Smartwatch shipments soared 316 percent in Q4 2015, outpaced Swiss watches for the first time

mwc, smartwatch, android wear, tag heuer, watches, mwc 2016, smartwatches, swiss watches

I’ve taken multiple jabs at the usefulness of smartwatches over the past couple of years. To many (myself included), they simply don’t serve a purpose or fill a need – they’re a solution waiting for a problem to happen.

Nevertheless, major technology brands have continued to pump out the high-tech wearables and slowly but surely, consumers have started to come around. In fact, smartwatch shipments during the fourth quarter of 2015 actually surpassed those of traditional Swiss watches for the first time ever according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.

Global shipments of smartwatches hit 8.1 million in Q4 2015, up from just 1.9 million in the year-ago quarter. Swiss watch shipments, meanwhile, slid to 7.9 million during the same period, down from 8.3 million in Q4 2014. Or in other words, smartwatch shipments grew by 315.6 percent while Swiss watch shipments fell by 4.8 percent.

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said the Swiss watch industry has been very slow to react to the development of smartwatches. In fact, Mawston likened the Swiss watch industry to the (incorrect) myth about ostriches sticking their heads in the sand and hoping smartwatches will go away.

That’s not to say that every Swiss watchmaker has been ignoring the smartwatch trend. Tag Heuer, for example, launched an Android Wear smartwatch of its own late last year. Priced at $1,500, the Tag Heuer Connected Watch was a hot seller during the holidays and forced the company to ramp up production to meet demand.

‘Fallout 4’ wins Game of the Year at 19th annual DICE Awards

nintendo, bethesda, dice, the witcher 3, fallout 4, satoru iwata, star wars battlefront, rocket league, dice awards, awards show

To the surprise of virtually nobody, Fallout 4 took home top honors as Game of the Year at the 19th annual D.I.C.E. Awards last night. Bethesda’s hit action role-playing game joined Ori and the Blind Forest, Rocket League and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as winners of at least three awards.

Other notable winners include Star Wars Battlefront (Action Game of the Year), Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Adventure Game of the Year), Mortal Kombat X (Fighting Game of the Year), Super Mario Maker (Family Game of the Year) and Fallout Shelter (Mobile Game of the Year).

Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima became the 21st person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) Hall of Fame while the late Satoru Iwataposthumously became the fifth recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Below is the complete list of winners:

  • Game of the Year: Fallout 4
  • Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction: Fallout 4
  • Outstanding Achievement in Game Design: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Action Game of the Year: Star Wars Battlefront
  • Adventure Game of the Year: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Family Game of the Year: Super Mario Maker
  • Fighting Game of the Year: Mortal Kombat X
  • Racing Game of the Year: Forza Motorsport 6
  • Role-Playing / Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year: Fallout 4
  • Sports Game of the Year: Rocket League
  • Strategy / Simulation Game of the Year: Heroes of the Storm
  • D.I.C.E. Sprite Award: Rocket League
  • Handheld Game of the Year: Helldivers
  • Mobile Game of the Year: Fallout Shelter
  • Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay: Rocket League
  • Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction: Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Outstanding Achievement in Character: Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition: Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Star Wars Battlefront
  • Outstanding Achievement in Story: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Outstanding Technical Achievement: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

LG G5 impresses with cutting-edge hardware, innovative modular design

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All eyes were on LG as the technology company took the stage at the Sant Jordi Club in Barcelona, Spain, hours before South Korean rival Samsung to unveil its flagship smartphone for 2016, the LG G5. We had a pretty good idea of what to expect thanks to a series of leaks and thankfully, LG didn’t disappoint.

The LG G5 features a 5.3-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum display (2,560 x 1,440 / 554 PPI) that’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor and Adreno 530 graphics alongside a hearty 4GB of RAM – all packed inside a full-metal unibody design.

LG introduced an always-on display with its LG V10 smartphone. With the LG G5, they’re taking it a step further by integrating the always-on function into the main display by selectively backlighting only a small part of the overall display. This affords the benefits of an always-on display without the need for a goofy secondary display; it consumes just 0.8 percent battery life per hour.

The LG G5 is offered with 32GB of local storage (expandable to up to 2TB via microSD card slot) and features a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, an 8-megapixel front-facing shooter and a removable 2,800mAh battery. The primary rear camera captures images using a 78-degree lens and is flanked by a 135-degree wide-angle shooter which LG says is the widest available in any smartphone.

