Starbuckss mobile payment service is slightly outpacing Apples

People actually love getting their coffee more quickly. Starbucks, which has operated its own mobile payments service since 2011, is the market leader to its implementation of mobile payments users, beating out Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, according to a new reporter from eMarketer out this morning. However, Starbucks’ result over Apple Pay is only a small one- in 2017, it had 20.7 million U.S. users compared with Apple Pay’s 19.7 million. And that gap will remain small this year, with 23.4 million using Starbucks’ mobile payments compared with 22 million using Apple Pay.

The broad adoption of the Starbucks mobile pay service is not only due to speed and convenience that the barcode-based payment system offers – it’s also because payments are tied to loyalty, and the Starbucks app is where customers can monitor and manage their card balance and their” superstar rewards .” In addition, Starbucks has the benefit of being able to offer a consistent payments experience across its stores- there’s never a question in consumers’ minds as to whether they can use its mobile pays service. They know they can.

Other mobile proximity payment services don’t have the same advantage, as many retailers still don’t offer pay terminals that support the tap-to-pay services like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

According to eMarketer’s forecast, 23.4 million people ages 14 and older will use the Starbucks app to make a point-of-sale purchase at least once every six months, compared with 22 million who will use Apple Pay, 11.1 million who will use Google Pay, and 9.9 million who will use Samsung Pay.

Those numbers will increase across the board through 2022, but the rankings will remain the same- with Starbucks then seeing 29.8 million users to Apple Pay’s 27.5 million.

However, this forecast appears to be discounting the impact of the recent expansion of Apple Pay, which will allow users to send payments to friends through iMessage. When you receive this fund, it’s added to an Apple Pay Cash card in your iPhone’s Wallet, which can then be used in stores, in addition to in apps or online. This built-in payments service inside one of the largest messaging platforms could prompt more users to adopt Apple Pay, even if they hadn’t before.

Another note: it seems which services are more popular than others is also tied to how long they’ve been around.

Apple Pay launched before Samsung and Google Pay, and is now accepted at more than half of U.S. merchants. Google Pay isn’t as widely accepted, but is pre-installed on Android, which will help it grow. Samsung Pay, meanwhile, has the lowest adoption in terms of users, but is most accepted by merchants, tells eMarketer.

The rankings of the various pay services wasn’t the only notable find from eMarketer’s new report.

The analysts also found that this year, for the first time, more than 25 percent of U.S. smartphone users ages 14 and older, will have utilized a mobile pay service at the least once every six months. The number of pays users will increase by 14.5 percentage to reaching 55 million by the end of 2018, the firm estimates.

But over the next several years, these top four services will see their share of the mobile payments drop, even as their user numbers grow. That’s because they’ll face increased competition from other new payment apps, including those from merchants themselves.

“Retailers are increasingly making their own payment apps, which allow them to capture valuable data about their users. They can also build in rewards and perks to boost customer loyalty, ” eMarketer forecasting analyst Cindy Liu says.

eMarketer’s forecast( paywalled) is based on an analysis of third-party data, including Forrester, Juniper Research, and Crone Consulting’s data on U.S. mobile pays users.

Note: Updated after publication to clarify the data is focused on U.S. mobile users

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Ethereum falls after rumors of a powerful mining chip surface

Rumors of a new ASIC mining rig from Bitmain have driven Ethereum costs well below their one-week high of $585. An ASIC- or Application-specific integrated circuit- in the cryptocurrency world is a chip that decorators generate for the specific purpose of mining a single currency. Early Bitcoin ASICs, for example, drove adoption up and then, in some eyes, centralized Bitcoin mining in a few hands, thereby thwarting the decentralized ethos of die-hard cryptocurrency fans.

According to a CNBC report, analyst Christopher Rolland visited China where he unearthed rumors of a new ASIC chip dedicated to Ethereum mining.

” During our travels through Asia last week, we confirmed that Bitmain has already developed an ASIC[ application-specific integrated circuit] for mining Ethereum, and is readying the supply chain for shipments in 2Q18 ,” analyst Christopher Rolland wrote in a note to clients Monday.” While Bitmain is likely to be the largest ASIC vendor( currently 70 -8 0% of Bitcoin mining ASICs) and the first to marketplace with this product, we have learned of at least three other companies working on Ethereum ASICs, all at various stages of growth .”

Historically users have mined Ethereum using GPUs which, in turn, led to the unavailability of GPUs for gaming and graphics. However, an ASIC would change the mining equation wholly, resulting in a certain amount of centralization as big players- including Bitmain- created higher roadblock to entry for casual miners.

