Vivo Looks Set to Launch First Smartphone With In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor at MWC Shanghai

Last week, a short leaked video clip showed a Vivo smartphone with an on-screen fingerprint sensor and while the authenticity of that video was still under scrutiny, the company has now launched an official teaser that hints at the feature. As per the launch teaser, the company might be launching its upcoming smartphone with in-screen fingerprint sensor at Mobile World Congress 2017 in Shanghai, scheduled to start on June 28.

The launch teaser, shared by Vivo India on Wednesday, shows that fingerprint sensor logo going in and out of a plane, seemingly indicating that the sensor will be embedded in the display. Moreover, the company has mentioned a tagline that says “Unlock the Future” on the teaser image. While it is possible that the company could be indicating some other security feature related to the fingerprint sensor, our best guess for now would be a display-integrated fingerprint sensor.

Vivo Looks Set to Launch First Smartphone With In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor at MWC ShanghaiIn its tweet, Vivo India said, “We are thrilled to be launching a new solution in just a few days at Shanghai #MWC2017. Let’s unlock the future together!” If Vivo indeed becomes the first company to launch a smartphone with in-screen fingerprint scanner, it will come across as quite an achievement for the company as tech behemoths Apple and Samsung are said to be struggling with the feature’s implementation on their upcoming flagship smartphones.

While Samsung is said to have ditched plans for the feature altogether on Galaxy Note 8, Apple’s iPhone 8 smartphones have been tipped to face delayed shipments as the company is still contemplating the manner in which the sensor should be introduced to its upcoming iPhone 8.

Qualcomm Launches Smart Audio Platform that Makes Developing Smart Speakers Easier

Qualcomm has announced a reference “smart audio” platform for manufacturers that want to develop a smart home speaker like Google Home, Amazon Echo, or the newly announced Apple HomePod. The company says its new smart audio platform chipsets will reduce development time for manufacturers as they have the necessary hardware, software, and tools.

The chipmaker introduced the new audio platform at its Voice and Music Developers conference in Shenzhen, alongside the all-new Qualcomm DDFA audio amplifier technology and new USB Type-C audio SoCs. Qualcomm at the conference also talked about few of the trends in audio industry including streaming of music, removal of headphone jack, and emergence of smart assistants and speakers.

Under the company’s new Qualcomm smart audio platform, it will be offering the APQ8009 and APQ8017 chips; these SoCs will come with a range of software configurations designed to allow OEMs to create smart speakers across various product tiers and categories. The Qualcomm smart audio platform is planned to be available Q3 2017, though the company says that the timelinecan change. These new Qualcomm SoCs support capabilities like advanced far-field voice capture, wake-word detection, AllPlay multi-room audio streaming technology, and support for major voice ecosystems in a single solution.

The far-field voice capture will allow the smart speaker to pick up the user’s voice even from afar, while the wake-word detection will enable to wake up from sleep when the hotword, for example “Hello Google,” is said aloud by the user. Qualcomm’s AllPlay multi-room audio streaming technology will allow users to configure multiple speakers to play the same or different songs in each room of the home from streaming services, local playlists on their devices, or DLNA media servers; moreover, the open nature of the AllPlay ecosystem will enable users to link together speakers from different brands, such as Panasonic, Hitachi, House of Marley, Magnat etc, in their home using this platform.

The Qualcomm APQ8009 and APQ8017 chips also beamforming and echo cancellation; barge-in and voice capture in noisy environments; software supporting virtual assistants, and support for hands-free voice calls over both VoIP and HFP. Qualcomm has confirmed that the new smart audio platform will receive support for Amazon Alexa Voice Service and Google Assistant later this year, as well as Android Things and Google Cast for Audio.

Qualcomm’s Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Voice and Music, said, “This platform is ideal for traditional speaker manufacturers wanting to make the move to a connected platform as it is designed to bring together all the necessary hardware, software and tools needed to reduce development time. It also offers a great degree of flexibility for those manufacturers who want to push the boundaries when it comes to possible future applications for smart speakers.”

