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28
Jun

Bose helps kids build their own speaker with a $149 kit


Fresh off of the introduction of its new QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones, Bose is back with another new product. This time around it’s the Speaker Cube, a build-it-yourself Bluetooth speaker geared toward kids eight years old and older. The product, which is available now for $149, is part of the company’s newly minted BoseBuild education program — one that aims to teach young people about the science of sound.

With the Speaker Cube, kids (or anyone else who’s interested in tinkering) can learn step by step how to make a device that reproduces music or other types of noise. Not only that, but they’re able to customize the speaker to their liking, with different covers and a variety of colored lights. Of course, since it is a Bluetooth speaker, the Cube pairs easily with smartphones or tablets. And hey, it’s okay if you’re not a kid but still want one.

Source: Bose

28
Jun

Florida Man Sues Apple for $10+ Billion, Says iOS Devices Copy His 1992 Drawings


Florida resident Thomas S. Ross has filed a lawsuit against Apple this week, claiming that the iPhone, iPad, and iPod infringe upon his 1992 invention of a hand-drawn “Electronic Reading Device” (ERD). The court filing claims the plaintiff was “first to file a device so designed and aggregated,” nearly 15 years before the first iPhone.

Between May 23, 1992 and September 10, 1992, Ross designed three hand-drawn technical drawings of the device, primarily consisting of flat rectangular panels with rounded corners that “embodied a fusion of design and function in a way that never existed prior to 1992.”

What Ross contemplated, was a device that could allow one to read stories, novels, news articles, as well as look at pictures, watch video presentations, or even movies, on a flat touch-screen that was back-lit. He further imagined that it could include communication functions, such as a phone and a modem, input/output capability, so as to allow the user to write notes, and be capable of storing reading and writing material utilizing internal and external storage media. He also imagined that the device would have batteries and even be equipped with solar panels.

Ross applied for a utility patent to protect his invention in November 1992, but the application was declared abandoned in April 1995 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office after he failed to pay the required application fees. He also filed to copyright his technical drawings with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2014.

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While the plaintiff claims that he continues to experience “great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money,” he has demanded a jury trial and is seeking restitution no less than $10 billion and a royalty of up to 1.5% on Apple’s worldwide sales of infringing devices.

Ross v. Apple, Inc. was filed with the Florida Southern District Court on June 27. The case number is 0:2016cv61471.

Tags: lawsuit, patent, USPTO
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28
Jun

Weak iPhone 7 Demand Predictions Continue With ‘Conservative’ Chip Orders


Apple “is being more conservative” when placing its orders with chip assembler Advanced Semiconductor Engineering, once again suggesting that the 2016 “iPhone 7” will face a weaker demand in comparison to normal cycles, due to a dearth of hardware innovation in the handset (via Nikkei). Apple wasn’t specifically mentioned during ASE’s recent shareholder meeting, but a reference to “the big client in the U.S.” overtly ties in with Apple, which contributed 31.2 percent of ASE’s $8.73 billion revenue in 2015.

“The big client in the U.S. is a little more conservative when placing orders this year,” said Tien Wu, ASE’s chief operating officer, ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

“In the smartphone market, meanwhile, other players besides Apple are more aggressive regarding booking chips this year,” Wu said. But, he added, “I don’t think anybody is overly aggressive this year, so I don’t think there would be any serious inventory correction issue similar to last year.”

The doom and gloom forecast for iPhone sales this year have reached a high point in the middle of 2016, with recent reports suggesting the iPhone 7 is unlikely to reverse recent year-over-year declines in sales for the company. Most rumors cite the same reasons: consumer apathy due to a lack of innovation in comparison to last year’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

The biggest hardware revisions of the iPhone 7 are predicted to center around the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack, the addition of a new dual-lens camera (possibly only on the 5.5-inch model), and restructured antenna bands. Otherwise, the devices are expected to look similar to the iPhone 6s form factor, with a mega-cycle upgrade hitting in 2017 in time for the line’s ten-year anniversary.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
Tag: nikkei.com
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28
Jun

Huawei Matebook review – CNET


The Good The Huawei Matebook fits a full Windows 10 PC into an iPad-sized tablet chassis. The fingerprint sensor is fast. Its screen and speakers are excellent.

