Author: Brian Heater

What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2019

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: 2019 just might be the year that smartphones get fun again. After years of similar form factors and slight upgrades, the mobile industry’s back is against the wall. For the first time ever, sales are down, owning to economic factors and slower upgrade cycles. Most people who want good phones have had access to them for a while, and smartphone makers are providing fewer compelling reasons to buy new ones. With their backs against the wall, handset makers are getting creative. We’ve already seen some early fruits from companies late last year and last month at CES. But MWC is really going to be their time to shine. It’s a much larger mobile show, and all parties know that everyone’s bringing the big guns. Here’s what we expect to see in Barcelona February 24-28. Huawei: The company looks to have a lot on tap for the event — in part because the North America-based CES is kind of a non-starter. CEO Richard Yu has hinted at a foldable and a 5G handset — which could well be the same phone. More mainstream are the P30 and P30 Pro. The company’s done a good job keeping it under wraps, but rumors about three or four rear-lenses have made the rounds. LG: As is its move, LG has already announced the G8...

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Amazon may be rethinking its New York City headquarters

Amazon’s decision to open HQ2 in New York City has been a controversial decision since day one. The company has been championing the estimated 25,000 jobs the move could bring to the metropolitan area, while citizens and local government officials have balked at promised tax breaks and the added strain on housing and an aging infrastructure. The unexpected friction has apparently been enough to cause Amazon to reconsider its plans for Queens’ Long Island City neighborhood. That’s according to a new report from the Bezos-owned Washington Post. The paper cites “people familiar with the matter,” including one who stated, anonymously,...

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Sprint calls AT&T’s 5G E label ‘false advertising’ in new lawsuit

While it’s true that it’s going to take some time before most of us will actually be able to enjoy the benefits of 5G, that doesn’t mean you can’t sit back and enjoy the fireworks right now. AT&T’s adoption of the “5G Evolution” label has already been controversial among industry followers and fellow carriers alike, for watering down the meaning of next-gen connectivity — and now Sprint is looking to do something about it. The carrier filed suit against what it called “false advertising and deceptive acts” relating to AT&T’s 5G E. The suit notes, rightly, that Sprint, AT&T and other major carriers are all jostling to be first to market, “but calling its network 5G E […] does not make it a 5G network.” In fact, the network is more akin to advanced LTE. AT&T called itself “[the] first U.S. mobile company to introduce mobile 5G service in a dozen markets by late 2018” courtesy of the label, in a much maligned attempt to plant its flag. It’s similar to tactics used by the carrier ahead of the rollout of LTE. AT&T has largely waved away criticism, stating that it’s happy that such moves have gotten it into the heads of the competition. That may be true, but anyone who’s watched the industry with even passing interest knows that real network advances take time, and this sort of...

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Woody Allen just sued Amazon for $68 million

Woody Allen filed a $68 million suit with the Southern District of New York today over a four-picture deal with Amazon. The suit arrives as Allen’s latest film, “A Rainy Day in New York” has been set in limbo, months after release. The film, which stars Selena Gomez, Elle Fanning and Jude Law, among others, has been shelved following the latest round of controversy around the filmmaker’s 1992 sexual assault allegations. A number of the film’s stars have since expressed regret at participating in the picture and others have agreed to donate their salaries to charity. “Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen,” the suit reads, “and, in any event it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract,” the suit alleges. “There simply was no legitimate ground for Amazon to renege on its promises.” The Amazon/Allen deal has already resulted in the release of two films — “Wonder Wheel” and “Cafe Society” — with more on the way. As Variety notes, the initial agreement was met with a then tongue-in-cheek comment from Allen, stating, “Like all beginning relationships, there is much hope, mutual affection and genuine goodwill — the lawsuits come later.”  The rise...

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MIT’s insulin pill could replace injections for people with diabetes

Insulin pills have long been a kind of Holy Grail for people living with diabetes. A research team at MIT believes it may have taken an important step toward that dream with a new blueberry-sized capsule made of compressed insulin. Once ingested, water dissolves a disk of sugar, using a spring to release a tiny needle made up almost entirely of freeze-dried insulin. The needle is injected into the stomach — which the patient can’t feel, owing to a lack of pain receptors in the stomach. Once the injection has occurred, the needle can break down in the digestive tract. The pill is able to orient itself once swallowed, in order to make sure it injects in the right spot. That bit was apparently inspired by tortoise shells. According to MIT, “The researchers drew their inspiration for the self-orientation feature from a tortoise known as the leopard tortoise. This tortoise, which is found in Africa, has a shell with a high, steep dome, allowing it to right itself if it rolls onto its back. The researchers used computer modeling to come up with a variant of this shape for their capsule, which allows it to reorient itself even in the dynamic environment of the stomach.” So far, the team has been testing the pill successfully in pigs, delivering up to 300 micrograms of insulin in a go. No word...

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LG’s next flagship is getting a 3D front-facing camera

LG’s never been much on waiting for a big show to announce its latest offering. Mobile World Congress is still weeks away, and the company just dropped what’s likely to be the biggest new feature of its upcoming flagship, the G8 ThinQ. Clunky naming conventions aside, the handset once again finds LG focusing its efforts on imaging, with a time-of-flight sensor built-in to the front-facing camera array (sensor pictured above, incidentally). Here’s LG on what that means, While other 3D technologies utilize complex algorithms to calculate an object’s distance from the camera lens, the ToF image sensor chip delivers...

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Arnaud Thiercelin and Laura Major will be speaking at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI April 18 at UC Berkeley

Just over two months out, and our third TC Sessions: Robotics + AI event is shaping up to be another good one. We’ve already announced Anca Dragan, Alexei Efros, Hany Farid, Melonee Wise, Peter Barrett and Rana el Kaliouby. We’ve got some great demos planned for the event, as well — you can still get in on that by filling out our survey here. Meantime, we’ve got a pair of new names to announce for the April 18th event, both representing major players in the drone category. Arnaud Thiercelin and Laura Major will both be returning to our stage after taking part in a successful drone panel at the last Disrupt. As the Head of U.S. R&D at DJI, Arnaud Thiercelin helps lead developer technologies and enterprise solutions for the world’s largest drone manufacturer. Prior to joining DJI, Thiercelin lead iOS development at finance company Enova International and cofounded computer software company, Flying Pig. Laura Major is the CTO of Aria Insights, a newly launched startup dedicated to using AI to analyze drone data collection. Aria represents a new focus for tethered drone company Cyphy Works, where Major also served as CTO. Prior to this, she worked as division leader at not-for-profit research and development defense and space company, Draper.  Early Bird tickets are on sale now for $249. That’s $100 savings before prices go up. Book your tickets...

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Motorola’s G7 line arrives this spring, starting at $199

Weeks of leaks haven’t left much to the imagination. But for those waiting for the real thing, the latest iteration of Motorola’s budget G line just became officially official as of this morning — and with a few weeks to spare ahead of Mobile World Congress. Of course, the Moto G7 line isn’t really aimed at the MWC crowd. That show tends to be far more focused on premium flagships, while, as Motorola put it to me ahead of launch, this line is for “people who say, ‘I don’t need all this phone.’” In other words, people who don’t...

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