Google breaks up with Huawei, blocking it from Android apps and services

Google breaks up with Huawei, blocking it from Android apps and services

In a surprise bit of weekend news that could have major implications on the smartphone market, Reuters reports that “Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software, and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing.”

Translation: Huawei can no longer implement a full-fledged version of Android on future devices, losing access to Google services and more. Instead, it’ll only be allowed to use the open source components of Android. That means no Google Play Store, no Gmail, no YouTube – at least not without major workarounds.

We have since independently confirmed the Reuters report, as have several other publications. If the breakup is permanent, it could be a major blow to Huawei‘s smartphone business almost everywhere outside China.

The move follows US suspicion of Huawei‘s relationship with Chinese intelligence, including an indictment for stealing US tech and culminating with the Trump administration placing the company on ‘Entity List’ on Wednesday. It’s a trade blacklist that effectively barrs Huawei from doing business with American companies like Qualcomm, Intel, and Google without approval from the US government.

In other words, Google dumping Huawei appears to be a matter of compliance with the Trump blacklist rather than an independent decision to cut ties with the Chinese behemoth. The broad scope of the blacklist means other tech companies are sure to cut ties soon as well – Google is simply the most prominent partner.

When asked about Huawei‘s blacklist status, a Google spokesperson simply replied: “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications.”

The ban prevents Google from directly working with Huawei on hardware, software, and technical services. This primarily affects future devices, not ones already on the market. Aside from forcing future Huawei devices to use the public (Android Open Source Project) version of Google’s OS, those products won’t be able to access Google apps and services.

Luckily, existing devices don’t need permission from Google to continue to receive app and service updates. However, security updates will be delayed, as Huawei will have to wait for them to become available in AOSP rather sourcing them directly from Google. It’s also unclear whether future Google services will be able to work on existing Huawei devices.

It’s important to note that while Huawei is being prevented from doing business with American companies, the implications are global; Huawei won’t be able to use components and software from American businesses in any market. Google services are typically not available in China, but they’re an essential part of the Android experience virtually everywhere else. Without the Play Store, Huawei sales outside of its homeland could suffer dramatically.

Huawei is unlikely to go down quietly, and it’ll probably challenge its blacklist placement and Android revocation. Moreover, it’s unclear how permanent the ban is intended to be.

Last year, the US blacklisted ZTE for similar reasons – that ban only lasted from April to July. Though the Huawei ban puts pressure on China, preventing US companies from doing business with the world’s second largest smartphone maker will hurt their bottom line too. Trump is meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping in Japan next month; the Huawei ban could be meant as leverage for that encounter.

To think it was less than four years ago that Google and Huawei worked so closely together to bring us the Nexus 6P. We’ll update this post if we learn any more relevant details.


Walmart is hiring more robots to replace human tasks like cleaning floors and scanning inventory

Walmart is hiring more robots to replace human tasks like cleaning floors and scanning inventory

Walmart is hiring robots to replace human tasks that humans didn’t “enjoy doing.” In a bid to save on labor costs, it’s betting on robots to clean floors, sort inventory, and replenish out-of-stock items in its stores, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Walmart has several jobs in mind for the new robots. Robot floor cleaners are coming to 1,500 stores. (The company says that floor scrubbing was previously a task that could take a human worker two to three hours each day to complete.) Walmart is also adding 600 conveyor belts that can sort inventory automatically, and at least 300 bots that can check if shelves are running out of stock after Walmart initially began to test this technology in 2017.

All of this is coming at the cost of human labor. The more robots Walmart hires, the fewer people it needs for each task, and the more money it saves across its 4,600 stores in the US. Walmart says that although it’s cutting down on labor for tasks like flooring cleaning, it is hiring employees to focus on growing its online grocery business. The move also comes after retail companies like Target and Walmart announced slight wage increases for store workers.

Walmart appears to be trying to make its online grocery service competitive to AmazonFresh and Amazon Prime Now’s Whole Foods delivery, both of which are still expanding. It’s part of a long feud between the two retail giants. While the brick-and-mortar Walmart has been pushed to acquire and establish more of an online presence, Amazon has added physical stores to its e-commerce offerings and began to follow the playbooks of more traditional brands. Just last week, Amazon announced a new round of price cuts at Whole Foods stores around greens and tropical fruits. The company also reportedly has plans to expand grocery stores in major US cities later this year.


Google Duplex starts rolling out to iPhones and more Android phones

Google Duplex starts rolling out to iPhones and more Android phones

Google’s automated calling service, Duplex, is starting to roll out to iPhones and a lot more Android phones. The service, which lets a human-sounded robot voice make phone calls on your behalf to book restaurant reservations, launched on the latest Pixel devices in December. Google announced in March that it would come to more phones shortly, and now that rollout has begun.

