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iPhone to launch 6.1-inch LCD phone with a stronger display glass in 2018

Monitoring Desk

A number of reports have surfaced on the internet pointing out that Apple is planning to unveil three new iPhones this year. Some of these reports also state that out of the three planned iPhones, one variant will come with an IPS LCD display while the other two variants will sport high-end OLED display panels.

As per a report by 9to5Mac, KGI Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has revealed a few more details about the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone model. This variant of iPhone will not come with 3D touch technology. The report also said that Apple will make use of a stronger display glass which will be lighter and more impact resistant.

It will also have a thin-film sensor in addition to the touch film sensor. The report states that there is no clear indication as to why this layer is present but it will increase the cost of the touch panel by 15 percent. This iPhone variant will also reportedly use a CGS (Cover Glass Sensor) process which would make the glass thinner. The report goes on to add that all iPhones variants will start using the CGS process by 2019.

This comes right after reports emerged that we can expect Apple to launch the iPhone SE in the first half of this year. Tipster Ben Geskin tweeted that the iPhone SE 2, with codename Jaguar is “coming soon”. The device is likely to come with a glass case and wireless charging.

Past rumours have also suggested that the iPhone SE 2 may continue to feature the 4-inch display like its predecessor. Additionally, Apple may add its A10 Fusion chipset in the SE2 along with 2 GB of RAM.



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LG earns record profit on OLED TVs

Monitoring Desk

LG just announced record earnings for its first three months of the year, making 1.11 trillion won ($1.03 billion) in profit off 15.12 trillion won ($14.1 billion) in revenue — the highest first-quarter figures in company history. The standout performer was LG’s home entertainment division, which reported a 76.5-percent increase in operating profit year on year, largely driven by the sale of high-end OLED and “Super UHD” LED 4K TVs. LG says it’s seeing “rapid growth” in the premium TV market.

LG’s biggest rival, perennial TV market leader Samsung, is also focusing on higher-end sets, but saw revenue slide the same quarter as it removed less expensive products from its lineup. Both companies expect TV sales to be strong in the second quarter because of the soccer World Cup in June — the biggest single sporting event in the world, and traditionally one of the biggest drivers of global TV upgrades — but LG’s growth is more sustained.

LG’s OLED sets are widely considered the best you can buy, and affiliate LG Display essentially has a monopoly on OLED panel production for LG and other TV companies. Yesterday, LG Display said demand for OLED panels was “on the rise,” and becoming more profitable thanks to R&D efforts to lower manufacturing costs. Samsung doesn’t make OLED TVs at all, meanwhile — it’s currently pushing quantum-dot LED TVs under the marketing name “QLED,” with a long-term goal of driving the genuinely new MicroLED tech to market. The company demonstrated a giant modular MicroLED TV called “The Wall” at CES in January, and plans to sell it from August. Right now, though, it looks like Samsung has been outmaneuvered in the high-end space by its local competitor.

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YouTube deleted 5 million inappropriate videos in three months

Monitoring Desk

YouTube removed nearly 8.3 million videos from its platform between October and December 2017 as they violated its content policy. Almost 5 million of these videos were removed even before anyone saw them, the video sharing website said on Monday, as it stressed that automated flagging was “paying off” in helping remove videos quicker.

The website has released such a report for the first time, as it has faced criticism in recent years by governments and advertisers for not doing enough to remove extremist and inappropriate content.

The company introduced “machine learning flagging” – deploying software to help identify inappropriate videos – in June 2017. After this, the number of videos removed before they got 10 views has risen to more than half, as compared to 8% in the beginning of 2017, YouTube said in a blog post.

“Machines are allowing us to flag content for review at scale, helping us remove millions of violative videos before they are ever viewed,” YouTube said. “And our investment in machine learning to help speed up removals is paying off across high-risk, low-volume areas (like violent extremism) and in high-volume areas (like spam).”

About 1.6 million videos were removed after users, activist organizations or governments flagged them. Indians flag the most videos, followed by Americans, the company said.

Almost 31% of all videos flagged by humans are reported as having sexual content, 26% are tagged misleading or spam, and about 16% are reported as hateful or abusive.


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Access of mobile phones can deliver banking to rural areas: WB

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: The spread of mobile phones to all corners of the world offers the opportunity to deliver banking services to poor and rural areas, improving lives, the World Bank says in a report Thursday.

Access to a bank account can especially help women, who are more likely to save and to spend on healthcare and education, World Bank economist Leora Klapper said in an interview.

Governments can drive those improvements by shifting to digital payments, which more people can access on mobile phones.

