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Showing posts from February, 2016

The iPhone Camera As A Professional Tool

Foodie magazine Bon Appétit has done something quite risky with this month’s issue. Photographers have left their cameras at their desks and used iPhones to shoot all the photos for the 43-page feature story of the magazine. This wasn’t Apple’s idea — Bon Appétit was working on a Culture issue, and the iPhone is part of the food culture now. “When we were discussing what the cover for the issue should be, we realized that nothing captures the zeitgeist of food culture like someone snapping a photo of their meal with their phone,” Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport told me. “It’s what we all do — all of us. And so we then thought, ‘Wait a minute — what if we actually shot the entire feature well with iPhones?’ And I guess you could say that’s just how we think. As editors, attempting something new and different is what keeps our jobs interesting.” If it sounds like a gimmick, Cait Oppermann had a different reaction. “I was really excited about it, because despite being a photog…

Google Decouples Play Games From Google+, Lets Gamers Choose Their Own Names And Avatars

Until today, you needed a Google+ account to use Google Play Games, Google’s online gaming service for bringing online multiplayer gaming, video recordings and social features like profiles and leaderboards to Android games. Today, Google is launching an update to Play Games, however, that removes this requirement. All you need to sign up now is a regular Google account and instead of having to use your real name (or at least the one associated with your Google+ profile), you can now choose any random Gamer ID and avatar to represent you. Google tells me these changes will roll out globally over the course of the next week, so if you don’t see it right away, just give it a few more days. Google is also now making it easier to sign into Play Games. Instead of having to sign in for every game separately, all you have to do now is sign in once for your account. After that, you’ll be automatically signed in when you install a new app and start a new game. As Google product manager Benjam…

Facebook Plans To Put Ads In Messenger

A leaked document Facebook sent to some of its biggest advertisers reveals that Facebook will launch ads within Messenger in Q2 2016. The document also notes that Facebook has quietly launched a URL short link fb.com/msg/ that instantly opens a chat thread with a business. Facebook confirmed the existence of the URL short link. That seems to back up the validity of the leaked document. An example of messages between businesses and users Regarding Messenger ads specifically, Facebook told me “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation. That said, our aim with Messenger is to create a high quality, engaging experience for 800 million people around the world, and that includes ensuring people do not experience unwanted messages of any type.” That last part sounds like Facebook trying to reassure users that even when there are ads, they won’t be completely unsolicited, and it’s going to be very careful. Messenger is one of Facebook’s most popular and fastest-growing products, with 800 mill…

Anyline Raises €1.5M To Let You Add Optical Character Recognition To Your App

Anyline, the Austrian startup that provides mobile OCR tech to enable developers to add text recognition to their own apps, has raised €1.5 million in funding. The list of investors is interesting, too. It includes angel investor Johann ‘Hansi’ Hansmann, busuu co-founder Bernhard Niesner, Lukas Püspök, and the U.S.-based VC-fund iSeed Ventures. However, most notable is that the round was led by Gernot Langes-Swarovski Group. As one investor put it to me, “the fact that the Swarovski family led the round shows that finally ‘old’ money is moving into Austrian startups”. Offering its own mobile Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology — which uses a smartphone’s camera to accurately scan and recognise any kind of text, code or number — Anyline co-founder and CEO Lukas Kinigadner tells me the startup is built on the premise that “people screw up a lot”. “Mistakes happen easily when you’re writing down a 10-digit-number and then have to type it in again a few moments later. Anyline c…

Samsung Touts Fitness, Privacy Smarts For Incoming Galaxy S7 Flagships

Not to be outdone on the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge leaks that were all over the Internets yesterday, Samsung has published an official launch website for its forthcoming pair of flagships — which includes a new promo video for the S7 Edge with some heavy hints about features, along with some general themes Samsung is pushing for the S7 line. The company’s previous teaser video for the S7 focused on its Gear VR platform. So what additional details can we glean? In the new video (embedded at the end of this post) — titled “Get Ready for the #NextGalaxy” — a handset that might well be the S7 Edge is shown getting heavily rained on, so check the box for water resistance/water-proofing… Despite the 2014 Galaxy S5 sporting water resistance, last year’s S6 flagships were not officially water resistant; Samsung reserved that feature for another handset, the Galaxy S6 Active. Boo-hiss! But it looks like the company has had a change of heart and will be bringing water-resistance back to its flagsh…

LG Outs Its Next Phablet, The Slender LG Stylus 2

There’s less than a week to go until LG’s pre-MWC press conference, where the company is expected to lift the veil on a new flagship smartphone, the LG G5. But the South Korean mobile maker has another handset to show off in Barcelona — which it’s just announced today. The 5.7 inch LG Stylus 2 is the follow on phablet to the G4 Stylus, which launched in May last year. The screen size of the sequel is the same but LG has shaved a few millimeters off the thickness, with the Stylus 2 measuring just 7.4mm vs 9.4mm for last year’s model. It’s also a few grams lighter, weighing in at 145g vs 163g for the G4 Stylus. Despite being so slender the phablet does include an SD card for user expandable memory. It also packs a 3,000mAh removable battery. Another changed is a tweak to the bundled stylus, which LG is now calling a “pen”. It says the new stylus has a “nano-coated tip” — for, it claims, enhanced accuracy vs the rubber-tipped stylus of 2015’s phablet. It’s also touting a new Calligraphy…

