11/11 shows biometrics are the norm for payments in China

Chinese consumers were quick to adopt digital payments, and a recent shopping binge showed they are ready for another leap: biometric payments.

On November 11, Alibaba wrapped up Singles’ Day – the world’s largest shopping event – and hauled in $30.8 billion in total transactions, a staggering amount bigger than Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined. Instead of frantically inputting payment passwords to grab deals, Chinese users jumped on new technologies to shop in the blink of an eye. This year, 60.3 percent of Singles’ Day customers paid either by scanning their fingerprint or taking a selfie. That’s according to Alipay as it collected the data for the first time. The Alibaba affiliate digital wallet handles online and offline transactions for 870 million users around the world and its close rival WeChat Pay, the payment method that runs on Tencent’s popular chat app, is on a par at
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Alibaba made a smart screen to help blind people shop and it costs next to nothing

Just a few years ago, Li Mengqi could not have imagined shopping on her own. Someone needed to always keep her company to say aloud what was in front of her, who’s been blind since birth.

When smartphones with text-to-speech machines for the visually impaired arrived, she immediately bought an iPhone. “Though it was expensive,” Li, a 23-year-old who grew up in a rural village in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, told me. Cheaper smartphone options in China often don’t have good accessibility features. Screen readers opened a plethora of new opportunity for those with visual impairments. “I felt liberated, no longer having to rely on others,” said Li, who can now shop online, WeChat her friends, and go out alone by following her iPhone compass. Reading out everything on the screen is helpful, but it can also be overwhelming. Digital readers don’t decipher human thoughts, so when Li gets on
Alibaba blind smartphone feature
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Xiaomi is opening a retail store in London as it extends its Europe push

Xiaomi’s expansion into Europe continues at speed after the Chinese smartphone maker announced plans to open its first retail store in London.

The company is best known for developing quality Android phones at affordable prices and already it has launched devices in Spain, Italy and France. Now, that foray has touched the UK where Xiaomi launched its Mi 8 Pro device at an event yesterday and revealed that it will open a store at the Westfield mall in London on November 18. That outlet will become Xiaomi’s first authorized Mi Store. Styled on Apple’s iconic stores, the Mi store will showcase a range of products, not all of which are available in the UK. Still, Xiaomi has shown a taste of what it plans to offer in the UK by introducing a number of products alongside the Mi 8 Pro this week. Those include its budget tier Redmi 6A phone and,
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The Red Hydrogen One phone exists — but should it?

The Red Hydrogen One is real. I’ve held it in my hands. It’s sitting face down on my desk right now as I type these words.

None of this is to say, of course, that it needs to or even should exist. The Hydrogen One is less a phone than an idea that manifested its way into existence through sheer force of will. It’s a testament to the fact that just because a concept is potentially disruptive doesn’t necessarily make it good. Not with a starting price of $1,299 (and $1,599 for the titanium version), at least.

The handset functions best as a conversation piece. It’s big and it’s bold and it’s bizarre, sporting a massive footprint that dwarfs even the Pixel 3 XL, flanked by serrated edges that bring nothing to mind more than John Rambo’s hunting knife. And certainly the size, weight and build of the product should

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Fleksy’s keyboard grabs $800k+ via equity crowdfunding

The dev team that’s now engineering the Fleksy keyboard app has raised more than $800,000 via an equity crowdfunding route.

As we reported a year ago, the development of Fleksy’s keyboard has been taken over by the Barcelona-based startup behind an earlier keyboard app called ThingThing. The team says their new funding raise — described as a pre-Series A round — will be put towards continued product development of the Fleksy keyboard, including the core AI engine used for next word and content prediction, plus additional features being requested by users — such as swipe to type.  Support for more languages is also planned. (Fleksy’s Android and iOS apps are currently available in 45+ languages.) Their other big push will be for growth: Scaling the user-base via a licensing route to market in which the team pitches Android OEMs on the benefits of baking Fleksy in as the
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Xiaomi opts for sliding camera and no notch for new bezel-less Mi Mix phone

Xiaomi has announced the newest version of its bezel-less Mi Mix family, and it doesn’t sport a notch like its Mi 8 flagship. Indeed, unlike the Mi 8 — which I called one of Xiaomi’s most brazen Apple clones — there’s a lot more to get excited about.

The Mi Mix 3 was unveiled at an event in Beijing and, like its predecessor, Xiaomi boasts that it offers a full front screen. Rather than opting for the near-industry standard notch, Xiaomi has developed a slider that houses its front-facing camera. Vivo and Oppo have done similar using a motorized approach, but Xiaomi’s is magnetic while it can also be programmed for functions such as answering calls. That array gives it a claimed 93.4 percent screen-to-body ratio and a full 6.4-inch 1080p AMOLED display. The slider, by the way, is good for 300,000 cycles, according to Xiaomi’s lab testing. The device itself
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Xiaomi looks set to smash its 100M sales target for 2018

Despite share price struggles, Xiaomi has revealed that it is on track for a record sales year which will see it easily surpass its goal of selling 100 million smartphones in 2018.

