Skullcandy aims upscale with two new headphones

Skullcandy aims upscale with two new headphones
Skullcandy has always been an odd brand. Aimed at a younger, hipper audience, the headphones always featured wacky graphics and a lower price point. Now, facing competition from multiple players, they’ve decided to step up their game in terms of quality and style.
Their two new models, the noise-cancelling Venue and the bass-heavy Crusher 360, are designed to hit the Bose/B&O/Sony quality point while still maintaining a bit of Beats styling. The Venue are the most interesting of the pair. They are true over-ear noise-cancelling headphones that cost a mere $179 — more than $100 less than Bose’s best offerings.
The Venue’s noise cancellation was excellent, as was the sound quality. The headphones were solidly built and last for two five-hour flights, a first for me when it comes to wireless or wired noise-cancelling headphones. Usually in almost every model I’ve tested I’ve had to charge or change the battery after about eight hours. This is a vast improvement.
As for audio quality, I was quite impressed. Having heard earlier Skullcandy models, I went in expecting tinny sound and muddy bass. I got neither. What I got was a true sound without much modification and very nice noise cancelling. In short, it did exactly what it says on the tin.
One peeve is the size of the headphones and the case. Most headphones can fold up to a smaller package that is unobtrusive when it hangs off your back or sits in your lap. These headphones come in a massive, flat case that is not imminently portable. If you’re used to smaller, thinner cases, this might be a deal breaker. That said, the price and sound are excellent and the Venue is a real step up.

Then we have the Crusher 360. These are also well-made headphones that collapse into a slightly smaller package than the Venue. They also offer what Skullcandy calls Sensory Bass and 360-degree audio. What that means, in practice, is that these things sound like a bass-lover’s very effusive home theater system on your head.
The Crusher, like the Venue, is wireless and lasts about 30 hours on one charge. They don’t have noise cancelling, but what they do have is a set of haptics inside the ear cups that essentially turn bass events into wildly impressive explosions of sound. You can turn this feature up and down using a capacitive touch control on the side of the headphones and, if you’re like me, you probably will be using that feature multiple times.
How do they work? Well, the bass these things pump out is almost comical. While I don’t want to completely disparage these things — different ears will find them pleasant if not downright cool – the Crushers turn almost everything — from a drama to a bit of dubstep — into a bass-heavy party. I used these on another flight and heard every single bang, boom and bop in the movies I watched and, oddly, I found the added bass response quite nice in regular music. If you like bass you’ll like these. If you don’t, then you’d best stay away.
The headphones cost $299.

Skullcandy isn’t the audiophile’s choice in headphones. That said, their efforts to improve the brand, product and quality are laudable. I avoided the company for years after a few bad experiences and I’m glad to see them coming back with a new and improved set of cans that truly offer great sound and a nice price. While the Crushers are definitely an acquired taste I could honestly recommend the Venue over any similarly priced noise-cancelling headphones on the market, including Bose’s businessperson specials. These headphones aren’t perfect, but they’re also not bad.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Apple’s new iOS 12 beta fixes the annoying ‘please update’ bug

Apple’s new iOS 12 beta fixes the annoying ‘please update’ bug

iOS 12 beta testers have been plagued with a frustrating bug that continually pops up messages alerting them that a new iOS update is available when, in fact, it’s not. Apple has now fixed this bug, which is patched in the latest iOS 12 betas rolling out now, we understand.

The bug first made headlines on Thursday, when a number of iOS 12 beta testers – including developers and those on the public beta program – began to complain on social media about the problem. All users were seeing a pop-up message that read, “A new iOS version is now available. Please update from the iOS 12 beta.”  

Users could close this window with a tap, but the same pop-up would reappear at regular intervals. There was nothing to be done about it, because the message itself was wrong – there was no new beta available for download at the time.

While it’s true that beta versions of software can have glitches and bugs, the iOS 12 beta has been, arguably, one of the most stable to date. For many people, the bug was one of the first times they had a serious issue with running the beta software.

Some had figured out yesterday that you could adjust the system date and time to turn off the non-stop notifications, but this was bad advice. Messing around with the system clock can introduce a host of other issues, like missing calendar appointments or reminders, for example.

Apple was aware of the issue, and has thankfully introduced a fix before the long holiday weekend here in the U.S.

The fix is available in both the new developer beta and the public beta, out now.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Apple will require all apps to have a privacy policy as of October 3

Apple will require all apps to have a privacy policy as of October 3

Apple is cracking down on apps that don’t communicate to users how their personal data is used, secured or shared. In an announcement posted to developers through the App Store Connect portal, Apple says that all apps, including those still in testing, will be required to have a privacy policy as of October 3, 2018.

