Huawei says it can do better than Apple’s Face ID

Huawei has a history of trying to beat Apple at its own game (it unveiled a “Force Touch” phone days before the iPhone 6s launch), and that’s truer than ever now that the iPhone X is in town. At the end of a presentation for the Honor V10, the company teased a depth-sensing camera system that’s clearly meant to take on Apple’s TrueDepth face detection technology. It too uses a combination of infrared and a projector to create a 3D map of your face, but it can capture 300,000 points in 10 seconds — that’s 10 times as many as the iPhone X captures.

It’s secure enough to be used for payments (unlike the OnePlus 5T), and almost as quick to sign you in as the company’s fingerprint readers at 400 milliseconds. Even the silly applications of the tech promise to be better. The company showed off a not-so-subtle Animoji clone that could tell when you were sticking out your tongue in addition to tracking the usual facial expressions.

There’s one major catch to this system: it’s not actually part of a product yet. Huawei’s Honor team showed the system without mentioning what phones would use it, let alone when they would ship. This was a spec announcement to show that Huawei would eventually have an answer to Apple’s 3D face detection, not something tangible you could buy in the near future.

Source: WinFuture (translated)

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Apple Clips has better controls and loads of new ‘Star Wars’ effects

Apple’s Clips video creation app is less than a year old, but it’s already getting a big update. Thanks to lots of user feedback and the proliferation of new, more powerful iOS devices, Clips is now more polished than ever, and that’s very good news for people looking to craft their next viral video masterpiece.

The philosophy behind the app hasn’t changed — it’s still all about making fun, short videos without much technical know-how — but Apple worked to make the app even easier to use. Consider the app’s interface: it was never particularly hard to wrap your head around, but Apple’s zeal for simplicity sometimes made the original layout feel a little too basic. While you’ll still use a big, bright record button to add clips to your timeline, a handful of new shortcuts beneath the viewfinder window make it easier to gussy up your work.

Apple also moved its controls for Live Titles (a feature that automatically turns what you’re saying into subtitles) and style transfer filters (which add fun, Prisma-style art effects to your photos and videos) to the left and right of that big record button. These were two of the most popular (not to mention most useful) features in Clips, so I’m glad they’re getting a little more prominence this time.

This time, Clips also packs support for iCloud Drive, so you can start a new video project on an iPhone and pick up where you left off on an iPad without issue. The same project reflects updates made on multiple devices, so there’s no need to worry about version control — something that most average Clips users would probably loathe having to think about.

Interface revamps aside, the biggest new addition is what Apple calls Selfie Scenes. It’s unfortunately exclusive to the iPhone X, and one look at the feature in action confirms why — it uses the X’s TrueDepth camera to isolate your face, paint over it with some sweet artsy filters and replace your current background with something more scenic. Right now, the current batch of scenes includes a neon-soaked city in Asia, a hand-drawn rendition of Paris, an 8-bit city that looks like something out of Rampage and, uh, the Millennium Falcon. Seriously. Apple’s cozy partnership with Disney now means that you can virtually insert yourself into a corridor on the Falcon or the bridge of Supreme Leader Snoke’s Mega-class Star Destroyer from The Last Jedi. Naturally, the view of your face takes on the hazy blue of a Star Wars-style hologram.

Yes, Clips’s use of the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera is a gimmick, but it’s a damned cool one. More importantly, it works well almost all the time — the iPhone X did a mostly great job isolating me and my extremities from my virtual background. There’s also something just a little wild about seamlessly inserting myself into a sci-fi universe I’ve yearned to be a part of since I was 8. It’s just too bad older iPhones don’t have the hardware necessary to make this work for more people. (There’s a small consolation prize for Star War buffs with older iPhones: loads of animated stickers depicting Chewie, Princess Leia, TIE Fighters and more.)

While not every iPhone will get all these new features, Apple’s thoughtful changes to the interface and workflow mean the Clips update is well worth installing — you can find it in the App Store now.

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Samsung Galaxy Book review: You’re better off with a Surface Pro

It took a few years, but Microsoft’s Surface Pro line is an undeniable hit. It also popularized the convertible tablet category: touchscreen-driven devices you can hold in your hands that also have power and attachable keyboards for getting “real work” done. The Surface Pro’s success means it has its fair share of imitators, from Apple, Google and the swath of Windows PC makers out there.

Naturally, Samsung produced its own, last year’s Galaxy TabPro S. That device features a great screen and solid battery life but was hurt by a terrible keyboard and slow performance. With the new Galaxy Book, Samsung appears to have fixed those issues — this convertible has a more spacious keyboard and Intel’s seventh-generation Core i5 processor on board. But all that power introduces some unfortunate trade-offs.

Hardware

Probably the most important part of a tablet is its screen, and the Galaxy Book is no letdown here. The 12-inch display is of the Super AMOLED+ variety, with rich colors and inky dark blacks. The screen is running at a 2,160 x 1,440 resolution though it’s also set to scale text and UI elements up to 150 percent so everything isn’t completely illegible. Regardless, the workspace feels sufficiently spacious for a 12-inch screen and text is razor-sharp.