The Bad You’ll get periodic pauses when launching applications or loading web pages, and battery life is merely OK. Huawei charges extra for the keyboard, stylus and dock you’ll need to use the Matebook like a PC.

The Bottom Line If you like what the Matebook offers, pick the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S instead. The TabPro S has an even better screen, better battery life and throws the keyboard in for free.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

What is Huawei? Just a Chinese company that could become the No. 1 phone maker in the world. Did you know the Google Nexus 6P is a Huawei? You do now. But the company’s latest device isn’t a phone — it’s a 12-inch Windows tablet that’s as slim as an iPad Pro. It’s just a shame Huawei couldn’t match it by every other metric.

Why to buy

Starting at $899 in the US (roughly £680 or AU$1,225, though UK and Australian availability is TBD), the Huawei Matebook is one of the first full Windows 10 computers to fit inside an iPad-sized chassis. (Not the 9.7-inch iPad, mind you — it’s closer to the size of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.) The secret sauce is Intel’s new Core M processors, which don’t require any noisy fans or other ornate, girthy mechanisms to keep cool.

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Left: The iPad Pro. Right: The Huawei Matebook.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, it’s sleek — and like an iPad Pro (or Microsoft’s bulkier Surface Pro), you can attach a wrap-around keyboard folio to turn this tablet into a far more productive machine. I’m typing this entire review on the Matebook’s leather-bound backlit keyboard right now, and while I wouldn’t want to type a novel on these fairly stiff keys, they get the job done. The built-in touchpad is impressive too, with an extremely fine surface that makes for accurate mousing.

Meanwhile, the Matebook’s ridiculously fast fingerprint sensor logs me into Windows with a snap — seriously, watch our video above. And the Matebook’s screen and speakers are among the best compared to other tablets on the market. I actually enjoy listening to music on these speakers, which CNET tablet expert and resident audiophile Xiomara Blanco assures me is a mighty fine compliment. Just don’t expect any bass.

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These key components don’t come in the Matebook package.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Why to avoid

Now that I’ve made the Huawei Matebook sound like a dream computer, it’s time to bring that dream crashing down.

Caveat No. 1: Intel Core M-powered computers aren’t all the same. A Core M in a thin tablet like this one is notably weaker than one in a laptop-sized chassis. I was able to get all my work done on the Matebook, but sometimes it would bog down. There’d be a huge pause before applications would launch or web pages would load. Thicker Core M machines haven’t given us as much trouble.

Caveat No. 2: The Matebook doesn’t actually come with the keyboard. $899 buys you a bare slate, with no way to control it except the touchscreen. That’s right: The Matebook isn’t even a “book” unless you pay an extra $129. The stylus pen costs $59, and the docking station you’ll need in order to add a monitor, pair of USB ports and an Ethernet jack is $89.

28
Jun

Here One Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


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Would you wear your earbuds in all the time if they worked well enough?


Doppler Labs

When it comes to noise-canceling headphones, Bose is the agreed-upon industry standard. That’s why the company’s new QuietComfort 35 and QuietControl 30 — which combine active noise cancellation and Bluetooth wireless for the first time — have been so eagerly awaited by headphone junkies.

But active noise-cancellation technology — which “cancels out” external ambient noise with mirror opposite sound waves — isn’t perfect. It generally does a good job with constant droning sounds like airline engines, the whoosh of a train or beach surf, but it can’t magically blot out random uneven noises such as crying babies and police sirens.

Unless, of course, it’s the Here One from Doppler Labs. The new wireless earbuds — one for each ear — offer what the company calls “active-filtering smart listening.” And when they ship in November for $299 (equivalent to £226 or AU$408), the Here One headphones aim to deliver a potent combo of next-gen noise-canceling and Bluetooth music streaming that’s primed and ready to work with your digital assistant of choice.

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The Here One charges in its own case, like several other fully wireless sets of earbuds.


Doppler Labs

Second-generation smart ‘buds

The Here One headphones look similar to their predecessors, the Here Active Listening headphones. Doppler Labs calls them “in-ear computers” because they have multiple processors that help identify background noise and create an ambient filter on the fly, using directional microphone arrays in each of the two independent earpieces.

