Taiwan Asks Google to Blur Images Showing New South China Sea Facilities

Taiwan Asks Google to Blur Images Showing New South China Sea Facilities

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Wednesday it is asking Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei’s sole holding in the disputed South China Sea.

The revelation of new military-related construction could raise tensions in the contested waterway, where China’s building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants and the United States.

The images seen on Google Earth show four three-pronged structures sitting in a semi-circle just off the northwestern shoreline of Itu Aba, across from an upgraded airstrip and recently constructed port that can dock 3,000-ton frigates.

“Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities,” Taiwan Defence Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said on Wednesday, after local media published the images on Itu Aba.

The United States has urged against the militarisation of the South China Sea, following the rapid land reclamation by China on several disputed reefs through dredging, and building air fields and port facilities.

Taiwan’s defence ministry and coast guard, which directly oversees Itu Aba, said details about the structures are confidential and have not commented on their nature.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the request.

Defence experts in Taiwan said that based on the imagery of the structures and their semi-circular layout, the structures were likely related to defence and could be part of an artillery foundation.

“I think definitely it will be for military purposes, but I cannot tell if it is for defending, attacking or monitoring,” said Dustin Wang, a scholar and a former government advisor who has regularly visited Itu Aba.

Wang said given the structures’ location which faces the main seaborne traffic, they may relate to surveillance.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts or all of the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes.

In July, an international court ruled against China in a case brought by the Philippines that rejected China’s claim to a vast swathes of the disputed maritime area. Both China and Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, vehemently rejected the court ruling.

Google Accelerated Mobile Pages Now Rolling Out to All Supported Search Results

Google Accelerated Mobile Pages Now Rolling Out to All Supported Search Results

Google in February introduced its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project to reduce load time for mobile webpages. If you’ve noticed some stories with a small ‘lightning’ symbol on it, it means those pages open within a second. Initially, the AMP initiative was limited to only ‘Top Stories’. In August, Google announced that the initiative would make its way to all of Google’s search results.

Google is now rolling out AMP optimised pages for all supported results (including non-news) to users around the world. Google AMP is designed to improve mobile user experience, reducing load times by creating stripped down versions of webpages. Doing so not only saves time and battery life but also cuts data by 10 times.

The rollout doesn’t change the search result, but only shows which sites have pages that can load ‘lightning’ fast. In a blog post by Google Inside Search, the company claims to “have over 600 million AMP documents created by sites such as eBay, Reddit, Shopify, WikiHow, and many more.”

Google has also stressed that the Search engine doesn’t rank pages based on AMP support but adds that mobile users are more likely to click on the AMP link than a non-AMP one. Google’s ranking system does prioritise small load times and page speed, however, Google VP of Engineering David Besbris explained that if there are two identical pages – one mobile friendly and the other AMP-powered – it will show the AMP one.

The announcement on Tuesday is more of a signal to Web developers to ‘AMP’ up their content so that they can hop on to the lightning fast bandwagon.

AT&T Wants to Make Every Telephone Pole an Ultra-Fast Wireless Hotspot

AT&T Wants to Make Every Telephone Pole an Ultra-Fast Wireless Hotspot

AT&T says it plans to start testing a technology next year that could ultimately blanket the country in ultra-fast wireless Internet – without the need for expensive cell towers.

The project, known as AirGig, promises speeds that are many hundreds of times faster than what consumers currently get with their mobile data connections. And it stands to be a lot cheaper to deploy, because AT&T’s new solution piggybacks on infrastructure that’s decades old: Electricity lines.

AirGig doesn’t transmit Internet signals through the power cables themselves. But by placing small, inexpensive antennas on top of utility poles, AT&T can create a string of access points. This new kind of Internet “cable” follows the path of the electricity lines as they wind their way through dense urban areas and hard-to-reach rural regions alike.

Building out Internet networks today is pricey. It often involves digging up streets to lay down cabling, or stringing the wires along utility poles. But as we’ve written before, advances in wireless technology are making it possible to do with airwaves what you could previously only accomplish with expensive fiber optic lines.

To make AirGig a reality, AT&T would still need to make deals with utility companies to let the wireless carrier install its antennas on their poles. But AT&T seems confident utilities would find the technology attractive, too. It says the AirGig antennas may make their power networks smarter, giving utility operators more information about the health of their infrastructure and alerting them to problems like downed lines or fallen trees.

