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Updated: 4 hours 44 min ago

The Elder Scrolls 6 Redfall naming dispute could be resolved 'simply'

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 13:25

While fans wait with bated breath for more news on The Elder Scrolls 6, a legal battle between Bethesda's parent company ZeniMaz Media and BookBreeze.com has potentially been putting a spanner in the works. But an agreement might be on the horizon.

This legal battle has been going on for a while, with Bookbreeze.com (aka author Jay Falconer) disputing ZeniMax filing a new trademark for 'Redfall', which the company stated was for "computer game software for use with computers and video game consoles". 

In other words, it's possible that this could be the name of the upcoming Elder Scrolls 6 game – due to the Redfall location in Tamriel, or the Redguard race in Elder Scrolls.

However Falconer claims that he has already developed a brand under the Redfall name and, according to a blog post, is disputing ZeniMax's filing "to protect what I feel is my ownership of the brand, and to protect my right to sell books (print, ebook, and audiobook) and the movie/film rights". 

"I want all of you to know I'm not trying to stop the game nor am I trying to get any money from the game. I want nothing from the game at all," Falconer wrote. "I’m only trying to protect my ability to keep selling my books. This is simply a dispute over a trademark name. Nothing more. It’s not a cash grab – I want nothing from them and it should in no way hold up any game.

"With that said, we can avoid the USPTO all together and find a no-cost resolution once all parties have a conversation. We just need to have that conversation. I’m ready and willing and open to whatever resolution makes sense."

Could an agreement be in the works?

Image credit: Bethesda

However, as spotted by our sister site GamesRadar, an agreement may be in the works. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Redfall trademark application documents state that ZeniMax has requested the dates to be pushed back a month as the “parties are engaged in settlement discussions”.

According to GamesRadar's research, those settlement discussions are likely being used to avoid a long trademark dispute, which would prevent us hearing any more information about The Elder Scrolls 6's official title until 2021.

According to GamesRadar, settlement discussions could mean one of three things:

  • Both parties agree to enter into a coexistence agreement, which allows them both to use the Redfall name (ZeniMax would have to pay out to Falconer).
  • ZeniMax withdraws the application but enters into a license agreement (paying a fee) to Falconer.
  • ZeniMax pays a one-off sum for Falconer to withdraw his opposition.

It's not yet clear which of these options the two parties will agree upon, however Falconer has been adamant that the dispute is not a "cash-grab", so it's likely option three is off the table. 

While we're hoping to see more of The Elder Scrolls 6 at E3 2019, it may be a while yet before we know the game's official title.

Categories: Tech News

BT wants all operators to have equal access to street furniture

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 13:18

BT is demanding that local councils grant access to street furniture on a fair and equal basis, arguing that the current model of exclusive agreements stifles investments and could slow down 5G deployments.

Under the present model, mobile operators bid for contracts with local authorities for the exclusive rights to deploy micro-infrastructure such as small cells on furniture such as lamp posts and bus shelters.

Any other operator wishing to use these assets must pay a wholesale charge to the exclusive rights holder.

BT small cells

Operators and infrastructure firms such as Arqiva have used these agreements to deploy small cells for 4G networks in busy areas to boost coverage.

However small cells will be a critical component of 5G networks, helping to deliver the micro capacity and coverage that will power a wealth of next-generation applications that will require constant, low latency connectivity.

BT says this the current model is unpractical for the 5G era and in any case believes the reformed Electronic Communications Code passed in December 2017 renders these agreements void. Instead, it believes councils should charge any operator who wants access to street furniture a “low cost” flat fee.

“While the concessions model made sense in the early 2010’s when it first came into common use, the market and regulatory landscape have changed and it’s become clear that exclusivity agreements act as a barrier to further 4G and 5G investments,” said Paul Ceely, director of network strategy at BT.

“Government initiatives such as the DCMS Barrier Busting taskforce are showing the way, but we believe that industry needs to act. We are leading the way by handing back exclusivity in nine key areas.”

To push its vision of open access, BT is holding a workshop in Birmingham, home of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) 5G testbed. It says it is also prepared to relinquish the nine exclusive agreement is has in place to facilitate the change.

These are in Glasgow, Cardiff, Brighton, Plymouth, Carlisle, Newcastle/Gateshead, Nottingham, Gloucester and Leicester.

“The UK needs an alternative approach which sees industry and local authorities working together to share these street sites in an open and collaborative way,” concluded Ceely. “This will create the right environment for long-term investment and innovation in future mobile networks. We believe Open Access will be critical in ensuring the UK has the best mobile infrastructure in place to maintain its position as one of the world’s leading digital economies.”

 

Categories: Tech News

Nintendo Switch bundle deal at Walmart: save $30 on a Mario game

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 13:04

For a limited time, Walmart is offering a Nintendo Switch bundle deal that includes the Switch console with your choice of a Mario game. You can save up to $35 with a selection of five different Mario games when you purchase the Nintendo Switch console. 

This Nintendo deal from Walmart allows you to build your bundle so you can personalize your Nintendo Switch to get exactly what you want. The following choices are available to select when building your bundle; color of Joy Con controller, your choice of five different Mario games, and two Mario Pin options. This bundle deal also includes a bonus Paw Patrol Carrying Case.

The Nintendo Switch is a relatively new gaming console that allows you to use it as a home console or as a portable gaming device. You can play the Nintendo Switch anywhere, and the dual Joy-Con controllers let you team up and enjoy multiplayer games. Even though the Switch was released in 2017, it's popularity makes discounts very rare, which is why this limited-time bundle is a fantastic deal.

If you're interested in more Switch deals we have the cheapest Nintendo Switch bundles and deal prices that are currently available.

We also have the best PS4 prices, bundles, and deals as well as the best Xbox One prices, bundles and sales that are going on. 

Categories: Tech News

Dyson's new V11 cordless vacuum sucks harder and lasts longer

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 12:51

Dyson launched the Cyclone V10 cordless vacuum in 2018 – it was so powerful that is convinced James Dyson to stop making corded ones. In 2019, though, the British company may just have outdone itself.

Only a year after launching the V10, Dyson has announced the release of the latest iteration of its cordless stick vacuum. The Dyson V11 looks pretty much like its predecessor, but ups the cleaning ante with a better battery and more suction power than the Cyclone V10.

The V11 clearly reveals Dyson’s capability to take innovation to new levels, leaving us to wonder what else the company could have up its proverbial sleeve.

Image credit: Dyson

Powerful smart cleaning

The innovation begins with the new High Torque cleaner head that has the ability to sense different surfaces. The cleaner head is able to detect brush bar resistance up to 360 times a second. This is then communicated to the motor and battery microprocessors, resulting in changing suction power as the vacuum glides between hard floors and carpets, thus removing the need to change cleaner heads for different floor types.

And while the motor is similar to that of the V10’s, the new V11 motor contains a triple diffuser to reduce sound and vibrations. It also spins at a whopping 125,000 revolutions per minute and ups suction power by 20% over the Cyclone V10.

Image credit: Dyson

Cleaning gets intelligent

Although the V11 shares a similar design to the V10, the addition of an LCD display on the top of the vacuum is a welcome addition. 

There are three battery modes to choose from – auto mode, boost mode and eco mode – and your chosen power mode will be displayed on the screen, along with performance information and remaining run time.

The display will also let you know when it’s time to change the filter and, if it’s not connected properly, will throw up a notification for that as well. If there’s an airway blockage somewhere, the screen will provide details on how to get rid of it by playing a demo of how to take the vacuum apart.

The filtration system comes with rubber seals to capture microscopic particles, while a wand clip allows you to store the accessories – like the crevice and combination tools – on the vacuum itself.

To top it all off, the bin is 40% larger than before.

Image credit: Dyson

Pricing and availability

Put all this together and you’ve got a vacuum cleaner that promises the best clean you can get for your home. That kind of clean, though, comes with a price.

The Dyson V11 is launching with a starting price of $599.95 / £499.99 / AU$1,099. However – just to throw some confusion (excitement?) into the mix – the American, European and Australian markets get different models of the V11.

The US gets two variations of the V11, both shipping with the High Torque cleaner head, the combination and crevice tools, a mini soft dusting brush, mini motorized tool, a stubborn dust brush and the wand clip.

The models available in the US are:

  • Dyson V11 Animal, which comes with seven additional accessories but doesn't include the LCD display screen – $599.95
  • Dyson V11 Torque Drive, which comes with eight additional accessories and has an LCD display screen – $699.95

In the UK, too, there are two versions to choose from, both of them shipping with combination and crevice tools, a mini soft dusting brush, mini motorized tool, a stubborn dust brush and the wand clip to hold them all together.

The models available in the UK are:

  • Dyson V11 Animal, which comes with eight additional accessories but doesn't have the torque drive motor head – £499.99
  • Dyson V11 Absolute, which comes with eight additional accessories and comes with the torque drive motor head – £599.99

Australia gets to choose between three versions, all of them shipping with the High Torque cleaner head, the combination and crevice tools, a mini soft dusting brush, mini motorized tool, a stubborn dust brush and the wand clip to hold them all together. 

The models available in Australia are:

  • Dyson V11 Torque Drive (in Fuschia) comes with no additional accessories – AU$1,099
  • Dyson V11 Absolute (blue) includes the soft roller head for delicate hard floors – AU$1,199
  • Dyson V11 Absolute Pro (gold) comes with the soft roller head, an extension hose, a mattress tool and a flexible crevice tool – AU$1,249

The new Dyson V11 is available to buy direct from Dyson's own site.

Categories: Tech News

Nokia phones investigated over rumored data breach

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 12:45

Following a recent data breach report, Finland's data protection ombudsman said that he would investigate claims that Nokia-branded phones had sent information from users' handsets to China.

While Nokia exited the mobile phone business to focus solely on networking, the Finnish firm's brand name lives on thanks to HMD Global which licensed it to produce a new range of Nokia devices running Android.

According to HMD Global, no personal data was shared with a third party although it did reveal that one batch of handsets had been experiencing a data software glitch which has now been fixed.

News of the data breach was first reported by Norwegian public broadcaster NRK that said a Nokia 7 Plus smartphone built by HMD has been sending data to China. In its report, the broadcaster said that the company had “admitted that an unspecified number of Nokia 7 Plus phones had sent data to the Chinese server”.

 Alleged data breach

NRK first discovered that a possible data breach had taken place when a Nokia 7 Plus user contacted the broadcaster to inform them that his phone had been regularly sending data packages in an unencrypted format to an unknown server.

In an email to Reuters, HMD Global offered further details on the breach, saying:

“We can confirm that no personally identifiable information has been shared with any third party. Such data was never processed and no person could have been identified based on this data.” 

Despite HMD's claims to the contrary, Ombudsman Reijo Aarnio will still be investigating to assess whether any personal information was disclosed in the breach.

The latest Nokia-branded smartphones from HMD Global have received favorable reviews and if a data breach involving personal information did occur, it could have a significant impact on the brand's reputation.

Via Reuters

Categories: Tech News

Fossil announced four new hybrid watch looks at Baselworld 2019

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 12:38

Fossil doesn't have any major smartwatches planned for Baselworld 2019, but the company has introduced four new hybrid designs that you'll be able to buy later this year.

Two of the watches fall under the Fossil brand and are called Jacqueline and Cameron. You can see them both in the image above, with the Cameron on the left and Jacqueline on the right.

The two new Skagen watches are new designs of the existing Skagen Holst, which will now come with a mother of pearl watch face and a totally black design. You can see images of them below.

An exact release date for these designs has yet to be announced, but Fossil plans to bring all four to market by the end of the year.

The Jacqueline and the Cameron both come in 36mm cases with 18mm lug width and will cost $175 (about £135, AU$250). We've yet to learn specific prices for the new Skagen Holst lines.

All of these watches may look like a normal watch, but each is capable of step and sleep tracking as well as a variety of other features like basic notifications and controls for music.

Categories: Tech News

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review roundup points to a brutal winner

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 12:10

Ready for a punishing weekend? Good – the release of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the latest game out of the FromSoftware studio (they of Dark Souls and Bloodborne fame) is almost here. And with it comes the first wave of critic review scores. 

Thankfully, it looks like it's another brutal-but-fair blinder, masterfully weaving the live-die-repeat formula of the 'Soulsborne' games with a new aggressive combat system and a world which channels some of the spirit of Tenchu, a similarly ninja-themed adventure from the developer's back catalogue.

Read on for the thoughts of gaming critics around the web, but first: where's TechRadar's review? We're still waiting to recieve code from publisher Activision for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but hope to share our initial thoughts in the coming days. With it being a sizeable and challenging game, expect to see us deliver our final verdict following a 'review in progress' format to ensure we give you as in-depth a conclusion as our constantly-being-killed ninja skills can manage.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review scores

Polygon – 'Recommended'

"I have to put in a lot of work and effort to meet Sekiro on its own terms, but what might feel ponderous in a lesser game becomes rewarding in one created with this much care. Sekiro meets me with just as much effort and enthusiasm as I’ve put into it. It lets me know I’m capable and skilled, and that I can figure it out.

"And then it hands me my ass again." [Full review]

IGN - 95/100

"Sekiro evolves From Software’s formula into a stylish stealth-action adventure that, naturally, emphasizes precision and skill in its combat. It walks the line between deliberate and patient stealth and breakneck melee combat against threats both earthly and otherworldly. Its imaginative and flexible tools support a more focused experience that shaves down some of From Software’s overly cryptic sensibilities without losing its air of mystery. Sekiro is an amazing new twist on a familiar set of ideas that can stand on its own alongside its predecessors." [Full review]

PlayStation Lifestyle - 9.5/10

"Untethered from the expectations that come with a Dark Souls or Bloodborne game, FromSoftware was able to create a game that maintains the studio’s unique identity while allowing them to explore interesting new mechanics and ways of telling the story. Sekiro is challenging, but fair—a game with the goal of allowing the player to grow, rather than the avatar. It blends mechanics and narrative in a way that is too rare in games today, allowing for a deep level of immersion that begs for just one more clash of blades no matter how difficult the encounters get. Seeing each one to its bloody finish is well worth the trials it takes to get there." [Full review]

Gamespot – 9/10 (review in progress)

"Sekiro marries From Software's unique brand of gameplay with stealth action to deliver an experience that is as challenging as it is gratifying. At the time of publish I haven't completed Sekiro. While I have invested upwards of 30 hours into it, there are still a few more locations I need to explore and bosses I need to beat before the credits roll, and I'm excited to do it." [Full review]

Game Informer – 9/10

"Sekiro’s story moves in strange and compelling ways that defy the initial adherence to the trappings of feudal Japan, and allows the player to discover multiple endings and confrontations depending on choices and secrets. It’s a challenging journey through a weird and wondrous world that forces you to learn and master its punishing combat to succeed. However, the sweet thrill of victory keeps you pushing forward despite myriad disheartening deaths. Sekiro is one of the most difficult games I have ever played, but for those seeking adventure, exploration, and a truly realized ninja fantasy, the trek is worth the high demands." [Full review]

Categories: Tech News

Epic Games Store grabs more big-name PC exclusives including The Outer Worlds

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 10:30

Some more big-name games have been announced as exclusives for the Epic Games Store, including The Outer Worlds from Obsidian Entertainment – with a slight caveat, more on that later – and Control developed by Remedy Entertainment.

Epic announced these exclusives – and many more – during its GDC 2019 keynote, and they follow other major victories for the store such as snatching The Division 2 and Metro Exodus away from the likes of Steam.

Indeed, Epic announced an extension to its agreement with Ubisoft, the publisher of the former, to “bring several major PC releases to the store in partnership with their Uplay division”. The exact games in question weren’t revealed, but Ubisoft will provide details down the line.

The new titles which were announced as Epic Games Store exclusives were numerous, though, with some impressively high-profile outings.

Control freaks

As mentioned, they include Control, a supernatural action-adventure developed by Remedy with the publisher being 505 Games, and The Outer Worlds, a sci-fi RPG developed by Obsidian and published by Private Division (a subsidiary of Take-Two).

Another exclusive published by the latter is Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey from Panache Digital Games, an open world survival game following the evolution of the human race, from the creator of Assassin’s Creed.

It’s worth noting that The Outer Worlds won’t be a strict exclusive, though, as it will also be available on the Microsoft Store too (but not elsewhere).

Finally, another point scored for Epic is the fact that Quantic Dream will be bringing PC versions of its big hits Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human, to the store.

