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  1. Federal Court ordered Google to reveal the identity of someone who wrote a negative review. On Thursday, the Federal Court ordered Google to reveal the identity of someone who left a negative review about a teeth whitening practice, the ABC reported. Melbourne dentist Matthew Kabbabe, who runs the teeth whitening service Asprodontics, called for Google to reveal the identity of a person who left a negative review of his business so he could take legal action. The user review. Image: Screenshot. Kabbabe told the ABC that the negative review from a user with the name “CBsm 23” – the only negative review at the time amid five star ratings – was put up on Google three months ago and affected both his life and business. Kabbabe’s lawyer Mark Stanarevic said in the report he believes Google “has a duty of care” to businesses for allowing these reviews. “A bad review can shut down a business these days because most people live and breathe online,” Stanarevic said. Google was ordered to hand over information that identified “CBsm 23”, including phone numbers, names, location metadata and IP addresses. This may require companies to think harder about their business practices around reviews Rob Nicholls Associate Professor at the UNSW Business School told Business Insider Australia, “The dentist had no way of being able to serve court papers on that person directly because they were shielded by Google. So the court said to Google, you have to get rid of that shield so that the normal process can continue.” At the same time, the dentist claimed the reviewer hadn’t actually been to the business. “If that reviewer had been to their practice, they wouldn’t need to have called on Google because they’d actually have their names and addresses,” Nicholls added. Nicholls believes in practice it’s “not such a big threat” for companies like Google because getting a court to agree that the action of the reviewer has caused such harm as to give rise to a case for defamation is “not likely to happen often”. What it does mean, Nicholls said, is that Google and other companies might have to think much harder about their business practices in relation to reviews. “Potentially Google and others might have to think a bit harder about what reviews they allow to be published if they can see that on their face they look as if they’re defamatory,” he said. But that wouldn’t stop a bad review, he added. While Nicholls thinks Google will have to identify the reviewer in this case, he said if he was advising Google he would opt to appeal the decision so as not to give out the information. That way Google wouldn’t need to change its business model if it was successful. “Otherwise Google and all publishers of reviews will have to think about how do they manage potentially defamatory reviews,” Nicholls said. He explained that it could add an extra business process step for these companies “under which an AI system looks to see if a review is essentially defamatory and won’t publish that immediately until it’s been reviewed or simply doesn’t publish it.” Will this impact privacy? When asked whether this situation has any implications on privacy, Nicholls didn’t think so, especially with companies like Google and Facebook already knowing who people are. “The reality is, Google knows the name of the reviewer,” he said. “In effect, from an individual’s perspective, you’ve given up… some of the privacy by agreeing to Google and Facebook’s standard of submission.” Google told Business Insider in an email that it takes court orders seriously but does not comment on ongoing legal matters. Source
  2. Google Stadia launch review: Gaming’s “future” looks rough in the present Google's game streaming is too limited and too unreliable, for too little benefit. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Streaming is the future of gaming. You can ask practically anyone, as long as that "anyone" is involved in selling games. Ask Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan, who said in May that "the streaming era is upon us" (convenient for him, since Sony has been streaming games since 2014). Ask Microsoft, which is testing streaming through its xCloud service and plans to add the feature to its regular game offerings next year. Ask the CEOs of Ubisoft and Activision, both of whom seem to think traditional game downloads and discs will be a thing of the past in a few years' time. (Just don't ask OnLive, whose spectacular implosion in 2015 only proved that streaming wasn't the past of gaming.) And you should definitely ask Google, which since March has been telling anyone who will listen that streaming is the future of gaming and that Stadia is the future of game streaming. But with the Stadia service going live for some pre-order customers today, a better question might be whether streaming is the present of gaming. More specifically, is Stadia a robust-enough product to convince players they can leave behind the comfort and safety of games running on local hardware in favor of games running on powerful remote servers? After trying the service for a week through a pre-release reviewer program, the answer is decidedly "no." As it stands at launch, Stadia is too limited and too unreliable, with too little advantage to justify giving up on the established way of delivering and playing games. While there are some interesting fringe benefits to a gaming life in Google's cloud (and the potential for more in the future), today those benefits are not worth the headaches and risks associated with the transition to Google's platform. Hot wired Enlarge / Stadia supports a range of resolutions and Internet speeds. Google Google has been relatively up front about the bandwidth required to get a quality Stadia streaming experience in your home: 10Mbps minimum recommended for a "baseline" 720p experience; 20Mbps for 1080p; and 35Mbps for the full 4K experience. We tested Stadia on a Verizon FiOS connection (and the company-issued FiOS-G1100 802.11ac 5Ghz router) in the Washington, DC, area. Speed tests on that connection reliably get 100Mbps upload and download speeds, so bandwidth minimums weren't really a concern (the connection gets a "Bufferbloat" rating of C from DSLReports). We also intentionally throttled the connection via router settings to test lower bandwidth limits, and we found streaming quality more or less conforms to Google's recommended specs. But getting a good gaming experience with Stadia depends on more than bandwidth. In a week's worth of testing, the Stadia stream quality seemed to vary wildly based on the mysterious vagaries of our home networking. When running on a wired Ethernet connection, Stadia just about performed as advertised. That means smooth frame rates that generally held at 60fps and controls that felt largely indistinguishable from those on local hardware (even with the Stadia controller connected directly to the router via Wi-Fi). While there was likely some additional input lag over local play, in Ethernet tests it wasn't enough to be noticeable to the naked eye, even for twitchy shooters and fighting games. Playing with friends online was similarly smooth, with no significant lag over a wired connection (though we weren't able to test out online voice communications during the pre-release review period). First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. The stability of wired Stadia play was in stark contrast to the Wi-Fi Stadia experience, which was inconsistent to the point of aggravation. This became apparent in our very first tests, playing Mortal Kombat 11 on a Chromecast Ultra stationed on a TV one floor above the router. The first few single-player matches played beautifully, with crisp, smooth graphics and controls that made quick special moves easy to pull off. Then the Chromecast suddenly warned me that my connection had become "unreliable" and that "gameplay may stop" if it didn't improve. The sudden message was all the more vexing because I was alone in the house, with no other devices actively running on the network. At that point, I faced a noticeable drop in resolution and frequent frame-rate stutters that made the game nearly unplayable. As promised, gameplay was forced to stop a couple of times as Stadia kicked me back to the main menu (while I was able to reconnect relatively quickly and without losing my spot in the game, but it was still a major annoyance). The Wi-Fi inconsistencies continued for the rest of the week. One day, the Wi-Fi connection would be so bad that I could barely get a Stadia stream to run for a minute on a Chromebook sitting mere feet from my router. The next day, that same Chromebook would provide an excellent Stadia stream in my downstairs kitchen even with a Netflix stream running on a nearby iPad. These were in locations in the house where I usually get a reliable Wi-Fi connection and where I didn't run into similar problems when testing Microsoft's xCloud beta on a Pixel phone last month (though xCloud resolution did bounce up and down a lot depending on the connection quality). First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Even the "bad" Wi-Fi experience was often "good enough" for slower-paced games like Kine or Gylt, where a bit of visual stuttering or a missed input isn't the end of the world. But on a game like Destiny 2 or Mortal Kombat 11, these frequent and unexplained quality dips did not make me feel like this was the future of gaming. Perhaps other testers with different routers or Wi-Fi spectrum environments won't see the same wireless issues with Stadia that we did. For now, though, if you plan to use Stadia over Wi-Fi, we highly recommend you borrow a "buddy pass" from a pre-order subscriber and test how the service works in your own home before making the investment. Pick your poison Stadia is in many ways three separate products bundled into one service. There's the Stadia available on a Chromecast Ultra hooked up to your TV. There's the Stadia available on Pixel phones (and other iOS and Android devices, eventually). And there's the Stadia available on any PC or laptop that can run a Chrome browser. Ideally, all three of these would feel like seamless parts of one whole; a down payment on Google's promise of eventually bringing gaming to every screen in your life. At launch, though, all three feel like they were created by separate teams that barely talked to each other. Stadia launch feature comparison TV PC Mobile Hardware/software Chromecast Ultra Chrome browser Pixel 2/3/3a/4* Max. Resolution 