Connectivity-wise, the LG G5 features 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, an X12 LTE modem and has a USB Type-C connector. It’ll ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, we’re told.

As impressive as the LG G5 is on its own, what really makes the handset stand out is its modular design and ecosystem of peripherals.

The LG Friends, as they’re collectively called, are modular components that deliver added functionality to the LG G5. The bottom section of the handset slides out, allowing you to quickly replace the battery and / or swap in an alternative module.

The CAM Plus module adds a camera grip as well as physical buttons for power, shutter, record and zoom, allowing you to shoot with one hand should you so desire. The CAM Plus also offers autofocus and exposure locks and includes a 1,200mAh battery of its own, booting the handset’s total battery capacity to 4,000mAh on-the-fly.

The Hi-Fi Plus with B&O Play is a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that was developed in collaboration with Bang & Olufsen. It supports 32-bit, 384Khz high-definition audio playback either as a module for the LG G5 or as a standalone DAC for use with any smartphone or PC.

To say it was a busy day for the South Korean technology company would certainly be an understatement as LG also showcased a series of non-modular accessories including the LG 360 VR headset, the LG 360 CAM, the LG Rolling Bot, the LG Tone Platinum Bluetooth headset and H3 by B&O PLAY earphones.

The LG G5 will be offered in silver, gold, pink and titan color schemes when it goes on sale globally early next month (AT&T has already committed to carrying it). No word yet on pricing.

Weekend tech reading: HDD reliability stats 2015, lens-less ‘FlatCam’ demoed, robot vacuums reviewed

Hard drive reliability review for 2015 By the end of 2015, the Backblaze datacenter had 56,224 spinning hard drives containing customer data. These hard drives reside in 1,249 Backblaze Storage Pods. By comparison 2015 began with 39,690 drives running in 882 Storage Pods. We added 65 Petabytes of storage in 2015 give or take a Petabyte or two. Not only was 2015 a year of growth, it was also a year of drive upgrades and replacements. Let’s start with the current state of the hard drives in our datacenter as of the end of 2015 and then dig into the rest later on. Backblaze

Is D-Wave’s quantum processor really 10⁸ times faster than a normal computer? We have been following D-Wave’s claims about its quantum hardware at Ars for a number of years. Over that time, my impression has oscillated between skepticism, strong skepticism, and mild enthusiasm. Back in November, D-Wave issued a press release that basically asked tech journalists to spray paint a finish line just behind their feet and break out a victory flag. It seemed a bit much. But now that D-Wave has declared victory, perhaps it’s time to re-examine the skepticism. Ars Technica

How Google’s web crawler bypasses paywalls Wall Street Journal fixed their “paste a headline into Google News” paywall trick. However, Google can still index the content. Digital publications allow discriminatory access for search engines by inspecting HTTP request headers. The two relevant headers are Referer and User-Agent. Referer identifies the address of the web page that linked to the resource. Previously, when you clicked a link through Google search, the Referer would say https://www.google.com/. This is no longer enough. Elaineou.com

The woman who aims to take Tor mainstream “Tor is essential,” Shari Steele says over the phone. “Tor is so critically important. We can’t afford to not have Tor.” That’s the kind of thing someone might say when all hell is about to break loose, but Steele sounds downright ecstatic. Over her career, she has taken on United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). She built the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) into an international powerhouse for protecting online rights. The Daily Dot

Original 1977 Star Wars 35mm print has been restored and released online A restored HD version of the original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 35mm print has appeared online. While this isn’t the first time that attempts have been made to restore Star Wars to its original theatrical version — that’s the one without the much-maligned CGI effects and edits of later “special” editions — it is the first to have been based entirely on a single 35mm print of the film, rather than cut together from various sources. Ars Technica

555 timer teardown: inside the world’s most popular IC If you’ve played around with electronic circuits, you probably know[1] the 555 timer integrated circuit, said to be the world’s best-selling integrated circuit with billions sold. Designed by analog IC wizard Hans Camenzind in 1970, the 555 has been called one of the greatest chips of all time with whole books devoted to 555 timer circuits. Righto.com

