Monthly Archives: February 2015

IKEA will start selling wireless charging lamps and tables

IKEA will start selling wireless charging lamps and tables

After lots of perseverance from smartphone makers, wireless charging is finally starting to make an impact. Many big name phones now support the technology and companies like Starbucks are helping to bring it a wider audience. Now, it’s set to receive another big boost, after IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, announced the introduction of a new range of furniture that features integrated charging.

As part of its commitment to making homes smarter, IKEA has released new floor, table and work lamps that come with built in wireless charging spots. There’s also two bedside tables and a selection of pads that can be bought separately and added to your existing setup.

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IKEA’s Wireless Charging Furniture

If you’re wondering whether your smartphone is compatible with IKEA’s new range, chances are it probably will be. The retailer supports the Qi standard, which is by far the market leader. If you own an iPhone or one of Samsung’s flagship handsets, the company will also sell you a number of wireless charging covers that will let you take advantage of your new power-giving furniture.

The wireless charging lamps and bedside tables will be available to buy in all UK IKEA stores from mid-April, starting at £30. The company has also confirmed that its new range will debut in US stores at the same time, but pricing will be announced in the near future.

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Starbucks adding wireless charging points to UK stores, starting with London

Starbucks adding wireless charging points to UK stores, starting with London

Starbucks is best known for its freshly brewed coffee, but today the company’s announced it’s going to begin serving customers an entirely different kind of perk. Just as McDonald’s is adding wireless charging points to its fast-food spots, Starbucks is doing the same, so you can recharge your phone while also re-energising your brain. Starbucks has already outfitted various stateside locations with Powermat’s PMA wireless charging points, and the partnership between the two companies is extending to the UK. It’s no secret that competitive wireless charging standard Qi is the more popular of the two, so if your high-end handset has wireless charging functionality, chances are it won’t work with Starbucks’ plates. That’s why every location with the complimentary points will also have plenty of little dongles for customers to plug into their phones and tablets to make them compatible.

For the time being, there will be a plenty of dongles to go around at participating stores, but you can also buy one for keeps for £10. If people take to pinching the freebies, however, then Starbucks might have to change tack and make all customers pay (that’s your cue to be the good guy). As of today, the wireless charging points have made their way into ten central London Starbucks venues — where they’re bound to get the most use — but a wider rollout is planned, though no word yet on where and when that might happen.

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Design firm wants this round wooden phone to be your family heirloom

Design firm wants this round wooden phone to be your family heirloom

See that wooden round thing above? That’s a smartphone — a real, working smartphone with a high-res screen and a camera, and not just a concept that will never come to life. Just imagining how to take calls on it without a headset or how to access websites on it is giving us a headache, but it’s sure a good way to stand out in a world dominated by rectangular devices. This circular oddity is called the Runcible, and San Francisco design firm Monohm modeled it after pocket watches and compasses: items it says we humans have been carrying with us for ages.

This probably isn’t something that could compete with iPhones and Nexus or Galaxy devices, but it doesn’t sound like Monohm is expecting to sell millions anyway. According to its website, it sees itself as a maker “of heirloom electronics and technology.” In fact, Runcible was designed with replaceable components, presumably so your kids can upgrade it long after you’re gone. The device does have LTE, WiFi and Bluetooth connections, but it won’t keep you updated with the latest work emails. It doesn’t beep or notify you of anything, and it wasn’t even meant to run apps, even if it’s loaded with a modified version of Firefox OS. (The company hints that it can be used as an IoT controller, though.)

Design firm wants this round wooden phone to be your family heirloom

You can see the Runcible in person at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in early March if you can’t wait until its official release in late 2015. Also, you can sign up to pre-order right now if you don’t mind that it doesn’t have a price yet. The company says it will cost as much as a “premium, unlocked smartphone purchase.” Yup, it’s not coming with a contract, unless you’re in Japan (where it will be released via KDDI), and, to note, the cheapest unlocked iPhone 6 costs at least $649.

