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23
Feb

Access geo-blocked content around the world with PlaymoTV Smart DNS: Lifetime Subscription


In 2016, the idea of being blocked from viewing the shows you love due to your location is nearly laughable.

Georestrictions are forever a memory with playmoTV Smart DNS, a service which allows you to bypass regional restrictions and stream anything globally at your command. For a limited time, you can get a lifetime subscription to playmoTV for just £34.88 ($49.99) from Pocket-lint Deals.

With playmoTV, you won’t have to worry about region restrictions when connecting outside of the US. Freely access to services like Netflix, Showtime, Hulu, HBO NOW, ABC, BBC, and more when you’re in a region which would normally make viewing very difficult. You can choose from 20 different Netflix regions, so you’ll be able to expand your horizons and watch all kinds of new content previously unavailable to your region.

You’ll find that playmoTV works on all your devices, no matter your preference of media: your game console, smart TV, mobile device, Roku, and many more are all compatible. To put it simply, if there’s a device you’d want to watch video content from, it’ll be supported!

Take 79 per cent off a lifetime subscription to unlimited access, for a limited time on Pocket-lint Deals.

23
Feb

Sony Xperia Eye, Projector, Agent: Concept visions of a connected future


Alongside the launch of new handsets, Sony revealed a collection of Xperia concepts at Mobile World Congress 2016, products designed to help users interact in a more meaningful way.

The Xperia Eye, Xperia Projector and Xperia Agent, constitute a line-up of connected devices, some borrowing ideas that we’ve seen previously.

Here’s a run-down of Sony’s Xperia concept pieces.

Pocket-lint

Xperia Eye

The Xperia Eye is a compact, wide-angle lens camera that you can wear. The idea is that it will attach to clothing, be worn around the neck or be used with one of the accessories. It brings the Sony’s Exmor camera sensor technology in its smallest form.

The Eye will have a 360-degree spherical lens for a natural field of view and it will capture images automatically using facial and voice detection. The conceptual device is slightly bigger than the size of a lighter and it’s lovely and light. Whether what we saw will be the final design is unclear, but if it is, it won’t be that subtle when worn.

It appears to be similar to the Autographer camera, a device that wasn’t all that popular so it will be interesting to see if Sony can make the idea more appealing.

READ: OMG Life Autographer review

Pocket-lintXperia Projector

Xperia Projector

The Xperia Projector is all about stimulating communication through an interactive interface that is projected on a clear surface. There are fewer details on the Projector than the Eye but it is said that it will respond to touch, voice and gestures, like a smartphone.

This device is a little larger than the Eye and looks a little like a NAS drive but it would probably blend in seamlessly enough within a home surrounding.

Pocket-lintXperia Agent 1

Xperia Agent

Last but not least, the Xperia Agent is a personal assistant. It will respond to voice and gestures, delivering you with useful information, communication assistance and control over your home appliances.

The Agent has a built-in camera and projector display, allowing it to project content onto various surfaces. It is also powered by Sony’s voice technology like the other concepts and it is perhaps larger than you might expect and looks a little like a sleek coffee maker, but again, it’s not clear if what we saw is the final design.

Sony has not revealed if or when any of the three Xperia concepts will come to market but we will keep you posted if we hear anything further.

23
Feb

MasterCard to replace passwords with selfies and fingerprints for ID checks


The days of using a traditional password to verify your identity for MasterCard online payments are numbered.

The credit card company has confirmed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it plans to accept selfies and fingerprints as an alternative to passwords. MasterCard has already tested these biometric checks during a trial in the US and Netherlands last year, and now an actual rollout of the new system is planned for this summer in the UK, US, and Canada.

The new system will also come to the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. To use the system, MasterCard said customers in those countries will have to download an app to their PC, tablet, or phone. They will also need to provide their credit card details for online purchases, according to the BBC.

The system will only kick in should a further authentication check be required. Customers may be asked to look at their phone’s camera or use the phone’s fingerprint sensor to verify their identity instead of manually enter a traditional password. To protect customers against fraud however, MasterCard will require them to blink into their camera when taking a selfie.

MasterCard / BBC

Such a small action should prove they aren’t holding up a photo. Keep in mind both Microsoft’s Windows 10 and Google’s Android operating systems already let users unlock their devices by looking at their cameras. Mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay have also allowed customers to authorise payments with their fingerprints for awhile now.

Several critics have warned that facial scans and fingerprint data can be compromised. Nevertheless, MasterCard stressed that it feels confident in its security mechanisms. For instance, the company said facial scans and fingerprint data will not be transmitted during transactions, thus reducing the chance of such data being intercepted, stolen, or used by hackers.

So it’s probably only a matter of time before biometric checks are widely accepted and used everywhere – not just by credit card firms.

23
Feb

Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge: Release date, specs and everything you need to know


After months of speculation, Samsung has unveiled the two latest flagship phones in its long line of Galaxy handsets.

Much has been rumoured and leaked about the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge devices in the build up to the Korean company’s Mobile World Congress 2016 press conference, but they are now official and fully revealed.

Contrary to early belief, there’s no Samsung Galaxy S7 edge+ yet – with a possible launch for that device touted for much later in the year – but with the extra-sized 5.5-inch screen on the S7 edge, perhaps it’s not even needed.

Anyhow, let’s turn our attention onto the two handsets Samsung has officially announced. Here’s everything you need to know about the SGS7 and SGS7 edge.

READ: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs Galaxy S7 edge: What’s the difference?

Pocket-lint

Samsung Galaxy S7 and SGS7 edge design

Although the two new handsets share a couple of design cues and are clearly in the same family, this year’s models are differently sized. The Samsung Galaxy S7, like the SGS6, is a 5.1-inch phone, while the Galaxy S7 edge has had a jump to 5.5-inches.

