Compact. The teaser image below was Tweeted asking us to guess the final dimension of a new product. That thickness of 6.4mm matches the Z2 Tablet, so logically we're going to see another amazingly thin tablet from Sony, right? Perhaps the smart money is going for the Z3 Tablet Compact, which is rumoured to be an 8-inch screen. The trouble with this is that 124mm is a little on the short size: the original Nexus 7 was 120mm wide and although the bezels weren't the thinnest, it's difficult to imagine how an 8-inch tablet is going to fit.


Maybe Sony will surprise us. Perhaps we'll be seeing a newer version of the Z Ultra?



This entry was posted in Android Manufacturer News, Android News.


About the author:


Google Prepares to Compete With Amazon Over the Drone Business

Now to a different race involving drones and the competition pong some of the world's tech giants to deliver products straight to your door in a whole new way. Check out this video from Google. Hot on... See More


California Requires Steering Wheel For Google Cars

Autonomous Cars




Dmitri Dolgov, one of the leading software engineers on the Google autonomous car project, told Reuters earlier this week that the cars had been reprogrammed to allow them to exceed the posted speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. The change was made to allow the car to keep up with the driver operated cars around them, which are normally driven about 10 miles an hour above the posted limit. He said it was a matter of safety.


Ask any traffic engineer and you will find that speed is not the biggest factor in car accidents. It is the difference in speed that is dangerous. In other words, a car going 10 mph too slow is just as dangerous as one going 10 mph too fast.


But the State of California has reacted immediately, with new rules requiring any autonomous car operated within its borders to have a steering wheel, a brake pedal and an accelerator, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Google Car has none of these old fashioned devices, but will now be retrofitted with them to comply with the new rules.


On one hand, you can understand the concern of California officials. How would it look if a Google Car suddenly ran amok, like Hal in the movie '2001 - A Space Odyssey,' mowing down innocent women and children? Oh, the humanity!


On the other hand, a few years from now people will think of this as an example of techno-phobia. It reminds me that at the dawn of the motorcar, many cities required a person to walk in front of any horseless carriage ringing a bell to warn the populace of danger.


The bureaucratic mind is almost as scary as self driving cars. Maybe more so.



About the Author


Steve Hanley I have been a car nut since the days when articles by John R. Bond and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. I know every nut, bolt and bullet connector on an MGB from 20 years of ownership. I now drive a 94 Miata for fun and the occasional HPDE track day. If it moves on wheels, I am interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.


There's Still One Major Problem With Google's Self


While the idea of simply hopping into a car, pressing a button, and arriving at your destination sounds enticing, we're still far away from that type of simplicity.


Google has been showing off its new self-driving car models for the past several months, but there are still many unanswered questions when it comes to safety.


Although Google's self-driving cars have successfully driven more than 700,000 miles, mistakes on maps and unmapped areas can pose a big problem, as MIT Technology Review points out.


For example, MIT notes that if a self-driving car enountered a new traffic light that wasn't accounted for on a map, that car could potentially run the red light if there are no cars or pedestrians around.


Not only is this dangerous, but it could result in tickets and traffic citations for the owner of the car.


Chris Urmson, director of Google's car team, told MIT that the company is addressing the issue but didn't elaborate on how.


So far, maps have only been designed to handle a few thousand miles of roadway. Google would have to maintain and update millions of miles of roads across the country to truly make autonomous vehicles safe enough for everyday use.


Some officials may not be aware that these issues even exist. Bernard Soriano, the California DMV official responsible for autonomous vehicles in the state, told MIT that he wasn't aware Google's self-driving cars couldn't handle intersections and traffic lights that weren't mapped.


That's not to say there isn't a future for driverless vehicles. Once Google works out the kinks, driverless cars could easily prevent accidents caused by drunk driving. They could also potentially serve as a more flexible travel option for the visually impaired.


But there's no telling how long it will be until the technology is safe enough to become part of our everyday lives.


Refrain from posting comments that are obscene, libellous, slanderous or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks, name calling or inciting hatred against any community. Let's work together to keep the conversation civil.


Instagram briefly unreachable for some

Instagram, Facebook's popular photo sharing service, had a hiccup Thursday.


Nick Statt/CNET


It's rare, but it does happen: Instagram, the popular photo sharing service from Facebook, was briefly unreachable for some users on Thursday.


While this could be the case of a fat-fingered mistake by a programmer or an unexpectedly failed server, it also comes just days after the company unveiled a new app called Hyperlapse. The app, which is currently only available for devices made by Apple, helps users to take better looking time-lapsed videos.


Instagram's team sent a tweet acknowledging the issue and assuring users they're working on a fix.


Of course, the nature of the Internet is that some services and websites just do go offline from time to time.


Sometimes breathless coverage of such instances is often mocked by social media watchers. But it also serves as a good reminder that normal people use these services every day. Earlier this month, the last time Facebook suffered an outage, emergency response centers received calls from angry users. The calls got so bad that a Los Angeles County Sheriff issued a statement on Twitter, informing the public they didn't know when the service would go back online either.


RIP, MSN Messenger: Microsoft Kills Old


In news that is sure to make you feel old, Microsoft is officially killing its 15-year-old instant messaging program.


Windows Live Messenger - formerly MSN Messenger- will soon go the way of Friendster, Google Reader and Facebook Poke.


Microsoft first announced it would be closing Windows Live and pushing users over to Skype in 2012, but the service had stuck around in China - until now.


Microsoft began alerting Chinese users of Windows Live's imminent shutdown Thursday, and told users they would need to switch to Skype by October 31. The tech giant also promised free Skype credit to those who did, according to the BBC.


MSN Messenger first launched in 1999 as Microsoft's answer to the then-popular AOL Instant Messenger. Like so many messaging apps before and since, it started off simple, with basic IM functionality - but soon expanded with new features such as photo messaging, video chatting, games and much-loved emoji.


Following news of the closure, MSN Messenger alums took to Twitter to eulogize the instant messaging client that once ruled dial-up Internet.


MSN Messenger is shutting down at the end of October. Oh the memories


- l3ahpar (@l3ahpar) August 29, 2014


My favourite thing to do on MSN Messenger was appear offline until my crush logged on and then SERENDIPITOUSLY appear online a minute later.


- Rega Jha (@RegaJha) August 29, 2014


I had no idea MSN Messenger was ceasing to exist now, RIP to the good old days!


- Paul Smith (@PaulSmithhhhh) August 29, 2014


RIP MSN messenger


- paatt (@PattTanner10) August 29, 2014


Though the messaging platform currently has relatively few users, its official closure marks the end of an era, of sorts, for many millennials who came of age while chatting on MSN.


The BBC's Dave Lee waxed nostalgic in his obituary to MSN Messenger:


It touched the lives of millions of teenagers who, in an age before real social networking, were just getting accustomed to what it was like to live on the internet.


MSN Messenger heralded a new era: a time when chatting up a classmate no longer meant the terrifying prospect of actually having to say something to them.


It meant no longer would young teens have to endure the torture of ringing the landline number of their newest crush - knowing there was a high probability that dad would pick up.


Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Hyperlapse For iPhone Will Revolutionize Wildlife Films

Flowers of European ivy (CC BY-SA 2.0: Albert Bridge / Wikimedia)

As a biologist, my first thought after hearing about Hyperlapse - Instagram's new app for making time-lapse movies - was this: nature videos.


