TIME Smartphones

Samsung Could Be Doing Something Huge With the Galaxy S6

'Samsung Presents New Device at Mobile World Congress 2015'
David Ramos—Getty Images CEO and President of Samsung JK Shin presents the new Samsung Galaxy S6 during the Mobile World Congress on March 1, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.

It would be a big move

Samsung may launch a jumbo version of its leading smartphone in the next few weeks.

The bigger version of the Galaxy S6 Edge would be called the Galaxy S6 Plus, say the fonti attendibili—translation: “reliable sources”—that spoke with the Italian technology blog HDBlog.

Originally expected to debut in early September at the European consumer electronics trade show IFA Berlin 2015, the device is now anticipated to arrive sooner this summer.

The Galaxy S6 Plus is suspected to be model number SM-G928S, which appeared on the device-identifying IMEI database in April, as reported by the Samsung blog SamMobile. The project has apparently been renamed “project zero 2″ from “project zen” internally, according to HDBlog—a nod to “project zero,” Samsung’s code name for the Galaxy S6 phone.

The new device does not appear to differ greatly from its predecessor aside from the boosted screen size, which puts it on par with the iPhone 6 Plus at about 5.5 inches. It’s expected to have the same camera and screen resolution (5-megapixel front and a 16-megapixel rear camera) and screen resolution as well as 32 gigabytes of memory, says SamMobile. (Still no “s pen” stylus, either.)

Samsung has released bigger phone models before. Last year, the company launched the Galaxy S5 Plus, a bigger version of its Galaxy S5, eight months after unveiling the first model.

Despite the initial assurances that the anticipated phone would be announced at IFA 2015, HDBlog says it has received new intel indicating an earlier release. The site cautions, however, that its reporting should be considered semplici “rumors” suscettibili ad imprecisioni, or “simply ‘rumors’ susceptible to inaccuracies.”

TIME Video Games

3 Reasons Nintendo Should Switch to Google Android

Wii U
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Nintendo's Wii U console, above, and touch-pad controller sit on display during an interview with Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America Inc., in New York, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012.

And three reasons it's a terrible idea

What are the odds Nintendo’s next platform, possibly a suite of devices codenamed “NX,” would emerge running a flavor of Google’s popular operating system, as claimed by a single anonymous insider in a column by Japanese biz paper Nikkei?

I know no more than you, but you’d have to call the odds long if you’re a student of Nintendo’s modus operandi. We’re talking about a company flat out allergic to ceding control of bedrock platform control mechanisms like operating systems and software development toolkits. Nintendo has far more in common with an Apple in this regard (Cupertino’s made its bones as a diehard hardware/software self-roller), obsessed with architecting every element of the software-hardware chain. The company views that delineation between software and hardware as a false dichotomy, in fact.

Read More: Inside Nintendo’s Bold Plan to Stay Vibrant for the Next 125 Years

But in the spirit of responsible (that is, skeptical) speculation, here’s why Nintendo might or might not switch to an open albeit rival-controlled platform like Android.

The argument for…

Because Nintendo could use the help

The Wii U’s operating system two-and-a-half years on feels decades out of sync with its software. I don’t mean its visual aesthetic, which I prefer to the bland asceticism of the PlayStation 4, or the sheer geometric clutter of the Xbox One. But consider Apple’s iOS (since it and the Wii U’s overlay could be cousins, though Nintendo was doing the rowed-icons thing already in 2005 with the Wii). Now imagine if it took a dozen seconds to load iOS “Settings” each time you tapped the icon (instead of just one). And then imagine it took another dozen to get back to the Home screen when you closed out.

That’s the plight of the Wii U, for reasons no one to this day (save Nintendo) fully understands. Shifting to Android would theoretically ground the company’s Next Big Thing in a developmental environment better tuned for speed.

It (maybe) squares the third-party circle

The Wii U isn’t selling as well as Nintendo might like for one reason: third-party support. Where do fans of games like Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3, Diablo III, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dark Souls II and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor go to play some of the bestselling games in video gaming history? Not the Wii U.

