Toshiba’s DynaPad is a lighter, thinner and lower-end Surface alternative

While Toshiba provided a glimpse at a prototype of its dynaPad hybrid last month at IFA in Berlin, it didn’t have any details on the system. Today the company revealed much more about the device, which weighs less and is thinner than a Surface Pro 4 and has an optional keyboard.

Running on Windows 10, the dynaPad is a 12-inch tablet with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,280 (just 192 pixels per inch). The device has a monocoque carbon body with a rubberized gold finish that the company says makes it comfortable in the hand.

The optional keyboard works as a stand for the tablet, so there’s no kickstand on the slate itself, and the accessory doesn’t clip onto the device when it’s not in use. On the plus side, it does have full-sized keys with 1.5 mm of travel.

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Perhaps more interesting is support for Wacom’s Active Electrostatics TruPen stylus (there’s one included in the box), which offers 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity (double the levels of the Surface Pro 4’s pen). Toshiba claims that the high-accuracy experience makes drawing or note taking on the dynaPad feel like you’re putting pen on paper.

The tablet itself weighs 1.25 lbs (567g) and measures 6.9 mm (0.27 in) thick, making it both thinner and lighter than Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 4. On the other hand, performance won’t be nearly as strong, with the the slate running on an Intel Atom chip, rather than the higher-end Intel Core processors you’ll find in the Surface Pro line. It’s also limited to just 4 GB of RAM.

There’s no official pricing for the dynaPad just yet, but we do know that’s it’s scheduled to arrive in the US in the first quarter of 2016.

Source: Toshiba

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Here’s why iPhones have those unattractive lines on the back

When Apple took the wraps off the redesigned iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in September, some huge differences between the new phones and previous iPhones were immediately apparent.
The screens on the new phones were bigger than those on any previous iPhone. The phones were also thinner and lighter.
But most notably, unlike earlier iPhones, which had panels on the back made of ceramic and glass, the case of the newest iPhone was made of aluminum, save for some thin, plastic-like lines that run across the phone at the top and bottom of the device.
The lines are white on the gold and “rose gold” iPhone models, and gray on the silver and “space gray” models.
Those strips are a source of consternation for some people, who’ve vented about their presence on Twitter. There’s even a discussion thread on the question-and-answer site Quora that asks if Steve Jobs would ever have allowed the phone to have them.
Answer: nobody knows.

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Apple wouldn’t tell Tech Insider the purpose of the white lines, though the consensus among company observers is that they have something to do with the iPhone’s antenna or signal.
Apple’s latest iPhones.
To learn more, we reached out to Jeff Snyder, director of marketing at iFixit, a company that sells tools and parts and provides repair guides for people for how to fix their gadgets. iFixit is also known for doing teardowns — taking apart and posting the pictures — of new gadgets.
Here’s what Snyder said about those lines on the iPhone:
We believe that the lines/bars on the outer case provide a clean escape route for the signal to get through the case.
The iPhone 5 and 5s had glass sections on the back, both top and bottom, for the same reason — and the iPhone 4 and 4s had glass backs.
Apple is likely looking into ways to eliminate this design feature from future iPhone models. The company filed a patent earlier this year for a composite material that will allow radio signals to escape.
Business Insider

The Fairphone 2 is an ethical smartphone with a modular build

You might remember the original Fairphone from back in 2013 – at first glance it looks like any other smartphone, but read the small print and you’ll find a device built with an emphasis on responsibly sourced materials, and made by fairly paid workers. It’s been a couple of years since the original device broke cover, and the company is back to address those aging specs (and to reaffirm its mission statement) with the Fairphone 2.

Running on Android 5.1 Lollipop, the Fairphone 2 is powered by a Snapdragon 801, with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB internal storage, plus a microSD slot for expansion. The 5-inch panel has 1,920 x 1,080 resolution (about 441 PPI), and there’s LTE connectivity on board as well as dual SIM card slots. That’s a big jump up over the original 2013 handset, but these still aren’t quite top-shelf specs, sitting roughly in line with what we’d expect from an early 2014 flagship.

Of course the Fairphone 2 isn’t just about the specs, as like its predecessor it does its best to earn its name. For starters, the device itself is designed in a modular manner, so it’s easy for the user to take it apart and repair themselves (check out the video at the bottom to see this in action).

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The back cover is also built to wrap around the front edge of the display, acting as a protective case, making it perhaps a bit less likely that you’ll drop and destroy your handset.

The project’s goal is to make supply chains more transparent, attempting to trace the exact origin of all raw materials used. At present, you can see which suppliers individual components have been sourced from, as well as estimated manufacturing locations.

The company uses as many minerals as possible from responsible sources within conflict zones, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. The idea is to contribute to ethical practices in areas where the opposite is the norm.

