Apple will pay $38 billion U.S. repatriation tax on $245 billion in overseas profits

A small surprise was nestled in the middle of Apple’s announcement of a $ 350 billion contribution to the U.S. economy today: Apple confirmed that it will repatriate the giant pile of cash it has held overseas. According to the release, Apple expects to pay approximately $ 38 billion in U.S. repatriation taxes, which means that it will be using a special corporate tax break to repatriate approximately $ 245 billion in profits created outside the country.

Prior to the passage of the reduced 15.5 percent tax rate, Apple faced a 35-40 percent cost to bring overseas profits back into the United States — a tax burden it was unwilling to bear. Including both federal and state taxes, Apple might have been expected to pay up to $ 100 billion in taxes on $ 250 billion of overseas profits.

Apple’s plans to bring the foreign cash back into the United States have been underway for some time. In September 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook openly spoke of the company’s expectation that it would rapidly receive a tax cut from whomever the next president was, and that the company would likely repatriate the cash in 2017.

In April 2017, the White House floated a reduced repatriation rate of 10 percent, which Congress subsequently increased in its late December tax bill. Apple waited for the new rate, and nearly $ 60 billion in savings, to bring the cash back into the United States.

Despite hopes that Apple might immediately announce all of its plans for the massive windfall, potentially including a giant-sized acquisition, the company did not specify how it will use the repatriated cash. Instead, it focused on the $ 38 billion tax payment, noting that a “payment of that size would likely be the largest of its kind ever made,” and that the tax will be part of its $ 350 billion contribution to the U.S. economy over the next five years.

Update at 1:20 p.m Pacific: Bloomberg reports that Apple will give employees below “director” level a one-time bonus of $ 2,500 in restricted stock units, “following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law.” The grants will be issued to “most employees worldwide in the coming months.”

Apple – VentureBeat

Relax, Apple’s new campus is no Amazon HQ2

In the age of HQ2, every new office announcement seems to send cities’ hearts racing. Apple’s announcement that it would accelerate investments in the U.S., add 20,000 new jobs over the next five years, and open a new campus in the next year was no exception.

On Twitter, the Apple announcement quickly drew comparisons to Amazon’s announcement last year that it would be opening a second headquarters somewhere in the U.S.

But Apple’s new campus isn’t likely to bring the same economic effect that cities are hoping it will.

For starters, Apple’s new campus isn’t a second headquarters at all. Apples’ press release stated that the company is opening a new “campus,” and also that it would increase hiring at “existing campuses” — implying that whatever facility is going to open isn’t going to be a mirror image of its Cupertino headquarters.

Apple also stated that the new campus would “initially house technical support for customers.” Apple did not immediately respond to a question about what other types of jobs it will add, if any, at the new campus. Meanwhile, Amazon’s HQ2 RFP stated that the company would bring “executive/management, engineering with a preference for software development engineers (SDE), legal, accounting, and administrative” jobs to its chosen HQ2 city.

According to Indeed, the average salary for a technical support staffer in the U.S. is $ 15.65 an hour — or $ 32,552 a year for a person who works 40 hours a week. Meanwhile, Amazon stated in its RFP that it was looking to bring up to 50,000 jobs with an average annual compensation of more than $ 100,000. It’s also unclear if the jobs Apple will bring to its new campus will offer similar benefits as corporate jobs.

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Second, it’s unlikely that Apple will choose a similar type of city for its new campus as Amazon will for its HQ2. According to Indeed chief economist Jed Kolko, Amazon and Apple are already very different companies in that Amazon favors an urban campus — and stated that its new HQ2 needed to be in an area with access to public transit. Meanwhile, Apple’s new Cupertino campus is more of a traditional suburban campus.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple’s new campus will be in the suburbs as well, but presumably, Apple will require fewer workers for its campus than Amazon’s HQ2. Apple said that it would be adding 20,000 new jobs over the next five years, not all of which will be at the new campus.

That does present a silver lining: A smaller town could likely land Apple’s new campus — a town that would see a greater economic benefit than if Apple opened a technical support center in, say, New York. Meanwhile, Amazon is only considering large metropolitan areas for its HQ2, since they need a place that can support 50,000 workers.

“Part of the impact [from Apple’s new campus] will come from there being more workers who may be spending money during the day … and that depends on what kind of services are provided onsite. Are people people going out to lunch in the neighborhood, or are they eating in the corporate dining hall?” Kolko said.

Apple’s announcement was unusual in that the company announced that it would be opening a new facility without saying where the new facility would be located. In the past, Apple has been very vigilant about keeping new facilities under wraps, going so far as using code names for data center project.

