Quick Takes: Fitbit Executive Says He Hasn’t Met Anyone Passionate About Owning an Apple Watch

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In addition to our standalone articles covering the latest Apple news and rumors at MacRumors, this Quick Takes column provides a bite-sized recap of other headlines about Apple and its competitors on weekdays.

Thursday, March 15

1. Fitbit’s financial chief knocks the Apple Watch: “I have yet to meet anyone who owns an Apple Watch who’s passionate about the product,” said Fitbit’s chief financial officer Bill Zerella. “If you don’t have an Apple phone, you’re not buying an Apple Watch… 80% of the world is Android, not Apple.”

Apple Watch Series 3 and Fitbit’s new Versa smartwatch

Commentary: Not only is the Apple Watch the world’s most popular smartwatch, but it’s the best-selling wearable, ahead of Fitbit. Apple Watch also has a customer satisfaction rate well above 90 percent.

2. iHeartMedia has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection: The company operates Apple Music rival iHeartRadio, which provides free streaming of thousands of live radio stations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The move will allow the company to restructure more than $20 billion in debt.

Commentary: iHeartMedia’s day-to-day operations of its businesses are not expected to be dramatically affected, according to reports, so iHeartRadio should remain available for at least the foreseeable future.

3. What the HomePod should become: MacStories‘ Ryan Christoffel argues that the HomePod isn’t a bad product today, but could evolve into a great one by becoming a true hub for all Apple-centric needs.

If Siri knew all things about your Apple devices and services, and could interact with them all, then HomePod would be the perfect vehicle to tap into that power. You could ask Siri on the HomePod to:

– Check your iPhone’s battery charge.
– Play an audiobook.
– Add a show to your Up Next queue.
– Download a specific app to your iPhone.
– Pause or resume Apple TV playback.
– List upcoming birthdays for your contacts.
– Provide a delivery status on your Apple Store order.
– Put all your devices in Do Not Disturb mode.
– Play a specific movie or show on the Apple TV.
– Or on the bedroom TV, or the iPad, or iPhone.
– Locate your iPhone or iPad.
– Each device could play a ding if it’s nearby, and if not, HomePod could offer to load a map on your nearest device.
– Make a phone call.
– Switch your AirPods to the Apple TV.
– Set an Apple Store support appointment.
– Open an app on a certain device.
– Put a screensaver on the TV.

None of these things can currently be done by HomePod, but I think they would all be reasonable to expect from an upgraded Siri. None of these would infringe on the company’s user privacy stance, because the data at play in these requests is already available to Apple.

Commentary: While the HomePod has received rave reviews about how it sounds, the consensus is that the speaker isn’t as smart as the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Being able to complete these tasks would be a huge step forward.

4. Siri co-founder Dag Kittlaus responds to claim that Siri was a “disaster” when it first launched on iPhone 4s: “This statement, wholly false, was made by the architect and head of the biggest launch disaster in Apple history, Apple Maps. In reality Siri worked great at launch but, like any new platform under unexpectedly massive load, required scaling adjustments and 24 hour workdays.”


Commentary: “After launch, Siri was a disaster,” said former Apple executive Richard Williamson, who was reportedly fired in 2012 following the botched launch of Apple Maps. “It was slow, when it worked at all. The software was riddled with serious bugs. Those problems lie entirely with the original Siri team, certainly not me.”

For more Apple news and rumors coverage, visit our Front Page, Mac Blog, and iOS Blog. Also visit our forums to join in the discussion.

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Anyone can make Facebook Instant Games

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Facebook's Instant Games technology hasn't exactly taken off (there are less than 200 games to date), but that's because it's been in closed testing. Now, it might have a chance to grow: Facebook has opened the Instant Games platform to all develope…
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Now Anyone Can Hunt For Exoplanets

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To find new exoplanets, just turn to Google.

Last year, an artificial intelligence (AI) network, equipped with data from the Kepler space telescope, discovered two new exoplanets. Now, citizen scientists looking to support discovery at home can use the exoplanet-hunting neural network — Google plans to make it open source, a Google engineer announced recently in a blog post.

Exoplanets are difficult to find and harder to directly observe – most of the time scientists only know these celestial bodies exist when they block some light from their closest star. To help scientists learn more about exoplanets, including those in the “Goldilocks Zone” (the “just right” zone in which planets are most likely to host life), NASA launched the Kepler spacecraft in 2009. Its mission: make observations that might lead to the discovery of exoplanets.

It has already succeeded, and has returned a ton of data. Astronomers have been sifting through the most promising data Kepler returned, specifically 30,000 of its strongest stellar signals from 150,000 stars. Out of those, they discovered 2,500 exoplanets.

There was a lot more data, though, weaker signals too messy or subtle for humans to identify. That’s where the AI comes in. AI can discover previously unknown exoplanets because it can recognize patterns in the Kepler data humans couldn’t see. That’s how the algorithm found the two exoplanets — by analyzing 700 of the weaker signals.

