Last Sunday 27 teams brought their completed Hyperloop pods to SpaceX’s headquarters in Southern California hoping to get time in the vacuum-sealed track. After a battery of tests by the judges, only three of the vehicles were deemed worthy of the tube. Engadget caught up with members of groups from MIT, Delft University in the Netherlands and the Technical University of Munich about their pods and the technology behind them.
At the end of the competition, Delft won best overall while the team from Munich (Warr) got an award for the fastest pod. But, that doesn’t mean the quest for the vehicle that’ll ride in the Hyperloop tube is over. SpaceX is planning another competition this summer.
If it’s been some time since you’ve updated your Chrome browser, you might see a banner at the top of Gmail’s interface on February 8th. It’ll contain a reminder to update to Chrome version 55 from 53 and below, since the newer iteration comes with several big security updates. That banner will go away after you update — unless you’re still using Windows XP or Vista. Google stopped releasing Chrome updates for those two after version 49, since Microsoft no longer supports its older Windows platforms.
So, what will happen if you don’t — or can’t — update Chrome? Well, Gmail will work like usual throughout 2017. Sometime in December, though, you’ll start being redirected to the basic HTML version of the email service and will be more vulnerable to security risks. Google says the best thing you can do is upgrade and ditch XP or Vista ASAP.
Source: Google Suite Updates
To see into the future, even just by a few minutes, is a superhero-style gift none of us have. Except, in a twist of fate, we’ve been granted the power of foresight, and have used it to see into the future of smartphones. No, we didn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider or suffer a risky experiment-gone-wrong. We just used two concept-style phones that are way ahead of their time: the Xiaomi Mi Mix and the Honor Magic
The phones in question aren’t nailed together concepts that’ll never be sold, either. They’re genuine examples of next-generation phone tech that you can buy today. What makes them so futuristic? Both incorporate technology that’s so cutting edge, we haven’t seen it implemented in the same way on any other device. However, there are strong indications big-name manufacturers are working hard to bring the same tech to 2017’s major flagship smartphones.
We’ve seen the future, and you can, too.
China, hot bed of phone innovation?
The Xiaomi Mi Mix and the Honor Magic may be unfamiliar names to many of you, and that’s because you can’t buy either of them through official channels unless you live in China. You can get these futuristic phones through importer services if you’re a real die-hard, and both are currently on sale in China.
Chinese phone manufacturers have been coming up with some exciting devices recently
People complain endlessly that smartphone innovation is dead and all the phones look the same. Ironically, China is often viewed as the worst copycat for taking liberties with other company’s designs, and the amount of iPhone imitators that pop up almost daily borders on the laughable. Look deeper, and China has had the jump on several major mobile technologies adopted by international companies over the past years, from diverse chat app platforms to online video live streaming.
Chinese phone manufacturers have been coming up with some exciting devices recently, too. From the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro’s use of Google Tango to Oppo’s teased hyper fast battery charging technology, Chinese tech companies are innovating fast. You really shouldn’t be shocked that it’s not Apple, Samsung, LG, or another big-name manufacturer that’s leading the latest round of innovation at all.
These two phones are really different
Let’s examine these phones, and why we think they’ve just fallen out of a door pocket in Marty McFly’s DeLorean. The Xiaomi Mi Mix has a 6.4-inch, almost bezel-less touchscreen inside a phone that’s no bigger than the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus. There’s no speaker and no proximity sensor to breakup the expanse, making it look totally unique. We’ve seen borderless screens before — on everything from the Galaxy S7 Edge to the Nubia Z11 — but this time it’s done right. The specially engineered screen curves at the corners, hides a speaker system that is “heard” through the glass itself, and embeds a sonar-like ultrasonic proximity sensor under the glass. The result is a unique, beautiful design, made possible using brand-new technology.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Honor’s lozenge-shape Magic is equally stunning to look at. When you get to handle that ultra-curvy shape, you’ll wonder why all phones aren’t styled in the same way. However, it’s Honor’s use of artificial intelligence which makes it so futuristic. The AI goes beyond Siri and Google Now, integrating itself into the operating system and behaving more like chat bots do in Facebook Messenger. The phone will make helpful suggestions based on your activity, including what movies are playing at a theater close to you or ordering a cab if you’re out late at a bar or club. It even shields lock screen notifications from others, revealing them only to you, because it knows what you look like.
