Consumer Electronics

Tim Bradshaw

Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer  © Facebook

When will the consumer version of the much-anticipated Oculus Rift virtual reality headset ship? With competition looming from Sony PlayStation’s Project Morpheus and the Vive headset announced by Valve and HTC a month ago, Oculus’ early lead in VR suddenly looks like it could be under threat.

After launching two prototype headsets for developers and an “innovator edition” of its Samsung Gear mobile VR device, executives at Facebook-owned Oculus have been tight-lipped about when consumers will be able to buy the PC-based Rift.

But at the F8 developer event in San Francisco, one Facebook executive’s lips were a somewhat looser. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

After its original unveiling in September, the Apple Watch is nearly out. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, is expected to take to the stage at the Yerba Buena centre in San Francisco to detail new features, apps, pricing and its retail strategy. Tim Bradshaw and Richard Waters bring live updates when the show begins at 10am PST (5pm GMT).

 

Better known for slick and glossy ads, LG Electronics on Monday uploaded 9 minutes of grainy footage to YouTube showing one of its top executives innocently looking at a washing machine.

The bizarre move was the latest salvo in the decidedly un-high tech washing machine wars. Tech may be an industry famed for its multi-billion-dollar patent lawsuits and occasional (careful) corporate espionage, but South Korea’s two tech wunderkinds are clashing over claims of old-fashioned vandalising a very domestic appliance. Read more

Cheap remote-controlled quadcopters from Syma and Hubsan bring aerial photography within reach of a much bigger audience.  Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Expectations are high for Apple as it publishes its first-quarter earnings, with analysts forecasting that it sold more than 65m iPhones in the three months to December. With the impact of China looming large but the iPad still looking weak, Tim Bradshaw and Sarah Mishkin bring the news, live updates and analyst reaction from San Francisco.  

“Cardboard” is a funny thing to call a teleportation machine. But when paired with a smartphone and a willing suspension of disbelief, Google’s low-cost design for a virtual reality headset becomes just that. Read more

Richard Waters

You’re standing on the surface of Mars. You look down and marvel at the detail, then up to the horizon, following the ridge of mountains around to your left. You jump: the Mars Rover is right behind your left shoulder, taller than you are, one of its cameras slanted to the side and looking like a pet robot waiting for an order.

This isn’t some gamer version of Mars. It’s the real thing. Every rock, in clear 3D. In front of you stands the bronze avatar of a scientist ready to talk about the experiments you’re going to perform.

Microsoft has lacked the “wow” factor for some time. It’s been left to Google, Apple and Facebook, with its acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus, to set the standards in technical daring and creative ambition.

Not any more. With HoloLens, the “mixed reality” headset it unveiled on Wednesday, Microsoft is suddenly a contender in one of the most exciting races in the tech world: to mix the real and virtual worlds in ways that transform both.

 Read more

The Washington Post’s new tablet app

  © Washington Post

Amazon wants to deliver your newspaper.

The Washington Post launched a new app on Thursday, initially available exclusively on Amazon’s Fire tablets, that gives readers two daily editions – morning and evening – plus breaking news updates in between.

It is the first collaboration between the companies since the Post was bought last year by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive. An ereader version of the paper is already available on Kindle devices. Read more

Can two devices sort out web-enabled domestic chaos? Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Samsung has unveiled a prototype of a new kind of 360-degree camera that could help virtual reality move beyond its current gaming niche.

“Project Beyond” is an ambitious concept that looks a little like it belongs on top of a Google Street View car. Sixteen small cameras point out from a frisbee-sized disk, with another on the top. It can capture 3D, 360-degree video that can be streamed live to a VR headset, allowing the wearer to look around as if they were standing wherever the camera is placed. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

As Apple readies its Watch, Jawbone is aiming for “the other wrist” with the latest update to its Up fitness tracker.

