Apple announces a Siri-packed iOS 11

Image: lili sams/mashable

The wait for iOS 11 is finally over.

Apple just introduced the next version of iOS during the opening keynote at WWDC in San Jose. The update, which won’t be available until later this year, brings a much more powerful Siri, updated Messages app, and revamped Apple Pay with person-to-person payments.

Building on last year’s Siri update, which added support for third-party apps, Apple’s digital assistant will work with a much wider selection of apps starting with iOS 11.

 “Siri understands context, your interests, and how you use your device,” said Craig Federhigi. “What Siri learns about you on device is kept synced across all of your devices and kept completely private, readable on all of your devices.” 

Image: apple

Apple showed off an updated Messages app that stores all of your messages in the cloud so that it eats up less storage on your own device. All messages remain end-to-end encrypted.

Image: apple

There’s an update to Apple Pay, specifically person-to-person payments right through iMessage and authenticated with Touch ID.

There are some improvements to the Camera and Live Photos as well. You can trim a specific section on a Live Photo and there are various new camera features including improved low-light performance and optical image stabilization and a neat “long exposure” effect mode.

Image: apple

There’s a major redesign to Control Center. As always, you swipe up, but things look a little different. Shortcut settings are split into smaller units; you can slide up on the volume and brightness controls and tap and 3D touch on units to get more information. 

Lockscreen notifications also get an upgrade. You can swipe up to see more notifications instead of all of them:

Apple also introduced new versions for its other platforms, including watchOS 4, macOS High Sierra, and new improvements to tvOS.

This story is updating…

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Google is reportedly canceling Andromeda, its Chrome OS/Android mash-up

Why it matters to you

If you’ve been pining for Andromeda, Google’s mashup of Chrome OS and Android, then you can stop waiting. It’s reportedly been canceled.

If you’ve been chomping at the bit for a new notebook that combines the benefits of Google’s Chrome OS and Android into a unified operating system, then chances are your hopes were pinned on a project code-named Andromeda. Unfortunately, it appear your waiting has been in vain.

Andromeda has been rumored for a while now to be Google’s effort to create a unified OS that would compete with Microsoft’s Windows 10 — which already runs on numerous device types — and Apple’s continued efforts to make MacOS more like iOS. According to an editor at 9to5Google, however, Andromeda has been canceled.

Techradar picked up the rumor via Stephen Hall’s twitter account:

Google was apparently hard at work on not only Andromeda, but also hardware to run the new OS. Tablets and the notebook code-named “Bison” were two possibilities, and apparently those are making their way into the dustbin as well.

All isn’t lost, however, as Google does appear to be replacing Andromeda with another project, code-named “Fuchsia.” Unlike Andromeda, which was a sort of fusion of Chrome OS and Android, Fuchsia is looking more like a brand-new OS that Google is building from scratch. It’s also highly experimental and so probably isn’t going to be released anytime soon. When it does arrive, it will likely look a lot like Windows 10, powering a host of devices from smartphones to tablet to notebooks.

In the meantime, Chrome OS still awaits the widespread release of Android apps on a number of Chromebooks, providing something of a stopgap measure. Google might not be in too much of a hurry to release something new, given that Chromebook is so successful that it’s pushed Microsoft to release Windows 10 S, which is aimed at more competitive, lower-cost, and easier to manage machines. But if you really wanted a Chrome OS and Android mashup, it looks like you’re going to be disappointed.

Samsung browser now works on non-Galaxy phones, supports ad blocking

Why it matters to you

If you’re interested in using ad blockers or other extensions but don’t own a Galaxy device, your Android phone may now support Samsung’s browser.

Back in March, Samsung released a beta of its previously Galaxy-exclusive internet browser for Google Pixel and Nexus devices. It was a somewhat surprising move, given that most of the company’s apps never make it to non-Samsung products. The public release is now available, and while Google’s phones are supported, it seems other Android devices have been included, too.

Not every Android device can run the Samsung Internet Browser — your best bet for finding out whether or not yours can is by checking the Play Store. For example, Huawei’s Ascend Mate 2 seems to be randomly permitted, according to Android Police, while the majority of handsets aren’t. You’ll need to be running at least Android 5.0 Lollipop no matter what phone you’re using.

It’s also worth noting that the Google Play page says the app is only “officially supported” on Samsung and Google products — meaning that even if you can install it on another device, the company doesn’t promise it will work perfectly.

So why would you use Samsung’s browser in the first place? Like Chrome, it uses the Chromium rendering engine for speedy performance. Unlike Chrome, however, it supports a limited set of extensions — and that includes ad blockers.

