Posts with «personal investing ideas & strategies» label

Apple is said to be working on a 'significantly thinner' iPhone

Just like it slimmed down the latest iPad Pro, Apple is said to be looking at making the iPhone more slender. To be more precise, the company is working on a "significantly thinner" device that may arrive as part of the iPhone 17 lineup in place of a Plus model, according to The Information.

This model has been described as an iPhone X-level leap forward in design language for the company, according to several sources. Apple has yet to lock down the design and it's said to be looking at various options, including an aluminum chassis. An upgraded front-facing camera could be housed alongside Face ID sensors in a smaller pill-shaped cutout, while the rear camera array could move to the center of the phone (that could reduce the possibility of accidentally covering the lenses with your fingers). The screen size is pegged somewhere in between that of the current base iPhone and the iPhone Pro Max — so between 6.12 and 6.69 inches.

If that's of interest to you, it's worth bearing in mind that the slimmed down iPhone may actually be more expensive than the iPhone Pro Max, which starts at $1,200. But hey, at least you'll have some time to save for it.

This thinner model could be set to replace the Plus in the iPhone lineup. The report suggests that there will be an iPhone 16 Plus, but that could be the end of that format, which hasn't lived up to Apple's sales expectations. This year's iPhones are said to be more about AI advancements than any major changes to the physical design, though there may be a new button on the side with touch sensitivity for improved camera control.

Engadget has asked Apple for comment on the report. Meanwhile, there's unfortunately no indication that the company is going back to smaller screen sizes. I still miss my iPhone 5 sometimes.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

AT&T deal will make every phone a satellite phone

Soon, AT&T subscribers will have the option to ensure that they have access to cell service even in typical dead zones, like deep inside national parks or far-flung rural locations. The mobile carrier has been working with AST SpaceMobile since 2018 under a Memorandum of Understanding, helping the latter test two-way audio calls, texts and video calls via satellites in space using ordinary smartphones. Now, the companies have entered a definitive commercial agreement, which means AT&T is getting close to offering subscribers the capability to transform their regular phones into legit satellite devices.

Phones need to be close enough to cell towers to be able to get any sort of service. That's why people aren't usually able to call their families, or even text them, when they're in a forest or in the mountains. AT&T's satellite-to-phone service will use satellites as cell towers, and since they're placed in orbit, they're able to provide connectivity even in remote areas.

The companies have reached an agreement just in time for a rocket launch this summer that will ferry five commercial AST satellites to space. Those satellites will enable AT&T to roll out its service and are just the first ones in the company's planned constellation. Unfortunately, AT&T has yet to reveal a specific rollout date for the service, and it's also unclear if it will charge extra for the capability.

Last year, AT&T wrote the FCC to raise concerns about a similar satellite-to-phone technology T-Mobile and SpaceX's Starlink are working on. The two companies formed an alliance in 2022, promising to provide users with a service that they'll be able to access even if they're in the middle of the ocean. SpaceX launched the first Starlink satellites with direct-to-cell service capability in January 2024, and the companies sent and received the first text messages via T-Mobile using the satellites a week later. The carrier said it's planning to offer satellite-based texting to the public sometime this year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google announces new scam detection tools that provide real-time alerts during phone calls

Google just announced forthcoming scam detection tools coming to Android phones later this year, which is a good thing as these scammers keep getting better and better at parting people from their money. The toolset, revealed at Google I/O 2024, is still in the testing stages but uses AI to suss out fraudsters in the middle of a conversation.

You read that right. The AI will be constantly on the hunt for conversation patterns commonly associated with scams. Once detected, you’ll receive a real-time alert on the phone, putting to bed any worries that the person on the other end is actually heading over to deliver a court summons or whatever.

Google gives the example of a “bank representative” asking for personal information, like PINs and passwords. These are uncommon bank requests, so the AI would flag them and issue an alert. Everything happens on the device, so it stays private. This feature isn’t coming to Android 15 right away and the company says it’ll share more details later in the year. We do know that people will have to opt-in to use the tool. 

Google made a big move with Android 15, bringing its Gemini chatbot to actual devices instead of requiring a connection to the cloud. In addition to this scam detection tech, the addition of onboard AI will allow for many more features, like contextual awareness when using apps.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

With Gemini Live, Google wants you to relax and have a natural chat with AI

While Google and OpenAI have been racing to win the AI crown over the past year, we've seemingly reverted away from the idea of speaking to virtual assistants. Generative AI products have typically launched with text-only inputs, and only later add the ability to search images and basic voice commands. At Google I/O today, the company showed off Gemini Live, a new mobile experience for natural conversations with its AI. 