4K (with Stadia Pro sub.) 1080p* 1080p Stadia controller Wireless only Wired only* Wired only* Generic controllers No Wired/wireless Wired/wireless Party/voice chat Yes No* Yes Buy games directly No Yes No * Feature due for improvement/broadening in 2020. Of the three versions of Stadia, the Chrome browser version feels the least robust. For one, it's currently limited to a 1080p image. That might not be too noticeable on an average living room TV or on a tiny mobile phone screen. But it ends up being a real limitation when you're sitting only a foot away from a big PC monitor (or even a moderately sized laptop monitor). First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. More than that, the Chrome browser stream is noticeably less sharp than the same games running locally, even at the same resolution. The Stadia version looks like someone smeared a thin film of vaseline on the camera lens before sending the image to the monitor, as you can see in the above album of screens comparing Steam and Stadia versions of Destiny 2 (the local version was captured at maximum settings and 1080p resolution). Google says higher-resolution streaming will be available via Chrome "as soon as early 2020," but for now, the browser provides a passable but disappointing Stadia experience. That's a shame, because the Chromecast Ultra version of Stadia shows that the service has the potential to do more. The 4K images you get from a fully functional Stadia stream on your TV are hard to distinguish from those coming from a local PS4 Pro (assuming your Internet cooperates, as discussed above). Those images come with a bandwidth cost of up to 20GB/hour, though, so be wary if your Internet provider has a data cap. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Chromecast Ultra is also the only way to use the Stadia Controller wirelessly at launch (it needs to be hooked up via USB-C on mobile and PC, for now). That controller is one of the highlights of the Stadia launch package: it boasts a solid, well-balanced weight; comfortable, clicky face buttons and analog sticks; quality ergonomic design on the d-pad and shoulder triggers; and strong, distinct rumble motors. That's especially important, because the Stadia controller is the only one that works with Stadia on Chromecast (so be ready to invest in another for local multiplayer). If your Wi-Fi cooperates, the mobile version of Stadia provides a convenient way to play high-end titles anywhere in the house. And Stadia's 1080p mobile stream resolution is plenty for the more limited smartphone screen real estate. But the mobile version is the only one that doesn't support voice chat and multiplayer parties at launch, for some reason. That's OK, though, because the mobile Stadia app is also the only way to buy Stadia games at launch, meaning you'll have to pull it out before buying games for the Chromecast or PC versions. That oversight doesn't even cover all the features missing from all three versions of Stadia at launch. Stadia games don't have an Achievement UI yet. You can't share purchased games with a subsidiary family account. The ballyhooed Google Assistant integration, which has its own button on the controller, isn't working at launch. And while you can capture screenshots and videos using a button on the controller, those captures are currently trapped on the Stadia mobile app, with no way to remove them or share them with the world until next year. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Many Stadia-exclusive features that were supposed to set the platform apart also aren't ready in time for launch, despite being discussed publicly since March. You can't share unique game states through an easy Web link. You can't stream your gameplay to YouTube and let viewers jump into your multiplayer session immediately. And you can't integrate your gaming viewpoint into another Stadia user's screen. Maybe one day these features and more will put Stadia at or above par with other game platforms. Right now, across all three hardware use cases, the platform itself feels a bit half-baked. Was this trip really necessary? It should be clear by now that there are a number of technical and logistical headaches involved with the launch version of Stadia. But while Wi-Fi reliability will likely remain a problem for many, none of Stadia's launch issues are so severe they can't be fixed with time and effort. Even if every single problem with Stadia was magically fixed tomorrow, though, the benefits of the service wouldn't necessarily be worth the costs. One of Stadia's core value propositions seems to be the promise that you'll never have to buy "expensive" video game hardware again. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a new game console, the argument goes, when your existing Internet connection and hardware are all you need for quality gaming on Stadia? That argument breaks down the more you look at it. Let's start with TV gaming, for simplicity's sake. For that use case, you'll need to spend $130 for a Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia controller. That's a bit cheaper than the going rate for a console these days, but it's not nothing. Stadia side by side Stadia Pro/Founder's Edition Stadia Base Availability November (via pre-order) "2020" Upfront cost $129.99 None Included up front Chromecast Ultra, Stadia controller, three-month Pro subscription + three-month "buddy pass," Destiny 2 Nothing Monthly cost $9.99 None Maximum stream quality 4K resolution, 60fps, 5.1 surround sound, HDR color 1080p resolution, 60fps, stereo sound Other Benefits Discounts on game purchases; free games at "regular cadence"; early reservation of "Stadia name" None Supported devices (at launch) Chromecast Ultra; Computer w/ Chrome browser; Google Pixel 2 and above phones Additional games Purchase a la carte on either tier More than that, using Stadia currently requires a $10/month Stadia Pro subscription. That might not sound too bad, but over a seven-year console generation it'll add up to $840 (not including the TV hardware costs). Meanwhile, if you bought a PS4 on launch day in 2013 and kept it until the PS5's expected launch late next year, you only spent $400 for the privilege (or $800 if you upgraded to the PS4 Pro a few years back). If you invest in 4K gaming on Sony's PS5 or Microsoft's Project Scarlett next year, you'll probably pay a similar amortized cost over the years. That's not a completely apples-to-apples comparison, since Stadia Pro also comes with some free games. But until we hear more about the promised "regular cadence" and selection of those freebies, it's hard to judge that program based solely on the launch availability of Destiny 2. And let's not forget that Sony and Microsoft both offer $60/year (or less) subscriptions that have provided two to four freebie games a month for years. Even considering hardware, that's still a lower seven-year cost than Stadia Pro. Alternatively, you can invest in console subscription services that provide instant downloadable access to hundreds of legacy games, if you choose. (Stadia Pro's value looks a little better when compared to buying and maintaining a decent gaming PC. But the Stadia version of Destiny 2 is missing features like text chat, suggesting that the keyboard/mouse crowd isn't necessarily the main target audience here.) Yes, Google will be launching a free "Stadia Base" streaming tier sometime next year that removes the monthly cost (and offering a Pro subscription option that doesn't require $130 in hardware purchases). But that free tier also limits streams to 1080p, the same visual quality you can already get locally from a $200 Xbox One S. That's a bit more than the $130 Stadia TV package, but the Xbox One S offers much more gaming variety at the same time. (If you don't care about TV gaming at all, or you don't care about the best streaming quality, that Stadia Base eventually starts to look like a better deal. That's even truer if you plan to go to the hassle of hooking your cheap laptop up to your TV for big-screen play.) Ah, but Stadia is about more than just the TV. What about laptop and mobile play? A modern game console has you covered there, too. The PS4 has had the ability to stream games locally to PCs and Macs on the same home network since 2016, and it added iOS and Android in-home streaming this year. Xbox One users have been streaming their games to Windows machines for years, and the company has promised that "all games you own, or games you purchase in the future" will be streamable to phones via xCloud starting next year (Microsoft has been vague on whether there will be an additional cost to this, though). And if you splurge for a gaming PC, Steam now lets you stream to devices outside the house or stream a local multiplayer game to share it with friends. On top of all that, there's also the fact that Stadia's multi-screen "portability" only works at all if you have a reliable and decently fast Internet connection available. If you want true multi-screen portability, a Nintendo Switch offers a serious (albeit lower-powered) gaming option that you can play in a car, train, plane, doctor's waiting room, etc. What's the point? Games available on Stadia at launch (prices updated as we know them): Assassin's Creed Odyssey - $30 (Stadia Pro deal / $59.99 reg. price) Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle Destiny 2: The Collection * (included with Stadia Pro subscription) Farming Simulator 19 Final Fantasy XV - $29.99 (Stadia Pro deal / $39.99 reg. price) Football Manager 2020 Grid (2019) Gylt* - $29.99 Just Dance 2020 - $49.99 Kine* - $19.99 Metro Exodus Mortal Kombat 11* - $41.99 (Stadia Pro Deal / $59.99 reg. price) NBA 2K20 Rage 2 Red Dead Redemption 2 - $59.99 (Available Nov. 19) Rise of the Tomb Raider - $29.99 Samurai Shodown (included with Stadia Pro subscription) Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition* - $59.99 Thumper - $19.99 Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - $9.99 (Stadia Pro Deal / $19.99 reg. price) Trials Rising Wolfenstein: Youngblood * Tested during pre-release review period Games due to launch on Stadia before the end of 2019: Borderlands 3 Darksiders: Genesis Dragonball Xenoverse 2 Ghost Recon: Breakpoint Game planned for Stadia launch in 2020: Baldur's Gate 3** The Crew 2 Cyberpunk 2077** Destroy All Humans Doom (2016) Doom Eternal** Get Packed** (Stadia exclusive) Gods & Monsters** The Elder Scrolls Online Orcs Must Die 3** (timed Stadia exclusive) Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Superhot Watch