Tech News

This is the best 'unknown' camera phone at MWC 2019

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 11:39

We've seen many great camera phones at MWC 2019, from the penta-lens camera beast Nokia 9 PureView to the foldable Huawei Mate X, but we were particularly impressed by a handset from a company you may not associate with smartphones - Hisense.

Hisense is known for larger electronics like its TVs or fridges, instead of phones, but when we got hands-on with the new Hisense U30 handset we found the camera was one of the best we've used.

On paper the Hisense U30's camera has pretty impressive specs – its dual-lens rear array consists of a 48MP main sensor and a 5MP depth-sensor lens, and on the front it has a 'punch-hole' style 20MP snapper.

The rear camera was incredibly quick to focus on objects and environments, even when we put it through its paces by pointing it at different objects in quick succession, and took pictures of close and distant objects with great detail.

We tried out a host of features the camera provides, including an intuitive panorama mode and a beauty mode effective enough to make even us look good. 

We weren't able to test out the image recognition mode, which supposedly recognises text or objects through the camera (or in an image), but all the other camera modes worked flawlessly.

We did notice the shutter speed was a little slower than would be ideal, as a few moments passed between us pressing the shutter and the image being captured, and there was a small delay before we could take another picture while the first saved. However these wait times would only be an issue under very particular circumstances.

The front selfie-cam was great to use too, taking high-quality pictures with a noticably quick shutter speed. 

The cameras weren't the only impressive thing about the Hisense U30 – its gold-trimmed blue leather design, O-Infinity display using the same tech as Hisense's TVs, and sizable 4,500mAh battery all make it an intriguing device.

Release information about the device is dubious, however – we were told the release date would be "summer" in Europe and "before summer" in China. 

Similarly the Hisense U30 price is said to be somewhere between €200 (around $230, £170, AU$320) and €400 (roughly $450, £340, AU$640) – which is a pretty massive range. Presumably we'll find out more later in the year.

Categories: Tech News

Pokemon Sword and Shield: everything we know about the 2019 Pokemon RPG

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 11:38

Nintendo has finally (finally!) announced the next generation of Pokémon games coming to Nintendo Switch: Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Using Nintendo's favored method of new game announcements – Direct presentations – The Pokémon Company has now released a brief trailer giving a quick look at the new Pokémon games. 

With a release date set for late 2019, there are only months to go before Pokémon fans get another fix on their Switch consoles.

2018's Pokémon Let's Go: Pikachu and Eevee games acted as a sort of reboot of the original Red and Blue titles for the Nintendo Gameboy, and for many didn't count as a 'core' Pokémon experience. Pokémon Sword and Shield are the first mainline Pokémon games to come to Nintendo Switch, and expectations will be high.

So what do we know, and what are we hoping to see when Pokémon Sword and Shield launch this year? Read on to find out.

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The eighth-generation of Pokémon games
  • When can I play it? It'll be late 2019
  • What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch

Image credit: Nintendo

Pokémon Sword and Shield: release date

Not long to wait now... The Pokémon Direct confirmed the late 2019 release date we heard from the official Pokémon Twitter account last year.

Given the usual releases of mainline Pokémon games, we expect to see Sword and Shield land in mid-November, just in time for the holiday season.

Pokémon Sword and Shield: trailers

The presentation doesn't give too much away, but you can see the first glimpse of the environments and art style in the trailer below – without any in-game footage. 

You also get a first look at three new starter Pokémon: the fire-rabbit Scorbunny, twig-monkey Grookey, and a sad-looking tadpole (sadpole?) called Sobble.

Pokémon Switch news and rumors

A whole new world

We know the game is set in a brand new region of Galar, rather than a rehash of Kanto or a previously visited territory. Galar seems to be loosely inspired by England's cities and countryside, with rolling hills and brickwork cities to explore.

The trailer also showed glimpses of jewel-encrusted mines and what might even be a football stadium (see the kit below), though we're waiting to see whether competing in a Pokémon-themed Football World Cup will be possible for players.

Image credit: Nintendo

Brand new Pokémon

Yup, this is a new generation of Pokémon, meaning you'll be seeing a lot of new faces – as well as a lot of old ones. The trailer gave us a mix of familiar Pokémon like Pikachu and Hoothoot along the new starters, and we're hoping Game Freak manage to keep the new designs interesting (no ice cream or candelabra Pokémon, please.)

Modern to the core

Sword and Shield look to retain the look and 3D animation style of the Pokeémon Let's Go games that launched on Nintendo Switch last year.

Pokémon games haven't been flat 2D games in years, and has increasingly been moving towards full-size avatars and 3D environments. It's a shame to lose the old-school pixel charm, but the new art style is still gorgeous in its own right.

Image credit: Nintendo

A fully-fledged Pokémon game

After the release of the simplified Pokémon Let's Go titles, there had been concern amongst fans that the 2019 RPG wouldn't offer the full gameplay experience they came to expect from mainline Pokémon games.

Head of the Pokémon Company Tzunekazu Ishihara assuaged these concerns in an interview with Famitsu magazine (via Siliconera).

According to Ishihara, the 2018 Pokémon release will be a "completely different game" to Pokémon Let's Go. "It's is not an entry game," he says, "but a game that we want long term fans of the Pokémon series to look forward to."

We don't have much to go on aside from the recent trailer, though with a 2019 release we're sure to see more of the titles at E3 2019 in June.

Image credit: Nintendo

Swords and shields?

The Sword and Shield titles seem out of character for a series used to using colors and letters to list its titles. The England-setting is curious given the titles, though. Our instinct says we could see a spin on Arthurian legend, maybe with players facing off against the Knights of the Round Table? It certainly wouldn't be the most far-fetched thing we've seen in a Pokemon game.

We also wouldn't be surprised if the game's legendaries were based off the two wolves forming part of the Sword and Shield logos...

Pokémon Stars what?

What still confuses us is that we've been waiting for the long-rumored Pokémon Stars game for over two years now, after a 2016 report published by Eurogamer. published a report in late 2016 that said multiple sources had confirmed a new version of Pokémon Sun and Moon was being developed for the Switch under the code named Pokémon Stars. 

Pokemon Sun and Moon on 3DS (Image credit: Nintendo)

Suffice to say it never materialized. 'Stars' could well have been a code-name for what eventually became the Let's Go games, or could still prove a Switch port for the Sun and Moon games.

Pokémon Sword and Shield: what we want to see

That's everything we know. Now let's get into the things we'd love to see from the rumored game.

Better graphics and animations

Game Freak pushed the Nintendo 3DS to its absolute limits with Pokémon Sun and Moon (to the point where 3D support had to be removed). That means Game Freak is ready to move beyond the limitations of the 3DS and we’d fully expect to see graphical advancements in the Nintendo Switch version. 

Image credit: Nintendo

The graphics and animations in Sun and Moon were already excellent, definitely the best we’ve seen so far from a Pokémon game, but moving to Nintendo Switch could very well allow for sharper character and environment models and much more expressive character faces.