There have been rumors that Google is working on an ad blocker of its own for Chrome on Android, but the reports are inconclusive, and there is no telling when the feature might arrive even if it is in the cards.

So if you own one of the few Android devices that can run Samsung’s browser, and you have been missing the ability to block ads, you can download the app for free right now and take it for a spin. If your phone isn’t supported yet, there is a possibility it may be in the future — so check back here and on Google Play for updates.

The Max-Q: The Coolest Thing Out of Computex

I didn’t attend Computex this year, and that was sad for everything but my budget, because there was a ton of cool stuff announced at the show. Dell, HP and Lenovo showed off new designs that were both attractive and compelling. Mixed-reality headsets hit; based on Intel and Microsoft technology, they were far more affordable than the strong virtual reality stuff already in market (and some aren’t bad looking). New core wars broke out, as AMD’s 16 Core Threadripper was challenged by Intel’s 18 core i9.

It seems that gaming was huge at Computex this year. The product — or the concept really — that stood out most to me was Nvidia’s Max-Q gaming laptop concept, which promises a gaming laptop with dimensions that would rival a MacBook Air.

I’ll focus on that this week and close with my product of the week: the new smartphone that Apple is working furiously to kill before it can be launched (which is why I immediately ordered one).

The Historic Gaming Laptop Problem

Here is the deal — I love to play games both at home and when I travel, and I tend to lock in on one game and play it to death. I’d rather do that than watch TV — yes, I’m a tad addicted.

Currently my game of choice is Ashes of the Singularity, which has as a core plot element the birth of a true artificial intelligence that identifies as female. We try and fail to kill her — which, as you might expect, pisses her off and results in some epic battles.

You get to play both sides, and the combination of story and gameplay creates what is an interesting combination of energetic place, strategic thinking and story ideas. (I’m trying to write my first science fiction book.)

The problem is, this game needs a decent graphics processing unit, and that means it won’t work on most lightweight laptops using Intel’s graphics solution. The game won’t even load. However, gaming laptops tend to have two problems: They are heavier, and you pay a huge penalty in battery life. The latter is the bigger problem, because I’m expected to work when I travel, and it is damned hard to work with a dead battery.

Recently I’ve started using the Microsoft Surface Book with the second-generation base, which has both a GPU and decent battery life (10-plus hours), but it is a middleweight, and it barely has enough power to run the game.

What I wanted seemed impossible: something that was very light, had decent battery life, and enough power to really enjoy a game like Ashes of the Singularity. Enter the Max-Q.

Nvidia’s Max-Q

I really didn’t see this coming, but Nvidia announced its prototype Max-Q, a design for a gaming laptop that is as thin as a MacBook Air, in the ultra-light class of notebooks. It sports 1080-level graphics, which is the baseline for gaming that’s more typical on a desktop computer.

If you are like me, you likely are wondering about how this thing will be cooled — largely because if you combine a thin laptop with lots of performance, the little fans that have to keep the thing cool start sounding like jet engine. That doesn’t bode well for meetings or using in the same room with your spouse.

Nvidia’s WisperMode technology keeps that fan noise down to a minimum, unless you are really stressing the system. Overall, there has been a ton of effort on fan acoustics for both laptops and desktop computers. While not totally eliminating the sound, these advances certainly have reduced it to far more acceptable levels (and you really shouldn’t be gaming in meetings, or with your spouse in the room anyway).

Battery Life

One thing we don’t know about yet is battery life, and that likely won’t be something I can chat about until the manufacturers start sharing what they are building. Lenovo is one of them, and it typically places battery life very high on its list of requirements. If anyone produces a perfect laptop with all of this and 10-plus hours of battery life, my early bet is that it is likely to be Lenovo.

Keep your eyes on Alienware, though, as the most powerful gaming computer company in the segment. It’s also on the list of firms building Max-Q solutions. I’ll touch on this once I’m released from related NDAs or at product launch in a few weeks. (Actual products launch on June 27, which, coincidently, is exactly a month to the day before my birthday. Hint, hint…)

Wrapping Up

While I’m sure I’ll still want the performance of a desktop computer when I’m at home, being able to play games while on the road and having a laptop that is light and easy to carry used to seem as impossible as having a car that could drive itself. Apparently, we are in an age when doing the impossible is becoming an almost everyday occurrence.

I mean, self-driving cars, flying cars, people-carrying drones, hoverboards that actually hover, and now a gaming notebook that is also ultra-light. Now we just need antigravity — oh wait

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

Remember the scene in Jerry Maguire when he goes back to his wife to make up with her and offers a lengthy explanation about why he is an assh*le in an effort to get her back? She responds with “You had me at hello.”

