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LG Announces First 88-inch 8K OLED Display Ahead of CES 2018

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After more than a decade of research and development, OLEDs have finally begun tiptoeing towards the mass market. While OLED TVs remain significantly more expensive than their LCD counterparts, their vibrant colors, low lag, and perfect blacks are appealing to videophiles and gamers alike. LG has just announced its bringing a new OLED display to CES 2018, and the new panel is a doozy.

Some of you may remember when Sony launched the first 11-inch OLED TV, the XEL-1. That tiny display ran $2,500 despite its chunky base, early technology, and limited resolution (960×540). This 88-inch LG panel is a sort-of cousin to the XEL-1, in much the same way that a Chihuahua is technically related to a Great Dane. With a resolution of 7680×4320, it packs 4x more pixels than a 4K display, and 16x more pixels than a 1080p panel.

LG says OLED panels are ideal for high-resolution displays because shrinking aperture ratios, which impact how much light from an LCD backlight ultimately makes it out of the display, makes OLEDs superior to LCDs as resolutions increase. This may be true, but the cost improvements clearly aren’t all that large — LG’s 77-inch 4K OLED TV, which you can currently purchase, is $20,000. An 8K panel that’s even larger isn’t going to sell for cheap.

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If you have to sit closer to the TV than the TV is wide, how much of a benefit is this?

The problem for 8K TVs is simple: There’s no proof that 8K, in and of itself, will ever improve the viewing experience for anyone not possessed of top-notch eyesight. If we round up to 90 inches, the only TV viewing distances that show a benefit between 4K and 8K are those that are less than six feet. That means you’re literally sitting closer to the TV than the TV’s own diagonal width. Most people don’t like having to literally turn their heads to watch TV; the number of people who sit less than six feet away from a 90-inch TV is likely to be very small.

Nonetheless, showing off an 8K TV is a great way to boost branding, which is why a number of electronics companies bring these sets to CES each year. But the practical benefits of 8K broadcasts will be small to nonexistent for consumers. Features like HDR and the quality of OLED panels themselves are more likely to drive the next round of upgrades, and there’s no timeline for any kind of 8K introduction in the US. Right now, the first 8K broadcasts are expected to be timed to the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

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Apple Investigating iPhone X Phones That Can’t Make Calls

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It’s easy to forget people still make calls with phones, since that’s not what most people buy them for. Now there are reports Apple’s iPhone X is falling down at that particular task, and that the problem is spreading.

9To5 Mac reports hundreds of users have reported an increase in problems, with a typical 6-8 second lag before they can answer calls. Other reports suggest the gap is as long as 10 seconds, and that some calls are missed because the phone doesn’t wake up and display unlock controls. The issue appears to stem from excessive lag between when a call is received and when it can be answered. While the reports seem to focus on the iPhone X, it may not be completely isolated to that handset; ZDNet claims the issue may go back as far as October and reports from an iPhone 6 user running iOS 11.0.3.

This is just the latest glitch to hit Apple devices, after reams of bad press over its decision to throttle phones to preserve battery life and general concerns over how well the iPhone X is (or isn’t) selling. iOS 11 is troubled enough that Apple is once again pushing back from introducing new features or capabilities in iOS 12, so they can keep patching the iOS version they already released. The iPhone 7’s components are failing in some cases, to the point that Apple has had to begin replacing phones due to component failures. And Gizmodo catalogs how the iPhone X’s screen apparently scratches extremely easily (we can’t confirm this, not having used an iPhone X).

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It’s gorgeous — and kind of broken.

Then there’s the unresponsive cold bug that appears to hit iPhone X’s hard, the faster burn-in seen on OLED panels, the iPhone 6s’ battery life problems after components were exposed to air for too long in a Chinese factory, and even claims that the iPhone X’s and iPhone 8’s batteries may hit their 500 cycle-time limit much more quickly than anticipated. In short, there’s a lot of not-great news about Apple’s iPhone family swirling around the iPhone X and to a much smaller extent, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7.

