Gareth Halfacree, Bit-Tech, 7/27/15
Samsung has unveiled a new monitor range with a novel feature: the ability to charge mobile devices wirelessly, as well as act like a traditional monitor in all other respects.
While monitors began life as simple display devices, more interactive and detailed than the physically-printing terminals of yesteryear, manufacturers have long been adding new ports and features to differentiate themselves from the competition. These days, it’s not unusual to find even entry-level displays with two or more video inputs, built-in speakers, and even USB ports to help alleviate desk clutter. Now, Samsung is taking the concept its logical conclusion with the addition of wireless charging functionality.
Available on its SE370 monitor, which launches in 23.6 and 27 inch variants, the system uses the Qi wireless charging standard – making it compatible with the bulk of wireless-charging-enabled smartphones and tablets on the market. All a user need do is pop their device on the base of the monitor, and it will automatically charge. This is provided, naturally, in addition to the usual inputs: one HDMI 1.4 port, one DisplayPort 1.2, and one VGA D-Sub connection.
‘Technology should support, not interfere with, active lifestyles. Our customers increasingly rely on mobile devices to obtain information and interact with others; so by doing away with the clutter on their desks, we are helping them to use their mobile devices in a smarter way, crowed Seok-gi Kim, senior vice president of Samsung’s visual display business unit, at the announcement. ‘Through the integration of wireless mobile charging technology, our innovative SE370 monitor dramatically improves efficiency, convenience and connectivity at home and at work – representing another significant milestone in our long history of industry-firsts.‘
The monitor panels themselves are based on plane-to-line switching (PLS) technology, promising a 178 degree viewing angle and up to 300 candelas per square metre (cd/m²) brightness. A 4ms response time is promised, along with a dedicated ‘game mode’ and support for AMD’s FreeSync variable refresh rate technology. Both displays offer a 1,920×1,080 resolution regardless of size, with the only other difference being a slightly higher brightness – 300cd/m² compared with 250cd/m² – on the larger model.
More information on the Samsung SE370 family is available in the company’s announcement.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: Qi, Samsung
Although Android is using a Linux kernel it can’t run applications on Linux natively. The KDE team wants to build a virtual environment for running Android applications on top of Linux. During the upcoming Akademy 2015 event at the end of this month the team will show other developers more about this project. Here’s an extract of the announcement;
“Get an introduction to the technical platform which makes up the Android application launcher Shashlik, and a short description of the how and the why. And, of course, a demo of it, and information on how you can get it yourself and run Android applications on your own system.”
You can read the announcement here.
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: Linux
Contextual information is changing the world. We have more data available to us than ever before, and much of it is being generated and consumed by the mobile devices in our pockets. Right now, businesses are creating systems and apps that will enable us to act on that data to automate our lives.
Apple and Google, as the two most important entities in the mobile industry, are leading the way and opening up new, exciting possibilities for app creators. But questions have recently been raised about what the future holds for custom apps, as mobile operating systems become more intelligent.
Google Now, Siri and Artificial Intelligence
An important upgrade to Google’s digital assistant, Google Now, was recently announced at Google I/O 2015. One of the most prominent changes is Google Now on Tap, which enables users to immediately be directed to relevant contextual information, simply by tapping the home button when within an app.
Combined with its enhanced contextual understanding of your activities, calendar, contacts, and location, Google Now is beginning to feel like the personal assistant that really knows us. With more than 100 services that currently tie into Google Now, there is already a broad pool of data for it to draw from, and as it grows, many more services are certain to integrate with it.
When I first saw the demo, I immediately thought of The Knowledge Navigator, a vision presented by John Sculley in 1987, then CEO of Apple, and contextual “Data Detectors” that we were working on in the 90s when I was at Apple.
At WWDC 2015, Apple followed suit by showing off a smarter Siri, which added predictive intelligence that can learn a user’s preferences, which it uses to automate how it presents information. With its new “proactive” features, Siri is beginning to catch up to Google Now in its ability to use artificial intelligence to better understand users.
But in contrast to Google’s strategy, Apple is focused on privacy, and promised to keep user data anonymous. So, Siri can’t really understand what you’re looking at on the screen at that moment, although a “Siri, remember this” promises to return you to whatever you were doing at a future point in time.