“I do wonder if with all the attention that Amazon got — whether other companies will now be more likely to publicize searches for new locations,” Kolko said.

It is likely that Apple already has a couple of locations in mind for its campus, but since the announcement already has cities wondering if they stand a chance at landing the campus, here are some cities where Apple has open roles for technical support positions, according to Indeed’s website: Raleigh, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Austin.

Apple – VentureBeat

4 reasons Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto still aren’t ubiquitous

Theoretically, pairing a popular smartphone with any new car should be easy: Apple’s and Google’s in-car platforms have been out for nearly four years, and should be ubiquitous by now. But as the Detroit Auto Show (aka NAIAS) demonstrated this week, it’s not that simple — CarPlay and Android Auto are still on shaky ground with some major automakers. Why? Between Amazon’s Alexa, Tesla envy, some financial considerations, and the imminent arrival of 5G networking, a multi-year battle is underway to control the center consoles of future cars, and our phones are caught in the crossfire.

Apple has been developing car kits with automakers since the iPod days, but took a major step forward with the March 2014 debut of CarPlay — an iPhone-powered replacement for in-car navigation, music controls, and voice assistance. Within months, Google parried with the June 2014 debut of Android Auto, offering similar features for users of certain Android phones. Both systems can now be found in at least some vehicles from most major automakers.

Last year, we noted that progress on both platforms had stalled, and that’s largely true today; Google’s biggest changes to Android Auto have been to let it run directly on phones without requiring an in-car screen and adding Google Assistant. Apple has made a series of smaller tweaks, certifying more third-party CarPlay apps and adding Apple Music support. Meanwhile, automakers from BMW to Ford and Toyota have been hedging their bets on Google and Apple. Here’s why.

Alexa: Amazon could be disrupting Apple’s and Google’s car plans

One factor that is undermining Apple’s and Google’s in-car initiatives is Amazon’s move to bring the Alexa digital assistant into cars. Last year, Ford was the first to add Alexa to vehicles, leveraging Alexa Skills to enable direct-from-home car starting/heating and direct-from-car Starbucks ordering. At an Amazon press event last September, BMW announced Alexa integration for all 2018 year BMW and mini vehicles, explaining that Alexa provided “a complete, comprehensive set of internet capabilities that is available inside your vehicle.”

Alexa may be a practical solution to a problem Ford and Toyota identified last year when founding the SmartDeviceLink Consortium, a group seeking ways to integrate Apple and Google devices into cars without ceding control of the cars’ center consoles to those notoriously ambitious companies. That’s likely why Toyota — a long-term CarPlay/Android Auto holdout — recently followed Ford’s lead, announcing at CES that it’s integrating Alexa voice commands into a number of 2018 Lexus and Toyota models.

Still, Alexa hasn’t been widely adopted in cars, and its arrival doesn’t mean Apple and Google are out of the game — only that their growth is not guaranteed. Just after CES, Toyota also announced at the Detroit Auto Show that it will begin to support CarPlay with the 2019 Avalon, as well as other yet-to-be-announced 2019 cars. While a rumor had suggested the 2019 Avalon would also include Android Auto support, Toyota declined to commit to the feature, and neither Toyota nor Google would comment on their relationship.

Tesla: Inspiring bigger screens, more integration

Another issue that’s impeding Apple’s and Google’s movement into cars: Tesla. Car designers have developed Tesla envy — especially when it comes to Tesla’s futuristic center console.

Rather than relying on Apple or Google to power the navigation or entertainment features of its cars, Tesla developed a unique center console with a gigantic touch screen and vehicle-customized services. The screen ranges in size from 12 inches to 17 inches, depending on the car, generally handling everything from gear shifting and temperature controls to music and navigation.

So it’s certainly no coincidence that Dodge’s just-revealed 2019 Ram sports a similarly large, portrait orientation display. Automaker Fiat Chrysler is filling the top half of the display with a CarPlay/Android Auto UI and the bottom with car-specific controls — a kludge that nonetheless speaks to a desire for bigger things than Apple and Google have implemented.

As other auto companies slowly move towards Tesla-like electric cars, they’re similarly designing “car cockpits” with unified touch controls. Car console designer Harman, now owned by Samsung, showed super-large next-generation control systems at CES this year, planned for use in future cars.

Money: Automakers wrestle with fees, control

The third factor limiting the growth of CarPlay and Android Auto is money — both the automakers’ desire not to spend it unnecessarily on testing and certification fees, and their customers’ desire not to pay for features they don’t want or need. If adding CarPlay and Android Auto was free, every automaker would have adopted one or both by now. But it’s not.

