This week’s transportation news focused on two major stories: the investigation into the fatal crash of Ethiopian Flight 302 and Elon Musk’s reveal of Tesla’s new baby SUV.
Feed: All Latest
Qualcomm has filed a number of patent suits against the iPhone maker in the U.S., Europe and Asia in recent years. The suits are skirmishes in a bigger battle between the pair over licensing terms that Apple alleges are unfair and illegal.
As we reported earlier the San Diego patent suit relates to the power consumption and speed of boot-up times for iPhones sold between mid-2017 and late-2018.
Qualcomm had asked to be awarded up to $ 1.41 in unpaid patent royalties damages per infringing iPhone sold during the period.
Reuters suggests the award could have wider significance if it ends up factoring into the looming billion dollar royalties suit between Apple and Qualcomm. By putting a dollar value on some of the latter’s IP, the San Diego trial potentially bolsters its contention that its chip licensing practices are fair.
At the time of writing it’s not clear whether Apple intends to appeal. Reuters reports the iPhone maker declined to comment on that point, after expressing general disappointment with the outcome.
We’ve reached out to Apple and Qualcomm for comment.
In a statement provided to the news agency Apple said: “Qualcomm’s ongoing campaign of patent infringement claims is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the larger issues they face with investigations into their business practices in U.S. federal court, and around the world.”
Cupertino filed its billion dollar royalties suit against Qualcomm two years ago.
It has reason to be bullish going into the trial, given a preliminary ruling Thursday — in which a U.S. federal court judge found Qualcomm owes Apple nearly $ 1BN in patent royalty rebate payments (via CNBC). The trial itself kicks off next month.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also filed antitrust charges against Qualcomm in 2017 — accusing the chipmaker of operating a monopoly and forcing exclusivity from Apple while charging “excessive” licensing fees for standards-essential patents.
That trial wrapped up in January and is pending a verdict from Judge Lucy Koh.
At the same time, Qualcomm has also been pursuing several international patent suits against Apple — also with some success.
In December Apple filed an appeal in China to overturn a preliminary ruling that could have blocked iPhone sales in the market.
Facebook usage has declined for the first time in a decade, while video-centric apps like TikTok are being touted as the future of social media. Entering this redefined playing field comes Firework, a fast-growing social video app whose clever trick is something it calls “reveal videos” — a way for creators to take both horizontal and vertical video in one shot from their mobile device. Video viewers can then twist their phone as the video plays to watch from a new perspective and see more of the scene.
While Snapchat pioneered the idea of vertical video, newer companies are trying to free viewers from format constraints.
For example, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile streaming service Quibi is pitching its ability to offer an ideal viewing experience no matter how you hold your phone. As Quibi CEO Meg Whitman explained last week in an interview at SXSW, the company has “created the ability to do full-screen video seamlessly from landscape to portrait,” she said.
That sounds a lot like Firework, in fact.
Firework has filed a patent on its own flip-the-screen viewing technology, which it believes will give creators new ways to tell stories. Besides letting viewers in on more of the action, “reveal videos” also provide an opportunity for things like unexpected plot twists or surprise endings.
The way this works is that creators hold their smartphone horizontally to film, and Firework places a vertical viewfinder on the screen so they know which part of their shot will appear to viewers when they hold their phone straight up and down.
This recording screen has some similarities to TikTok, as you can stop and start recording, reshoot the various parts and add music.
“Snapchat really pushed being vertical only,” explains Firework Chief Revenue Officer Cory Grenier, who joined the company from Snapchat, where he was the first director of Sales & Marketing.
“What we see is that most professional filmmakers want to show their work on Vimeo first, and second on YouTube. There isn’t this world where you can really frame the context and the characters of a cinematic story on vertical — it just can’t happen,” he says.
Beyond the technology involved with Firework’s new filming technique, the company is also aiming to carve out a space that will differentiate it from other short-form video — whether that’s TikTok or, soon, Quibi.
Firework’s videos are longer than TikTok’s at 30 seconds instead of just 15, but far shorter than Quibi’s eight minutes.
“Thirty seconds is really the sweet spot between the Snaps that are 10 seconds and something that’s longer-form,” notes Grenier. “Ten seconds is too short to really tell a story. You want to have a powerful opening, a clear middle and a really interesting or unexpected ending,” he says.
This format lends itself better to short stories, rather than the remixed, music-backed memes found on TikTok, the company believes. But it also remains user-gen, as opposed to the high production value “TV quality” content shot for Quibi using two cameras. (And a lot more money).
Instead, Firework is focused on what it calls “premium user-gen” — meaning it will feature a mix of professional creators and up-and-comers. To date, Firework has worked with names like Flo Rida, Dexter Darden (“Maze Runner”), model and Miss USA Olivia Jordan, Disney star Jordyn Jones, Frankie Grande and others.
It’s also working with a handful of brands, including Refinery29 and Complex Networks. But the company doesn’t want to inundate the app with content from brands, it says.
In addition to the horizontal-to-vertical trick, Firework is also doing something different in terms of fan engagement: it’s ditching comments. Users can only privately message a video’s creator — they can’t comment on the video itself.
“Haters and trolls, they want an audience — they want to elicit a polarizing reaction. We remove that,” says Grenier.
And instead of “liking” a video, users can only bookmark the video or share it — an engagement that is styled like a retweet, as the video is posted to your profile with all the original credit intact.
Founded less than two years in Mountain View and now relocated to Redwood City with teams in LA, Japan and Brazil, Firework parent Loop Now tested a couple of apps that didn’t find product market fit before launching Firework.
Its team of 51 full-time today combines both tech talent and Hollywood expertise.
