Home | Tv | Tv News Chromecast Audio ‘Hendrix’ Leaked, Can Make Dumb Speakers Smart: Report

After making your dumb TVs smart with the Chromecast HDMI dongle, Google is said to be now planning to bring Internet connectivity to your dumb speakers with a separate device. The company will launch a new dongle called Chromecast Audio, which is designed to stream music and offer audio features to speakers, according to a new report. The news follows reports from last week with details about the next-generation Chromecast dongle, said to feature improved Wi-Fi connectivity, a new design, and more.

Codenamed “Hendrix,” the Chromecast Audio will reportedly be focused on bringing Internet-connected audio and music capabilities to regular speakers. The device will connect to speakers through a standard 3.5mm headphone cable, and in effect make them Wi-Fi enabled. The functionality appears to be similar to the Motorola Moto Stream portable wireless adapter that was launched last year.

ChromeCast Audio might be able to power multiple speakers simultaneously, reports 9to5Google, if multiple dongles are used. It also offer a similar features as the Chromecast – users will be able to stream “high-quality” audio to Chromecast Audio-powered devices from Chrome browser on their computers or Android devices.

The report further noted that the Chromecast Audio will offer support for music streaming service Spotify. As of current, the Chromecast supports Google Play Music, Pandora, and Rdio. Spotify, as you may know, has the richest collection of music tracks on Android platform.

Separately, Google plans to update the Chromecast companion app. The update will reportedly bring a new design, and several features. Furthermore, the company plans to add a new feature called “What’s On” which will allow users to browse content from a range of Chrome-supported apps already installed on their Android device. It will also suggest other Chromecast-supported apps available on Google Play,reports 9to5Google.

Previous reports have suggested that the new Chromecast will support content feeds on the Chromecast home screen. While it’s not known how exactly Google plans to utilise this feature, perhaps it will give users the ability to add social media feeds when the device is on idle — “backdrop” mode. It is expected to come in balloon-like form-factor and come in Red, Black, and Yellow colour variants.

Google has scheduled a media event for September 29. The company is expected to announce the launch of two Nexus smartphones and two Chromecast devices at the event.

Foxconn Offers to Buy Sharp’s LCD Business, Wants Apple Funds: Report

Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co offered to buy Sharp Corp’s struggling liquid panel display business and plans to seek funding from Apple Inc, the Nikkei business daily reported on Monday.

The report did not specify how much Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, was willing to pay for the loss-making operations, but said it would seek funding from Apple, a key Sharp customer.

Sharp said it could not yet comment on the report except to say it was “considering various options for the restructuring of the LCD business”.

Hon Hai, which goes by the trade name Foxconn, also declined to comment, saying it was company policy not to comment on speculation.

Osaka-based Sharp was once a highly profitable manufacturer of premium TVs and a favoured screen supplier to Apple and others, but it has come under heavy pricing pressure from Asian rivals.

In May, it sought a bailout of roughly $1.9 billion (roughly Rs. 12,507 crores) from banks and promised to cut 5,000 jobs, or 10 percent of its staff.

Chief Executive Kozo Takahashi had initially resisted calls from investors for a more drastic overhaul of the LCD business, saying he was not considering a spin-off.

But in July, he told reporters that Sharp’s losses, totalling JPY 28.8 billion (roughly Rs. 1,582 crores) on an operating basis in April-June, meant it needed to consider more options.

Sources told Reuters last month that Sharp was considering a tie-up with Hon Hai as well as cash injections from other entities including the state-backed Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, a top shareholder in Sharp rival Japan Display.

Tie-up talks between Hon Hai and Sharp fell through in 2012 after the Japanese company baulked at demands that it said would have given the Taiwanese firm too much control. The two corporations remained in contact and jointly operate a plant in Osaka, western Japan, that makes large LCD panels.

DTH, Regional MSOs to Drive Digitisation: Report

Direct-to-home (DTH) companies and regional multi-system operators (MSOs) are likely to take the lead in implementing the third and fourth phases of digitisation, according to a report.

