The Tech News Blog

July 17, 2014

Report: Amazon Testing eBook Subscription Service

Kindle Unlimited How would you like Amazon Prime, but for eBooks? It's reportedly on its way.

As first reported by GigaOm, Amazon appears to be testing a new ebook and audiobook subscription service, dubbed "Kindle Unlimited," which will let you read to your heart's content for $9.99 a month. The retail giant hasn't yet announced Kindle Unlimited, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but users spotted promotional pages for the service on the company's website.

"Enjoy unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device for just $9.99 a month," the page reads.

A look at the leaked page reveals that major publishers may not be down with Amazon's new ebook subscription approach. According to GigaOm, one page shows 638,416 available titles, including favorites like the The Hunger Games and Harry Potter series, but nothing from top publishers like Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins.

Participating publishers include: Algonquin (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen); Bloomsbury; Harvard University Press (Capital by Thomas Piketty); Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (The Giver by Lois Lowry and Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin); Open Road Media; W.W. Norton (Flash Boys by Michael Lewis); and Workman (Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams).

Amazon's new offering will compete with other ebook subscription services like Scribd and Oyster. Scribd in January launched on the Kindle Fire, offering unlimited access to more than 400,000 books from over 900 publishers for $8.99 a month.

July 15, 2014

Report: Metal Samsung Galaxy ‘Alpha’ Coming Next Month

Samsung Brand Mark Samsung is reportedly gearing up to launch a new smartphone with a metal body — a first for a company that has relied heavily on plastic backings for its smartphones.

A new report from South Korea's, citing unnamed "industry sources," claims that Samsung is planning to debut the "premium" metal handset on Aug. 13, ahead of Apple's expected fall launch for its next iPhone. Samsung is tentatively calling its first all-metal smartphone the Galaxy Alpha, the report notes.

Details of the handset are unknown, but it will reportedly target Apple's iPhone 6 and boast specs that are better than the Galaxy S5 .

Rumors about a metal Galaxy smartphone have been making the rounds for a while now, with some referring to it as the Galaxy F. Samsung, however, trademarked the Galaxy Alpha name earlier this year, potentially giving some weight to the latest rumors.

July 15, 2014

Report: Microsoft Layoffs Expected This Week

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft is expected this week to announce its largest round of layoffs since 2009.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the tech giant plans to slim down its 127,104-person workforce—likely in those divisions that overlap with the newly acquired Nokia handset unit.

Final details are still being ironed out, though reports tip reductions in marketing departments for businesses like the global Xbox team and software testers.

Microsoft declined to comment on the reports.

The news comes days after new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (pictured) issued a lengthy memo to staffers, which suggested that layoffs might be on the horizon in the form of "engineering and organization changes" this month.

"Organizations will change. Mergers and acquisitions will occur. Job responsibilities will evolve. New partnerships will be formed. Tired traditions will be questioned," Nadella wrote.

July 14, 2014

Rumors Tip Delay on 5.5-Inch iPhone 6

iPhone Air Concept Those holding their breath for the still-unconfirmed 5.5-inch iPhone 6 may want to let the air out: Reported production issues surrounding the phablet-sized device could delay its launch until November.

Rumors suggest Cupertino will unveil two new smartphones this fall: a 4.7-inch handset, and its larger sibling. But bottlenecks on the 5.5-inch assembly line mean the phone might not hit shelves until a couple of months later.

As quoted by Apple Insider, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the issues may be related to the new in-cell touch panels, which struggle with touch sensitivity on larger screens.

Kuo also cited concerns over the scratch-resistant sapphire glass display, which he doesn't expect will "easily pass the drop test near term." That same display panel technology was put to the test recently, with knives, keys, and deep pressure applied without any adverse results. Only when someone drove a car over the screen did it break.

And while Kuo predicted the "most conservative scenario," in which Apple holds the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 for a 2015 launch, these delays are unlikely to hamper the expected autumn release of Cupertino's 4.7-inch device.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Of course, as PCMag mobile analyst Sascha Segan warned earlier this year, it's best to take this type of gossip with a grain of salt.

Rumors about iDevice production delays are nothing new. Prior to the launch of the iPad mini with Retina display, there were reports that display shortages would push the device's launch until 2014, or limit its 2013 availability. Instead the device arrived in late October 2013 and wait times were nothing too dramatic.

July 8, 2014

Video Leak Tips Rugged iPhone 6 Display

iPhone 6 display stress test - scratch If a new video is any indication, Apple's upcoming iPhone 6 will be a good option for accident-prone smartphone owners.