This includes: CEO Vincent Yang, a Stanford MBA and previously co-founder and CEO at EverString; co-founder and COO Jerry Luk, employee No. 30 at LinkedIn and previously at Edmodo; biz dev head Bryan Barber, formerly of Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures and Fox; and CRO Corey Grenier, noted above.
Unlike Quibi, Firework’s parent company Loop Now Technologies has raised “millions” — not a billion dollars — to get off the ground. Its early backers include original Snap investor Lightspeed, IDG Capital and an (undisclosed) early investor in Musical.ly. (Firework is poised to announce its Series A in a few weeks, so is holding off on investment details for now.)
The app launched last year and has been in an open beta until now.
According to data from Sensor Tower, it has 1.8 million installs on iOS, 55 percent in the U.S.
Voice recognition is a standard part of the smartphone package these days, and a corresponding part is the delay while you wait for Siri, Alexa or Google to return your query, either correctly interpreted or horribly mangled. Google’s latest speech recognition works entirely offline, eliminating that delay altogether — though of course mangling is still an option.
The delay occurs because your voice, or some data derived from it anyway, has to travel from your phone to the servers of whoever operates the service, where it is analyzed and sent back a short time later. This can take anywhere from a handful of milliseconds to multiple entire seconds (what a nightmare!), or longer if your packets get lost in the ether.
Why not just do the voice recognition on the device? There’s nothing these companies would like more, but turning voice into text on the order of milliseconds takes quite a bit of computing power. It’s not just about hearing a sound and writing a word — understanding what someone is saying word by word involves a whole lot of context about language and intention.
Your phone could do it, for sure, but it wouldn’t be much faster than sending it off to the cloud, and it would eat up your battery. But steady advancements in the field have made it plausible to do so, and Google’s latest product makes it available to anyone with a Pixel.
Google’s work on the topic, documented in a paper here, built on previous advances to create a model small and efficient enough to fit on a phone (it’s 80 megabytes, if you’re curious), but capable of hearing and transcribing speech as you say it. No need to wait until you’ve finished a sentence to think whether you meant “their” or “there” — it figures it out on the fly.
So what’s the catch? Well, it only works in Gboard, Google’s keyboard app, and it only works on Pixels, and it only works in American English. So in a way this is just kind of a stress test for the real thing.
“Given the trends in the industry, with the convergence of specialized hardware and algorithmic improvements, we are hopeful that the techniques presented here can soon be adopted in more languages and across broader domains of application,” writes Google, as if it is the trends that need to do the hard work of localization.
Making speech recognition more responsive, and to have it work offline, is a nice development. But it’s sort of funny considering hardly any of Google’s other products work offline. Are you going to dictate into a shared document while you’re offline? Write an email? Ask for a conversion between liters and cups? You’re going to need a connection for that! Of course this will also be better on slow and spotty connections, but you have to admit it’s a little ironic.
Tim Wu, who coined the phrase “net neutrality,” supports Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call to review big tech mergers.
Feed: All Latest
The annual gathering is where high-end automakers show their stuff, and this year’s show included a Rolls-Royce offering that’s, well, (from) out of this world.
Feed: All Latest
The lawsuit by Huawei faces long odds but could force the US to show any evidence around backdoors and spying.
Feed: All Latest
As you may have gathered from our review of Samsung’s Galaxy S10, it’s a very solid phone with lots of advanced features. But one thing that’s especially difficult to test is the absolute quality of the display — which is why we leave that part to the experts. And this expert says the S10’s screen is the best ever on a smartphone.
Ray Soneira has tested every major phone, tablet and laptop series for many a year, using all the cool color calibration, reflectance and brightness measurement and other gear that goes with the job. So when he says the S10’s display is “absolutely stunning and Beautiful,” with a capital B at that, it’s worth taking note.
OLED technology has advanced a great deal since the first one I encountered, on the Zune HD — which still works and looks great, by the way, thank you. But originally it had quite a few trade-offs compared with LCD panels, such as weird color casts or pixel layout issues. Samsung has progressed well beyond that and OLED has come into its own with a vengeance. As Ray puts it:
The Absolute Color Accuracy on the Galaxy S10 is the Most Color Accurate Display we have ever measured. It is Visually Indistinguishable From Perfect, and almost certainly considerably better than your existing Smartphone, living room HDTV, Tablet, Laptop, and computer monitor, as demonstrated in our extensive Absolute Color Accuracy Lab Measurements.
The very challenging set of DisplayMate Test and Calibration Photos that we use to evaluate picture quality looked absolutely stunning and Beautiful, even to my experienced hyper-critical eyes.
Make sure you switch the phone’s display to “natural mode,” which makes subtle changes to the color space depending on the content and ambient light.
And although he has enthused many times before about the quality of various displays and the advances they made over their predecessors, the above is certainly very different language from, for example, how he described the reigning champ until today — the iPhone X:
Apple has produced an impressive Smartphone display with excellent performance and accuracy, which we cover in extensive detail below. What makes the iPhone X the Best Smartphone Display is the impressive Precision Display Calibration Apple developed, which transforms the OLED hardware into a superbly accurate, high performance, and gorgeous display, with close to Text Book Perfect Calibration and Performance!!
High praise, but not quite falling all over himself, as he did with the S10. As you can see, I rate smartphone displays chiefly by the emotional response they evoke from Ray Soneira.
At this point, naturally, the gains from improving displays are fairly few, because, to be honest, not many people care or can even tell today’s flagship displays apart. But little touches like front and back sensors for ambient light detection, automatic calibration and brightness that take user preferences into account — these also improve the experience, and phone makers have been adding them at a good clip, as well.
No matter which flagship phone you buy today, it’s going to have a fantastic camera and screen — but if you like to see it all in black and white, read through the review and you’ll find your hopes justified.