All posts in “Tech News”

Apple sold fewer than 1 million iPhones in India in the first half of 2018: report

Apple has traditionally had trouble with sales in India. While the company started manufacturing iPhones in the country to lower the price locally, it seems that it has a long road ahead of it, according to a report from Bloomberg: it’s sold fewer than a million devices in the first half of 2018.

Bloomberg reports that three Apple sales executives left the company as it restructures its operations there. It only has a 2 percent marketshare in India, and in 2017, it sold 3.2 million iPhones, according to a report by Counterpoint Research. But those sales appear to have slowed: the same report estimates that Apple has moved “fewer than a million devices,” and even with strong sales, it’ll have trouble catching up to last year’s numbers.

India is the world’s third largest market for smartphones, but its high tariffs — adding between 15 to 20 percent to the price — has pushed consumers towards cheaper alternatives, like Samsung. Earlier this summer, Apple began to build the iPhone 6S and the iPhone SE in the country — a tactic that the company hopes will help reduce the price of its phones. But it’ll take a while before Apple’s operations there get up and running at full capacity, and in the meantime, Apple is lagging further behind its competitors.

India could be a huge opportunity for Apple, and CEO Tim Cook has indicated that it’s going to move aggressively into the country. The country has expanded its 4G network and has a growing middle class, which could mean that more people will be willing adopt Apple’s products. Despite those low sales numbers, however, Cook said in May that the company’s revenue from India has grown, setting a record for the first half of 2018.

Watch the first teaser for Doctor Who’s next season

During today’s World Cup march, the BBC released its first teaser for its upcoming 11th season of its science fiction show Doctor Who, which will feature actress Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.

The trailer shows off only a brief glimpse of Whittaker’s Doctor, who appears right at the end of the teaser. She is the first woman to play the role of Doctor, taking over for Peter Capaldi, who portrayed the Twelfth Doctor from 2014 to 2017. Fans of the show got their first glimpse of her during last year’s Christmas special, and her casting represents a new era for the show as Chris Chibnall (creator of the acclaimed crime drama Broadchurch) took over for Steven Moffat, the show’s long-time showrunner. The season is expected to premiere in October 2018.

Whittaker’s casting came after years of discussion over whether or not a woman should take over for the role of the show’s most famous character: up until this point, all 12 Doctors were played by men, and while the show’s creators had mulled the possibility, they didn’t feel that it was the right time. Moffatt told the Radio Times in December that it was Chibnall’s call when he took over the show, and said that he thinks that “she’ll be brilliant as the Doctor.”

Doctor Who’s cast and crew will be showing up at San Diego Comic-Con later this week, where we’ll undoubtably learn a bit more about the upcoming season.

Ugh, Elon Musk attacks British diver who called his submarine ‘just a PR stunt’

Image: Kiichiro Sato/AP/REX/Shutterstock

After Vern Unsworth, a British diver who helped rescue the trapped Thai soccer team, called Elon Musk’s attempt at a submarine rescue “just a PR stunt” that had ‘absolutely no chance of working,” Musk has chosen to be angry online. 

Surprise!

In a series of tweets Sunday morning, Musk referred to Unsworth as a “pedo,” requested video of the cave rescue, retracted that request, then promised proof that his submarine could have, in fact, performed the rescue.

It’s a lot.

The tweetstorm was in response to a tweet from professor and New York Times writer Zeynep Tufekci, who wrote an op-ed arguing that Musk could learn a lesson about Silicon Valley hubris from the incident. (Her thread on celebrity intervention in rescue efforts is a great read.)

Never has a man so desperately needed to log off.

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The company that designs Ferraris is making a $2 million electric hypercar

It’s not a rational or responsible desire to dream of expensive looking sports cars. But still, the 20th century image of a curvaceous four-wheeled form continues to foster a culture of envy. The high price tag attached to these cars that made them a symbol of aspiration, greed, and everything in between, has endured, as the performance numbers and prices on supercar reach astronomical seven-figure levels. What has been lacking in the rare European supercar category are cars powered by electric powertrains. But the days of the rude gasoline-inhaling performance car may be dwindling.

Pininfarina is the newest Italiano brand to attach itself to the fast-growing list of luxury EV makers, but among the cult of Ferrari enthusiasts, Pininfarina is already a big deal. On Thursday, Automobil Pininfarina, a spinoff of the 90-year-old design house, unveiled teaser images of the PFO, its planned first-ever production car, a 250 mph battery powered hyper car.