” Ethereum is of the most profitable coins available for GPU mining ,” said Mikhail Avady, founder of TryMining.com.” It’s going to affect a lot of the market. Without understanding the hash power of these Bitmain machines we can’t tell if it will attain GPUs obsolete or not .”

” It can be seen as an attack on the network. It’s a centralization problem ,” he said.

Avady points out that there is a constant debate among cryptocurrency aficionadoes considering ASICs and their effect on the market. Some are expecting a move to more mineable coins including Monero and ZCash.

” What would be bad is if there was only one Ethereum ASIC producer ,” he told.” But with Samsung and a couple other players getting into the game it won’t be bad for long .”

There is also concern over ICO launchings and actual utility of Ethereum-based smart contract tokens.” The price of ETH is becoming consolidated as people become more realistic about blockchain technology ,” told Sky Guo, CEO of Cypherium.” People are looking for higher quality blockchain projects. I believe a rebound in ETH’s price will come soon as anxiety surrounding regulations begins to fade .”

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Galaxy S9s display takes honors alongside its camera

Earlier this morning Samsung’s Galaxy S9’s camera was awarded the highest-yet score from DxOMark, and now its screen gets the best-of-all-time nod from DisplayMate and display wonk Ray Soneira. The margins between the victor and the vanquish, however, are growing thinner every generation.

The S9 beats its challengers, chiefly the iPhone X if we’re honest, in nearly every aspect, from coloring accuracy to custom puts. Many of the measurements taken in Soneira’s lab set records: color gamut, contrast ratio, screen reflectance, viewing angle tolerance … the S9 takes top marks in all of them.

The iPhone X does have a higher brightness in certain scenarios, but real coloring fiends will be more concerned with the highly configurable colouring gamut settings, with adjustable white points and other items that make it conceivable that you could grade footage on this phone. And presumably the shoots on that excellent camera will be similarly well-presented.

As for the rest of the device, you’ll have to wait for its consideration of the item — I wouldn’t expect any major changes from the successes of its predecessors, but at least you know it’ll looking good doing the same things.

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Gartner reports first ever global decline in smartphone sales

Global smartphone sales have not been firing on all cylinders for several years now but Gartner’s latest figures record the first ever decline since the analyst began tracking the market all the way back in 2004.( Though it’s not the first analyst to call a deterioration .)

Gartner’s figures peg sales of smartphones to end users in Q4 2017 at virtually 408 million divisions — a 5.6 per cent deterioration over its Q4 2016 figure.

It tells No. 1 ranked smartphone maker Samsung insured a year-on-year unit deterioration of 3.6 per cent in Q4, while sales of Apple’s iPhones fell 5 per cent in the holiday quarter, though it says Cupertino stabilized its second-place marketshare.

Gartner says two main factors led to the Q4 sales fell: A slowing of upgrades from feature phones to smartphones due to a lack of quality “ultra-low-cost” smartphones; and existing smartphone owneds selecting quality models and keeping them for longer, lengthening the replacement cycle.

Apple’s performance in Q4 was also impacted by the later availability of its new top-of-the-range iPhone X, which drove slower upgrades of its other two new smartphones, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. While component shortfalls and manufacturing capacity constraints also contributed to a long delivery cycle for the iPhone X.

Gartner tells it’s expecting a delayed sales boost for Apple in the first quarter of 2018 , now that the flagship’s delivery cycle has returned to normal.

It’s also expecting a boost for Samsung in Q1 as it unpacks its successor Galaxy flagships.

For full year 2017, Samsung carved out a 20.9 per cent marketshare to Apple’s 14.0 per cent.

Far East

Last month analyst Canalys reported a first annual decline in smartphone shipments in China — which for years took up the baton on smartphone growth from saturated Western marketplaces. But even Chinese purchasers appear to be getting tapped out.

It’s still a growth narrative for Chinese OEMs, though. And Gartner tells the combined market share of Chinese vendors in the top five increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2017, while the market share of the top two, Samsung and Apple, remained unchanged.

China’s Huawei and Xiaomi were the only smartphone vendors to actively increase their the shares in Q4, according to Gartner, with year-on-year unit growth in the holiday one-quarter of seven. 6 and 79 per cent, respectively.

The analyst credits Huawei’s uplift to broadening the appeal of its portfolio with new handset launchings in the one-quarter. It also says Xiaomi’s “competitive” portfolio accelerating its growth in the emerging APAC market and helped it win back lost share in China.

