BlackBerry Abandons Hardware Business and Pivots Focus to Software

BlackBerry-ClassicSmartphone company BlackBerry confirmed today that it will cease internally developing its own handsets and rely on partnerships with other companies "for any future hardware efforts," lining up with company CEO John Chen's estimation that he would know by September 2016 whether or not BlackBerry would continue participating in the hardware manufacturing business (via Recode).

Chen said the decision was a monetary one, as the brand's presence continuously dwindles in percentage stakes of the smartphone market, capturing only 0.2 percent of the market as a whole in the fourth quarter of 2015.
“The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners,” CEO John Chen said in a statement. “This allows us to reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital.”

“We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy. Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold,” Chen said. “In Q2, we more than doubled our software revenue year over year and delivered the highest gross margin in the company’s history.”
Over the summer, the company announced the discontinuation of the BlackBerry Classic as a way to pave the way for more "state of the art devices." Since then, it's released the security-focused DTEK50 smartphone powered by Android, and Chen has stated that the company plans to release two phones by February 2017.

BlackBerry today also announced a net loss of $372 million on revenue of $334 million, but the company noted that it "essentially broke even, on adjusted revenue of $352 million." Coinciding with all these announcements, chief financial officer James Yersh has left the company "for personal reasons," and is being replaced by Steven Capelli, a former executive at Chen's last company Sybase.

The company has been battling against the surging popularity of iPhone and Android smartphones for years, last year announcing a new physical keyboard-enabled, Android-based device on the same day that the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus launched. It's also been phased out of some popular mobile apps, namely PayPal, which discontinued apps for BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Amazon Kindle Fire earlier in the year.

Apple Employee Mentions Work on 'iPhone 8' is Ongoing in Israel Offices

Apple is building hardware for next year's iPhone model at its offices in Herzliya, Israel, and referring to it internally as the "iPhone 8," according to an employee there who spoke anonymously to Business Insider. The employee works on soldering components for Apple and gave vague references to how "different" the 2017 iPhone will be from the iPhone 7, which falls in line with rumors about the iPhone 8's radical redesign, without providing detailed information to add to the previous reports.

Still, the naming scheme of next year's iPhone is one of the device's most talked-about aspects. Normally, the smartphone would carry the "iPhone 7s" moniker given that it will be following this year's iPhone 7, but given the major changes Apple plans to introduce to the iPhone in 2017, it seems unlikely the device will receive an "S" name. Because of this, there's a good chance Apple may decide to skip directly to the next full number, naming the 2017 iPhone the iPhone 8.

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The Apple employee speaking with Business Insider keeps this idea alive, mentioning what's coming "next" from Apple and discussing the iPhone 8 "unprompted" in the conversation. The same source, "who only spoke in broken English," added that the 2017 version of the iPhone will have a better camera than the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7, which is expected at this point in Apple's yearly upgrade cycle.
Speaking to Business Insider outside Apple's Herzliya office at Maskit Street 12, the Apple employee said staff in Israel are working on what's coming "next" in Apple's product line, giving a specific mention to "iPhone 8."

The worker used the term "iPhone 8" unprompted in our conversation. That was interesting because the next logical name for the iPhone to be released in 2017 should be "iPhone 7s." iPhone 8 isn't due until 2018.
The radically redesigned iPhone 8 is said to include an all-glass body, edge-to-edge display with the camera and Touch ID integrated into it, no traditional Home Button, and potentially wireless charging. The device's launch will also fall on the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone's debut, back in 2007, leading to even more speculation that Apple will land on a specialized branding instead of a simple "S" naming scheme.

But because it's so early in the rumor cycle -- and because Apple's R&D offices in Herzliya have nothing to do with marketing and branding of the iPhone -- it's best to take today's report with the usual grain of salt. Tim Cook visited the Herzliya offices when they opened last year with rumored focus on storage space, processors, and communications chips being worked on by around 800 employees.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)

Apple Increases iPhone 7 Component Orders for Q4 2016

apple-iphone7Apple has increased its part and component orders for the iPhone 7 series this year, with orders for the fourth quarter said to be between 20 and 30 percent higher than expected (via DigiTimes).

According to sources from Taiwan-based touch panel makers General Interface Solution (GIS), which is a subsidiary of Foxconn, increased touch panel orders from Apple mean the supplier will see revenues grow significantly in Q4 2016.

