Samsung Galaxy S7 Launch, Android N Beta, and More News From This Week

Samsung Galaxy S7 Launch, Android N Beta, and More News From This Week

Since we last met, a lot has happened in the world of personal technology. From Apple’s ongoing battle with the FBI, to the new legal tug-and-war on call drop penalties, it has been an exciting week for tech enthusiasts in India and across the world.

Possibly the biggest news of the week was the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge in India. The South Korean giant priced the Samsung Galaxy S7 at Rs. 48,900 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge at Rs. 56,900, and put the smartphones up for pre-orders alongside. Separately, Samsung, ahead of the global launch of the smartphones on Friday, announced that pre-orders for the two new Galaxy flagships had been better than expected.

Samsung’s biggest rival in the mobile sphere, Apple, also had a major announcement this week. The company started sending invites for a March 21 event that is anticipated to see the launch of the much-awaited 4-inch iPhone, thought to be called the iPhone SE. The event is also expected to see the launch of a 9.7-inch iPad Pro, as well as new Apple Watch models ahead of a proper refresh later.

Of course, Apple was part of a lot more news this week, thanks to its ongoing battle with the US government over the unlocking of an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the recent San Bernardino terrorist attacks. The most recent development on that front is from Thursday, when the US Justice Department submitted a filing with a California federal court that accused Apple of making “false” statements.

The US DoJ said that Apple’s rhetoric was misleading, and that the company had attacked the FBI investigation as “shoddy” and portrayed itself as “the primary guardian of Americans’ privacy.” Apple reacted strongly to the accusations, with lawyer Bruce Sewell saying the prosecutors were trying to “smear” the company by trafficking in “desperate” and “unsubstantiated” claims.

The US DoJ earlier this week also appealed a separate ruling by a New York judge that said Apple wasn’t required to pry open a locked iPhone, calling it “an unprecedented limitation” on judicial authority. Separately, France this week also cleared a bill that could force companies like Apple to unlock terror data.

Back in India, telecom operators are battling with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in the Supreme Court with the aim to squash call drop penalties. Legal counsel of the two industry bodies of telecom operators on Thursday called the call drop compensation policy a ‘populist’ measure.

Also in India, Uber set up its first engineering centre in Asia in Bengaluru. The centre’s aim is to come up with solutions to the very unique problems faced in emerging markets like India. While it has less than 10 engineers at the moment, Uber CTO Thuan Pham said the company is looking to expand aggressively in the country.

Isro on Thursday launched its sixth navigational satellite, as part of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System – meant to be the homegrown counterpart of the United States’ GPS. The 1,425-kg IRNSS-1F satellite was injected into space by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C32) rocket, and becomes the sixth of seven satellites required to make the navigational system operational.

And before you think we forgot, Google, much to everyone’s surprise released an early preview of Android N to developers. The latest version of Android, anticipated to be called Android 7.0 Nutella, comes with several new features that are already visible in the preview – these include multi-window support, a revamped notifications pane, and improved Doze functionality. The search giant alongside introduced the Android Beta Program, which allows users with eligible devices to try out pre-release builds of the latest version of Android.

Google (and its holding company Alphabet) made the headlines on other fronts this week, with its subsidiary DeepMind in the news for pitting its AlphaGo AI against one of the foremost Go players in the world – Lee Sedol. With three matches remaining to go, AlphaGo already has a 2-0 lead. You can catch the remaining matches on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday.

In the meanwhile, Google hired Christopher ‘Moot’ Poole, the founder of the infamous image forum 4Chan, to work on its Photos and Streams products. Google also released a Search feature for mobile users called Destinations, meant to help users plan every aspect of their vacation. The company also announced another search related feature that would let brands and celebrities post directly to search results.

The search giant this week also joined Facebook’s Open Compute Project initiative, with the combined aim of innovating data centres for efficiency. Microsoft also made big news, by announcing it would be submitting its Linux-based Sonic database software to the Open Compute Project as open source.

Talking about Facebook, the social network this week had two announcements. It released a Material Design revamp of its standalone messaging app Messenger, and, also announced the usage statistics of its app for emerging markets – Facebook Lite. The company revealed that Facebook Lite has seen incredible adoption of the app, hitting 100 million monthly active users within 9 months of launch. In fact, Facebook has had a busy week. It also fixed a flaw that could have let anyone access anyone’s account, released WordPress plugin for Instant Articles, and also announced its acquisition of face swapping app Masquerade.

