All posts in “Mobile”

Apple’s iPad Smart Cover could one day have a display that shows notifications

Apple may be looking into making the iPad Pro’s Smart Cover even smarter. Apple has filed a patent for a Smart Cover that will keep users up to date with alerts for things like notifications. What that means is that you won’t even have to open the cover to keep current with your notifications.

The patent application shows this is something Apple has been working on for some time — this is a continuation of several patents dating back to 2012.

In the patent, it’s clear that this new Smart Cover would take a similar form to the standard smart cover. In other words, it will be built to protect the iPad and will include a tri-fold form factor. On top of that, however, it could have both active and passive portions to it for displaying things like notifications. Active portions to the display would basically incorporate low-power elements like small LED displays to provide alerts.

apple smart cover patent ipad

The cover could also take a slightly more passive approach. In that instance, the cover would basically have transparent portions that would show parts of the iPad’s actual display. When the cover is closed, the iPad would show notifications through those transparent portions.

There’s also a hybrid version of the Smart Cover — which could have both LED displays and transparent sections to show other information.

The patent also highlights treating different notifications differently. When using the transparent Smart Cover, for example, an email marked as important could show at the top of the notifications panel, while less important notifications could show lower down.

As is always the case with an Apple patent, there’s no indication of when this kind of Smart Cover will make it to market — or if it’ll ever be available at all. Apple and other tech companies routinely file for patents that they never end up using. Still, this does show that Apple is working on ways to make its accessories a little more functional, which could end up being very helpful for the people who use these accessories. As mentioned, Apple first filed a patent for the tech in 2012, but it has clearly been looking into the idea since then.

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Fussy, hungry, or in pain? This app accurately translates your baby’s cries

chatterbaby app deciphers baby crying screeching at someone off camera presumably for something insignificant

Speech recognition and machine translation tools are two of the most useful everyday applications of artificial intelligence as it exists today. Both of them allow our words to be understood by a machine and turned into actionable commands, used either to control devices like the Google Home smart speaker or to have a conversation with someone who speaks a different language to us. Could similar machine learning A.I. technology also be used to help decipher a baby’s cries, and in the process shed some light on exactly what it is that they are attempting to communicate?

The makers of a new free Android and iOS app called Chatterbaby certainly believe that it can. Developed by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, the app is based on an algorithm that’s able to work out exactly what each baby cry means and relay this information to parents. According to its creators, it can do this with astonishing accuracy; far more, in fact, than the guesswork with which most first-time parents react to their baby’s crying.

“I have four children; this project came about after I realized that number three had cries that sounded remarkably similar to my first two babies,” Ariana Anderson, assistant professor and lead in the UCLA research, told Digital Trends. “Since I am a statistician, I see patterns everywhere. I wanted to test whether the vocal patterns I could hear in my own children were present in other children as well. We decided to put this algorithm into our free Chatterbaby app not just to help parents of babies now, but to help them later as well when their children are older.”

chatterbaby app deciphers baby crying

To create the Chatterbaby app, Anderson and fellow researchers started by uploading 2,000 audio samples of infant cries. They then used A.I. algorithms to try and discover (and therefore explain) the difference between pain-induced cries, hunger-induced cries, and fussiness-induced cries.

“The training was done by extracting many acoustic features from our database of pre-labeled cries,” Anderson continued. “Pain cries were taken during vaccinations and ear-piercings. We labeled other cries using the parent-nomination and a ‘mom-panel’ consisting of veteran mothers who had at least two children. Only cries that had three unanimous ratings were used to train our algorithm, which changes and improves regularly. We used the acoustic features to train a machine learning algorithm to predict the most likely cry reason. Within our sample, the algorithm was about 90 percent accurate to flag pain, and over 70 percent accurate overall.”

Anderson does, however, note that parents should still use their best judgement, “and remember that their brain and their instincts are far more powerful than any artificial intelligence algorithm.”

While the Chatterbaby app could be useful for many parents — especially the aforementioned first-time parents — Chatterbaby could prove particularly helpful in certain scenarios. For example, it could be handy in situations in which one or both parents are deaf or hard of hearing, providing notification when their eyes are otherwise occupied.

chatterbaby app deciphers baby crying adult affection 698878

It may also turn out to be a powerful tool in diagnosing autism at a younger age. At present, autism is diagnosed later in childhood, often around the age of three. Finding ways of predicting autism as soon as possible is something a number of researchers have been working toward, since this could allow for earlier intervention to take place. Anderson suggested that one way of picking up an early cue regarding autism may be found in listening for unusual vocal patterns in infants.