Hyperlapse records a film and shows frames at intervals so it looks like time has elapsed quickly. The app is simple to use. Tap a button to start and stop recording, swipe a slider to set the playback speed (up to x12 normal) then tap to save the clip to your phone and/or share it on Facebook or Instagram.


The promotional trailer focuses on how the app can be used to document our daily lives. But who wants to watch boring, self-obsessed humans? At 30 seconds into the trailer, you see seagulls on a beach, hinting at a far more interesting use for Hyperlapse - capturing wildlife.


I don't normally quote poetry, but time-lapse wildlife clips made me think of 'Leisure' by Welsh writer (and former hobo) WH Davies. Here's the first half of the poem:


What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.


We'll watch YouTube videos of cats doing cute and funny things for a few minutes (yeah, okay, hours), but rarely make time in our busy lives to stare at creatures going about their business in our own backyards - raccoons and foxes raiding garbage cans, birds feeding chicks, squirrels hiding their nuts.


Whereas detecting rapid movements is limited by the speed of our visual system, appreciating the slower things in life is limited by our attention span. Hyperlapse could help us better understand the bustling world around us by condensing the behaviour of animals and plants into short, easy-to-watch videos.


Filming time-lapse movies is also less hassle than the hours it might take a professional wildlife filmmaker to set-up expensive equipment. Simply pull out your smartphone and tap to start recording.


Hyperlapse does more than simply pull together film frames though, it actually captures motion time-lapse video using stabilisation technology. Record while moving and the app corrects for the shaky-cam effect.


Few would sit through a half-hour home movie of dolphins following your boat while on holiday, but speed it up x12 and people might happily spend 2 minutes 30 seconds watching the mammals as they repeatedly leap from the water.


Applications And Limitations

The potential number of time-lapse videos is enormous. For now, Hyperlapse is only available for iOS devices, which limits its user base to (at most) Apple's 12% market share for smartphones. Once the app becomes available for Android, you can add another 85%.


As well as creating millions of amateur wildlife filmmakers, biologists will gain an army of voluntary field assistants. Their time-lapse videos might even offer researchers new insights into animal and plant behaviour. In both cases, it won't be long before we see crowdsourced science and movie projects.


But there are limitations to filming nature's movements. Hyperlapse only captures up to 45 minutes of footage on an iPhone 5 (or 10 minutes on an iPhone 4). And even if you could record for longer, the length of videos is restricted by a phone's battery life or memory size. (Although Hyperlapse can be used on iPad too, I suspect that a squirrel would be more likely to notice you trying to film the location of their secret stash if you whip out a 10-inch tablet.)


While you won't be able to record your house plant growing, you could film its petals as they unfold. Flower opening can be quick: a mere five minutes in European Ivy, for example, or a 30-second time-lapse clip.


It's Hyperlapse's simplicity that will make it successful. One reason why Instagram became so popular is that users don't need to worry too much about composition or lighting - Instagram's filters create a good-looking photo. Hyperlapse saves people the hassle of pushing a recorded clip through another app. And it's free.


The most annoying missing feature in the app is that it currently doesn't give the option of saving both the original and time-lapsed video. It's one or the other. That might limit a clip's usefulness in science because if a researcher wanted to slow-down a video to normal speed to study something in detail, there would be few frames to study. Nonetheless, it's still better than the technology that's often used, webcams that periodically take pictures.


Phone, Camera, Action!

I hope that recording time-lapse nature videos becomes a new hobby for everyone, just like amateur wildlife photography.


This post, then, is a call to action: tag your clips with #hyperlife and I'll retweet them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's a video to inspire you:


JV Chamary is a biologist and writer - follow him on Google+ and Twitter

As relaunch hype subsides, will Foursquare survive?

Foursquare may be in trouble.


When Foursquare relaunched its self-titled app, the company managed to halt the long downward spiral it had seen on the app store charts since last year. But we cautioned at the time that the spike might not last. And it didn't.


Judging from app store metrics alone, Foursquare is back where it started; post-relaunch, the app peaked at #385 overall in the U.S. App Store - #448 in the Google Play store - and has since fallen to pre-launch levels: #1214 overall in the U.S. on iOS and out of the top 500 on Android, according to data from app tracking site App Annie.


Among U.S. travel apps, Foursquare peaked at #17 and now ranks #38 on iOS and dropped from #21 to #30 on Android.


Foursquare's new check-in app, Swarm, has met roughly the same fate; it currently ranks #997 overall in the U.S. App Store and is out of the top #500 in the Google Play store. At its peak, the app ranked #11 on iOS and #84 on Android. That's a frightening decline.


Without access to Foursquare's internal dashboard, it's quite difficult to understand exactly how sticky Foursquare's apps are. Google Trend data reinforces the idea that interest in Foursquare may be on the decline despite a relaunch, but this data is in no way definitive.


App Store ratings suggest users are somewhat happier with Foursquare today than they were a month ago. Prior to its relaunch, Foursquare users were furious with the upcoming changes and rated the app 1.5 stars in the App Store. The app now carries a 2.5-star rating.


What does Foursquare say?

Foursquare claims that it intended to target existing users with this initial relaunch and hints that a larger outreach plan is in the works. 'In the coming months [there will be] more consumer marketing efforts from Foursquare as we shift more of our focus to acquiring new users,' a Foursquare spokesperson told VentureBeat.


Official statistics that the company provided to VentureBeat paint a more optimistic picture. Foursquare claims its has migrated over 80 percent of its users to the new apps and that its users have added 7 million tips (i.e.: reviews of local businesses) this month. 'On our first day,' a Foursquare spokesperson told us three weeks ago, 'we had five times as many tips as our best day ever.'


Foursquare also says its users have added 40 million 'tastes,' the company's name for user-selected tags, which help fine-tune Foursquare's recommendation algorithm, since relaunch.


Foursquare has predictably kept numerous key metrics hidden, such as user-base growth, session times, daily active users, and revenue. Without that data, it's impossible to accurately predict Foursquare's fate. However, the data we have access to does not inspire a lot of confidence in Foursquare's future.


Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile app analytics. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.


California Requires Steering Wheel For Google Cars

Autonomous Cars




Dmitri Dolgov, one of the leading software engineers on the Google autonomous car project, told Reuters earlier this week that the cars had been reprogrammed to allow them to exceed the posted speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. The change was made to allow the car to keep up with the driver operated cars around them, which are normally driven about 10 miles an hour above the posted limit. He said it was a matter of safety.


Ask any traffic engineer and you will find that speed is not the biggest factor in car accidents. It is the difference in speed that is dangerous. In other words, a car going 10 mph too slow is just as dangerous as one going 10 mph too fast.


But the State of California has reacted immediately, with new rules requiring any autonomous car operated within its borders to have a steering wheel, a brake pedal and an accelerator, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Google Car has none of these old fashioned devices, but will now be retrofitted with them to comply with the new rules.


On one hand, you can understand the concern of California officials. How would it look if a Google Car suddenly ran amok, like Hal in the movie '2001 - A Space Odyssey,' mowing down innocent women and children? Oh, the humanity!


On the other hand, a few years from now people will think of this as an example of techno-phobia. It reminds me that at the dawn of the motorcar, many cities required a person to walk in front of any horseless carriage ringing a bell to warn the populace of danger.


