Why Apple’s influence is both a boon and detriment to the smartphone market at large

The biggest company in the world has many imitators, which is both great a horrible at the same time.

Apple has a massive influence on the smartphone market. The first iPhone was groundbreaking, revolutionary even. With the emergence and growth in popularity, Android has become a worthy competitor and really the only other choice if you don’t want to walk the iOS road. There are plenty of Android phones to choose from, each with its own special touch from the manufacturer (for better or worse), since Android is open.

One could argue that at this point, the influence goes both way between iPhone and Android. iPhone was the first to implement 3D Touch (Force Touch), and Samsung developed something similar that debuted on the Galaxy S8. The iPhone X display was made by Samsung (albeit tweaked and perfected by Apple). There’s a bit of a give-and-take happening now, since Android is getting bigger and better all the time.

But Apple still walks tall as a sort of gold standard among smartphone makers, and at this stage in the game, I don’t really dig it, nor do I dig what the future might hold. And rumors surrounding Android P have me fretting a little.

iOS: There can be only one

Apple’s operating is succinct, elegant, and a bit bland if you ask me. But it does exactly what it’s supposed to, with minimal effort and minimal learning curve. Android, depending on the phone manufacturer, can be clunky, bloated, and sometimes just a complete mess (LG G5, anyone?). But Android is at its worst when it tries to emulate or downright copy iOS.

EMUI 8 on the Huawei Mate 10

The worst culprit? Huawei’s EMUI. Now, I don’t really enjoy the iOS user experience at the best of times (too restrictive, things don’t work as intuitively as some Android features), but Android with an iOS dress on is just lipstick on a pig. EMUI, which Huawei implements on most of its branded devices as well as its Honor subsidiary’s devices, is a sort of iOS/Android hybrid, with fairly elegant, clean-looking app icons (for the most part), but some confusing features and a Settings app that looks like it was a rush crib job off of the iPhone’s Settings. Huawei’s phones still work just like Android (aside from some weird lock screen notification restrictions), but the look is a jumbled mess.

If anyone really wants their Android phone to look like an iPhone (just buy a f**king iPhone, ya goof!), there are launchers for that.

That damn notch

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The divisive (ugly, in my opinion) notch on the iPhone X is a strange design choice that has been a dealbreaker for some and a complete non-issue for others. I was fine with it, because I’m not an iPhone user, but ohhhhh looky here! Look! LOOK.

Android P will feature a ‘dramatic redesign’ and support notch displays (Android Central)

See what you’ve wrought, Apple? Android users laughed (because who really bought the frickin’ Essential Phone), presumably safe from the “horns”. NAWP. Android P’s getting a radical redesign and it’s going to support notched displays.

Where will you go when all your phones are belong to notch?

I bet you this Galaxy S8 on my desk that Samsung’s coming out with a notched phone in the next year or two. Bank on that. And then what? Then nowhere is safe from the notch. This is that South Park election episode all over again. We’re gonna have to choose between a giant douche and a turd sandwich, and the worst part is that we will. I will. Because we have no other choice.

I know this seems like a lot of doomsaying and melodrama, but non-fans of the iPhone X, I ask you: Where will you go when all your phones are belong to notch?

Bye-bye, fingerprint sensors

Oh, it’s gonna happen. Samsung uses iris scanners and facial recognition already. Face ID is the iPhone X’s main unlocking method (Input a code like an animal? No thank you!). The Honor View 10 has implemented face unlocking features, and it’s only a matter of time as more and more Android manufacturers follow suit.

There have been rumors swirling for a few years now about fingerprint sensors beneath the screen, and one Android phone maker has already implemented that feature on its forthcoming phone, but I honestly can’t see that being implemented en masse by Android manufacturers. That being said, it’s not like Face ID is easy to copy (30,000 dots don’t lie!).

