Matthew Garrahan and Tim Bradshaw in a big scoop for the Financial Times:

Apple has approached McLaren Technology Group, the British supercar engineer and Formula One team owner, about a potential acquisition, in the clearest sign yet that the iPhone maker is seeking to transform the automotive industry.

The California technology group, which has been working on a self-driving electric vehicle for more than two years, is considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations who said talks started several months ago.

This sounds insane. But then again, so did FT’s scoop about Apple buying Beats for $3.2 Billion. Almost everyone I remember went something like, “Why would Apple buy Beats!?”

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DJI’s Osmo Mobile is a Handheld Stabilizer for your Smartphone

dji-osmomobile

DJI — the market leader and a popular name when it comes to drones or professional stabilizer rigs has today announced the Osmo Mobile — a new handheld stabilizer system for your smartphone. The Osmo Mobile is the newest product in DJI’s Osmo lineup that began with the DJI Osmo launched last year and expanded with the introduction of the Osmo+ last week.

Unlike the original Osmo or Osmo+, Osmo Mobile does not ship with its own camera system and instead relies on your smartphone to do all the shooting. The Osmo Mobile works as a handheld stabilizer for your smartphone, allowing you to shoot high-quality, smooth and cinematic photos and videos. Using the DJI Go app on your smartphone, you can also live stream your footage or share it instantly to the usual social media channels.

 

Included in the DJI Go app is the company’s new ActiveTrack feature that allows you tap the screen and mark objects in motion, so that the camera stays focused on them, resulting in perfectly framed shots.

“DJI continues to revolutionize the way we capture and share memories,” said Frank Wang, DJI CEO and founder. “The Osmo Mobile combines the best of DJI’s beloved Osmo smart stabilization technology with the robust DJI GO app. This is a breakthrough, allowing smartphone users unprecedented control of and creative possibilities for their devices.”

The Osmo Mobile works with most modern smartphones sized between 2.31 inches and 3.34 inches, including the iPhone 6/6s Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S7.

The Osmo Mobile has been priced at $299 and is available for purchase from Amazon.com here – http://amzn.to/2cgnRav

Airtel’s ‘myHome Rewards’ Program Gives Free Data to its Brand Loyal Customers

airtel-new-logo-hori

Bharti Airtel has today announced a new ‘myHome Rewards‘ program for its broadband customers. A first of its kind offer from the company, Airtel Broadband customers who also subscribe to an additional Airtel service connection will get FREE additional data benefits added to their account.

Starting today, all Airtel Broadband customers who also own either an Airtel Postpaid connection or Airtel DTH subscription will get 5GB of FREE Data added to their broadband account per month. The 5GB data is offered per service connection, so for example, if you have three different Airtel postpaid connections, you’ll get 15GB of additional data for Free every month.

Speaking about myHome Rewards, Hemant Kumar Guruswamy, CEO — Home, Bharti Airtel (India) said,

At Airtel, it is our constant endeavor to delight our customers with great products and services. As a further step in this direction, we are very excited to launch myHome Rewards today. This is a gesture from us to thank our broadband customers for giving us an opportunity to serve them. Along with the unlimited free calling benefit on our landline, customers can now make the most of their Airtel broadband with the free additional data benefits.

To claim these benefits, customers can visit myHome Rewards website or download the myAirtel app for iOS or Android.

Airtel myHome Rewards

I have been an Airtel Broadband customer for almost 10 years now and this new announcement fills me with excitement. Who wouldn’t welcome 20GB of Free Data per month, right?

However, I have downgraded from from the ₹2799/mon plan to the ₹550/mon plan and merely use my Airtel Broadband connection as a backup service, simply because Airtel has refused to keep up with newer broadband standards and even in 2016, still offers DSL-only plans in my area with a maximum speed of 8Mbps. I’ve been waiting for their FTTH plans for years now, but those don’t seem to be on their roadmap yet.

Kate Conger, writing for TechCrunch:

While security has been a crucial part of its corporate narrative, Apple has quietly refused to pay for bug reports, at times frustrating security researchers who found it difficult to report flaws to the company. That changed today, as Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture, Ivan Krstic, announced to Black Hat attendees that Apple will begin offering cash bounties of up to $200,000 to researchers who discover vulnerabilities in its products.

Good move, although it’s weird that the program is invite-only at the moment.

Alex Peysakhovich, Research Scientist and Kristin Hendrix, User Experience Researcher, writing on the Facebook Newsroom blog:

Our goal with News Feed is to show people the stories most relevant to them — ranking stories so that what’s most important to each person shows up highest in their News Feeds. When we rank and make improvements to News Feed, we rely on a set of core values.

We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles. These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer. For example: “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!”; “He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe”; or “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.”

With this update, people will see fewer clickbait stories and more of the stories they want to see higher up in their feeds.

90% of my Facebook Newsfeed over the last 6 months has been filled with posts with clickbait headlines shared by friends, or videos stolen from Youtube with added meme-like text on the top and bottom.

While I’m glad Facebook is going against clickbait headlines, it’s the latter that needs far more attention.