Integration with Let's Go, obviously

As the only other Pokémon games to have come to the Switch, the ability to trade and battle with Pokémon Let's Go games is an obvious feature to include in the new games. Being able to bring new eighth-generation Pokemon to the Let's Go Kanto region, too, would be a neat perk if Game Freak allowed it.

Image credit: Nintendo

More motion controls

The Let's Go games put the Joy-Con controller's motion controls to use for throwing Poke-balls, though we could imagine some other fun uses for Pokémon mini-games. Boxing with a Hitmonchan? Steering a surfing Lapras? Fishing on the Galar shoreline? Just give us things to do.

Amiibo Support

We want Pokémon Amiibo support. There, we said it. Though Pokken tournament and Detective Pikachu have Amiibo figurines, we want to see even more introduced for the brand new mainline Pokémon game. Whether they unlock new accessories for mini games, new items of clothing, or new moves, we just know these will be highly collectible and probably adorable. 

Categories: Tech News

Rethinking how we work in an era of disruption

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 11:08

As the waves of disruption continue to shake every industry, we’ve hit a new tipping point. Based on conversations I’ve had with executives all over the world, I’ve come to realise that merely tweaking how we work is no longer good enough.

While we know what the problem is - the pace of change wrought by digital transformation - it’s far less clear what we need to do about it. How do you remain nimble and agile enough, at scale, to deal with unknown challenges headed your way? That’s not something you can just order up online or buy off the shelf. It’s more than a technology problem. We need to encourage people to think differently. But who do you start with and how do you get them involved to make changes?

I believe it’s time for a radical rethink in how we organise to get work done. Those that fail to rethink will be disrupted and face extinction.

Rethinking the organisation

The hierarchies and bureaucracies that are so commonly used today were optimised for their context. They were a well-engineered solution to the problem at hand in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was all about defining a competitively-advantaged strategic position, dictating a plan and efficiently executing that plan by coordinating activities and driving compliance.

But in a volatile, uncertain world, our ability to predict and define strategic positions is diminishing. The fundamental plan, prescribe, execution system of the past worked well in a static environment where change occurred slowly and predictably. But now, in the face of constant change, it creates brittle, inflexible and, therefore, inefficient structures incapable of keeping pace with change.

Digital transformation has forced us to rethink how we actually organise to even decide, distribute and coordinate the work. 

If we want our people to change, we need to reconfigure how we work together in radically new ways. And we can look to open source communities—where so many pioneering models of organising to get work done have emerged—as a guide.

Image Credit: iStock

Configuring for change

When it comes to rethinking how we organise to get work done, we need to focus on three primary pillars that have been foundational in open source communities for decades:

1. Planning must be replaced by configuring for constant change:

Processes inside the organisation must be focused on experimentation and learning (try, learn, modify) rather than planning.

Organisational structures need to become more focused on modularity and the end customer than on efficiency and specialisation.

2. Prescription must be replaced by enablement:

Rather than making decisions from the top down, driving direction now requires pushing decision-making power - and the information required to make them - to the people closest to the impact of those decisions.

3. Execution must be replaced by engagement:

Rather than enforcing rules and dictating actions through a compliance model, organisations must embrace new techniques for motivating the right behaviours. It’s essential to recognise that you can’t micromanage complex work.

More than a focus on collaboration, organisations must be more focused on how teams and individuals coordinate with each other to get their work done.

The CEO of one Fortune 100 company described the kind of mind-shift needed to lead change in our new digital world as a “transformation of self”. It requires moving from defining direction and driving performance, to creating the context for your people to do their best work. That’s what makes the people component of open source so powerful, engaging, and dynamic.

Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat

Categories: Tech News

These brilliant Note 9 deals can save you hundreds over a Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 11:02

It is easy to forgot that the Galaxy Note 9 only came out six or so months ago. With the rate new phones are launched these days, even the biggest and brightest can be shoved to the back of the room quite quickly. Something that is not so easy to forget however, is just how much more cheaper the Note 9 is over a new Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus deal.

The age of phones seems to work a lot like dog years - six months to a big tech fan can feel like a good couple of years. But, the Galaxy Note 9 is actually still one of the newest releases and definitely one of the best phones in the world right now.

Both devices are the exact same size, have incredibly similar batteries when it comes to capacity and almost identical processors. In fact, the one major feature the S10 Plus does manage to top the Note 9 on is price. Coming in at well over £200 less on average, Note 9 deals really are a far more affordable option.

So if you want to save some money on your new Samsung device, check out our picks for the best Galaxy Note 9 deals - we've highlighted three of our favourites below.


The top Samsung Note 9 deals you can get today
  • Still can't decide what to choose? Check out our best mobile phone deals to see all of your options across every major device.
Categories: Tech News

The new Apple iPad Pro is down to its lowest price ever at Amazon

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 10:34

The latest model iPad Pro is getting a rare price cut at Amazon. You can get the popular tablet on sale for $699.99. That's a $99 discount and the lowest price we've seen for 11-inch tablet. This is a fantastic deal if you've had your eye on the powerful iPad Pro.

The ultra-light iPad Pro features an advanced 11-inch Liquid Retina display that goes edge to edge for a more expansive screen. The tablet packs 64GB of storage and features up to ten hours of battery life.The iPad Pro has also replaced the home button with a 7MP front-facing camera with Face ID so you can securely unlock your tablet, log in to apps, and more with just a glance.

Rare Amazon iPad deals like this are known to sell out quickly, so if you want to take advantage of this deal you shouldn't delay.

If you're looking for more storage, Amazon also has the Apple iPad Pro with 256GB of storage on sale for $849.99. That's also the lowest price we've seen for the 11-inch tablet.

See more of the cheapest iPad Pro prices, deals and sales and if you're interested in other iPad deals we have more of the cheapest iPad prices, sales and deals that are currently available. Looking for Kindle deals? We also have the best cheap Amazon Kindle sale prices and deals that are going on. 

Categories: Tech News

Off-Road Pages in the Jeep Wrangler Sahara help you drive over snow banks

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 10:31

You just drove over the side of a snow bank (mostly for fun). How do you know you won’t roll your Jeep Wrangler over and end up calling for a tow truck?

That’s a scenario that actually happened during a week-long test. The snow bank was not that dangerous (or even that mountainous), but it was definitely helpful to have an in-dash indicator of the pitch and roll for any off-roading adventure.

In the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Sahara, there’s an app called Off-Road Pages that not only shows the real-time pitch (front to back angle) and roll (side to side angle) but also includes gauges for things like current transmission and oil temp, altitude, and even your precise GPS location (the kind made up of numbers, not a map that every car has in the nav system). 

Testing these gauges reveals something interesting about how future cars will provide a whole new level of detail someday, especially when we don’t need to use the steering wheel, the brakes or the accelerator. You can monitor the finer details while the car drives itself.

Strong and stable

My test did involve driving up to a snowbank. Using the 4H setting, which helps with tire slip and provide power to all four tires, I easily traversed up into the mogul at about an 8% gradient. That’s enough to give you a slight sense of being at an angle, but nowhere near feeling tippy. 

