Monthly Archives June 2015

Twitter Adds Auto Play to Videos

Twitter logoMuch like Facebook, Twitter has decided to forgo the play button and share its video content directly with users. As of June 16, auto play functionality has been added to Twitter videos in an effort to increase views and monetization.

The auto play feature has been added to the website and the iOS app. The company plans to bring it to the Android app in the near future as well. Videos remain muted until a user decides to turn up the volume, and Twitter is adding the option of a full-screen video player if they decide to view it. The auto play will also be applied to Vine uploads and GIFs.

Twitter’s plan to monetize videos has been picking up as of late. The company is hoping auto play will attract more brands to advertise via the website on the promise that their commercials will actually be watched. Additionally, the company will only be billing for ads that have been 100 percent visible for at least three seconds.

“If a video is not 100% in-view, we don’t think an advertiser should be charged,” Twitter said in an announcement blog post.

Twitter has been in the middle of a financial panic lately, as investors have not been impressed with its performance in recent quarters. The announcement to add auto play comes around the same time as CEO Dick Costolo’s news that he will be resigning by the end of the month, with co-founder Jack Dorsey replacing him as interim CEO.

Netflix Website Gets a Makeover

netflix logoNetflix has recently revamped its website in an effort to make it appear more like its mobile apps. The new site changes the way users view the gallery of titles found on the homepage. The company announced the change in a blog post, saying the scrolling process is now much faster.

This change is due to the fact that users are becoming increasingly accustomed to using mobile devices such as iPads, rather than PCs. The websites designed for PCs feel slow and clumsy when used on a tablet or phone. Netflix’s goal was to create a site “that works more like an app and less like a series of linked web pages.”

On the new site, users can hover their mouse over a specific title and view a slideshow of images from the movie or TV series instead of just seeing a small description box. Users can also access more details about the title without having to open a different page.

PC users will notice the biggest changes to Netflix, but the new site is designed to work via mouse, trackpad or touchscreen. You might not see the changes for a few weeks, however, as the company is slowly rolling out the update.

 

Sony and Verizon Announce Xperia X4v Release in United States

xperia phoneSony recently announced its new device, the Xperia Z4v, will be carried exclusively by Verizon in the United States. This device is the latest in the line of Z3 phones uniquely carried by Verizon.

The Z4v features a 5.2-inch Full WQHD “Triluminos” display, which is an LED screen that comes with Sony’s “X-Reality” technology. This technology is meant to provide a “wider palette without risk of over saturation.”

The processor is a Snapdragon 810 octa-core 64 bit SoC. The device has 32GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot with the potential for 128GB of additional storage.

The device has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with a 25-mm wide-angle lens. The 20.7-megapixel back-facing camera has an Exmore RS image sensor and “high ISO” made for “high-quality photos, even in low lighting.” The back-facing camera is also capable of shooting up to 4K video at 30fps.

A 3,000 mAh battery comes equipped with power efficient software with settings such as STAMINA mode. Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 technology will allow for fasting charging, and embedded wireless charging with QI-standard and PMA technology also comes standard.

The device’s Ingress Protection rating is IP65 and IP68, which is the strongest protection against dust. It is also protected against low-pressure water jet spray for at least 3 minutes, and can withstand damage for up to 30 minutes in 1 meter deep water. In order to retain water resistance all ports with caps need to be capped, but the USB is able to remain capless.

The Xperioa X4v will be released by Verizon in the summer, and will be available in black and white options.

iOS 9 Scalable Keyboard Fuels Rumors of Larger iPad

apple keyboardDeveloper Steve Troughton-Smith recently discovered evidence within the beta software for iOS 9 to further support the rumors of an upcoming 12-inch iPad Pro. Last week, Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference stressed the importance of, and best ways to, design app experiences with size fluidity as a priority. This emphasis was relating to iPad’s new split-screen multitasking interface, but size fluidity might apply to more than just split-screen interfaces.

A change has been made to UIKeyboard in iOS 9 that allows the interface to be scaled to a much larger size than had been previously available. UIKeyboard provides Apple’s default keyboard software to apps, but split-screen multitasking alone does not change the size requirements for iPad’s keyboard.

Speculation suggests the new keyboard was likely designed to accomplish more serious work, which points towards the new iPad Pro. The keyboard features more keys than are currently available on the iPad keyboard, making it more closely resemble Apple hardware keyboards.

The likely timeframe for an iPad Pro announcement and launch is this fall. Only time will tell if this scalable keyboard means a larger iPad.

Former CEO Explains BlackBerry’s Decline

blackberry-storm

BlackBerry Storm

For the first time since his departure in 2012, ex-CEO of BlackBerry Jim Balsillie recently spoke about the company and its decline in the mobile market. He admitted that the 2007 introduction of the Apple iPhone was the ultimate reason behind BlackBerry’s failure. Balsillie says he knew the company could not compete.

He also explained that fear of Apple’s new device caused BlackBerry to rush the release of its touchscreen smartphone, the flawed BlackBerry Storm. The Storm resulted in a 100 percent return rate for Verizon, which caused the carrier to demand $500 million in compensation.

“With Storm we tried to do too much. It was a touch display, it was a clickable display, it had new applications, and it was all done in an incredibly short period of time and it blew up on us,” Balsillie said. “That was the time I knew we couldn’t compete on high-end hardware. We had to stick to the low-end.”

