Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent Music Entertainment Group enters the audiobook industry.
Tencent Music, the Chinese music streaming leader has paid $416m to buy the Lazy Audio platform. This ties nicely into their long-term audio entertainment strategy for the future. Lazy Audio will continue to function independently, whilst having access to Tencent Music’s technology, expertise and promotional capabilities. Over the past year Tencent Music has seen continued growth within its services – by September 2020 51.7 million people were paying subscribers to the music streaming platform, growing by 46% compared to the same quarter in 2019. It is also continually growing in dominance with wider investments, spreading throughout the audio entertainment world with stakes in every section of the music industry. Interest in audiobooks is only the latest venture.
Mr. Cussion Pang, CEO of TME, said in a statement:
Lazy Audio’s catalog is set to expand our audio content library, and its recording capacity will significantly boost our production of audiobooks. We believe this partnership will help us cater to the increasingly nuanced needs of our customers, strengthen our brand recognition in this segment, generate considerable operational synergies, and accelerate our journey to become a leading audio entertainment platform in China.
Mr. Cussion Pang, Chief Executive Officer of Tencent Music
Lazy Audio was founded in 2012 – it’s one of the leading audio platforms used across China, providing audiobooks, podcasts, radio shows and Chinese comedy. It has different channels to access content including subscription payment and pay per title. Tencent Music Entertainment Group meanwhile is the leading online music entertainment platform in China. It aims to ‘elevate the role of music in people’s lives’ with online music and live streaming services over hugely popular streaming apps QQ Music, Kugou Music and Kuwo Music, and online karaoke app WeSing.
Samsung’s Unpacked event saw the release of their new flagship smartphones Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra. With the latest version of Google’s operating system Android 11 loaded, there are a number of new features. You can now mirror Google Duo to your Samsung TV, letting you cast your video calls to the big screen. The updated messaging app now features Rich Communication Services (RCS), allowing users to chat over Wi-Fi. The new messages app will send read receipts, let you react to messages, send and receive high videos, as well as provide a dynamic communication experience with Smart Actions and a spam filter. From the home screen of Android, you can now swipe to access personalized content with Discover. Google’s new TalkBack screen reader will help blind users and those with difficulty seeing their displays, with spoken feedback and gestures to navigate the OS without looking at the screen.
Google are also working with Samsung to make managing smart home products from Galaxy smartphones and tablets a breeze. Via the SmartThings app, users can now control Nest devices such as thermostats, cameras and doorbells. All connected devices can be viewed and controlled on one screen. Just head to Devices in the Quick Panel of your Galaxy S21. Google have also introduced SmartThings on Android Auto, letting you quickly switch off your kitchen lights from your car’s display as you’re pulling out of the driveway.
Lenovo’s new Tab P11 is a great choice for parent that want to introduce their kids to a productive tablet to learn and have fun. Google’s Kids Space is a kids mode for the tablet, designed for children under 9 with recommended apps, books and videos.
The latest version of Google’s smartwatch system Wear OS, will help Android phone users in the US send texts and make calls on the new Fossil’s Gen 5 LTE Touchscreen Smartwatch without your phone. For a more fashionable smartwatch, Michael Kors’s new Access Gen 5E MKGO and Gen 5E Darci help wearers keep track of their health and wellness, while staying in touch with friends and family, as well as making payments directly from the watch.
New headphones and earbuds from JBL and Kenwood WS-A1G have Google Assistant built-in. Simply press the ear cup or earbud to send a message, access your calendar, change the song and so much more.
Hanging out at home
Google TV will be coming to a number of new smart TVs from Sony and TCL in 2021. Google TV brings movies, shows, live TV and more from apps and subscriptions into an organized layout for you to easily find something you’d enjoy. Don’t feel like scrolling, simply ask the Assistant to browse for you, “Hey Google, find action movies” or “Show me sci-fi adventure TV shows”. LG TVs (2019 and later) can now be controlled with your voice via a Google-enabled smart speaker. Google Assistant devices will soon also be able to control Verizon Fios set top boxes. The new Duo app on Samsung TVs lets you join group video calls directly on the TV.
Connected lights from LIFX, Nanoleaf and Yeelight now work with Hey Google, and now support Seemless setup, letting you connect compatible smart home devices through the Google Home app and a Nest speaker or Smart Display without needing an additional hub or bridge.
For the ultimate futuristic home control, you can now ask Google to clean up the house for you. Simply say “Hey Google” to active Smart MEDION’s MD 19601 vacuum cleaner.
