Few Android phones have generated the enthusiasm that Essential’s PH-1 has. If you haven’t been keeping up, it’s a very pretty, surprisingly clever smartphone from Andy Rubin, one of the men responsible for unleashing Android upon the world.
On the flip side, few US wireless carriers have fared as poorly as Sprint. In terms of subscribers, it’s in last place out of the Big Four. So, it was a surprise for these two companies come together to cook up an exclusivity deal of sorts: Sprint gets to be the exclusive US carrier for the PH-1, leaving Essential to sell unlocked models to everyone else.
This seemed, in a word, dumb. In an interview with USA Today, Essential President Niccolo de Masi said the company took the leap with Sprint because it likes to “bet where the market is going as opposed to where the market was.” He went on to add that Sprint is the “network of the future,” which is probably the nicest thing anyone under contractual obligation has ever said about the carrier. At this point, it’s a little difficult to imagine the pendulum of fortune swinging back in Sprint’s direction, but that doesn’t matter. The thing to remember is that while this isn’t a perfect deal, it’s still a deal. That’s more than most of Essential’s premium, unlocked competition have. Even better, Essential gets to have its cake and eat it too.
Remember: The PH-1 looks a lot like a love letter to Android’s power users. (I affectionately refer to them as the OnePlus crowd.) They like insane performance, thoughtful design and straight talk; they abhor compromise. OnePlus is a great example of a company that has been chasing this flagship dream for years and done well. Essential is ready to compete in this very specific market. For all the people who prefer to skip middlemen and get their devices straight from the source, Essential has you covered. Just buy it unlocked, pop a SIM in there, and have a great time.
The deal with Sprint just opens extra doors. If nothing else, Essential gets access to marketing money that it may have been unwilling to shell out itself. In case you haven’t been keeping track, Sprint is actually trying really hard to get back into people’s good graces. I’m not talking about those obnoxious “post-Verizon glasses guy” ads either (though some people seem inordinately fond of them).
Look at their most recent ploy: Customers who are willing to switch from their current carriers basically get an extended, one-year trial run of Sprint service for basically nothing. (You pay for a SIM and cover a small administrative fee each month.) Sprint has admitted that this won’t actually make it much money — instead, it’s a pretty naked grab for subscribers that could help liven up its next earnings release. It’s a clear sign that Sprint will do what it has to to stay in the fight. If it thinks it has a handle on the next big thing — which it might — we may see Essential ads on TV. Your Top-40-FM binge may break into a polished, 30-second Essential spot. Most important, you may be able to walk into a store and see what an Essential phone is like, and talk to a staff that’s been trained on it. By settling on a deal, Essential gets a whole new front in its war for success.
That Essential couldn’t close this kind of deal with a bigger carrier like Verizon or AT&T is telling. There’s very little detail available on Essential’s approach to software. We know that PH-1 will run Android, and that Essential founder Rubin was trying very hard to keep carrier apps off the device at launch. I suspect that was a big sticking point for other carriers. Whether you like Sprint or not, it isn’t nearly as bad as its rivals.
I mean, have you seen all the crap that comes on a Verizon phone? This junk software falls into two major categories: apps that have been pre-installed because of some lucrative partnership, or shortcuts that point to app listings in the Play Store (presumably because those companies didn’t want to pay as much). Verizon cut a deal with Google to sell its high-end Pixels to its customers, but come on — it was Google. Of course Verizon was going to figure something out. Essential obviously doesn’t have that kind of clout or leverage (yet).
AT&T is no saint in all this either. It generally adds less trash in favor of cross-promotional DirecTV nonsense that’s difficult for normal users to get rid of. And let’s not forget how many times AT&T has been burned by taking a chance on an exclusive phone deal over the years. Let’s see: there was the big stuff, like Amazon’s Fire Phone, Facebook and HTC’s First, the Padfone X … the list goes on. AT&T gets points for gumption, but the last time it really got an exclusivity deal right was with the iPhone 10 years ago.
If Sprint pledged some marketing muscle and promised not to screw about with Essential software, it’s hard to see how Essential could’ve refused. Andy Rubin’s new brainchild has little to lose and everything to gain from this tie-up. As for Sprint, it’s been batted around by the market for awhile, anyway — if it could survive that, it’ll survive a potentially misguided exclusivity play. Like I said, this isn’t a perfect deal, but a having a deal at all is better than nothing.