I can only think of one problem with the display: Its wide 16:10.7 aspect ratio makes holding the Galaxy Book in portrait an awkward experience. Since this tablet was designed to be docked into a keyboard, it’s not surprising that its size was optimized for landscape use, but I generally prefer the proportions of Apple’s iPad Pro (4:3) and Microsoft’s Surface Pro (3:2); those devices feel equally suited to portrait and landscape usage.

Even if it did have different proportions, the Galaxy Book isn’t really made to be held for long periods of time. It weighs in 1.66 pounds — light for a computer with a Core i5 processor but quite heavy for a tablet. That’s the problem with most larger convertibles in general. Sure, you can use them as standalone tablets, but you probably won’t want to.

Overall, the Galaxy Book is a relatively plain, spartan device. Two speaker grilles can be found on the left and right edges; they produce surprisingly decent audio. There’s a fan vent up top, along with a power switch and volume rocker. The right side also houses two USB-C connections and a headphone jack, the only ports to be found here. The back of the Galaxy Tab is pretty plain, with a Samsung logo, small camera bump and a few ridiculous Intel stickers. If you opt for the model featuring built-in Verizon LTE, your device will also be graced with a giant Verizon logo on the back. Oh goody.

The back camera comes in at 13-megapixels and is paired with a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter. They’re both… fine. The front-facing camera is arguably much more important on a device like this, and it worked well in video chat, which is all most will rely on it for.

The Galaxy Book hardware gets the job done, but lacks the refinement and class of the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro’s unique design and adjustable hinge. It doesn’t do anything wrong, but it also doesn’t push the tablet form factor forward in any notable way.

Typing experience

Samsung makes it clear that the Galaxy Book is meant for getting things done by including a keyboard cover, just as it did last year with the TabPro S. It’s a smart move — looking at the marketing for the Surface Pro, you’d be forgiven for assuming the keyboard comes with it — it doesn’t. The other bit of good news is that the Galaxy Book’s keyboard is a big improvement over the one that came with the TabPro S.

It’s basically a full-size keyboard with the same layout found on most Windows 10 laptops. The keys in the function row are small, but the others are full size. So, there’s basically no adjustment period or learning curve, which can’t be said for the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard. Still, it’s not an especially good keyboard. The key travel is naturally shallow to make it work in such a thin device. That said, it’s comfortable enough that I generally didn’t think about it. Samsung even made it backlit — something I did not expect.

Unfortunately, the experience falls apart when you’re not typing on a desk, table or some other flat surface. Most convertibles still have compromised experiences when you use them in your lap, and the Galaxy Book is no exception. The keyboard cover is thin and light, which is good for not adding a lot of bulk — but it’s also extremely bendy and flimsy feeling. When resting my palms on either side of the trackpad and typing away, I could bend the keyboard so much that I’d accidentally “click” the trackpad, which is very distracting. It’s even easier to do this if you rest a single hand on a palm rest; the unbalanced weight clicks the trackpad immediately. Once I figured out what was happening, I could go out of my way to avoid it, but this just goes to show how tough it is to get the typing experience right on a device with this form factor.

The Galaxy Book’s keyboard cover also functions as a stand. It can be propped up at three different angles and also can be laid down at a slight angle with the keyboard hidden (for drawing with the S Pen). These angles work pretty well, but the flexibility of the Surface Pro’s hinge is hard to ignore. Microsoft’s convertible hasn’t always worked great in the lap, but the company has made big improvements over the years. Samsung still has a lot of work to do here. That’s primarily because the combination of the full-size keyboard plus the “wedge” holding the screen up makes the Galaxy Book pretty big in the lap. Fortunately, the magnetic connection between the stand and the tablet itself is pretty strong.

Samsung’s software

While the Galaxy Book runs a mostly unmodified version of Windows 10, Samsung did include a few extra apps here to help users take advantage of its S Pen, which comes in the box alongside the keyboard. Again, I have to give Samsung props for including this accessory for free, something neither Microsoft nor Apple are doing.

One of the extra apps is Samsung Notes, which functions as a digital canvas that can sync between your Galaxy Book and a Samsung smartphone. Oddly, Samsung notes isn’t a complete note-taking solution. Although you can jot down text, draw images and attach photos to your notes, the only place you can do keyboard text entry is the “title” field. That means if you also want to take text notes (as most of us do), you’ll need to use another app. That’s enough to make Samsung Notes useless for me.

Another app, Samsung Flow, could be a big deal if you own a Samsung smartphone. Once set up, the app uses your smartphone as an authenticator to unlock your Galaxy Book. More importantly, it pushes notifications from your phone and lets you respond to incoming messages. I didn’t get a chance to test this out, as I didn’t have a compatible phone handy — but if it works as promised, it could be a useful addition for those invested in the Samsung ecosystem. (Are there really people invested in the Samsung ecosystem?)

Otherwise, there’s not a lot to differentiate the Galaxy Book from other Windows 10 devices. The S Pen works just fine with Windows Ink apps like Sticky Notes and Sketchpad, and the lack of latency is truly impressive — it’s one of the more responsive stylus experiences I’ve had. But it’s not so much better than the Surface Pro that it should be a major consideration if you’re deciding between the two devices.