Well before I knew anything more than it was coming, I planned to order this phone, because of the huge effort Apple went to in order to try to make sure it never shipped.

I’ve only ever seen Apple this worried twice before and both were during the days of the iPod and Steve Jobs. First, it was because Apple found out about an MP3 player from HP. The second time was when it learned of one coming from Dell. Apple aggressively worked to kill both products before they even launched — and succeeded. I never even saw the HP product.

Given that very little actually seems to scare Apple, short of a U.S. president, I had to have the phone that did.

The Essential Phone was designed from the ground up to be an iPhone killer by Andy Rubin, the guy who was at the heart of Android’s success.


Essential Phone

Essential
Phone


If you go down a list of things that seem to target the iPhone directly, the first is the Qualcomm 835 chipset, the most advanced currently in market. This gives the Essential Phone unmatched connectivity at a time when Apple is being accused of crippling its own phone’s connectivity solution.

iPhones use aluminum and glass, making the glass the most rigid part of the phone and resulting in lots of breakage. The Essential Phone uses titanium, ceramic and glass, making it far harder to break the phone’s screen.

Instead of a plug-in connector that lets water into the phone and creates a hazard if you trip over the wire, the Essential Phone uses magnetic connectors reminiscent of what Apple used to use in it portable PC products. These connectors allow the phone to be upgraded with accessories. Yes, Motorola did this first, but Apple didn’t do it at all.

Oh, and the fingerprint sensor is on the back of the phone, where it always should have been, along with a camera that is designed — hold your breath — to work well in low light!

In the end, the Essential Phone is very much what you’d get if you went down a list of things you didn’t like about the iPhone and created the anti-iPhone. That alone is enough to make it my product of the week. You can pre-order it unlocked for US$699. Don’t let Apple tell you what you can and can’t buy.


Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has undergrad degrees in merchandising and manpower management, and an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

How to watch the live stream for today’s Apple WWDC keynote


Apple is holding a keynote today at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, and the company is expected to unveil new updates for iOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS and maybe also the iPad Pro and the MacBook Pro. At 10 AM PT (1 PM in New York, 6 PM in London, 7 PM in Paris), you’ll be able to watch the event as the company is streaming it live.

Apple is likely to talk about some new features for all its software platforms — WWDC is a developer conference after all. But Apple also usually holds a press conference in Spring. This year, Apple has stayed quiet, turning its usual WWDC keynote into a big deal. Rumor has it that Apple is about to unveil a 10.5-inch iPad Pro as well as minor MacBook (Pro) updates. And maybe Apple could even unveil an Amazon Echo speaker competitor, but don’t hold your breath for this one. It’s going to be a packed one.

If you have the most recent Apple TV, you can download the Apple Events app in the App Store. It lets you stream today’s event and rewatch old events. Users with old Apple TVs can simply turn on their devices. Apple is pushing out the “Apple Events” channel so that you can watch the event.

And if you don’t have an Apple TV, the company also lets you live stream the event from the Apple Events section on its website. This video feed only works in Safari and Microsoft Edge; the good news is that it works on macOS, iOS and Windows 10 — chances are you have at least one device running Safari or Edge.

So to recap, here’s how you can watch today’s Apple event:

  • Safari on the Mac or iOS.
  • Microsoft Edge on Windows 10.
  • An Apple TV gen 4 with the Apple Events app in the App Store.
  • An Apple TV gen 2 or 3, with the Apple Events channel that arrives automatically right before the event.

Of course, you can also read TechCrunch’s live blog if you’re stuck at work and really need our entertaining commentary track to help you get through your day.

Take a closer look at Microsoft’s Project Scorpio Xbox dev kit ahead of E3


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We don’t have to wait too long to see Microsoft’s Project Scorpio as it will ship to consumers, and we’ve already seen the developer hardware being used to get software ready for the console being unveiled in full at E3. But in case you wanted an appetizer ahead of the official show next week, take a look at this Microsoft-produced look at the Scorpio dev kit.

This details a number of features for the dev kit, including an extra networking port just for developer use, as well as a dongle that hangs off the back to help you transfer pre-release builds from PC to console incredibly fast thanks to special high-throughput hardwired I/O. We also get a better look at that front-facing on-console display, which helps devs make small changes very quickly.

Take a look above and get ready; this should be the console to beat all consoles once it finally ships out to consumers.

Facebook now lets you find and contact your government reps right from your posts


Facebook has launched a new feature that makes it easier for users to share their views with their elected government officials directly from a Facebook post. In the “Compose” window that pops up when you prepare to write a post, there’s now a new option that lets you search for and add your representatives’ information to your post.

