Touchscreen Google Home device evidence spied in official app code


There’s now more evidence Google is testing a touchscreen Home device. AndroidPolice points to sections of code of the latest Google app that refers to a device that sports a new on-screen interface. The APK teardown of 7.14.15 beta version revealed a long list of on-screen menus and functions that are utilized by a device with the code-name of Quartz. These abilities include YouTube playback — a function the Amazon Echo Show recently lost.

In September we reported Google was working on a Google Home device that sported a touchscreen interface. Two sources confirmed the device has been internally codenamed “Manhattan” and will have a similar screen size to the 7-inch Echo Show. One source received info directly from a Google employee. Both sources say the device will offer YouTube, Google Assistant, Google Photos and video calling. It will also act as a smart hub that can control Nest and other smart home devices.

This report by AndroidPolice seemingly confirms many of those details. The code review revealed multiple on-display features, interactive timers, weather forecasts with 32 different icons, YouTube video playback and a basic web browser, along with photo galleries and Google Maps with business listings.

At this point Google has yet to confirm the existence of the device yet it makes sense Google is at least toying with the idea and internally testing such a device. Companies have long tried to build a central information hub of sorts with the Amazon Echo Show being the latest such device. Google is clearly following the Amazon Echo line step for step with the next obvious move being an Echo Show clone.

Nintendo to release SNES-themed 3DS XL in the U.S.


Nintendo is going to ride the retro cash cow to the bank. The company recently announced an SNES-themed 3DS XL for Europe and apparently its coming to the States, too. The handheld is available for pre-order for $199 and ships two weeks after the European release on November 27. To sweeten the deal, a download code for Super Mario Kart is included with the system.

This is just the latest in a long-line of throwback gaming system. Last year Nintendo released the NES Classic and followed it up this year with the Super NES Classic. There was multiple versions of each with Europe and Japan getting different versions. In early 2016 Nintendo announces a Super Famicon-themed 3DS for the Japanese market. And why not. Retro sells and Nintendo is smart to lean on its long gaming history to sweeten its books.

Facebook says no thanks to Apple, new feature will only be on Android platforms

Why it matters to you

Big tech and big media need to come to some sort of understanding in order to provide a truly free press to America and the world.

Facebook has made a concerted effort to get on the good side of big media companies lately. Mark Zuckerberg himself wants to make sure they are as successful as possible, so he wants to help them sell subscriptions to their publications. And Facebook doesn’t even want a slice of the revenue.

Facebook’s new subscription tool for mobile phones will roll out sometime in the next few weeks. It allows various publishers, such as the Washington Post or Hearst, to set two different types of paywalls around their articles. One is a “metered” paywall, which many publications use already. After reading a certain numbers of articles, you’re directed to their subscription page. The other is a “freemium” version, where publishers can set firewalls around individual articles. In both cases, the goal is to get you to subscribe. Facebook has already said it wouldn’t take any of the revenue generated, and that it won’t capture customer data that results from the transaction.

As MacRumors points out, there’s only one problem – Apple won’t play ball.

The two tech juggernauts have been going at this for months, say many industry insiders. In the end, it all comes down to money. Apple wants a slice of the pie – a fairly big slice – and, as a result, the new Facebook service will only premiere on Android devices when it launches.

Apple is demanding a substantial portion of any subscription fees generated by the new service. According to its own rules, the Cupertino company takes a cut of up to 30 percent on any revenue generated from “in-app“ purchases on its iOS platform. Facebook argues that it’s not an “in-app” purchase, as it takes place at the publisher’s site. Apple’s counter-argument is that since the transaction begins inside the app, it’s entitled to its slice. And so they go round and round.

The rule is in place to prevent a company from advising a user to leave the iPhone app and subscribe on the company’s own website, as a way of dodging the 30 percent Apple tax. Google has said it’s not taking any revenue from media subscriptions using the new Facebook feature.

According to Recode, Apple wouldn’t comment. Facebook wouldn’t comment either. This isn’t the first time Apple has struggled with publishers over its subscription rules, which date back to 2011, when everyone wanted to sell subscriptions to iPads. That never really panned out.