“I passionately believe formal financial services are key to eradicating global poverty and especially improving…women’s economic empowerment,” Klapper said in an interview.

The share of adults with accounts is growing but there are disparities among regions, and more starkly, between women and men, she said.

In the latest update to its Global Findex database, the World Bank found that 1.2 billion adults had gotten bank accounts since 2011 and 515 million since 2014, bringing the share of adults with accounts to 69 per cent last year.

But while “tremendous progress” has been made in making access to financial services and banking more inclusive, the report finds women and the poor continue to be left behind in some countries.

The data show 72pc of men worldwide have an account but just 65pc of women, while in developing economies the gender gap is unchanged at nine percentage points.

The report “shows great progress for financial access — and also great opportunities for policymakers and the private sector to increase usage and to expand inclusion among women, farmers and the poor,” said Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.

Digital financial services “will continue to be essential as we seek to achieve universal financial inclusion,” she said in a statement. Maxima are the UN Secretary-General’s special advocate for inclusive Finance for development.

The massive database, which compiles interviews of 150,000 adults in 144 countries, for the first time gathered information on mobile phone access, showing that 1.1bn “unbanked” adults have a mobile phone.

That offers the opportunity to increase financial inclusion through mobile accounts, especially if governments lead the way.

Digital payments are safer, since workers would not have to carry cash, and they prevent “leakage” through corruption or other charges, Klapper said.

She cited examples of a woman who complained that her mother-in-law confiscated her wages when they were paid in cash, but now cannot access the funds. Another had to pay a motorcycle service to make small deposits each day to keep the cash of the hands of thieves.

Once the government makes the shift to digital payments technology, it can create an “ecosystem” allowing the private sector to take advantage of it as well, to pay wages and collect payments, creating more security, transparency and potentially improving tax collection, Klapper said.

However, she stressed that that requires a well-developed payments system, appropriate regulation and “vigorous consumer safeguards.” And having access to an account makes it more likely individuals will save for emergencies, and use the funds to invest in education, health care or even in a small business.

Since a large portion of the adults in lower income countries are farmers who require payments for things like crop insurance, digitizing those payments “could reduce unbanked by a quarter.” East Africa was a leader in mobile money accounts and the technology has spread so the share of adults using them in Sub-Saharan Africa doubled to 21pc since 2014.

India was a standout in the latest report due to its switch to biometric smart cards to make payments and saw a “massive surge in account ownership,” and narrowed the gender gap to six percentage points between men and women with accounts.

“In India the leakage of funds for pension payments dropped by 47pc (2.8 percentage points) when the payments were made through biometric smart cards rather than being handed out in cash,” the report said.


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Huawei’s digital assistant may replace human interactions

Monitoring Desk

Huawei is developing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant that will provide better emotional interactions with its users. The emotionally intelligent assistant is inspired by the science fiction movie Her. The team is envisioning to develop a system that cancels out the requirement of touching a smartphone to use it.

Rather than just feeding hardcoded responses, an emotionally intelligent assistant will able to read your mood and respond accordingly. It will determine your emotions by the tone of your voice, the use of your phone and other bits of information for an increased emotional interaction. Previously, Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa was enabled to recognize multiple voices.

However, we are unsure how this assistant will rely on voice tones to interact with users and responding to their need accordingly. Making an intelligent system already poses a challenge for technology companies, therefore an emotionally intelligent system sounds like a tough one.

Currently, Huawei offers a voice assistant for its Chinese market. In a recent interview, Felix Zhang, Huawei’s Vice President of Software Engineering has revealed their ambitions,

“We want to provide emotional interactions. We think that, in the future, all our end users wish they can interact with the system in the emotional mode. This is the direction we see in the long run.”

Zhang and his executive team is greatly inspired by Her and believes that the voice assistant presented in the movie, is a dream for all engineers. Zhang predicts that in the near future, almost all functions will be accessible through a voice command, eliminating the need for touching devices to use them.

The idea is to evolve the digital assistant to maintain a conversation and provide emotional support to the user, meanwhile also informing them about news, traffic conditions, emails, etc. The smartphone will not only be a gadget then but also a friend. While the ambitions sound exciting, it is slightly creepy how the system may evolve to replace human interactions.


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Apple to replace faulted batteries in newer MacBook Pros

It hasn’t been that long since the iPhone battery fiasco, but Apple already has another battery issue to deal with. The tech giant has launched a battery replacement program for 13-inch MacBook Pros without Touch Barmanufactured between October 2016 and October 2017. A “limited number” of its base Pro laptops are prone to a component failure — it didn’t mention which component, only that the devices’ built-in batteries will swell if it malfunctions. Just earlier this month, the company announced a similar program for 42mm Series 2 Watches, since their batteries also have the tendency to swell.

