Author Archives: Ewdison Then

Ewdison Then is the founder of GiXiO, the publisher of SlashGear - An open-source advocate, Linux geek, high-performance computing engineer, and consumer technology journalist based in Japan. He was heavily involved in open source projects such as Fedora Linux, Blue Linux, and FoxServ WAMP stacks. Twitter / LinkedIn / Email

Instagram Chronological Order returns: Here’s why and when

Instagram Chronological Order returns: Here’s why and when

There was a point in the distant past when social networks, at least those that displayed any sort of "timeline," showed a chronological list of what others have been doing as they happened. Those times are long gone, however, and the latest generation of social media users have been raised to accept the status quo of "algorithmic feeds" as the best way to keep on top of things. For years, Instagram fought against the backlash and criticisms of that switch, but it is taking a single Senate inquiry to finally make it change its mind and bring the much-requested feature back.

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Galaxy S21 FE might have one big advantage after all

Galaxy S21 FE might have one big advantage after all

Watching the Galaxy S21 FE story unfold is a bit entertaining, almost like observing a hero's journey in progress. Right from the start, it almost seemed like it was doomed to fail, and only a Samsung exec's bullishness provided hope for its survival. Now it seems that the journey is about to come to an end, and just like any hero, the Galaxy S21 FE might actually come out victorious thanks to one seemingly insignificant detail that could turn out to be its killer feature.

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Firefox 95’s new sandbox aims to isolate and stop all threats on day 1

Firefox 95’s new sandbox aims to isolate and stop all threats on day 1

Web browsers have become not only more powerful but also more complicated over the past decade. While this might work in people's favor as far as features are concerned, it can also work against them when their security and privacy are involved. Threat actors tirelessly look for vulnerabilities to exploit in order to gain access to users' computers and phones, while browser makers play a never-ending game of cat and mouse to plug up those holes. Mozilla believes it has come up with a longer-lasting solution to this problem and is shipping Firefox version 95 with a new kind of sandbox that could protect users even from bugs that appear on day one of a release.

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Instagram parental controls about to change the way you browse

Instagram parental controls about to change the way you browse

Although Meta itself is no stranger to controversy and legal inquiries, it was Instagram that was put on the hot seat a few months back for the way it treated its younger users. From accusations of trying to profit at the expense of teens' mental health to criticisms for lack of parental control, Instagram has been painted recently as an unsafe place for young people to be, despite its popularity with that demographic. The social network has tried to recover from that bad PR and is now announcing features to reassure parents, but some of those won't be rolling out until next year.

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Smartwatch market grows as fitness trackers fade

Smartwatch market grows as fitness trackers fade

Although wearable technology has been around ever since the advent of fitness trackers, it wasn't until smartwatches came along that it was treated as a distinct category of its own, worthy of being analyzed by market intelligence companies. Even then, smartwatches were still considered a relative minority despite having dozens of models available, including the highly popular Apple Watch. The tides of change, however, are turning, and smartwatches are starting to outnumber simpler trackers in terms of shipments. Amusingly enough, neither are the top-selling "wearables" as far as last quarter is concerned.

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TCL Fold and Slide prototype phone combines tech’s best and worst

TCL Fold and Slide prototype phone combines tech’s best and worst

Foldable phones, at least the book-like ones, are designed to solve the problem of size. These are phones that try to still fit in your pocket while offering a larger screen when needed. Even with the most advanced foldable devices on the market today, we're still far from the ideal, and no rollable alternative has yet found footing in a consumer-friendly release. Ever the display visionary, TCL came up with an idea to solve that size puzzle using both designs, and it is showing off a working prototype that could have you both amazed and worried at the same time.

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Pixel 6a dummy leak confirms the loss of a beloved feature

Pixel 6a dummy leak confirms the loss of a beloved feature

The Pixel 6 is notable for many things, and one of those is its unique and rather quirky design. Bringing back a visor-like look that it first used on the Huawei-made Nexus 6P, Google gave the Pixel 6 series some personality that sets it apart from the competition. There have already been rumors that the Pixel 6a will follow suit, which is definitely a good thing. Unfortunately, the Pixel 6a could closely follow the Pixel 6 as well in one rather unfortunate way for fans of the Pixel "a" series.

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Huawei Mate V foldable clamshell imminent release tipped with unique feature

Huawei Mate V foldable clamshell imminent release tipped with unique feature

Samsung has been reporting positive figures for its foldable phones this year, but it isn't the more talented Galaxy Z Fold 3 that's taking the lion's share. Thanks to its more affordable price tag and more practical form, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is reportedly Samsung's bestseller, pushing the company to allocate a large portion of its production pipeline next year to the Galaxy Z Flip 4. Huawei might be eying a part of the pie with its rumored Mate V, and this foldable flip phone could arrive this month and boast of an innovation no other phone has.

