Samsung announced its first folding phone one year ago -- and what followed was tumultuous, to say the least. The Galaxy Fold's fragile design caused major delays, and its high price made many question exactly who this phone was for. The troubles haven't stopped Samsung from trying again, though: the company just announced the Galaxy Z Flip, its latest folding phone that has a design that's extremely similar to Motorola's recently-revived Razr.
The FTC has just announced an antitrust investigation into Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google (as well as parent company Alphabet) and Microsoft. The consumer protection agency is requiring that all companies provide information about past acquisitions they've made but "not reported to the antitrust agencies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act." The HSR act is a set of amendments made to US antitrust laws in 1976 that requires companies to not complete mergers and acquisitions without making detailed filings with the FTC and Department of Justice; both agencies must determine that those moves aren't anti-competitive. But not all mergers or acquisitions are subject to the HSR Act, so the FTC is essentially asking these companies to open their books on all such transactions. Today's announcement calls for the companies to provide the FTC with details on all transactions completed between January 1st, 2010 and December 31st, 2019.
It's no secret that the US views Huawei as a threat to national security. But the company is also playing a big role in building out 5G networks around the world, something that the US has major interests in. How to go about resolving such a conflict? If you're US Attorney general William Barr, you just have the country take controlling interest in Huawei competitors like Nokia and Ericsson.
It's been about a month since Sonos sued Google for allegedly violating some of its patents behind syncing wireless speakers, and now the US government is getting involved. The US International Trade Commission today announced that it had voted to investigate whether Google and its parent company Alphabet have imported patent-infringing products into the country. To be clear, this doesn't mean the US government has decided that Google has violated Sonos' patents -- but whether or not those patents were violated should fall under the scope of this investigation.
It's already been five years since Amazon purchased Twitch, giving the company a major stake in rapidly-expanding video game streaming space. Twitch is still quite popular, but a report today from The Information indicates the company may have some new plans to make money from the service: selling Twitch's streaming technology to other companies. According to the report, it would be similar to how Amazon Web Services (AWS) was used internally and then eventually became one of the company's most important products -- AWS accounts for about half of all Amazon revenue. The service would almost certainly be rebranded for sales to business customers, though there's no hints that Amazon would shut down the existing, consumer-facing Twitch platform.
Google Maps was launched 15 years ago this week (in beta, of course). Not surprisingly, Google is using this as an opportunity to launch a few new updates to its massive mapping service. For starters, Maps has a new icon, a four-color take on the location "pin" that has been part of Google Maps for years now. More meaningful to users though are some changes to the Google Maps app that make it a bit simpler and smarter.
If you've been following Google and its parent company Alphabet in recent years, you won't be shocked to know that it's making a ton of money. Alphabet just dropped its latest earnings release, and there are some intriguing details beyond the simple fact that the company is making more money than ever (revenue of $46.1 billion for the quarter was up 18 percent year-over-year). For the first time, Alphabet broke out YouTube advertising revenues and that gives us a look at just how important the video site is to the company.
Ten years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the last all-new product line that Apple would launch in his lifetime. Initially, the iPad was mocked for its name and derided as a "giant iPod touch." But it caught on quickly with the public and inspired a host of copycat devices, none of which had the same impact as the iPad.
A few days after Sonos announced it would stop updating some of its oldest products with new features going forward, CEO Patrick Spence has written a note to customers seeking to assuage their fears over what'll happen in May. As we reported originally, Spence says that all legacy Sonos products will continue working past May, just as they do now. There's no forced brick coming. Spence also committed to supporting those products with bug fixes and security updates, whenever possible. Of course, there's still no way to know exactly how long these products will continue to work -- at a certain point, it's easy to imagine a scenario in which Sonos updates its controller apps in such a way that removes support, but it doesn't sound like that'll happen any time soon.
When Amazon first introduced Alexa and the Echo speaker five years ago, the idea of talking to a digital assistant wasn't totally novel. Both the iPhone and Android phones had semi-intelligent voice controls -- but with the Echo, Amazon took its first step towards making a digital assistant a constant presence in your home. Since then, Apple and Google have naturally followed course, and now there's a huge variety of smart speakers out there at all price points. As the market exploded, the downsides of having a device that's always listening for a wake word have become increasingly apparent. They can get activated unintentionally, sending private recordings back to monolithic companies to analyze. And even at the best of times, questions abound about the wisdom of giving more and more information to Amazon, Apple and Google in this way. That said, all these companies are at least making it easier to manage how your data is used -- it's now easier to opt out of humans reviewing some of your voice queries, and it's also a lot easier to manage and erase your history with various digital assistants, too. The good news is that there's never been a better time to get a smart speaker, particularly if you're a music fan. Initially, the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices were handy and helpful -- but they did not sound good. Sonos, on the other hand, has been making WiFi-connected speakers for years, and they sound fantastic. But without any voice assistant support, your speaker couldn't just play what you asked it to. That's all changed now Sonos is including both Alexa and Google Assistant support in its latest speakers. Google, Apple and Amazon, meanwhile, all built speakers where sound quality is paramount. And new versions of cheaper devices, like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini, sound much better than the first iterations did. Of course, with the market expansion, there are more options than ever -- but this guide will walk you through the best choices at a variety of price points and usage scenarios.
Sonos is continuing to distance itself from some of the oldest products it has sold over the years. Starting in May of 2020, a group of "legacy" products will stop getting software updates and new features, the first time that the company has decided to end updates for a whole set of its products. In the past, Sonos ended software support for a couple of its oldest devices (including the Sonos Dock and CR100). And some new features the company has added, like AirPlay 2 support, didn't work on all of its older products. But in this case, there won't be any updates going forward for the following devices: the original Zone Players; Connect, and Connect:Amp; first-generation Play:5; CR200; and Bridge.
