News from the video game industry for the week of February 15
Every Sunday, MacNN and Electronista gather together a selection of notable news from the world of gaming into one post. In this week's Weekly Game Replay, we talk about Epic Games fostering development by providing $5 million in grants to Unreal Engine 4 projects, Twitch announcing its first convention, and the revelation Kanye West is making a game.
Utility classification accompanied by calls to improve speeds, digital skills education
Internet access must be classified as a public utility, a report from the upper house of the United Kingdom parliament has declared, with speeds and the teaching of "digital skills" also a priority. Echoing the similar Title II discussion in the United States, the UK's House of Lords calls for the government to "define the Internet as a utility service, available for all to access and use," citing the prevalence of the Internet in everyday life.
First UK banks to use Touch ID to secure banking apps
Banks in the United Kingdom are starting to use Touch ID in their iOS apps for the first time. The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest are rolling out Touch ID support to their banking apps starting from tomorrow, allowing bank customers to sign into the app using their fingerprint on iPhones, instead of using the current lengthy passcode system.
UK-based music tastemaker heading to United States for Apple job
Apple will soon be getting more help with its musical ambitions, as it has reportedly hired BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe. The New Zealand-born radio personality, known in the United Kingdom as a tastemaker and helped launch the musical careers of stars including Adele and the Arctic Monkeys, will be quitting the station next month before moving to the United States to work with Apple.
Streaming video service Target Ticket shuttering next month
Target is shutting down its video streaming service next month. Target Ticket has already stopped providing rentals, though existing rentals will be viewable until the service shuts down completely on March 7, according to its support pages. The retailer has already made arrangements for its customers to watch movies through CinemaNow from the same account when Ticket closes, with any UltraViolet purchases viewable through other supported video services automatically.
Three-year investment program aims to provide 4G to more than 99 percent of population
British carrier EE has pledged to spend £1.5 billion ($2.3 billion) over the next three years to spread LTE service across the United Kingdom. The carrier plans to flood the country with 4G/LTE coverage, and is aiming to cover more than 99 percent of the population with the higher-speed service by 2017, exceeding its current footprint for its aging 2G service, and blanket 90 percent of the UK geography with the high-speed wireless connection.
Sling TV accepting new customer registrations without an invitation
Dish Network's Sling TV has been opened up to new registrations without requiring an invitation, following its soft launch. Spotted by GigaOM, the Internet TV service provides a trial week of usage before requiring users to pay for access. While the basic package includes live access to 15 channels for $20 per month, a collection of three add-on packages containing channels relating to news and information, kids and family, and sports can all be added at $5 per extra bundle.
UK broadcaster gets closer to offering quad-play services to customers
British pay-TV provider Sky will be moving into the mobile phone business, it has announced. The satellite broadcaster confirmed earlier reports that it would be working with the Telefonica-owned carrier O2 to have wholesale access to its 2G, 3G, and LTE mobile phone network and provide carrier functions to its subscribers, as part of a multi-year deal.
Google adds Send Money option to Gmail in United Kingdom
Google is adding the Send Money option to Gmail in the United Kingdom. Originally available to US users since 2013, the option allows users to attach funds to an outbound email by selecting the £ symbol, which can also be used to request money, with funds transferred between users via Google Wallet. The feature is rolling out to all Gmail users in the UK over the age of 18 in the coming weeks.
Motorola details online store discounts for early February
Motorola will be offering multiple discounts on devices in its mobile store, as part of a Valentine's Day promotion. From February 3 until February 14, the manufacturer is discounting pre-tax purchases worth $500 by $100, or $35 off $250 purchases, though an customers registering for the promotion within a one-hour window on February 2 will get codes worth $140 and $50 off the $500 and $250 respective purchases.
Acquisition of O2 by parent company of competitor Three could cost $15.4B
Telefonica, owner of British carrier O2, and Hutchison Whampoa, the parent company of competitor Three, have confirmed they are in talks over a potential acquisition, following earlier reports. The two have entered "exclusive negotiations," which could see O2 change hands for an estimated £10.25 billion ($15.4 billion) if discussions between the executive teams succeed.
Early-stage talks could see Sky selling O2 lines to customers in quad play package
British carrier O2 has received some considerable interest in recent months, with broadcaster Sky allegedly in discussions with the mobile phone network. Reports claim Sky and O2-owner Telefonica are in early-stage talks, which could lead to a potential "strategic partnership" offering lines to customers rather than a touted acquisition similar to the one said to be under negotiation between O2 and competitor Three.