In my area, there’s also a massive hill you can drive up in the summertime (not recommended in winter) – it would have been helpful to see the front to back angle for that incline (the pitch), and even decide not to keep going further up a hill and back slowly down instead.

In many ways, these gauges are there for posterity – they are similar to the Performances Pages you see in a vehicle like the Dodge Challenger that help you measure your acceleration and braking distance. Maybe they are a little impractical but certainly fun to test.

The Coolant Temp gauge is a bit more actionable – if you are racing the engine too much on a hot summer day, you could decide to pull over and sit idle before you overheat the engine. Knowing the altitude is also handy if you live in a place like Denver or Utah.

Info at your fingertips

I’m curious how future cars will provide even more gauges like this. One I’d like to see is related to air quality. In some parts of a city, it would be helpful to see a measurement of the outside air quality and decide to turn back and not keep heading in a certain direction.

Of course, there’s also a lot we could monitor on social media when we reach the stage when we don’t need to pay attention to the road. When I make a post, I’d like to monitor the retweets or likes on Facebook, or even pull up a social media marketing app like Buffer.

Eventually, a car will become a computer. We’ll use Google Docs, watch movies, surf the web, and maybe even perform much more complicated tasks like holding a virtual meeting. We might work on a morning commute, running Photoshop or playing Fortnite.

For now, I’m a big fan of Off-Road Pages. Information like this might not always be useful or practical, but it enhances the off-roading experience – even for a small snow bank.

On The Road is TechRadar's regular look at the futuristic tech in today's hottest cars. John Brandon, a journalist who's been writing about cars for 12 years, puts a new car and its cutting-edge tech through the paces every week. One goal: To find out which new technologies will lead us to fully driverless cars.  

Categories: Tech News

Best WordPress themes (paid and free) of 2019

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 10:25

The WordPress platform is one of the simplest ways to create colorful and well laid out webpages. Setup is usually performed with a few mouse clicks, so no coding knowledge is required.

The platform supports thousands of various themes, some of which are suited to specific users such as small businesses, whilst others have a more general appeal.

When starting out you may feel overwhelmed by the choices available, especially if you’re not sure if a premium theme is worth buying.

In this guide, you’ll discover five of our very favorite free and paid WordPress themes. Whether you’re a freelancer on a tight budget or an established business, rest assured there’s a theme for you.

Hestia

Hestia is the perfect theme for those with small businesses, startups, online agencies and firms due to its multi-purpose functionality. Users do not have to pay to download this theme. Installation and setup is designed to be user friendly.

This theme is best suited to users who want to setup an ecommerce platform. Hestia integrates with WooCommerce, allowing users access to beautifully designed product listings. There is an easy to use drag and drop feature suitable.

This theme comes with custom background settings which aid in adding photos to your site and making it your own. It has a multi-purpose one page design, a widget designed footer and a blog or news section.

It integrates with Travel Map, Photo Gallery, Flat Parallax Slider and Elementor Page Builder. Hestia is responsive and uses Material Kit for design.

As with most WordPress themes, there is a demo for users to sample before downloading.

Some users have noted that the free version is buggy and convoluted to use.

X

X is a paid WordPress theme suitable for all types of websites. 

The theme comes with four categories of built-in demos. Each of these themes cover a wide variety of potential projects. This means that no matter what you have in mind, X more than likely has a design suited to your needs.

Cornerstone is included with X. This is one of the most popular WordPress web page builders. The drag and drop feature is easy to use. Users are able to see exactly what their page will look like live as they are building. This enables users to change and edit while building their site.

There are a huge number of customization options, with which users can build a unique webpage. It's also constantly updated and you get features like custom font or inline editing.

X comes with a feature called ‘the customizer’. This is a handy tool as many premium themes come with their own theme options page that are not entirely compatible with WordPress. ‘The Customizer’ is highly intuitive. It integrates seamlessly with WordPress. It will help you to customize the look and feel of your website.

The regular license for X is $59 (£44) which includes future updates and 6 months customer support. Users can opt to extend support to 12-months for an additional $17.63 (£13.2).

Allegiant

Allegiant is a highly customizable WordPress theme that is most suited for small businesses that are just starting out.

The theme itself is simple and well laid out. Across the top there is a large header to highlight your most popular services or products. The slides on the homepage can be displayed in any order.

The theme offers several feature blocks which can be easily inserted onto your page with details about your business team or your past endeavours amongst others.  These blocks come with the theme’s plugin ‘CPO Content Types’. The plugin is free and installs very quickly.

These pre-built blocks also come with testimonial section. It is very easy to copy and paste information into the blocks.

Allegiant integrates with other free popular WordPress themes such as WooCommerce, Yoast SEO, WPML and Contact Form 7.

It’s also free to download from the WordPress website. 

Some online commentators mention that while the theme is customizable it is not easy to figure out how to do so. They don’t recommend Allegiant for newer users.

Astrid

Astrid is the perfect choice theme for most businesses. 

The theme has an impressive array of built-in widgets that users can take advantage of. Widgets and page templates are available for services and employees amongst others.

Astrid comes with a huge variety of fonts and color options. Users can easily edit the full width header to whatever they see fit. Users can also use a ‘call to action’ button with a message over it. 

The theme is translation ready meaning that it can still be accessed by those users who do not speak the same language as your business.

Users can use visual graphs and displays to show their past work and experience. WooCommerce support is provided for selling products on your website. Astrid helps to make your site look well on tablets and smartphones.

Astrid is free to download but those users who want more out of their theme can ‘Go Pro’.

The ‘Pro’ option starts at $59 (£44.60) per year for a single plugin which includes one year of updates, one year of support and unlimited domain usage. All packages offer a 30-day money back guarantee.

Some online commentators have mentioned that the site can be hard to navigate making it difficult to get started.

Sydney

Sydney works well for freelancers and companies who want to create a strong online presence.

It is highly customizable with many options to choose from such as Google Fonts and logo uploads. The theme has more than 600 Google fonts to choose from.

For users who want to show off, there is a full screen promotional banner that can be edited to suit your needs.

The custom elementor blocks can be designed as you see fit and to suit your promotional needs. Sydney can also display social media icons at the bottom of your page. 

The theme is translation ready and provides the necessary tools for a smooth translation process.

Users have access to full color control, sticky navigation, header image and a full screen slider. Sydney also offers Parallax background affects. Users can add this to any row in the theme layout.

Top Image Credit: Astrid / WordPress

Categories: Tech News

Pokémon Sword and Shield for Nintendo Switch promise to please mega fans

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 10:13

The Pokémon Company and Nintendo have announced the next major release in the duo’s role-playing game franchise for its Nintendo Switch console: Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

The two games are currently slated to arrive by “late 2019,” and will usher in the long-awaited 8th generation of new Pokémon monsters to capture. 

The current 7th generation was introduced with Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon for Nintendo 3DS in 2016.

Naturally, the games will present another fully 3D area of the Pokémon world to explore, this time being the more futuristic Galar region. However, this game looks to seriously improve the visual quality over the first Pokémon games for Nintendo Switch: Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu and Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee.