Previous studies have shown promising results in detecting abnormal vocal patterns with at-risk children, but these sample sizes are small. In an attempt to add more data to the pile, Chatterbaby offers a voluntary study which parents can enter into. Right now, it’s still at an early stage, but long term it could provide valuable insights that allow an earlier diagnosis.

“By inviting people into our research study with the Chatterbaby cry translator, we can them follow them for six years and provide free screenings for autism which they can do from their own home,” Anderson continued. “If their children are higher risk, they can then go to their doctor for a full evaluation. We want to bring the lab to the participant, instead of the participant to the lab. By offering a free service in our app that is of high-value to new parents, we believe we can connect with parents and improve our ability to identify risk factors for autism. We believe that a baby’s voice can be one of many risk factors to improve our understanding of autism.”

T-Mobile website bug reportedly exposed private customer account details

t-mobile

Due to a bug in T-Mobile’s website back in April, customers’ account information was left accessible for anyone to see, ZDnet reports. While the security flaw has since been fixed, personal information could have potentially been misused by anyone who knew where to look.

The subdomain — promotool.t-mobile.com — is a customer care portal for employees to access internal tools. But the bug allowed for it to be easily found through search engines and didn’t require a password to access the tools.

The flaw was due to a hidden API — it provided T-Mobile customer data by adding the customer’s cell phone number to the end of the web address. This data included a customer’s billing account number, postal address, and account information, such as the status of their bills, including if service for an account was suspended or a bill is past due. For some, customer account PINs and tax ID numbers were also accessible.

The API was pulled by T-Mobile a day after it was reported by security researcher Ryan Stevenson, who was also awarded a $1,000 bug bounty later. While it’s not clear how long the API was exposed, a spokesperson for T-Mobile told ZDnet that there’s no evidence any customer information was accessed.

This is isn’t the first time an issue like this has happened to T-Mobile. In October, a security flaw allowed hackers to gain access to similar information through a T-Mobile website. Hackers were able to obtain email addresses, account numbers, and more, simply by using the customer’s phone number.

The flaw was discovered by security researcher Karan Saini, and it allowed hackers to gain information that could then be used in a social engineering attack, as well as provided access to other personal information online. T-Mobile claimed the bug only affected a small amount of customers and that it was fixed within 24 hours of being discovered.

News of the most recent flaw comes a little less than a month after the merger with T-Mobile and Sprint was announced — which was also in April. While both carriers agreed on combining companies, we have yet to see whether the U.S. Justice Department will approve it.

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OnePlus 6 vs. Google Pixel 2 XL: What difference does $300 make?

By offering flagship-level specs at a price hundreds of dollars less than the competition, the OnePlus 6 has shown the world why it deserves to be known as the flagship killer. But what’s in a name, and how does the OnePlus 6 actually fare when it goes head-to-head with one of the top flagships of the moment? To find out, we put the OnePlus 6 against the best Google has to offer — the Google Pixel 2 XL.

Specs

OnePlus 6 Google Pixel 2 XL
Size 155.7 x 75.4 x 7.8 mm (6.13 x 2.97 x 0.31 inches) 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm (6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches)
Weight 177 grams (6.24 ounces) 175 grams (6.17 ounces)
Screen size 6.28-inch AMOLED display 6-inch P-OLED display
Screen resolution 2,280 x 1,080 pixels (402 pixels per inch) 2,880 x 1,440 pixels (538 ppi)
Operating system Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo
Storage space 64GB (with 6GB of RAM), 128GB, 256GB (both with 8GB of RAM)
64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM 6GB, 8GB 4GB
Camera Dual 16MP and 20MP rear, 16MP front 12.2MP (with OIS) rear, 8MP front
Video Up to 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 480 fps super slow motion, HDR Up to 4K at 30 fps, 1080p at 120 fps, 720p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes (back) Yes (back)
Water resistance No IP67
Battery 3,300mAh

DashCharge

3,520mAh

Fast charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support AT&T and T-Mobile T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Midnight Black, Mirror Black, Silk White Just Black, Black & White
Price $530 $850
Buy from OnePlus Google, Amazon
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

oneplus 6 hands on chrome
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 6 comes with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 processor, and the benchmarks from our OnePlus 6 review show that OnePlus is using that power well, with results that beat some of the flagships from this year. Being a 2017 flagship, the Pixel 2 XL doesn’t have the luxury of the Snapdragon 845’s power and instead relies on the older Snapdragon 835. In terms of benchmarking and power on paper, the OnePlus 6 has it beat. But in real-world terms, the Pixel 2 XL has the advantage of Google’s Android expertise — simply put, the Pixel 2 XL works so well with Android that it’s an exceptionally smooth mover, and though the OnePlus 6 is also silky smooth, it’s hard to separate them in real terms.