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Huawei teases a luxury Android Wear watch through awkward videos

Huawei teases a luxury Android Wear watch through awkward videos

Huawei apparently just can’t wait to show some of the wearable tech it has in store this year. While the company isn’t supposed to reveal its Mobile World Congress plans until a press event on March 1st, it has already posted both videos and airport ads revealing its first Android Wear device, the plainly-titled Huawei Watch. You won’t learn a huge amount from the clips, which are loaded with stiff-sounding English (“it has to look like a watch, because a watch is a watch…” wait, what?). However, it’s already clear that Huawei is aiming for the upscale crowd with a sapphire-covered circular display, custom watch faces and oodles of metal and leather. The Watch is certainly one of the better-looking smartwatches we’ve seen, then. The real question is whether or not it does anything special under the hood — you’ll likely get the full scoop on that very shortly.

Huawei teases a luxury Android Wear watch through awkward videos

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10 high-tech gadgets that will improve your tennis game

10 high-tech gadgets that will improve your tennis game

The sport of tennis is no stranger to incorporating new technologies — from the electronic line judges of the early ’70s to today’s Hawk-Eye system with its multi-camera array. These days, players at all levels have a variety of high-tech tools to help them up their games. We’ve already taken a look at how modern technology can help if you’re training for golf and soccer. Now it’s time to check out some options you might want to consider the next time you hit the courts. Below you’ll find devices to smarten up your racquet and your shoes, as well as fitness trackers and apps designed to up your game no matter what level you are. Tennis anyone?

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Your tennis game, upgraded

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

The sport of tennis is no stranger to incorporating new technologies — from the electronic line judges of the early ’70s to today’s Hawk-Eye system with its multi-camera array. These days, players at all levels have a variety of high-tech tools to help them up their games. We’ve already taken a look at how modern technology can help if you’re training for golf and soccer. Now it’s time to check out some options you might want to consider the next time you hit the courts. Below you’ll find devices to smarten up your racquet and your shoes, as well as fitness trackers and apps designed to up your game no matter what level you are. Tennis anyone?

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

If the return of Frank Underwood stoked a thirst for real drama from the nation’s capitol, perhaps the White House’s late-Friday news dump of the proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights will whet your whistle. Alongside common-sense things like Congress finding that Americans “cherish privacy as an element of their individual freedom” in the draft, are headings pertaining to transparency, individual control, security and accountability. In regards to that first one, the bill states (PDF) that companies make their policies for exactly what they do with your data readable without the need for a legalese translator. In addition to that, companies would need to disclose what they’re doing with the reams of data they’re collecting on all of us and comply with requests for data deletion, as well. You’d also be able to request a look at the data collected by companies. Sounds good, right? Well, as the Associated Press reports, that isn’t quite the case.

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Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

How Madden Ratings are Made
by Neil Paine
FiveThirtyEight

If you’ve ever played a Madden title, at some point, you’ve questioned how player ratings are compiled. Heck, players are even critical of their own scores. Well, the stats experts over at FiveThirtyEight dive deep on the matter, offering a load of background information and a method for compiling and grading your own abilities… or lack thereof.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Ready for a blast from the past? Ten years ago, Walmart’s plan to undercut Netflix on DVD-by-mail rental pricing failed, and the retail giant turned that part of its business over to the movie service in exchange for a cut of the revenue, referral bonuses and Netflix promoting Walmart’s DVD sales to rental customers. A class action lawsuit against the two followed in 2009, with customers alleging they illegally restrained trade and kept prices high. Walmart settled the case for $27 million in 2011, which will turn into about $12 (paid out in gift cards or cash) for the 1.2 million people who filed claims. While the deadline to file has long passed, the payout has been held up due to appeals in the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco against Walmart and Netflix — until now.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Many RPGs have more than one ending, but even then you still have limited ways to control the story or to interact with the characters. Disney Research, however, wants to make real interactive games — ones where your actions can affect how it progresses and ends — so it has created a platform that can help developers do so more easily than if they use traditional tools. This platform makes it simpler for creators to spin as many story arcs as they want that can be triggered any time by your actions. It also automatically detects and fixes conflicts in the storyline that you’ll inevitably cause as you interact with the characters. Take the bears in the video below the fold, for example.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

China will enforce an even tighter control over online names starting on March 1st, and it’s already begun nuking any account that doesn’t conform to its standards. A handful of powerful internet companies in the country have deleted over 60,000 accounts they believe are in violation of China’s new real-name/username policy. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement that these accounts have either harmful usernames (such as “Come Shoot Guns”) or ones that mislead people into thinking that they’re dealing with media or the government (like “Buy License Plates”).