Performance and battery life

The Galaxy Book I’ve been testing includes a dual-core, seventh-generation Core i5 processor running at 3.1 GHz; it’s paired with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB hard drive for a whopping $ 1,330. I thought that was expensive for a tablet, but it’s in the same realm of pricing as a similarly configured Surface Pro, once you include a stylus and keyboard.

This was more than enough power to meet my needs. My usual workflow includes several Chrome windows loaded up with around a dozen tabs as well as Slack, Todoist, Twitter, Microsoft’s Groove Music (I figured I’d try the first-party option this time out) and Word. That all ran with nary a hiccup. I had also tried out a configuration of the Galaxy Book with only 4GB of RAM; unsurprisingly, that version didn’t run nearly as well. I ran into pretty frequent Chrome tab refreshes, and music skipped from time to time. It still feels a bit cheap to offer only 4GB of RAM on a computer priced over $ 1,000 — but Microsoft also only includes 4GB in the lower-end Surface Pro configurations, so at least Samsung isn’t a total outlier here.

Benchmarks confirmed the unsurprising but welcome news that the Galaxy Book far outperforms last year’s TabPro S. That should be obvious given the major chip upgrade here, but it’s welcome news for people who may have enjoyed Samsung’s form factor but not the somewhat sluggish performance.


PCMark 7 PCMark 8 (Creative Accelerated) 3DMark 11 3DMark (Sky Diver) ATTO (top reads/writes)
Galaxy Book (3.1GHz Core i5-7200U, Intel HD620) 5,548 4,249 E2,563 / P1,527 / X420 3,612 554 MB/s / 531 MB/s
Galaxy TabPro S (1.51GHz Core M3-6Y30, Intel HD 515) 4,309 2,986 E1,609 / P944 / X291 2,119 550 MB/s / 184 MB/s
Surface Book (2016, 2.6GHz Core i7-6600U, 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M) 5,452 4,041 E8,083 / P5,980 / X2,228 11,362 1.71 GB/s / 1.26 GB/s
HP Spectre x360 (2016, 2.7GHz Core i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,515 4,354 E2,656 / P1,720 / X444 3,743 1.76 GB/s / 579 MB/s
Surface Book (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,412 3,610

E2,758 / P1,578 / X429

3,623 1.6 GB/s / 571 MB/s
Surface Book (2.6GHz Core i7-6600U, 1GB NVIDIA GeForce graphics) 5,740 3,850

E4,122 / P2,696

6,191 1.55 GB/s / 608 MB/s
ASUS ZenBook 3 (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,448 3,911 E2,791 / P1,560 3,013 1.67 GB/s / 1.44 GB/s
HP Spectre 13 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,046 3,747 E2,790 / P1,630 / X375 3,810 1.61 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520) 4,954 3,499 E2,610 / P1,531 3,335 1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602

E2,697/ P1,556/ X422

3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s

Overall, throwing more horsepower into the Galaxy Book definitely fixed the performance issues we saw with last year’s TabPro S. Unfortunately, this also introduced a new problem of its own: battery life. The amount of useable time I got from the Galaxy Book was simply all over the place. The first model I tested was simply pathetic, with the computer regularly dying after less than three hours. It also took more than four hours to charge while in use. Both of these numbers seemed so bad that Samsung thought there was something wrong and sent me a replacement device.

Initially, I had the same poor battery life with my replacement. But, after a few days, things seemed to normalize, and now I can get between five and six hours of work out of this computer. I don’t know what changed, but things definitely improved after I ran our battery test. That test loops an HD video with the screen set to 66 percent brightness, and the Galaxy Book managed just over eight hours before it shut down. That’s not terribly inspiring (Samsung promises 11 hours of video playback, a number I couldn’t come close to), but it’s not the total disaster I experienced the first few times I used the Galaxy Book.


Battery life

Samsung Galaxy Book 8:08
Surface Book with Performance Base (2016) 16:15
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics) 13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics) 11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2015) 10:47
Galaxy TabPro S 10:43
HP Spectre x360 15t 10:17
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2016) 10:03
ASUS ZenBook 3 9:45
Apple MacBook (2016) 8:45
Samsung Notebook 9 8:16
Dell XPS 13 (2015) 7:36
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 7:15
HP Spectre 13 7:07
Huawei MateBook 6:35

This is partially a matter of physics: A very thin body combined with a powerful processor like the Core i5 is going to be problematic. But devices like this are meant to be portable first and foremost, and I never felt all that comfortable leaving a charger behind. That’s a big knock against what Samsung’s trying to do here.

Samsung describes the Galaxy Book as a “fast-charging” device, but that’s only true if you’re not using it. If the Surface Book is powered off, it does charge relatively fast, but if you’re trying to do work and charge it, expect to wait three to four hours for a full battery. If you’re out and about and want to just top the machine off, you had better be prepared to take a full break from your work.

Configurations and the competition

There are a host of different Galaxy Book configurations. As tested, the 12-inch model I used includes a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and that costs a whopping $ 1,330, with keyboard and S Pen included. Samsung also sells a model with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for $ 1,130; you can add Verizon LTE to that model for an additional $ 170.