Dogs: Legion** Windjammers 2 ** - Titles not available on any platform as of Stadia launch When you get down to it, the actual benefits Stadia offers over other platforms start to look pretty weak. Yes, you can start Stadia games seconds after you buy them, rather than making time and hard drive space for a massive download. But if you have an Internet connection good enough for Stadia, downloading a game is just a one-time annoyance of a few hours per game (and both the PS4 and the Xbox One can download updates automatically while you're away, if you leave them in standby mode). Google could point to the fact that Stadia's data center hardware will always run games at the bleeding edge, with the necessary hardware upgrades to run games at their highest settings. It's a decent argument and one that will look better in five years or so when the next generation of console hardware starts to look long in the tooth. But it's an argument that's only true for the games that make it to Stadia in the first place. Thus far, the platform's tepid launch lineup of mostly months-old games doesn't give us high hopes that it will match Sony and Microsoft's vast libraries of first-party exclusives and first-run third-party content any time soon. Google could point to the promise of coming Stadia-exclusive games that it says will use the distributed power of cloud architecture to provide features that are "not possible" on a local machine. But that promise remains unproven, and rough experiments like Microsoft's cloud-distributed physics in Crackdown 3's online mode shows it's not so simple to convert promise to practice. The only Stadia exclusive at launch, Gylt, is an intimate and well-made puzzle-adventure thriller, but it's not the kind of platform-seller that will set Stadia apart at the moment. In exchange for those marginal or unproven benefits, a Stadia customer faces some inherent risk by paying full price for games on a service that Google could shut down at any point. Unlike discs and (DRM-free) downloads, games you buy on Stadia could be completely inaccessible in the near future if Stadia goes the way of so many other abandoned Google products. Despite Google's assurances that it's in it for the long haul with Stadia, reasonable concerns still persist both among game makers and gamers themselves. If Google wants to lean into Stadia's advantages and mitigate the risks, it would be better served positioning the service less as a full-on console competitor and more as a low-friction, screen-agnostic clearinghouse for sampling games. Spend a few minutes engaging with a streamed video ad, for instance, and you could earn an hour trying out any game in the Stadia catalog, immediately, on any device with a screen. Or, users could pay a bit more a month for an ad-free experience that offers instant access to all Stadia games for as long as Google is willing to continue accepting subscription fees. That kind of seamless, YouTube-style instant access to a vast array of content could be worth all the headaches associated with Stadia, especially if the library of available games continues to grow. For now, though, investing in Stadia instead of a console seems like a bunch of hassle for very minimal benefit. Stadia could eventually grow into the future of gaming, but in the present, it's just not worth it. The Good Over a wired Ethernet connection, streaming feels a lot like local play. Stadia controller is solid and well-built. 4K streams on Chromecast look very sharp under ideal Internet conditions. Starting games without the need for a download is pretty neat. The Bad Wi-Fi performance can be extremely inconsistent Chrome browser streams are limited to 1080p (for now) and look worse than similar resolution running locally. A vast array of missing and "coming soon" features. Up front/monthly costs don't provide much savings over a console (which can do in-home streaming). The Ugly The prospect of paying full price for games that only last as long as Google supports the service. Verdict: Early adopters feel like they're getting a beta product here. Wait until next year to see if Google can work out the kinks and proves the service's longevity. Source: Google Stadia launch review: Gaming’s “future” looks rough in the present (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image galleries, please visit the above link)
  3. iPhone 11 review: The most attractive choice in Apple’s best lineup in years It's only a slight update to the iPhone XR, but it's the best iPhone for most. Enlarge / It still has a notch! Samuel Axon Like the iPhone XR before it, the iPhone 11 is the default iPhone. It's priced where flagship phones used to be priced, and it offers almost all the same features as the expensive iPhone 11 Pro models that also launched this year. Apple's iPhone lineup today is stacked with great phones at varying price points, though. So where does the iPhone 11 fit in? That's what we'll be looking to answer in this review. And we're dubbing this a mini-review because we recently published an in-depth article on the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, and last year we published a full review of the iPhone XR. This year's changes from the iPhone XR to the iPhone 11 are quite modest, so today we'll focus on how this phone is different from this year's flagships and its direct predecessor. As always, let's start with the specs. Table of Contents Specifications Design Camera Software Performance Battery life The most popular iPhone The Good The Bad The Ugly Specifications The iPhone 11 measures 5.94 x 2.98 x 0.33 inches (150.9 x 75.7 x 8.4mm), and has a 6.1-inch (154.9mm) LCD display with a resolution of 1,792 x 828, a typical contrast ratio of 1,400:1, and a maximum brightness of 625 nits. The phone comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage configurations at $699, $749, and $849, respectively. Apple has included its A13 system-on-a-chip, which includes numerous components: a central processing unit, a graphics processing unit, an image signal processor, the Neural Engine for machine learning, and a bunch more. Apple claims that almost all aspects of the A13 are 20% faster than what we saw in the A12 that appeared in last year's iPhone XR. The company also says that this chip is much more power efficient, leading to better battery life. And on the subject of batteries, regulatory filings have indicated that the iPhone 11 has a 3,110mAh battery, up from 2,942mAh in the XR. Teardowns found that the iPhone 11 has 4GB of RAM—the same as is seen in the more expensive iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, and up from 3GB in the XR. On the wireless front, we've got a claim of gigabit LTE, plus Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. The iPhone 11 also has the U1 chip we discussed in our iPhone 11 Pro review; this chip makes the phone location-aware in relation to other wireless devices nearby. Right now, the only feature that taps this is the ability to AirDrop files to another recent iPhone by physically orienting your iPhone 11 toward the target device. But there will likely be more uses for this chip in the future. Apple has introduced spatial audio for the iPhone this year. It provides a fuller, deeper sound field than before, with Dolby Atmos support. You'll still probably want to use headphones, but it's a huge improvement over the XR's sound system. We'll go over camera specs in the camera section of the review, since photography is a key focus of this update—in fact, the camera system is one of the only things that's substantially different from the iPhone XR we reviewed last year. Design Everything about the iPhone 11 looks identical to the iPhone XR except for two things: the camera system on the back, and new colour options. Colours include red, yellow, black, white, purple, and green—many of which have an almost '90s-throwback light shade to them. Our review unit is the classic black. Like the XR, the iPhone 11 has a glossy glass back that loves to attract fingerprints as quickly and as prolifically as possible. The iPhone 11 Pro phones that we reviewed earlier this week have a new, matte finish for the back that is a little less prone to that problem—though they are still made of glass. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Apple says the iPhone 11's glass back is more durable than what we got in last year's phones. But it's still glass, even if that glass is particularly strong, and damage from a drop onto a hard surface like concrete remains a risk. These phones are nigh-impossible for a user to repair should a break like that occur, and because of the way they're made, repairs from an Apple-certified repair shop or the Apple Store involve replacing huge portions of the phone to fix some pretty basic things. So you're looking at high repair costs if you don't also spring for AppleCare+. The iPhone 11 also sports water resistance at up to two meters of depth for up to 30 minutes, another improvement over the XR. The camera on the back has a completely new look. Whereas the iPhone XR had one camera, this one has two: a wide-angle (returning) and an ultra-wide-angle (new). The two lenses are aligned vertically and placed inside of a large-ish, rounded square of glass protruding from the back of the phone ever-so-slightly. Apple is keen to point out that both the camera bump and the rest of the back are "precision-milled from a single sheet of glass," and the glass does look handsome when you're up close. That said, I personally feel the camera bump itself looks weird on the iPhone 11—moreso than in the Pro models. I think it's because the two lenses only occupy half of the square-shaped bump, and while there are a couple other components on the other side (like the flash), it looks lopsided and seems like it might not have been necessary have this entire square in place. Something more like what we saw with the two-camera systems in the iPhone X and XS phones would have looked a little more graceful. I also feel that the iPhone 11 is just kind of bulky. It's not a very elegant-looking device; it's price over form here, with a lot of tiny compromises to bring the costs down but actually add up in terms of aesthetic experience. Of course, that sort of thing is subjective, and it's also not really that important in the grand scheme. Other than these notes, the iPhone 11 looks identical to the iPhone XR, the design of which we talked about at length in our review last year. Camera The biggest changes the iPhone 11 introduces over the iPhone XR are in the