We need more time with the OnePlus 6 to be sure of its battery capabilities, but from our initial testing, the OnePlus 6 will last at least a day. That puts it on par with the Pixel 2 XL’s larger battery, but it remains to be seen whether the OnePlus 6 can stretch out for longer. In terms of charging speed, OnePlus’ Dash Charge is one of the fastest charging methods on the planet, with OnePlus promising a day’s worth of charge in 30 minutes. While the Pixel 2 XL is also a speedy charger, topping up 40 percent in just 40 minutes, we give it to the OnePlus 6 charger here.

It’s exceptionally hard to choose a winner here, and while the OnePlus 6 has the raw power and numbers to back it up, the Pixel 2 XL’s performance speaks for itself. This has to be a tie.

Winner: Tie

Design and durability

Google Pixel 2 XL back
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

To call the Pixel 2 XL’s looks divisive would be an understatement — while we like the unique two-tone blend of metal and glass, there’s definitely a difference of opinion, even in our offices. By contrast, the OnePlus 6 is one of the most gorgeous phones we’ve seen to date, with a beautiful mirror finish on the glass body. They’re both in line with the latest bezel-less trends, but the inclusion of a notch on the OnePlus 6 is sure to cause some consternation, but that may be balanced by the lack of a headphone jack on Google’s phone.

You’re going to want a case for both of these phones — glass may look amazing, but it’s only so strong and one careless moment could ruin your phone’s looks. The Pixel 2 XL comes with an IP67-rating, giving it some water-resistance, while the OnePlus 6 lacks an IP rating, so be careful around the toilet.

This is another tough category to judge — the OnePlus 6 is probably the more attractive phone, but we don’t find the Pixel 2 XL’s unique looks bad at all. For those to whom durability is a bigger issue, the water-resistance on the Pixel 2 XL is the clincher here. For others, the lack of headphone jack on the Pixel 2 XL will mean the OnePlus 6 wins. This is another draw.

Winner: Tie

Display

oneplus 6 hands on home screen
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

You’ll find OLED tech in both of these screens, and they’re both crisp, and capable of showing a huge depth of colors and inky blacks. In terms of color reproduction and quality, there’s not much to really separate the two. However, you’ll find a much higher resolution (and therefore, a sharper display) on the Pixel 2 XL’s 6-inch screen, with a resolution of 2,880 x 1,440 pixels going up against the OnePlus 6’s 2,280 x 1,080-pixel display. While you might be hard-pressed to tell the difference in normal usage, the Pixel 2 XL’s display is the superior here.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

Camera

Google Pixel 2 XL camera app
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 6 comes with a dual-lens system in the rear of the phone, with the 16-megapixel and 20-megapixel lenses working together to provide an excellent camera experience. While we haven’t had a chance to really put it through its paces yet, the initial signs for the OnePlus 6’s camera are good. But it’s up against one of the greats here — the Pixel 2 XL has been on top of our list of the best camera phones for some time, and it’s going to take a monumental effort to shift it. What everyone else does with two lenses Google does proudly with one. It’s quite simply one of the best cameras in the business for shooting still images.

It’s more of a mismatch in video. The OnePlus 6 can shoot 4K video at a full 60 frames per second, as well as slow-motion video at 480 fps — the Pixel 2 XL can only shoot 4K at 30 fps and slow-motion at 120 fps. However, how much of a difference either one of those makes to your daily life is purely personal — for us, images are more important than video.

Without having fully completed our tests on the OnePlus 6, it’s impossible to deliver a real verdict here. The Pixel 2 XL is one of the finest camera phones around right now, but a good number of phones are nipping at its heels, or exceeding it in different areas. The OnePlus 6 could be one of them. This is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

oneplus 6 hands on apps
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you want the most up-to-date version of Android, then you’re in luck. Both of these phones have the latest build of Android — Android 8.1 Oreo. If you prefer the stock Android experience, then the Pixel 2 XL is about as stock as you can get, while the OnePlus 6’s OxygenOS Android skin is still a pleasure to use.

