Friday, July 21, 2017

Bixby-powered Bluetooth earset might be released alongside Note 8 — report

Although Samsung has reportedly canceled its Bixby speaker plans, we still might see a new device powered by the company’s digital assistant in the near future. According to a report by Etnews, the tech giant is currently working on a Bluetooth earset with Bixby on board.

It’s possible that the product will be announced soon and released at the same time as the Galaxy Note 8, which is expected to go on sale in September. The report also claims that Samsung hasn’t decided whether it should bundle the earset with the upcoming phablet or sell it separately.

In any case, it will likely only go on sale in South Korea and the US initially, as Bixby Voice is currently only available in these two countries. However, it just might make its way to other markets across the globe eventually, when the digital assistant learns a few more languages.

The upcoming product is said to feature a “Noise Blocking” technology, which blocks out every voice aside from your own. This sound like a great feature on paper that will improve the quality of your calls when there are other people around you. You’ll also be able to ask Bixby questions and get answers without picking up your smartphone.

Other than that, there’s not much else we know about Samsung’s earset for now. If the report is true, the company will probably announce it next month. However, do keep in mind that this is just a rumor for now, meaning that the device might not be revealed after all. The Bixby-powered speaker has also been rumored for the last month or so, but it now looks like Samsung has changed its mind and won’t take the wraps off the device. Well, at least not in the near future.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lenovo CEO says he’ll quit if the company misses sales target

Yang Yuanqing, CEO of Lenovo Group, says he’s confident that the company will reach its online sales target. Or else, he’s going to step down.

If you don’t know the story behind Lenovo’s current CEO, Yang Yuanqing, let me just tell you, it’s quite remarkable: Yang joined the company as a sales representative at the age of 25 and quickly rose to become a distribution manager. His work there was essential in establishing a close relationship with Microsoft and expanding the company’s presence throughout China and later on, the world. He became the company CEO in 2009, and of course, it’s under him that Lenovo acquired Motorola.

However, the company’s ambition to branch out into smartphone business hasn’t exactly been all smooth sailing, and even its forte – its computer division – has been struggling against its American counterparts like HP and Dell. Nonetheless, it seems Yang is quite confident about the company’s future. In a press conference, he asked investors for more patience and laid out short-term and long-term goals for the company.

Yang wants to expand its online sales to bring approximately $12 billion in annual revenue within three years.

In the long-run, Lenovo’s focus is on artificial intelligence, according to Bloomberg. Yang wants to invest a whopping $1 billion over the next few years into AI-related research and development so that the company can better compete with the likes of Alibaba and Tencent in China. As for a more immediate goal, Yang states that he wants to expand its online sales to bring approximately $12 billion in annual revenue within three years. Bloomberg says that Lenovo’s hope is to partner up with, China’s second largest online retailer. What’s more, Yang is willing to step down as CEO if he is unable to meet this goal:

I don’t want to step down. I’m confident we can achieve that. That’s not something worrying… Investors should have more patience. If you want to see the result, it will take time.

Lenovo has recently appointed Liu Jun, the man behind the Motorola acquisition, to head the company’s Chinese PC division in an effort to bring new changes to its struggling PC business. There are also rumors that claim Lenovo’s PC division might merge with Fujitsu though Yang says it’s simply in negotiation for now. With faltering PC sales and worse-than-expected smartphone performance, Lenovo clearly needs to look ahead. In other words, its future could depend on how successful it is in leading the impending era of AI.

What are your thoughts on Lenovo? Do you think Lenovo will be able to survive in the PC and smartphone markets?

Three Best Splatoon 2 Deals

Splatoon 2 launches on July 21st and you can save money if you take advantage of the best Splatoon 2 deals now.

Splatoon 2 is the most important of this summer’s Nintendo Switch game releases because it is a showcase for what makes the console unique. You can play Turf War, a mode taken from Splatoon for Wii U, on your television or on the go using the Nintendo Switch Online service. Salmon Run supports local cooperative play, so that you can take on the game’s enemies with anyone that has the title and a Nintendo Switch of their own nearby. Splatoon 2 works with the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Controllers and with motion control.

The best Splatoon 2 deals available let you experience everything that the game offers for less than you would pay for the game in the Nintendo eShop. It costs $59.99 without any savings. Use these Splatoon 2 deals to bring that price down.

Read: Splatoon 2 Release Date, Features & Details

Amazon Prime Splatoon 2 Deal – $47.99

Play Hero Mode and more for less when you take advantage of these Splatoon 2 deals.
Play Hero Mode and more for less when you take advantage of these Splatoon 2 deals.

