Apple’s WWDC is moving to San Jose


Apple just announced that its Worldwide Developers Conference is going to move back to San Jose after a long run at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. It’s going to happen on June 5-9, 2017 and registrations will open on March 27.

Why is Apple leaving San Francisco for the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose? San Francisco and Apple have changed quite a lot for the past decade. Everything has become a lot more expensive in San Francisco, and Apple has grown dramatically. So it makes sense to move to a quieter city.

San Jose provides the advantage that it is really close to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino. There will be a thousand Apple engineers talking with the Apple developer community and speaking on stage about changes in APIs, SDKs and operating systems. So it’s going to be much more convenient for Apple.

In addition to that, it has become very expensive for an independent developer to spend the week in San Francisco for WWDC. Given the size of the conference and all the side events, hotel rooms had become very expensive. If you couldn’t spend thousands of dollars just for a week, you simply had to stay at home and watch the live streams.

Jim Dalrymple interviewed Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller about the move. He said that the conference will be roughly the same size with around 5,000 developers and the same ticket price ($1,599).

So let’s see if WWDC becomes more accessible with this move. This is going to be a transition year as I’m sure many side events are still going to happen in San Francisco because you have to reserve an event space very early.

Apple isn’t the only company moving away from San Francisco with its developer conferences. Facebook also announced that F8 2017 will take place at the McEnery Convention in San Jose (yes, the exact same convention center). Google I/O takes place in Mountain View, and Microsoft Build is obviously in Seattle.

Like in recent years, developers will be able to register for a WWDC ticket on March 27. There will then be a lottery to select the attendees as there are simply too much demand for the event. And if you’re not a developer, get ready for the WWDC keynote. Apple usually unveils many software innovation, such as new versions of iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for iOS 11!

Mylestone lets you access your personal memories through Alexa


What if our photographs and social media updates could be turned into memories we – or our children – could later access just by asking a virtual assistant, like Amazon’s Alexa? That’s the premise behind a new startup called Mylestone, which is experimenting with turning our digital footprints into narratives that help us recall highlights from our lives, as well as those of our family members and other loved ones.

The idea seems a little far out there, but it’s an area where a number of companies today are competing –  whether that’s bots that will remember the minutia of our day-to-day lives, or even tools to augment our human intelligence with computing power.

Mylestone approaches this space a bit differently. Instead of focusing on more utilitarian functions, the startup is developing a highly personal service for capturing and recalling memories.

To use the Alexa app it has created, you first upload a series of photos, videos or audio files to the service. These are then analyzed by a combination of data science – meaning A.I. and machine learning – along with people who help the process along.

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So, for example, if you upload a photo of your parents on a vacation, Mylestone’s system can extract certain data automatically. Using metadata from the photo, it can determine things like the date, time or location where the photo was taken. It can also identify certain things in the photo – like a recognizable landmark (think: the Eiffel Tower, e.g.) to make other determinations about what’s in the photograph.

On the human-assisted side of things, people can help connect the other dots to make the sort of leaps that computers cannot (yet). A photo of two elderly people might be your grandparents, for example, the people working with your digital collection could guess. Or maybe the photo is of a restaurant menu – and since other metadata indicates the city where it was shot – people could search until they found the restaurant in question, then manually confirm the related details.

In other words, people can do the sort of advanced cyber stalking you does on ahead of your Tinder dates, but for the purpose of saving life’s precious memories, not digging up dirt.

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A future version of the service will also be able to scan your Facebook profile, Instagram, and other social media accounts in order to automatically create these memories for you, without the manual uploads. While that would give Mylestone more access to your personal data, it wouldn’t require any of it to then reside on its servers, as with the file uploads supported today.

“Our intent is to create narratives for you, not to host your content,” explains Mylestone founder and CEO Dave Balter.

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Balter previously founded BzzAgent, acquired by Tesco in 2011, and Smarterer, acquired by Pluralsight in 2014. Mylestone’s team includes Head of Engineering Jim Myers who worked with Balter at Smarterer, and Head of Advocacy Jon O’Toole, who co-founded BzzAgent.

A serial entrepreneur and frequent traveler, Balter began thinking about memorials after seeing an empty cemetery when looking out the window of his flight to Laguardia.

