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13
Sep

Apple iOS 10 review: Bringing more complexity and features to your iPhone and iPad


The latest iPhone operating system update, Apple’s iOS 10, is almost here. And it’s full of promise that will change the way you use your iPhone or iPad.

We’ve been living with iOS 10 on both iPhone and iPad during the public beta phase and, briefly, on the new iPhone 7 at Apple’s launch event in San Francisco.

But just how has the mobile operating system changed, and is it truly for the better?

iOS 10 review: Design

For the most part iOS 10 looks the same as iOS 9. There are tweaks here and there, of course, but the experience is still familiar and there are no shocks in the same way as experienced with the iOS 7 update.

However, iOS 10 focuses on layering, with more information and more options to hand. So rather than create entirely new ways of approaching things, Apple has evolved what we’ve seen in iOS 9, while managing to implement a bolder, clearer and cleaner user interface. On the lock screen, for example, everything is now contained in “bubbles”, which we’ve found delivers a more contained experience.

It is interesting to see how much Apple is relying on iPhone users already being knowlegeable with the OS’s history in order to be happy with the potential complexity of what is being offered. Power users are going to love all the nuances available, from Messages through to the new lock screen.

iOS 10 review: Lock screen

One of the biggest changes in iOS 10 is the new lock screen and how it works.

iPhone users with Touch ID may have found it frustrating that as soon as they touch the Home button the phone unlocks. In iOS 10 you can now “Raise to Wake” your device to see messages and notifications.

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The Raise to Wake function works in a similar way to how it does on the Apple Watch: you need to lift or move the device with purpose to get the response. If you are one of those people who lays your iPhone on a desk or table, you’ll have to physically pick up the phone, or press the power button, rather than merely giving it a nudge.

Like in the Watch, the feature it is not perfect every time. Pull the phone out of your pocket and it’s all good, but tap it as you would the Apple Watch, and it does nothing. Failure to move with the necessary vigour results in the phone staying asleep, although we found Raise to Wake was a lot quicker to respond on the iPhone 7 in our brief hands-on at the event  than the 6S we’ve been using during the iOS 10 beta phase.

Raise to Wake isn’t the only new trick, though. Apple has removed the slide to unlock bar that has been on the iPhone since day one. In the age of Touch ID and the Home button, Apple believes you don’t need it any more. Or, at least, not for the purpose of unlocking: iOS 10 now uses the slide gesture on the lock screen for other things. Four other things in fact.

Slide right to left to reveal the camera (it used to be a slide up). Slide in the opposite direction, from left to right, and you reveal the Notification Center with Widgets for things like Calendar, Weather, search options, and app suggestions.

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Sliding down from the top of the screen reveals your notifications, or access to Widgets if you then scroll left to right again (more on those in a moment). Sliding up from the bottom of the screen gives you access to an enhanced Control Center which has now been spilt into three panels: Main controls, Music, and Home (more on that later).

It does all take a little bit getting used to – especially for accessing the camera. And over the months we’ve been using iOS 10 we’ve not found it to become second nature. We’ve not used the Widgets as much as we had hoped, and the inability to delete emails from the home screen is a missed opportunity.

All that said and done, where the lock screen wins is that you can now access so much information through notifications, Widgets, and even devices, that you’ll find at times there is no reason to even go beyond it. It’s great for glancing without digging deep.

iOS 10 review: Widgets

Put simply, Widgets are snippets from within an app, visible on the lock screen. That could be your Activity data, a football score, the latest headline, or shortcuts to controlling smarthome devices – without the need to fully open an app.

Indeed, Widgets could have the power to negate the need to open apps altogether. Once you’ve got the ordering of your selected Widgets sorted they can be incredibly powerful.

As is stands, however, Widgets are incredibly basic – and only editable within the app they are from; there’s no centralised control. But they will become even more powerful when more app developers add support.

