In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology headlines:
- Samsung’s new phone has an iris scanner (plus: watch video)
- Instagram unveils “Stories”
- Apple dumps a pistol emoji
- Uber sells its China operations to rival
- Samsung’s new jumbo phone unlocks with iris scanner
You’ll be able to unlock Samsung’s new phone by just looking at it.
The Galaxy Note 7 will come with an iris scanner, which matches patterns in your eyes with what was detected by your phone during setup. It offers an alternative to fingerprint ID, which doesn’t work well when fingers are wet. Of course, the four-digit passcode will still work.
“We challenged our engineers to design a security system that’s convenient and safe at the same time,” said Justin Denison, a senior vice president for product strategy atSamsung. “It took five years to perfect, but it only takes a glance to unlock your phone.”
Samsung isn’t first, though. Microsoft’s Lumia 950 phones had it.
Beyond that, the updates in the Note 7 are mostly enhancements, such as a stronger glass screen and more storage — 64 gigabytes, or double what Samsung usually offers, plus a slot to add more.
The Note 7 comes with a better camera — but it’s the same one that the smaller Galaxy S7 phones got in March, save for interface enhancements to access settings and switch between the front and rear cameras more easily.
(Watch an introductory video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0a6Y9JvPqo)
Samsung had lost its mojo after Apple matched the company on size with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014, but thanks to the popularity of the S7, Samsung just reported its best quarterly financial results in two years. The new Note 7 phone comes weeks before Apple is expected to announce new models.
Samsung typically releases its regular-size phones in the spring and jumbo phones in August. This time, Samsung has just one large model, which stays at 5.7 inches. It will have curved edges — a well-liked feature limited to a special “Edge” model before. The Note 7 will be available in the U.S. starting Aug. 19. Prices haven’t been announced.
Samsung is also releasing an updated virtual-reality headset — with a dedicated home button, a wider field of view and a black interior to improve viewing. The new Gear VR will be available Aug. 19 for $100. A previously announced 360-degree camera called Gear 360 also comes out that day, for $350. As phones mature and innovation slows, VR has been one area in which gadget makers try to entice consumers.
As with past Note phones, the Note 7 comes with a stylus. It expands on a feature that lets you magnify text and images by hovering the pen over it. With the pen, people will have ways to easily create and share GIF animations.
The Note 7 also expands on a feature to give sensitive files an additional layer of security. You’ll be asked for an iris scan, fingerprint or passcode to access documents you place in a Secure Folder. This way, if you’re handing the phone to friends to browse pictures, you’re not inadvertently giving them access to confidential work documents.
- Instagram introduces Snapchat-like feature called ‘Stories’
Instagram is launching a new feature that should sound familiar to Snapchat users. It’s called “Stories,” and it lets users share photos and videos from their day that will disappear after 24 hours.
The new feature will stitch together photos and videos in a slideshow format. Users can add text and doodles.
Snapchat also has a “Story” feature that works in a similar way. Copying or at least using other services as inspirations is common among big tech companies. Of course, just because a feature is popular on one service doesn’t mean it will translate well to another one.
Instagram owner Facebook is no stranger to this. It tried an ephemeral sharing app a couple years ago called Slingshot, but it never caught on.
- Apple subs squirt gun for controversial pistol emoji
Apple is disarming — or at least it’s dumping an emoji that depicts a realistic-looking revolver and replacing it with a brightly colored toy waterpistol instead.
The tech giant is releasing some new emoji images for iPhone and iPad users who use the cartoonish icons when they send messages. They’ll be available this fall with iOS 10, the next major revision of Apple’s mobile software. Other new emoji will depict women in athletic and professional roles, as well as a rainbow flag.
Gun-control advocates had urged Apple to dump the handgun emoji. It’s also drawn controversy in cases where students used it in ways perceived as threatening. Thesquirt gun may still look like a pistol, however, to recipients who view the message on a non-Apple device.
- Uber’s Chinese rival acquiring company’s China operations
Uber Technology Ltd. and its main Chinese competitor are combining their ride-hailing operations in China, ending a costly battle to attract riders.
The announcement Monday marks the latest foreign technology brand to tie up with a local partner in the face of intense competition in China. Yahoo, eBay and others have turned over Internet operations to Chinese partners or withdrawn.
Didi Chuxing said it would acquire Uber China and operate it as a separate brand. In exchange, Uber said it will receive a 20 percent stake in Didi Chuxing that will make the American company its biggest shareholder. Uber founder Travis Kalanick will join the Chinese company’s board while Didi Chuxing founder Cheng Wei joins the Uber board.
No financial details were released. The Chinese business magazine Caixin, citing unidentified sources, said the deal valued the combined company at $35 billion. That would make Uber’s share worth $7 billion.
“This agreement with Uber will set the mobile transportation industry on a healthier, more sustainable path of growth at a higher level,” Cheng said in a statement.
Ride-hailing services in China have grown rapidly but suffered heavy losses. Kalanick told the Canadian technology platform BetaKit in February the company was losing $1 billion a year in China.
“Didi has been a fierce competitor and I respect all that Didi and their team have accomplished,” Kalanick said on his Facebook page. He said the merger “frees up substantial resources” for other Uber initiatives including food delivery and self-driving cars.