Andy Rubin’s Essential is reportedly up for sale and has cancelled work on its next smartphone

Essential, the smartphone company helmed by Android co-creator Andy Rubin, is trying to sell itself and has cancelled development of its next phone, Bloomberg reports. The report states that Essential has hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise them on potentially selling itself. The company raised $330 million from investors, including Rubin’s own Playground Global, Tencent Holdings and the Amazon Alexa Fund. The news of a potential sale accompanies news that the company has ended development on its next smartphone, a major blow for a company aimed to challenge companies like Apple and Samsung with a device that it hoped would hold its own. “We always have multiple products in development at the same time and we embrace canceling some in favor of the ones we think will be bigger hits,” an Essential spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We are putting all of our efforts towards our future, game-changing products, which include
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Edge Sense is starting to come into its own with HTC’s U12+

Edge Sense has always been a gimmick — but who can blame HTC for embracing a gimmick. The company’s mobile division has been struggling in recent years, so why not embrace the novelty of a squeezable side input? The tech got a bit more support when Google embraced it for the Pixel 2, renaming it Active Edge in the process.

With today’s announcement of the U12+, HTC is introducing Edge Sense 2. The company promised it would keep updating the feature, and this new flagship is starting to making it that much more compelling. The second generation doesn’t make it an essential feature, but some key additions point to how more sensors on the sides of the handset could turn it into more than just a glorified additional button for the phone.

Some of the coolest additions here are the ability for the phone to recognize which hand is holding

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A simple solution to end the encryption debate

Criminals and terrorists, like millions of others, rely on smartphone encryption to protect the information on their mobile devices. But unlike most of us, the data on their phones could endanger lives and pose a great threat to national security.

The challenge for law enforcement, and for us as a society, is how to reconcile the advantages of gaining access to the plans of dangerous individuals with the cost of opening a door to the lives of everyone else. It is the modern manifestation of the age-old conflict between privacy versus security, playing out in our pockets and palms.

One-size-fits all technological solutions, like a manufacturer-built universal backdoor tool for smartphones, likely create

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OnePlus’ latest flagship arrives May 22 for $529

OnePlus has never been the flashiest or most cutting edge — the Chinese company has mostly left that stuff to the Apples and Samsungs of the world. But in spite of some stumbles along the way, the upstart smartphone manufacturer has consistently delivered one of the best deals in mobile, a trend it most definitely maintains with the OnePlus 6.

Due out on May 22, with a starting price of $529, the new handset continues the company’s trend of definitely being ever-so-slightly behind the flagship smartphone curve, for the sake of keeping costs down. The handset does borrow a few cues from recent handsets, including, notably, the embrace of the top notch.

The company concedes that the cutout is an inevitability on handsets these days, particularly with Google’s newfound embrace through Android P. Though here it also arrives alongside the company’s largest-ever display, measuring 6.28 inches, at a 19:9

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The many twists and turns of hardware

Note: This is the final article in a three-part series on valuation thoughts for common sectors of venture-capital investment. The first article, which attempts to make sense of the SaaS revenue multiple, can be found here; the second, on public marketplaces can be found here.

Over the past year, the VC-backed hardware category got a big boost — Roku was the best-performing tech IPO of 2017 and Ring was acquired by Amazon for a price rumored to exceed $1 billion. In addition to selling into large, strategic markets, both companies have excellent business models. Ring sells a high-margin subscription across a high percentage of its customer base and Roku successfully monetizes its 19 million users through ads and licensing fees.