various cameras on the device. On the back, we have two 12-megapixel cameras, up from one in the XR. The 12MP, wide-angle lens with a ƒ/1.8 aperture returns, but it's joined by a 12MP, ƒ/2.4 aperture ultra-wide-angle lens with a 120° field of view. This allows taking photos show much more in cramped spaces—or just in any space, really—than the wide-angle lens allowed. We'll take a look at that more closely momentarily. A new video feature called QuickTake lets you take a short video simply by holding your finger down on the shutter button to start recording, then letting go to stop. And Apple has made big improvements to the front-facing camera. It's gone from 7MP to 12MP and supports 4K video at up to 60 frames per second (up from 1080p). It also supports slow-motion video (previously only supported on the rear cameras), so you can take "slofies" at 1080p and 240fps. The story here is that, at this lower-than-flagship price point (although this price point used to be a flagship price point before the sticker prices started going up over the past couple of years, but I digress), many Android options offered better camera systems than the XR offered. Apple is closing the gap here with improvements in both software and hardware. For example, the Google Pixel 3 offered a feature called Night Sight that enhanced images taken in low-light situations to be much more readable. The feature also removed noise and brightened things up while maintaining or even introducing attractive-looking contrast. Apple has answered that here with Night Mode, which does the same thing. Night Mode uses the wide-angle lens and requires you to hold the phone still for a period of time (you can define how long for different results), then produces a low-light image that doesn't look as terrible as smartphone camera low-light images historically have. Here's an example take on the iPhone 11. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. The new ultra-wide camera allows you to zoom out to 0.5x, from the usual 1x of the traditional wide-angle lens. This means you can capture more of a scene; you toggle between the two lenses by simply tapping a button in the Camera app. The transition uses some crazy machine-learning-driven techniques to make the transitions seamless and help you get a sense of which lens to use when, and it's pretty snazzy. Here's what the difference looks like between the two zoom levels: First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. You shouldn't expect a huge difference in normal photos taken with the normal wide-angle camera compared to either last year's iPhone XR or this year's iPhone 11 Pro. We didn't have an XR on hand to test, but as you can see in the photos below, it's impossible to distinguish between the regular photos taken with the 11 and those taken with the 11 Pro. However, Apple has improved on Smart HDR this year, a computational photography feature that helps bring out contrast and colours in photos. The previous implementation sometimes did unreal-looking things with human faces, and Apple has improved on that in this iteration. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Since the iPhone XR only had one camera, it had to rely on a software solution to produce some of the Portrait Lighting effects that were introduced in 2017. I'm not a fan of Portrait Lighting even on the high-end phones, and I didn't think it looked good on the XR. With this second camera, Apple seems able to get some depth information, because Portrait Lighting has improved. It's still not a very attractive feature, though, as the images are often full of odd errors around things like hair or glasses. Apple has nonetheless added Key Light Mono, a new Portrait Lighting effect that puts a white background behind the target in a monochromatic photo. And everything I said in the iPhone 11 Pro review about the upsides and downsides of this machine learning and ISP-driven photography stands for the iPhone 11, too. The A13 and its components, along with Apple's software, are making a lot of decisions for you about how the image should look by default. The results are striking, and smartphone photos look better than they ever had before because of these techniques. But if you're looking to take a nice, clean image without any computational magic going on, you're generally going to be out of luck. I don't think most people will care, though. That criticism mattered more for the iPhones Apple called "Pro." In this case, it fits the product: these features allow non-photographers to use a device that is not a professional-quality camera to take photos that most of the time look better than amateurs have been able to achieve before. It's not unique to Apple's phones—Google and its OEMs are doing similarly impressive work over on the Android side—but that doesn't matter. If you're buying a flagship-or-close-to-it smartphone today, there's some cool photography stuff going on for amateur picture-takers. Software The iPhone 11 ships with iOS 13 (possibly iOS 13.1 by now), Apple's latest mobile operating system. We wrote an extensive, detailed review of iOS 13 that you should check out if you want to learn about all the new features and how the system compares to alternatives. The short version, though, is that iOS 13 remains one of the most elegantly designed operating systems in the industry, and that—along with an extremely robust app and game ecosystem—is one of the main reasons consumers buy iPhones. iOS 13 introduced a number of new features for power users, such as deeper file management and improved text editing. It also shipped with a number of bugs—so far, no common issues are major, but the polish isn't quite there. iOS 13.1 was released shortly afterwards, and it addressed many but not all of the bugs. Still, we expect this annual update cycle of iOS to be a strong one as the small stuff gets worked out. iOS is rivaled in the marketplace by Google's Android operating system, which offers users more control and customization in some areas. Android's app ecosystem has fewer restrictions on which apps may be distributed, and it has more powerful AI features, among other things. On the other hand, iOS offers much more robust longterm device support, a greater emphasis on user privacy, well-thought-out accessibility features, and other advantages. Both mobile platforms are strong in their own ways; the choice between them comes down to personal priorities and naturally won't be the same for every person. Performance As noted in the review for the iPhone 11 Pro, which has the same silicon, huge performance improvements aren't at the center of this update, and they don't need to be: last year's iPhones were already outperforming all the competition in the majority of benchmarks and use cases. But the A13 does knock things up a notch. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. CPU performance is up around 15% in most tests, while the GPU saw bigger gains. This is a great phone to play games on or to try AR experiences with, there's no question about that. Battery life The iPhone XR already had the best battery life of any iPhone to date, so it's not surprising that the iPhone 11 doesn't claim to improve over its predecessor as much as the iPhone 11 Pro did over the iPhone XS. We didn't have an XR to test at this time, but we compared it against the iPhone 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, and XS in our WebGL browser test, and it sits in relation to those about as much as promised and expected. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. The iPhone 11 is capable of fast-charging from the right power adapters, but unfortunately, it doesn't come with one. It still comes with the 5W adapter that has been standard in iPhones for ages. That's a shame—that charger isn't enough for a battery with this capacity. It's going to take an awfully long time to charge this phone. The new iPhone 11 Pro models come with more efficient chargers, and it's disappointing that those chargers didn't come to this phone as well. Having an adequate charger seems to me like it should be a basic standard, not a premium benefit. The most popular iPhone Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that the iPhone XR was Apple's most popular iPhone last year, and I expect that baton to be passed to the iPhone 11 this year. Now seems like as good a time as any to note that Apple's iPhone lineup is looking more appealing than it has for the past couple of years. That's because there are four strong choices—the iPhone 8, the iPhone XR, the iPhone 11, and the iPhone 11 Pro—at price points across a range of a thousand dollars, all the way from $449 to $1449. Starting at $699 (though that's for 64GB, which is not going to be enough for everyone), the iPhone 11 arguably sits at the sweet spot. It improves on the slightly cheaper iPhone XR in noteworthy ways. Yet the only major downsides for this phone as compared to the much, much more expensive iPhone 11 Pro models are a markedly inferior screen, a slightly bulkier and less flashy design, and the lack of a telephoto camera lens. (It also doesn't get some LTE speed increases that Apple brought to the Pro models.) That might sound like a long list, but none of them is going to be particularly consequential for most people. If you're considering upgrading from an iPhone 7 or earlier, the iPhone 11 is a dramatic step up in every respect, provided you don't mind having a much larger phone. If you want a smaller phone, the iPhone 8 is still an attractive buy for those who are coming from older phones, though it lacks many of the nifty new features introduced in the X-series phones. And if you want all the bells and whistles of Apple's iPhone X-derived modern lineup, but camera features aren't as important to you, the iPhone XR is also an option at a lower price than the iPhone 11. I still think Apple needs an SE-like one-handed phone with modern tech in its lineup, and I'd like to see the company offer a version of the iPhone that does not have the disaster-prone glass back. But those omissions aside, iPhone buyers have more choices than they have in a while. And amidst that, I think this is the phone the majority of consumers are going to buy. Yes, the iPhone 11 Pro is outstanding. But it's too expensive for the majority of consumers. If you're looking to live in Apple's mobile ecosystem, but you don't care about bleeding-edge OLED displays or attention-grabbing designs and premium materials, this is the way to go. Like the iPhone XR last year, we're giving it the Ars Approved