READ: Samsung Galaxy S7 preview: Premium for the traditionalists

The latter also seems to feature the biggest differences in overall design on a year-to-year basis. Samsung has got rid of the sharper edge and flat back of the Galaxy S6 edge, replacing it with a curved rear that wraps around to meet the edges of the curved screen.

The end result is a more rounded phone that feels smoother and more comfortable in the hand.

Like last year’s version, the standard Galaxy S7 also has a rounded back – from the rear both the S7 and edge look similar, if different sizes – but the front face is naturally flat.

Both phones feel nice in the hand but the SGS7 edge is perhaps the more premium of the two in aesthetic terms.

READ: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge preview: The best smartphone Samsung has ever made?

The camera module also sticks out less on this year’s phones, with a protrusion of just 0.46mm to make them also flush. They are both also water and dust proof this time, adhering to the IP68 standard that means they can each survive for up to 30 minutes submerged in water as deep as 1.5 metres.

In dimensions and weight terms, the Galaxy S7 is 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9mm and weighs 152g. The Galaxy S7 edge is 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7mm and weighs 157g.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and SGS7 edge display

As previously mentioned, the Samsung Galaxy S7 has a 5.1-inch display, while the Galaxy S7 edge has a 5.5-inch screen. They are both Super AMOLED – like just about every Samsung phone for many a year – and have the same resolution as previous models: 2560 x 1440 (Quad HD).

Like the previous Galaxy S6 edge, the latest edge phone has a wrap-around display that curves on either side.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and SGS7 edge hardware and specs

The processor found in each device is identical. Samsung claims that it runs 30 per cent faster than the Exynos CPU used last year, while the GPU runs a mighty 64 per cent faster.

To achieve that, Samsung has switched back to a Qualcomm processor this year – at least in some territories, such as the UK and US. It has adopted a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 octa-core SoC.

There will be two variants of each phone, with two different processors depending on the market (we think it will boil down to whether it is LTE capable or not).

In the UK and US, we strongly expect that we’ll get the better, higher powered processor – the octa-core (2.3GHz quad, 1.6GHz quad), 64 bit, 14nm Snapdragon.

Previous reports claimed that as well as that processor, the phones each come with Adreno 530 graphics and 4GB of RAM. And while the former is still to be officially confirmed, the latter has been.

One interesting addition to both phones is a tiny heatsink with water cooling that will keep the GPU temperature down during particularly graphics intensive operations – such as gaming.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and SGS7 storage

There are models with 32GB and 64GB storage options. Samsung has also reintroduced the ability to increase storage by using a microSD card of up to 200GB in size.

It has done so without changing the overall design too, as the SIM slot also doubles as a microSD card slot this time around. The SIM card tray now has two housings – one for a nano SIM, one for a microSD card.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and SGS7 edge battery

The batteries in each of the phones are slightly different, mainly as they each have to power differently-sized displays.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has a 3,000mAh battery, while the Galaxy S7 edge has a 3,600mAh battery.

Samsung told us that the latter is capable of playing HD video for 13 hours straight.

One of the new features that Samsung has introduced this year, an always-on display where notifications, time, date or personalised screen are permanently shown on screen even when the phone is off, does not impact the battery much. It uses just 1 per cent of the battery power per hour.

Both batteries have fast charging with wired and wireless options.

Pocket-lintSamsung Galaxy S7-12

Samsung Galaxy S7 and SGS7 edge camera

The camera is one area that has been improved on significantly for this year’s models.

Although the amount of megapixels to be found on the sensor has actually dipped – to 12-megapixels – each pixel is larger this year (1.4um) so is capable to reading more light in any given situation. An aperture of f1.7 has also been achieved.

This is especially important for low light photography, with Samsung claiming that performance in darker locations is far better than ever before. The adoption of dual pixel technology, which is usually found on DSLRs and other dedicated camera sensors, also means that the autofocus on each of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge is much quicker than on previous phones – even in almost no light.

The new low light abilities work for both stills and video.

There’s optical image stabilisation on the rear camera too.

The front-facing camera on both devices uses a conventional 5-megapixel sensor, but also with an f1.7 aperture.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and SGS7 edge software

The latest user experience, which is layered on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, is about as bare bones as Samsung has presented in quite some time.

There are some of Samsung’s own apps and services still available though, with the most prominent being the new Game Launcher.

Gamers get their own hub that not only gives them a place from which to launch Android titles, but they can change options such as whether they would like to be disturbed by a phone call during a gaming session.

There are also new overlaid options available from within games too, including the ability to record gameplay footage while using the front-facing camera to in-lay picture-in-picture commentary of the player.

Pocket-lintSamsung Galaxy S7 edge-16

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge users also get several new sidebar options that can be scrolled through to access apps, contacts, tasks or news feeds more quickly and easily.

Samsung Pay – the company’ contactless payment system that has proved successful in the states – will be coming to both handsets in the UK later this year. They each also use Samsung Knox, the company’s high level of security.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and SGS7 edge release date and where to get them

Pre-orders open for business on 21 February with a general release date of 11 March. Those that pre-order from Carphone Warehouse, Vodafone or EE by 7 March will get it a day later, on 8 March. That’s three days earlier than some others.

Direct prices from Samsung start at £569 for the Samsung Galaxy S7, while the S7 edge will set you back from £639.

Carphone Warehouse (UK)

CPW is offering the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge for an upfront cost of £79.99 and £129.99 respectively. Contracts are available across the major networks from just £36 per month for new and upgrading customers.

As promised by Samsung, the first customers to pre-order either device will get a free Samsung Gear VR headset.

Vodafone (UK)

Vodafone is offering the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and Samsung Galaxy S7 for pre-order on its website at http://www.vodafone.co.uk. It too is offering a Samsung Gear VR to customers who pre-order either device on a Vodafone Red or Red Value Bundle.