“DTH is expected to gain in the rural markets (phase III and IV) primarily on the back of easier reach in the cable-dark areas. Moreover, incremental investments towards setting up infrastructure in rural markets and relatively high operating costs render it commercially unviable for national MSOs to enter such markets,” rating agency Icra said in a report on Friday.

It, however, noted that MSOs have opted for inorganic growth in view of large growth opportunity that exists in rural markets, with almost 70 million subscribers to cater.

“While several regional or local operators have been acquired by national MSOs, some have also entered into strategic JVs to ensure healthy presence in Phase III and IV markets,” it said.

The government has set a timeline to complete digitisation in four phases. Phases I and II covering the metros and 38 cities (cities with more than 1 million population) are already over, while phase III deadline (all urban areas) is December 31, 2015 and the phase IV covering the rest of the country has a deadline of December 31, 2016.

With the rural markets being cost-sensitive in nature, MSOs and DTH are looking to offer plain vanilla set top boxes specifically for these markets to encourage subscribers to migrate, it observed.

“Amongst other measures, distributors are also evaluating channel packages with focus on regional content. Media intake in phase III and IV markets are driven by regional content and hence such packages are expected to help distributors further expand their subscriber universe in these markets,” it said.

While MSOs retained nearly 70 per cent of the market in phase I and II, Icra expects the market share dynamics between MSOs and DTH players to change with an uptick in run rate for DTH operators (approximately 20-25 per cent market share in Phase I and II) as the industry progresses towards the Phase III and Phase IV.

Thinking Cleaner Makes Your iRobot Roomba Robot Vacuum Cleaners Smarter

iRobot Roomba

If you already own a iRobot Roomba 700 or 800 edition vacuum cleaner, a new device called the Thinking Cleaner has been designed that adds a wealth of new features to your robot vacuum thanks to enabling a Wi-Fi connection to it.

The Thinking Cleaner system has been created by Thinking Bits and comes complete with a free companion application that is available on both Android and iOS devices to control your iRobot Roomba remotely.

Its developers explain a little more :

The Thinking Cleaner WiFi module is the perfect addition to your iRobot Roomba 700/800 that adds WiFi capabilties to it. It can connect to your home or office network and with the free available app or web interface, the Roomba can be remotely controlled or scheduled. Because your Roomba is now connected to the Internet of things, it can also notify you of specific events.

So when Roomba has finished cleaning or when it is time to empty the bin, you can receive a push notification or email. If you own a smartphone Thinking Cleaner makes your Roomba even smarter and aware of it’s users. It can enable Roomba to adapt to your life by starting a cleaning cycle when you leave the house (geofencing), when it fits your calendar or when you remote trigger it. This way Roomba can clean autonomously.

The Thinking Cleaner for Roomba 700 or 800 WiFi module features include :

• Adds WiFi to your Roomba 700 or 800 for ultimate Roomba control.
• Comes in a sturdy replacement faceplate with all electronics embedded.
• iPhone® + Apple Watch, Android® and web based apps available.
• Remote control much more advanced than the standard IR remote control.
• Easy schedule setup from anywhere in the world. Up to 4 schedules per day!*
• Starts cleaning automatically when you leave your house or office.* **
• Get notifications from your Roomba world wide.*
• Max clean function (for large rooms).
• Multiple Thinking Cleaners are supported by the iPhone and Android app’s.
• Adds accessibility features for people with disabilities or people that need care by making full use of the Voiceover capabilities.
• Runs autonomously on its own CPU to enable full Roomba independent operation.
• Easy to link to home automation systems (API with documentation available for JSON or XML, several home-automation plugins developed by others or us available).
• Over the air firmware updates. Ready for future enhancements and features.*
• Works without router or modem reconfiguration.* 

Thinking Cleaner has launched over on Kickstarter looking to raise €85,000 over the next 43 days to take the concept into production and provide iRobot Roomba owners with a wealth of new features that were previously unavailable.