Back in India, ride-hailing apps Uber and Ola launched their bike taxi pilots in Bengaluru. Things soon turned sour for them, with Karnataka’s Regional Transport Authority deeming the services to be illegal, and saying the firms had not sought the authority’s permission to offer the services. This resulted bike taxis in fact being seized by local law enforcement for violating the Motor Vehicles Act. This week, Ola quietly shut down the service by removing the listing from its app. The company also shut down its Ola Store and Ola Café services, which had been running for a while.

Amazon also got into the air cargo delivery business by leasing 20 Boeing 767 wide body freighter aircraft. The aim is to handle more of its own deliveries in the United States. The deal comes at a time when the world’s biggest online retailer is offering ever-faster, and increasingly free, deliveries for millions of online orders.

WhatsApp, arguably the world’s most popular messaging app, released two separate updates for its Android and iOS apps. While the former got a revamped settings page with a greater emphasis on user profiles and removal of a payment option, the latter got a fix for a bug that took up unused storage space on some devices.

Separately, Samsung also unveiled two new budget smartphones globally, with no details about pricing or availability. These were the Samsung Galaxy J1 (2016), and the Galaxy J1 mini, both of which were listed on country-specific company sites.

On the security front, there were three major happenings this week. Researchers at the Michigan State University have found a way to unlock your fingerprint-secured smartphone using things like an off-the-shelf inkjet printer. Devices tested and found to be vulnerable to this exploit included a Samsung Galaxy S6 and Huawei Honor 7, while researchers were only able to achieve ‘mixed results’ on an iPhone.

In the world of Android security, we saw Google release the March Android security update, and we also saw researchers publish a report about a new type of Android malware called ‘accessibility clickjacking’ that could affect roughly 500 million devices. Apple’s OS X on the other hand got its first known ransomware called KeRanger, transmitted through an infected copy of BitTorrent-based P2P file transfer network called Transmission

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Tags: AlphaGo, Android Beta Program, Android N, Apple, Call Drops, Chris Poole, COAI, DeepMind, Encryption,Facebook, Facebook Messenger, FBI, Google, iPhone, IRNSS, Isro, Ola, Ola Cafe, Ola Store, Samsung, Trai, Uber,UberMoto, WhatsApp

RIP Free Basics, No More Refunds on Amazon, and Other Headlines This Week

RIP Free Basics, No More Refunds on Amazon, and Other Headlines This Week

This week in tech, we’ve seen some major developments on Net Neutrality in India, and also some impressive scientific developments. There were also some big game releases, so there’s a lot to track. Worried you missed out on any news this week? Here are the highlights that we’ve picked this week.

Apple, no stranger to legal tussles, might be back in court again thanks to iPhone Error 53. Google meanwhile is having a good year, and gave CEO Sundar Pichai a record setting stock grant of $199 million, making him the highest paid CEO of a publicly traded company in the US this year.

In India, there’s some interesting news about phones this week – Reliance Retail’s fourth Lyf-branded smartphone, the Flame 1, launched at Rs. 6,490. The phone supports 4G LTE, and will work on Reliance Jio’s network, as well as any other 1800MHz network. The Android 5.1 Lollipop-based Flame 1 offers dual-SIM support. The handset is powered by a 1.1GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 (MSM8909) processor clubbed with 1GB of RAM. It packs 8GB of inbuilt storage and supports expandable storage via microSD card (up to 32GB). Reliance isn’t the only player with 4G news this week though – Vodafone rolled out its service in Bengaluru this week.

vodafone_4g_delhi_reuters.jpgHTC has slashed the price of the HTC Desire 728 Dual SIM by Rs. 1,000 – the phone was launched just last month, at Rs. 17,990, and is now available at Rs. 16,990. Speaking of shopping online though, you’re not going to be able to get refunds on phones from Amazon anymore. “All mobile phones that are fulfilled by Amazon, purchased on or after 7th February 2016, will have a replacement only policy. Mobile phone items that are fulfilled by Amazon will no longer be eligible for refunds,” a statement posted on Amazon India’s returns policy page states.

There were some big developments in gaming, as one of the biggest piracy groups in the world announced it won’t crack single-player PC games anymore. This would have given game companies something to feel happy about, except that the group quickly took an about face on the subject. Thegroup’s chief announced they were close to breaking the copy protection on games like FIFA 16. This was apparently because people thought the group was quitting because of the technical challenges in the new copy protection, so it wants to prove that isn’t the case.

