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Last week Samsung announced and almost immediately released its foldable Galaxy Z Flip, but only in “limited” quantities that dried up almost as soon as they appeared, unless you spot one in a store somewhere. Now Samsung says that tomorrow, on February 21st it will make more of the $1,380 devices available online, coincidentally around the same time pre-orders will begin for its flagship lineup of phones that includes higher specs and 5G across the Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra.

After a week of availability, if you were hoping to get a Galaxy Z Flip there may be reasons you’re still optimistic about its potential or even more wary of its risks. But, if what you really need is a self-standing selfie machine with questionable levels of dust resistance and plastic-covered glass screen, keep an eye on Samsung.com as well as carrier stores and websites to find the Z Flip on sale Friday.

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Google users in the UK might feel another effect of the Brexit process, and it’s one they may not have expected. According to Reuters, the tech giant is planning to place British users’ accounts under US jurisdiction, which means they’re losing the protections of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. As the news organization notes, the GDPR is known for having one of the world’s strictest set of rules for data privacy and gives authorities the power to impose aggressive fines.

The US, on the other hand, recently enacted the CLOUD Act (PDF). And based on how it works, it might make it easier for foreign authorities (like British law enforcement) to compel US-based companies to hand over data for investigations. Google is based in Ireland in the EU, along with many other tech companies like Facebook. Reuters says the tech giant decided to move British users out of Irish jurisdiction, because it remains unclear if Britain intends to adopt the GDPR following its exit from the European Union.

We’ve asked Google for a statement and a confirmation. If Reuters‘ report is true, though, then users in the UK will be required to acknowledge Google’s new terms of service, along with the new jurisdiction in the near future.

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GDPR, gear, google, privacy, security
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Yes, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series Whatever are coming your way by the end of the year. But if you can’t wait until then for a 4K or VR gaming upgrade, then at least you can save a little money on the most powerful PlayStation console available. On Amazon the PS4 Pro is currently available for $299.98, $100 less than the usual price.

We’ve occasionally seen it available for this amount before, and if you just bought a new TV and are tearing through your back catalog of games before the next gen upgrades hit, then it might be the right time to buy. It upgrades the WiFi support over older PS4s, and even though many games aren’t running natively in 4K resolution, they’ll still look better than ever with some extra GPU horsepower.

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HTC

HTC’s Vive Cosmos is positioned as a high-end VR kit that’s easier to use, and we liked it, but one concern we had was its $699 price — a notable jump from Oculus’ $400 offerings, tethered or otherwise. The good news is that according to Engadget Chinese, the company plans to release a more affordable version dubbed Cosmos Play, along with the more advanced Cosmos Elite and the experimental Cosmos XR. Best of all, these variants share the same core headset, meaning Cosmos Play owners can later upgrade with other faceplates to suit their needs.

Starting off with the entry-level Vive Cosmos Play, eagle-eyed readers may already notice that this is the same design as the Cosmos in its teaser form back at CES 2019. Rather than packing six tracking cameras, the Cosmos Play only comes with four, so chances are there will be a slight drop in tracking performance. That said, HTC insists that this is still great for the likes of Viveport Video and Angry Birds VR. Another trade-off here is the lack of built-in headphones, but you can always just plug your own ones in.

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Fortunately, you still get the same 2,880 x 1,700 LCD with a 110-degree field-of-view and 90Hz refresh rate, making it “the best VR display I’ve ever seen,” according to our very own Devindra Hardawar. Likewise, the headset has kept the flip-up visor, which is particularly handy for those who are trying VR for the first time. This is why the Cosmos Play is aimed at the likes of education, art and museum environments. It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll still be able to add the Vive Wireless Adapter to any of the headsets across the Cosmos family, though the target audience for the Cosmos Play may not go this far.

Sadly, there’s no word on pricing nor date just yet, but here’s hoping the bundle — with two Cosmos controllers included — will cost somewhat closer to the $400 price point offered by HTC’s main rival.

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Next, we have the Vive Cosmos Elite, which is clearly made with gamers in mind. Rather than using the Cosmos’ inside-out tracking, the Elite’s headset comes preinstalled with an External Tracking Faceplate (the same one HTC teased back in September) that can be paired with both generations of SteamVR base stations for higher precision. The Elite bundle includes two 1.0 base stations along with a pair of Vive controllers plus built-in headphones, and it’ll cost NT$29,900 when it launches later this quarter (this is around US$990; US local price will likely be lower). You can pre-order from February 24th and get two months of free Viveport Infinity subscription.

In the following quarter, existing Cosmos owners can also upgrade with the External Tracking Faceplate for NT$6,600 (about $219) per piece, but they’ll obviously need to source the base stations and Vive or Vive Pro controllers as well. This upgrade path makes sense to those who own a Vive kit and a Vive Cosmos, as the latter would then add a sharper display plus a handy flip-up visor to the sturdy motion tracking experience.

