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Huawei unveils the P30 and P30 Pro – TechCrunch

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Huawei unveiled its brand new flagship phone — the P30 and the P30 Pro — at a press conference today in Paris. In many ways, this year’s update is a continuation of the P20 series — but everything has been upgraded. I played with both devices for a bit; here’s my experience.

While Huawei’s sub-brand Honor has switched to a hole-punch design, Huawei is keeping the good old notch for its flagship device. But this year’s notch is a lot smaller. The company has switched from an iPhone X-like notch to a tiny little teardrop notch.

The P20 and P20 Pro were the last flagship phones to feature a fingerprint sensor below the display, on the front of the device. With the P30 series, Huawei is removing that odd-looking bezel and integrating the fingerprint sensor in the display.

The company could have used that opportunity to make the phones smaller. But Huawei opted for taller displays instead. The P20 and P20 Pro had 5.8-inch and 6.1-inch displays, respectively, with an 18.7:9 aspect ratio. The P30 and P30 Pro have gigantic 6.1-inch and 6.47-inch displays, respectively, with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio.

The P30 Pro is still narrower than the iPhone XR, but it won’t be for everyone. It definitely feels too big in my hand, for instance.

The industrial design of the P30 series is in line with the P20 series. The phones feature glass on the back with colorful gradients. The frame is made of aluminum. Overall, the devices feel slimmer on the edges thanks to curved back and front glass. The company has flattened the top and bottom edges of the devices as well. Everything feels solid in your hand.

The P30 and P30 Pro are now closer when it comes to features. They both have an OLED display with a 2340×1080 resolution for instance. You no longer have to choose between an LCD and an OLED display.

The two biggest differences you can spot is that the P30 Pro has a Samsung-style display, slightly curved on the sides — the P30 display is completely flat — and Huawei is bringing back the headphone jack, but only for the P30. It doesn’t really make sense to segment the lineup this way, but maybe Huawei considers you have enough money to buy wireless earbuds if you’re in the market for a P30 Pro.

Both devices come in five colors — Breathing Crystal, Amber Sunrise, Perl White, Black and Aurora. Amber Sunrise is a red to orange gradient color, Breathing Crystal is a white-to-purple gradient, Perl White is a white-to-slightly pink gradient, Aurora is a blue-to-turquoise gradient.

You’ll be able to buy the P30 for €799 ($900) with 128GB of storage and the P30 Pro for €999 ($1,130) for 128GB of storage — there are more expensive options for the P30 Pro with more storage. The phones will be available in Europe and Asia today, and probably won’t be released in the U.S.

Four camera sensors, because why not

When it comes to cameras, Huawei has always been one of the leading smartphone manufacturers. There are only four brands that ship cameras that perform so well — Apple, Samsung, Google and Huawei.

It’s going to be hard to comment on the quality of the photos after so little hands-on time, but the P30 Pro now features not one, not two, not three but f-o-u-r sensors on the back of the device.

  • The main camera is a 40 MP 27mm sensor with an f/1.6 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • There’s a 20 MP ultra-wide angle lens (16mm) with an f/2.2 aperture.
  • The 8 MP telephoto lens provides nearly 5x optical zoom compared to the main lens (125mm) with an f/3.4 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • There’s a new time-of-flight sensor below the flash of the P30 Pro. The phone projects infrared light and captures the reflection with this new sensor.

Thanks to the new time-of-flight sensor, Huawei promises better bokeh effects with a new depth map. The company also combines the main camera sensor with the telephoto sensor to let you capture photos with a 10x zoom with a hybrid digital-optical zoom.

The telephoto lens uses a periscope design. It means that the sensor features a glass to beam the light at a right angle. Huawei uses that method to avoid making the phone too thick.

On the P30, the cameras are more or less the same, but a bit worse:

  • A 40 MP main sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • A 16 MP ultra-wide angle lens with an f/2.2 aperture.
  • An 8 MP telephoto lens that should provide 3x optical zoom.
  • No time-of-flight sensor.