It’ll be a sad day when fingerprint sensors go the way of the dodo, but the fun part is that there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Just like that other “relic” we recently lost…

They jacked my headphone jack

The iPhone 7 brazenly dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack (the Moto Z was the first phone to do it, but come on — it was the iPhone). The world gasped. Pursists fainted. Those looking to the future fist-pumped. The rest of us sat around and wondered the cost of a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Bluetooth audio has come a long way over the last few years, but there’s still something reassuring about a wired connection.

Then Google released the Pixel and openly mocked Apple in its marketing. Then the Pixel 2 was revealed to be sans headphone jack, and Apple (silently) screamed “I told you so.” Samsung has yet to drop the jack on its flagships, but we all know that’s just down the pipe. HTC has ditched it on its latest phones. It’s coming for us all — it’s just a matter of time.

Not that I’m overly concerned: Bluetooth audio has come a long way over the last few years, but there’s still something reassuring about a wired connection and that final tether to the past being snipped is somewhat disconcerting. That or I’m a big ol’ luddite and should just suck it up.

An SoC to be coveted, marveled at, and emulated

There’s no denying that Apple’s chips are to Android makers’ chips what Pringles are to Lays. They’re both pretty good, but Pringles fits more chips in a smaller container (and they’re stackable!). Specs are all but meaningless when it comes to Apple’s chipsets because its engineers are somehow able to do so much more with less when compared to Android chips. The day an Android manufacturer discovers how to marry Apple’s engineering with Google’s OS will be a sad day for Apple indeed, but I don’t see it happening.

Apple is (and may always be) king of updates

Something that’s irked me since I switched to Android three years ago is the sloth-like speed with which Samsung puts out Android updates. Because Android is open and each manufacturer has its own version, it takes them forever to get the latest updates out to every device in their repertoire. Apple’s update system is by far the best thing about it and the feature I’d like to see aped the most in the Android world. That fact that every iPhone or iPad gets the same update at the same time is convenient, it’s secure, and it’s so much more fun when a new OS is released. I’ve been waiting on bloody Oreo since last August!

Google is starting to crack down, finally, announcing that, starting in August 2018, all new apps will need to target Android Oreo.

As a result, companies who sell phones with old versions or forget about those phones when it comes time to update them will stand out because the products won’t have access to new or newly updated apps. Google says they encourage developers to do what they can to make apps backward compatible, but we all know how things go when they’re only suggested or encouraged. (Jerry Hildenbrand, Android Central)

That’s heartening, but not quite enough. Hopefully Google continues to work toward faster Android updates, because I’m getting kind of sick of waiting for what other Android users have, especially when I’m using one of the “best flagships on the market”.

The lines begin to blur

Russell Holly wrote a great piece on just how similar iPhone and Android are becoming, and that’s truer and truer all the time. You can get Portrait Mode in iPhone and Google Pixel 2, and each has top-notch cameras, AR, and more. So as the lines blur, is it such a big deal anymore? I see the scales shifting in the future, where Apple is influenced more than it influences, but for now, it still takes those risks before Android makers are ready to. Are the differences only slipping away because of a lack of vision on Apple’s part since the death of Steve Jobs? Maybe. Is it because we’ve reached a point where we’re finished reinventing the wheel? Probably.

What do you think?

Sound off in the comments below!

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Viral Insulin Discovery Suggests Microbes Could Influence Diabetes

Viral Insulin

Researchers from Boston’s Joslin Diabetes Center have discovered four viruses usually found in fish with the ability to create insulin-like hormones. The discovery of these viral insulin species could suggest that micro-organisms have an impact on the development of diabetes, as well as other conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and some cancers.

As Emrah Altindis, PhD, a Joslin research fellow and lead author on the research paper, stated: “Our research may help open up a new field that we might call microbial endocrinology.”

The team used bioinformatics, the study of large research databases containing viral genomic sequences, to search for genetic structures similar to human hormones and regulatory proteins. The research, published in the journal PNAS, then utilized synthesized versions of the viral insulin -like peptides (VILPs) they discovered, and tested their impact on mouse and human cells.