badge and recommending it as the iPhone to buy for most people. Just be ready to spend a little more than the price of the phone on extras like AppleCare+, protective cases, or AirPods if you want the best experience. The Good It's a little cheaper than last year's XR, but it offers all the same features and more The new ultra-wide-angle camera is both impressive and useful It has the same performance as Apple's flagships this year—far better than any Android phone at this price point iOS 13 is a strong mobile operating system with a vibrant app and game ecosystem Improves on the battery life of last year's longest-lasting iPhone A greater emphasis on user privacy and security than most competing phones The Bad It's made of fragile glass and can generally only be repaired by Apple at great expense (unless you buy AppleCare+) Its design is bulky and a little inelegant, with an odd-looking camera system The cheap price is undermined by the fact that you might want to consider AppleCare+—and wireless headphones, if you don't already have them LTE speeds lag well behind the competition and even behind Apple's iPhone 11 Pro models The included power adapter is inadequate The Ugly The screen is unimpressive, with a low resolution and relatively poor contrast (color accuracy is good, though) Source: iPhone 11 review: The most attractive choice in Apple’s best lineup in years (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  4. Apple Watch Series 5 review: A better, more independent timepiece An always-on display finally comes to the Apple Watch, but watchOS 6 steals the show. Enlarge Valentina Palladino At this point, we all know what an Apple Watch is and what it does well. Apple knows that, too. So with the $399 Apple Watch Series 5, the company homed in on small features that could make a big difference when using the Watch on a daily basis. You won't find a radically different looking smartwatch here, nor will you find a smartwatch with a lot of new moving parts or even a dramatically upgraded CPU. The Series 5 and watchOS 6 refine little details and push the Apple Watch even closer to being an independent device—and this is quite possibly the closest it will ever get to separating itself from the iPhone. I've spent about one week with the Apple Watch Series 5 so far, and I can tell you up front that everything you liked about the Series 4 (and all models before it) still stands. Given that overlap, let's instead focus on the new features and improvements, which are almost all (unsurprisingly) solid but may not warrant an upgrade for those happy with their Series 3 or Series 4 Watches. Table of Contents New hardware Always-on Retina screen Battery life Compass and international SOS Cosmetics What's new in watchOS 6 Watch-ified iPhone apps Streaming audio On-watch App Store Activity Trends and Cycle tracking Same great hardware, even better software The Good The Bad The Ugly New hardware Always-on Retina screen There's little difference in hardware between the Series 5 and Series 4 Watches, but the parts that are different may be very appealing to some users. Namely, the Apple Watch Series 5 has a new display sub-system that allows its OLED panel to remain on all the time. The display itself is the same LTPO panel that's on the Series 4, but the Series 5 has new and improved internals that help the display support an always-on mode without sacrificing battery life. According to Apple, the Series 5 has an ultra-low power display driver, a new power-management circuit, and a new ambient light sensor. All of those components work together to power the display all day long, allowing you to see information (most importantly, the time) even when your wrist is turned downward. All of these changes are internal, so users won't "see" them in action, but they might notice the improvements when they observe the Series 5's display brightness. Previously, the Apple Watch's display would go completely black when not in use, turning on when a user turns their wrist upward to check the time. Now, the Series 5's display will still turn on full brightness when you check the time, but it will automatically dim (not turn off) and lower its refresh rate when you put your wrist down. The display will also automatically adjust in brightness depending on your environment. The new ambient light sensor is essentially always on, whereas in previous Watch models it was not. The always-on display uses this ambient light sensor to constantly check the brightness of your environment so it can dynamically adjust the screen's brightness appropriately. For example, if you're in a particularly dark room like a movie theater, the always-on display will not shine too brightly so as to distract you or others around you. The Apple Watch still has theater mode that you can enable at any time to prevent distractions like this in specific environments, but the convenience of the Series 5 is that you don't have to do that, and you can still check the time just by glancing at your resting wrist. But as anyone who has used an Apple Watch (or any other smartwatch) knows, the display shows much more than the time. It can show information via complications (depending on your selected watch face) and via app and smartphone alerts. Apple had to reconfigure many of these things to make them both compatible and appropriate with an always-on display. The company edited aspects of almost every watch face available for the Series 5 (all of which are designed by Apple because it still does not allow third-party developers to make watch faces) so that they don't draw excess power when you're not actively looking at them. The new Meridian watch face, striking with its white background and black and red crawling watch hands, will basically invert its colour scheme when your wrist is turned down. The white background turns black and the black hands turn white and become more visible, allowing the watch to retain its design and continue to show the time while consuming less power. When a notification from your smartphone arrives on your wrist on the Series 5, it will still cause the watch to vibrate and make a noise (if you have sound turned on), but the details of that alert will not appear on the screen until you turn your wrist upward. That means you won't have to worry about peeking eyes around you reading information from a text message or a sensitive email if they look at your watch. Complications, or those tiny spaces on watch faces that display information from various apps, didn't need as much reconfiguration because they were so small that they could remain largely untouched and not draw excess power. However, like smartphone notifications, there are some complications that display information, like the next meeting on your calendar, that you may not want the world to be able to see. To fix that, Apple added the new high-sensitivity complications mode that you can toggle on or off—when on, it blurs out sensitive complication information so only you can see it when you turn your wrist upward and actively look at the Watch's display. Battery life An always-on display is a feature beloved by many wearables users, and many will rejoice that the Apple Watch finally has it. But the Apple Watch has one of the most accurate raise-to-wake features I've ever used in a smartwatch, so I never found myself dreaming of an Apple Watch with an always-on display. Still, others have been dreaming of such a feature, and it certainly makes the Watch a better timepiece. Smartwatches are often criticized for doing things that humans don't necessarily need while neglecting the most inherent aspect of a watch—the ability to tell time. So the Apple Watch Series 5, for its always-on display alone, is likely the best version of the smartwatch that Apple has ever made, particularly for timepiece purists. Apple claims the Series 5 will continue to get 18 hours of battery life even with its always-on display, and I'm pleased to say that my Series 5 lasted almost exactly 18 hours (I wore it all day, through the night, and into the next day only taking it off to shower). But I was more excited about the fact that you can turn off always-on mode whenever you want. This will make the Series 5's display act like that of the Series 4—the panel will only turn on when you raise your wrist. Considering the battery life remains roughly the same as the Series 4 when the Series 5 has the always-on display active, it's possible to get even more than 18 hours of life with the Series 5 if you turn off the always-on display mode. Apple says that users shouldn't expect huge gains in battery life if they do this, and in our talks, representatives appeared convinced that Series 5 users would love the always-on display mode so much that few would opt to turn it off. But for those who do turn it off, I found that you can gain many hours of battery life depending on how much you use the Watch. My Series 5 delivers all of my smartphone alerts to my wrist (in addition to call and text alerts), and I track at least one hour of exercise per day with it. I don't make calls using LTE very often, and I keep audio listening to my iPhone rather than my Watch. With my regular use (plus a little extra attention while I was testing out all the new watchOS 6 features) and always-on display mode turned off, I wore the Watch all day and all night and got roughly 33 hours of battery life. Apple may be correct in assuming that those who buy a Series 5 will never want to turn off always-on display mode because it indeed makes the Watch look and feel more like an actual watch. It presents fewer compromises when using it purely as a timepiece rather than a device that can do much more. But for those who do often take advantage of the other things the Apple Watch can do, turning off always-on display mode paves the way for things like more convenient sleep tracking and easier periods of extended use. Now, users essentially have two battery-saving methods: turning the always-on display mode off and the existing power reserve mode, which I've often used on previous version of the Watch to preserve some power overnight to use the next morning when I didn't have the charger with me. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Compass and international SOS The Series 5 has the same CPU and GPU as the Series 4 did, so the only other internal changes come in the new built-in compass (magnetometer) and improved cellular bands. The new Compass app uses the magnetometer to show you which direction you're facing, and, with Apple Maps integration, it can show you which direction you're moving when you're navigating to a destination. The Compass app itself also lets you set a bearing, so if you're hiking to a specific location and know roughly which direction to go, you can set that bearing in the app and it will switch from pointing north to that direction instead. Apple also created a Compass API so developers can make use of the magnetometers in ways they see fit. The improvements to the SIP and cellular bands allows the Series 5 to make use of its SOS feature in more than 150 countries now. If you find yourself in a bad situation, or the Watch's fall detection kicks in when you fall off your bike during a cycling workout, users with cellular Series 5 models can now call emergency services in various countries. Cosmetics Aside from the few hardware changes detailed above, the Apple Watch Series 5 has a few new case materials you can choose from. Aluminum and stainless steel models in the typical 40mm and 44mm case sizes are still available, but now you can choose from titanium and ceramic cases as well. The silver titanium Watches have a satin finish, making the difference most apparent when looking at them next to stainless steel models of the Watch. These models are slightly lighter than the stainless steel models as well. White ceramic is your only color option, but that's the point—ceramic is one of the only materials that can get as close to a pure white color as possible for a device like this. Naturally, springing for a Series 5 with a fancy case material will cost you. Titanium Watches start at $799, and ceramic Watches start at $1,299. By contrast, aluminum Series 5 devices start at $399 while stainless steel models start at $699. We should note that Apple removed the Series 4 Watch listing from its online store. It's unclear if Apple retail locations still sell the Series 4, but it's clear that Apple wants users to transition to Series 5 as quickly as possible. As we noted, there are very few differences in hardware between the Series 4 and the Series 5, so it's understandable that Apple would want anyone buying a brand-new Watch to get the Series 5. All watchOS 6 features that are not dependent on the always-on display technology, the compass, and the improved cellular band will be available on Series 4 devices (Series 3 devices as well, and the software update will support Series 1 and 2 Watches later this fall)—so if you bought a Series 4 last year, you don't need to spend another $399 to get most of the new software features. Apple does, however, still sell the Series 3 Watch, and the company recently brought down its price to $199. Specs compared: Apple Watch Series 5 vs Apple Watch Series 3 Device Apple Watch Series 5 Apple Watch Series 3 Price Starts at $399 Starts at $199 Sizes 40mm, 44mm 38mm, 42mm Processor S5 chip, 64-bit, dual-core S3 chip, dual-core Storage 32GB 8GB, 16GB Display LTPO OLED Retina with Force Touch and Always-On mode OLED Retina with Force Touch Water resistance Up to 50 meters Up to 50 meters Sensors 32 g-force accelerometer, improved gyroscope, ECG electrodes, optical heart rate monitor, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, barometric altimeter, low-power ambient light sensor, magnetometer, enhanced cellular bands (on LTE models) 16 g-force accelerometer, gyroscope, optical heart rate monitor, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, barometric altimeter, ambient light sensor Siri Written and verbal Written and verbal Connectivity W3 chip (Bluetooth 5.0), Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz, optional LTE and UMTS W2 chip (Bluetooth 4.2), Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz, optional LTE and UMTS Battery life Up to 18 hours (with always-on display mode turned on) Up to 18 hours What's new in watchOS 6 Watch-ified iPhone apps WatchOS 6 doesn't change the fundamental look and feel of the Apple Watch, but it does bring some iPhone features to your wrist in the form of new native iOS apps. Now, you'll have access to Watch-versions of the Calculator, Voice Memo, and Audiobook apps, and my favorite of the three is definitely the Calculator app. The UI harkens back to the physical calculator watches of yesteryear—which is cool in itself—but I love the new tip feature. Simply input the amount of your restaurant bill, and the Calculator app will spit out the appropriate tip amount. You can use the Digital Crown to change the tip percentage and the number of people by which you're splitting the bill, and it will tell you exactly how much each person has to pay for the tip and pay in total. The watchOS Voice Memos app is similarly handy, but it will be most used by those who need to record interviews or lectures or those who often have bursts of creativity and want to save their thoughts quickly. The UI consists only of a red record button, so you only need to tap it to start a recording and tap it again to end the recording. Yes, the app continues to record even when your wrist is turned downward, and all voice memos are saved to the Watch and synced with your iPhone. You'll want to wait until that recording is on your iPhone before you delete it from your Watch—deleting a recording before it syncs will get rid of it for good. However, you can delete a recording from your Watch and it will still be saved in the Voice Memos app on your iPhone as long as the syncing process has completed. You'll also want to listen to long voice memos from your iPhone, because doing so on the Watch only works when the screen is completely on. You cannot listen to a voice recording when the always-on screen is "idle" or when your wrist is turned away from you, either. Doing so will automatically pause the recording until you physically press play again on the Watch's screen. The new Audiobooks app lets you download and listen to any audiobooks you buy from iTunes. This does not include audiobooks you may have from other sources that are accessible in iTunes—you're limited to audiobooks purchased from iTunes itself. That's an unfortunate limitation, but it's an expected one coming from Apple. However, it's worth noting that other audiobook providers like Audible have watchOS apps that let you download and listen to books in a similar way. An all-new app in watchOS 6 is the Noise app, which measures the decibel levels of your environment in real-time using the Watch's microphone. The app will show the changing noise levels in a bar graph and tell you how long you can safely be in that environment before you risk damaging your hearing. You can also enable noise alerts that will let you know if you're in a potentially dangerous environment with too-loud sounds. Anyone with hearing sensitivity will find this useful, but others may ignore the app entirely. I measured noise levels a few times during my time with the Series 5 Watch mostly because I was curious how loud my TV is when it's at our preferred volume level. Streaming audio Another new, sound-based feature of watchOS 6 is the streaming audio API that developers can use to allow users to stream audio over Wi-Fi or cellular directly from the Apple Watch. Essentially, this means that if you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection on your Watch or have a cellular Watch model, you don't need to download audio content to the Watch's onboard storage in order to listen to it. How useful this is in practice, however, will depend entirely on developers and how they use the API. Take an app like the meditation subscription service Headspace: if you subscribe, you have access to numerous audio chunks in the iOS app, and now the company can make some or all of those audio files accessible in the watchOS app. You can choose a 5-minute meditation session directly from the Watch and, with a pair of Bluetooth headphones connected to the Watch, listen to that meditation without actually downloading it. This will also work for live audio programs like sportscasts, so subscribers could listen to the radio broadcast of a baseball game using the At Bat watchOS app. It's also only possible to stream audio in this way with paired Bluetooth headphones—you can't use the Watch's speakers to listen to audio for long periods of time. That would likely drain the battery quite quickly as well, so this limitation is probably for the best. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. On-watch App Store WatchOS 6 also brings the App Store to your wrist. Instead of searching in the Watch iOS app, now you can browse, search for, and download watchOS apps directly from the Apple Watch. Going into testing the Series 5, I wanted to know a few things about the on-watch App Store: how easy is it to browse via the wrist? How limited is it in information and capabilities? And how many apps can we expect to be Watch-only? The first two points were answered more easily than the third. The on-Watch App Store is surprisingly easy to use, as Apple makes it simple to find Watch-ready apps with spotlights and curated lists by category. You can scroll through all of those options or use the top search bar to either dictate or scribble a specific app or kind of app you're looking for. And selecting an app is just like selecting an app to learn more about it in the iOS version of the App Store. Apple managed to stuff a lot of information into this physically tiny screen space by using tappable boxes. Each app profile page has a description, screenshots, information about the iPhone and iPad apps (if available), a what's new section for the latest updates, ratings and reviews, and in-app purchases information. It's convenient that you don't have to go searching for any app information while using the on-Watch App Store. Browsing will require some patience as you tap and scroll incessantly, but that's the case most of the time if you're using the Apple Watch as your primary device. This App Store only shows Watch-capable apps, so the only reason I'd browse it is to find an app you want to use primarily on your Apple Watch. That's something you can already do in the iOS App Store, but it's nice to have the option to do so on the Apple Watch, too. Of the many watchOS apps in the App Store, most of them are companions to iOS apps, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you download an app for the first time from your watch, you'll see the iOS app pop up on your device shortly after. You can choose to delete these apps, but they usually provide a fuller experience than the watchOS app provides. But watchOS 6 does introduce apps that don't require a companion