Tech News

The Game Awards 2018: Crash Team Racing Remaster, Dragon Age 4 and other expected announcements

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 07:51

The Game Awards are back, and this year promises the biggest lineup of game announcements to date. Producer Geoff Keighley has revealed that more than 10 new games will be announced at The Game Awards 2018, alongside updates on upcoming titles.

While some announcements have been confirmed, such as the official reveal of the latest addition to the Far Cry series, others are merely rumored. So, let's take a look at what we can definitely expect, and what we hope to see, at The Game Awards 2018.

What are The Game Awards 2018?

The Game Awards are an annual award show hosted and produced by videogame journalist Geoff Keighley – this is the fifth year the show has taken place. Winners are chosen through a mix of public fan votes (10%) and a voting jury (90%).

The Game Awards aims to 'celebrate the best video games and esports of the year', but we can also expect to see world premieres and exclusive announcements of upcoming games. Keighley has promised at least 10 new game announcements this year.

How to watch The Game Awards 2018

The Game Awards 2018 will be streamed live on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Live, Xbox Live, Mixer, Steam and PlayStation. You can see all the available streaming platforms on the The Game Awards website. We've also embedded the YouTube stream below:

The Game Awards 2018 takes place in Los Angeles on Thursday, December 6 at 5:30pm PST. 

This means the livestream will start at 8:30pm EST on Thursday, December 6 or on Friday, December 7 at 1:30am GMT / 12:30pm AEDT.

What announcements can we expect?

The rumor-mill has been working in overdrive around what announcements we can expect at the Game Awards 2018. While we know some of the announcements we can expect, others have only been teased. 

So here's what announcements we expect to see:

A new Far Cry title

Ubisoft released a teaser trailer earlier this week teasing a new post-apocalyptic Far Cry game. The trailer also confirmed an official worldwide reveal for the title will be shown during The Game Awards 2018. You can check out the trailer below:

Fortnite

Geoff Keighley has confirmed there will be a big Fortnite announcement. However, a leak by a YouTuber has meant we already know what it was going to be. Fortnite is getting a new Sandbox mode called Creative, which will operate separately from Battle Royale and will allow players to design games and battle friends on their own private island.

Creative Mode will be available week one of Season 7 for Battle Pass owners and will roll out to all players on December 13.

While the full announcement may have been spoiled, there's a possibility this wasn't what Epic Games planned to reveal at all and we could be blown away by something entirely different. 

If that's not the case, we can hopefully at least look forward to some more details on Creative Mode. Geoff Keighley has said the Creative Mode announcement is just "part 1 of the story".

Obsidian's new RPG

We know Fallout: New Vegas developer Obisidan is working on a new RPG, and it looks like we might finally get a glimpse of it at The Game Awards 2018. Obsidian's official website and Twitter page have been counting down to the awards, teasing a "special message" is on the way.

Crash Team Racing Remaster

While this hasn't been officially confirmed, all signs point to a CTR remaster being officially revealed at the awards and, with the success of the Spyro and Crash Bandicoot remasters, it wouldn't be a huge surprise..

Several influencers have received teaser items from Activision including Crash cookies and a pair of fuzzy orange dice.

Dragon Age 4

According to a report by Venture Beat (and confirmed by Eurogamer), Dragon Age 4 will be unveiled at The Game Awards. Though we we get a glimpse at the upcoming game, its release date is currently "at least three years away".

Nintendo

We're not really sure what to expect from Nintendo, but we do know the company is planning an announcement of some sort. Nintendo tweeted urging fans to tune into the awards before the release of Super Smash Bros Ultimate next week, so it's likely the announcement will be related to that.

What we hope to see

We're hoping to see more of Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding (especially since he sits on the Advisory Board for The Game Awards). In addition, we're hoping to see more of Anthem and just maybe a look at Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order - though it's a bit of a stretch.

We definitely know we won't be seeing any of The Last of Us: Part II, as Naughty Dog confirmed as much in a tweet.

Categories: Tech News

Best Christmas gifts for photographers 2018

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 07:43

Buying gifts for the lens-lover in your life can be a daunting (and often expensive) task. With so many variants of just about every photographic accessory you can think of on the market, choosing the best one to suit the recipient's needs - and your budget - can be a bit of a minefield.

With this in mind, we've done the hard work for you, cherry-picking a selection of the best photographic products and accessories around, with a range of options to suit just about anyone.

So, whether you're after a few extra photo-themed stocking fillers or a slightly pricier sleigh-stuffer for your loved one (or just a little treat for yourself) you should find plenty of inspiration here.

Christmas gifts for photographers 2018

Billingham's Hadley One is a gorgeous messenger bag that's aimed at those who want to travel reasonably light – perfect for wondering round the city or a short break. The stylish, classic design of Hadley One certainly looks the part and is beautifully crafted from a premium leather. As well as space for a mirrorless camera or DSLR, there's also a separate 13-inch laptop compartment. If you want to treat someone to something a little bit special then the Hadley One, even allowing for its premium price, won't disappoint.  

Mini tripods are great take-anywhere options, and perfect for those times when you don’t think you’ll need a tripod, but want to bring one just in case. Some can be pretty flimsy though, but the Pixi Evo offers a decent payload support and good flexibility. It comes with a handy ball head and extending legs - not really to extend the height, but to use on uneven surfaces. The limited working height does mean you'll have to position it on a wall or table, but take advantage of the low angle to get some interesting viewpoints.

Adobe’s latest Creative Cloud Photography plan which includes Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC is perfect for those wanting a host of high-end features, but the monthly subscription payment model isn't for everyone. That's where Photoshop Elements 2019 comes in. Incorporating many of the advanced features found in the high-end version of the software, including a host of raw conversion controls, Elements 2019 still packs a punch and is perfect for the enthusiast photographer looking for a versatile photo editing program.

While it might not have masses of storage space for the price, the appeal of this portable hard drive is its rugged credentials. Not only is it shock proof, but its also splash and dust proof as well, making it and ideal solution to back up and keep your images safe and sound. The finish is excellent, while it's also bus-powered for convenience, making it a take-anywhere option for the more mobile photographer.

The Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 lets you bring your smartphone images to life.  This great little printer lets you transfer images wirelessly from your phone to the Instax Share SP-3, which will produce square format instant prints (the image is printed 62 x 62mm, with a total size of 86 x 72mm) for you. There’s a handy reprint button, allowing you to share the same print with friends multiple times, while your pics on Facebook and Instagram can also be transferred to the SP-3. 

A naked flashgun can deliver some pretty unflattering light, so this mini flat-pack softbox from Lastolite fits neatly on the front of your flashgun to soften the light nicely. It's relatively compact size means it's only really suitable for head and shoulder shots (larger versions are available), but it does mean it easily collapses down to pack away into your camera bag without taking up too much space.

If you know someone who's getting a new DSLR for Christmas, then this is a great addition to their kit. Featuring a Neutral Density and Graduated Neutral Density filters, it helps balance exposures in extreme light as well as allowing you to extend exposures as well, great for blurring water, clouds and people. You'll need an adapter ring to match the lens you're going to use it on, but this kit is a must for the budding landscape photographer.

The Epson SureColor SC-P600 is a brilliant printer for the enthusiast or professional photographer. It's well made and easy to use, and the quality of the prints it's capable of producing is stunning. Consumables are pricey though (both inks and paper), but if you want do justice to your photography (or know someone who's guilty of keeping their brilliant photos tucked away on a hard drive), then this is a stunning printer for the price.

If you’re going to be using Photoshop regularly, making tricky selections and modifying parts of your images - dodging and burning for instance, or some precise retouching, then a graphics tablet can transform the way you work. While using a mouse or a trackpad does the job, a graphics tablet like this one from Wacom delivers much more precision and control.

As well as being able to use the supplied pen to make control the cursor, the tablet also supports multi-touch gestures. This allows you to use the Wacom like a smartphone or tablet, with pinch and zoom control and multi finger gestures.

In September Apple discontinued its own in-house photo book service, leading the printer behind it all to launch Motif. Download the app from Apple's App Store and you can started making your own photo book - whether as a gift or for yourself. It's pretty easy to use and is great for family and holiday snaps. If you're after making a more 'serious' coffee table book, you'll probably want to look at alternatives like Blurb, which has more advanced templates.

Categories: Tech News

macOS Mojave 10.14.2 is now out for your MacBook or Mac computer

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 07:28

Apple has unleashed macOS Mojave 10.14.2 for those running a Mac device of one flavor or another, with a small collection of additional features including a handy shortcut for those who use the News app.

The second update for Mojave since its launch in September adds a menu item to the News app which allows you to swiftly open a story in the Safari web browser.

And when using Wi-Fi calling, support for real-time text (RTT) has been added. RTT is an accessibility feature designed for those who have hearing or speech difficulties, and it allows them to type text messages in real-time (so the other person can see the typing literally as it occurs).

A previous bug that has prevented iTunes from streaming media to third-party AirPlay speakers has also been dealt with in no uncertain terms.

Monitor mix-up

Also worth noting is that a gremlin that stopped monitors from working properly when connected to a 2018 MacBook Pro – if certain other ‘third-party USB graphics devices’ were connected to the machine – has been cured, too.

Other than that, you can expect the usual collection of security fixes, along with stability improvements on various fronts, so your machine should run more smoothly and be more secure.

If you want to grab the new version of macOS, simply head to the App Store, and select Updates.

The previous update to Mojave 10.14.1 added support for group FaceTime video and audio calls with up to 32 participants, and 70 new emoji characters.

 Via Cult of Mac

Categories: Tech News

Cuba opens up 3G network to the public

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 07:17

Cuba has opened its 3G mobile network to the general public, marking the first time that its citizens can access mobile data services on their smartphones.

Until now, the network had only been available to selected officials, state-employed journalists and foreign businesses.

However, the government has decided to continue the relaxation of restrictions to Internet access, which had largely been confined to hotels and state-owned clubs prior to the start of the decade.

Cuba 3G

In 2013, the Caribbean island’s first Internet café opened, while in 2014 the government allowed mobile phone owners to access the state-owned Nauta email service. In 2015 the country’s first Wi-Fi hotspot appeared and in 2017, a limited number of home connections have been permitted.

According to the BBC, state-owned monopoly Etecsa will roll out access to the 3G network over a three-day period in order to manage demand. The order will be decided by the first two digits of a customer’s phone number and Etecsa has not ruled out coverage issues in parts of the country.

However the BBC says the cost of the service might be out of reach for many Cubans. The cheapest package of 600MB costs $7 a month, but the average wage is $30 a month. And although half of Cuba’s 11.2 million population own a mobile phone, not all will be compatible with the 900MHz spectrum used by the Cuban 3G network.

However at least there is minimal censorship. Only a few sites are blocked, while Cubans will still have access to communications applications to speak to friends and family abroad.

Categories: Tech News

HDMI ARC: What is Audio Return Channel and why should I use it?

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 07:00

Is your home entertainment system as streamlined as it could be? Unless you’re using Audio Return Channel (ARC), probably not.

Connecting your television and Hi-Fi equipment into one, seamless entertainment system can be a headache for the best of us, with seemingly endless piles of cables, connectors, remotes, and stress to get it all working.

ARC is a type of audio transmission that links up your speaker output to your television controls, meaning you don't need a separate remote or interface to manage the volume.

Sure, HDMI cables already carry audio from Blu-ray players, games consoles and set-top boxes into a TV. But with ARC, they can also send audio in reverse, from a TV into an external speaker or soundbar, without having to attach a separate audio cable. 

Ready to remove one more remote from your already way-too-complicated home entertainment setup? Here's how to do it.

 Why do we need ARC? 

ARC is an often ignored protocol sitting at the heart of almost all home entertainment products, and understanding ARC is all about knowing your ‘upstream’ from your ‘downstream’. 

The first thing to know is that, as a feature of the HDMI spec, ARC enables a TV to send audio signal upstream to a connected soundbar, a one-box home theater, or an AV receiver. It does this by first forming a 'handshake' between the TV and the audio device, creating a two-way street for information.

By sending audio both ways, ARC does away with the need for optical audio cables (also called S/PDIF), cutting down on pointless clutter that likely already causes your a headache at home. Put simply, ARC is a cable-killer. 

Is my TV ARC-compatible? 

Probably. Although you do have to have a TV with a special ARC-ready HDMI slot, almost all TVs have had such a thing for years. 

To find it, look at your TV’s string of HDMI slots, and you’ll see that at least one has a small reference to ARC next to it.

“An ARC-enabled TV can either send or receive audio via HDMI, upstream or downstream, depending on system set-up and user preferences,” says a spokesperson for HDMI Licensing who spoke to TechRadar.  

Usually it’s automatic; use the ARC-ready HDMI slot on a TV and you will automatically be able to send audio to any soundbar with an HDMI input.

Thankfully, there’s no delay, either: lip-sync functionality was introduced in HDMI 1.3 to ensure that audio stays perfectly matched to video. It automatically compensates for any processor delays whether the audio is traveling upstream or downstream.

To that end, the surround sound we listen to is being substantially upgraded. 

Whether you’re listening through a 5.1 system with separate speakers, a soundbar, or via headphones, more immersive and nuanced audio is coming. So ARC is evolving to handle it in the upcoming HDMI 2.1 specification. 

“eARC simplifies connectivity, provides greater ease of use, and supports the most advanced audio formats and highest audio quality,” said the HDMI spokesperson.  

How big a deal is eARC for audio? 

In terms of bandwidth, it’s very big: A current HDMI cable can carry 1Mbps of auto data upstream and downstream; eARC takes that to a mighty 38Mbps. 

Critically, eARC is compatible with immersive audio formats including DTS Master, DTS:X, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos, formats home theater aficionados have been demanding for years. It also makes possible eight channels of 192kHz/24-bit sounds, making hi-res audio possible. 

As well as being about audio, eARC is about making all devices that use HDMI interoperable with each other. That’s a job formerly attempted by Consumer Electronics Control (CEC), a device discovery protocol that has been in HDMI cables from the very start. However, beacuse CEC was not a core feature of HDMI, it’s under-used. So eARC removes CEC altogether and instead puts device discovery on a new eARC data channel. Pretty neat, right? 

Should I wait for HDMI 2.1 and eARC? 

If eARC seems tempting, know that you might be waiting a while because devices certified with HDMI 2.1 slots and HDMI 2.1 features – including eARC – will not appear until 2019. 

But it's not all bad news: Some AV receiver manufacturers (notably Marantz) have already said they will offer eARC via a firmware update to AV receivers that don’t have HDMI 2.1. 

