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Apple releases iOS 14.2 with new emojis and accessibility feature that locates people with LiDAR

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Apple has released iOS 14.2 today. It includes multiple new features as well as some important bug fixes and security updates. Among other things, this release introduces over 100 new emojis.

You’ll find a transgender flag, a smiling face with tear, pinched fingers, two people hugging, some insects and animals, a disguised face and more. When it comes to new variations, there will be a Mx Claus, a gender-inclusive alternative to Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Tuxedos are no longer limited to men and veils are no longer limited to women — you’ll be able to send an emoji with a woman wearing a tuxedo and a man wearing a veil.

Today’s release also includes a new accessibility feature for blind users who have an iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. Thanks to the built-in LiDAR sensor, you can use your iPhone to detect the presence of and distance to people in the view of the iPhone’s camera.

While it is still useful beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, you can use it to receive an alert when there’s someone in front of you that is more than six feet away, and another one if they come closer to you. In addition to stereo audio alerts, you can set up a haptic pulse that goes faster as the person gets closer.

TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey has more details on the new feature:

iOS 14.2 also adds some minor features, such as new wallpapers, headphone audio level notifications when the volume is too high and redesigned controls for AirPlay.

When Apple introduced the HomePod Mini, the company talked about a new Intercom feature that lets you interact with another Apple user in your house. Today’s software updates add Intercom support for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods and CarPlay.

If you have AirPods, you can now enable optimized battery charging. It works like optimized battery charging on your iPhone. If you plug your AirPods before going to bed, they won’t charge at full speed. Instead, your iPhone can tell your AirPods to charge to 100% right before you wake up — it should improve your battery life.

Apple is also releasing iPadOS 14.2 and watchOS 7.1. Apple Watch users in South Korea and Russia can now try out the ECG feature with recent Apple Watch models.

Before updating, back up your device. Make sure your iCloud backup is up to date by opening the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and tapping on your account information at the top. Alternatively, you can plug your iOS device into your computer to do a manual backup in iTunes or the Finder. Once this is done, you should go to the Settings app, then ‘General’ and then ‘Software Update.’

Here’s the full iOS 14.2 changelog:

iOS 14.2 includes the following improvements for your iPhone:

  • Over 100 new emoji, including animals, food, faces, household objects, musical instruments, gender-inclusive emoji, and more
  • Eight new wallpapers in both light and dark mode versions
  • Magnifier can detect people nearby, and report their distance using the LiDAR sensor included in iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • Support for iPhone 12 Leather Sleeve with MagSafe
  • Optimized battery charging for AirPods to slow the rate of battery aging by reducing the time your AirPods spends fully charged
  • Headphone audio level notifications to alert you when audio level could impact your hearing
  • New AirPlay controls to stream entertainment throughout your home
  • Intercom support with HomePod and HomePod mini using iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and CarPlay
  • Ability to connect HomePod to Apple TV 4K for stereo, surround sound, and Dolby Atmos audio
  • Option to provide statistics about Exposure Notifications, without identifying you, to participating Public Health Authorities

This release also fixes the following issues:

  • Apps could be out of order on the Home Screen dock
  • Camera viewfinder may appear black when launched
  • The keyboard on the Lock Screen could miss touches when trying to enter the passcode
  • Reminders could default to times in the past
  • Photos widget may not display content
  • Weather widget could display the high temperature in Celsius when set to Fahrenheit
  • Next-hour precipitation chart description in Weather could incorrectly indicate when precipitation stops
  • Voice Memos recordings are interrupted by incoming calls
  • The screen could be black during Netflix video playback
  • Apple Cash could fail to send or receive money when asked via Siri
  • Apple Watch app may unexpectedly close when opened
  • Workout GPS routes or Health data are prevented from syncing between Apple Watch and iPhone for some users
  • Audio is incorrectly labeled as “Not Playing” in the CarPlay Dashboard
  • Devices could be prevented from charging wirelessly
  • Exposure Notifications is disabled when restoring iPhone from iCloud Backup or transferring data to a new iPhone using iPhone Migration

For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT201222

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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The Trump administration will add SMIC, China’s largest chipmaker, to its defense blacklist: report

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SMIC, one of largest chip makers in the world, is among several companies that the Department of Defense plans to designate as being owned or controlled by the Chinese military, reports Reuters. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, set to go into effect on January 11, that would bar U.S. investors from buying securities from companies on the defense blacklist.