Qualcomm Launches Smart Audio Platform that Makes Developing Smart Speakers EasierAdditionally, the company at the event announced a new addition to its audio system-on-chip (SoCs) platform, namely CSRA68100, which is designed for premium wireless speakers and headphones. The company says it is “designed to provide OEMs with significantly more programming resources and freedom to develop use cases with unique and differentiating features.” A highly integrated platform, it also supports several connectivity, system processing, audio processing and power management resources.

Qualcomm also announced QCC3XXX series of entry-level, flash-programmable audio chipsets. These are aimed at developing entry-level products at competitive price points for Bluetooth headsets and speakers. There’s also the new WHS9420 and WHS9410 single chip USB audio SoC platforms, designed specifically for USB-C connected audio devices. With smartphone brands doing away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, this platform is aimed at users who want to continue to use wired headsets and speakers on their phones by means of transfer of audio via the USB Type-C port.

At the event, Qualcomm also revealed its next generation Qualcomm DDFA audio amplifier technology for audio devices like wireless speakers, soundbars, networked audio, and headphone amplifiers. The next-generation DDFA tech will be available on Qualcomm’s CSRA6620 SoC, and will include a DDFA controller with eight channel inputs, two channel outputs, microcontroller and configurable audio processor. Qualcomm says the chip will “help OEMs to integrate best-in-class amplifier performance in a lower complexity, more cost effective way than was previously possible.”

Netflix’s Interactive Shows Let You Drive the Plot

Netflix’s first attempt at interactive storytelling hit the service on Tuesday, starting with a new standalone animated episode called Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale. During the episode, viewers – kids, predictably – will be asked to make a decision about a dozen times, which will affect the story and length of the show.

For example, viewers will have the option to choose whether the bears faced by Puss in Boots will be friends or foes, and whether it should kiss a queen or just go for a simple handshake. Depending on the choices made, the new episode – Puss in Book – will last anywhere between 18 to 39 minutes, with prompts coming in every two to four minutes.

The new experiment, as Netflix is calling it, is only available on modern smart TVs, streaming media players, game consoles, and iOS devices for now. With a TV, you’ll need a remote control, while a finger tap is enough on a phone. It won’t work on the Netflix website, Android, Chromecast, and Apple TV, where the episode will play as a linear 23-minute version.

“The children’s programming space was a natural place for us to start since kids are eager to ‘play’ with their favourite characters and already inclined to tap, touch and swipe at screens,” Netflix’s director of product innovation, Carla Engelbrecht Fisher, said in a blog. “They also talk to their screens, as though the characters can hear them. Now, that conversation can be two-way.”

Netflix's Interactive Shows Let You Drive the PlotNot only does it put viewers in control of the experience, it also gives kids a reason to rewatch the same episode to find out the different storylines if they so desire. For Netflix, as always, the data will be illuminating and all-important, as to what choices surface to the top, and how popular the format is with its over 100 million members.

Of course, creating interactive storytelling is much more cumbersome and expensive on a live-action original, though Netflix hasn’t ruled it out yet. Meanwhile, the experiment will be rolled out for two more animated kids shows: Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile on July 14, and Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout next year.

Amazon Prime Wardrobe in Testing, a ‘Try Before You Buy’ Fashion Service

Amazon.com wants to turn your living room into a fitting room.

The e-commerce giant, already one of the biggest apparel sellers in the United States, on Tuesday unveiled a test programme called Prime Wardrobe. Part of the Amazon Prime shopping club, the new feature will allow members to order three or more items without paying for them up front.

Customers will have a week after receiving their shipment to decide which items they want to buy and which they want to return before being charged.

It is the latest foray by Amazon into apparel and groceries, categories that have been slower to shift online. Last week Amazon said it would buy grocer Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion, an aggressive step into the brick-and-mortar retail world and potentially a strategy for getting products to urban customers’ doorsteps faster.

Prime Wardrobe represents another way Amazon is encouraging people to sign up for Prime, its $99-per-year programme that includes two-day shipping and streaming video. The company has found that assuming these extra costs is worth it because Prime members buy more goods, more often on Amazon.

Surging apparel sales are already helping Amazon challenge Macy’s as the dominant retailer in the category. Prime Wardrobe may add further pressure.

