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Tech News

Apple might have to approve India's anti-spam app in six months

July 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has introduced a new policy to fight spam calls and text that could impact Apple’s huge expansion plans in the country. Under the new rule, carriers have to ensure that their subscribers can install TRAI’s “Do Not Disturb” app on their phones. Problem is, Apple refuses to allow it on the App Store over privacy concerns, since it needs access to users’ call and message logs in order to report spam activities to the agency. Apple has been at odds with the regulator for over a year due to the issue, and this new development could force the tech giant to find a solution once and for all.

Based on the rule’s wording as reported by India Today, carriers have six months to make sure the devices they offer are capable of installing the app. If any of the models in their roster still can’t install it by then, they’ll have to cut off its access to their networks:

“Every Access Provider shall ensure, within six months’ time, that all smart phone devices registered on its network support the permissions required for the functioning of such Apps as prescribed in the regulations 6(2)(e) and regulations 23(2)(d).

Provided that where such devices do not permit functioning of such Apps as prescribed in regulations 6(2)(e) and regulations 23(2)(d), Access Providers shall, on the order or direction of the Authority, derecognize such devices from their telecom networks.”

Late last year, Apple agreed to help TRAI develop a version of the anti-spam app without some of its most worrisome features, such as its ability access to call logs. It’s not entirely clear if the company can release the revised application within the next six months or if it has to think of another way altogether. As India Today notes, though, iOS 12 already has built-in anti-spam capabilities — Cupertino might be able to use that to its advantage.

Gaming News

The One Thing Windows Vista Did Right

July 20, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty)

Vista was bad. Coming five years after XP, it was heavily anticipated by Windows users who were impatiently awaiting something interesting from Microsoft as Apple’s star was on the rise. Yet when the OS dropped publicly in January 2007, it was immediately reviled by, well, everyone (except our expert reviewers). It was slower than XP, had annoying DRM that grossly restricted what people could do, and removed a ton of features people liked. It is not hyperbole to say it might be the most hated software product Microsoft has ever produced—impressive for the company that gave us Internet Explorer and Clippy. But Vista did one thing very, very right, and 11 years later, it’s never been more in fashion.

So what was Vista actually prescient about? Translucent design elements.

All the way back in Vista, Microsoft introduced Aero, a design language intended to be a futuristic update to XP. Aero’s most eye-catching feature was the Glass theme, which could make elements throughout the UI transparent. When it was released, it didn’t get more than a passing nod from reviewers who noted it was slick if somewhat irrelevant to the actual performance of the OS.

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Aero lasted through Windows 7—Microsoft’s most critically lauded OS until Windows 10. Then in Windows 8, Microsoft introduced a new design language: Metro. Metro actually kicked off another major trend in user interface design: flat design elements. But it still maintained some of the cool translucent effects introduced in Aero.

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Those translucent effects were carried over to Windows 10 and are easily seen in Edge, the Start menu, and the Notifications panel. They’re so popular, some Windows 10 users are even hacking the OS to add translucency and transparency to everything else!

The effect is super noticeable in the start menu.Screenshot: Windows 10

The trend isn’t reserved to Windows. Apple seems to have been inspired, too. That’s because UI designers, like everyone else, are subject to trends. Once upon a time, everyone tried to make their app icons and buttons look rounded because of iOS. Then, after Windows and Android embraced a flatter look, iOS followed suit with iOS 7 in 2013. It also began sprinkling that sweet, sweet translucent design throughout.

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Look at these pretty menus!Screenshot: macOS Mojave

The translucent elements first appeared in Mac OS X Leopard 10.5 as an option to turn the menu bar translucent. That was in November 2007, nearly a year after Vista launched. Apple seriously began showing off translucent elements when iOS 7 added translucent menus and notifications in 2013. MacOS 10.10 Yosemite began embracing translucency a year later.

Since then, both Apple operating systems have added more and more translucent elements. The most recent additions come courtesy of the betas for macOS Mojave and iOS 12. That’s because both are adding dark translucent elements, which seem to highlight the translucency effect even more. It is reminiscent of glass that’s been frosted and tinted. It’s very attractive. Sometimes I get distracted into marveling at it instead of doing work.

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I mean just look at it in Safari!

GIF: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

It’s so good, I find myself using Safari instead of Chrome just so I can watch stuff I’m scrolling through turn blurry as it hits the browser frame.

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The transparent elements, while not as ubiquitous in iOS, are still present there too—particularly in the iOS 12 beta, which has done away with the garish white panels in the notification center and embraced a dark and translucent look.