In an interview with The Verge, Automobili Pininfarina CEO Michael Perschke says the PFO will have a range of 300 miles on a single charge. “As a super sports car brand, no one has embarked fully on an EV strategy.” He estimates that it will take 10 to 15 minutes to charge the battery up to 80 percent. The performance numbers are dizzying — it will fly from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under two seconds.

Those images of the PFO show a curvaceous, sculptural exterior two-seater carbon fiber form encased in sweeping glass. A single ribbon of light cascades from the headlights across the front end. It’s message is clear — it’s an object of beauty that screams speed. Translation: it’s a truly Italian sports car. It’s the latest smoke signal that the electric future is nigh, pairing screensaver-worthy cars with a Tesla-blazing powertrain, and perhaps eventually spelling the end for gasoline. In January, Ferrari revealed plans to make an electric supercar. These announcements follow on the heels of the reveals of the Porsche Mission E concept and the BMW i8 roadster, and McLaren’s intentions to spend $2.1 billion on electrification.

For a couple hundred potential well-to-do customers that can’t resist this latest sub $2 million dollar proposition, the PFO will be unveiled as a concept car at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show and be delivered in the second half of 2020. The company will start taking orders later this summer when it shows a prototype to select groups at Monterey Car Week where some of the world’s most expensive cars are auctioned, flaunted, and fawned over.

Pininfarina is in its element at Pebble Beach. The prize-winning 1936 Lancia Astura Cabriolet, once owned by Eric Clapton, won top honors at the Pebble Beach Concours D’elegance in 2016. The iconic Turin, Italy based coach builder is responsible for the aesthetic of the world’s most collected cars including the Ferrari Testarossa, as seen in the SEGA game Outrun. Pininfarina namesake and founder Battista Farina was nicknamed Pinin, local dialect for a short guy, the lead designer told me. Farina found a kindred stubborn spirit in the engineer Enzo Ferrari when they first met in 1930. The Pininfarina house also built custom cars for Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Cadillac and has a list of over 1000 cars in its books. More recently, its design arm has been hinting at alternative powertrains. It showed the Nido EV concept in 2010 and the H2 Speed concept, a hydrogen powered raced car in 2016. Its list of star clients includes Jackie Kennedy and the Sultan of Brunei.

The value in that star-studded legacy inspired its current ownership, the Indian-based Mahindra Group, to double down on its historic pedigree and move the name badge of Pininfarina from the side of the car to the front hood of an electric supercar by founding the official Automobiliti brand. Mahindra is one of the driving forces on the Formula E circuit, which holds its New York race this weekend, and is well versed in EV production. The venture was first announced in April. This week, Automobili Pininfarina says that Formula One and Formula E racer Nick Heidfeld will join the as development driver next year as part of its growing leadership team.

But this classic brand isn’t approaching technology as an afterthought. It hopes to strike a note with potential customers in Silicon Valley. “We assume that we appeal to customers like a Larry Ellison or Marc Benioff, who also have an affinity to sustainability and see technology as an advancement to get to the next level,” Perschke says.

Part of its business plan is to seek out partnerships with tech companies to own the hardware inside of the vehicle. “We will not have large department. We’d rather talk to others like Apple, Google, and Salesforce who are into technology, and integrate them rather than do our own systems. OEMs are still defending infotainment architecture. I’m happy to full integrate an iPhone. But do you need to sell infotainment system at a surplus of another $5000?” he says.

The design arm of Pininfarina counts Volvo as one of its past clients, an automaker using a more contemporary approach to its in-car technology. “If you try to be a software company as a car company, per definition, you will always be second,” Pershcke says. “You’re gaining a lot of accessibility and speed in open source systems.The apps are what clients are really interested in.” It’s a very different approach than a car with a similar price tag and mind-numbing performance, the Bugatti Chiron.

But in order to persuade customers to splurge on a two seater performance car, it has to live up to its exclusive reputation, rooted in awe-inspiring form. Pininfarina has credence as the ultimate art car. The Pininfarina-designed Cisitalia 202 was the first car included in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

Design Director Luca Borgogno says that building beauty is paramount instead of sticking to the design adage of form following function. “We want to make a car that is not overdesigned. We want something that is super clean and impossibly simple.” As it is primed to grow, the 10 person design team is borrowing members from Pininfarina SpA, the company’s traditional design house. That branch of the company recently showed another high end transportation project: the Princess R35 Performance Sports Yacht.