Worker welfare is also a priority, with a contribution from every device sold going into a fund at the factory in Suzhou, China. That money will be used to help train the workers to better represent themselves, teaching skills for expressing concerns about working conditions and negotiating with management, as well as for projects suggested by the workers themselves.

It’s also about better communication with consumers about where their money is going, with users able to view a detailed breakdown of the costs involved in making each unit. You can see exactly where the money has been spent, with 65 percent of the retail price going into physically building each handset.

Aside from its modular nature, there might not be anything too exciting about the Fairphone 2 hardware, but there’s a lot to like about what the company is doing behind the scenes.

The Fairphone 2 is available for pre-order in the Europe for €525 (US$585), and is expected to ship in November. You can check out the video below for a look at the device’s modular nature.

Source: Fairphone

HandyCase lets users operate mobile devices from both sides

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Despite the rapid advancement of smartphones and tablets, accessory makers continually find new ways to enhance the mobile device experience. No longer are cases and covers just for rugged protection, as many provide additional features on top of that. Handscape is set to change how people interact with devices. The company’s HandyCase is designed to let users operate touchscreens with fingers set behind the device.

Like most mobile cases, the HandyCase is form-fitted to attach directly to the back of smartphones and tablets. But what’s special about the HandyCase’s design is the way it enables devices to “see through” the hardware. Fingers making contact with the case are registered as if they touched the screen itself. Users can maintain a full, two-handed grip on a tablet and operate it comfortably without hands obscuring content.

The HandyCase’s patented technology communicates the touch of fingers to one or more devices via Bluetooth. Unlike camera or infrared systems, the HandyCase works in any type of lighting conditions. The flexible, high-resolution sensor is designed to provide stable touch-interaction with up to 10 registered contact points. And since the HandyCase’s functionality is in addition to devices’ normal screen operation, users benefit by having a greater range of ergonomic comfort versus control.

While the HandyCase may be able to “see through” devices, human eyes are stuck with traditional, non-x-ray vision. The Handscape mobile app supports a number of applications while providing an underlay of visible fingers. The current options to choose from are human hands, x-ray hands, and robot hands, with more expected to be developed.

The Handscape HandyCase is currently funding on Kickstarter, having reached 24 percent of its US$100,000 goal in just a day, with another 45 days to go. The HandyCase is available for the iPhone 6/6+, iPad Mini, and iPad Air in choice of neon green, pink, gold, and silver. Pledges start at $99, which includes the cost of worldwide shipping. Developers can get their hands on a HandyCase and the Handscape SDK for iOS for a pledge of $999.

If tooling, testing, and production go according to plan, backers can expect to receive deliveries of HandyCases sometime in April, 2016. Check out the video below for feature highlights.

Sources: Handscape, Kickstarter

The Chromebook of smartphones? Nextbit Robin uses the cloud to expand your storage

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In the last few years, storage space has become a bigger concern on many flagship smartphones – especially entry-level 16 GB models. Rather than increasing the phone’s storage, one startup thinks it’s high time we remove the concern altogether by sharing smartphone storage with the cloud.

Nextbit is a self-described “small band of rebels,” founded by former Google and HTC vets. Somewhat similar to Google’s Chromebooks, the startup’s new flagship, Robin, uses the cloud to make internal storage a moot point.

The phone technically has 32 GB internal storage (double what you’ll get out of an entry-level iPhone, and equal to an entry-level 2015 Samsung flagship), but it also includes 100 GB of cloud storage. The company says everything you do on your phone – apps, photos, you name it – is backed up to the cloud while the handset is charging and connected to Wi-Fi.

Then, after you start running out of space (and after it’s learned your usage habits), the phone starts offloading some of your least-used content to the cloud. If you want an app or photo back, just tap on it and “we restore the full version right away.”

The idea is similar to how iOS manages cloud photo backups in its latest Photos app, only Robin casts its net wider to include apps.

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Nextbit says this can open some exciting new doors, like the ability to shoot all your photos in RAW format, without worrying about all the storage RAW requires.

So what happens if you go crazy by, say, shooting every photo in RAW and then downloading 500 games from the Play Store, and fill up all 32 GB of local storage and 100 GB cloud storage? A paid option to upgrade cloud storage seems like the logical answer, but Nextbit’s Kickstarter campaign and press materials don’t specifically address that possibility. We reached out to the company and will update if we receive a comment.

Either way, much of the approach’s effectiveness will depend on how quickly “right away” really is. If re-downloading a cloud-based app isn’t much faster or more convenient than downloading it from the Play Store, then the whole idea sounds a lot less appealing (and of course wireless speeds will play a part in that equation as well).

The phone itself looks as unique as its approach to storage, with an angular design complete with round, dimple-like speakers above and below the screen. It will ship in mint and midnight color options.