Customers can pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and Samsung Galaxy S7 on a Vodafone Red 10GB Bundle for £50 per month or £44 per month respectively. Both have an upfront cost of £29 and include unlimited texts, unlimited minutes and 10GB of data.

Alternatively, customers can pre-order either device on a Vodafone Red Value 15GB Bundle at £55 per month for the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge or £49 per month for the Samsung Galaxy S7. Again, both have a £29 upfront cost and include unlimited texts, unlimited minutes and 15GB of data, as well as a choice of free access to Netflix for 12 months or Sky Sports Mobile TV, Spotify Premium or a NOW TV Entertainment Pass for 24 months.

EE (UK)

EE told Pocket-lint that either the Samsung Galaxy S7 and or S7 edge will feature WiFi Calling with 4G Calling when purchased directly from the provider. This will be enabled shortly after launch. That implies if you don’t get it from EE itself, it won’t be able to support it (although we are checking). Customers who buy the new phones from EE will also receive three-months free unlimited Google Play Music access.

As for price plans, the 32GB Galaxy S7 on EE is £49.99 up-front on a £44.49 a month, 24 month 4GEE Extra plan. That comes with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 4GB of mobile data a month.

The 32GB Galaxy S7 edge is available for £29.99 up-front on a £49.99 a month, 24 month plan, with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 4GB of mobile data a month.

Existing EE customers looking to upgrade to the same plans will receive 10GB of mobile data per month for the same price.

O2 (UK)

O2 is stocking the two new handsets as part of its O2 now tariff. That means customers can upgrade after 12 months for no extra cost. It’s also offering a free pair of Jabra Sport Pulse headphones worth £150 for every order received before 27 April.

There are a number of price plans to choose from, with the Galaxy S7 edge available for as little as £9.99 up-front. That’s when taking out a plan for £51 a month, which includes unlimited minutes, texts and 3GB of 4G data.

A Samsung Galaxy S7 can also be bought for £29.99 up-front with a £46 a month plan, with unlimited minutes, texts and 3GB of data.

You can find out more on O2’s dedicated webpage at O2.co.uk.

Three (UK)

Three is offering the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge for up-front costs from £29 and £49 respectively. Those are on prices plans from £41 and £47 a month.

All-you-can-eat 4G data packages are available for both phones, with the Galaxy S7 getting unlimited data, minutes and texts for £56 a month with the phone at £29.

The Galaxy S7 edge’s all-you-can-eat package will cost £62 a month with an up-front cost of £49 for the phone.

The Three deals include the company’s Feel at Home service where you can use your minutes, texts and data in 18 countries around the world at no extra charge, including the US, France, Italy, Spain and Australia.

Virgin Media (UK)

Virgin Media told Pocket-lint that it will carry both phones and what’s more, they are both available on plans with no up-front costs.

Virgin Media plans are 3G only at present, but if you are looking for a cheaper option than many others, you can get either the gold or black Samsung Galaxy S7 from £34 a month, which includes 250 minutes, 250MB of data and unlimited texts.

The same plan but with a black Samsung Galaxy S7 edge costs £38 a month.

Other plans, with more data or talktime are also available.

Tesco Mobile (UK)

Like Virgin Media, Tesco Mobile has deals where you can get either phone on a 24-month contract with no up-front cost.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is available from £37.50 a month, with 2,000 minutes, 5,000 texts and 2GB of data. The Galaxy S7 edge is available from £41 a month on the same plan.

Tesco’s plans go all the way up to £57 or £60.50 respectively, for 5,000 minutes, 5,000 texts and 20GB of data.

You can pre-register your interest in the phones at tescomobile.com.

AT&T (US)

The 32GB Galaxy S7 will cost $23.17 per month for 30 months via the Next 24 plan, while the 32GB Galaxy S7 edge will start at $26.50 per month for 39 months on the same plan. Pre-orders begin on 23 February.

Sprint (US)

The Galaxy S7 will cost $27.09 per month for 24 months, while the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge will cost $31.25 per month over the same period. You can also get a second unit of the same Galaxy you bought for half price (will be discounted as a service credit). The carrier’s Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA budget brands will also offer both phones. Booth Mobile will get it on 11 March, followed by Virgin Mobile USA.

T-Mobile (US)

The Galaxy S7 will cost $27.92 per month for 23 months and $27.83 on the 24th month, while the Galaxy S7 edge will cost $32.50 for 23 months and $32.39 on the 24th month. You can also do Jump On Demand and get them for $32.50 per month (S7) or $28 per month (S7 edge). T-Mobile said the Galaxy S7 full retail price is $669.99, and that the Galaxy S7 edge is $779.99.

Verizon (US)

Verizon on 23 February at 8 am EST will open preorders. The Galaxy S7 will cost $28 per month for 24 months ($672 retail price), while the Galaxy S7 edge will cost $33 per month for 24 months ($792 retail price). Both devices will be available from 11 March.

US Cellular (US)

US Cellular is doing the 24 month-payment plan thing. It’ll sell the Galaxy S7 for $28, while the Galaxy S7 edge will go for $32.50. Alternatively, you could lock yourself into a two-agreement for $199 (S7) or $299 (S7 edge) upfront.

23
Feb

Facebook Birthday Cam lets you say Happy Birthday to friends via video


“Happy Birthday!”

It’s such a generic thing to say, especially on Facebook. And sometimes the chore of trying to come up with something original is just too much to handle. “HBD.” Nah. “H A P P Y B I R T H D A Y !” Trying too hard. The pressure is intense, right? Well, Facebook came up with a solution that’ll not only spice up your b-day posts but also make things fun for everyone to experience.

