Gadget-happy consumers across Europe will breathe a sigh of relief to hear the European Union has officially slashed roaming charges in all 28 countries.
Anyone with a contract from European telcos won't have to spend an arm and a leg for calls, text messages or even data abroad - compared to the widely reviled, sky-high rates that were previously set by providers. "This huge drop in data roaming prices will make a big difference to all of us this summer," European commissioner Neelie Kroes, who oversaw the plans, said in a recent statement. "But it is not enough."
These developments will be welcome for beleaguered European consumers - who have been left behind in the worldwide race for 4G networks. But they may not be so welcome for network providers who have felt forced to up call rates outside of Europe to compensate. Companies such as Vodafone have struggled in Europe of late, posting profit warnings amid high tax rates in certain territories, and diversifying product portfolios to supplement mobile businesses.
Apple is currently testing a way to make its iCloud system more secure by using two-step verification. Before the new system went into testing, all people needed was a simple password to gain access to iCloud.com. Using only a password makes access easier to gain by nefarious hackers.
iCloud now uses Apple's normal two-factor authentication system with users logging in using a password and a four-digit verification code. That four-digit verification code has to be sent to a trusted device.
Once that four-digit code is entered, iCloud apps are unlocked and can be accessed normally. The only iCloud app that can be accessed without the verification code is the Find my iPhone button. Find My iPhone is not secured with two-factor authentication to allow you to find your device if it is lost or stolen and is your trusted device.
Microsoft is having a very hard time convincing users of its operating system that it is worthwhile to upgrade. That means that the profitability for its Windows division isn't what it used to be. The next major Windows release is expected to happen in the spring of 2015.
The name of that major release is up in the air, it is being called Windows "Threshold" right now, but it could ultimately be called Windows 9. The main goal of the operating system is to lure Windows 7 holdouts to upgrade. To get Windows 7 users to go to a new OS, Microsoft will fit it with features specifically aimed at desktop users that interface with a mouse and keyboard or touch.
Reports indicate that the OS will use profiles that make it look different depending on what type of hardware it is running on. The next version of Windows will have versions that are designed for desktops and put Windows Desktop for legacy apps in the forefront and version that supports switching for convertible devices between metro-style mode and Windowed mode. Interestingly, there is some indication that Threshold may be a free update for everyone on Windows 8.1.
Twitter has added buy now buttons to some tweets that are about products. This means that shopping on twitter appears ready to launch. The first evidence of the Buy Now buttons has surfaced on products via a shopping app called Fancy.
The Buy Now links in the tweets pictured above reportedly didn't work. You can also see that the prices on the products in the tweets are insane with a pair of shoes for $170 million. Clearly, these are placeholder products put there for testing.
It is presumed that these links, which leaked via the twitter mobile app, weren't meant to go live. Officials from twitter and Fancy didn't offer any comments on the leaks.
Apple has been working with other firms for a while now to bring better speech recognition to Siri. Siri can recognize the voice commands it hears and perform the action asked of it in many instances. However, the speech recognition in the Siri assistant could be better and Apple knows that.
Apple is reportedly working on building a team internally to help it improve speech recognition for Siri. Currently Siri's voice recognition is powered by Nuance and Apple wants to get away from using that tech and get into using its own.
Apple is expected to release its own in-house voice recognition service in the future. Apple is reportedly hiring at management levels for this in-house team and is hiring on the research and team level as well. The next iteration of iOS, iOS 8, is expected to use Nuance tech.
Audi has announced that it and Apple will be working together to integrate Apple CarPlay into vehicles starting in 2015. Audi buyers that purchase a car next year in Europe will get CarPlay integration. North American fans of Audi vehicles will have to wait until early 2016 to be able to purchase a vehicle with CarPlay integration.
Audi isn't alone in working to bring Apple CarPlay integration to its vehicles, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, and Volvo will also be offering CarPlay as well. Audi has been on the confirmed on the participating list for CarPlay for a while, but this is the first word on when cars with the service will hit the roads around the world.
Audi plans to integrate its own controls and touch system into CarPlay to make it less distracting to drivers. Audi drivers will also be able to use Siri via Audi dial, touch, and voice control systems.
There are plenty of LED light bulbs on the market today that allow the user to control lighting and even light color using smartphone apps. The catch is that many of those bulbs also carry a rather steep price blocking entry into the smart bulb market for some. GE has announced a new smart LED bulb series that it promises will be cheap compared to existing products.
GE's new family of bulbs are called Link bulbs and the system does require a hub to connect the bulbs in the home. That hub will set you back $30 on its own. After buying that hub, the bulbs will cost in the area of $15 to $25 each depending on the style chosen.
A kit is available with the hub and two 60W equivalent bulbs for $50. Once connected, the app and hub allow you to schedule the lights and control brightness. It doesn't appear that the bulbs allow you to control the color of the light. Home Depot is taking pre-orders on the bulbs now and they will ship this fall.
Samsung has rolled out a new smartphone called the Galaxy S5 mini and as the name implies, this is a smaller version of the normal Galaxy S5. The S5 mini has a 4.5-inch screen, which is a bit over a half inch smaller than the 5.1-inch screen of the Galaxy S5.
The mini does have less processor power as well using a quad-core 1.4GHz processor under the hood. The mini also has an 8MP rear camera and the 4.5-inch screen has a resolution of 1280 x 720. Other hardware specifications for the smartphone include 1.5GB of RAM and 16GB of storage.
Power for the S5 mini comes from a 2100 mAh internal battery. One glance at the specs tells you that the S5 mini is much less powerful than the normal S5 packing a 2.1 or 2.5GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16MP camera. If the Galaxy S5 mini sounds like something you want, it will be available in Russia starting in early July and will expand globally later.
Google has been fighting in court for a while trying to get out of the trouble it landed in with the Wi-Fi snooping that it performed with its Street View cars several years ago. Google has lost the case in court and has been appealing trying to get a different decision, but it looks like its appeals are over. The US Supreme court has refused to hear Google's appeal on a ruling in the case.
The refusal to hear the appeal will allow consumers to proceed with a privacy suit that stems from the snooping scandal. A lower court had previously ruled against Google saying that it may had violated a federal wiretap law when it collected payload data from Wi-Fi networks using its street view cars.
The data that Google captured with tech aboard those vehicles includes emails, passwords, and URLs that people had visited at home and in the office. The legal case around this issue began in 2010 when it was revealed that Street View cars were collecting data from Wi-Fi networks that weren't protected. Google argues that it didn't violate the wiretap law due to a clause in that law that gives an exception for networks readily accessible to the public.
2014 Samsung SSD Global Summit - Samsung is moments away from opening the doors to the 2014 Samsung SSD Global Summit conference. Paul and I just snapped some photos. We don't have a lot of time to go into the full details now, look for more detailed coverage later this evening. For now, let's run some photos!