Amazon discounts every video game pre-order that its Amazon Prime subscribers place by 20%. That includes Splatoon 2, which costs Prime users $47.99. That’s a discount of $11.89.

Read: Should You Get Amazon Prime?

An Amazon Prime subscription costs $99.99 a year or $10.99 a month. If you already have a subscription, it’s an easy way to save.

Boost your savings with a video game trade-in. Amazon Trade-In gives shoppers account credit for their video game trades immediately. You can use that credit for fast savings on your copy of Splatoon 2.

Buy Splatoon 2 at Amazon for $47.99 with an Amazon Prime Subscription

Best Buy Gamers Club Unlocked Splatoon 2 Deal – $47.99

Best Buy Gamers Club Unlocked subscribers get a 20% discount on every physical game that they purchase, including new titles. Splatoon 2 costs just $47.99 with this savings. Gamers Club Unlocked subscribers also get 20% off game guides, like the $10 Splatoon 2 Official eGuide from Prima Games. That lowers the cost of the guide to $8.

A Best Buy Gamers Club Unlocked subscription costs $29.99 for two years.

Read: Is Gamers Club Unlocked a Good Deal?

Like Amazon, Best Buy also has a video game trade-in program. Call your local store to see if you can use your old games towards a big Splatoon 2 discount.

Buy Splatoon 2 at Best Buy for $47.99 with a Gamers Club Unlocked Subscription

GameStop Splatoon 2 Deals for Trades

GameStop has an attractive Splatoon 2 deal of its own. The company boosts the value that shoppers get for a trade by 20% when they sell anything to buy Splatoon 2. This deal lasts until July 23rd and you must take your games and accessories to a local store to save instantly.

The company gives Power-Up Rewards Pro members 30% extra credit when they trade accessories and games towards Splatoon 2. This deal lasts until August 13, 2017. A Power Up Rewards Pro membership costs $14.99 for one year. Members also get extra points to buy rewards with every game they trade.

See these Splatoon 2 Deal at GameStop

Those are all the Splatoon 2 deals available before launch. Be sure to look for Nintendo Switch deals if you don’t already have a console to play the game on. Gamers could play the first Splatoon on the Nintendo Wii U, but this game won’t come to any Nintendo consoles besides the Switch. Nintendo doesn’t sell a Splatoon 2 console bundle.

Read: How to Find the Nintendo Switch in Stock

If you can’t take advantage of these promotions today, don’t worry. Expect Splatoon 2’s price to fall as Nintendo shifts focus to its next major release. That game, called Super Mario Odyssey, is also exclusive to the Nintendo Switch.

WhatsApp adds picture-in-picture feature, though you probably can’t use it

With over 1 billion active monthly users, WhatsApp is one of the most popular apps in the world, and for good reason. The well known communications app is packed full of really great features for spicing up otherwise boring text conversations and is so popular that even Apple took a page out of their book with iOS 10, introducing many of the same features to iMessage. WhatsApp isn’t content to hold still either, as evident by a pretty stellar new feature the app has just introduced.

So what’s the big new feature? Basically it’s a picture-in-picture mode that you can use during your video calls. What this means is WhatsApp will now allow you to continue the video call in a minimized screen while browsing through the rest of your conversation. While it’s not a massive game changer, it’s still a pretty useful addition. The catch? The feature is currently only available in the beta version of WhatsApp, and only for the select few using the Android O Dev Preview. That means there is only a limited amount of folks who can actually use the feature right now.

The reason for the Android O Dev Preview exclusivity is that the feature is made possible thanks to a new API included in Android O, which unfortunately means that the vast majority of us won’t be able to see or use this feature for quite some time. More than likely once Android O becomes an official release in the near future, this feature will make its way out of beta and over to the consumer-ready version of WhatsApp, though unless they find a work around — it will still likely require Android O or newer.

If you’ve got the Android O Dev Preview, you should be able to use this feature now, though keep in mind its a beta feature on a dev version of an OS — so your mileage may vary when it comes to how well the feature currently works. For those that have given it a try, let us know your thoughts down in the comments.

Paranoid Android 7.2.1 features Nexus 5 support, a new boot animation, and more

Much was made about Paranoid Android’s 7.2.0 release, and with good reason – it brought numerous features and bug fixes, along with support for various smartphones. As such, the popular Android ROM’s 7.2.1 update might be seen as meager from the outside, though it is still relatively substantial.

The highlight of the 7.2.1 release is the official support for the Nexus 5 (hammerhead), Sony Xperia X (suzu), and the Sony Xperia X Compact (kugo). On a side note, the Nexus 5 will celebrate its fourth birthday this year, which makes it remarkable that it is still supported with modern software. Then again, the phone is still an incredibly popular one in the ROM scene, so it is not entirely surprising to see it listed.

