The Galaxy Note 8 vs. the competition: More than just a stylus

With phone screens getting bigger and bigger, the Galaxy Note doesn’t quite stand out the way it used to. The Note 8’s 6.3-inch screen is only a tad larger than the 6.2 inches boasted by the Galaxy S8+, and both devices share the same Snapdragon 835 processor. Still, the Note 8 has a few things to set itself apart, including a new dual camera setup like the one on the soon-to-replaced iPhone 7 Plus. Check out the table below to see what Samsung’s latest large-screen handset is packing under the hood versus other notable flagships, and check back for our full review of the Galaxy Note 8 in a few weeks.


Galaxy Note 8 Galaxy S8+ HTC U11 iPhone 7 Plus
Pricing Starts at $ 930 (off-contract) $ 675 (off-contract) $ 649, $ 729 (off-contract) $ 769, $ 869, $ 969 (off-contract)
Known dimensions 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm (6.40 x 2.94 x 0.34 inches) 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm (6.28 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches) 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm (6.06 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches) 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 195g (6.9 ounces) 173g (6.1 ounces) 169g (5.96 ounces) 188g (6.63 ounces)
Screen size 6.3 inches (160.02mm) 6.2 inches (158.1mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm)
Screen resolution 2,960 x 1,440 (521ppi) 2,960 x 1,440 (529 ppi) 2,560 x 1,440 (534ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi)
Screen type Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Quad HD Super LCD 5 Retina HD
Battery 3,300mAh 3,500mAh 3,000mAh 2,900mAh
Internal storage 64/125/256GB 64GB 64/128GB 32/128/256GB
External storage microSD microSD microSD None
Rear camera Dual cameras:
12MP, f/1.7 (wide angle)
12MP, f/2.4 (telephoto)
12MP, f/1.7 12MP, f/1.7, 1.4μm pixel size Dual cameras:
12MP, f/1.8 (wide angle)
12MP, f/2.8 (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 8MP, f/1.7 8MP 16MP, f/2.0 7MP, f/2.2
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K at 30fps
NFC Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth v5.0 v5.0 v4.2 v4.2
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Apple A10 Fusion
CPU 2.3GHz octa-core 2.3GHz octa-core 2.45GHz octa-core 2.34GHz quad-core
GPU Adreno 540 Adreno 540 Adreno 540 PowerVR Series 7XT GT7600 Plus
RAM 6GB 4GB 4/6GB 3GB
WiFi Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac
Operating system Android 7.1.1 Android 7.0 Android 7.1 iOS 10
Notable features Iris scanner, fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C Iris scanning, fingerprint sensor, IP68 certified, USB Type-C Fingerprint sensor, IP67 certified, USB Type-C Touch ID, IP67 certified, Lightning connector


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Apple joins Instagram just to show off iPhone photos

Back in 2015, Apple wanted to show off the camera chops of its then-flagship iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones, so it decided to tell the world the old fashioned way. A new ad campaign plastered gorgeous photos of natural and human beauty up on posters and in television commercials, all with the subtle tagline at the bottom: Shot on iPhone 6. Now, three years later, Apple has made a permanent showcase for pics taken with its smartphones…on Instagram.


A look through the lens of iPhone users around the world. Tag #ShotoniPhone to take part. – Words and images by @koci, @itsreuben, @danilo, @_xst, @subwayhands, @marcelonava, @brockdavis, @lanadeathray, @thesdcowgirl, @inomad, @_yaisyusman_, @dawn_denfeld, @pauloctavious, @jeremysnell, @laurazazanis, @ryanpernofski, @abstractconformity, @mirafilm, @joez19, @daniil, @oli_op, @fotombo, @j9ryl, @tertiusalio, @maggiefortsonphoto, @trevorpaulhus, @rodrigomartinezfotos, @louiegraphy, @vmiura, @lfleischer, @vasjenkatro, @stevenxuex, @ianteraoka, @easonhsiung, @omidscheybani, @tamon_, @jaywilliamsphotography, @holephoto, @bigheadtaco, @mamacaxx

A post shared by apple (@apple) on

Not that Apple’s a stranger to the platform’s usefulness, since it’s had an account dedicated to its Music service for awhile now, with matching ones on Twitter and Facebook. As Adweek points out, the company saw the value of having a presence on all three social media platforms for its audio subscription service, but is infamously miserly with any other social promotion (though they have main profiles on Twitter and Facebook, both are blank).