Here One is made to be worn all the time, so that voice assistants — Siri, Cortana and the like — could potentially be talking all day long via a phone would be filtered to sound normal in everyday settings, creating what Doppler calls layered audio, or “mixed reality for your ears.”

CNET got to try the first version of Here Active Listening earlier this year. That version raised eyebrows because it never included normal earphone functions for music playback: they were just really smart noise filters. Here One adds the set of EQ settings and noise/frequency filters from Here Active, but adds another layer of “adaptive” filters, which Doppler Labs promises will filter out — or, enhance — sounds around you: a siren, nearby conversation, or a crying baby.

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Here One’s phone app and smart filters.


Doppler Labs

Of course, Here’s lofty goals raises a long list of practical questions. First and foremost is battery life. The independently wireless earbuds last about 3 to 5 hours on a charge, and charge up twice more in the included battery-pack case. That isn’t enough for truly always-on and always-in ear-wear. Meanwhile, toggling between “passthrough” and “quiet” modes — flipping between a conversation with the barista and solo music listening — seems like it could be a challenge. And — with respect to anyone who wears a hearing aid — is it going to be socially acceptable to have your headphones in 24-7?

The sci-fi fan in me could see the Here One as an audio alternative to virtual reality/augmented reality/mixed reality tech for the eyes, focusing only on being a better set of earbuds. But the two ideas could dovetail, in theory, with the right apps and tech. (And now I include my requisite reference to “Her.”)

More realistically, though, if Here One manages to mix music, voice feedback and everyday noise into something better than everyday active noise-canceling headphones, they could be onto something.

We’ll know more when we get to try a pair later this year.

28
Jun

Inside review – CNET


The Good Inside is a beautifully designed puzzle platforming game from Playdead, the studio that made Limbo. Its controls are seamless and it tells a wonderfully strange story.

The Bad You’ll just want more of Inside when it’s all said and done.

The Bottom Line Inside is a brilliant work of atmosphere that tells a twisted and engaging story. It’s smart, bizarre and one the finest gaming experiences of the year.

Available on Xbox Store:$19.99

Inside is the type of game I love showing people who aren’t aware that games can actually make you feel things.

That’s the brilliance of Inside, the sophomore effort from Danish developer Playdead, the team that brought us 2010’s Limbo. It’s a remarkably emotional trip through a quietly horrific world that is as fresh as it is unique.

If you in subscribe to the notion that videogames aren’t just about killing zombies and shooting soldiers, it’s your responsibility to give Inside a shot.

It’s been six years since Limbo creeped me out to the point where I couldn’t play it alone (or with the lights off) and Inside hits every single mark I hoped it would — and then some.

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Playdead

Inside is a natural evolution of the themes and platforming of Limbo. The most satisfying part is seeing all of its predecessor’s nuances fleshed out and better realized. There’s a maturity in every element of Inside, from its wicked puzzle design to its brooding score.

It’s worth noting this isn’t a game for everyone. It’s dark, occasionally upsetting and downright macabre throughout. For me that’s part of its charm, but I can’t deny how brutal it can be.

Similar to that first reaction I felt to dying in Limbo, the first time you die in Inside might force you to let out a genuine gasp before the screen fades to black.

Your character, a faceless boy, follows a single line through a world that’s somewhere between two- and three-dimensional. He can’t interact with the fore and backgrounds, so he’s essentially stuck on a plane all the way through the game.

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Playdead

Where Limbo felt like the whole thing was being shown through a dirty projector on the wall of an abandoned asylum, Inside has a cleaner look, opting for the striking visuals of a decrepit flooded industrial wasteland. Instead of black and white, Inside opts for shades of desaturated colors, but most of its bleak palette is made up of a variety of grays.

The camera follows the boy on a left to right adventure through a world that is isolating, oddly tranquil and cold. You’re not sure how you got there, but you quickly learn there are people in this place who don’t want you out and about, discovering their dark secrets of experimentation and control.

28
Jun

Devialet Gold Phantom Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


Bombs and Rockets. If French audio company Devialet was an ’80s synth band this would be the title of its sophomore album. For while the company gleefully compared the amount of pressure inside the Silver Phantom to a type of bomb, it says the new Gold Phantom has the same power as a rocket launch. Lesson in short: don’t drop these things from a great height.

In terms of price alone, the Devialet is winning the arms race when it comes to high-end wireless speakers at $3,000 or £1,690 (about AU$3,050). Below it sits models such as the Raumfeld Stereo L, the Naim mu-so and two other Devialet Phantoms.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Gold model is $600 more than the Silver and the company says the changes have not only been about extending frequency response but also providing a smoother response in the mids and treble. One of the improvements is the move from an aluminum tweeter to a stiffer titanium one, which Devialet says allows for a more extended treble.

The frequency response is now listed as 14Hz to 27kHz, which is way beyond both human hearing and the limits of a CD. Some of the improvements are as a result of the company tuning the digital signal processing (DSP) in the unit and Devialet representatives say this means users of the other Phantoms in the range will also see an improvement to their units with future firmware.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The other improvement is that the power has been boosted yet again from a ridiculous 3,000 watts to an absolutely ludicrous 4,500W. This has enabled the designers to wring an extra couple of decibels out of the machine to top out at a rock concert-worthy 108 decibels.

As you’d expect from a “gold” product the new Devialet actually includes the precious metal in the finish. The “gills” on each side are covered in 22-carat rose gold but it isn’t as gaudy in the flesh as it might sound.

The Phantom is a Wi-Fi-centric speaker and is controlled by the Phantom Spark app (for Android, iOS and Mac), which plays music from your phone as well as Tidal and Spotify Connect, plus Deezer and Qobuz in applicable markets. Other streaming services are yet to be confirmed.

If you don’t want to connect via Wi-Fi though, you have the option of Bluetooth or even optical. Finally, as with the other two Phantoms you can pair them together for stereo listening, but at $6,000 for a pair they’re in pretty heady territory.

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The Devialet Gold Phantom is a high-end wireless speaker with 4,500W of power.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Ears-on tests

If there’s one thing I noted about the performance of the Silver Phantom is that it tended on the bright side of neutral. Based on a short listening test the sound I heard lacked the brightness of the previous model and instead sounded open and nuanced. Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” had the three-dimensionality I’d heard in “proper” stereo systems and managed to untangle the knotty mass of deep vocals and bass line.

Dead Can Dance’s “Yulunga (Spirit Dance)” exhibited plenty of air during the 2-minute opening and then when the shaker egg appeared it sounded incredibly present. It was as if someone was shaking it in the room with us. The drums that accompany the shakers weren’t as bombastic as I’ve heard previously, but I couldn’t say without further testing of the Phantom with bassy material whether this was a good or bad thing.

Conclusion

The Devialet Gold Phantom will be available for pre-order on France’s national holiday, Bastille Day, July 14. This is obviously not your typical Bluetooth speaker. It is the Lamborghini Gallardo of wireless speakers: beautiful to look at and (potentially) performs well too. As nice as it is, however, unless you have a palatial room to fill, the “entry-level” 750W Phantom at $1,990 or £1,390 (about AU$2,510) will probably do almost as good a job.

28
Jun

Wileyfox Spark hands-on: What an £89 Android phone looks like


British startup Wileyfox expands its product line into the budget space, once again tapping CyanogenOS on the software side — but as you might expect, there are a few compromises to deal with in phones priced between £89 and £130.

Wileyfox was part of the broad trend in 2015 towards decent phones that don’t cost a whole lot of money. Partnering with Cyanogen for its software experience allowed the British firm to deliver a solid software experience and decent performance for well below £200. Recently, the more popular of Wiley’s 2015 phones, the Swift, was been discounted to under £100, making it a great buy.

So as the manufacturer kicks off its 2016 product portfolio, the focus is on bringing this kind of smartphone experience to even more people — and that means cheaper phones. The base model of its new “Spark” family costs just £89.99 unlocked, and includes 4G LTE connectivity, a 5-inch 720p display and a quad-core CPU, alongside the latest CyanogenOS 13 software, based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

wf-spark-group-3.jpg?itok=T5zJzU5W The Wileyfox Spark, Spark X and Spark+.

The fundamentals of the phone are strong. Like last year’s Swift and Storm, the Spark series is mostly furnished in coarse matte plastic, not unlike OnePlus’s trademark “sandstone” finish. It feels more premium than the glossy plastic used by entry-level rivals, while also providing a decent amount of grip. Also around the back is Wileyfox’s trademark fox logo, embossed into the back panel, adding a touch of class to what would otherwise be a rather generic black slab.