The company is releasing a “Happy Birthday Cam” feature. It’ll be visible atop your friends’ profiles when you visit them on their birthdays. This feature allows you to record up to 15 seconds of video, then overlay that with various birthday-themed graphics and frames, and once you’re done customising how it will look and sound, you can share it to your friend’s wall.

TechCrunch

So, with this feature, you can take your “Happy Birthday” game to the next level. Birthday Cam is launching today for Facebook for iOS. BuzzFeed said an update will also arrive for the Android app sometime “in the next few months”.

We’re excited about it, but we can also see how it totally ups the ante, which you might find either good or bad. Either way, one of the most monotonous aspects about Facebook culture just got a whole new life-line.

23
Feb

Best VR headsets to buy in 2016, whatever your budget


The age of virtual reality is upon us (again) with a torrent of devices and content expected to launch in 2016.

There has been a buzz around virtual reality (VR) for the past few years. Some of this has come from the lengthy development of devices like Oculus Rift, but also through a growing interest in what we’ll be able to get VR to do in the modern era.

The idea of VR isn’t new. It’s been circulating in the tech space for a number of years, but recently, the technology has broken through some of the long-standing barriers. Some of this has been about enabling access, with devices like Google’s Cardboard opening the door for anyone with a smartphone, right up to demonstrating what a fully-fledged premium system like HTC Vive will be capable of. We now have the power in home computers for lifelike virtual environments and this makes it a much more exciting time for VR.

So, without further adieu, we’ve listed some of the top VR systems available. Their prices range dramatically, and some haven’t actually been officially launched yet, but they’re all worth being aware of, as you’ll be seeing a lot more of VR in 2016.

Pocket-lint

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift has probably commanded more headlines than any other VR system. First launched as a Kickstarter and then acquired by Facebook, Oculus Rift is one of the most exciting VR systems you’ll find.

The system comprises of the headset that’s loaded with sensors, offering a display for each eye and integrated headphones. It comes with a camera to add more movement detection information and will initially ship with an Xbox controller prior to bespoke Oculus Touch controllers launching later in 2016. You will also need a high-spec PC to run Oculus Rift, however, and this isn’t included in the £500 asking price for the kit.

The result is a complete VR system, and from what we’ve experienced so far, one that’s capable of creating some amazing VR worlds and experiences. It’s on pre-order, with the first units expected in April, although the demand means you’ll be waiting until July if you order now. Oculus Rift is definitely in the premium VR category.

READ MORE: Oculus Rift preview: The VR revolution begins here

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HTC Vive

Like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive is a full system VR experience that will need you to hook up to a powerful PC. The system is still currently in development, with the latest version going under the name HTC Vive Pre.

HTC Vive is different from other VR systems because it gives you freedom to roam around the room. While other systems will allow you some movement, HTC Vive uses lasers mounted on the wall to map your location and movement around the physical space, integrating this into the virtual space. That allows for freedom of movement that other systems simply can’t manage – but you’ll also need a play space to use it.

The headset integrates a range of sensors, presenting the slick visuals to your eyes and you’ll have to (currently) wear additional headphones to complete the picture. There are again bespoke Vive hand controllers and the location of these are also mapped within the 3D space, offering plenty of versatility when it comes to control.

We’ve experienced a wide range of different environments with HTC Vive, from climbing Everest to maintenance of robots in a Portal-style setting and we’ve been blown away. HTC has partnered with Steam for the development of Vive and we’re sure we’ll see a wide range of content as we approach launch.

Pre-orders are opening on 29 February, but there’s currently no word on what your PC requirements will be, or what the price of the consumer version of Vive will be. Make no mistake, HTC Vive is aiming to offer the best possible VR experience possible.

READ MORE: HTC Vive preview: An experience that’s out of this world

Pocket-lintProject Morpheus

PlayStation VR

Previously known as Project Morpheus, this headset has been christened PlayStation VR, a fitting name that explains what it’s all about. PlayStation VR, rather than presenting a complete VR system, is an accessory for the PS4 console, meaning it’s likely to be much less costly to own than something like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

PlayStation VR uses the same technologies, however, tracking movement of your head and using the PlayStation Eye camera, in combination with your regular PS4 controller, to present the VR experience, moving the visuals from your TV to your face. This is an extension of your PS4, which is likely to see it as an easy VR choice for many.

Sony has said that PlayStation VR will be launched in 2016, but there’s currently no firm price or date. There is, however, a full line-up of content planned, with plenty of trailers released. On the cards for gamers are titles such as Golem and Ace Combat 7; we’ve experienced Drive Club on PlayStation VR and it was excellent and Gran Turismo Sport has confirmed support too, which is really exciting.

PlayStation VR removes plenty of barriers to VR because it’s an accessory to an existing platform. We expect to hear more as the year unfolds. PlayStation VR is going to bring immersive gaming to your existing console.

READ MORE: Sony PlayStation VR preview: A deep dive with Sony’s VR experience

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Samsung Gear VR

Samsung was one of the early movers on VR, launching the Gear VR headset, co-developed with Oculus, and designed to support a smartphone, rather than needing a connection to a PC or console.

There have been several versions of Gear VR, supporting a number of different smartphone models from Samsung, with the handsets neatly sliding into the tray at the front. Internally there are lenses to split the display between your eyes and with Samsung’s latest devices offering a high resolution display, this translates into slick visuals.

Samsung Gear VR has been used in a number of commercial settings, such car showrooms, but with Samsung offering a range of content from Oculus, it’s an easy option for those with a Samsung handset.

Gear VR is available for around £100, and there’s a controller too, which you can get for about £70. You’ll need to make sure it’s going to fit your chosen Samsung smartphone, however. We’re also expecting more from Gear VR alongside the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S7 later in February 2016. Gear VR opens the door to mobile devices, but you’ll need to supply the Samsung smartphone. 