Screenshot: iOS 12 Beta

Since Microsoft introduced Aero in 2007, the transparent elements of the Windows UI have evolved and been refined from an operating system’s splashy party trick to an elegant element you might not even notice. Apple has embraced the trend, and even Android is now flirting with translucency. Since Android Oreo was released last year, more and more translucent design elements have appeared throughout Android. It’s especially noticeable in the beta for Android P, the next version of Android expected later this year.

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From left to right: The Notification menu in Android P. Top view of open apps in Android P. The notification menu on a Samsung Galaxy S9.Screenshot: Android

Google’s Android, like Apple, is embracing the trend begun with Vista. Which means, yeah, one of the touchstone design ideas in operating systems and apps today didn’t come from Microsoft’s best operating system. It came from its worst.

Tech News

Dish customers can chat with service reps through iMessage

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

DISH Network Corporation

Dish announced today that its customers can now chat with service representatives through Apple’s Business Chat messaging service. Apple launched Business Chat earlier this year and it lets companies interact with their customers through iMessage. So far, companies that have begun providing support through Business Chat include Discover, The Home Depot, Hilton, Lowe’s, T-Mobile and Wells Fargo. Dish says that its customers will be able to ask live agents questions, make account changes, schedule appointments and order pay-per-view movies and sporting events with Business Chat.

“TV should be simple, so we’ve made reaching our live customer service representatives as easy as sending a text,” Dish COO John Swieringa said in a statement. “Adding messaging with Apple Business Chat is a powerful way to connect with us, giving another choice so you can pick what fits with your life.” Message threads will remain open until customers delete them from their Messages app and conversations can be picked up at any time.

To contact Dish through Business Chat, your device must be running iOS 11.3 or higher. Just search for Dish on your iPhone or iPad and tap the Messages icon that shows up next to the Dish search result. Dish says that it will soon launch the ability for customers to open a chat through the contact page of the MyDish app.

Tech News

Apple, Fitbit and Sonos could feel the sting of Trump tariffs

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Chris Velazco / Engadget

Some wearables and smart speakers could soon face a price increase because of US tariffs on Chinese goods, according to US Customs and Border Protection classifications. Reuters reported that Apple Watch, Fitbit devices and some Sonos speakers fall under a “data transmission machines” subheading in a list of 6,000 tariff codes proposed earlier this month.

Customs rulings specifically declare that Apple Watch; Fitbit Charge, Charge HR and Surge; and Sonos Play:3, Play:5 and SUB fall under that subheading. The most recent list of tariffs relate to $200 billion worth of goods and are in a public comment period. If they go into effect in the fall, there could be a 10 percent tariff imposed on all those products.

Apple, Fitbit and Sonos most definitely won’t want to eat that cost, so if the tariffs take effect, it’s likely their devices will see a price hike, with consumers getting hit in the pocket. In its S-1 filing earlier this month as Sonos prepares for its IPO, the company warned that “the imposition of tariffs and other trade barriers, as well as retaliatory trade measures, could require us to raise the prices of our products and harm our sales.”

The tech industry as a whole is wrestling with increased costs because of the trade war with China. Tesla has moved to combat tariffs by raising prices in China.

President Trump has been accused by a Consumer Technology Association vice president of targeting select products and companies with the tariffs. According to the New York Times, Trump recently told Apple CEO Tim Cook that the government would not impose tariffs on iPhones made in China — the president switched from Android to Apple’s smartphone last year.

However, the Apple, Fitbit and Sonos devices may not all still fall under the “data transmission machines” subheading. Some of the products have new models that could have a different classification. Otherwise, there are three ways out of the tariff for the firms: try to get the code nixed from the list during the public comment period, apply for an exclusion, or attempt to get their devices reclassified under a code not on the list.

Tech News

iFixit puts the MacBook Pro's anti-debris keyboard to the test

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

MacLife Magazine via Getty Images

Users have complained that the butterfly switch keyboard that comes with newer MacBook and MacBook Pro models is too sensitive to crumbs and dust, with difficult-to-repair keys becoming “sticky” overtime. But when iFixit took a look inside Apple’s newest MacBook Pro, it discovered silicone barriers around the keyboard switches — a new addition that a MacBook Pro service document states is to “prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism.” Now, iFixit has put those barriers to the test in order to see how effective they really are at keeping particles from damaging the keyboard.