Just because Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement doesn’t mean the American people are going to go along with him. Cities, states and private companies from around the nation have already pledged to abide by the rules set forth in that accord, even if the federal government won’t. And, on Tuesday, Apple put its money where its resistance is by issuing a billion dollar bond for financing clean energy and other green projects.
This move comes a year after the company issued a similar $ 1.5 billion bond after the Paris climate agreement was ratified in 2015. “Leadership from the business community is essential to address the threat of climate change and protect our shared planet, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, told Reuters.
That money will go towards efforts to improve the energy efficiency of Apple’s own facilities, as well as throughout its supply chain, by financing renewable energy, procuring more recycled and renewable source materials so as to reduce its need to mine for them. For example, one of the 16 projects that Apple financed with its original bond last year was Liam, the robotic iPhone disassembler.
Google wasn’t shy about targeting its Pixel phones at iPhone users (it even helped them migrate), and now that similarity could extend to the processors under the hood. Variety has discovered that Google recently hired Manu Gulati, a key chip designer at Apple, to become its lead system-on-chip architect. While Gulati’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t say much about what he’s doing, sources claim that Google hired him with the goal of designing its own CPUs for Pixel phones. It’s looking for more chip experts, too, and has posted job listings or a “mobile SoC CPU architect” and similar roles.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will let you know if it can elaborate on the hire.
It’s not completely shocking that Google would go this route: there were rumblings in 2016 about Pixel phones eventually adopting custom processors. The big concern is whether or not it’s practical. Apple, Huawei and Samsung can all justify in-house CPUs because they sell many millions of devices every quarter. Google hasn’t divulged Pixel sales, but it’s safe to say they’re nowhere near as large as more established rivals with wider availability and bigger marketing budgets. If Variety is accurate, Google is betting either on the Pixel line’s continued growth or is willing to take the likely financial hit that comes with making chips in smaller batches.
The custom chip strategy could also make Google’s Android partners nervous. They’ve had to accept Google as a hardware competitor for years, to varying degrees, but they’ve also known that Nexus and Pixel phones were using off-the-shelf chips that reduced their ability to stand out. If Google can give itself a performance advantage through custom processors, that would change the game. The Pixel line would have an edge over the sea of Snapdragon-based phones on the market, and it might fare better against Huawei and Samsung phones. Apple wouldn’t have as much to worry about (it’s the only choice for iOS, after all), but it might sweat a bit if Google can brag about its hardware brawn.
We spend every minute of the working day bringing you news, reviews and features on every aspect of technology. Like everyone else, though, we also use tech outside of work hours. Last month we launched a new series about the gadgets we use every day, the apps and services we can’t live without and what we watch and play.
This week, it’s time for music and podcasts. We start with a personal story from Dana Wollman on her on-again-off-again relationship with podcasts, before four other editors offer quick takes on the music and shows they’ve been obsessing over this month.
Dana Wollman Executive Editor
The first time I tried to get into podcasts, it was to impress a guy. He loved podcasts, so I was going to love them too. Looking back, my early collection mostly amounted to NPR’s greatest hits, with a few other public radio standards thrown in. Think: Planet Money, Marketplace, Radiolab, This American Life. Generally speaking, it was basic stuff, with a heavy dose of pundits engaged in rambling conversation.
Being the purist I am, I made myself back-listen to older episodes that had piled up, even news programs like NPR Politics that, by definition, had a limited shelf life. It didn’t help that I had a tendency to listen precisely when my concentration was at its most impaired. Pro tip: If you’re riding the train home drunk from Brooklyn to Harlem at 2AM on a Sunday morning, Ira Glass’s voice isn’t the best pick-me-up.
Soon enough, I burned out. I went on to date men who were indifferent to podcasts, and I ignored all of you as you grew obsessed with Serial. I continued to appear as guest on various programs — including Engadget’s own! — but never subscribed to any myself.
When I finally did give podcasts another try, it was also because of a guy — one who I didn’t want to think about any more.
Incidentally, when I finally did give podcasts another try, it was also because of a guy — one I didn’t want to think about anymore. I had to get out of my head, away from my tired Spotify playlists and daydreams of running into him on the street.
