Updated: Technology News Headlines for May 22 2012 ( Tuesday )

Airbnb Now Comps Hosts Up To $1 Million For Those Pesky Partiers

Airbnb just announced it's upping its host guarantee system from $50,000 to $1 million. The home-tel business, a cornerstone of the new Sharing Economy, has partnered with prestigious insurance firm Lloyd's of London to offer hosts increased protection against potential property damages caused by guests. It's a cushy upgrade from Airbnb's original $50,000 host guarantee, which the company installed in response to last year's PR fiasco, in which a San Francisco host reported her guests had vandalized her home. But don't get too excited: You can't just cash in on a few rogue Solo cups. Claimants are subject to an online documentation process and potential inspection.

American Express Tries New Incentive Scheme: Farmville In-Game Rewards
American Express is already experimenting with its next-gen mobile payment system Serve, testing the waters for the future of how we'll buy things. Now it's taken an interesting step that taps into current social gaming mores: It's launched a rewards scheme that doesn't give users of its pre-paid Serve cards airmiles or discounts in stores...instead it offers virtual rewards that can be spent in Zynga's wildly popular game Farmville. The Zynga Serve Rewards system will soon also plug into other Zynga games, and crucially it'll also operate the other way around...with Zynga planning on letting the games act as marketing tools themselves as brands will be able to pop offers into games that lead to benefits that can be redeemed using Serve-powered credit cards. 

Google Closes Its $13 Billion Purchase Of Motorola Mobility
Following final approval by Chinese authorities over the weekend, and subsequent SEC filings by Motorola, Google has just finalized its largest ever purchase with a nearly $13 billion payout to buy Motorola Mobility. The deal has been on the cards for many months, and has spurred many discussions about the future of Android handsets. The Chinese officials even insisted that Google maintain Android as an open-source and free OS as part of their conditions, demonstrating the unease the deal has caused. Motorola has been rumored to prep significant staff layoffs which are likely an inevitable consequence of overlap with Google facilities.

New UberConference App Brings Social Smarts And A Graphical UI To Conference Calling.
Conference calling is often a hit-and-miss affair, no matter what system one uses--and there's inevitable juggling with PIN numbers and awkward moments when you don't understand who's logged into the call. Which is why UberConference wants to change this 1990s-feel tech into a 21st Century experience, with its web-based system that has a powerful graphical UI to reveal who's logged in, and comes with the ability to scan callers' social media info, mute selected callers and even apply "ear muffs" to block some participants from private side-chats. Bringing a bit of an iOS-like feel to phone conference calls? That sounds like an innovation we've been waiting for, even as players like Skype and Apple themselves try to improve video conferencing.

A 4-Inch iPhone Looks More And More Likely

According to sources speaking to 9to5Mac.com, Apple is indeed deeply involved in the testing process of a next-gen iPhone with a larger screen. Multiple devices are under test, and "at least one" of them sports a screen that's said to be 3.9 inches across its diagonal with 1136 by 640-pixels resolution. That's a big change from the iPhone's long-maintained 3.5-inch screen size, and 960 by 640 resolution. The information suggests that Apple is going to maintain, pretty closely, the high "retina" density of its display and still increase its size. It also implies a screen ratio change, more closely approaching TV-widescreen shape versus the traditional 4:3 aspect Apple's kept for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad until now.

It's also thought that Apple is testing variations of its upcoming iOS6 software for the device that makes the most of the increased screen real estate by adding another row of homescreen icons and also enabling more content to be seen in apps UI's.

Yesterday GigaOM spoke to several iOS developers and found that on the whole the notion of a larger iPhone screen wasn't a problem for them. There was also a high degree of confidence that Apple would assist in any screen size change by providing migration tools--to avoid an Android-like screen fragmentation issue.

With the rumor that the screen will be the same width, there's likely to be even less of an issue: Existing apps will run as they stand, with just 88 unused pixels at the top and bottom of the new screen--not something even iPhone users will particularly care about because that amounts to fractions of an inch.

Meanwhile 9to5Mac's contact, who seems familiar with the actual hardware under test internally at Apple, notes the phone also sports a smaller docking port.

Hulu Adding 10 New Original Shows This Summer
Hulu is making good on its promise of more original TV content of its own, and has revealed it'll be screening 10 new original shows on both its free and paid streaming TV service over the summer. Everything from comedy to sci fi and "even a little magic" is en route, with Kevin Smith's movie review show Spoilers as perhaps the early gem in the mix. Hulu has also just updated its iOS apps to make the most of the iPad 3's retina-scale display and various other tweaks that improve its performance including, crucially, a new video engine.

McDonalds Tries Out Contactless Pay In Austria, Via The Cloud
The Kernel says McDonald's is beginning a trial of wave-and-pay systems in Austria that skirts many of the existing efforts. Instead of using a bank-based NFC payment card or a credit card-based one like MasterCard's or Visa's, it uses cloud-based verification of a customer's ID through a system called Paybox, run by local telecom firm Telekom. Users sign up to Paybox separately feeding in detalis of their credit cards, and then simply download an app that connects over NFC to McDonald's cash registers--it's more secure as there's no payment data stored on the phone. The idea is similar to Apple's EasyPay system that uses iTunes as a back-end user verification route, and develops on McDonald's earlier experiments in Portugal's drive-thru restaurants with that country's ViaVerde automated motorway toll payment system.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket Successfully Launches Toward ISS
At 3:44 a.m Eastern time private space company SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket, carrying its Dragon space capsule system toward the International Space Station--the upper stages are even now whirling above your head in a sequence of orbits that'll see a rendezvous with the station in a couple of days. The capsule is carrying non-essential supplies for the astronauts and also a mystery "joke" cargo, continuing a tradition started with earlier tests of the rocket. If all goes well, Dargon is destined to be the first commercial ship to dock with the ISS as part of the COTS tests, part of the government's new push for private space vehicles. An earlier launch attempt on Saturday was aborted due to an engine fault at the moment of liftoff, and SpaceX's engineers have demonstrated admirable speed in diagnosing a stuck valve and fixing it in time for today.

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