In the context of these splashy exits, it is interesting to consider the key factors that have made for valuable hardware companies against a backdrop of an investment sector that has

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The River Bank is portable power for all your devices and it can even go on a plane

EcoFlow burst onto the scene last year with a $1 million crowdfunding campaign for its portable and, fresh from announcing $4 million in new investment, the U.S.-China company is back with its second product: a mobile charger. Follow-up acts are always hard, especially when the first product was a runaway hit beyond initial expectations, but the company is opting to tackle a problem that will appeal to many, staying powered on the go. River Bank — today’s new addition — takes the concept of the portable mobile phone charger and super-sizes it with a power bank that can handle phones, laptops, cameras and even jump start a car. Two of the main issues with regular mobile power banks are the days-long battery life between in each charge and that they can’t be taken on planes. While I’m not sure I need The River Bank, the fact it
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LG adds more AI camera features and a notch for the G7 ThinQ

LG has done a really terrible job keeping the G7 ThinQ under wraps. But clearly the company doesn’t mind. Building up the hype cycle is clearly more important to the handset maker than any kind of big reveal. In addition to leaked images from nearly every angle, the company has already issued several official press releases ahead of today’s big unveil in New York.

As numerous photos have already suggested, LG’s the latest company to go all in on the notch. There’s a big one up top that will no doubt evoke Apple’s new flagship for many users — though the G7’s cutout is smaller than the iPhone’s, and the curved bottom bezel is a bit larger.

In a prebrief ahead of today’s announcement, a spokesperson for the company said LG anticipates that the notch will be a fact of life on high-end handsets for the next one and a

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The Skagen Falster is a high fashion Android wearable

Skagen is a well-know maker of thin and uniquely Danish watches. Founded in 1989, the company is now part of the Fossil group and, as such, has begin dabbling in both the analog with the Hagen and now Android Wear with the Falster. The Falster is unique in that it stuffs all of the power of a standard Android Wear device into a watch that mimics the chromed aesthetic of Skagen’s austere design while offering just enough features to make you a fashionable smartwatch wearer. The Falster, which costs $275 and is available now, has a fully round digital OLED face which means you can read the time at all times. When the watch wakes up you can see an ultra bright white on black time-telling color scheme and then tap the crown to jump into the various features including Android Fit and the always clever Translate feature that
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Spectral Edge’s image enhancing tech pulls in $5.3M

Cambridge, U.K.-based startup Spectral Edge has closed a $5.3M Series A funding round from existing investors Parkwalk Advisors and IQ Capital. The team, which in 2014 spun the business out of academic research at the University of East Anglia, has developed a mathematical technique for improving photographic imagery in real-time, also using machine learning technology.  As we’ve reported previously, their technology — which can be embedded in software or in silicon — is designed to enhance pictures and videos on mass-market devices. Mooted use cases include for enhancing low light smartphone images, improving security camera footage or even for drone cameras.  This month Spectral Edge announced its first customer, IT services provider NTT data, which said it would be incorporating the technology into its broadcast infrastructure offering — to offer its customers an “HDR-like experience”, via improved image quality, without the need for them to upgrade
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Here are the five things I learned installing a smart mirror

I recently received a review unit of the Embrace Smart Mirror. It’s essentially a 24-inch Android tablet mounted behind a roughly 40-inch mirror. It works well when third-party software is installed. Here’s what I learned. It’s impossible to get a good photo of the smart mirror I tried a tripod, a selfie stick and every possible angle and I couldn’t get a picture that does this mirror justice. It looks better in person than these photos show. When the light in the bathroom is on, the text on the mirror appears to float on the surface. It looks great. The time is nice and large, and the data below it is accessible when standing a few feet away. When the room is dark, the Android device’s screen’s revealed because it can’t reach real black. The screen behind the mirror glows gray. This isn’t a big deal. The Android device turns
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HTC had a terrible holiday quarter

Smartphone and VR headset maker HTC has published its consolidated results for Q4 2017 — and it makes for grim reading. The topline figures are:
  • Flat quarterly revenue of NT$15.7 billion (~$540M) with gross margin of -30.8%
  • Quarterly operating loss of NT$9.6 billion (~$330M) with operating margin of -60.8%
  • Quarterly net loss after tax: NT$9.8 billion (~$337M), or -NT$11.93 (-$0.41) per share
HTC says this latest quarterly loss was due to “market competition, product mix, pricing, and recognized inventory write-downs”. So pretty much a full house of operational and business problems. The one bright spot for HTC’s business is a deal worth $1.1BN, in which Google acquired a chunk of HTC’s hardware business — which was completed at the end of January. That one-off cash injection is not reflected in the Q4 results but will rather give some passing uplift to HTC’s
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Mobile gaming is having a moment, and Apple has the reins

It’s moved beyond tradition and into the realm of meme that Apple manages to dominate the news cycle around major industry events all while not actually participating in said events. CES rolls around and every story is about HomeKit or its competitors, another tech giant has a conference and the news is that Apple updated some random subsystem of its ever-larger ecosystem of devices and software .