Elsewhere, the Paranoid team included the OnePlus 5’s three-finger gesture that enables screenshots, as well as an updated version of the PA browser. The 7.2.1 release also included improvements and changes for various devices, including the OnePlus X, OnePlus 3/3T, Nextbit Robin, and others.

Finally, alongside general bug fixes, performance enhancements, and the latest July 2017 security patch, the update introduces a new boot animation that looks clean and adheres closely to Android Nougat’s boot animation.

Keep in mind that not every Android device under the sun will get the 7.2.1 update. With that said, if your device is supported, you can download it at the link below.

Pokémon GO version 0.69.0 update adds new trainer abilities, improves Pokémon info screen

Pokémon Go version 0.69.0 is now rolling out, delivering a handful of new trainer abilities, as well as some interface changes and bug fixes.

The new abilities come in three flavors: the first, and obviously most important, allows trainers to spin the Photo Disc at a Gym after completing one of the Raid Battles, while the other two relate to berry distribution.

Trainers can now send berries to Pokémon defending Gyms through the Pokémon info screen even when they aren’t nearby. Niantic notes that any motivation regained through this will, however, be less effective than through normal use. In addition, trainers can now give berries to Pokémon defending Gyms if their motivation meter is full.

Niantic has also added icons to the Pokémon information screen, so you can see how your Pokémon were caught, and has upgraded the search function in the collection menu.

Rounding off the updates are some bug fixes, including a patch for an issue whereby Pokémon were not properly returned to their trainer after defending a Gym.

Meanwhile, Pokémon Go Fest (in celebration of the game’s first anniversary) begins this Saturday in Chicago’s Grant Park — though you don’t have to be a local to get involved. Find out more about this in the previous updates section below, and download the latest version of Pokémon Go from the Play Store at the link.

Previous Updates

Pokémon Go Fest

July 7Pokémon Go is celebrating its first anniversary with the Go Fest event that will take place on Saturday, July 22, in Chicago’s Grant Park. There will be three Challenge Windows throughout the day. The trainers in Chicago will try to unlock perks for Pokémon Go players in other cities and countries by catching certain types of Pokémon, with each one being tied to a different perk.

Meanwhile, trainers across the globe will also try to catch as many Pokémon as possible during the Challenge Windows with the hope of extending the duration of the bonuses unlocked by those attending the event. If they catch enough of them, a mystery challenge will be unveiled in Grant Park that will unlock a special bonus across the globe once completed.

Additionally, Niantic has also announced a few Pokémon Safari Zone events, which will take place at shopping centers in different countries during August and September. For more details, visit here.

Massive update with revamped Gyms and Raid Battles

July 12: Niantic Labs confirmed that it will be making some major upgrades to its Gyms with an upcoming update. The Gyms in the game will no longer be based on Prestige or training creatures, but instead, they’ll have six permanent slots with an all-new motivation meter. The update will also be adding the much-anticipated co-op Raid Battles, where players will work together to defeat boss creatures at Gym locations.

New Summer Solstice event

June 8: From June 13 until June 20, the in-game Solstice Event will see players encounter more fire- and ice-type Pokémon, receive huge XP bonuses for accurate Poké Ball tossing, and get discounted Lucky Eggs at the in-game shop. Meanwhile, the company will hold its “first-ever” real-world Pokémon Go event: Pokémon Go Fest Chicago. This will take place in Grant Park on July 22 and promises “a ton of exciting festivities.”

Tickets for Pokémon Go Fest will go live at on Monday, June 19 at 10:00 AM PDT. Further, Niantic said it would hold events in European shopping centers between June and September, but hasn’t gotten into specifics yet.

Legendary Birds

March 7: Niantic CEO John Hanke was recently asked about the possibility of bringing fan-favorites like Mewtwo, Mew and the three legendary birds in an interview with Wired’s German division. “I can say with certainty that we will see more of that this year,” Hanke said. You heard that right – Pokémon Go could get Mewtwo, Mew, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres by the end of 2017!

Three major updates are headed our way

March 2: John Hanke, the Niantic Labs CEO, has stated that three major updates are headed to Pokémon Go in 2017. While details on the updates are scarce, Hanke says an update will arrive every quarter.

80 new Pokémon added

February 17: Pokémon Go version 0.57.2 is now rolling out. The update introduces a night mode map, new berries, new encounter mechanics and — what we’ve all been waiting for — 80 new Pokémon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Android O team talks Project Treble, blob emoji, themes, and more

As you may know, the engineering team behind Android O held an AMA on Reddit today, and here are some of the things we learned from it.