Apple and Google both have specific requirements for screen sizes and the wired or wireless hardware to connect phones to cars, among other implementation details that require special procurement, testing, and certification. Even though the end cost to a given customer may be much lower than the old $ 2,000-$ 3,000 navigation packages, Apple’s and Google’s systems aren’t trivial for automakers to implement and kill the sale of those classic “deluxe nav kits” besides. Faced with the loss of nav system profits and no immediate replacement revenue stream, automakers are still questioning whether they’re doing the right thing.

That may be why BMW announced at the Detroit Auto Show that it plans to offer CarPlay, like satellite radio before it, as a temporary free trial that becomes a paid subscription service over time. The math might make sense for some people: Today, adding CarPlay to a BMW requires a $ 300 one-time payment, but BMW’s plan is to charge nothing in year one and then $ 80 each year (only for interested customers) thereafter, an advantage for short-term car owners. Since other carmakers aren’t trying to turn CarPlay and Android Auto into a service — yet — this might sound crazy, but there’s a reason it’s not.

5G and C-V2X: Next-gen connectivity will demand more integration and subscription services

Right now, paying subscription fees for automotive services is strictly the domain of wealthier car owners, but over the next few years, expect next-generation 5G wireless networking to make the idea (more) mainstream. Between autonomous cars and ambitious plans to integrate cars directly with cities’ vehicular networks, the C-V2X concept — short for “cellular vehicle-to-everything” — envisions cars having continuous cellular data links to other cars, pedestrians, and traffic infrastructure to radically improve safety and reduce human involvement in transportation. The cellular data services will, of course, cost money; it remains to be seen whether car companies will charge for it up front when the car is purchased or on an annual subscription basis.

This is part of the reason Apple and Google have been working on autonomous vehicle technology projects for years. They and the companies that supply them with key components, including Samsung and Nvidia, are well aware that direct 5G integration into vehicles could be a complete game-changer for customers: Your smartphone in the car could become almost irrelevant if the vehicle already has its own data services. Looking towards the future, Apple COO Jeff Williams called the car “the ultimate mobile device.”

Even if that future seems far away, it’s closer than most people think. Initial 5G deployments are expected to begin in the second half of this year, with 5G smartphones following early next year and coast-to-coast availability the year after that. It’s not hard to imagine a day when CarPlay and Android Auto are distant memories or merely “budget” car integrations, but expect to see them slowly make their way into more cars over the next few years — until the next big thing is ready.

Apple – VentureBeat

Apple downplays processor flaws across all Mac, iOS, and tvOS devices (Updated)

While Intel, Google, ARM, and Microsoft rushed to issue both public statements and patches addressing the Meltdown and Spectre processor security exploits, Apple took the opposite tack, waiting more than a day to quietly downplay the gigantic story using a tech support document, without a corresponding press release or public statement. In short, the number of affected Apple products is huge, and the company doesn’t yet have fixes ready for all of them, but it’s working on them — there’s no need to worry.

The particularly bad news for Apple and its users: “All Mac systems and iOS devices are affected,” according to the support document. This stunningly broad admission erases any ambiguity as to whether Apple’s custom-designed A-series chips and more recent products were protected — they were not. Worse: tvOS devices* running on Apple-designed chips also appear to be affected, though with varied vulnerabilities.

On the other hand, Apple was ahead of its rivals in saying that “there are no known exploits impacting customers at this time.” Apple has already patched its iOS, macOS, and tvOS operating systems against Meltdown, which means that any device running iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, or tvOS 11.2 was partially protected before most people knew there were issues worthy of concern. Additionally, Apple plans to patch its Safari browser “in the coming days” to address Spectre, suggesting complete fixes for current macOS and iOS devices aren’t far off.

Unfortunately, there are tens if not hundreds of millions of older Apple devices in the marketplace that can’t run Apple’s latest operating systems and browsers, and it’s unclear what Apple will do to secure them. Intel drew a clear line in its announcement, providing timetables for protection of processors five years old or newer; ARM offered patches across Cortex processors regardless of age. Apple’s silence on this question isn’t exactly reassuring — will older Apple products receive security patches?

Additionally, the risk to tvOS devices remains somewhat ambiguous. Since Apple is addressing Spectre with Safari patches on macOS and iOS, but Apple TVs don’t have a Safari app, the solution there isn’t clear. It appears Apple will patch tvOS itself to address Spectre.

If there’s any silver lining in Apple’s announcement, it’s that performance impacts to Macs and iOS devices are said to be non-existent or small. Apple notes that benchmarks show “no measurable reduction” in macOS or iOS performance after the Meltdown patch and that upcoming Safari patches will have either “no measurable impact” or “an impact of less than 2.5 percent,” depending on the benchmark. But again, nothing is said about the Apple Watch and Apple TV, both of which historically suffered from sluggish performance before receiving processor upgrades.