In terms of hardware specs, Robin has a 5.2-inch, 1080p IPS display. Its engine is a Snapdragon 808 processor with 3 GB of RAM, while cameras include a 13 MP rear and 5 MP front. It will charge via USB Type C and have a fingerprint sensor on its power key (which sits on the right edge of the phone).

Robin is built on Android (Nextbit says it will do its best to ship with the upcoming Marshmallow flavor), and the company says it will push OTA updates as soon as it can after Google releases new versions. It’s hard to imagine the custom flavor of Android not requiring some considerable modifications to stock, though, so we’d guess Nexus-like turnaround times will be a stretch.

One update obstacle that Robin won’t have to deal with will be carrier approval, as Nextbit is skipping the US wireless behemoths and selling Robin unlocked (GSM only) directly to consumers. Right now it’s raising funds on Kickstarter, where Nextbit says a US$299 minimum pledge will get a Robin (early bird pricing, after that the minimum jumps to $349). If all goes according to plan, the company expects the phone to ship in January of 2016. At the time of publication, it’s already raised 39 percent of its $500,000 goal with 29 days to go.

You can find out more about Robin at the source links below:

Sources: Nextbit, Kickstarter

What App Developers Want to See In The New Apple TV

With a new Apple media streamer reportedly weeks away, we asked app makers what’s worked for competing platforms like Roku and Chromecast.

Apple has a lot of catching up to do if it’s going to launch a new Apple TV in September.

Apple’s current streaming set-top box dates back to 2013, and even that was just a minor update from the previous year’s model. The software has also stayed largely the same—with the exception of an iOS 7-like visual refresh last year—and while the app selection has grown, there’s still no proper app store to rival those of Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Google’s Android TV.

No one feels the pain of this quite so much as app makers, who would love to feature their software and services on a modern Apple media-streaming box. So rather than coming up with my own wish list for the next Apple TV, I reached out to some of these developers to hear what a brand-new Apple TV box could do to stand out.

Freedom From The Cookie Cutter

Apple currently offers about 60 third-party apps for Apple TV, and all of them are on a tight leash. Every app must fit into a strict template, defined by its top navigation bar and text-heavy lists atop a featureless black background. If Apple opens its platform to more apps, as expected, several developers I spoke with hope they won’t be stuck with those rigid templates.

Nuvyyo, for instance, has created a custom Roku app for its Tablo broadcast DVR hardware, letting users find and record shows through a grid-like channel guide. That same system couldn’t exist in Apple TV’s current format, says Steve Brambilla, Nuvyyo’s director of client engineering.

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Tablo’s custom Roku app

“The live TV grid that we have right now in our Roku app, we had to develop that from the ground up, and just having that ability to do it was awesome,” Brambilla says. (Roku still offers templates for making quick-and-dirty apps, which Tablo used before overhauling its Roku app earlier this year.)

Apple’s current templates do have one advantage: They create consistency, so users don’t feel lost as they move between apps. But that’s something Apple could solve with strong developer guidelines, says Scott Olechowski, cofounder and chief product officer for media server software Plex. With Android TV, for instance, Plex tries to follow Google’s guidelines as best it can, even though it is free to diverge from them.

“If people actually adhere to those, I think you can get apps that behave fairly similarly, even if they don’t look identical.” Olechowski says.

Solving The “What to Watch” Problem

An influx of new Apple TV apps would also complicate the process of figuring out what-to-watch problem that other platforms have experienced while allowing more developers into their app stores.

One likely solution from Apple will involve universal search, which is already headed to the iPhone and iPad with iOS 9. By letting app makers index their contents to appear in Siri and Spotlight searches, users could just ask for the name of an actor or TV show, and get results from individual apps. Rumors have suggested that Apple TV might include this feature as well, which makes sense given that every other major set-top box now has some kind of universal search built in.

Beyond just the typical searches for cast, crew, and titles, Tablo’s Brambilla hopes Apple will support more advanced searches, letting users ask for the next episode of a show they like, or popular shows from a certain time period or genre.

“We’re kind of seeing that a little bit now with Siri and Apple Music integration, where you can search for ‘top hits of 1986’ and be able to fulfill that request,” Brambilla says. “To extend that to third-party developers would be huge.”

Other media streamers have also been trying to pull content out of individual apps and into the main menu system. Roku, for instance, has a section called “My Feed,” where users can track unreleased movies and get notified when they’re available in an app. Amazon’s Fire TV interface places even less emphasis on apps, and more on video from Amazon Prime and other sources. Android TV offers a “Recommendations” bar on the top of its main menu, which third-party apps can feed into.

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Android TV’s Recommendations feature

Brambilla points out that Apple TV already offers recommendations, but right now they’re entirely based on video from iTunes. “I would suspect that if the UI doesn’t change too dramatically, that that might be opened up for some kind of recommendation API, which would ultimately be fairly similar to what Android TV has.”