The bureaucratic mind is almost as scary as self driving cars. Maybe more so.



About the Author


Steve Hanley I have been a car nut since the days when articles by John R. Bond and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. I know every nut, bolt and bullet connector on an MGB from 20 years of ownership. I now drive a 94 Miata for fun and the occasional HPDE track day. If it moves on wheels, I am interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.


Obama CTO Todd Park to be replaced by... Megan Smith?


Obamacare savior gets new role in Silly Valley

The White House's so-called chief technology officer is leaving. Todd Y. Park is going back to California, to spend more time with his family -- The President has plans for him there, too (he's not going to Chicago).


But who will fill his shoes? We bring news of three possible replacements.


In IT Blogwatch, bloggers lead a dirigible. Not to mention: If you don't know about Chicago...


Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.


If it keeps on raining, Steven Levy's gonna break (the news): [Groan -Ed.]


The White House confirmed today the rumors that Todd Park, the nation's [CTO] and the spiritual leader of its effort to reform the way the government uses technology, is leaving his post. ... He's moving back to the Bay Area he left when he began working for...Obama in 2009. ... Starting in September, he's assuming a new post...technology adviser to the White House...bringing a Silicon Valley sensibility to the public sector. ... America needs [it] badly. ... Achievements that Internet companies seem to pull off effortlessly-innovative, easy-to-use services embraced by hundreds of millions of people-are tougher than Mars probes for federal agencies to execute. ... Park knows the problem is systemic-a mindset that locks federal IT into obsolete practices...rooted in caution...and adherence to bureaucratic procedure...that doesn't just hamper innovation, it leaves government IT...unable to perform even the most basic functions. MORE

And Julian Hattem will have no place to stay:


Park will be responsible for bringing experienced programmers, innovators and developers into the fold to make government run more efficiently, the administration said. ... The move brings Park back to his home in Silicon Valley...in time for his children to start school [there]. Park is just the second person to hold the title of U.S. [CTO.] He rose to prominence by helping to fix the ObamaCare website after its disastrous rollout. MORE

But who could replace him? Mean ol' Brad Stone and Brian Womack taught me to weep and moan:


Google Inc. executive Megan Smith...ho was most recently a vice president at Google's X lab, is a top candidate...according to people with knowledge of the matter. ... Courtney Hohne, a spokeswoman at Mountain View, California-based Google, declined to comment. A White House official declined to comment and Smith didn't return requests for comment. ... Smith...oversaw many of [Google's] most important acquisitions, like Keyhole, the service that underlies Google Earth. She has led...Google.org, and served as a co-host for Google's Solve for X forum. ... Before joining Google, Smith was chief executive officer of Planet Out, a site for gay and lesbian [people]. MORE

Got what it takes to make Verne Kopytoff leave his home, Dan Primack? Oh well: [You're fired -Ed.]


U.S. chief technology officer, as the role is informally known, oversees the federal government's use of technology to create jobs, reduce costs and spur economic growth. Some refer to it as the White House's geek-in-residence. ... Google X [is] a skunk works of futuristic projects including self-driving cars, Internet-connected eye glasses and high altitude balloons that provide wireless Internet. ... In addition to Smith, the White House is considering Alex Macgillvray, a former executive at Twitter and Google, according to sources. ... A third finalist is also on the shortlist. MORE

Meanwhile, it don't make John Lilly feel bad:


We all owe [Todd] huge thanks. Profound changes from his time in DC. Huge hero of mine and incredible guy. MORE

And Finally... When the levée breaks, mamma, you got to move



Google exec Megan Smith is top contender to be US Chief Technology Officer


According to unidentified sources familiar with the developments at the White House, longtime Google executive Megan Smith, 49, is the top contender to be the US' next Chief Technology Officer --- a role created by President Barack Obama.


As per the sources, Smith is likely to succeed Todd Park who has recently resigned as the Chief Technology Officer. Park - who has had a two-year stint as the Chief Technology Officer - was preceded by Aneesh Chopra, the first person to be appointed for the job, which largely involves overseeing technology use by the federal government to create jobs, reducing costs, and spurring economic growth.


Smith, who is reportedly the finalist contender for the Chief Technology Officer's post after Park's resignation, is currently the Vice President of the Google X division --- the company's skunk works of futuristic projects like Google Glass and driverless cars, among others.


Sources have revealed that, other than Smith, there are two other finalists - one of them being Alex Macgillvray, a former executive at Twitter and Google - who are being considered by the White House for appointment as the next Chief technology Officer.


Meanwhile, about Park's contribution as the Chief Technology Officer, President Obama said in a statement: 'I thank Todd for his service as my chief technology officer, and look forward to his continuing to help us deploy the best people and ideas from the tech community in service of the American people.'


Hyperlapse For iPhone Will Revolutionize Wildlife Films

Flowers of European ivy (CC BY-SA 2.0: Albert Bridge / Wikimedia)

As a biologist, my first thought after hearing about Hyperlapse - Instagram's new app for making time-lapse movies - was this: nature videos.


Hyperlapse records a film and shows frames at intervals so it looks like time has elapsed quickly. The app is simple to use. Tap a button to start and stop recording, swipe a slider to set the playback speed (up to x12 normal) then tap to save the clip to your phone and/or share it on Facebook or Instagram.


The promotional trailer focuses on how the app can be used to document our daily lives. But who wants to watch boring, self-obsessed humans? At 30 seconds into the trailer, you see seagulls on a beach, hinting at a far more interesting use for Hyperlapse - capturing wildlife.


I don't normally quote poetry, but time-lapse wildlife clips made me think of 'Leisure' by Welsh writer (and former hobo) WH Davies. Here's the first half of the poem:


What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.


We'll watch YouTube videos of cats doing cute and funny things for a few minutes (yeah, okay, hours), but rarely make time in our busy lives to stare at creatures going about their business in our own backyards - raccoons and foxes raiding garbage cans, birds feeding chicks, squirrels hiding their nuts.


Whereas detecting rapid movements is limited by the speed of our visual system, appreciating the slower things in life is limited by our attention span. Hyperlapse could help us better understand the bustling world around us by condensing the behaviour of animals and plants into short, easy-to-watch videos.


Filming time-lapse movies is also less hassle than the hours it might take a professional wildlife filmmaker to set-up expensive equipment. Simply pull out your smartphone and tap to start recording.


Hyperlapse does more than simply pull together film frames though, it actually captures motion time-lapse video using stabilisation technology. Record while moving and the app corrects for the shaky-cam effect.


Few would sit through a half-hour home movie of dolphins following your boat while on holiday, but speed it up x12 and people might happily spend 2 minutes 30 seconds watching the mammals as they repeatedly leap from the water.


Applications And Limitations

The potential number of time-lapse videos is enormous. For now, Hyperlapse is only available for iOS devices, which limits its user base to (at most) Apple's 12% market share for smartphones. Once the app becomes available for Android, you can add another 85%.


As well as creating millions of amateur wildlife filmmakers, biologists will gain an army of voluntary field assistants. Their time-lapse videos might even offer researchers new insights into animal and plant behaviour. In both cases, it won't be long before we see crowdsourced science and movie projects.


But there are limitations to filming nature's movements. Hyperlapse only captures up to 45 minutes of footage on an iPhone 5 (or 10 minutes on an iPhone 4). And even if you could record for longer, the length of videos is restricted by a phone's battery life or memory size. (Although Hyperlapse can be used on iPad too, I suspect that a squirrel would be more likely to notice you trying to film the location of their secret stash if you whip out a 10-inch tablet.)


