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Apple says slower performance of older iPhones is intentional

You're not alone if you've noticed a slowdown in the performance of your older iPhone. The thing is, it may be more related to your battery than the phone itself. After a post on Reddit and a followup by benchmarking software Geekbench's founder, Apple told TechCrunchthat it released a fix for premature shutdowns last year for iPhone 6, 6s and SE by smoothing out CPU demand when a battery is older, cold, or just low on juice. Apple also said that it recently extended this slowdown feature to iPhone 7 devices running iOS 11.2, and plans to "add support for other products in the future."

couple of weeks ago, Reddit user TeckFire ran some CPU benchmarks (via Geekbench) on his iPhone 6 Plus before and after he replaced its battery. He found that CPU performance was significantly better after a battery replacement, which he attributed to Apple slowing down phones with low capacity batteries. A week later, Geekbench's own John Poole wrote a post that pointed to Apple's involvement. In essence, Poole says that Apple introduced code to iOS that limits iPhone performance when battery charge is low, which could be interpreted as a CPU issue leading to users replacing their iPhone instead of their battery. While this may not be Apple's intent in this case, it's not hard to see users being confused and blaming the company for planned obsolescence practices, especially as Apple benefits from user confusion and iPhone upgrades.

The year in consumer tech: iPhone X, Nokia's return, Bitcoin's rise

With the year coming to a close, we round up the biggest things that happened in the world of consumer techology. From smartphones to virtual assistants to virtual reality, innovations continue to come in the form of new physical designs such as we've seen with Apple's iPhone – arguably the most hyped phone of the year.

Along with this, we saw the continued push for new consumer-facing technologies such as augmented reality, cryptocurrencies, and AI-focused chips such as the ones found in new Huawei flagship phones. In no particular order, here's what we witnessed in 2017 from the world of consumer tech:

 

Year of the X

Apple’s 10th anniversary phone, the iPhone X, was clearly the most anticipated handset of the year. The media frenzy following the announcement in September was one for the books, which had top tech global websites jostling for a leak and paying top dollar for prior information, even betting on how it was going to be named.

Photo from Apple
     

Photo from Apple 

The hysteria was somewhat doused when it was finally revealed that the brand new iPhone would sell for way over a thousand dollars, the most expensive smartphone ever. In the Philippines, the iconic phone is selling for approximately P64,000 plus, with variations in installment and incentive pricing from Smart and Globe.

This is also not to forget that Apple has another advanced smartphone in the running, the iPhone 8, although most of the attention truly had been sopped up by the X. 

Samsung and Nokia's comeback

The silver lining in the iPhone X cloud is that it gave competitors a wide enough room to wiggle in and compete aggressively specs for specs and a share of consumer’s wallet. Samsung, which got toasted in 2016 with the global recall of its burning flagship phone, the Galaxy Note 7, rebounded this year with a brand new smartphone, the Galaxy Note 8.

Photo by Nappy Manegdeg/Rappler
     

Photo by Nappy Manegdeg/Rappler 

Earlier in the year, we also saw the Galaxy S8 and also the LG G6 which gave us exciting new edgeless designs sporting a thinner (18.5:9 and 18:9 respectively) profile. 

And depending on which side of the OS wars one is aligned with  Android or iOS Samsung got its game and grove back. 

But the quintessential comeback kid this year is Nokia, which heralded its return to the hardware market with an Android device called the Nokia 6 in January. 

The icing on the cake was the makeover of the Nokia 3310, which was finally unveiled in October with 3G capabilities. Nokia also launched the flagship Nokia 8 and a mid-tier phone, the Nokia 6.

Photo from Nokia
     

Photo from Nokia 

Once the king of handhelds, Nokia is, however, facing a very different tech landscape. Years after it bowed out of the mobile space, consumers are marching to the beat of a very different drummer. The name of the game today is "selfie" and people do not have to shell out loads of cash to get that perfect shot, pimples and wrinkles removed.

Breaking the Apple-Samsung duopoly

In the mid-range segment, the Chinese handset trio  Huawei, Oppo and Vivo – definitely have an edge with competitive pricing and a marketing strategy that sizzles even in the mall corridors. Asus, Lenovo, and other brands have their own competitive offerings. 

But it's Huawei that's sort of breaking the Apple-Samsung duopoly in the top tier with the launch of its flagship phone, the Huawei Mate 10 and its twin, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro. The Chinese giant snuck by Apple in the middle of the year, taking the second spot in terms of global sales, although Apple's iPhone X push thereafter may have shaken up the standings yet again.

