Verizon Plans to Offer 5G Residential Broadband Next Year

Verizon is poised to launch 5G residential broadband services in three to five US markets next year, the wireless carrier announced in a press release. The first commercial 5G rollout is due to take place in Sacramento, California sometime during the second half of 2018.

“Verizon estimates the market opportunity for initial 5G residential broadband services to be approximately 30 million households nationwide,” the company said.

Verizon has been conducting trials of its 5G residential offering with a sample of non-paying customers in 11 cities across the US, with promising results. Users reportedly achieved download speeds of around 1Gbps as far away as 2,000 feet from the base station, exceeding the expectations of industry observers. Latency on internet service has also been reduced to 10 milliseconds, down from the 50 milliseconds commonly seen on 4G networks. Verizon plans to use radio signals on the 28 GHz band, rather than copper or fiber cables, to deliver fifth-generation wireless services to customers.

If these results hold, users will be able to enjoy unprecedented wireless internet speeds, paving the way for commercial use of 3D and VR products and the internet of things.

“This is a landmark announcement for customers and investors who have been waiting for the 5G future to become a reality,” said Hans Vestberg, Verizon president of Global Networks and Chief Technology Officer. “We appreciate our strong ecosystem partners for their passion and technological support in helping us drive forward with 5G industry standards, for both fixed and mobile applications. The targeted initial launches we are announcing today will provide a strong framework for accelerating 5G’s future deployment on the global standards.”

Verizon also has plans in place to test mobile 5G services in 2018, in partnership with telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson and chipmaker Intel, along with Samsung, Intel, LG, Nokia, and Qualcomm.

Learn More: iPhone Rumored to Receive LTE Upgrade Next Year, 5G By 2020

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Another New Apple Patent Hints a Foldable iPhone Is Coming

The era of foldable smartphones may soon be upon us. If you need evidence of that, Apple recently filed yet another patent dedicated to the concept.

The patent, 20170336831, details an “electronic device (that) may have a flexible portion that allows (it) to be folded” and describes flexible displays with touch sensors and components that can bend when “being opened and closed like a book.” The patent was filed in September 2016, and was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Nov. 23.

Notably, the patent published this month is only the latest of several that describe similar technologies — specifically foldable displays and devices with flip phone-like characteristics. In November 2016, Apple was granted a patent that details internal smartphone components that could bend without disrupting or damaging them. The company was granted a similar patent, describing a display that could “fold-out” or “fold-in,” in January.

Foldable iPhone 8 Concept Image

Similarly, according to Korean media sources, display manufacturer LG has been working with phonemakers to develop flexible OLED technology that could make a true foldable smartphone — without hinges — possible. The most recent rumor we’ve heard out of Korea about the tech surfaced on Oct. 11, suggesting that there the companies are still working on the technology.

Foldable phones and flip phones, of course, had their heyday in the ‘90s and ‘00s, but are seeing a resurgence — particularly in Asia, which is the largest smartphone market in the world, CNN reported. Several high-end flip smartphones that have debuted this year include the ZTE Axon M and Samsung’s SM-W2018.

While not all of the patents Apple applies for end up being used in a mass market product, the uptick in foldable display technology patents could hint at Cupertino’s future plans. Or, at the very least, they suggest that Apple is exploring the new form factor for a possible device. Whether that device ever sees the light of day, however, remains to be seen.

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Apple Will Spend $4.2 Billion on Original TV Content By 2022

Apple’s original content ambitions are no secret: the company wants to acquire or produce a range of original and compelling television content for streaming on-demand. Earlier this year, Apple went on a hiring tangent — snapping up multiple television and film industry executives in a bid to spearhead its in-house content production projects; and the company even allocated $ 1 billion to help get those projects off the ground.

Now, in an indication that Apple is getting even more serious about its original video endeavors, a brand-new Variety report claims that the iPhone maker will bump up its video production allowance to as much as $ 4.23 billion by 2022, as part of a broader effort to expand and re-brand Apple Music.

Ultimately, according to long-time Apple watchdog slash former Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster, Cupertino’s goal is to position Apple Music as a direct competitor to existing video-on-demand subscription services, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Definitely worth pointing out is that while Apple may increase its bankroll by a couple billion dollars over the next few years, the same video streaming companies it’s trying to compete with, according to Munster’s predictions, will also up their spending to as much as $ 6.84 and $ 8.34 billion, respectively, over the same timeframe.

