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September 26, 2018
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mobile

Google launches its group planning feature for Maps

in Apps/Delhi/Google/Google-Maps/India/mobile/Politics by

Earlier this year, Google announced its revamped Google Maps, which puts a stronger emphasis on discovery. Some of the features the company announced back then have already launched, including many of the promised discovery and exploration tools, but the one feature that was still missing was group planning. But you won’t have to wait much longer to collaboratively plan your outings with friends in Google Maps because today, these collaboration tools are finally launching.

The basic problem Google is trying to solve here probably feels familiar to everybody who has ever tried to get a group of more than two people to decide on where to go for dinner — or any other outing, really. It usually takes way too many text messages to get everybody to agree.

Now, however, you’ll be able to create a list of places in Google Maps and then share those with your friends. And then, like in any good democracy, your friends can vote on where to go. Group members can also veto places by removing them from the shortlist and add other ones that they’d prefer (nobody said democracy was easy, right?).

Once you have created a list, you can share it just like any other link and your friends will be taken right to Google Maps on mobile or the web to join in the planning fun.

News Source = techcrunch.com

See the new iPhone’s ‘focus pixels’ up close

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The new iPhones have excellent cameras, to be sure. But it’s always good to verify Apple’s breathless on-stage claims with first-hand reports. We have our own review of the phones and their photography systems, but teardowns provide the invaluable service of letting you see the biggest changes with your own eyes — augmented, of course, by a high-powered microscope.

We’ve already seen iFixit’s solid-as-always disassembly of the phone, but TechInsights gets a lot closer to the device’s components — including the improved camera of the iPhone XS and XS Max.

Although the optics of the new camera are as far as we can tell unchanged since the X, the sensor is a new one and is worth looking closely at.

Microphotography of the sensor die show that Apple’s claims are borne out and then some. The sensor size has increased from 32.8mm2 to 40.6mm2 — a huge difference despite the small units. Every tiny bit counts at this scale. (For comparison, the Galaxy S9 is 45mm2, and the soon-to-be-replaced Pixel 2 is 25mm2.)

The pixels themselves also, as advertised, grew from 1.22 microns (micrometers) across to 1.4 microns — which should help with image quality across the board. But there’s an interesting, subtler development that has continually but quietly changed ever since its introduction: the “focus pixels.”

That’s Apple’s brand name for phase detection autofocus (PDAF) points, found in plenty of other devices. The basic idea is that you mask off half a sub-pixel every once in a while (which I guess makes it a sub-sub-pixel), and by observing how light enters these half-covered detectors you can tell whether something is in focus or not.

Of course, you need a bunch of them to sense the image patterns with high fidelity, but you have to strike a balance: losing half a pixel may not sound like much, but if you do it a million times, that’s half a megapixel effectively down the drain. Wondering why that all the PDAF points are green? Many camera sensors use an “RGBG” sub-pixel pattern, meaning there are two green sub-pixels for each red and blue one — it’s complicated why. But there are twice as many green sub-pixels and therefore the green channel is more robust to losing a bit of information.

 

Apple introduced PDAF in the iPhone 6, but as you can see in TechInsights’ great diagram, the points are pretty scarce. There’s one for maybe every 64 sub-pixels, and not only that, they’re all masked off in the same orientation: either the left or right half gone.

The 6S and 7 Pluses saw the number double to one PDAF point per 32 sub-pixels. And in the 8 Plus, the number is improved to one per 20 — but there’s another addition: now the phase detection masks are on the tops and bottoms of the sub-pixels as well. As you can imagine, doing phase detection in multiple directions is a more sophisticated proposal, but it could also significantly improve the accuracy of the process. Autofocus systems all have their weaknesses, and this may have addressed one Apple regretted in earlier iterations.

Which brings us to the XS (and Max, of course), in which the PDAF points are now one per 16 sub-pixels, having increased the frequency of the vertical phase detection points so that they’re equal in number to the horizontal one. Clearly the experiment paid off and any consequent light loss has been mitigated or accounted for.

I’m curious how the sub-pixel patterns of Samsung, Huawei, and Google phones compare, and I’m looking into it. But I wanted to highlight this interesting little evolution. It’s an interesting example of the kind of changes that are hard to understand when explained in simple number form — we’ve doubled this, or there are a million more of that — but which make sense when you see them in physical form.

News Source = techcrunch.com

MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile

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It’s been five years since T-Mobile picked up MetroPCS, and now the prepaid service is finally getting a fresh coat of paint. The “PCS” bit is getting the old heave ho, while the brand’s owners are letting you know who’s boss with the new Metro by T-Mobile brand name.

The new name involves some new plans, along with a couple of perks from key partners. There are two new (pricier) tiers, in addition to the standard ones. The new unlimited plans run $50 and $60 a month, and both include storage via Google One.

That makes the newly rebranded service the first to offer up access to Google’s new storage plan. The cloud deal also offers access to Google Experts, who can help you troubleshoot issues with any Google service.

The $60 a month plan, meanwhile, tosses in Amazon Prime for Google measure. That’s not exactly a solid reason to upgrade in an of itself, given that an Amazon Prime plan currently runs $119 a year, but the more premium plan offers 15GB of LTE data for its mobile hotspot versus 5GB.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Snapchat lets you take a photo of an object to buy it on Amazon

in Amazon/Apps/Delhi/eCommerce/India/instagram/machine vision/mobile/Pinterest/Politics/snap inc/Snapchat/Social/TC/visual search by

See, snap, sale. In a rare partnership for Amazon, the commerce giant will help Snapchat challenge Instagram and Pinterest for social shopping supremacy. Today Snapchat announced it’s slowly rolling out a new visual product search feature, confirming TechCrunch’s July scoop about this project codenamed “Eagle”.