MATE 10. Richard Yu, CEO of Chinese Huawei Consumer Business Group, presents the new Huawei Mate 10 high-end smartphone in Munich, southern Germany, on October 16, 2017. Photo by Christof Stache/AFP
     

MATE 10. Richard Yu, CEO of Chinese Huawei Consumer Business Group, presents the new Huawei Mate 10 high-end smartphone in Munich, southern Germany, on October 16, 2017. Photo by Christof Stache/AFP 

Huawei's marketing pitch with their Mate 10: artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and a very palatable and competitive price tag in the flagship range. Other phones in its lineup this year such as the photography-oriented P10 and P10 Plus and the value-packed midranger Nova 2i round up what has been a great year for the Pia Wurtzbach-bannered brand. 

Google continues push in device market

And as if the competition is not fierce enough, the hardware space got even more crowded with Google announcing its new devices for the year.

In October, Google launched the smartphones Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL, the Daydream View VR headset and the Google Pixel Buds. 

THE PIXEL 2 AND PIXEL 2 XL. Screen shot from Google Livestream.
     

THE PIXEL 2 AND PIXEL 2 XL. Screen shot from Google Livestream. 

The announcement followed the news in September that Google is acquiring Taiwan smartphone maker HTC, which its spokesman explained as “an overall investment in its emerging hardware business.” Google clearly knows its inadequacy in the retail front: it has no physical stores or showrooms for selling its products.

How this will play out in 2018 and beyond would be interesting to watch, especially as many of these newly launched Google devices are not yet available in countries like the Philippines. When they do become available, would they move the needle in the local device war? Would the local geeks take to a wireless headphone that can translate?

Battle of the voice assistants

Filipinos have yet to experience fully interacting with Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby and other voice assistants in a big way as many of the devices powered with these conversational software are not yet available locally.

AMAZON ECHO. Photo from Amazon
     

AMAZON ECHO. Photo from Amazon 

But a new battle royale is already looming in the horizon in this space. Research firm Gartner predicts an acceleration of visual- and voice-search technologies in the next two years.

In 2018, would Filipino homes start to welcome gadgets that they can talk to and boss around to switch on the light, read the news, open and close their doors, or play their music of choice? It still sounds like science fiction and still in the domain of the early adopters, but the certified geeks here are already toying with these devices.

AR and VR, and other realities making progress 

A year after augmented reality (AR) entered the lexicon of the Filipino consumer, through the widely popular mobile game, Pokemon, the technology has moved on, along with its twin, virtual reality (VR).

PSVR. A player tries out PlayStation VR near the Farpoint area. Photo by Nadine Pacis
     

PSVR. A player tries out PlayStation VR near the Farpoint area. Photo by Nadine Pacis 

In May, the Philippines saw the launch of the first broadcast augmented reality (BAR) experience, a journey on “a winter playground of faux snow sculptures and stuffed polar bears and penguins.”

On the device front, devices such as the Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream View, HTC Vive, have yet to gain mass appeal locally. But AR- and VR-capable smartphones are already out in the market such as the Asus Zenfone AR, which fully supports the Google platform. 

Filipinos still "social"

A report confirmed in June Filipinos’ continued enthusiasm with social, with 58% of the Philippines having a monthly active account on the top social network here. Even against the global backdrop of fake news, political propaganda and other ugly realities, the social space is alive and vibrant.

While the most tweeted moments in 2017 is still a hodgepodge of typical Pinoy interests: celebrities, basketball, and beauty pageants, on one hand, and more serious concerns such as class suspensions, storm warnings, the Marawi conflict, and the Asean Summit on the other. 

Practical tech and internet speed

     

The use of technology in this vast consumer haven is also seeing a seque to more practical things like the use of ride-sharing and transport apps to manage their daily drive or commute, shopping online and paying for online purchases through various fintech apps and services. The question now is internet speed catching up?

report released in May showed that the Philippines continues to lag behind internet connection speed averaging only 5.5 Mbps versus the global average of 7.2 Mbps. The Philippines also ranked 100th out of 122 for mobile broadband and 94th out of 133 for fixed broadband in the Speedtest Global Index. Whether this is good news or bad news can be hotly debated by the telcos and the consumers in a duel that will forever rage in this side of the world for as long as connection is not fast enough for everybody's satisfaction.