To test the silicone barriers, iFixit exposed the 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard to a fine, powdered paint additive and the team observed that the dust remained at the edges of the membrane and away from the switch. However, adding more particulate and throwing in some “aggressive typing” caused the dust to penetrate beneath the clips and get to the switch. Taking it a step further, iFixit added some sand to the keyboards and found that doing so caused keys to stop working. So it looks like the the barriers do a decent job protecting against dust, at least in the short term, but larger particles may still be an issue.

Apple has faced lawsuits over its butterfly switch keyboards and last month, it finally acknowledged the issue by launching a repair program for certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models. It’s good to see that the company is making some effort to fix the issue in newer models, but as iFixit notes, only time will tell how long these silicone membranes hold up.

Tech News

This day in Engadget history: The iPhone jailbreak era begins

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Mark Mathosian/Flickr

Engadget has been around for 14 years and counting, which means our archives contain a veritable treasure trove of technology history. From notable reviews and news to the more mundane or ridiculous finds from across the internet, there’s a lot to explore here. “This Day in Engadget History” will take you on a historical voyage as we look at what made the headlines in years past. Join us, won’t you?

It’s definitely been a while since anyone seriously needed to jailbreak their iPhone. While undoubtedly some people still do, it seems like there’s little need now that we’ve seen the tenth anniversary of the iOS App Store. There are plenty of apps these days and a whole different OS (Google’s Android) for those who want something a little more customizable.

Back in 2007, however, the walled garden of Apple’s ecosystem was firmly in place; there wasn’t even an App Store to go find third-party apps in. On July 19, 2007 — just a few weeks after the iPhone launch — a hacker called “Nightwatch” compiled and launched the iPhone’s first third-party app, a “Hello World” program. A typical first program on any computing platform, the app didn’t do much but display those words. It did, however, usher in a whole new era of “jailbreaking” iPhones, along with app repositories like Cydia and the like.

So, whenever you bemoan Apple’s fierce gatekeeping around the apps it allows on the iOS App Store, remember it wasn’t that long ago when there weren’t any at all. And pour one out for Nightwatch, the one who started it all.

Tech News

Apple's slim MacBook Pro design could be holding back its i9 CPU

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Dana Wollman/Engadget

The 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro lets you crank up the processor power by swapping in an Intel 2.9GHz six-core Core i9 CPU for an extra $300. But the chip seems to be struggling when it’s handling power-hungry tasks, to the point where the average clock speed is vastly below the advertised performance of the CPU. Some tests even showed that it fared worse than the i7 model.

That i9 processor can supposedly Turbo Boost to 4.8GHz, but some users are noticing that the chip is struggling when it is under heavy load. YouTuber Dave Lee’s testing showed average speeds of around 2.2GHz when the i9 system is running Adobe Premiere Pro, which is a demanding application. Render times were slower with the i9 than the i7, though the i9 configuration operates when kept cool (in this case by putting the computer in a freezer). The reason for the lackluster performance seems to be the laptop’s design, and more specifically, how it handles cooling.

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Intel’s thermal design point (or TDP) regulates how hot a processor can get to when it is unboosted, and guides manufacturers on their computer designs so they can keep the CPU cool enough. Desktop computers have more physical space in which to move air around, so they can handle a processor with a higher TDP, but the thinner chassis of laptops means it’s harder to keep components cool, and the TDP of their processors is typically lower than in desktops.

The i9 has a TDP of 45 watts, the same as the i7, according to Intel. That means the chips should, in theory, operate with the same effectiveness using the same cooling system at their base clocks. As long as a processor stays cool, it can exceed its normal clock speed and venture into Turbo Boost territory. But doing so increases the temperature, and as the CPU gets hotter, it slows down to aid the cooling system in dispersing heat.

The i9’s Turbo clock is 4.8GHz, which will generate a lot more heat than the i7’s 4.4GHz. As these Turbo speeds aren’t factored into the TDP, the confined spaces of a MacBook Pro are clearly causing problems for Apple at the higher clock rates.

It’s common for any computer to throttle performance when the internal temperature hits a certain point. Keeping machines and people safe is ultimately more important than completing tasks faster. However, the CPU and GPU share the same cooling system in a MacBook Pro, so if you’re using a graphics-heavy app, performance might stutter even more.

But not all hope is lost for those with an i9 configuration who are frustrated with the sluggish performance. If it chooses to, Apple could resolve or mitigate the issue with a firmware update that kicks in the fans sooner, regulates how long the CPU can stay overclocked or tweaks

Tech News

Hey Google, Android actually does stifle competition

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Sundar Pichai knows that the choice of mobile OS nowadays boils down to Android or iOS. He published a blog post yesterday in response to the European Commission’s competition decision against Android, which opens saying, “If you buy an Android phone, you’re choosing one of the world’s two most popular mobile platforms.” That’s not very many options, but it’s also not Google’s fault.