Dedicated fans will also notice that the classic game function of encountering Pokémon in the wild and battling them before throwing a Poké Ball to catch them has returned, and several Pokémon from previous generations will make appearances.

Of course, the internet is already going wild for the game’s starter Pokémon that have already been teased: the monkey-like Grass type Grookey, the rabbit-like Fire type Scorbunny and the tadpole-looking Water type Sobble.

Neither Nintendo nor The Pokémon Company have revealed more details regarding the specifics of each game, especially the inspiration behind the titles of these two new games. We’ll surely be drip-fed sweet Pokémon details right up until that vague “late 2019” release date.

Categories: Tech News

Some Apex Legends characters may soon not be so easy to hit

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 09:25

Apex Legends has got off to a cracking start, without a doubt, but every game has teething issues of one sort or another, and the battle royale shooter has come under fire because some characters are much easier to hit than others thanks to their larger hit-boxes.

This is an issue that the developer, Respawn, has acknowledged as problematic, noting on Reddit that: “We are aware of the feedback around the hit-box differences between characters. This is an area that definitely needs improvement and we will be addressing it in the future.”

For the uninitiated, a hit-box is the area of a character model which when struck by a bullet will register a hit and therefore damage. Now, the problem is that the larger characters in Apex Legends have much bigger hit-boxes, and are therefore easier to hit (as opposed to all characters having the same or pretty similar-sized hit-boxes, with larger ones just being rendered as larger models).

This is particularly a problem in the shooter because the hit-box size discrepancy is so large. SookieSpy on YouTube has performed in-game testing to try and work out the rough size of each character’s respective hit-box, and the results are eye-opening.

Rock of Gibraltar

The hulking Gibraltar is something like 140% bigger than the slender Wraith; in other words, considerably more than twice the size, and therefore far easier to hit. Caustic and Pathfinder are also relatively big barn-door-sized lumps, with the other characters having smaller hit-boxes. Pathfinder also has another issue in that when you shoot the wide gap between his legs, he still gets hit.

This has stoked a good number of threads on Reddit and other places online, as you can imagine, with arguments that this is totally unfair – or at least the size of the discrepancies are – and it’s no wonder that no one picks Gibraltar.

Then again, others contend that this is all part of the overall balance of the game, and the character abilities compensate for any hit-box deficiencies. For example, Gibraltar may be easier to hit, but he has a pretty nifty front-on shield that comes up when you’re aiming down the sights.

The problem is there are counterarguments to that, too. Namely that the shield only helps Gibraltar in head-on encounters, when outflanking maneuvers – or getting caught by another team coming from a different angle – aren’t exactly uncommon in Apex Legends.

Furthermore, the shield can light Gibraltar up like a Christmas tree, to make him an easy target even from a distance, when he is, say, peering out a window and aiming down a sniper scope trying to draw a bead on someone.

At any rate, these sort of balance arguments can go back and forth, but it’s up to the developers to evaluate and sort things out. Hopefully that’s what’s happening now as Respawn gauges what improvements are needed.

The first major gameplay or character balance changes are likely in the pipeline, too, as the developer also stated: “We’ve been listening to player feedback and going through the mountains of data we get from the game. Soon we’ll be talking more about how we think about live balance for Apex Legends and some of the changes to expect to the meta.”

In the Reddit post acknowledging the hit-box issue, Respawn also noted that a fix has been applied to stop players skydiving for longer distances than intended (which involved keeping their character looking up when ascending and gliding from a jump tower balloon).

Via PC Gamer

Categories: Tech News

Act fast - these brilliant broadband deals are coming to an end tomorrow

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 08:27

We're not sure if you've noticed but UK broadband deals have been pretty impressive over the last few weeks. Whenever one deal comes to an end, another seems to line straight up to replace it. But tomorrow, two of the best offers around will be coming to an end, giving you just one last day to grab them.

The offers in question are on TalkTalk and BT - two of the best known names on the UK internet scene. The former offers an incredibly affordable ADSL package combined with a big Amazon.co.uk Gift Card and the other - an EXCLUSIVE TechRadar offer no less - crams in fast speeds, M&S vouchers and pre-paid Mastercards into one neat package.

So if you want to grab some of the best cheap broadband deals around, scroll down to see both of these promotional internet offers in full. But like we said above, you will need to hurry before these deals come to an end tomorrow.


These brilliant limited time broadband deals in full: Compare broadband deals - the UK's best:
Categories: Tech News

Best OLED TVs: our pick of the best OLED televisions you can buy today

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 08:12

OLED televisions are now a crucial part of the TV landscape. Leading the way for high-end televisions, and offering a level of contrast and color accuracy beyond most of their LCD counterparts, OLED is proving to be the defining TV technology of recent years, and is only going to expand.

Though OLED panels tend to be limited in brightness, advances in manufacturing have made them a better and brighter proposition than ever – and therefore even more adept at handling the ultra-bright high dynamic range (HDR) picture format that’s become the latest must-have television technology. 

Even more importantly, OLED TVs finally started to hit price points that you didn’t have to be an oil tycoon to afford.

They still cost substantially more than the majority of LCD TVs. And while remaining peerless for contrast/black level performance, even the new improved OLEDs can’t get close to the HDR friendly levels of brightness some LCD TVs can muster.

These key differences between OLED and LCD TVs have led to a real polarisation in the TV marketplace. In recognition of this, we’ve split our guide to the best TVs you can currently buy across separate LCD and OLED sections. The OLED section is below; the LCD one can be found at the following link.

For more, watch our TV buying guide video above. 

In each section we’ve tried to pick a range of TVs that cover an array of different price points and features. And with each selected model we’ve explained why we picked it - and any flaws it may have. 

Need a screen with an inscrutable contrast ratio? Here’s our pick of the best OLED TVs you can buy right now. 

Image Credit: LG

Off the back of the OLEDC7, which topped this list last year, the OLEDC8 continues LG's winning streak as the best performing OLED television for the price.

LG has been leading the charge with its OLED TVs – no surprise, given it's technically LG-made panels being used in rival sets by Sony, Panasonic, and the like. But where the OLEDC8 and cheaper OLEDB8 sibling triumph, is in offering a premium OLED picture at a lower price point than much of the OLED sets out there, widening the user base beyond a few high-earners.

Like the rest of LG's OLED TVs, the C8 delivers a punchy, vibrant picture despite a limited peak brightness of only 820 nits. There's no HDR10+ support, sadly – but with regular HDR10 or the more premium Dolby Vision, you're getting rich colors alongside the deep, inky blacks that OLED is famed for. LG has also cracked down on motion handling issues for a cleaner, smoother picture than last year's model.

This year's model also features a wider, sloped TV stand that's both pleasing to the eye and acts to funnel sound from the set's downward-firing speakers towards the viewer.

Pictures can exhibit a little colour noise when running at the most satisfying brightness levels, and there seems to be some inconsistency between sets when it comes to how much they occasionally reveal ‘bands’ of different black level during dark scenes. For the vast majority of the time, though, you’ll find yourself wondering how a 'low-end' OLED TV in town could possibly look so good.

