Halide, the premium iOS camera app from ex-Apple designer Sebastiaan de With and Twitter engineer Ben Sandofsky is today launching one of its biggest upgrades since its arrival last year. The updated app includes a Self-Timer, redesigned photo reviewer, accessibility improvements, and more. But perhaps its best feature is the ability to take better control over your photo privacy – by pulling the location information out of your photos’ metadata before you share. What has made Halide stand out from others was its combination of an attractive, gesture-based interface designed to simplify the use of pro camera features. This made the app a great option for casual photographers and pros alike. The existing app includes features like a manual focus dial, an intelligent automatic mode for getting the sharpest shot, RAW and JPG capture support, a grid and level tool, and live histogram. Now the app is gaining a handful of other useful additions, like the new Apple Watch companion. With the Apple Watch app installed, photographers can do things like remotely frame their shots, trigger Halide’s shutter and set timers. That way you can position your shot and then snap it, right from your wrist. However, users without an Apple Watch can use the new Self Timer function instead. With this, you can set a timer of 3, 10 or 30 seconds. When activated, the shutter button stays depressed and you’ll see a countdown in the icon around the button itself. The updated app also introduces a new photo reviewer. Users can now scroll through a grid of their shots, then flip back to the camera to snap more. Accessibility improvements rolling out today include the addition of Dynamic and Bold Type and VoiceOver support. Halide’s creators note, too, that the 30-second timer was built with accessibility in mind – allowing users with more limited mobility a better way to take photos. However, one of the app’s bigger changes is around photo privacy. Many people don’t know (or forget to think about) that our personal photos contain a lot of private data. Hidden in the photo file’s metadata is information about the camera, lens and flash settings, date and time, and the geolocation of the photos. That’s information that you may not want to share – especially if you’re planning to post the photo publicly to the web or on social media. Halide now makes it simple to remove location data from the photo with the flip of a new toggle switch. And it can aid you with limiting the location sharing with Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, too. The company isn’t talking about download numbers, but says its app is now being used by over 100,000 people on a monthly basis, according to Apple’s opt-in analytics. (Halide doesn’t use third-party tracking.) That’s fairly decent number for a paid application serving the more niche pro consumer crowd. “Considering we don’t pursue growth tactics like emails or push notifications, we’re incredibly proud of this,” says Sandofsky of the usage. “We think we’ve solved a genuine need for many people,” he adds. Halide is a paid download ($5.99) on the App Store.
Apple has long been rumored to be working on a pair of augmented reality glasses, but a report today suggests that they’re looking to compete with Google, Microsoft and Facebook in the virtual reality space as well. CNET reports that Apple has its eye set on the 2020 release of a wireless headset that combines AR and VR technologies. It’s still a couple years away, but the move would signal a major commitment from Apple to a medium that has been growing slowly for the past several years. The report also gives specific details for the project internally referred to as T288. Namely, sources told CNET that the headset will have an 8K display for each eye and will connect wirelessly to a dedicated “box.” A lot of the general assumptions many in the market had been operating under was that Apple might “skip” entertainment-focused VR in favor of approaching the lifestyle-focused AR technologies that put a digital layer between users and the real world. I’m fairly skeptical that they would combine these two initiatives as this report suggests, I find it more likely that the “AR” described to CNET is closer to the “mixed reality” technologies that Microsoft has implemented into its VR headsets, basically tech that can take in more environmental information to influence the in-headset VR experience. This is in line with what Vrvana was working on before Apple acquired them last year. For Apple to truly merge AR and VR at the resolutions detailed, they would likely need a fairly bulky design that I would be surprised to see them pursue. Vrvana’s Totem headset The technologies that allow for 8k images per eye would likely have to be microLEDs and, at that resolution, they’d be prohibitively expensive right now and almost mind-bogglingly power-hungry. Even testing twin 8K displays currently would take multiple high-end GPUs tethered together. The report suggests that this would be a wireless and connect to an external system running an Apple-designed chip. Streaming dual 8K feeds wirelessly would also undoubtedly pose a daunting challenge though rendering technologies enabled by eye-tracking could reduce the streaming load considerably. Two years is far away so perhaps Apple is banking on their own ability to minimize costs on the display-front here. Bloomberg recently reported that the Cupertino company has opened a secret manufacturing facility for the display type which have a keen use case in head-mounted displays where tight pixel densities matter more due to the lenses as well as the physical distance from your eyes. The report states that this device is slated for 2020, though things could of course change in the meantime. VR seems to be continuing to improve at a steady pace, and while the hype powering its initial boom has largely died off, the tech giants that can afford to nurture the industry have continued to do so. Facebook’s efforts with Oculus have become quite polished in some regards (though there are still plenty of limitations to speak of), and it appears that Apple is recognizing that there’s too much to lose out on if things take off.