If you’ve been paying attention, it should be clear that the Surface Pro is the most direct competitor to the Galaxy Book. That device was just refreshed with seventh-generation Core m3, i5 and i7 processors. While the Surface Pro is cheaper off the bat, Microsoft doesn’t include a pen or keyboard — once you add in those accessories, a comparable Surface Pro will cost

But the Surface Pro features a few advantages. Its screen is slightly bigger and runs at a higher resolution (2,736 x 1,824), and its built-in hinge is more flexible than Samsung’s keyboard cover. Speaking of the keyboard, Microsoft’s keyboard cover is far superior to Samsung’s, as well. Naturally, the Surface Pro doesn’t work with Samsung’s Flow software that links the Galaxy Book to a Samsung smartphone, but that won’t be a dealbreaker for many potential buyers. If you’re deep in Samsung’s ecosystem, you could make an argument for the Galaxy Book — but most people will probably be happier with Microsoft’s convertible. We’ll need to fully review the new Surface Pro before we can say for sure, but Microsoft’s track record here means it’ll likely deliver.

If you’re not interested in buying from Microsoft, Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 tablet is another option — but much like the Galaxy Book, there aren’t a lot of compelling reasons for recommending it over a Surface Pro. Huawei’s Matebook is another convertible with a similar design, but it has a terrible keyboard cover that makes it a complete non-starter.

And while most people looking at the Galaxy Book probably need Windows 10 over iOS, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It’s not cheap, but its screen is top rate, there are tons of apps that take great advantage of Apple’s Pencil stylus and its battery life is superb. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll appreciate the tight integration between your phone and tablet, as well. Just know that multitasking on iOS falls far short of Windows.

Wrap-up

Samsung’s Galaxy Book doesn’t get anything totally wrong. And if it were a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Surface Pro, it could find an audience. But as it is, the good things about the Galaxy Book (its display and overall performance) are come with some big tradeoffs. Battery life in particular has been a big letdown, and though the keyboard cover is better than it was last year, it’s still not as good as what Microsoft offers.

Battery life and a good typing experience are essentials, particularly on a mobile device like the Galaxy Book. Given the compromises, it’s hard to recommend Samsung’s latest over the Surface Pro. For its price, the Galaxy Book needs to be near-flawless. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reach that lofty goal.

Photographs by Evan Rodgers and Nathan Ingraham

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Google Sheets uses machine learning to build you better charts

Google spent plenty of time at its I/O developer conference earlier this month talking about how we’re entering the age of AI. Today, the company’s humble spreadsheet app Sheets is getting an upgrade thanks to Google’s machine learning smarts. Sheets has long had an “explore” tool that analyzes your spreadsheets and builds charts automatically, but as of today you’ll be able to ask for charts using natural language.

Hitting the “explore” button brings up some default charts based on your particular spreadsheet. But if you want to get custom, you can just type things like “histogram of 2017 customer ratings” or “bar chart for ice cream sales” (two examples Google provided).

Another handy new feature closely links Sheets with Google’s presentation app Slides. Last year, Google added the ability to automatically update data from Docs into Slides with one click. Now, Google’s adding similar syncing features that go from Sheets into both Docs and Slides. That is, if you’re using the same table for data between these apps, you can just click an “update’ button to pull in the latest information from the master source.

Google also added a bunch of new functions to Sheets, bringing the total to more than 400. There’s also a new chart editor sidebar that should make building the right graph a little bit easier; this will also be available on Sheets for iPad and iPhone today as well. And for those of you who still need to put your spreadsheets on dead trees, there are a few new tools that make it easier to print your document. If you want to give these new features a shot, Google says they’re live today.

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Google Assistant on the iPhone is better than Siri, but not much

Google’s Assistant is finally ready to take on Siri on Apple’s own turf: the iPhone. Yes, you could already play around with the AI-powered chatbot if you downloaded Allo — Google’s mobile-only messenger app — but its functionality was limited. Today, that changes thanks to a new standalone Google Assistant app available on Apple’s App Store (though it’s US-only for now). Eager to check it out, we downloaded it right away and spent some time commanding our Google-branded phone butler around. After a few hours, I’ll say that while I find Google Assistant a lot friendlier and smarter than Siri, it doesn’t quite replace it. At least, not yet.

The first obvious barrier is that while Siri is baked right into iOS, you’ll need to download Google Assistant as a separate app. Plus, accessing Siri is as easy as holding down the iPhone’s home button — with Google Assistant (as with Cortana, Alexa and all other third-party assistants), you’ll need to take the extra step of launching an app. If you have an Android phone, Google Assistant is ready to go without having to download anything at all.

As you might expect, when you first launch Google Assistant on the iPhone, it asks you to log in with your Google account. After you do, it introduces itself to you and invites you to ask it anything you wish. Press the microphone icon at the center to offer a voice command, or if you’d rather not disturb the people around you, you can hit the keyboard icon to type your query.

The first thing you might wonder is if you can make a call or send a message on the iPhone with Google Assistant. The answer is: You can, but it’s not any easier than it would be with Siri. When I say, “Call Mom,” for example, it brings up her name and triggers a phone call, which you can then cancel or confirm. When I say, “Text Mom,” it asks me for my message and then kicks me over to the Messages app on my phone, where I can choose to send it off or not. At least Siri can send messages without me having to open the app.

