Categories
Gadgets

Best streaming sticks and devices of 2021




CNN
—  

While current TVs come preloaded with a smart interface, many are clunky, don’t offer the latest streaming services, and can lag months behind on updates to the services they do offer. The solution? Streaming sticks and boxes. These plug-and-play devices can enhance even the smartest TV and provide up-to-date access to the services you’re looking for. To help you find the best ones, we’ve spent countless hours with the top streaming boxes and sticks on the market, from Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

Best overall streaming device

The Roku Ultra is fast, responsive, delivers the widest variety of streaming services through up-to-date apps and lets you find everything easily with universal search, for a reasonable price.

The upgrade pick

You pay more for Apple TV 4K, but Apple users will enjoy the ease of control and added ability to game and access the full App Store for that extra money. It’s the complete package with the best remote we’ve ever used.

Best budget buy

With a full operating system, a remote (yes, that’s worth a callout) and support for multiple video standards, the Chromecast with Google TV delivers a tremendous amount of value at $49.99.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

We previously named the 2019 version of the Roku Ultra CNN Underscored’s best overall streaming device. With the 2020 version of the Ultra, Roku took another winning approach and made it even more attractive. From the moment you switch it on, the Roku Ultra presents one of the most seamless experiences of any streaming device we tested.

It was easier and quicker to locate preferred apps and services and to move those used most to a higher spot for even quicker access compared to other devices we tested. We were able to open Netflix, select “Parks and Recreation” and be in the world of Pawnee, Indiana, in about 10 seconds flat.

That swiftness is thanks to its quad-core processor and improved Wi-Fi, which makes the Ultra noticeably faster than other streaming devices we tested. Comparatively, the Roku Premiere takes a handful of seconds to open up an app and a few more seconds to start a stream.

Roku Ultra automatically upscales content to the highest resolution your TV can handle, up to 4K, and calibrates it to make sure it’s optimized for your screen. So if you’re streaming 720p content on a 1080p TV, it will upscale to that resolution, or if you have a 4K TV, it will deliver it at a full 4K resolution.

Content looks great, and with the addition of Dolby Vision HDR, the 2020 Ultra makes it look even better. In action titles, such as “Fast & Furious” and “Star Wars,” we didn’t experience any skips in fast scenes, and colors were vibrant but not overexposed. We previously knocked the Ultra a few points due to the lack of Dolby Vision, but with Dolby Vision joining Dolby Atmos on the Ultra, we have no more complaints.

Roku has access to some of the most popular streaming services: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Sling TV, AT&T TV, Philo, Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video are all supported

The cherry on top is the included remote, which provides a simple layout with navigation buttons, voice functionality and volume controls. There’s a headphone jack built right in for personal listening (earbuds are even included in the box), and it has a speaker built in so you can ping the remote if it gets misplaced or lost in the couch cushions.

If you’re looking for a streaming box that’s fast, responsive and future-proofed with features, the latest Roku Ultra delivers at a reasonable price point of $99.99.

Apple TV 4K

Jacob Krol/CNN

Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV 4K kicks things up a notch compared to the Roku Ultra, adding gaming and countless additional apps to the menu. It’s ideal for anyone in the Apple ecosystem and who subscribes to their many services.

The upgraded 2021 model of the Apple TV 4K looks identical to its predecessor. It’s the same small block with a white LED indicator on the front and power, HDMI, optical and ethernet connectors on the back. The big change is a fast chip, inside is the Apple-made A12 Bionic in place of the A12; it proved faster during most everyday tasks in our testing, providing a fluid experience with near-instantaneous responsiveness — tvOS and the respective apps fly.

It can handle having multiple streaming services open all at once (much like how you can multitask between different apps on the iPad). You can quickly switch between Netflix and opt to open Disney+ without experiencing any slowdowns. At times, other devices we tested experienced delays when going back to the home screen, but happens instantly on the Apple TV 4K.

The big and welcomed change is the all-new Siri Remote. It’s a solid aluminum remote with a click wheel reminiscent of the iPod; you can click and hold or just touch it to control the interface. It’s much easier to navigate around the user interface. In supported apps you can even use the wheel to scroll back and forth through content. Quite handy. You also get dedicated buttons for back, play or pause, mute, the TV app, and volume. Apple’s also finally included a power button that can turn on or off your entire TV setup.

The Apple TV 4K works flawlessly for anyone within the Apple ecosystem, via an interface that will be familiar to anyone with an iPad or iPhone.. For instance, when you need to fill in a text field (like a password or search box), you’ll get a notification on your iPhone that allows you to use that keyboard to type on your TV screen. It’s leagues better than locating and selecting one letter at a time with a TV remote. It can also autofill an email field for you, and you can access your iCloud Keychain to auto-complete logins to services. It worked like a charm when we tried it on Netflix.

