Fibre broadband advertising to be investigated

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People buying fibre broadband for speed may get a slower service than they expect

The UK’s advertising watchdog is looking into the way so-called “fibre broadband” services are marketed.

In some cases, ISPs are advertising services as fibre that rely on slower copper wires for the final link to a customer’s home.

The probe has been prompted by consumer complaints and calls from MP Matt Warman to investigate.

Mr Warman said ISPs were misleading customers by giving them copper when they expected fibre.

Misled?

In a statement, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was acting because of “evolving concerns” about the way fibre broadband services were advertised, and recent changes to government policy, which meant far more people would potentially have access to such services.

Policy papers spelling out the government’s view made clear that fibre should be used only to describe services that rely on the faster cables from end to end, it said.

The ASA said it would consider whether ISPs should be able to continue using “fibre broadband” to describe both full and part-fibre services.

“We will be considering whether the use of that term is likely to cause people to be materially misled,” it said.

The ASA did not say when it would complete its work but said it would provide an update by the summer.

The UK’s Internet Service Providers Association has yet to comment on the ASA’s investigation.

Andrew Ferguson, co-founder of the ThinkBroadband website, said “clarity” on advertising would be welcome. “Then we can avoid adverts that promote fibre optic broadband but clearly show a coax cable with a metal core,” he said.

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom offers an app that can help consumers check broadband speeds and availability. Commercial sites. such as ThinkBroadband and USwitch, have also made tools that let people check deals and speeds available.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39490847

Overwatch ‘cheat-maker’ told to pay $8.6m to Blizzard

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Blizzard

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Blizzard acted to ensure gamers did not gain unfair advantages within Overwatch and other titles

The developer of the hit video games World of Warcraft and Overwatch has successfully sued a company that sold “cheat” tools for its titles.

A California court ordered German firm Bossland to pay $8.6m (£6.8m) to Blizzard for 42,818 counts of copyright infringement.

Blizzard had argued that Bossland had reverse-engineered and otherwise altered its games without permission.

It follows related court rulings in the UK and Germany.

Bossland had attempted to have the US case dismissed, but did not defend itself in court, according to the news site Torrentfreak.

It also faces having to cover about $177,000 of legal costs.

“The Bossland hacks destroy the integrity of the Blizzard games, thereby alienating and frustrating legitimate players and diverting revenue from Blizzard to defendants,” the US games developer had argued.

The tools included the ability to see other players’ positions, health scores and other information from a distance within games.

The Zwickau-based firm could not be reached for comment.

Its website remains active and continues to advertise cheats for several Blizzard games, insisting “botting is not against any law”.

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Bossland

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Bossland continues to offer cheats for Blizzard and other developers’ titles despite its court losses

However, UK visitors are blocked from access and are instead shown a message saying the sale of its software to “any person resident in the United Kingdom, constitutes an infringement of Blizzard’s intellectual property rights and an inducement to players of Blizzard’s games to breach their agreements with Blizzard”.

One games industry analyst said the US games developer had a lot riding on its multiplayer titles remaining fair.

“If the cheats work then they fundamentally break the gameplay mechanics as it’s impossible to balance these types of game as a consequence,” commented Piers Harding-Rolls from IHS Technology.

“If you have a competitive game like Overwatch – which is starting to branch out into the e-sports playing-for-money scene – if cheats are being used it spoils the whole concept.

“And even outside the competitive scene, if casual games don’t feel they are experiencing a level playing field then they can be turned off playing.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39490317

Anti-bullying campaigners call for a ban on chatbot app SimSimi

A chatbot app which has been linked to cyber bullying has been taken down in Ireland.

Now there are calls by anti-bullying campaigners to ban the app in the UK too.

The app, called SimSimi, can be “taught” responses by any user when certain names or words are typed in.

It means that users – many of whom are school pupils – are getting abusive replies when they type their own names in to the app.

“I think they have a duty of care of suspend the service for all young people,” says Liam Hackett of anti-bullying campaign Ditch the Label.

“Their content is predominantly negative, abusive, sexually graphic or violent.”