Google are also making it easier for manufacturers to bring voice capabilities to their smart home devices. Google’s new Authorized Solution Provider program comes from certified partners Tuya and CoolKit to help manufacturers build smart home Actions for Google Assistant.
Warner Music Group have made an eight-figure investment in the popular gaming platform Roblox.
Roblox, the platform for millions of games built by a huge community of young players and professional developers, has announced surprise funding of $520m from investors. The backing was led by Altimeter Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group. It also included the Investment Group of Santa Barbara and, most interestingly, Warner Music Group.
The gaming platform is played by over half of US kids under 16. Reacting to the new funding, David Baszucki, CEO and co-founder of Roblox said: ‘We look forward to working with all of our new investors as we continue our mission to build a human co-experience platform that enables shared experience, from play to work, and learning among billions of users.’
Baszucki and Erik Cassel founded Roblox in 2004, encouraging everyone to make Lego-like characters and build simple games. Now Roblox has over seven billion users who play millions of user-created games for free, and make new games using the online tools provided. Last year the company announced it was delaying its stock market launch until 2021 so as not to ‘leave money on the table’.
So why has a massive music label invested in the games platform? Warner Music Group clearly thinks companies like Roblox hold promise for the music industry in the near future. It was one of the first labels to work with the gaming platform back in September 2020, when Roblox hosted an album launch party for singer Ava Max in its virtual realm. The event attracted 1.2 million users and saw Max performing in front of a dance floor and chatting about her album.
For artists, virtual concerts are a quickly organised alternative to real-life concerts, with none of the organisational logistics of performing in a stadium. Roblox is aiming for a complete immersive experience of virtual stage, virtual artist and virtual audience, unlike watching a stream. For concerts, that includes virtual merchandise sales from bands. By September 2020, 960,000 players had earned Robux, Roblox’s virtual cash – with 1,050 of those players earning more than $10,0000. Robux can be spent on extras for the game like clothes and pets for their avatars – and, potentially, virtual band merch.
Roblox has ambitious plans to change the way we play, work, learn and hang out together. Inspired by the worldbuilding of science fiction novels like Ready Player One, the platform’s ultimate aim is to launch its own version of the Metaverse, a universe of connected virtual worlds. And part of that plan includes a music strategy, led by its global head of music Jon Vlassopulos. Roblox aims to create Metaverse stars who will launch their careers in a similar way to breakout social-media influencers.
There were several interesting developments on the music front within the platform in 2020. May saw music startup Popgun add music-making app Splash to the platform, where players can customise a virtual stage and become a virtual DJ, which has now been used by 21 million people. As well as the Ava Max launch, in November Roblox virtually hosted Lil Nas X over two days and four shows, attracting 33 million views. In April, Roblox’s in-world livestream of the One World: Together at Home Covid-19 charity concert included a virtual concert venue where players could gather pre-show, watch the stream and a replay of it the next day, with free branded ‘Global Citizen’ items for avatars.
For things like virtual worlds, if an artist is going to come to the platform, they would bring the rights and everything associated with it… The smart labels and artists are going ‘this is a platform we should be on and embracing: if our music can be on the top game on Roblox and have 15 million people playing it, that’s got to be an opportunity worth looking at.’
Jon Vlassopulos, Roblox Global Head of Music
Roblox is not the only gaming platform looking to virtual concerts and fan interactions, with Fortnite’s Travis Scott ‘Astronomical’ event drawing 45.8 million viewers across five shows in April 2020. Gaming platforms are increasingly filling the current live music void. They clearly have confidence that their plans for the future have world-changing potential.
Apple’s newly granted patent describes a concept iPhone case that can charge AirPods and other external devices using the phones battery.
In 2018, Apple added the ability to charge an Apple Pencil by magnetically attaching the accessory to the side of the iPad Pro. Spotted by William Gallagher from AppleInsider, it seems Apple are experimenting with adding similar functionality to the iPhone via cases and covers. The cases are designed to protect your device, while adding some method of charging external devices using the iPhone’s battery as a power source.
The patent is titled “Cases and folios for carrying and charging accessories”, and opens “This application relates to a case for retaining a portable electronic device and an accessory.” The application states, “the case can further include a first terminal, a second terminal, and a battery. The first terminal can receive electrical energy from the portable electronic device to charge the battery. And the electrical energy stored in the battery can be transferred to the accessory through the second terminal.” Continuing, “the case can further include a slotted compartment to store money and credit cards.”