2019 was the second-hottest year on record, and it's going to take a lot of effort to slow the Earth's ever-rising temperatures. Today, Microsoft announced details on what it'll do to help: the company now plans to be carbon negative by 2030. "While the world will need to reach net zero [carbon emissions], those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so," Microsoft president Brad Smith writes. "That's why today we are announcing an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft's carbon footprint." That's a big change from Microsoft's plans to reduce carbon emissions by 75 percent that were announced just over two years ago.
For the third year in a row, Google has a giant booth at CES, right in the lot outside the Las Vegas Convention Center. As before, it's all about the Google Assistant, complete with an interactive experience that shows you all the ways Google's AI helper can make your day easier. There's also the requisite hardware showcase, including Google's own recent devices as well as plenty of things from partners (even Sonos).
Yesterday, automotive tech company Continental announced a slew of futuristic car enhancements, but one that really caught our attention was a new in-car spatial audio system using Sennheiser's Ambeo 3D audio. What really makes it interesting, though, is the fact that it doesn't use traditional loudspeakers. Instead, it uses Continental's "Ac2ated" technology to physically stimulate various surfaces in the car; that stimulation makes them produce sound, the same way plucking piano or guitar strings causes the instrument's body to resonate with sound. It's a weird concept, a demo at CES Continental held for the press showed the technology really works.
It's only been about a year and a half since audio mastermind THX announced the first product featuring its new spatial-audio format, which is meant to simulate 360-degree sound from less-advanced devices, like two-channel headphones. As such, there aren't many products that support it, but THX just unlocked a major new category. Today, THX and ZMBIZI jointly announced the first smartphone that supports spatial audio, regardless of what headphones are plugged into it.
At CES last year, Comcast announced a feature for its Xfinity internet customers called Advanced Security. It's a $6-per-month service that helps keep your home network more secure by keeping people away from phishing sites, blocking malicious traffic incoming from bad sites or any misbehaving smart home devices, monitoring devices on your network for unusual behaviors and more. It's been out for about a year now, and Comcast is making one big change today: It's now free for all Xfinity customers using one of the company's home "Gateway" router / cable modem devices.
Lenovo's awkwardly-named Ideapad Duet Chromebook is a bit of a throwback. For a long time, most Chrome OS devices were inexpensive and small, but in recent years they've become more expensive as Google and other manufacturers try to pit them against full-fledged Mac and Windows laptops. The Ideapad Duet goes in the other direction: It's a convertible tablet with a 10.1-inch screen that costs only $279, keyboard stand included.
Whistle has been making pet-tracking devices for years, first starting with a product often referred to as a "Fitbit for dogs" and then moving into GPS-enabled tracking devices to find lost pets. Last year, the company released its most advanced tracker yet, and now the company another new device specifically focused on your dog's health. The Whistle Fit is a collar-worn device, like the existing Whistle Go, but it doesn't have GPS built in. Instead, the company says it is meant to capture info about your dog's behavior and activity as an alternative to its GPS-enabled wearables.
For the past few years, the ASUS Chromebook Flip have been the Chromebook I'd recommend most people buy. It hasn't even been a year since ASUS released the Chromebook Flip C434, but they're back at it again with the C436. We don't yet know how much it'll cost, but ASUS's track record at making compelling Chromebooks means we'll be on the lookout for this one.
Healthcare devices that hook up to your smartphone are a big part of CES these days, and the oral care market is certainly in on the trend. Oral-B already announced its latest high-end toothbrush, and Colgate has its own unique take on improving your brushing experience. The Plaqless Pro smart electric toothbrush can, of course, connect to your phone with Bluetooth, but the real trick of note here is a tiny embedded sensor that can detect plaque buildup in your mouth as you brush. That's communicated back to you by a light ring that turns blue when plaque is detected and turns white when the area is clear. Colgate representatives said the sensor is able to detect this on the individual tooth level.
Competition in the headphone space is fierce these days, but San Diego-based Cleer got our attention at CES this year by announcing the Enduro ANC, a pair of over-the-ear headphones with 60 hours of battery life. That's impressive enough, but Cleer says that's with active noise cancellation enabled. Naturally, it's impossible for us to test those claims yet, but I did get a chance to hear the headphones and check out its noise cancellation capabilities at a noisy press event.
Oral-B, a giant of the tooth-brushing industry, has been making electric toothbrushes for years, incorporating consumer tech trends like smartphone apps and Bluetooth. Every few years, the company takes advantage of the scrum of CES to announce its latest power toothbrush, and 2020 is no exception: Oral-B just announced the iO, a new device the company says is the result of six years of R&D and input from over 1,800 users.
A number of companies are building autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircrafts -- like Uber's air taxi -- but the technology is very much a work in progress. Today, a company calling itself Skyryse is introducing some technology that might help make it more accessible, and it also is showing off what it says is the world's first fully autonomous flight in an FAA-approved commercial helicopter.
If you've been waiting to get the best Mac money can buy, well, today's the day. Apple's new Mac Pro is on sale, and it starts at an eye-popping $5,999. That's a lot of cash for the average user, but maybe not so much if you make your living on how fast your computer is. The Mac Pro is highly customizable, though, and Apple is letting potential buyers upgrade it to a ludicrous level. What do I mean by "ludicrous," you may ask? Well, the top-of-the-line Mac Pro costs $52,599. That's not a typo.
Media Molecule, the developer behind PlayStation series LittleBigPlanet, has been working on its next game, Dreams, for literally years. But in today's State of Play event, the company finally announced a release date: Dreams arrives on Valentine's Day, February 14th, 2020.