Coin shuts down its payment services on February 28th

It’s a quiet end, but you probably won’t see too many people lamenting Coin’s fate. Fitbit’s upcoming payment-friendly smartwatch will likely be more convenient than pulling out a card. And even if you have no interest in Fitbit’s hardware, there just isn’t as much desire for a tech-savvy card as there was when Coin made its debut back in 2013. Tap-to-pay technology has exploded in the years since then, and Samsung Pay can work at those stores that still depend on magnetic stripe readers. If you can just use your phone or watch, why bother reaching for a card in your wallet? Coin was appealing for a while, but its moment has passed.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/coin-shuts-down-payment-services-february-28th/

Chevy stops making the Spark EV following the Bolt’s arrival

Aside from its tiny size, the Spark’s biggest limitation was its 82-mile maximum range. The Bolt, with a 238-mile range, is much more practical if you want to do more than commute to work. It has newer in-cabin tech, too. And while the Bolt is thousands of dollars more expensive even after tax credits (the Spark started at about $26,000), it’s hard to say that the savings would be worthwhile given what you’re losing. It won’t shock you to hear that only 7,400 Spark EVs have been sold since 2013, while GM expects to have sold 1,800 Bolts by the end of January.

With that said, this leaves the Chevy badge with precious few electric choices. The Bolt is the only pure EV in the lineup, and the Volt plug-in hybrid won’t help much if you’re determined to avoid using gas. It’ll likely be a long while before Chevy treats EVs as more than niche products and gives you a range of body styles.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/chevy-stops-making-spark-ev/

Trump to announce his SCOTUS pick tonight via Facebook Live

Donald Trump will announce his nominee for the vacant Supreme Court Justice seat tonight via Facebook Live. The stream begins at 8pm Eastern via the POTUS Facebook channel. As CNN reports, both candidates (Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman) have apparently been told they’re Trump’s favorite for the lifetime seat. Apparently, there will be Apprentice-style staging for the announcement: one prospect will walk away without the job while the world watches. Political theater like this is nothing new for Trump, but turning the presidency into a reality show is sure to ruffle some feathers.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/trump-to-announce-his-scotus-pick-tonight-via-facebook-live/

Google opens the code for Chrome on iOS

Google’s Chrome browser has been open source from the get-go (through the Chromium project), but not on iOS. Apple demands that browsers use WebKit instead of their own rendering engines, so Google couldn’t just use its typical code base and call it a day. However, that all changes today: Google has added the iOS Chrome code into Chromium. Developers who want to build on the iOS app, or just poke around looking for security holes, should now have an easy time seeing what makes it tick.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/chrome-for-ios-open-source/

SoundHound wants to take on Google and Amazon in voice AI

SoundHound already has Houndify, a proprietary AI technology capable of interpreting complex speech and other audio. The latest $75 million investment will go toward expanding this system into new territories and devices. In particular, the company is planning to grow its business across Asia and Europe.

SoundHound CEO Keyvan Mohajer told Bloomberg he wants to place his voice-recognition AI in third-party IoT devices. This way, device manufacturers won’t have to build their own AI systems and they won’t need to rely on products from Google, Microsoft, Apple or Amazon. These companies offer closed systems that remove control from the device-maker, Mohajer said.

“We don’t have an agenda to hijack your product,” he said. “If you use Amazon, you lose your brand, your users. You have to ask your user to log into their Amazon account, they have to call on Alexa, and all the data belongs to them.” He promised that companies wouldn’t lose control over their customers or data if they implemented SoundHound’s technology.

This all seems like good timing on SoundHound’s part — 2017 is poised to be huge for voice-recognition technology in IoT devices and beyond.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/soundhound-voice-ai-investment-compete-google-amazon/

iPhone 7 turns around slowing sales for Apple

As the iPhone goes, so goes Apple’s overall financial health. This quarter, revenue of $78.4 billion and profits of $18.4 billion are massive numbers and both increases on a year ago.

