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By Jay Bonggolto
YouTube for iOS adds support for picture-in-picture mode in the US
by Jay Bonggolto
YouTube confirmed today that it has started rolling out support for picture-in-picture (PiP) mode to its iOS app in the U.S. The feature is available initially to premium subscribers, with a wider release for everyone in the country scheduled soon.
The feature offers a nifty option to watch a video in a small pop-up window on top of other tasks you want to do on your device at the same time. It comes in handy for occasions when you want to open your email, for example, and continue watching a video on the app at the same time. You can do so simply by playing a video in the app and then tapping the home button. The video will then shrink into a smaller player.
It has been available for quite sometime now, although it's limited only to certain platforms. For example, the capability was released to YouTube users on Android 8.0 Oreo for free in the U.S. back in 2018 after exclusively launching on YouTube's premium version.
Apple also introduced support for PiP when it announced iOS 14 in June of last year, allowing YouTube's mobile site users to watch a video on Safari on top of other tasks. However, that capability vanished in September 2020 for non-premium YouTube members. It was reinstated a month later on the service's mobile site for those users.
By Jay Bonggolto
Microsoft announces game stories in the Xbox app
by Jay Bonggolto
Microsoft announced today a new feature in the Xbox app for Android and iOS that's inspired by a popular feature from various social networking apps. The Xbox app is adding stories from various game brands such as Forza, Halo, and Sea of Thieves.
The new stories feature has been showcased on Xbox's official Twitter account, and it has a similar interface that you can find on social networking platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. Unlike stories from those services, however, the Xbox app's version displays the buttons for likes, shares, and comments at the bottom of the screen as well as their corresponding numbers.
Stories can be found below the cards of game titles and are labeled "official posts from games" instead of "stories". This means the content you will see are coming only from game brands you follow instead of from your friends like you can with most social media apps. There's no word on whether Microsoft will give users the ability to post stories on the app.
The new experience should be a welcome development for those who want to receive updates from their favorite game brands or studios. It also expands the app's capabilities after Microsoft added support for remote play last year along with a new UI that debuted on Xbox consoles with the October 2020 update.
Niantic teams up with Hasbro to develop a Transformers AR game
by Chandrakant Isi
Niantic, the developer behind the smash-hit Augmented Reality (AR) game Pokemon GO is prepping to launch another high-profile title. Its latest project turns Hasbro's iconic Transformers franchise into a mobile AR experience.
For the upcoming AR game dubbed Transformers: Heavy Metal, Niantic has handed off development duties to a Seattle-based studio Very Very Spaceship. Niantic's Executive Producer, Phil Hong, revealed that the Transformers game will be based on the company's Lightship platform. He further stated that the game will allow you to "team up with the likes of Bumblebee and the Autobots in the real world".
As per the company, Lightship supports real-time mapping by combining neural networks with cell phone cameras. The platform can detect and interact with various objects, buildings, ground, and sky to deliver a convincing AR experience.
If we can erase five Michael Bay movies from our memory, Transformers is one of the most beloved franchises from the 80s. According to Niantic, fans won't have to wait for too long as the game is set for a soft launch in select countries soon. It will be followed by a global rollout later this year. Fans can head over to TransformersHeavyMetal.com and pre-register for the game.
Launched in 2016, Niantic's Pokemon GO was such a rage that robbers started using it to mug unsuspecting players. Many distracted people even got into serious accidents while catching virtual monsters. It will be interesting to see how the reception for Transformers: Heavy Metal will be.
Is there something odd with the iPad Pro's Mini-LED screen or are you watching it wrong?
by Chandrakant Isi
It has been over a decade since the first iPad was introduced. Over the years, Apple consistently bumped up its specs with each iteration. What didn't change much, however, was the underlying display technology. Since 2010, Apple has relied on LCD screens with LED backlight for its iPad lineup. So when rumors of the Cupertino-based company embracing the mini-LED tech surfaced in 2019, fans were psyched. Websites dedicated to Apple news were quick to draw comparisons between mini-LED and OLED. Some even went as far as calling it the dream screen, and a best reason why you should buy the latest iPad Pro.
However, as the device shipped, users began complaining about a weird blooming effect on the display. Many consumers canceled their orders and even the ardent supporters described it as a "mixed verdict on mini-LED". What exactly went wrong with Apple's mini-LED display that was supposed to compete with the OLED tech?
Key differences between LCD and OLED
To understand the issue, we first need a primer on display technologies. In terms of home electronics, we experience two types of display technologies — emissive and transmissive.
OLED along with the good old CRT and Plasma tech are emissive displays where each pixel is self-illuminated and can generate colors. Since the other two technologies have been phased out, we will focus on OLED to get the point across. These panels can selectively turn off pixels to render inky blacks on the screen. Since they do away with the need for backlighting, OLED screens don't suffer from patchy brightness and light bleeding.