YouTube user Marques Brownlee on Monday posted a video (below) showing off what he claims is an "actual, straight off the assembly line" iPhone 6 front display panel made of super-durable sapphire crystal. After turning it over a few times in his hand and showing it from multiple angles, Brownlee highlights the durability of the component by putting it through multiple stress tests, including some serious bending and scratching.

iPhone 6 display stress test - bendIn the video, Brownlee attempts to scratch the screen with a knife and keys, applying deep pressure as he scrapes and drags the tools against the panel. Through it all, the display holds up perfectly. He then breaks out the knife again and begins stabbing the component, again to no avail.

June 24, 2014

Rumor: Production on 2 New iPhones Starts in July

Apple logo The larger iPhones Apple is expected to unveil later this year are slated to go into mass production in China next month, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

Citing unnamed people familiar with the plans, Bloomberg on Monday reported that Apple will, indeed, launch two new models — one with a 4.6-inch screen and the other with a larger 5.5-inch screen — as we've been hearing for some time. The report also notes that both models may be available at the same time, contradicting previous rumors that the 5.5-inch model could be held up thanks to a production issue involving the in-cell technology for the larger display.

So what can we expect from the new iPhones? The new handsets will be "rounder and thinner than previous models," Bloomberg's source said. They'll also reportedly feature "curved glass and enhanced sensors that can detect different levels of pressure."

June 8, 2014

Analyst Expects Apple iWatch in September

Apple logo

Now that Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference is over and we've all had a peek at iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, we can now turn our attention to what Cupertino has in store in terms of hardware — namely the next iPhone and a rumored iWatch.

According to a Friday research note from Cantor Fitzgerald's Brian White, Apple is gearing up to launch both devices in September.

"Our research at Computex this week points to a September launch for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and a similar launch period (i.e., September/October) for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6," White wrote. "Additionally, our research suggests that Apple will likely launch the 'iWatch' in September at a very affordable price point." White reckons the Apple wearable will cost around $200.

Meanwhile, a Friday report from Nikkei, citing unnamed industry sources, claims that the so-called iWatch will "use a curved organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touch screen and collect health-related data, such as calorie consumption, sleep activity, blood glucose, and blood oxygen levels." The device will also let you read text messages sent to your iPhone.

June 4, 2014

Is the Amazon Phone on Tap for June 18 Launch Event?

Amazon Event June 18

Amazon is teasing a June 18 event that might finally include the launch of the company's long-rumored smartphone.

"Join Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos for our launch event," reads a page on Amazon's website. It invites Amazon customers, developers, and journalists to request an invitation to the big reveal, which will happen in Seattle.

An accompanying video (below) features people holding a device that is just off screen, who seem to be blown away by what they are seeing. Many seem to move their bodies with whatever they see on the device, suggesting that it might have some sort of 3D component.

"It moved with me," says a woman in the video.

"It's very real life and incomparable to anything I've ever seen," says another woman, a sentiment echoed by all those featured in the 50-second spot.

May 26, 2014

Report: Apple to Reveal ‘Smart Home’ Software at WWDC

WWDC 2014 275

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is only a week away, and the latest rumor tips a smart home-related announcement from Cupertino.

According to The Financial Times, Apple will unveil a new software platform intended to simplify the process of using your iOS device to control devices in the home - from thermostats to appliances.

The Times likened the option to the digital home version of "Made for iPhone," which lets third-party manufacturers develop products - like speaker docks and charging accessories - that work with the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Participating companies could slap an Apple logo on their packaging and customers would know that the gadgets will work seamlessly with their iOS device.

A big focus for Apple, according to the Times, will be privacy, which has been top of mind for many tech firms in the post-Snowden era.

May 21, 2014

Rumor Tips Apple Hardware Launch at WWDC

Apple WWDC 2014 Banner

Will Apple unveil some new hardware goodies at its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) next month? Clearly, it depends on who you ask—and the company itself isn't saying.

Could the introduction of a new Apple TV or even a wearable device like the long-rumored iWatch be on the agenda? Earlier this month, word on the street was that neither of those rumored products would be unveiled at WWDC, but now there's some buzz building that they could be.

Apple on Tuesday released the schedule for WWDC 2014, which kicks off June 2 in San Francisco with an opening keynote that "will likely be led by Apple CEO Tim Cook with assistance from Senior VPs Craig Federighi and Eddy Cue," 9to5Mac reported.

The site also figured that the main focus of the event will be software, including a major update to Mac OS X and the unveiling of iOS 8. But unnamed sources also told 9to5Mac that "Apple is planning to unveil new hardware at this year's conference."