Ever since Steve Jobs died, there’s been no shortage of people willing to write lofty think pieces about Tim Cook, his leadership of the company, and how he compares with Jobs. In many cases, these comparisons aren’t particularly useful. We don’t know how Jobs would’ve responded to various changes in market conditions and we certainly don’t have all the information necessary to compare any given decision Cook makes. Jobs himself was far from perfect. Devices like the G4 Cube and the famous iMac “Lump-Stick-Rectangle” design didn’t exactly set the market on fire.

I don’t want to say that Steve Jobs would have avoided these problems, because that’s simply not clear. Jobs may have put an extremely high bar on product quality, but that was quality as defined on his terms. “You’re holding it wrong,” and the iPhone 4’s antenna issues are exhibit A for this kind of thinking on his part. I don’t think we can say, categorically, that he simply would’ve avoided the problem, or that he would’ve responded to it differently.

But even if this problem resists a simplistic “Jobs would’ve done better” analysis, I think we’ve got enough data points in hand to draw a line. Smartphones are complex and can absolutely have problems. You can even argue that most of these issues are small, compared with devices like the Galaxy Note 7. But the trend here isn’t positive. Starting with the iPhone 6 Plus and Touch Disease, Apple seems to have real, sustained problems with building devices that aren’t hit by a major defect or problem. It hasn’t exactly been distinguishing itself on the software front either, if the legion of complaints about iOS 11 are any indication. And OS X macOS fans haven’t been thrilled with the company’s direction, either.

The smartest thing for Apple to do might well be to take a year off launching hardware to polish designs, the same way it has periodically taken a year off launching major new software versions to polish its OS. But that’s not going to happen. While the company’s overall iPhone sales did fall in Q1 2018 (that’s Apple’s fiscal Q1, not the calendar quarter), they only dropped from 78.3 million units to 77.3M units, a fractional decrease. Meanwhile, revenue grew 13 percent, thanks to dramatically higher ASPs on the iPhone X.

In short, financially, the company’s strategy is working brilliantly. And that’s all the reason Apple needs to keep right on doing what it’s doing.

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EU to review Apple’s reported $400m purchase of music app Shazam

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European Commission to investigate deal following requests from Austria, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden
The company’s planned takeover of Shazam would be its largest since the acquisition of Beats for $3bn in 2014. The EU said on Tuesday that it launched the inquiry into the reported $400m deal for London-based Shazam following requests from Austria, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. The commission said it was concerned that Apple’s purchase of the market-leading company could have adverse effects on competition across borders.

Apple announced it would buy Shazam in December in a deal worth less than the “turnover threshold” for the EC, but above the merger notification threshold for Austria, which leads the quorum of countries worried by the deal. The iPhone-maker will now be forced to notify EU authorities about the deal and await the investigation into the implications of the deal.

The EC will have up to 35 working days for initial investigations and a further 105 working days should serious concerns be found. Apple will then have the opportunity to obtain approval by addressing any concerns.

Apple declined to comment.

The company’s planned takeover of Shazam would be its largest since the acquisition of Beats for $3bn in 2014, the company that formed the basis of Apple’s music-streaming service and line of headphones and accessories.

Shazam is the market leader in song recognition that listens to snippets of tracks and tells the user the artist and track, allowing them to buy it or find it on streaming services. It was founded in 1999 in the early age of online music, and now accounts for about 1m referrals to Apple Music and Spotify. But Shazam has struggled to find a way to make money from its technology, even as it said that it had reached 1bn downloads on smartphones last year.

Shazam only recently announced it had become profitable, thanks to advertising and click-through to other sites such as Spotify and Apple Music.

While Shazam was a pioneer in music recognition, the technology is also no longer quite as novel, with Google integrating a similar feature directly into its search app on smartphones, as well as local recognition on its Pixel smartphones, and rivals such as SoundHound performing similar functions

 

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