Huawei remained in third place in the global smartphone vendor rankings, taking a 9.8 per cent share in full year 2017 and shrinking the gap with Apple and Samsung.

Overall, Gartner says total smartphone marketings exceeded 1.5 billion divisions in 2017 — a year-on-year strengthening of 2.7 per cent.

On the OS front, Google’s Android platform extended its lead in 2017, taking an 86 per cent share of the total market, up 1.1 percentage points from a year ago. While iOS took 14 per cent.( The “other OS” category shriveled to a nearly non-existent 0.1 per cent .)

And as the world’s biggest mobile tradeshow, MWC, rolls around again, there will be some fresh Android-powered handsets being unboxed in the coming days — including from Samsung, Nokia-branded HMD and others.

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What to expect from Samsungs next Galaxy flagships

It’s that time of year again. Samsung is getting ready to unpack some shiny new high aim smartphones at the world’s biggest mobile confab. And Android fans are getting ready to cheer.

The TechCrunch team will be on the ground at MWC in Barcelona in two weeks’ is high time to bring you all the news. But if you’re wondering what Sammy’s get cooking ahead of the official Galaxy unboxing, read on…

S9 and S9+ unpacked

While most major Android smartphone handset manufacturers are skipping a flagship launch at MWC 2018 — perhaps feeling the pinch from shrinkage in the Chinese smartphone market — Samsung most definitely is not. Not this year.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker by marketshare ought to be able to unbox the Galaxy S9 and S9+ at the show.

Indeed there’s a pretty gigantic clue to that in the invitation for its pre-MWC press event — in the shape of a purple-hued number’ 9’ …

Samsung’s timing entails the S9 and its phablet-sized S9+ fellow are being outted about a month earlier than last year’s S8/ S8 +, when it switched to a post-MWC launching in New York.

Some have suggested Samsung felt the need to move up the S9’s reveal by a month after Apple skipped an iPhone digit with its fall unboxing of the iPhone X( and iPhone 8/ 8P lus ). Although that hypothesi doesn’t really hold water, given Samsung has debuted new Galaxy flagship( s) on the eve of the MWC conference for years — and consistently so, until 2017.

Last year was the anomaly. And that beat-skip can be attributed to it falling behindits usual release schedule after the Note 7 remember — and the subsequent pressing need to spend time making changes to its product safety processes after having such high profile problems with, er, exploding batteries.

Samsung is clearly hoping to set all that mess behind it now. And how better to project a’ business as usual’ message than by returning to its usual pre-MWC global stage for the S9 launch?

And things are looking pretty good for Samsung to hog the hardware limelight at MWC 2018: Huawei, its main Android phone challenger in global marketshare words, isn’t expected to launch much, having announced its own Paris-based press event for late March.

While the Nokia-branded upstart HMD can’t — surely — hope to tug on the nostalgia heartstrings twice in a row and pull another retro mobile phone trick this year.

Camera abilities in focus

Of course Samsung is hoping its new smartphones grab attention on their own merits. And it’s describing explicit attention to the camera as the eye-catching upgrade here.

In many styles this is a curiously quaint various kinds of premium smartphone marketing message. And not only because of the subtle allusion to movie photography in the form of the graphic. But because of how much engineering attention has already been lavished on smartphone cameras over the past decade. And how high the premium bar has consequently gotten.

A truly reimagined smartphone camera would have to have real superpowers — like being able to shoot through walls. Which would also be horribly weird and disturbing. So blithely no one is expecting the S9 to be able to do that.

Apple’s iPhone X is a better rationale for Samsung’s teaser that the S9 camera will be “reimagined”, dedicated Cupertino’s top-of-the-range iPhone packs dedicated depth sensors for powering augmented reality experiences via the camera lens — such as face masks and animated emoji that can track facial expressions.

The iPhone X also features a new biometric authentication technique which relies on capturing a facial biometric using the same TrueDepth camera unit.

So Samsung trying to do more with sensing hardware to chase Apple’s lead here seems probable.

That said, judging by leaked device images — obtained by trusted smartphone leaker Evan Blass( see below) — the S9/ S9+ don’t appear to be packing any additional sensor hardware up top vs last year’s S8/ S8 +.

Last month Samsung did make some noise about its latest smartphone chipset, explicitly touting possibilities for the silicon to power similar experiences to what Apple has done with the iPhone X — writing that “through depth sensing” the chipset could be used to “scan a user’s face in 3D for hybrid face detection”. So, well,[ insert guessing emoji face here ].