On the other hand, LCDs rely on backlight filtered through a layer of liquid crystal molecules, color filters, and polarizers to form an image. This particular process of rendering an image is lossy and comes with undesired side-effects such as uneven brightness, narrow viewing angles, and backlight bleeding. The biggest issue, however, is the inability to render proper blacks.
For instance, if you're watching Gravity (2013), the vastness of dark space will be rendered faithfully on an OLED screen. However, on an LCD screen, the panel's layer of liquid crystals won't be able to block backlight 100 percent. As a result, space will look more like a dark shade of grey instead of jet black.
Improving LCD's picture quality with better backlighting
To get around this shortcoming, manufacturers squeeze in more LEDs in their displays to get more granular control over backlighting. On expensive LCD panels, you get Full-Array Local Dimming (FALD) as opposed to the widely used Edge LED arrangement. As shown in the image below, a FALD display can pack in several hundred to thousand LEDs compared to a few dozen in a conventional LCD panel. More importantly, FALD panels can selectively dim or brighten up LED zones as per requirement.
How blooming comes into the picture
While this backlight technology improves an LCD's ability to produce blacks, it introduces a new issue known as blooming. This happens when the light meant for bright objects on the screen spills over the dimmed zones. Honestly, you can't expect otherwise when your Full HD FALD screen has a whopping 2,073,600 pixels (1,920 x 1,080), but only a few hundred dimming zones.
Mini-LED panel type takes it to the next level by packing in smaller LEDs in large numbers. Made possible by some impressive miniaturization engineering, this technology was first popularized by TCL on its TV line-up. For the latest iPad Pro, these mini-LED modules are manufactured by the Taiwanese company Ennostar. According to Apple's Director of HW Technologies, Heidi Delgado, the latest iPad Pro display has over 10,000 LED backlights and around 2,596 dimming zones. These mini LEDs are said to be over a hundred times smaller than the conventional ones. Since Apple hasn't shed much light on the underlying tech, here's a comparison image from TCL to put things in perspective.
At its core, the mini-LED panel is still an LCD with more refined backlighting. It is like a FALD LCD on steroids, which vastly improves the panel's contrast ratio. As highlighted in most reviews, the latest iPad Pro is undoubtedly very good at rendering deep blacks. However, along with amplifying FALD's best characteristics, mini LED also boosts its problems.
The iPad Pro (2021) has a screen resolution of 2732 x 2048, which translates to 55,95,136 pixels. While delivering 2,596 dimming zones is certainly an improvement, it is still not adequate for 5.6 million pixels. The display's 1,000 nits brightness, which is generally a good thing, also enhances the blooming artifacts. This issue didn't plague the previous-generation iPad Pro, because it had a paltry 72 LEDs. Sure, the low density of LEDs led to poor rendition of blacks but it also defused the backlight intensity over a larger area. Thus, avoiding the blooming artifact.
Can Apple fix this issue?
On the new iPad Pro, the blooming issue isn't noticeable while browsing the web, writing an email, or shopping on Amazon. It becomes jarring only when there are white objects or UI elements against a dark background. However, that's still frustrating for anyone who has spend over $1,000 for this product. It is strange that Apple failed to detect this issue during internal testing.
Even if Apple eats the humble pie, don't hold your breath for the company to patch things up over a software update. The only thing it can do now is to cap the brightness to make the blooming slightly less jarring. If the firm wants to ensure this issue doesn't crop up in future iPads, it will have to make a switch to OLED screens. With the price of current generation iPad Pro 12.9" starting at $1,100, we don't see why Apple shouldn't consider that.
By Fiza Ali
Apple is shutting down Dark Sky's iOS app and website in 2022
by Fiza Ali
Apple acquired the hyperlocal weather app, Dark Sky, in 2020 and, at that time, it was highly likely that it would shut down Dark Sky's apps and website in the same year. However, the company also said that there would be "no changes to Dark Sky for iOS" at that time.
In 2021, we see that there is a small update to the Dark Sky blog that appears to be adding a new shuttering date for the Dark Sky iOS App, API, and website. Adam Grossman, the co-founder of the Dark Sky weather app, wrote:
We hear this news shortly after Apple announced an overhaul to iOS' inbuilt weather app during WWDC. While the wording on the website doesn't explicitly say that the service will be "shut down" per se, it does seem that it is reaching its end of life.
Previously, the Dark Sky website was scheduled to shut down in August 2020 while the API was scheduled to for the same at the end of 2021. Apple already killed Dark Sky's Android app back in August 2020.
Source: Dark Sky via 9to5Mac