Unlike its battery replacement for iPhone 6 or newer models that’ll set you back $29, though, Apple will swap your MacBook Pro battery for free… so long as you have an eligible model. Cupertino said it’s not a safety issue, but if you can get the replacement at no cost, it’ll probably be best to take advantage of the offer.

Since not all 13-inch Pros without Touch Bar are affected (other and older models aren’t prone to the same component failure) you’ll first have to make sure you’re covered under the program. Simply go to the program page and look up your serial number, which you can find in About this Mac (click the Apple logo on the top menu), under your laptop or on its box.

If you’re eligible for a replacement, you’ll have to find an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, but you can also mail your laptop to a repair center. Even if you’re physically going to a store, you may want to wipe your data after backing it up anyway, since your laptop might still have to be sent to a repair center and stay there for three to five days. (In case you already had your battery replaced, you can ask Apple for a reimbursement.) Take note that Apple wants to resolve any other issue your MacBook might have before replacing your battery, and that extra repair might not be free.


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Xiaomi Mi 6X (Mi A2) to be launch on April 25

Monitoring Desk

Xiaomi’s Mi 6X is confirmed to launch on April 25 at an event to be held in China. The upcoming mid-range smartphone is said to borrow design elements such as a vertical dual rear camera setup and an edge-to-edge display. In the latest set of teasers, Xiaomi has posted official selfie shots that are said to have been taken on the Mi 6X.

In a post on social networking website Weibo on Thursday, Xiaomi revealed selfie snapshots taken on the Mi 6X, a phone that is expected to be rebranded as the Xiaomi Mi A2 in markets like India. The teaser shows six different selfie shots that show off the portrait mode capabilities of the front camera in different lighting conditions. As per the teasers, the mid-range smartphone will sport a 20-megapixel selfie camera.

Rumours suggest the front camera of the Xiaomi Mi 6X will get a Sony IMX376 image sensor with f/2.2 aperture and front-facing flash. As for the main camera, it has been spotted to get a 12-megapixel Sony IMX486 primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture, and a secondary 20-megapixel Sony IMX376 sensor with the same f/1.8 aperture.

Talking about internals, the Mi 6X is said to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, along with 4GB/ 6GB RAM and 32GB/ 64GB/ 128GB inbuilt storage. It will expectedly pack in a 2910mAh battery. Additionally, the smartphone is suggested to sport a 5.99-inch full-HD+ (1080×2160 pixels) display. On the software front, the Mi 6X will run MIUI 9 and the Mi A2 will run Android One, both based on top of Android 8.1 SoC. Lastly, as per a TENAA listing, dimensions of the smartphone are expected to be 158.88×75.54×7.3mm.



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Zuckerberg under pressure over data scandal

Monitoring Desk

STRASBOURG: Facebook Inc’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg came under pressure from EU lawmakers on Wednesday to come to Europe and shed light on the data breach involving Cambridge Analytica that affected nearly three million Europeans.

The world’s largest social network is under fire worldwide after information about nearly 87 million users wrongly ended up in the hands of the British political consultancy, a firm hired by Donald Trump for his 2016 US presidential election campaign.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani last week repeated his request to Zuckerberg to appear before the assembly, saying that sending a junior executive would not suffice.

In his letter to the Facebook CEO, Tajani said the company should bear in mind that lawmakers play a key role in crafting tough rules governing online tech giants.

“Let me also stress that one of the Parliament’s future priorities will be to reinforce the regulatory framework to ensure a well-functioning digital market with high level protection for our citizens,” he wrote.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, who recently spoke to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, said Zuckerberg should heed the lawmakers’ call.

“This case is too important to treat as business as usual,” Jourova told an assembly of lawmakers.

“I advised Sheryl Sandberg that Zuckerberg should accept the invitation from the European Parliament. (EU digital chief Andrius) Ansip refers to the invitation as a measure of rebuilding trust,” she said.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Zuckerberg fielded 10 hours of questions over two days from nearly 100 US lawmakers last week and emerged largely unscathed. He will meet Ansip in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Another European lawmaker Sophia in’t Veld echoed the call from her colleagues, saying that the Facebook CEO should do them the same courtesy.

“I think Zuckerberg would be well advised to appear at the Parliament out of respect for Europeans,” she said.

Lawmaker Viviane Reding, the architect of the EU’s landmark privacy law which will come into effect on May 25, giving Europeans more control over their online data, said the right laws would bring back trust among users.