Read the full review: LG OLED C8

Image Credit: Sony

The AF9 is unquestionably Sony’s best OLED offering to date, and arguably a strong contender for best high-end screen of the year. With an all-glass front, no bezel, and a 3.2 surround sound system built into the screen itself, the AF9 is a looker that delivers astonishing visual and audio performance.

The X1 Ultimate processor offers a host of improvements on Sony's previous OLED sets, giving greater definition to individual objects onscreen and boosting color contrast in what was already a startling clear and refined picture. You're paying a price premium for the privilege, but you can be sure you're getting a brilliant OLED display for the money.

Sony’s processing prowess also does a better job than any other brand of ‘upconverting’ standard dynamic range content to HDR, meaning you get more consistent use out of your TV’s maximum capabilities. 

The Android TV smart platform has its share of problems (read: bugs), but the new Android Oreo interface introduced here solves a lot of them, and makes navigating Sony's apps and services far simpler, with menu bars for recently watched and favorited channels.

An added bonus of buying into Sony's Master Series TV range is the inclusion of a Netflix Calibrated Mode, for calibrating those pretty pixels to best suit TV and films on the Netflix streaming service. Necessary? Probably not. A nice touch? Definitely.

Read the full review: Sony AF9 OLED

Image Credit: LG

We were almost surprised to see LG improve on last year's OLEDE7, but it looks like they've done it. The OLEDE8 sees LG double down on software improvements, reducing picture noise and using a new Alpha 9 processor that really knows how to handle HDR images.

The design of the model is still gorgeous, mapping a pixel display onto an astonishingly thin glass pane, even if it's ditched some of the E7's fancier protrusions. LG also saw fit to drop the integrated soundbar, opting instead for a thinner speaker band between the panel and the glass bottom. 

The speakers inevitably feel lacking compared to last year's model, and it feels like a step backwards in the sound department – but you're still getting a dynamic audio performance with some limited Dolby Atmos capability.

It's maybe harder to justify the E8 over the C8, given the similar picture processing, same brilliant webOS smart TV platform, and less of an discrepancy in sound quality. But if you want the full OLED package with the looks to match, and a bit of boost to audio, the E8 is going to be your television of choice.

Read the full review: LG OLED E8

 As usual with Bang & Olufsen, the Eclipse isn’t exactly your typical OLED screen. In fact, its screen is really just one ‘small’ component of its overall design rather than being pretty much the whole deal. This is because the screen slots into the top of a huge built in speaker bar that extends out beyond the edges of the screen above it, while the speaker bar in turn sits on top of a gorgeous sliver of glass below it. And all of that sits on a range of different stand options, including my personal favourite – a motorised rotating floor mount that can both move the whole screen forward and backwards, or rotate it left and right. The entire towering construction is beautifully built, too.

The TV certainly isn’t a case of all style and no substance, though. That LG-based screen delivers all of its customary contrast and colour thrills, while that vast soundbar has so much raw power and such huge dynamics that it humbles many external high end speaker systems.

With multi-room speaker support and surround sound decoding built in too, the only issues with the Eclipse are that its complicated to use, and that you probably won’t be able to afford one…

Read the full review: Bang & Olufsen BeoVision Eclipse

Image Credit: Philips

Philips OLED 803 is a beautiful OLED television, if you can get past some minor issues.

The main draw here is Philips second-generation P5 processor, which manages to double the processing power of the chip seen in the 803's predecessors. The results are stunning, with a Perfect Natural Reality function that algorithmically tweaks contrast, brightness, and definition to optimize your picture on the fly.

The effect of Philips' P5 engine may sometimes be subtle with real-world content, but it gives this set an edge when it comes to playing in SDR 4K or HD. You're also getting Philip's unique Ambilight technology, which throws onscreen colors onto the wall behind your television, giving a sense of real atmosphere. 

The 803 is technically second-in-line to Philips' OLED, after the OLED 903+, but the only real difference is the latter's integrated Bowers & Wilkins soundbar – an improvement on sound, sure, but you'll save a neat £500 by going after the 803 and sticking with your current sound system instead.

There's some input lag, so this isn't as well-suited a TV to gaming as some of the others on this list – and the Android TV interface isn't the most seamless. Not to mention the exclusion of the Freeview Play catch-up service, which is increasingly expected as standard for UK viewers.

But the 803 is no doubt the most tempting OLED Philips has produced, and the competitive price compared to the 903+ just nabs it a place on this list.

Read our full review: Philips OLED 803

  • For a full rundown of the best sets out there, whether LCD or OLED, check our our full best TVs of 2019 guide
Categories: Tech News

It's finally ending...don't miss this unlimited data SIM only deal for £20 per month

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 08:08

It was only supposed to be available for a week! When Three brought back its Black Friday-evoking SIM only deal at the end of January, we were advising everybody to snap it up before it went.

Another month on and the network's £20 per month all-you-can-eat data SIMO is still on sale - we're certainly not complaining. But Three has confirmed that the tariff will finally disappear at the very minute that the calendar changes from February to March - it ends at 11.59pm on Thursday February 28 (damn this shorter month!).

So that leaves you less than two days to grab what we've been happy to call "the best SIM only deal ever". A year's worth of unlimited calls, texts and data for twenty quid each month. For Netflix binging, Spotify sessions and all the Facebiook scrolling a human being can put up with away from Wi-Fi, no deal matches Three.

Three's best ever SIM only deal in full:

Probably the only downside to this stellar SIMO is that you have to commit to a whole year if you go for this offer. At £240 for an entire 12 months of all-you-can-eat data, texts and calls, we think it's still well worthwhile. But if you're a commitment-phobe who wants more flexibility to cancel, then check out Smarty's £25 per month unlimited data SIM that only makes you commit to 30 days at a time instead - and you'll even get your second month free if you sign up now.

And what will the SIM only landscape be like when Three's deal departs us? Well don't worry too much...Vodafone currently has a bumper 100GB SIM for the same £20 per month - the heir apparent to the SIMO throne.

Why go for a Three SIM only deal?

If you haven't already been won over by this amazing offer then you'll be excited to hear that Three doesn't shy away from offering up some extra incentives as well. Whether that be free exclusive prizes or extra roaming. You can see all of best parts of a Three SIM only deal down below.

  • Wuntu - Exclusive offers and freebies with Three's rewards app
  • Go Roam - Roaming abilities in 71 worldwide countries at no extra cost
  • Travel Swagger - Get travel upgrades with Easyjet with bag drop and early boarding
Categories: Tech News

Samsung Galaxy M30 launched in India starting at Rs 14,990

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 08:05

Samsung is on a spree of launching phones in India. On Wednesday, the company added another phone to its Galaxy M-series in India. The M-series debuted earlier this year with two phones, the Galaxy M10 and Galaxy M20. The M30 is the third phone in the series and boasts of some compelling features.

Samsung Galaxy M30 specifications 

The Galaxy M30 features a 6.4-inch Full HD+ (2280 x 1080 pixels) Super AMOLED panel with the infinity-u shaped notch design. This gives the screen a 19:9 aspect ratio and provides more screen estate to users.