Gear S2 3G Version Not Coming to Europe Anytime Soon

Gear S2 3G

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is not coming to Europe so users thinking about getting their hands on the handset have to get it imported from another region.

Now, there’s some more bad news for users waiting for the Samsung Gear S2 cellular version of the wearable device is not coming to Europe next month, the normal versions will go on sale by the end of October in the UK and other European countries.

Some retailers in the US have already listed the pricing for the Bluetooth variant, while the 3G version is expected to come to AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, as confirmed by a Samsung Electronics America (SEA) training video.

Recently, Samsung UK Mobile VP Conor Pierce said that Gear S2 3G will only make its way to Korea and United States next month, but other countries are expected to get the normal Bluetooth variant next month.

As for the specifications, the wearable device comes with a 1.2-inch, Super AMOLED display with 360 x 360p screen resolution, a 1Ghz, dual-core processor, 4GB of storage, IP68 certification making it dust and water resistant, and ships with Tizen as its operating system.

We’ll update you if we get to hear anything more about the launch of Gear S2 3G in other countries.

Sprint and T-Mobile reportedly ready to sell Apple Watches on iPhone launch day

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If you’re picking up an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus at your local Sprint or T-Mobile store on September 25, you might be able to accessorize with an Apple Watch, too.

MacRumors is reporting that T-Mobile will start selling the watch in-store on iPhone launch day, and 9to5Mac’s sources say Sprint is joining the party that day, too. AT&T is rumored to start selling the watch on September 25 as well, but none of the carriers have confirmed their plans. The carriers’ retail stores will reportedly carry the 38mm and 42mm Sport and stainless steel models, but don’t expect to find the luxury Watch Edition any place but an Apple Store.

Best Buy was the first third-party seller to get on board with Apple Watch in early August, and Apple itself only started carrying the watch in-store in June. Best Buy began selling the watch in a limited number of stores, about 100 across the country, but said that demand was so strong that the chain will have the watch and its accessories available at all 1,050 stores by the end of this month.

Why this matters: Apple is ramping up watch availability before the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, and is clearly anticipating strong sales. The company released new watch finishes—gold and rose gold Sport options—and a variety of Sport band colors this month in an effort to appeal to style-conscious buyers. Apple also partnered with Hermès to put the luxury fashion brand’s stamp on a collection of Apple Watches with beautiful leather bands and custom watch faces. That collection hits Apple and Hermès stores October 5.

Qualcomm follows the trend, building 8 cores into its new Snapdragon 4-series chips

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Qualcomm announced a pair of Snapdragon processors for midrange phones Monday night with what might be a tinge of embarrassment. Both include eight cores, a strategy derided by a senior Qualcomm exec two years ago as a dumb idea.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about the Snapdragon 617 and Snapdragon 430—two chips that, as their product designations imply, will be marketed as phones that are cheaper than the flagships housing the Snapdragon 820. Qualcomm also said Monday that the communications processor within the 820 will be known as the X12, supporting “4G+” connectivity with bandwidth up to 650Mbps down and 150Mbps up.

It’s just that in 2013, Qualcomm senior vice president Anand Chandrasekher called eight-core smartphone processors “dumb.” Asked whether Qualcomm would follow Mediatek into the market with an 8-core chip, he replied, “We don’t do dumb things.”

Well Chandrasekher, that was then, this is now: Both the Snapdragon 617 and Snapdragon 430 both have octacore processors inside, company executives said.

Why this matters:  Poor Chandrasekher was trying to make a point that simply adding cores was a dumb idea if they couldn’t be used cohesively. Now, however, the core count has become another metric of performance.  With four major smartphone players—ARM, whose designs are used as is by smaller chip houses and adapted by others; Qualcomm; Samsung, and Apple—the competition is forcing vendors to do things they previously thought off-limits.

Communication is the key, Qualcomm

The new Snapdragons will use an older ARM A53 core, not the new Kryo core that will be featured in the 820. So far, Qualcomm has said only that Kryo will be a quad-core chip running at speeds of up to 2.2GHz, on a 14-nm process.