This time around, I started with S-Town from the team behind Serial and This American Life, which launched to critical acclaim about a month before my current podcast kick. Despite those accolades, I somehow loved it even more than I expected. No longer was I nodding off on the train, losing 10-, 15-, 20-minute chunks. I was listening intently, on my commute to work, and then home again. When I walked through my door, the episode continued, on my phone or laptop speaker.
This was aural literature and, indeed, I was as reluctant to finish it as I would have been a great novel. I wanted to talk to people about the storytelling, the narrative arc, the ethical problems with delving into the life of a man who never consented to be profiled, per se. I even tried to get my dad (a book lover in his own right) to give podcasts, and S-Town in particular, a try. Who was I?
The truth is, I like my brain better on podcasts. I’m learning, I’m thinking critically and I’m not ruminating — or if I am, it’s nowadays usually not about myself. In my case, podcasts have distracted me from disappointment and sadness. But I’ve heard various friends say the same, including people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others still who would otherwise find their workweek dull and repetitive.
In addition to S-Town, I’ve binge-listened to Codebreaker, The Leap and Still Processing, along with the first season of Serial. You guys were right: It’s pretty good. For politics, my current diet includes Pod Save America, Lovett or Leave It and the occasional Pod Save the People, with a tolerable amount of overlap there. My Dad Wrote a Porno is the only podcast that can make me laugh out loud on the subway, though I’ve also been enjoying 2 Dope Queens, a standup-comedy roundup hosted by Jessica Williams ofThe Daily Show fame.
Not everything I’ve tried has stuck. I feel like the only human on the planet who doesn’t find Jordan, Jesse, Go! funny. I listened to Missing Richard Simmons with interest but ultimately found it ethically suspect, with one interview, in particular, amounting to a character assassination. I also gave The Human Race from Runner’s World, Girl Friday and New York Magazine‘s Sex Lives a try, but haven’t yet committed to any of them.
I did also give news podcasts another shot, by the way. The Daily from the The New York Times is a 20-minute morning podcast in which host Michael Barbaro interviews two or so Times reporters about whatever big story they broke the afternoon or evening before. I’ve been enjoying the concise length, the added insight and, in particular, the behind-the-scenes element of hearing journalists discuss their work. Even so, listening to The Daily still sometimes feels like eating my vegetables before I can proceed to dessert (in this case, true crime stories and tales of dating schadenfreude). Maybe news podcasts really aren’t my jam.
My Favorite Murder
Jessica Conditt Senior Reporter
Like many women across the world, my life is tinged with the subtle yet constant anxiety that, one day, when I least expect it, I’m going to be raped and murdered. On top of this anxiety — or perhaps because of it — I’ve sustained a lifelong obsession with the macabre mental processes of serial killers. How do they choose their victims? Why do they do such horrific things? Would I be able to spot a murderous sociopath at the bar? Would he be able to spot me?
My Favorite Murder doesn’t answer all of these questions, but it scratches all of my most morbid itches. It’s hosted by two hilarious women, Georgia Hardstark (Drunk History) and Karen Kilgariff (Mr. Show), who manage to infuse the most disturbing descriptions of brutality with sarcasm, wit and warmth. My Favorite Murder is a podcast about the violent death of innocence, but it feels more like a slumber party at Rory and Lorelai Gilmore’s house.
True crime has been hot since Serial and Making a Murderer burst onto the scene, and there’s no shortage of podcasts covering crazed killers. But My Favorite Murder occupies a unique space within the genre. Consider The Last Podcast on the Left: It’s a fantastic show that happens to be hosted by a group of dudes who often dive into murders from the perspective of the killers, using words like “prostitute” to describe female victims without pause. My Favorite Murder tends to focus just as much attention on the killers and the victims, often with an undertone of, “That could have been any of us.” This is usually followed by a joke about the dangers of men with briefcases, of course.
My Favorite Murder has spawned a litany of fan-favorite lines, including “Fuck politeness,” “You’re in a cult. Call your dad,” and “Stay out of the forest.” But, the show’s sign-off offers a perfect summary of its place in the true-crime podcasting universe: “Stay sexy and don’t get murdered.”