This is, undoubtedly planned by Apple in many instances. And why not? Why shouldn’t it own the cycle when it can, it’s only strategically sound.

This week, the 2018 Game Developer’s Conference is going on and there’s a bunch of news coverage about various aspects of the show. There are all of the pre-written embargo bits about big titles and high-profile indies, there are the trend pieces and, of course, there’s the traditional ennui-laden ‘who is this event even for’ post that accompanies any

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PUBG soft-launches on mobile in Canada with Android release

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, the ‘battle royale’ style game where everyone tries to be the last player standing while scrounging for supplies to keep them alive, has launched on Android in Canada MobileSyrup reports, which could presage a future release in the U.S. The arrival of the mobile version of the game more generally known as PUBG coincides with it reaching the 5 million player milestone on Xbox, where it’s been available since late last year after debuting on the PC in early access earlier in 2017. It’s not cross-play compatible, unlike Fortnite, however, so if you’re playing the Android version you’ll be matched up against others with the app, which is published by Chinese Internet giant Tencent. This Android port wasn’t developed by original PUBG studio Bluehole, but they say they oversaw the creation of this mobile version. Based on early testing with a Pixel 2 XL,
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John Chen to stay on as BlackBerry CEO through 2023

BlackBerry today announced it reached an agreement to keep CEO John Chen in his current position through 2023. Chen joined the company in 2013 and is responsible for leading the company’s recovery as it left smartphones and embraced services. When Chen took over the company, the company was struggling on all fronts. Its time as the smartphone leader was done but it still had a strong brand in key markets. Chen lead the company to a modest turn around and has seemingly found its footing. The company stock is up 89.9% over the last 12 months and nearly level with the stock price when Chen took over during its decline five years ago. “The BlackBerry Board of Directors has tremendous confidence in John Chen . John engineered a successful turnaround and has the company repositioned to apply its strengths and assets to the Enterprise of Things, an emerging category with
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A Hippocratic Oath for artificial intelligence practitioners

Oren Etzioni Contributor Share on Twitter Oren Etzioni is CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and has been a professor at the University of Washington’s Computer Science department since 1991. He has also founded or co-founded several companies, including Farecast (sold to Microsoft in 2008) and Decide (sold to eBay in 2013), and […]

Android beats iOS in smartphone loyalty, study finds

 Samsung’s new Galaxy S9 may not quite live up to the iPhone X when it comes to Samsung’s implementation of a Face ID-style system or its odd take on AR emoji. But that’s not going to matter much to Samsung device owners — not only because the S9 is a good smartphone overall, but because Android users just aren’t switching to iPhone anymore. Read More

Samsung Galaxy S9+ review

 You probably don’t need a 4,000-word review to tell you that the Galaxy S9+ is a good phone. Now that everyone’s got all of the Note 7 jokes mostly out of their system, we can mostly agree that Samsung makes good phones. The S8 was great, and the S9 builds on that success in a number of ways. Read More

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 wants to turn the camera into a new home screen

 The Galaxy S8 and S8+ already had one of the better smartphone cameras in the industry, and the Galaxy S9 and S9+ both seem to be top contenders to secure Samsung a place among the best options out there in 2018, too. But the most interesting thing about the camera might just be how central it is to the S9 and its launch. A home away from home(screen) Samsung is fully aware that people spend a… Read More

Nokia unveils its new slate of Android smartphones starting at $85

 Nokia — in its newest iteration as a licensed brand of HMD — is a long way off from its glory days, the years when it not only set the pace for innovation in the mobile phone market, but also led it as the world’s biggest handset maker. Today, the company took its latest step in rebuilding itself as it unveiled a slate of Android-powered smartphones — the Nokia 1, the… Read More