SiriusXM's Essential streaming service doesn't need car satellite radios

SiriusXM Essential

SiriusXM is hoping to carve a place for itself on your phones and smart speakers. The company mostly associated with in-vehicle entertainment has launched a purely online streaming service called SiriusXM Essential. It’ll set you back $8 a month — with a three-month testing period that costs $1 — and doesn’t need a compatible car satellite radio to work.

An Essential subscription also gives you access to over 200 channels, including all the network’s musical programming, along with comedy, news and sports shows. However, the plan doesn’t come with Howard Stern’s, the NBA, NHL and NCAA channels. According to Variety, you’ll have to wait for the $13 Premier Streaming plan to come out in mid-May if you want access to those, as well.

Matt Epstein, the company’s VP of marketing, told the publication that SiriusXM introduced Essential to attract younger audiences. Particularly those who might not own cars, those who don’t drive nearly often or long enough to justify a full subscription and those who haven’t gotten the chance to try SiriusXM before. “They don’t spend a long time driving to make it worthwhile,” he said, adding that “a lot of people just don’t know about [SiriusXM].”

In addition, the broadcasting company wants to lure more subscribers who want a cheaper option for in-home listening. Epstein said that the company has “seen a massive increase in in-home listening” over the past year, most likely after SiriusXM gave Echo owners three months of free access.

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Galaxy Fold teardown gives us a look at its complicated deisgn

This teardown is no precision iFixit job, but if you just want to see what parts and pixie dust are holding Samsung’s Galaxy Fold together, some images from an apparently now-deleted Weibo post can help. Not surprisingly for a first-gen new device, the design is seems incredibly complex and highlights some of the points of failure that may have lead to quickly-broken review units.

According to GSM Arena, the original poster said the flexible 7.3-inch display was “soft like rubber” when removed, although they “shattered” the Fold’s small external display while taking it apart. The hinge mechanism seems quite complicated with watch-like gears, and looking inside shows where ribbon cables flow across the joint that’s supposed to hold up to hundreds of thousands of bends. Other interesting elements include its inside and outside cameras, as well as two separate battery packs.

Galaxy Fold

Galaxy Fold parts exploded

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Notes from the Samsung Galaxy Fold: day four

Apologies for skipping day three. This kept me extremely busy yesterday. Though the Galaxy Fold remained a constant companion.

Before you ask (or after you ask on Twitter without having read beyond the headline), no it’s hasn’t broken yet. It’s actually been fairly robust, all things considered. But here’s the official line from Samsung on that,

A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter.

Separately, a few reviewers reported having removed the top layer of the display causing damage to the screen. The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches. Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers.

I’ll repeat what I said the other day: breakages and lemons have been known to happen with preproduction units. I’ve had it happen with device in a number of occasions in my many years of doing this. That said, between the amount of time it took Samsung to let us reviewers actually engage with the device and the percentage of problems we’ve seen from the limited sample size, the results so far are a bit of a cause for a concern.

The issue with the second bit  is that protective layer looks A LOT like the temporary covers the company’s phones ship with, which is an issue. I get why some folks attempted to peel it off. That’s a problem.

At this point into my life with the phone, I’m still impressed by the feat of engineering went into this technology, but in a lot of ways, it does still feel like a very first generation product. It’s big, it’s expensive and software needs tweaks to create a seamless (so to speak) experience between screens.

That said, there’s enough legacy good stuff that Samsung has built into the phone to make it otherwise a solid experience. If you do end up biting the bullet and buying a Fold, you’ve find many aspects of it to be a solid workhorse and good device, in spite of some of the idiosyncrasies here (assuming, you know, the screen works fine).

It’s a very interesting and very impressive device, and it does feel like a sign post of the future. But it’s also a sometimes awkward reminder that we’re not quite living in the future just yet.

Day One

Day Two

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Amazon asks delivery drivers to verify their identities with selfies

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon is asking its delivery drivers to take selfies so it can verify their identities using facial recognition. The rules apply to drivers in the Amazon Flex program, through which they make deliveries with their own cars as independent contractors, the company confirmed to The Verge.

A message in the Amazon Flex app told drivers they had to take a selfie before they could continue working (though it urges them not to take photos while driving). Amazon also informed drivers it may collect their biometric data to occasionally confirm their identity. The selfie obligation could stop Flex drivers from sharing their accounts with people Amazon hasn’t authorized to make deliveries.

Drivers need to provide a photo of themselves when they sign up for the Flex program and Amazon shows the photo to customers so they can identify the delivery person. In the Flex FAQs, Amazon says it’ll use the photos of those who signed up to the platform after November 13th last year to verify drivers’ identities and for fraud detection.

However, the selfie requirement may not be entirely robust. Uber has similar identity verification measures. Reports emerged last year of transgender drivers who were suspended from the platform over selfies that didn’t match previous photos, because they were at varying points of transitioning.

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The company behind the dual-screen YotaPhone is bankrupt

We’ve been following Russia’s YotaPhone since 2012, but it seems like the saga of the power-sipping E Ink-backed dual-screen handset has come to an end. Yota Devices is bankrupt, reports and Liliputing, pointing to a liquidation notice published in the Cayman Islands Gazette (PDF).

According to Russian media reports, it was a lawsuit that eventually wound up bankrupting the company. Yota’s manufacturer for the first two YotaPhones, Hi-P Singapore, sued for $126 million back in 2015 because YotaPhone reportedly refused to take delivery (and presumably pay for) the minimum number of phones it agreed to order. (In 2016, The Financial Times reported that the first two YotaPhones only sold around 75,000 units.) Hi-P had agreed to take $17 million instead, but apparently that deal fell through.

Truth be told, the YotaPhone hasn’t exactly been all that relevant to the west — or even Russia — in recent years. The company failed to ship the YotaPhone 2 to the United States in 2015 despite blowing past its Indiegogo crowdfunding goal, and by late 2016 it decided to pull out of the UK and Russia as well, shifting its operations to China instead.

With Chinese factories and Chinese investment, Yota apparently only ever wound up selling the latest YotaPhone 3 in China, despite promises it would appear in “Russia and other markets” as well. The YotaPhone 3 did win an iF Design Award in 2018, though.

Now, we’ll probably never see another YotaPhone. But if you’re interested in a multi-screen handset, a new wave of foldable devices might fill that hole in your heart.

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