Posts with «author_name|amrita khalid» label

The Kobo Clara2E e-reader is waterproof and made of recycled plastic

If you’re looking for an e-reader that doesn’t fall under the Amazon or Apple umbrella, Kobo is a solid option. The company today unveiled the Clara2E, the successor to the affordable, 6-inch Clara e-reader it released in 2018. The new model is waterproof and features a shell that is made of 85 percent recycled plastic, which the company says makes the e-reader more “eco-conscious” (for comparison, the 2021 Paperwhite is made of 60 percent recycled plastic and 70 percent recycled magnesium.) Kobo says it plans to source the material for the Clara 2E from plastic bottles found in the ocean, along with CDs and DVDs from landfills. At $130, the Clara2E is cheaper than Kobo's other waterproof models and more compact. 

Similar to the older Clara, the Clara2E also has a 6-inch screen and a blue light reduction feature known as ComfortLightPRO. It has an upgraded HD E Ink Carta 1200 glare-free screen and Dark Mode, making it adaptable for both reading outdoors and late at night. It comes with 16 GB of storage (about double that of the original Clara) and is Bluetooth-enabled, allowing for easy listening of audiobooks.

The Clara2E won’t go on sale until September 22nd, but you can pre-order one now on Kobo’s website. The e-reader will will be sold in Canada, the US, the UK, Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Apple may face a DOJ antitrust complaint over AirTags

Apple may be facing a potential US Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit — but this time focused on AirTags and its other hardware. Sources toldPolitico that DOJ lawyers are in the nascent stages of drafting an antitrust complaint against the tech giant. While these sources indicated the DOJ has taken an interest in Apple's hardware, there's no guarantee the agency will follow through with a lawsuit at this time. 

The DOJ began investigating the iPhone maker in 2019, as part of a larger government antitrust probe into Big Tech. So far, the agency has primarily focused on Apple’s tight hold of its App Store and payment system for developers. The new potential suit reportedly may go further and hone in on years of public complaints by tracking device maker Tile over Apple’s AirTags. 

AirTags use ultra-wideband technology and Apple's Find My network to locate devices, often much more precisely than Tile's early-model Bluetooth-enabled trackers. In testimony before Congress, Tile has alleged that Apple purposely disadvantaged Tile on iOS devices by walling off its Find My network. The tech giant eventually opened its Find My network to third-party devices last year for location tracking, albeit with severe terms and restrictions which would likely result in companies like Tile having to give up their software ecosystems in favor of Apple's. Incidentally, this was a bargain Tile opted not to take. Engadget has reached out to Apple and the DOJ for comment and will update if we hear back.

Mercedes-Benz starts production of its first electric SUV in the US

Mercedes-Benz has officially launched production of its all-electric EQS SUV at its Tuscaloosa, Alabama production plant, the company announced today. Earlier this year the German automaker previewed the vehicle — its very first electric SUV — and promised it would be built in the US and available later this fall. While supply chain bottlenecks have delayed launches of other new EVs, Mercedes has a couple of factors working in its favor. The company already secured its battery materials by partnering with the Canadian government this month. It also plans to produce its batteries locally, at its own factory in nearby Bibb County, Alabama.

Our preview of the EQS SUV noted that its battery range works out to a little over 300 miles. The automaker has yet to disclose the price of the car, which, as Electreknotes, will determine whether the SUV is eligible for a 2023 EV tax credit or not. Currently, new SUVs must be assembled in North America and priced under $80,000 to qualify for next year’s tax credit. Given that Mercedes’ EQS sedan started at a little over $103,000, it’s probably safe to say that the price of its new electric SUV will trump that — and won’t qualify for any tax rebates. Seems like EQS SUV drivers will have to resign themselves to saving money on fuel.

Waze shuts down its carpool service due to fewer commuters

Fewer people commuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic means fewer people in need of carpools. That’s the reason Google-owned Waze has decided to shutter its six-year-old Carpool app, which matches riders and drivers headed in the same direction, reportedThe Verge. The company will begin shutting down the feature this September in the US, Brazil and Israel.

Waze’s Carpool app primarily was popular with commuters — the service offered a partner program so companies could offer it as a transportation alternative to workers. Waze Carpool drivers would get reimbursed (up to 54 cents per mile) in order to pick up passengers who lived on their way to work. Rather than a way to make extra bucks, most Carpool drivers saw it as a way to save on gas.

“While Waze was predominantly a commuting app pre-COVID, today the proportion of errands and travel drives have surpassed commutes,” Waze said in a statement given to The Verge.

The rise of telework and safety precautions during the pandemic has made carpools a lot less popular. Although more people are returning to the office this year, interest in carpools and public transportation ridership has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, the Washington Postnoted. More people are working hybrid work schedules or only stopping by the office for meetings or other events, which make make coordinating carpools or vanpools less convenient. As a result, more people are driving to work alone.

