From Android N to Apple and Spotify spat: Roundup of this week in tech

TWIT: This week in tech, WhatsApp hints at upcoming feature; Android N’s name revealed; Facebook changes your feed; Xiaomi Mi Max arrives in India; Tesla crash; Apple and music woes

| Updated on: Jul 02 2016, 18:07 IST
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TWIT: This week in tech, WhatsApp hints at upcoming feature; Android N’s name revealed; Facebook changes your feed; Xiaomi Mi Max arrives in India; Tesla crash; Apple and music woes
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TWIT: This week in tech, WhatsApp hints at upcoming feature; Android N’s name revealed; Facebook changes your feed; Xiaomi Mi Max arrives in India; Tesla crash; Apple and music woes

While Facebook Messenger might be getting a undo sent messages feature, the company's other messaging app -- WhatsApp -- has hinted that it may add two new features -- music sharing and larger emojis.

The new features will be a part of the iOS app and users will be able to share music and larger emojis just like mentions and group invite links.

The report claims that Apple users will be soon be able to share songs which are either stored locally on their iPhones or send a link of the music file if it is on Apple Music. Currently shared 'audio' files do not have this functionality.

In case of larger emojis, the IM company's move comes after Apple unveiled larger emojis as a part of the iOS overhaul. Another feature recently spotted in the WhatsApp Beta for iOS changelog was GIF image support. However, general WhatsApp for iOS users haven't received GIF image support so far.

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In an apparent move to take on Apple's dominance in the lucrative high-end smartphone market, search engine giant Google may release its own brand of handset by the end of this year, according to a media report.

The technology giant is in discussions with mobile operators about releasing a Google-branded phone, the Telegraph reported on Sunday, citing sources familiar with the discussions.

Known for its internet software, the tech giant in recent years has taken steps into hardware by releasing its own tablet computer, laptops and other gadgets.

Google already develops the Android operating system that runs on 80 percent of smartphones sold around the world.

It also endorses a range of phones made by partners such as LG and Huawei under the Google Nexus brand.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai had, however, earlier said that "our plan is still to work with hardware partners". So, the Google-branded smartphone might point towards the upcoming Ara smartphone which will be modular and will be customisable with modules ( such as camera, screen and modem) developed by companies such as Huawei, Lenovo and Samsung.

Its own phone would allow Google to control the Android software, securing the future of services such as the Google search engine and Google Play app store that run on it, the report said.

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Ever surprised by finding a person whose face you remember but not the name until the "People you may know" feature on Facebook told you about him/her? This is probably because Facebook stalked you and used your phone's location to suggest new people you could befriend.

The accuracy that this feature shows has surprised as well as disturbed Facebook users for some time now.

"Thanks to tracking the location of users' smartphones, the social network may suggest that you friend people you have shared a GPS data point with, meaning your friend suggestions could include someone whose face you know, but whose name you did not until Facebook offered it up to you," Fusion reported on Tuesday.

In another revelation, Facebook said it would give friends and family more prominence on user feeds, a move that may hurt media outlets that rely on the social network to draw readers.

Facebook said in a statement that the goal of the "news feed," which appears when users log in, "is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them" and that its update "helps you see more posts from your friends and family."

The move comes after Facebook came under scrutiny from allegations by a former contractor that it was suppressing some political viewpoints in its "trending topics."

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Xiaomi's Vice President launched the largest smartphone from the company, Mi Max for 14,999.

Built on their most successful device launched in India — Redmi Note 3 — the Mi Max build on the strengths such as processor, screen size, battery capacity and space.

With a 6.44-inch screen and 4,850mAh battery, the Mi Max is great for consuming content on the go and home. Xiaomi claims up to 14 hours of 1080p YouTube streaming video (via Wi-Fi) in a full charge.The Mi Max is encased in a metal body with elegant double-chamfered edges throughout and curved corners. The massive screen is covered by 2.5D glass made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

The Mi Max is available in two configurations with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 or 652 processor and Adreno 510 GPU graphics. You can opt up to 4 GB of RAM with 128 GB internal flash storage. There is also a hybrid SIM slot that lets you expand storage with MicroSD if you plan to use it with a single SIM.

The rear camera is of 16-megapixel resolution with PDAF found on flagships like the S7 series from Samsung for less than third the price. The front camera is of 5-megapixels.

Under the rear camera, there is also a fingerprint sensor for faster unlock without having to enter a password or PIN.

Price: The phablets will be available on starting 6 July, and it will be available across other online partners on open sale from 13 July.

The Mi Max with Snapdragon 650, 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB internal storage will be available at 14,999.

The Snapdragon 652 variant with 128 GB storage and 4 GB RAM will also be available soon for 19,999.