Interestingly, Munster’s predictions are coming off the heels of separate report which suggested that Netflix could spend as much as $ 8 billion to develop original content in 2018, while Amazon is already expected to spend more than $ 4.5 billion this year, alone, Variety noted.

Still, Munster believes Apple’s goal is to re-brand Apple Music over the next two or three years — expanding and re-focusing the digital audio streaming platform to encompass “much more than just songs.”

“Apple should be able to quickly expand their sub base given they have a running start with just over 30 million Apple Music subs that will have access to the video offering for the same $ 10 per month,” Munster noted in his blog post, noting that the company’s move to increase spending and expand the Apple Music brand is consistent with its pledge to continue growing its increasingly profitable Services Business.

Of course, while he’s a credible source of Apple knowledge, neither Munster (nor the rest of us) know for sure whether Apple’s original video content will even debut on Apple Music — and we don’t know when it’ll debut… Although we did recently learn about some of the company’s first, upcoming productions,  which will include a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s classic “Amazing Stories” anthology, in addition to a new and original drama series starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

Are you looking forward to watching Apple’s original video programming? Let us know in the comments!

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Class Action Suit Filed Against Google over ‘Illegal’ Safari Browser Tracking

An unprecedented class action lawsuit has been levied at Google in the United Kingdom, claiming that the company owes compensation to millions of iPhone users in the country.

A consumer campaign group called “Google You Owe Us” is now taking Google to court in the UK, alleging that the company had unlawfully collected personal information by bypassing certain privacy settings on the iPhone between June 2011 and February 2012. The group says that about 5.4 million people in England and Wales may be eligible for up to £100s in compensation — if the suit is successful.

The lawsuit claims that Google used a workaround to track “internet browsing history” by allowing the company to deposit cookies on an iPhone’s default Safari browser, even if the device was set to block cookies. The private browsing data was then sold to targeted advertising services. Google, on the other hand, has countered by claiming the practice was only used on the company’s failed Google+ social media site.

Richard Lloyd, a former director of consumer rights group Which?, is now taking the Mountain View tech giant to court, alongside UK-based law firm Mischon de Reya. “I believe that what Google did was simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to remedy this major breach of trust,” Lloyd told The Guardian.

“Through this action, we will send a strong message to Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley that we’re not afraid to fight back if our laws are broken,” Lloyd added. In addition to Google, Facebook and other online advertising networks were found to be using the workaround, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2012.

The suit is unusual for the UK; class action lawsuits of this scale are rarer in the country than in the United States. Google, for its part, said it would defend its case. “This is not new,” a Google spokesperson said. “We have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”

The consumer group expects its case to be heard by Britain’s High Court sometime next year.

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Another Patent Hints at iPhone Compatibility with Apple Pencil

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday published an Apple patent, specifically covering the technical details surrounding “position-based communication between the Apple Pencil and iPhone.”

While it’s strictly technical in nature, today’s patent, which was originally filed back in Q2 of 2016, is the latest indication that we could be much closer to an iPhone-compatible Apple Pencil than we think.

As described by Patently Apple, Figure 7 (illustrated in the image below) shows a portion of a standard, multi-touch panel configuration, which according to Apple is capable of operating via an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) to facilitate a stylus scan. Figure 8, meanwhile, shows the iPhone and its touchscreen ready to accept input from a connected stylus device (Apple Pencil).

Worth pointing out with regards to Figure 8: illustrated is what appears to be an example of Apple Pencil communicating with iPhone via a wired connection, like Lightning — however the company notes in other embodiments that the Apple Pencil can also communicate with iPhone over a wireless communication channel such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The rest of the patent is strictly technical in both nature and terminology, and goes on to describe “touch sensitive devices” which can include “circuitry for analyzing encoded stylus data.” These examples, shown in Figures 11-A and 11-B, illustrate “exemplary stylus signal analysis hardware for decoding stylus data.” Such hardware can be used to analyze data collected from “one or more touch sensors proximate to a stylus during a fine stylus sub-scan.”

Figures 13-A and 13-B, meanwhile, illustrate examples of various “stylus data processing hardware.” In 13-A, we see an example of processing hardware which includes a “plurality of correlation engines,” which can “receive input selected by position estimation engine via multiplexers,” according to the patent documents.

As with all Apple patents, this one too should be taken with a grain of salt until further notice, especially as the company is known for patenting more in the way of concepts than it produces.

Still, considering how the inherent patent delves further into the iPhone-compatible Apple Pencil patents published previously, it’s only reasonable to assume we could actually see this in the not too distant future. Perhaps even when Apple adopts a much larger display for iPhone next year.