List of Comic-Con Trailers Released Today

In the last 24 hours, several Comic-Con Trailers have come out. Here’s a big list of every good Comic-Con Trailer released so far. This list is updated every few hours.

Over the last 24 hours, Hollywood studios have been dropping a host of insane new movie trailers. Just like every year, San Diego is hosting the Comic-Con International 2016 and as has been tradition, studios like Marvel, DC, Warner Brothers and others have released (some officially this time) trailers of their upcoming films.

As a huge film and movie enthusiast, I’ve watched every single one of these big trailers to have come out in the last 24 hours and each one looks absolutely spectacular. Here’s a long list of Comic-Con Trailers released today, and every single one of them is really, really good. I’m so pumped!

Read more →

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive (2016) Review

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive is a great way to expand your iPhone’s storage.

Apple’s iPhone has long been ridiculed for having measly storage options. Even the latest crop of iPhones available in 2016 — the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE all come with just 16GB storage on the base model, with no easy way to expand the storage. Considering how often we take photos and videos on our smartphones, it has become quite a routine to keep running out of storage, at least every few weeks. Thanks to the high-resolution cameras on smartphones these days as well as 4K video recording capabilities, you photos and videos end up having humongous file sizes.

SanDisk, one of the leaders in flash-based storage solutions, recognized this issue early on and has been offering an easy solution to iOS users in the form of the iXpand Flash Drive. Originally released in 2014 as a flash drive with dual interfaces — a USB port on one end and a Lightning port on the other, it allowed iOS users to offload some of their files onto the flash drive and free up precious storage on their phones or tablets. The original iXpand Flash Drive was big, bulky, and came with a built-in battery that had to be kept charged. Earlier this year, the company released the second-generation Sandisk iXpand Flash Drive (2016 model) that offered a plethora of new advantages over the previous model. I’ve been using it over the last several weeks and it has turned into a critical accessory that I always carry around with me.

Read more →

India Announces Radical Changes to its FDI Policy, Apple Stores May Finally Get a Green Light Now

The Government of India today announced some “radical” set of changes to its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy across various sectors, including a major change to Single Brand Retail Trading.

The Government of India and Apple have been in some sort of a game of See-saw, with the possibility of company-run Apple Stores in the country hanging in the balance. The Cupertino based company has been keen on opening its stores in the country and over the last several months, they’ve almost been stuck in a system of ‘one step forward, two steps back’, thanks to India’s policies. Apple was last reported as saying that there would be no Apple Stores possible unless the 30% local sourcing norms went away.

Thankfully, India seems to have somewhat loosened its policies. As part of its announcement today, it has included the following change for Single Brand Retail Trading:

It has now been decided to relax local sourcing norms up to three years and a relaxed sourcing regime for another five years for entities undertaking Single Brand Retail Trading of products having ‘state-of-art’ and ‘cutting edge’ technology.

The ball seems to be in Apple’s court yet again.

Fraser Speirs, teacher, speaker, podcast host and an amazing human being has just announced a new project — iPads for India — an initiative that aims to send iPads to the Barefoot College in India. He writes,

My friend Srini Swaminathan recently asked me if we had any iPads that we could donate to the project he’s working with in India. We didn’t actually have any right then but we are coming up to the end of our lease at school and I thought there might be an opportunity.

Our lease requires that we either send the iPads back to the leasing company or buy the lease out. To buy out, we would need to pay back the fair market value of the iPads, which is currently about £100 per unit and we have 110.

And

Barefoot College, which was recently visited by Apple VP Lisa Jackson, is an organisation that trains women in rural India to build solar powered projects to help their villages. These projects include solar water heating, cooking, desalination and even data projectors for use in night schools.

Great initiative. The project goal is set at £10,158 and as of this writing, £870 have already been raised towards it by 17 generous backers.

If we over-shoot the funding goal, we will use the money to either buy other equipment that will help the Barefoot College mission (USB hubs, spare cables, chargers, etc) or we will donate the surplus directly to Barefoot College.

If we don’t make the target, Barefoot College will receive all donations.

You can (and should) donate at the link below:

Things I Want to Say to Siri

Apple Siri

This is a guest post by my buddy & ex-Apple enthusiast, Rohan Naravane, who manages content for PriceBaba. He’s previously written about the Apple TV and the “Rotten Apples” here on Nuclear Bits.

As we approach closer to this year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), rumours about what could be unveiled at the event have begun cropping up — including one about Apple making a voice assistant device like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. But another juicy tidbit that made its way along with it, is the release of a Software Development Kit (SDK) for Siri, which should help 3rd party developers extend the functionality of this upcoming device, along with other iOS devices and even Macs.

Siri, the voice assistant, was seen by the world for the first time in 2011 as a marquee feature to the iPhone 4s. It’s been close to five years since, and Siri’s functionality to date is limited by how many partnerships Apple can strike. Opening Siri to any developer who has their app on the App Store can potentially revolutionize the way Apple device owners will interact with technology. With Siri making its way to the Mac, and being an important input method for the Apple Watch and in cars with Apple CarPlay, the SDK couldn’t have come at a better time.