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Last but not least, we have the Vive Cosmos XR which, as the name implies, is designed to bring mixed reality experience to a VR headset. This business-focused faceplate is essentially the Cosmos Play (so just four tracking cameras) with two additional high-resolution passthrough cameras on the front, which apparently deliver passthrough field of view of up to 100 degrees. That’s a lot higher than the field of view on the current crop of mixed reality headsets like Hololens 2 and Magic Leap, thus making VR collaboration more versatile, especially when you want to check out virtual objects in the real-world environment using the Vive Sync collaboration platform.

But then again, considering how those mixed reality devices offer real-world vision instead of mixing that onto a display, there are certain benefits that the Cosmos XR may not be able to provide. We have to assume that there’s bound to be some latency between the real world and the version rendered in front of our eyes. We shall see what the developers say when they get hold of the developer kit in Q2 this year, and more info about this upcoming device will be released at GDC in March.

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Going back to our concern with the original Cosmos’ pricing, HTC’s new CEO Yves Maitre insists that the total cost of ownership — including content — for consumers is actually lower than its Oculus counterpart. Of course, whether HTC will convince them is another matter. There are plans to release limited edition faceplates to lure more potential customers, but Maitre would rather not elaborate further and spoil the fun. Still, he’ll need more than just fancy faceplates to get people excited about VR again.

Maitre added that HTC will continue to expand the Vive Pro and Vive Focus families alongside the Cosmos series, but as to whether HTC will be integrating 5G into any of these devices soon, his team isn’t in a rush to do so — they’ll happily work with business customers on related requests, but for consumers, the closest they can get is tethering to an HTC 5G Hub. Or maybe to an upcoming 5G smartphone from HTC, which may or may not happen this year, according to the former Orange exec.

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You no longer have to go digging through your tweets to reply to one with an update. Twitter has added a feature that makes it easier to connect an in-progress tweet to an earlier post. When you’re writing your latest missive, you’ll just have to pull down to see earlier tweets and tap the “continue thread” or ellipsis button to find an older tweet to reply to.

This is ultimately a new way to do something that’s been possible for a while. It could spare you from scrapping a tweet if you forgot to reply, mind you. And if you’re the sort to frequently update your friends on developing events (or correct earlier slip-ups), a change like this could save you a considerable amount of time.

Now you can add a Tweet to one you already Tweeted, faster! pic.twitter.com/j3ktAN6t5o

— Twitter (@Twitter) February 19, 2020

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Carnegie Mellon University CyLab

It’s getting easier to control what your smart home devices share, but what about the connected devices beyond your home? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab think they can give you more control. They’ve developed an infrastructure and matching mobile app (for Android and iOS) that not only informs you about the data nearby Internet of Things devices are collecting, but lets you opt in or out. If you’re not comfortable that a device in the hallway is tracking your presence, you can tell it to forget you.

The framework is cloud-based and lets stores, schools and other facilities contribute their data to registries.

The limitations of the system are quite clear. It’s based on voluntary submissions, so it’s most likely to be used by those eager to promote privacy — if it’s not in the registry, you won’t know about it. A business determined to track its workers may be reluctant to let staff know they’re being monitored, let alone give them a chance to opt out. This also assumes that there are enough people concerned about privacy to download an app and check if the sensor over their head is a privacy risk. The Carnegie team is betting that companies and institutions will use the infrastucture to ensure they’re obeying rules like the California Consumer Privacy Act and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, but there’s no guarantee they’ll feel pressure to adopt this technology.

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Flywheel

One of Peloton’s biggest competitors, Flywheel Sports, announced today that it is shutting down its online classes. The company sent an email informing its users that it would stop its Flywheel At Home service effective March 27th 2020. The bikes can still be used of course, but without the live and on-demand coaching, which makes them not much better than ordinary stationary bikes. Peloton, however, is offering a deal where Flywheel customers can turn in their bikes in exchange for a “like-new” Peloton bike at no cost to them, though they’d still have to pay Peloton’s monthly subscription fee.

This comes just two weeks after Flywheel Sports settled a patent infringement dispute with Peloton. Flywheel admitted that it copied Peloton’s technology, such as the leaderboard display where you could compare your stats to other riders during the class. In the settlement, Flywheel Sports had agreed to stop using the leaderboard system for 60 days, at which point Peloton would drop its case. Of course, now that’s moot since the service will be gone entirely.