But for whatever reason, Apple’s chosen now to showcase photos taken from its smartphones. So far, eight mini-collections of photos have been posted with attribution to the photographers.

Source: Apple (Instagram account)

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HTC U11 review: More than just gimmicks

Even die-hard fans have been ready to write off HTC for years now, and I can’t blame them. The company’s phones have fluctuated between greatness and mediocrity while its competitors have improved by leaps and bounds. So, what’s a company in a kind of existential peril supposed to do? Well, making a phone like the new U11, for starters. It’s shiny, laden with gimmicks, and — spoiler alert — the whole thing falls short of perfect for a few reasons. Even so, HTC has gotten enough right in this ostentatious package that you should definitely start (or re-start) paying attention.

Hardware and design

Chris Velazco/Engadget

With the U Ultra, HTC overhauled the design of its high-end smartphones. Forget those sturdy metal unibodies: from now on, it’s all about lots of sparkly, pretty glass.

The back of the U11, in particular, is sure to grab attention — HTC calls the finish “3D liquid glass” and it was crafted to catch light in unexpected ways. The Solar Red model is only really “red” sometimes. Under the right light, the phone turns bright gold and it’s pretty trippy. Even better, all of the edges just sort of melt into each other — no rough seams in sight. This shock of color is enough to make the phone’s face, with its 5.5-inch Super LCD5 screen and big black bezels a little underwhelming.

Phones swathed in glass can be tricky, though. I couldn’t put the U11 down on the arm of my couch without it skittering to the floor. You can forget about taking calls with your phone wedged between your neck and shoulder, too, unless you’ve got sandpaper shoulder pads. Glass also cracks more easily than metal. While we were shooting our review video, the U11 tipped over from its standing position and smacked into our glass studio table. Countless phones have done this over the years and they were never worse for it — the U11 is the first that cracked.

There’s a fast, accurate fingerprint sensor below the screen, wedged between two capacitive navigation keys. The headphone jack is over, so you’ll use the USB C port on the bottom for charging and audio playback. In the SIM tray, you’ll find a spot for a MicroSD card to supplement the 64GB of onboard storage.

You can’t see them, but the U11 also has multiple pressure sensors baked into its sides. We’ll dig into Edge Sense a little later, but you can squeeze the phone to trigger predefined actions like launching the camera. Plus the whole thing is IP67 water resistant, which means it’ll handle dips in up to 1 meter of water for around 30 minutes.

Display and sound

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The U11’s screen is good, but pretty standard. We’re working with a 5.5-inch Super LCD 5 at Quad HD. That works out to a density of about 534 pixels per inch. Colors aren’t quite as vivid as on an AMOLED display, but solid clarity and color reproduction put it in the same ballpark as its rivals. I only wish the screen was a little brighter. It’s a little dimmer than the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7 Plus, making it tougher to read under harsh daylight.

The U11’s speakers, on the other hand, are very, very good. It’s been a long time since HTC’s BoomSound heyday, but the U11 is louder and clearer than any other smartphone I’ve tested recently. In fact, while I was testing the speakers at the office, I had to deal with more than the usual amount of stink-eye from non-Engadgeteers because of the volume. (To my knowledge, no HR claims have been filed.) You’ll need more oomph for, a party, but the U11’s built-in sound system is good enough for gathering people around a YouTube video.