Yes, the Wii U may also have capability issues running some of those games (that’s an issue outsourcing the operating neither helps nor hinders, incidentally). But the third-party developers I’ve spoken with over the years claim the biggest problem when it comes to the question of porting games to the Wii U, is that the system’s uniqueness, as with any unique architecture, adds enormous cost overhead to the game’s budget—a situation exacerbated by the Wii U’s limited install base. It’s classic chicken-egg-onomics.

Read More: Nintendo CEO Reveals Plans for Smartphones

Shifting to Android could, given the number of developers fluent with Google’s operating system, reduce the platform’s development learning curve, and if nothing else, lure vast troves of so-called independent developers. (The real question here, of course, is how outré the interface winds up being. If you have to add functionality that isn’t present in other versions of your game, it could still wind up costing tons in development.)

Nintendo wouldn’t have to pay Google a penny

Android in the form of “Google Mobile Services” is free. Unless Nintendo wants to host other services on its future devices like Google Play, or other Google-branded apps (which it surely won’t), Google doesn’t charge OEMs a licensing fee. In theory, therefore, an Android-powered platform (or suite of platforms, mobile to console to whatever else Nintendo’s thinking) would allow Nintendo to benefit from the popularity and maturity of Google’s platform, while keeping Google’s hands off its profits.

And the case against…

Nintendo cares too much about being in the driver’s seat

Hopping into the cockpit with a rival pilot has longterm risks, no matter how you spin it. What if Google tweaks its OEM strictures down the road? Will Android remain free in perpetuity? What if Android itself changes in ways Nintendo doesn’t like? And can you really see Nintendo playing the periodic Android upgrade game?

Nintendo’s 3DS, a proprietary mobile device, is doing fine without Android

Nintendo’s 3DS is the best-selling dedicated games console of this generation, including PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, full stop. Add up publicly declared PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sales and Nintendo’s handheld has that figure beat by miles. And the 3DS has done so running a fully Nintendo-fied operating system.

Read More: 8 More Fascinating Things Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata Told TIME

That’s in part because Nintendo’s first-party games have performed tremendously, but it’s also because third-party support for the device has been strong. There’s no reason to assume Nintendo’s next mobile platform wouldn’t be capable of doing the same. Whatever analytic doomsayers say, there’s no evidence anyone’s planning to abandon one of the most iconic brands in video game history, nor is it clear they’d be any less likely to partner with Nintendo on another proprietary next-gen platform, if the company can get the backend right.

This could all be a smokescreen for something minor

Let’s question an assumption everyone else routinely makes: that NX is the successor to Wii U, or 3DS, or somehow both. Is NX really Nintendo’s Next Big Thing, or is it just code for something meant to happen adjunct to the company’s Actual Next Big Thing? What if NX is just the next step in Nintendo’s already-announced plan to partner with Japanese mobile titan DeNA to carve out space in the traditional mobile gaming space? Which is to say: really just a means to promote Nintendo’s IP, and therefore operate as more of a marketing tie-in to its really really next big gaming idea?

As I said up top, I could be wrong about any of this. If I had to guess today, I’d bet Android plays a much smaller role in the company’s future than a lot of the headlines are implying. But maybe it will, and maybe that’s been Nintendo’s super-secret ploy all along. True or no, the long game for Nintendo is definitely afoot.

TIME Innovation

Apple Is Testing Mystery Cars With Roof-Mounted Cameras

Speculation about Apple competing with Google's Street View or driverless cars

Photos of a mysterious minivan with roof-mounted cameras in Concord, Calif., confirmed to be leased to Apple, were posted online Tuesday, raising suspicions that Apple might be testing its own driverless car, CBS reported.

Google has taken the spotlight with public tests of its driverless car prototypes, while Uber’s recent investment in robotics has sparked rumors of driverless taxis. Several top carmakers in the U.S. including Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla also showed off plans for autonomous vehicle technology last month at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

According to The Verge, the cameras appear to be LIDAR cameras (Light Detection and Ranging System), the same cameras Google uses to power its driverless cars.

The presence of roof-mounted cameras also has raised questions about whether Apple Maps wants to add on a street view function, similar to that of Google Maps.

Apple has declined to comment on the speculation.

[CBS]

TIME Rumors

There Are 2 Huge Rumors About New Apple Products

Apple Watch Launch Rumors
Loic Venance—AFP/Getty Images View of the Apple watch displayed in a shop on the Saint-Honore street, a day after after the unveiling of the new and highly anticipated product in Paris on Sept. 30, 2014.