Allowing apps without privacy policies is something of an obvious hole that Apple should have already plugged, given its generally protective nature over user data. But the change is even more critical now that Europe’s GDPR regulations have gone into effect. Though the app makers themselves would be ultimately responsible for their customers’ data, Apple, as the platform where those apps are hosted, has some responsibility here, too.

Platforms today are being held accountable for the behavior of their apps, and the data misuse that may occur as a result of their own policies around those apps.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example, was dragged before the U.S. Senate about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data from 87 million Facebook users was inappropriately obtained by way of Facebook apps.

Apple’s new requirement, therefore, provides the company with a layer of protection – any app that falls through the cracks going forward will be able to be held accountable by way of its own privacy policy and the statements it contains.

Apple also notes that the privacy policy’s link or text cannot be changed until the developer submits a new version of their app. It seems there’s still a bit of loophole here, though – if developers add a link pointing to an external webpage, they can change what the webpage says at any time after their app is approved.

The new policy will be required for all apps and app updates across the App Store as well as through the TestFlight testing platform as of October 3, says Apple.

What’s not clear is if Apple itself will be reviewing all the privacy policies themselves as part of this change, in order to reject apps with questionable data use policies or user protections. If it does, App Store review times could increase, unless the company hires more staff.

Apple has already taken a stance on apps it finds questionable, like Facebook’s data-sucking VPN app Onavo, which it kicked out of the App Store earlier this month. The app had been live for years, however, and its App Store text did disclose the data it collected was shared with Facebook. The fact that Apple only booted it now seems to indicate it will take a tougher stance on apps which are designed to collect user data as one of their primary functions going forward.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Scientists make a touch tablet that rolls and scrolls

Scientists make a touch tablet that rolls and scrolls

Research scientists at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have built a prototype touchscreen device that’s neither smartphone nor tablet but kind of both — and more besides. The device, which they’ve christened the MagicScroll, is inspired by ancient (papyrus/paper/parchment) scrolls so it takes a rolled-up, cylindrical form factor — enabled by a flexible 7.5inch touchscreen housed in the casing.

This novel form factor, which they made using 3D printing, means the device can be used like an erstwhile Rolodex (remember those?!) for flipping through on-screen contacts quickly by turning a physical rotary wheel built into the edge of the device. (They’ve actually added one on each end.)

Then, when more information or a deeper dive is required, the user is able to pop the screen out of the casing to expand the visible display real estate. The flexible screen on the prototype has a resolution of 2K. So more mid-tier mobile phone of yore than crisp iPhone Retina display at this nascent stage.

 

 

The scientists also reckon the scroll form factor offers a pleasing ergonomically option for making actual phone calls too, given that a rolled up scroll can sit snugly against the face.

Though they admit their prototype is still rather large at this stage — albeit, that just adds to the delightfully retro feel of the thing, making it come over like a massive mobile phone of the 1980s. Like the classic Motorola 8000X Dynatac of 1984.

While still bulky at this R&D stage, the team argues the cylindrical, flexible screen form factor of their prototype offers advantages by being lightweight and easier to hold with one hand than a traditional tablet device, such as an iPad. And when rolled up they point out it can also fit in a pocket. (Albeit, a large one.)

They also imagine it being used as a dictation device or pointing device, as well as a voice phone. And the prototype includes a camera — which allows the device to be controlled using gestures, similar to Nintendo’s ‘Wiimote’ gesture system.

In another fun twist they’ve added robotic actuators to the rotary wheels so the scroll can physically move or spin in place in various scenarios, such as when it receives a notification. Clocky eat your heart out.

“We were inspired by the design of ancient scrolls because their form allows for a more natural, uninterrupted experience of long visual timelines,” said Roel Vertegaal, professor of human-computer interaction and director of the lab, in a statement.

“Another source of inspiration was the old Rolodex filing systems that were used to store and browse contact cards. The MagicScroll’s scroll wheel allows for infinite scroll action for quick browsing through long lists. Unfolding the scroll is a tangible experience that gives a full screen view of the selected item. Picture browsing through your Instagram timeline, messages or LinkedIn contacts this way!”

“Eventually, our hope is to design the device so that it can even roll into something as small as a pen that you could carry in your shirt pocket,” he added. “More broadly, the MagicScroll project is also allowing us to further examine notions that ‘screens don’t have to be flat’ and ‘anything can become a screen’. Whether it’s a reusable cup made of an interactive screen on which you can select your order before arriving at a coffee-filling kiosk, or a display on your clothes, we’re exploring how objects can become the apps.”

The team has made a video showing the prototype in action (embedded below), and will be presenting the project at the MobileHCI conference on Human-Computer Interaction in Barcelona next month.