With more artificial intelligence being built into operating systems and their greater ability to find and present relevant data, some have predicted contextual information may eventually push users off of third-party apps.
In fact, WIRED’s John Pavlus recently envisioned the future of mobile as an appless Cold War between the two ecosystems: “Instead of Apple and Google behaving like singular superpowers in an app-driven arms race, iOS and Android ecosystems will be more like NATO and the Warsaw Pact: parallel dominions competing for influence in post-app ‘proxy wars’ like wearable tech, connected homes, and automated transportation.”
Although the recent announcements have reignited the debate, the point of view that Google Now and Siri could be the death of apps isn’t new.
Tom Simonite, MIT Technology Review’s San Francisco Bureau Chief, wrote in February 2013 that “virtual helpers conceived [to be general purpose tools] could transform how people get stuff done with a smartphone, and remove the need for them to interact with the apps and websites they must turn to today… It may be that the era of apps being the main thing about mobile devices is ending.” After all, why open an app if the data within it is easily accessible through Google Now or Siri?
Because the user experience still matters. Arguments about the virtual assistant layer making app design and the existence of anything more than the data behind the app irrelevant are intrinsically flawed. Here are three reasons why:
Apps Will Be More Connected
One of the improvements Google made at I/O was to improve deep linking between apps and web pages. Developers are now able to tell the Android operating system which app to open automatically, rather than requiring the user to choose. The connectivity between apps and the web continues to improve and the transition between them is constantly becoming less noticeable.
Google Now and Siri have a place in this, too, as they will surface a combination of Web and app content based on your context. By tying into the new Google Now and Siri “app content” APIs, apps can also provide custom search results.
This enables Google Now and Siri to help you prioritize app content, as they should, because if you have taken the time to download an app, you probably value its content more than what you might find on a website.
However, information from the Internet is also valuable to supplement app data to provide additional information that might not reside in your existing apps.
The increased connectivity between apps and the Web will enhance the user experience by offering the right data, from the right source, at the right time.
Glance-able Information Will Complement Deeper Experiences
Consumers appreciate glance-able information – little bits of relevant information presented at the most needed time – but deeper, engaging experiences are necessary as well. Virtual assistants will actually help increase engagement with applications due to their ability to bring notifications front-and-center and leverage increasingly connected information sources.
In most apps, glanceable moments are one piece of the experience. Both Google Now and Siri will allow deep linking to take the user from those instant notifications into additional rich content of the apps they’re connected to.
But other apps don’t serve an informational purpose at all, such as games. The experience of playing Minecraft or Angry Birds will stay the same, regardless of upgrades to Google Now or Siri. App categories like media, e-reader or social media apps might have discoverable information, but the actual consumption of content and engagement with it will still primarily take place within the apps.
Take Facebook, for example: Someday soon you might find out a friend is nearby when Google Now alerts you. You might then open the Facebook app to find out your friend’s recent updates, and after that, glance over to your feed and get sucked in for hours.
Apps deliver a deeper level of engagement and a richer experience, which is why they will continue to dominate mobile phone usage (some estimates put that number at over 80 percent of time spent).
Virtual Assistants and Notifications Will Encourage App Usage
Virtual assistants and their associated notifications will provide an additional point of entry that will lead to more frequent interactions with apps. In fact, among developers, one of the biggest complaints about Siri was the lack of third-party support.
However, Apple announced at WWDC that it plans to open up custom search results to developers, so third-party app results will soon appear in Siri and Spotlight Search, which significantly expands the platform’s potential.
Both Google Now and Siri offer users a snapshot of contextually relevant info from an app, and embedded links will encourage people to open the app.
What we’re seeing is an evolution of notifications. And notifications actually significantly increase app usage. So will virtual assistants.
Apps will continually evolve. Mobile platforms will become more intelligent, and the mobile experience of the future will be vastly improved because of apps’ greater connectedness and smarter use of data. Google Now and Siri will not be the death of apps, they just might be ushering in a new era.