Few details of the new Snapdragons were released, though both chips will include the Hexagon DSP for computational processing and always-on sensors. The 430, meanwhile, boasts a new Adreno 500 core but support for “just” 1080p displays, rather than the higher-resolution displays used by flagship devices. Commercial devices featuring the Snapdragon 430 are expected to be available in the second quarter of next year, Qualcomm said, while the 617 should be shipping in phones before the end of 2015.

Both chips also boast what Qualcomm calls QuickCharge 3.0, which halves the time to apply a full charge to phones that support it, versus QuickCharge 1.0. According to Mark Shedd, director of marketing for Qualcomm, QuickCharge 3.0 can increase or decrease the voltage in 200-millivolt increments, decreasing the wear and tear on the battery and increasing its lifespan. (It’s possible that phone makers will see this as another argument for sealed, unreplaceable batteries, however.)

Perhaps the real differentiator between the two is the modem. The Snapdragon 617 uses a Qualcomm X8 LTE modem, with support for 2×20 MHz LTE-Advanced, with 300Mbps up and 100Mbps down. The 430 uses the X6 version, with 2x10MHz LTE-A, and 150Mbps down and 75Mbps up.

The capabilities of the modem are apparently also the last of the details Qualcomm has slowly dripped out about the capabilities of the Snapdragon 820. Here’s what you need to know: The X12 supports Cat 12 download speeds up to 600Mbps and Cat 13 upload speeds up to 150Mbps via carrier aggregation. On the Wi-Fi side, the phone supports tri-band: 60GHz for 802.11ad, plus 2.4GHz and 5GHz coverage for 2×2 802.11ac. The modem will also tap into unlicensed LTE spectrum (LTE-U), and the Zeroth modem will be able to switch back and forth between Wi-Fi and LTE for voice as well as video calling.

Apple announces new Apple Watch bands and finishes, and watchOS 2 ships Sept 16

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Apple Watch is looking better than ever, and now it will work better too, thanks to the release of its version 2 operating system next week.

The new features in watchOS 2 were revealed earlier this year, but now the OS has a shipping date: September 16. Apple also announced new Apple Watch bands and finishes, available today in 24 countries, and showed off a partnership with luxury-goods maker Hermes to bring its Double Tour bands—along with classic Hermes faces unique to those bands—to the Watch platform.

WatchOS 2 allows apps to run natively on the Watch and access hardware directly, such as tapping into the microphone, health sensors, and speaker. It can also display video, handle transit directions, and will offer new watch faces as well as third-party complications—the little details on watch faces, like moon phases. Time Travel allows using the digital crown to scan back and forth through past and future appointments and events.

hermes watch band
Apple is teaming up with Hermes on Watch bands.

Apple showed two new finishes for the anodized aluminum Sport edition: gold and rose gold. And the popular black Sport band is now available for the higher-priced stainless-steel Watch model. These updates are paired with new colors of fluoroelastomer bands: lavender, antique white, stone, and midnight blue.

The Sport’s silver finish model can now be purchased with orange and blue bands. The stainless steel Watch version also comes with new band options, including two-toned and saddle brown leather versions. And the popular black Sport band can now be ordered with the space black stainless steel Watch model. On the high end, a midnight blue Classic Buckle band is now an option for the 18-karat rose gold Edition version.

Apple also released a red Sport band branded with the Product(RED) label; a portion of its sales will be devoted to AIDS research via the Global Fund.

Several new colors of fluoroelastomer bands were also shown, including beige, brown, and shades of gray and blue. Special Hermes bands will appear in select stores in October.

Apple brought health-care firm Airstrip One on stage to briefly show off the capabilities of a physician-oriented Watch app that shows patient data, as well as an app that allows an obstetrician to pull up remote information, such as fetal heartbeat, when a pregnant woman runs tests with a supported monitor.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also quickly showed Facebook Messenger and a remote video view for GoPro cameras running natively on the Watch. He noted that the App Store now has over 10,000 Watch-enabled apps.

iPad Pro revealed with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil

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The iPad Pro, revealed during Wednesday’s Apple event, is the most powerful iOS device ever made, and “the biggest iPad news since the iPad,” Tim Cook said from the stage. The iPad Pro also has two new accessories: the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil.