In a statement to Reuters, SMIC said it continues “to engage constructively and openly with the U.S. government” and that it “has no relationship with the Chinese military and does not manufacture for military end-users or end-uses.”

The largest semiconductor maker in China, SMIC holds about 4% of the worldwide foundry market, estimates market research firm TrendForce. Its U.S. customers have included Qualcomm, Broadcom and Texas Instruments.

There are currently 31 companies on the defense blacklist. SMIC is one of four new companies that the Department of Defense plans to add, according to Reuters. The others are China Construction Technology, China International Engineering Consulting Corp and China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC).

The company delisted from NYSE in May 2019, but it said that the decision was prompted by the limited trading volume and high administrative costs, not the U.S.-China trade war or the U.S. government’s blacklisting of Huawei and other Chinese tech companies.

SMIC has already been impacted by export restrictions that prevent them from purchasing key equipment from American suppliers. At the beginning of October, it told shareholders that export restrictions set by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security could have “material adverse effects” on its production.

The executive order, and the possible addition of new companies to the defense blacklist, is in-line with the Trump administration’s hard stance against Chinese tech companies, including Huawei, ZTE and ByteDance, that it claims are a potential national security threat through their alleged ties to the Chinese government and military. But the future of a lot of the current administration’s policies after the Joe Biden assumes the presidency on January 20 is uncertain.

TechCrunch has contacted SMIC for comment.

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Primer, the fintech helping merchants consolidate the payments stack, raises £14M Series A

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Primer, the U.K. fintech that wants to help merchants consolidate their payments stack and easily support new payment methods in the future, has raised £14 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Accel, who I understand were quite proactive in persuading Primer to take the VC firm’s money.

The young company wasn’t actively fund-raising, having quietly raised £3.8 million in funding announced in May. Instead, the team was heads down building out the product and wooing potential customers by holding technical workshops and in-depth interviews over Zoom with 100 merchants — activity that didn’t go unnoticed.

Also participating in the Series A are existing investors: Balderton, SpeedInvest and Seedcamp, who were joined in the round by new backer RTP Global. Sonali De Rycker, partner at Accel, will join Primer’s board.

Founded by ex-PayPal employees – via PayPal’s acquisition of Braintree — Primer wants to offer one payments API to (hopefully) rule them all, with the explicit aim of bringing greater transparency to a merchant’s payment stack.

The thinking is that larger merchants, especially those that operate in more than one geography, have to support an array of payment methods, which brings with it significant technical overhead, a poor user experience, and lack of transparency.

Primer, now described as a “low code” platform, carries out a lot of that heavy-lifting on behalf of merchants and while remaining steadfastly payment method agnostic. By doing so, the idea is to reduce friction when adopting new payment methods as they come to market, and be able to provide better insights into things like how well each checkout option is performing.

As well as payment-service-providers (PSPs), the platform has connectors for fraud providers, chargeback services, subscription billing engines, BI tools, loyalty and rewards platforms. Both payments and non-payments services can be “seamlessly connected to the checkout experience and payments flow via workflows, enabling merchants to unify their fraud migration efforts, build sophisticated transaction routing, and solve complex flows – all with no code,” explains Primer.

Primer says the additional funding will be used for international business development and scaling its team. Billed as a remote-first company, Primer has 23 employees across six countries, and says it has already picked up traction across mid-market and large enterprise e-commerce merchants across Europe.