More than hardware specifications, Huawei says that software has been greatly improved to enhance the quality of your photos. In particular, night mode should be much better thanks to optical and software-enabled stabilization. HDR shots and portrait photos should look better too.

On the front of the device, the selfie camera sensor has been upgraded from 24 MP to 32 MP. And you can capture HDR and low-light photos from the front camera as well.

Below the surface

Huawei has upgraded its homemade system-on-a-chip with the Kirin 980 that you can find in the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. It runs Android Pie 9.1 with Huawei’s EMUI custom Android user interface.

In addition to 40W USB-C charging, Huawei is integrating wireless charging for the first time in the P series (up to 15W). The P30 Pro has a 4,200 mAh battery. You can also charge other devices with reverse wireless charging, just like on the Samsung Galaxy S10.

The P30 Pro is IP68 water and dust resistant while the P30 is IP53 resistant.

You won’t find a speaker grill at the top of the P30 Pro because the company has removed the speaker. Instead, Huawei is vibrating the screen in order to turn the screen into a tiny speaker for your calls.

A note on the Huawei FreeLace wireless earphones

Huawei is also launching new in-ear earbuds today. The FreeLace looks more or less like the BeatsX with a cord behind your neck. You can disconnect the cord and plug your wireless earphones directly into your smartphone to pair them — no Bluetooth pairing required.

That hidden USB-C port is also how you’re going to charge the earbuds. For five minutes of charge time you get four hours worth of playback. They’ll be available in four colors — Graphite Black, Amber Sunrise, Emerald Green and Moonlight Silver.

The earbuds are magnetic so you can wrap them around your neck. When you disconnect them, it automatically answers your calls, play your music. When you connect them again, it hangs up or pauses your music. The FreeLace earbuds will be a separate accessory for €99.

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TikTok introduces a strike system for violations, tests a feature to “refresh” the For You feed • TechCrunch

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TikTok today is announcing several changes to its service, including what it claims will be increased enforcement against bad actors as well as tests of new user-facing tools that will force a refresh of the app’s main algorithmic feed, known as the For You feed. The company said the changes are focused on keeping the platform both safe and entertaining for its users and creators alike.

While all major social media companies have content guidelines, their enforcement varies. As is often the case, people who violate the rules and are subject to takedowns of their content or bans, don’t always learn from their mistakes — they just become repeat violators. Today, TikTok’s enforcement system includes a variety of penalties, like temporary bans on posting or commenting, designed to reduce harmful content on the platform.

However, admits TikTok’s Global Head of Product Policy, Julie de Bailliencourt, in an announcement, creators complain that the current system can be confusing to navigate — especially if they don’t typically break TikTok’s rules or have unknowingly violated policy, and aren’t sure why they’ve been penalized. What’s more, this system is not efficient at deterring repeat violators, the exec explained

“Repeat violators tend to follow a pattern – our analysis has found that almost 90% violate using the same feature consistently, and over 75% violate the same policy category repeatedly,” de Bailliencourt wrote.

As a result, TikTok will move instead to a strike system, similar to YouTube. In all but the most severe cases, creators will accrue strikes as their content is removed. If they then reach a threshold of strikes within either a product feature (like comments or TikTok LIVE), or policy (like bullying or harassment), they will be permanently banned. The company said the threshold will vary depending on the violation and its potential to harm community members. It said, for instance, there may be a lower threshold for violating hateful content policies than there would be for posting low-harm spam.

TikTok will still issue permanent bans for severe violations, like videos that are “promoting or threatening violence, showing or facilitating child sexual abuse material (CSAM), or showing real-world violence or torture,” the post said.

The accumulated strikes will expire from an account’s record after 90 days, but accounts that “accrue a high number of cumulative strikes across policies and features” will be permanently banned. TikTok did not detail what a “high number” would be, nor did it share more information about what the thresholds are in the various areas. That could potentially cause more confusion among creators as they try to reverse engineer the system based on which accounts received strikes and why.

Creators will soon be able to track their own strikes and their account’s standing in the app, TikTok said, through an update to the Safety Center for creators. Here, they can view their own status and the status of the reports they’ve made on other videos or accounts. They’ll also be able to appeal strikes from this Safety Center if they feel they were given out in error. If the creator is close to a permanent ban, TikTok will notify them.

