Company Signs

Best Buy, one of the largest Apple Pay holdouts, is changing its mind. Apple CEO Tim Cook just announced during its earnings call that Best Buy stores will support Apple Pay later this year. It's also available starting today within Best Buy's mobile apps. The news comes only a few hours after we learned the service will soon be supporting Discover cards, making it compatible with the top four biggest credit card companies in the U.S. Best Buy's reversal is especially interesting since its a member of MCX (Merchant Customer Exchange), a joint initiative between big retailers like Walmart and Target to support their own mobile payments app, dubbed CurrentC. None of the MCX members supported Apple Pay when it launched last fall (though Target's mobile app does support it now), so Best Buy's flip-flop might be a sign that we'll see wider support eventually.

[Photo source: Getty Images]

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US IT INTERNET LIFESTYLE APPLE

Back in January this year, Apple recorded a blockbuster of a quarter thanks to holiday sales of its new, larger-screened handsets. It sold a whopping 74.5 million iPhones in the last three months of 2014, chalking up $74.6 billion in revenue in the process. While today's second quarter results don't quite match that number, Cook & co. still managed to rake in a respectable amount of cash: According to the report, Apple made around $58 billion and sold close to 61 million iPhones in the first three months of 2015 alone. That makes this the most successful March quarter in the company's history. This is in large part due to Apple's rising popularity in China, having brought in $16.8 billion in revenue from the country in the past three months. Indeed, China is now Apple's second-biggest market (Americas is still the first), with Europe falling to third place.

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When you're spending most part of the day out and about, chances are at some point you'll have to whip out your portable battery to juice up your smartphone. This usually means stacking your phone on top of a cable-wrapped power bank, and then clumsily holding everything together with one hand. Doesn't sound very 2015, does it? It's annoying enough for a startup called Rubix to come up with a solution: slap a magnetized Qi wireless charging case (aka On Case) on your phone, and then let it snap onto a magnetized wireless charging battery (aka On Charger). Look ma, no cable!

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Unstoppable / Vienna, Austria (2013)

Unlike forest fires, you personally can't do much to stop trainwrecks. With that in mind, the folks over at General Electric took a break from tracking your brain on BBQ and devised a way to keep one of the oldest forms of powered-transport on track in adverse weather conditions. You see, the Ardennes Forest in Belgium is legendary for its inhospitable conditions and to sidestep them and the mountains, trains were taking a longer, flatter and more expensive route. That wasn't too economical. So, GE implemented what it calls the Advanced Rail Cleaner for trains on the route. Essentially, the ARC is a module that sits at a precise spot ahead of the front axle and uses high-pressure air (rather than lasers) moving at supersonic speeds to clear away any moisture and debris.

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While air travel is quicker and safer than driving, it's also louder. The continuous low-frequency drone of the engines is why some people invest in noise-canceling headphones. To help reduce that non-stop hum, researchers at North Carolina State University and MIT have developed a thin membrane to be inserted into the lightweight honeycomb structure of planes and helicopters. "At low frequencies – sounds below 500 Hertz – the honeycomb panel with the membrane blocks 100 to 1,000 times more sound energy than the panel without a membrane." said Yun Jing, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State University. The 0.25mm-thick membrane would only add an additional six percent to the overall weight of the honeycomb structure of aircraft. While that doesn't seem like much, every ounce counts to airlines trying to maximize flight costs. It'll be on them to decide whether they'd rather save money on fuel or makes cabins a better place for passengers.

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Alex in 'Minecraft'

Lots of girls play Minecraft, but you wouldn't know it from the default character options. Unless you've been willing to pay up or install a mod, your only real choice so far has been Steve, the game's male mascot. At last, though, things are opening up -- Mojang is giving builders the choice of a free girl character, Alex. She's been around before as a randomly assigned character in the computer version, but the move will help female players on all platforms sculpt their dream worlds using a character they can identify with. PlayStation and Xbox gamers will get Alex as of April 29th, while mobile users playing the Pocket Edition should see her this summer.

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The five new filters that Instagram released back in December have reportedly been such a hit with users, the company has unveiled three more retouching options: Lark, Reyes and Juno. According to Instagram's blog, Lark softens reds in favor of blue and green hues to highlight landscape shots while Reyes washes out the image as a whole to create a weathered and vintage feel. The Juno filter is geared more for portraits. It boosts warm tones and whites while adding a slight green tint to cooler colors.

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Video calls in Facebook Messenger

Facebook is no stranger to video chat, but it's been keeping a low profile as of late. Well, it's no longer content to sit on the sidelines while Skype and Hangouts steal the show -- the company has just introduced video calling in Messenger. Whether you're using Android or iOS, you only need to tap a single button in an existing conversation to start a face-to-face session. The feature is available today in 18 countries (including the UK and the US), so give it a shot if you're a Facebook fan and would rather not fire up another app just to see who you're talking to.

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NBC Sports on a Roku player

You have more than a few ways to watch live sports on Apple TV and Roku boxes, but there are still a few gaps. What if you want to catch lots of golf tournaments? If you live in the US, you won't have to worry quite so much. NBC Sports has launched versions of its Live Extra app for both media hubs, making sure that you won't miss out on the Golf Channel, the Olympics, Sunday Night Football and some internet-only events, such as certain Premier League matches. You'll still need a qualifying TV subscription to watch in the first place, but this beats missing out on some big-screen sports simply because you're visiting friends.

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Snapchat Discover

Snapchat just showed how serious it is about turning its mobile video messaging service into your news hub. The company has hired Peter Hamby, one of CNN's best political reporters, to oversee its news efforts. He'll still contribute to the TV network through 2016, but his top priority will be the internet startup. As to what Hamby will actually do in his new job? He's not spilling the beans, but his interest in Snapchat's live stories suggests that you'll see more on-the-ground coverage of unfolding events. You may well find yourself using a single app to both catch up on the day's happenings and share gossip with your friends.

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