Although, the rise of Android did arguably force operating systems like Symbian, BlackBerry OS, Palm OS, Windows Mobile and even upstarts like Firefox OS, out of the ecosystem. Still, Pichai contends that Android has expanded the choice of phones available around the world, while the Commission believes that Google’s dominance and the restrictions it reportedly imposes are detrimental to competition, particularly with regards to the software on those phones.

As a refresher, the European Commission announced on Wednesday that it’s fining Google €4.34 billion (about US$5.1 billion) for “breaching EU antitrust rules.” According to the news release, “Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search” since 2011. Google intends to appeal the decision, Pichai said.

I’m not going to get too deep into the details of the Commission’s contentions and Google’s arguments. The gist is that the Commission believes Google required manufacturers to pre-install certain apps like Chrome and Google Search, either by paying them or making it a condition for licensing the Play Store. The Commission also believes that Google blocked manufacturers from selling devices running alternative versions of Android without its approval.

When I asked Google whether these claims are true, the company’s reps directed me to Pichai’s blog post. In it, he didn’t directly address these statements, although he explained some of the practices (sort of). He acknowledged that with Android, the company can “offer phone makers the option of pre-loading a suite of popular Google apps…, some of which generate revenue for us.”

He also said that companies aren’t obligated to pre-install those apps, and that they’re free to bundle competing options alongside Google’s own. In that situation, Pichai said the company only makes money if its apps are installed and used instead of the alternatives.

AOL

But his biggest point, which he made at the beginning of his piece, is that Android provides choice — that “there are more than 24,000 devices, at every price point, from more than 1,300 different brands.” So technically you can choose from thousands of different Android phones.

Here’s the thing, though: manufacturers don’t have all that much choice. Of all the viable mobile platforms available today, Android and iOS are the only ones with enough users to even be a consideration. But Apple is the only company that can make iOS devices, so hardware makers are really only left with Android. Now, of course, under the Android umbrella, they can choose from the regular flavor or the lightweight Go version. That’s great, but it’s still a Google game. Manufacturers have to meet certain technical requirements (admittedly for a better overall user experience in general) and play by Google’s rules. That means installing the apps Google suggests, just to keep it happy.

When a phone already comes installed with browser, messaging, email and other apps from Google, bundling competing options just adds to software bloat, which turns most users off. Not only is there no incentive to create better alternatives, then, but there’s compelling reason for manufacturers to not create their own apps. Also, people are lazy — they likely won’t go to the trouble of installing a new browser and setting it as their default. So, if what the Commission contends is true, and Google is making pre-installing Chrome and Search prerequisites for access to the Play Store, then it is stifling competition.

That’s not just limiting for phone makers, but could lead to fewer meaningful choices for consumers as well. Every Android phone is more or less the same — a Galaxy S9 is a nicer LG G7 ThinQ with better cameras minus the AI photographer, for example. Companies fighting to differentiate in hardware is why we end up with iterative performance upgrades every year, or features like more cameras with more megapixels. Some of these can be truly innovative, like in-screen fingerprint readers. But for the most part, we’re getting things like motorized pop-up selfie cameras, stronger-than-usual haptic motors or two-tone gradient finishes.

Even just within the realm of competing Android skins, we’ve seen the benefits of an abundance of choice. Developers have come up with useful features like Night mode and lock-screen shortcuts that have now become baked into the major operating systems. What if software makers were encouraged to develop their own OSes — what changes could they come up with?

Nowhere do we see this stagnation more clearly than with Wear OS watches. Sure, there may be dozens of variants available from brands like Huawei, LG, Fossil, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Casio and a ton more. But each of these smartwatches is basically the same skeleton. Imagine trying to pick a new teammate from an offering of clones of the same person wearing different clothes. Some of them have better features, like built-in GPS, longer lasting batteries and brighter displays, but ultimately they do the same things.

Don’t get me wrong, Google has done a lot of good for app developers and consumers. Android is a fine operating system (good riddance to Symbian) and has helped deliver strong competition for Apple. And to Google’s point, which it illustrated with a hilarious step-by-step GIF complete with timer, uninstalling a preloaded app is quite easy and takes about 10 seconds (if you’re slow).