The experiments discovered that the VILPs indeed did act as hormones, and did bind to human insulin receptors, as well as the receptors of a similar hormone known as insulin-like growth factor one (IGF-1). The study confirms these “VILPs are members of the insulin superfamily and first characterized viral hormones.”

A pair of gloved hands testing blood sugar from a patient's hand using a finger-prick testing system. The discovery of viral insulin suggests viruses may have something to do with developing diabetes.
Image credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica A DuVernay

While the viruses discovered do not normally infect humans, the simple act of consuming fish could expose humans to these viruses. Scientists will have to perform more testing to see if the viruses could infect cells or be absorbed through the gut.

The next step for the researchers will be to go back to the databases, to see if they can discover other viruses which can produce human-like hormones.

“This finding is the tip of an iceberg,” says C. Ronald Kahn, the center’s chief academic officer and senior author on the paper, in a press release. “There are thought to be more than 300,000 viruses that can infect or be carried in mammals, and only 7,500 or so of these, or about 2.5%, have been sequenced. Thus, we certainly expect to find many more viral hormones, including more viral insulin, in the future.”

With this new knowledge, scientists can begin asking questions about diabetes and cancer that they never knew to ask. Future developments catalyzed by this research could have profound implications for the understanding and treatment of disease.

The post Viral Insulin Discovery Suggests Microbes Could Influence Diabetes appeared first on Futurism.


Today’s Delays in Addressing CO2 Emissions Could Influence Sea Levels for Centuries

In Deep Water

Each year, we pump more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. One of the primary goals of the Paris Agreement is to stop this increase in emissions, hitting a point at which they peak and then begin to decrease. Now, according to a new study published in Nature Communications, each five-year delay in hitting this turning point could translate into higher 2300 sea levels.

According to researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), if the Paris Agreement is put fully into practice, global sea levels will increase by between 0.7 and 1.2 meters (2.3 and 3.9 feet) by 2030. For every five-year delay in hitting peak CO2 emissions between 2020 and 2035, though, that figure will increase by approximately 20 centimeters (7.8 inches).

“Man-made climate change has already pre-programmed a certain amount of sea-level rise for the coming centuries, so for some, it might seem that our present actions might not make such a big difference – but our study illustrates how wrong this perception is,” said lead author Matthias Mengel in a PIK press release.

“The Paris Agreement calls for emissions to peak as soon as possible,” added co-author Carl-Friedrich Schleussner. “This might sound like a hollow phrase to some, but our results show that there are quantifiable consequences of delaying action.”

A Dire Situation

Future predictions based on current CO2 levels are bleak. By 2040, river flooding is expected to impact millions, and climate change is already threatening coastal communities around the globe. By 2100, those communities could see their shores drowned under an additional 10 centimeters (four inches) of water per decade.

Paris Climate Agreement
Click to View Full Infographic

As Mengel noted in the press release, his team’s predictions for 2300 sea levels could be underestimated, too. “Even a sea-level rise of up to three meters [9.8 feet] until 2300 cannot be ruled out completely, as we are not yet fully certain how the Antarctic ice sheet will respond to global warming,” said Mengel.

The severity of the situation ultimately comes down to how quickly and efficiently we act to reduce further harm. Climate change is winning, but it hasn’t won. If we take action now, we still have a chance to protect our planet and all the living creatures on it.

The post Today’s Delays in Addressing CO2 Emissions Could Influence Sea Levels for Centuries appeared first on Futurism.


President Trump is using tweets from a Facebook executive to argue Russia didn’t influence the election

“The Fake News Media never fails,” Trump added.

President Donald Trump found an unlikely ally in his mission to convince the internet that Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election didn’t actually help get him elected: Facebook advertising executive Rob Goldman.

Goldman, Facebook’s VP of ad products, sent a series of tweets late Friday that said, among other things, that “swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal” of the thousands of dollars of Facebook ads bought by Russian actors during and after the 2016 election.

“Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to effect the outcome of the 2016 US election. I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal,” Goldman wrote Friday.

“The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election,” he continued, linking to this post from Facebook’s blog. “We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election.”