iOS app. Developers can create standalone watchOS apps now, but I confess that I couldn't try any—because I had a hard time finding any. Apple doesn't currently have an "only on watchOS" spotlight in the on-Watch app store, and all of the apps I downloaded or searched for had companion iOS apps. Nevertheless, there are a ton of new tools in watchOS 6 that developers can take advantage of when making watchOS apps, and I'm eager to see these in action. Since these tools are available for all watchOS apps, not just standalone ones, I was able to see one new feature at use in Calm's watchOS app: continuity keyboard. When asked to input your Calm account password, users now have the option to do so with the continuity keyboard, which opens up an alert window and the keyboard on your connected iPhone so you can more easily type in your credentials. When you press Enter on your iPhone, the Apple Watch registers that input, gives off a slight vibration, and signs you in if it's the correct password. A note on standalone watchOS apps An Apple representative told me that developers started submitting standalone watchOS apps the week before iOS 13 rolled out, so we'll likely see more of them hitting the on-Watch App Store in the near future. If you're a developer or are just interested in the new UX interactions available for watchOS 6 apps—like continuity keyboard—I encourage you to check out Apple's WWDC presentation on the subject. So while the on-Watch App Store and standalone watchOS apps push the Apple Watch further into the realm of Independent Device, Apple has also put systems and tools in place that make it easier to use the Apple Watch if you have your iPhone nearby. In addition to features like continuity keyboard, you still need to use your iPhone to set up the Apple Watch initially, initiate software updates, and so on. That will probably never change. The Apple Watch remains, fundamentally, an accessory to prevent you from needing your iPhone to execute every daily digital task you have. The device still excels at that. And with watchOS 6, it's even more poised to be the device you turn to when you don't want to pull out your iPhone. Activity Trends and Cycle tracking Just like every other Apple Watch model, the Series 5 tracks all-day activity and now can help you track menstrual cycles, with new features in iOS 13 and watchOS 6. The Activity app in iOS 13 also has the new Activity Trends feature, which examines your past year's worth of activity and compares it to the most recent 90 days of activity to find ways you can improve. Depending on how much you exercise and how often you wear your Watch in general, you'll see more suggestions in the "worth a look" section compared to the "needs more data" section. Apple was right to include such a feature because most wearable companion apps provide suggestions based on collected data to help people get healthier and achieve or advance their goals. However, I was not surprised that my suggestions were not very detailed despite the countless hours I've logged wearing my Apple Watch (when I'm not testing a new wearable, it's my default smartwatch that I wear every day except on Sundays—even my wrist needs a break). Activity Trends told me to try to burn 585 calories per day because, in the past 90 days, my average daily calorie burn was 539 calories—less than my average daily calorie burn for the past year, which was 566. Since Apple's Move metrics take into account "everything from light household chores and slow walks to biking or working out at the gym," the app basically suggested I find more ways of moving around throughout the day. If I achieved a Move goal of 585 calories burned per day, Activity Trends estimated that it would take me 11 weeks to move that trend back in the positive direction. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. That's all well and good, but I wanted more detail and insight. The Exercise trend gave me a bit more of what I was looking for, suggesting one brisk walk each day to push my daily average exercise minutes up from 40 (what they have been for the past 90 days) to closer to 44 (the average from the past year or so). Nevertheless, I would have liked more specific, actionable insights like the Activity app on the Watch sometimes provides when you're close to hitting your move goal, or when you need to stand during the hour to hit your daily stand goal. The Apple Watch collects a vast amount of health data, and I simply wish Apple used it more productively. The company has made the Apple Watch's activity tracking features so comprehensive yet easily digestible for most users that I often go months without opening the Activity app on my iPhone. That's both good and bad—it's great that we can get advice like take a 10-minute walk to fill your Move ring for the day delivered to your wrist, but it's less than ideal that, when we turn to the iPhone app, we see little more than what we see on the Watch itself. Activity Trends add to the value of the iOS app but currently not enough. I'd love to see Apple turn those trends into actionable training plans: let users select one of the trends that are "worth a look," give them specific instructions that can swing that trend upward, and then push alerts and reminders to their wrist to complete those directions every day. That would turn Activity Trends into more than just a page in the iOS app that users will likely look at once and never again. Anyone who wants guided programs similar to this will want to consider Garmin's or Fitbit's wearables for now. Users will not even currently turn to the Activity app when they want to track their menstrual cycles because that feature lives in Apple's Health app—an understandable choice. Apple may have been late to the menstrual-tracking party, but its solution is one that takes into account how other apps do it and puts a very Apple-y spin on it. The UI is minimalist, and the learning curve to use it is small. You can tap on the grayish ovals that represent each day to quickly add when you've had your period, or you can turn to the more detailed options below the calendar slider to add things like daily symptoms, sexual activity, basal body temperature, and more. The list of symptoms you can track is quite large (it even includes hot-flashes!), and those who often experience no bleeding for any number of reasons will appreciate the "no flow" period tracking option. The watchOS version of Cycle tracking comes in its own app that you can use to discreetly log symptoms. You can also choose to receive alerts about cycling start dates, ovulation periods, and more. I received only one or two alerts from the app during the time I tested the Series 5, and since they are mostly text-based, no one around me would be able to distinguish them from a calendar alert or a notification from another app. Same great hardware, even better software Apple worked out most of the Apple Watch's kinks with the Series 3, and since then the company has been adding improvements that make the Watch a more convenient and phone-freeing accessory. The Series 5 isn't as much of an upgrade as the Series 4 was from the Series 3, but nevertheless, it's still the best smartwatch you can get if you're an iPhone user. The always-on display and watchOS 6 improvements only hammer home that fact, even if some users will be more excited about the former than others. I suspect those who buy a Series 5 will be enamored with the fact that it is arguably the best timepiece Apple has made because of the always-on display. It's worth the upgrade if you're coming from a Series 1 or Series 2 device (or an aging, non-Apple smartwatch), but it's not necessary for happy Series 4 owners to upgrade. The rest of the Watch's core features remain the same, so unless that always-on display is what you've been wishing for, you can stick with your current Watch for now. (After all, you will get all watchOS 6 features that aren't tied to new hardware components.) The decision is a bit tougher for Series 3 owners as the Series 5 widens the gap between these two devices. However, the reasons I'd recommend updating come with the Apple Watch Series 4, too—namely ECG measurements and fall detection. While Apple will inevitably continue to try to improve the Apple Watch's hardware, the device's software continues to be why I often recommend the Apple Watch to iPhone users who want a solid wearable. It's the most intuitive on-wrist computing experience you can get, and that experience is made better by Apple's attention to detail in every iteration of watchOS. You'll likely always need an iPhone to use an Apple Watch, but with every update it continues to get easier to leave that iPhone behind and remain connected to the most important aspects of your digital life by using the Apple Watch. The Good Solid build quality and design. Always-on display mode doesn't impact 18-hour battery life. Always-on display mode can be disabled. Accurate internal sensors (heart rate, GPS, etc). On-Watch app store is easy to use and useful. Cycle tracking is thorough and discrete with watchOS app. The Bad Activity Trends isn't as detailed as it should be. Still no native sleep tracking. Not many Watch-only apps yet. Only works with iOS devices. Expensive. The Ugly No third-party watch faces. Source: Apple Watch Series 5 review: A better, more independent timepiece (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image galleries, please visit the above link)