Google offered up a few potential use cases; You could have a conversation with Gemini Live to help prepare for a job interview, where it could potentially ask you relevant questions around the positions. It could also give you public speaking tips if you want to research a speech. What makes Gemini Live unique is that you'll be able to speak at your own pace, or even interrupt its responses if you'd like. Ideally, it should be more like having a conversation with a person, instead of just voicing smart assistant commands or generative AI queries.

At I/O, Google also showed off Project Astra, a next-generation virtual assistant that takes the concept of Gemini Live even further. Astra is able to view your camera feed and answer questions in real-time. It's unclear how long that'll take to arrive, but Google says some of Astra's live video features will come to Gemini Live later this year. Gemini Live will be available for Gemini Advanced subscribers in the next few months.


Catch up on all the news from Google I/O 2024 right here!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google Search will now show AI-generated answers to millions by default

Google is shaking up Search. On Tuesday, the company announced big new AI-powered changes to the world’s dominant search engine at I/O, Google’s annual conference for developers. With the new features, Google is positioning Search as more than a way to simply find websites. Instead, the company wants people to use its search engine to directly get answers and help them with planning events and brainstorming ideas.

“[With] generative AI, Search can do more than you ever imagined,” wrote Liz Reid, vice president and head of Google Search, in a blog post. “So you can ask whatever’s on your mind or whatever you need to get done — from researching to planning to brainstorming — and Google will take care of the legwork.”

Google’s changes to Search, the primary way that the company makes money, are a response to the explosion of generative AI ever since OpenAI’s ChatGPT released at the end of 2022. Since then, a handful of AI-powered apps and services including ChatGPT, Anthropic, Perplexity, and Microsoft’s Bing, which is powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4, have challenged Google’s flagship service by directly providing answers to questions instead of simply presenting people a list of links. This is the gap that Google is racing to bridge with its new features in Search.

Starting today, Google will show complete AI-generated answers in response to most search queries at the top of the results page in the US. Google first unveiled the feature a year ago at Google I/O in 2023, but so far, anyone who wanted to use the feature had to sign up for it as part of the company’s Search Labs platform that lets people try out upcoming features ahead of their general release. Google is now making AI Overviews available to hundreds of millions of Americans, and says that it expects it to be available in more countries to over a billion people by the end of the year. Reid wrote that people who opted to try the feature through Search Labs have used it “billions of times” so far, and said that any links included as part of the AI-generated answers get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing, something that publishers have been concerned about. “As we expand this experience, we’ll continue to focus on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators,” Reid wrote. 

In addition to AI Overviews, searching for certain queries around dining and recipes, and later with movies, music, books, hotels, shopping and more in English in the US will show a new search page where results are organized using AI. “[When] you’re looking for ideas, Search will use generate AI to brainstorm with you and create an AI-organized results page that makes it easy to explore,” Reid said in the blog post.


If you opt in to Search Labs, you’ll be able to access even more features powered by generative AI in Google Search. You’ll be able to get AI Overview to simplify the language or break down a complex topic in more detail. Here’s an example of a query asking Google to explain, for instance, the connection between lightning and thunder.


Search Labs testers will also be able to ask Google really complex questions in a single query to get answers on a single page instead of having to do multiple searches. The example that Google’s blog post gives: “Find the best yoga or pilates studios in Boston and show details on their intro offers and walking time from Beacon Hill.” In response, Google shows the highest-rated yoga and pilates studios near Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood and even puts them on a map for easy navigation.


Google also wants to become a meal and vacation planner by letting people who sign up for Search Labs ask queries like “create a 3 day meal plan for a group that’s easy to prepare” and letting you swap out individual results in its AI-generated plan with something else (swapping a meat-based dish in a meal plan for a vegetarian one, for instance).


Finally, Google will eventually let anyone who signs up for Search Labs use a video as a search query instead of text or images. “Maybe you bought a record player at a thriftshop, but it’s not working when you turn it on and the metal piece with the needle is drifting unexpectedly,” wrote Reid in Google’s blog post. “Searching with video saves you the time and trouble of finding the right words to describe this issue, and you’ll get an AI Overview with steps and resources to troubleshoot.”