With Microsoft’s BUILD 2018 conference right around the corner, the company just made good on a promise from last year’s conference; Apple iTunes is finally coming to the Windows Store. The music software was originally forecast to arrive by the end of 2017, but it took a bit longer to finally find its Windows home. The iTunes of the Windows Store is just the same old regular iTunes, but now installation updates are handled through the Windows Store updater rather than through Apple . It’s arrival also ensures the software’s compatibility with Windows 10 S mode which only runs apps downloaded from the Windows Store. If you somehow don’t have iTunes yet you still desire iTunes on your Windows 10 PC, check it out here.
It’s an end of an era in Cupertino today. Apple just announced the end of production on its AirPort line of base stations, a list that includes the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule. In a statement provided to TechCrunch, the company noted that it will continue to sell its remaining stock, but once it’s done, it’s done. “We’re discontinuing the Apple AirPort base station products,” says the spokesperson. “They will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last.” The end of the line probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise for outsiders. A lot has changed in the home networking category since Apple arrived on the scene nearly 20 years back. A number of other consumer electronics bigwigs have entered the fray, along with with a number of notable startups. Google, Linksys and Netgear have offered some pretty compelling offerings, along with newcomers like Plume and Eero. AirPort has clearly become less and less of a focus for the company over the past decade. While the home setting continues to play a vital role in Apple’s hardware play, the company’s focus has since shifted to multimedia and smart home offerings like Apple TV and the HomePod. It seems likely that the company will continue to exploring home networking avenues in the future, as it focuses more and more on its HomeKit strategy, but AirPort in its current form doesn’t appear to have been profitable enough to have warranted whatever remaining resources the company was continuing to expend. Given its relatively newfound willingness to partner with hardware makers on the HomeKit front, however, third-party hardware could potentially prove a compelling avenue in the future. Meantime, the company should be providing continued support for those who pick up any remaining stock.
Samsung’s latest earnings report is a succinct lesson in hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. The actual news here is pretty positive, as the company reports a record operating profit, courtesy of high demand for its components and flagship handsets. But a statement tied to the news mentions “slow demand” no fewer than seven times, as the company looks to temper investor expectations, Those warnings largely revolve around the company’s display panel offerings and a perceived stagnations in the mobile sector in general. “For the second quarter,” the company writes in a statement, “Samsung expects the Memory Business to maintain its strong performance, but generating overall earnings growth across the company will be a challenge due to weakness in the Display Panel segment and a decline in profitability in the Mobile Business amid rising competition in the high-end segment.” The slow down, it seems, has already had an impact on the display side, though Samsung’s weathered much worse than this already. Keep in mind how the whole Note 7 debacle didn’t make a dent in the company’s profitability. Samsung is the consumer electronics poster child from the importance of product diversity. There’s some Apple shade implied here as well. After all, Samsung provides the OLED panel for its chief competitor’s ultra premium handset, leaving Wall Street to infer that less than stellar iPhone X sales was a contributor here. Samsung’s forecast also includes warnings around slowed demand for its own handsets in the next quarter. “In the Mobile Business,” Samsung writes, “profitability is expected to decline QoQ due to stagnant sales of flagship models amid weak demand and an increase in marketing expenses.” That’s due, at least in part, to a natural cycle as the initial hype dies down — though there also appears to be a larger global smartphone slow down at play here as well. But the company says it believes that will be buoyed in part by increased summer demand for TVs and air conditioners. People might not be buying as many new smartphones in the future, but hey, climate change will make sure we always need ACs.