Bulky cameras, meet the lens-less FlatCam Camera technology has improved dramatically in the past decades, but one thing about even the newest cameras has stayed constant: They all have lenses. Now, that’s changing. Engineers in Texas are building a camera that can make a sharp image with no lens at all. NPR

The Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 TH motherboard review: An entry to Thunderbolt 3 At the initial phase of Intel’s Skylake processor launch, a myriad of Z170 equipped motherboards were released to enable the platform. One of the prominent features of Z170 was the ability to support Thunderbolt 3 when the motherboard also used Intel’s Alpine Ridge Controller and was certified. GIGABYTE had the initial exclusive on the controller, but has had to wait for TB3 enabled devices to hit the market. AnandTech

Enabling human-robot rescue teams Autonomous robots performing a joint task send each other continual updates: “I’ve passed through a door and am turning 90 degrees right.” “After advancing 2 feet I’ve encountered a wall. I’m turning 90 degrees right.” “After advancing 4 feet I’ve encountered a wall.” And so on. Computers, of course, have no trouble filing this information away until they need it. But such a barrage of data would drive a human being crazy. MIT

The contrarian response to Apple’s need for encryption On December 2, 2015, [Syed Rizwan Farook] and [Tashfeen Malik] opened fire at a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event, killing 14 and injuring 22. This was the third deadliest mass shooting in the United States in recent memory, and began a large investigation by local, state, and federal agencies. One piece of evidence recovered by the FBI was an iPhone 5C belonging to one of the shooters. Hackaday

Eternal 5D data storage could record the history of humankind Scientists at the University of Southampton have made a major step forward in the development of digital data storage that is capable of surviving for billions of years. Using nanostructured glass, scientists from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (5D) digital data by femtosecond laser writing. University of Southampton

Robotic vacuums: a PC enthusiast’s primer Owning a robot vacuum can be its own hobby in a number of ways. If you think that notion’s a little far-fetched, remember that the site you’re reading right now is dedicated to what many people consider to be just computers. A similar community has coalesced around the idea that Roombas, Neatos, and their ilk are more than just vacuums. The Tech Report

Analysis: 6 ways Street Fighter V tries to reinvent the franchise Capcom is at a crossroads with Street Fighter V. It could have chosen to build a game for the casual players that paid their bills on SF4; certainly Mortal Kombat X’s breakaway success in 2015 implies that the market for legacy fighting game franchises with lots of single-player story-driven content is alive and kicking. Gamasutra

Inside Samsung 837: Samsung’s first North American flagship Samsung 837, the Korean giant’s first flagship retail space opens on Monday in New York City. Located at 837 Washington Street in the Meatpacking District, the 55,000 square-foot space isn’t your typical retail store. In fact, it’s not a store at all. Mashable

Where are they now 2016: Part two I thought it would be fun to go back and take another look at those developers I covered in the early days of Electron Dance. In six years, what has happened to them? In part two: Puppygames, Douglas Wilson and Michael Brough. Electron Dance (part one)

AT&T and Intel are testing the viability of using existing LTE networks to control aerial drones

intel, lte, mwc, att, drones, iot, aerial drone, mwc 2016, line-of-sight, lte network, commercial drone

AT&T’s Internet of Things team and the AT&T Foundry innovation center are partneringwith Intel to explore alternative methods to handle increased drone traffic. Specifically, they aim to determine if AT&T’s existing LTE network is up to the task of handling data transmission between aerial drones and their operators on the ground.

Today’s consumer drones are hamstrung by short-range signals (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and radio waves) as well as various government regulations. Once things are sorted out as far as legal guidelines go, drones used for commercial purposes likely (hopefully) won’t be limited to line-of-sight operation which is where AT&T comes in.

The nation’s second largest wireless carrier is working with Intel to evaluate the performance of the LTE network as it pertains to handling drone communications. How the network copes with data transmission at high altitudes, for example, will certainly be telling. The telecom said connecting drones over its network may also address safety and security concerns as well as limit potential interference with manned aircraft.

Chris Penrose, senior vice president, IoT Solutions at AT&T, said their LTE network is uniquely positioned to connect industries like delivery, agriculture, construction and insurance. Anil Nanduri, vice president of the New Technology Group and general manager of New Markets within the Perceptual Computing Group at Intel, echoed those sentiments, saying his company believes UAVs have great potential, from inspections and precision agriculture to deliveries of consumer goods and providing emergency disaster relief.