More: Hands-on with the Honor Magic
It’s so slick, you’d think Honor had been using such deep artificial intelligence integration for years. Similarly, the Mi Mix makes superb use of its massive, wide touchscreen, plus the audio system behind the screen works so well, it’s easy to forget we’ve never seen this type of display technology before.
The borderless future?
Are we just relying on a crystal ball here, or is there any actual evidence these two phones represent a vision of the future? There’s plenty. Let’s talk about borderless screens first, which is the next step in making screens bigger, without making phone bodies larger and more cumbersome. It’s all about screen-to-body ratio, and the higher the percentage, the better.
It’s all about screen-to-body ratio, and the higher the percentage, the better.
Rumors of a bezel-less Apple iPhone have spread for a while, and the reports are now connected to the iPhone 8, whenever it may arrive. Reports say the new screen is part of a radical redesign, which will transfer the trademark Home button into the screen itself, so the chin of the device can be removed. The iPhone 8 could debut was early as September 2017, which is absolutely thrilling.
The LG G6 is another device where the front of the phone will apparently be mostly screen. LG Display’s new 18:9 ratio panel is “taller” even than the Xiaomi Mi Mix’s unusual 17:9 aspect ratio, which ensures it fills up as much of the phone’s frontage as possible. However, it still has space for Android’s menu and back buttons.
More: Hands-on with the Xiaomi Mi Mix
Rumors have connected the Samsung Galaxy S8 with a large, border-free screen, too. The phone might even get a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. The Mi Mix has a similar ratio, and for comparison, the Galaxy S7 Edge has a 76 percent screen-to-body ratio. That’s the big three manufacturers all connected with rumors about the same technology, on phones that will potentially be released in 2017 or 2018, depending on Apple’s plan for the iPhone range. It’s hard not to take the rumors seriously.
It’s not just these big three companies, either. Huawei has been linked with a bezel-less Mi Mix competitor for release in China, and Meizu’s Pro 7 phone may lose the bezel and include an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the screen — a piece of technology that’s made to facilitate bezel-less screens and rumored for inclusion on the Galaxy S8. Even the unofficial smartphone company headed up by ex-Googler Andy Rubin is supposed to be working on a phone with an edge-to-edge display.
These are all rumors, certainly, but they’re pretty damn compelling ones.
Do my bidding, ‘bot
While the evidence may be circumstantial (for now) on the screen technology, it’s considerably more official on the artificial intelligence front. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all have their own artificially intelligent assistants, while Samsung has purchased Viv Labs (run by the creators of Siri) to help develop its own AI system. HTC’s new U Ultra and U Play phones standout because of the Sense assistant, Xiaomi is making investments in the area, and Huawei has been linked developing its own AI system. In the meantime, Huawei has partnered with Amazon to introduce Alexa to the Mate 9, something many other companies have also done. LG is using AI to power its new range of smart home robots, for use in the home and in industry, and is rumored to introduce Google’s Assistant on the G6.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Chat bots, which use AI and machine learning, simplify our online lives by reducing the amount of clicks, apps, and actions it takes to complete a task. Machine learning lets the bots understand language the more we chat away, always-listening technology brings Star Trek-like ease of use into our homes, and voice recognition means we don’t have to type a question, we can actually ask it instead.
Whether it’s Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, or a legion of chatbots in Facebook Messenger; you’re probably using an AI assistant now, and they’re only going to get more plentiful (and clever) as the year goes on. It’s the beginning of the end for the traditional user interface. In the near future, intelligent assistants may guide us around our phones, and instead of prompting us to perform actions, the bots will be anticipating and doing them for us.
We’re not the only ones anticipating this smart future. Huawei’s CEO Richard Yu is already planning it, and calls the next step in phone evolution the, “intelligent phone.” He sees a new type of device that’s, “an extension of who we are,” which uses complex AI, new sensors, powerful processors, and machine learning to help people understand the world around them in a new way.
“As we look to the future, we’re at the threshold of an exciting new era where we’re breaking through barriers to improve the way we interact with the world,” he said at CES 2017, where he first discussed the intelligent phone idea.