The Apple TV 4K supports all of the major streaming services. Via the App Store, you can find: Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Sling TV, HBO Max, Peacock, YouTube, AT&T TV, Philo and tons of others. Countless gaming titles available through Apple Arcade, while Fitness+ subscribers will be right at home with an app that displays workout metrics from the connected Apple Watch right on the big screen. You’ll also find other core apps, including Facebook’s Apple TV app, which focuses on Facebook Watch.

You can also cast content with AirPlay or AirPlay 2 from your iOS, iPadOS, macOS and watchOS devices — everything from viewing photos or videos from your iPhone to a YouTube video and even mirroring your display.

Like the Roku Ultra, Apple TV 4K will auto-scale content up to 4K Ultra High Definition, and it also supports HDR, HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. If you currently have a 1080p HD TV, the TV 4K will present content at that resolution and calibrate it for your TV panel. There are minute differences between the calibrations Apple takes versus Roku, but in the end you’re getting an accurate, clear and vibrant experience with Apple TV 4K. It goes a step further but future-proofing with support for high-frame-rate content. It makes a difference currently in the Red Bull app, but you’ll need a TV capable. Don’t upgrade just for this.

You pay more for Apple TV 4K, but Apple users will enjoy the ease of control and added ability to game and access the full App Store for that extra money. At $179.95, it’s not the cheapest streaming device option, but it is the complete package with the best remote we’ve ever used.

Jacob Krol/CNN

With a full operating system, a remote (yes, that’s worth a callout) and support for multiple video standards, the Chromecast with Google TV delivers a tremendous amount of value at $49.99. And on top of all that, you also have the ability to cast content straight from your phone.

Unlike the Fire TV Stick 4K (our previous budget pick), you don’t have a clunky software experience that pushes the content you want lower. With Google TV, the software running on Chromecast, it’s pretty clean and puts your preferred content upfront.

The interface features six main categories: For You, Live, Movies, Shows, Apps and Library. Many of these are self-explanatory, but the real kicker here is that Google serves up recommendations from a plethora of services all in one spot. That means under For You, you’ll see suggested content that’s live on YouTube TV, a classic from Netflix and even new titles on HBO Max or Peacock. So no clicking around to find content you want within different apps.

Under the Apps section is where you can find your streaming services and download the respective apps. All the big players and even smaller ones are here — like Netflix, Hulu, Plex, and countless others. The latest streaming services on the block, HBO Max and Peacock, both work out of the box on the Chromecast. That bests Amazon’s Fire TV platform and even Roku, which both only have one or the other. For some, that’s reason enough to opt for the Chromecast. The only big one missing here would be AppleTV+. YouTube is of course front and center, along with YouTube TV. The latter is Google’s cord-cutting solution and if you use the platform, this is the streamer for you. It’s integrated directly into all the categories and has a dedicated guide found under the Live section. It will even place your favorite shows, as they’re airing, in the respective content recommendation tabs. On a Roku or the Apple TV, it’s just another app and doesn’t offer deep integration throughout.

Choosing content is as simple as selecting the tile and the Chromecast starting the stream. It all happens very swiftly and the performance of this smaller dongle is on-par with that of the Roku Ultra.

And rounding out the Chromecast with Google TV is the Google Assistant. You can ask for any query or question your brain can think of — and that extends to TV content. You can ask for a specific show or movie, and it pulls up a page about the title, including multiple ways to stream it.

After countless hours of binging content –— ahem, we mean testing — we can safely declare the Chromecast with Google TV to be the best budget play at just $49.99. You’d be hard pressed to get more value from the Fire TV Stick 4K (which is the same price), and this performs better than cheaper options from Amazon or Roku.

While some of these are sticks and others are boxes, the core use case is to stream content to your TV. And we crafted categories that best reflect that core premise.

Under the Ease of Setup category, we focused on what came in the box and the process for getting the device working. In some cases, it was as simple as plugging it in and connecting to Wi-Fi; for others, we held a device nearby for fast pairing.

Performance tackled more areas, notably the ecosystem, quality across watching the content and available apps and services.

On the quality perspective, we calibrated each streaming device for the TV and then checked out the upscaling. Most importantly, we ensured that it reached 4K UHD or 4K Ultra High Definition as well as checked out the supported standards.

In terms of the build, we looked at the outside and the overall quality of the design. Did the materials live up to the price point? Was space wasted? And what did the controls and ergonomics of the remote mean for the user experience?