Twitter is testing podcasts as part of a redesigned Spaces tab

Twitter really isn’t giving up on this whole “also becoming an audio app” thing. The platform announced today it is testing a newly re-designed Spaces tab that will also offer a selection of popular podcasts. The podcasts — which include well-known titles from Vox Media, NPR and more — will be categorized under themes like news, music and sports and featured alongside similar Spaces. Twitter is currently testing the feature with a limited group of global English-speaking users on the iOS and Andriod apps, with a wider release and more features on the way.

good news, today we’re starting to test a new Spaces Tab

even better news, it includes podcasts, themed audio stations, and (of course) recorded + live Spaces

— Spaces (@TwitterSpaces) August 25, 2022

Earlier this year, under-the-hood sleuth Jane Manchun Wong discovered that Twitter was working on a “Podcasts” tab. Instead, it appears Twitter wants to lump all of it audio content under Spaces as an all-in-one destination for podcasts and live audio. Furthermore, the Spaces tab features separate categories for current Spaces, upcoming Spaces and a “Stations” tab that will group podcasts and Spaces under similar themes — which it will auto-play once selected.

If this doesn’t seem like the most instinctual or user-friendly design for those looking for a specific podcast or episode, you’re right. Instead, Twitter seems to have tailored the feature to work as a sort of a curated radio experience in the style of Pandora. Users can rate each audio selection with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down," allowing Twitter to further tailor a station to fit your specific interests. This isn’t restricted to content you view under Spaces. As the company noted in its blog post, if you regularly interact with Vox Media content on Twitter, you’ll likely see their podcasts show up in your Spaces tab.

Instagram will limit sensitive content for new teen users by default

Instagram will automatically switch on its most restrictive content filter for any new users who are under 16 years old — and recommend that existing teen users do the same, the platform announced today in a blog post. Instagram renamed its existing content settings earlier this summer, which are now categorized as “Less”, “Standard” and “More” and allow users to limit content containing violence, sexual imagery, cosmetic procedures and other “sensitive” subjects. Only users over the age of 18 years old can access the “More” setting, which offers up the least filtered version of Instagram available to the public. (Note: This may cause confusion for some users accustomed to Instagram's older settings, where the "Limit Even More" option meant the strictest controls on content.)

Now, new Instagram users under 16 years old will have the “Less” setting turned on by default, which will affect the type of content they see throughout the platform, including in Search, Reels, suggested accounts, hashtags and in-feed recommendations. Instagram will also ask all existing teen users to perform a “settings check-up” and limit who can share their content, direct message them and what kind of content their followers can view. It’ll also ask teens if they want to update a feature that lets them limit the amount of time they spend on Instagram.

An Instagram spokesperson told Engadget that one example of the type of content that the "Less" setting would restrict (that the Standard setting would not) is video footage from a protest gone violent. The content settings only apply to accounts that teens don't currently follow. 

Growing concern over the psychological and emotional toll of Instagram for its youngest users prompted a Senate panel last year to bring in head Adam Mosseri for questioning. Ahead of the hearing, the platform unveiled new teen safety features, including one that notified users if they were spending too much time on the app and an option to automatically report that objectionable content to their parents. And earlier this year, Instagram launched parental controls that allow guardians to monitor who their teen follows and impose time limits on the app. 

Mental health experts have warned that parental controls on social media can only go so far — especially given the fact that algorithms are known to slip up and reveal risky content. Tech-savvy teens can also easily bypass such parental controls or simply view the content of their choice on a different platform or on a friend’s phone.

This recent change likely won’t be too impactful for teen users whose parents or guardians already control their accounts through Instagram’s Family Center. And for teens who are allowed to roam free on Instagram, it’s hard to imagine how many will willingly switch on the most restrictive content settings — especially if many of their peers pick the more lenient filter.

Peloton is now selling its fitness gear on Amazon

Beleaguered fitness company Peloton has struck a deal with Amazon to sell a selection of fitness equipment and merchandise on the e-commerce platform, reportedCNBC. The maker of connected bikes and other exercise machines has struggled with declining sales as many people return to gyms and office life. The Amazon partnership marks the first time Peloton will sell its merchandise outside of its website and showrooms. Any fitness equipment ordered on Amazon will also include free delivery and assembly, which is the same deal currently offered on Peloton’s website.

“We want to make it as easy as possible to get a Peloton,” Peloton’s Chief Commercial Officer Kevin Cornils told CNBC in an interview. Following a sharp increase in demand for its products during the pandemic that it struggled to meet, the company now faces the opposite problem: an excess of inventory. Peloton has experimented with new methods to boost sales, including a bike rental plan and partnering with colleges and hotels. Despite these efforts, bike and subscription sales have stagnated.

