Gadgets, Game & Mobile News

To rebuild satellite communications, Ubiquitilink starts at ground level

TechCrunch - Tue, 2019-01-22 15:36

Communications satellites are multiplying year by year as more companies vie to create an orbital network that brings high-speed internet to the globe. Ubiquitilink, a new company headed by Nanoracks co-founder Charles Miller, is taking a different tack: reinventing the Earthbound side of the technology stack.

Miller’s intuition, backed by approval and funding from a number of investors and communications giants, is that people are competing to solve the wrong problem in the comsat world. Driving down the cost of satellites isn’t going to create the revolution they hope. Instead, he thinks the way forward lies in completely rebuilding the “user terminal,” usually a ground station or large antenna.

“If you’re focused on bridging the digital divide, say you have to build a thousand satellites and a hundred million user terminals,” he said, “which should you optimize for cost?”

Of course dropping the price of satellites has plenty of benefits on its own, but he does have a point. What happens when a satellite network is in place to cover most of the planet but the only devices that can access it cost thousands of dollars or have to be in proximity to some subsidized high-tech hub?

There are billions of phones on the planet, he points out, yet only 10 percent of the world has anything like a mobile connection. Serving the hundreds of millions who at any given moment have no signal, he suggests, is a no-brainer. And you’re not going to do it by adding more towers; if that was a valid business proposition, telecoms would have done it years ago.

Instead, Miller’s plan is to outfit phones with a new hardware-software stack that will offer a baseline level of communication whenever a phone would otherwise lapse into “no service.” And he claims it’ll be possible for less than $5 per person.

He was coy about the exact nature of this tech, but I didn’t get the sense that it’s vaporware or anything like that. Miller and his team are seasoned space and telecoms people, and of course you don’t generally launch a satellite to test vaporware.

But Ubiquitilink does have a bird in the air, with testing of their tech set to start next month and two more launches planned. The stack already been proven on the ground, Miller said, and has garnered serious interest.

“We’ve been in stealth for several years and have signed up 22 partners — 20 are multi-billion dollar companies,” he said, adding that the latter are mainly communications companies, though he declined to name them. The company has also gotten regulatory clearance to test in five countries, including the US.

Miller self-funded the company at the outset, but soon raised a pre-seed round led by Blazar Ventures (and indirectly, telecoms infrastructure standby Neustar). Unshackled led the seed round, along with RRE Ventures, Rise of the Rest, and One Way Ventures. All told the company is working with a total $6.5 million, which it will use to finance its launches and tests; once they’ve taken place it will be safer to dispel a bit of the mystery around the tech.

“UbiquitiLink represents one of the largest opportunities in telecommunications,” Unshackled founding partner Manan Mehta said, calling the company’s team “maniacally focused.”

I’m more than a little interested to find out more about this stealth attempt, three years in the making so far, to rebuild satellite communications from the ground up. Some skepticism is warranted, but the pedigree here is difficult to doubt; we’ll know more once orbital testing commences in the next few months.

Lenovo patent filing teases tablet with folding screen - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 15:21
Because one rigid screen is no longer enough.

Spotify's mobile app lets you block artists you can't stand

Engadget - Tue, 2019-01-22 15:11
Spotify has introduced a new feature that will let users block music from artists they no longer want to hear. A "Don't play this artist" feature appeared in the latest version of the Spotify app for iOS and Android, as first spotted by Thurrot. The...

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to return to space after six-month break - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 15:05
Eight NASA-backed experiments are set to make a quick trip and return to Earth aboard the company's New Shepard rocket.

Book by Cadillac's reboot will be a little different than before - Roadshow

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 15:03
The subscription service should be back up and running in a few months' time.

Twitter starts rolling out simplified web interface to some users

Engadget - Tue, 2019-01-22 14:51
Don't be surprised if Twitter looks very different on the web in the near future. The social network has started rolling out a previously teased web redesign that, for starters, boasts a much simpler look -- the three-column view is gone in favor of...

Parts of Niagara Falls park freeze into otherworldly ice landscape - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 14:45
Frigid weather has turned the world around the famous falls into a winter wonderland.

Fender’s acoustic-electric hybrid is a technological wonder

Engadget - Tue, 2019-01-22 14:33
I'll admit that when I opened the guitar case of the Acoustasonic Telecaster I immediately thought of the toy guitar my parents gave me when I was four years old. With a small hole in the center of the body, it looks unlike anything out there. Well,...