Without a headphone jack, you’ll need to use Bluetooth cans or HTC’s pack-in USonic Type-C earbuds. They’re a little too heavy on the bass for me, but they’re comfortable and offer a more welcome surprise: active noise cancellation. Even better, they don’t need batteries since the earbuds draw power from the phone. While handy, these pack-ins are nowhere as good as isolating noise as, say, a pair of Bose QC35s. The U11 can also tailor the way the phone plays audio through those earbuds. Each audio profile is specifically tuned for your ears, and mine made my music sound noticeably crisper and brighter — good stuff.

Software

When the company launched the 10, it also revealed an approach to Android that felt cleaner and fresher than before — Sense UI’s visual noise was dialed down and extraneous apps were killed in favor of Google’s own. These were steps in a positive direction and led to a mostly uncluttered version of Android 7.1 Nougat for the U11. In general, it runs very, very well, but it feels a little stale when compared to updated interfaces from rivals like Samsung.

Rather than revamp the interface, HTC focused its efforts elsewhere. The U11 comes with support for three — three! — virtual assistants right out of the box, which is a little insane. Most of you are probably familiar with Google Assistant, and it works the way it always does: either long-press the Home button or get its attention with “OK, Google,” then fire off a request.

HTC’s Sense Companion is much less vocal, offering up notifications and reminders based on what it knows about you and your environment instead. Is it going to rain? It will suggest you pack an umbrella. Once it gets late in the day, it’ll tell you how many steps you’ve taken and even remind you to charge your phone when it knows you have plans later. Essentially, HTC’s assistant tries to stay subtle while being proactive — it’s meant to slide into your life when you need it and disappear when you don’t. In general Sense Companion plays it safe by only occasionally surfacing notifications. I would’ve preferred it to be a little more in-my-face and but there isn’t a way to make the Companion offer handy tips more regularly.

Then there’s the newcomer, Alexa. Amazon’s voice interface is available on a few smartphones right now, but the U11 is the first to give it a proper home. You just say “Alexa” and she’ll spring to life. The U11 lacks the Echo’s far-field voice recognition, so it occasionally takes a couple tries to rouse it. Other than that, it’s the same solid performer you expect. Alexa has access to all the skills I’ve enabled on my home Echo, and the U11’s great speakers mean audiobooks and music from Amazon come through loud and clear. In fact, Alexa’s only true failing is that when she can’t tell what you’re saying, the app window and screen stay active until you dismiss the app or try again. If you’re not paying close attention, a failed Alexa conversation could leave the U11’s display lit up, burning precious battery.

Edge Sense

Don’t forget that you can squeeze this phone to make it do things. For all the hype, Edge Sense is very simple. The best way to think of it is as an invisible convenience key with two settings: a squeeze performs one action, and a squeeze-and-hold performs another.

Getting Edge Sense up is simple: just clench your way through a demo. You’ll have to enable the advanced mode to get access to the squeeze-and-hold gesture, though, for reasons beyond comprehension. By default, the squeeze action is set to launch the camera, with a second squeeze snapping a photo once everything is in position. Thankfully, none of those actions are set in stone. Rather than launching the camera, you can set a squeeze to launch an app, take a screenshot, toggle the flashlight and even fire up the mobile hotspot.

Frankly, I kind of hated it at first because I couldn’t consistently get my squeeze pressure right. Things changed once I dialed down the amount of pressure needed — lighter grips meant less time wondering why things weren’t working properly. (This also means Edge Sense is easier to trigger by accident, but I don’t mind.) Now I instinctively squeeze the U11 every time I need to grab a quick photo and get a little frustrated when other phones don’t work the same way. Granted, Edge Sense doesn’t do anything that a dedicated button couldn’t, and it’s easily disabled for anyone who doesn’t want it. It’s handy, but it’s no game-changer.

Camera

Chris Velazco/Engadget

When I reviewed the U Ultra earlier this year, I was let down by its camera. Not because it was bad, mind you, but HTC’s cameras still hadn’t caught up to the competition. Well, this year is different: the U11’s 12-megapixel camera is a highly capable all-around shooter, with image quality in the same league as Samsung’s. My test shots consistently came through with lots of detail and accurate colors, save for a few cases where outdoor shots where the green looked a touch bluer than expected.