We tested all of these streamers with a range of TVs: a 55-inch TCL 6-Series, a 55-inch LG CX55, a 65-inch Sony A8H, a 65-inch TCL 8-Series, a 55-inch Vizio V-Series, a 65-inch Vizio M-Series and a 75-inch Vizio P-Series. Additionally, for the network, we tested hardwired and wirelessly with a FiOS Gigabit connection. We also tried 4G LTE and 5G hot spots from AT&T and T-Mobile for Wi-Fi streamers.

Apple TV ($144; amazon.com)

The standard Apple TV tested nearly as well as the upgraded Apple TV 4K. It has a slightly slower processor but still runs tvOS, offers deep integration to the Apple ecosystem and uses the Siri TV remote. But we think it makes more sense to opt for the Apple TV 4K, as it future-proofs you.

Fire TV Stick ($39.99; amazon.com)

The non-4K Fire TV Stick is nearly identical to the 4K Fire TV Stick. What’s the big difference? It only supports up to 1080p HD streaming and lacks Dolby Atmos audio. It has the same processor, and in our testing it performed nearly the same. But for $10 more, you’re better off opting for the 4K variant to truly future-proof your TV.

Google Chromecast ($29.99; target.com)

The Chromecast has come a long way, and the current one is quite nice. It still just plugs into the back of your TV and allows you to cast via the “Google Cast” standard to your TV. It doesn’t provide an interface, so you need to use an Android device, iPhone, iPad or laptop to control the experience. To some degree, it’s nice, since you don’t need to re-sign in and can open the Netflix app, hit the Cast icon and send it to the big screen. At $29.99, it’s cheap, and if you’re sold on Google Cast, it’s a good option, but it’s only 1080p HD.

Google Chromecast Ultra ($69; bhphotovideo.com)

As we said, the Achilles’ heel to a degree of a Chromecast was 1080p HD and that it doesn’t have an interface. For $69, the Chromecast Ultra solves part of that. The Ultra supports up to 4K UHD and more than 2,000 services. But for that price, you can score the Roku Ultra, which is a full-fledged streaming box that doesn’t simply rely on your connected phone.

Fire TV Cube ($119.99; amazon.com)

We really enjoyed our time with the Fire TV Cube, but to a degree, it feels like it’s trying to be too much. The premise? It combines an Alexa smart speaker with a Fire TV streaming device. It’s a square box that’s taller than most streaming devices and has the classic blue light strip on the front. You can ask Alexa to turn on the TV, but it doesn’t offer full voice control. Performance-wise, it’s fast and it meets the quality standards with 4K UHD and HDR support.

Roku Express ($24.99, originally $29.99; amazon.com)

This is Roku’s entry-level device, which is affordable at $30, but for $10 more, you can get the Streaming Stick+, which is faster, has a voice remote and features 4K UHD streaming. It’s just better by every stretch of the imagination. Although the Express comes with an HDMI cord, we think you’re better off with the Streaming Stick+.

Roku Premiere ($39.99; roku.com)

The Roku Premiere is kind of like an enhanced Roku Express that adds 4K support and keeps the non-voice remote. You also get an HDMI cable, but it’s not as fast as the Streaming Stick+.

Roku Streaming Stick+ ($39, originally $49.99; amazon.com)

Yes, Roku’s Streaming Stick+ is faster than our budget pick and gets a more feature-filled remote. We really like the built-in volume controls but found that voice control wasn’t critical to the core streaming experience. Especially when price was a key focus. If you don’t mind the unique design and a more basic remote, the Roku Premiere still delivers 4K support at an even cheaper price.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing:



Source link

Categories
Gadgets

Tesla debuts ‘FSD’ subscription for $199 per month


The interior of a Tesla Model S is shown in autopilot mode in San Francisco, California, U.S., April 7, 2016.

Alexandria Sage | Reuters

Tesla just introduced a way for customers to subscribe to its premium driver assistance package for $199 a month, rather than paying $10,000 up front.

Marketed as Full Self-Driving capability (or FSD), the driver assistance system does not make Tesla’s electric vehicles safe for use without an attentive driver behind the wheel.

One eligible owner shared a notice they received from Tesla on Friday with CNBC, which said:

“Full Self-Driving capability is now available as a monthly subscription. Upgrade your Model Y … for $199 (excluding taxes) to experience features like Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, Auto Park, Summon and Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control. The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

While this person’s Tesla Model Y possessed all components needed to start a FSD subscription, other owners lamented that they would have to pay $1,500 to upgrade their Tesla’s computer to the Hardware 3, or HW3, version the company first showed off at its Autonomy Day event in April 2019 in order to subscribe.