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Pixel Watch marketing materials confirm unique bezel-less design

Pixel Watch marketing materials confirm unique bezel-less design

The Internet went buzzing a few days back when news of the Pixel Watch broke cover again. It wasn't exactly the first time Google was rumored to be working on its own wearable and, to give credit where it's due, Jon Prosser from Front Page Tech reported the same thing months ago. The most recent report did at least confirm plans for this Pixel Watch again while leaving some things still open to change. The YouTuber, however, is adding fuel to the fire by releasing not simple renders but actual marketing materials for the alleged Google-branded smartwatch.

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Apple Watch AssistiveTouch enables control with one-hand gestures

Apple Watch AssistiveTouch enables control with one-hand gestures

Like most consumer electronics, smartwatches have been made and designed for the majority of people. Although worn only on one wrist, the smartwatch often requires a hand from the opposite arm to navigate the user interface. Voice control can only go so far, and smartwatches, just like their smartphone cousins, are primarily touch-centric devices. Fortunately, the Apple Watch has accessibility features that makes it possible to use the smartwatch with just one hand, giving wearers almost magical abilities to control the device.

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Apple could turn Epic Games’ app tax victory into unexpected defeat

Apple could turn Epic Games’ app tax victory into unexpected defeat

For years, developers and platform makers have been waging an almost silent war over how much each can really take out of every successful purchase or subscription. That struggle was brought to light recently when Epic Games not only publicly questioned the status quo but even dared to sue giants like Apple and Google. The repercussions of those lawsuits have so far gone in favor of developers and publishers, pushing app stores to make changes to the way they do business. Apple, however, may have found a loophole that would allow it to still tax developers even if they don't use its App Store payment system.

The 70/30 Rule

Few probably remember now when or where it started, but it has become an almost de facto standard that sellers take only 70% of profits while distribution platforms take a 30% commission. That practice may have become notorious on Apple App Store and Google Play Store, but that practice has been used by many stores, both digital and physical. Most of the digital games distribution channels like Steam use it but so do physical stores like Walmart.

It has been common practice for stores to impose some tax on owners selling their products through those channels, and it makes the most sense in the context of a brick-and-mortar store. App store owners like Apple and Google also justify the cut they get by saying how it goes into improving the store platform, usually by developing stronger security measures. Not everyone, however, buys those excuses.

Epic Games, for one, has cast doubt on any innovation Google makes for the Play Store to justify its 30% share. More importantly, the famed game developer and publisher calls into question the almost arbitrary restriction that Apple places on apps distributed on its App Store. In a nutshell, all the apps there have to use Apple's first-party payment system, which also means agreeing to that 70/30 split. Given it's nearly impossible to install apps on iPhones outside of that App Store, Epic Games has argued that this requirement is, in fact, illegal.

The Verdict

Epic Games' stance found victory both in courts of law and the court of public opinion. Indirectly, it has caused many companies to review and even change their policies. Microsoft, for example, pretty much made its own Store completely open and has waived many of the restrictions developers would encounter on Steam, the App Store, and the Google Play Store.

In some territories like South Korea, Google and Apple are being legally compelled to allow third-party payment systems in apps distributed through their stores. While Apple is still appealing that new law, Google has already accepted it, but with some caveats that we'll see later.

For its part, Apple has been making changes, like offering different tiers with lower taxes depending on what's being distributed or how much an app is making. One of its biggest changes is to allow apps to link to an external site when signing up for a subscription, and soon, it will also be required to allow linking to external payment systems. It's not a clear win for developers and publishers, however, and Apple might still have the last laugh.

The Loophole

9to5Mac reports that Apple might still be getting a commission out of payments made outside of the App Store, as long as the link to the external payment system comes from an app that was installed through the App Store. That, in effect, means all the apps that are installed on iPhones and iPads.

This pretty much circumvents the spirit of Epic Games' lawsuit as well as the rulings that are being imposed against Apple. The reason why developers would want to give up the convenience of Apple Pay or Google Pay for in-app purchases is to escape that tax in the first place. The filing indicates that Apple doesn't see things the same way, at least legally speaking.

It isn't the only one either, as Google already revealed something similar last month, where it said it would take only 11% or 26% of profits when a third-party payment processor is used. The Android maker presents a list of justifications for this policy, and Apple will most likely use the same tactic if questioned. South Korean regulators are still investigating whether this is legally sound, and you can bet that Apple's injunction will be met with intense scrutiny as well.

NVIDIA Arm acquisition faces another hurdle with FTC lawsuit

NVIDIA Arm acquisition faces another hurdle with FTC lawsuit

Most people probably don't know it, and they certainly shouldn't have to, but Arm's processor technologies pretty much run the world today. It's present not just in smartphones and tablets, including Apple's iPhones, but also in supercomputers, cars, and quite a number of IoT products. It is because of that rather critical position that NVIDIA's plan to buy Arm from SoftBank is meeting a lot of resistance, and the latest to fall into place could be the final nail in the acquisition's coffin, unless the two companies can convince the FTC otherwise.

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