Like other OS vendors, Apple promises to release “further mitigations for these issues” in future iOS, macOS, and tvOS updates. Hopefully, the initial Spectre patches will fare as well as the Meltdown ones and Apple will announce solutions for older and less common devices, as well.

Update at 10:48 a.m. Pacific: Apple changed its announcement on January 5 to note that Apple Watches are not affected by either Meltdown or Spectre, after saying on January 4 only that Watches were unaffected by Meltdown. We’ve updated this article to reflect the change.

Apple – VentureBeat

Apple shareholders urge company to address iPhone addiction in children

(Reuters) — Apple shareholders Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System are urging the smartphone maker to take steps to address what they say is a growing problem of young people getting addicted to Apple’s iPhones, Jana partner Charles Penner said.

Jana, a leading activist shareholder, and CalSTRS, one of the nation’s largest public pension plans, delivered a letter to Apple on Saturday asking the company to consider developing software that would allow parents to limit children’s phone use, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Sunday.

Jana and CalSTRS also asked Apple to study the impact of excessive phone use on mental health, according to the publication.

CalSTRS and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jana and CalSTRS together control about $ 2 billion worth of Apple shares, the Journal reports.

The social rights issue is a new turn for Jana, which is known for pushing companies it invests in to make financial changes.

However, the issue of phone addiction among young people has become a growing concern in the United States as parents report their children cannot give up their phones. CalSTRS and Jana worry that Apple’s reputation and stock could be hurt if it does not address those concerns, according to the Journal.

Half of teenagers in the United States feel like they are addicted to their mobile phones and report feeling pressure to immediately respond to phone messages, according to a 2016 survey of children and their parents by Common Sense Media.

The phone addiction issue got a high-profile boost from the former Disney child star Selena Gomez, 24, who said she canceled a 2016 world tour to go to therapy for depression and low self-esteem, feelings she linked to her addiction to social media and the mobile photo-sharing app Instagram.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Apple – VentureBeat

At CES 2018, Apple’s HomeKit partners open doors to Alexa and Google Assistant

After a holiday season that saw HomeKit outed as insecure while Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home smart speakers grabbed more headlines, CES this year is hosting a number of Apple HomeKit smart home accessories with an unexpected new feature: support for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

Above: Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt

Image Credit: Schlage

One example: smart door locks. In October 2015, Schlage debuted its Sense Smart Deadbolt as an Apple HomeKit accessory. This year, the company came to CES with a different message — Sense gained support for Alexa ahead of the holidays, and will add Google Assistant integration in early Q1 2018. Another smart lock, Array from Brinks, will launch (after extended engineering delays) with Amazon Alexa support first, adding HomeKit and Assistant support later.

Lutron is another example. This established smart home accessory maker was one of the first to ship HomeKit accessories in June 2015, and even developed an Apple Watch app. At CES this year, however, Lutron has focused on touting its support for Amazon’s Echo, the Amazon Alexa-integrated Sonos One, and its “alliance with Nest” to integrate its Caséta Wireless system’s controls with Nest’s cameras and security products.

Above: An illustration shows Kohler’s new Verdera Alexa-enabled mirror.

Image Credit: Kohler

To whatever extent HomeKit looked like it might become the clear market leader, the shine’s off at this point, often in favor of integrating Alexa. Some companies, including Kohler, have decided to bring smart home accessories to market with Alexa built in as a major selling point, albeit with the promise of some support for HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana.

Above: Eve Button, a wireless HomeKit remote control

Image Credit: Elgago

On the other hand, stalwart Apple accessory maker Elgato has opted to keep its Eve series of smart home accessories HomeKit-exclusive. Elgato is using CES to reveal new products including the second-generation Eve Room — a $ 100 air quality, temperature, and humidity monitor with an E Ink screen, planned for March — and a $ 50 HomeKit remote control called Eve Button, coming later this month. The latter accessory lets you toggle between three different HomeKit-powered room settings without the need for an iOS device as a controller, though an Apple-developed HomeKit hub is still required.

Above: Wemo Bridge

Image Credit: Belkin

And after waffling on supporting HomeKit, another longtime Apple partner — Belkin — is finally throwing a bone to HomeKit users. Belkin developed a lineup of Wemo smart home accessories, leaving out HomeKit support, and publicly said that it was canceling plans to make Wemo work with HomeKit. In a reversal, it later announced Wemo Bridge, a secure mini router that let HomeKit control Wemo products, but missed its fall 2017 ship date. The finished accessory showed up at CES Unveiled last night with a $ 40 price tag, and will ship later this week. Meanwhile, recent Wemo accessories such as the Wi-Fi Smart Dimmer and Insight Smart Plug were built with integrated Alexa and Assistant support, and only require Wemo Bridge for connecting to HomeKit.

