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09.07.16 | 2:21 pm

Even the single-lens iPhone 7 camera is a big upgrade

Almost all the pre-event scuttlebutt about changes to the iPhone 7 camera involved the iPhone 7 Plus version having two lenses. But Phil Schiller walked through a raft of improvements that also apply to the single-lens iPhone 7 camera:

• Optical image stabilization (previously available only in Plus models)

• f/1.8 aperture

• Six-element lens

• New ISP for more intelligent image processing

• Wider color gamut

As usual, Apple showed off sample images. They're best-case scenarios, of course, but they do look awfully good.

04.28.17 | an hour ago

Airbnb has a new plan to lure more business travelers

Today Airbnb said it will launch a new search filter to surface accommodations for business travelers. Listings categorized as "business" promise Wi-Fi and a desk—or other workspace accoutrements like toiletries—that you would ordinarily find at hotels. The new filter launches Monday. 

Already Airbnb offers 150,000 business-ready homes. It also says that 250,000 companies use the site to book stays for jet-setting workers. Though Airbnb mostly caters to vacationers right now, it is increasingly positioning itself as more than just a cheap and quirky option for traveling on a budget. This year it bought Luxury Retreats to grow its upscale listings. Now it's targeting business travelers, making it a creeping concern for traditional hotels. 

04.28.17 | 2 hours ago

Google is trying to bring the internet to Cuba

The internet does not really exist in Cuba. (Hey, Raul Castro!) It's partially a side effect of the government trying to limit access to a world of information, earning Cuba the title of "one of the most restrictive media environments in the world," as reported by NPR. Those restrictions, combined with a lack of infrastructure and the means to purchase state-of-the-art electronics, translates to very few Cubans (fewer than 5% by some estimates) having access to the open internet. The internet that does exist is usually limited to tourist areas and bigger hotels, and is expensive. In my personal experience, it's also generally more sluggish than the dialup modem you used to access eWorld on your clamshell Mac.

While travelers to Cuba may appreciate the chance for a de facto digital detox, the people who live and work in Cuba have to exist without access in an increasingly digital world. Now Google is looking to make accessing the internet a little easier for those Cubans who do have it. The company just launched its own servers in the country. In a blog post, Google noted that Cubans "who already have access to the internet and want to use our services can expect to see an improvement in terms of quality of service," because content can now be cached locally. That applies not only to Google, but to Google-owned sites like YouTube. That means Cubans can now access pro-American videos like this.

[Photo: Unsplash user @lintaho]

04.28.17 | 2 hours ago

Sidewire, where the political elite chat, turns on reader reactions, hopes for the best

Sidewire, the chat app for newsmakers, is making its first big step toward integrating readers into these dialogues with the launch of Reactions. Sidewire readers, who have heretofore been limited to marking favorite comments with a heart, can now add one of four reactions (a smiley or angry emoji, and a question mark or exclamation point) as well as add a question or comment. The difference for Sidewire is that newsmakers will still control whether to include responses or inquiries. They will be able to decide whether and how much to pull reader participation into chat. "You don't have to see it unless you want to," says Sidewire CEO Andy Bromberg. Sidewire is celebrating Reactions today with several high-profile chats, including ones with the bestselling author of the Hillary Clinton campaign tell-all Shattered, Silicon Valley's darling House Rep. Ro Khanna, and former Democratic campaign vet Bob Shrum.

Bromberg says the Sidewire community of political professionals, elected representatives, and journalists has seen an uptick in interest along with almost every other form of media covering the new presidential administration. Reactions, then, is both a natural evolution and a big risk. As I learned when reporting on Sidewire last year, newsmakers like it because there aren't any trolls. But readers could become disillusioned if they feel their voices aren't being heard and included. Sidewire has built a very civil, engaged community of pros talking to each other; now we'll find out if the audience is as professional.

04.28.17 | 3 hours ago

It’s Friday, so why not apply for a membership to Mar-a-Lago?

If you're looking to play a few rounds of golf and hobnob with the president this summer, today is your lucky day. A new website is offering membership "applications" to Donald Trump's favorite Florida estate and private club. Why? "Because you're already paying for it," say the anonymous folks behind mar.alago.me. The website got some attention this morning after a few journalists tweeted that they received a mysterious envelope and application in the mail. The site is a joke, but with a serious point to make. It includes links to several stories about Mar-a-Lago's security issues, its cost to taxpayers, and how it's used to pedal political influence. Check it out here—or just go ahead an apply now.