A base model with 8GB of storage and 1GB of RAM is a tough sell, even at £89.

The display, too, looks decent, although you’ll have to forego any kind of oleophobic coating, meaning fingerprinty residue will gradually gunk up the phone as it’s used. At least there’s a factory-fitted screen protector to shield the display from scratches.

The other main trade-off is one that affects the base model Spark, but not the higher-spec’d Spark+ and the plus-sized Spark X. The £89 model ships with just 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, of which a mere 3.6GB is available for your own stuff. That’s not much of anything in 2016, and so in the long run you’ll need to invest in an SD card and use Marshmallow’s Adoptable Storage feature.

On the inside, all the Spark models run an octa-core MediaTek processor, and the phones seemed to handle CyanogenOS 13 with relative ease on that 720p display, though we’ll bring you longterm performance impressions in our full review soon. But for the moment, no complaints.

MORE: Wileyfox Spark, Spark+ and Spark X specs

The Wileyfox Spark X.

If you’ve got a bit more cash to splash, the Wileyfox Spark+ adds 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and a more capable 13-megapixel rear camera (versus 8 in the regular Spark) for £114.99. We’d recommend splurging for the RAM and storage bump alone — two hugely important hardware areas for longterm performance and usability. Both 5-inch Spark models sport 2,200mAh removable batteries, which considering the relatively lightweight hardware inside should be enough to get you through a day. Again, more to come there in our full review.

A little extra money should go a long way toward a better Spark experience.

There are a few external differences to note between the two 5-inchers — the Spark+ has a slightly different finish on the Wileyfox logo around the back, and a more striking silver trim around the display. Besides that, the two are more or less identical.

Stepping up to the most expensive Spark X, at £129.99, gets you a larger 5.5-inch screen (at the same 720p resolution, unfortunately), along with a beefier 3,000mAh battery. Other specs mirror the Spark+ line for line — 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 13-megapixel camera. As you’d expect, the Spark X represents the same form factor blown up to a larger size, and feels much the same in the hand when compared to its smaller siblings, right down to its sandstone-esque matte plastic finish.

As for the cameras themselves — 13MP on the Spark X and Spark+, 8MP on the vanilla Spark — all models are relatively capable in terms of launch times, focus speeds and daylight performance. Given the price point, we wouldn’t expect miracles here, particularly in low light. But at least you’re not going to be shooting with a total potato.

The Wileyfox Spark+.

Wileyfox has lofty goals of selling 2 million phones in the next 12 months.

On the software side, you’re looking at CyanogenOS 13, based on Marshmallow, with a default theme bringing orange hues and Wileyfox’s unique logo into the foreground. As ever, Cyanogen’s strength stems from its performance — as mentioned, we’ve had no issues with lag thus far — and the sheer number of features offered — from smart caller ID to security settings like a randomized keypad for entering your PIN. Many of these will be familiar to users of the open-source CyanogenMod. Others, light the tight integration with Microsoft’s Bing search engine, may come as a surprise. CyanogenOS is also infinitely themeable, so if you don’t fancy the Foxy preloaded skin, there are plenty of alternatives

The real question is what differentiates the Spark series — especually the precariously priced Spark+ — from the readily discounted Wileyfox Swift, a phone which boasts oleophobic coating, 2GB of RAM as standard and the same Cyanogen-powered software experience.
The base price of the regular Spark also seems a tough ask by comparison, with its reduced RAM and storage space.

Regardless, Wileyfox CEO Nick Muir describes the phones’ price as “competitive,” and it’s hard to argue with the balance of hardware and software when you consider the base model Spark costs less than many accessories for rival handsets. Going forward, the firm clearly has big plans — Muir told us the company has shipped 250,000 units of its existing Swift and Storm models, and is aiming at the 2 million mark in the next 12 months. That includes not just the Spark devices, but future, higher-end offerings. Spark is “not indicative of Wileyfox’s pricing direction,” Muir told us, adding that higher-end models would follow in the next few months.

For the moment, Wileyfox finds itself with an augmented, product portfolio, but one still laser-focused on affordability.

The Wileyfox Spark.