Spotify adds darker theme, Your Music, new Browse option to Windows Phone app
Spotify has updated the Windows Phone version of its music streaming app, bringing it in line with the Android and iOS apps. Using a darker theme and an updated user interface, the app now includes Your Music, allowing users to manage their favorite tracks and albums, while the Browse function is said to offer more localized and personalized content, such as playlists based on the time of day.
Hutchison Whampoa said to be in talks with Telefonica over O2 acquisition
British carrier O2 may be the latest target for acquisition by another telecommunications company. Hutchison Whampoa, the company behind competitor Three, is apparently said to be in early-stage talks to take over O2 from current owner Telefonica, with a report claiming it could change hands for as much as £9 billion ($13.6 billion) if the discussions are fruitful.
Accused of DDoS against PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, swatting attempts
Another arrest has been made in the United Kingdom, over distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on Sony's PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live online services, as well as instances of "swatting." An unidentified 18-year-old man was arrested in Southport this morning, with computers and other electronic devices seized by law enforcement officials for further investigation.
Coolpix S3700 offers 20MP sensor, 8x optical zoom, Wi-Fi, NFC
Nikon is expanding its Coolpix range with three more compact cameras in the United Kingdom. The Coolpix S2900 and the Coolpix S3700 pack a 20-megapixel CCD image sensor inside their small and colorful casings, while the Coolpix L31 is a cheaper model with a 16-megapixel CCD sensor, powered by easily-replaceable AA batteries.
TalkTalk adds Netflix app to YouView set-top box
Netflix is being included on the YouView set-top box in the United Kingdom for the first time, giving viewers another way to watch shows from the streaming service. The TalkTalk-owned device will start rolling out to pre-registered customers initially, with Digital Spy reporting that the rollout is expected to continue to the end of the month, covering all 1.2 million TalkTalk TV homes.
HTC adds YouTube streaming to RE Camera for Android today, iOS later this quarter
HTC has added the ability to stream from its Re Camera to YouTube. An app update for the camera will enable the live streaming to the video service while it is paired to a smartphone, with users able to sign into their YouTube account from within the app to create public and private live streams. While Android users can download the update from today via Google Play, iOS users will have to wait until later this quarter to be able to stream from the action camera.
McDonalds adds Qi wireless charging hotspots to 50 restaurants
McDonalds is bringing wireless charging to some of its restaurants in the United Kingdom. Working with Aircharge, a total of 600 Qi charging hotspots will be fitted in 50 stores, mostly in London, with the hotspots themselves said to be water-resistant units capable of surviving the occasional soft drink spillage. The expansion follows an initial test, and reports that customers waited for up to 30 minutes to use the chargers at one restaurant.
Dev channel for Chrome OS includes always-on voice search option
Google is bringing the always-on "Ok Google" voice command to Chromebooks. Spotted in the Dev Channel version of the operating system by Francois Beaufort, the function lets users perform a search verbally at any time, in a similar manner to some Android smartphones. It is unknown if or when the feature will reach non-developer users.
Investment pledge by UK carriers to avoid implementing national roaming proposal
A suggestion by the British government has prompted carriers to improve their mobile networks. EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three have all agreed to collectively invest at least £5 billion ($7.8 billion) into a program to improve their mobile networks across the United Kingdom, in order to avoid being forced to implement a proposed "National Roaming" scheme.
BT enters acquisition exclusivity agreement with Deutsche Telekom, Orange
British Telecom has confirmed it is looking to acquire a carrier in the United Kingdom, with EE being their primary target. BT has entered into an "exclusivity agreement" with Deutsche Telekom and Orange to acquire EE in its entirety, which if completed will mean that BT will own a mobile phone network for the second time in its lifetime.
Follow-up to HTC Desire 610 packs 64-bit processor, 5-inch 720p display
HTC is continuing its support for the mid-range smartphone market, by extending its Desire line in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. The Desire 620 is the successor to the Desire 610 launched at Mobile World Congress in February this year, and will be driven by a 64-bit quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, along with 1GB of RAM.
Three offers same-day delivery of Galaxy S5, iPhone 6 in London
British carrier Three is starting to offer same-day delivery for smartphone orders, within central London, saving customers from going to a store. The trial will allow customers to order a Samsung Galaxy S5 or the iPhone 6 from the carrier from Monday to Friday between 7am and 3pm at "selected London postcodes," reports Engadget, with customers paying £15 ($23.50) for the privilege.
Amazon delivery pick-up locations in the United Kingdom exceeds 16,000
Amazon has made two announcements relating to services provided to its customers, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In the United Kingdom, the retailer is increasing the number of delivery pick-up locations in time for the holidays, while customers buying certain products in the United States will be alerted to installation services in the local area.