He adds: “Essentially, you can go on there and put whatever kind of content you want and there’s no repercussions for you.”

Screenshot from the app

“I’ve been a mental health activist for four years, and I’ve never seen anything as bad as SimSimi,” says Jamie Harrington, 18, who was part of the campaign in Ireland to take down the app.

“We got 5,000 signatures on a petition, we spoke to Facebook, Google and Twitter’s online safety teams and they agreed that SimSimi needed to be taken down.

“It was taken down after five days of campaigning.”

SimSimi is currently at number six on the free chart in Apple’s App Store.

Anti-bullying campaigners are worried that its being used for cyber bullying.

There are similarities between SimSimi and Ask.fm, a website where anonymous comments could be left about other people.

That site was linked to the suicides of a number of teens a few years ago.

Screenshot of the teach function

However, SimSimi could be even more dangerous because of its use of artificial intelligence, says campaigner Jamie.

“[SimSimi] is gathering information and young people through their Facebook, Twitter and social media, as well as people inputting answers,” he says.

Users can search their own names or username, and the app will show them what others have said about them.

The “teach” feature means that a user can enter some text and tell SimSimi what it should reply with when someone else types that text in.

Some people will wonder why so users don’t just delete the app so they don’t have to read abuse directed at them.

But it’s not as simple as that, says Jamie Harrington.

“We live in a society at the moment where people are worried about what they hear about themselves, and nobody wants anybody else talking about them,” he says.

“It has an emotional impact as well,” adds Liam Hackett.

“Particularly if you are being bullied offline as well, the impact can be devastating,” he says.

Screenshot from the app

Liam’s advice would be to not download the app in the first place.

“It can create things like paranoia, because it isn’t a direct person who is actually saying it to you,” he says.

“It is a robot on their behalf, which has purely user-generated content – and I am guessing it’s pretty much impossible to find out who has posted that about you.”

The app has actually been around since 2002, and is popular in South Korea and India.

It was banned in Thailand in 2012 after users taught it to insult the political leaders of the country.

ISMaker, the South Korean company behind the app, have not responded to requests for comment.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/articles/39453778

Rentberry’s controversial property bid site expands in US

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Rentberry

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The Rentberry website is expanding across the US

How would you feel if, desperate for somewhere to live, you had to bid against other prospective renters?

Some people were perturbed when Rentberry – a website that runs rental auctions – launched last year.

In fact, in an article its own boss highlights, one tenant rights lawyer described the site as “callous”.

“We made a huge splash,” chief executive Alex Lubinsky recalls.

The site allows landlords to set a preferred rent. Prospective tenants then bid below that figure to see if they can get a good deal.

During the process, landlords see not only the bids, but information about the would-be tenants – including their credit score.

There are now about 100,000 properties and more than 50,000 users on the site, which is also expanding to offer listings across the whole of the United States.

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Rentberry

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Alex Lubinksy claims that Rentberry can help making the renting process more transparent

Mr Lubinsky insists that the system is fair.

He argues, for instance, that it is better than going into a closed or partially closed bidding system where tenants do not know the full details of what others may be offering.

And he reveals a new feature: in the coming weeks Rentberry will implement a machine learning system that will analyse local rental market data to help landlords set reasonable prices.

It will also try to rate prospective tenants for landlords based on information that Rentberry has about them, such as how many years they have been working.

“People say we create competition, but competition already exists,” he adds, arguing that “only the market” can suggest what is a fair price for a property.

In New York, for example, around 4,000 properties are listed on the site – and in such a “hot market” they tend to be let on Rentberry within four or five days, says Mr Lubinsky.


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Getty Images

What is the market like?

At the moment, the price of rental properties in many parts of the US is going up.

Mortgage rates are also up – so more people who would like to buy a house are having to rent instead, which further increases demand, explains Adam DeScantis at the National Association of Realtors.

“First-time buyers made up 32% of buyers in February, historically that should be closer to 40%,” he says.

More than a third of US households are renters – nearly 110 million people.

The rise in renters has also followed millions of foreclosures thanks to the financial crisis, points out Jonathan Spader at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“Rent increases in many cities in the US have outpaced incomes, making affordability a challenge,” he explains.


