Toyota’s Smart Key Box Lets You Start Your Car With Your Smartphone

Toyota's Smart Key Box Lets You Start Your Car With Your SmartphoneToyota Motor Corp will pilot its new Smart Key Box technology in fleets used by US car-sharing service Getaround next year, stepping up its push to benefit from new mobility services seen by some as a threat to traditional car ownership.

The world’s biggest automaker confirmed last week that it has invested in San Francisco-based Getaround, adding to the partnership it has with Uber to lease vehicles to the ride-hailing giant and accelerate mobile technology research.

Toyota’s investment follows similar moves this year by rivals including General Motors and Volkswagen as global automakers adapt to the changing face of the sector.

“We don’t consider these new services to be negative for us,” Shigeki Tomoyama, who heads Toyota’s Connected Car company, told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday.

“If increased vehicle usage increases the rate at which cars are replaced, this could increase car sales … and if more ride-hailing companies use cars from our fleets, then our customers will increase.”

Toyota plans to install new software in nearly all of its new cars sold in Japan and the United States by 2020, Tomoyama said, enabling drivers to access remote data services from their smartphones and utilise “big data” to offer real-time updates on traffic conditions and maps.

“While we’re a company that makes and sells cars, at the same time we’re a developer of mobility services,” Tomoyama said.

Among the features of the Smart Key Box technology to be piloted with Getaround is the ability to control doors and start engines via a smartphone, Toyota said.

US rivals Ford and General Motors have also invested further in mobility technology through tie-ups this year with Amazon and IBM respectively to develop sophisticated on-demand and artificial intelligence-based services in their cars.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Google Play Introduces Subscription Promos to Help Developers Increase User Base

Google Play Introduces Subscription Promos to Help Developers Increase User BaseGoogle has announced the introduction of subscription promos for Android app developers. This new tool will allow developers to entice customers with an introductory offer on subscription for a limited time.

This was announced at a developer event in San Francisco and aims to empower app makers with an additional tool to get more customers. To elaborate, with subscription promos, apps can list an introductory offer for a limited time. For example, a user can enjoy the first three-months subscription for Rs. 10/month, after which the normal subscription rate will apply.

“We know how important subscriptions are in helping you monetise and we’re continuing to invest in features to support your subscription business. Subscriptions are the fastest growing business model on Play, with consumer spending in subscription apps increasing 10 times over the last 3 years. Coming soon, you’ll be able to create an introductory price for new subscribers for a set period of time. For example, you can offer a subscription for $1 per month for the first three months before the normal subscription price kicks in. Along with local/custom pricing and free trials already offered, introductory pricing will help you acquire more subscribers and grow your subscription business,” Larissa Fontaine, Director, Global Head of Apps Business Development, Google Play, said in a blog post.

Google’s efforts to help developers further monetise their products were seen in other features announced at I/O 2016 earlier this year as well. Features like app pre-registration and Early Access were announced to help increase user engagement and revenue. While app pre-registration enables the developer to understand the interest building around the app before launching it, early access open beta program allows them to get valuable feedback from early adopters before launch.

While many developer-friendly features are being announced, features that are consumer-friendly are also in the pipeline. Notably, the company is testing a new ‘Try Now’ button on select apps that allow users to do an app trial for ten minutes before making the decision to buy.

Separately, Android Police is reporting that Google Play has finally cleaned its directory and removed all older unused smartphones from the ‘My Devices’ section. Earlier, this section showed all devices that were paired with Google Play, no matter how old, and even showed their registration and last used date.

Even though the app has cleared all the unused devices, it hasn’t enabled an option to manually delete them (however, they can be hidden from the install dialogues and even be renamed if you wish). The ‘My Devices’ tab is exclusive to the web platform, and is located in the Settings menu.

Google’s Sibling Unit Discloses Snapchat Investment

Google's Sibling Unit Discloses Snapchat InvestmentAlphabet Inc’s venture capital arm CapitalG, earlier known as Google Capital, disclosed an investment in Snapchat by adding the social networking firm’s logo to a page on its investment portfolio website.

CapitalG has not made a formal announcement and it was not clear when Google made the investment. The company was not immediately available to comment.

Snap Inc, which operates the popular messaging app Snapchat, has hired Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc as lead underwriters for an initial public offering.