After 20 or so trips where he would glance down the graveyard and always find it vacant, a question began to tickle in his mind. Why don’t people go to graveyards anymore?

In part, the answer is that we’re a more transient society these days.

“But what started becoming obvious was that there was something bigger happening. Social [media] had transformed the way we talk about deceased loved ones…it’s fully acceptable to talk about death,” says Balter, noting how we tend to just post on Facebook. “We have other ways to memorialize,” he adds.

But Facebook may not be the best way to do this. And with the rise of voice-based computing, Balter began to think of different ways we could use computers to recall memories. Maybe we could just ask Alexa, he thought.

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The Alexa skill lets you say things like: “tell me a story about mom,” or “have grandma say the prayer,” for example. It’s a way of remembering loved ones in a very real, interactive way.

And yes, this is science fiction come to life. Remember this episode of Black Mirror? Or this Sundance film, perhaps?

The startup already has its tendrils in tools for memory collection. It acquired the photo-scanning app Heirloom in April, 2016, for example. And it’s working on other ways to make it easier for families to collect their histories – like tools for collecting grandpa’s war stories, for example – instead of relying only on file uploads.

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I tried the service for myself, and found it intriguing. I uploaded a handful of scanned photos from a vacation I took as a child, and Alexa told me a story about my summer on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, visiting the historic and tiny Salvo Post Office, splashing in the ocean, and picking flowers for mom. (Nah, I picked them for me.)

But as a proof-of-concept, it’s not bad. With more data pouring in from Facebook and your social media accounts, and flashing up related imagery on your TV through Alexa’s Fire TV connection (well…one day), Mylestone could be even better.

“This is one of those swing-for-the-fences type of ideas,” said David Frankel, Partner at Founder Collective. “Mylestone is tapping into the mainstreaming of voice activated assistants to put tech-enabled human connection and memory at the center of consumer experience.”

The startup has time to experiment, thanks to a new $2.5 million round of funding led by True Ventures, a prior investor in Smarterer. Also participating are Founder Collective, Boston Seed Capital, Converge Ventures, and Mergelane. To date, Mylestone has raised $4.5 million.

You can try it for yourself here.

Xiaomi Mi5S Plus review

You’ve decided to splurge on a massive new smartphone, and are eyeing those with cool dual-lens cameras, but getting bewildered by the growing number of options. While Huawei, Apple, and even Honor phones will already be on your list, what about an imported phone like the Xiaomi Mi5S Plus? It’s a strong performer on paper, and comes with that dual-lens camera, but the price puts it in the same category as awesome phones from OnePlus and ZTE.

This means it’s far less of an impulse, what-the-hell buy than you may expect, and more of one that needs some consideration. Can the dual-lens camera swing the deal? We’ve been trying out the Mi5S Plus to see if you should be happy spending such a sizeable amount of money on an import device, or if it’s better to stay closer to home.

Design

Xiaomi makes great-looking phones, and it’s sticking closely to an established theme — shapely bodies with curved brushed metal rear panels — with the Mi5S Plus. It’s very similar to the Redmi Pro, the last Xiaomi phone we examined closely, just on a larger scale. It’s about the same size as an iPhone 7 Plus, but has a 5.7-inch screen, so it’s a compact shape. However, the body is quite thick at 8mm.

This extra thickness is effectively disguised by the curved metal sides, which make it very comfortable to hold, especially where the bottom corner rests at the base of your palm. It’s not quite as easy to use one-handed as the Huawei Mate 9 — a bigger phone — and I struggled to reach across the screen with my thumb. It’s lighter than the Mate 9 at about 170 grams, putting it closer to the iPhone 7 Plus.

A fingerprint sensor is mounted on the back under the twin camera lenses. It’s easily located when picking up the phone, and quick to react. In addition to locking the phone, it can secure apps and activate a child mode. What it doesn’t do is make the Mi5S Plus compatible with Android Pay. Try to set the mobile wallet feature up, and you’ll get a warning that because the phone runs a custom version of Android, it won’t work.

The rear cam takes solid enough pictures, but we are left feeling there should be something more.