Other than the occasional color temperature issues, the U11 has been an excellent everyday shooter. It’s fast to focus thanks to an SLR-style dual-pixel system, and the near-instantaneous HDR Auto turned multiple shots into a single vibrant photo with ease. This kind of algorithmic enhancement helped Google’s Pixel capture excellent photos, and it’s doing great work here too. There’s a hint of shutter lag after you snap a photo though, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to capture subjects in motion.

The U11’s camera is also surprisingly good in low light thanks to its wide aperture (f/1.7) and improved 5-axis optical image stabilization. Before taking the camera through its paces, I was a little concerned because the pixels on the 12-megapixel sensor are smaller than in HTC’s other UltraPixel cameras. I shouldn’t have been: dark photos came through crisper than expected, though you’ll still find your share of grain. That said, I still think the S8s have a slight edge over the U11.

Videos shot with the U11’s main camera were similarly impressive, especially at 4K. There’s hardly any distortion and the level of clarity puts the U11 right up there with the best of them. Given the phone’s attention to sound quality, the inclusion of a 3D audio recording mode makes sense. It’s meant to make videos sounds more immersive, and it does to an extent — just make sure you’re wearing headphones or all nuance is lost.

Meanwhile, the front-facing camera actually shoots at a higher 16MP resolution, and with a wide-angle lens, it’s capable of some seriously nice selfies. The relatively wide f/2.0 aperture also means the sensor gets to suck up more light — I only needed the screen flash in near-pitch black situations.

Performance and battery

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The U11 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipsets paired with 4GB of RAM and the Adreno 540 GPU. You know, just like basically everyone else. Still, there’s no denying that the 835 delivers some serious horsepower The U11 feels fast whether you’re jumping between multiple apps or plowing through beautiful games like Afterpulse and Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Hardly anything I threw at the U11 over the course of a week gave it pause. There’s a rare stutter, but the U11 is one of the most consistently snappy smartphones I’ve tested this year.

Battery life, however, was just average. Like the U Ultra before it, the U11 packs a 3,000mAh battery. But, this time it’s paired with a more powerful processor and a smaller screen. This balancing act of components worked out better than expected. In our video rundown test, the U11 looped an HD clip for just north of 13 hours before it finally needed a recharge. That’s much better than the U Ultra’s 11-odd hours, and in line with the Galaxy S8. The S8 Plus and the OnePlus 5 are still the phones to beat, though: they both lasted for a little over 15 hours before giving up the ghost.

When it comes actual use, expect to get just over a day on a single charge, and closer to a day and a half if you actually put your phone down once in a while. Again, this is average for this year’s flagships. People’s charging habits seem to be changing though, so the inclusion of Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3 tech is handy (if not quite as fast as the newer QuickCharge 4 stuff). Using the included power adapter and cable, the U11 went from bone-dry to 90 percent full in a little over an hour.

The competition

The U11 is a very strong option for smartphone shoppers, but don’t forget about all the other great devices released this year. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are arguably at the top of the pack — they both have gorgeous “Infinity” displays, not to mention excellent cameras and similarly impressive performance. The S8 Plus is the better choice thanks to its significantly bigger battery, and its larger size is mitigated by Samsung’s brilliant, bezel-less design. That said, you’ll have to deal with a highly customized software experience.

If you’re looking for pure horsepower on a budget, the OnePlus 5 is also worth looking at. It uses the same Snapdragon 835 chipset as other 2017 flagships, but pairs it with 6GB of RAM for truly stunning performance. Despite being slightly smaller and lighter than the U11, the OnePlus also contains a bigger, 3,300mAh battery which lasted noticeably longer in our rundown tests. Then again, the U11 has a much better camera and offers more in terms of software creature comforts than the mostly-stock OnePlus 5.

Wrap-up

HTC didn’t get everything right with the U11, but it nailed a whole lot more than I ever expected it to. That’s a big deal. After the mess that was the U Ultra, I was honestly unsure whether the company would ever drag itself out of its doldrums. The U11 is proof that, yes, there is still hope for this company. While gimmicks like Edge Sense and the stylishly fragile glass back make the U11 seem too eager to be different, underneath all that is a very good, very fast phone that’s worthy of your attention.