I also tried to play music on Google Assistant to see how the experience compares to Siri. It was a little, well, uneven. When you first tell Google Assistant to play music, it’ll ask you to choose between Apple Music and YouTube as your default. I chose YouTube and then said, “Play LCD Soundsystem.” It kicked me over to the YouTube app, where it played a random song from the band. Then I went back and said “Play Radiohead,” and it would just give a list of albums. I then tried to switch the default choice to Apple Music, which I somehow was able to do so by saying “Play on Apple Music.” From then on, whenever I said “Play [name of song],” it would play the song on Apple Music. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that I can switch back to YouTube as the default, despite multiple attempts. Sometimes it says it’s playing a song, but nothing happens. Clearly, this feature is still pretty buggy.

As you might expect, Assistant plays particularly well with Google’s own apps. So sending email through Gmail is a snap — say who you want to send the email to, and it’ll kick you over to the Gmail app to follow through. Similarly, it’ll offer directions with Google Maps rather than Apple’s own.

What I found particularly intriguing about the Google Assistant app on iOS is that there’s a whole Explore page full of suggestions on what you can do with it. There’s a list of the usual suggestions, like “How many pounds in a kilogram?” or “What sound does a dog make?”

But interestingly, there’s also a slew of third-party chatbots you can try out. Examples include Genius, a bot that’ll guess the name of a song based on a lyric snippet, or the Magic 8 Ball, which will offer pithy responses to yes-or-no questions. Google Home users likely already know about some of these third-party chatbots, but to mobile users, this is new.

Aside from Explore, there’s also a Your Stuff tab that lists your Reminders, Agenda, Shopping List and quick Shortcuts that you can add to customize Assistant. So, for example, you can say “Late again” to trigger an automatic text to your best friend that you’re running five minutes late. “Cheer me up” will automatically bring up a list of kitten videos on YouTube.

I then tried to do a number of things on both Google Assistant and Siri to compare the two. I discovered that due to iOS restrictions, Google Assistant isn’t able to set alarms, take selfies, launch apps, post to Twitter or Facebook, call Ubers or Lyfts, or use third-party apps like Whatsapp for sending messages. Siri, however, was able to do all of these tasks without issue.

At the same time, Google Assistant was vastly superior when it came to translating languages (Siri often faltered) and remembering context clues. For example, when I asked, “Who’s the president of the United States” and followed it up immediately with “How tall is he?” Google Assistant immediately responded with “Donald J Trump” and “6-feet 2-inches tall.” Siri, on the other hand, could answer the first question, but not the second (it responded with “I don’t know”). Google Assistant also was smart enough to respond to set-a-reminder requests with the place and time in which I wanted to be reminded — Siri just placed them on a Reminders list. Siri was also sometimes just plain wrong — it erroneously said the population of Egypt was 85,800 (it’s actually 91.51 million).

In many ways, Siri pales in comparison to Google Assistant. It can’t understand voice commands as well as Google, and it doesn’t remember your preferences like Google can. Siri makes so many errors that there’s even a Reddit group called “Siri fails” that documents its many mistakes. But as long as it comes preinstalled in every iPhone out there and does a good-enough job, Google Assistant — and all other rivals — will have a hard time replacing it.

For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2017, follow along here

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Apple TV app changes pave the way for better gaming

Apple has drastically increased the size of apps that developers can submit to its Apple TV App Store, paving the way for more media-heavy apps, especially games. Up until now the limit was 200 MB, but apps can now be as large 4GB, the same as for iOS devices. The change should provide a “complete, rich user experience upon installation,” Apple says, noting that as before, apps can host up to 20GB of additional content from the App Store.

The change has led some to speculate that a new Apple TV might come along soon with more storage than the current 32 or 64GB offerings. As it stands, downloading a few large apps now would fill up the devices pretty fast, compared to, say, a 256GB iPhone 7.

As developer Steve Troughton-Smith points out, apps that large are generally games, so future Apple TV models might soon be more console-like. “Fun thought: If Apple TV gets a modern A-series CPU/GPU upgrade [like the A10 fusion chip used in the iPhone 7], it’ll be more powerful than one of the ‘real’ games consoles in the market,” he tweeted, referring to Nintendo’s new Switch.

Via: Steve Troughton-Smith (Twitter)

Source: Apple

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Instagram photos now look better on iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

When Apple announced that it’s latest iPhone would snap brighter, more vivid pictures with its “wide color capture” feature, Instagram was quick to promise an updated app to support that expanded color gamut. Turns out, they were half right: today Instagram co-founder and CTO Mike Krieger announced that Instagram users on iPhone 7 and 7 plus can now take full advantage of their phone’s new camera — and they don’t even need to update the app.

According to a short statement on Krieger’s Twitter, Instagram’s support for wide color capture has been rolled out to almost all users, noting that the feature has slowly been trickling onto user’s phones since the app’s last update. Users of Apple Live Photos will find that those import seamlessly now too — converting into Boomerang photos via Instagram Stories. Small updates, to be sure, but a definite boon for iPhone users. After all, who doesn’t like more vivid photos?

