Category: Links

Apple officially kills AirPower

Matthew Panzarino reporting that Apple has confirmed that AirPower, the wireless charger with support for multiple devices first announced in September 2017, has been cancelled (to the surprise of nobody at this point).

“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward,” said Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering in an emailed statement today.

The AirPower was originally teased back in September 12, 2017, when Apple unveiled the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, Apple Watch Series 3, Apple TV 4K, and related OS updates.

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, presented a sneak peek of a new wireless charging mat Apple was developing, named AirPower, which could charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods simultaneously. At the time, Apple said the AirPower charger would be available in 2018

And today, after numerous delays, it’s official that it will never go beyond that tease.

John Gruber’s Very Brief Thoughts and Observations on Apple’s Show Time Event

John Gruber:

APPLE CARD: Sounds good, but “low interest rate” is just words. I’d like to see the actual numbers. Kind of interesting that you get 2% cash back on Apple Pay purchases and only 1% when you use the actual card. 

[…]

APPLE NEWS PLUS: Are magazines still a thing? Didn’t Apple go down this same path with Newsstand back when the iPad first launched?

[…]

APPLE ARCADE: This was the most cohesive announcement of the day. Easy to understand what it is, why you’d want it, and what the value proposition is. It looks like Apple is spending a fortune funding these exclusive games. I think this is going to be a big hit, and it makes Google’s “we’ve got games running on our servers” thing from last week look a bit silly. Most interesting to me is how much Apple emphasized the Mac and Apple TV. But why not tell us the price?

John has a few good points, I don’t necessarily agree with what he thinks of Google’s Stadia Service compared to Apple Arcade, but time will tell which comes out on top.

While similar, both services have their good features so it’ll be a toss up here.

APPLE TV CHANNELS AND TV PLUS: This whole thing was… weird. I get what Channels is — the infamous “skinny bundle” that Eddy Cue has been trying to put together for years. Paying only for the channels you want is the right way to do this, but obviously a nightmare to negotiate with the actual networks and channels. It’s also coming to Roku and Amazon FireTV, which I understand but feels so strange.

This one, I have to agree with John on entirely. This has been something Apple has wanted to do for a while now and launching on other platforms makes sense while seeming like a strange move for Apple. Google and Amazon launch their apps on Apple but when has Apple launched an app on another service before?

Roku and FireTV are also interesting choices, I can’t help but notice they’ve left out an Android app for android devices such as the nvidia shield, if they specifically wanted it TV only, it wouldn’t be hard to make it compatible only for Android TV devices rather than all devices, but this is definitely a stab at Android, and given their market share for TV streaming is hard to miss.

Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Google is launching its Stadia cloud gaming service at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who says he plays FIFA 19 “quite a bit,” introduced the Stadia service during a special keynote at GDC this morning. Describing it as a platform for everyone, Pichai talked up Google’s ambitions to stream games to all types of devices.

Phil Harrison, a former Sony and Microsoft executive, joined Pichai onstage to fully unveil Stadia in his role at Google. Harrison says Google will amplify this game streaming service by using YouTube and the many creators that already create game clips on the service. Google previously tested this service as Project Stream in recent months, allowing Chrome users to stream games in their browser. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was the first and only game to be tested publicly using Google’s service, and the public tests finished in January.

Of course, Google won’t limit Stadia to just one game. Google demonstrated a new feature in YouTube that lets you view a game clip from a creator and then hit “play now” to instantly stream the title. “Stadia offers instant access to play,” says Harrison, without the need to download or install any games. At launch, games will be streamable across laptops, desktops, TVs, tablets, and phones.

Google demonstrated moving gameplay seamlessly from a phone to a tablet and then to a TV, all using Google-powered devices. While existing USB controllers will work on a laptop or PC, Google is also launching a new Stadia Controller that will power the game streaming service. It looks like a cross between an Xbox and PS4 controller, and it will work with the Stadia service by connecting directly through Wi-Fi to link it to a game session in the cloud. This will presumably help with latency and moving a game from one device to another. You can also use a button to capture and share clips straight to YouTube, or use another button to access the Google Assistant.

To power all of this cloud streaming, Google is leveraging its global infrastructure of data centers to ensure servers are as close to players around the world as possible. That’s a key part of Stadia, as lower latency is a necessity to stream games effectively across the internet. Google will support up to 4K at 60 fps at launch, and it’s planning to support up to 8K resolutions and 120 fps in the future.

The nvidia shield does a similar service with Steam and it works pretty decently. It should be interesting to see Google’s take on this.

Apple Announces New iPad Air and iPad Mini

Apple press release:

Apple today introduced the all-new iPad Air in an ultra-thin 10.5-inch design, offering the latest innovations including Apple Pencil support and high-end performance at a breakthrough price. With the A12 Bionic chip with Apple’s Neural Engine, the new iPad Air delivers a 70 percent boost in performance and twice the graphics capability, and the advanced Retina display with True Tone technology is nearly 20 percent larger with over half a million more pixels.