If cutting down on remotes for your next high-end sound system is a priority for you it's worth considering, but if you're content with the already-great 5.1 or 7.1 sound you're used to hearing, now is as good a time as any to buy audio products. 

Categories: Tech News

Do you know your top artists and songs for 2018? Find out with Spotify Wrapped

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 06:59

Whether your 2018 was a year to remember, or one you’d like to swiftly forget come New Year’s Eve, it’s safe to say that it was a fantastic year for music streaming platform Spotify, who counted 83 million users as of July this year. 

Now the streaming giant has launched its yearly ‘Your 2018 Wrapped’ feature, so all 83 million can look back on their year of music listening with (hopefully) fond memories. 

If you want to find out everything you need to know about your listening stats, you can do so through the dedicated Spotify Wrapped website, whether you are a Premium or Free account holder.

This years statistics include how many minutes of music you listened to,  as well as the different songs, artists, and genres you tapped into this year. Spotify also tests your knowledge of your own listening habits, which is rewarded by a playlists of your top 100 tracks for 2018 – the results of which can be quite embarrassing if you’ve been blaring out the guilty pleasures this year. 

Start 2019 with something new

Bored of listening to the same old songs? Well, Spotify has you covered. As well as a playlist of your top 100 tracks, the Spotify Wrapped feature also generates a ‘Tastebreakers’ playlist full of artists and genres you don’t normally listen to, so you can start 2019 with a fresh new sound. You can also check in on the first track you listened to this year, as well as the first new artist you discovered.

In other Spotify news, the company has announced that it is launching an improved user experience for the Xbox app today in the US, with a more intuitive interface. The streaming platform has also introduced support for Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana on Xbox, meaning you can ask Cortana to play tracks on Spotify through the console. There's currently word on when this feature will be rolled out to other territories, though.

Categories: Tech News

Get a free Galaxy Tab A with this Samsung Galaxy S9 deal from £26 a month

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 06:59

Free stuff is great, right? We definitely think so and it seems that phone contracts with free gifts are becoming a regular occurrence and this one with the Samsung Galaxy S9 is a real winner. 

So what's the deal, we hear you ask. Well, Sky Mobile is offering the Galaxy S9 with a FREE Galaxy Tab A (worth £69) all from a starting price of £26 a month. You can add more data to your plan but as you would expect this does bump up the monthly price. 

An important thing to note is that this deal does operate on a Swap24 contract which does mean you will be locked into the contract for 30 months, but you do get the option to upgrade to a new device after 24 months giving you some flexibility. 

Scroll down to see this Samsung deal in full or if this isn't quite what you were looking for maybe one of Sky's other festive freebie deals might be for you? You can see the best of these deals at the bottom of the page including free PS4s and Google Home Hubs. 

Sky Mobile's Galaxy S9 and Tab A offer in full: Sky's other great festive deals:

Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL + FREE Google Home
Sky Mobile has the Google Pixel 3 with a free Google Home Hub up for grabs. You can get it for prices starting at £29 a month and increasing based on how much data you want. 

Sony Xperia + FREE PS4
This one is for those gamers out there. Sky is offering a PS4 with Assassin's Creed Odyssey with select Xperia devices - that's a lot for your money. Prices start from £19 a month depending on which Xperia device you choose. 

Huawei P20 + FREE Huawei tablet
Sky is also offering the Huawei P20 with a free Huawei Media Pad T3 7”. Prices for the P20 start from a mere £17 a month and increase based on how much data you want.

Categories: Tech News

There's a new Far Cry game coming, and it looks... dusty

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 06:57

With the dust hardly settled on the last Far Cry entry - Far Cry 5, which released in March of this year - Ubisoft has released a new teaser trailer for the next game in the bestselling action-adventure series.

The trailer landed in the run-up to this week's Game Awards 2018 event, on Friday December 7. In the video below, you can see some peaceful American cornfields, with a seeming nuclear detonation in the background.

After some intense weather patterns, and sombre narration - "None of us were ready for the end... The flames devoured everything..." - we get a glimpse of some suitably rusted FPS weaponry that seems to run on projectile circular saws. So far, so Far Cry. Take a look at the video below and see what you think.

A wasteland worth visiting?

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Far Cry 5

The unnamed Far Cry game appears to carry on from the ending of Far Cry 5, which seen the world being destroyed by a nuclear explosion. However we don't know yet if the new title will be a direct sequel, based in Hope County once again, or something a little different.

Post-apocalyptic games are certainly on trend too. With the troubled release last month of Bethesda's Fallout 76, there may well be a player base hungry for a slicker gameplay experience in a post-apocalyptic setting.

The imagery and narration in the trailer seems to point at a post-apocalyptic setting, but we'll find out more from the worldwide reveal at The Game Awards 2018.

Categories: Tech News

Google Pixel 3 gets big price drop offer to entice Christmas buyers

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 06:49

Are you thinking about getting a loved one a top camera phone this year for Christmas? Well, this new offer on the Google Pixel 3 is just what you’ve been waiting for.

From December 8 until January 14, you’ll be able to get £100 off the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, bringing the cost down to £639 and £739 for each respectively.

That’s not really much to shout about though, given you can already get those prices at Carphone Warehouse and John Lewis

However, Google is offering £75 Play Store credit if you buy through its own portal, meaning you’re getting the gift of around 10 movies or tonnes of games to go with the new phone.

A Curious move

Google is also holding an event at its Curiosity Rooms, a space sort of sponsored by the Pixel 3 with workshops, talks, podcasts, food, music and other ways to try out the new Google phone - but for a limited time you can also buy the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, get a free wireless charging stand and the chance to SPIN A MAGICAL WHEEL for an extra gift.

However, despite trying to pry it out of the brand, we’ve not been able to find out what these gifts might be - so it could range from a new car* to one of those parachute action figures you chuck in the air and watch it float softly to the ground if you’ve wound the string correctly.

The thing is: you’re not getting the £100 off the phone at this event, so you’ll be paying the full £739 / £839 price point for these handsets, which seems a bit odd when you’ve made the effort of taking a trip down there and more expensive than you'll find on our best Google Pixel 3 deals guide.

However, this pop up event will be available from December 6-9 and then again on December 13-16, so you can get down there today to check this out, should you want to start Christmas early.

*We have no reason to think this is true. It’ll probably be Play Store credit or something.

Categories: Tech News

Strangers in your servers: data security and the gig economy

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 06:30

More and more organisations are employing outside contractors to do all kinds of work; supplementing their internal teams, adding talent in specialised areas and plugging gaps of expertise without the overheads of employing full-time staff. An estimated 2.8 million people worked in the UK’s “gig economy” over one year between 2017 and 2018 and economists expect this number to rise.  

Given research from The Ponemon Institute finds that two-thirds of all insider threat incidents are caused by employee or third-party contractor mistakes, businesses need to step up and better understand the risks to their data from this trend.

Rise of freelancers and contractors

Outsourced specialist IT services are the norm for many companies but many are starting to rely on freelance cover for other business support services, like PR, marketing accounting and HR. These third-party users don't typically have "privileged access" to backend infrastructure or technical systems but they can often have access to servers and cloud services that contain confidential files, such as customer data.  

These freelancers and contractors are people who organisations elect to give access to their systems, files, and data and so they aren’t truly strangers. The risk comes in that they are also not likely to be following - or subjected to - the same cybersecurity policies as regular employees. It can be much more difficult to keep a watchful eye on them than it is in-house staff. The reason for this is often due to the nature of the work being outsourced - contractors often tend to use their own devices and work remotely - and the limitations of a company’s security solution, which typically fail to effectively track worker activities.

Traditional solutions

Companies typically use identity and access management (IAM) and access governance solutions to implement remote access controls. While this prevention-based approach makes sense, it isn’t sufficient as once users with legitimate credentials can gain access, companies have little or no idea what they are doing - meaning that irregular or suspicious activity can go by unnoticed.  

In the same vein, traditional data loss prevention (DLP) tools are too data-centric to spot any strange variations in user activity. They also require an extensive data classification process, which requires an in-depth audit of all data, and then fine-tuning that classification architecture year after year which isn’t naturally compatible with the short-term nature of gig economy work.  

Unfortunately, even contractors with no nefarious or alternative motive can still pose a great risk to an organisation. They can make mistakes, for example, while deploying code, configuring systems, assigning user permissions or even moving files between teams thereby reducing the performance of business critical systems. Equally, they can become an easy way in for hackers. When an organisation’s internal systems are extensively accessible to remote partners, there is a dramatic increase in the potential risk that unauthourised users will exploit their access privileges to find an avenue into company servers, databases, control systems and other sensitive resources.

Training and guidance

Understanding how third-party contractors and suppliers might access and subsequently use their access to company files and data is a crucial place to start when thinking of how to best secure systems. Secondly, organisations should make time to coach contractors on cybersecurity best-practices, making sure organisational policies are fully understood. This should then be backed up by enforceable policies and appropriate technologies. 

For instance, if an internal team is using a project management tool and needs to include a third-party contractor to perform work, a policy should be in place recommending that a separate account with separate permissions be created for that user. That way, the contractor can’t access what they shouldn’t, and their activity can be better attributed to them - minimising the risk of the third-party leaking data or misusing proprietary information.

Monitoring user activity

On top of this, businesses need to be able to watch what people are doing, knowing exactly what each and every user is doing during every minute that they are logged on to an IT system. Establishing systems that give organisations visibility into this activity, alerting them in real-time when sensitive files are accessed or changed, or when login patterns vary or compliance policies are repeatedly contravened, is a game-changer for company data security.  

Importantly, the documentation that comes with this type of monitoring makes investigations simpler and can play a key role in making compliance easier too, satisfying regulations like PCI and ISO 27001 security requirements.  

On a day-to-day level, when employees and contractors know their actions are being monitored and reviewed, they often become more accountable for their actions. Not only does this help build a culture of company trust, it also simply enables workers to just get on with their work and meet their obligations without worrying they are putting their employer and their own jobs at risk.  

Ultimately, whether a third-party vendor or contractor is focused on IT or business services, it’s critical to have a strong level of visibility into their user activity on your corporate systems. Without sophisticated user activity monitoring in place, the margin for error or risk of an insider threat is just too high to ignore.  

Simon Sharp, International VP at ObserveIT 

Categories: Tech News

Windows 10 October 2018 Update gets a host of nifty fixes

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 06:21

Microsoft has released a fresh update for those running the October 2018 Update for Windows 10, and it brings some useful tweaks, but the firm has blocked a previous update for the April 2018 Update for Surface Book 2 owners after it caused havoc with the hybrids.

So let’s start with the cumulative update for the latest version of Windows 10 that’s currently still rolling out, which brings the October 2018 Update up to build number 17763.168.

It contains a raft of various tweaks and fixes, including some important bits of troubleshooting, such as resolving an issue whereby Bluetooth headsets would cut out after a couple of minutes of use.

Another annoying niggle whereby the brightness slider would reset to 50% every time a device was restarted has also been fixed. Furthermore, there was a bugbear which caused display settings to stop working after changing a multi-monitor configuration, and that’s now been solved.

Various problems with Microsoft’s Edge browser – which is now on borrowed time, by all accounts – were also cured, including live TV Hulu content causing a black screen to appear, along with failures to upload some files or folders when they were dragged-and-dropped in the browser to a cloud service’s website (such as OneDrive).

For the full exhaustive list of fixes, check here.

Scratch the Surface

Moving on to the second cumulative update we mentioned at the outset, KB4467682 – which is actually an optional update – was released last week and aimed at PCs running the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, but it has now been blocked for Surface Book 2 owners.

This follows reports of Surface Book 2 devices suffering from the dreaded Blue Screen of Death after installing the update.

Microsoft notes: “After installing this optional update some users may get a blue or black screen with error code, ‘System thread exception not handled.’”

For those who have already been hit by this problem, there are troubleshooting instructions here.

Microsoft states that the issue will be resolved in its December security updates which should be available next week, and presumably the block will then be lifted, and Surface Book 2 owners will have KB4467682 delivered. It consists of mostly minor fixes including errors with third-party antivirus software and bugs with displaying presentation files exported from G Suite.

Via Neowin [1, 2]

Categories: Tech News

Intel might launch a super-powered 8-core Core i9 Ghost Canyon X NUC mini PC

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 06:16

A fresh round of leaks suggest that Intel is preparing to launch a new lineup of its NUC (Next Unit of Computing) mini PCs in 2019, fitting these small-form-factor computers with some of its latest hardware and making them formidable little performers.

We’ve been very impressed with Intel’s NUC devices in the past, especially this year’s entry, the Intel Hades Canyon NUC. They are bare-bone devices that need storage, memory and an operating system installed, making them flexible devices that can be easily upgraded, and recent entries can handle gaming as well.

According to Wccftech, which has reported on existence of this new line of NUC devices, there will be two new lineups, a Coffee Lake-H Refresh “Ghost Canyon X” NUC line and a Comet Lake-U “Frost Canyon” NUC.

The Ghost Canyon X lineup will apparently feature 9th generation Core processors, up to the flagship Core i9 processor. The NUC9i9QNX Ghost Canyon X features an eight-core, 16-thread Core i9 CPU, and will support a single PCIe x16 slot and come with three HDMI 2.0a ports, two Thunderbolt 3, eight USB ports, two M.2 ports (PCIe Gen 3 x4) and Optane memory support.

According to Wccftech, there will also be a NUC9i7QNX Ghost Canyon X NUC with a Core i7 processor and six cores and 12 threads, and the NUC9i5QNX Ghost Canyon X with a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor.

No details about the graphical capabilities of these NUCs have been revealed, but they will likely use Intel’s integrated UHD Graphics, as previous versions have. Apparently, they will release towards the end of 2019.

Stay frosty

According to Wccftech, there will be Comet Lake-U Frost Canyon NUCs coming in 2019 as well. Apparently, there will be a top-end model – the NUC9i7FNH Frost Canyon – which will come with an Intel Core i7 processor with an unspecified number of cores.

There will also be a NUC9i5FNH Frost Canyon NUC with a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, and a NUC9i3FNH Frost Canyon NUC with a dual-core Intel Core i3 processor.

If these specifications are accurate, then 2019 could be a great year for the mighty – and mini – NUC.

Categories: Tech News

YouTube to release new VR series from National Geographic

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 05:45

YouTube is adding some more strings to its VR bow, with a trio of National Geographic TV series set to be released on the online streaming platform.