Rentberry has faced criticism from some who feel it is likely to push up prices – only those with the biggest budgets will fare well when bidding, they say.

In response, Mr Lubinsky says that, on average, agreed rents were 5% less than the landlord’s asking price on the platform. But how does that compare with what the rest of the market is doing?

“We compared the data on the rental platforms in US for the largest cities (including New York and Miami) and at this moment the final rental price on Rentberry is 4.3% lower than on other sites,” he adds.

Mr Lubinsky also points out that the site requires bidders to submit personal information such as their social security number in order to take part in an auction – an effort to stop people trying to drive up the cost with false bids.

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Rentberry

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Renters bid for properties – with landlords able to see credit scores and choose the best offers

“People who actually submit offers are dead serious about getting the place,” he says.

That might not be enough to satisfy some of the more traditional property managers, suggests New York estate agent Douglas Wagner at Bond New York.

“Sometimes they want to meet and interview a tenant personally before they offer a lease,” he explains.

UK-based property expert Kate Faulkner also points out that not everything can be decided on data alone.

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Getty Images

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Rentberry says it provides transparency to the rental market

In general, prospective tenants and landlords need to meet, she argues, and get “reassurance that they are going to be able to help each other over time”.

Mr Wagner explains, though, that at the moment the rental market is hotting up in New York so believes that perhaps some landlords will be tempted by a new approach.

“They may want to buy in and test it,” he suggests.

“But I also anticipate that the more traditional, older generation management companies might resist because they’re so accustomed to the way they do things.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39355984

Ikutaro Kakehashi: Roland founder and music pioneer dies aged 87

A picture of the much-loved TR-808 drum machine created by Ikutaro KakehashiImage copyright
Wikipedia/CC

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Ikutaro Kakehashi was behind the versatile TR-808 drum machine

The music world is mourning the loss of Roland founder and electronic instrument pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi, who has died aged 87.

The Japanese engineer created many popular drum machines, including the iconic TR-808.

Its sound is a staple of hip-hop and electronic music, used by everyone from Kanye West to Marvin Gaye.

Kakehashi received a technical Grammy in 2013 for contributions to electronic music technology.

Dave Smith – Kakehashi’s co-winner – told the BBC he “was just an amazing man, a good friend, a very good competitor of course and just innovative continually all that time”.

Before leading Roland for 40 years, Mr Kakehashi founded Ace Tone in the 1960s.

The firm made amplifiers and primitive drum machines, laying the groundwork for the engineer’s future success.

  • Roland TR-808: The drum machine that refused to die

The sound of the TR-808 proved a game-changer in the 1980s and 90s.

It appears on Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”, and in the opening bars of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”.

Rapper Kanye West’s 2008 album 808s Heartbreak showcases the machine throughout.

Media captionToday: 808 State’s Graham Massey on the Roland TR-808

Musicians have shared their tributes to Mr Kakehashi online, calling his impact immeasurable.

Marc Almond of synthpop duo Soft Cell called him “a man who changed music”.

Martyn Ware, who played keyboards for The Human League, told the BBC: “Roland was central to everything that we did for the whole of the first two albums – they featured on every track.”

“We were loyal to them like people would be loyal to a football team.”

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Twitter / Marc Almond

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@moogmusicinc

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@erolalkan

In 2015 the TR-808 was the subject of a documentary featuring Pharrell Williams, Fatboy Slim, and Phil Collins – among many others.

In a farewell to Mr Kakehashi, his colleague for almost four decades, Roland developer Tommy Snyder wrote: “He was a super funny, wonderful and gifted human being, and his contributions to the musical instrument world, and music, touched millions of people worldwide. RIP dear Taro.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-39471567

Google reveals latest UK tax bill

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Getty Images

Google was charged £36.4m in UK corporation tax last year, according to its latest accounts.

The US search engine giant recorded sales of £1.03bn and a pre-tax profit of £149m in the UK for the 12 months to the end of June 2016.

Like other major tech firms, Google has come under pressure over its tax arrangements.