We like Weather, Battery (for checking up on the Apple Watch), Philips Hue for Scenes, and Activity, but we are sure more will come as the feature becomes more widespread among iPhone users.

iOS 10 review: Messages

If you do make it beyond the lock screen, you’ll find Messages is the next big iOS 10 overhaul. Apple has looked at what messaging apps are doing – like Snapchat, Instant Messenger, Whatsapp, Line, and others – and tried to emulate it for iMessages too.

Aside from making emoji bigger so you can see the cute little things, there are a number of new types of message to tease and taunt your friends and family with. Whether that’s messages that “slam dunk” their way into an inbox, or ones that are revealed after a pause, there is plenty to play with… if you remember.

And that’s before you start to experiment with iMessage backdrops like fireworks or balloons, drawing messages in the same way Apple Watch users have been able to do for the past year, automatically getting suggestions to replace words with the right emoji, or play with the dozens of third-party iMessage apps that will also be able to tap into the experience. It’s like BBM never went away.

The new elements can be ignored if wanted, and for most we suspect they will be. Yes, they add fun to the experience, but after the initial excitement you could find yourself reverting back to your old ways and completely ignoring or forgetting about them.

iMessage apps, meanwhile, offer a range of different things including, probably most importantly, stickers. Some are free, others you’ll have to pay for, but most are fun. They range from cats to veggies, to premium third-party ones like Star Wars emoji, and are no doubt going to be a massive hit for Apple and developers keen to get on board. It’s not all stickers though, other apps include IMDB, City Mapper and Scanbot Go. 

How iMessage apps will be received is anyone’s guess. We suspect there will be a handful of apps that will be really useful to a handful of people, but for the rest of us it will probably go unnoticed andd just add to the noise.  

iOS 10 review: Home

After seemingly years of talking about HomeKit, Apple has created a dedicated app to allow iPhone and iPad users to not only access their HomeKit-enabled devices, but also create Scenes to allow different HomeKit devices to talk to each other.

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The app itself is simple, yet powerful. Broken down into three main areas – Rooms, Scenes and Automations – you can quickly access all the HomeKit devices in your house, view them room by room, or create automations based on specific triggers. We’ve covered Home in much greater depth in our HomeKit preview, linked below.

READ: Apple HomeKit preview: Is Apple’s smarthome system ready to shine?

What Apple Home really gets right with Home is the “one app to rule them all” approach. And it really starts to shine above and beyond dedicated device apps when you pair multiple devices together. It’s at that moment everything snaps into place.

iOS 10 review: Photos

Apple hasn’t really touched the camera app in iOS 10. For older iPhone users (i.e. not the new iPhone 7 range) there are no new shooting modes to experiment with. The iPhone 7 Plus gets a 2x zoom feature and dedicated Portrait mode, but every other device running iOS won’t.

Apple has always had a strong focus on photography and many of those iPhone users who are generations deep will have amassed years upon years of photos. And iOS 10 wants you to find those photos quicker, whether through search or suggestions.

The Photos app will now scan your complete library and then attempt to track people, places, events, and a few other things to group photos together to make them more relevant and easier to find. That might, as we’ve found, be photos from a place you’ve been, a collection of photos based on a date, or even a collection of what Apple thinks are some of your best photos over a given period of time.

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The intelligence stems further, too, allowing you to ask Siri to try and find a photo for you – perhaps of a dog or a beach – and we’ve found on a number of instances when it’s saved us from scrolling back through a good seven years of phone pics trying to find “that photo”.

Start looking at your Memories and, as you might expect, the rabbit hole runs deep. There’s the ability to play slideshows of collections, see photos in a given collection, who is in the collection, where the collection was taken, and then related collections. You can then share that collection as a mini movie. 

If you shoot a lot of pictures then after upgrading to iOS 10 expect to lose yourself for the first couple of days in the Photos app.

iOS 10 review: Siri

Apple has made Siri available to developers, allowing them to access the voice assistant to not only build it into their apps, but allow you to ask Siri to interact with apps on your behalf. You will be able to conduct a photo search in IM or stop and pause your runs in apps like Runkeeper, for example, all via Siri.

