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Report: Apple Developing AR 3D Sensor for 2019 iPhone

The pace of development never slows down in the world of smartphones, and that includes the iPhone. With the iPhone X only just hitting Apple Store shelves, we're already starting to hear rumors of what Apple has planned for future iterations of the smartphone. More specifically, what we can expect to find on the back of a 2019 iPhone.

Bloomberg reports that Apple is hard at work developing a new rear-facing 3D sensor for the iPhone that gets launched in 2019. Unlike the TrueDepth sensor located on the front of the iPhone X, which uses an array of 30,000 laser dots, this new sensor would rely on time-of-flight to detect objects. Using this method, the sensor bounces a laser off objects to create a 3D image of the environment directly behind the phone.

The main reason for adding this rear-facing sensor is more believable augmented reality experiences. If the iPhone is able to detect real-world objects then the AR experience being viewed can take them into account in the scene. For example, parts of the AR scene could be hidden if they appear behind a real object, therefore maintaining the illusion. Currently, real objects are ignored in AR.

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Time-of-flight laser sensors are nothing new. Infineon, Sony, STMicroelectronics, and Panasonic already offer them. However, we all know how demanding Apple is when it comes to new tech for its smartphones. They will want this sensor to be very small, very thin, and requiring minimal power to run. If those requirements can't be met, then the sensor won't be added in 2019.

If the sensor does make the grade, it will mean future iPhones carry two 3D sensors. The TrueDepth system will continue to feature of the front of the handset, while this new sensor is positioned on the back most likely next to the cameras. It also means developers will gain access to an upgraded ARKit framework from Apple allowing them to take full advantage of the new sensor data for their AR apps.

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Yahoo Mail aims at emerging markets and casual users, launches versions for mobile web and Android Go

The days for Yahoo Messenger are now numbered, but Yahoo and its parent Oath (which also owns TC) are still counting on growth for other communications services, specifically Yahoo Mail. Today, the company announced two new versions of Yahoo Mail, optimised for mobile web and an app for Android Go, a version of Android specifically tailored for cheaper handsets. The launch comes at a time when Yahoo Mail has stagnated in its growth: the company says that it now has 227.8 million monthly active users with some 26 billion emails sent daily, but that user size is only about two million more than it had a year ago. It’s a small number also relatively speaking: as a comparison, Google’s Gmail reported 1.4 billion users this past April. In other words, one very clear aim of enhancing the mobile web and Android One experience is to try to grow use of Yahoo Mail among new categories of users, specifically among people who are using lower-end devices, either in emerging markets or as more casual mobile users in more mature markets. And given that Yahoo Mail is already available in 46 languages and 70 markets, it’s probably overdue that Yahoo has decided to revamp some features specifically for a large part of those markets. For the mobile web service specifically, Yahoo’s hoping to ease people into using Yahoo Mail more regularly. “We’ve heard loud and clear from users that they’re not always ready to make the big leap to downloading an app that takes up any storage space on their phone,” said Joshua Jacobson, senior director of product management for Yahoo Mail. “People with high-capacity phones may want to save that space for photos or videos, while others with entry-level smartphones may just have limited space from the get-go. Further, some folks share devices or borrow a family member’s to access their email. This is all especially true in developing markets.” Yahoo is not the only company to focus on how to cater more to emerging markets: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and many others have developed versions of their platforms and apps tailored for users in these countries (sometimes controversially, when their actions are deemed to be too anticompetitive). Part of the reason for this is because emerging market consumers have been proven to be very enthusiastic users of mobile phones: they use handsets as their primary communications device, often forgoing landlines and computers in the process; but not only do they generally have less money to spend on things like mobile data and devices, but often mobile data represents a higher relative cost overall. On top of this, as growth has levelled off in mature markets, emerging economies are the drivers of all new adoption: usage outside of the US and other mature markets will grow by over 50 percent by 2025, according to the GSMA. Creating apps and sites that consume less data is a no-brainer if you want to grow your usage in these markets, which is what Yahoo is now trying to do. Yahoo last year introduced a new version of its Mail app (along with a paid, ad-free option), which it updated earlier this year with faster load times and other features. Today’s new web version and Android Go app are aiming to create more parity with the standard that it set there. Features include “swipe through your inbox”, a Tinder-style gesture to either to mark a mail a ‘read’ or to delete it (if you swipe left); a new option to personalise your inbox with color themes; an enhanced sidebar to create and use folders; autosuggestion on names (a big one that would have felt very onerous to do without, I’d guess); infinite scroll on the inbox (with no need to click on ‘next’). One issue that I’ve noticed a lot with web apps is that they often don’t seem to work as fast as native apps, and this too seems to be something that Yahoo wants to address: built on React and Redux (similar to the native apps), the responsiveness is much faster now. Yahoo says that Android Go, meanwhile, will take up only about 10 megabytes of space to install, and is optimised to reduce RAM usage if your device is below 50MB.

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