Jamie Rigg Reviews Editor, Engadget UK
I swear by my Spotify Discover playlist, but first thing on a Monday morning, my brain typically relegates it to white noise. On this initial playthrough, it’s rare a track stands out enough to steal my attention away from stimulants and Twitter. One recent such song, however, was “Vireo’s Eye” by Future Islands; thus started a several weeklong binge of the band’s back catalog.
The dominant bassline and muffled, repeating vocals of “Vireo’s Eye” gave me serious Cure vibes, leading me to believe Future Islands were an ’80s group that had somehow passed me by. I was surprised to see, then, that the synthpop act — Wikipedia’s description, not mine (I’m useless at genre determination) — had released a new album just a few weeks before my fortuitous discovery.
Turns out that Future Islands have only been around for the past decade, but the influence of late-20th-century rock and pop is palpable throughout their music. And that is very much my jam — or one of them, at least. For a time, the five albums available on Spotify were even upgraded to offline download status, which is quite the honor considering storage space on my 16GB iPhone is at a premium.
Not all of Future Islands’ tracks are quite as anthemic as “Vireo’s Eye,” which is the perfect introduction to their signature sound of slightly OTT vocals, commanding bass guitar, melancholic undertones and healthy doses of synth. It’s variety within the band’s catalog that’s kept me coming back, though. “Walking Through That Door” and “Long Flight” are relatively high-intensity, whereas “The Great Fire” and “Where I Found You” sound like tracks pulled from Donnie Darko‘s slow-dance playlist. Then there’s the aching vocals on “Beach Foam,” which make it one of my favorites.
A friend tells me that vocalist Samuel Herring is even more charismatic live than he sounds on studio recordings, so I’ll most definitely be catching a Future Islands gig the next time the opportunity presents itself.
The Handsome Rambler
Timothy J. Seppala Associate Editor
Hannibal Burress isn’t the only comedian with a podcast, but he’s the only one I listen to. In fact, The Handsome Rambler is the only podcast I listen to, period. Like my boss Dana, I took an extended break from podcasts, but my reasoning was I got tired of listening to video game shows and not having a commute means my time for listening was basically nonexistent. And when I’m home, I’d rather listen to music than talking heads or my TV. After switching over from night shift recently, though, I started walking a few miles a day for exercise and needed a soundtrack for my jaunts — something to completely zone out to and take my mind off from work and current events. At the recommendation of my coworker Richard Lawler, I gave Rambler a spin.
I’m a stand-up comedy nerd and have devoured almost everything Burress has put out in the past few years. I even saw him play in Michigan last fall. I’m not sure what I was expecting out of Rambler but what’s there never fails to make me smile. The show isn’t him just testing out new material or talking solo into a mic for an hour. More often than not, it’s just Burress having a conversation with his friend and touring companion Tony Trim about everything from the Airbnb reviews they’ve gotten, life on the road and the different “energies” everyone gives off.
The best parts, though, are the commercials. A running joke is that once he finishes his comedy career, he’s going to become a rapper and producer. He doesn’t have a record contract, so commercials for MeUndies, Seat Geek and Squarespace are his outlet. They’re absurd in the best way possible, usually freestyle rapped over a beat from Trim. There’s no real way to do them justice by describing them, though, but know that Autotune and a Moog Theremini appear in the most random places at the most random times. Listen to the SoundCloud embed above to hear what I’m talking about.
Lofi Hip Hop Radio
Nick Summers Associate Editor, Engadget UK
At the peak of Vine’s popularity, I was obsessed with a six-second subgenre that blended classic anime moments with relaxing, jazz-infused beats. I’ve seen the terms “vaporwave” and “chillwave” attached to the movement, but honestly, I have no idea if they’re accurate — music categorization isn’t my forte. What I can confirm is their sumptuous tone and considered, note-perfect editing. Studio Ghibli films were a popular choice, no doubt because of their slow, melancholic tone. Cowboy Bebop, Akira and Neon Genesis Evangelion would crop up too, slowly stretching the genre and the people that stumbled upon it.