While you won't be able to record your house plant growing, you could film its petals as they unfold. Flower opening can be quick: a mere five minutes in European Ivy, for example, or a 30-second time-lapse clip.


It's Hyperlapse's simplicity that will make it successful. One reason why Instagram became so popular is that users don't need to worry too much about composition or lighting - Instagram's filters create a good-looking photo. Hyperlapse saves people the hassle of pushing a recorded clip through another app. And it's free.


The most annoying missing feature in the app is that it currently doesn't give the option of saving both the original and time-lapsed video. It's one or the other. That might limit a clip's usefulness in science because if a researcher wanted to slow-down a video to normal speed to study something in detail, there would be few frames to study. Nonetheless, it's still better than the technology that's often used, webcams that periodically take pictures.


Phone, Camera, Action!

I hope that recording time-lapse nature videos becomes a new hobby for everyone, just like amateur wildlife photography.


This post, then, is a call to action: tag your clips with #hyperlife and I'll retweet them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's a video to inspire you:


JV Chamary is a biologist and writer - follow him on Google+ and Twitter

Facebook tests feature allowing search through old posts by keyword


PanARMENIAN.Net - Facebook is testing a feature for its mobile application that lets people search through old posts from friends by keyword, a move that makes it easier to resurface content that may otherwise be buried, Bloomberg reported.


The tool, which is only available to some members of the world's biggest social network, lets mobile users see any content that was previously available to them through friends or pages they followed.


Facebook said in an e-mailed statement that the feature is 'an improvement to search on mobile.'


The Menlo Park, California-based company has in the past dealt with privacy questions for highlighting content that users anticipated would be harder to find. In response, Facebook is giving users more control over their settings and this year added options for members to find out why they are served certain ads, among other updates.


Still, Facebook continues to grapple with consumer doubts about how it treats data, especially with its mobile products. Facebook's Messenger application gets a one-star rating in Apple Inc.'s app store, partly because of customer skepticism about how the social network will enact its terms of service.


Facebook is running the test of the new feature on mobile devices as it continues to roll out its Graph Search product to smartphones and tablet computers. Graph Search lets users find friends' likes and connections, with queries such as, 'my friends who like Japanese food.'


On harder-to-navigate mobile devices, the tool may help people get more out of the application. For example, they can type in keywords like 'graduation party Christina Jones' to quickly find posts from that friend about the party, according to Bloomberg.


Consumers pick Galaxy Tab S over iPad Air (in Samsung ad)

Samsung/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The glory of the finest comparison ads is how they find the very people who prefer the product from the company that's paying for the comparison ad.


It's an art form. And a new Samsung ad is a marvelous example.


We are on the unforgiving streets of New York. Here, all you have are the opinions of those who know they're right.


Their IQ may be dwarfed by their self-worth coefficient, but they are the arbiters of everything that is cool and great.


In this ad, a handsome young man approaches other handsome young people and asks them about the Galaxy Tab S. Astonishingly, they independently gush.


It's so light. 'It takes up, like, no space,' says one young, tall, ginger-haired man.


'Samsung makes the best screens in the world,' says a young woman, who clearly knows her pixels.


But then our handsome young presenter asks more handsome young New Yorkers to compare the Galaxy Tab S to the iPad Air.


You might expect a little contention. This is New York. People like to argue.


Alas, no. The more people compare the two tablets, the more they realize the iPad Air is like a grandparent's surgical sock when compared to the Louboutin that is the Galaxy Tab S.


True, those who know about these things say that the Tab S is an excellent product.


But how can you not marvel at the handsome young woman who says that it's 'definitely better than our iPad'? No, she doesn't say which iPad she has, but does that matter?


The Galaxy Tab S is preferred by 100 percent of New Yorkers.


Or, at least, of those New Yorkers who were interviewed by Samsung's handsome young man and made the cut.


Nintendo Debuts 'New' 3DS, 3DS XL


Nintendo used today's Nintendo Direct for Japan to unveil some major updates to its 3DS lineup.


The new Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL (known as 3DS LL in Japan) include faster chips and longer battery life, not to mention a new analog stick and NFC support, among other things.


As PCMag sister site Geek.com pointed out, the new analog stick drops the need for add-ons like the Circle Pad Pro. Meanwhile, in a throwback to old-school gamers, the face buttons have been jazzed up with colors to match the Super Nintendo controllers of yore. There are also two more shoulder buttons.


The company also added NFC support to the bottom screen, which will tie in nicely with Nintendo's amiibo figurines. In conjunction with the new 3DS announcement, Nintendo also said the first 12 amiibos are available now to pre-order for $12.99 each. The first dozen characters include Mario, Peach, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Kirby, Fox, Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer. Users' amiibo will store game data, so when you touch your miniature friend to a Nintendo device, character data is downloaded into the game you're playing—or vice versa.


According to Geek.com, the 3DS upper display is now 3.88 inches, up from 3.53, while the 3DS XL stays the same.


Perhaps most notably, the 3D function has been enhanced, allowing users to better view all three dimensions on the handheld gaming machine. And according to Geek, the 3D panel now works in tandem with the front-facing camera, eliminating blurry perspective breaks. You can also adjust brightness to preserve battery life.


According to Kotaku, the new handhelds will arrive in Japan on Oct. 11. Nintendo did not mention a U.S. release date, but said the new 3DS devices will not arrive here in 2014.


Instead, U.S. gamers can focus on Nintendo's holiday game lineup. Super Smash Bros. for Wii launches later this year as the first title with full amiibo integration. Other upcoming games include Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Mario Party 10, and Yoshi's Woolly World.


For more, see PCMag's reviews of the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 3DS XL. Also check out our slideshow of The 10 Best Nintendo 3DS Games above, as well as Nintendo's presentation and IGN's take in the videos below.


Alienware revives the Area 51 desktop with a new look

Dell's Alienware gaming brand is reviving one of its classic desktop lines, with the new Area 51. While it shares a name with the big, boxy, desktop gaming systems of old, this version has an entirely new look and feel, and includes a just-announced high-end processor and chipset from Intel.


The system is built around Intel's new Haswell-E CPU, a late entry to the Haswell generation of CPUs designed to give that fourth-gen Core i-series technology a final boost for enthusiast PC gamers. Intel's Broadwell generation of Core i CPUs won't be around until next year, and the new Core M family is aimed squarely at tablets, hybrids, and ultrabooks, so for now, this is likely to be the marquee processor for gaming desktops. It comes paired with a new motherboard chipset, called X99, that promises to support DDR4 RAM.


Dan Ackerman/CNET The last time we saw the Area 51 line from Alienware was around 2010, and at the time it was an impressive, if dated, black rectangle, with red accent lights and creature-like fins protruding from the top. This new version has a unique three-sided design, which Alienware calls 'triad.' The flat corners of the triad shape allow you to rock the massive chassis back easily and access ports or doors with only one hand. You can also grip two of the handle-like points of the triangle to lift or move the system, which will weigh roughly 45 pounds.