A number of other exclusives were announced, including:

  • Afterparty from Night School Studios
  • The Cycle from Yager
  • Dauntless from Phoenix Labs
  • Industries of Titan from Brace Yourself Games
  • Journey to the Savage Planet from Typhoon Studios and 505 Games
  • Kine from Chump Squad
  • Phoenix Point from Snapshot Games
  • The Sinking City from Frogwares and Bigben
  • Spellbreak from Proletariat Inc
  • Solar Ash from Heart Machine and Annapurna Interactive

Epic is certainly building up considerable momentum in its bid to challenge rival digital platforms like Steam, helped along not just by these sort of deals, but also the quality freebies which have been given away since the store launched.

The company further revealed that Metro: Exodus sold 2.5 times more copies in its first few weeks on the Epic Games Store, than its predecessor, Metro: Last Light, managed to sell on Steam in the same time period after its launch.

Categories: Tech News

Why three random words could be a lifesaver

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 10:23

The UK's emergency services have boosted their ability to track down people in danger thanks to a new partnership.

Several of the country's biggest police, fire, ambulance and rescue services will now be able to respond to incidents more effectively using what3words location technology.

what3words has divided the globe into 3m x 3m squares and given each one a unique 3 word address - allowing users to define their location with superior accuracy, which could be the difference between life or death in an emergency situation.

Life-saving

What3words says it can be particularly effective for emergencies in rural locations like farms, beaches, coastline or moorland - but also in cities where the person in distress may not be familiar with their surroundings, or able to share a location with accuracy.

what3words is now being rolled into training days so supervisors, handlers and responders are ready to use 3 word addresses as effectively as possible, with the likes of Bedfordshire Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary now working alongside what3words on pilot schemes.

The what3words app is free to download for both iOS and Android, or by browser, and also works offline – making it ideal for use in areas with an unreliable data connection. The three word address format is also consistent anywhere in the world, and available in 26 languages.

"Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where you are can be very distressing for the person involved and a really difficult situation for emergency services," said Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words.

"Today people nearly always have their phone on them. We need to use the tools at our disposal to improve public services and potentially save lives." 

"We are continuing to work with emergency services across the country to get what3words enabled in their control rooms and to encourage the public to understand how to find and share their 3 word address so that they can be found quickly when they need it most. It’s been incredible to see UK police forces embrace technology to respond effectively and quickly to people in need."

Categories: Tech News

Alpina AlpinerX hybrid adventure watch will soon come in four new colors

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 09:48

One of the most interesting tech announcements at Baselworld 2018 was the Alpina AlpinerX hybrid adventure smartwatch, and the company has just unveiled four new designs of the same watch at 2019's show.

Rather than launching a whole new watch, the company has decided to make the original watch available in new colors.

Set to go on sale later in 2019, the four new designs of the watch were picked by Kickstarter Community Members. That's where the original watch was initially crowdfunded before being sold by Alpina.

The new color designs include a navy blue with the same color leather strap. There is also a version with a black body and a black leather strap with white stitching.

Another comes with a silver bezel and a black body paired with a light brown strap - that's pictured at the top of this story. The final variant comes with that same silver bezel and black body combination, but it features a black rubber strap.

The companion app for iOS and Android devices has also been updated with slight changes to the design and further stats provided.

The new designs of the AlpinaX are set to launch at $995 (around £750, AU$1,400) which is the same price as the original watch. We don't currently know where you'll be able to buy the new models, but we should learn more about that soon.

As well as step tracking and heart rate monitoring, the AlpinerX comes with lots of features adventure seekers will love including a UV indicator, connected GPS, a barometer, altitude monitoring and a compass.

Categories: Tech News

The most reliable UK business connectivity – SD-WAN designed with Britain in mind

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 09:30

The rapid pace of change in business is driving an increased demand for flexibility and the ongoing adoption of cloud services. 

Connectivity is central to this transformation as users demand more capacity, faster speeds and better quality. And it is likely to continue to increase. Especially with the widespread adoption of distributed and mobile working practices and deployment of SaaS applications that make resilient connectivity critical to business performance. Connectivity is, without a doubt, the lifeblood of the modern organisation. 

Without it, few forward-looking businesses can hope to prosper and in practice it means organisations are looking for solutions that can deliver against both their current and future needs.

Is MPLS on the way out?

Traditionally this is where MPLS would rule the roost. It is robust, supported by service level agreements (SLAs) and is an established, familiar technology that enterprises, at one point in time, aspired to. However, on the other hand, it is also highly expensive, inflexible, takes a long time to be installed, and is a challenge when it comes to integrating with cloud services. Importantly, packet prioritisation is an expensive add-on. 

What this means is that the quality of VoIP phones could be compromised if they are run alongside other connectivity-based services that can soak up bandwidth capacity. VoIP’s main requirement is quality. When communicating with colleagues, prospects and stakeholders, there must be no lags, jags or inconsistent connectivity. However, in an office environment someone watching a YouTube video will steal bandwidth from someone at the desk next to them on an important conference call. 

As the resilience and flexibility of traditional MPLS-based connectivity becomes increasingly out of step with the communications needs of modern businesses, a new approach has emerged as the optimal solution. All IT teams have to accept that nothing stands still in connectivity.  Business demand is growing rapidly and shaping the need for a better, more cost-effective and more functional solution that can deliver against increasingly onerous requirements. With compressed budgets, ailing infrastructure and unreliable connectivity, IT teams need to head out on the technology highway and make it happen – discovering new solutions that will help transform their businesses – particularly when they work for enterprises with multiple sites.

Enter SD-WAN; globally, it is a growing market sector and Gartner forecasts that in the next two years or so, expenditure on the technology will reach a staggering $1.24 billion. 

Image Credit: Shutterstock

A new age for business connectivity with SD-WAN

Here’s what you need to know about the technology: SD-WAN delivers stable, low latency and intelligent connectivity solutions and it is easily integrated with cloud apps. For most businesses that is crucially advantageous as it saves time, removing aggravation and workload for the IT team. It is a much newer technology than MPLS, one that is more agile and much more cost-effective. 

That too is a critical advantage in today’s world where budgets are always being scrutinised. But the one major advantage of SD-WAN is that it is more resilient – especially if it is deployed using multi-path aggregated connectivity, which ensures diversity through the infrastructure layer and low latency where needed. Multi-path aggregated connectivity delivers real benefits to organisations of all sizes, especially when it comes to VoIP. Aggregating capacity across multiple lines can offer increased bandwidth and capacity, enhancing data throughput speeds and application performance, and delivering built-in resilience. 

SD-WAN is also especially effective at simplifying network topology, linking multiple sites together in an effective and efficient way. And unlike MPLS, SD-WAN is easily scalable allowing businesses to add sites and additional lines quickly and cost-effectively due to its software-defined nature. Again, this is a major advantage for those organisations on a tight budget.

Fit for (UK) purpose

While the technology has a head start in the US market where the infrastructure is more accommodating, it is making definite inroads in the UK. But there are challenges. The key to its success in the UK, however, is not to rely on US-centric technology or to use resellers who repackage it, but on solutions specifically designed for the local market and network infrastructure, deployed by specialists who understand this market and the current challenges. 

The majority of SD-WAN vendors are based in the US and as such have developed their solutions based on a broadband infrastructure that is vastly different to ours in terms of quality and speed. As a result, the standardised SD-WAN products that work there are not fit for purpose on this side of the Atlantic, and could make the transition to the technology more expensive and more difficult without the promised benefits being realised.

The news in 2018 that Cisco was preparing to include an SD-WAN upgrade in its routers is good example. While this was a positive step for the market in the UK, it is important for everyone to remember this software was developed in the US for a broadband infrastructure that is of a much higher quality and where vendors compete on that level of quality, instead of on price. The UK market presents a different set of challenges for businesses that are understandably eager to bring themselves the expected benefits of SD-WAN. 

Image Credit: Shutterstock

SD-WAN for UK businesses

There is no question now that change is sweeping through the connectivity market like a storm in the desert, driven by the ever-increasing demand for services that are better, faster, and just have more to offer. 

So, while SD-WAN may indeed be the connectivity solution that UK businesses are looking for, they cannot afford to rely on the approaches and technology developed by and for the US market to help realise its benefits. Instead, they need SD-WAN solutions designed for UK needs with our native broadband infrastructure in mind. And such solutions must be deployed by vendors that understand the challenges UK businesses face, and who develop their own software based on localised experience.

It is the ISPs delivering SD-WAN solutions that dovetail perfectly with local infrastructure and have no disconnect between the software and underlying network layers who will almost certainly see the greatest gains.

Nick Johnson, CEO of Evolving Networks

Categories: Tech News

Anthem’s next patch cuts load times and adds neat graphics options for PC

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 09:12

Anthem is getting a new patch which should be out next week, and Bioware has shared details of the extensive changes coming, which include neat boosts for PC players such as a FOV slider and DLSS support for those running Nvidia’s latest Turing graphics cards.

According to information imparted by a developer livestream that took place yesterday, patch 1.04 is making some important changes, including removing the loading screen for the Forge (the presence of this, and other loading screens, being one of the biggest sources of irritation for players).

Also with this patch, Elysian chests are being added to the game, to reward those who kill the boss at the end of strongholds. These can contain vanity items and crafting embers, and you get the key to the chest by completing a specific daily challenge (every player in the squad gets the rewards in an opened chest, incidentally).

Loot has also been further tweaked with stronghold and freeplay chests getting improved drop rates for rarer gear.

Fun with FOV

As mentioned at the outset, there are some smart visual changes on the PC, including the introduction of a FOV (Field of View) slider. This will give access to various different FOV settings, including a Ground FOV, Zoomed FOV, Pilot FOV, Flight FOV, and Swim FOV.

Those who own an Nvidia RTX graphics card will be pleased to hear that DLSS support is coming to the game with patch 1.04, and various miscellaneous performance optimizations have been implemented, too.

Finally, for those who want to exercise the power of multiple graphics cards, the developer also noted that: “SLI support is still being looked into.” For the full list of tweaks and changes, along with issues which are still being investigated, check out this post on Reddit.

Via Wccftech

Categories: Tech News

Our exclusive offer blows all other Huawei P20 Pro deals out of the water

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 08:46

With the P30 and P30 Pro just around the corner and an expected price tag matching Samsung and Apple's best, we see this as the perfect time to save some money and go for its predecessor, the Huawei P20 Pro. 

High-end specs, an impressive camera and now, an exclusive, unbeatable deal from Mobiles.co.uk, makes the P20 Pro the perfect alternative to Huawei's likely pricey latest and greatest. 

So what's so great about this offer that's top of the tree in P20 Pro deals guide? Well this 5GB, Vodafone offer is already brilliant by itself. £85 upfront and £24 a month easily makes it one of the best tariffs out there for this device, but then it just starts showing off with a code to drop the price down even further. If you use TechRadar's exclusive code TECHP20PRO at the checkout you'll knock the upfront cost down to £60, making it truly peerless.

If you want one of the best Huawei phone deals on the market, scroll down to see all of the details for yourself. Or if you want to compare it to what else is on offer, check out our guide to the best mobile phone deals

This cheap Huawei P20 Pro deal in full: What's so good about the Huawei P20 Pro? 

Sitting comfortably in the fifth position of our best smartphones guide, the Huawei P20 Pro has earned its spot as one of the top devices currently available. Whether this is due to the brilliant battery life, high-end camera or the fast face unlock, this phone has it all going for it. 

Read our full Huawei P20 Pro review

Categories: Tech News

Why cloud storage needs to become more social

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 08:30

It’s common knowledge that the internet has changed the way humans use computers, as well as handheld computing devices like tablets and smartphones. The advent of wireless network technology removed geographic limitations, thereby inciting demand for the ability to access digital files from any device anywhere. Enter cloud storage. 

Cloud storage gave users the ability to access their information from the networked device of their choosing, but that information is still locked away on private computers (and in private cloud accounts) from the rest of the “network”—i.e., the internet-enabled human community that craves authentic information that commercial websites do not deliver. In order to make this cloud-stored information accessible and searchable on the internet, cloud storage itself needs to become more social.

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Why what's in the cloud needs to be shared and shareable

Currently, websites are what’s available to be discovered by internet search. That’s it. These websites, by and large, are engineered to rank well in search engines so that users see what Company X (and its competitors) has to offer first so that Company X (and its competitors) has a better chance of getting users to discover their product or service. The commercial agenda of most websites out there — which is to be found — is no secret. 

Although users do their best to work with and around a commercially driven internet, they want an alternative—pure, unadulterated information from sources they can trust. That’s exactly what is available in the cloud right now—a treasure trove of information created and collected by interest-based communities that extend beyond any user’s known contacts. By making cloud storage social, this treasure trove becomes public, searchable, and usable.

Image Credit: Pixabay

The benefits of cloud storage

The benefits of making cloud storage social and searchable are far-reaching, and include:

More information, more innovation - Unlocking what’s in the cloud instantly expands the amount of information and knowledge publicly available exponentially. Within that treasure trove is the answer to many questions and, more importantly, the inspiration to ask more and more novel questions, to seek solutions to existing challenges and predict and preempt future ones. In short, the expansion of our existing knowledge base drives innovation and the potential to improve the quality of human life.

Website-free content sharing - Making cloud storage searchable allows people to share content on the internet without creating a website. For instance, subject matter experts (like hobbyists) do not need to create an account, purchase a domain or transfer their content onto hypertext pages. Social Cloud Storage now provides them with a simpler way to share what they know with whomever wants to know it.

Greatness is discoverable from unlikely sources - The world is full of people with great thoughts and talents who do not have the desire to actively engage with the public, regardless of how appreciative that public could be of their content. However, that doesn’t mean these people aren’t creating valuable assets. Social cloud storage allows people who may be shy or introverted to share the perspectives, information, art, etc. they have created without having to put themselves on public display or face the prospect of rejection by a conventional publisher. 

Perhaps the most significant benefit of social cloud storage, though, is the ability for users to assert more control over their search experience. The ability to search information made public without a commercial agenda gives users a way to bypass search engine algorithms’ built-in biases, and to correct for search bots’ misassumptions or miscalculations about the user’s search intent. In other words, social cloud storage allows users to effectively escape the “filter bubble” created by a search engine that confines results to those that conform with search history—i.e., past interests.

Social cloud storage is already here

Making cloud storage more social is not something that needs to happen – It’s something that is already happening. MrOwl is currently delivering the ability to unlock cloud storage and massively increase the amount of knowledge about virtually any topic available to the public, and is leading the next phase in the evolution of the internet to better serve human users.

Arvind Raichur, Founder and CEO of MrOwl 

Categories: Tech News

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Golf Edition announced

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 08:16

The Baselworld 2019 watch expo is underway, and one of the first smartwatch announcements from the show is the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Golf Edition – a golf-focused version of the company’s Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Wear OS smartwatch.

The Modular 45 Golf Edition differs from the standard model mostly in terms of the design, which here comes with a black ceramic bezel with the words ‘Golf Edition’ written along it. The bezel also has the numbers 1-18 around it, to indicate an 18-hole round of golf.

The body of the watch uses black PVD titanium, while the strap is made from black and white rubber, and there are green accents on both the strap and the body of the watch.

Basically, it’s a very golf-inspired look, and the company has also launched a ‘Tag Heuer Golf’ app to go alongside the watch. This lets you see maps of over 39,000 golf courses, see the distance to greens and hazards, measure shot distance, save scores and more.

However, this app is compatible with other Tag Heuer Modular 45 watches and even with the Apple Watch, so it’s not an exclusive feature.

The same again

The specs and features of the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Golf Edition are much the same as those of the standard version, including a 1.39-inch 400 x 400 screen, GPS, NFC, a 410mAh battery, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, and water resistance to 50 meters.

And this isn’t a cheap device, coming in at $1,850 / £1,600 / AU$2,650. That makes it even more expensive than the already pricey standard Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45, which starts at $1,550 / £1,200 / AU$2,300, and which can get much more expensive depending on what materials you choose.

If you want the Golf Edition it’s available now – and it comes with three Tag Heuer-branded golf balls.

Categories: Tech News

Best waterproof speakers 2019: 10 outdoor adventure speakers for any budget

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 07:54

Heading to the beach or the pool? Maybe you're just overdue a long shower (no judgement here), and if you want to take your music with you, you totally can with a waterproof speaker - as long as it's got an IP67 rating that is.

We're still waiting for flying cars and near-sentient robot house cleaners, but waterproof and wireless Bluetooth speakers are one device that technology has already delivered on.