Comments Paul Anthony, Primer’s co-founder and head of product and engineering: “During our time at PayPal, we saw first-hand the technical burden online merchants face trying to offer the best payments experiences to their customers globally. Our low-code approach enables merchants’ payments teams to manage and expand their payments ecosystems, and maintain sophisticated payments logic with a familiar workflow UI”.

Meanwhile, the new investment brings Primer’s total funding to £17.8 million, and comes only a few weeks after the initial launch of the company’s platform.

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Gillmor Gang: Electrical Banana

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Thanks I’m giving for the start of the first big online season. Yes, the pandemic has put in place a gigantic move to the digital for our immediate and accelerated future. We all know how this plays out in the required state of things pre-vaccine. But there’s an undercurrent not so hidden there of a dynamic answer to my wife’s stubborn question: Where’s my Jetpack?

She’s a child of the 60s, a post-Beatles time of imploding dreams and dashed expectations. James Bond got to fly a Jetpack, but the telltale burned gasoline exhaust made the effect an artifact of what wasn’t going to happen. In an electric decade and noise-canceling AirPods, maybe it’s more likely to surface than not, but if so, what’s the next Jetpack?

My vote is for the electric newsletter, a notification engine that knows what I’m tracking, projects the trends circulating my core peers, and invests proactively in the products we want to accelerate. It’s a self healing economy, a research coordinator, a humor and media rewarder. On the Gang, we use a blend of live streaming, backchannel notifications, and everything up to but not including a newsletter.

From its earliest days, Twitter promised a future where RSS authority would be mined in a social context. What I mean by that is RSS delivered the ability, the chair in the sky opportunity Louis C.K. described, the chance to explore the world alongside the artists formerly known as accredited journalists. It was always a tough sell for the displaced gatekeepers, but flash forward to today and you can see they’re all bloggers and podcasters now.

The moment the meritocracy window opened, the definition of success moved to the readers, the viewers, the social enterprise as Marc Benioff insisted. Software as a service mined those social signals as fuel for what the iPhone delivered in the mobile wave. Now the mobile economy is expanding to the silicon on the desktop. M1 seems like an evolution, but its entry point on consumer laptops is designed to produce network effects in the same way Office 97 boosted Windows 95 into orbit.

So where is this electric newsletter if it’s so important? As a vehicle for finding stuff I didn’t know I cared about, newsletters suffer from too many of them with too few business models driving them. Subscriptions derive revenue but reduce the network effects of advertising supported subsidy of firewalls. You get reach but quantity explodes. Context glut is not a pretty thing, either.

Our early attempts at constructing a Gang newsletter spawned the realtimeTelegram feed; its group-shared notification stream valuable as much for what we skipped as when we dipped in to it. As a framing device for the Gillmor Gang recording sessions, we could anticipate both what we wanted to talk about and what we wanted to avoid. Trump fatigue gets burned off in Telegram, while science and innovation get drilled down on and fleshed out in advance.

Adding a Twitter feed (follow @gillmorgang) pushes Likes and retweets into the mix. The live recording stream generates Facebook Watch Parties and additional comments. An edited version here on TechCrunch adds this related commentary. But where’s the newsletter for all these live pieces?

Perhaps the answer goes back to the Jetpack? It may not be the Jetpack we are looking for, but rather the components that make up this stream as a service. A Jetpack offers the dream of instant teleportation without the traffic jams or being polite about your Uber driver’s musical taste. Zoom already offers some of that promise, where saving the commute opens up hours in your day. Zoom-enabled shopping and delivery management will go a long way.

As Donovan presciently proclaimed, Electrical Banana gonna to be the very next phase. My electric newsletter is the perfect definition of a pipe dream. It’s not so much as when it’s going to get here as what.

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Friday, November 20, 2020.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

For more, subscribe to the Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook … and here’s our sister show G3 on Facebook.

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