Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Google Play now sells movies in 4K

Google just announced that 4K movies are now available from the company’s Google Play Movies store in the United States and Canada, with a selection of over 125 titles to start. 4K content has been gradually trickling out across Play Movies over the last few weeks, but today Google is making the UHD kickoff official. 

Google says all movies on the Play store use the VP9 codec, which is designed to produce an ideal mix of sharp picture quality and reliable streaming. You can purchase 4K content from an Android device or Play Movies on the web, but it can only be viewed on select products right now: the Chromecast Ultra, Sony Bravia Android TVs, and Xiaomi’s Mi Box 3. 

For a limited time, Google is giving away one free 4K movie to buyers of the Chromecast Ultra, though you’re limited to a list that includes Ghostbusters and Captain Philips. That’s still not a bad deal, seeing as plenty of digital 4K movie purchases still go for $19.99 and often more. Bringing 4K to Play Movies certainly boosts the amount of UHD content that’s available to Chromecast Ultra owners, but whether it makes up for the absence of Amazon Video will depend on what you like to watch. 

The article was published on : theverge

Twitch adds video calling to its Curse game chat app

Twitch may be the go-to destination for watching video game players stream their screens, but a whole network of third-party apps exist in and around Twitch’s service that the company would very much like to provide on its own. Now, the Amazon-owned company is taking aim at one of the most prominent of those third-party sectors: live game chat. Starting today, Twitch’s Curse communication app will support live video calling with up to five players, according to Engadget. The addition will let users stream a webcam feed to others in real time and allow for private screen sharing to highlight plays and share info with teammates. 

Curse, much like game chat competitors Discord and Teamspeak, is a standalone game chat service. It’s designed for PC players, and allows multiple users to link their online game accounts for titles like League of Legends and World of Warcraft to a central hub where they can chat via text, host voice calls, and now conduct live video calls as well. It works by layering itself over any in-game experience, meaning you don’t have to rely on a game’s own chat features to communicate. Twitch bought Curse back in August in a clear demonstration of its interest in the area. Over time, the company plans to add new features to Curse to make it more enticing, in hopes that players will jump ship from Discord and Teamspeak, neither of which yet support features like video calls.

The article was published on : theverge

35 percent of US merchants accept Apple Pay

Apple is making the case that Apple Pay has bigger and broader adoption than it’s getting credit for. Jennifer Bailey, who leads Apple Pay, spoke today at the Code Commerce conference in San Fransisco and said that in the span of just two years Apple has managed to move from four to 35 percent of retailers (or 4 million locations) supporting Apple Pay in the US. Apple is also targeting big retailers for the next year, including GAP, to increase that growth.

Bailey says that EMV chip cards are annoying for consumers (she’s right), and that’s helping to drive adoption. “Once you figure out you have to dip, you wait awhile, you wait awhile,” Bailey said. Then she went so far as to mimic the annoying “BEEP BEEP BEEP” that those chip card readers require.
Those hassles present a significant opportunity for Apple (and other contactless payment providers), but Apple hasn’t done a massive amount of marketing around it — in part, Bailey says, because Apple has to work alongside lots of partners.

“Knocking EMV is not necessarily the way to go,” Bailey says, “I think it’s to increase acceptance and work with great partners.” Instead, Apple is focusing on those partnerships, pushing out offers with retailers and banks. One example Bailey gave is bonus points with American Airlines. 

The reason Apple works with partners for those offers instead of just doing it directly is that Apple is somewhat unique in the payment industry: it doesn’t collect or keep transaction information, so it wouldn’t really be able to do those kinds of offers itself in the first place.

Nobody really knows what the magical tipping point is for mobile payments, when they go from a weird thing a few people do to a normal thing everybody does. And Apple is clearly excited at the speed of the transition to contactless payments — it is happening more quickly in the US than it did in the UK, Bailey argues. 