You’d think will all that money to be made, these two could play nice and come to some sort of agreement. After all, the tech companies may not have the upper hand for long, says the New York Times – news outlets are joining together in an alliance to ask Congress for an anti-trust exemption so they can bargain collectively against Facebook and Google.

Editor’s Recommendations

Apple Pay now in 20 markets, nabs 90% of all mobile contactless transactions where active


While we are going to have to wait a little longer for Apple to launch payments in iMessage, this weekend, Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s VP of Apple Pay, announced a series of other milestones for the digital wallet and payments service that competes against the likes of Android Pay from Google, Samsung’s wallet and others efforts from retailers and banks.

The advances point to how Apple wants to steal a march when it comes to using phones as a proxy for a card or cash, and there is some anecdotal evidence that it’s working: merchants and others who have partnered with Apple say that Apple Pay is accounting for 90 percent of all mobile contactless transactions globally in markets where it’s available.

“Apple Pay is the future of everyday spend,” said Bailey on stage at the Money 20/20 conference that kicked off in Las Vegas yesterday.

Bailey also announced that the service is launching in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the UAE in the next few days, bringing the total number of countries where it is used up to 20. And she said that 4,000 issuers worldwide now work with the wallet (that is, there are now 4,000 credit and debit card issuers whose cards can now be uploaded to and used via Apple Pay).

While these may not sound like a massive numbers on their own, 20 markets represents a full 70 percent of the world’s card transaction volume, she noted. This underscores how Apple is approaching the roll out of its payment service: it is moving first to where the money is.

With that expansion, she also revealed a bit more about how Apple Pay is going to become more ubiquitous, not just in terms of retailers where you can use it, but in terms of use cases.

When Apple Pay Cash it turned on, for example, it will operate like Venmo, allowing users to transfer money quickly to each other via iMessage, Siri and other channels — a service that “thousands” of Apple employees are now already using in a closed beta before the service is turned on more widely later this year in an iOS 11 update.

But in addition to that, users will also be able to take that money and spend it directly at retailers and others that accept Apple Pay.

This is notable because it’s an early example of how Apple might potentially (not now, but in the future) provide a wallet service where it acts not just as the place where you can store other payment instruments, but becomes the payment and storage instrument itself.

That’s not to say that Apple is only working on new use cases. Bailey also provided a long list of new stats that speak to new retailers that are now accepting Apple Pay, and older partners that are seeing strong use of the service. Here are a few of the more notable ones:

  • Apple Pay is now at more than 50 percent of all retail locations in the U.S., including 67 of the top 100 US retailers. Full roll-outs include the supermarket chain Albertsons (2,300 locations) and Dick’s Sporting Goods (675 locations). This is particularly compelling in cases where cards themselves have not been enabled with contactless/NFC payment technology.
  • Bailey said that “everyday commerce” categories — transportation, ordering coffee or meals ahead of getting them, and contactless tickets — are “booming.” (Ticketmaster is now rolling out contactless tickets to U.S. sports stadiums and concert venues.)
  • Apple estimates that the number of transactions across these everyday categories is already twice the number of transactions in traditional e-commerce, and growing five times faster than physical retail.

As with the different use cases Apple is looking at for Apple Cash, these advances speak to how phones, smart watches and other connected devices are finding their way into our everyday lives, even if we’re not using them for direct payments for goods at points of sale.

For those who are tied to using their cards or cash — and there are many of us out there — this also represents an opportunity for ways to expand such virtual payment services, and an opportunity for companies like Apple to create further ties into brand an customer loyalty for future purchases.

After months of speculation, Tesla is opening a manufacturing plant in Shanghai

Why it matters to you

China has driven much of the growth in the EV industry this year, and now, one of that industry’s major players is setting up shop in the country.

It’s official. Tesla is going to China. On Sunday, October 22, the Wall Street Journal reported that the car company had reached a deal to open a manufacturing plant in Shanghai. The demand in the Asian market for electric vehicles has driven much of the industry’s growth this year, and Tesla’s new deal could help the company establish a foothold in a crucial market.