In an attempt to keep the user experience in check, Apple has always given its own apps the first priority. For example, a hyperlinked email address in a messaging app when clicked, will open the Mail app, and not Gmail. Or when a location is shared on WhatsApp, it is Apple Maps that opens up by default, not Google Maps. Although past experience doesn’t suggest Apple will let people choose their default app preferences, letting Siri roam beyond the walled garden can provide 3rd party apps a level playing field at least with voice control.

Here are five things I’ll be glad to say to Siri once developers are given access, effectively bypassing some of Apple’s mediocre service offerings.

1. “Hey Siri, use Google Maps and Take me to Powai”

Despite Tim Cook announcing a facility in Hyderabad to improve Apple Maps, there’s no telling how much longer it will take for Apple Maps to support basic directions in India, let alone voice-assisted turn-by-turn directions, that are critical during driving. It’s well-known how valuable iOS users are to Google, and it’s evident with recent attempts like Gboard, which offers Google Search right into the keyboard on iOS. So, there’s a good chance Google will want to take advantage of Siri’s SDK for all its apps on the iPhone.

Although the usability of this purely depends upon how well Siri is able to recognise names of Indian streets and areas, it’s the first step to actually using Google Maps hands-free on your iPhone. While we’re on the topic, it’s also a shame that Apple CarPlay, which has started integrating into some cars in India like the Suzuki Baleno, has no Maps application. And it’s not like the CarPlay platform is open, like iOS, where any developer can make an app. So it’s up to Apple and in turn Google’s willingness for a Google Maps app to exist for CarPlay. This will enable people in countries where Apple Maps are next to non-existent to still use navigation facilities, with their voice while driving.

2. “Hey Siri, send a WhatsApp to Annkur Agarwal, Let’s meet at Hoppipola”

Right now, you can only send text messages or iMessages to other iPhone users using voice. The SDK will benefit not just WhatsApp, the number one messaging client almost everybody you know uses, but others alike. This is important because there’s a good chance you talk to different people on different messengers and you have at least a few different apps installed on your phone right now.

I already find it convenient to initiate WhatsApp conversations on my Android phone, even directly from my wrist using Android Wear. And although Google has enabled voice actions for other popular messaging apps like Telegram, Viber, etc., Apple will have a leg up because any and every obscure messaging app will be able to make use of the Siri SDK to get their app voice-ready. It’s unlikely that Google will compete anytime soon, since there was no mention of opening up voice actions for 3rd party apps at this year’s Google I/O; not to mention the “custom voice actions” which allowed any 3rd party app to perform such actions, have been indefinitely suspended.

3. “Hey Siri, use Zomato to find me a Good place that serves donuts nearby”

Ask Siri to suggest for any type of eateries nearby today in India, and there’s a good chance it will throw up some obscure options, relying on its currently-lackluster Apple Maps data. The Siri SDK would open up many useful use cases with apps and brands we trust, that can be called out using voice. I’d rather trust Zomato in helping me find a particular restaurant nearby or even place an order from my favourite one. I’d rather prefer asking Siri to check BookMyShow for movies screening nearby, since Siri doesn’t do that at all in India. I’d prefer checking if that favourite movie is available to watch on Netflix instead of Apple iTunes. And although I prefer using Apple Music (even on Android), I can imagine how handy it’d be telling Saavn and Gaana what to play.

4. “Hey Siri, show me photos from Gurgaon in November 2015 from Google Photos”

Apple’s iCloud photo backup service is reasonably priced at Rs. 190 per month for 200GB of cloud storage (for comparison 100GB on Google Drive costs Rs. 140). But the Google Photos app has two compelling reasons why 200 million users use it actively today — unlimited backups of photo & video with reasonable compression and Google’s advanced image recognition capabilities, which throws up surprisingly accurate results to queries like “photos of whiteboards in November 2015”. So although you can summon iCloud photos using Siri directly today, I’d rather use Google Photos to do the job.

5. “Hey Siri, call me an Uber Go”

Finally, this is yet another activity that many of us perform often. Calling an Uber or an Ola using Siri, which right now has no facility to call any transportation in India, would be a useful trick. Assuming that developers will be able to recreate their custom experiences via Siri, I can totally imagine the Uber app saying “There’s an Uber Go 5 minutes away, at a 2.5x surge. Should I book it or notify you when the surge ends?” thus letting the entire app flow be managed purely by speaking.

Towards the end of writing this, I realised that although this Siri SDK will open up a lot of possibilities, it also sounds a little cumbersome to have to say the service provider’s name for each voice query. The makers of Siri, who had joined Apple after they acquired it, quit a year later to build their next voice assistant dubbed Viv. They recently demoed it, and in the video you can see their implementation had preset partners like Uber, Hotel.com and Venmo. But what happens when you have more than one provider of the same service? Will voice assistants like Siri or Viv ask you for your preference the first time and remember it? For example, if you said “Hey Siri, call me an Uber”, will Siri call you an Uber and not an Ola the next time you say “Call me a cab”?

These questions are hopefully just days away from being answered at WWDC 2016. Here’s hoping the Siri SDK will bring the same magnitude of revolution to the usability of the smartphone, the way the App Store did in 2008.