In: Mobile Technology
Google says MDL is framework agnostic, and can be used with just about any front-end solution a web designer or developer might want to use. Gzipped, MDL’s code is under 27kb.
MDL uses Paper elements, which allows a developer to take pieces of Material Design to use if the entire code isn’t complementary to their needs. You could, for instance, plug a MDL graph into an existing website without using other Material Design components.
For those interested in using MDL, Google is offering up buttons, text-fields, tooltips and spinners. There are also responsive grids and breakpoints that follow Material Design and adaptive UI guidelines. MDL works best on “modern evergreen browsers” like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Microsoft Edge and Safari.
Google prefers developers to reference MDL via its content delivery network, but has the code up on GitHub for anyone who may want to fork it. MDL is spec compliant, but will continue to evolve as Google receives feedback (or sees what others do with it).
In: Android, Mobile Technology
Dan Heilman, Mobile Tech Today, 7/8/15
The new mobile cloud drive apps from Amazon are here, but, it seems, just barely. The company’s new Cloud Drive apps for iOS and Android bring the company one step closer to providing a complete mobile cloud storage solution.
The new apps let users view files and folders, preview documents and photos, play videos and music, and share files with other apps. The Cloud Drive release is meant as an all-purpose complement to the photo- and music-specific apps that Amazon already offers, and is aimed at the user who wants greater productivity.
Cloud Drive provides users with folder views of everything they have stored in Amazon’s cloud. Files can be viewed, shared or linked to — and files like PDFs, images, spreadsheets and more are supported. In addition, stored music and videos can be streamed from Cloud Drive.
That way, users can delete photos from their phones, for example, and still see them via the Cloud Drive iOS or Android app, according to Amazon. Fire Phone users get free storage for all photos taken with their Fire Phones. Also, the Auto-Save feature keeps photos safe in a user’s Cloud Drive, even if the individual’s phone or tablet is lost or damaged.
Inexpensive at $60 Annually
At $60 per year, Cloud Drive is the cheapest unlimited storage plan on the market, the company said. Amazon also offers a $12-per-year plan with unlimited photo storage and 5 GB of storage for all other files, while Amazon Prime subscribers get that benefit for free.
This sort of service from Amazon isn’t completely new. Amazon has been offering cloud storage, but it has only been accessible via desktop applications or through the Web, with no mobile application. Cloud Drive, available at Amazon’s Appstore, is the company’s response to online storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.
Lean on Features
The trade-off for the cheap price is a paucity of features. On its desktop cloud storage system, Amazon still doesn’t offer a proper desktop sync app, so the only way to add files from computers is via a drag-and-drop interface, which can be frustrating for users who want to automatically make their documents or photo folders accessible through the cloud.
The new mobile apps are even more limited. For now users can upload photos using the sync feature in Amazon’s Photos app, but editing and syncing a document isn’t possible from phones or tablets. And there’s no way to move or edit files, or upload new ones via mobile devices. To upload content, users must rely on other Amazon applications such as Prime Music or Cloud Drive Photos.
Reportedly, Amazon aims to put more features in both apps in the future. So for now, the Cloud Drive applications function as a way for users to view files that they have stored in the cloud.
In: Android, iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: Cloud
Eric Geier, Network World,
The second wave of 802.11ac is coming ashore and the new MU-MIMO technology (Multi-User, Multiple Input Multiple Output) is going to make a splash. It’s one of the biggest improvements to Wi-Fi we’ve seen to date, with the potential to greatly increase wireless network throughput and make a huge difference in dense, high capacity networks.
We saw MU-MIMO technology in action at a recent Qualcomm event. Instead of increasing the speed of just one Wi-Fi client, MU-MIMO improves the entire network, even delivering better results for unsupported devices.
Previous wireless standards and technologies have greatly increased data rates, but until now the increase only applied to one user at a time. For instance, SU-MIMO (Single-User MIMO) with 802.11n allows up to four streams of data to be simultaneously sent and received between a single user and the access point.
However, MU-MIMO with 802.11ac allows access points to simultaneously send one or more streams to multiple users, which has a greater impact across the entire network.
This graphic shows how SU-MIMO can communicate with clients only individually, whereas MU-MIMO allows simultaneous communication with multiple clients.