Rather than challenge the iPhone maker’s forthcoming smartwatch head on, Jawbone’s new Up3 wristband is smaller than its predecessor, packed with more sensors including heart-rate and skin temperature detectors, and costs almost half the price of Apple Watch. Read more

By Helen Barrett

Before setting up her high-tech fine jewellery company, Kate Unsworth interviewed 350 women about their hyperconnected lives. She discovered an insight that seems to contradict received wisdom about what consumers want from wearable technology.

“This segment of the market wanted to find a way to disconnect – but they needed to be contactable at the same time,” she says.

As the luxury industry rushes to embrace wearable technology, many brands are seeking to emulate smart watches like the Apple Watch, which are chock-full of functions to immerse their wearers further into the digital world. But Ms Unsworth believes consumers want less information, not more. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

The Silicon Valley crowd loves Nest’s $250 thermostats and $99 smoke alarms. But while its $3.2bn acquisition by Google confirmed Nest as a defining company of the smart home, for many its designer appliances might seem a little on the pricey side.

Enter Leeo, a new smart-home company that wants to be the Nest for the rest of us. Read more

Barely two months after Apple admitted it was storing users’ data online in mainland China, reports emerged that hackers have tried breaking into its iCloud data.

Apple representatives in China declined to comment on the reports of the hacking attack, which were posted on GreatFire.org, a group that conducts research on Chinese internet censorship.

The revelations, if true, would be little surprise to China observers. But it would be a comeuppance for Apple whose decision to store users’ data in mainland servers underlined the tenuous balance that foreign tech companies must strike between commitment to customer security and the realities of the Chinese market. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Apple just disrupted another industry: the analysts who are tasked with predicting its quarterly numbers.

During Monday’s earnings call, Tim Cook, chief executive, revealed that Apple will not disclose sales figures for its forthcoming Watch when it is released early next year. Read more

Richard Milne

Angry Birds may be in free fall but two of the executives most responsible for its success are spreading their wings.

Just days after the company behind Angry Birds cut 16 per cent of its workforce amid disappointing growth, two former Rovio executives are launching their first game backed with $5m of venture capital money.

Andrew Stalbow, former head of strategic partnerships at Rovio and now chief executive at Seriously, said he hoped Thursday’s launch of Best Fiends would be the start of creating a mobile phone-centred entertainment brand. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Apple has invited reporters to an event on October 16, which is expected to see the debut of new iPads and Mac computers. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Apple is making a big splash in Europe this week. On the same day the European Commission published the initial findings of its investigation into Ireland’s handling of its taxes, Apple popped up at Paris Fashion Week to show off its forthcoming Watch to the general public for the first time.

In a clear break with previous launches, Apple chose a chic fashion boutique, rather than its own retail stores, as the venue, giving a hint of how the smartwatch might be marketed and distributed when it goes on sale next year. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

The virtual-reality creations on show at this weekend’s Oculus Connect event were as varied as they were bizarre.

Some 800 overwhelmingly male developers gathered at the upmarket Loews Hotel in Hollywood to attend presentations ranging from game design to “360-degree filmmaking”. A session dedicated to the Gear VR, Oculus’s collaboration with Samsung to launch a mobile VR headset later this year, was particularly busy.

Outside the talks, developers lined up to try Oculus’s new Crescent Bay prototype device and showed off their own VR software – just some of the 325 games uploaded to Oculus Share, its version of an app store. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

After weeks of hype, Apple’s big day is finally here: the iPhone 6 goes on sale in the US, UK, Hong Kong and other key markets (though not China) on Friday.

As ever, the Apple faithful are lining up outside its stores, after supplies of its supersized iPhone 6 Plus were exhausted in online preorders within a matter of hours last week. Most analysts predict pent-up demand for upgrades will push iPhone sales to a new record.

“Big” is the operative word all round. Apple has lent the FT both of the new iPhones and, after an evening playing with both devices, one conclusion feels obvious: the iPhone 6 Plus is just too big. Read more