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Google reportedly offered Android changes to EU in 2017

July 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The European Union may have characterized its $5 billion Android antitrust fine as punishment for an intransigent Google, but the practical reality might be different. Bloomberg sources have claimed that Google offered to make changes to its Android policies in August 2017, not long after it received an EU antitrust penalty for its product search practices. Although Google didn’t dive into specifics, it had offered to “loosen restrictions” in Android contracts and had considered distributing its apps in “two different ways.”

The EU wasn’t having it, according to the sources. Officials reportedly said only that a settlement was “no longer an option,” and that Google’s offer was “too little too late.” It couldn’t even mention the possibility of paying a fine as part of an agreement — regulators had effectively locked in their course of action. Google had tried to talk about ending the probe considerably earlier than that, according to the tipsters, but regulators supposedly either stonewalled or said it was too early to negotiate. If so, there may have only been a brief window of opportunity for a truce.

The revelations, if accurate, ultimately leave Google in the same boat: it’s now facing a giant fine and significant changes to its mobile strategy if its appeal doesn’t succeed. They do suggest that the penalty wasn’t inevitable, though, and that Google might well have implemented Russia-style changes months sooner if the EU had wanted to bend.

Tech News

The best website builder for small businesses

July 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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By Kevin Purdy

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full website builder guide here.

After researching 17 of the top website-building services and hosts, building 20 websites with seven of the most promising ones, and changing hundreds of little things on each page, we believe Wix is the best way for a small business to put up a professional-looking website. Its templates, setup interview, and editing tools create modern, clean-looking sites that you can easily customize, and adding crucial tools like contact forms or restaurant menus is easier than with other website-building tools. Wix’s customer support is reliable, its free trial is generous, and its pricing is clear and fair for small businesses.

Beyond the basics of site editing, Wix offers a wealth of plug-ins for adding Google Maps, OpenTable, appointment booking, and other tools to your website. Its search engine optimization tools are easy to understand and use, and thanks to Wix’s size and scale, your site should remain reliable and available even under heavy traffic.

Weebly lacks the variety of templates that Wix provides, and it can’t automatically build you a site by asking you about your business. But Weebly’s editing interface is simpler and provides less room for error with its drag-and-drop boxes. Weebly also (paradoxically) offers deeper access to the code behind your site, but has fewer useful plug-ins and forms from the start. You should try Weebly if you can’t find a template or generated site you like on Wix, if you want to make some specific changes to your site using code (or a code-savvy helper), or if price is the most important factor for you, as the Starter package for Weebly costs one-third less than Wix’s comparable Combo package.

Every designer we spoke with specifically recommended Shopify for any business that’s looking to sell goods online. Although our top picks have built-in ecommerce tools, it makes more sense for most businesses to use Shopify, or at least its Lite version, and embed Shopify’s tools into their websites—Shopify works with both of our top picks, and you won’t be locked in if you decide to change your site later.

Why you should trust us

I’ve written a number of Wirecutter guides to software, including tax software, budget apps, and picks in our home-office guide. Before joining Wirecutter, I wrote about the Web and apps for years, both as an editor at the productivity and software site Lifehacker and as a freelancer for publications including Fast Company, Fortune, and ITworld. I have some experience building websites, with very basic tools (Notepad and HTML), ridiculously convoluted tools (Jekyll, which powers my personal site), and some of the modern building tools reviewed here, including WordPress and Squarespace.

In addition to using my own experience, I enlisted the help of a dozen Wirecutter writers and editors

Tech News

Samsung may have an answer to Apple's AirPower wireless charger

July 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Mobiparts.de

Whenever Apple releases its AirPower multi-device charger, it might have some fresh competition. Recently discovered images and listings have revealed Samsung’s Wireless Charger Duo, which (as the name implies) could offer fast charging to two devices at once. It wouldn’t be as flexible as Apple’s device since you’d need to place your devices on specific spots. However, you could top up a phone and the upcoming Galaxy Watch at the same time, or even two phones at once if you’re using it as a family charging station.

We wouldn’t make bets on pricing at this point. Given that the leaks revolve heavily around the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy Watch, there’s a good chance that Samsung could unveil the Wireless Charger Duo at its August 9th event. It might just be a matter of weeks before you can check one out first-hand.

This is the Samsung Wireless Charger Duo (EP-N6100) for the Galaxy Note 9. Charges the Galaxy Watch alongside the phone. pic.twitter.com/VnP10xAhvb

— Roland Quandt (@rquandt) July 21, 2018

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.

Tech News

Harvard's robot arm can grab squishy sea animals without hurting them

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Wyss Institute at Harvard University

As you might imagine, you can’t just grab extra-soft sea creatures like jellyfish or octopuses when you want to study them. Not if you want them to remain intact, anyway. Thankfully, researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have a far more delicate solution. They’ve created a robot arm (the RAD sampler) whose petal-like fingers can quickly form a ball shape around an animal, capturing it without risking any harm. It’s simpler than it looks — it uses just a single motor to drive the entire jointed structure, so it’s easy to control and easier still to repair if something breaks.

To date, the arm has only been useful for catch-and-release experiments. In the future, though, biologists could outfit the machine with cameras and sensors to collect information about whatever’s inside the sphere, whether it’s the material composition, size or the genetic sequencing. If that happens, researchers could study fragile undersea critters in their native habitats and glean insights that wouldn’t be available above water or with dead specimens.