However, this is one of the features that we’ve not been able to fully test yet, given availability, but we will be updating this review as and when supported apps become available.

iOS 10 review: Extras

iOS 10 isn’t just about Message enhancements, a new Photos app, and HomeKit. Across the board there are new and upgraded features: from a handy quick shortcut, to unread mail in the Mail app, or being able to remove the Stocks or Tips apps from your home screen so you never see them again.

For iPhone users with 3D Touch, apps will now be able to give you more information without you having to open the app. Apple Maps gets new features too, while Apple Music and Apple News have both had a complete overhaul, making them a lot easier to use.  

READ: What is Apple’s 3D Touch and how does it work?

iOS 10 review: iPad

There are just two specific features in iOS 10 for iPad: the ability to split-screen two Safari windows side-by-side in Split Screen mode; and Swift Playgrounds, an app designed to get people and kids into coding.  

Both appeal in their own ways, and although it sounds incredibly geeky we really appreciate the Safari add-on. For us, having one window with our content management system open, and other with details of a story from a manufacturers’ website or email, has made our workflow a lot easier. 

Verdict

The notion that iOS is a simple operating system is now a long and distant memory. In iOS 10 Apple has focused on layering the experience with even more  complexity and depth than ever before.

iOS 10 isn’t about redefining or dumbing down, more about adding functionality on top of what, for many, is an incredibly functional experience already. It’s a bold move, given that some of that complexity might be overwhelming to a brand new iPhone or iPad user.

But Apple has got the balance right. Yes, your two-year-old will still be able to navigate iOS 10, but while once upon a time they would have been classed as geniuses, now they will only be scratching the surface. And for power users the depth of features is richer than ever before.

So should you upgrade to iOS 10? The simple answer: yes, of course. There are many new features, tricks, and goodies to be found in iOS 10 that to not upgrade, would simply see you missing out.

13
Sep

Ford will offer a B&O Play in-car sound system in 2017


Ford will be upping its in-car audio game as of next year thanks to a collaboration with Harman and B&O Play.

The car manufacturer has said there will be a global roll out of a new sound system, which will take on different forms in different cars. The two companies will work out where best to place speakers and how to calibrate them depending on the size of the Ford vehicle, although just which Ford vehicles will get the system is yet to be announced.

Whatever the configuration, B&O Play says the tuning will make sure you get the best possible sound experience no matter where you’re sitting in the car.

In-car technology is becoming more and more important to consumers, with the likes of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto taking centre stage in many new cars and with them, so do music streaming services.

Ford claims a recent Ipsos 2016 Automotive Audio Branding study found that one-third of new car buyers say the audio brand available to choose as an option has a “significant impact” on their car choice.

The new system will mark the first time a B&O Play sound system is installed in a car and the first since Harman bought B&O Play’s automotive business for €145 million in 2015. It is separate to Bang and Olufsen sound systems that can be found in cars from higher-end manufacturers such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

13
Sep

Got a US Sony Xperia XZ or X Compact? You won’t be able to use the fingerprint scanner


It seems Sony just can’t avoid disappointing its US customers. Sony Mobile US has confirmed the Stateside versions of the latest XZ and X Compact flagship smartphones won’t come with a fingerprint scanner, but they will in Europe.

It’s not the first time Sony has kept the feature from US phones either, with the Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact and Xperia X Performance all lacking the fingerprint scanner.

There was never any explanation as to why those phones didn’t have the feature and it’s the same case once again with the Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact.

Perhaps the most unexplainable thing is that the hardware is said to be on the US-bound phones, but has just been disabled. Does Sony think US consumers won’t be able to work out how to use it? Can its scanner not recognise US fingerprints? Or could it be Sony is worried about privacy issues in the US? We may never know.

Neither phone is available to buy just yet, but Sony has said they’re due to be released some time in October. For now, you can read our initial impressions of the Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact.

13
Sep

Amazon may have accidentally confirmed a cheaper Echo Dot


Amazon currently has a trio of Alexa-controlled devices: Echo, Tap and Echo Dot, each of which serves a different purpose. The Echo Dot is the cheapest of the three and connects to your existing speakers to add Alexa voice control capabilities.