Android has also freed up Google’s partners so they can innovate on hardware, which admittedly gives us a variety of options from the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy line to the OnePlus phones or even the BlackBerry KeyTwo. That range of choices allows the market to cater for a wide-ranging set of users. But while Android has fostered healthy handset competition, it may have stifled the same for software. Google already has Microsoft as an example to look to — the Windows maker avoided hefty fines by complying with the EU and letting users pick third-party default browsers more easily. Of course, it’s ridiculous that Apple gets away with pre-installing Safari (among other things) because, as the Commission argues, it is “exclusively used by vertically integrated developers,” while Microsoft and Google are punished for working with hardware partners.

But the point is that Google does work with many other manufacturers, who shouldn’t be forced into pre-installation decisions they wouldn’t otherwise make. They should have the choice to bundle Chrome if they want, without being threatened with losing access to app stores. There should also be a level playing field for people who want to make competing apps. Google should be more concerned with making the best available product that users would install when their phones don’t already come with one. Ultimately, by arguing that it has fostered healthy handset diversity, Google is not only nitpicking, but also neglecting the control it has over mobile platforms.

Tech News

MacBook Pro document confirms 'anti-debris' keyboard redesign

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

AOL

When iFixit tore down the new MacBook Pros, it found silicone barriers protecting keyboard switches. While Apple claimed these were to make the keyboards quieter, others suspected that the membranes were a way for Apple to fix its troublesome keyboards. Now, an internal document obtained by MacGénération and MacRumors confirms that the new feature is indeed a barrier to “prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism.”

Specifically, the US version of the MacBook Pro Service Readiness Guide apparently links to a separate document called “Butterfly Mechanism Keycap Replacement MacBook Pro (2018).” MacRumors reports that it contains the following language: “Caution: The keyboard has a membrane under the keycaps to prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism. Be careful not to tear the membrane. A torn membrane will result in a top case replacement.”

This isn’t really a surprise. Apple is already facing a class-action lawsuit over these keyboards, which are expensive and difficult to repair and prone to breakage. The company has also instituted a service program to repair or replace keyboards free of charge for certain models. While the company doesn’t want to add credence to the lawsuits against it, it clearly is taking steps to address the reliability of its keyboards.

Tech News

Appleā€™s MacBook eGPU is a step toward winning back creative pros

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Even though Apple makes a lot more money on iPhones and iPads, Macs are still crucial to its bottom line. For years, they were widely loved by creative folks and influencers because they were simpler and more powerful than Windows PCs. Now, content creation pros and designers are falling out of love with Apple. Many see the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar as a dumb consumer gimmick, and worse, Apple’s top-end laptops have failed to keep pace technologically with powerful, well-designed PCs from Microsoft, Dell and others.

Many of Apple’s most passionate fans are journalists, programmers and high-profile designers who are loud on social media when they like and dislike what Apple is doing. Such complaints have made it to the ears of Apple brass. Last year, VP Craig Federighi admitted that they “designed ourselves into a bit of a corner” with the Mac Pro, and vowed to release a model this year (it now says it won’t come until 2019).

The new MacBook Pros with eighth-generation Intel CPUs help, but many folks still aren’t thrilled. The top-of-the-line model, which starts at $2,799, offers less than half the graphics performance of the $2,399 Razer Blade, for instance. But Apple also did something pretty canny. It unveiled a Thunderbolt 3 external GPU (eGPU) it co-designed with BlackMagic Design for $700, which is a reasonably competitive price next to other third-party models. It’s a strong sign that it hasn’t given up on the creators that are most passionate about its products.

BlackMagic Design’s eGPU connects to any Mac with a Thunderbolt 3 port, and packs a Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB of DDR5 graphics memory. That puts it nearly on par with NVIDIA’s 6GB GeForce GTX 1060, and the extra 2GB is hugely valuable for 3D modeling and other productivity chores. It also doubles the performance of the Radeon Pro 560X in the latest MacBook Pro, and since the same card is used in the 27-inch iMac, driver support should be rock-solid. The Thunderbolt 3 connection will let you plug in LG’s Apple-approved LG Ultrafine 5K display, BlackMagic says.

On top of that, you get four USB3 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI 2.0 port, letting you plug in a 4K monitor and other accessories, and even charge your laptop. It should work with any MacBook Pro released after 2016.

Attaching the box will significantly boost the horsepower of a MacBook Pro, but there are a few notable downsides. The most significant is that the Radeon Pro 580 card inside the eGPU can’t be upgraded, so in a couple of years the box might seem doggy compared to the Radeon Pro 680 or whatever comes along next.

So who should buy this? If you want to own a MacBook Pro and use video editing and graphics apps like Premiere Pro CC, Final Cut Pro X and Blackmagic’s own DaVinci Resolve 15, then it should be on the front of