According to the Journal’s sources, the agreement with the Shanghainese government will allow Tesla to “build a wholly owned factory in the city’s free-trade zone.” This marks the first such deal granted to a foreign car company, and could be hugely beneficial in helping Tesla to cut production costs. That said, the firm would still likely be forced to reckon with a 25-percent import tariff.

When reached for comment, Tesla only restated the company’s previous position, noting that Tesla has plans to “clearly define” production plans in the Asian nation by the end of 2017, and that the company “is working with the Shanghai Municipal Government to explore the possibility of establishing a manufacturing facility in the region to serve the Chinese market.”

Tesla certainly looks to be in desperate need of more factories and production plants, as the company is currently facing rather serious bottlenecks that appear to be significantly impacting the on-time delivery of its highly anticipated Model 3 sedans. While 400,000 of these vehicles have been pre-ordered, only a tiny fraction have been produced and distributed.

Separately, the Journal noted that having a a presence in China could help improve the company’s relationship with that government. As Michael Dunne, an auto industry consultant told the publication, having Teslas built in China would be seen in a positive light by the nation’s officials, and “in turn, will give Tesla goodwill leverage to negotiate better China market-access terms in the future.”

Tesla’s own leader, Elon Musk, has long signaled not only an interest, but a need for vehicle and battery manufacturing plants outside of the United States, and specifically in Europe and Asia. And as per these latest reports, it looks like Musk’s vision is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Editor’s Recommendations

‘Pay with Google’ goes live, allowing mobile users to pay with any card on file, not just those in Android Pay


Google announced today it’s launching a new way to pay on mobile devices, using any card you have on file – including those saved to your Google Account via products like Google Play, YouTube, Chrome, or Android Pay. This “pay with Google” option ties all these saved payment options together in a single interface, which app makers and retailers can then implement using only a few lines of code.

The technology making this possible, the Google Payment API,  was first announced this May at Google’s I/O developer conference.

The larger idea here is to make checkout speedier for mobile users and increase conversions for retailers, by allowing Google users to tap into any payment card a customer has on file with Google, rather than those they’ve specifically saved to Android Pay. The feature will also make it easier for customers to shop using Google Assistant, the company noted earlier this year.

“Payments is a key capability of the user’s Google account,”  Pali Bhat, Vice President of Payments at Google, told TechCrunch. “Our goal is to enable users to pay with their Google account across devices, platforms and interfaces.”

When you opt to check out using “pay with Google,” you’ll be presented with a list of payment cards saved in your Google account. To continue, you just tap the card you want to use, and Google sends this information along with your shipping address to the merchant, who then handles the rest of the transaction.

In addition, Google partnered with over 40 payment providers to make integrations simpler for merchants who want to offer “pay with Google.”

The payment providers – including PayPal’s Braintree, Stripe, Vantiv, Worldpay, Adyen, and Groupe Paysafe – will continue to process the transactions as before. Other partners are being added soon, including ACI, Assist, Ebanx, First Data, Global Payments, GMO, IMSolutions, and TapPay.

Because the option requires merchants to use the Google Payment API, the “pay with Google” option is not yet available everywhere. But Google has lined up a long list of popular services that will offer the faster checkout to customers via their apps and mobile websites, when loaded in the Chrome browser.

At launch, this list of supported services includes Doordash, Eat24, Instacart, Kayak, Postmates, Wish, and others, but will expand to include others like Airbnb, Papa John’s, StubHub, Deliveroo, and many more in the near future. (See below).

The API is also now available globally, bringing it to new markets like Brazil for the first time with partners like iFood and Magazine Luiza, for example.

For now, Google Pay works within mobile apps and Chrome, but that could change in the future.

“We are starting with Chrome but plan to bring this experience to other browsers as well. Stay tuned,” said Bhat.

Featured Image: SaimonSailent/Shutterstock

Facebook says no thanks to Apple, new app will only be on Android platforms

Why it matters to you

Big tech and big media need to come to some sort of understanding in order to provide a truly free press to America and the world.

Facebook has made a concerted effort to get on the good side of big media companies lately. Even Mark Zuckerberg himself wants to make sure they are as successful as possible, so he wants to help them sell subscriptions to their publications. And Facebook doesn’t even want a slice of the revenue.

