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With iOS 12, Apple focuses on performance

Apple’s Craig Federighi announced that Apple was doubling down on performance with the upcoming release of iOS 12 at the WWDC event in San Jose, CA today. What’s more, he said, the company would be making these changes to the full range of iOS devices going back to 2013. “And so for iOS 12, we are doubling down on performance from top to bottom making improvements to make.your device faster and more responsive. And because we want these changes to be available the full range of our customers, iOS 12 will be available on all the same devices as iOS 11,” Federighi told the WWDC audience. Perhaps because customers were unhappy to learn about the battery issues with older iOS devices Federighi stressed that Apple has focussed these performance increases on older devices, giving people with older iPhones, the maximum lift. Using the iPhone 6 as an example, he gave some figures about performance increase, stressing that it was still early days. (As an iPhone 6 user, I was listening carefully.) “Now on that device, iOS delivers a number of improvements. Across common operations you’ll see that apps launch up to 40% faster, the keyboard can come up to 50% faster and you can slide to take a photo at up to 70% faster,” he said. But he said, the biggest focus, and one all iPhone users can appreciate, is that they are working to optimize performance when it’s under load. As Federighi said that’s when you need performance the most and where iOS 12 really shines. “We put iOS 12 through our stress tests and we saw in those conditions share sheet coming up twice as fast, and apps launching twice as fast. These are big, big improvements,” he stressed. Lastly, Apple also optimized iOS 12 at the chip level working with the chip team to optimize performance, while taking battery life into account. If you keep the power pedal to the medal for too long, you suck battery, but Apple is trying to find that perfect balance of power and battery life in iOS 12. “CPUs traditionally respond to an increased demand for performance by slowly ramping up their clock speed. Well, now in iOS 12, we’re much smarter. When we detect that you need a performance lift when you’re scrolling and launching an app, we ramped up processor performance instantly to its highest state delivering high performance and a ramp it down just as fast to preserve battery life,” he said. All of this will be available when iOS 12 is released later this year.

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How to watch the live stream for today’s Apple WWDC keynote

Apple is holding a keynote today at the San Jose Convention Center, and the company is expected to unveil new updates for iOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS and maybe also some new hardware. At 10 AM PT (1 PM in New York, 6 PM in London, 7 PM in Paris), you’ll be able to watch the event as the company is streaming it live. Apple is likely to talk about some new features for all its software platforms — WWDC is a developer conference after all. Rumor has it that Apple could also unveil some MacBook Pro update with new Intel processors. If you have the most recent Apple TV, you can download the Apple Events app in the App Store. It lets you stream today’s event and rewatch old events. Users with old Apple TVs can simply turn on their devices. Apple is pushing out the “Apple Events” channel so that you can watch the event. And if you don’t have an Apple TV, the company also lets you live-stream the event from the Apple Events section on its website. This video feed works in Safari and Microsoft Edge. And for the first time, Apple says that the video should also work in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. So to recap, here’s how you can watch today’s Apple event: Safari on the Mac or iOS. Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. Maybe Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. An Apple TV gen 4 with the Apple Events app in the App Store. An Apple TV gen 2 or 3, with the Apple Events channel that arrives automatically right before the event. Of course, you also can read TechCrunch’s live blog if you’re stuck at work and really need our entertaining commentary track to help you get through your day. We have a big team in the room this year.

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This DIY smart mirror is small, stunning and full of features

Several years ago Google X engineer Max Braun published a medium post on a smart mirror he made and now he’s back with a new version that’s smaller and smarter. This is a smart mirror I can get behind though I still find smart mirrors completely frivolous. He published his project on Medium where he explains the process and the parts a person would need to build their own. This isn’t a project for everyone, but Max gives enough instructions that most enterprising builders should be able to hack something similar together. I recently reviewed a smart mirror and found it a bit silly but still useful. Ideally, like in Max’s smart mirrors, the software is passive and always available. Users shouldn’t have to think about interacting with the devices; the right information should be displayed automatically. It’s a balancing act. At this point, smart mirrors are little more than Android tablets placed behind a two-way mirror. Retail models are expensive to be buy and hardly worth it since a person’s phone or voice assistant can probably provide the same information. After all, how many devices does a person really need to tell them the weather forecast?

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Google quits selling tablets

Google has quietly crept out of the tablet business, removing the “tablets” heading from its Android page. Perhaps it hoped that no one would notice on a Friday and by Monday it would be old news, but Android Police caught them in the act. It was there yesterday, but it’s gone today. We (well, Romain) called tablets dead in 2016, which was probably a little premature, since over 160 million of them shipped last year — but even so, it’s not much of a life they’re living. Google in particular has struggled to make Android a convincing alternative to iOS in the tablet realm, and with this move has clearly indicated its preference for the Chrome OS side of things, where it has inherited the questionable (but lucrative) legacy of netbooks. They’ve also been working on broadening Android compatibility with that OS. So it shouldn’t come as much surprise that the company is bowing out. Sales have dropped considerably, since few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. I, for one, have been using the 3rd-gen (1st Retina) iPad since its release approximately 500 years ago and have never felt any compulsion whatsoever to get a new one. What happened to tablet sales? Cheap Kindle tablets from Amazon have proliferated somewhat, presumably as distractions for kids who would otherwise get fingerprints all over mom’s new phone, or for ultra-compact time-wasting on airplanes. Google’s exit doesn’t mean Android tablets are done for, of course. They’ll still get made, primarily by Samsung, Amazon, and a couple others, and there will probably even be some nice ones. But if Google isn’t selling them, it probably isn’t prioritizing them as far as features and support. Fortunately tablets aren’t subject to quite the same feature mania as smartphones, so it won’t really matter if your new Galaxy Tab or what have you doesn’t do all the cool new Google Assistant things. It plays a few games, stores your Pocket articles, and lets you watch Netflix in coach. Something cheap along those lines will always be available, but Google’s done with that whole scene. I’ve reached out to Google for comment and will update if I hear back.