While any kind of mobile device resembling the MagicScroll is clearly very, very far off even a sniff of commercialization (especially as these sorts of concept devices have long been teased by mobile device firms’ R&D labs — while the companies keep pumping out identikit rectangles of touch-sensitive glass… ), it’s worth noting that Samsung has been slated to be working on a smartphone with a foldable screen for some years now. And, according to the most recent chatter about this rumor, it might be released next year. Or, well, it still might not.

But whether Samsung’s definition of ‘foldable’ will translate into something as flexibly bendy as the MagicScroll prototype is highly, highly doubtful. A fused clamshell design — where two flat screens could be opened to seamlessly expand them and closed up again to shrink the device footprint for pocketability — seems a much more likely choice for Samsung designers to make, given the obvious commercial challenges of selling a device with a transforming form factor that’s also robust enough to withstand everyday consumer use and abuse.

Add to that, for all the visual fun of these things, it’s not clear that consumers would be inspired to adopt anything so different en masse. Sophisticated (and inevitably) fiddly devices are more likely to appeal to specific niche use cases and user scenarios.

For the mainstream six inches of touch-sensitive (and flat) glass seems to do the trick.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Weebly brings more e-commerce features to mobile

Weebly brings more e-commerce features to mobile

Weebly is part of Square now, but it continues to update as a standalone product. This week, for example, the company announced a number of new e-commerce features for the Weebly mobile app.

Those features include the ability to ship and print labels, to respond to customer questions (via Facebook Messenger, which can be embedded on Weebly sites), to approve customer reviews, to create branded coupon codes and to edit every aspect of your store, including product listing and pricing — all from the app.

Much of this functionality already existed on desktop, so the announcement is about moving these capabilities onto smartphones. In a blog post, the company outlined a vision for the mobile phone to become “the new back office.”

Weebly CEO David Rusenko told me that as his team has been adding more features for merchants, he wants people to think of Weebly “increasingly as an e-commerce platform,” not just a simple website builder. And support for mobile was an important part of that.

“This is what our customers were requesting,” Rusenko said. “Basically, people are taking their entrepreneurial lifestyle and having the freedom to work on things wherever you are.”

And apparently mobile usage is already up significantly, with a 75 percent increase over the past year in customers using the Weebly mobile app to manage orders, as well as a 120 percent increase in mobile usage to manage product listings.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Leak reveals a new Apple Watch Series 4 with an edge-to-edge display

Leak reveals a new Apple Watch Series 4 with an edge-to-edge display
In addition to a leak showing off photos of the new iPhone XS models, 9to5Mac also got a hold of a photo of the upcoming Apple Watch Series 4. The new Watch, which now sports an edge-to-edge display, is expected to be revealed on September 12, at the just-announced Apple press conference, along with the iPhone XS.
The photos of the forthcoming Apple Watch (which 9to5Mac notes are “not a render”) show off a watch that’s clearly different from the existing editions. The display now stretches to the edge of the watch face, confirming earlier rumors that said Apple was planning to give the Apple Watch its first big redesign since its launch in 2015.
Analysts have been predicting the new watch would sport a 15% larger display, offer extended battery life, and include upgraded health monitoring features.

Image credit: 9to5Mac
Apple is apparently taking advantage of the bigger screen area with a new watch face that packs in a lot more complications.
In the image 9to5Mac published (see above), there’s an analog face that’s practically cluttered with extra complications, including the temperature, stopwatch, weather, activity rings, date, music, calendar updates, and even a UVI index. These are both spread around the outside of the clock itself, and inside the clock, underneath the hands.
Arguably, it’s a bit much. But the image is likely showing off all the possible complications that could be added to a customizable face at the user’s discretion, rather than a suggestion that one should – well – add them all at once.
Of course, we’ve already begun debating the look, with some more enthusiastically in favor of the new face and all its accompanying accoutrement, and others – let’s say, more cautiously optimistic.

The photo also shows a new hole underneath the Digital Crown, which seems like an extra mic, the report notes.
Other changes, including whatever hardware upgrades and watchOS software features may arrive, aren’t yet known.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Huge leak shows off the new iPhone XS

Huge leak shows off the new iPhone XS

Get ready for a leaked look at the new iPhone XS. 9to5Mac has gotten its hands on an image of Apple’s next generation of iPhone hardware, and the future looks pretty swanky.

The leaked image showcases the new sizing of Apple’s soon-to-be-unveiled flagship bezel-less devices, which likely will have 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch screens, respectively. The phones will be called the iPhone XS, according to the report. The pictured devices represent the higher-end OLED screen models, not the cheaper rumored notch LCD iPhone.

The device will feature a new gold color shell. The iPhone X is currently available in space gray and silver.

Image credit: 9to5mac

A picture is worth a thousand words, but there are still a lot of details we’re waiting on here obviously. Apple is expected to show off the new phone hardware as well as a new version of the Apple Watch at a hardware event on September 12.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch