Move over notch, the hole-punch smartphone camera is coming

Jimmy Xiong_General Manager of HONOR Product with the HONOR View20_b

First it was the notch, now the hole-punch has emerged as the latest tech for concealing selfie cameras whilst keeping our smartphones as free of bezel as possible to maximize the screen space.

This week, Samsung and Huawei both unveiled new phones that dispense with the iconic “notch” — pioneered by Apple but popularized by everyone — in favor of positioning the front-facing camera in a small “Infinity-O” hole located on the top-left side of the screen.

Dubbed hole-punch, the approach is part of Samsung’s new Galaxy A8sand Huawei’s View 20, which were unveiled hours apart on Tuesday. Huawei was first by just hours, although Samsung has been pretty public with its intention to explore a number notch alternatives, including the hole-punch, which makes sense given that it has persistently mocked Apple for the feature.

The Samsung Galaxy S8a will debut in China with a hole-punch spot for the camera [Image via Samsung]

Don’t expect to see any hole-punches just yet though.

The Samsung A8s is just for China right now, while the View 20 isn’t being fully unveiled until December 26 in China and, for global audiences, January 22 in Paris. We also don’t have a price for either, but they do represent a new trend that could become widely adopted across phones from other OEMs in 2019.

That’s certainly Samsung’s plan. The Korea firm is rolling out the hole-punch on the A8s, but it has plans to expand its adoption into other devices and series. The A8s itself is pretty mid-range, but that makes it an ideal candidate to test the potential appeal of a more subtle selfie camera since Samsung’s market share has fallen in China where local rivals have pushed it hard. It starts there, but it could yet be adopted in higher-end devices with global availability.

As for the View 20, Huawei has also been pretty global with its ambitions, except in the U.S., where it hasn’t managed to strike a carrier deal despite reports that it has been close before. The current crisis with its CFO — the daughter of the company’s founder who was arrested during a trip to Canada — is another stark reminder that Huawei’s business is unlikely to ever get a break in the U.S. market: so expect the View 20 to be a model for Europe and Asia.

Huawei previewed its View 20 with a punch-hole selfie camera lens this week [Image via Huawei]

Samsung hasn’t said a tonne about the hole-punch design, but our sister publication Engadget — which attended the View 20’s early launch event in Hong Kong — said it was mounted below the display “like a diamond” to maintain the structure.

“This hole is not a traditional hole,” Huawei told Engadget.

Huawei will no doubt also talk up the fact that its hole is 4.5mm versus an apparent 6mm from Samsung.

Small details aside, one important upcoming trend from these new devices is the birth of the “mega” megapixel smartphone camera.

The View 20 packs a whopping 48-megapixel lens for a rear camera, which is something that we’re going to see a lot more of in 2019. Xiaomi,  for one, is preparing a January launch for a device that’ll have the 48-megapixel camera, according to a message on Sina Weibo from company co-founder Bin Lin. There’s no word on which camera enclosure that device will have, though.

Xiaomi teased an upcoming smartphone that’ll sport a 48-megapixel camera [Image via Bin Lin/Weibo]

Bumblebees bearing high-tech backpacks act as a living data collection platform

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There’s lots of research going into tiny drones, but one of the many hard parts is keeping them in the air for any real amount of time. Why not hitch a ride on something that already flies all day? That’s the idea behind this project that equips bumblebees with sensor-filled backpacksthat charge wirelessly and collect data on the fields they visit.

A hive full of these cyber-bees could help monitor the health of a field by checking temperature and humidity, as well as watching for signs of rot or distress in the crops. A lot of this is done manually now, and of course drones are being set to work doing it, but if the bees are already there, why not get them to help out?

The “Living IoT” backpack, a tiny wafer loaded with electronics and a small battery, was designed by University of Washington engineers led by Shyam Gollakota. He’s quick to note that although the research does to a certain extent take advantage of these clumsy, fuzzy creatures, they were careful to “follow best methods for care and handling.”

Part of that is minimizing the mass of the pack; other experiments have put RFID antennas and such on the backs of bees and other insects, but this is much more sophisticated.