Phone of the near future
While both borderless displays and artificially intelligent operating systems are sure to appear individually on more phones in the near future, the most desirable devices released in 2017 are likely to have both. We love the Mi Mix and the Honor Magic, but the thought of having their cutting-edge technology strengths rolled up inside a single, sexy smartphone has our hearts pounding in anticipation.
We’re ready to see the first examples at Mobile World Congress at the end of February, how about you?
Letter from the Editor
“Fail fast, fail often” has become something of a Silicon Valley cliché. And yet, despite best efforts to embrace that mantra, our latest president has managed to make an enemy of many of the Valley’s most influential players. The tech industry’s biggest names spent the week reacting to and recovering from President Trump’s executive order that temporarily prohibits US entry to refugees and citizens from a handful of Muslim countries. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Lyft, Uber and others provided legal and financial assistance to staff and others affected by the ban order.
Meanwhile, Uber felt the effects of being on the wrong side of the negotiating table when hundreds of thousands of users deleted the app in protest of its CEO, Travis Kalanick, sitting on the president’s economic advisory council. Kalanick eventually caved to pressure from users and employees, but Tesla’s Elon Musk said he would stick around for the “greater good.” While reports circulated that some customers had canceled Tesla pre-orders, there’s likely a bit of difference between the buyer of a $100,000-plus luxury vehicle and that of a $5 rideshare. But, hey, if those fancy electrics don’t sell, Tesla’s already put its Powerpacks to good use, lighting up California’s power grid.
One company that isn’t having trouble maintaining a user base? Apple, duh. Yes, the iOS juggernaut keeps on rolling. As Nathan Ingraham points out, Apple’s taken some big risks this year, what with “few updates to the Mac (and the one big change was quite polarizing), a barely redesigned iPhone with no headphone jack, AirPods that shipped two months late and a new Apple Watch that was a modest improvement to a product still seen as nonessential.” But profits were up in the company’s first quarter to $18.4 billion. As it turns out, the iPhone 7 managed to turn around a three-quarter decline in iPhone sales — headphone jack be damned!
What’s more horrifying than losing a much-loved port on your favorite Apple gadget? Aside from the impending loss of some hard-won freedoms, there’s also the rise of intelligent machines. This week saw the introduction of a new, wheel-equipped robot from Boston Dynamics and a poker-playing AI that could put “Rain Man” to shame. If you like your horror a little less real, you could always play “Resident Evil 7,” the “most terrifying VR game on the market,” according to Jessica Conditt.
Then again, you could just wake up and check your Twitter feed. Welcome to 2017!
— Christopher Trout, Executive Editor
Drill, baby, drillElon Musk plays ‘Minecraft’ differently than you do
Your big weekend project probably doesn’t look anything like this. Musk has hinted at using tunnels to alleviate traffic problems, and digging on a test trench has already begun. “Minecraft” indeed.
Friday news dumpThe new FCC chairman takes control
As the week came to a close, Ajit Pai was busy. On Friday, at his direction, the FCC rolled back a few more items hanging on from its time under former chairman Tom Wheeler. In a move vaguely described as undoing “midnight regulation,” the FCC cut off nine internet companies from participation in the Lifeline program that helps low-income households get connected. Also, it dropped investigations into zero-rating traffic policies from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon that have been criticized for going against the principles of net neutrality.
But will there be as much flopping as the real thing?Now ESPN will broadcast ‘FIFA’ eSports tournaments
ESPN keeps filling out its schedule with video game competitions, and the latest addition is FIFA. The first broadcast is Sunday at 6PM — just in case you needed a Super Bowl alternative.
Sasuke is comingPS4 update in beta adds support for external hard drives and ‘Boost Mode’ on the Pro
System software 4.50 is currently rolling out to PS4 owners in its beta testing program, with a load of new features aboard. Most-anticipated is probably support for external storage, so users can choose between replacing their internal drive or adding one via USB.
The other big tweak (which wasn’t mentioned in the notes) is the addition of “Boost Mode” for PS4 Pro — toggle it on, and older games that haven’t been optimized yet will suddenly take advantage of its upgraded hardware for smoother gameplay, higher frame rates and faster load times. Also, there’s custom wallpaper support and Blu-ray 3D inside PlayStation VR.