Flywheel Sports is not the only competitor that Peloton has sued. Last year, Peloton filed a suit against Echelon Fitness LLC for broadcasting live and recorded cycling classes and “imitating the Peloton Bike experience” through a similar leaderboard interface. Echelon was also accused of copying Peloton’s logo, coloring and font, and for lying to its customers about Peloton’s offerings. That lawsuit is still ongoing.

Peloton has other rivals too, such as the NordicTrack Commercial S22i and Proform’s Studio Bike Pro, both of which offer streaming cycling classes with their bikes. At CES this year, we saw several other companies that could prove to be worthy Peloton rivals, such as the aforementioned Echelon and the Amazfit Home Studio. But Peloton’s biggest rival may have yet to come, as Equinox and SoulCycle announced recently that they would be offering a similar in-home workout solution with their own treadmills and bicycles in early 2020.

Last year, Peloton faced a string of bad press when a controversial ad that was criticized as “unintentionally terrifying” went viral. It was embroiled in a music licensing dispute with the NMPA, and its shares also dropped 11 percent after it opened below its IPO price on its first day of trading. Add shareholder pressure to all of the aforementioned competition, and it’s not surprising that Peloton might be more compelled than ever to protect its intellectual property.

While Flywheel Sports have discontinued its online service, several of its in-person cycling studios continue to operate.

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Google’s upcoming efforts to improve mobile privacy will extend beyond the upgrades in Android 11. Starting August 3rd, the company will require approval for background location requests in all Play Store-bound Android apps. It’ll determine if the feature is necessary, expected and provides “clear value,” and reject those apps that appear to be asking for too much. A social network app that lets you voluntarily share continuous location data will likely get approval, for example, but a shopping app with a retail store locator might be rejected until it limits location access to when you’re actively using it.

The policy will change in April, but developers can ask for feedback on their use cases starting in May. There will also be a grace period for the first few months. Only new apps will need background location approval when August 3rd arrives, but Google will start removing existing apps without that approval on November 2nd.

While this won’t do much to limit Android’s own location sharing, it could still be a big deal if you’re particularly privacy-conscious. Facebook and others have been accused of grabbing more location data than they really need, and in some cases giving users little to no choice over how that info is sent. The stricter policy not only promises to cut back on privacy abuses, but may have above-board developers asking whether or not they need background location checks in the first place. If there’s a concern a this early stage, it’s that the criteria for acceptable location use is currently vague. What’s “necessary” in Google’s view might not be the same for everyone else.

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Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen automakers like Porsche and Cadillac try their hand at car subscription services, and now Nissan is doing the same. Starting in Houston, the Japanese automaker is testing its new Switch service, which allows you to swap Nissan vehicles through a mobile app. Each time you order a new car, a dealership employee will deliver the vehicle to your home and explain all the ins-and-outs of the model.

The $699 per month entry-level “Select” plan gives you access to four cars — the Altima, Rogue, Pathfinder and Frontier. For $200 more every month, you can upgrade to the Premium plan, which includes six additional vehicles — the Leaf Plus, Maxima, Murano, Armada, Titan and 370Z. If you want to get really boughie and try out the GT-R, that’s an additional $100 per day, and you can use it only for a maximum of seven consecutive days. After a $495 activation fee, the subscription fee covers delivery, cleaning, insurance, roadside assistance and standard maintenance.

While $699 is a lot to pay to swap cars on a whim, Nissan Switch compares favorably to some of the other car subscription services out there. By no means is it cheap, but it is less expensive than Porsche’s Passport service, which starts at $2,100 per month. When Cadillac offered its Book service, it was $1,500 per month. In any case, it’s easy to see why automakers are so willing to try testing these types of services, even if they’re more expensive than most people can afford. It’s about creating a source of recurring revenue in a world where car ownership is on the decline and people are trying to get away from expensive commitments.

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It took many months, but Alamo Drafthouse’s Season Pass is finally available to everyone — but like some rivals, what you’ll pay depends on where you live. The service gives everyone access to one regularly priced movie per day, with seat reservations up to a week in advance. The prices vary sharply, though. Only viewers happy to watch in New Braunfels, Texas will get the best pricing at $15 per month, with $5 discounts at other locations. People in eight other locations (including Austin, Denver and Raleigh) will have to pay at least $20 per month with $10 discounts at other locations, and those watching in Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco will have to shell out $30 per month.

There are no contracts, although you will have to cover “convenience fees” and taxes — plus, of course, tickets for anyone who doesn’t have a Season Pass.

The wider access comes just weeks after MoviePass went bankrupt and reflects a maturing approach to theater subscription services. Like with AMC, Alamo wants to tempt you into frequent theater visits at a price that’s more sustainable than MoviePass’ $10 per month. Of course, Alamo also has the luxury of hosting more than just standard movie releases. Between special events and food at your seat, it has other ways to profit from your visits.

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