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►  Google appeals $2.9 billion EU fine even as it plans fixes

Google is appealing a $2.9 billion fine imposed by European Union regulators.

The EU had dinged the search giant for favoring shopping listings it gets paid for. Google’s appeal comes even as it is working to comply with an order to give equal treatment to rival shopping services.

The appeal filed Monday was not made public. But Google’s argument is expected to follow its June blog post in which it maintained that consumers expect to be taken directly to pages where they can buy products rather than to other online retailers where they may have to repeat searches.

Google also claimed it faces fierce competition from eBay and Amazon. It also submitted plans in August to give these rival online shopping services equal treatment to meet a second EU condition.


►  Apple unveils $999 iPhone X, loses ‘home’ button

Apple has broken the $1,000 barrier with its latest, and most expensive, phone, the iPhone X.

With a price starting at $999 and a host of new features, the phone will be a big test for both Apple and consumers. Will people be willing to shell out really big bucks for a relatively fragile device that’s become an essential part of daily life?

On Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook called the iPhone X “the biggest leap forward” since the first iPhone. (“X” is pronounced like the number 10, not the letter X.) It loses the home button, which revolutionized smartphones when it launched; offers an edge-to-edge screen; and will use facial recognition to unlock the phone.

Apple also unveiled a new iPhone 8 and a larger 8 Plus with upgrades to cameras, displays and speakers.

Those phones, Apple said, will shoot pictures with better colors and less distortion, particularly in low-light settings. The display will adapt to ambient lighting, similar to a feature in some iPad Pro models. Speakers will be louder and offer deeper bass.

Both iPhone 8 versions will allow wireless charging, a feature already offered in many Android phones, including Samsung models. Some Android phones have also previously eliminated the home button and added edge-to-edge screens.

Apple shares were mostly flat after the announcement, down 64 cents to $160.86.

STEVE JOBS HOMAGE

This was the first product event for Apple at its new spaceship-like headquarters in Cupertino, California. Before getting to the new iPhone, the company unveiled a new Apple Watch model with cellular service and an updated version of its Apple TV streaming device.

The event opened in a darkened auditorium, with only the audience’s phones gleaming like stars, along with a message that said “Welcome to Steve Jobs Theater.” A voiceover from Jobs, Apple’s co-founder who died in 2011, opened the event before CEO Tim Cook took stage.

“Not a day that goes by that we don’t think about him,” Cook said. “Memories especially come rushing back as we prepared for today and this event. It’s taken some time but we can now reflect on him with joy instead of sadness.”

The iPhone X costs twice what the original iPhone did. It sets a new price threshold for any smartphone intended to appeal to a mass market.

NEW WATCH

Apple’s latest Watch has built-in cellular service. The number on your phone will be the same as your iPhone. The Series 3 model will also have Apple Music available through cellular service. It won’t need a new plan, but will require a data add-on to your existing plan.

“Now, you can go for a run with just your watch,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer and in charge of Watch development.

Apple is also adding more fitness features to the Watch, and says it is now the most used heartrate monitor in the world. Now, Apple Watch will notify users when it detects an elevated heart rate when they don’t appear to be active. It’ll also detect abnormal heart rhythms.

The Series 3 will start at $399. One without cellular goes for $329, down from $369 for the comparable model now. The original Series 1, without GPS, sells for $249, down from $269. The new watch comes out September 22.

APPLE TV GETS UPGRADE

A new version of the Apple TV streaming device will be able to show video at “4K” resolution — a step up from high definition — and a color-improvement technology called high-dynamic range, or HDR.

Many rival devices already offer these features. But there isn’t a lot of video in 4K and HDR yet, nor are there many TVs that can display it. Apple TV doesn’t have its own display and needs to be connected to a TV.

Apple said it’s been working with movie studios to bring titles with 4K and HDR to its iTunes store. They will be sold at the same prices as high-definition video, which tends to be a few dollars more than standard-definition versions. Apple said it’s working with Netflix and Amazon Prime to bring their 4K originals to Apple TV, too.

The new Apple TV device will cost $179 and ships on September 22. A version without 4K will cost less.


►  Samsung eyes foldable smartphone, voice-controlled speaker

Samsung Electronics Co. said Tuesday it aims to launch a foldable smartphone next year under its Galaxy Note brand.

Koh Dong-jin, president of mobile business at Samsung Electronics, said the company is setting its eyes on 2018 to release a smartphone with a bendable display. But he said there are several hurdles it has to overcome, leaving room to push back the release if those problems are not solved.

“As the head of the business, I can say our current goal is next year,” he told reporters. “When we can overcome some problems for sure, we will launch the product.”

He did not elaborate what the problems are. Analysts said mass-producing a foldable phone with top tech features and a thin body will take time.

When Samsung will release its first foldable phone has been a perennial question in the market since Samsung first showcased a flexible display prototype called Youm in 2013. For at least the past two years, there have been rumors that Samsung is close to showing off its first smartphones that can be folded.

Koh also said the company is working with auto-systems maker Harman to develop an artificial intelligence-enabled speaker that users can speak to in order to play music and conduct other tasks. Samsung acquired the Stamford, Connecticut-based company last year as part of its plans to expand in the emerging market for connected cars.

Amazon and Google already have those always-on voice-controlled speakers in the market while Apple’s Homepod is due to go on sale later this year. It is not clear when Samsung’s voice-controlled speaker, which will likely use the South Korean company’s Bixby voice assistant, will be unveiled. Koh did not say when it will hit the market.

The comments were made at Samsung’s news conference to announce the Galaxy Note 8 smartphone to domestic media, just hours before Apple announces its 10th-anniversary iPhone models.

Samsung’s mobile president said market response to the Note 8 beat its expectations even though its price was more expensive than past models and even as the Note brand’s reputation took a hit from its previous model, the disgraced Note 7 phone that was recalled twice and discontinued after it spontaneously overheated or caught fire.

Samsung received more than a half million pre-orders — 650,000 units — for the Note 8 in South Korea before its Friday launch, Koh said. The Note 8 has been the most expensive smartphone Samsung has released. Its price starts at 1.1 million won ($969) in South Korea and $930 in the U.S.

--> Wednesday, September 13, 2017
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