Technology News Recap: 17th September 2018

1. New iPhone XS, XS Max and XR, 2018 release

On September 12, Apple announced the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. They will officially replace the iPhone X, which has already been pulled from Apple store, following the big announcement.

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are practically one and the same they just come in two different sizes. XR is a cheaper, more colorful phone with a few compromises, starting at $749 for the lowest storage capacity. Meanwhile, XS has a starting price of $999 and the XS Max’s 64GB model costs a whopping $1,099. The higher the internal storage the steeper the price tag.

By starting the phone prices at a grand or more, Apple attempts to measure people’s willingness to pay for a high-end phone. Last quarter Chinese brand Huawei outsold the IPhone which will need to impress buyers if Apple intends Huawei and regain its seat as the world’s second-largest phone maker, after No. 1 Samsung.

Quick specs:

  • iPhone XS and XS Max quickspecs
  • Two sizes: 5.8-inch (458 ppi) and 6.5-inch (458 ppi), with OLED HDR screen (Super Retina displays)
  • Colors: Gold, silver and space gray finishes
  • Dual camera: 12-megapixel wide and telephoto lenses
  • Front-facing cameras: 7-megapixel camera will bring depth to portrait mode photos
  • A12 Bionic chip: 7-nanometer processor promises to launch apps 30 percent faster than 2017 iPhones
  • Storage options: 64GB, 128GB, 512GB
  • IP68 water-resistance rating (2 meters depth; up to 30 minutes in water)
  • Battery life: iPhone XS should last 30 minutes longer than iPhone X; iPhone XS Max claims 1.5 hours longer than the iPhone X
  • Dual-SIM card support through eSIM technology
  • Face ID promises to work faster at unlocking the phones
  • 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screen
  • Stereo sound with a wider stereo field than 2017 iPhones
  • iOS 12 software
  • Pricing: Starts at $999 (£999, AU$1,629) for 64GB iPhone XS

Preorders for the iPhone XS and XS Max began on Sept. 14, going on sale next Friday, Sept. 21. The iPhone XR preorders begin Oct. 19 and it goes on sale Oct. 26.

Source: CNET

2. Instagram: Certain hashtags will send a pop-up about opioid addiction support

According to Instagram, people are using the platform’s hashtags to find addiction support and communities as well as illegal drugs. As a response, the company is released a pop-up that provide users with drug addiction resources if they search certain hashtags, like “opioid.”

The pop-up reads:
“If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid or substance misuse, find ways to get free and confidential treatment referrals, as well as information about substance abuse, prevention, and recovery.”

That way, Instagram users can now choose to get support resources which were developed with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and the Partnership for Drug Free Kids. Advice for family and friends of people with substance abuse issues will also be available.

There are two ways in which the drug-related hashtags are used on Instagram. Firstly, to find support communities and secondly to misuse them to sell drugs. The company says blocking of these hashtags (which Instagram has already done) prevents helpful support communities from forming. For this reason, this new update was rolled out, to aid people with substance abuse.
Facebook already has similar resources built in and if a user searches for certain drug-related topics, i.e. “buy Xanax,” they’ll get a substance support box similar to Instagram’s. Certain searches are blocked by Facebook to prevent drug dealers from reaching people.

Source: The Verge

3. Spotify download limit raised

A new Spotify update raises the pesky offline song download limit to 10,000 songs per device. The limit was previously set at 3,333 songs per device (on a maximum of three devices). Now the limit has been raised and you can download that many tunes on five different devices instead of just three. The company states “At Spotify, we’re always working on improving the experience for our users”.

In contrast, Spotify’s 10,000 track limit on your personal library remains very much in place. Once the limit is reached, the user has to clear out their library and get rid of albums or artists they do not listen to regularly. Many hope Spotify will address this issue next and raise the maximum library size, as well. In the meantime, enjoy the new update and download songs to enjoy and listen to offline in your spare time.

Source: The Verge

4. What not to post: The EU copyright directive

Last week, the European Union passed a Copyright Directive, including amended versions of its onerous Articles 11 and 13 (the so-called “link tax” and “upload filter,” respectively). The bill aims to increases the responsibilities of technology platforms and the rights of content producers. Many publishers, music labels and the like argue that giants such as Facebook and Google make a lot of money from content that is made by others whose share is shrinking. So what does the bill entail exactly?

The legislation proposes to make it necessary for online content providers to get authorization from the content creators, without which the provider will have to prevent availability of that content. This would give publishers extended rights over online use of their content. Lawmakers have championed the need to balance profits for the creators and profits for platforms that make the content publicly available. These platforms are online service providers that aim to make profits from organising, promoting, or categorising copyright-protected content uploaded by users. These include Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit and YouTube.

This new legislation that would completely turn over the way the internet works and threatens the existence of everything from encyclopedias to memes. Technology platforms, academics, industry pioneers, and other rights organisations warm against threats to freedom of expression and to “open online sharing”. Especially frightening, they say, is the “upload filter” of Article 13, which would encourage companies to deploy algorithms that play it safe and over-restrict content. Campaigners have also highlighted that the resulting “censorship machines” will not be able to discern parodies, satire, and memes. “This would effectively turn the internet into a place where everything uploaded to the web must be cleared by lawyers before it can find an audience,” according to Google’s blog. Wikipedia even shut down some of its pages in protest.

There’s still time to make sure it never passes into law by defeating a final ratification vote in January, though given the 438-226 vote on Wednesday.

Source: Gizmodo

5. Chinese search engine prototype by Google’s reportedly links searches to phone numbers.

Apparently this search engine prototype will link Chinese users’ Google searches to their personal phone numbers, as part of a new search service that would comply with the Chinese government’s censorship requirements. A secret project called “Dragonfly” Android app, was revealed by a whistleblower last month, could be linked to a user’s phone number which would allow individual users’ searches to be easily tracked.

This feature would come in addition to Dragonfly’s blacklisting of terms like “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize,” which might normally pull up news about Chinese activist and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. Various sources have reported that it is “essentially hardcoded” to replace weather and air pollution results with potentially doctored data from a source in China.The existence of Dragonfly has not been yet confirmed by Google as they have primarily declined to comment on reports about the project.

This was enough to draw a collective outcry from Google employees. Around 1,400 Google employees have allegedly signed a letter demanding more information about the project, which has been shrouded in secrecy and reportedly runs in partnership with a Chinese company. China’s government has only tightened its reins over the internet since 2010, while expanding a regime of high-tech social control that includes “social credit” scores (which can determine things like citizens’ travel rights) and a sophisticated surveillance apparatus for watching its Muslim minority population in Xinjiang. Searches on Dragonfly wouldn’t be secure even if the phone linking feature were to be removed as simply having user data hosted in China, allows government agencies to access it.

Source: The Verge

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