Apple patents Lytro-like refocusable phone camera

Apple Insider reports that Apple has been awarded a patent for a refocusable camera to be used with a portable device.

Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,593,564 for a “Digital camera including refocusable imaging mode adaptor,” describes a method in which a user can take a picture at a certain resolution and refocus the resulting image after the fact. Also noted in the patent is the inclusion of such a system in portable devices, like an iPhone.

The way Apple’s refocusable camera works is different from Lytro’s light-field camera.

Unlike Lytro, Apple’s design employs a movable adaptor situated between the lens element and the imaging sensor. The adaptor holds the microlens array, meaning the camera can operate in two separate modes: high-resolution non-refocusable and low-resolution refocuasable. Lytro’s microlens component can also be moved closer and farther from the sensor, but cannot be completely removed from the light path.

Tencent’s 1 billion users and it just got started on the international market

Steve Tappin writes on his LinkedIn blog about Tencent’s charge to overtake Facebook.

Tencent has 818 million active users on its chat client QQ and 236 million active users on its messaging app WeChat.

The surge in popularity of WeChat is not surprising. It has many features and it encourages social connection.

WeChat has neatly fused together the open approach of social networks such as Twitter, where anyone can follow anybody, and more closed networks such as Facebook, which rely on mutual friend connections. It’s growing virally through social connection and not just social media.

Here are some features that set it apart from the competition.

  • Walkie-talkie mode – a push to talk feature to send voice messages
  • People nearby – finding people nearby who allow themselves to be discovered
  • Shake – connect to any users in the world who shake their phone at the same time
  • User ID – your account is not tied to the phone number so you can chat on another device by signing into your user ID

Tencent has also engaged stars, such as Lionel Messi and LeBron James, as brand ambassadors to help push the app to the international market.

Google uses over 40,000 Macs

9to5Mac reports on how Google use over 40,000 Macs.

While Google mentioned during the presentation that it supports four desktop OS platforms (OS X, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS) internally, it also said these days employees that want to use a platform other than Mac OS X “have to make a business case” to do so.

Mac OS X is the best operating system I have ever worked with. I can understand Google’s love for OS X.

OCZ files for bankruptcy. Toshiba swoops.

Pretty sad news. More importantly for consumers, if you’re currently shopping for an SSD, you might want to skip OCZ as it’s not obvious whether the warranties will be honored after the dust settles.

OCZ Files for Bankruptcy – Toshiba Offers to Buy the Assets

It’s sad to see OCZ going because they’ve been one of the pioneers in the consumer SSD industry. They were one of the most active companies when we started to see the first consumer SSDs in 2008/2009 but OCZ lost a ton of sales once Samsung and other major OEMs began to take the consumer SSD market seriously. It’s hard to say what ultimately killed OCZ without knowing their exact cost structure but I believe it was a combination of bad strategy (too many products and high production volumes) and engineering choices (low reliability) along with other things.

DIY cellphone that costs $200

$200 isn’t exactly cheap, though if you like tinkering and customization, this is definitely a cool project.

Build your own cellphone for $200

Currently at MIT’s Media Lab, Mellis has put all of the plans necessary to build and customize the phone up on Github, and also uploaded the circuit board plans to custom printer OSH Park, which will print three copies of the board for around $60. As for the casing, there are detailed instructions for a simple laser-cut plywood case, but several Media Lab members have crafted their own cases in a variety of shapes and hues, using milling, laser cutting, and 3D printing. Mellis describes his DIY phone as “a difficult but potentially do-able project” that should cost around $200 to complete.

Now trending: $4 billion

With Snapchat reportedly turning down acquisition offers in the $4 billion range, it now feels that Facebook and Google got a pretty sweet deal to purchase Instagram and Waze for approximately $1 billion apiece. Will the next wave of acquisitions start from $4 billion?

Is $4 Billion the New $1 Billion?

Snapchat says its users post about 400 million total “snaps” a day. If each individual user posts about four a day, that would mean there would be about 100 million users, Backus says. If we use our mid-tier valuation for companies like Facebook and Twitter, or $100 per user, that would put Snapchat’s value at $10 billion.

Microsoft OneNote gets a major update

Think steroids.

Microsoft Issues Major Update to OneNote App for Windows

Apple purchased PrimeSense for mapping instead of motion sensing technology?

While gesture control would be fun, it would be great if Apple seriously improved its mapping technology, especially outside the U.S.

With PrimeSense, Apple Got Key Mapping Technology

But PrimeSense’s technology is much more strategic for mapping, according to one person familiar with the company. In fact, companies like Matterport, which makes a camera for mapping three-dimensional spaces, use its chips.

We know Apple cares about mapping. The company bought WifiSLAM, an indoor GPS company, to help it map out malls and another indoor spaces in a race against Google, which is doing the same. Sooner rather than later, our phones will pull up scans of real spaces we want to visit or may be approaching. Those two-dimensional maps will seem very obsolete.

Moto X from Republic Wireless defaults to calls over Wi-Fi

Unlimited voice calls and text messaging without a contract as long as you’re on Wi-Fi? Not only does the deal sound consumer friendly, it’s pretty innovative too.

Smartphone With Wi-Fi Smarts

Most other smartphones can make Wi-Fi calls, but these typically require an app. Republic modifies the phone’s main dialer and texting functions to work over Wi-Fi whenever possible. You don’t have to do anything special to initiate a Wi-Fi call or text.

Former Nokia employees launch Jolla smartphone

BBC reports that former Nokia employees have launched Jolla, a smartphone powered by open-source operating system Sailfish.

The platform – originally called MeeGo – was developed by Nokia, but dumped in 2011 in favour of the company adopting the Windows Phone system.

Nokia released just one handset running the software, the N9-00.

Antti Saarnio, chairman and co-founder of Jolla, told the BBC in May that MeeGo – now called Sailfish – had not been given enough chance to succeed.

The company wants to provide consumers with a more open operating system. Jolla phone is able to run Android apps. It remains to be seen if it will eventually support apps built for other platforms.

The phone’s ethos was to provide a more “open” approach to how people used their mobiles, a contrast to the relatively closed systems used on the iPhone and, to a lesser extent, Android devices.

“There’s different opportunities for people to get apps form different places, different stores,” he said.