Vine’s collapse left a Spike Spiegel-shaped hole in my heart. Thankfully, a similar community has popped up on YouTube. Channels like AnimeVibe and Lophee are posting the same sort of music in full, but with anime stills or fanart in the background. The thoughtful editing is gone, and while that’s a shame, I can still appreciate the music and nostalgic anime callbacks. My favorite upload, however, is a 24-hour livestream managed by “ChilledCow.” It’s a nonstop playlist of lo-fi hip hop that is constantly updated with new tracks from up-and-coming beat-makers. For a writer like me, it’s the perfect office soundtrack.
The legality of such a setup is unclear. From what I can tell, ChilledCow has (or at least seeks) permission from all of the artists he or she streams. YouTube, however, was never designed to support internet radio, and I have a hunch this playlist breaks some service terms somewhere. Regardless, it’s a hypnotic, serene and lovingly crafted playlist that never fails to brighten my mood. The looping GIF ripped straight from Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart. The live chat box that slowly scrolls by as new listeners voice their appreciation. It’s a weird but wonderful corner of the internet — one that I hope keeps streaming for many months to come.
“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.
As this week wraps up we’re getting you ready for E3, and digging into Boston Dynamics’ new owner. Plus: A peek inside the new iMac.
The Japanese company has a ‘vision of catalyzing the next wave of smart robotics.’Softbank buys Boston Dynamics (and its robots) from Google
It’s been over a year since Google’s parent company Alphabet said it wanted to sell its robotics company Boston Dynamics, and now it has a buyer: Softbank. The Japanese company has been working on its own robots for years, including the helpful Pepper, and now they’ll be under the same umbrella as Handle, Big Dog, Atlas, WildCat and all the rest.
So many leaks that the company put out their own images.OnePlus shows off the OnePlus 5 – at an intentionally specific angle
It’s only been two days since OnePlus announced the June 20th launch date for its upcoming OnePlus 5 flagship phone, but it didn’t take long before leaks started to appear. With that dual camera, LED flash, antenna bands and shade of gray, commenters were quick to point out the heavy resemblance between this device and the iPhone 7 Plus, which is presumably why OnePlus decided to post the above image to make a point. Indeed, from this angle, the OnePlus 5 appears to feature a unique outline running from the side to the top. But, well, besides that, it still looks a lot like an iPhone.
It’s not done yetNASA’s Mars 2020 concept is perfect for Space Batman
NASA showed off a futuristic-looking concept of the Mars 2020 rover with a shiny black body and intimidating wheels at the Kennedy Space Center. If you think that it looks like it popped right out of a superhero movie or a video game than an actual vehicle meant to explore the red planet, then you’re right.
The ultimate GoProGoPro finally shows its all-in-one 360-degree shooter.
The first action camera from GoPro made for shooting 360-degree video is this Fusion. It has a 5.2K resolution but is still only a shade larger than the Hero5 Black. Despite this early preview, key facts like how much it will cost are still unknown.
Throw-and-go aerial selfie revolution isn’t quite here just yet.Flying the DJI Spark drone by waving your hand isn’t as great as it sounds
James Trew has been waving his arms at drones for the last few weeks. No, his brain hasn’t finally broken — he was testing out the DJI Spark. The drone, which can be controlled by gestures. may have an innovative new control method, but James believes it’s not quite the spontaneous, simple experience it needs to be for new drone owners.
But it isn’t easy and it will void your warrantyIt is technically possible to replace the RAM and CPU in a new iMac
While we tested what it’s like to use one of Apple’s newest all-in-ones, iFixit took their usual route of pulling one apart to see what’s inside. They found CPU and RAM that aren’t soldered to the motherboard which is a good thing for upgrades and repairs, but there’s just one small catch. Accessing them requires removing the screen and voiding your warranty.
And new ‘collaborative gameplay’ is on the way‘Pokemon Go’ anniversary celebration includes big IRL events
We’re coming up on one year since the launch of Pokemon Go, and after some ups and downs, it’s time to celebrate. The game’s developers are planning events worldwide as well as in game. More importantly, they also mentioned that gyms will shut down temporarily while they work on some new “collaborative gameplay” features that could bring head to head battles into the app.