Speculation about Apple Watch launch date and new MacBook Air

Rumors are flying about the Apple Watch release date and a brand new MacBook Air.

The Apple Watch is expected to launch in March, with retail training of Apple employees scheduled for mid-February, 9to5Mac reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the smartwatch’s development.

Apple SVP Angela Ahrendts previously said the Apple Watch was scheduled to launch “in the spring,” following Chinese New Year.

There’s also a new, thinner MacBook Air rumored to be on sale around mid-2015, 9to5Mac reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources from within Apple. The new laptop is speculated to be 12-in. across, and so thin that there won’t even be normal-sized USB ports. Apple reportedly refers to it as the “MacBook Stealth” internally because of its slimness.

[9to5Mac]

TIME Rumors

A Bigger iPad Might Be Coming Next Spring

An attendee inspects new iPad Air 2 during an Apple special event on Oct. 16, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images An attendee inspects new iPad Air 2 during an Apple special event on Oct. 16, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif.

A 12.2-inch iPad might arrive next year

A month and a half after the latest iPad release, rumors of a bigger iPad are already taking form.

A 12.2 inch iPad might arrive next year between April and June, according to a report by Mac Fan, a Japanese magazine that’s had a solid record of leaking supply-chain details.

The purported “iPad Plus,” rumored to be powered by an A9 processor with four speakers, would be three inches larger than the 9.7 inch iPad Air models, which are currently the biggest tablets Apple has in stock. The speculated 7mm thickness would place it in the middle of the existing iPad’s depths, which range from 6.1mm to 7.5mm.

Rumors of a larger iPad were abundant even before Apple unveiled its latest iPads, the iPad 2 and iPad Mini, in October. The Wall Street Journal reported in early October that a bigger iPad had been delayed to 2015 while Apple focused on supplying enough iPhone 6 devices to meet high demand.

 

 

 

TIME celebrities

Katherine Heigl Doesn’t Think That She Is Rude or Difficult to Work With

unite4:good And Variety Host 1st Annual unite4:humanity Event
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin—FilmMagic/Getty Images Actress Katherine Heigl arrives at an event hosted by unite4:good and Variety in Los Angeles on Feb. 27, 2014

She was responding to a fan's question during a Facebook Q&A

Actress Katherine Heigl refuted allegations on Saturday that she is rude and difficult to work with, saying she hates confrontation but does not hesitate to stand up for herself.

“Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than confrontation or hurting someone’s feelings and I would never, ever actively do so on purpose.” Heigl said in response to a question from a fan during a Facebook Q&A on Saturday, People magazine reported.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t stand up for myself by drawing boundaries and asking to be treated kindly and respectfully,” the Grey’s Anatomy star added, “but I don’t do that with any rude or unkind intentions.”

The allegations were fueled in a recent Hollywood Reporter interview with Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, who said: “There are no Heigls in this situation.” Rhimes was referring to the cast of her new show Scandal, saying she doesn’t put up with “nasty people.”

[People]

TIME Rumors

3 Things to Know About Apple Pay Ahead of Rumored Launch Date

Apple Pay iPhone 6
Apple

It might be coming Saturday

Apple Pay, the smartphone service that aims to replace those fussy old wallets with a one-tap payment system, may launch on Saturday, according to a leaked memo that appears to prep Walgreens store managers for the launch date.

A screenshot of the internal memo was posted to the website MacRumors on Saturday, raising a few questions:

Is this just a rumor?

For now, definitely. But there are a number of reasons to take this bit of information seriously. First, the memo is reportedly addressed to Walgreens “store managers,” which makes sense given that Walgreens is one of several major retail chains set to participate in the system’s launch.

Apple has already acknowledged the system will launch in October. While it has not specified the exact release date, the company does have an event scheduled for Thursday, an opportune time to make an announcement. If Thursday passes with no mention of Apple Pay, better to take this report with a few grains of salt.

Can I trash my wallet on Oct. 18?

