Amazon quietly launches its own clothing brands

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Amazon has never hesitated to compete with traditional brick-and-mortar outfits (no pun intended) and its latest endeavor is certainly no exception. The e-commerce giant has quietly launched its own in-house fashion lines comprised of more than 1,800 individual fashion products across seven different brand names.

According to WWD, KeyBanc Capital analyst Ed Yruma disclosed the launch in a recent note to investors. Amazon’s “house” brands include Franklin & Freeman, Franklin Tailored, James & Erin, Lark & Ro, North Eleven, Scout + Ro and Society New York. The brands sell a range of products including men’s dress shoes, suiting and accessories and a variety of women’s clothing.

The majority of products are said to be in the women’s dress and handbags line, Society New York, which makes up 911 of the roughly 1,800 SKUs. Men’s accessories line Franklin Tailored features around 250 unique SKUs, we’re told.

Those in the fashion industry aren’t entirely surprised by the move. WWD reports that in recent weeks, the e-commerce powerhouse has posted job listings looking for marketing and senior brand managers, a head of marketing, a senior sourcing manager and a senior merchandiser to staff its private label unit.

Pricing on some of the private label brand products indicates Amazon is content to tackle the cheaper end of the price spectrum. While that approach may not bring in the most profit per sale, it’s likely that Amazon generate more sales overall to make up for the difference.

Build your own computer case with the Aerocool Dream Box

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Selecting the perfect PC case can often seem like an exercise in futility. While there’s no shortages of options to choose from, finding one that appeals to your taste, accommodates your hardware and physically fits where you want to use it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Worse yet, all of that hard work may go out the window if you move, switch to a watercooling setup or change form factors.

If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation (and you like to build things), the Dream Box from Aerocool may be worth a look.

The Dream Box is a DIY case in the truest form. The starter kit comes with 188 components – an assortment of joints, pipes, brackets, metal beams, an I/O port, PSU bracket and more – that allow you to build a chassis that’s limited only by your imagination.

In fact, you don’t even have to build a computer case as Aerocool suggests all sorts of things such as coat hangers, toys, a table, lamps and more. Think of it as a grown-up version of an Erector Set.

While the kit offers a ton of flexibility, it notably doesn’t include any sort of panels. If you’ve got young kids or curious pets, this could certainly pose a problem. I imagine it wouldn’t be too difficult to carve up some custom panels but of course, that requires extra time, money and effort.

The Aerocool Dream Box retails for $150.

Oppo claims it can fully charge a 2,500mAh phone battery in under 15 minutes

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You may’ve not heard much about Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo, but the company is showing off a couple of promising technologies at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Specifically, a proprietary technology that can fully charge an empty smartphone battery in a mere 15 minutes, as well as a sensor-based image stabilization technique that’s supposed to be the first of its kind.

The former is called Super VOOC and is currently still in the prototyping stage, but the company says it could be featured in Oppo smartphones later this year or early next. In a live demo at MWC the company showed off a reference device featuring a 2,500mAh battery going from empty to full in minutes — 85% charge in 7 minutes in the pic above.

To put that into context, Qualcomm’s next-gen Quick Charge 3.0 can reportedly get a smartphone from zero to 80 percent in around 35 minutes.

Oppo says that using a a low-voltage pulse charging algorithm, its VOOC technology stays within standard voltage levels for smartphone charging, ensuring “the utmost safety, stability and device sustainability.” The company said that it can achieve the results with either microUSB or USB-C charging ports.

As for the optical image stabilization technology, dubbed SmartSensor, Oppo claims it’s the first sensor-based solution for smartphones rather than lens-based.

The technology uses a voltage-driven microelectromechanical system built in to absorb shock, which the company claims allowed them not only to create the smallest optical image stabilizer of any kind in the world (no more camera bulge?) but also improve on current solutions by allowing for image stabilization on three axes (pitch, yaw and roll) instead of just two (pitch and yaw).

Nikon joins premium compact camera market with new DL series

nikon, camera, photography, digital camera, point-and-shoot, compact camera, dl18-50, dl24-85, dl24-500

Cameras built into mobile phones first encroached on the territory of standalone digital cameras in the early 2000s but it would be many years before they were considered a threat. These days, it’s next to impossible to find a smartphone without a camera.

While one could argue that convenience alone trumps all other aspects, smartphone cameras can’t yet compare to the quality afforded by a respectable standalone digital camera – especially a DSLR or mirrorless camera. But what if you aren’t that into photography, would rather not fool with swapping lenses or simply want a great camera without all the bulk?