Customers who previously bought Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot package, which it is not selling any longer, can subscribe to FSD for a lower price of $99 a month but may require the HW3 upgrade.

In a subscription agreement on Tesla’s website, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker cautions that, among other things:

  • FSD features are “subject to change, limited by region,” and can only be used on Tesla vehicles that have newer hardware and Autopilot technology installed.
  • Drivers are responsible for tolls, parking or other traffic violations that happen in a Tesla that’s operating with FSD features engaged.
  • Tesla can increase the price for a subscription any time, but will give drivers a one-month advance notice before billing them at a new rate.
  • Owners can cancel FSD any time but the company won’t prorate their monthly payment if they do.
  • Tesla can suspend or cancel a driver’s FSD subscription if they use the technology, “for anything unauthorized or inappropriate” or for non-payment.

All newer Teslas include a standard set of driver assistance features dubbed Autopilot. The Autopilot or standard features enable a Tesla to “steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane,” according to Tesla’s website.

The premium FSD package enables more elaborate features like Smart Summon, which lets a driver call their Tesla to come pick them up from across a parking lot or down a long driveway using the Tesla mobile app like a remote control.

Tesla has also been promising that a feature called “Autosteer on city streets” is coming soon to drivers with FSD. But the company is far behind its original and even revised goals for delivering a sophisticated “robotaxi.”

Musk promised a hands-free, cross country Tesla driverless demo in 2017. His company has yet to complete that mission. In 2019, Musk predicted that Tesla would be making autonomous robotaxis in 2020, and cars without steering wheels or pedals in 2021.

On a first-quarter earnings call, Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn said, “If you look at the size of our fleet and you look at the number of customers who did not purchase FSD up front or on a lease and maybe want to experiment with FSD, this is a great option for them.” He added, “As the portfolio of subscription customers builds up, then that becomes a pretty strong business for us over time.”

To refine unfinished driver assistance features, Tesla gives some owners early access to a beta version of FSD — effectively turning thousands of everyday drivers into software testers on public roads in the U.S.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for further information, including whether FSD subscribers will be eligible to participate in the FSD Beta program.

In recent months, as CNBC previously reported, Tesla has also been telling regulators at the California DMV and NHTSA that its FSD, and FSD Beta technology amounts to a “level 2” system — a reference to vehicle automation categories written by a professional association for engineers, SAE International.

According to the SAE’s standards, last updated in May 2021, drivers of a level 2 vehicle are expected to “constantly supervise” it, including by steering, braking or accelerating “as needed to maintain safety.” Level 2 vehicles have features like automated lane centering that works in conjunction with adaptive cruise control. By contrast, a level 4 vehicle may not need a steering wheel or pedals and can operate as a local, driverless taxi in limited conditions like fair weather.



Source link

Categories
Hardware

VVDN Gets Approval Under PLI Scheme for IT Hardware Manufacturing | National News


SAN JOSE, Calif., July 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — VVDN Technologies, a premier electronic product engineering and manufacturing company, has been approved by the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology (MeitY) under the Production Linked Incentive scheme (PLI) for IT hardware. VVDN is amongst the 14 companies domestic and international, which has been granted approval for IT hardware manufacturing under Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for IT hardware products. VVDN has also participated in the Govt. of India’s PLI Scheme for Telecom and Networking equipment.

With 5 state-of-the-art manufacturing units and 10 design centers across India, VVDN does the complete R&D, engineering and manufacturing of products in the domains 5G & Datacenter, Networking & Wi-Fi, Vision, and IoT. In IT hardware space, VVDN has vast experience in doing the design, development and manufacturing of rack storage servers, communication servers, ruggedized tablets, IoT tablets, desktop all-in-one PCs.

Over the last year, VVDN Technologies has continued to expand its manufacturing and engineering infrastructure. After the inauguration of VVDN’s Global Innovation Park in July 2020, the company  added new additional SMT lines as well new machines for its tooling, molding and injection molding. Recently, VVDN has added die casting facility to its existing infrastructure which has taken its manufacturing proposition to a whole new level. This will further accentuate and enable the company to cater to the production of tablets, laptops, all-in-one PCs, and servers as per the global and domestic demand.

VVDN Technologies Co-founder and President Engineering Vivek Bansal said: “We are delighted to have been approved for the PLI scheme for IT hardware. It showcases India’s progress to becoming preferred manufacturing destination and resonates strongly with PM Modi’s call of Atmanirbhar Bharat – a self-reliant India. The PLI scheme goes hand in hand with VVDN’s vision and has further strengthened our resolve to do more of Design and Make in India products. While working in the datacenter space, VVDN has its IPs for OvS and SSL for network compute. With these investments made in the R&D and manufacturing infrastructure along with the PLI approval, we are quite excited and confident to be able to meet the production demands for the IT hardware products.”