The idea is that as you’re expressing your political views on a matter via a Facebook post, you can share that you’re contacting your representative about the matter and encourage your family, friends and followers to do the same.

The feature is available to both individual users and Facebook Page owners, as you can see in the screenshots below.

Our own TechCrunch account was able to access the option through a dedicated icon in the Compose window. However, on individual profile pages, it’s been integrated into the “Feelings & Activities” section under the option “Contacting…”

Above: contacting government reps from a Page

Above: contacting government reps from a profile

The feature, which is available on both web and mobile, doesn’t really tag the government rep in question or alert them to your post. But it makes reaching out to your rep via Facebook only a click away, by attaching their names, titles and a contact button to your Facebook post.

This is the latest addition to Facebook’s Town Hall platform — a recently launched initiative designed to make it easier for Facebook users to locate, follow and contact their local, state and federal government representatives via the social network.

Town Hall officially launched to all U.S. users in March, where it’s available from Facebook’s menu navigation, as well as through various integrations with the News Feed. For example, Facebook previously introduced a feature that invites you to call, message or email your rep when you like or comment on one of their posts. You could then share a post to your own profile alerting your friends of your political action.

Before now, these sorts of Town Hall features were only available to those who were already engaging with their government representatives on Facebook, or who were actively seeking their reps’ information. With the new integration into the “Compose” box, users who may have otherwise been just sharing their own personal, political opinions may now be encouraged to take action — and prompt others to do so, as well.

“This feature makes it easier for people with common interests to share their views with their elected representatives,” a Facebook spokesperson explained.

Facebook first began rolling out the integration in the Compose box in early May, the company tells us. It reached all users in the U.S. as of last week.

Live updates from Apple's developers conference

Apple (AAPL) is kicking off its huge Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California today, and we’re covering the big announcements live.

Among the news we expect from CEO Tim Cook and company are a new version of Apple’s iOS, likely called iOS 11; a Siri-powered speaker designed to compete with Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa-powered Echo and the potential for new, more powerful MacBooks.

Stay tuned for all the news as it happens, and don’t forget to check back with Yahoo Finance for all of our Apple coverage.

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We’re live at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2017. (image: Twitter/ Tim Cook)

Apple tests giving third-party shops access to iPhone repair machines

Why it matters to you

Apple may finally be considering letting repair shops fix your iPhones entirely on site, which will give you expanded options the next time your smartphone takes an unfortunate fall.

Apple has launched a pilot program under which it will provide certain companies access to the highly specialized calibration machine used to repair iPhones. The news was announced by ComputerCare, one of the three companies included in the initiative.

According to ComputerCare, use of the machine would allows a third-part company to conduct iPhone repairs entirely on site. In the past, it was necessary to send repaired devices back to Apple for final testing. The calibration process reportedly only takes 15 minutes, but is deemed necessary by Apple to ensure the product’s touchscreen functionality still meets the manufacturer’s standards.

As a result, ComputerCare states access to the proprietary machine should “dramatically reduce turnaround times” for its customers, while offering the same level of service they’d expect from Apple’s own technicians.

This initiative follows months of lobbying by the iPhone maker against “right to repair” bills proposed by lawmakers in 12 states — the most recent being New Jersey. The legislation varies from state to state, but the basic premise is that tech firms must provide customers and third-party repair shops with access to manuals and parts sufficient to permit repair by those third-party shops, should they request them.

Motherboard

While the launch of this pilot program may make it appear as though Apple has buckled somewhat in the fight against right to repair, the company has recently stepped up its efforts in New York, alongside other firms like Verizon, Toyota, and electronics insurer Asurion.

At best, ComputerCare’s announcement means Apple is considering, to some degree, opening up the means to fix and maintain its devices. Motherboard published a photo of the rarely seen machine back in March, and said the equipment is particularly important because it’s required to pair new Touch ID fingerprint scanners with existing iPhones.

Apple reportedly began using the contraption with the release of the iPhone 5S back in 2013 — though ComputerCare says the machines they will receive support every model in the range from the 6S onward.

Pogue's Basics: The fastest way to uninstall a Windows 10 app

How cool is this? You can uninstall a program right from the Start menu in Windows 10. That’s a lot more efficient than the method most people know: burrowing into the Control Panel or the Settings app and fumbling around.

Just right-click the name of the app you want to remove; from the shortcut menu, choose Uninstall. In the dialog box that appears, confirm that yes, you really want do go through with this.

Note: You can’t uninstall apps that came with Windows 10 this way — only stuff you’ve added. Microsoft has its standards, after all.

Adapted from “Pogue’s Basics: Tech” (Flatiron Press), by David Pogue.

David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes nontoxic comments in the comments section below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here, or you can sign up to get his columns by email

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