IBM Launches New Mainframe With Focus On Security And Hybrid Cloud

Mainframes aren’t dead yet. IBM is launching a new version of its z13 mainframe for mid-sized enterprises today that introduces a number of new security features. With up to 4 TB of RAM, the z13s also supports 8x as much memory as IBM’s previous single-frame mainframes. IBM also says the z13s offers faster processing speeds than some of its previous mainframes in this price range, but the focus of the z13s is clearly on security. One feature that makes today’s mainframes different from standard servers is that they include numerous specialized processors for features like memory control, I/O, and cryptography. The z13s includes new cryptography hardware that can encrypt and decrypt data twice as fast as its predecessors for example. To speed up the z13s’ cryptography functions, the mainframe now features a faster cryptography co-processor card with more memory than IBM’s previous mid-range machines. “This means clients can process twice as many high-volume, cryptographically-protected…

Synology Brings Its First Router To The U.S.

Synology isn’t exactly a household name in the U.S. yet, but the Taiwanese company is definitely trying to make more of a name for itself here. The company has long offered its various DiskStation network-attached storage (NAS) devices, but now it’s also bringing its first router (the RT1900ac) to the U.S. market. The Synology router is now available in the U.S. for a suggested retail price of $149.99. That puts it in line with other mid-range 802.11ac routers likes TP-LINK’s popular Archer C8 or the Netgear AC1750, which feature somewhat similar hardware specs. It’s also cheaper than Google’s current lineup of OnHub routers, which both clock in at over $199. For the longest time, routers weren’t all that interesting. Their hardware did what it was supposed to, but the software was often more than clunky. That has changed over the last few years and with OnHub, Google showed that it’s possible to make a piece of smartly designed hardware that was also easy to use and — for most people …

Finally, There’s An App For Noodle Soup Lovers — And It’s Great

If you’re a noodle soup enthusiast — and if you’re notyou really should be — here’s an app that’ll get you salivating. “Wait, there’s an app for noodle soup???” I hear you say… Yes, that’s right. Believe it or not noodle soup is a delightful culinary genre in its own right, not just a dish. Whether it’s pho from Vietnam, miso from Japan or guay tiew from Thailand, noodle soup is full of variety, depth and flavor. Worry not about the various different options though, because iOS app Noodler is here to cover you. Beyond a beautiful design that features anime-inspired illustrations, this ‘oracle’ app is packed with meal ideas — more than three million soup ‘designs’ in fact — each of which comes with a list of ingredients and cooking directions. You’ll be greeted with a randomly generated soup idea right when you open the app. If that strikes your interest, simply tap on the bowl to be taken through to the instructions page. Otherwise, hit refresh and new combination will appear for y…

Movebubble, The App That Aims To Make Renting In London Suck Less, Scores $1.6M Investment

Movebubble, the startup that wants to make renting in London suck a little less, has picked up $1.6 million in further funding, bringing total investment to just over $3.4 million. Investors include Adam Williams (former Spotify MD), Richard Leigh (co-founder and MD of London and Capital), and Robert Stiff. The company, which launched on-stage at our very own TechCrunch Disrupt London late last year, offers an app that lists properties available to rent and helps manage the rental process, including booking viewings. Specifically, Movebubble promises to put renters first, letting them share information on different areas of London and give feedback on properties. Crucially, it also claims to offer real-time availability of the properties listed through the app, solving one of the major pain-points of searching for a place to rent: by the time you contact a landlord or their agent, the property is already taken. “There are 1.9 million renters in London, and so many ways that finding so…

Apple Recalls Some MacBook USB-C Cables Because Of Intermittent Charging Flaw

Apple is recalling certain MacBook USB-C charge cables because of a design flaw. The affected MacBook charge cables were sold worldwide up to last summer. In a note about the charge cable recall on its website Apple says a “limited number” of its USB-C charge cables for the MacBook, which were included with the laptop through June 2015 may fail “due to a design issue”. It’s not specifying the exact problem but says MacBooks using the affected cables may not charge or may only charge intermittently. The new USB-C port was only introduced by Apple to its MacBooks in March 2015, in a classic Cupertino convergence move that saw it combine multiple port functions — power, data input/output, accessories and display connection — into just the one USB-C port. So not without the other C-word, controversy, too. Apple is replacing affected USB-C charge cables free of charge with a new, redesigned version. It notes that affected cables may also have been sold as standalone accessories, as well a…

Apple Music Tops 11 Million Subscribers; iCloud Reaches 782 Million

At the beginning of this year, Apple Music had surpassed 10 million subscribers, according to a report from the Financial Times. Now, Apple SVP Eddy Cue has confirmed this figure. In fact, he gave a more precise number – the company has just passed over 11 million subscribers, he says. This tidbit and more were revealed on John Gruber’s “The Talk Show” podcast where Cue and SVP Craig Federighi joined to dish about features in upcoming OS releases, Apple’s intentions around its public beta, and more. The Apple Music subscriber count is especially interesting because of how quickly the service has been growing. Apple’s debut in the streaming music space launched last June, offering users free, three-month trials on iOS. The app then arrived on Android in November. Those who didn’t choose to cancel began paying the $9.99 per month fee to remain subscribed. Apple also recently closed off some of the features on its free tier in order to boost subscriptions. Specifically, it shut off acce…