It’s all CG, but it’s a start.‘Life is Strange’ studio’s ‘Vampyr’ arrives this November
The makers of Life is Strange, Don’t Nod, has decided to go full-tilt fantasy on its new game, Vampyr. A new trailer shows more of the studio’s supernatural take on 1918 London and confirms a November release date on PS4, PC and Xbox One.The new teaser, however, doesn’t reveal much in the way of gameplay, only showing pre-rendered footage of people lurking moodily in dark places. With the developers promising players a semi-open world, fast-paced combat, and an environment where every in-game action carries a consequence, it’s all sounding rather ambitious.
But wait, there’s more…
Those awkward AirPods will automatically link up to your Apple TV
Oppo’s 4K Blu-ray players are the first with Dolby Vision HDR
Roli expands its modular music gear with the touch-friendly Seaboard
Super realistic racing returns with ‘Project Cars 2’ in September
The trailer for life-creating sim ‘Everything’ could make gaming history and win an Academy Award
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It’s only been two days since OnePlus announced the June 20th launch date for its upcoming OnePlus 5 flagship phone, but it didn’t take long before a couple of image leaks popped up, courtesy of Android Police and Slashleaks. With that dual camera, LED flash, antenna bands and shade of gray, commenters were quick to point out the unfortunate resemblance between this device and the iPhone 7 Plus, which is presumably why OnePlus decided to post the above image to make a point. Indeed, from this angle, the OnePlus 5 appears to feature a more unique outline running from the side to the top, but the rest is still practically identical to the iPhone 7 Plus.
Exclusive: This is the OnePlus 5 https://t.co/VFHfAD528b pic.twitter.com/I81iT5y7Ip
— Android Police (@AndroidPolice) June 6, 2017
Despite the seeming identity crisis, the OnePlus 5 is set to be quite the performance beast — a role which its predecessors have played in each of their own generation; not to mention that it’ll likely be priced competitively like before. The company has already revealed that this phone will be using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset, and yesterday, @evleaks added that it’ll come with a whopping 8GB of RAM, according to some source code he dug up on Amazon India’s website. The dual camera will also be enhanced by DxO’s input, but of course, we’ll be the judges of that when we get our hands on a review unit. Here’s hoping that there will at least be a new color design to drive more differentiation, and hey, maybe OnePlus still has a trick or two up its sleeve for June 20th.
A continuous hard edge, refined over 3 years. https://t.co/KVXBWmhBt8 pic.twitter.com/KBNppQ0R0U
AppleCare is Apple’s extended warranty program for almost all of its products, while AppleCare+ covered iOS devices specifically. That little plus sign is important, too, since it protects your beloved iPhone and iPad against accidental damage. So it’s pretty big news that, as of this week, AppleCare+ is now available for Macs, protecting your pricey desktop and laptops against trips, spills and falls.
Much like its near-namesake, AppleCare+ for Mac covers your device for three years at a pop, including telephone support. The company will look after you for two accidents during that time, although each one still carries a hefty premium. Should you break your screen or dent your external enclosure, you’ll pay $ 99, while anything more severe is priced at $ 299.
The desktops are the cheapest to insure, with the Mac Mini setting you back $ 99, while an iMac is $ 169 and the Mac Pro costs $ 249. Laptop-wise, the MacBook and Air models are priced at $ 249, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro is $ 269 and the 15-incher is $ 379. Then again, if it’s a choice between AppleCare+ or shelling out the better part of three grand on a new laptop, three or four Benjamins is preferable.
Apple may have an awkward history of avoiding and then embracing NFC in the past, but new developments at this week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference indicate those days are long gone. Apple already announced new NFC functions coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 4, but according to documents for the upcoming iOS 11 release, the iPhone’s NFC chip might also be handling much more than just Apple Pay transactions and Passbook check-ins.
Although the feature didn’t get any airtime onstage Monday, iOS 11 Beta adds support for Core NFC to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. (And presumably future hardware as well.) In release docs, Core NFC is described as “a new framework for reading Near Field Communications (NFC) tags and data in NFC Data Exchange Format.” At the moment, the iPhone’s NFC chip is useless for anything other than Apple’s in-house payment system, but the new framework appears to let the chip in the latest iPhones read any tags — not just Apple Pay tags — and take action on them based on the phone’s location. NFC could open up more ways for iOS apps to communicate with connected devices and iPhones could also replace NFC-based keycards or transit passes like London’s Oyster card and the Bay Area’s Clipper card. In theory, Core NFC could also enable functions like tap-to-pair Bluetooth speakers — something Android users have been enjoying for awhile now — but it’s possible Apple could block such features to keep the “magic” pairing experience limited to AirPods and other devices with its proprietary W1 chip.