Users can use Snapchat’s camera to scan a physical object or barcode which brings up a card showing that item and similar ones along with their title, price, thumbnail image, average review score and Prime availability. When the tap on one, they’ll be sent to Amazon’s app or site to buy it. Snapchat determines if you’re scanning a song, QR Snapcode, or object, and then Amazon’s machine vision tech recognizes logos, artwork, package covers, or other unique identifying marks to find the product. It’s rolling out to small percentage of US users first before Snap considers other countries.

Snap refused to disclose any financial terms of the partnership. It could be earning a referral fee for each thing you buy from Amazon, or it could just be doing the legwork for free in exchange for added utility. A Snapchat spokesperson tells me it’s the latter is the motivation (without ruling out the former), as Snapchat wants its camera to become the new cursor — your point of interface betwen the real and digital worlds.

Social commerce is heating up as Instagram launches Shopping tags in Stories and a dedicated Shopping channel in Explore, while Pinterest opens up Shop The Look pins and hits 250 million monthly users. The feature should mesh well with Snap’s young and culture-obsessed audience. In the US, its users are 20 percent more likely to have made a mobile purchase than non-users, and 60 percent more likely to make impulse purchases according to studies by Murphy Research and GfK.

In the video demo above, you can see Snapchat identifying Under Armour’s HOVR shoe (amongst all its other models), and the barcode for Covergirl’s clean matte liquid makeup. That matches our scoop based on code dug out of Snapchat’s Android app by TechCrunch tipster Ishan Agarwal. Snapchat’s shares popped three percent the day we published that scoop, and again this morning before falling back to half that gain.

The feature could prove useful for when you don’t know the name of the product you’re looking at, as with shoes. That could turn visual search into a new form of word-of-mouth marketing where every time an owner shows off a product, they’re effectively erecting a billboard for it. Eventually, visual search could help users shop across language barriers.

Amazon is clearly warming up to social partnerships, recognizing its inadequacy in that department. Along with being named Snapchat’s official search partner, it’s also going to be bringing Alexa voice control to Facebook’s Portal video chat screen that’s reportedly debuting this week according to Cheddar’s Alex Heath.

Snapchat could use the help. It’s now losing users and money, down from 191 million to 188 million daily active users last quarter while burning $353 million. Partnering instead of trying to build all its technology in-house could help reduce that financial loss, while added utility could aid with user growth. And if Snap can convince advertiers, they might pay to educate people on how to scan their products with Snapchat.

Snap keeps saying it wants to be a “Camera Company” but it’s really an augmented reality software layer through which to see the world. The question will be whether it can change our behavior so that when we see something special, we interact with it through the camera, not just capture it.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Salesforce partners with Apple to roll deeper into mobile enterprise markets

in Apple/Cloud/Delhi/Developer/Enterprise/India/mobile/partnerships/Politics/Salesforce/Salesforce Lightning/Swift by

Apple and Salesforce are both highly successful, iconic brands, who like to put on a big show when they make product announcements. Today, the two companies announced they were forming a strategic partnership with an emphasis on mobile strategy ahead of Salesforce’s enormous customer conference, Dreamforce, which starts tomorrow in San Francisco.

For Apple, which is has been establishing partnerships with key enterprise brands for the last several years, today’s news is a another big step toward solidifying its enterprise strategy by involving the largest enterprise SaaS vendor in the world.

“We’re forming a strategic partnership with Salesforce to change the way people work and to empower developers of all abilities to build world-class mobile apps,” Susan Prescott, vice president of markets, apps and services at Apple told TechCrunch.

Tim Cook at Apple event on September 12, 2018 Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Bret Taylor, president and chief product officer at Salesforce, who came over in the Quip deal a couple of years ago, says working together, the two companies can streamline mobile development for customers. “Every single one of our customers is on mobile. They all want world-class mobile experiences, and this enables us when we’re talking to a customer about their mobile strategy, that we can be in that conversation together,” he explained.

For starters, the partnership is going to involve three main components: The two companies are going to work together to bring in some key iOS features such Siri Shortcuts and integration with Apple’s Business Chat into the Salesforce mobile app. Much like the partnership between Apple and IBM, Apple and Salesforce will also work together to build industry-specific iOS apps on the Salesforce platform.

The companies are also working together on a new mobile SDK built specifically for Swift, Apple’s popular programming language. The plan is to provide a way to build Swift apps for iOS and deploy them natively on Salesforce’s Lightning platform.

The final component involves deeper integration with Trailhead, Salesforce’s education platform. That will involve a new Trailhead Mobile app on IOS as well as adding Swift education courses to the Trailhead catalogue to help drive adoption of the mobile SDK.

While Apple has largely been perceived as a consumer-focused organization, as we saw a shift to  companies encouraging employees to bring their own devices to work over the last six or seven years, Apple has benefited. As that has happened, it has been able to take advantage to sell more products and services and has partnered with a number of other well-known enterprise brands including IBMCiscoSAP and GE along with systems integrators Accenture and Deloitte.

The move gives Salesforce a formidable partner to continue their incredible growth trajectory. Just last year the company passed the $10 billion run rate putting it in rarified company with some of the most successful software companies in the world. In their most recent earnings call at the end of August, they reported $3.28 billion for the quarter, placing them on a run rate of over $13 billion. Connecting with Apple could help keep that momentum growing.

The two companies will show off the partnership at Dreamforce this week. It’s a deal that has the potential to work out well for both companies, giving Salesforce a more integrated iOS experience and helping Apple increase its reach into the enterprise.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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