But wait, there’s more…
- LG has a fix for its WiFi-allergic 5K monitor
- Cute ‘Rocket League’ pull-back racers bring soccer derby to your floor
- A ban on immigration is an attack on Silicon Valley
- This tiny glob could be humans’ earliest known ancestor
- ‘Candleman’ is a 3D platformer that will make your heart melt
- The Engadget Podcast Ep 27: American Tune — The ACLU, Adoptly and an immigration ban
- ‘Donkey Kong 64’ speedrunner finds previously undiscovered 977th coin
- Samsung will unveil something at MWC (but it’s not the Galaxy S8)
The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.
Jawbone is officially exiting the consumer wearables market to focus on developing medical products for direct sale to clinical practitioners, according to a new report.
Speaking to TechCrunch on Friday, sources familiar with the matter said Jawbone’s latest pivot away from its fitness tracker and Bluetooth speaker business involved working on a health product for the medical sector, including offering services for clinicians who work with patients.
According to the report, Jawbone is seeking to raise foreign investor money as part of the revised strategy, after spending around $951 million in an attempt to prevent a collapse of its consumer wearables business.
One source told TechCrunch the consumer market had proved “too challenging” for small and mid-size technology companies, but that the burgeoning health wearables sector – currently led by companies like Omada and Forward – offered Jawbone a possible escape route out of its financial troubles.
“If you think about what a good consumer electronics company looks like, it’s 30-percent margins, annual release cycles and huge risk. It’s turned into a blockbuster game,” said the source. “But folks in this other area, like Omada and other services, they have a human involved but with a nearly 100-percent contribution margin. It’s wildly different economics. Every wearable company today will be posed with this question: Do I want to play in consumer and narrow margins, or healthcare and service and make incredible margins but with possibly a lot of upfront fixed cost.”
Reports of Jawbone’s troubles go back to May 2015, when the company ended production of its UP line of fitness trackers and sold its remaining inventory to a third-party reseller at a discounted price.
Initially, Jawbone denied claims that it was going out of business and said it was focusing on advanced sensors to sell to other wearable makers, but over recent months a slew of angry customers frustrated by a lack of support have painted a more desperate picture.
Just last month both the head executive of product and the chief financial officer left the company, while MacRumors was contacted by former staff who said that Jawbone had let go of all employees at its four contact centers in Northern Ireland and across the U.S., leaving no-one to deal with customer complaints.
Jawbone still believes there is value in its business, but with a one-star customer rating on review aggregator website Trustpilot.com and an “F” rating on Better Business Bureau’s site, the company faces a challenge if it is to win the confidence of additional investors, wherever its future lies.
Discuss this article in our forums
Glass construction, water resistance, and latest Samsung UI arrive in new 4.7 and 5.2-inch handsets.
Samsung has unleashed the latest devices in its mid-priced A series on the UK, with the arrival of the 2017 variants of the Galaxy A3 and A5. As in previous years, Samsung has brought a smattering of high-end features to a more affordable price point through the pint-sized 4.7-inch A3, and the larger 5.2-inch A5.
Both phones share a similar glass and metal construction, much like Samsung’s higher-end offerings, along with the IP68-rated water and dust resistance that comes as standard with the Galaxy S7. In fact, aside from a few differences in port and button placement, the A5 is the spitting image of its more expensive sibling. (In fact, it one-ups the GS7 in one small but notable area, shipping with a more up-to-date USB-C port.)
So the external hardware matches the quality we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s flagships, with a subtle curve to the back panel, and clean joins between the glass and the metal. Other staple Galaxy S features like fingerprint security — which we weren’t able to test yet — round off a familiar profile for both devices
Both phones’ displays — 720p SuperAMOLED on the smaller A3, bumping up to 1080p on the larger A5 — are bright and vivid, delivering everything we’ve come to expect from AMOLED in a Samsung phone, with the exception of the extra pixel density you get from a flagship like the S7. And the internal hardware -— Samsung’s homemade Exynos 7880 and 7870 chips — do a fine job of powering the Marshmallow-based software.