This isn't surprising as even some of the smartphones selling below the mid-range today have even better camera, connectivity and other capabilities than the iPhone of 10 years ago. As people want their devices to do more, they expect better connectivity.

As has been the case in previous years, the entrance of more data service providers would benefit the state of internet service packages in the Philippines, forcing market players to lower prices, ultimately for the consumers' benefit. Legislation such as the proposed Open Access Bill hopes to gain more traction in the following year to allow more players in the market. 

The buzziest buzzwords of 2017

     

Globally, a new buzzword has emerged in 2017: artificial intelligence or AI. With AI chips now embedded in the most advanced smartphones, it would be interesting to watch what this can do for consumers. But the surprise development in the tech scene this year is bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Are Filipinos ready to embrace this cryptocurrency, essentially digital money with a ledger verified by a network of computers instead of a central bank?

Cryptocurrency, as represented by Bitcoin and its staggering rise from $1000 to a bitcoin to highs of $18,000 to a bitcoin in December 2017, has at the very least, forced us to rethink the way we think about what currency is, and the potential form that future currencies could eventually take. Either that, or you've started trying to mine or trade for bitcoin – in spite of its volatility – and hope that its value rises even further, as a few analysts believe it could. (READ: Bitcoin breaks $10,000 barrier but analysts warn of bubble)

While the actual usage of bitcoin in commercial transactions is still developing (the number of companies that accept cryptocurrencies is still low), it has some traits that give it some appeal, namely the ability to bypass bank fees for remittances, and anonymous transactions. 

Be wary though; some are also saying that bitcoin is a bubble that could pop anytime. Consider it a very high risk investment that could either make you very rich in 2018 or set back your financial plans for the future. – Rappler.com

Eden Estopace is an IT journalist based in Manila. She writes for a Swiss-based media startup.

 
 

Facebook Exec Joins Coinbase Board

Coinbase, a popular site for buying cryptocurrencies, is soaring. In the last week, Coinbase’s app shot to No. 1 in the iTunes store, while a flood of interest from institutional investors briefly caused its trading platform to buckle from unprecedented volume.

All of this helps explains why Coinbase has been reaching for outside help as it navigates an enviable, though chaotic, period of growth.

The latest addition to its team is David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook and a former president of PayPal, who will be joining Coinbase’s board. His appointment was announced by Coinbase on Tuesday.

Marcus is known as something of a guru in the mobile payments space, according to Coinbase president Asiff Hirji, who himself only joined Coinbase last week as its second-in-command.

“David is a very well known financial tech leader in the Valley. He’s got a tremendous track record. He’ll have seen many of the issues we’re currently facing,” said Hirji, who formerly worked at HP and TDAmeritrade.

Hirji did not specify say what will be on the agenda at Coinbase for Marcus, who is keeping his current position at Facebook, but he did say that managing growth is the company’s top priority right now.

“Right now, we’re genuinely focused on the volume we’re facing. It’s yet another step in adding asset classes and scaling,” said Hirji, who added that Coinbase’s GDAX platform represents the highest volume of cryptocurrency trading in the world right now.

The unprecedented volume at Coinbase comes as media hype is leading everyone from ordinary investors to hedge funds to jump on the bitcoin bandwagon.

Meanwhile, Coinbase is also scrambling to build new products and features, including a new custodian service for large institutional investors like sovereign wealth funds.

The company is also seeing new volume as a result of the introduction this week of bitcoin futures contracts—a development some predicted would cause the price of bitcoin to decline, but for which the opposite has occurred.

Hirji said the company is paying close attention to the new futures market, which he believes is suffering from poor product design. He also said the current market lacks adequate arbitrage opportunities, which in turn has led to an usually wide price spread among different bitcoin exchanges.

Apple’s iMac Pro will be available starting Thursday

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple announced back in June that its first ever iMac Pro would launch this month — and now, with just a few weeks to go, we’re finally getting some details. Apple updated its website today to say that the iMac Pro will go on sale this Thursday, December 14th. It didn’t offer any updates on pricing or configurations, but last we heard, the machine will start at $4,999.

While the iMac Pro isn’t exactly a gadget that needs to be rushed out before the holidays, it’s one of two products that Apple promised to release before the end of the year. The other is the HomePod, and Apple announced last month that it was delaying that into “early 2018.” Schiller’s comments indicate that the iMac Pro isn’t also getting delayed.