Google said that all these new capabilities are powered by a brand new Gemini model customized for Search that combines Gemini’s advanced multi-step reasoning and multimodal abilities with Google’s traditional search systems.

Catch up on all the news from Google I/O 2024 right here!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The world’s largest direct carbon capture plant just went online

Swiss start-up Climeworks has done it again. The company just opened the world’s largest carbon capture plant in Iceland, dwarfing its own record of how much CO2 it can pull from the air. The company’s previous record-holding carbon capture plant, Orca, sucks around 4,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, but the new plant can handle nearly ten times that, as reported by The Washington Post.

The plant’s called Mammoth and boasts 72 industrial fans that can pull 36,000 tons of CO2 from the air each year. Just like with Orca, the CO2 isn’t recycled. It’s stored underground and eventually trapped in stone, permanently (within reason) removing it from the environment. The plant’s actually located on a dormant volcano, so it’ll make a great hideout for a James Bond villain should it ever cease operations.

The location was chosen for its proximity to the Hellisheidi geothermal energy plant, which is used to power the facility's fans and heat chemical filters to extract CO2 with water vapor. After extraction, the CO2 is separated from the steam, compressed and dissolved in water. Finally, it’s pumped 2,300 feet underground into volcanic basalt. This compound reacts with the magnesium, calcium and iron in the rock to form crystals, which become solid reservoirs of CO2. It’s pretty nifty technology.

However, it’s not the end-all solution to climate change. It’s barely a blip. For the world to achieve "carbon neutrality" by 2050, "we should be removing something like six to 16 billion tons of CO2 per year from the air," said Climeworks founder Jan Wurzbacher, according to reporting by CBS News.

Therein lies the problem. This facility, the largest of its kind by a wide margin, can capture up to 36,000 tons of CO2 from the air each year, but that’s just 0.0006 percent of what’s needed to meet the minimum annual removal threshold as indicated by Wurzbacher. There are other plants, of course, but all of them combined don’t make a serious dent in what’s required to pull us from the brink.

To that end, Wurzbacher has pleaded with other companies to take up the cause. He says that Climeworks has a goal of surpassing millions of tons captured per year by 2030 and a billion by 2050. The company’s chief technology officer, Carlos Haertel, told 60 Minutes that scaling up the process globally is possible, but requires political will to rally behind the initiative.

The Biden administration recently committed $4 billion to jumpstart the industry here in the states and earmarked $1.2 billion for a pair of large-scale projects. The US Department of Energy also started a program called Carbon Negative Shot, with a goal of fostering the development of budget-friendly carbon capture technology.

Today, we're officially launching a new portfolio offering to expand our carbon removal service beyond direct air capture and fast-track the industry's scale-up. We're thrilled to finally reveal Climeworks Solutions!

— Climeworks (@Climeworks) April 17, 2024

The method of carbon capture deployed by Climeworks is just one of many approaches. These processes range from stacks of limestone blocks that absorb CO2 like a sponge to giant hot air balloons that freeze and trap the chemical compound. Restoring forests is another option, which is something companies like Apple and Goldman Sachs have experimented with. Which one is best? All of them together deployed at global scale. Whatever it takes. Climate change isn’t fooling around.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Morning After: How many Vision Pro headsets has Apple sold?

Apple Vision Pro headset production is reportedly being cut, sales are reportedly “way down.” But but but wait: Wasn’t the Vision Pro meant to change the world of VR/AR, ushering in an era of spatial computing? Is the dream over?

Hah, no. As Sam Rutherford laid out just before the weekend, while reports and rumors can’t nail exact numbers, based on financial figures from Apple’s last earnings, Vision Pro sales likely equate to around one percent of the company’s revenue. It’s almost as if early Vision Pro sales numbers don’t matter. Remember: The first iPhone wasn’t great either.

— Mat Smith

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Drake deletes his AI-generated Tupac track after legal threat

He deepfakes Shakur and Snoop Dogg’s voices to diss Kendrick Lamar.

Drake has deleted an X post with his track “Taylor Made Freestyle,” which used an AI-generated recreation of Tupac Shakur’s voice to needle Kendrick Lamar. The takedown came after an attorney representing the late hip-hop legend’s estate threatened to sue the Canadian rapper for his “unauthorized” use of Tupac’s voice. Drake used Snoop Dogg’s voice too, but… he’s still alive.