Apple describes the issue as, “oftentimes end users only find out their electronic accessory is out of power when they use the accessory. But they might not carry a charger with them.” The patent goes on to mention the case having “a cavity” for the accessory to slot into and charge. Covering all bases, it lists many different electronic devices as a possibility for charging, “earphones, both wired and wireless, watches, styluses or electronic pencils, keyboards, electronic mice, speakers, cameras, microphones, drones, biometric monitors, card readers, adaptors, chargers, cables, and other suitable electronic devices.” Not limiting themselves to just conventional cases, “a folio, a wallet, a flap, a cover, an enclosure, a holster, a clip, a sleeve, an armband, or suitable combination hereof.”
Detailing the charging solution, “receptacle can include two openings, one at each end for receiving accessory devices, and a charging terminal in between for energy transfer between the receptacle and the accessory devices.” The images show AirPods slotted into the case, however devices could equally be attached magnetically, “the accessory devices can be retained through frictional fit, magnetic coupling, or both.”
This is all an interesting concept. Looking at other phone manufacturers, the logical next step for charging AirPods and other small accessories via an iPhone would be reverse wireless charging. While the patent images look ridiculous, the text is vague enough to introduce more elegant solution in final implementation.
All the juicy gossip around Apple’s updated Macs, AirPods, iPads, iPhones, Apple Watches, Apple TVs and all new product lines.
Remember all of the below is based on speculation and not from Apple themselves.
Apple AirTags have been rumoured for sometime now. Much like Tile trackers, they are thought to be Apple’s take on Bluetooth trackers, around the size of a bottle cap and include wireless charging to avoid battery swapping or worse, straight to landfill. As well as wireless charging, Apple’s trackers are expected to massively benefit from the sheer number of iPhone’s able to anonymously pick up on the Bluetooth signal and report the location of lost items. AirTags will likely be registered and managed in the Find My app on iPhones.
Until recently, we had only seen renders of the product. Now Apple leaker Jon Prosser has shared images of the product itself via an animation from iOS, leaked by a software engineer at Apple.
AirTags have supposedly been ready for quite a while now. Along with several other mentions to AirTags in the code of iOS betas, the iOS 14.3 beta had support for AirTags when released back in November, but 14.3 was released to the public and still no sign of an official release. According to Prosser, the delayed release is due to the pandemic. With no one out and about losing bags, wallets, keys, etc. there’s just no real need for them currently. We could see these drop around spring, however they would be more suited to debut alongside the next iPhone.
Other features expected here are Face ID and Mini-LED. Much like OLED on iPhones, Apple are thought to bring Mini-LED to all products over the next year or so. Mini-LEDs offer better contrast and colour recreation. We should expect to see this laptop in the second half of 2021.
MacBook Pro 16-inch with Apple Silicon
The 16-inch MacBook Pro got the slimmer bezel re-design as above in 2019. Next up for MacBook Pro will be Apple’s very successful Silicon chips as they work their way up Apple’s line-up. M1 will likely be reserved for lower end Macs, while higher end Macs are thought to be treated with M1X. Apple are thought to be testing ARM processors with 12 to 16-core CPUs and 16 to 32-core GPUs for this higher end of computers.
As with the 14-inch MacBook Pro above, we are hoping for Face ID and Mini-LED. The extra space in the 16-inch model should also allow for increased battery over the 13-inch model, with around 30-hours of life.
iMac 24-inch with Apple Silicon
With Apple working their way up their product line to include M-series chips, this places iMac in line for a similar treatment. Along with the M1X chips, Fusion Drives will undoubtly be dropped in favour of SSD only.
Also present on iMacs is a very dated design. The next generation of iMacs will likely feature slimmer bezels, allowing for a larger display thought to be in the region of 23 to 24-inches in the same 21-inch iMac chassis. The new design is thought to reminiscent of the iPad Pro and Pro Display XDR. We are also hoping for Mini-LED to enter iMacs later this year too.
Mac Pro & iMac Pro
The iMac Pro hasn’t been updated since 2017, so it’ll likely either get a similar re-design as above or as it was initially introduced as a placeholder between Mac Pros, dropped entirely. Apple are supposedly testing 16, 32, 64 and even 128-core Apple Silicon chips for Apple top-end products such as iMac Pro and Mac Pro. These products will be last ones touched in Apple’s switch to ARM processors, so don’t expect to see this update until 2022 at the earliest.