The iMac Pro is one of Apple’s responses to a backlash from its developer community late last year. After developers indicated their frustrating with the lack of powerful options Apple was selling (particularly as it related to the MacBook Pro), Apple said it would release a new Mac Pro and introduce an iMac Pro as well.

Of the two, the iMac Pro is the only one we’ve seen any details on so far. It’ll use Xeon processors, have a 5K display, and include a Radeon Vega GPU, among other extremely high-end specs.

As Apple did with the iPhone X, it’s given some YouTubers early access to the iMac Pro. Marques Brownlee has one of the first videos out. He says that Final Cut alone isn’t enough to spin up the fans, which is an okay first sign (although Final Cut isn’t as demanding as Premiere, which is much more widely used). The iMac Pro also comes with a black Lightning cable for charging the black keyboard — another small thing that’s exclusive to this computer.

 

Jonathan Morrison has a video up too and takes a look at Geekbench scores. We can probably expect to see a handful of other videos go up throughout the day.

 

Vincent Laforet posted more detailed impressions of the iMac Pro’s performance in various video editing apps, including Premiere and DaVinci Resolve. And Craig Hunter has a number of additional performance tests on his blog.

The general consensus is that this thing is fast — but of course, that was always going to be the case with its high-end specs. The real question is whether it’s capable enough to keep pros from not going over to Windows, where they’ve traditionally been able to get power per dollar. Given that the iMac Pro isn’t upgradable, it’ll likely remain a tough sell for all but Mac enthusiasts.

Update December 12th, 9:25AM ET: This story has been updated with the iMac Pro’s release date. It previously focused on a Phil Schiller quote saying a release was coming in “a matter of days.”

Microsoft helps data center company ramp up sales and customer engagement

Park Place Technologies, a data center third-party maintenance and support company, is teaming up with Microsoft

Microsoft will help drive digital transformation across Park Place Technologies’ global sales and service operations.

Park Place plans to fully deploy Microsoft enterprise cloud services, including Dynamics 365 and Office 365, along with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, to enhance collaboration and productivity across its sales and service operations.

“Microsoft is uniquely positioned with integrated offerings across the whole cloud stack,” said Chris Adams, president and COO, Park Place Technologies.

“We’re confident this trusted, global platform will further enhance productivity for our employees and provide more value to our customers.”

As a first step, Park Place Technologies plans to equip its salesforce with the Microsoft Relationship Sales solution, a joint offering that combines the power of Dynamics 365 for Sales with LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Microsoft says by surfacing relationships between people, and then integrating that information within a single platform, Park Place salespeople will be able to access information in a way that saves time and improves productivity.

Following the deployment, Microsoft says Park Place will be better positioned to deliver optimal service and ultimately maximize uptime for its customers.

“Park Place Technologies is at the forefront of IT service and support with a commitment to innovating ways employees are empowered to deliver value to customers,” comments Alysa Taylor, general manager, Business Applications Group at Microsoft.

“Putting the power of Microsoft’s intelligent cloud behind Park Place’s customer care organization will connect people, processes and data insights to optimize productivity and transform its service delivery operations.”

Chernobyl's Animal Mutations Shed Light on the Impact of Nuclear Releases

Igor Kostin photographed animal mutations that may indicated Chernobyl sarcophagus leaks. Sygma via Getty Images / Getty Images
The 1986 Chernobyl accident resulted in one of the highest unintentional releases of radioactivity in history. The graphite moderator of reactor 4 was exposed to air and ignited, shooting plumes of radioactive fallout across what is now Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Europe. While few people live near Chernobyl now, animals living in the vicinity of the accident allow us to study the effects of radiation and gauge recovery from the disaster.

Most domestic animals were moved away from the accident, and those deformed farm animals that were born, did not reproduce. After the first few years following the accident, scientists focused on studies of wild animals, and pets that had been left behind, to learn about Chernobyl's impact.

Although the Chernobyl accident can't be compared to effects from a nuclear bomb because the isotopes released by the reactor differ from those produced by a nuclear weapon, both accidents and bombs cause mutations and cancer.

It's crucial to study the effects of the disaster to help people understand the serious and long-lasting consequences of nuclear releases. Moreover, understanding the effects from Chernobyl may help humanity react to other nuclear power plant accidents.