Initial demand for Apple's iPhone 7 series has been high, with excitement for the company's jet black color option and its larger dual lens camera-equipped handset leading to long wait times as regions struggle to re-stock following the first wave of orders.

Some analysts believe the timing of Samsung's exploding battery problem is leading a number of consumers returning defective Note 7 devices to choose an iPhone 7 over a like-for-like replacement. According to one online poll conducted by SurveyMonkey, 26 percent of Note 7 owners plan to use their refunds to switch to Apple's flagship phone, while 35 percent said they would keep the refund, without specifying what phones they would use in the future.

Those numbers compare to 21 percent who said they would swap for a different Samsung model, while only 18 percent said they planned to get a rectified Note 7, which remain in short supply.

Samsung claims its own data shows a much higher retention rate, and says about 90 percent of Note 7 owners had chosen to get a direct replacement, after the corrected devices became "widely available". So far, more than 60 percent of defective devices in the U.S. have been exchanged, the company said in a statement.

Shipments of iPhone 7 units are expected to reach 80 to 84 million units in the second half of this year, compared to 85 to 90 million iPhone 6s devices shipped in the latter half of 2015, according to original design manufacture sources.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7

Google for iOS Updated With Touch ID Incognito Mode and YouTube Support

Google announced an update to its namesake app for iOS yesterday, adding a resumable private browsing mode and inline YouTube support.

The new private browsing feature apes Incognito mode from the company's Chrome browser, along with its dark window theme, but adds an extra layer of privacy, too. Like Chrome, search and browse history are not saved when the mode is enabled, but Google app users can also enable Touch ID for the feature, allowing them to re-enter an existing Incognito session after exiting the app.

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Additionally, the Google app gets inline support for YouTube videos, allowing for instant playback within search results, instead of being switched to another browser window or the YouTube app.

The update also renames Google Now to "the feed", and brings increased stability for iOS 10 users as well as performance improvements that promise to reduce crashes by half.

The new Incognito mode does not appear to have rolled out to all users yet, but once it does, the mode can be enabled by tapping into the app's account settings screen and selecting "Turn on incognito".

A hard press of the Google app icon from the home screen also turns up a 3D Touch option to enter the mode on compatible devices. The Touch ID feature can be configured in Incognito settings.

Google Search can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Google

DJI Launches New Mavic Pro Drone, Coming to Apple Stores in November

DJI today announced the launch of the Mavic Pro, its latest and smallest drone. The DJI Mavic Pro is designed to be compact, folding down to be put in a bag so it can be used anywhere.

When its four arms are folded and the propellers tucked away against its body, the Mavic Pro is "practically the size of a water bottle," making it more portable than most drones. Despite its small size, the Mavic Pro is equipped with a stabilized 12-megapixel camera capable of capturing 4K video at 30fps and FlightAutonomy visual navigation system, plus it features a 4.3 mile range and can be flown for 27 minutes before needing to be recharged.

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DJI has spent a decade making it easier for anyone to fly, and by rethinking everything about how a drones look, we have created an entirely new type of aerial platform for anyone to explore their creativity," said Frank Wang, DJI's CEO and founder.

"Mavic Pro is a technological triumph filled with features that once again show how DJI leads the industry. Most importantly, Mavic Pro allows you to reach the skies easily, see the world with new eyes and tell your stories like never before."
FlightAutonomy, new in the Mavic Pro, consists of five cameras, GPS and GLONASS navigation systems, ultrasonic range finders, and 24 computing cores to navigate and plan routes for the drone. It can avoid obstacles while flying at 22 miles per hour, but it's also able to reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour.

Mavic Pro can be controlled via an included compact remote controller with a built-in LCD screen or through an iPhone or iPad with an accompanying app. When used with a smartphone, DJI says the Mavic Pro can be set up and made airborne in less than a minute.

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DJI has priced the Mavic Pro at $999 with the remote controller and $749 without it. DJI is also offering additional batteries for $89 and a bundle with a Mavic Pro, two extra batteries, additional propellers, a charging hub, an adapter, a car charger, and a bag for $1,299.

The Mavic Pro is available for pre-order from the DJI website starting today, and will soon be able to be ordered from Apple.com. Apple is already promoting the Mavic Pro on the iPad accessory section of its website, though there is not yet a store listing for it. Apple retail stores will begin selling the DJI Mavic Pro in early November.