In recent years, supporting Apple-exclusive accessory standards has proved dangerous for third-party developers. Apple debuted a wireless speaker standard called AirPlay that suffered from lag and connectivity issues, sinking the expensive third-party speakers that adopted it; it also unveiled Lightning connectors that required partners to secure Apple approvals, components, and specific manufacturing partners. At the same time, accessories based on the Bluetooth and USB standards took off in the marketplace, as they were less expensive and appealed to both Apple and non-Apple users.

If the above is any indication, Apple should be wary of HomeKit becoming another footnote.

Apple – VentureBeat

Apple will address kids’ iPhone addiction with enhanced iOS parental controls

Apple has a response of sorts to activist shareholders concerned about kids’ addiction to iPhones: Enhanced parental controls are coming to iOS.

Ahead of Apple’s annual shareholder meeting next month, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) asked Apple this week for new software to let parents limit kids’ iPhone use, and to conduct a study on the effects of excessive phone use on mental health. With roughly $ 2 billion in Apple stock, Jana and CalSTRS were able to get Apple’s attention, leading the company to issue a statement reproduced in full below.

In short, Apple states that it has “always looked out for kids,” leads the industry in OS-level parental controls, and thinks “deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have.” Without providing any details or committing to the mental health study, Apple says that it has “new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these [parental control] tools even more robust.”

The issue of iPhone addiction — and portable device addiction in general — has been in the background for years, but recently benefited from additional attention. As noted in an earlier Reuters report, former Disney star Selena Gomez revealed that she’d canceled a tour due to depression she attributed to social media addiction, and a 2016 survey suggested that half of teenagers felt addicted to their mobile phones and were pressured to immediately respond to phone messages. The issue of how much parents should control their kids’ viewing habits — and thus their kids — has continued to percolate in popular media such as the TV show Black Mirror, without reaching a conclusive answer.

Enhanced parental controls are likely to offer only a partial solution to the issues raised by Jana and CalSTRS. Present iOS controls, found in the General > Restrictions section of Settings, include a collection of switches to disable web browsing, camera and FaceTime functionality, file sharing, Siri, the News app, and various types of media acquisition. Parents can also prevent iOS devices from displaying content with explicit language, sexual content, or limited by age-specific ratings across movies, TV shows, and apps.

What iOS’ parental controls do not enable are meaningful time limits or granular oversight over specific pieces of content displayed on the device. A Guided Access feature enables the device as a whole to be time-limited for accessibility or gallery purposes, but not with separate times for separate apps. Similarly, parents cannot easily screen or approve of web content that might skirt certain rules; they can either whitelist a narrow collection of sites one at a time, or blacklist “adult content.” Perhaps most importantly, stronger parental controls won’t address underlying issues such as the erosion of in-person socialization and lowering of self-esteem currently being caused in part by social media.

Any major improvement to the parental controls in iOS is unlikely to debut until at least June, when Apple holds its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, and it could come later given the company’s standard development cycles for new features. The lag also gives Apple plenty of time to undertake a mental health study for kids, should it want to.

Apple’s full statement is as follows:

Apple has always looked out for kids, and we work hard to create powerful products that inspire, entertain, and educate children while also helping parents protect them online. We lead the industry by offering intuitive parental controls built right into the operating system.

With today’s iOS devices, parents have the ability to control and restrict content including apps, movies, websites, songs and books, as well as cellular data, password settings and other features. Effectively anything a child could download or access online can be easily blocked or restricted by a parent.

We began delivering these controls for iPhone in 2008 with the introduction of the App Store, building on what we’d learned from offering similar features for the Mac a few years before iPhone was introduced. We also have a long history of curating our content platforms to make sure they are free of offensive material, such as pornography, and clearly labeled so parents can determine if an app, movie or song is age-appropriate. Of course, we are constantly looking for ways to make our experiences better. We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust.

We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them. We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.

Apple – VentureBeat

‘AR as a feature’ is the best use of AR tech right now, and Amazon gets it

ARKit’s release in 2017 unleashed a new category of mobile apps and created a greenfield for mobile app developers. The more than 1,000 AR apps already in the App Store cover a wide range of developers, from big corporations like the NBA and Ikea to indie game developers and independent hackers.

