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EU proposes mandatory USB-C on all devices, including iPhones – The Verge

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The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has announced plans to force smartphone and other electronics manufacturers to fit a common USB-C charging port on their devices. The proposal is likely to have the biggest impact on Apple, which continues to use its proprietary Lightning connector rather than the USB-C connector adopted by most of its competitors. The rules are intended to cut down on electronic waste by allowing people to re-use existing chargers and cables when they buy new electronics.

In addition to phones, the rules will apply to other devices like tablets, headphones, portable speakers, videogame consoles, and cameras. Manufacturers will also be forced to make their fast-charging standards interoperable, and to provide information to customers about what charging standards their device supports. Under the proposal, customers will be able to buy new devices without an included charger.

The proposals only cover devices using wired, not wireless, chargers, EU commissioner Thierry Breton said in a press conference, adding that “there is plenty of room for innovation on wireless.” A spokesperson for the Commission subsequently confirmed to The Verge that a USB-C port is only mandatory for devices that charge using a cable. But, if a device charges exclusively via wireless, like Apple’s rumored portless iPhone, there’d be no requirement for a USB-C charging port.

To become law, the revised Radio Equipment Directive proposal will need to pass a vote in the European Parliament. If adopted, manufacturers will eventually have 24 months to comply with the new rules. The parliament has already voted in favor of new rules on a common charger in early 2020, indicating that today’s proposal should have broad support.

“Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that,” said commissioner Thierry Breton. “With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics – an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste.”

“European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger,” European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager said.

Today’s proposal is focused on the charging port on the device end, but the Commission says it eventually hopes to ensure “full interoperability” on both ends of the cable. The power supply end will be addressed in a review to be launched later this year.

The proposals follow a vote in the European Parliament in January 2020 when lawmakers voted for new rules on common chargers. As of 2016, the amount of electronic waste produced across the bloc amounted to around 12.3 million metric tons.

The biggest impact of the new rules is likely to be felt by Apple, which continues to ship phones with a Lightning connector as opposed to the increasingly universal USB-C port. As of 2018, around 29 percent of phone chargers sold in the EU used USB-C, 21 percent used Lightning, and around half used the older Micro USB standard, according to an EU assessment reported by Reuters. These proportions are likely to have shifted considerably as USB-C has replaced Micro USB across all but the least expensive Android phones.

Efforts to get smartphone manufacturers to use the same charging standard in the EU date back to at least 2009, when Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Nokia signed a voluntary agreement to use a common standard. In the following years, the industry gradually adopted Micro USB and, more recently, USB-C as a common charging port. However, despite reducing the amount of charging standards from over 30 down to just three (Micro USB, USB-C, and Lightning), regulators have said this voluntary approach has fallen short of its objectives.

Apple was a notable outlier in that it never included a Micro USB port on its phones directly. Instead, it offered a Micro USB to 30-pin adapter.

Apple said it disagreed with today’s proposals in a statement. “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” a spokesperson from the company told Reuters. The company has also previously objected to the proposals because it says they risk creating e-waste by forcing people to throw out their existing Lightning accessories if they’re incompatible with the universal standard.

Although it’s continued to use Lightning, Apple has made its own efforts to reduce charger e-waste. Last year, it stopped shipping charging bricks or earbuds in the box with new iPhones and supplied them only with a Lightning to USB-C cable. However, the move was met with a mixed response, with some arguing that it helped Apple’s bottom line more than the environment.

While European lawmakers focus mainly on wired chargers, wireless charging is becoming increasingly popular across smartphones and has largely converged on a single cross-platform standard: Qi. There have even been rumors that Apple could ship an iPhone without a Lightning port and have it rely entirely on wireless charging for power.

Update Septeber 23rd, 9:22AM ET: Updated to note Breton’s comments about wireless chargers from Q&A, and confirmation that a completely wireless phone would not need to include USB-C. Also added comment from Apple.

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Apple debuts a $4.99 per month Apple Music Voice plan, designed mainly for HomePod or AirPods use – TechCrunch

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In 2019, Amazon introduced a more affordable way to stream Amazon Music in their home with the launch of a free, ad-supported music service that streamed over its Echo speakers. Today, Apple is catching up with its debut of a new, lower-cost version of its Apple Music subscription it calls the “Voice plan.” Unlike Amazon’s service, the Voice plan is not free. Instead, it’s a more affordable, $4.99 per month ad-free subscription that limits consumers to only being able to access the Apple Music via Siri voice commands.

Explained the company at its October event today, the new Voice plan will allow customers, in 17 countries to start, to use Siri to play songs, playlists, and all stations in Apple Music when the service launches later this fall. This will also include access to a series of new playlists based on moods and activities, as well as personalized mixes and genre stations. That means you’ll now be able to ask Siri to play you music for a dinner party or something that would help you to wind down at the end of the day, for example. Hundreds of new playlists will be available, said Apple.

Apple Music rivals, including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Pandora already offer such a feature — and have for years. So this is a matter of Apple playing catch up in the space with its own expanded set of editorially crafted mood and activity playlists. Currently, its editorial selections are more limited to its “Made for You” lineup which includes personalized playlists like your Favorites Mix, Chill Mix, New Music Mix and Get Up Mix.