“If I were Macy’s, I’d be scared by this,” said Morningstar analyst Bridget Weishaar. “Amazon is offering a very convenient way to avoid going to stores,” adding that experience-driven millennials are happy to skip the trip.

Amazon Prime Wardrobe in Testing, a 'Try Before You Buy' Fashion ServiceThe Prime Wardrobe programme includes more than a million items from shoes to accessories and clothing. Shoppers receive a 20 percent discount when they keep five or more items. Items are shipped in a resealable box with a prepaid label for returns.

Brands include Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Adidas, Levi’s, and possibly Amazon’s private-label clothing – and the Prime Wardrobe programme may be key for growing shoppers’ awareness of this, Weishaar said.

The programme is perhaps a play by Amazon for data, too. Like Amazon’s voice-controlled camera, the Echo Look, and an accompanying app that recommends which of two outfits is best, Prime Wardrobe has the potential to offer the retailer insights on which fits and styles shoppers prefer.

The service is similar to a number of “try-before-you-buy” services including Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, which is part of Nordstrom.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer: A Forgotten Common Enemy Amidst All the Infighting

HBO released a new trailer for Game of Thrones’ upcoming season 7 on Wednesday night, which begins with a teary-eyed Sansa Stark solemnly walking in Winterfell, and ends with her narrating a powerful line that’s reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s law of the jungle.

In between, the two-minute clip expands on the several Westerosi conflicts that need resolving in the new season, providing us glimpses of more than a dozen favourite characters. It’s all set to composer Ramin Djawadi’s rousing masterpiece from the season 6 soundtrack, Light of the Seven.

Where the first trailer focused on the ruler-trifecta of Cersei Lannister, Jon Snow, and Daenerys Targaryen, the second expands its worldview to show snippets of what other characters will be up to. In the beginning, Bran and Meera are waiting for one of the Wall gates to open, and it’s hinted that Jon is waiting on the other side.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer: A Forgotten Common Enemy Amidst All the InfightingThen, it quickly runs through Cersei, Daenerys, Arya, Jaime, and (a creepy) Littefinger, before a voiceover from Jon: “For centuries, our families fought together against their common enemy. Despite their differences. Together,” to shots of Daenerys exploring her new home, and Tyrion looking at the three huge dragons. He then adds: “We need to do the same if we’re going to survive. ‘Cause the enemy is real. It’s always been real.”

Post that, there’s a ton of action in the new trailer, including shots of The Hound, Beric Dondarrion with a flaming sword, hundreds of Greyjoy ships, the Unsullied, Jaime charging through an empty blazing battlefield, and Drogon flying low over a Dothraki horde.

Game of Thrones returns July 16 on HBO, July 17 on Hotstar, and July 18 on Star World.

eBay to Match Amazon and Other Rivals’ Prices in Bid to Attract Shoppers

eBay on Wednesday said it would match top competitors’ prices for a number of popular products in an effort to lure customers.

The news follows a string of initiatives by the seller marketplace to catch up to e-commerce rivals, and ultimately set itself apart as a haven for finding treasures online rather than commodity products.

In the fall, eBay will guarantee three-day delivery for tens of millions of items for the first time – a logistical feat that Amazon.com has already mastered. eBay has also shifted away from its former core – online auctions – toward fixed-price sales in line with big retailers.

eBay to Match Amazon and Other Rivals' Prices in Bid to Attract ShoppersNow, eBay will guarantee that the roughly 50,000 new products on its Deals site will be at least as cheap as identical items sold by Amazon, Wal-Mart Stores, Target and other major retailers on the web. Shoppers must contact eBay’s customer service team about relevant price disparities to receive a coupon they can apply at checkout.

The move may be a jab at Amazon, which cut back on price-matching last year.

“Consumers are still very price conscious,” said Hal Lawton, senior vice president of North America at eBay, in an interview. “Post 2009 and 2010, value just became an even stronger consideration for where they shop and what they buy. That really hasn’t waned even though the economy has strengthened.”

eBay Deals accounts for more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,450 crores) of the company’s annual gross merchandise volume – the total value of all goods sold on its websites. Gross merchandise volume for its marketplace was $79.4 billion (roughly Rs. 5,12,156 crores) in 2016.