The company announced it would stop making its own bikes this summer, resulting in the layoffs of 600 Tonic factory employees. Earlier this month, it slashed another 780 jobs, shut down a large number of its retail locations and increased the prices of some equipment. It also announced that it would no longer perform deliveries of its own equipment and shifted last-mile logistics to a third-party company.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journalreported that Amazon had been in talks with Peloton to potentially acquire the fitness company. While it hasn’t yet gone that route, the success of Peloton sales on Amazon could lead to the companies teaming up on more efforts.

Snap reaches $35 million settlement in Illinois privacy lawsuit over lenses

Another social media company is paying up due to Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. Snap Inc. (the parent company of Snapchat) has reached a $35 million settlement in an Illinois class action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology. The lawsuit alleges that Snapchat violated the BIPA law by collecting and storing the biometric data of users who used its lenses and filters — without their consent. Illinois residents who resided in the state after November 17th, 2015 and used Snapchat’s popular AR features may be eligible for a cut of the settlement.

Snap Inc. is only the latest company to get penalized under BIPA — which requires companies to ask for consent before it can collect biometric data from users. The law is unique in that it allows private citizens to sue companies that may have violated the law. Earlier this year, Facebook reached a $650 settlement over its old photo-tagging system and Google agreed on a $100 million settlement over a feature that used facial recognition in Google Photos.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois residents who qualify could be eligible for payouts between $58 and $117. The settlement is still awaiting approval from a district court, which will happen in November. Illinois residents have until November 5th of this year to file a claim.

Snap Inc. has not admitted any wrongdoing, despite agreeing to the settlement. In a statement to the Tribune, a company spokesperson wrote that Snapchat issued an in-app consent notice to Illinois residents earlier this year out of caution. It also denied that the biometric data collected through its app can be used to identify specific people. “Lenses do not collect biometric data that can be used to identify a specific person, or engage in facial identification,” Snap said. “For example, Lenses can be used to identify an eye or a nose as being part of a face, but cannot identify an eye or a nose as belonging to any specific person.”

Microsoft and Amazon reportedly halts plans to build data centers in Ireland

Power shortages and the threat of rolling blackouts in Ireland likely means no new Microsoft and Amazon data centers. The Timesreported that a moratorium on new connections by Ireland’s state-owned electric utility EirGrid means a planned €2 billion data center expansion by the tech giants will be put on hold. The country’s existing data centers have already strained the nation’s power supply, which prompted Ireland’s utilities regulator last year to issue a warning that rolling blackouts were likely if the problem wasn’t solved. One planned Amazon Web Services site and two planned Microsoft sites (including one that was supposed to provide backup power to Irish windfarms) have not been granted licenses by EirGrid to connect to Ireland’s grid.

A spokesperson from EirGrid told the Times that since Ireland issued the moratorium on new connections to its electric grid last November, it had not authorized any new data centers. “EirGrid is now applying these criteria to all data center applicants, many of which have decided not to progress their developments,” a spokesperson said. 

A source also told the Times that Amazon is building its data center in London instead. Meanwhile, Microsoft is exploring alternative locations in London, Frankfurt and Madrid. 

The Times reviewed text messages between Microsoft’s head of public policy in Ireland and IDA Ireland (the government agency in charge of foreign investments) which indicated that Microsoft is aware it will be impacted by the moratorium. The company had reportedly been assured at one point that the policy wouldn't affect its planned sites. “Despite all the assurances it still looks like a moratorium on DCs [data centres] in the GDA [greater Dublin area],” wrote Microsoft’s Ciaran Conlon to IDA officials.

Data centers consume an enormous amount of electricity, which have led to constraints on electricity grids all over the world. Officials even paused construction on new houses in West London until 2035 because data centers have already taken up the electricity capacity, reported Data Center Dynamics. Loudon County, Virginia, which is home to the largest concentration of data centers in the world, is delaying new projects because of power constraints.

Engadget has reached out to both Microsoft and Amazon for comment on The Times’ reporting, and will update if we hear back.

eBay is buying the trading card marketplace TCGplayer for $295 million

eBay is placing a big bet on the booming trading card industry. The company is set to buy TCGplayer — an online marketplace for trading card games — in a deal valued up to $295 million, it announced today. Launched in 2008, TCGplayer specializes in trading cards from popular franchises like Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, Digimon and more. The site will operate independently after the acquisition, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023. eBay — which is currently the world’s largest card resale site — also noted that the deal will provide it with “strategic omnichannel capabilities like order fulfillment and cart optimization.”

The pandemic drove a surge of interest in collectible trading cards that has only recently started to slow down. Last year eBay sold a trading card every two seconds, noted The Athletic. The company has taken steps to make it easier for individuals to sell trading cards on its platform, such as adding image recognition to automate listings and authenticating trading cards worth $750 or more.

eBay has also ventured into another area of collectibles — NFTs. Earlier this year, the company launched its own NFT collection and bought digital art marketplace KnownOrigin for an undisclosed sum.