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Just add an iPhone to experience AR with Mira’s $99 headset

While mobile VR is a vibrant market these days, thanks to the Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View, the same can’t be said for AR. If you want to dabble in augmented reality, you’d better be prepared to shell out at least $ 950 on hardware like the Meta 2, and even more for a beefy PC to run it. Microsoft’s HoloLens, which helped to popularize the dream of AR, still costs a whopping $ 3,000. But Mira, a young LA-based startup, is hoping to make things simpler Prism, its $ 99 mobile headset. Just drop in an iPhone 7, and you too can view AR atop the real world.

Prism looks like a slimmed down version of the Meta 2, with a similar set of transparent, oversized lenses for displaying AR imagery. Similar to the Gear VR and Daydream, there’s a slot for for your phone (it only works with the iPhone 7 for now). Instead of pointing the screen right at your eyes, though, you position it away from you. A set of mirrors reflects what’s on the screen and repositions it on the front lenses. It might sound like a bit of a hack, but the result is a surprisingly clear set of holographic images in a relatively inexpensive device (not including the cost of the iPhone, of course).

I had no trouble putting on the Prism; even though looks a bit bulky, it’s significantly lighter and easier to wear than either the Meta 2 (which needs to be tethered to a PC) or HoloLens. Mostly, that’s due to the healthy layer of cushioning that rests on your forehead. The front lenses snap on magnetically, allowing you to easily remove them when you need to travel with the Prism.

Mira has also developed a small motion-sensing controller, which is curved and fits into your hand like the Daydream View’s. Most importantly, it also includes a trigger for your index finger like the Gear VR’s remote. That’s particularly useful for interacting with virtual objects. The remote also sports a touchpad on top, as well as menu and home buttons.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Even though I only had a few minutes with the Prism, I was impressed with what I saw. I’m used to trying on headsets that are too expensive for most people to buy, so it was a bit of a shock that it worked at all. Beyond the initial setup experience, I played a holographic game that involved maneuvering a character through a maze, which relied on the controller’s motion controls. Another game had me spinning around in my chair to destroy asteroids hovering all around me. I was particularly surprised how well Prism tracked virtual objects in AR, even though it doesn’t have any spatial mapping technology like HoloLens and Meta.

Mira says developers will be able to build both single and multiplayer experiences with its SDK. Your friends will also be able to see your AR adventures on their iOS devices using Spectator Mode. They can also take photos and videos of you interacting with virtual objects, which makes the Prism experience a bit more communal than VR headsets.

Of course, Prism will only be as useful as the software available for it. Mira says the initial release of the headset is targeted at developers, and it’s partnering with a few studios to build more AR experiences. (You can expect to hear more about those in the coming weeks.) The company plans to ship Prism to developers this fall, and it should reach consumers by this holiday season. Clearly, Mira has a long and difficult road ahead, but Prism’s low price and relative convenience could help it play an important role in the nascent world of AR.

Source: Mira

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Soon cops will search your phone just like your car

Imagine a routine traffic stop during which the officer has the legal right to search not just your car, but your phone too.

That’s where we’re likely headed: A Florida court recently denied Fifth Amendment protections for iPhone passcodes, saying suspects must now reveal them to police. The decision came after a previous court had ruled that a suspect couldn’t be compelled to give up the key to unlock his phone based on laws against self-incrimination.

A trial judge had denied the state’s motion to compel the suspect to give up his passcode, finding that it would be tantamount to forcing him to testify against himself, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

But the Florida Court of Appeal’s Second District just reversed that decision. Judge Anthony Black said, “Unquestionably, the State established, with reasonable particularity, its knowledge of the existence of the passcode, Stahl’s control or possession of the passcode, and the self-authenticating nature of the passcode. This is a case of surrender and not testimony.