The tweets came about 24 hours after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for “seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election.” Mueller’s report did say that Russia’s social media campaign included “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”

Trump pounced on Saturday, retweeting both of Goldman’s tweets and adding his own commentary.

“The Fake News Media never fails,” he tweeted. “Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!”

What went unsaid in these tweets is that there were thousands of posts shared on Facebook and other social networking sites, like Twitter, that were not ads, but still reached millions of potential voters. Facebook said that ads purchased by Russian sources reached 10 million users, but all posts from Russian accounts — including non-ads that were posted for free — reached as many as 126 million users.

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FCC broadband committee member quits over corporate influence

If you think that the FCC is basically controlled by the interests of big ISP-type businesses, you're not alone. Even FCC members feel that Ajit Pai's current gutting of net neutrality is a bad idea. Now even the mayor of San Jose has taken a stand….
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Scientists find darknet drug markets have little influence on global trafficking

The darknet, cyberspace’s filthy flea-market for forbidden goods, isn’t the global drug network it’s been made out to be. According to Oxford’s new darknet drug map it’s more like your local pusher’s Etsy page than Amazon’s marketplace. The researchers used darknet web crawlers to scrape the marketplaces of several top underground markets including Alphabay, Hansa, Traderoute, and Valhalla. Data gleaned from the search was then organized geographically to provide insights into what effect darknet markets have on the global illicit drug-trade. According to their white paper, the team tracked and classified data pertaining to nearly 1.5 million trades occurring on…

This story continues at The Next Web
The Next Web

The Koch brothers say they will have “no influence” over Time Inc.’s iconic magazines

But they’re putting $ 650 million into a deal to buy the publisher

Charles and David Koch say they’re investing in the magazine business because it’s a good investment — not because they want media outlets to carry their conservative messages.

That’s the on-the-record answer to the question the media world has been asking for a couple of weeks, since we learned that the billionaire brothers were going to back Meredith’s bid for Time Inc.

Now that deal is official, and the brothers say they’re putting $ 650 million into the merged company but won’t meddle with it. From their press release announcing the deal:

“[Koch Equity Development, a Koch Industries subsidiary] will not have a seat on the Meredith Board and will have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations. KED’s non-controlling, preferred equity investment underscores a strong belief in Meredith’s strength as a business operator, its strategies, and its ability to unlock significant value from the Time Inc. acquisition.”

It’s certainly possible the Kochs just think there’s a good deal to had here. And there are certainly other billionaires who have invested in media companies without monkeying with them: Warren Buffett has had a fondness for local newspapers. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal used to be a major investor in Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate.

It’s also possible that Koch’s media investment will be less expansive than it seems right now. As we said before, the next key question will be whether Meredith-plus-Time’s future involves Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and other titles that don’t seem to make sense in Meredith’s portfolio.

And in any scenario, the merged company is going to be slimmer than it is now. Time Inc CEO Rich Battista is supposed to leave when the deal closes — the two companies say that will happen in the first quarter of 2018 (though AT&T thought it would own Time Warner by now, too).

Battista won’t be the only employee leaving the combined company. Meredith says it can pull out “cost synergies of $ 400 million to $ 500 million in the first full two years of operation.”

Time Inc. employees, who have spent the last decade acclimating to yearly layoffs, know how some of those synergies will be achieved.

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Governments in 30 countries manipulated media online to silence critics, sow unrest or influence elections

The latest report on internet freedom by Freedom House finds online discourse in the United States is suffering.

It isn’t just Russia that’s spreading disinformation on Facebook, Google and Twitter in a bid to stir political unrest and silence critics around the globe.

A new report from Freedom House released Tuesday found that governments in 30 countries — not just the Kremlin, but also the regimes in Turkey, Venezuela and the Philippines — are now “mass producing their own content to distort the digital landscape in their favor.”

In Sudan, for example, the government maintains a virtual cyber army that has infiltrated Facebook, WhatsApp and other services in order to spread its leaders’ messages. In Venezuela, government forces “regularly used manipulated footage to disseminate lies about opposition protesters or the media, creating confusion” ahead of its last election.