How about the build quality? It’s not quite up there with hardware we’re used to paying nearly $400 or more for. The rear panel has a slight flex to it when pushed, something that probably isn’t a bad thing, but just feels off. I prefer my smartphones to feel solid, something the Mi5S Plus does everywhere else, which makes this aspect stand out more. Additionally, our review model arrived with a very slight imperfection where the metal rear panel meets the antenna band at the top of the phone. The super-shiny surface means it catches the light, and is very noticeable.

This makes the Mi5S Plus a mixed bag. We like the cool, minimalist design, its simplicity, its in-hand comfort and lightness, but aren’t sold on the build quality of a phone that costs this much  money. It’s not a deal-breaker, because the things we noticed don’t affect its operation in any way; but they’re flaws we’d rather not see at all in a phone we otherwise rather like.

Camera

Here’s the big selling point, at least, it should be given the increased attention on dual-lens cameras over the past year. Because there are two 13-megapixel camera lenses on the Mi5S Plus, you may expect it to shoot those cool bokeh pictures with the blurred background. You’re wrong, it doesn’t do that — well, not like the Huawei Mate 9, Redmi Pro, or iPhone 7 Plus, at least. Instead, the two lenses work together to take higher-quality pictures, mixing together results from the two lenses.

Xiaomi Mi5S Plus review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s a bit of a disappointment. Not that it’s a bad camera, it’s just the higher-quality shots aren’t all that much “better” than the normal ones, just different. Scroll through your images, and you’ll see the regular and enhanced snaps aren’t identical, but it’s often impossible to pin down which one was taken in what mode, and which one ultimately looks better than the other. With a bokeh mode, you instantly see the benefits of the dual lenses. It’s not like Xiaomi doesn’t make cameras with artificial bokeh modes. The Redmi Pro has one, and it’s perfectly fine.

The higher-quality dual lens shots aren’t much better than ‘normal’ single-lens photos.

Through experimentation, we found that used inside, Stereo Mode revealed clearer blacks but less detail in shadowy areas. Without Stereo Mode, the opposite was true. It’ll be down to you which looks better. The improvement in black levels makes sense, because one lens shoots only in monochrome, like Huawei’s Leica camera, and there’s a dedicated Mono mode, too. We miss optical image stabilization as well, and are surprised it has been left out of a flagship phone.

The selfie cam is much more fun. It has 4 megapixels, which is rather low these days, but the f/2.0 aperture lets in plenty of light, which makes up for any shortfall in raw pixel count. There is a massive range of live filters to play around with — including a Mosaic mode to pixelate out your friend’s faces, or amusingly pretend they’re doing something rude — and a decent beauty mode with adjustments for skin tone and slimness. It’s not complicated, is fun to use, and who doesn’t like to snap a good selfie every now and then?

Again, it’s all a mixed bag. We like the selfie cam, think the rear cam takes solid enough pictures, but are left feeling there should be something more.

Software

Xiaomi phones run Google Android, but with a heavily customized user interface over the top called MIUI. Because it originates in China, where Google software is barred, Google Play doesn’t come standard. Depending on where you purchase a Xiaomi phone, it may come with Google Play and related apps pre-installed. Our version, through importer GearBest, has Google Play ready for us to use.

Xiaomi Mi5S Plus review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

MIUI is a step beyond most third-party Android user interfaces, covering many of the familiar aspects of the operating system, with altered views, different apps, or new ways of doing things. Rather than being a hateful mishmash of half-baked ideas, MIUI is a solid, attractive, and endlessly customizable piece of software. MIUI 8.0 is installed on our review phone — it comes in English, and is currently the most stable version out there. Xiaomi also pushes regular updates to its phones, but the Android security patch status does still lag behind — it was July 2016 on our phone. The base version is Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is also out of date.

 If you want a phone that will shrug off even the most taxing tasks, the Mi5S Plus is the device for you.

Apps are spread across multiple home screens, like an iPhone, and the notification shade works slightly differently than usual, presenting shortcuts in a horizontally scrolling list instead of a further pulldown window. Xiaomi knows how to present an attractive UI, and all its standard icons are minimalist blocks in solid colors, with clear, helpful icons. It really looks fantastic. A theme store on the phone lets you alter most aspects if it’s not to your liking.

Xiaomi pre-installs a selection of apps, including a calculator, clock, voice recorder, QR scanner, compass, and plenty more. Our phone didn’t have any other pre-installed third-party apps, but that may not always be the case. If any demos or third-party apps are included on your phone, previous experience tells us they’re quickly uninstalled.