Samsung Exynos 7904 octa-core chipset powers the Galaxy M30 and is backed by 4GB/6GB RAM and 6GB/128GB storage.

The M30 has a triple camera setup on the back which consists of a primary 13MP sensor coupled with a 5MP depth sensor and a 5MP ultra-wide sensor. On the front, there's a 16MP camera for selfies housed within the u-shaped notch.

There's a fingerprint sensor on the rear plastic shell of the M30. The phone runs on Android 9.0 Pie based Samsung

Samsung Galaxy M30 has a big 5,000mAh battery to its disposal and it also supports fast charging via 15w adapter provided in-the-box.

Samsung Galaxy M30 price and availability

The Galaxy M30 is priced starting at Rs 14,990 for the 4GB RAM variant while buysers will have to shell out Rs 17,990 for the variant with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. The first sale is scheduled for March 7 and users can buy it from Amazon India and Samsung India Store. 

Categories: Tech News

Best phones of MWC 2019: every new handset you need to know

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 07:57

With Samsung opting to announce the Galaxy S10 family at its own Unpacked event the previous week, MWC 2019 had the potential to be one of the least exciting editions of the world’s biggest mobile technology show in recent memory.

The good news is, it wasn’t. Instead, it allowed the other manufacturers from around the globe to step up to the plate and embrace the lack of new Samsung flagships by taking the limelight with their own releases.

Below we’re going to talk you through every phone announcement at MWC 2019 that you should care about. Just because they’re in this list doesn’t mean you should buy one though; this is simply a look at the devices we think look the most exciting based on their initial announcement and first impressions.

Huawei Mate X 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold isn’t the only foldable phone you’ll be able to buy later this year – there’s also the Huawei Mate X, and we awarded it the most exciting innovation award of MWC 2019.

When folded out, the Huawei Mate X comes with an 8-inch display with a resolution of 2200 x 2480, but even when it isn’t folded out you’ve got the benefits of a 6.6-inch display to move around your apps.

With the latest top-end Kirin chipset powering the phone along and three cameras on the rear, we’re expecting some big things from the Huawei Mate X. Just don’t expect to get it cheap, as it’s a hugely expensive phone at somewhere around $2,600, £2,000, AU$4,770.

This phone is a big focus for Huawei going forward, and while the company is set to announce the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro next month it is currently plastering the Huawei Mate X all over billboards around Barcelona to soak up the hype.

Sony Xperia 1 

Image Credit: TechRadar 

Sony’s latest phone comes packing all of the top-end tech you’d expect from a flagship device in 2019, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, 6GB of RAM and a powerful triple-lens rear camera, but the truly exciting feature is on the front of the phone.

With the world’s first 4K HDR OLED screen on a phone, Sony’s Xperia 1 is a powerhouse when it comes to watching films on the move. It has a 21:9 aspect ratio - that’s why it looks taller - which the company is certain looks better when watching video in landscape orientation.

We’ve yet to try the phone out properly as we’ve only been allowed to handle demo units without a working user interface, but it’s sure to be one of the best phones if you’re a commuter who often spends their journey engulfed in a film on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

Special mention also goes to the Sony Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus - phones we have tried as they’re already on sale in some countries - which are mid-range devices that also sport 21:9 aspect ratio displays, offering you that widescreen experience. 

LG V50 ThinQ 

Image Credit: TechRadar

The most exciting LG phone of MWC 2019 in our opinion is not the LG G8, but rather the LG V50 ThinQ.

The highlight of the phone is arguably its support for 5G. A few phones have recently been announced with support for this next generation of mobile networks, but there aren’t many yet, so get a 5G signal (once 5G networks have actually launched) and the V50 ThinQ should handle data far faster than most handsets.

The screen is also a high point. The LG V50 ThinQ has a 6.4-inch 1440 x 3120 AMOLED screen with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and support for HDR10 - which makes for an impressive if fairly typical flagship spec. But the phone also has a trick up its sleeve in the form of an optional second screen attachment dubbed the LG DualScreen.

The V50 ThinQ also has a triple-lens rear camera, with a 12MP standard lens, a 12MP telephoto one and a 16MP ultra-wide one, as well as a dual-lens selfie camera, a 4,000mAh battery, a premium - if ordinary - design, and strong audio skills.

Nokia 9 PureView 

Image Credit: TechRadar

The Nokia 9 PureView aims to take smartphone photography to a whole other level, as it has a full five lenses on the back, as well as a time of flight (ToF) sensor.

They’re all 12MP f/1.8 lenses and two shoot in color while three are black and white. So why offer five near identical lenses? Because the Nokia 9 PureView can optionally capture images with all of them and combine these into one seriously detailed shot.

The Nokia 9 PureView also has a 5.99-inch 1440 x 2880 P-OLED screen, so visuals are sharp, and there’s an in-screen fingerprint scanner and a glass and metal build - though the phone sticks with bezels above and below the screen rather than a notch or punch-hole.

In some ways the Nokia 9 PureView is less impressive, as alongside 6GB of RAM it’s stuck with a Snapdragon 845 chipset, which was top-end in 2018 but has now been superseded by the Snapdragon 855. As such its performance probably won’t quite be a match for most of 2019’s flagships, but given the $699 (around £535 / AU$980) price it doesn’t need to be.

Samsung Galaxy A50 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Unlike the other phones on this list the Samsung Galaxy A50 is not a flagship. Instead, it’s a mid-range device, but one with plenty of style and features.

That includes a 6.4-inch 1080 x 2340 Super AMOLED screen with a tiny teardrop notch and a fingerprint scanner built into the display itself - which is a feature that even the Samsung Galaxy S10e doesn’t have.

The Galaxy A50’s camera is also set to impress, or rather, it’s cameras are, as there are three of them on the back. There’s a 25MP f/1.7 main lens, an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide one and a 5MP f/2.2 depth sensor, which should make for a lot of versatility, especially as they’re paired with a 25MP f/2.0 front-facing camera.

You should be able to snap for a long time too, as there’s a big 4,000mAh battery with support for fast charging. With a mid-range octa-core chipset, either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB of storage too, this could be a real winner if the price is right.

And then there's the rest...

While the above five phones are the clear highlights of MWC 2019, they’re far from the only handsets that were announced.

Numerous other Nokia-branded handsets were announced, such as the Nokia 4.2 and Nokia 3.2, as were other phones from Samsung, such as the Galaxy A30.

And those are just a few examples. Many other phones from those companies and others have also been announced and you can find a full overview of them in our MWC 2019 hub.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.    

Categories: Tech News

OnePlus and Qualcomm to start 5G trials in India

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 07:44

OnePlus recently displayed its 5G prototype smartphone powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC at MWC 2019. The company will also be among the first smartphone makers to launch smartphones powered by the Snapdragon 855 in India, as well to start 5G trials in the country.

We have been loyal to Qualcomm’s 800-series Snapdragon chipsets since the release of our very first flagship device. This strong partnership with Qualcomm makes us believe that we could bring the best 5G device to the world.