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus Users Complain of Lightning EarPods Issue; Apple Promises Fix

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus Users Complain of Lightning EarPods Issue; Apple Promises Fix

After reports of a bug that causes a loss in cellular service after disabling Airplane Mode on the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, some more glitches have reportedly been found on Apple’s latest offerings. This time the glitch pertains to the Lightning port, which appears to disable in-line controls on the connected headset after a period of no playback. Apple has acknowledged the issue, and says a fix will be issued via a software update.

Reported by several iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus users across the Web, the bug affects both the bundled Lightning EarPods and third-party headsets that are connected via the Lightning-to-3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter. The issue reportedly occurs when the smartphone’s display is off for five minutes, with the headset connected but not playing back audio during that time. After this point, audio playback will work, but users cannot adjust the volume, activate Siri, or answer calls using the in-line controls on the EarPods or third-party headsets.

Furthermore, the glitch is an on and off thing in that the issue is not persistent. Those experiencing the issue can remove and plug in the affected headset again. This is an easy, temporary fix but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem, which appears to be a software issue related to Lightning port power-saving features.

Apple has acknowledged the issue and is working on a fix that should be brought to users via a software update in the near future, an Apple representative confirmed to Business Insider.

The Cupertino giant controversially dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack with the launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in September, though Apple wasn’t the first to do so – though it claims it required “courage” to make the decision. Other major brands like Lenovo quietly did away with the headphone jack a month before with some models of the Moto Z.

The decision to drop the iconic headphone jack came from Apple’s need to free up space for newer technologies and to make use of the Lightning port for higher quality audio output. The dual-camera setup, Taptic engine for the pressure sensitive button, water resistance and a 14 percent bigger battery were all made possible by the removal of the 3.5mm port, according to Apple’s own claims. Of course, teething issues like these do not help making the decision to drop the 3.5mm headphone jack acceptable to customers.

Moto Z to Launch in India This Festive Season, Lenovo Executive Confirms

Moto Z to Launch in India This Festive Season, Lenovo Executive Confirms

Chinese technology giant Lenovo will bring the much-awaited modular smartphone Moto Z to the Indian market this festive season.

The Moto Z, which was unveiled globally in June this year, allows users to attach a set of accessories called Moto Mods to the back of the device that adds various functionalities to the device.

“We will launch 8 new devices, of which six we have already announced, in this festive season… This includes the Moto Z,” Lenovo India Executive Director Mobile Business Group Sudhin Mathur told PTI.

While Mathur declined to comment on the timeline of availability of Moto Z in India, sources said the product could be launched in the first or second week of October.

Moto Z is currently available in markets like the US, the UK, and Latin America in three models (Moto Z Play, Moto Z, and Moto Z Force).

Lenovo, which had acquired Motorola from Google in a $2.9 billion deal in 2014, is betting on India to contribute significantly to its global growth. Last year, Lenovo’s revenues from India grew about 90 per cent while its overall revenues were up 68 percent.

According to research firm Gartner, smartphone sales are expected to slow down in 2016 globally, rising only seven percent compared to double-digit growth seen in previous years.

This is on the back of slower sales growth in mature markets like Europe and Japan. India, on the other hand, remains an opportunity and presents the highest growth potential, Gartner said.

A Year of Alphabet: Great for Google, Less So for Moonshots

Reorganizing itself under the umbrella company Alphabet has done wonders for Google – but less so for a grab bag of eclectic projects ranging from robotic cars to internet-beaming balloons, which are suffering costly growing pains.

A year after Alphabet took shape, Google’s revenue growth has accelerated – an unusual development for a company of its size. That success, however, also underscores Alphabet’s dependence on the fickle business of placing digital ads in core Google products like search, Gmail and YouTube video. As a result, it remains vulnerable to swings in marketing budgets and stiffening competition from another equally ambitious rival, Facebook.

Alphabet was supposed to speed the process of turning offshoot businesses into new technological jackpots. CEO Larry Page predicted that separating these smaller “moonshots” from the massive search-and-advertising business would spur innovation by fostering a more entrepreneurial atmosphere.

That hasn’t happened during Alphabet’s first year.

A Year of Alphabet: Great for Google, Less So for Moonshots

Making the shift
Until Page and fellow Google co-founder Sergey Brin created Alphabet (which turns 1 on Sunday), investors complained that Google was spending too much on high-risk efforts. New Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat, who joined Google in mid-2015, responded by reining in expenses to keep them more in line with revenue growth.