The Echo Dot has been sold out since it was launched in the US in July this year, but Amazon could be launching a newer, cheaper model if a recently deleted tweet is to be believed.

The tweet said: “Introducing the all-new Echo Dot. Add Alexa to any room – now for just $49.99”. That looks like pretty conclusive evidence to us and the fact Amazon quickly deleted the tweet after the unfortunate leak, only furthers speculation that a new Echo Dot is on the way.

There was a link included in the tweet as well, but that takes you to a sold out page for the Echo Dot and no mention of a new one being released.

The Echo Dot connects to your existing speakers via a 3.5mm output, it does have a small built-in speaker, but it will work better connected to something more powerful. You can ask it to play music from a range of services via Alexa, along with controlling smart home connected devices and it can even order you a pizza.

It sounds like the perfect gadget and if a cheaper one is one the way, it will only make it more desirable.

13
Sep

What to expect at Photokina 2016: The most anticipated cameras of 2016


It’s that time again: Photokina, the largest dedicated photo show in Europe, based in Cologne, Germany, is just around the corner. The press day, when all the major camera makers will have their press conferences, is on Monday 19 September, followed by six days of public show from Tuesday 20 through Sunday 25 September.

It’s been a tumultuous time in the world of camera production, however, with the Kumamoto earthquakes in Japan having a devastating affect not only on its communities, but production lines. Which, inevitably, means this will be a quieter show than many may expect, with Nikon, Fujifilm and Sony in particular believed to be affected.

But that’s not to say there won’t be some exciting announcements to come from the show. Some are speculative, some far-reaching, others more likely. So here are the rumoured cameras we expect to see from Photokina 2016.

Olympus at Photokina 2016

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II?

Rather than holding a daytime press conference like its competition, Olympus is set to show off what is believed to be the Mark II version of the top-end OM-D E-M1.

According to Four Thirds rumours, the latest interchangeable lens system camera is expected to offer 4K video capture, hand-held high-resolution mode and a dual SD card slot.

The company’s press conference will be at 19:00 CEST (18:00 BST; 13:00 EST; 10:00 PST) on Monday 19 September, when the full ins and outs will be revealed.

Panasonic at Photokina 2016

Lumix GH5 and G8X?

It seems Panasonic has held things close to its chest this year, with FourThirdsRumors speculating that there will be a pre-production Lumix GH5 (to upgrade the top-end GH4) and a G8X, the latter which will pull in GH4-level 4K video capture into a G7-style body.

That’s as much as they’re giving away, so we’ll just have to wait until the company’s press conference, which is at 12:30 CEST (11:30 BST; 06:30 EST; 03:30 PST) on Monday 19 September.

Fujifilm at Photokina 2016

Medium Format X-series camera?

After releasing the X-Pro2 earlier this year, then announcing the X-T2 in July, followed by the lower-end X-A3, Fujifilm has set out its stall to offer a compact system camera for all levels. And with seemingly nowhere else to venture, the rumour is that the Japanese company will unveil something entirely new on 19 September.

The company’s press conference is at 17:00 CEST (16:00 BST; 11:00 EST; 08:00 PST), the time when Fujirumors reports that the company is likely to unveil a medium format camera, along with three lenses. That means a whole new lens mount system to cover the larger-scale sensor size.

It’s not as if Fujifilm is new to large and medium format photography, given the company has made sheet and roll film for years, along with Fujinon lenses. The company still produces professional grade cine lenses too. But its older, manual-based systems weren’t based on the advanced autofocus systems of today, so the new mount needs to come with electronic connectors, hence us thinking it will mean a whole new lens range.

The rumoured camera is thought to cost $6,000, though. Which is a lot – but roughly the same as a top-end pro DSLR body.

Canon at Photokina 2016

Given the sheer volume of kit that Canon has announced this year, we believe the company is taking a different tack when it comes to the show itself. It has no specific press conference this year.