The good news / bad news for Apple is that transition seems to be happening alongside the point-of-sale terminal upgrades for EMV chip payments — which haven’t gone as smoothly as they might. So the challenge for Apple is to get retailers to support Apple Pay at the same time they’re being forced to support EMV, and then to get consumers to clearly see that it’s a better option than EMV and not associate the hassle of one thing with the other thing. It’s a fine line to walk, but obviously Bailey and Apple believe they’re pulling it off.

What’s next for Apple Pay? “Everything in your wallet we’re thinking about,” Bailey said, but wouldn’t give more details (She works for Apple, after all).

The article was published on : theverge

Pebble cancels Pebble Time 2 and Core as acquisition by Fitbit approaches: report

Fitbit is very close to announcing its plan to purchase Pebble, according to a new report from Bloomberg, which describes the rumored deal as “imminent.” The leading maker of fitness trackers has offered jobs to roughly 40 percent of Pebble’s staff, with most of those going to software engineers. Fitbit’s buyout of Pebble will focus on the smartwatch startup’s software assets, like the operating system on Pebble’s existing devices. 

But the deal will reportedly not cover any hardware — including both current and future Pebble products. “The rest of Pebble’s assets, including product inventory and server equipment, will be sold off separately” says the report, which is backed by sources said to be familiar with the acquisition.

As a result, the Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core will be canceled and won’t ever ship to Kickstarter backers and pre-order customers. Refunds will be issued to everyone that supported either product through crowdfunding. The Pebble 2 started shipping weeks ago and is already on store shelves. Like its predecessor, the Pebble Time 2 was meant to deliver a more premium wearable experience. And the Pebble Core would’ve been the company’s first non-watch gadget — a small device with built-in GPS that could also play music from Spotify. Now, neither product will see the light of day. The Kickstarter campaign that was intended to fund all three products raised nearly $13 million. 

The article was published on : theverge

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Google is bringing Pixel features to its Nexus line with Android 7.1.1

Google is releasing Android 7.1.1 today, and with it, Nexus devices will gain features that were already included on the Pixel and Pixel XL, like more inclusive emoji and a GIF keyboard. Google created counterparts to its male emoji earlier this year so the update will allow Android users to text an emoji of a female astronaut or doctor, among other career-oriented emoji.

The GIF keyboard that’s available on the Pixel is also coming to updated devices. Users can directly search for GIFs, but only on supported apps, like Allo, Messenger, and Hangouts. 

The update doesn’t just include fun messaging features. Nougat 7.1.1 comes with app shortcuts on the home screen where a long press on an app icon launches certain actions on compatible apps. Pixel owners, the update also includes a treat for you: All devices will include raise-to-wake and double-tap, which will let users see their lock screen and notifications when the phone is picked up or tap with two fingers on a device’s display to see alerts. These features were released in Canada last month.

The article was published on : theverge

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are creating a database of 'terrorist content'

The United States’ biggest social networks are working together to build a database of photos and videos used to recruit people into terrorism, the companies said. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube will create a shared database that identifies images via a unique digital fingerprint, making it easier for the platforms to identify and remove the imagery. 

“There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services,” the companies said in a joint blog post. “When alerted, we take swift action against this kind of content in accordance with our respective policies.” The move comes a year after the same companies banded together to identify and remove child pornography using a similar technique. The technique was developed by the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation. It extends beyond social networks; Google scans every Gmail user’s account for child porn.

Content flagged by the database will not be automatically removed from the platforms, the companies said. Instead, it will be reviewed by each company to determine whether it violates the company’s terms of service. 

Social networks have faced criticism this year for doing too little to prevent their platforms for being used to spread terrorist propaganda. Amid pressure from the European Union, the companies agreed this year to remove content within 24 hours if it qualifies as hate speech or propaganda. Meanwhile, Twitter faced a lawsuit in the United States alleging that its slowness in removing posts from ISIS constituted material support to the terrorist group. The lawsuit was dismissed in August.