Another possibility: Samsung could use an engineering workaround that combines multiple existing biometrics( i.e. the S8’s face+ iris scanning systems) to try to up its game vs Apple’s FaceID. This has been rumored.

And that approach might stimulate most sense for the S9, dedicated Apple has not yet pushed the TrueDepth camera across all iPhones. Indeed, the iPhone X’s sensor-packed notch remains iPhone X only. And so do associated iOS features — like Animoji and FaceID.

Given that premium gating by Apple, Samsung could be spying an opportunity to build some’ animojish’ flashy and fun camera features that work across its S9 flagships — even if its FaceID competitor isn’t yet ready for the prime time.

( And — a little more fuel — a Blass source claims the S9 will include a selfie mode with “animated avatars kinda like animoji” .)

Apple also used the opportunity of a major sensor upgrade on the iPhone X to ditch the home button and switch to a more gesture-heavy user interface on the device. Which, in some ways, is unfortunate as it has bifurcated the iPhone UI.( Something Cupertino will presumably move to unify again in future .)

Samsung was ahead on killing the home button, having removed the physical key on last year’s S8 to maximize screen real estate. Though it didn’t go all in on swipe-based navigation. Instead it added a virtual touch-sensitive button with haptic feedback at the bottom of its otherwise near-edge to edge display.

It will therefore be interesting to see whether Samsung determined on wholly remove that usability crutch on the S9. And, indeed, there have been a few rumors of a new, S9-only user interface incoming.

On the other hand, a major break with interface convention would really demand a more radical hardware upgrade than Samsung appears to have in the pipe here. So we wouldn’t bank on any overly sweeping interface changes landing here.

Look , no notch!

Blass got his hands on the above leaked images of the S9 and S9+ late last month. He’s since posted a few more( see below ).

An immediate takeaway from looking at these is there’s no notch on the S9/ S9 +. The notch being the shaped sensor unit that takes an unfortunate bite out of the iPhone X’s screen.

Indeed, the sensor configuration on the leaked S9 images looks identical to the S8. So if Samsung is squeezing more sensing hardware into that slender space at the top of the phone it’s not patently doing so.

( For the record the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera unit contains: An infrared camera; a flood illuminator; a proximity sensor; an ambient illumination sensor; a dot projector; and a 7MP camera, as well as housing a speaker and microphone. While the S8’s bevy of front sensors includes an SVC LED; a proximity sensor( detector)& light sensor; a proximity sensor( emitter) and Iris LED — the latter powering an iris scanning biometric feature .)

The visual design consistency between the S8 and the S9 heavily suggests Samsung doesn’t yet have sensing hardware to directly challenge the capabilities of the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera.

And the company’s own PR specifies that its aforementioned top-of-the-line chipset hardware does also require depth sensing hardware to be able to power 3D face scanning “for hybrid face detection”( which then enables “realistic face-tracking filters as well as stronger security when unlocking a device with one’s face”, as Samsung sells it ).

So unless it’s managed to radically miniaturize the necessary depth sensing hardware on the S9, shrinking it to fit into pretty much the same S8 form factor — and at a time when it was also retooling its smartphone processes with a focus on safety concerns — then a comparable FaceID-style face-unlocking feature seems unlikely to be about to be unpacked.

Though Samsung may still manage to drum up a few animojish flourishes use the sensors it has been able to bake in.

So get ready to cue up your gags about the S9’s’ invisible notch’.

The other glaring design phase of note is there isn’t genuinely anything new in the look of the S9 vs the S8. Unless you could the fuchsia-ish shade of purple/ lilac.

Design wise it’s essentially more of the same, curved screen edges — love ’em or detest ’em! — and all.

And talking of more of the same, we reckon Samsung won’t do an Apple and will keep the 3.5 mm headphone jack on the S9/ S9 +.

Why? Because why look a rival’s gifthorse in the month and pointlessly squander an unexpected competitive advantage. Courage be damned.

Sticky fingers

Moving on, Blass also got his hands on some rear shoots of the S9/ S9+ and associated components — which indicate a fingerprint reader in a freshly positioned place right underneath the rear camera( s ). Which would certainly be a welcome tweak on the awkward S8 side-of-camera placing.

So — depending on your view — Samsung is taking a’ cake and eat it’ biometrics approach vs Apple, which simply doesn’t offer iPhone X proprietors the option of using a fingerprint biometric( they can either choose to register a robust, depth-mapped facial biometric, or do without biometric authentication wholly ).