While Apple says the new Voice plan can be used to access Apple Music across “all your Apple devices,” it’s clearly been designed with HomePod in mind — similar to Amazon’s free music streaming for Echo. If using a phone, tablet or computer, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to speak to Siri to play music when you have a device with a screen. However, the service could possibly be interesting to those who primarily listen to Apple Music via their AirPods — and don’t mind speaking all their commands.

Apple says the service will also work via CarPlay, in addition to iPhone and other devices like iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

Subscribers will see a customized app interface that displays suggestions based on their music preferences and a queue of their recently played music through Siri. There will also be a section called “Just Ask Siri,” which teaches users how to optimize Siri for Apple Music.

The new plan joins the other Apple Music subscriptions, the Individual plan and Family plan, at $9.99 per month or $14.99 per month respectively. Like the Individual plan, the new Voice Plan is also limited to just 1 person per subscription, Apple said. It provides access to the full Apple Music catalog of over 90 million songs.

Image Credits: Apple

At launch, it will be available in Australia, Austria, Canada, China mainland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan, the U.K. and the U.S. The company didn’t offer an exact launch date besides “later this fall.”

Apple said it will market the service to non-subscribers who ask for music through Siri. They’ll be able trial the service for 7 days for free, with no auto-renewal.

To complement the launch of the new service, Apple also announced new, third-gen AirPods and more colorful lineup of HomePod mini smart speakers.

Apple October Event 2021

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Australia must commit to carbon cuts to keep green energy advantage -Fortescue’s Forrest

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Australia risks losing its advantage in the green energy revolution if its leaders don’t promptly commit to cutting carbon emissions by 2050, the country’s richest man, Fortescue Metals Group founder Andrew Forrest said on Monday.

Forrest, who grew Fortescue from a minnow to rival the world’s biggest mining giants in less than two decades, has spearheaded his company’s global green energy drive, signing deals from Brazil to Indonesia to Democratic Republic of Congo.

The company aims to build a 250 megawatt hydrogen electrolyser at Bell Bay in Tasmania — 25 times the size of the biggest existing electrolysers in the world — for less than A$1 billion ($740 million), Forrest said, putting a price on the project for the first time.

Fortescue is ready to make a final investment decision this year, as promised, but is waiting for support from the state government before going ahead with the project.

While Forrest told Reuters that Australia is the best place to realise his green vision, the country’s failure to commit to a policy to cut emissions is risking that advantage.

“I would say 2050 neutrality is a certainty for Australia. If we support it by COP26 the dividend flow to regional Australia will be substantial. If we don’t support it by COP26, the future will remain uncertain,” Forrest said, referring to the COP 26 climate conference in Glasgow at the end of October.

“The renewable energy, green hydrogen, green ammonia, green electricity industry is very, very mobile,” he said.

“It is where the will is strongest – they will be the first to be developed.”

Australia’s energy policy is again in the spotlight as Prime Minister Scott Morrison prepares to attend the conference, where global leaders will meet to set further climate goals to follow on from the landmark 2015 Paris accord.

But Morrison is short on updated climate ambitions to bring to the table given his reliance on the junior partner in Australia’s coalition government which said it would not be rushed into a decision on whether to support a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

The Nationals who represent coal and farming heartlands worry that stronger emissions targets will cost jobs. Coal is the country’s second biggest export earner.

But Forrest, speaking to Reuters from London, said that rural Australians were set to be the biggest winners in the move to green energy – if agreements are made in time.

“I have demonstrated investment into the regions despite the fact Australia is dragging the chain,” Forrest told Reuters.

Fortescue is investigating the potential to convert top Australian fertiliser maker Incitec Pivot’s Brisbane ammonia plant to use green hydrogen as a feedstock instead of natural gas, with an on-site electrolysis plant that will produce up to 50,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year.

The plant’s future had been under threat due to soaring gas prices, however setting up a green hydrogen production site to feed the existing plant could save 400 jobs and create many more, Forrest said.

At the same time, the product from the plant will be cheaper for local farmers.

“So farmers in Australia long into the future can plan for the next season, or even for the next generation … knowing that fertilisers are coming from a hydrogen molecule that is infinite,” Forrest said.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton and Sonali Paul; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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Google's Pixel is now the official fan phone of the NBA – MobileSyrup

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Ahead of Google’s Pixel Fall Launch Event, the Pixel has been declared the NBA’s official fan phone thanks to Google’s new multi-year agreement with the league.

In addition, Google is now the Official Search Engine, Search Trends, and Fan Insights partner for each league, including the NBA, NBA G League and the NBA 2K League. The Pixel lineup will be the NBA Playoffs’ first-ever presenting partner, joining YouTube TV (also owned by Google but not available in Canada) in the postseason.

“Through this multi-year partnership, we’ll work with the NBA to create exciting immersive experiences for fans using our 3D and AR technology, as well as leverage new features that will be announced at our Pixel Fall Launch event,” reads Google’s blog post.

Google will also incorporate Search Trends throughout the season, displaying how fans search for information regarding games before, during, and after games using real-time data.

More information about the immersive experiences will be revealed by Google at the Pixel 6 launch event tomorrow. The company intends to unveil new Pixel camera features during a special Opening NBA Night on TNT Tip-Off pregame show following the launch event.

Image credit: Google

Source: Google 

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