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There isn’t a way to turn back time and prevent the Star Wars prequels from ever releasing (just ask Cher), but maybe Disney XD’s upcoming crack at them could make the flicks palatable. You see, the channel is prepping the launchpad for The Force Awakens December release with a Lego retelling of the entire story so far. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales will recount the narrative in five, 22-minute episodes, as told from the viewpoint of chatterbox C-3PO and his stubby companion R2D2 in a “brand new story.”

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Despite a number of exciting (and novel) announcements related to battery technology, the sad fact is that our smartphones still need to be frequently charged. One thing that hasn’t helped in prolonging the lives of our devices is a trend toward ever thinner phones. In some cases, it seems like things are getting too thin. What if we could get some extra battery life in exchange for a few extra millimeters of padding? Would you do it? Head over to the Engadget forums and let us know what you think!

[Image credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Welcome to the Daily Roundup. In today’s news, you can learn about the history of net neutrality. Meanwhile, we look at Nintendo’s unique strategy and fondly recall Leonard Nimoy. You can read all these stories and more past the break.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Seattle’s officer-worn camera footage is making its way online, but if you were hoping for anything Cops-like you’re likely to be disappointed. In accordance with privacy measures, faces aren’t the only parts of a shot that are blurred out — most of the time it’s the entire frame, and audio’s been scrubbed as well. Seattle’s police department’s using methods recommended by volunteer hacker Tim Clemans, and according to SPD Blotter, the redacting process only took half-a-day to process four hours of raw video. Comparatively, the force’s old methods would take upwards of a 60 minutes to obfuscate a single minute of footage.

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Proposed privacy bill protects industry more than it does people

Proposed privacy bill protects industry more than it does people

If the return of Frank Underwood stoked a thirst for real drama from the nation’s capitol, perhaps the White House’s late-Friday news dump of the proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights will whet your whistle. Alongside common-sense things like Congress finding that Americans “cherish privacy as an element of their individual freedom” in the draft, are headings pertaining to transparency, individual control, security and accountability. In regards to that first one, the bill states (PDF) that companies make their policies for exactly what they do with your data readable without the need for a legalese translator. In addition to that, companies would need to disclose what they’re doing with the reams of data they’re collecting on all of us and comply with requests for data deletion, as well. You’d also be able to request a look at the data collected by companies. Sounds good, right? Well, as the Associated Press reports, that isn’t quite the case.

The bill would essentially strip away some of the Federal Trade Commission’s power

Apparently, the bill has more than a few loopholes giving firms that’d rather not comply a way to opt out without consequence. Fun. This takes place in a few ways: granting the right for “industries to develop their own privacy standards,” and giving start-ups a year-and-a-half wherein they’re free from any punishment for wrongdoings regarding privacy. What’s more, AP notes that the bill would essentially strip away some of the Federal Trade Commission’s power and it wouldn’t have any rule-making authority in matters because those “privacy codes of conduct” would be drafted not by the FTC, but companies themselves. So, say a company like Google could draft its own set of standards to follow that’d undoubtedly be to its own benefit, but unless it violated any of those rules, the government agency that works to protect consumer privacy would have its hands tied.

When you look at the massive swell of (mostly) support for yesterday’s net neutrality rulings, it’s easy to understand why the Obama administration would rather sweep this under the rug. If you believe the critics, however, then this bill might not make it far because it needs a congressional sponsor — something The New York Times reports is unlikely to happen. From the looks of it, let’s hope they’re right.

[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]

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Recommended Reading: The secrets behind ‘Madden’s’ player ratings

Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

Recommended Reading: The secrets behind 'Madden's' player ratings

How Madden Ratings are Made
by Neil Paine
FiveThirtyEight

If you’ve ever played a Madden title, at some point, you’ve questioned how player ratings are compiled. Heck, players are even critical of their own scores. Well, the stats experts over at FiveThirtyEight dive deep on the matter, offering a load of background information and a method for compiling and grading your own abilities… or lack thereof.