Or Samsung is not entirely confident in the robustness of its own facial biometric authentication systems — which have previously been shown to be pretty trivially fooled. Hence retaining the fingerprint scanner is helpful because it offers an alternative option for users not comfortable with the company’s iris or face scanning systems.

In security terms at least, Apple appears to be attaining the iPhone X’s dedicated sensing hardware count.( Unless you happen to have an identical evil twin .) So Samsung maintaining the fingerprint reader alive also fits with the notion of the S9 being more of a stopgappish, iterative upgrade than a important step change for its smartphone strategy.

On the plus side, at the least these phones aren’t going to force you to face unlock if you don’t want to.

Blur when you want it

Another takeaway from Blass’ leaked images: The S9+ does have one very visible camera hardware difference vs the S9 — it’s packing two rear camera lenses. At long last!

This fits with widely reported rumors that Samsung is ultimately adding dual cameras to its flagship smartphones — having initially brought the hardware feature to its premium phablet, the Galaxy Note 8.

As with the Note 8, the S9+ ’s dual lenses will be used for enhanced photography depth impacts — such as bokeh( where a subject gets crisply picked out against a pleasingly blurred backdrop ), on account of the stereoscopic data that the two lenses can gather.

And for boosting low light photography — a perennial challenge for smartphone cameras, with camera sensors having to be squeezed into such small spaces.

On the Note 8, Samsung also uses the dual cameras for other stuff too — like a photo feature that they are able capture additional imagery outside the framed composition.

The bottom line here is it’s playing necessary catch-up. Apple introduced dual cameras to the iPhone line up back in 2016, on the iPhone 7 Plus. So Samsung definitely needs to close the gap.

A video version of the S9 invite which it tweeted last month emphasized bokeh by fading out in a blur of glory. The animation also hints at a super slow-mo video capture feature — another widely reported rumor which we’re expecting is likely to be stood up.

Samsung’s curiously worded claim that the S9 launch will “change how you experience everything” could be an allusion to camera-powered AR features or a hint — as has also been widely rumored — that the S9 will have a mechanically variable aperture too.( Or else, well, it’s just some horribly overreaching PR .)

What’s the phase of a variable aperture? It lets a camera to switch between different focal durations by controlling the amount of light entering through the lens — literally by expanding or contracting the hole through which it enters.

Which in turn allows for greater control over the appear of photos/ videos by being better able to adapt to different shooting conditions. So, again, the promise is improved smartphone photos/ video, including in low illuminate conditions.

But, as with all the expected features, we’re talking’ welcome improvements’ and’ nice-to-have enhancements’. Not a smartphone with X-ray vision.

Don’t get too excited — yet

All in all, we’re expecting Samsung to have a few nice extras up its sleeve for the S9/ S9 +. But its next Galaxys look more like they’re playing catch up — and doing the usual bit of beefing up( expect processor and battery upgrades too, of course) — than shooting for smartphone fame.

But — but! — if you’re hankering for a more radical Samsung smartphone upgrade in 2018, well, other rumors are available. Even though MWC 2018 likely isn’t going to be the event where Sammy ultimately unboxes its very-long-slated-in-the-R& D-works foldable smartphone( though the company used to say, as recently as last month, that it plans to release foldable phones in 2018 ). If it does, well, Samsung has been keeping that powder very dry indeed.

Nor — we’re reasonably sure — will the company be pulling out its intended iPhone X killer in Barcelona. Though, again, it might have’ one more thing’ on that front later this year.

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Samsung topples Intel to become the worlds largest chipmaker

Samsung has ended Intel’s 25 -year run as the world’s biggest dealer of chipsets after it posted its 2017 end of year financials.

The Korean tech giant’s chipset division — which has long been its biggest hitter — grossed all revenues of $69 billion in 2017, eclipsing the $ 62.8 billion Intel reported for last year. That was a record year for Intel — and an annual increase of six percentage — but it wasn’t enough to stop Samsung from knocking it from the top spot, which Bloomberg reports it had occupied since 1992.

The writing was on the wall last year when Samsung beat Intel on a quarterly basis, but now it has held out for an annual win.

The change of position highlights Samsung’s focus on mobile, and in particular memory chips which are an essential part of smartphones. Intel’s chips may be in 90 percentage of the world’s computers, but it missed the mobile boom and is playing catch-up.

Overall, Samsung’s entire business reported full-year gain of KRW 53.65 trillion ($ 50.7 billion) on revenue of KRW 239.58 trillion, $225 billion. For the final quarter of 2017, revenue was KRW 65.98 trillion ($ 62 billion) with KRW 15.15 trillion ($ 14 billion) in operating profit.