Pininfarina plans to incorporate sustainability into its design appeal, modeling itself after Stella McCartney’s approach to materials in her high-end fashion brand. That vision includes materials that have been ethically sourced, natural woods, and paints without chemical ingredients. “The constraints are there, what is good is we live in the moment we can work a lot between human and machine. We want to make a big statement as well,” says Borgogno.

To build its cars, Perschke says it will share a factory with a few EV companies, suppliers, and assembly partners. Other vehicles are planned to follow the PFO, and the company will investigate hydrogen-powered vehicles, as referenced in the H2 concept. It’s also working on plans to repurpose its batteries. “For future cars we want a second life strategy,” Perschke says. “In 2023 to 2025 we will be perceived as a sustainable luxury brand.”

To make it to the next car, first, the over-the-top PFO needs to capture the hearts of discerning customers. If they are successful, it may be a sign the culture associated with unapologetic gas guzzling engines is dwindling, an impact that could ripple into more affordable spaces as battery technology and lightweight materials become more affordable. But at this level, the ridiculous price tag is part of what makes the car so appealing to the high-rolling car collectors.

What it’s like to type on the new MacBook Pro keyboard

Image: Pete Pachal/Mashable

I’ve been using Apple’s new MacBook Pro for two days, and so far the most noticeable change is the keyboard.

The 2018 MacBook Pro is the first laptop from Apple to brandish the third generation of the company’s “butterfly” keyboard design that replaced the chiclet-style keyboards of the silver MacBooks that came before. Apple says the only improvement is that the keyboard is quieter to type on.

From teardowns, we know that there’s likely more to that story. A new layer of silicone appears to both act as a cushion the keys as well as protect them from dust and other particles. That could in turn improve the reliability of the keyboards, which has been a source of major concern. Apple is facing multiple lawsuits over the issue, and this upgrade could in fact be a “secret” way to address it while not admitting there was a problem in the first place.

But for users, Apple’s legal side-step is totally beside the point — they just want to know how the keyboard feels. Well, it feels… better. 

It definitely still feels like a butterfly keyboard. If my eyes were closed, and you put this keyboard in front of me, I’d call it as a MacBook Pro butterfly right away (and clearly not a skinny MacBook keyboard, since the shake of the machine itself is different as you type). But it’s not quite like before.

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For most of the rest of this article, you’ll need to forgive my frequent use of minimizing language like “slightly” and “a bit” because the change is really subtle.

The “give” on each key feels just a hair stronger. The keys — at least the letter keys — are a little more ready for your fingertips than the previous generation butterfly. The bounce makes the overall feel just slightly closer to the old-style chiclet keys, but not so much that you’d mistake it for one.

Are they quieter? Yes. Certainly, the volume of your keyboarding is as much dependent on your typing style as they keyboard itself, but after switching back and forth from the previous-gen MacBook Pro, typing various sentences again and again, I can safely say the new keys will be a bit more forgiving.

Average typing noise is a difficult thing to quantify (although we’ll give it a go in our upcoming review), but it feels as if the extra silicone layer is doing its job as a cushion as well as stabilizing the horizontal travel of the keys a bit. On the previous Pro, it always felt as if there wasn’t much holding the keys in place besides the aluminum casing itself; as a consequence, if you would hit a key off-center, you could kind of feel that part of the key hitting bottom at a slight angle, which tended to be a “noisier” tap.

Image: Pete Pachal/Mashable

Again, these are the subtlest of details in a typing experience, and I by no means mean to say that typing was bad or unbearable on the previous Pro. But subtleties add up, and, for me, the sum was a lesser experience on the butterfly MacBook Pro than that of my workhorse machine: a silver 2015 MacBook Pro with chiclet keys.

Typing on that keyboard is an absolute joy — the kind of attention-to-every-detail experience Apple stakes its brand on. Although the new MacBook Pro hasn’t quite matched it, it has moved a step closer. Yeah, it’s kind of insane that Apple moved away from what many considered perfection in the first place, but if you’ve been holding out from upgrading because of an aversion to the butterfly, the Pro’s new keyboard is reason to pop out of your cocoon and give it a try.

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