The series kick off this month with The Okavango Experience, which follows a documentary team through the Okavango Delta river in northern Botswana in Africa.

The first five-minute episode will commence on December 11, and will be available through National Geographic's own website and YouTube channel, or via the Google Daydream VR app.

Successive episodes (2-4) will then release every Tuesday throughout the rest of the month, while the other two VR series – the subjects of which are as yet unannounced – are expected to be launched in 2019.

Jenna Pirog, Senior Director of Video & Immersive Experiences at National Geographic, spoke of a "long-term partnership" with YouTube, with the aim of "marrying immersive technology with impactful storytelling". 

Free* viewing

YouTube is a prime example of the free content model, using a host of in-page and mid-stream advertisements to fund the platform.

The streaming website currently offers a paid-for subscription that removes ads from videos and offers access to a host of YouTube Originals content: whether TV series like Cobra Kai or documentaries like Kedi.

YouTube is, however, planning to offer free, ad-supported versions of all its Originals programming next year, in a bid to attract more viewers to its budding production arm. The site has also started adding full-length movies for free viewing – given the amount of films being uploaded illegally to site by users, offering more official alternatives may be a smart move.

Categories: Tech News

Huawei CFO arrested in Canada

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 05:43

China has demanded the release of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou after she was arrested in Canada.

The company's finance chief, and daughter of Huawei co-founder Ren Zhengfei, was taken in by police in Vancouver on December 1 whilst transferring flights in the city's airport.

Details of the exact charges she faces have not been revealed, leading to Huawei and the Chinese government demanding her release, but stoking fears of a growing trade war between the US and China.

However Some reports have suggested the arrest is connected to Huawei bypassing sanctions placed by the US on Iran.

Huawei's technology is being viewed with growing suspicion by many Western governments, which fear the company's hardware is being used for illegal surveillance by China.

This includes the UK, where earlier this week BT revealed that it would be stripping Huawei hardware from its 4G network, although it could still play a part in the next-generation 5G launch.

Huawei CFO arrest

The Canadian ministry of justice confirmed Meng had been arrested, noting that, "She is sought for extradition by the United States, and a bail hearing has been set for Friday."

The arrest was praised in the US, where Senator Ben Sasse told the Associated Press that China was aggressively engaged in undermining US national security interests, often "using private sector entities".

"Americans are grateful that our Canadian partners have arrested the chief financial officer," he added.

In a statement, Huawei said it was "not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng", but noted that it complied with "all applicable laws and regulations where it operates, including applicable export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, US and EU."

"The company believes the Canadian and US legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion."

However the Chinese embassy in Ottawa took a much more critical tone, claiming that Ms Meng had "not violating any American or Canadian law".

It added that "the Chinese side has lodged stern representations with the US and Canadian side, and urged them to immediately correct the wrongdoing and restore the personal freedom of Ms Meng Wanzhou."

Categories: Tech News

Google waves goodbye to Allo

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 05:43

Google is shutting down instant messaging app Allo. The news comes as little surprise; things have been very quiet for Allo since Google suspended its funding and paused development in April.

"[Allo] as a whole has not achieved the level of traction we’d hoped for," said Anil Sabharwal, head of Google's communications group, when the suspension was first announced.

If you're one of the (apparently few) fans of Allo, don't panic – Google says the app will continue to work until March 2019. You'll be able to export your conversation history until then, but after that date, everything will be deleted.

Conversation killer

Allo isn't the first chat app to find itself on Google's chopping block; the company closed Google Talk in March last year, while simultaneously pulling SMS support from Google Hangouts.

Last week, head of Hangouts Scott Johnson stepped in to quash rumors that the service was about to be closed too, clarifying that instead users will be moved to Hangouts Chat (a service that is currently only available to G Suite users).

Via The Verge

Categories: Tech News

EU approves new regulations to boost 5G rollout

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 05:35

The EU has given its final approval to the new European Electronic Communications Code (ECC), claiming the measures included will enhance roll out of 5G and other next generation network technologies.

The ECC promises the availability of 5G spectrum by the end of 2020 and by giving operators certainty with 20 years licensing. It also relaxes rules of the co-investment in fixed infrastructure and extends consumer protections to all forms of communications technology.

This means anyone using an Over the Top (OTT) service like Skype or WhatsApp will be covered to the same extent that anyone making a call or sending a text message will be.

Europe 5G measures

There are also provisions for security, accessibility and affordability, as well as the promise of more transparent tariffs and easier network switching. Finally, international calls will not cost more than 19 cents per minute within the EU.

The EU believes the measures will help fulfil its ambition of making high quality fixed and mobile connectivity available to as many people as possible, but the mobile industry has been critical of the first major overhaul to the ECC since 2009.

Critics argue the changes are a political compromise that will do nothing to promote investment and will subject European operators to strict regulations.

Industry body the GSMA had wanted spectrum licences of a minimum 25 years and believes the regulations are a missed opportunity.

Meanwhile some analysts believe the additional price regulations appeared to contradict the goals of the EU by adding more rules.

“Very often, when regulatory measures are widely criticised and seeming leave everyone unhappy, it often means policymakers have probably struck the right balance,” Luca Schiavoni, senior analyst at Assembly, said earlier this year.

“This might not be the case with the newly approved European Electronic Communications Code however, which has seen both fixed incumbents and alternative operators alike voicing discontent, and left mobile operators disappointed by the unfulfilled promise of 25-years long spectrum licences.

Categories: Tech News

SJCAM's Gimbal 2 promises super-smooth footage on any action camera

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 05:15

Despite the advanced image stabilization features on some action cameras like the GoPro Hero7 Black, a gimbal is a must if you want to ensure super-smooth footage. 

For GoPro users there's already the Karma Grip, but, as in the action camera market itself, there are a growing number of alternatives. The latest is the Gimbal 2 from SJCAM, which promises to be much improved on the original model. 

Not only is it compatible with SJCAM action cameras like the SJ8 Plus and SJ8 Pro, but also GoPro's Hero range, Yi's range of action cameras and the Sony RX0

Featuring brushless motors, the Gimbal 2 is able to perform four different functions. The Basic Follow Mode is the Gimbal 2's default function, and is designed to deliver a smooth horizontal-only rotation in the same direction as the gimbal handle.

Lock Mode keeps the gimbal locked in one particular direction, while you can easily change the direction, pan and tilt using the joystick. Free Follow Mode will see the gimbal follow according to the direction at which the handle is pointing, including up and down. Finally, Selfie Angle Mode will switch the camera direction towards the person holding it, which should be great news for vloggers.

Brushless motors

The brushless motors in the SJCAM Gimbal 2 promise to deliver smooth rotations and respond instantly, for judder-free, stable-looking videos. The 3-axis stabilization gives you wide range of motion (320-degree tilting, 320-degree rolling and 640-degree panning), while an additional motor is said to greatly reduce vibrations, as it helps to counter unwanted movements in the yaw axis.

The Gimbal 2's battery is claimed to be good for six hours of use from a single charge, while any action camera mounted on the Gimbal 2 can be charged using the Gimbal’s battery. 

The SJCAM Gimbal 2 is now available for £119.99, with US and Australian pricing to be confirmed. 

Categories: Tech News

Best free iPad apps 2018: the top titles we've tried

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 04:47

Free apps sometimes have a bad reputation, but many are gems that are so good you won’t believe they’re free. We’ve scoured the App Store to find the very best, and sorted them into handy categories, which you can find on the following pages.

On this page you'll find the app of the week - our top new selection to try out, and check back every seven days where you'll find a new option to test. After that, it's the best entertainment apps (surely the best reason to own an iPad...) and a variety of categories on the following pages to tickle your fancy.

Free app of the week: Beatwave

Beatwave makes it easy to create music. You select a voice and tap out notes on a grid. The grid can be set to various scales, ensuring the notes you use always sound good. Go deeper into the app and you can layer/arrange multiple loops, each of which can have a unique sound assigned.

The app looks great, with an explosion of color bursting from each note as the playhead hits it. This is a welcome hangover from the app’s previous incarnation as a simplified digital take on the Yamaha Tenori-on.

The more conventional redesign elsewhere robs Beatwave of some immediacy and playfulness regarding the play surface, although accessing all of its features is now a lot more coherent. Overall, it’s a good bet for beginners but also musicians looking for a fun sketchpad.

The best free entertainment apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for having fun with your iPad, whether shopping, coloring, reading, watching TV or using Twitter.

Pocket

Pocket is a read-later app. What this means is that rather than ending the day staring at dozens of unread browser tabs, you fling items of interest in Pocket’s direction. It then converts them into a streamlined personalized magazine you can peruse at your leisure.

The default iPad interface is an appealing grid, and individual articles are stripped back to words and images. This can be a major improvement over the original websites, letting you delve into content without distractions.

A night mode flips colors late in the day, to ensure you don’t get eye strain, but Pocket also allows you to ‘read with your ears’. This turns your reading list into an on-the-fly podcast. It’s an odd experience, but it can be nice to work through your reading list while cooking, walking or driving.

Infuse 5

Infuse 5 is a video player that lets you get at video from pretty much anywhere. This means if you have a massive video collection, you needn’t load it all on to your iPad. Instead, you can quickly copy across items as and when you want to play them – or just stream from local network storage.

This app isn’t unique in the field, but it’s friendly and sleek. Set-up is a breeze, and even when streaming from your local network, metadata (cover art; item information) is automatically downloaded. It’s also possible to download subtitles on the fly.

The free version has restrictions that require an annual subscription to unlock: some video/audio formats; AirPlay and Google Cast support; background playback; library sync. But as a freebie for anyone who wants to stream videos to their iPad, Infuse 5 really can’t be beaten.

Pocket

Pocket is a read- and watch-later app, designed to stop you amassing a billion open tabs in a web browser. Instead, you fashion interesting content into a personalized magazine you can later peruse.

On desktop, you use a bookmark to send items to Pocket; on iPad, you use the Share sheet. When you open the app, it’ll download everything you’ve sent, and can present what you want to look at as a straightforward list or a rather more appealing grid.

Videos appear as a pop-up you can make full screen, but the text reading experience is particularly strong, stripping cruft from websites to leave only words and images. There’s a dark mode for night reading, too, and even a speech option when you want to catch up on your stories but fancy some shut-eye.

Fiery Feeds

Fiery Feeds is a full-featured RSS reader. If you’re unfamiliar with RSS, it enables you to subscribe to almost any website’s content. You’ll then in Fiery Feeds get a list of headlines whenever you open the app, ensuring you don’t miss articles from sources you trust.

Most free RSS readers are clunky, but Fiery Feeds bucks the trend with a sleek two-pane interface, and a slew of customization options. It feels modern, but gives you very direct control over what you read, unlike the likes of News or Flipboard.

There’s a paid tier, too – US$9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 per year – which unlocks additional features, including a ‘must read’ folder, a text view mode (which loads full articles for sites that otherwise only send you synopses), and custom actions. Whichever flavor you plump for, Fiery Feeds is well worth installing on your iPad.

VLC for Mobile

VLC for Mobile is an iPad take on the popular open source media player.

On iPad, it has two main uses. The first is offline playback. You can load up VLC with videos, and – broadly speaking – be secure in the knowledge it’s actually going to be capable of playing them. During said playback, you can fiddle with the picture and audio, and use gestures to skip through boring sections – or backwards if you missed a bit.

VLC is also good for streaming. You can stream movies from a PC or Mac right to your iPad, rather than having to sit in front of a computer like it’s 2005. The interface throughout is sleek and minimal (irritating zooming to the options sidebar aside), and impressive for a video streaming app that’s entirely free.

JustWatch

JustWatch solves one of the biggest problems with the way we consume television and movies. With streaming services and on-demand increasingly rendering traditional schedules redundant, the key is usually finding out where and how to watch something, not when.

JustWatch asks you to confirm your location and the services that interest you. If you’re still into the big screen, there’s a tab for currently showing movies, which makes it a cinch to access local showtimes.

But this app’s mostly about TV, providing filterable feeds that list popular shows and bargains – and where to find them. Select a show, tap on an icon, and you’re whisked away to the relevant app. Whatever you want to see, JustWatch makes reaching it a whole lot easier.

Letterboxd

Letterboxd is an iPad take on a social network for film lovers. Sign up, and you can do all the usual following friends and bellyaching, only here you’re complaining about whether Blade Runner 2049 is 2049 times worse than the original, and who’s the best James Bond. If that sounds awful but you’re a film lover, Letterboxd has another use: the ability to log everything you’ve ever watched.

You can quickly assign ratings and ‘likes’ to your personal favorites, which are subsequently displayed as a grid of artwork that can be sorted and filtered. Beyond that, you can add tags, a review, and the date when you last watched the film. On the iPad’s large display, the entire app looks great – not least when you start checking out trailers of those films you’re keen to see.

Attenborough Story of life

If you’ve any interest in wildlife films, Attenborough Story of Life is a must-have. It features over a thousand clips picked from Attenborough’s decades-long journey through what he refers to as the “greatest story of all…how animals and plants came to fill our Earth”.

The app is split into three sections. You’re initially urged to delve into some featured collections, but can also explore by habitat or species, unearthing everything from big-toothed sharks to tiny penguins skittering about. Clips can be saved as favorites, or grouped into custom collections to later peruse or share with friends.

Some of the footage is noticeably low-res on an iPad – there’s nothing here to concern your Blu-Rays, and that’s a pity. Still, for instant access to such a wealth of amazing programming, this one’s not to be missed.

Chunky Comic Reader

The majority of comic-book readers on the App Store are tied to online stores, and any emphasis on quality in the actual apps isn't always placed on the reading part.

But with many more publishers embracing DRM-free downloads, having a really great reading app is essential if you're into digital comics. Chunky Comic Reader is the best available on iOS.

The interface is smart, simple and boasts plenty of settings, including the means to eradicate animation entirely when flipping pages.

Rendering is top-notch, even for relatively low-res fare. And you get the option of one- or two-up page views. For free, you can access web storage to upload comics. A single $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99 pro upgrade adds support for shared Mac/PC/NAS drives.

eBay

eBay provides access to a colossal online marketplace. Anyone can sell, and so you’ll find huge brands mingling with individuals attempting to offload the entire contents of their basements and attics.

Something of a design playground, the iPad app is regularly reworked; but whatever eBay’s designers come up with, a large touchscreen device proves to be the best way to search. You can quickly drill down into categories, and explore individual listings, swiping between photos.