Analysts have long-warned of a growth crunch in China’s smartphone space, and it’s looking like that’s very much the case right now. China’s smartphone growth has been the feel-good story for domestic OEMs who have clocked impressive figures as the billion-plus population has rushed online via mobile devices. However, the market reached saturation point in 2017 — when sales stopped growing for the first time — and the first quarter of this year is already showing savage results. In a report released today, Canalys claimed that shipments across the industry fell by 21 percent year-on-year in Q1. The total number of mobile devices shipped in China dropped below the 100 million market in a quarter for the first time since late 2013, the firm added. “Eight of the top 10 smartphone vendors were hit by annual declines, with Gionee, Meizu and Samsung shrinking to less than half of their respective Q1 2017 numbers,” the report read. Ouch. Of the field, only Xiaomi — the firm tipped for an IPO at a $100 billion valuation — was able to post positive momentum as its numbers grew by 37 percent to reach 12 million. That was enough to see it overtake Apple into fourth place, but Xiaomi numbers are still heavily reliant on its $150 Redmi range, which isn’t as lucrative as its higher-end products. Huawei, Oppo and Vivo led the market. Somewhat incredibly, those three firms plus Xiaomi now account for a very dominant 73 percent of all shipments, which Canalys believes is bad for consumers and smartphone aficionados in China. “The level of competition has forced every vendor to imitate the others’ product portfolios and go-to-market strategies,” analyst Mo Jia said in a statement. “While Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi must contend with a shrinking Chinese market, they can take comfort from the fact that it will continue to consolidate, and that their size will help them last longer than other smaller players.” There might be a bright spark coming soon. Canalys anticipates growth in the second quarter as Oppo, Vivo and Huawei trot out new flagship devices. But China’s once-booming industry is now having to contend with the same issue as the U.S.: consumers don’t upgrade their phone as frequently as carriers would like.
Fresh off a massive cascading series of fiascos that has thrown the future of Qualcomm into doubt, the company managed to report a mostly positive first quarter and keep the stock from going into a further tailspin. Qualcomm has been under considerable pressure for a wide variety of reasons, the most obvious one of which is a massive takeover attempt by Broadcom falling apart. But beyond that, Qualcomm is facing issues trying to close its acquisition of NXP, faces a continued public spat with Apple, and is looking to cut costs as it tries to appeal to Wall Street amid tension over its future as next-generation wireless technology begins to roll out. The company’s operating income fell 40% year-over-year amid its continued sparring with Apple over royalties. The company ended up finishing with an earnings beat, reporting earnings of 80 cents per share compared to 70 cents per share expected by analysts. The company said it generated $5.23 billion in revenue, compared to $5.19 billion expected by analysts. Qualcomm, beyond just its own specific issues, is heavily dependent on the health of the smartphone supply chain. Apple missed targets expected by Wall Street when it came to iPhone sales, as one potential signal for example. Following the BroadQualm collapse, the company said it would work to reduce its annual costs and cut around 1,500 jobs. This, too, comes at a time when its former chair Paul Jacobs stepped down after he said he would be exploring the possibility of a proposal to acquire Qualcomm and take it private. This, beyond just its fighting with Apple and its attempts to finish off its acquisition of NXP, has ended up shedding a ton of uncertainty as to what will happen to the chip designer. Broadcom acquiring Qualcomm, in a very tense deal that came down to the White House eventually putting the brakes on the deal, would have consolidated two of the largest fabless chip firms into a single unit — but it’s not clear what Broadcom CEO Hock Tan would have done with Qualcomm, which is currently embroiled in a series of quarrels with Apple over royalty payments. The Trump administration proposed tariffs on Chinese products, adding another layer of uncertainty to the situation.