Decoding the 2015 Oscars: The ‘Birdman’ Win and What it Tells Us About Hollywood
Mark Harris, Grantland

I’ve been a big fan of Grantland’s Oscar coverage leading up to last weekend’s event, and this wrap-up breaks down the winners, losers and what it all means.

A Big Bet on Choice: Motorola Will Soon Let You Build Your Own Smartwatch
by David Pierce, Wired

News surfaced this week that Motorola would soon allow buyers to customize a Moto 360 smartwatch in addition to a new Moto X. Wired’s David Pierce offers a detailed look at the move toward even more customization.

The Graphic Designer Behind Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’
by Anne Quito, Quartz

The Grand Budapest Hotel won its share at the Oscars, and further showcases Wes Anderson’s knack for bold visuals. Quartz caught up with the designer tasked with creating some of the props that have to match the director’s style.

Look at How Quickly the Values of Multi-Billion-Dollar Startups have Multiplied
by Nitasha Tiku, The Verge

Billion-dollar startups are growing at a ridiculous rate. And news ones are popping up regularly. The Verge examines how the likes of Snapchat, Xiaomi and others earned current values, and what it could mean for the near future.

[Photo credit: EA Sports]

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Motorola Moto 360

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Walmart vs. Netflix DVD battle snags $12 each for 1.2 million people

Walmart vs. Netflix DVD battle snags $12 each for 1.2 million people

Ready for a blast from the past? Ten years ago, Walmart’s plan to undercut Netflix on DVD-by-mail rental pricing failed, and the retail giant turned that part of its business over to the movie service in exchange for a cut of the revenue, referral bonuses and Netflix promoting Walmart’s DVD sales to rental customers. A class action lawsuit against the two followed in 2009, with customers alleging they illegally restrained trade and kept prices high. Walmart settled the case for $27 million in 2011, which will turn into about $12 (paid out in gift cards or cash) for the 1.2 million people who filed claims. While the deadline to file has long passed, the payout has been held up due to appeals in the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco against Walmart and Netflix — until now.

This week judges ruled on a few items (PDF, via Courthouse News Service), including that the settlement was fair — that the nine named plaintiffs get $5,000 each and a large portion went to lawyer’s fees upset a few class action members. At the time even Netflix had objections, worrying that Walmart was simply buying access to its customer list. Another factor in the ruling is that Netflix never considered Walmart a true competitor (it actually raised prices at the time, and didn’t lower them for competition, even from the much larger Blockbuster) the original ruling was correct, and subscribers could not prove they were injured by the tie-up.

It’s not all good news for Netflix though, as the appeals court trimmed the $710k it was awarded for attorney fees, and turned down its request for $21,000 to cover B&W Powerpoint documents. Of course, soon a million or so people will probably be making it rain drizzle with their $12 payouts, Netflix is now primarily a streaming company with over 57 million customers that just delivered season three of House of Cards, and Walmart, well Walmart has the Vudu Spark dongle. All’s well that ends well.

[Image credit: Associated Press]

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Wal-Mart frustrates Netflix, drops online DVD rentals to $12.97 a month

Wal-Mart frustrates Netflix, drops online DVD rentals to $12.97 a month

We’ll most likely holdout for them to drop the price to a nice round $9.99 a month, or at least wait for the introduction of an army of child laborers to hand deliver our DVDs to us before signing up, but Wal-Mart has apparently decided to more or less bankrupt Netflix (and take on Blockbuster) by dropping the price of their monthly online DVD rental service to just $12.97 a month. Not like they’re offering as fine a selection of movies as you’ll find at Netflix or many other companies, it’s just that in the long run there might not be enough people willing to spend the extra $5.02 a month that Netflix costs simply to get access to a lot of the more obscure (and less family-friendly) DVD titles Wal-Mart isn’t going to carry. Most people who rent movies aren’t exactly going to be pissed that Wal-Mart carries only one Dusan Makavejev film.

[Via Digital Media Thoughts]

UPDATE: Shoot, forgot to note that the cheapo plan is only for their 2 DVDs at a time service, whereas Netflix’s $17.99 price is for 3 at a time. Thanks for everyone who kindly brought this to our attention.

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