28
Jun

Wileyfox Spark preview: Cheap but not cheerful


British company Wileyfox has announced three new smartphones: the Spark, Spark+ and Spark X.

The three devices all aim at the budget end of the smartphone market, priced between £90 and £130, making them all cheaper than both the new generation of Moto G, as well as the recently announced Vodafone Ultra. But what do they actually offer and can these phone be both cheap and cheerful?

Wileyfox Spark: Design

The three WileyFox Spark smartphones all share very similar designs. The cheapest is the Spark, which we are focusing on in this preview, while the most expensive is the Spark X, as you’ll see in the gallery in the white and rose gold colours.

On the rear, you’ll find the Wileyfox logo finished in black, distinguishing this device like the Moto “M” does for the Moto G. The fox head sits almost centralised on top of the tactile sandstone finish, while the company name stands out in orange positioned at the bottom of the removable rear. A speaker sits below the WileyFox name, while the camera lens sits slightly off centre at the top.

Pocket-lint

The Spark looks the cheapest in terms of design compared to the other two devices, despite looking almost identical. The Spark X and Spark+ both have more premium-finished logos, including rose gold, along with different coloured accents on the edges, helping them look a little more up-market.

The curved rear of the Spark makes it a pleasure to hold and the display has a nice 2.5D edges that help it seamlessly blend into the side of the phone. It is super light though, weighing just 134.5g with the battery in place. This is in the same ballpark as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Apple iPhone 6, but the Spark feels too light, perhaps because of the lack of metal to give it that premium feel.

Pocket-lint

The front of the Spark is plain. There is nothing distinguishing about it, or special, except for the small speaker at the top of the display, with an orange accent grille. The power button sits on the right-hand side, while the volume rocker is on the left. You’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top left, while the Micro-USB charging port is annoying off centre to the right at the bottom.

Overall, the Wileyfox Spark is nice to hold but it looks as cheap as it is. The more expensive devices – the Spark+ and Spark X have better logos to give the design a lift, but in the case of the £90 Spark, the sandstone finish picks up fingerprints like they are going out of fashion and it doesn’t really have anything in the design to get excited about.

Wileyfox Spark: Display

The Wileyfox Spark has a 5-inch display, like the Spark X, while the Spark+ gets a 5.5-inch display, putting it more in line with the latest Moto G4.

All three devices have an HD display, meaning a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels for a pixel density of 294ppi on the Spark and Spark X, and 267ppi on the Spark+. Unfortunately, this is a simple case of you get what you pay for.

There are some who will not find the fuzziness or washed out colours a problem. There are others who will. We sit in the latter camp and although we understand the need to keep costs down, we would rather pay a little more for a Full HD display and a crisper, sharper experience. There are some display tuning options in the UI, as well as options to change the colour temperature for day or night, but it overall lacks vibrancy and clarity.

The Wileyfox Spark has some tough competition in this field and while its display will be ample for some, we want the vibrancy and the crispness that’s lacking here.

Pocket-lint

Wileyfox Spark: Camera

The WileyFox Spark has an 8-megapixel autofocus rear camera, coupled with an 8-megapixel front camera. The latter is a higher resolution than most would expect for a budget smartphone so it gains a few points here, even if we don’t know how it will perform in the real world yet.

The Spark X and the Spark+ both have 13-megapixel rear snappers, again with 8-megapixel front snappers. None of the three handsets have front facing flashes.

All three are capable of 1080p video recording from their rear cameras. There’s nothing really ground breaking in terms of specs here, but it isn’t just about the numbers, it’s about the performance, which is something we will test out properly when we have more time with the devices.

Wileyfox Spark: Hardware

The Wileyfox Spark has a quad-core 2.3GHz MediaTek processor under its hood, supported by 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal memory, which ends up being about 2GB of useable memory once all the built-in apps have updated. Ouch. The Spark X and Spark+ both have the same processor but up the RAM to 2GB and the storage capacity to 16GB.

All three offer microSD storage expansion, which is compatible with Android Marshmallow’s adoptable storage feature, allowing the SD card to be used as internal memory, but the maximum card supported is 32GB. That’s enough memory to tide most people over, but it of course means that £90, turns into £100 once you add the cost of the SD card to the mix.