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Twitter

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Windows 10’s Anniversary Update makes a great OS better

“It’s nice, for once, to be able to recommend a new version of Windows without any hesitation.” That’s how I summarized my review of Windows 10 last year, and for the most part, it’s lived up to my expectations. Other than Microsoft’s bafflingly forceful automatic upgrade policy (which has led to lawsuits and plenty of ticked off users), the operating system’s first year on the market has been relatively smooth.

Microsoft says the software is now running on over 350 million devices worldwide, and it’s seeing the highest customer satisfaction ratings ever for a Windows release. So expectations are running pretty high for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which arrives August 2nd. But while it definitely delivers some useful upgrades to key features like Cortana and Windows Ink, don’t expect any massive changes to Windows 10 as a whole.

Cortana

Expect to see Microsoft’s virtual assistant just about everywhere in the Anniversary Update. Cortana is accessible through the lock screen, allowing you to ask simple questions or do things like play music, without even having to log in. She’ll also control some apps like iHeartRadio and Pandora, with voice commands. (Unfortunately, there’s no Spotify support yet.)

Perhaps most intriguingly, Cortana will also work across different platforms, with the ability to talk to Windows Phone and Android devices. You’ll be able to see notifications from your phone right on the Windows desktop, as well as alerts like when your phone is running low on battery. While there’s a Cortana app on iOS, this extensive integration won’t be available to iPhone users just yet. Microsoft reps say one reason for that is that it’s simply harder to implement it on Apple’s platform.

Cortana is also getting the smarts to act like a real assistant. Just like before, you can send her reminders and have her recall them at any point. Now, you’ll also be able to add photos to those reminders, as well as create them from Windows apps directly. And yes, those reminders carry over to Cortana’s mobile apps too. They’re particularly useful for things like frequent flyer numbers or complex parking spot locations, where asking your phone to look it up is easier than searching through your notes manually. She can also search within your documents for specific bits of text.

While I still find Google Now to be more accurate at listening to voice commands, Cortana stands out as the only voice-powered digital assistant on a desktop OS. Apple’s Siri will be the highlight of MacOS Sierra this fall when it’s officially released (though you can try it in beta form now), but Cortana still has that beat feature-wise.

Windows Ink

With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Ink finally steps out from behind the scenes for stylus users with an interface all its own. Clicking the eraser button on the Surface Pen, for example, brings up a new menu on the right side of the screen. From there, you can create a Sticky Note (basically a digital Post-It), access a blank sketch pad or jot notes down on a screenshot of whatever you’re looking at. Other active stylus models will have access to the feature too, and you’ll even be able to use it with a keyboard and mouse (right-click on the taskbar and choose “Show Windows Ink Workspace” button).

While it’s still fairly rudimentary, the current Ink interface is a lot more useful than what Microsoft offered in the past. Previously, hitting the Surface Pen’s eraser button would simply open up a blank OneNote document. It was great for people who liked to sketch or jot down handwritten notes, but that was about it. I’ve found myself using the stylus even more now with the Surface Pro 4 to create Sticky reminders, or simply caption an image to share with friends.

Just like Cortana, you can also access all of the new Ink features from the lock screen. So if you have to take some emergency notes for class, or simply want to jot down a burst of inspiration, you won’t have to wait to log into Windows to do so.

Windows Hello

Microsoft’s biometric authentication feature is branching out from the lock screen to let you sign into apps like DropBox and iHeartradio. It’ll even log you into some websites when you’re using the Edge browser. Hello was one of the best additions to Windows 10, so it was only a matter of time until its zippy login capabilities spread throughout the OS.

Still, the problem with Windows Hello is actually being able to use it. Fingerprint sensors and depth-sensing cameras (like Intel’s RealSense) still aren’t all that common. You’ll find them on the Surface machines and some high-end notebooks and tablets, but you can forget about them if you’re on a budget. And if you’re using a desktop, you’re even worse off. You can buy a third-party fingerprint sensor, but it won’t be as fast or accurate as the hardware used inside phones. And, for some reason, external depth-sensing cameras are still practically non-existent (unless you pay through the nose for a RealSense developer device).

At this point, Microsoft doesn’t have an answer to the lack of Windows Hello-compatible hardware out there. But company reps say they hope that once Microsoft adds more features to Windows Hello, manufacturers will feel more compelled to add the necessary hardware.

Microsoft Edge

Remember all the promises of browser extension support on Edge? Well, they’re finally here with the Anniversary Update. You’ll be able to choose from a handful of popular options like LastPass, AdBlock, Pocket and Evernote’s Clipper. The selection was pretty limited during my testing, but hopefully developers will adopt Edge’s extensions quickly. Microsoft claims that Edge is more power efficient now (something it already touted over its competitors), and it has even more support for newer web standards.

Start Menu and other changes

Rather than just highlighting a few apps in the Start Menu, the Anniversary Update brings all of your installed apps into a single (and very long) drop-down list. It might seem a bit overwhelming to new users, but it saves power users an extra click when they need to peruse their apps. Live Tiles are smarter now as well: If you click on a news app displaying a specific story, you’ll be directed to that story once the app launches. Sure, neither change is as drastic as the return of the Start Menu, but they’re still helpful tweaks.