Labour said the firm was still not paying its “fair share” of tax in the UK.

Google’s accounts also showed it hired an extra 600 workers to take its UK workforce to nearly 3,000 last year.


Analysis

Simon Gompertz, BBC personal finance correspondent

Google is adamant that it is paying the 20% rate of corporation tax on its UK profits that businesses have to pay.

But the debate over its tax affairs is likely to rumble on, because of the way in which it organises its activities across international borders.

Google declared turnover of just over £1bn in the UK in the year to last June.

But the latest accounts filed in the US by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, show UK sales of more than £6bn.

One reason for the discrepancy is that it treats its business here as a development and marketing services operation.

Sales are booked in the Irish Republic, where the tax rate happens to be lower.


A Google spokesman said: “As an international business, we pay the majority of our taxes in our home country, as well as all the taxes due in the UK.

“We have recently announced significant new investment in the UK, including new offices in Kings Cross for 7,000 staff.”

Google agreed to pay £130m in back taxes to the UK last year, which was widely criticised as not being enough.

The sum covered money owed since 2005 and followed a six-year inquiry by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

George Osborne, who was chancellor at the time, described the deal as a “victory”, but Labour’s John McDonnell said the sums were “trivial”.

The agreement came after years of criticism of Google and other multinational firms over their tax arrangements in the UK and across Europe.

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Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said Google paid a lower tax rate than many working families

Mr McDonnell said the latest figures showed Google was still not paying enough tax.

He said: “It is a national disgrace that by paying just £36m in tax Google could have an effective tax rate lower than many working families in our country.

“And it exposes the complacency at the heart of this Tory government, which is allowing this to still continue despite last year’s scandal.”

He added: “It seems that the so-called ‘successful’ tax deal with Google that George Osborne boasted about last year has meant that they are still not paying their fair share under his successor Philip Hammond.”

‘Transparency needed’

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said: “Yet again we see a large corporation paying a rate of tax that belies its significant presence and business transactions in the UK.

“This is why the PAC is working internationally to press for greater tax transparency so that we can all see clearly how much tax corporations pay and where.

She added: “There is already strong international support and growing collaboration for changing the way tax is reported by multinationals.

“This latest tax contribution from Google just underlines why this is so important.”

HMRC declined to comment on Google’s tax payment, saying it did not discuss identifiable taxpayers.

An HMRC spokesman said: “Everyone has to pay the tax due under the law and we do not settle for less.

“Our most recent figures show that HMRC brought in a record £26bn in extra tax for our public services, with £7.3 billion of that total coming from the 2,100 largest and most complex businesses in the UK.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39456662

Smartphone use blamed for road deaths

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The distractions of a mobile phone can prove dangerous in traffic

A sharp rise in US pedestrian deaths has been partly blamed on people using their smartphones while driving or crossing the road.

The US Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that there were 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than 20 years.

In the last six years, fatalities have grown at four times the rate of overall traffic deaths.

The report says a number of factors are to blame, including mobile use.

“A more recent factor contributing to the increase in pedestrian fatalities may be the growing use of smartphones by all road users, which can be a significant source of distraction for both drivers and pedestrians,” the report stated.

Other factors include increased driving, due to an improved economy, lower petrol prices and more walking for exercise and environmental reasons.

Alcohol is also blamed, with 34% of pedestrians and 15% of drivers involved in fatal crashes being intoxicated at the time.

The report is based on data from all states for the first six months of 2016.

The UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it also saw mobile phones as dangerously distracting.

“More and more older teenagers and young adults are being injured as a result of ‘distraction’, as a result of crossing [roads] while using their phone. This can be as a result of having a conversation, listening to music, texting or using the net,” said road safety manager Nick Lloyd.

‘Smartphone zombies’

Some cities around the world are taking measures to counter the issue of smartphone distraction.

In the Bavarian town of Augsburg, the station has fitted red and green lights in the ground to warn people who “stubbornly look at their smartphone”.

Officials in the Dutch town of Bodegraven ran trials in February of traffic lights that project a red or green lighting strip across the pavements to alert smartphone “zombies” who were glued to their mobiles as they cross the road.