Indicated last year, Apple are working on updating both the base AirPods and AirPods Pro at some point this year. The AirPods non-Pro will likely gain a Pro-like in-ear design with the shorter stem, while retaining no ANC. AirPods Pro will likely get a new rounded bud design much like competitors such as Samsung Galaxy Buds and Google Pixel Buds. Reports also show Apple are testing different colours for AirPods Pro, such as a black pair via a case leak. Both models should feature new wireless chips and better battery life. Later this year we may also see a cheaper sport-variant of the AirPods Max, hopefully around $300.
We haven’t seen any significant performance boosts to iPad Pro since the introduction of iPad Pro 3rd generation with A12X in late 2018. As a result, we will likely see huge performance gains, but design will probably be largely unchanged. Some reports suggest the larger 12.9-inch model will be the first Apple product to feature a Mini-LED display, with an update due as early as March this year. The smaller iPad Pro may include Mini-LED later in the year or Apple may choose to go with OLED instead on this model.
Following the introduction of 5G in iPhones last year, it follows that Apple may well include mmWave 5G in cellular iPad Pros this year. There are also reports of a new Apple Pencil with a black colour option.
iPad’s smaller brother may get a similar reduction in bezels as the iPad Pro and iPad Air models, boosting the display size to around 8.4-inches while keeping the physical size the same of the current 7.9-inch model. Much like iPad Air, Touch ID should be moved to the power button. As with all other products above, we are expecting iPad Mini to include a Mini-LED display.
Apple TV is due an update and signs are pointing towards a particular focus on gaming. Increased storage, a U1 chip, as well as an A14 or even A14X processor has the potential to bring console-level gaming to Apple’s set-top box. Apple are reportedly in talks with developers to bring higher end games to Apple Arcade.
Don’t expect a new flagship iPhone until the usual September/October time frame, but there are some of whispers around potential features. Mostly brought on by features we hoped for in iPhone 12 but didn’t seen, beyond the usual speed and camera improvements, signs point towards a 120Hz display on Pro and non-Pro models, at least one port-less model (MagSafe charging only), reduced notch size and under display finger-print scanner.
Apple Series 7
Similarly to iPhones, new Apple Watches are not expected until September/October. Apple have shown interest in moving towards solid state buttons using haptic feedback rather than physically clicking. Apple reportedly have a team working on monitoring blood glucose levels, which could change the way people manage diabetes without the need to puncture the skin.
Other items floating around the rumour mill include Apple Car, iPhone Fold/Flip and Apple VR/AR Glasses. These products are supportedly being testing, with Apple hiring staff to make these a reality, however don’t hold your breath. We are at least a year away from any of them coming to fruition.
It’s also worth noting regarding Macs, now Apple are developing their own Silicon processors, it should allow Apple to be more methodical around the release of new Macs. iPhone and Watches for example have always been updated every year with new processors and other features. We may see Apple take a similar annual or biennial release cycle for future Macs.
Hi-Res Audio Certified: Life Q20 active noise canceling headphones have custom 40 mm dynamic drivers to produce Hi-Res Audio with extended high frequencies for extraordinary clarity and detail.
Reduce Ambient Noises By Up to 90%: Immerse yourself in music while 4 microphones and a digital ANC algorithm detect and cancel out low and mid-frequency noises such as cars and airplane engines.
100% Stronger Bass: Exclusive BassUp technology conducts real-time analysis of low frequencies to instantly strengthen bass output. Double press the play button when listening to bass-heavy genres for an amplified listening experience.
40-Hour Playtime: Up to 40 hours of playtime in wireless active noise cancellation mode (at 60% volume) is extended to an enormous 60 hours in standard music mode. Charge Life Q20 active noise canceling headphones for 5 minutes and listen for 4 hours.
Enhanced Comfort and Noise Isolation: Life Q20 active noise canceling headphones feature memory foam earcups covered in protein leather that mold around your ears. Rotating joints adjust the angle of the earcups.
Lose Noise and Focus On: Mpow H17 active noise cancelling technology effectively reduces distracting low frequency background noises like airplane cabin noise city traffic or a busy office makes you focus on what you want to hear enjoying the pure audio source at the press of a button.
Fast Charging Function for 45H Playtime: 10 minutes of charging give you 2 hours listening time A built-in 650mAh battery won’t allow your headphones power off you can enjoy your world without noise for 45 hours’ long time in Full charge. Note: Turn off ANC to avoid power consumption if headphones are not in use.