Making The Second Screen More Useful

AirPlay used to be Apple TV’s killer feature. By letting iPhone and iPad users beam nearly any video or audio to the big screen, AirPlay served as a crutch for Apple TV’s limited app selection, and was often faster than using a regular remote control.

With Chromecast, there are a lot more capabilities there that are just unavailable with AirPlay.

But a couple years ago, Google devised a better system with its $35 Chromecast dongle: Instead of beaming video directly from the phone or tablet, Chromecast receives a set of instructions so it can stream that content directly from the Internet itself. This frees up a phone or tablet do other things, like browse the current app, make a phone call, or leave the house without disrupting the video. Chromecast also allows for volume controls from the phone or tablet, and lets others take control of the current stream with their own devices.

“With Chromecast, there are a lot more capabilities there that are just unavailable with AirPlay,” says Albert Reinhardt, vice president of product for the indie streaming video service Fandor.

Reinhardt would like Apple to do more than just replicate Chromecast’s ease of use. He’s also hoping for deep connections between iOS 9’s universal search functions and AirPlay, and a faster way to log into various streaming services. (Apple TV does let users log into apps by visiting a special activation page on those apps’ websites, but it’s still a pretty clunky procedure that could be improved through something like Handoff.)

Plex’s Olechowski also praises Chromecast’s ability to fling TV guide data to the big screen as you’re browsing, which is useful for choosing what to watch with a group. “Being able to open that communication channel allows you to do a lot more in concert with the TV than you can with AirPlay today,” he says.

Better Hardware, More Features

With rumors of an A8 processor inside the next Apple TV, developers are hoping it can handle more than just a new wave of apps.

For instance, Apple could bring over the picture-in-picture mode that will debut on iPads in iOS 9, letting users play videos in thumbnail mode on top of other apps. While this is a very old concept for TVs, it’s not a feature you currently find in streaming devices.

“With multitasking coming to the iPad, I would love to see that extended to the big screen,” says Ilya Pozin, cofounder and chief growth officer for Pluto.tv, an app that strings various web video sources into live TV channels. “With more screen space comes more options for picture-in-picture or multiple viewports that could be especially useful for sports or even Pluto TV.”

Plex’s Olechowski is also hoping for a touch pad in the next Apple TV remote, a feature which is rumored, if only as a way to quickly scroll through menu items. No one likes to mash a directional button repeatedly, and Plex users can be quite vocal when existing hardware shortcuts aren’t being utilized. “Sometimes, people are trying to do things, they know what they want to do, and there’s just a speed component to it,” he says.

More than any of these feature suggestions, however, developers who aren’t part of the current Apple TV’s exclusive lineup are simply hoping they can get on the platform in the first place.

“I just hope they do it, man,” Olechowski says. “I mean, honestly, that’s the thing that’s been really frustrating for us for a long time.”

Via FastCompany

Roll up, roll up: LG targets mobile accessory market with portable Rolly Keyboard

Touchscreens may be extremely versatile and a good fit for mobile devices, but one thing they don’t lend themselves to well is extended typing sessions. As a result, we’ve seen numerous portable keyboards designed to easily fit in a pocket alongside your smartphone. Now LG is getting in on the act with its Rolly Keyboard, which it calls the industry’s first solid rollable wireless portable keyboard.

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Rollable keyboards are nothing new, so long as they’re made from silicone. While these provide more tactile feedback than an onscreen keyboard, they still can’t hold a candle to the feel of a desktop keyboard. Designs like the Jorno and Thanko’s offering have attempted to effectively put a solid desktop keyboard in your pocket using different origami-like approaches. Now LG has brought the flexibility of rollable keyboards and the rigidity of foldable keyboards together in its Rolly Keyboard (model KBB-700).

Fashioned from impact-resistant polycarbonate and ABS plastic, the four rows of the Rolly’s keys are flexible, allowing them to roll around an elongated rectangular box that sits at the top of the keyboard when in use. This box houses two arms that fold out to support a smartphone or tablet, and the single AAA battery that powers the device for up to three months of average use.

Unrolling the keyboard will activate the auto-pairing function to connect to a mobile device via Bluetooth 3.0. The Rolly can also be paired to two devices at once and switch between them with a single button press. Rolling up the keyboard powers it down and sees the keyboard form a “stick” that can be carried in a pocket or purse.

Despite its portability, LG says the Rolly boasts a pitch, (the distance between the centers of two side-by-side keys), of 17 mm, which is close to the 18 mm pitch found on most desktop keyboards.

LG will unveil the Rolly Keyboard at IFA 2015 in September and says it is part of an effort to grab a greater slice of the mobile accessory market pie. The device will be released in the US next month, ahead of a fourth-quarter release in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Pricing details are yet to be announced.

Source: LG