For media queries:

Kunwar Sinha

[email protected]  

Logo – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1531036/VVDN_Technologies_Logo.jpg

 

View original content:https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/vvdn-gets-approval-under-pli-scheme-for-it-hardware-manufacturing-301326172.html

SOURCE VVDN Technologies





Source link

Categories
News

Facebook scientists say they can tell where deepfakes come from


An example of a deepfake created by CNBC

Kyle Walsh

Artificial intelligence researchers at Facebook and Michigan State University say they have developed a new piece of software that can reveal where so-called deepfakes have come from.

Deepfakes are videos that have been digitally altered in some way with AI. They’ve become increasingly realistic in recent years, making it harder for humans to determine what’s real on the internet, and indeed Facebook, and what’s not.

The Facebook researchers claim that their AI software — announced on Wednesday — can be trained to establish if a piece of media is a deepfake or not from a still image or a single video frame. Not only that, they say the software can also identify the AI that was used to create the deepfake in the first place, no matter how novel the technique.

Tal Hassner, an applied research lead at Facebook, told CNBC that it’s possible to train AI software “to look at the photo and tell you with a reasonable degree of accuracy what is the design of the AI model that generated that photo.”

The research comes after MSU realized last year that it’s possible to determine what model of camera was used to take a specific photo — Hassner said that Facebook’s work with MSU builds on this.

‘Cat and mouse game’

Deepfakes are bad news for Facebook, which is constantly battling to keep fake content off of its main platform, as well as Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. The company banned deepfakes in Jan. 2020 but it struggles to swiftly remove all of them from its platform.

Hassner said that detecting deepfakes is a “cat and mouse game,” adding that they’re becoming easier to produce and harder to detect.

One of the main applications of deepfakes so far has been in pornography where a person’s face is swapped onto someone else’s body, but they’ve also been used to make celebrities appear as though they’re doing or saying something they’re not.

Indeed, a set of hyper realistic and bizarre Tom Cruise deepfakes on TikTok have now been watched over 50 million times, with many struggling to see how they’re not real.

Today, it’s possible for anyone to make their own deepfakes using free apps like FakeApp or Faceswap.

Deepfake expert Nina Schick, who has advised U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, said at the CogX AI conference on Monday that detecting deepfakes isn’t easy.

In a follow up email she told CNBC that Facebook and MSU’s work “looks like a pretty big deal in terms of detection” but stressed that it’s important to find out how well deepfake detection models actually work in the wild.

“It’s all well and good testing it on a set of training data in a controlled environment,” she said, adding that “one of the big challenges seems that there are easy ways to fool detection models — i.e. by compressing an image or a video.”

Tassner admitted that it might be possible for a bad actor to get around the detector. “Would it be able to defeat our system? I assume that it would,” he said.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of deepfakes. Those that are wholly generated by AI, such as the fake human faces on www.thispersondoesnotexist.com, and others that use elements of AI to manipulate authentic media.

Schick questioned whether Facebook’s tool would work on the latter, adding that “there can never be a one size fits all detector.” But Xiaoming Liu, Facebook’s collaborator at Michigan State, said the work has “been evaluated and validated on both cases of deepfakes.” Liu added that the “performance might be lower” in cases where the manipulation only happens in a very small area.

Chris Ume, the synthetic media artist behind the Tom Cruise deepfakes, said at CogX on Monday that deepfake technology is moving rapidly.

“There are a lot of different AI tools and for the Tom Cruise, for example, I’m combining a lot of different tools to get the quality that you see on my channel,” he said.

It’s unclear how or indeed if Facebook will look to apply Tassner’s software to its platforms. “We’re not at the point of even having a discussion on products,” said Tassner, adding that there’s several potential use cases including spotting coordinated deepfake attacks.

“If someone wanted to abuse them (generative models) and conduct a coordinated attack by uploading things from different sources, we can actually spot that just by saying all of these came from the same mold we’ve never seen before but it has these specific properties, specific attributes,” he said.

As part of the work, Facebook said it has collected and catalogued 100 different deepfake models that are in existence.



Source link

Categories
News

Microsoft executive says workers slept in data centers during lockdown


System administrator Alexander Landmann carries a server in the computer centre of Deutsche Bahn in Berlin on Oct. 22, 2020.