Intel will be showing off its Yuneec Typhoon H drone (which uses its RealSense Technology) at Mobile World Congress this week.

Android for desktop fork “Remix OS” gets 32-bit support, OTA updates and more

A company called Jide has been working on a desktop-optimized fork of Android for a little over a year now. After Kickstarting a tablet running its custom software in March 2015 and later following with a small set-top box, the company now plans to release itsRemix OS for free for anyone to install and use on an x86 computer.

Remix OS brings PC productivity features such as multiple floating windows, advanced file manager, and true mouse and keyboard support. It has a start menu where users can access installed programs, and a notification tray that swipes in from the side.

The Alpha release of Remix OS was actually released last month, but with the new public Beta coming on March 1, the company is bringing a substantial amount of improvements and bug fixes. Chief among them is adding support for 32-bit machines, which means you’ll be able to repurpose that old laptop or PC to run a productivity-oriented version of Android.

Other new features include a new hard drive installer that allows for dual-booting of Remix OS with your other main operating system, and OTA updates, allowing Jide to release updates that you can download over the internet and install without losing data.

The a wealth of apps available for Android open up the potential of Remix OS in a meaningful way that Chrome OS extensions and apps can’t match at this point. But there’s still one key feature that’s missing from Remix OS for PC: the Google Play Store. The company says it’s currently in talks with Google for certification to have official access to the Google Play Store and Services — in the meantime you can still sideload them onto your Remix OS device.

Another thing worth keeping in mind is that the user experience varies greatly from app to app depending if they’ve been designed to run only on phones or phones and tablets. If it’s the former apps may not play as well unless you keep the window down to a phone-like shape and size.

Last week we reported on another company that’s working on a solution to repurpose old PCs, only using Chrome OS instead of Android.

Huawei takes on Surface, iPad Pro with 2-in-1 MateBook running Windows 10

mwc, laptop, huawei, microsoft surface, ipad pro, 2-in-1, windows 10, mwc 2016, huawei matebook

Huawei at Mobile World Congress pulled back the sheet on its first-ever 2-in-1 running Windows 10. The Huawei MateBook is an incredibly thin 2-in-1 that aims to take on devices like the Surface and the iPad Pro in the productivity category.

The MateBook features a 12-inch IPS LCD display operating at a resolution of 2,560 x 1,400 that’s powered by an Intel Core M processor of your choosing. It measures just 6.9mm thick – rivaling the thinness of today’s flagship smartphones – and tips the scales at only 640 grams.

The keyboard folio is backlit with 1.5mm of key travel. Rather than Bluetooth, the keyboard interfaces with the tablet via a proprietary connector on the side of the tablet. Speaking of, that’s where you’ll also find the device’s fingerprint reader, tucked neatly between the volume rocker buttons. Ars Technica found the trackpad to be surprisingly large and responsive while the two angles of tilt (54 and 67 degrees) were described as sensible choices.

There’s also the optional MatePen, a stylus that offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity with an elastomer tip should you have the need for it.

Its all-metal unibody design certainly looks the part of a premium device with smooth, rounded edges and chamfered buttons. Huawei says its 33.7Wh battery is good for around 10 hours of standard use.

The Huawei MateBook starts at $699 which includes an Intel Core M3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of local storage. On the upper end, you can expect to pay $1,599 for a Core M7 processor, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Note that accessories like the keyboard folio and stylus are extra ($129 and $59, respectively). Look for it to go on sale in the US “in the coming months.”

Sony announces trio of Xperia X smartphones at MWC 2016

sony, mwc, smartphone, xperia, mac 2016, xperia x, xperia xa, xpreria x performance

Sony has announced three new Xperia phones at MWC 2016 that are set to compete in the all important mid-range segment. Launched as part of the new Xperia X family, the Xperia X, Xperia XA and Xperia X Performance all feature the same premium-feeling construction and rounded glass fronts, with different spec variations under the hood to accommodate for different budgets.

The cheapest of the bunch is the XA with a MediaTek MT6755 processor, 5-inch 720p display, 2,300 mAh battery and 16GB of internal storage. You do get 2GB RAM and 13MP/8MP cameras, though, along a near bezel free design.