Related to this, the company said it will also begin to test a new feature in select markets that will inform creators which videos of theirs have been marked as ineligible for recommendation to users’ For You feeds, and why.

For end users, however, another new test may be more interesting.

Soon, TikTok will allow some users to tap a new “Refresh” button to receive an updated set of For You feed recommendations. Though TikTok’s feed is highly personalized and fairly addictive, many complain the content becomes stale as it doesn’t add enough variety after some time. With the new refresh button, which will be available in account settings, users will be able to force the app to bring “new, diversified content not based on previous activity or interactions” to their For You feed.

After hitting the button, users will then begin to see content that’s based on their new interactions, a TikTok spokesperson told TechCrunch. In addition to providing a refreshed feed, the company noted that the feature could serve as a way to support potentially vulnerable users who want to distance themselves from their current content experience.

The changes to TikTok’s policies and product come on the heels of increased concern over the app’s ties to China and the risks it poses. Across the U.S., TikTok has been banned on government devices after executive orders from governors prohibited the app. Several universities have banned the app on their Wi-Fi networks as well. And the Biden administration banned TikTok from government devices in a bill signed at the end of December. In response, TikTok has been taking meetings with officials, think tanks, and public interest groups in Washington, The New York Times reported, and this week invited media to tour its Transparency and Accountability Center in L.A.

Amid the increasing calls for a nationwide ban in the U.S., TikTok has been working to convince the public of its platform safety and rolling out new transparency tools that inform users why videos were recommended or allow them to filter out specific content. However, with every new announcement, there comes a bit of bad press, too. For instance, it was revealed last month the company had a secret heating button to make videos go viral, and just before that, Forbes reported TikTok had spied on its journalists. These reveals have tarnished the company’s image further at a time when it’s trying to increase trust.

TikTok says the refresh button will roll out in the “coming days” while the policy update is currently rolling out globally and users will be notified as it’s available to them.

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Roblox to host a free virtual Super Bowl concert featuring Saweetie • TechCrunch

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Hip-hop artist Saweetie is performing exclusively in Roblox for the NFL’s Super Bowl LVII pregame on February 10, the National Football League announced today.

The virtual concert will take place at 7:00 pm ET in Warner Music Group’s Rhythm City, a new destination on Roblox that was announced earlier this week. Rhythm City is set to launch on February 4 and offers mini-games and social roleplaying experiences like becoming a musician and owning a house and car.

The NFL claims that Saweetie will give a “family-friendly,” fully motion-captured performance and sing her hit songs like “Tap-In.” The concert will re-air every hour until Sunday, February 12.

Fans that virtually attend the Saweetie Super Bowl Concert can also get digital items on the Roblox marketplace or win items by finishing challenges. The digital collection includes wearable hairstyles, hats, boots, headphones, and sweatsuits, which are based on Saweetie’s merchandise and her album looks.

“I’m really excited to bring this iconic moment to the metaverse and share my music with a whole new audience in such a unique way! As an artist, innovator, and football fan, to be able to perform during Super Bowl LVII weekend in this new world – Rhythm City on Roblox – is something I never imagined that I would be involved in. I am very grateful and happy about this opportunity,” Saweetie said in a statement.

Image Credits: Roblox/NFL

The NFL is also launching Super NFL Tycoon within Roblox. The metaverse experience allows users to pretend that they’re NFL team owners, draft a team, and build a stadium. Super NFL Tycoon will launch on February 4 to coincide with the virtual Super Bowl concert. Users can move between Super NFL Tycoon and Rhythm City through a designated portal.

Interestingly, the experience–which is presented by the global financial technology platform Intuit—is also an attempt to teach younger users “important financial concepts in a fun and engaging manner,” said Lara Balazs, Intuit’s Chief Marketing Officer and General Manager of Strategic Partner Group. So, while users fantasize about owning an NFL team, they can also learn how to manage cash flow, payroll, taxes, and customer acquisition (because that’s supposed to be fun somehow).