In addition to creating new standalone apps, both Apple’s ARKit and Google’s counterpart, ARCore, offer developers and companies an opportunity to engage users of their existing apps with new AR features. But it might be better to approach this tech as “AR as a feature” — not as the end-all, be-all of the app. It is important to note that while AR is a hot topic that’s quickly gaining momentum across industries, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use it in your branding. Depending on your core audience, it could be could be confusing for those unfamiliar with the technology, and by engaging users through multiple potential entry points, users immediately understand the value of the feature.

One of the best examples of “AR as a feature” is Amazon’s addition of “AR View” into its main mobile shopping app. It enables customers to digitally place an item they might want to buy on a real location. Customers can now “see” how that armchair would actually look in their living room. By adding the AR as a feature, Amazon was able to create a new layer of value to the shopping experience for its customers, without having them leave the app to open a separate tool.

Companies should have multiple entry points for the user to find the tool and to make sure its placement provides relational context for those users that would be unfamiliar to its purpose. Again, Amazon has done this well by introducing it through the camera icon on the Home Screen. This provides the context that the AR feature allows a view of product through the camera. It also created a playful aspect to the AR by making it so users experiment by “viewing” novelty items (such as the Back to the Future Delorean) and cartoon characters.

The second entry point is through product pages. At this point, AR View is providing utility by helping users solidify a buying decision. They can view the product in the real world, at scale, and walk around the product to see all sides of it. Notice that Amazon does not use the term “AR View” here but instead uses descriptive language: “See how this product fits in your room.”

Enhancing the world

Adding “AR as a feature” to your existing app can offer value to your customers and engage them in new ways. Here are some other opportunities and examples of AR as a feature.

One of the main use cases of AR is the capability to enhance the real world by showing what it looks like by adding to it. This can be done in the form of products, face filters, 3D animated characters and much so more.

Other retailers such as Ikea, Wayfair, and Target have added AR into their apps to showcase how products look in your room. Sephora is using AR to enable customers to try on makeup before purchasing. This gives them the tools to test new colors and play around with styling their own face. It not only keeps them engaged in the app, it allows for a whole new sensory experience with new products, but also creates a deeper connection to the brand.

Above: Sephora’s AR app

AR in social media already met wide acceptance, and one of the most popular AR features is Snapchat’s Lenses. Most of us have seen (or interacted with) the Dancing Hotdogs or the 3D cartoon Bitmojis. In gaming, who could forget the craze of Pokemon Go where augmented reality Pokemon and characters could be found at various locations, The company even held a Pokémon Go AR Photo Contest that challenged people to submit the most epic images of the AR characters in the real world. And now any social platform or gaming app can add AR Lenses to their app offering their uses a new way to create content.

Understanding the world

AR can also help users better understand the world around them. Product designer Isil Uzum created a prototype where she reimagines the House Manual feature on Airbnb.

Above: Airbnb AR Map concept by Isil Uzum

By displaying notes, photos, and videos as they relate to the real world, AR can help users better understand complex or non-intuitive environments. How-to guides and tutorials can be enhanced by overlay instruction on the real world item. This application can be used across industries, products and objects (detailing car repairs or instructional use of a machine) to even providing a new audio/visual layer to physical locations, such as visual guides for museum displays because AR is not limited to only visual augmentation. Google’s Pixel Buds are great examples of an auditory AR experience. The headphones provide real-time translation to help users better understand the world around them if they are traveling and do not understand the language.

Recognizing the world

Combining image/object recognition with AR can result in many new opportunities. This demo by Intopalo shows facial recognition being used in an office setting. Imagine new ways for companies such as LinkedIn and Facebook to leverage this feature for identifying and recognizing connections in real-world settings.

In addition to facial recognition, machine learning will enable us to recognize the majority of objects and images in the world. In the same way that Shazam gave us audio recognition at our fingertips, AR combined with computer vision will empower users with real-time visual recognition. Consider how recognition of items (clothing, cars, text, etc.) in the real world can be added as a feature for your users to enhance their experience.

Disney has just announced they have created a way to render virtual characters in augmented reality that can respond to real-world objects. This could take their theme parks, games and toys to a whole new level.

Mixed reality

While AR interacts with the world in front of you, VR transports you to new environments. Combining the two technologies results in a mixed reality that can offer users a unique immersive experience. One of the more interesting features in AR is the use of portals. By placing portals in the world, users can teleport to new places using 360 photos, 360 videos or 3D worlds.

Above: An AR portal generated in Viro

Travel apps can add AR Portals as a feature to help users experience their desired destination. From viewing hotel rooms and patio views to previewing an adventure tour, mixed reality can provide the customer with an experience rich enough to validate making the purchase.