The most frequently brought up topic was probably Project Treble, and with good reason. After all, it’s expected to accelerate the speed of OS updates, something that has been a fundamental problem among Android devices. Full theming is another theme (sorry) that came up a lot throughout this session as well as questions regarding adaptive refresh rates and the future of Android tablets and Android Wear. We’ve gathered some of the most interesting conversations from the AMA below. If you’d like to see the full AMA, you can head on over here.

I really want to believe Project Treble will (mostly) fix fragmentation. Am I too optimistic?

  • Devices launching with Android O will come Treble-enabled out of the box. Project Treble will make it easier, faster and less costly for device maker partners when these devices are updated in the future. In addition to the engineering changes, which enable Project Treble on all new devices launched with Android O and beyond, we’re working closely with device makers and silicon manufacturers to both get required Android customizations (such as carrier-specific requirements) into AOSP, and reduce their cost and complexity when updating to the new version of Android. For example, Sony and Qualcomm have already contributed dozens of features and hundreds of bug fixes into AOSP so they no longer need to rework these patches with each new release of Android. We’ll publish more information about Project Treble on soon.

When do you think we will get the first results from Project Treble? 

  • It depends on how much the partner wants to take advantage of some of the benefits of Treble. Device maker partners can choose to utilize the same stable vendor implementation with the newest version of Android or they can choose to work with silicon manufacturers to update both the Android OS framework and the vendor implementation.

Is there a programming obstacle to full theming (à la TouchWiz or MIUI) or is it something the Android team doesn’t think is right yet?

  • TL;DR: Theming is not hard. Reliable and consistent theming is hard.

There are technical and logistical issues with theming. The technical side is largely solved in O with RRO support (thanks Sony!); however, we still don’t have stable APIs for describing what can be themed or adequate ways to verify that existing applications properly support theming. You might remember a dark theme making brief appearances in previous releases – since we already had a dark Material theme, we didn’t have to worry about APIs to describe the themeable properties; however, we were unable to convert every existing app (ex. Calendar, Photos, other bundled and core apps – even Settings was a challenge) to support dark Material theme and verify that it was properly supported.

If you had, say, a bright pink “Hello Kitty” theme that’s not a simple brightness inversion, you run into even more complicated cases of ensuring minimum contrast levels for accessibility, picking reasonable secondary and tertiary colors, etc.

Is there any push to support adaptive refresh rates within Android? 

  • Sharp has been shipping Android phones with adaptive refresh rates since 2016 (at least in Japan). I’ve been disappointed with my 60 Hz phones since I’ve played with one of those Sharp phones 🙂 Adaptive refresh rates and 120 Hz rendering is something we’ve been thinking about for years (it’s great for 24fps video playback!).

Why did you kill the blob emoji? (*insert sad blob emoji here*)

  • Over the last few years Unicode has expanded the range of emoji considerably and created new categories of emoji. In parallel new messaging use cases have emerged (i.e.: larger emoji used as stickers). The current design system did not lend itself well to supporting the expanding emoji set and these new use cases, so we needed a significant visual refresh.

Will Android O do anything for Android Wear? 

  • Android O will mostly be a technical upgrade for Android Wear. For example, Wear will get background limits which will help preserve battery with O and users can expect more controls over notifications via notification channels. In addition, we have added new tools for developers to help implement complications and build watch friendly UIs.

How far along are you from completion on the return of Tablet UI?

  • Honestly, I don’t think tablets is a space where we can meaningfully talk about “completion.” It’s more about figuring out what the next driver of innovation will be for this form factor. We are continuing to invest in productivity use cases (keyboard-driven UI, multiwindow, etc) but also – along with lots of other folks in the industry – working on what the next evolution of tablets should be. For Android, there are some interesting overlaps with tablets given the increasing success of Chromebooks and the recent addition of the ability to run Android apps on Chrome OS. We are working to make the Android developer stories for both form factors (tablets, Chromebooks) identical.

What is being done to shore up the Bluetooth audio solution?

  • The Android Bluetooth, audio, and performance teams actually did a lot of work to improve BT audio in O. We flipped the switch internally since the most recent developer preview because we needed a little more time to make sure that things were stable, so you haven’t seen the fruits of that labor quite yet. (To find out more on this, click here)

While the team didn’t reveal the official name of Android O – as expected – we now have a more complete picture of what Android O will bring to the table later this year. What questions do you have regarding Android O? Do you think Project Treble will be enough to fix fragmentation? Let us know in the comments below!


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