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Filming videos and clicking photographs at live concerts may soon be a thing of the past, as Apple is working on a technology that could disable photo and video functionality at events.

The company won approval from the US Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday for a patent it applied for in 2009 relating to its cameras and their interaction with infrared signals, reports

According to online music magazine Pitchfork, in some cases, the device could use the infrared data to show a user information related to a nearby object, such as an exhibit in a museum.

In other cases, the device could use the infrared data to disable the device's recording functions. As an example, the patent includes an illustration of a band performing onstage as a camera screen shows the text "recording disabled".

While the technology might be aimed at preventing copyright infringement, it could come with the added bonus of improving the concert-going experience.

Artists like Adele, Jack White and Zooey Deschanel have publicly expressed displeasure about the throng of phones at concerts.

But that isn't the only music-related news Apple was involved in this week. Apple was also busy fighting back against Spotify's claims that the US tech giant had hampered competition in music streaming by rejecting an update to the Swedish service's iPhone app.

The two companies have gone head to head in the battle for music streaming customers since Apple Music was launched in more than 100 countries last year.

Apple's entry into the field sparked concerns from music streaming companies such as Spotify, which have argued that the 30 percent cut Apple takes of subscriptions in its App Store give its own service an unfair advantage. Spotify General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez reiterated those concerns in a letter to Apple first reported on Thursday as he protested the rejection of the latest version of the Spotify app.

But Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell countered that the company deserves a cut of transactions in the App Store for its work operating the marketplace, according to a copy of a letter to Gutierrez seen by Reuters. Sewell insisted that Apple was treating Spotify as it would any other app maker, in keeping with antitrust law.

In late May, Spotify submitted a version of its app that removed the in-app purchase feature, which triggers Apple's cut, and included an account sign-up feature that violated Apple's rules, Sewell wrote. Apple rejected the app and asked Spotify to submit again, but the new version had the same problems, Sewell said.

Music streaming is a crowded field. Alphabet's Google Music and YouTube also compete with Spotify and Apple Music to attract users prepared to pay for music, as does Pandora Media Inc and rapper Jay Z's Tidal.

Amazon is also preparing a standalone streaming service, sources have told Reuters.

Google's newest mobile operating system will be called Nougat, continuing a tradition of naming Android software after sweet treats, the tech giant said Thursday.

Google had invited people to send in suggestions at its annual developers conference in May, and revealed the winning Android name at a playful ceremony at its campus in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View.

Nutella was thought to be a favourite, but Nougat won the day.

Google shared the event in a Twitter message tagged #AndroidNougat and containing a looped snippet of video of the undraping of an Android statue standing atop giant nougat and nut bars.

The technology giant has been letting developers work with the new mobile operating system, which is expected to be released later this year.

Alphabet-owned Google's Android operating software is a computing phenomenon that powers the vast majority of smartphones sold across the world.

There were 1.16 billion smartphones shipped in 2015 that are powered by Android, according to research group Gartner. That accounted for 82 percent of the market, dwarfing the 225.85 million for Apple's iOS.

Cupcake, the first version of the operating software to carry the name of an enticing desert, was released in 2009.

It was followed by Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop and current-generation Marshmallow.

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The fatal crash of a Tesla Motors' Model S in Autopilot mode has turned up pressure on auto industry executives and regulators to ensure that automated driving technology is deployed safely.

The first such known accident, which occurred in Florida in May, has highlighted tensions surrounding efforts to turn over responsibility for braking, steering and driving judgements to machines. It may delay the US government's plan to outline guidelines for self-driving cars this month.

The cause of the Model S crash is still under investigation by federal and Florida state authorities, which are looking into whether the driver was distracted before his 2015 Model S went under a truck trailer.

Advocates of automating driving point to research that shows 90 per cent of accidents are caused by human mistakes. But machines can also make mistakes, or encounter situations they are not designed to handle.

Alphabet Google unit and other companies are racing to get self-driving cars on U.S. roads. Google has logged about 1.5 million miles of test driving, but has not said when it would offer its technology for sale.

"We have a responsibility to get this out there as soon as we can and really as soon as we have data that says we're better than the current system of flawed human drivers," Google's self-driving car CEO John Krafcik said last month in Washington.

Tesla's Autopilot system "is explicitly denoted as a beta product," said Jason Corso, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan. The accident is a "wake-up call that significant further study is needed to model the sensors and the underlying recognition technologies on which these systems rely," he said.

Deaths will start to rise, but will then decline, he said, as "artificial intelligence, big data, and sensors for collecting data begin to mature and become capable of handling unusual situations that are difficult to simulate in test environments."

With inputs from agencies

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First Published Date: 02 Jul, 18:01 IST