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The First FDA-Cleared EKG Reading Apple Watch Strap Is Here

A new Apple Watch strap — and the first medically approved Apple Watch accessory — has recently received FDA clearance. The aftermarket band could open up additional heart monitoring and health capabilities for Cupertino’s flagship wearable.

What Is KardiaBand?

The AliveCor KardiaBand, as the device is called, is a Bluetooth-connected strap that takes on-the-spot electrocardiogram (EKG) readings. That’s a step above the optical heart rate sensor already included on the Apple Watch, and it means that the KardiaBand can better track atrial fibrillation — an irregular and typically rapid heart rate that can increase a person’s chance of stroke, heart failure or other complications.

How Does KardiaBand Work?

To use the KardiaBand, a user must place their thumb or finger on a metal contact embedded in the strap, which completes a circuit with another metal contact that rests against a user’s wrist. By most measures, it’s a discreet and easy process. The EKG reading takes about 30 seconds, and the resulting data can be stored in-app, imported to Apple’s Health app, or even sent to a user’s own doctor for further analysis.

In addition, AliveCor’s proprietary Kardia app tracks heart rate continuously with the Apple Watch’s onboard sensor. It can detect when a user’s heart rate seems out of place, using AI and a neural network to establish patterns based on previous activity and history. If the app detects a problem, it will ping a user to take an EKG reading.

Apple has already well-established the fact that it wants the Apple Watch to be a cornerstone of modern, healthy lifestyles. The Apple Watch itself has proven to be an invaluable tool for monitoring heart rates — in one case, a man said the device’s heart monitoring saved his life. But Apple’s health ambitions may stretch well beyond its chief wearable. At one point, the company was even exploring the acquisition of an on-site medical clinic startup.

Additionally, just today, Apple announced the official U.S. launch of its Apple Heart Study — a ResearchKit-based study being conducted in collaboration with Standard School of Medicine. While it may be the most significant, it’s certainly not the first Apple Watch-focused health study.

Wearable heart monitor technology that’s medically sanctioned isn’t too common yet, but all signs point toward the technology blooming in the near future. In recent years, the FDA has even made it easier for tech firms to produce health-monitoring devices, software and accessories. Apple, it seems, is again on the tip of the spear.

KardiaBand Compatibility and Price

Appearance-wise, the KardiaBand appears to be nothing more than an unassuming black Apple Watch strap. It’s compatible with Apple Watch Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3 — which is to say, any Apple Watch except the original. It retails for $ 199 with EKG recording functionality via email or print. Additional capabilities, like cloud storage, history and monthly reports sent to your doctor, cost $ 99 a year for Alivecor’s premium subscription.

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Apple’s Highly-Anticipated AFib Heart Study Officially Begins

Apple on Thursday announced the official U.S. launch of its anticipated Apple Heart Study — a joint, ResearchKit- and app-based study being conducted in collaboration with doctors and researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine. Utilizing the Apple Watch’s in-built heart rate sensor, researchers will collect eligible participants’ “irregular heart rhythm” data, while notifying those who may be experiencing a condition known as atrial fibrillation (AFib).

“Every week we receive incredible customer letters about how Apple Watch has affected their lives, including learning that they have AFib. These stories inspire us and we’re determined to do more to help people understand their health,” said Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams, adding that by “Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science.”

What Is AFib?

Atrial fibrillation, or flutter, according to Cedar’s-Sinai, is “a condition in which electrical charges in the heart are sent very rapidly to the upper chambers, causing them to contract rapidly,” ultimately “stimulating the lower chambers in the heart” to “pump faster and less efficiently than normal.”

“During atrial fibrillation, the atria do not completely pump blood into the ventricles. Eventually, some of the blood in the atria starts to stagnate and clot. If these clots break up or break off, they may pass into the left ventricle, travel through the bloodstream and block a smaller artery. If this happens in the brain, it can cause a stroke.”

Apple Heart Study Method

All variants of the Apple Watch are equipped with what’s repeatedly been christened one of the most accurate heart rate monitors available in a wearable device. To calculate heart rate and rhythm in the inherent study, Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor will utilize its green LED lights, flashing at a rate of hundreds/times per second, and “light-sensitive photodiodes” to help detect the amount of blood flowing through a user’s wrist.

Accordingly, if an irregular heart rhythm is detected, participants will receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, a free consultation with one of the study’s doctors, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch to wear for additional monitoring.