Both side panels are removable, offering access to the motherboard, video card slots, and hard drive trays. The Area 51 supports up to three full-width GPUs (both Nvidia and AMD options will be available), up to five hard drives, and the system is designed to support a 1.5K power supply. Running hardware like that can generate a lot of heat, so Alienware says the angled design can allow you to push the chassis up against the wall while still allowing hot air to escape.


Dan Ackerman/CNET Like just about every Alienware laptop or desktop, there is an entire user-controlled light show built in, with nine separate zones, all controlled by the company's AlienFX software.


In our brief eyes-on time with the system, it at least looked different and more sculpted than other gaming desktops, although the traditional market for these systems has been at least partially eroded by better gaming laptops, next-gen living room gaming consoles, and new devices such as Alienware's own Alpha, a small form factor gaming desktop designed for living room use.


Dell says the Area 51 will start shipping in October in the US, and later in the Holiday season globally. The starting price has not been announced, but we expect it to cost a lot.


Intel gives gaming desktops a boost with Haswell

Intel Much of the talk about upcoming PCs revolves around the next generation of processors from Intel. Codenamed Broadwell, those chips include the next generation of Core i-series CPUs, expected in products next year, and a new line for slim, low-power devices, called Core M, expected in late-2014 products.


But before we get to any of that, Intel's current generation of Haswell CPUs, also known as fourth-generation Core i-series chips, has one more trick up its sleeve. The Haswell-E line is a collection of high-end Core i7 CPUs for desktop computers, including the new Alienware Area 51, also announced today.


Haswell-E is Intel's first eight-core desktop processor (a six-core version will also be available). It pairs with Intel's new X99 motherboard chipset, which supports newer DDR4 RAM and up to four graphics cards.


Intel The flagship CPU in the line is the Core i7-5960X, a 3.0GHz eight-core/16-thread chip that can turbo up to 3.5GHz. Also available will be the Core i7-5930K and the Core i7-5820K, both of which are six-core/12-thread chips.


Intel says the performance of the top-end chip over its predecessor, the Core i7-4960X, is up to 20 percent faster at 4K video editing and 32 percent faster in 3D rendering. This is also the first Intel desktop platform that natively supports Thunderbolt 2 connections for fast connectivity and data transfer, especially important with the growth of 4K video.


Most of the major gaming desktop makers are expected to offer Haswell-E systems starting from the end of August, including Maingear, Falcon Northwest, Velocity Micro, and Origin PC. We've already gotten a chance to see one very distinct new system in action, the pyramid-shaped Alienware Area 51. While this new hardware may give the desktop gaming market a boost, we've seen a major shift to gaming laptops in the past year, and high interest in alternative forms of PC gaming, such as Valve's Steam Machine concept.


The new Haswell-E Core i7 CPUs will be available immediately, and cost from $390 to $1,000.


Rumors About NFC on iPhone Begin Anew


One of the more persistent rumors that crop up ahead of every iPhone launch is that Apple's next-gen phone will support near-field communication.


In 2010, Apple hired an NFC developer. The following year, there were reports about NFC on what would become the iPhone 4s, and again in 2012. Oh, and the iPhone 5s was also supposed to include NFC along with that fingerprint scanner.


Thus far, however, Apple has yet to truly embrace NFC, which would let iPhone users pay for things wirelessly with their phones. But Apple iPhone season is upon us once again; invites for a Sept. 9 press event went out yesterday. And, not surprisingly, the NFC on iPhone rumors have returned.


According to The Financial Times, Apple has teamed up with Dutch chipmaker NXP to create an NFC solution for iPhone. According to the paper, NXP will supply the chip that will make NFC possible in the iPhone, bringing Apple's smartphone in line with its rivals when it comes to mobile payments.


As The Financial Times pointed out, this would not be the first time Apple has worked with NXP. A ChipWorks teardown of the iPhone 5's Lightning cable revealed an NXP chip, and it's also a part of the Apple A7 mobile chip.


So, can we expect to finally get NFC at Apple's Sept. 9 event? We'll have to wait and see, though well-known leaker Sonny Dickson seems to think the rumors are true.


The rumor of Apple working with Dutch chipmaker NXP is true!


- Sonny Dickson (@SonnyDickson) August 29, 2014

10 awesome things you didn't know your phone could do


You've had your smartphone for a while. But let's face it: you've never read the manual. You take great pride in the fact you know how to use it. Then, it happens.


You see someone do something extraordinary with his or her phone that you did not know was even possible. Friends don't let friends have smartphone skill envy. Here are some of my favorite secrets buried in your phone settings that you probably don't know, but will use now.


Quick note: There are so many versions of Android out there that these instructions won't work for every phone. Where I can I've included apps that do the same thing.


1. Take a screenshot


Have you ever wanted to capture something on your phone's screen? Maybe it's a hilarious text from a friend, an interesting Facebook post, or you want to send someone an image to show them how to do something.


iPhone


Press and hold the Home button along with the Sleep/Wake button. You should hear a shutter click. The screenshot will appear in your Camera Roll or Saved Photos section.


Android


Hold the Power and Volume Down buttons at the same time. The image is saved to the 'Captured Images' folder in your Gallery app. That only works in Android 4.0 and higher, though. For Android 3.0, 2.3 or earlier, use an app like AirDroid.


2. Block calls and texts


Have you ever had someone who just won't stop calling or texting you, even after you asked nicely? Here's how to block them.


iPhone


To block calls on an iPhone with iOS 7 or later, open the Phone or FaceTime app. If the person is already a contact, tap their name, scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Block This Caller. Then tap Block Contact.


If the person isn't a contact, tap the Info button, then scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Block this Caller. Then tap Block Contact.


If you want to block texts, open the Messages app and tap a message from the person you want to block. Tap Contact in the upper right and then tap the Info button. Scroll to the bottom and tap Block this Caller. Then tap Block Contact.


You can edit your blocked contacts later at these locations:


Settings>>Phone>>Blocked


Settings>>Messages>>Blocked


Settings>>FaceTime>>Blocked


Android


On Android, go to Settings>>Call settings>>Call block. Under 'Incoming calls' tap 'Call block list' and then tap Create. You can enter a number, or tap the picture icon to find the number in your Contacts list or in your call logs.


If you don't see these steps or want more blocking options, check out these call- and text-blocking apps.


3. Use a real password


iPhone and Android both default to a 4-digit PIN for unlocking the phone. That's OK as long as you don't use something simple like 0000 or 1234. However, I know some people who want even more security.


iPhone


To set a real password on an iPhone, go to Settings>>Passcode. From there, swipe off the option that says Simple Passcode. Here, you can set your passcode with letters and special characters for better phone security.


Android


Go to Settings>>Lock screen and tap Screen lock. You can set what level of security you want, from a simple swipe to a password. Select Password and type in the password that you want. It should have a mix of letters, numbers and special characters to be really safe.


4. See text easier


Having a hard time reading things on your phone's small screen? Bump up the font size to something a bit easier to see.


iPhone


Go to Settings>>General>>Accessibility and turn on Bold Text and Larger Text. You can choose either one or both, depending on your preferences. You will need to restart your phone for Bold Text to take effect.


Android


Go to Settings>>Accessibility. Under Vision, tap Font size and set it to Large. Some phones include an even larger Huge option.


5. Read things out loud


Want to keep your eyes off your phone for a bit? Have it read things to you out loud.


iPhone


Go to Settings>>General>>Accessibility and turn on VoiceOver. You have the option to practice with VoiceOver, set the speaking rate and more.