MacBook Pro screen cable issues spawn 'flexgate' petition - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 14:14
Owners are complaining about backlight problems in the MacBook Pro 2016 and later, possibly because of the cable connection design.

The dangers of overfilling your gas tank - Roadshow

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 14:04
You get a few more miles by topping off your gas tank, but it's not worth the risk.

Lexus Quarterback Safety System+ protects the passer like no tackle can - Roadshow

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 14:04
It's not real, of course, but the video is pretty funny.

Share your latest Netflix binge on Instagram Stories

Engadget - Tue, 2019-01-22 14:00
We've all had that moment when we've just watched a great show or movie and simply have to tell everyone about it. If you're eager to show your friends why Marie Kondo has changed your life or urge them to check out a documentary about the disastrous...

Get your iPhone photo on an Apple billboard with #ShotOniPhone contest - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 13:57
Apple's publicity campaign is now a contest that 10 photographers will win in February.

TomTom sells Telematics fleet-management business to Bridgestone - Roadshow

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 13:56
Bridgestone will use the service for data on "tire operating conditions."

Geely reveals Volvo platform-based FY11 crossover - Roadshow

CNET News - Tue, 2019-01-22 13:45
It's the first Geely to employ the CMA chassis used by the Volvo XC40.

iRig Micro Amp delivers classic guitar tones with your phone

Engadget - Tue, 2019-01-22 13:39
IK Multimedia is making it easier to bring a mini music studio on the road, especially if you have a newer iPhone. It just introduced an iRig Micro Amp that produces 15W while touting a USB interface, giving you a reasonably powerful yet portable am...

Huawei Honor’s smartphone with a hole-punch display is real

TechCrunch - Tue, 2019-01-22 13:29

Honor officially launched the Honor View 20 today in Paris. Honor is Huawei’s sub-brand for mid-range phones. And the View 20 doesn’t look like your average smartphone — the company traded the notch for a hole-punch display.

Honor thinks this design isn’t as intrusive as a centered notch. And rumor has it that Samsung could also put a hole-punch display into the Samsung Galaxy S10.

I played with the Honor View 20 for a bit of time, and it definitely feels different from an iPhone X-style notch. Let’s start with the little details that annoy me. The 4.5mm cutout for the selfie camera isn’t exactly in the corner of the device and it looks a bit weird with a standard Android menu. Somehow, I want the cutout to be vertically centered — it’s not.

And yet, when you look at photos and videos, it looks great. After a few minutes, you barely notice it. It feels like yet another icon in the notification area while the rest is just s-c-r-e-e-n. I hope more companies are going to follow this trend.

The device features a gigantic 6.4-inch LCD display with rounded corners — I’ve been using OLED displays for a couple of years, and it’s hard to look at LCD displays again. It’s nearly as big as an iPhone XS Max. While you can’t find a bezel at the top of the device, the View 20 still has a chin — a small bezel at the bottom of the device.

Unlike Huawei’s P20 Pro, the company has moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the device. It has two cameras on the back — a 48 megapixel Sony IMX596 sensor as well as a second, cheap sensor to detect objects in 3D and add background blur using software features.

Huawei/Honor has updated its system-on-a-chip. The company has been working on its own chips instead of working with Qualcomm or Samsung. The result is a new Kirin 980 system-on-a-chip. Like Apple’s A12 Bionic, the company now uses a 7nm manufacturing process. The phone has a 4,000 mAh battery.

It comes in four colors — Midnight Black, Sapphire Blue, Phantom Red and Phantom Blue. As you can see in the photos, the company is still setting its phones apart from the competition thanks to colorful backs with mesmerizing reflections. This time, the Honor View 20 has a V-shaped pattern on the back. Unfortunately, it attracts fingerprints like crazy.

The Honor View 20 is going to be available starting tomorrow for €569/£499 for 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, or €649/£579 for 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. As usual, Huawei/Honor focuses on Asia and Europe.

But the best part about this new phone is that you get an exclusive character skin for Fortnite when you buy it. What else do you need from a phone?

'The Expanse' season three streams on Amazon Prime Video February 8th

Engadget - Tue, 2019-01-22 13:03
Amazon announced today that the third season of sci-fi series The Expanse will be available for Prime members to stream starting February 8th. The first two seasons of the show, which originally aired on Syfy, are already available to watch on Amazon...