The Mac was another winner this quarter — but just barely. The company sold 5.37 million Macs, up a small 1.4 percent over the year-ago quarter. It’s not surprising that the first MacBook Pro refresh helped out the overall line, although it’s a pretty small bump over last year. The iPad wasn’t so lucky, with sales of 13.1 million representing yet another down quarter. That’s 19 percent less iPads than Apple sold a year ago, and we’re now looking at three full years of declining iPad sales. While Tim Cook has continued to say the product is how Apple defines the future of computing, the numbers don’t lie, and it’ll be interesting to see if he addresses the continued drop today.

Apple is continuing to decline to say how many Apple Watches it sells, so all we have to go on there is Tim Cook’s word — the CEO said that it was a record quarter for Apple Watch revenue. However, revenue in the “other products” category (which covers things like Beats, the iPod, Apple TV and accessories in addition to the Apple Watch) declined year over year, so the Watch wasn’t quite enough to make up for losses in other product categories.

The last big part of Apple’s business is is services business, which covers things like Apple Music, iCloud, the App Store and so on. It was a big winner this quarter, continuing the trend we saw in 2016. Apple says that the $7.17 billion in revenue from services is a record, though in terms of overall revenue it’s now just slightly behind the Mac ($7.24 billion) in terms of how much overall cash it pulls in.

As usual, Apple will be holding a call with CEO Tim Cook and we’ll be updating this post with anything else we learn. Elephants in the room include the iPad, when the company might get more AirPods to consumers, and what the response has been to the new MacBook Pro. We’re guessing he’s going to say that customers just love it.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/apple-q1-2017-earnings/

GitHub rallies Silicon Valley companies to oppose Muslim ban

Those invited, according to a Reuters report, include Google, Netflix and Airbnb. All four of the companies declined to comment on the meeting. Kickstarter, Box, AdRoll and Twilio have voiced their interest in participating as well. Amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs are legal documents made by parties not directly involved in a litigation but have a strong interest in the matter. Last year, for example, the tech industry rallied behind Apple in its lawsuit against Samsung and stridently opposed North Carolina’s inhumane HB2 legislation.

The group hasn’t specified in which cases the document could or would be filed. If it were to file such a brief, it would place the industry squarely in opposition of the administration. While Silicon Valley has made overtures to Trump’s team during the transition — going so far as to sit through the president’s theatrics during a meeting at Trump Tower in December — the industry has increasingly objected to his actions through the first two weeks of the presidency. Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia have voiced their support for Washington State’s lawsuit against Trump’s administration. Google employees staged a work stoppage and protest on Monday.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/silicon-valley-to-oppose-muslim-ban/

Casey Neistat’s Beme service shuts down following CNN deal

Beme had a relatively short history, and was defined as much by who was making it as what it did. Neistat first unveiled the app for iOS in July 2015, and it was very much a reflection of the document-everything strategy from his daily video blogs at the time. Its signature trick was the ability to record 4-second clips just by putting your phone to your chest (to cover the proximity sensor), theoretically removing the barrier between you and whatever you were experiencing. With a massive potential audience (Neistat has millions of YouTube subscribers), Beme didn’t have much trouble getting some initial uptake.

The problem: it faced both sagging interest and fierce competition. It wasn’t until June 2016 that a finished public release arrived, and there were major interface revamps as the Beme crew tried to figure out an interface that would keep users hooked. Neistat helped spike demand whenever he mentioned the app in his blogs, but use tended to fade soon afterward. And how was Beme going to lure users away from Instagram and Snapchat, both of which have close-enough video sharing features and much larger communities?

There are some upsides. It’s entirely likely that the lessons learned from Beme will rub off on whatever the developers do for CNN. And even if they don’t, the app may teach other developers a thing or two: having a famous name attached to your project can help its chances, but it still needs to be polished and engaging enough to stand on its own merits.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/beme-shuts-down/

Tesla's Powerpacks are now lighting up California's grid

Electric utility company Southern California Edison (SCE) teamed up with Tesla to bring one of the world’s largest electron-storing solutions to life in less than six months. In fact, it only took three months to go from groundbreaking to running. The urgency came down to a gap in the grid created by the loss of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.