The chip has sensors and an integrated battery that lets it run for seven hours straight, yet weighs just 102 milligrams. A full-grown bumblebee, for comparison, could weigh anywhere from two to six times that.

They’re strong fliers, if not graceful ones, and can carry three-quarters of their body weight in pollen and nectar when returning to the hive. So the backpack, while far from unnoticeable, is still well within their capabilities; the team checked with biologists in the know first, of course.

“We showed for the first time that it’s possible to actually do all this computation and sensing using insects in lieu of drones,” explained Gollakota in a UW news release. “We decided to use bumblebees because they’re large enough to carry a tiny battery that can power our system, and they return to a hive every night where we could wirelessly recharge the batteries.”

The backpacks can track location passively by monitoring the varying strengths of signals from nearby antennas, up to a range of about 80 meters. The data they collect is transferred while they’re in the hive via an energy-efficient backscatter method that Gollakota has used in other projects.

The applications are many and various, though obviously limited to what can be observed while the bees go about their normal business. It could even help keep the bees themselves healthy.

“It would be interesting to see if the bees prefer one region of the farm and visit other areas less often,” said co-author Sawyer Fuller. “Alternatively, if you want to know what’s happening in a particular area, you could also program the backpack to say: ‘Hey bees, if you visit this location, take a temperature reading.’ ”

It is of course just in prototype form right now, but one can easily imagine the tech being deployed by farmers in the near future, or perhaps in a more sinister way by three-letter agencies wanting to put a bee on the wall near important conversations. The team plans to present their work (PDF) at the ACM MobiCom conference next year.

 

Amazon is officially stocking Google Chromecasts yet again

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There’s been a break in the multi-year feud between Google  and Amazon,  apparently, as Amazon is now — once again — selling Google Chromecast devices on its site. The devices were banned from Amazon back in 2015, when the retailer then decided that only devices supporting Prime Video would be allowed. A year ago, it said it was assorting Chromecast but that didn’t hold up. Instead, the two companies entered into another feud — this time over Amazon’s implementation of a YouTube player on its Echo Show.

But now, things seem to be cooling down again.

As first spotted by Android Police, Chomecasts are back for sale on Amazon.com.

Specifically, the $35 third-generation Chromecast and the $69 Chromecast Ultra are available, the report found.

Amazon declined to offer a public statement on the matter, but TechCrunch has confirmed that the Amazon assortment officially includes these two devices — that is, their listings are not a fluke or a mistake.

Of course, this leaves some Chromecast users hopeful that Google has chosen to support Prime Video — especially since that’s the reason why Amazon finally allowed the Apple TV back on its site last year, after those two companies buried their own hatchet. That’s not the case as of today, however.

It’s a shame that Amazon and Google haven’t been able to play nice, as it’s consumers who suffer as a result.

Not only was it impossible for Amazon shoppers to find one of the most popular streamers on the market, Chromecast’s lack of Prime Video means that Fire TV also lacks Google’s YouTube TV. Access to these streaming services are a major selling point for media players, and likely a key reason why the more agnostic platform Roku has fared so well.

Asked what this means for the Google-Amazon relationship, a Google spokesperson responded: “We continue to discuss with Amazon how we might reach an agreement for the benefit of our mutual customers. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

Here’s Google’s new Street View Trekker backpack

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Years ago, Google’s  Street View program expanded from streets to virtually everywhere, thanks to Google’s Trekker program that put 360-degree Street View cameras into a single backpack. Today, Google announced its upgraded Trekker backpack, which is significantly smaller and lighter than before. The old one weighed in at about 44 pounds.

It’s not just a new design, though — Google also notes that the new Trekker features improved hardware that will allow it to capture better and sharper imagery, thanks to higher-resolution sensors and an increased aperture.

“Like previous Trekker generations, the new version can be put on cars, boats or even zip lines,” the company explains. “This helps when capturing hard-to-access places, or when building maps for developing countries and cities with complex structures.”

While you probably can’t just get a Trekker to map out your garden, Google notes that it continues to run its Trekker loan program. This program is open to organizations like tourism boards, nonprofits, government agencies, universities and research groups.

