China has some new cybersecurity laws, starting in January 2017, Tesla will charge owners of new Teslas for Supercharger use if they drive more than 1,000 miles a year, Samsung leaks its AI plans for the Galaxy S8, Gmail for iOS gets an update and, on Election Day, Google will be refreshing election results every 20 seconds. All this on Crunch Report. Read More
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Streaming media hardware company Roku, which is holding it own in a market that includes tech industry heavyweights including Apple and Google, has just introduced new models of its streaming players. The small set-top boxes include redesigned versions of the Roku LT, Roku 1 and Roku 2, bringing some features from the Roku 3 flagship player to the company’s more conservatively priced offerings.
Each new Roku gets a hardware design refresh, with bubble-style rounded sides instead of the straight lines and hard edges of the older versions. The designs are a bit more whimsical, and an improvement over the previous, somewhat Apple TV-like puck style design. The lineup gives access to Roku’s Channel Store for expandable content options. Third-party channels available for Roku number over 1,000 in the U.S., but cap out at just over 450 in the UK, Canada and Ireland.
The entry-level LT is pretty much the same as its predecessor in a brand new shell, but the Roku 1 gets a considerable upgrade with support for 1080p video (the old one supported just 720p), while the Roku 2 adds a new headphone jack and dual-band Wi-Fi capabilities, which previously were features exclusive to the Roku 3. Roku tells TechCrunch that 40 percent of its customers said the headphone jack was the reason they opted for the Roku 3, so this should bump up sales of the lower cost unit. The LT retails for $49.99, while the Roku 1 is $59.99 and the Roku 2 is $79.99.
Roku’s SVP of Product Management Jim Funk says that it’s adding new channels at a rate of about one to two a day, and that it’s seeing 13 hours of streaming per week on average. The company is also working to bring Netflix’s DIAL AirPlay-type service to Roku’s platform, which will allow users to stream content from their phone to the players directly. That integration will come sometime in the next few months, according to Funk.
Roku has also added support for M-Go in the U.S. starting today, which brings that transactional video-on-demand company’s catalog of curated content to the streaming platform. M-Go is a joint venture between DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor, and offers access to 16,000 movies and TV shows, with 20,000 anticipated in its library by year’s end. The M-Go partnership arrangement is a revenue sharing opportunity for Roku, Funk explained, and it puts the service right in Roku’s centralized “TV Shows” and “Movies” tabs, giving them an advantage by taking them out of the general fracas of the 1,000-strong channel guide.
All the new Roku devices are available in the U.S. for pre-order, with expected shipping in October, and the new LT is a U.S.-exclusive for now. In Canada, the UK and Ireland, the Roku 1 and 2 are available for pre-order with shipping anticipated in October, and the previously released Roku 3 makes its way to those territories with immediate availability from Roku’s website. The hardware revamp comes ahead of speculation that Apple will update its own Apple TV streaming media device sometime soon, possibly alongside new iPads, so we could see a lot of competition for holiday dollars in this space.
In our review of the Moto X, we determined that while its ClearPixel camera was decent, its performance was hit or miss. Fortunately, Motorola has taken a lot of feedback and has cranked out a software update with improvements to the camera’s performance, specifically in the areas of exposure, color accuracy and focus speed. The refresh, which is so far getting pushed out to T-Mobile phones — we expect it to roll out to other carriers as soon as each one is done testing the new firmware, though nothing is currently confirmed — appears to make a rather substantial difference in several scenarios, such as reducing noise in low-light and eliminating haze in outdoor shots. Anandtech’s Brian Klug had the opportunity to take the updated shooter for a test run and declared it to be “nothing short of the biggest [improvement] I’ve ever seen come across in an OTA update.”
In addition to the camera improvements, Motorola also threw in a few other enhancements as well. Users who have downloaded the update should expect increased Touchless Control accuracy, a fix for the choppy audio issue some have experienced in voice calls and an improvement to Moto Assist as well.