This graphic depicts how MU-MIMO can send three times the amount of data compared to SU-MIMO in the same amount of time, more than doubling the data rate of each device.
Visualizing how MIMO works
Imagine waiting in line to enter an event or arena that has four different entrance doors. The waiting line would resemble an access point, the people would resemble the data, and the doors resemble the receivers, the Wi-Fi clients.
Without MIMO, a random number of people (data) would be allowed to enter one of the doors (Wi-Fi devices) at a time. That door would close and the next group would enter through a different door (Wi-Fi device). This isn’t the best approach as only one door (Wi-Fi device) is open at once, slowing down how quickly the people (data) in the waiting line (access point) enter.
With MIMO, there are four big waiting lines (four data streams) leading up to the entrance of the event, again with four different doors or gates. Each waiting line resembles a data stream and the group of lines altogether resemble the access point. Again, the four doors represent the receivers of the data, the Wi-Fi clients.
If you’re running SU-MIMO, a random number of people (data) from each of the four waiting lines (data streams) enters into just one of the doors (Wi-Fi clients), which remains open all the time. This increases the speed at each waiting line entering into the event; however, it still doesn’t make use of all four doors.
With MU-MIMO, people (data) from each waiting line (data streams) simultaneously enter through all the doors. Everyone enters faster because each line can enter through a different door.
Remember, right now MU-MIMO only works for the downlink connection: for example, from the access point to your phone, laptop, and other Wi-Fi devices. Thus devices will still have to contend with each other when transmitting to the access point. This would be like allowing people (data) from all waiting lines (data streams) to enter simultaneously into all the doors (Wi-Fi devices) but alternate which doors are used when exiting (sending back to the access point).
Helps with user density and capacity
Wi-Fi has always suffered from density and capacity issues, especially in the small and crowded 2.4GHz band. Using 802.11n or 802.11ac in the 5GHz band helps by providing many more channels and faster data rates. However, MU-MIMO helps even more as multiple devices can be served simultaneously. This leads to increased throughput, frees up more airtime, and allows access points to serve larger crowds of devices.
It’s important to note that MU-MIMO can increase throughput as described without requiring channel bonding, although it can be utilized with any of the channel widths. Back with 802.11n, two 20MHz channels could be bonded, regardless of using SU-MIMO, enabling more data to be transferred at once. These 40MHz channels could be acceptable in the 5GHz band where there’s more frequency space, however it’s pretty much out of the question for the small and crowded 2.4GHz band. Then with Wave 1 of 802.11ac we had the ability to use 80MHz channels in 5GHz, again with or without SU-MIMO. Now with Wave 2 that number doubles again, giving us up to 160MHz wide channels, that can be used with SU-MIMO, MU-MIMO, or neither.
You might not want to utilize 160MHz channels since it greatly reduces the amount of channels you have to use in the 5GHz band, but you might consider using 40 or 80MHz to help increase throughput rates even more.
Doesn’t require advanced client device
SU-MIMO required both end-user devices and access points to support the technology and contain multiple antennas. Furthermore, for the client to receive the multiple concurrent streams it had to perform signal processing. The more antennas and streams a device supports, the more power, size and cost it requires, which is why many end-user devices are still single stream. This isn’t a problem with MU-MIMO, as the client isn’t the one performing the signal processing; the burden falls on the access point.
Although MU-MIMO still requires end-user devices to support the technology in addition to the access point, they can have as little as one antenna and still be served their single stream simultaneously with other devices.
You actually see the biggest difference with MU-MIMO when there are devices that support fewer data streams, versus those that support more. For instance, a four-stream MU-MIMO access point will send data at the same rate that a four-stream SU-MIMO access point would; MU-MIMO doesn’t directly help in this situation. The access point wouldn’t be able to serve other clients.
Not requiring multi-antenna clients also helps the adoption of MU-MIMO on public Wi-Fi hotspots. SU-MIMO isn’t as present as much on access points and hotspot gateways as we’ll likely see with MU-MIMO, because more devices will likely support the newer technology due to the eased requirements. Thus we can basically expect better performing public Wi-Fi networks as more devices adopt the technology.
