Messaging App Viber Overhauls Third-Party Chat Extensions in Latest Update

Popular messaging platform Viber announced an update to its mobile app today that includes an overhaul of its Chat Extensions feature, offering users access to a raft of sources of third-party content right from within the chat window.

Starting today, directly in their private chat screen, users can find and share their favorite videos from YouTube, songs from Spotify, the perfect stay from Booking.com and soon compelling original content from VICE Media. Alongside these providers, users can find other valuable content to enrich their conversations from GIPHY, Guggy and Getty Images.
One of the feature's being highlighted by the company is the addition of the YouTube extension. Viber said YouTube videos were among the most popular form of link-sharing among its users worldwide, and now Google's video platform is accessible directly within the chat screen. Users can search, share and even play YouTube videos without leaving their conversations.

Elsewhere, the Spotify extension allows users to access all of their music and share it in the chat app, while the VICE chat extension brings content spanning news, culture, food, fashion, music, sports, tech and more.

"Viber's Chat Extensions platform is an exciting environment for VICE’s stories," said Sterling Proffer, Senior Vice President, Head of Business Strategy & Development for VICE. "As we continue to aggressively grow our cross-platform distribution, it's still context that matters most. The stories we tell are great additions to any conversation, and making that effort seamless to Viber's 800 million users is a no-brainer."
Viber said it would also launch local services in Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Philippines and elsewhere. Based on its API, selected content and service providers will be able to build their own chat extensions and create new ways for users to enrich their chats.

Viber's new Chat Extensions will roll out gradually, becoming available globally in the coming days. Viber is a free app for iOS available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Tag: Viber

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Qualcomm Now Facing Lawsuit From U.S Regulators in Addition to Ongoing Apple Feud

In January, the United States Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Qualcomm that accused the company of using anticompetitive tactics to remain the dominant supplier of baseband processors for smartphones, violating the FTC Act. This week, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of San Jose, California ruled that the FTC's antitrust lawsuit against Qualcomm can proceed, forcing the supplier to face legal battles both from U.S. regulators and in an ongoing $1 billion lawsuit from Apple (via Reuters).

Judge Koh denied Qualcomm's motion to dismiss the FTC's lawsuit, because the FTC had so far "adequately alleged" anticompetitive tactics were being used by Qualcomm. Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm, said that the "FTC will have the burden to prove its claims, which we continue to believe are without merit."

The Federal Trade Commission's antitrust lawsuit against Qualcomm Inc can proceed, a federal judge ruled late on Monday, meaning the iPhone chip supplier must now wage a fight with U.S. regulators even as it contests a separate $1 billion lawsuit filed by Apple Inc.

The FTC highlighted Qualcomm's "no license, no chips" policy under which the San Diego company refuses to sell chips unless customers also sign a patent license agreement and pay Qualcomm fees. Qualcomm refused to grant licenses to its rivals in order to keep a monopoly, the FTC alleged.
Although a final ruling is still far away, Rosenberg mentioned that Qualcomm looks forward to "further proceedings in which we will be able to develop a more accurate factual record." In response to the FTC's original complaint from January, Qualcomm cited a "flawed legal theory, a lack of economic support, and significant misconceptions about the mobile technology industry" in its first legal defense.

For Apple's lawsuit, the Cupertino company sued Qualcomm for $1 billion days after the FTC filed its first complaint in January, arguing the company had charged unfair royalties for "technologies they have nothing to do with." As the case continued throughout the year, in mid June Apple broadened its claims against Qualcomm, stating that Qualcomm wrongly bases its royalties on a percentage of the entire iPhone's value, despite supplying just a single component of the device.

Referred to as Qualcomm's "double dipping, extra reward system," Apple argued that these tactics were the same kind that the U.S. Supreme Court recently forbade in a lawsuit between Lexmark and a small company reselling its printer cartridges. After Qualcomm set its sights on four major Apple suppliers for failing to pay royalties on the use of Qualcomm's technology in the assembly of Apple's devices, Apple said that Qualcomm had revealed "its true bullying nature."


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Urban Armor Gear Announces Metropolis Cases for 10.5 & 12.9-Inch iPad Pro

Urban Armor Gear (UAG) has announced the launch of its new Metropolis Series Cases designed for Apple's new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The Metropolis cases meet U.S. military specification standards for 360-degree comprehensive protection from drops and shocks, with an impact-resistant soft core and a tactile non-slip exterior grip.


A smart cover protects the iPad Pro's screen and functions as a multi-position stand, while corner bumpers provide extra drop protection for the tablet's display.

The cases also come with onboard storage for an Apple Pencil, and the smart cover is removable which ensures the cases are compatible with Apple's Smart Keyboard. Elsewhere, the oversized ports and cutouts provide plenty of space for attaching third-party cables and accessories.

The Metropolis Series Case costs $59.95 for the iPad Pro 10.5-inch and $89.95 for the iPad Pro 12.9-inch. Both cases come in Black, Red, and Cobalt, and can be ordered off the Urban Armor Gear (UAG) website.


