Microsoft hints at a new “modern” operating system designed to support different form factors

In a week where AMD, Intel and Qualcomm have already made major announcements, Microsoft’s keynote yesterday at Computex in Taipei was relatively lowkey. Instead of revealing new products, the company hinted at what it wants in a modernized operating system. Intriguingly, Microsoft’s blog post about the keynote does not mention Windows, lending credence to speculation that it is developing a new “super-secure” OS.

According to the blog post by Nick Parker, corporate vice president of consumer and device sales, a modern OS should enable “form factor agility” by being flexible enough to be integrated into different types of devices, which is noteworthy because last year the company hinted at new additions to the Surface lineup, which some have speculated might mean the line is adding a smartphone.

He added that a modern OS should include seamless updates, done invisibly in the background without forcing people to stop using their computers and be secure by default, preventing attacks by separating the state from the operating system and the compute from applications.

A modern OS would constantly be connected to LTE 5G and use AI to help make apps more efficient. It would also support different kinds of input, including pen, voice, touch and even the ability to use your eyes to control apps or write—two things that likely to fuel more speculation that the new OS will be developed with mobile products (like a possible Surface Phone) and lightweight or dual-screen laptops in mind.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Hidden screen in iOS 12.2 beta hints at AirPods that can handle ‘Hey Siri’

It’s a weird quirk of the current generation of AirPods: they support Siri, but only if you double-tap one of the earbuds first. Unlike with iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and HomePods, you can’t just say “Hey Siri” and babble out your request.

Rumors have been floating around for a while suggesting that a new iteration of AirPods — AirPods 2, the rumor mill is calling them — would bring “Hey Siri” functionality. Now a screen hiding in the latest iOS beta seems to suggest the same.

While it’s not a publicly accessible screen, Guilherme Rambo of 9to5mac managed to trigger the following prompt in the just-released iOS 12.2 beta:

(Image Credit: 9to5Mac)

“Talk to Siri with your AirPods or iPhone by saying ‘Hey Siri’,” it reads.

Its absence from the current generation of AirPods presumably boils down to a matter of battery life. Apple figured out how to make “Hey Siri” work with minimal impact on battery life with the iPhone 6s, then broke down how it all works in a post on its Machine Learning Journal in April of 2018. But to pull off the same trick in a tiny earbud — each having a battery capacity of 93 milliwatt hours, or roughly 1 percent of that of an iPhone — is an entirely new challenge. For the first gen, it was just easier to let the headphones wait for that double-tap, queueing it up as a new selling point whenever Apple figured out how to pull it off.

Rumors have also hinted at other features for the eventual AirPods sequel, from waterproofing to sensors that help track health data. Alas, no sneaky hidden prompts hinting at any of that have been found yet.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

LG hints at gesture interface for smartphone flagship next month

LG has put out a gesture-heavy hint ahead of the annual unveiling of new smartphone hardware at the world’s biggest mobile confab, Mobile World Congress, which kicks off in a month’s time.

The brief video teaser for its forthcoming MWC press event in Barcelona, which was shared today via LG’s social media channels, shows a man’s hand swiping to change on screen content, including the message “goodbye touch”.

The title of LG’s teaser video includes the name “LG Premiere”, which could be the name of the forthcoming flagship — albeit that would be confusingly similar to the mid-tier LG Premier of yore. So, hopefully the company is going to make that last ‘e’ really count.

Beyond some very unsubtle magic wand sound effects to draw extra attention to the contactless gestures, the video offers very little to go on. But we’re pretty sure LG is not about to pivot away from touchscreens entirely.

Rather we’re betting on some sort of Leap Motion -style gesture control interface being added to the front of the handset, using sensors to detect a hovering hand, for example — which will probably be accompanied by lots of marketing about how filthy-with-germs phone screens are so it’s totally better you don’t actually touch them.

Safe to say, the idea looks terribly gimmicky. Or, well, just terrible. This kind of stuff has been tried (and failed to stick) plenty of times before — as long ago as a decade, in the now no longer mobile-maker Sony Ericcson’s case.

Samsung also added a gesture feature, called Air Gesture, to some of its handsets more than five years old — which lets smartphone users do things like wave to answer a call or swipe through air to scroll up. Some devices also offered hands-free scrolling via facial tracking.

Yet smartphone users everywhere still seem as hooked as ever on actually fingering their touchscreens. And gesture-based interfaces have, fittingly enough, largely failed to stick.

You could view Apple’s Face ID technology as a form of non-touch gesture control, as my TC colleague Ingrid Lunden suggests. Albeit the primary point in that case is security/authentication, so it’s more than just a frictionless way to interact with a device without touching it.