(Also see: Snap Interactive Wants Judge to Bar Snapchat From Changing Its Name)

The banks were notified last month that they had been awarded one of most coveted and potentially lucrative IPO mandates in recent years, as the Venice, California-based company vies for a $25 billion valuation in the stock market.

(Also see: Snapchat Said to Prepare Documents for IPO as Soon as March)

Snapchat, which lets users send smartphone photos which automatically disappear after a few seconds, has proven popular among teenage users.

The company had reportedly rejected an acquisition offer from Facebook Inc that would have valued the company at $3 billion or more in 2013.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Chrome 54 Uses Microsoft Optimisation for Faster Startup, Load Times on Windows

Chrome 54 Uses Microsoft Optimisation for Faster Startup, Load Times on Windows

Google is ramping up its efforts to make its widely used Chrome browser faster. With this mind, Google has announced the integration of Microsoft’s Profile Guided Optimisation to make Chrome up to 15 percent faster on Windows.

This new integration realises which functions on Chrome are used most often, and which aren’t. PGO then gives more leverage to the most common functions and optimises them, resulting into faster startup of Chrome and loading of pages. On its blog, Google claims that the implementation of PGO has made new tab page load times 14.8 percent faster, and page load times 5.9 percent faster. Furthermore, Google claims that PGO has resulted in 16.8 percent faster startup time.

(Also see:Chrome Will Consume Up to 50 Percent Less Memory From December, Says Google)

“PGO optimises the memory location of the code, moving rarely-used functions away from frequently-used ones in memory. This results in more optimal use of the CPU instruction cache by avoiding caching of less-used code, increasing overall performance. There are many other tricks that PGO uses to make Chrome faster, and they add up to great results,” Google’s software engineer Sébastien Marchand explains on the blog.Google has introduced PGO on the latest 64-bit Chrome version 53 on Windows and 32-bit Chrome version 54 for now. Chrome 54 is already available for desktop, Android, and even Chromebook users. For desktop users, Chrome 54 brings bug and security fixes apart from performance improvements, but notably also changes the way browser handles the YouTube embeds on a webpage page. Chrome 54 on Android will allow users to download webpages, pictures, music, and videos for offline viewing when users do not have proper Internet access. Lastly, Chrome OS 54 introduces some bug fixes, security updates, UI tweaks and new features like Quick View.

Uber Partners With GM’s Maven Car-Sharing Programme

Uber Partners With GM's Maven Car-Sharing ProgrammeUber Technologies Inc said on Tuesday it would partner with car-sharing service Maven, operated by General Motors, to allow Uber drivers to rent GM vehicles on a weekly basis.

The 90-day pilot is a surprise move for Maven and General Motors, which with Lyft – Uber’s main competitor in North America – announced a programme in March called Express Drive used mostly by Lyft drivers. Maven operates in 10 US cities.

After GM invested $500 million in Lyft in January, the Express Drive programme was the first initiative to come out of the partnership.

Carmakers are increasingly looking to invest in ride services, concerned over a projected eventual decline in private ownership of vehicles that threatens their core business. Other carmakers that have invested in ride service programs include Ford, Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and Toyota.

Rachel Holt, Uber’s regional general manager for North America and Canada, said the service will operate only in San Francisco for now.

(Also see: You Will Be Flying to Work Soon if Uber’s Plan Works)

The cost per week is $179 plus taxes and fees, Holt said, with no extra fees if drivers use the car for personal use.

Julia Steyn, GM’s vice president of urban mobility, said the pricing for Uber drivers was “at parity” with what Lyft drivers pay, although both companies offer their own incentives.

Lyft spokeswoman Sheila Bryson said Maven’s partnership was similar to how Lyft worked with Hertz. Lyft drivers can also use Hertz cars through the Express Drive programme.

“It’s expected that vehicle access programs have multiple partners,” Bryson said.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Chrome for Android Could Soon Be Used One-Handed, With New Location for Address Bar

Chrome for Android Could Soon Be Used One-Handed, With New Location for Address Bar

When the original iPhone was launched by Apple in 2007, one of the most attractive features about the smartphone was its touchscreen capacitive display. The display size on the original iPhone was just 3.5 inches, which would be considered extremely small by today’s standards. With the introduction of phablets, the screen sizes have constantly grown over the years but sadly, many apps have not adapted themselves to this change in screen size. Now, it appears Google is working to make the Chrome browser easier to use on large screen devices.