At the same time, piracy for shows and movies might get even easier, as you can now stream movies, TV shows on the Pirate Bay so all you need is your browser – no torrents software is needed, thanks to a plugin called Torrents Time. It may not be a very good idea though if you are worried about your privacy and security.

thepiratebay_logo_wiki_1.jpgMeanwhile, at the start of the week, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) laid downregulations on discriminatory pricing that are strongly in favour of net neutrality. These new regulations also don’t allow for Facebook’s Free Basics which is why the social network shut down the project in India.

Not everyone was happy with the decision, which drew a lot of criticism from several Silicon Valley luminaires, especially Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, who said an anti-colonial mindset was hurting India. Although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had earlier said he was disappointed by the Trai verdict, he condemned Andreessen’s outburst, saying he found the comments deeply upsetting.

Facebook isn’t the only social network in the spotlight this week though. Twitter has drawn ire for its changes to the timeline, and the company rolled out the new Facebook-like algorithmic timeline. The good news – if you don’t like this feature – is that you can opt out of seeing the updates. CEO Jack Dorsey, under pressure to improve Twitter’s financial prospects, also said he is planning to make Twitter less confusing.

square_dorsey_ap.jpgQualcomm unveiled new Snapdragon SoCs for mobiles, which will probably make their way into phones soon. A fuel-cell maker also talked about new battery technology that could give smartphones a seven day battery life.

On Friday, Albert Einstein’s century-old theory about gravitational waves was confirmed and it’s a major development that may inaugurate a new era of astronomy in which gravitational waves are tools for studying the most mysterious and exotic objects in the universe. That being said, it’s also a pretty complicated subject. If you’re wondering what are gravitational waves, and why should you care, the previous link should have you covered.

These were the big highlights of this week according to us. Did we miss something? Tell us via the comments.


How the New York Fashion Week came to be

How the New York Fashion Week came to be
Photo Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP
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New York Fashion Week kicked off this week. Celebrities, designers and bloggers (and the increasing number of “slashies” that embody all three) have descended on the Big Apple to drink champagne, admire eye-wateringly expensive clothing, and air kiss one another.

Kim Kardashian was set to make her first public post-baby appearance at husband Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion show. West was to debut his new album The Life of Pablo (formerly known as WAVES).

After a short hiatus from the event, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s cult brand, The Row, will make a hotly anticipated return to the American runway on February 15.

And you can bet that Anna Wintour will watch, sphinx-like behind her enormous Chanel glasses, as close friend Marc Jacobs brings the week to a triumphant close with his climactic show.

For a certain kind of person, New York Fashion week is a “must”. For those of a certain age, income and social status, the event is not just a fixture on the social calendar but a high point.

Even for those who aren’t in possession of that enviable trifecta (including me), the slavish devotion the event inspires is familiar through many fictionalised and semi-fictionalised explorations of New York City (think Sex in the City, Gossip Girl, Project Runway, and The Real Housewives of New York City).

But how did it all get started? Why did it begin? Was there even a New York Fashion Week before Anna Wintour?

Fashion Press Week

New York Fashion Week has not always been exalted or esteemed. The event is actually a relatively recent phenomenon: it can be traced back to 1943, when it began as Fashion Press Week. Up until that point, American women overwhelmingly purchased American-made copies of French designs, and thus the American fashion industry was overshadowed by its Parisian counterpart.

Eleanor Lambert, 1963.  Source: Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Eleanor Lambert, 1963. Source: Council of Fashion Designers of America.

During the Second World War, however, access to the Gallic centre was cut off by the German occupation. This presented the American fashion industry with a unique opportunity, and Eleanor Lambert, the canny director of the New York Dress Institute, took advantage of this by clustering the American fashion shows into a single “event” to promote home-grown design.

To be clear, these weren’t the first ever fashion shows. From the turn of the century, many individual fashion labels and stores hosted their own shows in department stores and hotels throughout Paris and New York in a bid to drum up business. But Fashion Press Week was the first coordinated fashion event to showcase numerous designers of the same nationality.

New York Press Week, 1943.
New York Press Week, 1943.

Even more importantly, the event also proved the effectiveness of this new approach. Although the initial response wasn’t encouraging – only 53 of the 150 journalists Lambert invited to the first Fashion Press Week attended – the impact of the event was strong and swift.

In its wake, the American press heaped praise upon local designers such as Claire McCardell, and New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia boasted that:

the only reason Paris set styles all these years was because buyers like to go there on holiday.