Nokia 3310 Durability Test Sees It Struggle to Handle Scratches, Burns

The original Nokia 3310 was well known for its durability and if you have been following Internet memes over the past decade, you would know this by now. However, as it turns out, the new Nokia 3310 doesn’t seem to match up to its competition in terms of scratch resistance as well as build quality thanks to the use of plastic screen and body on the handset.

In a test video posted by channel named VoloKin Project on YouTube, the Nokia 3310 (2017) offered little resistance against scratches when the tester tried to use a level 5 knife, which doesn’t scratch modern flagships including Samsung Galaxy S8. Due to the presence of plastic screen and body, the new feature phone from Nokia fell victim to permanent scratches even with keys that are likely to be placed in users’ pocket often times.

Not only did the camera lens scratch easily with the knife used in test but the entire camera panel popped out fairly easily on applying some pressure with the knife on the sides, as can be seen in the video embedded above. While it was expected due to presence of plastic screen, the phone’s front got burned rather easily in the burn test and produced irreversible marks at the front of display.

Nokia 3310 Durability Test Sees It Struggle to Handle Scratches, BurnsThe only solace that the new Nokia 3310 got from entire routine was from the bend test. While the tester seemingly applied all the force at his disposal, he couldn’t bend the phone with his bare hands. While the phone’s body popped out a little in the bend test, it was easily fixed by merely pressing the phone from both ends at once.

Although the durability offered by the original Nokia 3310 is a stuff of legends, it seems like the smartphones are now moving in the right direction with the use of glass and metal instead of plastic to enhance the build quality. Nobody likes their phone all scratched up and if this is a concern for you, you might want to think twice before buying the revamped Nokia 3310 despite it costing just Rs. 3310 in India.

To recall, the Nokia 3310 (2017) was launched in India last month. If you want to get in-depth information about its performance, you might want to check out our review of the feature phone.

Sony Launches 2017 Lineup of Its 4K HDR TVs in India

Sony has launched the 2017 models of its 4K HDR TV line-up in India, starting at Rs. 72,900 for the 43-inch model. A total of 17 models are being launched across six different series: X95E, X94E/ X93E, X90E, X82E, X75E, and X70E. While most of them go on sale this week in Sony stores across India, some will be releasing in the near future. There’s no mention of Sony’s OLED 4K TV, which stole the show at CES 2017.

The biggest and most expensive of the lot is the 75-inch X94E, which costs a whopping Rs. 6,04,900. The X95E is Sony’s new top of the line 4K HDR TV, priced at Rs. 3,04,900 for the 55-inch model, and Rs. 4,04,900 for the 65-inch one. The X93E comes after that, coming in at Rs. 2,64,900 for 55-inch, and Rs. 3,64,900 for the 65-inch.

Stepping down further, you get the X90E series, which starts at a slightly more reasonable Rs. 1,54,900 for the 49-inch model. The 55-inch and 65-inch X90E models cost Rs. 2,04,900 and Rs. 2,84,900 respectively. Further down the line you’ve the X82E, costing Rs. 87,900 for 43-inch, Rs. 1,24,900 for the 49-inch, and Rs. 1,54,900 for the 55-inch.

In the X70E line-up, you can choose from the aforementioned 43-inch model, at Rs. 72,900. If you need something bigger, the 49-inch X70E costs Rs. 94,900. That leaves the X75E – in 43-, 49-, 55- and 65-inch variants – which don’t have prices or a release date yet.

Sony Launches 2017 Lineup of Its 4K HDR TVs in IndiaThe reason the X94E is so expensive isn’t just for its size (75-inch), but also because it has direct LED technology in its panel, as opposed to edge LED on the rest of the 2017 Sony line-up. That means the LEDs are behind the panel, which provides better contrast and brightness, at the expense of thickness and a premium. The X90E models also have direct LED.

To compensate on the X95E and X93E (which have edge LED), Sony is touting “Slim Backlight Drive+” for more brightness, which it says brings more accurate local dimming control. From X90E upwards, the Sony 4K HDR TVs also have better systems for picture processing, and clarity, and contrast enhancement.