“Through the Apple Heart Study, Stanford Medicine faculty will explore how technology like Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor can help usher in a new era of proactive health care central to our Precision Health approach,” said Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford University School of Medicine. “We’re excited to work with Apple on this breakthrough heart study.”

How to Participate

The Apple Heart Study app began rolling out on the U.S. App Store Thursday morning — and those who own an Apple Watch Series 1, 2, or 3, as well as an iPhone running iOS 11 or later, and are at least 22 years old can download the app and register now. Unfortunately, Apple says the study is not intended for those who’ve already been determined to have AFib.

Irregular heart rhythms are not always symptoms of a more serious, underlying condition; however AFib, or atrial flutter, is among the leading causes of stoke, which can be fatal.

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Google Has Officially Fixed Its Illegitimate Cheeseburger Emoji

Google has finally made good on one of its most high-priority promises in recent months. Yes, the Mountain View-based tech giant has officially fixed its cheeseburger emoji.

If that doesn’t make much sense, here’s a bit of context. In October, author and writer Thomas Baekdal brought Google’s cheeseburger emoji to the internet’s attention.

Specifically, he highlighted the fact that the emoji has its cheese slice placed underneath the burger patty — a fact that, if the response is any indication, is basically sacrilege.

The original tweet garnered over 51,000 likes and 25,000 retweets.

The same day, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent the following tweet, promising that he would “drop everything” and address the cheeseburger emoji as soon as possible, if users could come to a consensus on the proper way to construct the all-American classic.

Tongue-in-cheek as it may have been, Google apparently took the criticism to heart. As first spotted by Emojipedia, the company has fixed the cheeseburger emoji in the latest Android 8.1 developer preview that was seeded on Tuesday. Now, the cheese slice is appropriately placed on top of the burger patty.

While Google has addressed the issue in the latest version of Android, it did have a bit of fun in the interim. A few days after Baedal’s original tweet went viral, the company served a lunch at its offices called the “Android Burger” — which, of course, featured a slice of cheese underneath the burger patty.

In Android 8.1, Google also took the time to fix a few other unrealistic emoji, including its cheese wedge emoji that appeared a bit unrealistic due to the placement of its holes. The company also updated it various beer emoji — which were half-filled but had a frothy foam that seemingly defied the laws of physics. Now, the glass is completely full of beer.

Android 8.1 will drop in December, reaching first-party smartphones like Google’s Pixel and Nexus lineup first. It’ll eventually roll out to all other Android devices.

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Essential Creator Takes Leave Amid ‘Inappropriate’ Google Relationship Allegations

Andy Rubin — the mastermind behind Google’s ubiquitous Android operating system, and creator of the Essential Phone — has reportedly taken a “leave of absence” from his smartphone startup following allegations of an “inappropriate relationship” dating back to his years at Google, according to an investigative report published this week by The Information.

According to sources “familiar with the matter,” these allegations of impropriety stem from Rubin’s time working as the head of Android at Google, where he was reportedly in an undisclosed relationship with “a subordinate” on the Android team — a clear violation of Google’s corporate policy, which requires that employees disclose any relationship so they can be assigned to separate projects.

While the specific nature of the woman’s allegations remain unknown, Rubin was reportedly made aware of an investigation into his conduct back in 2014 — shortly before he left Google, citing, at the time, how he was frustrated over how long it would take the search giant to advance its robotics department.

Meanwhile, within the same, relative timeframe, Rubin was reportedly informed by a superior that his behavior not only violated company policy, but was “improper and showed bad judgement,” according to The Information.

Mike Sitrick, a spokesperson issuing comment on Rubin’s behalf, appeared to contest The Information’s report, however, saying that “Any relationship Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual,” and that “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while at Google or since.”

Interestingly, Rubin’s leave of absence is said to be for “personal reasons” that are unrelated to this week’s report.

From Android to Essential

Rubin became Google’s Senior Vice President of Mobile and Digital content after the search-giant acquired his Android operating system in 2005. After the company went through its ‘big restructuring’ in 2013, Rubin was then assigned to Google’s robotics division — which oversees the company’s acquisitions in the robotics space, including Boston Dynamics — while Sundar Pichai replaced him as head of mobile and digital content.

essential-phone-hero

Meanwhile, after less than a year managing Google’s robotics division, Rubin left the company to pioneer a hardware incubator startup, according to TechCrunch. And his latest endeavor, the Essential Phone, launched earlier this year to generally positive reviews.

Touted as boasting a “pure Android” experience, the high-end handset originally retailed for $ 699 — however it’s price has since been cut to just $ 499.

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