READ MORE: Samsung Gear VR review: Days of Future Past

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LG 360 VR

The LG 360 VRis a headset that you have to connect to your LG G5 via the USB Type-C cable, rather than slipping your phone into the front as you do with Cardboard. It takes the form of a pair of glasses, which you wear rather more conventionally than others. It’s better than Cardboard and other basic systems because you don’t have to hold it to your face all the time. 

The headset itself has two 1.8-inch IPS displays inside, one for each eye, each with a resolution of 960 x 720 pixels, resulting in 639ppi. Those displays sit behind lenses that can be independently focused (you can’t wear glasses and 360 VR at the same time), as well as being able to adjust the width to get the best fit to your face and ensure stereoscopic vision.

The headset also carries the controls for your VR environment, with an ok and back button for basic click navigation. Otherwise, it has motion sensors, to allow you to look around the virtual world you’re in. There’s also a sensor between your eyes. This detects when the headset is being worn.

When it comes to audio, there’s a 3.5mm headphone socket on the underside of the 360 VR headset. If you don’t use this, the sound comes out of your smartphone, which may be some distance away, or perhaps in your pocket. 

The LG G5 is due to launch in April. No word yet on price. 

READ: LG 360 VR preview: A unique perspective on mobile VR

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Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard was first unveiled in 2014, quite literally a folding cardboard container into which a smartphone could be placed. The beauty of Google Cardboard is two-fold: firstly, the hardware cost is almost minimal, often free, and secondly, it’s universal, supporting a wide range of smartphone models – essentially, anything that will fit into the front and stay secure.

Google Cardboard is something of a breakaway success, allowing people to sample VR content (be that from Google or elsewhere), without having to invest in a more substantial system: Google reports that 5 million Cardboard viewers have shipped. Google has a range of applications for the device, and has highlighted VR for development and investment in the future. Importantly, Cardboard is not only this cardboard viewer, but also the name of the VR platform from Google.

Cardboard is really an ad hoc VR viewer: there’s no head strap and if there was it would be uncomfortable to wear, instead intended to be held to the face to view the content. There are a range of Cardboard apps for content, as well as being able to view 360 environments such as Google Street View or watching 360 content on YouTube.

Cardboard makes perfect sense: if you want to dip your toe into VR, this is the place to start.

READ MORE: Google Cardboard review: The cornerstone of mobile VR

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Zeiss VR One and One GX

Optics specialist Zeiss has its own virtual reality headset that converts an iPhone or Android device into an immersive 3D experience. The Zeiss VR One is very similar to Samsung’s Gear VR headset, but with a universal design. The VR One features a tray to hold your phone and you’ll need the appropriate tray for your handset, be that iPhone 6, SGS6, Sony Xperia Z5 and so on.

The VR One will work with any app that is made for VR headsets such as Cardboard apps, delivering two images, so that each eye is separate and allows for a 3D experience. The VR One has a head strap and the One GX, like Cardboard, is designed for holding to your face. The Zeiss VR One is available now for about £110.

There are many more systems like the Zeiss VR that will accept phones in various forms and offer a similar approach to VR. If you’re getting into smartphone-based VR, this is a good way to go.

READ MORE: Zeiss VR One headset works with both iPhone and Android

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Homido

Homido falls into the category of devices, like the Zeiss VR One, that give you a more substantial piece of hardware, but work in the same way as Google Cardboard. 

In this case there’s a sprung section on the front into which you can slide your phone, and you can then strap the thing to your head to view your VR content.

In this case it’s a little cheaper, so you can get your hands on it for around £50, so if you’re a little more of a VR fan and think that Cardboard will get too annoying with the constant handholding, then Homido might be a solution for you. It’s cheap, easy and widely available now.

READ MORE: Homido is a universal VR headset for your phone

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And also consider… Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft surprised everyone when it entered the world of virtual and augmented reality. It unveiled the Microsoft HoloLens headset, which works with Windows Holographic, a new technology that adds 3D images in the world around us all. Technically this is more augmented reality than virtual reality, but it’s playing in the same space as some of these other systems.

Microsoft wants to introduce augmented reality objects into every aspect of our world. Obviously, that won’t happen with the naked eye, but users wearing HoloLens will be able to see holographic images projected onto the headset’s visor. A full Windows 10 system is built into the headset and it runs off a battery, so it’s completely untethered.

The headset’s transparent visor displays digital images into your real-world field of view. You can then view and even interact with these digitised-objects as if they were in the room with you. Using Kinect-style tech to recognise gestures and voice commands, the headset features a 120-degree field of vision on both axis and is capable of high definition visuals.

Currently released as a Development Edition, HoloLens is something for the future, rather than the right now.

READ MORE: This is Microsoft HoloLens: Hands-on with the future of computing

23
Feb

HTC One M10/Perfume: What’s the story on HTC’s next flagship?


HTC’s plans for its next flagship have been a little quiet on the quiet front. While we know, or think we know, plenty about Samsung and LG’s next smartphone launches, HTC has managed to avoid the rumour and speculation cycle to a certain extent. Well, until now that is.

With the HTC One M9 – 2015’s flagship – pushing design refinement, but falling short in other areas, it’s make or break time for HTC. The next flagship needs to assert HTC’s position, it needs to show its experience, and put HTC back on the map.

We’ve been watching and listening and here we’ve gathered together all the talk about HTC’s next flagship handset, going under the codename HTC Perfume.

HTC One M10/Perfume launch date

HTC has been fairly predictable over the last few years, falling into this pattern of early year flagship, and than late year secondary device. That pattern works for the One M7, followed by the One max, it works for the M8, followed by Desire Eye and it worked for M9, followed by One A9.