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  6. By Darren Murph on Jan 21, 2014 at 11:00 AM I’ve been fortunate enough to use Google Glass in some form or another for months now, but just recently procured a pair of my own. Wired’s Mat Honan penned my favorite Glass review, and his words so similarly mirror my own overarching viewpoint that I’ll simply redirect you there if you’re looking to spend a hefty chunk of time reading. For the purposes of this article, however, I’m going to focus on brevity. I’ve just recently returned from a week at CES, where I used Glass during some portion of each day there, and I’ve reached a point where I feel comfortable opining on the unit’s strengths, its shortcomings, and my hopes for its future. What Google Glass is awesome at: •Turn-by-turn navigation. This is Glass’ current “killer app.” Flashing photos and email cards in front of someone using Glass for the first time is cool, but dial up a map of a nearby street corner and you’ll almost certainly hear a positive adjective uttered by the wearer. •Being sunglasses. I ordered the Charcoal color a bid to be as understated as possible, and that decision proved doubly great once I realized that it shipped with a tinted sunglass add-on. Rocking these as sunglasses in the desert proved to weird people out much less than when using them sans shades. •Enabling spontaneous captures. I was boarding a relatively small aircraft a week ago, and the sun flare striking the plane’s body was perfect as I approached the boarding door. Thanks to Glass, I tapped the camera capture button and secured that moment. In the middle of nowhere in Nevada, three donkeys decided to wander out and cross the street that I was driving on; due to having Glass on, I captured a memorable 10 second video of the weirdness. It’s the little things, you know? •Notifications. When it’s synced up properly, hearing a gentle “ding” to signify an incoming notification is quite useful. You can choose to look up at it immediately, or just wait. We need more notification customization options, but the crux of it is ace. •Being a Bluetooth headset. I’ll never wear a conventional Bluetooth headset, but I loved having phone conversations on Glass. The only downside here is that it doesn’t get loud enough — in airports and on noisy roads, you’ll struggle to hear the person on the other end. •Being comfortable. Amazingly, Glass is super light, and you barely notice them on your cranium. Every person who tried my set on commented on how much more comfortable they were than they had anticipated. What Google Glass is not awesome at: •Organization. There’s no (current) way to dismiss notification cards permanently. There’s no way for users to customize the order of their cards. You can’t change the “home screen.” There is essentially no flexibility whatsoever in the user interface, which at least means that Google has a huge opportunity for improvement. •Being used while playing sport. Try running with Glass and taking a photo mid-stride. You can’t. Google is aware of the issue, however, and will hopefully remedy this in a future software update. •Lasting longer than four hours. Seriously, the battery life on Glass is abysmal. It gives me all sorts of anxiety to use Glass for more than two hours without being near a charger. •Capturing great images. The camera sensor in the Glass headset is fairly poor. It’s at least three or four generations behind whatever is in the top-end iPhone, which — like it or not — is going to remain the benchmark that Google will absolutely need to match. •Collapsing. Astonisinghly, you can’t fold Glass’ side bars in as you can with bona fide glasses, so they take up a comical amount of space in one’s backpack. •Being useful in sunlight. Shocker — projector-based displays are awful outside — but you really need something of a solid backdrop, and to be indoors, to really see what’s going on on Glass’ module. •Being comfortable long-term. I have the same issue with watches, but most “normal” humans won’t have an issue wearing a watch for their waking hours. Wearing something on your face for 12+ hours is going to take some getting used to. (Yes, those who’ve worn glasses for years won’t have much issue adjusting.) •Maintaining a connection. Not a day went by where Glass didn’t disconnect from my iPhone’s Bluetooth signal at least once. You’ll need Bluetooth for using Glass as a headset, but you’ll also tether Glass to receive data — it often requires a full power down + power on to reconnect fully, which is annoying (and unacceptable for mainstream users). •Transcribing the human voice. So, so much of Glass’ utility revolves around the headset’s ability to ingest and transcribe the spoken word. Quick email replies, Twitter messages, etc. The harsh reality is that it’s simply poor. It frequently gets words wrong, even if I make myself look like an idiot in public by speaking slowly and deliberately to a glass cube above my eye. When swipes and vocal cords are the only input choices, they have to be flawless. The latter is still heavily flawed. Nothing will make you swear off wearables faster than this. If Glass borks up even a couple of spoken emails, I’ll bet you that the majority of mainstream consumers will say: “You know what, typing on my phone is more private, less embarrassing, and more accurate. Screw Glass.” What I hope Google Glass gains before it’s widely available to consumers: •True phone connectivity. I need to be able to capture a photo with Glass and instantly import than into Snapseed (a Google product, no less) on my phone for further editing and sharing. Period. •Easier settings. It’s stupidly difficult to connect Glass to a Wi-Fi network. Seriously, it’s a 3-4 minute process, and it usually involves the scanning of a QR code. Just… no. •A better display. The resolution is too low, viewing angles are poor, and it barely works in sunlight. That’s a recipe for mass rejection if it’s not resolved. •A relocated micro-USB port. The charging port is directly beneath the power button, which caused me to inadvertently turn Glass off while trying to shove a power cable in. •Collapsible arms. Really, that’s all that needs to be said. •Some amount of ruggedness. Glass is ideal for adventuring, hiking, etc. It needs to be able to resist a bit of water and take small beatings. •Support for all apps. The ecosystem has to grow tremendously, or — like Pebble — it should simply tap into a phone’s existing notification system. Being able to receive Gmail notifications, but not Mail notifications, is frustrating. •A better battery. This needs to be an all-day device, at least. •Speed. The menu transitions are too slow, and in general, the user interface needs to be snappier. Sorry, but if your product isn’t as snappy as the latest iPad or iPhone, people aren’t going to use it. The bar has been set, and continues to be reset on a yearly basis. •Functionality. The list of things that Glass can do is painfully short, and nearly every trick it can play can also be played on a smartwatch. Google has to take better advantage of the form factor here. Funnily enough, I never had any strange stares while wearing Glass in airports, in Las Vegas, in ghost towns in California, and at a resort in Mexico. I think Glass has been on CNN enough at this point that most humans understand what’s going on. I firmly believe that society is well on their way to accepting face worn wearables — that’s not going to be Google’s primary challenge. The challenge is going to be price and functionality. As we saw with 3D HDTVs, you have to have a killer — killer — pitch to convince a customer to strap something onto their face. And, it’ll need to be priced like a smartwatch. If an eventual iWatch hits at $349, Glass will need to be immediately, obviously, and unarguably superior in the functionality department to stand a chance. Google’s biggest issue with Glass today is that I have no good answer to why anyone should buy one. I prefer a watch for raw notifications and I prefer my phone for input. I also prefer traveling with as few things as possible, so the company still has some persuading as to why Glass should make the carry-on cut. The upside, however, is that the potential for Glass far exceeds its present state. Much like the original iOS — the one that shipped without an App Store — Glass could be morphed into a game-changing device for the masses. I’m also completely in love with Google’s investment on the Glass Guide side of things; there’s an entire stable of Glass professionals who are scouring message boards for complaints and suggestions, which gives me hope that they’re working tirelessly to make sure that the consumer edition of Glass is impossible to resist. For the sake of a wilder, crazier future, join me in hoping so. http://bgr.com/2014/01/21/google-glass-review
  7. Introduction Camera shootouts are a proud GSMArena tradition and the latest edition features by far the most technologically advanced cameraphones yet. We have large sensors, sky-high resolution, optical image stabilization, clever image processing and a selection of cool tricks all in pocketable packages with flagship-grade hardware and software. Six top notch phones, three smart platforms, and a total just shy of a hundred million pixels, prepare to meet the contenders. Obviously, this shootout just has to include the Nokia Lumia 1020 - it took over from the 808 PureView as the most advanced cameraphone with a camera, inheriting all the benefits of the other PureView phones so far (the PureView 808 and the Lumia 920). The 1/1.5" optically stabilized sensor with the whopping 41MP of resolution is one of its kind and the xenon flash is equally rare these days. Sony is also aiming high without crossing any lines in terms of practicality. The Japanese went ahead and put the largest sensor that would fit in an 8.5mm slim phone, and the result is quite impressive: a 1/2.3" 20.7MP imager, which may not have optical image stabilization, but it sure doesn't have a bulge on the back either. We had to get a second Z1 unit for this shootout as the first one had some issues with its lens but now the promising cameraphone can show its full potential. Then there are the other Android hopefuls, which stick to the well proven Sony-made 13MP sensors. The LG G2 spices things up with optical stabilization plus 1080p video capture @ 60fps. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 trumps that with 2160p video capture as well as 1080p @ 60fps, but it skips the OIS. The updated Apple iPhone 5s camera is in the ring too - it has a larger sensor and brighter optics compared to the last generation, but the droids seem leaps and bounds ahead on paper. But that's not what we are after here - it's the real life performance that matters and the iPhones have managed to deliver more than their specs sheets suggest. Finally, the HTC One is the oldest phone we're putting to the test but it's the first Android to include OIS and its different approach is certainly interesting to compare. Using fewer but large pixels (dubbed UltraPixels) goes against the grain, and we are interested to see how it works out. Obviously we'll be testing the still photo and video recording prowess of all six phones, in both good and bad lighting scenarios. We're also including some of the commonly used features like HDR and panorama, and even pitting Nokia's video zoom against Samsung's take on the feature. This one is shaping as a one intense competition. We start off with the still camera functionality and then break down image quality. Join us after the break. FULL REVIEW
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