Using AR for app promotion

In an ever-growing app marketplace, it can be difficult to stand out and attract users. AR offers an opportunity to use new incentives that warrant downloads. Apple has been heavily promoting AR apps in their iOS app store with dedicated categories like “AR Apps We Love” and “Shop with AR” to make discovery of the enhanced apps easy for customers. Rather than competing with Instagram and Snapchat, AR apps can get featured prominently in the App Store against a much smaller pool of competitors.

AR represents a new opportunity for companies and developers to engage their customers with new features. As more customers upgrade to ARKit enabled devices like iPhone 8 and X and ARCore comes to Android, the number of AR users grow exponentially. Examine your apps to see how you can use AR as a feature to enhance, explain and expand your product offerings and re-engage your customers.

Danny Moon is the CEO and cofounder of Viro Media, a platform for developers to rapidly build AR and VR applications.

Apple – VentureBeat

Apple’s Chinese iCloud business will be operated by local government-owned company from February 28

Apple has confirmed plans to relocate mainland Chinese customers’ iCloud data to China.

The Cupertino company revealed that it will begin migrating data to a local datacenter from February 28, after having opened a new facility in Guizhou last July to comply with cybersecurity laws introduced last June.

Indeed, Chinese regulators have been tightening rules on foreign data and cloud services while implementing surveillance measures and scrutinizing cross-border data transfers. Amazon recently announced it was selling off the hardware infrastructure from its public cloud business to a Chinese partner called Sinnet to comply with the same laws.

Similarly, Apple’s iCloud business in China will be operated by Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD), a company owned by southern China’s Guizhou provincial government. Despite this, Apple has previously stated that it would create no backdoors for governments or other organizations to access customer data, a claim it maintained today when it announced its plans for transferring data to local servers.

Before agreeing to the new terms and conditions, it’s worth heeding a rather significant clause that seemingly gives Apple and GCBD unbridled access to user data. The clause reads that the duo will: “… have access to all data that you store on this service, including the right to share, exchange, and disclose all user data, including content, to and between each other under applicable law,” according to a CNN report.

Storing customer data locally should, of course, allow Apple to offer speedier and more reliable cloud services. However, this isn’t the core motivating factor in Apple’s decision here. If it wants Chinese authorities on its side, it has no option but to comply with local laws.

Apple drew criticism last year when it bowed to pressure by removing virtual private networks (VPNs) and certain messaging apps from the Chinese App Store, though CEO Tim Cook recently stated that he was “optimistic” the apps may return in the future, despite there being little sign of this happening.

The bottom line is that China is Apple’s third-biggest market for sales, and if it wants to continue pursuing growth in the country, it will have to play ball with local authorities.

Apple – VentureBeat

American history podcasts are having a moment

With podcasts enjoying a surge in revenue and VC investment and collectively surpassing 65 million monthly listeners for the first time, VentureBeat’s Paul Sawers makes a good case for why 2017 was the year of the podcast. A closer look at the shows unveiled in the past few months reveals a trend in podcasts that are the stuff of a history nerd’s dreams.

Shows like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and Stuff You Missed in History Class have been popular among podcast listeners for some time now, but in recent weeks names like American History Tellers and Atlanta Monster have debuted and shot to the top of the charts on Apple’s Podcast app — used by the majority of podcasts listeners — as well as popular apps like TuneIn and Google Play Music.

These newcomers aren’t alone, as others like More Perfect (about the U.S. Supreme Court), Uncivil (about the Civil War), and Revisionist History from author Malcolm Gladwell, also launched history-themed podcasts in recent months.

Regardless whether you’re a podcast fan — one of those people quick to ask “What are you listening to?” — a sharp dive into past events reveals some fantastic, timely storytelling. Many of the recent batch of podcasts come from some of the best podcast networks around, including Radiolab, Panoply Media, WNYC, Gimlet Media, and How Stuff Works.

Atlanta Monster

The true crime genre of podcasts is not only wed to the travails of tragedy and human relationships. To put you in the time and place, to understand the context, these podcasts often include a heavy dose of history too. That’s what you get with Atlanta Monster, a podcast that made its debut on January 5. The show is only two episodes in and is already ranked No. 1 in both Apple’s podcast app and TuneIn.

Atlanta Monster tells the story of missing and murdered children in Atlanta. Virtually all of the children featured were poor African-American boys. As the killings terrorized a community, the events would draw the attention of national press, the FBI, and public figures like Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.

In its first two episodes, Atlanta Monster examines the cases of missing children alongside the story of an evolving city roughly a decade after the height of the Civil Rights movement.

Interviews with investigators, community members, and people who were kids at the time and remember being afraid give the podcast an air of oral history.

The Atlanta Monster story is told by host Payne Lindsey and is produced by the How Stuff Works crew based in Atlanta. How Stuff Works is also host of the podcasts Revisionist History and Stuff You Missed in History Class.