In terms of connectivity, you get four HDMI inputs on X82E onwards. While the X82E has two on the side and the back, X90E has three on the side and one on the back. There is one on the side and three at the bottom in the X93E, X94E, and X95E. The X70E has three in total, two on the side and one in the back.

The entire Sony X-series runs Android TV 7.0 Nougat by default, with Sony’s own interface running on top of it. The Android aspect is stressed on the remote as well, with dedicated buttons for Netflix, Google Play Store, and YouTube. All of Sony’s 2017 Android TVs are part of Netflix’s recommended programme, if that’s a checkbox for you.

Sony Walkman NW-WS623 Wireless Bluetooth Headset Launched in India

Sony on Monday launched its Walkman NW-WS623 wireless Bluetooth headset at Rs. 8,990 in India. Designed specifically to meet the needs of sports enthusiasts, Walkman NW-WS623 comes with connectivity options including NFC and Bluetooth that allow users to connect the headset to their smartphones or other devices. Sony Walkman NW-WS623 will be made available in the country from Friday and comes in Black colour only. The wireless Bluetooth headset will be available for purchase at Sony Centre and electronic stores across India.

Weighing in at just 32 grams, Sony Walkman NW-WS623 provides a battery life of around 12 hours, and can be fully charged in 1.5 hours, as per the company’s claims. Interestingly, Sony has claimed that even with a quick charge of just 3 minutes, the Walkman NW-WS623 will provide a playback of around one hour to the user.

Sony Walkman NW-WS623 Wireless Bluetooth Headset Launched in IndiaThe wireless Bluetooth headset comes with a built-in storage of 4GB to carry music on-the-go and has been described to be designed specifically for people who are into sports. This is why the new Sony headset comes with IP65/IP68 water and dust resistance rating. Sony claims that the Walkman NW-WS623 allows users to swim to a depth of 2 meters with up to 30 minutes of submerged time, thanks to its water resistance.

“The Walkman can endure extreme temperatures from -5-degree Celsius to 45-degree Celsius, making it ideal for a hike or climb. With improved wearing comfort, the Walkman NW-WS623 features an ergonomic, slim and light design that stays in place no matter the movement,” the company said in its release.

Enabling the Ambient Sound Mode, users will also be able to hear external sounds while wearing the headset to allow them to communicate to others without having to take the wearable off.

Google Glass, Apple Newton, Nokia N-Gage Make It to ‘Museum of Failure’

Google and Apple are not synonymous with failure but in the risky business of innovation, anything is possible. At Sweden’s newly opened Museum of Failure, Google Glass and Apple Newton are two such devices that were either ahead of their time or the results of some bad ideas.

Founded by clinical psychologist Samuel West, the museum that opened on June 7 to the public has over 70 failed products and services from around the world.

“We know that 80 to 90 percent of innovation projects, they fail and you never read about them, you don’t see them, people don’t talk about them. And if there’s anything we can do from these failures, it’s learn from them,” West told CBS News.

The list has Nokia “N-gage” device, Orbitoclast Lobotomy (medical instrument), Harley-Davidson Perfume, Kodak Digital Camera, Sony Betamax and Lego Fiber Optics, among others, the information available on the Museum of Failure website stated.

Developed and marketed by Apple Inc starting 1987, Newton was one of the first personal digital assistants to feature handwriting recognition. Apple shipped the first devices in 1993.

Initially considered as innovative, Apple founder Steve Jobs directed the company to stop the production of Apple Newton devices in 1998.

According to reports, Newton devices ran on a proprietary operating system called Newton OS. The high price and early problems with its handwriting recognition feature limited its sales.

Google Glass, Apple Newton, Nokia N-Gage Make It to 'Museum of Failure'Google Glass, an eye-wearable device, created a storm when the company handed over a prototype to a few “Glass Explorers” in 2013 for $1,500 (roughly Rs. 1,00,000).

The optical head-mounted display became available to public in May 2014 but was discontinued in 2015 owing to privacy and safety concerns. The device, however, is now gaining momentum in the medical industry.

Nokia made “N-Gage” mobile device and handheld game system that ran on Series 60 platform on Symbian OS. The device, released in October 2003, was discontinued two years later. “N-Gage” suffered from a poor gaming library.

The Museum of Failure is open to the public in downtown Helsingborg.