If you need to keep track of things, the app offers automated notifications, and can flag searches, making it easy to see whenever new matching listings appear. And if you want to sell yourself, you can do that in-app, with eBay providing shortcuts to get your listing started (through barcode scanning or matching your item to publicly available information about it).

Melodist

Part meditative relaxation tool, part sleep aid, Melodist is all about creating melodies from imagery. All you have to do is load something from your Camera Roll, and the app does the rest.

On analyzing your photo or screen grab for changes in hues, saturation and brightness, a music loop is generated. You can adjust the playback speed, instrument and visual effect (which starts off as a lazily scrolling piano roll), along with setting a timer.

Although occasionally discordant, the app mostly creates very pleasing sounds. And while it’s perhaps missing a trick in not displaying your photo as-is underneath the notes being played (your image is instead heavily blurred as a background), you can export each tune as audio or a video that shows the picture alongside the animation.

These free exports are a pretty generous gesture by the developer; if you want to return the favor, there’s affordable IAP for extra sounds, animation and MIDI export.

Notes on Blindness VR

After years of eyesight deterioration, John Hull became blind in 1983. Notes on Blindness VR has six chapters taken from his journal of the time. Each is set in a specific location, marrying John’s narrative, binaural audio, and real-time 3D animation, to create an immersive experience of a ‘world beyond sight’.

Although designed as a VR experience, this app remains effective when holding an iPad in front of your face, moving the screen about to scan your surroundings. The mood shifts throughout – there’s wonder in a blind John’s discovery of the beauty of rain, disconnection when he finds things ‘disappear’ from the world when sound stops, and a harrowing section on panic.

Towards the end, John mulls he’s “starting to understand what it’s like to be blind,” and you may get a sense of what it’s like, too, from the app, which ably showcases how to craft an engaging screen-based experience beyond the confines of television.

Pigment

Adult colouring books are all the rage, proponents claiming bringing colour to intricate abstract shapes helps reduce stress - at least until you realise you've got pen on your shirt and ground oil pastels into the sofa.

You'd think the process of colouring would be ideal for iPad, but most relevant apps are awful, some even forcing tap-to-fill. That is to colouring what using a motorbike is to running a marathon - a big cheat. Pigment is an exception, marrying a love for colouring with serious digital smarts.

On selecting an illustration, there's a range of palettes and tools to explore. You can use pencils and markers, adjusting opacity and brush sizes, and work with subtle gradients. Colouring can be 'freestyle', or you can tap to select an area and ensure you don't go over the lines while furiously scribbling. With a finger, Pigment works well, but it's better with a stylus; with an iPad Pro and a Pencil, you'll lob your real books in the bin.

The one niggle: printing and accessing the larger library requires a subscription in-app purchase. It's a pity there's no one-off payment for individual books, but you do get plenty of free illustrations, and so it's hard to grumble.

WWF Together

With a noodly soundtrack playing in the background, WWF Together invites you to spin a papercraft world and tap points of interest to learn more about endangered species. 16 creatures get fuller treatment - a navigable presentation of sorts that hangs on a key characteristic, such as a panda's charisma, or an elephant's intelligence.

These sections are arranged as a three-by-three grid, each screen of which gives you something different, be it statistics, gorgeous photography, or a 'facetime' movie that gives you a chance to get up close and personal.

Apps that mix charity and education can often come across as dry and worthy, but WWF Together is neither. It's informative but charming, and emotive but fun.

Rather neatly, stories can be shared by email, and this screen further rewards you with origami instructions to make your own paper animal; once constructed, it can sit on the desk next to all your technology, reminding you of the more fragile things that exist in our world.

YouTube

YouTube is the best way to watch YouTube videos on your iPad. On the dynamic Home tab, you can quickly get at interesting stuff. It includes channels you subscribe to, and videos you didn’t yet finish watching; but also, it makes recommendations based on your viewing habits. The more you watch, the better they get.

On selecting something to watch, the video itself sits at the top-left of the screen, allowing you to scroll through comments other viewers have left, and peruse an up-next feed. There’s also a full-screen view for a more immersive experience.

Fittingly, for a service seemingly attempting to usurp traditional television, the YouTube app also provides access to content you’ve bought on Google Play. And with AirPlay and Chromecast support, getting what you’re watching to an actual telly is a cinch, too.

Can't figure out which iPad to buy? Watch our guide video below!

  • For a mix of free and paid apps, check out our amazing Best iPad apps chart. If you're more into a smaller form-factor or have your eye on the iPhone X check out our list of the best free iPhone apps.
  • Haven't bought an iPad yet and not sure which is best? We've got them listed on our best iPad ranking - or you can check out the best tablets list to see the full range available now.
  • Are you a professional? Then our pick of the 10 best business apps should have something for you.
The best free art and design apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for painting, sketching, drawing, graphic design and animation.

Adobe Spark Post

Adobe Spark Post finds Photoshop creator Adobe asking how quickly it’d be possible for someone to fashion gorgeous layouts on an iPad. The answer, as it turns out, is: very.

Adobe describes its app as ‘frictionless graphic design,’ and it’s easy to see why. You can start with a selection of your own images that are then arranged into a grid, or work from a predefined template. At any point, a few taps can drastically update what’s in front of you, with new (and tasteful) arrangements and typography.

It’s quite a lot of fun to keep tapping away, to see what Spark Post will come up with, but at some point you’ll want to actually use what you make. Even then, this app’s really smart, automatically shuffling components around to optimize your layout for social network profile shots or embedded imagery.

Unsplash

Unsplash is an app that gives you fast access to many thousands of images generously gifted to the Unsplash website by the photographic community. These photographs can be used entirely for free, for any purposes you wish, and can be modified as you see fit.

The app and available photographs are both rather good. You can search for something specific, browse new photos, or explore by themes. The large iPad display is the perfect lean-back way to look through dozens of images, flicking between them in full-screen mode.

It’s a pity there’s no download option, nor a means to follow specific photographers. But then this one’s all about effortlessness and immediacy, and knowing that whenever you do find something that inspires you, it can be downloaded to your iPad’s Photos app with a single tap.

Artomaton - The Motion Painter

Artomaton - The Motion Painter is a little like Prisma, in that it uses AI to transform photos into something that looks like it was painted or sketched. However, this isn’t a single-tap filter app; Artomaton wants to afford you at least some control over your creations.

To start with, you paint in the natural media effects to the degree you’re happy with. Do so lightly and you get the subtlest of sketches; cover every inch of the canvas and you end up with a more complete piece of art. Beyond that, there are plenty of settings to fiddle with.

The resulting images aren’t always entirely convincing in terms of realism, but they always look good. And although many materials are locked behind IAP, you get plenty for free.

Adobe Illustrator Draw

On the desktop, Adobe Illustrator is more about enabling creative types to work up pin-sharp illustrative fare than freehand drawing. But on iPad, Adobe Illustrator Draw concentrates on doodling. You can experiment with five highly configurable brush tips, which feel great whether drawing with a stylus or a finger.

But dig deeper into the options and the professional sheen of this app becomes apparent. There are perspective grids, a layers system for mixing and matching artwork and imagery for tracing over, and stencils you temporarily overlay when extra precision is needed.

Completed images can be exported to Camera Roll or the clipboard, and Adobe Creative Cloud users can also send art to Photoshop or Illustrator with layers preserved.

A straightforward vector export option would be nice, although that’s perhaps too big an ask for a free app designed to suck you into a larger ecosystem.

Autodesk SketchBook

We tend to quickly shift children from finger-painting to using much finer tools, but the iPad shows there's plenty of power in your digits — if you're using the right app.

Autodesk SketchBook provides all the tools you need for digital sketching, from basic doodles through to intricate and painterly masterpieces; and if you're wanting to share your technique, you can even time-lapse record to save drawing sessions to your camera roll.

The core app is free, but it will cost you $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 to unlock the pro features.

Brushes Redux

The original Brushes app was one of the most important in the iPhone's early days. With Jorge Colombo using it to paint a New Yorker cover, it showcased the potential of the technology, and that an iPhone could be used for production, rather than merely consumption.

Brushes eventually stopped being updated, but fortunately went open source beforehand. Brushes Redux is the result.

On the iPad, you can take advantage of the much larger screen. But the main benefit of the app is its approachable nature. It's extremely easy to use, but also has plenty of power for those who need it, not least in the layering system and the superb brush designer.

Canva

The idea behind Canva is to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating great-looking layouts based on your photos. Select a layout type (presentation, blog graphic, invitation, and so on) and the app serves up templates to work with.

These are mostly very smart indeed, but the smartest thing about Canva is that these starting points can all be edited: swap out images for your own photos, adjust text boxes, and add new elements or even entire pages.

Because of its scope, Canva isn't as immediate as one-click automated apps in this space, but the interface is intuitive enough to quickly grasp. Our only niggle is the lack of multi-item selection, but with Canva being an online service, you can always fine-tune your iPad creations in a browser on the desktop.

Pixel art editor - Dottable

Despite being lumbered with an awkward name, Pixel art editor - Dottable is a usable and nicely-conceived app. Choose a canvas size and then the interface is split between your drawing area, layers, and tools.

The basics are all there for creating old-school pixel art, but beyond brushes and fills, Dottable adds some fairly sophisticated shapes and transform tools.

If you want to trace an image, it can be imported, and optionally converted to pixel art form. Exports are also dealt with nicely, either exporting your image as a PNG, or converting each layer into a single frame of an animated GIF.

None of this is enough to trouble the pro-oriented Pixaki, but as a freebie for pixel artists, Dottable is mightily impressive.

Folioscope

One of the great things about the app revolution is how these bits of software can help you experience creative fare that would have previously been inaccessible, unless you were armed with tons of cash and loads of time. Folioscope is a case in point, providing the basics for crafting your own animations.

We should note you’re not going to be the next Disney with Folioscope – the tools are fairly basic, and the output veers towards ‘wobbling stickmen’.

But you do get a range of brushes (of differing size and texture), several drawing tools (pen, eraser, flood fill, and marquee), and onion-skinning, which enables you to see faint impressions of adjacent frames, in order to line everything up.

The friendly nature of the app makes it accessible to anyone, and there’s no limit on export – projects can be shared as GIFs or movies, or uploaded to the Folioscope community, should you create an account.

MediBang Paint

MediBang Paint feels like one of those apps where you’re always waiting for the catch to arrive. Create a new canvas and you end up staring at what can only be described as a simplified Photoshop on your iPad. There are loads of drawing tools, a layers system (including photo import), and configurable brushes.

Opening up menus reveals yet more features – rotation; shapes; grids – but palettes can also be hidden, so you can get on with just drawing. Judging by the in-app gallery of uploaded art, MediBang is popular with manga artists, but its tools are capable enough to support a much wider range of digital painting and drawing styles – all without costing you a penny.

PicsArt Animated Gif & Video Animator

You won’t trouble Hollywood with PicsArt (or PicsArt Animated Gif & Video Animator to use its unwieldy full name). However, it is a great introduction to animation and also a handy sketchpad for those already immersed in the field.

A beginner can start with a blank slate, paper texture, or photo background, on to which an animation frame is drawn. Add further frames and previous ones faintly show through, to aid you in making smooth transitions.

Delve further into the app to discover more advanced fare, including brush options and a hugely useful layers system. When done, export to GIF or video – or save projects to refine later. That this all comes for free (and free from ads) is astonishing.

Quark DesignPad

Quark DesignPad scratches an itch if you need to get started on some layouts while on the go with your iPad – or just fancy doing the same away from the glowing screen of your Mac or PC.

This isn’t a full-fledged desktop publishing app, note. Instead, it’s about creating frameworks for page designs – wireframes that show the placement of headings, images, columns, and boxes. You can work pages up from scratch, or use one of the pre-defined layouts. With its grids, pop-up menus, and a little nudge ‘joystick’, the interface proves to be flexible and efficient.

Output options, however, are initially limited. You can save flat images to Photos, but if you want PDFs or to print via AirPrint, you’ll need to go pro ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99).

Seedling Comic Studio

Although it's apparently designed for kids aged 9-11, Seedling Comic Studio comes across a lot like a free (if somewhat stripped back) take on iPad classic Comic Life. You load images from your Camera Roll (or take new ones with the camera), arrange them into comic-book frames, and can then add all manner of speech balloons, filters and stickers.

Decided that your heroic Miniature Schnauzer should have to save the world from a giant comic-book sandwich? This is your app! Naturally, there are limitations lurking. The filter system is a bit rubbish, requiring you to cycle through the dozen or so on offer, rather than pick favourites more directly, and a few of the sticker packs require IAP.

But for no outlay at all, there's plenty of scope here for comic-book creation, from multi-page documents you can output to PDF, to amusing poster-like pages you can share on social networks. And that's true whether you're 9 or 49.

Tayasui Sketches 

Tayasui Sketches is a drawing tool, designed to be realistic, versatile, and usable. And although various IAPs lurk for the full toolset (which includes a ruler, extra layers, and pressure sensitivity), you get an awful lot for free.

You start by selecting a paper type, or use an imported photo as the basis for your masterpiece. Then it’s time to get cracking with the pens and brushes. Although it’s perhaps a stretch to call them totally realistic, they all offer pleasing results. The watercolor brush in particular is lovely, bleeding into the paper and leaving splats on the canvas when you tap the screen.

In fact, the app as a whole is very pleasant to use, offering the right balance between trying to help and getting out of your way when you’re busy painting. And as a final neat touch, if you’re stuck for inspiration there are some coloring book pages thrown in for free.

The best free education apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for learning new things – from coding to astronomy.

Night Sky

Night Sky puts the planets and stars inside your iPad. More importantly, it goes above and beyond in the ways you can explore them.

Like many other astronomy apps, you can drag to adjust the view or explore the heavens by holding your iPad in front of your face and physically moving around. Chill-out music burbles away in the background, and there’s visual bling in the form of illustrated constellation overlays.

But here, constellations and celestial bodies can be pulled from the main view. They can then be moved with a finger or walked around in AR. With constellations in particular, this provides a great understanding of depths and distances.

Beyond that, you get Siri support, a moon map, advice on local planetariums, and many more features – and that’s before there’s even a hint of monthly IAP to access the Grand Orrery and live sky tours.

Civilisations AR 

Civilisations AR is an augmented reality app that puts over 30 historical artifacts in front of your face, ranging from an ancient Egyptian mummy to iconic modern art. It feels like a thoroughly modern way of exploring the past, enabling you to check out every nook and cranny of these famous objects.