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The Microsoft Launcher for Android now lets you track your kids’ whereabouts

Microsoft is launching an update to its Android launcher today that gives parents the ability to track their kids’ location. This is one out of a number of parent- and kid-focused announcements the company made today. Others include the ability to block sites in Microsoft Edge on Android and the launch of MSN Kids, a new curated news website for children. At the core of these new features are Microsoft’s family group settings that already allowed you to do things like track a child’s activity on Windows 10 and Xbox One devices or limit screen time in general. “As a mother to a young and curious daughter, I deeply understand the need for tools to help balance the use of technology in the home as well as out of the home,” writes Shilpa Ranganathan, the General Manager of Microsoft’s Mobile Experiences group, in today’s announcement. “It’s especially near and dear to me as leader of a team building experiences for mobile devices. We emphasize the idea of transparency as a guiding principle for these new experiences.” The new tracking tool is rolling out with today’s update of the Microsoft Launcher for Android and will put the latest known location of your kids right in its personalized news feed. I’m not sure how useful blocking access to sites in Edge for Android really is, but if you manage to lock your kids out from Chrome or any other pre-installed browser — and block them from downloading them — then I guess this could work. As for MSN Kids, Microsoft notes that the site will curate information from trusted sources, including Time for Kids, Popular Science, Sports Illustrated for Kids, National Geographic, and USA TODAY. It’s worth noting that there is no sponsored content or advertising on the site.

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Google is quietly formulating a new strategy for China

Google is slowing piecing together a strategy for China to ensure that it doesn’t miss out on the growth of technology in the world’s largest country. It’s been months in the making through a series of gradual plays, but further evidence of those plans comes today via a product launch. Files Go — a file manager for Android devices released last year — has made its way to China today. Not a huge launch, for sure, but the mechanisms behind it provide insight into how Google may be thinking about the country, where it has been absent since 2010 after redirecting its Chinese search service to Hong Kong in the face of government pressure. For Files Go, Google is taking a partner-led approach to distribution because the Google Play Store does not operate in China. The company is working with Tencent, Huawei, Xiaomi and Baidu, each of which will stock the app in their independent app stores, which are among the country’s most prominent third-party stores. Let that sink in a little: the creator of Android is using third-party Android app stores to distribute one of its products. On the outside that’s quite the scenario, but in China it makes perfect of sense. There’s been regular media speculation in recent about Google’s desire to return to China which, during its absence, has become the largest single market for smartphone users, and the country with the most app downloads and highest app revenue per year. Mostly the rumors have centered around audacious strategies such as the return of the Google Play Store or the restoration of Google’s Chinese search business, both of which would mean complying with demands from the Chinese government. Then there’s the politics. The U.S. and China are currently in an ongoing trade standoff that has spilled into tech, impacting deals, while Chinese premier Xi Jinping has taken a protectionist approach to promoting local business and industries, in particular AI. XI’s more controversial policies, including the banning of VPNs, have put heat on Apple, which stands accused of colluding with authorities and preventing free speech in China. Political tension between the U.S. and China is affecting tech companies. [Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images]Even when you remove the political issues, a full return is a tough challenge. Google would be starting businesses almost from scratch in a highly competitive market where it has little brand recognition. It’s hardly surprising, then, that it hasn’t made big moves… yet at least. Instead, it appears that the company is exploring more nimble approaches. There have been opportunistic product launches using established platforms, and generally Google seems intent at building relationships and growing a local presence that allows its global business to tap into the talent and technology that China offers. Files Go is the latest example, but already we’ve seen Google relaunch its Translate app in 2017 and more recently it brought its ARCore technology for augmented and virtual reality to China using partners, which include Xiaomi and Huawei. Bouquets of flowers lie on the Google logo outside the company’s China head office in Beijing on March 23, 2010 after the US web giant said it would no longer filter results and was redirecting mainland Chinese users to an uncensored site in Hong Kong — effectively closing down the mainland site. Google’s decision to effectively shut down its Chinese-language search engine is likely to stunt the development of the Internet in China and isolate local web users, analysts say. (Photo credit: xin/AFP/Getty Images) Beyond products, Google is cultivating relationships, too. It inked a wide-ranging patent deal with Tencent, China’s $500 billion tech giant which operates WeChat and more, and has made strategic investments to back AI startup XtalPi (alongside Tencent), live-streaming platform Chushou, and AI and hardware company Mobvoi. There have been events, too, including AlphaGo’s three-game battle with Chinese grandmaster Ke Jie in Wuzhen, developer events in China and the forthcoming first Google Asia Demo Day, which takes places in Shanghai in September. In addition to making friends in the right places, Google is also increasing its own presence on Chinese soil. The company opened an AI lab in Beijing to help access China-based talent, while it also unveiled a more modest presence in Shenzhen, China’s hardware capital, where it has a serviced office for staff. That hardware move ties into Google’s acquisition of a chunk of HTC’s smartphone division for $1.1 billion. The strategy is no doubt in its early days, so now is a good time to keep a keen eye on Google’s moves in this part of the world.

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