A few months later, Page announced the plan to draw a dividing line between Google and the far-flung forays Alphabet now refers to as “Other Bets.” The mishmash includes smart-thermostat maker Nest; the Fiber project, a high-speed Internet service; and X lab, where the company is building robotic cars and designing the stratospheric balloons designed to beam internet service to remote areas.

Other “Other Bets” include the biotech firm Verily and medical-research firm Calico, which has been studying ways to stop aging. Alphabet also runs funds investing in startups and mid-sized companies.

Page argued that fencing off Other Bets would make Google “even better through greater focus.”

Core successes
That part of Page’s vision appears to be panning out. After subtracting ad commissions, Alphabet’s second-quarter revenue jumped 22 percent from the previous year to $17.5 billion (roughly Rs. 1,16,396 crores). It was the best performance in four years, adjusted for changes in currency exchange rates, says RBC analyst Mark Mahaney. Alphabet shares rose 25 percent over the past year, easily outpacing major market indexes.

“Folks will be hard pressed to say that Alphabet hasn’t been a success,” S&P Global Market Intelligence analyst Scott Kessler says.

Alphabet Inc. declined to comment on its first-year performance. But Sundar Pichai, who became Google’s CEO in the restructuring, told investors in July, “There is an amazing energy right now.”

Among other things, Google has been making strides in the still-nascent field of artificial intelligence, hoping to create more convenient services that attract even more eyeballs for its advertisers.

Stalled bets
But the demand for financial discipline and accountability appears to have taken a toll on Other Bets, which lose billions of dollars a year. Key leaders have defected from Alphabet’s high-profile self-driving car project and its Nest line of internet-connected devices. Alphabet also has scaled back plans to expand its Fiber service to dozens of US cities.

Creating a holding company also was supposed to make it easier to diversify through major acquisitions. But Alphabet’s biggest deal so far has been the $625 million purchase of a business software maker, Apigee Corp., which had annual revenue of just $92 million.

Alphabet could make a much bigger splash if buys Twitter, as recent reports say it is considering. Twitter would give Alphabet a popular publishing outlet to monitor trends, mine data and sell even more ads. Alphabet declined to discuss whether it’s mulling a bid, which would be expensive; Twitter might fetch between $20 and $30 billion, despite its problems with user growth and online harassment.

Looking beyond
Google is doing so well that investors aren’t fixating on the losses with Other Bets, Kessler says.

Only three Bets – Nest, Fiber and Verily – are generating even a smidgen of revenue. In nine months, the Other Bets companies have lost a combined $2.6 billion on revenue of $410 million. Another big loss is expected in the July-September quarter; the company reports results on Oct. 27.

BGC analyst Colin Gillis still sees the gamble as prudent and expects at least one of the projects will come up with a breakthrough that lessens Alphabet’s dependence on Google.

Optimism is fine as Google keeps growing at a robust rate. But Wall Street will likely ratchet up the pressure if the company falters and nothing emerges from Other Bets to help pick up the slack.

Google Pixel Event: Android Maker Readies New Phones, Gadgets Featuring Its Software

Google may be getting serious about selling its own hardware gadgets.

On Tuesday, the search giant will ramp up its consumer electronics strategy with expected announcements of new gadgets including new smartphones and an Internet-connected personal-assistant for the home similar to Amazon’s Echo speaker. All are intended to showcase Google’s software and online services.

A new virtual reality headset and other devices, such as a home router, could also be on tap, according to analysts and industry blogs. Google has declined to confirm any specifics, although it previously described some of these products back in May.

Google makes most of its money from online software and digital ads. But it’s putting more emphasis on hardware as it faces rivals like Apple, Amazon and South Korea’s Samsung.

Google Pixel Event: Android Maker Readies New Phones, Gadgets Featuring Its Software

Hardware is hard
New devices could help Google keep its services front and center in the battle for consumers’ attention, said analyst Julie Ask at Forrester Research. Unlike a new mobile app or other software, she noted, it can be an expensive gamble to build and ship new hardware products. “But if you’re Google, you can’t afford to stop placing bets.”

Google already sells smartphones and tablets under the Nexus brand, which it launched in 2010 as a way to show off the best features of its Android software. But it’s spent relatively little effort to promote those devices, which have mostly ended up in the hands of Google purists. Tech blogs are reporting the company is now planning to launch two smartphone models under a new brand, Pixel, and Google has hinted it may invest in an extensive marketing campaign intended to introduce the phones to the mass market.