Extremely light weight with Soft Protein Ear Pads: Mpow H17 new noise cancelling headphones adpots Genuine Protein Earpads for your wearing comfort And the headphones only weights 7. 2oz(204g) for long-time wear Enjoy an improved and fully customizable fit with swiveling ear cups adjustable & foldable headband and super soft ear pads.
CVC6.0 Mic for Online Class/Home Office: Built-in CVC 6. 0 microphone ensure crisp clear calls Compatible with Android/iOS smartphones and tablets MP3 MP4 iPod PC TV and other Bluetooth enabled devices, making them ideal for when you’re working at home, taking online classes, or traveling. Note: The microphone can only works on Bluetooth mode.
Brilliant music experience: In superb silence you hear full-balanced bass and hi-fi tunes with exceptional clarity delivered by 40mm powerful drivers of Mpow Active Noise Cancelling Headphones attracting your full immersion in songs movies videos Audio books etc.
Everyday Headphones with Style: Riff wireless is available in 4 different colors, so you can express your unique style. Bright colors, a soft-touch finish and plush ear pads
Everything You Need: Riff Wireless is the perfect combination of simplicity and technology. You get powerful and strong sound quality and practical features that make your everyday life easier. No unnecessary extras
Quick Charge Function: Now you no longer have to wait for your headphones to be fully charged. Just 10 minutes of charging gives you 2 hours of listening time
Ease of Use: With the user-friendly buttons you can easily control the volume on your device, switch between songs, and even activate your personal assistant to get to your destination safely with the navigation function or to dictate messages
13 Hour Bluetooth Playtime: Keep your music hassle-free by wirelessly linking your Bluetooth enabled device and streaming from up to 30 feet away. With up to 13 hours Bluetooth playtime of mind-blowing sound that’ll leave you with good vibes all day long.
Music To-Go: Built for everyone who loves to rock n’ roll, the smooth-sliding metal adjustments and feather-light build are ready to hit the road. The plush circular ear cups rotate 80 degrees and fold up in the palm of your hand, so you can bring them wherever life takes you.
Comfortable Fit: The plush circular cups fit perfectly on your ears and provide a comfortable listening experience you can use all day. The easy adjustable headband allows you to get the perfect fit. The headband is also made of plush leather material to so it’s comfortable to wear all day.
Take Control: These headphones have button controls right on the headset, so you can control the volume, skip tracks, and answer calls all without taking out your phone. There is also on an onboard microphone that allows for crystal clear communication during calls.
We’ve covered the best true wireless earbuds at every price point from ultra budget $30 to the best of the best with ANC for $280.
Do you want a pair of AirPods competitors at a cutthroat price, or a pair of active noise cancelling, water-resistant, all-day lasting, premium earbuds? We’ve got a great choice for all potential buyers at every price point.
General interest news site Vox runs down the rise in popularity of smart assistants in the last decade and how your privacy is able to keep the cost of speakers so cheap.
Just six years ago, smart speakers were a novel idea. Today smart assistants are everywhere from speakers to phones, tablets, headphones, watches, TVs, cars and much more. We’ve seen smart speakers for sale under $20, but how are companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple able to produce such low-cost smart speakers?
Vox detail how our personal data is exchanged for budget smart speakers, the questions regarding what happens to your commands after they’ve been processed and the opt out privacy settings you likely don’t even know about. Are commands stored, do humans listen in, are recordings sold to advertisers or used to target product recommendations on their own services such as Amazon or Google?
Technology companies are keen to add smart assistants to every aspect of your life, so this data collection rises.
Wake up to your favourite tunes every morning by using Spotify songs as your alarm on your Android devices.
Tired of waking up to the same, annoying alarm tones from your phone? Fortunately, you can set your own choice of music to play each morning from Spotify’s huge library of songs.
Before we show you how to do it below, beware: Setting your favourite song as an alarm is a great way of falling out of love with that song as it jars you awake each morning. Pick something that you feel will get you to rise with enthusiasm but that you don’t mind having PTSD with every time you hear it outside of a morning.
How to set Spotify as your alarm
1. Open your Google Clock app (check to make sure you’re updated to the latest version)
2. Tap the plus sign to add a new alarm
3. Set the time you want your alarm and the frequency you want the alarm to run
4. Select your alarm sound next to the ‘Vibrate’ button
5. Here you can connect to apps for your alarm (ensure you have Spotify downloaded)
6. Swipe through music or search for a specific song and click to select it as your alarm
7. Now return to your alarm screen and you should see your chosen song as your alarm