In an email, a Google spokesperson confirmed that broader Duplex rollout started this week. The service is supposed to be available on all devices running Android 5.0 and higher as well as any iPhones with the Google Assistant app installed. Currently, the service only works in English, in 43 US states.

XDA-Developers reports seeing Duplex work on Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus. We haven’t seen reports of Duplex being live on any other phones yet, but it’s a sign that the expansion is underway.

Your Tesla can now change lanes without asking permission

Your Tesla can now change lanes without asking permission

Today, Tesla is taking a step closer to a true self-driving car future with a mode that entirely lets your car decide when to change lanes. (Yes, we’ve just entered a world where your car might pass other cars automatically.)

Previously, if you punch in your destination, keep your hands on the steering wheel and feet near the pedals, your Tesla’s optional “Navigate on Autopilot” mode would do its best to keep you on the freeway, proactively asking for confirmation before it makes any lane changes. But a new software update changes that. If the driver says they don’t require the car to confirm a lane change, the car will… just change lanes.

Here’s how Tesla’s new press release describes the change (bolding ours):

In the Autopilot settings menu, a driver can press the Customize Navigate on Autopilot button which will now display three additional settings – Enable at Start of Every Trip, Require Lane Change Confirmation, and Lane Change Notification. Through the Enable at Start of Every Trip setting, Navigate on Autopilot can be set to automatically turn on each time a driver enters a navigation route. Once enabled, anytime a driver is on a highway and uses Autopilot with a location plugged into the navigation bar, the feature will be on by default. If a driver selects ‘No’ to Require Lane Change Confirmation, lane changes will happen automatically, without requiring a driver to confirm them first. Drivers can elect to get notified about an upcoming lane change by receiving an audible chime as well as a default visual prompt. Additionally, all cars made after August 2017 will also have the option to have their steering wheel vibrate for the alert as well.

As Elon Musk himself points out, the press release sells the feature a little bit short:

Tesla says it’s already tested it internally, and with Early Access Program drivers, for half a million miles already. The feature’s starting to roll out today for US customers, and “will be introduced in other markets in the future pending validation and regulatory approval.”



Apple’s new AirPods come with a wireless charging case, Hey Siri support, and more battery life

Apple’s new AirPods come with a wireless charging case, Hey Siri support, and more battery life

Apple’s week of surprise product launches continues with the announcement of the second-generation AirPods, which will include a wireless charging case and a new H1 chip that the company claims offers improved battery life and “Hey, Siri” support to trigger the virtual assistant without pressing a button.

The new wireless charging case works with standard Qi charging, so it should work with nearly every wireless charger out there. Otherwise, both the second-gen AirPods and the case look virtually identical to the first model, except for a small LED light on the wireless charging case to indicate battery life.

Apple says the H1 chip offers a number of benefits over the W1 chip in the last generation. Specifically, there’s up to an extra hour of talk time, which Apple says is a 50 percent increase; connection times are twice as fast when switching between devices; and the aforementioned “Hey, Siri” support — which Apple already offers on newer iPhones, iPads, Macs, and the HomePod — that allows you to ask Siri things hands-free.

Apple will be selling the updated AirPods in two options: with the wireless charging case for $199 or with the standard case for the same $159 price as the previous generation. The company will also sell the wireless charging case separately for existing AirPod owners for $79. That way, users will be able to charge their headphones with a wireless charger without upgrading to the new model.

Notably missing from the announcement is any mention of Apple’s still-missing AirPower wireless charger, which was first announced alongside the iPhone X over a year and a half ago. It was marketed primarily around being able to charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods wirelessly at the same time.





Apple confirms March 25th event, expected to announce new TV service

Apple confirms March 25th event, expected to announce new TV service

Apple has officially confirmed that it will hold an event on March 25th where it’s is expected to announce its long-rumored TV streaming and Apple News subscription services.

As usual, the invitation doesn’t have much to go by, but the animated countdown GIF and “It’s show time” tag seem to hint that the new TV service will play a big role. Rumors of an event at the end of March began last month, saying that the company will reportedly focus exclusively on services. Although, there is always a chance that we could see the anticipated announcements of revamped AirPods, a new entry-level iPad, and the long-delayed AirPower wireless charging pad.


This is not the first time that Apple has used this tagline for an event: the company first used it for a September 2006 event where it announced that it would start offering movies on iTunes, along with the first reveal of the iTV (which would be renamed Apple TV on release in 2007). It’s certainly a fitting teaser for the upcoming event. Just like in 2006, we could see Apple’s media offerings for its devices expand yet again.


Along with the TV service, which is rumored to launch later this spring, Apple is also expected to take the wraps off its Apple News subscription service. The Apple News service will reportedly look to offer a Netflix-style bundle for magazines and subscription newspapers all in one convenient place. An early report from The Wall Street Journal indicated that Apple was having trouble with negotiations, reportedly demanding a staggering 50 percent of revenue from the service.