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Urban Armor Gear Announces Metropolis Cases for 10.5 & 12.9-Inch iPad Pro

Urban Armor Gear (UAG) has announced the launch of its new Metropolis Series Cases designed for Apple's new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The Metropolis cases meet U.S. military specification standards for 360-degree comprehensive protection from drops and shocks, with an impact-resistant soft core and a tactile non-slip exterior grip.


A smart cover protects the iPad Pro's screen and functions as a multi-position stand, while corner bumpers provide extra drop protection for the tablet's display.

The cases also come with onboard storage for an Apple Pencil, and the smart cover is removable which ensures the cases are compatible with Apple's Smart Keyboard. Elsewhere, the oversized ports and cutouts provide plenty of space for attaching third-party cables and accessories.

The Metropolis Series Case costs $59.95 for the iPad Pro 10.5-inch and $89.95 for the iPad Pro 12.9-inch. Both cases come in Black, Red, and Cobalt, and can be ordered off the Urban Armor Gear (UAG) website.


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Vivo Unveils Screen-Embedded Fingerprint Sensor Technology at MWC2017 Shanghai

As predicted, Vivo showcased fingerprint sensor technology embedded in a smartphone screen on Wednesday at the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Shanghai. The 'Under Display Fingerprint Scanning Solution' is based on Qualcomm technology and was demonstrated running on prototype devices based on the existing Vivo Xplay 6 phone.

Vivo claimed the under-display fingerprint solution, which doesn't require a physical button for the sensor, is "the first to be demonstrated by a smartphone manufacturer". The technology enables the use of a "true full-screen display and an integrated unibody and mechanical waterproofing design", said the company.

"In Vivo's R&D plan, fingerprint scanning will not be carried out by an independent button or region. It will be realised more subtly under the screen, behind the metal shell, or even in the frame.

"Based on ultrasonic technology, the fingerprint recognition technology can be further expanded to realize user interaction, such as gesture recognition, security verification and other fields, which will greatly enhance user experience."
Vivo told Engadget that while the fingerprint scanning function was limited to a small region on the prototype devices, in theory the same sensing technology could be applied across the entire screen, but that it would significantly increase production cost.

Following the unveiling, Qualcomm issued a press release announcing the development of new fingerprint scanners that work through displays, thick glass, and metal, with underwater operation, heartbeat and blood flow detection.
"We are excited to announce Qualcomm Fingerprint Sensors because they can be designed to support sleeker, cutting-edge form factors, unique mobile authentication experiences, and enhanced security authentication," said Seshu Madhavapeddy, vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "This provides OEMs and operators with the ability to offer truly distinct, differentiated devices with added value on truly groundbreaking new devices."
Qualcomm claimed the technology was capable of scanning through OLED display stacks "of up to 1200um", and was the first commercially announced to scan through up to 800 µm of cover glass and up to 650 µm of aluminum, an improvement over the previous generation's 400 µm capability for glass or metal. The company said it had designed the technology as an integrated solution with Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platforms, and as standalone sensors that can be used with other non-Snapdragon platforms.


Qualcomm said the fingerprint sensors for glass and metal will be available to OEMs this month and should arrive in commercial devices in the first half of 2018. The sensors for displays are expected to be available to OEMs for evaluation in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Apple's upcoming "iPhone 8" is rumored to include a fingerprint-sensing display, but the company has reportedly faced significant challenges in its efforts to develop the technology for its radically redesigned flagship device, due to release in the fall.

Apple is currently in a major legal battle with Qualcomm over its LTE modems, so it seems unlikely the company would consider offering its technology for inclusion in future iPhones. However, the announcement at least demonstrates that the technology is viable, which lends further credence to reports that Apple has perfected its own screen-embedded fingerprint recognition solution. The technology will give Apple's OLED iPhone a significant advantage over its biggest rival, Samsung, which is expected to stick with a rear fingerprint scanner for this year's Galaxy Note 8.

Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 8 and more traditional "iPhone 7s" and "iPhone 7s Plus" models around the usual September timeframe for iPhone updates, although rumors have suggested supplies of the more expensive OLED handset could be tight for up to several months after the official debut.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: Qualcomm, MWC17, Vivo

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Uber Users Can Now ‘Request a Ride for a Loved One’

Uber yesterday introduced a new ride-hailing feature in its mobile app that lets users request a ride for a friend or family member in a different location.

Uber announced the news in a blog post on its website, suggesting the feature would let users "request a ride for a loved one" such as a senior with limited mobility who doesn't have an Uber account or a smartphone.
Now, when you set the pickup away from your current location, we'll automatically ask whether the ride is for a family member or friend. You can then select the rider from your address book, set their destination, and request the ride on their behalf.
Once the ride is on its way, the loved one receives a text message with the driver's details and a link to track their route. The feature also includes an option for the rider to contact the driver directly, and vice versa.

The feature is available now in over 30 countries, with more coming soon, according to Uber. The Uber app is a free download for iPhone available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Tag: Uber

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Apple Stops Signing iOS 10.3.1

Following the release of iOS 10.3.2 on May 15, Apple has stopped signing iOS 10.3.1, the previous version of iOS that was available to consumers.