You will need to do some playing around to get used to it. For example you can touch and drag your fingers around the home screen to have it read what's there. Double tap to activate an app, while one tap will give you details about it.


VoiceOver will read directions to you in Maps, have your camera tell you how many people are in your shot, and get spoken photo descriptions. You can also hand write notes and letters on the screen and have VoiceOver translate your messages into text for Mail and other apps.


Android


Go to Settings>>Accessibility and tap TalkBack. If you don't see it, you can download it from the Google Play store.


Turn it on and your phone will read whatever you touch on the screen and incoming notifications. Hint: To perform a regular swipe gesture, you have to use two fingers instead of one.


To adjust your TalkBack settings, go to Settings>>Accessibility and tap Text-to-Speech options. You can adjust the voice engine and speed rate.


Then go to Settings and turn on Hands-free mode. This will tell you who is calling or messaging.


6. Customize alert vibration patterns


You've set a custom ringtone for each of your contacts, but that doesn't help when you have your phone on vibrate. Fortunately, you can create custom vibration patterns as well.


iPhone


Go to Settings>>Sounds>>Ringtone>>Vibration. You can tap out patterns to record. Or, you can go into your contacts list and hit Edit and select the Vibration option for each contact.


Android


Go to Contacts and tap on a contact name. Under Vibration Pattern, tap Default and choose a preset pattern. Or tap the Create button and tap on the screen to create your own pattern.


If you don't have this built in, there are third-party apps like Vybe that can do this as well.


7. Flash camera LED for notifications


Need a quiet alert about notifications and don't want to use vibrate? Have notifications trigger your phone's LED camera flash instead. Just make sure you turn this off or keep your phone hidden when you go to the movies.


iPhone


Go to Settings>>General>> Accessibility and turn on 'LED Flash for Alerts.' Now every time you get a notification, your phone's rear camera will flash.


Android


Go to Settings>>Accessibility and turn on 'Flash notification.' If your phone doesn't have this, try an app like Flash Notification 2 from the Google Play store.


8. Better ways to take pictures


Tapping your phone's screen to take a picture sounds good in theory, but in practice it can make shots a little shaky. Here are some better options.


iPhone


Hold your camera in landscape mode and press the Volume Up button on the side.


Android


Open the camera app and tap the gear to see the settings. Scroll down to Voice control and turn it on. Now you can take pictures with the commands, 'Capture,' 'Shoot,' 'Smile' and 'Cheese.'


If your phone doesn't have a built-in camera app with this feature, you'll need a third-party app like Say Cheese.


9. Take multiple pictures at once


If you're taking pictures of a moving object, squirming kid or people who tend to blink, you often want to take a bunch of pictures at once.


iPhone 5s/5c


Open the Camera app. Tap and hold the shutter release button on the screen - or press and hold the Volume Up button - and the camera will start taking multiple pictures. Release the button when you want to stop.


The iPhone can take up to 10 pictures a second. It will group the photos for you automatically so you can quickly find the best ones.


Android


Open the Camera app. Tap the gear icon to open the settings and turn Burst Shot on. Then tap and hold the shutter release button and the phone will take multiple images until you release the button - or it hits the preset limit for your phone. The photos will be grouped for you in your gallery.


If your camera doesn't have this option, you can grab a third-party camera app like Snap Camera HDR, or wait for your phone to get an updated to Android 4.4.


10. Turn off music automatically


A lot of people use their phone to listen to music as they go to sleep, or as they're doing a project. But you don't want it running forever and draining your battery.


iPhone


Go to the Clock app and click on 'Timer,' then 'When Timer Ends.' From here, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen and select 'Stop Playing.'


Android


Open the music player and go to Settings. Look for 'Music auto off' and set it to however long you want the music to play. There are also third-party apps like Sleep Timer available.


Email Kim Komando at techcomments@usatoday.com.


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Nokia: Read our Maps, Samsung – we're HERE for the Gear

Only on the Tizen smartwatch... Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Ostensibly getting Samsung, the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer, to use Nokia's HERE Maps is a huge win.


Unfortunately it's not Samsung throwing Google Maps out of its smartphones but rather a realisation that Google isn't going to rush to port maps to Samsung's home-grown operating system, Tizen.


The 'HERE for Gear' sees the excellent Nokia software running on the new Samsung Gear S smartwatch in the form of an application called Navigator which offers turn-by-turn walk navigation and public transit routing.


The app can be either a stand-alone experience, which includes the ability to store map data locally on the device and use it offline for navigation, directions and search, or it can be paired with the Android version of the map running on a (Samsung) phone so that you can plan and calculate routes for walking and public transit on your phone and then send them to your smartwatch.



The app will be made available for download from the Samsung GALAXY Apps store when the Samsung Gear S hits stores. The Android version offers Glympse, which - like the late lamented Google Latitude - lets you share your location. The Android HERE (beta) offer has Offline Navigation: Turn-by-turn drive or walk guidance without an internet connection for almost 100 countries. It also has public transport maps and directions for more than 750 cities in more than 40 countries available without an internet connection as well as live traffic information for more than 40 countries. ®


5 things you didn't know about cloud backup

Facebook forced to scotch Messenger 'Trojan Horse' rumours


Facebook has been forced to deny that its Messenger app has the ability to commandeer a host smartphone's camera and microphone to observe and listen in on individuals, following the circulation of rumours to that effect.


Stating categorically that such reports 'aren't true' Facebook reiterated that it would always request permission to run features such as making calls and sending photos, videos or voice messages.


In a blog post Peter Martinazzi of the Facebook Messenger Team wrote: 'If you want to send a selfie to a friend, the app needs permission to turn on your phone's camera and capture that photo. We don't turn on your camera or microphone when you aren't using the app.


'We're committed to providing a fast, reliable and fun messaging app that anyone in the world can use to reach the people who matter to them. That's why we're focusing just on Messenger and moving messages out of the Facebook app. People usually respond about 20% faster when they have Messenger, and we think they'll find both apps useful in different ways.


'We hope you'll try out Messenger and enjoy everything else you can do with the app, like chatting with groups and sending stickers.'


Tesla to build China charging network with Unicom


Elon Musk's Tesla Motors Inc said Friday it would partner with China's second-largest mobile phone company, China Unicom, in setting up a nationwide network of charging points for its electric vehicles.


The deal is the company's biggest to date in its efforts to create a support infrastructure for its emission-free cars. It underlines Tesla's reluctance to depend on the vagaries of Chinese government planning for the sector, and its desire to keep control of its own strategy in what should one day be its biggest market.


Bloomberg had reported Thursday that the Chinese government is looking to spend $16 billion in creating a national infrastructure for EVs, as part of its campaign to get 5 million on the roads by 2020 and reduce the pollution that is choking its biggest cities.


The Chinese government is eager to have as many companies as possible producing EVs. But it also likes to have foreign companies partner in China with local ones, and while Tesla has made noises about finding a joint-venture partner, it is reluctant to share the technology which it believes makes it special.


There are few details surrounding the plans as yet, As such, makers of EVs face an uncomfortable choice of relying on a government-financed plan that may end up favoring some makers more than others, or keeping control of their own destiny at the cost of investing more of their own money.


Reuters quoted a Tesla China spokeswoman as saying that the charging service will be free but only available for Tesla vehicles.