The Anniversary Update also marks the first time Microsoft has made Bash command line support for Ubuntu Linux available in Windows. That’s not something most users will notice, but it’s a boon for developers.

Wrap-up

If you were expecting a huge change with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, then you’ll probably be disappointed here. But, in a way, its lack of any major additions says a lot about how much Microsoft got right when it first launched Windows 10. It’s a stable, secure and fast OS. The Anniversary Update simply makes it better, and that’s something I think every PC user will appreciate.

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Moto G4 and G4 Plus review: Bigger and (mostly) better

When it comes to getting the most smartphone for your dollar, the Moto G line has been your best choice for the past few years. We adored the previous model, which came in at a mere $ 180. Now with the Moto G4 and G4 Plus, Motorola is literally aiming to make its budget lineup bigger and better. They’ve got larger and sharper screens, improved cameras and, of course, speedier processors. With those upgrades come compromises, though. For one, they’re more expensive: The G4 starts at $ 200 and the G4 Plus at $ 250. Motorola also made some curious design decisions, which in many ways feel like a step back. Still, they both manage to carry the mantle of Smartphone Value King.

Hardware

You won’t find any premium aluminum or chamfered edges on the G4 and G4 Plus. They’ve got practical and simple plastic cases. Still, they don’t feel like budget phones. Their curved edges make them easy to hold, and the slightly textured rear cover feels a bit luxurious against your palm. Both phones are also noticeably larger than any previous Moto G, thanks to their 5.5-inch 1080p screens. At least they’re thinner than their 11.6mm thick predecessor, clocking in at just 7.9 millimeters to 8.9 millimeters. Strangely enough, they weigh the same 155 grams (0.34 pounds) as before.

The G4 and G4 Plus feel pretty solid for plastic encased phones. There’s little flex or creaking when gripped tightly. Long-term durability might be a concern though — somewhere during my week of testing I nicked the top of the G4 Plus’s plastic edge. I never dropped it, so your guess is as good as mine as to how it got damaged. It does make me worried about how well they’d stand up to months of everyday use.

Both phones sport removable back covers, just like all the previous Moto G models. In addition to the nano-SIM slot, there’s a microSD slot for up to 128GB of additional storage. They pack in 3,000mAh non-removable batteries, a nice bump from the last Moto G’s 2,470 mAh offering. It’s a shame that the battery can’t be swapped out, but it’s also large enough that that shouldn’t be a huge issue. (We didn’t have a problem with it last year, either.)

Powering all of this budget goodness are 1.5GHz Snapdragon 617 octa-core processors. Both phones offer 16GB of storage by default, but you can bump up to 32GB with the G4 (a no-brainer $ 30 premium) or 64GB with the G4 Plus (for another $ 100). They come with 2GB of RAM, though the 64GB G4 Plus gives you a luxurious 4GB of RAM.

Given that they both share so much hardware, you’re probably wondering what makes the G4 Plus, well… Plus? The most obvious difference is the fingerprint sensor on its front, which sits right below the software home button. The G4 Plus also packs in a 16 megapixel rear camera with phase detection and laser autofocus. The G4, on the other hand, has a 13 megapixel shooter without the added niceties.

One unfortunate downgrade from last year: Neither phone is waterproof. Instead, Motorola is calling them “water repellant,” thanks to a “nano-coating” technology that protects them from spills. That means they should be fine during light rain, or if you spill coffee on them. Just don’t go fully submerging them in anything.

Display and sound

There’s nothing budget about the 5.5-inch 1080p displays on the G4 and G4 Plus. They’re not quite as fancy as the quad HD displays we’re seeing in some flagships, but they still pack in 401 pixels per inch, which is plenty sharp for typical usage. Colors were bright and bold, even in direct sunlight, and viewing angles were surprisingly great. I didn’t notice much of a difference between my iPhone 6S while reading long articles from Pocket and the New York Times app. Videos also looked uniformly great. The big downside is that they’re less capable when it comes to mobile VR. It’s no wonder they’re not Google Daydream ready (though nothing is stopping you from plugging them into a Google Cardboard headset).

On the sound front, Motorola made the curious decision of replacing the last Moto G’s solid stereo speakers with a single one. It’s plenty loud, but it doesn’t sound nearly as good as before. Now that Bluetooth speakers are cheap and small, I’d recommend just snagging one as an accessory.

One nice feature that I never thought I’d have to call out in 2016: both phones have headphone jacks! For the uninformed, you use them to connect a wide variety of audio devices, including headphones. Someone should tell Motorola that these audio ports, which have been universally supported for decades, would be a nice addition to their flagship Moto Z lineup. That’s especially true for the Z Force, which is thick enough to fit a headphone jack. (Yes, the Moto Z comes with a dongle, but that comes with plenty of compromises. You won’t be able to charge the phone when the dongle is plugged in, for example.)