|Network||LTE Cat 6||LTE Cat 6|
|Display||5.2-inch FHD 1080p||4.7-inch HD 720p|
|CPU||1.9GHz octa-core||1.6GHz octa-core|
|OS||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (“Grace” UX)||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (“Grace” UX)|
|Camera||Rear : 16MP (F1.9), Front : 16MP (F1.9)||Rear : 13MP (F1.9), Front : 8MP (F1.9)|
|Storage||32GB + SD||16GB + SD|
|Dimensions||146.1 x 71.4 x 7.9mm||135.4 x 66.2 x 7.9mm|
|Battery||3,000mAh, Fast ChargingUSB-C||2,350mAhUSB-C|
Although you’ll need to make do with an older version of Android than some others in this price category, Samsung has at least brought its latest user experience tweaks to these phones. That means you get the so-called “Grace UX” — the lighter, brighter UI that debuted in the ill-fated Note 7, before making its way to the GS7 in its recent Nougat update. So A3 and A5 buyers will get the latest features from Samsung, even though they’ll need to wait a little longer for the latest Android platform update.
That means slick new Dialer, Messaging and Gallery apps, along with a re-tooled Settings menu, re-vamped quick settings and a slicker, brighter interface for just about every bundled application. And both phones also boast Samsung’s useful Always-On Display feature, which lets you see the time, pending notifications and even calendar details without unlocking the device. The Galaxy A5 even boasts Samsung’s multi-window feature — although you’ll miss out on native multi-window support, meaning fewer apps are supported compared to phones running Android 7.0.
The latest Samsung features, but on an old version of Android.
Along with water resistance and premium construction, Samsung’s singling out the A series’ cameras as a major tentpole feature this time around. The A5 boasts a 16-megapixel sensor behind an f/1.9 lens on both the front and the back, so selfies should look every bit as good as photos taken with the rear camera. On the A3, you’ll step down to 13 megapixels on the back, and eight around the front.
In our limited time testing the camera of the A5, we came away impressed with what Samsung’s been able to bring to the table. On paper, the A5’s camera sits somewhere between the GS5 and GS6, and that means that in all but very dark conditions you’re likely to get great results. Much of Samsung’s camera UX has transferred over from the Galaxy S line, and the new A-series phones bring some unique tricks of their own to the table. There’s a new “food” mode, which jacks up the saturation and adds a fake depth of focus effect to emphasize the colors of your grub. And an optional floating shutter button makes it easier to take selfies without unnecessary finger strain.
After just a short time with Samsung’s new Galaxy A3 and A5 models, it’s clear both handsets have a lot to offer. But there are a few major barriers to entry for enthusiasts. The first is Marshmallow. Other phones around the A5’s £399 price point, such as the OnePlus 3T, ship with Nougat and significantly higher specs. At £299, the field is a little clearer for the Galaxy A3, however it’s still challenged by the likes of the Honor 8, which will soon be getting an upgrade to Android 7.0.
But for buyers who prioritize features above having the latest and greatest software, the Galaxy A series has a lot to offer — and at a significantly lower price point than the manufacturer’s higher-end handsets.
See at Vodafone
See at Carphone Warehouse
Return of an icon: Technics SL-1200GR and black SL-1210GR turntables to launch in April for £1299 a piece
Technics has introduced a new model to its illustrious range of turntables. The SL-1210GR is the same as the SL-1200GR we saw at CES at the beginning of the year, but comes sporting a rather fetching new black finish.
- Technics launches a more affordable version of its iconic turntable: the SL-1200GR
And, for those of you interested in snapping up one of these new decks, either the silver SL-1200GR or black 1210GR, the company has announced the all important price and availability. Either can be yours for £1299 each and should hit stores in April, putting them firmly in the affordable category, especially when compared to the high-end, reference class £3000 SL-1200G turntable, which shares some of its technology with the GR series.
The GR series has had more tuning input this time round from Jonathan Danbury, the UK’s Technics specialist. The company is all too aware that different markets prefer different sounds, but the SL-1200GR and SL-1210GR have been tuned to give a balanced sound across the board and to just reproduce whatever record is playing, exactly how the artist intended.
