All posts in “Technology”

BlackPods brings your AirPods to the dark side


This is the story of a guy who found a niche and stuck with it. The guy is a programmer named Nick who was worried about Apple’s wireless AirPods. He thought they looked stupid.

“I didn’t have particularly high hopes when Apple first announced AirPods. I figured they would sound like their wired EarPods, which are fine but not particularly impressive. I was blown away when I first tried a pair of AirPods. Obviously, they can’t compete with a really nice set of over/on-ear headphones, but they’re astonishing when you take their form factor into consideration,” he said.

Convinced that the product had legs, he looked at them more closely and began reading Apple forums. He confirmed his hunch: people didn’t want to look like Ben Stiller in that one scene in Something About Mary and, sadly, white wireless earbuds hanging out of your ears looked goofy.

He decided to do something about it. He invented Blackpods.

“After the announcement, there was a lot of chatter in the Apple ecosystem about how they looked (which I agree is a bit silly in their natural white color). The opportunity to create a more stylish, less obtrusive version that matches some of the other iPhone colors seemed obvious.”

Nick bought a few pairs of AirPods and began the long, laborious process of figuring out how to paint them. After a bit of testing he figured it out and commercialized the process.

“There are very few flat surfaces, optical sensors, and multiple acoustic openings (all of which are tiny, requiring millimeter precision). Coming up with a masking process that was not prohibitively expensive or time consuming was a huge challenge, but people seem to be very happy with the product overall,” he said. And now he wants to sell you some black AirPods. Each unit is painted by hand. Nick also paints AirPods that people send to him. You can have AirPods in any color as long as they’re black.

It’s a perfect startup story: hunch leads to problem leads to customer assessment leads to solution leads to product.

By carefully masking all of the little apertures – including two prominent light sensors – Nick was able to paint AirPods in glossy or matte black using a three-phase painting system. The glossy BlackPods cost $279 while the “Stealth” matte ones or $299. He can paint your AirPods for $99. And business is good.

“We move approximately 300-500 units per month, and are mainly constrained by AirPod supply, not demand for Blackpods. Supply has been opening up recently, so we are able to fulfill more than we previously were able to,” said Nick.

And thus a programmer named Nick schooled us all in proper startup design. Good job, Nick, and now we don’t need to look like Ben Stiller.

LG confirms its next smartphone will feature a massive six-inch OLED screen


Less than 24 hours after a leak seemingly confirmed that Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Note 8 will pack a gigantic screen, LG has confirmed long-standing rumors that its next smartphone will feature an OLED screen.

The Korean firm detailed some details of its next device, believed to be the the V30, including its “plastic OLED FullVision display.” The six-inch screen will be the largest on a phone that LG has released for four years, the company said, but the actual device will be smaller than last year’s V20.

Why go with an OLED?

Well, screens are becoming a battleground for this year’s flagship smartphones, with the next iPhone rumored to be packing one. LG said it is keen to dip into its experience in screens — which has propelled its TV business — to enable virtual reality and other content-led services on mobile. It aims to do that with a 1,440 x 2,880 resolution display which, despite being plastic, is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 and tech that mitigates past issues with OLEDs, such as burn-in, aka ‘ghost’ images that are visible even when a screen is off.

This won’t be the first time LG has adopted an OLED, it put one into the experimental G Flex 2 released two years ago, but now the tech is stepping up to a prominent role. That makes sense given that LG just invested $7 billion into its OLED production capabilities. If you believe the Apple rumor mill, LG is the one selected to supply the iPhone 8’s OLED screen.

How to use WhatsApp on your computer to message more

Your phone isn't the only place you can use WhatsApp.
Your phone isn’t the only place you can use WhatsApp.

Image: lili sams/mashable

WhatsApp is clearly a great messaging app — it just reached one billion daily users. But it’s not always ideal to be holding huge conversations on your smartphone.

You might not know that WhatsApp isn’t just bound to your phone, though. You can use it on your computer, too. This lets you get a better look at photos, makes reading lengthy paragraphs a little more manageable, and allows you to scroll faster through group messages to get to what you’re looking for.

Here’s how to set up WhatsApp Web so you have access to the app in two places instead of one. Once you do this, all of your messages will be synched between the two devices. 

Anyone with the following phones can set up WhatsApp Web:

If you have one of those phones, you’re set to get started. The first thing you’ll need to do is go to web.whatsapp.com on your computer. Make sure your phone is still using data or a Wi-Fi connection. You can only access WhatsApp Web if your phone is working since that’s the main connection for your account. 

You should see the screen below after you follow the link. 

You'll see a QR code when you go to WhatsApp Web.

You’ll see a QR code when you go to WhatsApp Web.

Image: Whatsapp

The next step is opening up WhatsApp on your phone and signaling that you want to use WhatsApp Web.

Here’s how to do so on each compatible phone.

  • On Android: in the Chats screen > Menu > WhatsApp Web.

  • On Nokia S60 and Windows Phone: go to Menu > WhatsApp Web.