Hang onto it, because the revolution will take time to catch on. Some 220,000 participating stores will be equipped to accept Apple Pay’s smartphone payments on the launch date, including Walgreens, McDonald’s, Duane Reade, Macy’s and Whole Foods. On the other hand there are upwards of nine million merchants in the U.S. that accept credit cards, or roughly 97% of stores that are still only able to accept payments in paper or plastic.

How will it work again?

Anyone who has an iPhone 6 or Apple Watch will be able to make a purchase by swiping the phone past any checkout counter equipped with Near Field Communication, or an NFC chip. A fingerprint will confirm the user’s identity and clear the purchase on a credit card that was preloaded into the system. The Verge created a demo video to show just how frictionless shopping could get.

TIME FindTheBest

3 Reasons Apple Needs to Make a Bigger iPad (and 3 Reasons It Doesn’t)

Compared to the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch speculation, the buzz surrounding Apple’s October 16 event has been as subdued as Tim Cook’s southern drawl. Yes, we’ll probably see new iPads, and rumor has it, they’ll be a bit thinner. They’ll likely have TouchID built in. And there’s a good chance they’ll have faster, A8 processors. In other words, set your iPhone 6’s alarm to wake you up once this sleepy, predictable announcement is over. You probably won’t miss anything.

Unless, of course, Apple announces a bigger iPad.

Here, the rumors are anything but mundane. Could we see a hybrid tablet-laptop like the Microsoft Surface? Would we we get a big, bright 4K display? And would a big iPad get a massive performance upgrade, more like a MacBook Pro than an iPad Mini?

With the rumors swirling, we set out to determine the pros and cons of such a launch. Is it the right move for Apple?

Here are three reasons for Apple to release a bigger iPad, and a corresponding counterpoint for each.

#1: People like big devices. Just look at the iPhone 6 Plus…

Apple may have waited seven years to do it, but in 2014, a big-screen iPhone was an obvious choice. At FindTheBest, we charted the mix of small- (under 4.5”), medium- (between 4.5” and 5.2”), and large-screen (over 5.2”) phones released each year since 2010:

At this rate, phones over 5.2” will make up half the market by 2015. It was time for Apple to jump in. Consider also that bigger phones tend to have better specs and higher scores from the experts. In the chart below, we plotted our Smart Ratings (which combine specs, features, benchmarks and expert review scores) against screen size:

As the screen size gets bigger, the phone gets better. This isn’t just a coincidence. Larger phones have more room under the hood for bigger, better components. So why not apply the same logic and make a bigger iPad?

…but the tablet market is a lot different than the smartphone market.

Plot the same data for tablets, however, and things quickly get muddy. Here’s the mix of tablets released each year since 2010 (small: under 9”, medium: 9” to 11”, large: over 11”):

While large tablets have seen a small resurgence in 2014, there’s no clear trend. Will giant tablets stay a niche item or mount a big comeback? It’s too early to say. Small tablets have certainly gotten more popular since 2010, but outside of that, the market remains murky.

And are bigger tablets better, by the numbers? Not really:

Add it all up, and a large tablet is simply a bigger risk than a giant phone. There’s no obvious market precedent, and the best tablets come in all sizes — not just big ones.

#2: You can charge a premium for big tablets…

If there’s one thing Apple loves more than promotional U2 events and aluminum unibodies, it’s profit margins. At FindTheBest, we looked at the average price, by size category, for over 1,600 phones and 750 tablets. We found one surprising standout:

Average base-model MSRP (no contract) for phones and tablets:

Small phones: $343
Medium phones: $368
Large phones: $397

Small tablets: $304
Medium tablets: $533
Large tablets: $899

Tablets over 11” tend to cost nearly three times as much as their mini-tablet counterparts, and more than any smartphone, even out of contract. Granted, a bigger, faster tablet will be more expensive to make, but Apple probably wouldn’t mind adding another option at the high-end. As Android and Amazon race to the bottom with sub-$200 tablets, Apple would be more than happy to win the $899 to $1,299 range. In tech, no one does luxury better (or more readily) than Apple.

…but there just aren’t that many big tablets, and they don’t seem to be selling particularly well.