Non-Google apps often get a bad rap, but there are several Xiaomi apps we like, and wouldn’t replace. The weather app is very good, providing plenty of detail in an easily viewed manner. The data comes from AccuWeather. The standard calendar and gallery apps are also great, repeating Xiaomi’s preference for clean, simple design. There are a few unique Xiaomi features on the Mi5S that are also useful. Second Space lets you set up a separate account, perhaps for work or a child, on the phone. If that’s overkill, Dual Apps allows two versions of a single app to work on the phone, making it handy for a work and personal Facebook account, for example.

Some early hiccups with the software, where the camera app crashed and others performed slowly, soured our initial week with the Mi5S Plus, but a software update sorted them out, and it has run without a problem since. Of all the non-standard Android user interfaces out there, Xiaomi’s MIUI is one of the best. Don’t let it put you off trying a Xiaomi phone.

Performance

The Mi5S Plus has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor inside. It’s not quite the latest, but it’s pretty close, and good enough for the OnePlus 3T, the HTC U Ultra, and other smartphones. It’s supported by 4GB of RAM in our phone, but a version with 6GB of RAM is also available if you’re willing to pay more. We’d say 4GB of RAM is more than enough for most tasks. The 4GB Mi5S Plus has 64GB of internal memory, while the 6GB model has 128GB. There’s no MicroSD card slot, sadly, but the SIM card tray will accept a second SIM card.

Xiaomi Mi5S Plus review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Guess what? The Mi5S blazes along. The Snapdragon 821 is an excellent performer, and we have no complaints at all about app compatibility, speed, or playing games. If you want a phone that will shrug off even the most taxing tasks, the Mi5S Plus is the device for you. Riptide GP 2, with the graphics resolution turned up to maximum, plays like a dream with no frame rate issues or slowdown at all. Bullet-hell shooter Danmaku Unlimited plays superbly in HD and on Hard mode, where an awful lot happens on screen at once.

Zipping through the usual apps, The Mi5S Plus is a pleasure. It’s smooth, speedy, and performs with the same urgency you’d expect from a phone with one of the latest processors inside. It’s unfortunate that the benchmarks, as is sometimes the case, don’t tell the whole story. Our AnTuTu test returned 118180, which is well below other Mi5S tests for some reason, and Geekbench 4 gave 3436 multicore. Don’t pay them any attention.

Battery, screen, and connectivity

We’ve been impressed with the Mi5S Plus’ 3,200mAh battery, which has happily lasted for two days of normal use, and features a USB Type-C connector, and Quick Charge 3.0. In less than 90 minutes, the Mi5S Plus was fully charged, which makes it highly usable. The power efficiency of MIUI is assisted by the 1920 x 1080 pixel LCD screen. Super high-resolution screens are great, but they do suck battery power. Dropping it down to 1080p really helps extend the battery life here.

More: Xiaomi Redmi Pro review

It doesn’t ruin the Mi5S Plus either. The screen may use LCD technology, rather than an AMOLED panel, but it’s really bright, crystal clear, and a joy to look at. There’s a reading mode to reduce sleep-interrupting blue light, but there’s no scheduler, so you have to activate it manually. However, you can apply it to certain apps, such as an e-reader app, to make it slightly more user friendly.

Xiaomi Mi5S Plus review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Mi5S Plus is an import-only phone, and doesn’t support all the right bandwidths for 4G LTE use in the United States. It’ll happily connect to AT&T and T-Mobile’s 3G network, though. In the U.K., where the Mi5S was tested, it spent the majority of its time connected to a 3G signal on the O2 network. Again, it doesn’t have the right bands for 4G LTE connectivity, but it never felt slow, and any speed difference may only be noticeable in back-to-back tests, or when streaming high-quality video.

Warranty, availability, and price

The price of the Xiaomi Mi5S Plusvaries based on importers, due to currency fluctuations, but on average, it starts at $400. You may be lucky enough to grab it for a little less on the right day. You can’t buy it in stores, so you need to find a willing importer if you want to buy one. While there are several choices out there, GearBest supplied our Xiaomi Mi5S Plus and has always delivered a faultless service.