That’s a higher profit but somewhat less revenue than the previous quarter. The company’s mobile business actually considered its take-home drop by 3.2 percentage year-on-year during Q4.

Looking ahead to 2018, Samsung said it intends to increase its chipset focus on cloud services, AI and automotive. On the smartphone front, where its name is best known among customers, the company said it plans to adopt “cutting-edge technologies” like foldable showings. Samsung said also that it would continue to develop its smart services with a focus on its Bixby assistant and upcoming 5G technologies.

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Samsung launches $300M autonomous driving fund, puts $90M into TTTech

Not to be outpaced in the connected car marketplace by other tech giants, today the world’s largest smartphone maker, Samsung, announced two major pieces of news to take its automotive strategy up a gear. It has launched the Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund, a $300 million money to back startups and other interesting wagers in the automotive market. And as a first investment out of that fund, Samsung has put EUR7 5 million( nearly $90 million) into TTTech, an Austria-based developer of platforms and safety software for connected cars, alongside a corresponding investment from Audi.

In addition to this, Samsung also announced a strategic initiative to develop connected-car technology with Harman, the auto and audio product maker that it acquired last November for$ 8 billion.

“During this period of extraordinary transformation in the automotive industry, we are excited to play a leadership role in supporting and shaping the future of smarter, more connected vehicles, ” said Young Sohn, President and Chief Strategy Officer of Samsung Electronics and Chairman of the Board of HARMAN, in a statement. “The Autonomous/ ADAS Strategic Business Unit and automotive fund reflect the company’s commitment to the values of open innovation and collaboration. In partnership with OEMs and startups, we will make the driver and passenger experience safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable.”

While giants like GM, Volkswagen and Toyota( among others) are typically dominated the automotive industry, the next wave of inventions that will shape how we( and other things) get from A to B is fast coming around the bend. This leaves everything to play for, as automobile ownership, in-car systems, and how vehicles will be operated are all get disrupted and updated through technology.

That’s driving a large wave of investment. Vehicle companies like GM, Volkswagen, Daimler and many others are putting billions of dollars towards backing a range of startups that are building technology and services for that brave new automotive future( a small handful of examples: GM investing$ 1 billion in Lyft, Volkswagen investing $180 million in smart vehicle tech maker Mobvoi, and Ford pumping$ 1 billion into Argo AI for self-driving tech ). Vehicle manufacturers are also investing internally in their own R& D to complement that.

Then there are the tech companies: Apple, Google and Baidu are also constructing big bets here, building autonomous cars of their own and also investing in and buying up talent to improve those strategies( not without hiccups, of course ).

Samsung is among those who are hoping to be at the forefront of these developments, looking at the car as the most recent “hardware” that it can build and assist control.

At the end of August, the company received a permit to run self-driving car tests in California, alongside an earlier permit that it got in Korea, and proclamations like today’s will make sure that they will have not just their own tech, but that of partners, to put into those vehicles.

This is not Samsung’s first move to invest in automotive tech. Previous investments have included automated driving startups AImotive , Renovo; Quanergy, TetraVue, and Oculii for sensors; Autotalks and Valens for connectivity; and Graphcore for high-performance computing, the company noted.

It doesn’t look like there has been a full round quantity disclosed for Samsung’s investment TTTech but we are trying to find out. Prior to today, the startup had raised around $54 million, with backers including Audi, General Electric and Infineon — another sign of the players that are hoping to have a seat at the table( or behind the wheel, if we’re looking for a relevant metaphor) in the next generation of automotive solutions.

TTTech works on road, air and aerospace systems — its systems are used in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and NASA’s Orion — but it said that Samsung’s investment will be used specifically to augment the work it has been doing with Audi on self-driving auto systems for the Volkswagen Group( which owns Audi ). This is about getting Samsung chips and other equipment into vehicles, and the companies are already showing off how research results will look 😛 TAGEND

TTTech specialises across a range of services like “functional safety, deterministic networking, real-time systems, and complex software integration” for autonomous and other automated systems, and their safety and security tech powers the piloting program on the Audi 8.

“Automotive advances like autonomous controls and advanced driver assistance systems will have a profound impact on society–from transforming urban spaces to bringing mobility to aging populations. At Samsung, we see it as our responsibility to invest in the technologies that will revolutionize the route we live, work, and connect with each other, ” said Samsung’s Sohn. “TTTech has demonstrated a remarkable ability to innovate and construct world-class technologies and platforms. This is a seminal moment for Samsung and our Automotive Innovation Fund, and we look forward to working with leading OEMs like Audi and the entire TTTech team to set a new standard for automotive-safety technology.”