Pete Lau, Founder and CEO, OnePlus

OnePlus began research on 5G in 2016, and a year later, partnered with Qualcomm to on OnePlus’ 5G device development. The partnership was successful, and in October 2018, OnePlus sent out the world’s first 5G tweet by connecting a prototype device to a 5G Non-standalone Network, via an LTE b7 + 5G NR n78 air interface.  The tweet by Pete Lau said ‘Say Hello to 5G’. 

OnePlus recently announced that it is also working with Qualcomm to launch the '5G Apps of Tomorrow' challenge for global app developers. Challenge winners will be awarded a total of €250,000, as well as other resources.

Categories: Tech News

Here’s what Lite OS could look like – and why Microsoft is ‘feverishly’ working on it

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 07:31

We’ve heard more from the rumor mill on how Microsoft’s alleged ‘Lite’ OS is shaping up, including a mock-up of what the operating system will supposedly look like.

Again, this comes from the source of previous speculation on Lite OS, namely Brad Sams, a well-respected font of Microsoft knowledge (although we should obviously treat any leaks and insider info – no matter where they come from – with a suitable dose of skepticism).

Okay, that’s the caveat done – now for the quick recap for those who may have forgotten exactly what Lite OS is about: it’s a lightweight spin on Windows designed to rival Google’s Chrome OS and run on (almost) any device.

The latest from Sams is the revelation that the OS will look ‘familiar’ but ‘also different’, a slightly confusing message on the face of it, but the gist is some elements will remain the same, but everything will be very much stripped-down.

Mock-up of Windows Lite OS desktop (Image Credit: Brad Sams/Petri)

To clarify this, Sams has created a mock-up of what the operating system’s UI currently looks like, which you can see above, and he contends that it will provide a similar experience to Windows 10 out-of-the-box.

Remember, though, while Sam says this is an accurate portrayal of the interface, it is only intended as an idea of how the desktop will appear, and that may well change during development.

Aggressive deployment

Speaking of development, Sams insists that Microsoft is working on an ‘aggressive schedule’ in realizing Lite OS, and that the plan is to begin testing in the summer (with an initial reveal, or at least some info on the OS, expected to be imparted at the Build developer conference in Seattle come May).

Whether the testing will include a public beta, Sams doesn’t know yet, but obviously that’s what many will be hoping for. The underlying message is that Microsoft is placing a lot of importance on this new project, and getting it out quickly (or at least as swiftly as things can move in the complex sphere of operating systems).

Sams talks more about the interface of Lite, too, and while the UI will be very much minimalist, File Explorer is still there, and windows work as they traditionally do in, er, Windows, with components like the Settings options remaining present (although likely much simplified, we’d imagine).

He also clarified what we’d previously believed, namely that Lite OS will just run apps from the Microsoft Store and PWAs (progressive web apps), with no support for traditional Windows desktop software.

However, Microsoft is apparently looking at how the operating system can eventually support full Win32 applications – perhaps by using containerization of the app, or maybe by running it from the cloud.

Getting heavy

We’ve heard previously that Microsoft is working on Lite for two different categories of devices: Centaurus (dual-screen 2-in-1) and Pegasus (which refers to various types of low-end laptops).

In this latest report, Sams further notes that while the focus may be on entry-level devices such as the latter – the core idea is a super-streamlined OS that runs on anything, after all – eventually Lite will expand to target ‘heavy users’ as well.

Microsoft’s current vision is that these heavier users will be on Windows 10, with those who have lesser performance demands using Lite OS – but rather than having these two tiers of operating systems, apparently Lite OS will eventually expand to cover “most of the features that heavy users will need”, in Sams’ words.

Of course, running full-fat Win32 apps will doubtless be part of that development path, but presumably Microsoft will keep more heavyweight features in the domain of Windows 10. After all, there needs to be some differentiation, because it doesn’t seem likely that Microsoft would want to completely sideline Windows.

Although when Sam says, “I don’t quite expect [Lite OS] to overtake the entire enterprise portfolio quite yet”, perhaps he is hinting at a future where Windows is for business and power users, and Lite is for the consumer.

Whatever happens with Lite OS, it will need to remain streamlined enough to run on lesser spec hardware, because that’s obviously the entire point.

At any rate, it’s worth reiterating that we should take all this with a pinch of the white stuff, but the broad plan for Lite seems to be: take Windows, strip it right down, then sort of build it back up again.

Categories: Tech News

FC Barcelona's Nou Camp will be 'first' 5G stadium

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 07:16

The iconic Nou Camp, home of FC Barcelona, is to become the world’s first stadium with dedicated 5G coverage.

The club is partnering with Spanish operator Telefonica to bring permanent 5G coverage to the pitch and the stands, with both parties using the network to test out immersive content experiences that can deliver the stadium experience to its global fan base.

Although Barcelona is symbol of Catalan identity, it has a global fan base and many supporters will never step foot in the stadium.

Nou Camp 5G

The club competes with great rival Real Madrid and other major European teams to secure followers on social media and on web platforms and believes 5G can boost engagement.

The 5G network uses Telefonica’s licensed spectrum and Ericsson’s commercial equipment, boosting broadcasting capacity from 30Mbps to 200Mbps. Combined with the low latency and edge computing capabilities of 5G, this makes it possible to create 360-degree video in 4K quality that can be used on social channels and on official applications.

Barcelona has used previous editions of Mobile World Congress (MWC) to detail other digital initiatives, such as innovation hub, and marked the partnership by transmitting a live training session and a stadium tour to the exhibition.

"For FC Barcelona it is a great pride that the Camp Nou is the first football stadium with 5G internal coverage,” said Josep Maria Bartomeu.

“The Camp Nou is the largest stadium in Europe, which can accommodate more than 90,000 spectators and when the Espai Barça [the club’s stadium redevelopment project] is a reality will have capacity for 105,000. Thanks to the agreement between FC Barcelona and GSMA, with the participation of Telefónica, we have set the Camp Nou as an innovation laboratory at the disposal of the most advanced technology in mobile telephony, the 5G.”

5G networks will bring ultrafast speeds, greater capacity and ultra-low latency, with stadiums expected to benefit greatly because of the large volume of users consuming data-intensive applications in such a small area.

  • MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.  
Categories: Tech News

The success of augmented reality means it may be time to rethink the way we type

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 07:15

The latest generation of virtual and augmented reality headsets (like the HoloLens 2 unveiled by Microsoft at MWC 2019) offer hand-tracking and voice controls, but there's one task they still can't handle easily: typing.

That's where Tap comes in. It's a device that resembles a silicone knuckle duster, but is in fact a wearable keyboard that lets you type one-handed without having to use a desk. We caught up with Dovid Schick, Tap's creator, at MWC to find out how it works, and what it means for the future of typing.

At your fingertips

Tap is a set of connected silicone rings, which fit snugly onto the fingers of your dominant hand and are adjusted using nylon sliders on the palm side. The thumb ring bears the power button, plus a flat edge that serves as a mouse, letting you scroll around webpages and documents by sliding it across any surface.