Buy the phone through GearBest, and it comes with a three-day dead-on-arrival warranty, a 45-day money back guarantee if the phone should break down during that time, plus a one-year warranty to cover against defects. Yes, you’ll still have to go through getting support from China primarily by email and snail mail, but that’s strong aftersales service. If you break the phone due to mistreatment, drop it in the bath, or change the software and brick the phone, it won’t be covered.

Our Take

Blazing speed, two-day battery life, and damn fine value are huge assets, but it’s the Xiaomi Mi5S’ half-baked camera that leaves us frustrated

Is there a better alternative?

Because $400 now buys you plenty of very cool smartphones, the Mi5S Plus faces quite a challenge. The OnePlus 3T and ZTE Axon 7 both work on U.S. networks with 4G LTE connectivity, and don’t require an importer to buy, so we’d have to say you’d be better off buying one of those. However, there’s something to be said about being different and opting for the Xiaomi — but we’d be very tempted to grab the Xiaomi Redmi Pro instead.

It’s considerably cheaper — less than $200 at the time of writing — has a dual camera lens that produces fun bokeh shots, is fast enough for most tasks, and gives you the same MIUI 8 software experience. If you’re a newcomer to the brand, and are curious about all the fuss regarding Xiaomi phones, it’s a better starting point than the Mi5S Plus.

How long will it last?

Like the alternatives mentioned above, the Mi5S Plus isn’t water-resistant or particularly able to stand much wear. The screen isn’t covered with Gorilla Glass either, and it’s not clear whether an alternative like Dragontail is used instead, so a strong glass screen protector would be recommended here.

Xiaomi delivers regular updates to MIUI, adding new features and fixing bugs, but it’s not the fastest when it comes to version changes. The Mi5S Plus operating system is Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and it’s also lagging behind with security updates.

Should you buy it?

It’s close, but no, we can’t wholeheartedly recommend the Xiaomi Mi5S Plus. It’s a great value, it looks excellent, is really powerful, and the software experience is very user friendly, but the camera and connectivity let it down. Not having 4G LTE isn’t the end of the world, but we wanted the camera to be so much better than it actually is. It’s rather frustrating, because we’ve seen before that Xiaomi knows how to do good cameras. Why it didn’t go all the way with the Mi5S Plus, and make it a real Mate 9 and iPhone 7 Plus competitor, is a mystery.

Tiny kitten livestream from tiny house is what you need right meow

If your secret life dream, like ours, is to binge-watch a reality show with a bunch of cats, here’s your treat.

Keeping Up with the Kattarshians — kudos to whoever created this gem title — is the ultimate Big Brother show for millennials, featuring four 9-week-old kittens — Guðni, Stubbur, Briet and Ronja — who are living in a small dollhouse. 

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The feline equivalent to Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and Kylie were discovered along with their mum in an industrial area in Reykjavik, Iceland.  

The show is produced by local news site Nútíminn along with the cat shelter Kattavinafélagið (“The cat-friendship society”) with the aim to raise awareness of stray cats and help them find a home. 

Each cat has its own history and peculiar character.

You can also see them in action on the Kattarshians Facebook page: 

Poor Stubbur suffered an injury to his tail and the veterinarian had to amputate part of it. Despite that, it is apparently the pack leader! 

Briet is optimistic, reserved but very determined.

Ronja is a fighter — she was the weakest of the group and was the only one not gaining weight — but she recovered and now is the sweetest among them. 

Guðni is very sociable — he’s a black and white male who loves to tease his siblings and LOVES food. 

Nútíminn said the project was approved by the Icelandic Humane Society and one of the cats has already been hired for a spin-off reality show been adopted. 

Google inks third carrier, Telenor, to its Android RCS messaging play


Another mobile carrier, Telenor, has partnered with Google to roll out a next-gen SMS tech — this time targeting Android users in Europe and Asia.

The aim with the Rich Communications Services (aka RCS) technology in general is to bring an enhanced messaging experience for SMS users — enabling iMessage-style features such as group chats, read receipts and typing indicators, and high-res photo sharing.

The flavor of the tech Google is involved with integrates its own Messenger app into the native SMS app to bring upgraded native messaging features to newer Android handsets.

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Late last year this flavor of RCS tech was rolled out to Android hardware using the Sprint and Rogers‘ networks, in the US and Canada — with Sprint being Google’s first carrier partner in the initiative.