Older clients can see higher data rates
Although MU-MIMO requires support by both the access point and end-user devices, older or simpler clients that lack support still indirectly benefit from the technology, similar to how the technology helps on dense and high capacity networks. Again, when supported devices are served simultaneously, there’s more free airtime for other devices to be served. This applies whether it’s more multi-antenna devices or single-antenna devices. Generally, when devices are served quicker, the higher the data rates you’ll see. This is why unsupported devices can still see increased throughput.
MU-MIMO provides an indirect security benefit. The way the data is encoded when sent from an access point to a device prevents other devices, even those connected to the same access point, from reading the packet’s actual contents, including any sensitive data. Any eavesdroppers performing packet capturing of MU-MIMO transmissions will see limited identification details, such as the MU Group, modulation used, and client MAC address. Remember, MU-MIMO only works on the downlink. Any eavesdroppers can certainly still see unencrypted packets flowing from MU-MIMO devices to the access point. However, any security improvement is welcomed.
It’s coming soon
We’re already starting to see the first MU-MIMO devices shipping, such as the Linksys EA8500 router and Acer Aspire E-series laptops. Through the rest of the year, we should see more products supporting the technology as well, such as business-class access points and smartphones. According to Qualcomm, one of the largest wireless chipset manufacturers, they actually started including the technology in mobile devices starting in 2013, now requiring just software updates to activate.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: WiFi
Mikael Ricknäs, Computer World, 6/26/15
The telecommunications industry is looking for new frequencies in which to operate a new generation of mobile networks
If operators are to build 5G mobile networks with download speeds at 10Gbps and above, they are going to need a lot more spectrum, but getting it won’t be easy.
The amount of spectrum allocated to 5G will determine how fast networks based on the technology will eventually become. Until recently, only frequencies below 6GHz have been considered for mobile networks, mostly because they are good for covering large areas. But there’s a growing need to unlock new spectrum bands in the 6GHz to 100GHz range, too, attendees at the LTE and 5G World Summit conferences in Amsterdam heard this week.
The use of spectrum in these bands is immensely important for 5G networks to be able to offer multiple gigabits per second, Robert DiFazio, chief engineer at wireless R&D company InterDigital Communications, said. By raising communication speeds, they are also expected to help lower latency in mobile networks.
Even though spectrum from 6GHz to 100GHz won’t be used in cellular access networks for at least another five years, vendors are keen to show they can handle all the technical challenges those frequencies present. The development of WiGig, which uses the 60GHz band, has already shown that using such high frequencies works, and on the show floor in Amsterdam, Huawei Technologies and Samsung Electronics both talked up pilot studies of other technologies they have conducted.
For the potential of spectrum above 6GHz to be realized, a new generation of antennas that are capable of directing multiple beams of data to different users at the same time will be needed. New systems will likely also need new modulation schemes to encode the data on the radio waves more efficiently.
There are ways for mobile networks to increase download speeds using existing spectrum, including using carrier aggregation or sharing spectrum with Wi-Fi networks. But at the end of the day, none of these options come close to the potential that as-yet-unused frequency bands above 6GHz offer. There is nowhere else to go but up, according to Samsung.
Rolling out networks isn’t just about hardware and software. Regulators also have their say.
“We have made clear our intention to make large quantities of spectrum available in these frequencies, which is increasingly also the view of other regulators around the world,” said Andrew Hudson, director of spectrum policy at British regulator Ofcom, who spoke on the subject on Thursday in Amsterdam.
The current focus of Ofcom’s work isn’t whether to make spectrum available, but how to identify the best spectrum in this range. This involves finding bands with a combination of good physical characteristics and good prospects for international harmonization, while taking into account current use, according to Hudson.
A final decision on what, if any, bands will be allocated isn’t expected until 2019.
After technical and regulatory challenges have been overcome, the networks also have to be rolled out. If extreme speeds are the upside of frequencies over 6GHz, poor coverage is the downside. These high frequencies don’t have good reach and aren’t very much use if you want to penetrate walls. To get around these weaknesses, mobile operators will have to install lots of smaller base stations — but finding enough places to put even the current generation of small-cell base stations has already proved difficult.