Apple today also introduced the new 7.9-inch iPad mini, a major upgrade for iPad mini fans who love a compact, ultra-portable design packed with the latest technology. With the A12 Bionic chip, the new iPad mini is a powerful multi-tasking machine, delivering three times the performance and nine times faster graphics. The advanced Retina display with True Tone technology and wide color support is 25 percent brighter and has the highest pixel density of any iPad, delivering an immersive visual experience in any setting. And with Apple Pencil support, the new iPad mini is the perfect take-anywhere notepad for sketching and jotting down thoughts on the go.

Trump accidentally called Tim Cook Tim Apple because why not?

The Verge:

Tim Cook is a pretty well-known figure in the business world. I know a lot of people don’t care about computers and that’s fine, but if you’re in the industry or having some sort of professional interaction with him, I have to think people usually know his name going in.

And yet, at an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board meeting today, the president pretty unmistakably called Tim Cook “Tim Apple.”

[…]

I went through the trouble of transcribing what the president said, just to be sure this is all really happening:

We’re going to be opening up the labor forces because we have to. We have so many companies coming in,” Trump says. “People like Tim — you’re expanding all over and doing things that I really wanted you to do right from the beginning. I used to say, ‘Tim, you gotta start doing it here,’ and you really have you’ve really put a big investment in our country. We appreciate it very much, Tim Apple.

Tim took it in stride and in response has updated his twitter handle to Tim Apple

Nintendo’s next Labo kit for the switch will be a VR kit

Andrew Webster for The Verge:

Nintendo’s getting into virtual reality, but not in the way you might expect. Today, the gaming giant announced the latest in its Labo line of DIY cardboard accessories, which turns the Nintendo Switch into a makeshift VR kit.

As with previous Labo sets, there are a few options to choose from. The main VR kit costs $79.99 and includes six different cardboard kits to build, including VR goggles, a blaster, a camera, and an… elephant, as well as a screen holder and “safety cap.” For those looking to spend a bit less, there’s also a basic starter kit that includes just the goggles and blaster for $39.99.

Additional accessories like the elephant can be purchased late in $20 sets. The kits will include Labo software, which features games, step-by-step instructions, and the “garage” mode for building your own Labo creations.

RIP Playstation Vita (to no one’s surpise)

The Verge:

The PlayStation Vita is officially done. Sony signaled that it has ended production on the handheld gaming console’s last two models on the Vita’s product page (via Polygon).

Launched in 2011, the Vita never quite caught on around the world, a victim of increased competition from smartphone apps, selling only 16.1 million units, a far cry from the PlayStation Portable that preceded it, and from Nintendo’s Switch that followed it.

The writing has been on the wall for the Vita for a while — while a fun and quirky platform for indie games, audiences and major publishers simply haven’t kept up with the device. Sony said that it would end production of the device in 2019, and that it had no plans to release a successor handheld device when it goes, and that it would end production of the physical game cards for the device at the end of the 2018 fiscal year — March 31st, 2019.

Sony has been killing the Vita off for a while, but they have finally officially ended production of this device now.

I still own a PSP, I have it set up to run a bunch of emulators and let me play hundreds of retro games on it, I’ve even set the same thing up for my daughter.

I never really got into the Vita, which is the case for a lot of people obviously.

Amazon pulls the plug on dash buttons

Victoria Song, writing for Gizmodo:

Those quirky Amazon Dash buttons will soon be dead, gone, no more. Intended to be an easy way to reorder items, Amazon has now pulled them from sale worldwide and seems to be admitting that no one really needs them.
When the Dash buttons were originally introduced in 2015, it was hard to believe they weren’t an April Fool’s joke.

But no, Amazon was serious about making it even easier for consumers to buy crap. Admittedly, some of the buttons had practical applications, especially when it came to bulk items like laundry detergent or kitty litter. But as time went on, they got increasingly ridiculous, with Dash buttons for products like pistachios, Pop Tarts, Calvin Klein underwear, Trojans, and Red Bull. (If you’re using so much underwear you need a Dash button, you should maybe rethink your life choices.)

So what killed the Dash? In a statement to GeekWire, Amazon said that customers are increasingly using product subscriptions and digital automatic reordering options. The company also credits increased Alexa-based shopping as another reason Dash buttons simply aren’t necessary anymore.
That doesn’t mean existing Dash button owners are out of luck. Amazon says it will continue support existing buttons. So if you really love your Kraft Macaroni and Cheese button, you can keep clicking until it physically wears away into nothing but beat-up plastic and a circuit board.

“Existing Dash Button customers can continue to use their Dash Button devices,” Amazon said in its statement. “We look forward to continuing support for our customers’ shopping needs, including growing our Dash Replenishment product line-up and expanding availability of virtual Dash Buttons.”