Paris, London and Florence

Unfortunately, LaGuardia’s smug sentiments were premature. Having watched New York’s Fashion Press Week from afar, other sartorial centres began to replicate the event.

The Coincidental Dandy. Source: Flickr, CC BY-NC
The Coincidental Dandy. Source: Flickr, CC BY-NC

In a bid to reclaim its former dominance, as soon as the war ended the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture organised the first seasonal showings of Parisian couture to the international press. Along with the emergence of Christian Dior and his sensational “New Look”, this bi-annual event – which commenced in 1945 – was pivotal in re-establishing the Gallic capital as the sartorial leader of the Western world.

In the immediate post-war period, showings in London also created ripples (although not the tidal waves that Paris did). In January 1942, the London couture industry established its own official organisation, The Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, which began to host fashion shows after the war.

Bettina Ballard attended these events in her role as fashion editor of American Vogue, and recalled in her memoir In My Fashion (1960) that:

the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers gave handsome and very social parties.

Unfortunately, at this stage the British weren’t so good at sealing the deal, and Ballard noted “the whole couture performance was carried on […] in a rather grand detached manner” as they “never pressed for publicity or even tried to make the buyers buy”.

From the early 1950s, this trio was joined by a fourth fashion market – Italy – which established the “Big Four” that fashionistas still follow today. Seeking to attract bountiful American money to an impoverished and deprived Italy, Giovanni Battista Giorginiorchestrated Italy’s first fashion shows with considerable aplomb.

The first, held in his sumptuous Florentine villa in February 1951, was not a success (180 pieces by numerous Italian designers were viewed by just eight American buyers and a lone fashion journalist – an even worse turnout than Lambert’s first endeavour in New York).

But its successor in July 1951 was a triumph, with 200 American buyers and journalists in attendance, and the event was thereafter established as essential for the fashion-minded.

By the early 1950s, the advent of these rival fashion shows had diluted the sartorial impact of New York’s pioneering event. The annual trips to Paris that LaGuardia had gloated were no longer necessary during the war were back with a vengeance by the late 1940s.

Even worse, they were now the gateway to yet more European options. As Bettina Ballard explained of her own annual migrations:

although Paris was the main objective of each trip, it was also the door to all Europe. I very soon found, along with the postwar travel-starved buyers and the fashion press, how pleasant it was to travel on an expense account with the legitimate excuse of looking over new fashion markets.

American Design for American Women

In the 1970s, the tide began to turn for American fashion. Critical in fostering a renewed respect for American design was the landmark fashion show held in 1973, the so-called Battle of Versailles. Ostensibly a fundraiser for the then-leaky French palace, the event – once again cooked up by the enterprising Eleanor Lambert – pitted five American designers (Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass and Anne Klein) against five French designers (Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy).


The Versailles ‘73 show went down in fashion history.

In front of a crowd full of celebrities, socialites and aristocrats, the Americans stole the show, proving that they could not only compete – but actually win – against their old French rival (and on French soil, to boot).

More broadly, the advent of second-wave feminism during the 1970s also repositioned American ready-to-wear as the ideal solution for the new “working woman”. This development boosted its popularity with both American women and the American press, and generated effusive praise of anything all-American.

A round-up of the New York collections in a 1976 issue of American Vogue, for example, now boasted:

American Fashion at the Top of Its Form: Racy, Freewheeling … Casual!

This newfound legitimacy was solidified when the more informal and improvised fashion shows of the postwar period became slick, professional events. The term “Fashion Week” actually wasn’t adopted until remarkably recently: the French Fashion Federation held the first “Paris Fashion Week” in 1973; the British Fashion Council organised its inaugural “London Fashion Week” in 1984; and the Council of Fashion Designers of America waited until the early 1990s to debut “New York Fashion Week.”

It also was during this period that the American shows – which had previously been scattered across town – were centralised in one location (first in “the tents” in Bryant Park, then in Lincoln Centre, and from 2015 shows have been split between the Skylights at Moynihan Station and Clarkson Square. Increasingly, the event is becoming decentralised again, with shows held at a variety of off-site venues throughout the city).

But although last to adopt the term “Fashion Week”, New York remains the first stop during fashion season (every February and September, back-to-back fashion shows are held sequentially in New York, London, Milan and Paris).

Yet New York’s leading role is fitting. Certainly, New York has become one of the great fashion centres of the modern world, a place where trends are forged and significant money is made. But New York is also where the concept of “Fashion Week” was first conceived and executed, a history neatly mirrored in its prestigious opening slot.