- Technics SL-1200G official: DJ turntable makes an audiophile return for 2016
First released in 1974, the Technics SL-1200 turntable was initially targeted at the audiophiles out there, but it is of course DJs that have come to love them and make them synonymous with dance and hip-hop culture. Speaking at an exclusive product briefing, DJ Yoda told us about his love for the iconic turntable, and said he still uses the original decks he purchased more than 20 years ago. While cartridges and software may get swapped out year on year, the actual turntable has remained the same, proving not only their build quality, but their sound quality too.
The Technics GR series turntables join the SL-1200G and the now sold out, limited edition SL-1200GAE.
Since December, Elon Musk has been discussing plans to build a tunnel to help avoid LA traffic problems. It’s been hard to tell if he was serious about “The Boring Company,” but a few days ago Wired reported a test trench was already under construction somewhere in the vicinity of SpaceX’s headquarters. Musk tweeted that he would start digging on January 27th, and said during last weekend’s Hyperloop that the plan is to increase tunneling by “500 – 1000 percent.”
Now, (apparently away from the president’s economic advisory council meeting) he’s posted this picture of a massive digging machine at work, simply titled “Minecraft.” So what are you doing with your weekend?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 4, 2017
Source: Elon Musk (Twitter)
Y’all, it has been a busy week here in the Engadget community. There is just a ton of stuff happening behind the scenes (more on that next week), and there are a few dozen articles in the queue, and over a hundred registrations awaiting approval, and several emails that need some urgent responses, and some exciting upcoming stuff we’re looking to roll out, and some not exciting details that need to be attend to, and I’ve been sick so this is essentially what the week has looked like in GIF form:
Except less calm, and with more Kleenex.
So let’s dive right in:
Looking for something to read? Check out:
Claire Jones took some time to list all the real-life tech wearables that could (hypothetically) turn you into a member of the illustrious X-Men via developments like GeckSkin and bionic lenses. There still aren’t any available developments into teleportation so I guess I’m still out of luck though.
Meanwhile, Emily Chi dives into the AR vs VR hubbub by discussing the available games, developing technologies and hardware releases for each platform.
Lastly, Eric Puller gives us his review of Super Mario Run complete with details on features and game play, deeming it a “must-have” for Nintendo fans.
Looking for something to write about? Mull over:
Those who were looking forward to seeing the “build your own battle bot” game demo for Project Giant Robot become a full-fledged Wii U game were dealt a heady hand of disappointment this week when the game was scrapped. Which led us to wonder, which cancelled gadget or game or tech product has been the most disappointing to you?
Sean Buckley recent attended SCRAP’s Defenders of the Triforce escape room experience to see what it was like to play the Legend of Zelda in real life — and found it fun, but not quite what he expected. While some may consider real life Zelda too ‘geeky’ an activity for adults, it doesn’t seem any worse than your average bar trivia night to me. Anyhow, it’s confession time: What is the ‘geekiest’ thing you do?
There’s been a lot written about Facebook, fake news, clickbait, “fake news” and web content lately so it was way past time to ask you: What’s the solution to fake news and fake content on the web?
It’s more than a little weird that it’s taken until now for the folks behind last year’s Mafia 3 to announce add-on packs for the game. But that’s just how the world works lately. The additional story missions start with “Faster, Baby!” at the end of March. The expansion focuses on stunt driving and car chases, according to the game’s blog. More than that, it offers up a new section of the New Orleans-esque setting.
“Stunt driving takes center stage as [returning protagonist] Lincoln joins forces with Roxy Laveau, a sister-in-arms out to take down a corrupt sheriff terrorizing civil rights activists on the outskirts of New Bordeaux,” the post reads.
Then there’s “Stones Unturned” and “Sign of the Times,” which will release this May and July, respectively. You’ll join forces with a CIA agent to settle a score that started in Vietnam in the former, and explore a ritualistic killing and the cult responsible in the latter. All era appropriate stuff.
Given the bayou region’s rich history and gothic underpinnings (True Detective season one anyone?) these expansions could be worth checking out. Hopefully the game’s bugs didn’t turn you off enough to trade it in already. Otherwise, there’s always the excellent Resident Evil 7 if you need a virtual Louisiana vacation.
Source: Mafia III