PTJ 140 News: Cable Ties and Record Highs

After we recorded last week’s episode (of course), news broke that the Comcast deal to acquire Time Warner Cable was kaput. While those worried about cable monopolies were happy the Comcast deal was scuttled, not everyone was thrilled about it — namely Time Warner Cable customers who say their quality of service is so miserable, that a Comcast takeover surely would have been an improvement. The New York Times had a story this week that talked to a few of those desperate souls trying to watch Game of Thrones from the Tenth Circle.

Also in cable news, ESPN is suing Verizon for breach of contract over those slimmed-down channel bundles. Fox and NBC seem poised to board the USS Lawsuit as well.

Apple announced its quarterly earnings reports this week and announced a $13.6 billion dollar profit thanks to record-breaking sales of iPhones, Macs and apps from the App Store. But while iPhone sales were up 40 percent from later, iPad sales were down 23 percent. Trouble in Tablet Town? (That iPhone 6 Plus does have a pretty big screen, come to think of it…)

The iPhone 6 line and the Apple Watch are boosting the use of Apple Pay, and Discover is the latest credit-card company to join up with Apple for mobile payments. Best Buy has also added Apple Pay to its mobile app and said its retail stores will be accepting those phone-tap payments at the cash register later this year. And speaking of those Apple Watches that started shipping last week, the Slice Intelligence research firm estimates that only 22 percent of the 1.7 million pre-ordered Apple Watched actually shipped to customers last week.

LGurbaneBut as we all know, the Apple Watch is just one of many smartwatch platforms out there an the rest of them aren’t exactly sitting still. Last week, before Apple’s pricey timepiece began rolling out on FedEx trucks, Google announced an update to its Android Wear software that’s used by several hardware makers. The company outlined the new features, like support for WiFi-enabled watches, scrolling through news and notifications with the flick of a wrist, and the ability to launch apps with a tap on the watch face. Google said the new version of Android Wear would be arriving in the next few weeks to all seven watches that support it, and the fancy LG Watch Urbane (shown here) was first in line for the update. Stylish smartwatches aren’t the only devices LG Electronics is releasing this spring, as the company just revealed its new authentic leather-backed Android smartphone, the LG G4.

Google just added 70 cards to Google Now from its partner apps, so you can get more creepy helpfulness than ever before. Even more!

T-Mobile had some good earnings news of its own this week. Thanks to its inventive campaign of promotional offers and price cuts, the company added 1.1 million new monthly subscribers, which was more than analysts had predicted. Not everyone had good earninsg to report, though. Twitter’s stock price took a hit after a research company leaked the bird-themed microblogging service’s less-than-desirable quarterly earnings report.

SwiftKey, the popular alternative mobile keyboard app, is experimenting with a new variation that can correct multiple words or even whole sentences you’ve tapped out. The new edition is called the Clarity Keyboard and you can download the beta from the Google Play store now.

Microsoft got just smacked down by a judge at the US International Trade Commission who found that Microsoft was guilty of infringements on two wireless cellular patents held by another company called InterDigital Inc.  As a result of the ruling, Microsoft could see an import ban that would stop its devices from coming into the country and hinder Windows Phone sales even more.  The judgement needs to be reviewed, however,  and Microsoft is vowing to press onward.

tugsIn robot news, those clever folks at Stanford University have developed tiny robots that can pull objects up to 2,000 times their own body weight. The little wonders are called “MicroTugs” and in addition to physics and engineering, the Stanford scientists took some cues from the natural world and incorporated techniques used by hardy ants — as well as geckos with their conveniently sticky feet for traction and climbing. You can see videos of the wee robots dragging cups of coffee and climbing with a payload are on the department’s YouTube channel.

Facebook announced this week that Messenger makes the video calls from one mobile phone number to another phone number regardless of smartphone platform. And Facebook-owned Instagram has added three new filters and the ability to use emoji characters in hashtags. (Also, we have heard reports of Instagram having some crashing issues even when updating to the new app, so it’s probably them, not you. Or a bug.)

And finally, the death toll is in the now thousands from the horrific earthquake that rocked the country of Nepal this weekend. Countless people have been displaced and the country is reeling, but tech companies are pitching in to help:

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Other new organizations have posted links to relief agencies and other organizations that are taking donations to help the people of Nepal. If you can, send help because we’re all in this world together.

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