Despite a flighty history for gesture interfaces on mobile, smartphone makers — and Android OEMs especially — are under acute pressure to stand out in a fiercely competitive and growth-stalled market. So a bunch of hardware experiments look to be in play, including, as we noted earlier, some makers openly flirting with folding phones (also today: Xiaomi teased a double folder phone.)

We’ll be on the ground in Barcelona to bring you news of all the major hardware releases next month — including keeping an eye on whatever LG is preparing to unbox (but not actually touch) on February 24. So stay tuned.


Android – TechCrunch

Jack to the future for Huawei? P30 leak hints at the return of the headphone port

Huawei, currently the world’s second-largest smartphone company by sales, has won over users partly by loading its devices with a ton of new features, from wireless charging to top-class cameras and catchy cosmetic features like the colorful gradients on their shiny backsides. Now, a leaked image of its next flagship Android phone appears to reveal a surprising reverse course. According to Indian blog 91phones (and via Engadget) its next premium device, dubbed the P30, will feature a HEADPHONE JACK.

What’s that, you say? Aren’t headphone jacks so yesterday?

Well, it turns out that sometimes progress isn’t universally loved. (Pour one out for the futurists here.)

Over the past couple of years, Apple and others have gradually removed the jack from their devices.

Yes, it’s been done in the name of thinner handsets and more features like waterproofing. But — let’s be honest — also most likely also to up-sell people to those very pricey, sometimes pretentious-looking wireless earphones.

But you know what? People — say, those who have a favorite set of corded headphones, or who hate the idea of losing the ability to charge using said headphones — are still missing those inky black holes.

Huawei has been no different, removing its jack in the P30’s P20 predecessor.

But the leaked image reveals that it seems to be making a return in the familiar lower edge of the handset, to the left of the USB-C charging port.

Other features revealed in this and previous leaks of the phone include a six-inch screen, more of that gradient backing, a 24MP selfie camera in a streamlined notch on the front, with a Sony triple camera at 38MP with 5x optical zoom on the back, and no fingerprint sensor port, with the device likely to be shipping in 128GB and 256GB versions.

Huawei overtook Apple as the world’s second largest smartphone vendor in Q2 of 2018, and the last two quarters have only cemented that position. In Q3, only Samsung (the leader) and Huawei saw shipment growth among all the top players; and as for Q4, well, Apple’s given us a little preview of what we will expect there.

Interestingly, Apple specifically has singled out China as a disappointing market when it comes to iPhone sales: Huawei happens to be the market leader there.

So — if this leak is accurate — it’s interesting to think that as Huawei grows often by aggressively following the playbook of other brands, it may be making a bold move by bringing something back that appeared to have gotten discarded in the tech march forward.

If its pace of handset sales continues to stay strong, this could be coming at a key time for Huawei. The company remains in hot water with governments in Europe, the US and elsewhere over questionable and potentially illegal business practices, and that appears to be potentially impacting its massive telecoms equipment business and its lucrative deals with carriers.

As for when this supposed phone might launch, we’re just about to kick off CES in Vegas, but it’s unlikely to appear here. The P20 launched in March last year, a few weeks after the big MWC mobile event in Barcelona, and that could potentially be the same timescale the company follows again.

We’re contacting Huawei for comment and will update this post as we learn more.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

iOS 12.1 beta hints at new iPad Pro

iOS 12 is still brand new, but Apple is already testing iOS 12.1 with a developer beta version. Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo found references to a brand new iPad that would support Face ID.

First, there are changes to Face ID. You can find references to landscape orientation in the iOS 12.1 beta. Face ID on the iPhone is limited to portrait orientation. Chances are you didn’t even notice this limitation because there’s only one orientation for the lock screen and home screen.

But the iPad is a different story as people tend to use it in landscape. And even when you hold it in landscape, some people will have the home button on the left while others will have the home button on the right.

In other words, in order to bring Face ID to the iPad, it needs to support multiple orientations. This beta indicates that iOS 12.1 could be the version of iOS that ships with the next iPad.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s a new device codename in the setup reference files. This device is called iPad2018Fall, which clearly means that a new iPad is right around the corner.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously indicated that the iPad Pro could switch from Lightning to USB-C. This would open up a ton of possibilities when it comes to accessories. For instance, you could plug an external monitor without any dongle and send a video feed to this external monitor.

As for iPhone users, in addition to bug fixes, iOS 12.1 brings back Group FaceTime, a feature that was removed at the last minute before the release of iOS 12. If it’s still too buggy, Apple could still choose to remove the feature once again. Memojis could support iCloud syncing across your devices, which would be useful for an iPad Pro with Face ID.

Gadgets – TechCrunch