In the latest Dev and Canary builds of the Chrome browser on Android, Android Police has discovered a new flag with the name ‘Chrome Home’, which shifts the address bar to the bottom of the screen, leaving a blank space at its previous position on being enabled. The blank space suggests that the feature might be in early stages of development.

In order to enable this feature in Chrome Dev and Canary, users need to paste “chrome://flags/#enable-chrome-home” into Chrome browser, navigate to the highlighted Chrome Home Android menu, select Enabled, and then restart the browser.The feature is currently available only on the Dev and Canary channels for Android version of Google Chrome, which is meant for early adopters and developers to check out the new features on the browser. There is a possibility that it might never make its way into the stable channel.

Even though Chrome will not be the first browser to try putting the address bar and other controls of the browser at the bottom, it does come as a welcome surprise that Google is working towards this feature. For all of those Android users who are using Chrome browser on large screen phones, browsing can soon become easier than ever.

Adobe Launches Fix, Sketch, and Comp CC Apps for Android; Unveils Project Felix 3D Design Tool

Adobe Launches Fix, Sketch, and Comp CC Apps for Android; Unveils Project Felix 3D Design Tool

At the Adobe Max 2016 keynote on Wednesday, the company had several announcements to make about the future of Creative Cloud. Alongside, it announced updates to Photoshop and Dreamweaver CC, besides bringing its Photoshop Fix, Photoshop Sketch, and Comp CC apps to Android. These three apps were already available on iOS, but also received updates for the platform, while the Photoshop Mix and Illustrator Draw apps received updates on both Android and iOS. The company also unveiled Project Felix, its 3D design tool.

Starting with Adobe Photoshop Sketch, the app allows users to draw with the help of tools like pencils, pens, markers, erasers, thick acrylic, ink brush etc., and send their artworks as layered files to Photoshop CC. The app, which has just been launched on Android, allows users to add multiple layers of image and drawing, which they can restack, rename, transform and merge, Adobe says in its description on Google Play for app v1.0. On iOS, Photoshop Sketch v4.0 brings support for Photoshop Brushes, a new navigator, new document sizes, layer blend modes, the ability to save as PDF or PSD to the Creative Cloud, apart from bug fixes.

The second app launched by the company for Android was Adobe Photoshop Fix, which is essentially an app meant for image retouching and restoration. This app allows users to retouch their photos and make edits using tools such as ‘smooth’, ‘liquify’, ‘defocus’, and ‘Face-aware liquify’. Users can remove the imperfections from their images with the help of these tools. Photoshop Fix 1.0 is available on Google Play. In the meanwhile, Photoshop Fix 1.6 for iOS gets new features like auto skin smoothing, the ability to import from Google Photos, and a new warmth adjustment slider.Adobe Comp CC is a design and wireframe tool that allows users to lay out their ideas using photos, text, shapes and fonts and then send them to Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, InDesign CC for finishing. Version 1.0 of the app is now available on Google Play. Comp CC is available on iOS as well, and gets a redesigned layout with the v3.0 update.

As for the Photoshop Mix updates, Android is now on version 2.3, while iOS is on version 2.6. Android gets support for tablets, apart from bug fixes and stability improvements. The iOS update on the other hand includes major improvements to Cutout, the ability to import from Google Photos, as well as the ability to import SVG as rendition.

Finally, Adobe Illustrator Draw also received updates on Android and iOS. Illustrator Draw 3.0 for Android gets enhanced brush settings with the ability to control individual settings for each brush, such as pressure, velocity, shape, and rotation. It also gets bug fixes and stability improvements. In the meanwhile, Illustrator 4.0 for iOS gets a new navigator, new document sizes, layer blend modes, the ability to save as PDF or PSD to the Creative Cloud, apart from bug fixes.

Adobe has also updated its Photoshop apps for Windows and Mac with several new features including 100 new templates, seven free Kyle Webster brushes, and two new SVG fonts. Users will be required to install the updates using Creative Cloud’s desktop app.