Slow Burn

Slow Burn is a Slate podcast about the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The purpose of the show, host Leon Neyfakh said, isn’t to draw parallels between the Watergate investigation in the 1970s and the Mueller investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign today. Rather, Neyfakh interviews lawmakers, journalists, and others involved in the scandal to talk about what it was like to live through a scandal that took down a president.

The show is a blend of the major events and little-known details about the Watergate scandal.

I’m a self-proclaimed history nerd, but I’m 32, so there’s a whole lot I don’t know about that period of time. I was unaware of the stories of people like Martha Mitchell, wife of Nixon re-election committee chair John Mitchell. She would tell reporters she was tranquilized, held against her will, and lambasted by Nixon loyalists to prevent her revealing details about the break-in at the Watergate hotel.

I also didn’t know that Bob Woodward and Leslie Stahl from 60 Minutes used to date back in the day, and I had forgotten that before Woodward and Bernstein were enshrined as legends in the history of American journalism, Nixon got re-elected in one of the most lopsided Electoral College landslides ever.

Slow Burn is currently ranked fifth among TuneIn’s Top 25 Podcasts and 14th in the Top Charts section of the iTunes Podcast app.

American History Tellers

American History Tellers made its debut January 3 with the release of the first three episodes in a six-part series about the Cold War. The show attempts to combine commentary from researchers with reenactments that capture what living through specific moments in U.S. history was like for everyday people.

For example, the first episode walks you through what a meeting with someone from the FBI may have been like if they’d come over to ask you a few questions about a neighbor with alleged Communist ties.

At the time of publishing, American History Tellers was #2 in the Top 25 podcasts on TuneIn and #3 in the Top Charts portion of the iTunes Podcast app.

American History Tellers is made by Wonderly, creator of the Tides of History podcast.


From Gimlet Media, Uncivil debuted in the fall of 2017 with stories about the Civil War. It often digs into misconceptions and mistruths told about that period, and it looks at ways the impact of the war is still felt today. Like many of the shows here, Uncivil tells a lot of little-known stories.

The first episode details the liberation of plantations by the 2nd South Carolina infantry in Combahee, South Carolina, aided by intelligence from Harriet Tubman.

The banter between hosts Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika helps infuse a certain amount of levity into a dense, sometimes complicated, sometimes painful subject.


As host Lillian Cunningham points out in season one, there have been more than 10,000 attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution, and fewer than 30 have actually received the requisite approval from three-fourths of all states.

From the Washington Post, Constitutional tells stories about the U.S. Constitution. The focus of the second season — the exploration of the 27 amendments to the Constitution — was suggested by a listener who had heard Cunningham’s Presidential podcast, recorded in 2016 about U.S. presidents.

I really enjoyed the hour-long look at the road traveled to reach consensus across the nation for a collection of the laws that have made the most fundamental shifts in U.S. history — like the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote or the right to a fair trial enshrined in the 6th amendment.

The latest episode looks at privacy protections in the Constitution and how the Supreme Court has grappled with the definition of privacy as new technologies like cameras and cell phones have emerged.

Revisionist History

This podcast comes from author Malcolm Gladwell. In each episode, Gladwell argues that a key moment in history has been misinterpreted or misunderstood. Episode subjects are as broad as golf courses in Los Angeles, McDonald’s french fries, or Winston Churchill’s friendship with a physicist.

A large portion of season two of Revisionist History focuses on the Civil Rights movement.

In these episodes, the show takes a closer look at an iconic photograph of a child being bitten by a police dog, and explores how the Brown vs. Board of Education decision led to the decimation of the ranks of African-American teachers in the United States.

I listened to the first season, but I found the second season much more engaging and personal because alongside the history it offers glimpses of Gladwell’s own story. I didn’t know he’s Canadian or part of his family is originally from the West Indies. His father passed away during the recording of one episode and that tragedy indirectly shaped how the story was told. Overall, I felt like I got to know Gladwell better, not just as the author of popular books like Tipping Point, but as someone with an interesting story of his own.

More Perfect

More Perfect examines issues and major cases that have been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Season two, which wrapped up last month, explored issues such as recent Second Amendment challenges and the theft of Justice Felix Frankfurter’s papers, one of the largest thefts in the history of the Library of Congress. There’s a lot more laughter in this episode than you might imagine.

My favorite recent episode was an analysis of the way legal counsels address female Supreme Court justices.

Women have only been on the U.S. Supreme Court since Sandra Day O’Conner was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Of the four women who have ever served, three are on the bench today, and the episode reveals that they are interrupted more frequently than their male counterparts in the highest court in the land.

Apple – VentureBeat