Huawei Launches New $2,600 Foldable 5G Phone to Rival Samsung

Huawei Launches New $2,600 Foldable 5G Phone to Rival Samsung

Huawei Technologies Co. announced a smartphone that unfolds into a small tablet computer, potentially rendering the need to carry two separate devices obsolete.

The Mate X supports next-generation 5G networks and will cost 2,299 euros ($2,606) when released in the summer. It’s the second folding phone announced by a major manufacturer within a week. Samsung revealed the Galaxy Fold on Wednesday.

“We’ve been working on this folding screen hinge for three years,” Huawei Consumer Group Chief Executive Officer Richard Yu said on stage at MWC Barcelona Sunday. “It’s very expensive, but there’s lots of new technology here.”

The market for smartphones is slowing, and manufacturers are scrambling to find new ways to convince consumers they should upgrade their devices. Next-generation high-speed networks are still a far away from mainstream availability, so device makers are looking at new device form factors to conjure up excitement.

But they come at a cost. Huawei’s 2,299-euro price tag is only slightly steeper than Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, which will cost 2,000 euros when it’s released later this year. With premium mobile phones already costing well over $1,000 a piece, customers have been turning to cheaper alternatives, often made by lesser-known companies.

Huawei has been battling global scrutiny over its telecom equipment, but often overlooked is the company’s rapid growth as a smartphone manufacturer. Last year it surpassed Apple to become the world’s second-largest maker of smartphones, according to data from market research firm IDC.

When folded, the Mate X has a 6.6-inch display, which is just slightly larger than Apple Inc.’s iPhone XS Max. But when opened out, Huawei’s device becomes an 8-inch tablet computer. It runs on Alphabet Inc.-owned Google’s Android operating system.

Thomas Husson, an analyst at Forrester, said the Mate X “shows Huawei is a leader in tech innovation.” But it will be “a few years” before a significant mass of customers get their hands on 5G functionalities and foldable screens, he said.


Source: Bloomberg Technology

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Buds leak in TV commercial

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Buds leak in TV commercial

If there was a Guinness World record for most leaked phone, Samsung would win. We’ve seen Galaxy S10 hands-on photos, videos, press renders, leaks from Samsung’s website, and even Samsung allowing consumers to reserve a Galaxy S10 before it’s officially announced tomorrow. If you thought you knew everything there was to know about the Galaxy S10, then Samsung has gone one step further now and aired a TV commercial

If you thought you knew everything there was to know about the Galaxy S10, then Samsung has gone one step further now and aired a TV commercial featuring the unannounced handset in Norway.

Verge reader Endre Loeset spotted the 30-second slot, and recorded it (see above). It appears the commercial was accidentally aired by TV 2, the largest commercial television broadcaster in Norway. You’ll need to brush up on your Norwegian skills to fully understand it, but it clearly confirms the Galaxy S10’s hole punch display, ultrasonic fingerprint reader, triple-camera system at the rear, and reverse wireless charging. Even Samsung’s Galaxy Buds make a brief appearance, revealing that you can wirelessly charge them by placing them on the rear of Samsung’s Galaxy S10.

The commercial leaves nothing to the imagination about tomorrow’s Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event. The Verge will be covering Samsung’s event live tomorrow from 11AM PT / 1PM ET, so expect to hear a lot more about the Samsung Galaxy S10 tomorrow, unless Samsung leaks more information ahead of time.


Source: The Verge

Google is letting some users test its AR navigation feature for Google Maps

Google is letting some users test its AR navigation feature for Google Maps

At last year’s I/O developer’s conference, Google showed off a new augmented reality feature for Google Maps, which would provide people with directions from your phone’s camera in realtime. As my colleague Chaim Gartenberg noted, it’s a bit like what was promised with Google Glass, but without the headset. The Wall Street Journal’s David Pierce got to try out an early version of the feature.

He says that while it “isn’t likely to be your primary turn-by-turn option, it’s a huge step in the right direction for Google Maps.” He described how the feature worked — the app picks up a person’s location via GPS, and then uses Street View data to narrow it down to your exact location. Once his location was pinned down, it displayed big arrows and directions in his screen. “It was as if Maps had drawn my directions onto the real world, though nobody else could see them.”

He goes on to say that the app doesn’t appear to let you use the camera persistently, urging you to put it down after a short while, and displaying its regular map interface when you do so. Rachel Inman, the company’s user-experience lead tells him that “it’s for those moments like, ‘I’m getting off the subway, where do I go first?’”

Google has reportedly been experimenting with the user interface, finding that users will follow a line on the ground too closely, and that an animated guide will keep them glued to the screen. Pierce notes that the interface he previewed could change, and that Google isn’t saying when the feature will roll out to users, just that it’ll be available to “a few Local Guides” soon, and “will come to everyone only when Google is satisfied that it’s ready.”