Telenor’s coverage footprint includes countries such as India and Thailand, as well as multiple European nations, and it has some 214 million mobile subscribers in all — so it’s the biggest bump yet in potential reach for Google’s initiative.

That said, the company still has a very long way to go if it’s hoping to build comprehensive backing for its effort to upgrade Android users’ experience of SMS across the board.

Almost a year ago, Mountain View announced a joint effort with mobile carriers to push the next-gen SMS standard, with a plan to include an RCS-messaging client in Android.

Although it’s also been up to individual carriers to get on board and enable the tech for their networks, which underlines the scale of the fragmentation challenge for Google/Alphabet here, given how carriers do tend to prioritize their own competing commercial interests, rather than falling in step with Google’s. (Whereas Apple’s closed iOS ecosystem more easily sidesteps such issues.)

In fact carriers actually started working on RCS a decade ago, with the idea of improving SMS across the board. Yet according to data from mobile industry association the GSMA, there are only around 50 carriers globally with RCS launched at this point, spanning 37 countries and supporting 156 devices. (And, to be clear, the lion’s share of those rollouts are also older iterations on the RCS standard — i.e., not the newer, Google-backed play with the Android RCS-messaging client on board.)

In 2015 Google clearly got tired of waiting around on the sidelines for carriers to get a collective messaging act together — acquiring a specialist in the standard, Jibe Mobile, to, in its words, “help bring RCS to a global audience”. Or rather to try to persuade carriers of the benefits of aligning with a cross-network Android-to-Android next-gen SMS messaging strategy.

Progress so far on that goal? The three carriers listed in this article. Though the company says it will have more RCS launches in the “coming months”, and related news to announce at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow taking place later this month — so more operators are presumably going to be added to that tally soon.

Either way, Google remains a very, very long way away from its sought for destination of having a comprehensive competitor to iMessage baked into Android users’ SMS experience out of the box. The diversity of the Android ecosystem makes any push for standardizing enhanced native messaging features a Sisyphean struggle.

And even where carriers agree to roll out its flavor of RCS, as Telenor now has, the initiative relies on existing subscribers to their networks having the Google Messenger app already on their phone in order to get the update automatically (via an update to that app). Or else installing the Messenger app in future.

Google said today that as part of its partnership with Telenor “many” new Android devices will come with Messenger for Android preloaded as the default SMS and RCS messaging app. But many =/= all. So its RCS play is also being hamstrung by a limited pool of compatible devices.

Safe to say, a lot of players will need to be in it for the long haul if Android is to summit this ‘better native messaging’ mountain.

Meanwhile, over-the-top mobile messaging app giants like Facebook-owned WhatsApp — which has more than one billion monthly active users for its richly featured messaging platform — continue to cannibalize SMS and pull users away from native messaging clients. Meaning all this effort might end up being rather ‘too little, too late’ in any case.

Reddit’s new ‘popular’ front page excludes Trump-obsessed community

Reddit’s new front page is all about popular posts — but it really depends on how you define “popular.” 

On Wednesday, social news site Reddit introduced a new version of its front page; more precisely, the front page that shows to new visitors who aren’t logged into Reddit. Instead of showing posts from a hand-picked, default set of subreddits, the page — also available at Reddit/r/popular/ — now shows posts that are popular over a wider variety of subreddits across Reddit. 

However, some subreddits are filtered out. As Reddit admin simbawulf put it, “subreddits that are large and dedicated to specific games are heavily filtered, as well as specific sports, and narrowly focused politically related subreddits,” will not show on /r/popular. Furthermore, the announcement post said that “a handful of subreddits that users consistently filter out of their r/all page” will also be excluded. 

That last bit is important, as it apparently includes the extremely popular pro-Trump subreddit The_Donald, which is nowhere to be seen on /r/popular/. According to this infographic posted by redditor ki85squared, that particular community has more than double the post count than any other subreddit that was filtered out of the new front page. 

Image: Reddit/ki85squared

The_Donald’s often aggressive user base caused quite a bit of grief to Reddit, at one point prompting Reddit CEO Steve Huffman to edit negative comments made about him by The_Donald users. 