The concert, Super NFL Tycoon, and Rhythm City are also developed in partnership with Gamefam, a gaming company across metaverse platforms.

“Bringing a cultural moment like the Super Bowl to the metaverse with such innovative partners marks a shift in how brands are coming together to create the next generation of metaverse gaming experiences,” said Ricardo Briceno, Chief Business Officer of Gamefam.

This is the second year in a row that NFL and Roblox are offering the NFL Tycoon experience. For the 2022 Super Bowl, Roblox users could attend an interactive event called “Destruction House,” inspired by the Super Bowl LVI commercial. Also, in 2021, Roblox launched a virtual NFL storefront, giving users NFL-themed digital items to dress up their Roblox avatars.

The NFL’s foray into the metaverse points how the league tries to cater to a younger demographic.

“Working with Roblox has enabled us to create interactive shared experiences and with the virtual concert and Super NFL Tycoon, we will unlock deeper fan engagement,” said Ed Kiang, VP of Video Gaming at the NFL.

Roblox reported that its third quarter saw the fastest year-over-year growth in daily active users that range from 17 to 24 years old, which saw an increase of 41%. Roblox’s daily active users that are older than 13 years old grew by 34% year-over-year and accounted for 54% of all daily active users.

The streaming rights deal with Amazon has proven to attract a younger audience for the NFL. Amazon reported that Thursday Night Football (TNF) on Prime Video delivered an audience eight years younger than last year’s average TNF audience. The NFL also recently struck a deal with YouTube for the Sunday Ticket.

Super Bowl LVII will take place next Sunday, February 12, with the Kansas City Chiefs playing against the Philadelphia Eagles.

In September, Apple Music announced it is the official sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

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Netflix to include more EVs in its TV shows and movies as part of new partnership with GM • TechCrunch

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Netflix and General Motors announced today that the streaming service will join the automaker’s “Everybody In” campaign that aims to accelerate mass adoption of electric vehicles. As part of the partnership, Netflix says it will increase the presence of EVs in Netflix-produced shows and films, where relevant over the course of the next year, while also taking steps to enable more sustainable productions.

To kick off the new alliance, the two companies will air a new commercial during the Super Bowl on February 12 that will see Will Ferrell enter the world of some of Netflix’s popular shows and films, including “Army of the Dead” andSquid Game,” in various GM EVs.  

The automaker’s EVs will be also seen in select Netflix shows and films, including “Love Is Blind,” “Queer Eye” and “Unstable,” which will feature the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, GMC HUMMER EV Pickup and Cadillac LYRIQ, respectively.

A spokesperson for GM told TechCrunch that the company is not paying Netflix for placement of its vehicles in the streaming service’s content. While GM is a partner on Netflix’s ad-supported tier, the company said that the strategic alliance between the two companies is separate from any advertising deal. The goal of the alliance is to expose people to EVs in a natural way.

GM says the two companies don’t have an end date in mind for the alliance, and that the automaker is looking forward to working with Netflix as it builds up its advertising business. As for the Super Bowl ad, GM says it’s unclear if the two will partner on another similar ad in the future.

The automaker says it will educate show runners about EVs so that they can find a way to integrate them naturally into storylines in a way that doesn’t make them feel out of place when they appear in TV shows and movies.

Netflix has been incorporating EVs into the TV shows and movies that it produces over the past year. The streaming service included EVs from Hyundai and Audi in its content, along with EVs from GM, as well. Now, Netflix will have access to even more EVs as part of its new alliance with GM.

“Entertainment has a huge impact on culture. We want to make EVs famous on streaming, small and silver screens to build an EV culture through storytelling that incorporates the experiences of driving and owning an EV,” said GM Global Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl in a press release. “Netflix is a great partner because of the company’s compelling storytelling, commitment to sustainability and track record of sparking conversations that shape cultural trends. We are united in creating a better, more sustainable future for our world as we bring everybody in on EVs.”

Netflix says it’s also planning to become more sustainable behind the camera within its productions by optimizing energy use, then electrifying it, and decarbonizing the rest.

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