“More importantly,” he added, indicating future cases about passcodes and Fifth Amendment protections, “we question the continuing viability of any distinction as technology advances.”

The case tipping the scales in favor of the police comes by way of a total creep getting caught shoving his phone under a woman’s skirt and taking photos. It’s pretty hard to feel bad for the guy. Many people know that “upskirts” are illegal, and most know it’s also a really shitty thing to do to someone. But Aaron Stahl didn’t care. He followed a woman around a store, and when he thought she wasn’t looking, he crouched down, shoved his phone under her skirt to take photos and got caught doing it.

When she asked him what the hell he was doing, he claimed he’d dropped his phone. She yelled for help and tried to stop him from leaving. He ran. But the store had him doing everything on surveillance cameras and got a clear shot of his car’s license plates. When police caught up to Stahl and arrested him for third-degree voyeurism, he’d conveniently left his phone at home.

In a police interview, Stahl consented to a search of his phone, an Apple iPhone 5. But when police actually went to his house with a warrant and got the phone, he withdrew his consent before giving them his passcode. Basically, Stahl attempted to show he’s innocent by not being accountable for his phone.

And as we all know, without the passcode even Apple can’t pop open someone’s iPhone and hand the contents over to police.

That’s meant authorities have had to get a little creative about looking through people’s phones.

After much wrangling and embarrassment earlier this year, the FBI forked over $ 1.3 million to have the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone hacked into. Just a few weeks ago, Scotland Yard actually “mugged” a suspect. In that instance, British cops waited until their target was on a call before physically snatching the phone and continually swiping it to keep the screen unlocked while they apprehended their guy.

The Florida case shows a flip in the opposite direction from 2015’s ruling by a Pennsylvania federal court, which decided the authorities can’t force someone to surrender his or her phone’s passcode. Just as he opposed the Pennsylvania court decision, I’m sure law professor and SCOTUS blogger Orin Kerr would agree with Florida’s judges that a code isn’t in itself incriminating.

“For example, imagine the government orders you to turn over any and all crystal meth in your possession,” Kerr opined about Pennsylvania’s passcode ruling. “In response to the order, you hand over a plastic bag filled with some substance. Your response effectively testified that you think the item in the bag is crystal meth and that it is in your possession. That’s admitting to a crime — possession of crystal meth — so you have a Fifth Amendment right not to have to produce the item in response to the order.”

Here, the judge hasn’t asked Florida’s creeper of the year, Aaron Stahl, to turn over any and all upskirt photos. Just the passcode.

The decision will likely lead to further challenges, but different courts around the United States are tackling the iPhone-evidence conundrum. Judge Black’s opinion will no doubt influence how others rule.

“Providing the passcode does not ‘betray any knowledge [Stahl] may have about the circumstances of the offenses’ for which he is charged,” Black said, writing for the Florida court’s three-judge panel. “Thus,” he said, “compelling a suspect to make a nonfactual statement that facilitates the production of evidence for which the state has otherwise obtained a warrant … does not offend the privilege.”

This is a compelling argument for handing over Stahl’s passcode. But then again, it’s also compelling because he’s such a blatant scumbag about all of this. Maybe it’s a false equivalency, though I’m inclined to believe it’s the rest of us who’ll pay for this guy’s troll-like behavior. He brazenly violated a woman’s privacy and expects his privacy protections to be upheld so he can get away with it. He’s not all that different from the guy on Twitter claiming death and rape threats are protected free speech.

This ruling is supposed to be about the greater good, but there’s nothing that feels great or good about it.

We’ll probably wade through a hodge-podge of law-enforcement rules across the nation until this gets ironed out, while precedents are set that aren’t thought through. In the meantime, we can be sure bad cops will collect passcodes and see what else they can get into with them. Because, thanks to security fatigue, people reuse the same passwords and PINs wherever possible.

It doesn’t take the mind of a hacker to figure that someone’s four-digit cellphone PIN is probably the same as her ATM and voicemail PIN codes.