“There is already a high demand for ADAS solutions, and that demand is rapidly growing with the advancements in connected automobiles and autonomous driving, ” said Dinesh Paliwal, President and CEO of HARMAN, in a statement. “This strategic business unit demonstrates Samsung’s and HARMAN’s commitment to answer that call- to be the definitive partner for seamless and integrated technologies. It also reflects the incredible power that Samsung and HARMAN, as a collective force-out, will bring to our OEM clients as we blend Samsung’s scale and resources with HARMAN’s deep automotive experience and networks. Together, we are driving the future of automotive.”

HARMAN has named John Absmeier Senior Vice President of the unit, alongside his current stance as VP of smart machines.

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Samsung heir found guilty of corruption and sentenced to five years in prison

South Korean court sentences Lee Jae-yong over role in scandal that led to impeachment of former chairwoman Park Guen-hye

A bribery and cronyism scandal that has already toppled a South Korean president has claimed a major business scalp after a court sentenced Lee Jae-yong, the acting chairman of Samsung, to five years in prison after receiving him guilty of offering bribes and other crimes.

The billionaire, who is South Korea ‘s third-richest man and heir to the sprawling Samsung empire, had been accused of inducing large donations to foundations run by a close friend and confidante of the deposed South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, in return for political favours.

The court said Lee had provided bribes foreseeing subsistence from Park, who was still president at the time, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Lee’s lawyers are expected to appeal, and the instance could end up being decided by the country’s supreme court, possibly next year.

There had been huge public pressure on the court to deliver a guilty verdict after the wide-ranging scandal swirling around Park ended in her impeachment last year and calls for South Korea to address decades of collusive ties between senior political leaders and big business.

While the 49 -year-old, who is also known as Jay Y Lee, was spared the 12 -year word demanded by prosecutors, his sentence is the longest given to any South Korean chaebol leader.

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Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong escorted to prison bus- video

His conviction could also have consequences for Park, who faces a possible life sentence when a ruling in her case is given afterward this year.

Supporters
Supporters of South Korea’s deposed chairperson wave national flags during a protest demanding the release of Lee Jae-yong in Seoul on Friday. Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/ AFP/ Getty Images

More than 450 people applied for the 30 seats in the public gallery to witness what South Korean media billed as the” trial of the century “.

Outside, hundreds of riot police were deployed to prevent confrontations between critics and those in favour of Lee and Park, a former dictator’s daughter who was elected South Korean’s first female president in late 2011.

Despite claims by his legal team that Lee had little participation in the day-to-day operating of Samsung, the court ruled that he had approved donations to Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, in return for securing government support for the contentious consolidation of two Samsung affiliates that would strengthen his control over the group.

Since his arrest in February, Lee has insisted the payments were made to Samsung without his knowledge, and with no expectation of prefers from the Park administration.

Lee, the scion of South Korea’s richest family and its biggest company, had been accused of offering $38 m( PS30m) in bribes to four entities controlled by Choi, to whom Park often turned for advice and allegedly dedicated access to government documents even though she did not have security clearance.

Choi is alleged to have set up the foundations to support Park’s policy initiatives. Samsung has not denied donating fund to the foundations, but said it was forced to do so by Park.

Samsung was also accused of separately giving Choi billions of won to fund her daughter’s equestrian training in Germany. In return, Lee allegedly tried government approval for the$ 8bn consolidation of two Samsung affiliates in 2015- a move that would cement his control of the Samsung group. The merger was opposed by many stockholders, but went through after the national pension fund- a major Samsung shareholder- approved it.

The case has all but aimed Lee’s attempts to exert total control over the Samsung group, of which he has been the de facto head since his father suffered a heart attack in 2014.

Investors are concerned that his enforced absence will create a leadership vacuum at Samsung- which has dozens of affiliates and assets of $322 bn- and harm its ability to make key strategic decisions.

Other business figures to have stood trial in South Korea have traditionally received light sentences, fueling criticism that leaders of the country’s family-run conglomerates- or chaebol – are treated with unwarranted leniency by the courts.

They included Lee’s father, Lee Kun-hee, who was convicted of tax evasion in 2009 and had a three-year sentence suspended, with magistrates citing his contribution to South Korea’s economic success and his” patriotism through “enterprises ” from employment creation “. He was pardoned four months from the final ruling.

