Have Flagship Smartphone Prices Peaked?

Analyst Ben Wood, writing for research firm CCS Insight: Smartphone makers have been testing the economic rule of supply and demand for the past decade, seemingly defying conventional wisdom in consumer electronics products by raising prices. Greater utility and the constant of use smartphones combined to grow the value of devices to customers. But it seems that top phone-makers are learning that no tree grows to heaven, as prices beyond the psychological threshold of $1,000 have created sticker shock among some consumers. Apple's announcement of the iPhone 11 at its annual product event last week largely centered on incremental improvements such as better camera and battery life, but the company's decision to lower the price of its base flagship smartphone caught our eye. The iPhone 11 will cost $699 in the US. A year ago, Apple introduced the iPhone XR at $749. It's a subtle, but interesting move that sees Apple shifting its "mid-range" iPhone back to a price of $699, where it previously resided with the iPhone 8. Apple's decision to lower pricing can be seen as an acknowledgement that it has tested the upper limits of consumer acceptance. At a time when the company wants to expand its number of customers as it builds out its ecosystem of content and services, it's sensible that it slightly brought down the barriers for consumers to get their hands on the new device.

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IBM’s New 53-qubit Quantum Computer is Its Biggest Yet

IBM's 14th quantum computer is its most powerful so far, a model with 53 of the qubits that form the fundamental data-processing element at the heart of the system. From a report: The system, available online to quantum computing customers in October, is a big step up from the last IBM Q machine with 20 qubits and should help advance the marriage of classical computers with the crazy realm of quantum physics. Quantum computing remains a highly experimental field, limited by the difficult physics of the ultra-small and by the need to keep the machines refrigerated to within a hair's breadth of absolute zero to keep outside disturbances from ruining any calculations. But if engineers and scientists can continue the progress, quantum computers could help solve computing problems that are, in practice, impossible on today's classical computers. That includes things like simulating the complexities of real-world molecules used in medical drugs and materials science, optimizing financial investment performance, and delivering packages with a minimum of time and fuel.

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How Long Before These Salmon Are Gone? ‘Maybe 20 Years’

An anonymous reader shares a report: The Middle Fork of the Salmon River, one of the wildest rivers in the contiguous United States, is prime fish habitat. Cold, clear waters from melting snow tumble out of the Salmon River Mountains and into the boulder-strewn river, which is federally protected. The last of the spawning spring-summer Chinook salmon arrived here in June after a herculean 800-mile upstream swim. Now the big fish -- which can weigh up to 30 pounds -- are finishing their courtship rituals. Next year there will be a new generation of Chinook. In spite of this pristine 112-mile-long mountain refuge, the fish that have returned here to reproduce and then die for countless generations are in deep trouble. Some 45,000 to 50,000 spring-summer Chinook spawned here in the 1950s. These days, the average is about 1,500 fish, and declining. And not just here: Native fish are in free-fall throughout the Columbia River basin, a situation so dire that many groups are urging the removal of four large dams to keep the fish from being lost. "The Columbia River was once the most productive wild Chinook habitat in the world," said Russ Thurow, a fisheries research scientist with the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station. Standing alongside the Salmon River in Idaho, Mr. Thurow considered the prospect that the fish he had spent most of his life studying could disappear. "It's hard to say, but now these fish have maybe four generations left before they are gone," he said. "Maybe 20 years."

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Smart TVs, Smart-Home Devices Found To Be Leaking Sensitive User Data, Researchers Find

Smart-home devices, such as televisions and streaming boxes, are collecting reams of data -- including sensitive information such as device locations -- that is then being sent to third parties like advertisers and major tech companies, researchers said Tuesday. From a report: As the findings show, even as privacy concerns have become a part of the discussion around consumer technology, new devices are adding to the hidden and often convoluted industry around data collection and monetization. A team of researchers from Northeastern University and the Imperial College of London found that a variety of internet-connected devices collected and distributed data to outside companies, including smart TV and TV streaming devices from Roku and Amazon -- even if a consumer did not interact with those companies. "Nearly all TV devices in our testbeds contacts Netflix even though we never configured any TV with a Netflix account," the Northeastern and Imperial College researchers wrote. The researchers tested a total of 81 devices in the U.S. and U.K. in an effort to gain a broad idea of how much data is collected by smart-home devices, and where that data goes.

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