Pierce notes that there are a couple of takeaways from this. The first is that a big advantage of the feature is that it provide people with very specific location data, and that it’s a feature that isn’t likely to remain on phones, but on AR-capable glasses. Companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, North, Vuzix, and others have all been working on, or are selling their own AR glasses, meaning that Google’s new feature could eventually make its way into your line of sight.

Apple inks $600M deal to license IP, acquire assets and talent from Dialog to expand chipmaking in Europe

Apple inks $600M deal to license IP, acquire assets and talent from Dialog to expand chipmaking in Europe

Apple has quietly been putting considerable effort into building faster and more efficient chips that can help differentiate its hardware from the rest of the consumer electronics pack, and today it’s taking its next (and possibly largest) step in that strategy. Apple is paying $300 million in cash to buy a portion of Dialog Semiconductor, a chipmaker based out of Europe that it has been working with since the first iPhone. On top of the $300 million portion of the deal, Apple is also committing a further $300 million to make purchases from the remaining part of Dialog’s business, making it a $600 million deal in total.

While Dialog is describing this as an asset transfer and licensing deal, it will be Apple’s biggest acquisition by far in terms of people: 300 people will be joining Apple as part of it, or about 16 percent of Dialog’s total workforce. From what we understand, those who are joining have already been working tightly with Apple up to now. The teams joining are based across Livorno in Italy, Swindon in England, and Nabern and Neuaubing in Germany, near Munich, where Apple already has an operation.

In some cases, Apple will be taking over entire buildings that had been owned by Dialog, and in others they will be colocating in buildings where Dialog will continue to develop its own business — another sign of how closely the two have and will continue to work together. The Dialog employees Apple is picking up in this acquisition will report to Apple’s SVP of hardware technologies, Johny Srouji. 

“Dialog has deep expertise in chip development, and we are thrilled to have this talented group of engineers who’ve long supported our products now working directly for Apple,” said Srouji, in a statement. “Our relationship with Dialog goes all the way back to the early iPhones, and we look forward to continuing this long-standing relationship with them.”

Apple’s payment also includes IP and licenses for further IP, we understand.

The deal — which is expected to close in the first half of 2019, pending regulatory approvals — comes at a time when many expect Apple to release a VR headset in the future, and while our sources haven’t told us specifically about this, what we do know is that one big, more general focus for the company is to continue working on power management and chips that are more efficient in that regard, particularly considering the newest devices that Apple has added to its range: AirPods headphones and the Watch — wireless, high-performing hardware.

In September, at the same time that it announced its latest generation of iPhone devices, Apple announced a new chip of its own design, the A12 Bionic. Apple claims the A12 Bionic is the industry’s first 7nm chip (although as we’ve said before different companies measure these differently).

With 6.96 billion transistors, the A12 Bionic features a 6-core CPU and a 4-Core GPU, along with Apple’s Neural Engine for running machine learning workloads. The chip’s two high-performance cores and four efficiency cores, with the high-performance cores up to 15 percent faster and 40 percent more power efficient than previous chips, and the efficiency cores using up to 50 percent less power.

Apple also says that the Neural Engine is capable processing 5 trillion operations per second, up from 600 billion for its predecessor, the A11.

Dialog says post the acquisition, the remaining part of the business will focus more on IoT, as well as mobile, automotive, computing and storage markets, specifically as a provider of custom and configurable mixed-signal integrated circuit chips.

“This transaction reaffirms our long-standing relationship with Apple, and demonstrates the value of the strong business and technologies we have built at Dialog,” said Jalal Bagherli, CEO of Dialog, in a statement. “Going forward, we will have a clear strategic focus, building on our custom and configurable mixed-signal IC expertise and world-class power-efficient design. Our execution track record, deep customer relationships, and talented employees give us great confidence in our future growth prospects… We believe that this transaction is in the best interests of our employees and shareholders who will benefit from a business with enhanced focus, strong growth prospects and additional financial flexibility to invest in strategic growth initiatives.”

Interestingly, you might recall that Apple once eyed up buying another chipmaker acquisition in Europe, Imagination Technologies, which had been a close partner of the company. That deal ultimately did not come to pass, Apple started work on its own graphics chips, and more recently has even been in some disputes with Imagination.

It also comes at a time when Apple has been in the spotlight for another kind of chip story: the company was named in a controversial Bloomberg report alleging that there have been “spy chips” secretly implanted on Apple hardware by way of Supermicro motherboards — a report that Apple and others have strongly denied and that hasn’t been corroborated so far. This should shift the focus on what people are talking about when they think of Apple and chips.

Dialog is holding a conference call later this morning to talk more about the deal and we will update this story as we learn more.

More to come.