Android already powers the majority of smartphones sold around the world. But Samsung, the biggest maker of Android phones, has increasingly been adding more of its own software – even its own Samsung Pay mobile wallet – on the phones it sells. Another big rival, Apple, has built its own services, such as online maps and its own Siri personal assistant, to replace Google’s apps on the iPhone.

Home, but not alone
Google is also likely to begin selling a voice-activated “smart speaker” called Home, apparently modeled on Amazon’s Echo . Analysts are expecting Google will announce more details, including price and availability, at Tuesday’s event.

The “Home” device will feature Google’s digital “Assistant” service, a voice-activated personal butler that can search the Internet, play music or perform other useful tasks. “Assistant” is the company’s answer to similar concierge services from rivals, including Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. The leading tech companies are all competing to assist consumers in their online activities such as shopping, since that gives the companies a better chance of selling advertising or other services.

Home-based systems like the Echo are taking on more importance with the advent of improved voice technology, said Forrester’s Ask. “You can’t assume somebody is going to go sit down at a computer or pick up a phone and type in a question anymore,” she said.

Google may also provide a closer look Tuesday at some other products, including a new virtual-reality headset that it teased in May. Like the other devices, Google’s virtual reality system could be a platform for a wide range of games and applications that are built on Google’s software.

Google Pixel Phones Target Apple, but May Hurt Samsung

Google’s product launch on Tuesday was as much a jab at Apple’s iPhone as a sales pitch for its new Pixel phones, with executives from the Mountain View internet search company taking shots at their competitor at every turn.

But any gains Google makes with the $649 (roughly Rs. 43,000) Pixel, billed as completely designed in-house, may come not at the expense of Apple, but phone manufacturers running its Android software, a list topped by Samsung.

“A premium Android strategy is really a strategy to take market share from Samsung,” said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research. The South Korean company already is reeling from a highly publicized recall of its Galaxy Note 7 phones due to battery fires.

“Obviously Google doesn’t want to explicitly compete with its own partners, but this product is much more likely to compete with Samsung than Apple,” Dawson said.

Google Pixel Phones Target Apple, but May Hurt Samsung

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, clearly has its sights set on the iPhone and the luxury consumer base that it commands.

“There’s no unsightly camera bump,” hardware chief Rick Osterloh said to laughter from the audience at the phone’s debut, alluding to the iPhone’s raised camera, a feature lamented by some design aficionados.

Newly released ads for the Pixel phones land some blows on the iPhone. A rundown of the phones’ new features concludes with “3.5mm headphone jack satisfyingly not new,” a reference to Apple’s decision to eliminate the port in the iPhone 7, which riled many customers.

Imitation is flattery
Nevertheless, the Pixel line bears a strong resemblance to the iPhone, coming in two sizes and a variety of sleek finishes. The Google Assistant, powered by artificial intelligence software, is a response to Apple’s Siri. And as Google prioritizes making its own hardware under Osterloh, its emerging design philosophy echoes Apple’s.

Hardware executive Mario Queiroz touted the company’s attention to packaging, a feature that the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously obsessed over.

“You want the consumer first of all to have this great experience out of the box in terms of the design of the packaging,” Queiroz, a vice president of product management at Google, said in an interview.

He brushed aside concerns that Google’s hardware push will pit it against its Android partners. The technology embedded in the Pixel phone is meant to propel Android devices forward, he said.

“It’s not a zero sum game,” Queiroz said. “We believe that Google can and will be doing both things. Both delivering platforms and building our own products.”

Google could find itself squaring off against two extremely deep-pocketed rivals. Apple and Samsung are the largest smartphone handset makers and both have major marketing programs.

Samsung spent at least $50 million (roughly Rs. 332 crores) just on advertising during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, according to estimates from Kantar Media.

Spokespeople for Apple and Samsung did not respond to requests for comment on Google’s launch.

Xolo Era 1X Works With the Reliance Jio Network

After launching the Xolo Era X in February, the company has expanded its Era series and launched the successor Era 1X in India. The Xolo Era 1X is priced at Rs. 4,999 and will be exclusively available on Flipkart.

Xolo has started to take registrations for the device, and will make it available from September 15. The Xolo Era 1X comes with VoLTE support, which means it will work with the Reliance Jio network. It also packs a dual-LED front flash, a rare sight at this price.