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Chinese smartphone maker ZTE likely to lose Android license

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON: Chinese smartphone maker ZTE’s US woes deepened on Tuesday, as regulators proposed new rules that could cut into its sales, while a supply ban means it may not be able to use Android software in its devices, according to a source.

The US Commerce Department banned American firms on Monday from selling parts and software to ZTE for seven years. The move was sparked by ZTE’s violation of an agreement that was reached after it was caught illegally shipping US goods to Iran.

Then on Tuesday, a US telecoms regulator proposed new rules that would bar government programs from buying from companies that it says pose a security threat to US telecoms networks, which will likely hurt both ZTE and rival Chinese smartphone maker Huawei Technologies.

  The moves threaten to further complicate relations between the United States and China. The two countries have already proposed tens of billions of dollars in tariffs in recent weeks, fanning worries of a full-blown trade war that could hurt global supply chains as well as business investment plans.

The Commerce Department decision means ZTE may not be able to use Google’s Android operating system on its mobile devices, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

ZTE and the Alphabet unit have been discussing the impact of the ban, the source added, but the two companies were still unclear about the use of Android by ZTE as of Tuesday morning.

ZTE shipped 46.4 million smartphones last year, placing it seventh among Android-based manufacturers, according to research firm IHS Markit.

Google declined to comment and ZTE has not responded to requests to comment.

The proposed new rules from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), meanwhile, which are expected to be finalized this year, appear to be another prong in a US effort to prevent ZTE and Huawei from gaining significant market share in the United States.

They would prevent money from the $8.5 billion FCC Universal Service Fund, which includes subsidies for telephone service to poor and rural areas, from being spent on goods or services from companies or countries which pose a “national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or their supply chains,” the FCC said.

“Hidden ‘backdoors’ to our networks in routers, switches, and other network equipment can allow hostile foreign powers to inject viruses and other malware, steal Americans’ private data, spy on US businesses, and more,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who introduced the proposal.

Pai did not specify China or specific companies.

But in a letter to Congress last month, Pai said he shared the concerns of US lawmakers about espionage threats from Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone maker.

USTelecom, an industry trade group, praised the FCC’s “proposal to confront nation-state actions that threaten the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of our nation’s network infrastructure.”

Republican US senators have also introduced legislation that would block the US government from buying or leasing telecoms equipment from Huawei or ZTE.

Huawei’s planned deal with US carrier AT&T to sell its smartphones in the United States collapsed in January after US lawmakers sent a letter to Pai citing concerns about Huawei’s plans to launch US consumer products.

Amid a steady drip of bad news, Huawei has laid off its vice president of external affairs, Bill Plummer, and four other employees at its Washington office, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The company slashed lobbying expenditures to $60,000 in 2017 from $348,500 in 2016, according to Huawei filings.

ZTE has similarly cut its lobbying expenditures, from $860,000 in 2016 to $510,000 last year, according to ZTE filings. Reuters

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Users must accept targeted ads, says Facebook

MENLO PARK:  Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Tuesday it would continue requiring people to accept targeted ads as a condition of using its service, a stance that may help keep its business model largely intact despite a new European Union privacy law.

The EU law, which takes effect next month, promises the biggest shakeup in online privacy since the birth of the internet. Companies face fines if they collect or use personal information without permission.

Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman said the social network would begin seeking Europeans’ permission this week for a variety of ways Facebook uses their data, but he said that opting out of targeted marketing altogether would not be possible.

“Facebook is an advertising-supported service,” Sherman said in a briefing with reporters at Facebook’s headquarters.

Facebook users will be able to limit the kinds of data that advertisers use to target their pitches, he added, but “all ads on Facebook are targeted to some extent, and that’s true for offline advertising, as well.”

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, will use what are known as “permission screens” – pages filled with text that require pressing a button to advance – to notify and obtain approval.

The screens will show up on the Facebook website and smartphone app in Europe this week and globally in the coming months, Sherman said.

The screens will not give Facebook users the option to hit “decline.” Instead, they will guide users to either “accept and continue” or “manage data setting,” according to copies the company showed reporters on Tuesday.

“People can choose to not be on Facebook if they want,” Sherman said.

Regulators, investors and privacy advocates are closely watching how Facebook plans to comply with the EU law, not only because Facebook has been embroiled in a privacy scandal but also because other companies may follow its lead in trying to limit the impact of opt-outs.

Last month, Facebook disclosed that the personal information of millions of users, mostly in the United States, had wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, leading to U.S. congressional hearings and worldwide scrutiny of Facebook’s commitment to privacy.

Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Wehner warned in February the company could see a drop-off in usage due to the EU law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Reuters