This means there are still 119,300 of those weaker signals left to analyze. And the more computational power used to analyze them, the more exoplanets will be discovered.

This AI allows you to use Kepler's data to find exoplanets. Image Credit: NASA
This AI allows you to use Kepler’s data to find exoplanets. Image Credit: NASA

For those looking to add their computers to the mix, the code for this algorithm and instructions on how to use it can be found and downloaded on Github. Users will have to train the algorithm before they can use it to find new planets. Unfortunately, though, the program isn’t exactly the most user-friendly. You’ll probably need some understanding or experience with Google’s machine learning software, TensorFlow, and also Python.

Citizen scientists are playing an increasingly important role in processing the amount of data it takes to discover a new exoplanet. Recently, a group known as the Exoplanet Explorers discovered the planetary system K2-138, marking the first time that a multi-planet system was discovered entirely by the public.

The post Now Anyone Can Hunt For Exoplanets appeared first on Futurism.

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Twitter may eventually let anyone become verified

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a Periscope livestream today that the company is working to allow any user to become verified.

“The intention is to open verification to everyone,” Dorsey says. “And to do it in a way that’s scalable, where [Twitter] is not in the way and people can verify more facts about themselves and we don’t have to be the judge or imply any bias on our part.”

Dorsey didn’t elaborate further on what this process looks like, but other online communities, such as Airbnb, require users to submit a Facebook profile, phone number, email address, or a government-issued photo ID.

When Twitter first added the blue checkmark to indicate verified profiles, it was originally given out to large public figures, such as…

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LTE Surface Pro model now available for pre-order by anyone

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Microsoft’s Surface Pro with LTE was announced back in late-October with initial availability limited to business customers. Microsoft’s website now shows that the Surface Pro model with LTE is now available for preorder from any consumer. Currently, there is only a single LTE model available for pre-order. That’s the one with an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. If it fancies your wallet, this LTE model runs for $ 1,449 and for those who are wondering: that does not include the Type Cover or Surface Pen. The LTE model has a $ 150 premium over the non-LTE version of…

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Why Refurbished Phones Are More Popular Than Anyone Ever Expected

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Smartphone vendors like Apple, Samsung and and LG continue, year after year, to release newer, more advanced devices than the ones they’re intended to replace. But while all the new bells and whistles and next-gen enhancements may appeal to those pocket-stacked consumers who simply ‘gotta have it when it’s hot’, data released by CounterPoint Research, […]
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Google Clips app pops up on the Play Store ahead of the camera being delivered to anyone

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Google’s interesting little Clips camera still hasn’t been arrived at anyone’s doorstep since its announcement alongside the Pixel 2 back in October, but the company has just published its companion app to the Play Store. Clips went up for sale late last month, though delivery dates were slated for early March, and the Google Store sold out pretty quickly.

The app features what you’d expect a companion app for a little camera to.

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Google Clips app pops up on the Play Store ahead of the camera being delivered to anyone was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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[Update: Create your own lenses from within the app] Snapchat’s Lens Studio will let anyone make and publish Augmented Reality ‘Lenses’

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Snapchat is an inexplicably popular service, but you know what it’s missing? There just aren’t enough augmented reality filters (known as Lenses) for your snaps, right? True or not, Snap has announced a new tool called Lens Studio that will let anyone create augmented reality objects and publish them for other Snapchat users.

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[Update: Create your own lenses from within the app] Snapchat’s Lens Studio will let anyone make and publish Augmented Reality ‘Lenses’ was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Obliviate Sends Secret, Self-Destructing Messages to Anyone

Obliviate is a new app from MakeUseOf that lets you send self-destructing messages. It’s great for sharing secret messages with friends that you don’t want sticking around on their phone, among other use cases. Download: obliviate for Android and iOS. The app lets you set a timer between 5 and 180 seconds for how long your messages will last. Once the recipient opens it, the message will disappear after a set time. And if you change your mind, you can immediately obliviate messages and bypass the timer. Best of all, the obliviate is free and has no ads; never will….

Read the full article: Obliviate Sends Secret, Self-Destructing Messages to Anyone

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Russia’s troll identities were more sophisticated than anyone thought

The Russian troll farm has been hit with its first major indictment. Today, special counsel Robert Mueller laid out his criminal case against Russia’s Internet Research Agency, charging that the agency engaged in a sustained campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election. It’s a major shift for the organization, which has largely escaped blowback from the US, and it gives us the best look yet into how the Russian influence campaign actually played out.

One of the most surprising lessons of the indictment is just how seriously the Russians took their fake identities. We might associate troll accounts with spam or weird visuals, but at least some of the accounts described by Mueller were backed up by full-scale identity theft….

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