Nikon’s latest line of point-and-shoot digital cameras may be just what you’re after.

The new DL series is comprised of three compact fixed-lens cameras that cover the most common focal ranges. The DL18-50,DL24-85 and DL24-500 feature wide, mid-range and super telephoto zoom ranges of 18-50mm, 24-85mm and 24-500mm, respectively, and all utilize Nikon’s 20.8-megapixel 1-inch “CX” BSI CMOS sensor (the same one found in the Nikon 1 series) mated to an Expeed 6A image processor.

The DL18-50 and the DL24-85 both feature a variable f/1.8-2.8 aperture and four stops of stabilization while the DL24-500 offers a variable f/2.8-5.6 aperture and five stops of stabilization. As you’d expect, the DL18-50 and DL24-85 are pocketable; the DL24-500, not so much.

Each model offers RAW image capture and 20fps continuous shooting as well as 4K video recording at up to 30fps and slow-motion capture at 120fps (1080p) and 240fps (720p). All three cameras also utilize Nikon’s BridgeSnap system which leans on both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to speed up wireless transfers. Hot shoes can be found on all three models.

Nikon says the DL18-50 will ship this summer priced at $849.95 while the DL24-85 will set you back $649.95. The superzoom DL24-500, meanwhile, will command $999.95 when it arrives this summer. Personally, I’d opt for something in the mirrorless category that affords the added flexibility of an interchangeable lens camera but as cameras like the Sony RX100 III have demonstrated, the market for fixed-lens point-and-shoots still very much exists.

Spotify is moving its business to the cloud

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Spotify is moving to the cloud. The popular streaming music platform has partnered with Google on the endeavor which, given the size of Spotify’s business and its subscriber base, is going to take some time to complete.

Nicholas Harteau, VP of Engineering and Infrastructure at Spotify, announced the move in a recent blog post. In it, Harteau said Spotify has up to this point taken the traditional approach of buying or leasing datacenter space, server hardware and networking gear as close to customers as possible.

As its business has grown, however, this approach has become more demanding in terms of focus and effort. For the longest time, Harteau said, the traditional route made the most sense as core cloud services weren’t yet at a level of quality, performance and cost that Spotify demanded.

Recently, however, the balance has shifted.

Spotify now believes the storage, compute and network services offered by top-tier cloud providers like Google are on par with what the traditional approach provides. Harteau said they believe Google currently has the edge although they expect the big players to be battling it out over the coming years.

Just a few weeks ago, Netflix revealed that it now operates entirely in the cloud via Amazon Web Services.

Harteau didn’t provide a timeline for the move but because of the complex nature of the project, it’ll take them “some time” to complete. Those interested in charting Spotify’s progress are urged to keep an eye on their engineering blog.

MasterCard wants to replace passwords and PINs with selfies

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In the ongoing search for the successor to unsecure passwords and PINs, financial services giant MasterCard is taking a modern approach to authenticating transactions called MasterCard Identity Check.

Last year, MasterCard completed a pilot program for a feature that allows users to authenticate online transactions using facial recognition. Dubbed by many as “Selfie Pay,” the app maps the user’s face and requires them to blink to eliminate fraud by using a still photograph. The company says its algorithms can also detect if someone is trying to fool it by using a video.

Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard’s president of enterprise security solutions, told The Verge that the facial recognition system won’t be used to authenticate every transaction. Instead, it may be utilized if the context of a purchase seems abnormal such as, for example, if you’re shipping an item to an unfamiliar address.

It may seem silly to some but it could come in handy if your phone doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner.

Following the successful trials, MasterCard said it will be rolling out the technology to 14 countries over the summer including Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, the US, the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Norwary, Switzerland, Denmark and Finland.

Within five years, Bhalla believes the technology will be ubiquitous. It’s unclear if that prophecy will indeed come to fruition but it’s encouraging to see large players like MasterCard moving past the traditional password and PIN approach.

Xiaomi launches Mi5 with flagship specs at half the price

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Xiaomi has officially unveiled its Mi 5 flagship Android phone at MWC 2016 in Barcelona. The Chinese manufacturer is known for its high-end but affordable devices and this one is no exception. Starting at 1,999 Yuan ($305) for the 32GB version, the Mi5 packs a 5.15-inch full HD display with extremely thin bezels, a fingerprint sensor on the front, a Snapdragon 820 processor, 3GB of RAM, NFC, and a 3,000 mAh battery.