  • On iPhone: go to Settings > WhatsApp Web.

  • On BlackBerry: go to Chats > Menu > WhatsApp Web.

  • On BlackBerry 10: Swipe down from top of the screen > WhatsApp Web.

  • On Nokia S40: Swipe up from bottom of screen > WhatsApp Web.

This is what it looks like on my iPhone. Once you hit “WhatsApp Web/Desktop” the app will access your phone’s camera so you can scan the QR code on your computer.

Use your phone to scan the QR code.

Use your phone to scan the QR code.

Image: molly sequin/mashable

After you scan the QR code, WhatsApp Web will open up so you can start chatting away. If you have any previous conservations on your mobile app, they will all show up here. 

Continue conversations on WhatsApp Web.

Continue conversations on WhatsApp Web.

Image: whatsapp web

You can also download WhatsApp Web for your Mac or Windows PC if you’d rather do that. Mac users will need Mac OS X 10.9 and higher and Windows users will need Windows 8 and higher. 

The whole set up should take less than five minutes, so you might as well do it right away. Then just start enjoying WhatsApp in all the places you can!

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LG says its flagship G6 smartphone isn’t selling as well as expected


LG’s mobile business is in a sticky patch after the company admitted its flagship LG G6 smartphone hasn’t sold as well as expected.

LG Electronics itself posted a business-wide operating income of KRW 664.1 billion (USD 588.2 million) on overall revenue KRW 14.55 trillion (USD 12.89 billion). While LG’s operating income rose by 14 percent year-on-year to outpace a four percent annual growth in revenue, its overall numbers were curtailed by a mobile business that posted a KRW 132.4 billion ($117.27 million) loss for the quarter.

The “challenging” quarter was down to “weaker than expected premium smartphone sales and increase in component costs,” LG said. In the previous quarter, Q1 2017, LG’s smartphone shipments jumped over 10 percent to 14.8 million with the G6, which ditched the experimental modular approach of its predecessor, among its top performers. The company didn’t disclose sales for Q2.

The company’s phone business actually performed better this quarter than the same period in 2016, when it recorded a wider loss of KRW 153.5 billion (USD 132.10 million), even though its revenue fell by 19 percent year-on-year. But against the backdrop of three of the Korean company’s primary business units reporting increased revenue levels, its phone business is again the laggard.

Some positive news can be found in North America, where LG said sales were up 13 percent year-on-year thanks to the popularity of its more affordable phones. LG believes its upcoming Q Series, another mid-range effort, can help revive its mobile business in the second half of this year.

Report: Xiaomi sales climb but Huawei remains China’s top smartphone brand


China’s Xiaomi, once the world’s highest valued tech startup, is getting over a disappointing two years with a notable spike in sales in its homeland during the second quarter of 2017.

That’s according a new report from analyst firm Canalys, which estimates that Xiaomi, which was valued at $45 billion at the end of 2014, shipped 15 million phones during the quarter to rank fourth in China. That’s a 60 percent rise from Q1 2017.

Despite that, Huawei maintained its lead from the previous quarter with 23 million shipments ahead of brother-sister companies Oppo (21 million) and Vivo (16 million), the two companies that rose to prominence last year in China and beyond. Apple completed the top five, according to Canalys, having been leapfrogged by Xiaomi.

As for the rest, sales were down for Apple, which just announced its first head of China, Samsung and Meizu. According to the report, the top five ranked companies pull in almost three-quarters of all shipments.

“Xiaomi still offers the best value in the Chinese market, and it remains the preferred choice for price-conscious consumers. The online channel continues to be a key route to market for Xiaomi and this quarter saw it take the lead in the 618 online sales events across online retail platforms, such as JD.com and Tmall,” Canalys analyst Lucio Chen said in a note.

CEO Lei Jun hailed Xiaomi’s resurgence this year, calling this most recent quarter “a major inflection point in our growth.”

“After two years of internal recalibration, Xiaomi is once again embarking on a rapid growth trajectory,” he told press, adding that the company is aiming to reach 100 million phone sales in 2018.

Xiaomi has always had a penchant for revealing its annual sales figures, thanks to some spectacular growth in its early days, but this year it declined to give full numbers for 2016, marking its first non-reveal in its history. Issues began appearing when Xiaomi missed its sales target for 2015, selling “over 70 million” devices but not the 80 million that Lei had previously forecast.

The rise of competitors like Oppo and Vivo, and Huawei’s focus on mid-range devices with its Honor brand, were largely seen as responsible for Xiaomi’s struggles. Equally, competitors became wise to Xiaomi’s online distribution tactics and mimicked them with some success. While, overseas, Xiaomi’s expansion plans failed to ignite, with India arguable the lone exception. That wasn’t helped by the departure of its head of international, Hugo Barra, who left to join Facebook earlier this year.

But 2017 could indeed be a different year. Canalys’ Chen forecasts that Xiaomi’s budget ‘Redmi’ brand, plus its new focus on expanding its offline retail footprint, will put pressure on Vivo, Oppo and Huawei to retain their positions and sales.