Instead of announcing its latest and greatest in among the noise of the show floor and its competitors, the slow trickle of releases throughout 2016 should sum up what’s on offer: the EOS 1D X Mark II, EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS D80 DSLRs, along with the G7 X II compact.

Nikon at Photokina 2016

New mirrorless system?

There’s been rumour of a larger-sensor Nikon mirrorless system for some time now, to outsmart the 1-series, with Nikonrumors reporting that the unveiling of that camera has been delayed – presumably due to production issues as a result of the earthquake in Kumamoto.

There is the chance, however, that this elusive new system may show face at Photokina. Otherwise Nikon’s show will be more about showing off its top-end full-frame D5 and APS-C D500 DSLRs, along with the recently announced entry-level D3400, and also-rumoured Keymission 360-degree and action cameras.

The company’s press conference will be at 15:00 CEST (14:00 BST; 09:00 EST; 06:00 PST) on Monday 19 September, when all will (or won’t?) be revealed.

Sony at Photokina 2016

There is not even a titter on the rumours front when it comes to Sony. The brand had a quiet Photokina in 2014, so perhaps 2016 will be an equal reflection of that. It’ll instead be all about showing off the Alpha A7 II in its various forms and paired with various lenses.

The company’s press conference will be at 16:00 CEST (15:00 BST; 10:00 EST; 07:00 PST) on Monday 19 September. Perhaps they’ll drop an unexpected bombshell (but hopefully nothing as odd as the Hasselblad partnership, resulting in the oddest of collaborative cameras: Lunar).

Kodak at Photokina 2016

Kodak bailed on the traditional system and compact cameras markets, but its new approach is all about 360-degree capture and 4K.

We’ll be getting a closer look at the Kodak PixPro SP360 action camera, which was first announced in January this year, and meeting with company representatives to query what else is in the pipeline.

GoPro at Photokina 2016

To mirror Photokina, GoPro will be holding a separate event in the United States, which we presume will lead to the Hero 5 announcement, the rumoured action camera, said to be capable of 4K capture.

In addition we suspect the GoPro Karma drone and other pro-spec avenues that the company is pursuing to be a core focus, such as the GoPro Omni 360-degree rig.

Pentax at Photokina 2016

One of the slow movers, we expect Pentax will use Photokina to promote its first ever full-frame DLSR, the K-1. That camera, announced in February 2016, was a huge deal for the company then, so we don’t anticipate any more bombshells.

Samsung at Photokina 2016

We don’t expect to see anything from Samsung at Photokina 2016, after the brand pulled its NX camera line in most regions. It’s unconfirmed that the company has ceased production entirely after the NX line failed to make much impact in the market.

13
Sep

Engadget giveaway: Win a Samsung Gear 360 and video software courtesy of CyberLink!


Want to step into the 360-degree video editing arena at an affordable price? CyberLink just launched Director Suite 5, its $300 consumer-level editing bundle for fine-tuning your video captures in full 360-degree splendor. CyberLink’s True360 tech allows users to work on their content with tools like PowerDirector 15 for finessing titles and transitions, and ColorDirector 5 for a wide range of color enhancements that even track along with moving objects. This week, CyberLink has provided a Samsung Gear 360 camera and its newest video-editing bundle, Director Suite 5 (including four programs), to get one lucky reader started recording, editing and sharing experiences in the round. All you need to do is head to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning this creative video package from CyberLink.
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  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One (1) winner will receive one (1) Samsung Gear 360 camera and CyberLink’s Director Suite 5 (including PowerDirector 15 with 360-degree video editing, PhotoDirector 8, AudioDirector 7 and ColorDirector 5).
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  • Entries can be submitted until Sept. 14th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!
13
Sep

Amazon Prime gives you Audible streams for free


Amazon Prime members get a pretty decent bunch of benefits for their $99 a year subscription, and the list of goodies just got a bit longer. The online retail giant now offers its subscribers free access to Audible Channels, a collection of talk show-type streams and audiobooks that would normally cost $5 a month.