Spin a globe to see where the items are from, then tap to select one and it will appear before you, ready to be resized and spun around. Discoverable hot-spots offer up more information by way of voiceovers.

Surprisingly, even paintings work really nicely in this app, enabling you to put your nose right up to the virtual canvas and inspect individual paint marks. An iPad display is big enough for you to truly appreciate these works of wonder.

JigSpace

JigSpace uses augmented reality (AR) to educate, by way of 3D models you can fiddle about with before your very eyes. Although the range isn’t exactly in Wikipedia territory, you get quite the variety of ‘jigs’ for free. There’s the anatomy of a trebuchet, a floating eye to fiddle around with, a manual car’s transmission, and many more.

JigSpace rapidly finds a flat surface onto which your object is projected. You can then pinch to resize it, or spin it with a swipe. Objects aren’t static either – many animate, and are gradually disassembled across a series of slides. For example, an alarm clock opens to show its gears and mechanisms – and because this is AR, you can check everything out from any angle.

Khan Academy

Maybe it's just our tech-addled brains, but often we find it a lot easier to focus on an app than a book, which can make learning things the old fashioned way tricky. That's where Khan Academy comes in. This free app contains lessons and guidance on dozens of subjects, from algebra, to cosmology, to computer science and beyond.

As it's an app rather than a book it benefits from videos and even a few interactive elements, alongside words and pictures and it contains over 10,000 videos and explanations in all.

Everything is broken in to bite-sized chunks, so whether you've got a few minutes to spare or a whole afternoon there's always time to learn something new and if you make an account it will keep track of your progress and award achievements.

Py

Py wants to teach you to communicate with computers. You provide some information about the kind of coding you fancy doing, and it recommends a course – anything from basic HTML through to delving into Python.

Lessons are very reminiscent of those in language-learning freebie Duolingo. A colorful, cartoonish interface provides questions, and you type out your answer or select from multiple choice options.

Py could be more helpful when you get something wrong, but its breezy, pacy nature gives it a real energy and game-like feel that boosts focus and longevity.

Unlike Duolingo, Py doesn’t have any interest in being free forever. A premium tier locks a chunk of content behind a monthly fee (along with access to mentors, who can help you through tough spots via an integrated chat). But for no outlay, there’s still plenty here for budding website - and app - creators to get stuck into.

SkyView Free

SkyView Free is a stargazing app that very much wants you to get off your behind and outside, or at least hold your iPad aloft to explore the heavens.

Unlike TechRadar favourite Sky Guide, there's no means to drag a finger to manually move the sky around - you must always point your iPad's display where you want to look - but there's no price-tag either. And for free, this app does the business.

There are minimal ads, a noodly atmospheric soundtrack, an optional augmented reality view (to overlay app graphics on to the actual sky), and a handy search that'll point you in the direction of Mars, Ursa Major, or the International Space Station.

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is an app about coding, although you’d initially be forgiven for thinking it a weird game. Early lessons involve guiding oddball cartoon cyclops Byte about an isometric landscape by way of typed commands, having him trigger switches and grab gems along the way.

This is, of course, sneakily teaching you the fundamentals of logic and programming, and the lessons do then gradually become more involved. However, at no point does Swift Playgrounds become overwhelming. And the split-screen set-up – instructions and code on the left; interactive world based on your work on the right – feels friendly and intuitive.

It’s not Xcode for iPad, then, but perhaps a first step in that direction. More importantly, Swift Playgrounds can act as a first step for people who want to start coding their own apps, but for whom the very idea has, to date, simply been too daunting.

Wikipedia

Often, third-party apps improve on bare-bones equivalents provided as the ‘official’ take on a product, but Wikipedia is an exception. This freebie app for browsing the online encyclopedia is excellent on iPad – and probably the best option on the platform.

The Explore page lists a bunch of nearby and topical articles; after a few uses, it’ll also recommend things it reckons you’d like to read. Tap an article and the screen splits in two – (collapsible) table of contents to the left and your chosen article to the right. Articles can be searched and saved, the latter option storing them for offline perusal.

It’s a pity Wikipedia doesn’t rework the Peek/Pop previews from the iPhone version (by way of a long-tap), but otherwise this is an excellent, usable encyclopedia for the modern age.

Yousician

Learning a musical instrument isn't easy, which is probably why a bunch of people don't bother, instead pretending to be rock stars by way of tiny plastic instruments and their parent videogames.

Yousician bridges the divide, flipping a kind of Guitar Hero interface 90 degrees and using its visual and timing devices to get you playing chords and notes.

This proves remarkably effective, and your iPad merrily keeps track of your skills (or lack thereof) through its internal mic. The difficulty curve is slight, but the app enables you to skip ahead if you're bored, through periodic 'test' rounds. Most surprisingly, for free you get access to everything, only your daily lesson time is limited.

TED

TED is a video app designed to feed your curiosity, by watching smart people talk about all kinds of subjects.

Although the organization’s name stands for ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’, it’s fundamentally interested in ideas. Example talks we watched during testing included a piece about screen time for kids (and why related fears are not true), not suffering in silence from depression, and mind-blowing magnified portraits of insects. What we’re saying is: this app has range.

It also has smarts. Along with a standard search, you can have the app ‘surprise you’ with something courageous, beautiful, or fascinating, and revisit favorites by delving into your watch history and liked talks, which sync across devices.

TED’s perhaps not an app you’ll open daily, but it’s a breath of fresh air when you desire brain food rather than typical telly.

The best free health, food and exercise apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for cooking, relaxing and keeping fit.

Oak - Meditation & Breathing

Oak - Meditation & Breathing is an app that wants you to relax. It’s split into sections for meditation, breathing, and sleeping. A stats area provides the means to track progress, with you gaining streaks and winning badges through regular use.

Meditations can be guided or unguided, catering for all skill levels, and although you don’t get the wealth of options available in some apps, you can adjust instructor gender, session duration, and background noise. The three breathing exercises cover relaxation, focus, and invigoration. And the Sleep section offers guided breath exercises designed to help you unwind.

On iPad, the interface betrays the app’s iPhone origins and could do with optimization for the larger display. Other than that, Oak’s pleasing and effective – and won’t surprise you a few weeks in with a stressful demand for IAP.

Tasty

Tasty is a cookery app that wisely reasons modern-day cookbooks need to move beyond being digital equivalents of paper-based tomes. It achieves this by way of fast, filterable searches, and judicious use of video.

Rather than opening with a photo, your selected recipe instead initially shows the dish being made by way of a tightly edited video. Below that, you get an ingredients list (which can be exported), tips and step-by-step instructions.

Tap a button below the last of those and each step’s text and video loop is isolated – a great way, when cooking, to sanity-check you’re doing the right thing, and aren’t on the road to a culinary disaster.

Breathe+

Many of us are caught in high-stress environments for much of our lives, and electronic gadgets often do little to help. Apple has recognized this on Apple Watch, which offers a breathing visualization tool. But Breathe+ brings similar functionality to your iPad.

You define how long breaths in and out should take, and whether you want to hold your breath at any point during the cycle. You then let Breathe+ guide your breathing for a user-defined session length.

The visualization is reminiscent of a minimalist illustrator's take on a wave rising and falling on the screen, but you can also close your eyes and have the iPad vibrate for cues. For free, there are some ads, which aren't pretty, but don't distract too much. For $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99, you can be rid of them, along with adding themes and usage history stats.

Kitchen Stories

As you launch Kitchen Stories, you catch a glimpse of the app's mantra: "Anyone can cook". The problem is, most cooking apps (and indeed, traditional cookery books) make assumptions regarding people's abilities.

Faced with a list of steps on a stark white page, it's easy to get halfway through a recipe, look at the stodge in front of you, reason something must have gone terribly wrong, and order a takeaway.

Kitchen Stories offers firmer footing. You're first met with a wall of gorgeous photography. More importantly, the photographs don't stop.

Every step in a recipe is accompanied by a picture that shows how things should be at that point. Additionally, some recipes provide tutorial videos for potentially tricky skills and techniques. Fancy some Vietnamese pho, but not sure how to peel ginger, prepare a chilli or thinly slice meat? Kitchen Stories has you covered.

Beyond this, there's a shopping list, handy essentials guide, and some magazine-style articles to peruse. And while you don't get the sheer range of recipes found in some rival apps, the presentation more than makes up for that — especially on the iPad, which will likely find a new home in your own kitchen soon after Kitchen Stories is installed.

TaoMix 2

There's a tendency for relaxation aids to be noodly and dull, but TaoMix 2 bucks the trend. You get the usual sounds to aid relaxation (wind, rain, birds, water), but also an interface that nudges the app towards being a tool for creating a kind of ambient personal soundtrack.

The basics are dead simple: tap the + button, select a sound pack, and drag a sound to the canvas. You then manually position the circular cursor within the soundscape, or slowly flick so it lazily bounces around the screen, your various sounds then ebbing and flowing into the mix.

This makes TaoMix 2 more fun to play with than its many rivals. Of course, if you just want to shut the world out, that option exists too: load a soundscape you've previously created, set a timer, and use TaoMix 2 to help you nod off.

Should you want something other than what's found within the generous selection of built-in noises, packs are available for purchase (including whale sounds, 'Japanese garden' and orchestral strings); and if you fancy something entirely more custom, you can even import sounds of your own.

White Noise+

There are quite a few apps for creating ambient background noise, helping you to focus, relax, and even sleep. White Noise+ is perhaps the best we’ve seen – a really smartly designed mix of sound and interface design that is extremely intuitive yet thoroughly modern.

It works through you adding sounds to an on-screen grid. Those placed towards the right become more complex, and those towards the top are louder. Personalized mixes can be saved, or you can play several that are pre-loaded.

For free, you do get an ad across the bottom of the screen, only five sounds, and no access to timers and alarms. But even with such restrictions, White Noise+ is pretty great. Throw $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 at it for the extra features and noises, and it borders on exceptional.

7 Minute Workout

7 Minute Workout is designed to give you a complete fitness workout in just seven minutes. It’s far from alone on the App Store, but we like this take because it’s straightforward – and also properly free (rather than being riddled with IAP).

The exercise screens are basic, but bold. It’s always obvious where you are in a routine, and if you’re unsure about the next step, you can tap a video playback button to view a demonstration.

Beyond the exercises, the app enables you to track your weight and set the gap between exercises, which are regularly switched during the routine. The only downside is not being able to block specific exercises if, for example, you don’t have access to a chair, or cannot perform them due to accessibility reasons.

Epicurious

Epicurious is a massive recipe book for iPad. It provides access to over 35,000 recipes, and offers a magazine-like presentation. The entry screen is awash with new recipes with vibrant photography; you can quickly flick between that and dedicated pages for themed recipes and new videos.

The app’s search is excellent. You can select by meal type, and filter available recipes by selecting specific ingredients, cuisine types, and dietary issues (such as low-fat and wheat-free). Flicking back and forth between filters and results can irk, but the app at least does so quickly and efficiently.

The actual recipe pages are a touch basic – there’s no hand-holding like the step-by-step photos you get in Kitchen Stories. Still, if confident in your abilities, it’s a great app to broaden your culinary horizons.

The best free kids apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps, learning tools, and games for toddlers and children.

Lego Creator Islands

Lego Creator Islands is for fans of the popular construction toy when there are no plastic bricks close at hand. It starts you off with a little island, on which you build a house. Construction is simple: tap piles of bricks and they magically combine into pieces of a finished Lego set, which you drag into place.

Rinse and repeat a few times and your kid will beam as they watch their island increasingly come alive, populated with Lego minifigs and bounding Lego animals, and dotted with buildings, trees and vehicles.

The experience is, admittedly, not that deep, and you can see most of what it has to offer in an hour or so. But it’s always fun to return to, and certainly beats treading on a Lego brick while barefoot.

Sago Mini Friends

Sago Mini Friends is a sweet-natured collection of adorable mini-games, ideal for young children. After selecting a character to play, you visit a neighborhood of colorful houses. Knock on a door and you’ll be invited inside for a playdate.

The activities are varied and smartly designed. There’s a birthday party, where gifts are gleefully unwrapped, and a birdhouse to fix by hammering in nails. Our favorite, though, is a cleverly conceived snack time that finds two friends sitting side-by-side. Feed one and the other looks a bit glum, which encourages the young player to learn to share.

Entirely lacking IAP and advertising, Sago Mini Friends is a no-brainer for any parent who wants a safe, free, fun, educational app for their youngster to spend a bit of quality time with.

LEGO AR-Studio

LEGO AR-Studio is the app we first thought of when Apple started banging on about augmented reality. After all, who wouldn’t want a bunch of virtual Lego bricks to play with, which could magically integrate with the real world?

Well, it turns out Lego wouldn’t, because that’s not what this app offers. Instead, you get a small selection of AR Lego kits, which you can mess about with, take videos of, and thereby try to trick your friends into wondering why their own Lego doesn’t zoom about the place on remote control.

It’s admittedly a bit shallow, and feels a touch proof-of-concept. But here’s hoping this is just the app equivalent of a Lego baseplate on which to build, rather than a completed set.

Zen Studio

According to the developer's blurb, Zen Studio is all about helping children to relax and focus, by providing a kind of finger-painting that can only exist in the digital realm. Frankly, we take issue with the 'children' bit, because Zen Studio has a welcoming and pleasing nature that should ensure it's a hit with every iPad user.

You start off with a grid of triangles and a column of colored paints. Tap a paint to choose your color and then tap individual triangles or drag across the grid to start drawing. Every gesture you make is accompanied by musical notes that play over an ambient background soundtrack.

Bar the atmosphere being knocked a touch by a loud squelch noise whenever a new paint tube is selected, the mix of drawing tool and musical instrument is intoxicating. When you're done, your picture can be squirted to the Photos app, ready for sharing with the world.

This is, however, a limited freebie in some ways. You get eight canvases, which can be blank or based on templates. If you want more, you can buy an IAP to unlock the premium version of the app. Still, for no outlay at all, you get a good few hours of chill-out noodly fun — more, if you're happy drawing over the same canvases again and again.

Doctor Who: Comic Creator

Doctor Who: Comic Creator does what you’d expect from its name. When you’re between seasons of the hit sci-fi show, you can satisfy yourself by fashioning custom adventures about everyone’s favorite regenerating time traveler, who goes everywhere and everywhen in a beaten-up old time machine.

Creating comics is akin to slapping down stickers – only you can move things around later. And you get a pleasingly diverse range of page layouts, along with a monster maker, so you can combine parts of the Doctor’s enemies into something suitably horrific.