While no one ever really intends to get their portable speakers wet, accidents and bad weather can happen, and if kids are any part of your life you'll know mishaps can be very difficult to avoid.

So even if you're not planning on taking a swim with a Bluetooth speaker strapped to your back, you're still going to love the peace of mind that a waterproof speaker can bring, which is why we've gathered up the best ones for you.

Our aim here is to help you get the most for your money. We've tested a not-so-insignificant amount of portable speakers in our time, and have found a handful that can resist the wonders (and terrors) of the great outdoors. 

Stick with us and we'll be sure to find a waterproof speaker that works for your budget and requirements.

What is a waterproof (or water-resistant) speaker?

While waterproof and water-resistant aren't synonymous, they roughly translate to "water won't ruin it".

Waterproof is the better of the two, as it usually carries an IP67 rating that means it can withstand to float in around a meter of water for a half-hour before it bites the dust. Water-resistant, on the other hand, means it could survive a splash or two, but it's not the kind of thing you'd just want to casually throw in the pool.

When hunting for the best waterproof speaker for the great outdoors, look for its IP rating. This is how water resistance gadgets are categorized. You'll see that IP mark, followed by two numbers – IP67 is one of the most common, and means the speaker can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. This is the one you want. 

Of course waterproofing isn't the only thing we looked for when picking out this list of top portable speakers. We also considered factors such as sound quality, price and feature set, all of which helped establish a set of criteria that we could measure all speakers against.

What you see below is the result of that effort – our definitive list of the 10 best wireless portable waterproof speakers.

Image credit: TechRadar

If you want a waterproof speaker that doesn't look like a waterproof speaker, get the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT.

It'll fit into a classy living room but has IP67 water resistance, letting it withstand a full-on dunk. This is also the best-sounding speaker of its size, with meaty bass and audio balance you might expect from a hifi master like Denon. There's an Envaya Mini if you want something smaller, too.

Any complaints? To make the water resistance work, the speaker has rubbery panels instead of clicky buttons, and they aren't half hard to depress sometimes. But if that isn't a minor quibble, what is?

Read the full review: Denon Envaya

Image credit: TechRadar

No speaker begs for the pool as much as the UE Wonderboom, because this waterproof unit comes with a little inflatable ring in the box to let it bob around in the swimming pool on your holiday.

It also stands well above its weight class, with weighty bass for a speaker so small, and music that sounds balanced and rich. You can even pair the Wonderboom with two devices simultaneously.

It may not have the largest soundstage and doesn’t have a speakerphone option, but the Wonderboom still ticks a lot of the right waterproof speaker boxes.  

Read the full review: UE Wonderboom

Image credit: TechRadar

The JBL Charge 3 presents an incredibly attractive package. This speaker features a battery that can last more than 20 hours – and can even charge your phone in a pinch – and it also features the meatiest bass out of all the waterproof Bluetooth speakers in this list.

The JBL Charge isn’t exactly the most lightweight speaker in the world, but if you’re a bass head and you don’t mind adding a bit of weight to your bag, the Charge 3 might just be for you. 

Read the full review: JBL Charge 3

Image credit: Ultimate Ears

The UE Boom 3 is one of the best Bluetooth speakers money can buy in 2019. This is a speaker that can get loud and not distort at higher volumes; be light enough to carry on the move but remain durable enough to tumble in a bag unprotected. 

It's water-proof as well as dust-proof, and  has a one-touch mix button that lets you pull up your favorite playlists without needing to pick up your smartphone. 

There are certainly more detailed speakers out there (see: Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin down below), but at a price that's relatively affordable to all, the UE Boom 3 hits all the right notes for the third year in a row. 

Ultimate Ears now lets you customize your UE Boom 3, so you have even more options when it comes to color and pattern combinations.

Read the full review: UE Boom 3

Image credit: TechRadar

If you still don’t know about Fugoo, you’re certainly missing out on some of the best waterproof speakers in the world. The Fugoo Style not only offers the longest battery life of any speaker on this list (40 hours!), but it also comes in at a tiny one pound.

Fugoo’s design philosophy is to offer different ‘jackets’ (Style, Tough or Sport) to fit around its ‘core’ speaker to fit different styles. The Fugoo Style waterproof speaker offers a great blend of size, sound fidelity and battery life for an affordable price.

Read the full review: Fugoo Style

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the UE Wonderboom 

Image credit: TechRadar

In terms of sheer audio prowess, the JBL Pulse 3 was a pleasant surprise. While it’s light show may lead you to believe that it’s all a gimmick, the Pulse 3 actually offers a very well balanced tonal balance: Highs have good extension but are a little rolled off. Bass offers good slam and texture, but bleeds into the mids a little.

If you’re not an audiophile, none of this matters – it sounds darn good and gets loud, making it the perfect companion for your next pool party. If you want a great sounding Bluetooth speaker that’s both waterproof and a conversation piece, the JBL Pulse 3 is the speaker to get. 

Read the full review: JBL Pulse 3

Image credit: TechRadar

The UE Megaboom is at the very peak of Ultimate Ears’ line of waterproof Bluetooth speakers. Its larger size means that the Megaboom can get loud and can last up to 20 hours at a sensible volume.

Bass is stronger and richer than its smaller UE Boom 2 and Wonderboom brothers, and this is the speaker for anybody who wants to really blare their music at a party. For people who want to save some cash, however, the JBL Charge 3 is half the price and performs similarly.  

Read the full review: UE Megaboom

Image credit: TechRadar

Bose is well known for making fantastic sounding audio equipment, and the SoundLink Color II is no different. This small speaker packs a stealthy punch, providing deep bass with a nice impact, but it obviously can’t match the sound of the larger waterproof speakers in this list.

Now, while the SoundLink Color II sounds great, you should note that it’s not entirely waterproof. It’ll survive splashes and rain, but you don’t want to drop it in the bath, so be aware of that before buying.

Read the full review: Bose SoundLink Color II

Image credit: TechRadar

The UE Roll 2 offers a unique disk form factor that’s perfect for taking to the pool. The waterproof speaker comes with its own float, which lets you listen to and control your tunes in the pool, something no other speaker on this list can do.

It might not sound quite as good as the UE Wonderboom, as it’s lacking in the bass department, but it’s still a solid sounding speaker. If you don’t care about the form factor and float, however, the UE Wonderboom is the better buy. 

Read the full review: UE Roll 2

Image credit: TechRadar

The Fugoo Go is a unique waterproof Bluetooth speaker that comes with a built-in bungee cord, like the UE Roll 2, to help you mount it to different things. The Go can also pair with another Go speaker to play in stereo, something that other speakers on this list can’t do.

Sure, UE allows you to pair up multiple speakers for more volume, but you won’t get true stereo playback. While we recommend the Fugoo Style for its class-leading battery life and excellent sound, the Fugoo Go is a good alternative for a lower price if you need a waterproof speaker.

Read the full review: Fugoo Go

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the UE Roll 2 

Categories: Tech News

The best free iPhone apps of 2019

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 07:48

You've got an iPhone, and have ventured into the melee of Apple's App Store, which has well over a million apps.

Great news! Many of them are free. Not so great news! You've got to sift through them to work out the very best. Fortunately, that's what we're here for, listing them here.

Our selection’s sorted into handy categories, so whether you need a no-cost photo editor, translation app, sat-nav or anything else, you can just jump straight to the relevant category.

Click through to the following pages for each category, but first check out our free iPhone app of the week below, and make sure you give this page a cheeky bookmark so you can keep up with our latest free iPhone app pick every seven days.

Free iPhone app of the week: Simple Scales

Simple Scales is a weight tracker that feels like something Steve Jobs would have approved of. Legend states in a meeting he drew a rectangle with a button labeled ‘BURN’ on a whiteboard, and told the iDVD team that’s what they were going to make. Simple Scales is similarly stripped back.

The app syncs with HealthKit. On opening the app, you drag to input a new weight, and tap a button to save it. If HealthKit already has some of your other data, Simple Scales displays your BMI. If you have an Apple Watch, the process works pretty much identically, but from your wrist.

This is almost extreme minimalism, but with zero fuss, no price tag and a nicely usable UI, it’s a weight-tracking app you’ll actually want to use.

The best free iPhone video editors and animation apps

These are our favorite free iPhone apps for quickly editing videos, GIFs and Live Photos, and for creating stop-motion animation.

Enlight Pixaloop

Enlight Pixaloop enables you to animate your photos. This is achieved through you manually drawing ‘path’ arrows to define the direction of animation, and setting anchors to keep other areas of your image rooted to the spot. Tap the play button and you get something akin to a cinemagraph – only based on a single still image, rather than dozens of shots or a video.

Whatever you create can be exported to Photos as a video (sadly, there’s no animated GIF option), but there’s plenty more you can add first, including camera wobble, overlay effects and automated moving skies. Some of those features work better than others, but the entire package is a great way to bring your photos to life. Note that there’s subscription IAP lurking, although you don’t need to pay to get a lot out of this app.

Moodelizer

Moodelizer is a one-trick pony – but it’s quite a trick. It enables you to add custom soundtracks to videos – and all you need is a single finger.

You select a genre, and ‘rehearse’ playback by dragging your finger around the square viewfinder. Move up to increase the music’s intensity increases and move right to adjust variation. You can perform rehearsals using the viewfinder or with an existing video loaded from your Camera Roll.

Just messing about with the audio alone is fun, but it all properly comes together when making a video. Now, when you’re shooting yet another clip of your cat being mildly amusing, Moodelizer can add much-needed excitement by way of rousing club music or head-banging guitar riffs.

Vue

Vue is a video editor whose initial incarnation was an odd mix of intriguing and ridiculous. In short, it was designed to give you six seconds of fame by snapping an ultra-short video comprising three shots.

Fortunately, Vue is relaxed a bit now – and all the better for it. The app still prefers brevity, but will allow movies of up to three minutes in length and can load existing videos from your iPhone, too. Once your miniature masterpiece is done, it’s possible to add filters and stickers, overlay subtitles, and mess around with zooming and adjustment sliders.

The app still feels a touch rigid compared to the likes of Clips, but Vue’s sense of focus and style – along with the sharing network that underpins everything – makes it worth checking out.

Clips

Clips is a video-editing app geared towards making content for sharing on social media. To that end, it eschews convention (widescreen, standard titles, typical editing tracks) and attempts to infuse plenty of fun into a streamlined, straightforward editing process.

You can record directly in the app or import existing videos. In either case, you can overlay stickers and live captions that appear as the subject speaks, and apply filters for a different look. Posters serve as a replacement for titles, helping with pacing and context in a way that’s much more interesting, animated and editable.

For iPhone X users, there’s an extra treat: animated 3D selfie scenes. These can transport you into a number of stylized landscapes, including neon cityscapes and ships from Star Wars. The effect is mesmerizing to the point where the app’s worth picking up for selfie scenes alone.

Squigglish!

Squigglish! is a very silly drawing app, on account of the fact that its brush strokes wiggle. There’s quite the variety on offer, too, from thick, snaking, gloopy lines that just jiggle a little, to spiky electrified offerings that give the impression that your artwork has just been jabbed into a socket.

Given its oddball toolset, you’re probably not going to use Squigglish! as the basis for some highbrow iPhone art. But because you can import a photo, it’s perfect fodder for making yourself or a friend look vaguely ridiculous, with some silly blue hair, a pair of wibbly glasses, and the kind of animated mustache Dali would have killed for.

Naturally, your tiny animated masterpiece can be exported to GIF or a movie.

Motion Stills

Motion Stills aims to help you do more with the Live Photos you shoot on your iPhone. Apple’s own Photos app, of course, provides options for adjusting how these images animate – but this Google offering does far more.

On giving the app permission to view your photos, it will display a scrollable feed of pictures that animate as you browse. This alone makes Motion Stills worth a download, not least because the app applies stabilization technology to your Live Photos, eradicating wobble.

But with a few quick swipes you can quickly select a number of Live Photos, which can then be transformed into a tiny movie. Alternatively, you can turn Live Photos into collages, or add text and emoji to your favorites. In short, Motion Stills feels like the Live Photos editor Apple forgot to make itself.

Loop by Seedling

If you lack the patience for working with full-on stop motion apps, but nonetheless fancy yourself as a mini-Aardman, Loop by Seedling is just the ticket.

You shoot frames using your camera, and can handily overlay your previous photo in semi-transparent form, to ensure everything is properly lined up.

Once you're done, you can play your photos as an animation, where tools are available to adjust the frame rate, add a filter, and mess about with grid collages, creating a Warhol-like animated GIF to share.

The interface is a bit opaque – quite a lot of controls need to be 'discovered' before you become comfortable with using this app.

But once you know where everything is, Loop becomes a smart and efficient way to create charming miniature animations; amusingly, it also works within Messages, so you can reply to friends with a tiny movie should you consider the written word passé.

Quik

If you like the idea of editing home movies but are a modern-day being with no time or attention span, try Quik. The app automates the entire process, enabling you to create beautiful videos with a few taps and show off to your friends without needing talent - surely the epitome of today's #hashtag generation.

All you need do is select some videos and photos, and choose a style. Quik then edits them into a great-looking video you can share with friends and family. But if your inner filmmaker hankers for a little more control, you can adjust the style, music, format and pace, along with trimming clips, reordering items, and adding titles to get the effect you desire.

Cementing its friendly nature, Quik offers a little pairs minigame for you to mess about with while the app renders your masterpiece. And there's even a weekly 'For You' video Quik compiles without you lifting a finger.

Animatic

If you used to sit there at school, doodling flick-animation masterpieces in the corner of your jotter, Animatic is the iPhone equivalent. You use simple tools to scribble on a small canvas, and then build your animation frame-by-frame.

The app uses a basic onion-skin approach, meaning you can see the previous few frames faintly behind the current one, ensuring whatever you draw doesn't lurch all over the place. Once you're done, you can adjust the animation speed of your creation and export it to video or GIF.

Given that you're scribbling with what amounts to the iPhone equivalent of felt pens, you won't be crafting the next Pixar movie here. But Animatic is fun, a great way to get into animation, and a useful sketchpad for those already dabbling. The app also includes a bunch of demos, showcasing what's possible with a little time, effort and imagination.

Splice

We're big fans of iMovie. Apple's video editor for iPhone is usable and powerful. In our lazier moments, we also really like Replay, which takes a bunch of videos and edits them on your behalf. But there are times when you hanker for a middle ground, and that's where Splice fits in.

Getting started is simple — select some videos and photos to import (from your Camera Roll, or online sources like Facebook and Google Photos), along with, optionally, a soundtrack. Name your project, choose an orientation, and the app lays out your clips. These can be reordered by drag and drop, and transitions can be adjusted with a couple of taps.

If you want to delve deeper, individual clips can be trimmed and cut, and you can apply effects. Several filters are included, as is a speed setting, and the means to overlay text.

These tools perhaps won't worry the Spielbergs of this world, but a few minutes in Splice can transform a few random iPhone clips into something quite special — and all without a price-tag or even any advertising.

  • See how a free VPN app can help keep your iPhone more secure
The best free iPhone sketching and design apps

Our favorite free iPhone apps for drawing, sketching, painting, layout and animation.

Vectornator

Vectornator squeezes a pro-quality vector illustration app into your iPhone. Load up one of the example images, or a blank canvas, and you’ll have access to a wide range of tools and settings. The app is usable and fluid in action, whether you’re working on a template for an app or a vector doodle.

Even the largest of iPhones lacks the iPad’s screen acres, and so there are some interface compromises. Some icons are perhaps a touch small, for example, but settings sit out of sight until you need them, appearing as a tabbed menu in portrait, or a slide-in panel in landscape.

Even when drawing with your fingers, Vectornator proves to be friendly and sleek. With a stylus, it’s superb – and a great way to free yourself from the desktop. That it’s free is astonishing.

Clarity Wallpaper

Clarity Wallpaper aims to get beautiful wallpapers on your iPhone’s home and lock screens. The main Featured feed houses all kinds of top-notch pics – although some sit behind a ‘magazine’ IAP of more heavily curated artwork.

More custom options sit behind the editor button: Blurs and masks (gradients atop a picture) can be created without limitation for free; dozens of color-only gradients are also available for selection. Everything can be tested against a preview home screen prior to saving. 

Doing more (custom gradients, screens with text and custom frames) requires a one-off $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 ‘Pro’ IAP. But even if you stick with the free version, there’s no doubting this is an excellent app for quickly getting some sleek, effective wallpaper for your iPhone.