  

04.28.17 | 7:42 am

Facebook complies with over 83% of U.S. law enforcement requests for data

In its latest Global Government Requests Report Facebook revealed a ton of stats about requests from law enforcement and other government agencies for user data across the world. For the July 2016 – December 2016 period global requests for data shot up 9% from the previous six-month period. Some highlights:

• In the U.S. there were 26,014 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 83.46% of those requests

• In Canada, there were 773 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 84.48% of those requests

• In the U.K. there were 6,366 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 88.69% of those requests

• In Germany, there were 4,422 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 54.03% of those requests

• In France, there were 4,478 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 68.38% of those requests

• In Australia, there were 657 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 63.93% of those requests

• In Russia, there were 4 government requests and Facebook provided "some data" in 0% of those requests

• In Iraq, there was 1 government request and Facebook provided "some data" in 0% of those requests

• In Vatican City, there was 1 government request and Facebook provided "some data" in 0% of those requests

04.28.17 | 5:59 am

Apple is now providing the song snippets for popular music video app Musical.ly

The third-party app allows users to create their own music videos using song snippets, which made it a natural fit for Apple to augment Musical.ly's existing song snippet content, reports Recode. The deal gives Apple a whole new, young audience for its Apple Music subscription service and Musical.ly benefits from now being able to expand from 30 countries to 120 thanks to the licensing rights working with Apple provides.

04.28.17 | 5:51 am

Facebook’s Messenger Lite is now available in another 150 more countries

The stripped-down, mobile data and processor friendly version of Facebook's chat app makes its debut in dozens and dozens of countries around the world, David Marcus, head of Messenger at Facebook announced today. That's up from the five countries it was available in upon its launch last year. Some of the countries where Messenger Lite is now available include Germany, Colombia, Italy, Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Turkey, Japan, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

04.28.17 | 5:41 am

Here’s United’s 10-point plan for not being the worst airline ever

After dragging passengers off planes and letting cute, cuddly, large bunnies die on their flights, United Airlines has posted a new 10-point plan "to improve customer experience":

• Limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.

• Not require customers seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.

• Increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000. 

• Establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines, or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination.

• Ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure.

• Provide employees with additional annual training.

• Create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.

• Reduce the amount of overbooking.

• Empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.

• Eliminate the red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a "no questions asked" policy on lost luggage.

Still might be a good idea to keep an eye on your rabbits though.

04.27.17 | 6:11 pm

With India’s success, Amazon has more plans for international domination

Amazon's most recent earnings report was a blockbuster. The company saw revenue increasing 23% to $35.7 billion. Of the company's net sales this quarter, 32% was from its international businesses. At the earnings call CFO Brian Olsavsky said the company sees huge potential with these markets. India, specifically, is one area Amazon is investing heavily in. The company launched Amazon Prime, original Indian programming for the country, as well as devices tailored specifically for India customers. Olsavsky described international markets as "important investment areas."

While he wouldn't go into more details, the CFO said the company is going to continue investing heavily in these non-U.S. markets. This includes expanding global Prime benefits, launching new internationally targeted devices, as well as investing in more warehouses. Needless to say: Expect to see more announcements and investments in this vein. 

04.27.17 | 5:52 pm

Anthony Levandowski will no longer oversee self-driving tech at Uber

Anthony Levandowski, the man over whom Google and Uber are squabbling, is stepping aside from his role as head of the company's Advanced Technologies Group. Eric Meyhofer will now lead those efforts, according to an email obtained by both Business Insider and Bloomberg. The reason? Waymo's lawsuit accusing Levandowski, a former employee, of stealing intellectual property and infringing on its lidar-related patents. The email goes on to distance Levandowski from the company's lidar technology, a refrain we've been hearing for a while from Uber: 

As you know, I currently don't provide input on detailed LiDAR design choices. But making this organizational change means I will have absolutely no oversight over or input into our LiDAR work. Going forward, please make sure not to include me in meetings or email threads related to LiDAR, or ask me for advice on the topic. 

04.27.17 | 5:31 pm

Google is getting ready to put its voice assistant everywhere

While Amazon is already getting its Alexa voice assistant into all kinds of products, Google is now in hot pursuit. The search giant has just released a software development kit for the Google Assistant, allowing anyone to create their own voice-controlled hardware prototypes. Google says it will open the SDK to commercial device makers "across a wide range of hardware" later this year, but for now the kit is mainly for hobbyists who want to tinker. If you've been pining for a Google version of the Alexa Big Mouth Bass, now's your chance.

[Photo: Google]

04.27.17 | 5:05 pm

Jeff Bezos just made $2.7B in one hour

Amazon's quarterly earnings numbers were just reported, and the company beat analyst expectations. The stock is now seeing a huge surge in after-hours trading. It's been hovering close to a 4% increase for quite a while now. 

Doing quick back-of-napkin arithmetic, I looked at how much Jeff Bezos's 80.9 million Amazon shares were worth when markets closed ($918.38/share) compared to what the price is now at 5 p.m. ET ($952/share). In these 60 minutes alone the Amazon founder made a jaw-dropping $2.7 billion.