The main downside is most foes lurk behind various IAPs – would it have killed the BBC to throw in a Cyberman for free? Sadly, there’s no way to use the app to get all timey-wimey and change people’s minds when the app was being made.

Lego Life

Lego Life is a social network for kids whose lives revolve around plastic bricks. Once you’re signed up, you explore feeds and follow themes, to become a better builder, or just see what’s current in the world of Lego.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a nod towards advertising of a kind, in new product videos being liberally sprinkled about. But mostly, this is an app about inspiration. You’re regularly offered building challenges and knowledge tests; during lazy days, you can slap stickers all over a virtual Lego kit, or build a mini-figure for your profile.

Given that it’ll mostly be kids using the app, it’s worth noting usernames are anonymized. You can’t type your own, and instead select from semi-random word lists. EmpressSensibleMotorbike, meet ElderSupersonicJelly!

Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby

Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby is a two-part game designed for children as young as six months old.

In Level 1, your youngling – now armed with a worryingly expensive piece of technology – can tilt and tap the screen to make shapes appear and bounce around. But Level 2 ramps things up considerably.

“Let’s put on a show,” chirps the app as the five shapes wiggle and jig about on the screen, lurking above a colorful keyboard. And you know what’s next: maddeningly jaunty earworms, augmented by a deliriously happy baby smacking the huge piano keys.

Your slow descent into madness will be worth it for the smile on their little face.

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales is a dressing up app. You choose from a male or female customer, and then set about giving them a new and exciting outfit.

As with other Toca Boca fare, this is a tactile, immediate app. Tap a garment to adjust its type; drag and you’ll change its length. Accessories can be added from an expanding box, if you decide your appreciative on-screen ‘manakin’ needs a trendy hat.

The best bit, though, is the materials section. For each part of the garment, you can drag and drop materials onto it. This isn’t a question of merely recoloring either – you can pinch/rotate to make all kinds of crazy patterns, and even import photos or snap a texture using the iPad’s camera. Great stuff for tiny wannabe fashion designers.

The best free music and audio apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for listening to podcasts, making music or being a virtual DJ.

AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer

AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer is an iPad synth bursting at the seams with dials to twiddle, buttons to push, and all kinds of exciting noises that blast forth from your speakers.

Even if you’re not overly musically inclined, there’s fun to be had here by selecting presets - many of which use a built-in user-friendly sequencer, so you can fire off a melody by holding down a single key. There’s loads for musicians to delve into, including Audiobus and IAA support, customizable filters, and touchpad play surfaces.

It’s hugely impressive and the sort of thing you’d usually expect to set you back north of 30 bucks, so it’s all the more surprising that Synth One is entirely free from ads and IAP - and that will always be the case, given that it’s also an open-source project.

Novation Launchpad

Novation Launchpad is about remixing electronic music using a grid of loops. For the beginner, it’s a friendly, intuitive introduction to music-making. You load a genre and just tap away, safe in the knowledge everything will always sound great. You can even record live mixes and share them with friends.

There’s depth to Novation Launchpad as well – effects to apply, filters to experiment with, and the option to mix and match pad sounds. If you’re prepared to dip into your wallet, you can take things much further, importing your own audio files and working with a larger range of effects.

On iPad, you can buy all of these things – and a MIDI sync feature – for a one-off $14.99/£14.99/$AU22.99 IAP. But even if you stick to the free version, Novation Launchpad proves to be suitably noisy fun.

Auxy Music Studio

The thinking behind Auxy Music Studio is that music-making - both in the real world and software - has become too complicated. This app therefore strives to combine the immediacy of something like Novation Launchpad's loop triggers with a basic piano roll editor.

For each instrument, you choose between drums and decidedly electronic synths. You then compose loops of between one and four bars, tapping out notes on the piano roll's grid. Subsequent playback occurs on the overview screen by tapping loops to cue them up.

For those who want to go a bit further, the app includes arrangement functionality (for composing entire songs), along with Ableton Link and MIDI export support. Auxy's therefore worth a look for relative newcomers to making music and also pros after a no-nonsense scratchpad.

Figure

The iPad is the perfect mobile device for composing music, with its fairly large display and powerful innards. This has resulted in a range of involved and impressive music-creation tools, such as Korg Gadget. Sometimes, though, you yearn for something simpler for making some noise.

This is where Figure comes in. Within seconds, you can craft thumping dance loops, comprising drum, bass and lead parts. The sounds are great, being based on developer Propellerhead Software's much-loved Reason. They can be manipulated, too, so your exported loops sound truly unique.

Garageband

On an iPhone, music-making app GarageBand is mightily impressive, but on iPad, the extra space proves transformative. In being able to see more at any given time, your experience is more efficient and enjoyable, whether you’re a beginner tapping the grid view to trigger loops, a live musician tweaking a synth on stage, or a recording artist delving into audio waveforms and MIDI data.

Apple’s app also cleverly appeals to all. Newcomers can work with loops, automated drummers, and piano strips for always staying in key. Pros get seriously impressive track controls with configurable effects, multi-take recording, and Audio Unit support for bringing favorite synths directly into GarageBand.

If you don’t feel terribly creative sitting in front of a PC, GarageBand’s the perfect way to unleash your Grammy-winning songwriter in waiting.

Groovebox

Groovebox is a really clever app for anyone interested in making electronic music. The smartest bit is in the app being approachable for newcomers, yet offering power and features for seasoned noise makers.

The basics involve selecting a track type (drums, bass, or synth), and then a sound, whereupon Groovebox starts playing a loop. If you’re not happy with what you hear, tap the dice and Groovebox will spit out a different pattern.

Most apps of this ilk are samples-based, and so grind to a juddering halt at this point. But Groovebox goes further, offering a keyboard for live play, and a piano roll grid for tweaking a loop’s notes – or removing them all to add your own. You can also build up entire tracks using a ‘song sections’ feature.

The only major limitation of the free version is many advanced instrument controls sit behind IAP. Still, for no outlay, Groovebox offers plenty of head-nodding entertainment.

Music Memos

It’s fair to say that Music Memos is primarily designed for the iPhone, enabling musicians to quickly capture a song idea, which can later be expanded on. But if you’re in a studio – home or otherwise – strumming away on a guitar, and with an iPad nearby, the app can help you compose your next chart-troubler on a much more user-friendly screen size.

You kick things off by tapping a circle in the middle of the screen, whereupon Music Memos starts recording. Tap again to stop. The app then attempts – with some degree of success – to transcribe the chords played, and enables you to overlay automated bass and drums.

It’s when tapping the audio waveform in the recordings list that the iPad’s value becomes clear – you get the whole screen to see your in-progress song, which is great for playing along with or when considering further tweaks. And with iCloud sync, you can always record on iPhone and peruse later on iPad.

Overcast

Podcasts are mostly associated with small portable devices - after all, the very name is a mash-up of 'iPod' and 'broadcast'. But that doesn't mean you should ignore your favourite shows when armed with an iPad rather than an iPhone.

We're big fans of Overcast on Apple's smaller devices, but the app makes good use of the iPad's extra screen space, with a smart two-column display. On the left, episodes are listed, and the current podcast loads into the larger space on the right.

The big plusses with Overcast, though, remain playback and podcast management. It's the one podcast app we've used that retains plenty of clarity when playback is sped up; and there are clever effects for removing dead air and boosting vocals in podcasts with lower production values.

Playlists can be straightforward in nature, or quite intricate, automatically boosting favourites to the top of the list, and excluding specific episodes. And if you do mostly use an iPhone for listening, Overcast automatically syncs your podcasts and progress, so you can always pick up where you left off.

Pacemaker

There are quite a few DJ apps for iPad, but they mostly tend to make the assumption you’re a master of the decks already. With its bright colors, straightforward nature, and lack of a price tag, Pacemaker feels rather more approachable to the typical wannabe deck spinner.

You can mess about with demo tracks or load tunes from your iPhone and Spotify. Then it’s a case of messing around with virtual decks, sliders and buttons to crossfade, beat-match, and add effects. If you hit on something especially great, record your live performance and share it with your friends.

It’s worth noting the app does have IAP lurking, but that’s really only for people properly bitten by the bug. Splash out and you can grab new effects or a premium subscription for precision mixing. For free, though, there’s plenty to enjoy.

Seaquence

There are two ways to approach Seaquence, where the first is as a really bizarre interactive album. Select a track and a bunch of little creatures swim about on the screen, which results in spatialized sound mixes. (Stick some headphones on to hear how their movements affect the placement of sounds being played.) You can manually fling the creatures about, or tap-hold to remove them.

But Seaquence also enables you to edit. Add a new creature and it’ll instantly change the track. Tap a creature and you can delve into a scale editor, sound designer, and a sequencer for adjusting the notes of the current loop.

A $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 IAP opens up a bunch of pro features; but for free, Seaquence is entertaining whether you’re just listening and occasionally bothering the digital sea life, or figuring out how to construct your own tunes.

Beatwave

Beatwave is a grid synthesizer/sound toy, loosely based on Yamaha’s Tenori-on. This means you tap notes by turning on the grid’s lights. When the endlessly looping playhead collides with one, you get an explosion of color, and a sound plays.

Notes towards the top of the grid are higher, and those at the bottom are lower. Some instruments use the bottom two rows for drum sounds. Most importantly, though, Beatwave is designed to always make output listenable.

It’s actually quite difficult to create anything horribly discordant, short of filling every square on the grid.

For those who fancy more depth, the app offers plenty of alternate sounds, automated morphing, and the ability to save patterns to the sidebar, which you switch between with a tap. So it’s fun whether writing songs or just playing with sound and color.

The best free office and writing apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for writing, email, spreadsheets, presentations and calculations.

LastPass

LastPass in some ways echoes iCloud Keychain, in giving you a central repository for storing passwords and payment details. You might therefore wonder what the point is in using such a system.

First and foremost, LastPass is fully cross-platform, so if you also work with Windows and Android, it means you can take your passwords with you everywhere, securely. But there are other advantages, such as secure notes and form fill options, all of which seamlessly integrate with devices running iOS 12 or later.

There is a premium tier; US$24/£23/AU$38 per year adds sharing options, 1GB of encrypted file storage, and premium multi-factor authentication. For most users, though, the extremely generous free version should be enough.

Drafts 5

Drafts 5 describes itself as the place where text starts. That might be a lofty claim on the iPad, given that Apple’s tablet has plenty of top-notch text editors, but Drafts has some pretty amazing tools to help you capture ideas faster and work on lengthy texts.

The main writing view gives you a live word count, and a custom keyboard row for quickly getting at useful formatting options and actions. Texts can be tagged for grouping and retrieval purposes, and the app includes a large range of actions for processing and exporting missives.

If you want to make your own custom actions you’re into subscription IAP territory, which also gives you custom workspaces, superior share extension options, URL automation, and themes. But even in its free incarnation, Drafts is extremely generous and a first-rate install.

Scanbot

Scanbot is a scanner with a sense of humor. No, you read that right – it starts off urging you to try a tutorial ‘challenge mode’. In AR, you chase documents around the floor, trying to scan them as quickly as possible.

All this has a point: teaching you how to best to position your iPad when scanning, and to showcase how streamlined Scanbot makes the process. Once the scan’s been done, you can adjust crop and contrast levels, append more pages, and upload the end result to a cloud service of your choice.

The app includes page size settings and integrates with iOS’s Shortcuts app. And if you upgrade to the pro version, you gain OCR text recognition, one-tap actions extraction for things like triggering phone calls, and robust document editing. But even if you stick with the free version, Scanbot’s an excellent choice.

Paper by FiftyThree

Paper by FiftyThree originally invited you to sketch in virtual journals, but then dispensed with sketchbooks for a board of cards you could rearrange. This latest take tries to merge the two approaches.

The best bit of Paper – the actual sketching tools – remains intact. You scribble with pens, splash watercolors on the canvas, and draw geometric shapes that neatly retain the character of your stroke.

Beyond that, the app stumbles. Text appears as notes stuck over your work when browsing – an ugly effect – and only one image can be imported to each sketch, which you can either trace over or use as a background.

Still, despite its flaws, this is still an app worth installing, simply because it feels really great to use.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is a popular app on the desktop for viewing, annotating and signing PDFs. On iPad… well, it’s much the same, albeit with a reliance on cloud storage, and a nicely-designed touchscreen interface.

On importing a PDF from another app, Dropbox, or iCloud Drive, you can rearrange its pages, add a signature, slather the thing in comments, and highlight bits of text. If your document arrived from Adobe Scan, you can search the text, and select/copy some to paste elsewhere. Annoyingly, copying must be done manually – there’s no ‘grab all text’ option.

In the main, though, this is a friendly, usable app, and you get the bulk of its functionality for free, including the means to share edited PDFs with other apps. (IAP is mostly for converting PDFs to other formats for editing in the likes of Microsoft Word.)

Bear

A halfway house between full-fledged writing tool and capable note-taker, Bear provides a beautiful environment for tapping out words on an iPad.

The sidebar links to notes you’ve grouped by hashtag. Next to that, a notes list enables you to scroll through (or search) everything you’ve written, or notes matching a specific tag. The main workspace – which can be made full-screen – marries sleek minimalism with additional smarts: subtle Markdown syntax next to headings; automated to-do checkboxes when using certain characters; image integration.

There’s not enough here for pro writers – they’d need on-screen word counts, customizable note column ordering, and flexibility regarding notes nesting. Also, for iCloud sync, you must buy a $1.49/£1.49/AU$1.99 monthly subscription. But as a free, minimal note-taker for a single device, Bear more than fits the bill.

Dropbox

Dropbox is perhaps the most famous of cloud storage providers. For free, you get 2GB of space for your documents and photos – and more if you pay to upgrade.

In the early days of iPad, Apple wanted to hide the file system away, and Dropbox – which was quickly supported by a great many apps – became a kind of surrogate. And even in these days of iCloud Drive, it’s very much worth installing.

The main Dropbox app is smart and straightforward, with speedy previews, the means to save content offline, passcode lock functionality, and optional automated backup of your iPad photos.

As of iOS 11, Dropbox can integrate directly into the Files app, too. Given Dropbox’s cross-device and cross-platform nature, this makes it worth grabbing even if you only use it rarely. Chances are, though, you’ll use it a whole lot more often.

There are other decent cloud storage apps too, such as Google Drive, but even if you already have that it’s worth grabbing Dropbox for a little extra space.