Paper

Paper is a sketching tool based around jotting down ideas quickly. Your drawings are stored in little digital notebooks, which you can open and flip through. Tap a page and you can scribble with a finger or stylus using the app’s selection of brushes.

There’s a smattering of additional handy tools in the free version, most notably the ability to add text notes to any picture, and the means to export a note or book. However, some features sit behind monthly IAP, including photo import, copy/paste, and auto-correct when drawing geometric shapes and lines.

Despite these limitations – and the app rather oddly reorienting your sketches on iPhone when you return to browsing – Paper remains one of the most pleasing apps of its kind, not least if you retain a fondness for real-life versions of the little notepads the app depicts.

WhatTheFont

WhatTheFont is a tool for identifying typefaces, and it’s extremely simple to use. You can either load an image from your iPhone or take a photo using the app. It figures out where all the words are within a few seconds, or you can drag out a selection yourself. You then tap on a selected word, and the app scoots off to find matches.

The likelihood of perfect matches is slim – it depends on having a very clear image to start with, and the font being available on the MyFonts service – but during testing, the app was bang-on several times. Even when it wasn’t, it offered up something that at least captured the flavor of our original font.

Whether you’re a jobbing designer or someone who puts together the odd newsletter, WhatTheFont is an excellent freebie.

Canva

Canva is a graphic design tool for the rest of us. It’s not going to send professionals scurrying for the shadows, but with its mix of templates, filters, and editable design elements, it gives the average iPhone owner a fighting chance of working up an invite or poster during a lunch hour.

Layouts are smartly targeted and categorized, and move beyond typical posters, greetings cards and flyers into social media territory (Twitter headers, Instagram posts and blog posts), and even business (cards, logos and presentations).

You can import photos, add text, and fiddle around with a wide range of drag-and-drop elements before sharing directly to social media, or saving your work to your iPhone.

For anyone who wants to design something for their burgeoning home business, or just for fun, Canva is a great place to start.

Arty

Arty initially resembles yet another filter app – and, to be fair, it does have a bunch of filters lurking that can turn a photo sepia, or make it so vibrant that your eyes hurt. But this one’s mostly about its other tools, which have been carefully designed for jobbing artists working with real-world media.

There’s a grid, and various image-tweaking settings to fine-tune a photo for the magic bit, which is comparing your photo with whatever’s lurking under your iPhone’s camera.

So if you’re in the midst of making a lifelike drawing from a reference photo, your iPhone can now be a handy guide to see how you’re getting on, rather than a tool primarily for procrastination.

8bit Painter

With 8bit Painter, you can pretend a couple of decades of technology evolution never happened, and create digital images like it’s 1984. On firing up the app, you select a canvas size – from a truly tiny 16 x 16 pixels, all the way up to a comparatively gargantuan 128 x 128. You’re then faced with a grid and a small selection of tools.

There’s nothing especially advanced here – this isn’t Pixaki for iPhone, and it lacks that tool’s layers and animation smarts. But you do get the basics – pencil; flood fill; eraser; color selection – needed for tapping out a tiny artistic masterpiece.

And, importantly, you can pinch-zoom the canvas for adding fine details, and export your image at scaled-up sizes, so it’s not minuscule when viewed elsewhere. For a freebie, this one’s pretty great.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch

Adobe apparently has no interest in bringing full Photoshop to iPhone, but the brand’s focused Photoshop-branded apps offer a smattering of the desktop product’s power in the palm of your hand. Adobe Photoshop Sketch is a drawing and painting tool, designed for anyone who fancies dabbling in natural media.

Select a canvas and you can work with virtual pens, markers, acrylic, ink and watercolor. Acrylic is nicely gloopy, and watercolor can be realistically blended as it bleeds into the ‘paper’. A layers system provides scope for complex art, and stencils enable precision when required.

For free, the app’s hard to beat; and for Creative Cloud subscribers, work can be exported to layered PSD for further refinement in full-fat desktop Photoshop.

Brushes Redux

Back in 2009, Jorge Colombo did some deft iPhone finger painting using Brushes, and the result became a New Yorker cover.

It was a turning point for iOS and suitably handy ammunition for tech bores who'd been drearily banging on about the fact an iPhone could never be used for proper work. The app sadly stagnated, but was made open source and returned as Brushes Redux.

Now free, it's still a first-rate art app, with a simple layers system, straightforward controls, and a magnificent brush editor that starts you off with a random creation and enables you to mess about with all manner of properties, from density to jitter.

Assembly

Developer Pixite is best known for its eye-popping filter apps, and so Assembly was quite the surprise. The app is all about building vector art from shapes.

Individual components are dropped on to the canvas, and can then be grouped or have styles applied. It feels a bit like the iPhone equivalent of playing with felt shapes, but you soon realise that surprisingly complex compositions are possible, not least when you view the 'inspirations' tab or start messing about with the 'remix' projects.

For free, you get loads of stuff to play with, but inexpensive IAP unlocks all kinds of bundles with new themed shape sets to explore.

Marvel

It's interesting to see how far the App Store has come. Time was, Apple banned apps that gave you the chance to build prototypes. Now, Marvel is welcomed by Apple, and is entirely free.

Using the app, you can build on photographed sketches, Photoshop documents, or on-screen scribbles. Buttons can be added, and screens can be stitched together.

Once you're done, your prototype can be shared. If you're not sure where to start, check out existing prototypes made by the Marvel community.

The best free iPhone camera apps and photo editors

Our favorite free iPhone cameras, photo editors and filter effects apps.

sok-edit

sok-edit is a collage app that doubles down on immediacy. Instead of neatly aligning photos to a grid, it’s the digital equivalent of hacking photos to bits with scissors, and sticking them on other photos for purposes of amusement and creativity.

The app is tactile and noisy. You drag to cut out elements, which can then be rotated, resized, cloned and flipped. Most actions come with sound effects. It’s all a lot of fun.

The only minor snag is if you have too much fun – in the sense of using three layers – you have to watch an advert to add another object, or plump for the ‘pro’ IAP. Mind you, even the latter is a mere US$0.99/99p/AU$1.49, which seems like a bargain for unlimited collage larks.

Visionist

Visionist has quite a lot in common with Prisma, in that it’s using neural networks to transform photos into something resembling art. The main differences with Visionist are that it affords you a level of control Prisma does not, and it doesn’t drown you in IAP and endless filters.

In fact, you get just 10 (60 more sit behind a one-off US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 payment), but even those have a range that can turn the dullest snaps into something pretty amazing.

This is largely because you can adjust abstraction levels and how images interact; there’s support for Portrait images (and depth data is retained during export); and styles can be mixed and merged. It’s a world away from Prisma’s more simple interaction.

For bringing a little artistry to your photos, Visionist is well worth a download, then, whether you stick with the free version or plump for the IAP.

Infltr

Infltr started out as a photo filter app for people who considered choosing filters too much effort. You simply dragged your finger across the screen, and the chosen filter updated live. Simple. Fast. Random.

That tool still exists, but today it’s just one of several in a photo editor that increasingly has much in common with Snapseed. Now you can make all kinds of adjustments, from fiddling with brightness through to subtly altering perspective. Edits are non-destructive, and can therefore be reverted or changed later.

There are some limitations unless you’re willing to subscribe: no HD export, only saving three custom filters (rather than an unlimited number), and the odd locked tool. But the free version is nonetheless a must-have for iPhone photographers who fancy a great toolset with a dash of chance.

DailyFocus

DailyFocus wants you to spend five minutes every day becoming a better photographer. This is achieved by way of super-fast lessons – short videos that outline how to succeed regardless of what you face when armed with a camera. (We’re not kidding – at the time of writing, the day’s lesson was about lenses, but an upcoming one was “capturing eggs and bacon in motion”.)

The app gamifies your viewing, listing a daily streak total, and offering further encouragement by way of optional notifications – although be mindful those are sent 24 hours after you last used the app.

Also, DailyFocus emphasizes the ‘daily’ bit. There’s no archive – miss a video and it’s gone for good. This is likely because DailyFocus is in part a teaser for a CreativeLive subscription; but for the camera-curious and pro photographers alike, it’s a fab freebie too.

Retrica

Retrica is a camera app designed to bring creativity, randomness and character to your iPhone selfies and snaps. It’s packed full of filters, which can be manually added live or to existing photos – or randomly if you want to try your luck by prodding the shuffle button.

The filters are varied and interesting, and you can add blur and vignette effects. You can also quickly create multi-shot collages, which are automatically stitched together on a grid. There are GIF and video options too.

Perhaps inevitably, the app has its own a social network, and may as well scream “We really want to be Instagram!” Still, even if you never sign in, Retrica is a superb freebie iPhone camera.

Snapseed

Snapseed is a photo editor that marries simplicity and power. At its most basic, it can be a tool for loading a photo, selecting a filter (referred to here as ‘looks’), and exporting the result. But it’s when you delve into the app’s tools and stacks that its true potential becomes clear.

The tools menu, while a bit cluttered, offers a huge range of options for adjusting your photo. You can crop, adjust perspective, edit curves, and add all kinds of filters and effects.

But stacks are arguably Snapseed’s best component. The stack is where your edits live, each of which can be updated at any time.

This offers far more flexibility than editors that ‘burn in’ each change you make. Furthermore, you can save any combination of edits as a custom look – and use stacks to deconstruct pre-loaded ones. Brilliant stuff.

Sticky AI

Sticky AI is all about selfies. Shoot one (or a short video, by holding the shutter button) in the app, and Sticky AI will instantly remove its background – often with a frightening degree of accuracy.

You can then get to work, resizing and rotating your beautiful face, slapping on a text label, mucking about with colors and filters, and then sharing the result to your social networks of choice.

It’s naturally geared a bit towards the self-obsessed, but there’s plenty here to like: the technology’s mightily impressive, for one, but also Sticky AI neatly hangs on to your previous edits, so you can at any time peruse your collection and make a change to a favorite snap.

Bricks Camera

Bricks Camera is a novelty camera app that will strike a chord with anyone who has an affinity for plastic building blocks.

The app’s essentially a live filter. Through its camera, the world’s transformed into a universe of brightly colored ‘bricks’, the size of which you can adjust with a swipe. Hold down the shutter and you get a short video rather than a still. Also, if you’re not feeling the vibe in live mode, you can import a photo instead.

Your blocky masterpiece can be saved or shared – unfortunately only with a three-brick-wide watermark. If that bugs you, a one-off $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP banishes watermarks for good. Regardless, this is an entertaining (if admittedly slightly throwaway) camera freebie.

Emolfi

There’s no getting around the fact that Emolfi is ridiculous – but it’s also a lot of fun. Self-described as the “first empathic selfie app”, it has you take a photo of your face, whereupon the app’s wizardry attempts to figure out your mood. The app then cuts out the background and adjusts the rest of the image accordingly.

If you’re feeling happy, you might be surrounded by bubbles and sunshine. If you’re angry or scared, you’ll get something that looks like a horror movie, or a massive spider on your face with your eyes animating towards it in worried fashion.

It certainly beats yet another app unconvincingly transforming you into characters from fantasy and comic-book movies.

Famicam 64

If you wonder what your iPhone would be like if graphics technology hadn’t moved on from the age of the C64, Famicam 64 can enlighten you. This camera app uses live filtering to replicate the visuals you might once have seen on a classic games system – or other old-school kit like oscilloscopes.

Filters can have their properties adjusted, and you can add text, retro-oriented stickers, freeform scribbles, and borders to a photo, before sharing the results.

Note that some options are limited in the free version, and output adds a Famicam 64 banner to the bottom of the image. You can get rid of all that with the PLUS IAP ($0.99/£0.99/AU$1.99), but in either incarnation, Famicam 64 is a fun, quirky, usable way to do something different with your camera.

Adobe Photoshop Fix

Although creative giant Adobe doesn’t seem keen on bringing its desktop software to iPhone in one piece, we’re nonetheless getting chunks of its power reimagined as smaller, more focused apps. The idea behind Adobe Photoshop Fix is to enable you to rapidly retouch and restore photos on your iPhone – using the power of Photoshop.

Some of the features aren’t anything outside of the ordinary: you get commonplace tools for cropping, rotation, and adjustments. But Photoshop Fix has some serious power within its straightforward interface, too, as evidenced by excellent vignette, defocus, and color tools.

The best bit, though, is Liquify. Using this feature, you can mash a photo to bits or make really subtle changes, depending on the subject matter. And if you’re facing a portrait, you can specifically fiddle with features, in a manner usually associated with high-end PC software.

FaceRig

Following in the footsteps of MSQRD, FaceRig enables you to embody a virtual character by controlling it with your face.

Everything happens entirely automatically – you just select a character and background, gurn into the camera, watch a seemingly sentient floating hamburger mirror your very expression, and have a little sit down to think about the terrifying advance of technology.

For those not freaked out by the hamburger to the point that they hurl their iPhones into the sea, FaceRig provides plenty of characters, unlocked using tokens earned through regular use or bought using IAP.

You can also snap and share photos of your virtual visage, or record entire videos where you pretend you’ve turned into a sentient goggles-wearing raccoon, an angry dragon or a slightly irritated-looking turkey.

Prisma

Prisma wants to turn your photos into tiny works of art. Doing so is almost disarmingly simple: shoot or select a photo, crop your image, and choose an art style. (Options in the vast library of filters range from classic paintings through to comic book doodling.)

The app within a few seconds then transforms your photo into a miniature Picasso or Munch, and it’s instantly better than most of us could ever hope to achieve with Photoshop.

On trying Prisma with a range of imagery, we found it almost never comes up with a duff result, thanks to some insanely smart processing. But if you find the effects jarring, a slide of your finger can soften your chosen filter prior to sharing your masterpiece online.

The best free movie and entertainment apps for iPhone

Our favorite free iPhone apps for having fun, whether reading, coloring or watching TV.

Night Sky

Night Sky initially resembles every other astronomy app. Hold your iPhone in front of your face to view celestial bodies that are in a particular place, or rather more lazily scroll about the heavens with a finger. You get chill-out music, constellation illustrations, ‘time travel’, and information pages.

But Night Sky differentiates itself in how you can interact with objects. Double-tap a planet and it’s plucked from the sky and can be explored in isolation on your screen, or examined more closely by moving around it in AR. This works for constellations, too, enabling you to better understand the distance between component stars.

Add subscription IAP and you get an AR grand orrery, sky tours, and more; but even for free, Night Sky is an absolute must for budding astronomers.

Pocket

Pocket is a read-later system – time-shifting for the web. It’s designed to stop you clicking links all day, planning to read everything later, and then realizing at some point you have dozens of unread tabs.

With Pocket, you simply share pages to it from Safari (or on a desktop browser use the Pocket bookmarklet). When you have a data connection, open Pocket and it will quickly download everything. When reading, articles are stripped of cruft, leaving a mobile-optimized, reader-centric view.

Should you not be keen on the default set-up, it can be tweaked: fonts and colors can be adjusted, and there’s text-to-speech when you need to delve into articles eyes-free. Archives can be searched; and should you run out of things to read, Pocket has a Recommended tab you can check out to find something new. Perfect fodder for your daily commute.

JustWatch

JustWatch solves the problem of where to watch something. That might sound strange, but this is a common problem with modern television viewing – many shows are available on demand, but that’s no good if you’ve no idea what service they’re running on.

When searching for something specific, the app will list where it can be streamed or bought as appropriate. If you have the relevant app installed, you can head there with a tap. If you’re looking for something new, Popular and Browse tabs give you plenty of options, which can be quickly filtered by various criteria, and individual items can be stashed in the WatchList until later.

Given how decentralized television has become, JustWatch feels like a must-have install – a single, coherent tool for finding content from a range of providers.

Feedly

Feedly bills itself as a smart news reader. For old hands, it’s an RSS client. If you’re still making a confused face, it’s an app that enables you to subscribe to website news feeds, which then pipe headlines directly to your iPhone.

The net result is a kind of curated newspaper. You get content from sources you know and trust, and because stories are listed in order of publication, you’re safe in the knowledge that you won’t miss anything – unlike the semi-randomized avalanche of content that afflicts social media feeds.

The reading experience is clean and simple too – just text and images for sites that provide full articles within feeds, and a built-in browser for those that don’t. And when you find something that’s just too good to keep to yourself, there are plenty of sharing options.

IKEA Place

IKEA Place is ultimately a virtual catalog for the chain of furniture stores with a predilection for massive blue buildings, but it also happens to be an app at the forefront of augmented reality, showcasing the future of shopping.

Select a piece of furniture and you can place it in your room. The app will also enable you to point your iPhone’s camera at a product elsewhere and find something similar on the store.