The Relationship Between Radioisotopes and Mutations
Radioactivity has enough energy to damage DNA molecules, causing mutations.
Radioactivity has enough energy to damage DNA molecules, causing mutations. Ian Cuming / Getty Images
You may wonder how, exactly, radioisotopes (a radioactive isotope) and mutations are connected. The energy from radiation can damage or break DNA molecules. If the damage is severe enough, cells can't replicate and the organism dies. Sometimes DNA can't be repaired, producing a mutation. Mutated DNA may result in tumors and affect an animal's ability to reproduce. If a mutation occurs in gametes, it can result in a nonviable embryo or one with birth defects.

Additionally, some radioisotopes are both toxic and radioactive. The chemical effects of the isotopes also impact the health and reproduction of affected species.

The types of isotopes around Chernobyl change over time as elements undergo radioactive decay. Cesium-137 and iodine-131 are isotopes that accumulate in the food chain and produce most of the radiation exposure to people and animals in the affected zone.

Examples of Domestic Genetic Deformities
This eight-legged foal is an example of a Chernobyl animal mutation.
This eight-legged foal is an example of a Chernobyl animal mutation. Sygma via Getty Images / Getty Images
Ranchers noticed an increase in genetic abnormalities in farm animals immediately following the Chernobyl accident. In 1989 and 1990, the number of deformities spiked again, possibly as a result of radiation released from the sarcophagus intended to isolate the nuclear core. In 1990, around 400 deformed animals were born. Most deformities were so severe the animals only lived a few hours.

Examples of defects included facial malformations, extra appendages, abnormal coloring, and reduced size. Domestic animal mutations were most common in cattle and pigs. Also, cows exposed to fallout and fed radioactive feed produced radioactive milk.

Wild Animals, Insects, and Plants in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Przewalski's horse, which inhabited the Chernobyl zone. After 20 years the population has grown, and now they gallop on radioactive territories.
Przewalski's horse, which inhabited the Chernobyl zone. After 20 years the population has grown, and now they gallop on radioactive territories. Anton Petrus / Getty Images
The health and reproduction of animals near Chernobyl were diminished for at least the first six months following the accident. Since that time, plants and animals have rebounded and largely reclaimed the region. Scientists collect information about the animals by sampling radioactive dung and soil and watching animals using camera traps.

The Chernobyl exclusion zone is a mostly-off-limits area covering over 1600 square miles around the accident. The exclusion zone is a sort of radioactive wildlife refuge. The animals are radioactive because they eat radioactive food, so they may produce fewer young and bear mutated progeny. Even so, some populations have grown. Ironically, the damaging effects of radiation inside the zone may be less than the threat that posed by humans outside of it. Examples of animals seen within the zone include Przewalksi's horses, wolves, badgers, swans, moose, elk, turtles, deer, foxes, beavers, boars, bison, mink, hares, otters, lynx, eagles, rodents, storks, bats, and owls.

Not all animals fare well in the exclusion zone. Invertebrate populations (including bees, butterflies, spiders, grasshoppers, and dragonflies) in particular have diminished. This is likely because the animals lay eggs in the top layer of soil, which contains high levels of radioactivity.

Radionuclides in water have settled into sediment in lakes. Aquatic organisms are contaminated and face ongoing genetic instability. Affected species include frogs, fish, crustaceans, and insect larvae.

While birds abound in the exclusion zone, they are examples of animals that still face problems from radiation exposure. A study of barn swallows from 1991 to 2006 indicated birds in the exclusion zone displayed more abnormalities than birds from a control sample, including deformed beaks, albinistic feathers, bent tail feathers, and deformed air sacs. Birds in the exclusion zone had less reproductive success. Chernobyl birds (and also mammals) often had smaller brains, malformed sperm, and cataracts.

The Famous Puppies of Chernobyl
Some Chernobyl dogs are fitted with special collar to track them and measure radioactivity.
Some Chernobyl dogs are fitted with special collar to track them and measure radioactivity. Sean Gallup / Getty Images
Not all of the animals living around Chernobyl are entirely wild. There are around 900 stray dogs, mostly descended from those left behind when people evacuated the area. Veterinarians, radiation experts, and volunteers from a group called The Dogs of Chernobyl capture the dogs, vaccinate them against diseases, and tag them. In addition to tags, some dogs are fitted with radiation detector collars. The dogs offer a way to map radiation across the exclusion zone and study the ongoing effects of the accident. While scientists generally can't get a close look at individual wild animals in the exclusion zone, they can monitor the dogs closely. The dogs are, of course, radioactive. Visitors to the area are advised to avoid petting the pooches to minimize radiation exposure.

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