Gmail

Gmail brings Google’s email service to your iPad. Of course, Apple’s own Mail app does this to some extent – and supports sending and receiving from Gmail addresses. But the Gmail app provides a fuller experience.

One of the most vital is the ability to undo a send. You have to be quick, but it’s hugely useful to stop something being sent if you realize you’ve made an error, or forgotten to add an attachment.

Elsewhere, the app’s also in tune with Google’s way of doing things, and so you get profile pictures of people you’re conversing with, integration with Google Calendar, and excellent search capabilities.

Another possible reason to install: as a means to keep business and leisure fully separate, if you use Apple’s Mail for work, and Gmail for everything else.

LiquidText

There are loads of iPad apps for reading and annotating PDFs, but LiquidText is different. Rather than purely aping paper, the developers have thought about the advantages of working with virtual documents.

So while you still get a typical page view, you can pinch to collapse passages you're not interested in and also compare those that aren't adjacent.

There's a 'focus' view that shows only annotated sections, and you can even select chunks of text and drag them to the sidebar. Tap one of those cut-outs at a later point and its location will instantly be displayed in the main text. Smartly, you can save any document in the app's native format, export it as a PDF with comments, or share just the notes as an RTF.

Numbers

With Numbers, Apple managed to do something with spreadsheets that had eluded Microsoft in decades of Excel development: they became pleasant (even fun) to work with.

Instead of forcing workmanlike grids of data on you, Numbers has you think in a more presentation-oriented fashion. Although you can still create tables for totting up figures, you’re also encouraged to be creative and reader-friendly regarding layout, incorporating graphs, imagery, and text. On iPad, it’s all tap - and finger - friendly, too.

With broad feature-parity with the Mac version, iCloud sync, and export to Excel format, Numbers should also fit neatly into most people’s workflow.

And although updates robbed the app of some friendliness (whoever removed the date picker needs a stern talking to), it still excels in that department, from nicely designed templates through to the handy action menu, ensuring common tasks are only ever a tap away.

PCalc Lite

PCalc Lite's existence means the lack of a built-in iPad calculator doesn't bother us. For anyone who wants a traditional calculator, it's pretty much ideal. The big buttons beg to be tapped, and the interface can be tweaked to your liking, by way of bolder and larger key text, alternate display digits, and stilling animation.

Beyond basic sums, PCalc Lite adds some conversions, which are categorised but also searchable. If you're hankering for more, IAP lets you bolt on a number of extras from the paid version of PCalc, such as additional themes, dozens more conversions, alternate calculator layouts, a virtual paper tape, and options for programmers and power users.

The best free photo and video editing apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for editing photos, working with filters, adding text to photos and editing video.

Infltr

Infltr stands for ‘infinite filters’. The app isn’t quite packed with endless options (there are ‘only’ around seven million), but feels limitless as you drag a finger across a photo and watch it change.

But this is only one tool packed into a versatile, usable editor. You can crop, make adjustments to temperature and hue, fix perspective, mess around with blurs, and more.

Edits are non-destructive, so you can always update or remove a setting. You can save up to three favorites for one-tap application as well.

That limitation goes away if you pay for the subscription IAP - which also gives you HD export and additional tools, including color shift and selective HSL - but as a freebie, Infltr ably does the business. A no-brainer download for iPad users keen on fixing their snaps.

Enlight Pixaloop

Enlight Pixaloop wants photographs to get animated – in a literal sense. Load one up and you can draw paths to denote the direction of your flowing, looping animation, and use anchors and masks to make everything else stay put. The effect is like a cinemagraph, but you only need a single still, rather than a sequence of shots or a video.

On iPad, Pixaloop benefits from the larger screen, and the accuracy an Apple Pencil affords. You can create some seriously intricate and eye-dazzling effects, even from fairly mundane source material.

If you’re short on snaps, the app enables you to grab something from Pixabay. And when you’re done, you can export your work to video (although, alas, not animated GIF). It’s smart, sleek, and even though optional IAPs lurk, offers plenty of functionality for zero outlay.

Pic Collage

Pic Collage is a powerful app for creating photo collages. You can start with a freeform canvas or a card template, but the pre-defined grids are better. Select some photos and a grid, and the app will automatically arrange everything.

Many apps stop there, but Pic Collage goes much further. You can tweak the frames, and perform adjustments on individual images. Movement can be added through importing up to three videos and later exporting your creation as a GIF. And if you’re feeling arty, you can scribble all over your grid-based masterpiece.

Pic Collage hits that sweet spot of unlocking creativity in an immediate, usable manner. You get results fast. The only real negative is exports have a watermark, but if that bugs you, they can be gone forever with a one-off US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.

Plotaverse

Plotaverse is an image editor and social network very much of the opinion that photographs are a bit rubbish unless they move.

The meat of the app is Plotagraph+, which provides tools for animating your pics. The process is simple: mask parts you want to remain static, and then drag arrows to denote movement. Plotagraph+ then does its thing, resulting in an endlessly looping animation.

Naturally, there are limitations. The system tends to work well with flowing subjects (such as water or clouds) and geometric patterns. Still, you can create amazing videos with a minimum of effort.

The social networking bit is less impressive, as are cheesy effects overlays (free and paid) that are available for download. But in bringing a touch of Harry Potter to even the most mundane of snaps, Plotaverse feels like a little piece of magic on your iPad.

Prisma

Prisma invites you to be an artist – albeit an incredibly lazy artist who’s not against a touch of stylistic plagiarism. There’s no actual drawing or painting here – you instead load a photo (or take one using the app) and tap an effect to apply it. This effect can be strengthened or weakened by swiping across the canvas.

Rather than aping cameras and film types, Prisma is interested in traditional art – everything from classical to manga is fair game. You’ll need an internet connection to download and apply effects, but it doesn’t take long and you can remove any duds if your library starts to become cluttered.

You’re not going to turn that shot of your lunch into a forgotten Kandinsky with Prisma, but the app is capable of gorgeous painterly results. High-res output is locked behind an $1.99/£1.79/AU$2.99 monthly subscription, but SD output is fine for posting online.

Clips

Clips is a video editor designed for people who don’t want to spend a great deal of time editing – or even shooting. Unlike Apple’s iMovie, Clips is intended for impulsive shoots, and super-fast clip arrangement – a video editor for the social media generation.

On iPad, you might question its relevance. After all, you’re not going to whip out an iPad Pro to quickly shoot someone larking about on a skateboard. But the iPad’s larger screen is superb for editing, making it easy to rearrange clips on the timeline and get a proper eye for the many included filters.

There’s more lurking here too, including automatic animated subtitles, posters with customizable text and iCloud sync. Clips won’t make you a Hollywood legend, but it might just propel you towards Instagram stardom.

Photoshop Fix

It's become apparent that Adobe - creators of photography and graphic design powerhouses Photoshop and Illustrator - don't see mobile devices as suitable for full projects. However, the company's been hard at work on a range of satellite apps, of which Photoshop Fix is perhaps the most impressive.

Built on Photoshop technology, this retouching tool boasts a number of high-end features for making considered edits to photographs. The Liquify tool in particular is terrific, enabling you to mangle images like clay, or more subtly adjust facial features using bespoke tools for manipulating mouths and eyes.

Elsewhere, you can smooth, heal, color and defocus a photo to your heart's content, before sending it to Photoshop on the desktop for further work, or flattening it for export to your Camera Roll. It's particularly good when used with the Apple Pencil (still a funny name) and the iPad Pro, such is the power and speed of that device and input method.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Making apps approachable is a good thing on mobile, but sometimes photo editors go a bit far, flinging all kinds of detritus into the mix (stickers; gaudy frames; a million indistinguishable filters).

With Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, you instead get a more sedate and distinctly professional offering – although one that nonetheless retains plenty of immediacy.

The basic toolset includes cropping, rotation, a bunch of measured and genuinely useful presets, and an editor for adjusting tones, vignettes, colors and lens issues. Edits aren’t burned in and so you can experiment and revert as you wish. When you’re done, you can send the result to your Camera Roll.

If you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, you also get DNG support, and selective adjustments. But even as a pure freebie, Lightroom’s a must-have for any iPad owner interested in improving their photographs.

Little Moments

There are loads of apps for making basic edits to photos and slapping on some words, but Little Moments stands out primarily through being rather jolly (if a little twee at times) and being extremely easy to use.

Load in a pic (or use the camera to shoot a new one), and you can quickly add a filter, adjust things like saturation and contrast, overlay some text boxes, and get creative with quotes and stickers.

Weirdly, the last two of those things are pixelated when browsing through the app, but look just fine when added (and sadly many of the categories also sit behind in-app purchases).

But everything else about Little Moments is a joy, from the non-destructive adjustments (unless you select a new filter, whereupon everything resets) to the friendly, intuitive interface.

MuseCam

The App Store's awash with alternate cameras with editing smarts, but MuseCam warrants a place on your iPad's home screen nonetheless. As a camera, it's fine, with an on-screen grid and plenty of manual settings. But on Apple's tablet, it's in editing that MuseCam excels.

Load a photo and you can apply a film-inspired filter preset (based on insight from pro photographers), or fiddle around with tone curves, color tools, and other adjustment settings.

The interface is bold, efficient, and usable, making it accessible to relative newcomers; but there's also enough depth here to please those wanting a bit more control, including the option to save tweaks as custom presets.

IAP comes in the form of additional filters, but what you get for free is generous and of a very high quality, making MuseCam a no-brainer download.

Photofy

Although Photofy includes a decent range of tools for performing typical edits on photos - including adjustments, cropping, saturation, and the like - this app is more interested in helping you get properly creative.

Within the photo editing tools are options for adding in-vogue blurs and producing collages; and in 'Text & Overlays', you'll find a wealth of options for slapping all kinds of artwork and text on top of your photographic masterpieces.

The interface works well through bold, tappable buttons and chunky sliders (although it takes a while to realise the pane containing the latter can be scrolled). And although some filters and stickers require IAP to unlock, there's loads available here entirely for free. (Also, Photofy rather pleasingly gives you alternatives for its watermark, if you don't want to pay to remove it, but aren't too keen on the default. Nice.)

Quik

Formerly known as Replay, Quik is a video editor primarily designed for people who can't be bothered doing the editing bit. You select photos and videos, pick a theme, and sit back as Quik pieces together a masterpiece that can subsequently be saved and shared.

For tinkerers, there are styles and settings to tweak. Post-Replay, the app offers its 28 varied styles for free, and you can delve into the edit itself, trimming clips, reordering media, adjusting focal points, and adding titles.

Alternatively, the really lazy can do nothing at all and still get results - every week, Quik will serve up highlights videos, enabling you to relive favorite moments. These videos are quite random in nature, but are nonetheless often a nice surprise. Still, anyone willing to put in the slightest additional effort will find Quik rewards any minutes invested many times over.

Snapseed

Apple's Photos app has editing capabilities, but they're not terribly exciting — especially when compared to Snapseed. Here, you select from a number of from a number of tools and filters, and proceed to pinch and swipe your way to a transformed image. You get all the basics — cropping, rotation, healing brushes, and the like — but the filters are where you can get really creative.

There are blurs, photographic effects, and more extreme options like 'grunge' and 'grainy film', which can add plenty of atmosphere to your photographs. The vast majority of effects are tweakable, mostly by dragging up and down on the canvas to select a parameter and then horizontally to adjust its strength.

Brilliantly, the app also records applied effects as separate layers, each of which remains fully editable until you decide to save your image and work on something else.

The best free productivity apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for being more productive with cloud storage, timers, iPad keyboards, automation and more.

Shortcuts

Shortcuts is Apple’s revamp of automation utility Workflow. Its main goal is to save you time by performing complex tasks with simple interactions (such as a button tap), rather than going through a list of steps manually in multiple apps and websites.

There are two ways to approach Shortcuts. The first is to delve into the gallery’s dozens of premade actions. These include everything from calculating tips to saving documents as PDFs. Everything you download can be experimented with, or you can start from scratch and construct your own workflows in the user-friendly drag-and-drop interface.

This proves particularly effective on the iPad’s larger display, which gives you plenty of room to work. And this latest revamp makes workflows even easier to access, because you can trigger them using Siri voice commands.

Cheatsheet Widget

Cheatsheet Widget is a notes app for all those little things that you need to remember – but never do. Its items are designed to be quick, glanceable fare (like phone numbers, codes and combinations and a few words) and are made easier to spot by twinning them with icons.

Your list is created in the Cheatsheet Widget app, but the list can also be displayed as a Today view widget. Items within the widget can be deleted, or their content copied to the clipboard – ideal for things like open network passwords.

For free, the widget will display four items from your list, and you can opt to always place new ones at the top. As of iOS 12, there’s a dark mode; and if you splash out on the one-off IAP, you also get iCloud cross-device sync, a Cheatsheet Widget keyboard, and no ads.

Bundler

Bundler is a boon to anyone who regularly finds themselves having to collect a selection of files that then need to be sent elsewhere – a common task in many kinds of workplace.

Documents are added to ‘bundles’ using the Share sheet. In any compatible app, you share selected documents (or the current one) to Bundler and choose which bundle to place them in (or make a new one). On returning to Bundler, these documents can then be previewed and renamed. (In the latter case, ensuring your files have suffixes – JPG, TXT, and so on – is a good bet, or they aren’t always included on export.)

Sharing a bundle sends it to a location or app of your choosing as a ZIP archive. The process is sleek and simple, and the dual-pane view on iPad makes things even easier when you’re juggling a large number of files and bundles.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser is a browser designed to make the internet less creepy, preventing websites following you around the web. It blocks every hidden tracker it can find, uses the privacy-oriented DuckDuckGo for search, and rates websites you visit in terms of how much they care about your privacy.

It’s a combination of educational aid and web browser, and the latter bit isn’t half bad. It’’s a bit stripped-back compared to Safari, but you can still bookmark sites, open pages in tabs, and share content with other people. When you’re done, you can nuke your session’s search history with two taps.

Even if it doesn’t become your primary browser, DuckDuckGo is worth installing. It’s ideal for browsing sensitive data such as financial and medical records, safe in the knowledge you’re not being tracked by nefarious scripts.

Evernote

In a sense Evernote is an online back-up for fleeting thoughts and ideas. You use it to save whatever comes to mind — text documents and snippets, notes, images, web clips, and even audio. These can then be accessed from a huge number of devices. (We suspect any day now, Evernote will unveil its ZX Spectrum app.)

The app itself could be friendlier, and there's a tendency towards clutter. But navigation of your stored bits and pieces is simple enough, and the sheer ubiquity and reliability of Evernote makes it worthy of investigation and a place on your Home screen.