This could be considered aggressive marketing, but with a little thought, you quickly realize how useful the app can be, even if you’re not planning on buying anything.

If you’re wondering whether a second chair or bookcase would work in your room, use this app to give you an idea rather than bringing something home and then finding that it doesn’t fit.

Letterboxd

Letterboxd is a social app for people who love films. Sign in and you can see what friends have been watching, bellyache about the latest Hollywood blockbuster that totally offended your viewing sensibilities, and comment on other people’s reviews.

Or if that fills you with horror, you can ignore the social bit entirely, and just use Letterboxd as a really savvy movie tracker. Search for films and add them to your watch list; once you’ve seen one, give it a rating. That way, you won’t end up 30 minutes into a cinematic disaster before realizing you’d already suffered through it before.

Two apps for the price of none, Letterboxd is pretty great whichever way you use it.

Notcho

Notcho is one of the cheekier apps on the App Store, and would have perhaps best been named “Notch? NO!” In short, it’s designed to hide the divisive iPhone X notch. It does this by making clever edits to wallpaper, adding curved corners that hide the notch within a black bar.

The wallpaper creation bit is pretty good, with various fit options, and the option to stick with straight edges or less pronounced corners, if you don’t want to ape the iPhone X’s curves. Bizarrely, you can also add the notch back in if you want to.

Saved wallpapers do have a watermark unless you stump up for a one-off $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP, but otherwise this is an essential app we wish could somehow extend to the rest of iOS.

JigSpace

JigSpace is an education app that reasons we learn things better in 3D, on the basis that this is how we experience the real world. And that’s a good point. It’s all very well to learn how a car’s transmission works by reading about it, or even pore over an exploded illustration in a book. But being able to fiddle around with a real engine is much more helpful.

This app isn’t quite that level of magical, but it does use iOS’s augmented reality smarts to project various objects onto a flat surface. These can then be explored and fiddled around with, in a manner that hints at the future of anything from repair manuals to textbooks.

And even though you’ll perhaps exhaust the items on offer fairly quickly, JigSpace is a nicely immersive educational experience while it lasts.

WLPPR

WLPPR is a wallpaper app that’s apparently not keen on vowels. But what it lacks in letters, it makes up for with beautiful satellite imagery, which you can save to Photos and later apply to your home or lock screens.

Unlike many wallpaper apps, WLPPR has been crafted with care and respect. Every image has a credit but also explanatory copy regarding what you’re looking at. You can bookmark favorites for later, apply a custom blur, and download imagery in standard or ‘parallax’ sizes.

Neatly, there’s a preview mode, too. Tap the eye icon and you can load a realistic-looking home or lock screen to see how your wallpaper would look. Not convinced? Swipe to get the next one.

Note that WLPPR is a freemium app, with IAP for extra photo sets; but for free you get dozens of high-quality pics – more than enough for most – and even more if you’re happy to spam your social media feed one time.

Pigment

With its large display and the Apple Pencil, the iPad seems the natural home for a coloring app like Pigment. But if you fancy doing the odd bit of coloring-in when you need to relax, Pigment’s great to also have installed on the device you always have in your pocket.

Even on the smaller screen, it excels. You get quick access to a set of top-notch coloring tools, and a range of intricate illustrations to work on. Sure, buy a subscription and you gain access to a much bigger range; but for free, you still get an awful lot.

Amusingly, the app also offers options for staying inside the lines. By default, Pigment automatically detects what you’re trying to color and assists accordingly – but you can go fully manual if you wish!

Wikipedia

Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia is an app for browsing Wikipedia, the massive online encyclopedia that makes all paper-based equivalents green with envy. It’s the official app by Wikipedia and is easily the best free option, and only rivaled by one paid alternative we’re aware of (the rather fine V for Wikipedia).

Wikipedia gets the basics right: an efficient, readable layout; fast access to your browsing history; a home page full of relevant and potentially new articles. But it’s all the small things that really count.

Save an article for later and it’s also stored offline. Finding the text a bit small? You can resize it in two taps.

Also, if you’ve a fairly new iPhone, 3D Touch is well-supported: home screen quick actions provide speedy access to search and random articles; and when reading in the app, the Peek gesture previews a link, and an upwards swipe displays a button you can tap to save it for later.

Onefootball

Although most fans want to cheer on their soccer team by hollering from the stands or, second best, yelling at a TV in a pub, that's not always possible. When you're otherwise busy, Onefootball is a great means of keeping track of your favorites.

The app's a cinch to set up. Choose your teams, allow Onefootball to send notifications, and then let the app work its magic. On match days, you'll be notified of every goal, which, depending on your team's fortunes, may make you thrill at or dread hearing the notification sound.

If you at any point need a little more detail, venture into the app and you'll discover everything from live tickers to customized news feeds.

eBay

eBay needs no introduction. But if you’ve just clambered free from a pile of boxes that fell on you in the mid–1990s, then: 1) probably tidy up a bit more often, and; 2) you can likely offload some of your junk on eBay.

Although originally designed for the desktop, eBay’s a far more pleasant experience on the iPhone. You can zip through searches of its vast marketplace, and get notifications when auctions are nearly up or when you’re outbid.

Selling’s a breeze, too. If your item has a barcode, scan it, take a photo of the item, and you’re good to go. Just be mindful that buying’s even easier than selling, and so don’t end up filling your home with more unnecessary tat the second you manage to offload some.

The best free health, diet and exercise apps for iPhone

Our favorite free iPhone apps for forming great habits, cooking, exercising and meditating.

Enjo

Enjo is a wellness app designed for adults, framed as a chat app. The idea is to help people remember good things whenever they are feeling down.

The app starts off by engaging you in basic conversation. It will initially ask if you’ve got a partner, but will subsequently interrogate you about ways in which you keep stress at bay, and things specific family members did that you loved.

You’ve probably by now clocked the mechanics: the app effectively builds a database of content it can serve to you in context when you’re feeling down. Naturally, this isn’t a replacement for therapy, but as a slice of mindful reflection, using a modern style of communication we all know so well these days, it hits the spot.

Oak - Meditation & Breathing

Oak - Meditation & Breathing is a relaxation aid with no time for complexity and price tags – two things rivals often revel in, despite how they can (ironically) increase stress levels. Here, you choose between three options: meditate, breathe, and sleep.

The three breathing exercises provide techniques for unwinding and boosting alertness. Meditation options cater for beginners and old-hands alike, with guided and unguided sessions across a range of durations. And if you can’t switch off in bed, a guided breathing session helps you fall asleep.

Oak’s sense of elegance and focus is what sets it apart. This is an app that cuts to the chase, and immediately gets you on the path to a better you. And the Growth area helps keep you there, with tracking, stats, and achievements.

Tasty

Tasty gives you a modern spin on cookery apps, through a splash of color, and a large dollop of video.

It starts off much like any other iPhone app: you can filter searches to specific dish types and dietary requirements; all the while, lush photography of tasty treats attempts to lure you in. But when you open a recipe page, Tasty dispenses with convention by immediately showing how the dish is made – in super-fast fashion.

These tightly edited videos are like cookery TV with all the cruft removed, and they beat photographic stills because they show elements of technique.

Smartly, although you can check out vanilla step-by-step instructions, it’s also possible to view individual steps alongside a relevant video clip. This should ensure you won’t go wrong and cook up a culinary catastrophe.

Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind is a straightforward, approachable meditation app that wants you to slow down a bit and embrace mindfulness. It starts off with a simple exercise that introduces the concept, before getting you started with short practice sessions. But if you’re already familiar with this kind of thing, you can jump right into a range of programs.

As you use the app, it urges you to input how you feel, and tracks your progress over time. Also, along with providing programs for adults, the app offers exercises designed for children.

Most importantly, though, everything about Smiling Mind feels calming, from the stylish interface to its lack of a price-tag. Whereas rivals go for wallet-thumping subscriptions, Smiling Mind is by a non-profit; it’s intent only on relieving you of stress rather than money.

Habitica

Habitica is a to-do list tracker. But before your eyes glaze over, Habitica does something very different in this particular app category, transforming boring lists into a game.

The idea is that you input all the things you need to sort, including one-off items and daily goals. As you check off tasks, your little on-screen avatar gets powered-up, acquiring armor, pets, skills, and quests. Get some friends suitably invested and you can battle monsters alongside them – or just keep everyone honest.

In short, this app makes productivity fun. And while there’s some satisfaction deleting an item from a boring bullet-point list, it’s a lot more interesting when taking the trash out results in your tiny hero beaming with delight at their shiny new sword.

Sweat Deck

Sweat Deck reimagines exercise routines as a deck of cards. You assign exercises to certain suits, and lob in a couple of ‘jokers’ for good measure. The app then has you define how many cards/reps you want to try your hand at.

The app’s semi-random nature keeps you on your toes (or hands and back, depending on the exercise). If you draw a three of spades, that might mean three squats; then a nine of diamonds could mean nine push-ups. It’s a novel interface that’s a bit different from other iPhone exercise apps.

Sweat Deck could do with a way to switch cards other than tapping the screen (shouting perhaps), but you can always use prodding your iPhone as an excuse to rest for a few seconds, having suitably worked up a sweat by that point.

TaoMix 2

There are plenty of ambient noise products on the App Store, designed to help you relax, or to distract you from surrounding hubbub. TaoMix 2 is one of the best, due to its gorgeous interface and the flexibility of the soundscapes you create.

You start off with a blank canvas, to which you drag noises that are represented as neon discs. These can be recolored and resized, and positioned wherever you like on the screen. A circle is then placed to balance the mix, or flicked to meander about, so the various sounds ebb and flow over time.

For free, you get eight sounds, can save custom mixes, and can even import your own recordings. Many dozens of additional sounds are available via various affordable IAP.

White Noise+

If you need some ambient noise around you, White Noise+ proves an excellent app for blocking out distractions. The free version offers a small selection of sounds to soothe your soul – white noise, rain, wind, thunder, and wind chimes.

To create some ambience, you simply drag one or more noise icons to an on-screen grid; the items towards the top play at a higher volume, and those towards the right become more complex in nature. Happen upon an especially pleasing combination and you’re able to save your mix for later use.

The app smartly includes built-in mixes to provide a little inspiration – and to showcase a wider range of sounds that’s available via IAP. A single $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 purchase also removes the ad bar, unlocks a sleep timer, alarm, and dark mode, and allows you to fiddle with the 15 additional sounds – in both the bundled mixes and also your own creations.

But whether you pay or not, the combination of excellent sounds and a modern, usable interface make White Noise+ a best-in-class product on the iPhone.

Round Health

You might not associate taking medication with a hip and cool iPhone, but technology can be a boon to anyone with such requirements. Round Health offers great pill tracking and dosage notifications – and it doesn’t do any harm that the app also happens to be gorgeous.

It’s split into three sections: in My Medicine, you add medications, and for each you can define a name, strength, individual doses, and schedules based around reminder windows of up to three hours. In Today, you view and log the day’s medication.

Flexible preferences enable you to set up cross-device sync, push notifications, and to export data - and reminding users to refill will be a real help too.

That the app is free is generous, given the job it does – and how well it does it. Also, the system is flexible enough that Round Health might work as a reminders system for other repeating tasks, albeit one in which jobs are labelled as ‘taken’ rather than ‘done’!

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock

The science of sleep is something few people delve into. But you know some days that you wake up and feel awful, even if you think you've had a decent night's sleep. Sleep Cycle might be able to tell you why. It analyses you while you sleep, using sound or motion, and provides detailed statistics when you wake.

Additionally, it'll constantly figure out what phase of sleep you're in, attempting to wake you at the best possible time, in a gentle, pleasing manner.

That probably all sounds a bit woo-woo, but here's the thing: this app actually works, from the graphing bits through to helping you feel refreshed and relaxed on waking up.

Runkeeper

Runkeeper has been around since the App Store’s earliest days, and has gradually transformed from a then-magical means of tracking runs using your iPhone’s GPS, to a combination of personal trainer and community, providing everything you need to keep yourself fit.

It still does the basics very well. Head out for a run (or a walk or cycling session), and the app will provide a clear view of your training in real-time. (And we mean that: the stats are in large enough type to see from across the street.)

But it’s the other features that make Runkeeper really special: training plans; iTunes integration; custom challenges for friends; and a stopwatch mode for indoor activities and workouts. Unfortunately, it can’t actually do the exercise for you – so you’ll still have to work up a sweat yourself.

The best free iPhone apps for kids and toddlers

Our favorite free iPhone interactive experiences and learning aids for toddlers and children.

Tankee

Tankee is a video-streaming platform designed for kids who want to watch videos about gaming. It strips out social networking and comments, and also – crucially – has a real person watch every video that’s made available.

The downside is that this limits Tankee to a few hundred hours of content (although this is growing all the time); but you can at least know the videos will be age-appropriate, and algorithms won’t make horrific recommendations after your kid has delved into some Minecraft tips.

Everything can be browsed for free, right from the off. Create an account and your child can choose an avatar, save favorites, follow channels, and hammer smiley buttons at lightning speed when they like a particularly good bit of a video.

Wonderbly Story Time Books

Wonderbly Story Time Books is an iPhone take on a personalized illustrated children’s book. The story centers on a child’s magical quest to find their forgotten name, and each letter has its own beautifully realized miniature adventure.

In fact, each letter has more than one scene, which means there’s no duplication even if your kid has the unlikely name ‘Daaaaavid’. The only minor snag on iPhone is the text is sometimes a bit small. You can use a zoom gesture, but the second you let go, the page snaps back into place.

Still, should you want to free your book from the confines of your iPhone, you can order a printed version. And should you want to revisit previous adventures in digital form, they remain stored inside the app.

Peek-a-Zoo

Peek-a-Zoo doesn’t look like much at first, given that every scene essentially features simplistic cartoon animals atop a flat slab of color, but you soon appreciate how much imagination has gone into this basic setup when you watch a child using the app.

It’s all down to the questions, which challenge a toddler to find the right animal. They’ll be asked things like who’s dressed up (which character has the hat), who’s winking, or who’s trying to hide. That last one makes brilliant use of the minimalist graphics, ‘hiding’ an animal by matching its body to the game’s background.

It’s all very sweet-natured, and has surprising range given how simple it is. That’s something to appreciate – a free children’s app that’s free from cruft and ads.

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales

Toca Tailor Fairy Tales turns your child into a designer and stylist. On selecting a character to clothe, they can then drag and swipe to give them a beautiful new outfit.

Well, ‘beautiful’ might be a stretch. The mix-and-match nature of the app offers equal potential for eye-searing garish fashion disasters. This is especially true when you delve into the materials section, zooming and rotating textures, or adding new ones by way of the camera.

Garments can be adjusted in other ways, too – tap to switch to a different type, or drag to change something’s length. Last of all, there are accessories to give the model a perfect final touch – or a very silly hat.

Laugh & Learn™ Shapes & Colors

Laugh & Learn™ Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby is an interactive experience designed for very young children. Level 1 should be approachable enough even for a six-month-old you’re brave enough to arm with your worryingly expensive iPhone; they can tilt and tap to make shapes appear and bounce around the screen.

Level 2 is squarely designed at toddlers. The app chirps “Let’s put on a show!” as shapes dance and jump about on the screen. This is augmented by jaunty earworms that will burrow into your skull, while your tiny human makes their own live remix by prodding at a colorful piano keyboard. It’ll drive you bonkers, but the smile on that little face will be worth it. Probably.

Lego Creator Islands

Lego Creator Islands might seem like an odd choice for inclusion here, since parents would most likely sooner see their children playing with plastic bricks rather than virtual ones on an iPhone. But when the real thing isn’t available, this official game does the business.

It all takes place on the titular islands, which you explore to collect bricks that act as a kind of in-game currency. These can then be used to acquire Lego sets that are constructed with a few deft taps.

The selection is fairly small, but even so you can over time build a rather nice set of islands, featuring houses, roaming animals and dinosaurs, and vehicles blazing about the place. Also, there’s no chance of getting a plastic brick embedded in your foot.

Green Riding Hood

Green Riding Hood subverts a much-loved fairy tale, re-imagining Grandma as a hip yoga teacher, and having the Big Bad Wolf gradually learn how tasty healthy food is. Which might all sound a bit like brainwashing for tiny people if the story bit wasn’t so well designed.

Each little scene in the book is interactive, so you can tap animals to make them exercise, have the wolf angrily lob a bone into the forest, or – our favorite – fashion a cacophony as the animals try to wake a dozing granny with whatever objects they have to hand.

