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BlackBerry Passport gets sized up next to a Canadian passport

The BlackBerry Passport was officially announced last month and the company has been promoting its design all over the place, even going as far as to say “We’ve been living in a rectangular world for quite some time… it’s Hip to be Square.” Apart from the design, BlackBerry has also embedded a 3-row “touch-enabled keyboard” that aims to satisfy its core enterprise customers who want both a touch and physical QWERTY keyboard.

Information about the specs has been limited. We know that the Passport will come with a 4.5-inch display with a 1440 x 1440 screen resolution and run BlackBerry OS 10.3, but that’s pretty much it. Until now. New pictures have surfaced that offer a bit more detail on what we can expect when the Passport is released in September. (more…)

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Microsoft cutting 18,000 jobs, 70% will be from its acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services division

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Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO, is wasting no time making significant changes to the structure of the company. What was rumoured last week is now reality as Microsoft announced one if its largest employee reductions in its history. In total, a stunning 18,000, or 14% of its workforce, will be laid off or “moved on” over the next 12 months. The majority will be from its recent acquisition of Nokia Devices and Services division, representing 12,500 people, or 70%, of the cuts.

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Chrome for Android now displays desktop pages more clearly

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Google has updated Chrome for Android and iOS today, bringing some much-need improvements to the way the former renders desktop pages.

The company’s browser has quickly been gaining steam on mobile devices, especially since it is now installed by default on all new Google-certified products. Chrome 36 for Android brings generic performance improvements and bug fixes, but also makes non-mobile pages look better across all screen sizes and resolutions. It does this by determining how much anti-aliasing to use, depending on the font being rendered and the device’s hardware acceleration capabilities. (more…)

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Airbnb for iOS and Android gets UX overhaul as part of company rebranding

Airbnb for iPhone

Airbnb unveiled a major rebranding effort this week, complete with new colour scheme and company logo (check out this great Fast Company profile for more information on the rebranding process). As part of the rebranding, Airbnb has also dropped new versions of its iOS and Android apps. The new versions are more than a simple palette swap, featuring a total UX (user experience) overhaul designed to make listings more appealing and help travellers quickly find the information they need.

The updated apps follow the current mobile trend towards flat design, and place great emphasis on large beautiful photos broken only by small blocks of text. Airbnb’s Discover feed now takes into account more information about a user’s immediate location, prioritizing nearby listings and destination locations. It’s beautiful and easy to navigate, but I took minor offence at being presented Ottawa as a destination getaway (sorry, O-Town. You know I love you).

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Mobilicity unveils new Data and Voice Canada Roaming pricing

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Struggling wireless carrier Mobilicity was recently granted creditor protection until September 26th. Upon that date, we’ll discover the fate of the company, which revealed in a court document it has 155,000 active subscribers.

In what could be a early back-to-school promotion, or possibly one last kick at the can, Anthony Booth, Mobilicity’s CEO, has teased Canadians “amazing new domestic roaming rates launching this Thursday.” Of course, the Tweet left a great deal to the imagination about pricing, minutes and data. We’re hearing that Mobi will come to market with a revision of its current offering, just adding in more for less, with three add-on prices: $5, $10, and $20. (more…)

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Update: Rogers and TELUS will no longer share customer information without a court order

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Following a Supreme Court decision last month, Rogers has made revisions to its policy regarding the sharing of customer information with law enforcement agencies. Upholding Canadians’ rights to online privacy, the Supreme Court ruled in June that police will now require judicial authorization before asking Internet providers for information identifying their customers.

After reviewing the ruling Rogers, has modified its policy to restrict information sharing, and will no longer share such information without “lawful authority”, such as a court order or warrant, except in cases of life-saving emergency. (more…)

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Jawbone’s UP and UP24 app adds contextual health data, food tracking

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Jawbone has announced an update for its iOS companion app that allows users to track their diet as well as their exercise and sleep. Launched in 2011, Jawbone’s Up hit the market ahead of the wearables craze. The issue is now that we have Android Wear, the Galaxy Gear, and Pebble, devices like the UP and the UP24 start to look a little one dimensional in terms of functionality. (more…)

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Visa launches Visa Checkout, a device-agnostic payment service with iOS and Android SDKs, Canadian availability

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On a still-unfinished floor of its expansive new One Market headquarters in downtown San Francisco today, Visa unveiled Visa Checkout, its attempt to simplify and expedite online and mobile payments. The move is meant to make it easier for both consumers and merchants to plug into the robust Visa network, which processes 43% of all Canadian e-commerce transactions today.

Replacing the confusing and under-utilized V.me, Visa Checkout “is not a wallet,” according to CEO Charlie Scharf, but a representation of where the company is moving in facilitating all kinds of payments. “Payments are no longer done with just a plastic card; financial institutions are no longer the only endpoints.”

The idea behind Checkout is take the friction away from digital payments, either in a browser or a mobile app. The announcement coincides with a new button that will appear on the pages of select Canadian retailers: ClearlyContacts.ca, Cineplex Entertainment, Beyond the Rack, World Vision, and Cymax Canada are launch partners, with lululemon, Staples Canada, Ticketmaster, Newegg.ca and Tigerdirect coming in next few months.

(more…)

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Tab brings its mobile restaurant payment solution to Android

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Take a good, hard look for Tab in the Google Play Store, and instead you’ll come across myriad ways to play “Stairway to Heaven” on a guitar.

But once you’ve overcome the SEO calamity of this mobile restaurant payment app from the Toronto development team previously behind Huddlers and Chime, you’ll find a great new way to split, share and pay for meals in some of the city’s best restaurants.

Launching on Android this week, co-founder Adam Epstein told me that the number of restaurants supported by the check in-based solution has doubled in the three months since the iPhone release, from 12 to 24, with more coming soon. The company has transacted close to $100,000 in bills, denoting a slow but steady climb from obscurity. (more…)

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OtterBox partners with Nina Garcia for fashionable Symmetry Series case

OtterBox Symmetry Series Brazilian Pop for Nina Garcia

When OtterBox announced its new Symmetry Series of cases earlier this year, the company really pushed the whole ‘fashion and function’ thing. OtterBox cases don’t have the best reputation for being very stylish, but the Symmetry Series sought to change that with a moulded plastic and rubber design in a range of fun colours. Now, the company is taking things one step further with a collaboration with Colombian fashion journalist and critic Nina Garcia. (more…)

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