Facebook’s new subscription tool for mobile phones will roll out sometime in the next few weeks. It allows various publishers, such as the Washington Post or Hearst, to set two different types of paywalls around their articles. One is a “metered” paywall, which many publications use already. After reading a certain numbers of articles, you’re directed to their subscription page. The other is a “freemium” version, where publishers can set firewalls around individual articles. In both cases, the goal is to get you to subscribe. Facebook has already said it wouldn’t take any of the revenue generated, and that it won’t capture customer data that results from the transaction.

As MacRumors points out, there’s only one problem – Apple won’t play ball.

The two tech juggernauts have been going at this for months, say many industry insiders. In the end, it all comes down to money. Apple wants a slice of the pie – a fairly big slice – and, as a result, the new Facebook service will only premiere on Android devices when it launches.

Apple is demanding a substantial portion of any subscription fees generated by the new service. According to its own rules, the Cupertino company takes a cut of up to 30 percent on any revenue generated from “in-app“ purchases on its iOS platform. Facebook argues that it’s not an “in-app” purchase, as it takes place at the publisher’s site. Apple’s counter-argument is that since the transaction begins inside the app, it’s entitled to its slice. And so they go round and round.

The rule is in place to prevent a company from advising a user to leave the iPhone app and subscribe on the company’s own website, as a way of dodging the 30 percent Apple tax. Google has said it’s not taking any revenue from media subscriptions using the new Facebook app.

According to Recode, Apple wouldn’t comment. Facebook wouldn’t comment either. This isn’t the first time Apple has struggled with publishers over its subscription rules, which date back to 2011, when everyone wanted to sell subscriptions to iPads. That never really panned out.

You’d think will all that money to be made, these two could play nice and come to some sort of agreement. After all, the tech companies may not have the upper hand for long, says the New York Times – news outlets are joining together in an alliance to ask Congress for an anti-trust exemption so they can bargain collectively against Facebook and Google.

Editor’s Recommendations

Apple nabs top Amazon executive to helm development of original scripted series

Why it matters to you

Apple is entering the realm of streaming original series, which could lead developers to increase quality of programming to compete.

Morgan Wandell, a top executive at Amazon since 2013, has been lured away by Apple as part of its bid to increase scripted programming in the streaming market. With Apple ready to drop as much as $1 billion to develop original programming, according to Business Insider, they hope to become a major player in the industry.

Wandell arrived at Amazon from ABC Studios, and he has an impressive resume. He helped develop such series as The Man in the High Castle, Jack Ryan, Sneaky Pete, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. While at ABC, he worked on such TV series as Gray’s Anatomy, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Private Practice, Criminal Minds, and Ghost Whisperer.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Wandell joins a team that includes co-heads of video programming Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who were recently poached from Sony Pictures Television

Apple’s first few attempts at original programming, such as Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps, were underwhelming, to put it mildly. It recently scrapped plans for an Elvis Presley miniseries produced by the Weinstein Company, amid the fallout from sexual harassment allegations.

New moves at the executive level, however, indicate that Apple wants to position itself as a serious contender in streaming original series as part of an effort to make Apple Video a destination for documentaries and shows. According to the Wall Street Journal, they’ve partnered with Stephen Spielberg’s Amblin Studios for a reboot of the anthology series Amazing Stories.

Although the hire has been in the works for months, it’s still a blow to Amazon, who Jeff Bezos wants to come up with “the next Game of Thrones.” Other tech companies want a piece of the pie as well — Facebook may be dropping a wad of cash to develop its own scripted series.

For comparison, HBO spends about $2 billion per year on original programming, Amazon spends approximately $4.5 billion, and Netflix around $7 billion. Apple’s $1 billion could fund as many as 10 television shows, with Erlicht and Van Amburg overseeing a cohesive strategy that the company has lacked thus far.

Will all these new moves pay off with the next House of Cards or The Handmaid’s Tale? We’ll have to watch and see.

Editor’s Recommendations

If you’ve got an iPhone, you won’t be able to use this new Facebook feature

Why it matters to you

Big tech and big media need to come to some sort of understanding in order to provide a truly free press to America and the world.

