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Spotify Continues Push Against Apple With Third Podcast Acquisition

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Spotify yesterday announced its latest acquisition, this one related to a podcast company called Parcast (via Reuters). This marks Spotify’s third podcast-related acquisition in two months, and represents the company’s ongoing plan to boost the music streaming platform as a hub for podcasts that can compete with Apple Podcasts.

Last month, Spotify purchased Gimlet Media for $300 million, acquiring the company’s big-name podcasts like “Homecoming” and “Reply All.” Around the same time, Spotify also purchased Anchor, a company that is more behind-the-scenes of the podcast world and lets its users record and create their own shows that can easily be shared online.

Parcast will be added to that list, and Spotify will now have ownership of its specialization in crime and mystery-themed podcast content, genres that are hugely successful in the market. Parcast is home to a big list of popular genres and podcasts, covering topics like cults, serial killers, haunted places, unexplained mysteries, extraterrestrials, and more.

These purchased shows will also join new and original podcasts created by Spotify, all of which will be curated by the team that built Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist algorithm. Eventually, the music streaming company hopes to become the Netflix of podcasts, able to provide recommendations on what to watch and house both third-party and exclusive first-party content.

Spotify first began its efforts to enter the podcast field around two years ago, when it said it was “coming after” Apple with a strong push into podcasts. The last few years have been marked as a so-called golden age for podcasts, causing many companies to look into entering the field.

Apple and Spotify have been in another dispute this year as well, after Spotify filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission. In the complaint, Spotify accused Apple of enforcing App Store rules that “purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience” and said that Apple acts “as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek particularly called out Apple’s policy of charging a 30 percent “tax” on App Store purchases. This results in Spotify charging existing subscribers $12.99 per month for its Premium plan via the App Store just to collect nearly the $9.99 per month it charges normally. The spat continued with Apple claiming that Spotify provided “misleading rhetoric,” and with Spotify stating that “every monopolist will suggest they have done nothing wrong.”

For the podcast initiative, it’s unclear when Spotify plans to launch the new part of its service.

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Industry

LG V50 ThinQ 5G launch in South Korea delayed

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LG announced earlier today that it delayed the South Korea launch of its 5G-capable V50 ThinQ. The phone was originally slated to launch in South Korea this Friday, April 19.

The delay is due to LG wanting to further optimize the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset and Qualcomm X50 5G modem inside of the V50. LG also said it’s working with Qualcomm and South Korean carriers to improve 5G service and phone interoperability.

LG V50 ThinQ 5G price & release date: What we know so far (it’s not much)

LG didn’t say when the V50 will be available in South Korea. Android Authority reached out to LG for comment on a new release date and whether the delayed launch in South Korea will affect the U.S. launch, but did not receive a response by press time.

The delay comes at a bad time for LG, which saw rival Samsung launch its first 5G smartphone April 5 in South Korea. LG likely had hoped to use the Galaxy S10 5G’s launch momentum for its own 5G smartphone, but now we don’t know when the V50 will debut.

That said, LG might have dodged a very big bullet by delaying the V50’s launch. Business Koreareported last week that Galaxy S10 5G owners have struggled with poor 5G connectivity and an inability to switch to 4G LTE. Samsung pushed out an update that supposedly addressed the issues, but the update didn’t help much.

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Business

Verizon’s new activation fees cost more in-store, less in-app

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It’s adding an extra $10 on top of in-person and over-the-phone upgrades and activations.

Verizon has simultaneously slashed and increased its activation and upgrade fees, depending on how you process the transaction. According to CNET and reports posted online, you now only have to pay $20 if you upgrade your device or activate a line on the carrier’s website or the My Verizon app. That’s down $10 from the previous $30 fee for either service. However, if you walk into a store or call the company’s phone line for upgrade or activation, you’ll now have to pay $40 instead.

A Verizon spokesperson described personal and over-the-phone transactions to CNET as a “full-service experience,” perhaps suggesting that those channels deserve the extra $10. The company is probably hoping to discourage people who can do things on their own from engaging customer service and sales reps, though what the fee adjustments mean for employees remains to be seen. The Redditor who posted the news on the website claimed to work for an indirect store and said employees aren’t getting a pay upgrade despite the higher fees. We’ve reached out to Verizon for confirmation and will update when we hear back.

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Tech News

Google’s Pixel 3 uses AI to detect when you’re kissing someone in a selfie

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Google’s Pixel phones have always had stand-out cameras, thanks in no small part to the company’s use of AI. The latest application? A built-in kiss cam for the camera on the Pixel 3 that automatically detects when subjects are puckering up and snaps a quick photo.

The feature is an update the Pixel Camera app’s Photobooth mode. This is a shutter-free mode which automatically takes photos with the Pixel 3’s wide-angle selfie cam. In addition to spotting kisses, Google says the software recognizes five key facial expressions that “should” trigger capture: “smiles, tongue-out, kissy/duck face, puffy-cheeks, and surprise.”

That’s the theory, anyway. Our tests with the app were inconsistent. “Its ability to detect duck-face is questionable,” was the assessment of The Verge’s Jon Porter. Though he added it did successfully spot him kissing his reflection in a mirror. “It grabbed the image the moment my lips made contact!”

The Verge’s Jon Porter puckers up. 

The tech for this comes in part from Google Clips, the company’s 2017 experiment in using AI to make photography easier. Clips was supposed to be a tool for families to capture important moments. It was small, lightweight, and minimalist, and used built-in algorithms to decide when to take a photo. But while a neat concept, it was redundant for most users.

While Clips has been clipped out of Google’s history (we couldn’t find it for sale on the Google store), the tech it helped incubate lives on. With neural nets scanning your facial expressions and making sure your eyes aren’t closed, Google says the Pixel 3 makes it easier than ever to take perfect selfies and group photos.

Photobooth mode in the Pixel 3 camera can now recognize facial expressions and kissing. 

DO YOU TRUST ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO TAKE A GOOD PHOTO?

As part of the Pixel Camera’s update, the app also helps users know when they’re looking their best for a photo. A white bar on the side of the display (on the left in the GIF above) responds to users’ actions. When everyone’s looking at the camera and making a nice face it expands to the full width of the display and the phone takes a picture.

“We’re excited by the possibilities of automatic photography on camera phones,” write Google’s engineers in a blog post. “As computer vision continues to improve, in the future we may generally trust smart cameras to select a great moment to capture.”

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