So look: It’s not that cops and border guards and probably stormtroopers can’t demand access to people’s phones and computers nearly everywhere else in the world, because they can. It’s just that here, we’ve been living in an arrogant fantasy that we were somehow immune to that type of control. Rest assured that countries on every other continent circling our shaky blue orb don’t live in this fantasy.

We might be inclined to think that the world has gotten more fascist. No. It’s just that we’re losing our virginity, and effectual consent is bad for authoritarianism. Welcome to the rest of the world. It’s time to quit whining about Android vs. Apple security, or how broken the password model is, and realize your cutesy privacy island never existed in the first place.

Laws like these might be what we deserve, after years of remaining relatively ignorant to the realities of how tech tools like cellphones and Facebook are used by authoritarian leaders and surveillance-happy police. We’re about to enter a future where our president embraces letting government off the leash when it comes to surveilling citizens.

I remember when Google’s Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” And when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said that if you’re not doing anything “wrong” then you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to losing your privacy. It’s starting to look like these weren’t just harmless words from eccentric tech billionaires.

All I’m saying is that this is all connected, and the road that led to cops being able to search your entire life during a traffic stop is one paved with greed, perverse ideals and nightmarish lapses of empathy. Of course, some of us tried to raise the alarm back then, but we were written off as bad people with something to hide because we wanted boundaries.

But this story, the one about the Fifth Amendment and passcodes, is supposed to be about fairness and justice. Except with bad guys like Aaron Stahl, it’s a fairness that feels so cynical we barely understand how we got here.

Images: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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‘Super Mario Run’ is just as much fun as we’d hoped

It’s no stretch to say that Super Mario Run (launching December 15th for iOS; an Android version will arrive next year) is one of the most notable mobile games in years. It’s Nintendo’s first real smartphone game and one of the only instances in which the company has developed a Mario game for non-Nintendo hardware. It’s the first of several mobile titles planned and could mark the start of a major business shift for Nintendo. But let’s put aside all these heady concerns about what Super Mario Run means for the company and answer the most important question: Is the game fun?

Based on the all-too-brief demo I had earlier this week, the answer is a resounding yes. With Super Mario Run, Nintendo has successfully built a Mario title that makes perfect sense for a mobile phone while still featuring surprisingly deep gameplay and a level of polish seen in a small percentage of games, regardless of platform.

The gameplay appears to be identical to what Nintendo first showed off onstage at Apple’s event this past September. Mario runs automatically from left to right, and the player can tap the screen to make him jump. The goal is to get to the end of a course, which seems to take a minute or two, while avoiding death and collecting as many coins as you can.

Naturally, there are a lot of variations on what you can make Mario do here beyond that: Holding longer when you tap makes him jump higher; you can tap again to get a brief momentary hover; you can wall-jump; landing on enemies gives you a chance to string together multiple jumps; and so on. There are a handful of environmental items that change things up as well — jumping off of certain bricks will send Mario soaring to the left instead of to the right, and standing on some bricks will stop Mario so you can assess the coming challenges and plan your route.

In the few levels I tried, getting to the end wasn’t a big challenge. But the replayability should be excellent here because I didn’t come close to grabbing all of the coins in the course — those among us with OCD tendencies are going to be playing these levels multiple times to perfect our route and jump timing. Furthermore, each course has five pink special coins to grab. Getting those unlocks five more purple coins in harder-to-reach locations. Getting those unlocks five black coins, again in even tougher places in the level. It’ll take at least three playthroughs to grab everything in a given level, and to get all the standard coins will be another challenge.

That’s one example of the game’s depth. The next comes when you factor in competition. The main game’s standard 24 levels are only one part of Super Mario Run. There’s also the “Toad Rally,” in which you compete against friends or people all over the world. Entering a Toad Rally competition costs tickets, which you gain in other parts of the game.

Once you’ve entered the rally, you start a timed course that doesn’t have an end and shoot to get as many coins as you can before time runs out. But you also need to impress the Toad judges by doing combo jumps and other more complicated tricks as you make your way through the level. The more you impress the judges, the more they cheer, and the more points you get.