Tag: DJI

Connected Smart Home Device 'Wink Hub 2' Brings Better Connectivity and Security

Smart home platform Wink today announced the introduction of the Wink Hub 2, which the company says is "better, faster, more reliable, and more secure" than the original Wink Hub. In communication with a connected app, the device acts as a central location for users to connect a variety of smart home electronics in one place.

The 25 percent slimmer Wink Hub 2 now supports both 2.4 and 5GHz networks, and comes with an Ethernet port for smoother network connections. Wink also improved the Hub 2's wireless capabilities, so it now supports Kidde, Lutron Clear Connect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, and has an improved Bluetooth Low Energy connection. Cryptographic verification, and other hardware security features, have been added as safeguards against tampering, "and ensure Wink Hub 2 only runs trusted software."

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“Wink’s mission is to make the smart home accessible, and empower users to harness the real world benefits it provides in everyday life,” said Nathan Smith, Wink founder and CTO. “Wink Hub 2 enables users regardless of their technical know-how to buy the products they love from the brands they trust, and know with confidence they’ll work together seamlessly through Wink.”
A faster processor and 8x more memory than the original Hub helps Wink Hub 2 run "advanced automations" including daily "Schedules," so specific devices turn on or off at set times, and "Robots," so the activation of one product triggers actions in other products. Wink Hub 2 includes support for products from brands like Amazon, Philips, Nest, Kwikset, GE, and more. The company said that since these processes are running locally on Wink Hub 2 they gain "increased speed and reliability."

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The company is also updating its iOS and Android Wink app to version 5.0, introducing a streamlined setup system for new users, and a no-hassle hub-to-hub transfer process for existing Wink Hub owners.

Wink Hub 2 will be available in late October for $99 at The Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon, and Wink's own website. The company will also continue to sell the original Wink Hub for $69 at the same retail and online locations "while supplies last." Users can download the free Wink app from the iOS App Store [Direct Link] now, and the update is said to be launching sometime soon.

Spotify Launches Infinite 'Daily Mix' Playlists Showcasing New and Old Music

Spotify has announced the launch of "Daily Mix," a new intelligent playlist system -- in the vein of Discover Weekly and Release Radar -- that puts together a "near endless" collection of songs for users every day (via The Verge). The songs include a mix of music and artists they have listened to previously, as well as new music based off their interests.

When Daily Mix is updated each day, Spotify will introduce "between one and six mixes" to each user, mostly depending on how broad their music tastes are. Each mix avoids specific labels and instead opts for visual album clues as to what's inside of each, with four album covers providing context of the songs within each playlist. Matt Ogle, leader of music discovery and personalization at Spotify, said "we found that the mixes were much better received when we leaned back and let people describe them themselves."

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Image via The Verge
It uses the same basic approach as Discover Weekly, selecting songs based on your listening habits. "But that’s where the similarities end," said Matt Ogle, who helps lead development of music discovery and personalization at Spotify. "In a lot of ways it's the opposite of Discover Weekly." Instead of trying to take the work out of finding music that's new to you, "Daily Mix is trying to take the work out of hitting a button and always hearing music that you love."
Instead of the refresh that Discover Weekly and Release Radar get each Monday and Friday, respectively, users might notice that Daily Mixes are much more subtly altered. Songs within playlists might be added or removed, specific mixes could get swapped out for new collections, "but it won't be a complete refresh of songs each time." Ogle compared Daily Mixes to radio stations, because of the way each mix sticks to specific themes and moods instead of throwing a bunch of random genres together.

In mid-September, Spotify announced that it has reached over 40 million paid subscribers, in contrast to Apple Music's more than 17 million paid subscribers confirmed earlier in the month. Apple continues to bolster various aspects of its streaming music service, most recently introducing "My New Music Mix" and "My Favorites Mix" into Apple Music as the company's answer to Spotify's weekly curated music recommendations.

Users worldwide on the Spotify iOS [Direct Link] and Android apps should start seeing Daily Mix playlists today, whether they have a paid subscription or not. The company noted that new users will gain access to Daily Mix "after approximately two weeks of listening," and a rollout to additional platforms is coming soon.