At the same time as this was happening for BlackBerry, Android was gaining popularity in the smartphone industry. Balsillie said that this was why he pushed for BlackBerry to release BBM on competing platforms, given that the company was making most of its money from services rather than actual phones. However, BlackBerry did not do this until after he had left, and by that time other services such as WhatsApp had made BBM redundant in the instant messaging market.

Despite his admission of near defeat, Balsillie remains loyal to BlackBerry, and still uses his BlackBerry Bold and Playbook. “You’ll have to pry it away from my cold, dead hands,” he said.

What You Need to Know About Apple Music

apple-musicApple recently introduced its latest feature, Apple Music, at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference. After its multi-billion dollar acquisition of Beats, Apple will finally make its debut in the streaming world.

Apple Music for iOS will launch on June 30, with an Android version set to be released in the fall. The service will cost $9.99 per month, and come with a free three-month trial to give users a chance to compare it to other services.

Apple Music will provide users with access to 30 million songs, which is around the same number as Spotify. However, Apple’s new service does have its limitations. It does not stream every iTunes track and some popular artists including The Beatles will not be available. Additionally, Apple will not be offering free ad-supported content like its counterpart Spotify. All users will have to pay for Apple Music subscriptions.

Apple is offering a family plan for Apple Music, where $14.99 per month will allow up to six family members to access the service at once. Spotify currently charges more for its streaming service, but rumor has it the company is looking to reduce its prices to match Apple.

Apple Music will be available on iOS, Apple Watch, Macs, PCs and Android devices.

Telus Bringing More Wi-Fi Hotspots to Canadians

telus-logoIn Western Canada, the fierce competition between Telus and Shaw Communications is resulting in some nice perks for users, including free Wi-Fi hotspots.

A few years ago Shaw decided to focus on offering free Wi-Fi exclusively to its customers, making over 60,000 hotspots available across British Columbia and Alberta. Telus is now doing the same thing, having already established 8,000 hotspots with a large focus on Downtown and Metro Vancouver.

Telus hopes to expand their number of hotspots through their service that provides Telus business customers with free installation of Wi-Fi hotspots on their premises. These hotspots are maintained at no additional charge with no usage limits.

“We have been adding Wi-Fi over the past year-and-a-half,” said Telus spokesperson Ryan Bazeley. “You don’t have to be a Telus customer to use the hotspots. For a business, it’s important to them to offer free Wi-Fi to all of their customers, not just a subset of their customers.”

Shaw offers Go Wi-Fi, a hotspot network that is only available to Shaw Internet subscribers.

“Comparing us to the Shaw network is not really an apples-to-apples comparison,” said Bazeley. “What we’re building is a complement to our LTE network.”

Telus also recently released Telus Wi-Fi, a mobile app designed to help users find free hot spots.

Facebook Providing Businesses with Free Beacons to Expand Place Tips

place tipsFacebook is giving free Bluetooth beacons to retailers in an attempt to draw more attention to its Place Tips feature.

Place Tips, introduced this past January, automatically provides relevant information about a user’s current location. If a particular location is enabled it will appear at the top of News Feeds, at which point users can click to view posts, popular menu items, upcoming events, and photos and updates from friends.

In order to become enabled with this feature, businesses are required to use beacons that send out signals to determine a customer’s current location. This is why Facebook is now offering free beacons by online request. According to the social network’s website, these beacons will be offered “to a limited number of businesses at this time.”

“Now people can see more information about your business whenever they use Facebook during their visit,” said Facebook’s website.

This free gadget will send a one-way signal to the Facebook app on visitor’s phones and, according to Facebook, will not collect any data or change location details Facebook receives. When the Wi-Fi beacon is delivered to a business, setup will be as simple as peeling off the sticker and placing the device in a central area.

 

Researchers Charge Devices Using Wi-Fi

wifi power camera

Wi-Fi Powered Camera

Researchers at the University of Washington are working to perfect the method of harnessing ambient Wi-Fi signals to charge electronic devices.

This technology, referred to as PoWiFi, tweaks traditional routers to emit a constant signal that can be converted into DC power by a “harvester.” While this concept has been explored in the past, it is unique in that PoWiFi works with pre-existing hardware. The modified router sends data and power over the same signal, eliminating the need to purchase a separate device.

Researcher Vamsi Talla successfully created a Wi-Fi powered camera. Placed 17 feet from a PoWiFi router, the camera was able to collect enough power to take a picture every 35 minutes. Additionally, a small test group of PoWiFi users did not notice any change in Internet speed.

Google Makes Privacy Settings More User Friendly

GoogleGoogle recently simplified its privacy settings, redesigning the “My Account” hub. In an attempt to make its over one billion users more comfortable, the company is now making it easier to understand how their personal information is being used.

Users can also choose to undergo a check-up that will break down which of the company’s services are gathering information from them. To address a variety of issues regarding privacy, users can visit http://privacy.google.com.

Google has admitted its previous setup confused and frustrated a lot of people. Before the recent redesign, privacy controls were spread out across Google’s website with very little elaboration on how to properly use each function.

“It wasn’t well organized and we didn’t give a lot of context,” said Guemmy Kim, Google’s product manager of account controls and settings. “We are trying to take the mystery out of privacy.”

One of the major desires of users is to properly understand the privacy settings and permissions that enable Google to track where they are and what they’re doing. Google’s privacy controls will allow users to prevent Google from logging their activities on PCs and mobile devices if desired.