The watchdog found that these efforts to manipulate information online — by governments or other forces — may have affected 18 countries’ elections, “damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate.” That included the U.S., where Russian-sponsored trolls fueled conflict around controversial debates like immigration, gun control and gay rights.

“The use of paid commentators and political bots to spread government propaganda was pioneered by China and Russia but has now gone global,” said Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz in a statement. “The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating.”

The conclusions came as part of Freedom House’s annual evaluation of global internet freedom, which found — once again — that government restrictions on their citizens’ internet use generally is on the rise.

Their report focused its efforts on 65 countries, studying their approach to online discussion and regulation between June 2016 and May 2017, and Freedom House awarded each government an internet-freedom score.

The lowest rating still belongs to China. Freedom House once again lamented the country’s historic, unrivaled limits on online speech, its penchant for hacking opponents and media organizations alike, and its willingness to imprison critics of Beijing’s leaders. Elsewhere, governments pursued their own new restrictions on online activity. For example, nine countries over the past year sought to block live video streaming for the first time, often to “halt real-time coverage of antigovernment demonstrations.”

In the U.S., Freedom House also sounded a note of alarm: It concluded that internet freedom in the U.S. had declined since the previous year, due in no small part to Russia’s election meddling.

Before and after Election Day, Kremlin-tied trolls had purchased ads and created profiles on Facebook, Google and Twitter, seeking to create chaos, rile up protesters and shift media coverage away from then-candidate Donald Trump. Those efforts are now the subject of scrutiny on Capitol Hill — and soul-searching in Silicon Valley — as lawmakers look to prevent Russia or another foreign power from meddling in U.S. politics ahead of the next election in 2018.

“While the online environment in the United States remained vibrant and diverse, the prevalence of disinformation and hyperpartisan content had a significant impact,” Freedom House found.

The watchdog also attributed its new skepticism about U.S. internet freedom to heightened harassment of American journalists online, not to mention efforts by the Trump administration, including a controversial — and quickly abandoned — attempt to unmask some of its prominent critics on Twitter.

Freedom House said internet freedom in the U.S. could be threatened even further as a result of the government’s ongoing attempt to undo its existing net neutrality rules. The regulations require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.

At the same time, Freedom House also offered a subtle warning to regulators — in the U.S. and elsewhere — who are considering new laws in an attempt to thwart misinformation or other online ills.

By the watchdog’s estimate, 14 countries seeking to stop malicious bots and other nefarious activities on the web introduced rules over the past year that “actually restricted internet freedom,” perhaps unwittingly. That includes Germany, which instituted a new law in June 2017 that requires the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter to take down content flagged as offensive in a way that “lacks judicial oversight.”

“When trying to combat online manipulation from abroad, it is important for countries not to overreach,” said Sanja Kelly, who oversees the production of the Freedom of the Net report, in a statement.

“The solution to manipulation and disinformation lies not in censoring websites but in teaching citizens how to detect fake news and commentary,” Kelly continued. “Democracies should ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline.”

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Russian Twitter accounts tried to influence the UK’s EU departure

Russia's attempt to influence Western politics through Twitter certainly wasn't limited to the 2016 American elections. Wired and New Knowledge have combed through the Russia-linked accounts provided to US politicians, and it identified at least 29…
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A new book examines German influence on modern day graphic design

Pioneers of German Graphic Design is a weighty 400-page tome by Jens Müller, on how art, minimalism, and commerce spawned a new form of visual communication. The book, published by Callisto, is the definitive text on how German designers influenced and shaped modern day graphic design starting in the late 19th century, and it’s pure coffee table eye candy. A deeper read reveals how the culture highs and ultimate societal lows in 20th century Germany bled into every aspect of life, including the field of graphic design.

In the introduction, Müller chronicles the introduction of graphic design following the industrial revolution. As early as 1848, when the German government stopped censoring printed matter, doors opened for the printing…

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