Tag: Spotify

Honeywell Debuts New HomeKit-Enabled Lyric T5 Smart Thermostat

Honeywell has introduced the Lyric T5, its latest Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat with support for Apple's HomeKit platform.

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The Lyric T5 has a square, glossy black design with built-in touchscreen controls for adjusting the temperature and other settings, or the smart thermostat can be controlled at or away from home with an iPhone or iPad using the accompanying Honeywell Lyric app [Direct Link] from the App Store.

Meanwhile, like Honeywell's more expensive Lyric Round smart thermostat, HomeKit support enables the Lyric T5 to be controlled with Siri voice commands or through Apple's new Home app on iOS 10. The Lyric T5 is also compatible with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices, Stringify, and Yonomi, with other partners to follow.

The Lyric T5 can help homeowners save money by entering energy saving mode when someone leaves the home, based on the location of their iPhone or iPad via geofencing technology. Likewise, it can detect when the first person returns to start making the home comfortable ahead of time.

Like the Nest, ecobee3, and many other smart thermostats, the Lyric T5 is able to learn a home's heating and cooling cycles, enabling it to bring the home to the optimized temperature at the requested time. There is also the option to set up the thermostat on a more traditional seven-day schedule.

The thermostat's other features include auto changeover between heating and cooling mode, filter change reminders, and extreme temperature warnings.

Lyric T5 will be available in October for $149 online and at select retail stores. Honeywell products are typically available at, among other places, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace Hardware, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.

Former Apple Employees' 'RearVision' Vehicle Camera Launches for $500

Vehicle accessory start-up Pearl, which was founded by three former Apple engineers, has begun shipping its "RearVision" car camera system to the first round of pre-order customers, while also making the $500 device available to purchase for everyone else on its website. The company announced RearVision back in June, focusing "on the existing install base" of people with older cars by introducing a high tech, attachable license plate accessory that connects via Bluetooth to an iOS or Android smartphone, displaying a 180-degree rear-view field of vision when backing up a car.

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Pearl claims that RearVision "installs in minutes," thanks to a "theft resistant" camera frame for a license plate, and a simple dongle that's plugged into a vehicle's diagnostic port. The system also comes with a vent mount for the smartphone, so users can get a hands-free view each time they begin backing up their car. A few other features of RearVision include:
Automatic Updates​ — Pearl RearVision is the one backup camera and alert system that will never be outdated. The Pearl App updates just like other apps on your phone, with new features and enhancement delivered automatically.
Dual HD Cameras​ – Advanced dual HD cameras deliver super-wide views of what’s behind your car, and Night Mode provides stunning clarity in low-light situations.
Intelligent Alerts​ – Audible and visual alerts warn you when objects, cars and people are in your path. It includes a range of alerts, from simple ripple at further distances to a firmer warning when an obstacle is close by.
Hands-Free ​- Dock your phone in portrait or landscape on the versatile Pearl Phone Mount. Included as part of the RearVision platform, the Phone Mount will also be sold separately at pearlauto.com.
One of the biggest features pushed by the company is RearVision's ability to "never be outdated," thanks to persistent updates to its smartphone app. Specifically, Pearl stated that by the end of the year the app will gain the addition of back-up path lines, rich notifications on iOS, and app auto launch on Android. With today's shipment announcement, the company said that because "response has been so great" to RearVision, "it could take several weeks to fulfill every order" originally placed over the summer.

In addition to the announcement that RearVision is heading out to pre-order customers, Pearl confirmed that it has partnered with Amazon and Crutchfield so that anyone interested will be able to purchase the RearVision system on either website "this holiday season." Those who would prefer not to wait can purchase RearVision for $499.99 from Pearl's website today, which currently has a 2-3 week shipping estimate for new orders at the time of writing.

'Dash Radio' Debuts Filter to Toggle Between Clean and Explicit Lyrics in Real Time

Live radio station service "Dash Radio" recently announced the launch of a new filtering solution for toggling between clean and explicit lyrics in real time, a feature that's "the first of its kind" (via The Verge). DJ Skee, the founder and CEO of Dash Radio, said that "it's a complaint we've gotten since day one," from parents who might want to listen to certain songs without the potentially explicit language common from some artists.