We found the Wileyfox a little slow to react, with everything running a little sluggishly, but this could be down to the software. As with the fuzziness in the display, there are some who may not notice, but others will, so it depends on the compromises you’re willing to make to save some cash. Of course, we can look more closely at the performance as we spend more time with this handset.

In terms of battery capacity, the Spark and Spark+ have 2200mAh batteries, while the Spark X ups this to 3000mAh, the latter of which is a good capacity and found on most of the current flagships.

There are some key elements missing from the latest Wileyfox devices however, one of which is no NFC, which means none of the models will support Android Pay. They also have no 5GHz Wi-FI, no fingerprint scanners and no fast charging capabilities. Some of this is accounted for in the price, although you don’t need to pay much more money to find these features in some phones.

Pocket-lint

Wileyfox Spark: Software

The Wileyfox Spark, Spark+ and Spark X devices all run on Cyanogen 13 based on Android 6.0. It’s basically an experience close to stock Android but with more customisation.

You’ll find the usual Google suite of apps, such as Google Play, Chrome and Gmail, but there are also extras, such as another browser and a different gallery.

Other changes from standard Android include the apps tray being alphabetised and Themes, which offers lots of customisation by allowing you to change various things around the launcher, change the icons, or the navigation icons, as well as download extras.

We’ve not had the time to fully explore the complete set of functions that the Spark offers, and we’ll bring you more once we’ve spent more time with the phone.

First Impressions

The Wileyfox Spark is cheap but it isn’t all that cheerful. On the surface it looks ok and it has a couple of charming aspects, especially in the more expensive models, like the logo.

Dive a little deeper though and you are left with a device that will probably leave even the non-power user hungry for more.

Granted, £100 is a good price for a smartphone but spend £30 more than the more appealing Spark X and you could bag yourself the Moto G that offers plenty more physical customisation with Moto Maker, NFC for Android Pay and a better display.

Wileyfox has got it right in the past, but we fear in the case of the Spark, it went that little bit too cheap and took a step backwards.

28
Jun

Microsoft’s hand-tracking magic may lead to gamepad-free VR


The next Xbox One S console doesn’t even have a Kinect port, showing that even Microsoft doesn’t care about the depth sensor for gaming. However, it may yet make a comeback in VR. Microsoft researchers have made hand- and finger-tracking much more accurate using the Kinect, which may eventually make it a more attractive option than a controller for VR games. “We’re getting to the point that the accuracy is such that the user can start to feel like the avatar hand is their real hand,” says Microsoft UK researcher Jamie Shotton.

Finger tracking currently works on the Kinect (using Kinect Studio and other apps), but its accuracy is very poor. The problem, says Microsoft, is that your hand is relatively small and complex, so when you rotate it or make a fist, your fingers disappear from view and fool the software.

To solve the problem, Microsoft creates a smooth surface model of the hand from the data points tracked by the Kinect. It then uses an algorithm that was developed way back in the 1940s to calculate where the tracking points should go next in order to conserve the most energy. The system also uses a “reinitializer” to quickly reset a hand pose in case of tracking errors.

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The smoother surface model does require more computations, but the software can resolve hand positions more quickly, within four iterations. In addition, it requires fewer tracking points than other solutions. As a result, it “can track hands smoothly, quickly and accurately –- in real time –- but can run on a regular consumer gadget,” says the team.

With the app, users can smoothly interact with objects nearly in real time, something that could be highly beneficial for gaming, design and other VR applications. “The system lets you see what your hands are doing, fixing a common and befuddling disconnect that happens when people are interacting with virtual reality but can’t see their own hands,” according to the blog.

What’s more, with proper interface design, users aren’t thrown off by the lack of haptics, or simulated touch. “Thin” virtual controls make you touch your own fingers together for a fake sense of feel, for instance. And with a realistic-looking interface that works in real time and includes sound, users can be convinced they’re actually touching something.

The finger-tracking algorithms are purely research for now, and problems like collisions and tracking errors still need to be resolved. However, it holds a lot of promise for gaming, user interface design and other applications. Using an off-the-shelf Kinect, Microsoft showed off virtual gamepads, painting tools that let you “grab” a color with your fingers and a game where the player is a “god” that literally gives a helping hand to his characters.

Via: Popular Science

Source: Microsoft

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