Prime members can download the Audible app for iOS, Android and Windows 10 to access Channels, which will include ad-free programming and content from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Charlie Rose, Harvard Business Review and The Onion, among others. It’ll also include 20 curated playlists around comedy, meditation and news, as well as a rotating selection of more than 50 audiobooks.

In addition to free two-day shipping and now, free Audible content, a Prime subscription also gets you free access to Amazon’s video streaming service, a ton of ebooks, photo storage, early entry to certain deals and a somewhat limited selection of music. But the company could be boosting its library of songs, and that, together with the Audible offering, could really enhance the amount and quality of its content.

Source: BusinessWire

13
Sep

It takes two: A visual history of dual-camera mobile phones


With the recent launches of the iPhone 7 Plus and the LG V20, the dual-lens smartphone camera is once again a hot topic. Of course, many other companies will want to remind you that they were there first, except some have long since given up on the technology. So what happened? And why isn’t this yet a standard feature on all flagship smartphones? For those intrigued, it’s worth taking a trip seven years back in time.

13
Sep

JBL’s Everest Elite cans let you hear actual reality in VR


Normally when you’re tooling around in a virtual world, you want the experience to be as immersive as possible. But there’s a downside to being cut off from the outside world — what if the phone rings or the pizza guy starts knocking or a crazed ax murderer breaks in the back door? Well, if you happen to have a pair of JBL Everest Elite headphones and an HTC Vive, you’ll be able to take that call, receive that pizza or head Mr. Choppy off at the stairs. All without taking off your ear cans.

The system works by pairing the JBL’s Ambient Aware feature to the Vive’s Chaperone boundary markers. Basically, when you hit the edge of the Vive activity zone, right when those Chaperone wireframe boundary markers pop up, the JBLs will lower the in-game audio and turn on the headphone’s external mics so that you can hear what’s going on around you. Move away from the boundary and the in-game audio goes back up while the external mics are cut.

What’s especially cool is that this is a software-only upgrade so it’ll work with your existing gear when the feature goes live. That said, Harmon reps tell me that it’s still in beta and they don’t have a firm timetable for when it will be released but guestimate that it could be around the end of the year.

I had the opportunity to try out the feature on Monday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference and was really impressed by it. It’s super helpful. Used along with the Chaperone wireframe visuals of people standing near me, I was able to carry on a naturally paced conversation with the Harmon rep while wearing both the Vive headset and the headphones. All I had to do was stick my head out of the virtual “room” and I was (nearly) back in regular reality. It’s a head-slappingly simple solution to VR’s issue of situational awareness.

13
Sep

The Eye-Sync system can diagnose concussions in one minute


Concussions are no joke — just ask Cam Newton — but a new diagnostic system developed in conjunction with Stanford University could revolutionize the way these head injuries are determined. The Eye-Sync, from the SyncThink company, uses a modified VR headset and custom software running on a consumer tablet to diagnose concussions in just one minute.

The system has patients look through the VR headset, which has been modified to track their eyes, and follow a small red dot as it rotates around a circular path. The less the patient is able to accurately follow the dot, the more likely they’re concussed. This reading can either be taken as a one-off and compared against the device’s database of 10,000 individuals or compared to the person’s existing baseline for greater accuracy.

I was afforded a brief demonstration of the Eye-Sync system at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Monday. The process is straightforward. You hold the headset up to your eyes, wait a few seconds for the system to calibrate, then you look at a spinning red dot. That data is immediately crunched on a connected tablet (in this case, a Microsoft Surface) and displayed onscreen as a heatmap of where you were looking. If you are within bounds, the heatmap looks like you’ve tried to draw a circle freehand. If you’re concussed, it will look like you’ve tried to draw a circle freehand on an Etch-A-Sketch.

Obviously, this isn’t going to completely replace existing protocols but it does offer an efficient and rapid way of helping doctors determine the extent of your injury. Stanford’s football program has already adopted this technology, hopefully the pro system will take notice and do the same.

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