Software

Motorola delivered a nearly stock OS on the G4 and G4 Plus, specifically Android 6.0.1. Marshmallow. The phones are devoid of the junkware and sponsored apps you often find on budget devices. None of this is new for Motorola, it’s been trying to deliver vanilla versions of Android since it was under Google. But it’s nice to see the company stick with that philosophy under Lenovo.

Motorola’s unique gestures, which made their debut on the original Moto X, once again make an appearance. Twisting either phone twice, similar to turning a door handle, quickly loads up the camera from anywhere in the OS. Making a double-chopping motion turns their flashlights on and off. What’s particularly nice is that both features work consistently even when the phones are in standby mode.

Camera

This is where the Moto G4 and G4 Plus truly diverge. Should you settle with a 13 megapixel camera, or spend the extra cash for the G4 Plus’s 16 megapixel one loaded with autofocusing upgrades? Based on my testing, the G4’s camera is a bit hit or miss. Sometimes it delivered sharp and vibrant photos, but sometimes its color rendering was all off. It was also a constant disappointment in low light. The G4 Plus was a lot more consistent — it was able to lock onto subjects much more quickly, and it was actually useful in low light. Looking at both phones shows how far we’ve come in the world of mobile cameras. But, if I had to choose, I’d opt for the G4 Plus’s shooter without any hesitation.

While Motorola used a light touch with most of the software, its camera app is a very different experience from Google’s stock entry. There’s a radial exposure meter right next to the focusing ring, which lets you lighten or darken the image by dragging it up or down. Flash, HDR and timer settings are also on the left side of the screen, instead of the top. If you want to take panoramic photos, or simply want manual controls, you’ll have to use a separate app, like ProShot or Open Camera.

Performance

While I was bracing for a slow experience with the Moto G4 and G4 Plus (due to increased rendering demands for 1080p screens, last year’s display was only 720p), both phones surprised me with their relatively smooth performance. Sure, they’re not as instantaneously zippy as expensive flagships, but they also don’t feel like “budget” devices. Browsing around Android Marshmallow, launching multiple hefty apps like Pokemon Go, and juggling through them was relatively painless. There was the occasional slowdown on the G4, but nothing show-stopping. If anything, their performance feels more in line affordable mid-range phones like the Nexus 5X.

And when it came to demanding usage, I was surprised by how well both phones held up. I was able to capture 1080p videos of both phones’ displays using the AZ Screen Recorder app while running Pokemon Go and jumping through several apps. The Moto G4 showed a bit of slowdown, but Pokemon Go was still totally playable. And the resulting video didn’t have any major hiccups or dropped frames. The Moto G4 Plus with 4GB of RAM fared even better, with no slowdown during screen recording.


Moto G4 Moto G4 Plus Moto G (2015) Moto G (2014)
AndEBench 16,159 16,371 4,259 3,929
Vellamo 3.0 2,762 2,819 1,992 1,669
3DMark IS Unlimited 9,841 9,851 4,518 4,679
GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 6.6 6.6 1.7 N/A
CF-Bench 61,030 60,998 20,999 14,470

The benchmarks for both phones reflect the strong performance I saw. Compared to last year’s Moto G, they scored four times higher in AndEBench, three times faster in CF-Bench and they were more than twice as fast when it came to the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. Of course, benchmarks aren’t everything, but huge performance bumps like these are noteworthy. I wouldn’t have dared play a complex 3D game on the last Moto G, but the G4 and G4 Plus ran games like Racing Rivals without any issue.

The fingerprint sensor on the G4 Plus was easy to set up, and it had no trouble accurately recognizing my fingers. Its placement on the face of the phone is confounding, though. Motorola would have been better off placing it on the rear of the phone like LG, or making it an actual home button like Samsung and HTC.

As for battery life, neither phone disappointed. Their 3,000mAh offerings had no trouble lasting me throughout a full day, even when I decided to go on some impromptu Pokemon hunts. In our test, which involves looping an HD video at 50 percent brightness, they both lasted around 12 hours and 30 minutes. The previous Moto G, lasted 10 hours and 40 minutes.

The competition

At $ 200 for the Moto G4 and $ 250 for the G4 Plus, both phones are practically in a class of their own. There are cheaper phones out there, including Motorola’s own Moto E and HTC’s $ 179 Desire 530, but they all have significantly worse performance in every respect. If you wanted a big upgrade, you could step up to the Nexus 5X, which currently sells for between $ 280 and $ 350, and remains one of the best Android phones on the market. Beyond that, there are the affordable high-end options like the $ 399 OnePlus 3.

If you’ve only got $ 200 to spend, there’s no better option than the Moto G4 right now. Stepping up to the G4 Plus gets a bit more confusing. If you want the 64GB version with 4GB of RAM, you’d have to shell out $ 300. At that point, the Nexus 5X is more tempting thanks to its faster hardware, though you’d have to live with its smaller 5.2-inch screen.

Wrap-up

Motorola’s big problem with these new phones is that the last Moto G was simply too good. In pushing for larger screens and other upgrades, it also introduced some compromises. Ultimately though, the good outweighs the bad. The Moto G4 and G4 Plus offer plenty of power and versatility without breaking the bank. And they show that, once again, nobody does budget phones better than Motorola.

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