To get down to this price point Xiaomi favored a plastic body instead of going all-metal, but initial hands on with the device suggest it’s sturdy and well built. The phone is slightly curved on the back where you’ll also find a 16MP camera with a Sony IMX298 sensor and 4-axis OIS that’s flush with the phone, meaning no unsightly bulges.

Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra (former VP of Google’s Android division) said the company spent two years making sure their camera would be flush with the back and threw some shade at Apple and Samsung for their designs.

Other highlights include a 4-megapixel front shooter for selfies, Bluetooth 4.2, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, and a USB-C port for charging and data transfer. On the software side, the Mi5 runs Xiaomi’s MIUI 7 based on Android Marshmallow.

Xiaomi’s Mi5 will be available from March 1 in China featuring 32GB or 64GB internal storage in white, black and gold variants. A Pro variant will also be available featuring 4GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage and a ceramic back for 2,699 yuan ($415).

Xiaomi has previously signaled its intent to break into the U.S. and European market but had no news to share in that regard.

Jolla quietly debuts Aqua Fish smartphone at MWC

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Jolla, the Finnish mobile device maker that raised eyebrows earlier this year bysnubbing some of its crowdfunding backers, made a surprise appearance at Mobile World Congress with a new smartphone in tow.

If you recall, Jolla announced last summer that it was splitting its business into two by licensing its software to other device makers. The move would allow the company to continue developing its own hardware while simultaneously building up the Sailfish OS install base.

The Aqua Fish from Indian handset maker Intex Technologies is a product of the latter.

The Aqua Fish features a 5-inch TFT display operating at 1,280 x 720 and is powered by a Qualcomm quad-core SoC clocked at 1.3GHz alongside 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (expandable via microSD card slot). There’s an 8-megapixel camera on the rear as well as a 2-megapixel shooter up front. Connectivity-wise, the Aqua Fish includes 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 4G LTE and a micro-USB 2.0 port. It’ll ship running Sailfish 2.0 and is powered by a smallish 2,500mAh battery.

Jolla says the Aqua Fish handset will go on sale this April in India. It’ll be offered in orange and black color schemes and is rumored to be priced between $120 and $150. No word yet on whether or not it’ll make its way outside of India.

OnePlus 3 smartphone to arrive by June

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OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has revealed that the Chinese handset maker will release its next flagship smartphone by the end of the second quarter of this year.

In an exclusive interview with CNET, Pei said he hopes the OnePlus 3 – which will actually be the company’s fourth model – will “captivate” users as much as the original did in 2014. The executive was short on details but said the next flagship will feature a new design.

As the publication points out, OnePlus doesn’t publish sales figures although it claims to have more than 800,000 users on its online forum that share tips, tricks and other experiences regarding their phones.

Aside from its attractive price, much of what garnered attention for the three-year-old company early on was the exclusivity generated by its unique invite-only sales model. That gimmick has likely run its course, however, as Pei said OnePlus will begin using more traditional marketing strategies.

Pei also told the publication that the US will be very important for his company this year, added that the OnePlus 3 will arrive in the US and other markets as an unlocked device that’ll continue to be sold directly to consumers. Best yet, he said OnePlus expects to offer a “better” buying process which (fingers crossed) may mean moving away from the annoying invite-only model.

And for the first time, they’ll accept credit card payments in addition to PayPal. Free shipping is also sticking around, we’re told.

Bethesda says ‘Fallout 4’ mod support will arrive on the PC in April

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Bethesda director, designer and producer Todd Howard has revealed that official Fallout 4 mod support will arrive between the first two DLCs. Or in other words, this coming April.

Howard, who made the admission in a recent interview with Game Informer, said people are currently beta testing it. He stressed that they want to get it going on the PC first before bringing it to consoles. As such, it’ll probably arrive a month later on Xbox One and hit PlayStation 4 the following month.

As Silicon Angel correctly points out, Fallout 4 already has a pretty significant modding community that has turned out hundreds of mods for Bethesda’s award-winning title. Some of the more popular mods include one that revamps the game’s dialogue, one that expands on the game’s weapons system and even some that introduce nudity.

Up to this point, however, mods have been a bit limited. Once access to the mod creation kit arrives, it’ll make it much easier to access and change game files.

Bethesda first revealed that mod support was in the works late last year at the same time it announced Fallout 4 DLC. The company took the wraps off the aforementioned DLC last week, detailing the first of three expansion packs – Automatron, Wasteland Workshop and Far Harbor – that will begin arriving next month and each month thereare.