To achieve this, Dash Radio has built an entirely new system on its backend "to manage the multiple streams and libraries it takes to make a feature like this work." To activate the toggle, all users need to do is long press on a Dash Radio station icon to switch between clean and explicit tracks. Dash Radio, at its core, is still a Pandora-like service, so on-demand music listening isn't an option, although it doesn't have any advertisements or commercials.

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"The City" is the first station getting Dash Radio's new language filter
After using the filter for the past week, I can tell you it's pretty seamless. Simply long press on a Dash Radio station icon and it will instantly switch between clean and explicit versions.

"It’s been a complaint we’ve gotten since day one," DJ Skee, the founder and CEO of Dash Radio told The Verge. "It’s like how do we make stations cool but also work in all different environments, and we think we have it. For the first time ever, we’ve found that solution. It’s something that nobody’s done and it’s something that in real-time people can control the filter. If your kids are in the car or your grandma, you can change it instantly and when you’re by yourself you can listen to it as unfiltered as you want."
The service has over 80 radio stations hosted by partners including Snoop Dogg, Tyler the Creator, Isaac Hayes, and more, and the company is introducing the real-time filter into "numerous" live and pre-recorded radio shows as well. Dash Radio has filed a patent for its new explicit language live filter, and the company plans to introduce a set of parental controls in the future that lets parents create profiles for kids which specifically filter or outright block certain radio stations.

On Apple Music's Beats 1 radio station, the company has decided to keep the music played there entirely clean, most likely for the express purpose of making it easier for users to listen around impressionable family members. Elsewhere on the service, parental controls allow parents to block any song tagged "explicit" from being played, but that's the extent of Apple Music's language filtering features.

Any user on Dash Radio's iOS [Direct Link], Android, web, and car-based app will be able to try out the new feature. The first area of the service supporting it will be the hip hop station "The City," and the company said that it plans for the new filtering tool to be available on every station by spring of 2017.

Xiaomi Takes on iPhone 7 Series With 'Mi 5s' and Dual-Lens 'Mi 5s Plus'

Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi has responded to Apple's iPhone 7 with the launch of a pair of new high-end smartphones.

The two handsets succeeding the company's flagship Mi 5 phone are called the Mi 5s (5.15-inches) and the Mi 5s Plus (5.7-inches), the latter featuring dual cameras as per Apple's own 5.5-inch Plus device. The 12-megapixel cameras come with an f/2.0 aperture, dual-tone LED flash, phase detection auto-focus, automatic HDR, and video recording of up to 4K resolution at 30fps.

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Both phones have a 1080p display and a fingerprint scanner under the front glass, which Xiaomi says "recognizes a 3D map of each user's fingerprint through ultrasonic waves", so no physical button is needed. The use of ultrasonic is also said to tolerate dirty fingers better than the capacitive sensors found in Apple's devices.

Both dual-SIM handsets are also powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, but the Pro is clocked higher and has 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, whereas the Mi 5s features 3GB RAM and 64GB storage as standard, with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage as optional add-ons. Similarly, a higher spec Mi 5s Pro is available with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage.


The phones will be available in China from September 29, with the Mi 5s priced from 1999 RMB ($299) and the larger Mi 5s Plus costing upwards of 2299 RMB ($345). There's no word yet on when the phones will become available in other regions.

Tag: Xiaomi

Google Announces Offline Video Viewing and Sharing App 'YouTube Go'

Google has announced YouTube Go, a new app that lets users save videos for offline viewing and allows sharing of videos with nearby users over Bluetooth (via The Verge).

The app includes options for previewing videos before download, and controlling video quality and file size, all of which are intended to benefit users concerned about cellular data limits and those who are located in areas with limited connectivity.

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The announcement was made at a Google event in Delhi, India, where the app will launch initially for users to test, before a broader rollout at a later date. The app will also make use of YouTube's Smart Offline feature, which automatically downloads videos overnight so that they can be watched at a later time in areas without a data connection.

YouTube product management VP Johanna Wright said in a statement:
YouTube Go is a brand new app to help the next generation of users share and enjoy videos. YouTube Go was designed and built from the ground up with insights from India, in order to bring the power of video to mobile users in a way that is more conscious of their data and connectivity, while still being locally relevant and social.
Users in India can sign up to YouTube Go immediately, but it's unclear exactly when the app will launch in the country or elsewhere.

Tags: YouTube, India