While that was an unwise move by Huffman, it’s easy to see why Reddit moderators are getting frustrated with The_Donald, where a number of threads contained references to fake news, as well as insults and threats. In fact, in 2016 Reddit tweaked its previous front page — which can be seen at r/all — and though Reddit’s admins didn’t directly admit it, the move was likely a result of the popularity of the Trump-loving subreddit. 

Now, for better or for worse, posts from The_Donald — as well as a few other popular subreddits, including AdviceAnimals and leagueoflegends — will not show for logged-off or new Reddit users when they visit the site’s front page. Users who are logged into Reddit will see the same old thing — a selection of stories from the subreddits they’ve subscribed to. 

Apple surpasses Samsung in smartphone sales for fourth quarter of 2016

Why it matters to you

Smartphone sales increased by five percent from 2015, meaning our world is becoming even more interconnected as companies look to get more people online.

The Galaxy Note 7 is still hurting Samsung — Apple has surpassed the South Korean giant in selling more smartphones globally in the fourth quarter of 2016.

To be more precise, Apple sold 77.04 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, according to estimates from Gartner. The Cupertino, California, company has a thin lead, though, as it only sold 256,000 more than Samsung’s  76.78 million units.

More: Uber finally lets Android Wear owners hail rides with their smartwatches

It’s the second quarter in a row that Samsung has seen falling sales, all likely due to the Galaxy Note 7 recall. On the flip side, this is the first time since the fourth quarter of 2014 that Apple is in the lead — the bump at the time came from strong sales of the iPhone 6 and the introduction of the 6 Plus.

This time around, sales of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus certainly are helping, but Gartner said Apple benefited “from the weakened demand for Samsung’s smartphones in mature markets such as North America and western Europe, and in some mature markets in Asia such as Australia and South Korea.” Samsung’s smartphone sales are estimated to have dropped eight percent in the fourth quarter.

It’s not all good news for Apple, though. Google’s Android operating system captured nearly 82 percent of the total market share during the quarter — a one percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2015. Apple only saw a 0.2 percent bump to 17.9 percent year-over-year.

Windows Mobile fell 0.8 percent to 0.3 percent market share, during the quarter, making any sort of comeback for the OS incredibly challenging. BlackBerry hit a zero percent market share, though it still managed to sell a few devices — the company recently switched to the Android operating system over its own BB10 OS.

For 2016 as a whole, Android grew 3.2 percent to reach a dominating 84.8 percent market share. Smartphone sales in general saw a five percent bump from 2015, totaling nearly 1.5 billion units.

More: Everything you need to know about the Huawei Honor V9

Competition is heating up in China, but BBK Electronics — which owns smartphone brands such as Vivo, Oppo, and OnePlus — seems to have maintained its second place position in the country. The company was “marginally ahead of Huawei in the fourth quarter of 2016,” and it has seen exceptional growth in India. BBK is now the fifth on the list of top smartphone vendors.

Oppo operates independently from BBK, and the brand has held onto its top position in China during the fourth quarter. It sits ahead of BBK on the list of top smartphone vendors.

Facebook harnesses the power of business pages for new job openings tool

Why it matters to you

Facebook’s new updates aimed at job seekers could transform the way you use its service.

Looking for work? You can now add Facebook to the long list of career sites that can help you find a new job.

On Wednesday, the company announced it is launching a new jobs bookmark on its mobile apps and the web. Businesses with a Facebook presence can now add job openings to their page on the social network. The two updates combined allow users to discover and apply for jobs directly on Facebook.

More: New LinkedIn feature makes it easier for contractors to connect with recruiters

Page admins can publish job openings in a matter of minutes, according to Facebook. A typical vacancy post must include a photo, job title, location, job type (i.e. full-time, part-time), and a detailed description, along with optional info such as a summary, and salary. The post is then published to the company’s page and will also appear on the News Feed of their followers. Businesses will also have the option to boost the post (by paying a premium) to reach a larger or more targeted audience.

Facebook users can find jobs via the site’s new bookmark, which offers filters to help cater your search to match your criteria. You can also seek out jobs manually by visiting a company’s page and clicking on the jobs tab, located alongside other sections such as “home,” “posts,” and “photos.”