The normal time we’d expect a major HTC launch is at Mobile World Congress, in February 2016. However, it’s been fairly quiet on the HTC rumours, especially compared to Samsung and LG, throwing an MWC launch into doubt. Discussion coming out of China Taiwan forums suggests it might be pushed back to a March 2016 launch.

This timeframe of a HTC Perfume launch later in the year is supported by a report from Venture Beat, saying that the new HTC handset will have its own event, and SlashGear says that the launch event could be a “a week or two” after MWC.

The date of 11 April has been suggested, with a source suggesting that the HTC Perfume will be launched at an event in London. We have a good idea, however, that it will also be coming to AT&T, based on a tweet from @evleaks. 

Another tweet from @evleaks indicates the HTC M10 will hit retail stores in the US during “the week of” 9 May.

Next HTC One name

It’s a lot easier to talk about devices when you have a name. Logic has suggested that it might be called HTC One M10, although we’ve seen source on Twitter stating that this won’t be the case.

#M10 is NOT the CODENAME of the next #htc #flagship & the soc presented today is inside.. #talk #easy for #obtuse minority spread in #forum

— Ricciolo (@Ricciolo1) November 10, 2015

This source has been correct about a number of things, so perhaps HTC is ready to walk away from the “M” branding. Whether that’s the case or not, we suspect that in colloquial circles, the handset will be known by fans as the M10 until it’s officially named.

Moving away from the M10 name has also been suggested by a source talking to Portuguese website 4gnews.pt, who again suggested that HTC would be moving away from the M branding, looking to freshen things up with a new One.

Another rumour is the HTC O2. This was rumoured prior to the launch of the One A9, with a collection of high-end specs attached to it, but this O2 device will apparently account for nothing, with the latest rumoured codename being HTC Perfume.

Remember reports about next HTC’s flagship codename HTC O2? It’s dead… HTC Perfume is next flagship. Android 6.1 and Sense 8.0_GP…

— LlabTooFeR (@LlabTooFeR) December 8, 2015

As we stand at the moment, HTC Perfume is the best we’ve got to go on and this is from a source that’s provided a range of accurate details in the past. The HTC One Perfume codename also cropped up in a tweet from Evan Blass, so we’re pretty certain that this is HTC’s next flagship. For the sake of clarity, we’re also going to stick to using M10 until we know better.

HTC One M10/Perfume specs and hardware

There’s one event that sticks in the mind and that’s the announcement of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset. Qualcomm has been talking about its next-gen chip for some time and it’s due to appear in handsets in early 2016. 

One online source, as mentioned above, said that the next HTC flagship would appear with this hardware inside and that’s perfectly plausible as the schedules all fit. Talk of the SD820 appears again attached to discussion about HTC not being happy with the design, along with the suggestion that there will be a degree of waterproofing.

The same is ratified by a big specs leak on Venture Beat, who says that it will be Snapdragon 820, with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. We’re expecting to see a microSD card slot, with support for Marshmallow’s Flex Storage feature.

Pocket-lint/Evan Blass

HTC One M10/Perfume fingerprint scanner

We can say with some certainty that the next HTC handset will have a fingerprint scanner. The M9+ and the A9 are both very fast to unlock, and we wouldn’t really want a new phone without a fingerprint scanner for payment and security.

It’s also a hardware feature supported by Android 6.0 Marshmallow, so makes perfect sense to appear in future devices and it is again mentioned in some rumours. We expect it to be on the front and this detail has some corroboration from Venture Beat, as revealed in an image from Evan Blass.

The HTC One M10 fingerprint scanner (right above) appears to be the same as that on the One A9 (on the left in the picture above), so will likely act as a capacitive home button as well.

HTC One M10/Perfume battery

There’s been little word on battery life and HTC hasn’t put huge batteries into devices recently. What’s surprising, however, is that the A9 lasted well on a small cell. That’s down to optimised hardware and software, so we’re hoping HTC can give great life to the M10.

If the M10 sticks to a metal body, which we suspect it will, then you won’t be looking at wireless charging, however, you will be getting Quick Charge 3.0 support from the SD820 chipset, if that’s what it contains. There’s been a passing mention of a 3000mAh battery, a figure that’s generally heralded as capacious enough to give good endurance in modern devices.

There’s no telling if it will carry USB Type-C. With that new standard appearing on the new Nexus devices, we’re hopeful for wider adoption by other manufacturers.

hamdir24492653859_0616fd0ba6_b

HTC One M10/Perfume: Design, BoomSound or no BoomSound?

One of the big changes that arrived with the A9 was the removal of BoomSound speakers. HTC instead turned its attention to the headphones, including a higher quality DAC and aiming to boost the headphone performance. This was all contained in a body that was flat, slim and minimalist, moving on from some of the visual identity of HTC handsets of the past.

If you like the A9, you’ll love the M10.

— Evan Blass (@evleaks) January 26, 2016

Although little has been said about the actual design of the HTC Perfume, it’s suggested that it’s going to be following the One A9 design lines, rather than those of the M9. That could see the loss of BoomSound, but lead to a slimmer, more compact, overall design than in previous years. This is suggested by Venture Beat, there has been talk of some degree of waterproofing, and SlashGear says the measurements might be 144.6 x 69.7 x 9.6mm.

This shift to design closer to the One A9 has been backed up with a tweet, again from Evan Blass, showing the front design of the handset. Note the serrated standby button on the side, and the lack of BoomSound speakers.

https://t.co/PKvW63aF8L pic.twitter.com/zsyzQWbVAt

— Evan Blass (@evleaks) February 5, 2016

However, for those mourning the loss of BoomSound, it’s likely that HTC will continue to boost the audio capabilities. As we mentioned, the One A9 offered a higher-quality DAC, presenting “BoomSound Headphone” instead, and we’ve also learnt that the One M10 could offer high-res audio with MQA support.