Customers who have upgraded to iOS 10.3.2 will no longer be able to downgrade their devices to iOS 10.3.1.

Apple routinely stops signing older versions of software updates after new releases come out in order to encourage customers to keep their operating systems up to date.

iOS 10.3.2 is now the only version of iOS 10 that can be installed on iOS devices by the general public, but developers and public beta testers can download iOS 10.3.3, a future update that is being beta tested and could see a release in the near future.
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Apple Maps Transit Directions Start Rolling Out in Madrid

Apple recently updated its Maps app to add transit directions and data for Madrid, Spain, one of the cities where hints of transit support first surfaced months ago.

When searching for directions in Madrid, transit options that include the Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid bus line, the Cercanías Madrid, and the Madrid Metro are now available. Madrid does not, however, have full transit routes visible in the Maps app as of yet, so transit support is still rolling out.


Transit directions were first added to Apple Maps in 2015 as part of iOS 9. At launch, transit information was only available in a handful of cities, but Apple has been working hard to expand the feature to additional locations. Transit information is now live in dozens of cities and countries around the world, with a full list available on Apple's iOS 10 Feature Availability website.

Other cities that could soon gain transit support based on transit station outlines Apple has added include Perth, Australia; Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; Rome, Italy; Taiwan; and several German states, including Hamburg, Bremen, Niedersachsen, and Schleswig-Holstein.

Other recent transit rollouts include The Netherlands, Paris, Singapore, and Adelaide, Australia.

(Thanks, Álvaro!)


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Pandora Ending Operations in New Zealand and Australia as CEO Steps Down

Popular streaming radio service Pandora plans to stop offering its service in New Zealand and Australia, a spokesperson told Billboard this afternoon. Australia and New Zealand are currently the only non-U.S. locations where the company operates, and Pandora has decided to focus its business solely on the United States.
A Pandora spokesperson told Billboard that after much analysis, it was decided to discontinue operations in the two countries over the next few weeks. "While our experience in these markets reinforces the broader global opportunity long-term, in the short-term we must remain laser-focused on the expansion of our core business in the United States," the rep said.
Pandora plans to begin shutting down operations in the two countries over the course of the next few weeks, which means its international offices in those locations will be shuttered. Pandora has somewhere around 5 million listeners in Australia and New Zealand, and it employs approximately 60 people at its offices in Australia.


As Pandora prepares to pull out of Australia and New Zealand, Pandora founder Tim Westergren today stepped down from his position as CEO, also exiting the company's board of directors. Pandora president Mike Herring and CMO Nick Bartle are also leaving the company.

In a statement, Westergren, who has twice left his role as CEO over the years, said Pandora is "perfectly poised for its next chapter." Under his leadership, Pandora launched its "Pandora Premium" on-demand streaming service and got a major investment from SiriusXM.
Westergren said, "I am incredibly proud of the company we have built. We invented a whole new way of enjoying and discovering music and in doing so, forever changed the listening experience for millions. I came back to the CEO role last year to drive transformation across the business. We accomplished far more than we anticipated. We rebuilt Pandora's relationships with the music industry; launched a fantastic Premium on-demand service, and brought a host of tech innovations to our advertising business. With these in place, plus a strengthened balance sheet, I believe Pandora is perfectly poised for its next chapter."
As of Q1 2017 [PDF], Pandora had 4.71 million subscribers across its Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium subscription options, and more than 80 million active users. Until March, Pandora didn't offer a service that competed with Apple Music, but Pandora Premium is seeing significant early interest, with 500,000 trial subscriptions during its first weeks of availability.

Apple Music now has more than 27 million subscribers, a new number shared by Apple on June 5.

Tag: Pandora

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Trailer Recreated on Vintage Apple IIc Computer

Animator and illustrator Wahyu Ichwandardi has shared one of his newest projects on Twitter this week, where he recreated the entire two-minute trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi on a vintage Apple IIc from 1984, using the bitmap paint program Dazzle Draw and a KoalaPad+, both from the same year (via TechCrunch).

Image via @pinot on Instagram

The project required 48 floppy discs and 288 image files, totaling 6MB of storage space. For post processing, Ichwandardi used Apple Disk Transfer ProDOS software and a floppy disc emulator device to copy all 288 image files onto a modern MacBook Pro. The result is a full recreation of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which debuted online in April.

It took Ichwandardi about three weeks to finish the project due to working with the limitations of the vintage hardware and software. Specifically, because Dazzle Draw doesn't have a layers feature, the illustrator had to physically lay an acetate sheet over the Apple IIc's monitor in order to create a guide for the animation in every frame of the trailer.

Complex animations required him to actually trace the characters and motion from the real trailer and redraw it back into Dazzle Draw. More information about his design process can be found in the video below.

Ichwandardi has posted a few updates regarding the Star Wars project on his Instagram page, where users can also check out some other art made on an Apple IIc. These include posters for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, as well as an image of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Tag: Star Wars

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