Britta Pedersen | picture alliance | Getty Images

Microsoft employees slept in the software company’s data centers during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, an executive said on Wednesday.

While many top technology companies directed their employees to work from home after Covid showed up in the U.S. in 2020, some employees were so important that they had to work on site. That was the case for a select few who worked at the locations containing the servers for online services like Microsoft Teams, as well as public-cloud infrastructure powering third-party customers’ applications.

“I heard amazing stories about people actually sleeping in data centers,” Kristen Roby Dimlow, corporate vice president for total rewards, performance and human resources business insights, said during a conversation with Morgan Stanley analysts Josh Baer and Mark Carlucci. “In certain countries there was huge lockdown, and so we would have our own employees choose to sleep in the data center because they were worried they’d get stuck at a roadblock, trying to go home.”

Generally data centers are not places where people sleep. Aisles can be hot from air coming off of servers, and cold because of air conditioning to prevent machines from overheating. A Microsoft spokesperson would not say where employees slept in data centers or how many did it.

The company changed several aspects of work at its data centers because of the pandemic, Noelle Walsh, corporate vice president for the company’s Cloud Operations and Innovation group, said in an interview with CNBC in April.

Employees were allowed to work from home if they felt anxious about coming to data centers, Walsh said. If people didn’t want to take the bus, the company provided transportation to and from data centers and even allowed people to stay in hotels, she said.

“We had to in some cases go to shift work, day and night, to get the work done within the same schedule,” Walsh said.

WATCH: Why data centers were the top real estate sector of 2020



Source link

Categories
Gadgets

Ride-hailing giant Didi wants to be more than just the Uber of China


A user opens the Didi Chuxing ride-hailing smartphone app in Shanghai, China, on Sept. 18, 2020.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING — China’s version of Uber, Didi Chuxing, is trying to use car travel as a way into multiple aspects of daily life from grocery shopping to finance.

Didi filed Thursday to list in New York in what many expect could be the largest initial public offering in the world this year. Founded in 2012, the company ranks among the five largest privately held start-ups in the world and counts SoftBank, Uber and Tencent as major investors.

Smartphone-based ride hailing in China remains Didi’s primary business, generating $20.4 billion in revenue last year amid overall net losses of $1.62 billion, according to the prospectus. But as Didi swung to a profit in the first quarter of this year, the revenue share of “other initiatives” rose to 5%, from 4% for all of 2020. That’s up from 1.2% in 2018.

A quick look at Didi’s smartphone app reveals a slew of other products tied to bike sharing, movers, personal finance and gas stations. The array of icons resembles that of Alibaba-affiliated Alipay, whose app is not only a mobile pay platform but one that allows users to book airplane tickets and pay for utilities. Similarly, Southeast Asia’s prevailing ride-hailing app Grab delivers food and wants to become a regional leader in mobile payments.

Eight kinds of car services

Didi is the primary app for ride hailing in China, even with the entry of several other players, including ones that focus on the high-end (Shouqi) or new energy vehicles (Cao Cao).

Users can choose from eight options on Didi, ranging from carpooling to luxury car service. Didi also lets users hail taxis through its app, and runs a chauffer business that assigns drivers to car owners who may have had too much alcohol or cannot drive their own vehicle for other reasons. These temporary drivers can travel between assignments on fold-up bicycles.

The company said it had 377 million annual active users and 13 million annual active drivers in China for the 12 months ended March 31. Didi said it made 133.64 billion yuan ($20.88 billion) in the “China mobility” category last year.

Including Didi’s other services like e-bikes and freight, customer costs for different kinds of products can run from 15 cents to more than $100, the prospectus said.

Building up a finance arm

Didi has also partnered with China Merchants Bank for supporting credit card applications through the ride-hailing app and offering installment purchase plans for cars. A Didi subsidiary works with Ping An Insurance to sell financing and lease-related products, as well as insurance.

The start-up leases vehicles to drivers at prices it claims are about 20% lower than outside Didi’s platform. While more than 600,000 vehicles are available for lease, about half of these are owned by roughly 3,000 vehicle leasing partners, reducing the amount of assets Didi is responsible for, the prospectus said.

Anecdotally, Didi was recently promoting its own mobile payment system to some users in Beijing by setting it as the default payment option — with a discount. Users had to manually select other options such as WeChat pay, after which the discount was removed.

Didi’s ride-hailing app also works with international credit cards. The company operates in 15 countries, including Brazil, Mexico and Japan.

Bets on electric

Many analysts expect that self-driving, shared vehicles will become a major mode of transportation in the future, rather than individual car ownership.