In both the standard “World Tour” and Toad Rally, the gameplay is excellent. There’s enough of a learning curve that I didn’t feel like I could immediately master each level, but it certainly wasn’t hard to just pick up and start playing. Perhaps the trickiest thing for those of us who’ve played a lot of Mario will be remembering you don’t have to jump on Koopas and Goombas — by default, Mario will automatically vault over them. Jumping gives you more points and the opportunity for more combos, but you don’t have to do it.

The Toad Rally has another twist: You put a few members of your personal Toad posse on the line when you play, and if you lose, those Toads defect to the victor’s team. The number of Toads on your team serves as a good representation of how successful you’ve been in the rally — so you can use them to see how good a potential opponent is before challenging them to a match. Toads also serve as some in-game currency for buying little houses and other objects you can use to customize your very own Mario overworld map. There’s no actual game to be played here, but plenty of fans will likely enjoy tweaking the Mario home screen that they see every time the game starts.

Regardless of what part of the game you’re playing, the graphics look wonderful. I played the game on the iPhone 7 Plus and I’ve never seen Mario look quite so sharp and vivid (the last Mario games I played for more than a few minutes were on the original, standard-definition Wii). And there’s no hint of slowdown or performance hiccups here either. I would have liked to see how it performs on less powerful hardware, but we’ll have to wait until the game launches to see what devices you’ll need to have a good experience with Super Mario Run.

Nintendo decided to price Super Mario Run at $ 9.99 — more than most iOS games, but less than most games for the company’s own consoles. I think that’s a fair price, given the number of levels included and the replayability factor here. But if you’re wary, the free version of the game lets you play the first three levels and try your hand at a few Toad Rallies so you can see what it’s all about. Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said it didn’t feel right to make people pay to keep unlocking levels when there’s so much momentum in the game to keep running through levels, so the company decided to skip all in-app transactions and go with the single one-time purchase.

Ultimately, the entry fee may seem a little high, but I suspect it’ll be one well worth paying — and I think lots of players will agree with me. Having a native Mario experience built from the ground up with the iPhone in mind is a huge win, and the game appears to be equally well suited to quick play on the subway and longer, in-depth sessions when you’re on the plane. I haven’t bought a new Mario game in years, but I’m ready to pull the trigger on Super Mario Run.

Update: If you want to try Super Mario Run out for yourself, Reggie announced on The Tonight Show that starting Thursday, a demo will be available at Apple Stores worldwide.

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T-Mobile tells iPhone owners not to install iOS 10 just yet (Updated)

T-Mobile issued a stern warning to its customers against downloading and installing the new iOS 10 update to their existing 6, 6 Plus and SE iPhone models. According to the T-Mobile website, doing so will, cause the handset to “lose connectivity [to the T-Mobile network] in certain circumstances.” Once that happens, the user can only re-establish their network connection by fully powering down the phone and restarting it. That said, the company does expect Apple to push a corrective patch live within the next 48 hours. Update: On Thursday night, T-Mobile announced that Apple had released its patch for the connectivity issue. If you had already downloaded iOS 10 (and were therefore at risk for this issue), go to Settings > General > About, to install the fix. If you hadn’t yet installed the new OS, feel free to do so without fear of having your cell service randomly drop.

Via: Verge

Source: T-Mobile

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New in our buyer’s guide: All the phones (just the good ones)

It took us a while, but now that we’ve reviewed the Moto Z, we think we’re done testing flagship phones until the iPhone 7 or next Galaxy Note come out (whichever arrives first). With that in mind, we can now confidently say that the following phones belong in our buyer’s guide: the Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10 and the iPhone SE. (Sorry, LG, maybe next year.) While we were at it, we also inducted the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets, since we likely them more or less equally. And, in the less-expensive realm, we added the Roku Streaming Stick in the A/V category. Head over to our buyer’s guide hub for all the details on these and many more. That’s it for now, but stay tuned — who knows what we’ll add after the next gadget-reviewing frenzy.

Source: Engadget Buyer’s Guide

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