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Tech News

Magic Leap signs content deal with comics giant Grant Morrison

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Magic Leap

Magic Leap has teamed up with Scotland-based Square Slice Studios, which was co-founded by comic book industry veteran Grant Morrison, to create content for its mixed reality headset. You might know the prolific writer for his work with Batman and All-Star Superman, as well as for creating the boundary-pushing sci-fi comics The Invisibles, among many other things. The studio will conjure up interactive experiences for the headset, though it has yet to reveal their exact nature. While we can probably expect some interactive comics, it’s worth noting that Morrison co-founded the company with a number of other creatives, including Grand Theft Auto artist Stewart Waterson.

Morrison’s statement hints at something big, though:

“Storytelling is my passion and I’ve found that new platforms allow me to extend my creative boundaries. We see Magic Leap as the next great platform for storytelling and we are excited to collaborate on content that helps bring our wildest dreams to life in the near future.”

Magic Leap also has a partnership with Madefire that will make the service’s mixed reality comics available on the headset from day one. But by teaming up with Square Slice Studios, it’s showing that it’s willing to invest in creating good content for its platform in addition to giving users access to existing non-exclusive offerings. The investment could pay off in the future when the company can no longer rely on years of mystery and hype to sell the device. Magic Leap’s mixed reality headset — one of them anyway, since there are supposed to be multiple versions — will start shipping this summer.

Tech News

The first 'Overwatch' Nerf blaster arrives in 2019

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Hasbro

So far, replicating the distinctive weapons of Overwatch has usually meant a whole lot of crafting, and you still aren’t likely end up with something that works. Hasbro, thankfully, is about to make your life much easier — it’s partnering with Blizzard on official Overwatch Nerf guns. The first of the bunch, the lengthily-named Nerf Rival Overwatch Reaper Wight Edition, is due in 2019. It mimics Reaper’s iconic shotgun in looks, though not in functionality. The toy weapon carries eight of Nerf’s Rival rounds and includes both a ready indicator and a safety lock.

Hasbro hasn’t mentioned pricing, although this probably won’t be the most affordable Nerf gun in your arsenal — especially not when you’ll need two if you’re going to be true to the character (very clever, Hasbro). The real question is what comes next. Some guns seem like obvious fits, such as the straightforward guns of D.Va, Soldier 76, Sombra and Tracer, but what about the more exotic weapons, like Mei’s freezing blaster or Lucio’s sound gun? It’s safe to say that you won’t see Wrecking Ball’s hamster ball of doom or Brigitte’s flail, but here’s hoping that Hasbro is willing to go beyond the ‘safe’ choices.

Tech News

New York officials recognize three Uber drivers as employees

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

jetcityimage via Getty Images

New York authorities have reached a decision that could change the way Uber drivers are classified — at least when it comes to unemployment insurance. The New York State Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board has ruled in favor of three former Uber drivers who filed a federal lawsuit against the ride-hailing service after the unemployment insurance (UI) claim they made in 2016 didn’t go through. Two of them left Uber after being booted off the platform, while the last one quit because he was making below minimum wage. The board’s decision doesn’t apply only to them, though, but also to other “similarly situated” Uber drivers.

While Uber had to pay up to settle lawsuits in the past, most plaintiffs’ attempts at getting themselves classified as employees ended up in failure. This time, New York authorities have decided that Uber drivers in similar situations as the three who originally filed the lawsuit can be considered employees — as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance told Politico, the ruling can be broadly precedential. Bhairavi Desai, the group’s executive director, said: “It’s huge. It’s really significant, because it’s the first bona fide safety net for drivers in this economy… We now have a decision that reflects the official position of the state, one that the state has to defend and execute.”

According to Labor Department spokeswoman Jill Aurora, Uber can appeal the decision. If it doesn’t, then the company will be required to make unemployment insurance contributions for similarly situated drivers going forward. Considering it has over 65,000 drivers in NYC alone and paying insurance for everyone who gets kicked out for low ratings or those who quit for making below minimum wage would cost the company a pretty penny, it might appeal the decision.

An Uber spokesperson already told Politico that the company disagrees with the ruling and that it’s already reviewing its options: “We are confident that the ruling uniquely applies to the three claimants because many of the practices cited in the opinion never applied to one or more of the claimants, are no longer in place, or never existed at all.”

Forbes notes that by “practices,” the spokesperson was referring to the methods authorities use to determine whether someone enjoys an employer-employee relationship with a company. The three plaintiffs won the case, because a New York judge decided last year that the evidence presented established that “Uber exercised sufficient supervision, direction and control” over the drivers for them to be considered employees.

Tech News

Tesla's Model 3 Performance has an experimental 'Track Mode'

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Tesla’s Model 3 is very quick, especially if you spring for the dual-motor Performance variant, but it’s still tame for safety’s sake. What if you want to launch an all-out assault on a race course? You might have that option soon. YouTuber Marques Brownlee recently had an opportunity to drive the Model 3 Performance on a track, and he pointed out an experimental “Track Mode” that takes the gloves off. The in-testing feature switches on “stability control and powertrain settings configured for track driving,” and it’s no secret what that means: you can drift, understeer and otherwise push the electric car past its usual limits.

It’s not certain when this will reach customers, or even what the final name will be. And as enthusiasts will tell you, it’s not a novel concept — many sports cars have the option to turn off handholding features. It’s still relatively rare among street-going electric vehicles, though, and serves as another signal that Tesla is interested in EV performance beyond straight-line acceleration. The greater challenge may be the “Augmented Mode” for the upcoming Roadster. It’s one thing to turn features off in the name of courting experienced drivers, it’s another to use them to improve a driver’s abilities.

Taking @Tesla’s brand new car to a track and getting some power slides in. Not a bad day.

A post shared by Marques Brownlee (@mkbhd) on Jul 20, 2018 at 5:00pm PDT