XDA Developers Forum contributor hamdir created a great mock-up of what the HTC M10 could look like based on “insider information”. He claims the mock-up, which is shown above, doesn’t show the “hidden thing on the front”, and it also has no logo bar. Hamdir also says the device will be the “most symmetrical phone HTC has ever made”, as well as offer an improved screen to body ratio.

Evan Blass has once again shared a fairly clear image of the front of the phone in white, where the design closely reflects that of the HTC One A9. The absence of HTC branding simply could come down to these being pre-production models.

HTC One M10/Perfume display

Discussion about the HTC One M10 display have been rare, with one substantial rumour suggesting that it will feature a 5.1-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, and it will be an AMOLED display.

HTC has traditionally used LCD displays, but shifted to AMOLED on the One A9, with great results. HTC has used Quad HD LCD displays a 5.2-inches on the One M9+, but didn’t step up on the regular One M9 in 2015.

However, a second rumour, again from a reliable HTC source, suggests that the HTC Perfume will actually have a 5.2-inch display. This has also been suggested by XDA Developers Forum’s hamdir who claims the device will be the same size as the M9 but with a 5.2-inch display.

HTC Perfume is going to have 5.2” WQHD screen instead of reported earlier 5.1” screen 😉

— LlabTooFeR (@LlabTooFeR) February 8, 2016

There’s little between those displays, but we’re certain it will be Quad HD.

Pocket-lintIMG_5206

HTC One M10/Perfume cameras

HTC has presented a lot of camera options recently, from Duo Camera to 20-megapixel sensors to 13-megapixels.

We’ve seen the suggestion that HTC will plump for a 23-megapixel sensor as the rear camera. Alternatively, we’ve seen rumour that HTC has a 12-megapixel UltraPixel sensor.

HTC invested a lot in messaging around UltraPixel, but stuck to the original sensor, at around 4 megapixels. The quality and low light performance of that sensor was good, but it failed to deliver on resolution, which many people want. A step up to 12MP, while preserving the large 2µm pixel size of the original, would be a great jump for UltraPixel. However, it might be that HTC is keeping the UltraPixel branding and will be plumping for smaller pixels.

A tweet from LlabTooFeR has suggested that Perfume will come with a 12-megapixel Sony sensor with 1.55µm pixels, laser assisted phase-detection AF and optical image stabilisation. According to the information, it’s going to use the same sensor as the Nexus 6P.

Additionally, there’s mention of a 5-megapixel Samsung sensor for the front camera, suggesting that HTC might be moving on from the 4-megapixel UltraPixel sensor it has used in its recent devices.

Phonearena.comImage 2016-02-22 at 7.55.04 PM

China micro-blogging website Sina Weibo (via PhoneArena) leaked an image of the backside of the HTC One M10. It seemed to show the phone’s protruding camera unit (supposedly a 12MP UltraPixel shooter) as well as a dual-tone LED flash to the right of it. The black bit below it might be a vertically-positioned laser-assisted auto-focus system system.

We can also see antenna bands and a noise-cancelling microphone.  And at the left of the what looks to be a metal phone with lots of bezels, we can further see a power hardware button, then there’s a small cutout at the top of the phone. It’s likely a 3.5mm top-positioned audio jack.

Pocket-lintIMG_5238

HTC One M10/Perfume software

This is where HTC is perhaps going to make the biggest moves. HTC’s next flagship will launch on Android Marshmallow, and will almost certainly carry HTC Sense over the top.

However, Sense is changing and we’ve recently seen the software stripped down in the One A9, running Sense 7.0_g, that removes a lot of the clutter. 

HTC said that its aims were to stick closer to stock Android and only make changes where there was an obvious enhancement. The results are really good, as you have the native feel of Marshmallow, combined with the best bits of HTC Sense. We’re hoping that the M10 gets the same treatment in Sense 8.0 that it’s said to launch with.

Interestingly, the source on the information about the software refers to it as Sense 8.0_GP. That might suggest that HTC is indeed looking to strip Sense down a little to keep it closer to Marshmallow.

Want to know more?

We’ll be regularly updating this feature with all the details that are leaked, rumoured, teased and announced relating to the HTC One M10. You can always check out our HTC hub for all the latest news and reviews. 

23
Feb

Forget phones: Mobile World Congress 2016 is all about VR


If you were looking for a theme for Mobile World Congress, then it’s other worldly: MWC 2016 is about virtual reality.

Last year everyone lined up to talk about luxury. There were premium handsets, luxury watches, talk of quality materials, jewellery grade polishing, lessons learnt from watch makers.

In 2016, the biggest launches were set on a plane of VR. We’ve been saying it’s the year of VR and the mobile community agrees. Samsung broadcast its Unpacked event in 360 video, and had Gear VR headsets for the entire audience to lose themselves in. 

LG launched a new handset, but packing a 360 video camera and a new VR headset, there’s plenty to distract you from the smartphones. Alcatel launched its new Idol 4, using the packaging as a VR headset and just about every other announcement is set in the context of VR. 

Walking the halls of the Barcelona trade show, VR is creeping into every edifice of this event. HTC’s stand gives little space to its muted smartphone refresh, but gives plenty of play space to HTC Vive.

Announcing the price and confirming that the final consumer version of HTC Vive is ready has stirred more passions than many recent smartphone launches.

Pocket-lint

Samsung has done the same, setting up a VR rollercoaster to herd attendees through the Gear VR experience. Even chipset manufacturers, like Qualcomm, are talking about how Snapdragon 820 will power a great VR experience in your smartphone. 