Wang Xiang, the executive in charge of the Chinese firm’s international business, said on Twitter that he expects to hit its 2018 100 million sales target by the end of October. That would beat last year’s 90 million sales and give Xiaomi a further two months to raise the figure higher still. Given that phone sales are declining worldwide with many in the industry struggling, that’s no mean feat.

Trump has two ‘secure’ iPhones, but the Chinese are still listening

President Trump has three iPhones — two of them are “secure” and his third is a regular personal device. But whenever the commander-in-chief takes a call, his adversaries are said to be listening.

That’s according to a new report by The New York Times, which put a spotlight on the president’s array of devices — and how he uses them. Trump reluctantly gave up his old and outdated Android-powered Samsung Galaxy phone when he took office in 2016 and was transitioned to Apple devices. iPhones have historically been seen as more secure than their Android counterparts. Although one of his devices is a regular iPhone that he can use to store his contacts, the two other iPhones for official business have been modified and locked down by the National Security Agency to prevent eavesdropping. Except — even when you’re in the White House, you can’t escape the aging, ailing
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Review: Apple’s iPhone XR is a fine young cannibal

This iPhone is great. It is most like the last iPhone — but not the last “best” iPhone — more like the last not as good iPhone. It’s better than that one though, just not as good as the newest best iPhone or the older best iPhone.

If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 7 or iPhone 8, you’re gonna love it and likely won’t miss any current features while also getting a nice update to a gesture-driven phone with Face ID. But don’t buy it if you’re coming from an iPhone X, you’ll be disappointed as there are some compromises from the incredibly high level of performance and quality in Apple’s last flagship, which really was pushing the envelope at the time.

From a consumer perspective, this is offering a bit of choice that targets the same kind of customer who bought the iPhone 8 instead of the iPhone X

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Use GSMArena’s Phone Finder to Pick Your Next Smartphone

For most, buying a new smartphone is easy—you just get the latest version of whatever it is you’ve been using. If you’re dissatisfied enough, or you don’t want the latest Galaxy, Pixel, or iPhone (to name a few), then it’s time to go shopping, and you’ll have a sea of smartphones to wade through in order to find the… Read more...

eBay launches Instant Selling, a new trade-in service for smartphones

eBay today launched a new service to help users unload their old smartphones on its online marketplace. With eBay Instant Selling, as the service is called, consumers can list their device info, add images, then receive an instant voucher that can be used towards the purchase of a new device from eBay. They’ll also receive an eBay shipping label to send their old phone to eBay.

The company claims it will offer a higher return than competitors’ sites, like Gazelle or EcoATM as well as carriers’ trade-in programs like those from AT&T and Verizon, plus Apple’s own Give Back program. It says that standard programs tend to offer 40 to 50 percent off the average market selling price, but eBay will provide up to 40% higher than trade-in values, on average. Currently, eligible smartphones include Unlocked, Verizon and AT&T, Samsung Galaxy S7 to S9 + and Apple iPhone 6S 16GB through
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Building a great startup requires more than genius and a great invention

Many entrepreneurs assume that an invention carries intrinsic value, but that assumption is a fallacy.

Here, the examples of the 19th and 20th century inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are instructive. Even as aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors lionize Edison for his myriad inventions and business acumen, they conveniently fail to recognize Tesla, despite having far greater contributions to how we generate, move and harness power. Edison is the exception, with the legendary penniless Tesla as the norm.

Universities are the epicenter of pure innovation research. But the reality is that academic research is supported by tax dollars. The zero-sum game of attracting government funding is mastered by selling two concepts: Technical merit, and broader

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Google tweaks Android licensing terms in Europe to allow Google app unbundling — for a fee

Google has announced changes to the licensing model for its Android mobile operating system in Europe,  including introducing a fee for licensing some of its own brand apps, saying it’s doing so to comply with a major European antitrust ruling this summer.

In July the region’s antitrust regulators hit Google with a recordbreaking $5BN fine for violations pertaining to Android, finding the company had abused the dominance of the platform by requiring manufacturers pre-install other Google apps in order to license its popular Play app store.  Regulators also found Google had made payments to manufacturers and mobile network operators in exchange for exclusively pre-installing Google Search on their devices, and used Play store licensing to prevent manufacturers from selling devices based on Android forks. Google disputes the Commission’s findings, and last week filed its appeal — a legal process that could take years. But in the meanwhile it’s making changes
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Palm returns as an ‘ultra-mobile’ smartphone

I shared images I shot of the Palm device with a few co-workers ahead of this morning’s unveiling, and they were downright giddy. The new “ultra-mobile” device (a term us old people used to use to refer to something closer to a netbook) is a hard thing to contextualize without a picture, so I took a bunch, and many of my oft-jaded co-workers fell for the thing immediately.