The article was published on : theverge

Tim Cook says the Apple Watch just had its best sales week ever

Tim Cook has delivered an update on Apple Watch sales through the unusual medium of email to Reuters reporter. “Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year," Cook said. "Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch."

The timing of Cook’s essentially public comments is notable, coming the day after research firm IDC published a report estimating that Apple Watch sales last quarter were down 71 percent year on year. The figures weren’t surprising considering that Apple released the new Series 2 line right at the end of the July-September period, with supply constraints lasting well into the current quarter — basically, this summer was a bad time to buy an Apple Watch.

However, Cook still isn’t providing specific sales data for the Apple Watch; it’s considered part of Apple’s “other products” category along with more minor lines like iPods and the Apple TV. Without that information, it’s difficult to ascertain the overall success of the product.

The article was published on : theverge

Microsoft takes aim at Amazon’s Echo with Windows 10 HomeHub feature

Microsoft is planning to build a HomeHub feature into future Windows 10 updates to better compete against devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the feature is currently in the planning stages, and the software maker is expected to introduce a “HomeHub” in updates due in 2017 and 2018, and not the upcoming Creators Update. 

Windows Central reports that the feature will “crush” Google Home and Amazon Echo, but The Verge understands that HomeHub is designed to be a service and feature that will run on any Windows 10 PC and turn it into a machine where Cortana can be summoned from the lockscreen to provide useful information. Windows Central previously reported that the HomeHub was a voice-activated speaker that was supposed to be unveiled at Microsoft’s Surface hardware event back in October. Those reports were inaccurate, but Microsoft is planning a software feature with the same name.

The primary focus for HomeHub is to create a family environment for a PC. Microsoft has tried a variety of different methods to enable family accounts, privacy controls, and app sharing over the years, but HomeHub is part of a new Family team in the Windows group at Microsoft, sources tell us. Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet reports that Microsoft has been hiring people into this team, with a focus on a family environment for Windows.

The article was published on : theverge

Monday, December 5, 2016

GoPro’s Karma stabilizer grip goes on sale starting today

GoPro is giving users a new way to capture footage. Starting today, the company is selling the Karma stabilizer grip — which was originally bundled with the now-recalled Karma drone — on its own for $299. The grip will be immediately compatible with the Hero 5 Black out of the box, but Hero 4 Black and Silver users will have to cough up an extra $29 for a harness that fits those cameras. Hero 5 Session users will have to wait until “Q2 2017” for a harness for that camera. 

I was initially impressed with the Karma Grip during the short amount of time I got to use it in September. It’s not quite as versatile as something like the DJI Osmo, which has a deep suite of controls and options. But it’s a powerful addition to a GoPro user’s arsenal, and a more sturdy option than some of the existing versions of the same idea.

GoPro said it would sell the Karma Grip separate from the drone when it announced everything in September, but the company never firmed up a release date until now. In the meantime, though, GoPro has taken some big hits. Production issues slowed the release of the Karma drone and the Hero 5 cameras, which affected the company’s third quarter earnings. Then GoPro had to recall every single Karma drone that had been sold because some of them were literally falling out of the sky. To top it all off, GoPro laid off 15 percent of its staff this past week, marking the second round of layoffs in 2016.

The article was published on : theverge 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Fujifilm X-A10 is the cheapest X-series mirrorless camera yet

Fujifilm has announced the X-A10, a new X-series camera that hits the lowest price point yet for the company's well-received range of mirrorless models. It's $499.95 with a 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, and will be available in January.

The X-A10 design is similar to the X-A3 from earlier this year, employing a 180-degree tilting LCD and self-timing features for convenient selfie use, but it uses a lower-resolution 16-megapixel sensor rather than the newer 24-megapixel component. That should put it more in line with last year's X-A2 in terms of image quality, although that camera's screen only tilted 175 degrees. Progress!

The article was published on : theverge

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