Report claims BT could reacquire carrier it spun off in 2001
British Telecom (BT) may reacquire O2, a mobile phone network the company originally created, according to reports. BT is said to be in talks with two carriers about a possible acquisition, and while one is the Telefonica-owned O2, the other potential target is EE, the carrier offering services from both Orange and T-Mobile in the United Kingdom alongside its own LTE coverage.
Proposed security bill will force Internet providers to log IP address allocations for one year
The UK government is proposing a law which would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to keep records of IP address allocations and provide them to the police. Part of the "Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill," the measure is said to help law enforcement officials identify and track devices used for online crime, terrorism, and to help protect vulnerable people.
Site breached privacy by showing video feeds from unsecured webcams
A Russian website showing live video feeds from unsecured webcams has come under fire from a British government regulator. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) of the United Kingdom has called for Russian authorities to take action against the site, "Insecam," which breaches the privacy of thousands of people who do not realize someone else may be watching, as well as calling for device owners to secure their cameras.
Personal hydrogen fuel cell from Intelligent Energy recharges smartphones, USB devices
A hydrogen fuel cell has gone on sale in the United Kingdom via Apple Stores. The Upp from Intelligent Energy, a company previously said to be in discussions with Apple over fuel cell technology, is a portable unit for providing extra power to mobile devices, and though it has a battery to store energy for future use, additional cartridges which provide extra power can be attached, ones which can be replaced once exhausted.
Netflix launching video streaming service in Australia, New Zealand from March
Netflix is planning to expand its service to Australia and New Zealand from early next year. Starting from March 2015, the streaming video service will be available in the two countries, complete with 4K video playback with compatible devices, though The Next Web notes the inclusion of "a curated selection" in the announcement points to a more limited TV show and movie collection at launch than in other territories.
Google Nexus 6 pre-orders begin in United Kingdom
The Google Nexus 6 will be going on sale soon in the United Kingdom, with a number of retailers offering pre-orders for the device. Carphone Warehouse is selling the smartphone SIM-free for £499 and £549 ($780 and $860) for the 32GB and 64GB models respectively with delivery expected on December 1st. Amazon UK is stocking the 32GB model at the same price, but with a later release date of December 15th. Google Play does list the Nexus 6 for the UK, with identical pricing for both versions, but it is not allowing for pre-orders, nor states when it will be available.
Adidas Photo Print app allows for customization of sneakers using photographs
Adidas is letting US sneaker enthusiasts customize a pair of shoes with a mobile app, something it has offered in Europe for a few months already. Pocket-Lint reports the Photo Print app for Android and iOS can take an image from the user's smartphone and apply it to a pair of ZX Flux sneakers. The custom shoes take between four and six weeks to ship, priced at $110.
UK aviation jobs with Amazon accompanied by voice recognition roles
Amazon's attempts to create a drone delivery service may involve some testing in the United Kingdom. Job postings for Evi Technologies, an Amazon-owned company, show the retail giant is looking for a flight operations engineer, a site leader, a project manager, a software developer, and an office manager, with all jobs directly mentioning Amazon Prime Air.
UK carriers expected to bid for more 4G spectrum in late 2015, early 2016
United Kingdom telecommunications regulator Ofcom has announced it will be holding another auction for spectrum covering the country, this time spectrum currently being used by the Ministry of Defence. The second auction, set to take place at the end of 2015 or early 2016, will in theory work similar to last year's successful 4G auction, and will provide winning carriers with even more capacity for their LTE networks.
Bluetooth earphones, standalone Samsung Gear S smartwatch head to market this week
Samsung has confirmed it is bringing its Gear Circle wireless earphones to the United States this month, ready for the holiday shopping period. At the same time, it has been revealed the manufacturer's standalone Gear S smartwatch will be making its way to the United Kingdom, with the first units set to go on sale later this week.
Terrorist use of social networks concerns new head of UK intelligence agency
The new head of a British intelligence agency has asked for technology companies in the United States to help law enforcement fight crime. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) chief Robert Hannigan wrote in an article for the Financial Times that the use of technology and social networks by terrorist groups such as Isis should compel tech companies to work with government agencies, rather than overprotect customer data.
WWE Network reaches UK with free month, altered subscriptions
World Wrestling Entertainment is expanding the reach of its streaming service to the United Kingdom later today, after already rolling to 170 other countries. Starting from 8PM GMT, Digital Spy writes that WWE Network will be available in the country on a variety of devices for free until the end of November, before a subscription fee of £6.25 ($10) per month is introduced. WWE is also altering its subscription requirements in December, removing the six-month minimum commitment period for the lower monthly fee, and instead charging a $9.99 rolling monthly fee.