Firefox Focus

The web’s pretty great, apart from the bits that aren’t. And those bits are the manner in which your journey online is monitored by countless trackers. They look into what you’re viewing and where you’re going, aiming to serve up targeted ads. Beyond privacy issues, these trackers can slow down web pages and even crash browsers.

Enter: Firefox Focus. The app itself is a brutally stripped-back, privacy-oriented browser. You go online, tracker-free, do whatever you want, and then stab Erase to delete your session. Which probably sounds ideal for nefarious purposes, but this is mostly great for basic efficiency, and also handy if someone wants to quickly get online using your iPad but not leave their accounts live when handing your device back.

Beyond this, Firefox Focus can also integrate with Safari, blocking trackers and web fonts from that browser and, potentially, increasing its performance.

MultiTimer

Given the acres of space you get on an iPad display, it’s a bit odd that Apple’s own clock only provides a single timer. Fortunately, MultiTimer – as its name suggests – goes somewhat further by offering multiple options.

In fact, depending on the layout you choose, you can have twelve timers all ticking away at once. Each one of them can have its own icon, color and default time assigned, for those people who need to simultaneously exercise, boil eggs, and cook a turkey.

Smartly, the app works in portrait or landscape, and if you want a timer you can see clearly across the room, a single button press zooms it to fill almost the entire screen.

Should you want a bit more flexibility by way of multiple or custom workspaces, there’s a single IAP to unlock those features.

Slack

We're not sure whether Slack is an amazing aid to productivity or some kind of time vampire. Probably a bit of both. What we do know is that the real-time messaging system is excellent in a work environment for chatting with colleagues (publicly and privately), sharing and previewing files, and organising discussions by topic.

There's smart integration with online services, and support for both the iPad Pro and the iPad's Split View function.

Note that although Slack is clearly designed with businesses in mind, it also works perfectly well as a means of communicating with friends if you don't fancy lobbing all your worldly wisdom into Facebook's maw.

Thoughts

There are plenty of apps for doodling on your iPad, but Thoughts differentiates itself by going for a kind of razor-sharp minimalism that’s vanishingly rare these days.

On creating a new document, you can draw with a finger, and resize the canvas with a pinch. There’s also an eraser, a small palette to change colors, an interesting night mode (which flips black to white) and that’s pretty much it.

It sounds reductive, but in reality frees you up. You’re not thinking about line thicknesses and the like – you’re just drawing. Export is a little disappointing – it would be good if you could have a vector format rather than a fairly low-res bitmap – but otherwise Thoughts is a nicely simple sketching tool for iPad.

TunnelBear

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are becoming very popular, due to issues people increasingly face when browsing the web. A VPN can be used to circumvent region-blocking/censorship and security issues on public Wi-Fi. Such services can baffle people who aren't technically adept, but TunnelBear is all about the friendlier side of VPNs. With bears.

After installing the app and profile, you'll have 500 MB of data per month to play with. That said, TunnelBear’s exclusive TechRadar plan offers a far more generous 5GB, 10 times the amount you get if you sign elsewhere.

Tunnelling to a specific location is simply a case of tapping it on the map and waiting a few seconds for the bear to pop out of the ground.

Tweet about the product and you'll get an extra free GB. Alternatively, monthly and annual paid plans exist for heavier data users.

The best free travel and weather apps for iPad

Our favorite free iPad apps for planning a holiday, currency conversion, weather forecasts and mapping.

Today Weather

Today Weather is weather forecasting aimed at iPad owners with an eye for style. Launch the app and it displays a photo to represent the current weather in your location. Below that, you’ll see a brief overview of current conditions. Scroll and you get an extended forecast and further details (including rainfall, air quality and wind speed), all rendered in almost painfully cool neon tones atop a dark background.

If the photo’s a bit much, you can get rid of it. Either way, this is a great weather app for a docked iPad, and even the sole ad can easily enough be scrolled off-screen. Neatly, there’s also something for when forecasts don’t quite gel with your own observations: if you don’t get on with Today Weather’s data source, you can switch it for Dark Sky, Accuweather.com, or YR.no.

Google Earth

Google Earth is about exploring our planet. Search for somewhere specific and the app swoops and dives to its target. Important landmarks are rendered in 3D that’s surprisingly effective – if you don’t zoom in too far.

This is an entertaining, tactile app that encourages investigation. You can drag and spin the screen, and flick through cards that point towards local landmarks. Fancy looking at something new? Hit the random button, or tap on the Voyager icon for stories based around anything from UNESCO World Heritage Sights to trekking about Kennedy Space Center.

The app is effortless to use, and the iPad’s large screen enables you to more fully breathe in the sights; the result is armchair tourism that’s far more effective than what you’d get even on the largest of iPhones.

Google Maps

Google Maps is an app that might seem an odd fit for an iPad, but we’d argue it’s an essential install. First and foremost, it’s much better than Apple’s Maps for figuring out journeys: Google Maps can more easily find points of interest, and ably deals with public transport information.

Local areas can be explored in terms of amenities (food, drink, and sometimes entertainment), and in a more direct sense, with the road-level Street View. The latter is a great way to familiarize yourself with a place before you visit.

If you always have your iPad on you, Google Maps can save maps for offline use as well, so you don’t even need an internet connection to use it. Alternatively, sign up for a Google account, and the searches you make will be synced with the app on your iPhone.

Momondo

There are two things a good flight comparison apps needs to be: easy to use, and useful results. Broadly speaking, Momondo ably does the job in both cases.

Looking for flights is simple; the app allows a pleasing amount of vagueness regarding locations (including regions with multiple airports, such as ‘London’, or even entire countries, such as ‘New Zealand’), and it’ll happily enable you to search for singles, returns, or multi-city jaunts.

As search results gradually load in, the app points you to the cheapest and quickest options, along with what it considers ‘best’ when taking into account price, time and convenience. For some routes, a calendar graph lets you check nearby dates to see if you can snag a bargain.

Additional filters are available to further refine your results, and you can create an account to save favorites and receive fare alerts - plus hotel listing can be added in too, should you want a more comprehensive.

Townske

Townske seems to bill itself as an app akin to Foursquare – a place to find the best local cafes, restaurants, and sights in major cities. But really it’s more of a place where photo-bloggers can publish their unique take on amazing locations, thereby providing you with gorgeous photos and succinct chunks of writing to devour.

You can jump right into the main feed, or focus on a specific city. You then tap on a photo to open an individual story. Every one we tried was rich in superb imagery, with just enough text to add meaningful context without interrupting the flow of the visuals.

Neatly, you can tap a map icon to see where the various photos were all taken; and if you sign up for an account, favorite stories or individual images can be bookmarked for later. But even if you simply treat Townske as a regularly-updated lean-back digital take on a newspaper travel supplement, you can’t really go wrong.

Weather Underground

With a native weather app bafflingly absent from iPad, you need to venture to the App Store to get anything beyond the basic daily overview Notification Center provides. Weather Underground is the best freebie on the platform, offering a customizable view to satisfy even the most ardent weather geeks.

Current conditions are shown at the top, outlining the temperature, precipitation likelihood, and a local map. But scroll and you can delve into detailed forecasts, dew point readings, sunrise and sunset times, videos, webcams, health data and web links. The bulk of the tiles can be disabled if there are some you don't use, and most can be reordered to suit.

Although not making the best use of iPad in landscape, the extra screen space afforded by Apple's tablet makes the Weather Underground experience a little more usable than on iPhone, enabling faster access to tiles. And for free, it's a top-notch app, although you can also fling $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 at it annually if you want rid of the unobtrusive ads.

XE Currency

XE Currency is a currency converter that’s far from the prettiest of its kind – but it is useful and has all the right features.

Initially, it lists a few currencies, with the base one at the top. Tap an item in the list to select it as the new base currency; you can also adjust the base figure – tap on the number, and then enter something new in the calculator. The list of currencies can be changed at any point, and an item’s position adjusted by tap-holding and dragging it.

Beyond that, you can analyze rates, by punching in an alternate exchange rate, view graphs that outline rates for a pair of currencies over the past decade, and sign up to free rate alerts, which notify you when specific points are hit.

Categories: Tech News

OnePlus CEO confirms its 5G phone will cost $200 to $300 more than OnePlus 6T

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 04:34

OnePlus is determined to be the driving force behind 5G – but that doesn't mean you won't be able to buy a 4G version of the OnePlus 7 in 2019.

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau confirmed to TechRadar that the company plans to release a 4G variant of its phone alongside the 5G toting version for those who don't want support for the next-generation internet connectivity.

Lau told TechRadar at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit 2018, "Because 5G will be very much for a small unique portion of enthusiasts, we'll have a 4G product also developed and available in parallel."

The price of the handset is set to be more expensive than we've been used to from the brand, with Lau saying "my forecast is the cost will be between $200 and $300 higher for the 5G device. That's not necessarily a problem for our users as [5G] is what they're after.

"We've never set out to make a product cheaper for the sake of being cheaper. It has very much been a transition of the unique business model. 

"Because of what that has been able to offer, many people will see the existing OnePlus flagship offering in comparison to other flagships being a much more reasonable price."

Releasing a 4G version of its next phone alongside the more expensive 5G handset will allow the company to keep competitive while also offering the next-gen internet connectivity to those who want it. 

Lau solidly believes the innovation of 5G is a thing followers of the brand want and soon, so that's why the brand is pushing hard on its mission to get a 5G phone on sale.

"From the OnePlus community users perspective, this is very much something they have an interest in taking up as early as possible. Everyone sees it as something that's disruptive, and they want to have the technology as well as a better understanding of how it can be used" said Lau.

Why OnePlus?

"There's no brand more suitable to dive into the 5G space hard and early than OnePlus. It's hard to know if other brands would have a user base that would go after a 5G device early on, but for us it's pretty clear."

"There's no brand more suitable to dive into the 5G space hard and early"

Pete Lau, OnePlus

OnePlus has confirmed it plans to bring the first 5G phone to market in Europe with a special partnership with EE in the UK. There wasn't any specific news for the US or a worldwide launch, and that's because the company hasn't decided on its route in other countries yet.

"We don't have a set plan in place, and it's something that's very much determined by carrier network and carrier status. 5G for us is a very important strategic direction and it's something we feel we can do a lot with in this space, so we will be discussing this as a strategy with more carriers to see what can be realized."

Lau couldn't confirm the name or a release date for the company's first 5G phone, but considering it's going to be the first to market in Europe it's likely this is the company's next phone. If that's the case, it may be the OnePlus 7.

Exciting possibilities

A 4G-only version of the OnePlus 7 makes sense, and there are lots of upgrades in the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset – which is set to feature in the company's next flagship phone – that can be utilized without harnessing its 5G capabilities.

Lau wasn't able to confirm any other features we will see on its upcoming phone, but he's excited about the other upgrades that are open to use on the Snapdragon 855.

"Camera improvement on the front of AI processing and what's capable there is what's the most exciting thing for me," Lau said.

"It's very strong on the AI front, so the [Snapdragon 855] is going to have a lot of exciting possibilities."

Gaming is another area of the phone set to be upgraded with the Snapdragon 855. The company has an improved Elite Gaming mode that allows for better graphical capabilities as well as high-speed multiplayer gaming using 5G.

These upgrades haven't encouraged the company to exploring the idea of a dedicated gaming phone though.

Instead OnePlus wants to make a suitable flagship device that is capable of high-end gaming, but isn't a specific product like the Razer Phone 2 or the Asus ROG phone.

Gaming on the Razer Phone 2

"We will continue to have a very concerted central focus on performance and creating an experience that's fast and smooth. And so, we won't create a device that's specifically developed as a gaming device.

"We will focus on continue to create devices that are seen as excellent and comfortable for gaming but we also want them to be very good as your daily driver. That's what we see as key for our user base."

Still focused on smartphones

The push toward 5G is a major development for the Internet of Things - devices that are connected to the internet like smart home appliances or smart speakers. 

Just because OnePlus is pushing ahead in the 5G space doesn't mean the company is set to expand into a company that makes lots of devices for all over your home.

"We will still remain focused on what we've always focused on – and that's making a great flagship smartphone device. But we will pay close attention to the impact of 5G and how significant it will be for the Internet of Things.

"We'll stay focused on what we do best, but follow closely and evaluate to understand in terms of what potential there is for creating greater value for the user that's utilizing devices that are central to their internet connected life."

That doesn't mean the company isn't interested IoT as a whole, it just doesn't want to create lots of devices itself. Instead the company would rather see something a little different that doesn't add pressure to the company to develop other products.

"For us, and moving forward, we would rather work towards having an open platform where other devices could communicate and link to the platform and have this sort of ecosystem rather than building out a ton of things on our own."

The one device the company is currently working on that could arguably fit in that smart home space is the previously announced OnePlus TV. That was announced back in September 2018, and the company isn't much closer to a release since its inception, but it's still something the company plans to do.

Lau said, "[OnePlus TV] is in the exploratory phase. After the announcement I went back and talked to the team and said 'OK let's focus on the product. Let's not get distracted by other things and I'm also not going to put a deadline pressure on you.'

"It's going to be about getting the product right. [The team] have a very aggressive plan that they've put in place for themselves, but from my perspective, I don't want them to be over aggressive and instead I want them to get the product right."

Categories: Tech News

O2 investigating UK-wide network outages

Latest Tech News - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 04:32

O2 customers across the UK have been hit by a network outage that has left them unable to use 4G and data services, meaning they can't access the internet without a Wi-Fi connection.

Some users have also reported problems with making voice calls, despite claims from O2 that voice services are unaffected.

The issue has affected an estimated 32 million people, as O2 also provides services for Sky, Tesco, Lycamobile, and Giffgaff mobile networks.

The problems were first reported at around 5:30am, with many users taking to Twitter to vent their frustration.

Unexpected consequences

O2 issued the following statement on its website: "Our technical teams are investigating reports of issues when using data. Voice calls are working OK. Our technical teams are investigating."

However, some users are reporting that they're also unable to make voice calls or send text messages, so the full scope of the problem is unclear at present.

The network outage has also affected Transport For London, which uses the O2 network for its electronic timetable displays at bus stops. 

That could make commuting across the capital particularly difficult with users of the O2 network unable to use 4G to plan their routes, and bus stop displays out of order. 

If you are commuting this morning, it may be worth checking your journey before you leave the house – and don't expect to be able to send GIFS to your mates while you're on the train.

Via BBC

Categories: Tech News

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