In terms of update speed, while OnePlus is generally quite quick with updates, Google literally makes Android — so the Pixel range is always going to get the latest Android builds first. That includes the upcoming Android P — although both these phones can access the Android P beta right now.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

Special features

Google Pixel 2 XL in hand ok google
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 6 is a flagship-level phone with a midrange price point — as such, there probably wasn’t much room to cram in extra features once the basics were polished. However, there are a couple of additional options that might catch your eye. There’s an optional gesture system, similar to the iPhone X and Nova Launcher software, as well as the slide-in Shelf, which shows recent apps, contacts, and other useful info.

The Pixel 2 XL is similar, being mostly a stock Android experience. There are a few additions though. Google Assistant is obviously closely tied into the phone, with the Pixel 2 range having the special “Now Playing” feature that identifies music around you without needing a command. Google has taken a page from HTC’s book with squeezable sides that trigger commands — here known as Active Edge. It’s useful, especially to activate Google Assistant without needing a voice command. Plus, there’s always Google’s Daydream VR.

There’s not much to pick from here, but we think the Pixel 2 XL edges its rival with just slightly more useful features.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

Price

Here’s the big difference. You can grab the Google Pixel 2 XL right now, and buying it from Google means you can get the phone on any major U.S. carrier. Buying one SIM-free will set you back $850. In contrast, the OnePlus 6 will only set you back $530, but it’ll only work on AT&T and T-Mobile. Still, that’s one heck of a price difference.

Overall winner: Google Pixel 2 XL

That was one heck of a battle, and it’s a close result. Despite having the older hardware, the Pixel 2 XL’s close relationship with Android really means it comes out ahead, even against newer hardware. It’s an amazing piece of tech, and really showcases how well Google can tune software to match hardware perfectly. For our money, it’s the consistently superior of the two.

With that said, there’s really not much in it, and with the OnePlus 6 being more than $300 cheaper than the Pixel 2 XL, OnePlus’ newest flagship wouldn’t be a bad choice at all — especially if you can’t bear to lose your headphone jack, or if your budget (understandably) doesn’t stretch to $800 for a phone.

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Qualcomm expected to reveal Snapdragon chip dedicated to VR, AR next month

Snapdragon 845

Qualcomm is expected to reveal a new processor dedicated to stand-alone VR headsets next week during the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, California. Called the Snapdragon XR1, the all-in-one chip will consist of CPU cores, a graphics processor, one component dedicated to security, and another dedicated to artificial intelligence. It will also support voice control and head-tracking interaction, sources claim. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the term “XR” from Qualcomm. The company mentioned XR when it revealed its new Snapdragon 845-based VR headset reference design earlier this year, and covered the XR topic at great length during the North American Augmented World Expo convention in 2017. XR is short for “extended reality,” an “umbrella term” that covers augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality. 

“XR is an emerging umbrella term that is already being used to encapsulate AR, VR, and everything in between,” Qualcomm said in January. “XR is a mobile market that’s gaining momentum as VR and AR markets may combine to create a $108 billion market by 2021.” 

Qualcomm’s latest headset reference design supports room-scale six degrees of freedom, meaning you can move left, right, up, down, forward, and backward without any wires or external sensors. It also includes a “slam” component — simultaneous localization and mapping — that not only keeps track of your physical environment, but tracks where you’re located within that environment. 

That said, the Snapdragon 845 isn’t really an XR-first chip but it certainly supports “immersive XR experiences.” The chip packs eight Kyro processor cores, the Adreno GPU supporting XR, components for audio and cameras, built-in Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity, and a processing unit dedicated to security. It also contains a co-processor, the Hexagon 685 DSP, tuned for artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

So why the XR1 chip? It could be a custom version of the Snapdragon 845 without all the phone-centric necessities and fine-tuned for augmented reality and virtual reality experiences. Qualcomm also likely tweaked the architecture to pull better battery life out of an XR headset. We expect to see a new reference design along with the new chip during the show next week. 

Sources close to Qualcomm’s upcoming XR1 launch claim that the company is currently working with HTC, Vuzix, and several other headset manufacturers to incorporate the chip into future headsets. HTC’s current stand-alone VR headset, the Vive Focus, will hit North American shores later this year based on Qualcomm’s first VR headset reference design. Facebook’s just-released Oculus Go, manufactured by smartphone maker Xiaomi, relies on Qualcomm’s older Snapdragon 821 chip. 

Stand-alone headsets are a new trend in the VR market, as they don’t require an expensive tethered PC like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, nor do they rely on a smartphone like Samsung’s Gear VR. Google and Qualcomm first revealed their stand-alone VR initiative last year with HTC and Lenovo serving as showrunners. But Lenovo is thus far the only stand-alone Daydream headset provider while HTC abandoned ship and did its own Google-free thing in China. 

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