While getting both a large company like SCE and the local government to move quickly on a project is difficult, Tesla had no problem delivering its large batteries to the site; the Powerpack containers and companion inverters are pretty much plug and play. Once the concrete was poured, the companies installed the system and connected it to the grid.

Tesla's Powerpacks are now lighting up California's grid

When the energy-storage station went online, the large batteries began pulling power from the grid when there was an surplus. Before battery systems like this were available, any extra electricity created by power stations or from renewable sources was wasted. The utility can then dole out the energy from the Powerpacks during an outage or when the grid is maxed out (read: in the summer when everyone has their AC blasting).

This is a huge step toward reducing the grid’s reliance on fossil fuel-generated electricity. Currently, one major issue with renewable sources such as wind and solar is that if they’re generating more power than the system needs at that moment, it’s wasted. But with battery stations like Mira Loma, those electrons can be stored for later use.

SCE CEO Kevin Payne told the audience during yesterday’s station tour that this isn’t a pilot program or test. “This project is part of our vision at Southern California Edison,” he explained.

Tesla's Powerpacks are now lighting up California's grid

And you can expect to see more of these energy-storage stations in the next few years. So when it’s 100 degrees and you’re blasting your AC, remember that some boring boxes in the middle of a field are making it possible while reducing the amount of pollution being pumped into the sky.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/tesla-powerpacks-california/

Sketchy adoption app Adoptly is a hoax after all

Becker and Glass used almost the same strategy with Adoptly as they did with Pooper. News releases were sent out to various media organizations, including Engadget, and a “spokesperson” did his best Silicon Valley CEO impression and sold reporters (including this one) on the app. We tried but ultimately failed to discern whether Adoptly was a hoax, and we regret the error.

But this time, Becker and Glass roped in innocent people that may have actually been looking for help with adoption via a Kickstarter campaign. In doing so, they blurred the lines between satire and hoax, and not in a good way. It might be easy in retrospect to see how Adoptly was just a joke, asking for real money from unsuspecting, would-be parents is a pretty cruel prank. Even if you’re not looking to adopt, using fake news as a joke seems like the kind of thing that helps exactly no one.

Becker and Glass said they were going to refund any donations, and both Kickstarter and eventually Indiegogo canceled the Adoptly campaigns before they finished. That means backers never had to worry about giving up funds to the project. No harm, no foul right?

In a purely practical sense, sure. But if even one hopeful parent was emotionally hoodwinked by the Adoptly scheme, that’s one too many. But this prank preyed on the emotions of people who are often desperate to adopt and might consider any option to help their chances — even an app that seems too ridiculous to be true. Messing with the press is a time-honored tradition, but potentially involving people looking to adopt is just mean-spirited.

That’s not to totally dismiss Becker and Glass’s idea for satire. Silicon Valley is always breathlessly introducing revolutionary apps that will change users’ lives. The Adoptly website copy and video all nailed the sometimes-clueless tone as companies large and small introduce minor updates or products that people simply have no need for. In that sense, the Adoptly satire was on point — even if plenty of people were skeptical about it, it so closely mimicked the hundreds of similar campaigns we’ve all seen.

However, Adoptly’s satire wouldn’t have really been diminished if it was done in the style of the many April Fool’s Day PR pranks that are pushed out by companies every year. The Adoptly website could have really sold the idea and pulled back the curtain at the end of the experience, letting people in on the joke quickly. Of course, the press would have been less likely to write about it, if that was how it operated. But when using adoption as a tool for satirical gains, perhaps a little bit of extra sensitivity would be warranted.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2017/01/31/sketchy-adoption-app-adoptly-is-a-hoax-after-all/