“Social media, games, WhatsApp and music are major distractions in traffic,” town alderman Kees Oskam said at the time.

Dutch road safety group VVN said that the idea “rewarded bad behaviour”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39453497

Two-fifths of gaming firms ‘could relocate over Brexit’

Still from Batman Arkham KnightImage copyright
Rocksteady

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UK games such as Batman Arkham Knight have been international hits.

Some 40% of British gaming companies say they are considering relocating some or all of their business because of Brexit.

Companies cited losing access to talent and funding as major risks when Britain leaves the bloc.

A survey by industry group Ukie polled 75 of the more than 2,000 games firms in the UK, most of which worked in development.

The government said it hoped to “continue to attract” global talent.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “The UK’s creative industries are one of our biggest success stories, and we want to make sure the UK remains a world leader in video games production.

“As the prime minister made clear, we will continue to attract the brightest and best global talent. And we will continue to work with our creative industries to help seize the exciting opportunities that will flow from a new place for Britain in the world.”

It is currently conducting a review of the creative industries.

Ukie said this week it wanted to work with the government to “shape a favourable post-EU landscape for our world-leading games and interactive entertainment businesses”.

Sales of UK games hit £2.96bn last year – more than from either video or music.

‘Diverse talent’

Ukie carried out extensive consultations between September and February and found the main concern about Brexit for companies was losing access to skilled workers, with more than 57% saying they employed staff from the European Union.

Some 98% of respondents said EU nationals with the right skills should have a “blanket right” to both live and work in the UK in the future.

“In very competitive, innovative global industries, like games, if UK businesses cannot attract the diverse talent they want and need, some firms are likely to relocate, taking jobs and economic opportunities with them,” Ukie said.

Others said divergences with EU laws around data could also pose a risk after Brexit.

A total of 63% said the cost of separating the data they hold on UK customers could impose “significant costs”, with one firm saying it may stop publishing games in the UK as a result.

There were also concerns that Brexit could leave UK companies unable to access funding from EU programmes such as Creative Europe – although Ukie said Brexit also offered an opportunity to improve public subsidies for the industry.

More than 60% of games companies forecast growth in their businesses this year, down from 80% in 2016.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39443169

Court to rule on online luxury resellers

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PA

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Amazon Marketplace enables third-party sellers to sell new and used goods

One of Europe’s top courts is due to open a landmark case that could determine whether luxury goods companies can ban online sales.

The case has been brought by German make-up and perfume brand Coty.

It wants to stop one of its retailers from selling its goods on online marketplaces such as Amazon.

Owners of luxury brands argue that they should have the right to choose who distributes their products, to protect their image and exclusivity.

The dispute is in the spotlight now because the European Commission is pushing for more cross-border online sales to boost growth and jobs and catch up with the US and Asia.

Among other questions, the court will consider whether protection of a luxury image is a legitimate reason for a selective distribution system.

The case originally went to a court in Germany, but, later, guidance was sought by the European Court of Justice.

The ruling could have a significant impact on the future relationship between brands and resellers and impose widespread bans on the sale of luxury goods on Amazon Marketplace and eBay.

As well as fighting to control their distribution channels, luxury brands are also battling to control the amount of counterfeit goods online.

Matt Jones, a solicitor at law firm EIP said the ruling would provide clarity on where luxury goods can be sold.

“Luxury brands do not want their stuff sold on platforms that also sell fake goods and cheap alternatives,” he told the BBC.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39441826

Samsung Galaxy S8

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Samsung compared its new phone designs to art

Samsung would have you believe it has redefined smartphone design with its latest top-end handsets, the Galaxy S8 and the S8+.

It’s true they appear sleeker than before thanks to a decision to elongate their screens, make the home buttons “invisible” and put the fingerprint sensors on the back.

But for all the talk of “infinity displays” and “works of art”, they remain oblong mobiles that are hard to mistake for anything else.

More evolution than revolution, perhaps.

Potentially more groundbreaking is the inclusion of a new virtual assistant – Bixby – that can see as well as hear. Samsung now plans to roll it out to its TVs and other electronics.