On the other hand, opening NFC could also invite potential privacy issues onto iOS. Like Bluetooth Beacons, NFC tags allow for seamless, location-based interactions for better or worse. While the ability to tap your phone to a movie poster and instantly bring up the trailer might seem magical, even anonymous data gathered from those sorts of interactions can paint a startling clear picture of a consumer.
Mophie’s cases provide a quick way to add wireless charging capabilities to iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S devices, and now they’re available for the models’ latest iterations. The accessories maker has released charge force cases for the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. These leather-wrapped cases are compatible not only with any Mophie wireless charger, but also with Qi and other wireless charging systems. Just put one on your phone if you don’t feel like messing with wires, though note that it still leaves access to your device’s charging port.
Mophie has also released a mini charge force powerstation, which is essentially a wireless power bank. It’s a 3,000 mAh battery unit that sticks to a charge force case using magnets, so you can replenish your phone’s battery anywhere. Since it’s slim and wireless, it doesn’t add much bulk to your phone — you can still slip the whole thing into your pocket or a small purse.
The iPhone 7 cases are now available in black, tan, brown, blue and (PRODUCT)RED, but you can unfortunately only get black if you have a Galaxy S8 or an S8 Plus. You can get any of the cases and the powerstation mini from Mophie’s website.
The tablet market isn’t in great shape, but Apple is still convinced that the iPad represents the future of mobile computing. That’s where the Pro models come in: They’re designed to bring serious horsepower to everyday tasks in hopes that people could use them to replace traditional computers. Now we’ve got a new one, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which replaces the 9.7-inch model we reviewed last year. After a bit of hands-on time, one thing is clear: If you’re looking for a premium tablet, this is one slate you can’t ignore.
The Pro 10.5 (which I’m now calling it, for brevity’s sake) is basically the same size and weight as older 9.7-inch Pro, which is no longer for sale. That Apple was able to squeeze a bigger screen into the same trim body is fantastic; the bezels flanking the left and right sides of the screen are dramatically smaller, which means there’s less stuff to get in between you and the glories of the internet. I was concerned that those smaller bezels around this bigger screen would make the iPad awkward to hold. After all, where are my thumbs supposed to go? Well, it’s not really a problem. The combination of a sleek body and minimal, one-pound weight means the new Pro is just as easily to grasp as older models.
Apple refined the display, too. Beyond the bigger size, it packs familiar True Tone tech that tweaks the screen’s color temperature depending on your surroundings, and refreshes at 120Hz. It was tough to see the difference in action (especially in Apple’s dimly lit demo room), but scrolling and writing on the Pro with an Apple Pencil was remarkably smooth. Don’t worry, we’ll compare it more thoroughly to the other Pros when we get one in for review.
Now, there’s more to that sense of smoothness than just an improved screen. The Pro 10.5 uses a new A10X Fusion chipset; it’s a more powerful version of the chip we got in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, though it’s not clear how much RAM there is inside. Older iPad Pros had already reached the point where everything felt seamlessly smooth, so you might not notice a difference just swiping around and launching apps. Where all that extra horsepower should shine is when it’s applied to graphically intense games, not to mention the forthcoming iOS 11 update.
These Pros were running an early version of iOS 11, as you could probably tell by the dock at the bottom of the homescreen. To be clear, you are definitely not getting features like that when the 10.5-inch Pro launches next week. It’s still iOS 10 all the way. The wait may be a tough one, though: Apple showed off a load of new features that should make iPads more capable across the board. You’ll be able to access the dock while using apps to launch other ones, and even drag them into the two-paned multi-window mode. You can now drag content back and forth between apps, too, a handy touch for multitaskers. And some other features, like swiping up with four fingers to see all your running apps, feel a lot like ones already baked into macOS.
In other words, the line between iPads and Macs is blurring.
With a blend of improved hardware and a smarter OS, the new iPad Pro seems poised to shine when it starts shipping next week — stick around for a full review shortly.