Didi has invested in its own autonomous driving unit, which launched “robotaxis” in part of Shanghai in June 2020. The ride-hailing company announced in November it co-developed an electric car with BYD called the D1, which would roll out to major Chinese cities in subsequent months.

In May, the autonomous driving unit and state-backed GAC Aion New Energy Automobile agreed to work toward mass production of fully self-driving new energy cars.

Didi claims it has the largest electric vehicle charging network in China, based on self-commissioned research.

Data privacy and other risks



Source link

Categories
News

New ‘Private Relay’ feature will not be available in China


Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California.

Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc/Handout via Reuters

GUANGZHOU, China — Apple’s new feature designed to give users more privacy when browsing the web will not be available in China, one of the iPhone maker’s most important markets.

Apple revealed a new service called iCloud+ at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday. One of the features included in that is “Private Relay.”

When users browse the internet using Safari, their data will be sent through two separate servers in order to mask the user’s identity and what sites they are visiting. As a result, even Apple or the user’s network provider cannot see that data.

It’s a little like a virtual private network (VPN) where users can route their internet traffic through a server located somewhere else in the world to mask their browsing activity.

China so-called Great Firewall effectively allows authorities to block websites from being accessed within China including Google and Facebook. VPNs are often used to get around China’s strict internet controls.

An Apple spokesperson told CNBC that Private Relay will not work in China and some other countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Belarus and Uganda.

Apple said it could not offer the feature in these countries due to local laws.

Using unauthorized VPNs to access blocked websites is illegal in China. While Apple’s Private Relay is not technically a VPN, it acts in a similar way.

In 2017, the U.S. technology giant removed a number of VPN services from its China App Store to comply with local regulations.



Source link

Categories
Reviews

Corps: Appeal Review for Alaska Mine Could Take Over a Year | Alaska News


By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it could take more than a year to weigh an appeal by a developer seeking to build a copper and gold mine in a region that supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

The corps’ Pacific Ocean Division in Hawaii is handling the appeal by the Pebble Limited Partnership, which was denied approval of a key permit for the project in Alaska‘s Bristol Bay region by the corps’ Alaska District.

A November decision signed by the district commander determined the proposed Pebble mine was “contrary to the public interest.”

The Pebble partnership in January filed an appeal request.

Photos You Should See – May 2021

But the corps’ Pacific Ocean Division indicated Thursday that the administrative record in the case had just been received from the Alaska District. The record contains documents surrounding the permit decision that will be considered in deciding on the appeal, the statement from the Pacific division said.

The statement said the “volume and complexity of the information to consider for this particular appeal far surpasses that of an average appeal.” The national average over the past decade for completing a regulatory review is about a year, but in this case, the process is expected to take longer, the statement said.

“The Pacific Ocean Division remains committed to maintaining an administrative appeal process that is independent, objective, fair and efficient,” according to the statement.

Luciano Vera, a spokesperson for the corps’ Pacific Ocean Division, said the appeal in this case was made to a level above the Alaska District, which is why the division is handling the matter.

If the appeal is deemed to have merit, the matter would be sent back to the Alaska District for reconsideration, which could result in the same decision or a different decision on the permit application, Vera said by email. If the appeal is deemed to be without merit, the original permit decision would stand, the email says.

Mike Heatwole, a Pebble spokesperson, said the schedule is up to the corps, “and we will work with them as they advance the appeal.”

The proposed mine has been the subject of heated debate for years.

During the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed, but never finalized, restrictions on development in the Bristol Bay region. The agency in 2019, during the Trump administration, withdrew the proposal, calling it outdated and preemptively issued.

Leaders of the Pebble partnership had seen as favorable to the project an environmental review from the corps that was released several months before the November rejection.

The corps, in that review, stated that under normal operations, the alternatives it looked at “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”

John Shively, CEO of the Pebble partnership, said the conclusions reached in the November decision were not supported by the environmental review.

Joe Biden, as a candidate for president last year, said if elected, he would work to stop the project. Former President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was among those who also spoke in opposition last year to the project.

Pebble opponents have said they want permanent measures implemented that would make the Bristol Bay region off limits to large-scale mining.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Source link

Categories
News

How to Use Every New Feature in iOS 14.6


Apple’s iOS 14.6 and iPadOS 14.6 launched this week, adding several new features to iPhones and iPad devices including new voice controls, expanded tracking functions for AirTags, Family Sharing options for Apple card payments, and, of course, tons of bug fixes.

Here’s a round-up of all the new features in iOS/iPadOS 14.6 and how to use them—and don’t forget you can install the software update under Settings > General > Software Update. 