Tesla had earlier announced initiatives with real estate developers including Soho China Ltd and China Yintai Holdings to build charging points, but Unicom, with its nationwide chain of retail outlets, is a different scale of partner altogether.


The companies plan to build 400 charging stations at China Unicom outlets in 120 cities, agencies quoted Tesla China spokeswoman Peggy Yang as saying Friday. They'll also build 20 super-charging facilities, which can recharge cars up to 16 times more quickly.


iPhone 6: More bling? Apple's tills: Ka

Sapphire seems to be one of the latest fads for smartphones, thanks to the purported iPhone 6 which is reportedly set to be unveiled on Sept 9 and to come with a sapphire screen.


Chinese phone maker Huawei announced on Tuesday that it would be selling, in limited numbers, a sapphire edition of its 5-inch Ascend P7 smartphone from next month.


Other Chinese handset manufacturers - Xiaomi and Vivo - are mulling over the use of sapphire screens too, going by reports in recent weeks.


This isn't the brilliant blue gemstone we're familiar with, but a colourless man-made version that could be blended with other materials.


Having a gemstone associated with the iPhone is certainly attention grabbing. But do I really need a sapphire screen for my phone?


The sapphire rumour has its roots in the partnership between Apple and sapphire manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies in November.


Sapphire screens are being considered to adorn the pricier models of two iPhones that Apple plans to unveil, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, citing sources.


Why the fascination with sapphire?

According to material-science experts, a sapphire screen is far more scratch-resistant than one made of Gorilla Glass, which is used in many smartphones now, such as the iPhone 5s.


This means putting a sapphire phone in my pocket with my keys won't result in unsightly scratches on the handset's screen. The same can't be said for Gorilla Glass phones.


There have been concerns that sapphire is more expensive to make than Gorilla Glass, which could push up prices of iPhones.


It used to cost US$30 (S$37) to make a sapphire screen, GT told technology blog Pocketnow in April last year. A Gorilla Glass display is cheaper to manufacture at US$3 a screen.


Even so, GT said that, with new technology, it could cost less than US$10 to make a sapphire panel this year.


Any rise in the iPhone 6's price would likely be due to the phone's larger screen size, industry observers have said, with one analyst claiming this could be as much as US$100.


Apple is expected to announce 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhones, which are larger than last year's 4-inch iPhone 5s.


Sapphire has other problems, though.


Gorilla Glass maker Corning and other experts have said that sapphire breaks more easily than Gorilla Glass.


This means there's a higher chance of a cracked display after dropping the sapphire iPhone 6.


Corning said sapphire is also 1.6 times heavier than Gorilla Glass.


Sapphire does not transmit light as well as glass. So, to achieve the same brightness as glass screens, sapphire ones could suck up a phone's battery more quickly, Corning and material-science experts said.


With so many issues, sapphire phone displays seem to be more trouble than they're worth to me.


But, should Apple release an iPhone with a sapphire panel, many consumers will probably still lap up the feature. It's hard to argue against the terrific marketing opportunity to use sapphire to stand out from rivals.


Sapphire displays are not easy to make too, so Apple can certainly claim 'iPhone 6 has our most dazzling screen to date' and go on to extol its engineering marvels.


So, people earning enough dough will have more reason to pull out their new luxe iPhone 6 and flaunt it. Owning a potentially more brittle phone isn't an issue too for these people - they can just buy a new one after dropping it.


But I'm not loaded with cash and can make do with a $2 to $20 screen protector to save my phone from nicks.


kennyc@sph.com.sg Get MyPaper for more stories.

Mikael Hed Steps Down As CEO Of Wavering Angry Birds Maker Rovio, Pekka ...


A changing of the guard at Rovio, the Finalnd-based creator of the catapulting Angry Birds series of casual games that has seen its profit fall by more than half in the last year: its CEO Mikael Hed is stepping down and 'passing the hoodie', in the words of the company, to Pekka Rantala, who most recently has been the CEO of Finnish drinks maker Hartwall but also spent many years with Nokia.


'It has been an amazing ride and in the coming months I will be very happy to pass the hoodie to Pekka Rantala, who will take Rovio to the next level,' Mikael Hed said in a statement. 'Pekka is known to be a great leader with experience building successful global consumer brands. I will continue to play an active role and will support Pekka in any way I can to ensure Rovio's continued success.'


The move comes at a critical time for the company. Although its Angry Birds gaming franchise effectively defined and led the mobile gaming genre for several years, more recently it has been supplanted by a number of other titles and gaming studios. The company still counts Angry Birds in the top 100 paid apps on iOS (number 29) but it's out of the free top 100 ranking these days. At the same time, the company's forays outside of gaming - into animation, lots of merchandising and publishing - have at times proven to be huge business, but ultimately seem unable to sustain the company without the core popularity of the games as a leading force.


In 2013, the most recent year that the company has reported (in April), Rovio reported €156 million ($216 million) in revenue, up from €152.2 million in 2012, but net profit was €26.9 million ($37.2 million), less than half the €55.5 million of net profit reported in 2012.


The handover will be official on January 1, 2015 - although there is already a transition process in place, the company says. Hed is part of the family that founded Rovio, and the company says that its chairman, Kaj Hed, has nominated Mikael to stay on the board of directors and as the chairman of Rovio Animation Studios - one of the many areas where the company has branched away from games in its bid to be the next Disney.


Its first full length animated film is due out in 2016.


Rantala is an interesting choice to succeed Hed as head (excuse the pun). Most immediately, he comes from a consumer packaged goods background, with time at Fazer before Hartwall, but also cut his teeth for years at Nokia - 14 years, to be exact. This effectively places him in a position to be able to address and build both sides of Rovio's business as the company has developed it over the past few years.


Google stops displaying content authorship in search results

Presenting author information in search results wasn't as useful as Google had expected.



Google announced Thursday that its search results will no longer display the names of authors associated with presented articles.


'Authorship markup is no longer supported in Web search,' Google announced on the company's official authorship support page. Launched in 2011, the feature was intended to allow writers to claim their content and gain followers by presenting the author's work in search results. An Author Rank feature also promised to help users filter out useless information by scoring the reputation of the author for providing reliable information.


But after a three-year experiment, the Web search giant concluded that the feature wasn't as valuable to readers as it had hoped and sometimes even posed a distraction, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller wrote in a Google+ post Thursday.


'We've gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we've tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information,' Mueller wrote. 'Unfortunately, we've also observed that this information isn't as useful to our users as we'd hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we've made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.'


Mueller said that Google testing had concluded that removal of author information did not appear to reduce traffic to websites nor increase clicks on ads. He added that the change will not affect Google+ posts from friends when they are relevant to users' search queries.


Google has been gradually moving in this direction for the past couple of months. In June, the company removed Google+ profile photos and Google+ follower count numbers from search results.


US looking to Google's Megan Smith to be chief tech officer?

Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Google's vice president of Google X, Megan Smith, is said to be one of the US government's top candidates for the chief technology officer position, according to Bloomberg.


President Barack Obama's administration has been on the hunt for a new CTO and sources with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg that the shortlist includes Smith. If selected, she would replace Todd Park, who was the successor to Aneesh Chopra.


Smith, 49, has spent the last 11 years at Google in several different positions, including vice president of business development, head of Google.org, and co-host of Google's Solve for X forum. She's also been active in bringing more women and people of color into the tech world.