Conviva, a video AI platform with visibility into the streaming market through clients like HBO, Turner, Hulu, CBS, NBC, ESPN, BT and Sky, is reporting today 114 percent year-over-year growth in streaming video hours in Q1 2018, to reach nearly 5 billion hours of video viewing. Even though streaming is growing worldwide, North America saw the largest growth in viewing hours, with a 174 percent increase quarter-over-quarter. Other platforms seeing notable increases included Apple TV and Android, the report found. Much of today’s streaming takes place in apps on mobile devices and internet-connected TVs, as opposed to the web. That led to these platforms seeing significant growth in the quarter, with app-based viewing up 136 percent since last year. Device makers that provide the apps, including Apple and Roku, also benefited from the growth in streaming, the report found. Apple TV, for example saw 709 percent growth in viewing hours over last year, while viewing hours on Roku grew by 87 percent. Keep in mind that growth is not the same as popularity — that is, it’s not about how many total hours are being viewing on those platforms. Roku is still far in the lead on that metric, with more than a billion hours streamed versus Apple TV’s 256 million. (Conviva’s numbers, because of the source of its data, are only a window into the market, we should note. Roku users streamed a little less than 15 billion hours last year, so they’re streaming more than a billion per quarter. But Conviva’s report does speak to the bigger picture, where Roku is outpacing rivals on streaming hours, including Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV and others.) Another interesting finding for the quarter was the growth in streaming on Android devices. On Android, device plays were up 168 percent quarter-over-quarter, versus iOS’s 138 percent increase. More details are below:
Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker tipped for a public listing this year, has made a unique pledge: if it makes too much money, it’ll give a chunk of its profits back to its customers. Yes, that’s right. The company said today it will forever limit to just five percent the net profit margins after tax for smartphones, smart home devices and other hardware. If it makes more money than planned over a calendar year, it plans to “distribute the excess amount by reasonable means to its users.” Today our CEO Lei Jun announced a promise to all our fans…#Xiaomi will forever limit the net profit margin after tax for our entire hardware sales (including smartphones, IoT and lifestyle products) to a maximum of 5%. Do you like the sound of that? pic.twitter.com/ZbEjaVeBLf — Mi (@xiaomi) April 25, 2018 It’s hard to know exactly what “reasonable means” Xiaomi is referring to, but here are some thoughts. Spoiler number one alert !! — Most companies in mobile make a scant profit, if any at all, on hardware. Firms like LG and Samsung rely on component divisions and other consumer brands to record the bulk of the revenue that makes them profitable. More broadly, the competitive market means there’s not much money to claim in selling phones. Apple is estimated to account for a whopping 87 percent of all smartphone profits despite just 18 percent market share. Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 was widely lauded when it launched last year Spoiler number two alert !! — Selling hardware with a low net profit has always been a component of Xiaomi’s strategy. Indeed, former head of international Hugo Barra previously said it didn’t make money on hardware sales. That approach may have changed, but Xiaomi had never put a figure on its take-home margin before. This pledge aligns itself neatly with the company’s core focus of providing cutting-edge tech, or as close to, at affordable prices. Much has been said over the years of the bang-for-buck of its $150 Redmi range, while countless comparisons of its higher-end Mi phones — which typically sell for $150-$300 — and flagship products from Apple and Samsung have graced the internet. Xiaomi has said from the get-go that smartphones are just one part of its wider ecosystem — which includes Xiaomi-branded smart home and “lifestyle” devices from third-parties, and, crucially, services that link all the hardware together. Those include services such as online video, e-commerce, financial products and other digital services. “From the beginning, we embarked on a relentless pursuit of innovation, quality, design, user experience and efficiency advances, to provide the best technology products and services at accessible prices. We hope that our products and services will help our users to achieve a better life,” CEO and co-founder Lei Jun said in the money statement that accompanies today’s announcement. Xiaomi is widely tipped to go public this year in an IPO that could value its business as high as $100 billion, according to Bloomberg. Chinese media recently claimed that the company is planning a dual-IPO that would see it list both in Hong Kong and on Mainland China, as our sister site Technode explained. Such a double-headed IPO would be unique but, as Xiaomi showed today, it has no intention of sticking to so-called convention.
Back in 2016, Apple swapped out the graphic used for its gun emoji, replacing the realistically drawn handgun with a bright green water gun. Just a few days ago, Twitter followed suit. And now, it seems, so will Google . The gun emoji on Android will likely soon appear as a bright orange and yellow super soaker lookalike. As first noted by Emojipedia, Google has just swapped the graphics in its open Noto Emoji library on GitHub. These are the Emoji that Android uses by default, so the same change will presumably start to roll out there before too long. At this point, Google making this change seemed inevitable. It seemed likely to happen as soon Apple made the jump; once others started following suit (Twitter earlier this week, and Samsung with the release of the Galaxy S9) it became a certainty. It’s a matter of clarity in communication. If a massive chunk of people (iOS users) can send a cartoony water toy in a message that another massive chunk of people (Android users) receive as a realistically drawn handgun, there’s room for all sorts of trouble and confusion. Apple wasn’t going to reverse course on this one — and now that others have made the change, Google would’ve been the odd one out.