Beyond the book, you get some recipes and stickers for free. If all that takes your fancy, IAPs unlock exercise and dance routines – but, really, just the fairy tale bit alone makes this one very much worth a download.

The best free music and audio apps for iPhone

Our favorite free iPhone apps for playing songs, listening to podcasts, making music and being a virtual DJ.

AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer

AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer is perhaps the most audacious synth you’re ever going to see on iPhone. That’s not because it’s full of knobs to twiddle, and amazing sounds – although Synth One is blessed with an abundance of both; it’s because you get all of this entirely for free.

There are no catches, and no ads. This is a fully open-source project that can match the power, quality, and clout of the most pro-level software found on iOS. This means if you’re a pro, you can delve into fashioning presets, working with MIDI, wiring up the synth via IAA or AudioBus, and more besides. If you merely like making a noise, you get a superb iOS synth for no outlay whatsoever. The word ‘bargain’ doesn’t really cover it.

djay

djay is an app for budding DJs who want to spin some virtual vinyl. Launch the app and you can convince yourself that you’re a perfect mix of Martin Garrix and David Guetta, slamming amazing tunes into your ears, while fiddling with a mixer, looping, EQ, filters and effects. Alternatively, you can just fire up the app’s Automix feature and let it get on with all the tricky stuff.

With Spotify and iTunes integration, it’s not hard to find things to play, although the interface on iPhone is a touch fiddly for full-on DJ work (rather than entertainment for a wannabe). On that basis, we’d exercise caution before grabbing the feature-rich pro-subscription.

That said, if you’ve got an external DJ controller, djay for iPhone can feasibly become a vital – and portable – toolkit component even for the pros.

Wilson FM

Wilson FM reasons there an awful lot of podcasts, and it’s tricky to find great new ones to listen to. It therefore packages hand-picked individual episodes in the format of a magazine.

A new issue of Wilson FM arrives every week, and each one is designed to be thematically and culturally relevant. It’s also a handy way of branching out from your usual listening bubble, and delving into the likes of entertaining science, the meaning of words, and cracking cultural mysteries.

The player itself is basic, and not a patch on the likes of Overcast. But that’s not the point of Wilson FM. It’s here to help you discover new things, and if you chance across a really great show, you can always copy its link and subscribe to it elsewhere.

Beatwave

Beatwave wants to simplify the process of creating music. You tap notes on to a grid, which explode in color like digital fireworks when the playhead hits them. You can keep adjusting your loop live, or add depth by overlaying loops of different sounds, including drums.

For an app that looks so simple, and with vibrant blasts of color not usually associated with music creation tools, there’s surprising depth here, with sliders to tweak sounds, drum generators, and auto-chords. Veterans, though, may miss the original’s more approachable square grid play surface, which echoed Yamaha’s Tenori-on.

The only other downside is the sounds you get being a touch limited. Still, there’s enough range for what’s ultimately a musical sketchpad; and if you want more, the ‘pro’ IAP US$9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 adds several extra sets. 

Yousician

Yousician helps you to master a musical instrument or sing, but without that feeling like a chore. To that end, it often resembles a video game.

When you’re learning piano, the interface depicts scores and keyboards with bright colors to help guide your eyes and finger, but the app really comes alive when you’re learning guitar. It turns into something like Guitar Hero, only you’re using a real guitar and the app is cunningly teaching you how to play.

Things start with the basics, but before long you’re strumming and picking with the best of them. The only big limit in the free version is daily play time. Grab a subscription if you fancy learning more rapidly.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp might seem superfluous in a world of Apple Music and Spotify, but for anyone who enjoys venturing further afield to find new music, it’s a must.

The service is chock full of indie artists, whose music you can delve into by way of the Bandcamp Weekly radio show, or by browsing the app’s news feeds. Most albums enable you to preview a few tracks in their entirety, and some are entirely free to play, forever.

If you want to go old-school and actually buy music, the Bandcamp website is a good bet. Purchases can be downloaded in a range of formats; and when you only have your iPhone to hand, you can stream what you’ve bought and watch as your personal music feed fills with related tracks you might also enjoy.

GarageBand

The iPhone version of GarageBand has always been ambitious. Aiming at newcomers and professionals alike, its feature set includes smart instruments that always keep you in key, multitrack recording/editing functionality, a loops player, and superb guitar amps.

But 2017’s major update takes things much further, with new synth Alchemy improving the app’s previously slightly ropey sound set. Smart piano strips have been expanded to all keyboard instruments, helping anyone to play perfect melodies.

And Audio Unit support exists to load third-party synths directly inside of GarageBand, similar to how plug-ins work on desktop music-making apps.

Because of these things, GarageBand is now even more suited to musicians of all skill levels – although be aware on smaller screens that the app can be a touch fiddly, what with there being so much going on.

Figure

Plenty of apps claim they can get you making music in seconds, but Figure really means it. The app's heritage helps, as it comes from Propellerhead Software, creators of the legendary Reason and ReBirth.

In Figure, though, working on loops and beats is stripped right back from what you'd find in those complex PC apps; instead, you tap out drums, and slide your finger around to fashion monster bass and playful leads.

Sounds can be tweaked or swapped out entirely at any point. Once you're done, finished tracks can be uploaded and shared online. For serious musicians, there's even Audiobus support.

Overcast

Sometimes with apps, it's the seemingly little things that make a big difference. With Overcast, for example, you get a perfectly decent podcast app that does everything you'd expect: podcast subscriptions; playback via downloads or streaming; a robust search for new shows.

But where Overcast excels is in attempting to save you time and improve your listening experience. Effects (which can be assigned per-podcast) provide the smartest playback speed-up we've heard, voice boost for improving the clarity of talky shows, and smart speed.

The last of those attempts to shorten silences. You won't use that setting for comedy shows, but it's superb for lengthy tech podcasts. As of version 2.0, Overcast is free, and betters all the other iOS podcast apps that also lack a price tag. (Should you wish to support the app, though, there's an entirely optional recurring patronage IAP.)

Novation Launchpad

On the iPad, Novation Launchpad is one of the best music apps suitable for absolutely anyone. You get a bunch of pads, and tap them to trigger audio loops, which always sound great regardless of the combinations used. This isn't making music per se, but you can get up a good head of steam while imagining yourself as a futuristic combination of electronic musician, DJ and mix genius.

On iPhone, it shouldn't really work, the smaller screen not being as suited to tapping away at dozens of pads. But smart design from Novation proves otherwise. 48 trigger pads are placed front and centre, and are just big enough to accurately hit unless you've the most sausagey of sausage thumbs.

Effects lurk at the foot of the screen — tap one and a performance space slides in, covering half the screen, ready for you to stutter and filter your masterpiece.

As on the iPad, you can also record a live mix, which can be played back, shared and exported. This is a really great feature, adding optional permanence to your tapping exploits.

Music Memos

Apple's Music Memos is all about getting music ideas down — fast. You launch the app, hit record, play your guitar or piano, and your riff is safely recorded, rather than vanishing from your head the moment you see something vaguely interesting outside.

Smartly, the app provides additional toys to experiment with. There's a tuner, and during playback, you can add automated electronic bass and drumming. The virtual instruments attempt to match tempo and energy with whatever you recorded (and with some success, although more complex inputs can confuse this feature to an amusing degree).

Music Memos also tries to transcribe the chords being played; its accuracy is questionable beyond the basics, but not bad as a trigger when you later want to learn how to play your own spark of inspiration.

Usefully, you can fling recordings at GarageBand and Logic (bass and drums going along for the ride as separate tracks).

Less usefully, you can sing into the app, and still add bass, drums and chord transcription, for some kind of madcap tech-based cacophony of awfulness that we felt entirely compelled to try in the name of a thorough review. Expect our effort to (not) trouble the charts shortly.

The best free office and writing apps for iPhone

Our favorite free iPhone web browsers, calculators, password security tools and writing apps.

LastPass

LastPass has a lot in common with Apple’s iCloud Keychain, which comes baked into your iPhone. You get a place in which to securely store website login/password details and payment information. This integrates with Safari, and also – from iOS 12 onwards – with third-party app sign-in screens.

The main advantage of LastPass over Apple’s solution is that it’s available for Android and Windows, meaning you can use your passwords on whatever system you wish. But also it includes secure notes, and custom form filling options, which prove handy as well.

Because LastPass can be used alongside (rather than instead of) iCloud Keychain, it’s worth a look regardless, not least given that its editing and browsing interface far betters Apple’s. And although there’s a premium tier, the free version will be enough for most.

Drafts 5

Drafts 5 describes itself as the place “where text starts” on your iPhone. That’s quite the claim, but the app really does excel if you work with words.

The efficient interface makes it a breeze to work on structured text with Markdown, glancing at a live word count as you go. A customizable keyboard row provides speedy access to Markdown tools – or anything else you fancy stashing there for easy access.

Once you’re done, you can keep your documents in Drafts, where they remain easily searchable, and can even be added to from the Apple Watch app. Or you can send them elsewhere by utilizing a range of actions. Splash out on a subscription and you unlock even more power; but for free, Drafts 5 is an astonishing bargain for anyone in the market for a top-notch iPhone text editor.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser is a web browser that reasons privacy shouldn’t be an optional extra. Instead, it doubles down on giving you control over your personal information as you browse the web, regardless of what you’re doing.

By default, tracker networks are blocked, encryption is forced whenever it’s available, and searches use DuckDuckGo, which never tracks you. Should you finish doing something confidential, you can prod a single button to erase your entire browsing history – easy. The browser can also give you details on any site’s privacy measures, and show improvements it’s made on your behalf.

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser’s simplicity and standalone nature mean it might not be a total replacement for Safari, but it’s worth installing as a back-up browser – or even just if you fancy checking out the privacy credentials of sites you enjoy using.

RememBear

RememBear puts a friendly, furry face on password management. Getting started is simple, as is inputting website usernames and passwords. Everything you enter is fully secured behind a master password – or Touch ID if you have a compatible iPhone.

The app can integrate with Safari for iPhone, but has its own built-in browser too, should you want to keep certain passwords and activity away from prying eyes. There’s also cross-device sync so you can use your logins across Macs, PCs, and Android devices.

There’s less scope here than in the likes of 1Password – RememBear is only for website logins and payment cards, not things like notes and servers. Still, its focus and friendliness make it a great choice if you’re not already using a password manager – or if you are, but fancy something simpler.

Cake Browser

Cake Browser is a mobile-centric web browser that wants you to skip right to dessert. Instead of presenting you with a list of search results, Cake immediately displays what it thinks is the most relevant page, while others load in background tabs. You then swipe between them (though you can still access a traditional results list by swiping from the left).

There are great ideas in Cake, not least the buttons that trigger searches specifically for video, images, news, and shopping.

The downside is that the search engines and sites Cake uses aren’t configurable, and the results it provides aren’t always what you want. Even so, that sense of surprise, and not always heading to the same old places, makes Cake worth a look – even if you stick to Safari for the bulk of your browsing.

Pages

Pages is a fully fledged and fully free word processor for your iPhone. Word processing might not be top of your list of iPhone-related tasks, but this great app might just change your mind.

Pages includes a wide range of templates, such as reports, letters, cards and posters. Although you probably won’t want to create and edit an entire magazine on your smartphone, Pages is user-friendly, with an efficient interface that’s suitable for banging out a first draft of a letter, leaflet or poster while you’re on the train.

Thanks to iCloud sync, whatever you create in Pages can be opened on a Mac or iPad running the app. If you’re resolutely iPhone-only, you can export your work in a range of formats, including PDF and Microsoft Word. If you’re really rocking it old-school, you can even send it to an AirPrint printer.

PCalc Lite

PCalc Lite is a version of leading iOS calculator PCalc, aimed at people who aren’t keen on spending money. In terms of functionality, it’s more stripped back than its paid sibling, but the app’s guts are identical.

What this means is PCalc Lite is undoubtedly the best free traditional calculator for iPhone. It’s fast, responsive, and friendly, and bundles a small set of useful conversions for length, speed, temperature, volume, and weight.

If you want to bolt on something from the paid version, IAPs exist, such as for multi-line support, or extra conversion options.

When iOS 11 arrived, Apple’s built-in calculator proved buggy, leading to people scrabbling around for an alternative. With PCalc Lite installed, that need never happen to you.

Documents by Readdle

Documents by Readdle is a file manager, document reader and PDF editor. From a documents standpoint, the app wasn’t made redundant by Apple’s Files; rather, it nicely supplements it.

This is because Readdle’s app can connect to remote servers, such as WebDAV, SFTP and shared network drives. In-app document management is sleek and simple, and support for Locations in Files means you can via Apple’s app access whatever you’ve stored in Readdle’s.

From a productivity standpoint, Documents is handy as a reader for all kinds of files, like Microsoft Office documents, images, movies, and PDFs. With the last of those, you can also search and annotate, making this app an ideal addition to your freebie iPhone toolkit when you need to do work on the go.

Scanbot Scanner App

Scanbot Scanner App is, suitably, a scanner for your iPhone. This might seem unnecessary now Apple’s Notes app includes scanning functionality; and, indeed, Scanbot and Notes do have some overlap. Even so, we reckon Scanbot is very much worth a download.

First and foremost, having a separate scanning app is more efficient. Rather than fiddling around setting up a new scan in Notes, embedding imagery, and then sharing your scans, Scanbot has a sleeker user flow.

It also seems faster than Apple’s app when it comes to scanning – for which you can scan single or multi-page documents, and then apply effects to the end results.

Scanbot also has an upgrade path, for those who want more. Pay and you gain access to automatic cloud uploads, PDF editing, document encryption, and OCR. But even for free, Scanbot deserves a place on your iPhone.

The best free productivity apps for iPhone

Our favorite free iPhone apps for being more productive with reminders, to-do lists, flash cards, timers, keyboards, conversion aids and automation.

Bring!

Bring! offers a new spin on shared shopping lists. Although you can create a straightforward shared text-based list in Reminders, Bring! opts for large colored buttons adorned with icons. Not only are these easier to spot when you’re in a busy supermarket with a basket on one arm and a toddler on the other, they’re also a mite simpler to tap.

Beyond this, there’s all kinds of smart stuff going on. Color-coded rings on items change from green to orange to red when the product is getting closer to running out. For items where you want something very specific, you can add notes and a photo.

And when you fancy letting everyone know you’ve made changes to a list shared with many people (for example, in an office), ready-made messages can be sent, saving you the hassle of crafting one yourself.

Shortcuts

Shortcuts is Apple’s redesign of the well-regarded Workflow app, which aims to streamline your day by automating common tasks.

Apps of this ilk have a history of being geeky and impenetrable, but Shortcuts is the friendly face of automation. In the Gallery view are dozens of pre-made workflows to download, which perform actions like calculating tips, figuring out how long it’ll be before you’re home, and logging aspects of your routine.

Actions can be added to your Home screen as pseudo-apps, and triggered from Today view or by using Siri voice commands.

For a fully custom experience, there’s an editing view to dig into. You can tweak existing downloads, or start with a blank canvas, adding actions using a drag-and-drop interface. On an iPhone Plus models or iPhone XS Max, this works particularly well in landscape, with an iPad-like dual-pane interface.

Bundler

Bundler hugely speeds up and simplifies the process of creating and sharing ZIP archives on an iPhone. As long as the apps you want to share something from support the standard iOS Share sheet, they’ll work with Bundler. Select your document, tap the share button, and you can then send the file to the displayed ‘bundle’, or create a new one.

Open up the main Bundle app and you’ll see your bundles. These can be renamed, as can individual documents within bundles. Usefully, many document types can be previewed inside of Bundle too, so you can check you’ve grabbed the right ones.

Once you’re happy with your selection, you tap the Share button and send the bundle to an app or cloud storage as a ZIP. It’s fast and far more efficient than other apps of this type.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is a hugely popular to-do list manager. It’s easy to see why: the app is simple to use, and yet provides depth and advanced features for those who need them.

You start by dumping your to-dos in an inbox, at which point you can organize them into lists, add deadlines and reminders, define sub-tasks for more complex projects, attach files, and set regular tasks to repeat. Unlike Apple’s Reminders app, reordering tasks (alphabetically, or by due date) is a cinch, and lists can be shared across a wide range of platforms.

All of this is entirely free (there’s a paid tier, but you’re unlikely to need it), so if you want a better to-do manager than Reminders but don’t fancy splashing out, this is the app to go for.