The device, which is designed to split the difference between a smartphone and a smartwatch, is admittedly adorable. The startup behind the product employs designs with some impressive credentials, from Samsung to Frog Design.

Really, the device most obviously resembles an iPhone, shrunk down to a 3.3-inch display. The first iPhone, incidentally, had a 3.5-inch screen — though a lot has been done in the intervening 11 years to jam that kind of real estate into a far smaller footprint.

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The Internet Bill of Rights is just one piece of our moral obligations

Congressman Ro Khanna’s proposed Internet Bill of Rights pushes individual rights on the Internet forward in a positive manner. It provides guidelines for critical elements where the United States’ and the world’s current legislation is lacking, and it packages it in a way that speaks to all parties. The devil, as always, is in the details—and Congressman Khanna’s Internet Bill of Rights still leaves quite a bit to subjective interpretation.

But what should not be neglected is that we as individuals have not just rights but also moral obligations to this public good—the Internet. The web positively impacts our lives in a meaningful fashion,
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Razer soups up its gaming smartphone

Razer is quick to refute any suggestions that its second phone is little more than an iterative update. Sure, the thing looks remarkably identical to its predecessor from the front, but the innards are certainly souped up — and there’s a snazzy new back to match.

As the company puts in the Razer Phone 2 press materials, “we wanted to keep the core Razer industrial design intact with a CNC aluminum frame flanked by powerful dual front-firing stereo speakers.”

Fair enough. The first Razer Phone wasn’t the prettiest handset on the market, but that was never the point. The gaming peripheral company entered the mobile market with one very clear motive in mind: helping usher in a new age of serious smartphone gaming. It follows, then, that the Razer Phone 2 sports some beefy specs to match.

Razer’s not quite at the point in its mobile story where custom

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Google’s smart home sell looks cluttered and incoherent

If any aliens or technology ingenues were trying to understand what on earth a ‘smart home’ is yesterday, via Google’s latest own-brand hardware launch event, they’d have come away with a pretty confused and incoherent picture.

The company’s presenters attempted to sketch a vision of gadget-enabled domestic bliss but the effect was rather closer to described clutter-bordering-on-chaos, with existing connected devices being blamed (by Google) for causing homeowners’ device usability and control headaches — which thus necessitated another new type of ‘hub’ device which was now being unveiled, slated and priced to fix problems of the smart home’s own making. Meet the ‘Made by Google’ Home Hub. Buy into the smart home, the smart consumer might think, and you’re going to be stuck shelling out again and again — just to keep on top of managing an ever-expanding gaggle of high maintenance devices. Which does sound quite a lot
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Google files appeal against Europe’s $5BN antitrust fine for Android

Google has lodged its legal appeal against the European Commission’s €4.34 billion (~$5BN) antitrust ruling against its Android mobile OS, according to Reuters — the first step in a process that could keep its lawyers busy for years to come.

“We have now filed our appeal of the EC’s Android decision at the General Court of the EU,” it told the news agency, via email. We’ve reached out to Google for comment on the appeals process. Rulings made by the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg can be appealed to the top court, the Court of Justice of the European Union, but only on points of law. Europe’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, announced the record-breaking antitrust penalty for Android in July, following more than two years of investigation of the company’s practices around its smartphone operating system. Vestager said Google had abused the regional dominance of its smartphone platform
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Pixel 2 vs Pixel 3: Should you upgrade?

If you’re considering making the jump to Google’s newly announced Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, you’re in the right place. Whether you’re a Pixel 2 owner eyeing greener pastures or a bargain type hunting for a last-gen smartphone that’s still top of the line, comparing new and old is often useful.

On specs alone, the Pixel 3 shares most of its DNA with the Pixel 2, but there are a handful of meaningful differences and they’re not all obvious. What is obvious: The Pixel 3’s AMOLED screen is now 5.5 inches compared to the Pixel 2’s 5 inch display. The Pixel 3 XL now offers a 6.3 inch display, up .3 inches from the Pixel 2 XL. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL upgrade the Pixel 2’s processor slightly and add an additional front-facing camera for some of the device’s newest tricks. The primary camera
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Google’s latest hardware innovation: Price

With its latest consumer hardware products, Google’s prices are undercutting Apple, Samsung, and Amazon. The search giant just unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, tablet, and smart home device and all available at prices well below their direct competitors. Where Apple and Samsung are pushing prices of its latest products even higher, Google is seemingly happy to keep prices low and this is creating a distinct advantage for the company’s products.

Google, like Amazon and nearly Apple, is a services company that happens to sell hardware. It needs to acquire users through multiple verticals including hardware. Somewhere, deep in the Googleplex, a team of number crunchers decided it made more sense to make its hardware prices dramatically lower than competitors. If Google is taking a loss on the hardware, it is likely making it back through services. Amazon does this with Kindle devices. Microsoft and Sony do it with game consoles.
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