And critically, the firm must now avoid another exploding battery debacle or some other misstep if it is to retain consumer confidence.

So, what did internet pundits and the public make of the launch?

Media captionWATCH: Samsung explains the benefits of its new design and Bixby

Techcrunch

The screen monopolises around 80% of the phone’s front, by Samsung’s count… Like the Note before it, it’s pretty impressive how much phone the company has managed to cram into a relatively thin piece of real estate that’s 1.5mm slimmer than its predecessor.

Verge

These phones are incredibly well-designed. There are no seams, only the barest of camera bumps, and everything seems milled down to sub-millimetre tolerances. They feel inevitable in a way that almost becomes boring.

Quartz

The device comes with a glaring omission: a physical home button… In forsaking the button, Samsung has beat its major competitor to the punch. Journalists and analysts have long speculated that Apple’s next iPhone will also remove the home button.

Mashable

I’m not upset the fingerprint sensor is on the back. I’m annoyed at precisely where Samsung decided to put it: off-centre, next to the 12-megapixel camera… The biggest problem is, of course, how smudged up the rear camera lens will get from your finger if you miss and touch it instead.

Pocket-lint

When Bixby does eventually launch, you’ll get a similar experience to Google Assistant but Bixby aims to go that little bit further, helping you control your device and find other information. Based on what we saw, Bixby seems to be very capable and worth the wait.

Business Insider

In a controlled demo of an early version of Bixby that Samsung showed me last week, I didn’t see much promise… I’m also not convinced that talking to your phone is always better than using the controls on the screen, and I’m definitely not convinced this is the solution to Samsung’s confusing user-interface problems.

Wall Street Journal

Samsung faces gigantic competition in getting other apps, services and devices to join in. Bixby competes with Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. There just won’t be enough space on the island for all of them – and Bixby is last to arrive.

Cnet

Fail and Bixby will be a laughing stock. Succeed and Samsung can wiggle a little more from Google’s Android grasp.



Twitter

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Samsung says it is hard to see where the screen ends and the Galaxy S8′s frame begins

I should have waited a year. Iris scanner and Bixby are the standout features. @DJXeidy21

Samsung and LG must [have] had the same meeting about their new phones. Look almost the same, and expensive. @Tevosilverfox

Wow the new #Samsung #GalaxyS8 is £689!! That’s ridiculously expensive. @Capt_tuBBymAN

As a Galaxy Edge user, I love the Infinity Display on the #GalaxyS8. Bigger screen, longer battery life, and waterproof? Yes, please. @jcnyc_

Nice Galaxy S8 but I’m more interested in a phone that doesn’t crack when I drop it, wasn’t looking for more sides to smash. @Lou_LouD

Bixby sounds like a butler from a stately manor. Fetch the car Bixby I am heading to the city. @WendyWings

First one that makes an app to remap the Bixby button on the Galaxy S8 to Google Assistant wins my $$$ @MKBHD

Reddit

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Samsung opted to keep a headphone jack in its new phones

Headphone jack! Headphone jack! Sorry Apple, trading in my 6S for this beauty. _EventHorizon_

Looks highly incremental spec wise. Would have preferred an edge-less model. bukithd

The battery capacity especially is a let down. I get that the physical dimensions aren’t very big, but a 6in+ screen should have a bigger battery than what this has. dyyni

The software didn’t look horrific, like in the past. It might not be so bad. CelestialWarrior

Will these burn your house down too? McMeaty

Facebook

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Reuters

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The new phones will be released on 21 April

Shots fired!!! Let’s see how Apple answers. I’m not a Samsung fan but good job! Let’s just hope they don’t have battery issues like the last one. Javier Lopez

Disappointed! Specs are nothing like I was hoping for. No 4K screen, no improvement on camera/video quality. Same amount of RAM. There’s very little difference between this and the S7 Edge. I’ll stick to my theory of always skip a generation of phones. Jim Jackson

Me: Bixby, trade in my S7 Edge to S8+. Bixby: Sell your kidneys to me… Henry Dazo Jr

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39430228