Update: WWE has advised on Twitter that the service has been "delayed until further notice." No reason has been provided.
Razer adds Chroma lighting system to Naga gaming mouse
Razer has made an update to its Naga gaming mouse, by giving it the Chroma lighting system the company introduced in August. The Naga Epic Chroma, fitted with an 8,200 DPI 4G laser sensor with wired and wireless modes, a grid of 12 customizable buttons on the thumb grip, and a total of 19 buttons overall, can change its lighting scheme to any of 16.8 million color options, or alternately let it cycle through most of the color spectrum. Shipping in early November in the United States and Europe, Razer is pricing the Naga Epic Chroma at $130.
Second generation Moto X drops in price for 24-hour sale in UK
Motorola has made two announcements relating to its smartphone and smartwatch, specifically for customers located in the United Kingdom. The manufacturer is discounting the Moto X for a limited time, while its round-faced Android Wear device, the Moto 360, has started to go on sale through retailers in the country, as well as through the manufacturer itself.
Amazon Fire TV includes broadcaster on-demand services alongside Amazon Instant Video
Amazon has started to sell its Fire TV media streamer in the United Kingdom, marking the set-top box's first foray in Europe and outside the United States. Following a pre-order period which started in early September, Amazon is selling the Fire TV for £79 ($126) including tax, and is also shipping the Amazon Fire Game Controller separately for £35 ($56).
Sky updates mobile app with refreshed home screen, Smart Series Link
British broadcaster Sky has updated its iOS and Android Sky+ apps to allow users to display their photographs from their mobile devices on the television through the Sky+ HD set-top box. The app also includes a new updated homepage, complete with a dedicated Sports section, and a Smart Series Link option that lets the Sky+ box record all current and future seasons of selected programs.
Microsoft releases digital TV tuner for Xbox One in Europe
A digital TV tuner for the Xbox One has gone on sale in Europe through the Microsoft Store. Priced at £25 ($40) in the UK and 30 euros ($38) in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the tuner will allow owners of the Microsoft game console to view free-to-air HD television through the device, complete with Snap Mode video, pausing and rewinding of live TV, and OneGuide program listings.
Online abuse proposals quadruple current maximum prison sentences
The government of the United Kingdom is attempting to increase the possible penalties for online harassment, following recent high-profile reports of "trolling" in the country. The proposals, an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill undergoing the latter stages of parliamentary debate, potentially allows for people convicted for trolling to face prison sentences of up to two years, up from the current six-month maximum.
Trial success could lead to white space usage in conservation efforts
The latest experiment in using 'white spaces' in the United Kingdom is underway, with London Zoo being the unexpected location for testing. Communications regulator Ofcom has detailed a trial by Google and ZSL London Zoo of technologies using white spaces, by streaming live video from several animal exhibits on YouTube.
Google adds backdrop customization options to Chromecast app
Google is starting to enable customizable backdrops for the Chromecast, a feature it first revealed in June. Rolling out from today, owners of the streaming dongle can customize the image feed from the Chromecast app for Android and iOS, including photo albums from Google+, artwork from the Google Cultural Institute, and news images from various publications. More information about an image on display can be brought up by asking the Google search app "What's on my Chromecast?" on any other mobile device on the same network.
Set-top box from EE streams to four tablets over local network
British carrier EE has expanded its service into the living room, by launching its first set-top box. The EE TV is similar to YouView, in that it provides access to over 70 Freeview broadcast channels, catch-up services, and access to other online services such as YouTube, though unusually the company has opted to heavily integrate it with mobile devices.
Samsung Gear S will have Opera Mini browser available at release
The Samsung Gear S, a smartwatch with its own 3G data connection due to go on sale in the near future, will be able to access the Internet via its own browser, Opera has revealed. Owners of the standalone smartwatch will be able to download Opera Mini for the device via the Samsung Gear Apps store, with the browser said to be made more user friendly for the small screen by making website shortcuts into larger buttons, and by including a single Smart Page collecting together various social updates onto a single screen.
Upgraded Android tablet from Tesco ships in range of 64 colors
British retailer Tesco has launched its expected follow-up to the Hudl Android tablet. The Hudl 2 increases the size of the screen from the original's 7-inch 1440x900 to a 1080p 8.3-inch version, powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.83GHz with 2GB of RAM, with a fair number of other areas receiving similar small upgrades.
British launch includes fewer books than US Kindle Unlimited catalog
Amazon has expanded its all-you-can-eat e-book subscription service to the United Kingdom, just two months after the retailer's original United States launch. Kindle Unlimited offers book readers over 650,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks to read and listen to, with the UK subscription priced at £7.99 ($13) per month accompanied by a 30-day trial.