Of the 750+ tablets we used to calculate the above averages, only 25 were over 11 inches, so we’re already working with a small sample size. And then look at sales. It’s tough to get an accurate breakdown from manufacturers, but consider that (as of this writing) you have to page through 50 different tablets on Amazon’s best seller list before you get to your first 12” tablet (the Microsoft Surface 3). iPads, small Amazon Kindles and 7-inch Android tablets are selling well. Big tablets are not.

So while that $899 base price point might look attractive at a glance, it’s based on a handful of niche products with (likely) mediocre sales.

#3: It’s the obvious (and only) place for Apple to go next…

In 2010, Apple made mobile devices in just two sizes (not counting iPods): a 3.5-inch iPhone and a 9.7-inch iPad. Jump ahead to 2014, however, and Apple has quietly created a run of six distinct size options, with a tidy increase of about 15%-20% in screen size per model.

FindTheBest

As long as these things keep selling, why not try the next size up?

…but how do we know the tablet isn’t just a fad?

Tablet sales are still growing, but they’re decelerating, according to research firm IDC. “The market is still being impacted by the rise of large-screen smartphones and longer than anticipated ownership cycles,” says IDC’s Research Director Jean Philippe Bouchard. IDC has been forced to revise its previous tablet growth estimates, while Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly told Re/code that tablet sales are “crashing” at the company’s brick-and-mortar stores.

Some commenters suggest that a deluxe, jumbo-sized iPad might be the solution to this problem—a tablet that can actually compete with PCs, task for task.

But what if the tablet’s slowing growth is just the beginning? What if the world is satisfied with a 6-inch smartphone, rather than a 12-inch tablet? And finally, what if Apple suspects all of this already, and that’s why its newest device isn’t a 12-inch tablet, but a 42-mm wristwatch? Only time will tell.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME Social Networking

Facebook Reportedly Building a New App Where Everyone’s Anonymous

The plan marks a departure from company policy to have users disclose their identities or risk being booted from the network

Facebook plans to launch a standalone app that will allow users to mask their online identity, according to two anonymous company insiders speaking to the New York Times.

The two insiders, who divulged the plans to the Times on the condition of anonymity, said that the yet-unnamed app will allow users to sign up under a pseudonym, letting them engage in more candid discussions than they might otherwise have in public.

The report comes amid fallout from Facebook’s decision to boot several drag queens from the network for violating its naming policies by identifying themselves by their alter-egos rather than their birth names. Facebook quickly apologized for that move following intense backlash from several LGBT groups and other advocates.

Facebook’s anonymous app project is reportedly being spearheaded by Josh Miller, who heads the company’s “Conversations” group. Miller’s previous startup, Branch, attempted to foster intimate online discussions around shared interests. Facebook acquired Branch in January.

[NYT]

 

TIME ebola

Watch How Word of Ebola Exploded in America

Exclusive Twitter data shows how conversation about the virus has escalated dramatically

As Ebola has taken more lives and crept into more countries, the virus has come to dominate both news headlines and social media conversation. On Twitter, a whopping 10.5 million tweets mentioning the word “Ebola” were sent between Sept. 16 and Oct. 6 from 170 countries around the world. The map below, based on data TIME obtained exclusively from Twitter, shows how the conversation blew up in early October.

The country where Ebola dominates conversation most is Liberia, where the virus has already claimed more than 2,000 lives. In terms of sheer volume, though, most Ebola tweets are sent from the United States. Global conversation about the disease exploded after a Liberian man was diagnosed with the disease at a Dallas hospital on Sept. 30. On the night of Oct. 1, Twitter users were firing off missives about Ebola at the rate of more than 6,000 per minute, up from about 100 per minute before Sept. 30. Check out the heat map of Ebola tweets below to see how quickly talk of the virus spread following its arrival in the U.S.

Here’s a breakdown of the tweets per minute about Ebola over the last several weeks:

Research scientists who study the way we communicate on social networks borrow much of the terminology that’s used by health officials who are trying to control an epidemic. Internet users who pick up misinformation and false rumors are known as the “infected,” and they can infect others with every errant tweet or Facebook post. Much of what has been posted on social media about Ebola has been helpful—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s illustrated tweet explaining how the virus spreads has been retweeted more than 4,000 times—but there have also been bogus rumors about Ebola reaching Idaho and an unwarranted panic after a passenger became sick on a flight in Newark, N.J.

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