Park Sangin, a prof of economics at Seoul National University, said shortly before the verdict:” Chaebol leaders used to get the same sentencing every time. There was even a saying “ve called the”‘ 3-5 statute’- three years sentencing, five years’ probation.

” If Lee receives a heavy sentence, it can be seen as the shatter of the’ too-big-to-jail’ tendency of the past .”

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, won a landslide victory in May pledging to rein in the chaebol and objective clamps down on white-collar crime involving corporate tycoons.

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The difference between smartphone gimmick and game changer

Its hard to find a legitimately bad flagship phone these days. Sure, one peeks its head out from time to time, but on a whole most telephones are pretty good. The screens, the cameras, the internals. There are always a few bits that could use improving( find: battery and durability ), but the gulf between good and bad isnt any near where it once was.

And for the past several generations, most flagship devices even more or less looking the same. Sure, the fingerprint reader/ home button gets moved around here or there, but most casual observers probably couldnt pick a non-iPhone/ Galaxy out of a lineup. Perhaps its a matter of copied intellectual property, or maybe there really is an ideal form factor for a pocket-sized communication device thats mostly screen.

Its tough to distinguish yourself when youre not a top-tier smartphone company a qualifier that, in the State at least, seems to apply to pretty much everyone who isnt a Samsung or Apple. Given how cut throat the overcrowded industry can be when youre not in the two top( and, lets be honest, even if you are ), its no amaze that the many companies seem to be looking increasingly toward distinguishing factors.

Gimmicks arent bad in and of themselves. After all, once it reaches mainstream acceptance, its not really a gimmick anymore. Its a standard feature. Take waterproofing. When a handful of manufacturers started dipping their telephones in aquaria at trade shows, it initially seemed like a cry for attention. But we kind of all secretly wantedone. A few years later, its a no-brainer for flagships because its not just about going snorkeling, its about getting caught in a cloudburst and, yes, accidentally dunking the thing in the toilet.

Sometimes a bag full of dry rice just isnt enough.

The flipside of that is the Alcatels A5 LED. Its the phone equivalent of those L.A. Lights shoes from the 90 s, with heels that flashed every time they hitthe ground. Its a hail Mary pass of sorts and a tacit acknowledgement that maybe smartphones arent much more than big, expensive toys.

A good gimmick, on the other hand, is one that actually brings something to the experience of owning a phone. Its a rare moment of believing outside the box that, if pulled off successfully, can actually be a cause to rethink things. LGs own numbers have stumbled a little bit, but thats not for lack of interesting ideas. The company was among the first to introduce a dual-lens camera( the V2 0) and to offer a taller form-factor( G6 ), both of which are becoming standard features in flagships.

Of course, those handsets are also great examples of how a good gimmick alone isnt enough to make a phone a success. An even more obvious instance comes in the form of the G5. The handset was released at what seemed the height of interest in modular telephones. But research results was downright disastrous, with the phone shouldering much of the blame of the companys resulting financial straits. That didnt, however, mean that modularity is doomed to failure. Announced not all that long after the G5, Motorola/ Lenovos Moto Z line has been a marked success for the company. Its already announced millions sold an accomplishment for a line many simply wrote off at launch.

The differences between the execution of the phones is fairly stark. For starters, the Z is a solid piece of hardware, an object lesson in that fact that you cant rest on gimmick alone. The magnetic power system is also the best modular execution to date. And then theres the fact that the phone launched with multiple useful mods. Like a game console needs games, a modularity phone without mods is a pretty usefulness proposition.

Of course, singular success for Motorola does not translate to a game changer in this case. Other companies are likely flirting more with the idea of modularity, but its not like several other companies rushed out to launch their own modular solution in the past year.

The jury is still out on the HTC U11. Even more so, truly, as the phone hasnt even hit the market. For now, though, Edge Sense seems like little more than a gimmick. The actual functionality it brings to the handset is limited at best. The company has promised more utilizes for the squeezable sides moving forward, but the ability to launch apps isnt the kind of compelling feature that drives users to buy phones.

Theres nothing incorrect with a gimmick, so long as it isnt a gimmick for its own sake. To be successful, it needs to bea meaningful feature that adds usefulfunctionality to a device, executed in a way that doesnt detract from the rest of the phone experience. And its important not to be shortsighted. Manufacturers cant rest on its laurels and skimp on the rest of the hardware and software.

Otherwise, you might as well be selling light up sneakers.

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