Meteor

Meteor is an internet speed tester designed for human beings. It eschews complex information – and even advertising – and instead provides you with straightforward, colorful buttons and readouts.

An inviting ‘Start Testing’ button kicks things off, whereupon the app sets about checking your internet connection’s performance, a little meteor animating on-screen as it does so. Once the tests are done, speeds are scored, and are subsequently available from the History tab.

Meteor also attempts to estimate how well your connection would fare with popular apps and games, six of which can be added to an ‘app performance’ bar. These values should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, but this freebie nonetheless impresses for being a no-nonsense, user-friendly, ad-free way to check internet connectivity.

MultiTimer

Apple’s pre-loaded Clock app has a perfectly serviceable timer – but you only get one countdown at any given moment. MultiTimer, as its name might suggest, gives you multiple timers that you can set going simultaneously.

On launching the app, you’ll find six timers already set up. Each has a different color, name and icon. Tap a timer and it starts, tap again to pause, or double-tap to reset. Easy. Long press and you open the timer’s options, so you can adjust its default time, label, color, icon and sound.

You also have plenty of preferences to delve into, including adjusting the default workspace. Should you want extra workspaces – or a custom layout – grab the $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 MultiTimer Pro IAP.

Tinycards

From the brains behind game-like language-learning app Duolingo comes Tinycards. The aim is to enable people to memorize anything by way of friendly flashcard sets.

Duolingo itself offers a number of sets based around language, history and geography. Smartly, though, anyone can create and publish a set, which has led to hundreds of decks about all kinds of subjects, from renaissance art to retro computing.

The memorizing bit is based around minutes-long drills. You’re presented with cards and details to memorize, which the app then challenges you on, by way of typing in answers or answering multiple choice questions.

Some early teething problems with typos and abbreviations (for example, stating ‘USA’ was incorrect because ‘United States of America’ was the answer) have been dealt with by way of a handy ‘I was right’ button. Just don’t press it when you don’t really know the answer, OK?

Cheatsheet

The idea behind Cheatsheet is to provide fast access to tiny chunks of information you never remember but really need to: your hotel room, your car's number plate, Wi-Fi passwords, or, if you're feeling suitably retro, the Konami code.

Set-up is pleasingly straightforward. Using the app, you add 'cheats' by selecting an icon and then typing your info nugget. When you've got yourself a number of 'cheats', they can be reordered as you see fit. Once you're done, the entire lot can be displayed on the Today widget or an Apple Watch.

Cheatsheet saves some features for a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 'pro' upgrade - a custom keyboard, an action extension, some of the icons, and iCloud sync. But the free version is nonetheless useful and generous, along with making really good use of the Today view on your phone.

Lrn

We keep hearing about how important coding will be to the future of everything. That's all very well, unless code makes about as much sense to you as the most exotic of foreign languages.

The idea behind Lrn is to gently ease you in. Through friendly copy and simple quizzes, you gradually gain confidence across a range of languages.

For free, you get courses on HTML and CSS, along with introductions to JavaScript, Ruby and Python. You can complete any course for $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49; but even if you don't pay anything at all, you'll get a lot out of this app if you've an interest in coding but don't know where to start.

Dropbox

Dropbox was a big deal in the early days of iOS. When Apple refused to provide access to a file system, Dropbox became a surrogate, and was supported by a great many apps. But you might ask if it has a place now Apple offers Files.

The answer is yes. Dropbox can act as a Location within Files, which is great if you use Dropbox to share folders with people running various systems. But the standalone Dropbox app also excels: it can quickly scan receipts and whiteboards to PDF; you can use it to edit Microsoft Office documents; and it’s possible to comment on files to share feedback with a team.

For free, you get 2GB of space. If you need more, Dropbox Plus gives you 1TB for $9.99/£7.99/AU$13.99 per month.

SwiftKey

SwiftKey reasons that you could – and should – be typing a lot more quickly on your iPhone’s keyboard. Mostly, it achieves this by freeing you from the drudgery of having to tap individual keys or even bother stabbing at the prediction bar – instead, you just lazily swipe about in the vague direction of the keys you want.

During your early days with the app, this occasionally results in some comical typos, but pretty soon you end up swipe-typing at speeds you’d never thought possible.

And beyond the keyboard’s AI smarts, there’s customization to delve into, including custom themes and colors, enough emoji to choke a hippo, and some very handy bilingual support for when you need to quickly switch between languages.

Slack

The thinking behind Slack is to free teams from the drudgery of email. It's essentially a real-time messaging system, where people have group conversations based around user-defined hashtags, or send private messages to one-another.

Support for inline images, videos and Twitter-like summaries boost pasted content, and the app integrates with cloud storage from the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive.

It's worth noting that while Slack is clearly aimed at businesses, it works perfectly well as a means of communication for groups of friends who aren't thrilled about storing their personal insights and details on Facebook.

Vert S

We're told the 'S' in Vert S stands for 'speed'. This is down to the app being an efficient incarnation of the well-regarded Vert unit converter.

The older app had you browse huge category lists to pick what you need, but Vert S is keener on immediacy. There's a search, but the app's core is a Favorites page, where commonly used conversions are stored.

Tap one and you enter a basic calculator, enabling you to convert between your two chosen units, which can be quickly switched by tapping the Vert button. (Note that currencies are behind an IAP paywall — $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 for 'Vert Pro' — but conversions for other units are free.)

The best free iPhone weather and travel apps

Our favorite free iPhone apps for mapping, sat-nav, translation, learning languages, weather forecasts, currency conversion and holiday planning.

Thunderly

Thunderly is an entertaining and unique weather app with a penchant for storms. Fire the thing up, and you get a photorealistic Earth you can spin beneath a finger. Zoom in and you can go hunting for storms.

The app provides a number of options for enhancing the experience. It emits blasts of thundery noise, and can rumble your iPhone. Entertainingly, it’ll also use the flash to simulate lightning. If you zoom right into your location, you can measure how far away a storm is by prodding a button when lightning strikes, and then a second time when you hear thunder.

Naturally, Thunderly isn’t a replacement for a traditional weather app, but as a free download, it’s an entertaining diversion if you’ve an interest in weather.

Google Translate

Google Translate is like having an entire crew of translation staff in your pocket. When online, it can translate text and conversations between dozens of languages, giving you a fighting chance at a to-and-fro in a foreign tongue when you’re stuck for other options. Favorite words and phrases can be saved, to build up a personalized phrasebook.

But the real magic comes by way of the camera. Point Google Translate at some text and as long as it’s reasonably legible, it will attempt to translate it live, into your chosen language. You’re not going to be reading a book in this manner, but when you’re abroad and staring quizzically at a menu or the ingredients on a food packet, Google Translate can be a life-saver.

Koins

Koins is a rare currency converter that appears to have been designed with humans in mind. Rather than you dealing with a utilitarian ‘afterthought’ interface, you instead get something akin to a futuristic, playful calculator.

Yes, we know, playful isn’t usually a word you’d associate with this kind of app, but it’s fun to hear the bloops and bleeps as you tap out numbers and choose your currencies.

Naturally, Koins has more serious features, too: you can squish the keyboard for one-sided use (or use the app in landscape), and sync data via iCloud. However, if you want to check out how currencies have performed over time, you’ll need to unlock the premium version with IAP.

World Clock Time Widget

World Clock Time Widget does what you’d expect from its name, enabling you to set up a world clock that’s visible at a glance in Today view.

Setup is straightforward. Tapping a + button gives you a list of locations. You can type a place name to rapidly filter the list, then tap an item to add it to your clocks. Locations appear in order from west to east, although you can rearrange them manually.

The widget shows your first four clocks in Today view, but can be expanded to show more. Neatly, you can also move the clocks forward and backward by hourly increments. It’s a pity you only get a digital view – analog clocks are only available within the app – but otherwise this is a solid freebie.

Trips by Lonely Planet

Trips by Lonely Planet is an app for sharing travel experiences – or just reveling in the journeys made by others. It’s a bit like a travel-oriented Instagram mixed with a smattering of travel guide and blog. If you like gorgeous photography and a touch of commentary for context, it’s a must-have install.

New top picks are regularly showcased on the app’s Home tab, and you can favorite those you like, and/or follow the authors. Annoyingly, there’s no search, but you can delve into themed categories, such as ‘cities’ and ‘adventure’. (Think of it more like a magazine than a website and you should be fine.)

When you have an adventure of your own, you can upload your own story. The layout options are a bit basic, but the app is really easy to work with, making for stress-free sharing.

Google Maps

Google Maps is an app that’s been a mainstay in this list for years – and it’s easy to see why. Although Apple’s own Maps app has hugely improved since launch, Google Maps retains the lead in almost every way. It’s superb at locating points of interest –whether you’re looking for a distant town or local restaurant – and offers robust public transport suggestions.

Beyond that, it just proves handier than Apple’s app. Street View is great for virtually scoping out a location, looking for landmarks that might prove handy during a drive. You can draw a route to measure the distance between two places.

And best of all, you can download maps to your iPhone, transforming Google Maps into a free sat-nav equivalent that works entirely offline.

Google Earth

Google Earth simply gives you our planet in the palm of your hand, and encourages you to explore. You can manually rotate and zoom, search for specific locations, or take your chances with the dice icon, to check out somewhere random.

Wherever you end up, Google Earth provides local photography and information, becoming something of a virtual tour guide. Places others have explored nearby are provided as cards, which prove genuinely useful for giving crowdsourced points of interest or recommendations.

This concept reaches its logical conclusion with Voyager – a selection of journeys you can take to some of the world’s most amazing sights, from ancient wonders to modern ones like Kennedy Space Center.

Google Earth’s visual majesty is lessened on the smaller screen, but it’d be churlish to scoff at an app that in an instant provides access to so much of our planet.

Lingvist

Lingvist is a language-learning app that claims to be able to teach you at light speed. Naturally, that’s hyperbole, but Lingvist nonetheless has a methodology and interface that gets you going in your chosen language (French, Spanish, German, and Russian are supported) at serious speed.

Mostly, it’s about plugging words into sentences, in a drill-like fashion. Imagine interactive flash cards thrown your way in quick-fire fashion and you’re there. The underlying algorithm tracks words you’re finding tricky, and in-context explanations for things like verbs pop up as and when they’re needed.

Will Lingvist make you fluent in hours? Probably not. But as a refresher, or even a first step in learning a foreign tongue, it’s the best freebie around on iPhone.

Today Weather

Today Weather provides a sleek, elegant take on weather forecasting, marrying modern design, usability, and a slew of data.

Set a location and you get current conditions below a supposedly representative photo. (The photo is, frankly, a bit rubbish but can fortunately be disabled.) Scroll to delve into predictions about the coming hours and days, and details about UV index and pressure, the chances of imminent rainfall, air quality, sunrise/sunset times, and what the moon’s up to.

Sadly, these components can’t be rearranged, and anyone who wants a rainfall radar will have to pay for it. But these drawbacks shouldn’t stop you downloading what’s a great freebie weather app.

Also, Hello Weather has a trump card in its data source menu, which lists conditions and temperatures from five different providers. If one regularly seems better than the others, you can switch with a tap. Nice.

Triposo

Billed as ‘your smart travel guide’, Triposo elevates itself above the competition. First and foremost, it’s comprehensive. Whereas other guides typically concentrate on a few major cities, Triposo drills down into tiny towns and villages as well, helping you get the best out of wherever you happen to be staying.

50,000 destinations worldwide are included, complete with information on bars, restaurants, hotels, tours and attractions.

Beyond that, the app is easy to use, and it optionally works offline, enabling you to download guides on a regional basis. This is perfect for when you’re ambling about somewhere new, without a data connection. And if you’re unsure where to head, Triposo can even build an editable city walk for you too.

Foursquare

One-time darling of the digital check-in crowd, Foursquare in 2014 reworked its app to focus entirely on local search. Although this irked fans who'd been there since the beginning, it's hard to criticize the app we've been left with.

On iPhone, you start with a search field, beneath which sits a handy list of relatively local places of interest. Tap an item and you gain access to a photo gallery, basic details, and a slew of reviews.

In the main, Foursquare is quite obsessed with food, drink and nightlife, but the 'fun' and 'more' categories house plenty of additional places to visit, from gig venues and cinemas to rather more sedate options like parks and historic sites.

Filters and 'tastes' options within the app's settings enable you to further hone down recommended choices, and anything you fancy reminding yourself of on a more permanent basis can be added to a custom list.

Hello Weather

There's a tendency for weather apps to either bombard you with facts or try to be too clever with design Hello Weather, by contrast, simply wants to get you all the weather information you need, but nothing you don't.

This focused approach doesn't mean Hello Weather is an ugly app. On the contrary, it's very smart, with a clean layout and readable graphs. Mostly, though, we're fond of Hello Weather because it eschews complexity without limiting the information on offer.

The single-page view is split in three, covering current conditions, the next few hours, and the week's forecast. If you need more detail, a swipe provides access to things like sunrise/sunset times for the current day, or written forecasts for the coming week.

It’s worth noting that some functionality lurks behind annual IAP, such as real-time rainfall estimates and multiple weather sources. But as a free no-fuss weather app, Hello Weather is hard to beat.

Citymapper

Citymapper is a travel aid that wants to help you get around big cities more easily. Unlike Google Maps, it doesn’t work worldwide, instead carefully selecting places that get coverage. But if you live in or visit one of the supported cities – which include London, Paris, Berlin and New York – Citymapper is an essential download.

The app will quickly zero in on your location. When you need to get somewhere else, Citymapper makes it easy to compare all of your options in real time.

But it’s the smaller features that properly cement its place on your iPhone: watching buses move about a live map; advice about the best train carriage to take; and real-time alerts when you should get ready to disembark – great when you’re dozing at the end of a busy day.

Weather Underground

The Weather Underground app (or 'Wunderground' to your iPhone, which sounds like an oddly dark Disney film) is one of those products that flings in everything but the kitchen sink yet somehow remains usable.

Whatever your particular interest in the weather, you're covered, through a slew of 'tiles' (which can be moved or disabled to suit) on a huge scrolling page.

At the top, you get a nicely designed tile detailing current conditions and showing a local map. Tick and cross buttons lurk, asking for input regarding the app's accuracy. During testing, we almost always tapped the tick — reassuring.

Scroll, though, and you find yourself immersed in the kind of weather geekery that will send meteorological nuts into rapture. There are rainfall and temperature graphs for the next day and hour, along with simpler forecasts for the week.

You get details on humidity, pressure and dew point. Sunrise, sunset and moon timings are presented as stylish animations. You can investigate local and global webcams and photos, and then head to the web if not satisfied with that deluge of data.

Weather Underground is funded by non-intrusive ads (which you can disable annually for $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 if you feel the need), and is easily our favourite free iPhone weather app; in fact, it even rivals the best paid fare on the platform.

Categories: Tech News

Huawei P30 release date, price, news and leaks

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 07:44

The Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro launch event is just days away, with a confirmed date of March 26 having been revealed recently.

They're set to be the next flagship smartphones from the Chinese smartphone brand, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years.

The Huawei P20 and Huawei P20 Pro rivaled the likes of the Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Pixel 3 XL and new iPhones, and the P30 duo (or potentially trio) will have the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus in their sights.

We say potentially trio, as Apple launched three new phones back in September, and Samsung did the same in February, so we wouldn't be surprised if Huawei followed suit with a new trio of its own under the P30 name.

Update: Official images of the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro have emerged, confirming the designs of the phones. Plus, we now have a better idea of how much they might cost and when they might hit stores.

We want to see the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro continue to build on the momentum from 2018, and we’ve come up with a list of things that would help that happen.

But before that though, here’s what we know and suspect about the phones so far. Rumors are pouring in and we now have a good idea of what to expect from Huawei's next flagship phones.

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The successors to the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro
  • When is it out? Launches on March 26
  • What will it cost? Likely upwards of £599 (roughly $790, AU$1,070)
Huawei P30 release date and price

The Huawei P30 launch data has been confirmed for March 26 after Huawei made the announcement on its Twitter account.

That confirms the one release date rumor we saw before this, which pointed to an announcement in Paris at the end of March.

Note though that if you’re in the US you might not be able to buy the P30 and P30 Pro, as the firm doesn't currently operate in the country.

As for the Huawei P30 price, the only rumor there puts the starting price (for a P30 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage) at €749 (around $850/£640/AU$1,200).

A P30 Pro with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is rumored to cost €999 (roughly $1,135/£855/AU$1,600), and a Huawei P30 Pro with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is supposedly set to be €1,099 (around $1,250/£940/AU$1,760). There's also supposedly a 512GB model, with no pricing rumored for that yet.