The update to Photoshop also comes with an ‘in-app search’ functionality that allows users to “search Photoshop tools, panels, menus, Adobe Stock assets, help content and tutorials from within Photoshop using a new search panel that’s right at your fingertips,” the company said in its post. In order to use this feature, users can either press CMD+F keys or Ctrl+F keys depending on their platform, or search using the option present at top-right of the screen in the app.

After the announcement of revamped paint app by Microsoft last week, Adobe has announced its Project Felix, which aims to provide developers with easy-to-use tools for making designs in 3D. “Project Felix comes with the most powerful rendering engine to date, allowing you preview your changes without making you wait for a final render to export,” the company said in its blog post.

However, the company said that its work on Project Felix is far from finished and that it will be releasing the first beta of the app “before the end of the year.” It added that the first beta of Project Felix will be made available to paid CC members.

Android Dominates Global Smartphone Shipments With 88 Percent Market Share: Strategy Analytics

Android Dominates Global Smartphone Shipments With 88 Percent Market Share: Strategy Analytics

Even though Android has suffered some reputation hit recently, with many reports claiming that a huge proportion of its users are vulnerable to dated malware, it seems like the mobile platform is continuing to expand considerably. As per a market research firm, Google’s mobile platform’s share in global smartphone shipments grew on a year-on-year basis while that of Apple’s iOS declined in third quarter of 2016.

Research firm Strategy Analytics has reported that Android’s share in the global smartphone shipments during Q3 2016 stood at 87.5 percent, up by 3.4 percent year-on-year. The report said that during the same time period, the share of iOS fell by 1.5 percent year-on-year to 12.1 percent. The share of other mobile platforms fell by 2.3 percent year-on-year as well, to 0.3 percent of global smartphone shipments.

Detailing platform-based smartphone shipment numbers, the report adds that 328.6 million Android smartphones were shipped in Q3 2016 – a growth of 10.3 percent year on year. 45.5 million iPhones were shipped in the quarter, a drop of 5.2 percent year-on-year. Smartphones from other platforms saw 1.3 million units shipped, a massive drop of 84.1 percent from the year ago quarter. Total smartphone shipments were at 375.4 million, a 6 percent rise year-on-year.Linda Sui, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “This was the smartphone industry’s fastest growth rate for a year. Modest smartphone regrowth is being supported by emerging markets with relatively low smartphone penetration across Asia and Africa Middle East, particularly countries such as India and South Africa.”

“Android’s leadership of the global smartphone market looks unassailable at the moment. Its low-cost services and user-friendly software remain attractive to hardware makers, operators and consumers worldwide,” Woody Oh, Director at Strategy Analytics, was quoted as saying in its report.

“However, several challenges remain for Google. The Android platform is getting overcrowded with hundreds of manufacturers, few Android device vendors make profits, and Google’s new Pixel range is attacking its own hardware partners that made Android popular in the first place,” he added.

Strategy Analytics said that Android’s dominance came at the expense of other mobile platforms, notably because Apple’s share fell due to a “lacklustre” performance in China and Africa. It added that due to a change in strategy, BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone have virtually vanished from the competition.

“BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone have all but disappeared due to strategic shifts, while Tizen and other emerging platforms softened as a result of limited product portfolios and modest developer support,” said Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics.

Adobe Max 2016 Keynote Unveils Creative Cloud Updates and More

Adobe Max 2016 Keynote Unveils Creative Cloud Updates and More

At a time when design-led thinking in businesses is having a positive effect on creative professionals, keeping pace with content demands across new and traditional platforms, Adobe showcased its next-generation Creative Cloud innovations at the ongoing annual creativity conference in San Diego.

The innovations includes a new breed of applications in experience design, photography and 3D compositing. Over the next two days of Adobe Max 2016, Adobe will also throw light on developments brewing in the company’s research labs.

“Our mission has always been to change the world through digital experiences,” Shantanu Narayen, President and CEO of Adobe said during his keynote on first day of the Adobe Max 2016 conference on Wednesday.

Adobe also announced Adobe Sensei, a new framework and set of intelligent services spanning the entire Adobe Cloud Platform which is aimed at dramatically improving how customers design and deliver digital experiences.Adobe MAX will feature keynotes from creative leaders, including film-maker Quentin Tarantino, fashion designer Zac Posen and photographer Lynsey Addario.