The CTO position would entail supervising how the US government uses technology, which includes tech job creation, expanding access to broadband for rural communities, and modernizing government records.


When contacted by CNET, Google declined to comment.


Suppliers of Samsung and Lenovo accused of Child Labor violations

China Labor Watch Agency said that they have found many at least 10 children in China based Supplier for Samsung and Lenovo. The watch agency that the investigation was carried out in the month of July and August. They have found out that the 100 or more students have not been given the over wages for their work and over night duties in the manufacturing unit.


Reports have been provided to Samsung and Lenovo. Samsung has denied any such incident where children has been violated in their knowledge. However, both Samsung and Lenovo have said that they would take the reports seriously and look into it. However, more precise investigation and probe has been ordered in order to come up with exact details about the project.


HEG Technology has been blamed for the incident by the probe team. However, the company has denied such allegations and said they never hired any child.


Finding a sapphire iPhone 6 might be easier than you thought


It looks like the back-and-forth regarding whether or not there will be sapphire in the iPhone 6 display is going to continue until Apple finally answers the question once and for all on September 9th. 9to5Mac shared an investment note on Wednesday from PTT Research Forensics stock analyst and GTAT investor Matt Margolis in which he claims that every 5.5-inch iPhone 6 will come with a sapphire display, but only high-end 4.7-inch models will get the sapphire treatment.


FROM EARLIER: Spanish carrier claims Apple will charge more for both the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6

'According to sources close to Foxconn's manufacturing operations the iPhone 6 will come built with sapphire cover screens in both sizes,' he wrote. 'These sources have also indicated that the 4.7-inch Phone 6 is being assembled in two varieties, a sapphire cover screen version and a version featuring Gorilla Glass. At this point I do not know the approximate mix between the two cover screen options on the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. My latest check on the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 indicates that all units of the device are expected to come protected by a sapphire cover screen at this point.'


Margolis obviously has a vested interest in Apple's decision, but he's one of many who have backed up claims that Apple will in fact begin transitioning to sapphire this generation.


Just two weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that premium iPhone 6 models would feature sapphire displays. Two two reports aren't exactly conclusively, but the idea that Apple is reserving sapphire for more expensive phones is becoming a theme.


Google tests drone deliveries in Project Wing trials


Google has built and tested autonomous aerial vehicles, which it believes could be used for goods deliveries.


The project is being developed at Google X, the company's clandestine tech research arm, which is also responsible for its self-driving car.


Project Wing has been running for two years, but was a secret until now.


Google said that its long-term goal was to develop drones that could be used for disaster relief by delivering aid to isolated areas.


They could be used after earthquakes, floods, or extreme weather events, the company suggested, to take small items such as medicines or batteries to people in areas that conventional vehicles cannot reach.


'Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation,' explained Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots - Google X's name for big-thinking projects.


Australia tests


Google's self-flying vehicle project was first conceived of as a way to deliver defibrillator kits to people suspected of having heart attacks. The idea was that the drones would transport the equipment faster than an ambulance could.


'When you have a tool like this you can really allow the operators of those emergency services to add an entirely new dimension to the set of tools and solutions that they can think of,' said Dave Voss, incoming leader of Project Wing.


The prototype vehicles that the company has built have successfully been tested by delivering packages to remote farms in Queensland, Australia from neighbouring properties.


Australia was selected as a test site due to what Google calls 'progressive' rules about the use of drones, which are more tightly controlled in other parts of the word.


Project Wing's aircraft have a wingspan of approximately 1.5m (4.9ft) and have four electrically-driven propellers.


The total weight, including the package to be delivered, is approximately 10kg (22lb). The aircraft itself accounts for the bulk of that at 8.5kg (18.7lb).


The small, white glossy machine has a 'blended wing' design where the entire body of the aircraft provides lift.


The vehicle is known as a 'tail sitter' - since it rests on the ground with its propellers pointed straight up, but then transitions into a horizontal flight pattern.



This dual mode operation gives the self-flying vehicle some of the benefits of both planes and helicopters.


It can take off or land without a runway, and can hold its position hovering in one spot. It can also fly quickly and efficiently, allowing it to cover larger distances than the more traditional quadcopter vehicles available commercially.


The vehicles are pre-programmed with a destination, but then left to fly themselves there automatically.


This differs from many military drone aircraft, which are often remotely controlled by a pilot on the ground, sometimes on the other side of the world.


Eventually Google said it could use unmanned flying vehicles to deliver shopping items to consumers at home. That's a use that retail giant Amazon has already stated an interest in, with its proposed Prime Air service - the announcement of which generated headlines at the end of last year:


Amazon has asked the US Federal Aviation Administration for permission to conduct outdoor tests.


'The things we would do there are not unlike what is traditionally done in aerospace,' said Mr Voss.


'It will be clear for us what level of redundancy we need in the controls and sensors, the computers that are onboard, and the motors, and how they are able to fail gracefully such that you don't have catastrophic problems occurring.'


Other unusual vehicles have been investigated for humanitarian aid, including flying cars and hoverbikes, with the same aims of reaching cut-off areas quickly.


'We will have to see what kind of specific technology works best within the aid landscape, and if the new technology can integrate positively in the local context,' said Lou Del Bello from news site SciDev.net, speaking about the category in general.


'It will need to demonstrate it can be cost effective, and respond to actual needs of local people.'


You can hear more about Google's self-flying vehicles on The Science Hour this weekend on the BBC World Service

Instagram Details Tech Behind Their New Hyperlapse App


Instagram will still always be Instagram, but the photo editing application is giving users new ways to interact with their pictures by releasing new apps to play with. Recently they soft launched their Bolt application on Android in select regions and just yesterday they launched another photo app called Hyperlapse, which lets you capture and share moving time lapse videos. So far this is just an iOS application, but rest assured that in due time and possibly the near future, Instagram will have an Android ready version of this application waiting in the wings. As for now we'll explain some of the technology behind the Hyperlapse application that Instagram has brought to the forefront. Yesterday they have explained some of the details of how Hyperlapse works in a blog post, so we'll try to summarize it.


Instagram starts off by explaining that they needed to figure out a way to achieve the overall goal of allowing instagrammers to capture beautiful fluid videos with the time lapse effect. One of the hurdles to overcome while trying to accomplish this is the issue with handshake while shooting video. They reference the harnesses that cameramen wear in the movie industry to separate operator movement from camera movement, however they joke that they can't expect Instagram users to walk around wearing harnesses all day to get the same effect. This is where Cinema comes in. Cinema is basically a stabilization algorithm that measures and removes unwanted shaking of the camera during shooting, and Instagram has set up Cinema to use the gyroscope to accomplish the task. You can see some of the way Cinema works in action in the videos on Instagram's blog post.


Without going into too much technical detail, Instagram explains that even with the amazing things they can do with the Cinema algorithm, it still causes a data free region to show up outside of the visible area of the video after applying the time lapse, causing the output video to show the black square area you can see in the screenshot below. To counteract this from appearing, Instagram had to apply adaptive zoom in order to prevent the empty data regions, which helps to result in a video that looks like the second screenshot below. There's a lot of extra detail in the original blog post by Instagram and certainly more stuff that goes into the work that results in a cool app like Hyperlapse, but this pretty much sums up how things work. Are you looking forward to this appearing on Android in the future?




This entry was posted in Android App News.


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