So taking full advantage of spectrum bands above 6GHz won’t be easy, but if equipment and device vendors want 5G to become something more than an incremental upgrade over the LTE networks that exist in 2020, all technical and political challenges have to be overcome.
The first commercial networks using 5G technologies are expected to go live in 2020 but will initially use spectrum below 6GHz because the infrastructure is already out there for those bands, according to DeFazio. Networks using the new frequency bands will only arrive later.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 5G, LTE, WiFi
, Engadget, 6/25/15
Another Ubuntu phone, another unusual launch. After the BQ Aquaris E4.5, which debuted with a series of online flash sales, Canonical is following up with an invite-only handset built by Meizu. Yep, the same Meizu that once hoped to release an Ubuntu phone in 2014. The new MX4 “Ubuntu Edition” has been available to developers in China since May, but starting tomorrow you’ll be able to order one in Europe too. At least, you will if you’re lucky enough to receive an invite. Canonical and Meizu aren’t revealing how many will be available each day, so you’ll just have to visit their teaser site, complete the “origami wall” and hope for the best. The company is also staying tight-lipped about whether the invite system will eventually be dropped and if the MX4 will later be sold in other markets.
Just like the Aquaris E4.5 and E5, the €299 ($345) MX4 is a modified version of an existing Android handset. It boasts a sharp 5.36-inch display, an octa-core MediaTek 6595 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 3,100mAh battery. For photo-fiends there’s also a 20.7-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 5-megapixel selfie snapper. On paper it’s a competent mid-range handset, but there’s little here to grab the attention of power users.
At MWC we were a little underwhelmed by the device, especially in comparison to the ambitious Ubuntu Edge. Canonical has been slow to develop its software and what was once an intriguing platform is now up against Android Lollipop and iOS 8 — not to mention their fast-approaching successors. Some of the ideas around Scopes — categorised home screens that aggregate content from multiple sources — feel fresh and unique, but it’s hard to see how they’ll appeal to anyone beyond the hardcore Ubuntu crowd. Canonical seems to have accepted this, as it’s calling tomorrow’s launch a “journey” rather than a “day one volume play.” Maybe the company is wise to keep its expectations in check, but after two and a half years we had hoped the platform’s launch would pack a little extra punch.
In: Mobile Technology
Wireless charging is handy, but slow. To help change that fact, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) has announced the latest Qi specifications, allowing wireless charging pads to deliver more power to your handset.
The WPC wants your wireless charge to be just as fast as a wired quick-charge, much like the technology Qualcomm pioneered.
In the announcement, WPC says “several manufacturers already offer wired fast charging for their devices, providing as much as 60 percent charge in as little as 30 minutes. The latest Qi specification empowers them to extend this speed to wireless charging as well.”
This new standard also gives approval for new test procedures and tools to verify fast wireless charging, and verifies the specification is backwards compatible to existing chargers.
In: Mobile Technology
Killian Bell, iPhoneHacks, 6/12/15
When iOS 9 makes its public debut this fall, Apple will allow developers to release apps designed exclusively for 64-bit iOS devices. This means we’ll begin to see titles that don’t support older iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches released before 2013.
Developers are already building apps and games that only support certain iOS devices; many high-end titles just don’t run well on older hardware, and so blocking those devices prevents users from purchasing and installing software they cannot use.
But for the first time with iOS 9, developers can choose to exclude devices with 32-bit processors. That’s anything released prior to the iPhone 5s, which was the first device to feature the A7, Apple’s first 64-bit mobile processor.
That means all iPod touches and any iPad released prior to the first iPad Air could be blocked from installing certain apps. According to 9to5Mac, incompatible titles simply won’t appear when you browse the App Store.
Many developers are now building apps that support both 32-bit and 64-bit processors, but the latter are much more powerful, and therefore capable of running more sophisticated software — such as console-quality games with high-quality graphics.
It’ll likely be some time before developers start blocking 32-bit devices, but it will happen eventually as those devices get older and older, so it may be time to start thinking about an upgrade if you’re still rocking an old iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.