Xolo Era 1X Works With the Reliance Jio Network, Launched at Rs. 4,999

As for the specifications, the Xolo Era 1X features a 5-inch HD (1280×720 pixels) IPS display with 16M colours, 2 point multitouch support, and 294ppi pixel density. It is powered by a 1.3GHz Spreadtrum SC9832A quad-core processor paired with 1GB of RAM. The smartphone offers 8GB of inbuilt storage that can be further expanded via microSD (up to 32GB).

Optics include an 8-megapixel rear camera with autofocus, LED flash, 5P Largan lens, and 1080p video recording. It comes with features like Live Photos, Beauty Mode, Burst Mode, Time-Lapse, and Slow-Motion. Additionally, there is a 5-megapixel selfie camera with dual-LED flash at the front. The Xolo Era 1X packs a 2500mAh battery (removable) which claims to last up to 185 hours of standby time, up to 22 hours of 2G talk time, and up to 13 hours 28 minutes of 3G talk time. It supports dual-SIM (4G + 4G, only one SIM can support 4G at one time) card slots, and runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow out-of-the-box.

Other features of the Xolo Era 1X include Audio Note, Smart Screenshot, Smart Awake, Assistant Cast screen, LED flash for call, and flip to mute alarms and calls. Connectivity options include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot, GPS, Micro USB, 3.5mm audio jack, and Bluetooth. The dimensions measure at 145.5x72x8.6mm, and the Xolo Era 1X will be available in Black/Gunmetal and Gold/Brown colour variants.

HTC Desire 10 Lifestyle, Desire 10 Pro With 5.5-Inch Displays, Premium Designs Launched

As expected, HTC on Tuesday unveiled the Desire 10 Lifestyle and Desire 10 Pro smartphones. The company has not provided pricing details of the new mid-range smartphones in its lineup, though it says the Desire 10 Lifestyle will become available in select markets from September itself, while the Desire 10 Pro will become available in November.

The highlight of the HTC Desire 10 Lifestyle and HTC Desire 10 Pro is their design. The company is touting the matte finish bodies and the metallic gold contours. Both HTC phones also come with BoomSound stereo speakers. The two phones will be available in Stone Black, Polar White, Royal Blue, and Valentine Lux colours – with availability depending on the market.

Both smartphones run Android 6.0 Marshmallow with the company’s Sense UI on top. In some regions, including India – where the smartphones are listed – they will be available in dual-SIM (Nano-SIM) variants.

The HTC Desire 10 Lifestyle is a more basic version of the Desire 10 Pro, however, it sports support for 24-bit Hi-Res audio and HTC BoomSound Hi-Fi edition stereo speakers. It foregoes the fingerprint sensor seen on rear panel of the Desire 10 Pro however.

The HTC Desire 10 Pro sports 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixel) IPS LCD display with Gorilla Glass protection, and a pixel density of 400ppi. It is powered by 1.8GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor. There are two variants, one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of inbuilt storage, or 4GB of RAM and 64GB of inbuilt storage. The storage is expandable via microSD card (up to 2TB).

The Desire 10 Pro packs a 20-megapixel rear camera with laser autofocus, a BSI sensor, an f/2.2 aperture, and Auto HDR mode. It also sports a 13-megapixel front-facing camera with a BSI sensor, an f/2.2 aperture, and Auto HDR. Connectivity options Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, GPS/ A-GPS, Bluetooth v4.2, NFC, and 4G LTE Cat. 6 (with support for Band 40 used by some LTE networks in India). It is powered by a 3000mAh battery that’s rated to deliver up to 19 hours of talk time on 3G networks. It measures 156.5x76x7.86mm and weighs 165 grams.

The HTC Desire 10 Lifestyle on the other hand sports a 5.5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) Super LCD display with Gorilla Glass protection and a pixel density of 267ppi. It is powered by a 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor. It comes in two variants 2GB of RAM and 32GB inbuilt storage, and 3GB of RAM and 64GB inbuilt storage – once again expandable via microSD card (up to 2TB).

The HTC Desire 10 Lifestyle bears a 13-megapixel rear camera with a BSI sensor and an f/2.2 aperture, while the front sports a 5-megapixel camera with a BSI sensor and an f/2.8 aperture. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS/ A-GPS, Bluetooth v4.1, and 4G LTE Cat.4 (with support for Band 40 used by some LTE networks in India). It sports a 2700mAh battery that’s rated to deliver up to 24 hours of talktime on 3G networks. The Desire 10 Lifestyle measures in at 156.9×76.9×7.7mm and weighs in at 155 grams.