To apply for a vacancy, select the “apply now” button on the post. This action will open up an application form pre-populated with the info you have available on your profile (such as name, city, email). Here you will also be required to add more job-specific info about yourself. You can then submit the application via Messenger: the service will be the first port of call for all your future communications with the business in regard to the opening. Page admins will then be able to review your info and message you back about the status of your application.

Facebook began testing its new feature in November and claims that a number of businesses have already used it to fill roles. Seeing as 1 billion people visit business pages every month, the update should generate plenty of interest.

For the platform itself, it may also prove a boost in terms of accumulating personal data. Who knows, you may end up treating Facebook as you would LinkedIn (one of the platforms that could feel the direct impact of the big blue social network’s latest venture). After all, anyone searching for a job via Facebook would be advised to update their personal profile to make it look more professional. That would mean adding more photos, and educational and work experience info — sections you may have neglected in the past. Additionally, pages on Facebook could see higher rates of engagement as more people start following the companies they want to work for.

The job openings updates are currently only available to users and businesses in the United States and Canada.

LG shows what that crazy 18:9 phone screen can do

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We already know LG’s upcoming G6 flagship will have a huge, 18:9, 2,880×1,440 pixel screen. But what do users actually gain from that unusual aspect ratio?

The answer is quite mundane: You get more space. A short teaser, posted by LG Mobile on Wednesday, shows some of the benefits. 

First, it can display two squares on top of each other (18/9 = 2, duh), which opens the door for a nice, clean UI. It’s also great for multitasking, which, while far from unheard of on smartphones, could really benefit from a longer screen. 

We’re not really seeing a lot of multitasking in the video, but LG explained how this would work in a press release. “Inside the calendar app, turning the G6 horizontally will display the calendar in the left window while a detailed schedule will appear on the right,” the company said. 

The camera app will benefit as well; thanks to the extra space, users will be able to take and review photos simultaneously. LG’s camera app will also have a square camera feature, tailor-made for those 1:1 Instagram shots. 

All in all, LG hopes the new screen will “kick off an era of premium smartphones with 18:9 screen aspect ratios.” With all the rumors about a bigger screen on both Samsung’s and Apple’s upcoming flagships, it’s hard to disagree. The jury is still out on the exact aspect ratio these new phones will have. 

The LG G6 will launch on Sunday, Feb. 26 in Barcelona, and we’ll be there to report on the news. 

ZTE’s Gigabit Phone wants to help usher the ‘5G era,’ will be unveiled at MWC

Why it matters to you

Phones that are capable of gigabit download speeds? As we approach 5G connectivity, our smartphone experiences can be completely overhauled with devices like the upcoming Gigabit Phone.

ZTE has quite a portfolio of smartphones lined up for Mobile World Congress this year — so much so that the company has announced what may be its next flagship device a little early: the ZTE Gigabit Phone.

The Chinese company says it’s a “forward-looking smartphone” for the 5G era, though the successor to 4G LTE is not expected to come until at least 2020. Naturally, the Gigabit Phone will allow for 1 gigabit per second download speeds, which ZTE believes would advance 360 degree panoramic virtual reality videos, allow for “instant cloud storage,” high-quality music- and movie-streaming, and more.

More: The Quartz will be ZTE’s first Android Wear watch, and it was just leaked online

Unfortunately the company’s announcement today is largely a teaser — we don’t have any other information regarding specifications or even what the Gigabit Phone will look like. You’ll have to wait until the official unveiling in Barcelona at the end of February.

ZTE said at the show it will also highlight how the Axon 7, its current flagship, received the Android 7.0 Nougat update — meaning it is now the third smartphone to be compatible with Google’s Daydream View headset for Daydream, the search giant’s mobile virtual reality platform. The Axon 7 received the Nougat update a few weeks ago.

The Gigabit Phone won’t be the only new smartphone unveiled by ZTE, though, as the company said there will be more additions to its Blade series.

More: ZTE Axon 7 mini review

We will likely learn more about ZTE’s Hawkeye project as well, which looked to crowd-source ideas for a smartphone and fund it via Kickstarter. The project has hit a few roadblocks and may need to be pulled until the company comes back from the drawing board with some tweaks.

There are also rumors that the company is building an Android Wear smartwatch with LTE connectivity — the ZTE Quartz. It’s rumored to arrive later this year, but we could see the announcement at MWC.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more about the Gigabit Phone and other upcoming announcements from ZTE.