Samsung’s foldable phone is the Galaxy Fold, available April 26th starting at $1,980

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Samsung first teased its foldable phone back in November, and at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked event today, it’s further detailing its foldable plans. Samsung’s foldable now has a name, the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and the company is revealing more about what this unique smartphone can do. Samsung is planning to launch the Galaxy Fold on April 26th, starting at $1,980, through AT&T and T-Mobile in the US, with a free pair of Samsung’s new wireless earbuds. There will be both an LTE and 5G version of the Galaxy Fold, and Samsung is even planning on launching the device in Europe on May 3rd, starting at 2,000 euros.

Samsung is using a new 7.3-inch Infinity Flex Display that allows the phone itself to have a tablet-sized screen that can be folded to fit into a pocket. The main display is QXGA+ resolution (4.2:3), and when it’s folded, a smaller 4.6-inch HD+ (12:9) display is used for the phone mode. Samsung is using 512GB of Universal Flash Storage 3.0 (eUFS) for fast speeds, alongside a Qualcomm 7nm octa-core processor and 12GB of RAM. Samsung has even built two batteries for its Galaxy Fold, that are separated by the fold but combined in the Android operating system to represent a total of 4,380 mAh.

Samsung has built a sturdy backbone to the device, with a hinge system that has multiple interlocking gears. All of these gears are hidden at the rear of the device, and allow the Galaxy Fold to transform from tablet to phone modes. Samsung says it’s able to fold at least 200,000 times, which works out to over 5 years if you fold it 100 times a day. At the rear of the device there’s also a triple-camera system that will be used for both tablet and phone modes. There’s a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera, alongside 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto cameras at the rear, and a 10-megapixel cover camera for selfies. Samsung is also creating four different colors for the Galaxy Fold, but it’s the main tablet display that’s key here.

Samsung is allowing the Galaxy Fold to run three apps at once on this Android device, and it’s using an app continuity system to adjust these apps when you move between tablet and phone modes. Apps like WhatsApp, Microsoft Office, and YouTube have all been optimized for the new display and modes, and Samsung has been working with Google to ensure Android 9 Pie fully supports this display.

[…]

Samsung isn’t the only smartphone maker creating a foldable device, but it’s certainly one of the first to make it widely available. Xiaomi teased its own folding phone recently, that looked like the best concept we’ve seen so far. Huawei is also reportedly planning to release a foldable handset this year, and Lenovo has started to tease its own prototype. LG has also been developing flexible OLED displays and TVs that roll up into a box. If all these manufacturers progress toward shipping a device like Samsung, then expect to see a lot of foldable phones in 2019 and beyond.

Foldable phones… I’m still a little unsure about where these are going.

On one hand, it gives you a phone and a tablet in one and gives “phablet” a whole new meaning, but on the other hand, It’s a foldable phone.

Inside Wisconsin’s Disastrous $4.5 Billion Deal With Foxconn

Austin Carr, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek , on the state of Foxconn and Wisconsin:

“This is the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

So declared President Donald Trump onstage last June at a press event at Foxconn’s new factory in Mount Pleasant, Wis. He was there to herald the potential of the Taiwanese manufacturing giant’s expansion into cheesehead country. He’d joined Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou and then-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to celebrate a partnership he’d helped broker — “one of the great deals ever,” Trump said. In exchange for more than $4.5 billion in government incentives, Foxconn had agreed to build a high-tech manufacturing hub on 3,000 acres of farmland south of Milwaukee and create as many as 13,000 good-paying jobs for “amazing Wisconsin workers” as early as 2022.

[…]

The only consistency, many of these people say, lay in how obvious it was that Wisconsin struck a weak deal. Under the terms Walker negotiated, each job at the Mount Pleasant factory is projected to cost the state at least $219,000 in tax breaks and other incentives. The good or extra-bad news, depending on your perspective, is that there probably won’t be 13,000 of them.

[…]

A report from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency, estimated the state would be in the red on the deal until at least 2042, and even that projection didn’t account for the kinds of increased public-services costs associated with population growth. It also based income tax revenue projections on the implausible assumption that every employee would live in Wisconsin, whereas some would almost certainly commute from nearby Illinois. “There’s no way this will ever pay itself off,” says Tim Bartik, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. He says Foxconn’s incentives are more than 10 times greater than typical government aid packages of its stripe.

[…]

Wisconsin officials apparently didn’t consider Gou’s track record problematic. Instead, they describe the billionaire, who charmed them with stories of his early days selling TV parts in the Midwest, as almost philanthropic. “My impression of him was, what a nice person,” says Scott Neitzel, who led negotiations for the Walker administration. “An extremely genuine, down-to-earth tycoon.” When asked if the state looked at Foxconn’s history, WEDC Chief Executive Officer Mark Hogan says, “We didn’t spend a lot of time on that because, in the end, we got to know these people so well.”