Unlock your screen with your voice

Users can unlock their iPhone’s screen with a voice command after restarting the device. The new accessibility feature is available for all users with voice commands enabled. To turn on voice controls:

  1. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control.
  2. Tap “Set up Voice Control.” iOS will download the necessary files in the background. When it’s done, you’ll see a mic icon on the screen indicating voice controls are turned on.
  3. You can also view voice commands and modify or create your own under Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control > Customize Commands.

Apple Card Family Group spending features

An Apple Card can now be shared with up to five other accounts in your Family Sharing group. Users must be 13 years or older to use Apple Card payments. Along with the family sharing option, users can track expenses and set spending limits and other restrictions.

You’ll find all the options in Settings > [username] > Family Sharing.

New AirTag tracking functions

Apple’s recently released AirTags have a couple of new features included in iOS/iPadOS 14.6, including:

  • Tapping an AirTag with an NFC-capable device (like your iPhone or iPad) shows a partial phone number of the AirTag’s owner.
  • “Lost mode” in the Find My app now lets you add an email instead of a phone number.

Other new features in iOS/iPadOS 14.6

  • Apple Music Losses Audio prep: Apple Music’s new Lossless Audio quality option won’t hit the app until sometime next month, but iOS 14.6 preemptively adds support for the audio format to all applicable iOS and iPadOS devices.
  • Paid content support for Apple Podcasts: Podcasts creators can now add optional paid content and subscriptions for their shows in the Apple Podcast app. This doesn’t affect free content.
  • Several security updates and bug fixes.

[iDrop News]



Source link

Categories
Future

Stock Futures Rise, Bitcoin Regains Some Ground After Multi-Month Lows


U.S. stock futures rose and bond yields crept lower as investors grew more comfortable with the inflation outlook and the pace of the economic recovery.

Futures tied to the S&P 500 added 0.5%, pointing to a positive start to the week after the broad-market index fell moderately for two weeks in a row. Nasdaq-100 futures rose 0.7%, suggesting gains for technology stocks after the opening bell.

Investors are keeping a close eye on inflation indicators to determine whether a rise in prices will be temporary or longer-term. Companies that are able to pass along higher costs to consumers such as in energy and materials have been an increasingly popular trade, while technology companies’ shares and bonds have lagged.

“Inflation concerns have lessened, there’s more of a wider recognition that inflation will be transitory,” said Fahad Kamal, chief investment officer at Kleinwort Hambros. “This is reflecting the fact that we hit the fastest part of the recovery. Growth, while continuing, is going to be at a decelerating pace.”

In bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note declined to 1.618% Monday from 1.629% Friday. Yields fall when prices rise.

Cryptocurrencies continued a dramatic stretch of trading. Bitcoin regained some ground after touching multi-month lows Sunday and traded around $36,450, a 3.4% rise from Friday at 5 p.m. ET. The cryptocurrency has lost over 40% of its value since its mid-April peak.

“Decentralized finance is facing its first real challenge since inception. We don’t think that this is the end, the bubble has not really popped yet,” said Monica Defend, global head of research at Amundi. “Central banks are ready to play in the digital currency field, I expect with the central banks in play, there will be more regulation to come and more transparency.”

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index, which is seen as a gauge of economic activity and inflationary pressure, will be published at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Federal Reserve Gov. Lael Brainard will be speaking about digital currencies at a virtual event organized by CoinDesk at 9 a.m.

Earnings season is winding down. This week, technology companies including

Nvidia

on Wednesday and

Salesforce.com

and Dell Technologies on Thursday, are set to report.

In premarket trading, Moderna rose 2.2% after striking a deal with

Samsung’s

biotech division to manufacture its Covid-19 vaccines in South Korea.

In commodities, global benchmark Brent crude rose 1.8% to $67.65 a barrel. Analysts at

Goldman Sachs

put out a note on Sunday with a forecast that it will reach $80 by summer.

“It’s still kind of punching in the green light for inflation flows into commodities,” said Gregory Shearer, a commodities analyst at JPMorgan. But the Federal Reserve minutes last week, “where they began to talk about tapering, this makes people somewhat less concerned about [inflation] running away out of hand.”

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 was relatively flat, wavering between small gains and losses. Monday is a public holiday in several European countries, including Germany and Denmark.

Among European equities, IT services company Solutions 30 plunged over 70% after auditor EY declined to sign off on its accounts.

In Asia, major benchmarks were mixed. The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.3% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.2%.

Investors are growing more comfortable with the inflation outlook.



Photo:

Courtney Crow/Associated Press

Write to Anna Hirtenstein at [email protected]

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



Source link