The iPad Pro measures 12.9 inches on the diagonal. Half the width of the iPad Pro is exactly the height of the iPad Air 2—a perfect geometry for running apps side by side. With 5.6 million pixels in a 2732×2048 resolution, the iPad Pro has a higher resolution than the 15-inch MacBook Pro with retina display. The iPad’s new multitasking capabilities in iOS 9 were specifically designed to make the most out of the iPad Pro, Apple said.

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Available in November, the iPad Pro comes in Silver, Gold and Space Gray. The 32GB WiFi-only model costs $799, the 128GB WiFi-Only model is $949, and the 128GB WiFi+cellular model goes for $1,079. The iPad Pro boasts a A9X chip that has twice the memory of, and is 1.8x faster than, the A8X in iPad Air 2. “This is desktop-class performance,” said Phil Schiller.

The iPad Pro is 6.9 mm thick (the iPad Air is 6.1 mm), and weighs 1.57 pounds. It has an 8MP iSight camera, four speakers, 802.11ac with MIMO, up to 150 Mbps LTE, and Touch ID. According to Apple, the iPad Pro will have 10 hours of battery life.

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Apple Pencil & Smart Keyboard

Apple also revealed two new accessories for the iPad Pro: Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, both of which will be available in November. Pencil is Cupertino’s version of a stylus, and it costs $99. The tip has two detection spots that can detect position, force, tilt, and orientation. Pencil can be used simultaneous with your fingers, too.

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The $169 Smart Keyboard is basically a Smart Cover with a built-in keyboard, similar to the Microsoft Surface tablets. The Smart Keyboard uses dome switches, does not have function keys (so third-party keyboards can still have an edge), and it’s made with “Apple-woven fabric,” Schiller said.

New Chromecast Tipped to Launch This Month; Images, Features Leaked

Google, at its rumoured September 29 event might announce the much-anticipated second-generation Chromecast streaming device alongside the two Nexus smartphones, with a brand new design. A report citing leaked internal documents tips not just the launch date, but some features of the new Chromecast as well, apart from upcoming Spotify support – a music streaming service notably missing from the list.

The report by 9to5Google claims the the next-generation Chromecast (seen below) would be ditching the ‘dongle’ form factor and instead would be sporting what looks like a balloon-like design. The images show the upcoming streaming device to arrive in Red, Black, and Yellow colour variants.

As rumoured previously, dual-band 5GHz Wi-Fi 802.11ac connectivity is tipped. The existing Chromecast supports only 802.11b/g/n bands. The faster Wi-Fi also powers the tipped Fast Play feature, which would be able to establish a connection quicker than the current model and fluently stream content when the ‘Cast’ button is pressed, resolving the lag experienced by users of the current model.

chromecast_2_gen_9to5_google.jpgIt is also expected to support new content feeds on the Chromecast home screen, above and beyond the Backdrop mode. However, it is not yet clear as to what kind of feeds would the next-gen Chromecast users be able to add, and the report speculates social media feeds.

Also tipped is that Google would be launching “Chromecast Audio” feature at the same event. The feature would let users plug in their Chromecasts directly in to speakers via an auxiliary cord, offering Chromecast support to any audio system or speakers. This feature is also said to include multi-room support, which would mirror Chrome or Android audio and will deliver ‘high-quality’ sound output. Chromecast Audio should not be confused with Google Cast for Audio, which is the company’s platform to create audio devices compatible with Chromecast.

Another document suggests that Chromecast platform would soon be able to support the popular Spotify music streaming service that has been conspicuously absent from the list of partners. This would come in addition to the company’s own Google Play Music streaming service for the Chromecast. The HDMI streaming player also supports Netflix and Pandora. Google reportedly will make the announcement the same day as the Chromecast launch alongside the two Nexus smartphones.