To type, you just tap your fingers against whatever comes to hand. That could be a table, the arm of a chair, the back of your other hand, your sleeve – anything hard enough to stop your fingers moving. Different combinations of fingers produce different letters, and with practice, you can expect to tap away at over 50wpm single-handed.

When we tried it, it felt snug but comfortable (it's available in two sizes, but there's some overlap between them). We tested it by tapping on a table, and found that it wasn't necessary to bring down our fingertips hard at all. A light touch is all it takes, and you can use it while sitting back comfortably rather than being tempted to hunch over, as you might while using a keyboard.

It's not a brand new device, and has been on sale since 2018, but Schick (an electrical engineer by trade, who developed the first digital X-ray system for dentists in the 1990s) believes this is Tap's time to shine.

Image credit: Tap Systems Inc

"It’s become clear that there are certain segments that are better suited [to Tap]," he explains. "The killer application in the long term I believe is wearable screens. Once you’re wearing a screen you're not going to be carrying a keyboard."

Speech recognition is one way around this problem, but as Schick notes, it's not always practical – particularly in noisy environments like manufacturing plants and server rooms, where AR is particularly helpful, or in situations where colleagues will find constant chatter annoying.

He says that members of the blind community also find Tap helpful because, unlike touchscreens, which offer no haptic feedback, typing with Tap is a very tactile experience.

"You might think that blind people would be really early adopters of speech technology," he says, "but their adoption rates are about the same as sighted people [one in five], for the same reasons and because they don’t really feel comfortable walking around talking."

How to tap

Among sighted home users, Tap's main appeal is its convenience, together with its strangeness. "It's forward-looking, and a lot of people like that," Schick says. However, once you know the basics, it's surprisingly easy to use.

The device comes with two training apps. The first of these, Tap Genius, introduces the taps for each letter of the alphabet, plus basic punctuation. The vowels are the simplest, and each is represented by a single tap with one of your fingers. Other letters are a little more complex, requiring two, three or four fingers. The trickiest is J, which is created by tapping every finger except your ring finger, but can also be typed by double-tapping your middle finger.

Once you've mastered the letters, you'll be able to type, but you'll be slow. To build muscle memory, you need the second app, Tap Academy. This app provides a course of 10-20 minute lessons, designed to be completed over 30 days. By the end, you should be tapping away like a pro.

"Many people don't finish the course," Schick says. "The course goes for 30 days, but most people reach proficiency speeds in between 15 and 21 days."

Your next keyboard?

Although not all of the 300 businesses testing Tap also use augmented reality, Schick says that many of them do – and it's easy to understand why.

"AR has essentially shifted in the last couple of years from consumer-focused to enterprise-focused," he says. They’re trying to really build practical business solutions for people who want an always-on display and have to be able to use their hands. It allows them to do discrete, very quick input in any environment.

Image credit: Tap Systems Inc

"They use voice quite a bit," he adds. "Voice is our main rival, and is very good for people who speak a well-articulated and unaccented version of whichever language they're in, but that's not everyone."

With Microsoft opening an app store for HoloLens 2, and partnering with companies like Mozilla to create web browsers specifically for augmented reality, it looks like there could be a real need for a device that lets users type without looking, or using a desk. It might look strange now, but Tap's set of silicone rings could be your next keyboard.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.

Categories: Tech News

Vodafone: Partnerships like AT&T and ARM will drive IoT success

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 06:12

Amid the hype and blanket coverage of 5G at Mobile World Congress (MWC), it’s easy to forget that there are myriad of other subjects at the show.

Over the past decade, the makeup of the exhibitors has expanded to include industrial giants, car manufacturers and other companies that on the face of it have nothing to do with mobile technology.

Although 5G has plenty of promise for connected cars and Industry 4.0 applications, it is the Internet of Things (IoT) that has brought them here.

Vodafone IoT

And as one of the leading IoT platform owners (it regards Cisco and Ericsson as the two others), Vodafone is keen to start new conversations and build on existing relationships at the show, seeing it as essential for building the partnerships that are necessary to succeed.

“MWC has a number of key advantages,” Phil Skipper, head of business development at Vodafone IoT told TechRadar Pro. “It enables us to speak to people who are at the same place and it’s a really good showcase to deliver the business outcomes we can deliver. “It [also] gives us a view around what’s actually happening in the market.

“You can grow [an IoT business] organically, inorganically or you can drive growth through partnerships. What you now see is structural partnering. We’ve gone from partnering from anyone to partnering with [leaders] in the game.

“The barriers to entry are lower than they’ve ever been before but the barriers to success are increasingly high. You see lots of companies coming in with good ideas, but you need scale. You need scale and market specialism.”

5G possibilities

At MWC, Vodafone Business has announced two major partnerships with ARM and AT&T. The Arm partnership aims to make it cheaper and simpler to create IoT products by combining Vodafone’s connectivity expertise with ARM’s IoT software and services.

ARM’s chip designs are integrated with embedded SIMs enabling customers to securely deploy and manage massive numbers of IoT devices using either NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT) or LTE-M.

Meanwhile, the AT&T partnership ensures Vodafone’s automotive customers gain access to networks in North America. Skipper says the decision to partner with another telco is evidence of this new era of partnerships.

“We’ve worked closely with AT&T before,” he explains. “The [automotive] OEMs want a consistent service across multiple geographies as they want the service to be the same no matter where they are.

“It’s not an exclusive relationship. Since we’ve worked closely together on other automotive projects – we do Europe and they do US – it makes sense to harmonise those services. We have a history of working with them. It was a simple marriage.”

“If you don’t win something, everyone loses. This alliance model is how things are changing.”

  • MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.  
Categories: Tech News

Love classic sci-fi? New Dune video games are on the way

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 06:11

Classic sci-fi novel Dune is due a bit of a revival in the next few years. Not only is it set for a big-budget 2020 Hollywood re-imaging at the hands of Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve, but it's now been reported that we'll get a series of new games based on the property, too.

Funcom, the company behind Conan Exiles, has signed a six year deal with Legendary Studios (a division of Legendary Entertainment, which owns the film and television rights to Dune) which will see it make "at least" three new games set in Frank Herbert's wild science fiction universe.

The games will span both PC and consoles, and while specific details have yet to be revealed, pre-production is said to have started on an open-world multiplayer Dune title – which sounds as though it could be not unlike survival title Conan Exiles.

A new Dune strategy title?

The Dune series has been no stranger to game adaptations in the past, from the sublime 1993 strategy title Dune 2, to the woeful 2001 PS2 game Frank Herbert's Dune.

What's particularly intriguing about the announcement is that Funcom had recently paired up with developer Petroglyph to publish real-time strategy title Conan Unconquered, a barbaric take on the army-marshalling genre. Petroglyph's staff has a number of former Westworld Studios developers working for it – the strategy titans who put out not only Command and Conquer but, wouldn't you know it, Dune 2. It wouldn't seem much a stretch to assume one of the three titles in the works is also a strategy title.

With its giant sandworms, kooky factions and epic, space-faring story line, the Dune novels are ripe for adaptation across multiple genres – it's a series that could be taken almost anywhere with a bit of imagination.

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