Continue reading.

Aaron Sorkin is working on a Social Network sequel focused on January 6

He blames Facebook for the Capitol attack.

Sony Pictures

Aaron Sorkin has announced he’s writing a follow-up script to The Social Network, once again about Facebook / Meta but with a fun, miserable focus on the January 6 insurrection attempt. Sorkin is cagey on the actual details of the new script but pretty much lays the blame for the attack at Meta’s feet. Sorkin hasn’t announced a partnership with any studio to make the film, but my big question: Who’s going to play Trump?

Continue reading.

Nikon’s Z8 is a phenomenal mirrorless camera for the price

A cheaper alternative to Sony’s A1.


Nikon is arguably the world’s most famous camera brand, but with the decline of DSLRs, it has struggled. In 2022, it released the Z9, a flagship mirrorless camera that could finally hold its own against rivals, but the $5,500 price tag put it out of reach for most. Now, we’re testing the Z8, which has the same sensor and specs for $1,700. The Z8 may also be better than Sony’s A1 for many hybrid shooters, particularly for video. But don’t ask me: Check out Steve Dent’s full test-shoot right here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Rebel Moon Part 2 review: A slow-mo sci-fi slog

Rebel Moon: Part 2 - The Scargiver is an empty feast. It's a relentless onslaught of explosions, sci-fi tropes and meaningless exposition that amounts to nothing. And yet somehow it's still better than the first film in Zack Snyder's wannabe sci-fi epic franchise for Netflix, Rebel Moon: Part 1 - A Child of Fire. (What do these titles really mean? Who cares.) 

With all of the dull table-setting complete, Snyder is able to let his true talents soar in Rebel Moon: Part 2 by delivering endless battles filled with slow-motion action and heroic poses. It looks cool, I just wish it added up to something. Anything.

Spoilers ahead for Rebel Moon: Part 2.

If you somehow missed the first Rebel Moon film, the basic setup is that it's Star Wars meets The Seven Samurai. Sofia Boutella stars as Kora, a former elite soldier of an evil empire who is hiding out in an all-too idyllic farming village, just planting and harvesting her days away. When a group of military baddies kills the chief of the village and starts threatening a young girl, Kora goes on a murdering spree (in defense!), leaving the community open to a retaliatory attack. 

She spends the first movie recruiting potential warriors to defend the village, including a fallen gladiator (Djimoun Hounsou) and a bad-ass swordswoman (Doona Bae). (Their names are Titus and Nemesis, respectively, but those don't really matter because the characters are paper thin.)

Full disclosure: I tried writing a review for the first Rebel Moon and just gave up in disgust. It was a shockingly boring epic, so much so that it took me several days to watch without falling asleep. By the end, I was only left with a feeling of dread, knowing that there was still another two hours of Rebel Moon ahead of me.

It's somewhat empty praise, but at least I didn't fall asleep during The Scargiver. Mostly, that's due to the film actually having a sense of momentum and a lot more action. You can turn off your brain and enjoy the pretty pictures, much like you could for Snyder's Sucker Punch, Justice League and Watchmen adaptation. He's more a stylist than a natural storyteller, but occasionally Snyder's visuals, such as a baffling montage of our heroes harvesting wheat, can be almost poetic.


It's just a shame that I didn't care much about the film's characters or any aspect of its story. James Gunn's Guardian's of the Galaxy trilogy made us fall in love with a band of misfits and screwups, with storylines that directly led to their personal and emotional growth. The crew in Rebel Moon, instead, feel like cardboard cutouts from better movies, and the overall plot feels forced (there's even setup for another film by the end). 

Hounsou tries to sell the pathos of Titus with his eyes, but he can only do so much. And while Bae's warrior woman exudes cool (and has a very compelling flashback), she's mostly wasted when the action really heats up. Then there's Jimmy, a robot voiced by Anthony Hopkins, who is briefly introduced in the first film and pops up for a few minutes here to kick butt. Why? It doesn't matter. Somehow that character is also important enough to serve as the narrator for both Rebel Moon films (but really it seems Snyder just wanted Hopkins' voice adding gravitas).