“Adobe MAX is where the creative community comes together to see the latest in Creative Cloud innovation and be inspired by the world’s best creative minds,” Bryan Lamkin, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Digital Media at Adobe, said.

“This year, we’ll be showcasing amazing breakthroughs in experience design, photography, virtual reality, character animation and 3D compositing,” Lamkin added.

He said Adobe fulfils the demand of more high-quality content by customers. He also announced 2017 release of the Creative Cloud.

Apart from Sensei, a new Mac release of Adobe Experience Design CC (XD) – the first all-in-one tool for designing, prototyping and sharing user experiences for website and mobile apps – is available with two highly anticipated features – Layers and Symbols support.

The company also launched a special version of XD for Windows keeping in mind the features offered by Microsoft, including stylus and touch.

At MAX, Adobe will also give a sneak peek at new capabilities that enable real-time collaboration including co-editing of documents, visual versioning and Creative Cloud Libraries enhancements.

The company also unveiled Project Felix – an industry-first design tool that enables graphic designers to easily create high-quality, photo-realistic images by combining 2D and 3D assets for projects such as product shot comps, scene visualisation and abstract design.

For filmmakers, advancements in virtual reality, character animation and 3D across Adobe’s video tools will set the stage for the future of video.

The next release of Adobe Premiere Pro CC includes auto-aware virtual reality (VR) that seamlessly detects and applies the correct setting to stereoscopic and monoscopic media.

First introduced at “IBC 2016” exhibition at the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre, the Netherlands, in September, updates to Premiere Pro, After Effects CC and Prelude CC will also include a Beta of Team Projects that allows teams and enterprise customers to co-edit and collaborate on Creative Cloud projects.

Adobe also announced the release of a new Cinema 4D renderer in After Effects that will speed up efficiency and quality of 3D content generation.

At MAX, Adobe announced a partnership with Thomson Reuters. Available through Adobe Creative Cloud, creatives will be able to access Thomson Reuters editorial content including photos and videos.

The expanded Adobe Stock service now offers more than 60 million royalty-free, high-quality photos, videos, illustrations, graphics and 3D models and templates.

The company introduced a new way to find, purchase and manage individual fonts from premier foundries including Frere-Jones Type, Type Network/Font Bureau and Emigré with the new Adobe Typekit marketplace.

In updates to Creative Cloud, a new interface and fast, flexible coding engine is incorporated in Dreamweaver CC, while Photoshop comes with a universal search bar that allows users to quickly search tools, panels, menus, Adobe Stock assets, help content and tutorials.

Updates to Creative Cloud desktop software will ship to Creative Cloud members before the end of the year, Adobe said.

Membership plans are available for individuals, students, educational institutions, government agencies, and enterprises.

Adobe’s new and updated mobile apps are available for free download from Apple App Store and Google Play.

LastPass Now Provides Password Sync Across Devices for Free

LastPass Now Provides Password Sync Across Devices for Free

It seems like a trend is about to start as after Instapaper, which made its premium features available for free recently, LastPass has decided to provide some of its premium services across platforms for free. However, it should be noted that unlike Instapaper, which made all premium features free, LastPass has still kept some of the features reserved for its premium subscribers.

LastPass, like most password managers, helps users to store passwords and sync them across devices for easy availability. Earlier, users had to pay a subscription fee of $1 (roughly Rs. 67) per month in order to sync passwords across their devices but from here onwards, they will be able to get this service for free.

(Also see: LastPass Password Management App Now Free for Smartphones and Tablets)

“By offering LastPass for free across all your devices, we’re making it that much easier for everyone to make good password habits the norm. Because when you have a password manager that goes everywhere you do, you have a strong foundation for securing and taking control of your identity,” the company said in its blog post on Wednesday.Notably, LastPass Premium subscribers will continue to enjoy exclusive services such as priority customer support, family password sharing with up to 5 other people, desktop fingerprint identification, and additional two-factor authentication options like YubiKey, the company said. Premium subscribers will also get 1GB of encrypted file storage.

The free version of LastPass app will come loaded with ads but the premium subscribers will get the ad-free version of the app. It is important to note here that even though password managers provide additional security to users; they are not breach-proof and can be potentially hacked. LastPass itself suffered a hack last year, where hackers made off with email addresses, password reminders, and encrypted master passwords.