Chances are, you’ll see some improved Street View imagery from hard to reach places on Google Maps soon. Until then, you can go ahead and take a virtual stroll through Petra or across the beaches of Christmas Island.

8 Things to Know Before You Buy or Sell on eBay

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If you’re a savvy eBay user, congratulations. Because I’m definitely not. I know how the site works, sort of, and I’ve sold products on there in the past—a blue Kate Spade wallet and a pair of purple Hunter rain boots. But, I’ve never bought anything. What’s holding me back is the sheer amount of products available. I get overwhelmed with choices! (It’s the same feeling you get when you’re scrolling through 50 pages of dresses on ASOS.)

According to Renee Paradise, senior director of fashion at eBay, there are more than 1.1 billion (yep, billion) listings, which means, while you can find anything you’re looking for, actually shifting through those billions to find said perfect thing requires some know-how.

Because I’m not the best eBay shopper, I turned to Paradise, guru that she is, with all my questions about buying and selling. She tells me that her saved searches clock-in at 80 and she checks her lists almost every night before bed, waiting for the right deal. Paradise has found gems from luxe brands including Ganni, Maje, and Isabel Marant. And like a true royal fan, when she spotted Meghan Markle in a pair of Mother jeans, she added the “black runaway” denim style to her eBay saved list immediately. Days later she snagged the exact jeans for $40. Whatever her tips and tricks were to scoring discounts, I wanted in.

Ahead, Paradise shares the 11 most important things to know before you buy or sell. (Hopefully, there are a few new shopping secrets for you expert eBay users.)


  • Use the save function in your eBay app or on desktop. After you type an item into the search bar (i.e. “Ganni callie white leather ankle boots size 7”) hit the little heart next to your results. This puts the item you’re searching for into a “saved” list, where you can receive notifications via mobile or emailalerts anytime that item gets posted for sale.
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  • Don’t ignore eBay’s curated homepage or special categories.Paradise works with eBay’s top trusted sellers to curate products into “event pages,” where you can buy jewelry, clothes, or bags for specially marked prices for a limited time (like, David Yurman pieces up to 40 percent off). For example, all items on this boot events page, are handpicked by the site’s fashion experts.
  • Sellers, be sure to upload *real* photos of the item you’re selling, as opposed to product shots. Paradise suggests keeping a white poster board in your house, so you can shoot the items you’re selling on a clean background. An iPhone camera will do just fine.
  • Send in your designer gems to be verified before selling. eBay launched its authenticity verified program this year, starting with handbags and watches, and now it’s rolling out jewelry, too. Once a product passes this authentication process, a note is included on the sellers page. (Though you aren’t required to go through this process in order to sell designer goods.) For buyers worried about fake items, eBay protects you with its Money Back Guarantee policy.
Street Style In Lisbon - June 18, 2018
Getty ImagesJeremy Moeller
  • Look out for these two things when buying designer goods: Positive feedback on the seller’s account and/or for the authenticity-verified mark, both strong signals this account is trustworthy. Als, be sure to look carefully at the photos and descriptions so you know what you’re getting. Being more descriptive in the search field can result in stronger options, but if you want to do a broad range, you can type in something like “chanel boy bag” and then filter your results down by owned or pre-owned, buy or auction. If you know what you want, definitely get more specific. If you don’t, be more general.
  • Go with the automated process for determining the best listing time and date. If you’re not sure how much to price your item or for how long (bidding vs. buying), eBay can provide guidance on the best possible options; just fill out the title and add a photo into your seller page. All choices, of course, can be amended manually.
  • Be as descriptive as possible when selling an item. The more key words you get in there, the easier it is for someone to find your product. Think about what you’d personally search for and apply the appropriate descriptors.
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Getty ImagesClaudio Lavenia
  • Don’t assume you can’t score super-trendy items. The top three most searched brands right now are: Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Dior. “We sell about 126 Gucci bags a day and nearly 500 Gucci logo belts per month because of celebrity influence,” says Paradise. “The search for a Dior saddle bag also went up from July to August. As more celebrities wear these brands, eBay is one of the first places people come to search for them.”
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