If you’re interested in 5G – also a topic of the show – then the message is that 5G will enable live 360 video streaming through your VR headset. Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage, delivering his Mobile World Congress keynote to say just that, while also (now iconically) walking into Samsung’s Unpacked event while the audience with distracted wearing VR headsets.

While virtual reality is an exciting evolution of mobile technology, there’s a small insurgent movement, gossiping around the show floor, suggesting that VR is just the latest vessel to try to sell smartphones.

Just as 3D TV was “the next big thing” a few years ago, VR is being treated with the same caution by some. LG’s launch of a VR camera and headset springs from wanting to make its smartphones fun again, and Samsung’s proclivities towards Gear VR may spring from the fact that its 2016 flagships are very closely related to its 2015 offering.

Whatever the future holds for VR, and it’s sure to be a busy future in 2016, it’s the talk of Mobile World Congress, and it’s likely to seep into all aspects of technology this year. Consider yourself warned.

23
Feb

Mattel ThingMaker preview: 3D printing for the Minecraft generation


The barrier to new technology for children is rarely that they don’t understand it. More often it’s that they don’t know how to access it, or that creation tools aren’t visible to them.

Minecraft is successful not only because its technology enables children to create their own virtual worlds, but because it grants access to the tools to achieve this right where children play – on their tablets and consoles.

3D printing is something that children may come across in schools and libraries but hasn’t so far become ubiquitous. Toy manufacturer Mattel is hoping to change this though, with its ThingMaker 3D printer for children.

The printer itself looks simple to use, has a range of safety features – printer door locking for example – and promises to simplify the loading of colour with a “filament system”. It comes with a $300 (£212) price tag, so isn’t cheap, but for the level of definition and quality of printing it provides it represents good value.

Pocket-lint

More significant than the friendly stylings of the hardware is the accompanying app. This presents children with the tools they need to create, customise and print on the iOS or Android devices they are already using.

The ThingMaker Design app comes with considerable heritage too, being created by Autodesk. This is apparent when we flicked through the menus to design our first 3D printed figure. Different parts could be pulled in from a menu and then altered in colour, size and texture to fit our design.

Like Minecraft, things start simple but there is the opportunity for huge ambition. This isn’t about creating simple one piece toy prints. Rather, it encourages children to print objects that lock together and create complex articulated play-things.

We were happily surprised to discover that the app doesn’t lock you into the proprietary Mattel 3D Printer hardware. Designs can be exported as images directly to Dropbox or Google Drive. Better still, you can export STL files to then use with a printer of your choice.

There are a number of exciting directions Mattel could take the new product. It has already mooted that branded printables will be part of the offering in the future. Being able to design and print your own branded toys is a neat way to de-commercialise licensed products, as well as having additional appeal for children.

Pocket-lintfgtv.thingmatic1

First Impressions

Having seen the output first hand at the New York Ty Fair it all looks impressive. As ever with 3D printing the time to produce each element is considerable though – something that will particularly grate with children used to the instant gratification of Minecraft building.

But if Mattel supports ThingMaker with on-going content and the printer lives up to its promise, this could be one of the must-have products when Christmas approaches.

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23
Feb

Nikon DL: Trio of 1-inch sensor cameras, can Nikon finally make its mark in compacts?


As one of the biggest camera manufacturers in the world, Nikon compacts have, by and large, been uninspiring and lost out to better competition. Until now, thanks to the announcement of a trio of 1-inch sensor compacts, called Nikon DL.

It’s an interesting approach from the Japanese maker. On the one hand the DL line-up is a catch-up move, to align itself with the sucess of the Sony RX100 series, keep in check with the Panasonic LX100 (which has a larger Micro Four Thirds sensor), and try to muscle in on Canon’s attempts with its GX line.

The range, a trio of fixed-lens compacts which kick off Nikon’s “premium compact” section on its website, consists of 24-85mm f/1.8-2.8, 18-50mm f/1.8-2.8, and 24-500mm f/2.8-5.6 models, each with a 20.8-megapixel 1-inch sensor.

The names of these intrepid compacts? Nikon’s not mucking about with gimmicks: it’s gone with DL24-85 f/1.8-2.8, DL18-50 f/1.8-2.8 and DL24-500 f/2.8-5.6 respectively. What you see is what you get – well, sort of, as all those focal lengths are their 35mm equivalents to try and keep things simple.

And what we see – not that we’ve seen the cameras in person just yet – is a series that’s here to fight, complete with decent Nikkor optics, with fast aperture lenses leading the way. All models come with a hotshoe (ISO 518) to add accessories of Nikon Speedlite flash guns, but only the 24-500mm comes with a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) as standard. The new DF-E1 tiltable EVF can be purchased for the two shorter zoom cameras.

There’s the promise of fast autofocus thanks to Advanced Hybrid AF, optical stabilisation from Nikon’s Dual Detect Optical VR, and super-fast burst speeds capable of shooting 60fps (with focus locked) or 20fps with continuous autofocus. Just think about that for a moment: 20 frames per second with C-AF, that’s faster than best-of-best pro-spec DSLR cameras (although the autofocus ability remains to be seen from the DL line just yet).

In addition there’s a big push for 4K capture. When not capturing raw or JPEG stills you can use any of the three cameras to shoot 4K video at 30/25fps.

The Nikon DL24-85 f/1.8-2.8, which features close-up macro capability and a customisable lens control/zoom ring, will be available in June, priced £550 (£670 with the DF-E1 EVF).

The Nikon DL18-50 f/1.8-2.8, the wide-angle model of the group, complete with the brightest aperture Nikon has ever made at 18mm (equivalent), will be available in June, priced £670 (£800 with the DF-E1 EVF).

Lastly the Nikon DL24-500 f/2.8-5.6, the superzoom of the group, which already includes a 2,359k-dot EVF and vari-angle touchscreen, will also be available in June, priced £750.

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