Facebook has made a concerted effort to get on the good side of big media companies lately. Even Mark Zuckerberg himself wants to make sure they are as successful as possible, so he wants to help them sell subscriptions to their publications. And Facebook doesn’t even want a slice of the revenue.

Facebook’s new subscription tool for mobile phones will roll out sometime in the next few weeks. It allows various publishers, such as the Washington Post or Hearst, to set two different types of paywalls around their articles. One is a “metered” paywall, which many publications use already. After reading a certain numbers of articles, you’re directed to their subscription page. The other is a “freemium” version, where publishers can set firewalls around individual articles. In both cases, the goal is to get you to subscribe. Facebook has already said it wouldn’t take any of the revenue generated, and that it won’t capture customer data that results from the transaction.

As MacRumors points out, there’s only one problem – Apple won’t play ball.

The two tech juggernauts have been going at this for months, say many industry insiders. In the end, it all comes down to money. Apple wants a slice of the pie – a fairly big slice – and, as a result, the new Facebook service will only premiere on Android devices when it launches.

Apple is demanding a substantial portion of any subscription fees generated by the new service. According to its own rules, the Cupertino company takes a cut of up to 30 percent on any revenue generated from “in-app“ purchases on its iOS platform. Facebook argues that it’s not an “in-app” purchase, as it takes place at the publisher’s site. Apple’s counter-argument is that since the transaction begins inside the app, it’s entitled to its slice. And so they go round and round.

The rule is in place to prevent a company from advising a user to leave the iPhone app and subscribe on the company’s own website, as a way of dodging the 30 percent Apple tax. Google has said it’s not taking any revenue from media subscriptions using the new Facebook app.

According to Recode, Apple wouldn’t comment. Facebook wouldn’t comment either. This isn’t the first time Apple has struggled with publishers over its subscription rules, which date back to 2011, when everyone wanted to sell subscriptions to iPads. That never really panned out.

You’d think will all that money to be made, these two could play nice and come to some sort of agreement. After all, the tech companies may not have the upper hand for long, says the New York Times – news outlets are joining together in an alliance to ask Congress for an anti-trust exemption so they can bargain collectively against Facebook and Google.

Editor’s Recommendations

Essential Phone gets a $200 price drop, existing customers get credit


Essential has an offer that’s honestly very hard to refuse: The price of the Essential Phone (PH-1, going by technical model number), is now $200 cheaper, so $499 off-contract and unlocked. That’s an amazing price for their debut smartphone, which remains my favorite in terms of straight up industrial design (and it has one of the best color-tuned displays in devices right now in my opinion).

The Essential Phone went on sale just a few months ago, but the company believes that as a young startup just getting out therein a market where incumbents like Apple and Samsung basically take up all the available space, there’s a lot of value in word of mouth and perceived value. That’s why it’s making this price change, Essential tells me – though you have to also wonder whether the company’s not seeing the numbers it was hoping for in terms of initial sales, which is what some early third-party sales estimates have suggested.

Regardless of the reason, the price drop makes Essential arguably the best value smartphone on the market, and definitely the best Android device in that range. It’s one major failing has been its camera, which launched as a slow and buggy feature compared to most out there, but the subsequent camera software updates have improved its speed and reliability a lot, and more updates are promised in the future, too.

Lest Essential’s earliest customers feel slighted, it has a deal for early buyers, too – they’ll receive a $200 ‘friends and family’ credit they can use to further discount (valid through December 15, 2017) a device for a loved one (or another for themselves, if they maybe also want the just-released white Essential Phone, for instance), or to buy the 360-camera attachment. Customers will be able to sign up to redeem the $200 credit on the Essential page, using their phone’s IMEI and serial numbers, along with the email address they used to purchase.

In a time when the price of flagship smartphones in both iOS and Android worlds are ballooning, this is a very welcome nod to affordability. Without question, if you want an amazing phone at a killer price, the now $499 Essential Phone is the one to get.

Also, this is U.S. only for now – details on a program for Canadian device followers will follow, per Essential.

Featured Image: Darrell Etherington