Perhaps the only real saving grace for Rebel Moon: Part 2, much like the first film, is Ed Skrein as the villainous Atticus Noble. As a sadistic baddie, he's really nothing new, but Skrein's heightened scenery chomping makes the character interesting to watch. Where Darth Vader exudes a calm sense of dread, Skrein's Noble is entertainingly chaotic, like the Joker crossed with Christoph Waltz's Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds. He just has a lot of fun being bad — that's something!

Given how popular the first film was (according to Snyder and Netflix, anyway), we'll likely see more Rebel Moon down the line. Snyder previously said he'd like to do a six-hour director's cut of both films, and he recently told Radio Times that he'd like to stretch the Rebel Moon series out to four or six films. Somehow, that just feels like a threat. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple says it was ordered it to remove WhatsApp and Threads from China App Store

Apple users in China won't be able to find and download WhatsApp and Threads from the App Store anymore, according to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The company said it pulled the apps from the store to comply with orders it received from Cyberspace Administration, China's internet regulator, "based on [its] national security concerns." It explained to the publications that it's "obligated to follow the laws in the countries where [it operates], even when [it disagrees]."

The Great Firewall of China blocks a lot of non-domestic apps and technologies in the country, prompting locals to use VPN if they want to access any of them. Meta's Facebook and Instagram are two of those applications, but WhatsApp and Threads have been available for download until now. The Chinese regulator's order comes shortly before the Senate is set to vote on a bill that could lead to a TikTok ban in the US. Cyberspace Administration's reasoning — that the apps are a national security concern — even echoes American lawmakers' argument for blocking TikTok in the country. 

In the current version of the bill, ByteDance will have a year to divest TikTok, or else the short form video-sharing platform will be banned from app stores. The House is expected to pass the bill, which is part of a package that also includes aid to Ukraine and Israel. President Joe Biden previously said that he supports the package and will immediately sign the bills into law. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Media coalition asks the feds to investigate Google’s removal of California news links

The News/Media Alliance, formerly the Newspaper Association of America, asked US federal agencies to investigate Google’s removal of links to California news media outlets. Google’s tactic is in response to the proposed California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), which would require it and other tech companies to pay for links to California-based publishers’ news content.

The News/Media Alliance, which represents over 2,200 publishers, sent letters to the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and California State Attorney General on Tuesday. It says the removal “appears to be either coercive or retaliatory, driven by Google’s opposition to a pending legislative measure in Sacramento.”

The CJPA would require Google and other tech platforms to pay California media outlets in exchange for links. The proposed bill passed the state Assembly last year.

In a blog post last week announcing the removal, Google VP of Global News Partnerships Jaffer Zaidi warned that the CJPA is “the wrong approach to supporting journalism” (because Google’s current approach totally hasn’t left the industry in smoldering ruins!). Zaidi said the CJPA “would also put small publishers at a disadvantage and limit consumers’ access to a diverse local media ecosystem.” Nothing to see here, folks: just your friendly neighborhood multi-trillion-dollar company looking out for the little guy!

Google described its link removal as a test to see how the bill would impact its platform:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users,” Zaidi wrote. “The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience. Until there’s clarity on California’s regulatory environment, we’re also pausing further investments in the California news ecosystem, including new partnerships through Google News Showcase, our product and licensing program for news organizations, and planned expansions of the Google News Initiative.”

In its letters, The News/Media Alliance lists several laws it believes Google may be breaking with the “short-term” removal. Potential federal violations include the Lanham Act, the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act. The letter to California’s AG cites the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, regulations against false advertising and misrepresentation, the California Consumer Privacy Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL).

“Importantly, Google released no further details on how many Californians will be affected, how the Californians who will be denied news access were chosen, what publications will be affected, how long the compelled news blackouts will persist, and whether access will be blocked entirely or just to content Google particularly disfavors,” News/Media Alliance President / CEO Danielle Coffey wrote in the letter to the DOJ and FTC. “Because of these unknowns, there are many ways Google’s unilateral decision to turn off access to news websites for Californians could violate laws.”

Google has a mixed track record in dealing with similar legislation. It pulled Google News from Spain for seven years in response to local copyright laws that would have required licensing fees to publishers. However, it signed deals worth around $150 million to pay Australian publishers and retreated from threats to pull news from search results in Canada, instead spending the $74 million required by the Online News Act.

Google made more than $73 billion in profits in 2023. The company currently has a $1.94 trillion market cap.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at