Those prices also mostly line up with a listing that supposedly briefly appeared on Amazon Italy, showing the 128GB P30 Pro as costing €1,028.19 (around $1,170 / £890 / AU$1,640). The same listing apparently said you'll be able to buy the phone from April 5.

Of course, these are just rumors and the price won't be a direct conversion from euros, but the the Huawei P30 is likely to be at least as expensive as the £599 (roughly $790, AU$1,070) Huawei P20, and the P30 Pro is sure to be even more expensive.

One thing we do know for sure though is at least in some regions you'll be able to get a Sonos One and/or a wireless charger if you pre-order.

The P30 may undercut some flagships but it might not launch in the US. Image Credit: TechRadar

Huawei P30 design and display

Hottest leaks:

  • Almost no bezel
  • A 3.5mm headphone port
  • A 1080 x 2340 screen
  • A 6.47-inch screen for the P30 Pro

Our best look yet at the design of the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro comes from official renders posted on a Huawei website, which you can see below.

They show the phone in a range of previously leaked colors and in fact completely line up with earlier leaks, complete with a small notch, hardly any bezel, three rear cameras on the P30 and four on the P30 Pro.

An earlier leak of the Huawei P30 comes from renders shared by @OnLeaks, who has a solid track record.

You can see some of these below. Note that the phone has a gradient color scheme on the back, which appears to be made of glass.

You can also see a teardrop notch on the front, tiny bezels, a triple-lens rear camera, a 3.5mm headphone port and no visible fingerprint scanner, suggesting it's built into the screen. That in turn might mean the screen is OLED, since most in-screen scanners don't work with LCD.

The headphone port in these pictures is slightly surprising, since Huawei didn't include one on the P20 range. However, it seems these images are accurate, given the matching official renders above.

We've seen even more of the Huawei P30 Pro though, as both high-quality renders and real photos of the phone seem to have emerged.

Starting with the renders, which you can see below, there's a notch above the screen and a small bezel below, while around the back there's a quad-lens camera, with three lenses in one block and another to the side.

Additional renders from the same source have also since emerged, this time showing the Huawei P30 Pro in red, giving us four colors in all. You can see those in the same gallery above.

These renders also show the top and bottom edge of the phone, revealing that unlike the standard Huawei P30 there's seemingly no headphone port, but that there is an IR blaster, which the standard model doesn't appear to have. 

As for the real photos, those can be seen below and they match the design above, with a quad-lens camera arranged in the same way.

You can also see just how shiny, reflective and seemingly a fingerprint magnet the back of the phone is.

As for the screen, on both the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro it could be a 1080 x 2340 one if leaked user agent profiles are to be believed.

That would be a slight boost on the 1080 x 2240 screens of the Huawei P20 range, and it's a rumor that we've now heard more than once in relation to the P30 Pro, with one source adding that the Pro model will have a 6.47-inch screen.

Huawei P30 camera and battery

Hottest leaks:

  • A triple-lens camera
  • A 38MP or 40MP lens
  • P30 Pro will have a quad-lens camera

We've heard rumors that the Huawei P30 Pro might have a 38MP camera. Specifically, an unannounced Sony one.

According to another source the Huawei P30 will have a triple-lens rear camera, potentially with a lens of up to 40MP. It could also have a 5x lossless optical zoom and a 24MP front-facing camera. 

And we've seen images of cases supposedly made for both the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro. From these we can see that there are seemingly at least three rear cameras on both models, with the Pro model also having a big flash unit.

The P30 Pro is also shown from the front in one image, with tiny bezels and a teardrop notch, which lines up with the images we've seen elsewhere.

However, it has now been confirmed that the Huawei P30 Pro will have four lenses rather than three, with the company's CEO saying as much.

This was rumored for a long time though, as not only do some of the images above show that, but other reports also pointed in that direction. Additionally it might sport 10x optical zoom and an upgraded 3D sensor for judging distance and creating focus effects.

Indeed, one source says that the Huawei P30 Pro will have a 40MP f/1.6 lens with optical image stabilization (OIS), a 20MP f/2.2 wide-angle lens with no OIS, and a depth sensor, alongside a fourth lens (which might be 8MP). They also say that the front-facing camera could have a 32MP lens.

Elsewhere, Huawei's European boss Walter Ji has talked about the possibility of 10x zoom in an interview with Android Pit, though he didn't specifically say that the Huawei P30 would get this feature.

However, teasers for the phone have included a picture of the moon from a closer perspective than you're likely to get without zoom, so that suggests some level of improved zoom, as well possibly as improved low light skills.

As for the battery, all we've heard there so far is a claim that the P30 Pro's could be 4,200mAh.

Huawei P30 OS and power

Hottest leaks:

  • 6GB of RAM for P30, 8GB for P30 Pro
  • 128GB of storage for P30, up to 512GB for P30 Pro

The Huawei P30 is sure to run Android 9 Pie, as not only is that the latest version of the operating system, it has also been specifically rumored.

Elsewhere, a reliable leaker has said that the standard Huawei P30 will come with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while the Huawei P30 Pro will have 8GB of RAM and a choice of 128GB, 256GB or 512GB of storage. Though he added that other configurations may also be offered.

This rumor has been backed up by leaked certification forms from Indonesia and Taiwan, which stated the exact same specs, although added that there's also apparently an 8GB version of the standard P30.

The P30 Pro has also now been certified in Thailand, as spotted by 91mobiles. No specs were attached, but it shows that the phones are on track to hit stores soon, and all these certifications suggest they will be widely available.

We don't know anything else about the core specs of the P30 yet, but we can also look at the Mate 20 (and Huawei Mate 20 Pro) for an idea of some of the likely specs and features of the Huawei P30.

For one thing, the P30 will probably have the same Kirin 980 chipset as the Mate 20 range. This debuted on the Mate 20 range and Huawei has previously used the same chipset on the Mate range one year and the P range the following year.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, as it will still be fairly new by the time the Huawei P30 launches and it's a good chip. It's the first 7nm Android one and it arguably has any other 2018 Android chip beat. Though of course it's now competing with the likes of the Snapdragon 855.

Huawei P30 other features

One thing the Huawei P30 might offer is improved speakers, as a teaser video which you can see below hints at that.

It's not clear what those improvements would be, but one possibility is a second speaker for stereo sound, as the Huawei P20 has just one speaker.

Another possibility according to one source is that the screen itself could be a speaker, using vibration to produce sound, similar to the LG G8.

Huawei P30 name

According to Huawei's CEO the Huawei P30 will be better than the Huawei P20 Pro and Huawei Mate 20.

That's hardly surprising, but what's more notable is that he referred to the phone as the P30. While that would have been our best guess for the launch name anyway, you can now take it as more or less confirmed. 

The company has also now mentioned the Huawei P30 Pro by name.

What we want to see

Ahead of the official Huawei P30 and P30 Pro launch, here's what we'd like to see from the new flagship smartphones.

1. A sharper screen

The Huawei P20's screen isn't quite as sharp as we'd expect a flagship to be

Huawei has stuck with a Full HD+ screen on its P20 range, but with Samsung, Sony and others upping the resolution it’s time Huawei did the same.

So for the Huawei P30 we want a QHD resolution. There’s probably no need for more than that, but given the likely large screen size a resolution of around 1440 x 2960 really would make a difference.

2. Bring back the headphone jack

Many phones – including the Huawei P20 range – are now ditching headphone jacks, but we’re still not convinced the tech is at the point where everyone will be happy to go wireless, so we’d like to see this brought back for the Huawei P30.

It’s unlikely to happen as it could be seen as a step backwards, or as admitting that removing it was a mistake, but it would be nice.

3. Wireless charging

All flagships should really support wireless charging

While the Huawei P20 range has good battery life and fast charging it lacks wireless charging, which is a feature we’d expect to see come as standard on flagship phones.

So hopefully it’s something that the Huawei P30 - or at least the Huawei P30 Pro - will offer. There's reason to suspect it might, since the Huawei Mate 20 Pro does.

4. Three cameras on all models

Huawei has only just moved on to triple-lens cameras with the Huawei P20 Pro so we’re not in any hurry for that to change, but we do want to see three lenses on the standard Huawei P30, rather than the feature being reserved for the P30 Pro.

And while we definitely don’t need more than three lenses on the back we would like to see some improvements to them as well, perhaps for example improvements to the AI scene recognition.

5. An in-screen fingerprint scanner

Building the scanner into the screen would give the P30 a big selling point

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS have an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and even the Honor 10 (made by a Huawei sub-brand) has an under-glass scanner, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Huawei P30 had an in-screen scanner of its own.

And it would be a good thing too, since it’s the sort of high-tech feature that would help the phone stand apart from many other handsets, not to mention allowing it to keep the bezels small without resorting to having a scanner on the back.

6. A top-end chipset

The Huawei P20 range uses the Kirin 970 chipset, which is high-end, but it’s older and less powerful than the latest Snapdragon and Exynos chipsets.

For the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro we’d really like Huawei to use a brand-new chipset that makes its debut on those phones and can truly compete with the best around, rather than what it will probably actually do, which is equip them with the slightly older Kirin 980 chip that first appeared in the Huawei Mate 20.

7. No notch or bezels

Like so many of 2018’s phones, the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro each have a notch in the screen, and while you can somewhat hide it with software we’d rather there was no notch at all.

But we don’t want a strip of bezel either, instead we want a truly bezel-free front. If Huawei does build the fingerprint scanner into the screen on the P30 then it could be well on the way to achieving that, so it’s possible, though it will need to hide the likes of the front-facing camera somewhere too.

Categories: Tech News

Six ways to stay safe when buying smart tech

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 07:30

Fledgling regulation has yet to really make itself felt in the Internet of Things (IoT).

We’ve seen the Code of Practice for consumer IoT security issued by the Dept for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DDCM) and also the EU’s ENISA Cybersecurity Act last year, while ETSI specification TS 103 645 was released in February but compliance with these and other regulations around the world aren’t yet mandatory, making it vital consumers protect themselves. 

We advise the following steps before you buy that smart device.

1. Do your research

Pop the name of the smart gadget or toy in to a search engine and add the word ‘hack’, ‘security’ or ‘vulnerability’. It’ll take you moments to find out if there are discussions about serious security issues.

Image Credit: Google

2. Get the app before you buy

Download the app from the App Store or Play Store to your phone. If you buy it, you’re going to need the app anyway. Click on the ‘create account’ or ‘login’ section. What we want to know is whether they’re playing safe with the password you’re going to create. 

Create an account – add a temporary or throwaway email address then try to set the password of ‘password’. See what happens. Was it rejected for being too weak? If so, try ‘Password1’ and see if that works. If it works, the manufacturer is showing that they really don’t care. 

3. Read the manual before buying 

Go to the manufacturers web site and find the manual. 

Find the pages that deal with connecting to the smart thing for the first time. If it uses Wi-Fi, how do you connect your phone to the device for the first time? Does one have to press a button on the ‘thing’ first or is the Wi-fi wide open without any passwords, or with the same password for all devices? 

If it uses Bluetooth, again, do you have to press a button on the smart device to put it in to ‘pairing’ mode or can anyone connect to it at any time? Having a button press or similar before anyone can connect for the first time is a good thing. It means that you can decide when someone can connect to your smart thing.

4. Does the manufacturer take security seriously?

What does the vendor say about security on their web site? Do they use words like ‘military grade’ or ‘bank grade encryption’ or jargon like ‘AES 256’ or do they say nothing at all about security? 

A responsible manufacturer will talk about how their security has been independently reviewed and the processes they follow to keep your data safe. 

Do they have a ‘bug bounty’ programme to encourage hackers/researchers to report flaws. Search online for ‘bug bounty’ and the name of the product or the manufacturer. Big names in bug bounty programme management include ‘HackerOne’ and ‘bugcrowd’ among many, so you can click through to their sites to check.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

5. Implement a strong password

A weak password is often the easiest way to hack an IoT product. Set a strong, complicated and UNIQUE password that you haven’t used elsewhere. 

Use a free password manager to make your life easier. Check if your IoT app allows two step verification (a one time SMS code to your phone) or allows you to use an authenticator app.

6. How will you care for your thing post purchase?

Does the device support patches and security fixes? 

Check the instructions to see how yours is updated. Ensure your phone allows the IoT app to check for updates and apply them as soon as you’re alerted. Update your mobile app and check to see if there are security fixes for the product too.

Sometimes these will be ‘pushed’ from the phone to the IoT device. However, some updates are pushed ‘over the air’ direct to the IoT device.

Ken Munro, Partner at Pen Test Partners

Categories: Tech News

Microsoft 365 update looks to supercharge your workplace

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 07:25

Microsoft has unveiled a number of software upgrades that it says can help boost productivity, efficiency and security in businesses of all sizes.

The software giant spoke to TechRadar Pro about some exciting updates and new releases for its Microsoft 365 platform, and how these can have a profound effect on every worker.

"In this world of information workers, for far too long, IT has been in the situation of having to choose between giving a great user experience or making it secure,” says Brad Anderson, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of enterprise experiences.

“It feels like it has been an either/or...which doesn't translate into a good user experience,” he adds, noting that often it is not Windows which is slowing down devices, but the additional agents added on by IT departments.

“We want to help IT modernise, decrease their costs, and deliver that modern workplace that is trusted by IT.”

Now, Microsoft is looking to conquer these issues with a wealth of new software updates and releases for Microsoft 365 and beyond, aimed at greatly improving workplace efficiency and productivity, whilst helping reduce IT costs and workloads.

Windows Virtual Desktop

First up is the launch of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), what Microsoft says is a highly-optimised experience that offers a simpler, more effective way to run virtual services.

"What we're seeing as the world moves towards the cloud is companies wanting to get out of the business of growing and maintaining these big server farms...Microsoft can do this,” Anderson notes.

Although still at the preview stage, Anderson says that WVD will offer "the modern desktop in the cloud" - essentially, Windows 10 hosted in Azure, on a desktop in the cloud.

“Having your desktop as close to the data as you can is going to optimise this experience,” he adds, “there is gravity around data.”

Customers can choose whether they want this desktop running locally or in the cloud, or run Windows 10 in a shared public cloud, which can only be done there. 

Anderson says this can provide major boosts in speed, efficiency and security, as well as providing a simpler and more effective way to run data-hungry apps - noting it can run thousands of virtual desktop sessions a minute.

Microsoft Defender - for Mac

Microsoft is also revealing great strides in its security protection, primarily in Windows Defender, which is getting a new name.

The company’s antivirus platform will now be coming to Mac for the first time, but as Microsoft Defender. This ticks off a common customer demand, Anderson says, noting that with the program already protecting more Windows PCs than any other commercial anti-malware (including running on over 50 percent of Windows 10 devices in commercial organisations) the need for greater cross-platform integration was key.

“There’s an art and a science to building an agent that runs on Mac that is non-impactful, and is able to understand how the Mac operating system works,” he says.

“One of the things that we uniquely understand is that when you build something like these security capabilities, you can do it in a way that is non-intrusive to the user experience and to the operating system itself.”

Anderson notes that Microsoft’s position as one of the world’s leading software providers means it is sitting on an incredible amount of telemetry data that can be used to develop better security protection, whilst also spotting emerging threats before they go viral.

He says that Microsoft’s systems receive 6.5 trillion pieces of feedback every day to analyse, alongside 630 billion authentications per month, and scanning 430 billion emails per month going through Office 365.

“We kind of get a chance to see almost everything,” Anderson notes, “we have the broadest data set available of what is happening within commercial organisations...that gives us a perspective and a point of view that we can share across other platforms and is very unique.”

This has led the company to also today announce Microsoft Threat Vulnerability Management, which looks to identify and target known vulnerabilities that often plague companies for long periods. 

Once detected and analysed in the Microsoft cloud, the system can flag the threat immediately, allowing the company to quickly roll out protection to other geographies to prevent widespread infection, as well as giving IT teams visibility into the threats that are most likely to affect their business.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Overall, Anderson says that the new updates will greatly enrich the Windows and Microsoft 365 user experience for all users, opening up new opportunities across the board.

Put bluntly, he notes that Microsoft 365 is designed purely to help businesses and their workers work smarter and more efficiently, whilst staying secure and connected at all times.

“The quality of what we're doing with Windows right now...is the highest quality we've seen in years,” he says. 

“Simplification is actually an architectural procedure...the simpler you are, the more secure you are.”

Categories: Tech News

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