The standard Xperia X gets bumped to a Snapdragon 650 processor with 3GB of RAM, 1080 display, 2,700 mAh battery and 32GB of storage, while the X Performance uses Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 820 instead.

The latter two also feature several camera upgrades, including a 13-megapixel front-facing camera and the same 23-megapixel rear camera as in the Z5. But the most interesting new camera feature is something called Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, which Sony claims will be able to track moving objects and predict where they will go, adjusting the focus on the fly to capture fast movement without any blur.

The phones will launch in four colors including white, black, gold and rose gold this summer. Sony did not mention release dates or prices during the event.

Samsung showcases heatpipe-cooled Galaxy S7 family with f/1.7 aperture cameras, IP68 rating and more

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Samsung on Sunday announced two new additions to its Galaxy family of mobile devices, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 features a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display (2,560 x 1,440 / 577 PPI) with an always-on feature that’s powered by a quad-core SoC (two cores operating at 2.15GHz and two operating at 1.6GHz) alongside 4GB of RAM. FYI, international markets will get an octa-core chip (four cores operating at 2.3GHz and four cores clocked at 1.6GHz).

Both chips are built on a 14-nanometer manufacturing process, Samsung said, and utilize an internal heatpipe cooling system to ensure overheating won’t be an issue.

The Galaxy S7 edge, meanwhile, packs a larger 5.5-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED Edge display (2,560 x 1,440 / 534 PPI) that’s powered by the same SoC and 4GB of RAM. Both handsets come with a 12-megapixel Dual Pixel rear-facing camera with f/1.7 aperture lens and optical image stabilization as well as a 5-megapixel selfie camera, also with an f/1.7 aperture lens for improved performance in low light situations.

Samsung says the CPU in its new smartphones is 30 percent faster than what’s found in the Galaxy S6 and the GPU is about 60 percent faster.

The two smartphones will be offered in your choice of 32GB or 64GB of local storage that’s expandable via microSD card slot unlike its predecessors. Both phones feature LTE Category 9, wireless charging that’s compatible with WPC and PMA, NFC, MST, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi, MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, ANT+, USB 2.0 and a variety of embedded sensors.

They also come IP68 rated for liquid and dust resistance meaning the devices can be submerged in a meter and a half of water for up to 30 minutes without incurring damage.

The smaller Galaxy S7 packs a 3,000mAh battery while the larger edge is powered by a 3,600mAh. Neither is removable but it’s still an improvement over the devices they replace without a change in their footprint.

Both handsets will ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow as we saw them in action on the demo floor already running the OS smoothly with the usual Samsung skin.

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge will be available starting mid-March. Pricing hasn’t yet been announced although the company did say that anyone who orders a new Galaxy phone will receive a Gear VR as a free gift. AT&T will begin accepting pre-orders for both phones on February 23 with devices landing in stores March 11.

Google wants to help carriers replace SMS with a better messaging platform

google, facebook, messenger, sms, messaging, imessage, gsma, whatsapp, wechat, rcs

Google is partnering with mobile operators across the world to push a replacement technology for SMS called Rich Communications Services (RCS). The standard would enable more advanced features found in today’s messaging apps like the ability to send photos and videos, create group chats, and to see when another user is typing.

The long overdue upgrade would help operators catch up with “over-the-top” (OTT) internet messaging services like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger and — they hope — regain some of that lost revenue.

The GSMA has been promoting RCS since 2008 and some operators already offer a variation of the technology under various brand names. But with today’s announcement the goal is to get everyone on board towards a common, universal and Android RCS client provided by Google in collaboration with operators and OEMs.

Is it too little too late? Probably. At this point Facebook already dominates the messaging scene with 2 billion monthly active users between Messenger and WhatsApp, while Tencent’s WeChat and QQ Messenger claims 1.5 billion.

That said, a single universal standard that works across carriers out-of-the box is still a step in the right direction, and with Android’s huge market share this is the carriers’ best bet. But even if RCS succeeds it’s unclear if carriers will be able to find a way to monetize it in a world where OTT messaging apps are completely free.

At this point there’s no clear timeframe on when Google will be delivering the RCS client. Although today’s announcement is all about Android, Google says RCS can be implemented by other operating systems too.